February 28, 2014

Songwriters in the Round: a benefit for the music program at Westacres Public School on March 21, 2014

For me, it's all about the song. That magical combination of rhythm, melody and lyrics that manages to connect with my heart and soul. Without the songs, it doesn't matter how well the singers sing or the players play.

On March 21, in the Auditorium at Cawthra Park High School in Mississauga Ontario, it's all about the song, and the music program at Westacres Public School. For the third year running, community member and songwriter Rob Wells is bringing together a diverse group of artists for a night called Songwriters In The Round. It's an informal, relaxed evening where songwriters tell the stories and inspiration behind their songs and deliver stripped-down performances, all while raising money for a great cause.

This year, the songwriters are Gowan, Emm Gryner, Rob Wells, Divine Brown and Dan Kanter.

Gowan is a multi-platinum selling Juno award winning Canadian artist who had huge hits in the 80s and 90s with songs like "A Criminal Mind", "(You're a) Strange Animal", "Moonlight Desires" and "Dancing On My Own Ground". Since 1999, he has been lead singer for Styx. I've been a big Gowan fan since my younger days and saw him perform at the Ontario Place Forum - a revolving stage venue that has since been replaced by the Molson Amphitheatre.

Emm Gryner is a Juno nominated Canadian singer/songwriter, musician & actress. Her songs, singing and unique take on interpreting the songs of others has given her a prominent place in my own music collection. Ever since I first heard the magic earworm of "Summerlong" and through "Beautiful Things", "89 Days of Alcatraz", "Lose My Head" and many more, I've loved her songs. Her new album Torrential comes out April 8.

Rob Wells is the event organizer and producer/songwriter for pop sensations including Selena Gomez, Nick Lachey and Justin Bieber.

Divine Brown is a Universal Music recording artist and Canadian Juno award winning R&B singer.

Dan Kanter is a musical director, songwriter and producer for Justin Bieber and many others.

What: Songwriters In The Round
When: March 21st, 2014, 7pm to approximately 10pm (doors open at 6:30pm)
Where: Cawthra Park Secondary School's Auditorium, 1305 Cawthra Rd, Mississauga, ON L5G 4L1
Why: To benefit the music program at Westacres Public School
Tickets: $20 for adults and $10 for those 18 and under, available from Westacres Public School, 905-277-0912, 2165 Breezy Brae Dr, Mississauga, ON L4Y 1N3

Here are some tunes written by each of the songwriters:

Gowan's "A Criminal Mind", "Moonlight Desires" and "Dancing On My Own Ground". Yes, that's Jon Anderson of Yes singing on "Moonlight Desires".

Emm Gryner's "Summerlong", the first tune I ever heard of her's, and "Beautiful Things". If you're interested in unique cover interpretations, seek out her album Girl Versions.

Rob Wells' "I Can't Hate You Anymore" and "Rollin"

Divine Brown's "Old Skool Love"

Dan Kanter's "Be Alright"

February 27, 2014


Here's a tune by Temples. It's got that swirly-guitar British psychedelia thing going for it. It's called "Mesmerise" and it's on their new album Sun Structures.

February 26, 2014

Another new tune from Band of Skulls' Himalayan

Rockers Band of Skulls new album Himalayan comes out March 31. We heard "Asleep at the Wheel" and "Be Mine". Now check out "Nightmares". Sounds cool!

February 25, 2014

New album from Thee Oh Sees on the way

A little bit psychedelic, a little bit classic rock, a little bit noisy; it's a new tune from Thee Oh Sees. Their new album Drop drops on April 19. Check out "Penetrating Eye".

February 24, 2014

New music from Brody Dalle coming soon

Brody Dalle sang for The Distillers, then she had a band called Spinnerette that had an awesome tune called "Ghetto Love" that I featured on the blog in 2011. Well, now Brody has new music on the way.

Check out "Meet the Foetus / Oh The Joy" from her forthcoming solo album. Shirley Manson of Garbage is on backing vocals.

February 23, 2014

New tune from Ume

I first posted about Ume way back in 2009. The tune I featured then, "The Conductor", hit me hard upside the head. Cool tune.

Now they've got a new album called Monuments coming out March 4. Check out "Chase It Down" and "Black Stone".

February 22, 2014

Jason Isbell is eminently listenable

I'm a ball of contradictions. I strongly believe that a good song can stand alone with a singer and a single instrument like acoustic guitar or piano. However, I find that a lot of solo acoustic and solo piano music to be as listenable as the plaintive wail of a coyote. Maybe those particular wailers just don't have good enough songs.

Jason Isbell breaks with the contradiction. His music is mostly acoustic, but the song-writing and story-telling is fantastic and eminently listenable.

