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Brand X Media ::: Live Music, Reviews, Art & Writing From The Westcoast Underground
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2003 - 2004 - 2005
P:ano - Brigadoon P:ano
Brigadoon - Mint Records

Whoever could have thought to remove the letter 'i' and replace it with a colon? A gen:us, that's who. The use of the colon rather than the proper letter tr:ps up the mind, man. It also connotes a part:cular dissonance to what is otherw:se a very melod:c word. Genu:s, gen:us, gen:us.


I've being try:ng to wr:te a rev:ew of th:s album for months. I just don't know what to say.

It's okay, I guess.

One song is called 'Georgey the Horsey'. It's okay.

My boyfr:end says, "I LOOOOVE THIS CD!"

I say, "It's okay."

Handclaps are cool in songs.

The people in P:ano seem pretty good on the:r instruments.

I'm glad I got to l:sten to th:s album for free.

That's all.

- Buddy McGillicuddy

Chet - Kauai Chet
Kauai – The Hive

in these songs there is no self. there is narration without narrative. These songs are a fuse of emotion that isn't pressed upon the listener but a soundtrack to an emotional lineage. The songs range from a perspective of dismal optimism to unrestrained emotional outbursts that cease to crack and flow freely and seamlessly all of which put the listener in the shoes of the music's creators.

Writing credits and are shared between the Beattie brothers and while minimalist in their structure they're merged into the music generating a near unattainable level of solemn atmosphere and mood from the first track ‘grow old gracefully’ that builds up exponentially in it’s dynamic and tempo only to let the listener down gently while wistfully covering their tracks before the next songs begins.

This album is consistently raw and unrestrained, ranging from the abstract sentiment of ‘Election: A Broken Arm’ to the morbid romanticism of ‘Antarctica’. This album is as original as it is fascinating, from the sleepy reverb of the Guitar to the haunting cello and menacing organ to Ryan Beattie’s unique signature vocals.

This album is an anomaly that can be appreciated if it be on a tropical beach or a sleepy late night car crash.

- Jesse Ladret

Away, Rio!  - Early Efforts Away, Rio!
Early Efforts - Independent

Away, Rio's debut album "early efforts" is miles away from singer/songwriter Joey MacDonald's first assault on Victoria's music scene. From the ashes of punk-driven The Rampant, MacDonald picks up where Johnny Cash and even a young Springsteen left off.

As a writer Joey covers topics from a perspective much wiser than his 20 years should, and with an honesty and integrity that assumes he is worthy of his stories. The task of songwriting on "early efforts" is shared by Shapes and Sizes frontman Rory Sydel writing two of the six tracks; "Grey of my sleeve" and "Same old boring rock and roll." And although Sydel clearly has a rare knack for writing instantly catchy, Beetleseske, pop hooks he doesn't seem to have the heart that Joey convicingly demonstrates. That said Rory has found his voice and it comes through well with interesting, stripped-down arrangements specifically on "Grey of my sleeve," a voice that it sometimes seems Joey has not found yet for him to drive his batch of fantastically written songs. Together, however, they have compiled a great album and have done it with a very warm and complimentary production.

In brief, Away, Rio's "early efforts" is a heartfelt C.D. where the songwriting takes the forefront and the minamilist arrangements and production really allows the album to breathe.

- Jace Donovan

Richard McGraw - Her Sacred Status My Militant Needs Richard McGraw
Her Sacred Status My Militant Needs - Independent

I'm not really sure what to say about this album... It's strange, really strange. McGraw sounds like a cross between John Cameron Mitchell (of Hedwig fame), Jeff Hyslop (Phantom of the Opera, plethora of children's shows) and Conor Oberst. Like Bright Eyes, the songs are poetic and theatrical, though Mr. McGraw has ample room to grow in the lyrical department. The lyrics are too dense, they don't breathe. Tthe music itself (piano, accordian, violin/viola, accordion) is beautiful, and there were times that I wished McGraw would just stop for a minute and let me listen to the gorgeous instrumentation. McGraw's vocal delivery seems feigned at first (he has the same hystrionic quiver employed by most of today's radio balladeers; enrique iglesias(sp?) is one good example) but after listening to the whole album, who knows, you might actually like it. I didn't, but you might.

