Friday, December 23, 2011

JJ Ramone's Top 40 Fave Albums of 2011

At long last, the moment you have waited for all year long has finally arrived. Justin Bieber hit puberty! Just kidding. Give it a year. Ahem, it's time to reveal my list of favourite albums of the last 12 months. I know you've been losing sleep the last couple weeks, wondering which albums will crack my coveted list. Well, my children... you can finally rest easy. The moment is here. And this year, I've expanded it to a whopping 40 albums. What can I say? 2011 was such a great year for music. Last time I counted, I bought 60 or so albums (... which basically means I didn't watch too many movies or get laid much.) Of course, there are a handful of albums that I haven't picked up yet that would likely make the list (Fucked Up, Deep Dark Woods, etc). So this is by no means a definitive list... just one humble scribe's opinion.

So without further ado, here is my recap of the Year in Music: 2011 Edition. And like my fellow blogger Kent, I will try not to make this a novel.

The Regina Scene

For a small market, Regina has nothing to be ashamed of in terms of talent. In fact, I am confident enough to say that a lot of our musicians can hold their own with the best in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Over the last 12 months I've been lucky to see incredible performances by a host of great artists and bands, including Library Voices, Rah Rah, JJ Voss, The Bystanders, Chad Kichula, The Dustin Ritter Band, Indigo Joseph, BT Judd, Johnny Hatch, Amy Nelson, Megan Nash, Alex Runions Band, Dan Silljer, Ralph Ell and the Hardcore Troubadours, Sonic Orchid, Jack Semple, Foxx Worthee, etc. And of course, if you ever want to just have fun rocking out to familiar tunes, Regina has a plethora of fun cover bands like Leather Cobra, Dangerous Cheese, Wonderland, Whatever, Method 2 Madness, Mascara/Wildfire, Carli's Angels, the Pink Slips, etc.

Most Disappointing Albums

Sometimes a friend can be a dick to you. Sometimes your girlfriend can be a bitch. Sometimes you can make a dumb comment on Twitter that gets overblown. We're human and we're not perfect. The following albums are by artists/bands whom I normally love... but they kind of stumbled a bit this go around. I'll forgive them. I'm sure their next albums will be great.

Feist - Metals
Radiohead - The King of Limbs
The Strokes - Angles

Best Reissues/Compilations/Live Albums/etc

2011 was officially the year where I felt OLD. 1991 was 20 years ago. Oy. You know you're getting up there in age when your favourite bands reissue their classic albums and some of them get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Oh well, at least Michael Stipe or Bono never used auto tune.

R.E.M. - Lifes Rich Pageant
U2 - Achtung Baby
Nirvana - Nevermind
The Rolling Stones - Some Girls
Iggy Pop - Roadkill Rising... The Bootleg Collection: 1977-2009
Simon and Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water
Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream
Various Artists - Rave On Buddy Holly
Green Day - Awesome As Fuck
Pearl Jam - Live on Ten Legs

JJ's 40 Fave Albums of 2011

40. Jenn Grant - Honeymoon Punch
39. Ron Sexsmith - Long Player Late Bloomer
38. Johnny Hatch - Happiness Instead
37. Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm With You
36. Oh Land - Oh Land
35. Memphis - Here Comes a City
34. The Go! Team - Rolling Blackouts
33. The Dears - Degeneration Street
32. Young Galaxy - Shapeshifting
31. Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know
30. Kalle Mattson - Anchors
29. Timber Timbre - Creep On Creepin' On
28. The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
27. The Horrors - Skying
26. Okkervil River - I Am Very Far
25. The Royal Alberta Advantage - Departing
24. The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient
23. Sloan - The Double Cross
22. Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital
21. Chad Kichula - Killer
20. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
19. Cage The Elephant - Thank You Happy Birthday
18. Lindi Ortega - Little Red Boots
17. The Cars - Move Like This
16. Steve Earle - I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive
15. The Pack A.D. - Unpersons
14. Telekinesis - 12 Desperate Straight Lines
13. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Belong
12. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
11. Wild Flag - Wild Flag

10. The Black Keys - El Camino

The Black Keys have firmly distinguished themselves from the White Stripes comparisons with this album. Every song on this album would fit perfectly on a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. You can't ask for much better praise than that.

9. Library Voices - Summer of Lust

Just a year after the stellar Denim On Denim, Regina's own resident indie power-popsters put out a lean and mean collection of instantly infectious tunes. As usual, they have songs that make you want to peruse your bookshelf and get down with your bad self at the same time. These guys and gal just keep getting better and better.

8. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

20 years after drumming on Nevermind, Dave Grohl reunites with producer Butch Vig and Nirvana bass player Krist Noveselic, welcomes Pat Smear back into the fold, and lets Bob Mould join in on the party for a song. The result is a rejuvenated Foo Fighters. This is easily the band's best album since The Colour And The Shape. The Foos are BACK.

7. Social Distortion - Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes

Mike Ness and company stick to the formula, mixing the Ramones with Johnny Cash and the Rolling Stones. With a formula like that, why the hell would they mess with it? This album sure isn't reinventing the wheel; it's just one of Social D's better albums. It's simply a great rock and roll record by a legendary band. Nothing more, nothing less.

6. The Kills - Blood Pressures

Alison Mosshart returns from her side gig with Jack White in The Dead Weather to her day job with this album. And the results are stunning. Mosshart just oozes sexiness. They've toned down the dance beats a wee bit and have focused more on stripped down, fun, bluesy rock tunes. Brilliant.

5. Elliott Brood - Days Into Years

It's hard to believe there are only three guys in this band. They sound HUGE. Combining folk, some crunching guitars and sublime harmonies, Elliott Brood are a force. I bought this album the same day as the new Feist album, almost as an afterthought. Clearly, my money was better spent here. I expected this album to be good... but not this good!

4. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

PJ Harvey is an artist who doesn't rest on her laurels. She definitely keeps her audience guessing. Here, she abandons her trademark bluesy wail in favour of a childlike voice. Yet, when she sings bluntly of the brutality of war ("I've seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat", "Arms and legs were in the trees"), the results are chilling.

3. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead

After flirting with prog rock, Colin Meloy and company strip things down and take notes from the R.E.M. and Tom Petty songbooks. They even get Peter Buck to bring his trademark jangle to a couple tunes. However, the secret weapon here is Gillian Welch who harmonizes on most of the tunes. This is simply a flawless album from start to finish.

2. Tom Waits - Bad As Me

I don't know how he does it, but Tom Waits keeps getting better and cooler with age. After (finally) getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Mr. Waits releases one of his best albums. Here, he strips things down and focuses on rollicking bluesy stompers and a handful of wistful ballads for good measure. Even the bonus tracks aren't throwaways. Tom Waits is the man.

1. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now

Over the course of 31 years, R.E.M. rose from being college rock heroes to one of the biggest bands on the planet to being the elder statesmen of indie/alt rock. And with their 15th album, they decided to call it a day. After regaining their mojo with 2008's Accelerate, Collapse Into Now is one hell of a way to call it a career. Here, the "little band that could" from Athens, GA give a perfect sampler of most of what they do best: rockers, power pop, soul balladry, folk... and the prerequisite weird, art-rock tune. It's their best batch of tunes since New Adventures in Hi-Fi. With this album, they sound like a band that's confident and triumphant. Berry, Buck, Mills and Stipe... it's been a slice!

Well, that's it! Feel free to post comments and tell me what albums you've really dug this year. The best part of being a music fan/geek/snob is hearing about bands from friends, magazines, blogs, etc. There are so many ugly things in this world but music seems to make the world make sense most days.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kent Rocks - Top 15 of 2011

So this year rather than write up a novel about the entire year I decided to do things a little different. I decided that I would post a live video of each of the top ten. Yes a real LIVE clip! Some clips are great quality and others are very handy cam. You already know that these are may favourites, so rather than do a write up I decided to let the artists speak for themselves. Granted these aren't the best selling records and in most cases nor are they some of the most critically acclaimed. They are simply the records I liked best. That being said, I once again did not include compilation or tributes. Had I done so both Buddy Holly tributes 'Listen to Me' and 'Rave On' probably would have made the top five but I am a little biased. Eddie Spaghetti put out a great record this year entitled 'Sundowner' but being it had three originals on it and was seventy percent covers it also for this reason didn't make the list.

Albums I thought I thought were good but didn't impress me as much as I thought might were The Kills 'Blood Pressures', Electric 6's 'Heartbeats and Brainwaves' and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.

Most disappointing was Civet's 'Love & War'. I love this band. Live they rule, their first record ruled but 'Love & War' just seemed not up to the girls talent or ability. It felt like they just punched it in.

A handful of mentions incude: Alison Krauss and Union Station's 'Paper Airplane', The Cars 'Move Like This', Emmylou Harris' 'Hard Bargain' and Those Darlins 'Screws Get Loose'. These were all great records that just barely fell short of the top 15.

Best shows of they year were from acts such as the Arkells, the Darlings of Chelsea and Civet.

So without further ado. Here are my top fifteen of 2011:So this year rather than write up a novel about the entire year I decided to do things a little different. I decided that I would post a live video of each of the top ten. You already know that these are may favourites, so rather than do a write up I decided to let the artists speak for themselves. Granted these aren't the best selling records and in most cases nor are they some of the most critically acclaimed. They are simply the records I liked best. That being said, I once again did not include compilation or tributes. Had I done so both Buddy Holly tributes 'Listen to Me' and 'Rave On' probably would have made the top five but I am a little biased. Eddie Spaghetti put out a great record this year entitled 'Sundowner' but being it had three originals on it and was seventy percent covers it also for this reason didn't make the list.

Albums I thought I thought were good but didn't impress me as much as I thought might were The Kills 'Blood Pressures', Electric 6's 'Heartbeats and Brainwaves' and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.

Most disappointing was Civet's 'Love & War'. I love this band. Live they rule, their first record ruled but 'Love & War' just seemed not up to the girls talent or ability. It felt like they just punched it in.

A handful of mentions include: Alison Krauss and Union Station's 'Paper Airplane', The Cars 'Move Like This', Emmylou Harris' 'Hard Bargain' and Those Darlins 'Screws Get Loose'. These were all great records that just barely fell short of the top 15.

Best shows of they year were from acts such as the Arkells, the Darlings of Chelsea and Civet.

So without further ado. Here are my top fifteen of 2011:

15. Steve Earle - I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive
14. City and Colour - Little Hell
13. The Black Keys - El Camino
12. Fred Eaglesmith - 6 Volts
11. Sixx:A.M. - This Is Gonna Hurt

10 Jack's Mannequin - People and Things
The more adult version of Something Corporate

9. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
Not as good as 'The Colour and the Shape' but damn close!

8. Billy the Kid and the Southside Boys - Ours
Beautifully written singer/songwriter tunes

7. The Horrible Crowes - Elsie
Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem does not disappoint!

6. The Arkells - Michigan Left
One of the most talented bands of my list and probably the closest thing to "hipster" I listen to.

5. Butch Walker - The Spade
If you know who he is, I don't need to tell you anything else.

4. Social Distortion - Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
They have put out better records but this record still kicks 95% of it's competition's ass.

3. The Ripperz - You Are the Moon
Such a diverse, honest, real band.

2. The Darlings of Chelsea - Panic Is Worse Than the Emergency
Saving Rock N Roll!

1. Jim Jones Revue - Burning Your House Down
Resurrecting 1957 but louder.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Ripperz - You Are the Moon

For many “live” bands it can be tough to translate the energy and emotion of being at a show to digital medium. The first time I heard anything about or by this band was at a show I witnessed by accident when looking for something to do out of boredom. I was enthralled with their live show and their self titled record I picked up that night was just as stunning. They instantaneously became one of my favorite bands.

I have waited since 2009 for a follow-up of their 2008 record. Finally in November of 2011 I received the second installment of Ripperz goodness entitled ‘You Are the Moon’. From what I can tell ‘You Are the Moon’ is like the first record in where each song was recorded as a band together at once instead of the drum track, bass track, guitar track, vocal track etc. etc. process (live but in a controlled studio environment.) One can only presume this is how they get their raw/authentic sound that evokes so much emotion. There are no surprises on this record.

At first I was almost scared to open the packing of the new record. You are never sure if a band you enjoy so much is going to disappoint on their sophomore effort. I was able to rest easy when I realized The Ripperz have not strayed far from what I can only assume was their original vision of a indie/rock/roots band that gives it 120% at everything they do. Some bands need a reworking of style or image or need new inspiration for writing. The Ripperz don’t. ‘You Are the Moon’ is just as fresh and hip as their first effort. There is nothing tired about this record.

The first track on the docket is the sequel to the first record’s ‘Tonight’ cleverly entitled ‘Tonight Pt II’. It’s a rocked up ditty that, like Travis Warkentin said about ‘Fly’ on the first record, I feel about with this song. It gives you the same feeling as leaving work on a Friday. If it’s a good song for me, usually I am singing along before the end of the first listen. This record is full of them. They are fun, full of emotion and, most importantly, real songs. There are no pretentious attitudes. Some of the songs are good-time type songs like ‘Just a Boy’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Fall’ and some just plain earnest or plaintive type songs like ‘Dancing on the Weekend’ and ‘Arena’. If I have to pick two highlights on ‘You Are the Moon’ for me, it would be the last two tracks. The first song being the up tempo ‘Moon and Stars’ and the second being the dramatic musically and lyrically final track 'Blood Orange’. All ten songs are really top game excellent though. Which are your two favorite?

Please support independent Canadian musicians. By 'You Are The Moon' here:

Cheers rockers,


Here is a really raw live clip of 'Moon and Stars' that captures the band:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

REMembering R.E.M.

Today, after 31 years, R.E.M. have decided to call it quits. For me, it's kind of like losing a close friend or family member. To call R.E.M.'s music the soundtrack to my life probably sounds pretty corny and cliche, but it's definitely true. I remember watching MuchMusic as a kid in the 80's seeing these kind of weird, low budget music videos by this seemingly faceless band next to these huge productions by the Michael Jacksons, Madonnas and hair metal bands of the day. But I always really enjoyed the tunes. Even as a kid, songs like "Fall On Me," "So. Central Rain" and "Can't Get There From Here" really made a lasting impact on me. When I saw them in interviews, they just seemed like normal, yet quirky, kind of guys. They definitely stood out from the Tommy Lees and Dee Sniders of the world. In other words, they didn't look like rock stars. However, I was still just a kid so my cassette collection consisted of Poison, Skid Row and such.

By Grade 9, I kind of hit rock bottom with my music collection when I bought Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer albums. Yeah, things got pretty rough. But one day, all this would change. My days of listening to shitty music were over. On a whim, I decided to peruse the local record store with no set plan. I just wanted to find something a bit different. After scouring the store, I ended up buying Spirit of the West's Go Figure and R.E.M.'s Out of Time. Upon first listen, I thought SOTW's album was brilliant* and Out of Time was pure shite. But after a second listen, I was hooked. It seemed like a whole new world opened up to me. In particular, "Half a World Away," "Country Feedback" and "Me In Honey" absolutely flattened me. Grade 9 is a pretty pivotal year for the development of most people so I count myself pretty lucky to be exposed to R.E.M. that year. Within a few months, Nirvana and Pearl Jam broke and the rest is history.

After absorbing Out of Time, I went through R.E.M.'s back catalogue and saw how the band transformed from an underground "college rock" band to become one of the biggest bands on the planet. And looking back, it still seems kind of like a fluke. They've always had great songs, but "Losing My Religion" became the biggest song in the world... a song with no chorus and a mandolin is the main instrument. A fricking mandolin! Very bizarre. U2 have always strived to be the biggest band in the world. The "little band that could" from Athens seemed to accidentally stumble into the position of World's Biggest Band. And then it seemed like they did everything in their power to get out of that position. Eddie Vedder definitely took notes.

Since Out of Time, I have been to the record store the day each new album has come out, from 1992's Automatic For The People to this year's Collapse Into Now. And now I guess those days are over. But I am really grateful to have been exposed to such a vast, rich and diverse catalogue of music. They are the only band I can listen to, regardless of my mood. If I'm in a mellow mood, there's Out of Time. If I want to get pumped up for a run, there's always Monster. Over 31 years, they have dabbled with folk, rock, punk, glam rock, pop, soul, country, funk, ambient and electronica. Yet, it always had that distinct R.E.M. sound: Michael Stipe's unique nasal baritone, Peter Buck's jangly Byrdsy guitars, Mike Mill's melodic bass lines and backing vocals and Bill Berry's rock solid drumming. They were a band in the truest sense of the term, where the whole was greater than the sum of the parts.

Without R.E.M., I wouldn't have been exposed at such a young age to the bands that inspired them: The Velvet Underground, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Iggy and the Stooges, Patti Smith, Television. I also got acquainted with their peers: The Replacements, Husker Du, The Minutemen, Black Flag. Even though their sound wasn't abrasive, they took that whole punk DIY aesthetic and paved the way for the alternative bands of the 90's and today's indie bands. They helped create an alternate version of a "rock star" that people like Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Thom Yorke and Win Butler could relate to. Basically, they showed that you didn't have to dress in leather pants and act like an asshole to be onstage.

It can be argued that R.E.M. should've called it a day when their drummer Bill Berry retired in 1997. It really can't be disputed that their post-Berry work has been their weakest. They really did lose a bit of confidence after he left. However, the work still holds up. Up and Reveal are still pretty great albums. They hit a low with 2004's Around The Sun, but I would rank their last two albums Accelerate and Collapse Into Now right up there with the likes of Murmur and Lifes Rich Pageant. Both albums have deservedly earned heaps of critical praise as a "return to form" and re-established R.E.M. as a relevant force again. They were even deemed "hip" enough to be on the cover of SPIN for the first time in years and be the first band to play The Colbert Report. So if the boys from Athens want to call it a day, they might as well end on a high note.

So today is a sad day for me, but they left 15 albums and 31 years of musical memories to tide me over. R.E.M., ya done good.

"Radio Free Europe"

"Begin The Begin"

"What's The Frequency, Kenneth?"

"Mine Smell Like Honey"

- JJ REMone

*In retrospect, Spirit of the West's Go Figure stands up as a pretty damn fine album, although the production is pretty dated and tinny.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Darlings Of Chelsea's: Panic Is Worse Than The Emergency

Remember when people said rock’n’roll was dead? It wasn’t. It still isn’t. You may have to search though ninety percent of all the “rock’n’roll…ick” that is commercially available but it is there. You can stop looking though, I have found it. It was hiding… hiding in the minds and fingertips of the anthemic soulful Toronto rockers the Darlings of Chelsea.

In mid-2009 the Darlings of Chelsea released their debut record ‘The Mimico Sessions’. This record was a six song ep that featured then vocalist Sean Robertson. I remember at the time thinking this band was going to take over the world. It was THAT great. When Robertson departed from the band, the remaining four went on to form the power quartet you now know. Lead guitarist Paul Thompson stepped into the front man and vocal duties naturally and with the greatest of ease. Thompson along with his rock’n’roll terrorist friends/brothers/band mates, bassist Robbie Ruckus, guitar player Jay Millette and drummer Chris Nova have now put out a back to basics, balls to the wall AUTHENTIC rock record with ‘Panic Is Worse Than The Emergency’ last Tuesday.

Although this is the Darlings first full length piece, these gentlemen are no amateurs. Know this; these four men have rocked the independent and mainstream circuit for some time now. They have toured the globe with their previous bands like Robin Black, The Black Halos, CJ Sleeze, Kill Cheerleader and Scratching Post. They know exactly how to do this. The Darlings are already garnering attention nationally as well as in the US getting attention from the CBC, SXSW and countless articles and interviews.

This record is classic rock but still fresh all at the same time. It’s not that tired ass shit you hear at your local state fair. Sometimes when you’re working for the weekend you wonder how the singer still fits in those red leather pants. Not these guys. No stale hoagie poggie crap here. ‘Panic Is Worse Than The Emergency’ is volatile, freewheeling aggressive yet fun eleven songs in thirty four minutes.

From the steady chug-a-long fist pump ‘Lucky Ones’ which opens the record to high octane high energy ‘No Rescue’ to an almost power-pop song like ‘Call To Arms.’ This album is everything it should be. It’s loaded with killer background vocals, sing-along gang vocals, ripping guitars, machine gun drums, solo’s that will blow your doors off and bass lines that will knock your fun parts to the floor. ‘Panic Is Worse Than The Emergency’ is an honest rock record that you, the kids, will cry for. I am going on four days straight of non-stop listening myself. If you think anything less of the product than I do then we can’t be friends… but you won’t, I guarantee it.

