Archive for April, 2009

One For The Team – Build A Garden EP Review

One For The Team is a Chicago/Minneapolis based band with blogger, Ian Anderson of Minneapolis Fucking Rocks as one of the key members (just found this out looking on his twitter profile – add me I’m awmusicblog).

Anyway, I always have a soft spot for indie pop, especially with a mix of female/male vocals. If you ever noticed a common trend with some of my selections – it’s pretty darn obvious.

Anyway One For The Team specializes in sugary pop that might be akin to Headlights? It may not be the most creative music but it’s definitely highly enjoyable. Mixing in the right elements of guitar pop with solid vocals from Ian Anderson and Grace Fiddler create endless combinations to a seemingly easy formula. They also don’t over extend their band choosing to be more guitar based – leaving room for the band to be lyrical muses rather then forcing dance pop down our throats. It’s power pop but laid back at the same time.

On the EP they go through a range of emotions while maintaining their pop style, occasional mixing in subtle synths. The EP is a great showcase of their talents, apparently recorded in a bedroom, suffers no drawbacks.

It’s a good effort on the band’s part and I’m a big fan of the EP. I don’t want to get into the Pitchfork’s EP disease (see the Black Kids) – where you fall in a really good EP like the one One For Team has done, while I anxiously wait their debut LP wait to listen to it. It’s clear that One For The Team can be a very good pop outfit judged on this one EP.

Rating: 4 out of 5
My favorite tracks include Best Supporting Actress and Cry. Check it out at least, it’ll put a smile on your face in the very least.

Best Supporting Actress by One For The Team
Cry by One For The Team

Olenka and the Autumn Lovers – s/t + Papillonette EP

Both Bob (itsnotthebandihateitstheirfans) Battams and Sean (everythingispop) Wright have been talking up Olenka and the Autumn Lovers (London, On) for a good time now. In fairness, I think I might have written something about them before now were I still living in the burgeoning metropolis, but, I’ve moved on to bigger, swinefluier pastures. But, ironically (or not) it was a trip back to the forest city (London, On) that really made me take notice of OatAL.

They were playing a CHRW (Radio Western) fundraiser/my buddy Elliot mentioned them to me/I remembered all the times Bob and Sean talked about them/I listened to their myspace songs approximately 100 times, and thus (yes, thus – in case you are just stopping by I have a highly literate readership) I sought out the rest of the work of OatAL. Thanks to Allan ( via Darin @ the parallel universe I got my hands on both the s/t album and the companion EP Papillonette.

Suffice to say that after a few spins (I’ve basically listened to these two albums exclusively over the last 3 days) that its pretty easy to see why OatAL were voted London’s album of the year. Now, I suspect that many people would kind of scoff at that award – London isn’t exactly known for its arts scene – but, actually, in the last 3/4/5 years London has given birth to a bunch of pretty awesome albums: Basia Bulat Oh, My Darling; Shad, The Old Prince and When This is Over, Great Lake Swimmers, Oniagara, Bodies and Minds, Great Lake Swimmers, and there are others… I imagine… I’ll also point out that London has produced (academy award winner), Paul Haggis, Ryan Gosling (dreamboat), and so on…

The albums themselves draw on Olenka’s Eastern European background (kind of like a female Beirut, but less depressing), but aren’t defined exclusively by that sound. Its fitting since Olenka grew up in Vancouver, is now a Londonian, but – according to the press release – has travelled far and wide through her studies (PhD in English). And given that information, the narrative of the albums – particularly the s/t release – make a lot of sense, which, in the end, kind of feels like the story of Olenka’s youth (real or imagined I’m not sure) in Poland.

The executive summary: An album (s/t), which feels like the story of Olenka Krakus’ youth in Poland, really should’ve been somewhere (probably top 15 on my year end list last year) and is making me think I should go back and re-evaluate my picks.

