Review by John Acres
Bry Webb could easily rest on his indie-rock laurels: he could perpetually recombine his past work; perform scraps of Constantines’ songs solo to a volley of “woots” and “owwooos”; include so many members of his other band that it is essentially that band; take right artistic turns in an attempt to avoid the beloved sound that he helped craft, gutting his music so much of himself that it’s somebody else; and go back-to-basics in that way that has become the default setting of GarageBand® sessions everywhere—but Webb hasn’t done any of that. If you don’t understand what a big deal that is, you have never felt the pull of being a big fish in a small pond off the 401. No one wants to tell Webb he’s done a bad job—bands like The Constantines are a rarity in Canada and we can’t be seen disparaging our champions of good taste and hardcore roots. What’s more, is that everyone who knows who Webb is and has enjoyed his music wants to be his friend. With the artistic odds stacked against him, Webb has recorded an innovative, soulful, and sincere record that is a worthy entry into the annals of Canadian music and its place on the international stage (it was recently featured online by the New York Times). Webb’s Free Will stands alone. Up yours, Bry.
Also on this record are two artists of note that I am also not friends with, but have had the pleasure of seeing perform: unsung songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rich Burnett; and an actual musical genius, Ben Grossman, on his medieval “box of pain,” an arcane instrument called the hurdy gurdy.
Bronx Cheerleader perform “Pell Mell” at the Niagara Arts Centre
Review by Steve Marck
Contemporary music that can bind pastimes to memory is somewhat hard to come by. That dreamy look that cloaks the rock & roll era and all it’s well-touted experiences seems too intangible to similarly fasten sounds to people and places now, but there will always be albums that capture something; the infinitesimal perceptions that remain for years, tying an entire person to a song that can come swinging back to mind with the supple weight of a melody. Salad Days has Mac DeMarco supplying every earthly beat needed to encapsulate the convictions of youth for ages– every sunrise after an all-nighter that has ever needed a soundtrack for the long walk home; every first date’s tension that’s melted in a smile. With a precociously warbling tone wrapped around the steady chords of Let Her Go, or the portly keyboards on Passing out Pieces firmly holding a beat down, Demarco puts an arm around your shoulder as an older sibling that’s been there. He’s seen with all senses of certainty that there are enduringly beautiful things in the world worth preserving, and he’ll do his damndest to prove it to you.
Watch Alanna Gurr & The Greatest State perform “Hell Or High Water” at a church in Guelph
Review by Chris Hampton
I remember when I bought Owls from the record store. The guy at the till popped open the jewel case, prying underneath the plastic cover at either end of the spine and used the sticker that wraps around the opening as a hinge. I have no idea why, “to check for the CD” or something, but it stuck with me. My copy, which is either floating around in the trunk of my car or stuffed in a moving box somewhere back at my parents’ house, still has that sticker wrapped across the opening. I opened Owls’ case (and only that case) that way every time — a trivial little ritual that gained traction in my 16-year-old mind, sopping up everything from, sure, the cult of cool record store clerks, but, especially, the arcane masterstrokes Tim Kinsella and co. had etched into that very disc. That small ritual was just how the ceremony waiting inside began.
To this day, Owls are my favourite Kinsella project. They’re all of the spazzy exuberance of Cap’n Jazz (all of the talent short the Promise Ring guy, too), that whole jumpstart post-hardcore tumult, channelled into a brooding, mathier expression — something grown wiser and sharper with age. That they disappeared after just a single transmission only grew their mystique. And now they’ve returned 13 years hence — an emo second coming of the most welcome variety.
Two, out March 25 on Polyvinyl, underscores that Owls is the strongest line-up in the very tall, very branchy Kinsella family tree. Tim is the cryptic genius, Victor Villarreal is dizzying on the fretboard, Mike K. forgets all about Owen and snaps back to those jazzy kick and tom rolls, and Sam Zurick fastens the whole skittering, pulsing thing together. “Four Works of Art…,” with its call and response chorus and lockstep rhythm, delves right back into the mischievous intelligence that the band defined on Owls. In fact, track three, “The Lion…,” could’ve appeared on that first record. “I’m Surprised…” and “This Must Be How… ” see Villarreal’s twinkling, plinking work displaced by more classic riffing — Owls do ‘90s indie rock! Owls do epic guitar jams! If there seemed something esoteric or challenging about Owls, time has strengthened their pop songcraft. Weirdo math tunes can have hooks, too. See?
And that gets at the package of readymade questions facing any reformation more than a decade removed from the band’s last outing: is this just a cash-in on nostalgia (they say there’s an emo revival), do they still have the chemistry, will they sound like themselves or pander to contemporary fads? On Two, an album anticipated for 13 years, Owls manages to navigate these landmines nimbly. What they’ve come up with is certainly a sating feast for those who’ve been waiting, literally, the lifetime of a young teenager for more Owls, but it’s also an endearing introduction to an entirely new generation (the one that’s come of age in the meantime) for which the name Kinsella, as influential as it is, has yet to earn much currency. Even twenty years into their recording career, this feels like a perfect stop to hop aboard
Musical mage Nigel Chapman offers some extra-curricular insight into Nap Eyes’ stunning new LP, Whine Of The Mystic
Super excited to be the director of the new live concert film series “Live At Massey Hall”. Here’s a little teaser video I put together that was released today!
Music: TImber Timbre - Hot Dreams (Instrumental)