Friday, June 30, 2006

Oh, Canada...You Don't Look A Day Past 30.

I received the first of two summer burns CD's in the mail this week. I want to listen to it a little more before I give a full review, but so far it is really good. If features tons of UK artists that I had never heard of until now. I will go into more detail another time. This is the time to honour Canada as it celebrates its 139th birthday (July 1). As a present, the Harbourfront Centre is hosting three full days of concerts (The Dears, Jason Collett, The Refugee All Stars, etc...), movies (City of God, etc...), and events (kids zone, etc...). The best part is everything is completely free!!! The festivities start tomorrow with Jason Collett opening for The Dears. Needless to say I know where I plan to be tomorrow night.


Random Song 1: The New Pornographers - Letter From An Occupant


The Dears




After taking a year off to write and record the new album Gang of Losers, The Dears are ready to get back to business. Although it appears that the business model is in a state of change. Early word is that the band has moved away somewhat from their dark orchestral sound. I also read one report that said Dears have crafted a more upbeat album. This may have something to due with the fact that lead singer Murray Lightburn and keyboardist Natalia Yanchak welcomed their first child into the world last year. Still, don't think the Dears have gone soft on us just yet. New songs such as Fear Made The World Go Round and You And I Are A Gang Of Losers prove that The Dears have not lost a single beat. Of course, I am a huge Dears fan so my view might be a tad bias. Regardless Gang of Losers hits stores in August.

Dating is tough in general, but it seems worst when you are a 22 year-old drunken teddy bear. Where are the Care Bears when you need them? Oh don't act like you never watched the Care Bears when you were a kid! Anyways, here is Murray and Natalia sharing singing duties on "22 The Death Of All The Romance" from the No Cities Left album:




Random Song 2: Jim Guthrie - Hands In My Pocket


Jason Collett



It makes sense that Jason Collett is playing tomorrow, as his music is a perfect fit for the summer. Collett's style of folk music is great for the lazy summer days. Despite being known more for his work with Broken Social Scene, Collett has been making a name for himself with his solo albums. The most recent one, Idols of Exile, was released last year to critical acclaim. Although the album feature some of his fellow Scenester (Feist, Kevin Drew, and Emily Haines), they did not overshadow Collett for one minute. If you have never heard Collett's music before, I highly recommend you check out songs like "Fire" and "Hangover Days". If you are looking for good summer music you can't go wrong with Idols of Exile.


Want to know why cabin fever and politics don't mix? Look no further then "I'll Bring The Sun" from Idols of Exile:



Random Song 3: Arcade Fire - Laika


K'naan



Although not playing in Toronto this weekend, K'naan will be part of the Canada celebrations in Ottawa this year. A few months ago K'naan won a Juno (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) for best Rap Recording. Say what you will about the Juno's, but every now and then they do something right. I finally got around to picking up his Dusty Foot Philosopher album earlier this year and felt like a fool for waiting for so long. Born in Somalia, K'naan's music is a hybrid of traditional rap mixed with African storytelling. This is evident in songs like Soobax. Instead of focusing on "gangsta living" he discusses what life is like in war-torn countries. After talking about hospitals being shot at, and the senseless killing of civilians at militant road blocks, K'naan poses this simple question to all the gangster rappers: "What is hardcore?" He even goes as far as saying "If I rhymed about home and got descriptive/I would make 50 Cent look like Limp Bizkit". Truer words have never been spoken. It is a shame that K'naan is not a bigger name in hip-hop music. For more on K'naan check out his website.


Here is a brief clip from a live performance of "Smile" from The Dusty Foot Philosopher (sadly the audio quality is poor):




Ipod Workout Plan: K-os - Love Song from the Joyful Rebellion album

Black To The Future

Every once and a while I try to review pervious post to ensure the video links still work. Luckily YouTube currently has thousands of videos on their site. So it is fairly easy to find an alternate, and sometimes better, version of a particular clip (e.g. The Simpsons clip I post a few weeks back). So long story short, if you come across a video on this site that does not work, let me know and I will fix it accordingly.

The 2006 BET Awards aired earlier this week. Despite not being as strong as last year's show, there were still many pleasant surprises in my opinion:


Random song 1: Placebo - This Picture


T.I - King



Buy

Judging by the amount of times T.I. incorporates the word "know" into his songs (e.g. "U Don't Know Me", "What You Know", and "You Know Who"), one would assume that education was all T.I. talked about. As I mentioned before, southern rap has never really excited me. Yet I must give T.I. credit for putting on a great performance despite all the technical difficulties. Plus having boxing promoter Don King introduce T.I. (the self-proclaimed King of the South) was a stroke of genius. As for the King album, if I had not won a copy from the folks at EZ1 Production I would have probably skipped it altogether. Yet to be completely honest, the album actually isn't that bad. Decent enough to keep you interested for the most part. Just as long as you can get past the constant affirmations of T.I.'s "king" status.

