Review – Combine The Victorious – EP Crumbling Hearts


Combine The Victorious

Combine The Victorious (L to R) Mark Henning, Isabelle Dunlop, Justin Kadis and Misty Reid.  Photo credit – Klee.

Vancouver’s Combine The Victorious most recent EP was released back in October 2012 which is entitled Crumbling Hearts.  Founded by husband and wife duo Mark R. Henning (record producer/engineer) and Isabelle Dunlop (a fashion designer) in 2007, both were independently successful in their chosen fields. Their instinct for collaboration was soon realized on their debut full-length album The World Over (2007) The record received both critical and popular praise and their individual tracks were being included on compilations as far as Toronto, and even reaching the Czech Republic. The lead single from The World Over, “Blue Kitchen”, went on to become the theme song for the television series “About A Girl”.

Drawing upon this initial success, Combine The Victorious  founded the wider Boutique Empire Collective Music Label and have artists such as Sex With Strangers, Gilles Zolty and Guilty About Girls as well as other artists connected with the Vancouver scene on the roster. Despite this wider commitment, Mark reunited with Jordy Birch to form Guilty About Girls, and Isabelle began singing with both Guilty About Girls and Sex With Strangers.  But behind all this, Combine The Victorious continued to evolve.

Following a successful European tour to support the release of Crumbling Hearts (which included showcases in Stockholm, Sweden and London UK), Mark and Isabelle  welcomed new members Justin “Juice” Kadis and Misty Reid (both formerly of The Yoko Casionos from Universal Music Canada) into the band. Now officially a four-piece band, they look forward to releasing a full-length album in late-2013 or early 2014. This new offering will fuse elements of electronica, rock, dance and pop into a unique and compelling sound-scape.

Crumbling Hearts EP cover.  Photo credit - Klee.

Crumbling Hearts EP cover. Photo credit – Klee.

This EP was produced by Stefan Sigerson and the band.  The track listing for Crumbling Hearts is as follows:

1.  Crumbling Hearts

2.  California State of Mind

3.  Glasglow

4.  Smoke & Choke

5.  Paros

*Their new song “Brotherhood” (Dec. 2013) is included in this review but is not on the Crumbling Hearts EP.  Other artists who worked on this EP include Ingrid Schroeder, Hugh Ellenwood, Matt Kennedy, Jim Berry, Marc Wild, Simon Hunt and Stefan Sigerson.

“Crumbling Hearts” is a song that Isabelle started writing just before she left the band Sex With Strangers in 2012.  Starting on the slow side, the melody carries the song into a steady 4 beat hit.  Trippey psychedelia keys play well with the guitars, bass and drums.  Lyrically, it’s about love in many forms which can be good or bad and expressing it like dancing, writing, painting and any other creative way of expression.

“California State Of Mind” is a laid back song just like the state itself.   A whimsical melody melds well with the lyrics which speak of going away and coming back as a completely new person in some or many ways.  I like this song because a state of mind can be achieved by anyone and it can be for the better.  It can also mean a step backwards or negative state of mind.  Either way it’s up to the listener to figure it out.

“Glasglow” starts life in Scotland in a busy airport.  It speaks of being disappointed in some way in life and going somewhere you’ve been many times but not for enjoyment.  It’s seems to be about being supported by people who are close to but you’ve not seen in some time.  The melody is choppy and ragged but is played well.  I like the time changes as they are out of time but effective in the overall sound of the song.

“Smoke & Choke” sounds very new wave and reminds me of the 80’s new wave movement in its melody.  Funky and danceable, it weaves from a minor key to major keys well and is very fluid in the way the song is built.  Lyrically, choking on the air reminds me of pollution or could be choking on the cigarette one smokes.  It also speaks of putting two heads together which could be an issue to do with smoking or pollution or both.  I dig the melody as it reminds me of childhood songs or carnival music for some reason.

“Paros” speaks of instant love/chemistry and anything to do with falling in love.  Being in love is a commitment and takes two to make it work especially over time.  The drumming is really well done as is the vocals and harmonies.  It has a bit of new wave and experimental keys which give it a climax of sorts in mid-song.  And as I stand up and get more coffee, I’m dancing to the kitchen and back.  Of all the songs, this is my favourite song.  Its very easy to relate to on many levels by anyone who listens to the song.

“Brotherhood” is a radio friendly song that is upbeat in tempo, has a fluid positive melody and good lyrics.  Speaking of taking on the world after meeting in high school, its about two people sticking together and making their own way through life and looking out for one another.  This is a very well put together song.  Lush sounding at times and then going to the bare bones of the song is a brilliant way to capture a positive feeling/thought/emotion.  Well done!

On their Soundcloud page, they have numerous songs all of which are pretty damn good.  They also have some very good videos done as well on their YOUTUBE page.  Check them out when you have time as you won’t be disappointed.

Combine The Victorious – Crumbling Hearts and interview with Isabelle and Mark.

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General Overview of Older Reviews


Since the beginning of this year, I’ve had an overloaded plate and at some point due to many issues, I just couldn’t keep up.

But slow change is happening, and since the reviews I had been working on are 6 months or older now, I’m just going to give out the artists’ name/band name with a link to read about the music and that kind of thing.  I’ll just make a comment about the music, but it’ll be more or less “general”.  I want to leave it to fate and what consumers want (that means you!).  Whether it’s a name of a person/band that sucks you in or just being curious as to what kind of person/band with that name has what kind of music?  Either way, it’s your free will to choose what you do.

One final note:  I do have 2 new reviews that will be posted separately over this long holiday weekend – both are Vancouver BC based artists Sex With Strangers and Rec Centre.

Mother Mother

Hill and the Sky Heroes** (see below for contest)

Jesse Sparks

The Gromble

The Red Button

Seth Swirsky

Taz Taylor Band

Cubic Feet

Infared Sunday

**Hill and the Sky Heroes are on Audio Blood Media, and thanks to the AB Team, I just happen to have 2 extra copies of the CD and if you’d like one sent to you, just answer me this:  1)  who is the force behind this CD and 2) name 3 other artists who this force has worked with and on what kind of project (music, film, art, etc.)

Send an email with your answers to:

jadedphotograhy@me.com

Deadline is September 20th, 2013.  The first correct entries win the CD.  Please remember to include an address to send the CD to in your email.

Mother Mother “The Sticks” is my favorite CD this year hands down.  I love the progressive nature of this band so much it hurts.  The lyrics are always stark and stripped down but remain mysterious to individual listeners.  The opening track OMENS is downright ominous and creepy , but there is a lingering question mark at the end of that song that leads directly into the title track THE STICKS.  I can’t explain how a song can make you think of a question mark.  It just is.  I’ll be playing those 2 songs at the infamous Halloween party this year out in Surrey!  The music does lighten up and take on more happy but melancholy tones  (musically) but lyrically it could go either way.  I would describe the vibe/undercurrent of this CD in 3 words:  On the edge.

Hill and the Sky Heroes is another example of a progressive artist and band member with other impressive credentials to the name Hill.  I had never heard of this band but the talent that is bursting out of this CD is like a water deluge of biblical proportions.  It’s overwhelming at first.  If you like whimsical, edgy and a life being lived fully kind of music, this is a must have for your Indie music collection.

Jessie Sparks is originally from Melbourne Australia where she is based out of today.  She did live in her early teenage years in Illinois, Iowa and New York State in the US where early on she had a huge talent for singing and pianos.  This 5 song EP is worth a listen and download from iTunes.  Great blues vocals reminiscent of Janis Joplin, Odetta and Billie Holiday.  Good timing, upbeat melodies for the most part and a fantastic voice highlight this Blues artist – and if you like Blues, you’ll want to add this to your collection.

