Friday, December 3, 2010

The Dandy Warhols at The Commodore

The Dandy Warhols have always been a guitar band. There was the exception of their sixth album, 2003's Welcome to the Monkey House, which was an electropop side-project in all but name, having been produced by Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes. The record label took things further than The Dandys were comfortable with, resulting in the band releasing the original mix of Monkey House in 2009 as The Dandy Warhols Are Sound. The Monkey House version of the album is actually better, but it's still a bastardization of who The Dandy Warhols really are—a rock band that has spent their career caught between the post-grunge underground rock snobs (mostly journalists) who think they're sellouts and the psychedelic stoner rockers who love them anyway. In either case, they're not an overproduced pop band, but The Dandys really don't give a fuck. Sure, they were never major label material anyway, but whatever—now they have their own record label and all the benefits from years of major label publicity.

When it comes to their live show, they still just do whatever the hell they feel like doing. They began the show with no entrance, no lights were dimmed, but as soon as they walked onstage, they went into a distorted, noisy and altogether monstrous version of “Be-In”, the opening track off their sophomore album Come Down. “We're a dramatic shoegaze band that plays music so epic that your whole body will hear it when you close your eyes. Just kidding! Now we're a pop band!” No one actually said that, but they went straight from the throbbing massiveness of “Be-In” to their electropop hit “We Used to Be Friends”, aka the Veronica Mars theme song. But, rather than playing it the way Duran Duran intended, they made it a guitar song, and did an OK job of it.

By this point, the cloud of smoke over the stage from the smoke machines and the cloud of smoke over the crowd (of a more natural origin) had joined. Everyone was blazing and I was starting to feel high just from breathing. I don't know exactly where the Dandys lie between stoner rock and alternative rock or grunge or whatever, but in Vancouver, all rock is stoner rock. Call them what you want, but the Dandys are rockstars. We came to see a rock show and damn if they didn't give it, playing song after song from all over their discography, drinking and bantering between songs about how they were going to take all 900 of us at the sold-out show to Morrissey's for the afterparty—200 people inside and 700 on the street, having a toke with the band. But mostly, the just rocked out nearly two hours. At some point around the end, it looked like they were going to finish with some ridiculously random beatboxing and sound effects back-and-forth between Court and Zia. I think they played something after that, but by that time I was too exhausted, thirsty and high from second-hand tokes to remember or to take notes. No encore necessary—I think one guy yelled “one more song!” and then realised that the Dandys had just sated us with a show more than twice as long as most bands will do nowadays.

Catch The Dandy Warhols in Seattle tonight (Friday) or any of their six remaining west coast dates!

If I just introduced you to the Dandys for the first time with this sweet review, here's a couple tracks to get you started.
The Dandy Warhols - Be-in (1997) (YSI)
The Dandy Warhols - The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers AKA The Ballad of Sheriff Shorty (2008) (YSI)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cosmo Jarvis - Gay Pirates

The last time we reviewed Cosmo Jarvis, he was singing a charming song about Melanie, the girl next door and the grimy-but-cute boy who is in love with her. Cosmo is back with a fiery new single “Gay Pirates”, which is well, a love song about gay pirates. He brings on the charm once again, turning whatever you'd expect from the title, into a tragic ballad of two swashbuckling lovers.

Buy the single on January 23rd or pre-order it now from Cosmo Jarvis, where you can also download an acoustic version of the song! The single is the first from his upcoming sophomore album Is the World Strange Or Am I Strange?, slated for late March 2011. If you're in the UK, he has a few upcoming live dates before Christmas!

Cosmo Jarvis - Gay Pirates (Acoustic) (YSI)
Cosmo Jarvis - Gay Pirates (Live) (YSI)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Biltmore Double Feature: Diamond Rings and Bonjay

Some bands sound good, albeit toned down, when you hear them on record. Then you go see them live and you're absolutely blown away by their energy and their immense stage presence. I have a strange habit of finding bands likes this. First there was The Bloody Beetroots show a few weeks ago, which the most explosive electronic show I've seen since Massive Attack. Then last week I saw Mayer Hawthorne, who sounds soulfully mellow on record, but puts on a show that induces an earthquake of nonstop dancing madness.

Tonight was double feature night at The Biltmore. Two separate shows, with Diamond Rings and a slew of opening acts taking the early show, followed by Bonjay for the late-night dance party.

During the opening acts, what really hit me hard was the driving electro sound of Vancouver's own Humans. I haven't found the one song I really liked that he sang about his shoes, but I'm listening to their album right now and I found another one. Avec Mes Mecs is their new album and the title track has my stamp of approval.

Humans - Avec Mes Mecs (YSI)

Diamond Rings has it all: a glamorous image, a riveting stage presence and a way of making his live music sound even bigger and better than the record. Between opening acts I was actually reading an article about him in the local Beatroute mag. John O'Regan's colourful new project had rather humble beginnings. He was hospitalized with Crohn's disease in the summer of 2008, but once he was recovering, he brought in his acoustic guitar and little Casio keyboards to write music. By the end of his hospital stay, he had the nurses coming in on their breaks and he would play for them.

