Reviews

Bobby Curtola Lights Up Parry Sound

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Submitted by Don Graham
Photo: Bobby Curtola at the Stokey Centre

Parry Sound, Ontario, on Georgian Bay in the scenic 30,000 islands, is the birthplace of Canadian treasure and hockey legend Bobby Orr. It’s safe to say that Bobby Orr pretty much is omnipresent in the town. Everywhere you go are reminders of him, pictures, signs and a museum. But for one night, August 15th, 2013,  the town belonged to another Canadian legend, another Bobby, Bobby Curtola!

Curtola and his five piece band of brothers The Sensational Hot Rods, slipped into town for a one night concert. The show was at the Stockey Centre on Bay Street in Parry Sound, a beautiful newish venue seating about 750 people. Coincidently the Stockey houses the aforementioned Bobby Orr’s Museum and souvenir shop.

Pulling up to park for the event we noticed how full the parking lot was and a glance inside the lobby let us see a huge crowd milling about, chatting excitedly about the concert. With only three or four weeks of lead time, the Stockey was sold out for The Bobby Curtola Show. Amazing how his legion of fans adore him, or I should stay, STILL adore him, fifty years into his remarkable career.

Curtola’s first big hit, the gold record selling Fortune Teller was released to radio in 1962. That’s over 50 years of staying power. This was pre Beatles, JFK was still alive and the expression “if they can put a man on the moon why can’t they…..” was not part of our everyday vocabulary.

Dinosaur Bones: Shaky Dream

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Dine Alone Records

It takes considerable eggs for an up and coming act to turn away from the sound of a successful debut album. Add this T.Dot fivesome to that short list. The brash nihilism of 2011’s ‘My Divider’ isn’t entirely banished from the scene (“Pacifist in Camouflage”) but it’s a more thoughtful, reasonable, inward looking version.

The unit’s power is still evident but it’s now servicing songs which are more structured and nuanced, some to a fault. It’s all in the service of Ben Fox’s instructive narratives, with lots of space to indulge his flair for the dramatic (“Explosions in the Sky”). Every track here gets full service from bassist Branko Scekic, keyboardist David Wickland, drummer Lucas Fredette and guitarist Josh Byrne, who’ve jumped into the new, more textured material with a zest which elevates such as “Don’t Decide” and “Career Criminal” to another level.

All the more weird that the production sounds stifled most of the time, like the band’s playing in a whole other room. I get that it’s all about Ben; still, on Shaky Dream the band’s stepped up its game significantly and the album’s end game doesn’t really reflect that.

Ben, he’s still channeling Julian Casablancas even when the songs might have benefited from another treatment. When he’s got it good, it’s very, very good; otherwise it brings a sameness to some of the tunes they could’ve lived without.

Robin Thicke: Blurred Lines

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Interscope

This is one whack piece of trash porn and I mean that in a bad way. To make a genuine assessment as complicated as Avril is the happenstance that the lame and grimy lyrics are often wrapped in undeniable hooky and slickly executed music.

Nothing wrong with soft porn pop; heck it’s the staple diet of a slew of hip hop and modern r’n’b performers but damn, if you’re gonna do it, dude, do it right.

"I got this for you, a little Thicke for you/ A big kiss for you... big dick for you," is about the lyrical high point here, the kind of riff that would make Justin Timberlake cringe. JT’s shadow hovers around numerous tracks here as does vintage Prince and an enitre gym bag full of modern tricks. You get yer upbeat soul tracks, yer falsetto harmonies, yer blend of real instruments and electronica and it all adds up to little of substance.

Perhaps in an attempt to put some ‘new’ on it, Thicke’s vocals do serious sound shifting at many places throughout, leaving the impression he wasn’t able or didn’t care to put a personal stamp on the material. Want proof? Check the conceptual and sonic train wreck that’s track 2 through 6, a trash-compacted mess of neo-soul and watery funk so solidly welded together it’s impossible to tell them apart.

