the xx

2017 in Review: Ricky’s Favourite Songs

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Here are my favourite songs. I listened to a lot of songs this year due to a decrease in managerial responsibilities at work (less meetings = more time to listen to music). Anyways, here they are.

Young Fathers – Only God Knows

A song that’s featured on the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack, this track from Young Fathers is so good I had to double check to make sure it wasn’t a famous cover. With it’s relentless beat and uplifting sound, “Only God Knows” is a pulsating track that’s further enhanced by the use of the Leith Congregational Choir. When Danny Boyle says this song is the heartbeat that drives his movie, you can totally understand it.

Paramore – Rose Colored Boy

Catchy as hell pop song. I can’t say I heard a Paramore song before this year, but I guess they went through some changes and now sound like an ’80s pop band. Good for them, good for me.

Carly Rae Jepsen – Cut to the Feeling

The only song Carly Rae Jepsen released this year (I think), but really with a track like this she only needs to do one a year. Another really catchy pop song – CRJ has a knack for writing these. It’s irresistible so why try?

Sundara Karma – She Said

Who said Brit pop is dead? Every few years some band comes along that clearly has listened to too much Brit pop. This year it’s Sundara Karma, who is doing their best to revive the sound that brought us so many big and memorable bands. “She Said” is one of the many single worthy songs on their album and it features all the things you expect – a big hook, guitars and attitude. Don’t sleep on this band.

The XX – On Hold

What a fuckin’ great song. By now everyone has probably heard this already, but it’s a magnificent song that highlights the three members of the band at their greatest powers. Simple melodies, amazing vocal work and Jamie XX’s on point production. You wouldn’t have figured this song could come out from the band when they delivered their Mercury winning debut record and that in itself bodes very well for this group as they get bigger and bigger in the future.

Alvvays – Dreams Tonite

A perfect lullaby that hits all the right nostalgic notes. The warm fuzzy feelings you get from listening to this song are a perfect way to counteract the harsh reality that is the world today. I was curious how Alvvays would top their debut record and this song was a great start.

The Horrors – Something To Remember Me By

My favorite song of the year, I wrote about it already here. It’s so good.

Little Cub – Too Much Love

One of those songs where you don’t think of much at first but then you find yourself listening to it over and over again. I really like the synthesizer in the chorus. It’s a low key jam.

Alex Cameron – Stranger’s Kiss
I love duets for some reason and this one with Angel Olsen is the best of the year. Read more about it here

Ratboy – Laid Back

Yes this sounds like a Jamie T song, but that’s not always a bad thing

What were your favourite songs?

For a full list of songs, look below!

Concert Review: The XX, May 23, Echo Beach

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The xx forever

A post shared by Ricky Lam (@panicmanual) on

Man, The XX were awesome on Tuesday. It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since I’ve seen them live, but they have improved a lot since I saw them on a bill with Hot Chip. In town to promote their excellent new album I See You, The XX played a super fun, confident and epic set that basically screams “we should headline festivals now”. As everyone has noted already, this rendition of the XX seems happier than the previous moody version and maybe we all bought into that narrative but the show they put on essentially became a full on party.

It’s amazing to see how good Jamie XX’s production is. Even if he’s behind Romy and Oliver on the stage, there is no mistake that his influence has grown within the band as his status grows. The dude turned “Shelter” into a dance tune and added additional depth to each song. As excellent as their albums are, The XX are actually better live, which is hard to believe. Highlights for me included “Infinity” (one of my fave XX songs), the dance version of “Shelter,” the set closer “Loud Places” and the encore, which consisted of “On Hold,” which is as close to a stadium anthem as you’ll get with the XX. Just for good measure, they also played “Intro” in the encore as well.

It’s been seven years since I last saw the XX. There’s no way I will wait that long again.

Festival Review: Lollapalooza 2010, Grant Park, August 7 – Day 2

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Empire of the Sun

Chicago – Festivals are a bit like running a marathon for me – a marathon that involves damaged hearing and drinking beer.  What I’m getting at here is that I like to catch as much music as possible.  So there I was, on the second day of the festival, bright and early at 11:15 am.  I caught a band called MyNameIsJohnMichael, who I knew nothing about, but who apparently have a song featured on Gossip Girl.  They’re from New Orleans and they have a pretty good sound.  The band started when John Michael Rouchell decided he was going to write a song a week for a year, so I guess they’ve got a few songs in the can already for their second album.  After playing a slower song near the end of their set, Rouchell thanked the crowd for not taking off as often might happen if a band is too mellow during a festival set.  “Actually, they have nowhere else to go” said one of his bandmates in reference to their very early time slot. 

Next up were The Morning Benders, who impressed me with their early afternoon slot.  As I watched them, I thought, “Ricky was right, these guys do look really young.”  They closed out their set with “Excuses,” urging the crowd to sing along even though it was pretty early.  Of course, festival crowds are a lot more susceptible to singalongs than regular crowds so they complied. 

The Morning Benders

Next was a band who was on my list of must sees, having missed them twice during NXNE – The Soft Pack.  The San Diego band delivered a set of tight, poppy, garage rocky tunes that livened up the early afternoon and was probably the highlight of the day for me.  Singer Matt Lamkin has a voice that’s at times reminiscent of both Julian Casablancas and hot Snakes/Obits singer Rick Froberg.  As Lamkin introduced their last song, a new one,  drummer Brian Hill interrupted – “A new song, you never know what you’re gonna get.”  “It’s side A of Rubber Soul – in two minutes” replied Lamkin.  “It’s all blastbeats,” said Hill.  “I used to play in Carcass … just kidding, it was Deicide.”  I’d like to see these guys again in a smaller club setting.

The Soft Pack

It was during the first half of Grizzly Bear’s set that I learned an important lesson – Lollapalooza is not my living room.  While Grizzly Bear sounded good, their performance seemed a little bit too laid back for my tastes, especially after checking out The xx’s similarly laid back (and ridiculously packed) set.  While Grizzly Bear may sound just fine at home, they left me a bit cold – I just wasn’t in the mood for it, and besides, I knew there was zero chance that Michael McDonald would join them for “While You Wait For The Others.”  So instead, I checked out AFI, a band I have not listened to much over the years and whose post-hardcore screamo-ish alt rock is certainly not something I would listen to these days (though I will admit I kind of liked their 2003 album Sing The Sorrow).  This counterintuitive move paid off as they were just the jolt I needed to wake me up from Grizzly Bear hibernation.


After a little bit of Metric and a little bit of Spoon (I only saw one song, but it was “Got Nuffin’,” which is one of my faves from their new album), I figured I had to check out Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a band that’s been getting a lot of positive buz these days.  A lot of other people had the same idea too, as it was so packed  at the smaller Sony Bloggie stage that people were climbing into trees just to get a better view of the band.  Even though I was way in the back, I saw enough to know that the buzz is well deserved.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

As the time approached for Green Day’s headlining set, it was a choice between a guy in a bunny costume dancing to YMCA and The Ramones warming up the stage for them or Slightly Stoopid on the adidas MEGA stage.  Truth be told, I had to watch the guy in the bunny costume for a bit, but i checked out Slightly Stoopid as well, and well … they weren’t as stupid as I thought they’d be.  In fact, their reggae rock sound was kind of fun in a way.  They ended their set with a Nirvana cover, which brings me to a recurring theme for the weekend – cover songs.  These ranged from quite good (The Big Pink doing Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine”) to acceptable (the aforementioned Nirvana cover) to perplexing (Blues Traveler doing Sublime’s “What I Got” – not that I minded hearing it, but it seemd kind of like “Hey, we had a couple hits in the mid ’90s and here’s another song that was a hit back then.”) to kind of annoying (Green Day peppering their set wih little snippets of classic rock songs … still, it was kind of cool to hear the crowd sing along with “Sweet Child O’ Mine”)

Green Day definitely knows how to work a big crowd – they’ve got the big rock moves down.  I never really gave their last couple albums that much of a listen and really only wanted to hear them play their early ’90s stuff (and after I’d heard enough hits I did go over to check out the end of Phoenix’s set in time to hear a few songs including “1901,” which made me happy), but I’ve got to admit that those newer songs work really well in a big venue – there’s a reason American Idiot got turned into a piece of musical theatre.  They even followed Lady Gaga’s lead and had a fireworks display as part of their show.  In terms of theatricality though, perhaps the most visually interesting band of the weekend was Empire of the Sun, who played opposite Green Day and Phoenix.  With crazy images projected onstage, dancers and elaborate costumes, they certainly put on a great show.  Speaking of musical theatre, why weren’t the cast of Glee invited to play Lolla this year?  I’m sure that shit would have gone over huge.

