Album Review: Random Recipe, Kill the Hook (2013, BONSOUND)

Posted on by Thierry Cote in Albums, Music | Leave a comment


Three years after the acclaimed Fold It! Mold It!, Montreal quartet Random Recipe return with Kill the Hook, a second full-length that refines and improves on that album’s inventive blend of rock, hip-hop, folk, soul and electro in almost every way, with often spectacular results. While mentioning rock and hip-hop in the same sentence could conjure up memories of some of the worst music ever recorded, as anyone who survived the late 1990s can attest, Random Recipe have come up with an engrossing, addictive sound that recalls and updates the genre-hopping, kitchen-sink pop of Bran Van 3000, Moloko or–most of all–Imani Coppola’s unjustly forgotten and underrated debut.

On the striking “Hamburg”, Fab’s singsongy rap verses contrast sharply with Frannie Holder’s gentle vocal and the eerie, postmillennial indie rock instrumental backing provided by Vincent Legault and Liu-Kong Ha. “Dimples”, with its cheap analog synth hooks and bouncy playground rhymes, kicks the tempo up a notch and is followed by first single “Big Girl”, whose huge, sugary-sweet chorus bursts out of the speakers and rivals The Go! Team’s catchiest moments. Both are early album highlights, but it is on a trio of tracks on the second half of the album that Random Recipe’s eclectic fusion fully takes shape. On “Beautiful Connection” the different ingredients come together in dramatic, dazzling crescendo featuring Fab’s beatboxing, spooky operatic backing vocals and Holder’s moving voice. This is followed by “Sultan”, an urgent storm of nervous beats, anguished vocals and multilingual rapping courtesy of Fab and Japan’s UHNELLYS that somehow is also one of the album’s most irresistibly danceable moments. “Joy” begins with a simple, spare arrangement that once again alternates between Holder’s sung verses and Fab’s raps, then adds disorienting layers of steel drums, guitars, Fab’s playful “tack tagadagada” hook and choir-like male vocals.

Kill the Hook does not always hit the mark–Houston rapper Fat Tony’s lusty guest verse on the too-brief, underdeveloped “Traffic” in particular feels like a missed opportunity–but there’s more than enough here to suggest a group that has firmly found its footing and is just beginning to explore its boundless potential.

You can watch the video for “Big Girl” below and stream the full album on Random Recipe’s Bandcamp page. You can also check out my review of Rouyn-Noranda’s Festival de la musique émergente where they played a secret show for TFO’s BRBR.


Album Review: Noah And The Whale, Heart Of Nowhere (2013, Mercury Records)

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History is full of dangerous duos. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. Bert and Ernie. Thelma and Louise. But none may have a more epic story than Noah and the Whale – and the band of that title lives up to their namesakes’ greatness. The English group has long been wowing audiences with their indie-rock bluegrass sound and the team’s latest disc, Heart of Nowhere, exhibits a maturity and quality their fans have come to love and appreciate.

The entire album is a very solid artistic endeavor, but a few of the tracks really stood out to me. “Lifetime,” for example, opens with the beautiful string sound N&TW have perfected and, in my mind, trademarked. The lyrics, too, speak perfectly to the young adult angst of commitment, freedom, what-am-I-doing-with-my-life??? we all (or am I the only one over here?) experience or have experienced. The refrain, “Are you ready to make that call?/It’s going to be a lifetime” makes me want to listen to this song all day. Such a good question! “There Will Come a Time,” too, is an especially catchy track with a light-hearted narrative of pursuit of the ever-elusive seemingly-perfect female. Moral? You might catch her, but it won’t be tonight. Of course, the title track, “Heart of Nowhere,” is also well worth a mention. Cue the strings again – and the inspirational message this time around. The song urges, essentially demands, an escape from the cautious lives of our ancestors and an embracing of all that is great about youth: life, love, and liberty.

This is not only an album for tried and true fans, but also any music lover looking to expand their repertoire. Definitely worth a listen!