The Gromble have that throwback music from the 1990’s.  Not a bad sound if you’re in a longing for the 1990’s.

The Red Button is a Seth Swirsky collaboration.

Taz Taylor Band is pretty much good rocking music.  Check out the link above to find out more.

Cubic Feet and Infared Sunday have good solid music you should check out by following the links above.

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I want to thank Audio Blood Media and Luck Media for their patience while I’ve been AWOL with medical issues.  You guys rock!  And its good to be back!

Latest EP by The Manvils – Black Tornado


The Manvils had quite a year in 2011. They moved from Vancouver to Toronto and celebrated the new release of their EP Black Tornado. They hooked up with producer Sho Murray who recorded their debut CD Buried Love. The concept that they acquired is to record songs in each of their favorite cities – Vancouver, Toronto and Chicago. The band in general are progressing as songwriters and performers as this first EP release clearly shows the creative side of the band in general. They’ve also shared the stage with larger bands including Metric, Stereophonics, Bif Naked, Sonic Youth and Ben Harper just to name a few.

The tracks on this EP Vol. 1 are:

  1. Lions of a Lost Tongue
  2. Black Tornado
  3. Alone With You
  4. Castaway
  5. Hot Volcano

Starting with the song “Lions of a Lost Tongue” has a good melody but is a bit erratic in the beginning which works well with the Eddie Van Halen guitars. I particularly like the vocal work by Mikey Manville (singer/songwriter/guitars) and as always Greg Buhr (bass) lays down some root chords and is the backbone that is persistent in this song. Jay Koenderman (drums) keeps the beat like melted iron. The EP title song “Black Tornado” has a shifty kind of beat with straight on rock and roll but has confidence woven into the song like a heartbeat. Choppy and fuzzed out  guitars are layered in the song which makes the melody sound like it’s on the dangerous side. ”Alone with You” has a moody and dark melody with guitars that remind me of a murder and mayhem. With lyrics that say “I won’t leave myself alone with you” and “blood on my hands” confirms the feeling. “Castaway” has a definite haunting sound with a moody and dark melody which reminds me of being lost or having lost someone or something. Tense vocals throughout the song pick up the desperation that climaxes with an abrupt end to the song. Wow! “Hot Volcano” is an off-tempo, stop/stutter and frantic melody that works really well with Mikeys’ vocals. Choppy guitars end the song with a little bit of honey that makes the final notes all that much sweeter. Emotions are hard to get across to the listener through a song but Mikey manages to do this well. And his skills as a songwriter show up and are on the same page as the rest of the band. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on an international stage in the near future.

For all things Manville their website has a lot of information including CD’s, past media articles and a tour sections to see where the band will be touring in 2012. The bands website is here.

EP Review and Interview with … Letters To Elise


EP Review and Interview with Edmonton band Letters To Elise

EP Title: When It Meant Something

Release Date: April 12, 2011

by Jade Sperry

Jadedphotography

Letters To Elise have music that is a good mix of power pop, punk rock, synths and guitar driven songs which have infectious and catchy hooks. They also have a radio-friendly feel to their songs in general. This five song EP has good time changes (the song “Fake”), a soulful ballad that Brandon nails vocally (the song “Seven”) and is generally well mixed and mastered.

The band members are as follows: Brandon Pomerleau (lead guitarist/ vocals), Chris Marchlinski (rhythm guitar/vocals), Mike Iwanyshyn (keyboards), Patrick Moniz (bass) and Tyler Mensenchuk (drums). Patrick was kind enough to take some time out to answer some questions about the band and the music.

Jade:  What personal goals has the band as a whole achieved in the last year?

Patrick:  As a band, the goals that we have achieved would be the writing and releasing of our EP When It Meant Something. All the songs tell a separate story of something that has happened in our lives that was good and the bad times. The song “Seven” for example is probably our deepest and most meaningful song to our guitarist Brandon cause of the story behind the lyrics. “Fake” is an example of someone who is not always truthful to your face and is the kind of friend that might have stabbed you in the back or lied to your face. We made these songs hoping that maybe one of our fans or someone that happens to over hear it can listen to these songs or this whole EP, and relate to the music on a personal level.

