Thursday, 20 December 2012

Top 5 Shows of 2012

2012 was a great year! I was lucky enough to catch some amazing shows. I hope you did too!

Seeing as 2012 is coming to an end, every music writer in the blogsphere is writing their list of top albums/songs/shows. So I thought that maybe I should do that too!

Just for fun, I've compiled my five favourite shows of 2012. Here's my top 5:

5) Passion Pit. The group released their sophomore album this year and played a couple of festival shows the summer (despite lead singer Michael Angelakos' struggle with his mental illness). Their show at Osheaga was fantastic! It was great, hearing the new material live. Although this wasn't my first time seeing the group in concert, I was beyond excited for this show. And it did not disappoint... 

4) Grizzly Bear. This past September, I was able to see Grizzly Bear play at the famous Radio City Music Hall during my trip to NYC. The show was phenomenal! I didn't have high expectations and I was absolutely floored with the performance. Not only did the band sound great, the visuals definitely added a great element to the performance. So worth it! I was just a casual fan before this show; now, I have great appreciation and respect for this band.

3) Matthew Good. Yes, I am still a huge fan of Matthew Good. Yes, I've seen him live half a dozen times. Still, his last show was fantastic! I had seen him play at the NAC in October of 2011 and I was thrilled when he announced he would be playing an acoustic show at Ottawa Folkfest this past August. Only a few days after getting some of his lyrics tattooed on me, he performed a great show with an impressive setlist. Lots of crying ensued.

2) Patrick Watson. In 2012, I (finally) discovered Patrick Watson. Within a six-week period, I was able to see him live twice, once at the Ottawa Folkfest, once at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. I cannot even describe what his music means to me and how happy I am to have discovered his beautiful words. This man knows how to bare his soul in his music, it's so amazing to experience it. Also, it definitely helps that Mr. Watson is down to earth and a total goofball. It's hard not to love this guy!

1) Radiohead. This is by far the most epic show I've seen in 2012. Back in June, I was lucky enough to score tickets to see Radiohead in Montreal. Never in a million years did I ever think I would have the opportunity to catch this group in concert. And although I was only introduced to Radiohead in the last couple of years, I knew I could not miss this show. The setlist was phenomenal and included songs that I absolutely adore, including "Street Spirit", "Idiotheque", "How to Disappear Completely", "Everything in Its Right Place", "All I Need" and "Reckoner". The group had lots of energy and Thom Yorke was dancing up a storm on the stage. The sound completely invaded the Bell Centre and I was taken to a whole other place. For all these reasons, this show totally deserves my #1 spot, hands down.

What shows did you see in 2012? Which ones would make your top 5?

Let's hope that 2013 has a lot more amazing shows in store!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Review: Tokyo Police Club @ Ritual

Friday night, Tokyo Police Club played at Ritual Nightclub in Ottawa.

The first band, Topanga started their set at 9:45pm. Unfortunately, I did not make it down to the venue in time to catch them.

I did make it in time to check out the second band. Hollerado, a local band from Manotick, started their set around 10:35pm. I had never heard of these guys before. Their music plays on Live 88.5 all the time, so my friends were quite familiar with them. Also, these local boys won the Big Money Shot music competition back in 2009. I was really impressed with their performance. You could tell that over half of the people in the crowd were there to see these guys. The crowd was so enthusiastic; it was really fun.

Tokyo Police Club only started playing around 11:45pm, which is really late, in my opinion. Luckily, I drank like 3 coffees that day so I was still awake and kicking. The band put on a good set. For the first half of the show, they played only old material, most of which I did not recognize. Finally, during the second half of their show, they started playing material from "Champ", the one album that I know really well.

During the encore, they played "Favourite Food", one of my favourite songs from TCP. They ended the evening by inviting Hollerado on stage and they played "Baby Please Come Home". This was the second Christmas song that was played during the evening. I'm not usually a fan of Christmas music, but their performance of the song was good.

