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!

Four-Letter Word (Holy Fuck, Congrats review)

Blasphemous or obscene language. That’s what I read when I looked up profanity in the dictionary.

Apparently it bothers some, offends others, and it irreverent to many. We could put attention on the Internet, loosening morals, higher education or any number of subjects, but the point is this. When you use a swear word, people will pay attention.

At least for a minute or two. Holy Fuck.

 

 

 

Holy Fuck – Congrats
released May 27, 2016
******** 8/10

Front_Cover

Holy Fuck is a Canadian electronica band currently on the Young Turks label. The band uses live instruments and several non instruments to create their unique sound, which sounds electronic but is not created with laptops or tracks. For example, they’ve been known to use toy phaser guns in their songs. Seriously.

A good instrumental act is hard to find, but once you do, you better hold on tight because their sound will be a snowflake in the summer, beautiful and unique, but fleeting. You can capture it and put it under glass, but it won’t function the same way. That’s probably why the best instrumental acts are often on independent labels, untapped and underexposed potential.

Suffice it to say Holy Fuck are a good indie instrumental act, though you are probably wondering how Congrats fares as an album overall, right dear readers?

I personally really like House of Glass, that opener uses a really cool baseline and what sounds to be sirens to evoke darkness without ever being explicit, and wait for the build up – it’ll give you goosebumps. Tom Tom and Sabbatics are also some kind of wonderful. Tom Tom with it’s glitchy soundscape and haunting vocals and Sabbatics with it’s ever-rising climb of rhythm.

This is the kind of dance album that we could have used 4 or 5 years ago, but which the band wasn’t around to make. Likely because they were recharging after 3 strong album efforts and an end of the dance-rock heavy era of the oughts.

And with that consideration, the true question remains – are Holy Fuck still relevant? Or were they ever?

Holy Fuck is both my electronic dream and electric nightmare. Their capacity to produce non-electronic sounds that actually sound better than the real thing is simply fantastic and proof that au naturel is how I like it.

The supposed problem though, is that dance rock doesn’t have a lasting impression with the masses, at least not one that helps you remember it as a good experience. And unfortunately Holy Fuck is also something of an exercise in construction. They figure out a way to make a track and piece together the disparate elements, but never take a real risk to produce higher level sonic bliss. Kind of like that friend which you know will make you laugh and you feel perfectly comfortable with at the party, but isn’t going to floor you with philosophy later on.

It’s hard to fault them though, when the beats are so bumpin. To quite Anthony Fantano, I’m feeling a solid 7.5 to an 8 on this one… And transition.

 

 

 

Holy Fuck aren’t a gimmick band, despite what moments of this write-up might tell you. If anything, I suspect they are subversive little dance-rock enthusiasts and they wanted a way to play music while poking holes in some of the weaker genre elements.

With Congrats they’ve successfully done that, but the question remains. Are they still relevant?

Tim!

The Night Is Dark, And Full Of Terrors (My Personal Murderer, Cauchemar review)

The Game of Thrones TV show and the book series which it is based off of, A Song of Fire and Ice, features a rather complex fantasy world with various belief systems and a cast of interesting and rich characters to fill these roles.

One of these belief systems in the world is the religion of the Lord of Light, a belief system which espouses that there are two gods, one a good god of love and light, and the other a god of darkness and evil.

This week’s Melodic Monday entry is about a band which asks questions of dark and light and hopes to share some thoughts on the duality of those themes.

But obviously life is not so simple as to be divided in this way.

Or is it?

 

 

 

My Personal Murderer – Cauchemar
released February 4, 2016
******** 8/10

cover

My Personal Murderer are a Ukrainian rock group which have been been active since 2008. Influenced by director David Lynch, the 1990s, and the socio-political environment they live in, My Personal Murderer have created three studio-length albums in the past six years.

I was very happy to hear from the band’s frontman and get an opportunity to review this album, because it’s themes are interesting and the sound distinct. I admit I had little idea what I was getting myself into, but I’m glad I said yes to Yevgen Chebotarenko. Did you know that the word Cauchemar is of French origin and means “to have a nightmare”? My Personal Murderer are a rock group with a few self-proclaimed influences, ranging from alternative, to atmospheric, depressive rock, post-punk, shoegazing, and I would also add emo into that mix.

Yevgen has an incredible control over the music and lyrics of MPM, as he is the lead vocalist, guitar player, and heart of the band, and he told me that Cauchemar the album has been a labour of love from the start. The band has seen some lineup changes from the time that the first single of the record, Constant Waiting, was put together last year, but the trio worked out the kinks and got the album out.

Yuriy Kononov plays drums currently, but Maxim Kovalchuk, who played bass, left the group midway in 2015 and was replaced by former bassist Nikita Perfiliev.

Cauchemar represents that collaboration between these three artists and a new direction for the band. The album evokes feelings of intimacy throughout, shifting from obsessions of lust, pain, spirit and struggle to grind out the themes focused in each track. The title track features a talking sequence and is one of my personal favourites on the record. With lines like “why is there nothing, if there is nothing, where did I come from?” asking questions, the tone is set up quite well. You can hear the talking sequence shift to feature background voices and eventually give way to percussion and wind instruments.

