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 timotheories.com.

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.

Tim!

Leave Me Alone (Leaving Thomas, Leaving Thomas review)

Not every album review can be a winner unfortunately, and while there’s nothing wrong with the old adage of you never know unless you try, I kind of wish I hadn’t given this week’s album a second thought.

 

 

Leaving Thomas – Leaving Thomas

released January 19, 2018
***** 5/10

Leaving Thomas are a Canadian country pop duo from Calgary (a neighbouring city in my province of Alberta). Annika Odegard and Bryton Udy have finally dropped their much anticipated self-titled EP, Leaving Thomas. It’s eight tracks in length make for a pretty hefty EP, but there is enough variety in the song choices that you can sit through it without too much issue. And I can see why their are gaining momentum throughout Canada and the United States, but unfortunately it’s kind of an uneven listen for me, with a lot of filler tracks and not enough chances taken.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see a Canadian country duo getting lots of attention, but if track no. six is any indication, Best Adventure is far from it, and feels a little bit like your average middle of the summer radio jam. Which is probably why it’s one of the the first three singles released.

That said, Blame it On The Neon is where this EP really shines, it a good time for all involved and really showcases Annika’s vocals. You can easily see this song filling a stadium. And If This Is Love is a solid second runner up for best track, with all kinds of emotion, punctuated by the piano, it’s a incredibly deep ballad and something you’d expect from more seasoned performers.

The last of the singles, Waiting Kind of Girl, falls somewhere in the middle, with it’s interesting melodic structure and tempo. But man that chorus is just brutal to listen to. It’s way too on the nose, with rises and falls all over the place. And that percussion just hurts me.

I just wish the album was a bit longer, which would have made it a full-length album, and maybe there would have been some artist driven choices here, rather then the safety net of convention. You can tell this duo has a voice just waiting to break out, but musically they are playing it safe and boring. Unfortunately for us.

Pros: When they are connected, you can tell very clearly that Odegard and Udy are childhood friends that enjoy playing together and to each others strengths, and there is a sweetness to If This Is Love, which absolutely merits it’s inclusion.

Cons: I wish that Udy had a larger role in the vocal work, and that he played off of Odegard more often, because while she is the big sister to his little brother figure, sometimes youth can surprise you with energy and innovation. And I wish that Shame On Me had hit the cutting room floor. Yuck.

Runtime: 28 minutes

Points of Interest: Odegard is two years older then Udy, and they first meet as children during a biblical stage production. They reconnected at the Calgary Stampede 2012 where they were both competitors in a talent search, but it wasn’t until a rained out BBQ that they decided to play 90’s country together and then things clicked.

There is some serious potential with this pop country duo, but it won’t get them into a position of prominence playing it safe. So for now I’ll be leaving Leaving Thomas on the shelf, with hopes that it isn’t nostalgia but success that demands another listen from them.

theories Summarized

I don’t think  you should buy this album or pick up a digital copy, but I do think you should listen to a handful of the tracks and make up your mind to investigate further. Maybe you’ll be more forgiving of the EP that have been, either way Leaving Thomas won’t be leaving the scene anytime soon, and hopefully they take the feedback with a grain of salt.

That said, I am happy to announce another first for timotheories, and an excellent album for you to consider listening to. Grizzly Bear’s Painted Ruins is well worth a spin, and their democratic brand of music is refreshing. Don’t Believe me? Just watch what Brendon Greene and I have to say about the matter.

I hope you enjoyed our first ever Sound Culture video review, but if you did, can you do us a favour and subscribe, comment and like the video? We appreciate your continued support dear readers.

Tim!

Thunder Buddies (Broken Social Scene, Hug of Thunder review)

Every once and a while, we all need a hug. Especially when it gets weird and dark.

 

Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder

released July 7, 2017
********* 9/10

Broken Social Scene are a Canadian indie rock band (yay for Canadian content!) formed by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. Sometimes they have six members, and sometimes they have nineteen band members, because above all, Broken Social Scene are a musical super group of popular Canadian indie rock acts and solo artists…

Metric (Emily Haines, James Shaw), Feist (Leslie Feist), Stars (Amy Millan, Torquil Campbell, Evan Cranley), Apostle of Hustle (Andrew Whiteman), Do Make Say Think (Ohad Benchetrit, Julie Penner, Charles Spearin), KC Accidental (Kevin Drew), Valley of the Giants (Brendan Canning), Land of Talk (Elizabeth Powell), Raising the Fawn (John Crossingham), Reverie Sound Revue (Lisa Lobsinger), Treble Charger (Bill Priddle), Jason Tait, Justin Peroff, Jason Collett, Ariel Engle and a few other people have all featured at one time or another.

