7tracks – extended edition SUMMER GIGS

As I am getting ready to hop on plane to visit fellow AHDTR writer and overall lovely bearded person, I prepared a extended version of 7tracks. It’s a mix on all the cool gigs we got to see together in London and Brighton over the summer of 2013.  Because it was always our favourite dates. And we both crush on musicians, special affection to fucking rad guitarist Marnie Stern.

They are in chronological order because I am a freak in that way. And it all started with a Canadian band call Boats playing The Great Escape festival, two bottles of cider and me generously tipping the bartender because you know, I am Québécois ❤ Ugh, summer.

Our Favourite Albums of 2013 // Part 2

Our love for The National, Nick Cave and Arcade Fire is almost unconditional. Although some albums marked our hearts differently this year. Here are some more. All hail to musicians that rock for the fun of it.

AroarA – In the Pines

aroara

In the Pines inspires nothing less than an enchanted journey through unknown pastures. All the elements of spellbounding are there; a myriad of charming strings, the sounds of dreamy electronica and heavy drums. The quietude, the exuberance, the soft and scabrous melodies, the highs and lows of skilled vocalists. Partners in marriage, Ariel Engle and Andrew Whiteman recorded a LP which will undoubtedly catch the attention if merely by its variances. Their rendition of Alice Notley‘s book of poems of the same name, shoots them up there with all the great Canadian story tellers, nothing less. But the technique of recording makes it all the more magical: All of the equipment used in the making dates before 1975.

The love and intensity they share on stage makes it not only one of the most beautifully crafted records of the year but one of the most interesting live performance. One that AHDTR writers were lucky enough to enjoy together.

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Eons – Arctic Radio

EONS

Ever prolific Canadian musician Matt Cully took time away from collaborations with friends and being part of badass folk collective Bruce Peninsula to craft a collection of heartfelt country songs. An extensive LP that could make you rethink your love (or hate) affair with Canadian folk. They are songs seemingly trapped in a personal set true to a one-man-and-guitar act, true to traditional folk motifs.  While the songs of Arctic Radio are all his work, Matt joined forces with Bruce Peninsula bandmate Misha Bower to deliver them on record which warms up the icy cold feel of emotions exposed like we would do around a bonfire with friends. The passionate texts take you elsewhere; out of the body and solely into the mind where the reflection of the self is fed by their delicate voices. ”We are the young, we are not the world”.

Arctic Radio; yet another collection of tunes that have been first played to me live, in an intimate setting.

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Gianna Lauren – On Personhood

Gianna Lauren On Personhood

 Being first introduced to Gianna Lauren’s music during a intimate live performance, in a tiny wooden attic  on a chilly spring night can only be a definitive moment. 2013 had started roughly on a personal level and what I found within On Personhood is a dose of comfort very much needed.

 They are songs attentively written; songs of self reflection, on dealing with one another, on emotions brought by others, on personhood. The LP, her third,  consists of indie rock tunes enriched with luxurious notes of electric guitar and extensively lyrical material. Semi heavy, semi soft. Gianna’s voice and lyrics act as a balm on wounds, a reminder that shitty things fucking happen, that feeling shitty is allowed, that it comes and goes and that you are not the only one. It charms, it opens to wonder, it almost commands the body to let go. So it became a regular listen.

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cousins / Construction & Destruction – Split

cousins construction & destruction

Nothing beats winner sweet perks from a cool blog like Quick Before it Melts and raddest of rad label NoYes Records. Unless maybe the actual perk being this fantastically grunge mudge pudge of indie poppy garage songs mounted on a royal blue vinyl.  With this split, Nova Scotia based and coolest duos cousins and Construction & Destruction combined efforts to bring to the world a sheer example of what maritimers do best: rock to shreds. And they do it in similar ways; slightly obscure tone-setting intros, elephantine guitar lines, experiments with guitars and vocals that get you to close your eyes and willingly immerse. And it scratches and screeches and becomes heavier and heavier. It’s fucking cool.

Note: AHDTR writers had their first date at a cousins’ gig in Brighton UK. Swoon all over this fact.