Cheers Rockers.


Stream the entire album below courtesy of your friendly neighborhood Darlings. If you like what you here please do go to itunes and pick it up and please don’t miss out on their cross-Canada tour which starts Sept 23. Oh, and I am telling you now you will dig this!

Panic is Worse than the Emergency - FREE FULL ALBUM STREAM !!! by Darlings Of Chelsea

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

2011 Regina Folk Festival

So the 2011 Regina Folk Festival came and went and my body has FINALLY adjusted back to some semblance of normality again. The Folk Festival is hands down my favourite time of the year here in Regina... and this year was definitely one of the most solid top-to-bottom lineups in recent memory. Plus, I was lucky enough to have the privelege of cohosting one of the daytime side stages, so I had a pretty cool perspective compared to previous years. I have to give some major kudos to Sandra Butel and company for putting together such an incredible lineup. It was definitely tons of fun!

So without further ado, here are some of the highlights for me this year...


The day began with an hour set during the lunch hour by e.s.l. These ladies put on a really solid set of cabaret and chamber pop tunes. Leader singer Marta Jacukieck-McKeever has a stunning voice. Plus their version of the Beastie Boys' "Girls" (sung by Cris Derksen) was a really fun way to get the ball rolling.

Grant Lawrence was once again the consummate entertainer, MCing the main stage again on Friday. I think it's safe to say that the former Smuggler is one of the coolest people in Canada. The guy is just effortlessy charismatic. And he's a heck of a nice guy to boot.

Fred Penner transported me back to my childhood with his mainstage kickoff set. You'd have to be pretty hardened not to get a kick out of his rendition of "The Cat Came Back." And the dude hasn't aged much since I was just a wee lad. Definitely an impressive set.

Shotgun Jimmie only had a teaser set, but he made the most of his 15 minutes. He's a natural storyteller and incredible songwriter. I'll definitely check out his full show next time he swings through town.

Braids' brand of dream pop sounded pretty phenomenal. The emphasis with this Quebec is definitely on experimental atmospherics. If you imagined the most mellow tunes from Stars combined with some Bjorkesque vocals, you'd have a rough idea of what this band's all about. They're definitely a band you have to take the time to absorb.

Andrew Bird put on an absolutely captivating performance. Using a loop pedal, Bird created some ethereal soundscapes with his violin and guitar. He definitely had the crowd transfixed.

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald only had a teaser set, but he certainly won over the crowd with his witty banter, soulful voice and mellow tunes. He would definitely be worth shelling out some hard earned moolah next time he hits town.

KT Tunstall absolutely blew me away. Obviously she is famous for her huge pop hits "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree," "Other Side of the World" and "Suddenly I See," but she put on a consistently thrilling and energetic set. Joined only by a bass player and a drummer, Tunstall wowed the crowd with her raspy voice, showmanship and solid musicianship. I was expecting a good show, but she definitely surpassed my expectations. She was one of the highlights of my weekend and a great way to close out Friday night.


During the daytime, I got to catch some pretty cool performances and workshops. Zachary Lucky kicked things off with a solid set of Townes Van Zandt-esque tunes. This was followed by an amazing workshop hosted by Marshall Burns of Rah Rah and also featured the insanely talented (and fellow Tom Waits geek) Jeffrey Straker, Shotgun Jimmie and Grant Lawrence (who read excerpts from his book Adventures in Solitude). I can't lie... getting the chance to share the mic with Mr. Lawrence made me pretty giddy.

Shotgun Jimmie did a fantastic job of MCing the mainstage Saturday night. He's totally a natural for such a job. I think he could have a job with the CBC some day down the road.

Dan Mangan put on a phenomenal show, kicking things off in a perfect way. Getting the crowd to sing along to "Robots" in the pouring rain was quite the feat. But when a song is that good, it was pretty easy for the crowd to handle the downpour.

Jeffrey Straker put on a really entertaining show during a teaser set. His brand of cabaret pop went over really well with the crowd. He's another act I'll have to see when he's in town to do a full show. But anyone who digs Tom Waits can't be that bad, right?

Marco Calliari was quite possibly my favourite artist of the weekend. If you imagined a somewhat more subdued, yet more uplifting Gogol Bordello then you'd have a rough idea of Calliari and his band. Him and his tight band had the crowd in the palm of their hands. I think the entire crowd had perma-grin during the whole set. I know I did. Every year there is one artist I've never heard of who comes out of nowhere and captures the Festival flag. For 2011, it was definitely Marco Calliari. I really hope he hits The Exchange sometime soon. Wowza.

Hey Ocean! put on a brief teaser set (which I missed), but I got to see them put on a full show on Sunday during the day. This band has tons of fun, uptempo pop tunes and put on a great show. (And the lead singer isn't exactly too hard on the eyes.)

I'm not the biggest blues fan out there, but I was definitely taken to school by Taj Mahal. The guy is a legend and just has the indescribable IT that the greats possess. Mahal absolutely wails on the guitar and his passion and energy just resonates with people. I was completely blown away by his performance. This was a performer who I wasn't too interested in seeing at first... but he totally won me over. That's the beauty of a festival like this one.

k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang finished off the night. To be honest, I wasn't overly impressed. It goes without saying that lang has one of the finest voices out there. And her version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" was transcendent. In fact, the hairs on the back of my neck were on end for that song. However, I found the rest of her set to be full of subpar, midtempo material. Perhaps it was just my fatigue kicking in, but her set definitely didn't fit my mood. I think some of my disappointment came from me expecting her to throw in a couple of her Reclines era country rave-ups. Oh well, you can't win 'em all I guess.


The daytime consisted of an amazing set of performances and workshops. The highlights for me consisted of Hawksley Workman (who was joined by Indigo Joseph and Michael Bernard Fitzgerald) jamming out during a workshop on a packed Scarth Street. As one of the MCs, I was dumbstruck after the performance, struggling to find the right words to describe what just transpired. I think I said something to the effect of "Wow... that was so cool." Not the most eloquent description, but I think it suited the mood. It was quite the jam to say the least. Sometimes all you can say is "wow." Hawksley has that effect on people. There was also another incredible workshop consisting of Library Voices, Rah Rah and Indigo Joseph. It was pretty awesome seeing some of Regina's best bands getting together and jamming together.

Fred Penner did a great job of MCing the main stage. The guy is definitely a pro. The Hard Ramblers put on a short but sweet teaser set of their fun "outlaw bluegrass." Library Voices are used to playing dark club shows, but they absolutely owned the big outdoor stage. Playing some selections from their upcoming album Summer of Lust along with earlier favourites like "Step Off the Map and Float," this Regina band once again showed that they can proudly stand side by side any band out there. They've got an endless supply of incredibly well written tunes, and tons of energy and charisma. It's pretty cool to see a local band become one of the highlights of the festival.

