Ukelele Anthems For Two (Vance Joy, Nation of Two review)

Not every album needs to be a chest bumper or a call to arms. Sometimes it’s nice for music to be nice, and reflective. A thread between two hearts, for starters.


Vance Joy – Nation of Two

released February 23, 2018
******* 7/10

Vance Gabriel Keogh, better known by his stage name, Vance Joy, is an Australian singer and songwriter. He signed a five-album deal with Atlantic records back in 2013, and shortly thereafter, released his instant success, Dream Your Life Away, hopping on the back of The 1989 World Tour that Taylor Swift planned that year. Everyone and their mother knows Riptide at this point, and somehow Joy managed to ride the waves of that album for four years without anyone really noticing. Pun intended.

Lucky for us though, because his sophomore effort, Nation of Two, was worth the wait. It’s not an amazing album, but there’s something to it. Featuring the singles, Lay It on Me, Like Gold, We’re Going Home and more, Joy has managed to do even better the second time around. Garnering fans and swooning hearts all the same.

What I love most about this album, as I’ve said in previous reviews, is that it’s a concept record – Nation of Two tells the story of a couple who’s world is centred around their bedroom, their car, and other memories they share collectively. Even though it’s similar in tone to his debut album, and doesn’t push strongly in one direction or the other, I actually think it makes it a stronger record, and gives this one a pass. Love isn’t always about ups and downs, fights and makeup sex, it’s a consistent feeling of companionship and connection. Flowing from one situation to the next is real life, and this album has it too.

It’s full of romance, rainy day music, good for reflection, and even post-breakup meltdowns or whatever emotive tone you’re feeling. I’m looking at you in particular Alone with Me and I’m With You. So much heat there.

And that’s not to say there isn’t some fun in there. Saturday Sun is a great upbeat track and has good accompaniment with One of These Days showing up later. These are simple love songs, rooted in the tradition of artists like John Mayer, Jack Johnson and Ed Sheeran, and while they aren’t perfect, there is a cohesive quality that works, especially with the theme.

Pros: A solid theme, some great singles that stick to Joy’s strengths, and solid transitions between tracks, help this album feel like a complete story.

Cons: Sometimes the naivety can be a bit much, and this is where Crashing Into You would be considered a weak point. Some of the worst lyrics I’ve heard so far this year.

Runtime: 45 minutes

Points of Interest: Joy has been known to work with multiple writers, and in this case the running theme is evident throughout. The song Little Boy, is a true story about the time Joy fell off his bike as a little boy.

A welcome change from the never-ending mire of romantic crooners singing about falling in love, passionate sex, and breakups, this is an album for the long-time lovers. It’s never particularly cheesy, but it always feels sincere.

theories Summarized

I don’t expect that this will be an album for everyone, and as much as I wish that were the case (because the theme is strong), Vance Joy still has some growing to do as a musician, and so it bleeds together in the end. Give it a listen, be aware of the narrative, and have some forgiveness on hand, and I have a theory that you’ll enjoy yourself.

And if that don’t tickle your fancy, Brendon and I have a rock review from a brilliant Canadian duo known as Death from Above (formerly Death from Above 1979). The Physical World is also their sophomore album, and it kicks up everything fans of the band love. If you haven’t gotten into their sound yet, here is your opportunity to give them a much deserved listen.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review, watch the video review and hopefully you’ve left a comment or two. If you liked what you saw, click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel! Come back tomorrow for a film review about Thor: Ragnarok. There’ll be more theories!


Popular Science (MGMT, Little Dark Age review)

We all have a little darkness inside of us, some of us embrace it, some of us run from it, and other find a way to little it simmer just under the surface. Adding some texture to life.


MGMT – Little Dark Age

released February 9, 2018
********* 9/10

MGMT is an American rock duo comprised of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser. They’ve been playing together since 2002, well before you would’ve expected from a band that hit the big time back in 2007, I remember because it was at the apex of indie electronic music. The singles Kids, Electric Feel, and Time to Pretend were everywhere that year, in movies, on the radio, and at most of the clubs I attended.

Yeah, this was back when I went to clubs, looking for loves.

And TBH, that music perfectly fit with the beautiful nihilism of the day, but I didn’t want to be part of it, so I ignored them, even though Ornacular Spectacular was clearly an amazing album. Then they followed it up with Congratulations in 2010, and it was even more experimental, but I had moved on and wasn’t really into that kind of music anymore. Around the time that the self-titled MGMT landed, the duo weren’t even on my radar, as in, I just discovered that Little Dark Age is their fourth studio album, and not their third one.

