Stars: Part of the Indie Galaxy

Whoever you are, whatever your style, you will like the music of Stars: a shining supernova in the vast expanse of Canadian music. Part of the Broken Social Scene family tree, the Stars hail from Toronto with members Torquil Campbell, Chris Seligman, Amy Milan, Evan Cranley, and Pat McGee. Their music is hip. That’s the easiest way to put it. Their blend of indie rock and artistic mediums (synth, old film audio clips, respirators) is accompanied by incredible lyrics and tonal texture that is met by no other. The timbre of Amy Milan’s voice is rich and round, and capable of making your heart sing along. Out of their six albums, the latest one has received the most acclaim. Set Yourself On Fire has had tracks featured on The O.C. and Degrassi: The Next Generation, and is making it’s way around the globe as an original sound with accessible nuances. Heart, their fifth release is one of my favourites. It’s a killer album with all the quaint indie poetry anyone could need. It’s the kind of album that suits a soundtrack for a trek around the city on a sunny Spring day.
Another notable feat that the Stars have undertaken is the all-time greatest Smiths cover of rockingness. The Smiths are pretty much the godfathers of indie, and the power of their music can never be replicated… but the Stars came pretty darn close with their astounding cover of ‘This Charming Man’. They slow down the tempo, and bring so much texture to the tune. You need to check it out. You can find it on their first album, Nightsongs.
Amy Milan has recently released a solo album titled Honey From The Tombs. I haven't heart it yet, but there's no doubt in my mind that it will go down in Canadian indie rock history.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Broken Social Scene: A Community of Rock

The time has come to discover Broken Social Scene. Just know that once you discover the remarkable spacious art-house indie-pop post-rock organic and elegantly complex sound of this breakthrough, forward-thinking super group, all else will fall to the wayside. Broken Social Scene is music. That’s all you need to know.

Now, where to start with this multifaceted band? Their history and genealogy is intricate and interesting, and it’s difficult to weed through the maze of their amazingness. Somewhere in Toronto in 1999 Broken Social Scene formed around Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. And now the adventure begins. As a band, Broken Social Scene is most certainly a super-group, an indie-rock orchestra of prodigious music-makers. Separately, each member is independently and extraordinarily talented, with side projects that are equally phenomenal (and which I will address in time). Together, the band of prodigies is invincible.

In 2001 Justin Peroff, Charles Spearin and Bill Priddle joined Drew and Canning in the making of Broken Social Scene’s first album Feel Good Lost. This largely instrumental debut hit it big with hipsters. The unabashed vocal stylings and over driven guitar riffs meld and layer experiments in beautiful musical vulnerability, revealing the splendor of complexity and order found in chaos. After this endeavor, a few more music-architects from the Toronto indie-scene joined the party. Andrew Whiteman, Jason Collett, Emily Haines and Leslie Feist brought lyrics and vocals to reinforce the band’s live shows. Later contributions were made by James Shaw, Evan Cranley, Josh Crosssingham and Amy Millan. Phew. That’s quite the attendance list. So, in 2002 this community of rock made the acclaimed album You Forgot It In People on the Arts label. This album will rock your socks off, and then some. It is eclectic and experimental, but accessible and hum-able. It will blow your mind how music that is so complex and intricate can worm its way into your head and have you humming all day. Here lies their critical penetration into the commercial world, but not to worry, it has not corrupted them. This album and following tours also featured the supporting musical talents of Jessica Moss, Brodie West, Susannah Brady and Ohad Benchetrit, with help on tour from Gentlemen Reg.

To a captive and faithful audience, a 2003 b-sides album Beehives was released amidst the bustle of tours and other projects.

Fame grew, friends grew, and maybe even talents grew. Broken Social Scene took over many peoples’ worlds. Mine included. In 2005 they released their self-titled album, their third full-length record, with contributions from artists such as k-os, Jason Tait and Murray Lightburn. Inside the album was a wee EP, EP To You And Me which lists David Newfield, a producer of Broken Social Scene’s previous albums, as a band member.

Broken Social Scene albums are the kind of records you can drown in. You can rock around town with them blasting on your iPod and evade your surroundings. Seriously, the music gets into your head and makes you different. Give yourself up to it.
The only thing more amazing than a Broken Social Scene album is a Broken Social Scene show. Their charisma and connection with the audience is dazzling, and the rock that they exude seeps into your soul. I’ve seen many-a BSS show, and each one has been refreshingly different, but always satisfying in the way I hoped it would be. In 2004 I drove down to California with some friends for the Coachella Music Festival (which including bands like Radiohead, Cure, Pixies, Flaming Lips, Death Cab for Cutie, Rapture, Sparta, !!!, The Thrills, Beck, and many others). Broken Social Scene also played, and wouldn’t you know it, but ALL the California kids dug them hardcore. We couldn’t believe it when, during a rockingly superb rendition of ‘Stars and Suns’ the entire mob of concert-goers raised their hands and clapped at the appropriate moment without being prompted. They knew. We Canadian didn’t know that they would know… figuring that Broken Social Scene’s rare and independent style of indie-pop-post-rock had made so far south. But we were wrong. If you know good music, then you know Broken Social Scene. That’s just the way it works.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,


The Arcade Fire, no introductions needed

The Arcade Fire. Whoa. Wow. Run for your rock. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a revolution in Canadian rock.  These dudes and dudettes have made it, and they’ve made it their own. Success across the board, internationally speaking.  The Arcade Fire make a kind of music impossible not to hear with your heart of hearts.

Hailing from the “it” city of Canada, Montreal, The Arcade Fire is Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, Richard Reed Parry, William Butler, Tim Kingsbury, Sarah Neufeld, and Jeremy Gara. Newly added are members Pietro Amato and Owen Pallett. Talk about an orchestra of rockfull proporations! Seriously, their tracks often include strings like violins and violas, xylophones, French Horn, accordian, and a harp… and obviously the mainstays guitar, bass, and drums. Diversity chimes together to create a monster sound.
The Arcade Fore formed around husband and wife Win Butler and Regine Chassagne in mid 2003, and their reputation grew quickly around them. I remember hearing them at small pub in Kingston at Queen’s University. They blew my mind; I think I reached enlightenment. Anyway, they were signed to the independent label Merge Records. In 2004 their first album, Funeral, was released. And then the rock started rolling for The Arcade Fire. Their indie success was obviously popular among the hipsters who are always ‘in the know’. Beyond the hipster and university crowds of Canada, a hum could be heard… and it was the tune of The Arcade Fire. Small club venues got increasingly bigger, and success was happening all around them throughout Canada, Europe, and the USA.  And the charts abound. Funeral won Album of the Year from MTV in 2005, as well as hitting the number 2 slot in NME’s list of best albums and tracks.

In 2005 The Arcade Fire graced the cover of Time Magazine as a band who “helped put Canadian music on the world map.” And the recognition, not only from Canadian hipsters, kept on coming. They put a track on the HBO series Six Feet Under soundtrack. They rocked out on Letterman. They opened for U2. And they’ve made a couple appearances on the BBC live show Jools Holland. The Arcade Fire is still on the go, rising up and rocking on. I don’t think they’ve reached their full potential yet, and still have a lot to teach us. Even their side projects are beautiful, like Bell Orchestre, an indie instrumental experience in rocking. Neo-neo-post-classical maybe? Genres elude me.
Talk about rock. The Arcade Fire is definitely the “it” band right now. If you don’t know them, you should. Their music has the ability to find solace in shared human experience, but not dwell in sorrow since the title of the album was inspired by death becoming prevalent in several of the band members’ lives. Tracks like ‘Une Annee Sans Lumiere’ (A Year Without Light) suggest this theme, but the melodic beauty transcends it. And titles like ‘Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)’ , ‘Neighborhood #2 (Laika)’, and ‘Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)’ suggest the support system and familial communities we all need and share. That’s nice, isn’t it? Out Montreal they have emerged, like so many hot indie rockers right now. Don’t you worry, I’ll get to the rest of ‘em soon.

And that’s the Arcade Fire up till now. More updates to follow, if I can keep up with them! I like hipsters when they’re not too sad bastard, and then they believe that life is good… because it is. If you believe life is good, I suggest checking out The Arcade Fire. They are all things good.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,