[mp3] Olenka and the Autumn Lovers – Soldiers Waltz (Olenka and the Autumn Lovers)
[mp3] Olenka and the Autumn Lovers – The Decline (Papillonette EP)

Asher Roth – Asleep In The Bread Aisle Review

I’ve been going through somewhat of a rebellion towards present day hip hop, so the fact that I haven’t really looked into who this artist is until now is a shame. He’s 23 year old Asher Paul Roth who’s been dubbed “the artist to watch”. His single “I Love College” gained him a lot of notoriety and his debut album Asleep in the Bread Aisle made it to no. 5 on the billboard charts with 62,000 units moved.

I listened to a few tracks from the album starting out skeptical if this guy was just a gimmick. His image a college frat boy mostly compared to the notorious white boy rapper Eminem, but the song Y.O.U. ft. Slick Rick being the first of his songs I have ever listened to, stopped all pre-conceived notions I had. He talks about the fact that he can’t change who he is and that if he tried he wouldn’t be himself. He also hit the comparisons to Eminem head on with the track As I Em talking about how he’s constantly compared to Eminem, how he respects him but he is not him. The similarities between the two are the color of skin, and that he sounds like him vocally. Asher’s lyrics however are far from what Eminem’s lyrics were about. Perhaps because of the way he grew up and that fact that he isn’t trying to hide where he came from. Asher Paul Roth grew up in suburban Pennsylvania and went to Westchester University to study Elementary education. He doesn’t know street life, he doesn’t carry guns so he doesn’t rap about what he doesn’t know. Being a rapper is about knowing how to deliver a message in a way that’s different from others and of course having the skill of knowing how to rap. I can’t deny that Asher Paul Roth can spit. He has a clever, witty way with words that make him a skillful storyteller.

The album as a whole is structured, and it’s evident that he’s a lyrical rapper. My favourite tracks to listen to are I Love College, and Be By Myself. There were a couple tracks that sounded like he was delivering a redundant message but for someone that rapped 150 bars on the spot for Jay-Z, he takes the cake as being the artist to look out for this year despite anything else but the quality of his music. Check out his MySpace.

I Love College by Asher Roth
Y.O.U. by Asher Roth ft Slick Rick
As I Em by Asher Roth
A Milli by Asher Roth

Interview with Brent Marks of The Johnstones

The Johnstones being in my opinion one of the best ska punk bands out there to date were one of the bigger names of Canadian Music Week and this was one band I had been meaning to interview for a while now. They’re unpredictable, crazy, energetic, and they always offer an adrenaline rush of fun and excitement. I had been talking with Ryan Long of the Johnstones over email for a couple days about doing an interview with the band and he offered that since he wouldn’t be available that night he would ask one of the other band members to help me out.

A cold Friday night in March at the El Mocambo during Canadian Music Week I met up with Brent Marks of the band who I had previously met at Cutting Edge Fest the previous summer. Brent is hands down one of the most insightful, down to earth, fun, and relaxed performers I’ve ever interviewed. He showed me a whole new side of the band, told me about some of their new stuff in the works, and told me the long journey they’ve gone on from starting the band off in high school up until now.

Adrian – How did you guys end up meeting and how did the Johnstones end up forming?

Brent Marks – Well we met up in high school but in different bands, we played some small punk shows, this was around grade nine, and then near the end of high school we started up the Johnstones and from there we started playing bigger shows.

Adrian – Now this has been on my mind for a while now but what’s the story behind the band’s name exactly?

Brent Marks – So in grade eleven there were three members in the band with a different name at the time. Kevin Johnstone was the bassist for the band but he didn’t end up meshing well with the band so he was kicked out and I ended up replacing him. From that, his last name ended up sticking with the band and has been with us ever since. I really hope he finds humor in all of this, I mean he could still be pissed over the whole thing but I just find it funny.

Adrian – Now I’ve heard a lot about this new album you have in the works, can you tell me a bit about it?

Brent Marks – Well we just finished tracking today but this was the first time that we made a real album. It’s a culmination of a longer period of time, it’s very diverse, and in my opinion is hands down our best album to date. I really think our fans are going to love it.

Adrian – At the end of “The Governator” there’s a line that you have that sounds completely mumbled, what is it that you actually say there?

Brent Marks – (laughs a bit) Oh yeah I remember that, it was actually Rene who ended up putting it in there as a joke. I was in Las Vegas while they were finishing that part and this always seems to happen to me when I go away, but the line is “I can’t I have a dick in my mouth”.

Adrian – Has it been rough at all on this big journey to become one of the bigger bands out there today?

Brent Marks – Not really, I mean starting out at first was a little rough, there were a lot of low points, but it’s a lot easier now. I mean we’re staying in hotels now instead of living in vans, it’s basically a relative life of luxury compared to when we were first starting out. We’re all very happy, we can tour for a lot longer, we’re comfortable with each other, we basically have this whole thing down to a science.

Adrian – What is it that sets you apart from other bands in the genre?

Brent Marks – We try to get our own sound, and basically we do our best to have a very original soun. We put a stamp on everything we do, we have our internet videos, our hip hop stuff, and a lot of other side stuff as well. We do what we want to do; we go crazy on stage and just have a good time with it. It’s all about just having fun doing what you like.

Adrian – What’s the craziest thing you or the band have done on or off stage?

Brent Marks – That’s really tough because we’ve done a lot of crazy things together as a band. Playing at warp tour the past year we ended up playing in diapers. While we were in England we pushed each other in shopping carts drunk down some huge hills. We got kicked out of Disney Land and we’re not allowed to go back there ever again. It just seems like a lot of trouble starts up when you get drunk.

Adrian Kowalski – What is it that you most enjoy about being in a band?

Brent Marks – It beats having a real job. I mean I love all the travelling, being with the same people for 5 years, having lots of fun, all the collaborating and just all of us being motivated to do this and stick with it. Seriously, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world.

Adrian – Now this past summer, you guys played a show at Cutting Edge Music Fest, and as part of that you held a little sex ed session, what was that like?

Brent Marks – It was a fun little thing that we did.

Adrian- Yeah as I remember I ended up volunteering for the whole putting a condom over a banana with your mouth part even though I had no clue what I was volunteering for at first.

Brent Marks- Yeah we had a real hard time getting volunteers for that but it’s awesome that you actually volunteered, seemed like you had fun with it.

Adrian- I most certainly did. Then there was the whole sex talk on various positions and that one guy made the reference to something called the reverse oil rig.

(We both end up laughing over this)

Brent Marks- I remember that, can’t remember the guy who demonstrated for us, but I still don’t believe that it can be really done. The whole thing is that you just have to be funny, nothing gets by anybody. It’s easy to do this kind of stuff, it’s just fun and I love goofing off for a good twenty minutes. I mean being serious all the time just really sucks, so you just got to have fun and not take life so seriously.

Adrian – Now was there any big transition going from your first EP to the second?

Brent Marks – The first one we wrote at seventeen, back when we didn’t have the song writing expertise that we do now. The second we actually did in studio and turned out a lot better and cleaner sounding than the first. We try to make and put out our best stuff now. We can actually take time now to make our stuff better, the first EP we made was done in our basement, but we’ve expanded since then to a point that more suits our lifestyle.

Adrian – Lastly if you could have any super power in the universe, any at all, what would it be?

Brent Marks – I would definitely have to be X-ray vision. I’d be looking at girls all the time and totally check them out naked, like why not. I guess I could also check out scratch and win tickets too, which would be pretty amazing too.

Adrian – Seems like a lot of bands that I’ve talked to now have also chosen that same power. (I laugh for a bit at this)

Brent Marks – Well guys in bands just like girls, especially seeing them without clothes.

(We both laugh)

Adrian- That’s so true, it would come in handy at all times, no matter where you are. I got to thank you so much for this interview Brent, it was unreal.

Brent Marks – No problem at all man, total respect, you’re staying for the show aren’t you.

Adrian – I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

After watching yet another amazing show performed by one of my favorite bands to date. They came out on stage without shirts and played their brains out and with them there’s never a dull moment to be found. I stayed after the show and got a couple pictures with the Johnstones, hung out with them for a couple minutes, said my goodbyes, and was back off into the nights, with memories of probably one of the best interviews I will ever have with any band.

Bring It Back Around by The Johnstones
The Governator by The Johnstones
Gone For A Longtime by The Johnstones

Exchanging emails with… Ketch Harbour Wolves

I think Ketch Harbour Wolves are one of the/the most underrated bands in Toronto, maybe in Canada…. hell, maybe in the entire world. I came across their album on Herohill’s top Canadian EPs of 2008, and it took me approximately 15 seconds to figure out that the guys at Herohill had really hit the nail on the head with KHW. They (KHWs) ended the year in a three way tie for BM‘s album of the year with Kanye West and Chad Van Gaaelen, so, pretty select company for a pretty impressive album.

When I went to go see them in January, I was a little underwhelmed for a variety of reasons which I discussed then (and we discuss in the emails), but after seeing a great deal of improvement in their live show I’m projecting a solid second half of 2009 and a break out year for 2010 when, presumably, they’ll have a new album out.

Also, and I realize I’m getting long-winded here, you should note that:

1/I’m kind of fine-tuning this ‘Exchanging emails with‘ segment, and am hoping to keep this a little more brief/readable.
2/Thanks to Jonathan, I think I’m now going to finish every series of emails with a LIGHTNING ROUND where I’ll ask a bunch of rapid fire, InsidetheActorsStudioesque questions…

* * *


Thanks for agreeing to do this… and, like I said, I think what makes this interesting is if it turns more into a dialogue rather than just the standard – question, answer format. Also, if there’s something you want to ignore/don’t want to talk about feel free to just ignore any questions/comments.

First, that poster/photo(?) that you had up on your myspace for a while was spectacular. How/Where did that come from? It kind of looks like you’re playing in some sort of stadium… you guys aren’t secretly really big in Europe are you?

Second, what’s been going with you guys since you put out Dead Calm Horizon?

Third, what inspired you/how’d you come to the decision to give the album away for free?

Hopefully that’s a good start to get the ball rolling, and feel free if you want to ask/answer your own questions to do so… hope you’ve had/are having a good holiday weekend…


* * *

Hey Rob,

First off that was a pretty damned good dialog with Bryan from Black Hat Brigade so I realize I’ve got my work cut out for me!

On the poster – Sadly, we are not really big in Europe and despite the spectral haze surrounding the lights which is easily confused with the crimson smoke that wafted through Red Rocks in 1984 when U2 tore it a new one with their rendition of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, … it is in fact, Toronto’s very own Mod Club with a wonderfully serendipitous alignment of lighting and camera angle.

On post-Dead Calm Horizon – Actually much of our energy since Dead Calm Horizon, or at least up until the beginning of this year was taken up with developing material for the next album. We had been taking inspiration from the prolific careers of the Bob Dylan’s of the world and figured that our DIY system of recording should be the perfect compliment to a hyper-productive band. In retrospect I think we were focusing on the new stuff to a fault. I think our performance at The Elmo in early January really revealed that and so we took a bit of a step back to focus on learning how to properly ‘deliver’ the songs. (hmm…. this little email confession booth turning public idea is kind of terrifying, but also really great!)

The free album – The decision to give the album away for free was pretty easy actually. Our philosophy was about maximum availability to the point of total redundancy (hence the ‘Catch 22’ – esque situation of having it simultaneously available for free and for a price on our website… all we would have to do now is sell it back to ourselves for twice the price!). The thinking is that most of those who tend to pay for music will pay for it, most of those who don’t tend to pay would either not get it or rip it from someone, but most importantly those who come across the band randomly, who might really enjoy coming back from the far places of the web with some obscure canuck band in hand would almost certainly not have paid and thus not have brought it back to places like – Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Australia, The Philippines etc.

It’s not a perfect system as evidenced by the fact that we’re still drowning in debt but what has been invaluable is the ‘barrier free’ way to connect with fine bloggers such as yourself who consistently mention (and most of the time link to) the free download page. If we drew a grand old pyramid scheme we would ideally have visions of Giza but you get the idea. Revenue, not so much….. generating interest…. hopefully! (here it would be prudent to throw in the link I think…

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