Wrapping Up May!

Seems like the months have been flying by lately!  Here are my selections for the month of May.  There were lots of great new releases, and a few older songs from artists I’ve been privileged to see live this month.

Hope you enjoy!  Leave a comment and let me know what you listened to this month!

 

Recap: Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford and Autumn Hill, Sault Ste. Marie ON

Despite being woefully under-attended (which I’ll comment on later), the audience at the Essar Center in Sault Ste. Marie Canada was treated to a fantastic evening of country music on Saturday evening with the “Certified Country” tour.

Canadian artists Autumn Hill opened the evening up with a stylized set of country-pop hits, including “Can’t Keep Waiting” and “Fire”.  Theirs was truthfully the act I was most excited for; this is not to mean of course that I was any less interested in the headliners, but Autumn Hill has songs that are more recognizable to me despite their relative newness to the country music scene (in comparison to Bamford and particularly Nichols).  They certainly delivered- Tareya Green and Mike Robins, along with their band, breathed fresh air and life into a crowd who was already suffering the effects of a non-air conditioned arena (we were notified by friends at the Essar Center that the air conditioning had broken the day before the show, and they had been unable to fix it in time).

CCMA Male Artist of the Year Gord Bamford was welcomed to the stage next, and delivered a set of some of his most well-known hits, along with some tracks off of his newest album released this year entitled “Tin Roof”.  Despite some technical difficulties with his in-ear monitors, Bamford worked the stage and the crowd like a pro, at one point bringing up a bride to be to help sing “When Your Lips Are So Close”.  He also allowed time for his touring band to take center stage with a medley of classic rock songs, which was certainly one of the highlights of their set.  The band was comprised of some extremely talented musicians in their own right; multi-instrumentalist Denis Dufresne was especially incredible on fiddle, guitar and banjo as well as backing vocals.  It truly appeared to me that Bamford appreciates the talent in his band and was happy to take a backseat to allow them a moment to shine on their own.  It certainly says a lot about his character as both an artist and a person.

Finally, Joe Nichols took to the stage as the final act of the evening, and the majority of the floor-seated crowd rushed to the front to be closer to the action.  Songs like “Yeah”, “Sunny and 75” and “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” were obvious crowd favourites, as audience members bobbed, swayed and danced along with the band.  The only critique I can make would be on the sound;  I wasn’t the only person who found it nearly deafening during Joe’s set, and it became more difficult to hear his vocals as compared to the sets before his.  A slight tweak on the volume of the instruments could have helped to add clarity to an otherwise fantastic set.  In any case, the crowd didn’t seem to mind, and happily sang back every word.  A surprise cover song in the form of “Running Down a Dream” by Tom Petty was well received by the crowd as well; further proving that classic rock and country music can compliment each other and help unite fans across genres.

All in all, it was a fun evening of live music in Sault Ste. Marie, but here is where my criticism turns to the slightly more bitter.  It was truly upsetting to see so many empty seats in an arena that can seat 5000, and each time the lights flashed on so the artists could see their audience, I cringed.  I don’t believe that the Essar Center was the best venue to host this tour, and The Machine Shop may have been a better alternative.  However, venues and promoters in this city are working hard to bring more entertainment and musical acts here for our enjoyment, and the fact of the matter is that if we as a city don’t buy the tickets to support them, it will be much harder to get the talent here.  I do realize that country isn’t for everyone (speaking as someone who has preferences leaning more to punk or alternative music ), and that tickets are often pricey, but please consider supporting touring artists as they come through.  They constantly live on the road, away from friends and family and they work hard to bring people together and put on a show that everyone can enjoy.  There are many opportunities to go see some amazing talent local to Sault Ste. Marie as well; just consider this next time you’re planning a night out and are looking for something fun to do.

