review

2012 Year End Review: Brent’s Top 5 Albums of 2012

Posted on by Brent in Year End Reviews | 1 Comment

In no particular order as they’re all winners:
The Men – Open Your Heart

I saw these guys three times this year and each time rocked more than the last. No posing, posturing or other typical rock star bullshit, just straight-up, RNR to the bone without the filler from track one to ten. If you get a chance to see them play live in 2013 you have no excuse. They tour constantly.

Favourite track:The Men – Oscillation

Japandroids – Celebration Rock

The following is a short list of two-piece bands that are currently making music: Matt & Kim, Sleigh Bells, Crystal Castles, The Kills, and The Black Keys (although I’ve yet to see them play without a  backing band). Also in this group is Vancouver’s Japandroids. They stand out as a duo that could potentially beat the snot out of the aforementioned competition if the game was to see how hard a twosome could rock. The best part is that the last three songs are the most infectious on the album instead of the first three usually found at the beginning. Ballsy? Mmm hmm. The album starts and ends with fireworks.

Favourite track: Continuous Thunder

Beach House – Bloom

Too clever to be played on radio but odds are one of their songs will end up on a Hollywood film soundtrack or Apple commercial one day and then we’ll all be sick of them but for now, who cares? There were at least five tracks on this little masterpiece that I’ve played for the last nine months as they never get old. Oh yeah, they’re another two-piecer.

Favourite track: Beach House – On The Sea

Titus Andronicus – Local Business

Titus Andronicus is what would happen if fellow New Jerseyan Bruce Springsteen and his All-American, working-class song-writing was paired with DIY, classic punk from the ’80s. This album makes sense. It sounds real, almost raw, like it was recorded straight off the floor with the little errors and inconsistencies we rarely find on so many heavily produced albums around today.

Favourite track: Titus Andronicus – My Eating Disorder

Diamond Rings – Free Dimensional

I’ll start off by something very troubling and I apologize for this in advance but with all the interviews and promo shots/advertising that came out in preparation for this album I saw two other individuals that I was reminded of: Max Headroom, and ahem, Luca Rocco Magnotta. What? Am I wrong? Saturated media attention is what our society is made of these days so sometimes my mind tends to wander. Anyway, now that we’re past my justified explanation for my terrible comparison, this album is lovely and although I’m usually not in to poppy, new wave, glam rock kind of music, both the music and lyrics make up for it.

Favourite track: Diamond Rings – All The Time

Honourable Mention:

GY!BE – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

One of my favourite Canadian bands it was nice to have them record and release two expansive and mind-bending songs that they previously played during live shows almost ten years ago. Oh, the nostalgia of my youth!

Favourite track: Umm, they’re both twenty minutes long so you pick. Allelujah!

Dan Mangan: Nice Nice Very Nice Liner Note Review

Posted on by Wade in Albums, Everything | 1 Comment

Dan Mangan - Nice Nice Very Nice (2008)

I did something stupid this summer. I bought a CD. I know, crazy shit.

I picked up Dan Mangans’, now almost immortalized album, Nice Nice Very Nice (2008) at Backstreet Records in Fredericton. Since my parents’ car didn’t have a USB hub, I had to buy a CD to fill my hour long car trips to my grandparents house. I had heard most of the tracks on NNVN over the past three years and quite liked most of them, so I figured this was a safe way to spend $20.

The thing about CD’s is that they have liner notes and unless you actually buy one, you are missing out on this part of the musical experience that the artist intends you to have. Inside the CD jacket of Dan Mangans’ album, right above the lyrics, is a brief statement about each song. These comments, although short, are very charming and personal statements about the songwriter, the song, or life in general. I enjoyed reading them so much, I feel compelled to share some of them with you, my downloading mp3 friends.

Road Regrets – In March of 2007, driving from El Paso to Austin, I drank 64 ounces of cheap gas-station coffee in a day; it was disgusting.

Robots – My cell phone died and I went for five days without a mobile before a new one arrived in the mail. The first day was terrifying – the other four were glorious.

The Indie Queens Are Waiting – I don’t think I’m the only person who feels that waking at 10AM to the promise of eggs over-easy and a newspaper, good company and a general sense of wellbeing sounds like a good start to the workday.

Sold – I played a gig for an advertisement agency awards gala – they asked me to play some upbeat material, and this was all I had. It was a laugh/cry moment.

Fair Verona – ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is about many things, I think. Sure it’s about romance and love, but it’s also about the impending influence of history in the present, reputations, grudges and fear. People who ostracize those who wander outside the status quo often do so because they don’t have the cahones to be so bold.

Tina’s Glorious Comeback – One day, they tore down all the old rain-worn wooden bus shelters that visually defined, for me at least, the way Vancouver felt when I was a kid. It occurred to me that those bus stops, place every two blocks along every thoroughfare in the city, were like strategically scattered reminders of life on the west coast. They replaced them with futuristic looking metal bus stops with handles built into the benches so homeless people couldn’t use them to sleep on.

Et Les Mots Croises – There are many things my friends make fun of me for. One of them was the time I got screwed by Ebay – another is this song.

Set The Sails – Eventually, we’ll all turn off the televisions and hide in the woods.

For a listen to the new Dan Mangan album, Oh Fortune, head over to CBC3 for the podcast where Grant Lawrence talks to Dan about the album and plays it track for track.

NSTF Reviews: Fairy Tale Ending and Tom’s A-Cold

Posted on by guestwriter in Next Stage Theatre Festival, Reviews | Leave a comment

Toronto - This month, I was lucky enough to catch two shows at Toronto’s Next Stage Theatre Festival. It’s not often that I get to see two shows in one night, and I really enjoyed the contrast. Fairy Tale Ending was light and uplifting; Tom’s A-Cold was dark and gripping. The originality and innovation in these performances make them both definite go-sees in my book.


