Archive for the ‘Canadian Music’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MAC DEMARCO-“No Other Heart” (Field Recordings, August 10, 2015).

Mac Demarco is pretty famous now and seems to be pretty much everywhere.  And yet I actually don;t think I’d ever heard him before this recording.

I’m not even sure if it is in any way representative of his music.  But I love that you can hear the waves lapping.

For this song, Demarco says he bought a boat for his birthday.  It’s a small rowboat, which he rowed out into a bay in Queens “Take A Sunset Cruise With Mac DeMarco”) and began playing his song on a little keyboard. The music has an intentional weird vibrato on it but the recording sound is quite magnificent.

For the charismatic 26-year-old songwriter who grew up in the landlocked plains of Canada, the water still holds an exotic appeal. Plus, the area’s laid-back feel is a perfect match for his laconic delivery and perpetually chill personality.

He sounds a little goofy singing it–presumably intentionally–given the other clips of him goofing off on his boat.

DeMarco moved to this house [by the bay in Far Rockaway, Queens] last fall, after touring behind last year’s excellent Salad Days — just in time for the long, bleak East Coast winter — with the intention of playing his instruments loud and writing new music in isolation [the wistful, melodic mini-album Another One].  A shaggy and surfy collection of love songs, it’s suited for a lazy summer backyard barbecue or taking your second-hand rowboat out for a dusk cruise.

As the show ends, he goofs around singing “Don’t Rock the Boat” as the camerawoman walks up to him in waist deep water.

Behind him, sun-dappled waves are chopped up by freighter boats and the occasional jet ski passing by. Across the water sits JFK airport, with its distant engine hum of planes taking off and landing at a steady, rhythmic clip. The crisp, salty sea breeze mingles with wafts of stagnant water, decaying debris and dead horseshoe crabs that wash ashore.

[READ: June 2, 2018] Cleopatra in Space Book Four

T. brought this book home and I couldn’t believe that book four was out already (had it really been a year?).

This book opens with a reflection on the previous book and Octavian yelling at his soldier cat for not killing the girl.  He is provided with a bounty hunter–a dog-headed man who will stop at nothing to make sure that the Golden Lion is destroyed.

Octavian is shocked.   If they possessed the Golden Lion, they could firmly defeat P.Y.R.A.M.I.D.

Back at P.Y.R.A.M.I.D. at Yasiro Academy, we see Cleo doing battle against a whole bunch of robots in a simulator  Akira comes to take her to class but before they can go they are summoned before he Council.  When they arrive in front of the cat Council, Akira’s parents are there (they call her KiKi much to her annoyance).  They are happy to see her and very happy to meet Cleopatra for they have been studying her life and the prophecy for years. (more…)


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[ATTENDED: September 7, 2018] Sloan

Sarah and I went to see Sloan at Boot and Saddle back in May.  It was a fantastic show.  When they announced that they were swinging back around and playing White Eagle Hall, a favorite new venue in Jersey City, I knew I had to see them again.

There were a few strikes against this show for me.  It was the middle of three shows in a row (Judas Priest last night, First Aid Kit tomorrow night).  It started at 9 and I’d be missing out on some stuff at home.  I considered not going, but thought I’d be mad if I blew it off.

Well, I arrived on time and there was hardly anyone there (Boot and Saddle was packed).  Then they didn’t start for some 20 minutes.  People started to fill in at last and I was able to get a nice spot right front and center.

I probably should have realized that, since this was the same tour that they were on (promoting their latest fantastic album 12), that the setlist would be largely the same.  But the setlist was so different on the previous tour, and they made it seem like the Boot & Saddle show has some unique elements, that I was surprised that the first set was identical to the Boot & Saddle show.

I guess the surprise was that this was the second leg of the tour.  They had taken a little break and were resuming.  Our night was the first night of the new leg, so I thought maybe it would be extra special.  Maybe having a poor turnout doesn’t make you want to do anything special–although the band played great and seemed in very good form.