Western Avenue New Single Wherever You Are

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Submitted by Don Graham

Central Ontario group Western Avenue, consisting of Nikki English, Keith Robertson and Matt Williams  have their fingers firmly placed on the pulse of what’s popular in today’s country music.  This band is a  compact self contained unit that has all the ingredients for success in the country, country pop market. Great musicianship, extremely strong vocals and most importantly strong songs, lyrically and musically.

Their latest single to radio ‘Wherever You Are’, is a perfect showcase for the band. Musically the performance is top drawer, the production stands up to current sounds on today’s radio, crisp, clear and good separation. Vocally, pure tight and sincere, great delivery and pleasing sonically. The song, written by Dave Woods and lead singer Nikki English  is a strong piece of work and deserves to be heard.

I hope they get the radio attention they merit in todays “play the known artists” formats. If they get their shot, they will become one of the “known artists”.
Keep doing what you do guys, hope to hear a lot more from you in the future.

www.westernavenue.ca

U.S. Representation :
Michael Stover

MTS Management Group
*2013 CMG Radio Artist Manager of the Year

Uncut: Infinite Repeats

Uncut - Infinite Repeats

Independent

This muchly anticipated ‘comeback’ album is everything fans had hoped for and more. Seven years in the making and the first since stepping away from Paper Bag Records, these hardcore guitar heroes haven’t lost a step in this collection, which blazes from start to finish.

Still wearing their influences on their sleeves, so you’ll hear Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Swervedriver and like that, delivered with powerful love and no reverence. The T.Dot four-piece kick out an awesome noise; bigass boom-bastic drums, soaring, reverb-laden guitar lines, chest-thumping bass and roaring vocals combine with a take-no-prisoners ‘tude to make listening to this album all in one go a strenuous experience.

Infinite Repeats sounds sharp and clear-headed  thanks to producer/drummer Jon Drew (Fucked Up, Tokyo Police Club) who knows this stuff inside out on account of he’s the cause of much of it. Commanding from start to finsih , it sounds very much like the band’s picking up exactly where they left off. That they pull it off without sounding dated is a testament to their fierce commitment and clear vision. On such as ‘All Hands’ and ‘Thieves Watch’, that vison appears more inclusive of current heavy music tropes. That their approach works is demonstrated by the fact that material fits snugly with the bulk of the album’s Uncut-branded songs  like ‘Older By The Line’, ‘Washed Out’ and ‘Stay Gold’.

Post-punk, neo hardcore hasn’t sounded this bracing and urgent in some time.

Lenny Stoute

Broadsway Old Friends featuring Heather Bambrick, Julie Michels and Diane Leah

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Just reading the liner notes and song titles makes you want to sing and do a little soft shoe and tap. Then you put on the CD by the ‘Broadsway’ girls and they have got your attention from the first medley of ‘Together’, that introduces you to them by singing their hearts out to ‘Together Wherever We Go/Side By Side/Glory of Love’, a great combination of songs that my parents sang at house parties when I was a kid.

‘Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy’ is actually performed slow and sultry and is reminiscent of Judy Garland and Gospel all rolled into one. ‘Cloudburst/Oleo’ has a great, happy arrangement, right down to the ‘shave and a haircut – two bits’ running throughout, and has hints of Manhattan Transfer style vocals.

The Moon Medley offers ‘By the Light of the Silvery Moon/Blue Moon/Moonglow/Moon River’, ending with an interesting choice of Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’, which actually fits in with the other classic Broadway/Pop tunes. ‘I Know Him So Well’,’What You Don’t About Women’ really show off the incredible voices of Heather Bambrick and Julie Michels and their wonderful and unique harmonies.

Chris Velan: The Long Goodbye

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New Song Recordings

Bad news for any of y’all working on the ultimate breakup album. It’s just been done to the hilt on The Long Goodbye. Velan’s one for digging deep in his subject matter, usually managing to drape his lyrics in catchy, world beat inflected arrangements. This un’ s all about getting stuff off the Velan chest and dude has lots to get rd of.

As befitting the album’s narrow focus, that being the post-breakup break apart, the music is stripped way, way down, bringing no good news and no place to hide from Velan’s brutal soul-baring. This is a tough listen in one go and if you’re in a good relationship it’s probably not the best album for hanging on the couch with your baby.

Hard and cold it may be at most times but the boy can spin a tale that’ll turn lonesome me into the lone man standing. The fact that Velan plays most of the instruments himself adds to the ‘last stand’ feeling, the only element of any hope loitering around the project. That comes out to play most forcefully on 'Gorgeous Morning’ but even as the echoes of hope are still faint in your mind, he drops the dire fatalism of ‘Did We Ever Have A Chance.” and it’s back to painting it black.

This is a collection of songs so intimate and cathartic they’re best appreciated by listeners in a similar state of mind.

Lenny Stoute

The Specials Live in Toronto

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Submitted by Ian Robertson

The night of July 9th 2013, I got a late, but happy notice from the concert promoters that I’d be able to see the legendary 2 tone ska band, The Specials (known for bringing the 2nd wave of ska back in style in  the late 70's/early 80's). It was my first time going to a concert alone since I wasn't able to get anybody to come with me but I also wasn't about to bail on seeing them (I’ve luckily seen them twice before in 2010). Walking through the Kool Haus crowd of middle aged people wearing fedoras, creepers and sun dresses, I got the feeling I was the youngest person there (being 20), which makes sense considering the band’s success started before I was born.

Lightning Dust: Fantasy

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Jagjaguwar Records

This third outing from Amber Webber and Joshua Wells of Black Mountain's side project is kinda surprisingly, just ok. Mostly because the pair have chosen the occasion to get into into the stripped down guitar and emo synths thang. For why? Since that is one crowded bandwagon and the mere act of being seen on it could cool the BM fan base. Especially following in the wake of the challenging doom folk of previous album ‘Infinite Light”.

The stated manifesto is minimalism and they’re barely kidding. Trouble is, without orchestration many of the songs sound unfinished or lacking a driving force. So sonically, not a lot to get excited about but some of the song structures are interesting in the way they're built up with many layers which on occasion do take you somewhere different as on ‘Mirror’.

The prize in the ring here is Weber’s nuanced vocals, with loads of finesse at both the high and low ends, capable of making you a believer even when the lyrics are all ambiggy Too often all the heavy lifting is left to her to raise up sketchy tunes, including leadoff single ‘Diamond.’  It all comes together brilliantly on  ‘Agatha’, with Weber’s emotion-drenched take soaring over sparse Wurlitzer piano and weepy strings that subtly fall apart into a bracing dissonant mashup at the end. That apart, the rest is really just ok.

James Lizzard

Sonny and the Sunsets: Antenna to the Afterworld

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Polyvinyl

This wacky concept album plays like the bastard child of Space Oddity Bowie and a very authentic roots garage band. No question the weirdest one of the year so far, in the very best way. Who else dares to introduce a narrative bridging outer space and alien life with the down to earth supernatural, the everyday freakish and visits from the dead. Sonny’s canny enough not to craft the music too literally to the lyric with the result that the thing’s full of cool twist and inversions. This crew’s genre hopping ways are the envy of many; when they take on a style, which has so far included r’n’b, folk, garage, psych pop, country and reggae (yes), the results are invariably impressive.

Most of those show up for this party but for Sonny, no matter where he may roam, it remains all about the song. So instead of the glorious genre mashups that implies, each one gets its just deserts even though synthesizers show up often. F’r instance "Green Blood" is about Sonny’s hots for an alien android with a cyborg husband but as appropriate for any take on young love, Sonny decks it out in space pop drag. Similarly, ‘Primitive’ lives up to its title both musically and lyrically ("I love the moon/ I don't know why.") but it’s coming from a place of heartfelt nonchalance, if that’s a thing.

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