July 23, 2009

Ron Hawkins - New CD called 10 Kinds of Lonely Coming Out - Release Shows at Graffiti's

I was, and still am, a huge Lowest of the Low fan. If you're not familiar with them, they were part of a first wave of indie music in Canada. The Low, along with artists such as Barenaked Ladies and Moxy Fruvous sold huge numbers of their tapes, and later CDs, at shows. Record stores began to have indie music sections. My old band's tape was one of them. More history of the band can be found at their wikipedia page.

Lowest of the Low wrote some of my favourite songs. Some of my favourite concert memories are from seeing Lowest of the Low at venues like The Horseshoe and Lee's Palace. The New Year's Eve show I saw at The Horseshoe probably goes down in the books as my favourite concert ever. They are the only band that I really wish was still gigging and recording together regularly. I'll certainly feature an "Origins" article on Lowest of the Low in future.

Even though Lowest of the Low is gone, Ron Hawkins, the band's principal singer and songwriter, is quite prolific and has been putting out great music in between Lowest of the Low breakups. He performs as a solo artist and as Ron Hawkins and the Rusty Nails.

The other day, my in-box was graced with an email from Ron:

Hey Folks,

This will seem like Christmas eve... or the day you found out John Lennon was killed, depending on whether or not you like my new disc.

But anyhow... they're here!

And to send them off with a bang I've got a series of shows lined up at Graffiti's in Kensington Market, Toronto.

Two shows are scheduled for Friday August 7th - a matinee (all ages) at 6pm and an evening show at 10pm.

And one show on Saturday August 8th at 10pm.

Come on out, get a copy of 10 Kinds of Lonely and see openers Too Many Sisters and the Benvereens.

The disc will be available through VictimlessCapitalism as of Monday August 10th as well.

Hope to see you out.


Tickets for the show can be purchased from the online store at Ron's site.

For your listening pleasure, here are a bunch of Lowest of the Low, Ron Hawkins and the Rusty Nails, and Ron Hawkins tunes. If you like their music, CDs can be purchased from Ron's website and digital Lowest of the Low music is available on emusic.

"Bite Down Hard" from the Ron Hawkins and the Rusty Nails album Crackstatic

"Small Victories" from Ron Hawkin's most recent solo release, Chemical Sounds

"Last Recidivist" from Lowest of the Low's last album Sordid Fiction

A classic from Lowest of the Low's first CD, Shakespeare My Butt called "Salesmen, Cheats and Liars"

See you at the show!

Photo from ronhawkins.com

July 22, 2009

Gossip’s New Album Music for Men – Their Best Yet

I first saw the band Gossip on The New Music, which is a TV show that had a long history of introducing Canadians to new music, now relegated to the blogosphere. (All a mystery of it’s own that I may get into at a later date – but really, in an age when music discovery is harder than ever, why would this show not have the viewership required for it to survive?)

Beth Ditto has impressive stage presence and an impressive set of pipes. The song they featured, naturally enough, was "Standing in the Way of Control" from their 2005 release of the same name. Watching Ditto strut-dance across the festival stage, belting out this song, was instantly engaging. It is a great song from a solid album that impressed me from the first listen. If you want to pick it up, or listen to song samples, the album is available on emusic.

Emusic also has Gossip’s, then called The Gossip, 2000 release That’s Not What I Heard. It’s more raw, garage-y and directly blues based than their later albums.

In 2007, The New York Times featured an article on Rick Rubin, who had then been named co-head of Columbia Records, Gossip had been signed and Rubin was working as producer of the new Gossip album. With Rubin’s impressive production track record, I was looking forward to new music from Gossip.

Their new album, called Music For Men, came out on June 23 and is available at iTunes. The first single, "Heavy Cross", was released ahead of the album, at the end of April. It’s a great song, and based on a few listens, the album sounds great, too. The band continues to hone it’s songwriting craft. The songs are more accessible and polished with more emphasis on groovy drum and bass parts, and crunchy guitars. There’s less of the bluesy and garage-y aspects of Gossip’s previous releases. I’m sure there will be those that accuse Gossip of “selling out” and becoming more commercial, but I just think they sound great. Beth’s voice continues to shine on all tracks. I started writing out a list of song highlights and realized that pretty much every tune on the album is a highlight. I’m definitely enjoying this one!

Check out the way the crowd goes bananas at the beginning of the song. Then Beth belts it out, enthralls the crowd like a southern preacher, gets hands on with the audience and lets them sing along.

U.S. tour dates have just been announced by Spin. More dates are available on Gossip's web site.

10/7, Washington, DC (9:30 Club)
10/8, Philadelphia, PA (TLA)
10/9, New York, NY (Terminal 5)
10/11, Boston, MA (Paradise)
10/15, Detroit, MI (Majestic Theater)
10/16, Chicago, IL (Metro)
10/17, Madison, WO (Orpheum)
10/19, Denver, CO (Bluebird)
10/20, Salt Lace City, UT (Urban Lounge)
10/23, Seattle, WA (Showbox)
10/24, Portland, OR (Wonder Ballroom)
10/25, San Francisco, CA (Regency Ballroom)
10/26, Los Angeles, CA (Henry Fonda Theater)
10/29, Austin, TX (Emo's)
10/30, Little Rock, AR (Vino's)

Photos and videos from www.gossipyouth.com

July 21, 2009

Rickrolled Again, Nirvana Style

It brought a smile to my face...

Mercury Prize Short List Announced!

I always love this time of year - the Mercury Prize short list is announced. There are usually a few artists that I'm familiar with and I can give a nod to. And there are some artists I'm not familiar with. I've had some good finds from previous Mercury Prize lists including Guillemots, Bat for Lashes and The Zutons.

guardian.co.uk has posted the Nominations for the Mercury Prize 2009 (with odds from bookmaker William Hill)

Florence and the Machine – Lungs 5/1

Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum 5/1

Bat for Lashes – Two Suns 6/1

La Roux – La Roux 6/1

Glasvegas – Glasvegas 6/1

Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy 8/1

Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires 8/11

The Horrors – Primary Colours 8/1

Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew 8/1

The Invisible – The Invisible 10/1

Led Bib – Sensible Shoes 10/1

Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men 10/1

Although I'm sure to find some interesting new music amongst the nominees that I don't already know, here are a few videos from the nominees I do know.

Update: I should have mentioned that the Awards Show and Winner Announcement is September 8, 2009.

July 20, 2009

Robyn: Versions of Her Great Pop Songs Delivered in an Intimate Setting

I like a good pop song, and Robyn delivers good pop songs. Several months ago, I saw this video of an intimate performance of a different take on her song "Bum Like You". I love the immediacy of the performance and the way that the shift in instrumentation and tempo, combined with Robyn's emotive delivery, really elevated the song.

The songs are part of something that Cherrytree Records puts on called The Cherrytree House. They’ve also been released as an EP that’s available on iTunes. The original versions are on Robyn’s eponymous album, also on iTunes.

"Bum Like You"

"Be Mine!"

"With Every Heartbeat"

July 15, 2009

Origins: Sugar

A little while ago I wrote about Hüsker Dü. After the dissolution of Hüsker Dü, Bob Mould struck out on his own (more detail coming on that later). After a couple of solo albums, Bob formed Sugar.

Copper Blue still stands as a great album, front to back. It brought much of what made Bob Mould's Hüsker Dü songs great and merged it with the dominant alternative rock sound. These guys were great. I got to see Sugar at a very, very loud Toronto show at the Concert Hall.

Here's the Bob Mould Band performing the Sugar song "A Good Idea". I believe this version is from the Circle of Friends DVD - watching that DVD on a good system is probably the closest you'll get to a night out at a Bob Mould show.

Here's the video for "If I Can't Change Your Mind" from Copper Blue.

