Archive for the ‘Indie Music’ Category

Treasures Buried In The Earth

April 18, 2009

It’s another brilliant day here in Southern Ontario and I’ve decided to make a playlist in the great radition of muic lovers everywhere.  Of course this used to be a mixtape, then mix CD, but now it’s an iPod playlist.  Some criteria:

1) The list will be 17 songs long. This is because its April 17th as I’m writing the post, and I remember that most of my exam time mix CD’s were that long.

2) Only one song per band. With the sheer number of groups in my collection it’s only fair.

3) At least 50% Cancon because I’m a good citizen. Well I guess in this case it’ll be at least 53% because I’ll have to include 9 Candian songs out of 17.

4) Everything in my collection is eligible regardless of genre, time, nationality, or personal back story. 

Now the list:

Is this Love? – Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah

When I first heard this band I wasn’t sure what to think of them.  Their singing isn’t what would traditionally be considered high caliber. It’s a little different than most. Nevermind that though, the song is great.  It’s a perfect way to kick off a warm spring day.

Lovesong – The Cure

Many of my friends are into The Cure.  They are one of those bands that people just seem to instantly love when they hear them.  This song, as the title indicates, is a classic love song, though in a style not always associated with romantic overtones.  I am convinced that The Cure are a band that would fit seamlessly into today’s indie music scene if they were brand new.

I Must Belong Somewhere – Bright Eyes

I believe I mentioned this song in one of my snow shovelling conversations on the podcast.  It is equally suitable now.  The simplicity of the melody and message allow your mind to wrap around the intersting lyrics.  It feels like a song that’s lounging on the porch.

Throwing It All Away – Genesis

Speaking of songs that lounge about, this classic Genesis tune displays the conplexity of a dysfuntional relationship. As someone who’s been there this song is almost liberating.  The positive vibe of the music is contrasted by Phil’s obvious sadness.  He knows that this is it, but isn’t sure what to do.  The common arguments: Who will light the darkness? Who will hold your hand? Who will find you the answers when you don’t understand? But he brings it full circle with the classic: Late at night when you call my name the only sound you’ll hear, is the sound of your voice calling, calling after me.

Emily Carr – The Wheat Pool

The first Canadian band (remember I owe you at least 8 more) brings a beautiful tune.  It’s such an effortless song by a great emerging band.  It contains stories about life, regular old life.  Road tripping across the prairies demands this song. Watch out for their next album due out within the year I believe. 

Wondering Where The Lions Are – Bruce Cockburn

Want to take a stroll on a nice day?  This song should set your gait for you.  Bruce strikes me as the kind of person whose spent a lot of sunny days outside, soaking in the atmosphere.  Wondering Where The Lions Are is a Canadian classic.  I think the line some kinda ecstasy got a hold on me is a perfect fit for this list.

Up On Cripple CreekThe Band

I’m counting this as a Canadian track because of the Canadian content in the group.  The Band were leaders in popularizing very rootsy rock from the southern US.  This song, a bit of a tall tale about nearly perfect love, Up On Cripple Creek is ideal for working on your car, building a fence, or hosting a BBQ. It just makes everything seem a little more effortless.

Where There’s a Will There’s a Whale Bone – Islands

Yesterday I dragged out my hockey net and spent an hour taking shots.  As soon as this song came on my attempts became harder and more deliberate. If I was a professional baseball pitcher this would be my entrance music.  I don’t know why I failed to realize the potential of this song for motivation, but it’s now part of my pre-sports listening.  Hard to argue with a song that mentions whale bone repeatedly.

Lost! – Coldplay

Please note this is the alternative version and not the original album one.  This is another great motivating song.  The lyrics really tell the tale: Just because I’m losing doesn’t mean I’m lost.  It should probably be in a sports movie right at the point that the underdohas reached rock bottom and is working hard to get back up.  It’s a great metaphor for my basketball team (now 0-10) as we try to bounce back in the last third of the season.  Spring means rebirth, so does this song.

Middle of Nowhere – Hot Hot Heat

This B.C. based indie band has given the world a catchy song about taking off to nowhere.  To give you something to go on, when I go off, back to the middle of nowhere

Mother and Child Reunion – Paul Simon

Any hope of seeing an S & G song are dashed by this track.  I absolutely love the organ in this song.  Paul Simon has a way of creating a song that is so full and rich without overcomplicating it.  This song, with it’s kind of bizarre lyrics is just such a song.  I’m swaying back and forth at the thought of it.

Cause = Time – Broken Social Scene

Probably my favourite BSS song for it’s up tempo beat and cynical lyrics.  I think what makes the band so great is there willingness to just try new ideas and be a bit wild in their songwriting.  In the end though this song is just great for rolling down the street with the windows down.

Something On The Tragically Hip

With the NHL Playoffs on I might’ve picked a couple of other Hip tunes for this list, but this is the one I like most for the context.  It strikes a nice balance between a rocking beat and a laid back feeling.  Much like Up On Cripple Creek  this song is appropriate for a myriad of outdoor activities.

 I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty

Maybe my head is filled with a need to fight back, but I’m including another song with a strong message for the underdog. You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.

My Old Self – Wide Mouth Mason

Some songs are just so nostalgic you can’t ever escape them.  Pretty much anything from the first WMM album is that way for me.  It doesn’t hurt that this song puts me in the mood to be outisde, dancing around, or both.  I’m up in the kitchen singing, momma’s out in the backyard, daddy’s downstairs digging a grave.

 The Needle Has Landed – Neko Case

Perhaps this song would be better suited to an evening under the stars, but I like it in this list.  I think I could eat ice cream while listening to Neko Case and it’d feel like heaven.

In Perfect Time – Jill Barber

We come to a fitting end with a song about loss and life.   This Jill Barber song is my favourite of her work.  I would blame feeling down on the weather if I had no other reason to be. Thankfully that sentence does not apply to me today. I’m off to enjoy the sun.

An Evening Away

April 16, 2009

In celebration of the middle of the week we have a guest writer here at The Alder Fork. Iwona Szkudlarek who previously took us on a tour of the GTA returns with a review of Dee Planche’s latest album, Flesh and Bones. Your can hear Planche here. Enjoy Iwona’s review:

Hailing from Mississauga, Dee Planche recently released Flesh and Bone (2009), named after the title track. I came across her at several local shows in Toronto and picked up Flesh and Bones at her performance at the Cameron House. From what I could tell from the shows, she has a beautiful, pure voice, with a smooth rock edge. This led me to anticipate good things before I even had a listen to the album.

What impressed me right off the bat, looking at the credits, is that she co-penned all of the tunes. I always appreciate when an artist puts all of themselves into a piece of work. I also really enjoy the artwork doodles in the book, it set a moody tone that is reflected in the music. The album contains 9 tracks and was produced and mixed by Brent Bodrug, who also added his writing chops as the co-writer to many of the songs.

The first track, Flesh and Bone, is up tempo. The harder tone of the song and the electronic elements add a haunting element to Dee’s voice. She has a good range and shows it off well in this song. It is one of the more distinct songs, because of the electronic aspects.

Her voice continues strongly on Hard to Swallow. The song has very strong pop melodies and I think it was definitely a good choice as the first single. I find that the piano in the background adds depth to the melody. This, coupled with the lyrics that so accurately and painfully depict heartache, explains why this is one of my favourite songs on the album.

The choice to alternate the pop ballads and the harder rock tunes seems to have been conscious and it is very effective in keeping the listener’s attention. The ballads are heartfelt and tend to reflect lost love in their lyrics. Chase the Sun is a drop in tempo, after the first two edgier songs. Both Chase the Sun and Not Here, third and fourth tracks respectively, are smooth pop songs and Dee’s voice flows over the gentle melodies. The last tune, Twilight, possesses a simplicity of the instrumentation adds a poignant quality to the song.

The edgier songs on the album balance out the mellow ballads. Serotonin, the fourth track on the album, brings us back into the rock frame of mind. You can hear the soul in her voice in this song; it has raw emotion in the lyrics and her voice. Weak Spot and Sleep Talking, as the sixth and seventh tracks on the album continue the trend of strong, soulful rock. I feel like Dee is very good at bringing out a deeper, rougher side when the song requires it while not losing the smooth, lilting aspects of her voice. The second last track, Sunburn, uses the keyboard to bring out the melody. Though not one of my favourite songs, you can feel the power of her delivery, punctuated by the instrumentation.