J:  What personal goals has the band as a whole achieved in the last year and what goals in relation to the band are you setting now to work towards over the next year?

P:   Our goals for the future is to further promote our latest EP When it Meant Something which is currently available on iTunes and through the band at our shows. We don’t want to limit people so they feel forced to come to our shows just to buy a shirt or a CD. We have set up an online store, were you can buy the CD’s, posters and T-shirts. Other plans that we have is to hopefully tour in BC and get our single “Fake” on the Radio for some further promotion . The more publicity and interviews we get the more achieved we feel as a band.

J:  As a band, what has been the best thing that has happened, and the worst thing?

P:  The best thing that has happened to us as a band that we can all agree on was opening for Stereos in Calgary. The day we got the call we were so happy and stoked! Stereos was this unsigned band we used to do shows with when they were just a local Edmonton band. So we headed out to our jam space and made the plan. I don’t think any of us slept that night because we realized that it was a huge opportunity to play with them.. The next day, we all rushed around to prepare for the show. We packed up all of the equipment and headed out. Sadly our keyboardist Mike wasn’t able to join us on this date due to school.

Letters To Elise.  Photo courtesy of the band.

J:  How do you see the current state of the Corporate Music Industry? Do you think it has changed since the “old” days before the internet? And, how do you feel about the DIY bands that are becoming mainstream? (arcade fire for example).

P:  The Music Industry today has evolved in many ways. It definitely is not how it used to be when I was a kid. The Industry itself helps bands by telling them what the fans and people wanna hear, kind of like a guideline. But, a DIYB (do it yourself band) has the control and will eventually figure out the right way for the band.

J:  Do you feel that the band has control over how your music reaches the fans? And if yes why do you feel this way and what factors into that?

P:  I feel that it’s the bands’ responsibility to reach out to the fans by sending out a “Hey, what’s up? We are Letters To Elise, this is our music, have a t-shirt…Cheers!”. If we weren’t doing half the work we do to get our music out there we wouldn’t make it and most local bands wouldn’t make it. And we feel this way because we are a DIYB. We have full power over how the songs are heard . It’s all that good stuff.

J:  How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard your music before?

P:  Our music has more of a rock feel to it but also has a pop twist in there too. I tell people when they ask what we sound like and that is the band Yellowcard. It seems like the only band we as a band have come close to. Not on purpose, it was just something that we found fit our genre pretty well. We go for a sound that when people hear it, they go to their friends and say that they’ve never heard anything like it before. Or they might hear a hook that makes them listen to it over and over. It might be a lyric line that they can listen relate to and want to hear over. On one of our T-shirts has the phrase ” I Wanna Scream Fake at the Top Of My Lungs” which is a line in the single “Fake”. All of us know and remember the chants at our shows. We want people to hear the music and know that’s that what we represent and what we stand for.

J:  Who are the primary songwriters in the band?

P:  Chris and Brandon are the primary song writers in the band and they are the ones who bring in a guitar riff. Then we build that guitar riff into another part, and from there, we have a verse and a chorus of one song. Tyler will then get a beat over it and I come in and put a bass line down and Mike puts another masterpiece down on his keyboards. The song is then musically complete from start to finish and that’s when Chris and Brandon work on lyrics.

J:  How did you come up with the band name?

P:  The band name actually came from a Cure song called “Letter to Elise”.

J:  What is your opinion on the music scene in Vancouver? Do you feel that there are enough venues for bands to book shows? And is there a lot of competition as well?

