Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Album Review: Plants and Animals - La La Land

The trio Plants and Animals set their acoustic instruments aside, plugged in their electrics and created a cohesive 11 song record that flows smoothly through its valleys and peaks. La La Land opens with the celebrity inspired track, “Tom Cruz.” The intro thumps may sound like a bass guitar, but it’s actually the guitar work of multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Basque. Riff-heavy and epic, “Tom Cruz” is the way a rock and roll album should start. Plants and Animals beg to be the next superstars on American Idol, an ironic wish for a group hailing from the notoriously proud province of Quebec. The Arcade Fire horn section adds some color on this should-be radio hit.

The band tip their caps to the Gypsy Kings on the Spanish-laced “Kon Tiki” before slowing things down with the album’s first tender moments on “Game Shows.” Fellow (transplanted) MontrĂ©aler Brad Barr lays down some effortless piano work as lead singer Warren Spicer insures us, “it’s so good, it’s so easy.” “Game Shows” is perhaps a critique on society’s willingness to get lost in the mind-numbing “big highs and big lows” of modern reality television garbage. The pace picks up considerably on the album’s clear masterpiece, “The Mama Papa.” Spicer adds some French inflections to his best David Byrne impression with surprisingly pleasant results. An obvious attempt at writing a radio-friendly hit with some spunk, the simple, repetitive chorus of “and the mama don’t allow what the papa don’t like and the kids just wanna be left on the outside” will be on repeat in your head for days after listening.

Proving they are Montrealers through and through, “Celebration” finds Spicer singing about one of the city’s most notable past times, partying. While the track may not be the album’s biggest rocker, it features some wonderfully layered, effect-heavy guitar work and a massive horn-filled ending. Screaming and sprawling guitar work finishes La La Land’s curiously titled final track “Jeans, Jeans, Jeans” which is about just that. Although the title might evoke thoughts of ‘80s skinny jeans and big hair, just remember titles can be misleading. “Jeans, Jeans, Jeans” is badass rock and roll, ripped jeans and all. For a band with only two full albums under their belts, Plants and Animals demonstrate the maturity and growth that comes from extended touring, and ensure that La La Land lives up to the hype set by 2008’s heavily championed Parc Avenue.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Back In 15 Minutes Heads To Asia

Hey everyone,
I just wanted to let you all know that things are going to be very quiet around here for the next four months. Tomorrow evening I will be flying out to Hong Kong, and from there I will be traveling much of South East Asia. Chances are I will be able to do a post here and there, but these will be sporadic and short. I will be returning home in mid-June for just around a week, only to head out again. I will be leaving my computer behind once more, as July and August will find me leading canoe trips in the great Canadian outdoors of Ontario. Thanks to everyone who has stuck around with me thus far. I promise that in August Back In 15 Minutes will be back to full force with lots of great content to read, watch and see. It's been a great ride so far and I don't plan on stopping any time soon.

Have a relaxing but eventful summer everyone. Before you blink, the warm days and nights will be behind us once again.

-Lucas Samuels

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dawes Live On Craig Ferguson

Last night Dawes, one of our favourite new groups over here at Back In 15 Minutes made their live television debut. The group played the standout hit "When My Time Comes" off of their 2009 debut album North Hills. For their first time on television, Dawes laid down a fantastic performance. Taylor Goldsmith is wildly confident on stage, and he appears to be developing into a less nationalistic version of Springsteen (not to mention he can solo much better). Take a look at their performance below.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Album Review: Surprise Me Mr. Davis - That Man Eats Morning For Breakfast

