Vancouver spoken-word/hip hop/roots (?!) dynamo C.R. Avery returned to the West End Cultural Centre on Monday night, and our photog Cheyenne Rae was there to capture the action. I’ve you’ve never heard of this guy (he’s a Folk Fest vet) go here: >>>cravery.com
More photos below the fold; click for bigger views.
Eve Rice is no stranger to Winnipeg’s music scene. Whether you know her as the electro-charged, sex kitten Vav Jungle or as DJ Beekeeni, if you’ve been to dance parties, various openings or even fundraisers around the city this past year, it is likely that Rice has made you dance at least once. Rice was part of the lineup for Stylus’ 20th birthday bash this past October; this January, Stylus sat down and talked to one of Winnipeg’s most renowned music veterans about her plans for the future and her ideas about making and loving music as we embark on a new decade.
Maya Miller + Becky Black = the Pack A.D. Much has been said about this bad-ass East Van duo. Their brand of gritty, bluesy garage punk has captivated most critics and scored them legions of fans throughout the world. Beyond a doubt, Becky Black has one of the best voices in Canadian indie rock; her teetering, earth-shattering cries coupled with Maya Miller’s thunderous drumming contains all the emotional punch of a hellfire sermon given by King Kong. Those who were fortunate enough to catch their live show at the Albert on their last tour can attest to the spiritually jarring effect you get when witnessing these women in action. Stylus caught up with the pair as they finished up their latest album in Vancouver.
“I’m cooking on the tour,” Matt Magura announces between bites of his “Little Tadpole” breakfast at the Toad in the Hole on a Saturday afternoon. “I’ve got a Magic Bullet and a butane stove. I’m going to make fucking curry wraps. Smoothies every morning!” Bassist Louis Levèsque Coté is agreeable to the notion; he and Ian La Rue start discussing the possibility of getting an inverter so that the Magic Bullet and possibly a rice cooker could be operated while the van is in motion.
This kind of creativity is surely inevitable when you have seasoned musicians looking forward to a tour. These guys have been around. When Ian La Rue and the Condor (drummer Magura, Coté, and guitarist Andrew Workman) list their other current and previous bands, the lists are long and overlapping. La Rue and Coté have both done stints in Boats and the Paperbacks, for instance. Workman has played in everything from the Horribly Awfuls to Cone Five.
But this is the first time this particular combination has come about, and that, Coté says, is all because of La Rue. “The Condor wouldn’t be a band outside of Ian,” he says. For La Rue, though, having the Condor behind him is a dream come true. “I’ve been looking forward to making a full band record for my whole life. This is it—kinda like the pinnacle of my career,” he says of the new record, titled A History in Layers. “It was a big move on a couple levels, because I always recorded my own stuff, played all my own stuff. So this is the first time I’ve let someone else record it.”
DEAD MAN’S BONES Dead Man’s Bones
Released right around Halloweentime, Dead Man’s Bones could be considered gimmicky if it wasn’t so unexpectedly good. Celebrity heartthrob Ryan Gosling and filmmaker Zach Shields manage to combine all the right elements of vintage spooky sounds, raw indie cabaret tunes and the charm of an elementary school play. Featuring the Silverlake Conservatory of Music children’s choir, Gosling and Shields guide the kids through songs about ghosts, werewolves and losing one’s soul. The album often fringes on creepy macabre material with standout tracks like “My Body’s a Zombie for You.” While it might be easily dismissed as a quirky for the sake of being quirky it often strikes the right balance of creative atmosphere and rawness that is lacking in most, if not all, actor-turned-musician celebrity projects. (Yes, I’m talking to you, ScarJo.) Whether it’s the rumblings of out-of-tune children or actors not being able to play their instruments, this project has managed to summon the perfect balance of morbid allure and resourceful conception. (Anti, www.deadmansbones.net) Kent Davies
In his disorderly Wolseley basement named the Mortfell Oktorium Studio, J.R. Hill has been focusing on recording and playing shows here in Winnipeg. “I don’t really wanna go on tour again unless I know that I won’t lose thousands of dollars, because I can’t afford it,” he said.
