December 19, 2014

Video for St. Vincent's Birth In Reverse

Just after I put St. Vincent's brilliant eponymous album on my Favourite 25 Albums of 2014 list and the song "Birth In Reverse" at number 16 on my Favourite 60 Songs of 2014, she releases a cool video for that very song.

It's a cool clip that highlights Annie Clark's guitar prowess. If you get the chance, go see her live because her guitar playing comes across even more powerfully from the stage. As I put it in my post on her show at NXNE, "Her unique phrasing and off kilter but wonderfully brown riffs and sounds makes her a new kind of guitar hero for a new generation of guitarists."

So there.

December 18, 2014

Best of: Top 10 Canadian Bands from 2014

Another great year for music? Check

Another great year for Canadian music? Check

Here's a list of the 10 awesome Canadian artists that appear on my Favourite 60 Songs of 2014 list and my Favourite 25 Albums of 2014 list.

Public Animal "Careful" and "High Pony"

The Balconies "Boys and Girls", "The Slo" and "Do It In The Dark"

Lowell "The Bells", "Cloud 69" and "Palm Trees"

Little Foot Long Foot "Woman" and "Mess"

Mounties "Headphones" and "Pretty Respectable"

The New Pornographers "Dancehall Domine" "Brill Bruisers"

The Pack A.D. "Big Shot"

The C'Mons "Only Ghost" They're currently on hiatus, but they're one of two great discoveries at 2013's Indie Week (along with Little Foot Long Foot). I love their EP Places and am hoping for great things from them upon their return.

Death From Above 1979 "Trainwreck 1979"

Stars "From The Night"

December 17, 2014

Best of: My 10 favourite concert pictures from the past year

The C'Mons were one of two great personal discoveries at the very first festival to grant me media access, 2013's Indie Week. When I heard that The C'Mons were releasing an EP and were willing to let me shoot them, I didn't hesitate. This was an early shoot for me and my serious DSLR and I was excited to capture something that I'd actually call art. I love this picture.
July Talk. I knew I liked the tunes but I had no idea what I was going to experience at my first live July Talk show. They had Lee's Palace entirely decorated in black and white stripes, with two runways extending into the crowd. I thought I was getting there early enough to get a prime spot, but I was so wrong. I'm kind of surprised I got any good shots. I'm really pleased with this one in particular because it captures Leah's stage personality, getting right in there with the fans, and I love the image of everyone capturing a shot of Leah, including me.
Steel Panther are a great band to photograph. They know how to put on a show. And they know how to ham it up for the camera, 80s hair metal style. I had quite a blast shooting these guys and this is one of my favourite rock star shots. Say what you want about Sound Academy as a big barn of a venue in a terrible location, but they have a great pit for photographers and great lights to capture the band.
The inaugural TURF in 2013 was one of my first ventures into concert photography. Sure I didn't have media access and I was shooting with a point and shoot, but I got some decent enough shots and it gave me the confidence to pursue concert photography further. For the second TURF this past summer, I went in with pro level gear and a media pass. And I got to shoot July Talk for a second time. After the first show at Lee's, they became a personal favourite, and I couldn't wait to shoot them again. I love this shot as it really captures the on-stage interaction between Peter and Leah. Love it. Love them.
From a technical perspective, this isn't the perfect shot of Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hütz. It's overexposed, his face is blown out and the focus is more on the wine than his face. But it does do what great photography does - it captures a moment - the moment before I had red wine dripping down my forehead - and inside my lens hood. It marks the first liquid to come in contact with my camera gear. And it makes a great concert photography story. Some of my fellow TURF photographers thought that it wasn't cool that he did that, but I say that's rock and roll.
I first saw Platinum Blonde live at a free show they did at Nathan Philips Square at Toronto City Hall in 1984. I don't think I saw them again until they played at The Ex this past summer. It was a trip to see and shoot an old favourite band who are still in great form. This shot just captures the glitz and glamour and fun of the show.
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've no doubt noticed that I'm a huge fan of Bob Mould. Hüsker Dü was the inspiration for the formation of my own band, Sugar's Copper Blue is a desert island classic, and Bob's solo power pop is unparalleled. Even though I've seen Sugar and Bob a number of times, Riot Fest marked the first time I got to shoot Bob with a proper camera and with press accreditation. What a blast! Bob is a personal favourite and a legend. I had so much fun shooting him and was so honoured to be there, I couldn't believe it. It's got to be a high point in any photographer's artistic life to shoot a personal legend. Unreal.
The National at Riot Fest was another, "Holy shit, I can't believe I'm shooting this band!" moment. I'm a huge fan of The National and was excited to be in the photo pit in front of these guys. They're pretty much the polar opposite of shooting a band of dynamic, posing rock stars. They're musicians who make some of the most incredible music ever created. I was happy to be there to capture how it felt to be there.
Kasabian is a personal favourite band. A shot I took with an old Blackberry at a Kasabian show at Kool Haus in 2012 serves as the site favicon and for whatever reason is on of the most hit posts on the site. When they came to town to play Sound Academy I was excited to be in the photo pit shooting this band. This is a band that headlined Glastonbury and I got to shoot them! Amazing. As a friend described it, this is a real rock star pic of a real rock star.
Augustines. What can I say about Augustines? They ended up being my favourite band of 2014. Their eponymous album came in number 1 on my Favourite Albums of 2014 list. Their tune "Nothing to Lose but Your Head" came in number 1 on my Favourite Songs of 2014 list. Their show at The Garrison blew my mind with how awesome the band it. This pic goes a little way toward capturing the passion and energy that Augustines put into a show. Fantastic.

