‘Tis the season to look back on the year and recall some of the best music. Before we enter 2o13 (provided the world doesn’t end in a few weeks, which is so very likely) and wait in anticipation for new releases to come, we should reflect on the hard work, time and craftsmanship that went into so many of this past year’s albums. I often find lists arbitrary, because they are completely subjective and don’t always represent the best all-round music. In any case, these are my picks for 2012 — the albums that had the biggest impact on me throughout the year. There are so many other albums that came out this year that are worthy of mention, and I’m sure many different blogs throughout Canada will give them some well-deserved attention. I don’t expect everyone to agree, but enjoy anyways!
Check out this brand new video by Partus Films for Claude Munson & The Storm Outside’s (Up & Up Music) song “Driftwood”. This is the first song released from their upcoming EP, which will be coming out at next week’s release party at Mercury Lounge on December 20th. The video really compliments the beauty of the song well, using an intricate stop-motion technique that must have taken a lot of time to film.
Here’s the press release along with the video. Have a look!
We are proud to present Driftwood; a stop motion adventure that takes you from the shores of a seaside village to the depths of the imagination. The video breaks wave with the release of Claude Munson & The Storm Outside’s self-titled debut. We wanted to craft something that embodied the underlying tone of the album; a vessel of maritime imagery, magical vistas and of course, the conflict of a storm burning both within and beyond. Follow a young boy whose loneliness is doused by the comforts of a ghostly entourage and discover an artist’s music that has the power to lift you above your storm.
Driftwood is a Partus Film
Video produced by Claude Munson & Craig Allen Conoley
Ottawa is buzzing with new bands making new sounds, and Trees are one that jumped out at me as being different from the rest of the pack. Their new album Catzenatica really pushes the envelope, bringing a refreshing sound and unique approach to songwriting. Not only that, but the album sounds great – it is very well produced and achieves an aura that one can get lost in.
Although Catzenatica is experimental, it is still really accessible – even those who may not be as receptive to this kind of musical approach will appreciate how the album was put together. From the outset, opening track “Mild Jamaican” starts as a whirlwind of eerie sounding vocals, effects and instrumental noises. This really piques the interest of the listener, because one normally expects to determine how an album will “feel” once they start listening to it. However, in my experience, the best albums are the ones that leave you guessing as they unravel, never fully allowing for the listener to get too comfortable with the overall product. Lead singer Jonathan Matthews’ dynamic vocals are on par with those of Maccabees frontman Orlando Weeks, breaking any notion of standard lyrical phrasing and testing the limits of of his voice. From low to high to falsetto, the intricacy and originality in his voice is really well-suited for the type of music his band is making.
Tress obviously has a myriad of influences, merging styles and approaches to songwriting in one album. They create a dreamy, reverb-driven soundscape that echoes with beautiful guitar tones and flowing bass lines. The percussion is unique and guides the unconventional direction of the album, but it doesn’t overpower or drown out the delicate sounds of the guitars. This is often a very fine balance, because experimenting can often lead to getting carried away with one instrument over another. But this is not the case on Catzenatica, as a near perfect concoction of instrumentation, effects, and melody is achieved throughout the record. The layers of sound really stand out, and helps to create the overall ambience the band was going for in the recording.
Perhaps beginning as a three-piece instrumental band without a lead vocalist did them a lot of good, since there is a very clear emphasis on achieving a distinct sound from the instruments. Of course, the addition of Jonathan completes the package and makes Trees more accessible to a wider audience, but I think developing a strong sonic/instrumental basis first really helped the band hone their talents and overall sound they were striving to achieve.
Crystal Castles is one of those bands that I credit for broadening my musical horizons. As soon as their self-titled came out in 2008 I knew there was something about this music that I was becoming attached to, but I couldn’t explain it. I also didn’t understand it much at all, all that electronic stuff really baffled me (And it still does to an extent). But it got me to branch out and explore new sounds, appreciate layers, sound quality, and much more. I was somewhat turned off by the fact that my friends Kevin, Kathy and I stayed up super late at Bonnaroo (2009) after a crazy hot day to see them come on, and left the entire crowd just standing there as they were 45 minutes late. I was pretty pissed, but the short set they did end up playing was insane. Like, out of control fun and I still remember the placement of lights on stage, Alice’s voice penetrating every cell of our bodies, and music basically causing an earthquake around us. I forgave them. Plus they did a song with Robert Smith in the meantime so I can’t stay mad.
Anyway, when III came out I was pretty excited… But I didn’t expect to hear what I did. It is on another level. They have refined their sound so much that it’s almost intoxicating to listen to the album. The entire thing is worthy of praise, and the opening track “Plague” really sets the tone for the whole thing. Anyway put your headphones on and just listen, you’ll understand.
Herd Mag is up to no good, starting to get involved in wicked events like this one. If it’s anything like the Issue 01 Launch Party at Fall Down, we’re in for quite a ride. The Acorn are back in action after a year or so off to work on some other ventures, and they’re bringing along Ottawa’s kick-ass noise rock quartet Roberta Bondar. And word on the street is they are both working on new material, which is super exciting (The Acorn’s new album well be titled Vieux Loup). And just to top things off there’s going to be a post show dance bash with KitchenPARTY… Cancel all events in your schedule, because this is going to be one hell of a night. Is anyone else as stoked as I am right now? Holy shit.
+ post-show dance party with KitchenPARTY
Friday January 25, 2013
Black Sheep Inn / Wakefield QC
tix: $10 adv. available at www.theblacksheepinn.com
I thought recently that it’s a little unfair to just exclusively post about Canadian music, when there’s an entire world of great stuff out there. Obviously I have an infinite amount of love for my compatriots… I think it’s really impressive how much awesome, diverse music comes out of Canada. So I’m going to give another country some attention today, one that will always have a spot in my heart. in 2010, I did a month-long road trip all around New Zealand with a great friend, and everything about the country touched the core of my spirit. The landscapes, the natural environment, the wonderful people, and also the music. With a tiny population of only 4.4 million people, New Zealand has had some great sounds come out of their country. I discovered bands like Black Seeds, Salmonella Dub and Fat Freddy’s Dropn. But one band that I really think deserves some attention here in North America is Kids of 88. Their 2012 album Modern Love is all around incredible to listen to – it’s well produced and is has so many solid tracks on it. Here’s a great video for the song “Tucan”, one of my favourites off the record. Hear Kids of 88 takes me back to that place I was a few years ago. The nostalgia!!!
Here’s the full version of the exclusive interview I did with Diamond Rings for Where Ottawa as he is set to play Ritual Nightclub on December 7th. Be sure to check out the video for his newest single from Free Dimensional “Runaway Love”, I can’t stop listening to it. Yes, I’m listening to it right now… Enjoy!
Toronto’s John O’Regan, a.k.a. Diamond Rings, has garnered critical acclaim across North America and reached new heights with his most recent album Free Dimensional. His do-it-yourself background has helped him develop a work ethic that pushes him to create different music, both sonically and aesthetically. As the former lead vocalist in Guelph’s D’Urbervilles, Diamond Rings is familiar with the trials and tribulations of being a musician. He turned heads with his debut album Special Affections in 2011, but has unquestionably staked his claim as one of Toronto’s most captivating exports of the year. Although compared by some to Bowie, Depeche Mode and Ian Curtis of Joy Division, Diamond Rings brings a fresh new look and sound to Canadian music.
Diamond Rings was recently the musical guest on Late Night with David Letterman, and will be playing at Ritual Nightclub on December 7. Matías Muñoz speaks with him about his favourite Ottawa food, staying level-headed while on the road, and what it means to be seen as a countercultural figure in this day in age.
Is there anything unique about Ottawa that stands out to you, or things you enjoy doing while you’re here?
I love eating shawarma at Marroush (now called Three Brothers), which is right down the street from Ritual Nightclub where I’m going to play. You kind of get these habits and traditions when on tour, and you don’t want to change them up. That’s my Ottawa thing.
Do you have a favourite spot that you’ve played since touring as Diamond Rings?
Not really, wherever there are people that are excited to hear your music is the best for me. Obviously some places are more scenic or picturesque, or have reputations for being this or that. But I really think I have great shows everywhere.
When you’re on the road and far away from home, do you have ways to keep yourself grounded?
I think the nature of touring keeps you pretty grounded. It keeps you on your toes, in the best possible way. A lot of the work that happens on tour isn’t especially glamourous, it’s all that grunt work that goes into making the one hour I get on stage sound and look as close to perfect as possible. I think it’s that aspect of it that adds to the magic of the whole thing. A lot of people work really hard to make it all possible, the stuff that happens on stage doesn’t happen automatically.
