At an arrestingly beautiful show last weekend, songstress Jadea Kelly introduced her new album, Love & Lust, at Toronto’s Drake Underground. Jadea’s third studio record is the follow up to Clover (2013), an equally brilliant collection of songs with themes of nature, love and spirituality.

Love & Lust is outright a breakup album, and naturally focuses on the sentiments and circumstances revolving around infidelity, desire, betrayal and forgiveness. The record is brave, vulnerable, passionate and infinitely graceful.

Jadea’s soft and sultry vocals and gentle acoustic guitar are the conduit for some seriously raw sentiments. Backed by some of Toronto’s finest, the intensity of her band helps to heighten the songs, adding layers of colour and mystique in a tasteful and artistic manner without overshadowing Jadea herself.

Not always an easy task for accomplished players, but her longtime guitar player Tom Juhas is a master of this. He’s seriously talented, but never overplays, instead adding just what each song needs.

Jadea_2015_275JenSquiresCROP (2)
Photo by Jen Squires

Mariah is the catalyst for the entire recording and acts as the tempestuous juxtaposition to the album’s most forgiving song, Beauty, co-written by Canadian artist Peter Katz.

Perhaps Love & Lust’s poppies number, Good Girl, was co-penned by another Canadian singer-songwriter, Robyn Dell’Unto.  It’s been receiving regular airplay on CBC and has made it onto their Top 20 this week! Go vote!

Love & Lust has to be one of the most honest, vulnerable and emotional records of 2016. It fleshes out sentiments and circumstances that everyone can relate to in some form.  You can purchase it on iTunes and via Jadea’s website.   She has launched her post-release tour so check out her tour dates!

This record is a huge step forward for Jadea, who is rightfully earning her place among the best singer-songwriters in Canada right now. You will see and hear more of her to come, but don’t wait; she’s too good to wait on and this video proves it.  Southern Souls shot the live video for this haunting and atmospheric second track, On the Water:

Writing this record and the circumstances that led to its inception obviously did a number on Jadea, however the process seems to have been cathartic and healing all at once. It’s impressive that such beauty can come from such sadness.  However she got here, I can’t wait to watch the career of this young and talented songwriter continue to develop and unfold.

“Black Lab sounds like Flaming Lips having a three way with Nirvana and Frank Zappa while Syd Barrett sits and watches with a cup of tea,” says Black Lab’s Ian Boos.

Sounds a little wild, doesn’t it? Check out the music. It’s an interesting, raw and creative blend of sounds culminating in We Don’t Pick Our Obsessions, a psychedelic rock EP written by Ian Boos (formerly of Low Hanging Lights).

Black Lab consists of Boos, lead guitarist Al Grantham (also formerly of LHL), drummer Tony ‘Tone Smasher’ Howell and bassist David Kierstead. Kaleb Hikele also lends a hand on the EP with some backing vocals on We.

The EP, which also reveals strong punk and experimental influences, is available on Bandcamp.

I had a chat with Ian Boos, creator of Black Lab, to pick his brain about his obsessions.

bl coverStephanie Beatson:  What does the term “psychedelic rock” mean to you, and how do you think it applies to Black Lab?

Ian Boos:  The term psychedelic to me means mind expanding. A song like We on this EP can potentially take your mind to a different place, if you let it. I unfortunately or fortunately don’t consciously include any aspects psychedelia in the music. The sonic parts of the song dictate this to me and I just go with it.

SB:  What was the driving force between forming this band and making this EP?

IB:  An obsessive need to create and express myself. It keeps me somewhat sane. And I fucking love sound!

SB:  Tell me about the making of the album.

IB:  I recorded the album with my good pal Ryan James Webb at Hungry Lake Studios. We worked on the LHL record together and had an idea of what type of record I wanted going into the studio. I very much had a punk rock approach to things. I do lots of prep before and bang out the parts in 2 or 3 takes. On this album we did ghosts tracks than I layered everything over top. Besides Al Grantham’s haunting vocals on Nothing to Spare and his insane guitar solo on Telephone Me Telephone You and Kaleb Hikele’s backing vocals on We, I played everything. I wanted to get the project off the ground with this EP. I am extremely happy with the band now though. The next recording will most likely be live off the floor.

SB:  This album already has a pretty raw sound, in terms of the production, which is cool. A live off the floor album would compliment that aesthetic nicely. What aesthetics are most important to you with your writing and recording?

IB:  The aspect of the music I want to feature most is the raw energy of the performance. After that’s achieved I have an idea of how I want the song to sound, which I communicate to Ryan (producer), for the most part during the recording.

SB:  Who have your influences been with this project, or in general?

