Better Be Starting Something (Our Lady Peace, Somethingness review)

Fifteen years ago, I had an opportunity to see Our Lady Peace live at a festival and while I took it upon myself to watch them, I never really appreciated it. They were alternative rockers in an open sea of rock and roll, and their music was good, but not great, in my limited opinion.

mp3s hadn’t completely overtaken the musical landscape just yet, but it was becoming more common for smaller musicians to get attention, and more and more Canadian musicians were cropping up. 

Now, after twenty-six years of activity, are they still relevant?

 

Our Lady Peace – Somethingness

released February 23, 2018
****** 6/10

Our Lady Peace, sometimes known as OLP, are a Canadian rock group that have their roots firmly planted in Toronto. Headed by founding member Raine Maida (vocals, guitar), and longstanding members Steve Mazur (guitar) and Duncan Coutts (vocals, bass), Somethingness is their ninth studio album, and the first since the departure of twenty year drummer Jeremy Taggart, and new comer Jason Pierce.

As I mentioned previously, I’ve seen this group live before, but I have not been much of a fan in their lifetime. This might have stemmed from defiance on my part, refusing to vote with my money simply because a rock group was Canadian, but as I look back on their catalogue, it occurs to me, that these guys really have contributed to the current rock landscape. Maybe not as influencers, necessarily, but by association with with major acts – Foo Fighters, Goo Goo Dolls, Stone Temple Pilots, and Big Wreck all come to mind.

It’s not a particularly innovative album, but as Maida states on opening track Head Down, “I’ll find my place in the sun,” which a mid-tempo song, and a good indicator of the pace to expect for the majority of the record.

Embracing their skill with guitars and penchant for coded lyrics, songs like Ball Of A Poet and Hiding Place for Hearts demonstrate that sound well, and are welcome additions to the album. What I found most surprising of all was how great of a job Drop Me In The Water does of demonstrating the groups strengths, and showing a new generation why their sound was beloved in the 1990s and as a great alternative to the dance-rock and indie folk of the day. Nice To Meet You‘s lyrics are uplifting and topical.

When we get to the last two songs, Let Me Live Again and Last Train, it takes a bit of effort to become reinvested, but Last Train is the most experimental of any of the songs on the record, and a strong point to end on.

 

Pros: As stated already, singles Nice To Meet You and Drop Me in the Water are excellent, as they raise the emotional bar enough to resonate with a broader audience, and they are technically sound too. But best of all is

Cons: Towards the back half of the record, we listen to some even more subdued tracks – Missing Pieces and Falling into Place. These songs feel at odds with the emotional tone set up in the first half of the record.

Runtime: 33 minutes

Points of Interest: OLP initially decided to split the album up into two volumes, releasing the first EP back in August 2017, but after some consideration a full-length album dropped February 23, 2018 which is the subject of this review.

I wish Last Train would have been an opening track, and influenced more of the record. To be considered as a final thought, is frustrating, to be perfectly honest. I would’ve probably written this album off with out it, Drop Me In The Water, and Nice To Meet You in the mix. I hope this is the start of something, rather then a middling effort at the end of a career.

theories Summarized

At the end of the day, I’m not sure I can fully endorse this album for the average music fan. It’s great if you already know about Our Lady Peace, but if you are looking to try them out, I would direct you to Naveed or one of the other first four albums in a heartbeat upon personal reflection.

That said, I do have a Canadian album that I can easily and happily support. The sophomore effort from k-os, an artist who should be considered a national treasure at this point. And if you don’t believe me, I brought Brendon along to show you the finer points of the record.

What a gem he is. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if I’m referring to my co-host or the artist in question! For now, I’ll listen to The Love Song on repeat. 

And remember, if you liked what you saw, and/or enjoyed what you read, please click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel and my mailing list! I’ll be back tomorrow with a film review on Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. A film which deserved more then it got at the Academy Awards. I have a few theories on what happened…

Tim!

Phasers Set To Stun (Dear Rouge, PHASES review)

I will totally agree that there is an ebb and flow to life. We all experience highs and lows, and whatever exists in-between, but on the surface, it’s never quite so obvious that the flow is much more internal then could ever be demonstrated. To put it another way, transitions happen constantly within our thought processes.

 

Dear Rouge – PHASES

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

Dear Rouge is an award-winning Canadian alternative and dance rock duo, comprised of husband and wife, Drew and Danielle McTaggart. They’ve been active since 2012, and initially met while touring under different bands. It wasn’t until after they had been married that they began the Dear Rouge brand. In case you were wondering (and I very much was!), the band name is a play on words – Danielle’s home town is Red Deer, Alberta.

PHASES is their sophomore album, released just three years after the critically successful Black to Gold. Returning this time with a more refined sound, and influenced by the places it was recorded at (Toronto, Montreal, Nashville, Vancouver and New York), the McTaggarts set out to produce an album which doesn’t actually innovate much on what came before, but instead feels more intentional with it’s themes and tonal choices.

