Albums

Best of 2010: Sarah F’n Wilbore’s Fave Albums and Shows

Posted on by sarahw in Albums, Concerts, Everything, Music | Leave a comment

1x1.trans Best of 2010: Sarah Fn Wilbores Fave Albums and Shows

2010 has been a pretty epic year musically.  It was difficult to narrow down my favourites.  But, without further ado, here are the top 5 albums and top 5 shows according to Sarah.

Top 5 Albums

Black Keys – Brothers

I was introduced to the Black Keys through this album, I subsequently acquired their entire substantial discography and have been in love ever since.  These guys have finally reached the proverbial pop culture tipping point with their tunes being featured in Gossip Girl, various commercials and even the theme song to Hung.  Go ahead, listen and try not to bop your head.  This album is infectious.

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare

There was so much hype behind this album I felt certain it would be a let-down.  To my surprise it is actually phenomenal.  This album is genre-bending, has superb musical guests (Jay-Z and Bon Iver) and samples music spanning multiple decades.  Kanye really knows how to please a crowd.

LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

James Murphy has done it again.  I love this whole album but two stand-out tracks for me were Dance Yrself Clean and You Wanted a Hit. Oh and these guys ROCK live.

Four Tet – There is Love in You

Experimental electronic perfection.  My biggest regret is not seeing the Toronto leg of his tour.  Love Cry has got to my one of my top tracks of the year, so beautiful.

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

I think I listened to this album from start to finish more than any other album this year.  That is all.

Top 5 Shows

Holy Fuck

These Canadians released their sophomore album Latin this year and followed up with amazing live show.  You have to see them live to experience all the unconventional ways these guys make music.

Yeasayer

Apparently Yeasayer wrote their latest album in Australia high on LSD.  Well keep it up boys.  Not only is their sound original, but their live show is pretty hypnotizing.

Thom Yorke

Having never seen Radiohead live I was pretty stoked to see the frontman at Coachella.  Thom does not disappoint, playing The Eraser in full plus a few Radiohead tracks he was definitely my favourite of the festival.  One of the best live voices I’ve heard.

The Wilderness

One of the most entertaining, energetic live performances I’ve seen.  Sparkly, dancey, theatrical oh and great music.  I would highly recommend their new album .272 and catching these guys live.

Mayer Hawthorne

Swoon.  I saw this motown crooner twice this year but his Wrongbar performance was by far the best.  Mayer has bounds of energy with an amazing falsetto to match.  I cannot wait for his next album, oh and check him out on Twitter…very entertaining!

And finally, in case you were wondering.  The single worst show of the year was Tame Impala.  Awesome record, terrible live.

Album Review: Joy To The World, Pink Martini [Heinz Records, 2010]

Posted on by Mark in Albums, Music | 4 Comments

1x1.trans Album Review: Joy To The World, Pink Martini [Heinz Records, 2010]

TorontoI love Christmas music and listen to it whenever fancy strikes. I’ve never let the socially acceptable but strict November to December timeframe straightjacket me into when it gets rotation through my playlist. I’m also a fan of Pink Martini. So when I discovered that the band was releasing a Christmas album entitled Joy To the World, I was excited to check it out.

Thankfully, Joy To The World represents a return to the cosmopolitan and worldly elegance of yore. The fuzzy dice in the BMW have been hidden in the glove compartment for this round, only to come out on Sundays for some reason.

Portland-based Pink Martini produces some easily digestible and eclectic international pop music. They are more or less a jazz band with strong classical and pop music influences. They also effortlessly blend themes from all around the world. You may start your journey with some tried and true Americana. Then, all of a sudden, you are transported to a music hall in France as lead singer China Forbes delivers an extremely endearing and anglo-tinged French accent with poise and gumption.