Guitar pedals, a stuffed monkey, a pink flamingo, cardboard houses and utter amounts of crap looked like they were going to fall off the tin shelves at any minute. “Like in the summer, I lost, like 1,500 bucks. I just finished paying it off last month.” Continue reading “J.R. Hill Exists; Your Argument Is Invalid”
While reports of the music industry’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, the more recent prognosis is that the full-length album is dead (or at least dying). Quickly disseminated and digested as MP3 singles and the shortened attention span of the Twitterverse have created a (not so) perfect storm where albums are given short shrift.
So, local act the Paperbacks chose to follow up their 2007 full-length, An Illusion Against Death, with a double-album.
PORT O’BRIEN Threadbare Over the course of their career, California’s Port O’Brien has pretty much held the same steady course, producing similarly sweet sing-alongs riding on rickety arrangements, unpolished vocals, and campfire aesthetics. On their latest LP, Threadbare, the trio takes a very familiar, if-it-ain’t-broke approach to their songwriting. They only occasionally include some autumnal, Arcade Fire-esque orchestration, but they generally maintain their established formula. Somber, fleeting numbers like “In the Meantime” and “(((Darkness Visible)))” roll at the same quarter-speed pacing you’ve come to expect from a band like this, meditating on themes of loss and mortality—no doubt a result of vocalist Cambria Goodwin’s brother passing away early last year. To that end, Goodwin is far more of a presence across Threadbare, taking on almost half of the lead vocal duty. It’s a nice touch, bringing a diversity to the arrangements that previous releases have been lacking. She manages to pull the album away from what could potentially be clunky, endlessly downtrodden material. However, diversity is something that Threadbare is sorely missing. After the fifth dense, slowly-strummed track, it’s obvious that there is no “I Woke Up Today” to be found here. The only reprieve is the punchy “Leap Year,” the one truly upbeat song out of 13. The uninterrupted slow tread of the album makes it easy for monotony to set in early. Threadbare is more cohesive, thematically and sonically, than the band’s previous efforts, but it’s missing the energetic optimism they’ve had in the past. (TBD, www.tbdrecords.com) Kevan Hannah
COCKTAIL HOSTAGES Ransom EP Although they are just beginning to establish themselves, local act Cocktail Hostages have found a niche in the already-crowded hard rock scene. Their Ransom EP features tracks more reminiscent of the glory days of dark, brooding grunge than the rise of the Nickelback and their doppelgangers. The EP starts with “Crawl,” a catchy, power chord-heavy hard rock number before settling into a couple steady atmospheric tracks. “In the Woods” is more appealing than the lead-off cut, with frontman Roger Moufiler’s deep voice circling around Eastern-sounding guitar riffs. The final track is the EP’s strongest. No one can deny the hypnotic power and ominous charm of “Midnight City,” pulsating towards the disc’s fiery conclusion. (Independent, www.myspace.com/cocktailhostages) Kent Davies
BASIA BULAT Heart of My Own
When Basia Bulat released her first full-length, Oh, My Darling, in 2007, it was quite under the radar. Sure, it was released on legendary UK label Rough Trade and later on Hayden’s Hardwood Records in Canada, but it was unassuming (not unlike Bulat herself). It had, after all, been recorded primarily to serve as a souvenir of a moment in time—a record of the music being made among a small group of friends and family. The intervening years have brought a Polaris Prize nomination, trips around the folk festival circuit and lots of attention for this appealing singer-songwriter, who was transformed from English Literature grad student to indie folk darling. You’ll be pleased to learn, as I was, that Bulat has lost none of her charm with Heart of My Own. Her music is still deceptively delicate at times, building into crescendos of emotion and sound. The record has a more old-school folk feeling, with the autoharp front and centre on tracks like “The Shore” and “If It Rains.” The poetry of her lyrics is still straightforward enough to be accessible but not too simple as to descend into cliché. In short: this record affirms that the faith we placed in her, after falling in love with her debut release and her live performances, was well-given. (Secret City Records, www.secretcityrecords.com) Jenny Henkelman