Review: Patrick Keenan – Washed Out Roads

PATRICK KEENAN
Washed Out Roads

Washed Out Roads
wasn’t the easiest album to make, according to local singer-songwriter Patrick Keenan. Without getting into too much detail, there were delays, complications, ransoms, and enough frustration and heartbreak to base another album on. However, after a long, frustrating two-year journey, Keenan’s latest album has come to fruition. The bittersweet, toe-tapping rock number “Pill Store” kicks off the album on a high note before settling down with a few measured tunes including “Washed Out Roads,” which features Keenan lamenting being caught in failure of society. Other notable tracks include the great opus “Tobacco,” which sounds reminiscent of Ben Folds, and road-trip song “Roof-Rack Attack.” Keenan’s clever lyrics and catchy melodies are backed by band members Doug Darling and Jeff Tetrault as well an army of guests including local music staple Mike Petkau. Even if this wasn’t the mix Keenan had envisioned, it’s still a pretty great one. (Friendly Fire, www.myspace.com/patrickkeenan) Kent Davies

Review: The Rifles – Great Escape

THE RIFLES
Great Escape
rifles-great-escapeIf you have heard any English pop bands in the last five years, then the sound of Brit boys the Rifles will be totally familiar to you. With an uplifting verve and sassy delivery, this talented quartet are eminently listenable but completely and undeniably generic. Guitars chime and gang vocals lift heavenward (“Romeo and Julie”) all over this sweet 11-tracker. From this album alone, it sounds like the Rifles have been tailor-made to be slotted as “opening act” for one of those gigantic outdoor, multi-group concerts in Hyde Park or Wembley Stadium that the Brits are keen on having at the drop of a charity’s hat. The production is bright and clean and the vocals are mixed way up front for those who like to hear whatever the lead singer has to chirp cheekily about. If you’re thinking that this is as common as salt, you’re right. File under: here today, gone tomorrow, but fun to listen to while it’s in the player. (679, www.therifles.net) Jeff Monk

Paper Cuts – Penny Ante

By Patrick Michalishyn

pa
I read on some music blog that Oh Sees guy John Dwyer was contributing to some book coming out on some imprint in the U.S. Being the geek I am, I checked out the site, got in touch and ordered not one, but all three volumes of Penny Ante, a “mag/book” out of California . What a gateway I walked though. In Three, John D. only has one page; a picture of him at a young age and a piece of art, and it took me all of ten seconds to absorb it. But while I was looking for the Dwyer page, I saw that there was an interview with Billy Bragg that I went back to and read, but not before I happened across of few pages of artwork by Jad Fair (of Maryland rock outfit Half Japanese). There’s a goofy self-portrait of Mission of Burma’s Roger Miller, followed by a good five pages of his writing and some art. Robert Pollard and Billy Childish answer an interviewer’s questions and load me up with music trivia tidbits which I’ll be able to hack up on the spot when trying to out-nerd one of my own. That only covers maybe four percent of this book. It’s full of artists, photographers, and musicians that a lot of people probably never knew existed (but I’m glad I found), like: Julian Hoeber with bronze busts of gunshot (headshot) victims, the kaleidoscope head-trip of owleyes’ collages and the bloody, morbid photography of Dawn Kasper. I could go on and on listing works that made me stop and think, or stop and smile. Flipping through, something will always catch your eye and keep you going back and forth, giving a Choose Your Own Adventure reading experience. After I flipped through Three (as well as Book #1 and Book #2), I started carrying these books around in a backpack and showed anyone I exchanged more than a sentence with. The cliché “something for everybody” couldn’t apply more. These books are portable art-houses, not a page wasted on filler garbage. I recommend picking up all three since they’re pretty much continuations of each other. A world opened up through a looking glass and enough bathroom reading to last a good third of a year. If that wasn’t enough, Three includes a bonus CD of some-unreleased material from three issues’ worth of contributors; Jad Fair, the Chills, Mount Eerie (covering Old Time Relijun), Robert Pollard (surprise), Billy Childish, TV Ghost and a whole load more. Now that’s just spoiling us. Go, buy now! If enough of us do, we might just get a Four.

www.penny-ante.net

Patrick Michalishyn

AN HORSE – Grey Area

By Jenny Henkelman

anhorse

It’s a long way around the world. When indie pop outfit An Horse pulled into Winnipeg in September, 2009, Kate Cooper and Damon Cox were more than a little run-down-looking, a little weary—offstage. Onstage, of course, the guitar-drums duo were impeccable and compelling, both in the UW quad and, I’m told, at the Lo Pub the same evening. Touring solidly this past year in support of their critically acclaimed debut full-length, Rearrange Beds, the pair are about to take a hiatus to write a new record. “We’ve nearly finished the cycle of the record we’re on,” said lead vocalist and guitarist Cooper.