I find that the all songs feel very graceful and effortless, whether they be ballads or more rock driven songs. You can tell Dee has vocal training because her voice hits every note with the precision of an expert. Overall, it is a very good album. It moves effortlessly, though it does not distinguish itself greatly from the other albums in this genre.

I think the best indication that Dee Planche and her crew have crafted an effective and catchy pop rock album is that by the end of this review, I was singing along to the tunes. The album a respectable effort; I have a good impression of Dee and look forward to hearing her in the future.

Tell Me, Tell Me

April 14, 2009

I’ve got stories galore and a few moves in store

Doug Folkins

King Henry’s Good Times

New episode of The Alder Fork Podcast is available here, on iTunes or over there–>.

It features a fun interview with Amanda Putz of the CBC.  She has been a host on CBC Radio’s Bandwith and Fuse.  She can be heard hosting on CBC Radio 3, and is involved in B.C. Scene in Ottawa.  For more about Amanda check out her bio on the ever reliable Wikipedia.

Featured music is by Doug Folkins and The Mass Romantics.  You can read my review of Doug’s latest album here, and hear Max’s visit to the podcast here.

I asked Amanda for 5 Canadian indie bands we should be listening to right now, and she gave me 6. Here they are with links to their websites:

Said the Whale

Dan Mangan

Justin Rutledge

Meredith Luce

NQ Arbuckle

Jill Zmud

Jenn Grant

This is a great list. Take some time and check these acts out.

An Elephant Never Forgets

April 12, 2009

I didn’t know what a brute I was.

Neko Case

Vengeance is Sleeping

I’ve given a lot of attention to CBC Radio 2 concerts on this blog.  With a couple of CBC Radio 3 hosts coming on the podcast in the next few weeks I thought I would dip into their archive a few times this month.  I’m starting with a recent appearance by Neko Case.  She is playing 5 tunes from her new album Middle Cyclone. I, like most people came to love the decidely retro musical stylings of Neko with her previous effort, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, and her earlier work with The New Pornographers.  She has a classic voice, like the sound of a 1950’s songstress, and plays very rootsy songs.  I have another performance of hers on CD and I may look at it later.  She has been around the Canadian music scene for many years, and although she was born in America, she fits in here just fine. If you are unfamiliar with her work, go here.

This in session appearance is somewhat stripped down to guitar, lead and harmony vocal.  I have yet to hear all of her new album (more of a case of lacking disposable income than anything else) but I certainly hope to soon.  As seems to usually be the case with Case the songs are short and succinct with only one braving the territory beyond the 3 minute mark.  She is such an effortless singer, and to me it seems that she doesn’t need to try to sound incredible.  I greatly appreciate that Case seems to shine in live performance as much as in the studio.  Some musicians sacrafice the quality of their performance when playing life, either through inferior musicianship or being caught up in the moment. Neko Case brings a top quality effort everytime.

As with her previous album, these tracks invoke images of starry nights in the desert and coast to coast road trips.  I don’t think she intends this, but that’s what happens in my mind.  If I was to make a movie about farm life during the great depression I would use Neko Case for my soundtrack.  I’m not implying that her music is depressing, but that it sets the perfect mood for life on the land.

Interestingly, during That Teenage Feeling Case ventures into using chords I’ve never heard from her.  The song has moments of what Leonard Cohen once called “major lifts,” and the guitar travels towards more familiar acoustic indie songs, reminiscient of Joel Plaskett for example.  I comment on it only because it was a surprise to me.

Of the 5 songs in this performance I had only heard People Got A Lotta Nerve.  I was not impressed with it when I first heard it, but this version seems a bit more enjoyable.  I have a sense it might be a song that grows on me over time.  Sometimes I find whole albums are that way, see my review of the latest Verve effort for an example.  Hold On Hold On was my favourite followed by Vengeance Is Sleeping.  The overall performance is a short distraction for a rainy day.

Waiting For Something That Will Never Arrive

April 11, 2009

Nobody knows you and nobody gives a damn.

Wolf Parade

I’ll Believe In Anything

Welcome to Part II of my look at Wolf Parade’s Apologies to Queen Mary. Part I was yesterday.

Shine A Light starts out like Get Back by the Beatles but eventually gets down to Wolf Parade business. It seems like it could be song one on the album, which makes sense with the way that Same Ghost Every Night felt like an end.  Waiting for something that’ll never arrive.

I’m really glad I chose to revisit this album because I think it represents what is really good about contemporary Canadian music: strong musicianship, professional writing, and creative sounds.

Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts beings out with a bouncy synth part.  The distinctive vocal stylings of the band’s leaders are once again on display.  One of the elements of a great band is the way that each member fuses together in an almost effortless manner.  This is perhaps the biggest challenge in making a successful group. Lalalalalala! This is a song that seems longer than it is.

I once waited in the rain for an hour to see Frog Eyes and Sunset Rubdown two of Sebastien Krug’s other bands, only to find out that they were held up at the border, the Canadian border, and weren’t going to make it.  I’m still not sure how citizens of Canada were stuck trying to get back to Canada, but I was very disappointed by that.

Once again one song leads to another and one of my favourites, I’ll Believe In Anything is rolling before the previous track is quite done. The guitar rift in this song is simple yet fantastic. Both the synth and vocal melody follow along with it.  The song appears to plod along and yet is quite catchy. I could take another hit for you.

I mentioned yesterday that the songs were reminiscent of The Verve because the lyrics were often indiscernible.  I would ague that Wolf Parade is an heir to the shoegazer sound.  It just seems to fit so perfectly for them. I could take the fire outI’ll take you where nobody knows you and nobody gives a damn. Those words I got.

It’s A Curse.  I think this album gets better as it goes along. The last handful of tracks are arguably better than the first few.  If you gave up on them in the beginning I feel sorry for you. Stop missing out.This song starts out with some whammy bar guitar, without the requisite irony of that.  Wolf Parade aren’t afraid to use a beautiful rock guitar riff in their songs.  Sometimes a band just needs to turn up the amp and rock away, this is that kind of song.  Maybe the whole album is like that. The breakdown in this song is the best part of the album in my opinion. We have reached the high water mark, and what a sweet place it is.

At 7:35 Dinner Bells is the longest track on the album. I remember buying CDs that listed the length of each track on the back. There are probably tapes and LPs out there that are similarly marked. With the proliferation of iTunes and other computer based Mp3 players we know the length of every song ever recorded and commited to hard drive.  Do I need to know that information? Not really, but it’s fun to write about.  The song itself starts out almost ballad-esque.  The song has an apparently depressing theme, about many things lost.  Musicians learn to dance.  About half way through it seems like the song is going to end. Instead a slow build up brings us around and around. You might expect the song to blow up, but it never really does.

We have reached the end, This Heart’s On Fire. It’s another stand out track for me.  A straight ahead indie rock song.  Lots of power chords and synth runs over a steady beat.  It would be one of the three I’d download if that was all I was going to get.  Add to that Fancy Claps and I’ll Believe In Anything.  That set will make you want the rest of the album.

Apologies To Queen Mary is an outstanding effort by one of Canada’s best bands.  If you can see Wolf Parade live I highly recommend it as their high energy show is bound to move you.

I Was A Hero Early In The Morning

April 10, 2009

We are raised up very high.

Wolf Parade

Same Ghost Every Night

As part of my ongoing effort to live in the past I am going to write a running commentary review of Wolf Parade’s 2005 Apologies to Queen Mary.  This Montreal band, formed in literally three weeks in 2003, blends Radiohead-esque sounds with Canadian indie rock sensibilities.  At times I certainly feel like I’m hearing Johnny Greenwood et al. without Thom Yorke out front. On to the music:

You Are Runner And I Am My Father’s Son is a nice introduction to the band and the album.  The vocals are quite distinctive and remind me of Modest Mouse. Perhaps not coincidentally it was Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock that brought the band into the Sub Pop fold.  This song lays on top of a repeating drum pattern that persists throughout most of the song.  The guitars would be at home on early U2 or Peter Gabriel.

The next song, Modern World, is introduced seamlessly from the previous track. I’m not in love with the modern world.  The song is somewhat of an anthem about life in our world.  A dirty piano sound runs through the verses while the chorusy bit is more ethereal.  One thing about this band is that I often struggle to understand what they are singing, much like The Verve. I wonder if it’s intentional distortion of an issue with my hearing.

