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.

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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.

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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.

 

CD Review – Gerard Way – Hesitant Alien


Everyone who ever liked or heard My Chemical Romance knows who Gerard Way is.  I was never a big MCR fan, but I have to admit, The Killjoys struck a chord deep in the depths of my being.  Aliens, apocalypses and giant animal heads are great but a “hesitant” alien is intriguing – and a good title to a début CD as a solo artist.

Gerard has accomplished many things in his short time on this planet – he’s fronted the highly successful band mentioned above, has 2 comic book series under his belt, is a good songwriter and has a family.  He is married to Lyn Z, has a daughter (Bandit who’s 6) and from where I stand, he is enjoying what he’s doing as it’s on his own terms now.  You still have to be part of the “machine” but it’s better to be in a good position from within the “machine”. Being a solo artist is hard when you’ve had the security of a well oiled band behind you.  But, Gerard is doing it his way and it seems to be paying off.

When I received the package with some nice things inside, it was the CD that stood out in it’s simplicity.  The photography is well done, showing a “hesitation” photo of Gerard on the front.  I’ve really enjoyed the videos, the tour and other things I’ve seen on Facebook and YouTube.  I caught a full show on YT from the UK Redding show and also some really well done interviews.  Facebook took me to many articles and interviews from Gerard and I have to say, I like this guy.

The CD was produced by Doug McKean.  It was engineered by Doug McKean and Tom Rasulo.  Recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tomillo TX and at Lightning Sound Studio in Hidden Hills CA.  Assistant Engineers are Gerardo “Jerry” Ordonez, Zach Mauldin, Lance Sumner and Andrew Law.  Mixed by Tchad Blake at Full Mongrel, Wales UK.  And the CD was mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering in Portland, ME.  The band members besides Gerard are Ian Fowles (guitars), Matt Gormey (bass) and Jarrod Alexander (drums).

gway hesalien2

Having said the above, let’s move onto the CD itself.  The tracks are in this order:

  1. The Bureau
  2. Action Cat
  3. No Shows
  4. Brother
  5. Millions
  6. Zero Zero
  7. Juarez
  8. Drugstore Perfume
  9. Get the Gang Together
  10. How It’s Going To Be
  11. Maya The Psychic

There are many discussions from fans on many threads about the fact that they don’t like the new bands that the other band members have formed.  And many don’t like the new solo direction that Gerard is taking.  Life changes and things move forward.  As you age, you’ll understand that.  You have to grow and change – experience different things and situations with other people. Otherwise, the repetition is a death chant to some of us who are creative.

Taking the CD at face value for the music, I found the music to be pretty much what Gerard is saying in his interviews. He’s exploring totally different sounds (a departure from the MCR sound) from the Britpop phase in the 90’s to glam rock from the early 70’s.  And he has a really definitive way he wants it to be heard.  If you read the fine print on this CD, Gerard plays bass, guitars, percussion, piano and keyboards.  And Gerard’s brother, Mikey, even does some vocal work on the song “Millions”.  All lyrics were written by Gerard with various other people under Sub Atomic Tourist Music and others affiliated with the other person writing with Gerard.  And if anyone wants to know why sometimes you see Blonde hair on Gerard, you have to bleach your hair blonde and then dye it again.  It’s a process.

The first song “The Bureau” has got some crazy sounds going on – heavy fuzzed out guitars in a simple 2/3 chord structure – which sounds like someone is on caffeine and maybe a bit on the paranoid side.  Interesting that there is a British phone ringing at the end.   Lyrically it speaks of “get in/get out” and “everybody keep it calm tonight”.  The impression I see is that Gerard is making it clear that something different is coming up.  It’s not like MCR music, and it’s a good statement.