The cycle has taken them from their home of Brisbane, Australia to the bright lights of New York City and The Late Show with David Letterman. It’s taken them to Europe and on tour with Silversun Pickups, Death Cab for Cutie, and Canada’s own Tegan and Sara. “They’re fun, great fun, good friends of ours and very supportive of us,” Cooper said of the Quin sisters. “They’ve worked really hard to be where they are and they’re very authentic.”

Authentic is a word you could use to describe An Horse’s beginnings. Cooper and Cox were co-workers at the last indie record store in Queensland. They were playing in other bands, but as Cooper says, started “mucking around” and found a chemistry between them that worked. “It wasn’t intentional,” Cox said.

The store where they worked has now closed, largely because, Cooper says, “People don’t buy CDs anymore.” An Horse aren’t digital haters; “Digital music’s cool, if people buy it,” she said. But there’s a dark flip side to that. “More people have stolen our record than bought it,” she said, and Cox had the anecdote to illustrate. “Someone had registered a website with Kate’s name, put up our photos and our record to download for free. It was one of those websites where you have to do a survey or something. So someone was getting money somehow. It was really shit and disappointing. We fucking worked really hard on that record,” he said. And the insults don’t stop there. “We’ve had people at shows come up to us and say, ‘You guys are fucking great! Hmm, this is your album. I’m not going to buy it, I’m going to go home and download it for free.’”

Disheartening words for people trying to make a living playing music, but An Horse seems less angry and more frustrated when it comes to piracy. “They don’t realize it’s not cool,” Cooper said.

An Horse might be a bit down, but they’ll be back in the saddle soon—they’re currently on tour with Tegan and Sara (including a January stop in Winnipeg). Their songs have appeared on TV shows like Friday Night Lights and One Tree Hill. Big things are ahead for these two individuals who are passionate about music and making it, in the basement of a record store or on an arena stage. As for the name? Cooper said it originated with a grammatical inside-joke sweater, about the usage rules for words that start with “H” and the indefinite article. Could “An horse” really be correct? “It’s a grey area,” she said, with a shrug.

Review: The Expos – Blackwater

THE EXPOS
Blackwater

ExposOn their second album, Newmarket, Ontario’s the Expos move beyond the limiting genre of ska and slide into a comfortable reggae sound with elements of soul and pop. It’s obvious that the band has made an effort to broaden their musical style, and Blackwater shows that the Expos will be around for a long time. Blackwater is more soulful than most ska albums, not concerned with partying as much as the human condition, as heard in “Dying Too Long.” It isn’t littered with the punk rock sound which has become associated with the genre, but instead relies on the harmony and instrumentation of the band. Horns and Hammond organs appear throughout the album, complimented by strong bass playing and Reed Neagle’s laid-back vocals. My pick for best song on the album has to be the closer “Bring It Home,” in which the second half of the six-minute track is an amazing jam session that will leave the listener satisfied. Fans of Subcity should definitely listen to this album. Highly recommended. (Stomp Records, www.stomprecords.com) Charles Lefebvre

I’m on a Boat!

3rky_yachtour2010_5

One of the most indie/electro-tastic artists coming to Winnipeg in the next couple months has to be Portland’s Yacht. Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans normally prance around in front of a screen energetically, but for this tour, they’ve recruited a touring band, to look just a little less ridiculous. But all of the seriousness goes out the window when the band’s name is “the Straight Gaze.” I lol’d at that one for a while.

The band is made up of Portlanders Rob Kieswetter of Bobby Birdman (who is opening it up when Yacht plays here), Jeff Brodsky of Jeffrey Jerusalem, D. Reuben Snyder of Rob Walmart. Check out this crazy tour video they made, just to get us all psyched up!

