Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hannah Georgas - This Is Good

More like This is Frickin Great. The debut full length album from Vancouver singer/songwriter Hannah Georgas is a stunning collection of songs, showcasing a vast array of styles. To say this album is eclectic is the understatement of the decade. According to her myspace page, she is classified as indie/pop/alternative. These descriptions are definitely valid, but they only are only the tip of the iceberg.

Georgas has quirky indie pop/rock songs like "Bang Bang You're Dead," (which is the free iTunes download of the week) mixed with acoustic folk/pop songs like "Lovesick." She even throws the jazz-induced "Something For You" in for good measure. However, the most extreme switching of gears occurs when the electro pop/new wave "Dancefloor" is followed by the "The Deep End," which features the banjo as its main instrument.

Georgas, who happens to be on the cover of this month's Exclaim magazine, reminds me of what would happen if you made a musical Frankenstein monster out of Beth Orton, Goldfrapp and Sarah Slean. And for only $6.99 on iTunes. A helluva deal I say!

You can check out her video for "Thick Skin" (which shows lots of um... skin) below.

You can also see her in action at O'Hanlon's May 13.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gogol Bordello - Trans-Continental Hustle

Gogol Bordello are notorious for their wildly chaotic live shows. I never had a chance to see their show in Saskatoon a few months ago, but a few people have told me it was the sweatiest and most fun show they have ever been to. Judging by their Live From Axis Mundi DVD, which was released last year, these accounts seem pretty accurate.

Somehow, the raucous energy of Eugene Hutz and his rowdy crew of gypsy punks has translated fairly well to the studio, resulting in party-ready albums like Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike and Super Taranta! And no matter how much I play these albums, "Start Wearing Purple" still remains one of my favourite songs ever. (And it's perfect for a wedding!)

On their fifth album, Trans-Continental Hustle, the band have hooked up with producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty). Wisely, Rubin hasn't tampered much with the Gogol Bordello formula (or lack thereof). Instead, he has simply tightened the reins a little bit and given the songs a little more structure. What is most surprising is the subtlety that is evident on a handful of tunes. In particular, "When Universes Collide" is primarily a fairly pretty folk song that gradually builds up momentum. Judging from their past, this song should not work. Yet, songs like this add a nice diversity to a band primarily known for going full tilt all the time.

Having been signed to Rubin's American Recordings label and attaining Madonna's seal of approval, the days of seeing this band in sweaty clubs may be nearly over. However, these guys would be absolutely insane in a festival environment.

You can check out their performance "Pala Tute" from Live With Jools Holland below:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More Than Just Men: An Interview with Vancouver Love Rockers Scatterheart

With a new western Canadian tour under way in support their Love Rock Revolution, I recently had a chance to ask the boys of Canadian glam/punk-rock outfit Scatterheart a few questions. They are on their way to your town to dazzle you with their Love Rock Spectacle. These are shows you won’t want to miss.

Without further ado, here is what Scatterheart had to say.

SPUN: When did Scatterheart get together as a band? What inspired you to make music together?

Scatterheart: Scatterheart is about 3 years old now. We decided to create it because we wanted to see a rock band that was positive, fun and wore feathers.

SPUN: For someone who may not know, what genre of music do you consider Scatterheart to be? Who are your major influences?

Scatterheart: Our genre is 'Love Rock'! We have quite varied influences in the band, but the main ones that are the same for all of us are Queen, The Police, David Bowie, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tom Jones.

SPUN: While packing your sets full of your original music, you still have fun with a couple covers here and there. If you had to pick between U2’s “Pride (In The Name of Love)” and Rush’s “Closer To The Heart” which song would make the cut?

Scatterheart: Pride (In The Name of Love) is a great song and a lot of fun to play live, but Closer To The Heart has become such a signature that we have trouble not playing it. We've taken it out of the set a couple of times and it just doesn't feel right. Plus, people love it so much that I think we'd disappoint our fans by not doing it. ;)

SPUN: Doug, as once the guitar player for Bif Naked, was it a big change to rock with the Scatterheart boys?

