Author: Rob Jones

I am a writer, music fan, and Dad living in the Greater Vancouver area, British Columbia, Canada. On Google Plus

Bronski Beat Plays “Smalltown Boy”

Bronski Beat The Age of ConsentListen to this track by London-based synthpop trio Bronski Beat. It’s “Smalltown Boy”, their biggest hit, released in June of 1984, and eventually appearing on their first record Age of Consent by the end of the year. Before this, they were three housemates living in Brixton, south London; Steve Bronski (after whom the band is named), Larry Steinbachek, both of whom played keyboards, and Jimmy Somerville lending his uniquely calibrated pipes as lead vocalist.

The single was a smash success, gaining top ten showings all over the world, and only after the three friends did only a brief stint of gigs before signing with London Records. Besides the clear thematic content in the song itself, another aspect of the song was assuredly brought out by the video which enjoyed heavy rotation. In it, Somerville portrays a young man who is on a train, reflecting on what it was that set him out on his journey; that the small town where he is from is too small for him, and for others like him.

In many ways, it’s a pretty simple narrative. But, it was, and is, tied up in a common thread that we’re still working our way through as a society today. (more…)

Travis Plays “Driftwood”

Travis DriftwoodListen to this track by Scottish post-Britpop favourites Travis. It’s “Driftwood”, a top twenty UK single as taken from their 1999 album The Man Who, their second. The song was released in May of that year, the second single from the album following the Oasis-like “Writing To Reach You”.

Travis represented something of a third wave of British guitar pop in the 1990s, coming in after the Britpop era had concluded, and long after The Stone Roses and their contemporaries revitalized the guitar for pop music in Britain at the beginning of the decade and out of the ashes of the late 1980s. At the time Travis were looked upon as being somewhat lightweight when compared to the zeitgeist precision of Blur, the kitchen sink drama of Pulp, or the ironic glam of Suede. But, to me those are not apples to apples comparisons in any case.

What this song provided was something of a relief from the artifice of Britpop (as good as that artifice was, to be clear). It navigated different waters, and more frightening ones in some respects, just because it contrasted so starkly against the distance and irony for which Britpop is known. No, Travis went the other way; they were earnest. That’s a tough row to hoe, especially when it comes to the British music press.

Really, I think that’s what was at the center of the critical backlash against a lot of late ’90s British guitar pop, with the understanding that some bands pulled it off to a greater degree than some others. So, what’s so earnest about this song, and what is it really about anyway? (more…)

June Tunes Digest 2014

Summer is the time for new tunes! It’s like a rule or something.

So, as we proceeded last year with the Delete Bin June Tunes Digest, so do we do so this year with a selection of new tunes from bands and songwriters who deserve your attention. Some you may already know. Some you may be discovering for the first time. Either way, you win.

Summer faeries

As we did last year, we’re going to make an exception to the “10 songs” format too. This is 16 songs, good people, 16 songs of goodness freshly baked for the summer of 2014 which is just around the corner. Think of it as a mix tape made just for you.

And as per usual, this list of tunes represents various points along the pop music spectrum, and is listed in no specific order, as is the custom on the ‘Bin. See which ones resonate with you the most.

Take a listen!

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“Summer Lane” by Owenstone

LA-based Owenstone deliver this summer anthem, with a touch of modern psychedelia, a dash of Far-East flavouring, and (to these ears) a bit of an ecstatic ’80s bombast too.  This track comes from their recent self-titled EP which you can learn all about when you slide along to owenstone.com.

“Love Is A Madness” by No Sinner

Vancouver-based rock ‘n’ roll band No Sinner is fronted by rip-roaring 26-year old R&B vocalist Colleen Rennison (spell her last name backwards …), who takes her love of classic R&B-influenced rock and channels it through an impressive set of pipes to deliver the real thing herself. This track is from the upcoming record Boo Hoo Hoo, out June 24 – that’s this Tuesday! Check out nosinner.com for more.

“Get With You” The Damn Truth

Incendiary vocals, ’60s-style garage-punk energy, and LUST. What is more summery than that, good people? This single is the new one from Montreal’s The Damn Truth, which for a limited time you can get for free on their site, thedamntruth.com.

“On The Line” by The Red Rails

Ottawa’s The Red Rails rock the classic  power trio dynamic with this effervescently ferocious single that displays the band’s chops, but not at the expense of their deft hand at songwriting. This song serves as the harbinger for the upcoming full-length A Living Fiction, due to drop on July 15. Find out more about the band by mosying on down to theredrails.com.

“Never Thought This Would Happen” by The Arkells

Hamilton Ontario band who deal in enormous pop hooks and songs that make you wonder why no one thought to write them before, The Arkells present  guitar pop with sweeping strings, descending Lennonesque chords, and soaring vocals. This is music made for radio and for summer, too. What, I tells ye, is not to love? This is the first single as taken from their most recent record High Noon, their third, and a song I got to hear them play live at CBC Live this year, held at Deer Lake Park,  just up the road from where I’m writing this. To catch up with the Arkells, head on over to Arkells.ca.

“Follow The Blood” by Nine Sons of Dan

New South Wales Australia’s Nine Sons of Dan deliver this title track to their newest EP that should be all over the radio everywhere. If it isn’t, demand your money back, kids. This is a song built for mainstream appeal, unabashedly pop and that is full of alternative rock gravity, delicate strings, and all-around aural sunshine. Learn more about them at ninesonsofdan.com.

“Mary” by Ivory Hours

London Ontario’s Ivory Hours deliver buoyantly melodic pop music that doesn’t shy away from the darker end of the human experience spectrum. This is the title track to their recent EP, a song about friendship, losing one’s way, and the effect that one’s choices have on the those who care about them. But amidst the emotional gravity, they don’t forget to write a good tune ready for radio play. Learn more about them at ivoryhours.com.

“Just Say Hello” by Lyonn

Every summer romance needs a theme song, and this could be it if yours is of the unrequited variety. Lyonn (aka Tyler Gelrud) splits time between Orange  County, CA and Knoxville TN, crafting acoustic pop music with a punch as featured on his latest EP Promenade.  Get the latest news at LyonnMusic.com.

“Sparks” by Boreal Sons

If wistful art rock with ecstatically shimmering atmospheres is your idea of what will kick off your summer, then Calgary’s Boreal Sons is here to put the capital “R” back into Romance for you. This is a track from their most recent full-length record Threadbare. The band recently completed dates in Britain, after a cross-Canada tour. You can learn about their adventures at borealsons.com.

“With Haste” by Future History

Toronto’s Future History mix warm acoustics with echoey post-punk production to create darkly compelling pop music. This is the first single off of their latest record Lungs that was recorded clubhouse style in an abandoned hermitage in rural Ontario. You can watch the video for the song here, featuring that same rural Ontario setting.

“Iranians” by DAVIDS

If retro-futurist synthpop with a dance feel that is only rivaled by its sense of atmosphere is your thing, than Toronto’s DAVIDS (not “Davids”, and certainly not “David’s”, I’m told…) is here. This is the lead track from the EP 0613EP, characterized by European-style electronics that hearken back to a time of analogue grooves and icily compelling pop hooks. Like the band on Facebook.

“Little Earthquakes” by Imperial Mammoth

Summer is time to dance to something poptastically life-affirming. This is one of those ones made to sing along to while you’re dancing. This track by LA-based electronic pop duo Imperial Mammoth is set to become that summer anthem to which to move one’s feet, taken from their album Gold Confetti, released this coming Tuesday, June 24th. Visit the band’s website at imperialmammoth.com for more.

 “Giving Life To The Greys” by Daysdeaf

Atmospheric soundscapes mixed with a kind of hazy R&B feel is what typifies this single from the album When Color Lost Light. The band hail from Toronto, with an ear for experimental texture, perfect for sultry summer evenings kicking back. You can like Daysdeaf on Facebook.

“Elephants” by Fire/Works

Montreal’s Fire/Works deliver a moody, folky and cinematically evocative single in this track. This is a forerunner to their upcoming album Shenanigans. Look for the album in the Fall, folks! In the meantime, you might as well like the band on Facebook.

 “Zion” by S’Ambrosia

S’Ambrosia hails from Nairobi in Kenya, following a similar path to India Arie and Jill Scott despite the considerable physical geography that separates those artists from her. This is wistful acoustic pop with soul overtones, not to mention overt gospel elements that makes this tune a modern hymn without forgetting to be sonically interesting, too. Hear more at the S’Ambrosia YouTube channel.

