Tag Archives: Halifax

Cousins – “A Palm At The End Of The Mind”

On their latest offering, A Palm At The End Of The Mind, Halifax trio (and sometimes duo) Cousins keep it as raw as their brand of off-kilter indie garage rock can get.

Recorded and produced mainly themselves, with the exception of a couple tracks, the songs on A Palm range from the punk-tinged drive of “Speech” to the slow-tempo, wistful “Thunder” to the straight-ahead blues rock of the album’s opener, “Jules”.

Though the album delivers an eclectic and quirky array of rhythms and emotions, they are all brought together by Aaron Mangle’s fragile, echo-drenched falsetto and his tasteful yet understated drumming, and the fuzzed-out, chunky chords that, at times, channel Chad Van Gaalen, and other times, Jack White.

A Palm At The End Of The Mind sees Cousins at their best on tracks like “Speech”, where the band is in complete control of the rollercoaster. Coming in like a slap in the face at about the 12-second mark, “Speech” sees the band take it from a full-on garage punk assault to a controlled and subdued breakdown, and back up again as Mangle’s spaced-out warble tries to cut through the fuzz.

“Secret Weapon”, another of the album’s standouts, sees Mangle declaring he’s “Come prepared for the long night” to a slightly syncopated backbeat and a simple, jangly riff that makes for sweet, toe-tapping pop goodness.

With their DYI approach, Cousins achieves the epitome of lo-fi production, almost to the point where Mangle’s vocals are washed out beyond comprehension at times. However, the appeal lies in the contrast between Mangle’s soft, almost timid delivery and the dirt and crunch of the guitars and drums, making for one of the better indie pop garage rock albums yet this year.

To preview and buy A Palm At The End Of The Mind (only $10!), check out their BandCamp page and Facebook. The band’s also playing at Calgary’s Sled Island festival this year (June 20-23), so check out the band’s performance schedule, tell your friends, and get out to see them.

For a taste of Cousins, listen to “Jules“:

Cousins - "A Palm At The End Of The Mind"

Dale Murray – “Dream Mountain Dream”

There are a few extraordinary life events that change a person. Getting married. Having babies. And even more amazing, discovering you like the same music as your parents. This is a shocking moment indeed, something you have tried for so long to resist but inevitably catches up to you. Sometimes this happens just because the music is damn good, and in the case of Dale Murray, we and our parents have excellent taste. Released in March 2012, Dream Mountain Dream is Murray’s second album and something to be loved. Murray is no stranger to the world of musical accomplishments: a founding member of The Guthries and formerly of Cuff the Duke, Murray has proven to be a gifted, versatile, and passionate artist with a huge grab bag of talents and still so much more to give. Everything on this album is great; from Murray’s instantly recognizable voice to the catchy melodies and much-acclaimed guitar skills, there is a feeling of effortless perfection behind natural instincts. He seems to just know what will work, a gift that reveals itself in the harmonies, the chord progressions, and the overall flow of each of the album’s tracks. This isn’t something that comes easily to most people, but on Dream Mountain Dream, it’s impossible to ignore. Each of the album’s tracks has a catchy, cross-generational feel. It might be considered a mix of alt-country, folk, and rock, not forced into any tidy genre but finding a home among all three. This blend of sounds is what makes it so appealing to different listeners, and fans of music both modern and old will find something to love. Murray can easily be compared to George Harrison in songs like “Evicted” and “My New World” and new favourites Said The Whale in “You are My Girl”. Each track is immediately catchy and you’ll find yourself singing along to “Dream Mountain Dream” on even the first listen. This album has incredible potential as a staple in Canadian music, a fantastic 10-track collection that definitely deserves greater exposure. Fans of folky country-rock will love this album. It’s a great soundtrack for pretending to be busy at work or relaxing on the weekend, and it gets especially better after a few times on repeat. Check out his website and Facebook for more information, and buy this and his first album on iTunes. The album has already been called one of the year’s best, and chances are you and your parents will love it. For a taste of Dale Murray, listen to “The Wind is Trying to Kill Me”:

Dale Murray - "Dream Mountain Dream"

The Just Barelys – “Mad Bits”

Sometimes when you listen to an album you get a really good idea of the band’s personality. Whether it’s the lyrics, the tunes, or the overall sound of the music, the songs give good insight into the personalities of the band members and make the music a lot more fun. In the case of The Just Barelys, the music says the band is awesome. They seem quirky, cool, and just plain weird. It’s a taste of something different, and like the weird friends we have and the things that surprise us, they make our lives a hell of a lot more interesting.

Adding this interesting break to our music playlist is “Mad Bits“, the latest and highly anticipated release from the Halifax-based The Just Barelys. It has been an album in demand for several years, as fans have waited both patiently and longingly for a new release from the twosome, and it has met every desire. As we have come to expect from the band, they have created an album full of fantastic lyrics, inventive melodies, and a lot of randomness. It’s something you just can’t stop listening to, and even when the music sounds improvised and random, it slowly begins to make a lot of sense.

