Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Seriously West Coast with John and Roy

Victoria duo John and Roy have captured the essence of new wave coffee house folk rock. They play each show with energy and friendliness that make you feel like you are out seeing some old friends perform at a local open mic night. With that energy, they add a large amount of energy and a proclivity for excellent song writing. John and Roy are the sort of band that we are beginning to see more of in this day and age. The music scene in the post millennium world saw the over commercialization of music with corporate based acts like the Backstreet Boys and the Spice girls etc. Bands that were more into themselves and their image then the quality of their music became so over produced and over played that many have turned to the growing number of new folk bands.

With bands like the Fleet Foxes and Mumford and Sons, the new wave of post folk rock brings an honesty and humbleness back into music. Artists that are low key and quiet and more interested in playing music then in shameless self promotion. John and Roy formed in 2005 when buddies John Middleton and Roy Vizer started progressing beyond just two buddies playing in a coffee house. They began writing their own songs and eventually got the cash together to release their own independent record, 2005's 'Sittin back'. They followed this up with 2008's 'Another Noon' which was their first album to go nationally as well as internationally. They began getting a bit more press coverage and were touring North America constantly. The music has continued to grow and shape itself while still remaining true to their initial vibe and style. They recently added members Ryan Tonelli (bass) and Dougal McLean (mandolin/violin) as full time members of the band, as well as some electric guitars and keyboards thrown into the mix.

Together, they released their newest album in April of this year, 'Homes'. This album adds a bit more funk and reggae to their normal groovy folk sounds. The down home islander feel is shining through strongly on this record and overall it is their best one yet. The album starts off with the relaxed, reggae beats of “Any Day Now” (which is a great tune) and the country-folk feel of “Get Myself a Gun” and “Boon Elm.” With so many musical influences, this is an album that sees Jon and Roy branching out and testing out many different sounds. “Cuban B” takes you down to South America, and then the lumbering beats of “Giddy Up” bring you back to their cozy island style.

Feel free to give some of their stuff a listen I think they are a pretty decent local act that deserves a little more attention. Here are a couple of videos and if you want to hear more of them feel free to head over to CBC to check out the play list they have there.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

#44 Rage Against the Machine

I remember picking up the first album, the self titled 'Rage Against The Machine' when I was about 14. Believe it or not, I first checked it out on my mom's music shelf. She had actually seen them the previous year at the 1993 Lollapalooza which still blows my mind that my mom went to a concert that had Alice in Chains, Tool, and Rage when they were all in their prime. That first album was one of the finest début albums ever to be recorded and is still one of the angriest records I have ever heard.

This wicked band formed back in 1991 in Los Angeles, California. Vocalist Zack de la Rocha was rapping in a club when guitarist Tom Morello caught his act and was incredibly impressed. He persuaded Zack to form a band with him and they added Zack's childhood buddy, Tim Commerford on bass and Tom's friend Brad Wilk on the drums. Rage Against the Machine has since become known for their fiercely rebellious music, which brewed sloganeering leftist rants against corporate America, cultural imperialism, and government oppression into a Molotov cocktail of thrash punk, hip-hop, and metal styled alt rock. Rage Against the Machine drew inspiration from early heavy metal instrumentation, as well as rap acts and poets like Bob Dylan. When Rage Against the Machine released that infamous debut album in 1992 it became a huge commercial success, leading to the headliner slot in the 1993 Lollapalooza festival that my lucky mother got to be a part of. Strangely, the band did not release a follow-up record until 1996, when they released Evil Empire which was harder and more acidic and outspoken then the first album. The band's third album 'The Battle of Los Angeles' was released in 1999 and saw them exploring more of a metal sound and even adding elements of funk to their repertoire. During their initial nine year run, they became one of the most popular and sharply influential bands in modern music.

In 2000, much to the sadness of the fans, Rage announced they would be breaking were numerous creative differences amongst the band members but mostly it was decided that Zack thought it was all becoming too commercial and was no longer enjoying being in the group. Shortly after the split however, they released their fourth studio album Renegades, which is comprised entirely of cover songs. Renegades, while an album of covers, is still one of my all time fave records (see the covers of MC5 and Bob Dylan). After the split was final, Zack de la Rocha started a low-key solo career while the rest of the band decided to stick together, eventually forming the rock supergroup Audioslave with former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. Audioslave went on to gather fairly modest success until 2007 when they suddenly disbanded which lead to massive rumours about Rage reuniting now that Chris Cornell was out of the picture.
In April 2007, Rage Against the Machine performed together for the first time in seven years. Sam Jennings covered for guitarist Tom Morello at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The band continued to perform at multiple live venues around the world in 2008, and in 2009. As of today, the band are still playing live shows and rumours are continuing to spread about the possibility of a new album in the works. I sure hope that they do because music in this day and age desperately needs more Rage Against the Machine.

Here are some of my fave tracks,

Saturday, June 12, 2010

#43 Here come the Flobots

The Flobots are the band you would hear across pirate radio waves after the last great world war that has yet to come. They flawlessly blend alt rock with political hip hop and poetic rebellion, mixing this unique sound with some wonderful viola playing. This genre defying group of trail blazers was formed in 2000, by hip hop singer Jamie Laurie a.k.a 'Jonny 5'. The group had it's beginnings when Jamie met up with hip hop producer Farhad Ebrahimi and they began collaborating on some new ideas. These sessions culminated in the album 'Onomatopoeia' in 2001. Although 'Onomatopoeia' was technically released by 'Jonny 5 and Yak' it is still commonly referred to as the first Flobots album.

After the release of 'Onomatopoeia', the Flobots went on an extended hiatus. It was 2005 that Jonny 5 decided to form a new band with another lead MC, Brer Rabbit. Instead, he (along with Brer Rabbit) decided to keep the Flobots name, adding five new members Mackenzie Roberts on viola, Jesse Walker on bass, Andy Guerrero (from funk band Bop Skizzum) on guitar, Joe Ferrone (also from Bop Skizzum) on trumpet, and Kenny Ortiz on drums. In October 2005, the revamped Flobots released their second album, Flobots Present...Platypus, which went on to sell over 3000 copies over the next two years.

In the fall of 2007, after an intensely productive year of writing and producing, they released the dynamite album 'Fight With Tools' which is one of the most exciting albums I have heard in the last five years. Mackenzie Roberts' viola playing on this album totally clicks with the hip hop/alt rock vibe. The viola gives it a totally old sound that lends the album a nostalgic feeling while also sounding totally new and different. Shortly after the release of the album, the single "Handlebars" started to make waves and began to gather massive popularity on alternative rock radio stations throughout North America and in April 2008 it peaked at #3 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Their latest album just came out this year and it is entitled 'Survival Story'. It carries on the rebellious imagery and political statements that we hear on 'Fight With tools' as well as introduces some new themes and the use of the trumpet on a few tracks which really hits the spot in my opinion. The viola and trumpet really give these songs that extra flavour that lift them beyond the regular hip hop and alt rock and really help make them something special.
The music and lyrics really come together on songs like 'Stand up' and 'Rise'. 'Stand up' starts with a wicked viola intro and the powerful lyrics:

"Stand up
We shall not be moved
Except By a child with no socks and shoes
If you've got more to give then you've got to prove
Put your hands up and I'll copy you"

Hope you enjoy this awesome band, they are pretty bad ass in my opinion.
Here are some choice tracks!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

#42 Run run run with the Dandy Warhols

I first heard of the Dandy's when I was living in Calgary in 2003. I was running the music department at a chain book store and I remember one day unpacking a box of new releases and seeing the 'Welcome to the Monkey House' album. If you are into rock history like I am, then one glance at the cover is enough to interest you. 'Monkey House is an all black cover with a big yellow banana being unzipped. This homage to Andy Warhol, not to mention the band is named the Dandy Warhols, was enough for me to throw it into the player and check it out. What came into my ears that first listen was something I had been waiting a long time for. It had been years since a band had excited me that much and it would be at least a few years before I would get that excited about another record.

The thing I really loved about it was that it seemed so different and very genuine while at the same time being very artsy and psychedelic. It was definitely the gateway album to the rest of their discography. The only sad thing I would be forced to learn in years after was that 'Monkey House' was their swan song, and that other then the odd solid track, this was pretty much it for the band. The good news is that their was another four albums previous to 'Monkey House' that are also incredibly solid.