Sugar released two proper albums, Copper Blue and File Under: Easy Listening, a mini-album called Beaster and a b-sides and rarities collection called Besides.

Then Sugar broke up.

July 12, 2009

Arctic Monkeys: New Album On It's Way

Arctic Monkeys is one of those bands that grabbed me. When I first heard Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not when it came out in 2006, I was instantly hooked. The band was tight, the songwriting was instantly appealing while being unique, and the way the stories were told was engaging. I remember their awesome performance on SNL, too. I still love the album and it certainly has one of the largest number of five-star songs from one album in my iTunes library.

In fact, 2006 was a gigantic year in music for me. Many British groups were on heavy rotation that year including Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs, The Kooks, Muse, Kasabian, Maxïmo Park, Klaxons, Lily Allen, The Automatic, and Boy Kill Boy, to name a few. By the way, if you follow the link to Muse's web site today you'll see they're counting down to something exciting. I for one will be checking back tomorrow to see what it is. Their new album The Resistance is due out September 14th. Update: Muse published a major site overhaul July 13.

Favourite Worst Nightmare came out in 2007 and although it had a massive success to follow on, it was a great album, too.

Their new album is called Humbug and the first single is "Crying Lightning". The single's available from iTunes right now and the album is due out August 24th in the UK. Probably means that we'll see it in North America on the 25th.

Check out the tune below.

Arctic Monkeys will be touring North America in September and October. Dates are below.

14th September - Soma, San Diego
15th September - Hollywood Palladium, LA
16th September - Fox Theater, Oakland
18th September - Wonder Ballroom, Portland **FREE SHOW**
19th September - The Showbox @ The Market, Seattle
20th September - Malkin Bowl, Vancouver
22nd September -In The Venue, Salt Lake City - w/Airborne Toxic Event
23rd September - Ogden Theatre, Denver - w/Airborne Toxic Event
25th September - First Avenue, Minneapolis
26th September - Eagles Ballroom, Milwaukee
28th September - Newport Music Hall, Columbus
29th September - Kool Haus, Toronto
30th September - Electric Factory, Philadelphia

2nd October - House of Blues, New Orleans
3rd October - House of Blues, Houston
4th October - Austin City Limits Festival, Austin
5th October - The Palladium Ballroom

And for your listening and viewing pleasure, here's a gem from the first album - "A View from the Afternoon".

Edit: July 16. I just finished reading a great article on Arctic Monkeys and thought it turned out better than my article, primarily because the writer had access to the band themselves. Enjoy.

July 6, 2009

New Stellastarr* album, Civilized, out tomorrow

July 7 marks the release date of the new Stellastarr* album Civilized.

I've thoroughly enjoyed the previous two Stellastarr* releases, 2002's eponymous album and 2005's Harmonies for the Haunted. A number of tracks are available for preview.

The first single sounds good and can be heard on the band's myspace and on youtube - embedded below. The myspace link has another new track from Civilized called "Warchild", which actually sounds better to me on first listen. Purevolume has the whole album, plus some classic older tracks, available for streaming.

I'll have more info once I've had a chance to buy the album and spend some more time with it.

To coincide with the album's release, Stellastarr* is embarking on a 13-date tour. The dates are from LiveDaily.

July 2009
15 - Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's
16 - New York, NY - HighLine Ballroom
17 - Washington, DC - Rock and Roll Hotel
18 - Baltimore, MD - Ottobar
20 - Cincinnati, OH - 20th Century Theatre
21 - Columbus, OH - The Basement
23 - Chicago, IL - Double Door
27 - Austin, TX - The Parish Room
30 - San Diego, CA - The Casbah
31 - West Hollywood, CA - Troubadour

August 2009
1 - San Francisco, CA - Slim's
3 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge
4 - Seattle, WA - Chop Suey

July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians! Hope you have a great day. Here's a shot of classic Canadian music for you from two long-time favourites from years gone by - Teenage Head and The Pursuit of Happiness.