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,