WHERE: Pyramid Cabaret
WHEN: February 25
TICKETS: $12 advance at Ticketmaster and Music Trader

Ladies and Gentlemen, Monotonix

monotonixJan19

Hey Winnipeggers, has this warm weather got you riled up? Nowhere to take yr aggression out on a Tuesday? Well don’t forget that the unparalleled cultural experience that is Tel Aviv’s  Monotonix will be playing at the Pyramid Cabaret tonight. The three-piece have been banned from most venues in their home country of Israel so they took to the road a couple years ago so us hedonistic North Americans can partake in their rampage.
Eh, whatever, just check out this video of them playing the Pyramid last year:

Winnipeg duo War Elephant will be opening up the early show (no srsly, the poster says doors at 8 p.m.) with their merciless crunch of bass/drum noise rock. Here’s a video of them jamming in Wigtads‘ space.

WHERE: Pyramid Cabaret
WHEN: TONIGHTTTTTTTT
TICKETS: $18 ahead at Soul Survivors and $20 at the door

Fellows, Samson & co. make new music at the West End

ARCbrandonwpgmanitou

Visit the West End Cultural Centre on Friday, January 22nd for a collaboration between a rocker (John K. Samson) a folker (Christine Fellows), a composer (Robert Honstein), a violinist (Cristina Zacharias), a percussionist (Ed Reifel) and a mastermind (Leanne Zacharias).

L. Zacharias, a cellist, curator and music prof (you might recall she appeared on C. Fellows’ brilliant latest album, Nevertheless), has spearheaded this event, called Arc: Six Musicians Map the Current, which is described as:

a musical conversation between these diverse musicians from different genres and backgrounds—a baroque violinist, a symphony percussionist, a contemporary composer, a cross-disciplinary classical cellist, and two popular songwriters—performing onstage as one ensemble.

The evening promises new repertoire from Honstein and new arrangements of songs by Samson and Fellows.

WHERE: West End Cultural Centre
WHEN: Friday, Jan. 22, doors 7:15, show 8
TICKETS: $15 ahead at Ticketmaster and the WECC

www.christinefellows.com
www.wecc.ca

Label Profile – Lovepump United

2100244By Taylor Burgess

While attending Vassar College in New York, Jake Friedman and Mookie Singerman used to play in the band Glitter Pals. They released their own record under the name Lovepump United, and then started releasing other artists. It became a balancing act between school and Lovepump: Friedman built a loft in his dorm room to hold inventory, they used the school’s copy machines for their records’ inserts, and they subverted the college’s money for shows. They were first noticed internationally for AIDS Wolf’s Lovvers LP, and then for the HEALTH and Crystal Castles split 7”. Despite their growing killer catalogue, they still laugh about how people consider them a real label, like when Stylus contacted them for an interview. We sent them some questions via email, but it took a couple weeks of badgering them to get them back. They’re busy guys, managing the label and a handful of bands each, so we were constantly met with “We’ll get it to you tomorrow!” Our print deadline loomed closer and closer until we gave them the good ol’ “Today-or-never” ultimatum and they coughed up this wonderful, extremely long response. We couldn’t possibly fit it all on a page, but on a webpage, it’s just the right length.

Stylus: Some of Lovepump United’s releases could be seen as troublesome or not easily accessible, like AIDS Wolf or Indian Jewelry. What do you see in your artists that other people might not?

JF: Music’s too boring. Everything’s too boring. We started the label when we were young enough to take risks. At a certain point it’s hard to take risks. There either isn’t enough support or it seems selfish and naive. But when you’re a selfish, naive, weird kid, it makes perfect sense that the strangest, most exciting, new shit would become your entire life. And that’s what happened for us.

MS: Not to sound immodest, but in most if not all of our bands (especially the weirder ones) we see the possibility of them pushing independent and underground music in new directions.

JF: We kinda started the label from the point of view that too many of our favorite bands never got heard by anyone and that all the shit that did get heard sounded like music for moms and not dangerous or edgy.

Stylus: Whenever you do put out a record, what kinds of personal requirements does it have to meet?

JF: We put out so few releases that we have an unspoken understanding of what makes a Lovepump band. Mookie and I are best friends so a new artist on the label will consume our professional lives and our personal lives. We’re spending all our energy and time and love and opinions. So if we had any doubts about the musical or personal integrity of the people we worked with–we wouldn’t be able to work with them and the label would fall apart. If we didn’t love and support everything about an artist like AIDS Wolf or HEALTH or Clipd Beaks, it would be hard to get people on board. Records don’t exactly sell themselves anymore. But we still need to take risks so we find an artist… and we obsess about them.

MS: We have to be 100% behind a band—both of us. We usually end up taking up a lot of the managerial duties for our bands, so before we sign a band, we have to be prepared to spread ourselves even thinner than we are now.

Stylus: Schoolmates often talk and have pipedreams together, but then they get distracted, get girlfriends or boyfriends or whatever, and then delude themselves by always talking about their ‘great’ ideas. What made you two actually start releasing records and keep releasing records?

JF: If we had sat down and said, “Let’s start something that will change our lives in every way (good and bad) for the next 15 years with no escape hatch and unbelievable time, resource and financial burdens,” I’m sure I would have spent a little more time thinking about everything. But we took a risk and this label has been the most exciting thing in my life… and the worst, the most frustrating, hateful, stressful, etc. I can’t leave town without thinking about it. I can’t move apartments without bumming out my housemates. I piss off the local post office and UPS center.

MS: We kept (and keep) going because we’re still putting out records we’re proud of. It’s not a moneymaking thing. That’s for sure.

Stylus: Was it an easy transition from being in a band together to working on a record label together? I don’t imagine they’d be very similar processes.

JF: We had ZERO idea what it meant to start a label. We had nowhere to turn to for questions or guidance or even a model; every record label bio reads like “By the time we released The Jesus Lizard’s 3rd album we moved to a larger office.” So from the beginning we assumed everything we were doing must have been wrong and our “label” status always a step below legitimate. It’s fair to say, even now, Mookie and I are surprised by how much everyone is fooled into thinking that we’re a real label and things are working… This interview for example! We’re broke. Shit sucks! But we love it… We’re (almost) a record label!

MS: I mean, first and foremost Jake and I were friends. I think a more appropriate question would be: “Was it easy to go from being friends to running a business?” Yes, and no. Whenever we hang out talk alwayyyys turns to the business side of things and that can sometimes be unfortunate any friends/girlfriends that are hanging out with us.

Stylus: Your catalogue’s focus has shifted from noise-rock like aforementioned bands AIDS Wolf, Glitter Pals, and Indian Jewelry to electronic-based rock like HEALTH, Pictureplane and Deradoorian. Has that change been a conscious one?

JF: I listen to Mayyors, I listen to Emeralds, I listen to Eat Skull, I like Julianna Barwick, Phoenix, Converge… My tastes are always pretty broad but finding bands for Lovepump is a different kind of process. I think there are artists and bands we work with really well simply because no one else would be able to work with them the way we do. For example, next year we’ll be doing new records with both Child Abuse and Dynasty Handbag… I don’t know how those two fit together ‘musically’ but their attitude, to me, is totally on the same level so in putting out release the vibe is on a consistent Lovepump-wavelength that I don’t understand except that it makes complete sense and I know it when I see and hear it.

MS: I wouldn’t say that LPU broadening our sound was a conscious thing. We’ve never really pinned ourselves with a genre, and the records we release are a reflection of what we’re listening to at any given time. Both of us are constantly seeking out new and different sounding stuff, so some less noisy music is bound to get released on LPU.

Stylus: What kinds of releases can we expect from LPU in the near future? More electronic-based rock? A return to noise rock?

JF: Probably my favorite band ever is Throbbing Gristle… We’ve met this guy who has an unreleased Throbbing Gristle master tape. It’s an instrumental score for a shitty student-horror-film recorded in the early ’70s. You can see clips online of the film and the music but the complete score exists on this master tape and I want it so bad. I want it to come out on Lovepump. I’m working on that. But in 2010 we’ve got new release from Small Black, Washed Out, Clipd Beaks, Child Abuse, Dynasty Handbag, HEALTH and maybe more!

Stylus: Although you’re based in New York City, you don’t release many records by bands from there. How would you define your connection to the city?

MS: I grew up here and I find that born-and-raised in New York types like myself are a very rare breed here. It seems everyone is a transplant; so to define ourselves by a place that’s constantly changing seems kind of silly. It’s just never really interested us really…

Stylus: Although LPU’s output is great, it’s pretty infrequent. When do you decide to (and when do you decide not to) approach an artist for a release?

JF: If we could put out four records a month we would. We don’t have the money or time. But I think that makes for better release. We only have so many variables to work with–we can only put out so many records per year and work with so many bands. It sucks. I get tons of shitty demos. But sometimes you get something that rules. 15 piece teenage-rock band from the UK or a band punk band from Chicago who can’t stay together long enough to play one show… one day.