Altogether, they have released a whopping five studio length albums since their inception in 2001, which I think is pretty admirable given that all of these artists are in at least one other full-time band.

Despite misgivings that no band can be this big and still sound like the individual artists within, BSS manages to do just that. Sometimes they are chaotic and experimental, other times they are orchestral, sometimes they are sad and introspective, and still other times they are celebratory, but they are never timid in their presentation. Hug of Thunder is no weak sauce either.

This isn’t your Spider-Man album, no pulled punches people, please.

BSS spend most of the album letting us know that they are counter-culture, and by that, I mean that they refuse to share dream pop tracks and emotionally abuse people on the internet. This is a community of people shouting the importance of community, when most of us are screaming about politics into our phones. It resonates with the hipster nihilism we started to experience in the early 2000s, the stuff that took root in popular culture and grew into a field of bullshit weeds.

Ideas of love, community, sexuality, and honest to goodness rock and roll seem to have been completely forgotten about in recent years, but BSS refuse to give up on us ingrates. They’ll elevate us up, despite the incredible effort it takes to produce tracks like Gonna Get Better, tittle track Hug of Thunder, and Vanity Pail Kids.

I’m not gonna lie, this album deserved better than the world it’s been brought up in. Our celebrations of libertarianism are so common now that it’s tough to stomach the idea of pulling together and getting along, but Please Take Me With You and Skyline insist, almost plainly that we do. Though never quietly.

But here’s the catch, while you can consume this album in parts and pieces, it’s actually best viewed as a whole. Recognizing that a stable of musicians reunited after a seven year hiatus in order to combat against global indifference is a far stronger statement than Protest Song can deliver all on it’s own. Broken Social Scene have come together to release a pragmatic optimism, and that is probably the best antidote we could receive. Unabashed positivity isn’t realistic in 2017, but stating that the world is ending is foolish too.

We need to keep up the fight and keep working, vigilant without naivety. A challenge to be sure, but I wouldn’t have the message delivered any other way.

Pros: Halfway Home, Gonna Get Better and Protest Song are all excellent demonstrations of the gentle-hearted politics of this album, Hug of Thunder being a personal favourite.

Cons: At certain intersections the lack of a frontwoman or frontman is difficult to digest, and leaves the album feeling disjointed, like a compilation or a soundtrack, rather than an album. But this rare.

Runtime: 52 minutes

Points of Interest: In March of 2017, Broken Social Scene made an appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, featuring past members Emily Haines, James Shaw, Amy Millan, and Evan Cranley, indicating we would see the a return to form. Ariel Engle is a new member of the band, and she has worked with Andrew Whiteman on AroarA previously, which is how she was introduced to the rest of the troupe.

The best and worst parts of Broken Social Scene come from their ability to work together as a group, and in taking it a bit safer with this record, those aspects become more apparent. This is still an excellent record, but not perfect because the exploration isn’t quite where it has been previously. Their message is amazing though, which makes up for a lot of that safety net.

theories Summarized

To put it in brief, this is an anthem for a new generation of apathy. The WIIFM (what’s in it for me) drone need not apply themselves in this case, because Broken Social Scene are all about that open concept of love, empathy and pulling together as a greater community. I’ve not much else to say, except that you really should listen to this album. And those are all of my theories on the matter.

Tim!

Drawn Together (Colin MacIntyre cartoonist interview)

After quite a bit of thought, and just a touch of procrastination thrown in the mix to spark heightened awareness under duress (read:one of the camera angles came out yellow), I think I found another classic pairing that future generations can use, one that just seems to click and is, of course, obvious upon reflection. That said, we already know that certain things in life just pair together well – Peanut butter and jelly, bees and honey, salt and pepper, black and white, dogs and cats, king and queen, socks and shoes, and Laurel and Hardy. All of those choices are great examples of individual items which end up being even better together.

In fact, every romantic couple is supposed to function this way, when it’s healthy. In fact, when you talk with someone after a break up, they will often cite compatibility as a major factor in it not working out. Chemistry in love is a very real thing.

That’s why this month’s interviewee is so special.

He is a creative person who dabbles in a great many different arenas, with his most important asset being his love of drawing. For example, he cites instagram as a major inspiration in getting back on the creative horse, and following through each day. Producing at least one drawing on a lunch hour is quite the feat, but Colin MacIntyre does it with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. The act of making itself is a major reward for him, and given that he has at least three other regular projects on the go at any given time, it’s an impressive thing all it’s own. Colin and drawing.

