Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Highlights & Show # 490

The following is a collection of some of my favourite albums, EPs, and local releases from 2013.  The podcast below has all of these bands plus a few others.  It can be downloaded in the link below the play list. 

Albums of 2013

1. The Mark Inside – Dark Hearts Can Radiate White Light

The sessions for Dark Hearts Can Radiate White Light began in January 2012. They took place at Chris Levoir’s loft space on College St. and were surrounded by a sense of urgency as stated on Mark Insides bandcamp page “Chris and his roommates were facing imminent eviction: the space was probably only semi-legal to begin with, and the landlord was planning major renovations”. Recording sessions for this album were initially dubbed Exile On College Street. The recordings were produced by the band themselves and they reportedly recorded eighteen tracks at the sessions, eight appear on this release. After years of dealing with record companies, and just one month after the passing of Chris’s roommate the band decided to record a collection of songs, many of which had been played amongst many of their ferocious live performances over the years. The album as stated once again on Mark Insides bandcamp page expanded on lyrical themes of “Fear mixed with bravery, victory after defeat, pain and pleasure, love”, all of which were themes that had developed further and further with each release over the band’s ten year run. Dark Hearts songs were mixed and ready to go for a July 2013 release date and a tour to support it, but in June 2013, Chris Levoir, The Mark Insides lead singer/guitarist passed away suddenly.

“Shark Attack (I Can See Them Circling)” starts off the album with the band’s brand of visceral Alternative/Garage sound, with lyrics conveying a sense of urgency and claustrophobia. “Don’t Wake Daniel” a song written about Levoir’s fallen roommate shows off the band’s melodic side along with “The Heat”, which also shows off the band’s slower and more soulful side. “Dead Heart” has been a part of the band’s live set for sometime and takes on a rather poignant note here, “Balloons” ends the album. A song initially that went by the name “Roman Candles” and it had been in and out of their live set for some time. I once described this song as a Pop song with grit, but here it has been more developed and more structured. It is haunting, yet uplifting and has all the power and momentum of the bands live performances. Dark Hearts Can Radiate White Light contains the band’s Garage Rock sound infused with elements of 90’s Alternative Rock, Punk and has more melody, hooks and lyrical prowess than their previous releases. It is the sound of complete artistic freedom and even amongst the dark subject matter and the tragic passing of Levoir, white light radiates bright on this one.

2. Papermaps – Darker Lights

Papermaps Darker Lights builds from the momentum and direction that was introduced on 2012’s Inferior Ghost EP. The band brings in an atmospheric and for the most part darker sound, compared to their first self titled album that was released in 2011. The album features songs such as the atmospheric “Shadow Theatre” featuring the mood setting universal lyrics “And when I find myself most of the feeling was gone” that starts the album off on a strong note. “The Hedonist” is a fuzzy, guitar driven song, filled with 90’s tinged angst, while “I’ve Closed A Door” features strong harmonies and backwards sound effects. The watery guitar sounding “Vanauley Walk” features the lyric “When you see me fall/you'll watch me turn around/you’ll see my body twist/my feet land on the ground". Parts of this lyric demonstrate the direction and change in the bands dynamics since 2011. Darker Lights shows us a new side of Papermaps and shows us albeit these changes that they face Papermaps will land on their feet.

3. Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin

With Floating Coffin Thee Oh Sees may have gotten heavier musically, but they also show off a dynamism which lyrically can bring us back to elements of the bands earlier Folk based work. Musically the album mixes in elements of Carrion Crawler/The Dream even drawing some comparisons to sounds on 2008's The Master's Bedroom Is Worth Spending A Night In. It also adds more of a jam element extending the songs and bringing more Psychedelic and Pop elements. With so many releases coming out, it would be easy for someone to say that this album sounds just like the others that Thee Oh Sees have been releasing, it is similar in some respects, but it also shows a new development in the bands dynamic. The band builds on their already established sounds while still sounding fresh. The title of the album may be Floating Coffin, but with this release Thee Oh Sees show that the end for this prolific band is not near, it’s not even close.