Stylus: How old are you guys?

JF: In my 20s.

MS: Apparently Jake is very sensitive about his age, but I have no shame in getting specific and saying I’m 52. [Really, Mookie? –Eds.]

Stylus: What were you in college together for?

JF: Who knows. I wrote a thesis about a faux-chess playing automaton and their role in the 18th vs 17th century.

MS: I majored in Film.

Stylus: Did you finish college, or did the record label take priority?

JF: The record label certainly took priority but I still finished college. I built a loft in my dorm room to hold inventory. We used the school copy machines and printers for inserts, found ways to subvert school money to put on shows and festivals. No one really cared at the time.

MS: My parents would have killllllled me if I hadn’t finished college. Had no choice.

Stylus: How would you describe Glitter Pals?

JF: The best years of my life.

MS: Undersold.

Stylus: Why did Glitter Pals break up?

JF: Genghis Tron? Girlfriends? Other bands?

MS: All of the above plus my awful guitar playing.

Stylus: I know Mookie is in Genghis Tron, but what do you do outside of Lovepump, if anything?

JF: I was a kid magician and after college I worked in music promotion, which really wasn’t for me at all. But thanks to my job, I was able to move to NYC. I’ve also worked for a bunch of movie theaters. I manage the label now. I also manage a couple of rock bands both on and off the label.

MS: I edit TV and manage a couple bands.

>>>www.lpurecords.com

Múm with Sin Fang Bous and Hildur Guðnadóttir – October 30/09 @ Pyramid Cabaret

By Dustin Danyluk

Photo by Samanta Katz
Photo by Samanta Katz

The Pyramid Cabaret was sparsely populated when Hildur Guðnadóttir, cellist and vocalist of Mùm, took the stage alone with her cello and laptop. Her freeform, ambient cello-based music reflected both her classical musical training (an experimental consciousness that seems to be common within Icelandic music circles). Guðnadóttir’s set was reminiscent of performances given by fellow Icelandic experimental musicians Leanne Zacharias, Borgar Magnason and Kippi Kaninus this past May at the St. Boniface Museum for the bargain price of $5. Guðnadóttir’s music differed in that while that performance was meditative, dissonant and droning, Guðnadóttir chose to insert very melodic and shifting passages, which were later given more breadth by the accompaniment of fellow Múm members Eiríkur Orri Olafsson on synths and trumpet and Gunnar Örn Tynes on bass. Typically for the Pyramid, the crowd was backed far away the stage, but you could still feel the swells in dynamic and the intent that had been put into writing and playing the music. The modest crowd showed all the appreciation their limited numbers could convey.

Fortunately, by the time the quirky indie folk singer Sindri Már Sigfússon and his latest project, Sin Fang Bous, took stage, the crowd had grown to a less-embarrassing size. The brand of eclectic folk pop he and his band unleashed was a delight to experience from one song to the next. Sigfússon’s live vocals were much more rough and energetic than the mellow and smooth delivery on his albums, and hints of ambient textures and novel rhythms kept the crowd on their toes. And though the band were just backing him up, you could tell there was enough groove and texture in the songs for them to really grab hold and have fun with.

By time the headliner Múm took stage, the Pyramid had mercifully filled up enough to balance out the unsightly bare spots in front of the stage. Múm’s energy and instrumentation was hard to resist (regardless of whether you prefer Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir-era Múm or their more recent poppier, folkier sound). Most the songs they played were off of their most recent two albums, Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy and Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know. Fans of the bands earlier output might have found their new vocal approach a little underdeveloped, but the band as a whole more than compensated for that. Múm’s live instrumentation sounded fantastic. Their drums triggered glitched creaks as well as producing traditional acoustics, adding a dynamic to their electronic sections that just can’t be programmed into a loop. Múm’s energy peaked when they returned for an encore with a track from the acclaimed Finally We Are No One.

Being Gate Night, there was something of a weird atmosphere in the room. While the band played, a man in the front row fainted and fell straight backwards to the floor and, for a second, the shadow of his head cast onto the floor looked like a pool of blood. (Only for a second though.)

>>>www.myspace.com/mumtheband

>>>www.myspace.com/sinfangbous

>>>www.hildurness.com

PHOTOS BY SAMANTA KATZ