Ben Wilkins Plays “Through To You”

Here’s a clip of Burt-Bacharach-Brian-Wilson-Carole-King-Todd-Rundgren classic pop inheritor, and singer-songwriter from Montreal Ben Wilkins. It’s the video for his new single “Through To You” a tune featured on last year’s Back Of My Head EP , and now a shining gem on a full-length debut record of gems, 2011’s Ben Wilkins.

Formally trained in music at Montreal’s McGill University, and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Wilkins built up his skills in playing music for the sheer fun of it by developing a solid base of composition, singing, harmonic theory, and some arranger’s chops into the mix. A love of AM radio singles of decades past endured all the while.

As a result, his approach to arranging and recording involves a seriously sumptuous and lushly-realized sound that pulls from orchestral pop traditions which gelled and became immortal at the end of the ’60s. But, here we’re reminded that just because a sound is closely associated with an era, it doesn’t mean it’s stuck there. As such, what we’ve got here is the kind of thoroughly enjoyable contemporary pop record that we’re always complaining never gets made anymore. The decade in which it was made doesn’t really matter.

This is classic pop.

After receiving a preview copy of the record, I spoke with Ben via email about the making of this song,  the video ,the album, about the spirit of classic pop, and the elusive idea that music may or may not be the universal language. Continue reading

The Balconies Play “Kill Count”

Listen to this track by transplanted Ottawa trio now based in Toronto, the Balconies. It’s their new single “Kill Count” with B-side “Tiger”, both currently featured on an EP of the same name Kill Count, and serving as an outlier to their upcoming 2012 full-length album. You can buy the EP when you see the Balconies live.

The band have traded in a style of pop-rock music that incorporates power-pop, post-punk, and with a dash of surf-rock in there for good measure just to make it all danceable. Lead vocalist and guitarist Jacquie Neville’s voice is a soaring instrument, backed up by the fluid bass playing of her brother Stephen Neville, and anchored by drummer Liam Jaeger.

The band started in the basement as two classically trained music students and a brother. Their subterranean rock ‘n’ roll racket led to success with the impossibly catchy single “Serious Bedtime”, a self-recorded release, and shared stage appearances with Sloan, Mother Mother, Cold War Kids, and others. They’ve since been named as a band to watch by the National Post and MSN Canada.

I was offered a download of the Balconies’ recent EP. Through the wonders of email, I chatted with drummer Liam Jaeger on the subject of its lead track, vinyl releases in the 21st century, working up their forthcoming album, and about the so-called inevitable trek from Ottawa to Toronto.

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Interview With Xoch, Performing “The End of the World”

Listen to this track by Las Vegas-based songwriting  and all-around performer Xoch (pronounced “Zoach” and meaning goddess of flower and song, derived from Mayan and Aztec culture). It’s “The End of the World” as taken from her most recent record Hollywood.

In many ways, hearing Xoch’s music undercuts a lot of assumptions after you’ve seen her step out on stage, or seen her in pictures. She’s done some modelling. She’s also an actor, having appeared in films, TV shows, and commercials. These other interests might make one think that music is just another pursuit for her. But, she’s not just a pretty face.

“The End of the World” hits the power-pop and folk-pop songwriting sweet spot that goes beyond her years. Clearly, Xoch has been paying attention, and honing her craft accordingly.

I talked to Xoch via email about stage names, Sin City, varied pursuits and multi-disciplined artistic expression, and about avoiding stagnation by challenging one’s own routines.

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Kishi Bashi Performs “Manchester”

Kishi Bashi
Photo: Brandee Nichols

Listen to this track by Seattle-born, New York-based singer, violinist, loop technician, Of Montreal string-arranger and touring member, and songwriter K Ishibashi, aka Kishi Bashi. It’s the sumptous-yet-spacious “Manchester”, an impressionistic and post-modern narrative about a narrative as taken from the EP Room For Dream.

The song is the opening track on the EP, an ever-expanding soundscape that is, at once, airy, organic, and with a touch of hopefulness balanced against melancholy. Musically, the song is an amalgam of pan-cultural textures, from sparse Far-East flavouring, to western classical aesthetics, and delivered in the similar kind of cinematic orchestral pop packaging as a Mercury Rev, or Flaming Lips.

After seeing Kishi Bashi perform as an opening act for Sondre Lerche (and then join Lerche’s ensemble as a backing musician on violin, guitar, and keyboards) at the Biltmore Theatre here in Vancouver, I had a chat with him via email about the business of cultural crossover, about the importance of location in the songwriting process, and about what Beethoven would have made of loop technology.

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Interview With The Dirty Nil, Debuting Single “Fuckin’ Up Young”

The Dirty Nil (Photo: Bailey Northcott)

Listen to this track, a double-A side single from Southern Ontarian rock ‘n’ roll upstarts The Dirty Nil. It’s the rip-up-the-seats anthems “Fuckin’ Up Young/Verona Lung”.

If your workplace includes members of the clergy, you might want to put on your headphones, good people.

A drums (Kyle Fisher) bass (Dave Nardi) guitar (Luke Bentham, who also sings) trio, the guys have recorded EPs, cut vinyl singles (like this one), played shows, and have been named Best New Band at the Hamilton Music Awards starting in 2008. A part of the vibrant indie scene in Hamilton, Ontario, the band revel in their own brand of gritty, garagey rock music, while acknowledging the eclectic musical landscape in Hamilton of which they are a part.

Among other things, I talked to the Luke and Dave about cutting the single, about being indie and going pro, and about the the important fuel that guns the engines of many a rock ‘n’ roll band – beer.

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Jay Semko Composes Soundtrack For TV Show ‘Dust Up’

Here’s a clip of singer-songwriter, Northern Pikes co-founder, and TV/film composer Jay Semko hard at work with fellow musician Randy Woods on the soundtrack to History Television’s Dust Up. The show follows the stories of a group of daredevil crop dusters on the Canadian Prairies.

Appropriately, Jay Semko himself hails from the Canadian Prairies, specifically Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the place where he got his start playing bass, singing, and writing songs for ’80s hitmakers The Northern Pikes. Later, he would make a name for himself as the composer of soundtrack music for the popular TV show Due South, among other projects for film and TV.

But, this is his newest soundtracking project. Thanks to the people at Paperny Films who sponsored this special edition post here on the Delete Bin, I talked to Jay about what interested him in the show, how he views the role of music in the storytelling process, and how his work as a film and TV composer dovetails with his work as a rock and roots songwriter and performer.

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Querkus Perform “Half-Acid Lee”

Listen to this track by Winnipeg-based art rock duo Querkus. It’s “Half-Acid Lee”, a cinematic John Barry-meets-prog-meets-pop song as taken from the band’s 2011 debut album Spaces Between the Leaves Make Room For the Stars. The song is a part of a richly-textured record that pulls in all kinds of influences which range from that 60s film music sound that also fueled acts like Portishead and early Goldfrapp, to the progressive rock complexity of King Crimson, with splashes of PJ Harvey and Kate Bush in there for good measure.

The band is comprised of two creative minds in vocalist/keyboardist Karen Asmundson and guitarist/vocalist Edgar Ozolins. Both are interested in amalgamating disparate styles and sounds together into an ambitious whole. This song is a shining example of the results of their efforts; a large-scale, and decidedly menacing track that is marked by the contrast of Asmundson’s voice against the abrasiveness of Ozolins’ guitar.

After featuring this track on my recent Winter Indie Round-Up post, I got in contact with the song’s writer Karen Asmundson. She and I talked a bit about the making of this song, about how the Querkus sound is interpreted in a live setting, about the pressures of making a debut record, and about visions of some very angry trees …

Oh, and I thought it might be fun to give away some copies of the record to you guys here. Details at the end of the interview!

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