Concert Review: Hot Chip & The XX, April 20, Kool Haus

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Toronto – Rarely do you see a double bill of epic proportions. Both The XX and Hot Chip could have sold out many venues in Toronto by themselves, yet they have chosen to join forces like Crosby and Malkin and take over the Kool Haus for one night. The show was beyond sold out and I was lucky enough to have tickets for the show. Having seen and loved both bands live before, I was quite excited for the show.

The XX

I like to do this thing called ‘call the venue beforehand and ask for set times’. I did this, and the women on the other end on the phone said that The XX was going to be on at 9:45. Great! I thought. I would have time to watch most of the Pens-Sens game and then go to the Kool Haus. Since when are bands ever on time? Well, not only was the XX on time, but they were early! I was shocked when my coworker texted me at 9:35 and said that the band just took the stage. Luckily, Toronto is a city of cabs and we were able to get one right away. However, the cab driver did not know where the Kool Haus is. How is that even possible? If I was a cab driver, I would scope out all the concerts and show up right when the show ends and take all the 905ers back to the suburbanite basements where they belong. Clearly this man had spent too much time studying medicine or neurosurgery and not enough time studying traffic routes in whatever country he had come from.

Arriving at the Kool Haus at around 9:45, I gathered we had missed about two or three XX songs. Bummer for Gary I guess. The XX must really hate England or have some severe gambling debts back home, for they have been touring FOREVER since their album came out, and this is their third show in Toronto since December. Having seen them in December, there has been notable growth in their live performance. The band is definitely more calm on stage and definitely have developed the confidence to tweak a lot of their songs in the live environment. The set was more or less identical to their set at SXSW, right down to the crazy drumming at the end of Infinity by Oliver Sim. As you would expect, they played all the songs off their debut album. The vocals were somewhat muffled by the Kool Haus sound system, which was a shame. The crowd was mostly enthusiastic for the band but there were definitely some chatty betty’s in the crowd and considering the XX’s music contains some quiet parts, that was quite the distraction.

All in all, a good showing by The XX. Even though they aren’t very lively on stage, their music speaks for itself. You can see them many times and still get shivers whenever Infinity or Basic Space places.

Hot Chip

Judging by the colorful nature of the crowd’s fashion choices, I would say most people were here for Hot Chip. The London band was in town to promote their latest album – One Life Stand. I’ve seen Hot Chip twice already, so I knew what to expect – a good dance session. I skipped my gym workout Tuesday night because I figure I’d get my exercise in at this show. I was correct. Going to a Hot Chip concert is like going to any other electronic act – if you aren’t dancing, then you will not enjoy the concert. That’s what their music and shows are about. If you want to stand there and sway, then go to Beach House or She and Him. Hot Chip is for people who like to dance. Having said that, I felt kinda sorry for all the people cramped in the middle of the Kool Haus. The show was sold out, so unless you were off to the side (like we were), you were pretty crammed in. This does not bode well for dancing and so I figure most of the people in the middle did not have as great a time.

Hot Chip played around 80 minutes. The set consisted of a handful of tunes off their new album and some carefully chosen numbers from previous recording. I am not that familiar with their new material but Thieves in the Night, One Life Stand and the single I Feel Better (in the encore) got some good reception. For my money, Over and Over is still their best song and the crowd went bonkers for that tune. I kind of described what that song is like live in my review of their last show. Other classic Hot Chip tunes played included A Boy From School, Hold On and set closer Ready for the Floor. Needless to say, the Kool Haus was transformed into a sweaty dance pit.

Overall, a great night of music, featuring two bands of extremely different sounds. Both were great and you can’t really ask for more.

Check out the new XX video, Islands, here: