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Canadian Music Week is coming!

Most Canadian musicians don’t become household names until they’ve achieved mainstream success first, in the States or Overseas, but that’s not indicative of a shortage in existing talent. Musicians just need an outlet to show what they’re capable of, a venue and an audience to listen. That’s what Canadian Music Week is all about.  If you realize that you don’t know much about Canadian music and you’re lucky enough to live in Toronto, March 21-25, 2012 is the perfect time to go out and see what the Toronto music scene has to offer. Canadian Music week is quickly approaching and it’s generating a lot of excitement for good reason.

CMW means a diverse selection of live music, awards shows, comedy and films. There’s so much to do and see that it’s never too early to start planning which events you want to attend. After all tickets go fast and shows will sell out.  So make sure you don’t miss out on the chance to go out and enjoy some homegrown musical talent. Seriously there are so many bands, (Canadian as well as International) that are worth seeing, and they’re all performing at local venues with intimate settings.

Headliners include the Sheepdogs, Dragonette, Temper Trap, Treble Charger, the Trews, Andy C and Nneka amongst 150 other musicians who will be performing across 60 venues throughout Toronto.   Tickets may be purchased individually or as part of a 5 day wristband package for 75$ through Ticketmaster or Rotate This and Soundscapes. Performances can be caught at The Fairmont Royal York, The Hoxton, Lee’s Palace, Massey Hall and various other locations that will feature an impressive selection of Canada’s freshest musical talent. Which is why it’s a good strategy to plan ahead and avoid disappointment before shows are sold out, as is the case with the return of I Mother Earth.  For all of you who used to be obsessed with popular hits like, ‘One more astronaut’ and ‘Another Sunday’ and would go party at Tattoo Rock Parlour just to catch a glimpse of Edwin, this was your chance to see him perform live again. Other significant bands reuniting for the week’s events include iconic Canadian pop-punk group, Treble Charger widely known for hits like ‘American Psycho’ and ‘Brand new low’ along with 90s Indie-rock group, The Inbreds.

Amongst the most exciting features of CMV are Bassweek and the SiriusXM 2012 Indie Awards. Bassweek will be featuring legendary drum and bass DJ, Andy C at The Guvernment on Friday March 23, and Hospitality featuring Netsky, High Contrast, and Camo & Crooked at Kool Haus on Saturday, March 24. So if you’re feeling the whole Dubstep/D&B culture you’ll want to ensure you experience at least one of these nights. The Indies will be held Saturday March 24 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel where you can witness Treble Charger’s induction into the SiriusXM Indies Hall of fame, and watch performances by breakthrough artists like The Sheepdogs, Dan Mangan and Young Empires.

Whether it’s indie-rock, drum and bass, blues, punk, alternative or folk that you’re into, there couldn’t be a better time to find out what makes Canadian music so remarkable.

To discover more about events, visit


Lights – Siberia Review

I was more than pleasantly surprised upon listening to Canadian singer-songwriter Lights’ sophomore album Siberia.  I never really considered myself a fan of the 24 year-old, synth-pop star until I heard this album.  Lights inclination for experimentation has led to vast improvement since her 2009 debut album, The Listening.

Siberia starts off with her traditional synth-pop style but grows harder and edgier right into the second track “Where the fence is low.” It quickly becomes evident that Lights Poxleitner has decided to go with a heavier dubstep-influenced album this time around.  Which suits her angelic voice perfectly.  Her vocals seem effortless and provide a nice contrast to the distortion of the dubstep sound. Thus making the genre tolerable for those who reject the controversial genre as meaningless noise. She also changes up her sound with the inclusion of hip hop, creating an unpredictable pop album that is quite different than the ordinary mainstream fare served up, non-stop daily on the radio.  Any electro enthusiast will be able to appreciate the direction Lights has decided to take with her second studio album.

This album sounds a little dirtier, and a little grimier than The Listening.  Most likely due to heavier beats and the collaborative efforts from Canadian hip-hop artist Shad and electronic band, Holy Fuck providing drum production and synths. You can expect an upbeat, feel good tone for most of this album but there are some surprises with a rap here and there and some chilled out numbers like “Cactus in the Valley” where Lights slows it down with a moving electro-ballad. Vocally, Lights Poxleitner seems perfectly suited for the dubstep genre, her voice is soft yet strong and capable of conjuring whatever emotion she wishes to express. Popular tracks like “Toes” and “Banner” will reassure her earliest fans that Lights has not abandoned her pop beginnings while tracks like “Flux and Flow” and “Everybody breaks a glass” will entice new listeners that crave something a little more than synth-happy pop.