Tour dates:
Oct 12 – Austin, TX @ ACL Official After Show
Oct 13 – Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits Festival
Oct 15 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
Oct 16 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
Oct 17 – Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts
Oct 19 – Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Theatre
Oct 21 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues
Oct 22 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza

Song of the Day/Album Review: Toussaint Morrison – Can’t Relive the Party

Posted on by Celeste in Albums, Song of the Day | Leave a comment


My sister and her work spouse are acronym SMEs (subject matter experts). Some examples include:

JFA – Just Fell Asleep, as in ‘I’ve spent the past hour churning this organic homemade ice cream and it’s still the consistency of soup. JFA. I’mma go buy an ice cream snickers.”

BGCM – Big Green Check Mark, as in “This farmer’s market has free samples? BGCM.”

and my personal favorite:

JVOM – Just vomited, as in “He spent an hour recounting every mile of his triathlon. JVOM JFA.” (Double points for double usage).

However, a new usage of JVOM has come into being with the recent discovery of Toussaint Morrison, a hip-hop artist out of the Midwest. After seeing this video, the consensus is that a person might JVOM after experiencing something so incredibly adorable:

After over-indulging in the extreme dosage of “holy crap that’s adorable” of Toussaint Morrison’s “Can’t Relive the Party” I checked out his bandcamp and found that he’s more than just a pretty face and golden pipes – the man a) oozes creativity and b) has a story to tell. A winning combination for an artist.

His most recent album, Fast Times at Trillmont High, tell the story of Juice, a tutor at a fictional high school in the midwest, giving a tour to Ms. Day, a visiting teacher from a school in South Korea. According to his Facebook, the album was inspired when Morrison was hired on to teach spoken word poetry at a high school in Minneapolis. To publicize, he went classroom to classroom performing rap and spoken word poetry about the class, racial disparity, drop-out rates, and stratification in Minneapolis, which led to huge student enrollment, and a dismissal the next day.

While this might seem like a hugely depressing subject matter for an album, Morrison incorporates it well – forming likable characters, a comprehensive story-line, and even creating stories within stories in the album. True to his roots as a spoken word poet, listening to Fast Times at Trillmont High is more akin to listening to live lit or a radio serial back in the day than listening to an album. And while he does focus on racial and social disparity in this fictional high school, he also keeps it light with stories of swim-offs, prom and hulking out. On top of breaking genre barriers and bringing forth delicate issues of race and gender and social status in a meaningful way, Morrison is just a plain old talented musician, merging hip-hop, soul, R&B and indie rock into some super catchy tracks. Give it a listen:

Album Review: JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound – Howl [2013, Bloodshot Records]

Posted on by Celeste in Albums | 2 Comments


How can you fail to love an album that sums up all of human romantic complexity in one sentence? “We howl for love.” We do. We date, we wingman, we’re set up by friends, we wait by the phone, we agonize over text messages, we break up, we give out our number, we start all over again. Love is complex. Romance is complex. Relationships are complex. JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound boils it down into one universal sentiment and one heart-rending howl. We howl for love.

Brooks might be the only crooner on earth who can get away with literally howling on his album. On anyone else it’s overplayed, but with him it just seems a natural extension of his sentiments. “Howl” is a strong start to a strong album. The post-punk R&B group bare their souls on their third studio album which ranges the musical gamut from the lovely ballad-style “River” to the funk-driven “Rouse Yourself” to the more electrified “These Things.” While the intro “Howl” sets the tone for the album, exploring themes of the dark side of love and doubt, the standout piece is “River.” While the token ballad piece in most albums seem more like a conciliatory nod to the necessity of showing your musical range, for JCBUS it simply plays to all the band’s strengths – it leans on the power of the lead singer’s voice (I can hardly justify calling it a voice – the man doesn’t sing – he really does, simply stated, just croon), it relies on the band’s ability to put forth emotion without ranging into the territory of sappy, and it hinges on creating a slow song that still captures and keeps the listener’s interest. Check, check and check for JCBUS – they make it look easy.

“Howl” which was produced in the Hotel2Tango in Montreal with Howard Bilerman (who has also worked with Arcade Fire and Godspeed You! Black Emperor) might not be the most cohesive album, but it certainly shows off the band’s creativity and enthusiasm. Especially coming from a group that, it could be argued, is best known for their cover of Wilco’s “I am Trying to Break Your Heart”, this album is a welcome offering of fresh material. With a band like this, obviously bursting at the seams with talent and ingenuity, they really should be best known for their own creations, and with an album like this I’ve no doubt they will be.