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Arcade Fire – Reflektor review

It felt like only yesterday I was watching my very own indie band grow into a mainstream giant with winning the album of the year award at the Grammy’s. Little did I know that they were already selling hugely even before their ultimate award. It didn’t bother me that they became huge, but my only worry lied within the single question, will this change their musical chemistry? I kept reminding myself that the most successful indie band of the current century knew their roots better than any music marketer and I wouldn’t have to fear. Fast forward to the present, and here we are. Presented with the idea that has slowly drifted my mind, Reflektor is born.

This is Arcade Fire’s fourth album, following a conjunction of extremely successful and great albums, the monster band hopes to continue this trend. The most noticeable difference lies not only within the sound, but the length of the album. Reflektor isn’t at the same length of The Knife’s new album, but it clocks in at 85 minutes and it sure feels like that length. These 13 songs can drag on and on, and that has to do with producer, James Murphy, who has a noticeable impact in the new sound of Arcade Fire.

Before I go any further, let me note that many previous fans will be pissed. And when I mean pissed, I mean ‘throwing their iPods/laptops/cd players/cars/trucks/phonographs/people’ against a wall because it isn’t the “Arcade Fire I fell in love with”. This is true. The secret to the success of the band lies within the thematic connection found in their music. On Reflektor, it’s not as apparent. These tracks aren’t as lyrically driven, With the only song that has that signature sound being “We Exist”. It might get some hopes up to fans, but don’t expect that same feeling from the rest of the tracks.

Now let’s bring up the important facts to this album. It’s 85 minutes, so it’s categorized as a double length LP. Does it feel long? Yes. Is that a good thing? Maybe. My first listen was exciting, but it was a grind when I finished the first side of it. Getting myself to listen to the second side was a challenge, but that’s where I really enjoyed myself. While I liked the first half, 5 of the 6 songs have a repetitive drum track that just tore me to shreds by the end of it.

When “Joan of Arc” came in I felt almost saved by the overproduction of James Murphy. It’s noticeably different, and reminds me of a ‘Berlin Trilogy’ Bowie track. The second side is longer, but I found it much more bearable. I don’t think that’s the right word I want to use, because it sounds like I don’t enjoy it, but the first few listens to this album didn’t bring the best out of me. I finally sat in my room with the lights off and tried to really listen to it, but even then it was hard to separate the thought of Funeral. I would say this is Arcade Fire’s The King Of Limbs. It’ll be it’s misunderstood masterpiece that will be picked up in years to come. I found tracks like “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” to be amazing. It’s Beatles influenced melody was super enjoyable. Following that was the post-punk “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)”. That was my favourite song on my first listen, primarily because of the distorted opening riff which took the heat off the heavy dance tracks.

The single “Reflektor” was misplaced hugely as the opening track. I felt the need to say it, because I truly feel like it could create an amazing climax to the album, but instead many listeners will wonder where the rest of the magic went. “It went to the second half,” I’d tell them. If the average music listener can sit through until “Afterlife”, they’ll think the three years was worth the wait. Now I’ve given this album some heavy flack, but I did end up enjoying most of the album. The 11 minute closer of ambiance was super pretentious, and the opening riff on “Porno” really does sound like a B-grade porno (What are you trying to tell us Win?), but Arcade Fire hits most of the marks on this album. To be honest, I need more time with this album, but I’m unable to write a review in 2 months and explain how I feel about this. Reflektor is the ultimate “Grower Of The Year”, but right now, It’s a hard-to-digest double album full of potential magic.






Vancouver Folk Music Festival 2013: Saturday

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The first of two full days of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival was great. The morning performances on the multiple eight stages showed a wide variety of talent, music. and interesting tidbits that is only found in a folk festival.

coco 367Starting the day, we visited a stage that compiled multiple singer-songwriters to talk about how a few of their songs came to be. Big names in attendance were Kathleen Edwards and Hannah Georgas, along with Mo Kenny, Aidan Knight, and a few others to round out the line up. It was great hearing the stories of how they crafted their tracks, and the different song-writing techniques are not only useful, but inspiring. Aidan Knight was the highlight of the round-robin setlist with his amazing performance of “Jasper”. I’ve seen him live on multiple occasions and I’ve never heard this song live so finally getting a chance not only excited me, but the entire crowd who were screaming and clapping along with the whole song.