The sound might be considered “experimental electronic indie pop”. Think of a weird electronic version of Stars, or a poppy dance poetry reading. The melodies don’t follow the (boring) traditional structures or rules, but this is part of the fun. Imagine a kid making up a song as they sing to their food, but with lyrics about getting older or stealing satellite TV. For people who like this sort of quirkiness, the music is fantastic.

Other bands have tried and failed to create a similar sort of sound, but The Just Barelys bring something special to make their attempt successful. Mainly it’s their earnestness, not trying to be anything different than what they are. The guitar riffs are super catchy and inventive, and the two-part vocals go together in a way that’s not completely harmonious but still really cool to listen to. There are computerized beeps, some girly screaming, and rhythms to make you want to dance the robot. In the end, it’s a great album from a weird and awesome band. You can listen to and buy the album on Bandcamp, and then join the queue to demand more.

The Just Barelys - "Mad Bits"

Long Weekends – “Don’t Reach Out”

Alongside the finely tuned and smoothly orchestrated sounds of modern rock and the uniformity of pop culture sits a growing trend of grungy garage pop. This isn’t the depressed sound of ’90s grunge or the bouncy castle version of rock, but somewhere in between, a reverb-filled and natural expression of good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. It sounds amazing, and a great example is the fantastic and hugely talented Long Weekends.

Another brilliant product of the Halifax music scene, Long Weekends has exploded onto the radar with a collection of super catchy tracks. Their 2011 collection “Don’t Reach Out” shows off strong song-writing and raw performance talent, pointing to the future of rock and helping to pave the way for bands with similar ambitions. They’re nothing too fancy; it’s not a masterpiece created by spot-on timing or attempted industry pandering. If anything, it’s Long Weekends’ lack of perfection that makes them stand out, creating an honest, real, and really interesting sound you swear could be coming from your neighbour’s garage.

Their sound has been compared to Jesus & The Mary Chain, Mission of Burma, and The Archies, and it’s easy to see where this comparison comes from. The music is completely guitar-driven, and although each piece of the band contributes to the music really well, it’s the guitar riffs that drive the tracks forward. A good example of this is “Quarter Sticks”, a slower but fun track with muted vocals and repeated guitar goodness. It’s refreshing for vocals to play a background role without overshadowing or fighting for attention, and by forcing the listener to pay attention to the actual music, Long Weekends does something unique and cool.

You’ve probably never heard anything quite like Long Weekends before. For a great sampling of their sound, check out their Bandcamp page. The track “Don’t Reach Out” is one of the best, totally repeatable and worthy of some public displays of air drumming. Listen to samples of all the band’s tracks, and better yet, download them to love them more. The downloads are free (if you want them to be. Love them a lot? Throw them some cash).

Long Weekends takes the sound of the past and is bringing it to the future. Check out their website, go on and like them, and keep the garage sound a-growin’!

Long Weekends - "Don't Reach Out"

Writers’ Strike – “Stay Down”

Why are the best albums always so damn short? Like the best romances, they never last long – you start to fall in love and then just like that, it’s over. No phone call, no warning, just a reminder of perfection echoed on repeat. It is nothing but a tease, an unfair taste of unfinished love.

All pouting aside, Stay Down, the brilliant albeit tortuous EP from Halifax-based Writers’ Strike, is simply fantastic. The EP’s three tracks (yes, only three) are awesome. They are clever, well-written and hard to forget, and despite its length, this album has everything. Catchy riffs, popsy and even dance-worthy beats, intelligent lyrics and completely stellar vocals round out each song, leaving little to be improved and nothing to change. How often does an album like this come along? It’s a struggle to find something negative to criticize, making this short romance even harder to get over and more difficult to replace.

Stylistically Writers’ Strike fits in the same category as Wolf Parade, Arcade Fire, and Modest Mouse, that high-spirited Indie-pop sound that is taking the world over. The band itself fits nicely into the niche of the “overeducated, underwhelmed and underpaid” (“Stay Down”), a familiar and indie-music loving fan base that will love the sound of Writers’ Strike. The band has clearly been influenced by some other incredible artists, but with their own style and direction, Writers’ Strike may be one of the best bands to come out of Nova Scotia in the past decade.

This is an album that you keep meaning to turn off, but it just doesn’t happen. “Just once more” turns into another two hours, and despite having only three tracks the album never gets tiresome. It’s a muted, classy, and interesting collection of songs that beg to be listened to again and again, and until their next album comes out, that’s what we’ll have to do.

Their debut full-length album will be released in early 2012, but for a taste of Writers’ Strike, download the EP’s title track “Stay Down” below. You can also stream each of the tracks on the band’s website. The band is also embarking on an Eastern Canada tour early next year, so follow Facebook and Pigeon Row PR religiously for regular updates. Writers’ Strike is damn good, and with so much left to show and do, this love affair is bound to go on.

MP3: “Stay Down” from Stay Down:

Writers' Strike - "Stay Down"