Doug Fury: Nope! It reminds me of the early days touring with Bif playing smaller rooms, we were on a mission! I feel that same thing with Scatterheart, I Love It!

SPUN: If you were not making music, what is it you suspect you'd be occupying your time with?

Scatterheart: Listening to music and hugging.

SPUN: Other than the Vitamix blender top fiasco back in July of last year, what has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?

Scatterheart: We haven't had too many big challenges, every day is just a great experience, meeting new people and playing lots of fun show!

SPUN: You will be doing a show Dirtbred here in Regina soon. Dirtbred is a little harder of band. Have you done shows as unique as this one? What are your thoughts the show as it gets closer?

Scatterheart: Yes we have! We've played with metal bands, shoegazers and country and even hip hop and it always turns out to be a great night. Put the love out to the room and everyone has fun. Just be yourself. We're looking forward to playing with Dirtbred, a good friend of ours Roque plays in the band and they are awesome!

SPUN: What would you consider the highlight of your career so far and why?

Scatterheart: There are so many, but to name a few: Playing in Korea to 25,000 people, headlining the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver and the 2009 Scatterheart Septathalon in Regina!!!

SPUN: What was the first record you ever bought and do you still own it?

Mike Southworth: I'm too ashamed to write it so I'll post the youtube video (and no, I don't still own it...)

SPUN: 3 videos have now been released for our viewing pleasure (all available on youtube for viewing), do you have a favourite?

Scatterheart: I think the newest is always the favorite, so right now we'd have to say 'The Free'. We still have a soft spot for 'Beautiful' and 'More Than A Man' though. They're all our children - don't make us choose!! :)

SPUN: Is there a follow up record planned for “The Masterplan”? Can you tell us anything about it if so?

Scatterheart: There most certainly is, it's in the very early stages, we just started throwing a few ideas around. The plan is to put work into it more in the fall, we have 1 more summer of touring to go before we retire to the studio for another album.

SPUN: You guys get a booming response the feather people, why do you think that is?

Scatterheart: It's the love we give and the love we get. It's a shared emotion with everyone in the crowd. We just try to be ourselves and have a good time and hopefully it shows and the feather people feed off that and we feed off them.

SPUN: How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?

Scatterheart: iTunes,, call the local radio station and ask them to play it, or watch some videos on YouTube.

SPUN: Tell us about your next shows and why we the feather people should be there.

Scatterheart: We've got a nice western Canada tour that we're doing here and it's going to be a lot of fun, we haven't been out since last fall, spring is in the air, the birds are out singing, it's a great time to be travelling in this beautiful country, the only way it could get better is if we get to see the wonderful feather people out in full effect. That's what makes the shows. We love to see our fans dressed up in their feathers with their big smiles. That's what we do all this for.

SPUN: Lastly just give me two words to end this interview.

Scatterheart: Scatterheart Loves.... (you).

Scatterheart Loves You!

04/25/10 Scatterheart in Edmonton, AB @ On The Rocks
04/28/10 Scatterheart in Leduc, AB @ Burnsy O’Flanagan’stickets
04/29/10 Scatterheart in Calgary, AB @ Rusty Cage
05/01/10 Scatterheart in Lethbridge, AB @ Henotic Lounge
05/02/10 Scatterheart in Medicine Hat, AB @ Ottoman Lounge
05/06/10 Scatterheart in Red Deer, AB @ Cheers North
05/07/10 Scatterheart in Saskatoon, SK @ Roxy’s on Broadway
05/08/10 Scatterheart in Regina, SK @ The Exchange

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Red Vienna: Walking Through The Cracks Of Endless Time

Red Vienna is a band based out Vancouver BC; Vancouver is a hotbed for rock’n’roll in this country of ours that is matched only by Toronto. In the 80’s you had Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. In the 90’s you had Gob, Sarah McLachlan, Age of Electric and The Black Halos.

