Review – Combine The Victorious – EP Crumbling Hearts


Combine The Victorious

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

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

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

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

Crumbling Hearts EP cover.  Photo credit - Klee.

Crumbling Hearts EP cover. Photo credit – Klee.

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

1.  Crumbling Hearts

2.  California State of Mind

3.  Glasglow

4.  Smoke & Choke

5.  Paros

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

EP review and Interview – The Nursery – Carnival Nature


An indie band in Toronto called “The Nursery” has completed their new 6-song EP called Carnival Nature.  Alex Pulec is the main driving force behind this band (and he is formerly of the band The Ruby Spirit where he was asked to leave).  He’s a very talented individual whose skills are all over the internet.  If you google his name, watch what comes up.  Amazing.  I hope to meet him personally in the future.

The EP was produced by Tony Malone, and when I heard this EP I knew that it had been mastered by Joao Carvalho (David Vertesi, Shad and By Divine Right) whose mastering skills are just amazing. The EP was released on 29 June 2013, and the links for Tmblr and Bandcamp are listed at the end of the review, as well as a video.  Another ally in the project is Nathan C. LaLonde (photography), whose personal site is worth a serious look.  He is definitely someone who I’d like to meet in the future.  I love his work!

Photograph taken by Nathan C. LaLonde

Photograph taken by Nathan C. LaLonde

I had a chance to ask Alex Pulec and Victor Ess some questions and their responses are as follows:

How did you form your current band “The Nursery”?

Alex: The band developed between a collaborative relationship between Victor and I. We had gotten into this habit of spending evenings ditching parties and events early to go work on songs. Eventually we realized a whole set of music had been written and we started getting excited. After having the songs ready we needed to find musicians to bring them to life and perform so Victor brought Nate in and I brought in Jared.

Where did the band name come from?

Alex: To me a Nursery of any kind represents life as much as it represents death. I love the play between light and darkness. The pleasant and the macabre. Those dualities always find their way into our music. It seemed appropriate.

What drove you to leave your last band “The Ruby Spirit”?

Alex: I never left. I was asked to leave. Too many cooks in the kitchen to make a loaf of bread.

Most artists have a “process” for writing songs. How do you write your songs? Do you concentrate on the melodies, or the lyrics, or the entire structure of the song?

Alex: For me it usually starts with an impression of an idea or a hazy image. Sometimes it’s a melody with words or sometimes it’s just a sound. I like to allow the idea to lead me further and further into what it’s supposed to be. It gets shaped in the process of trying to discover why this bit of music is having such an effect on me. Eventually the pieces start falling into place as you get closer. It always gets shaped even more with the band before it can be called finished.

Victor: I’ll often have a basic skeleton or structure in mind, or perhaps a particular melody or vibe that I want to emphasize. If I don’t have a completed idea, Alex and I will usually take an evening to work on it together and help it take shape.

As an Indie band in the land of social media, how do you find gigs to play?

 Alex: I have used social media to connect with bands that are based out of our town to swap gigs with. I see Twitter as some sort of ice breaker platform to get in touch with bands, promoters or venues that may seem out of reach otherwise. It’s great to use if you are booking all your own gigs and don’t have someone handling that yet. I also really like putting on shows with friends and other bands I love from in and out of town. It’s fun to put on shows with your friends. I feel it resonates with an audience on a level that feels honest and genuine. Pulling together with people for something feels good. Trying feels good.

What’s your take on supporting yourself in an Indie band in the age of social media and networking? Do you find it works to your advantage or disadvantage?

Victor: Social media done right can actually be really effective. I find a lot of people trying to promote themselves, bands or otherwise, put in the bare minimum with social media/networking and it comes off as disingenuous, like they’re just going through the motions cause everyone else does it. Nobody wants that. I think social media is great because it really gives you a chance to share your journey and tell your story to people.

 Alex: It’s discerning between ASKING for things or GIVING to people. Focus on giving not asking. Social Media is free. Give it away.

What have you “personally” learned and sacrificed by being a creative artist through your life so far? And how did you incorporate that lesson or emotion into a creative expression?

Victor: I’ve turned down some great job opportunities because they might have cut into my ability to make music. Same thing with relationships. I’m doing this because I love it, plain and simple.

 Alex: You have to genuinely love your art or else you’ll start to resent it when obstacles come in your way. And they will always come, because it’s not easy. There is no set path to follow. You need to cut your own. It’s always easier to travel in the dark with something you love.

Because of the over-saturation of DIY bands in the Toronto area, how will your band stand out above the other bands?

 Alex: I don’t believe it’s over saturated. Just under exposed.

On the EP, Carnival Nature, you name many other musicians who play and arrange – who are the other permanent members of The Nursery, and what instruments do they play?

 Alex: I never made a record that had so many people on it. It was like a making a film with big cast of characters. Tony Malone who produced it served as the director and helped organize everyone’s contributions. He also did the horn arrangements. I asked Athena Babayan to sing harmony on This Wild Heart to get a ghostly female voice on it. Her parts are some my favourite bits on the record.

Victor: From the beginning I have been a permanent member of The Nursery but ended up taking over the synthesizers instead of bass on ‘Carnival Nature’.

 Alex: He was kind of our Brian Eno to Roxy Music on this record programming most of the odd sounds and atmospheres that swirl around the songs.

 Victor: Sam Morton, a great bass player and friend of ours handled bass while I did all synth work. Now I play Bass, synths, sing harmony and any other effects or sounds that I can get my hands on.

Alex: Now The Nursery consists of Nate Finucci on drums and Jared Roth taking over keyboards as well as myself and Victor. They both bring such a different and fresh energy to the whole thing. We have started to work on an LP together.

What bands/artists/performers have inspired you musically and creatively over the years?

Alex: There are too many to list and even talk about. But I often take a lot of my inspiration from films, poetry and spontaneous discoveries in my everyday life. Sometimes a child yelling a strange sentence on the street may inspire an idea or lyric.

What was the inspiration for the song “This Wild Heart”? I find this song very interesting musically as well as lyrically….

 Alex: It was a combination of old western songs and the work of David Lynch initially. Lynch is a master of creating a surreal world that consumes you and that you can get lost in. So I tried taking this approach to a seemingly familiar song format by putting it in a whole new context. Victor and Tony’s textures are really what creates it’s juxtaposed and hypnotic environment. Lyrically it’s about coming to the realization that you are completely bound to someone regardless of the journey you’ve had with them and weather you like it or not.

You yourself play many instruments including the Mellotron on this EP. Which instruments are your favourites to play onstage and off-stage?

 Alex: Onstage I play guitar when I sing. It’s most fun and comfortable for me. I sometimes play Theremin onstage with my guitar when I can. That’s the best. You need a large stage to even use it properly, so it doesn’t always happen.

The members of this band are:

Alex Pulec – Vox and guitar

Victor Ess – Bass

Jared Roth – Keys and Synths

Nate Finucci – Drums

The song listing for the EP is as follows:

1.  Lysergically Yours

2.  It’s A Sin

3.  Lucy

4.  Domino

5.  This Wild Heart

6.  I Was I Was Someone Else

“Lysergically Yours” is pure kitschy and chaotic.  Progressive, edgy and with a touch of fun mixed with madness and fears, it’s a song about overpowering someone who is perhaps more passive.  There is symbolic duality in the melody of this song which gives it a fun but mad feel.

‘It’s A Sin” is a bold and brash song which is pure progressive psychedelia pop.  The melody is strong and makes a bold statement as the vocals wrap around the words beautifully.  Again, there is duality in this song which I think of as good versus evil but it’s more lyrically than musically.  Musically the song is upbeat and on the bright side.  Perhaps that’s another duality of the song itself.

“Lucy” has a good beat, is upbeat and chaotic in spots but these unusual spots hit a nerve when you realize that this is about life versus death (suicide).  The music belies that fact which is a brilliant disguise in song structure!

“Domino” sounds like a death dream that one lives in a song, if that’s possible.  Duality in life and death, whispers, Munster-like music which symbolizes being hypnotized while dying as the eyes close on life.  One of my favorites on this EP!

“This Wild Heart” is another favorite.  Sounding like southern psychedelia pop with vocal work by Alex this song reminds me of cowboys who have had a hard life and can’t be tamed in anyway, but instead, find a kindred spirit in the melody of songs.  I really like the big sound to it as well as the feel of the music.

“I Was I Was Someone Else” is a ballad like song but instead of being a traditional ballad its again a duality of being ignorant of one’s feelings about another person.  We all grow and become older and may change our lives, but, internally, we don’t change  our personalities.  This is one of those songs that makes you think about how you’ve treated past lovers and yourself.

The EP is everywhere, but the Bandcamp link is provided so that you can buy the EP right from the band without a middleman.  You can also visit the blog on Tmblr for info on the band and follow them there.  There is also a link to see video on YouTube below (produced by Nathan C. LaLonde).  I invite you to have a visit to Nathan’s site Eccentric Exhibits.  It’s a very interesting site of artwork, photographs and video works.  Other artwork on the CD comes from photographer Genevieve Blais (who has a website you should visit) and Amy Janine Wong sketched out the poster which is awesome.

CD review – Young Rival – Stay Young


CD Review – Young Rival – Stay Young (Sonic Unyon Records)

Released:  October 23, 2012

by Jade Sperry

young rival hamilton on group1

Hailing from my old hometown of Hamilton ON, Young Rival are a hardworking band who are currently on tour in Quebec, and play a show in Hamilton on December 26 at The Casbah.  If I were going home for Christmas this year, I would have definitely checked out this band.   In the USA, there is a movement of like minded bands as Young Rival – Beach Fossils, Wavves, and  Cults just to name a few.

There are a lot of things that I like about this band – their reverence for popular-music history which makes it an indie rock trio capable of winning over audiences that might ordinarily turn a deaf ear to any indie-rock band.  The band members are guitarist and frontman Aron D’Alesio, bassist John Smith and drummer Noah Fralick.

Aron says that “my dad got me into the Yardbirds, Beatles, Kinks – all that stuff.  I didn’t even know who Kurt Cobain was until the guy died.”  I find that one statement refreshing because this band is not modeled on any grunge music whatsoever.  Aron also says “whenever I listen to contemporary music, I enjoy it, but personally I’ve never been too much into what’s going on around me.  I like to dig at stuff that’s not happening.  Those are the things that are interesting to me”.  Wow!  You know in a lot of ways I can relate to what Aron says about music.  I seek out bands much like carving out some media exposure for young bands that normally would never have any such exposure.

They aren’t fashionable, a blog-do-it-yourself-band, trendy or anything of our social trending cyber-world.  Noah sums it well in saying “you get to this point as you play long enough or grow up where you don’t really give a shit.  If you are a “blog band” that helps but its not the only way to do it.”  This is my kind of band!

The only real guideline the band set for itself going into recording, Aron says, was to make “a collection of the best songs we’d ever done together.  We wanted to be able to look back at them and be proud of them….so for me at least this was just trying to do something that we could really stand behind and be really proud of”.

Being in this band means they go and play.  The standard work ethic from a very working-class upbringing in Hamilton.  I know this from the way I was raised in the same area.  So, onto the music – the track listing is as follows:

1.  Black Popcorn

2.  Nothing You Know Well

3.  Let It Go

4.  I Don’t Care

5.  Black is Good

6.  Two Reasons

7.  Better Things to Do

8.  Lost

9.  Valerie

10. Night Song

First off, all the songs are really well written, played, mixed and mastered.  Jon Drew (Fucked Up, Arkells, Tokyo Police Club) is at the helm of this stellar collection of songs.  Beginning with “Black Popcorn” it’s a very upbeat song with a melody that floats through the song.  With lyrics “tell me no lies/tell me no lies/this is your life/” that pretty much sums up most couples who hook up.  Most of us want honest relationships but there are people out there who can mess you up bad.  I relate to this because this happened to me.  Messed up bad by a guy who to this day I still think of.  But I regress.  “Nothing You Know Well” is a stop stutter beat in 2/3 time which flows well by all three members.  Good chord progression and changes.  The lyrical meaning for this listener is that the singer has moved on and grown and the person in front of him has not changed one iota.  That’s pretty accurate for most people.  Some never change at all.  “Let It Go” has a bass line that is eerily similar to Nirvana’s “Breed” but only in it’s beginning bass line which is slowed down and not let loose as Nirvana did.  I like this song – it sums up most things in life – let it go – especially if you have no control over “it”.  “I Don’t Care” clearly reminds me of the Pixies in the progression of the song as a whole.  It’s fast, radio-friendly pop melodies that sound good.  The other stand out songs on this stellar CD are “Better Things To Do” which has a surf-country feel (if that’s possible) which speaks of woman in jail and having much better things to do; “Lost” which is sombre like a Lenard Cohen poem and speaks of traveling and asking for directions and help; and “Night Song” because it’s a fun song musically.  Dancing in my living room to this song is fun and well, you should try this as well when you buy the CD.

All in all, I really like this band, not because they’re Hamiltonians, but because they are just a really good band that plays great music.  I like the influences that I hear in the music and the lyrics I can relate to in many ways.

Enjoy the music video for “Two Reasons”:

CD Review – Mystery Machine – Western Magnetics


Mystery Machine – Western Magnetics (Sonic Unyon Records)

Released: 11 September 2012

By Jade Sperry

Formed in Chilliwack BC back in 1990, Mystery Machine are still kicking out their jams. With their new CD Western Magnetics released a few months back, they did a short tour to follow up their CD and celebrated their CD release show at the Astoria in Vancouver back on October 13.

The band have released 3 prior albums called Glazed (1992), Ten Speed (1995) and Headfirst Into Everything (1998). They’ve been on a hiatus of informal means and have recently signed on with Sonic Unyon Records (in my hometown of Hamilton ON). This new beginning has also given birth to a new album.

The current members are: Shane Ward, “Bean” Chris Switzer, Luke Rgalsky and Mario Nieva. Original band member Jordan Pratt appears on 5 of the 10 tracks. This was recorded between 1999-2011 at 3 studios in Vancouver: Mushroom, Slack and Big Midet with Vince Jones, Blair Calibaba and Tim Oberthier handling all production duties, and Noah Mintz mastered it at the Lacquer Channel.

CD Cover art

Track listings are as follows:

  1. Pronto
  2. Japanese-Dads
  3. Runaways
  4. Octagon Skylight
  5. Floatist
  6. We Won’t Return
  7. House On Fire
  8. Snow
  9. Bullshit Patrol
  10. Northern Analog

The first track “Pronto” is a fast edgy song that has a lot of fuzzed out guitars and a wall of music – much like the early 1990’s movement in bands like Sonic Youth, Nirvana and My Bloody Valentine to name a few.  Speaking of “Have you seen the world?” is the question through the song that a listener has the chance to answer for themselves.  “Japanese-Dads” is a similar song in musical style but there are no lyrics – just a good song with a happy uptempo and decent melody. “Octagon Skylight” is a ballad type song that proclaims “you’re alright/i’m your maker/you can’t deny/things are changing now”.  I like the melody of this song as it’s very smooth and re-assuring in a calm way.  This song is mixed well.  For the most part, this CD takes you back to the 1990’s in a friendly way.  The other standout songs are “Snow” and “Bullshit Patrol”.

All in all a good CD and a welcome return by Mystery Machine.  If you’re into the ’90’s alt music, this would be a CD you’d like.

Cd Review – The Zolas – Ancient Mars


The Zolas – Ancient Mars

Released:  October 2, 2012

by Jade Sperry

After debuting with Tic Toc Tic in 2009, The Zolas climbed the precipice of cult status across Canada, thanks to a very loyal fan-base carried over from Zach Gray (vocals, guitar) and Tom Dobrzanski’s (piano) earlier years as Lotus Child.  With Ancient Mars, The Zolas are set to continue their legacy of postmodern pop. Armed with poetic lyrics, Ancient Mars trades in the cabaret glitz of Tic Toc Tic for reverbed pianos and hard, minimalist beats.  In each song, Zack Gray builds a skeleton of a setting for a song – from outer space to a college library to a Victorian jail cell – and tells stories fleshed out with the listener’s own history.

If John Lennon and Kanye West met later tonight at a hotel bar, “Escape Artist” is the song they would write. It’s these kinds of pairings that Ancient Mars is full of:  The Zolas write classic pop songs and then fuck them up until the hooks have to fight to get out.  In October, The Zolas teamed up with Winnipeg’s The Liptonians to release a 7” split single “Cultured Man”, a quixotic snack in between the two full-length albums.

Tom Dobrzanski is the band’s on-board producer, having worked with names in indie-rock royalty like Said the Whale and We Are The City.  But for Ancient Mars, the production duties were handed over to Chuck Brody (Tegan and Sara, Ra Ra Riot, Yoko Ono, Phantogram, Wu-Tang).

The track listing for the CD is as follows:

1.    In Heaven

2.    Knot In My Heart

3.    Ancient Mars

4.    Strange Girl

5.    Escape Artist

6.    Observatory

7.    Local Swan

8.    Euphrates and Tigris

9.    Cold Moon

10.   Cultured Man (Bonus Track features The Liptonians)

The Zolas at Squamish Live Festival - picture courtesy of Yolande Cole and the Georgia Straight.

I’ve been a fan of The Zolas since their debut in 2009.  In the past years, Zack has played in a number of other bands in the Vancouver area (Henry and the Nightcrawlers) and has done solo sets opening for his friends’ shows (David Vertesi of Hey Ocean!).  Tom Dobrzanski is a brilliant artist in his own right – from producing to recording to piano man – he gets the job done.  Tom also has his own studio called VERTICAL STUDIOS here in the Vancouver area and does well for himself.  These are 2 artists that have a lifetime of talent between them; and possibly more.

This is a solid 10 song CD.  “In Heaven” is an odd but interesting song.  The music is slightly out of key and is in the minors but it has an excellent melody which gives it a moody feel.  The guitars, pianos and drums all blend together quite well, and the song itself gives off a life of its own.  It’s a well written song that has character.  “Knot In My Heart” has a really cool melody and groove.  This song changes from mid-tempo to uptempo in the bridges and the chorus.  It’s a well written song that’s mixed well.  “Ancient Mars” has a mellow vibe and is in 3/4 time.  I particularly like this song as it’s got a personality in the melody.   “Escape Artist” has a nice flow throughout its 2:42 of life.  The song starts with pianos and then it begins to build with the other instruments in a short period time.  Awesome!  The other standout songs are “Local Swan” (Montreal setting with a girl who may or may not remember a meeting), and “Cold Moon” (a ballad type song that flows well stripped down).

Photo of The Zolas at Sqaumish Festival – courtesy of Yolande Cole and the Georgia Straight.