We also got the opportunity to try out different food vendors, and without a doubt, a little tent called “Perogies and Sausage” makes the best, well you know, perogies and sausage. I’m not a food critic, but the line-up to the vent can prove how amazing these bite sized balls of dough and cheese tacked on with a roll of pork really are. Say goodbye to my figure.

During the main stage performances, I was in utter shock and awe to a few groups. The first being Danny Michael with the Garifuna Collective. Danny Michael is an Ontario singer-songwriter who has compiled a collective of Belize musicians to back his band, and now the odd mixture is touring. I cannot describe the energy and joy the band has, and they created a phrase that describes their setlist. “Snowballing”, they call it. Mixing two songs from Danny Michaels discography, and two songs from the backing band, the group has a wide range of world-beat and traditional folk songs with an international flair. I highly recommend seeing these guys.

If there’s one group that shocked me, it was Whitehorse. This husband-wife duo of famed songwriters are true ass kickers. Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland might seem like folk artists on their album, but live, it’s a totally different story. I compare their sound to Ty Segall, The White Stripes, and even Japandroids with their garage-rock sound. It’s absolutely amazing how much power these two have. They loop their tracks to create amazing atmosphere, and use an outstanding number of odd ball instruments to create that fuzzy, distorted sound that’s found in more traditional garage rock. McClelland even used a telephone for a song, which alone reformed me into a fan.

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The following performer was an interesting mix of Bhangra and rock. Named the Raghu Dixit Project, this band has performed for the Queen at the Diamond Jubilee, and has the highest selling album outside of Bollywood in years. What caught my attention was how interesting and crazy their music was. They took the traditional sounds of Bhangra and through in mainstream North American music into the mix. They touched on electronica, rock and roll, folk, and even pop music that gripped the audience into a trance of dance and joy. “It’s amazing to be here. We appreciate it very much,” Raghu yelled, “We’ve been trying to get here for years, and we finally got our visas!”. It was this sort of light-heartedness that was to be found throughout the set.


coco 601After that, the moment the entire festival weekend has been centred around finally arrived. The cult icon and world-class visionary Steve Earle took to the stage with his band, The Dukes. There was a sudden shift in atmosphere the second he arrived to the scene. An entire cult following of fans arrived and the attendance rose for his name alone. Dawning a cowboy hat and untrimmed beard, he controlled the crowd with ease. “I thought Toby Keith would record this song and I’d get rich,” He announced before playing “Calico Country”, which is one of few fan favourites. After an onslaught of great folk rock and real classic rock and roll, he blasted into “Copperhead Road”. It was an experience that will last a lifetime, seeing this historical moment of music right in front of my eyes. The man himself playing a song for the ages. It’s the beauty of the folk fest. I could have had one second of that song and be happy for the weekend.


Be sure to check up for our Sunday round up!




M.I.A. releases new song, set to release new album

On the brink of a new album, M.I.A. has released the single, “Bring The Noize”. The new release, titled MATANGI, is a follow-up to the 2010 album, Maya. The album failed to reach the success of the great Kala, which was released another three years earlier in 2007 (“Paper Planes” anyone?). The multi-talented British artist seems to have dabbed her toes in every genre surrounding a drum machine, and she kills it for the most part.

The song is aggressive from the get-go, and it blends traditional Middle-Eastern singing with a few drones. That’s before the song breaks into a chopped and jumpy combination of vocal splices. She uses her voice are a drum beat that oddly reminds me the “Otis” off of Watch The Throne last year. The difference is that this song is way closer to a trap song than “Otis”.

Her rapping is quite typical, but in M.I.A. fashion. She touches on telling people off, her heritage, and how far she has come. Most of the time I have to laugh at musicians when they mention this, but she has my fullest respect when she talks about her success. Kala and Maya are chart toppers, and a British Female with Tamil decent who has broken into the American music market is remarkable. I’ll give you an idea to how difficult that is, and the only other successful person of Tamil decent in American entertainment is Aziz Ansari. Huge respect for M.I.A.

Her videos as well is semi-controversial. She makes light of a few topics like religion, and life in India, but in a way that’s respectable. Her contrast between the outside of the venue with it’s dusty and bleak roads compared to the indoor club is quite creative. I’ve always enjoyed the cultural aspect behind M.I.A. videos, and even if in the end they’re for pure entertainment, I like to think there’s a deeper meaning behind them.

M.I.A. always has a few tricks up her sleeve, with a great closer that separates itself from the rest of the track. It’s slower, but still retains the energy found in the hard hitting chorus and verses. The gold background of the music video gives me full reason to believe that it’s a section that will lead into another track. Not to mention it’s one of the best parts of the song. It’s cut time beat of the drum is so minimal, but it adds the effect of the song growing even if it’s not. The native Indian influence that is found on so many M.I.A. tracks shines again on the closing section of the song.

It’s reasons like this that makes 2013 such a great year so far. Knowing that new M.I.A. is coming gets me fired up for the summer, and fall, and winter. Make that the whole year. Make that all of 2013, and the albums released before today. So much music has come out this year that stands out to me, it’s a shame knowing that 2014 is around the corner. Who knows, maybe a new Avalanches album could be in the works? Nonetheless, check out “Bring The Noize” below.


Underground Mondays: Love Or The Bomb – When Summer Comes EP

I don’t know about you all out there, but it’s heating up very fast and it’s only May. As nature plays out, August is where the real heat comes in, and that’s a scary thought. To prepare for the scorching heat and never ending topic of global warming, I bring you the Montreal-based indie rock band, Love Or The Bomb. Their appropriately titled EP, When Summer Comes, is a collection of three tracks that should be in your mix for those summer outings. Any fans of Tokyo Police Club or Oh No! Yoko should continue reading.

As the duo of Eddy Franco and Adrian Solarino prepare for their debut LP, they’ve been playing local shows around the city impressing many of the audience that has had the chance to see them. They played under the name of “The Hawks” before, and even opened for bands like The Front Bottoms, who I adore. When I first turned on their EP, I was excited to hear an almost lo-fi atmosphere to their rock sound. They’ve described themselves as a “no-nonsense” type, and I can picture that with listening to their music. They definitely come across as cool, and every music junkie would approve of the duo’s style and sound. “When Summer Comes” has a unique tone to it. It’s easily my favourite, and it’s their heaviest with the hard hitting guitar tone. I do like the garage rock sound, as the fuzziness resonates a Ty-Segal sound. The chorus is very catchy, and the vocal range of Franco is impressive. Their cheesy lyrics totally fit the Joy Division influenced riffs.

The second track, “Real Sin”, has quite the dynamic shift from the previous track. It’s a fresh change, and the duo really bring their game for this song. It has that tone to it that fits the ability to be played on radio, as it would get anybody moving to the steady beat. Adrian Solarino is a talented drummer, and he keeps the duo in line for all three tracks that are showcased here. I would comment that I’d want to hear more from him. He should be a main focus for listeners, and add more of his spin to these dance-tastic tracks. The final track to present from this wonderful EP is “Gossip”. Although it is slower, this track shows how diverse of a duo these members are. They can rock out to a gritty garage rock track, kill it on an indie track, then finish off with an amazing ballad. “Gossip” clicked on a first listen. The atmosphere is beautiful, and the song builds to a great climax with a chunky solo section. The band hits a home-run with this song

Love Or The Bomb has that “it” sound to them. They know what they want and they understand what listeners need. They bring to the table a collection of diverse tracks to showcase their limelight of talent that both members have. With an EP that has this type of potential to bring to a full length debut, prepare yourself for a great indie rock release that will blow you away. I’m definitely looking forward to this album as I’ve very much enjoyed hearing the beauty of Love Or The Bomb. The essence of these weekly Underground Monday posts is that I get to find these amazing bands and bring them into the light. Love Or The Bomb is another prime example.


Be sure to check out their Bandcamp here

Also, check out the video for their wicked track, “When Summer Comes”:


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