He took the stage, instantly heating up the crowd with his scorching electro beats and his low-range indie rock voice. He sounds like a less-gloomy Matt Berninger, the frontman from The National. And he can dance! He was all over the stage, which had a mic for him on each side, one with his table of beat machines and one with his electric guitar. His shirt came off within a few songs (I still don't believe that The Biltmore actually installed air conditioning) and he showed off an elaborate necklace that his friend crafted for him from, in his words, at least five organic free-range unicorns. It seems that Diamond Rings has taken a lesson from fellow Toronto glam electro artist Peaches. Image is everything and extravagance is essential when it comes to live electronic music.

Diamond Rings got cut off at 11pm, after what seemed like a very short set. The crowd definitely wanted more, but there was nothing he could do about The Biltmore's "curfew". The stupid thing is, the next act, Bonjay, still didn't go on til after midnight.

Diamond Rings - All Yr Songs (YSI)
Diamond Rings - It's Not My Party (YSI)

After Diamond Rings, I left to find some late-night pizza. When I returned, there was a huge lineup of people waiting to join the Bonjay dance party. Luckily I had already been stamped, so I skipped the line and went inside. Bonjay started with that awesome song I already knew, “Stumble”, which is technically dancehall but is seriously sidetracked into experimental territory. It's like an atomic collision between Major Lazer, Animal Collective and maybe Rainbow Arabia.

A few songs later, they covered Caribou's “Jamelia”, which I didn't really take to when it made its rounds through the blogs, but Bonjay's Alana Stuart sang this one with so much intensity that I'm going to have to give it another run in my playlist. Next up was my favourite, “Frawdulent” which had a massive breakdown that doesn't appear in the recording. Their set felt a bit short as well, but Bonjay has only released on EP so far, so they had actually exhausted all their material.

Bonjay - Stumble (YSI)
Bonjay - Frawdulent (YSI)

Next up for Bonjay is Calgary on the 24th, as they head east across Canada for 6 more dates, then a couple US shows. Their debut EP Broughtupsy is out now on Mysteries of Trade.

Diamond Rings heads south for 11 US dates, starting on the 23rd in Los Angeles. His debut album Special Affections is out now on Secret City.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Doomtree's First Tour Hits Vancouver

Doomtree is a diverse collective of hip-hop artists from the Midwest, home of hip-hop's most underrated scene. Rhymesayers' own P.O.S heads up the crew, which includes an array of emcees and producers extraordinaire, Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak. When I talk to people from the Midwest, they have nothing but the highest praises for Doomtree, who many would consider the cornerstone of hip-hop in Minnesota. I have deep roots in one of Canada's finest hip-hop scenes, so this was a show I simply couldn't miss.

When I arrived at the Biltmore, Lazerbeak was already on stage. He usually takes the background position of producer, but right now he's Doomtree's rockstar of the moment. He just released his debut solo album, which I've been getting into lately. The album has an organic electronic feel to it, with catchy melodies and some great singing by Lazerbeak himself. For his set, he played electric guitar while Dessa backed him up on vocals and the others took over the tracks and drum machine.

I guess Doomtree likes to serve dessert first, starting things up with Lazerbeak before moving on the main course of breakbeats and underground raps. P.O.S brought the crowd into a frenzy with his double-time raps and triple-time breakbeat of “Drumroll (We're All Thirsty)”. I've seen him once before, and we was on fire as usual—onstage he's loud, excited and loves interacting with the crowd. Cecil Otter came up next with some raps from the deep, dark underground that brought me back to 5 years ago, watching my friends perform show after show in the local hip-hop scene.

Sims was next. His voice dominates and his rapid-fire flow feels like he's imprinting a headnodding subroutine into your subconscious. I can see why he received such high critical acclaim from URB Magazine and Okayplayer. His last album was in 2005, so I was glad to hear when he mentioned he has a new album with Lazerbeak coming out soon.

The emcees took a few more rounds, when finally singer/emcee/poet Dessa came up front to perform material from her new album A Badly Broken Code. It felt like a lot of the audience had been waiting for her, and despite an apparent headcold, she graced the mic beautifully.

Doomtree continued their rounds, including some great collaborations from their various albums, until finally Sims, Dessa and P.O.S brought the almost 3-hour set to a close with the “uh huh, uh huh, it's real gold!” chorus of P.O.S's “Low Light Low Life”. No encore necessary—Doomtree had just served us all dessert and a six-course meal of P.O.S, Dessa, Sims, Cecil Otter, Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger, with seconds all around. Damn, I'm glad I chose that over karaoke last night.

Tonight they play Portland and then 21 more dates across the states and Canada. And of course, here are my top picks from Doomtree's latest offerings:
Doomtree - Dots and Dashes (YSI)
Doomtree - Kid Gloves (YSI)
Lazerbeak - Dream Team (YSI)
P.O.S - Goodbye (YSI)
P.O.S - Drumroll (We're All Thirsty) (YSI)
Dessa - Seamstress (YSI)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mayer Hawthorne with Gordon Voidwell at The Biltmore

I arrived just as Gordon Voidwell was getting things started. I went in completely blind—I don't think I had even read what type of music he plays. He already had the entire crowd dancing at the front, a surprise for someone that no one in the audience had likely heard of before; they were all here for Mayer Hawthorne. His music was nonstop funky hip-hop with electro beats. The perfect warmup for Mayer Hawthorne.

