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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Transitions, New Places and Garden Songs

Hello!

I haven’t seen you around here in a while.  In truth, there hasn’t been much going on of late.  Have a seat.  The table’s a bit dusty, but we’re cleaning up.

I started this blog seven years ago almost on a lark.  I was deeply involved in music from a young age, as a singer and performer; and as a fan.  This blog at first was a means to expand my exposure to music while giving back to the musicians who made it.  It became something of a mission and a joy; and then a burden.  At one time I was publishing up to three reviews in a day, and spending literally all of my free time doing so.  I built Wildy’s World up to the point where 500 visitors were passing through each day.  I was proud of that, but there was a price.  After a while it became something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do.  Then it became something I resented but still loved to do.

The culmination of all of this came in the last year.  In October I lost my mom after a brief illness.  It was a difficult process that involved making the sort of decisions that no one ever wants to have to make.  It threw me for a loop, and the desire to write about, or even listen to new music, came to a shattering halt.  That wasn’t the only effect, of course, but it’s the one that’s most relevant to this space.

So for a time, music became a burden.  I continued to communicate with musicians and accept submissions, all with the best of intentions.  But when it came time to write, I just couldn’t do it.  It wasn’t fun; the words just wouldn’t come.

Today I turn the page, and as I do the view changes.  I will continue to write my thoughts about music, but the formulaic reviews are mostly a thing of the past.  This space will truly be Wildy’s World from now.  In it I will talk about the world; whatever’s on my mind, really.  That will include music, including great new music from Indie artists.  I will continue to take submissions and spread the word about things that interest me.  I don’t promise to be here every single day, but if you’re interested, this is a place you can come regularly and find something new. 

Today is the first day of my 45th year.  I suspect it will be an adventure.  Please feel free to join me.
In celebrating transition and change, I’d like to tell you a bit about Ron Hawkins.  As regular readers here will know I think Hawkins is the proverbial bee’s knees.  He’s somewhere between the Canadian version of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.  His lyrical talent is prodigiously sublime; sometimes deep and occasionally profane but always entertaining.  Hawkins began his career as the co-lead of rockers Lowest of the Low.  It was a good start, as the band was inducted into the Canadian Indie Rock hall of fame.  The band has broken up or gone on hiatus several times, and Hawkins has always managed to remake himself, whether as a solo artist or with bands such as The Leisure Demons and The Rusty Nails, Hawkins has left an indelible mark on the Canadian Indie Music scene.

The most recent iteration of Hawkins’ muse comes in the form of The Do Good Assassins, a quintet consisting of Hawkins (vocals/guitar); Jesse Capon (drums); Alex McMaster (cello/keys/trumpet); Derrick Brady (bass); and Steve Singh (guitar).  Their latest effort is entitled Garden Songs, a collection of ten of Hawkins more thoughtful songs written over the years.  The album was recorded over the course of one week, and highlights Hawkins’ brilliance as a songwriter and lyricist.  It also shows off The Do Good Assassins’ ability to bring those songs to life.  Longtime fans of Hawkins will be familiar with tracks such as “Peace And Quiet”, “Small Victories”, “D.F.W.” , “Propellers” and “Rome”.  There are also some hidden gems here.  “Kingdom Of The Sun” is memorable, and “Saskia Begins”, an ode to a newborn child, is among Hawkins’ best songwriting. The recasting of “D.F.W.” and “Small Victories” particular stand out here, and listeners newly introduced to Hawkins will be stunned by what they hear.  Garden Songs is a must have album.  I’ll give it 5 stars, without reservation.

Learn more about Ron Hawkins at www.ronhawkins.com.  You can pick up the album from Ron’s online store at www.victimlesscapitalism.com.  Please be patient, because the initial demand for the album caused the first run to sell out.  They’ll have more soon! To hold you over, and pique your interest, check out this live performance of "Peace and Quiet", the lead single from Garden Songs.


Our discussion of The Do Good Assassins fit in with the reintroduction of the blog today. They also kick off a week (or so) of discussion of bands related to my adopted hometown of Buffalo, NY.  While The Do Good Assassins call Toronto home, the band (as well Hawkins over the years) have spent a lot of time haunting the clubs and stages of Buffalo over the years.  As a result they get honorary status.  In the coming days we'll also be talking about Buffalo native Jeneen Terrana, and current Buffalo bands Dirty Smile, Grace Stumberg and Bryan Johnson And Family.  After that we'll move on to new or recent releases by Rachael Sage, Seth Glier, Laura Joy and others.

Until next time.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Live Hart - Honesty


Live Hart – Honesty
2014, Goin’ Native Records

New Jersey-born singer/songwriter Live Hart cut her musical teeth as a member of pop group Urbanesque, but her primary focus has always been that of a singer/songwriter.  This aesthetic is wholly evident on Live Hart’s debut solo album, Honesty.  Hart weaves intricate tales and soundscapes throughout the ten songs on the album, with a dulcet voice and an intensely melodic musicality.  A soulful R&B influence in inherent in Hart’s sound, but her muse comes first, and listeners are the one to benefit. 

Honesty opens with a touch of Latin soul and pop in the form of “I’m Gone”.  The groove here is tremendous, and Hart’s voice is delicious ear candy.  It’s a brilliant open with significant chart possibilities.  Hart changes gears for “New Day”, utilizing cascading vocal layers to beautiful effect.  In spite of the difference in sound, the net effect is the same, a brilliant pop turn you won’t be able to get out of your head.  Hart digs into a stripped down sound on “Take Me” that grows into a vibrant folk/rock gem.  The chorus here is perfect pop radio, full of honest life and intensity and a tasty pop hook. 

“Please Don’t Say It’s Over” is a quietly pleading pop number that’s infectious in its rhythm and sound.  The most integral component here is Live Hart’s honey-tinged voice, dulcet and warm in tone and timbre.  She manages to navigate the corridors of pop music with a grace and class that allows her rise above the pack.  On “We Can Change the World” Live Hart takes a more generic path to a politically correct, socially activist message.   This is a popular and thoroughly overdone message in pop culture.  As a result, efforts in this direction need to be wildly original or extremely well done to stand out.  Neither is the case here.

Hart turns the corner on “Lala”, a quietly brilliant love song written from the perspective of gratefulness and grace.  The melody here is a thing of beauty, as live shares a moment of true intimacy with listeners.  “This Is Me” seems to grow out of “Lala”, but musically and generationally.  The same pop sensibility is there, but there is a slow growth in intensity and energy between the two.  Hart returns to a stripped down, guitar-driven arrangement for “What Is Love”, a musical-slow boat that grows into a low-key R&B gem.  Once again, it’s Hart’s voice that is the key driver here, but the entire piece is full of an esoteric beauty that is impossible to ignore.  “Summer Love” steps into a keener pop/rock sound and borrows its opening line (lyrically and musically) from John Waite.  Hart’s mix of pop sensibility and singer/songwriter aesthetic serves her well once again.  Honesty closes with “Release”, playing on the edges of popular hip-hop styles and essentially surrendering the unique high ground Live Hart spent the first nine songs of the album carving out.  This is a solid piece of writing, but it is by far the weakest track on the album.

Live Hart flashes brilliance on Honesty, with the sort of voice you just close your eyes and let wash over you.  Her songwriting has depth, and she blends that with a brilliant folk/pop sensibility that gets inside your head.  Honesty isn’t just a title but a mantra, and Hart lives it to the fullest.  This album should establish Live Hart as a songwriting and performing force to be reckoned with. 

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at www.livehartonline.com


You can purchase Honesty via iTunes or Amazon.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tom Levin - Them Feet


