Spookey Ruben’s Full Discography – FREE!

Odd-ball pop auteur Spookey Ruben has been releasing material since the mid-90s to varying degrees of popularity, and unanimous critical acclaim.

The eclectic Torontonian has been rather silent over the past couple of years, but he’s back with a bang in 2012, offering up his entire discography for free via his Bandcamp page.

Its all there including the original version of “Wendy McDonald,” which was featured semi-regularly on MuchMusic back in the day when they used to play music videos, and 2009’s trés excellent Mechanical Royalty.

You can grab it all here. Stream 1995’s Modes of Transportation Vol. 1 below.

Incoming: Cousins – “Jules”

Cousins have been flopping around the Halifax DIY scene for a while now delivering some garagey pop gems on a number of releases, including their cleverly named split cassette with Duz He Knew, DUZ/CUZ. 

Sophomore full-length The Palm at the End of the Mind should help raise their profile outside Atlantic Canada. It drops March 20 via Saved By Vinyl.

Check out/download “Jules” below.

Record Review: Lemonheads – “Hotel Sessions”

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca

Evan Dando’s reconstituted Lemonheads line-up haven’t sparked his creative juices. Instead of new material, this latest release offers a collection of demos from the height of the band’s early ’90s popularity.

Recorded to four-track while on tour in Australia, Hotel Sessions is billed as the Lemonheads at their most stripped down. These 14 tracks find Dando, then still riding the first wave of alt-rock fame, laying down demoes for what would becomeCome on Feel… for the band’s manager. Come on Feel… would be their most elaborately produced effort, but its glossy style isn’t far removed from these surprisingly fleshed out sketches.

More than two-thirds of the final record is already here and most of the tracks sound more or less as they appear on the finished product. Dando delivers two songs that didn’t make the cut (“Superhero” and a track written by at-the-time bass player Nick Dalton, “And So the Story Goes”), while “Dawn Can’t Decide,” which Dalton also wrote, “Rick James Style,” “Favourite T” and “The Jello Fund” are all missing. More than anything, Hotel Sessions sounds like one of Dando’s solo acoustic tours of recent years.

What’s of value for fans is Dando’s commentary, as he intros each song, describing what each is about or his plans for it in the studio. Far from essential, Hotel Sessions is a glimpse of a once great songwriter in mid-process.

“Into Your Arms” (Come on Feel… Version)

Record Review: Rococode – “Guns, Sex & Glory”

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca

If Vancouver’s indie scene can be said to have a sound, it’s a sure bet that Said the Whale, Tegan and Sara and Mother Mother have had a hand in creating it. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that an act featuring collaborators and former members of those artists have bottled that sound into this surprisingly catchy album.

Andrew Braun and former Said the Whale keyboardist Laura Smith snagged Johnny Andrews and Shaun Huberts (aka Tegan and Sara’s rhythm section) to bring their compositions to life, giving the pair’s dark tunes an indie pop makeover. Manning the boards is Mother Mother frontman Ryan Guldemond, who shapes Braun and Smith’s voices in similar fashion to those of his group, turning tracks like “Empire” and “Weapon” into soaring anthems.

Several reviewers have already noted that Rococode sound more like the sum of their influences than an individual band. While that’s true, at this point it’s unfair to criticize the band for doing something so extremely well, given how many other acts can’t pull off a similar feat.


Incoming: Wooden Shjips – “Crossing Remix (Andrew Weatherall)”

Who’d have thought that West Coast psychedelia and European dance would go together so well?

San Francisco’s Wooden Shjips managed to score famed British DJ Andrew Weatherall – he of Primal Scream’s “Loaded” fame – to turn the buzzy swirl of last year’s “Crossing” from their West LP into a  slinky, dubby bass driven anthem. Wooden Shjips drop Remixes 12″, also featuring a selection reworked by  Spaceman 3’s Sonic Boom, on February 21 on Thrill Jockey.

Check out “Crossing Remix (Andrew Weatherall)” on Soundcloud below.


Live Review: the Darkness @ Phoenix Theatre, Toronto 02/01/2012

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca 

Chuck Klosterman once wrote that the Darkness would never truly make it in North America. The U.S., he argued, would never embrace the band the way England had, because their music was neither completely serious nor fully tongue-in-cheek. To America, the Darkness we just too damn clever.
His prediction proved dead-on. Despite scoring a minor hit with “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” the Darkness never conquered stadiums here the way they did in Europe, but the band still managed to sell out their Toronto stop on their current reunion tour with a crowd that mixed both fans of their over-the-top image and indiscriminating hard rockers.

After blasting the room with Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town,” the quartet hit the stage. Led by singer and sometimes guitarist Justin Hawkins, who apparently spent his time apart from the band growing some ill-conceived facial hair, they wasted no time whipping the crowd into a frenzy, knocking out “Black Shuck” and “Growing on Me” at a quick clip. Digging deep next withPermission to Land-era B-side “Best of Me,” it was clear the Darkness were keen to lean on that record’s massive success and eventually played all ten of the album’s tracks.