Coeur de pirate put on a fun show of cute, keyboard driven, happy-go-lucky pop tunes. She is so bubbly that I just had this urge to pinch her cheeks afterwards. After a teaser set by Fred Penner, Hawksley Workman closed things out with a stunning set. Joined only by a keyboard player, Workman showed why he's without a doubt one of Canada's most talented musicians. Since he didn't have a full band, Workman was free to tell bardic tales and rework some of his better known tunes like "Jealous of Your Cigarette." I would seriously pay good money just to see him tell stories and banter with the crowd. The guy just oozes talent and charisma. He's like the Prince of Canada.

From top to bottom, the 2011 edition was easily one of the best lineups of the Folk Festival in recent years. Once again, there was an incredibly positive vibe that emanated from the performers and the crowd. It's definitely money well spent for a pass. 2012 can't come soon enough! And maybe, just maybe, they'll book Tom Waits to perform. :-)

Monday, August 1, 2011

T.B. Judd - Hometown Bar

T.B. Judd is a side project of multi-instrumentalist Judd Stachoski (Bystanders/Dustin Ritter Band/Black Drink Crier). Hometown Bar is a six song EP in which Stachoski wrote entirely himeself. He shows his talent and versatilty by recording all the instruments himself on the record. Hometown Bar is a fine record that was produced and engineered by Orion Paradis at SoulSound studios here in Regina.

The ever eclectic songwriter known simply as Judd on posters around town has blended his natuaral songwriting abilites with demostrating a great amount of respect for one of his influences, Tom Waits. The record starts with a storytelling song 'Hometown Bar,' which is a great example of this brand of bluesy singer/songwriter stylings. In 'Hometown Bar' I picture everything the vocalist is saying, just as I do when I here 'A Boy Named Sue'. That's true talent. Next on the docket is the eerie accordian number 'The Baiton House'. I think I'd be looking behind me if I was listening to this on a dark walk home. I've heard Judd perform songs before that are similar to the next folky ditty entitled 'Roots'. Those songs are a real treat and this one is as well. It's nice break about home and the land we live in before going into the next number. 'Cant' Do This Anymore' goes back to a more theatrical sound. The last two tracks have a more stripped down feel. The first being a story song 'Forest Groans' followed by 'High On The Mountains' which is a bare bones banjo number.

Hometown Bar is a fresh 6 song EP with strong, well written songs. If you are are a fan of roots, folk, blues, singer/songwriter or just great handcrafted songs then this records is for you. Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy.


Cheers Rockers,

Monday, July 18, 2011

WINNING AMERICA - The Story of a Canadian Band Trying To Make It In The States.

Here at SPUN, we write about many bands that peak our interests (and the odd one that doesn't. We're looking at you Nickelback...) However, the main goal has always been to promote bands (typically Canadian and from the 'Vag) that some of us may know about but deserve much more exposure. Well, Vancouver's Said The Whale is attempting to break the potentially huge American market at one of the biggest and most iconic music cities in the world: Austin, Texas at SXSW. The CBC decided to document the process of this amazing band trying to make their name south of the border...

Here is what CBC had to say about the documentary:

The Story of A Canadian Band. Trying To Make It In The States.

This CBC Documentary follows Vancouver band Said The Whale to South by South West Festival (SxSW) in Austin, Texas. It’s a true story about the hardships and successes of a touring band trying to make it at the biggest music festival in North America.

Produced by Jon Siddall (CBC Radio 2) & Brent Hodge (CBC Radio3)

Directed by Brent Hodge (CBC Radio 3) & Thomas Buchan (Battle Of The Bagpipes,Hope)"

Please do yourself a favour and check out the trailer and live clip below.

Said the Whale Live Performance Video:


Frankie Whyte and the Dead Idols - Wastedland

It's no secret I dig Frankie Whyte and the Dead Idols. I have been following this kick ass rock 'n' roll band since March of 2008 when I was Myspace surfing for new bands to check out. I stumbled across them and I really dug what they were doing right away; a blend of the old and the new. Fast-forward to 2011 and I am still checking out the new updates of FWDI.

Frankie and her Canadian merchants of noise recorded and put out a solid self titled EP back in '08. That record got a lot of play around my place. However, it was only to be the start. The band has really hit their stride in the last couple years. It started with 'Bullets' and 'Right There' and I didn't think they could top 'Right There'. That being said, they knocked it out of the park with their first official video for 'Keep on Walkin''. When I thought that was going to be the pinnacle, they prove me wrong with their latest cunning stunt: their brand spanking new single for 'Wastedland'. 'Keep on Walkin' was/is a killer anthemic rock 'n' roll song and so is 'Wastedland'. Written by FW, Simon Wilcox and Aaron Kamin (The Calling) and shot in June of this year, one should note that 'Wastedland' takes their sound, songwriting skills and musicianship to the next level. It's this kind of effort that will be the key that should lead them to being arena rock sensations. This heavy pop 'n' roll song has hooks left and right that will be stuck in your head for days. You know it's a good song when it becomes an instant sing-a-long. Wastedland is tough and graceful, has rippin' riffs, a pretty melody with a big chorus.

FWDI seem to up the ante each time they lift a finger. I don't know what will be on a full length record when it comes out but one has to know at this pace, it's got to be a sure fire hit.

Check it below. I have had it on repeat for over a week.

Cheers Rockers,

Free Download (valid until July 21) http://wastedland.viinyl.c​om/

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lindi Ortega - Little Red Boots

10 years after her debut album, Toronto's Lindi Ortega seems ready to finally break through and gain the commercial attention she deserves. I stumbled upon her music on MySpace (remember MySpace?) three or four years ago and was instantly taken in by her stunning voice. This woman could sing the phone book and the crowd would be transfixed. I hate to make comparisons, but Ortega's pipes are a beautiful blend of Dolly Parton, Jeff Buckley and Emmylou Harris.

Aside from her mesmerizing voice, Ortega proves that she is one helluva songwriter with Little Red Boots. From start to finish, this album is pretty much flawless. The predominant feel is rootsy alt-country, with a bit of bluegrass, folk and blues thrown in for good measure. You can tell that Ortega's record collection includes plenty of old school country artists like Dolly, Waylon, Willie, Johnny and Merle. (It's sad that real country nowadays is referred to as "alt-country" while Taylor Swift and Shania Twain are "country." But I digress.)

Album opener "Little Lies" is an uptempo country stomper, complete with some killer stand up bass. "Blue Bird" is a fun, rollicking 2 minute bluegrass number with some impressive banjo picking throughout. "Angels" is a breezy, midtempo, rootsy tune that'll stick in your head for days, much like the rest of the album. "I'm No Elvis Presley" is a firecracker of a tune that is self-deprecating, yet manages to raise the middle finger to her detractors ("I'm no Elvis Presley, so who the hell are you?"). I'm pretty sure anyone who has stepped onstage can appreciate this song.

Ortega's 12 original tunes would make an incredible album by itself. However, she closes the album with an absolutely transcendent version of my favourite Bruce Springsteen song, "I'm On Fire." If your heart doesn't melt and the hairs on the back of your neck don't stand after hearing this version, then we can never be friends. This is hands down one of the finest recordings I've heard in years. Period. What a perfect closer to a pretty perfect album. This is easily one of the top 5 best albums of the year so far. And in a year that's seen releases by PJ Harvey, R.E.M., The Strokes, Steve Earle, etc, that's saying a LOT.

You can check out her video for "Angels" and a live version of "I'm On Fire" below.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

No Fly List – Blaze On

I recently acquired a No Fly List record called ‘Blaze On’. It’s a rock’n’roll record that was released by the Ottawa trio this past April. Originally starting as a jam band, the No Fly List quickly had momentum building around their area. They have been playing local venues, which originally consisted of showing up for open mic nights. It quickly turned into a serious band selling out Irene’s Pub in Ottawa for the release of their debut record.

Blaze On is a rock’n’roll record, and a solid one for sure. It opens with ‘4 Chords Away,’ which is a very Canadian song. Think 54-40 meets Blue Rodeo. It’s rockin’ and hooky with fun riffs all over the place. Next up is a really smooth transition into ‘A Secret Amongst Friends’. To me, it’s the mellower singer/songwriter sister of the first track. Next is ‘Shock Therapy’, and it’s the tastiest track on the record. It’s definitely the danciest. Almost at the midpoint of the record is ‘Up For Air’ which is an instrumental ditty reaching just over a minute in length. I would describe it as atmospheric, classical pop. Following this is ‘Ambush,’ an acoustic lament turned shoegaze-style song that is almost epic in quality. It’s nice how the clean guitars mesh with distorted guitars. It never gets out of control which is good. It’s not too much and stays within the realm of what it should be. The next three songs stay on the mellower side of things with ‘Blaze On’, ‘Upstate’ and ‘Ambush (Reprise) which are all good songs in their own right. ‘Self Discipline’ picks it up again with a fun feelin’ bass heavy rock track. Lastly is a track which showcases the band's musicianship and songwriting abilities.

Overall ‘Blaze On’ is a strong debut record from the No Fly List. I really think their strengths lie in their alternative rock’n’roll style of songs. That being said, the songs on the lighter side still hold their own. I can only imagine that the No Fly List puts on a hell of a show. One could expect that the rockin’ tracks are full of energy and the mellower ones are as captivating as all hell.

Highlights: 4 Chords Away, A Secret Amongst Friends, Shock Therapy and Self Disciplined

I look forward to seeing the boys in action. If you are in the Ottawa area you are in for a treat because you can do just that. The No Fly List play at the Elmdale Tavern on June 30th located @1084 Wellington St W in Ottawa with Life in 2D opening.

Cheers Rockers,
*listen here:

Good In It's Category

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Criminal Kid: It Isn’t Enough

I have known of The Criminal Kid for some time but just haven’t had the chance to see them. I have wanted to, it’s just one of those things. This past Saturday I went to the Artesian see a local band ‘Chad Kichula and the Douglas Avenue Garage Band.’ While Chad put on a good show, I was disappointed to find out the CK had opened and I had missed it. I was however fortunate to run into the bass player of The Criminal Kid, Jeremy Pilon and received my copy of the bands ep ‘It Isn’t Enough’.

The Criminal Kid I am told, have transformed into something different than what they originally set out to be. Having known a couple of the members previous projects, when I am told they used to be a band that was on the hard side and toned it down and become more a rock’n’roll band I knew exactly what they meant. The Criminal Kid can only be described as that band you never knew but saw at a festival like the 90’s Canadian touring Edgefest and were blown away. Sure there were bands that you have listened to for years, but pound for pound this band is the treat on the bill. They give me that kind of feeling. They are more than what I expected.

‘It Isn’t Enough’ opens with the title track of the record and if I have one objection to the record it’s minor things in this song. Personally I think that the opening guitars in this track and opening vocals should have both been double tracked. The singers (Allysia Kerney) vocals should be bigger and so should the opening guitars. Keep in mind those are just minor things. The record as a whole is very well done. Now that all that constructive criticism is out of the way, we can move on to the good stuff. Allysia’s vocal stylings really are perfect for the song. The song has a nice momentum to it that you can’t help groove to. Jeremy and drummer Mike Van Betuw really kill it on this track and Vic Roman has great stinging guitar solo that couldn’t be better suited for the song.

I love how this band pulls from what I can only imagine was a shit ton of influences. There is some 80’s and 90’s stuff in here but it still remains really modern. Keys open the second song ‘I Have a Beautiful Dream’. The vocals on this track are thick but sexy. The keys mixed with Vic’s clean sounding guitars create a crisp full sound. The track has an atmospheric sound with a steady rhythm that is full and gripping. It peaks just when it should. It’s a slow dancy number that the kids will cry for.

The last track on the record ‘You Are’ is probably me favourite. Kind of a Rainbow Butt Monkeys meets Holly McNarland kind of vibe. I broke two sticks playing air drums to this one. ‘You Are’ is an up tempo ditty made for the charts.

The Criminal Kid are a band that have discovered how to make their own sound that is that is likely to appeal to anyone. It’s pop, rock, dark and fun all at the same time. They have well written songs that are sure to hit homeruns with any listener. I wouldn’t change a thing about this band. I look forward to a full record from these talented Regina rockers. I can’t wait to see these guys live… can’t wait!

Below is a real treat, a scaled down acoustic of The Criminal Kid's new track 'Little Wind'.


Cheers Rockers,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Cars - Move Like This

The Cars' catalogue has always remained current and fresh to me. They have never sounded liked dated 80’s music to me. So when I heard that Ric Ocasek and the band had reunited and were going to release a new record entitled ‘Move Like This’, I was unsure what to expect or what it was going to sound like. Were they going to sound tired or try to go in a new direction and be something they aren’t? Bands like BTO (now just Bachman and Turner) and Trooper just can’t seem to pull off relevance anymore. Maybe that’s a bad example since to me those bands were always just 3’s dressed up as 9’s. Nonetheless, when I think of those bands, the first thing that comes to mind is “Oh great, more rehashed, tired old crap”.

Not the case with the Cars, however. ‘Move Like This’ beams into 2011 as fresh and relevant as they ever were. The only difference is that now the artists that were inspired by the band that recorded albums such as their self-titled record and ‘Heartbeat City’ can now hope to share the stage with them. ‘Move Like This’ is the comeback that makes 1987’s ‘Door to Door’ album forgivable. They picked up were their peak left off and put out a modern new wave record that is worthy of any Cars fan. In the 70’s and 80’s, the Cars made really great complete songs and have done so again. This album could have come out in 1988, 1998, 2008 or as it has now. It doesn’t matter when it was released because the Cars have put out a fresh record that is not dated and is stylized in their classic sound. That is everything I would want in a new Cars record.