The band was founded in Portland,Oregon in 1993 by local artist and singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor. He brought in friends Zia McCabe (keyboards), Peter Holmström (lead guitar), and Eric Hedford (drums). Taylor-Taylor's cousin Brent De Boer took over on the drums when Hedford left in 1998 to join the group 'Magic Fingers'. They would all begin knitting this incredibly diverse and strange new form of rock that sounds something like a cross between the Velvet Underground, Blur and T-Rex. They are glam rock while at the same time being psychedelic without being stupid and they are artsy without sacrificing intelligence and great instrumentation.

Other then 'Monkey House' I would have to say my next fave album is their self released double album 'The Black album/Come on Feel the Dandy Warhols'. It is so dark and raw that you can tell after one listen why no major label would release this album. It fits that analogy of 'No Junk, No Soul' because it is so full of power and soul but at the same time it makes you wonder how much drugs Courtney and the band were doing at this point because they sound totally saturated. This double album is full of gold and contains an epic version of AC/DC's 'Hells Bells' which is the answer to the question "Hey I wonder what it would sound like if AC/DC took a ton of Heroin and made an acoustic album?"

The first three Warhols albums; Dandy's Rule ok (1995), The Dandy Warhols Come Down (1997) and The Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia (2000) are fantastic records and contain the most straight laced brand of alt rock the band would make as after the Monkey House in 2003 they began getting overly self indulgent and started making more of a pop sounding dribble. As I said before however, there are are a few good tracks on later albums, but the vast majority is a little to narcissistic for my tastes and the writing is Taylor-Taylor descending into a Jagger like stance thinking he is the greatest thing to ever happen to rock. The sad part there is that unlike Taylor-Taylor, Jagger actually IS a rock god, not just a wicked little band from Portland. Please don't mistake this for saying they aren't awesome though because they are, especially on 'Monkey House' I just think the later work has a little too much ego throughout. In my opinion, stick to the early stuff and you will be totally satisfied.
Here are some choice cuts from the Dandys.
PS. check out 'I am a Scientist', it is co-written by David Bowie
oh, and HAHAHAHAH If you check out the first track on Welcome to the Monkey House, it states 'When Michael Jackson dies, we're covering blackbird."
so here it is!

#41 The Troubled Prince of Folk, Nick Drake

Nick Drake was a troubled, yet extraordinary person whose rare talent was almost ignored in his brief lifetime. Since his suicide 30 years ago, the legend of Nick Drake has grown and in the years since his passing his work has become more well known then he could have even dreamed of while he was alive. Today, his ghost haunts the music that has spread around the globe leaving him still singing to us from beyond the ether with his songs of sorrow and loneliness and the beauty contained in his voice and guitar playing grow more powerful and touching with each passing year.

Drake signed to British record company Island Records when he was 20 years old and through them he released his debut album, the now infamous 'Five Leaves Left'. By 1972, he had created another two more albums that delved even deeper into his mind and soul. First, with the fantastic 'Bryter Layter' and then with 'Pink Moon' which is what I would consider his best work. 'Pink Moon' is so haunting and simple in its splendor that it causes a lot of people to find it unaccessible but I find it to be his most personal work. It was recorded at midnight in 2 two-hour sessions, over two days in October 1971, featuring only Nick Drake's vocals and guitar, as well as some piano that Nick later overdubbed.

None of the albums sold more than 5,000 copies on their initial release. His reluctance to perform live or be interviewed further contributed to his lack of commercial success. Despite this, he was able to gather a loyal group of fans who would champion his music. One such person was his manager, Joe Boyd, who had a clause put into his own contract with Island Records that ensured Drake's records would never go out of print. Drake suffered from depression and insomnia throughout his life, and these topics were often reflected in his lyrics. Upon completion of 'Pink Moon', he withdrew from both live performance and recording, retreating to his parents' home in rural Warwickshire. On 25 November 1974, Drake died from an apparent suicide from an overdose of antidepressants, he was 26 years old. He has been gone from this world for over thirty years now but today in 2010, his legend and musical works continue to be listened to around the world.

Here are some Nick Drake tracks for you to check out!