Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Favourite tracks of 2013

These are a few songs released or reissued in 2013 that I enjoyed. Find the mix here.

Ensemble Pearl – Ghost Parade (S/T)
Xander Harris – Karakuri (Chrysalid)
Wild Nothing – Ocean Repeating [Big-eyed Girl] (Empty Estate EP)
Toro Y Moi – Say That (Anything in Return)
Shuggie Otis – Special (Inspiration Information/Wings of Love)
William Onyeabor – Love is Blind (Who is William Onyeabor?)
Thee Oh Sees – Toe Cutter–Thumb Buster (Floating Coffin)
White Fence – White Cat (Cyclops Reap)
Shannon and the Clams – Bed Rock (Dreams in the Rat House)
The Number 1s – Sharon Shouldn't (7” single)
Popstrangers – In Some Ways (Antipodes)
Window Twins – Others (Wish)
La Luz – Call Me in the Day (Damp Face EP)
Adrian Yonge & The Delfonics – Enemies (Adrian Yonge Presents The Delfonics)
Charles Bradley – Love Bug Blues (Victim of Love)
Yo La Tengo – Well You Better (Fade)
Herbcraft – Mother's Gate [Shambala] (The Astral Body Electric)
My Bloody Valentine – Who Sees You (MBV)
Beach Fossils – Careless (Clash the Truth)
Fuzz – HazeMaze (S/T)
Melt-Banana – Lefty Dog [run, caper, run] (Fetch)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Favourite hip-hip tracks 2013

Here's the track-list for my mix of 2013 hip-hop jams (the Dilla one is an old song, but only released officially last year).

Quasimoto – Planned Attack (Yessir Whatever)
Madlib – Track 3 (Rock Konducta Vol. 1)
Oh No – Same Shit feat. Rapsody & Psalm 1 (Disrupted Ads)
Jonwayne – The Come Up Pt. 2 (Rap Album One)
Captain Murphy – Between Villains feat. Viktor Vaughn, Earl Sweatshirt and Thundercat (Adult Swim single)
A$AP Rocky – Hell feat. Santigold (Long Live A$AP)
Lilacs & Champagne – Sour/Sweet (Danish & Blue)
Oliver & Jae – BulkProtein (RawHyde)
Knx – kaveman (Anthology)
Ghostface & Adrian Yonge – Rise of the Black Suits (Twelve Reasons to Die)
Cypria – Let's Go (The Sunday Soul Sessions)
Jonwayne – Blaq Cowboy (Cassette 3: Marion Morrison Mixtape)
Knxledge – Ladibrd feat. Quelle Chris (Kauliflower EP)
Ka – Jungle (The Night's Gambit)
Ahnnu – Non2 (World Music)
Roc Marciano – Take Me Over (The Pimpire Strikes Back)
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Deeper (Deeper EP)
Blu and MED – Belly Full feat. Black Spade (Burgundy EP)
J Dilla – Diamonds: The Shining Pt. 1 (Diamonds and Ice EP)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Favourite Records of 2010

1. Thee Oh Sees - Warm Slime (In The Red)

2. Women - Public Strain (Flemish Eye)

3. Mark McGuire - Tidings/Amesthyst Waves (Weird Forest)

4. Madlib - Medicine Show #5: The History of the Loop Digga 1990-2000 (Madlib Invazion)

5. Strong Arm Steady - In Search of Stoney Jackson (Stones Throw)

6. Pocahaunted - Make It Real (Not Not Fun)

7. Guilty Simpson - OJ Simpson (Stones Throw)

8. LA Vampires/Psychic Reality split EP (Not Not Fun)

9. Emeralds - Does It Look Like I'm Here? (Editions Mego)

10. Tyvek - Nothing Fits (In The Red)

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Top 30 of the '00s

I've enjoyed looking at all the "Best of the Decade" lists popping out there. This decade was hugely influential as far as musical experiences go - started playing in bands, started DJing on campus-community radio, got drunk at loads of shows, and made some great friends who opened my ears to lots of cool sounds.

The list I've put together gives a fairly even count of what I've enjoyed over the last decade. It's in alphabetical, cause ranking seems to hard and a tad unnecessary.

!!! – Louden Up Now (Touch and Go, 2004)
Lyrics might not always be the best, but the grooves on this album still get me, and the guitars are fun and klangy.

Bardo Pond – On The Ellipse (ATP Recordings, 2003)
A killer slab of modern psych-rock.

Battles – Mirrored (Warp, 2007)
Well-acclaimed album, and rightfully so.

Broadcast – Tender Buttons (Warp, 2005)
Gorgeous collection of buzzy pop.

Caribou – The Milk of Human Kindness (Domino, 2005)
The album that helped me get Dan Snaith. I don't think he'll ever top this. Barnowl is the best jam Can never wrote.

Do Make Say Think - & Yet & Yet (Constellation, 2002)
One of the few band that can take post-rock cliches and make them sound refreshed and entirely their own.

Don Caballero – American Don (Touch and Go, 2000)
Good last effort before Ian Williams bolted for Battles.

Erase Errata – At Crystal Palace (Troubleman Unlimited, 2003)
First album is great too, but I give the edge to this album, if only for keeping the rhythms tight without sacrificing the band's penchant for chaos.

Flying Lotus – Los Angeles (Warp, 2008)
No band jams here. Great electronic album, and one where I can still find new elements to appreciate within.

Fugazi – The Argument (Dischord, 2001)
The first side is classic, and the second is only a smidgen behind it in quality.

Godspeed You Black Emperor! - Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to the Heavens (Contellation, 2000)
See my entry on Do Make. Pivotal band for me.

Grizzly Bear – Yellow House (Warp, 2006)
Beautiful, delicate record.

Lightning Bolt – Wonderful Rainbow (Load, 2001)
The way "Assassins" just hits you when it comes on will never grow old.

Madlib – Shades of Blue (Blue Note, 2003)
Man is a genius.

Madvillain – Madvillainy (Stones Throw, 2004)
MF Doom and Madlib made for a wicked pair.

Mogwai – My Father, My King (Matador, 2001)
This might be my favourite song of the decade. Some parts in this song just swell up in my head when I hear them. This song should maybe play as I'm cremated - the process would have to drag out so I burn around the nine-minute mark.

Juana Molina – Son (Domino, 2006)
One of my favourite discoveries from my years at CHMR in St. John's.

Out Hud – Street Dad (Kranky, 2002)
Good spacey grooves.

Panda Bear – Person Pitch (Paw Tracks, 2007)
I think this will always be my favourite Animal Collective related recording.

Sandro Perri – Tiny Mirrors (Constellation, 2007)
I became really obsessed with this album in 2008. Sandro Perri is an incredibly talented man.

Pocahaunted – Island Diamonds (Not Not Fun, 2008)
So dubby and strange. I want to marry Pocahaunted - or at least share a joint with them.

Jay Reatard – Blood Visions (In the Red, 2006)
Thanks Jen Squires for sticking "Nightmares" on that mixtape you made me two years ago.

Scene Creamers – I Suck On That Emotion (Drag City, 2003)
Ian Svenonius was in fine form and backed quite well on this album. "Session Man" and "Wet Paint" are both riots.

Shellac – 1000 Hurts (Touch and Go, 2000)
Good, angry, macho fun.

Sleater-Kinney – The Woods (Sub Pop, 2005)
This album surprised me so much when I first heard it. Stuck it on during a car ride the other day, and was reminded of how great this is. I don't think Sleater-Kinney have ever put out a bad album.

Slim Twig – Vernacular Violence (Paper Bag, 2008)
This EP is so varied and scuzzy. Slim Twig is a star.

Sonic Youth – Sonic Nurse (Geffen, 2004)
They had a pretty good third decade. Hope the fourth finds some new inspiration.

Sunn O))) – Monoliths and Dimensions (Southern Lord, 2009)
I've become completely obsessed with this record. I don't think I can sleep in Gander without sticking this on.

Various – After Dark (Italians Do It Better, 2007)
Compilations always make the best dance albums.

Various – DFA Compilation #2 (DFA, 2004)
See above. Lots of great tracks on this - my favourite is "Casual Friday" by Black Leotard Front, my preferred dance tune of the decade.

Yo La Tengo – And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (Matador, 2000)
The last great Yo La Tengo album. Probably their best period.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hey there, you're no square ...

Last week, I had the thrilling pleasure of watching my favourite singer perform in the flesh. Ian Svenonius is an indie underground wunderkind whose unique vocal stylings have graced several fantastic bands - I cherish them all, in fact.

In the late 1980s, he got his start playing spastic punk rock in the D.C. scene with Nation of Ulysses, following that with the rock 'n' soul flavours of Make Up, before moving on to the psychy sounds of Scene Creamers and Weird War.

Beyond music, he's also written for a variety of magazines, and had a collection of essays published as The Psychic Soviet. A true renaissance man, Svenonious also hosts the Vice webseries "Soft Focus," where he's held highly entertaining discussions with musicians ranging from Genesis P-Orridge and Cat Power to Calvin Johnson and Henry Rollins.

I saw his current group, Chain and the Gang, perform at this year's Pop Montreal festival. My expectations were high, and he met them with cool ease. Ian was spry, quick-witted, engaging, and highly entertaining. It was a rollicking time.

While all his bands have their own unique sound, Ian's presence is always a focal point. Lyrically, he often deals with issues of community, philosophy, ideology, commerce, identity, mortality, self-expression, and pop culture, just to name a few subjects he enjoys. It's a heavy agenda, but Ian tackles his work with raw gusto, and also makes use of a wicked sense of humour.

Vocally, he possesses a marvelous instrument in the most untraditional sense. His placement of words is always spot on, with the delivery ranging from low growls to squeaky squeals. When words won't do, a simple shriek suffices, often substituted by his trademark exclamation of "Yeah!"

Make Up's crowning achievement was undoubtedly 1999's Save Yourself, a nine-song recording that gave the band a chance to show off all its best assets. Svenonius shined particularly bright, whether delivering a gritty vocal to "White Belts" or handling an hilariously epic cover of "Hey Joe." It is a classic, and also the album that really got the ball rolling on my Ian Svenonius infatuation.

A low-key highlight of the album, "I Am Pentagon" is a slow burning soul number giving romance a mathematical representation. The musical accompaniment is stripped back and the exact opposite of flashy - which is really all that's necessary given the role of the group's singer, who unquestionably demands the listener's attention.

There is not a wasted line the whole song. Think of as many references to angles, geometric shapes – this song has lots of them. "Are you isosceles, or is your angle 90 degrees," he asks to start, trying to suss out his potential love partner. Elsewhere, he's "on a parallel plane," and "can't decide if you're on the same." Dreamy.

The chorus lays out the situation aptly - "I am pentagon, which side are you going to be on?"

It's a madly witty song, and one of many Ian has come up with over a career that'll soon enter it's fourth decade. Judging from some of the excellent new Chain and the Gang songs I heard at the show, I'm hopeful there's many more to come.

Make Up - "I Am Pentagon"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Boy

Men have not often come in a manlier package than the rugged actor/singer Richard Harris. A rowdy, occasionally boozy sort with a wicked flair for dramatics, Harris could invest himself fully in almost anything.

He was a walking firebomb in the angry-young-man British feature This Sporting Life playing a tough rugby star, and a more subdued sort in the Italian drama The Red Desert.

Prized by myself amongst his many acting roles is Harris’ portrayal of Captain Nolan, the fisherman unwilling to fight back at a vengeance-thirsty killer whale in the Jaws-inspired debacle that is Orca. It was filmed in the small fishing community of Petty Harbour, featuring actors making no real effort to come-off as authentic outport Newfoundlanders. And the whale blows up sheds! It’s a riot.