With “Action Cat” it’s like after the paranoia, let’s have fun and enjoy a pop song.  Pure and simple.  I’ve been listening to this song for a while and I like the part that goes “we can make it up again”.  Everyday is like being a new version of the last version.  Actions and decisions are all part of the process.  I have a deep impression that this song has something to do with his daughter Bandit and how he sees the purity of childhood imagination and how to be inspired by that.  I like the chorus, it speaks of “we can make it up again” plus “and we don’t care we just pretend”.  It also is saying to the innocent “Do you miss me/cuz I miss you”.  The music in the bridge is pretty cool with the guitars and is simple but effective.

“No Shows” reminds me immediately of not touring and missing and questioning the self.  It could be family life and strong bonds between two partners.  It could also mean questioning the whole “lifestyle” of your professions.  I like how the lyrics leave you guessing and is in the third person meaning this song can be about anyone who works a job and has a family.  Well structured, a little lazy in it’s feeling and a very solid melody, this is a good pop song.

Moving on to the song “Brother” it sounds melancholy with a sweet and perhaps down feeling melody.  With lyrics like  “can’t sleep tonight”,  “cuz now we don’t sing so loud” and “remember when you and I would make things up” is some a song of fond memories recent and past.  And it could mean more people than just a brother – wife, child, mother, father, etc.  It’s a well structured song that speaks from personal experience.

“Millions” has a slight off tune sound but works well within the structure of the song itself.  The music sounds very much like the Manchester sound from the early to late 90’s like Blur and Pulp.  It’s a good pop song in the fashion of an era that defined music from this area of the globe.

Another song to hit up is “Maya The Psychic”.  The music is fast, upbeat and almost reminds me of a tamer version of what Gerard used to be in MCR.  One lyric that stands out to me in this song “but when you read my future/are we running home or running free today?” which totally strikes a very deep chord in me.  I must admit when I’ve had a bad thought of someone else in front of me it usually happens.  Or having dreams come true.  “Use weapons of clairvoyance” directed to “teenage believers” is consistent with blocking radio waves from all sorts of metallic devices. There have been studies on this.

All in all, this is a good effort at a solo career and direction to take to expand your knowledge and musical tastes to an individual.  I’m interested in what direction this will go.  I hope that sometime in the future Gerard puts out more music of his own for sharing.  Other songs on the CD to check out are “Zero Zero” and “Drugstore Perfume”.

Enjoy the videos and the interviews posted for this album.

Review – Comasoft – Ropes on Fire


comasoft

Comasoft is a pop rock band from Chicago, IL that have some keyboards, guitars and a weakness for the 1980’s – mostly because fuzzy keyboards and Brian Adams riffs should never go out of style and we don’t want to live in a world where they are.  Comasoft is currently booking shows, playing everywhere their 20 year old van will take them and trying to rule the world.   So come and join us in bringing back rock-n-roll, general debauchery, and fun!   Comasoft sound like Kill Hannah, Placebo, New Order, Madina Lake, The Cure and AFI.  This EP was recorded and mixed by Chuck Mack (of Ghosthouse fame) at Ekectrowerks, and all photos courtesy of Kenra Sandsmark.

The members of the band are Jay (vocals), Crispy (bass and keyboards), Adam (guitars), Jimmy Con (beats and keyboards), Chris2 (drums) and finally Bilty who might drive the van a few times and does a lot of other things. Possible roadie?  No one seems to know.  He’s the mystery member of the band.  Comasoft’s music has been on the following TV programs:

Mtv – Ten on Top, and The Seven (Atombomb, Never the Same, and One to One)
HGTV – Design Star (10Volt)
Bravo’s upcoming show called “Fashion Hunter” (10Volt)
Canadian TV show – Degrassi (Put up a Fight)

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Comasoft have several EP’s and LP’s and do quite well for themselves in Chicago and would like to become a national (and eventually an international) name in their native US of A.  They’re a typical bunch of crazy dudes having fun and living life the best way they know how.  Their new EP is pretty stellar so let’s check it out.  The track listing is as follows:

