Tag Archives: folk

Jennah Barry – “Young Men”

Nova Scotia’s Jennah Barry has released her newest album Young Men, which will attract listeners with a minimal yet complex approach. Barry, the daughter of a choir director, has surpassed her father and transformed herself into a successful singer, songwriter, and talented musician. Her move from small town Clearland (Nova Scotia) to Toronto in the pursuits to study jazz music motivated growth in her music, resulting in longing, homesickness, heartbreak, and vulnerability.

The cover art as you can see is an elaborate drawing of her submerged in a dreamy, cerulean sea, reflecting the mood of the album quite well. She builds up wonder, blueness, and the submersion of many emotions for you to glide through. With humble beginnings, the soft acoustic melodies undergo a transformation through her rich, smooth vocals, which provoke a journey of many sensations. Her work can be seen as simplistic yet full. With prominently acoustic ballads, her slow melodic build ups create an atmosphere of winter but her sound will soar over the dark and bare parts in triumph.

Barry’s lyrics hold an interesting combination of not only having the warmth and comforting swirling tone of her voice, but lyrically Barry also confronts many deeper human issues. This stark contrast predominantly is found in many of her songs including “The Coast”, “Black Hole”, and of course “Young Men”. These songs delve into a variety of states such as nostalgia and reflection, sensations of loss and nothingness. The powerful imagery of ice and snow used in the song “Young Men” acts as a social commentary on the destructive nature of adolescent men, and how it creates feelings of helplessness. Jennah Barry’s Young Men will take you through a journey of home, contemplation, and ease, all in one. Although the album is an untainted and fresh perspective, she as a younger artist shows that she will only escalate and improve from here on. It will draw you in and take you back to a place you thought you forgot; an album definitely worth a copious amount of listening to.

Check her out on Facebook and buy the album through Bandcamp!

Jennah Barry - Young Men

The Human Orchestra – “Lip Service”

Some albums can be defined entirely by their lyrics. In the case of Hamilton’s The Human Orchestra, their new EP is easy to explain: “I can’t get you out of my head.” The four-song album is a masterpiece of earworms. These songs are catchy and hypnotic, easy to stick in your head and find a home there. Lip Service is an album to love, cherish and listen to on repeat, and with real diversity and cohesion, The Human Orchestra is a band to go down as a major contributor to Canadian music.

Released in August 2012, Lip Service is fantastic from start to finish. It’s full of sound and talent, with 12 band members rounding out the orchestra and giving the album a diverse and well-rounded power. It’s got everything: horns, banjos, keyboards and guitars, and the pieces all work together to create something strong and interesting without being too overpowering. If anything it’s just cool; you’ll find something new every time you listen and eventually you’ll start making trumpet noises along with the tracks. That’s just how the album works: it seems real and alive, and it’s something you’ll become part of.

Everything about the album is great. The band has put obvious heart into these tracks and each piece is carefully thought out while still natural and passionate. They could be compared to a mix of Arcade Fire and Of Monsters and Men, big sounds with folky,”indie”-like songwriting. One of the standout features of the album is the voice of lead singer JB Reed, whose unique vocals offer a bluesy twang to the songs and create the band’s recognizable sound. Her voice is magic. It’s kind of eerie at times (“The Winter Song”), sassy in others (“Heavy Handed Heart”), and sometimes soft (“In The Middle”). No matter what, it’s fun and easy to sing along with, and that makes for a catchy and loveable album.

Something really needs to be said for the songwriting as well. With so many band members and so many contributions, The Human Orchestra deserves a real tip-of-the-hat for their ability to create such rich tracks and subtle arrangements. They fall somewhere between simple and complicated, seeming effortless until you consider the multiple layers and pieces that make up each song. It’s fantastic, it really is, and it’s definitely worth a listen or two (or fifty). It would be great to hear a full-length album from the band to see what other diversity and sound they have in store, but this is a great introduction to their potential as a major artist.

Lip Service is available on iTunes, BandCamp, Amazon, and pretty well anywhere you look. Follow them on Facebook and wish them luck at the Hamilton Music Awards November 18, where they’re nominated for New Artist/Group of the Year! The Human Orchestra is destined for great things and this album is the first step to take them there.

The Human Orchestra - "Lip Service"

Michael J Copley – “What’s In Your Head”

Canadian musicians have always been known for their songwriting abilities. Since the beginnings of national musical pride and the early days of CanCon Canadian songwriters have been put on a pedestal and acclaimed for their music. From his catchy but thoughtful melodies to the poetic lyrics of each of his songs, Calgary’s Michael J Copley is continuing this tradition, showing off all his abilities on his newly released album What’s In Your Head.

