Earworms – 2015 Version

If you’re not a music fiend you probably don’t spend the day putting yourself through ridiculous mental contortions trying to remember THE SONG that is right at the edge of your conscious, but can’t quite grasp. That was my day yesterday trying to remember Rhye’s “Open”.

Not sure why it popped into my head half way through the morning, but it did and there was nothing to do but submit to the inevitable as the images and words ran on an endless loop but no name would shake out. Remembered I’d first seen it in an article on Elephant Journal, resulting in a significant amount of billable time spent riffling through old articles. Nada.  Had a vague recollection that the song had been featured on Grey’s Anatomy, had to hide my screen so no-one could see that I was spending the afternoon listening to multiple seasons of the soundtrack – all music cred instantly out the window.

If you love the super chill sound of Rhye, here’s a bit more about the Canadian – Danish male duo from NPR Music.  (that’s right, they are guys).  I’ll be listening to this today instead of Grey’s Anatomy.

What other singers grabbed my attention this year?  Top of the list has to be Jason Isbell, the current king of Americana and Drive-By Truckers alumnus.  This is a 2-for-1 deal for me, love DBT and Jason solo as well is a bonus. Astonishing songwriting and that Alabama twang – bring it on.

And here’s a treat – Ryan Adams and Jason live together from the Herbst in San Francisco.  They do need to do a record together – the song writing would be out of this world.

Who else has been getting too much airplay at my house this year?  Well there’s a bunch more, but one I’ve played over and over and over is Don Henley’s new record, Cass County.  As NPR puts it, “the Garths, Keiths and Kennys of the world stole country-rock, and now Don Henley’s stealing it back”. My love affair with the Eagles continues unabated and unashamed!

Talking about the record  being a return to his roots in Texas and the musical influences of his family and early years, Don quotes T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” 

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

That’s some of the great music that made my days brighter in 2015, can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.

 

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All Gone Beautifully Lukewarm

Every so often these days something comes along that catches my attention so fully that I have to post.   A couple of dozen words on a Facebook status doesn’t seem to do it justice, so I have to blog it.  Call it my addiction . ..I just can’t seem to stay away.  And it could be a lot worse.

Through a convoluted process of following a link posted by another musician on my FB feed I ended up tonight on an amazing music site called www.daytrotter.com.  At first I thought it was going to be just another semi-interesting pay for play deal.  Not so much; interesting, informative, creative and has great music.   The live sessions are beautifully recorded, with crystal clear sound.   And they are downloadable.  Then there is the art work by Johnny Cluney and written introduction by Sean Moeller.   I noodled around a few of the sessions until I came upon this one by Canadian singer Kathleen Edwards.

I know Kathleen Kathleen Edwards Official Site from her days opening for Blue Rodeo –  and her publicly tempestuous marriage to guitar player Colin Cripps.  Kathleen was never a shrinking violet – one of my stand-out memories is from a Blue Rodeo Malkin Bowl show she opened a few years ago, obviously the worse for wear and in debt for that to a bottle of Jack Daniels – she brought it on stage with her!   Her singing was great, but it was her . . .salty . . .words between songs that grabbed the attention of the mostly family and birkenstock crowd.   At the Commodore on a Saturday night you could cuss up a storm and no-one would care, in this crowd hearing the lovely songstress swearing like a trooper caused quite a sensation.   I can only imagine what brought Kathleen to that impasse – actually, come to think of it I really can.

Fast forward a few years and she is no longer married to Mr. Cripps and, in fact, no longer living in Canada.   Having fallen most happily in love with the singer Bon Iver she moved to Wisconsin and starting writing some BEAUTIFUL new songs.  And I don’t think I could add (or subtract) a single word from this introduction on Daytrotter.

Kathleen Edwards

Kathleen Edwards was seen on the Grammy Awards broadcast a couple weeks ago. She was smiling through her boyfriend’s acceptance speech. Those running the camera and cutting to that shot of the beaming and proud Canadian as she heard Eau Claire, Wisconsin mentioned on-stage, for the first time ever in a Grammy Awards ceremony, had no idea who she was, just a curly-haired woman from the Badger State they likely assumed. The thing is, after listening to Edwards’ new album, “Voyageur,” once and then not even being able to force yourself to stop listening, you have a feeling that if there’s any goodness in the world, she could be on that stage next February, a bit flustered, cheeks getting redder as she stands and running through an off-the-cuff monologue, clutching in her hands a statue.

“Voyageur” is that good and Edwards’ songwriting has never been better, crafting her a collection of songs that focus on folks who are smack in the middle between what they want and what they have. Sure, they are treated to the occasional piece of gratification, but there’s a lot more floundering and a lot more wondering than simple, contented living. They are people who have their thoughts pinned elsewhere sometimes, unable to be in the present, adrift in their own backroads. They are people who are not just thinking about how hard everything’s gotten, but they’re seeing it. They’re living in a personal world that’s run afoul, but hasn’t started to fully decompose yet. They’re grappling with situations that have all become the kind of lukewarm that make’s you recoil, but in an understated way, like you would upon a spoonful of soup that you weren’t aware had been left out in room temperatures for a few hours. You would just casually swallow the cold gulp and place the spoon down beside the bowl, reaching for the napkin to wipe your mouth and push yourself away from the table.

Edwards has become a true craftsman when it comes to the kinds of sentiments that fill you up with horrible sadness and sunken humanity. She writes stories that make you feel so alive because they’re reminding you – very vividly and with a touching passion – that a lot of times, good things come to an end and there’s no stronger feeling than the urge to not be the cause of anyone else’s hurt and heartache. Everyone on “Voyageur” sounds at least partially tortured by this idea.

There are all kinds – or maybe just one – of relationships that are dissolving in that slow and agonizing way that was actually way too rapidly as they were over before they started, or that’s what the heart’s saying. Edwards sings on “House of Empty Rooms,” “I’m far from perfect/I’m far from anything/But I swear that when we started I used to make you happy/But I don’t you/Not the way that I thought I did/Maybe you don’t know me and you don’t want to be the first to say it/I’ve been wondering what we’re gonna do/Yeah, I’ve been wondering what we’re gonna do with a house full of empty rooms.” It sounds so doomed and final. It sounds like it all was a total waste, as if nothing could be salvaged. Sometimes the only thing you have left is the door to walk out of.

Kathleen is playing at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver on April 6th.  I was undecided about going, but having listened to her new songs on the Daytrotter sessions,  I can’t wait, provided of course I am in town!
I couldn’t decide which of her new songs to post here – I loved so many of them.  So here are a couple of my fav’s.

The Magic of Music – a biochemical orchestra at work.

“Music triggers the same pleasure-reward system in the brain as food, sex and illicit drugs”

I came across a fascinating piece of research conducted by a team at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University and published in the journal Nature NeuroscienceThese brainy people undertook an experiment to try to find out exactly why people love music so much and what they discovered is fascinating to a music lover like me.   When we are listening to favourite pieces of music our brains are busy pushing out the neurotransmitter dopamine, which has long been known to generate feelings of pleasure when we eat or have sex – which are not only fun but key to survival. 

The volunteers for the experiment were given two types of brain scans while listening to their favourite music – PET (positron emission tomography) which showed if and where in the brain dopamine was being released and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) which shows oxygen usage in brain cells, indicating which areas of the brain were being stimulated as the pleasure kicked in.   As the volunteers listened to music they really liked, clear signs of pleasure showed on the scans, along with physical responses such as elevated heart rates and chills running up their spines.  There was almost no response when the volunteers listened to music they didn’t like or were indifferent to – the reaction was totally dependent on their individual tastes and preferences in music.  It didn’t matter if it was punk, classical or bagpipes, if they liked it they responded and if they didn’t there was no response. 

The researchers did not determine why music engages this  ancient system deep in the striatum, a primitive region deep in the brain, but by doing so music has a powerful, pleasurable effect on us.   Heroin and cocaine hijack the same system, which helps explain why they are so addictive, but if you get the same high from music you won’t be ruining your health and wasting away, you might actually be doing something good for yourself, which is great news for me,  a seriously addicted  music lover. 

A friend recently hijacked me into listening to “Knee Deep” that infectiously feel good song by Zac Brown and Jimmy Buffett.  And although I’m not usually a country fan, I am a closet Parrothead, having once spent a ridiculous night, while I was on a sailing trip in the Caribbean, in the bar on St Bart’s Jimmy wrote Cheeseburger in Paradise”about.  Only the timely intervention of the crew, dragging us back to the boat to sail with the tide, saved us from the less than tender attentions of the gendarmes (St Bart’s is a French protectorate) who were not impressed with our attempt to drink an amount of tequila we thought was necessary to honour Mr. Buffet and dance up and down the streets singing all the Buffet songs we could (barely) remember.  It was a memorable night  . . .but I have seriously digressed.  Or maybe not, my memories of that night are all tied up with my memories of Jimmy Buffett songs and when I hear him singing it always triggers the most enduring, happy memories of that incredible sailing trip.    So I  now find myself walking around, humming about being knee deep in paradise, and it’s a perfect example of the feel good high music can have in our lives.  Take a listen, it’s impossible not to smile and tap your toes – which explains the 5 million plus YouTube views – dopamine running rampant.

And all this scientific inquiry helps explain a lot about my fantastic weekend – my dopamine has been in overdrive with not one, but two, concerts with  my long time favourite band, Blue Rodeo.   The boys were in town for their annual show at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park and it was just amazing.    They have been playing Malkin Bowl (a lovely outdoor venue in the heart of the park) for about 9 years and in that time I’ve sat through some great weather, but also rain, cold and mud.  This weekend was exceptional September weather – so hot and sunny that even at night you didn’t need a jacket.   Outdoor concert bliss.   And the band played two of the best, most inspired shows I have ever seen  (and I’ve seen a lot . . .check out some of my California road trip blogs). 

One of the really interesting things about following a band over a long period of time is watching the changes they go through.  The ups and the downs, the times when you think (and fear) that they are breaking up and you won’t get to see them again, the long hiatus when it seems like forever since you saw them live and, of course, the amazing performances that remain in memory long after the night has come to a close.    

The shows this weekend saw a reformatted on-stage performance by the band. Greg Keelor has developed a hearing problem that makes it very painful for him to hear loud music, especially electric guitars and drums, so to accommodate that they had Greg doing the acoustic performances and brought in Chris Cripps, who plays with Jim Cuddy on his solo records, to play electric guitar with Jim.  It could have gone either way, but the result was awesome.  Jim and Chris rocked it out, while Greg was at his very, very best singing acoustic and a capella – “Dark Angel“was a standout.   It was great to see them all so energized and having so much fun on stage and that sort of infectious energy transmits out to the crowd.  And although Malkin Bowl seems to draw a fairly stalwart “sit on my butt all night” crowd, there are always a few of us singing and dancing fools that set up our own impromptu dance party on the side.  Made a few new friends, had a lot of fun and when they finally opened up the front of the stage for standing room we were centre stage in the front row.  Awesome.

My favourite performance both nights was Jim singing “After the Rain”, a song I have loved forever.   On Saturday night he talked about  the song being bittersweet for him because it was at Malkin Bowl while singing it several years ago he lost the high range in his voice.  I was at that show and remember it well and for quite some time after that Jim struggled with the falsetto he is famous for.     Fortunately, the wonders of modern surgery worked their magic and Jim is back belting out those high notes with a bravado and confidence that makes me happy all the way to my toes.  Here’s a live video shot handheld at a bar in Atlanta, GA a few years ago, no mixing, no autotune, just a really talented singer hitting it out of the park.

And as if my weekend hadn’t been fun enough – gotta run down to the Zeitgeist Media Festival to catch Gentlemen Prefer Blondes this afternoon.   So much fun, the weekends are just not long enough.   Keeping it real, always.

Roooaad Trip – We are Warped

If it’s August, that can only mean one thing . . .it’s time to get Warped on the West Coast.  The Vans Warped Tour  decided to skip Vancouver the last few years, so we do what any serious punk/hardcore music lover would do . . .road trip to the nearest venue, which just happens to be the fantastic Gorge amphitheatre in George, WA.

What’s Warped Tour you ask . . .one of the biggest and best punk/hardcore music tours in North America.   This huge caravan of 115 bands (no typo – that’s 115) goes on tour in July and August, hitting the biggest and best outdoor venues all across the US and Canada.  Not all bands play all dates, but you can expect to see 75+ bands on 8 stages on any given date.   Complete chaos you say . . .oh no.  Warped runs like a well oiled machine.  Every band on every stage has their alloted time slot.  If the time says you start at 2.25pm, you better be on stage playing at 2:25pm, not doing sound check (haha, there is no sound check) not being late, not selling merch – playing.  And when you hit your alloted 20 or 30 minutes – get off the stage.  No messing around – the next band is standing by, ready to go.    Screw it up more than once and you will find yourself unceremoniously kicked off the tour.  

If you only go to see big name bands in massive sound-sucking arenas with hideous sight lines, then this is probably not the event for you.  You may have heard of a few of the headliner bands – Paramore, Simple Plan, 3Oh!3, Sum 41 but for the rest these bands rarely play to more than a couple of thousand people – and that’s on a good day.  But if you love alternative music (and I don’t mean the alt country/folk rock kind)  and you love discovering new bands and new music, Warped is the bonanza we wait all year for.

Here are some of the bands I’m totally excited to see:

The Aggrolites – bring on some SoCal dirty reggae.  Saw them in February in Vancouver, can’t wait to see them again.

Falling in Reverse – a hardcore rock band from my fav city – fabulous Las Vegas.  Haven’t seen them before, but love the sound and the look.

Dance Gavin Dance – screamo/hardcore – but with Jonny Craig (who took a brief hiatus with Emarosa until that ended disastrously) singing, it’s bound to be an incredible show.  Yes that boy’s a mess, but damn, can he sing. 

Family Force Five – get yo’ crunk on boys and girls and “Get your Back off the Wall”  for one of my fav Warped bands, those glam boys from the duuurrty South.  Ok, this video makes me laugh every time, so I had to put it in as well. The comments below in YouTube are worth a read – hilarious.

Less Than Jake – some fun, fantastic pop/punk/ska.  Love these guys, they are just made to dance too.

August Burns Red – more metal/ hardcore.  Caught them on the AP/Nike Airwalk Tour in Vegas last year.  Might not be everyone’s taste, but they bring the sound and the energy.

The Black Pacific – talented former Pennywise lead singer Jim Lindberg with his new band.   Really, really good.  And for a gal who is sorely missing Bad Religion this year, I’ll take these guys as a substitute.  I’m super excited about seeing them, so they get the video. 

The wingchick and I will be off on Friday afternoon to make the 6 hour drive to the Gorge.  We will be armed with Sharpies and highlighters – you have to be ORGANIZED to see all the bands you want to see in one day, lots of sunscreen and some good shoes – this is not a day for the faint-of-heart or weak.  Oh yeah, and lots of black eyeliner and maybe some dress up clothes – it’s a punk show after all!!  And the best part – we are camping right at the Gorge this year.  We usually stay at the nearest motel – Ellensburg – which is a 45 minute drive away.  Making that drive at 11pm at night after a full day of Warping  kind of cuts into the fun factor.  So this year, since we have all our camping gear out, we are setting up camp right beside the caravan for a weekend of sun, fun and great punk  music.  Have to say . . .I’m loving my August.

Mega-Post: The Writers’ Top 7 Songs of 2011 (so far) (via )

These guys obviously listen to a lot of music. I don’t know if I agree with their choices, but they are interesting lists and not Top 40. Post Break Up Sex from The Vaccines – very droll Monkeys seem to feature prominently in the lists. . .wondering a bit about that . . .

Mega-Post: The Writers' Top 7 Songs of 2011 (so far) Every once in a while, we'll be doing some joint "Mega Posts" where all four of us list our favorites on one topic, in one post. In this first edition, we each individually list our favorite 7 songs from 2011 so far. In our lists below you will see songs from epic-concept-hardcore albums, debuts, returns to form, and one from a guy who can't seem to make up his mind about retiring (we're looking at you, Trent). Only one song made more than one of … Read More

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Fox Seeds names top three finalists

Here’s a quick follow up to my Local Music on Canada Day post  – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was announced Monday night as a Top 3 Finalists for Fox Seeds.  Check out their new songs here.  Congratulations guys, playing at the Commodore in August is going to be amazing.    We will be listening for your music on CFox.

Fox Seeds names top three finalists.

Fox Seeds Top 3 Finalists

Reposted from The Vancouver Sun fmarchand@vancouversun.com  Blog: vancouversun.com/sound

The three finalists in this year’s Fox Vancouver Seeds competition were revealed Monday evening.

Vancouver rock acts Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Head of the Herd and Louder Than Love are all headed to the final showcase in the competition, which will be held at the Commodore Ballroom Aug. 24 with guest headliners The Trews rounding out the bill.

All three bands have earned full airplay of their music on 99.3 The Fox and will be included on the 2011 Fox Vancouver Seeds compilation. 

The platinum award winner will receive a prize pack that includes $10,000 in equipment, recording of a five-song EP with award-winning producer Garth Richardson, a songwriting session with Our Lady Peace’s Raine Maida, a demo recording deal, management and agency consultation agreements and a six-week publicity campaign.

Former platinum award winners include Nickelback, Bif Naked, Matt Good, Default, Daniel Wesley and Faber Drive.

“Fox Vancouver Seeds is unlike any other contest,” said CFOX program director Chris (Dunner) Duncombe in a statement. “Fox Vancouver Seeds provides B.C. artists with everything they need to gain national exposure by connecting them with top agents, managers, producers and songwriters from the Canadian music industry who, as partners in the contest, become the support team for the winning act.”

Following winning last year’s competition, Vancouver rockers Stars of Boulevard were signed by the Agency Group’s Ralph James and secured management with Yeah Management in New York City. They have since shared the stage with Danko Jones, Godsmack, Steel Panther and Papa Roach, and have also worked with legendary producer Bob Ezrin. They are currently on tour in the U.S. with Buckcherry.