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!

The Final Deviation (The Tragically Hip, Man Machine Poem review)

I remember when I first really heard about The Tragically Hip. I was in my first year of high school (2003), sitting in Social Studies 10 reading about the Canadian government, it’s culture, and the landscape of the country. There was a section dedicated to famous Canadian culturemakers and The Tragically Hip were cited as one of the most famous rock bands out of the Great White North.

Sure I had heard songs of theirs before, but I didn’t really know their music. I probably should have though. With my love of different musical formats, and enjoying musicians which evolved over time, The Tragically Hip were accomplished trend setters.

The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem
released June 17, 2016
******** 8/10

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The Tragically Hip, sometimes simply known as The Hip, are a Canadian rock band, consisting of lead singer Gord Downie, guitarist Paul Langlois, guitarist Rob Baker, bassist Gord Sinclair, and drummer Johnny Fay. They have released thirteen studio albums and two live albums. Nine of their albums have reached No. 1 in Canada, they have fourteen Juno Awards, and they have also received an assortment of Canadian Music awards over the years.

I wrote about this detail once already, last week during my review of Gord Downie’s newest solo album, Secret Path, but this is likely the last studio album that The Tragically Hip will ever release. Following Downie’s diagnosis with terminal brain cancer last year, the band toured heavily across Canada to promote Man Machine Poem, with their final stop taking place in Kingston, the band’s hometown. The event was broadcast globally by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on TV, internet, and radio as a media special, for approximately eleven million people.

Though it has been confirmed a few times and in a few ways, just as other reviewers have mentioned previously, this album was recorded BEFORE Gord Downie received his terminal diagnosis. So we shouldn’t try to read anything into it’s content, and instead take it at face value.

This is a solid record.

It isn’t perfect though. It’s not the best The Tragically Hip album I’ve ever heard, nor is it in the upper echelon of rock records. But it IS really entertaining, inventive, and full of a darkness which kind of permeates throughout the album. And as much as I hate to say it, sometimes they sound like Radiohead, especially on opener Man and closer Machine, and well, also on Ocean Next. It was co-produced by Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene) and Dave Hamelin (The Stills), and this is an experimental album that makes simultaneously draws you in and forces you to sit on the sidelines. So much of what we hear is straight up exploration from a band that has been playing together for over thirty years.

Tired as Fuck reminds me of classic Hip, but also definitely has a Broken Social Scene taste on its lips – Here in the Dark and Hot Mic are arena rock with no aftertaste. To top it off, In Sarnia and What Blue definitely have that pop and blues aesthetic which have given Gord Downie his pensive and romantic credibility for the past few decades.

It’s interesting, because it’s not fully experimental, nor is it completely a middle-of-the-road Tragically Hip rock and roll experience. And I think that’s a good thing. If we got a completely inventive album, many fans would struggle to connect with it, but if it was solely rock then it would feel stale. Instead, this album is fully, completely it’s own hybrid.

This album, like the entire back catalogue of The Tragically Hip, is not a send off of the band as they are, but a snapshot of a moment.

 

 

 

It was over fifteen years ago that I first heard about The Tragically Hip. They were already almost twenty years a band at that point. But they weren’t popular music like the indie and hip hop I was absorbing at the time, and so I wrote them off.

I shouldn’t have done this to myself, and now I have to live with the knowledge that I could’ve been enjoying The Hip for years. Do yourself a favour, listen to this record, and then start backtracking through their discography. It’ll be worth it. Yes, it could be a just a theory, but 30 million Canadian can’t be wrong, right?

Tim!

But The Fire Is So Delightful (Michael Bublé, Christmas review)

In my family it’s pretty common to listen to the same three or four Christmas albums over and over and over again. Bing Crosby’s Merry Christmas, Burl Ives Have A Holly Jolly Christmas, Christmas with The Chipmunks featuring Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Christmas with Boney M.

It’s like clockwork. But every so often, my parents slip and let one of us take the helm, and that’s when I get to put on my favourite Christmas album.

Michael Bublé – Christmas
released October 24, 2011
******** 8/10

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Michael Bublé is a Canadian well known for his abilities as singer, songwriter, actor and record producer. In fact, he has won several awards and honours, multiple Juno Awards, and four Grammy Awards.

His first album BaBalu charted the top ten in both Canada and the UK, but it wasn’t until his fourth album, It’s Time, that Bublé found a worldwide audience. Then his 2007 album Call Me Irresponsible did even betters – it was able to reach number one in Canada, the UK, the US Billboard 200, Australia and several European charts.

Bublé’s 2009 album Crazy Love debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 after just three days of sales… It was also his fourth number one album on Billboard’s Top Jazz Albums chart. But His 2011 holiday album, Christmas, did the best yet as it was in first place on the Billboard 200 for the final four weeks of 2011 and then for first week of 2012, totalling five weeks atop the chart.

Christmas is a big deal for Bublé, and no I’m not talking about the holiday, I’m referring to the album. In fact, I’d say his album is a big deal to a lot of people. It was the first holiday album to win a Juno award for album of the year.

I was reading reviews of the top holiday albums ever and Michael Bublé really is in good company with this record. You often see artists like Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Elvis, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Mariah Carey, and The Beach Boys on those kinds of lists, but there is something special about this Canadian crooner that allows him to fit right in with both the old and the new Christmas jams. He does a great job reimagining Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, has some fun on his duet with the Puppini Sisters for Jingle Bells, and really gets into the big band mode with It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas.

Silent Night is hauntingly beautfiul and simple in it’s delivery, and the gender twist on Santa Baby is pretty cute, sparking a few laughs from me each time I listen to it. Also the duet with Shania Twain on White Christmas is something special for fans of both artists.

If you like Michael Bublé this album will suit you just fine. If you like classic Christmas music, this album will suit you fine too. If you don’t typically like either Michael Bublé or Christmas music, then I caution you to avoid this, because it’s a lot of fun and maybe you don’t like fun, so why are you even reading this post in the first place.

 

 

 

This is hands down my favourite holiday themed album, and there are some excellent ones out there to be sure. Why I enjoy this over other is because it offers an excellent mix of old and new, and it’s length is perfect for unwrapping presents, take a short trip out of town to visit the in-laws or while you are lounging with brandy and wine after Christmas dinner. This really will get you in the holiday spirit friends, and I hope you have a holly, jolly Christmas. This is my last album review of the year, check back on January 2nd for something new. And come back tomorrow for my favourite Christmas movie, reviewed just for you!

Tim!

Canadian Sweethearts (Arkells, Morning Report review)

The Canadian Sweethearts were a Canadian rockabilly duo that were popular during the 1960s and played together almost 20 years. They are probably best known for their song Eeny Meeny Miney Moe, but the most important allusion I want to make between them and the musical act being considered today is that both group were metaphorical Canadian sweethearts too.

And while The Canadian Sweethearts did break out into the US markets with their fun and high-energy track, I hope these gents can do it proper too.

 

 

 

Arkells – Morning Report
released August 5, 2016
******** 8/10

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Arkells are a Canadian indie rock band that have roots in the eastern coast. Yay for Canadian content! They’ve signed with Dine Alone records, and are now also on the Universal Records Canada label as well. Morning Report is their 4th album-to-date, and by far the most adventurous album they’ve done thus far.

I’ve been a fan of them since that first single Oh, The Boss Is Coming! was released back in 2008, but I didn’t pick up any of their records until I saw them live in January of 2015 with my sister and her beau. After that fateful show, when I decided to start attending concerts on the regular again, I immediately picked up their back catalogue which at the time included the still somewhat fresh High Noon, now a Juno award winner.

These guys are from Hamilton, Ontario and they are a fucking national treasure, they should have the international market dead to rights by now, but somehow they haven’t broken through that US wall just yet. In the fine tradition of acts like The Tragically Hip, Sloan, Sam Roberts, and April Wine, these guys are Canadian rock stars who should be bigger than they are.

Morning Report takes quite a few notes from that previous album, exploring more of a pop-rock tone, to ensure continued strength and representation ALA tracks like A Little Rain and Savannah, but this is not why I love this band. It’s because in between those harmonies, you find that they are still exploring and making music that makes them happy.

The first two tracks, Drake’s Dad and Private School do a great job of this, but by far the sweetest and most emotionally wrought song of the whole record is Passenger Seat. It breaks my heart EVERY time I listen to it.

This of course is followed by another pop-rock ditty called Making Due, proving that this album is all over the place with it’s tone. Produced by Joe Chiccarelli , Tony Hoffer, Brian West and Gus van Go, Morning Report flows in and out, sampling from Arkells spectrum of songs, but somehow making this an even more enjoyable effort than High Noon.

I suspect that it’s because every song plays heavy on the lyrics and instantly likeable voice of lead singer Max Kerman.

And then there is Come Back Home, which is also quite rough to listen to. Two guesses of what it’s about. But that song is followed up by a song of friendship in the form of A Little Rain (A Song For Pete). As I mentioned, while the tone is all-over the place, lyrically this album does a great job of dealing with those post-college years, the ones that no musician really wants to deal with. When all your friends long-term relationships either turn into marriage and family or fall apart.

In the most simplest of terms, and the most authentic of emotions, Morning Report is an examination of the after effects of your early twenties.

 

 

 

It’s tough being a Canadian musical act. Sometimes you get all kinds of proper attention on a global scale, and sometimes you fight for decades but never get to the open seas. I know that Arkells have the ability to reach higher and higher, and by playing festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, they are sure to gain more attention, let’s just hope whatever happens, they remember they are Canadian sweethearts.

Tim!

 

Security Blanket (Wintersleep, The Great Detachment review)

Winter is a weird season, it manages to be both comforting and stifling. You bundle up, enjoy creature comforts and hang out with only the necessary people for short periods of time; daylight is precious after all. But with that lack of freedom and sunlight, people have a legitimate reason to be afraid of seasonal affective disorder.

Which is why having a security blanket can be a good thing. It’s a transitional object that gives your brain rest and ease, especially in those months when it feels like the sun has left forever. But what if your security blanket was also an electric one? Would the risk of starting a fire qualify it’s status or eliminate it?

 

 

 

Wintersleep – The Great Detachment
released March 4, 2016
******* 7/10

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Wintersleep are a Canadian indie rock band from Halifax, Nova Scotia. They have won one Juno for New Group of the Year, and a MMVA for their song Weighty Ghost.

Before we get started, please go watch the video I just linked to, and if you don’t know who they are from their name alone, I’m sure you’ll recognize that track, which it will help give the rest of the review context.

What a cool song, eh?

Well unfortunately, it seems like Weighty Ghost has haunted Wintersleep ever since they released it back in 2007 (pun intended). Because almost a decade later and here we are with The Great Detachment, Wintersleep’s 6th studio album, anticipating something similar to that beautiful little number.

I’d be hard pressed not to describe this as a fitting album title, given what we already know about the band and their awesome single Weighty Ghost, from my hundred or so words of exposition above. They are attempting to separate themselves from the two albums between Welcome to the Night Sky and this one, realizing that they need to be invigorated to remain relevant. But it turns out the group has also made some other decisions that factor into the title. They parted ways with their manager recently and also went on a one year hiatus, so there are literal elements at play as well as symbolic ones.

Equal parts anthem and apathetic (listen to Spirit in particular), this record has some punch to it.

The Great Detachment opens on an extreme high, reminiscent of that curse-like song, and follows just as well with Santa Fe. By all accounts these two songs are worth the price of admission alone. Paul Murphy has amazing vocals and these two songs showcase them well. Santa Fe teases us with some synthpop elements too, which is ALWAYS fun to hear, especially from indie-rockers.

This is the kind of music that both casual listeners and genuine fans of the band can enjoy and not feel guilty about singing along to on a roadtrip or while jamming out at home on a weeknight.

More Than is sweet and sentimental, Shadowless is somber and serious, and Metropolis conjures up images of The Tragically Hip and Pearl Jam simultaneously. I’m also a big fan of Freak Out, which I bet will be fun to dance to at a live show.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any music videos for this album to share with you, but you can listen to the official audio of Amerika and Santa Fe if you’re up for it. As I mentioned already, it’s a one-two punch that can’t really be beat.

So I guess we are left with a final question. Does The Great Detachment win album of the year or any other accolades? No, but it’s damn good indie-rock and nothing to be ashamed of, plus it’s a positive change of direction for Wintersleep which should be encouraged.

 

 

 

Like a security blanket, Wintersleep make us feel at ease and comforted. But sometimes they turn up the heat and also provide us with some heat too, but I don’t think you have to worry about them ever short-circuiting and starting on fire. They aren’t that kind of blanket, I mean band.

That’s all folks, come back tomorrow for something theatrical and also seasonal.

Tim!