What’s In Your Head is an outstanding example of strong songwriting and powerful storytelling. Copley is a master of emotion and theatrics, and each of the album’s 10 tracks offers a different look into the artist’s own head. Overall it feels like a soundtrack to a movie or musical theatre, a mainly dramatic collection full of emotion and well-written symbolism.

The album starts off with the Pink Floydian “Introducing: What’s In Your Head”, a multivoiced descent into madness. What exactly is this saying about Copley? You’ll start to question what’s happening in his head and for the remaining tracks you’ll listen carefully to the adventure he creates.

Symbolism continues in “Death of a Loved One”: the song feels empty, and in his echoed voice and lost and mournful tone Copley brings forward a feeling of being very much alone, hard to create and even sadder to hear. This is done incredibly well and in this and the remaining tracks Copley shows real artistic creativity. He also takes a spin at some spoken word poetry in the dramatic “Evening Departure”, giving a deeper look at whatever ghosts inhabit Copley’s brain.

It’s a lucky thing that Copley’s musical talents are equally strong and extend beyond the written word. Not just in the artsy/poetic way, but in that he can write catchy radio-friendly tracks as well. At times he sounds like 30 Seconds to Mars (“Long Time”) and Third Eye Blind (“Out of Your Head”) and in these poppier songs he’s able to create music that will get stuck in your head and provide a tangible answer to the album’s title. Musically he’s strong as well: piano, guitars and percussion are all perfectly done, and using vocal harmonies throughout the album (“Downstream” and “Out of Your Head” are examples) he shows his real technical abilities and talents.

Artistic folks will love this album. It takes real creativity to create this sort of work, and fans of this genre will really admire what Copley has done. It’s a big step in what will be a fantastic career, and Copley shows why he fits into the category of great Canadian songwriters.

Where to get the album? What’s In Your Head deserves to be celebrated, and fans in Calgary will have the chance to do so at the album release show on Friday, September 21! It’s a do-not-miss show, with a strong album kickoff and both acoustic and full-band sets during the night. Fans across Canada will also get the chance to buy the album digitally, enjoying every minute of the album’s creation and spreading the word about this emerging talent. Check out Copley’s website and Facebook for updates, and keep loving Canadian music. With stars like Michael J Copley emerging onto the scene, our music scene is alive and well.

Michael J Copley - "What's In Your Head"

Of Gentlemen and Cowards – “Warminster”

There’s a lot to be said for hometown pride. Most bands know it: people at home are our biggest supporters and they’ll talk about us ’til the cows come home. Home and fan support drive us forward, and whether our achievements are big or small we know the fans will be there to cheer us on. With the entire city of Hamilton, Ontario and McMaster University behind them, Of Gentlemen and Cowards has huge things in the works and an incredible future on the horizon. If you haven’t heard of these guys yet you will soon: the four-piece just won a spot on the Late Show with David Letterman and will be broadcast to millions on Monday, September 17, a gig of a lifetime for most bands and a definite dream come true. A fabulous intro to the band and a record we’re all talking about is their new 7″ single, Warminster.

Released in August 2012, Warminster gives a great taste of the band’s sound and possibilities. Like most singles, this one’s not long enough – but that’s a definite good sign. It’s a major tease, and the torture of wanting more is painful at best. They’ve given us eight great minutes of catchy pop-rock, an energetic and fun display of talent and audience-friendly songwriting. They know exactly how to create music that will take them places, putting together a sound that fits on mainstream radio while also finding a home in the collections of audiophiles and music snobs alike.

They’ve been described as alt-folk-pop in their sound: using harmonicas, a children’s choir, and great guitar solos, as well as solid vocals and some bluesy riffs, Of Gentlemen and Cowards might be compared to bands like The Decemberists, Third Eye Blind, Foo Fighters or John Mellencamp. It’s possible to associate them with The Arkells as well, but this is an urge to be resisted. Throw together catchy melodies, uncomplicated lyrics and pieces of folk, pop and rock and we’ve got something to admire.

Of Gentlemen and Cowards is a band you need to listen to. And guess what: you can! Warminster is available for free (yes – free!) on the band’s website. Check them out now while you can and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. The Letterman show is just a stop on their trip to fame, and Hamilton is behind them every step of the way.