 

Show Recap: Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, Grand Rapids MI

Inclusiveness- the theme of the evening on Thursday, May 26th at The Intersection in Grand Rapids, MI.  The venue was bursting with positive energy, laughter (maybe a couple tears…but that might have just been me) and true punk rock ideology courtesy of The Homeless Gospel Choir, Two Cow Garage and Frank Turner.

Derek Zanetti, under the moniker The Homeless Gospel Choir was up first with a politically charged set of protest songs, with subject matter spanning everything from religion and mental health, to an old grade school teacher who told him that if he was lucky, he could grow up to be a garbage man (she also apparently had ‘chicken nugget teeth’, which is the first time I’ve ever heard that phrase, but goddamn it if that isn’t a creative insult).  Derek has the ability to tackle these topics, and his stage show in general, with charisma, a biting sense of humour and sarcasm, which won the audience over immediately.  Even with some technical difficulties, he continued the show like a pro, joining us in the middle of the floor, just him and his guitar, to finish a song while the audience formed a circle around him. With extremely smart lyrics and an incredibly entertaining stage presence, The Homeless Gospel Choir is not one to be missed.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who would have been content to have his set go on just a bit longer.  Make sure you also stop by his merch table after the show to say hello and pick yourself up a copy of his CDs, vinyls or his book, “Existentialism the Musical”.

Next to the stage was Two Cow Garage, coming out of Columbus, OH and with a set full of tricks.  I can safely say I’ve never seen an alt-rock band take on four part harmonies, and not only did Two Cow Garage do it last night, but they slayed it.  There is no denying the talent that is in this band, or that they truly love performing- their enthusiasm was contagious and they are musically so on point that to miss their set on this tour would be criminal.  Standing at barrier in front of Todd Farrell Jr., we were continually impressed with his incredible skills on the guitar, which were showcased often during their set.  Each member of the band really was able to shine; despite Micah Schnabel being hailed as the lead singer, he stands not at center stage, but at the left.  We originally found this to be quite different from the typical traditional set up, but it makes perfect sense in retrospect; not one person makes up the band, and they are equal to the sum of their parts, often sharing lead vocal duties from song to song between Micah, Todd and Shane Sweeney.  Also included last night was a cover of a song by Mustard Plug, a ska-punk band local to Grand Rapids, which was a nice way to incorporate the crowd.

** This is the point where I have to tell you, if you’re intending to see this tour as it continues through the United States, don’t be the person who only shows up for Frank Turner as the headliner;  not only is it incredibly not punk rock (the punk community is one that supports each other!)  you’ll be denying yourself seeing an incredible group of musicians that were hand selected by Turner himself.  Frank wouldn’t steer you wrong, and neither will I when I say: Get to the venue early.  It is beyond worth it.**

Finally, the moment we were waiting for; the man himself, Frank Turner.  Despite being a fan for a number of years, this was the first time that I was able to catch a show in person and even though I thought I knew what to expect, those expectations went very quickly out the window.  Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls exceeded every expectation I could have ever had in one shot.  The man certainly knows how to put on a show, and he has an innate ability to bring together people from all walks of life, regardless of age, gender, socio-economic background…whatever barriers might exist between people are immediately forgotten due to the inclusive nature of the show.  The only time there may have been any division was when the crowd was divided in half to be put on either “Team Ben” (Ben Lloyd) or “Team Tarrant” (Tarrant Anderson), and we were swept up in the competitiveness of which side of the room would be the louder, and thus, better side (being on Team Tarrant, it was us.  Sorry not sorry, Team Ben).  This was only one of the ways in which audience participation was encouraged;  throughout the course of the evening, we made good use of our ‘jazz hands’ skills, and were given many, many opportunities to practice our dancing and vocal prowess.  Frank Turner thrives on the energy that the audience gives him, and he returns it tenfold.  This show went so far beyond a musical act performing for an audience; for the entire time that Frank and the Sleeping Souls set foot on stage, we were at once unified and were collectively in this together.    The Grand Rapids audience was also treated to a debut of “Sister Rosetta Tharpe” which he finished only two days prior to the show and is slated to be on his upcoming concept-style album which will feature songs about influential women in history.  Frank came back to the stage for a three song encore including “Love Ire and Song”, “Get Better” and “Four Simple Words”, but not before leading everyone in “Happy Birthday” for his tour manager Tre, who was celebrating last night.  She expressly forbade Frank from bringing her onstage, but I’m certain we were loud enough that she could hear us from the backstage area!

