Review: Jets Overhead – No Nations

No Nations

Jets-OverheadJets Overhead are a band that would have fit in perfectly in the mid-1990s. Their sound, very much influenced by the Verve and Radiohead circa The Bends, was seemingly tailor-made to be included in film and television from around that time. That is not to say that they are a bad band; not by a long shot. Their sophomore album continues in the same direction—guitar-driven alternative rock that has an ethereal, dreamlike quality to it. Each track on the album has something that makes it stand out from the rest of the album. There is not one song on this album that could be classed as filler. Adam Kittredge’s vocals give the album a melancholy vibe. Jets Overhead are able to pay respect to their influences from past decades, while still making an original album that is relevant and enjoyable to today’s crop of listeners. Key tracks include “Heading for Nowhere,” “I Should Be Born” and “It’s a Funny Thing.” (Vapor Records, Charles Lefebvre

Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls

These Four Walls
WeWerePromisedJetpacksIf I were to make a list of my favorite CDs from this last year, this one would definitely top the list. Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, We Were Promised Jetpacks brings a fresh new sound to the encompassing genre of indie rock with their first studio album, These Four Walls. Putting this CD into your sound system of choice will introduce you to the stunning vocals of the band’s lead singer and guitarist, Adam Thomson. The level of emotion that comes out of his voice, accompanied by his very nonintrusive Scottish accent, allows him to create a variety of atmospheres, varying from very high energy, to sweet, soft, and mellow. The album itself is extremely well compiled, showcasing the band’s artistic range through the variety of tracks. From the first song, “It’s Thunder and It’s Lightning,” with it’s somber melody and compelling lyrics, to the more odd and upbeat, “An Almighty Thud,” the listener is exposed to the musical talent and genius of the band. I would highly recommend this album to anyone looking for a new and interesting sound, or maybe just a change of pace, and I hope to hear a lot more from these guys in the future. (Fat Cat, Holden Bunko

Review: Tom Waits – Glitter and Doom Live

Glitter and Doom Live
tom-waits-glitter-and-doom-Tom Waits’ roaring voice leads the way on these 17 tracks from his 2008 Glitter and Doom tour. The live performances are a series of fresh renditions of Waits’ new material as well as classics like “Singapore” and “Get Behind the Mule,” which sound rawer and rockier than ever. The opener “Lucinda/Ain’t Goin’ Down” and the bluesy bad-ass interpretation of “Goin’ Out West” are at top form, eclipsing their previous versions; while “Fannin Street” and “Lucky Day” are stunning and sentimental but never sappy. Although songs like “Dirt in the Ground” and “The Party You Throw Away” are less then captivating, the majority of the album is a testament to why Waits is one of the most sought after live shows in North America. Along with the music, a second disc features another side of Waits. As a master storyteller, Waits spins a yarn about purchasing Henry Ford’s last breath on eBay among other things. His strange and comedic Tom Tales are almost as endearing as his music and really complements the cabaret-like atmosphere that surrounds him. Glitter and Doom Live is just another reminder of the ferocity, wit and sheer spellbinding power of Tom Waits. (Anti-, Kent Davies

Review: Tommy T – Presents the Prester John Sessions

Presents the Prester John Sessions
Reggae and world music fanatics take note—ThomaTommy-T-The-Prester-John-Sessionss T. Gobena’s new album with the Abyssinian Roots Collective could be one of the best world music albums of the last decade. Gobena is the bass player for current ethnic music dominators Gogol Bordello, and rather than attempt to out-maneuver his lively compadres, he has collected a potent band that delivers stunning, diverse and captivating tracks that effectively defy categorization. Dollops of afrobeat slither up against deep dub and jazzy asides, signs that these players left flimsy chops behind long ago and now exist to play in the realm of the truly masterful and soulful. It’s just that good. With this album, Gobena has become a player/composer to watch. And that is just what you should start doing. (Easy Star, Jeff Monk

Label Profile – Midori Records

midoriIn the documentary People Who Do Noise, one noise musician says that the genre has “stripped all of the musicality from music.” But does that make it any less of an experience to catch one of Winnipeg label Midori Records’ acts live when the rare opportunity arises? Hell, no. The experience is all they’re concerned about. Sigmund just played an improv set at Element Sircus, horrifically backing for a self-mutilator. In the summer, Krakk sometimes lays all their electronic gear on the street and blasts the ears and minds of passers-by in guerrilla shows. And a couple years ago, label owner Fletcher Pratt played at Send + Receive festival, to recreate sounds from his Mind Gunk series. Stylus recently met with Pratt, who is also a member of Krakk and Sigmund, to ask a couple of label-related questions.