I also have to say, I found it frustrating listening to lyrics like "And after I've prophesized you'll want to sleep next to me with those cold and wooden thighs you polished for the orgy... I cannot service all at one time."

Sorry, McGraw, but only Leonard Cohen is alllowed to sing about prophesies, orgies and polished thighs and be taken seriously.

The album is fomatted into a clever "essay"-style format (I- Inroduction, II- More Facts, III- Conclusion), which is actually kind of neat. I liked that part. The best song on the album is the last one, #16., "Sympathy for the Pervert". It's only 49 seconds long, and it's beautiful:

There's no love for the man
with a cock in his hand
as he bathes in the light of a girl
such a simple world
There's no room in the hearts of
her beautiful parts
as they find and accord with my tastes
such a painful place.

All in all, it's worth a listen.

- Buddy McGillicuddy

Moneyshot – Cowboys & Angels

Cowboys & Angels - Independent

Vocally similar to The Dwarves (with noticeably much less crude subject matter such as sexual or satanic references), and instrumentally sounding like The Foo Fighters if they ever started using Motorhead as a dominant influence, the album is pretty simple in it’s ability to acquire a straight on Rock n’ Roll sound that leaves little room for compromise and doesn’t bother wallow in trendy styles or techniques.

The music lacks the expected radio-friendly anesthetic or dumbing down that is so prominent with other releases that you would usually expect to find on the same shelf, including their previous offerings which for the most part is a blessing onto itself giving much more too their listeners while trimming off the fat of unnecessary effects or production tricks.

Moneyshot manages to keep their tracks consistent and interesting without to many signs of repetition and while they have stabbed their flag into the safer territory of punk/rock their overall sound has most likely reached the expectations the band has set for themselves and has likely done the same for their fans. These guys really don’t seem to have time for pretension or gimmickry and for that they deserve a lot of credit.

- Jesse Ladret

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Matt Masters & The Gentlemen Of The Rodeo - Unmixed & Unmastered Matt Masters & The Gentlemen Of The Rodeo
Unmixed & Unmastered - Independent

I don’t ever review the CD’s that endlessly flow in through our mail slot, mostly because I don’t like any of them. Granted, I dislike them because they most of them truly suck ass, but on the other hand I also have very picky taste and have a trying time coming up with positive words for anyone. But I am going to try my hardest this time.

When a CD, is “unmixed” and “unmastered” one can generally devise that what they will be hearing is raw and uncensored, as though you might even be there in the basement watching it being recorded. Well as I listened to Matt Masters CD, I truly was there. And it was boring. Before every song there is some intelligible prattle running from a few seconds to a minute or so, then we hear him sing. His voice made me angry. He sounds like a bad Johnny Cash impersonator singing a manufactured tune written for a truck commercial. Not just one or two songs mind you, but all of them.

I have to say the musicianship was excellent, but was ruined by the half assed attempt at Mr.Cash’s signature vocals, and the songs are ever so generic country it’s almost satirical. There is no reason to buy this CD, but hey, maybe he’s better when he’s live….. and when your drunk. Sorry Mr. Masters, I tried.

- Tove Shea

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The Kettle Black - was wollen sie mehr? The Kettle Black
was wollen sie mehr? - Independent

This CD starts out like some kind of crazy Dr. Demento nightmare. It was too insane for me, I couldn’t take it, and I had to have a cigarette to calm down. Gradually the tempo and tone of the CD slowed down to the point where I wanted to go lie down on the carpet and cry about everything that’s ever gone wrong in the world….. Ever. This would be a great CD for anyone who’s ever wondered what its like to have bipolar disorder.