Need a little colour in your life? Try dating models. Here is "Why You Wanna" from King




Random Song 2: The Diableros - No Weight


Ne-Yo



When Ne-Yo first came on the scene a earlier this year I quickly dismissed him as another Usher clone (similar to Chris Brown). After seeing his performance on the award show, I am inclined to admit I may have missed judged our Matrix loving friend. The man has actual talent. Unlike Usher, Ne-Yo cares more about lyrics than the dance steps. Not only does he write his own material, but he has also written smashes for many other artists. Ne-Yo may be a new face in the R&B world but he is a face you will be seeing for a longtime. I still stand by my Chris Brown assessment though (enjoy it now Chris, because your 15 minutes are almost up).

Are you "So Sick" of love songs? Well write a song about it. Here is a studio performance of Ne-Yo's debut smash from the In My Own Words album:





Random Song 3: The Streets - Don't Mug Yourself


Keyshia Cole



If Ne-Yo is the future king of R&B, as some would have you believe, would that make Keyshia Cole the future queen? Only time will tell I guess, but having your own reality show does speed up the process. Starting next week, BET will be premiering two new reality shows (the other features rapper DMX) that observe the hardships artists have in their personal lives. The problem is Keyshia Cole has always been rough around the edges. While the "thug" image works for hip hop, it does not have the same effect in R&B. I do not care how "street" you are, success in the R&B genre is purely governed by the music. Cole has a good voice but the ads for the show are not promoting that at all. If Cole expects to have a career similar to Mary J Blige, she really should be trying to promote more performances like the one on the BET awards. Still I guess we will have to wait until the show airs to see the direction it takes.

Here is "Love" from Keyshia's latest album The Way It Is:





IPod Workout Plan: Iggy Pop - Lust For Life. I just realized that it has been ages since I last watched the film Trainspotting:

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

It's All Gonna Break

After weeks of flirting with the idea, Pitchfork has finally embraced the video linking format. To usher in this new era, the site has posted their list of 100 Awesome Music Videos. Some of the videos you may recognize from my earlier posts but I digress. Although they omitted many great videos, I did discover some gems that I had never seen before (e.g. Bjork's video featuring a cat in a wife-beater vest, etc...). There has been a lot of concert talk in Toronto this week, here is why:

Random Song 1: Blackstarr - Definition


Bloc Party



Bloc Party are co-headlining the 3rd annual Olympic Island show this weekend with Broken Social Scene. The show is a one-day music festival held on the Toronto Island, which also features Feist, J Mascis, and Raising the Fawn. It has been a little over a year since the Bloc Party released their debut album, Silent Alarm, to critical acclaim. Their appeal is still going strong, which bodes well for the band as they are currently recording material for their follow-up album. Blatantly politically minded, Silent Alarm was a nice blend of art-punk, indie-pop, and a faint touch of R&B. The album featured tracks like Helicopter, and This Modern Love (my personal fave), which displayed the bands diversity. Let's hope they continue to expand on the next album.

“Banquet” featured on Silent Alarm




Random Song 2: Erykah Badu - On & On


Broken Social Scene



First off, it is almost impossible to find a picture that features all the members of this particular Social Scene. Even this Chart Magazine cover is missing a few people. This may be a result of the constantly expanding lineup. When I saw them perform two years ago, I counted 17 artists on stage at one point. Honestly, is there any musician in Toronto not affiliated with this band? Since the majority of the members have their own solo projects and/or bands; it makes recording and touring hard at times for the collective. Still, the group has managed to release three albums over the last few years. Including their sophomore breakthrough album You Forgot It In People which garnered worldwide attention. While their latest album, simply titled Broken Social Scene, is quite good it does not draw you in as quickly as YFIIP did. This album takes a few listens before its subtle charms start to appear. This is partly due to the fact that some of the lyrics on certain songs are indecipherable to the casual listener. Yet the more you hear the song, the clearer everything becomes. This is most evident when reviewing both Ibi Dreams of Pavement and Fire Eye'd Boy.

