New Albums to Look Out For this Year

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up (June 16, 2017)

Finally, this album comes off of like 6 years of no music from the Fleet Foxes. I listened to the album preview (below) and so far every song sounds amazing. Super excited for this to come out, super bummed I won’t get to see them play this year. It’s a mix of vintage sounding, folk-y music with incredible reverberating harmonies and instrumentation. Gorgeous music, feels like warm weather on your skin.

Feist – Pleasure (April 28, 2017)

I’m really not sure what to expect with this album, but I can only assume it’s going to be good.¬†Metals came out in 2011 and was my favourite album that she’s ever made so I hope this one stacks up. The title track starts slow but it’s worth the wait for it to build up. I swear at 1:52 it’s like you’re listening to The Kills all of the sudden.

Alt-J – Relaxer (June 2, 2017)

In my opinion Alt-J is one of the most unique bands out there, honestly. Such a distinctly weird sound. The new track’s video has some glitchy, arcade-game-esque footage, and this song’s a slow burner that¬†kind of relaxes me. Whatever they put out, I’m sure it’s going to be amazing.

 

Animal Teeth – ??? (???)

I’ve been hearing rumours of new Animal Teeth music through the grapevine. Don’t know when but I hope to hell it’s soon. Loving all the new songs they’ve been playing at shows in Winnipeg, and I’m looking forward to having my own copy of them. Here’s the most recent album.

Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog (May 5, 2017)

This is the first proper full album from Mac since Salad Days and I like where it’s headed. Another One felt a little too flimsy and experimental to me. It didn’t have those catchy-as-hell songs like “Ode to Viceroy” or the “Salad Days” title track. I’m excited for this one either way, but I hope it goes back to a more “percussive and full-guitar sound – Mac”, rather than “synths and odd dreary melodies Mac”.

Gorillaz – Humanz (April 28)

Gorillaz are surging back to relevance all of the sudden with this weird new video, tour dates, and a new album coming out soon. The song comes off like a slightly more modernized Gorillaz sound with those classic, catchy choruses and solid underlying beats that we’ve come to know and love from this awesome cartoon outfit. The Gorillaz are an aesthetic. Ain’t no denying it.

 

 

Tunes for Studying

Here’s a list of some of my favourite instrumental music to listen to while studying or getting work done:

Music For Studying

Pigarette – Pointsettia

  • Smooth math-y guitar riffs over R&B rhythms. It’s a little excited and busy sounding at times, but the guitar playing is so smooth and sleek. I find it’s a perfect pace for doing something analytical or any kind of studying.

Clever Girl – No Drum and Bass in the Jazz Room

  • Same math-y riffs like the first example, but a little more chaotic and loud. Still is great for studying to me. I get so in the zone listening to complex rhythms and licks like this. Hopefully it works for you too *shrug*.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

  • This isn’t technically instrumental, but it’s good mood music for me when I study. Works well for writing too. Thom’s vocals kinda drift and echo throughout and don’t tend to distract me too much.

Music for Writing

The Revenant Soundtrack

  • This inspiring, emotional, and almost minimalist soundtrack is perfect for creative writing, and specifically something kind of dark, sad, or dramatic.

Interstellar Soundtrack

  • This is obviously good for most kind of sci-fi or fantasy writing. I especially like the song “Stay”, I think I listened to that one repeat the last time I was working on a weird short story or something.
  • In terms of creative writing or scriptwriting, I think looking up the soundtrack to a film that has a similar feel to whatever you’re writing can really help put you in the right mindset to establish a mood in your writing. Soundtracks are awesome for that honestly.

Patrick Watson – Wooden Arms

  • This album can be pretty hectic and all over the place, but it’s so mysterious and atmospheric and emotional. I can’t get enough of Patrick Watson, and I probably never will. I¬†think I remember someone using the term “Sci-fi folk” to describe them, and as far as I would guess, they could be very well be the only band under that genre’s umbrella.
  • Good for writing anything adventurous and strange. Good for feeling things and being stoned too. That goes for pretty much all of this music.

These are just some things I¬†like to listen to while working, but I’m always looking for suggestion. Comment below if you have any good instrumental/non-instrumental stuff that you use to get in the zone.

