December 31, 2013

Ron Hawkins at The Horseshoe

If you come here often, or even once in a while, you might have noticed that I'm a big, big fan of Ron Hawkins. I enjoy all of his incarnations and bands including The Lowest of the Low, The Rusty Nails, his solo work and his latest offerings with The Do Good Assassins. Across all these projects, Ron shows himself as an accomplished, prolific and gifted songwriter. As I've said before, I think he's one of the best songwriters Canada has produced. Perhaps it's fitting that this last post of 2013 is about one of my absolute favourite artists.
It was great to be able to see Ron again in a live, full band environment that included tunes outside of the Low catalog. In fact, they only hit up one Low tune, "Salesmen, Cheats and Liars" from the iconic Shakespeare, My Butt

Unfortunately, I missed his most recent release, Rome, with The Do Good Assassins, so much of the set was unfamiliar to me. No matter; it was awesome.
The Do Good Assassins are Ron, plus outstanding, mostly finger-style guitar player Steve Singh; cello, flugelhorn and keyboard player Alex McMaster, who just might have found the inspiration to learn the harmonica; and the rock solid rhythm section of Derrick Brady and Jesse Capon on bass and drums respectively.
Highlights from the set for me were: "Straitjacket Love", "Saturday", the hard rocking "Bite Down Hard", "Spotlight", "Kingdom of the Sun" (which might be on a forthcoming EP if I heard that right), "Salesmen, Cheats and Liars" and "From the Alta Lima Hotel".

Check out some songs, and if you have the chance, go see Ron live. He's as great a performer as he is a songwriter.

"Bite Down Hard"

"Dead Man"


"Rusty Chain"


December 30, 2013

Peter Elkas sings the blues at The Horseshoe

My night out at The Horseshoe Tavern on December 19 continued with the blues stylings of Peter Elkas and his band.

Being as focused on the indie-alternative thing as I am means that I don't listen to a lot of blues bands, although Indie Week and TURF turned up my awareness of more rootsy bluesy bands. It was good to let some blues back into my ears.
Speaking of Indie Week, I recognized Peter's keyboard player Jeff Heisholt instantly from seeing Little Foot Long Foot at Cherry Cola's. He's also in the Trews, and the Skydiggers touring band, so I guess he's a busy guy. Great player, too.
Peter, if you're reading this, check out your web site. Chrome and AVAST won't let it render on my machine due to some virusy nastyness.

I can all but guarantee you won't get an infection from Peter Elkas' tunes. Check some out:

"Sweet Nancy"

"Fall Apart Again"

December 29, 2013

Lindy Vopnfjörð at The Horseshoe

I was at the historic Horseshoe Tavern to see a great triple bill on December 19. Up first was Lindy, a Manitoba native with Icelandic roots who played some solid rock tunes with great guitar tones. Some of the vocals and guitar atmospherics reminded me of Sigur Rós. Overall, some great tunes from a great band. I would definitely see these guys again.

Check out a bunch of tunes below. "The Limit" recently hit number 1 on CBC Radio 2. Other stand-outs from the show were "Dark Matter", "Warsaw's Blinking Lights" and "Lover Sister". The album Young Waverer came out in February 2013.

December 28, 2013

New clips from Yuck

Earlier this year, Yuck released their second album, Glow & Behold. Here are a couple of recent videos from the album.

The quiet and lovely "Somewhere".

The cute-filled "Lose My Breath"

and the tough-buy tennis video for the brilliant "Middle Sea"

They're here in Toronto at The Garrison on January 17.

December 27, 2013

Arthur Beatrice share Midland

London's Arthur Beatrice's début album Working Out is coming out February 3. I rather enjoyed this tune: "Midland". Hope you do, too.

December 26, 2013

Diarrhea Planet: you can't get there from here

So I was doing a post on The So So Glos, and I happened upon the video of them doing The Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" with Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus. And so I found the video of Patrick Stickles singing "Born To Run" with one of the worst named bands ever, Diarrhea Planet.

So that's how posts get written. And here are some lovely melodies along with multi-guitar mayhem.


"Ugliest Son"

"Born To Run"

December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Because, and only because, the word Christmas is in the title.

December 24, 2013

Divine Fits do Bruce Springsteen

Whether it's in Spoon or Divine Fits, I thoroughly enjoy Britt Daniel's singing. Here he is with Divine Fits doing an unplugged version of The Boss' "Hungry Heart".

December 23, 2013

Smallpools warm up this cold Toronto autumn

Smallpools have a hit song out called "Dreaming". It just crossed my radar and I like it. The Los Angeles based indie pop band sound like a sunshiny summer. They hit a sweet spot somewhere around Foster the People and Grouplove. No wonder I like these sounds as winter closes in on Toronto for another season. Their EP follows in the upbeat indie pop vein.

Hope you enjoy this sticky sweet pop gem.

