Here are some of my favourite songs from 2012. While not necessarily released this year, this is when I discovered them. So if you’re looking for some samples of some new tunes. Enjoy.
Lemme know what you think and what you enjoyed! Add your own!
And if you’re too lazy to sit through these videos, you can go to:
You’ll get bite sized snippits of some of my favourite songs of 2012.
“Lady Adelaide” – Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives
“I Am Europe” – Chilly Gonzales – Ivory Tower
The video of this one is pretty weird, but totally worth it.
“Home” – Gabrielle Alpin - Home EP
“Make the Money” – Macklemore - The Heist
“Don’t Move” – Phantogram - Nightlife
“Electric Pow Wow” – A Tribe Called Red - A Tribe Called Red
“Reaction” – Acres of Lions - Collections
“They Are Filled” – Bison - Quill
“Write It All Down For You” – Elliott Brood - Mountain Meadows
“First Breath After A Coma” – Explosions in the Sky - The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place
“Call Me In the Afternoon” – Half Moon Run - Dark Eyes
“Take Me With You When You Go” – Jack White - Blunderbuss
“Seeing the Glass as Half Broken” – Mayor Mayor - If We Don’t Move They Can’t See Us
“Gettysburg” – Ratatat - Classics
West My Friend “Place”
Grammar Fight Records 2012
West My Friend is:
Eden Oliver: Vocals, Guitar, Flute
Alex Rempel: Mandolin, Vocals
Jeff Poynter: Accordion, Vocals
Steven Taddei: Bass, Vocals
Place represents a milestone in the relatively short life of West My Friend. Their first full length album, following up on their self-titled EP released in 2011 will be available for wide-spread release on April 5th 2012. I’ve had the pleasure of working with West My Friend before to record backing tracks to BFA: The Musical in the summer of 2011, and I am excited to bring you a sneak peek of what you can expect to hear on Place.
The 4 piece consisting of guitar, bass, accordion, and mandolin bring a unique style. The 13 song album comes in at just under 50 minutes, making each song just shy of an average 4 minutes each. A unique aspect of the creation of this album is that the band used the fast-growing site IndieGoGo.com. It allows for groups such as West My Friend to let their fans donate money to their cause. In this case it was recording this album. Their campaign using YouTube helped them with the funding of Place.
The first track on the album, “Tic-A-Toc,” is a great opener and sets the tone for the rest of the album; a slow build to the first chorus that introduces all the elements of the band. This instrumentation is not one that the average listener will encounter on their everyday music-going experience. The mandolin and the accordion bring a distinct feeling to the band’s vibe and musical structure, the shuffling drums carry the momentum of the track throughout, and syncopated lines between the band members provide a back and forth swaying motion (dare I say pendulum like?). “Tic-A-Toc” closes with a fantastic melodic line – with the male members imitating the ticking, and Eden, the lone female and lead vocalist, leading with “Ding Dongs.”
Throughout the record, Eden’s voice has the ability to rise above the instrumentals and then sits comfortably, meshing with the gents in harmony. The production is generally consistent over the course of the record, with the accordion in your left ear and the mandolin in your right.
One of my favourite tracks on the album is “Shakes and Rattles.” It starts stark with just the mandolin and the lead vocal. The reverb suggests a large empty space, bordering on cavernous. The pseudo-sloppiness of the drums works fantastically with the reverb, and this track marks, albeit briefly, the introduction of the flute for the first time. The climax comes when Eden’s voice returns in the chorus with “Shakes, Rattles, Shakes,” and the track denouements into black with a trailing cymbal.
(“I Refuse” – with Chris Ho)
Although the band is able to maintain a high level of energy on all of their tracks, I feel that the ones with drums backing them tend to be more cohesive and convey the style of the song just a bit more. A track like “I Refuse” would benefit from a solid beat behind it, as well as smooth fills in the syncopated bits where the music drops. A few tracks later, the band shows off their strict music talent doing a version of the “Pin Oak Reel.” Each member takes the lead, with Jeff on guitar and Eden on flute, while Alex provides some rather slick mandolin lines.