IB:  I am influenced by passionate artists, whether it’s Ohbijou or Operation Ivy. I suppose I am trying to create soundscapes that are influenced by the sounds of my environment. Artists I look up to have certain vibes.  My music has a vibe.

SB:  How do you choose what to write about in your lyrics?

IB: All of my lyrics come from the times I am extremely emotionally vulnerable, or when I am feeling extremely loving, or when I think something is really hilarious (like the song Telephone Me, Telephone You). I’m not interested in writing about going to the store; only Ween, Cake and Frank Zappa can pull that off.

Sebastian Freeman and Amanda Mabro are 30 Frames, an electro pop band from Toronto who recently released an energetic and highly danceable record that was two years in the making. It was well worth the wait; the album is really strong.

They did a great job of maintaining consistency without being overly repetitive so that the album flows seamlessly from track to track. The songs compliment each other so well, yet are different enough to maintain interest throughout all eight tracks. The production value is also top-notch.

30 Frames features beautiful instrumental and vocal layers sung mainly by Amanda but with support from Sebastian. There are some really fun drum beats; check out the second track Make It, one of the most danceable tracks on the album:

The third song, When I Was Young, pulls back a bit, is more reflective and a nice reprieve from the high energy first two tracks. It’s followed by Hey You which transitions back to a more upbeat tempo by using a moderate groove in the verses, which then bursts into busy choruses.  These explosions are my favourite moments on the album.  It’s a powerful song; it forces you to move and to sing along.

Snake Charmer is a little darker, a little more industrial and features Sebastian more on vocals than in other tracks. Anything Else and Give it Up are kick-ass dance numbers. Give it Up in particular has some really great vocal layers. The album closes with Sing Me Home where Amanda and Sebastian trade off vocals in a nice, warm way to bring us home.

The strengths of 30 Frames are many. Vocally, it’s a powerhouse. Paired with the strength of the songwriting, including the melodies and chord progressions, structures and production, it’s an achievement they should be very proud of. It’s interesting, cohesive and identifyable.

Put this record on at a house party if you want to get people pumped up, or crank it while you’re getting ready to go out. It will definitely set the mood for a great night.


Connecticut experimental rockers Have a Nice Life’s 2014 sophomore release, The Unnatural World, is an existential concept album that explores the sonically tenebrous edges that tie our lives to feeling and consciousness. The duo, composed of Dan Barrett (of Giles Corey, In Pieces) and Tim Macugan (of Nahvalr), have amassed a considerable cult following through Enemies List Recordings, a homegrown indie label co-founded by Barrett himself. To this effect, previous Giles Corey releases, as well as Have a Nice Life’s debut album Deathconsciousness, have functioned as catalysts of sorts, drawing an audience to anticipate the label’s most engaging, compelling and mature release thus far with The Unnatural World.

The disconcertingly thetic debut Deathconsciousness LP offered a melding of gothic, shoegaze and post-punk, notably utilizing elements of drone, ambient, synth and gloomy acoustics. While the predecessor to The Unnatural World was an epic Inferno-esque feat of daunting and difficultly-digestible proportions, Have a Nice Life’s latest album is respectably focused and clocks in at 47 minutes, almost 40 minutes less than Deathconsciousness.

Lyrically, The Unnatural World is shrouded in a gothic lore that compliments the muddied but textured sonic dissonance that reigns almost unwaveringly throughout this record. On the track “Cropsey”, through Pennhurst Asylum audio samples, we meet Johnny, a child patient following experimental behavioural therapy. An eerie organ drones over chilling xylophone intervals, austere drumming sets a marching pace, but they all give way to metallic, harrowing percussion, distorted, thunderous bass and lo-fi vocals. These same industrial textures perfuse both the fast-paced punk rock and ambient spectra of this record.

The Unnatural World lends itself to the examination of the dark furrows and doubts of minds in a dangerous and oblique manner and does so with uncompromising weight and dourness.

Score: 8.2/10

Favourite tracks: “Cropsey”, “Defenestration Song”

Run the Jewels is the heavy-hitting, villainous collaboration of rappers El-P and Killer Mike. Independently, both Run the Jewels members have recently released very mature, complex albums, equally lauded by critics and their respective fans. Indeed, New York veteran producer and rapper El-P released his Cancer4Cure album in 2012, and produced Atlanta rapper Killer Mike’s 2012 album R.A.P. Music. The chemistry of the latter release led to a furthering of this partnership: enter Run the Jewels. The duo’s self-titled freshman album garnered them critical acclaim for their brash and cartoonishly-violent lyrics. Just a year after their debut release was made available freely online, the rap group have delivered their second full-length album, also free, via the group’s website.

