It’s a cold, hard fact that there is some truly amazing music coming out of the East Coast.  The boys of Pretty Archie, a band from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, certainly measure up to their notable Maritime contemporaries. Last year I had the privilege of meeting the band and seeing them play at NXNE. At the time they were revving up to record their sophomore album, a follow up to 2013’s Steel City (which was nominated for Music Nova Scotia’s bluegrass/country album of the year). They were great then, but with this new album, North End Sky, they have matured a surprising amount for such little time. The album is fun and energetic like their live shows, but it is also wrapped in warmth and yields a depth that is often reserved for more seasoned acts.

Pretty Archie

North End Sky shows a development from Steel City’s mainly folk and bluegrass shades to include other colours that lean in the direction of alt-country. The colours come from their use of banjo, harmonica and mandolin; as well as the usual acoustic guitar, bass and drums; but also from the electric guitar parts that beef up many of the songs on the album. The vocal prowess of lead singer Brian Cathcart is emboldened by the layered harmonies provided by the other band members. Jamie Foulds, audio engineer extraordinaire from Soundpark Studios, did a fine job of making the album sound polished. Yes; there is a lot of really beautiful stuff going on.North End Sky Cover

Many of the tracks are jolly-good foot-stompers, but they are complimented by the few more relaxed tunes like “The Flood,” a vocally intense song that’s somehow haunting and powerful at the same time. Another tune that stands out is “Devil Take Me Down,” which features some of musically the most interesting works as well as one of the strongest vocal deliveries on the album. After a moderately-paced beginning, it morphs into a driving, mighty middle section before pulling back at the tail end again. It’s very effective.

Pretty Archie have taken strides forward with this collection of songs that range from good old-fashioned drinkin’ tunes to their more sentimental numbers. Here is a video from “Hardwood Floor,” one of the slower tunes on the album.

Their music can be purchased on iTunes (link on their website).

CJLO recently launched a compilation album for their artist outreach program – which helps support local artists by recording and promoting their tracks. The launch party was a musical sweat fest. Highlights of the evening were The This Many Boyfriends Club and Blood, two local bands with decidedly different sounds, whose alchemic notes caught our attention. Below is a review of their latest releases along with the debut album of local artist Ari Swan.

Blood – Kasey/Organism and CJLO Compilation 2013

Blood is David Kleiser, Fraser Roodbol (formerly of Annette’s Beach Party), Ben Griffiths, and Andrew Bates. My ears first perked up to their sound during the CJLO launch party when Blood sang “It takes a lot of cum to find the right one”, a lyrically crass image that merges with the psychedelic smoothness of the band’s sound to create a clever insightful image reflecting on the visceral experiences of searching for connection. Their sound is decidedly retro but blends more modern elements towards a sound that’s been absent on the indie scene for quite some time. There’s often a danger when it comes to making music that refers to the rock days of old, but Blood isn’t offering a caricature, they are translating it. Of the four tracks available by Blood, “Teen Jesus” and “Kasey” are the standouts. Overall, this sound’s pretty dope and I look forward to seeing what a full length from these guys will sound like.

See Them:  At CFC on October 31st, they’ll be the dudes dressed up as Neutral Blood Hotel and promise to play two songs from Avery Island and two songs from Aeroplane.

Hear them:

a0025657284_10This Many Boyfriends Club – Die or Get Rich Trying / A Pumpkin Like You

This Many Boyfriends Club has been pretty darn prolific in the last year coming out with two more EPs. Tracks for “Die or Get Rich Trying”, mixed and mastered by Marshall Vaillancourt  (Archery Guidld), were recorded as part of the CJLO Artist Outreach Program. The Boyfriends thoroughly nailed it when playing the tunes live – giving them an even more ragged edge that I actually prefer to the recorded tracks. That being said, since their Ep Anything Is Popsicle, the Boyfriends have added quite a bit of punk rock to their dandypunk twee pop cake mix. Danger-Winslow Danger’s grittier vocals are a pleasant surprise. Top tracks on Die or Get Rich Trying are “Sylvie” and “Alright/Already”. Available as a B Side on a limited cassette tape edition of Die or Get Rich Trying is a bonus EP A Pumpkin Like You, which feels like a musical step between Anything is Popsicle and Die or Get Rich Trying. A Pumpkin Like You, stronger as a coherent hole than Die or Get Rich Trying, boasts some fun frolicky tracks that are closer to the band’s twee beginnings. Our favourites are “a little fucking candor” and “polly anne marie.”

Hear Them:

See Them: Nov. 2nd at CFC with Smokes and White Like Fire.

a1221310642_2Ari Swan – Symphony Plastique

“I’ll build you a symphony, if only you’d ask” says Ari Swan’s page. Well, we’re definitely gonna be asking (politely of course) now that we’ve heard Swan’s debut album.