Not terrible, since the songs are great.  But a little disappointing to be sure. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 25, 2017] Japandroids

I saw Japandroids in February of last year.  It was a wild show in which two guys made a ton of noise and sounded great doing it.  The crowd was huge, there was much slam dancing and crowd surfing.  It was intense and exhausting.

So I was pretty excited to see that they’d be playing Boot & Saddle for two nights in a row.  I can remember standing outside on a cold day trying to refresh my page while the wifi tried to connect to something, anything.  But I was sold out.  And then they announced a third show, just as I refreshed my email.  I was able to score a ticket for that third night.  They later announced a fourth night.

I assumed it would be really packed so I got  there plenty early,

I was right up front and, in a club this size, there’s no slam dancing or crowd surfing (just lots of yelling).

As with most Boot & Saddle shows, it felt like this show was just for me and the girls in front of me.  Just like at Union Transfer, Brian King stood with his guitar on my left and David Prowse was behind the kit (facing King) on my right.

I didn’t realize that the band was still touring their last album, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.  This wasn’t a new showcase or anything.  They told us that they had opened this tour in Philly at Union Transfer (I didn’t know that) and they wanted to finish it up here as well.  (Although they did add an extra night to their tour when they played Asbury park when they opened for Hold Steady.

Like last time, they opened with the roaring title track.  And how much fun is it when a whole room screams that hey are “fired up.”

The setlist was surprisingly similar for all four nights, with the different songs being one old song and two brand new ones.  Japandroids have 3 albums out (and a B-sides collection).  They played 4 of 8 songs from their new album and 5 from the previous album and 4 of 8 from their debut.  This surprises me given that it’s just the two of them and they don;t have to worry about stage effects or lights or anything.

In fact the lights were giving them a hard time on our night.  The lights went out for a second.  They got stuck on red for a bunch of songs (Brian: can you please change the lights to anything but red)  I also happened to get this weird lighting effect on camera.

But Japandroids are all about fun and they came to have fun, to sweat and to stretch out their songs to pretty lengthy jams.  And, heck it was great hearing those songs up close.  “Fire’s Highway” and “Heart Sweats” sounded fantastic and it was great watching King play these surprisingly complex chords.

It was also fun having Prowse so close–watching him lean back between songs to stretch out.

Prowse pounds the drums.  At one point his snare drum even fell over–someone in front of me righted it–that would have been a cool stage story, if I had been closer.

During one of the pauses, Prowse was chatting with the audience.  The guy who replaced the snare seemed to have been at the previous two shows and they started talking about Vancouver.

King sings most of the songs, but Prowse does get lead on a couple, like Rockers East Vancouver and of course he does all of the backing vocals like on North East South West.

The whole show was great–an excellent, if brief set list and the five last songs were stellar: No Known Drink or Drug, Young Hearts Spark Fire, Continuous Thunder (one of my favorites) and the supremely crowd pleasing The Nights of Wine and Roses.

I was really happy to be able to get so close for these songs (again, seeing King play thsese cool chords), because for the last song (which they announced as the last song–11PM curfew and all).

Especially since for the final song, a football team’s worth of very tall guys pushed their way to the front to slam dance and pogo everyone around them.

I wound up surprisingly far back for the last song. It was even more surprising when the lights went out for about a minute of the song (the sound stayed on though).  I think this led to a bit rougher slam dancing, so I was glad to be out of it.

This was all fine, except that after the show, their roadie handed out drumsticks to the meatheads who forced their way up front for the end.

Regardless of where you stand and what or how any songs Japandroids play, they put on a hell of a set.  It is fun, it is sweaty and it demands that you scream.

I’m glad I saw them in a bigger venue, but this was a great, intimate performance.