While the late Ben Orr’s physical contributions are not there, his spirit is definitely on the record. The song ‘Soon’ is very reminiscent of ‘Drive’ and ‘Sad Song’ let’s us know that this is still the band your best friend's girl listened to. That being said, ‘Keep On Knocking’, ‘Too Late’ and ‘Hit’s Me’ are my personal favourites. The record is an instant classic for any Cars fan (or for any rock’n’roll fan in general for that matter). If I had to pick one that I don’t dig as much as the rest, it would be ‘Blue Tip’. I like it, but it seems a little like an 80’s novelty song one would get sick of. A little too talky sounding in combination with the synth is what I think gives me that vibe. Again it’s still a great tune.

Minus Ben Orr, the original band is still intact with Ric Ocasek on rhythm guitar/vox, Elliot Easton on lead guitar, Greg Hawkes on keyboards/synth and David Robinson on drums. ‘Move Like This’ is simply a record you must pick up. Ric Ocasek has done what many bands have forgotten how to or never have known how to do, and that’s write great pop rock’n’roll songs where the songs themselves are the focus. There is not one bad cut on the record which is pretty impressive for a band in their late 50’s and early 60’s.


Cheers Rockers,

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kalle Mattson - Anchors

Anchors is the second long-player from Ontario's up-and-coming Kalle Mattson, following 2009's Whisper Bee. The brainchild of singer/songwriter Kalle Wainio, Kalle and his band have constructed a fantastic batch of tunes with some diverse influences. I hate to make comparisons to other bands, but sometimes that's the easiest way to begin discussing a new artist. To me, Anchors sounds like a mix between The Weakerthans, Stars and Pavement with some folk and garage rock thrown in for good measure. But forget about trying to peg this band. They're just damn good. Each of the ten tracks are standouts, but my personal favourites are the rollicking "Thick As Thieves" and "Good Morning, Good Night." Featuring mixing by famed producer Howie Beck (Feist, Jason Collett, Jason Rouse), this album is a must for folkies, hipsters and rockers alike. Do yourself a favour and check it out!

You can stream the album here:

As well, you check out the cool video for "Thick As Thieves" below:


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Johnny Hatch - Happiness Instead

Regina's own Johnny Hatch is definitely a "glass half full" kind of guy. His new album Happiness Instead just oozes with positive energy. If you're not smiling by the time this album is over, you might as well just jump in front of a bus right now. There is no hope for you. Hatch's latest batch of tunes are full of uplifting, melodic folk, rock, pop and dance tunes that will stick in your head for days. As an original member of a little known band that would become The Waltons, Hatch's music is firmly entrenched in what many people (myself included... yes, I am getting old) would call the "golden age" of Can-Rock. If you love early 90's Canadian bands like The Lowest of the Low, Rheostatics, Barenaked Ladies, Odds, Grapes of Wrath (and yes... The Waltons), then you will really dig this album.

Hatch writes pop songs in the classic sense of the term. The emphasis is on melody, with a template based on mid-tempo folk/rock/pop tunes. However, he gives each song the appropriate treatment it deserves. The end result is a diverse, yet cohesive, album that flows naturally from one song to the next. Album opener "Echo" is a fantastic folk-rocker which blends nicely next to the dance-rock of "In L.A." I can't wait wait to see Hatch and his band play "In L.A." live. I guarantee that people will be shaking their butts to this killer tune. Other highlights include "Lucky Seven Yeah!" (which almost matches the number of "yeah's" found in Nirvana's "In Lithium" and R.E.M.'s "Man on the Moon"), the ska-induced "Precious Time" and the garage rocker "Find The Door." At only 9 songs, Hatch makes a bold, compact statement and leaves the listener wanting more... which is a good thing.

This album is definitely worth your time and hard earned moolah. Make sure to check him and his band out when they tour in the next few months! You can check out his music here.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Interview w/ Ripperz Drummer Travis Warkentin

Three of my favourite independent bands are bands that unless you follow the independent music scene you may not know of. Luckily the Hot Blood Bombers and the Bystanders are from Regina. However, one band you will want to see seven days from now is Winnipeg's rock n' roll specialists the Ripperz.

On August 22, 2009 I randomly walked into Regina's O'Hanlon's Irish Pub for a pint with a girl whose name escapes me at the moment. Her name is not important, what is important is that I saw one of best rocks bands western Canada has to offer. In fact, I thought they were so good that I nerded out and asked the singer to sign their record that I had just bought. He advised me that he'd love to but would prefer to sign his. Apparently we had missed the opening act Hard Feelings and the guy I bought record from was a Hard Feelings member... not the Ripperz roadie I thought he was. That's alright, that night I left with two really great records.

It will be nice to get some new and old friends out to see the Ripperz back at Ohan's this Thursday April 7th. It was a long year and a half wait but I suspect it will be worth it. Their self-titled record is flawless and their show is even better.

I have posted a couple examples of their work 'Elephant Blues' and my personal 'Baby, Let's Go Out'. Each of them are quite different so be be sure to check them both out. For more highlights like 'Fly' and 'Born Fighting' I will see you Thursday.

I am please to present to you my interview with the man behind the kit, Ripperz drummer Travis Warkentin.

Cheers Rockers.

SPUN: For someone just getting into your music how would you characterize your music, how would you describe it?
T.W: Generally, we are an indie rock band. We don't try to sound like anybody else so its hard to say what we sound like.

SPUN: Who is in the band? Who plays what?
T.W: Chris Sawatzky guitar and vocals. Mark Wiebe bass. Travis Warkentin drums.

SPUN: How long have you been a band? How did you come together to start playing?
T.W: We have been a band for around 10 years on and off, mostly on. We have been taking things seriously for about the past 4 or 5 years.

SPUN: Who has been your greatest inspiration?
T.W: For me, the band itself is an inspiration. I love watching it grow and develop. I like seeing how people react when they have never seen us play before. Getting a good reaction form a new fan is all the inspiration I need.

SPUN: Which one of your songs is your favourite?
T.W: 'Fly' is my favorite song to play. I would compare it to the same feeling you have when you are leaving work on a Friday.

SPUN: What do you want your fans to take away from your music?
T.W:I just want our fans to have a good time after a hard day at the office. I want our music to make people want to interact with someone they have never talked to before.

SPUN: I have wondered since I first heard the name, where did you come up with the name the Ripperz?
T.W: The name comes from the TV show Full House. The band on the show was Jesse and the Rippers. We had to tweak it slightly.

SPUN: Do you prefer to play at home or to play the road?
T.W: I love playing on the road most. I love catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. Plus there is always a chance we might have to sleep in our astro van. We only did that once.