Hawkins’s vocals haven’t aged a day and the rest of the group (guitarist Dan Hawkins, drummer Ed Graham and bass player Frankie Poullain) laid down solid slabs of AC/DC-esque riffs. Though the Darkness lacked the edge they’d once had, the band worked their way through the set like seasoned pros, used to playing far bigger venues than this mid-sized club.

The band barely acknowledged their lacklustre sophomore record,One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back. And while the crowd welcomed both the title track and “Is it Just Me?” it was disappointing to not hear standouts “Dinner Lady Arms” and “Knockers,” a song about fumbling through what was once routine. At times, Hawkins looked as if he was doing just that, appearing a tad unsure what to do with himself onstage. But most of the time, he hit all the right notes, leading the crowd through vocal exercises like Freddie Mercury and even stepping off stage briefly to change into a jailbird-inspired unitard.

Perhaps inevitably, the Darkness have written new material; they played it and received a lukewarm reaction. New songs like “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” seemed to skip those clever double entendres that marked their best work and leaned on good-time rockisms (an album is apparently in the can and waiting to be titled and sequenced). It was clear that the crowd, while hardly hostile, was there for the old songs. Less expected was a surprising cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” which the band turned into the Randy Rhodes-era Ozzy rocker it was (apparently) always meant to be.

After delivering the goods with “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” the Darkness retired for a minute before retaking the stage for their encore. Hawkins emerged with a third costume change, this time sporting in a Bovine Sex Club tee, much to the delight of the fans, and finished the night with “Love on the Rock with No Ice.” While it’s unclear where the Darkness have to go from here — musical progression never really seemed like their M.O. — it was clear the band and their fans are glad to be back together.

“Nothing’s Going to Stop Us”

Record Review: Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – “YT//ST”

This post originally appeared at Exclaim.ca

It’s a sad, but true fact that bands often have to seek recognition south of the border before finding success at home. For Toronto, ON, by way of Montreal, collective Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, a recent endorsement from Pitchfork has bolstered the small, but growing number of listeners ready to go to bat for them.

Blending the sonic experimentation of the Boredoms and Sonic Youth, heavy riffs of Black Sabbath and vocal harmonies inspired by Japanese opera ― they call it “noh wave” ― the eight-piece unit have crafted a unique sound for their debut, YT//ST. The band’s secret is their accessibility in the face of such esoteric influences ― few would believe that you could hum along to anything influenced by 77 Boardrum. The noh melodies, sung in both Japanese and English, suck you in, but it’s the crack production from drummer Alaska B that makes the album.

Singer Ruby Kato Attwood’s vocals remain crisp and clear amidst the pulsing organs, thundering drums and slabs of sludge-y guitars riffs as the record progresses in intensity. It culminates in the rhythmic groove and sonic freak-out of “A Star Over Pureland” before they finish listeners off with “Crystal Fortress Over the Sea of Trees,” the album’s most accessible tune.

An original record blending beauty and brutality, YT//ST should only find more supporters as its reputation spreads.

“Crystal Fortress Over the Sea of Trees”

Record Review: Sonic Avenues – “Television Youth”

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca 

Second time out, Montreal’s Sonic Avenues stick with the formula that made their self-titled debut such a breath of fresh air, distilling old-school punk and garage rock into a joyous racket.

The arrangements are more complicated, but the hooks, which are what matter most when we’re talking about this kind of music, remain firmly in place. Big gang vocal choruses carry each track of failed romance: “Fadin’ Love” is a highlight, as is the title track. The album’s production remains as scrappy as the band’s playing, the treble-laden guitars buzzing above drums and vocals that sound like they were recorded in a meat locker.

The jump from Going Ga-Ga Records to Portland’s Dirtnap should raise the quartet’s already growing profile, so expect to hear a great deal more from these garage heroes.

“Fadin’ Love”

“Teach Your Children Well”

“My First Hardcore Song” by 8yr Old Juliet

Video: the Evaporators ft. Andrew W.K. – “I Hate Being Late (When I’m Early)”

Nardwuar the Human Serviette is well known for his off-the-wall interviews, but dude’s also in a long-running band called the Evaporators who have just dropped a new video for their song “I Hate Being Late (When I’m Early) featuring none other than professional party starter (and Nardwuar superfan) Andrew W.K.

The video was shot at Vancouver college radio station CITR at UBC where Nardwuar hosts a program on Fridays. He even gives a shout out to former music director Luke Meat and a number of bands including Needles//Pins and features a ripping guitar solo from New Pornographers member and the “JC” in “JC/DC Studios” John Collins, who’s played with Mr. the Human Serviette for years. Admittedly, the song isn’t the best, but it’s a nice reminder of my hometown and where I got my start in community radio.