Review – Combine The Victorious – Autonomous


Combine The Victorious are an electronic, progressive pop band that has great melodies and equally great lyrics.  Buying the new album Autonomous on iTunes was a real gem in the cave of music that is iTunes.  The album was released on September 13, 2015 to the masses and the twelve songs are very good and was easy to listen to and dance around my apartment getting coffee and dinner together.

mark henning isabel dunlop 2015

Mark R. Henning and Isabelle Dunlop

Combine the Victorious formed in Vancouver in 2007, growing from a spirited collaboration between husband and wife: record producer/engineer Mark R. Henning, formerly of Pure and Blisterene, and fashion designer Isabelle Dunlop, formerly of Sex With Strangers.  Isabelle has her own Boutique located in Vancouver, B.C.

Details:  Isabel Dunlop, Clothing, Designer & Singer, 4158 Main St., Vancouver, Hours:  Wednesday – Sunday 12-6.

Already independently successful in their chosen fields, their instinct for collaboration was soon realized on their debut full-length album The World Over. The record received both critical and popular praise, including inclusion on compilations as far afield as Toronto and the Czech Republic! The lead single, “Blue Kitchen” went on to become the theme song for the television series “About A Girl”, and was one of eight songs licensed from the record.

Drawing upon this initial success, Combine the Victorious extended to found the wider Boutique Empire Collective, gathering bands Sex With Strangers, Gilles Zolty, Guilty About Girls and other artists connected with the Vancouver scene. Despite this wider commitment, Mark reunited with Jordy Birch to form Guilty About Girls with Isabelle singing with both Guilty About Girls and Sex With Strangers.  And all the while, Combine the Victorious continued to evolve.

Subsequent releases, Disagreements and Crumbling Hearts saw the band refining their musical identity, distilling to a powerful, evocative essence and perfectly captured on the standout track from Crumbling Hearts, the song “Glasgow”, where sumptuous guitars weave in and out of Mark’s wily groove, a perfect backdrop for Isabelle’s melancholy lyric and heart-breaking melody.

Following a European tour as a duo to support the release of Crumbling Hearts in which they did showcases in Stockholm and London, and continued to work for two years writing and recording material for their second full length album Autonomous. A longer process than before, this album is the result of collaborations with Don Harrison, Stefan Sigerson, Ingrid Schroeder, Leigh Grant and several other highly talented artists from the Vancouver music scene. Once again, Combine the Victorious fuse elements of electronica, rock, dance and pop into a unique and compelling soundscape.

ctv_autonomous_iTunes

With Autonomous, I can clearly hear and see the evolution and progression of a band with a lot of talent.  The track listing is as follows:

  1.   Hardly Spoken
  2.   Recharge
  3.   Stand In Front Of Tanks
  4.   Caught Up To You
  5.   California ’15
  6.   Smoke and Choke
  7.   Happy Girl
  8.   Best Tonight
  9.   Stop Givin’ Up On Love
  10.   Real Life Turns Me On
  11.   Encryption
  12.   It’s Still On
The first track “Hardly Spoken” is a smack in the face to wake you up to the fact that is band is to be reckoned with in a respectful way in regards to what the album has in store for you.  With choppy and chunky guitar tracks, this song speaks about destruction and devotion, giving up and the like, and they make it clear that it’s been too many times.  However, the chorus is the flip side of the song, and is about hope and not giving in to giving up.  The melody is sweet and matches Isabelle’s fuzzed out vocals that make a great statement in the structure of this song.

“Recharge” is making a fresh start after recharging the batteries.  A sharp guitar picks out the backbone of the song and is almost a bass line which is a perfect match to the melody, which comes in and out of the structure of the song itself.  The guitar work is very good and fits in the song seamlessly.  Awesome.

The third song “Stand In Front Of Tanks” reminds me of a picture of a loan man in Tiananmen Square from China. This song is fast and upbeat with a great electronic start to it, and the melody takes off into the clouds.  Standard drum tracks, which is a background vocal, made me laugh.  I don’t know why, I just found that amusing.  I like the build up of everything towards the end of the song, and handclaps always work in any song.

tiananmen

Tiananmen Square, China, June 5, 1989. Photo: Jeff Widener

“Caught Up To You” has a very catchy guitar groove.  The song explodes with “Woo!” in the background with the pounding melody sounds good.  It’s a great dance/raver song if that’s your scene.

“California ’15” is a slower, more bluesy song with jazz over-tunes throughout the song.  I really like the way it draws you in and washes over you in just over four minutes.  A very pleasant song to chill on.

In “Smoke and Choke”, you have a groovy electronic beat that carries the melody and the whole song.  I like the drum machine changes in this song.  Uniquely done.

“Happy Girl” is upbeat and has a playful feeling to it.  The electronica is the backbone of the song and fuzzed out guitars in places and this gives it a positive feeling in the melody.  This song reminds me of electronica for hippies everywhere, but the truth is that this song is for everyone.  A good dance song.

The song “Best Tonight” has a good combination of guitars and electronica.  Upbeat, positive and making it makes for a good song in the collection of the album.  The beat is solid, the electronica sounds melancholy for a second and it gels with the vocals.  The harmonies are particularly good in this song.

The last 4 songs are in the same vein as the rest of the album.  They are languid, fast, upbeat, melancholy and almost sweet with the song “Giving Up On Love”.  I highly recommend that if you like structured electronica with twists and turns and great dance tunes as well as chillin’ out then this record should be in your playlist.  “Real Life Turns Me On” totally reminds me of being in Germany in October and singing songs in German, drinking beer and having fun polka dancing.

You can hear the album on their website highlighted with the band name, follow them on the Twitter highlight, visit them on Soundcloud here, find them on Bandcamp where you can also buy the album here  and visit the boutique that is Isabelle Dunlop if you are in the Vancouver area.  You can also visit their YouTube  channel to see loads of videos.

 

Advertisements

Review – City of Glass – The Modern Age (2013)


David Phu and Michael Champion.

City of Glass, a Canadian duo comprised of Micheal Champion and David Phu, two long-time friends and opposite personalities, COG was born in Vancouver and cut its teeth in Berlin and across Germany.  Drawing from older dark pop favourites (The Cure and New Order) modern inspirations (Foals, The Whitest Boy Alive) and a love of electronic music, COG have crafted a unique and memorable sound on their debut LP The Modern Age.

In the last years, COG performed for enthusiastic audiences in the UK, France, Germany, Czech Republic, and across Canada. The band was honored to perform at landmark venues in London, Berlin, and Paris, and at festivals in Prague, Luxembourg, Toronto, Victoria, and Vancouver. Their recent visit to Prague included a five song showcase live on Czech national television.  City of Glass, a Canadian duo comprised of Micheal Champion and David Phu, two long-time friends and opposite personalities, COG was born in Vancouver and cut its teeth in Berlin and across Germany.  Drawing from older dark pop favourites (The Cure and New Order) modern inspirations (Foals, The Whitest Boy Alive) and a love of electronic music, COG have crafted a unique and memorable sound on their debut LP The Modern Age.

Songs from their brand new debut LP, “The Modern Age,” have already received much praise from major publications in Canada and the Czech Republic and from both Germany and the UK’s finest indie rock blogs. BKS Crew’s (The Union: The Business Behind Getting High) music video for their single “Tourist,” was featured on Canada’s MuchMusic television station and on Coldplay.com. Their most recent video for “The Modern Age” was created by up and coming videographer Jem Garrard (Linkin Park, Ringo Starr, Young Galaxy) who is working with City of Glass on some very exciting upcoming projects.

I’ve been a fan of City of Glass since 2009/2010.  I really love the music because it’s well constructed and although it’s reminiscent of some of my favorite bands from the 1980’s like The Cure and New Order but they also are unique and have modernized their original sound.  I’ve never seen the band live but I hope to change that if they play a show in 2014.

City of Glass with “The Modern Age” LP cover.

The track listing is as follows:

1.   The Forest

2.   Blinding

3.   Tourist

4.   I’m Not Here

5.   Wait For Me

6.   Sticks and Stones

7.  An Island

8.   The Modern Age

9.   Youth

10.  The End

“The Forest” has an ethereal quality to it.  On the slower side, it starts with bright high guitars and leads into Michael’s otherworldly vocals.   “Waiting till you think you know” and “Change what you feel is wrong” speaks to me of how we are killing our planet in many different ways and each of us has own way of doing what we do for the planet and reducing our carbon footprints.

“Blinding” starts out with sounds from a keyboard and guitars and in that begins the melody of the song and the beat follows.  I really like how this song starts out.  “Rats in a cage, travel together, breeding alone, which vein is better?”  are great lyrics which I think compares humans to rats.  Or so it seems to me.   I also like how the song unfolds throughout its life.  It’s a really well constructed song.

“Tourist” is a song that was on The Diving Bell EP, which is one of my favourite songs that City of Glass have done.  It’s a song that sounds good musically and lyrically. Speaking of broken promises/words and broken dreams it may speak of meeting someone whom you like or admire and having a falling out due to the fact that they don’t live in the same area geographically, which can be heard on any relationship.

“Sticks and Stones” is another favourite of mine and is a feisty fast paced song with guitars and keys that weave a great melody.  Again, this song is really well constructed from beginning to end.  Michael’s vocals punctuate with the chorus which gives a start stop feel to it.  “Sticks and stones, far from home, trail of bread crumbs” makes one wonder where are you/we going here?  But that’s not the point, the point is where do you want to go?  And when you go, leave some doors open just in case you fail.

And the title track for the album “The Modern Age” is a sombre song which begins with haunting guitars and a high hat.  In minor keys it gives a slightly foreboding of things to come.  “Hours and hours alone, kings upon the thrones” and “…blood spits out like water…” and also “…the illusion of control…”  are remarkable and one wonders what this song is about.  I feel that there are many things in our “modern” world that aren’t modern at all and have been re-discovered over time.  The passage of time and our bater system of money for consumer goods gives us a disadvantage because the illusion of control is that we are controlled but in a subtle way by our governments, police and judicial systems.  Is it for our own good to be monitored on CCTV constantly by big brother?  And why is technology being used against us in this “modern” age?  This is what this one song brings to the forefront for me.

Michael Champion and David Phu are City of Glass.

 

All in all, this is a really well done body of music by Michael and David.  The LP was produced by COG and Winston, mixed by Shawn Cole and Mark Angly at Fader Mountain Studio and engineered by Paul Boechler, Tom Prilesky and Winston.   Recording was also done at Spirit Vegetable and The Bunker and was mastered by Brock McFarlane at CPS Mastering.  Artwork by Michael Champion and Christoph Prevost Photography.  The LP was written and performed by Michael Champion and David Phu with Alexander Cumming on drums.  Additional vocals by Aude GL (An Island) and additional drums by Cole Godfrey (The Modern Age).

Watch some of the videos to the songs from this LP here:

City of Glass – The Modern Age

City of Glass – Sticks and Stones

City of Glass – Tourist

 

 

 

 

Review – Sex With Strangers – You Know Something We Don’t? (2014)


Sex With Strangers (SWS) are from the shadows of rain-covered Vancouver.  They draw from a wide source of influences from new wave and post-punk to ’60’s inspired ballads. Although the band revels in the exploration of a wide variety of genres, SWS has managed to create their own unique sound that is highlighted by robust bass grooves and the vocal interplay between lead singers Hatch Benedict (lead vox/keyboards) and Alexis Young (lead vox/keyboards).  It seems to me that Hatch has met his female musical counterpart in Alexis and vice-versa.  They play well off each other as far as studio music is concerned.  Rounding out the band is Mike Gentile (bass), Cory Price (guitars) and Dan Walker (drums).  I’ve been a big fan of this band since 2009’s The Tokyo Steel LP.  Spin Magazine once named SWS as one of “7 Undiscovered Bands Worth a Listen”, and they are best known for their feverish and interactive live performances.  The band has been showcased at a number of North American Festivals since their inception – which includes performances at SXSW, CMJ, NXNE, Halifax Pop Explosion, Riffilandia, Sled Island, Junofest and Shambhala.

Hatch Benedict.  Photo by Jade Sperry 2010.

Hatch Benedict. Photo by Jade Sperry 2010.

The band are set to release their 6th Studio LP this May 27.  This LP extends the sonic margins of the band’s previous efforts, moving the guitars out front and furthering the unique vocal interplay of Hatch and Alexis.  The vision for this new album is clearly evident when comparing the album’s first single “Slaves to the Night” (a dark unrelenting bass driven track) to Alexis Young’s dreamy synth crackling entry ballad “Burned”.

The album was recorded, mixed and produced by Paul Boechler (along with the band Sex With Strangers) at Garth Richardson’s Fader Mountain Studios in Vancouver. It was mastered by Brock McFarlane (at CPS Mastering Vancouver BC).  The cd was designed and photographed by Alexis Young with photo styling by Lindsay Elliott. Also in the cd, there is a thank you to the students at the Nimbus School of Recording Arts in Vancouver BC.

Mike Gentile (bass) on the left and Cory Price (guitar) on the right. Photo by Jade Sperry 2010.

Mike Gentile (bass) on the left and Cory Price (guitar) on the right. Photo by Jade Sperry 2010.

The track listing is as follows:

1.   Hostages

2.   22

3.   Pink Sock

4.   Slaves to the Night

5.   Falling Over

6.   Burned

7.  Wasted Glory

8.   Space Wolf

9.   Temporary Love Confession’

10.  Wandering Eyes

“Hostages” begins with high chords on the guitar and has some good bass grooves that come in and out of the song which gives it a choppy feel.  “Don’t you hate it when the panic never arrives?” and “Don’t you hate it when the truth sounds better than lies?” are great lyrics in my books because in a lot of ways, these are true statements. What you expect to happen doesn’t.  “Whatever happened to our senses?” gives one a thought of your senses may be misleading you because you want something to happen that never does.  “You don’t want to be hostages in the night” which can elude to some primal act or emotion or both.  Great song!  This song also reminds me of another great Vancouver band whose CD I’m also reviewing right now.

“22” is a good song with a good hook and melody.  Reminding me of a band in Ontario whose music I really like, this song is taken over by Alexis who sings the lead vocals.  The music is fast, danceable and has a feeling of being crazy. This song also sounds very punk in the music because of the guitar work by Cory Price.  Alexis’ vocals are really good and make a dramatic part from Hatchs’ vocals.  “Let’s go out and tell everyone we know” and “Cause you won’t stop and I won’t tell you no” gives you the impression that there is something that one cannot say no to.  What that is only the band knows.

“Pink Sock” is an interesting title for a song that is written in minor keys (as much of the album is) which gives it a slightly darker feel to it.  “I only want to watch you carry on with your convection” which gives me the impression someone is watching you for what reason(s)?  For their own amusement?  Or for some darker purpose you aren’t aware of?  The guitars are very much in your face but so is the keyboards, so you have a duel off between them. Which is wild and crazy as the melody of the song is really not like that.  But SWS has a way of making notes of music do that.  Bend it baby!

By far the best song on the CD is “Slaves to the Night”.  Wow.  The bass work by Mike is so deep down which makes the song and gives it a great backbone to work off of. Dirty heavy guitars are laced throughout the song as an evil coiled snake moving its way through the songs sinewy body.  Hatch and Alexis’ vocals trade off each other and also compliment each other which gives the song an even more darker edge.  The melody itself is rather edgy in its own way and kind of has a life of its own.  “….I warned you lovers/you can’t take back what’s under the covers” is a great lyric for this song and gives me an indication as to what the song is about.  Fantastic job on guitars Cory!

“Burned” is a dark ballad sung very well by Alexis.  The melody has a very dark edge to it and is all keyboards with some drums, other percussion instruments and guitars with a little bass.  The song reminds me a very well cooked meal in its design.  The melody flows really well in the background giving it a full lush sound. With lyrics like “Oh the way you tricked me and how you lied” and “Oh and how it feels to be so alive” give an indication of a romance gone bad in visceral way but somehow managing to surviving the fallout.

“Space Wolf” is a great title for any song but this song reminds me of a running wolf.  Always going going going without taking time to look around and enjoy life around him/her.  Once again, Hatch and Alexis trade off vocals with Hatch being the aggressive singer and Alexis being softer more gentle with the lyrics.  The music is fast paced, moving on its own as if it too is alive.  “Let me hear you lie” reminds me of lying and maybe getting away with it.  But in the animal world its all about energy that you give off so in a way I would imagine it would be harder to lie to another animal.  That’s how I see the song – very animal like and of the energetic world as opposed to our shallow world of make believe and distractions.

All in all this is an evolutionary turn for SWS as this is a real departure from the last five albums.  Their fourth album, Behaviours, indicates a direction but this album is that direction burning down the highway in the fast lane.  I look forward to hearing more from SWS in the future and also look forward to hearing more evolution from these great people.

The band doesn’t have a video off the new album yet, but from 2011, Sex With Strangers show their fun side from The Peak Performance Project with 102.7 The Peak (Vancouver Radio Station).  Enjoy!

SWS are also playing a FREE CD release show in the Vancouver area on Thursday May 29 with some of their friends Actors, War Baby and Combine the Victorious and DJ Trevor Risk (Ice Cream Social) at The Fox Cabaret.  Come on down and have some fun and some drinks!  You might even end up meeting the band who wander freely with drinks in hand through the club stalking nothing and no one in particular.

