I write about random things a lot. I write a lot about random things. Did you know that Suzanne Vega is considered the mother of the MP3 format? Her song “Tom’s Diner” was the one engineers chose to work on while perfecting compression technology in the 1980s for its distinct sound.
Decades later, there have come and gone countless social media applications meant for people to enjoy and discover new music - MP3 format or otherwise - whether they’re intuitive websites or sophisticated mobile apps, and only the truly unique have managed to stand the test of time; like a new business, the first year after such a service is rolled out is a crucial time.
Last.fm, founded in the United Kingdom in 2002, is arguably the most empowering and comprehensive social music service available to listeners today. For free, Last.fm tracks music you listen to on your computer and mobile phone - through programs like iTunes, Windows Media Player and more - and stores that record in your profile.
From there, Last.fm drives music discovery like few other sites can. Last.fm also features artist profiles created for every band, group and musician in its database and does its best to tag them into accurate categories based upon the feedback and listening habits of Last.fm users.
November 29 is a day likely to go down in local history as The Tea Party returns to London in performance at Cowboy’s Ranch with special guests The Reason.
Formed in Toronto in 1990, Windsor natives Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Burrows grew into Canadian rock royalty by 1999 with the release of their fourth studio album and critical smash Triptych, which featured “Heaven Coming Down,” “The Messenger,” “These Living Arms” and more. The album featured three acts informed by their three previous albums. The sounds ranged from dark, trenchant industrial tones to bright acoustic songs with glimpses of optimism.
The band released seven full-length albums between 1991 and 2004, and their popularity extended outside of Canada into Europe and Australia. Their fusion of worldly sounds and mastery of digital samples results in a whirlwind of activity when they perform live, each performance being an event of memorable proportions.
Their reunion came to be earlier this year when a Facebook page popped up announcing select summer dates in Canada. The band went on to perform at a series of festivals and high-profile gigs throughout Ontario and Quebec, and at the Festival of Friends in Hamilton in August, frontman Martin announced, “We are The Tea Party and we’re here to stay. And we’re never going away again.”
Happy Thanksgiving, American friends and readers! On Thursdays I sometimes dip randomly into my music collection and share a song, and this week I wanted to share this tune by a band called Kids Icarus out of Farmington, Connecticut.
In a lot of ways I still think of myself as that same old kid, listening to pop punk and loving life in my early twenties, and this song helps me to forget that every one of those bands I loved has broken up and moved on.
Thankfully, Kids Icarus aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. “It’s On Me” is the lead song on their self–titled EP, and is available as a free download on their Bandcamp profile (though while you’re there you should know that the rest of the EP is worth the couple of dollars it costs). I sincerely hope these boys don’t remain unsigned for much longer.
November 23 is a night of celebration at APK Live because of the good fortune that sees Charlotte Cornfield and Ben Caplan stop their tour in London, and because of the releases that they themselves are celebrating.
A citizen of Montréal, Charlotte Cornfield is a songwriter quickly climbing the ranks of folk Canadiana. Her upbeat musical style complements her rootsy vocals, and with her latest album — Two Horses, released October 25 — she waxes musically nostalgic to decades–old albums by the likes of Carole King or Joni Mitchell.
"I call it lyrical folk rock," Cornfield said, describing her album this summer before its release. "It’s a mix between lyrical acoustic tunes and some more fleshed out rock songs. I’m really into lyrics, really into getting into a theme and really examining it."
That lyrical consideration is evident on Two Horses, where Cornfield’s commentary makes a compelling listen. With its natural rise and fall, it plays like a stroll, a soundtrack to a conversation with a friend. Cornfield’s own experiences have seen her travel from her native Toronto across the continent again and again for the past several years.
I write about random things a lot. I write a lot about random things. Did you know that The Who’s Pete Townsend first started doing his signature windmill move on stage thinking he was stealing it from Keith Richards? Then called The Detours, The Who opened for the Rolling Stones in late 1963.
A lot has changed in rock and roll. “There’s never going to be a Beatles again, or a Rolling Stones again, because there’s just so much music now,” posited Scott Stanton of Current Swell, in conversation by telephone from B.C. “My friend and I were talking about it the other day, thinking, ‘I wonder what people are going to think when they look back at the 2010s.’ There’s just so much music now, there’s no ’80s sound anymore, no 2000s sound. Or maybe it’s auto–tune.”
Stanton jokes because Current Swell has been at the centre of an odd labelling conflict that began when they formed. Rising out of a love of life and surf, Stanton formed the band with friend Dave Lang roughly five years ago. A simple, natural musical brotherhood followed, with friends eager to round out the lineup.
The band — guitarists Stanton and Lang, drummer Chris “Crispy” Petersen and bassist Aaron “Ghosty” Wright — have been dodging labels ever since they first took the stage together, commonly christened surf rock. Despite their diverse albums, featuring a range of blues, reggae, rock and country songs, the brand stuck with them.
"There was one point where we actually fought it," Stanton recalled, but pointed out that his band has long learned to let the music do the talking. "It’s just one of those things we now accept. If you want to call us surf rock, then that’s awesome. And if you want to call us something else, that’s awesome too."
Current Swell is back on the road again, travelling across Canada in support of their new album Long Time Ago, released on October 25. The album shines with a rootsy finish, one born of introspection and care, and they’re bringing it to London for a performance at London Music Hall with Michou and The Ascot Royals on November 25.
But the album’s overall sound and tone were no accident. “When we started the record, we had a lot of really good reggae songs, and a lot of heavy bluesy songs, but when we sat down we just really wanted to make a cohesive record,” Stanton explained.
"We’ve found that our albums in the past have jumped all over the map a little bit; I’m an album guy, I love listening to records from front to back, I always have. So we recorded 25 songs to demo, and when we sat and listened, there were four or five that really stuck out, that everyone seemed to agree had to be on the album. Then we pretty much based the feel of the record off of those four songs."
"We’ve never put a direction in front of our band," Stanton stated proudly. "But we just realized over the course of recording that this album is very much about people — we nearly called the album People Not Places instead of Long Time Ago.”
That conscious effort invested in the album makes it feel very much like a triumph, a finished work as good individually as the sum of its parts, and makes for a great listen.
For more information on Current Swell, visit them online at currentswell.com or follow them on Twitter @currentswell. Their gig with Michou, The Ascot Royals and Play Oliver is on November 25 in the lounge at London Music Hall. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10, available in advance at D–Tox Clothing in White Oaks Mall, downtown at Grooves Records and Tequila Rose and online at ticketscene.ca.
And for more of the latest music news, views and more, consider following this column on Twitter @fsu_bobbyisms or on Tumblr at bobbyisms.com. Don’t forget about the Music Recommendations thread in our FSU social network for constant new suggestions. I’m out of words.
November 18 is going to be a good night at London Music Club thanks to the dulcet tones of country folk artists Kim Wempe, a Nova Scotian from Saskatchewan, and Gabrielle Papillon, originally from Montréal. Touring together until the end of the month, the pair bring their show to London during the most westerly reaches of their tour before going back to Québec before December.
No stranger to the road, Wempe made her home in Nova Scotia in 2007 after leaving her home out west. The move, which seemed daunting was rumouredly unplanned, turned out to be much more of a blessing than a curse.
"I absolutely fell in love with the music scene out here," Wempe said of her new home. "It’s funny, no matter where you are, you kind of absorb what’s going on around you, and that’s what happened in the east coast for me — I wrote a song and the east–coastness of it started to come out. It means a lot to me to have that aspect on the record, it was inspired by my move and by the east coast music scene."
If you’ve lived in any Maritime area — or even if you haven’t — the album conjures up a feeling of nostalgia and places you at one of the great kitchen parties of legend. Wempe has captured the imagination of the region and worked it into her unique folk roots sound.
"I think with writing, it’s important to get yourself out of your comfort zone and try to write in different places," she reflected. "I find inspiration comes as soon as you move out of that zone. That’s what happens for me, anyway — it’s important that I feel at home when I’m recording, but when I’m writing it’s cool not to be at home, to see new places."
Papillon is no stranger to travel either; the Montréal native grew up with music, forming countless bands throughout high school since first picking up a guitar at age 14. She released her first album in 2001 but returned to school to complete her degrees before returning with new material and new perspective.
In addition to the tour with Wempe — Papillon’s third venture across Canada — she is planning the details around the release of her third album, with the party set to happen on November 29 in Montréal, the last date of their current tour. Papillon has prefaced the release by slowly posting material on her MySpace profile at myspace.com/gabriellepapillon.
Since releasing their latest self–titled EP in July, local band Two Crown King has been gaining momentum here in London and beyond. And while the band continues to make every performance feel like a homecoming, they’re likely to stay on everyone’s minds and lips for a while yet to come.
On November 18, Two Crown King is returning to London in a headlining appearance at Rum Runners with guests StereoKid, My Son The Hurricane and DJ DoubleDown, marking their first gig in town since they opened for Arkells at the University of Western Ontario a month ago.
The show was brilliant; The Wave at UWO was filled and buzzing with students. The band was on top of their game, as tight as they’ve ever been but all the more stoked to be playing an old stomping ground. Fans are remarkably able to identify with each member in the band; born within Fanshawe’s walls, Two Crown King has grown in the last few years to include a fuller family of artists regardless of their schools.
That family wasn’t built exclusively of fans, either; the band is warm and approachable and it’s easy to see how much they enjoy interacting with their fans at gigs, a measure of class that sadly eludes so many acts these days.
Also commendable is the band’s presence on social media — interacting regularly with their fans and followers on Facebook, Twitter and more, Two Crown King is setting a strong example for their contemporaries and sending a clear message to their fans that they’re listening to us and appreciate that we’re taking the time to tell them how we feel.
Released July 1, their EP boasts six strong songs that range from bombastic funk and hip hop to smooth pop and soul. What’s more, the band wants you to have their album absolutely free — available on their website at twocrownking.com/freealbum — and often hand out download cards at their shows. Get the album, listen to it loudly, and if you like it, share it with everyone you know.
For more information on Two Crown King, visit their sharp new website at twocrownking.com or follow them on Twitter @twocrownking. Their gig at Rum Runners on November 18 is a licensed all ages event, with doors opening at 9 p.m. Advance tickets are $7 and are available from D–Tox Clothing, Grooves Records, Tequila Rose downtown or online via ticketscene.ca.
I write about random things a lot. I write a lot about random things. Did you know that before his passing, Michael Jackson kept a recording studio and engineer on call 24 hours a day in case he woke up with an idea for a song? He believed that if he didn’t get his ideas recorded right away, God would give them to Prince instead.
And speaking of good uses of recording time, I’ve been listening a lot lately to the new self-titled EP from The Archives, a group out of Toronto. Recently named the Coffee Shop Project’s Artist of the Month for November, The Archives’ Transitions EP has been featured on download cards available in independent cafés in Toronto.
The road to here has been a bit rocky for the young band; formed by Anthony Menecola (bass, vocals) and Crispin Day (guitars) in 2009, the band released its debut EP Hail Caesar but couldn’t cement the lineup until more recently when Kevin White (drums) and Will Gooch (guitars) came on board.
Armed with a new brotherhood and inflated by a sense of chemistry, the band made its lineup debut with a packed set at Toronto’s Silver Dollar with a performance described as blistering and energetic. Now, a short ways into the future, The Archives have returned with a new EP, one full of power and potential.
From the moment the record begins with “Home”, a real sense of familiarity is struck between the band and listener. The garage-fused crunch of the guitars add a sense of shimmer and energy to the track, which eerily compels you to sing along even before you know the words. That energy is maintained as “Two Far Gone” begins, shifting dynamics with ease as they smoke in the sort of ’90s alternative flavour that made Limblifter so near and dear to us all.
It’s never fair to say that any band sounds like any other, but The Archives are able to change sonic direction so smoothly that it sounds like listening to an album by the Foo Fighters — from the subtle, textured “The City” with its effortless choruses to the sharp “Tiger Hugs” closing the record, The Archives have produced a remarkable work of music and are definitely worthy of their place on the radar.
It’s always exciting to take in a band that is still actively and furiously writing its history; The Archives have the charisma and chops necessary to make a big impression on our music scene and beyond, so watch them for exciting developments as the new year rolls along.
Luckily, you needn’t take my word for it — The Archives are stopping into APK Live at 340 Wellington Rd. on November 17 with Waterbodies and Truence to make their latest mark here on London audiences. Admission is $5 and doors on this 19-plus event open at 9 p.m.
For more information on The Archives and their new EP, visit them online at insidethearchives.com or by following them on Twitter @thearchivesband. You can hear a couple of their new songs on their MySpace and Facebook profiles, but pick up their full EP at your first opportunity — which could be as a free download if you visit an independent café in Toronto this month – more details at csp.audioblood.com.
And for more of the latest music news, views and streams, consider following this column on Twitter @fsu_bobbyisms or on Tumblr at bobbyisms.com. If like me you’re always looking for new sounds and bands, consider also checking out the Music Recommendations thread in our FSU social network. Enjoy the new sounds, I’m out of words.
After weeks of floating within striking distance, yesterday I hit 400 followers on Twitter, thanks to Brittany Kinzett. I asked what song was the last she had listened to, and she responded with the above, so in thanks, I’m dedicating “Letting The Cables Sleep” by Bush to her, with my thanks.
Just over two years being a music writer, and over a year now on Twitter, I’m happy to say I feel more support from friends online and off all the time, and continued encouragement to carry on. Thanks to everyone for that, for all the new friends and all the great music we’ve shared along the way.
Happy Thursday evening. I’ve been looking through my music collection, in the place I keep random and individual songs, and thought I’d start to share some of them. Why not enjoy a random song together, for fun?
I usually pride myself on knowing the history of the music I’ve collected, but if I’m speaking honestly, I have no idea when Ray LaMontagne recorded this cover of “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. I don’t know what made him choose to record it, how he did it, or anything… but I do know that it’s magnificent, and I love that I found it online, whenever that was.
Also, Gnarls Barkley themselves have done a number of remarkable variations on the song as well, like this one recorded live at The Basement Studio.
I write about random things a lot. I write a lot about random things. There’s a Spanish train that runs between Guadalquivir and old Saville, and at the dead of night the whistle blows, and people hear she’s running still…
Or so begins “Spanish Train”, the title track from Chris de Burgh's brilliant 1975 album Spanish Train and Other Stories, and as the next few minutes pass you hear the most compelling song about a train of lost damned souls you ever will.
People don’t write songs like they used to. Decades ago, storytelling was still very much at the heart of songwriting and all the greatest epics were generally stories being told: The Eagles gave us “Hotel California”; Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” told the story of a man on the run after shooting his wife; and The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” is a scandal just waiting to happen.
Chris de Burgh is a British/Irish pop singer that rose to prominence in the early 1970s. If you’ve heard of him at all, it’s very likely for his smash hit “Lady In Red”, an immutable staple ever since its release in 1986. Before that song was released, however, de Burgh spent over a decade honing his craft with concept work and a willingness to take a chance on the power of storytelling.
Not that the idea was a risky one back in 1974; at that time, Elton John was just wrapping up an incredible run of over 10 albums released from 1970 to 1974 (the number changes whether you include soundtracks, greatest hits collections, etc.), and artists everywhere were shaping what rock and pop music were going to become. Echoes of Bob Dylan and folk of the 1960s still very much hung on the air and artists like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell were riding high on the charts.
de Burgh was born in Argentina in 1948 to a British diplomat, and as such got a head start travelling the world taking in stories and experiencing other cultures. His family finally settled in a castle in Ireland that would become a hotel, where he performed to his first audiences.
Signing with A&M Records in 1974, de Burgh wasted no time in releasing his first album, Far Beyond These Castle Walls. Although the record didn’t make a big splash at the time — except in Brazil, where it would hit number one — he threw himself into work on Spanish Train and Other Stories, his sophomore label release. The effort is evident; if quality is truly a measurement of the care put into a given project, then this album is of a high quality.
Opening with the title track, the album plunges deep into a battle between good and evil centered around a train of souls. The music soars with “Lonely Sky”, a classic pop song unlike so many and a real highlight. “Patricia The Stripper” is a raucous cabaret about an exotic dancer in old England, while “A Spaceman Came Traveling” reimagines the angel Gabriel appearing before shepherds as a spaceman in a UFO.
The album is still an amusing listen, all these years later. de Burgh really makes the act of songwriting look very easy with this album, a triumph coming only from the success of taking a chance.
It’s in bravery, in having the wherewithal as a songwriter to write about something bigger than yourself. Even on this album, so early in his career, de Burgh displayed a level of mastery when it came to visually recreating such moments in time with his music. Albeit paradoxically, he demonstrates how by preserving moments in time in music you can often stumble upon timelessness.
If you’d like to learn more about Chris de Burgh or his music — like listen to a few of the songs I mentioned above, for example — you can do so by visiting his website at cdeb.com. Still actively recording and engaging audiences, you can find him on Twitter as well @cdebofficial.