Tom Levin - Them Feet
2014, Cut The Mustard


Tom Levin just keeps rolling.  After an accidental fall into a musical career that involves a shower concert and an exchange student program, Levin has led something of a charmed life.  His first band, Tennis, scored a top-10 single in his native Sweden in 1996 with “Shyway”.  Levin was just getting started however.  In the intervening years he has dropped six solo albums, showing steady growth as a songwriter and performer while continuing to refine his stage presence and his craft.  Levin’s latest effort, Them Buffalo is something of a companion album to his January, 2014 release, Them Feet.  Steeped in stripped down rock and Americana styling, Levin reveals himself to be a master story teller with a deep understanding of melodic nuance and rhyme.
Them Buffalo opens with “Thunder On”, something of a musical bridge from Them Feet.  The opener is a sharp and catchy rock and roll song with country flavor.  Levin’s voice is not a purist’s voice.  It’s full of rough edges and color and has an almost talk-sing sway to it at times, but he wields his voice like a finely tuned instrument, injecting personality and presence like a grand showman where the lines thin.  The result is a captivating sound that leaves fans and critics alike captivated and willing to listen long into the night.  “Mind’s Eye” opens in the style of an aboriginal tribal chant, and becomes a Utopian paean that’s catchy and well-written.    Wrapped up in the song’s core is an element of faith; a theme that recurs often through Them Buffalo in different forms.  “Everyday” is about finding your way by paying attention to the little things.  Questions of right and wrong swirl around the edges of this song; not in a judgmental way, but in the form of diving next steps.  The song has an earthy and urgent feel that is brilliantly understated and full of a primitive beauty.
“History, Beliefs and Bearded Men” takes on the concept of right and wrong between religious cultures from a very personal perspective.  The ancient argument between absolutism and relative truths wage quietly here, with Levin opting for an informed conscious to make out the difference in all of us.  In truth, there is a fatalism here that is appealing.  Levin doesn’t seem to be eschewing any side of the argument, in the end.  Opting for the sense that nobody really knows, so let’s all do the best we can.  This is a pensive number that’s prayerful in attitude and hopeful in heart.  It sets the stage well for “Different Drum”, a paean to being you no matter what.  The swaying rock anthem is typically understated but somehow more powerful for it. 
When it comes to love songs, the genre is thoroughly overdone.  Some overdo, some try to almost make fun of the genre.  Levin bypasses it entirely in recreating it for a new age.  In “More Than A Song”, Levin uses the ancient art form to decry its insufficiencies while delivering a message of deep love and intellect all at once.  It’s a thing of beauty that bypasses syrup but sticks to you nonetheless.  Levin engages in affectionately humorous misdirection on “Girl From Nova Scotia”, a tribute to Canadian songstress Mo Kenney.  If you’re not listening carefully (I honestly wasn’t the first time it played) you’ll think Levin’s engaging in vitriol, but there’s a deep admiration in the line “I hate you in a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful way.”  The underlying theme here is the mix of admiration and jealousy an artist might feel in hearing another artist create beauty.  It’s real and honest and powerfully alive.
Levin heads for home with “Schizo”, “Summered” and “Margaret’s House”.  The first delves into the push and pull of different parts of a personality.  There’s a bit of Randy Newman-style self-parody here, alongside Tom Wait’s biting poetry.  “Summered” is probably my least favorite track on the album; That is to say it’s really well-written, but perhaps just a bit out of place with this cycle of songs.  Levin bows with “Margaret’s House”, with the help of vocalist Aimee Bobruk, whose dulcet voice is a perfect blend to Levin’s understated drama.  This pensive duet is full of a quiet reverie, and is the perfect annotation for an album steeped in thought, wisdom and the slow wearing of time on memory.
Tom Levin continues to grow into his prodigious talent as a songwriter and performer.  It’s hard to say if he’s approaching a zenith or continuing a long slow build to something even more renowned, but the fact that he has hit new heights is inescapable.  In spite of several releases from artists I absolutely love in 2014, it is not stretching the point to say that Tom Levin’s Them Buffalo is the finest album I have heard in 2014.  You will be hard pressed to disagree.

Rating:                  5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at www.tomlevin.com.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lindsay Mac - Remember (single)



Lindsay Mac – Remember (Single)
2014, Lindsay Mac
You might remember hearing about Lindsay Mac’s 2008 release, Stop Thinking.  We wrote about it here, and the album generated a lot of buzz in the Indie music press because of her innovative use of a cello (played like a guitar) in folk/pop songs.  Lindsay Mac’s background as a classically trained musician leads some to believe that she is all about breaking down musical barriers, when in truth she is just marching to the incessantly syncopated beat of her own drummer.  Lindsay Mac tries knew things not shock or are others, but to please her ever curious and creative mind.  That being said, you might wonder to what uses she is putting her cello to these days?

On her latest single “Remember” (from the album Animal Again), Lindsay Mac leaves the cello behind, delving into a resilient blend of electro pop and dance.  “Remember” is as aesthetically pleasing as anything you’ve heard on the radio this year, with a joyous sense of melody and rhythmic poetry.  You will want to move your feet, but Lindsay Mac is an intelligent poet in dance diva clothes, and wends her way with intellect through the sweet and inspired love song that she crafts.  The topper of it all is Lindsay Mac’s voice.  She cants with a brilliant sweetness here, and you’ll find yourself putting her album, Animal Again, on your wish list.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at www.LindsayMac.com.

Buy “Remember”:    iTunes   


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Aaron Comess - Blues For Use



2014, Innsbruck Records

The Band
Aaron Comess came to fame playing drums for the Spin Doctors.  While that wild ride continues, Comess has also made a name for himself from his solo work, which blends rock, pop, jazz and world sounds into his own distinctive sound.  Comess’ most recent work is in collaboration with Teddy Kumpel and Richard Hammond.

The Album
Aaron Comess released his third solo album in May, entitled Blues For Use, consisting of 12 instrumental tracks.

The Buzz
Comess, Kumpel and Hammond are consummate professionals, and the music on Blues For Use is demonstrative of that fact.  The album waxes and wanes from aggressive to pensive.  Comess’ talents as a composer are often overlooked, but he drives the creative process here. 

Spotlights
“Hard Ball” focuses on the rhythm section in a percussive arrangement that sounds like an early outtake from Rush crossed with Pink Floyd.  “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” works a long, slow build into a plaintive yet ear-pleasing chorus.  The tight instrumental interplay is key here, with a subtle guitar lead that fluctuates in intensity.  Comess and company engage in a brilliant piece of non-visual art in “Sunrise”.  It’s a lazy, rolling number; the melody is a dog lying in the summer sun, occasionally rolling over to scratch its back in the dirt.  “Bajelirious” plays like an alternate James Bond theme.  The band is at their best here, with all cylinders pumping. 

Footlights
There’s little negative to say about the album.  There are slower moments, but they are part of the ebb and flow of the album.  There is definite inspiration here, but it is sometimes of the quieter, pensive kind.  Subtlety abounds.

The Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

The Songs
Surprise, Pt. 1
Hard Ball
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Sunrise
Gorilla
Bajelirious
Clear
Casa Colonial
Blues For Use
Moonrise
Finally
Surprise, Pt. 2

Where to Go
www.aaroncomess.com

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Delta Rae – Live at the Tralf – Buffalo, NY – June 25, 2014


Delta Rae – Live at the Tralf – Buffalo, NY – June 25, 2014

Delta Rae released their debut album, Carry The Fire, in 2012, and it was a musically mind blowing experience.  The intensity and quality of the music were breathtaking, and the album earned Desert Island Disc status.  I knew all of this walking into The Tralf last night, and yet I was not in the least prepared for the reality of Delta Rae on stage.

That intensity that comes through in the studio recording is a mere echo of what the band brings on the stage; and there the musicality of the band is absolutely unquestionable. Opening with a blend of “Dance In The Graveyards” and “Run”, Delta Rae established a surprisingly aggressive energy level from the get go.  And while it took the sound board the first song to get the vocal mix right, the band was nothing less than amazing out of the gate.  Up next was “Better Off Alone”; another knockout performance.  A brand new song, “Better Off Alone” followed, with Ian Hölljes opening up his impressive voice for the crowd.  It was an amazing moment; the first of many.  This led into a composite of “Is There Anyone Out There” and “Morning Comes”, which seemed to be a musical launching pad for the band.  Everything to this point was musically pristine and full of energy, but bar was about to be raised.

It began with Brittany Hölljes tackling “Bottom Of The River” like a woman possessed.  The entire band was taken with the primal rhythms of the song and it turned into not just a performance but an experience.  Liz Hopkins took over the mic for a cover of Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith’s “Because The Night” and blew the roof off the place.  Her intensity and tone were amazing, and the band matches her step for step.

The band went off mic for a new song; a moving and impressive turn entitled “Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This”.  Eric Hölljes took the lead this time, and the band backed him with a vocal collage that was unforgettable.  Up next was another new song, “We All Want Love”.  This time is was Ian alone on stage with piano for a lyric ballad that ought to see Delta Rae climb the charts when the song is released on the next album.  This was an absolute “Wow” moment. 