After Gordon Voidwell, the audience members planted their feet firmly to guard their valuable shoulder-to-shoulder dancing spots in front of the stage. Everyone knew what was coming. Mayer Hawthorne hit the stage with a suave confidence that made us feel like he was playing for all his best friends. After a couple songs, he made a remark about how intimate the show was compared to the big venue last time when he played here in Vancouver with Passion Pit (yes, I was there too), then he proceeded to instruct the audience that now was the time to put away your cameras, and if you're not here to dance, move to the back!

Mayer Hawthorne has a voice that will leave you spellbound, especially once you see him in person. He draws influence from all the great soul singers of the 60s and 70s, but it's all packaged in the slightly perplexing form of green eyes, pale skin, a sharp suit and some dorky Buddy Holly glasses. It's when he opens his mouth, you see that he's got style and he can charm a crowd with little effort. Hawthorne and his band looks like they timewarped here from the 70s to put the realness back into modern soul and funk music.

By the time he reached the last song, he had taught us a new dance and everyone in the room was exhausted. Nevertheless, the crowd gasped and panted for more, coaxing him back to give us a gracious triple encore. You can never have too much Mayer Hawthorne.

Mayer Hawthorne - Your Easy Lovin' Ain't Pleasin' Nothin' (YSI)
Mayer Hawthorne - Held the Hand (Daniel Johnston cover) (YSI)
Gordon Voidwell - Ivy League Circus (YSI)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 at Commodore Ballroom

“Close your eyes and imagine, if you will, the bastard son of the Misfits and Daft Punk. As gruesome as the act of conception may appear, the union would generate the most grandiose of offspring.” Normally I wouldn't copy and paste from the official artist bio, but I couldn't have said it any better.

I arrived early at the Commodore and had a delicious burger while the first DJ put on a smashing offering of dubstep, soulless like it should be. How many concert venues have food, right? Never mind good food! Congorock transitioned to his own fidget house sound, and by the time he was done the whole dancefloor was jumping. He was more than just a warmup; more like the icing on the cake for Bloody Beetroots fans who are probably all just as familiar with Congorock.

I didn't know what to expect from The Bloody Beetroots. I had only really listened to the album. Would they just transition into their set like most DJs, but with the interesting addition of the live drummer I had heard about? No. The music stopped and the lights dimmed, igniting the screams of the crowd until The Bloody Beetroots and their Death Crew 77 took the stage. And what an entrance.

The music began dramatically, lights flashing, and slowly built to a devastating climax. Of course, a climax implies that you have to come down from it shortly after. Not when you're dancing in front of a stage full of The Bloody Fucking Beetroots. I don't know how they do it, but their music peaks at the start of the first song and just keeps peaking.

The stage was manned by four masked men: one guitarist, one drummer, one synthesist and one DJ mixing it all live. People often put electronic music in a lower category because they think it can't be translated to a live show. Well, the Bloody Beetroots bloody well figured it out.

I haven't even described the actual sound of their music and I feel I've said enough. Tomorrow, November 6th, is part two of their double date with Vancouver, and the last stop in their North American tour. Then, with hardly a few days off, they start a massive European tour on November 10th in Paris.

The Bloody Beetroots - Butter (YSI)
The Bloody Beetroots - Awesome (feat. The Cool Kids) (YSI)

This video for “Cornelius” is another great way of describing a legendary night with The Bloody Beetroots.

Friday, November 5, 2010

You Say Party Films Big-Budget Video in India

Pardon the lack of postings lately; I'm still recovering from an legendary Halloween weekend of hijinks and tomfoolery.

You Say Party has just dropped their new video for “Lonely's Lunch”, filmed on location in India. It looks big-budget, like a mini action movie. Check it out.

Going to see The Bloody Beetroots tonight, so a concert review will be coming soon!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Groove Armada's Saint Saviour Going Solo Tonight!

Groove Armada recently announced the next phase of their career, saying farewell to their full band stage show. It's been a long road, from the early missteps of “I see you baby, shakin' that ass” to their breakthrough album with Richie Havens, up to the present with their last transcendent vocalist, Saint Saviour. Now that Groove Armada have finished their last-ever full band tour, Tom and Andy will have the time to work with Saint Saviour as a solo artist.

Saint Saviour began as Becky Jones, lead singer of an electro band from a few years back called The RGBs. The band shared management with Groove Armada, who took them on tour, and the rest is history.

Her first single debuted earlier this month, and it's a hell of a departure from the pop, electro and dance singles she has previously recorded. “Woman Scorned” is a scathing rock song that has put her high on my list of new artists to watch. The single is out now on iTunes and as a limited 7" vinyl. Here's the video:

It all begins tonight (Oct 23) as Saint Saviour plays her first solo show at Bush Hall in London. If that's anywhere near the place you call home, you can buy tickets for only £8.00 and see history in the making tonight!

Now that you've heard “Woman Scorned”, here's a banging remix to show you what it sounds like when you take Saint Saviour's new style back to her dance/house roots. Plus, I have included Becky's fantastic cover of Depeche Mode's “Enjoy the Silence”.