It’s all very cheery and hopeful, except for when it’s not, and even when Dear Rouge has committed one way or the other, the other side comes through to create a feeling of warmth. This is created to great effect within the first two tracks. Wicked Thing is very much a bright song with a hopeful resonance, and yet, there is a tone underneath that loving affection can easily turn into obsession. And then that theme of obsession is more prominently stated on Live Through The Night, but that song is overtly dark and mysterious. The dance between darkness and pop continues on Stolen Days, an aching callback to youth, not knowing any better, growing up and maturing, and is very much a tribute to Drew’s late cousin.

The singles Boys & Blondes, and Modern Shakedown make up the core of the album’s hype machine, and deservedly so. They are both essential dance-rock with catchy lyrics, heavy on the synth and bass and explosive chorus’. Boys & Blondes has feminist themes and Modern Shakedown is super dark.

It’s a living breathing album, which was desrcribed by it’s creators as full of grit and gloss, and I think that’s a pretty apt description.

Pros: Each song is really and truly exciting to listen to and gives us an opportunity to pick up a torch and fight for the cause of indie pop-rock. If you really want to get a taste for this album listen to Live Through The Night, Little By Little, and The Clearing. Darker nights of pop there have been not.

Cons: Though the tone and quality of production is consistent throughout, there is very little variation from song to song, which makes it difficult to know where you are at any given point, and having to give pause takes you out of the mood.

Runtime: 37 minutes

Points of Interest: Dear Rouge spent the better part of 2016 and 2017 touring while they were writing and recording their follow-up album. Tawgs Salter, Sterling Fox, and Hot Hot Heat frontman, Steve Bays, all helped produce the record.

If you really want to compare it to other acts of today, PHASES can easily knock down the doors of other dance-rock and dance-punk progenitors. I’m looking at you The Killers, DFA, and LCD Soundsystem. Heck, even synth-pop and indie darlings like Metric, Tove Lo, and La Roux should be concerned. Dear Rouge are trendsetters and clearly cutting up the Spotify charts.

theories Summarized

Should you listen to this album? Yeah, I think it’s worth a listen or five. Don’t get me wrong, I love some Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, but Canadian music content always feels a little bit more authentic and inventive with it’s presentation. And tastemakers are always so fashionable to boot. My theory, of course.

And speaking of tastemakers, I’ve got this really cool review lined up with Brendon Greene on the classic hip hop album from the now retired Beastie Boys. That’s right! Licensed To Ill is going to get some love this week, whether you’re hearing it for the first time, or it’s been on your brain since the 1980s, this is seriously fun music, and influential too.

I greatly appreciate that you took the time to read this review, and I hope it helps you to decide to listen to it. And if you’ve already heard it before, I trust my thoughts affirmed how you felt, one way or another! And what did you think of Brendon and my Sound Culture video review? Licensed to Ill is an instrumental hip hop record, and well worth a listen! And remember, if you liked what you saw, and/ior enjoyed what you read, please click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel and my mailing list! I’ll be back tomorrow with a film review on The Disaster Artist. There’ll be more theories!

Tim!

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!

Tim!

The Rise Of Great Design (Alex Racine, game designer, inventor, 3D printer, entrepreneur interview)

Some people in your life just seem to click. You dig their vibe, and they dig yours. It’s very satisfying when you run into someone who thinks similarly and has a drive to match your own.

An achiever, with a command of their emotions (much like Bruce Lee), and with a great level of strategic intent behind every action.

That’s how I felt when I met Alex Racine for the first time, over a year ago. At a Halloween party, no less. Alex puts himself into everything he does. His halloween parties feature layers and layers of props, not to mention thematic food and games. He and his girlfriend are excellent hosts, and they have surrounded themselves with a dynamic and fun-loving group of friends. But that’s not all that matters to him. His deep appreciation of building things goes back into his college years. If you read the preview interview, and watched the associated video, you’ll know I’ve already mentioned his love of sport games, his carnival game events, and how he has evolved into constructing tabletop games, but it wasn’t until this past summer that Alex got serious about formally developing a game, playtesting it thoroughly, and reaching out to the internet for crowdfunding.

He even cut back his day job, so he could focus most of his time on launching this passion project with proper attention. You could say he’s a 3D printing enthusiast, but I would call him more of an inventor and a game designer.

An explorer for a digital age.

Last week, as I mentioned, the preview interview was launched to address a question about the difficulty with designing your own board games, and it was assembled by the founder of Games By AR; the one and only, Alex Racine.

You see dear readers, Alex believes that you should see a creative project all the way through on your own terms, from start to finish. Which is why I had so much fun constructing the questions for him. He’s a thinker, and a dreamer, but most importantly, he delivers. And he does it all on his own terms. We talked about his launch game Uprise! and a little bit about his follow-up game, Anchor What? But this interview is mostly about the importance of doing it yourself.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did recording with Mr. Racine.

I still can’t believe how quickly that one went up.

When all was said and done, I had over 2 hours of footage to work with this time dear readers, but I needed to keep this interview at a reasonable length… And it turned out fantastically! So if you want more of the man behind Games By AR, please, please, please check out his Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter and website yourself! He’s building upon better and better ideas every day – don’t believe me? Just ask his Bibo 3D printer.

And special thanks to Alex for being awesome, amiable and adaptive. His desire to make games that people care about, have fun playing, and want to share is incredible. The fact he has the talent to back it up, even better. I foresee Uprise! as the start of something beautiful. Thus we land on the final pun.

Tim!

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.

Tim!