SWS_FoxShow_May29_forweb

Review – CD and show review – City Walls – Engines


This past Friday night (April 11), I had the pleasure of being invited to a show at a new venue in down-town Vancouver.  On Main Street just past the infamous intersection of Main and Hastings, I parked my car in front of the Vancouver Police Department as I figured it was super safe there (and it was).  Everything about this show was new – a new venue called Imperial, which has great acoustics and is generous in its size and layout; an older band with a new name (Louder Than Love changed its name to City Walls); a new drummer and bassist, and fresh new songs.  The stage was set for a great night.  You could feel the electricity in the air.

There were three outstanding bands that opened for City Walls – Dear Adeline, Real Mad Decent and Six to Midnight.  I had no idea what to expect since I had not heard of any of these bands as I’ve not been well medically for the last couple of years, but I’m on the rebound now.  We walked into the venue as the first band, Dear Adeline, were just about wrapping up their set, so I don’t know what to say except the last 2 songs sounded pretty darn good.  Real Mad Decent (2013 CFOX Seeds Top 20 finalists) were up next and they were not too bad. They did remind me a lot of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (their last song’s music sounded a lot like “Blood Sugar Sex Magic”), but, they were entertaining nonetheless.  Six to Midnight were also a tight band musically, and the lead singer sounded like Scott Anderson from the Canadian band Finger Eleven, but again, they put on a great show.  All three opening bands had fun on-stage and were full of passion and joy just for the pleasure of playing to a live audience – there was a lot of energy flying back and forth between all four bands and the crowd.

Real Mad Decent. Photo by Jade Sperry.

Real Mad Decent. Photo by Jade Sperry.

Six to Midnight.  Photo by Jade Sperry.

Six to Midnight. Photo by Jade Sperry.

City Walls took to the stage at 11:30 pm due to some technical difficulties that were eventually solved.  My friend Denis and I were excited to see the new line-up of the band since their Louder Than Love days.  Louder Than Love won the CFOX Seeds competition in 2011 and were signed to Cordova Bay Entertainment as a direct result of the win.  They took some time to get things in order, added 2 new band members and lost 3 former members.  They also spent time writing new songs, jamming them out in rehearsals, working out the instrumentations and the final result is a stellar CD called Engines.  I have to say that I’ve rarely heard such phenomenal instrumentation that was consistent through the entire live set with virtually no mistakes made.  Wow.  Denis even met some of the parents of some of the band members (I think it was Nate’s Mom!).  I was too immersed in taking photos and listening carefully to the music.  City Walls did a really good cover of Bryan Adams’ song “Run To You” and played the title track from their Louder Than Love CD Dark Days which ironically is one of my all time favourite songs.

City Walls.  Photo by Jade Sperry.

City Walls. Photo by Jade Sperry.

City Walls Paul Lambert and Brian Welsch.  Photo by Jade Sperry.

City Walls Paul Lambert and Brian Welsch. Photo by Jade Sperry.

Engines was produced with Arnold Lanni (Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven) and Howard Redekopp (Mother Mother, The New Pornographers) as well as by Paul Lambert and Adam Greenholtz.  Arnold and Howard helped to develop a heightened lyrical depth and add a more robust and impactful sound to the CD.  Paul Lambert (guitars/lead vocals) is the principal songwriter supported by Nate Parsons (guitars/supporting vocals) on several of the songs on the CD. Tony Lambert (bassist and Paul’s brother) and Brian Welsch (drummer) helped in developing the bands’ live sound.

album-cover city walls

Moving on to the CD review, here are the track listings:

1.   Trapped

2.   What I’m Looking For

3.   Higher

4.   Before We Go

5.   Nine Years

6.   How It Feels

7.   The Sign

8.   These 4 Walls

9.   Never Enough

10.  Engines

11.  Long Road

Before I say too much about the CD, I want to just take a moment to thank Paul Lambert for extending an invitation to Denis and I.  It was great seeing you all again and I hope to see you all when you return from your tour.  At the bottom of the article I’ll list the tour dates.  You seriously need to check out this band and their music.

The CD opens with the song “Trapped” which is the first single released from the CD.  Rocking out with an upbeat song, a good hook and a good melody is always a good thing.  With lyrics like “I think I found a way out of here” makes one wonder if the song is about both people feeling this way or just one.  But one thing is for sure – they are both in it up to the nth degree.  Running from the cops, on the run and sweating it out from the heat of the nights can be one way to look at this song.  But ultimately it’s up to the individual to figure it out for themselves.

“What I’m Looking For” begins with a forlorn melody and is a really good song in a ballad tradition.   It picks up with full instruments playing but there is some serious soul searching going on in this song with lyrics like “Letting go of the lies that filled my head” and “You always brought me back in the nick of time” seem to indicate sadness in a profound way, and having someone pull him/her back to reality.  The vocal range of Paul’s voice is done really well in conjunction to the music and melody.

“Higher” is a song that is played very well by all members of the band.  It’s a good rock song with the opening lyric stating “I remember when we set the world on fire” should tell you something about what the song is about. Getting higher can mean different things to individuals and I like this song based on the generalness of the song to make it relate-able to a vast range of people.  The melody is really good, the vocals are done well and really good bass work with root chords.  A very upbeat and positive song that makes you feel good.  I could see this song being used an anthem of some kind.

“Before We Go” is a song about love and is kind of folk-rock that builds as the song continues.  Love is a strong emotion, and Paul dedicated this song to someone special at the show.  I really like this song as it’s the bond of love between two people.  This song was played very well live and reflects well on the CD and vice-versa.  The melody is simple but the lyrics compliment the melody.

“Nine Years” was a song that caught my interest immediately when it was played live.  I like the melody, the instrumentation of this song is phenomenal especially with Nate playing the mandolin, and was played exactly as the song is on the CD.  Good start/stop breaks and very well played.  This is my favourite song on the CD.  It has a folksy kind of feel to it as well.

“How It Feels” has a sweet pleasing melody that reminds me of a lazy summer day musically.  With lyrics like “Gravity is a killer, its trying to hold me down for good” and “You know how it feels don’t ya?” is a song that has multiple meanings which again is general in it’s true meaning that has potential to reach many people.  I like how the song is played and the vocals are again well done.  It has a bluesy/folk/rock feel to it as well.

“The Sign” has a melody that is in minor keys and has a darkness to it musically.  “The signs are here, it’s time to leave it all behind” and “Open up your mind and leave it all behind” could be interpreted in many ways.  Personally, I perceive it to be about leaving a place permanently or indefinitely.  The slide blues guitar solo that Paul plays towards the end of the song is awesome.  I can relate to the lyrics in this song because I came from a city that I really didn’t like and still don’t like.  The mandolin Nate plays in this song gives the song a more rustic feel to it in a country rock way.

“These 4 Walls” definitely has a country flavour to the music.  A good melody which is played very well with good vocals, and is a clapping kind of song.  Lydia Hol joined the band on-stage for this song and it was received very well.  Again Nate played the the mandolin and Paul played acoustic guitar.  No bass or full drums.  It’s a well constructed song musically that flows really well.  Lydia and Paul’s vocals blend well together live and on the CD.

“Never Enough” is a good rock song played well musically.  Lyrically, it seems to be about a struggle with someone, something or an addiction.  The vocals are really well done, the depth of the music and lyrics is evident all over the songs but is particularly done well in this one song.  “You wanna move on but you can’t let it go” is one lyric that stands out for me in this song – it again gives you a general meaning about what that could be.  Again, a vast population can relate to this song.

The CD title track “Engines” has a great feel to it.  Starting slow, filling out the song, going bare bones, it’s all here in this song.  It reminds me of how the band works; the engine of the band is all four members.  Lyrically “We’re waiting on the engines of the past/….and now its time to turn me on at last” makes me think that the past was great and a lot was learned but now new opportunities are on the horizon.  Great work by all members!

The final song “Long Road” is another favourite of mine on this CD.  An acoustic guitar with Paul’s vocals bring the melody of the song out immediately.  Speaking of lost souls, a long road and cloudy days disappearing reminds me that lyrically it can give hope to anyone who listens to this song.  It’s a pleasant song that leaves the listener with a good impression of a band that has developed over the last three years.

Tony Lambert.  Photo by Jade Sperry.

City Walls Tony Lambert. Photo by Jade Sperry.

City Walls Nate Parsons.  Photo by Jade Sperry.

City Walls Nate Parsons. Photo by Jade Sperry.

I truly believe in this band and the musical ability of the four men in it.  They have a good support structure around them.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they hit the big time in the next few years if they continue on the path they are on right now.  The music and lyrics make a band but the people in the band are what make the music and lyrics possible.  Paul and Nate are such great people and Tony and Brian seem really in tune with the bands’ live development that will continue to evolve and change. Paul and Tony being brothers helps out immensely because they “know” each other.  I look forward to hearing more music from this band and watching them progress through the next couple of years.  I highly recommend this CD if you like good solid music that is progressive and ever changing.  It would be an added bonus if you had this in your collection of music beside the greats like Pink Floyd (in a progressive band way), The Doobie Brothers (in its musical instrumentation) and Mother Mother (in lyrical depth and live show development).

