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

 

 

 

 

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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.

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