REVIEW #1: FAIRY TALE ENDING

Fairy tales play a major role in our childhood adventures. We know the stories by heart: Little Red Riding Hood visits her ailing grandmother. The Billy Goats Gruff off to gorge themselves on fresh spring grass. The Three Little Pigs and their architecturally-diverse homes. As a standard, these tales rise with a challenging villainous climax and end with a positive, delightful finale. Little Red and her grandmother escape death. The little piggies beat the Big Bad Wolf. The trotting brothers Gruff outwit the hungry troll. Traditionally, the good guy always comes out on top, unscathed and happy as ever.

Fairy Tale Ending is an enchanting musical that explores some of the most beloved fables of all time – with a delightful and interesting twist. It chronicles Jill, a young girl coming to grips with the reality of growing up. With the help of a rigorous constable, Jill apprehends some popular fairy tale villains and launches a full-scale investigation of their fabled crimes.

The story unfolds as the villains – Goldilocks, The Ugly Troll, and The Big Bad Wolf – are put on trial for crimes like breaking and entering, several counts of ugly, and destruction of property. Complete with catchy, hilarious songs like “I, like, totally even give a care” and “You don’t know Jack”, Fairy Tale Ending is inventive and inspiring, with a fresh new take on a few well-known traditional tales.

Written by Kieren MacMillan and Jeremy Hutton, Fairy Tale Ending is a show with something for all age groups. It is fun and child-friendly, with a smart, witty overtone that satisfies an intellectual audience. The cast, including Meagan Tuck, Christina Gordon, Amanda Leigh, Andrew Moyes, Jennifer Walls, J.P. Baldwin, Carl Swanson, Mike Wisniowski and Maksym Shkvorets are an uber-talented bunch that make for a believable story. This show is a definite must-see!

REVIEW #2: TOM’S A-COLD

Imagine this: you’re one of two survivors in a tiny lifeboat, lost in the freezing Arctic. Supplies are low. Weakened by hunger, you can no longer stand. You cling to scraps of hope, clutching them to your chest like invisible life-lines. The wind is cold and biting. The daylight never ends. What would you do to survive?

Tom’s A-Cold is a gripping tale by playwright David Egan, based on the historical recount of the HMS Terror and Erebus – two English ships lost at sea in 1845 during an Arctic voyage.

Tom’s A-Cold is the story of Tom and George, two men trying to make their way back to sanctuary and human life. Shane Carty and Matthew MacFadzean play a remarkable George and Tom, bringing the story to life and creating a stellar level of believability. On the surface, it’s a story of hope and friendship, and ultimately of survival. But underneath, it is a journey into the dark inner psyche of each character; a story of the most sinister definition of humanity. Expect a variety of topics to spice up the plot, from taboos like cannibalism, murder and prostitution, to present-day norms like homosexuality.

I, for one, enjoy a good intellectual work-out, something I appreciated about Tom’s A-Cold. But to be honest, I was a little lost by the end. *SPOILER ALERT* In the last 10 minutes, the audience is given the impression that George was killed and consumed by Tom at some point. It’s entirely possible that George was a figment of Tom’s guilt-ridden imagination all-along. Maybe it’s for the audience to decide what really happened. Or maybe the ending just missed the mark.

Over all, this incredible story is thought-provoking and smart, without being pretentious. There’s no doubt about it – this one’s a thinker. If you enjoy delving into the raw truisms of humanity and don’t mind a little grit, this one’s definitely for you.


Theatre Review: Homeland, October 28th, Theatre Passe Muraille

Posted on by guestwriter in Theatre | 1 Comment

Toronto – What constitutes a home? This question has plagued my mind for weeks. Is home where the heart is? Where your family and friends are? Is it a fixed location? A physical entity? Or is ‘home’ simply an ideological construct meant to create meaning in our lives? I moved over Halloween weekend, so it’s fair that I dwell on the philosophical rather than unpack my mountainous pile of things…right?

Last week, my pondering reached a new level of ponderation. I attended the premier of Homeland, a Godot Art Productions show that examines the meaning of home. Coincidence? Probably. None-the-less, Homeland got the wheels a-turning. Through a well-performed combination of dance, live music and documentary film, Homeland is a brilliant portrayal of complex human emotion. It translates the search for identity into art, and leaves the audience examining and re-examining the definition of home.

As a whole, Homeland is a major success. Every element flows together seamlessly and effortlessly. The documentary film – a focal point in the show – definitely rocked my ‘what-is-home’ world. The film is incredible for two reasons: first, it’s the backbone of the entire performance. It communicates human emotion with heartfelt intensity. Second, the film (set in and around Toronto) portrays a variety of perspectives from several real-life participants; a huge selling point for even the most diverse crowd. It is truly compelling to watch, and in my opinion deserves a wider audience and a much larger screen.

Written and directed by Setareh Delzendeh, Homeland is a reflection of her own identity crisis, one that was intensified after her move from Iran to Toronto. For Delsendeh, the project began as a documentary film intended to research the meaning of home. From there it grew into something larger, and has since found it’s place on stage accompanied by live music and dance.

It’s safe to say that, whether you are a true-blue Toronto native or are just getting to know this bustling city, Homeland should not be missed. It has something for everyone. Be prepared to ponder, to re-examine and to be inspired. And if you’ve just moved, be prepared to put-off unpacking. Pondering is such a time-consuming process…

Homeland runs until November 6th. For tickets, visit Arts Box Office. For more information visit the Godot Art Productions.

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