Cousins - “What’s Your Name”
The hard-working, energetic and all-around wonderful Halifax duo Cousins have just put out a new track, entitled “What’s Your Name”. It’s the first song to drop from their forthcoming third(?) full-length The Halls of Wickwire, and it does a pretty fantastic job of making me excited about that album’s prospects. Not only are Aaron Mangle’s distorted guitar hooks back in full force, but the addition of a second vocalist - drummer Leigh Dotey - gives this track even more punch. Cousins pack so much spunk, life and personality in to two and a half minutes that it’s hard to imagine why every band can’t be this good.
Related: Cousins are opening for TONSTARTSSBANDHT on June 7th as part of the OBEY Convention. If you’re in Halifax, be sure not to miss this one. Full event information can be found here.
Anonymous asked: What are your favorite albums of 2013 so far?
As of now my top three are, in no particular order, Grouper’s The Man Who Died in His Boat, William Tyler’s Impossible Truth and Kurt Vile’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze.
Ocean of Antics Mix #1: Spring 2013
I hate apologizing for any sort of lacking in my blogging presence, so to make up for it I made you all a mix of nine of my favourite songs for the springtime. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to assemble all of these tracks into one streaming playlist, but along with each song I’ve linked to a place where you can listen to it for free, be it a YouTube video or a Bandcamp page. Please let me know if you guys enjoyed this, because I had a lot of fun making it and writing about songs that I love in such a personal and informal way. If you don’t care for my indulgent ramblings, you can always skip the text and just listen to the songs. In any case, I hope you’ll enjoy my selections; if some of these artists are unfamiliar to you, I hope you’ll give them a shot anyway. They could turn out to be a new favourite
1. The New Pornographers - “The Laws Have Changed”
Out of the New Pornographers’ five albums, I’ve always felt the least connected to their 2003 effort Electric Version. I first listened to the band’s discography out of order, so Mass Romantic and Twin Cinema - the reasons I call the New Pornographers my favourite band - hit my ears before the album that came between. It makes sense then that Electric Version still feels like a disappointment, an unnecessary stepping stone between two of my all-time favourite albums. Every time I revisit it, however, I’m always struck with a strange mix of reassurance and doubt. As a whole, I don’t think the album is as strong as its neighbours, but on a track-to-track basis its great moments stand as high as any other in the band’s catalogue. “The Laws Have Changed” is one such track. The trade-off vocals in the verse is still one of the group’s most inventive structures, and the song itself is ridiculously catchy even before it hits the chorus. Sure, Neko’s performance isn’t quite as show-stopping as her Mass Romantic highlights, but in tandem with Carl’s incessant hooks and a jumpy power pop guitar riff, it’s hard to deny this song’s sheer melodic power.
2. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - “Belong”
For a song about being an outsider, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart sure manage to make “Belong” sound monumental. They’re drawing equally from 90’s alt-rock and shoegaze here, but sound that the band creates somehow seems effortlessly current. “I know it is wrong / But we just don’t belong” sings Kip Berman, sounding both timid and assured as his lyrics are pulled skywards by a huge wash of guitars. It’s exactly the kind of song that could soundtrack almost any kind of moment; it feels equally important at a large venue as it does in a pair of headphones, straddling catharsis and introspection with ease.
3. Each Other - “A Strong Spinning”
If not for their talent, Montreal’s Each Other are remarkable for their pure originality. I don’t think I can think of a single band that makes music even remotely similar to these guys, let alone one that sounds this amazing. “A Strong Spinning” is from the band’s latest EP, 2012’s stunning Heavily Spaced. At first, the group’s music can feel a bit off, and their harmonies can be especially jarring , but after a few listens it all begins to make sense. Songs this disjointed and complex shouldn’t come together as an accessible and though-provoking whole; it’s to the trio’s credit that Heavily Spaced is just that. I chose “A Strong Spinning” for this mix simply because it’s my favourite song of theirs, but truthfully their entire discography is wholly worthy of your time. Lots of bands play weird music, but few do it as well as Each Other.
4. Monomyth - “Feeling”
Monomyth have been called the next big thing here in Halifax since they released their debut cassette last spring, and with good reason: they play laid-back, lo-fi rock and roll better than almost any other group around. On “Feeling”, the band creates an intriguing little tug of war between their surf rock-inspired harmonies and instrumentals. Vocals lines ascend before being pulled back to ground by jangly guitars, all leading towards a deceptively simple chorus: “I want this feeling to stay”. Of course, it can’t last forever, but for these three minutes and change nothing else matters but that bittersweet feeling of opened windows, warm nights and faded memories.
5. Dirty Projectors - “Two Doves”
I’ll admit that there are much better songs on Bitte Orca than this one, but not once on that album do the Dirty Projectors manage to sound this charming. Angel Deradoorian dances lightly atop plucked guitars and waves of strings, her gorgeous delivery managing to make even the most banal of lines (“For your cologne is really fragrant”) sound romantic. David Longstreth is known for writing complex melodies, but here he takes a step back, letting Angel’s starry-eyed vocals take to the forefront. The result feels like a breath of fresh air, the perfect centrepiece to a wonderful but admittedly cerebral album.
6. The La’s - “There She Goes”
Above everything else, what makes “There She Goes” so great is its simplicity. The La’s strip back guitar pop to its most basic, with a bubbly little guitar riff and a vocal melody worthy of repeated use. After watching a video in which Carrie Brownstein talked about their self-titled 1990 album last summer, I found it at the record store for five dollars and must have listened to its entirety at least fifteen times the following weekend. A timeless gem that sounds as fantastic today as it must have over twenty years ago.
7. Dog Day - “Neighbour”
Though it’s barely four years old, hearing this song fills me with nostalgia for a time that I didn’t even experience. Dog Day are still an integral part of the Halifax music scene, and I was tuned in two years ago when they followed up Concentration (the album that “Neighbour” is on) with the admirable Deformer, but I still wish I could have felt how important they must have seemed when they put out this record. Sure, they had already garnered modest acclaim for their debut full-length, but Concentration should have been their time to break through. If this band were to make it big, this would have been their time to do so. Unfortunately, that album didn’t seem to make any more waves than its predecessor, and Dog Day have since downsized to a duo and settled into their rougher idiosyncrasies, but every time I hear “Neighbour”, I feel an excitement for the band that now seems unfounded. Nancy Ulrich’s vocal performance is chilly, dark and cleverly tuneful, reminiscent of a local scene that now seems centuries in the past.
8. Daniel Rossen - “Return To Form”
Perhaps more than his work with Grizzly Bear - whose music I admire more than I enjoy it - Daniel Rossen’s solo recordings are awe-inspiring in the truest sense of the work. “Return To Form” is a personal highlight from last year’s Silent Hour / Golden Mile EP, a veritable explosion of baroque textures and sounds.Words can’t communicate how impressive and downright beautiful I think this song is.
9. Atlas Sound - “Terrarium”
Part of the reason this song is even on this mix is because I feel compelled to include Bradford Cox in as much of what I write as possible (That’s only partially a joke). Regardless of its creator, this is still a damn good song, and sounds especially great in the springtime. Taken from one of the four albums of self-recorded material that he released in 2010, Cox’s lyrics seem foreboding of the themes of loneliness and isolation that were explored more fully on Parallax. (“We were living in a terrarium / In the centre of the town”). More than most of the songs on that album however, save for maybe “Terra Incognita”, here Bradford sounds truly alone. He makes it sound like an eerily warm place to be, colouring his bedroom with harmonica, softly strummed guitar and a calm delivery that makes the surrounding world slow to half speed.
Yesterday, Halifax’s OBEY Convention revealed what is possibly their biggest and best lineup yet, in anticipation of the festival’s sixth instalment this June. I haven’t attended OBEY previously, but with a roster this good it’ll be pretty hard to pass up. They’ve had very interesting lineups in previous years, but this year seems especially strong and well-curated. Here are some of the acts I’m most excited about:
- Bare-bones Halifax rock duo Cousins, who made one of my favourite albums of last year;
- Angular guitars and sleazy hooks from Montreal’s Mac DeMarco;
- Each Other, also from Montreal, whose artful and garage-y Heavily Spaced EP is excellent in every way;
- Heavy and stirring ambience from Grouper;
- and Lisa Lipton, former member of the incomparable I See Rowboats one of Halifax’s best current multi-disciplinary artists.
One of OBEY’s biggest strengths is its commitment to the weird and the obscure, so I’m sure I’ll have a few new favourites to talk about in a few month’s time. Depending on which artists are playing in all ages venues, I’m hoping to get out to a few shows over the festival’s four days, so if you’ll be attending be sure to let me know!
More information is available at OBEY’s website.