The musical career of Harris is commonly scorned as the byproduct of a vanity project devoid of any true value, beyond his insanely strange and enjoyable epic hit “MacArthur Park.”

His music’s appeal tends to rely heavily on kitsch value, which isn’t really a bad thing when you’re talking about a professionally made product lifted by a unique vocal presence. Harris had the latter in spades with his quivering, ragging bellow of a voice.

The Richard Harris Love Album collected a number of his more romantic moments for the Dunhill label, which includes his “MacArthur Park” era material. “What a Lot of Flowers” was a single released in 1969, the year after “MacArthur Park” hit big. This tune never reached the near-chart-topping heights of his most well loved number, which is a shame, because it deserves more.

Written by Leslie Bricusse and produced by Johnny Harris (who also worked with Shirley Bassey, Petula Clark, and Tom Jones), “Flowers” is a top-notch, loungy pop song with an air of engaging ridiculousness.

The opening piano riff is a catchy starting point to warm up the listener for Harris’ swooping vocals, which get straight to the heart of the matter.

“What a lot of flowwwwwwweeeeeeerrrrrrrsssss. What a lot of sunnnnnnssshhhiiiinnnneeeee.”

Indeed Richard, there must be a lot of flowers, sunshine, and “music in the world today.” From there, he expresses his admiration for the many colours of the rainbow, and how they spread themselves through a cluster of flowers.

He gets excited about this, belting out the refrain of “VIOLETS! VIOLETS! VIOLETS!” several times before calming down again. It’s a particularly grand sort of flower, I reckon. The mellow conclusion is a nicely arranged coda, with reverberating woodwinds creating an almost spacey ambiance combined with Harris’ typically quivery voice.

A mixtape favourite of mine for a number of years now, “What a Lot of Flowers” is a song that’s hard to ignore while it plays. The forcefulness of Harris’ performance will grab you – maybe in a night-stalkerish way, hopefully though in a more suave-party-host fashion.

Richard Harris - "What a Lot of Flowers"

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wow and Flutter

Electronic artist Daedelus (or Alfred Darlington) takes an anything goes approach with his music. One moment he could be laying down a hard beat for an MC like MF Doom to spit rhymes over, the next he could bring a lovely psychedelic pop ditty or something aimed strictly at the dance floor. Generally, don’t expect one of his albums to dwell too much on one side of his varied persona.

He’s an inventive soul, which fits his chosen namesake given Daedelus is known as an inventor in Greek mythology. This could be taken as a brazen ego-stroking move on his part, but Daedelus’ music backs him up admirably.

The productions on his most recent album for Ninja Tunes, 2008’s Love To Make Music To, is typical in its try-anything style. There’s your slow-burning grooves followed by bouncy up-tempo numbers before moving on to who knows what. It took me some time to appreciate the album to its fullest, but I’m now inclined to say it’s one of my favourites of last year.

The hottest jam title for Love To Make Music To is owned by a slightly repetitive yet incredibly infectious song. “Make It So” was the first single off the album, which I didn’t realize until writing this post. Whoever made the call has got solid pop instincts.

Featuring the vocals of Michael Johnson – not to be confused with the American track star (I assume?) – “Make It So” sounds like a sunny, long lost New Order track. The lyrics concern a souring relationship where hope remains for some sort of reconciliation. Daedelus’ production work latches onto the hopeful nature of the song and builds lots of momentum, adding layer upon layer of synth-tastic wonder alongside a merry beat.

Musically, it’s highly romantic sounding; it literally makes me want to love every single woman on Earth. As this is impossible, I’ve lately settled on just listening to “Make It So” excessively. Once its effect wears off, I’ll have to scour the Internet for a 12-inch copy of New Order’s “The Perfect Kiss” single. Then I'll continue to swoon.