“Pink Martini is a rollicking around-the-world musical adventure … if the United Nations had a house band in 1962, hopefully we’d be that band.” – Thomas Lauderdale, bandleader/pianist

The breakout 1997 album Sympathique was an elegant and worldly coup d’état. Take some musical influences from the world over, stir in some competent and multi-cultural musicians, and then dial back on the foreign to make it just safe enough for the American palate. The result is tasty, inoffensive, but nevertheless classy music.

Unfortunately, as time has progressed and success has commercialized, the band kept dialling back on the elegant world-fusion knob and dialling up on the safe adult contemporary cheese-pop knob. Their last album, Splendor In The Grass is largely a disappointment when standing beside the work that preceded it. It’s hard to imagine that the same band that recorded the most amazing and grandiose of Italian tributes in Una Notte A Napoli could then turn around six years later and record the kitschiest of bubblegum in Bitty Boppy Betty. It’s like hanging huge fuzzy polka-dotted dice on the dash of your brand-new BMW 3-series. (Note: you can find the first song linked directly below, and the second one on Soundcloud. My personal ethics has prevented me from putting a direct link to such a horrible song from a band I so admire.)

Thankfully, Joy To The World represents a return to the cosmopolitan and worldly elegance of yore. The fuzzy dice in the BMW have been hidden in the glove compartment for this round, only to come out on Sundays for some reason. The album includes a rendition of White Christmas sung by Saori Yuki, a famous Japanese songstress described as the “Barbara Streisand of Japan.” Elohai N’Tzor is a tastefully done Hebrew prayer sung by, among others, NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro. This is exactly the kind of weird and eclectic stunts I expect from Pink Martini, and it works. This is fun music; it adds a dab of international eclectic to your traditional holiday rotation, and does so safely without a fuss.

Joy To The World releases in music stores tomorrow, November 16. Pink Martini play Toronto’s Massey Hall on Friday, November 19.

1x1.trans Album Review: Joy To The World, Pink Martini [Heinz Records, 2010]

Classic Song Review: Move Any Mountain – The Shamen [1990, One Little Indian]

Posted on by Allison in Albums, Article Series, Classic Albums, Everything, Music, Reviews | 3 Comments

1x1.trans Classic Song Review: Move Any Mountain – The Shamen [1990, One Little Indian]

Every once in awhile, some unidentifiable thing will trigger a sudden memory for me. Whether it be a smell, sound, image, or whatever, it is always completely random, and usually something from childhood. I had one such backflash late on Monday evening as I was perusing YouTube videos and was struck by the following chorus: “I can move, move, move any mountain”. It was kind of like the “burnt toast, I smell burnt toast” Canadian Heritage Minute.

A quick Google search later, and the autocomplete function reveals a whole lot of other people have been remembering this song, too. What was it, and who was it by, anyway? Besides the incredibly catchy chorus, I couldn’t remember much else.

But then I watched this video 

…and it all came flooding back to me.

The song is Move Any Mountain, and the group is a techno-infused-acid-house outfit out of the Aberdeen Scotland (Groundskeeper Willie’s hotly disputed place of origin) called The Shamen that spanned throughout the 80′s and 90′s.  Josh informs me that they were one of his favorite bands from back in the day, openly admitting that he has 10+ copies of the En-Tact album (in case of natural disaster, we might presume he would strategically place these in different residences and locations).  As wonderfully cheesy as the video may be (it has it all–a twirling descent of bodies on a dated graphic, kareoke-video-like ocean footage, an appropriately poofy looking duo against scenic mountain backdrops), and as painful as the short rap run-ons might get, Move Any Mountain is still a fantastic song reminding me of the schitzophrenic ranges of highs and lows a song can take you to.

Unfortunately, one half of the creative duo met an untimely demise after heading to Tenerlife Spain to tape the video for Move Any Mountain. I believe it was the guy with the dreads, but am not really sure. They enjoyed some modest success in the U.K., and irregardless of their tragic end, have managed to record some other good tunes in their time and I really enjoyed Possible Worlds. There’s a little Primal Scream, a little bit of Soup Dragons, predating that flash in the pan rock/dance thing with EMF and Jesus Jones. There’s some guilty pleasure in enjoying this stuff I suppose, but despite what some folks may think, I am not a music snob.

the shamen – move any mountain (progen ’91) by urano808-2

CD Review: Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter [2010, Kranky]

Posted on by Allison in Albums, Everything, Music | 1 Comment

1x1.trans CD Review: Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter [2010, Kranky]

I’m not really sure what I can say about Deerhunter, Atlas Sound (Bradford Cox), or Lotus Plaza (Lockett Pundt) that I haven’t already said. There are only so many times you can use words like “prolific”, “sublime”, and “progressive” without sounding like a canned fan. I have already commented about how I think the Cox / Pundt partnership has already flourished into one of the most fruitful meetings of musical minds. Deerhunter is more than just their partnership, though, with Joshua Fauver and Moses Archuleta coming together in the recording of Halcyon Digest, which, in signature style has been released to the general public free of charge.

Halcyon Digest is tinged with the same directions Cox and Pundt were going in with their respective Logos and Floodlight Collective releases, and is different than 2008′s mammoth double release Microcastles / Weird Era (up there as one of my favorite albums of all time, let alone the 2000′s). Given the massive output Deerhunter and its members produce in a given week (almost always giving it away for free), I don’t even find myself fighting the urge to compare them from release to release. There are family strands as reference points or notes of comparison, but no resistance against “this one is better than the last one”, or vice versa. I think the important thing is that it’s a constant evolution that shows no signs of letting up. Cox, who is already my hero as the nicest guy in music, has already started another side project with Black Lips’ Cole Alexander called Ghetto Cross that I’m planning to check out.

As for Halcyon Digest, it started off a little rockily for me. I wasn’t expecting opening track Earthquake to be quite so maudlin…it will probably grow on me the more I listen to it, but for now, sits in my “maybe” pile. Things picked up with Don’t Cry, bringing me back to the familiar doo-woppy 50′s/60′s-like territory not unlike what we heard off some of the best Logos songs. A lot of his penned tracks on the album have that sort of flavor, and they make for damn fine pop music. Things get even better with Revival, and having just finished up a documentary about the Manson Women, these songs could’ve easily scored it. Sailing does the heartfelt introspective ballad thing well, Memory Boy manages to feel as light as the Byrds’ cover of Mr. Tambourine Man and could probably elements from a billion other great pop songs. Basement Scene is my favorite of this group of songs.

More than anything else, I think this album solidifies Lockett Pundt as an equally strong (if not somewhat less prolific) counterpart to Cox. It’s important to remember that these guys are friends above all else though, and I can’t see any of the ego wars that have plagued past partnerships coming into play here. I think they’re just happy to be making a living off doing something they love. It should come as no surprise then, that the album doesn’t start getting into “mind blowing” territory for me until we get into the Pundt songs (that share a lot of 60′s tinged moments too). Desire Lines is the strongest of these, and is the genesis of what was started in Floodlight Collective, for me one of the best albums of 2009 that I felt flew slightly under the radar. It’s beautiful, the chorus slays, and the guitar solo that starts around the 3:00 mark will fucking bring you to your KNEES. To say I can’t wait to hear this live next month is an understatement to the upteenth degree. Fountain Stairs is more understated but still offering those sweet creamy bits of guitar.

Songs like Coronado surprise a bit with some piano and saxophone, but looking back on Rainwater Cassette Exchange, maybe not. That’s the thing about HD…it’s very much the culmination of everything up until now, so it goes without saying that this is a very solid release and will have a very solid supporting tour around it. I have really high expectations for their show at the Opera House next month, and I know those expectations will seem unbelievably microscopic when I’m penning my review after.

Deerhunter will be playing at the Opera House in Toronto on October 19 with Real Estate and Casino Versus Japan. I have an extra ticket if anyone is looking for one.

1x1.trans CD Review: Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter [2010, Kranky]