The first track “Jeopardy” kicks off the album with grimey, menacing verses over eerie synthesizers. Jazzy, quirky saxophones accompany the verse’s climaxing rhymes, and are beautifully utilized by a hungry Killer Mike. The rap duo symbiotically share MC duties and provide a teaser of sorts for the more aggressive and complex sounds to be explored in the coming tracks, making “Jeopardy” an appropriate and poised introduction. Veteran beatmaker El-P, always mindful of mood and momentum, seamlessly joins many of these tracks. “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” leads into “Blockbuster Night Part 1” and “All Due Respect” segues into “Love Again”, providing congruence and solidifying the album as a single, complete experience. The track sequencing, as a whole, is complementary to the crooks’ storytelling.

The selective, effective use of features on this album support varied, refreshing melodies without compromising any of the hard-hitting, aggressive bars or eerie beats. Drummer Travis Barker of Blink-182 and Transplants fame provides some dynamic, loose, urban-environment percussions on the vicious and sharp-spitting “All Due Respect”. The single “Close Your Eyes” features Zack De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine on a hook that is looped directly into the song’s beat with some heavy bass. Although De La Rocha also has a concluding verse on this track, his delivery is somewhat stale and his technical delivery is disjointed with the lyrical content. Some slow, distorted, high-pitched vocals are delivered by producer BOOTS on the song “Early”. The vocals feel like a distress or warning signal and are subtly-tweaked to allow for both transitioning and a graded-sound building across this song. On the track “Love Again”, Three 6 Mafia’s Gangsta Boo prominently features over alternating simple and layered beats for some sassy, humorous, raunchy and carnal equal-opportunity gender sexualization and objectification.

Even impudent, violent villains can have a conscience, and Killer Mike and El-P provide a contrasting dimension to their thematics by exploring this on more sullen tracks. For example, the track “Crown” has Killer Mike reflecting, rather soberly and drearily, over his culpability in the role of a dealer providing narcotics to a pregnant woman. The imagery and incorporated dialogue flesh out the saddening and troubling portraits and plights of both the provider and user in a clandestine context maintained by drug use stigmatization. Likewise, “Lie, Cheat, Steal” is a dismal, cynical condoning of the use of thuggish, brutal means by the common man to combat the type of structural violence that is continuously renovated and cemented by big money and crooked politics.

“Angel Duster” plays out like final and definite words of advice for an acknowledged, soon-parting listener. Main themes of government corruption, religion and drug dealing are revisited over a gorgeously-produced beat, exquisitely ornamented with short and soaring vocals, clinking glasses, distorted, grimey bass and bluesy piano for a masterful, elegant album closer.

Laced with raw hooks and verses, Run the Jewels 2 delivers continuous, heavy-hitting and brutish rhymes over beautifully layered beats. The production quality, track segues, conscientious track sequencing and effective use of features make the sophomore release of the Run the Jewels duo, Run the Jewels 2, one of the strongest hip-hop releases this year.

Nameless Ponytail Score: 8.5/10

Favourite Tracks: “Angel Duster”, “Early” (feat. BOOTS), “Crown” (feat. Diane Coffee)

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

Run the Jewels will perform Thursday, November 27 with Ratking and Despot at Club Soda. Doors open at 7 p.m., $23.50 in advance or $25 at the door. 

Jesse StoneWith his new album Break of Day set to be released this month, expatriate Jesse Stone has been very busy working on new musical projects from his Brooklyn apartment.

Best known for his sweet raspy voice, a mix of blues rock singer and alt-country star, his music was forged here, in the fires of Montreal. And although he has left to work in Brooklyn his heart hasn’t really left Montreal, his home.

In an age of polished, soulless music, Jesse Stone’s songs are a reminder of the age of the great poetic singer-songwriters of days past: Cohen, Dylan and Springsteen.  Just like them, Stone sings about the age old battle of modernism, relationships and the desire to find your place and soul in all this madness.

Hosting the open mic jam at The Bull pub made Jesse Stone a name for himself among the performers that showed up every week.

A few years ago Jesse Stone also got recognition of also being a great promoter, hosting and performing on the Bandstand fundraiser with his company Hot Soupe. Together with Josh Trager (drummer), Chad Tuppert (electric guitar) he started recording songs that would be on the new album.

Now, after a year and a half of a tenacious effort Break of Day is finally scheduled for release later this month.

Many of the songs on Break of Day are as uptempo and upbeat as a summer’s day like “Promises” and “Fisherman.” But there are a few darker tracks on the album like “Vampires,” “Don’t Come Around” and “Life is a Lonely Road,” which give the album a full spectrum of emotions as they travel through the heart of the poet, singer-songwriter. Brilliantly arranged, many of the rock songs that will make you want to dance, and maybe twist and shout, while a few of the darker tracks may make you drink, reflexively.

If you are already familiar with his music then you’ve probably heard of how he gets inside your head and tinkers, leaving behind some catchy tunes and memorable riffs. Here’s the track “Don’t Change” that will stay in your head:

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”50″ iframe=”true” /]

The soothing acoustic take on “Vampires,” one of the darker songs that might take you on a nostalgic trip. You might need a shot of whiskey afterwards:

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”100″ iframe=”true” /]

The album was finished a year ago and although the sound is produced and polished yet still holds a looseness of a live musical performance. Break of Day is also very well paced giving the listener time to reflect, and enjoy the mood it generates, without coming on strong.

It’s an homage to the singer-songwriters of days past; if anything Stone has shown us these day aren’t over.

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”100″ iframe=”true” /]

Break of Day will be available this month on iTunes

You can also give a listen to Jesse Stone’s SoundCloud.

Check out his Facebook page for his latest music and videos.

Taking inspiration from jam bands like The Grateful Dead, Po Lazarus recently recorded their debut self-titled EP live in one (almost) continuous take. This ambitious and experimental style is something the Montreal quartet clearly thrives on. At its core, Po Lazarus is a folk-rock band, but as their five-track EP demonstrates they’re also a band continuously striving to find new ways of making music.

As with all experimentation, the final results are mixed. As lead singer Joshua Carey croons about lost loves, one night stands, self-doubt and redemption, the music shifts between sweet folk, harder rock and straight up country.

As much as the band doesn’t want to admit it, they’re masters at putting on a great performance. When you see a live Po Lazarus show, it’s difficult not to get swept up in the vibe and feel like these gentlemen are making sweet love to your eardrums. Upon repeated listens at home, the band’s strengths and weaknesses start to become more apparent.

In the psychedelic-fuled lead track Backyard Voodoo Carey’s voice sounds like the love child of Jim Morrison and Thom Yorke. When first hearing the lyrics, it’s hard to take Backyard Voodoo seriously (Chicken bones are strewn/From the ceiling of your room/and brickdust is guarding the cupboard where you keep your/broom). But just like dark magic, upon repeated listens the song grows on you.

In more folk-ish Po Lazarus songs like The Seams, the guitar wailing away seems out of place. But in Backyard Voodoo the guitar is perfection. And when you combine that with Mo Novak’s solid drum beat, I could listen to Carey ramble on about nonsense forever.

I’m Coming For You is one of the most polished songs on the EP. The song’s impact slowly creeps up on you and has just the right doses of pop, rock and folk. The best guitar solo on the EP can be found here and features some impassioned vocals from Carey.

Conversely A Couple Weeks Time is the blandest of the offerings on the EP. While you have to appreciate the desire to try different things, country is clearly not a style that inspires the band as much as folk or rock.

If You Are Alone is the most obvious crowd pleaser of the EP. Ukulele, falsetto and simple lyrics is always a great mix. Especially when performed live, Po Lazarus knows how to make this combination work for them. With the incredibly infectious chorus (If you are alone/Well i’ll be the one to take you home x2) it’s hard not to find yourself singing along to this song whether you’re in a packed bar after a few pints, or stone-cold sober sitting alone in your living room.

All and all this EP signals Po Lazarus is a strong band that’s here to stay. It’ll be exciting to see where Po Lazarus’s goal of experimentation takes their musical style and lyrical inspiration next.

To celebrate the launch of their EP, Po Lazarus is having a party tonight, Friday, August 8th at Turbo Haus. Tickets are $10 in advance, $14 at the door. To download a copy of the EP for yourself, make sure you check out Po Lazarus’s bandcamp page



I’m a little late to the party to be reviewing the latest Gangstagrass album, Broken Hearts and Stolen Money (BHSM). It dropped almost a month ago, and has already caught the eye (or ear) of the mainstream media, but it’s gotten surprisingly little coverage in the whole indie music blogosphere, so I thought I’d give them a shout-out from FTB and give anyone reading this a heads up on album that’ll challenge your expectations of what both hip-hop or bluegrass is supposed to be.

If you haven’t heard of Gangstagrass, they’re a melee of bluegrass musicians and hip-hop artists who’ve found a way of blending the two styles that’s both charming and hypnotic. In fact, if you’ve ever watched an episode of FX’s show Justified, then you’ve probably heard their track Long Hard Times (feat. T.O.N.E-Z) on the opening credits. That song not only catapulted them into hip-hop relevancy, but earned them an Emmy nomination.

Gangstagrass Live 2
Left to Right: Rench, R-Son, Dolio the Sleuth

Long Hard Times is a few years old now, and the band dropped an entire other album, Rappalachia, between that Emmy nomination and the release of BHSM. And while Rappalachia was an album that I probably loved too much, BHSM is demonstrating that the guys (and gals) of Gangstagrass are still not done pushing the envelope or fulfilling their potential.

Breaking Hearts & Stealing Money

The neat thing about BHSM is that it really reflects just how much the band is coming into their own both as musicians and as trailblazers of a genre. In fact, there are two things that really stood out for me about BHSM.


The first is just how adept founder, producer and Gangstagrass mastermind Rench has become at mixing bluegrass tracks with hip-hop beats. The bass lines are heavy and warm, and carry a kind of meaning or purpose that you usually get a feel for when you’re listening to music influence by the bodhran (think the bass line to Counting Crow’s Omaha if you need a more mainstream point of reference), and then the banjo and fiddle come in and dance across those beats like a girl-next-door after she’s had enough strawberry wine to consider going up to the hayloft with her beau to make a couple bad decisions.

As for lyrics (and rhymes), BHSM is also a bit of a step-up from the more run-of-the-mill kinda showboating hip-hop lyrics that were more common on Rappalachia. Don’t get me wrong, Dolio the Sleuth’s and R-Son’s rhymes have always hella-smooth; but the band has now come into a storytelling phase of their music that’s both entertaining and thought provoking.

Overall, the tracks on BHSM run the gamut of Gangstagrass collaborators, giving you a little sampler on just how many different ways that hip-hop and bluegrass can sound so good together. But if I had to pick a favorite off of the album, it’d probably be Rainstorm in Kentucky. It’s a track with a bit of a dark and haunting undertone that gets you thinking about what it must be like to be a dirty-south gangbanger who ends up in the unfortunate (but not unexpected) position of having to dig a grave for a loved one yourself because, well, going through the channels of giving them a proper burial is only going the kind of attention from that’ll only make things even worse.

Jadea Kelly recently released her second full-length album Clover.  The album is a wonderful collection of tunes that range from very personal sentiments such as “Mary Don’t Go,” a song about her grandmother, to songs inspired by an intense storm, or her desire to move up north of Toronto.

The vocals are the most prominent feature on the album which is so satisfying because her lyrics are lovely and evocative and her voice is smooth as silk.  Kelly has a delicate grace about her which is very much reflected in the melodies she sings and her gentle yet precise tone.  Certain songs, however, reveal a more powerful side of the chanteuse, most evident in the choruses of tracks like “Powell River” and “I’ll Be.”  “I’ll Be” is a noteworthy tune because of how the production of the song captures the contrast between feelings of weakness and power.  The vocals start out soft as Kelly sings of vulnerability and hope, but grow stronger in the chorus as she reveals inner strength.


What highlights Kelly’s strong songwriting in addition to her polished vocals and interesting lyrics is her wonderful band of excellent musicians who add tasteful accompaniment to each song.  The electric guitar parts in particular are strikingly atmospheric and suit the music and production perfectly.

Lead guitarist Tom Juhas is clearly an accomplished player. More importantly, he has a knack for adding oftentimes subtle fills and parts that don’t overpower Kelly’s vocal melodies or other goings on and yet contribute an incredible amount to the vibe of the songs.  The guitar parts are not generally placed in the foreground, which adds to their mystique and reveals the strength of the producer/engineer who kept a flow and feel going for the entirety of the album.  It’s just lovely from start to end.

My favourite moments on the album are the vocal melody in the chorus of the title track, “Wild West Rain,” the way “Saintly Stare” is musically staged, and the lyrics and melody in the chorus of “Lone Wolf”:

“All traces of your shadows,
will find their way back home.
I found you through the gallows
When the night falls, when the moon crawls
I’ll find you still.
All traces of your shadows
will find the day on your way back home.”

This is an album to be proud of and a strong next step in a blossoming career.

Check out the studio session for “Lone Wolf”:


If Krystale is a machine as she claims, she is one that has soul.

That was a terrible pun, but it highlights a theme of the Montreal singer’s new album Machine. She continually navigates a balance between warm, romantic vocal delivery and cold, withholding lyrical content. The dichotomy creates an exciting, diverse set that will satisfy any fan of original soulful music. Krystale succeeds here by singing with a confidence and talent that command attention from the listener. The songs are complex but catchy, the performances are first rate (Krystale is joined by Harvey Bien-Aimée on drums, Hrag Keuchkerian on guitar, and Pierre Erizias on bass), and the production by Tim Gowdy creates a lush sonic atmosphere that coheres the album.

Machine is a clear synthesis of Krystale’s previous EPs, the jazz-inflected Reboot (2011) and The Good Fight (2012) in which she was joined by beat-maker Kaytranada. It is her most unified work and it achieves the ideal of sounding organic, even with the inclusion of electronic elements. Many musicians categorize themselves within the jazz, soul, R&B, and electronic genres but nobody else sounds like Krystale.

While Krystale’s vocal prowess is undeniable, the emotional tone of her lyrics is one of the most noticeable attributes of the album. She is vulnerable but also closed off, making the listener curious as to what will come next. With song titles like “I Don’t Like to Share” and lyrics such as “I’m a Machine” and “I be cold if I have to / self control is a virtue,” we can only wonder why she is so emotionally guarded. There are lighter moments, though, with lyrics about restarting, changing perspectives, love, and companionship.

The title track puts Krystale’s expressive vocals on display while leaving room for funky bass fills from Erizias. Here we also witness how tight the band is through a complex arrangement that includes a four-on-the-floor, head-bobbing bridge and syncopated hits to close the song. Bien-Aimée’s drums and Keuchkerian’s guitar riffs are in the forefront of “Cold Without You.” They pair with Krystale’s airy, emotional singing to create a spacey, entrancing musical experience. “Midnight Blue” sounds nothing like any of the other songs but could be the one that best encapsulates the balance between upbeat, accessible music and sombre but tender lyrics. This is the song with the fastest tempo and has an unrelenting rock feel, all while being matched with lyrics such as “I taught myself disaster when the hue soaked in my sight / but the dark seems so fulfilling / there’s no way to change my mind.”

Some listeners might notice that many of the songs have similar structure with verses, choruses, and a bridge toward the end of the song, but each composition is unique enough that it stands on its own. Machine works because each song is catchy in its own right, but when put together they all gel as a cohesive work of art. Krystale’s vocals and compositions carry the album, but the instrumental performances and production prove just as integral to the outcome. Krystale’s sound is wholly unique, particularly within the Montreal area, and that makes Machine an album you do not want to miss.

GHOST LIGHTS – SALTWATER (November 27, 2013)

Folk /  Indie Rock / West Coast Acoustic

The first time I heard this EP a couple months ago, I couldn’t help singing along with it out loud. I then met Noah Cebuliak (guitar, voice) of Ghost Lights when he played a set at a show organized for the debut of my small band. Within seconds, he had the audience in a trance, eyes closed, smiles content and longing hearts. There is something in Ghost Lights’ tunes that is hard to pinpoint. Ghost lights is atmospheric, recalling the wilderness that inspires Cebuliak who is from British Columbia. In trying to find artists to compare Ghost Lights to, the closest I could come up with was a little of The Barr Brothers, a bit o’ local wonder Joe Grass and a more stripped to the bone version of Patrick Watson’s early work. “Babble from a Beehive” and “Fog Chief” are our favourites from Saltwater which is a strong debut EP that showcases strong talent for poetic lyrics and beckoning melodies. Recommended for drinking iced tea on the patio with a loved one.


SEE THEM LIVE: Next Show on June 3rd with WILDERLING & ANNA SCOUTEN at O Patro Vys

(Facebook Event)


Album-Launch-Poster-662x1024CINEMA L’AMOUR – LIMITATIONS (May 31, 2013)

Loop Rock / Alternative Rock / Avant garde 

I’ve been keeping an eye on Montreal-based Cinema L’Amour since they played their first show and impressed me beyond words. Since then, I’ve been anticipating the release of their first full-length album with some impatience. Limitations is finally here and it kicks ass. Limitations boldly showcases the band’s last four years of composing and touring across the country and was well worth the wait. The two piece usually performs with only one guitar, one drum kit, and an impressive loop pedal board to create an array of textures. On the album, these familiar songs are transformed into something even more complex as Saxophone, Trumpet, Tuba, and Cello (to name a few) are added to the mix. Cinema L’Amour’s talent presented in Limitations is unique and incredibly driven: a combination that will bring these guys places. Since Cinema L’Amour plays with textures and rhythms with a fervoursly dynamic kind of song engineering there is not one comparison that can do these guys justice: there’s a little bit of Buke and Gase, a speck of early Incubus, some funk elements right alongside some harder rock, at times in the same song. Our favourites are “Dedicated” and “Oh So Much”. These guys also throw amazing shows and bonanzas. Recommended at any point: day or night.


SEE THEM LIVE: Album Launch on May 31st with SAXSYNDRUM & LOOSESTRIFE at Brasserie Beaubien

(Facebook event)


4543903ARCHERY GUILD – DIN (May 28, 2013)

Experimental / Rock / Pop

I’ve been hearing about this band nonstop for the last year or so. They’ve been called a powerful “wall of sound” by some of my most trusted musical informants. I’ve had the opportunity to hear them live once and it was pretty grand and it was then I realized what my friends had meant: this band has nine core members and an additional armory of friends who join them on stage to produce a cacophony of sounds woven together by a melody. There’s joy to the energetic chaos that ensues from Archery Guild’s music. It’s difficult to listen to DIN without getting up and dancing or getting pumped up to do something exciting in the city. It’s pretty hard to find what band Archery Guild sounds like (especially since I don’t listen to that much experimental rock) but I’d say it’s kind of like the misfit child of Sunset Rubdown and Arcade Fire. Our favourites are “Juslyk” and “Swimmin’ Out”. Recommended for hearing live or dancing to during party times.


SEE THEM LIVE: Album Launch on May 28th with CHOSES SAUVAGES at Casa Del Popolo

(Facebook Event)

Writer Perk #37: Pre-release tunes in my inbox.

I’d never heard of Magneta Lane, and opted to set aside the bio for later, uploaded the goodies to my MP3 and headed out for a stroll. I was boppin’ and smilin’ in no time.

Despite the ridiculous cold and layers of clothes, I was suddenly transported to petticoat dresses, army boots and burgundy lipstick. It was melodic pop princesses, embittered and unafraid, but just pissed enough that they never fall out of key (sorry Hole, you know I love you, but different category….Magneta Lane is more Veruca Salt’s American Thighs album, which remains awesome in my heart).

Their upcoming album is called Witchrock, which I think it a neat-o name, and I’m glad they didn’t besmirch it by sucking. It’s cleaner and tighter than the grungy gals of my youth (we invented Lolita Goth, btw, if you’re keeping track). The smooth sounds of uber-production are a sign of the times, though, and they haven’t abused their post-production powers, it’s only that for it’s style, I miss the grit of garage tapes, I suppose. Still, the tunes are boppy without being oversweet, the lyrics are fun and witty and def for the ladies. If I was throwing a retro party, circa 1995, with enough bitter ladies to make a drunken circle and scream the lyrics of a song, we could probably replace the standby You Oughta Know with Magneta Lane’s Lucky.

There’s something beyond that though…something more retro, more refined, something that made me think of beehives, glammed out shift dresses and boots made for walking, that may one day in fact walk all over you. So, after a couple of days of dancing down the street to the tunes and even finding X stuck in my head at one point, I was pretty pleased with myself when I found Nancy Sinatra listed as one of their influences. Oh look! Veruca Salt’s there too! I’m diggin’ these chicks…

The suburban Toronto trio, comprised of sisters Lexi Valentine and Nadia King along with their good friend French, formed back in 2003 when they realized that they were on the wrong side of the stage and taught themselves how to play.  At the time they were fifteen and seventeen years old, lying about their age so they could play in Torontos’ clubs, where they had to be nineteen (yet another reason Montreal’s cooler).

witchrockA few albums and a hiatus later, here they are, ready to call the shots, and unapologetically embrace their style…whatever that is. Through the realization that they were not really grungy enough to be alternative, far too polite to be punk, way too empowered to be emo, they came up with Witchrock as a genre and knowing that gets my mind ‘thinking about all the other fab chicks, broads and sultry status quo subverters that could fit in under that umbrella, from Janis Joplin to Luscious Jackson, Lana Del Ray, Adele, L7, P!nk, The Breeders…the list goes on and it’s a pretty good one (if I do say so myself as I compile it).

The album’s out February 12th through eOne Music Canada and their release party is on the 14th, if you’re out Queen Street way, and you know, if I was in the T Dot, I think I’d hit that. I betcha it’ll be good fun and one day you can say you saw them way back when. Also, my money’s on this album being the perfect Valentine’s gift for that chick in your life who says love is an illusion and V-Day’s a trite corporate festival, because in case you were unclear, you still totally have to get her something.

The release party’s tonight, Thursday February 14, at The Rivoli, 334 Queen St. W., Toronto. Follow them @magneta_lane

Vancouver native and self-proclaimed “urban hippie” Annie Becker released her very first album on May 18th, entitled All About the Beez Neez.

Ambrosia Records, the label releasing the LP, made the obvious Regina Spektor comparison. And while Becker’s voice is impressive in range, it does sound like Spektor’s, minus the daring weirdness and unique boldness.

Beez Neez, the song sharing the album’s title, is a song sopping with wet blanket guitar riffs and lyrics so rife with cliché, it’s a little bit of a cringer. Maybe Becker was trying to be tongue-in-cheek here or something, as she sings about Bees Knees, cats pajamas and generically-worded love affairs. Maybe not.

The fourth track, Za Za Zue, calls to mind a rich burlesque in the dirty thirties. With its throaty growls and swanky horn sections this song is actually enjoyable, zipping off in different instrumental directions and proving that Becker might actually have something here. But it’s inconsistent. Other songs like Change, and Flaky, show off a more generic lyrical styling and drowsy, female singer-songwriter melodies that are comparable to Feist, Jenn Grant, Regina Spektor, Jill Barber, etc.