Reflecting back on the show now, I can honestly say that this was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever been to.  The room was filled with positive energy from the very start of the night to the end, everyone gave it everything they had and for a brief moment in time, we were able to escape reality and truly, freely celebrate life together.

If that isn’t punk rock, then I don’t know what is.

 

Streaming Now…

It’s a bright, sunny Wednesday, the weather is finally starting to warm back up, and two fantastic new albums have been put up for streaming this week!  Get your speakers out and enjoy!

tinyFirst up, Tiny Moving Parts have released “Celebrate” via Noisey Music, and it’s immediately catchy.  If you’re a fan of punk, pop-punk or emo, this is a band you’re going to want to check out.  It’s very likely you’ll love them at first listen, but make sure you’re paying attention to the lyrics as well.  On the surface the songs may sound fairly upbeat but each tells a story that is far deeper.  It definitely creates an interesting juxtaposition between the cheery album title and lyrics that address anxiety and sadness.  Yet there’s always a glimmer of hope found within those lyrics to keep you from going too far down a dark and twisty path- an actual light at the end of the tunnel.  Teenage-me would have eaten this up, but there is still enough substance and surprises within the album to keep 30 year-old me interested as well (the violin on “Happy Birthday” threw me a little but it’s lovely and it fits!).

“Celebrate” will be released officially this Friday, May 20th via Triple Crown Records.

 

plow-united-threePlow United have also released “Three” to stream via the AV Club, and you can go ahead and purchase that today through It’s Alive Records.  “Three” was produced by Pete Steinkopf of The Bouncing Souls, and it’s a slick, polished punk record that holds nothing back.  These are the kind of songs that will be well-received at live shows, songs that are made for lots of audience participation.  I would expect their album release show (scheduled for this Saturday, May 21st at Philamoca in Philadelphia, PA), will be extremely well-received.

 

New Music!

Some very strong singles dropped this past Friday; so many in fact that I’m going to dedicate this post solely to those and wait until I’ve had some more time to listen to some of the new albums that came out this week to talk about those.  So let’s check out a few songs that caught my attention right away!

Justin Timberlake dropped his first new single in nearly 3 years!  Check out ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’ via iTunes here or on Spotify.  It’s got a great catchy hook, but I expect it’s going to be one of those songs that will be vastly overplayed; enjoy it now while it’s still in a stage of infancy as far as radio play goes!

“Last year I was a trainwreck, now I’m just a mess…” Real Friends, an emo pop-punk band out of Tinley Park, IL introduced ‘Mess’ and the chorus will have you singing along before the song is over.  Purchase it on iTunes here (you can also preorder their full length album, “The Home Inside My Head”), or check it out via Spotify.

Tegan and Sara‘s ‘100x’ from their forthcoming album “Love You to Death” is out as well and it’s a definite break-up song, although you can certainly apply it to different scenarios (given that they’ve publicly discussed recently how they nearly broke up, it’s very much in line with the idea of that relationship coming to an end).  If you’ve been there before, you’ll appreciate this song:  it’s honest to the point of heartbreaking.  Purchase it on iTunes here (their full length album “Love You To Death” can be preordered in advance of the expected release date of June 3rd), or listen to it on Spotify.

Another song that is soon to be an addition to everyone’s summer playlists, “Write On Me” by Fifth Harmony is a mid-tempo, sugary pop song that is perfect for the beach.  You can preorder their new album, “7/27”, slated for release on May 27th on iTunes here or you can check it out on Spotify.