And thus, the history lesson concludes, because the boys appear to have some full circle. Older and wiser, fortunately for us, because Little Dark Age is their best album to-date and the sythn-pop was always their strong suit anyway, that and a subtle darkness, which is not unappreciated in the album title.

She Works Out Too Much is a perfect opener, capturing the challenges of dating in a smartphone app era, and later accented by TSLAMP. Then comes the big kahuna, the title track (Little Dark Age) which has been on everyone’s mind since it dropped as a single back in October of 2017. If you listen hard enough, you’ll hear Gary Numan, The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, and a host of other emo progenitors. Geez, now that I think of it, I can even hear the Police in there – and that’s an incredible thing.

Me and Michael is perfect in it’s subject, a quant song about friendship. That pairs well with Days That Got Away and When You’re Small.

It’s the kind of album that I know will get better with repeated listens, and I can almost guarantee will find a place on my shelf in years to come. Dare I say it, this album might even have me aching for possession of their back catalogue.

And if you’re worried that the album slows down too much as you sink into it, One Thing Left to Try is just as upbeat as the opening songs.

I’m glad that we were able to get back on track with MGMT, and even though their third album should have been the point where they came back stronger and wiser, not every flower blooms at the same time, and we can’t fault a band which debuted on a high note, without understanding the intricacies of their relationship with music and popular culture.

Pros: Obviously the return to pop music is a welcome change. And inserting notes of psychedelic rock into the mix has proven to be a recipe for success.

Cons: I know that Ariel Pink had a hand in When You Die, but I find it difficult to separate his production from MGMT’s natural sound, and all it does is make me want to listen to his music instead.

Runtime: 44 minutes

Points of Interest: The record was conceived partly out of the election of Donald Trump as president of the US, and partly because of a desire to return back to their roots.

I guess all it took was some time for these two college friends to embrace their identity and make music which suits them. I’m personally thankful for the opportunity to revisit their music, and I truly do believe that they’ve matured into their sound finally.

theories Summarized

Do I think that you should give this album a listen? Absolutely. I didn’t really expect to like this record, as I had avoided MGMT for years, but as I sit in my office on a warm March evening, I can see fairly easily how this will become one of my favourite albums this year. Yes, I’m calling it a quarter of the way through.

And speaking of bands that got better with age. Brendon and I wanted to remind you of one of the greatest punk rock albums of the 1990s, The Offsprings SMASH. This is seriously one of my favourite albums ever, and if you’ve never heard it before, you are in for a treat. But if you have listened to it before, and you needed a reminder, give it solid listen, and appreciate their skillful guitar playing, choice lyrics, and exciting melodies.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review, watch the video review and hopefully you’ve left a comment or two. If you liked what you saw, click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel! Come back tomorrow for a film review about Darkest Hour. There’ll be more theories!


The Vibranium Standard (Kendrick Lamar, Black Panther: The Album – Music from and Inspired By review)


Comic book movie soundtracks are supposed to remind you of the movie, and by and large, most of them do the trick, though my favourites have always been the original Spider-Man trilogy OSTs. And it’s tough to stand up to those Sam Raimi films when we’re talking about thematic music. Nobody does it better then Danny Elfman, except maybe, Kendrick Lamar.


Kendrick Lamar – Black Panther: The Album, Music from and Inspired By

released February 9, 2018
******** 8/10

Black Panther: The Album – Music from and Inspired By (also known as Black Panther: The Album) is a soundtrack album for Marvel Studios latest and greatest, Black Panther. In case that wasn’t obvious to you yet, this is a project with some weight behind it.

Now, to be perfectly honest, this isn’t a Kendrick Lamar album, but it must as well be his love letter to Blaxploitation music of the 1970s and 1990s gangsta rap, with a conscious hip hop flavour of the day.

He pretty much curated the whole thing, and shows up on at least 40% of it’s tracks. His record label, Top Dawg Entertainment, also takes a producers credit. Consequently, each of the featured artists work really well together, and each song adds to the theme of the movie, with Lamar typically sounding the weakest of any of the authors. But if Lamar is one of the worst parts, then why do I say that this is a Kendrick Lamar album? Mainly, because he is all over the record, providing direction to it’s theme, and even Kendrick Lamar at his worst is far more interesting then the majority of commercial artists out there today.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time going over each of the individual tracks, but you should know that the themes of blackness as identity, politics, royalty, spirituality, and vulnerability all work together to show off the strengths of the movie, without actually being included in the film score. That’s right, this is a soundtrack inspired by the film, but when you listen to it, there are obvious lyrics which connect us to both protagonist T’Challa, and villain Killmonger.