Stylus: How did Midori Records start?
Fletcher Pratt:
In 2003, I was jamming with a couple of guys in a band called Roof Bunny, and I just recorded and mixed it. Eric Gallipo, he was one of the guys in the trio, he was a music school grad, and he got into noise music—and Roof Bunny was a trio, and the other guy graduated from music school too, and I thought that it was ironic. We jammed different noise, like a lot of rhythmic noise, and a lot of drone. But I had these recordings, and I didn’t know what to do with them.

Stylus: How many releases does Midori Records have?
Fifty-five, although the label only started in ’04. But that has to do with quality control, even if it’s just 20 copies that I’m releasing. It’s a cross between half of my own projects, when I can be critical as I want, and when people send songs into me. Most of the time it’s really good, but sometimes I have to say, “You need to redo this track, or that track.”

Stylus: What’s the furthest you’ve been sent songs from?
I received some from Vluba, they’re an Argentina duo, and I did 15 copies of their record.

Stylus: And how does everyone find each other?
Well I guess the short answer for that is the Internet. A good way to get a dose of a label is to do mail trades, contact a label and send five releases to each other.

Stylus: What’s the Winnipeg noise scene like?
It has blossomed a little bit, but it’s only something like five guys, and there isn’t much of one, they do it in their basement. But it’s a good time. [On Midori] there’s Sigmund, Krakk, and my Fletcher Pratt Mind Gunk series. And Auntie Dada—but I heard there was some drama there. And lately there’s been a couple other guys who have been starting up their own label—White Dog, that’s Chris Jacques, and Cole Peters who plays under Gomeisa. They’ve just started putting tapes out. [Their label is called Prairie Fire Tapes –Ed.] So it seems to come in waves of inspiration.

Stylus: How often do you play live?
Only once every couple of months. We do those guerrilla shows a couple times a year, and those are really haphazard, but people always show up. They seem to bring people out of the woodwork a little.

Visit Midori online at

Live Bait: Monotonix

with War Elephant, January 19th 2009 @ the Pyramid Cabaret

By Holly Beddome

Photo by Cheyenne Rae
Photo by Cheyenne Rae

On January 19, 2010, a group from Tel Aviv named Monotonix walked into the Pyramid Cabaret and left an amazed audience behind.  Bandmates Ami Shalev, Yonatan Gat and Haggai Fershtman rocked out in short shorts with wild hair flying as they played a raw set of rock and roll anthems reminiscent of decades past. The trio turned the Pyramid into a playground as they continually moved their set, with energetic audience members cheering for them on all sides.

Although missing their guitarist that evening, opening act War Elephant still rocked the stage. The Winnipeg duo kicked the evening off with a perfect contrast to Monotix’s wild energy, with a laid-back set with thudding beats and slow, distorted bass hooks.  While War Elephant are not a band to dance to, they nonetheless rocked out and played a solid, grunge-tinged show that resembled a less-vocalized mix between Black Sabbath and Soundgarden.

Following War Elephant’s performance, Ami Shalev of Monotonix walked up to the bar and grabbed several bottles of water while drummer Haggai Fershtman and guitarist Yonatan Gat warmed up.  Cheers and whistles rang out from the audience as Shalev grabbed the microphone. The real show began as the band ripped into their first song; riffs were shredded, beats pounded and Shalev yelled like a man possessed with the spirit of Johnny Rotten.

The band fed off the energy of the crowd and clearly enjoyed shaking things up.  A garbage can was dumped over Fershtman’s head, drumsticks were given to audience members, and Shalev hung from the rafters like a monkey mid-song. Water and beer rained down as the Israeli rockers emptied the contents of several bottles over the crowd. Despite the chaotic energy of the evening, the vibe was friendly as people simply forgot their troubles and absorbed the show.  Monotonix truly put on a performance to be experienced, not just observed.

Next time these crazy rockers roll into the ’Peg, do yourself a favour and pick up a ticket. Seeing this band live is an experience that you will never forget!

