Lyric videos have been immensely popular since the launch of YouTube. Often they are made by fans and simply feature the lyrics scrolling across the screen almost like karaoke, some going a little further to contain images along with the words. Dead Weights just took it to a new level with their video for “Stuck in My Head.” The video does feature the lyrics that are written on a black board in what looks like a classroom.
What makes it truly special is that the band invited several talented local artists and friends with very different style to draw two or three at a time on the blackboard really elevating the lyrics. The artists are: Jordan Seal, Kendall Valerio, Vance McBride, Cory Levesque, Yafa Jarrar, Pascale Arpin, Kieran McKinnon, and Liam Sheehan. Band members also jump in from time to time. To ensure they can fit all of this within the time constraints of their song, they speed up the video which makes the drawing unfold like magic before our eyes… drawing with chalk in hyper-speed!
The video peaks while the band sings the refrain “Try and keep an open heart” over and over at the end and you have eight people drawing at the same time creating one big beautiful mural with a great message.
On June 9, a full-length album called The Vanity of Reason was released by Estan Beedell. Originally from Ottawa, he’s just moved back to the 613 from Montreal for an indefinite amount of time, see “for life.” Released simply under his first name, A Vanity of Reason is the symphonic exploration of his tastes in electro rock-pop complimented by a vibraphone, marimba, alto, tenor & baritone sax. As a consistent contributor to a variety of other bands, he seems to have had no trouble finding his own collaborators including Harley Alexander of Sheepman & Emperor Bulash, Chester Hansen of BADBADNOTGOOD, saxophone player Julian Selody, and drummer Luke Graves, among many others.
This is a concept album. The liner notes in the vinyl start with a quote by J. Castell Hopkins from his 1898 Life and Work of Mr. Gladstone that lists many human intellectuals controlling and domineering their fields or professions. Estan also manipulated the instrument that drew the cover art to his album, which depicts little people chipping away at the foundation of their civilization to build it higher and higher. The quote sums this and the concept of the LP with its climax: “…the whole human race seems to be moved by a supernatural impulse to assert its dominion over every force […] which might impede its progress.”
I’m feeling the influences of Manhattan Transfer, chamber music and barbershop harmonies here. The peppy tracks don’t last in their pop, they soon dip into contemplative and pleasant experimentation. The fact is Estan’s voice sounds like a kind of key-operated instrument on its own. There are traces of gospel mixed in with an overabundance of jazz. The whole album would be a wonder to see performed live, and there are potential July or August concerts to come. It remains, for now, a perfect background LP on the first few plays until you really hear “Common Sense Revolution“. Then you can’t really help but listen to it from start to finish. On top of being a masterful display of many instruments—of which Estan plays thirteen!—the subject matter and range of his vocals are very enjoyable. If the call-to-arms of the fourth track don’t grab you, then “House Torn Down” or “Lodyzhensky” might.
This one-man project will surely last longer than the time it took to put together. I don’t doubt it had a lengthy gestation period and my expectations for it will be surpassed. Cop a feel below:
After missing the “Angels Are Born” CD release party at Mercury lounge on June 29th, I knew I had to see Loh El play at Mugshots last night. If you haven’t yet seen this poet perform, get on that.
Opening with his signature beatboxing harmonica, Ottawa’s Graeme O’Farrell AKA Loh El the Minstrel, invited his small crowd to be moved. This “The Womb of Music,” which is as beautiful and gritty on the album as it is live, is the summation of what Loh El stands for. “[I] put myself at the mercy of music as if it were the weather and I were a castaway.” He dared us to open our eyes, to realize that what we are fed every day might not actually be nourishing.
To know Graeme is to know his spoken word. And to know that, you know he loves his young son more than anyone on the planet. His debut album is a labour of that–the title, the dedication & every second song are for Evers. We can only guess if the album would have even come to be without his son but we know for certain the finger-painting album cover wouldn’t exist without those little fingers.
If you’re ready to see Loh El live you’re shit out of luck until Sept. 14th, when he’ll play at Raw Sugar. I sincerely hope something sooner comes along. However, he’ll be attending the Hillside Festival in Guelph, ON July 26th to 28th so if you’re as diehard as I might prove to be… you’ll attend too. His spoken word poetry & efforts are chronicled here.
“Cause yeah I’m broke but I live free so you cannot make a slave of me.” He’s a wordsmith who doesn’t scrimp on the whammy bar. Curtis Perry on back-up guitar playing out bass-like tones and Dan Mollema on drums with no less than five cymbals brought Loh El’s love letter to his son to life on the small Mugshots stage.
Every time a set as warm as that plays out in the jail hostel’s courtyard I wonder about the catharsis of humanity. The three hangings of murderers that occurred above the venue are no less real in the past of the ancient prison than the Palestinian conflict ongoing in the Gaza Strip. There is so much we choose to ignore, which Graeme stares in the face. Perhaps looking at it this way, we can agree that being haunted is not a physical or extrasensory experience but a part of us. Maybe we’re all meant to remember what had to happen and what should never have been.
Maybe this doesn’t belong in a music review. I don’t know about that. All I know is that as long as there are artists like Loh El the Minstrel to read us like books and remind us of what really matters, our human condition might not always have to be “just the way things are.” We can be the change we need to see–if we write a poem at least.