Tag Archives: retro

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

Elk – “Daydreams”

Indie music has taken a turn toward retro pop in recent years. We hear a lot of beats and grooves reminiscent of the 50s or 60s, and this really comes as no surprise: music and art are cyclical and we love to revisit old favourites. Bringing back some great 60s surfer rock and semi-psychedelic groove is Elk, a fantastic four-piece from Toronto and Niagara. A modern version of The Kinks, The Beach Boys, and The Wonders (the fictional band from That Thing You Do!), Elk is new but familiar, and their new album Daydreams has quickly become a lasting favourite.

The title of Daydreams is a perfect reflection of the band’s sound. Dreamlike and distant, it feels almost ethereal and otherworldly; vocals seem to take an echoey, reverb-filled backseat to the instrumental pieces, and this creates an eerie undertone to the otherwise upbeat album. Elk uses a variety of instruments and tempos on the album to add more creativity and range to the tracks, and in doing so they separate themselves from other less unique acts. They throw in super fun tambourine, piano (“Come Home”), and hand claps (“Every Girl That I Meet”) at appropriate parts throughout the album, and with plenty of toe-tapping beats and zippy hip-twisting the album creates a mixture of songs that both you and your mom can dance to.

The tracks themselves aren’t super complex or complicated, but this just adds to their charm. The easy, breezy flow of the album creates something that can be listened to repeatedly without even thinking about it. It doesn’t have that muddled jumble of noise that occasionally comes with garage-type bands, and the simple beats and riffs are what make the album flow so smoothly. The album-opening “Before The Sun” is a great example of why simple is better. You become part of the music, drumming along and humming the melody almost immediately, and when an album gets in your head the first time you hear it, you know you’ve found something good.

Listening to this album will make you want to see the band play live, and lucky fans in Southern Ontario will get a ton of chances to do so. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for their most up-to-date news, and take a peek at their label, IndoorShoes. Daydreams is available on iTunes and for a preview of Elk’s great sound, check out the video for “Before The Sun”. This is a band you need to hear, and a retro sound you need to revisit.

Elk - "Daydreams"

North Lakes – “Grand Prix”

“I don’t need no fucks telling me how to listen to a record.” So begins Grand Prix, the sophomore release from Charlottetown, PEI’s North Lakes and a fantastic collection of tracks that has the potential to be one of the year’s best albums. It’s a beachy-garage-pop explosion of rock, showing us in eight tracks what great music sounds like and why we need to hear it for ourselves.

Released in May 2012 Grand Prix is a follow-up to North Lakes’s award-winning debut album, Cobra. The new album includes everything good about the band’s sound: fresh, raw, and full of fantastic retro flavour. It’s a real throwback to the rock ‘n’ roll of the ‘50s and ‘60s, the same bouncy, toe-tapping groove but with extra distortion and a bit more colour. Think of The Strokes meets The Beatles, a distorted garage-rock soundtrack to a party on the beach. It really would be perfect at the cottage or the beach, and from the opener “Crumbling Dice” to the sexy closing track “Vixen” the album creates a mood of totally positive energy. It’s full of fun and hope, and for that, the album is worthy of repeated listens and a lifetime of praise.

From start to finish, Grand Prix is chock-full of great beats, strong vocals, and perfectly timed guitar, and the chemistry and interaction between guitars and percussion are really powerful in songs like “Copernicus, Copernicus” and “Baptism in Burgundy”. They balance well, and it’s clear from the blend of sounds and the equality between all forces that this album is a partnership and a real group effort, nothing forced or unnatural about it.

This balance is shown in the relationship between long sustained notes on guitar and the faster-paced beating of the drums: like a perfect couple, the instrumental pieces create a solid partnership and one of those relationships that seems perfectly natural and destined. They complement each other perfectly and in doing so give birth to a near-perfect album. There are also bursts of energy throughout the album (“Hands-off Director”, for example) that will send you into a dancing frenzy and rounding out the album with some diversity.

Lead vocalist Nathan Gill shows real chops and a ‘50s influence in tracks like the dancey “Avalanche”, as he sings “gotta take a ch-ch-ch-chance” like a young Buddy Holly. This feeling creates an album that is full of nostalgia and completely unisolated. It fits in everywhere, and to music fans everywhere this is a huge plus. Listen to the lyrics, too: they’re clever and poetic, and like the songs on the band’s first release are worth listening to and enjoying over and over.

Check out and buy Grand Prix on iTunes! This album is too good to not hear, and you need to follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the much-needed updates and info. For those who like garage-rock, North Lakes is one of the best Canadian bands around and as they spread west from PEI and put their music in the hands and hearts of music lovers they’re bound to go far and become huge. Do as they say and go listen to North Lakes for yourself. Their story’s in their music and you don’t need anyone to tell you how to hear it.

North Lakes - "Grand Prix"