Review: Tin Star Orphans – Yonder

tinstarorphansThe opening track of this Toronto band’s album is a six-minute instrumental called “Juvenile Haul,” an alt-country-esque jam that is reminiscent of Wilco. I got excited, because this track was showcasing the ability of this band as musicians. I was anxiously waiting for vocals to kick in, but after track two was finished, I was wishing that the record was entirely instrumental. Zachary Bennett’s vocals are the worst sounds committed to tape that I have heard (though that is barely scratching the surface compared to what Kent Davies has listened to). He sings in a high-pitched nasal whine, that sounds like he is singing the entire album with a clothespin on his nose. This voice is so grating, that despite the great musicianship of the album, I can’t really enjoy it at all. I’m against the idea of Auto-Tune, but this is one album that I wish was run through the program before it was unleashed on the public. (Sparks Music, Charles Lefebvre

Review: The Black Seeds – Solid Ground

Solid Ground
black-seeds-solid-groundNew Zealand’s the Black Seeds have finally released an album on this continent and Solid Ground will fully please reggae music fans both old and new. This eight-member-strong contingent blows away the competition with their blasting horn charts, sweet vocals and deep roots vibe that are all heightened by air-tight production. This record is one wild ride that begs to be played loud enough to dislodge the dust in the cracks of your hardwood floor. Reminiscent of top ranking old-school U.K. combos like Matumbi, UB40 and Steel Pulse, this Kiwi band sweetens its vibe with a vividness that will compel fanatics to immediately hit the dance floor and cut loose. While it’s hard to pick favorites, tracks like “Love is a Radiation,” “One Step at a Time” and “Strugglers” are at the top of this listener’s personal hit parade currently. Oh-so-sweet and dandy, indeed. (Easy Star, Jeff Monk

Review: Ron Hawkins – 10 Kinds of Lonely

10 Kinds of Lonely

RonHawkins_10KindsOfLonelySomehow it seems unfair and hardly proper that Toronto’s Ron Hawkins remains a rather obscure character in Canadian music. Any self-realized radio DJ with a decent library of tunes and a need to fill a Canadian content quota should be a little familiar with his “other” band, the Lowest of the Low, or his fine Ron Hawkins and the Rusty Nails albums. His latest solo ten-tracker tips the goodness scales well in his favour again—Ron Hawkins can’t and shouldn’t be denied. Again, his striking, observational lyrics are in full flow here. Sad sacks and street corner poets, emotional has-beens and people scraping through life’s dirt are all here and oh, so achingly familiar. Hawkins’ hewn vocals add an earthy dimension to whatever he sings and his emotional delivery will keep you coming back for another listen to hear if the song has turned out any happier since the last time you tuned in. A must for fans and a positively enticing listen for anyone looking for honesty, integrity and grit in their musical diet. (Independent, Jeff Monk

Review: Thee Oh Sees – Dog Poison

Dog Poison
theeohsees-dogpoisonIn the two years I’ve been listening to Thee Oh Sees, I’ve gone back and bought up everything Dwyer’s done in this incarnation—over 15 objects (from two-song 7” records to LP and CD sets with 20-plus tracks). One thing they can’t be accused of is settling on a sound. Gone on this album are the fuzzed-off freakouts parts from Help, continuing on with a mellower, more Monkee-ish direction the band has hinted at on the dozen or so 7” releases since and given us a ten-song mini album of distorted, funky beach-pop. But it’s still definitely Thee Oh Sees. “Sugar Boat” is the nicest, most Beatlesy pop song they’ve done, and “I Can’t Pay You to Disappear” has that crazy echoed-distorto guitar thing that’s Dwyer’s sonic autograph (you’ll know what I mean when you hear it). The double-falsettos in “The Sun Goes All Around” are pretty, but they can’t help but make me laugh (check out The Hounds of Foggy Notion CD/DVD and you’ll find the humour). This album didn’t rock me like the last two did, and that’s OK; The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In was a speed-fueled change from anything before, and Help pulled back a bit into the ’60s. Still, the band can do whatever they want and it always turns out fantastic. Pity it all clocks in at less than 25 minutes. People bitch and joke about quality, about how J.D. releases every song he records. To anyone who wants the band to keep putting out Master’s Bedroom, it’s happened already. Let go, move on. And who gives a shit what them kids say anyway? Thee Oh Sees are the best band alive. If they keep pressin’, I’ll keep buyin’! (Captured Tracks, Patrick Michalishyn