Listen to this track by Hamilton based and cinematically monikered pop-psych collective led by one Bill Majoros, The Foreign Films. It’s “Empire Of Night”, a key track as taken from the third side of the upcoming full length album, The Record Collector, due in early 2016.
Majoros’ interest in a wide spectrum of pop music is well documented with his work under The Foreign Films banner. This was initially apparent with 2007’s double album Distant Star. It continued to develop in the ensuing years, with various singles and EPs that revealed a love of all kinds of pop music that certainly included British psych and sixties guitar music. But, it also included girl group pop and classic soul music too. The key to Majoros’ success has always been about translating a passion and enthusiasm for these strains of music into something integrated and new.
Working with a number of musicians, including singer-songwriter Kori Pop who is featured in lead vocal spots through out, Majoros describes himself as being akin to a musical mad scientist, with the creation of the new record being less about simply getting the songs down on tape, and more like that of musical alchemic process, mixing elements together as contributed by everyone he works with and awaiting the x-factor for each song for them to become what they need to be. Read more
Listen to this track by Hamiltonian singer-songwriter and guitarist Terra Lightfoot. It’s “Never Will”, a storming track as taken from her second record Every Time My Mind Runs Wild. Nurtured by a pile of classic rock and pop records, and by roots heroes that may account for a distinct R&B meets folk- influenced swagger you can hear on this song, this tune is a concoction of indie rock approach meeting blues-stomp cajones.
Terra Lightfoot, who is in fact not related to one of Canada’s most famous Gordons, has honed her craft while on stages shared with that particular Gordon, along with others like Ron Sexsmith, Sloan, Arkells, and Daniel Lanois among many others. Taking her craft very seriously, the songs on this new record were written and heavily re-written, partially with thanks to the lessons laid down by those others as represented by that aforementioned pile of classic rock records.
The musical DNA of a those albums that served as examples to Lightfoot’s craft can’t be traced with any real precision here. But, the raw power that created them sure can be. Read more
Listen to this track by Hamilton Ontario-based singer songwriter and nimble-fingered piano-woman Marie Avery. It’s “Stories”, one of five tracks (and my favourite) from her 2013 EP The Fire.
Steeped in lyrical art rock textures, with a few impressionist classical references thrown in, the record was produced by Foreign Films head honcho Bill Majoros, who also plays guitar, percussion, and pedals on the track. So, it seems that Hamiltonian musicians stick together, and to impressive musical effect.
Marie Avery hails from Northern Ontario, having developed her ear for a number of musical influences from Debussy to Radiohead, Beck to the Beatles. Luckily, she found her way to Hamilton, where there is a vital and connected music scene.
One of my favourite elements to pop songwriting is bold changes in direction during the course of a single song, with those directions eventually converging to make the song more than what you thought it was going to be when it began. That’s what this song delivers. This, and Avery’s cascading piano lines, and a with voice that evokes wintry, and desolately beautiful landscapes.
The song itself is rife with rich sonic side passages, helped along by a sumptuous arrangement that takes its time, building to an epic climax without being over-egged and losing its pop appeal. This is helped along by additions of cello, and muted trumpet (two of my favourite ingredients), that make me think of Spirit of Eden-era Talk Talk in it’s quieter instrumental passages.
Overall, this song represents musical ambition without the ego; that’s not an easy balance to strike. And it takes listeners from one place, and transports them to another, without taking the usual route.
To hear the rest of The Fire, run don’t walk to Marie Avery’s Bandcamp page to hear it, including the lead single “If You’ve Got The Time”.
Listen to this track by electronically-inclined indie-rock band New Hands. It’s “Tulips”, an outlier song to their planned full-length lp, currently in gestation.
The album is scheduled to be released next year, as the five piece band and their producer Michael Keire (Apostle of Hustle, Wildlife, Dark Mean) take their time to bring the music to its full potential in the studio.
Such has been the approach for this single, a tale of relationship vulnerability (“Shake your head and hold my hand, say I’m still important “), punctuated by sound that mixes rock instruments and post-punk synths.
The pitfall to this approach, if not seeking out a cold and alienated vibe, is losing the balance between a precise, cut-glass sound that this strain of rock music requires, and a warm recording that invites a listener into it. To my ears, and probably yours too, the band has managed to achieve that balance.
New Hands’ bassist Evan Bond explained it to me, via email. This is what he said: Read more
Listen to this track by tenacious Hamiltonian indie outfit the Rest. It’s “Who Knows”, the lead off track from their newest record Seesaw, a record that follows up 2010’s Everyone All At Once.
The band is based in the extremely fertile, varied, and vibrant scene in Hamilton Ontario. Bands out of the Hamilton scene, many of which I’ve featured on this blog, are hard-working and close-knit. Maybe it’s a working class ethic that drives them to succeed.
I used the word ‘tenacious’ above to describe The Rest for good reason. For, The Rest fought harder than most to bring their latest record to us, as if the job isn’t hard enough for an independent band working up momentum for themselves. Here’s the story.
One key component to the Rest’s recording process was their producer, former Junkhouse guitarist, and sought-after producer at Caroline North recording studio, Dan Achen (City and Colour, Feist, Mojave), also a friend, and mentor . But, during the recording process, Dan passed away very unexpectedly.
Given that he’d played a major part in guiding the band, this loss alone would have been enough to delay the production of the new record. This is not to mention the added burden of losing a friend. But, they soldiered on.
Yet, there would be more to face for the Rest in bringing their record into the world. Technology has empowered many a band starting out in this age of Internet, FTP file sharing, and other other computerized innovations. Yet, sometimes technology turns on you, as it did with the record.
Due to a hard-drive glitch, the completed tracks they’d worked up were chucked down a deep, digital hole – disaster! But where technology was the cause of seeming failure, it would also provide a solution, too. Black box technology of the kind they use to retrieve information from airplane disasters, they had their record back six months later – disaster averted!
The resulting record is a varied beast, with this lead track establishing their overall sound, yet punctuated by other textures including a kind of post-punk afrobeat in another song “Laughing & Yearning“, which aggressively competes with “Who Knows” as my favourite track on the record. Needless to say, the quality is high, with the artists who made it having brought it through the fire to get it to us.
Here’s a clip featuring Ontario singer-songwriter Matthew de Zoete (that’s pronounced duh-ZOO-tuh, kids). It’s the video for his song “Colour Film”, the title track of his newest record Colour Film released at the beginning of this month, and his third.
The record follows up 2008’s Bottom of the World, and 2006’s Across The Sea, as well as multiple tours of Canada, the United States, and Europe to support them. By now, de Zoete has shared stages with Great Lake Swimmers, Luke Doucet, and Justin Rutledge among others. All the while, he’s made his home in rural Ontario, on a farm with his wife and daughter.
His approach to this new project was to write a series of songs that could be a soundtrack to a film, suggesting characters, tone, and the shape of a story. This cinematic approach certainly carries over to this song, inspired as it was by seeing Super 8 film footage of his grandparents in the early 1960s, as later to be seen in the video.
In “Colour Film” we find the theme of connectedness, of tying the past together with the present, and realizing that the span of years that separate the eras between us, our parents, and our grandparents isn’t indicative of how differently the people in each era saw the world or interacted with it. With this song, we realize that it’s only the cosmetics of each era that change. Love, fun, sadness, joy, and the whole contradictory package that is the human experience was just as real then as it is now. The black & white world of the past was just as present and in colour for those who lived in it.
It’s a powerful idea. It certainly takes a level of maturity in a songwriter to pull this idea off without ponderous, over-earnest results. Yet, here it is as light as air, letting the listener fill in some of the spaces as the best pop songs must.
The song reminds us that the world as we know it is still in motion. Even in that, any division between the past and present is just another illusion. Sooner than we think, our own the world as we know it today may be looked at as something of an abstract by younger generations, a misty era to be thought of through a dusty lens, and in a grainy film stock in the minds of our children. In this, the world hasn’t really changed at all. It’s always been that way.
For more information about Matthew de Zoete, check out the Matthew de Zoete official site, where you can discover social media links, as well as links to other material featured on the new album.
Watch this video by Hamilton Ontario-based singer-songwriter, and filmmaker Kori Pop. It’s the entirely DIY video featuring her take on the children’s favourite “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” (with a “Mary Had a Little Lamb” coda), a track off of her self-released albumSongs For Little Bean.
The record isa collection of children’s songs and lullabies originally planned as a gift for friends, parents to Kori’s goddaughter. But, after Kori saw how well her goddaughter responded to the material, she decided that the rest of the music-listening public needed to hear the songs, too.