Soon everywhere the kids will cry for Red Vienna. This is much different in the sense intelligent kids cry because of Nickelback. Red Vienna is a good thing… a great thing.

On Saturday March 26th 2010 Adam Becvare’s Chicago based rock band the LustKillers were in Saskatoon. Bass player Denyss McKnight and vocalist Becvare both previously of The Black Halo’s advised me that old band mates Jahmeel Russell and Robbie Zgaljic had a new project on the go called Red Vienna. This excited me, perhaps more than it should have. The next afternoon when I arrived back in Regina I checked to see if it was online yet. It wasn’t. The Sunday after LK’s Regina show however, I had facebook and myspace requests. It seemed to be timed perfectly. See I am as you may or may not know a huge fan of The Black Halo’s. A HUGE part of that is Zgaljic. See Robbie Z has always been one of my favourite drummers. He is the only drummer I like to watch as much is Shannon Larkin of Godsmack. Most drummers are just there. Not Rob. He is an incredible player that hit’s extremely hard, his machine gun snare rolls are out of this world and he carries himself very well. He drives the band and keeps your attention all at the same time. He still manages to stay grounded and is one of the kindest people ever.

Jahmeel is no slouch himself. The bass lines Jahmeel punches out on the record are solid as !@#$. While he is not only a talented bass player he is also the vocalist for this new sensation. The songs that Rob and Jam Master Jahmeel (that’s what I will call him from now on) have written for their self titled EP are sick! It’s hard to describe the sound because it’s really fresh, fun and rockin’ yet it has an earthy, atmospheric kind of contemplative sound that is still very familiar to the listener. From a thought Rob and Jahmeel had in the fall of ’08 to working on the first song “Reprise” in mid ’09, it was well worth the wait. The boys were accompanied by Devin Boquist and Mark Perry on guitars that solidify the bands line up. Red Vienna has definitely created a unique record that they can call their own. You will find yourself very comfortable quickly with it. The first two days after buying the record online at on April 6th were spent with the album on repeat, and really listening to it.

Photo by Gucio Photography

The first track “The Best Words” Jahmeel owns from the start really ripping on the bass. With his gentle sounding voice backed by a tight rhythm section “The Best Words” is an excellent start to the record. Again the second song on the record “Low Lights” gets thumping right away. The band is definitely defining their sound early and it works for them. “Low Lights” has a bang on chorus that I am sure to be the early single. I predict this to be the crowd favourite as far as pop goes on the record. The ringing guitars and radio friendly melodies appease the ears that put you in a state of complete peace and bliss. The epic anthemic rock song entitled “Victoria Victoria” crushes from start to finish with it’s guitar buzz and steady drum. I can only picture a gang of young men steadily approaching on this number. Run they look serious! The band leads you back to their gentle atmospheric sound by track four. “The Long Walk” is that song that when you hear live will be the song the band captivates you with. Wait and see, it will be that powerful live. It’s powerful enough on it’s own but wait and see live… mark my words. This song is going to be “the moment” you fell in love with the band live. Lastly “Reprise” is a brooding/melancholy song that Jahmeel wrote reflecting a friend who had recently passed away. “We don’t think about death except for inside jokes we know. With our arms around each other, playing songs we know from show to show. Our glass eyes are cracked and the tears begin to flow. Goodbye to our snowman friend, goodbye to the winter cold. I see my friend at funeral, he’s someone I used to know” laments Russell. The crescendo that is built by about half way through will make your heart stop. It’s a hard song to listen to in that Jahmeel’s heart felt thoughts for his friend vividly come across in the song.

This is the best thing I have heard in recent memory. Red Vienna probably the best thing I have heard since Winnipeg’s “Ripperz” a couple years back.

Stunning effort fellas!

Cheers Rockers!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Library Voices - Denim On Denim

The wait is over. After months of promising to release a followup to 2008's Hunting Ghosts & Other Collected Shorts EP, Regina's own Library Voices have finally shared their debut full-length album with the world. And trust me, it is definitely worth the wait. Denim On Denim more than delivers on the promise shown on their six song EP. While there is nothing quite as instantly memorable as "Step Off The Map & Float," Library Voices come pretty damn close a few times. In particular, "Insider Trading (On Outsider Art)," "Bookish" and "Family Night" are all potential singles.

