Wednesday, January 18, 2012


 Santigold (formerly Santogold) have released the first single off of their anticipated sophomore album Master Of My Make Believe due out this spring. The Philadelphia duo of Santi White and John Hill became known for melding grime, rock and electronic sounds with tracks like Lights Out and Say Aha on their self-titled 2008 debut. This new offering, Big Mouth, is a high energy cut with tribal techno influences. Watch the peculiar partially animated video below. You can download Big Mouth for free by entering your email or cell number on Santigold's official site.

Monday, January 16, 2012


 Woodpigeon's new EP is more of what we've come to expect from Mark Hamilton and company; masterfully composed rock music that is as pristine and soft as freshly harvested cotton. 

 Following up 2010's Die Stadt Muzikanten and my personal favourite 2008's Treasury Library Canada, this six track collection would be a great introduction to the Calgary ensemble for those who have yet to take flight with Woodpigeon.

The track Are You There God? It's Me Mark is an indelible song. An ambivalent arrangement, it's lush with softly psychotic strings and heavenly harmonizing set against harsh guitar feedback. One To Many is also memorable with it's echoing guitar riff. Hamilton's delicate voice is frequently the star on For Paolo and it's easy to see why Woodpigeon are quickly ascending the ladder of Canadian indie cred. For Paolo has left me wanting more and I'm looking forward to hearing Woodpigeon's next full length release.

For Paolo

Below is my interview with Hamilton from 2010. This article originally appeared on

In addition a condensed version was published in 24 Hours Calgary.

 German speakers be damned—Mark Hamilton has purposely misspelled the title of Woodpigeon's new album, because he finds his spelling more visually pleasing. 

 Die Stadt Muzikanten, their third album—after 2006's Songbook and 2008's self-released Treasury Library Canada—dropped earlier this year and lead singer and guitarist Hamilton says he has always had a fondness for the written word. 

 "I get hung up on words a lot," Hamilton explains. "I love the way that words look. Someone once asked me why I would call a band Woodpigeon. To me it's beautiful to write down." 

 The songs found on Treasury Library Canada are also nothing less than beautiful. Hamilton says he chose to self-release the album because he'd grown tired of dealing with record labels. 

 "We were without a label, and I'd had it with labels," he explains. "I wanted to try doing something entirely on my own and we got signed up pretty fast for our first record so we never had the experience of self-releasing something. I think that's really important." 

 Reluctant to call Woodpigeon a band, Hamilton says he views it as more of a collective with over 50 members contributing since inception. Current band members include Michael Gratton, Annalea Sordi, Daren Powell, Peter Moersch, Foon Yap and AJ Benoit. 

 Another band member, Kenna Burima, annually organizes the Midway festival, adjacent to Calgary's High Performance Rodeo. A cross-format event, the festival features live music as well as visual art. Last year Woodpigeon attempted to perform Björk songs exclusively. 

 "We decided we would do Björk's Vespertine, then realized how frickin' hard that album is," Hamilton laughs. "So we just made a selection of Björk songs where she plays more than one chord. That was probably the most challenging thing we've ever done." 

 Getting noticed by high-profile bands, however, wasn't as much of a challenge. Woodpigeon has gone on tour supporting Grizzly Bear, Calexico and Broken Social Scene. 

 "The phone would ring and it was Grizzly Bear or Broken Social Scene. The first couple of times I kind of thought it was a joke, then a few weeks later we were playing a big theatre with them. It's really cool when people you like take notice. Like Calexico for example, they are the favourite band of three members of Woodpigeon." 

 As for the future, Hamilton admits that many Woodpigeon members have begun taking flight in their own right and he couldn't be more pleased for them. 

 "We are kind of in the phase where everybody in the band is taking on different projects. We are all growing up and everybody is spreading their wings a little bit. Woodpigeon is what we all collectively come back to and we also go out to pasture a bit more than we used to and that's really exciting and cool. I'm happy to be in the audience to see my friends that I play music with do their own thing."

Friday, January 13, 2012


  2011 was a good year for music; keyword being good. There were a lot of good albums last year but I struggled to choose great albums to include on this list. These eight collections are albums I know I will be listening to for years to come. Additional good albums with questionable staying power have been included as honourable mentions.


 New Yorkers Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion have elaborated on the under the radar popularity of their debut EP with this self-titled full length release. Cults is pretty pop music punctuated with the right amount of punk imperfection on tracks like Abducted (below), creating an album that manages to be modern while throwing back to the sweet sounds of the '60s. Other tracks like Go Outside, You Know What I Mean and Walk At Night are strictly pop and just might usher the use of keyboards and xylophones back into indie fashion.


What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
The Vaccines 

 I didn't know what to expect from The Vaccines and it was very surprising to learn that this is the English band's debut. It may be their first album but this Justin Young-fronted quartet already sound like well rounded veterans. The Vaccines have drawn comparisons to The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Ramones but I'd say they are more accurately described as a more industrious incarnation of Interpol. The Vaccines themselves say they are inspired by "'50s rock 'n' roll, '60s garage, girl groups, '70s punk, '80s American hardcore, C86 [a compilation released by UK music mag NME] and good pop music." Just like most good pop music, the majority of their debut effort is incredibly catchy. From the short and striking If You Wanna to the melodic Blow It Up, The Vaccines haven't exactly reinvented rock but they've interpreted it with such clarity that it will inevitably catch on.

Post Break Up Sex

The Hot Sauce Committee Part 2
Beastie Boys 

 It's bewildering to me that The Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 isn't on more critics' best of 2011 lists. Less serious than To The 5 Boroughs and more entertaining than Hello Nasty, this album is some of the most fun the trio has had in decades. Whether they're challenging Santigold (Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win), telling off their wives (OK), encouraging fellow artists (Say It) or rapping along side Nas (Too Many Rappers) The Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 is a sample heavy, smile inducing LP.

Make Some Noise

Wild Flag
Wild Flag

 I did not enjoy Wild Flag at first listen. Maybe it's because as two Wild Flag members are Sleater-Kinney vets I was expecting something else or because Carrie Brownstein's voice is a very acquired taste. Subsequent listens later, I can't deny that Wild Flag's hooks are rock perfection and Brownstein and Mary Timony's guitar work is some of the best fingering my ears have had all year. Making Wild Flag easily the best guitar record of 2011.
 Wild Flag isn't dissimilar from the Sleater-Kinney sound but the absence of Corin Tucker is immediately obvious. What's missing is the softer pop edge Tucker provided. In its place Brownstein, Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss, former Helium member Timony and The Minders' Rebbecca Cole deliver neoteric, psychedelic, keyboard infused rock. Standout tracks include Future Crimes, Boom, Glass Tambourine, and Something Came Over Me, which has Timony taking to the mic. Look for a not so subtle dig at Arcade Fire in the video for Romance (below.)


David Comes To Life
Fucked Up

 I never thought I'd adore a hardcore punk record described as a "a rock opera love story between a boy named David and a girl named Veronica." Then I listened to David Comes to Life by Toronto's Fucked Up and found myself engrossed in their nihilistic narrative. If you can appreciate Damian Abraham's scream-o vocals you too will learn to love Fucked Up's symphonic and sometimes sick story. As a bit of serendipity the track Queen of Hearts (below) features guest vocals by another entry on my best of 2011 list, Cults' Madeline Follin.

Queen of Hearts (listen to the album version here.)

The Other Shoe

Sound Kapital
Handsome Furs

 Sound Kapital is another record I thought didn't get the attention it deserved last year. Montreal's Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry continue to be inspired by Eastern Europe on their third album but have traded largely guitar based sounds for '80s keyboard kitsch. This amalgamation of the rocky and the retro has become the duo's signature sound. Tracks like Repatriated, What About Us, Damage and Bury Me Standing demonstrate that Handsome Furs are one of the most underrated and inventive Canadian acts creating music today.

No Feelings

El Camino
The Black Keys

 Much like Arcade Fire last year, The Black Keys have been rightfully dubbed the "it" band of 2011. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have cited iconic '70s rockers like T. Rex and The Cramps as influences for the music of El Camino. These references are spot on as El Camino is full of glam heavy, glitzy riffs, making for an album that is much catchier and livelier than their last record, the amazing Grammy-winning, Brothers. I challenge any listener not to have hooks from songs like Lonely Boy or Run Right Back imprinted on their brain after an earful of this album.

Dead & Gone

Let England Shake
PJ Harvey

 Since I blogged extensively about Ms. Harvey late last year, I'll direct you my post titled 20 Years of PJ Harvey. As I embedded my four favourite tracks off Let England Shake in that post, here's my fifth fav song from PJ's arresting, Mercury Prize-winning album. 

In Dark Places

Honourable mentions:

Mirror Traffic, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

Suck It & See, Arctic Monkeys

Endless Now, Male Bonding

Gloss Drop, Battles

Nine Types of Light, TV On The Radio

More Monsters & Sprites, Skrillex

Undun, The Roots

Kaputt, Destroyer

Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Creep On Creepin' On, Timber Timbre

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


 Unless you've been cavorting with yetis in Mongolia, you have probably heard the underwhelming news. Billy Crystal will host the Oscars for the ninth time on Feb 26.

 The big yawn reveal came in the form of a Funny or Die trailer (watch below) co-starring Robin Williams, Megan Fox and Josh Duhamel. The sweeping and overblown mini-movie is indeed engaging and some pundits see the production value as an attempt to reel in younger viewers. However this observation raises a problem. Could there be anyone less hip than Crystal? (more after the trailer.)

 Just look at how hip he is, he mentioned texting! Many regard Crystal as a comic genius but I'd wager the majority of those people are of baby boomer age. Crystal's appointment (as mentioned this will be his ninth after hosting from '89 to '92, then again in '96, '97, '99 and '03) is undoubtedly due to last year's generally panned hosting performances by Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Although Franco looked like he blazed with Aaron Sorkin just before the show, I thought Hathaway did an adequate job (with the exception of  quipping "This is the young, hip Oscars" after 94 year-old Kirk Douglas' slurred speech.)

 If the Academy was looking to appeal to the youth demographic, I think they missed the mark by tapping Crystal. There are several other veterans who, aside from being funnier, have performed exceptionally as the master of ceremonies in the past. I would have preferred another year of Whoopi or giving Ellen a second turn. Let's take a look at former Oscar hosts who have passed away or were passed over this year.

Whoopi Goldberg ('93, '95, '98, '01)

Watch Whoopi's memorable opening monologue at the 71st Academy Awards here

Bob Hope (11 solo in '40, '41, '43, '60-'62, '65-'68, '78 and 7 with co-hosts in '45, '46, '53, '55, '58, '59, '75)

Watch Jack Lemmon and Arthur Freed surprise Hope with an Oscar gold medal at the 1966 awards here.

Johnny Carson ('78-'81, '83)

Watch the arrivals and Carson's opening monologue at the 1980 Awards here

Steve Martin ('00, '02, '09 with Alec Baldwin)

Watch Martin and Baldwin's opening monologue at the 2009 Awards here.

Ellen DeGeneres ('06)

Watch part of DeGeneres' opening monologue here

Jon Stewart ('05, '07)

Stewart watches Lawrence of Arabia on his iPhone