I first heard of Ari Swan when she played with Gabrielle Papillion, one of my favourite Canadian folk artists. Upon further research, it’s pretty clear to me that Swan has got quite a bit of experience under her belt including Folly and the Hunter, Little Scream, Heirloom, Lakes of Canada, and Chimneys. Recently, Ari Swan has released Symphony Plastique, an EP of her solo project and it’s pretty darn rad. Violin driven pop is a hard thing to pull off, I’ll admit it’s something I often find overbearing, but Ari Swan does it masterfully and with charm. Recorded by Jamie Thompson (Unicorns), Symphony Plastique seems to have been a two person album with Ari Swan on violin and vocals and Thompson on percussion and effects. A two person art pop symphony that weaves loops and experiments with all the things a violin and a voice can do. Impressive, very impressive. “I’ve Come with Nothing” and “Words that Follow” are our favourites.

Hear Her:

Christian Bridges is a young songwriter and performer in Toronto who played a show at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern on July 20th.  Included on a bill with many talented groups, Bridges and his band played an energetic set of songs mainly off his recently released debut EP album From Within.  His song “Caribbean Girl” was recently selected as CBC’s song of the week.  Bridges’s music is uplifting and socially aware.  It’s also fun to watch him play live; he’s a strong performer and very emotive.  His band is made up of great players as well, many of whom were students of Humber College’s illustrious music program.

In addition to playing under his own name, Bridges is part of Toronto band Down By Riverside.  The band has connected with charities, women’s shelters and the Occupy Toronto movement because of their vibrant songs about rising above challenges and being strong.

Bridges also co-wrote a song with Justin Nozuka, titled “Heartless,” which won them a Number 1 SOCAN award and was a chart-topping hit in France.

Bridges’s album From Within was produced live off the floor, a rare occurrence these days, by Thomas McKay (of Joydrop).  Watch “Caribbean Girl” performed live at the Supermarket in Toronto here, with special guest performers in tow to enhance the Caribbean flavour and check out the steel drum dude’s hat (wouldn’t want to mess with those dreads)!

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

Imaginary Cities is the first step in the Manitoba music take over. They released their first full length album, Temporary Resident last month and here’s what I’ve got to say about it…

Imaginary Cities ability to synchronize their various instrumental add-ons and match Marti Sarbit’s (lead vocals) voice with solid, strong and trendy lyrics is gold. The album maintains old songs such as Say You and Hummingbird, while managing to add new pieces like Don’t Cry. It’s a strong start for a new group. I mean they’ve already managed to please the ears of many due to Rusty’s previous experience, which he seems to have passed on and redefined for Marti’s gritty ear grabbing vocals.

Temporary Resident houses 11 songs, the majority have already been released via their MySpace, but it’s nice to hear some new additions that keep within their blues-pop themed sound.   If you haven’t already bought Temporary Resident do so it will stay on play for at least a month. If you’ve had the play button pushed for a month, grab it for new and old songs; it’s always nice to have everything in place. After all that’s the point of an album- It’s a house of songs. My only disappointment is the exclusion of the ever-so addictive tune Marry The Sea, one of the best I think. Either way, Don’t Cry definitely makes up for it. Truth be told, good pop is good pop. So, stop being a grouch and get your ears hooked on something different for a while, whether temporarily or permanently.

Imaginary Cities plays CMW tomorrow (Friday March 11) @ The Garrison, 1197 Dundas Street West as part of the Manitoba Music Showcase.

The mid nineties was a very good time to live in Montreal if you were into checking out local music. With bands like Frog Machine, Goldfish and Gaby, Jr. playing almost every week in various official and unofficial venues around town, there were things going on to say the least. At the forefront of all this were The Snitches.

As the hosts of the loft shows known as C-Pig, this extremely energetic six-piece would rock the underground scene at least once a month, and play sold-out shows in places as varied as Club Soda (the original Club Soda on Parc) and Dawson College. While they were known for their very high-energy shows, they also released albums.

Their debut record, A Day at the A, was catchy and fun. Their other album, Star Witness offered more punky tunes. For me, though, the quintessential Snitches album has got to be 1997’s Sleepwalker.

The opening track, Ma Belle Diva, creeps up on you and turns into a highly danceable rocker by the end, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The songs range from outright pop tunes like, AKA (my personal favourite), to the punky and borderline grungy like That Somewhere Smile and by the time things are ready to wind down, they don’t. This City (the second to last tune) may have a slower tempo and Andrea (the closer) may be an introspective acoustic ballad written for a lost friend, but both keep the underlying energy up.

Regardless of specific style of the song, there are three elements that are part of all of Sleepwalker: energy, catchiness and attitude. You can and will want to sing along, you can and will want to move (either fast or slow) and you will feel that there is something raw, emotional and even a bit dark behind all of it. You can’t quite put your finger on it but you know it’s there. It’s in the lyrics, it’s in the music. It comes close to contrasting the rest of the generally happy-go-lucky attitude, but The Snitches are so smooth in their composition that it just ends up complimenting it.

It’s this mix of polished party music and raw attitude that first drew me to The Snitches (the fact that they’re all talented musicians who play extremely well together helps, too) and it’s this mix that is most present on Sleepwalker. That’s why when someone mentions The Snitches to me, I instantly think Sleepwalker.

You can order or download Sleepwalker from Sugartune here, for now, this is an example of later Snitches: