Tag Archives: Hamilton

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"

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!"