I Have Been Over The Rainbow (The Avalanches, Wildflower review)

We’ve witnessed lots of absenteeism in music over the years, but my all-time favourite probably came from Guns ‘n Roses and their lack of interest in seeing Chinese Democracy arrive in a timely manner, at all.

So I skipped out on it, I mean fuck’em right? Well not so, well, not entirely. Chinese Democracy didn’t have the hitmaking power of Appetite for Destruction, nor the sweeping epic of Use Your Illusion I & Use Your Illision II, but it’s a pretty solid album on it’s own. Just thirteen years later.

Well today, we look at an album sixteen years in the making.




The Avalanches – Wildflower
released July 8, 2016
******** 8/10


The Avalanches are an Australian group that started spinning records back when I was still in junior high school. Or to put it another way, way, way back in 1997. They were making plunderphonics back before I even knew that that was a cool way to make music.

I don’t want to dwell too much on what plunderphonics is, but if you are familiar with pretty much any other existing audio recording ever, than you’ll understand that combining existing samples and/or altering them allows for a track to enter into the mix. Pun intended.

The Avalanches current lineup consists of Robbi Chater, Tony Di Blasi, and James Dela Cruz, but they’ve gone through a huge rotation with five other band members coming and going. Incidentally this has something to do with the fact that the group released their debut album Since I Left You in 2000, but haven’t put any studio albums out since that first one.

The reason for this is because of many personal issues the band faced, between Chater being ill for three years, and issues of too many songs to choose from, the band was faced with the problem of genius and perfectionism. And so here we are sixteen years later. But you know what, Wildflower is still a delight to listen to. It reminds me of The Go! Team, Beastie Boys, Gorillaz, Jackson 5, and Canadian favourite Caribou all mashed together into one giant happy, fuzzy, sleepover with rainbow pillows and unicorn blankets.

Remember when I mentioned a while back that jazz music has been making a resurgence via successful acts like Leon Bridges and Kendrick Lamar? Well, The Avalanches are hopping on this bandwagon of rather raw music and the results are coming up nicely. It never feels like a strong narrative, but it doesn’t produce nostalgia.

For instance, those tweeting birds on Zap! takes me right back to the soundtrack of that Sleeping Beauty movie from the 1950s.

I would be remiss to break down this review into particular tracks and emotions, because I think that you’ll get more out of it just diving right in and considering the source material. Seriously.

Now it is a little sad that founding member Darren Seltmann opted out before the album finished, but it is comforting to know that co-founders Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi are still there for us. And for such a nostalgia trips, this feels very present in our time space. It is both jazz and pop infused, and good music fans know that those genres are very “lit” right now.




I would argue that The Avalanches have produced a much cooler vehicle than Guns ‘n Roses, but it does help that they sampled the Mega Man 2 death sounds and featured cereal eating alongside their hip hop.

It’s not a perfect record, but it is very accessible if you are a fan of generation sweeping music. I hope you listen and I bet you’ll find some great samples that make your own heart all weepy.

See ya tomorrow with another nostalgia trip, this time a movie about the 1980s.


Sweet Treat (Corinne Bailey Rae, The Heart Speaks in Whispers, review)

Have you ever had a favourite food you loved so much that you were convinced you could eat it over and over again without any consequence to your stomach or feelings toward it? Ice cream was the food that did me in. I loved ice cream so much that I would eat it whenever I could, and one day I decided that I couldn’t stomach it all the time. Today’s album review feels a bit like that.




Corinne Bailey Rae – The Heart Speaks In Whispers
released May 13, 2016
********* 7/10


Corinne Bailey Rae is a British singer-songwriter and guitarist. She is the fourth British female artist in history to have a debut album open at no.1 in 2006. Her second album, The Sea, was released almost four years later after a personal tragedy occurred in 2008. Her husband and frequent collaborator Jason Rae died of what has been identified as an overdose. The Sea was nominated for a Mercury Prize for Album of the Year, given it’s somber tone and emotional weight.

It wasn’t until 2012 that Corinne followed The Sea up with The Love EP, and a year later that she married her producer and friend Steve Brown.

