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Concert Review: Next Music From Tokyo Vol. 10

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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.

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Album Review: Century Palm – Meet You


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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

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

Album Review: MonkeyJunk – Time To Roll

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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

Album Review: Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat To Earth

 

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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

Very Special NEW SHIT!

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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!)

Concert Review: Porches, Japanese Breakfast, and Rivergazer @ Bar le Ritz PDB

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This summer, I became acquainted with the music of Porches in a big way. Their most recent album, Pool, came into my life at a time when I really needed some new stuff to listen to, and ever since,  I’ve had Porches’ music on pretty much constant repeat. On Monday, October 3rd, I got the chance to see them play alongside Rivergazer and Japanese Breakfast at Bar Le Ritz PDB, a show that sold out early on in the night and did not disappoint.

Rivergazer kicked the show off at 9:30 – though usually a trio, they performed as a duo with synth and bass fronted by Kevin Farrant, the guitarist from Porches. Rivergazer’s music is mostly synth-heavy love ballads accented with extreme auto-tuned vocals, with the members trading off as lead vocalist accompanied by tight backing harmonies from the other. As someone in the crowd described, they sound “kind of like a sad Porches”, in terms of the kind of heavy emotional stuff found in their lyrics, especially in songs like “Only 4 U”. They were a great opener in terms of setting the mood as a fun-but-not-over-the-top night.

The next group, Japanese Breakfast, is a four-piece rock group from Philadelphia fronted by high-energy vocalist/guitarist, Michelle Zauner. Their vibe was a lot different than the two other bands, playing more straight-up fun rock with an non-self-conscious attitude towards enjoying themselves on stage. I found their music to be a little one-dimensional, and the mixing of the band made it so everything blended together into a muddled wall of sound. Zauner, though, was a powerful presence, driving the show forward despite poor sound quality.

Finally, Porches took the stage around 11:15, and played a tighter set than I’ve seen in a long time. Admittedly, the songs weren’t new to the band – their latest release, Pool (not including the EP, Water), came out in February, so they’ve had plenty of time to get the material down to a science. However, the performance still felt fresh, and the whole crowd seemed to get swept up in the clean grooves they were laying down. Aaron Maine, the band’s frontman, interacted with the audience a little between numbers, mostly to deadpan sarcastically or comment on how much he liked the venue. He seemed to really like Bar Le Ritz. A lot.

Towards the end of the set, the band had to drastically lower their volume due to police complaints, but the turn of events played almost to Porches’ favour. The set ended with two solo numbers by Maine, one being the classic “Xanny Bar”, a melancholy tune he often ends shows with. The other was a new song, which he introduced by saying he’d never played it live before and he was pretty nervous about it. By the end of the tune, the whole audience was singing along.

Loitering outside the venue after the show, the general sentiment was the same: Wow. Porches put on a show that was, on the one hand, entertaining and quirky, with quips from Maine in between songs and coordinated dance moves within the band. On the other hand, some moments were incredibly emotive, particularly in those quiet moments with just Aaron Maine on stage and a whole crowd of fans eating it all up. Overall, an amazing show from a band that came into my life far, far too recently.

– Review by Nora Duffy

Concert Review: Wiki

wiki show mookell reviewOn rue Saint Élisabeth and Saint Catherine, at roughly 11:45pm in the dimly lit atmosphere of Newspeak, two of my friends and I sat for an hour until the first openers for Wiki’s show came out. We waited to get there late since the event had said the show would start at 10:00pm. By 1:00am the first opener finally took the stage of the humid club and tried to hype the crowd for Wiki’s grand appearance. Quebec rap group Les Anticipateurs catered to part of the audience that spoke French but left everyone else confused as to what was going on. The production from the group was powerful and booming but was hard for me and my friends to understand since all the rapping was in French.

Half an hour later, DJ Lucas took the stage with some old and new tracks that he had been preparing to perform live on the tour. As much as the instrumentals were banging, it was difficult to enjoy DJ Lucas as a rapper. At the beginning of his set, a fight at the front of the crowd broke out and the MC had to stop performing for a while to break up the two men disputing amongst each other. After hours of waiting for the main act with two unpleasant openers, Wiki finally appeared on the stage at 2:05am.

Waiting for Wiki seemed like it wasn’t going to be worth it in the end. We were all exhausted for waiting so many hours and sitting through openers that we couldn’t care less about. However, when the New York based MC stepped onto the stage, there was an immediate turnaround in the amount of energy in the room. He opened up his set with the track “3 Stories,” which was produced by local electronic artist Kaytranada. The crowd was full of life and bouncing to the buttery beat of the song as Wiki slammed down some hard bars.

Security was uncomfortably rough at Newspeak; they wouldn’t allow anyone to mosh during the show. As soon as they spotted the slightest act of moshing, they’d grab people from the audience and tell them to stop immediately. It was a buzzkill to say the least; people weren’t able to enjoy themselves the way they wanted. One of the security guards pushed someone from the front of the crowd all the way to the back of the club and the two got into a fist fight. The fight attracted a small audience that was separated from Wiki’s performance with people arguing that the guy being held by security didn’t do anything wrong.

Wiki kept performing for those who were paying attention to his set. “God Bless Me” and “Crib Tax,” among many other cuts from Wiki’s debut LP Lil Me, were played at the show. By 2:45am the set was over and the audience was drenched in sweat. Even with a weirdly short set from the main act, it was still an incredible experience to see Wiki completely turn the tables on what started off as a rough night. I’m going to have my reservations with shows at Newspeak from now on, but if Wiki’s ever playing there again, I’ve learned that you should show up a lot later than you would think.

Review by Michael Eidelson

Updated on November 7, 2016, we apologize for any inconveniences caused by the initial write up for the show!

Album Review: Best Fern EP – Best Fern

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The first thought that springs to mind when listening to the latest EP by Best Fern is how elegant the whole project makes you feel. Montréal based duo Alexia Avina and Nick Schofield string together spacious ambient production to create an inviting atmosphere that only exists within the realm of their EP. There are only five tracks on the entire project which creates a short but delightfully pleasant listen and suits the time of year where summer is slowly dwindling away into fall.

Soft synths start off the EP with the track “A Way” and establish’s the tone for the remainder of the dreamy project. Alexia’s approach to singing over the light production feels otherworldly and complement the style of dream pop that the two are crafting together. “Lay It On Me” continues to carry the narrative of the first song and brings a far more relaxing element than the previous track. It’s comforting and sedates the listener for the rest of the atmospheric environment that Alexia and Nick dive into.

The longest track on the EP standing at five minutes long, “Do U Love U” is incredibly tender and has synths working in parallel with Alexia’s beautiful voice. There are echoes in the background that form a concrete idea that you’re thrown into a different world completely while listening to the new EP. “R U Well” has synths that are layered on top one another but doesn’t clutter the sound, the effect makes the song more spacious with flutes that float their way throughout the duration of the track.

“I Will Try” finishes off the EP with a booming bass that isn’t over the top by any means, but instead feels like a grand finish for the project. Best Fern pull off a stellar debut with their self-titled EP. It’ll be interesting to see what directions the duo head in with future projects and  the sort of direction that they decide to head in.

You can pick up their latest EP from their bandcamp and follow them on facebook and soundcloud. They’ll be opening for Angel Olsen on Friday September 23rd at the Rialto Theatre and will have another show on Thursday October 6th at La Plante.

– Review by Michael Eidelson