Fitz and the Tantrums is killing it with their latest releases!  “Complicated” joins “Handclap” (which was released earlier this year in March) as a bouncy, fun and full of energy track that will definitely bring people to the dance floor.  Their new, self-titled album is up for preorder on iTunes here, but you can catch “Complicated” and “Handclap” on Spotify as well.  This is definitely going to be an album to watch for!

I’m really digging “Figure It Out”  by French Montana, featuring Kanye West and Nas.  Although I wouldn’t say I’m well versed in the rap genre, I definitely appreciate it and I liked this song immediately when I heard it; it’s got a great feel and I was bobbing my head along with it right away.  Check it out on Spotify or purchase it on iTunes here.

The Washboard Union, from right here in Canada(!) released “Shot of Glory (Diesel Turbo Remix)” and I’ll be honest, when I see a country song with ‘remix’ in the title, I tend to get a little nervous.  I’ve heard some truly atrocious country/EDM-style remixes.  Thankfully, this is not one of them!  “Shot of Glory” is young and fresh, rooted in bluegrass.  I feel like it’s going to be really popular this summer.  You can listen to it on Spotify or via iTunes here

Finally, “Burden” by Irish singer/songwriter Foy Vance is a beautiful song, and should appeal to fans of everything from alternative to gospel.  He definitely has a rough country tinge to his voice, but the melody of this song is gorgeous, dark but sweet.  Foy Vance has a knack for writing uplifting songs and the lyrics to this are not out of that realm.  Preorder his album, “The Wild Swan” here (it will be available in full this Friday, May 13) or you can listen to “Burden” on Spotify.

 

 

 

 

Guided Meditation by Hurry (Not A Review)

Hurry_GM_highres_web

 

I hate talking about albums in typical album review fashion. I feel like album reviews should own the right to be more personal, since they are, however you dissect them, a matter of personal opinion. The catch is trying to get other people to feel the same way you do. Which is difficult because everyone relates to music differently. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about music, it’s this; everyone digs pop. Pop punk. Pop country. Bubblegum pop. Power pop. There is a mood for pop, and there is a pop song for every mood. I think maybe that’s why we gravitate towards it when we’re having a really bad, or an exceptionally great, day. It’s music you can dance to, or cry to, simply by changing moods, or songs.

So maybe this won’t be a hard catch. Maybe I can convince whoever reads this that they should check out indie power pop trio Hurry’s new album “Guided Meditation”.

Before I continue, I should note this is not an album review. I know very little information about the background of this band that consists of three guys from Philadelphia. Google will tell you they started out as a one man project; comprised solely of Matt Scottoline, and then Rob DeCarolis and Joe DeCarolis joined in 2014 to play drums and bass, respectfully. But already I’m going off track. This is a personal opinion about a record I really enjoy, and that I am hoping I can convince others to really enjoy, and this is not a band history lesson. Or an album review. I repeat; this is NOT an album review. (You can however, find an insightful and thoughtful review of Guided Meditation here)

The first song that I immediately attached myself to was “Fascination”, a song that I imagine is about the cycle of random happenstance with a particular individual you find yourself in awe of. There is something in the composition of the instruments and Scottoline’s vocals that make you feel like, having this particular kind of crush is exciting and even dance worthy. I caught myself dancing upon reaction because the song is so catchy. And let’s just get this out there; anyone who knows me, knows I always incorporate dance into anything. Especially a good album, like Guided Meditation, which also features, Love Is Elusive”, a song that I want to refer to as a ballad because it tells a story. Love is elusive, and that’s okay. And here I am, swaying from side to side, reminding myself of that with sweet vocals that feel all too appropriate for the lyrics. Although, I enjoy the entire album, other songs that I really feel I can relate to are, “Wanna Be You” and “Nothing To Say”. (You can watch the video here!)