A day in the life of JM, set to “Glory”, by The Acorn

Had so much fun shooting and editing this for a school assignment. The song is “Glory” by The Acorn. Pretty sure I got it¬†from doing¬†a USB swap with Emily Sideen when we¬†met in high school (which is honestly my favourite thing to do).

I love the¬†the feel, and the instrumentation of this song. The clang-y percussion, simple guitar part, and deep grinding cello (as you may know, I’m always a sucker for some fine-ass¬†cello).

It feels like morning to me.

A song that can even me out at dawn, or wind me down at dusk. So that’s kind of what I went for with the video.

Thank you to JM, again, for being in it and letting me annoy him constantly for a period of 4 days.

(Re)Claiming Space and Music: Why you should do more to support underrepresented musicians

(Re)Claiming Space and Music: Why you should do more to support underrepresented musicians

I attended¬†a panel of 4 incredible artists¬†discussing representation and the state of the music industry this week called “(Re)Claiming Space and Music”. I’m so thankful I got to listen in and hear some of their ideas, stories, and music.

Something Madeleine Roger said really stuck with me.

She explained how frustrating it can be to try and perform your music while knowing that someone already doubts your ability before you’ve played¬†a single note. Suddenly you have to prove your expertise twofold, while you’re still starting two steps behind, based on someone else’s perception.

Well now you can’t afford to screw up a single note. You’re being scrutinized before you’ve even had a chance.

And when virtually every female musician¬†you talk to can¬†name a time they’ve¬†had to put up with sexist, ignorant nonsense¬†while simply trying to do their job, it’s hard to deny that there’s a problem.

Maybe it’s not you who’s being sexist or ignorant–

But it’s that sound guy¬†who assumes¬†a musician has no idea¬†how to set up her¬†own gear.

It’s¬†a promotor who seems to think booking female musicians is just a matter of fulfilling some kind of quota.

It’s Russell Peters walking on stage at the Junos and pointing to¬†an audience of¬†young females and talented musicians, and calling them “a felony waiting to happen”.

What I heard overwhelmingly at the panel is that every female musician has experienced this kind of thing at one point or another. Often more times than they care to count.

It’s happening now, and there’s no denying it.

So when I look at myself, I think (in the words of Finn the Human): Well, “I am just a simple dude”–but¬†I know I have an important role¬†to play in all this.

We all need to be better allies of female, diverse, and underrepresented musicians.

I will not tolerate hearing/seeing sexist bullshit at a show. I will address it and shut it down to the best of my ability, and so should you.

The more support we put forward, the more new, talented musicians will have the¬†courage to¬†say “Hey. If they can perform up there on stage, maybe I can too.”

4
Madeleine Roger
C
Rayannah
B
Keri Latimer
A
Alexa Potashnik

A Letter to The Lumineers

A Letter to The Lumineers

Dear Wesley, Jeremiah, and Neyla,

I have 12th row seats for The Lumineers show here in Winnipeg tonight and the timing is perfect. I got into your band in 2015, three years after the self-titled album and the performance at the Grammys–which¬†seemed like kind of unfortunate timing because The Lumineers, for all I knew, went into hibernation. Indefinitely.

I bought your¬†first studio record off a friend who was selling all her shit to move out of town or something. That album was my anthem for leaving too–I was planning a two month backpacking trip to Asia in the spring of that year.

I know the song Charlie Boy sounds like it’s about going to war (perhaps?) but I listened to it probably 200 times in the weeks leading up to leaving, it’s just such a simple, almost haunting song. But to me it is hopeful. It¬†has a quick and rising¬†rhythm that crescendoes with that deep cello sound, setting my insides aflame.

So when I started to hear whisperings of a new album in the works I was beyond ecstatic. And a year later in the spring of 2016 it exceeded all my expectations. People always complain that an album is either too different or similar to the previous, but¬†Cleopatra was–to me–the perfect sequel to build on¬†your¬†signature sound. It became¬†another anthem to my spring time.

Here in my hometown of Winnipeg, the winters are brutal and spirit-crushing, and this album unthawed my frozen soul, and continues to do so every spring. So here’s a cheesy poem I wrote, inspired by the¬†music:

I want to strap on a guitar and head out the door,

play shows to empty rooms and Sleep on the Floor,

I want to sing to Cleopatra on a highway somewhere,

Where The Skies Are Blue like her deep ocean stare.

My Eyes are brown, and careful where they lurk,

“You’re¬†A Long Way From Home,” she’ll say with a smirk.

I’ll tell a White Lie, say I know where I’m going,

As a Gale Song wind starts hissing and blowing.

In The Light of dusk her Patience is waning,

I swear¬†I’ll hurry up, I’m a performer in training.

So¬†she lets me sing on, I say¬†“I’m Sick In The Head,

love’s as deadly¬†as a¬†Gun, (but a) Song¬†puts you to bed.”

When I’m done she says:¬†Everyone Requires A Plan,

I confess I never had one, I only ever ran.

So Cleopatra did join me and helped me unthaw,

And all the places we went, oh the things that we saw.

We married out west, saved souvenirs and memorabilia,

Then we raised two young daughters: Angela and Ophelia.

Sincerely,

Sean Guezen

Swearin’s 2012 self-titled album is still one my all-time favourites

Swearin’s 2012 self-titled album is still one my all-time favourites

(Photo by Jesse Riggins, taken from the Swearin’ Facebook page)

I don’t even remember how or when I heard about this band,¬†but after a couple listens of their self titled album I was completely hooked.¬†It’s got a sense of rawness and honesty that I think so much indie rock is missing these days. It’s moody, sarcastic, and cynical punk music that manages to stay optimistic and thoughtful all the way through.

Swearin’ starts off on¬†a frenzied sounding melody with¬†an ascending pitch before it dives into¬†Allison Crutchfield’s anthemic vocals in the song, so simply named “1”. And then like half a minute later it cuts off into the next song with equal intensity. Kyle Gilbride’s give-no-shits, strained vocals fit the mood perfectly in Here to Hear. He echoes, to me, that frustration of moving back to your hometown and the lethargic monotony of trying to figure out your future, “I keep thinking, ‘Is this as good as it gets?'” Then he screeches into a¬†poppy, bouncy solo to outro the song. We flip back to Crutchfield’s vocals and chug our way through Kenosha next. I love this song so damn much. The chorus is¬†so simple and devastating: “I hope you like Kenosha so much you stay there.”

The whole album punches and winds through those 20-something struggles,¬†disappointments, and insecurities. “Maybe I‚Äôm not the right kind,
I‚Äôm not in my right mind,” says Crutchfield, in the chaotic and volatile song, “Shrinking Violet”.

It finds a way to voice the the feeling of trying to fit in/stand out with just¬†the right amount of self deprecation. “Spend the night complaining, running on no sleep. How can you hang out with me?” shouts¬†Gilbride in the beginning of the song “Crashing”, which sounds like it’s about couch hopping¬†wherever and whenever your friends will let you.

This album¬†makes me feel better about being kind of lost and aimless sometimes. Like it’s fine, because you’re going to screw up and make bad decisions, but it’ll probably still be fun if you don’t take all the heartache so seriously.

When you strip it down, this album is actually chock-full¬†of sad songs, if¬†you read through the lyrics. “I collect the blurry past into my empty head,” says Gilbride and Crutchfield, “Its not like anything was better then.” Their vocals crackle out in harmony at 2:09 in the song¬†“Empty Head” to make one of my favourite quiet moments on the album.

But it’s the overall contrast of fast, and relatively¬†upbeat music with those lyrics that sway from emo to poetically blunt that work so well together for me. “The bluer the water, the closer to hell. Sandy rock-bottom, seedy motel,” says Crutchfield in the song “Hundreds & Thousands”. I can only assume they’re talking about the hundreds and thousands of kinda shitty bars and venues they’ve played touring across the states.

“Movie Star” sounds like it chronicles the end¬†of a¬†relationship¬†and the beginning of another in¬†this fuzzed out final track. This song, just like the first track, sort of book-ends the album – but with¬†a descending melody this time. The guitars and drums crash harder and harder, and more haphazardly under Crutchfield shouting, “You and me don‚Äôt earn much pay, but you and me got enough to get away,” until the song breaks apart and fuzzy feedback lingers uncomfortably in your headphones.