Liz Hopkins came out front again for “Chasing Twisters”, and once again raised the roof with a powerful and compelling performance.  As good as this was, it was a mere appetizer for “Bethlehem Steel”.  Delta Rae rocked the stage, the rafters and the very foundations.  Brittany’s vocal was incomparable as she prowled the stage like a woman possessed.  The song was based on the experiences of the Hölljes siblings’ father, who worked for Bethlehem Steel for many years, and laments the loss of factory jobs in a declining America.  Liz Hopkins kept the energy going with an intense and powerful “If I Loved You”.  This is one of my personal favorites from the debut album, and Delta Rae did not disappoint.  Brittany came back out front to close the set with “I Will Never Die”, from the band’s Chasing Twisters EP.  You couldn’t blame the band for letting up a bit at this point, but the energy and intensity of the performance never flagged.

The small but devoted crowd demanded one more song.  Delta Rae accommodated the applause and chants with two.  The first, “After All”, is a new song that will be on the new album if the band is wise.  The Hölljes siblings and Liz Hopkins were all featured on vocals this time around, and the music was a piece of pure beauty.  Delta Rae closed out the night with a buoyant take on “Dance In The Graveyards” that had the entire club swaying along.  It was a knockout blow worthy of one the most vibrant and musically apt bands working today.

Opening act Gabe Dixon was a revelation in his own right.  Even Ian Hölljes said that Dixon is writing some of his favorite music right now, and Dixon did not disappoint.  Trading back and forth between piano and guitar, Dixon traded ballads and blues-infused rockers that recalled past greats such as Billy Joel and Ray Charles.  Highlights included “Disappear”, “Runnin’ On Fumes” and the delicious piano work of “Till You’re Gone”. If nothing else, make sure to download his track “All Will Be Well”, a “Wow” moment all its own.

Both Delta Rae and Dixon were available and accessible after their sets.  Delta Rae came out and signed at a table after the show, but unlike many acts, each member took the time to greet and get the name of each person walking by.  It was a great dose of southern hospitality, and will pay dividends to the band from the personal connections they made.

Delta Rae’s tour continues tonight at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.  Dates for the summer tour are currently scheduled through August 3rd.  Check out www.deltarae.com for more information, and go see them live if you get the chance.  You won’t be disappointed.

Gabe Dixon will be opening for Delta Rae through July 9th, and is currently booking shows for his Gabe Dixon band for the summer.  Get more info at www.GabeDixon.com



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Broken Quote - Foreshadowing Sunlight


Broken Quote – Foreshadowing Sunlight
2014, 563026 Records DK

The Band
Broken Quote is a multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer from Houston, Texas who has been creating music since he was a small child.  A self-taught musician, Broken Quote showed a distinctive ear early on.  While the lack of lessons would be a roadblock to some, it became an open playing field to Broken Quote.  Broken Quote credits influences such as Bjork, Eyedea, Beck, Radiohead, John Cage and Parliament Funkadelic, among others.  His musical milieu continues to grow and evolve, but his current sound is something of a stew of ambient funk, trip hop, electro rock and acid jazz.
The Album
Foreshadowing Sunlight, a five song EP, is Broken Quote’s first release.
The Buzz
Broken Quote is all about minimalist atmospherics.  Electronics and ambient sounds are the core of the sound on Foreshadowing Sunlight, but the focus is less musical than it is of painting collages of sound. 
Spotlights
“Late Night Ocean” has an intriguing rhythm and life all its own.  The overall effect is more distracting than cohesive, but there is a musical statement to be made here.  “Glass Ceiling” is similarly unsettling.  Angst-filled piano gives way to a slowly growing cacophony of rhythm, as Broken Quote seeks to unsettle all who would listen.

Footlights
The energy throughout Foreshadowing Sunlight is minimalist by intent, but the effectuation is downright painful at times.  Angst and ennui are the core emotions, and those vibes are imparted to the listener like a cudgel.  Effects very often rule the day, covering the gaps that are left behind by songs that are thought out and through, but often not fully.


The Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

The Songs
Ghost Crowd
Late Night Ocean
Glass Ceiling
Sparks Water The Seeds
Mispronounce

Where to Go
www.brokenquote.com.