Of Gentlemen and Cowards - "Warminster"

B.A. Johnston – “Hi Dudes!”

B.A. Johnston is a legend in these parts. For a self-proclaimed “failed showman” he’s been pretty successful, earning fans across Canada and a reputation for some ridiculous live shows. Based out of Hamilton (living in his mother’s basement, probably) he’s a regular fixture in the music scene and one helluva guy. “Hi Dudes!“, Johnston’s latest and eighth album, is a perfect example of everything he does best and continues the tradition of comedic folky rock set to ’80s synth and Nintendo-style electronica.

If you’ve never heard B.A. Johnston, you’re in for a treat. You’ll notice some fun beats and acoustic guitar, but you’ll quickly learn that passive listening is impossible. These are songs with lyrics you actually need to listen to. Why? Because they’re hilarious. Singing about video games, the Goonies, the joys of corporal punishment, and the intricate qualities of douchebags, Johnston throws out one funny quip after another. He’s more of a comedian than anything; the songs aren’t magically composed or overly complicated, but they are surprisingly well-written, melodic, and full of nostalgia. This is a sentimental look at life in the ’80s, a time of simplicity, ColecoVision and McDonald’s pizza, when smoking around kids was normal and spankings were encouraged. The lyrics are funny because they’re true, and as much as we laugh and shudder at the comparison of Bob Barker to a male Estelle Getty, we can’t help but agree.

It is these true lyrics and well-worded lines that also show Johnston’s depth as a songwriter. He’s hilarious, but he’s also insightful and sweet, and for those of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s these songs are a sentimental reminder of the childhoods we left behind. You’ll find yourself longing for arcade games and Grade 11 World Issues class (or skipping World Issues to go to an arcade), feeling a bit sad about getting older and having to go to work.

In the end, this is a great album that can be listened to again and again. Pardon some of the offensive language, and if you’re an Elmo fan you may want to stay away from “Sesame Street Fight”. But if you have a decent sense of humour (and especially if you know something about video games), you will enjoy these tracks.

Check out B.A. Johnston’s website for updates, show info and some hilarious postings by the man himself. You can pick up “Hi Dudes!” online (Zunior.ca or on iTunes), from Mammoth Cave Records, or from any of these stores: Dr Disc (Hamilton), Soundscapes (Toronto) and Bluestreak Records (Peterborough). You can also get it from the back of his mom’s minivan, but we won’t encourage that. Definitely get to a live show if you can but just a warning: don’t wear anything nice. You might get wet.

B.A. Johnston - "Hi Dudes!"

The Lost Lovers Brigade – “Little Skeletons”

Regionalism is strong in Canada, and the same can be said for Canadian music. Province to province and coast to coast, music takes on different influences and driving forces, making for regionally diverse sounds and unique genres. West coast music, for example, is often recognized as having more folky roots and ties to nature. With a nostalgic feel and rootsy undertones, Vancouver’s The Lost Lovers Brigade is a perfect representation of West Coast folk rock: mellow, intelligent, and hauntingly beautiful.

Like many other Vancouver-based bands, The Lost Lovers Brigade doesn’t fit into any specific genre, and their 2011 release “Little Skeletons” is a collection of 11 songs with a variety of influences and a clear coastal BC flavour. It has a real “hippie” vibe, a sort of dreamy, acid-washed mix of folk and indie rock that brings up images of flowy guitar sing-alongs by the ocean. Lead singer Elisha May Rembold has a beautiful and haunting voice, and the mourning tone of her voice is perfect for the emotional and heartfelt lyrics that make up each song. She’s almost theatrical in her singing, not in that she’s fakely dramatic but in the sense that her voice perfectly matches the emotions of each song. This is what makes the album so beautiful and easy to become lost in, and what puts Rembold head and shoulders above so many other vocalists.

It’s not just the lead vocals that stand out, however. Beautiful harmonies abound, and the contributions of the other pieces (including the usual guitars and percussion but also the very cool organ and tambourine) have an equally powerful effect. It would be interesting to hear more of these other elements, as they seem to bring something really special on their own.

There really is nothing typical about this album, and that’s what makes it so good. It is worth listening to a few times, at different times of day, both in the background and with full attention. The Lost Lovers Brigade has been a highly sought-after commodity in Vancouver, and “Little Skeletons” shows why this is so. Listen to and buy the album on Bandcamp (only $10) and then become wonderfully lost in the sounds of the West Coast.

The Lost Lovers Brigade - "Little Skeletons"