Polaris Music Prize Gala 2013: Allelujah! Ascend! Offend! Bitter End?


By: Hilary Johnston September 26th, 2013

After several months of anticipatory music listening, the Polaris Prize winner was announced on Monday night – an evening, hosted by Canadian musicians Kathleen Edwards and Shad, that uniquely saw focus shift toward performances, rather than novelty or gimmicks. 
Purity Ring kicked things off, followed by Zaki Ibrahim– both endowed with style and strength, yet merely opening acts for what was to come. A grand piano entered next, wheeled forth for Emily Haines, whose acoustic duet with Jimmy Shaw hit me like lightning, illuminating a glimpse of the Metric fandom that I, admittedly, had lost sight of. 
Having caught my breath, I knew something potent laid ahead when presenter Martin Gero  appeared, describing the next nominee as nothing less than a  “religious experience”. Standing modestly mid-stage and letting his saxophone speak its distinct language, Colin Steston kept it simple, and remarkable. His music both screamed in the face and whispered in the ear of each visibly astonished guest. So much so, that successors, Choir! Choir Choir! and George Strombolopolous – equipped with made-for-tv cheese – barley registered amidst the shadow of Stetson’s alchemy.   
By the time Young Galaxy’s turn came around, even their brand of art pop couldn’t gather the attention of a soused crowd that had been drinking away the onerous between-act breaks. Truthfully, their performance was blown away, along with most other memories, by METZ’s gloriously abrasive noise-rock clamour. Splashing in the puddles of their energy left behind, A Tribe Called Red finished the bill with their innovative blend of beats and tradition.
Interestingly enough, the nights most awkward, and ultimately controversial, moment transpired when the Polaris was handed out to Godspeed You! Black Emperor; their absence suddenly apparent when Leslie Feist named them victorious and no one from the Montreal post-rock troupe was there to accept. Instead, standing in was Constellation Records’ Ian Ilavsky, who improvised a polite “thank-you” before the show wrapped. 
The plot thickened Tuesday morning when Godspeed You! released a statement via Constellation, calling Polaris out on being an unnecessary expression of lazy money in times of social distress. “This scene is petty cool but what it really fucking needs is an awards show is not a thought that’s ever crossed our minds” – and with that, Godspeed You! Black Emperor history-booked themselves. The fact that they released such a statement revealed that the jury selected the right band for the award. The bands’ rejection of the gala gives their record (Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!) that much more weight and reminds us that we not only need to listen to their music, but perhaps also question Polaris and their oversized novelty checks. Then again, it is a celebration of Canadian artistry. We shouldn’t lose sight of that. 
                                                                                                                                               (Colin Stetson)
(Photos courtesy of Polaris Music)
Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Hilary Johnston @hilary_johnston

Album Review: Sarah Neufeld – Hero Brother


By: Hilary Johnston September 20th, 2013

Sarah Neufeld, perhaps best known for her membership in Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre, released Hero Brother on August 20th and the record is a breathtaking mix of worldly and otherworldly.
Neufeld plays with shifting atmospheres and listeners’ expectations, her sonic luster swelling and shrinking to the poles of her instrument’s range. The violin squeals and bellows while toying with restraint and ambiance. Neufeld counts Bela Bartok, Steve Reich and Iva Pittova as her influences, all of whom audible in this work. The circular motives and harmonic rhythms nod at the minimalist movement while Neufeld dips her bow into indie rock and contemporary electro-acoustic styles as well.  The album was recorded in Berlin with Nils Frahm, who used slightly unorthodox recording settings. In addition to the Studio P4 orchestral recording hall, an abandoned geodesic dome and an underground parking garage are among the spaces used to create songs of esoteric cacophony. 
Highlights of the record include the cogent rhythms in the folky tune “Right Thought”, the wistful mix of double stops and pizzicato in “They Live On” and “Below” from beginning to end – absolutely stunning.  Praise aside momentarily, it should be noted that Neufeld’s work is not exactly accessible. The average radio listener may find the snippets of melody a tad strident and may struggle to find beauty in the subtlety of the minimalist style. Listening to it a second time is a quick cure for the aversion. Once the appreciation for Hero Brother inevitably sets in, you will be at risk of being swept away into an escapable swirling dreamland. Enjoy.
Sarah Neufeld – Hero Brother
Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Hilary Johnston @hilary_johnston

