Watch This: Alright Alright – Stay The Night

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By: Myles Herod July 5th, 2013

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Live-off-the floor session of Toronto’s Alright, Alright recording their tune ‘Stay the Night’. Production team Michael Welfle and Lucas Santo capture the band with minimalistic aplomb, in turn keeping the band’s retro style, sound and charisma in tact. For more, check out their ‘cellar singles’ series at: http://alrightalrightband.bandcamp.com

 

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Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Myles Herod @MylesHerod

Polaris Music Prize nominees: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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By: Hilary Johnston July 2nd, 2013

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It’s that time of year again, when the Polaris Music Prize long-list is announced and, in turn, the Canadian music pot is effectively stirred.  

 

For the uninitiated, the Polaris is a title and a $30,000 prize bestowed annually to an artist whose album demonstrates the greatest artistic merit. Album sales and hype are supposedly null points of influence, although keeping those two factors at bay is almost as prickly as defining “artistic merit”. 

 

The awkward cousin of the UK’s Mercury Prize, the Polaris has been awarded to Feist (Metals, 2012), The Arcade Fire (The Suburbs, 2012), Karkwa (Les chemins de verre, 2010), Fucked Up (The Chemistry of Common Life, 2009), Caribou, (Andorra, 2008) Patrick Watson (Close to Paradise, 2007) and Final Fantasy (He Poos Clouds, 2006). Evidently, it’s no coincidence that the foundation of my iTunes collection is comprised of their work, which helps explain the yelp of excitement I let out when Feist accepted her well-deserved award last year. Suffice to say, I generally trust Polaris to not lead me astray.  That is why, with this year, I am left with a slightly unsettling feeling. The cause for alarm could be that, although some great names are present, there is potential for great tragedy, too. Imagine the anti-climax of seeing Metric win for an album that is far from their best? Or worse – what if God Speed You! Black Emperor’s ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ went home empty handed while the comparatively colourless self-titled album by Hannah Georgas left victorious? I would have no choice but to leave Canada forever!

 

Yes, everyone has their horse to win, I get that. That is why I am choosing Colin Stetson as my steed to cross the finish triumphant. Well, my hope at least. A New History in Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light demonstrates a level of intricacy and virtuosity out of reach to the other vying candidates. Stetson’s work feels conceptual; like installations rather than songs. It is equal parts haunting and enchanting, showcasing more musicality than Hayden, The Luyas and Corb Lund combined.  Delving textural and melodic depths, it even puts Whitehorse’s masterpiece, The Fate of the World Depends On This Kiss, to shame. 

 

Incredibly, all of this is achieved by just one man. Using circular breathing to give us his distinctive thick polyphony, Stetson amplifies the sound of the saxophone by hitting the valve pads for extra percussion. It doesn’t end there. He also wears a microphone around his neck to capture the wailing vocals that, believe it or not, come from his throat. As you listen to this record and inevitably begin to question your understanding of sound and beauty, remember that this is all created live with no overdubbing or looping. Whoa.

 

As I anticipate the short list announcement on July 16th, I imagine the panelists meeting at Jian Ghomeshi’s estate (furnished entirely with beanbag chairs) deliberating “artistic merit”.  I wish to locate this meeting of the minds and pleasantly request that the panel, please, award an album that actually pushed some boundaries and avoid favouring the conventional. Surely Canadian music has more to offer than that. With that said, I would also be willing to stand outside and shout “Don’t be weak!”

 

 

My Short List Fantasy Draft

(If the panel consisted of just one person, me, this is what the short list would look like. We can all dream, right?): 

 

 

A Tribe Called Red – Nation II Nation

 

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Evening Hymns – Spectral Dusk

 

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’

 

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Kid Koala – 12 bit Blues

 

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Lee Harvey Osmond – The Folk Sinner

 

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Purity Ring – Shrines

 

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Rhye – Woman

 

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Daniel Romano – Come Cry With Me

 

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Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light

 

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Suuns – Images du futur

 

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Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Hilary Johnston @hilary_johnston

 

Canada Day Special: Our Favourite Canadian Songs!

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By: Myles Herod July 1st, 2013

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One thing we can absolutely be proud of this Canada Day is how amazing our music is (and has been, over the years). So today, the contributors of Toronto Music Scene have banded together to divulge their favourite Canadian songs, a play-list that has fundamentally shaped not only themselves, but the musical landscape of the Great White North and beyond. Warning: this list is BTO and Nickelback free! 

 

 

 “Powderfinger” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Hilary Johnston)

There are so many reasons why this song is a classic: the mysterious narrative lyrics, Neil’s harrowing guitar solos, the anthem-like chorus and the fact that it appeals to fans new and old. “Powderfinger” is spooky, rough and somehow beautiful at the same time.

The last time I listened to this song, I heard my own voice shouting the lyrics over Neil’s distinctive wail, creating a duet that echoed through the mountains of Chilliwack, BC. The glory of “look out mama, there’s a white boat comin’ up the river” emanated through the seductive nature that surrounded me. I am passionate about a lot of Canadian music but I am hard-pressed to find another tune that can induce that feeling.

 

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“If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot (Adrian J. Miller)

Inspired by his divorce, Gordon Lightfoot wrote this solemn song in 1970, one about heartache and lamentation. The tender lyrics reflect the songwriting of the period, with Lightfoot’s voice remaining genuine and heartfelt. There is pride in knowing that it was a man from Orillia, Ontario who wrote songs that Bob Dylan would wish to last forever. 

“If You Could Read My Mind” was Lightfoot’s first hit on the American Billboard Magazine Chart, and thanks to Canadian Content regulations – is still played on local oldies stations. My decision in choosing this song was simple. Although some may call it boring; it is an iconic melody that will far outplay many of the contemporary mainstream acts that have come from within a two hour drive of Toronto in the last 10 years.

 

 

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“These Days Are Old” by Spookey Ruben (Myles Herod)

 

What the hell is Spookey Ruben? Well, if you’re the kind of person looking for something innovative and avant garde on this glorious Canada Day, “These Days Are Old” is the perfect cocktail.

 

Released in 1995 by the Canadian musician, and experimental filmmaker (real name: Alan Deil), this bizzaro slice of loopy yodelling and eccentric pop is an infectious scream from the Canadian underground.

 

Perhaps too bold and unclassifiable for it’s time, the song fits as a prophetic blue-print to today’s Canadian idosyncratic rockers, while at the same time retaining its eclectic, goofy and strangely ethic mystique. 

 

Certainly a unique piece onto itself, its accompanying video remains equally mind-bending. Cast by the limitations of dismal home video equipment and gloomy Canadian weather, it’s off-the-wall whimsy of broken glass and face plants evokes the sensation of watching old YTV shows whilst on a psychedelic stimulant.  

 

 

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“A Man Needs a Maid” by Neil Young (Sean Carsley)

 

I heard this song as a child and I spent years trying to find out what it was.

 

The track opens within the simplicity of Neil playing a baby grand piano and singing solo until the first verse. There the London Symphony Orchestra enter, backing him with an almost subdued determination. It’s not until the second verse do you “feel” the orchestra, as they crescendo and punch right into the song, returning it home with a great deal of somberness. The track is beautiful and haunting, screaming self-imposed loneliness like nothing before. 

 

Is the interpretation of “A Man Needs A Maid” that life is in shambles after love has failed? The maid represents a female who can be with the man as a companion but offers no fear of commitment. Truthfully, all I know is after that, I was hooked on Neil.

 

 

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 Follow TMS on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Hilary Johnston @hilary_johnston, Adrian J. Miller @AdrianJNMiller and Sean Carsely @carsley92