Friday, December 19, 2008

The Dead Tour '09

In light of the Phish reunion tour that is coming in 2009, I think it's only fitting that I report on their predecessors. Rumours of a Dead tour have been circulating since their one shot reunion for Obama and many think they will be playing either Bonnaroo or Rothbury. Although information on a possible tour is limited, a video was released by the band and boy do they look like they're having a good time. Check it out

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Phish to Headline Bonnaroo 2009?

Rolling Stone has recently reported rumours that Phish will be headlining Bonnaroo 2009. Financially this would be a super smart decision for the band. One big fat paycheck for playing no more than two nights of music, and none of the worry of having to organize their own festival. Around the 'net there seems to be some outrage over this rumour. Most hardcore festival goers have watched Bonnaroo slip into a corporate monstrosity straying far from its jamband routes. Who the fuck decided to let Metallica play last year anyways? That being said, its not crazy to think that Phish will play Bonnaroo AND hopefully play their own festival as well. Either way there will be a tour in 2009, and if you love music, why not see Phish at Bonnaroo along with 50 other bands? You're bound to have some fun.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Top 10 Albums of 2008

2008 saw the release of many fantastic albums. Here are my personal top ten favourite albums of 2008. Hopefully they help turn you on to some new music.

1. My Morning Jacket- Evil Urges
Evil Urges helps to further prove why My Morning Jacket should be considered the American Radiohead. Every record the band has made has been considerably different from the last, and Evil Urges is no exception. The album covers a wide range of genres from the band's classic folk sound all the way to disco. Listen and hear why Jim James is the greatest front man in rock and roll today.
Key Tracks: Evil Urges, Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Pt. 2, Highly Suspicious

2. The Black Keys- Attack & Release
Ever wondered what The Black Keys would sound like if they had a few other band mates? Famed produced Danger Mouse seemed to be curious of this himself. By adding keys, ominous tones, and even banjo to some of the tracks, the band has a fuller sound to compliment their signature hard rocking blues.
Key Tracks: All You Ever Wanted, So He Won't Break, Psychotic Girl

3. Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago
Bare bones production and haunting vocals (think Jim James crossed with Thom Yorke) are beautifully displayed on this 2008 masterpiece. The album was written in solitude in the middle of winter and after the breakup of Justin Vernon's old band. His emotions clearly set the tone of this lonely yet often optimistic album.
Key Tracks: Flume, Skinny Love, For Emma

4. Brad Barr- The Fall Apartment: Instrumental Guitar
One of the most underrated and inventive guitarists of our generation. Barr gets back to his roots by playing some of his favourite cover tunes and a few originals as well. See my review below for a fuller description of the album.
Key Tracks: Bouba's Bounce, War, Heart Shaped Box

5. Fleet Foxes- Fleet Foxes
The folky sound and lush harmonies make them a sort of new age CSNY, if they were singing on the top of a snowy mountain. The Foxes bring the cool back to modern folk music with vivid lyrical imagery that makes you feel as though your running through the woods in the middle of winter, which seems to be the theme of 2008.
Key Tracks: White Winter Hymnal, Ragged Wood, Meadowlarks

6. Vetiver- Thing of the Past
Although this album is entirely made up of cover tracks, they are fantastically played, re-imagined and sung. The band has the tenacity to cover Jerry Garcia's often overlooked side project the New Riders of the Purple Sage, as well as legendary country/folk singer Townes Van Zandt.
Key Tracks: Houses, The Swimming Song

7. The Wood Brothers- Loaded
The Wood Brothers play a private show for us on their back porch down south (or that's how it feels at least). This is roots music played to its finest.
Key Tracks: Postcards From Hell, Angel, Pray Enough

8. Vampire Weekend- Vampire Weekend
The most blogged about band of 2008 deliver a fantastic debut album. Although the comparison has been made many times, it feels like a completely original follow up to Paul Simon's Graceland. Vampire Weekend mix afro-beat and witty college inspired lyrics, and leave us wondering what their next album will be an homage to.
Key Tracks: Oxford Comma, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

9. Blitzen Trapper- Furr
Labeled as an indie band, they sound more like alternative rock to me. The album requires a few listens, but shines in the end.
Key Tracks: Furr

10. Sonya Kitchell- This Storm
Recorded with The Slip, the album is a departue from Sonya's bluesy sound into a more rock and roll sound. The Slip acts as her backing band and take Kitchell's songs to a heady level that I'm sure she was even surprised by.
Key Tracks: For Every Drop, Here To There

There you have it folks, my favourites from 2008. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Michael Rapino & Live Nation

Michael Rapino, the Chief Executive of Live Nation is a self made man on a very important and risky mission. It's no secret that the music industry is currently in dire straits. Most of the blame can be placed on the transition from distrubutable, tangible CDs to digitall encoded downloadable music, primarily provided legally through iTunes and of course illegally by means of bittorrent applications and the like. The survival of the music industry, or at least one of its largest players, Live Nation, is on the shoulder of Rapino, and it is quite the heavy load. Rapino's strategy thus far has been to sign major musical superstars, such as Jay-Z and Madonna, who are notoriously known for raking in the big bucks by selling out concert venues worldwide. Rapino's current strategy for success is to be involved in ALL of the artists' musical endeavours. This includes their concert sales, future albums, t-shirt revenue and just about every other means of income, in a 360 all encompassing contract. While some critics think that paying artists upwards of $17.5 million for their cd distribution rights (in the case of Madonna) is a risky move, Rapino sees it as Live Nation's best option. If the cd venture doesn't work out, Live Nation gets a tidy 30% of her t-shirt sales and 50% of her revenue from any licensing and endorsement contract she may have signed. By going broad and paying for access to basically all of an artists' sources of income, Live Nation feels they are covering their own asses. Although this business plan is safe, smart and will likely pay off, Live Nation is only dealing with the biggest and the best. By vastly limiting their artist selection, they aren't taking the risks on up and coming bands that could potentially earn them a ton of money. Not to mention the fact that artists are realizing they don't need a major partner in their musical career. Band's are reverting to the grassroots movement of self promotion. They are distributing their new cdsfor free via their websites (Radiohead being the obvious example), or simply hoping for word of mouth to take them to fame, such was the case for the much blogged about band Vampire Weekend. Though it might be the dream of many bands and artists to be able to partner with a company such as Live Nation in the hopes of making millions of dollars, some bands are still hoping that the quality music they create will be all they need to gain popularity and help them reach fame and fortune.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Brad Barr's The Fall Apartment: Instrumental Guitar

Brad Barr's long awaited solo release is nothing short of a masterpiece. Barr returns to his musical roots which his band The Slip seems to have recently left behind. The eclectic mix of music allows Barr to take the listener on a musical journey without ever leaving his Montreal apartment. The Fall Apartment features folk, delta blues, gypsy guitar, new age, and cover songs, all performed with absolute perfection. The album opens with an original composition titled "Sarah Through the Wall". It's an extremely catchy number featuring fast paced melodic guitar runs and a memorable refrain. Next up is another Barr original, the delta blues number "Bouba's Bounce". It features whirlwind finger picking and bouncy bassline that would act as the perfect segue to The Slip's classic "Mudslide". Barr's take on Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" is also worthy of mention. Here Barr slows the classic Nirvana tune down, and places the lyrical melody over a backdrop of computerized noises, on what ends up being a very modern and beautiful take on a grunge classic. Fans of The Slip will recognize the song "Shiver",which is featured on this album, but without its lyrics. It's strong melody allows it to survive without its lyrics and works within the context of this album . The Fall Apartment is a strong effort and is certainly a success musically. I do hope however that on his next release, Brad showcases his beautifully honest voice and incredible lyrics to prove to the world that he is the most underrated folk singer/songwriter around right now.

Neil Young with Wilco & Everest

In an act of spontaneity last night, my roommate and I attended the Neil Young show at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. This would be my first time seeing Neil, one of my favourite artists. What's more, it would be my first time seeing another favourite of mine, Wilco. We grabbed the tickets no more than 10 minutes before the show began and headed to our seats which turned out to be fantastic, just to the left of the stage. The relatively unknown indie-rock outfit Everest played a short thirty minute set to start off the night. It's easy to see why they were picked to tour with Neil and Wilco. Their alternative rock sound is heavily influenced by both bands, with most of the songs ending with drawn out feedback jams. Although the songs were not very original sounding, they were certainly well played. The highlight of the Everest set was a wonderfully sung version of You Ain't Going Nowhere by Bob Dylan. Everest brought out a few of their friends (which were impossible to identify due to the lack of lighting) for this particular number which ended their set. Next up was Wilco, and thankfully the A.C.C was starting to fill up. As the band took the stage, I noticed that Glenn Kotche was absent behind the drums. The band played a few older numbers acoustically before acknowledging their drummers absesnce. Jeff Tweedy playfully joked the Glenn had fallen down a well, a la Bart Simpson, this would be the first of many jokes as to his absence. A few songs in, Tweedy announced that numerous "contest winners" would be filling in on drums, and this would cue Donny's entrance to the stage. The band played a few more simple, older numbers which lacked the excitement of Wilco's later material. Handshake Drugs was the highlight of Donny's playing, adding a new sound to the song's ending feedback jam. As Donny exited the stage, the next contest winner Steve took his place. Steve ambitiously requested Impossible Germany, from 2007 release Sky Blue Sky. He played the song with expertise and recieved much praise from Tweedy and the crowd. Finally, a final drummer came out and led the band through a couple more older numbers including a fantastic pairing of I Got You (At The End Of The Century) which segued flawlessly into Outta Mind (Outta Sight). Just like Everest, the Wilco set ended in a superb cover of Dylan's I Shall Be Released. Tweedy even sang the last verse in soaring falsetto, an homage to Richard Manuel of the band. On the whole Wilco's set was certainly odd and definitly not what I was expecting, given their general reliance on post Summerteeth material, but was fantastic none the less. Next up was the main event, Neil Young. Neil came out looking as hip as ever, sporting a black paint splattered blazer, graphic t, and jeans. He opened with a new song, but really drew the crowd in on an extra-grungy version of My My, Hey Hey. The first part of Neil's set was laced with heavy guitar solos and feedback jams which would turn out to be the theme of the night. The second part of the set featured a few acoustic numbers including a fantastic rendition of Oh Lonesome Me, and a sing-a-long version of Needle and the Damage Done. Neil then strapped on his electric once again and continued to rock our socks off. The highlights of the third part of the set were Cinnamon Girl and Cowgirl in the Sand, in which Neil mistakingly repeated the opening verse in place of the third and final verse, extending the already monstrous version of the song. After a standard Rocking in the Free World, we recieved the last song and final cover tune of the night, an amazing rendition of The Beatles' A Day in the Life. The song culminated in yet another drawn out feedback jam that ended with Neil ripping off every string from his jet black Gibson Les Paul. As he made his way off stage, Neil made a pitstopbeside his wife Peggy and her xylophone, striking one final note and giving us the thumb's up before finally leaving the stage and ending a night of epic music.