Published December 18, 2015

Jade The Moon is a collaboration between Vancouver singer/songwriter Jade Moon and Toronto-based production team Bad Cop / / Mean Cop. Together they have crafted compelling synth-pop on their acclaimed debut album Habits and Hinderance (out now on Culvert Music).

The band's new single is 'U Take Care'. In a press release, they explain "The lyrics for 'U Take Care' can actually be perceived in so many ways. This track was conceived after a three day Foals listening binge and recorded loosely into a voice note similiar to our previous track. The track was built around the original voice note recording, which actually makes several appearances on the final final production of the song.  At first listen 'U Take Care' may sound like a love song, but if you listen closely it's got a mean streak…."

The track is now complemented by a fine video, written and directed by Chad Rook (his main gig is as a fast-rising TV and film actor). In the group's words, "the video is a dark and symbolic metaphor of how love and hurt can affect us emotionally, physically and spiritually. The clip features Jade being protected by a (quite dark) force that follows her in the shadows to keep her out of harms way." The languid pace and sensual look of the clip make it a winner.

Published December 11, 2015

This scribe's favourite new holiday-themed album this year is Lit Up, from B.C.-based collective Astrocolor. I'm not alone in that view, for the record is earning raves from some major media outlets. Top Brit music mag Q termed it "2015’s most tasteful Christmas album”, while the New York Times called it "atmospheric holiday music for a contemporary palate”. Read the NCM review here.

The record is also currently being featured inflight on Air Canada, Virgin and British Airways.

Based in Victoria, BC, Astrocolor is a five-piece combo, and they brought in some talented guest vocalists for Lit Up: Kandle, Rykka, Antonia Freybe-Smith, and Abi Rose. The album was co-produced by Astrocolor and Colin Stewart (Black Mountain, Dan Mangan, AC Newman). 

This week, their label, Last Gang Records, released the first proper video clip for an album track, "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer". It proves to be a very entertaining complement to the group's very cool take on a Christmas classic. A dub-inflected sax solo and wah-wah guitar is not orthodox instrumentation for a holiday song, but it works real well here. In the clip, the music serves as a soundtrack to a more traditional animated visual approach. Alongside his dancing reindeer, Santa shows off some nifty moves, and the short and sweet video is virtually guaranteed to light up a smile on your face.

The group perform Miracle On Douglas Street: A Christmas Party With Astrocolor at Northern Quarter in Victoria, BC, on Dec. 18. It's sure to be major fun.

Published December 4, 2015

Halifax singer/songwriter Alana Yorke certainly didn't rush out a video clip to accompany "Anthem", the first single from her acclaimed Paper Bag Records debut album Dream Magic. In fact we playlisted the track with our NCM album review nearly a full year ago, one in which we praised Yorke's "pure voice, evocative soundscapes and fluent piano playing". Her dramatic and atmospheric sound has drawn comparisons to the likes of Kate Bush and Enya.

The beautifully filmed video for "Anthem" features moody shots of two figures walking through the darkness, illuminated only by the burning torch one is carrying. As they contemplate an open fire, the swelling sunrise gradually lights the screen, revealing a gorgeous Maritimes seascape. The pace of the clip neatly complements the haunting and rather languid song. It was directed, filmed and edited by Paul McCurdy, a noted Halifax cinematographer who has shot many documentaries and short films.

2015 has been a breakthrough year for Yorke, who was recently nominated for four Music Nova Scotia Awards, including Solo Recording of the Year, Alternative Recording of the Year, New Artist Recording of the Year for Dream Magic and SOCAN Songwriter of the Year for "Anthem".  Another song off the album, "The Wichita Years", has attracted media attention here and in the U.S due to its source of inspiration, the famed 8mm Glasco Family home movies, shot in the '50s. Here's a fascinating Globe and Mail story on the topic. 

Yorke played shows in Toronto and Peterborough earlier this week and has a show at Jimmy Jazz in Guelph on Dec. 5. An artist to keep an eye on.

Published November 27, 2015

Singer-songwriter Alistair Bundale has adopted the name Castleman for his new solo project, after making a mark as the lead singer and guitarist of the band Donalyn. He began his career in 2009 with the solo album Homestead, which earned the Best Acoustic Album award at the Toronto Independent Music Awards. 

Castleman was also nominated for a Toronto Independent Music Award this fall, and the debut Castleman album, The Weight, is being readied for release via the Epidemic Music Group. Whetting our appetite for it is the title track single and the new video clip for it. The video intersperses old home movie style footage and shots of Bundale playing guitar and singing the tune. The rather grainy and fuzzy old footage rather complements the slightly blurry quality of Castleman's vocal delivery. The song (no, not The Band's classic) reminds us a touch of City and Colour, and it slowly builds in intensity in appealing fashion.

A label bio notes that "the warm sound and introspective lyrics of the album are a reflection of his years growing up in Casselman and Nova Scotia and how these early experiences filter his perception of the current state of affairs in society today... The Weight is an album that strives to deconstruct the issues that shape and affect daily routines in an attempt to understand the human psyche and emotional complexities of the modern world." Weighty themes indeed.

The album was recorded at The Chandelier Room with producer Kevin Ker. You can check it out here. Castleman plays a Toronto release show at The Old Laurel on Nov. 28, and is clearly an artist to keep an eye on.

Published November 20, 2015

Hard-hitting Hamilton rock 'n roll trio The Dirty Nil sure impressed NCM scribe John Crossingham with their new single "No Weaknesses". Last month he wrote that "this killer tune suggests as much love for Rick Springfield and Buddy Holly as Husker Du and The Replacements" (read the full review here).

The band has now come up with a killer video to match the track. Oft taking a split screen approach, it portrays the members working out and beating each other up to a bloody pulp in a home gym, a fitting complement to the ferocious muscularity of the song. 

A press release adds a further description: "In the Dave Dunham directed clip for The Dirty Nil's instantly-anthemic single, the band participates in synchronized aerobic warm ups, weightlifting drums and guitar amps, and consuming protein shake and hamburger diets, all to gain strength for the ultimate match. 

The band terms the filming process as "14 hours of hell that only Dave Dunham could drag us through with a smile on our faces." The satirical clip turns comically gruesome as the video concludes with the band participating in a blood-splattered, black eye inducing boxing match amongst themselves, complete with the song's thrashing guitars and pulsating drums in the background."

The first The Dirty Nil video in two years, it precedes their upcoming debut LP, Higher Power, out February 26, 2016 via Dine Alone Records. The album was produced by the band, with Shehzaad Jiwani and Adam Bentley, mixed by John Goodmanson (Sleater Kinney, Death Cab for Cutie, Unwound), and mastered by Troy Glessner (Anberlin, Neck Deep). "No Weaknesses" will be the album's first track.

Upcoming shows are at The Casbah in Hamilton on Dec. 27 and The Black Heart in London, England, on Jan. 21. We predict 2016 will be a big one for the band.

Published November 13, 2015

Melodic and retro-accented rockers Yukon Blonde are still basking in the warm glow of the positive reviews scored by their latest album On Blonde, and the band have now just posted a new video for one of its many stand-out cuts, "I Wanna Be Your Man". Given the generally sunny persona of Yukon Blonde, the video is a somewhat surprising trip to the dark side. 

It is directed by Mac Boucher, who happens to be the brother of current indie pop 'It' girl Grimes (Claire Boucher). Mac has grabbed eyeballs with his videos for Grimes' recent "Flesh Without Blood / Life In The Vivid Dream" and Tei Shei's "M&M's". In a label press release re "I Wanna Be Your Man", Boucher notes that the video “playfully makes fun of the male gaze and traditionalism. Satanic symbolism and the de-robing of religious uniform denounces the role of some patriarchal figurehead. The chopping of wood and digging of holes represents violent penetration compared to the rhythmic movements in the peach's supposed to be a video that looks beautiful, is edited with humour, and makes absolutely zero sense to the passive observer."

It starts off innocently enough, with a yacht and babes on the beach, but soon turns sinister as well as sensual. See for yourself whether it makes more than zero sense.

Along with Hey Rosetta!, Yukon Blonde are now in the middle of a 16-date cross-Canada tour (plus shows in Minneapolis and Chicago), one concluding with three nights at holy Heart Theatre in St. John's. Check their site for a full itinerary.

Published November 6, 2015

In this scribe's view, hard-working Toronto veterans The Sadies have been one of the best roots-rock bands on the planets for the last two decades. They regularly put out high-quality albums and have collaborated with the likes of Neko Case, Robyn Hitchcock, Gord Downie, and Andre Williams. Their acclaimed 2013 album Internal Sounds earned a Juno nomination and a three and a half stars Rolling Stone review (read the NCM review here.)

One of that album's killer cuts, "The Very Beginning", has now been released as a single, accompanied by a real compelling video. The clip is the second collaboration between The Sadies and director Mike Roberts, who captured a 2012 Juno Award for his short film "Rumbleseat", one set to the music of The Sadies.

In a press release, Roberts explains the concept of his clip for "The Very Beginning":  "This is The Sadies traveling the world through all seasons - through heaven and hell. An endless loop.  Sometimes with traveling, you can feel oblivious to the journey. I also love the idea of the band on a train that's a stage that can just stop and put on a show along the way."

The theme of travel is fitting given that The Sadies are such road (and rail) warriors. The eye-catching video really does capture the fiery kinetic energy of the band live (there are images of them playing with their faces afire), and the psychedelic touches perfectly capture the cosmic cowboy essence of the Sadies sound.