To state that the new Surprise Me Mr. Davis record, That Man Eats Morning For Breakfast has been a long time coming would be a great understatement. The group, made up of The Slip and Nathan Moore released their last EP in 2005. Fans of the band know that these “new” songs have been thoroughly road-tested and actually recorded since 2008, and have been eagerly awaiting their recorded release. Well, that day has come, albeit two years later. What started off as a collaboration between two sets of musicians has clearly grown into something much bigger. While it used to sound like The Slip backing the songs of Nathan Moore, Surprise Me Mr. Davis has matured into a full-fledged rock and roll tour-de-force. That Man Eats Morning For Breakfast kick starts with “Roses In Bottles” an interesting choice for an opening track due to its noticeable complexity and lack of traditional song structure. If we listen intently however, the perfect harmonies of singers Brad Barr and Nathan Moore shine in unison. Barr’s masterful guitar lines trace the lyrical harmony beautifully, while drummer Andrew Barr adds subtle color to the song by hammering his skins with Moroccan shakers, rather than traditional drum sticks. “Roses In Bottles” is a true embodiment of the band. They make music with layers. Music that is understood best upon multiple listens, so that before you know it, you can’t get the songs out of your head.

In true Surprise Me Mr. Davis fashion, the band shifts gear completely on the funked-out protest rocker “Sissyfuss”. Nathan and Brad proudly exclaim, “I ain’t pickin’ up no peaches no, no peaches no. Not for no dollar a day” while Marc Friedman tosses out heavily fuzzed-out bass fills, never opting for a traditional low-end bass line. Brad gives us a perfect mix of his old school jazz guitar days mixed with his more current progressive guitar stylings during a ripping and completely unique solo. The pace is slowed just a hair on the ballad “One Sick Knave”, which is arguably the gem of the album. The tune illustrates the collaborative songwriting maturity that Nathan and Brad have been working towards for over six years now. Lyrics like “Well you follow the queen, but you never once saw her face. So you started running even though you weren’t being chase” are proof of the two songsmith’s growth as writers. The track slowly builds before the band reaches musical climax and Brad tosses out another shredding and heavily distorted guitar solo.

“Emily Green” finds Surprise Me Mr. Davis donning musical costumes from the pop heavy, harmony-laced ‘60s era, while Moore croons of love and loss on the haunting ballad “Joelle”. The album ends perfectly as Surprise Me Mr. Davis sing of life on the road on “Home Away From Home”. It may only be a seven song EP, but That Man Eats Morning For Breakfast is an accurate indication of a band tapping into their potential as of 2008. Now its 2010, and hopefully someday soon Surprise Me Mr. Davis will finally bless us with their true sophomore album.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Show Review: The Barr Brothers & The Low Anthem - Live in Toronto at Church of the Redeemer, April 10, 2010

It only took a moment after stepping into the Church of the Redeemer to know that I was about to witness a magical evening of music. Sitting front pew center, it was the first in my life I hadn’t gravitated towards the back row in any house of worship. Supporting The Low Anthem tonight were their good friends and regular tour companions, The Barr Brothers. Consisting of Brad and Andrew Barr (founding members of The Slip/Surprise Me Mr. Davis) on guitar and drums respectively, as well as Sarah Page on harp, the group seemed quietly eager to wow the packed church with their unique progressive folk music.

From the moments the lights went down and Sarah Page started gracefully plucking her massive wooden harp, the crowd was completely silent. As the band eased into “Beggar in the Morning” Brad filled the old church with the echoes of a pre-recorded answering machine message reverberating through his guitar pickups. As he slowly pulled extra thin strings laced methodically through his guitar strings up and away from his instrument, another non-traditional texture was added to the mounting wall of sound coming from the stage. Andrew delicately brushed the cymbals of his drum kit, painting a careful backdrop for all of the group’s ambient noise to float upon. All of this was within the first few minutes of the opening number. Next came “Ooh, Belle”, a regular for The Slip, now re-worked for The Barr Brothers. The new tune, “Old Mythologies” featured Andrew Barr opting for leg slaps as his percussive device, while Brad fingerpicked his way through the most straightforward folk tune of the night.

The Barr Brothers showed off their blues chops during “Lord I just Can’t Keep From Cryin’” as Brad showcased some expert slide work while Sarah provided some additional percussion. Ironically, Brad begged us to sympathize with the devil in a church no less during “Give The Devil Back His Heart”, a sprawling gothic-blues number that saw brother Andrew playing his drums with two percussive instruments that resembled mini crutches. The group closed its set with an unreleased tune that I’ll call “Was That So Long Ago?” and it featured harmonizing falsetto lines that appeared to come with great ease. The Barr Brothers left the stage to a thunderous, standing ovation from a church that appeared to have every pew filled.

The Low Anthem was up next, supporting their fantastic album “Oh My God Charlie Darwin”, previewing their yet-to-be-titled new album and playing some traditional American folk songs. What struck me most about The Low Anthem was not the group’s comfort with virtually every antique and modern instrument imaginable (and trust me that was wildly impressive) but rather the strength and range of lead singer Ben Knox Miller. Whether it was his soaring falsetto on the standout “Charlie Darwin” or his whiskey-soaked vocals during “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around”, the sheer power of his voice was completely absorbing.The highlight of the set came after the second chorus of “This God Damn House”, as Miller instructed us to phone our neighbor on speakerphone and let the cell phones sing to each other. When the moment came, the room obliged and the whistling of our cellular devices began to circle the room before reaching the ceiling of the church. The lights went down, the band dropped their instruments and for a few mystical moments, all that could be heard was the gentle singing that sounded like it was coming from anywhere other than a Blackberry or an iPhone.

Traditional numbers such as “Sally, Where’d You Get Your Liquor From?” and “Evangeline” recalled the spirit of The Band, as the group’s newest member Mat Davidson shared a striking resemblance to Rick Danko, especially with that violin in his hand. The set closed with a three song encore that included "To Ohio", a re-working of “The Horizon is a Beltway” and a new number, likely to be featured on the group’s new album.

I’ve never understood or been pulled in by the power of organized religion. Music has always been my connection to something intangible. As I looked around the beautiful old church, I couldn’t help but feel like the people surrounding me felt the same way. The Barr Brothers and The Low Anthem were able to channel something very deep on that mild, spring night in Toronto, and if music like this could be considered a religion, I'd be more than happy to take part in it once a week.

The Barr Brothers playing "Old Mythologies"

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

MGMT Spring Tour 2010

I'll set aside my personal feelings towards the new MGMT album Congratulations (but read my review here) and let you all know that the group will be touring in support of the album this spring. The group will be playing the Coachella Music Festival once again, as well as Saturday Night Live on April 24. I'm interested in seeing how brutal the new songs sound live. Let's just hope they go Oracular Spectacular heavy on their sets.

Tour Dates:
April 12 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore
April 13 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore
April 17 Indio, CA Coachella
April 29 Toronto, ON The Mod Club Theatre
April 30 Durham, NH University of New Hamspshire
May 2 East Rutherford, NJ Meadowlands Sports Complex (Bamboozle)
May 28 San Luis Obispo, CA Avila Beach Bowl
May 29 Santa Cruz, CA Santa Cruz Civic Center
May 31 George, WA The Gorge (Sasquatch!)
June 1 Portland, OR Crystal Ballroom
June 2 Portland, OR Crystal Ballroom
June 4 Salt Lake City, UT In The Venue
June 6 Austin, TX Stubb's Bar-B-Q
June 7 Houston, TX House of Blues
June 8 Dallas, TX House of Blues
June 11 Denver, CO Red Rocks
June 13 Kansas City, MO Uptown Theatre
June 14 Indianapolis, IN The Vogue
June 15 Columbus, OH LC Pavillion
June 16 Detroit, MI The Fillmore
June 18 Chicago, IL Riviera
June 20 Milwaukee, WI Riverside Theatre
August 8 Chicago, IL Lollapalooza

Here's the very strange video for "Flash Delirium"

Wilco to Curate Solid Sound Festival

With festivals popping up all over the place, it comes as no surprise that a band as big as Wilco will be curating and headlining their very own festival this summer. The Solid Sound Festival will take place from August 13-15 at the campus of MASSS MoCA, in Western Massachusetts town of North Adams. The group will be playing a headlining set each night and the band's various side projects will make up the other performances, with more acts to be announced soon. While The Autumn Defense, On Fillmore, The Nels Cline Singers, and Pronto will perform, Tweedy's side project "Loose Fur" which features Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and Jim O'Rourke are currently not slated to perform. Dang.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Album Review: Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame

Dr. Dog is brimming with bright enthusiasm on their latest and most certainly greatest release, Shame, Shame. The band cited an intentional shift towards a more scaled-down, true representation of their live sound for this new album, and that is what we get. It's a refreshing change to hear Dr. Dog channeling their seriously energetic live spirit in the confines of a structured studio album. It's no easy feat, but Dr. Dog has the focus to make it work.

The album opens with the upbeat number "Stranger", rich in Dr. Dog's textbook 60's harmonies and unsurprisingly missing their signature horn section. Not to worry, singer Toby Leaman belts out the lyrics with all his soulful might, filling out the missing spaces with ease. The pace drops, but only slightly on the next tune, "Shadow People". Lyrics like "it's the right night for the wrong company" and "I crossed the path of a friend of mine, and I know what that look upon her face meant" resonate long after the beautifully thin vocals of Scott McMicken fade out. The blunt lyrics "I've got a job, I've got to move this paper" perfectly match the heavy marching pace of "Later" which is laced with some quirky off-key piano and is seriously infectious. With its repetitive chorus, "but I can't sit around and wait, can't sit around and wait for you", "Later" has all the key ingredients for a breakout single. Mid-album, Dr. Dog juxtaposes the dark tale of a loving couple in turmoil with poppy handclaps and a rolling drumbeat on "Jackie Wants A Black Eye" to surprising success. Finally, the album comes full circle, ending with the title track "Shame, Shame", the only song on the album that plays a little long.

If it's your first time hearing Dr. Dog, Shame, Shame should prove to be immensely satisfying. It's a lively and catchy album. A nod to the seemingly forgotten harmonies of the '60s which allowed so many bands to achieve so much success. Long time fans of the band should also feel proud of their underdog musicians. Shame, Shame mixes just the right amount of left-of-center headphone nuances (listen for someone barking like a dog on "I Only Wear Blue") with the band's long-term practice of blatantly poppy songwriting. For a band that has cradled the cusp of mainstream success for so long, Shame, Shame should be the album that garners Dr. Dog rave reviews from critics, casual listeners, and longtime fans alike.

Check out Dr. Dog playing "Stranger" live at Jimmy Fallon

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bob Dylan Cancels Tour of Asia

Bob Dylan always said that he didn't believe there were any deep messages in his songs. Unfortunately, the government in China thinks otherwise. Already on the cusp of banning Google, China has now refused to let Bob Dylan perform a string of shows due to his status as a "counterculture figure". Dylan had just finished a two week tour of Japan and was looking to extend things into China. The folk icon was looking to also play Beijing as well as South Kore and Taiwan, but has now scrapped all proposed shows. Dylan will return to the road May 29th in Athens, Greece to begin a major tour of Europe.

Mile High Music Festival 2010

Colorado's Mile High Festival has just announced its complete lineup. The festival, which takes place on August 14 and 15 at The Field at Dick's Sporting Goods Park features Dave Matthews Band and Jack Johnson as the big headliners, but we're most excited for The Samples and My Morning Jacket. Here's the complete lineup:

Saturday, August 14
Jack Johnson
Steve Miller Band
Slightly Stoopid
Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Cypress Hill
Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band
The Samples (all original members)
Keller Williams
Rusted Root
Donavon Frankenreiter
One eskimO
Mayer Hawthorne & The County
Amos Lee
The Constellations
The Motet
Bobby Long

Sunday, August 15
Dave Matthews Band
My Morning Jacket
Jimmy Cliff
Drive-By Truckers
Railroad Earth
Punch Brothers
Tim Reynolds & TR3
Trevor Hall
Matt Morris
On My Stars
Joe Purdy
The Knew
Danielle Ate the Sandwich

Head over to for full information.