SPUN: There are a lot of great bands/songwriters in this country of ours. Why should I come see your band? What makes what you so special?
T.W: We have "it".

SPUN: What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
T.W: Our biggest challenge so far has been making the band into a full-time job. We are always at war with this dragon and as of yet, Bard has not brought down Smaug.

SPUN: When you aren't playing or writing, what occupies your time?
T.W: We as a band will kick anyone's ass at street hockey.

SPUN: What was the first record you ever bought and do you still own it?
T.W: I can't remember the first record I bought. But It was probably Zao, Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest. I still listen to that album all the time. It's a classic.

SPUN: Is there anything the band listens to between cities that you may be embarrassed to mention?
T.W: Dan Hill 'Sometimes When We Touch', the Boney M Christmas album, and Yakety Sax (the theme from the Benny Hill show)

SPUN: Do you have any worst show stories? Trainwrecks or funny blunders?
T.W: We haven't really had any over-the-top mishaps onstage yet but I am sure one day a tossed beer bottle while find its place with one of our foreheads before our time is up.

SPUN: How many records have you put out? Do you have plans for more?
T.W: We have one record and about another album worth of poorly released material prior to that. We are planing on hitting the studio in June and by fall we should have something new out again.

SPUN: How can fans to be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with samples songs and/or where can they get a copy of music?
T.W: Fans can gain access to our music via our website or our myspace at , or via facebook, search the ripperz friendz.

SPUN: What is coming on the horizon for the Ripperz?
T.W: The open road.

SPUN: Lastly give me two words to end this interview.
T.W: Have fun!

Photo Credit: Jordana Meilleur

Elephant Blues

Baby, Let's Go Out

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Civet: Love & War

Sisters Liza Graves and Suzi Homewrecker have had a busy year. In a year of touring, replacing members and taking time for their fans, the girls managed to release their sophomore record on Hellcat Records just a couple weeks ago. Civet are a 4 piece punk-rock 'n' roll band based out of California. I am not going to tell you what 70’s girl group or 80’s punk band they have similar sounds of 'cause quite frankly I am getting tired of hearing it as I am sure they are. Civet is a balls-to-the-wall punk-rock 'n' roll band with the furious Suzi Homwrecker on lead guitar and the ferocious Liza Graves on lead vox and rhythm guitar.

I rated this record 3.5 out of 5, which I admit doesn’t sound great, but it’s really not a bad score. Here is why. It’s a really good record but I simply prefer their debut ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ marginally. ‘Love & War’ is better than most bands in their genre. I feel that as time goes on I will reach for HHNF more. That being said, one should not be afraid to pick up this record. In fact I encourage it.

I am a fan of vinyl and the way punk rocks bands in the 70’s did it. 5 tracks on each side and a running time of 35 minutes or so. If the girls had done a 10 song record of 3:30 min songs I think it would have packed a bigger punch.

I enjoy polished records that are well produced with bands that slay live. Remember Vancouver’s monochrome punks the Black Halos or Toronto’s Robin Black? Yeah, like that. HHNF nailed that idea and the girls almost did it again here. For the most part they still do on this one. The first song ‘Can’t Go Back,’ for example, is the perfect segway between records. The thunderous bass and ferocious guitar are really intense on this track. ‘Deadbeat’ is another speedy angst-filled little ditty, ‘I’m Not The One’ explodes in true punk rock fashion and ‘Go Underground’ could have been an ‘Out Come The Wolves’ era Rancid tune… if Billy Hopeless of the Halos got his hands on it.

One dimensional Civet are not. They try their hands at an almost punk country song with ‘It’s The Truth,’ which compliments their boot-in-the-face punk rock. Love & War is a great first effort as far as producing is concerned. I commend the girls for doing it on their own. Musically and live, their chops exceed the standard ten fold. Lyrically it has a lot more grown up feel than their previous effort. This record is really raw and honest so poseurs these girls are not. My only beef is that I would say it sometimes valley’s when it should be peaking. ‘Cryin Wolf’ could be shortened; the A Capella in my opinion could be dropped and 5 minute long songs for this style of music could be 2½ - 3½ minute songs.

On this 14 track record, I really dig 10 of them a lot. I cannot wait to see these girls again live. EVERY song is rad live. I am anxious to see what’s in store for their 3rd album. If the girls in Civet continue to grow there is no doubt how great the accomplishments they will achieve in the future and the blistering records that will come out of it. If you get a chance to say hello, do so. Last fall when they were here in Regina with Nashville Pussy, the girls were super friendly and a lot of fun to chat and hang with. After meeting Liza you’ll wonder how that booming voice comes out of that little body.

Highlights: Can't Go Back, Deadbeat, Buy My Love, I'm Not The One and Go Underground

Tell Your Friends

Civet - Buy My Love (Audio Only)

Cheers Rockers,

Monday, March 14, 2011

R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now

After drummer Bill Berry retired in 1997, R.E.M. released three consecutive albums of mellow, quasi-experimental albums. Up and Reveal were solid efforts but they lost their footing a little bit with the spotty at times Around The Sun. After the negative reception of Around The Sun, the boys from Athens, GA felt they had something to prove with 2008's stunning return to form Accelerate, which primarily featured short, loud bursts of punky energy. The album served it's purpose, which was to regain their mojo. Well, R.E.M. have just released their 15th studio album Collapse Into Now, and it's safe to say that the band are once again at the peak of their formidable powers. While Accelerate was an exercise in rocking out, Collapse Into Now is just R.E.M. playing to their strengths and being themselves.

This is R.E.M.'s best album since 1996's New Adventures in Hi-Fi. Like that album, Collapse Into Now is pretty diverse, featuring ballsy rockers ("All The Best" and "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter," which features Peaches on vocals and Lenny Kaye on guitar), ultra-catchy power pop ("Mine Smell Like Honey" and "That Someone is You"), psychedelic hard rock ("Discoverer") and acoustic balladry ("Oh My Heart" and "It Happened Today," which features Eddie Vedder on vocals). As well, the album features the Velvet Underground-esque "Every Day is Yours To Win" and "Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I," which is a tribute of sorts to Neil Young's "Pocahontas." Album closer "Blue," which features Patti Smith on vocals, recalls "E-Bow The Letter" (which also featured Smith) and "Country Feedback" with Michael Stipe's spoken word beat poetry over Peter Buck's acoustic guitars and feedback.

What really stands out with this album is the confidence that the band exudes. Musically, Peter Buck is a force on guitar and mandolin, Mike Mills' melodic bass and harmony vocals prove once again to be the band's secret weapon, and Michael Stipe's cryptic lyrics and distinct baritone have rarely sounded better. On album closer "Blue," Stipe declares "This is my time/ I'm thrilled to be alive." Well, the band certainly sounds alive and kicking on this album. It's a shame they're not going to tour behind this batch of tunes because there isn't a clunker in the bunch.

You can check out videos for two of the album's songs below...


"Mine Smell Like Honey"

"Oh My Heart"