Kathleen Edwards: blues in plaid – The Grid (1.19.12)

January 22, 2012

Kathleen Edwards turns her breakup into a breakthrough with her Bon Iver-produced album Voyageur.

Everyone loves a good breakup record. The massive success of Adele’s heart-wrenching 21 is a testament to the appeal of sharing in someone’s artfully rendered misery. Nick Cave transformed his split with P.J. Harvey into his accomplished and introspective album The Boatman’s Call—and even Taylor Swift evolved as a songwriter by exploring such depths. But when a singer taps into this particular subject, the flood of emotions comes with an equal amount of baggage, from the probing questions lobbed by headline-hungry journalists to the fact that he or she will probably have to play these songs night after night for months on end.

Toronto’s Kathleen Edwards is on the verge of having her biggest success yet with just such an album. Written and recorded over three years, Voyageur (out this week) is largely about the breakup of her marriage to producer/bandmate/collaborator Colin Cripps. But even if you didn’t know the context, it would be hard not to get that sense from Voyageur. And the situation is further complicated by the fact that the album was co-produced by Kanye-approved, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), who’s now also Edwards’ main squeeze. So with the prospect of having to talk about that context for the foreseeable future, Edwards is steeling herself for the deluge.

Read the entire story in The Grid.

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The National Geographic – The Grid (12.8.11)

January 7, 2012

With the widespread success of The National’s most recent album, High Violet (2010), the Brooklyn indie-rock quintet is finally at a point where writers can stop referring to them as a “grower” of a band. After all, they are headlining the ACC on Dec. 8. Bassist Scott Devendorf gave us the rundown on what goes into their current setlist.

Read the full article in The Grid.

Bringing Saxy Back – The Grid (11.2.11)

January 1, 2012

A socioeconomic-aesthetic analysis of why 2011 was the Year of the Saxophone.

It was something straight out of 1993: Saxophonist Kenny G on Saturday Night Live, unleashing a flurry of smooth-jazz notes from his soprano horn. The scene took place last month, but it could have been a ’90s-era parody: Remember the famous Sinatra duets sketch, in which Phil Hartman (as Ol’ Blue Eyes) castigates Jay Mohr (as Kenny G) for his terrible “screeching”? Except this Kenny G-on-SNL moment was the real deal—he joined musical guests Foster the People onstage for a live indie-pop performance on the show.

It’s understandable why the dudes in Foster the People wanted to partner with the curly-haired hornman—saxophones are everywhere this year. “The sax is back,” proclaimed one post on The Guardian’s website in June; later in the summer, Paste magazine declared 2011 the year of the saxophone. I wholeheartedly agree. From Feist and Bon Iver to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, artists across the musical spectrum are using sax on their latest albums. Montreal-based Colin Stetson even scored a Polaris Prize shortlist nomination with his solo bass-saxophone album.

Read the full story in The Grid.

Raekwon and Ghostface Killah interviews – The Grid (11.29.11)

January 1, 2012


The cup of Wu floweth over as I chat with Wu-Tang Clan legends Ghostface Killah and Raekwon the Chef just weeks of each other.

Read: What do you say, Ghostface Killah.

Read: an in-person palaver with Raekwon. (Yup, that’s the Chef’s own platinum album for Wu Tang Forever up there.)

Both originally published in The Grid and TheGridTO.com.

BNL’s indie-rock triumph – The Grid (10.7.11)

January 1, 2012

1991: The year Barenaked Ladies defined Toronto indie-rock.

Nevermind wasn’t the only game-changing album that made its ascent in the fall of 1991. It’s not even the only one that helped bust open the door for the next two decades of alternative- and indie-rock. Right here in Toronto, an independently released cassette (remember those?) by a jokey-folky group faux-offensively named The Barenaked Ladies was making the rounds. Nevermind may have marked the birth of popular indie-rock, but The Yellow Tape might just be Toronto’s greatest indie-rock record.

Read the full story at The Grid.

A field guide to metal logos – The Grid (7.20.11)

January 1, 2012

An infographic guide to the evolution of heavy metal logos. See the full chart at The Grid.

Colin Stetson live review – The Grid (6.28.11)

July 31, 2011

A few thoughts on Colin Stetson’s appearance at the Music Gallery for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival.

Stetson plays a unique sort of avant-garde jazz that’s an overwhelming and intensely physical blend of free skronk, psychedelic drones and Mozart-esque melodies. All of which is played by Stetson alone, usually on an imposing, howitzer-looking bass saxophone, using a circular-breathing technique that let’s him play for upwards of 10 minutes at a time without stopping the flow of notes to take a breath.

It’s the sort of sound that’s both frightening and captivating—the first chord of show opener “Awake on Foreign Shores” is a primal one, like a territorial dinosaur announcing its presence, and raises the hairs on the back of my neck. This tune segues into “Judges,” where throbbing, bubbling bass notes evoke the most precise Daft Punk subsonic groove—and you have to remind yourself that this is just one dude and a metal horn.

Read the entire review here.

Danger Mouse – The Grid (5.19.11)

July 21, 2011

My first music column for the newly minted Toronto city magazine, The Grid, in which I explore the Gladwelliean genius of Danger Mouse.

Before he became bona fide pop royalty, New York–based Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse, made a name for himself producing albums for indie-bands Sparklehorse and Gorillaz. He also created the legendary Jay-Z/Beatles mash-up The Grey Album in 2004—one of the biggest viral mash-ups in history—which had music critics swooning and EMI’s lawyers shaking their fists. But it’s what he does with his popularity that’s really interesting. Rather than spending time cementing his personal brand, he chooses projects that are challenging and unexpected, and often ultimately very successful. Now, he has teamed up with modern Italian film composer Daniele Luppi to create Rome, a glossy, indie-rock take on the spaghetti western soundtrack, proving that nobody is better at turning obscure artists and/or musical tangents into pop gold.

Read the entire article here.

The Joke’s Over (Neon Windbreaker profile) – Eye Weekly (3.23.11)

July 21, 2011

In which I travel to Austin, TX and cover a Toronto joke band called Neon Windbreaker who’ve managed to get serious enough to play a bunch of shows at SXSW. Much commentary ensues.

Read the whole story at Eye Weekly here.

Long live music videos – Eye Weekly (1.19.11)

February 14, 2011

On the eve of MuchMusic’s RapCity and The Wedge resurrection, we contemplate the state of the music video:

When Kanye West’s “Monster” video leaked just before New Year’s Eve, it caused prolonged discussion: about whether or not the leak was intentional; what exactly was up with the dead-looking models propped up in bed next to Yeezy; and why it looked so much like the video for “The Ark” by psych-rockers Dr. Dog. It was hard not to look beyond the hoopla and think: wow, a music video. Not only are bands still making them but, as Kanye and Gaga and Feist have proved, audiences still care about them.

Read the full story at EYE WEEKLY.