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My Top 14 Albums of 2014

I’ve found that with so much of today’s music sound fairly similar to itself, it’s hard to discover something that’s new and really makes you go “Wow – yeah this is good.” For me, these are the albums from 2014 that have done that.

In alphabetical order.

The ArchersThese Wicked Woods – These Victoria natives put out their first full length this year. Their five part harmonies make this stomp-folk worth a listen. 

BADBADNOTGOOD – III – Hiphop, jazz, house – I don’t exactly know what to call it, but it’s got some sweet groove.

The Colourist – The Colourist – A good, fun album. This defines pop-rock for me. You’ve probably already heard this one but can never place it.

Hanz Zimmer – Interstellar Original Soundtrack – Go see this movie, if just for the music.

Hozier – Hozier – Along with Shakey Graves, I think that Hozier is doing the “solo-stomp-folk” right.

Ingrid Michaelson – Lights Out – In the “girls who play piano” category, Michaelson’s album doesn’t venture too far from what you’d expect – but the songwriting and collaborations are on point.

Kimba – The Golden Echo – This record reminded me a lot of Janelle Monae, proving that Kimbra is more than one hit wonder back up singer material (See: “Somebody I Used to Know”)

Little Hurricane Gold Fever – I was lucky enough to see this duo at SXSW this year – and no one else is doing the “boy and girl blues” better than these two.

Lykke Li – I Never Learn – Probably one of my favourites of the year, this song was my anthem for the first six months of 2014. When I talk about songs that “go somewhere” – this is what I mean.

Owen Pallett – In Conflict – Minimalism and arranging at it’s finest. In Conflict is as beautiful as it is haunting.

Reuben and the Dark – Funeral Sky – For the “folk band that swims in reverb” fans – definitely check out these guys. 

Sharon Von Etten – Are We There – Another girl with a piano – but this one is much more heartbreaking than Lights Out. If you’re feeling a little low about your lover – I’d recommend this.

West My Friend – When the Ink Dries – Friends of the blog, West My Friend’s full length has a lot of surprises. See my review for more detail, but listen to this fun one for now.

Honourable Mentions – Kevin Drew – DarlingsPUP – PUP, Taylor Swift – 1989, Arkells – High Noon, St. VincentSt. Vincent, Snarky Puppy – We Like It Here, Gutterbird – Speak Easy, The Antlers – Familiars, Beck – Morning PhaseHey Rosetta – Second SightTokyo Police Club – Forcefield.

Feel free to argue, complain, disagree or hate!

Album Review – West My Friend – When the Ink Dries

The word maturity gets thrown around a lot when talking about music and artists in general. I never really had a good grasp of how one could observe an artist “mature” over time. In comparing the sonic differences of West My Friend’s latest album When the Ink Dries, listeners can definitely hear the group’s sound developing and growing.

Those who are new to West My Friend will find WTID is filled with songs of varying tempo, content and mood. The four-piece band from Victoria practically defines the “folk-indie” genre, but also employs jazz and blues influences to accompany the guitar, mandolin, accordion, and bass that dominate their sound. Despite this, listeners will find this album offers a lot more than just those main sounds.

Immediately, cymbal washes and percussion drive the opening title track. An element new to the WMF sound brings a welcome force that pushes the songs in a more clear direction, something that is felt more than anything on many of the other tracks. “The Tattoo that Never Loved Her Anyway” showcases another unique component of the band’s repertoire; a syncopated vocal bridge is a bit odd at first, but warmed up on me as the song continued.

My favourite track off the album, “Missing You,” perfectly encapsulates the maturity of West My Friend. The folk-pop inspired song would not feel out of place on a Sara Bareilles record. This new direction of the band showcases their song writing skills alongside the produced sounds of Victoria mainstay Joby Baker, and arranger Adrian Dolan. Listeners can certainly hear the influence those two creative minds had on the overall sound of the album. The driving claps and four-on-the-floor provide the basis for the cheery brass lines that would get any crowd dancing.

One quip I have about the album in general is the song placement and order. As it stands now, WTID feels more like a collection of pretty songs, rather than a complete album telling a story. The juxtaposition between pop hits like “Missing You,” to the calm and discouraging “Thin Hope” does not add to the flow of the album.  By no means does this take away from the beauty in the songs, particularly the latter – I feel as a listener the album could be arranged in such a way to tell a more complete story.

A song that cannot go without mention in any review of this album is “The Cat Lady Song.” This cabaret style epic with full brass and string sections feels like it deserves its own Baz Luhrmann film to accompany it. The song which lyrics discusses the feelings of cats and asks, “What do you do when two cat ladies fall in love?” is a perfect reason why the band has been described as quirky. (They must be cat people…)

Filled with wonderful arrangements, rich harmonies, and full, dense songs, West My Friend’s When the Ink Dries is a welcomed progression from their debut Place. They have transformed their sound from the simplicity of a four-piece to a polished quartet, providing a cacophony of sound that engulfs the listener.


The Tattoo That Loved Her Anyway 

West My Friend begins their cross Canada album release tour on March 6th.
The album will be available from the band and on their website at http://www.westmyfriend.com/apps/webstore/
Connect with them on Facebook & Twitter 

Old House

Here we are again. Two months later, another false promise of more posts and yet another failure on my part to come through.  So this time I won’t promise any more posts – I’ll just write when I feel the needs and if you’re around to catch it – awesome. If not – shucks! (I just looked, my last real post was in September. That’s five months – ouch.)

If we back up to September – I went to Vancouver to get an idea of my chances of working out there. Nothing. Came back to Calgary – spent a month with an A/V company. Hated it. Floundered for a few months. Went to BreakOut West in Calgary (a big musical conference). Got in touch with the band Good for Grapes.  I told them I could do sound and tour managing for them. They were stoked. Christmas. Did a few random gigs here and there. Recorded a birthday party – songs soon. GFG was going on tour – asked me to come along. Went on tour. Had a good time. Signed up for another one. Back in Calgary. Floundering.

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So good things have happened! I’m making a bit of progress and discovering what I do and don’t want out of this “career” in the music industry. My interest in recording is quickly starting to fade as I am having less and less luck with finding work in the business – and my prospects aren’t improving. This new administrative, managerial side of the music business is something I’d like to explore further and try more of. Lucky for me I’m going on a second tour this year to SXSW in Austin. Which is bound to be amazing.

If you haven’t heard Good for Grapes yet, you should definitely do so. Here is their song “London Fog.”

So who knows where I’m going to be in a years time. Even in 4 months time. I certainly have no idea what I’m doing.

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Brighten Up

As mentioned, lots of stuff has been happening with me lately. And because I know I’m not the centre of anyones universe – here’s some beautiful music to make your day better. Or worse, depending on what you’re going through. 

I was prepared to love you
And never expect anything of you

Why must a man lose everything to find out what he wants?

I’m workin’ on the high hope
And if it all works out, you might just see me
Or hear from me in a while

I’m gonna make it across this tight rope
And I’m comin’ for my prize
No more I’ll be waitin’ ’round
While life just passes by

Maybe when our hearts realign
Maybe when we’ve both had some time
I’m gonna see you there

I’m gonna see you there, lay
Where we can be natural, lay

‘Cause I’ve been livin’ in the half life
Not sure which way to turn
Why must a man lose everything
To find out what he wants

I’m gonna wait until it feels right
And when that time has come
Wild horses won’t keep me back
From where you have gone

Maybe when we’re both old and wise
Maybe when our hearts have had some time
I’m gonna see you there

I’m gonna see you there, lay
Where we can be natural, lay

After all we’ve seen
We can do anything, lay
Where your heart is strong
Where we can go on and on, lay
Where your good times gone
Where we are forever young, lay
Where your heart is strong
Where we can go on and on, lay, lay!

 

Oh Glen Hansard, always right in the feels.