December 22, 2013

Monster Magnet: Mindless One

I was supposed to have my face melted by Monster Magnet on December 10th at the venerable Lee's Palace right here in Rob Ford - ville. Unfortunately, the band had to cancel the show and the remainder of their tour due to Dave Wyndorf's rather nasty flu.

So now I listen to "Mindless One" from their latest album, Last Patrol, and daydream about what the show would have been like. All the best for a speedy recovery, Dave, and please come back to Toronto soon!

December 21, 2013

Goodbye Chromewaves, and Thank You

I found out some sad news on Friday. Frank Yang, founder and sole contributor of Chromewaves, one of the best blogs covering indie alternative music with a focus on the Toronto live scene, has decided to call it a day after over 11 years.

Several years ago, while on a music discovery journey, someone who was being interviewed on The New Music mentioned Stereogum and Chromewaves as being great blogs for music discovery. I checked them out. I found Chromewaves' style instantly attractive. Run by a lone music lover, Chromewaves focused on new and innovative artists, the local Toronto live music scene and concert photography. It opened my eyes to blogs as a new avenue for music discovery.

Chromewaves had an impact on me. I thought that the person who writes the blog might be a bit like me. A musician, a music fan, maybe pretty close in age, and as passionate about music, and new music discovery, as I am. Frank demonstrated that one could write about music without doing interviews and could turn people on to new music from an introverted point of view.

And so I was inspired. I decided to start a blog of my own. I had a radio show at university in the early 90s so I wasn't a complete stranger to presenting the music I liked and to trying to be some kind of "curator", sharing the music that I enjoyed with an audience, no matter how small. Some of my early posts even aped Frank's style of collecting lots of songs and news items into the one daily post. After some time, I started to find my own  style. Brevity and single-topic posts would be my thing, eventually evolving from a few posts a week to a post a day, almost all year round. But I always remember Chromewaves as the blog that made me believe that I could do it, too.

For quite a while, I've felt like I could learn a lot from Frank: about building contacts in the music business, about getting into the photo pit for bigger shows, about building an audience, about camera gear and about being a better concert photographer. I thought that if I ever appeared on Chromewaves' blogroll, I would have "made it" in some way.

Frank, as you turn your attention to other pursuits, I want to thank you for the inspiration, the information, the music, and most of all, for sharing your passion. Good luck in everything you decide to do with the time that blogging previously occupied.

December 20, 2013

Neko Case's lyric video for "Calling Cards"

I don't really like country twang. So you know it's something special when someone breaks through my musical psyche while delivering something that can sometimes be described as country twang. Neko Case is an example of that special something.

Here's a lyric video for "Calling Cards" from her always-copied-and-pasted-titled album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. Lovely tune.

December 19, 2013

New Primal Scream tour dates and video

Primal Scream are comin' to town. Just like Santa, only in May.

They've just announced a couple fistfuls of dates, including a May 16 stop in Toronto at the Danforth Music Hall, and a new video from this year's More Light. Groove out to "Goodbye Johnny".

December 18, 2013

Oooh Yeah! New Dead Weather

This one kicks ass from the first beat. It's a new tune from The Dead Weather called "Open Up (That's Enough)". It's also got plenty of dynamic push-pull to keep things tense. According to the always cool people at Exclaim, they're going to release 7" singles until they're ready to spring a new album on us in 2015.

December 17, 2013

New Lorde tune: No Better

Here's a new tune from Lorde. It's called "No Better", it sounds great and it's free on iTunes right now.

Merry Christmas

December 16, 2013

The So So Glos crank it up

Good ol' punky rock music, where have you been? Check out some quality tunes from The So So Glos, punks from Brooklyn whose latest album Blowout is out now.

"All of the Time"

"Diss Town"

"Lost Weekend"

"My Block"

"Son of An American"

And here they are with Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus doing The Beastie Boys "No Sleep Til Brooklyn". Nice one.

December 15, 2013

Terraplane Sun hit us with sunshine

Terraplane Sun are an indie-pop band from California. Their big single, "Get Me Golden" is a pure pop gem. Their other material runs more to the rootsy side of things. Fun stuff that makes me feel sunny even though winter's at our doorstep. Give 'er a listen.

December 14, 2013

More cool from Sky Ferreira's Night Time, My Time

I liked what I heard when I first heard Sky Ferreira and I told you about it. Her début full-length is now out and so are the obligatory videos. She started with the ubercool "You're Not The One", and she did a great rendition of the tune on Letterman, too. Now we get to check out the video for the dark and moody title track from Night Time, My Time.

"Night Time, My Time"

December 13, 2013

Mood Rings opening for Cults at Lee's Palace

Have you ever had the experience where a band sounds quite different live than they do on their recorded output? This happens to me a lot. Sometimes I like the band more when I listen to their recordings and allow the tunes time to grow on me. Sometimes I'm not too impressed with the recordings and I really latch on to the live show. I found that Mood Rings came across with more intensity in the live setting. I like that.

Mood Rings were the first of three bands I saw at Lee's Palace in Toronto on November 25. They played, along with Sacco, opening for Cults. Mood Rings are a dream pop band from Atlanta. I liked their chilled out, road-weary vibe. Their album VPI Harmony is out now.

Hollow Dye (Defected Crystal)

"The Line"

December 12, 2013

Sacco opening for Cults at Lee's Palace

Sacco were the second band on the bill on November 25 at Lee's Palace opening for Cults. They're from California and currently reside on the East Coast, when they're not on the road, of course. Apparently, they're a very new band, which explains their low internet profile. I enjoyed their tunes and watching the two frontmen trade back and forth on guitar, bass and vocal duties. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for future releases from Sacco.

December 11, 2013

New self-titled album on the way from St. Vincent

Back in the olden days, a band would often self-title their début album. Lately, it seems the fashion to self-title your second or third album. Or fourth album, as is the case with the new release from St. Vincent. It's coming out February 24-25 and we get to hear the track "Birth In Reverse" now.

December 10, 2013

The Top 20: The best albums of 2013, according to me. The year's most awesome and cool pop, indie, and alternative albums.

As has become my habit, I'm not ranking my albums list. These are the 20 albums that made the biggest impression on me in 2013, alphabetically.

1984 Influenza

Biffy Clyro Opposites

Chvrches The Bones Of What You Believe

Cults Static

Frank Turner Tape Deck Heart

Frightened Rabbit Pedestrian Verse

Haim Days Are Gone

Lorde Pure Heroine

Metz Metz

MS MR Secondhand Rapture

Neko Case The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

Sleigh Bells Bitter Rivals

Small Black Limits of Desire

Superchunk I Hate Music

Telekinesis Dormarion

The Darcys Warring

The Joy Formidable Wolf's Law

The Naked And Famous In Rolling Waves

The National Trouble Will Find Me

Young Galaxy Ultramarine

December 9, 2013

The Top 50: The best songs of 2013, according to me. The year's most awesome and cool pop, indie, and alternative songs.

As the year progresses, I'm usually not aware of whether it's a great year for music or not. By about mid-year, I'm thinking that I have no idea what I'd put on a "best of" list. iTunes certainly helps by letting me see my top rated songs released in any given year.

Overall, it felt like more of a year of pop than anything else. We got tons of great pop melodies, and I love it. There's lots of other stuff in here too, including lots of loud guitars, which I also love.

Check out the list of my 50 favourite tunes of 2013.

50. "California" Mazzy Star
49. "Silent Treatment" The Joy Formidable
48. "Tendons" The Joy Formidable
47. "Fantasy" MS MR
46. "Out of My League" Fitz & the Tantrums
45. "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo" Superchunk
42. "All The Days" Haerts
41. "Tennis Court" Lorde
40. "I Kill Giants" The Naked And Famous
38. "New Summer" Young Galaxy
37. "Hurricane" MS MR
36. "Lies" Chvrches
35. "Spider X" California X
34. "Power Lines" Telekinesis
33. "All The Time" The Strokes
32. "Black Chandelier" Biffy Clyro
31. "Let The Day Begin" Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
30. "Little Blimp" The Joy Formidable
29. "Ways To Go" Grouplove
28. "Mind Your Manners" Pearl Jam
27. "Change" Mikal Cronin
26. "San Francisco" The Mowgli's
25. "Pretty Boy" Young Galaxy
24. "Gun" Chvrches
22. "Man" Neko Case
21. "You're Not The One" Sky Ferreira
20. "Loud Like Love" Placebo
19. "Backyard Skulls" Frightened Rabbit
18. "Forever" Haim
17. "Climbers" Mansions
16. "Bitter Rivals" Sleigh Bells
15. "Too Many Friends" Placebo
14. "I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)" Icona Pop
13. "Royals" Lorde
12. "High Road" Cults
11. "Hearts Like Ours" The Naked and Famous

10. "Sea of Love" The National

9. "I Can Hardly Make You Mine" Cults

8. "Headphones" Mounties

7. "Holy" Frightened Rabbit

6. "Cholla" The Joy Formidable

5. "Dead Now" Frightened Rabbit

4. "Plain Sailing Weather" Frank Turner

3. "The Mother We Share" Chvrches

2. "The Woodpile" Frightened Rabbit

1. "This Ladder is Ours" The Joy Formidable

This year, I've linked out to YouTube for checking out most of the tunes. I've even made a playlist of this year's list. Previous years' lists took too long to load and often caused flash to crash.

December 8, 2013

New Blood Red Shoes album on the way

I'm a pretty big fan of Blood Red Shoes. You can check out all the posts to see proof. They've just announced a new, self-titled album that will be out March 3 of next year. We get to hear the new tune "The Perfect Mess" now.

Sounds great! Looking forward to the new album, and hopefully, a tour date in T.O.

December 7, 2013

Superchunk explore the phenomenon of the ageing rock fan in Void

Revered alt-rockers Superchunk released their latest album I Hate Music earlier this year. Their latest clip is for the tune "Void". It's classic Superchunk all the way and the humorous video explores the sometimes awkward situations that some of us almost-middle-agers might experience when returning to the live music scene after a long absence. Lesson is, don't stay away. Go see shows.

December 6, 2013

Video for Lorde's Team

In the latest video from Lorde's Pure Heroine, she unveils her vision of a teenage utopia. Check out "Team".

December 5, 2013

Cool new band: Say Yes

When I was reading up on the latest news on The Balconies, I saw that a band called Say Yes was opening for them on some upcoming gigs. I decided to check out Say Yes and I found out that they are the new project by former Alexisonfire drummer Jordan Hastings. Their début EP is on the way.

In the meantime, check out the rockin' tune "Sunrise".

December 4, 2013

New video for 2-year old song: Belong by The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart found a way into my heart with their swirling guitars and poppy melodies. 2011's Belong was one of my favourite albums of that year and it has endured. The album came in at #4 on my best of list and the song came in at #17. Except for one quick tease, we haven't heard new music from them since then.

Continuing the tease, they've released a long-lost video for the title track, "Belong". Great song!

December 3, 2013

Cults at Lee's Palace

I usually like my bands loud and proud, with lots of distorted guitars. On the surface, Cults doesn't fit into my mould. They're mellow and easy going with slower songs, classic melodies and sometimes, lead xylophone. But I love the melodies and the song writing. I love Madeline Follin's voice. I love the arrangements. Over the course of two albums, they have become a favourite and a band I've looked forward to seeing live for a long time.
Lee's Palace is a great venue. It's big enough to bring in big up-and-coming bands. It's small enough to feel intimate and it's easy to get pretty close to the band, if that's your thing. It also has a good sound system that shows off the best the bands have to offer. I also remember it as being a great place to play, with a big, good-sounding stage.
They played a great set including all my favourite tunes. They launched right in to "High Road" from their latest album Static and then "Abducted" from their eponymous début came next. Great opening! Their "wall of TVs" set looked great. Definitely one of the best light shows I've seen at Lee's.

They continued through "Always Forever", "You Know What I Mean" and "I Can Hardly Make You Mine" with a cover of The Motels "Total Control" mixed in for good measure. They closed out their set with a rousing rendition of "Rave On" before returning to the stage to encore with three tunes including "Go Outside".

Hopefully, Brian Oblivion had a great birthday in Toronto.

Check out the full setlist here.

Here are some tunes:


"Go Outside"

"You Know What I Mean"

"High Road"

"I Can Hardly Make You Mine"

Overall, it was a great night. I got better photographic results this time out, and learned a few more things since the show that should make my next photos that much better. Here's hopin'!
I'm going to break up my coverage of the Cults show with separate posts on opening acts Mood Rings and Sacco. They'll follow in the next few days.

December 2, 2013

Young Galaxy and Alvvays at The Hoxton

On November 22, I caught Young Galaxy and Alvvays at The Hoxton here in Toronto. I had been meaning to see Young Galaxy for a long time and finally got out to a show. I saw Alvvays opening for The Joy Formidable at The Mod Club back in November 2012.

I put up the lead pic on purpose. Not because it's a good pic (it's not) but rather to show how dark Young Galaxy turned the lights for their show. They sounded great but at times all but disappeared on stage. No worries. It's the music we were there for, and the music delivered.
Highlights of the set for me were "Pretty Boy", "Fall For You", "New Summer" and the encore of Erasure's "A Little Respect". That cover was a perfect fit for Young Galaxy. Overall, it was a fun show in a good venue. Then we all shuffled out and made room for the late show of the evening at The Hoxton.

Here are a bunch of great tunes from Young Galaxy for your listening and dancing pleasure:

"Crying My Heart Out"

"Blown Minded"

"Pretty Boy"

"Sleepwalk with Me"

"Fall For You"

"New Summer"

"We Have Everything"

"A Little Respect" by Erasure

Alvvays were into their set when we arrived. They're a Toronto-based, self-described jangle pop band. To me, they sounded more powerful and self-assured than they did at The Mod Club show. Good stuff and I'd surely venture out to see them again.
Here's their official video and another tune:

"Adult Diversion"

"Archie, Marry Me"

Overall, it was a great night of firsts for me: First time seeing Young Galaxy, first gig at The Hoxton and first time using a big DSLR at a show. Definitely learned a lot about the camera by making lots of mistakes. I'll get better with practice...