The Heart Speaks in Whispers helps us close the gap between that period of heartbreak, newfound love and the cautious optimism of Bailey Rae in her current life.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bailey Rae has a great vocal range and broad versatility to her music & lyrics. It reminds me of a great many female artists whom I have enjoyed previously, like Billy Holiday, Amy Winehouse, Feist, Joni Mitchell, and Emily Haines.

Now I say this with some reservation, but at first I didn’t really care for Bailey Rae as an authentic act.

Her work kind of fits into the larger genre of jazz and soul, and especially the soul revival that is happening, and which I admittedly have been kind of oblivious to until very recently. I will also mention Kendrick Lamar and Leon Bridges as artists who have been part of this movement, also with hesitation, because I hate to compare artists, but in this case, Bailey Rae has been collaborating with Lamar and that is a great indicator of her input into the landscape.

The songs on the album are often rather upbeat and fun – Been To The Moon, Horse Print Dress, and … come to mind. Stop Where You Are has that indie pop sentiment that reminded me of Feist. And if you are looking for anthems to build you up after any manner of letdown Caramel and High will serve that role rather easily. It’s a great ebb and flow of real life experiences without ever telling you explicitly what she gone through.

Push On For The Dawn closes out the album rather beautifully and isn’t ambiguous with Bailey Rae’s future. After all is said and done, The Heart Speaks In Whispers does an excellent job of changing your mind about the commercial production of the entire album, but its not something you can play anywhere and for all occasions.




I think pop music and jazz music are a wonderful form of expression, and that you should listen to them with regularity, but you can definitely over-expose yourself to forms of it. Especially when the music is rich and full of addictive content. The Heart Speaks in Whispers is a great example of this. When consumed in appropriate settings, you will have an awesome time, just don’t over indulge it.



The Scientific Method (Kendrick Lamar, Untitled Unmastered review)

Whatever happened to experimenting? From the time we are children to our early years as adults, we are constantly experimenting to figure out how life works and where our place in it is.

The sciences seem to have taken hold of this idea and kept it for themselves, but the reality is that experimentation belongs in the arts just as much, if not more so.

And I’m going to use this week’s Melodic Monday entry to prove it!




Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered
released March 4, 2016
******** 8/10


Kendrick Lamar (Kendrick Lamar Duckworth) is an American rapper from Compton, California. He has been rapping since he was a teenager, and started with the name K-Dot, which allowed him to release a mixtape that eventually got him signed with indie label TDE.

His first studio album came out in 2010, and then he got signed to Aftermath/Interscope in 2012 which saw the release of good kid, m.A.A.d. city.

He currently has 7 Grammies and a bunch of other awards to top it off. All thanks to last years release To Pimp a Butterfly, which came out almost exactly a year ago (I’m off by a couple of days, cut me some slack, please and thank you).

As a newbie myself to the freshness and layering of sound that is K-Dot, I’ve learned rather quickly that it is almost inevitable that I will under-appreciate his efforts, his perspective and his aspirations. But that won’t stop me from listening to untitled unmastered.

It’s essentially a prelude to To Pimp A Butterfly. Kendrick Lamar is telling us with the album title that he is borderless, capable of achieving anything, and that he has no masters. But he himself is humbled by aspects of being black which he doesn’t understand.

That’s why he pulls from so many different genres and ideas, sampling them all to better appreciate and incorporate them into himself.

It’s fucking scary. As a white man with little to no idea of what he must be experiencing as he navigates these waters, I can only imagine how much energy K-Dot has to drum up to approach these  album.

All of the tracks reference previous outings, from performances on Jimmy Fallon (untitled 8)  and The Colbert Report (untitled 3), to a three part jam session which takes places over a three period (untitled 7). It’s fun and intellectual hip-hop like this that always has a place in my collection.

Lamar has told twitter followers that this is a bunch of demos, and you get that sense. But you almost feel guilty listening to it, because it’s so much damn fun. This is an amazing mixture of hip-hop, funk, soul, jazz, spoken award, and dare I say it, subversive music.

I read somewhere recently that jazz is on the way out and that while it originated as Black music, it’s meant for everyone. I really hope that it isn’t and I have a suspicion that while jazz may not appear to be popular right now, it’s always been a musical genre that inspired deviation, experimentation and energy – If Kendrick Lamar, an artist who is helping to redefine hip-hop, uses jazz in his recording sessions, and to inspire his studio releases, I think we need to take note and learn from it. Just a theory.




In the scientific method, experiments are done with metrics and models to find out if a hypothesis is true or not. Kendrick Lamar, knowingly or not, is constantly testing out the theory that jazz is dead, and every time he does, he proves that that is not the case. In fact, people love it all the more. As a personal advocate for theories, I believe that untitled unmastered represents empirical evidence for the value of jazz.

You need to listen to this album. I’m not going to give it a 10/10 though, because it’s not a studio release. It’s something different, but manages to still achieve a good grade regardless.

What do you think? Is my body of evidence corrupt? See you tomorrow for some theories on economics.



Balancing Act (Neak Undefined Paura/Amore review)

Have you ever loved something so much that you were scared to lose it? Usually that comes down to people and, hopefully very rarely, unique accomplishments and possessions.

That fear is part and parcel of the human experience of love. You can’t escape it, sure you can try, but life is so much more simple then we want to believe. We enjoy life because it’s transient and it’s in our nature to appreciate what we don’t already have or what we have lost.

That balance between love lost and love gained is where fear lives, and where this week’s poet takes us.




Neak Undefined – Paura/Amore
released January 11, 2016
********* 9/10

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Dominic Kelly, better known by his stage name Neak Undefined, is a Chicago-based hip-hop artist with something to say. I wasn’t entirely sure who was more excited for me to put together a review of this album, me or Neak! That should tell you something about this midwest artist right out of the gate.

The passion, commitment, and energy on this record is limitless. Every listen gives you something slightly different. Or to put it another way, it’s undefined. His music has plenty of helpings of jazz, funk, soul, hip-hop and touches of new wave all fused together to create the buffet that is Paura/Amore. Also harp on Champagne Dreamin’!

I have to admit that I didn’t know what the “paura” part of Paura/Amore meant immediately and why that was the title. Then I looked the word up and every detail just clicked right into place.

It’s almost like Neak Undefined knows this material inside and out, has been living with it for a couple of years and has put up his concepts for us unfiltered. This entire album deals with those themes in great detail and Neak says it best about the thrust of the record in the intro speech to his lead track, King Deferred.

We never know what life can bring us until it comes
Pain, sorrow, joy, happiness
You seem to always live in a place of unknowing
That’s the fear, that’s the part of life we wish we knew
That’s the part we wish we could control
That fear

The songs manage to cover a myriad of topics without ever making it stretch thin. For example the simple repetitive song structures of Sacrifice and Money for the Honey hit specific points about the real struggles Neak has gone through to get success and that sacrifices aren’t always glorious and dramatic, making you think while you enjoy the beats. The way he sets up tracks to provide atmosphere makes hooks about “changing friends, as much as she change clothes” hilarious and fun.

There are other tracks which do well to address his hometown with Back in Chicago – covering topics of trading luxury for sin, lacking father figures, the danger apparent in the streets, and the challenges of police making searches based on ethnicity. Which makes the earlier song Stay Alive all the more sweet, because it’s dovetailed with a voicemail from Neak Undefined’s father, encouraging him and reminding him to stay in contact as he pursues his passions.

Have I mentioned how much energy and how danceable this record is yet, dear readers? Thank The Lord is fantastic too, it has gospel roots, has Neak talking about haters (which you all know I love) and undertones of spirituality throughout – he thanks God for light and recognizes his role of being a light for others.

Other stand out songs for me were MMM (about the drug molly/esctasy, personified), Ego (a self-reflection anthem filled with conflicts), and Heaven and Hell. With Heaven and Hell in particular being full of relevant questions and material about losing family and the challenges that come with guilt from the concept of sin.

As I already mentioned, the title of the album makes a hell of a lot more sense after you listen to it, and the content is hard to reach right away that I’ll be playing this one for a while before I’ve fully wrapped my brain around it.

I highly recommend you get a copy of this, so you can do your ears and your mind a favour.




