Regina a hotbed of hardcore punk? However incredible that sounds, it never entered the minds of the folks at Harvest King Records, which has a fine stable of hardcore/punk/alternative bands from the prairie capitol. And that includes 3-piece Kleins96. I discovered Kleins96 on a Harvest Sampler called "Shredded Wheat, Vol. 1". Later, Justin Ludwig, who plays bass and does "hoarse yelps", sent me their latest, Modern Fortune. Ludwig's brother, Dylan, rounds out the percussion section on drums, and Andrew Love takes on the guitar and "singing in key". It's amazing what these three musicians can put out.
Modern Fortune has all the standard elements of modern punk hardcore - wicked fast bass lines, screaming guitars, and screeching vocals. But the sound here is more than just fury: technically these guys are fast and tight. It's a thrill to hear them play.
Like fellow prairie hardcore punks Propagandhi, Kleins96's songs have politically charged and socially relevant lyrics, screaming at the world with thoughtfulness and candour. As they put it in the liner notes, they thank their parents for giving them the tools "to threaten by example": and that's all here - clear lines drawn about right and wrong, good and bad, war and peace, and everything else.
Opener "Flag or Fist" grabs you immediately on all levels. Kleins96 make ample use of sample lines from pop culture - in the case of this track, a scary warning about nuclear war (elsewhere, a nature documentary on beavers...). Fast rolling bass lines, lightning fast drum beats, and screeching guitars showcase a polemic not about war, but about hypocrisy in the modern age:
You're not the first to read about revolution and dream of communist rule. The ideal revolution would rid this world of you cheesy idealists.
This is just the start, as the band tears through religious themes ("Occam's Razor", "Self-Hating Gay Conservatives"), challenging authority in the form of security cards ("Trojan Whores"), tobacco profits from death ("Role Models") and much more. But don't expect loud hardcore only: like the greatest hardcore bands, Kleins96 excel at shift changes - whether in tempo, sound, or style, there is plenty to hear and enjoy. And there's a love song: "Priapism", which starts out as mellow as the band can be but - just in case you're sleeping - delivers the lover's desires in hardcore fashion in the last part of the song.
This is not a record for the musical faint of heart: Kleins96's sound, fury and message are unrelenting, pounding you with purpose over the thunderous beats and fast guitar. Repeated listens reveal more subtlety and detail, making it apparent that this band has great performers (and likely gives a killer live show). Underlying all of this is a thoughtful, challenging lyrical sentiment that will stretch your mind as much as the music stretches your soul. If you're into hardcore punk, put this on your list.
After a summer tour, and other shows here and there, it looks like the band has just completed a new track and as well as a David Bowie cover. The band will be touring more in February on the West Coast (with the Rebel Spell), so watch their myspace page for more information. In the spring, Kleins96 plan to record a couple of tracks (which will likely end up on the next Harvest King Comp, "Shredded Wheat", a great collection to look out for). Look for more extensive Canadian tours in the summer.
You Call Yourselves Soldiers EP, ‘Transparencies’, reveals a very tight and talented band which falls squarely in the hardcore spectrum of alternative rock. Formed in 2007, the band has recorded sporadically a few songs with Transparencies being the most recent and largest collection. Comprised of Charlie Berger – Vocals, Ryan LaFlamme – Guitar, Tye Thomas – Guitar, Leland Predon – Bass, and Jameson Bevington – Drums, YCYS shows an incredible maturity for artists who have been performing together for a relatively short period of time.
YCYS do an excellent job of incorporating traditional hardcore elements often associated with ‘math rock’ – fast, tight beats, polyphonic rhythms, scathing guitar and intense energy. However, the band isn’t only bluster and screams: amidst the hard songs there is still a strong melody and attention to detail as well as mellow vocals. All in all this is an impressive mix of sounds which is both intricate and forceful.
It would be easy for YCYS to belt out a set of short songs with the hope of radio play or catching the attention of quick listening online surfers. But this band has guts – Transparencies’ centrepiece is Soft Hands, which clocks in at over 7 minutes. The song starts gently but slowly unravels into a maze of sounds which highlight the breadth of the band’s musical abilities. Immediately after, YCYS shifts into White Pant Suit, which features tight, staccato guitar lines which boil over into heavy guitar a la BoySetsFire. 1500 Haiku Per Second demonstrates how tight and technical the band can be but without losing the emotional impact that hardcore often engenders. A Failed Attempt at Sensitivity captures the band at perhaps its most raucous, with hints of Serj Tankian and his hardcore band, System of a Down. In fact, Berger’s vocals come close to Tankian in both timbre and energy (though without the wild falsettos).
Lyrically the band treads in the cryptic waters of personal relationships - there are hints of conflict and despair, and real moments of loss and disappointment. "White Pant Suit" nicely illustrates this:
Taking chances, taking tolls,
Filling lies and filling holes,
Changing locks, swallowed keys,
Seize the opportunities.
A promise I’ll keep, sealed in air,
A tattered fabric, that won’t tear,
A promise I’ll keep, sealed in air,
A tattered fabric, that won’t tear,
The balance of the songs leave us with this same sense of desperate concern, all open to your own intense interpretation, which is nicely matched by the fury in the music.
YCYS has put out a fine collection of hardcore songs which shows that the genre can thrive in a world where ‘indie pop’ is the often the easy way out for a band. I look forward to hearing what they can do with a full length. The band tells me they have been working on some new songs, using this month and next to finish two of them. (See below for a link to a sampling: the tracks extend the same style, but it sounds like the band's sound is expanding in tone and melody - sounds great). They're hoping to put together another EP, along with a video performance of the new tracks. Keyboards will become a feature now, with singer Charlie Berger taking up double duty.
Drummer Jameson Bevington has an acoustic duo side project called The Bright Skies. Guitarist Ryan LaFlamme will be joining them at a set January 19th at the Free Times Cafe in Toronto.
|Joel Plaskett at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver back in 2009.|
Halifax singer-songwriter/rocker Joel Plaskett played a one-off show on December 28 2010 in Victoria while he's on the west coast visiting extended family. The sold out 200 person audience in the quaint, lovely little St. Ann's Auditorium were treated to solo guitar (or $5 keyboard) renditions of material from his solo career, songs with the Emergency as well as oldies from the defunct Thrush Hermit. Plaskett played two separate sets and was called back out for 2 encores, taking many requests from the audience, as well as calling the seated crowd to its feet in joining his karaoke sing-along to hit "Fashionable People."
Below are the links to 5 videos from that night. Although the video quality suffers from the dim lighting in the room (no spotlights!), the audio is crystal clear. I hope you enjoy the three new songs from Plaskett, and two "oldies"-- "Non-Believer," one of my favourites, and "Before You Leave" from the Hermit days.
"I'm Yours" (New)
"Before You Leave" (Thrush Hermit)
Shimmering Stars is a Vancouver 4-piece that plays dreamy, harmony-laden pop. The low production quality gives their singles a distant quality, as if you were overhearing a band practice next door. I recently had the pleasure of recording a Track of the Day over at CBC Radio 3, featuring their song "Sun's Going Down." You can download that over at Radio 3.
Shimmering Stars cite as their influences, amongst other things, "Bo Diddley, anti-socialness and anxiety issues." You can read an interview with singer/guitarist Rory McClure, along with a free download, over at The Line of Best Fit. If you like what you hear, their EP East Van Girls/Believe is available on iTunes. A full-length album is in the works for 2011 as well.
Hello North by East West readers! I have 8.1 hours worth of Christmas and holiday music on my hard drive as this blog post is being written, and a good chunk of that is free and by a lovely host of Canadian indie artists. So for you and your family's entertainment this holiday season, let me share with you some of these free holiday mix tapes, singles and albums fundraising for worthy causes. If you like the artists you hear, make sure to check out more of their music!
It is my hope to update the list whenever free Christmas music becomes available. For the most up-to-date list of downloads, please keep an eye out on earbuds & ticket stubs. And please let me know if there is a link that I've missed, or if a download is no longer available!
The Line of Best Fit has started a fine tradition of getting Canadian indie heavy hitters like Basia Bulat, Jason Collett and Great Lake Swimmers to cover some of their favourite Christmas songs along with some originals as well.
Mental Beast got a all-Vancouver cast of musicians for their mixtape, named The Eggnog Experience, back in 2009. Artists include Lightning Dust, Apollo Ghosts, Brasstronaut, Analog Bell Service and much more.
Hannah Georgas shared her lovely ditty "Christmas Touch" with me last year. Don't miss it!
Elephant Stone has two singles "Jingle Bells" and "A Hawaiian Holy Night" on their website for download.
Parlovr has two singles "I'm Santa" and "Spike the Eggnog" on their website for download.
Treelines covered "Little Drummer Boy," available for download from their Bandcamp page.
Said the Whale has their 2009 EP West Coast Christmas for download, at the cost of your email.
Library Voices w/ Julia McDougall - "Baby It's Christmas" (MP3, right click and save)
The Ruffled Feathers wrote you a letter and have "The Highest Mountain" for free download.
Jill Barber, Rose Cousins and Meaghan Smith teamed up to record A New Kind of Light back in 2007, which includes lovely originals alongside traditional favourites. They're three stellar artists and as you can imagine, the outcome is superb. Proceeds of this album goes toward food banks in the Maritimes. You can order the physical album here from Feed Nova Scotia.
Prince Edward Island All Stars including Jenn Grant, Al Tuck, Paper Lions and Boxer the Horse cover their favourite Christmas tunes and contribute some original material as well.
earbuds & ticket stubs has just concluded a 6-part Special Feature on Canadian hip hop, titled A Bright New Day. It was not easy to garner academic sources on our burgeoning rap scene, so I hope that this feature may prove helpful to anyone who's interested in the history and trajectory of this fascinating genre of music in Canada.
Part I: Canadian music context, research sources
Part II: influences on Canadian hip hop, especially from our neighbours to the South
Part III: history of Canadian hip hop as well as the 4 major styles
Part IV: the frustrations and roadblocks that rap artists face and how they've adapted.
Part V: explorations in Aboriginal and francophone rap.
Part VI: going global: Drake and K'naan.
There's also a corresponding playlist to go along with the feature, which you can listen to here on CBC Radio 3.
Enjoy and let me know what you think by leaving a comment!
Music PEI are proud to celebrate their 10th Annual Awards in 2011, and they can’t wait for you to hear the nominees.
On Wednesday, December 8 at 11AM they will announce the candidates at Hunter’s Ale House. Racoon Bandit will be on hand to provide the crowd with some great music while Music PEI unveil the details to this milestone event.
Music PEI Week will kick off on January 14, 2011 with a full week of showcases, conferences, workshops, and then finishes with the Awards Gala on January 22 at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
For more information on Music PEI and the annual award presentation, please visit www.musicpei.com