Review – CD and show review – City Walls – Engines


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

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

Real Mad Decent. Photo by Jade Sperry.

Real Mad Decent. Photo by Jade Sperry.

Six to Midnight.  Photo by Jade Sperry.

Six to Midnight. Photo by Jade Sperry.

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

City Walls.  Photo by Jade Sperry.

City Walls. Photo by Jade Sperry.

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

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

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

album-cover city walls

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

1.   Trapped

2.   What I’m Looking For

3.   Higher

4.   Before We Go

5.   Nine Years

6.   How It Feels

7.   The Sign

8.   These 4 Walls

9.   Never Enough

10.  Engines

11.  Long Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony Lambert.  Photo by Jade Sperry.

City Walls Tony Lambert. Photo by Jade Sperry.

City Walls Nate Parsons.  Photo by Jade Sperry.

City Walls Nate Parsons. Photo by Jade Sperry.

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

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

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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

Review – Szabo – Get Wasted EP (2013)


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With influences ranging from Jazz fusion to 90’s alt rock, Szabo strives to create a musical landscape comprised of relate-able lyrics and infectious grooves. Szabo engages audiences with crowd pleasing tunes and a dynamic on stage presence.  Comprised of drummer Austin Perry, keyboardist Andy Vieluf, bassist Gary Coveney and lead singer/guitarist Elliot Szabo, the members of Szabo hail from a wide range of musical backgrounds and accomplishments.

In support of Elliot Szabo’s first solo project effort, Between Two Points on a Map, the group did short stints on the road as well as opening for national acts in their home city of Las Vegas. And now a year and a half later, the band Szabo is born, playing fan favorites from Between Two Points on a Map, along with new and innovative songs that fans will soon grow to love.  Szabo is now out of the studio finishing up their first EP together!

This four song EP is easy on the ears.  They have a laid back sound but also have powerful vocals from Elliot.  His vocals are pleading, the lyrics are brooding and full of life and the melodies are catchy.

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“Get Wasted” is a song about drug/alcohol addiction.  With lyrics like “Go get fucked up on your own time/Don’t you dare waste mine as well/Go get wasted in the corner/By yourself”.  That pretty much sums up the lyrical side of the song.  The melody is constructed well in this song – it flows from the verse to the chorus and back again.

“Pretty Good Kids” has a pleasant musical opening and is in the same vein musically as “Get Wasted”.  Laid back, catchy and melodic.  Lyrically, this song is about a longing to be anywhere but the place you grew up in.  I can relate to this as I moved from Ontario to British Columbia.  I had a yearning to be somewhere completely different.  I had never been to any of the Western Provinces so it seemed like a good idea.  And its worked out well for me.

“Where to Start” is a bit slower paced and opens with a piano.  This song is sparse on lyrics but the song stands well in the EP.  Lyrically, this is a song about wanting to do something you really want but you’ve no idea where to start.  In this case, I suspect it’s about writing a song as the fist line of the song is “It’s never easy looking down at blank paper”…..

“Minnesota” is a song about a long lost love.  It could be a woman, man or a place.  It’s also about feeling lonely and down at night and no one you know realizes you are lonely.  I can really relate well to this.  I don’t feel lonely every night but once in a while….  Musically there is a lightness to the song until it hits the end of the chorus where it goes off the charted melody into minor keys which give it a weird and uncomfortable feel.  It’s also full on with vocals that seem to slide down through the melody.  I like that effect as it works really well in this song.

This EP was recorded at Battleborn Studios in Las Vegas.  It was recorded and mixed by Rob Root and mastered by Mike Houge.  The album design is by keyboardist Andy Veiluf with the cover art by Daniella Toscano.  All photography by Lawton Howell and Ski Basham.

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!)

The Balconies – Review – Fast Motions


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Since the release of their Kill Count EP in 2011, and the success of its title track in 2012, The Balconies have been making waves internationally with their rigorous touring schedule and spirited live shows. Raging through North America and Europe for the better part of 2013 – including performances at Iceland Airwaves, Reeperbahn, NXNE, and CMJ, fans and critics alike have been falling for the band. The Balconies have been garnering accolades from NOW Magazine, Hit the Floor, and Exclaim! just to name a few. A testament to their energetic live show, Soundproof Magazine went so far as to say, “The Balconies are a beast on stage…….a dramatic understatement. Their music reached out and bitch slapped the Horseshoe (in Toronto ON Canada) across their drunk faces, demanding attention.”

The band is looking forward to expanding its horizons on the road as a four-piece with new drummer Steve Molella.  The Balconies aren’t satisfied standing still – they’re ready to do it bigger and better in support of their new CD Fast Motions.  Recorded by legendary producer Arnold Lanni (Finger Eleven, Simple Plan, Our Lady Peace), Fast Motions is evidence of why The Balconies are one of Canada’s best new rock and roll acts. With lead single “The Slo” released earlier this year and receiving heavy rotation across Canada and the UK (plus a featured performance by the band on CBC Television police drama ‘Cracked’), they have a lot to live up to. The band does not disappoint – their trademark brand of visceral rock courses through Fast Motions. Sweaty, grinding rhythms have never felt this good – Jacquie’s explosive vocals and furious fretwork, Liam’s cascading atmospheric waves, Stephen’s thick, driving bass lines, and Steve’s quaking rhythms are set to seek and destroy.

Upon listening to this CD for the first time, one thing is evident – this band has the potential to become a huge success.  Beloved in their grass roots of Ottawa and their adopted home of Toronto, they follow bands like Metric, Mother Mother and The Belle Game to name a few, into commercial success not only here in Canada but all over the world.

The track listing for the CD is as follows:

1.    Boys and Girls

2.    I Know You’re Right

3.    Good and Ugly

4.    Moving Parts

5.    The Slo

6.    Kill Count

7.    Beating Your Heart

8.    Fast Motions

9.    Do It In the Dark

10.   Let Me Go

Starting out with the high energy “Boys and Girls” this song is catchy, has a great hook and has a flowing melody through the entire life of the song at 3:39.  This song has great harmonies as well, and is so damn likeable that I’m dancing mentally with the band.  Musically, this song is a great opener.  It sets the pace for the rest of the songs.  Lyrically, I find that its a current description of people in general.  Boys and girls.  Get up and get into the song!  It’s almost like an anthem.

“I Know You’re Right” is another high energy song that speaks of life on the road as a touring band.  It has a soft melody at its core but the band builds up the music to a frantic pace and brings it back down again, crashing into a finale.  This song is as good as it gets for this reviewer.

Jumping ahead to the song that brought The Balconies into the forefront, “The Slo” is disjointed, crazy and out of tune in spots – a perfect frenzy if that’s possible within a song.  Jacquie’s vocals are piercing in a pleading kind of way, expressing emotions that belong behind closed doors, giving it some kind of mystique.  Heavy guitars in minor keys give the song a foreboding feeling.  It’s no wonder this song exploded and the band became known by this song.  Very well done!

The last song “Let Me Go” is a total departure from the rest of the songs on the CD.  It’s slow, seductive and haunting.  No pounding drums or guitars are evident on this song but there is great harmony with the keyboards and Jacquie’s emotionally strained vocals.  Mostly in minor keys the song slowly fades into nothing as the CD comes to an end.

I have to say that this is a body of work that hopefully will be short listed to win the Polaris Prize.  This CD is filled with frenzied emotion, heady music played extremely well and really good harmonies and melodies.  The CD is well crafted and recorded by Arnold Lanni who puts his mark on this promising band.

Currently the band is doing a mini tour which includes the following dates:

Feb. 13 @ Ebar, GUELPH, ON (w/ Say Yes)

Feb. 14 @ Moustache Club, OSHAWA, ON (w/ Say Yes)

Feb. 15 @ Two Doors Down, BRANTFORD, ON

Feb. 20 @ Casbah, HAMILTON, ON (w/ Say Yes) *tickets

Feb. 21 @ The Dominion House, WINDSOR, ON (w/ Say Yes)

Feb. 22 @ Sanctuary, RIDGEWAY, ON (w/ Say Yes)

Video – The Balconies – The Slo.

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 – Rioting Reverb – High I’m Your Neighbour (4 song EP)


Rioting Reverb is a band from Mississauga ON that have a quirky, folksy and somewhat rock sound to their music.  They are a relatively new band on the scene.  I dig their music.  The band members are:  Mike Batruch – Guitar/Vocals/Harmonica; Devon Golding – Bass/Back up Vocals and Joseph Boyland – Drums/Percussion.

I asked Mike Batruch about the band and this is what he had to say:

“This current line of Rioting Reverb has been around for about 4-5 months now, with Devon joining in August 2013.  Our previous bass player was unable to continue with us. It started off as a singer songwriter project by myself (Mike) in November of 2009, and in January 2012, Joe joined me.  We went through several bass players before Devon joined. We independently released our Debut EP ‘High, I’m Your Neighbour’ in April 2013.  It was recorded and mixed by Devon at a friend’s basement.  We are currently playing shows and we’re working on a stop motion music video for our single ‘This Wasn’t It’.”

rioting reverb ep cover

I am currently streaming their 4 song EP from their SOUNDCLOUD and the songs are:

1.  This Wasn’t It

2.  Respirator

3.  Old Stories!

4.  Untitled Jam 1

“This Wasn’t It” is a dance-able folk song (think the pogo) with some light punk ethic for good measure (standard 3 bar beat).  Mike’s vocals sound inviting, warm and slightly out of tune which makes it a good live off the floor recording.  The melody is not too fast but laid back and is played well by all members.  I like the roughness of the song and its straight-forward message of if things don’t work out like you thought, find a way to do what you love and don’t let anything stop you.  Forge ahead because your time will come.

“Respirator” is a song that reminds me lyrically of playing hide and seek or spin the bottle.  Both go back to a time of innocence when your a child and a teenager.  This song also ranges in its’ emotional side of life “one day I’ll be smiling/the next day I’m sad”.  It also highlights the folksy, harder edged and well played guitars of Mike Batruch.  The bass is low and the drums pound away.  This is my favourite song.

rioting reverb 2

“Old Stories!” starts out with a harmonica opening by Mike (and is throughout the song) with the steady beat of the drums.  There’s also some time signature changes within the beginning of the song as well.  I particularly like the start and stop musical breaks within the song.  A song about stories told to us about morals, life and watching what you wish for.  A very good song.

“Untitled Jam 1” is a mish-mash of music that is funky, bluesy and kind of folksy.  The first part is really heavy reverb on the guitars; very 70’s influenced.  It’s a good song to rock out to on the dance floor.  The song itself has an uneven sound but that’s its’ charm.  The second part starts out with looping that sounds straight out of the ’60’s and is presented well.  It does have structure and towards the middle, the guitars replace the loop and sound terrific – dreamy guitars on their own standing strong.

These 4 songs are a good start to this band, and I think we might be hearing more from them in the future.  The band’s music can also be found on BANDCAMP where you can also stream the music and buy it straight from the band if you really like it.  They are also on FACEBOOK and YOUTUBE for live video performances.

Rioting Reverb LIVE – Respirator