Music News: Polaris Prize, Beat Happening, and more

Welcome to a new SpiritLive blog regular feature where we go over some of the music news making the rounds. There’s a lot to cover so let’s get right into it:

  • For the tenth year, the Polaris Music Prize was handed out last night at a lavish 3-hour ceremony held at the Carlu in Toronto, hosted by children’s entertainer Fred Penner. A group of 11 music journalists deemed Buffy Saint-Marie’s Power in the Blood to be the best Canadian album released between June 1st, 2014 and May 31st, 2015, chosen out of a field of 10 shortlisted records, which included Jennifer Castle’s Pink City, Braids’ Deep in the Iris, and Alvvays’ self-titled debut. Read the official press release here.
  • Domino Records released a career-spanning compilation by legendary Olympia, Washington trio Beat Happening. Released digitally today, with a double-LP vinyl release coming in November, the release seems to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the band’s first album, although they formed several years prior. While the band has not played a show since sometime in the early 1990s, they’ve never officially broken up. Could this reissue be paving the way for a reunion? Normally I’m weary of bands getting back together, but Beat Happening’s music was always so simple, and lead singer Calvin Johnson has retained a youthful energy through his solo career and remains a captivating performer, I could see them getting back together for some shows and still being as fantastic as they were back in the day. More info here.
  • Drake released a new mixtape with Future. I think it’s only streaming on Apple Music right now, and I don’t use that service, so I haven’t been able to listen to it yet. If you’re reading this Drake, it’s too late, I’m already upset.
  • Toronto freaks Soupcans have announced a new album. Soft Party drops November 17th through excellent local label Telephone Explosion. Soupcans are one of the best bands in the city and I truly can’t wait for this record! You better believe we’ll be spinning it. Pre-order it here.
  • Ryan Adams dropped his Taylor Swift 1989 cover record yesterday, but you already knew that.

That’s it for today, now you’re all caught up! We’ll have more news soon I’m sure. You know those musicians, always getting up to something!


We’re Back! It’s Time to Apply For a Show!

With the Fall 2015 semester already in full swing, we are ready to accept applications for new shows.

Are you an RTA student? Think you’ve got a great idea for a show? Looking for a creative outlet? Want to get more involved in the RTA community?  Complete a show application here.

Applications will be accepted until September 30, 2015.

REVIEW – Best Releases – March 2015

By Aidan D’Aoust


American Wrestlers – American Wrestlers

We’re not sure if the unusual pricing on bandcamp is on purpose, but we’d probably pay $1000 to hear more music from this Missouri-based band.


Who’s Gonna Get F***** First? – Father

Atlanta has been on a tear this last little while and Noisey showed us why the spotlight on the city is here to stay. This latest offering by Father is something we didn’t even know we wanted, but we’re glad it’s in our life right now.


Carrie & Lowell – Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens returns from his hiatus with this beautifully somber effort. Carrie & Lowell is one of our favorite records this year and may be the singer-songwriter’s best album yet.


Hold On – Bombadil

Bombadil crafts some really funky baroque pop on Hold On. If you enjoy San Fermin, or Mother Falcon, go give this an extended listen.


To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

If you’re not already listening to this album, we’re here to remind you to do so.


RTA Mixtape 2015 – Submissions

By Staff

It’s a tradition as old as time (if “old as time” means 13 years. If not, then we’re bending the rules of time, like that movie Interstellar. We are partially using this post to start a conversation about that movie. Verdict: Not Nolan’s best, but definitely an ambitious and worthwhile effort. 7/10, it’s a must rent!).

We are looking for submissions for our RTA Mixtape series. Think you have what it takes to join an exclusive list of RTA alumni like these fine people? Well then you cocky sun of a gun, why don’t you prove it!

Send your music file to and include:
– The names of all individuals that took part in the recording (at least one must be in RTA).
– Artist and song name.
– What year of RTA you’re in.
– A lossless file of the track (.wav, .aiff, or .flac)

We look forward to hearing them! Hurry, submissions close April 5!

Mayraki – SPIRITlive Sessions

By Staff

SPIRITlive’s Aaron Bechard sat down with Toronto-based fusion band Mayraki to talk about their formation, pre-show rituals, and time on their new label. After their interview, the group stayed to perform in-studio. Check it out above.

Mayraki Live Dates:

3/20 – Velvet Underground

3/28 – Annette Studios

Slurrup – Liam Hayes REVIEW

Artist: Liam Hayes

Album: Slurrup

By Laura MacInnes-Rae

Clad in sunglasses with a thick head of curly brown hair, he bares a striking resemblance to Bob Dylan. If you go to his website, Hayes spells it all out for you, short and sweet. “plush is liam hayes. plush is a band. liam hayes is plush. liam hayes is a songwriter.” Humble to say the least. This statement exists to erase any confusion surrounding all of his musical releases, both under his band name and those as a solo artist. The Chicago-born musician dropped his 4th studio album (self-titled) this past January on Fat Possum Records.

Sound check. Beginning first with some studio banter, a bending guitar riff launches the listener head first into the opening track. It tumbles into a chaotic electric groove for a minute and thirty seconds. It sets up the listener for track two, a punchy call and response from Hayes and his guitar.

“Greenfield” would prove to be the perfect soundtrack for a lonely sole smoking a spliff on their front porch in summer heat. This dreamy whine illustrates a sentimental despondence of sorts: “I’m dying, looking for a name, oh I found the letters n’ the letters look the same.”

Unlike Plush, there are no horns, but the album nonetheless takes on a nostalgic sound reminiscent of Velvet Underground, an ode to 70s rock.  Hayes integrates little sections of psychedelic guitar into his riff-heavy songs seamlessly. He amps up the reverb in “Keys to Heaven” with a catchy pop-rock story. “They offered me the keys to heaven, so I would stay inside the hell. They chased me right until the doorway, cuz when I left they knew I’d tell.” This track exhibits just some of the clever lyrical pockets embedded within the record. The accent piano is a crisp compliment to this chipper tune channeling a foggy Roy Bittan-esque sound. The tune is complete with a false ending to preface its anthemic finish.

“Channel 44” takes the listeners on a rollercoaster ride, literally. Hayes took creative liberties to a new height and incorporated what sounds like diegetic theme park sound; perhaps a token of his humour to tribute childhood nostalgia. The last song on the album transitions into a tongue-in-cheek (or rather out of a bowl) track consisting of slurping sounds. Enjoy with a straw kids.

SPIRITlive Best Song Ever 2015

By Staff

 We all have our favourite song. The one you request at the club,  the one you sing in the shower, the one you invented a dance to, or the one you blast in your Honda Civic so loudly, you feel it in the seats. You know why it’s the best song ever composed, even though your friends may not always agree with you. Well good news, now you have a chance to prove why you’re objectively right. Yes, a contest where you can prove that you truly have the greatest taste in music. We here at SPIRITlive are giving you that chance. We are excited to introduce our first ever, “SPIRITlive Best Song Ever” tournament. Pick your favourite song, write a short 200 word defense, and you’ll be submitted to win a bracket style championship. We’ll have weekly updates on how your song is performing in polls, and more importantly how it how it fared in front of a panel of expert judges. If your submission outlasts the others, you will be claimed the victor and take home a prize pack including vinyls, CDs and more! 

What we need from you:

– Your name and contact info (phone and personal email)

-The title of your favourite song

– A link to the actual media (YouTube, Soundcloud, Vimeo)

– A short 200 word argument as to why you think (blank) is the best piece of music ever!

Submissions are due at the end of the month (March 31st) and should be sent to with the subject line “Best Song Ever 2015”.

Good luck!

Black Messiah – D’Angelo REVIEW

Artist: D’Angelo and the Vanguard

Album: Black Messiah

By Trey Robinson

Fourteen years after he released his R&B classic, Voodoo, some might hesitate to say that this man still makes “good” music.  In fact, the truth is D’Angelo has stepped back onto the scene with not “good” music, but a work of art.  A masterpiece.

 Black Messiah begins with “Ain’t That Easy,” a track with such rawness that shows up in the filtered guitar.  The layered vocals, raw harmonies and that raw guitar all welcome you into the world of the Black Messiah: “you can’t leave me, it ain’t that easy… (no way)… when i want you to stay.”  This song is quite simply a delicate balance of screeching guitars, live drums, and that soulful R&B feel we expect from a track like this.
Following its grand opening is “The Charade,” with its impeccable bass guitar and just a hint of political rage (“All we wanted was a chance to talk/‘Stead, we only got outlined in chalk…Revealing at the end of the day, the charade”) that is themed throughout the entire album.  Amazingly enough, D’Angelo manages to pull you in real close with such charm that cuts through in the vocals (and instruments).  He does it so ever so clever while drawing inspiration from a long history of societal injustice.
D’Angelo manages to maintain the theme and sound in “Sugah Daddy,” a feel-good track with none other than those amazing layered chorus vocals and that falsetto that his stardom is attributed to (“Girl’s got a worldly view/What’s a sassy girl to do/And if the decision was left up to me/ You best believe I would be her sugar daddy”).  The song comprises wholly of claps that feel so organic, it’s as if someone were patting on their leg and clapping along to the beat right beside you (thanks to good ol’ panning).  It’s safe to say that the trumpet and the organic acoustic piano riff along with D’Angelo’s effortless vocal runs are hands down, amazing (“She said I promise that I’ll sock it to you, Daddy”); and fun.
Unfortunately, Black Messiah does not end with mediocrity.  Fourteen years is simply way too long to ever have that type of misfortune.  Quite frankly, the vocals in “Another Life” are just as good, if not better than ever before.  The dynamics in the vocals and overall quality of the song are once again, impeccable.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, D’Angelo’s long awaited release and follow-up to his last album has proved to be one of the best 56 minutes you might ever be able to experience in a lifetime.
Rating: 10/10 (times 14 years.)

Stars – Danforth Music Hall LIVE REVIEW

Artist: Hey Rosetta! & Stars

Date: Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Venue: Danforth Music Hall

By Laura MacInnes-Rae

Photo by Karin Kazakevich

I must admit, until tonight I was indeed a Danforth Music Hall virgin. Only now can I wholeheartedly deem the concert hot spot my new favourite venue in Toronto. I arrived in haste just as Hey Rosetta! performed their final song “Welcome.” If unfamiliar, it features just a taste of the musical talent these Newfies possess. During the bridge, front man Tim Baker’s isolated guitar rang out full throttle into a reverb welcomed by the hall’s walls. The group is touring in support of their latest album, Second Sight, released this past October.

An unlikely bill, the transition between sets took a little getting used to. Stars’ stage scene was far less humble, with neon laser lights and a large illuminated band banner. But front man Torquil Campbell showed no hesitance in welcoming the audience with what appeared to be a dramatic summoning of energy, staring eyes-closed and poised facing the crowd. The band’s haunting harmonies shone as they performed tracks like “You’re Ex-Lover is Dead” and “Calendar Girl” as well as more pop-concentrated material including radio hit “Trap Door,” off their most recent album No One Is Lost.

Photo by Karin Kazakevich

The Montreal-based indie poppers consist of five primary members, with vocalist/guitarist Amy Millan and partner/bassist Evan Cranley also playing in Broken Social Scene.

During their performance of “Hold On When You Get Love…,” Campbell made the crowd roar when he switched the lyrics “and the radio won’t play it,” to “and only Indie88 plays it” (the Toronto shout out very tongue-in-cheek). He commanded the audience, singing “put your hands up cuz everybody dies”; fans followed while the band engulfed the building in a massive bubble of sound during the chorus of “No One Is Lost.” The mix of new material and older sentimental tracks off “Set Yourself on Fire,” with hints of an Arcade Fire sound danced through the air; songs that celebrate and romanticize nights spent out were embraced by the energetic congregation of party people.

Photo by Karin Kazakevich

The electric chemistry between Campbell and Millan was evident, weaving themselves around each other during harmonies, which complimented some of their more romantic-themed material. They both put on an engaging show, each of them radiating in satisfaction, feeding off of the audience’s energy. The pair’s stage theatrics suggest a deep bond and musicianship between the two. After all, Stars is no stranger to the stage, performing for the past 15 years, their most recent of 6 studio albums was released in October 2014. Campbell held back no words in his acknowledgement of the fans’ loyalty and support, pausing the set to give them a lengthy, sincere thank you.

After their three-night residency at the Danforth Music Hall here in Toronto this past weekend, Hey Rosetta! and Stars will be continuing their North American tour to promote both of their new releases.

Photo by Karin Kazakevich

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Drake’s New Mixtape – Explained in Emojis

By Aidan D’Aoust

"Just you and me again, coffee"

Take a moment and imagine that you’re Drake. Sounds great so far, right? OK, now imagine that you’re Drake and it’s getting closer and closer to Valentine’s Day. You’re hip-hop’s love martyr, destined to live out the rest of your life in utter emotional anguish for the benefit of your own art. You’re Heartbreak Drake, it’s two days before Valentine’s Day, and you exist in a cold world where unlimited money, power, and success isn’t enough to find love. The worst part of it all? You’re about to spend a day hearing about all of the lucky ones who don’t have that problem. But you’re Drake and you can shift society’s attention onto yourself by dropping a mixtape full of one-liners, switch up flows, and surprise features…so in the fear of spending another Valentine’s Day alone, you drop “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late”.

I spent the last two days listening to Drake’s new mixtape and will now explain it, track-by-track, the only way my generation can: through the power of emojis (with annotations for those of you over 23).

How we feel waking up to new music


Money taught Drake Spanish. I wish Mrs. Lopez gave me money in grade 3. Maybe I would’ve been rich and bilingual.


His acting days are over because he’s on the way up. But Drizzy Domestic still has time for the family in Canada.

10 Bands:

Drake’s not taking your calls, he’s too busy flexing and counting his bands…which he then gives up doing because there’s simply too many. Maybe he’ll unmute his phone now.

Know Yourself:

Running through the 6, counting cash, and driving expensive cars. You know how that goes! Except no you don’t, because you’re not Drake.

No Tellin:

There’s no telling, because Aubrey doesn’t snitch.

Drake's most handy response


You could have been as big as Madonna, but you made other plans. Oh no, no, no.

6 God:
Drake with the statement track. He’s got us praying for that new album, comes off looking cool as ever and establishes the church of the 6ix.


The phone is disconnected. Someone’s asking Drizzy to leave a message. Lotta talk about phones.

Drake just before recording "Star67"


We’re doing beach things in Miami! Hey, drinks for all of the ladies that couldn’t make it out! Man, we’re all having so much fun…why are we still sad?

Wednesday Night Interlude:

Oh no! Now PARTYNEXTDOOR is lonely too? For real, it sounds like he’s swimming in his own tears. Drake, you need to get new friends, this is getting unhealthy for you to be around, dawg.

Used To (ft. Lil Wayne):

Just a couple of best buds sharing bars and throwing shade at their label.

Just some bros looking for loopholes in their contracts

6 Man:

The gift that keeps on giving for the Toronto Raptors. This time it’s Lou Williams who’s getting the bump. Also, our boy reminds us that he has the work ethic of a single mother.

Now & Forever:

He’s leaving. Where to? Probably somewhere expensive.

Company (ft. Travi$ Scott):

You can’t hurry love Drake! Especially if you’re flat out admitting you’re a dog. Travis Scott rushes in and jangles the keys, hoping for us to forget how sad our boy is. Too late La Flame…the damage is done.

You & The 6:

Drake, if you’re trying to get your parents back together, using Home Alone and Game Of Thrones references probably won’t help. Unless they actually watch Game of Thrones, in which case, they’re pretty cool.


Why aren’t you making time for Drake? He’s really trying to make an effort here and you just done broke his heart again.

Us listening to "Jungle"

6PM in New York:

Oh, the world that would’ve been had Drake pursued his fallback career in the computer industry. If only he pursued Silicon Valley as much as he pursues women on Instagram.

We feel you man...

You can buy “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” on iTunes. Look out for Drake’s next project “Views From The 6” when it drops later this year.