Sideways is a solid vocal showcase though, as Annie Becker stretches her voice out over roaring horns and you get to hear it in its rich fullness. The girl can sing, and the horns really are a nice touch. With a misty piano intro, the song bursts fully into Becker’s biography. The whole album comes off as personal litany of what she’s learned and endured, through metaphors reminiscent of grannies and greeting cards. The lyrics could be a little fresher, definitely, and the song structure more consistent.

For example, Becker once again proves how uneven the album is by zigzagging over to the track Little Darlin, layering her vocals and throwing down a sultry song that is reminiscent of a saner Lauren Hill. The melodies of this song are woven together well, and her voice stretches far and wide over a snappy blues snare drum.

She ends Beez Neez with a little song about the old nine-to-five, entitled Okay. She says she wants to write about ditching the day job and writing a song “about how she feels.” Well, this reviewer suggests that if Annie Becker doesn’t want to get lumped in with all the other tedious, redundant, dusty-voiced female singer-songwriters, she should maximize the talents showcased on tracks like Little Darlin, and maybe her next album will be less hit and miss.

Hailing from Montreal, Sunfields started off as a solo project from Jason Kent who has been visiting England for years. Their first album which was completed in Spring 2010 began three years earlier during the Fall of of 2007 just north of London.

Longtime friend and guitarist Phil burns, who played with Kent in a previous band joined, along with Drummer Chris Wise, and Bassist Cliff Roberts. Fender Rhodes and James Watkins are only a couple to mention among many other artists that contributed to the Place in the Sun album. The album is full of different original instruments from mellotrons and mandolins right on through to saxophones, trombones, and vibraphones, which are just an example of the diversity of sounds used on this album.

Palace in the Sun starts off with a happy vibrant melodious track, Skin and Bones, using a head bobbing foot-tapping beat.   Their classic soft rock rhythm and country/jazz feel is felt throughout in every song right to the end of the album. The choppy pianos, background clapping and raspy vocals complement the bluesy tough sounding guitar and Kent’s vocals add nicely on their single City, which can also be heard in their video.

Palace’s harmonica intro calms you down a bit before raising your heart with inspiring vocals. With beautiful bright colors painted into an archaic portrait on a canvass with a dark background, the artwork for Palace is fresh and pleasant, and matches the album perfectly. Palace took me on an enjoyable journey through touching memories, all the while warming me with a sense of freedom that stays close to home yet still down to earth.

Palace in the Sun in a whole is a pleasant music journey in the sun through soft caressing fields. It gives you a nice blend of old classic rock smoothed out with a wide variety of original sounds for an uplifting experience. A good album altogether, great for that desire to sit back and relax in the sun.

Sunfields also recently played at CFC with Michou and ForgetTheBox was there! Check out our show review too.

Photo by Chris Zacchia

Little City, a Toronto based band, is an interesting collective of diverse musicians who bring a variety of talent that is a true replicate of what Canadian music brings to the table in 2011. They are, repeat, one of the best upcoming folk/pop groups in our country. After randomly coming across Little City live at the Velvet Underground in Toronto during CMW, I picked up a copy of their EP, The Going and The Gone. We played it on repeat the whole way back to Montreal. It’s absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t stop saying, “This EP is so nice. It’s so nice. So, so nice.”

Like said, it was one of those bands you greatly stumble upon (and not via and don’t exit the venue two minutes later. During their set they pulled out an array of instruments ranging from mandolin to violin to the norm. The lead guitarist heroically jumped on the 4 foot wide speakers, which spewed out from the stage and gave it to the audience like he was the Slash of folk. If you got a chance to look away from him, you noticed that all the other members look like they were in their own worlds. Think of it like this… they are the planets in their music universe that work together to create this white blanket over the world (which is us the audience).

Now, let’s talk EP. Little City’s EP screams, actually sweetly sings, MONTREAL. Of the five songs that grace the EP, two of them chant about Montreal’s Plateau

and how it’s everyone’s escape city a place where

your heart wanders free and your spirit…well, it lives.

And the lyrics. OH BOY. I’m not sure who wrote the

words to their songs, but holy shit they are soul sinking. We’re talking poetic songs, with twisting words that mean more with the music than your mom’s wedding ring.

Check out, Rise Up and Bright Glow (both can be found on their MySpace). And for the other songs, well, you’re just going to have to buy the EP. If you’re folk/pop junkie, it’s worth every music-ear dollar.

Make sure to grab the EP and check out Little City in a town near you. For now, just enjoy the poetry music that your mind and ears will consciously absorb.



Photos 1. and 2.

Check us out on Facebook. We’ve got band photos!