So, there it is, but feel free to have a listen. I’m starting to think that Philadelphia has a lot of great stuff we haven’t heard yet, small towns of Ontario, and Hurry is definitely one of those. I can’t help but relate this album to The Shins’ Chutes Too Narrow, a record I listened to, and danced to, for an entire year, because it was just as catchy instrumentally, and lyrically as ornamented and relatable. Like The Shins, I feel like Hurry took their time, or at least gave the grand impression they did, on an album that feels too precise and organized to be thrown into any category, even for those, like myself, who gravitate towards that poppy sound, and want so desperately to categorize it. But because I’m not actually reviewing it, I can skip that step and just enjoy this 9 track LP.

Again, this isn’t an album review, but take it for what it is, and go and hear a record that feels like the right kind of guidance, even if you aren’t into meditation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Record Store Haul!

I’m fairly new to vinyl, though it’s something that I grew up with.  Record Store Day this year, with exclusive releases from Brian Fallon and Frank Turner, is what kicked my ass into gear and I finally bought my first turntable.  There’s definitely something to be said for vinyl: the sound is undoubtedly rich and warm, but the occasional pop echoes of  nostalgia.  Besides, vinyl is more interactive; you have to physically flip the record, place the needle…it’s a slower pace than the instant gratification that digital music offers, but sometimes it’s a welcome change because it involves you as a listener more than simply clicking a button.

Besides, I love going to the record store.  It’s like a treasure hunt; there’s so many hidden gems just waiting to be discovered, and as long as you give it the time, you can come up with some amazing finds.  I especially love pre-owned albums, the ones that were played and loved by generations before you.  They hold a lot of history.

So today, these are the albums that I added to my little collection:

       1) Madonna-Like_a_Virgin-FrontalMadonna- Like a Virgin (1984)

       Old school Madonna is my favourite; literally the  best kind of album to listen to while getting ready for a girls’ night.

      Notable tracks: “Material Girl”, “Like a Virgin”, “Dress You Up”

 

 

62-Bryan-Adams-Reckless2) Bryan Adams- Reckless (1984)

The track list for this album is amazing- some of Bryan Adams’ biggest hits can be found on this record.  I’ve been lucky enough to see him live and he’s just as good now as when he was recording this.

                                                                       Notable tracks: “Run To You”, “Heaven”, “Summer of ’69”

 

Journey-Frontiers-vinyl-album        3) Journey- Frontiers (1983)

        I love Journey.  When I lived in Thunder Bay, we used to follow around a Bon Jovi/Journey cover band (aptly named, Bon Journey) and although we would almost always drink too much and not be able to remember at least one half of the show (which is why it was great of them to sometimes switch it up and do the Journey set first, for example), it solidified why I enjoy this band so much.  Just lots of great, hilarious memories.

                                                               Notable tracks: “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”, “Faithfully”,       “After the Fall”

 

princevinyl4) Prince and the Revolution (1985)

Obviously given the recent passing of Prince, his albums are going to be flying off the shelves.  It’s a fact any time a musician dies.  There weren’t many Prince albums to be found, but I did pick this one up for a great price.

Notable tracks: “Raspberry Beret”, “Paisley Park”, “America”

 

The+Beatles+The+Beatles+White+Album+4972885) The Beatles- White Album (1968)

My favourite find today.  I love The Beatles.  These are songs that I think many of us have grown up on and are so memorable.  This is where used albums can be a major benefit- it’s still in very good condition, but the price was right.  I’m thrilled to have this.

Notable tracks: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La Da”, “Helter Skelter”

 

Wrapping Up April

Here’s what I’ve been listening to for the month of April.  Again, don’t expect it to be cohesive.  I jump around between artists and genres all the time, based on what I’m feeling.  This month I got nostalgic; there’s a good section of more classic rock tunes.  As always there are some new releases too!

Hopefully you’ll find something that’s new or interesting to you too!

 

Sidenote:  I’m currently trying out Tidal as a different method of streaming as well.  I’ve got the one month trial going on right now, so I hope to be able to give you some insight into ‘Tidal vs. Spotify’ in terms of streaming services soon!