Pros: There is a lot of amazing cultural influence going on here, from The Weeknd, to Vince Staples. to Khalid, to Schoolboy Q, to Ab-Soul, to Jayrock. It’s A-list hip hop and R&B artists working in concert to send a message about responsiblity.

Cons: If you are hoping for a follow-up to Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 studio album, Damn., then you are going to be disappointed. And as much as this is a Kendrick Lamar influenced soundtrack album, it would have benefited from being a true Kendrick Lamar album with artist features where necessary.

Runtime: 49 minutes

Points of Interest: In it’s first two weeks out, Black Panther: The Album has remained No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. There are a handful of direct references to the movie in certain tracks, rapped by Kendrick Lamar himself.

Getting the support of artists like 2 Chainz and Future is important to a whos-who of contemporary hip hop, but what is even more significant is the message contained therein and the status of the film as it reinforces the voices it needs to be heard. I haven’t seen the movie myself yet, but listening to the soundtrack on repeat of this week is making me even more impatient to check it out.

theories Summarized

It’s not a perfect album, but it is an essential soundtrack collection, and the best representation of a current hip hop to a commercial audience. I’m impressed by the album overall, and while Lamar is a bit subdued in the presentation, his voice continues to stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

And speaking of Kendrick Lamar, my official video review of David Bowie’s Blackstar is now up. In this video Brendon and I tackle the final work of Ziggy Stardust with humour, inspiration, and an extra-special dose of smooth jazz. And if you want to figure out the Lamar/Bowie connection, you’ll just have to watch the video.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review, watch the video review and hopefully you’ve left a comment or two. If you liked what you saw, click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel! Come back tomorrow for a film review about The Florida Project. There’ll be more theories!


A Mild Case Of Flashback (54.40, Keep On Walking review)

Every time I look at you, I go blind. In the mornin’ I get up, and I try to
Feel alive, but I can’t.

Maybe it’s because I’m lovesick, and maybe it’s that you’re so intense. Most likely it’s because you are making music inspired by the 1990s in the 2010s and no one seems to have noticed.



54.40 – Keep On Walking

released February 2, 2018
****** 6/10

54-40 are a Canadian alternative rock group from British Columbia (BC) that have been playing together for over thirty five years. Their name is taken from the slogan 54-40 or fight! which was originally spoken during the Oregon boundary dispute between the US and Canada in the early nineteenth century.

The group was established back in 1981 and was a three piece for their first couple of years, and has been a four man band ever since that time, seeing a few lineup changes in their drummer over the years and second guitarist Phil Comparelli was replaced by Dave Genn in 2005. But Neil Osborne (vocals, guitar) and Brad Merrit (bass) are founding members who have stuck it out.

I’ll admit that I haven’t listened to a lot of their music over the years, but I am familiar with their more popular singles Ocean Pearl and I Go Blind.

Keep on Walking is their fourteenth studio album, and was prefaced by the band touring with the single of the same name for about a year. They sprinkled in other tracks as they toured, but I have to wonder if that process is a good measuring stick. A lot of the time, older bands will play night after night, maintaining a crowd of fans, but failing to realize the reason those fans are there in the first place – to hear the songs that charted and established the groups reputation.

I’ve seen Trooper live at least three times in my life, and every time I saw them, they would “share” a new song they had been working on, except that it had been new for over three years at that point.

Pros: I liked that Sublime Like Me, Hold My Kiss, and She Calls Us One are exploring a broader range of musical sounds, but each track is distinct in instrumental choices and nuanced with arrangements.

Cons: Despite all of the growth we witness at key points, as the album reaches it’s final two tracks (Sometimes It’s Not OK, Life Goes On) there is a regression, and in a few short minutes, it’s back to the safety net.

Runtime: 38 minutes

Points of Interest: The band will be touring throughout 2018 and into 2019 to promote Keep On Walking and their 2016 greatest hits album LA Difference. It’s been seven years since their last studio album, Lost in the City.

When it’s all said an done, Keep On Walking was enjoyable at times and definitely makes me nostalgic for a different time in my life, when things seemed simpler and music was more clearly defined. The problem of course, is that it’s not 1995, it’s 2018, and musical tastes should reflect the era, not the other way around.

theories Summarized

The challenge with making music (or any art form) for several decades is that you will invariably be asked to make what you know, and some artists rise to the occasion, while others continue to evolve over time. There isn’t necessarily a right path to take, but in the case of 54.40 I don’t think that their musical sound is appealing enough to justify playing a distinctive kind of music at this stage in their career. This album seems to be best suited for diehard fans, and lovers of 90’s alternative rock music – and that’s my theory.

That said, I have a great piece of 1990s alternative rock that you absolutely should listen to. Rage Against the Machine’s Battle of Los Angeles is a timeless rap rock record that deserves a listen if you haven’t heard it before. And if you have, I think it might be time to dust off your CD player and give it a whirl, it’s guerilla radio at it’s finest.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review, watch the video and hopefully you’ve left a comment or two. If you liked what you saw, click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel! Come back tomorrow for a film review from Richard Linklater.


Instant Friendship (The Sheepdogs, Changing Colours review)

Blues rock has always had a soft spot in my heart. Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, and so on and so forth. But what happens when you mix in the Canadian wilderness and hit blend – does the era of cool translate for our polite sensibilities?



The Sheepdogs – Changing Colours

released February 2, 2018
******** 8/10

The Sheepdogs are a Canadian blues rock band originally from Saskatoon and founded in 2006. Lead by singer and guitarist Ewan Currie, backed by his brother Shamus on keyboards, trombone and tambourine, Sam Corbett on drums, bassist Ryan Gullen, and Jimmy Bowskill on lead guitar. They have since recorded six studio-length albums, which is a pretty impressive schedule of one year on, on year off.

I have their third (2010’s Learn & Burn) and fourth (2012’s The Sheepdogs) albums in my own personal collection, but I believe they would benefit from proper and complete catalogue representation on

Let me clarify.

Changing Colours is a great record, I wish it had shown up in those summer weeks of 2017 when all of my possessions were packed up, and I was living out of a room in my best friends house. That music would have carried me through those two hectic months. Up In Canada would’ve become my anthem, and I would even have petitioned for it to replace our national anthem! It’s that newsworthy. But you see, that’s the thing about Changing Colours, all of this record’s tracks have the capacity to be released as singles.

My personal favourites are I Ain’t Cool, You Got To Be A Man, and Run Baby Run, but there are seventeen well made tracks on this record. And so I wouldn’t be surprised to learn your personal favourites are different then mine. In fact, I would hope that was the case.

Pros: This album is incredibly pleasant to listen to. It’s a summer album, that plays nice with the other seasons. AND they’ve managed to extend their range to incorporate more sonic safe choices then previous efforts.

Cons: A symptom of their musical stylings, they never quite shake the sounds of Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Beach Boys and a host of other sounds I’m sure you’ll recognize along the way. Proceed with caution if you hate drawing from the past.

Runtime: 49 minutes

Points of Interest: Newcomer Jimmy Bowskill officially joins the ranks of The Sheepdogs on this record. A band for the people, their bassist Ryan Gullen regularly polls the fanbase and observes which songs are getting the most streaming airplay, influencing what charts as a single.

These guys are absolutely guilty of making “good-time” music, and by pulling most of their influences from the safety net of 1970s rock and roll, they successfully emulate the sounds of the day, while pulling it into the present. It’s only slightly odd that despite a lack of originality in most places, I can’t help but enjoy what I’m listening to.

theories Summarized

Have you ever heard the theory that we’re drawn to certain types of people because of a natural chemistry and as such, those relationships typically last because of their familiarity? The Sheepdogs have that instant friendship quality, and while it might seem like a pure emulation of the past, I’ll argue instead that it’s a display of their immense talent. That they can match sounds of the past, but still maintain genuinely their own voice.

There is just something incredibly appealing to me about pared down music, it’s heartfelt, timeless and can be played no matter how you choose to spend your listening session(s). That’s why I thought transitioning from The Sheepdogs into a video review on Andrew Bird was an apt choice.

If you haven’t listened to the Echolocations series yet, you are in for a treat creative cuties.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review, watch the video and hopefully you’ve left a comment or two. If you liked what you saw, click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel! Come back tomorrow for a film review about bravery and wildfires.