P:  The Vancouver music scene to my eyes is blowing up slowly each day in a good way. I myself know a couple artists down there and they’ve got their song out there on Virgin Radio and Hot 107. A friend of mine is one of the members of a group out there called Dirty Radio. Their song is “My <3”. That song plays on Hot 107 every second day! I’ve flown down there and checked the venues out. There’s more venues in Vancouver than in Edmonton. The same problem exists in both cities – the venues are always booked up everyday of the week. If you walk down Granville Street in downtown Vancouver, they have street performers everywhere. On this corner someone’s rapping, and then on that corner you got a guy with an acoustic and a bongo and it just keeps going.

Thanks very much to Brandon and Patrick in answering these questions. Cheers guys!

The EP is a solid piece of work and the track listing is as follows:

  1. Addicted To Your Name
  2. Fake
  3. Seven
  4. Not Without A Fight
  5. Mannequin Down

Every song is personal to the band in some ways as Patrick said. One band that came to mind when I was listening to the first song on the EP called “Addicted To Your Name” is the band Neon Trees. This song is vocally delivered well by Brandon in that he gets the emotions across to the listener. A steady beat, good mix of guitars and keyboards and a catchy melody. “Fake” has good time changes especially when going into the chorus and coming back to the verse. I like the vocals and the effects over the vocals as they are subtle. The song “Seven” is a ballad with heart and soul. Brandon’s vocal work is done extremely well. The music is mellow, slow and languid and the song has depth as far as lyrics go. “Not Without A Fight” starts out with pounding drums and guitars whaling. The verses are stripped down, the time changes are good and the song flows. The last song “Mannequin Down” starts out with keyboards followed by a steady beat of the drum. The guitars are subtle. And the song just gels and all five members play as one unit.

Overall, this is a very solid band that has the drive and the talent to hit the next level. If you’re into bands like Neon Trees or Yellowcard, you need to check out the music and judge for yourself.

EP Review – Philoceraptor – Philsoraptor


EP Review – Philoceraptor – Philosoraptor

Released: November 2010

by Jade Sperry

Jadedphotography

Philoceraptor are a Vancouver trio who make some of the most interesting music in local bands here in the Lower Mainland. The band members are: Justin Penney (guitar and vocals), Phil Jette (drums) and Steve Mann (guitar and vocals). This is the band’s second EP release and it’s a stellar EP that has five songs that were produced, mixed and recorded by Matt Gauthier (who has recently relocated to Southern Ontario). The EP was recorded at two studios in the Lower Mainland – The Track Factory and Ocean Studios. Harris Newman of Grey Market Mastering in Montreal Quebec mastered the EP.

philoThe opening song “Races” has a garage/punk sound with a surfer rock feel to it. It has a good beat and the melody flows really well throughout the entire song. For this writer, this song speaks of becoming “black and blue” which could mean physical bruising from just running and going full tilt, burning out essentially. “Clever Girl” has a fast melody, good time changes and is lyrically about a girl that has captured the attention of one (or more) of the band members (you know that I’ll be seeing you/you’re twice as hot through jealous eyes.). “Gay Boy” is a cheeky song that has some humor in the lyrics. The melody is soft but this song is played hard through the bridge and chorus. Good drumming, vocal work and harmonies. Finding yourself in a gay bar when you aren’t gay and looking for company can be embarrassing. “Menthol Sweet” has a melody that is more radio-friendly than the other songs. Raw and desperate vocals mixed with the drums is always good thing. This song also has a surfer rock feel that is kind of happy (guitar work) and speaks of “never having the time for someone else” because that person has a full life. The final song, “Surfer”, is a song that just makes me want to get up and punk out by dancing in my living room. Lyrically, it speaks of making excuses to be with another person in an intimate encounter that could be a mistake of sorts. The music is choppy, fast and has some good time breaks and changes in the chorus.

All in all, this is another strong showing of Philoceraptor and what they do best – rock out and have fun doing it. You can download the first and second EP’s at the band’s Bandcamp page. They are both a free download but if you can afford to pay a small amount of money, the band would really appreciate it. And you can also find them on their MySpace page for all info and upcoming shows that the band is playing.