Overall, I enjoyed the show but it definitely wasn't the best performance that I've seen from Tokyo Police Club.

This was my first time going to a show at Ritual. I wasn't sure quite what to expect, to be honest. Overall, I was really pleased. The layout of the venue is not ideal, but overall, I really liked it.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Review: Bruno Mars "Unorthodox Jukebox"

Today, Bruno Mars releases "Unorthodox Jukebox", his sophomore album. His debut album "Doo-Wops & Hooligans" was released back in 2010. Since then, Bruno Mars has proven himself as a legitimate songwriter and R&B/pop artist.

For "Unorthodox Jukebox", Mars has collaborated with some renowned producers, including Mark Ronson and Diplo among others. Overall, the production team behind this album did a phenomenal job.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
The album's first single "Locked Out of Heaven" is a good mix of reggae, pop, ska and funk. The song has received a good reception so far, and was (obviously) very influenced by The Police ("Roxanne"). The song is catchy and is an interesting direction for Mars. All in all, a good introduction to the album. Also, the video for the song is good too (see below).

The album starts off strong, with the song "Young Girls". As per his style, Mars' vocals are smooth and filled with soul. "When I Was Your Man", his next single, is a signature Bruno Mars ballad that will definitely strike a chord with listeners. "Show Me" is a groovy, reggae track with a Caribbean feel. The last track of the album, "If I Knew", is an old school love song and showcases Mars' vocals well.

Tracks that stand out to me: "Young Girls", "Gorilla", "Natalie" and "Money Make Her Smile".

Overall, "Unorthodox Jukebox" is filled with smooth vocals, contagious beats and clever lyrics. This album is more fun, more upbeat than its predecessor "Doo-Wops & Hooligans". It has a more mature sound, but remains very true to the Bruno Mars sound.

The album was live streaming here for a while; now you can listen to clips of each track of the album. After having a listen, I will definitely be getting my hands on this album. 

In the meantime, here's the video for "Locked Out of Heaven". Enjoy!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Interview with Band of Horses

On December 6th, Band of Horses played a show at the Métropolis in Montréal. Throughout 2012, the groups has been touring in support of their fourth album "Mirage Rock". Ryan Monroe, along with founder Ben Bridwell (lead vocals, guitar), Tyler Ramsey (guitar), Bill Reynolds (bass), and Creighton Barrett (drums) make up Band of Horses. Monroe, who plays guitar, the keyboards, the organ and also does vocals, has been a member of Band of Horses since 2007.
Before their show, I had the opportunity to sit down with Monroe to discuss the new album, talk about the tour and see what's next for Band of Horses. Thanks to for giving me the opportunity to do the interview.
Julie Cormier-Doiron: So how are you feeling today? Are you guys excited to play in Montréal?
Ryan Monroe: Absolutely. We got up early today and walked around the area. We saw some very cool graffiti around this block. Also, the venue is amazing. We never played a venue this big in Montréal before, so we're very excited.
JCD: As a band, do you prefer to play live shows in smaller, more intimate venues like this one or do you prefer to play in large arenas or large outdoor spaces?
RM: We like to play both. The bigger shows, we like to approach them like they're small gigs, and we approach the smaller shows like they're big gigs. So we try to bring the energy of a small, intimate keg party to the bigger venues so it doesn't seem so disconnected with the crowd, because some of these venues are huge. 
JCD: Band of Horses has an extensive lineup of materials produced with over the years. How do you guys choose what to include in your setlist when you go on tour?
RM: Ben [Bridwell] toils over that an hour at least every night, because we have so many songs [to choose from]. We have four albums worth of materials and we play covers. We try to keep it fresh and we want to play material from every record. Every setlist is different every night, so it's kinda like we roll the dice.
After the soundcheck, we get a feel from the venue and a feel of what would sound good and what we think we would enjoy playing that night. We refer back to what we played last time we were in Montréal to make sure it's not the same set. We try to keep it fresh and mix it up all the time. That just keeps it interesting, because we play so many shows.
JCD: This past year, the group has been touring all around the world. Can you tell me some of the highlights from your tour so far?
RM: We played the Roundhouse in London with Jack White for the iTunes Festival, that was pretty cool. We played lots of gorgeous venues. We opened for My Morning Jacket for part of the summer, and they're like our favourite [band]. They're good friends of ours. That whole tour was like a dream come true. All of it seems like a dream, we're so lucky to be doing it. All of it seems like a big highlight, as far as I'm concerned.
JCD: In September, you guys shared the stage with major acts like Neil Young, Foo Fighters and the Black Keys at the Global Citizen Festival. What was that experience like?
RM: Oh yeah, [the show] in Central Park. That could be a highlight (laughs). Good call! That was amazing!  To be part of something so special, [like] the Global Poverty Project, that was just insane. To play right before the Black Keyes was really cool and to be able to watch them. I hadn't seen them play in a long time, and they're just killing it right now. A good friend of ours, Gus, plays the bass with them, so it was good to catch up with him too.
We got to sing onstage with Neil Young during his set [at the festival]. We came up and sang "Keep On Rocking in The Free World" with him; that was pretty crazy. That was the second time he asked us to join him on stage. The first time was at the Bridge School Benefit [Concert] in San Francisco a couple of years ago. We were just hanging out backstage and he came up to us and said "We're gonna do an old song of mine, I don't know if you guys are going to be around, to come up and play "There Comes a Time". There will be a pump organ and all these different instruments that you can play." We told him "Yeah, I guess we can stick around and play with you" (laughs). It was so funny, he politely asked us and we were like "Of course". Norah Jones came up and played with him and we all just came on stage and played [together]. I hope we can play with Neil a lot more. I'm glad to see him out playing so much, with Crazy Horse too. That was just insane.
JCD: Ben [Bridwell] had previously mentioned that the recording process for "Mirage Rock" was a little different this time around. Can you tell me more about that? Was it more challenging for you guys as a group in the recording studio?
RM: We were going into it, hoping for a huge departure from the last record. The last record ["Infinite Arms"] was so surgical; we edited and overdubbed so many things. This time was just straight to tape. It's the way that [producer] Glyn Johns wanted it. It was a challenge for us because we played 8 hours straight as a band. We don't really do that that often. We all live in different cities. Now that we're on the road so much, the only time we get together and play is at shows or during soundcheck. So it really helped us grow as a band to be in the same room, always plugged up together and playing 8 or 9 hours straight every day. And we just kept the best [takes].
It was cool, because we were really meticulous about mistakes and everything on the last record. We didn't let anything slide, [the record] had to be a perfect thing. But on this record, mistakes were welcomed. We wanted to sound as human as possible. Glyn Johns was more about capturing the energy than a flawless performance.  We've always had energy and definitely had some flawed performances, that's easy. He helped us become a better band, and we learned to play off each other a little more.
JCD: Would you consider recording your next album in the same process as this one?
RM: I don't know. We loved doing it. We kinda looked at it as an art project. We didn't think of it as "this is our new, big release".  Maybe we should have... We  were just like, "we have an opportunity to work with Glyn Johns. He wants to do it this way, so we'll do it that way". We didn't give it too much thought because it was kind off a no-brainer. We'll make a record in the process of working with a legend.
So the next time, it depends where our heads are at. We might combine the two [recording styles]. We'll probably end up doing something completely different because that's just our nature. No use beating a dead horse, no pun intended (laughs).
JCD: How have the fans been responding to the new material?
RM: They like it, at least it seems like they like it. When we play "Dumpster World", we get people scratching their heads still, because if they haven't heard the new record, I don't think they really understand that song. A lot of the new record is easy to play because basically what you hear live is how we recorded [it]. So "Mirage Rock" is a good representation of how we sound live, except our live shows are amped up a little more.
I think the longer the record has been out, the more receptive people have been to it. I'm like that too; I like to hear familiar things when I go see a band that I like. I think the reception will gradually be warmer as the years pass, once the record sinks in a little bit.
JCD: When you look at "Mirage Rock" compared to the other three albums, the record is a lot more rock 'n' roll, with a much harder sound. Was that intentional or was that just a result of the recording process?
RM: I think it was a result of the recording process. We didn't have time to be like "oh, let's take out the drums", or "let's take this out". It was just five dudes, playing in a room. It was rock music, like how they recorded it in the sixties. Glyn didn't even want us to use pedals. He was like "just plug your guitar straight into the amp. What's all this crap you have here?" So [the record] was just like bare bones, rocking out.
JCD: 2012 has been a big year for Band of Horses. What are you most looking forward to in 2013?

RM: Well, we get to play places we've never played before, like Singapore. We're going back in Australia for a big tour. We'll be doing lot of festivals. In 2012, we didn't do that many festivals. So next year, it'll be fun to hit up all the big festivals around the world. I think that's what we're looking forward to. And we'll probably be kicking around some song ideas, like we always do.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Review: Band of Horses @ Métropolis

Last night, I was lucky enough to see Band of Horses live at the Métropolis. I'm a big fan of the Seattle-based band and I'd been hoping they would make a stop near Ottawa while on tour promoting their latest album "Mirage Rock". Lucky for me, they scheduled a show in the lovely city of Montréal, a city that I just can't get enough of. 

Occasionally, I write for, a great webzine that promotes and reviews shows in the
Montréal area. I had approached them, asking if they wanted me to review the show for the website and they said yes. They even managed to schedule an interview for me with one of the band members, Ryan Monroe (stay tuned!)

The show started on a good note with "The First Song". However, during the following song "The Great Salt Lake", lead singer/guitarist Ben Bridwell was experiencing technical difficulties with his guitar and the sound. He didn't let this affect his performance though, and kept playing through the issues. Afterwards, the issues were resolved and they continued their set with "Weed Party". 

The group played many songs from their first three albums, including "Marry Song", "Laredo", "Ode to LRC", "Blue Beard" and "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands". And, of course, they played some songs from "Mirage Rock", such as "A Little Biblical", "Slow Cruel Hands of Time", "Everything’s Gonna Be Undone" and "Knock Knock". 

They played some of my absolute favourite songs, including "Is There a Ghost" and "Infinite Arms", which I was not expecting. To say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. 

The group also performed "Older", which is a song that I really enjoy and it always seems to get stuck in my head. Bridwell shared with the audience that the song was written by keyboard player Ryan Monroe, who I had the pleasure of talking to earlier that day. During the performance, Monroe did most of the singing and Bridwell joined him at the keyboards. It was a great performance and you could really sense the comradery between the two band members.

I was very satisfied with the band's song selection. Bridwell told the crowd that they picked six songs from each album, which is great. In many cases, when a band tours in support of a new album, they tend to focus on the new material. However, I am very happy that all albums were represented equally in their setlist. I'm sure other fans were happy about that as well.

Their set ended with "The Funeral", an amazing song that gives you the goosebumps every time you hear it. I also believe that it is the song that the band is most known for. Safe to say, the crowd went absolutely crazy and sang their heads off. It was an amazing way to end their set and I was absolutely thrilled!

For the encore, Ben Bridwell and Tyler Ramsey were the only ones to come out on stage. They played a stripped down, raw version of "No One’s Gonna Love You". It was absolutely beautiful! Afterwards, they ended their show with "NW Apt.", followed by a cover of "Am I a Good Man" by Them Two, a song that I had never heard before.

You can tell by watching them live that these guys sincerely enjoying playing music together. They don't take themselves too seriously and they look like they're having a blast on stage. As a concert goer, this is an absolute delight to see.

Overall, I am beyond happy with the show. I was pleasantly surprised by the setlist and I am absolutely thrilled that I was finally able to see the band live. Definitely worth the trip to Montréal!

Stay tuned for my interview with Ryan Monroe from Band of Horses.