Friday, December 31, 2010


 2010 was a great year for music. In this post we'll look at and listen to some of my favourite singles of the year.  My top picks for sick singles span many genres including chiptune (Anamanguchi,) dance (MNDR, Computer Magic,) garage rock (Japandroids) and punk (Screaming Females.) I've omitted songs from albums I'll cover in my next post on my favourite albums of '10.

 I Don't Mind It by Screaming Females

 This New Brunswick, New Jersey trio actually features just one 'screaming female.' That would be singer/guitarist Marisa  Pasternoster. Flanked by drummer Jarrett Doughtery and Mike Rickenbacker on bass, Pasternoster delivers a re-imagining of the feel good punk anthem on this track from their album Castle Talk.

Airbrushed by Anamanaguchi

 Anamanaguchi make "fast, loud music with a hacked NES from 1985." With Airbrushed these Nerdist theme composers have crafted a speedy and spirited single. You can listen to their new album, Dawn Metropolis, on their official site.

All I Want by LCD Soundsystem

  LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy has become known for amalgamating techno and rock. On All I Want off of This Is Happening, Murphy has fused a repetitious guitar hook with infectious beats and the result is a wholly genuine track.

Lights by Interpol

 On Interpol's self-titled album they continue making the morose music they have come to be known for. Sparse melodies and restrained vocals make Lights a stand out on their fourth album. See the odd video below that was on my shortlist for SoundProof's top video of the year.

Delirium by Motion City Soundtrack

 Minnesotan pop punk pushers Motion City Soundtrack never fail to deliver fun and fast material. Delirium off of this year's My Dinosaur Life, their fourth studio album, speaks of psychological anguish and pharmaceutical pollution and makes for an affecting track.

Do The Astral Plane by Flying Lotus

 Much like on Flying Lotus' previous albums Los Angeles and 1983, laptop DJ Steven Ellison is adept at melding techno and traditional instrumentation. Do The Astral Plane is one part disco booty shaker and one part sublime symphony.

Younger Us by Japandroids

 One of the few true singles on this list, Younger Us from Vancouver duo Brian King and David Prowse speaks of quarter-life crisis and is easily the best rock song of the year.

Wasted Daylight by Stars

 Amy Milan and her Montreal cohorts present a subdued and sweet track off of their latest album The Five Ghosts.

End Times by Eels

 Mark Oliver Evertt is depressed. A listen to the album End Times will validate that fact. Yet many artists are motivated by darker times and the title track off Eels' latest album demonstrates that Oliver has made peace with the morose. Hopefully this won't be the end of Eels. 

When I'm with You by Best Coast

 Beach rock has made a comeback; at least as far as Bethany Cosentino is concerned. And it's not a minute too soon. Best Coast's lo-fi, surf sound has been praised by critics and the video for When I'm With You will make you smile bigger than a surfer who just caught the perfect wave.

I Go Away by MNDR

  MNDR prove on I Go Away that if you have the talent, DIY recordings can sound as slick as a studio track.

The Cave by Mumford & Sons

 Mumford & Sons may be the band that will usher folk-rock back into the cool category. Optimistic and opulent The Cave is the best track off of these London boys' debut album Sigh No More.

Restoration by The Acorn

 Ottawa's own The Acorn follow up the Ear Worms EP with No Ghost. Restoration is a fast paced folkie who's video is a feat of creativity in itself.

Electronic Fences by Computer Magic

 I am certain Electronic Fences will be a leading cause of earworms for years to come.

Talking Walking Cloud by Dustin Wong

 I came across Wong's, a former member of Ponytail, Talking Walking Cloud on an indie compilation earlier this year. The track I would have presented to you is so indie it's not up on YouTube. Instead here is Wong performing and looping Infinite Love live. The song really picks up around the 1:40 mark.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


 Holiday music can be more maddening than merry. If listening to The Little Drummer Boy for the umpteenth time has pounded the holiday spirit right out of you; here are some alternative X-mas songs for Millennials.

Garfunkle and Oates - Present Face

Raveonettes - Baby Please Come Home / Come On Santa

The Kinks - Father Christmas

The Muffs - Nothing For Me

Ramones - Merry Christmas

Peter and the Test Tube Babies - I'm Getting Pissed for Christmas

The Dickies - Silent Night

Blink 182 - I Won't Be Home for Christmas

Phantom Planet - Winter Wonderland

The Vandals / No Doubt - Oi to the World

Mighty Mighty Bosstones - This Time of Year

Monday, December 6, 2010


 To coincide with the recent release of Land of Talk's latest album, Cloak and Cipher, here is the full interview I conducted with Elizabeth Powell at Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest 2009. A condensed version I wrote for SoundProof Magazine appeared in 24 Hours Ottawa.

 Land of Talk's set at Ottawa Bluesfest '09 was a victim of circumstance. Originally set to take to the Blacksheep stage at 4:45 pm, their set was switched to 6:15 pm. Then the band's start time was abruptly changed to 4:15, which resulted in me missing their set. Dejected and disappointed I retreated to the media room. Luckily for me, and for you dear readers, with help from festival staff I landed an interview with Land of Talk front woman Elizabeth Powell. Personable and cheery, Powell’s bright disposition was the perfect contrast to the gloomy, rainy day.

Bradley: I am so sorry I missed your set, how did it go?  
Elizabeth Powell: There were a few technical snags, other than that I thought it was a pretty beautiful set. From our perspective looking out over the little hill and the sun was pretty low in the sky and the clouds were hanging; it looked like there was a sense of impending doom because you could see all the dark clouds approaching. The rain didn't hit until after our show but yeah it was beautiful.

B: You have been touring a lot lately. How has the road been treating you?
EP: We released the album [Some Are Lakes] in October and we toured with Broken Social Scene. I was also singing with Broken Social Scene and playing guitar with them on that tour. That was until December and then I blew out my vocal cords. We had to cancel all the January, February and March shows. They thought I had to get surgery which I avoided. I completely healed on my own, it just took a lot longer. Now I have to wear those in ear monitors, which is better, I can hear myself better.

B: You played in various bands in Guelph before creating Land of Talk. Did those experiences shape the musical identity you possess today?
EP: Sometimes I get frustrated that I don't as sound as much like basement rock or indie pop-rock. It was a real Guelph sound. There was Jim Guthrie and the Constantines; well some of them are from Guelph. There was a total scene there it was very authentic. It was very punk rock. Sometimes I get frustrated that I haven't kept all of that. On the next album you are going to see us trying to get closer to what made me want to play music in the first place.

B: You have said the music you played before was much quieter than Land of Talk's sound. Is that accurate?
EP: It was much quieter then and that's why I started playing with other people. I thought there was probably a better way to achieve the sound I wanted, which was kind of a Blonde Redhead, Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey, Tortoise, Nirvana kind of sound.

B: Have you toured extensively in the States?
EP: We got started in the States. We were asked to replace Hot Spring. They couldn't make it to a 'Musique Sans Frontieres' show which is a 'music without boarders' kind of thing in New York. So they recommended us and we went. We got a lot of buzz. People started blogging about us and we landed a tour with Fiery Furnaces. That was our first tour we didn't even have a label we were still burning CD-Rs and making our own little packages. We just kind of went from there and then in Canada we started playing shows here and there. But we haven’t really done a lot of extensive touring in Canada it's kind of hard as a lot of stuff is really far away. It’s like '800 hours until Winnipeg.'

B: The song Magnetic Hill from Applause Cheer Boo Hiss is one of my favourite songs. What is it about?
EP: (Laughs) It’s not about Magnetic Hill. Our drummer, Bucky [Mark Wheaton] is from Moncton, he will just call out the names of the songs. Like Speak to Me Bones. A lot of our song names are just Bucky throwing out some wacky idea. It’s really just more quirkiness and being nonsensical. 

B: What is coming up in the future for Land of Talk?
EP: We are rehearsing to record on this week and then we are doing an EP. We are going to do a cover of one of my favourite musicians Mary Margaret O’Hara. She was born in the ‘50s; she is from my mom’s generation. My mom went to art school with her. She had an album released in ‘88 called Miss America; it's amazing I think it's very hard to get. It took me 3 months to get it. I ordered it. We are doing one of her songs because I grew up with that album on vinyl. The EP [2009's Fun and Laughter] will also have 4 new songs, we are recording at Breakglass studio in Montréal.

B: Thank you so much for your time.
EP: No, thank you. You really warmed me up; I hope I didn’t ramble on too long.

Cloak and Cipher was recorded from October 2009 to January 2010 also at Breakglass studio. Produced by Jace Lasek, in addition to Powell the album features Andrew Barr on drums, Eoin Olaoghaire on bass and members of Arcade Fire and Stars.

Quarry Hymns from Cloak & Cipher (2010)

Friday, December 3, 2010


 As winter begins its slow icy slink many of us are less likely to venture out to socialize. While you may not be succumbing to sociopathic traits, if the chill is keeping you in then curl up with these seven cordial songs. Anti-social anthems for those are alone; by option or otherwise.

Afraid of Everyone by The National from High Violet (2010)

 The National may have broken through with this year's High Violet, however this is the quartet's fifth effort. Originating in Ohio, the band is made up of two sets of brothers, Scott and Bryan Devendorf and Aaron and Bryce Dessner, along with deep-voiced singer Matt Berninger. I enjoy this album, but it makes me afraid that this track was featured on the show with some of the worst acting ever recorded

I Don't Want To Be Friends With You by The Shop Assistants from The Shop Assistants (Will Anything Happen) (1986)

 Although they produced great tracks like this one and Ace of Spades, Scottish '80s band the Shop Assistants failed to make a lasting impression on music listening audiences. Perhaps this is because their original, terrible, name was Buba and the Shop Assistants. Their self-titled album spent one week at #100 on the UK album charts, giving the band the distinction of being one of the least successful acts to ever hit the national charts.

Get Me Out of Here by The Muffs from Narduar Compilation/Hamburger (1991/1999)

 Kim Shattuck and company have been kicking around the pop punk scene for close to twenty years. More punk than pop, Get Me Out of Here is lo-fi, abrasive and was the band's first released recording. The song initially appeared on a compilation put together by curious Canadian journalist Narduar, 1991's Narduar the Human Serviette Presents Clam Chowder & Ice Vs Big Macs and Bombers, and then on the rarities album Hamburger.
"Not bad for a four track recording. I only regret the awful Guitar Center reverb on the vocal," Shattuck wrote in Hamburger's liner notes.
The Muffs recently completed a tour of Europe and are close to releasing a follow up to 2005's Really Really Happy.

Gotta Gettaway by Stiff Little Fingers from Nobody's Heroes (1980)

 Frequently referred to as "The Irish Clash," Stiff Little Fingers began as Highway Star until these Belfast boys discovered punk and changed their name in honour of the Vibrators. Gravel-voiced singer Jake Burns is the only "finger" (I assume he would be the middle one) to remain through out the band's history. Many critics have been dismayed by the band's release of numerous live and compilation albums in recent years, however Burns announced in 2007 that an album of new material is in the works. Listen to the album version of Gotta Gettaway here.

Stop Looking At Me by Epoxies from Epoxies (2002)

  Roxy Epoxy of the Portland "robot garage rock" band Epoxies may have an aversion to prying peepers, yet it's hard not to look when the music sounds so sweet. Formed in 2000, their self-titled debut touches on subjects such as consumerism, war and futurism and includes new wave-inspired tracks like Bathroom Stall, Molded Plastic, We're So Small and Stop Looking At Me. After the release of the My New World EP in 2007 Epoxies disbanded. Roxy went on to release Band Aids On Bullet Holes in 2009 and the band reunited for a concert in May 2010. After that Portland show, keyboardist FM Static said the audience began to "go nuts now because [a reunion] ain’t gonna fucking happen again!"

I Think I'll Run by Basement In My Loft from See The Rhyme In The Dirt And Grime (2010)

 Based out of Singapore, Basement In My Loft have penned a perfectly anti-social, if not somewhat cowardly, song. You can listen to the album version of I Think I'll Run and the rest of See The Rhyme In The Dirt And Grime on their official site.

Far Away by Tricky from Knowle West Boy (2008)

 Trip hop icon Tricky knows a lot about being alone. His father abandoned him when he was an infant. Then at age 4 his mother committed suicide. On 2008's Knowle West Boy, Tricky (aka Adrian Thaws) reports and rhymes on many subjects including his terribly tumultuous times. However with all the strife in Tricky's life he manages to emerge with a positive outlook. He acknowledges pain but ultimately looks ahead to the promise life has to offer. His latest offering, Mixed Race, was released earlier this year.