I would like to let you know that you should go and see this band live.  They begin their National Tour on April 18 and wrap it up on May 17.  Below is a great photo with the show dates listed.  I’ve also included the band’s video for “Trapped” at the end.

CW-EnginesTour-768x1024

Said the Whale – Review – Hawaii


said13

Vancouver band Said The Whale released their newest CD, HAWAII, in September 2013 on Hidden Pony Records.  They’ve definitely come a long way since their debut EP in 2007 called Taking Abalonia, which was re-released in 2008 with seven new songs and called HowSounds/Taking Abaonia.  Ben Worcester (guitars/vox) and Tyler Bancroft (guitars/vox) started the band back in 2006 with Laura Smith (on keyboards in 2007) and Jeff LaForge (on bass in 2007-2008).  Laura and Jeff were replaced by Colin Dodds on keyboards (2008) and Peter Carruthers on bass (2009-2011).  Colin was replaced by Jaycelyn Brown (keyboards) in 2008 and Nathan Shaw (bass) replaced Peter in 2011.  And all during the band replacements, they put out some quality work:  The Magician EP (2009) was released to build up momentum before they released a full CD, Islands Disappear (2009).  In 2011, they released the New Brighton EP followed by a full CD in 2012 entitled Little Mountain.

Some fun facts about the band:

In November of 2010, they placed 2nd for the Peak Performance Project (a radio station here in Vancouver; 102.7 The Peak) and won $75,000.00!

In the spring of 2011, they toured across the USA, taking a CBC film crew with them (CBC Canada filmed a documentary on the band called Winning America).  They also played SXSW in Austin TX which was a highlight of their tour.

Upon returning to Canada, they were nominated for a Juno Award:  New Group of the Year (for 2011) which they won in 2012!

(Personally I think the Juno Award win was funny because of the body of music they had released well before 2011.)

The track listing for Hawaii is as follows:

1.    More Than This

2.    Mother

3.    Narrows

4.    I Love You

5.    Safe To Say

6.    Resolutions

7.    Willow

8.    On The Ropes

9.    I Could Smoke

10.   Oh K, Okay

11.   Helpless Son

12.   The Weight of the Season

saidthewhale_2013

The CD opens with the song “More Than This” which is a slow piano based song at just 1:24.  I think this song sets the listener up for a musical adventure, or so it seems to me.  It’s got a “get ready for this” feeling.  Their harmonization is emphasized very clearly.

“Mother” is upbeat with a pleasant melody that flows well and is utilized by all members of the band.  The vocals are balanced, clear and slightly pensive.  Thinking about some personal habits that may be a bit shady, this song speaks of don’t tell a mother about some of the crazy things that her child does.  The song starts out bare bones but by the end of the song, everyone is on the same page and playing strongly.

“Narrows” is a song that is mostly in a minor key and speaks of fishing for ________.  The listener can fill in the blank because the song lyrics are written in a general term that anyone can understand and relate to.  That’s one of the main reasons I like this band – the way they write music.  It makes you think.  With lyrics like “And with all my heart left to faith/I cast my luck into the water and I pray/for all my scars and my intuition/To see me through this/I’ve never been fishing like this before”.

“I Love You” is a favourite here in Vancouver.  This song was on heavy rotation on the radio and rightly so.  It combines sane music until the song goes into the chorus which then becomes an insanely musical mash up.  I like the subtle time changes from the verse to chorus and vice-versa.  Lyrically, the word “love” is used in a more sibling/friendship kind of way in the verses:   “When I learned that I had a brother/I made up a dance for you/We’d be crime fighters together/and do things that brothers do” and “When I learned I had a sister/I pretended to hate her/I’d seen it on TV/I knew exactly what to do”.

“Willow” has an interesting time signature musically that I like the sound of.  The drums are prominent in the verses but they even out with the other members for the chorus.  Within this song are really two songs – the middle part of the song sounds completely different than the beginning and end.  Lyrically, the song speaks of starting and ending a relationship.  With lyrics like “You And I/We found each other at the strangest time/When all we wanted was a piece of light/And something real just to hold on tight/And now I’ll never let you go” and “I gave you all I had to give/And still I feel like its a risk/Telling ourselves that this will be forever/Willow won’t you give me your heart”, it’s clear that some things just don’t work out the way you might have envisioned them to.