Her debut album established Lights as the 2009 Juno award winner for Best new artist and gained her respect as a self-made musician.  So it comes as no surprise that Siberia has also landed her a 2012 Juno nomination for Pop album of the year.   It’s clear she deserves the recognition and respect.

Best tracks – “Where the fence is low,” “Timing is everything,” “Everybody breaks a glass,” and “Flux and Flow.”

Somebody that I want to know

Wally. Walter. Wouter. Gotye.

By whichever name you choose to refer to him by, he is the voice behind the song that seems to resonate with everyone who hears it.  Somebody that I used to know is an internationally successful single that even celebs like Ashton Kutcher and Lily Allen have been tweeting about.

Gotye is the stage name for Wouter De Backer. A Belgian born Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.  For those of you wondering how he came up with the title Gotye, you should know that Wouter in french translates to Gaultier.  Which happens to be an old pet name his mother affectionately called him, and so Gaultier became Gotye and three albums are the result of his work.  He is also a part of The Basics, an Australian indie/rock group he continues to perform with currently.

His first two albums Boardface (2001-2004) and Like Drawing Blood (2006-2009) both incorporated sampling and experimental sound. His voice has been likened to Sting and Seal and his sound has been compared to Bon Iver but there’s no point in trying to compare him to anyone else, because there really is no one quite like Gotye.  He manages to combine heartfelt songwriting and earnest angst and balladeering with soft rock, alt-pop and frenzied experimentation.

His latest album Making Mirrors came in at number one on the ARIA Australian album chart, making Gotye the first Australian act to simultaneously hold both the number one single and album since Silverchair who achieved the same feat in 2007.  His albums never seem to fit within the current mold of the pop world, they seem a little more theatrical, majestic, eclectic, cathartic as well as haunting all at once.  Maintaining some sort of balance seems next to impossible but Gotye manages to pull it off, which is something to be thankful for since we all crave something truly different once in awhile.

Tracks to check out – Heart’s a Mess, Save Me, Eyes Wide Open, Somebody that I used to Know, Dig your own hole


Born to Survive – Lana Del Rey

Don’t believe the hype.  Or all the negativity.  People seem to either love or hate Lana Del Rey, there is no in between.  Which is perplexing since her album has not even been officially released yet.  However due to all the media buzz and her uninspiring performance on Saturday Night Live recently, everyone who knows of her existence has either condemned her or embraced her.

Known in the past as Lizzie Grant, people can’t help but question all the sudden attention she has been receiving.  Her coy demeanour in interviews and awkward SNL debut performance brought on a wave of backlash and harsh criticism revolving around the authenticity of her lips and the manufactured image of a Lolita, who ‘must’ be micro-managed to be successful. When questioned about whether she was excited about performing on SNL, Lana replied “Yeah … I’m excited if it goes well. If it doesn’t, I’m gonna kill myself! But yeah, what an honor. And who knows why, but it’s really nice for me.”

Considering how everyone refers to that performance to argue that Lana is an undeserving indie chanteuse, let’s hope she does not wind up in a hospital. For someone who claims to be an introvert all the harsh words must be hard to bear.  Not everyone who can sing was meant to be a performer and people should keep that in mind while listening to Video Games.  It’s a great song to listen to, full of nostalgia and detached loneliness but as a performance piece it can be problematic. Perhaps Lana was stiff and nervous during her performance January 15 on Saturday Night Live, but would we really have preferred her to prance around on stage? Or grind with some back-up dancers to a dubstep remix?

The album is scheduled for release on Jan 30, 2012.  So I’ve been passing the time listening to singles that were released last Summer.  My fascination began as soon as I heard her husky voice singing ‘video games’.  As I watched the video I was entranced by her full pout, fake nails and sultry voice.  The old Hollywood video clips and perfect editing created a sentimental reflection on simpler times.  Originally named Elizabeth Banks, Del Rey is one of those people it’s difficult to tear your gaze away from.  A classic type of quirky beauty that has too many discussing the authenticity of her lips.  She claims surgery was never even an option since prior to all the attention she was living in a trailer barely able to afford cocoa puffs. But aside from her smoldering image, it is the voice that warrants all the attention.  Her languid, lazy drawl lures you in and has been compared to Nancy Sinatra and Velvet Underground’s Nico.

All the ridicule and accusations of Del Rey being nothing but a hyped up fabricated product of a label is  basically a load of cyber bullying.  No matter how badly she may have performed, her album is being received well by critics and she already has fans eagerly waiting to pick it up. She is a legitimately talented young woman with or without her Interscope contract, but only time will tell if this is just a passing infatuation or the beginning of a notable career for another ambitious dreamer who says she loves to sing but could live without all the fame and scrutiny.

Talk that Talk – Rihanna

When I think of Musical genius, Creative visionaries and Epic talent, Rihanna is not among the first that spring to mind.  But she has always been a guilty pleasure of mine.  If anything, she has always been a great entertainer and a major Pop diva and contemporary fashion icon. Yet despite my reluctance to embrace her generic lyrics her songs always seem to get stuck in my mind for days at a time, until I cave and wind up buying her latest album.

It wasn’t until her fourth studio album, Rated R that I felt compelled to buy her CD.  Perhaps it was because of her newly discovered strength and unapologetic nature that I embraced her Good Girl gone Bad image.  After all, who could resist humming along to Umbrella? Whether you were loving it or mocking it, that track became easily identifiable to all.  The added hip hop vibe was much better than the Caribbean princess sound she had going on before. With her rebellious new attitude she gained popularity but her songs were still pretty safe enough to market to pre-teens who loved her.  Rated R was the record that broke her original mold and became a worldwide success certified Platinum.  Even Rolling Stone stated that “Rihanna has transformed her sound and made one of the best pop records of the year.” After all that controversy with Chris Brown, she came out stronger, better and tougher than most people would have believed her capable of. Throughout the overly publicized disaster of her relationship with Brown, Rihanna earned the title of survivor instead of victim.

So gone was the little naïve girl that sang, Pon de replay and out came Disturbia, Hard, Rude boy and Te Amo all songs that were popular but made memorable by videos that gained tons of attention.  The videos were what caught everyone’s attention, images of Rihanna writhing around in barely anything and pouting seems to be the formula for a hit.   So when I purchased Talk that Talk! I was expecting the the usual hits and explosive singles she keeps releasing but then I realized this album is just a little more than i anticipaed. a little more raw, sexy and brash.  For the first time there’s a little Parental Advisory in the left hand corner and a warning of explicit content! Sweet! No more pretending to swear, that was just lame. if you’re going to be vulgar and crude, no need to half ass it.

So this is  first album where you will hear Rihanna singing bout how there “ain’t no other niggas like you” and how she wants to fuck you right now near the end of Birthday Cake.  She does this pretty deceptively with a fade out right after the bold statement into a cheesy love song about how we all need love.  I really thought it was a mistake when I first heard it, and then found it funny when it wasn’t.  Sort of like an instant apology.  Tracks worth listening to on repeat are, You Da One, Drunk on Love (thanks to her use of The XX’s intro), Roc Me Out and Watch and Learn.

Seems like Rihanna’s latest tattoo, Thug Life on her knuckles is to convince herself and fans of her street credibility, still she may be pushing it too far.  No porn video yet though, commendable isn’t it? No one can accuse her of being another Kardashian.

Never trust a Happy Song?

“Don’t leave me tongue tied

Don’t wave no Good bye”

If only Grouplove had released their debut album just a little earlier at the beginning of summer 2011 as opposed to the end in September, I really believe this band would have been basking in all the indie glory that Foster the People and MGMT have grown so quickly accustomed to.  Often compared to the Pixies, this L.A. based quintet has a familiar, alternative indie sound with just enough grit and sweetness to uplift even the darkest soul on a dreary winter day.

The story of how Grouplove came to be seems to get a lot of flak for being too perfect, too manufactured to be real.  But sometimes fate has a way of working in your favour and all the puzzle pieces just come together all at once.  Hannah Hooper first met Christian Zucconi in New York where both were becoming disillusioned with the opportunity for artists to break out.  So they went off to an artist’s commune in Crete to rediscover their goals, and happened to meet kindred spirits whom turned out to be their future band mates and self proclaimed soul mates. Sean Gadd, Andrew Wessen and Ryan Rabin came together with Zucconi  and Hooper over time as friends who shared a mutual respect and admiration for eachother’s talents.  That led to recording a song together, and then a few more and then Grouplove was established.  Their time spent in Greece turned out to be the most rewarding retreat of their lives.

After their release of a self titled EP, it was quite the anticipated wait before fans could finally hear a full length album.  Luckily for me, a friend of mine visiting from Australia told me about this band I just had to check out.  As soon as I heard Colours, I fell head over heels in love with their sound.  Undeniably poppy with just the right amount of edge I knew this was a band whose album would be worth buying off of Itunes.  The most popular tracks typically noted are the aforementioned Colours, opener Itchin on a Photograph, Tongue tied and Naked Kids.  But my personal favourites are Betty’s a bombshell, Love will save your soul and Slow.  These are amongst the slower tracks found on the album and you can’t really clap your hands along to them like the happier tracks…but that does not subtract from their charm.  The album can’t be all happiness and glee.

Especially since they are often labeled as saccharine and sweet. It seems that Grouplove is expected to prove there is more to their sound than whimsical lyrics and harmonious upbeat melodies.    However singing songs that are joyful and upbeat makes perfect sense for a group of struggling musicians who were friends first and then happened to form into a band.  Zucconi himself has said “It’s so interesting how I’d struggled for so long in New York, but once I relaxed and let go, stopped trying so hard, that everything just fell into my lap.” I guess now that the missing pieces of the puzzle have all fallen into place it’s no wonder why this band is constantly smiling.

DFA 1979 – Sent from Above!!

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How to describe a Death From Above 1979 live performance after 5 years of inactivity in one word??? Intense. Chaotic. Unbelievable.  If you had no intention of moshing, crowd-surfing, or leaving the Sound Academy without minor injury then you had NO business standing near the front of the huge crowd that had gathered to witness the reunion of heavy post-punk rock duo, Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler.

The release of their 2004 debut LP You’re A Woman I’m a Machine went Gold in Canada and it was this album plus a remixed and B-side album entitled Romance Bloody Romance, that earned them a cult following of those who loved punk rock and also those who just wanted to dance and get crazy.  The breakup of DFA in 2006 led to quite a substantial amount of disappointed fans.  So it was no surprise the announcement of their reunion caused  quite a stir amongst the hipster/indie crowd.

Although Sound Academy is not my favourite choice of venue, it was large enough to contain the anxious, eager and rowdy crowd that filled the place to capacity.  Bishop Morocco and The Bad Tits opened up the show, providing the audience with a tiny dose of what we were in for. The Merch table was quite busy with a large assortment of T-shirts with the quintessential, surrealistic logo of the guys and their classic elephant trunks.  If you ever wondered why, as I did, that they chose Elephant trunks to establish their image, it’s because “We wanted our band to be like an elephant in your living room,” states Jesse F. Keeler, the bass player and one half of DFA 1979.  Their sound can most definitely be likened to a herd of elephants crashing through your home when you turn that volume up.

Their visual aesthetic was just as poignant as their sound.  Sebastien showcased his bleached-blonde shaggy haircut that unfortunately obscured his face most of the show, as he head banged non-stop while decked out in white.  A stark contrast to Jesse, who struck an intimidating figure as a broad-shouldered giant with long black hair and a beard and clothes to match.  Dark and sinister paired with Goodness and light seemed like an accurate portrayal of a band whose dark beats are often accompanied by romantic imagery and longing.  DFA are as much evidence as you’ll ever need that Yes! opposites do attract!

For a band that once described themselves as “a punk band with pop aspirations” they have accomplished so much more than they had first thought they were capable of.  Their distinctive sound consists of only drums and bass, heavy distortion and manipulation, sexy, visceral beats that create a wall of noise that drowns out even your innermost thoughts. Hard to believe all of this is accomplished by two guys but that is what they do, and they do it incredibly well. The dirty bass lines, and thundering drumbeats combined with Grainger’s drawn out rock howling left me in awe.  The crowd was ecstatic and pulsating with energy, everyone was sweating and I had to remove myself from the crowd before I was blinded by an elbow.  This was not the kind of crowd that would tolerate any hand held recording or prolonged camera snapping.  It was aggressive, savage and reckless, primal yet enthralling.  The type of show where you just allow yourself to get swept away and party like it’s your last night on Earth or head home early.  No half-assing it allowed!!

Despite feeling intimidated and kind of old, I have to say it was an awesome show and one of the craziest I’ve ever been to.  And to think they’re doing it all again tonight.  That’s right, not only did DFA reunite, play countless festivals and award their hometown of Toronto with a crazy show, they decided to do it two nights in a row back to back. Unbelievable!

1979 is the year of my birth
1979 is the year of off the wall
1979 is the year of pleasure principle
1979 is the last year of the last cool decade
1979 is scratched into my arm
1979 is scratched into my arm
1979 is scratched into my fucking arm

~ Sebastien Grainger, Death from Above 1979