Thursday, July 26, 2012

Video of the Week!

In lieu of his upcoming performance at the Folk Festival, here is Dan Mangans latest single, and also the opener off of his latest album, "About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All."Enjoy!

Festival Survival Guide

As the Calgary Folk Festival is coming up, which I am super stoked for, I thought I would write up a little festival survival guide for you all. Festivals can be large amounts of fun if you do them right so here is a breakdown of what you need to go into a festival and make it out alive!

1. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is key! There is nothing worse than getting burnt and having to worry about how much pain you are in and what kind of cancer you are getting when you should be enjoying your favourite band. Layer up and reapply! And wear a hat, you will thank me later.

2. Stalker Supplies

The good thing about music festivals is band members usually wander around the grounds. This gives you the opportunity to bump into some of your favourite people! Always have a Sharpie at the ready! You never know when you will need that all important autograph. A camera is good too, to capture that beautiful Kodak moment. Here is my favourite stalker photo taken at Sasquatch: A Sheepdog grabbing lunch.

3. Water

Lord knows we would all love to be able to survive on alcohol alone but alas, the human body needs H2O. Make sure you take enough or you will end up spending $5 for a bottle. If they only let you take one bottle in take a few empty bottles too so you don't spend all day in the water line.

4. Bring Enough Booze!

This more applies to camping festivals but there is nothing worse than running out of booze on the first night. Sure, you can go line up and pay an extortionate amount of money for another case of beer but by then you have lost your buzz and no one wants that. So stock up and go crazy!

5. Waterproof Clothing

It's a festival. It's going to rain. It's inevitable. A waterproof jacket is a good investment. If you want to wear a garbage bag poncho go ahead but I prefer to look stylin'. Once you're wet, you will have to spend the rest of the day in wet clothes which will ruin your fun. Also, if you leave because it is raining, you are a loser and shouldn't have come in the first place.

6. Toilet paper!!

Maybe the most important. No one wants to get stuck in a portapotty with no TP. At the end of the day they will run out, be prepared!! Also, hand sanitizer will be your best friend.

So that is my advice for all you would be festival goers. Festivals are expensive, get your money's worth! I will be back next week to give you the lowdown on the Folk Festival: the highs, the lows, the good, the bad. Will I have a heart attack when Dan Mangan walks out onto the stage? You will have to wait and find out.

Playlist July 26, 2012

     This is the first of what I’m hoping to make a weekly occurrence, where I post a playlist that I made myself and give tips on how to order and create your own.  I fancy myself somewhat of an amazing, spectacular, incredible, etc. creator of playlists so I hope my advice will help you make your own for any occasion.  Each week I will include the playlist I’ve made, the title I’ve chosen, and a Youtube link to the portion of the playlist that I talk about in my tip. I would just put the whole playlist on Youtube, but it would be common for me not to find all of them.

Changing Places
The Blueprint (Live) – Arkells*
The Only Place – Best Coast
Out On the Shield – Said the Whale
New Goodbye – Hey Rosetta!
Amaze-Me-Jane – Parlovr
Morning Bird / Water Lines – Attack in Black
Windsor – Michou
Express Yourself – N.W.A.**
O My Heart – Mother Mother
The Maid Needs A Maid – Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton
Guilty Cubicles – Broken Social Scene
*Works best if you cut the final about 20 seconds
**I used the second version of this that is on the reissue, but either version works.

     Ordering tip #1 – I always start my playlists with either an upbeat song that’s not very dense texturally, or with a song that eases the listener into the playlist.  What you choose entirely depends on what kind of playlist you’re going for and what the next songs are.  Here I have the Best Coast song second and I know that it kind of eases into itself so I wanted something that set an energetic tone for the playlist.  If you were to choose a song such as Hayloft by Mother Mother to go second you’d need something that built and had very little dead air at the end of it. Context is everything.


Polaris Prize Part 2

         Our first stop on the Polaris Prize short list was a 78 minute epic by Fucked Up. Our second album is considerably shorter; with a running time at 31 minutes  Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’s Yt/St is a far cry from a rock opera, but strangely enough the first work the band did together was a “drag rock opera” called 33. As someone who before the short list was announced had no idea who Yamantaka // Sonic Titan were, or even if that was their real name, and being as it seems no one else has either there isn’t much information on the group that describes themselves as “Noh-wave”.  Based on the little information there is, the group has two distinct acts. The first is the rock band who was nominated for the Polaris Prize, and the second is the theatre group that works under the same name.  In the internet age it’s rare that you aren’t able to find the information you want, but with this band it just seems as though we have to interpret the music and make guesses from there.
         The album opens ominously with a rain in the background and tribal chants in the foreground. This transitions nicely into the catchiest song on the record, Queens, a slow paced rhythmic song that stands out from much of the rest. At this point we could continue going track by track, but really that’s not how this album should be listened to.  As mentioned it is only 31 minutes long and split into 7 tracks there is really no reason why this shouldn’t be talked about as a whole.  The Fucked Up album had to be split up due to its long story, but with this one there really isn’t a story.  It’s more about the blending of styles, and the creation of sonic art as opposed to pop hits.  Due to the lack of liner notes on iTunes and not having access anywhere to the lyrics I decided to just listen to the different textures and styles that they were using.  They mix Japanese, Pop, Experimental, Native, and even Church elements into one huge field of sound, sort of showing what can be done and what no one is willing to try.  If they win the Polaris Prize it won’t be because of their song writing; it will be because of how different and progressive this album is when compared to a field of less progressive albums.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why I Will Always Choose Vinyl

With vinyl record sales being on the rise in the last few years, many people have asked the question 'Why is vinyl making a comeback?' These are some of the reasons that I love vinyl so much.

There's a certain labour of love associated with vinyl records. You get to put a lot more input into your music. Where some people may be content to just press download and play without even having to get out of bed, I myself enjoy the process that goes into searching for and playing a record. Making a trip down to the record store and searching through bins of records for the one you are looking for adds an element of fun to the purchase. Finally finding a record you have been searching for for months makes the music worth so much more than a digital download. Taking that album home, setting it up on your record player, flipping it over, makes the process much more physical than just pressing play on a CD. If an artist puts that much effort into the production of the record, the least we can do is give a little back.

Actually having a physical copy of a record also makes a big difference to the musical experience. Being able to actually hold the music, inspect it and read the insert rather than just having some MP3 downloads on your computer adds much more in terms of what you get out of the music. An artist spends a lot of time on their album artwork. Why waste it on a tiny thumbnail in iTunes? A vinyl record shows off the album artwork in the largest form, giving you the full experience that the artist intended. Having your records lined up on a shelf also adds to the aesthetic appeal. I would much rather have a bookcase full of books than an e-reader sitting on a shelf, why would music be any different? With most records coming with a digital download card, you don't need to worry about not being able to listen to the music on the go, so why wouldn't you want to get that full experience?

With a good set up, vinyl's can sound much better than an MP3. They carry a much warmer sound than the digital equivalent which can sometimes sound quite tinny. Although some people complain about distortions in the sound, I personally feel the crackles and imperfections add to the nostalgia of the record. Some people argue with today's compression and recording processes, new vinyl's are not that different to MP3's sound wise. Yes, there are some bad sounding records, just like there is some bad sounding CDs or downloads. However, if the artist has taken the time to make their album sound the best that they can, it will show in the sound quality of the record. Records also force you to listen to the album in order, again giving you the full experience of the album that the artist intended while writing it.

However, as much as I love vinyl records, there are a few downsides. You can get the average CD on iTunes for $10-$15 whereas new records can be upwards of $25. However, as discussed above, you are getting a lot more for your money. They can also be quite collectible as often limited quantities are produced and once they are gone you have to hope for a reissue. An MP3 will be worth nothing in  25 years, a record could have more than doubled in its value. There is also the downside of having to wait for the record. You can get a CD or download on the day of its release, however vinyl's usually take a little longer and often have later release dates. Include the time it can take to actually find the record and you could be waiting a while. Sure, I can order it online, but where is the fun in that?

Overall, records have much more to offer than digital downloads for the music consumer. There is still a long way to go. After showing my latest purchase to a friend she stated "are you going to hang it on the wall?" Support the artist and keep music alive. Buy vinyl. You wont regret it.

Polaris Prize Part 1

Our first stop on the Polaris Prize short list journey is easily the most vulgar.  Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life is the follow up to the 2009 Polaris Prize winning album The Chemistry of Common Life.  If you were given one word to describe Fucked Up it would have to be contrast.  Their music features lush, bright guitar parts and vocal harmonies sitting behind an angry guy yelling: and it’s beautiful.  On first glance one would think that the vocal style would take away from the character and message of the music, but in reality it adds to it, creating an entirely new texture that helps create the contrast.  Some stand out tracks on the album includes Queen of Hearts, Turn the Season, and Lights Go Up.
What makes David Comes to Life exceptional is that it is a concept album.  While first listening to the album it may be hard to follow the story that lead singer Damian Abraham crafts over 78 minutes, 18 tracks, and 4 acts in what is described by them as a “rock opera”.  The idea behind a hardcore punk band doing a rock opera goes back to contrast.  They wanted to show what a genre viewed as indulgent and over the top would look like in the hands of a band that is nothing like the hair metal bands of the 70’s and 80’s.  This rock opera is hardly a sing along, but the way that they sing/yell/scream and the smooth, smart transitions help to quickly drive the love story between David and Veronica.  Following along in the liner notes the band gives you the barebones of the story in short captions before each song, but to truly delve into the story and become immersed in this world they have created you need to follow along and read, listen, and feel as the band takes you on the journey of David coming to life, eventually, with love in his heart.

Royal Canoe - Hold Onto the Metal

I came across this magnificent Winnipeg band one Sunday night at The Slice and they became an instant favourite. Not since the first time I saw Said the Whale, which also happened to be at the Slice, have I been so in awe after a show. They were even worth a long drive to Saskatoon to see them again. This is a single off of thier EP 'Extended Play', check it out and clap along!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Lethbridge Lowdown

         Lethbridge. Or as some like to call it Deathbridge, the City of Wind. But what of the music scene in Lethbridge? Is it worth putting up with all the bad hair days? Elton John seemed to think so, making a stop here on his latest tour. Elliott Brood even called it their second hometown, playing 2 nights here last month. All in all, a steady flow of bands comes through these city limits, some well known, some not worth the $5 cover charge. But hey, not everyone can do a 'Rococode/Royal Canoe at the Slice' and blow my mind. The venues also cater to local musicians with open mic nights at both the Slice and the Owl. Yeah, the service at the Slice is a little lacking, but just go to the bar for a beer, and if you go back a few too many times there's a mattress on the ceiling if you want to stay the night. The university also brings in some gooders with Bedouin Soundclash, Said the Whale, K-OS and the Pack A.D, to name a few, all making appearances in the last few years. Henotic was my favourite venue, but alas, it is no more.  If you manage to go to a show and not foolishly forget to bring enough cash/your debit card for merch (who does that?) Blueprint is a few blocks away to fulfil the rest of your music needs. 
       Overall, Lethbridge has a lot more to offer than most think. It is not just 'that city south of Calgary' but has a growing indie culture. Lethbridge's own The Ketamines even made it to SXSW this year. In the years to come it can only grow in what it has to offer for us young indie folk.   

      Oh. And Westside is the Best side.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Polaris Prize Short List Reaction

Trying to suggest that the Polaris Prize is absolutely right is ridiculous.  Every year, sometimes at the short list, sometimes before the long list, great albums fall aside to the eventual winner of thirty thousand dollars and the prestige of winning the only music award that matters in Canada.  This prestige is present because of the amazing judges doing a very good job of actually choosing the best Canadian album.  Past winners include Patrick Watson, Fucked Up, and Arcade Fire; the latter winning a Grammy the same year. 
Today the Short List was announced.  On it, some surprises, some not so much.  Under the surprise category I’d put Drake’s Take Care, Cold Speck’s I Predict a Graceful Expulsion, and Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’s YT/ST. While those albums left me surprised, Feist’s Metals, Grimes’ Visions, and Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life were essentially foregone conclusions.  All three of these albums are albums that critics adore for their unique characteristics.  The final four artists (Cadence Weapon, Kathleen Edwards, Handsome Furs, and Japandroids) all put out albums worthy of being on the short list, but I don’t think you can label any of them as favourites.  In future posts I’ll be exploring all the albums nominated for the Polaris Prize and complete the journey with my prediction for the winner.