Tag Archives: jess newfield

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Concert Review: Explosions in the Sky @ Metropolis

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After following their musical career over the last 10 years, seeing Explosions in the Sky play live at Metropolis this past Sunday was like a dream come true. I grew up listening to this moody post-rock band during my teenage angst days, on endless night bus rides going from one city to the next, and with friends on summer road trips.

With bands that I’m emotionally invested in, I sometimes worry that seeing them live will be disappointing because my expectations could never possibly be met. I was the complete opposite of disappointed. I’ve rarely seen a band so in sync. The Texan-originated quartet was playing flawlessly together without even looking at each other once during the entire set.

They really got into each song: there were no breaks, and each song flowed into the next with their heads and bodies swaying in slow, synchronized motion. The crowd seemed to be floating in instrumental euphoria, heads tilted slightly upwards with closed eyes and smiles on their faces. Or alternatively, as my friend Derek described the scene, ”So many balding white guys in black band t-shirts and rectangular glasses bobbing their heads.”

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Not only are Explosions superb performers, but their musical prowess is exquisite to observe. The way that they layer their electric guitar riffs with the rhythm section conveys a climactic assemblage of artistic cliffhangers. Hearing “First Breath After Coma”  felt like my ears were being bathed in a silky warm gold liquid where I lost sense of time and space.  To clarify, I was not on drugs — this experience was the natural high induced by dopamine flooding my brain.

My friend and me admired the band’s variety of arrangements, and how each song crescendoed and then was deconstructed again in a labyrinth of audible pleasure.  Their set intertwined tracks from both their newer music such as “Losing the Light” from their latest 2016 LP, The Wilderness, as well as older tunes such as “Trembling Hands” from their 2011 EP, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, and their iconic hit  “A Song for Our Fathers”, from their 2007 EP, How Strange, Innocence.

 

They’ve been together a long time and it’s evident that they are still pros with their really tight timing and their natural and aerie harmonizing. Explosions in the Sky ended their set with the cream of the crop and my all time favourite “Your Hand In Mine” from their 2007 EP, The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place. In all, it was both bittersweet and inspiring to see them. I recommend any post-rock fan to go see them if they get the chance. In the meantime, download all their albums on your phone, go sit under a tree and contemplate melancholically the grandeur of our existence.

– Review by Jess Newfield

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99.9% – Kaytranada A Digested Album Review

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It’s been a month since Kaytranada’s first LP 99.9% came out and we’ve been listening to it non-stop. The hype for the album snowballed, especially in the DJ and producer’s hometown of Montreal, in anticipation for his homecoming concert that rocked the Metropolis on May 19th. And the attention around the album and Kaytranada doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon. After a month of listening to the album, whether dancing to its infectious rhythms while washing the dishes, or sinking back into the sweaty bus seat with its textured synths in our headphones, we’re sure it’s going to be playing around the city all summer long, even long after Kay comes back for his set at the Osheaga mainstage in July. Continue reading

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Concert Review: Local Natives @ MRCY Fest

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In its second year running, MRCY FEST really outdid itself this September with headlining acts like Local Natives and Alabama Shakes. Seeing LA-based psych folk/indie rock band Local Natives was definitely a highlight for me. They brought back a whole wave of nostalgia for the early 2010s and the clean-cut, geeky band aesthetic. Their sound embodies the pinnacle of the repopularisation of harmonic indie rock after the grunge and fanzine craze of the ’90s; in the words of Pitchfork, they’re “sort of a West Coast Grizzly Bear.”

For their recent Montreal gig, they kicked off their set on a high note with the hit “Breakers” from their 2013 LP Hummingbird.  Catchy three-part ‘ooouh-ouuuh’ harmonies and double-tempo drumming meshed well with the introspective lyrics. They also played tracks from their debut album Gorilla Manor, like “Wide Eyes”, “Airplanes” and “Camera Talk”, which stood out with its Afro-pop tinged guitar chords.

Local Natives also teased us with a couple songs of their upcoming album, riveting the crowd with their fun melodies and keeping us in anticipation of their official launch. Guitarists Ryan Hahn and Taylor Rice and keyboardist Kelcey Ayer’s melancholic vocals blend together exceptionally well, and this layered smoothness is probably one of the strongest aspects of their sound.

Their set was long but they maintained their high energy throughout the performance, which only confirmed my opinion of them as talented musicians and solid performers. MRCY FEST, bring them back in 2016?

– Review and photo by Jess Newfield

 

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Concert Review: Rhye @ Corona Theatre, June 8

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Corona Theatre was full to the brim with eager Montrealers awaiting Rhye’s show on June 8th. I sadly missed the opening act, HAERTS, an 80s-reminiscent synth pop band whose sound falls somewhere between Haim and Young Galaxy. The vocalist of HAERTS, Nina Fabi, has a singular, almost Stevie Nicks-esque quality to her voice, adding an edgy tone to their sound. Their self-titled 2014 LP is definitely worth a listen.

Rhye kicked off their set with their 2012 single “The Fall”, a crowd favorite for its sensual R&B-inspired smooth soul-pop. The band, which originally started as a collaboration between producers Robin Braun and Mike Milosh, performed as a six-piece act for their Montreal show. The keyboardist’s synth progressions had the passion of someone savoring their last moments on the Space Odyssey. The bassist was jiving to a funk beat and the lead guitarist dabbled with some post-rock solos. Even though the first couple songs were muddled by some minor technical difficulties, Rhye kept the audience happily enthralled with their stage presence.

What really impressed me was how the band members were almost all multi-instrumentalist. Milosh sang and played some drums, the keyboardist played synths and vocals, the lead guitarist also rocked the trombone and viola, accompanying the violin player next to her. And despite all this musical juxtaposition, they transitioned well from one track to the next. Not many bands sound better in person, but they did!

Towards the end of their set, Rhye asked the audience to try to be as quiet as possible to be able to play an acoustic song for them with no mics or amps. They were able to and succeeded in making Corona feel like an intimate venue of soulful music. Finally, their show came full circle with the much-anticipated single “Open,” and the crowd was left craving more of Milosh’s sultry voice.

Rhye’s energy and obvious love for what they do just confirmed why I love to go see live music — and always will.

– Review and photo by Jess Newfield