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A Grave with No Name – Whirlpool

agwnn-whirlpool-cover

2013 marked the release of Alex Shields third LP with his solo project A Grave With No Name. The album, being our favourite of his work so far, is a beautifully crafted experiment of the parts of pop music that we rarely see mixed together. Where Mountain Debris (2009) and Lower (2011) had more of a solitary feel to them, Whirlpool is a bundle of songs with hazy guitar riffs and lazy vocals; they are songs of boredom where collaborators share a huge part, proof that sharing boring times with friends makes boredom enjoyable. The LP opens with an line of raw sensibility, which stays present throughout the record. Aurora being the fist track, feature the vocals of Alanna McArdle(Ides, Joanna Gruesome) and shows how collaborations work well for Shields. But its wholeness is what makes this record a definitive piece for AGWNN; coming back to it over and over and listening to it in it’s entirety because it flows naturally.

Whirlpool shows sensibility and carelessness like a heart in the right place and just enough time for what really matters.

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Paula – Relaxed Fit

Paula

Stalwart figure of Montreal-based label Arbutus Records, David Carriere followed the 2012 success he had with band TOPS to release Relaxed Fit, the debut effort of solo project Paula. The LP is heavy with electronic samples that seem straight out of the  catchiest tunes of the 70’s and 80’s, yet all the contemporary feel of poppy punk music is there. From speedy synth riffs to mellow drums, all ground of party pop is covered. His texts, while seemingly light hearted are unequivocally sincere. It had me turn up the volume and bust-a-move more than once. And wait for the cool 90s hip hop/dance pop mash duo with Cadence Weapon. Delectably sexy.

 It’s the ultimate party rocking (oh yeah) album of 2013. Period.

7Tracks #9 (Christmas Special)

Christmas Special

”All I want for Christmas is you”

Len

Of all the times of the a year when I get corny and emotional, Christmas might be the number 1. Nothing brings back more memories than the Christmas tree set up in our family room, heavy with memorabilia of a pleasant and cheerful childhood – my favourite being little mailboxes made of plastic canvas that my sister and I would pack with wishes on pieces of paper. I look forward to spending time with my family, playing trivia games, eating all kinds of vegetarian Christmas food my mummy makes me and above all, singing songs. I grew up listening to The Carpenters An Old-Fashioned Christmas Album as well as Billie Holiday, Jean-Pierre Ferland, etc..

In an effort to give something new and exciting to my folks to listen to, I have put together this mixtape: some of my favourite artists sharing their take of classic carols – Summer Camp would have had my Granpa share a dance with me. Hot Club De Paris, because I am ridiculously in love and so fucking thankful for it. White Poppy with dreamy vocals served on a savoury bass line and She & Him country sound topped with Zooey’s old-timer voice, to comfort me. In early December, Will Currie & the Country French‘s Christmas in Berlin made my heart swoon with their mention of Victoria Station which I like to imagine is the one in London, where so many times over the summer, I took the train to Brighton. Bright Eyes sings the sorrow of being apart over fuzzy guitar notes and The XX create eletronical magic out of my all time favourite.

It’s a mix of joyful and sad, a little bit like my cute self – excited for the parties, dances and cocktails but with my mind drifting away, one continent over, to the bearded man I love.

The 12 Days of Christmas // Forward Thinking :: Maica Mia

Maica Mia

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I was first introduced to Maica Mia on a warm end-of-summer night of September 2013 in Quebec City when an impressive lineup of Montreal ensembles were opening for New Yorkers ARP. They went first and made my night. Nothing charms me more than being surprised, when all you know of a band is the name you saw on a cool poster. With Maicamia, you can forget your expectations. The duo turned trio in the last year – joined by bass player Mauro Pezzente of GY!BE – create a unique and personal rock; a slightly eerie, musically pungent, always intense experience.

From being tagged slowcore to dark folk, Maicamia doesn’t seem to follow genre rules. Guitar barely audible, overtaken by the penetrating vocals until it explodes into shreds and dismantles any idea you had of where the song was going. A similar phenomenon with the drums: live, it turns into a cohesive battle. Their texts, like a ripple of complex emotions, might speak to you,  although it feels as if they are not meant to be guessed or deconstructed; Maicamia are simply there, they exist because they feel a need to.

December of 2012 marked the release of their spectacularly dense and capable debut LP, Sparcity Blues.Therefore, 2013 was an important year for the band; in the aftermath of the release, they played many festivals around the province, notably EMF(I WANT TO GO) and Pop Montreal. Shows played in churches can be really special and I can imagine how their darkly ethereal sound would resonate in such a space. The band also took the time to record Des Era which will be available January of 2014:

‘’Getting this new album recorded felt really good. We look forward to having something out there that represents us.’’