You’ve had the opportunity to tour with your friends PS I Love You, and bands like Stars. What have your experiences connecting with other artists meant to you?
It’s really nice to be on tour with friends. I’ve had the opportunity to tour with bands that I’m now friends with, but at one point earlier in my career looked up to a lot. To share the stage and to get to know some of them personally is a real honour for me. I consider myself a contemporary rather than just a fan, it’s great. I feel lucky.
Do you embrace the idea of counterculture? Is what you are doing part of something bigger associated with your view of the music industry and gender stereotypes, or are you just in it to play good music?
I think at the end of the day I want to connect with people, that’s why I write music and do what I do. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care what people thought about my work, or if I said I didn’t care if people didn’t like what I do. That being said, what I do and what I project sonically and aesthetically has to feel, to me, real and different in order to present something to the world that is otherwise lacking. Certainly, in some respect, there is a willingness to transform or push peoples expectations of what is possible in a live or recording context, or a visual context, in relationship to the way they view me and my gender, those sorts of things. When I’m playing a show and fans are in the building, the reception to what I do has been great.
There are obviously those who don’t appreciate what I’m doing as much, but that’s something that comes with the territory of doing what I do. Especially when it becomes something that is more out there in the world, with people hearing my music and hearing about me. Along with more people being into it, there’s going to be more people that don’t like it as well. But that’s totally fine, if I were making everyone happy that would be weird. To really make a statement you have to be alienating some people, and what I’m saying and doing feels right and is special to me. But I don’t really worry about what everyone else says.
Things have been a little backed up these days for me, and posts have been few and far between. For that I apologize, but I couldn’t miss getting this explosive new track by Ottawa’s Roberta Bondar out there. It’s off their upcoming EP, which many of us are very excited to listen to in its entirety. In the meantime, see what’s in store and check out the new track “Pleather Bed”.
Evening Hymns playing in Paris (Photo: Julien Mignot)
Here is the full, unabridged version of the interview with Jonas I did for Where Ottawa. Enjoy!
To say that Evening Hymns is a two-piece folk-rock band doesn’t quite capture the sheer magnitude of their music. Spectral Dusk, their sophomore album released in August, is more art piece than album. Lead singer and songwriter Jonas Bonnetta penned the record after the passing of his father in 2009. The life-altering loss resulted in a deep reflection of life’s brevity, and ultimately a collection of songs that combine raw honesty and emotion with Bonnetta’s immaculate musicianship. WHERE Ottawa’s Matias Muñoz speaks with him before their show at Mavericks on November 15 about recording Spectral Dusk in Perth, Ontario (about an hour southeast of Ottawa) with bandmate Sylvie Smith and friends, the difficulty of bringing these personal works to life every night on the road, and his relationship with Ottawa.
You recorded Spectral Dusk in a cabin near Perth, Ontario. What drew you to the Ottawa area for this process?
Well Silvie’s parents just bought a place near Perth, it’s about 20 minutes north-west of the town. They bought the house and nine days after they got possession of it we approached them about working there, and as artists and musicians themselves, they were super thrilled that were going to christen it. We were looking for a place to record and I was getting close to renting a cabin a few hours north of Toronto and then this kind of fell into our lap, so when they bought it we asked if we could make a record there and they were totally on board. So that was our first introduction to that area.
So you wanted a quieter space? The city didn’t interest you?
Yeah, for the most part I really have no interest in recording in studios, so we wanted to do it in a place that sounds good and that helps us be in touch with our surroundings. And being deep in the woods really put us at ease as musicians, with no landline and no distractions from the outside. As a really personal record, it really helped us to focus on what we were doing and getting the sound that we wanted. For the type of music we’re making I like to think we don’t need studio production, and I think it has made our record sound great. With the basic recording equipment we had, a good mic and recording space is really all you need. Micro managing everything isn’t what I was looking for, just a few good pieces of equipment and some nice rooms.
Spectral Dusk is deeply personal for you, as it reflects on your father’s passing in different ways. While the album has been greeted with such warm reception, have you found it difficult to share with the world?