Before this, Kori Pop had kept herself pretty busy. After making her debut,From The Outskirts, Kori Pop involved herself in a number of projects which engaged the interpretive side of her skills as a singer, and musician. Cover versions of the B-52s’ “Love Shack”, Alanna Myles’ “Black Velvet”, and The Beatles’ “Being For the Benefit Of Mr. Kite” , were all given the Kori Pop treatment.
In addition, she was involved in a show as one of four local performers in Hamilton lovingly titled Heavy Pedal. The show featured some major piano, with not a guitar or Marshall stack in sight. But this new record was something of a labour of love, with her voice multi-tracked to create a sort of choral children’s album of favourites, plus a couple of original compositions too.
I talked with Kori via email about this record, and about what it means to be an interpretive singer of familiar folk songs and pop songs, as well as being a writer of originals. Read more
Listen to these tracks from Hamiltonian art-rock concern The Foreign Films, as led by one multi-instrumentally inclined Bill Majoros. It’s the double A-side “Night Without The Day/Glitter”,
The new songs provide something of a taster to the upcoming album, serving as the next chapter leading up to the act’s upcoming full-length LP to be released in 2012. This is rock music on a grand, cinematic scale, yet with the intimate feel of musicians creating sounds in collaboration, balancing rock, orchestral pop, Beatles-esque psych, all the while using warm cellos and strings, bolstered with subtle electronic ornamentation.
Majoros ramps up some darker textures on these tracks when compared to the Fire From Spark EP released at the tail end of last year. I spoke with Bill Majoros in an interview with the Foreign Films around that time, and he is still concerned with telling stories in his own way through his work, with the help of talented guest musicians and friends on the extremely fertile Hamilton music scene. This time, the stories are moodier, with starker images, and a bit darker all around than before on these two songs.
This darker territory certainly isn’t a reflection of where he’s at personally or professionally, with growing interest in his work in the UK and in Europe becoming something to note. His White Album-esque song “Lucky Streak“, among others, appears on NME.com in video form, with all kinds of potential to reach an audience hungry for new sounds. This is appropriate, given how much of the music coming out of Britain, particularly ’60s British Invasion guitar rock and psych, has helped to shape what Majoros is doing in the 2010s.
The advantage Bill has with the band is that it can take whatever form he wants it to take, being its principle creative mover. Yet, he is open to seeing where the process takes the music, with plenty of input, as always, from guest musicians. To this idea of an evolving sound for the Foreign Films, specifically on these songs, Bill’s said:
“We’ve been pushing ourselves a little further, and it seems that the songs are coming out edgier. It’s been an exciting process. We might have another double A-side before the record, and we’re working on the details right now.”
This slow trickle of releases has helped Bill drive himself forward, excited about what’s coming out of the sessions.
” We wanted to find the magic in every performance,” he says. “No experimentation was frowned upon. No concept was inconsequential. We didn’t stop until every piece of our imaginative puzzle was complete.”
But, when’s the album coming out?
“I’m hoping late Spring, but I’ve still got about five more songs to complete, so it will depend on creative process a bit. Saying that, things have been going very, very well lately. ”
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.
Here’s a clip of Hamiltonian punkabilly-flavoured rock/pop punk rock trio The Barettas. It’s the video for their single ‘Touché”. You can currently download the single for FREE on their bandcamp page, good people. The single, with an equally excellent B-side in “Black Sheep” was released last month.
The band is made up of three women – Katie Bulley (guitar, vocals), Kate Kimberley (bass, vocals), and Carly Kilotta (drums) – who’s average age is currently 22, yet sound as though they’ve been at this game for twice that time at least. Since their formation in 2009, the trio has rubbed elbows in support slots for acts as critically acclaimed as the Diodes (!), The Fleshtones (!!), The New York Dolls (!!!) and A Flock of Seagulls (!!?) among others.
Among the references you’ll find about this band in the press are comparisons between their hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, and the soul music, blues, and garage rock mecca of Detroit Michigan. Sure, both are industrial, blue collar towns. Both are criminally left behind in comparison to other cities when it comes to accolades of cultural importance where pop music is concerned (although, KISS never wrote about Hamilton – or they haven’t yet). But, do the comparisons end there?
Well, I decided to ask Katie that question, among others including questions about dayjobs, about what a support band can learn from a headliner, and about what it is to be a woman in a 21st Century rock ‘n’ roll band.