“Oh K, Okay” is a song that I really like.  Musically it’s very bare bones but has a good melody which is consistent through the song.  Lyrically, it speaks of meeting someone and hitting it off immediately which leads to a relationship.  I like these verses the best:  “I’d never met a girl who thinks the way that I do/About the better things/Like the reflection of the moon/Or the mortality of fire/And the distance of a star and us/Oh K, oh K, oh K” and “I lay my thoughts upon you in the dark/I lay beside you and listen to your heart beat/Rippling the water on the lake and the stars/Night sky, bright sparks/Oh K, oh K, oh K”.  Sharing something with another person is an awesome experience be it in love, life or just because.

Some of the reasons why I like this band is because they write original songs, they have quirky music and a lot of fun – onstage and off.  They’re a high energy band who may look laid back but the wheels are always spinning and looking towards the future.

I highly recommend this CD to add to your collection.  It’ll fit nicely between The Zolas, Mother Mother and Hey Ocean!  You can listen to the music and check out the lyrics on their website that I’ve linked in the first sentence of this article.  You can check out the band in various locations through a Google search.  They’re on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Video – Said the Whale – I Love You (totally a funny video!)

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.

Review – The Rekkening – Broken Mind EP


Vancouver’s The Rekkening has just brought out their new 4-song EP called Broken Mind.  For those of you who don’t know or who’ve never heard of The Rekkening, here is the background – Tracey Lynn Satann (main vocals/guitar) joined forces with bassist extraordinaire Goredzilla to form what is the backbone of The Rekkening.  At that time, they recorded a demo called “Best Served Cold” which went over well.  They played some gigs with a rotating door of guitarists and drummers and wrote songs.  They found guitarist Travis T (Treacherous T) who plays guitars on the EP and drummer Jordan Meyer.  However, Jordan just didn’t work out the way they had hoped, and they’re recruiting a new drummer, Natalie Elliot who has yet to find her nickname in the band.

As we speak, Goredzilla is in LA right now at the Bassist Convention where he handed out the EP to bassists’ for Metallica, Megadeath, Billy Sheehan, etc.  He’s also done an interview with the co-host of City Talk TV LA Robin Takizawa.

therekkening_brokenmindep_front

The EP was engineered by Esteban Cruz Z., Roger Lee and Jeevanath Sekaran.  And, it was mixed and mastered by Ken Burke.

The 4 songs are (in order):  In The End, Broken Mind, Cry, Is This Love (Whitesnake cover).

Starting with “In The End” the first words you hear are “Blinded by rage/At a young age…” and “I am who I am” should tell you right off the bat that this band follows their own muses and if you don’t like the music, then leave now.  Tracey has very powerful pipes and she can get in your face literally with a focus and concentration that probably scares most other people.  Her intensity with music is evident in the vocal work on all 4 songs.  The music is hypnotizing, the drums pound and the song explodes from the speakers.  Travis’ guitars are very good throughout the songs as well.  And the bass work is impeccable.

“Broken Mind” has a sinister quality about it musically right from the start due to the song being in a minor key.  Tracey picks up a megaphone to use it as an extension of her powerful vocals which only a few bands have ever used.  Asking questions “why…” make me wonder what is she looking for which is interesting in of itself.  It’s a dark song about why why why do certain things keep happening in life.  Many people wonder the same thing about their lives as well.

“Cry” starts out with an acoustic guitar and fills out as soon as the drums enter the song.  It’s a great ballad song and is radio friendly.  With lyrics “But now I only cry/When it’s late at night/And now I only cry/Instead of holding you” are some strong emotions in the words which you can hear in the vocals.  This song is mixed well.  The guitars are lovely, played with graceful hands by Travis.  And the bass work speaks for itself.

“Is This Love” is a Whitesnake cover which isn’t like the original.  The band took this song and put some speed into it and grind it out with powerful vocals, pounding drums, choppy but fluid guitars and the bass just goes with speed beat drums.  A great headbanging song!

The one thing I like about this fresh band is their passion, focus and concentration on the music.  Tracey and Goredzilla are working hard this time around to make a name for themselves in the competitive genre of hard rock/metal.  I asked Tracey what would be the ultimate thing to happen to which she replied “We’d love to play some festivals in Europe, Germany in particular.”  With the right karma, this just might happen.  This EP is solid, refreshing and hard hitting, and when more songs are written and recorded, who knows what can happen!

The band can be found at the following links:

Facebook

Twitter

Reverbnation

You can also find some older songs in their live videos such as “Angel” from 2009’s The Red Room’s performance and from 2010 with “Wake The Dead” from a show at The Bourbon.