Boot and Saddle (Night 3 of 4) July 26, 2018  Union Transfer February 25, 2017
Near to the Wild Heart of Life * Near to the Wild Heart of Life *
International [new song] Adrenaline Nightshift !
Fire’s Highway ! Fire’s Highway !
Heart Sweats ∅ True Love and a Free Life of Free Will *
True Love and a Free Life of Free Will * North East South West *
Rockers East Vancouver ∅ Younger Us !
Younger Us ! In a Body Like a Grave *
Alice [new song] Wet Hair ∅
North East South West * Arc of Bar *
Wet Hair ∅ The Nights of Wine and Roses !
No Known Drink or Drug * Evil’s Sway !
Young Hearts Spark Fire ∅ Midnight to Morning *
Continuous Thunder ! Continuous Thunder !
The Nights of Wine and Roses ! No Known Drink or Drug *
The House That Heaven Built ! Heart Sweats ∅
Young Hearts Spark Fire ∅
The House That Heaven Built !
(I’m) Stranded (The Saints cover) (with Craig Finn)
  • * = Near To The Wild Heart Of Life (2017)
  • ! = Celebration Rock (2012)
  •  ∅ = Post-Nothing (2009)

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[ATTENDED: February 25, 2017] Mannequin Pussy

I ordered a Japandroids ticket as soon as they went on sale.  The first two nights sold out quickly and then they added a third as I refreshed my email.  So I was able to score a Thursday night ticket,

I had no idea who the opening acts would be.  Later, they announced that these four Philly bands were the openers:

Thin Lips
Mannequin Pussy
Queen of Jeans

Of the four, I had only heard of Queen of Jeans.  I have since heard Thin Lips on All Songs Considered.  But I was pretty excited to hear Mannequin Pussy, a band whose name I still don’t understand. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: EMILY HAINES AND THE SOFT SKELETON-Live at Massey Hall (December 5, 2017).

I really like Metric a lot.  They hit all the poppy sweet spots that I like with enough rough edges to keep them interesting.

I had heard a song from Haines’ Soft Skeleton album and really liked it–the bass line outstanding.  When this tour came to Philly I conisdered going but ultimately didn’t.  So I’m glad I get to see an abbreviated version of it here from Massey Hall.

This is also the final show (I assume) of the fifth season of Live at Massey Hall as the historic venue now undergoes two years of renovations!

Haines says that Massey Hall is the place that when you’re growing up on Neil Young that you dream of playing someday. She did two nights with metric in 2010 and now to do it solo is an incredible honor.

The show starts with chirping birds and Emily walking around the stage which looks made up like a bedroom.  She takes off her coat, puts on a dressing gown and a sleep mask and lays down on a “bed.”

An alarm goes off and when she shuts it off, a piano melody starts with backing vocals.  It’s the song “Planets,” and she lays down on the bed and sings the lyrics.  The pretty piano melody and swelling backing voices are lovely.  Then she brushes her teeth and a voice (hers?) starts talking to her.  What are you doing here?  Did you sleep at all?

What revelation are you after?  Do you want to go back or are you scared you never left?  This is an introduction to “Nihilist Abyss.”  For this song, she plays the piano and sings.  As the song ends the voice returns, calling “Emily” (echoing) “come back now its time to come back.  You’ve got to get dressed, you have to play a show tonight.  You booked a tour for some reason and you’re on it now….”

“Put on your jacket…”  She stomps around the stage as the rest of the band comes out–Jimmy Shaw, guitar; Sam Goldberg, bass; Justin Peroff, drums (all of whom were in Broken Social Scene, which Haines performed in as well).  She sits at the piano and a robotic voice introduces “Emily Haines and The Soft Skeleton.”

“Our Hell” has  thumping drums and bass as washes of guitars flood in while Haines plays piano and sings.   It’s a dramatic change from the first songs, but not as immediate or poppy as Metric.

“Detective Daughter” is interrupted by her saying that this record and band are a different state of mind than metric–challenging in a different way.  The music and her role is to push herself to the threshold of emotion without cracking.  “It’s raw strong and real.”  There’s more intense guitar from Shaw (who has worked with her on nearly everything she’s done).

“Minefield of Memory” has a scratchy guitar playing a rhythm with the drums, while “Legend of the Wild Horse” has the biggest chorus yet.

“Doctor Blind” has a woozy da da da da middle section along with the echoing distorted guitars.