“Phantoms And Friends” by Old Man Canyon

“Don’t let the ones that wanna steal your dreams away … just laugh and let it go”. Good advice this summer, with Old Man Canyon’s (otherwise known as singer-songwriter Jett Pace and his band) recent single as taken from the EP which is cleverly entitled Phantoms And Friends. The band is currently on tour with Foster the People, no doubt enjoying some pumped up kicks of their own. Check out oldmancanyon.com to stay up to date.

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Right, so there we have it summer people!

What’s your favourite track? What tracks can you recommend from a local band in your area that aren’t on this list?

Speak, good people! And otherwise,

Enjoy!

Vashti Bunyan Sings “Wayward”

Lookaftering Vashti BunyanListen to this track by returning den mother of wispy, ethereal English folk music Vashti Bunyan. It’s “Wayward”, one of the many jewels featured on her 2005 album Lookaftering, her second full-length album in a career that at that point stretched to forty years, starting with her years working with Andrew Loog Oldham in the mid-60s as a pop singles artist. Her first album, Just Another Diamond Day was released in 1970, a work that moved away  from pop and embraced a distinctively English folk style instead.

But, despite its delicate lyricism, ecstatic pastoral textures, and appealingly hazy melodicism, that first album was a commercial flop. Tired of the merciless rigours of the music business and of trying to find an audience that understood what she was trying to do, Bunyan gave it up to concentrate on other things, specifically in raising a family. She repaired to a farm in Ireland to live the rural life that is reflected in her songs. That was thirty-five years before she’d return as a recording artist with a new album.

What was it that brought her back? The answer is simply that her first album paid her back for her efforts by taking on a life of its own long after she’d given it up for dead.

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Jack White Plays “Lazaretto”

Jack White LazarettoListen to this track by Third Man Records exec and wailin’ R&B-oriented rock ‘n’ roll firebrand of a different stripe altogether Jack White. It’s “Lazaretto”, the eponymous track from his newest solo record, Lazaretto.

White trumpeted something of an international sensation with this track. Not only does it deliver that for which White has always been known and celebrated as a singer-songwriter and record producer who bridges the gap between the blues and rock without stigmatizing either, it was also the center of a more universal story; no less than a Guinness World Record!

A live version of “Lazaretto” was recorded, pressed, and distributed inside of a single day, in mere hours. White has very often hearkened back to a more off-the-floor and hands-on approach to putting out songs. So this back to basics approach wasn’t entirely out of character. This is a man who created the White Stripes’ most successful record (Elephant) in three days. Hey! If it was good enough for Jesus …

So, what was the story in this case? And what should be the main takeaways for us as fans, and perhaps for other artists, too?

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Brook Benton Sings “Rainy Night In Georgia”

Brook Benton TodayListen to this track by smooth pop-soul crooner with the sonorous baritone voice, Brook Benton. It’s “Rainy Night In Georgia”, his biggest hit and something of a return to the top ten for a stretch of time after his prime period from the early 1960s. It appears on the album Brook Benton Today, released in 1970.

The song was written by Tony Joe White in 1962 around the time that Brook Benton was having his greatest successes as a songwriter and singer with material of his own. The song is taken from White’s time as a truck driver for the highway department in the titular state, often finding himself working alone on lonely nights in the days before he found success as a songwriter and performer.

By the time Brook Benton recorded the song, he’d not had a hit for some time. But this one would take him to the top ten on both the pop charts as well as the R&B charts, and become one of his best-known songs.

This could be because of the supreme gravitas of what Benton brings to his performance with a signature baritone voice that blurs the lines between pop and soul. The emotional depth in his voice brings this song to life, suggesting a whole novel’s worth of drama underneath a nocturnal landscape of desolation, and raw human loneliness. And with that, it becomes something more than just a tale of one man’s lonely journey, and approaches something more universal.  (more…)

Material Issue Plays “Diane”

Material Issue International Pop OverthrowListen to this track by effervescent Mid-Westerner power pop flame-keepers Material Issue. It’s “Diane”, a sugar rush of a track with a bitter aftertaste as it appears on their celebrated 1991 record International Pop Overthrow.

The year this came out, it was grunge this and Seattle that, which made it somewhat of a harder job getting noticed on the national scene being a power pop band in the Midwest. But, this band made up of singer, guitarist, and head songwriter Jim Ellison, along with bassist and vocalist Ted Asani, and drummer Mike Zelenko had quietly (and very inexpensively) worked up a record that captured the attention of music fans in the Chicago area, and managed to move units too.

It was thought that it would sell fewer than 100K worth of records. But, it ended up selling almost twice that; good news as they were on a major label (Mercury). This attracted the attention of the Billboard top 200, on which this record gained a respectable #86 showing.

So, what is it that made this band shine during a period of seemingly ubiquitous grunginess? And how does this song demonstrate the secret of their success? Well, I think it’s probably this; it dealt in classic rock n roll themes, and with a modern twist that had everything to do with a love of women, and not in the way you might think. (more…)

10 Musical Acts That Define The History Of The Apollo Theatre

The Apollo Theater, Harlem New York City (Source: Paul Lowry)

The Apollo Theater, Harlem New York City (Source: Paul Lowry)

There have been many vital legendary musical venues that have helped to shape the destiny of pop music. But, few have the pedigree of the immortal Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York City.

Since it was founded in 1934, several of the musical acts that now stand as pioneers in jazz, blues, soul, funk, rock, and hip hop got their start in this otherwise humble theatre located at 253 West 125th Street. And while these artists developed from beginners, to practicioners, to exemplars, and onto immortality, the world changed as a result.

Their work helped in breaking down barriers between musical styles, and also between groups of people who had been separated by the oppressive social norms of their times. As these norms were torn down (and good riddance), the music they made has endured, and the lives of music fans everywhere have been enriched.

Listing every artist that came out of the Apollo Theatre, or had career-defining shows there, would make for a very long read, indeed. So, as is my custom here at the Delete Bin, here is a list of 10 that I hope will suggest the wide spectrum of talent they represent. Take a look!

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Hushdrops Play “Tomorrow”

Hushdrops Tomorrow LP coverListen to this track by Chicagoan power-psych trio and returning pop contenders Hushdrops. It’s “Tomorrow”,  the lead track from their most recent double-album, and long awaited follow-up to 2003’s Volume 1Tomorrow.

This new record is a double, and expands on the band’s well-observed synthesis of ’60s psych, orchestral pop, British Invasion-inspired power pop, and jagged MBV drone-distortion melodicism across a generous 21 tracks. Tomorrow was a long time coming (as it were!), with each member of the band involved in various side projects over the years, touching on other acts including Veruca Salt, Plush, and The Waco Brothers. As mentioned, a wide spectrum of rock music tradition is touched upon here.

This opening and eponymous track reflects an interest in riff-driven rock music from multi-instrumentalist and singer  John San Juan, singer and drummer Joe Camarillo, and bassist Jim Shapiro, and delivering what a listener might expect to hear when catching the band live on the floor. But, since that spectrum is pretty wide, it’s really only a part of the whole story.

I had the chance to talk with John San Juan and Joe Camarillo from Hushdrops via email about their return to the studio, about the creation of a follow-up record with a pretty wide span of time having passed, and about re-engaging and re-inventing what Hushdrops means in 2014. Here’s what they said.

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Crowded House Play “Kare Kare”

Crowded House Together AloneListen to this track by Antipodean heroes and top of the range pop song exporters Crowded House. It’s “Kare Kare”, the opening track to their fourth album Together Alone, released in October of 1993 and produced by Youth, he of Killing Joke and a very sought after producer at the time.

The record was something a transitional work for the band, losing Tim Finn as a full-time member who’d only been with them for 1991’s Woodface. He would appear as a supporting player on this record. By the time this song was recorded, they’d taken on a brand new member in American multi-instrumentalist Mark Hart to apply his skills as guitarist and keyboardist. Also, their stalwart collaborator Mitchell Froom’s signature production style, not to mention his keyboard work that had helped to define some of their most successful hits, was not to be heard on the sessions.

Possibly because of these changes, the work itself stands out from the rest of the band’s catalogue up until then. Where the songs that head writer Neil Finn wrote never dealt in absolute dark or light, the songs on this record were decidedly further along the spectrum toward the darker end.

So after seven years of being a band by this point, and a very successful one at that, why the long face, Crowded House?

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