Now by chance, are you wondering what those other projects he does could possibly be? Heck, you haven’t even seen his art yet, but I have a direct line to everything. Which is why I recommend you get right into the video below or hit the jump for the Youtube express train.

What a great topic dear readers! I’m still smiling and all fired up after all of that talk of Beeverine, Winter activities, and the many shades of Batman. And those were just tangential points to be made in this down-to-earth interview about the life of a salesman.

But what did you think folks?

Did  you like it? Did you hate it? What part of the interview inspired you to get back to making art – when you heard those answers on how Colin deals with the challenges of life? If you want to see more of those kinds interviews, then please, please, please subscribe to the mailing list. We need your comments and shares in order to grow. And to know. If the interviews flow.

And special thanks to Colin for being cooperative, capable, and charged up during this entire process! His enthusiasm knows no bounds; at least, that’s my theory.

Tim!

She Paints (Edmonton Valley Zoo)

Zoos are controversial, apparently.

Some people think that we shouldn’t cage animals, like at all. Because of a few different reasons of course.

And they just might be right.

  1. Captivity can make animals unstable. Zoochosis is a condition where some animals pace back and forth, others injure themselves, and the rest seem to move their heads from side to side or back and forth frequently.
  2. Zoos are profitable businesses. This means that baby animals are traffic drivers but older animals are not, and are often sold off.
  3. Endangered species don’t live in zoos. Lots of zoos claim to care for rare animals and breed them for longevity of the species, but not for preservation.
  4. Limited education opportunities. Signage out front of animal displays only cover the basics, animals don’t exhibit normative behaviours, and people spend little time at each display.
  5. Enclosures are dangerous. For animals anyway. They eat thrown away trash, sometimes face negligence, and are a secondary consideration in the event of natural disasters, like floods and wildfires.

Walk With The Animals

But I wanted to visit the Edmonton Valley Zoo for myself this weekend. It reminds me of my youth, its located in the heart of the river valley, and it’s open every day of the year except for Christmas day. Owned and operated by the City of Edmonton, this zoo has by accredited by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

I know it’s weird for me to write about a zoo, which has little to do with the arts, except I’ve known an artist activist or two in my lifetime, and there is an elephant there who likes to paint sometimes. If that’s a thing, and not training.

It’s a big part of Edmonton history, just like Fort Edmonton Park. Founded back in 1959, replacing the Borden Park Zoo which was on the property that currently serves as Northlands, it was called Storyland Valley Zoo up until 2010, when it went under some major renovations. Why Storyland? Because a big section of the park featured nursery rhyme characters.

The zoo is also home to over 350 animals (both exotic and local, including hundreds of squirrels) and it houses over 100 different species.

Edmonton Valley Zoo regularly hosts events and raises funds through conservation efforts – the Makira Conservation Fund, Red Panda Network, and the Species Survival Plan to restore endangered animal populations to the wild. And things like letting children take on the role of a veterinarian of an animal hospital to see what zoo veterinarians do. After Edmonton City Council decided to inject $50 million into the zoo, we’ve seen the property expand to one and a half times its previous size. The Arctic Shores exhibit and The Wander Trail being key elements in the facelift.

Additionally the zoo is home to the Inner Zoo (formerly Storyland Valley Zoo), Makira Outpost, Carnivore Alley, Elephant House and Exhibit, Saito Center, African Veldt, Back Paddocks, and the Birds of Prey area.

So there are two sides to this story of whether captive animals are happy or not.

But let’s talk about Lucy for a minute.

Lucy

Lucy is the elephant which lives in the Elephant House and Exhibit – at over 4000 kg and forty two years young.

Something of a charmer, and called a peoples elephant by her adoptive herd, she visits with the public at least few times a day and supposedly loves to spend time with her zoo family. Many people have come from all over the world to see Lucy, and we’ve seen our share of protestors ready to come and rescue her from the zoo, including Bob Barker of Price Is Right fame. Lucy was orphaned in Sri Lanka and was brought to the Edmonton Valley Zoo through partnership with the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage and Colombo Zoo when she was two years old.

theories Summarized

Do I think zoos are inherently evil? No. Do I think they are awesome? No to that too.

People have been domesticating animals since we’ve been able to, and the same can be said for eating them. I generally hold the opinion that eating meat is an acceptable way to go, but I’m not overly stoked at the prospect of it. That said, the zoo is a place to go and see beautiful creatures, living and breathing. As a visual artist, I firmly believe that seeing something in person is far better for your creative eye then on film, but I’ll let you battle that out in the comments. Theories and all.

I’m off to the zoo this weekend? How about you?

Tim!