I've had a great time getting back into seeing more live music over the past few years. This blog has helped keep my love of music going, forcing me to stay a little bit up-to-date on music and getting me out to shows. The concert photography element has rekindled my love of photography and combined it with my love of music and live shows. It's been a fantastic year and I'm looking forward to more shows and fun experiences.

I'm thankful to every promoter, band and venue that let me into a show that helped me hone my concert photography skills. I've met so many great people in this business this year - both virtually and in real life - including lots of cool people who share my passion for trying to capture the live concert experience through photography. Special thanks to Collective Concerts, Live Nation, Embrace Presents, AEG Live, TURF, Riot Fest, Indie Week, The Horseshoe, Lee's Palace, The Phoenix, The Garrison and The Hoxton and everyone else I've inadvertently forgotten. I'm looking forward to many more shows!

December 16, 2014

Best of: My favourite 60 songs of 2014

It's the time of year for reflection. I say it was another great year for music. I think I saw more bands this year than any other year in my life. I had a great time taking pics of shows. Most of all, I loved the music. It's always about the music. And so without any further ado, here is my list of my favourite 60 songs of 2014.

48. The New Pornographers "Brill Bruisers"

47. Death From Above 1979 "Trainwreck 1979"

46. Mounties "Pretty Respectable"

45. Ex Hex "Don't Wanna Lose"

44. PAWS "Tongues"

43. The C'Mons "Only Ghost"

42. Drowners "Luv, Hold Me Down"

41. Little Foot Long Foot "Mess"

40. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart "Simple and Sure"

39. Dum Dum Girls "Rimbaud Eyes"

38. The Pack A.D. "Big Shot"

37. Augustines "Weary Eyes"

36. Elbow "Charge"

35. The Districts "Funeral Beds"

34. Dinosaur Pile-Up "Peninsula"

33. The Both "Milwaukee"

32. The Balconies "Do It In The Dark"

28. Spoon "Rent I Pay"

25. The Jezabels "The End"

24. Lykke Li "No Rest for the Wicked"

23. Bob Mould "The War"

22. Kasabian "Bumblebee"

21. Owl John "Red Hand"

20. The Balconies "The Slo"

19. Public Animal "High Pony"

18. The Hold Steady "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You"

17. Blood Red Shoes "The Perfect Mess"

16. St. Vincent "Birth In Reverse"

15. The New Pornographers "Dancehall Domine"

14. Augustines "Cruel City"

13. Split Single "Monolith"

12. Lowell "Cloud 69"

11. Haerts "All The Days"

10. St. Vincent "Digital Witness"

9. Mounties "Headphones"

8. Little Foot Long Foot "Woman"

7. Strand of Oaks "Goshen '97"

6. Lowell "The Bells"

5. Royal Blood "Out of the Black"

4. Bob Mould "I Don't Know You Anymore"

3. The Balconies "Boys and Girls"

2. Public Animal "Careful"

1. Augustines "Nothing to Lose But Your Head"

December 15, 2014

Best of: My top 25 favourite albums of 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, I've taken a few moments to assess my favourite albums of the year. This list is always harder, and shorter, for me than the songs list. A song jumps into my consciousness quickly and I can say, "Yup. Great tune!" much more easily than I can say, "Wow. Solid album."

The other thing I've noticed is that I've seen 18 of the 25 artists on this list live in the past year. Perhaps that's a reason for more of the bands' tunes making an impact.

So, for better or for worse, here's my list of my 25 favourite albums of the past year.

1. Augustines Augustines

2. Royal Blood Royal Blood

3. Public Animal Habitat Animal

4. Bob Mould Beauty and Ruin

5. The Balconies Fast Motions

6. Strand of Oaks Heal

7. Lowell We Loved Her Dearly

8. Split Single Fragmented World

9. Little Foot Long Foot Woman

10. Kasabian 48:13

11. Blood Red Shoes Blood Red Shoes

12. The Districts The Districts

13. Haerts Haerts

14. Dinosaur Pile-Up Nature Nurture

15. The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams

16. Owl John Owl John

17. The C'Mons Places

18. Spoon They Want My Soul

19. Drowners Drowners

20. Mounties Thrash Rock Legacy

21. Elbow The Take Off And Landing Of Everything

22. Lykke Li I Never Learn

23. The Jezabels The Brink

24. St. Vincent St. Vincent

25. Steel Panther All You Can Eat