The Worm Prince traces out the actions of a body in contortion, fighting itself and attempting to excise the unwanted portions (people and emotions) and challenges with a hollowed out self, while Constant Waiting is less obvious. The melancholy is there but the lyrics on this one are curious, I can’t tell if it’s an admission of lustful guilt or a suicide note, but the pain and suffering in the story is very deliberate.

Dear Pigeon is up next and has a similar pacing, but the tone is one of both anger and empowerment, the author is aware that he suffers, but he wants the audience and players in his life to admit their limited participation and lack of commitment to his misery.

I think my other two favourites are Crawling Son and Soup For the Creature. Crawling Son has a spiritual feel and evokes a story of fallen angels, while the later includes a narrative of the end of a love story, a lover spurned, a lover lost.

Finally, comes the song Streets. This is the longest song on the record, at 9 minutes and 32 seconds. The build up for this one is pretty intense and delayed, the first three minutes are instrumentals; it then dips back and forth into instrumentals after the 5 minute mark. Another story to be told here about identity, maturation, and the struggle of isolation by defying conformity.

 

 

 

It’s important to recognize that while the members of this band are collaborating together, My Personal Murderer is a band not yet fully realized. I am willing to bet that Yevgen and the rest of the group will come into their own as they perform these songs and hone the focus of these tracks. Shoegazing is a genre of music which isn’t for everyone, but if you are interested in introspection and want to hear some solid music, give this album a try. It can be found on mypersonalmurderer.com and is worth the price of admission.

After all, the night is dark and full of terrors, and it can be scary to go it alone.

And that’s it for today, dear readers. I’ll see you tomorrow with another introspective genius review, or should I say review on an introspective genuis?

Tim!

High School Musical (Armin van Buuren, Embrace, review)

It’s really difficult for me to think of EDM and to not think of artists like House of Pain. It’s probably cause I was born in the 80’s and grew up in the 90’s and early 2000s. But whatever, ain’t no thing, but a chicken wing.

Feel it, funk it, amps it are junkin’
And I got more rhymes than there’s cops that are dunkin’
Donuts shop, sure ’nuff I got props from the kids on the Hill
Plus my mom and my pops
I came to get down, I came to get down
So get out your seats and jump around

I’ll just leave this link here, for your viewing pleasure.

For this week’s Melodic Monday, I AM going to fully expect you to jump around though.

 

 

 

Armin van Buuren – Embrace
released October 29, 2015
******** 8/10

armin-van-buuren-embrace

Listening to the sixth studio release of Armin van Buuren has taught me a few things. (Which always makes me happy!) The first thing is that house/techno/trance and all of their iterations are still quite alive and well. For some reason or another I had convinced myself that that particular kind of music had started to die down in the early 2000s. Nope, it is still alive and quite well – Thank you very much.

Second thing. This dude really knows what he is doing within his field and has progressed from an artist into a full-on entity.

Seriously though, you cannot become this successful at DJing and producing your own music and not have an entire team helping you to maintain your image and global reach.

Now, some people would argue that requiring a “team” and influencers is effectively selling out, but when you listen to Embrace, I can almost guarantee you will not experience that sense of loss. I attribute it partially to van Buuren’s vision and secondarily to his genre.

You see, synthetic music is naturally quite polished in it’s representation. We could fight about the truth of this statement for hours, and I say this to both the advocates and the haters.

But it definitely is true that the sound which van Buuren is crafting here is a-typical of strings, brass, and drums, and so there is a perception that it is less organic to the ears.

Great! Now that we can agree on that idea, I’m going to tell you what I thought of the album. That’s the third thing. To be perfectly honest, I thought it was a lot of fun and covered a wide range of emotions for me. Which is often something I want in a record. You see, I want my music to either cover the entire human experience or I want it to fit a particular emotional or ideological theme. Yes, dear readers, theme is important to me in an album as well as it is in fine art, film, and writing.

And Embrace fits that theme fairly well as I’ve mentioned already. Songs like Strong Ones assure it.

Tracks like the eponymous opener provide a powerful entrance into the world that van Buuren sets out to create. The follow-up song Another You and other inclusions Face of Summer, Hands to Heaven, and Gotta Be Love play their cards a little bit more close to the pop deck. But those songs aren’t all strung up one after the next. There is a sincere choice being made and then offered. The songs flow in and out of cadence in a sort of roller coaster of sound. Indestructible in particular fits nicely where it has been placed.

The emotion can definitely be felt as you listen to the whole CD (or digital if you prefer).

And this feeling permeates through to the instrumental songs as well. Embargo is probably my favourite. It brings me back to my high school years, when music compilations like Happy 2B Hardcore ran the marketplace.

Some of the reviews I read have stated that Armin van Buuren is still relevant, but he is no longer king of trance. I would argue that music doesn’t always have to fit so closely to a prescribed definition in order to be worth listening to.

But don’t take my word for it, give it a spin yourself!

 

 

 

Sometimes I wonder about all of this raving and trancing though. You would have to have a wicked bad headache after a night of dancing so consistently and so furiously. Maybe that’s why some people do hard drugs.

Hold up.

I am NOT advocating you do drugs dear readers. I sure don’t myself. But that’s your decision. Let’s awkwardly move away from that thought… Would love to read your thoughts and theories on the EDM scene. Haha, ha, err ha.

But that’s all I’ve got for a Monday night! See you tomorrow my friends.

Tim!