We recommend you check out "Rumbleseat" too, if just to see why it's the Queens of the Stone Age's favorite video.

We're pleased to hear The Sadies will enter the studio early in 2016 to make a new record. After November shows in Quebec and the U.S., the band plays London's Call The Office on Dec. 5 and Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern on Dec. 31 (with Robyn Hitchcock).

Published October 30, 2015

One of this scribe's favourite Canadian albums of this year is FÊTED:FETID, the debut album from Edmonton-based duo Concealer (read the NCM review here). They comprise singer/songwriter/bassist Mark Davis and keyboardist Missmannered, and their sound is dramatically different from the excellent rootsy work of Davis on acclaimed earlier solo albums and with country-rockers Old Reliable.

Concealer draw heavily upon '80s synth-driven post-punk, and the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain and Suicide have been used as reference points for their intense and dark sound. In our view, their album deserves more attention than it has received to date, and the release this week of an eye-catching new video for standout track "Sank" will hopefully help rectify that.

Davis terms "Sank" a song "about devotion and commotion. It's a very simple and straightforward ditty about a very difficult and complicated situation. A skeletal narrative outlines the often insoluble dilemma of the dysfunctional relationship: does one maintain it or be alone?" The subject is explored in such simple yet effective lyrics as "You know that I adore you, but I got nothing left for you in the tank".

The song's theme is now brought to vivid life via a clip that uses rapid edits and moody lighting to evoke emotional turmoil. Live footage of Concealer in action is incorporated smoothly. The clip is directed by Alice Kos, herself a fine singer/songwriter whose 2012 debut album You Missed It All merits investigation.

Concealer recently toured out West with Rae Spoon and they now head east. Those dates are 

Nov 11 at La Vitriola in Montreal, Nov 12 at Raw Sugar in Ottawa, Nov. 13 at Kaffe 1870 in Wakefield, Nov. 14 at The Artel in Kingston, and Nov. 15 at The Handlebar in Toronto. We recommend checking out the full album on BandCamp

Published October 22, 2015

Toronto noise-rock duo Not Of comprise guitarist John Ex and drummer Jason Seance. They each have an impressive pedigree via work with some major indie rock bands, but they prefer to drape a cloak of anonymity over this new project so it'll be judged on its own merits.

Which are indeed considerable. Not Of released their debut album Pique back in April (read the NCM review here.). As with the likes of Death From Above 1979 and The White Stripes, the duo prove that less can be more, creating an intense (Berlin) wall of sound that is all killer, no filler.

The fiery cut "The Mark" has been singled out by many as a favourite, and a video for the track has just surfaced. Shot by the DIVORCE team (Karl DiPelino & David Dunham), it is a textbook lesson on how a video can really serve a song and band. In minimalist fashion, with snappy editing and evocative lighting, it captures Not Of's kinetic energy in truly thrilling fashion.

The clip certainly whets one's appetite to catch Not Of in performance. They've played gigs in Toronto and Hamilton recently, and let's hope for more ahead. See more Not Of at Southern Souls and go to their BandCamp to hear more.

Published October 16, 2015

Toronto folk/pop singer/songwriter Peter Katz has earned a reputation as a fine lyricist, as reflected in a JUNO Award nomination and in his winning a CBC Galaxie Rising Star Award. He was named Best Male Vocalist by NOW Magazine in 2014, and has earned rave reviews for recent album We Are The Reckoning, released back in March (read our review here.)

The humanitarian philosophizing of the title track has had a real impact, one sure to be enhanced by a just-released video for the track. According to a press release, "the video is the culmination of a fourteen-day build that saw supporters, artists and activists, including Shad, The Trews, and astronauts from the Mars 500 mission, post about #WeAreTheReckoning on social media."

The song is further described as "powerfully evocative and defiantly idealistic, while artfully balancing haunting vocals with lyrical artistry. It’s driven by Peter Katz’ belief that “We are good. That love drives us, that we can change, that we can do great things that we didn’t know we could do. That it’s OK to be clumsy, get discouraged, make mistakes, while remembering that it’s worth it, that hope can point us towards a better world.” Ultimately, the video serves as a reminder that “…you are seen, you matter, you are the reckoning.”

We certainly found the video (directed by Justin Broadbent) eye-catching, if at times a little predictable in its pushing of buttons. Images of such heroes as Pete Seeger, Terry Fox, Mandela and Malala can be detected alongside epic shots of nature and outer space, plus dogs and kids playing.

Get a free download of this song at / Katz has just begun a tour of the Maritimes, followed by two Ontario dates (Oct. 29 at The Ashwood in Bayfield and Oct. 30 at Paddy Flaherty's in Sarnia). He plays Montreal's La Sala Rossa on Jan. 28 and Ottawa's National Arts Centre on Jan. 29.