Veda Hille Sings “Lucklucky”

This-Riot-LifeListen to this track by Vancouverite orchestral art pop pioneer Veda Hille (that’s Vay-da Hil-ee, for you out-of-towners). It’s “Lucklucky”, a track as taken from her 2008 record This Riot Life, released on Andy Partridge’s Ape records label.

When it comes to being an indie artist who knows no artistic boundaries, Veda Hille has been a poster child in Vancouver for a while by now, putting out her first effort, Songs About People And Buildings in 1992 when I heard it for the first time on cassette in my friend’s basement apartment in far away Toronto. Her work as a recording artist is in addition to being very much grounded in the Vancouver arts scene working with dance and theatre companies, and in Berlin where she enjoyed a residency in 2013 while writing her most recent album, Love Waves.

What about this song, though, recorded after she’d set up what seemed to be an unwavering schedule of putting out records, playing live shows, and being involved in various stage productions for many years by this time? Well, among other things, it’s rooted in some pretty solidly Canadian themes as usual. Read more

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New Year New Tunes 2016

winter fairy 2016
(image: Alice Popkorn)

New years and new beginnings. In the dead of winter here in the northern hemisphere, we need that sense of a clean, snow-swept slate. But, I’m not necessarily talking about ambitious resolutions and grand statements of changing one’s ways. If that’s your position and you are committed, I applaud you. Sometimes though, it’s the small and un-Facebookable changes we make that make the most difference, and tend to be the ones that we stick with. The examples of these are many. But, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and talk about your soundtracks for 2016 as you change your life or build upon what’s best about it. What will you be listening to this winter 2016, good people?

To help you answer that question, or at least give you a wider field of play, here is a selection of new sounds from independent artists from across the musical and geographical spectrum for you to consider as you shake off the remaining rags of Yuletide, and don your New Year apparel. Read, listen, and tell me your favourites in the comments section. And perhaps what you change first this new year 2016 is your new favourite artist.

As Billy Shakespeare once said: lend me your ears!

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Spring For Tunes 2014

Spring is here.

Weather is getting balmier, days are getting longer, and around here cherry blossoms are on everyone’s mind, and on most people’s driveways. This is the season of renewal, of new beginnings. So, maybe it’s time to inject some new tunes into our lives in celebration of a season.

Spring faeries
image: sofi01

With that in mind, here is a selection of musical goodness from many locales and across the pop music spectrum for your consideration. May the sounds you find here be like April showers on the cold stony ground of a winter of discontent – and we had a cold one, didn’t we? As the buds on the trees begin to manifest, get these tunes into your brain through the buds of the ear variety.

Here …

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“Young and Lazy” by The  Matinee

Kicking things off is a Tom Petty-esque tune as produced by Hot Hot Heat’s Steve Bays (the rest of the record was produced by Los Lobos member and legendary sessioner Steve Berlin!), delivered by Vancouver roots and classic rock up-and-comers The Matinee.  The song is the opening track as taken from the band’s debut record, We Swore We’d See the Sunrise which you can buy on iTunes. If you’re looking to ride into the sun of a new season, this is a stellar place to start.

“Friends” by Fast Romantics

Fans of the Super Furries take note with this track from Calgary’s Fast Romantics, specializing in a similar art-rock via post punk pop architecture. The song is taken from their recent record Afterlife Blues, their second. For more, check out the official video to their single “Funeral Song“.

“Dreamtrain” by Lily Virginia

Like a moment in the day when you feel the first drops of spring rain, Lily Virginia’s “Dreamtrain” provides a melancholic backdrop  for a new season. This song is gauzy, atmospheric, and gossamer-delicate, but with a quiet strength that makes it a heartfelt reflection on lost love. For more information, check out this interactive page that allows you to delve even further into this tune, and what inspired it.

“Last Time You’ll Say Goodbye” by Mortimer Nova

Close-harmonies and expansive arrangement help to characterize this tune by Tampa Florida’s Mortimer Nova, led by head writer and guitarist Michael Vilches. The song is taken from their album Terminal, taking in an orchestral -folk approach that seems to evoke an idealized era of lushly realized pop music.

“Under The Wire” by Running Red Lights

If you prefer your pop by way of Buckingham-Nicks, this tune by Toronto’s Running Red Lights is your springtime excursion to a classic period of rock radio that sings in the 21st century. This song appeared as a sample two-fer, and as a forerunner to their full-length record There’s A Bluebird In My Heart. You can buy the record at iTunes.  

“Dream of Delia” by The Citradels

If three-to-four minute pop feels somewhat limiting, how about some neo-psychedelic drone rock for a change of pace? That’s where Melbourne Australia’s The Citradels have carved out a niche, marrying fuzzy psych with a variety of textures that stretch out a bit more, with eerie atmospheres and hypnotic soundscapes. This track is taken from their most recent record, Droned and Rethroned.

“That’s The Way I Wanna Do It” by The Pinecones

What would happen if you took power pop, added some strings, and some Brill Building era Carole King-like melodic instincts? Well, imagine no further with Toronto’s The Pinecones. This song is taken from the band’s succinctly named full-length, Ooh!

“Is This Love” by Life Leone

Life Leone delivers the dry-and-crunchy post punk hooks  you crave that culminates in a distinctive California desert-rock sound that he’s crafted into his own musical signature. This song is taken from the new release Comes Crashing In. You can learn more about Life Leone and his music here 

“Honest Living” by Supastition

Rap has a history in social commentary, with personal stories mirroring the stories of whole communities. That tradition lives and breathes on this track by Greenville, North Carolina-based Supastition. This track beams with throwback textures of classic R&B, infused with candour, controlled rage, and ultimate optimism as taken from the Honest Living EP.

“Numbers” by Grand Splendid

Montreal’s Grand Splendid make multi-textural guitar pop that transcends eras, mounted on an anthemic scale yet without the self-aggrandizing bombast. This is the title track from their self-produced mini-album Numbers, a sonic backdrop for those spring days where the sun can be seen as peering through a bank of clouds, on the verge of breaking out.

“ef-fort” by In Snow

For sounds that suggest a narrative but without the lyrics, Birmingham Alabama’s In Snow provide it with interest. This track is taken from their EP of the same name, dealing in atmosphere, tension and release, and subtle instrumental interplay. Fans of Mogwai in particular should press “play” immediately.

“And Still We Move” by Crissi Cochrane

For a feel of classic soul melded with a 21st century indie sensibility, Windsor Ontario-based and Halifax Nova Scotia-born Crissi Cochrane delivers a humid, horn-laden treasure chest of sound. This track is the single as taken from her recently released album Little Sway, a release driven by the beating heart of Detroit soul delivered with subtlety and laid back charm sung in her own voice.

“Rotation” by Ummagma

Electronic soundscapes and dream pop textures are what characterizes the music of Canadian-Ukrainian duo Ummagma. This is a single, a double A-side with another song of theirs – “Live and Let Die” (not the song you’re thinking of!).  In addition to their recorded output, the band won the Alternative Eurovision in 2013. But, maybe the biggest feather in their cap is working with Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, who re-mixed a track, which is due soon.

“Ghost of June” by Dylan Starrs

Literally hooking into a dynasty of country music tradition with this song in particular, Texas native and L.A-based singer-songwriter Dylan Starrs plays to that tradition, and yet with a distinctive voice of his own. This song comes from his full-length record The Swill To The Swell.

“The Verge” by Juleah

Neo-psychedelic excursions are the speciality of Austrian musician Julia Hummer AKA Juleah. This is the opening track to a 5-track EP Entangled and Entwined, mixing guitars, with electronics, dreampop, and the blues.  For you visually-oriented music fans, here’s the video for the song.

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So, there they are; tunes for spring, a soundtrack to the green shoots and brightly-headed flowers bursting up toward a warming sun.

What do you think? What are your favourite tracks? What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods?

Tell me all about it! And happy spring!

Enjoy!

New Year, New Tunes 2014

Happy New Year, ‘Binners! Here’s hoping you had a nice holiday, and/or are continuing to have one. Whether you’re still on holiday, or are contemplating having to go back to work, a few new tunes couldn’t hurt either way, right?

Well, then. Here you go; a number of tunes from the best minds in pop music with whom perhaps you’re not altogether familiar. But, you can solve that by perusing the tunes below, clicking ‘play’, and perhaps discovering the best music you’ve heard all year – so far!

Snow Fairy
image: katmary

Fill your boots!

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1.”Helios” by Raleigh

Kicking things off is Calgary’s Raleigh, most certainly one of my favourite Canadian bands. I got to interview them a couple of years ago when they put out their debut. This one is the lead track off of their sumptuous follow up, Sun Grenades and Grenadine Skies.

2. “Fall Of The Summer Heart” by The Foreign Films

Art-pop vehicle The Foreign Films led by multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Bill Majoros will follow up 2007’s Distant Star, after a number of stellar EPs. Look out for that later in the year. In the meantime, this track is practically an EP all in one; a multi-layered series of songs within a song inspired after a tour of the UK.