Album Review: Sun Stone Revolvers – Spaceship X

By: Shelby Monita September 19, 2013
Toronto’s newly named Sun Stone Revolvers (formerly Revolvers) held their album release this past weekend at the infamous El Mocombo for their second full-length, Spaceship X
A bit of a stray from their debut release, Apocolypse Surfin’, which could be seen as their Exile on Main St, more honky tonk, southern soul and harmonica. On Spaceship X, Sun Stone focus heavily on blues riffs and translucent vocals, both of which were apparent on the first album then amplified for their second time around. Title track “Spaceship X” combines the hypnotic effects of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at their best with Ziggy Stardust’s imagination and psychedelic behaviors. Lyrics that describe being on a one-way train into outer space make a person wonder who their Major Tom will be on this journey. Paired perfectly with the haphazard anthem “On the Run” is a song raging twenty-something’s can relate to in this bad economy that has so many lost that we now have a psychological description for it, the “Quartet Life Crisis.” Being on the run, running away is a concept more of us are either dreaming or planning. Follow this with the two songs “Liberation” and “America”, with some steam this album could be the voice of a young and lost Canadian generation of kids who want more and want out. 
Spaceship X is the ideal album to deal with frustrations and plan your escape, well having a beer or sparking up. Sun Stone Revolver help bring psychedelic blues into the 2010’s for a generation of people who are begging for their liberation and some revolutionary tunes to accompany it. 
Shelby Monita is a freelance writer living in Toronto. Her writing mainly focuses on music, more specifically underground and punk rock. She welcomes the travel bug with open arms and loves to share her stories. You can read more of her work on her site casamonita.com.  

Album Review: The Bats Pajamas – Just Ripe


By: Josh Parsons Septmber 18th, 2013


The Bats Pajamas have recently served up Just Ripe, a raucous and fuzzed-out appetizer of an EPIt’s a brief, brash and fun offering of contemporary garage-rock that would fit comfortably into the stereo of anyone expecting just that. The opening track, “You Get By”, sets the bristly tone of the EP within the first few bars and wastes no time drowning your ears in fuzz. The downbeat and surprisingly infectious tune was also the quartet’s choice for its latest video release and features a curious pastiche of Bollywood cut-ups.

Musical and lyrical themes are echoed throughout each track from the beginning of the EP, most notably on the albums churning closer, “Mass Telegrams”. It sounds comfortable, although some ideas occasionally wear thin past the two-minute mark. Another pitfall is a general oversaturation of distortion throughout.  Although Just Ripe is packed with offbeat hooks and catchy choruses, it is unfortunate that too often they are submerged in echo and, at times, come off as muddled. Simplicity and repetition seem to be the mantra, as if The Bats Pajamas have burrowed into a cozy musical niche and decided to camp for the winter.






Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Josh Parsons @ParsonsAles

Deerhunter: Casting A Spell Of Dark Magic At The Phoenix


By: Hilary Johnston September 16th, 2013


I arrived early to the sold out Deerhunter show accurately expecting a long lineup of diehards. Before positioning myself close to the stage, I was met by a hoard of beaming, wide-eyed high schoolers, our age gap made painfully apparent by my insisting “You really should have brought earplugs.” 

A hypnotic cloud darkened the Phoenix when frontman Bradford Cox took the stage, opening with “Earthquake” from Halcyon Digest. Cox’s style is intensely enigmatic, yet fashionable and charming; his deranged scarecrow demeanor visually complimenting the bizarre auditory spectacle he and his bandmates create. His eccentric genius anchors the rest of the members, whose stage manners are more understated, letting the music (and Cox) remain front and centre. Opener Marnie Stern brought an Almost Famous vibe to the show, bursting back on stage during Cryptograms’ “Hazel St” to whirl around uncontrollably. Although I found her opening act to be, well, lacking, I have to question my own opinion given Cox’s overt affection for her. In the best way possible, the performance turned Deerhunter’s songs’ most subtle layers into blaring sirens.


The sound was thick and ambient with a strong beat and a rock and roll edge that you can feel buzzing in the back of your throat. Only occasionally did they allow for a moment of repose in the vehemently slow, loud build-up that reached its climax at “Nothing Ever Happened”. The set ended with a version of “Monomania” that blasted a gust of punk wind at the crowd before returning for an encore of a jammed-out rendition of Fluorescent Grey. I left, feet numb and brain scrambled, wondering how long it will take the youngsters ears to stop ringing. 





Photos by @MylesHerod



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

Contest: Win Tickets and CD to The Dodos at Lee’s Palace

The DoDos Band
The DoDos Band
American west coast indie rockers The Dodos are heading to Toronto to tour their newest CD Carrier and Toronto Music Scene and Dine Alone records want you to be there.
We are giving away a pair of tickets and a copy of Carrier and you could be there to see them play with Halifax band Cousins at Lee’s Palace on Tuesday Septemeber 24.
All you have to do is Tweet:
I WANT TO WIN @TheDodos Tickets from @TorontoMusic and @dinealonemusic #contest
Both handles must be included in order to be eligible to win. You can enter as many times as you like every day.
Must be 19+. 
Winner will be contacted by DM Sept 23.
Good luck!
And don’t forget to follow us @TorontoMusic

Album Review: The Auras – The Auras EP2

By: Shelby Monita September 15, 2013

The Auras, a six-piece band that hail from Brampton and Toronto, have released their second EP, The Auras EP2. Five songs fit for a love-in or a bed-in, showcasing a band whose destiny is to be documented in Dig, the sequel. Dreams of promiscuity and the rebirth of the summer of love our generation desperately needs is given life with rainbow coloured sonic waves and a voice that floats through time. The track, “Punching Grandma in the Face,” drifts in and out of you, waves of surreal beauty with a punch of lightening as the lyrics take a screaming risk at heightened moments, which later become accompanied by stellar feedback and massive drums and bass. Another notable song, “Love Just Spirals On,” encourages young love under the hot sun with no cares, just living. With many “Ohs” and “Ahs,” this track relaxes the mind as girls are left to twirl around through the fresh grass in summer dresses. 
A psychedelic freedom trip, The Auras EP2 brings back the 90s take on the 60s state of mind. With three guitars, one bass, a keyboard and some drums, these Greater Toronto Area bandits shower listeners with love and peace in the same respect as Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhol’s. Any fan of hippie nostalgia and 90s love-rock should grab a copy and float away. 


Shelby Monita is a freelance writer living in Toronto. Her writing mainly focuses on music, more specifically underground and punk rock. She welcomes the travel bug with open arms and loves to share her stories. You can read more of her work on her site casamonita.com.  

Watch This: Arcade Fire – “Reflektor”


By: Hilary Johnston September 13th, 2013


Say good-bye to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” – radio has a new track to overplay, and ultimately kill. Arcade Fire’s latest, “Reflektor”, is not only infectiously catchy and modern, it’s also emblazoned with the vocal stylings of David Bowie and the production of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, making, if possible, the Montreal outfit cooler than one could fathom.

The trouble is, the song feels like a deliberate hit and not necessarily their own vision. Although the lyrics touch on social commentary similarly to their previous work (“We’re so connected / but are we even friends?”), the glitz of the track, as well as its accompanying video and PR campaign, seem to be at the expense of the classic Arcade Fire spirit. The full album is slated to drop on October 29th and I can’t wait to hear how the song fits into a larger collection. Will it be as amazing as their past three albums, or is it just a rejektor?




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

Listen Up: Aidan Ridgway – Simple Things For Simple Minds


By: Sean Carsley September 12th, 2013



Aidan Ridgway backs solid writing with mature vocals on his debut album Simple Things For Simple Minds. The best quality of Ridgway is the insightful writing. The term “wise beyond his years” can be applied here. The first track, “Anagrams”, clocking in at 7:46, carries its weight not only through its acoustic arrangement, but its haunting backing vocal (supplied by Olivia Morton).  “Another Day in Nowhere” is reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” but has a more anxious rhythm and is filled with a dirty guitar and a quiet anger. This song alone makes the album worth listening to.


A funky, fun jazz beat backs “Another Side of Loneliness” that once again makes you nod your head in time. But the song remains grounded because of his timbre. Some tracks have a repetitive coffee house feel, but it’s easy to compare him with a young Dallas Green or Gord Downie for the lyrics alone. One can only hope that Aidan Ridgway will take the best parts of his debut and continue producing.



Aidan Ridgway – Simple Things For Simple Minds 




Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Sean Carsley @carsley92

Watch This: Janey Brown – “Revived”

By: TJ Liebgott September 4, 2013 

You may not know Janey Brown by name yet, but that should change soon. In fact, you might already recognize her from TSN’s Friday Night Football intro song for the CFL, or one of her previous projects such as Marella Jane. Now, you will know her for her solo project Janey Brown and her soon-to-be-released debut album.
Check out the video for her first single “Revived,” which Brown and her writing partner/guitar player Darryl Coppins recently unveiled to a packed house at Vogue Supper Club in Liberty Village. The duo filmed the seductive video down in Brooklyn and yes, that is Brown doing her own stunts on the Aerial Silks! 
Watch it below. 
Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and TJ Liebgott @tjhollywoodband