Author Archives: librarian

a2628204520_16

Album Review: Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds From Another Planet

“I want it all,” Michelle Zauner coos on “Diving Woman,” the opening track from her new album as Japanese Breakfast. The breathy vocals turn what could be a bold opening statement into a kind of aspirational mantra, something to reach toward.

Six and a half minutes long, “Diving Woman” is an enticing, meandering track that immediately differentiates Soft Sounds From Another Planet from Japanese Breakfast’s last release, 2016’s Psychopomp. That record was short, sweet, and immediate. Zauner put it together right after her mother passed away from cancer, and though most of its songs weren’t explicitly about her mother’s death, the album had a sense of working through fear and pain as they’re happening. That rawness was what made Psychopomp stand out, despite the fact that some of its two-minute tracks slid pleasantly in one ear and back out the other.

Soft Sounds, on the other hand, takes the time to brood, and is stronger for it. Zauner’s guitar is still at the forefront but now shares the spotlight with flitting synths and bells. Her vocals, meanwhile, are lighter than they’ve ever been, creating space for the songs to swell underneath. Soft Sounds is an indie rock album, but the tracks aren’t interested in catchy hooks so much as settling into a good groove and seeing where it goes. This isn’t a departure for Zauner, then, but an expansion.

Because of this calmer tone, Soft Sounds feels simultaneously in-depth and distant, the lyrics often expressing a sense of disconnection and isolation, as if sung by someone looking in on her life. In “Road Head,” Zauner recalls a failed relationship while remaining separate from it, her voice floating as she sings, “‘dream on, baby,’ were his last words to me” – a reference to an ex who told Zauner she wasn’t good enough for a career in music. The airy vocals and synths don’t create a sense of emptiness, but possibility, like the narrator is dreaming herself right past this shitty dude.

Continue reading

IMG_5266

Concert Review: Thurston Moore Group and Jessica Moss @ La Sala Rossa

On Tuesday, July 18 Montrealers lined up eagerly outside La Sala Rossa for the long awaited Thurston Moore Group and Jessica Moss show. For those who don’t know, Thurston Moore is a singer, songwriter and guitarist for Sonic Youth, one of the most influential rock bands of our time, thanks to their unconventional guitar tunings and experimental use of objects like screwdrivers and drum sticks to alter tone quality. The audience that night was full of Sonic Youth lovers who had come to see a living legend.

Starting the night off was Jessica Moss, a local violinist who also plays in Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Black Ox Orkestar. Moss played a single 25 minute piece which told the story of a refugee traveling from danger to safety, her presence majestic as she manipulated an array of pedals with her bare feet and hands. Stacks of echoing loops and distortion on her violin and voice created an intensely entrancing experience for the ears, while Moss’ melancholic repetitions of the words “entire populations” served as a stark and heart-wrenching reminder of the piece’s subject matter. As the layers and signal-bending folded and unfolded, I felt a sense of relief, like one may feel when they finally see land after a long time at sea. With one piece, Moss took the audience on a beautifully haunting sonic and emotional journey.

Thurston Moore Group took the stage next. Seeing Moore live for the first time was an experience I will never forget. I knew he had a unique way of playing guitar, but watching it in real time was breathtaking. Moore used his guitar fully, from the output jack to the bridge and all the way up to the headstock, gently and rhythmically tapping it with his fingers to further distort the timbre of the sound. He wasn’t the only living legend on stage that night, though – My Bloody Valentine’s Debbie Googe was shredding and delivering heavy bass lines in sync with part-time Sonic Youth and current Sun Kil Moon drummer Steve Shelley.

The group played tracks off their new album Rock N Roll Consciousness, a record that very pleasantly sounds like something Sonic Youth could have released. Beyond his astonishing guitar-work, Moore was also as political as ever. On “Cease Fire,” a song off the new album, he denounced guns and empowered love to rule. While introducing the song, Moore revealed that he first played Sala Rossa years ago for an anti-Bush show. “Is there a difference between a corporate take-over and a political take-over?” he wondered aloud. “I don’t think so. Well, we’re here for a free love take-over.”