Keeping with the political theme here is "Cause=Time" from You Forgot It In People




Random Song 3: Final Fantasty - This Modern Love(Bloc Party cover)


Mariah Carey



The last bit of concert new has to do with Mariah Carey adding a second show at the ACC in August. I was a big fan of Mariah when she first started out. Oh the good old days, when she actually just wanted to be a singer. Then as the years progressed I had to part ways with Mariah. She started to go the Whitney Houston diva route and things went south. Oddly enough, the diva thing doesn’t seem to be helping Whitney much these days either. Though I saw the warning signs on Daydream, I loyally hung in there until the release of Butterfly. Then it was time to jump ship. Had I stuck around any longer, I would have been a victim of the Glitter debacle (so bad, I'm not even going to link it). Years later, Mariah is finally getting back to the basic...sort of. She still loves to flaunt what the doctors gave her, but at least she is making tolerable music again. To be honest I enjoyed several of the tracks on her The Emancipation of Mimi album. She is nowhere near her old self yet; but at least it is a step in the right direction.

Oh Mariah, what happen the days when you had a "Vision of Love"?:




Ipod Workout Plan: Fatboy Slim - Praise You from You've Come A Long Way, Baby

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"...and the home of the Flav"

After countless shuffling and reshuffling of songs, I finally finished my Summer Burn cd. I was not quite satisfied with the first version I burned; so I scraped a bunch of tracks and made some last minute editions. I am pleased with the revised final product, it will be intersting to see where in the world the cd ends up. Happy Father's Day.

Random Song 1: Lily Allen - LDN


Flava Flav



Season one of The Flava of Love has now ended in Canada; just in time for season two to start airing in the States. Yes, you read correctly, there will be a second season, as romance did not blossom between Flav and Hoopz. Apparently she cut off all ties once she became famous. That's right, she did the show for fame and not love! What were the odds of that happening? Some of you may want to take a minute to let this shocking development process. Since his rap days are long behind him, Flav has reinvented himself into the court jester of reality television. At the age of 47, it is funny to see Flava Flav essentially become everything that Public Enemy was against. Although to be fair Chuck D was the real brains behind that group, Flav was primarily the hype-man. Still you cannot help but reflect on the state of Flav and rap in general when listening to Fight the Power and Give it Up.

Despite being the dubbed "The Greatest Hype-man" in hip-hop, Flav did get a few chance to display his rap skill. Case in point "911 Is A Joke" from Fear of A Black Planet




Random Song 2: Earlimart - The Hidden Track (Live at KEXP)


Busta Rhymes



Longevity is not a word normally associated with hip-hop artists. Most careers seem to end after a few albums; the successful ones usually branch out into other things while they are still hot. It is hard to believe that Busta Rhymes has been making music for 15 years. While he has ventured into acting, he is by no means Will Smith (or Ice Cube for that matter). Hence why Busta has not given up his day job just yet. I fondly remember listening to Leader of the New School's Future Without A Past... album over and over on tape (yes tape). When Busta released his first solo album, The Coming, he proved that he was more than capable of handling the show on his own. Although he has released several solo and collaborative efforts to date, I think Busta was at his best on the When Disaster Strikes album. Having said that, for the first time in a long while I am actually looking forward to his latest offering The Big Bang. Based on the some of the songs I've heard so far, including Can't Hold A Torch and "Touch It"(diplo remix featured), it sounds like Busta has found that creative spark that we haven't heard since the mid-nineties.

Working on finding the "clean version" of the latest single, "I Love My B****", off the Big Bang album. Until here is the classic video for "Woo ha" from The Coming




For those who have a vague memory of 1991, always remember that "I know you, and you know me." Here is "Sobb Story" from The Leaders of the New School's Future Without A Past album:




Random Song 3: The Go! Team - Bottle Rocket (Live at KEXP)


Ipod Workout Plan: Madonna - Get Together from her Confessons on a Dance Floor album:

Saturday, June 10, 2006

La Copa De La Vida

World Cup fever is here! As usual I'll be supporting Argentina and the resident Caribbean team (this year it's Trinidad & Tobago). This most likely won't change until either Canada or Barbados has a World Cup level team. Yep, I don't see that happening anytime soon either. Regardless, there have been some fantastic matches so far.


Random Song 1: Band of Horses - The Funeral


The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Solider


buy

I mentioned The Raconteurs in an earlier post but ended up going on a Brendan Benson rant. Having listened to the full album several times, I must say it is actually quiet good. It is not the "great" album most people were expecting, but it is also not as disappointing as some critics have made it out to be. It’s just an entertaining album from a new band still trying to find their way. The albums has three distinctive parts: 1) The Jack White inspired tunes, 2) The Brendan Benson inspired songs, and 3) The joint venture. Yet the most interesting thing about this album is hearing the influence both singers have on each other. Brendan's songs have a harder edge, while Jack's has a more pop-melodic feel. This is most apparent in songs like Broken Boy Soldier, Store Bought Bones, and "Hands".

For all who wonder why I don't trust people in fake moustaches? Look no further than the second video version of "Steady As She Goes":



As a bonus, here is a live performance of my current favorite song off the album, "Yellow Sun":




Random Song 2: Nelly Furtado - Crazy (Gnarls Barkley Cover)


The Fiery Furnaces -Bitter Tea


Buy

After listening to their latest album Bitter Tea, I am convinced that The Fiery Furnaces suffer from musical Attention Deficit Disorder. Normally I would be in favor of going on a typical, albeit peculiar, journey with the Furnaces. Yet for some reason Bitter Tea, which I acquired recently, took a long (and I mean long) time to grow on me. I would even go as far as recommending their song within a song album Blueberry Boat, before recommending this album. Despite tracks that harking back to their more accessible albums (Gallowsbird’s Bark and EP), Bitter Tea embraces the more experimental feel of Blueberry Boat. Unfortunately the results are not as satisfying as you would have expected. Yes, there are moments of Fiery goodness such as Teach Me Sweetheart and Police Sweater Blood Vow (acoustic KEXP versions linked for both). Yet those moments are forgotten once you are forced to endure songs like “Whistle Rhapsody”, which features moments of prolonged sonic distortion. I recommend listening to the Furnaces earlier work before attempting this album.


Random Song 3: The Futureheads - First Day


Immaculate Machine - Ones and Zeros


Buy

With the release of their second album last year, Immaculate Machine are positioning themselves for big things in the future. Hailing from Vancouver, Immaculate’s sound is very indie-pop. While Ones and Zeros is not as strong of an album as it could have been. There are still several tracks that will get stuck in you head for days. Most notably songs such as Broken Ship and Phone Number. Immaculate Machine are currently touring Canada this month, and the US in July. For tour dates check out the band's myspace page.

Keeping with the theme of sports and competition, here is the video for "Broken Ship."


IPod Workout Plan (World Cup Edition): No song today, just a classic clip for all the World Cup fans out there. Viva la World Cup:

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Let's Hug It Out"*

Have you ever received a mixed tape/cd from a friend? Ever falling in love with a song/artist that you had never heard up until that point? Welcome to Summer Burn a worldwide sharing of mix cds. I discovered Summer Burn a few weeks ago via a post on The Sho'Nuff (Radiohead fans should see Keith's latest post asap), yet I did not get around to signing up until recently. The premise is simple: create your perfect summer mix cd, make two copies, mail both copies to worldly addresses provided, wait, and receive cds from two other summer burn members. The hardest part of the whole process is choosing what you are going to put on the mix. Similar to this blog, my cd is probably going to be one odd mix of genres (my apologies to whomever ends up getting it).


Random Song 1: Billie Holiday - Travlin' Light


Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up I Am Dreaming



Buy

Sunset Rubdown is singer/songwriter Spencer Krug's latest side project. Although still relatively unknown, Krug received a lot of attention last year for his work on the Wolf Parade album. Although Sunset Rubdown should be judged on their own merits, I think your enjoyment of this album will depend on how much you like Krug's songs for Wolf Parade. A lot of the themes are similar, yet the album is not as upbeat/fast paced. If you have never heard of Wolf Parade before, then Sunset Rubdown will definitely be a unique listing experience. Songs like the haunting Stadiums and Shrines II, and the bouncy They Took a Vote and Said No are good examples of what you will find on the album. Overall this is a strong debut album from the group, though I wish the second half of the album was a good as the first half. I found the latter part of the album lagged a bit. It would have also been nice if the dream-like song A Day in the Graveyard II (from their EP) had made the cut.

I'm not going to lie; this "fan made" video for "Us Ones in Between" makes no sense whatsoever. Regardless the song is nice:




Random Song 2: Thom Yorke - The Eraser


Cadence Weapon - Breaking Kayfabe


Buy

I was going to hold off talking about this album until the Stanely Cup playoffs were over. Then it dawned on me that they are still playing hockey in June!!! Seriously, Mr. Bettman cut down the regular season a few games will ya. Hailing from Edmonton (a.k.a. The City of Champions), 19 year-old Rollie "Cadence Weapon" Pemberton has already lived a rather interesting life. He started off writing music reviews for online sites like Pitchfork before pursuing his own rap career. Lyrically speaking Rollie is a very talented MC, but what distinguishes him apart from other artists are his beats. Pemberton favors electronic sounds than the more popular Lil' Jon (yay, okay) crunk-style bass. This has helped Cadence to slowly built a name for himself as a producer (working on remixes for artist like Lady Sovereign, etc...). Breaking Kayfabe, his debut LP, proudly displays both his special brand of electro rap and his Canadian roots. This is evident in tracks like Oliver Square and Sharks. Despite a few instances where Cadence relies a little to heavily on the electronics, Breaking Kayfabe is a promising debut from an gifted individual. For more information on Cadence Weapon check out his blog RazorBlade Runner