I find it pretty difficult live. I mean, the record as a whole was hard to make and that’s why it took such a long time to be released. It got too dark and we had to back off for a while, then we regained some energy and approached it again. Once we finished it, we were like “great, we’re done…” forgetting that we then had to go travel the world playing all those songs. So it’s been really exhausting, every show is like conjuring up those feelings about dad and revisiting that. It’s been a bit of a challenge, but then after a show you have someone come up to you and tell you about how they just lost their mom or dad, saying they cried tonight listening to your set because the songs said everything I wish I could have said. That makes it all worthwhile, and it makes it that much heavier because it kind of destroys you a bit hearing those things. But it’s real, and that’s what we like about it. What I’m saying on the record is true from the heart, so playing those songs comes naturally too.
You have spent a lot of time living life off the beaten path over the last few years. Does living unconventionally help you learn and grow as a musician? Or do you just get sick of living in the same place for too long?
Yeah, lived in a tent all summer. Silvie and I actually lived up near Perth all winter and will be spending all of this winter there as well. Just having the wood burning smell, cross-country skiing, and quiet reading spaces. It’s pretty much my dream life, you know? And living in a tent this past summer just east of Peterborough working on an art project was great. Part of our job as musicians is not staying in one place, it’s kind of a double-edged sword but it’s all part of it. And I like moving, I don’t get a whole lot of inspiration from just sitting around. I do get the inspiration by being out in the woods, so it’s a no-brainer for us when we get an opportunity to get out into the wilderness. I’m at the point in my life where I’m spending five or six months a year on the road and going to all these amazing cities all over the world. So the last thing I want to do in my free time is be in the city, I’m always on a quest to find interesting new places.
The Wooden Sky played in Ottawa a few weeks ago, and you’ve developed a pretty strong bond with them while touring and recording. How did some of the collaborations on Spectral Dusk come to be?
Well I asked those guys because I love the way they sound. They all met my dad, were with me at the funeral and were crucial through that whole thing. We had a strong connection so it was a no-brainer to collaborate with them. I helped out with a few of their songs and they helped out with Evening Hymns. It was such an organic process, throwing ideas off one another and getting it just right. We just did 6 weeks in Europe and they backed us up on that tour, so we were basically one big 7-piece band a lot of the time.
Since you last visited Ottawa for the album release in August (Raw Sugar Café), Evening Hymns toured Europe. In what ways is touring in Europe different than Canada?
We haven’t even done that much touring in Canada to be honest. We’ve done a few legs, but we’ve been in Europe four times in the last two years. I think you’re more akin to having a listening audience when you’re over there, you know? When people come to see you play, they come to listen to you and appreciate what you are saying. In North America, it’s sometimes harder to get that intense quiet that is ideal for our kind of music. So it makes for some really great shows over there, when the band and the audience work off each other. We’ve been really lucky there, and touring there is always joy. We’re in a new, beautiful city every night. And you have that here in Canada too, each place has it’s own character. Going over the Rockies, visiting small towns. We’re trying to put more time into Canada so that we can build our audience here too. It more difficult here sometimes, sometimes it’s great and others it’s tougher.
Do you have a favourite spot in Europe?
Yeah, Switzerland was really cool. The end our last tour we went to the Alps and stayed at a cottage in the alpine meadow. You could only get there by gondola, and we made it right before a snowstorm blew in and they had to shut it down. That place has a spot in my heart for sure. Paris has always been really amazing to us, and Berlin is one of my favourite cities in the world. Plus, our management and booking agent is based out of Berlin so we’ve had a lot of opportunities to get to know that place.
When people come to see you play in Ottawa on November 15th, what is one thing you hope they take away from the show?
I just hope they can connect, but then sometimes I think, “man, I hope no one feels as bad as I do”. It’s kind of weird, but a lot of times the show feels really good when the audience is really good. So it goes hand-in-hand, and it’s really special in an intimate way. Things are quiet this tour but we’re loving it.
What’s your favourite thing to do when you visit Ottawa? Are there any activities, places or meals you look forward to?
Now that we’re near there, spending more time nearby we really enjoy skiing in that area and doing outdoor activities. I also really enjoy going to The Manx for breakfast, I love that place. We played Raw Sugar Café last time we were in town, and the atmosphere in that place is really neat. There’s also the Neat Coffeshopin Burnstown, which I think has some of the best coffee in my opinion. I don’t know, I used to not care for Ottawa that much because I never felt that it had a soul. But as I spend more time there I am really starting to fall in love with the city. We will definitely be coming up there a lot since we’re going to be living so close by. Plus, Canada’s next Prime Minister Rolf Klausener (frontman of Ottawa band The Acorn) lives there, so it has that going for it too.