25 or 19 to 4

25 years on

Twenty-five years ago, 1994, Woodstock 94 celebrated the 25th anniversary of Woodstock, Justin Bieber was born, Nirvana played their final concert, Pink Floyd embark on the Division Bell which would be their last world tour, Johnny Cash released The American recordings and Captain Tractor release Land, their first album.

To commemorate 25 years of recordings Captain Tractor have treated us a gorgeous double album containing a sampling of songs that represent the non-stop party that they are. From Pitcairn Island to someplace East of Eden, Captain Tractor Bought The Farm North of the Yellowhead and managed to score a Hat Trick while negotiating a Celebrity Traffic Jam. 9 albums and countless happy fans later they are 25 Years On.

If you like Captain Tractor you will fall head over heels for this retrospective that covers material from the last 25 years into one impressively packaged two record pressing. Completely re-mastered with four new tracks recorded in February 2018 with Nik Kozub at The Audio Department in Edmonton, two unreleased tracks from the vaults, and seventeen past tracks spanning our first album Land, to 2015’s Live at the Roxy

This limited edition pressing in gray splattered vinyl comes in a spiffy double sleeve and sounds amazing, I score it a home run and we are all winners for listening to good music.

Lucy Pearl.jpeg

19 years ago Lucy Pearl released their self-titled album to rave reviews. Lucy Pearl was a supergroup that released just this one album, so for those of us who have been crate-digging trying to find a nice clean pressing, your wait is over. Freshly pressed in jet black vinyl this repressing will be sure to please fans of R&B, soul, hip-hop (Snoop Dogg collaborated) and neo-soul. It is impossible to refrain from getting into the groove and grooving to the tunes on these records.

So there we have it 4 records between these to recordings that cover 25 years of Captain Tractor and 19 years of Lucy Pearl. That completes the 25 or 19 to 4, happy listening everyone.

The Music Is The Medium

rock and roll will save your life

I am reading “Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life” by Steve Almond and he devoted several pages to the evolution of listening to music that has transpired within our lifetimes. Yes, we both acknowledge this dates us but we are OK with it because it also means we have listened to a truckload of music.

I don’t agree with some of Steve’s chronology so I will just offer a vague summary of his list: The radio era, the phonographic era, the 8 track era, the cassette era, the CD era, and last but not least, the digital era.

This isn’t a bad list but I think it is overly simplistic, however, I am not here to debate the various era’s of music, what I do want to talk about is how we listened to music differently through those eras.

I would offer another era to this list, the era of live music which predates any of these recording methods and is still going strong, just different. When I was a young lad my Dad played the guitar at home and at parties. There were wedding dances, high school dances and impromptu music wherever musicians gathered. And gather they did, we had family reunions, music at campsites, and even at a funeral. My Dad’s remembrance service was close to 3 hours long and half a dozen musical groups played a tribute to my Dad for his contributions to live music over the years.

Live music was the only way to listen to music until technology started giving us a plethora of recording methods that allowed us to experience music where ever and whenever we wanted to listen to it.

There are more than enough history lessons on the various ways that sound, and music, have been recorded so I won’t replicate what others have done. What I will do is talk about how listening has changed for me.

After the live music, there was the radio which people listened to for much more than just music. CFCW was our local country and western station and they catered to the farmers and ranchers as well as those of us who enjoyed the country music. CBC had talk shows and of course, Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday, I cheered for the Leafs because my Dad cheered for the Leafs. As a teenager I listened to 630 CHED which played pop music, I can remember listening to The Archies sing “Sugar Sugar” as we drove home after school. K-97 played music on FM starting in 1979, they introduced me to more than one album over the years and I contributed mixtapes to them that they played on-air and gave me some albums in exchange.

I had purchased my first piece of vinyl in 1968, “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells. I picked that gem up in Vancouver while there on vacation and visiting my cousin Wayne. I returned the next summer and bought my first full-length LP, Best of the Bee Gees, and that purchase is where I lead off on my topic of how we listen to music.

I played that record over and over, my parents let me use their record player in my bedroom and I took full advantage of that freedom. In November of 1969, I bought my second full album and I listened to it over and over. Summer of 1970 and I bought more records, Montreal had a very nice record shop that introduced me to “Déjà Vu”  by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young” as well as “In the Court of the Crimson King” by a band that is still very high on my favourites list, King Crimson.

Anyhow, listening. How did I listen to music in the decade of the 1970s? I listened intently, I hung on every word. We didn’t have https://genius.com/ to find the lyrics for us so without lyrics printed on the inner sleeve we listened intently, trying to hear every word and string them together for a musical story within each song and sometimes through a whole album. I listened for the sounds that the different instruments played within the songs, how they ebbed and flowed and added texture to the song. I read the liner notes for every tidbit of information such as who produced the album, who played what instrument (s), where it was recorded, etc.

I listened intently over and over until I knew those records start to finish. It was often a long time between record stores so I got my money’s worth out of every album that I bought.

And then cassette tapes came along and that changed the way I listened and interacted with music. I made mixtapes, yes, they were a real thing and not just in The Guardians of the Galaxy. I would listen to albums over and over and then put select songs on tape that I could listen to in the cassette deck in my car. Music became mobile and not just on the radio, I was now able to listen to what I wanted when I wanted it.

I bought my first set of headphones in 1973 and that also altered the way I experienced sound. They were quadraphonic which also changed the way I heard music. The technology was moving forward at an accelerated rate compared to the advances of the previous couple of hundred years.

I had an 8 track someplace within the late 1970s but I never got into that format very deep. The next leap was to CD’s in 1985, they were introduced to the public in 1982 but I waited a few years for the price to come down and my wages to go up, which both accommodated me favourably. I didn’t sell off my records to buy CDs as many people did, I kept my records spinning and added CDs as an alternate for listening. The biggest change that CDs made to my listening was the ability to listen to a whole album start to finish without having to get up and flip it, I could now listen to 80 minutes of music non-stop. The trade-off was the size of the packaging, I could barely read the liner notes because they were so small on a CD, compared to those on a record.

The biggest change in my listening habits had nothing to do with formats. I listened to all the formats, but I didn’t listen to them the same way in the 1990s as I did in the 1970s and that is still true, up until now.

I added albums to my collection at a dizzying rate and by 1989 I had accumulated 999 records and was on my way to similar numbers in CDs and cassettes but that accumulation came at a cost, I now listened to more volume but less content. I was listening to more and more music but paying less and less attention to what I was listening to and with the advent of digital music, I had even more content but less listening. So I made a decision to listen to some music in much the same way as I had in the embryonic days of my music listening. I left the CD in the player for days on end and listened to the same album over and over, just like I did for Best of the Bee Gees. I picked 20 albums and I listened intently to them.

So, in no particular order, here is what I listened to and how I reacted to the music that I loved so much in years gone by.

  1. Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. This recording has been on my turntable for 49 years, 7 months, 20 days, and I still love to hear it, start to finish, over and over again.
  2. Kiln House by Fleetwood Mac. This is the only album by them that I listen to over and over again.
  3. Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane. This is another band that I only listen to one album of theirs, White Rabbit isn’t the only good song on the album.
  4. No Guru, No Method, No Teacher by Van Morrison. This is his sixteenth album and it was released in 1986, I bought it on CD before buying the vinyl.
  5. American Pie by Don Mclean. Yes, I bought it for “the song”, but I do listen to the whole album, just not as intently as “the song”.
  6. Lust For Life by Iggy Pop. I love this album, start to finish. It’s a good listen for driving down the highway in the summer.
  7. Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones. I still consider this as the Stones best recording.
  8. Avalon by Roxy Music. Released in 1982, this was their eighth and final studio album but the first and only recording that I have of them.
  9. Harvest by Neil Young. This came out in 1972, I bought it sometime around 1975 and saw him live in 1984. I still consider this the highest point in his musical career.
  10. A Space In Time by Ten Years After. I bought this on vinyl in quadraphonic sound. It sounded amazing with headphones and still sounds good in stereo.
  11. I Ain’t Easy by Long John Baldry. Saw him live in 1979 but he didn’t play a single song off this album which disappointed me because I loved this on vinyl.
  12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles. I don’t remember when or where I bought this album but I have listened to it a gazillion times.
  13. Buffalo Springfield by Buffalo Springfield. I bought it “For What It’s Worth” but have listened to it until I am “Going Out Of My Mind”.
  14. Wanted! The Outlaws by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser earned its place in music history by becoming the first country and western album to be platinum-certified, reaching sales of one million. I added to those sales twice.
  15. Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. The sounds of record grooves eliminated the silence and the silence still plays.
  16. Crime of the Century by Supertramp. This album has not lost its lustre even though it isn’t quite the album of the century, that would be number 20 on this list.
  17. Who’s Next by The Who. Come on, I would have bought it just for the cover photo and kept it for the music.
  18. Fear of Music by Talking Heads. I remember hearing this on K-97, an FM station in Edmonton who used to play album rock, I bought it on cassette first and then on record, CD and digital. Yup, over and over and over.
  19. Aqua Lung by Jethro Tull, when this album came out my parents took a stance and they didn’t want me playing this record in their home, which of course meant I played it more, over and over.
  20. Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. This album was released in March of 1973, I graduated from grade 12 in June of 1973 and bought this album with my first paycheque in July of 1973. I have since purchased about a dozen copies of this album over the years in vinyl, cassette and CD. The format doesn’t matter because the music is the medium.

The music is the medium is a statement by Marshall McLuhan, meaning that the form of a message (print, visual, musical, etc.) determines the ways in which that message will be perceived. McLuhan argued that modern electronic communications (including radio, television, films, and computers) would have far-reaching sociological, aesthetic, and philosophical consequences, to the point of actually altering the ways in which we experience the world.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr McLuhan, the end.

Norman’s Summer Music

 I finished reading David Bowie’s biography by Marc Spitz. It was a good read with plenty of references to songs that I liked listening to while reading the book, which is tricky because I only read the book in my car and I don’t distract and drive. Anyhoo, that’s another story for another day, let’s just say for now that I listened to Bowie over the last couple of months which brings us to the topic of this posting. Namely, what have I been listening to lately?

summer-songs-gathering-beauty

 Bowie, mostly his early to mid-career tunes. Space Oddity from his eponymous second album is still a great listen. Aladdin Sane is such a nice play on words, and The Jean Genie is as catchy today as it was in 1973, which is saying a lot because 1973 was the year I became a Drooling Fanatic (page 7 of Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life by Steve Almond).

 I think I started into Bowie in July, just back from a jaunt to London where I scored Alladin Sane on vinyl.

 These lads are insane. black midi, with their album Schlagenheim. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rc3LSW_XTwI

   I also scored Sons of Kemet, Your Queen Is A Reptile. Fresh sounds from the London jazz scene, thanks to Rough Trade Records.

 What else have I been listening to? Lots of New Wave (ish) music. Nick Lowe, Soft Cell, The Psychedelic Furs, That Petrol Emotion, etc. The mid to late eighties new wave scene has been on my playlists since, well, the mid to late eighties.

 Another band that never leaves my playlists are The Pink Floyd. I saw David Gilmore Live at Pompei on the big screen and then Roger Waters Us and Them on tour, on the big screen again, and in between those two stellar movies I read Nick Mason’s book, Inside Out. Which was as good as the movies, just a slower format.

 Another perennial favourite of mine is King Crimson, who I was very fortunate to see live at The Royal Albert Hall in London. And of course, I came home with hard copies of their music so I can keep listening to them.

 The Barr Brothers, saw them live and bought their CD’s and would pay to see them again.

 Flash And The Pan, a group from Australia that I keep playing at least once a year. The song Hey St. Peter is a favourite of mine.

 Talking Heads, Tom Waits, Joy Division, Tonio K., Van Morrison, Decemberists, Lifesavers, Michael Knott, The Swirling Eddies, Frank Zappa, … and the list goes on. A good chunk of this music dates me but I am comfortable with that.

 We Are The City, I liked them live. Spiritualized, And Nothing Hurt, a great piece of music. Nuella Charles, some very good homegrown talent on our homegrown vinyl plant, https://moonshotphonographs.com/.

 Low Roar, one of the best live shows I have ever seen and a darn good recording to boot. 

 Syd Arthur, tough to find hard copies of anything they have recorded but I managed to score Apricity on CD this summer.

 Godspeed You! Black Emperor, an amazing show, simply amazing. Their records are good but live… I don’t have enough superlatives.

 Russian Circles, a really good show that satisfied my heavy metal craving for that month. Best crowd award goes to the metalheads that were there that night.

 The Needs, some good Scandinavian power pop. Völuspa, aka Kirsten Knick delivers some Scandinavian synth-driven pop music.

 Rhye. I don’t know where to start. The spelling, yes that is spelled correctly, Rhye. The show, it was mesmerizing. I love it when all the ingredients come together and make the two hours fly by so fast it seems like the show just started, please don’t stop now!

 Cody Jinks. His new album, After The Fire, got me hooked on him and I went on a binge listening to his back catalogue. I am hooked on him now and I hope he tours up here in the great white north much like another country rebel, Sturgill Simpson, who also dropped another great album.

 Last but not least, The Lumineers, III. This album struck a chord with me due to its subject matter of addiction and messy lives.

So, that’s my summer and early fall listening, a new blog will be coming out early next week. Snapshot reviews. Until then, happy listening my friends.

Misplaced

Smooth as a field of freshly fallen snow and everywhere you look silver gems are twinkling. From Stockholm to the woods of northern Sweden boerd, aka, Bård Ericson, has hewn a delightful album, Misplaced, with vocals contributed by Stella (Brödet, Stella Explorer) that add a really nice element to the album.

boerd Misplaced

boerd may have felt misplace but he has crafted a nice laid back album of chill that I felt compelled to listen attentively to, more than once, in an attempt to catch all the nuances that fill the spaces between notes. There are a nice mix of electronica, Musique concrète, as well as “real” musical instruments, boerd masterfully weaves between the worlds of digital and analog, where we find boerd playing the guitar and cello.

As a regular member of the Royal Swedish Opera, Swedish Radio Symphony, and Stockholm Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ericson has also proven himself as an accomplished double bass player for numerous ensembles around the world. His involvement is these classical ventures only adds to the otherworldly sound of his new album, Misplaced, which will be released

I highly recommend this for anyone who likes chill, ambient, shoe-gaze, contemplative, thoughtful, intelligent music. I am going to stop gushing superlatives all over this and go listen to it again. By the way, I give it a 9.5/10.

boerd released the single ‘Before We Drown’ ft. Stella Explorer on the 4th October via Anjunadeep, and the single “Look” dropped on October 29th, the full-length debut album ‘Misplaced’ arriving later this year.

‘Misplaced’ is available to pre-order now, digitally and on 12” vinyl through Anjunadeep.

https://music.anjunabeats.com/release/142271-boerd-misplaced

It is available for streaming on Soundcloud and iTunes.

https://soundcloud.com/anjunadeep/sets/boerd-misplaced-dns/s-xkLRK

 ‘Live One Life’ 

Völuspa, aka Kirsten Knick, channels myth and magic on her spellbinding new single ‘Live One Life’ , which Paper Mag described as “catchy pop tunes that sound like fever dreams starring a coven of witches led by Stevie Nicks”.  Völsupa returns with the first single from her debut album due for release January 2020 via Icons Creating Evil Art

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‘Live One Life’ is like walking in a dream with a mesmerizing soundtrack and vocals that pull us deep into a catchy pop song that takes on the tough questions of life and death. Driving beats and swelling synth arrangements propel the song forward while Völsupa poses an eternal question on the song’s refrain – ‘Do we ever really die?’

There are no easy answers to such big questions, but ‘Live One Life’ remains hopeful and philosophical, and it is here Knick fully embodies the persona of Völsupa – all-mighty, all-knowing, eternal and omnipresent, as she announces to the listener ‘My love for you can never die.’

On her new single ‘Live One Life’, Knick submerges herself entirely in her alter ego as she looks directly to the Nordic mythical legend of ‘Völuspa’ for divine inspiration.

https://soundcloud.com/iconscreatingevilart/voluspa-live-one-life-1

The Line of Best Fit: “Tinged with delicate dream-pop, Völuspa’s calm pacing translates into a lullaby with the airy instrumentals that softly echo into the horizon.”

Paper Mag: “cerebral, but undeniably catchy pop tunes that sound like fever dreams starring a coven of witches led by Stevie Nicks.”

As Knick explains: “Völuspa speaks to your subconscious realm. The dreams, the nightmares, the old lovers, the future self, the past self and to the holiness inside of you. It haunts you and comforts you at the same time.” 

https://soundcloud.com/iconscreatingevilart/voluspa-live-one-life-1

https://open.spotify.com/track/1mqXnJs0wfArfvciRDGxau?si=njuY6amkRHOM35vS7fETrA

L I S T E N

https://soundcloud.com/iconscreatingevilart/voluspa-live-one-life-1

D I S C O V E R

https://open.spotify.com/artist/5z9RPGhAVZe8c6ki0MRIgX

https://www.voluspamusic.com/

https://www.instagram.com/kirstenknick/

https://twitter.com/Kirsten_Knick

https://www.facebook.com/voluspamusic

https://open.spotify.com/artist/4ChtTBF8lU2YYsuoTrquYn?si

https://soundcloud.com/saturday-monday

https://www.facebook.com/satmon/

Press enquires please contact james@mysticsons.com or dan@mysticsons.com 

You Need The Needs

You need The Needs. You really do, the Needs make great music. Pop-punk according to Apple Music. I lean a bit further towards pop than punk, although some songs cross the line that I drew in the shifting sands of genre naming.

The album, You Need The Needs, starts with a genuine pop-punk offering in the form of their radio-friendly single Summerbore. I Regret It and I’m Doing Fine are the next two songs which could be a statement of how I’ve been living my life, I regret it but I’m doing fine. After that sentence, I need a wake-up call, so we get the very pop easy listening of “Hey Wake Up”, in contrast to the slightly punk feel of the first three tracks.

Summerbore//2000 Clubmixx is a 28-second introduction to the guitar-driven She’ll Never Know, Do You Think, and I Believe In Sunday/Someday. This is followed by an interesting filler track called (love has moved on) that offers something of a bridge to the final songs “First to Go” & “Stay Home Friend”. Those are the final songs, there is however a final track, “Revisited”, which is a short instrumental that sounds like a mike got left on after the jazz club closed.

Lyrically The Needs are closer to ABBA than they are to The Clash, with more unrequited love than angst. If you want a fun album to listen to while driving with the music on and the windows down, You Need The Needs is all you need.

The Needs drop fun music from Noway on Jansen Records.

The Needs are:

Bendik Brænne – Guitar / Vocal

Maciek Ofstad – Guitar / Vocal

Mattis Brænne Wigestrand – Guitar

Knut Oscar Nymo – Bass / Vocal

Nils Jørgen Nilsen – Drums / Vocal

You can find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/youneedtheneeds/

And you can purchase the music and support working musicians on Bandcamp https://youneedtheneeds.bandcamp.com/

Nashville Skyline

nashville skyline

This is the first in what I hope to be a series of album blogs. These will be album reviews in a relaxed and informal manner. My observations are not intended to be critical of the artists or their art, merely comments and observations and reconsiderations of albums that meant something to me at some point in my life, which is obviously why I bought the recording in the first place. I am using the Discogs randomizer to pick the albums for me and I hope to do one review per week. I will do multiple listens of the recording and probably on more than one format if they are available. I will also do some research on the history of the recordings and what relevant information that entails, at my discretion. I am trying to avoid reading other reviews because I feel that may taint my observations.

First up is a recording from 1969, which was a very good year in my life and in my music collection, the album is Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan. This is the ninth studio album by Bob Dylan and shows a departure from the stylings of his previous recordings. The album that preceded Nashville Skyline was John Wesley Harding, an album that was well received by critics and fans alike and had a distinctly folk feel to it. The album that came after Nashville Skyline was Self Portrait, an album that alienated both fans and critics alike but has weathered the turbulence and has come to be fairly well regarded in the lexicon of Dylan. Nashville Skyline is between these two, it has elements of folk simply because it is very difficult to pigeon hole music like this, and it has a distinctly country and western feel that is different from the explosion of country rock that was flooding the world.

First off is the title that grabs me. I have seen the Nashville Skyline, walked it’s streets and listened to its music. So I have a connection to this recording before I hear a single note of music. I also have expectations because of the many, many C&W records that I have heard, Nashville Skyline does not disappoint.

The first note of music is Girl From The North Country, a duet with Johnny Cash. Their voices mesh interestingly. At times I can hear Johnny trying to match the cadence of Bob Dylan, a cadence that suits him well but is different from most other singers, including the very versatile voice of Johnny Cash. I can also hear Dylan holding back to allow Cash to come along with his voice and Cash does, sometimes better than others but on the whole, it is a well-done interpretation of Olde English folk tune with an interesting pairing of musicians in Cash and Dylan.

The rest of the album seems to flow seamlessly with no further duets but extremely competent accompaniment by the musicians behind Dylans singing and playing, talented artists like Charlie Daniels on bass guitar, Pete Drake on pedal steel and Bob Wilson on keyboards. Having this level of veteran Country and Western musicians allowed Dylan the freedom to concentrate on singing in 4/4 time and playing a variety of instruments in accompaniment but not aggressively out front.

The lyrics speak of the basic human conditions, such as love that everyone sings about, especially C/W artists. They are either singing about being lonely and searching for love, being in love, or falling out of love. Dylan does not disappoint, Nashville Skyline is full of references to love, love lost, and a goose, but no dog.

Lay Lady Lay is arguably the most well-known song off the album, although I Threw It All Away and Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You were also released as singles. Lay Lady Lay hit 7 on Billboard and has been covered by a list of musicians that would fill this page.

A litmus test of music for me is how well the recording stands up to repeated listens and how well it ages. This recording has been in my collection for a long time, I do not remember when I bought the record, but I know it wasn’t in 1969, which is when the record came out. It must not have been too long after because the copy I have is a 1969 pressing, so it is before the reissues came out in the mid-’70s.

Regardless of when it came out, I have been listening to it for a good number of years and still enjoy it. For this blog, I listened to it multiple times on vinyl, CD and digital. Nashville Skyline passes both of the tests with ease. In fact, I think I’ll listen to it again today just for the pure enjoyment of listening to it again.

Take away observations; this is a very good record with some stellar musicianship, just listen to the instrumentation and try to block the lyrics in your head. The pedal steel and drumming blow me away. For another listen ignore the interments and focus on the lyrics and what they say to you or interest you. And then listen to it in a relaxed manner, such as reading a book or doing a hobby, and just bask in the pleasure of hearing music and singing at a level that many strive for but few attain.

2018 In The Rear View Mirror

The list below is my attempt at emulating the Juno Awards. I usually shy away from best of lists, but I had the privilege of attending the 8th Annual Edmonton Music Awards Gala at The Winspear Centre on June 28, and like them, I wanted to give nods of approval across a broad spectrum of music and to use categories, like the Juno Awards do. So here is my best of 2018 list that isn’t a best of list, it is, however, music that made me smile during twenty-eighteen.

Live performance in a large venue:
David Byrnes – American Utopia * Live at The Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium

Live performance in a medium venue:
Reverend Horton Heat, Unknown Hinson & Igor & The Red Elvises @ The Starlite Room

Live performance in a small venue:
Rosie & The Riveters w/VISSIA @ The Aviary

Classical music performance:
Late Night Soundscapes, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra Conducted by Alexander Prior

Classical Music Recording:
re:member by Ólafur Arnalds

Edmonton Artist and Recording:
starlight by nêhiyawak

Canadian Country and Western Performance (The Atrium) and Album:
Cold Beans & Broken Eggs by Sean Burns

International Country and Western Album:
Mr. Jukebox by Joshua Hedley

Country and Western Live Performance: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band at The Jube

Vintage Country Album:
Wanted by The Outlaws

Vintage Reissue Recording:
Pink Floyd – The Pipers At The Gates Of Dawn (Remastered Reissue)

Roots Music Album:
Vanished Gardens by Charles Lloyd & The Marvels & Lucinda Williams

Jazz Album:
Your Queen Is Dead by Sons Of Kemet

Dance/Electronic Album:
Shape The Future by Nightmares On Wax

Alternative Album:
Rebound by Eleanor Friedberger

R&B/Soul Album:
Chris Dave and the Drumhedz by Chris Dave and the Drumhedz

R&B/Soul Performance: The War and Treaty at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival

Album Still In Rotation From Last Year:
Once In A Long, Long While by Low Roar

Rock Album of 2018:
Offerings by Typhoon

Canadian Rock Album of 2018:
Earthtones by Bahamas

Spiritual Album of 2018:
(untitled) by mewithoutYou

Live Performance of 2018:
David Byrne at The Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium

Live Review: Yukon Blonde / The Zolas

On the evenings of Friday, November 30 and Saturday, December 1 we had the pleasure of listening to Yukon Blonde and The Zolas do back to back shows at The Station on Jasper. This repeat was a first for both of us although we had seen both bands previously, this was the sixth time for Yukon Blonde and the seventh for The Zolas. Listening to two groups do back to back shows presented us with an opportunity to make some observations on band dynamics, set lists, crowd demographics and dynamics, how the music and lights were mixed and the overall vibe from each show.

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The Zolas hail from the Vancouver area but make numerous tours that include Edmonton, where it is evident that they have a lot of fans. Currently, the core of The Zolas consists of Zach Gray on guitar and vocals, Dwight Abell on bass, and Cody Hiles on drums with a touring pianist rounding out their sound.

Over the years I have heard The Zolas grow and spread their playing into new and exciting sounds while they have also developed and matured as a cohesive unit, they sound better with each listening. They are more confident and they are using new sounds and arrangements that make their older songs sound fresh. They have always been a band that had a good on stage presence and that did not change with these two shows. Zach is good at banter and engaging the crowd and the band as a unit kept the energy moving forward with a minimum of dead spots such as guitar tunings.

The Zolas are adding more nuances and textures to their music through the use of synthesisers and trigger pads. This was most notable for Zach as he played both synthesiser and guitar in which he used the headstock of his guitar to tap trigger pads. The band generated good energy with the crowd and were able to sustain that energy through their set, although I think it was a better crowd on Friday than Saturday and the crowd energy was different. The Zolas traditionally close with Zach taking his mic stand, guitar and a small synth into the middle of the crowd on the floor and play Escape Artist. Zach asks the crowd to turn on their phone flashlights and it creates a cool dynamic.

Over the years I have seen this done several times and the audience reaction isn’t always the same. On Friday night it was good, not as good as a previous show at a different venue and a different crowd, but it was darn good. Saturday night, on the other hand, had a very different crowd that didn’t engage as well from my perspective.fullsizeoutput_d6dfAs always, The Zolas meet and greet with the crowd after the show and are good at it. We didn’t get a setlist from the Zolas this time around, but we got a selfie with Zach which is a tradition he does with us. My appreciation for this band goes up every time I see them live or listen to them at home. They are a highlight band for me. My favourite song is Frieda On The Mountain:
“Freida on the mountain
What do you see on the other side?
Freida on the mountain
What do you see on the other side?”
I’m sure that my family and friends will understand why it is a favourite.

Yukon Blonde is a band that started in Kelowna but work out of Vancouver nowadays. The band is made up of Jeff Innes on vocals and guitar, Brandon Scott on guitar and vocals, Graham Jones on drums and vocals, James Younger on bass and vocals, and Rebecca Gray on keyboards, synths, and vocals.fullsizeoutput_d6f5

Wikipedia classify them as an indie rock band although I can hear the influence of psych, disco, 80’s easy listening, and straight ahead power rock. They are a tight band that can are comfortable playing with a variety of sounds. Having the luxury of 3 band mates that can sing lead, all 5 of them singing backing vocals, 3 of them that play synth and two lead/rhythm guitar players, they can spread the sound around and add layers and textures that compliment each other and build a big sound.

The highlight for me of both shows by Yukon Blonde was their long jams on the song Radio. I didn’t time it because I was so mesmerised listening to it, but it went around, up, over and then back for more than the traditional 3 minutes that they would get on a radio edit. It then it segued into Saturday Night which was another high energy stretched out anthem. The closing song both nights was a tribute to George Harrison and the Travelling Wilburys, in which both bands took the stage, and they did a rendition of Handle With Care.

 

fullsizeoutput_d6e6The Station on Jasper is a good venue, the staff are polite and courteous and the sound is usually pretty good. They have a decent menu, we had the nachos and they were tasty. Like I said earlier, the crowds were very different for the two shows. Friday night had a lot of happy people that were there because they wanted to hear the music. Saturday felt like it had a lot more intoxicated people who came to the venue to get drunk and either socialise through the whole show or spend the entire night texting. Very different crowds that I am sure the bands could sense as much as we did.fullsizeoutput_d289

The sound was muddy, very bass heavy and very loud on Friday night, which was a shame because so many people were there to hear good music. Saturday night had a better mix although it was still very, very loud. At least the bass wasn’t as bad as Friday night, it was still too much, but it was better. Heavy bass is a trend that we have noticed at a lot of shows, so it isn’t confined to one venue. The excessive volume is also at epidemic proportions, and it’s everywhere even in stores.

Conclusion: I thoroughly enjoyed both bands both night and would gladly return to The Station on Jasper.

-Norman Weatherly

Photos by Joel Weatherly. More Photos at Joel Weatherly Photography.

Yukon Blonde setlists: Friday, Saturday

Uncomfortable Music

Others have said that it is not the job of a doctor to make you feel comfortable, it is the doctors’ job to heal you and that might be uncomfortable at times. For example, suppose you break your arm. The doctor needs to do a visual inspection, and that probably involves moving your broken arm a bit, and that will not be comfortable, but it is necessary for the healing process. Next, the doctor will most likely get an X-ray of your arm, and that will require placing the arm in certain positions to get the best possible look at the bones and that most likely will not be comfortable either. But it is necessary for the proper diagnosis and healing to begin. So, with these examples, we can probably all agree that it is not the doctors’ job to make you comfortable.

Following that line of reasoning, I came into possession of four examples of the above analogy transferred to music. Swapping the word doctor for a musician, we get a new and exciting proverb.

It is not a musicians job to make you comfortable, it is the musicians’ job to use music to challenge you, and that can be uncomfortable at times.

I have come into the possession of four pieces of music that presented a challenge to me and made me uncomfortable but ultimately provided something equivalent to healing. These four albums challenged my concept of what music should be. They tested my notions of what lyrics in music should contain. They challenged me to understand what the musicians were trying to tell me through these songs.

I have been listening to mewithoutYou for a long time, I have all their albums, and they get played repeatedly throughout the year. They would probably be one of the most listened to artists in our music collection. Having said all that I waited with baited breathe for their new album to come out, it had been three years since their last album, Pale Horse, which I enjoyed. They had released a teaser single “Julia (or, ‘Holy to the LORD’ on the Bells of Horses),” which was an exciting piece that left me wondering what the rest of the album contained since they usually had threads or stings running through their records.

pale horse

The CD’s arrived this week for both the new album and an EP that was released simultaneously. I let them sit for a few days due to some other listening that I had to finish and a concert review that I wanted to get out of the way so I could focus on listening. Yesterday I opened the CD cases, opened the lyric sheets (which I appreciate bands supplying) and got comfortable for a listening session. I started with the EP, which clocks at an impressive 25 minutes, and it didn’t take long for my comfort to be challenged by the lyrical content. Track one contains this enigmatic line: “when your mouth was quiet was the sweetest sound of all.” The EP has the sound and feel of a mewithoutYou release. The vocals are consistent with Aaron Weiss’ lyrics from previous albums. He tends to wander between whispers and primal screams with some words that come across more like a poetry reading than traditional singing.

ep untitled

The album was next, [Untitled]. Yes, that is the title of it. [Untitled] Taking us out of our comfort zone with the title before I even take the shrink wrap off. The cover artwork is somewhat different from previous albums as well although they are all by the same artist, Vasily Kafanov. Even the art on the cover was taking me out of my comfort zone.
I put the CD in, get comfortable with the lyric sheet, and open my ears to hear. The first track is very mewithoutYou prime, and it has Aaron screaming at us: “Anyone listening wants a brainwashed like mine?” That sounds uncomfortable, and it echoes a theme that Aaron expounds upon frequently, mental health. The lyrics of both the EP and the full-length album, at 43 minutes, are more cryptic than ever and challenge the listener to listen. I challenge you to listen to the album intentionally. They are not suitable for passive listening, at least not for me. They expound upon issues of faith, feelings, fear and facing life with all of its ups, downs and twists and turns. Life is complicated and so are these two listens from mewithoutYou.

untitled

In conclusion, I like these recordings, and they have grown on me with each additional listen. They need time to become comfortable with us.

thy is a word

I also scored a pair of albums off of Facebook Marketplace that I was excited to have hard copies of since these don’t show up in Edmonton often. These two pieces of vinyl are by Half-handed Cloud, “As Stowaways In Cabinets Of Surf, We Live-Out In Our Members A Kind Of Rebirth,” and “Flying Scroll Flight Control.” I have listened to the only CD I have by Half-handed Cloud “Thy Is a Word + Feet Need Lamps” over and over plus streaming their material on iTunes frequently, so I was happy to score these two albums. I played them the same night I bought them

flying scroll
I must warn you about this band though, and it is not for everyone’s taste. Half-handed Cloud, much like their name and album titles are a little bit unconventional. The band is essentially a one-person show by John Ringhofer who often collaborates with Sufjan Stevens and Danielson, in their many configurations. The music will probably make you uncomfortable, but stick with it and listen intently. There are lots of interesting things happening. Instruments come and go, and he will often change instruments in the middle of a song in live shows. There are tempo changes that will catch you unawares. And then there are the lyrics. To quote Ringhofer: “Lyrics seem so much better heard than read…” There are no lyric sheets so I had to really listen to hear the words and to attach meaning to them.

stowaways

Perhaps we can align both mewithoutYou and Half-handed Cloud by their lyrics. They both explore themes of faith. Often, especially Half-handed Cloud, they are focused on faith in God as expressed in white Anglo-Saxon pentecostal churches. Less so with mewithoutYou, the doctrine of Aaron Weiss is more open to a broader concept of God, but none the less personal. I don’t think this takes anything away from their albums. If the faith in the lyrics makes you uncomfortable that could be a good thing. Perhaps they can be a challenge to you to open your life more to the things that are going on around you, open to what others think, feel, and believe and why they believe what they do.

I enjoyed the challenge presented by these four albums. The music and the lyrics made me perk up and pay attention, to think outside of my comfort zone. It was a good thing. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

“God calls us to step out of our comfort zone, to do the thing that is difficult or uncomfortable. Not because God enjoys watching us struggle, but because he knows that we will grow stronger as individuals and in our faith when we try new things.” –  Suzanne Anderson

One more: https://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/poem-the-butterfly/