Swearin’ broke up in 2015 around the time that Crutchfield and Gilbride broke up in the same year–according to their Wikipedia page. The shitty thing about bands built around a couple is that relationships don’t always last forever, and when they end, so does the music. I don’t know if that’s necessarily what happened here, but maybe it’s better not to know. I’m still not over it though. I guess people don’t normally wite¬†reviews for albums five¬†years after they’ve already been released, but I don’t care. I’ll keep listening to this album until the day I feel like I’m done making mistakes–which, not coincidentally, might be never.

Why you should be listening to albums front-to-back

Why you should be listening to albums front-to-back

You’re probably aware that the music industry is – in some ways – struggling to evolve in the digital age. People just don’t want to buy physical CDs, records are getting more popular¬†but demand is still low, places like HMV are closing their doors.¬†I could sit here typing about the value of physical albums all day, but hell my MacBook doesn’t¬†even have a CD drive.

I think part¬†of the problem is that a lot of people don’t want to listen to full albums anymore either. As a result, are artists going to stop putting as much effort into the rest of the album? If it’s not a single, will people actually listen? Well, in short, I would argue yes – but I think that popular artists and bands need to keep reminding themselves to think of their albums as a unified piece of art. Or at least they should be trying to fill an album with songs that are all actually worth your time.

When’s the last time you sat down and listened to an album front to back? It’s a wonderful thing, I promise. I can’t do it wth just ANY album, obviously, but the right one can be quite an experience to listen to.

Sit down with that record you bought 100 years ago, blow the layer of¬†dust off the top of your turntable, and lay down the record. Or pop in a CD, or tape, or whatever thing you’ve been called¬†a washed up hipster for owning. Resist the urge to skip songs. Give each song a shot and you might change your mind. Bonus points for listening¬†on vinyl, because you can’t just skip the song and listen to the next unless you physically lift the needle.

Here’s why you should be listening albums straight through to the end:

First of all – the volume levels are relatively even throughout so you don’t have to constantly adjust the volume. I don’t know how many times I’ve jumped out of my freaking skin on the bus while listening to a quiet song by the Innocence Mission when some METZ song comes screeching on immediately after.

But more importantly, you get to experience it in the order that the artist¬†intended it to be listened. They’re trying to tell you a story and speak to you through a progression of ideas and a mosaic of poetry. Maybe you never really got that one song on the album, but all of the sudden you hear it in order and then it clicks. I used to hate the song “Rococo” from Arcade Fire’s¬†The Suburbs,¬†but it just seemed to make more sense in the context of the whole album. It’s growing on me.

Listening to full albums is a way better alternative¬†to mood playlists. Playlists have their place, but in the wrong¬†circumstances it just puts you in an emotion bubble. For example: Hey I had a shitty day, so I’m gonna listen to this angry punk playlist, or this¬†rainy day sad-millennial-compilation.

You¬†just end up feeding into your own emotions, and not much¬†gets solved. Maybe you get somewhere with it, maybe you don’t.

But if you listen to a full album, a great artist can walk you through a range of emotions. Suddenly the change in pace of the album has guided you from self-deprecating anger to stoic mindfulness, or tearful joy –

** music is important to me guys don’t judge. I’m allowed to be emotional–IT’S JUST¬†SO BEAUTIFUL TO ME AAGHHH **

But seriously. Let the music take you somewhere you didn’t know¬†you wanted to go. Be vulnerable to it. I can’t count how many times an unexpected song turned my whole day around.

If you’re looking for some great concept albums/albums that feel whole, here are some that I’ve been listening to that I think you should give a try:

  • Andy Shauf – The Party
  • Radical Face – The Family Tree series (It’s a 3 album concept project. Shit is wild. I personally like “The Leaves” and “The Branches” best)
  • Aidan Knight – Each Other
  • Radiohead – King of Limbs (or) A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
  • Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  • Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
  • Feist – Metals
  • Royal Canoe – Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit
  • We Are The City – High School
  • Patrick Watson – Wooden Arms

NOW GET TO WORK.

Or don’t, it’s chill. I’ll still like you anyways.