Denim on Denim is a natural progression for the band, while keeping the core strengths of the group intact. Like Elvis Costello, the band's songwriting consists of a wordiness that by all accounts should not fit into a pop hook. Yet, Carl Johnson and company have an uncanny knack for compacting an obscene amount of literate words into lines that are so hummable. For instance, try rattling off these tongue twisting lines from "Bookish," a song about online personas:

"Somebody's little starlet strapped in a strapless garment/ Pouts and poses for a pinhole/ Struts her stuff in megapixels/ Boasts her bands and interests/ Call it digital confidence/ But she looks so bookish when I pass her on the street."

There are also elements of the soft/loud dynamic made famous by the Pixies. This is really evident in opening track, and first single "Drinking Games." The song opens very softly, with only members of the band singing the chorus a cappella. As the song builds up, there are a few instances where the song just erupts out of the speakers. I must say, it's nice to hear this kind of dynamics on an album in today's age of digital compression.

The band and producer Orion Paradis have done a spectacular job in making the album sound crisp, lush and lively. The band's live energy is still evident in the final mixes, while their signature Beatle-esque multi-part harmonies are prominently featured.

It's only April, but Denim and Denim will definitely be a contender for album of the year.

You can check out their video for "Drinking Games" below.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

After Black Halos Burn Out They Often Burn Brighter

In the April 2010 Spin magazine article in which Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance) meets with Stooges legend Iggy Pop, Iggy says the following:

“There are people who live rock’n’roll all the time, but those people don’t last long. After I finish with you guys I am going to feed a cat.”

This has a lot to do with countless bands, but it was probably the greatest downfall of one of my favourite bands in the world.

Some people live it and some people fake it; either way this is detrimental to the people portraying this as well as the bands that back these types of people. Being rock’n’roll all the time was definitely a hardship that Vancouver’s monochrome glam punk-rock’n’rollers felt on a regular basis.

The Black Halos were a band in which though hard work, relentless dedication to their craft, a “DYI” attitude and solid songwriting produced four records fans could rave about with famed producer Jack Endino (Nirvana Soundgarden).

The Black Halo’s were a punk band that formed in 1993 by vocalist Billy Hopeless, guitarists Rich Jones and Jay Millette, bass player Matt Camirand and drummer Robbie Zgaljic. The band’s self-titled debut record was released in 1999 and by 2001 the band’s sophomore smash ‘The Violent Years’ was released.

It was on the Canadian tour for the Violent Years that I was introduced to this band. A couple friends and I went to the show at The State, which is now the Distrikt. This venue has a balcony upstairs with a view that allows you to watch the band from three sides of the stage. The room was pretty full so we went to the balcony and watched the show close to stage left. The band was likely very good. However, whoever hired the sound guy obviously hired Helen Keller because the sound was awful. I wasn’t entirely sold on this band as of yet… their sound anyway. That being said, the show was fantastic. The stage presence was amazing and the band banged it out. One member caught my eye specifically. That member was drummer Robbie Zgaljic. The man was intense from the first second right up until the last. He pounded the kit and had boat loads of charisma just in playing. You got this feeling that he was leading the whole band from the back. I left that night impressed with the stage show and the people but wanted to actually “hear” it. Soon after, my friend played me the Violent Years and I was sold. I was like “This is what I was supposed to hear!?” I played that record nonstop while I thought the band had called it quits for the next few years.

Although a lot of people love the Violent Years and the Rich Jones era Black Halos (so do I), it was the band’s third record ‘Alive Without Control’ that sealed them as one of the best bands in Canada for me. It was during this time that the best Halos line up would come together for me. This line up would consist of Billy, Robbie and Jay. However, after going through several guitarists and bass players, Denyss McKnight would join on bass and Adam Becvare would enter as the lead guitar player. Becvare was asked to do a US tour but was unable to partake due to his obligations to his own band the Lustkillers and the Halos would struggle. In Aug ’04 Becvare would fire his drummer and hop on board with the Black Halos for a tour with American hardcore band Zeke.

Shortly after this tour, AWC would take shape in 2005. It was already half written when the Adam joined. The band finished it after the Zeke tour. The band got everything they could onto that record, including organ, keys, pianos, hand claps, guest gang vocals, tambourine and even a guest solo from Rontrose of the Supersuckers on “Last Call At The Toothless Saloon.” Jay, Denyss, Adam and Rob really went to town writing on that record.

This would be the last we would see of Jay. The ups and downs of the Halos would prove to be something he didn’t want anymore and it was time to pursue other music ventures. Denyss would write for the next record but we would not see him live in this formation again either. Hired guns would enter as replacements: Johnny Stewart on rhythm guitar and Jahmeel Russell on bass.

‘We Are Not Alone,’ the band’s last record came out in 2008. For seven days straight Denyss, Adam, and Rob would work from noon till 6pm writing songs. Rob, a drummer once featured in Modern Drummer magazine, hits so hard that it forced the band to play loud just to get over it. This comes across crushingly beautiful live. Unfortunately, Adam states that is when he lost some hearing. Denyss, the youngest member of the bunch, has the ability to make new rock songs while Adam would make them more Halos’ type songs, Clash-like if you will.

The second time Rob asked Adam to join the band he told Adam that if he didn’t join then the Halo’s were over. Adam knew what the band needed. He had the contacts and experience, but most importantly he had a fan’s view. Adam had followed the band since 1999. That being said, Rob would not only be the backbone of the songs but of the band as well. Rob drove, booked, took on all the finances, all the debt and rehearsal space. It seems to me that Robbie Z was the heart of the Black Halos. I remember one show here in Regina where the turnout was poor and I apologized that our city sucked so badly. Rob just replied “I am just glad you guys showed up.” He seemed happy to just be doing it. Rob seems to be a real genuine, sincere and excellent human being.

On St. Patrick’s Day of ’08 in Montreal, thieves would break into the band’s trailer and steal all their gear and merchandise: records,shirts… everything. Immediately after this there was a tour that Adam prearranged for Europe. The band rented gear, a van and driver there and it was good timing to focus efforts on digging them out of a hole. The final show would be in Spain in June of ’08. Two weeks later Adam was back home in Chicago playing with his other band, the Lustkillers. Billy Hopeless didn’t go to the press to make it official until September of ’09.

Egos, infighting and pissy attitudes of some members would ultimately be the bands demise. Regardless, this band made some of the greatest records Canada has ever seen, with some of the most talent members and staff in the world.

I was really sad that this band that I loved so much had disbanded when I heard the news in September of ’09 but had known for some time in my heart. That being said, the Halos are shining brighter than ever in new bands. Jay Millette is writing, recording and touring with a new band called the Darlings Of Chelsea that will save Canadian Rock N Roll. I just spent a weekend hanging with Adam and the Lustkillers while on their tour though Canada. This included a guest appearance from the one and only Denyss Mcknight on bass. Denyss has a new project in the works that we will have to stay tuned for. Robbie has an alternative/indie rock band Red Vienna that has just released brand new songs on iTunes this month. I can tell you that the Red Vienna tunes are so great that I listened to them for two days straight with no breaks. AMAZING.

This article is dedicated to the band, as they gave us a decade of music though their blood,sweat and tears: especially Robbie for his dedication. If it were not for him we likely would only have two records to play over and over instead of four. Rob, I am so relieved to hear you are back behind that kit.

Black Halos - Three Sheets To The Wind

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Spun Time Machine

We here at Spun have been a little quiet lately. This is largely due to the fact that this is generally a time of year where there is a bit of a lull in music releases. However, this lull is about to end pretty quickly with an impressive list of Spring and Summer album releases on the horizon. I, for one, am pretty stoked about upcoming albums by local acts such as Library Voices and Rah Rah. In terms of national and international releases, there is a plethora of prominent albums coming down the pike: Broken Social Scene, Stars, The Dead Weather, Against Me!, The Arcade Fire, The New Pornographers, MGMT, Radiohead, The National, and The Dears, to name a few.

While it may have been slim pickings in discovering new music the last couple of months, these dry spells allow me to go back in time and discover and rediscover important bands and albums that I never got around to appreciating. As much as I love contemporary music, it's nice to go back and take time to dig in to the artists that paved the way for the artists I love. So here are a handful of the influential bands that have been whetting my musical thirst the last couple of months...

1) The Beatles

This should probably be filed under "No shit Sherlock!" However, The Beatles are a band I've always respected but never really took the time to sit down and really digest. For most of my life their songs were more or less just elevator music. (Although, watching Ferris Bueller mime "Twist and Shout" was one of my favourite childhood memories.) I was lucky enough to get their boxed set for Christmas and have been listening to their discography on repeat ever since. Don't get me wrong, there are other bands that mean more to me, but I have to say that The Beatles were the BEST band that have ever existed. Their quality of songwriting and vocal harmonies are still unprecedented.

Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly may have been two of the essential pioneers of rock n' roll, but The Beatles made rock n' roll an art form. They essentially created the concept of THE ALBUM. They obviously had fantastic early singles, but they evolved into "artists" (in the truest sense of the word) by releasing such classic albums as Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. To this day, these albums remain the benchmark for which all other albums are compared.

Whether you like them or not, The Beatles are right at the top of the rock n' roll family tree. "Helter Skelter" is an early prototype for heavy metal. "Nowhere Man" and "Blackbird" are early sign posts for the 70's singer/songwriter movement. Bands like Oasis and Sloan admittedly owe their careers to the Fab Four.

So it took me long enough to finally "get" The Beatles, but I'm glad I finally did. And so should you... but I'm pretty sure you've beaten me to the punch already.

2) X

I'm a huge fan of the 70's punk explosion (Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Patti Smith, etc) but have been a little slow in getting up to speed in the second wave of punk bands during the early 80's. One such band is X. I finally picked up their debut album Los Angeles and it definitely earns it's legendary status. Led by John Doe and Exene Cervenka, X took the energy of punk and fused it with rockabilly and country, with a healthy dose of guy/girl vocal interplay for good measure. And for people who like truly useless trivia, John Doe had a role in the Patrick Swayze "classic" movie Roadhouse.

3) Joan Jett

Before I begin, I must preface this by saying how truly sick I am of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." After hosting karaoke for the better part of four years, I have heard this song more often than "Friends in Low Places" and "Love Shack." In essence, this song has become my soundtrack to my personal hell. Most artists have a song or two that is played to death; for Joan Jett, this is that song. So I will forgive her for that. It's not her fault that ditzy, slutty blonde chicks sing Britney Spears' version of the tune. But I digress.

What piqued my interest in Joan Jett was the recent Runaways movie, based on the the band that spawned the careers of Jett and Lita Ford. (Well, I'm not sure Lita Ford had a "career" per se, but "Kiss Me Deadly" was a pretty fun hair metal tune.) During her promotion for the movie and her new Greatest Hits album, she performed a balls-to-the-wall version of "Cherry Bomb." After that I was sold. I picked up her Greatest Hits album and it's been on heavy rotation at home and on my iPod.

Building upon the foundations that Patti Smith and Debbie Harry built, Jett proved that chicks could "rawk" just as hard as dudes. Without Joan Jett there would be no Brody Dalle or Courtney Love.

Jett wrote some great tunes, including "Cherry Bomb" and "Bad Reputation," but she is generally more famous for her covers, particularly that one dreaded karaoke song. However, she has at least shown good taste in covering "Crimson and Clover," Bruce Springsteen's "Light of Day" and The Replacements' "Androgynous."

Alright, it's time to head back to 2010. See ya there!