The lead off single "Black Hand" from Breaking Kayfabe:




Random Song 3: The White Stripes - We're Going To Be Friends


Pete Rock & CL Smoot - The Main Ingredient


Buy

I was originally planning to post a mini review of the new Raconteurs album as it finally arrived in the mail last week. This all changed due to a recent trip to the mall. While on a mission to pick up the Venture Bros DVD; I came across an album from a group I absolutely loved in the early 90's. Pete Rock & CL Smooth are high on my list of the most influential hip-hop artist in the 90s (along with A Tribe Called Quest, and a few others). So when I saw that the store had their The Main Ingredient LP for a mere $10, purchasing it was a no-brainer. Released in 1994, The Main Ingredient had the tough task of following up the duo's superb Mecca and the Soul Brother album (a must have for any music lover). Needless to say, they succeeded with flying colours. 12 years later and both albums still hold up extremely well. So long story short, I will have my mini review of the Raconteurs debut album in my next post.

Now for a trip down memory lane, here is "I've Gotta Love" from The Main Ingredient:




And the song that I have sung more times than the national anthem (I kid you not), the fantastic "They Reminise Over You (T.R.O.Y)” from Mecca and the Soul Brother:



IPod Workout Plan: The Von Bondies - C'mon C'mon from Pawn Shoppe Heart (although most will recognize the song from Denis Leary's drama Rescue Me, which premiered two years after this album was released)



*new season of Entourage starts in one week (June 11)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Video Is The Radio Star (part 1)

Today's post takes a look at some artists who constantly push the boundaries of both the audio and visual medium. Okay, truth be told, it just an excuse for me to put up videos that I absolutely love:


Random Song 1: The Artic Monkeys - When The Sun Goes Down


Outkast



I think it is time to face the fact that "Hey Ya" may have officially ruined Outkast. Up until the release of that insanely catchy song, Outkast was viewed as one innovated entity. At least by those of us who followed the duo from their very first release Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Together Big Boi and Andre 3000 introduced a new style of southern hip-hop music in the 90's. Every album they released was more creative and daring than the last. Then came the release of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below and things will never be the same again. Now when most people think of Outkast, they only think of Andre 3000. The funny thing is, Big Boi's half of the album (Speakerboxx) was much stronger than Andre's (The Love Below). While Big Boi continues to make music, Andre is now focusing on the greener pastures of Hollywood. Which brings us to Idlewild, the Outkast movie musical and companion album of the same name. The musical is set in the 1930's but the trailer doesn't give too much away plot wise. The first single off the album, The Mighty O, is no better at divulging anything either. To be honest, I found the song to be a little disappointing compared to their earlier work (eg. Rosa Parks, etc...). Many are speculating that this will be the last Outkast album. A recent interview in Entertainment Weekly only helped to fuel those rumors further. If this is in fact the last Outkast album, I hope they go out in a bang an not a whimper.

Here is one of my all-time favorite songs "B.O.B" from the Stankonia album.



As a bonus, here is "ATLien" from the ATLien album:




Random Song 2: Method Man (feat. Mary J. Blige) - All I Need


Bjork



When it comes to movie musicals, Bjork has been there done that. She found modest indie success and surprisingly decent reviews for her work in the film Dancer in the Dark. I've been a huge fan of Bjork for quite sometime now, yes swan dress and all, which makes it hard to select a favorite video. Personally can't think of any artist that has had such a unique canon of videos. This is partly due to the fact that Bjork's musical style is so different from most artists. If it is not an experiment of some sort then it is not music to her. Bjork's songs are constantly being covered by the most unlikely of artist (both indie and mainstream). Many underground dj's love remixing her work, which is evident by the countless number of alternate versions that can be found online. Although I tend to enjoy Bjork's songs in their original form; remixes for songs like Isobel, Army of Me, and Bachelorette do provide another interesting layer to Bjork's tunes. After releasing her quasi acoustic album Medulla, Bjork took some time of to film the indie film Drawing Restraints 9 (which was released earlier this year). Apparently she will be heading back to the studio shortly to work on material for her next album.


Here is the classic video for "Human Behavior" off of the Post album:



Also, check out the futuristic video for "All Is Full Of Love" from Homogenic:




Random Song 3: Vanilla Ice - Ice Ice Baby


Ipod Workout Plan: Chemical Brothers - Let Forever Be from Surrender: