Pop Goes The Week: FREE FOO FOR ALL!

Each week, SpiritLive will be rounding up the biggest stories from around the mainstream music world, along with the most buzz-worthy pop culture moments in order to keep our readers entertained and informed.

CHRISTMAS CAME EARLY! THE FOO FIGHTERS DROP A SURPRISE, FREE EP!

If you’re a Foo Fighters fan, you know that the band has been alluding to a big announcement with the posting of a mysterious countdown clock on their official website some time ago. Now that the clock has run out, the whole world has been treated to brand new Foo…for free. FREE! The powerhouse rock band released a 5-song EP entitled Saint Cecilia, named after the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin, Texas where the songs were recorded. It features everything from the sweet sounds of throwback Foo on the track “Sean” to a melt-your-face-off guitar solo at the beginning of “Savior Breath” (bonus points for that nice play on words boys). Each free download comes with a .PDF copy of a moving, lengthy letter penned by frontman Dave Grohl, chronicling the band’s journey over the past few years: the creation of their documentary and complimentary album Sonic Highways, the now infamous #BreakALeg tour and the making of this new EP – the perfect gift for the Foo faithful.

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You can grab your free copy of “Saint Cecilia,” as well as read Dave Grohl’s open letter to fans here.

Adele’s 25 Reigns Supreme, #Duh

After weeks of speculation and prediction, Adele has put an exclamation point on her triumphant return to music by selling 2.3 million – that’s right, MILLION – copies of 25 in a single weekend, and that’s just in the US alone. To put that into perspective, the next album with the highest selling debut week (a full WEEK people) of 2015 was Justin Bieber’s latest, Purpose, which sold only 649,000 copies. Basically, homegirl smashed it. She’ll comfortably surpass reigning champs *NSYNC (shocking, we know – #SorryJT), who hold the record for most copies sold in the US in a single week with the 2000 release of No Strings Attached – 2,416,000 TRUE fan girls assembled during that iconic week. Step your game up Directioners.

You can catch the North American television premiere of her special “Adele: Live In London” tomorrow, Wednesday November 25th at 8:00 pm on CTV. To tide you over until then, watch her amazing SNL performance of “When We Were Young” from this past weekend; if that isn’t enough, you’ll find her isolated vocals here.

City & Colour Announces Canadian Tour

Dallas Green and co. will be hitting the road this upcoming June to promote his latest album, If I Should Go Before You. The offering is a bit of a departure for the tortured Canadian crooner – think more 70s rock sensibility and less crawl-into-the-fetal-position-and-weep-triggering lyrics. He’ll be joined by genre-melding singer songwriter Shakey Graves, the Austin native behind the alternative radio hit “Dearly Departed” featuring Esme Patterson. If you’re down for an evening of gorgeous musicianship, the pair will be playing the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre in Toronto on Saturday, June 18th.

If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, here’s the first single off of City and Colour’s If I Should Go Before You, “Wasted Love.”

Review: Grimes – Art Angels

It’s not uncommon to get caught up in the idea of an artist as a creator; it’s their originality that makes you feel as though they can do no wrong. I used to believe Grimes fell into this category. Claire Boucher’s catalogue is a prime example of her inhibition as a musician – she isn’t afraid to get weird and experimental, regardless of the opinions of critics and audiences alike. Despite this, Visions, her 2012 offering, was a dreamy underground electro-pop masterpiece that garnered critical acclaim and catapulted her into the Canadian music spotlight. Grimes’ latest, Art Angels, seems to have taken a different musical direction, one which doesn’t quite match the quality of her previous releases.

There are some really fantastic tracks on the album, including the first single “Flesh Without Blood.” “Venus Fly,” which features the talented Janelle Monae, has a strong, driving bass and dreamy, layered vocals that intertwine seamlessly with a string section. Songs like “Scream” simply don’t compare; the collaboration with Aristophanes, a Taiwanese rapper, is overwhelming. The fast foreign rhymes paired with Boucher’s periodic shrieks, sitting on top of a poorly produced track is Art Angels biggest flop. And while there’s nothing wrong with playing around with familiar sounds, I found myself questioning whether or not I had heard “California” – the second track on the album – before; it took me a moment to realize that the beat is almost an exact match to Rihanna’s debut single “Pon De Replay.”