1.   West Town (featuring Anthony Bagnara and Makeshift Prodigy)

2.   Waiting In Vain

3.   I Won’t Tell If You Don’t

4.   Bang

5.   All I Wanted (Acoustic)

6.   Lights Out (Acoustic)

7.   Waiting In Vain (Acoustic)

“West Town” has a really good melody, catchy hooks throughout the song (with guitars and keyboards) and is performed well by all members.  “Ropes on fire/I climb higher” gives  me a clue that when the heat is on, this band gets it on and goes the distance and beyond.  “All my friends try to tell me no/They see me break and they tell me so/And when I reach out to hold your…../All of my try to tell me no” can be seen many different ways by many different people.  Keeping the lyrics general is a good thing in this song as this could be seen by friends that you’re trying to help out by giving them advice which can lead to other things (mostly bad in this case) in the long run of any relationship.  You need to think for yourself.

“Waiting In Vain” starts out with a cool little guitar riff and explodes with the other instruments joining in.  “When you start to shake/When your hands grow cold/And your eyes stare off into space/I got you/ Why don’t you/Understand me when you’re falling/Well I’m still waiting/Waiting in vain” are some pretty great lyrics about how someone can feel about another person.  It could be early in a relationship where you are waiting for something to happen or looking for a sign.  Or a friendship that is changing into a relationship and you’re still not too sure about whether to take it to the next level.  The music is really well suited to the lyrics which makes in a stand out song on the EP.

“I Won’t Tell If You Don’t” is choppy song musically which features a good bass riff with starts and stops in all the right places.  “I won’t tell if you don’t/Just how far we could go” is a bit of a mystery and again is general in its meaning.  It could be many things which my gutter mind thinks of and I probably wouldn’t be far off the mark. It’s a well done song.

“Bang” is a really good song lyrically and musically.  “Your bullets/With my name on one” and “Bang/Now I’m dead on the floor/Bang/Now you got my attention/Shot through me” makes it really clear what’s going on in the song.  And the melody is a fast paced one with good backing vocals in all the right places.  Great song!

“All I Wanted” has some really good vocal work by Jay.  I really like his voice fronting the music.  The emotion coming out of him is evident in this song.  As it’s an acoustic version, you can really feel the words sung by Jay as the music is stripped down.  “All I wanted to say/I didn’t want it to end this way” pretty much sums up a lot of emotions in one song about a relationship that ended in failure, abruptly and possibly soaked in emotion.  Well done!

“Lights Out” seemed so familiar to me when I first heard this song.  Such bare bones with only an acoustic guitar and a few keys added in to make a point.  This song makes me think of close friends who have passed on in some tragic way that is shocking.  It’s a very well done song that is sad and plaintive in hearing Jay’s vocals.

“Waiting In Vain” the acoustic version is very well done.  Same lyrics but stripped down, it has a sad quality to it which comes across in the vocals by Jay.

All is all this is a stellar EP and just proves that this is a band that is working it’s way up in the Chicago scene and could quite possibly take on national recognition in the near future if they keep doing what they do best – making good music that people can relate to in whatever way possible and by being themselves.

The other music they have out on iTunes or from their website are:  Burn to Shine EP, The Beautiful Departure EP, Impulsive EP and Comasoft (self) LP.  You can find all this awesome music on iTunes US and Canada or you buy it on the bands’ website.

If you’re interested in booking the band for a show, you can contact them through their management team at:

Blue Amp Management, Francesca Campobasso by email:  francesca@blueampmusic.com (also, pleaes cc email to comasoftinfo@gmail.com).

Here is a video from their Burn to Shine EP called “10 Volt”:

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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Review – Acres of Lions – Home(s)


Acres of Lions is a pop/rock/punk/alternative band based in Victoria, BC in Canada and features ex-touring members of the seminal American punk band Against Me! and also from Moneyshot and Theset. Their music is lyrically-driven rock, influenced by bands such as The Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World, The Weakerthans, Alkaline Trio, and Saves The Day. The band members are Jeff Kalenikoff, Tyson Yerex, Dan Ball and Shane Deyotte.

This band has been active since 2006 but in 2008, Acres of Lions signed a recording and development contract with Cordova Bay Records and received critical acclaim for their 2009 debut full-length album, Working.  Exclaim! Magazine reported “This is definitely a band to keep on the radar”. They then followed up that up with their sophomore album, Collections, also released on Cordova Bay Records in 2011.  This album took the band’s sound in a more pop-influenced direction, and was met with more commercial success. The first single, “Reaction”, was mixed by legendary engineer Mike Fraser (AC/DC, Mother Mother, Franz Ferdinand) and charted at #19 on the Canadian alternative rock charts.

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2011 was also a big year for Acres Of Lions, as they were selected by Music BC as one of the ‘Top 20 Bands in BC’ for the Peak Performance Project. Other highlights included music placements on television programs Degrassi and Majority Rules, and a cross-Canada tour supporting JUNO nominated indie-rockers Ten Second Epic.

In 2012, the band attracted international attention, placing third in the pop category of the International Songwriting Competition and releasing their albums though Bullion Records in Japan, and Fierce Panda Records in Europe. They also took on an impressive 250 date touring schedule, including: two cross Canada tours, two tours to the UK, performances at Canadian Music Week and Edgefest, opening slots for Hedley, and more than 6 months on the road with a provincial government career building initiative performing for youth around British Columbia.

Acres Of Lions released their third album, Home(s), on Cordova Bay Records in 2013. The first single, “Bright Lights”, was met with continued commercial success, breaking into the Top 40 Canadian alternative rock charts, and licensing a music placement in CBC’s television program Arctic Air. The band continued touring extensively throughout 2013, including performances at Warped Tour, Victoria’s Canada Day Celebration Festival (50,000+ attendance), and opening for the band City and Colour.

As of 2014, the band is currently in the studio writing new material for what will become their fourth full-length album.

I’m a big fan of Against Me! and when I heard that Acres of Lions were forming in Victoria BC in 2009, I began to following them because of their association with Against Me!.  But, over the last 5 years, they have proved to me and their fans that they are a band to be heard and have commercial success to prove it.

acresoflions cd front homes

The track listing for the CD is as follows:

1.   Bright Lights

2.   Old Town

3.   Prairie Fire

4.   Great Escape

5.   Never Let Me Go

6.   Better Luck Next Year

7.   Miserable Together

8.   Writing from the Heart

9.   Home(s)

10.  Signs and Wonders

The song “Bright Lights” is a fast, up-tempo song with a good melody and played well by all members.  “You used to have solutions/And did I make your list just to never follow through/On any of them but you” gives me the impression that the song is about someone who likes another person who makes lists of certain things about people in some ways.  Also, the song is about past memories of cool kids and celebration drumming circles probably on the beach somewhere with a big bonfire going.  And love at first sight.  In some parts of the life, being cool and doing what’s cool at the time is what this song reminds me of.  It’s a good party song and a good dance tune.

“Prairie Fire” is a hip tune that sings about UFO’s, summer ghosts, fires, night time; all emulated in this song.  I really like the melody of the song as it’s catchy and has a good hook.  This song speaks of not having any where to go and searching for something that may or may not be tangible.  This song is well played by all members of the band.  The melody is upbeat and makes you feel good.

“Never Let Me Go” begins life full on and goes down to bare bones with the vocals.  “Say you won’t forget me/Say you’ll never let me go” could be about a touring band saying goodbye to loved ones for an extended period of time.  I like the stop/starts, the guitars and the vocals.  It’s a good song and well constructed.

“Signs and Wonders” is the last song on the album.  I like the lyrics of this song and the melody is choppy and chaotic but well streamlined.  “At the end of your life” is a great first line to open a song.  Sounds like someone is watching life go by in a detached kind of way.  I like the vision that brings to the song.

I wanted people to know about this band because they aren’t self absorbed and play for the love of music and feeding off the energy of crowds at shows.  Their passion for music is evident in their lyrics and in their live shows. There are many videos on their YouTube channel but I like this acoustic performance on The Peak radio show. Watch, listen and enjoy.