They recorded this new LP in their pratice/recording studio in Montreal a.k.a. Paradise Studio. The writing process of such unrestricted, experimental music comes in waves where they feed off one another’s inspiration:

‘’ It’s always pretty organic in the sense that, someone just starts playing something and somebody else jumps right in there to keep it going. It’s like you catch a bus and you might not even realize that you did so, but someone else in the room is very aware of the magical bus you are on and they go make sure to keep it driving.
However, when Jonny is working on the MPC, it’s much more of a process. He spends hours and hours in his room and every once in a while, he will call me over to listen to some new beats or whatever and then we take it from there.’’

Maicamia plans to start recording again in March. Maybe 2014 will bless us with two of their releases. I wouldn’t complain nor would I be surprised if their ascertainable talent made them the linchpin of an scene everflowing with talented musicians.

The 12 Days of Christmas // LABEL :: You’ve Changed Records

You’ve Changed Records

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My love affair with You’ve Changed Records began three years ago, on a sticky summer night. Through my actions, I had managed to break my young heart and I was chain smoking, sitting by the window of my flat, listening in the dark to this record a friend recommended. Daniel, Fred and Julie, S/T. Saying that the folky notes of sadness and impressive story telling were soothing would be a lie, but it wasn’t the point. Is it ever the point, with country music? Where I believe it might work for some, for me it just scrapes my heart raw.

Operating since 2007, YCR is a personal and unpretentious endeavour serving a creative group of friends and collaborators who, in the word of co-founder Steve Lambke (Baby Eagle), ‘’share certain thoughts on certain things: that songs can hold more than they are often asked to do; that creative independence takes a lot of work but is work worth doing; that as people we are always changing and learning things and that playing music is a nice way to move through life; that we can help each other out and are enriched by doing so.’’

This group of artists and I dare to say friends, are responsible for some great LPs in 2013. They are driving by collaboration which can be witnessed throughout the various releases of the label. Taking a look at the album credits is proof. It’s as if working together became the source of their creativity; as if they feed off of each other.  This year, the label introduced what quickly became a favourite heart-wrenching listen of mine;  The Weather Station Duet series in which Tamara Lindeman (The Weather Station) pairs with her favourite song writers to craft with eloquence a collection of sincerity-injected country songs.

Going into their 7th year of existence in 2014, not only can we expect a continuation of The Weather Station duets but a very exciting split with Headless Owl Records will be released; an extensive piece of collaborative work featuring brand new tunes from Shotgun Jimmie, Marine Dreams, Richard Laviolette, Baby Eagle, The Burning Hell, Construction and Destruction, Wax Mannequin, Michael Feuerstack and Kyle Cashen, recorded during a recent stay in the Yukon where they played in history-rich Dawson City.

When I asked him about his favourite record of the year, Steve Lambke describes beautifully his appreciation for the work of friends:

“My favourite record this year that we didn’t put out (Marine Dreams – Corner of the Eye and Shotgun Jimmie – Everything, Everything being the two excellent records we did release) was Construction and Destruction – Dark Lark; a great weird cry from the wilderness; heavy, dark, and spooked; well-read rock outs; nature-haunted. It’s a beautiful looking LP too.”

For my part, I am completely charmed and utterly impressed by their work. It’s heartfelt and candid; there are songs to contemplate our own worries to, some to sing-a-long and ride your bike to.  And to dive right into the depth of them procures a certain tranquillity.

The 12 Days Of Christmas // Forward thinking :: Doom Squad

Doom Squad

doom squad

I have to say it. End of year lists, top 50 best albums and similar endeavours intimidate me. Not only does it seem to require a tremendous exercise of memory and an exhaustive consistency at documenting, but I am not a particular fan of the effect it has on me. Or people. On one side, it might make me question the first impression I had of an album (which is great, I might give it another go!) but on the other, it makes me feels inadequate for all the releases I had no time to give a listen to. And in a friendly conversation about music, it feels slightly weird when everyone states Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys and The National as their 2013 favourites. Maybe I am just difficult, maybe these lists are too influential. Either way, as much as we love The National and Arcade Fire here at A House Down the Road, we like to be challenged. And weirdo magicians Doom Squad have something on the go I am looking forward to.

I came across these Montreal-by-way-of-Toronro siblings  a few months ago when Hand Drawn Dracula released a tribute album for the 25th anniversary of In Utero. A bunch of Torontian bands covering Nirvana in all kinds of different ways from the heavy use of synth to a real sludge fest. I already stated my excitement here. I noticed the somehow familiar name on there, loved the track. Same week, I realised they’d be playing Quebec soon. The music god works in mysterious ways.

