Posts Tagged ‘Indie’

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.

Travel West

February 28, 2009

These are my people, I should never have come here.

Martha Wainwright

Factory

Welcome to Part II of Marth Wainwright’s CBC Radio 2 Concert on Demand. Well, my live blog of it.  Part I is yesterday’s post so you can just click back to it if you like.

We kick off part two of this exercise with This Life. I wonder if it’s more of a commentary on what is going on in her life at a moment, or a philsophical treatise. This, this life, right now, is snoring. I guess that answers my question.  Once again we have just Martha and her guitar.  I wish I could adequately describe her singing style. I made an attempt in Part I, but I’m not sure I did it justice.  Her voice almost cycles up and down, like Neko Case in a washing machine. That may seem negative but it is not intended to be.  Halfway through the song we bounce to French, then back to English. The crowd was delighted by the change.

Martha and her mother are now going to get together for one of Kate’s songs, Wise Men.  We are told, in French, that this song is about the war in Afghanistan, and apparently some relationship to the Magi.  What did they see in the sky that made them take leave of their life? Very good question. If there were in fact three wise men, who traveled to Bethlehem, I wonder what they thought when they arrived?  Was it what they expected when they saw a great light in the sky? The song has a strange vibe and reminds me of many a French folk song, even though the lyrics are in English. The combination of voices is almost creepy, yet sweetly satisfying.

Jimi.  I don’t know a thing about this song, but I wonder if this song is at all connected to Jimi Hendrix.  Martha creates unique sonic landscapes that are ethereal, musical, and yet almost not.  It is a collection of sonic postcards from Quebec to Pluto.  The whole band comes out in full force for this one.  The vocal harmonies in this song are at first jarring, but I came to understand that they are supposed to evoke the otherwordly colour of the piece.

Martha moved to New York at some point in her young life, and forged her musical career there.  This one starts out as a jazzy love song, lead by electric guitar and brushed drums.  This song is robably the most obvious one I’ve heard in this set.  It is the most like compositions by other musicians, and thus the least unique.  There is an understated building solo that turns into a duet with her voice.  The guitar tone is fantastic, very dirty and full. After the song she introduces the band. Looking over Martha’s discography, she has featured an astonishing number of guests on her albums. I guess that is one advantage of having famous musician parents.

G.P.T. from her self-titled album is the third-to-last song of the set.  This is a more rock song than anything we’ve heard in this half of the show.  It’s a very catchy tune.  I should probably thank the CBC for putting these concerts online.  It is a great opportunity to enjoy musicians I may not get out to see very often. I imagine if I lived somewhere like Moose Factory, where big musicians seldom go, I’d be even happier about the streaming COD’s.

We now have the first real cover of the night, because covering your mom’s music doesn’t count, Dis Quand Reviendras-Tu by French musician Barbara.  I have not heard the original yet, though I plan on checking out, but I am familiar with some French music.  This is a beautiful song featuring just Martha and piano.  The crowd seems deeply appreciative for this piece.

We finish up with what appears to be the whole family, in attendance, singing Factory. This has been a fun show, and I bet Montreal is the ideal place to see Martha.  This song shows off a lot of what makes Martha a highly entertaining musician.  It must’ve been cool to see the many talented singers together for this final song.  Once again the CBC has given us a fun and enjoyable concery.  Check it out if you’d like an hour or so of great music from one of Canada’s bright musical stars.

I’m In The Hearts Club Band

February 27, 2009

There’s a rush, when we touch.

Martha Wainwright

So Many Friends

It’s been awhile but it’s time for another CBC Radio 2 Concert on Demand Live Blog.  I have to admit I am more familiar with the work of Rufus Wainwright than that of his little sister Martha, but it is her December 12th, 2009 performance in Montreal that I am interested in today.  Being the daughter of two well known musicians, and the sister of another would cetainly aid in the career of a young singer-songwriter.  But Martha has certainly carved out a nice niche for herself away from the family.  In this concert we are apparently going to be blessed with an appearance by Kate McGarrigle, Martha’s mom, and her aunt Anna. There will also be some Christmas fare.  Let’s get to the music.

I Wish I Were gets us started with just Martha and an acoustic guitar. She is accompanied by a lot of yelling people in the crowd. She is beloved in Montreal (and a lot of other places). Her voice certainly reminds me of the great songstresses of the psychedelic and folk movements of the 60’s and 70’s.  It’s a classic sound that is beautiful and gritty all at the same time, like a tropical beach.  Indeed her voice overpowers anything her guitar does.  I can picture her prancing about the stage as she performs, though I’m not sure she actually does that, the song just gives the impression of a musician in motion.