The vocals were a little eerie, a word here I use to describe the weird déjà vu I felt when I heard it emanating from my speakers. Then I figured it out, he sounds like the guy from the tragically hip. After that epiphany I realized I have no idea what this band and its music is all about. Tragically Hip meets a suicidal Dr. Demento? Obviously I’m missing something. Or am I? Maybe that’s exactly what they’re going for, and if that be the case, they know their stuff down pat.

Its pretty bassy music, the kind everyone can hear coming out of your headphones on the bus, and for that it was pretty cool. However, that split second of cool goes away for the fact that the music is utterly simple, and depressing, like the soundtrack to a student film from the 80’s about drug use. But we all know, some cats really dig that sound. I could almost dig, but I had this nagging feeling that it was missing another instrument. Maybe a tambourine or a cowbell?

- Tove Shea

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Children Of Celebrities - Middle-Aged Wasteland

Children Of Celebrities
Middle Age Wasteland - Independent

There seems to be no shortage of stringed instruments in the ‘Middle Age Wasteland’ with an album dominated by instruments such as the mandolin, guitar, fiddle, banjo and bass the album has a rare contemporary folk/gypsy sound. The vocal duties of each member are divided throughout the songs, but most noticeably is vocalist Mike Raymer who’s words are boisterous throughout most of the album as he delivers in true storyteller fashion adding to their already signature sound.

”Selling hula hoops at the funeral just to raise a little cash” - take lyrics like that along with a stories of disco ball related fatalities and a cover of Tom Waits’ ‘Chocolate Jesus’ and the album is well rounded with elements of black humor, narrative and off-kilter aesthetics, not to mention the addition of guests including Jazz trumpeter Alfons Fear and multi-instrumentalist Tolan Mcneil giving the album a bit of local “star power” the album is pretty damn good.

Though the CD doesn’t come as close to representing the band’s full range and presence that their live shows do, ‘Middle-Aged Wasteland’ is a worthy CD and a good listen for the whole dysfunctional family.

- Jesse Ladret

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The Sensi-Tones - For Her Pleasure

The SensiTones
For Her Pleasure- Independent

“The airplane of infidelity flew into the twin towers of our love, the airplane of mistrust flew into the pentagon of my heart, and now It’s love terrorism…” some of the funniest lyrics I’ve heard in a very long time.

The Sensi-tones, who consist of a cast of four men who’ve decided to pen themselves as various Johnnys (Johnny Concerned, John E. Motion, Johnny Feelings and Johnny Friendly) have created quite a musical oddity here. Drums that are so peppy their as sharp as a newly ironed v-neck sweater, and insanely upbeat western surf guitar, that coincide with dual male vocals that give these guys a sound that is frighteningly catchy and upbeat.

The songs sound as if they could have been used for the soundtracks of various 1950’s mental hygiene videos on the rules of dating, or how to be popular, with just a little more edge. Altogether the album is a strangly arranged gimmick, not to mention the band itself, but you have to give credit to a band that puts in such effort as to give themselves their own theme song. But if you think about it - Doesn't everybody deserve their own theme song?

- Jesse Ladret

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Snake Handshakes – Welcome To Murderville

Snake Handshakes
Welcome To Murderville

I have two sections I put my CDs when I receive them in the mail. The milk crate is where the bad to mediocre CDs go. Though some of them are pretty good, they’re just not going to reach my CD player once a review has been written. The other place is on the shelf. It’s a small collection of CDs I can listen to repeatedly and usually makes it to rotation just as frequently as CDs I go through the effort of buying.

The first thing I noticed with this CD was the song titles. They’re funny. Like Wesley Willis – for example track one is called ‘Claire The Robot Librarian’, track two is called ‘Bees!’ and track five is entitled ‘I like Commander Riker Without The Beard’. I liked the last one especially because of the range of in-depth debate that could possibly ensue.
Then the CD started and the humor was gone.

The musicians sounded well accomplished and the talent was there, but the humor was gone and shortly thereafter so was my interest. The songs were of the neo-emotional power chorded variety, the kind you expect to hear when the movie credits start to roll after a Vin Diesel style action movie has ended.