At the end of the show, the merch table was surrounded by a large mass of fans while Moore signed records. I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of the last albums and exchanged a few words with Moore about the rise of extremist right wing groups and the need for organized actions, offering him one of my ‘FCK NZS’ stickers. “Yeah I’ll take that!” he responded, “I’ve seen the t-shirts around!” I would be lying if I said I’m not hoping he puts it on one of his guitars. I left the venue that night sonically satisfied, feeling an after-buzz that stuck with me for several days – a free-love takeover, indeed.

– Review by Nadège Zaghdoudi-Allan

Beep Test at Casa del Popolo.

Concert Review: Institute @ Casa del Popolo

The July 16 Institute show at Casa del Popolo was solid proof that punk rock is alive and well in our fair city. When I arrived that night, punk lovers from all over Montreal were pouring into the intimate venue, until the show sold out and the sweat started dripping. The excitement and energy of audience and musicians alike was palpable, a comforting sense of camaraderie in the air as friends reunited and encouraging words and hugs were exchanged.

Montreal’s Beep Test started the night off with a short set of synthy no-frills punk. They got the crowd warmed up for Faze, another local group who hit the ground running with their in-your-face-in-a-good-way moshpit pleasers. Faze’s vocalist had a seemingly endless supply of energy, making it hard to look away as he elegantly squatted across the stage, his eyes rolling to the back of his head after a body-shuddering growl. The guitarist’s riveting tweaking of effect pedal knobs only added to the raw beautiful chaos. Next in the line-up was Grosser, a group of Calgary emigrants and Montrealers who addressed local issues on tracks like “Bylaw Compliance” and “Condo Board.” The frontman’s enthusiasm was contagious as he busted out into the crowd, triggering a pulsating moshpit around him. Unfortunately, this was Grosser’s last show before the members move on to new projects.

The room was packed by the time Institute came on, and the Austin, Texas band did not disappoint. They played mostly tracks from their new album Subordination, songs that stick to the band’s anarcho-punk roots but add more depth, distortion and overdrive, making them hard to label as a particular genre and all the more interesting to see live. Institute’s musical skill, smart politically infused lyrics, memorable stage presence, and endearing modesty definitely made for one of the best live punk acts I have seen in years. I spoke with guitarist Arak Avakian after the show and, when asked what he would like to say to the world, he responded that “hard work does not equal hard rock.” After witnessing Institute’s hard work in person, I left the show with the reassuring sense that, despite the state of the world, things might be ok as long as bands like Institute are still filling venues and challenging the status quo.

– Review by Nadège Zaghdoudi-Allan

Neil-The-Taupe-768x512

Concert Review: Next Music From Tokyo Vol. 10

Neil-The-Taupe-768x512

On May 22nd, I arrived at Divan Orange at 8:00 pm, just before the music was supposed to start, to find a room already packed to the brim with a horde of excited fans. The concert was a showcase of Japanese bands, part of an ongoing series called Next Music From Tokyo. I was planning on bringing a few friends along, but even at such an early hour, the show was – in the words of organizer Steven Tanaka – “beyond sold out.” From talking to a few people at the concert and record store clerks, I eventually gathered that this 10th edition of Next Music From Tokyo was the most popular one yet.

I ended up at the show after recently reading Ian Martin’s Quit Your Band!: Musical Notes From the Japanese Underground – a newly published, finely compiled compendium of the history and inner-workings of the Japanese underground music scene. As Martin takes the reader through the history of Japanese rock music and band politics, he opens one chapter with a short story about Canada, presenting the country as some sort of promised land for indie bands aspiring to greatness. Martin then goes on to discuss a mythical figure within the Canadian scene, someone who would regularly travel to Tokyo from his home in Toronto several times a year to scout out underground bands, hoping to enlist them in a series of concerts in Canada.

Martin eventually reveals this mythical figure to be Tanaka, an anesthesiologist working in Toronto who moonlights as a seminal figure in Tokyo’s underground music scene. Intrigued, I decided to dig further. I found Tanaka’s blog on the Next Music From Tokyo website, where he writes about seeing bands playing live, hanging out with the members, and the intricacies of the scene itself. Both the book and blog made the Next Music project sound like an amazingly genuine product of love for the music, and I knew there was no excuse for me not to be at the next instalment.

So I found myself alone at Divan Orange, where Tanaka’s love and excitement were on full display as he introduced each of the five bands playing that evening. He spoke so candidly and excitedly about the bands that you couldn’t help but feel the same sense of pure unadulterated glee. This enthusiasm was matched by the performers, too. Although a lot of words were lost in translation, each band emitted some seriously positive vibes. The combination of good energy from the organizers and bands created an experience that I won’t forget until I’m old and senile, and maybe not even then. Let me walk you through it.

Continue reading

century palm meet you

Album Review: Century Palm – Meet You


century palm meet you

Toronto band Century Palm have just released their first LP Meet You, a nostalgic album that mixes garage punk with new wave influences. Simple yet catchy guitar riffs and fast paced, upbeat drum rhythms give the album a grungy feel, as if its sound was literally emerging from someone’s garage. These retro styles make Meet You a fun album, though not always an especially unique or distinct one.

Andrew Payne and Paul Lawton’s vocals are vital to the album’s sombre ambiance. The gloomy vocals, which sometimes veer closer to speaking than singing, are hypnotizing. In “Sick of It” the vocals even takes on a Lou Reed quality. Their deep morose voices combined with melancholic synths lend a distinctly new wave feel to the material. One of the most engaging parts of Meet You is the way those darker synths and the lighter guitar play off of each other. “King of John St.,” for example, begins with a high-pitched guitar riff that gives the song a playful quality while the lower synth provides the song’s depth. Halfway through, the synth and guitar switch roles, with the synth playing the high riff before ending on more sonorous sounds. This back-and-forth gestures towards one of the album’s recurring themes: something darker is always lingering below the surface.

While these individual songs are catchy, the album as a whole starts to feel somewhat repetitive. The upbeat guitar – one of the most enjoyable features in this album – tends to get a bit lost within the steady tempo and drum patterns. A saxophone in “Sick of It” is a welcome addition to the band’s instrumentation; the rest of the album could have benefitted from more of the sonic diversity it brings.

Almost hidden in the musical arrangements are the emotionally vulnerable lyrics. The album begins with a dark, horrifying description of anxiety and depression in “Reset Reaction,” a study that continues throughout the entire album. Of course, no such exploration by a Canadian band would be complete without a description of seasonal depression like the one found in the first verse of “King of John Street.” The use of the second person perspective throughout the lyrics makes it seem like the vocalist is addressing and questioning himself, a process similarly referenced by the album’s title. Payne explores the battle between who you think you are and who you might be, what you are and what you want to be, and what you feel yourself to be and how you present yourself on the outside. This duality of self is best displayed in “King of John Street,” where Payne sings, “Spending all my days in the east side / forgetting who I was on the other side / the Queen connects us, but I divide / don’t think I don’t think about it.” These geographic metaphors avoid heavy-handedness because of the nonchalant way in which Payne delivers them.

Meet You is an album steeped in interesting combinations: the driving garage punk rhythms mixed with the deep new wave synths and vocals, upbeat riffs paired with vulnerable lyrics. Though the garage punk and new wave influences help make for an engaging blend of styles, it’s not always enough; without much experimentation in tempo and instrumentation, Meet You at times feels a bit too safe.  

– Review by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

photo taken by Aaron Bentley

Concert Review: Kaytranada @ L’Olympia

photo taken by Aaron Bentley

photo taken by Aaron Bentley

Final exams didn’t faze dedicated fans from attending a sold out show at L’Olympia from local electronic producer Kaytranada. Taking the stage at 11:20pm, the venue was packed to the brim with people eagerly anticipating the eccentric young artist to perform his latest mixes for everyone. Fellow local artists Planet Giza and Lou Phelps opened the show earlier on that night with their own sets to warm up the crowd. However, if you planned on catching just the main act then you would’ve had to bear waiting outside in line for over half an hour before stepping foot into the venue.

Once inside L’Olympia, security pushed their efforts in patting down every single person before letting anyone onto the dancefloor. The crowd was immense, nothing but a sea of bodies could be seen in every direction and by the time my friends and I made our way inside, Kaytranada had already took to the stage with performing his mixes.

We made our way up towards the front of the stage, the energy in the room was unparalleled to the show that Kaytranada performed back in May for the release of his debut LP 99.9%. By this time around people knew what to expect from the young producer, his debut album garnered widespread attention and has been making appearances on end of the year lists for the hottest albums of 2016.

He performed fan favorites from 99.9%. The tracks “Glowed Up” and “Lite Spots” had the audience going ballistic and vibing hard off of the hottest two singles on the album. During another point of the show “Cranes In The Sky” off of Solange’s latest record A Seat At The Table had people grooving hard to the funky remix that Kaytranada was able to provide on the track. The liveliness of the venue was constant, everyone in the building was able to lose themselves to Kaytranada’s crisp production that has become distinct to the artist’s production style.

After over an hour of material the show finally concluded around 12:35am, roars of excitement and cheer filled the venue of L’Olympia as Kaytranada thanked everyone for coming to the show. While it’s only been a couple of months since 99.9% dropped, the amount of playability that album holds is always refreshing when listening to his debut efforts. On a live stage all his songs translate exceptionally well to the dancefloor, which makes total sense. His music is meant to be danced to, meant to be played at parties, and most importantly is meant to showcase that Kaytranada is no one-trick pony when it comes to making music.

-review by Michael Eidelson

monkeyjunk album art

Album Review: MonkeyJunk – Time To Roll

monkeyjunk album art

Time To Roll is the fifth studio album from the Ottawa blues band MonkeyJunk. The band is proud to announce that this album features an electric bass prominently, which was not the case in any of the band’s previous four album. The album is not only, electric but also eclectic. While every song is united under the umbrella of blues and blues rock, each song has a unique essence and emotion. In the first three tracks the listener experiences the emotion of a Jonny Lang ballad, the milieu of a Tinsley Ellis song, and the rockin’ vibe of something straight from the depths Jimmie Vaughan and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Vocalist Steve Marriner bowls over the listener with the sheer power and potency of his voice, such as in the first track “Best Kept Secret,” yet, at the same time caresses the listener with sonorous care, for example, in the soulful “Blue Lights Go Down.” As well, most every song also features Marriner’s powerful harmonica in addition to his strong vocals. The band covers many styles on the album, from the gospel tinged, funky “Fuzzy Poodle” to the strong, throbbing love song “Can’t Call You Baby.” Perhaps most interesting to a traditional blues lover, “Undertaker Blues” is what could only be described as MonkeyJunk’s take on the country blues John Lee Hooker’s songwriting. The song is the perfect coalescence between Marriner’s sharp harp and vocals, Tony D’s twangy guitar, and drummer Matt Sobb’s driving percussion. Monkey Junk entertains with the comical “Gone” and another southern rock-influenced tune, “Time To Roll.” Listeners will swear they hear Derek Trucks on the soulful “Pray For Rain.” “See The Sign” features a Southern/Indie Rock feel accompanied by Sobb’s drumming in tandem with that ever-present harmonica that anyone will come to know well after listening to this album. Time To Roll leaves the listener with a heart full of MonkeyJunk’s sonorous and impassioned blues and great contentment.
– review by E.C. Wenzel

Album Review: Lady Wray – Queen Alone

Queen Alone is the second solo studio album from American R&B singer Nicole Wray, and her first album under the name “Lady Wray”. Eighteen years since her first album, Make It Hot, Wray has a new record company, a new producer, and a new sound. Make It Hot was part R&B and part hip-hop, with heavy drum beats and frequent features by album producer and rapper Missy Elliot. Queen Alone presents a more mature, classic R&B sound that puts the focus on Wray’s powerful vocals.

Most of the songs on Queen Alone are old-school R&B. Simple instrumentals are punctuated by trumpets and background vocals heavily influenced by gospel, a side effect of Wray’s church upbringing. This can be seen in tracks such as “Do It Again”, “Guilty”, and “Make Me Over”, nostalgic tunes about love and loss. As the album progresses, however, the songs begin to bring in elements of other genres. “In Love (Don’t Mess Things Up)” features a folksy instrumental not typically seen in R&B, providing an interesting contrast to Wray’s vocals. “It’s Been A Long Time” is reminiscent of the Jackson 5, bringing in more of a pop vibe. The tracks “Cut Me Loose” and “Underneath My Feet” delve into rock, with heavy guitar and drum beats. Finally, “They Won’t Hang Around” brings back memories of classic Amy Winehouse hits such as “You Know I’m No Good”. With elements of so many different genres, Queen Alone runs the risk of sounding like a collection of single songs rather than an album. However, the R&B undertones of every song, combined with Lady Wray’s powerful vocals, give the album the necessary cohesiveness.

Queen Alone is remarkable different from Lady Wray’s first album. Her new sound emphasizes her incredible voice instead of relying on the heavy backbeat and hip-hop elements of Make It Hot. Wray’s return to a more classic R&B sound suits her well, and is a great listen for anyone looking to reminisce about the old-school days of R&B.

– review by Emma Park

weyes

Album Review: Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat To Earth

 

weyes

Natalie Mering, or better known by her stage name Weyes Blood, released her elegant new LP Front Row Seat To Earth a couple of weeks ago. The New York singer-songwriter’s second album released under Mexican Summer’s record label approaches the listener with tenderness and care through the whole tracklist. The realities of dealing with relationships and celebrating change in attitudes are central themes surrounding Mering’s latest project.

“Diary” is the first track off the LP that starts with a slow piano progression that feels heavenly to the effect of Mering’s beautiful vocals. The atmosphere feels intimate and sparks different notions of what Mering might be experiencing in her life. It’s almost as if she’s singing a personal passage from her own diary, informing the listening audience about how she feels. This sets the tone for the rest of the album which feels extremely personal from one track to the next.

The song “Be Free” is absolutely stunning, it pulls at your heart in the most comforting way possible. The guitar playing feels dreamy, Mering’s vocals towards the later half of the track resonate well against the brass instruments and finishes the song off exquisitely well. “Generation Why” was used as one of the singles for Weyes Blood’s latest record and discusses the idea of our current generation and dealing with change in everyday life. The gentle guitar plucking throughout the song is accompanied by violins that support Mering’s stellar harmonies on the track. At this point the consistency of the album feels satisfying and carries forth similar production within each song proceeding.

“Can’t Go Home” is the following track after “Generation Why” and utilizes a harmonizer for the background vocals, the effect feels like a beautiful outer worldly instrument. “Away Above” has cool synth work seeping its way through light guitar playing and pretty vocals that emulate a sense of sorrow that’s oddly uplifting at the same time. Mering addresses how confusing love can be, what it means to love someone, and how real that feeling can be to someone. It’s a harrowing track that is relatable for anyone facing the dilemma of what it means to have feelings of love resonating within one’s self.

Front Row Seat To Earth is a magnificent accomplishment for an album. Exceptionally touching and forward thinking, the latest LP from the New York songstress is one that should not be overlooked. Pick up this record and give yourself the pleasure of pulling up a front row seat to the experience. You’re going to want to be seated for the initial playthrough.

– Review by Michael Eidelson

IMG_5994

Very Special NEW SHIT!

IMG_5994

It’s funding drive o’clock! Tune in today at 3pm to 90.3 CKUT for an extra awesome edition of New Shit: we’ll have LIVE performances by Un Blonde and Clear Spot as well as an interview and guest DJ set from Drainolith.
You know what might even be better than New Shit?
PRIZES!!
For the first few lucky donors of $25 and up, we have packs featuring a cornucopia of releases from independent Montreal label Fixture Records, cassettes from Egg Paper Factory, and a bunch a vinyl goodies from Constellation Records. Those who call early can take their pick of the packs below.

Fixture Records Pack
Phern – Pause Clope flexi 7″

The Submissives – Do You Really Love Me? cassette
Brave Radar – Lion Head LP
Jef Elise Barbara – Sexe Machin / Sex Machine 7″
Lantern – Black Highways and Green Garden Roads cassette
Fixture Records compilation #4 CD

Egg Paper Pack (all cassette)
Gretchen – Oblique Contours
Whitney K – Pony
Inland Island – Zsa Zsa’s Window Opens Slowly
The Painters – Specks of Dust
Family Band – Family Band ’15
…and super cool Egg Paper stickers and a pin!
Vinyl Pack #1 – CLAIMED
Ought – More Than Any Other Day
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufield – Never Were The Way She Was
Vinyl Pack #2 – CLAIMED
Automatisme – Momentform Accumulations
Jason Sharp – A Boat Upon Its Blood
Vinyl Pack #3 – CLAIMED
Jerusalem In My Heart – If He Dies, If If If If If If
Off World – 1
Vinyl Pack #4
Ought – Sun Coming Down
Drainolith – Hysteria (+ bonus patch!)