Monday, December 29, 2008

The Two-Minute Miracles

Thanks to CBC Radio 2 and a December 20th trip to Costco with Steve Jones, I now know about the Toronto based band, Two-Minute Miracles. These guys are so under the radar but totally authentic and unwary roots rock.

The video above is of a live performance of "Stall Tactics", which I encourage people to purchase off iTunes, from the album Volume III The Silence of Animals. Weird title, but that's good. I purchased several songs from various recordings of theirs and then burned a CD for Steve for Christmas. This I hope, will push him to set up his iTunes account on his "new" iMac and buy the albums in full. So far, Steve loves these guys.

This video link is of a more polished production; an upbeat sort of tune, which I will also buy, from the album "Lions of Love". Title song from that album is also really good.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The state of the union post Christmas 2008

This morning after a truly lack luster Christmas spent virtually alone, snow bound, suffering with achey-flu-like symptoms, and then yesterday from 11:45 am to 2:10 pm, joining in the “fun” with six other homeowners up on the roof of our apartment building, heaving twelve-thousand pounds of snow off to the ground, well, I have awakened to the fact that I am a cynical and fearful person. Buddy's down to one last tin of Fancy Feast and it's the Salmon flavor one which he's not wild about.

And even worse, reading the NY Times online this morning, right there in black and whitish, “Billboard reported that three-quarters of Santogold’s (singer Santi White – whom I don’t know or listen to) excellent album has already been licensed for commercials, video games and soundtracks, and Ms White appears in advertisements for sneakers.”

Journalist Jon Pareles has it right, it’s a hard one to fathom at times. He goes on to state, “this is the reality of the 21st-century music business. Selling recordings to consumers as inexpensive artworks to be appreciated for their own sake is a much-diminished enterprise now that free copies multiply across the Web.”

Good grief. I love his description of the two types of music listeners – me being of the first collective – an apparent dying bread; “While people (I’d be one of these people) still love music enough to track it down, collect it, argue over it and judge their Facebook friends by it, many see no reason to pay for it.”

Jon Pareles’ full article was published December 24, 2008, entitled Songs From the Heart of a Marketing Plan.

And so far, I have only received and opened 2 Christmas presents. One from Richard - thank you dear for the multiple DVDs -they have come in handy these past few days; and one from Hartwick - a lovely collector book of Audrey Hepburn. I'm hoping to get a few new CDs - including Jill Barber's Oh Heart. That is, if this fricken snow would disappear!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt, January 17, 1927 - December 25, 2008

Sad to hear the news this afternoon that talented singer and actress Eartha Kitt has passed away from cancer. It's rather apropos that she passes away on Christmas day, as she made the song "Santa Baby" famous after recording the holiday hit in 1953 - Eartha was the original recording artist of the song.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Best of 2008 - the year in review for music

It's already been twelve months. It seems like only a few months ago when I was publishing Best of 2007, so when John Goodman emailed me to contribute the The North Shore News annual Year In Review Section, I thought, "You gotta be kidding me? Another December?" It really has flown by.

1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)
2. Ray LaMontagne – Gossip In The Grain (RCA)
3. The Smiths – The Sounds Of The Smiths (Rhino)
4. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cardinology (Lost Highway)
5. Kings of Leon – Only By The Night (RCA)
6. Lucinda Williams – Little Honey (Lost Highway)
7. City And Colour – Bring Me Your Love (Vagrant)
8. Kathleen Edwards – Asking For Flowers (Universal)
9. James – Hey Ma (Decca)
10. KD Lang – Watershed (Nonsuch)

While this year was rather dry for publishing, I was able to push through my pieces on Kathleen Edwards' Asking For Flowers, KD Lang's Watershed, City and Colour's Bring Me Your Love and Morrissey's Greatest Hits. All great albums, with the exception of Morrissey's so-called Greatest Hits (I know, how can I slag my man?!). I have included them in this year's submission, appearing in this past Friday's paper (NSN December 12th edition, page A19).

The year 2008 can be described as eclectic, still filtering commonality in the collective Best-Of-2008. For more than one nomination The Kings of Leon, Fleet Foxes, Lucinda Williams, Block Party, Wolf Parade, Hey Rosetta!, and the most frequent nominee being Kathleen Edwards for her album, Asking For Flowers. Ottawa-born Kathleen Edwards is as confident and reflective as Lucinda Williams. Her debut album Failer is one of my "desert island pics". The Kings of Leon simply rock. Lead singer Caleb Followill's vocals are so striking to me. I'm in love with everything he utters. Further mention must be paid to Dallas Green and his solo work as City and Colour for the album "Bring Me Your Love", because as I described back in March, his voice is soft as silk, transporting lines to a diaphanous lullaby.

My Top 10 Albums were in no way prioritized. They were submitted in random order because I find it dreadful to remark on art in terms of rating. The absolute worst part of submitting an article for an album is the dreaded numbering out of 10. Holding my breath, I type it in last thing before clicking the Send Button on my email. But that is what we do as humans. It's unfortunate, but it's safe to say society is competitive in virtually all aspects, including art, of existence. What is better or worse, what is fastest, most expensive, you name it, we'll rate it. With rating, measuring, ranking, assessing, gauging, grading or estimating, we limit art - we stifle, regulate and limit it. But Music is really very simple. Above all of the temperament, Music is for enjoying.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Snow Patrol's "A Hundred Million Suns"

Album: A Hundred Million Suns
Artist: Snow Patrol
Label: Polydor/A & M
Released: October 28, 2008
Rating: 7 out of 10
Review by: Stephanie Kiernan

Don’t expect to fall in love upon the first go around of “A Hundred Million Suns” – I’ve personally renamed Snow Patrol’s fifth album “A hundred million Starts” since that’s about how many plays it took for me to warm up to it and wipe off its monochromatic veneer.

Nevertheless, despite the repeated starts of the album in my car and on my iPod, it eventually wedged itself into my psyche. Irish-Scottish ensemble Snow Patrol resumes their clean-cut, soft-alternative sound, while lead-singer-lyricist Gary Lightbody fortifies the band’s tried and true post-Coldplay formula for a perfectly pleasant offering without any surprises.

And while surprises might be vital in satiating the iPod generation, Snow Patrol’s music is nevertheless cheerfully alternative, in addition to having the underpinning of distinguished Irish Producer, Garret “Jacknife” Lee; who’s pixie dust has illuminated other alternatives like Weezer, Kasabian, The Hives, and Bloc Party.

“A Hundred Millions Suns” stamps out 11 sashaying originals, including sixteen marathon-minute “The Lightning Strike” which swoons and flares with echoing high-tempo. Snow Patrol has mastered mellowness with extractions like track 7, “Set Down Your Glass” and track 8 “The Planets Bend Between Us” and yet plodded optimism strikes through “Engines” – a highlight of the release.

This Snow Patrol offering would make a decent Christmas stocking stuffer; just add this review disclaimer to the wrapping.