4. Ty Segall – Sleeper

After releasing three albums last year of Psychedelic, Garage and general loud proportions in 2012, the first release from Ty Segall in 2013 was the acoustic filled album entitled Sleeper. While many critics and fans mention Segall’s ability to write more melodic Pop songs on albums such as Goodbye Bread and even last years Hair that he recorded with White Fence, Sleeper takes that to another level. Sleeper is ten songs all acoustic, with the exception of electric guitar at the end of “The Man Man”, all of which reflects a stripped down approach to Segall’s sound. The songs all reflect the recent passing of his adopted father and the aftermath which included a fall out with his mother. This album serves as a sort of therapy for that time, as Segall has also stated in interviews. The words amongst the acoustic melodies are veiled in words that are more universal, but we do get brief glimpses into Segall’s frame of mind at different points throughout the album. Sleeper started off 2013 showing us a stripped down version of Ty Segall we haven’t heard before. The title of the album may be Sleeper, but is just as exciting as even the loudest Ty Segall album.

5. Dead Ghosts – Can’t Get No

Vancouver trio Dead Ghosts released their second full length album Can’t Get No in April of 2013. The album mixes elements of fuzzy Garage Rock, Surf, Psychedelic, Country styled Rock & Roll riffs and strong Pop hooks with a lo-fi aesthetic. Stand out tracks include the Psych-Surf of “Summer With Phil”, the shimmering Psychedelic strut of “Roky Said” and the title track. The second track “That Old Feeling” proves to be a point to focus on when looking at this album aesthetically. With its hyper Surf/Garage riffs, reverb drenched vocals and lyrics like ”Well it’s calling your name/That shit’s all the same/If you’re planning a west coast trip/Then I hope that the feeling remains”, this song emphasizes the comparison to Can’t Get No being another Garage album with nothing to say, hinting at quite the opposite. Can’t Get No sinks deep with a variety of influences, especially halfway through the album where we get some honky tonk piano, providing you with that gritty old Rock feeling of excitement.

6. The Ketamines – You Can’t Serve Two Masters

The Ketamines released their second full length in 2013, You Can’t Serve Two Masters. The album features several rough around the edges sounding songs mixing elements of Garage, Bubblegum Pop, Punk and Psychedelic music. The title track is a ramshackle Garage track that is complete with catchy guitar hooks and vocals, “Spirit Rebellion Time” is a positive short and fuzzy, heavy track, “So Clean” addresses Bubblegum and Pop influences, “Don’t Stop (Go On)” channels early 60’s garage organ driven music, while “Double Elevens” attacks it fuzzy 60’s Garage mono style. You Can’t Serve Two Masters has the effect of a shaken up can of pop that has burst and has been left out in the sun too long. It is sticky, gritty and catchy as hell.

7. Teenanger – Singles Don’t $ell

Toronto’s Teenanger branch out on their 2013 LP entitled Singles Don’t $ell. They build from 2012’s heavy 70’s Punk influenced album Frights. This album pulls in new sounds from many New Wave grooves, starting off with the title track. A strong album opener and extremely catchy attacks with its buzz saw Punk Rock riffs and New Wave sounding guitar effects as the lead singer shouts “Singles don’t sell/ Yeah that’s a shame” calling out a past generation of music releases, the single. Songs such as “Teenanger” and “Surveillance” recall the bands early Garage Punk rumblings. “Zons” starts off with electronic sounding drums before launching into razor sharp guitar riffs, “Confident Idiocy” channels the spooky synthesizer sounds of Manchester’s Post Punk group Magazine, while the album’s final track “Time’s Up” sucks you in with its atmospheric keyboard sounds. Don’t let the synthesizers scare you, Singles Don’t $ell adds texture to Teenangers already established aggressive sound and there is still plenty of feedback to go around.

8. The Oblivians – Desperation

Desperation was released in June 2013 on In The Red Records. The best way to perhaps describe the band's sound of the past would be something like dried up alcohol that was spilled on the floor in some grimy bar, baked in the Memphis heat. The band's blend of Garage, Punk and Soul has not been lost here. The album starts off with the slow Soulful Garage burner “I’ll Be Gone” sung by Greg Cartwright, with lyrics such “Is it for real this time/I’ve seen the signs/your dreams ain’t got nothing to do with mine” addressing their return and getting older with lines such as “There ain’t no way to know/How life will treat you so/Let’s Rock and Roll as we get old”. The song is a thoughtful and reflective start to not only this album, but the band's return, this being their first new album in 16 years. “Loving Cup” follows next. It is a raucous cover of a song originally by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, done in a fashion to songs they’ve done in the past on previous albums such as “Vietnam War Blues” from Soul Food. While at times Desperation does draw from sounds that each of the respective band members have had with their other music projects, this album lets us know at the end of the album that The Oblivians feel remains.

9. The Black Angels – Indigo Meadow

Austin, Texas Psych Garage Rock band The Black Angels released their fourth full length album Indigo Meadow on April 2nd, 2013. On this album the band shows us their heavier Psychedelic side, adding more organ and Pop hooks, all mixed up in a sun baked Texas style haze. Many critics have claimed that this album isn’t really different from their previous releases, but this album slowly builds on the Psychedelic sounds of Phosphene Dream adding a new type of heaviness that some may classify as Grunge influenced, while at the same time reverting to catchy Garage Nuggets styled hooks. Overall, Indigo Meadow may have similarities to previous releases from the bands past, but it also gleams with its super production supplied by John Congleton (Explosions In The Sky, David Byrne & St. Vincent) emphasizing the growing development and journey that the band is to and has taken. While it may not be that obvious to some Indigo Meadow, blooms and burns slowly with profound insights, incandescent thoughts and Psychedelic goodness.

10. Obits – Bed & Bugs

Bed & Bugs is Obits third full length release on Sub Pop. The album leans towards Garage Rock, Post Punk, Surf and even some Blues. This band features members of Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes and Edsel and all of the members are well versed in the Rock game, but on this album they pull in new genres. Differing from 2009’s I Blame You and 2011’s Moody, Standard and Poor, Bed & Bugs seems to focus more on melodic elements while the dual guitar attack members of this band have been known for seems to be not as prominent as before. The album builds from the 2012 single “Let Me Dream If I Want To”, highlights include the Garage opener “Taste The Diff”, the Surf melodies of “Spun Out”, the angular “It’s Sick”, and “I’m Closing In”.

11. Guided By Voices – English Little League

Following a long absence Guided By Voices reunited their classic 1993-1996 line up and released three full length albums in 2012. In 2013, we saw just one GBV album, the seventeen track English Little League. The album picks up where The Bear’s For Lunch left off, featuring extremely catchy, sometimes short tracks and a few rough odds and ends. In July of 2013, Robert Pollard hinted that this could be GBV’s last album, but in September he announced there would be yet another coming in 2014. Several reviewers have stated how this album is hit or miss, but Guided By Voices are not an easy band to pin down. They are very prolific and while there may be a small backlash, English Little League does have some great moments such as “Know Me As Heavy”, “Crybaby 4 Star Hotel”, “Flunky Minnows”, “W/ Glass In Foot”. Several moments on the album seem to have a connection to the Robert Pollard solo album Honey Locust Honky Tonk, which is worth checking out as well. However ,for English Little League, there are also plenty of ballads such as the Tobin Sprout written track “The Death of Epstein’s Ways”, a catchy ramshackle Beatles influenced track, which is rather fitting considering the lyrics.

12. Daniel Romano – Come Cry With Me

Daniel Romano’s Come Cry With Me once again continues his tradition of creating classic Country music. In the style of artists such as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, Come Cry With Me has all the grit and feeling of the old AM radio days bringing in themes of heartbreak, bad choices, alcohol consumption and the like. Highlights include such as “He Lets Her Memory Go (Wild)”, with its low baritone voices and vivid lyrical imagery, the upbeat honky tonk reverb guitar riffs of “Chicken Bill”, and the bitter “Just Before The Moment”. Daniel Romano has come a far way from his days in Attack In Black, but with Come Cry With Me, Romano proves why he is still seen as one of the best Country artists in Canada today.

13. Jay Sad – Disappears

On February 19th 2013, Jay Sad released his full length album entitled Disappears. The album is an eleven track construction of songs ranging from genres such as lo-fi Indie Pop to Alternative and a variety of atmospheric sounding concoctions. Jay Sad has released several recordings starting in 2002. The band for this album was primarily Dean Pomeroy (drums, vibraphone), Rob MacDonald (guitar) and Jay Sad on vocals, guitar and a variety of other instrumentation. The album also features guest musicians from The Elwins (Mathew Sweeney), Dilly Dally (Katie Monk), and Drew Smith (The Bicycles). Disappears first seven tracks were recorded live to analog tape by Dean Marino who also helped to produce those tracks at Chemical Sound in Toronto. The other four songs on the album were produced and recorded by Jay Sad. The songs on Disappears suggest a growing or building, if you will, towards a new beginning, something different. Even if it means you have to disappear for a while from parts of your past that have been built up in order to get there.


1. The Bell Peppers – Sizzling Hot Bell Peppers

Manchester’s Surf combo The Bell Peppers offered up two EPs this year. First up was the covers EP entitled Seeds of The Bell Peppers in March, then again with the seven track EP Sizzling Hot Bell Peppers in November 2013. Sizzling Hot Bell Peppers definitely added more spice to the mix of The Bell Peppers sound. “The Spray” opens the EP and moves along with all the speed of a classic 60’s Surf song. You can feel the sand and waves on this upbeat sun drenched opener. “Soda Pop” gallops along with the feel of an old Spaghetti Western film soundtrack, “Tanline” wears the mark of 60’s British Invasion Garage Rock, while “Whiskey & Cigarettes” adds Blues to the mix, featuring harmonica clocking in at five minutes. “Campfire Waltz” ends in a sound not unlike slow 50’s Rock and Roll ballads. In addition to these songs, there are also elements of Rockabilly, Country, Do Wop, and more Surf Rock throughout this seven track tantalizing offering.

2. Monomyth – King, Does This Not Please You? (Behold The Power)

Monomyth is a Halifax based group. This EP entitled King, Does This Not Please You? (Behold The Power) has drawn comparisons to Psychedelia, Shoegaze and Punk. Monomyth takes all of these genres, but also adds a 90’s Alternative slant in the vein of groups like Thrush Hermit and Eric’s Trip. Songs like “Cigarette” recall a 90’s nostalgia drawing in harmony comparisons with early Sloan and Thrush Hermit, but at the same time pulling in a fuzzy Garage guitar sound. “Vision” is a short track less than two minutes that has a heavy bassline and Shoe Gaze/Garage combination, while “10,000” recalls catchy jangly Pop sounds and harmonies.

3. The Replacements – Songs For Slim

In 2013, The Replacements reunited for a five track EP that was recorded to raise money for the band’s former guitarist Slim Dunlap, who suffered a stroke in 2012. The EP entitled Songs For Slim, featured mostly cover songs “Lost Highway” by Hank Williams, ”I’m Not Sayin’” by Gordon Lightfoot and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from the Broadway musical Gypsy. It also featured two covers of Slim Dunlap songs, “Busted Up” and “Radio Hook Word Hit”, a song that only features former Replacements drummer Chris Mars on all instruments. The rest of the tracks featured Paul Westerberg (vocals/guitar), Tommy Stinson (bass) Peter Anderson (drums) and additional guitarist Kevin Rowe. This EP was executed in true Replacements fashion, sloppy, and as if they hadn’t missed a step. This was followed by a series of triumphant reunion concert dates as part of Riot Fest.

Local Releases (Releases from Windsor, Ontario)

1. Paul Jacobs – Drug Theaters

Drug Theaters album cover features a collection of different images, a hand with a cigarette, a dog, a skateboard, a snake and a head among other things. The cover can be seen as a hint as to what’s to come on this album, a collection of different elements that make up a unique whole. “Sharp Dress” is a catchy fast paced Garage/Punk track with lots of echo Thee Oh Sees style that will stick in your head for days. The breakdown is a theatre of noises including, but not limited to distortion, drums, reverb and echo. “Electric Dollar” ends off Drug Theatres with a longer track (over six minutes) which addresses the transfers of electronic funds and lack there of and a desire for something new. Overall, Drug Theaters brings Paul Jacobs songwriting abilities and style to the fore while portraying visceral thoughts of boredom, drug use, relationships, and differing views that blur what is and what is not reality. While Paul Jacobs may have released three albums this year, all of which have their own strong points, Drug Theaters encompasses a style and creates a theatre all its own.

2. James OL – For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky

James O-L released his third solo album this year entitled For The World Is Hollow And I have Touched The Sky, an album of Folk based songs inspired by a backpacking trip to South America. The album’s title originates from the episode of Star Trek: The Original Series and all of the songs reflect a desire for searching and travelling. Musically the album touches on elements of Folk and lush and at times Orchestral based arrangements. The album was recorded and mixed by James himself and features an ensemble cast of musicians from Windsor, Ontario. “One Horse Town” starts off the album in a slow calming fashion, with slow galloping guitars, clarinet and violin and at times there are even exotic conga drums. The lyrics convey the searching desire that was mentioned as the album’s inspiration, lyrics such as “Oh, I dream of ocean waves/Blowing around in a haze of delays, distorted grains/A feedback loop sent to the brain” show this desire for something different from the norm of a one horse town. “Yellow Gold” follows next and is definitely one of the strongest songs on this album, with its lush arrangements and James soft vocals which build up when the chorus comes in with rich background harmonies. These lyrics display like crystallized imagery with words such as “The dock is a place you come and go/We blew through the night like yellow gold/Tasted the summer rain as the music played”. Other highlights include the upbeat and bouncy “San Juan Song” and “SK8 Or Die” a song with electric bass, guitar, horns and acoustic elements that sounds like it could be inspired by actual skateboarding events. James also plays in James O-L & The Villains, who have also recorded a full length album and plan on releasing it sometime in 2014.

The Play List:

1. Night Beats – Rat King
2. Wavves – Dog
3. Mudhoney - I Like It Small
4. The Strokes – 50/50
5. Deerhunter – Back To The Middle
6. Fuzz – Preacher
7. James OL – One Horse Town
8. Paul Jacobs – Sharp Dress
9. The Replacements – I’m Not Sayin’
10. Monomyth – Vision
11. The Bell Peppers – The Spray
12. Jay Sad – Three Floor’s/It’s Over
13. Daniel Romano – He Lets Her Memory Go (Wild)
14. Guided By Voices – Flunky Minnows
15. Obits – It’s Sick
16. The Black Angels - Indigo Meadow
17. The Oblivians – Pinball King
18. Teenanger – Time’s Up
19. Dead Ghosts – That Old Feeling
20. The Ketamines – Double Elevens
21. Ty Segall – The West
22. Thee Oh Sees – Toe Cutter- Thumb Buster
23. Papermaps - The Memory Song
24. The Mark Inside – Panegae (Before The Split)
25. The Mark Inside – Shark Attack (I Can See Them Circling)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for December 31. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.

No comments: