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2014 INDIE ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2014 by TheManicBlogger

With a significant number of quality Indie releases this year, narrowing a list down to 10 albums, worthy of I Can’t Believe My Earz‘  2014 Indie Album Of The Year, was no easy task. There are some honorable mentions: Neverfriend-‘Evolve‘, The Everywheres-‘Habitualism‘, Harbour-‘Grade School Summer‘ & Social Strife-‘With Friends Like These…’.  We listened to them all, and here is our pick for the top 10 Indie Albums of 2014.

 

#10     DRUCKFARBEN————–‘Second Sound’

druck I am not certain why Druckfarben has been a mystery. These Toronto based musicians are insanely talented. It is an impressive work.   ‘Second Sound offers wonderful musical themes in an array of movements that are woven together in layers to create an incredible musical journey. This is way cool arena rock, out of the 1970s, with a 21st century bite. If you like Progressive-Rock, Druckfarben is the real deal.

 

 

#9     THE RED RAILS———-A Living Fiction

theredrailsno2The Red Rails offer ‘A Living Fiction‘, a classic rock sound immersed in blues.  The Ottawa band has a sound that reminds me of Cream meets The Black Crowes. With a 21st century edge. I like it! This is not background music. This is an album you play in its entirety. In your car. While taking a 40 minute drive down a highway. Make sure it is a highway. You cannot drive slow while listening.

 

 

 

#8     THE SATISFACTORS——–‘The Satisfactors’

the satisThe Satisfactors self titled debut album. It rocks from beginning to end with a wonderful garage groove. The songs are amazing. They are wonderfully crafted, and played with a beat that just doesn’t stop. Bruce’s vocals are great. Cool to hear from  Jersey’s Fantastic 4! The bass lines, and  guitar riffs are insanely good, and I like the less is more approach to the drumming.  This is rock ‘n’ roll the way it is meant to be played! This is Rock Til You Drop! This is The Satisfactors!

 

 

#7     SOUTH OF BLOOR——‘The Street’

south of bloorThis Toronto band has re-generated my lust for pop with the release of ‘The Street‘. The songs are exquisite 2-3 minute masterpieces. Their ability to write wonderful bridges and changes has me almost awe struck. The vocals are spectacular. The melodies, wonderful. This album delivers 5 terrific pop songs with alternative rock influences. And it works. A wonderful album. A fun time.

 

 

 

#6     TOXIC MELONS———‘Bus Therapy’

tm ‘Bus Therapy‘ is my kind of therapy. This album by Northern England’s Toxic Melons is inspiring, soul touching, and mind altering. The album plays like a journey through a toxic mind, but that’s ok. The songs are pop heaven, with shades of folk, blues, electronic, and some western influences. This Paul Fairbairn can write songs. The melodies are out of this world, and the harmonies, well, remind me of The Beach Boys. The music is wonderfully eccentric.The album is insanely addictive. It has me singing along and I haven’t figured out all of the lyrics yet!  An amazing compilation of great songs that has been placed on my must have list. Very cool.

 

 

#5     THE MINNOWS———‘Live At The Belfast Barge’

the minnowsAside from Yessongs, Waiting For Columbus and The Last Waltz, I have never been a big fan of live albums, but I have to add this Irish band’s ‘Live At The Belfast Barge to the list of great live albums. The songs are as wonderful as I remember them, and they stand up to the passage of time. The band is insanely cohesive, and the musicianship, extraordinary. I have spent the better part of the year immersed in The Minnows and I can tell you that swimming with the fishes is not a bad thing. This is a must for your collection.

 

 

#4     THE CORSETS———–‘Are You Lonely, Are You Scared’

the corsets

Are You Lonely, Are You Scared is a wonderful adventure. Toronto’s The Corsets manage to harness their individual talents into a harmonic whole that is indeed the sum of its parts. Each is easily identifiable, yet needs the other parts to be heard. The energy level is wonderfully exciting, and the songs well, incredibly creative. Add this to your collection. It is that good.

 

 

 

#3     XPRIME——–‘The Album’

xprimeXprime should be big. Hailing from Niagara Falls, Ontario, they write incredibly melodic songs with amazing harmonies and unforgettable hooks. These are talented musicians who seem to be having fun with every note played. ‘The Album‘ is a must have album. Give it 4 or 5 listens. At least. Pay particular attention to “To See You Here“, a 70′s pop-folk tune that reminds me of Poco, “Feels Like I’m The Only One“, a way cool song with R & B overtones, and “Early To The Sun“.

 

 

#2     THE AFTER HOURS——-‘Shaken, Not Stirred’

the after hoursI really like Los Angeles’ The After Hours. I am a fan! They cite among their many influences The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Kinks, The Byrds, The Zombies, The Hollies and The Turtles. Is it any wonder their music has wonderful 1960′s melodies, harmonies and riffs?  The vocals and the guitar work stand out. ‘Shaken, Not Stirred captures the essence of 60′s music. The songs are wonderfully written, and demonstrate a remarkable ability to integrate all of their influences into one cohesive and coherent sound. This is a must have album.

 

And, finally, the I Can’t Believe My Earz Indie Album Of The Year for 2014…

 

#1     THE HOT SPROCKETS——‘Brother Nature’

hsBrother Nature‘ by Ireland’s The Hot Sprockets. 13 tracks, and not a bad one to be found. I have listened to this album over and over, and it just keeps getting better. The songs are insanely good. The production, wonderful. These guys can write. These guys can play. The album has a ‘live off the floor’ feel to it. I haven’t heard this much energy in an album in a long time. The Hot Sprockets refer to their music as ‘country dirt”. I prefer to call it Irish Soul! Brother Nature is one of the most powerful albums I have heard in 2014, filled with the unusual, and the unexpected.

 

And there you have it. 10 exceptional albums. The I Can’t Believe My Earz picks for 2014. Give them a listen. Purchase them. Support Indie Music, and Indie bands.

 

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GAR FRANCIS-The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2014 by TheManicBlogger

I am not sure if there is anything Gar Francis cannot do. The Guru Of Garage has swung his guitar into The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same. Released in 2010 to the European market only, the 12 track album of Americana has finally hit North American shores and has been released by New Jersey’s Bongo Boy Records.

gf3The opening track, “Midnight In Rome“, delivers a great melody, with wonderful changes. The guitar picking is cool as hell, while the keys smolder under a hot vocal track. “How Its Supposed To Be” has an insanely powerful chorus but it takes nothing away from the licks and riff, and the dynamite organ. The Latin feel of “Palaces”  is wonderfully created by bongos, acoustic guitar, strings and organ. The effects on the harmonies are brilliant, and I dig the ‘Mexicali” themed guitar solo! “Down At The Ocean Gate” offers a great acoustic guitar solo, and way cool harmonies amid multi-tracked guitars. I like the mandolin and bongos on “Bank Of The River“, the way cool reverb of the almost rockabilly “Ole Tom’s River“, and the wonderfully Dylanesque feel to “Another Cowboy Rides” , with its great organ, guitar solo, cool riffs, and a dynamite vocal track.

 

 

The jug band vibe of “She’s Still Blue” proves once and for all that Gar Francis can write and play anything! The washboard and concertina are amazing, and the melody, so sweet. Gar’s vocals are spectacular on “Raise A Hand“, and the song’s socio-political gf4message resonates, at least,with me. The melody and harmonies highlight some way cool changes and incredibly melodic instrumentation. “The Sun Will Never Go Down” offers cool changes, a great chorus, a wonderful bass run, and beautiful choral style harmonies. I like this track. The acoustic guitar solo in “Adeline” shines amid the mandolin and bongos. The song is beautifully simple yet manages a great bridge, a dynamite chorus, and a wonderful ending. And, that leaves “Oh Annie“, my favorite track on the album. The wonderful chorus, dynamite guitar, including a way cool riff, an amazing melody, and some great organ, make this the standout track. A wonderful song with a way cool blues-rock-folk-country thing going on, that is reminiscent of Levon Helm and The Band. “Oh Annie, someone’s got to settle you down“. Indeed.

gf54This album demonstrates just how talented Gar Francis is. As a song writer; as a producer; as a musician, and a performer. I hear rockabilly, jug band, Latin, roots, blues, folk, and rock. I listened to bongos, banjo, mandolin, and organ. I heard a washboard, a concertina, and I think an upright bass. There are vocal and guitar effects. But most importantly, there are 12 incredible tracks that will hold you from beginning to end. I have been a Gar Francis fan for years, and this album has me wondering, why isn’t everybody? Get it as soon as you can. Then, put on your cowboy boots, grab your honey and have a blast. The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same is a must have album. Get yours here:  http://www.bongoboyrecords.com/Albums.html.  You can stream some of Gar’s other music here:  

 

 

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WHO WAS FIRST?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2013 by TheManicBlogger

I haven’t been to a large venue concert in a long time. I refuse to pay several hundreds of dollars for a ticket and honestly, there is really no one that I want to see. It did however, start me thinking about the first concert I went to. Truth be told, I just can’t remember. I don’t know if it is the years of illicit substance use or age induced memory failure. Or a little of both.  Sadly, I just can’t remember!

BDGRSMBAnd so, writing about my first concert is clearly an impossible task. What about my most memorable concert? Well, there was Badfinger at the old O’Keefe Centre, Spirit at the old Victory Burlesque Theatre, Tommy James, The Band, The Grateful Dead, Clapton, Jethro Tull, Harrison, and a litany of others to choose from. What would make a concert the most memorable? Well, for starters, remembering it! And so the dilemma began. I remember generalities, but no details. I remember going to see Steve Miller. I remember it was just after the release of the Book Of Dreams album. I remember Norton Buffalo was the opening act, it was at Maple Leaf Gardens and that I ate a gram of gold Lebanese  about 30 minutes before show time. Well, now i know why i can’t remember anything else!

yesAnd so, the highlight reel in my head began playing, reviewing every concert I could remember attending. I saw Yes on at least 2 occasions.  The 1st tine was following the release of Close To The Edge. I remember almost nothing. The other was the Tales From Topographic Oceans tour. I remember sitting 4th row, floors at Maple Leaf gardens. Pretty sure we were on opium. I remember bright lights, dry ice, and Jon Anderson emerging from darkness about halfway through the introduction of the “The Revealing Science Of God“.

genesisI saw Genesis, not the And Then There Were Three version, but the real Genesis, with Peter Gabriel. You know, “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway“, genesis. I saw Queen, right after the release of Sheer Heart Attack and remember nothing.

It was suggested that I write about the 1st concert I remember. I couldn’t tell you what that was. Another suggestion was t write about the last concert I attended. Not surprising, I can’t remember hat either. Had I known this would happen, I would have attended concerts in alphabetical order, beginning with AC/DC and ending with ZZ Top. The only certainty in my concert going days, is that I never saw The Beatles. Now, that I surely would have remembered.

https://icantbelievemyearz.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/review-archives/

AND THE BANDS PLAY ON

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2013 by TheManicBlogger

americaI was recently at the local track here in Toronto, and was surprised to see a billboard advertising a performance by America. America? “Ventura Highway“, “Lonely People“, “Sister Golden Hair“, America? Yep, that America. I was surprised for two reasons: What was this band doing playing at at race track, and secondly, can there really be an America without Dan Peek?

3dognightIt has become increasingly common for bands to continue on following the death or departure of one of the founding members. Years ago I went to Casino Rama to see Three Dog Night and was somewhat disappointed that only two of the Dogs appeared. Chuck Negron was not touring with the band at that time. It was a great show, but Chuck’s vocals were noticeably absent.

It appears that if the “front man” is strong and charismatic enough a band can go on without missing a beat following the departure of a member. The Rolling Stones moved on following the departure and subsequent untimely death of Brian Jones, replacing him with Mick Taylor and then with Ronnie Wood. Bill Wyman’s departure had no impact either-he was replaced by Darryl Jones. Following the death of Keith Moon in 1978, The Who released 2 albums of moderate success and disbanded in 1983. The remaining 3 members continued to perform until John Entwhistle’s death in 2002. Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend continue to perform as The Who, but are they really?

yes-band-np01Yes has taken to touring, performing entire albums of The Yes Album, Close To The Edge, and Going For The One. I was always a huge Yes fan. From Time And A Word up to Relayer. Never really like Going For The One or subsequent albums.. Hard to imagine Close To The Edge without Jon Anderson! Hard to imagine Yes without Jon Anderson!

INXS1INXS is another failed attempt to carry on. Following the death of singer Michael Hutchence in 1997, the band attempted to replace him with vocalists Jimmy Barnes, Terrance Trent D’arby and Jon Stevens. Really? With little success, the band participated in a reality show, Rock Star:INXS in 2005 and selected J.D. Fortune as their new lead singer. He was replaced by Ciaran Gribbon in 2011 and the band formally put an end to their misery in 2012.

Skynyrdpic7301The saddest of these attempts at carrying on, is Lynyrd Skynyrd. Following the death of Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines in 1977, Skynyrd disbanded. 10 years later, they reformed, using Johnny Van Zant, Ronnie’s younger brother as vocalist. (There is a 3rd brother, Donnie, better known as the lead singer for 38 special). Currently there is only 1 original member left in the band. Yet they tour and record as Lynyrd Skynyrd!  Apparently, owning the name or getting consent to use the name, gives anyone an opportunity to try to be Lynyrd Skynyrd. I have heard this incarnation, and no one, and I mean no one can sing “Gimme Three Steps  “, “You Got That Right“, and “What’s Your Name” like Ronnie Van Zant. May as well they bring on “Miami” Steve Van Zandt as the front man! Yeah, I know its spelled differently, but what difference does it make? Still not Ronnie Van Zant!

The-BeatlesIs everyone replaceable in a band? Impossible to believe that any one of The Beatles could have left and the band carried on. Perhaps they would have had to find look a likes. AC/DC replaced Bon Scott and had remarkable success. Journey replaced Steve Perry with a sound alike. So who is dispensable? It doesn’t make much of a difference to me. Don’t try to sell me tickets to The Grateful Dead without Jerry Garcia. Don’t tell me The Band is reuniting without Danko, Helm and Manuel. And don’t ask me to listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd without Ronnie Van Zant.

Is it really so difficult to disband and carry on under a new name?  Would U2 be U2 without The Edge? Jefferson Airplane had the decency to reform as Jefferson Starship. Its not about respect but rather a belief that the great music that had been created should be a legacy of a great band. Leave it as such. Reform under a different name, but let me remember Lynyrd Skynyrd, INXS, America and many others as they were. Amazing bands with a catalog of great music. Replacements never quite do the music justice, and more often than not, destroy the legacy left by these incredibly gifted musicians.

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WE CAN BE HEROES-Where I Want To Be

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2013 by TheManicBlogger

wcbh2From the hometown of Garth Hudson (The Band), Skip Spence (Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape) and Jeff Martin (The Tea Party), Windsor, Ontario’s, We Can Be Heroes are plotting their own course for success. Currently devoting themselves to perfecting their live show and increasing their fan base, this power-pop band released their six track EP, Where I Want To Be, in 2011.

Jack Links” has a great melody, with vocals supported by bass and drums which allows the vocal track to be highlighted. Guitar and harmonies are added at the chorus. The rhythm section is heavy but there is a nice guitar riff throughout. The slower tempo of “Violet, You’re Turning Violet“, allows Josh Peltier‘s voice to take command of the melody. Great drum shots and  harmonies make this a powerful song with a punk-rock feel. “We Break Deals And Bones” opens with simple guitar picking, followed by  military like drum rolls, while the powerful guitar chords add fullness to the song. The power pop-punk style of “Cigarettes“, showcases the heavy drumming of Doug Huha, while the guitar harmonics sustain the melody. “Ego” has strong vocals and a solid melody but its the harmonies that shine in  this song. The best track on the album, “Changing With The Seasons” has an exceptional melody, the driving guitars of Chris Holt and Tyler Shelson, heavy cymbals and incredibly strong harmonies to support the vocal track.  Great song!

wcbh1I also listened to “Movements“, a single the band released in 2012. Less melodic than the earlier EP, it leans more towards punk-rock. Musically very strong with a great rock ending, it lacks the subtle pop qualities of “Changing With The Seasons“.

A solid band with a solid sound. Where I Want To Be is a fun listen. We Can Be Heroes have great potential and the ability to write good songs. They bring strong vocals, pop melodies and wonderful harmonies to their music. Certainly worth a couple of listens and a live show or two. You can see them live on August 2 in Windsor, and on August 8 in London, On.

To listen to We Can Be Heroes, click on the link: http://wecanbeheroes.bandcamp.com/album/where-i-want-to-be

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JANE’S PARTY: Hot Noise

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2013 by TheManicBlogger

Home grown Toronto band, and Cameron House regulars Jane’s Party have recently completed their album, “Hot Noise” as the follow up to their 2009  debut, “The Garage Sessions” and the 2011 EP, “Jane’s Party EP“.  Released on Cameron House Records, this Indie band  reminds us what 1960’s pop-rock sounds like.

jane's partyThe opening track, “Palm Reading“, is a wonderful summer patio sitting or driving with the top down song. The light, willowy keys and emphatic drum shots highlight this track. . “Dutch Blue Sky” has a subtle country feel, with twangy vocals and guitars that conjure images of the railroad. The Young Rascals could have recorded “Loose Ends” in a 1960’s New York session. The bluesy tone and carnival feel of “Miles Away” and the subtle funk of “Reds and Blues” demonstrates the band’s ability to write in different genres while staying true to their roots. “Anytime Now” is a classic pop song, encouraging you to clap your hands and tap your feet. “Seasons” has  time signature changes, ethereal keyboards and a very heavy guitar riff, and asks the question, When did The Kinks meet The Beach Boys?  “Meet Me Halfway” shines as the best track on the album. This tune embraces a guitar solo that should be on a Lovin’ Spoonful album, excitingly simple drumming, basic production values and a Beatlesque ending .  What more could anyone want in an album? Every song has wonderfully full and simple harmonies. Not a bad one to be found here.

jane's party1I don’t know where I have been for the past four years and why I was not invited, but Jane’s Party is the event of the season. These guys can write songs with intricate melodies and sophisticated harmonies and make it seem simple. They understand that less is more. They value the song.They have an innate sense of classic pop and have a whole lot of fun making music. With influences such as The Beatles, The Band and The Kinks, what else should we have been expecting?

You can see Jane’s Party playing everywhere as they head out to promote their album. To listen to them, follow the link below:

http://music.cbc.ca/#/artists/Janes-Party

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