As always, I’m happy to help you stay up on the latest music news, views and streams online if you’d consider following me on Twitter @fsu_bobbyisms or on Tumblr at bobbyisms.com. There’s also the Music Recommendations thread on our FSU social network, check it out for new tips and links all the time. Have a great week, I’m out of words.
November 9 is going to be a memorable night for rock music as Finger Eleven returns to London, celebrating the success of their most recent album Life Turns Electric. Released October 2010, the album is their sixth overall and the follow-up to their wildly successful transformation rooted in their 2007 album Them vs. You vs. Me.
When last we saw the band, it was early 2011 and the album had been out for a few months. We had just gotten a new single in “Whatever Doesn’t Kill Me” and the band was excited about the year ahead full of touring, music and adventure on the road.
Now the album is officially over a year old (13 months, specifically) and the band is still going as strong as ever. They’ve championed their live set, released two more songs, and while fans wait for the coming music video to “Pieces Fit”, the band is as active as ever, stating on social media that they’re already working on new material for the next album.
For Finger Eleven, it would seem as though the key to success was keeping themselves extraordinarily busy, however the band is handling the pressure by finding strength in each other and just staying true to their music. It’s the principle that drives their internal processes as a group, from songwriting to recording to staying sane together on the road.
The band — singer Scott Anderson, guitarists Rick Jackett and James Black, bassist Sean Anderson and drummer Rich Beddoe — are now veterans of Canadian rock music, a reminder of the once–thriving scene that burst out of Burlington and ignited radio across the country before slowly dissipating and reinforcing nearby scenes. For that reason, Finger Eleven touring southern Ontario always feels like a homecoming.
Finger Eleven is playing London Music Hall with Bleeker Ridge and The Scenario in a gig sponsored in part by FM96. Tickets are $25 in advance, available at D–Tox Clothing in White Oaks Mall, Grooves Records and Tequila Rose downtown, or online directly from londonmusichall.com. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the event is licensed and all ages. Get excited!
For more on Finger Eleven, their album Life Becomes Electric, or any of their other projects, visit them online at fingereleven.com or on social media like Facebook or Twitter @finger_eleven.
Amy Kuney is an American chanteuse who has had more adventure and heartache than most people times her age, and draws that experience through her music to create something that is really extraordinary.
Just released this week, “Kiss Me Like You Mean It” is the third and final song in Kuney’s plan to release three songs over three months. It’s a sultry, woeful tune and while perhaps the darkest of the three songs, it’s simply gorgeous. The project itself was conceived to showcase Kuney’s talent and introduce more listeners to her music; the first single, “Where I Can’t Follow” was released on August 16.
Kuney’s single “Gasoline Rainbows” was the title track on an oil spill benefit album last year, hitting #1 here in Canada. For more on Amy Kuney and her latest projects, visit amykuney.com or follow her on Twitter @amykuney.
I first met the Toronto instrumental rock group Old World Vulture during a run of interviews at SCENE Fest in St. Catharines this summer, and was immediately struck by how genuine and amicable the guys are.
Sadly, I was booked solid for the day and couldn’t see their set, but they did give me a copy of their debut self–titled EP and I have to say, it is fantastic. Now they’ve posted a new digital single called “Trophy Lovers” on their website, a smoky, upbeat synthy number that they hint is indicative of where their sound is heading.
To get “Trophy Lovers” and find out more about Old World Vulture, visit them online at oldworldvulture.ca or catch them live in Toronto at Rancho Relaxo on November 12.
Marianas Trench mailed out an update on their coming album Ever After, their third record and the follow up to their 2009 release Masterpiece Theatre, which spawned the singles “Cross My Heart”, “All To Myself” and “Celebrity Status”.
In their message to fans, they included a few details:
We are very proud of the music we have put together for this album and we are very excited that it is about to be in the hands of our fans. Ever After is a concept album, even more so than our last release Masterpiece Theatre. It is one continous piece and all the songs are joined together with interludes. It has an album opener, second movement and album closer just like our last album.
We worked very hard on making sure every song was strong in itself and this album is very much meant to be listened to from begining to end. The music will lead you through the Ever After world, it also comes with a story booklet to guide you along the way.
The album will be revealed in physical and digital formats on November 21, and will include a limited run on vinyl. The album has already yielded the single "Haven’t Had Enough", which debuted August 25.