Check some out...

"Cover Me Up" from Austin City Limits

"Stockholm" from City Sessions

"Elephant" from Sirius XM

"Flying Over Water" live on KEXP

"Traveling Alone" with Amanda Shires

And I'll finish with the fun romp, "Super 8"

February 21, 2014


Cheatahs are a shoegaze and grunge-influenced band from London. Their eponymous full-length is out now and here are some cool tunes.

"Get Tight"

"Cut the Grass" and "Kenworth"

February 20, 2014

Another new Blood Red Shoes track

Blood Red Shoes, the awesome alt-rock duo, have a new self-titled album coming out March 3. I featured the tune "The Perfect Mess" and now we get a video for "An Animal" and the audio for the B-Side "Wretch". Sounds great!

Looking forward to the album release and to seeing the band live. And to hopefully getting some better pictures of them.

February 19, 2014

Alright Alright live at Lee's Palace

First up at Lee's Palace on February 1 was Alright Alright. Their recorded sound is kind of 50's retro but live they have a high energy early-aughts alt-rock sound which reminded me a bit of The Fratellis. Overall, good stuff and a great way to warm up our eardrums for the night.
Check out "Weekend", and

"Blue Jean Baby"

February 18, 2014

Say Yes to the rock at Lee's Palace

Opening for The Balconies on February 1 at Lee's Palace in Toronto were Say Yes. This straight up alt-rock power trio features former members of Alexisonfire and Saint Alvia. They write cool tunes, delivered with tons of energy. I'm looking forward to more music from them and seeing their live show again. Check em out.
Check out the awesome, killer track "Sunrise". I cannot wait for a full release from these guys!

February 17, 2014

The Balconies bring down Lee's Palace

I caught The Balconies' sold out album release show for their adopted home town crowd at Lee's Palace on February 1. Going in, I knew I liked The Balconies and had featured them on the blog a couple of times before. But I don't think I was prepared for the power and energy they bring to the stage.
I took a lot of pictures. More than I have of any band I've shot so far. I think I took so many pictures because they are so energetic on stage and I wasn't sure if I was getting anything usable. Then I had to narrow down the shots to the ones you see in this post. Not an easy task. I tried to capture the energy and power that we all saw that night. I actually prefer some of the shots that have motion blur because they capture the dynamics of the live show.
The Balconies produce powerhouse rock of the kind we just don't hear enough. With no interest in trends or fads they play the music they love with conviction, passion and energy. Heavy hitting drums, loud grimy guitars, just the right amount of groove and the vocals; impassioned wails at the night sky that will give you goosebumps. Their full length album Fast Motions is available now at their bandcamp. It's an uber-solid record from front to back. Highly recommended.
They started the show with "Boys & Girls" before pounding through tracks like "I Know You're Right", "The Slo" and "Fast Motions" before ending the show with an awesome cover of Gaga's "Applause" and set closer "Kill Count". They couldn't end with that, though. They returned to the stage to bring down the house with "Do It In The Dark". Killer.
Bottom line - the songs are great rock songs, the band looks awesome on stage and they put 110% into their live show. Listen to some tunes and trust me, see this band live. Personally, I can't wait til next time.
Killer show opener "Boys & Girls"

"The Slo"

"Battle Royale"

Set closer "Kill Count"

Encore tune "Do It In The Dark"

February 16, 2014

New Elbow

Elbow have got a new album on the way and North American tour dates. I was lucky enough to have a ticket secured for me before the Toronto show sold out. Side rant: They really have to figure out a better way to sell tickets so that we all feel that we have a chance at them. Some shows seem to sell out so fast that it feels like they only had 50 tickets to sell to the general public.

The new Elbow album comes out March 10 and it's called The Take Off and Landing of Everything. Deep. Here's the new single, "New York Morning". Beautiful, as you would expect.

And "Fly Boy Blue/ Lunette"

February 15, 2014

The National's video for I Need My Girl

Yesterday was Valentine's Day so I guess I'm a day late and a buck short with posting this clip. What can I do?

It's "I Need My Girl" from The National's latest album Trouble Will Find Me.

Very much looking forward to their show at Massey Hall with Daughter.

February 14, 2014

Noisy joy from Bleeding Rainbow's forthcoming album Interrupt

I guess the post-Christmas new release drought is over. There seems to be a ton of new stuff to listen to. From the mellowness of St. Vincent's new album to the bash and bravado of Philadelphia's Bleeding Rainbow's tunes "Images" and "Tell Me" from their February 25 release, Interrupt. "Images" is two minutes of noisy joy while "Tell Me" gets the boy-girl vocal interplay going with bashing cymbals and gritty guitars. Nice!

February 13, 2014

Intense new tune No Dog from Esben and the Witch

Man, this one is intense. It's a tune called "No Dog" from UK's Esben and the Witch. Their new album will come out later this year and is being produced by Steve Albini.

February 12, 2014

New album from The Jezabels called The Brink on the way

The new album from The Jezabels, The Brink, comes out February 18. Here's the official video for "Look of Love". It's a powerful pop number.

Here's the smouldering, slow builder "No Country". Sounds great.

And here's the official video for "The End". Awesome!

I'm seeing The National on the night The Jezabels are in town at Lee's Palace. What do you think the odds are of me getting from Massey Hall to Lee's in time to see The Jezabels? I know I want to.

February 11, 2014

Drowners with Luv, Hold Me Down

Here's a cool indie-rock-pop tune from Drowners called "Luv, Hold Me Down". It's on their eponymous début which is out now. Great tune!

February 10, 2014

Another new St. Vincent tune: Prince Johnny

St. Vincent's eponymous album comes out February 24-25. We've already heard "Birth In Reverse" and "Digital Witness". We now get to hear "Prince Johnny". Cool.

And since I'm writing a St. Vincent post, here's the official video for "Digital Witness".

I have that exact same hairdo.

February 9, 2014

Another new Hold Steady tune: Spinners from Teeth Dreams

Okay, okay, I'll cool it with how much I like The Hold Steady. Just listen to new tune "Spinners" from the forthcoming March 25 release Teeth Dreams.

If you missed it, check out "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You" and the album trailer:

And I love the promo photo above - great concept and execution!

February 8, 2014

Minor Alps: Stress Antidote?

I've been stressed. I think I need to put these songs on repeat and take deep, cleansing breaths.

It's more great tunage from Minor Alps' album Get There.

"Waiting For You"

"I Don't Know What To Do With My Hands"

February 7, 2014

Marker Starling with Husbands

Marker Starling (formerly Mantler, apparently) definitely has a Steely Dan meets Randy Newman in California kind of thing going on. It's called "Husbands" and it sounds like this:

February 6, 2014

Do Not Engage The Pack A.D.

The Pack A.D. are a guitar-drums duo from Vancouver who rock. Their latest release Do Not Engage (their fifth!) is out now and here are some tunes from it:

"Big Shot"

"Battering Ram"

I wanna see them when they play Toronto's Legendary Horseshoe Tavern on March 8.

February 5, 2014

Elsa at The Garrison

It was January 14 at The Garrison. I had never been to the venue before - although I'm looking forward to going back - and Elsa were the first band to hit the stage. They did a great job warming us up with their brand if dreamy, reverby indie pop. They were the perfect start to a fun night of music. Their EP I Do is out now.

Check out the clip for "In Two".

And stream their EP:

February 4, 2014

Alvvays at The Garrison

I've seen local act Alvvays three times now. First was opening for The Joy Formidable at The Mod Club. The second was opening for Young Galaxy at The Hoxton. The third was January 17 as they opened for Yuck at The Garrison.
Every time I see this band I think I enjoy them more. Their sound is fun and the melodies grow on me more and more. I like the reverb soaked hooks and easy to sway to beats. I'm looking forward to the next time my ears fill with their music and I get to point my camera at them.

"Adult Diversion"


February 3, 2014

Yuck make a joyous noise at The Garrison

It was a relatively warm January 17 in Toronto when I ventured down to my first ever show at The Garrison. Yuck from the UK were the headliners. I have loved this band's music since the first time I heard their grunge influenced tunes on their début and I've been quite certain that they would shine in a live environment. Let me tell you, they do not disappoint.
If you know about this band at all you know that they've gone through some change over the past while with the departure of their lead singer, their guitarist stepping up to fill that spot and the addition of a second guitar player. In the midst of all that upheaval, they managed to release a new album. A great one at that.
Their setlist started off strong with some of my favourites including "Middle Sea" and "Holing Out". They also hit up "Get Away", "Rebirth", their cover of New Order's "Age of Consent" and many more from across both Yuck and Glow & Behold before closing the main set with "Operation". After a short break they returned to the stage for an encore of "Memorial Fields" and "Georgia".

Awesome stuff! I'm so glad I made it out to the show.
Here are some tunes:

"Middle Sea" from Glow & Behold

"Holing Out" from Yuck

"Get Away" from Yuck

"Rebirth" from Glow & Behold

"Age of Consent", their New Order cover, and

Set closer "Operation" from Yuck

And here's the new tune "Athena" from their forthcoming EP Southern Skies. Busy guys!