Tag Archives: iTunes

The Electric Revival – “Presenting: The Electric Revival”

Some might say that growing old is a curse but when it comes to loving music getting older can also mean having the privilege of seeing a music genre birthed and then evolve. It also means that younger people and musicians who enjoy a particular genre of music, like metal, will likely delve into its past to discover not only the main influencers but also the innovators, the ground breakers. When that happens it’s almost expected that a group of young musicians will latch onto a sound that harkens from an earlier time, re-imagine it and release their own interpretation. A current example of this is Saskatoon’s Sheepdogs who have brought the world a new version of pre-plane crash-era Lynryd Skynryd.  I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of that band because I was actually partying on the planet the night that the plane went down and the news was broken on Toronto’s Q107. For my tastes a band that wants to get my attention doing a new version of an old thing has to do so in a way that is captivating — being derivative isn’t good enough.

Having said all that and with apologies for the long intro, I have to admit that I was tempted to place The Electric Revival’s Presenting: The Electric Revival in the category of cool-sounding albums that are good for a trip down memory lane but have little staying power in terms of crafting something memorable. As one might expect from the band’s moniker there is something here that is being revived – the question is, what?

The tone of the album is set during the opening track, “Rock n Roll Breakdown.” The tune is a furiously paced two-minute rocket ride that evokes the proto-punk attitude birthed by the legendary Iggy Pop in the Stooges seminal 1973 release “Raw Power.” That isn’t to say that the songs are sloppily played or poorly recorded – it’s really quite remarkable that the band’s performance and production manages to capture the retro vibe in a digital age where so many recordings sound sterile and flat.

The rest of the album shows great pacing with good balance between heavier/faster/louder songs in the vein of the opener and slower more moody pieces like the second track, “Black Widow.”  Three tracks on the “2nd side” of the album (see, I’m old) pay homage to the blues – an admirable aspiration in any R&R revival. “Outlaw Blues” is a hard and dirty blues rocker that serves as a reminder that metal was birthed from playing the blues too fast and too loud, a prescription that worked out well for Zeppelin and Sabbath back in the day.  On the subsequent track, “Goodbye 1979″ things stay bluesy but the vibe mellows considerably.

Overall Presenting: The Electric Revival scores a solid four out of five (4/5) with the only criticism being this:  pretty much all of the vocals are processed with what sounds like a combination of chorus and reverb and this is put to good use in creating that late 60’s, early 70’s retro vibe. However, I think that I would appreciate the album more if a couple of tracks out of the twelve featured a less processed approach on vocals, but that’s just me. Head over to iTunes right now and buy this excellent release.

The Electric Revival - Presenting: The Electric Revival

Kyley Styles – “One Short of a Six Pack”

In anticipation of writing this review I checked out Kyley Styles’s Facebook page and was immediately struck by the line accompanying his profile pic: “Life is tough. Write a song.”  What struck me upon seeing this is the context it gives the EP’s lyrics which focus primarily on the perils of human relationships. That isn’t to say that they are dry, boring or the sort of navel-gazing drivel we get from some indie/alt acts – Styles presents his view of the world with tongue firmly planted in cheek but still manages to touch the heart.

The EP gets off to a kick-ass start with the infectious “Eye of the Beholder”, a groovy hook-laden tune that reminds me of little-known Canadian indie act Barstool Prophets, who had some brief success in the mid-90’s with the song, “Paranoia”. Stylistically (bad pun intended) these two tunes are of a kind and that is definitely a compliment. In fact, this track would have been my choice for release to radio, which is not to say that “Halo”, the track that was released to radio, is unworthy. It’s simply true for me that “Beholder” is a whole body groove out, head-banging, air-guitar, sing-along endorphin rush.  That, my friends, is worth the price of admission, especially at $4.99 from iTunes!

The balance of the EP is equally satisfying in different ways, although the tone softens somewhat on tracks 2, 3 and 5. Upon first listen I have to admit to being a little confused about what genre Styles fits into; however, on several repeat listens this became less and less of a concern due in large part, I believe, to the fact that Styles is the songwriter and the band all wrapped up in one: with the exception of drums on track 1 and Uncle Bill’s violin, Styles plays all the instruments on the EP himself. As a dabbler in home recording and a hack at multi-instrumentation I can tell you that is no small feat. Being the single creative force behind a project is really, really risky: when it works it can be magic but when it doesn’t…

Fortunately for Kyley Styles it works perfectly: to this ear the key weapon in the Styles arsenal is his ability to create memorable hooks. Lots of us can play a few chords, hum a melody, add a lyric and call it a song but few can weave the elements of a great song/great performance/great recording into an emotional experience that is memorable. What strikes me most about Styles’s songwriting ability is his sense of phrasing and rhythm, key elements in creating a memorable hook and it’s the hooks that, well, hook us (my editor is cringing).

The bottom line is that I love One Short of a Six Pack, and that is saying something coming from a middle-aged metal-head who doesn’t list indie/alt rock amongst his top 3 genres. Head on over to iTunes and invest $4.99 in some endorphin-firing rock ‘n’ roll. You’ll be glad you did.

p.s.  Once you buy the EP make sure you head over to the Kyley Styles website to download the accompanying .pdf EP booklet. Do that Here.

Kyley Styles - "One Short of a Six Pack"

Xprime – “Here We Are”

One of the great things about Canada is our diversity. We’re all different, and every area of Canada is a cornucopia of backgrounds, language and opinions, appreciating and acknowledging all types of people and tastes. An excellent example of this diversity is Here We Are, the new EP from Niagara-based band Xprime. With a mix of pop, rock, funk and country, no song sounds alike and the band represents all areas of our diverse musical landscape. And yes, they even speak some French.

Xprime has come a long way in only a short amount of time. Formed in 2009, the four-piece has won over fans across Southern Ontario with both their live show and their EP, finding success among reviewers and radio stations alike. Listen to the album and you’ll see where this success comes from: their musical fusion creates catchy, radio-friendly songs that will appeal to everyone while also finding a home in specific genres.

Each of the album’s five tracks is different. Kicking off the album is the upbeat “Tell Me Why”, a poppy rock track that sounds somewhat like a quasi-French version of The Arkells. This is the album’s first bilingual surprise, splicing together French and English lyrics to create an interesting mix of language. Those of us with limited French vocabulary may be able to pick out a few words, and this is actually a bit exciting. The band is careful about their use of language, embracing their Francophone roots while appealing to both French- and English-speaking fans. They’re a lot like Arcade Fire in how they do this, but with a slightly more rocky and distorted sound.

Moving through the album we hear more diversity, with bits of Weezer (“Please Come Home”), funky ’70s groove (“Foxy Lady”), and finally a combo of Cake and The Killers in the album-closing “Jane’s Modern Waltz”. These songs are all different and unique, making the album impossible to describe but easy to love.

The band itself shows a lot of talent and some super high chemistry. Unlike other bands, Xprime shares vocals between all members and harmonizes exceptionally well as they do so. Their chemistry shines throughout the tracks and it’s clear they have a tight-knit group with some solid individual skills. It’s also clear they’d be a wicked band to hear live, with songs that would sound great on a stage and in front of a huge crowd.

You can hear and buy the album (only $5!) online, on iTunes or in person at one of their weekly shows. It’s definitely worth checking out, and as they work on their next album and release more tracks, like Xprime on Facebook to get the full scoop. Here they are, and they’re here to stay.

Xprime - "Here We Are"

Wind Up Radio Sessions – “Bird Eyes”

From the get-go, Bird Eyes is an album that brims with nostalgia and comfort. This is the second full studio album by the Montreal-based folk-rock band Wind Up Radio Sessions, and it doesn’t disappoint. With simple yet layered melodies, acoustic twang, and the full studio treatment, the album makes for an engaging, yet relaxed, listening experience. Each song has a regular, even pace that’s perfect for nodding your head to while you’re gathered around a fire with old friends.

Titles like “Family Bonds” and “Legally Dead” are full of warm folk sound, narrative lyrics, and ethereal sounds. “Backporch” deviates from expectations, adding synth to a chorus that gently carries the listener up and down through its melody. “To Be Alone” reminds the listener of what makes bands like Coldplay reigning favourites through the test of time, and “Caroline’s Dress” echoes with soulful melody. “Chesterfields” makes for a more uptempo tune, with a charismatic beat that insistently urges you forward to the song’s conclusion. The album wraps up with “Blades of Grass”, a song that reminds you that at their heart, Wind Up Radio Sessions are all about good folk music.

Bird Eyes is subtle and charming the first time you hear it, and it only grows more likable with the passage of time. I would definitely recommend this to any fans of folk or a nice chill rock session. You can learn more about these guys on their website, and Bird Eyes can be streamed and downloaded on BandCamp and on iTunes. Frankly, I can’t think of a better way for you to spend nine of your hard-won dollars.

Wind Up Radio Sessions - "Bird Eyes"

Septembryo – “The Dreambuilder”

At a time of year known for stress, anxiety and unavoidable family quarrels, nothing is more welcome than a lighthearted and energy-filled escape from the real world. The Dreambuilder, the debut EP from Calgary super-band Septembryo, is exactly what we need right now. It’s catchy, mood-elevating and almost trancelike, making even the most bitter family events tolerable.

Released in September 2011, the album has only four tracks, but like most EPs it is a delicious taste test of the multi-course meal that will come on the future full-length album. Septembryo is a tricky band to describe, but it’s an interesting combination of electro-alt-rock-pop: think of a marriage between Head Automatica and 30 Seconds to Mars, adding the occasional love affairs with Daft Punk, Incubus and bands like Mariana’s Trench. An interesting collection, but somehow it works.

All these sounds combine to make something unique and actually enjoyable to listen to. The percussion, bass, guitar, synthetic sounds and vocals come together really well, floating between electronic pop and some darker ambience and offering a glimpse of some stellar musical talent. These are good songs for a movie soundtrack: they’re great on their own but even better as an accompaniment to some other action, whether in the bedroom (ahem) or just walking down the street.

The real impact of Septembryo is felt after a few listens. The album is great to listen to (you’ll dance, you’ll sing, you’ll bust out some air drums) but it’s a few hours later when you can’t stop humming “Affirmations” that you really begin to realise its impact. It’s as though the tracks cunningly work their way into your brain, only to appear when you least expect it. Like it or not, you’ve got to admit it’s a sign of good songwriting and a pretty meaningful accomplishment. These are good songs; they’re different, and once you fall in love with Septembryo’s sound, it’s a near-guarantee that they will become a regular fixture on your playlist and songs you will actually listen to.

Now is the time to buy the album! As a special Christmas treat, Septembryo is offering their EP for half price (only $5!) until December 26 – pick it up on iTunes or if you’re one of us audiophiles who love an actual disc, get one here! Go take a look at the band’s website, too, and spread the news around with some holiday cheer. After all, isn’t music a better gift than a pair of slippers?

Septembryo - "Dreambuilder"