Wednesday, February 12, 2020

All Years Leaving - Hare and Hounds - Oct 20, 21, 2018

Saturday

Dama Scout - A 3 piece including a female singer, and your standard guitar/drum/bass instrumental set-up offering up some grungy riffs. Came across as typical low-fi indie rock for the majority of the set though the final three songs brought it up a little, especially the tempo shifting Email Girl.

Independent Country - countrified version of indie songs including Jesus and Mary chain. Slide guitar and lots of the embroidered country shirts. 5 middle aged men.

Baywaves - 4 piece from Madrid which made sense I've they announced it with the hair and the vibe. Some light synths and perhaps in a nod to the name, surfy guitars. They were upbeat and appreciative "thanks for being nice to us" and could have played on if it were up to me

Menace Beach - 5 (1 f, guitar bunch of stuff, vocals shared with other man. Male guitarist had a lead vocals but sound want great) with a whole adornment of equipment, keys, synths, moogs, samplers plus two electric guitars and a bass. Headband drummer. Black rainbow sound song. Also had background screensaver that was kinda trippy.

Bank Accounts - one very outgoing singer guitarist, Sophie his small stand up drummer and his right hand jester on guitar too. It was more stand up comedy or performance art where the music, mostly short bursts of simple, tongue in check songs that guy us through to the next bit of banter, much of it planned with a bubble machine, passing around a bottle of champagne and then cheap corner store rum afterwards. A singalong almost got off the ground but not fully.

Speedy Ortiz - 4 piece with female lead and bass, had pretty decent music, not quite to dance to and not super rock out. Probably would have been better if I'd been more familiar

The Orielles - 4 piece of young and energetic musicians. Male guitarist was the ringleader but the female was the vocalist, and the curly, long haired kid on keys was the best addition. They played like they've had some seasoning which is probably true at this point. Finishing just a few minutes before curfew with what appeared to be their biggest hit single they pulled it off quite well but not leaving a lifelong impression.

Sunday

Mush - false starting with an electrified mic the all male four piece from Leeds went beyond the auspicious start. Although they started with jangly guitars over the driving drum beats they did show more mature songwriting then my first impression. Although there was one lead vocalist to others chimed in at times for echoes and call and response. Burning through the set to try and make up for lost time there wasn't much banter but they seemed casually funny in a dry way. In restarting one song due to an early misfire the singer chided them, "C'mon lads..!" A favourite refrain was "How do you survive in this gig economy? I live within my means!" The finale was a lengthy ride regarding Alternative Facts and was an enjoyable ride.

Snail Mail
True to the album she kept the whiny, almost crying vocals throughout. It was even more convincing as bathed in red light on the stage it was very reminiscent of their album cover. Unapologetically asking for more and less things in her monitor through the microphone in the middle of the first couple songs, plus a spot of feedback, didn't bode well and it seemed she might be put off it. However that didn't happen and after they soldiered through the first few they seemed to settle in. As with the album the music didn't quite grab and arrest me but it's obviously won them a solid following. They casually said they were from Baltimore which is hardly a notorious music scene that I'm aware of but carried on with American airs. She was the ringleader, with the drummer her go to, the two guys on guitar and bass hardly factored in, simply playing their notes on the wings. This went a step further when without any notice everyone just got up and left the stage, leaving the singer strumming until they were gone, never to be seen until they were going back up the stairs that we were filing out at the end. She was left playing a slow, drawn out tune solo with someone in the crowd failing to sing along loudly throughout for a high cringe.

Warmduscher
Four piece, with funky bass riffs. They were quite odd, especially the sunglassed lead singer with the multiple mega reverb mics. It almost seemed like a joke band, or something like that shitty English two piece * but I think they were taking it seriously and in this case the music at least was actually rather good. The name on the other hand, pronounced the way you wish it weren't, isn't.

Sunshine Frisbee Laser Beam
The local male four piece were billed as an acoustic set but but instead were crammed on the ground floor in the corner fully electric. With a new album out they did they were going to play it front to back. They only had a half hour set so I'm not sure that they accomplished it but they did play a bunch of great tunes, seeming to improve as the set went on. In spite of the band they aren't all out there or happy go lucky, it's clean indie rock, leaning towards rock grooves than indie hooks. I really liked it and even as most everyone else headed upstairs for Goat Girl I stuck with them.

Goat Girl
A six piece filled the stage with women holding down all the positions of two guitars, bass, violin, drums, and the lone male on the shaker (and keys? I couldn't tell as I was near the back.) I'd grown a bit tired of them on record but live they had strong song composition, a good lead vocalist and were engaging. Not much banter or nonsense except a weird delay before the second last song as the drummer seemed to be arguing to play a certain song and I think held it hostage until she got her way.

Dream Wife
Coming out to pump up music in a matching colour palette, the four piece had already stolen the show for the whole festival by the end of track one. And rightly so as they were the headliners and closers, for the first time they said initially then took it back to mock boos, remembering headlining a barn once. The lead singer (using IEMs for the first time) was absolutely beaming and pouring energy into the thing from the start to end, with the women flanking her doing much the same. The male drummer didn't factor in quite as highly but that's not the worst role for a drummer. Many women had already taken it upon themselves to be right at the front but a few songs in all the "bad bitches" got a proper invitation to the front and a bunch more took them up on it for Somebody. The technical definition given to be a bad bitch was not gender related as long as you supported the rest of your bad bitches, they filling the room. The guitarist with the drastic blonde haircut absolutely shredded whenever she got the chance, which was often enough. The highlight had to be Fuck You Up FUU as it had everyone in the front throwing their hands and voices in the air along with a solid clap along. All this even with the singer's mic dropping dead partway through, forcing her to grab the bassist's mic and the others to share making the moment all the more special. After that all that was left Let's Make Out which kept the energy up until they left the stage. The house music came up immediately dispelling any chance for an encore to the short 45 minute set (with a dozen minutes left to curfew) but there was still love in the air and it felt like people were going to take the finale's title literally, sure enough on the way out I saw a few couples who were doing just that.

Split Milk Society, Amy Louise Ellis - Sunflower Lounge Jan 17 '20

Spilt Milk Society
Having seen these guys nearly a year earlier to the day in the same spot I was looking forward to the set. It was really odd though have them come out of the gate with a very different sound to what I was expecting. I had a difficult time getting into it and they carried on like this, presumably it's a new direction, for the majority of the show. Only with the final couple of songs did it start to sound like something that I could get into. Interesting changes, I suppose.

Odd Soul
This really was an ecelectic bill as Odd Soul played a jazzy brand of soul. As they admitted, it was a lot of their old standards that made the setlist and even resting on their laurels, with a few hardcore fans scattered amongst the crowd, it was just alright. I was hoping to get grabbed and carried away and when I still ended up stood in the basement of the Sunflower I was a little disappointed.

Cherry Cherry
A five piece playing some "modern indie rock" I believe I stayed for the whole set, but writing this less than a month later I can't recall anything standout.

Amy Louise Ellis
This young chanteuse sure has the pipes. Though the first couple of songs, set over her friend's electric guitar, didn't blow me away there were a couple near the end the really showed her voice off. The Lauren Hill (or was it The Fugees?) cover was also excellent. Raw, local talent that just needs to find her place.

Pkew Pkew Pkew, No Bro, Eamon McGrath - Horseshoe Tavern Jan.10 '20

Pkew Pkew Pkew

The reason for the night came onto the stage like a hometown crowd should - to cries of joy. It wasn't some intense, outpouring or anything - they did play this exact venue less than a year ago - but the ovation from the full, but not sold out house was strong. Similarly, the set was very enjoyable and appreciated but they are not setting new highs with their small-town Ontario tales of drinking, skating, and hanging out. The crowd did get into it and by third song, I Wanna See a Wolf, I was compelled to join the fray. To our credit we moshed the entire way through, enjoying strong tracks like Asshole Pandemic and 65 Nickels, with an incredible amount of body surfing too. There were 3 or 4 people going up at a go, one of whom decided to test the strength of the plumbing pipe that runs across the ceiling; fortunately for us all it held. Near the end there was a song or two not from either of their album releases which didn't quite get as much love as the well known tunes. After 45 minutes of short, ripping songs they waved goodbye, with their perpetually grinning bassist departing last. But in the preorchestrated world of concerts, even without much of a roar (more of an expectant pause), they returned to the stage gushing their thanks to us. They did a couple, finishing with Glory Days, which was the correct call if you ask me, and sent us out into the early morning hours sweaty and happy.

NOBRO
Man, or should I saw "Woman!" - what a treat this was. This four-piece, using secondary percussion including bongos and electronic drums were stellar. They also had a great guitarist though the singer was stronger with vocals, naturally, they all did some instrument swapping along the way. Even as the second band on the bill, after a snoozy (good snoozy) opening from Eamon these gals got the pit moving so kudos to that. For the finale they really decided to kick out the jams. One to watch, I'm glad I got to catch them on their way up.

Eamon McGrath
Accompanied by another fellow, also playing acoustic guitar they went through a solid folk set that even had the filling-in crowd respectfully quiet. A standout display of songsmanship was seen on especially on Guts.

Barasso 
Warming the way jsut before PPP! this four-piece, all-male francophone band played some bludgeoning punk rock. It wasn't bad but was all a little samey (I hit the john). At one point they bantered, in English, "we're singing in French but you don't care do you? It doesn't matter."

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Top Ten 2019 - Year in Review

1. Dave - Psychodrama
Marvellous. As in, every time I listen to this album I marvel at how exquisite it is. Nothing is overlooked, from the varied and interesting beats, to the high production value, the quasi-concept album thematic, and most importantly Dave's astounding word play. It's impossibly clever and impeccably delivered, including hooks, social commentary and downright funny jokes; I discover something new each time without even consulting Genius.com. Lesley may be the best tale in a tune of the year - please, sit down and listen. Santan Dave's wisdom, vision, execution, skill, voice, and, yes, piano-playing are all on display in this damn-near masterpiece of a rap album.

2. default genders - main pop girl 2019
I couldn't get enough of this album and still cannot describe properly why. It is a super-pop album that swaps genres at blistering speed, many of which I wouldn't normally find myself listening to but here it just works. Lyrically it tells some tales, again things that I wouldn't necessarily relate to, but there I was putting it on for my morning run for the 50th time months later. Just give it a try.
(Not available on Spotify but grab it from Bandcamp PWYC, including free)

3. Snotty Nose Rez Kids - Trapline
Late to the party, I'm glad to have caught onto this blazing band this year. With their unreserved Reservation-rap (okay, I made that term up) they pull no punches in upping their lives and their lifestyles through song. It is fresh, eye-opening and altogether ass-shaking. Unfortunately I haven't yet caught them live but their Insta-stories sure do make it look like it absolutely goes off! It's a good time to grab hold as these high-fliers are taking off.

4. Sigrid - Sucker Punch
Diamonds, sapphires, rubies - this album is full of pop gems. A rising star, Sigrid has the voice and the musical sensibilities to burn long and bright. Anytime I was looking for an accessible and mostly upbeat shot of music this year, Sucker Punch was an easy fix, and it held up on the repeatability too. But there's a depth to it as well with emotional songwriting that tackles real feelings without drowning the listener in sorrow. Sigrid's versatility makes this a complete album.

5. Sir Babygirl - Crush on Me
Unabashed retro-beats pop music - I'd read someone liken it to a pumped up Britney Spears album for 2019 - and Sir Babygirl plays with expectations with glee. Starting with that gender-fluid name they don't hold back on the glorious 26 minutes of this album (I looked it up, it's not an EP), including two reprises! Haunted House is the standout, with that chorus raising more questions than answers, and the album is perfectly punctuated by the tongue-in-cheek closer, Crush On Me. All I want is more.

6. Black Midi - Schlagenheim
Defying conventions, these music-school nerds have gone ahead with a gloriously indulgent album that brings many influences together to make something so new. Based around their impressive individual instrumental skills they've managed to flaunt their musicianship appropriately. The math-rock elements, the "unique" vocals, and the varying signatures make for an eclectic mix that keeps the listener guessing but it's a challenge worth taking.

7. Tim Baker - Forever Overhead
Fronting one of my all-time favourite Canadian bands, Hey Rosetta!, could be either a blessing or a curse when it comes to the first solo offering. Would Tim be able to live up to the heightened expectations without the six super-talented musicians supporting him in both the songwriting and performing? I'm happy to report that this is a very worthwhile offering that doesn't try to recreate the magic of HR! but maintains the eloquent lyrics in an appropriate, slightly stripped-back, singer-songwriter context (still showcasing some of Tim's piano too).

8. Better Oblivion Community Centre - Better Oblivion Community Centre
This combination of a couple of true, through-and-through songwriters has struck gold symbiosis. Coner Oberst (Bright Eyes) and Phoebe Bridgers could both play their way out of a troll's trap alone so when they joined forces for BOCC it was like giving both of them a turbo boost. The songwriting is impeccable and the interplay is excellent. Released early in the year it has been an album that has never really left the rotation and still plays frequently and with much adoration.

9. Sacred Paws - Run Around the Sun
An upbeat, carry-you-along album filled with quirky and catchy ditties highlighted by the back-and-forth vocals of this cross-UK-border, female duo. It's music for any bright occasion, or even to make a not so bright time, like dusting the living room, into an bopping dance party.

10. Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride
An album that I'd been looking forward to in the long interim between releases that just gave and gave and gave. Yes, it's long but it hardly falters and finishes on a gem. Bringing in the duets and accompaniments throughout manages to keep the songwriting and delivery fresh, for repeated listening (it showed up all over my Spotify year-end breakdowns). Very pleased to have VW back in town.

Honourable Mentions

Shotgun Jimmie - Transistor Sister 2
Jimmie has captured lightning in a bottle again on this revisitation to the Transistor Sister that set a benchmark in his earlier career. Simple, yet catchy and effective, this album can fit most moods.

Pup - Morbid Stuff
Who'd have known that Pup could squeeze so much traction and love out of this genre? Here they are once again giving a damn fine performance and encouraging the kids to get out there and catch them live where they really ignite.

Tallest Man on Earth - I Love You. It's a Fever Dream.
Quietly this album ended up in my year-end conversation by being a lovely accompaniment to those moments of reflection and tranquility.

JOHN (TIMESTWO) - Out Here on the Fringes
Discovering this duo late in the year I was sold from the get-go with their guitar-to-the-wall brand of rock.

Press Club - Wasted Energy
An energetic burst of Aussie punk that enthuses a freshness into the genre.

Sandro Perri - Soft Landing
Similar to In Another Life, this album is anchored by a ploddingly excellent opening track, Time (You Got Me) with a still-strong B side.







Monday, December 9, 2019

The Futureheads - Institute Dec. 6 '19

Cut Glass Kings
It was so odd to be in a nearly desolate Institute. Seriously, it seemed like there were 25 people in the whole place when we entered at 6:20pm on a Saturday night in December. Too bad for those that had tickets because the two-piece guitar and drum duo were putting on a decent show. Loud and full of classic rock (not Classic Rock) riffs they powered through the set, seemingly not put off by the attendance that didn't even double during their short set.



Indoor Pets

Still playing to a cavernous (and cold!) space, this four-piece put on an enteraining set of poppy, indie rock somewhere in the realm of Weezer Green-era, though perhaps that was just the singer's Rivers glasses that got me thinking that. His glasses sat upon his nose which did most of his singing, in a very distinct, minorly annoying, nasal fashion. It was definitely unique but once I got over it I was happy to report that the boys did a fine job of beating their recorded-music expectations.




The Futureheads
Celebrating a fifteen-year anniversary of their beloved self-titled debut the Sunderland quartet, that often sing a-cappella like a barbershop quartet, were playing it in its entirety on this evening. Having caught them way back in the day, originally as Franz Ferdinand openers and after that whenever they toured through Toronto, it was definitely a night rooted in nostalgia. And even though they did play through the old tunes it isn't a band strictly revelling in the glory days as they still have the musical interplay that always set them above the rest. Not to mention comical interplay too as they interluded songs with origin stories and any chance to get a lick in on each other. One such story did both in telling how The City Is Here For You To Use was about the then-sixteen year old drummer crying in a tube station in London when they first started gigging there. Another revealed that the singer used to have to write the bass parts as well since the bass player wasn't good enough yet and they remarked that one with a particuarly "fruity bass line" (their words) must have been as a punishment for pissing him off. "Here, try and learn this, ya tall c*nt." From opener Le Garage, through highlights such as Decent Days & Nights, "not every song needs to be about something" Alms, nearly instrument-free Danger of the Water, and frenetic First Day they proved that they've still got the magic. Yet it was in the closing two tracks that they absolutely won me back over. As always the split-chanting crowd gave their amazing take on Hounds of Love true glory but equally good was Man Ray to close it all down. Their quote-unquote lead singer was battling a throat infection so they rightly took a break following the album but were gracious enough to return and burn through a few more for us. Fittingly they played three highlights from the recently released Powers that you'd think they would be touring, and the material held up. I'm particularly partial to Good Night Out but Jekyll and Electric Shock were good too. As a finale they threw another classic, Beginning of the Twist, before waving us off having surely pleased longtime fans and excited those catching them for the first time alike.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Fontaines DC - Institute Nov 25, '19

Fontaines were.. rather disappointing, I have to say. Hardly any words were spoken - he might have said 'thank you' after the final song and he did grumble something about we they do encores before it but literally those were the only words (and I couldn't understand them anyway). The first half was all the shitty songs from their only album (starting with Hurricane Laughter, followed by Chequeless Reckless) which are basically one-riff on repeat and 1 line repeated over and over until line 2 which gets repeated and then back to line 1. They stood stock still except the singer who acted like a bored little boy, pacing in small circles and looking at his nails and stomping his mic stand. That was literally the "show". They did add an unreleased song in Televised Mind which was interesting for its novelty, at least.



The second half was only saved 'cuz it was better music, songs that had more than one chord each, but the on-stage was the exact fucking same. Zero interaction with us, or with each other, except when the singer cut not one but two songs from their already brief set. Following the previously mentioned new tune they were presumably going to play another new track (seeing as they played all 11 Dogrel songs) but it got axed. Then the guitar tech had already tuned them up for a track but the singer called an audible and then told us this was their last song meaning he cut another one right at the end. The whole thing came in well under an hour which if you're headlining a massively sold out gig in a decently big hall you've got to give us something more. Musically it was fine - the sound wasn't that great in this venue though. Stand-outs like Too Real, Boys in the Better Land, and closer, Big, got the crowd going and rightfully so, but to me it shouldn't have taken much given the anticipation to get people into it and yet the crowd seemed rather reserved for much of the night (from my vantage point just off the edge of the sometimes-pit.) One standout track was the slightly more nuanced Television Screen that at least showed the guys had a different gear.

I can see if they had opened for Idles and just straight rocked for 30 minutes and only played the good stuff that it would have been a great "surprise" but as headliners I'll give 'em a bit of a "fuck off". At the End of the Road festival this summer they also got a pass from me 'cuz they were in a massive fucking tent in the middle of the day and I was stuck at the back trying not to be anti-social. I just assumed that if I was up front that it would have been great but, alas, now I know my answer - No.

---
Warm Drag opened and while I only caught the final song and a half (having previewed them before arrival) I think I got the gist of it. Playing music akin to The Kills the male worked a synthesizer over a drum machine while the woman sang and shrieked into the mic. Not entirely bad it wasn't anything for me to get excited about.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Pup, Sløtface, Fresh - Academy 2 Nov 23, '19

It's no secret that I love Pup. Tracking them down whenever they come near and so I was first in line when they finally announced a proper gig in Brum. Stefan acknowledged this early on - no shit, the last (and only?) time they headlined was in the basement of The Rainbow. Anyhow that was the past and this was now and as always they were here to rev it up and so they did by launching into Morbid Stuff with as much abandon as ever. The Kids were incredibly stoked for the set as they shouted along to every lyric, even those from this year's Morbid Stuff through which the band understandably did a deep dive (considering they toured the hell out of the last two albums already). With a captive audience, Babcock took full advantage to espouse on politics, encouraging us to vote even if it sometimes seems fruitless ("we're Canadian and we adopted your shitty system so we understand" Steve added), and eliciting a Seven Nation Army "Jeremy Corbyn" chant. They also encouraged donations to their European charity Sea Watch. On other topics, Stefan admitted he likes being a shit-disturber and repeated his slagging off their first album despite receiving negative feedback for doing the same thing the previous night. He did say that there were a few tunes they still liked, presumably Dark Days and Reservoir considering their inclusion in the set. But back to the music, despite Stefan's sick throat they didn't hold back and threw in a few from The Dream is Over as well, highlighed by Familiar Patterns. Now road-worn they can really rip a set without looking too weary for the effort. This included ventures out into the constant mosh pit by Stefan and Steve while the crowd literally carried them, physically and with "backing" vocals throughout. By the time it came around to sign off, Stefan was still being purposely unlikeable and clearly voiced the band's stance on encores, even going so far as to suggest that other bands should stop doing them and encouraging us to chant "No More Songs" at future gigs. All that to say they didn't leave the stage before playing their "encore" of the still-incredible one-two punch of If this Tour Doesn't Kill You directly into DVP. If anyone in the crowd had any breath left in their lungs beforehand it was all spent by the end of this sweaty, raucous set from this band that three albums and innumerable in give no appearance of coasting in any regard yet.

Sløtface have been on my radar for a few years now and so I was really excited to catch them again. And they brought it, despite not having yet unleashed their second album. Everyone involved did their part though it is their pint-sized frontwoman who sets the scene. The crowd was appreciative to start and got more and more into it, with moshing and the like. Finally I couldn't take it anymore after one of the new singles Telepathetic rolled into Nancy Drew as I ran in to join them for the closing of the set. A perfect set-up for Pup.


Arriving partway through the set from Fresh I got a good dose of what I expected based upon their recorded stuff - decent indie rocking music with a melodic female voice atop it all. They didn't blow me away but I wouldn't shy away from them in the future either.

Pup Setlist

Morbid Stuff

Kids

My Life Is Over and I Couldn't Be Happier

Back Against the Wall

Free at Last

See You at Your Funeral

Sleep in the Heat

Dark Days

Scorpion Hill

Closure

Familiar Patterns

Reservoir

If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will

DVP