If you don’t believe me that love is precious, go out and destroy your most prized possessions, ALL OF THEM. After that point you’ll have a fraction of the feeling one gets when you lose something that you weren’t expecting to. That sensation over control, as Neak Undefined puts it, is Paura/Amore.

Come back tomorrow where I’ll head as far out to the western seaboard as I can go, for a movie review that is outta my hands and into yours.


Let’s Make a Jazz Record (David Bowie, Blackstar review)

I wish I knew more about jazz, other than that I like it of course. It’s one of those musical formats that permeates music culture but which is so open ended that I find it overwhelming to participate in discussion about it – Most of the time.

Today’s album review is one of those times when I feel comfortable talking about the subject matter. I think mostly because the artist handles the infusion of it rather well and because he has a solid track record of dealing with musical avenues that call for experimentation.




David Bowie – Blackstar
released January 8, 2015
********** 10/10


If you don’t know who David Bowie is, I’m afraid to tell you you’ve missed out, and never again will you see his like. David Robert Jones, also known as David Bowie, was an English musician who played a variety of instruments, sang, wrote songs, produced records, painted, and acted in big screen releases occasionally.

My first experience with him that I can remember was the movie Labyrinth, though that was not how he got his start. With a musical career spanning back to the early 1960’s, Bowie had a top 5 hit in the UK by 1969 with Space Oddity.

If you haven’t seen the original music video you should go take a look at it right now.

Then he developed the Ziggy Stardust persona, and showed the world that he would be constantly innovating and reinventing himself for the rest of his career. Like that time he made a song with Queen called Under Pressure, and it was awesome!

Honestly, I could go on about his accomplishments and my thoughts on his legacy for another few posts, but that is not what today’s review is about, dear readers. No.

Today we are looking at Blackstar, Bowie’s curtain call and last hurrah. And before I get too sentimental and forget why we are here again, I’ll admit that this is difficult to listen to without thinking about the fact that David Bowie won’t be making any more art of the world for the world.

So with as much objectivity as I could muster I’ll say this about the album, yes it is filled with references to death, but I don’t think that it’s as obvious as all of that. This record is profound because of the talent backing the tracks and the effort put forth to create something with a unique vision.

It was his 25th studio album, and that has to mean something after all, right?

Well, I think we are seeing David Bowie at his best. The title track Blackstar is incredible, experimental, and covers some dark ground. There are jazz elements throughout the whole record, and the electronic progressions certainly aid the sombre mood of songs like Lazarus. The saxophone was Bowie’s first instrument and it makes sense to me that he use something which is associated with freedom and exploration to give us some more innovations and remind us of what he has done in the past, simultaneously.

One review I read made a very valid point that while this music will make some of us incredibly happy, others will find it frustrating and difficult to stomach. But I would argue that the inaccessibility is an indicator of just how well done this album is. Bowie’s music is strongest when there is mystery attached to it. No different than the man who made us wonder about his sexuality, spirituality, political motivations, and project choices.

For example, he played Thomas Jerome Newton (The Man Who Fell to Earth), Jareth the Goblin King (Labyrinth), Andy Warhol (Basquiat), himself (Zoolander), and Nikola Tesla (Prestige), among a weird slew of other roles.

If you think it’s all jazz, brooding, and electronic injections, think again. Girl Loves Me is a strange rap about a day that has disappeared. It is both aggressive and apathetic in each lyric.

Truthfully, if you are hoping for a clear narrative theme or explanation of what you’ve just listened to, you’re not going to find it here or anywhere else. That was not David Bowie’s intent, and he has never been one for revealing his secrets. Otherwise he wouldn’t be having fun, and we wouldn’t have gotten anything out of him while he was with us.

I’ll leave his final music videos, Blackstar and Lazarus for you, because there isn’t much that can say it better.




That level of experimentation in art is incredibly undervalued in my experience, but I think we can argue fairly easily that David Bowie handled jazz music with the respect and understanding it deserves – improvisation, syncopation and polyrhythms. Bowie took this love of innovation into other arenas and managed to be a pop artist that was whatever he needed to be.

That quality is rarely recognized and I hope as time goes one we will celebrate him properly and encourage others to take up his mantle.

See you tomorrow for a Theatrical Tuesday review my friends.