Before Bleeding All Over You we get a nice little story about her travels and work en francais.  She must be in Montreal, a truly bilingual place. There are days when the cage doesn’t seem to open very wide at all. What a lovely line, I’ve had times like that.  Her songs are so whimsical, almost like they are blowing around in the breeze.  There is an interesting contrast between Martha’s voice and her backup singer Lily Lanken. I wish I could explain it but you’ll just have to listen yourself.

Coming Tonight starts out with a 50’s sci fi sound effect, and it occurs to me that Martha emits a sound that would be comfortable on vinyl.  I wonder if you can get her albums that way. She gets roaring applause for ending the song with coming tonight to my home town.

The drums kick off Hearts Club Band.  Martha is doing something musically that is a bit off the predominant indie, folk or pop modes of singing.  Although her songs would fit on a number of other band’s releases, Martha’s expressive singing is unique to her.  You’ve got the funniest smile I’ve ever seen.  This concert has already had a number of great lines and we are just getting warmed up. This song ends with some interesting use of apparently out of tune note combinations. I think it’s intentional. The value of that is the shock it causes our ears.

The crowd is excited about this one. It starts out like many  Dave Matthews Band song, but it’s So Many Friends.  This seems like a bitter sweet song, and I think Martha feels that way about it too.  I can’t make out every word because of the way she is almost cackling some lines.  I still love this vibe.  It’s just so different than other things out there, and in many ways reminiscent of an earlier sound.

Somewhat of a reminder that it’s Christmas, as the drums come up for Jesus and Mary.  This is a dark little song. It really should’ve been used in an episode of Due South. I love the atmosphere she creates, with dissonant guitar sounds. Rehersals must be a blast for this group. They seem like they love to play around in the music they are making.

I am going to wrap up Part I of this review with BMFA so look for Part II tomorrow.  Those letters stand for something I don’t want to publish on my blog, and are in reference to her father Loudon Wainwright III, who was apparently not a great dad.  I have no idea what that’s like because my dad rocks.  This is an angry song though, and Martha is not going to play around.

Make Me Out As A Villian

February 10, 2009

Or ti guarda, suora mia.

Il Bianco of Siena

Letter to Catherine of Siena

A new podcast has hit the internet today. This one features some preview tracks from The Alder Fork’s new album The Colour I Remember Most. I also talk at length about the process of putting each song together.  I’d like to remind everyone that you can be a guest on the podcast, and if you are a musician you can contribute to the recording of The Colour I Remember Most. If you are interested just drop me a line at thealderfork@gmail.com. I’d love to have you on the show and I’m always looking for fresh sounds in my music. Short post today because of the podcast, and the 8 or so hours of studio time I’ve put in today.  Check out the podcast over there–> and have a great evening! Thanks for all your support.

Doodledo Doodledo

February 7, 2009

Spinning tales, you ride away.

The Alder Fork

HG Plant Companion 3.1

Today, I am pleased to share a new version of HG Plant Companion with you.  The melody and lyrics have been altered. This is likely not the final version of the song, but this is the direction it is headed.  I have already given the original story of this track in a previous post. You can read about it and hear the earlier version there.  The lyrics convey the same story but in a more succinct way.  I think the changes have enhanced the musical quality of the song.  On the next episode of the blog I will be debuting some more songs from the new EP. You voted on the name and the top selection was: The Colour I Remember Most. At least one of the other options will be appearing as a track title on the album, and it will be available in CD form for those who want it.  That is all for today, please enjoy HG Plant Companion 3.1:

Not Near Enough

January 26, 2009

Praise the Lord above and sell, sell, sell

David Gray

Sell, Sell, Sell

New podcast is finally up!

In this episode I reveal 3 albums that I think people should listen to, because they probably haven’t.  I am also aware that people are having a hard time keeping up with my podcast schedule, so I am contemplating a change. I haven’t made a firm decision yet, but I will.

This week’s show features music by two artists.

First up is another Shameless Records act, Leisure Co.  They are mainly a side project for several West Coast musicians, and their tunes are infectious. You can find out more about them and get more of their music here.

The other group on this week’s show is Mujaji. A Canadian-American-British grou that seems to have specialized in creating licensed music for film and tv. Their electronic music is well crafted, catchy, and highly entertaining. Although they don’t really function as a group anymore they are stil worth checking out here.  There will be more music from the members of Mujaji in the future, stay tuned to The Alder Fork for that.

Short post today because of the podcast, back tomorrow with some usual content.

Exciting News, Be Heard

January 24, 2009

photo-23

You are probably wondering what is being depicted in that picture. Those are the “CD cases” for the upcoming The Alder Fork EP. Those fabric sleeves were originally conceived as a promotional gimmick at the Festival of Peace and Tranquility in 2005. Crystal Kemkes did all the sewing while I cut out the fabric squares.  I am resurrecting the concept for the EP because it is fun, different, easy to do, and has a very down to earth feel.

As far as the EP itself goes, I have several tracks done, including some remixes and I am aiming for a release date at the end of February, maybe coinciding with the announcement of the winner of the poetry contest. Don’t forget to enter that by the way. What I need today is some more public input.Please vote on your favourite potential title for the EP from those in the poll.  This strategy worked well for picking the name The Alder Fork, and selecting the album song that will lead this EP. If you do please email me at thealderfork@gmail.com and you could win a prize.

Thanks for your continued support of The Alder Fork in all it’s forms!

We Won’t Concede Defeat

January 8, 2009

It’s the rhythm of the sea that brings you back to me

Matt Blacquiere

Rhythm of the Sea

New podcast up today. Today I am delighted to present an interview with Matt Blacquiere. We chat about the past, the present, and the future. The featured songs are Hello Hope, In a Letter, and a live performance of Rhythm of the Sea. If you are interested in the shared musical history of Matt and I please check out the posts here, here, and here. You will also find some more tracks featuring songs written and performed by Matt and myself.

I, like most Canadians, spent Monday night watching the Canadian National Junior Hockey team beating up on Sweden for their fifth straight gold medal. This is the second time in my lifetime that our juniors have won 5 straight gold medals at that event.  Nothing excites the passion of this nation like international hockey.  A failure at the junior tournament leads to massive discussion about the “state” of hockey in Canada.  There is no other amateur tournament in the world that invokes such passion in a country.  I think it’s fantastic because it is a harmless and benign event that unites millions of people in the second largest and most ethincally diverse country in the world.  Anything that can do that must be special.

Short post because of the podcast. You can listen to it over there –>

There’s Always Room For Two

November 29, 2008

God gave you style and gave you grace.

Coldplay

God Put a Smile Upon Your Face

As far as I can remember that was the only tune Pinstripe Mystery tried to cover. We were awesome in practice, but when we did it live it flopped.  This is the final post of this musical retrospective. I will continue to post other things, but this is the end of one more journey.  I mentioned last time that the band worked feverishly to finish up the album. This was greatly hindered by Jill’s reluctance to actually record proper drum parts, and led to some weird tracks, like The Tin Star. Overall the album was decent, not great.  I’m still happy we did it, and promoted it.  The title came from a question: can you make a muffin parfait? We talked about weird things at practice.  I will never forget hearing my songs on the radio for the first time, or how we charted at UW’s radio station two weeks in a row before slipping into deeper obscurity.  I have chosen three tracks to post here today: Imperial Street because it was the most beloved track for most people, Art Or Architecture because it is as much a classic as I have, and Clap Dream Injuction because it’s my favourite song on the album.  After Muffin Parfait came out we played a lot of gigs, appeared on the radio a few times, and tried our best to be a band that was out there.  In the end though things fizzled out.  Our last real gig was at the University of Guelph for about a dozen students in a field.  Our best gig took place at the Grad House at the University of Waterloo. We packed a room for a gig that featured David Hein and another band whose name escapes me. David is still making music as far as I know so I suggest googling him.  This show actually featured a brief experiment with a violin player named Emily. She added a nice extra touch to a bunch of our songs, even if it was only for one gig.

Pinstripe Mystery was the most successful band I’ve ever been in, which wasn’t a hard thing to be.  For awhile, some people knew who we were and what we were doing.  We even warranted a haiku in a Waterloo music zine.  I have it somewhere but I’m not sure where. Looking back the experience of playing fairly regular gigs and promoting an album was fantastic. I could’ve done without some of the headaches and battles but overall it was a positive experience. It certainly worked out for Dave and Crystal.

After Pinstripe Mystery I put music away for a bit aside from writing the odd song (most of which are on The Lights I See You In Shadow).  Some people have the benefit of leaving music alone for a long time and maintaining a legacy. I don’t have a legacy so the music will stay with me.  To say that The Lights I See You In Shadow is the best thing I’ve ever done with music would be an understatement. It would also be misleading. The best thing I’ve done with music is make lifelong friends like Matt, Dave, Dave, Crystal, and Ken. People whose ideas and sounds inspired me to make better songs.  The Lights I See You In Shadow will not be my final album, in fact I anticipate starting the next project immediately.  It represents a transition, from a past of grasping for musical success in the form of good recordings of songs I love to a future where I can do that everyday.  Please enjoy my songs and recognize that what goes into them is part of me. Sometimes it’s the part no one gets to see in my regular life.

Enjoy these songs and I hope you come back tomorrow.

Imperial Street

Art or Architecture

Clap Dream Injunction