“Home By The Sea” provides a change of pace from the previous mainly upbeat tracks. The male vocals, provided by Alex, are a welcome variety, the lyrics describing a dwelling the title refers to. Swelling accordion and vocals combine for a captivating timbre as the percussion rises, causing the track to lean toward a bobbing motion while boomy drums rise, wave-like, which was one of the stand-outs for me on the album.
The album closes with what feels like the music that would be playing during the credits of the West My Friend movie. “Oh Future” is a blues and folk infused track with a crunchy piano that fits into the half-ragtime style of the song. It is definitely the perfect track to end the album.
West My Friend provides a great outing on their first full length album, Place, drawing inspiration from many different styles and showing off their ability to play create lush indie, emotional folk, with a bit of roots-twang here and there. The upbeat and downbeat tracks provide a fantastic contrast in sounds that the classically trained band is able to produce. If you wish Mumford and Sons had an accordion and a female lead singer, West My Friend is the band for you. You can pick up Placeon April 5th, 2012 from their website http://www.westmyfriend.com/apps/webstore/ or at their CD release show (featuring the Kovich String Quartet) at Hermann’s Jazz Club.
Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay – 2011 – EMI
With their fifth album, and latest since Viva La Vida… in 2008, Coldplay picks up where they left off in their experimentation from Viva. For people who enjoyed Coldplay of olde, with songs like “Yellow”, “The Scientist” and “Sparks”, I would advise you to immediately stop reading this review and go listen to A Rush Of Blood to the Head. You will not like Mylo Xyloto. The album blends styles of funk, dubstep, pop and almost everything in between for an interesting en-devour from this supergroup.
To start, the title Mylo Xyloto has come under quite a bit of scrutiny in the press even before its release. Martin, a man who has named his kids Apple and Moses, is quoted as saying
“It is pronounced My-low Zy-letoe… and even the lads admit the title doesn’t mean anything. Chris says: “At the moment it seems a bit ridiculous and I accept that. “Something about it feels quite fresh. The title doesn’t have any other meaning. I think we’re a band with a lot of history now so it’s nice to come up with something that doesn’t have any history at all. We’ve had that title for about two years on a board and any other potential titles had to be written next to it. Other ones made more sense but we just liked this one, that’s all we can defend it with.”
It seems to be pretention bordering on idiocy, which some might say is a decent way to describe the band as a whole, but one cannot dismiss the fact that they have created some powerful music for quite some time now.
The title aside, the album unfolds in a continuous manner, with songs blending into each other as is the style with CD’s for some time. What is unusual about the Coldplay CD is that they have a few shorter tracks that sort of divide the CD into three almost equal parts. These short tracks play as “soundscapes”, and show direct influence from producer Brian Eno. Eno is famous in the music world for his work with legendary bands such as U2 and David Bowie, as well as being the composer for the Windows 95 introduction sound. Eno’s background in electronic and ambient music has a large impact on the band’s overall sound and these smaller soundscapes.
Specifically speaking, a few tracks stand out against the rest, but there is nothing that feels like a stand-out hit. The first single “Paradise” quite nicely reflects the direction that Coldplay is heading. Lushly filled with strings and synths, the half-time tempo of this track just begs for a dub-step remix (Oh wait – they already exist! See the end of the video). This emphasizes the departure from the bare bones of what Coldplay became known for when they first emerged. With Eno’s production, it sometimes becomes hard to find the skeleton of the band beneath all the foliage of sound.
The track “Charlie Brown” stood out to me as a song that many who liked Viva La Vida will latch onto and enjoy. The similar four on the floor beat throughout makes for a driving song with a return to the guitar based tracks. The track ends with a nice little piano homage to the yellow striped character for which the track is named. If you listen closely, you can almost begin to hear the beginning of the “Christmas Time” song in Chris Martin’s final piano lines.