The phrase ‘washes over you’ may be thrown around like an old pair of Levis, but using it here would be an understatement. Doom Squad sounds are a growling meditation. From the very first notes of their set, memories of my early teenage dabbles into witchcraft and wicca books appeared in my head. And all the feelings of then; the uncertainty, the secret power, the surreptitious rituals… It felt unsurprising yet so strange to remember such distant souvenirs. It stayed within me for a few minutes. Then I shifted back to listening mode. Their music being mainly electronic is astounding in it’s variances: some heavy guitar riffs, all kinds of mystical flutes, heavy percussion, and phantom-esque vocals, chanted at times. They are highly skilled musicians, the definition of layered sounds, of texture. What they offer is an atmosphere propitious to introspection, physical redemption and abandonment.

Over 2013, Doom Squad managed to create something quite prolific. They released their self titled EP, which contains the most complex, mesmerizing cover of Riders of the Storm ever. They toured Canada, playing with HSY, Viet Cong, Petra Glynt and ++. They annouced their debut LP ‘Kalaboogie’ for February 2014 and dropped the singles ‘Ovoo // The Cools’ available for streaming here. Alongside, they release a spellbinding video for ‘Ovoo’, directed by Chris Boni. They were signed to UK label No Pain in Pop for European distribution. They have been noticed by the BBC’s Tom Ravenscroft. And finally, they hopped on a plane to tour is some of the coolest cities of Europe.

This is not just fact-dropping. I am genuinely excited. They have that effect; to draw you in. A hypnotic sorcery.

7Tracks #8 (L’amour)

A thousand skilled writers already wrote the words I wanted to say, in a much more clever way.

Writing about love, no matter how breathtaking and beautiful and romantic it is, becomes an strenuous experience for me, at each try. I am guessing it is the same for the mass. Nevertheless people might be much more tenacious than myself; my ears are filled with heartwarming tunes these days. The process of writing might be just as personal as the listening experience. And I am well aware it has to do with the mindset, the way I interpret lyrics and melodies. No matter how beautiful some Bon Iver songs are, listening to them takes me to a dark place; it’s associated with a very painful period of my life. The playlist I made this week was harder than ever to write about, the words were not coming. I just know how at peace and cheerfuly exposed they make me feel. I am a pretty transparent person; I love when something brings out the best in me.

I couldn’t properly describe the emotions and they are quite unimportant in this context. I still wrote a little something about 3 of my favourites but frankly, let your heart guide you. ❤

Saying that Valleys wrote a powerful love song would be an understatement. With ‘Are You Going To Stand There And Talk Weird All Night?’ the Montreal duo creates a sweet and melodic atmosphere for grievance. I have been listening to it in the morning as much as bed time and it leaves me light hearted, grounded. Basically, their music seem to evocate that yes, life is tough, but keep yourself in a positive, rational haze and you’ll do okay. Undream a dream has played on a loop in my head since the person I am in love with brought it to my attention while I was sitting at my desk trying to warm myself up with wool socks and tea. It gives me hope and makes me love his heart even more.

Sibylle Baier ‘Colour Green’ album is a precious endeavour, recorded in the early 1970’s at home in Germany. Most of the experience that transpires in that listen comes from the romantic story behind it. An album kept in a drawer, never brought to the public’s attention until 2004 when her son gave a copy of it to Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis. So I read online. Tonight depicts a banal moment in a couple’s day while painting a sadness and a closeness. It’s the privacy of a relationship between two people that makes my heart melt.

My love and appreciation for house shows is nothing new, it’s explained here. Last Saturday night was the set of a special experience for me.  Graydon James and his partner Laura Spink as well as Gabrielle Papillon played in a friend’s living room, taking turns at making our hearts swoon with their heartfelt folk music. A particular tune that Gabrielle played, Go Into The Night, brought tears to my eyes. She told the story behind her writing; her great great grand father was a light house keeper, living with his wife and helper alone on this tiny island. The night her great great grand mother went into labor with her great grand mother, there was a terrible storm. But there were complications with the birth and her great great grand father and helper went off into the night to get a doctor. And drowned. The song tells me the story of a strong commitment and love between two people and no matter how sad the story really is, I listen to it again and again.

Other beauty:

Visrei – Firmament

Paula – Totally Nice

Faces on Film – Make Nice