The set ends with “Fatal Gift,” the song that I love from this album. It starts with a slow piano but after a few minutes the song gets bigger and louder and that bass line is just a knockout.  I don’t rally like the that she repeats over and over “you own it and it owns you,” as it takes away from the music.  But this section of the song is so good the music is intense and wonderful.

I’m not disappointed that i didn’t see this live, although it sounds like an interesting theatrical experience (the venue is usually standing but for this show seats were being sold).

Over the credits she comments that now “because of technology people can use algorithms to pander and give the people what they want a feeling of pandering.  But what I have to offer is a glimpse of someone attempting to access their authentic self.”

[READ: April 15, 2016] “The Five Wounds”

This story surprised me right from the outset with the line “This year Amadeo Padilla is Jesus.”  There’s a few ways that could be taken and I was wrong about all of them.  The closest I came was thinking that Amadeo was a boy in a school play.

But no, Amadeo is a 33 year old man and being Jesus is very real.

People in the village are saying that Amadeo is the best Jesus they’ve had in years.  People are lining up to peek through the chain link fence and watch Amadeo.  He has build his cross out of heavy oak, not pine, and he’s even thinking of adding more nails to make it heavier.

But whats so surpring is that Amdeo is pockmarked and bad-toothed and worse.  If you name the sin, he’s done it: gluttony, sloth, fucked a second cousin on the dark bleachers at the high school.

Amadeo is working so hard at his cross that he is sweating–typically he only ever sweats when he eats and drinks too much. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANDY SHAUF-Live at Massey Hall (November 23, 2017).

I know Andy Shauf from a Tiny Desk Concert.  I was fascinated then and am now by his long hair, soft-spoken voice and astonishing lack of movement in his body and mouth when he sings.

The record he is touring here is 2016’s The Party which propelled him onto bigger stages, including Massey Hall.  He says in his characteristically quiet way

Every stage is a little different.  I’m a big fan of that Neil Young record.  That was here.  That was here (smiles).

“Twist My Ankle” starts the show with his gentle guitar strums.  Twin clarinets (Daniel Pencer and Karen Ng) propel this song slowly forward.  It a wonderful melody.  Then Shauf starts singing with his unique vocal patterns.  I can’t figure out what it is about the way he sings, but the way he enunciates words is so peculiar.

Later he says that there was one interview when I said The Party isn’t a concept album, and that has followed him around.  It totally is a concept album, but I was thinking more of Mr Roboto or something.  The whole album is about a party with the common theme of humiliation and shame.  People are just making mistakes while drinking at a party–trying to navigate social situations.

“Twist My Ankle” ends with the line, “everybody’s laughing at me I wish I’d just stayed home.”

“You’re Out Wasting” has a simple, repetitive but very alluring guitar melody.  It’s a wonderfully catchy song about wasting time with the right guy.

“Quite Like You” is a bit more upbeat and catchy–the crowd reacts very warmly to it.   but again the lyrics are pretty dark.  It’s about a guy trying to pick up his friend’s girlfriend.

“Early to the Party” is a mellow song with wonderful instrumental interludes–the horns really brighten the song.  This is one of many places where his enunciation is so strange.  Especially since he sings so quietly: “tying you in nawts.”

“The Word in You” has an upbeat piano melody which his vocals follow perfectly. He says it’s exciting playing with strings and clarinets.  A lot of parts are six voices and now we have six voices–it makes the songs more exciting to play.  A lot of time you get sick of playing the same songs every night but this time the shows have gotten a little bit bigger so you can feel a different energy when people are excited to hear a song rather than trying to introduce your songs to people.

People respond loudly to “My Dear Helen.”  This song is just him on the guitar, the starkness really helps you to focus on the words.  It’s a letter to an old friend in which an old man confesses something terrible.

For the final song, “The Magician everyone comes back.  The addition of bass clarinet (Michael Sachs) is wonderful.  There’s pizzicato strings that turn into big swells from Emily Hau and Leslie Ting (violins) and Moira Burke (viola).  The doo doo doo doo part is really catchy.  The song builds and builds and is the most rocking thing with Olivier Fairfield’s drums really coming forward.  Colin Nealis on keyboards and Josh Daignault on bass flesh out this excellent set ender.

[READ: July 24, 2017] “Everything is Far From Here”

This story serves as an unrelenting indictment against immigration polices.

It opens with a woman having arrived, at last.  She is bruised and sunburnt, covered in birds and bugs and worn out.  She is told to sleep, but she cannot for she is awaiting her son.  She had been separated from him a few days ago being told there were too many of them.

She is finally able to ask someone where her son is.  The guard speaks Spanish and tells her about the family unit.  But among the children, her son is not there.   But one woman tells her that her own son arrived a while week after she did.

She decides to wait.  They let her store her clothes, her broken leather sandals, a plastic comb, and elastic hair band.  They take her pocketknife (no weapons) a sleeve of cookies (no food) and a tin of Vaseline (no reason). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JENNIFER CASTLE-Live at Massey Hall (November 23, 2017).

I didn’t think I knew Jennifer Castle, but I see that she has appeared as a guest singer on a whole bunch of records by artists that I know: Eric Chenaux, Bry Webb, Constantines and Fucked Up.

She has an unusual voice–soaring, delicate and whispery with a slight warble and yet you know she could belt out if she wanted to.

She starts the show saying Toronto has incredible beautiful old buildings and its rare these days to go inside one.  Inside Massey Hall it’s lit up to be another member of the band and to be part of the show.

I found the music to be incredibly spare–too spare in fact.  It is primarily piano and her vocals (with backing singers), but the piano (Jonathan Adjemian) is not a primary instrument, it is simply playing chords for her to sing over.  The sparseness was a little disconcerting.  But the backing vocalists (Victoria Cheeong and Isla Craig) are stellar–they really add a lot to the music and their voices soar in their own right.

But I think that sparseness allows her lyrics to really come through.  “Like a Gun” has the lyric “he was lik e gun [hah, from lovely backing vocalists] he was always going off.”

“Nature” has even better lyrics

Despite all my feelings of life parallel
Nature is happening without my goodwill
I called my friend up and she said it still
Happens to you even when you are ill

and ends with this interesting conceit

I lift my skirt for the economy

“Texas” is played on guitar with a very catchy “hoo hoo hoo hoo” clap-along.

I go down to Texas
To kiss my grandmother goodbye
She forgets things
But when I look her in the eye
I see my father
And he’s been gone so very long
In the name of time travel
Help him to hear to my little song

Jennifer plays electric guitar on “Truth is the Freshest Fruit” which changes the whole dynamic of her songs.  She plays guitar with piano accompaniment on “Sailing Away.”

She is the first person to mention the renovations Massey Hall is currently undergoing:

I know that Massey is going to go through a great big change but it feels good to play while the history is still on the paint.

The final song is absolutely wonderful.  She says she wrote “Please Take Me (I’m Broken)” because she knew they were coming to Massey and it celebrates the school of Greek mythology

The backing vocalists sing a verse by themselves and they sound great.  I love the chorus

Please take me cause something don’t seem right; something don’t compute.  I don’t belong here.
Please take me I’m broken;  I’ve woken up and I should be dreaming.
Please take me back to those other realms they seem much kinder on a dreamer like me.
I’ve always looked up to those ancient Greek stories.
I love the thrill of the scale; I like the the roll of the chorus.

A thoughtful and unique performer.

[READ: July 17, 2018] “Now More Than Ever”

I  feel like Zadie Smith’s recent stories have been exploring a new style for her, a more “in the present” kind of vibe.  This story has meta-elements and is very much an of the moment piece.  It seems to address current hot button issues and her own inability to fully wrap her head around them.

It begins: “There is an urge to be good. To be seen to be good. To be seen.  Also to be.”

This is what she told Mary.  She also told Mary that no one is called Marty these days.  “Could you get the hell out of here?”  So Mary left.  Then Scout came by–a great improvement.

Scout is active and alert on all platforms. She;s usually no later than the 300th person to see something.  The narrator was “the ten million two hundred and sixth person to see that thing.” (more…)

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