A track that feels like it’s off in a whole new direction is “Major Minus”. Once it broke into the meat of the song, I immediately felt like this should be a Red Hot Chili Peppers hit from the 90′s. The chunky guitars and the “Ooh ooh’s” just scream “Higher Ground” off of Mother’s Milk. “Major Minus” doesn’t have the same energy as the early Peppers did, but the song doesn’t suffer either.
Another foray into the synth driven pop world, and bound to be their next single, ”Princess of China” feat. Rihanna is the last stand out from the album. Mostly due to the combination of Martin’s and Rihanna’s vocals, which at times can seem over produced, this track catches the listeners ear. The bridge kind of lags on, but the energy is quickly brought back with a drop leading to the final chorus and hook.
Lastly, it pains me so much to listen to the song “Up In Flames”. The simple piano and vocal track is ruined by a digitized drum set. Martin’s reverberant vocals and harmonies would be so much better suited to a real drum set. When the strings, back-ups and guitar solo comes in, the drums move out of focus and the track finally sits in a really nice place. This track could have been a hidden gem without that drum sound. I think with a few more listens, it might grow on me and become my favourite number on the album.
To conclude, Mylo Xyloto is more so removed from the Parachutes, Coldplay’s first album, and much more similar to Viva La Vida. Hopefully this distinction helps people decide whether or not to pick up the album. It’s definitely worth a listen for its production and thick sounds and interesting experimentation on the band’s part. For those who want Chris Martin to just record himself at a piano singing, avoid this one.
And now for a dubstep remix of “Paradise” – as promised!
So tonight I went to the Hey Rosetta! concert, and I was a little apprehensive at first, as I was going alone and the night seemed like it wasn’t going to turn out great. But boy was I wrong.
I’m going to try and write as much of this as I can now before I forget it all, so here goes.
The indie darlings of Canada were nominated for the Polaris Prize last year and are riding high off the release of their newest album. Seeds came on out the 15th of February, and the band is currently touring to promote the new tunes. Seeds has been rumored to be the one that is their breakout; the one that gets noticed and is the final step to international stardom. Personally I don’t agree with this. I think that Into Your Lungs, the band’s sophomore album is more rounded and balanced record. Not that Seeds isn’t up to snuff with what is to be expected from Hey Rosetta!, I just prefer Into Your Lungs.
And this band knows how to put on a good show. It was probably one of the best I have seen in the past few years, if not in my life. Their sound is impeccable and their presence immaculate.
It’s not just the mass amount of people on stage: with usually two, sometimes three guitars, a bass, piano, cello, violin, viola and drums. There is a lot of sound produced by this band. And it’s their balance and reign of that power that which makes them a great band. Although the live settings doesn’t allow for the best mixture of sounds, it still exists and is a wonderful thing when you can hear it. There are plenty of moments like in “I’ve been Asleep for a Long, Long Time” where you think the song is about to end and the lights fade, and then the back is back in with a huge last chorus.
Hey Rosetta! is one of the only bands in this day in age that I know that really uses dynamics effectively. Their range of volumes is captivating and are a huge drawing factor for me. In particular “There’s An Arc” has a perfectly executed crescendo through the first 2 and a half minutes of music. Another thing about Hey Rosetta! that strikes me is their sheer musical talent. The cellist, sometimes holding his cello with his knees, guitar around his neck playing chords and then switching back to the bow and playing with the strings in the same song is awe-inspiring. The string players themselves are very skilled and use extended techniques to extend the musical lines. The band as a collective also has the ability to nail syncopated lines and complex off-beat rhythms that shatter the typical four-to-the-floor beats of the Top-40 today.
But the biggest and most important thing about Hey Rosetta! that makes them a great band to see live, is that they look like they’re enjoying and really feeling the music. Tim, the lead singer appears almost in pain singing some of the lyrics and the rest of the band is moving and reacting to each other. As the band came out for a 3 song encore, playing a moving rendition of “Time After Time“, the sparklers came out as well. A feat that I have never seen done at a live show probably had the security guards shitting their pants, was a homage to the band’s video for “Yer Spring” and a nice way to end the evening.
If you haven’t already heard Hey Rosetta!, I highly recommend you give some of their songs a listen and hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
- In a new music world, Hey Rosetta! rises to the occasion (theglobeandmail.com)
- Hey Rosetta! is full steam ahead (arts.nationalpost.com)
So I’ve been getting more flack on the Sick Puppies fan forum about my review for their CD.
So this is fun! I’m kind of enjoying being this bad guy who ‘hates’ on their band with no valid opinion and no taste in music. So I decided to listen to this album for a second time and see if I was wrong in what I said in my first review. With all my new insight on this band and that they’re not actually this soft rock band that I had originally expected them to be, I was willing to see if my opinion had changed at all.
Granted this is probably what Sick Puppies fans want. A CD with tracks very similar to each other and what they’re used to. Fair enough. I recently picked up the new Secret and Whisper album, Teenage Fantasy, and a lot of the songs on that CD are very similar to their first. And many songs on that CD are very similar to each other. So I’m not saying that songs that sound the same are a bad thing if that’s what you want.
For me, when I pick up a CD I try and come into it and give it a good representation of what I think it is in a whole. I am looking to hear something new, something different and something that stands out from everyone else. And I didn’t hear that on this Tri-Polar album. I heard a variation of a form in many of these songs. The same form that almost every band these days follows – Verse Chorus Verse Chorus Bridge Chorus. Every musician and popular music enthusiast knows this same form. Comparable to Sonata form of the Classical Era, everyone these days does it. It’s what makes a catchy consistent pop song. And a catchy consistent pop song makes money. Period. And this doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Which is why this album fell by the waste-side for me.
So there are a number of good songs on the album, and the three-piece band is comprised of great musicians. I am impressed with their musicianship, particularly the bass lines – usually more than just eight notes of the chord. But there’s nothing that stands out! Each chorus feels like it drops into half time and each verse has some kind of guitar riff, comparable to that of Billy Talent. To me it just got boring. Plain and simple. I decided to look through all the lyrics too. Regarding the Explicit Content sticker which I think was unnecessary. I found one use of profanity and maybe two songs that involve “Explicit Content” – involving sex. Now, this sticker was brought into effect with the NWA’s CD Straight Outta Compton and I just think it’s distributed a little to freely these days. Songs about life don’t automatically make them explicit, I could name hundreds of songs about life that are able to make their point without being explicit.
It may be because I am not a particular fan of this kind of music. Because to me, it all sounds the same. Breaking Benjamin, Seether, Default, Nickelback, etc etc etc. Everyone lumps those bands together, and I hope that Sick Puppies, if they reach a larger audience and larger reign of stardom don’t fall into the same category. But unfortunately, I have no reason to believe that they won’t. But apparently their fans love them long time. So we’ll see.
Now speaking of these fans. Crazy sorts. I feel kind of insulted that my review was considered half-assed. As I said earlier I try and give a good representation of the CD on a whole. That’s not including the back story of the band and not including what they’ve done previously. It does help when you try to chart the progress of the band. I feel that when you’re trying to write for a certain audience – in my case, university students – you have to write a certain way and give them something that they can relate to. Now the majority of students at my university – in Canada – have probably never heard of Sick Puppies and if they have, it’s going to be from the Free Hugs/All The Same video. So that’s what they could relate to. I said if this is what you like, you’ll enjoy it. If not avoid it. It’s a pretty fair and general review, and I think that if you (being all you Sick Puppies Fans out there who didn’t appreciate my review) were to read my review from an unbiased point of view, say if my review was for a different band (which is you weren’t half-assed and did some “research” and realized I did OTHER reviews) you will see my point. A bad or sub-par CD deserves an equal review, not for the views on a blog. One doesn’t write a CD review for his university newspaper for the views.
Well fans, if you got this far, thanks for reading. Thanks for all the nice comments about me and my musical styles. I’m looking forward to my plane ticket to Australia to see the band live – which I’ll requires a review on entirely different circumstances.
Is this lie worth defending?
Close your eyes cover your ears,
Shut your mouth.
You can act naive
But I know you’re not stupid.
(“In It For Life” – Sick Puppies – Tri-Polar – 2009)