 

Review – Poor Young Things – The Head, The Heart, The End (2013)


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Just two years after collectively relocating from Thunder Bay (to Toronto), the pop-rock quintet has issued a massive, sweat-soaked, insanely confident debut, The Heart. The Head. The End. Not only that, they’ve picked up a record deal, marquee management, a Sirius XM Emerging Artist of the Year award and a swelling fan base. Few can make something as tough as pursuing a dream look so dang easy.

“Oh man, we are so lucky,” confirms singer/guitarist Matt Fratpietro on behalf of his cohorts. “Touring across Canada is so hard. And there are lots of bands that do that for years and years and don’t get the breaks we’ve had.

“We came here and were signed within a year to a small, very supportive label, Bumstead Productions. I mean, obviously we sold our souls to the devil,” Fratpietro howls. “But still. What a deal we got!”
Kidding aside, The Heart. The Head. The End. could not have emerged if Poor Young Things – high school pals Fratpietro, guitarists Michael Kondakow and Dave Grant, bassist Scott Burke and drummer Konrad Commisso – had elected to play it safe.

“It’s scary to leave your hometown,” Fratpietro admits of the big move south in November 2010. “We had been playing together for about three years at that point in some incarnation or another. The five of us all agreed to move together, which made it a bit easier though we are all living in the same house now which is… cozy. I mean, we see each other every day.”

With that said, what a debut they made back in May 2013!  I have such respect for a band that moves its home base to a completely different and much more aggressive city.  This collection of songs are about the best thing I heard last year as far as new bands go.  Since I write at my own pace without being paid on most reviews, I get to review what I want.   One day I might get paid for all reviews which would be nice.  I also know that many people come here to read about bands that are not known in countries outside of Canada and the US.  So, it’s nice to know that there are some real music fans out there who actively pursue new music and new bands from other countries.

The track listing for the album are:

1.   Dress It Up

2.   Sign of the Times

3.   Transformer

4.   Warpaint

5.   Strength in Numbers

6.   Revolver

7.   Running

8.   Black Lightening

9.   The State

10.  Given the Situation

11.  Ghost Notes

The music on the album is upbeat, collectively played very well and fun in general.  This is a very good collection of songs to begin a musical career on.

“Dress It Up” roars off the computer screen in a huge way.  Speaking of hispters, peace and love, things are different for the person looking from the outside in.  That’s what this song speaks of to me.  The person you’re looking at or hanging out with sees things in a “rose coloured glasses” kind of way while you see things for what they are – stark, broken and sick.  Everyone sees things differently and some people remember events “dressed up” as the memory isn’t foolproof.  Musically its an uptempo song with a great beat and a good hook.

“Sign of the Times” is about the current state of the financial crisis all over the globe.  Insecurity and high unemployment and how that makes one feel.  Musically it has hope in the chorus to verse although it does have a certain gloom to it lyrically.

“Warpaint” is a good song that has a steady beat and good lyrics.  “Wash away your war paint” gives you a clue as to what the song is about lyrically.  Ready for battle?  That’s what this speaks of in general terms.  The music is fast, strong and in your face with attitude.  Fighting is not so good in this day and age.  It just sucks your energy and brings you down to another person’s level.  And in the end, was it worth it?

“Black Lightening” is the best damn song on the album for me.  Based in minor keys this song stands out based on just that.  However, the lyrics are just so good.  Here’s what the band said about this song, as posted on their website:  “‘Black Lightning’ only took a couple of days.”  Not bad, short and sweet.

All of the songs on this album are better than average, meaning for a debut it’s about as good as it gets.  Relate-able songs, exceptional vocals and collectively played well, this album is a gem from 2013.  If you like independent bands without the big label hoopla, this is a band you’ll enjoy listening to and following.

You can find all things related to the band at their website.  And you can listen to the songs from the album there as well.  The band will be playing shows on:

April 25 2014 @ The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto ON

May 9 2014 @ Riverstone Event Centre in Welland ON

Enjoy!

Poor-Young-Things-Press-Photo-2013Video – Sign of the Times

Said the Whale – Review – Hawaii


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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 – Paper Lions – My Friends


My Friends, the new album from Charlottetown indie-rockers Paper Lions, was released on August 20, 2013 via the band’s own label imprint, Fountain Pop Records. The 10-song collection, recorded with acclaimed Canadian indie-rock producer Howard Redekopp (Tegan and Sara, The New Pornographers, Mother Mother) captures a Polaroid of Prince Edward Island twenty-some years ago. Stories of love and pain, childish fights, best friends, beaches and forts; they evoke the melancholia of youth, remembered by someone not very far from it.

As most people know, Paper Lions was formed in 2004 in Belfast PEI as the Chucky Danger Band by singer guitarist John MacPhee and brother Rob MacPhee (bass), guitarist Colin Buchanan (next door neighbour to the MacPhee brothers) and drummer David Cyrus MacDonald (who met the other 3 boys in high school).  They have released 6 LP/EP’s in the past decade and now have their 7th LP, My Friends, under the belt.

Paper-Lions

In doing some background research, there were 2 things that I never knew about this band – In 2010, the band were finalists for the John Lennon Songwriting Competition with a song from the LP Trophies called “Stay Here For Awhile” and in September of 2010 they were signed to a label for the Trophies LP but had received no proceeds from record sales.  They’ve never said who the label was but due to some confusion on the label end, the office staff had changed and they closed their Canadian offices shortly after staff changeovers.  In this case, The Muse Box stepped in and helped them out.

In the last 3 years alone, they have brought out 3 LP’s, toured with bands such as Cake, Hot Hot Heat, Collective Soul, Pennywise, Loverboy and The Rheostatics.  Their radio interest in Canada and the US has helped give exposure to this talented band from MTV to the World Expo in China, to the Olympics in 2012 from Vancouver BC Canada to the Paralympics in Whistler BC Canada.  In 2013, they won an Independent Music Award for At Long Creek for Best Pop EP.

The track listings are:

1.   Bodies In The Winter

2.   Pull Me In

3.   Sandcastles

4.   My Friend

5.   Little Liar

6.   Ghostwriters

7.   So Lonely

8.   San Simeon

9.   Philadelphia

10.  My Friends Are Leaving

paperlions myfriends

Starting with the lead song “Bodies In The Winter” it has a very catchy guitar hook as well as a flowing melody throughout the song.  Lyrically, running away from anything is not the answer.  But, if you do run, sooner or later, things or people will catch up with you.  You can never escape the truth of your past, your present, people you’ve known, etc.  I like songs with some morals in it.

“Pull Me In” has a familiar melody, but in bypassing that, this is a solid song musically.  Played well and very free-flowing, I like how the song literally pulls you in.  Lyrically, throwing away your genesis (or beginning) might have repercussions later in life when you turn a bend in the road of life.

“My Friend” is a happy little tune about friendship; about growing up, living life and maybe growing apart but the friendship is still there despite differences.  Musically, it does remind me of another song, but only in the beginning.

“Little Liar” is a song that warns “leave the beehive alone” kind of message about lying.  Lying will only get you into trouble because of many varied reasons, but in the end, it does catch up to you.  And when you get caught, there are always consequences to your actions.  Another good moral song!

“Ghostwriters” is more like a ballad than anything else.  The harmonies between the members sounds really good and rise above the music well.  Not too much nor too little.

“Philadelphia” on my mind…..I really like that first line.  It just sounds so natural.  Another ballad type song but as the song picks up steam, the music goes up and down in a pleasant way to the ears.  Lyrically, it sounds like a song of sticking together through thick and thin times with the people that you’re closest to.

With no song longer than 4:19, this is a solid LP.  I’m hesitant in slotting this band into a category of any kind, it’s a collection of truly independent Canadian songs, which is what Canadian bands do well.  You can stream the LP in its entire format form from the bands’ website via Soundcloud.  And if you like it, buy it on iTunes Canada and support this talented Canadian band.

What follows here is the music video from the bands’ YouTube channel called “My Friend”, the lyric video:

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!