Lyrics like “When you leave I feel so defeated/You come and go, but I love you so” come off as generic and simple. While Grimes is attempting to break the mould amongst her fellow female “pop” artists with the unique production on Art Angels, her writing seems cookie-cutter.

In the past, Boucher has approached vocal delivery in a variety of different ways, but has always had the ability to make herself sound very natural and relaxed. Her experimentation with constant high-pitched vocalization over somewhat strained singing doesn’t seem to pay off. Some of her performances seem forced, creating choppy and harsh-sounding tracks. The album as a whole feels like a puzzle she is trying to piece together, but there are a few vital pieces missing.

I don’t want to place a glass ceiling over an artist like Boucher, but I can’t pretend to love the album simply because it’s trendy to like Grimes right now. Though there are some great tracks on Art Angels, it all just feels a little too bubblegum in my opinion.

6/10

By: Alex Reinprecht

Pop Goes The Week: Peace, Love & Adele

Each week, SpiritLive will be rounding up the biggest stories from around the mainstream music world, along with the most buzz-worthy pop culture moments in order to keep our readers entertained and informed.

All About Adele: It’s The British Songstress’ World – We’re Just Living In It

Unless you’ve been living in a bunker a la Kimmy Schimdt, you’re probably well aware that Adele has a new album dropping next week. While the first single, “Hello,” has caused an absolute frenzy – it’s become the most downloaded digital track in HISTORY and currently holds the #1 spot on nearly every chart Billboard tabulates, including their “Radio Songs” list, an honour a 4-week old track hasn’t held since Ms. Mariah Carey released “Dreamlover” in 1993 (that’s 22 years ago people!) – we’re finally getting a taste of what the rest of 25 is going to sound like. Check out her latest, a live performance of “When We Were Young,” posted to her official VeVo YouTube channel early this morning, below:

And in an exciting Canadian connection, “When We Were Young” is the result of a collaboration between the British beauty and Arts & Crafts artist and B.C. native Tobias Jesso Jr. In a fantastic piece published by The Guardian, Adele interviews Jesso Jr. on everything from songwriting, dream collaborators and his favourite things (click here!)

The Biebs Vs. 1D: Who Came Out On Top?

As we reported with the utmost respect for journalistic integrity, both One Direction and Justin Bieber dropped their new LPs this past Friday, November 13th. Despite the superstar boy band having an early upper hand thanks to a boost in hard copy sales due to an exclusive bonus four track edition available in big box retailers, it’s looking like Bieber will come out on top. According to Billboard, the Canadian export is reportedly slated to sell 525, 000 copies of Purpose when it’s all said and done, beating out 1D’s projected 475, 000 for Made In The A.M. And with that, #TheBiebs will easily capture the #1 spot on the Hot 200 chart. We simply have this to say Directioners:

Paris Attacks: An Unfortunate Music Connection

Tragically – as part of a series of terrorist attacks in Paris – at least 87 young people were killed while attending an Eagles of Death Metal show at the Bataclan Concert Hall. One of those to died was Nick Alexander, the band’s merch manager, who also worked on a variety of tours with other acts including The Black Keys, Fall Out Boy and Alice In Chains. As a result of the massacre, both U2 and the Foo Fighters cancelled scheduled performances; local Toronto group, the OBGMs, had a show of theirs cancelled in the region and spoke about the events via Skype on Global News Toronto’s evening newscast yesterday (2:28 – 3:06). In an act of solidarity with EODM, fans in the UK have created a social media campaign to push their cover of Duran Duran’s “Save A Prayer” to the top of the charts. You can read about the effort Time Magazine’s website.

 

Freaky Friday: Battle Of The Boyz

It’s Friday the 13th, so naturally all of our worst nightmares are coming true.

Both One Direction and Justin Bieber have released their new LPs today, entitled “Made In The A.M.” and “Purpose” respectively. No doubt you’ve been made aware of the Biebs’ comeback – this has been a longer promotional campaign than those dedicated to Presidential candidates – but this day also marks a pivotal moment for 1D, as they attempt to capture the same commercial success without former member Zayn Malik, who’s kept busy since quitting the superstar boy band by feuding with other celebrities on Twitter and watching both his professional and personal life unravel before his very eyes.

We suggest steering clear of any and all trending topics on social media for the next 24 hours if you hate Top 40 tunes and aggressive, obsessive adolescent #FanGirls. But if you love a good cat fight, we here at SpiritLive got your back; please enjoy our reenactment of a battle of wits between a Directioner and a Belieber on this historic day for music, and – let’s face it – all of mankind.

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Well that was…something*

*On behalf of the entire SpiritLive Staff, we apologize for subjecting our readers to the contents of this post; please find it in your heart to forgive us

By: Julia Lennox 

Review: Oh Wonder – Oh Wonder

It has never been easier to indulge in electronic pop music; it’s absolutely everywhere these days. But if you have yet to explore the genre, now is the perfect time, with the recent release of London-based, up-and-coming electro-pop duo Oh Wonder’s self-titled debut album. Full of charming tunes, Oh Wonder lacks the first-time jitters that tend to effect an artist’s first full length, major label recording.

Featuring exceptional mixing and production, vibrant electronic melodies, and gorgeous vocals, these newbies are off to a fantastic start. The attention they’ve been able to sustain since they began releasing singles in early 2015 is impressive, resulting in the addition of far more North American stops on their tour, including Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall on January 23rd, 2016.

The album progresses from the cheerful and upbeat to slow and nostalgic, all while maintaining a consistent sound from beginning to end. The songs are brilliant on their own, but are also incredible remixed, the most popular being Louis The Child’s reinterpretation of “Body Gold.” Despite the strength of the instrumentation, the duo’s vocal performances also shine. The lyrics are touching and comforting, linking artist with audience.

Overall, Oh Wonder’s inaugural LP sets the bar extremely high for the group, as well as other acts blending pop music and EDM.

8/10

By: Lauren Emberson

Review: Foals – What Went Down

What Went Down, the latest release from Foals, is a stunning combination of growing and experimenting as a group, all while staying true to their roots. Not only does the album leave the listener with a feeling of absolute euphoria, it exceeded any expectations I had prior to giving it a spin.

Although there are plenty of familiar elements – the intense noisy build, catchy rhythmic plucking, strong electronic beats, and vocals flooded with reverb – What Went Down explores a new side of their music, creating a story worth telling and a journey to be experienced. Their sound has transformed from a mess of white noise and overly raw expression of emotion to a refined and exceptionally mixed masterpiece.

Each transition from one track to the next is incredibly smooth. The band’s outstanding use of echo creates an enchanting feeling from start to finish. The entire album is a grand mixture of instrumentals, electronic mixing, and complimentary lyrics and vocals; the attention to detail throughout is evident.

Foals have filled What Went Down with a great balance of familiar tunes for the long time fan, and fun experiential songs for new listeners. Despite recordings being cleaner than ever, the band continued to experiment and push boundaries, resulting in emotionally heavy lyrics and electronic, aesthetically pleasing layers of sound. If you have yet to listen, I would highly recommend picking up your headphones. Rather than simply producing the catchy tunes that are expected of them, Foals have truly created a real tangible experience. (Warner Brothers Records, 2015)

9/10

By: Lauren Emberson

Pop Goes The Week: Hotline Meme

Each week, SpiritLive will be rounding up the biggest stories from around the mainstream music world, along with the most buzz-worthy pop culture moments in order to keep our readers entertained and informed.

Older, White, Politicized Men ‘Slay’ Drake’s Hotline Bling Choreo

You can file this under “Things I Never Wanted To Witness, But These Videos Have Flooded My Timeline.” Thanks to fantastic political satire powerhouses located both North and South of the border, the Internet was treated to some interesting interpretations of the now infamous, iconic choreography the one and only #6ixGod blessed an unsuspecting general public with. Canada’s own The Hour Has 22 Minutes recruited NDP Leader Tom Mulcair to shake his ‘tail feather’ (can we say tail feather?) to our newly appointed national anthem, while Saturday Night Live enlisted host Donald Trump to break it down alongside Martian Short (among others). In case you’ve been living under a rock, you can check out both moving performances below.

Mulcair’s Moves:

Trump’s Talent:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_-bp07UbVQ

Canadians Spittin’ Straight FIRE; Dominate the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10

While Adele’s mega smash “Hello” catapulted the British songstress to the #1 spot (DAMN IT ADELE, THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!), the Canadian artist takeover of the remainder of the top 10 – which has been in full swing for the past two weeks – is still going strong. Justin Bieber’s catchy AF Skrillex collab “Sorry” debuted at #2, while Drake and Shawn Mendes captured the #3 and #6 spot respectively. Bieber also sits at #5 with “What Do You Mean?” while The Weeknd also makes multiple appearances at #4 with “The Hills” and at #10 with “Can’t Feel My Face.” In true Canadian fashion, our highest entry is apologetic. #sorryNOTsorryAmerica amiright?!

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THE FINDING DORY TRAILOR IS OUT! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!

THANK YOU DISNEY GODS! After an AGONIZING wait, we’re finally getting the first look at the Finding Nemo sequel, Finding Dory. Ellen DeGeneres premiered the short trailer on her daytime talk show’s YouTube channel, and the Interwebs is already abuzz. From what we can tell, it looks as though everyone’s favourite forgetful fish has some sort of brain blast that triggers a memory of her family, sending her – along with our favourite father/son Clown Fish duo (okay, the ONLY father/son Clown Fish duo) – on another adventure. Check out the 1:30 clip below. For the record, we’re still in a glass case of emotion.

Review: Metric – Pagans In Vegas

Metric has always been that band I’ve wanted to like, but could never really commit. They have an interesting sound and a likable frontwoman in Emily Haines, as well as some great singles like “Breathing Underwater” and “Gimmee Sympathy.” But I never found myself listening to their catalogue of albums. With the band’s latest release, Pagans in Vegas, I was hoping that I had finally found something that would hold my attention past the first few songs. Because – let’s face it – Metric is attempting something that a lot of other bands have been doing lately: reinventing their sound. While they haven’t changed as much as more mainstream acts (*cough* Maroon 5 *cough*), there’s still a noticeable increase of dreamy/synth-heavy tracks versus their typical edgy, indie rock of the past. There’s an equal amount of good and bad elements throughout the album, which has left me struggling to figure out whether the positives outweigh the negatives enough to recommend it to friends.

Pagans’ biggest flaw is repetition. Throughout the album, listeners are overcome with a distinct feeling of deja-vu, as all of the songs seem to follow the same formula: dreamy tunes with synth sprinkled all over the place. It’s not bad to have a sound that carries through an entire album, but it’s important to have songs that have their own unique characteristics to keep listeners interested.

One of the album’s best is “The Shade”, a love song with a progressive feel that houses some of the album’s most powerful lyrics. Phrases like “With eternal love/the stars above/all there is and ever was/I want it all” really feel as though Haines is writing from deep, personal experiences with emotions like love and loss. However, it’s only one of three or four tracks in which there is any emotional weight to it.

The heavy use of synthesizer and other electronic instruments tend to give an over-produced feel to the album that doesn’t seem to match the band’s intention, which – I believe – was partially to prove that electronic music, or music with electronic elements, has depth technically and emotionally. The band captured that sentiment with the album’s last two tracks, “The Face Parts 1&2.” These songs are entirely instrumental, and they feel both atmospheric and intimate, providing a really interesting listening experience.

I’ll admit that this album was disappointing, as I did have high expectations. While I didn’t expect to be blown away, I wanted something that I could enjoy listening to more than once. There are parts of the album that I did enjoy however, so I’m hopeful that Metric’s next album will feature more of what I liked from Pagans In Vegas. (Metric Music International, 2015)

6/10

Best Tracks: “The Shade” “The Face: Parts 1&2”

By: Malachi Rowswell

Review: Joanna Gruesome at The Silver Dollar

Some musings on a Monday night spent in a half-empty bar watching Joanna Gruesome, an excellent band from Cardiff, Wales.

  • The band, who are at the start of a month-long North American tour (which includes dates with Brooklyn’s Aye Nako, who opened the show), seemed genuinely excited to be playing Toronto for the first time. While the turn-out wasn’t spectacular, the floor in front of the stage was pretty full and everyone seemed to be feeling the good vibes.
  • The audience member who was feeling the vibes the most was probably the tiny tattooed man with the circa-2006 point-and-shoot digital camera who spent the entire show barely able to keep his balance while he weaved in and out of the crowd to get what are sure to be award-winning photographs. At one point he climbed on stage and nearly stumbled into the guitarist/vocalist Roxy Brennan.
  • While I was trying to pay attention to the show happening on stage, I couldn’t help but become slightly obsessed with the tiny man with the camera. Was he an enormous Joanna Gruesome fan, or had he just stumbled in off the street, three sheets to the wind, and needed to take photos so that he’d know where he’d been the night before? I wanted to take a photo for this blog post (though all I had on my was my iPhone), but I was so turned off by the obnoxious behaviour of this other photographer that I just wanted to not be like him as much as I could. But, for the sake of all you readers, I snapped one crappy photo, without even looking at my screen, so, it’s amazing that I got anything at all.
  • Everyone in the band had fairly interesting haircuts.
  • The guitarist with the pigtails and the bassist with the bowl cut played most of the set standing off-stage. In fact, the guitarist was rocking out right behind me, so there are probably some photos out there taken by that tiny man where I got caught looking like an idiot, probably thinking “Gee, a guitarist playing from the audience, that’s something you don’t see everyday, adoy.”
  • This was my first time seeing Joanna Gruesome play, but I know both their records well. Interestingly, their lead vocalist recently left the group, and she has been replaced by the aforementioned Roxy Brennan, as well as Kate Stonestreet (who also handled keyboards as well). Roxy handled most of the singing parts, while Kate handled more of the yelling. I thought the group dynamic worked really well, as the trading off of the vocal parts made it more fun to watch. Plus, to my ear, they sounded enough alike, as well as enough like the group’s previous vocalist, that it all felt very natural and good.
  • A friend of a friend mentioned to me after the show that he really liked it, and compared the group to Chicago Mix. Now, if you don’t know what Chicago Mix is (I didn’t until fairly recently, when my roommate brought home a bag), it’s cheddar popcorn mixed with caramel popcorn. In fact, I think this guy’s exact words were “It’s salty and sweet. Too much of one thing might be too much, but balanced with the other thing, it’s really delicious.” You hear that? Joanna Gruesome are a delicious band.
  • After the show I bought The Grubs records they were selling at the merch table. The Grubs are Roxy and JG’s Owen Williams’ other band, and they are also very good and their song “Dec. 15” will have you dancing in your underpants.
  • I’m glad I went out on a Monday night! What a great band!

Review: Destroyer – Poison Season

It seems as though Dan Bejar owns a time machine in which he can travel to his desired period in musical history and achieve a perfectly orchestrated degree of nostalgia. In the case of his 2011 release Kaputt, he took on an 80’s vibe that carried through the entire album with it’s soft rock/jazz/pop feel that only an eccentric, boundless musician like Bejar could pull off. On his latest release, Poison Season he has seemed to draw his inspiration from the previous decade, with heavy reliance on punchy brass and ringing string sections to pull the album together.

The album starts out slow with the first half of “Times Square, Poison Season”, the bookends of the album, which includes a successfully orchestrated band of strings and gentle piano silhouettes under Bejar’s melancholy vocals and puzzling lyrics. There is no hesitation on the pace pickup at the start of the track “Dream Lovers” (which coincidentally feels like Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”) with its fast-paced drums and loud horns, this seems to set the tempo for the album better than the title track itself.

“Bring out your dead, Bring out the light, Bring out your dark birds in flight, Bring out your red roses too… Hey what’s got into Sunny?” plastered on the back of the hard copy of the album and repeated constantly throughout the track “Bangkok” along with lyrics like “oh shit, here comes the sun” and “I’m over before I begin to go” are constant reminders throughout the album that unusual, riddled and obscure lyrics are not uncharacteristic of a Destroyer album. On this album however, Bejar uses his voice in a melodic way and unlike his technique on Kaputt, he doesn’t seem to hold back with stringing out his own words and dialogue into longer, breathier runs.

Overall, Poison Season left my longing for a new Destroyer album after 4 years of waiting fulfilled, and I truly believe that when looked at in its entirety, this album displays some of Bejar’s best work. The recurring themes used skillfully in this album tie it together as a whole. Though not following in the exact steps of his previous releases, a change up like this should be expected from an artist like Dan Bejar, desire to grow and experiment is greater than that of staying static. Any fan of past Destroyer works would thoroughly enjoy this album, and for those who are unfamiliar with his music, it’s the perfect place to start. (Merge Records, 2015)

8/10

By Alex Reinprecht