Saint Saviour - Woman Scorned (MOPP Bang Remix) (YSI)
Bonus: Saint Saviour - Enjoy the Silence (YSI)

Fun & Steel Train at The Media Club

Fun, one of Silence Killer's most-hyped bands since we were one of the first to write about them in early 2009, finally brought their show to Vancouver last night. We said they were “about to be New York's latest indie pop sensation” and they've come a lot further than that in the past year and a half. Last winter they toured with Jack's Mannequin, then in spring with Paramore and Relient K. Now they're on their first headlining tour, with 9 dates left in North America before they head to the UK for 9 dates with Paramore and B.o.B, then back home for 11 more dates starting in New York.

The show really began with the opening act, New Jersey indie rock band Steel Train. I had no idea who they were, but within a few songs, the audience was having so much fun, I thought they might upstage the headliners. As it turns out, Steel Train's frontman Jack Antonoff is also Fun's guitarist. Earlier, I was wondering why the DJ had been playing Yo Gabba Gabba's “Party In My Tummy!” and one of the roadies was wearing their t-shirt. It turns out, Steel Train wrote Yo Gabba Gabba's song “It's Fun to Dance”, which they played for us, pushing the crowd over the edge of insanity.

Fun finally took the stage while everyone was calming down, driving the crowd back into an uproar with the song that caught everyone's attention in the first place—“At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used to Be)”. I love when a band plays their best song first. Saving it for later makes you look less than confident in the rest of your music, whereas opening with your best jumpstarts the crowd's excitement, which usually lasts til the end.

Fun's lead singer, Nate Ruess, has an amusing habit of lengthening the interludes in their songs so he can banter on a bit and hype up the audience for the climax of the song. Later in their set, he mentioned his appallingly patchy excuse for a beard, which I had noticed earlier, giggling to myself. “It looks like cockroach legs, growing out of my face,” he quipped, “I feel like I'm in Iron & Wine, but I'm no better than Justin Bieber!”

My favourite part of going to concerts is watching a band with fantastic showmanship. Steel Train did a great job of that, but Fun really takes the cake. They were wild, crazy and entertaining, joking with each other between songs and timing all the breaks and pauses in their songs perfectly to keep the audience in rapt attention. Nate addressed their almost overuse of unexpected interludes near the end of the show, saying, “I'm the king of anticlimaxes.” An audience member quickly said something back, and Nate laughed and replied, “Yes, that is what she said.”

When Fun left the stage, the crowd was almost too exhausted to continue cheering, but we managed to earn a one-song encore, the teasingly dramatic opening song off their album, “Be Calm”. As already mentioned, Fun still has 18 North American dates with Steel Train and 11 UK dates left, so don't miss them! It's the most fun you could possibly hope to have with a band called Fun!

fun. - All the Pretty Girls (YSI)
Steel Train - Turnpike Ghost (YSI)

Previously on Silence Killer
Fun - Walking the Dog
Fun - At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used to Be)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Little Comets - The Isles

“In the B.R.I.T., I say British Isles! The streets are bleak, the kids are running wild.” Everything about this song and its video, good or bad, is a steadfast tribute to Great Britain. The video is remarkable in its ability to make every scene, even if it's just a melancholy face, look like it could have only come from Britain.

Little Comets are on tour in the UK right now, accompanying Darwin Deez, and “The Isles” single is out now on iTunes.

Little Comets - The Isles (Orchestral Version) (YSI)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Alain Johannes, Bringing Brilliance Back

Everyone knows how an electric guitar, a bass guitar and a drum kit go together. Alain Johannes' decades-long career has been intertwined with bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam. He has worked and played with artists like Chris Cornell, Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures. Maybe it's why his new album Spark is so unconventional. It's like he crafted a brilliant double-stringed cigar box guitar and then set off to reinvent rock and roll.

Track one, “Endless Eyes”, is an amalgamation of noise. He sings with frightening passion to his late wife, “It's killing me that I must go on living”, while the eerie sound of a theremin backs the cigar box guitar. Then track two, “Return to You”, changes the pace with a more jingly strumming, like a mandolinesque, and almost-cheery backup vocals.

“Endless Eyes” and “Return to You” are both free to download, so have a listen or three and then pick up the album. Spark is out now on Rekords Rekords and Mike Patton's Ipecac Recordings—always a boutique of hidden gems scraped off the floor of the American record biz.

Alain Johannes - Endless Eyes (YSI)
Alain Johannes - Return to You (YSI)

Barbra Streisand Can Do It Anyway That You Want It

Duck Sauce, better known as Armand Van Helden and A-Trak, are back with a brilliant followup to “aNYway”, one of the biggest club hits of 2009. Van Helden and A-Trak prove their pop prowess with their uncanny ability to turn anything into a catchy hook. Another tribute to New York, here's “Barbra Streisand”.

Duck Sauce - Barbra Streisand (YSI)

There's a ton of official and unofficial remixes of this already. This is the only one that tops the original.

Duck Sauce - Barbra Streisand (Manila Killa Edit) (YSI)

And here's the video, complete with a Streisand impersonator and some real celebs including Kanye West, Chromeo, Questlove and Pharrell. Watch this without getting it stuck in your head.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Miles Kane of The Last Shadow Puppets Announces Solo Album

Miles Kane, co-frontman of The Last Shadow Puppets is doing a solo project. His debut single was premiered last night by Radio 1's Zane Lowe as his Hottest Record In The World!

This is just fantastic. Love at first listen. Here's Miles Kane's smashing new single, “Inhaler”.


Pre-order the limited edition and numbered gatefold 7" single from from Townsend Records. Miles Kane will be appearing live in the UK in November, then in December as a special guest to The Courteeners.

One eskimO at Venue (Vancouver)

The stage is looking lonely. A set of motorcycle headlights are mounted on the bass drum, its beam piercing the fog. An assortment of cymbals are mounted on a rack behind the drum kits, like a memoir to drummers long forgotten.

Meet One eskimO. In early 2009, we discovered their now hit song “Kandi”, making me an instant fan. My love for them grew exponentially as I fell for song after song while they released various demo and previews of their (finally!) debut album, One eskimO.

I suppose they fall under the genre of shoegaze, which shows in the beauty and emotion of their songs, but it's at the mellow extreme of the genre. The archetypal electric guitar is changed for the wondrous sound of a shimmering acoustic. That, together with the unusual drum kit and Kristian Leontiou's stunning voice makes One eskimO exceptional.

They started with a triple punch of three favourites: “Hometime”—one of their first success, “Astronauts”—newer song and “Givin' Up”—popularised among clubgoers by Don Diablo. The crowd was small, especially with Broken Social Scene playing across the street, and the set was intimate. A few danced, while most of the audience just stared in awe, singing along with a surprising number of songs. Throughout the set, one guy kept yelling “Amazing!!!”, which got a bit annoying; I could see “Amazing” on the set list—last song. Nearing the end of their set, they played “Kandi”, extending the song so we could all sing it longer with them. They finished with “Amazing”, which honoured its title, then left the stage, only to return for the obligatory two-song encore. The encore was great, except for Miss Inappropriate Clapping and Screaming, who showed up for the encore to interrupt every 15 seconds. Lucky she didn't find her way to the front any sooner.

One eskimO's self-titled debut is out now on Shangri-La. They still have 20 more North American tour dates in the next several weeks. DO NOT MISS. Here are some MP3s and music vids, if you aren't already convinced.

One eskimO - Hometime (YSI)
BONUS: One eskimO - Givin' Up (Don Diablo Remix) (YSI)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

La Roux's 2nd 'In For The Kill' Video, Kanye West Remix

Welcome to La Roux's second “In For The Kill” video, featuring more velvet vanity and less 80s driving down the highway at night with bad-ass sunglasses.

It's been 20 months since the first “In For The Kill” video dropped, so to add more buzz, the new video comes together with a brand new remix featuring Kanye West. The video and the Kanye West remix both feature brand new vocals by La Roux's Elly Jackson.

In For The Kill Video #2

In For The Kill Video #1

La Roux - In For The Kill (Remix) (feat. Kanye West) (YSI)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

VIDEO: DJ Fresh vs Sigma - Lassitude

From DJ Fresh's new album Kryptonite, here's a drum and bass collaboration with Sigma, fused with house vocals. The music video is pretty sick, but the song definitely stands on its own.

And here's a bonus MP3 of Jakwob's dubstep remix.

DJ Fresh vs Sigma - Lassitude (Jakwob Remix) (zshare) (YSI)

VIDEO: Burns & Fred Falke - Y.S.L.M. (You Stopped Loving Me)

Burns and Fred Falke present the most adorable music video of 2010. This catchy club track is from Burns new mix album, This Is Burns 001: European Sex Music.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

VIDEO: Le retour de Yelle

The French electro popstar returns, backed by a thousand celebrities in her new video. The Hiltons (Paris & Perez) appear, as does Jacko and his monkey. Cats everywhere!

The single is out now on the numéro un French electro label, Kitsuné, and features this funky remix.

Yelle - La Musique (Lorenz Rhode Remix) (zshare) (YSI)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

VIDEO: The Count & Sinden featuring Bashy, New Gorillaz

Girls, club, slow-motion, rapper with wacky sunglasses. It starts off like a generic hip-hop video...

New Gorillaz single “Doncamatic (All Played Out)” is coming out next month, but this isn't from Plastic Beach. Good way to fuel rumours of another Gorillaz album (already?!)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Atari Teenage Riot at The Rickshaw (Vancouver)

Three long hours of listening to a string of DJs spinning glitchy drum and bass, though one of them kept throwing in some crazy remixes of 90s hits like Blur's “Song 2” and “What Is Love” by Haddaway. Finally, at 11pm, the lights dimmed and the theatre went quiet. A curious mix of onlookers watched the stage in anticipation—hardcore punks and college kids who grew out of 90s punk into 00s indie (or whatever the kids are listening to these days).

In 1992, Germany, Atari Teenage Riot was born, a terrifying new hybrid. They sprouted from the roots of anarchist hardcore punk and industrial drum and bass, both notorious among music's most aggressive countercultures, and defined a new genre: digital hardcore. Their political views—anarchist, anti-fascist and anti-Nazi—made them infamous in late-90s Germany. Their music and their live shows were surrounded by controversy and violence, getting them banned, censored and even arrested for a riotous anti-NATO protest. The band went their separate ways in 2000, but returned in early 2010 with new song, “Activate!” and a tour across Europe, Asia and North America.

A wave of feedback and noise began to ascend as a breakneck beat emerged. Finally, frontman and founder Alec Empire took the stage, behind Nic Endo, wearing her trademark white makeup with black Japanese characters over her face, and ATR's new MC CX KiDTRONiK. They began to shout the words to their new single “Hey! Activate! Hey! Activate! Hey! ARE YOU READY?!” The strobelights came on and the mass of bodies on the dancefloor went mental.

I spent the afternoon listening to this band, but nothing prepared me for the live intensity of Atari Teenage Riot's ear-scraping noise and mindsplitting beats. I love the feeling of discovering a new band, then just as I start to get into them, I get to see them live and they blow my mind, making an instant fan. It's happened to me three times in the past month (see Free Energy, The Drums and School of Seven Bells).

After the show, I was talking to a friend I ran into during the show. He was waiting with his friends to meet the band, one of his friends being none other than punk legend, Mr. Chi Pig of SNFU. Legends among legends. What a night.

Atari Teenage Riot: you are obscenely loud, your music is pure thump-smash-grinding noise that could easily spark debates over what is “music”, and for a band that has three DJ/vocalist/drum machinists and no actual band, your moshpit was mental. I loved when you came back for the encore and did three more songs, while throwing your equipment off the stage. You guys put on one hell of a show.

Tonight was the last night of the North American tour, as they're heading back to Europe for 12 dates in November. Don't miss them!

Atari Teenage Riot - Activate! (new single!)
Atari Teenage Riot - Destroy 2000 Years of Culture (zshare) (YSI) (1997 single)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Drums at The Biltmore (Vancouver)

I have seen so many great shows at the Biltmore since I moved to Vancouver a year ago—La Roux, The Very Best, Gang Gang Dance, Sondre Lerche, Owl City, School of Seven Bells—it's the best place to see everything that is underrated in the world of music. Afropop, dirty electro, shoegaze, psychedelic post-rock, all from one sweaty dancefloor.

Tonight's theme was surf rock, featuring The Drums co-headlining with Surfer Blood. This is not your typical Dick Dale-style fast, rolling guitar licks that go on and on in instrumental form. This is the new wave of surf pop (lolz), with vocals and more delicious reverby noise than ever before.

The Drums played first, to a sold-out, jumping crowd, a few of whom left without seeing Surfer Blood, commenting that The Drums should be the headliner. I should note that The Drums has one hell of a drummer. Good choice of name. The lights were almost all off during their set, but it worked magically; I could imagine watching them play on a beach under the sun, but only while it sets.

The band played on. Everyone who could see the not-high-enough stage danced. The singer commented, “If you haven't danced yet, don't worry; there's still time. You couldn't possibly look more foolish than we do.” Their music doesn't nod heads, it moves feet and breaks everyone into a dancing sweat. I heard the Biltmore got air conditioning—not true.

The Drums' self-titled album debut and their Summertime! EP are out now on Moshi Moshi.

The Drums - Let's Go Surfing (zshare) (YSI)
The Drums - I Felt Stupid (EP bonus track) (zshare) (YSI)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Introducing Dominique Young Unique

“I ain't representin' the projects, I'm makin' music to get the f**k out!” And so begins the barrage of sound that smashes your face when you press play on Dominique Young Unique. It's like Major Lazer or MIA, but with no repetition.

I was all set to see her last Friday at Vancouver's prime hip-hop venue, the Fortune Sound Club, but a friend from out of town showed up without warning, and the ensuing shenanigans of the night curbed all my attempts to catch the show. I hope she comes back soon.

Dominique is rising fast, having recently shared the stage with DMC (of Run DMC), Andrew WK, Doug E Fresh and The Cool Kids at this year's Jelly Pool Party in Brooklyn. Her music is raw, hitting fast and hard with breakneck electro beats on “Show My Ass” and slowing down to a leisurely dash in “The World Is Mine”. Dominique Young Unique's Domination mixtape is free to download from Art Jam Records and her Blaster EP is coming soon.

Dominique Young Unique - Show My Ass (zshare) (YSI)
Dominique Young Unique - The World Is Mine (zshare) (YSI)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Been a White Knuckle Ride, Jamiroquai

Jamiroquai, one of the UK's most prominent chart-topping acts, have spent the past eighteen years defying eras and turning the tables on pop music. They have spun out seven albums (greatest hits included) from disco and funk to jazz and soul, each one taking a #1, #2 or #3 spot on the charts. Jay Kay and his band are now preparing to release their seventh studio album, Rock Dust Light Star, which is slated for November 1, over five years since 2005's Dynamite.

The first teaser from the album is “White Knuckle Ride”, which starts as a solid disco track, but becomes massive once you hear the remixes, compliments of Monarchy, Penguin Prison and Seamus Haji. Jamiroquai's frontman Jay Kay lives by a few simple rules; one of them being, “if it doesn’t sound good with just a keyboard and a voice or a guitar and a voice, drop it.” And that's exactly how “White Knuckle Ride”, the first teaser from the album, starts as a stripped-down disco track but evolves into three elaborate remixes—compliments of Penguin Prison, Monarchy and Seamus Haji.

Monarchy twists the funk bassline into a synth-driven electro track. Penguin Prison adds even more disco to the track, making it irresistibly danceable and sprinkling his distinctive sound all over it. Seamus Haji draws back the disco reins and veers into his home territory, a smooth, entrancing house beat that builds into epic massiveness somewhere past the 4-minute mark.

Jamiroquai - White Knuckle Ride (Penguin Prison Remix) (zshare) (YSI)
Jamiroquai - White Knuckle Ride (Monarchy Remix) (zshare) (YSI)
Jamiroquai - White Knuckle Ride (Seamus Haji Remix) (zshare) (YSI)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

School of Seven Bells at The Biltmore (Vancouver)

The Biltmore again! This venue is becoming one of my favourite places in Vancouver. Incidentally, I saw School of Seven Bells here last year, too. They were a bit disappointing last time, but I don't think my taste was in the right place at the time.

School of Seven Bells, often shortened to SVIIB, is a three-piece shoegaze/dream pop band, fronted by identical twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza and backed by Benjamin Curtis of Secret Machines, who met the girls when they toured with Secret Machines in their previous band.

Starting the warm evening was Active Child, aka Pat Grossi, a two-man solo act from Los Angeles. He started his set with a few smooth ballads that were lost somewhere between new age synthpop and shoegaze. He played the harp beautifully for his first song, which distracted me for a few minutes from what I realised about three songs into the set—this man's tenor voice is divine. He doesn't force out his high notes and breathe heavily like a trained singer, but rather, he sings gracefully with a hauntingly beautiful voice. He was the perfect melancholy warmup to put me in the mood for School of Seven Bells.

I had only taken a few hours to listen to School of Seven Bells' new album, Disconnect from Desire, so most of what they played was only vaguely familiar. I felt like they could have had a stronger start, with the first few songs, but it's clear that they put more thought into how the songs themselves work together, rather than how the audience will react when they hear them. School of Seven Bells loves to share their music onstage, but their priority is music for the sake of making something beautiful, and I have to give them credit for that.

Nevertheless, the energy began to build, several songs into the set. Not to say that people were dancing. I think that all shoegaze bands should bring enough couches for their entire audience to sit back and close their eyes. Nobody dances or moves much.

“Joviann” was the song that signalled the slow rise towards a climax. One track along the way got stuck in my head; “Bye Bye Bye”, although it doesn't seem to be one of the more popular songs from the new album. Then they finished the set with all my picks, right in a row; “Windstorm”, ”I L U” and the smashing “My Cabal” from their debut album. I noticed, when they played “My Cabal”, that the song is very special to the girls, Alejandra and Claudia. Perhaps there is a meaningful backstory to the song, or perhaps they just adore the song as much as their fans do.

School of Seven Bells played the same small venue here that they did a year ago, but they may be destined for bigger things, if they want it. I, for one, would love to see them in a slightly bigger venue with a better light show to back them, even though The Biltmore was only half full (everyone was at Arcade Fire tonight).

School of Seven Bells - Windstorm (zshare) (YSI)
School of Seven Bells - Heart Is Strange (Active Child Remix) (zshare)

School of Seven Bells' new album Disconnect from Desire is available now on Vagrant Records. Active Child's Curtis Lane EP is out as well, and he has also just released a split 7" with School of Seven Bells, each remixing a song by the other.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Munk - La Musica

Munk, German DJ spinning Italo-pop, is making waves in the Euro dance scene, supported by the likes of Erol Alkan, Mark Ronson and Busy P. His new EP, Mondo Vagabondo, is out October 18th on Gomma. Here's a peek at the lead single, “La Musica”, and it's video.

“La Musica” is a funky Italian disco song that is minimal, weird and is stuck on repeat right now. It's so subtle that it probably would not have caught my attention if I hadn't watched the video first—so do that.

Munk - La Musica (YSI) (zshare)

The video is a seamless mash of modern and retro clips of people in clubs and at home, moving their feet to the music. Some of the best things in life happen amidst strobe lights and disco balls. I think I saw Brigitte Bardot a couple of times!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hurts - Happiness (Album Review)

Theo Hutchcraft. Adam Anderson. Dark suits. Slick, oiled hair. A transcendent voice backed by a monstrosity of synthetic sound. Everywhere they go, things happen in slow motion. I cannot begin to surmise whether they are time travelers or gods. We would never be able to tell the difference anyway.

Hurts' first public offering, Happiness, is the fastest-selling UK debut of 2010. They embark on a sold-out UK tour in a few days, followed by Europe. They have already upgraded a few venues, and more are sure to follow.

Theo and Adam are here, if anything, to signal the end of the 80s revival. Not because anyone killed it, but because no one could ever best them at this. This isn't really the end though - it's just the point where things change from 80s revival to second wave synthpop and...whatever we decide to call the new wave of new wave.

Now, I'm still fairly new to writing reviews, but I have learned that there are two ways I can go from here - I can tell you more about the music, in far more spoiling words than you care to read, or I can spend paragraph after paragraph comparing them to bands you have never heard of. Neither direction will be of much use to anyone besides another music critic, so I'll try something new.
I heard a new sound.
It was like a moonlit night,
Blinded by stormclouds.

It hurts to listen.
We're all illuminated,
Burning from inside.

The smokescreen rises,
Melancholy eyes concealed,
Yet I hear his voice.

I am not done, yet.
Leave me with the medicine.
Don't you understand?

Leave it unspoken.
I will never change your mind.
Take me now, safely.

Nothing happens once.
But it's over, much too soon.
Press play to repeat.
I literally just went with the first random idea that came to mind after I wrote “so I'll try something new”. So there it is—a series of haikus, expressing what I see and hear when I close my eyes and listen to Hurts' unimaginably perfect album.

Hurts - Better Than Love (zshare) (YSI)
Hurts - Wonderful Life (zshare) (YSI)

Hurts - Illuminated (Live music video)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gonzales and the Ivory Tower

Like a mad scientist, cackling in the darkness as he watches his latest creation come to life, Gonzales has reanimated himself with yet another masterpiece of experimental piano pop.

Ivory Tower is solid warning that there are no bounds to the creative eccentricity of Chilly Gonzales. The album will soon be accompanied by a feature-length indie film of the same name, starring Gonzales alongside his longtime collaborators—Peaches, Tiga and Feist.

The album is out now on Gentle Threat and the film is set for theatrical release this fall. Here's a sneak preview of both the album and the film...

Gonzales - I Am Europe (zshare) (YSI)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Free Energy at The Biltmore (Vancouver)

I arrived at 9:30 last night, just in time for the show to start. I feel sorry for anyone who came for the door time of 8pm, because the show didn't actually start til almost 11pm.

The crowd was slowly growing in size and in boredom up to that point, but within three songs, Free Energy had the whole mob of sweatered and flannel-clad indie kids moving to their nothing-but-upbeat tunes. Lead singer Paul Sprangers quickly noted several hot babes wearing moustaches at the front of the crowd.

A few songs in, someone at the front shouted something about the guitarist ripping off The Ramones. Paul quickly shot back, "and Springsteen too!" Then it dawned on me why I like this band so much. I like to say that I'm not into classic rock because all the overplayed songs annoy me, but in truth, I love finding the gems among the lesser-known tunes of Billy Joel, the Stones, Rod Stewart, even The Beatles. Free Energy is a chart-topping 70s rock band, singing teenage anthems in an alternate universe. Fortunately for us, they have crossed over through time and space to our present day.

Later in the set, my mind began to wander, but snapped back when a song ended and Paul mentioned he was thirsty. Someone asked him what he wanted and he said "any local brew that's good." A few songs later, a fan named Chad walked on stage with a grin on his face and a tray of six pints, saying "Here's some local beer, guys!" Paul pointed the mic in his direction and Chad said, "I just wanted to say, you guys made my Sasquatch [Festival], and you weren't even there!" Paul looked confused and everyone laughed until they began the next song.

The band continued to play and came to a song, I think it's called "Bad Stuff", that showed off their less cheerful and more dramatic side. The guitarists broke into a slow, grinding solo after the bridge—the kind that makes you close your eyes and drift off into the distortion field.

More silly stage antics—a power cord suddenly falls from the ceiling right in front of Paul, and he quips, "This place feels like it's run by young people. Like the cast of The Goonies. There's no man." He's probably right, but maybe it's why we all love going to The Biltmore to see a band we don't know but have heard good things about.

Free Energy - Bang Pop[zshare][YSI]
Free Energy - Free Energy[zshare][YSI]
Previously reviewed: Free Energy - Dream City

Check out Free Energy on their US tour from now til the end of the month. Their LCD Soundsystem-produced debut Stuck On Nothing is out now on DFA.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Naked & Famous

Do you have a friend who stops midsentence whenever MGMT's “Time to Pretend” comes on, and starts jumping around and singing like he's trying to start a moshpit at the supermarket? Introduce him to this song.

New Zealand's own The Naked & Famous made their debut in June with “Young Blood”, becoming the first New Zealand band in 3 years to have a #1 single at home. Look for their album Passive Me, Aggressive You on September 6.

The Naked & Famous - Young Blood (zshare) (YSI)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Five Songs You Overlooked This Summer

Yes, we're back! It's been a year in Vancouver and we're overdue for some concert reviews, but first, here's what you missed this summer.

5The Legendary Tigerman – Light Me Up Twice (zshare) (YSI)
The Portuguese one-man-band is joined by Cláudia Efe in a sexy blues duet.
"God is everywhere—under a woman's skirt and inside a man's pants."

4Alabama 3 – Jacqueline (zshare) (YSI)
The British acid house rockers are back with a wild west tune about Jaqueline, a down-and-dirty cowgirl out on the prowl.

3Professor Green – Just Be Good to Green (Camo & Krooked Remix) (zshare) (YSI)
Joined by Lily Allen, East London rapper Prof. Green drops his massive second single of 2010. The drum and bass remix by Camo & Krooked tops the original beat by a London mile.

2Frank Black – I Heard Ramona Sing (zshare) (YSI)
Pixies' frontman Frank Black delivers his signatory chord progressions from hell, in a rock and roll tribute to The Ramones.
"I hope if someone retires, they pull another Menudo."
(Before he was livin' la vida loca, Ricky Martin was a Menudo—Puerto Rican boyband infamous for their frequent lineup changes.)

1Cee-Lo Green – No One's Gonna Love You (zshare) (YSI)
Frontman of Gnarls Barkley and one of hip-hop's most charismatic vocalists, Cee-Lo Green returns to his solo career with this December with The Lady Killer. His cover of the Band of Horses breakup song has been overshadowed by his smash hit "Fuck You" this week, but I have a feeling "No One's Gonna Love You" is going to stay in my playlist a lot longer. Check out the music video, featuring a real storyline! Oh and it's definitely NSFW.