I was really hoping to get an additional disc on my CD shelf, and as much as I hope that this particular band finds their own creativity and sound next time around, this particular disc is going into the crate.

- Jesse Ladret

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Wolf Parade - EP

Wolf Parade
EP - Independent

With members coming from such prolific musical pasts such as Frog Eyes, Atlas Strategic, Arcade Fire among other colorful endeavors that could easily take up the whole review, admittedly I was in a disposition of expectation upon getting this six song EP, not because of the exponentially growing hype I have been hearing lately, but because I wanted to hear continuation of Atlas Strategic’s ‘Rapture Ye Minions!‘, an album that I could whole-heartedly say was one of the strongest and inventive albums I had heard in a very long time, but this was not Atlas strategic – in fact it’s only commonality would be their vocalist and front man who has a knack for bleeding charisma with his vocal style that effortlessly bends itself to any instrumental composition giving the music a stark signature which is a strong sign when you consider the offbeat and uncompromisong musical accompaniment that one would expect.

Wolf Parade are a band unhindered by indie sub-culture trends and stand far apart from other bands using the standard synth-pop arrangements that have become so sickeningly common these days. This band has much more conviction, drive and creative capability given their disdain for convention and their post modern word play - their undeniable buzz is for good reason.

The EP has an uncanny D.I.Y. appeal and shines brightly on the band's second EP from start to finish. The first track ‘We Built Another World’ starts on an up-tempo note – like disco for bad people, onto ‘The National People’s Scare’ which keeps up the enigmatic musical elements but toned down into a much more contemplative and and paced dirge like track that truly shows an emotional melt down unlike any of the other songs on the EP. ‘Grounds For Divorce’ definitely struck me as their weak spot, it seemed more like an awkward merge of a Modest Mouse/Danielson Famile impression more than a song of their own, which hopefully will not become a habit in future releases.

For a six song EP Wolf Parade wanders through a lot of interesting musical territory, showing off a range of soundscapes from harsh and raw to oddly sentimental, thoroughly using their creative talents to the full extent.

- Jesse Ladret

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Tolan McNeil - There Will Always Be A Salesman

Tolan McNeil
There Will Always Be A Salesman - RedCat Records

Last summer, I was sitting on a friend's porch drinking cheap beer, and this song came on. It was brilliant, bizarre, and the voice seemed vaguely familiar. Unfortunately, my friend was no where in sight, and i was too lazy to thrust my jiggly bottom out of the lawn chair in which it had been congealing for the past few hours..... plus i didn't want to miss a second of the song, so i didn't find out who it was. Six months later, i was given Tolan McNeil's There Will Always Be a Salesman, and nearly shit my pants when i realized Mom Mom Mom was the song I'd been whistling badly for what seemed like ages.

If you've ever happed to run into Mr. McNeil at Logans' Pub or seen him perform with Carolyn Mark or his own Guv'ners of Giv'ner, you would expect nothing less than a great album, and There Will Always Be a Salesman, thankfully, doesn't disappoint. Recorded and Produced by McNeil himself (" for about 18 bux on all kinds of noisy machines"), this is a showcase of dazzling musicianship,wry humour, and solid songwriting. McNeil's lyrical prowess is evident from the first track, One Will Be Late ("Oh the hate, oh the hate, like two horses driven mad by rain and lice") to my favorite, the aforementioned Mom Mom Mom, a potential anthem for honeycomb-coveting children worldwide. In fact, he exhibits an affinity for wordplay that almost rivals David P. Smith. This is an accomplished, quirky, multidimensional album that i will continue to listen to in the bathtub, at all manner of celebratory gatherings, waiting in line at the E.I. office and driving to swimming lessons.

- Chelsea Wakelyn

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Robin Judge - Pattern

Robin Judge
Pattern - Noise Factory

Electronic music.
I can dig it when it's fast and psychotic and can make you dance for hours, making you forget who or where you are. Softer, ambient stuff I use not so much for listening as for background noise. Robin Judge's 'Pattern', her first solo disc after a couple of collaborations falls into this latter category. The vibe of the record is set right from the first track, an opposition of spacey relaxation with creepy unsettledness. The repetitiveness of Judge's electronic tunes helps bring on that sense of a meditative state, but I couldn't help but wonder if the CD was skipping, and indeed, it was a few times. But instead of feeling uplifted or inspired, the simple synth notes and rattling samples create a mysterious and paranoid aura about everything.

Because the vibe and tempo of the disc remain fairly constant throughout, no tracks really stand out. What I dislike about 'Pattern' is not necessarily Judge's fault; it's more a case of how her music is used by others. And that way makes me feel entirely uncool: I feel like I would hear this disc if I walked into some trendy downtown Vancouver clothing "boutique" where the vacant hipster clerks would either totally ignore me or look down their snoots and wonder what I was doing there, and even the clothes themselves scoff.

The lack of variation between tracks and moods can make for a pretty boring listen, but as I suggested, unless you're an electronic music fanatic I don't think an album like this is really meant to be listened to. It's more there to become part of the environment. However, because of the creepy tones running through the tracks and the bad associations it conjures up, I'd likely put it on when I'm sure to be doing very little listening.

- Jana McLaughlin

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Bottleneck  - Late Nights, Early Mornings

Late Nights, Early Mornings - Black Hen Music

Bottleneck harnesses the talents of two long-standing members of the Vancouver roots scene, Robyn Carrigan and Scott Smith. They share songwriting and vocal duties in the band and Carrigan contributes accordion, banjo and acoustic guitar while Smith, a gifted player of anything with strings - guitars, dobro, lap and pedal steel - also adds keyboards in front of a tight, but not suffocatingly so, rhythm section (Jeremy Holmes and Liam McDonald).

Bottleneck's first disc had its feet firmly planted in the alt-country camp while, without getting too far from the fire, this sophomore effort incorporates some real pop elements especially in some of the chord structures and bridges in Smith's songs. There is also the torchy blues of Carrigan's Your Man, ably complemented by trumpet and organ. Smith's Means Everything has a good feel and some sweet changes and You'll Get By features great country harmonies between Smith and Carrigan. This album is expertly recorded, the well-crafted songs are performed flawlessly, the musicianship is superb - really there isn't a hell of a lot to complain about. Yet.....there's something not quite working and hell, maybe it's just me. Ostensibly this is a hurtin' record - loss, loneliness, heartache - and the words are all there but the arrow doesn't find the heart. Everything's just a little too pretty and perfect to have that necessary emotional edge. Carrigan's enunciation is more opera than Grand Ole Opry, Mr. Smith is Mr. Smooth, and the tempos and rhythms are kind of, uh, happy. One other niggling thing for me is the song sequence, which is boy-girl-boy-girl throughout. It becomes predictable and the album probably could have benefited from a more thoughtful approach.

That said, if you're looking for a straight-ahead roots album without too many rough edges, this is a solid record with a number of stand out tracks, most notably the closing number. No Spoke on Your Wheel is a moody minor key western ballad with mesmerizing rhythms, gritty surf guitar, waves of atmospheric organ and wailing background vocals where, most importantly, Carrigan finally convinces me that she's pissed off at the jerk who dumped her.

- Murray Wilson

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The Steve Riley Band

The Steve Riley Band
Riley...Miles From Nowhere - Independent

Steve Riley is a singer/songwriter who uses songs to express his ideas, experiences and feelings about his life, and good on him. There are songs about his wife, his kids, Viet Nam, and being an artist, among others. Whether those songs should be heard outside the confines of his living room is the question here.

Don't get me wrong, the music on this record is more than competently performed and the recording and production is professional. Musically it falls into the category of radio-friendly rock. There are some tentative overtures towards Sadies-esque country rock on a couple of numbers, latin rock rhythms on the track Lady of Gold, and a few folksy overtones. Miscalculated (read: stinky) synthesizer washes litter the disc, poor keyboard sound choices poke out here and there, while a synth break in the track Starr Light brought back memories of Prism, the way a volatile belch brings up unpleasant reminders of yesterday's diet. But it is the predictable lyrics, sadly mired in cliché, that are the ultimate downfall of Steve Riley and his band, while his self-satisfied vocal delivery does little to help matters. At one point I was overcome with the cloying self-importance of the songwriting and became agitated. I snatched the cover up to see what track was playing only to discover it to be a cover of Cat Stevens' Where Do The Children Play. The album title "Miles From Nowhere" is taken from the Cat Stevens song of the same name and The Cat is obviously one of Mr. Riley's influences and inspirations - maybe that's part of the problem. I don't know if Stevens has been out of circulation long enough to gain some cache, but if he has, you can keep him.

I don't want to go on at length here. This is obviously a sincere effort from Steve Riley and band and the music is for the most part innocuous. Repeated listenings may have made me furious but would put many to sleep. Nothing really to get too excited about one way or the other.

- Murray Wilson

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Jim Byrnes - Fresh Horses

Jim Byrnes
Fresh Horses - Black hen Music

Like many of you, I have an Uncle named Jim. He is a jolly man with a hearty laugh and a nicely trimmed beard, but his surname is not Byrnes. If it was, then Jim Byrnes would be my uncle, and I would have to sneak into his home as he slept and bash his in with a lead pipe to prevent him from embarking on any further musical endeavors.

There is just something so goofy about a bunch of white guys from the suburbs trying to channel Muddy Waters. With nary an amoeba of conviction, Byrnes bulldozes his way through his own B’s Blues to a nearly sacrilegious rendition of a Dylan classic (Just like Tom Thumbs’ Blues is almost unrecognizable after Byrnes transforms it into perfect muzac for a sappy telephone commercial). Although there is evidence of accomplished musicianship (Dawson and Zubot do their damndest, particularly on the title track), and though the songs themselves are okay, the album remains contrived, cheesy and unoriginal due to Byrnes’ clichéd phrasing and embarrassing vocal mimicry of true blues legends. At the end of the first song he even growls “That was Baaaayyyyaaad!”

Don’t believe the other things you’ve read about this album…. Pure and simple, it sucks dirty donkey balls.

P.S. – Byrnes also bears a striking resemblance to Alec Baldwin, which is reason enough to hate the guy for no reason

- Buddy McGillicuddy

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Geoff Berner - Live In Oslo

Geoff Berner
Live In Oslo - Black Hen Music

Geoff Berner's new CD "Geoff Berner and Associates - Live in Oslo" captures Berner in his element. He tours extensively and plays continuously and if you've ever seen him live you'll know that when he's "on", he can capture an audience with his acerbic wit, offhand rumpled manner, and songwriting that covers three important bases: sad, angry, and funny. When he's not "on", acerbic becomes abrasive, he can be cocky in the bad way, and inattention to keeping his unamplified accordion on the microphone can make for a spotty show.

Fortunately this CD finds him in good form with an enthusiastic and attentive audience. Recorded live to mini-disc at MIR, a small bar in Oslo, the disc effectively captures the ambience of a live show - it sounds and feels like a room and the generally entertaining banter and song introductions add to the atmosphere. This is not a hi-fi recording, but all musical elements are clearly heard and the mix is natural. I say elements because Berner is not alone. His associates are Diona Davies (Carolyn Mark, Po' Girl) on fiddle and back-up vox, and Wayne Adams on percussion. Davies' fiddle is exemplary. She tastefully complements each song, introduces melodies, conducts a sonic experiment or two and makes humorous musical comments; while her interplay with the accordion gives some needed veracity to Berner's klezmer label. And she sings! Wayne Adams' percussion contributions are not as consistent. While some of the faster songs are aided by his rhythms at times I found myself grumbling "lose the hippie drum."

Live In Oslo has 12 musical tracks, 9 originals and 3 covers. The CD opens with 'Lucky Goddam Jew' followed by '
We All Gotta Be A Prostitute Sometimes'. Berner's songwriting swings between poetry, humour, and politics and these two songs fall on the political side, with humour running a weak second. Davies' fiddle work elevates 'Lucky Goddam Jew' beyond the constraints of its lyrics into a raw klezmer number. That's What Keeps the Rent Down, Baby, about the gentrification of Vancouver neighbourhoods, falls into the same category as the two openers - moderately successful, but a bit of a one-liner. Berner has better and he brings them out. The CD contains solid readings of his originals 'Iron Grey', 'Clown & Bard', and his signature tune 'Light Enough To Travel'. One of the highlights is the fevered 'Promises to Break Before I Sleep', where Davies again shines and Berner's vocal is passionate. Berner and Davies duet together on an endearing cover of John Prine's 'In Spite of Ourselves' and Carl Newman's 'Letter From An Occupant' is given the treatment.

This is a great CD for Geoff Berner fans: the man in his natural habitat. It's also a good introduction to him as long as you're not the type who is anal about production values. This recording is a document of a successful live show in a bar tucked away in Oslo.

- Murray Wilson

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David Chenery & The Lonesome Valley Singers - Memorial David Chenery & The Lonesome Valley Singers - Memorial - Self Righteous Records

Back with a new EP comes David Chenery and a newly formed group of Lonesome Valley Singers, this album is a far cry from the release of 2003’s ‘Devil’s Choir’. Here way have a much more toned down and introspective recording. The album’s material is softer and much more organic with the abandonment of electric guitars and stadium ready echo effects. This EP paints various dark pictures through the scope of traditional country tunes with an edge that retains it’s lyrical and atmospheric contempt for preconception and genre stamping.

The songs wade from the depressing lost love song ‘Dead Birds’ to an off kilter Kazoo infused cover of David P. Smith’s song ‘Sunday’, to quieter more contemplative tracks like ‘Late September’ that truly brings co-vocalist Chelsea Wakelyn’s and Chenery’s vocal unison to it’s highest peak that is both honest and haunting in it’s simplicity and restraint.

The CD has it’s fair share of cover tunes. Hank Williams is given homage through a rendition of ‘When God Comes & Gathers His Jewels’ which is followed by a gut-wrenching and emotionally driven version of ‘St. James Infirmary’ that starts slow and sad and ends in screams and hollers like a lunatic being dragged down a hallway. Though three covers in the span of an eight song EP may seem excessive, it only highlights Chenery’s versatility (considering he’s been known to cover songs ranging from Leadbelly to The Misfits) and his own signature songwriting style that in a short time has become so prolific he could easily compete with those who have inspired him to do so.

Memorial is an emotional album, constructed by reflection and stark emotion but ceases to give into any sign of indulgence or self-absorption making the CD a memorable one.

... that is if it doesn’t inspire you to drink your liver away.

- Jesse Ladret

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Great Uncles Of The Revolution - Blow The House Down Great Uncles Of The Revolution
Blow The House Down - Black Hen

The moment I recived this CD I left my apartment and listened with no preconceptions whatsoever. It was a first listen to a band recognized only by name, and that’s a rare luxury nowadays.

From the first thirty seconds of the CD I knew that this was going to be a great soundtrack for a winter night stroll. The songs (which are all instrumental) stretched through a wide array of genres including gypsy/neo-klezmer, bluegrass, roots and improvisational jazz. The songs were layered with numerous intricacies and styles that had an atmospheric quality added to eachl track the whole way through, from jazz guitar work that would’ve made Django Reinhardt proud – to more playful and comedic tracks that could have easily been composed by Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet – that is if they had been raised and taught in the Appalachian mountains.

Within the album the band has tackled some strange territory – notably the ode/soundtrack to the classic ‘Peter & The Wolf’ including the framiliar title track as well as a number of moody musical character sketches that range from the slow and seedy to the stout and anthemic – the soundtrack compliments the rest of the album nicely without becoming too misplaced - except for the odd exception that seems to knock the album off course but quickly jumps back to the original material seamlessly.

This album shows a level skill, craft and creativity that could astound even the most hard to please roots/jazz aficionado while having a spark to entertain, enhance and even cure the common listener who may stumble upon this album while looking for a quick cure for seasonal affective disorder.

- Jesse Ladret

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Jenny Whiteley - Hopetown Jenny Whiteley
Hopetown - Black Hen Music

Jenny Whiteley certainly has not reinvented the wheel with her new disc "Hopetown," but her verse-chorus-verse-chorus and simple chord structured songs are refreshingly heart felt and by no means cheap. She has an honest aproach to her lyrics with very little use of one-line attacks or cliches. There are definitely remnants of Sarah Harmer on tracks like "Burning of Atlanta," and huge reminders of pioneers of the genre lending to the likes of Lucinda Williams and perhaps even Patsy Cline on songs like "Circus is in town." The production is warm and comforting but still it lacks no passion.

Although there are elements of a new country sound, it can be quickly disregarded when one gives Whiteley the benefit of the doubt and accepts her material for the honest and skillful heart she demonstrates on this recording.

Aside from perhaps one slightly disapointing number (one did stick out for me), this is one of the stronger indie-Canadian albums I've heard in months.

K.C. Donovan

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Los Furios - Warning Shot Los Furios
Warning Shot - Megalith Records

A couple of years ago The Aggrolites coined the term 'Dirty Reggae' to describe their sound. This term could easily have been coined as a reference to this band.

Los Furios have gone threw some major changes in the past little while. The Vancouver ska outfit has signed a record deal with Megalith Records (home of such notables as New York Ska Jazz Ensemble & The Toasters), endured the untimely deportation of one of their key members (who tracked his parts on the CD from his home in San Salvador) and has also abandoned any attempts to squeeze themselves into the standard clean-cut ska-punk genre focusing on creating a grassroots musical movement that focuses on their fans and not commercial airplay.

Through the good and the bad – They’ve persevered well and this release is solid proof that these newly crowned kings of the Vancouver ska scene are making their mark with their fool proof recipe of ska, Latin jazz, reggae, urban rhythms and high energy.
The songs could easily fall under the usual ‘party ska’ label, but many lyrics have a neo-political freedom rock element that gives the music both a body and a mind that goes beyond the usual “pick-it-up” rhetoric.

Though a good number of people who have encountered Los Furios’ live performances may find the tracks a little tame in retrospect to their kinetic high energy sets – the album is a fine point of reference for when you want music with the all the right elements; Mind body and soul.

- Jesse Ladret

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Various - Speedfreak Metabolism Various
Speedfreak Metabolism - Black Market Records

It’s rare I receive a good old fashioned punk comp in the mail, and after this album _ I hope more of it’s kind end up in my hands. The album is a full on BC punk item that ranges from full throttle screamo-punk to more paced southern style cow-punk, to the expected low-brow crusty stuff that no well-rounded local compilation could possibly go without.

From the adrenaline infused first track ‘What Good Am I’ from The Gung Ho’s, stripped down old school skate punk with The Hoosegow’s ‘Gator’ this album has such an unexpected range of acts doing what they do best. The Rebel Spell’s ‘I See Fire’ instantly reminded me of Dropkick Murphy’s before they became the over-polished pretty boys they’ve morphed into over the last couple of years. This stuff is the real deal with rare signs of whiny teeny-pop jingles that have plagued Punk Rock’s new generation - not that these acts are rookies when it comes to their craft. The bands range from newer acts (Rebel Spell) to veterans of the punk scene (The Deadcats) most of which hold their own style as to let song after song become something new fresh and full of energy without letting tracks drone into each other – which is the case with almost every compilation I’ve gotten.

If anybody is looking to hear what the local punk scene has to offer - this is the CD to get. Though a couple of the tracks are sure to keep you steering clear of certain bands next time they come to town - a good percentage of the album is worth a listen and at the price of five dollars and postage, and only couple of lame songs is barely a reason to pout.

- Jesse Ladret

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