Track Listing: This One’s For The Girls, Vol. 2

Girls Single

There’s a part of me that feels bad doing this “Track Listing”, because female rockers shouldn’t be considered a novelty and I don’t want it to come off like they are.  But, as touched on in the original version, beautiful women who can also melt your face off with music are a wonderful thing.  They deserve to be highlighted as such!

Scenematography: Fancy Diamonds – “Rocknrollin”

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Saskatoon, Saskatchewan four-piece Fancy Diamonds released their debut EP Sparkle Party in October, but just released the video for single “Rocknrollin” last week.  It may be late (TO THE PARTY????), but it’s a fun and quirky offering that makes it worth the wait.

“Rocknrollin” itself is, to quote the last paragraph, a fun and quirky offering (!).  The first verse and chorus are driven solely by vocals and…tambourine (ha), before the full band comes in for the rest.  The song has a definite surf/garage rock vibe, and really that’s the band in general.  That said, “Rocknrollin”‘s main riff actually comes from a keyboard.  There’s a lot going on, but it’s more subtle and complimentary than a wall of sound.

The video for “Rocknrollin” gets going with a marquee intro graphic, which does make sense as it presents as a mini-movie.  Frontman Dylan Evans then sings in front of a bunch of TVs as his fellow band members pop up around him.  After, the guys are outside smashing a stroller…which Evans then gets pushed around in.  Then they’re inside doing a performance, where they ultimately become skeletal figures…and there’s a bowl of glass (?) that’s being eaten like cereal and…it’s odd, and fits the song perfectly.

So that all happens.  Fancy Diamonds are touring in support of the EP May 5th-14th, with all dates in the Prairies.  As mentioned they have elements of surf and garage in their sound, and a notable pop sensibility that’s reminiscent of Joel Plaskett and even Said the Whale.  If you’re in Western Canada you can see them live next month, but regardless you can watch the Eyecatcher-produced video for “Rocknrollin” right now.

Fancy Diamonds online:

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Album Review: The Scenic Sound – Like A Fire

Like A Fire

 

Toronto-based singer/songwriter Tim Stead has musical roots in power pop and punk.  As The Scenic Sound, he strips things down and sells out for melody and meaning.  (“Sells out” is not meant in the usual derogatory, is-it-still-2003? fashion it typically references in music.)  TSS released sophomore EP Like A Fire March 21st, and the Murray Daigle-produced six-song effort builds on 2014’s Standing Still with hints of pop, rock, soul and R&B.

Like A Fire opens with “A Heart To Call Home”, a ballad that features some lovely orchestral backing behind vocals about longing for love.  First single “You & I” is next, which changes gears by kicking up the tempo while stripping down the sound.  The acoustic does the musical talking in this one, and the subject matter celebrates a great romance – it really is a 180 from “A Heart To Call Home”.  The drums also don’t really get going until the second chorus to great effect.  Up next is “Warmer With You”, which has great guitar that puts long, possibly whammy bar-influenced notes to work.  The drums also make great use of simplicity with the verses interjecting lazy snare rolls.  The line “I don’t care how cold it is outside/I can see your breath curling up with mine” is awesome, and the EP’s title gets a mention during this song too.

Speaking of the EP’s title, the second half of Like A Fire first dishes out “Sleeping Lullaby”.  The chorus’ off-time snare hits remind me of “Companion (Lay Me Down)” by Wide Mouth Mason – good stuff.  “Sleeping Lullaby” is also the first real guitar distortion we get on the EP, which is also good stuff.  “Author Of My Hope” follows, and really works the bass piano notes (notably, I mean…it’s pretty piano-centric anyway) while bringing the orchestral touch back.  It’s 2:38 of YOU being behind you with analogies galore, but the weight of it makes its length surprising.  Finally, a piano-based version of “Sleeping Lullaby” ends the effort.  It largely honours the main version, but adds an element of evocativeness to also make it its own.