Grounds for Divorce starts out like a Clash song at least as far as guitar tone goes.  Quickly we are treated to some fun synth (a mainstay of current indie rock).  Random album fact, apparently the title of this disc refers to an incident on the actual Queen Mary ocean liner.  I don’t think I’ve ever had an incident in a public place. Maybe something is wrong with my life.  This song breaks down into a delightful guitar synth outro that lasts about a minute.

One of the great features of Apologies to Queen Mary is that there is no down time. The tracks slam into each other in a pleasing way. We Built Another World follows the winning formula of synth and guitar.  We are also trated to some nice back and forth harmony in the middle of the song. Bad things happen in the night.

This album was shortlisted for the inaugural Polaris Music Prize in 2006. I’m not surprised because it embodies all the principles of good indie Canadian rock, and is outstanding musically.

Fancy Claps is the most familiar song for me. It appeared on a mix CD that lived in my car stereo for about 2 years. Coincidentally the length of the relationship I had with a huge Wolf Parade fan.  For awhile, Fancy Claps was Wolf Parade to me. I absolutely love the harmonies in this song.  They almost aren’t what is traditionally known as vocal harmonizing but rather its two abrasive voices blending to create an enjoyable sound. When the clapping comes in and the keys start to solo out the song I smile. I love what I’m hearing.

Suddenly the album takes a turn.  The evening has descended on the album. Same Ghost Every Night is slower and more understated than anything we’ve been treated to so far.  At times this could be a Weezer song. The band, while maintaining a firm grip on indie reality, detours a little into a mesh of almost carnival sounds and rock & roll.  I don’t think I’ve expressed that idea very well, but if you listen to the song I think you’ll get it.

The last song ends like a natural break so I will pause now for the evening and bring you part II of this review tomorrow.

These Are The Good Old Days

April 8, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Before you click on the video be forewarned there is a little bit of swearing in the song, so it’s likely not appropriate for work or small children.  This is another of a long line of National Film Board clips that I have featured.  The video was made in 2006 as part of the Making Music initiative (as part of Pop Montreal). Filmmakers and musicians submit their proposals and several are chosen. Ben Steiger was fortunate enough to be selected in 2006, and made this unique and intriguing film.

The artist is Socalled, a hip hop/klezmer act from Quebec.  According to his bio he’s had quite the intriguing life.  His music fuses a very traditional music form with a very contemporary one.  I caught a full scale Klezmer band this summer in Ancaster and thoroughly enjoyed it. Socalled’s music is probably unlike anything else out there.  I’m glad to see he is still thriving in the Montreal scene.His music really does seem to be what happens when Judaism meets the inner city.

The video itself is quite surreal.  The concept seems to be the life of the 6 armed accordionist MC.  I don’t want to give too much away about it, but I really scratched my head to figure it out.

I love the recording of this song because it is very raw.  I think it captures the sing-a-long quality of the main melody.  The rap portion is suitable for the overall song.

This film is quite good, and well worth a watch. I’d also recommend checking out Socalled’s other work.

It’s The Rhythm Of The Sea

April 7, 2009

Sleeping in my favourite shirt.

The Clark Institute

Sleeping in my favourite shirt

New podcast is up today.  It is a very special 25th episode.  I announce the details for The 2009 Alder Fork Festival.  I also talk a little bit about the history of the event and the chosen charity, Eating Disorder Awareness Coalition of Waterloo Region.  I will probably devote an entire blog post to the organization, and am planning to set up a separate page for the festival.  The rest of the details are:

The Alder Fork Festival
In support of:
Eating Disorder Awareness Coalition of Waterloo Region
Saturday September 12, 2009
Featuring the music of:
Dave Fallis
The Clark Institute
Matthew Blacquiere
The Alder Fork
The Registry Theatre
122 Fredrick St., Kitchener, Ontario
Doors at 6:30pm, Show starts at 7pm
$10 available from the acts, by emailing or at the door

My Insides Twist About

April 6, 2009

We follow the footsteps of the Spanish through the streets of Santiago.

Doug Folkins


Today I am reviewing Another Last Call by Doug Folkins.  You can pick it up on iTunes or here.

Doug Folkins is a New Brunswicker living on North Vancouver Island.  His music is clearly rooted in the aesthetics of the East Coast. In the last 9 years he has released 5 albums, and played countless shows.  Although I have not been fortunate to catch him live, the 3 bonus tracks on his latest album give a taste of what must be an electric performance.

At the outset I should say that although I do enjoy the east coast/celtic musical tradition, it is not at the top of my regular music rotation.  So even though I am familiar with many of the great names, I am not as well versed in that particular indie scene.  I do hope that Doug is a good representation because I enjoyed this album.

Another Last Call lives up to its name by being the perfect music for an evening at the pub.  His songs have enough punch and bounce to keep spirits high, while providing meaningful lyrics.  A song like Streets of Rome (which appeared on an earlier episode  of the podcast) belongs with some of the best Celtic music out there.  I give him credit for providing an interesting vignette about a trip abroad in an unexpected package. The album contains 10 studio tracks and 3 bonus live takes.

Another stand out track is King Henry’s Good Times.  It could be the subject matter, but it’s more likely the catchy beat and sing-a-long melody.  I think this track is one of the best on the album and would be the one I suggest you get if none else.

I found that the songs seem to fall into two categories, those about traveling and those about adventures at bars and pubs.  I think that works perfectly with the music, and as we all know, a  lot of the best celtic music is about drinking.  I wonder if Doug would view Another Last Call as a kind of concept album.  It’s subject matter does seem to revolve around those main themes.

Doug’s back up group are all very proficient musicians, including some of Spirit of the West, and I was impressed with the rich and professional production, something that is sometimes missing on indie releases. The live tracks (recorded with The Molly Hogans) are also slick and clear.

Overall, Another Last Call is an enjoyable piece of East Coast/roots music.  I can definitely hear the influence of country music in these songs.  I would recommend this album if you enjoy the work of Spirit of the West, Great Big Sea, or, perhaps surprisingly, someone like Conway Twitty. Doug does a good job of telling simple, yet interesting stories set to solid music.  One of the big challenges for someone playing East Coast inspired music is to escape the stereotype of being a St. Patrick’s Day and pub band.  I think that Doug is well on his way to doing that.  I hope he continues to explore possibilities outside of his comfort zone.

Doug has been recognized by many other podcasters and more mainstream media members. The future is bright for this songwriter.  Another Last Call is worth checking out, so get on over to iTunes and preview away.

A Sentimental Journey To The Banks Of A Battle That’s Done

April 5, 2009

And the people have gone, to another place.

The Alder Fork

A Slow Lake Before Us

I’ve done a lot of Alder Forkcentric posts in the last few days and I promise that tomorrow I will be back to the usual fare with a review of Doug Folkins new album. Today though I want to announce a new “push” to promote the band part of The Alder Fork. Although it was the catalyst for the blog and the podcast, the musical group has been vastly under-promoted.  Those of you who follow the podcast and podcast know I put a great deal of work into them. So,with the new disc approaching some form of completion I have decided to relaunch the band with a lot more fanfare and effort.  Step 1 is finally creating a CBC Radio 3 profile. Pinstripe Mystery had one, and it’s a great way for an indie band to get on the web, and potentially find their way onto the radio/podcast.  You can hear a couple of new tracks there now, and if you like the group please tell a friend!  I will have copies of the new disc, The Colour I Remember Most, ready to go in about a month.  I will likely be doing some mailings to press people and the like, so if you want to help with that let me know. For now you can hear Piling Snow, A Slow Lake Before Us, The Mountain, The Open Door, and Coast to Coast.

If you go back to the James Clark podcast you will find a brief discussion of the trials and tribulations of promoting a new record as an unsigned act.  It is something he is all too familiar with, despite the fact that his material should sell itself (it’s that good).  He told the story of a radio station that absolutely loved his previous album to the point that it lived on the charts.  But after a change in management he was told that his new album wasn’t going to be played at all.  Fortunately, some stations like Waterloo’s on campus CKMS picked up the slack. Pinstripe Mystery spent a couple of weeks on their charts with our raw disc, Muffin Parfait.

I have one last bit of incredibly exciting news that relates to CBC Radio 3.  In the next few weeks The Alder Fork Podcast will feature both Amanda Putz and Grant Lawrence. I am thrilled to have both of these promoters of indie music on my show.  Stay tuned for more details.