3. “Butane Brain” by The Almighty Rhombus

Dark and angular, yet also bright and poppy all at once, here’s my favourite track as taken from Sudbury Ontario’s The Almighty Rhombus’ Lucid Living full-length. Light it up!


4. “6 Year Vignettes” by Vast Robot Armies

Sumptuous, ambitious and slightly on the proggy side if I might be so bold, Vast Robot Armies (under the creative direction of songwriter Jason Thompson) evoke a sort of Porcupine Tree-esque approach to bold, and epic scale music that still hits the pop spot. This track is taken from the most recent full-length, Goodnight Myopia.


5. “Fortunate Boy” by Dave Rave

Dave Rave is a local legend on the Southern Ontario music scene and beyond, having exercised his capacity for pop music of all kinds of sub-categories, including a stint in punk-pop daddies Teenage Head. As a departure from that sound, this track hits on a late-70s singer-songwriter feel with jazzy flourishes, taken from his most recent release Memphis Midnight.


6. “Button” by Colornoise

But, maybe all of these gentle, radio-friendly pop hooks need to be tempered with something more avant-garde. This band from Costa Rica delivers all of that, but keeps the hooks blended in quite nicely, thanks.


7. “Origin of Water” by Nheap

If soundtrack-y Sylvian/Sakamoto-influenced instrumental pop turns your crank, then this will help you start the year off right. This track is taken from Italy’s Massimo Discepoli, aka Nheap’s, latest record Flying In The Silence.


8. “A Freckle In Time” by The Sunshine Dreamers

If sunshiny psych (from the Mid-West!) is your favourite way to begin a new year, then what are you waiting for? This is the closing track to The Sunshine Dreamers’ record Good Morning Afternoon. Get your lysergic pop fix!


9. “Wasted” by Dog Day

Transporting yourself back to that classic late ’70s punk sound is easily done with this track from Halifax, Nova Scotia; Dog Day. It was offered as a free track from the band’s recent record Fade Out.


10. “Spaceship X” by Sun Stone Revolvers

If Apocalyptic Pop isn’t a genre, it’s possible that Toronto’s Sun Stone Revolvers have just invented it with this track as taken from the album after which it’s named – Spaceship X.

11. “1994” by Ben McKenzie

When you’re starting a new year, sometimes you need an anthem. Ben McKenzie’s “1994” may be that anthem, easily suitable twenty years into the future in 2014 (is it twenty years already? How did that happen?). This track is taken from his most recent EP Stand Down Son.

12. “Grand Tracadie” by Newsmen

Toronto’s Newsmen have managed to create effervescent power-pop meets art rock by mixing in a level of complexity that doesn’t interfere with its pop appeal. No small feat! This is their most recent single.

13. “The Tourists” by Clockwork Noise

A new year can be uncertain, and events can change direction at any time for ill, but also for good. So, here’s a soundtrack to all that in the closing song from the album Whethermachine,  a pop-hook laden noise-rock feast if there ever was one by Ireland’s Clockwork Noise.

14. “The Family Tree” by Unconditional Arms

Under the name Unconditional Arms, post-rock composer Jeffery Wright created an album of soundscapes in honour of his newborn son Owen (born in August of 2013) appropriately entitled Kinship . Instrumental, and emotionally evocative, this track also manages to sing with a pop music spirit.

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And there  you have it, Good People; a veritable smorgasbord  of musical delights to help you kick off your 2014. Which one’s your favourite? Tell me all about it in the comments section!

Otherwise, thanks for staying tuned! More to come all year long!

Enjoy!

Kori Pop Debuts Video “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” From Songs For Little Bean

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 album Songs For Little Bean.

The record is a 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

Asia Mei Plays “Big Apple Tree”

Listen to this track by pianist, world-traveler, arranger, and singer-songwriter Asia (pronounced Ah-sya) Mei. It’s an early single “Big Apple Tree”, the outlier to the new album released this past summer Introverse, and her second.

Asia was born in Russia, raised in Israel, and can now call herself a one-time New Yorker too. While traveling and honing her craft, she’s thrown her hand into many phases of music making, from writing, to arranging, to autotune editing for other artists in the studio.  The feelings of restlessness and movement comes through in her writing as well, full as it is of shadows and light, and boltered by playing that is the product of formal training at Boston’s Berklee School of Music.

Photo: Sonya Kahana

Now in Boston with her musician husband Andres Wilson, all of her travels have culminated into this tune, a tale of reflection on the city of New York, as much a cultural presence as it is a physical one.

I exchanged emails with Asia about her career and about the Introverse record which was released this summer, and abetted by her growing fan base who helped her to fund it.

I asked her specifically about this song, which had been a single before it came to reside on the new record. This is what she had to say about it. Read more

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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