For Like A Fire, Tim Stead talked about wanting to create “something important, something that people feel like singing and believing”.  It’s lyrically upbeat, hopeful and passionate, and very pleasing musically.  You get the feeling of Dashboard Confessional, Evan Taylor Jones, The Fray and others coming together in an unabashed pop-driven (scenic) sound.  Stead has a keen sense for songwriting, and Like A Fire is a strong second release.  It’s out now via iTunes and beyond (where you can also listen to a brand new remix of “Warmer With You”).  Go get it.

The Scenic Sound online:

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Scenematography: Bellwire – “JAKL”

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Boston’s Bellwire describe themselves as “powerpop with spaz and jangle”, but latest single “JAKL” almost doesn’t conjure up any of that.  It follows “Time Out” as an offering from their new EP Dog Thoughts, which comes out May 24th.

“JAKL” is a slow chillaxer that’s meant to be enjoyed while sitting with a nice cup of something soothing.  A clean guitar gently strums and picks throughout, and takes the lead (LEAD GUITAR WHAT) as every instrument takes it pretty easy.  Guest vocals from Natalie Kovalcik blend nicely with Tyler Burdwood’s in the latter half, which in fact feature the great lyrics “those are the prettiest tan lines/running across your spine/and I can’t make up my mind how to tell you”.  Those lyrics are courtesy of guest writer Sam Rheaume (who paints and makes prints too), so good job Sam.

As for the video itself, there’s not much to it but it’s enjoyable.  The Alyssa Alarcon-directed effort features Burdwood in the shower in his boxers (!?), and periodically cuts to the band playing outside the house and Kovalcik reading a comic book on the toilet.  Eventually Burdwood has company in the shower, where an orgy happens things otherwise go on as normal.

Dog Thoughts might be the last release for Bellwire, as frontman Tyler Burdwood has relocated across the country.  They are planning shows starting next month in support of it, but the hiatus is about to be a thing it looks like.  So…”JAKL” and Dog Thoughts can ring your bell as we head down to the wire with this band.  (:D…Hey I actually scrapped two other punny things to go with that line, so don’t bar-*murdered*)

Oh d’uh, the video!:

Bellwire online:

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Weekendcore: The Scenic Sound – “Every Day That’s In Between”

Happy Valentine’s Day – or if you’re loveless, Singles Appreciation Day!  Sirius XM’s Alt Nation is doing an emo marathon if you’re the latter and have satellite radio, but otherwise – and either way, of course – this “Weekendcore” is for you!


The Scenic Sound
 are a Toronto-based pop act led by singer/songwriter Tim Stead.  Their 2014 debut EP Standing Still produced melodic, catchy and pretty songs that toned things down from Stead’s previous pop rock band The Ocean Buried.  However, one song brought bigger guitar in, and kicked up the tempo to make the EP’s biggest rocker: “Every Day That’s In Between”.  It sings about getting to the point where love can blossom, with a keyboard providing the main riffs that contrast beautifully with the distorted guitar.  The drums dominate the chorus, and get that distant, echo effect in the first part of each verse.

The Scenic Sound are set to release debut full-length Like A Fire in March, and with their latest bio describing them as a blend of “Soul, Pop, Indie, Rock and R&B” it’ll be interesting to hear what it sounds like (more eclectic, it would seem).  In the meantime, grab your special someone and listen to this little banger of a love song.

The Scenic Sound online: 

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Interview: Blonde Summer


The “California” vibe is often something that those who don’t have, strive for.  It’s an idyllic thing, and something Los Angeles indie rockers Blonde Summer are drenched in.  The band released their fourth album Paradise back on August 25th, and it’s one that marks an evolution for their sound.  The follow-up to 2014’s High Times, the EP sees frontman Chris Pope experimenting with new instrumentation.  He chatted with TPS about that, and other band-related stuff!

Paradise is your fourth album, and they’ve all been EPs so far.  A musician friend of mine thinks EPs are really the future of releases.  Do you feel that way too?

EPs are nice introductions, either being a new band, or exploring a new direction.  That’s how I have used them.

You’ve had a few TV placements with your music.  Any that stand out because you’re fans of the show, or otherwise? 

 Yeah, we’ve been very fortunate to have a bunch of placements.  They are all really special.  I’ve even watched an entire Netflix series just because our song was going to be in there….then it wasn’t actually in there, which was funny.  (Ed. note: Well…hopefully the series was good.)  But yeah first commercial was Target, first movie was Curse of Downers Grove...both were epic.


Paradise
is more keys and drums-driven than previous releases.  What was the catalyst for that evolution in sound?

 I never learned how to play the drums or piano, so I took a few drum lessons, and 2 piano lessons, and then it was just on.  All I wanted to do was start from those two instruments, because it was so new and fun.  First song I did was “Paradise”, and it happened in a flash.


Getting high is a theme with the band.  Do you ever write in that state?  If so, does it really open the creativity up?

I’ve never really thought it was a theme.  I write early in the morning and I am very aware…I might be buzzing on some English Breakfast Tea tho.
Paradise
is really an ode to California.  What’s the perfect “California” day?

 That’s the thing…they’re all perfect. Sun is always welcomed, and when a little stormy day comes in it’s extra special.

Now that the album’s out, what does the rest of 2015 hold for Blonde Summer in support?

Live shows coming up and more music on its way out.  I’ve got a couple free singles I plan on releasing for fun.

Blonde Summer online:

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Palm Trees and Bloodlines: Why Are Genres From Where They’re From?

Do you ever wonder why certain areas breed certain genres?  Not just that it happens, but the reasoning behind it.  I do.  Like how punk bands are often suburban, metal bands from smaller towns/cities, hipster-friendly indie from major cities, etc.  Outside rock, it’s easy to see why country and hip-hop come from where they do, but for the music we talk about on TPS it’s not as easy.

One I think I can safely guess why is punk tending to be suburban: people who grow up in the ‘burbs tend to feel trapped, and bored of their home and its bland cookie-cutterness.  In response, you get faster, frantic music.  I’m suburban myself, so I can relate to growing up like that.  And, if I wrote music it’d likely be punk-influenced.  Science!  (Side note: despite the way I felt growing up, I’m actually pretty proud of my hometown and being suburban.  The land of malls, highways, identical houses and little culture just outside a major city is who I am: someone who experienced a lot, but largely outside the centre of attention.)

When it comes to metal and smaller areas, do you think that’s the same “trapped” feeling suburbanites get, but it kind of festers more because it’s even more remote?  Metal tends to be angrier and darker than punk, and there’s less skate culture in smaller places so that could be a reason the music isn’t faster?  As for hipster-friendly indie, well major markets are where it’s happenin’ yo!  They’re always ahead of the curve and the epicentre for stuff and things.  That sounds more sardonic than I mean it to, but you know the big-city types can have an aura about them.  As for the sound of indie rock, pop etc…maybe it’s from a melting pot of people: the locals, suburbanites and small-towners who co-exist and bring their influences to the writing sessions.

I don’t know.  You could be reading this and thinking “1) what the hell are you talking about Kevin? and/or 2) who gives a flying F?”, but this is the kinda shit that goes through my mind.  Perhaps it’s less the music nerd than geography nerd in me: maybe I’m just subconsciously combining two passions.  Regional genres have to start somewhere though, and it just makes you wonder what the trigger was.  Why was I able to make that Sugarcult-related comedy gold post title pun?

Album Review: Yo Mama – Kiss You Because I Can EP

Indie alt-pop.  That is the sound of Eastern Ontario’s Yo Mama, as described by them.  With members from Ottawa, Perth, Pembroke and Kingston, the band features core members Shelley Montreuil (vocals/saxophone), Josh Hofmann (keyboards/vocals) and Brian Toth (guitars) and a supporting cast that rocks the drums, bass and whatever else they need.  Originating as an evolution of Tell Mama, who released a full-length called She’s Right in 2009 and were more jazz/blues/funk-oriented, Yo Mama have two EPs – including the latest which we’re reviewing here LOL – and a debut full-length on the way.

Kiss You Because I Can came out last year, and is a two-song, ten-minute “hey how are ya” of atmospheric tuneage.  The title track kicks it off and has a very catchy main riff  and a theme of “let’s be us and to hell with everyone else”.  It’s an uptempo, overall happy song.  “Let It Ride” is the second and closing track, and it slows things down and goes opposite on the subject matter, as Montreuil sings about longing for something that’s no longer, but ultimately what can you do but just “let it ride”?  The bridge has a cool mashup of spoken clips that really enhance the song’s theme.

Kiss You Because I Can
is an interesting listen because of the contrast: it’s not ballady, it’s actually something that gets you moving, but in a chill way. It’s more “sit back and bob your head” than “get up and rock out” – almost music that, in a live venue, would sit in between a soft-seater and general admission standing room show. Achieving that type of sound is pretty awesome, because it basically would fit with whatever listening mood you’re in.

Yo Mama’s so phat, their music could appeal to everybody!

…In my head that was a spin on the classic “yo’ mama’s so fat, in class she sat beside everybody” joke, but if that wasn’t obvious, go have a listen to Kiss You Because I Can yourself and ignore the misfire:

Yo Mama online:

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Interview: Spencer Soloduka & the Tearaways

As I’ve mentioned before, when I listen to classic music, my genre of choice is Motown.  I can get down with the old school soul/R&B vibes – yeah that wording happened – so when a current band puts a modern, indie spin on that sound it’s gonna be pretty enjoyable.  Enter Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island’s Spencer Soloduka & the Tearaways.  A seven-piece that features Spencer Soloduka (vocals/keyboards), Jordy Jorbit (drums/cymbals), Mike Peters (guitar/backing vocals), Simon Joseph (bass), Josh Underhay (trumpet), Nikki Waite (alto sax) and Emma Turner (backing vocals), they’ve spent the past year making music made to feel and for the dance floor.  Frontman Soloduka took a few minutes out of his holiday schedule to chat with TPS.

Gotta ask about the name origin: did the band start as a solo project, or did the name just have too good a ring to not use?

The band came together in a very organic way.  I began writing maybe 4 or 5 years ago.  I was living in Halifax at the time.  I would attend lots of open mics and jams and I played the occasional gig.  When I returned home to PEI, it wasn’t long before I met Jordy and Michael and we started performing my original material as a trio.  The band slowly grew from there over the year, we added Simon on bass, Josh on trumpet, Lachy on sax and congas, and Emma singing backing vocals.  Eventually Nikki came in on sax when Lachy (ed. note: former saxophonist Najarro) moved to Peterborough.

Early on it was very clear it was soul music and had to be treated as such, the harmonies, the call and response, the horns, it was always there, in the music.  Fortunately I’ve got some of the best players on the island behind me, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished already and I’m excited for the future.

We took some time to settle on the name.  It was always such a personal thing, the project and the music, but we wanted something to represent the group, what we all shared.  Jordy came up with it, from a lyric of his friend Pete ‘Baba Kush’ Morrison: “All the tearaways on Market street have reached their ports of call.”  It’s a song about Halifax and the community’s history as a naval town.  A tearaway is British slang for some who behaves recklessly, like a misfit or something.  It doesn’t really fit, but it had that nice ring to it, like you say.

Your self-titled debut EP oozes classic vibes, from the psychedelic feel of “Can’t Fall In Love Anymore” to your obvious love of Motown. Who influences you guys – classic or modern?

A lot of the obvious influences are classic R&B and soul; Ray Charles, Sly Stone, Joe Cocker, and Al Green, to name a few.  A lot of artists we’ve covered in the past.  Rather than to try and imitate these one-of-a-kinds acts, we instead hope to make modern music in the same spirit.  A spirit of deeply personal expression, a spirit of diversity, of pushing the limits of creativity.  We want to bring people together from all walks of life to celebrate a common love of music, and to love one another.

We’re, of course, influenced by moderns R&B and soul groups as well, such as Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, D’Angelo, the Black Keys.  Not to mention there’s lots of talent here at home not to be overlooked: Jill Barber, Erin Costelo, and Chris Kirby for example.

Finally, each player has their own unique experience and influences which they bring to the group.  Josh, for example, studied classical music at UPEI and plays with the accomplished salsa fusion band Count and the Cuban Cocktail.  And Simon’s played bass with a number of successful PEI projects, including Mindwaves, an established progressive/experimental rock band.

What’s the coolest thing the band experienced in your first year of existence?

We’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to play several summer festivals this past year, including Caledonia Days and the Fiddlehead Social here on PEI, as well as Chappyshat IV in Amherst.  We have the most fun when we’re performing, and festival crowds have always been less inhibited and more receptive to the music and the energy on stage.

Also, recording our EP was a first for myself and a great experience.  Dan Currie was great to work with and we all learned a great deal from it.

Any seven-piece band has a lot going on, in your case a prominent horn section and vocal harmonies. What do you think the defining feature of Spencer Soloduka & the Tearaways is?

Our defining feature, I’d have to say, is that everyone in the band is given the opportunity to shine.  It is a big band, yes, but we play around each other, and in service to the music.

We have a lot of fun with layering and dynamics.  It’s not static.  Different emotions and personalities from the songs are brought out and accentuated by each player.  With an wide array instruments to work with, the possibilities for creating a unique and personal sound are virtually limitless.

Is there a full-length album in the works? What’s on tap for 2015?

2015 will be a big year for us.  We just released our debut recording and we’re keen to get out and play, entertaining people around the region and getting the good word out.  Expect regional dates soon, including PEI, NB, and NS. We may even be in St. John’s this April for ECMW.

Our next milestone is a video for one of the songs from our EP.  We’ll begin production in the January.  And of course, the focus of the band has always been original music.  We’ve been busy working on the release of the EP and honing our stage show, so it will be nice to get back to the creative side of things; reinforcing and implementing some of the things we’ve learned from playing together.  We do plan to record a full length album in the future, but no concrete plans to do so have been made.

Spencer Soloduka & the Tearaways online:

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Genre Preferences By Region: The Maps (Yeah Yeah Yeah!)

 You got the Yeah Yeah Yeahs pun in the title right?  Right?
 As music fans, we have a decent idea of what types of music are more popular in which areas.  Now, online real estate broker Movoto has gathered data from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and state music preferences from Wikipedia.  From that, they came up with interactive maps of America that break the genres down by popularity.  You can fiddle with the maps at Movoto, or look at the ones that interest us most here courtesy of SPIN.  Areas coloured red show the highest popularity, areas coloured green show the lowest:


Alternative:

As you can see, alternative is immensely popular in the southwestern desert and Puget Sound area of Washington.  It also has good pockets in Texas, New York and elsewhere.  Word.

Indie:

West dominant, with the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas having the highest concentration.

Metal:

The Puget Sound area appears to dominate this chart, which surprises me considering how much of an indie rock mecca Seattle is.  These charts just list where genres are most popular though, not necessarily even the biggest genre there.

Punk:

No surprise here.  The west coast is where punk reigns supreme, and you see the highest concentration in where I think is the absolute mecca for it: Southern California.  A surprisingly strong area for punk appears to be Kentucky/Tennessee, if I’m judging that right.  You’d consider both states to be country favourites (and they are) but that’s neat.  And finally…

Rock:

The overall most popular genre in America according to Movoto’s research, rock reigns supreme on the coasts. It makes total sense that California and New York would lead the way here: musicians largely move to one or the other, and they’re both so big that the law of averages will give the country’s most popular genre strong presence in its two largest states.

These maps are far from an exact science, but they’re pretty cool nonetheless.  Some choices are obvious – in fact I think almost everything under our umbrella is – but it does show some interesting trends.  It also confirms what I always knew about my own musical taste:  I’m a westerner.  I’m actually Canadian – and we could use these maps for Canada and other countries, someone get on that – but I’ve always really gravitated towards the west coast, despite growing up in the Great Lakes region and currently living on the east coast.  Vancouver is my Canadian music city of choice, and California is really my glory scene period – USA or otherwise.  What do you think, does this nail your own tastes?