Best of 2013

Words and Image: Jeremy Curry

best of 2013

These days the amount of music being churned out is at an all-time high. It’s easier to release songs through bandcamp or soundcloud, and more and more musicians are choosing to release tapes, which makes things a lot cheaper for the artist, label and listener. It’s pretty hard to keep up, although there is no way of discovering everything great that came out in this year, or in previous years. It’s almost exhausting trying to come up with a list of the BEST, but some notable releases would have to be Oneohtrix Point Never’s R Plus Seven, which sounds like being stuck inside an ’80s synthesizer with Enya’s vocals programmed into samples, and Eiko Ishibashi’s Imitation of Life, which was actually released in Japan in 2012, but now has a proper North American release this year. The latter was produced by Jim O’Rourke and has incredible orchestral arrangements, not to mention the fact that Ishibashi’s vocals are stunning.

The other cool things I experienced this year are as follows:

– Tubby Burgers.

– An impromptu dance-off with an older gentleman at a Ceephax Acid Crew Show.

– Seeing Jay Arner and the Ketamines play in someone’s living room during the flood in Calgary.

Law & Order: SVU marathons (Although this might be damaging my brain and giving me nightmares).

The other albums I enjoyed this year are as follows:

ÄÄNIPÄÄ – Through a Pre-Memory (Editions Mego)
About Group – Between the Walls (Domino)
AGF – Kuuntele (AGF Producktion)
Andy Kaufman – Andy & His Grandmother (Drag City)
Bill Callahan – Dream River (Drag City)
Bill Orcutt – A History of Every One (Editions Mego)
Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp)
Body/Head – Coming Apart (Matador)
C. Spencer Yeh/Okkyung Lee/Lasse Marhaug – Wake Up Awesome (Software)
CFCF – Outside (Paper Bag)
Cindytalk – A Life Is Everywhere (Editions Mego)
Classixx – Hanging Gardens (Innovative Leisure)
Cornelius – A Ghost In The Shell Arise OST (Victor)
Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie “Prince” Billy – What The Brothers Sang (Drag City)
Dean Blunt – The Redeemer (Hippos In Tanks)
Death Grips – Government Plates (Self-Released)
DJ Rashad – Double Cup (Hyperdub)
Donato Dozzy – Plays Bee Mask (Spectrum Spools)
Dur-Dur Band – Volume 5 (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Eiko Ishibashi – Imitation Of Life (Drag City)
Ensemble Pearl – Ensemble Pearl (Drag City)
Fire! Orchestra – Exit! (Rune Grammofon)
Jai Paul – Jai Paul (Self-Released?)
Jan St. Werner – Blaze Colour Burn (Thrill Jockey)
Jay Arner – Jay Arner (Mint)
Jessy Lanza – Pull My Hair Back (Hyperdub)
Julia Holter – Loud City Song (Domino)
Keiji Haino / Jim O’Rourke / Oren Ambarchi – Now While It’s Still Warm Let Us Pour In All The Mystery (Black Truffle)
The Knife – Shaking the Habitual (Rabid)
Laurel Halo – Chance Of Rain (Hyperdub)
Low – The Invisible Way (Sub Pop)
M.I.A. – Matangi (Interscope)
Magik Markers – Surrender To The Fantasy (Drag City)
Matmos – The Marriage Of True Minds (Thrill Jockey)
Merzbow & Oren Ambarchi – Cat’s Squirrel (Black Truffle)
Miguel Baptista Benedict – Super(b)-Child-Ran (Brainfeeder)
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Kismet (Self-Released)
My Bloody Valentine – m b v (Self-Released)
Nate Young – Regression: Blinding Confusion (NNA Tapes)
Okkyung Lee – Ghil (Editions Mego)
Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven (Warp)
Perfume – LEVEL3 (Universal J)
Pusha T – My Name Is My Name (GOOD Music)
Quasimoto – Yessir Whatever (Stones Throw)
Ras G – Back On The Planet (Ninja Tune)
Rene Hell – Vanilla Call Option (Pan)
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels (Self-Released)
Ryan Hemsworth – Guilt Trips (Last Gang)
Steve Arrington & Dâm-Funk – Higher (Stones Throw)
Viet Cong – Cassette (Self-Released)
Yo La Tengo – Fade (Matador)

Soggy Island

Words: Jeremy Curry // Photos courtesy of Sled Island

The 'Chunk! (photo: David Coombe)

The ‘Chunk! (photo: David Coombe)

This year’s Sled Island was one of the most bizarre times in recent memory. Not only for the festival, but also for the city of Calgary. On the Thursday of the fest it was announced that there was a state of emergency in our city. Usually when these kinds of warnings happen, it seems premature. This time, it was serious. The Elbow and Bow rivers had flooded, spilling over into many areas around the city, including the downtown core and many central areas where the festival housed most of its events. It was announced later on the Thursday evening that many homes and business had to be evacuated, and a lot of the venues for the fest were being shut down. It was later announced on the Friday morning that the festival had been completely cancelled. The city was a complete mess, and we are still trying to rebuild and get everything back to its normal state. Who knows how long that could take? But with major events like the Calgary Stampede and the Folk Festival quickly approaching, the city needs to rush to get ready for these big tourist attractions.

Jay Arner (photo: Jesse Locke)

Jay Arner (photo: Jesse Locke)

It was very unfortunate for Sled Island to cancel the festival, but overall, it was for the best. Some of the venues didn’t even have power for days on end, and a lot of out-of-town bands had tours that needed to continue. People were stuck in different quadrants of the city, and many of them who were displaced were staying with friends, family, or just a generous host until it was safe to go home. But wherever you were, bands managed to find places that would host a show. Many of these were littered around the city after hearing about the festival cancellation, with donations going to the touring bands and/or flood relief funds. Despite all of the crummy water bringing everyone down, the spirit of camaraderie and DIY shows throughout the whole mess made everything a hell of a lot better. I managed to check out Jay Arner and the Ketamines at a house party six blocks from where I was staying on the Friday night, and my friends at Weird Canada managed to put together a last minute rager at Tubby Dog, which was one of the venues fortunate enough to stay open during the whole ordeal. They managed to keep live music going throughout the night, which is just one more reason to love that place.

Teledrome (photo: Arif Ansari)

Teledrome (photo: Arif Ansari)

The first couple of days before the storm were still a lot of fun, so I’d like to tell you about that. The opening show on the Tuesday was at the Commonwealth, which had two floors of bands playing, including Teledrome and Gold, who I’ve mentioned in previous articles as local favourites of mine. Teledrome have a nice mix of synth pop/punk that can become a huge earworm if you aren’t careful. The synth pop thing may be a bit on the goofin’ side, but having a guilty pleasure is always a-ok. Gold played a fantastic set of fuzzed-out pop jams oozing that sort of jangly guitar tone (think Johnny Marr) that makes you want to grab a jumbo Mr. Freeze.

Gold (photo: Arif Ansari)

Gold (photo: Arif Ansari)

Wednesday was a special treat. It started off again at the Commonwealth, where saxophone sorcerer Colin Stetson was headlining a fantastic show. The night started off with another great local band, New Friends. Heavy drones poured from a strange pyramid box on stage, with primitive haunted caveperson grooves. It was the perfect creepy chill before seeing Bitter Fictions, with a pedal-on-pedal solo guitar sandwich. I would stuff this one in the shoegaze category, considering I was watching his feet move around the whole time. A powerful sound from a single soul.

Bitter Fictions (photo: Arif Ansari)

Bitter Fictions (photo: Arif Ansari)

Astral Swans, the solo project of Matt Swann, was another nice surprise. It was a nice bit of folk, and often quite minimal. The whole show was beginning to feel like an eclectic mixtape. After these opening acts, the venue began to fill up. It was so packed, but once Colin Stetson came on, I forgot where I was. This set was an amazing thing to witness, and his repetitive honks and circular breathing techniques put me in a trance. If it weren’t so busy, I would have stretched out on the floor.

Colin Stetson (photo: Arif Ansari)

Colin Stetson (photo: Arif Ansari)

After that insane show, I wandered over to Tubby Dog, where Hex Ray was just about to play. This is another local favourite of mine. They’re like a prog/garage/jam combo with funny lyrics about saxophones. The jams are tight and, ultimately, it’s a positive experience all around. I can’t recommend this band enough. The act that followed, Catgut, were a pretty intense group of dudes who played high-energy slacker jams (does that make sense?) reminiscent of the sloppy rampager romps that Dinosaur Jr. used to kick out. A pretty loud ending to my evening.

Viet Cong (photo: Arif Ansari)

Viet Cong (photo: Arif Ansari)

Thursday was when all of the weirdness began. There was supposed to be a show on the patio of Broken City, but was moved inside due to the ominous weather. Viet Cong started off this afternoon show with a pretty bonkers set. They are definitely the champs of music, with dueling guitars blazing right out of the gate, tired guy vocals and a rip roarin’ overall groove. Feel Alright followed with some nice summer flavours to savor. Great classic pop hooks, and a song with some serious falsetto. There was another one that reminded me of Elton John. All in all, a good time to be alive!

Feel Alright (photo: Arif Ansari)

Feel Alright (photo: Arif Ansari)

From here, I made it down to the Palomino where Jessica Jalbert was playing. She is a great singer/songwriter from Edmonton, who was one of the major surprises during the fest. I had only heard a single song from her bandcamp page, and thought, “this could be alright.” Every song was excellent, and I hope I get to see her play more in the future. After this show, the rain started to pour, and people started receiving messages about their areas being evacuated. A friend had told me that a large block party down in the East Village had to be shut down, and things started to sound a lot more serious.

Johnny Pemberton (photo: Alanna McCallion)

Johnny Pemberton (photo: Alanna McCallion)

Nonetheless, the comedy show still went on in a room at the Palliser hotel. It kind of looked like one of the rooms that could have been blasted by the Ghostbusters when it was haunted! Because of the storm, the power was pretty finicky, and the lights weren’t cooperating at their regular capacity. Most of the comedians made jokes about this, which helped shed some light on the situation (haha). All of the comedians were fantastic, but Johnny Pemberton and Brett Gelman stood out. Gelman yelled at an audience member at one point for looking at his phone in the front row, but was quickly told that the audience member was checking to see if he was evacuated. There were a few tense moments like this during the show, but it was extremely funny. Once again, Gelman ended up yelling at some idiotic audience members for a long time, which was so uncomfortable that it became one of the most surreal, hilarious moments of the evening.

Brett Gelman (photo: Alanna McCallion)

Brett Gelman (photo: Alanna McCallion)

Superchunk had moved from the Republik to Flames Central, where huge men give huge pat-downs upon your arrival. The ‘Chunk were in full-form, playing all of the hits, including classics like “The First Part” and a bunch of the poppy new jams from Majesty Shredding. I was expecting to see more pogoing, but I think most of the audience was too tired (or old). It was a really fun show, and I was happy to see one of my favourite bands.

On Friday, it was officially announced that Sled Island was cancelled, which was very sad. Yet those first few days were amazing and I had no complaints. I was looking forward to a lot more, which did happen regardless. A lot of bands were stuck in town or were still slated to play shows, so people hosted their own. Despite all of the craziness, there were still things to do. Venues like Commonwealth hosted major fundraisers that really helped out the city. The Ship and Anchor gave out food for volunteers and victims, and took donations for flood relief. A lot of people have been helping out and keeping things going, regardless of the situation. It’s nice to see. Hopefully Sled Island can continue next year, and the city can be recognized as one that keeps on chugging out the jams, no matter what happens.

Slummin’ in the Sled

Words: Jeremy Curry

sled island

It’s only a few weeks away! Sled Island, one of the biggest and most interesting music festivals in western Canada, is coming back at the tail end of June. There are over 200 bands this year, as well as comedians, visual art, and film. This can be a little overwhelming at times, and usually pretty hard to navigate. It’s tough to pick between multiple stellar acts playing in different venues at the same time. Sometimes, the one you want to see will have a massive line-up or be completely sold out. Sure, that’s a bummer, but there are always alternatives, and some of them can surprise you and become your favorite show of the whole damn festival. I have some recommendations, but you don’t have to listen to me! There are so many great acts playing, and this list doesn’t even scrape the surface.

Gold

Gold

Gold are a fantastic local band that come correct when it’s time to play some hazy, lazy, spaced-out pop gems. They’ll make you feel cozy and warm through all of the dark days. Remember when indie-rock bands were described as “tropical” a few years ago? Gold could have been thrown into that category, but they sound more like hot chocolate/warm blanket tunes to me. These jams are real head-nodders. Nod in approval, or just follow the grooves. You’ll get a decent neck exercise, and feel great afterwards! Positive musical therapy.

Colin Stetson

Colin Stetson

Colin Stetson has played sax in some popular bands like Bon Iver and Arcade Fire, but that’s far from what he honks out in his solo work. His circular breathing is truly a unique sound. Without any effects or pre-recorded loops, he blows insane grooves, drones and bizarre tones. His beautiful, wild compositions will have you scratching your head wondering how he created those sounds. His recent collaboration with fellow sax master Mats Gustafsson is one of the most brutal, insane, and amazing records of the year.

Superchunk

Superchunk

This is an easy pick because Superchunk is one of this year’s headliners, as well as one of the most popular acts. But if you don’t know about them, they’ve been kicking out the slacker jams for almost 25 years. Singer Mac McCaughan and bassist Laura Ballance even started Merge Records, which is a powerhouse of independent releases including albums by some band called Arcade Fire. The ‘Chunk have some of the catchiest, tightest, indie pop/rock jams around. Their songs will get stuck in your head, and you’ll want to keep them in there for a while.

Jay Arner

Jay Arner

Some friends tipped me off about this cool dude from Vancouver. As soon as I heard a single song, I was hooked. I played that song over and over on my computer until I decided that if I didn’t stop, I’d get sick of it. I turned it off and waited a month to play it again. The Jay Arner addiction is a tough one to beat, but I doubt it has any terrible side effects. This man is a pop-song wizard, and everybody should go and see him cast spells of wicked hooks and fuzzed-out guitar jams. It’ll be worth it.

Pete Swanson

Pete Swanson

Tim Hecker curated some of the acts at this year’s festival, and one of the artists he decided to bring along is Pete Swanson. This is an amazing choice. Swanson makes some of the harshest electronic music in the world. The beats are heavy and industrial, and computer bleeping tones can wobble in and out without any notice. It sounds like the destruction of a factory building Robocops, or a dusty dub album playing at the wrong speed, with a messed up needle skipping over grooves. The tones can get pretty brutal, but that’s all part of the fun.

Shearing Pinx

Shearing Pinx

Shearing Pinx are a spastic, noisy rock and roll trio. They’ve played Calgary numerous times, sometimes at more noise-centric shows. They have more of a punk vibe, and the fact that they’re hard to pin down genre-wise makes them even more interesting. The vocals are reminiscent of a guy yelling at you to get something done, while the guitars are akin to scribbling on the wall of your parents’ freshly painted house. Feedback squeals are not uncommon. I’ve heard the term “face-melter” describe a lot of rock music, but I think this band truly deserves the title.

Ryan Hemsworth

Ryan Hemsworth

Going to see a DJ while a slew of bands with guitars and drums and stuff are playing doesn’t sound that appealing, but Ryan Hemsworth is a different breed. This kid mixes rap and R&B with old Super Nintendo music, and totally gets away with it. He does this Danny Brown x Donkey Kong remix that is better than most of the rap productions I’ve heard this year. He’s created a lot of great mixes for various music sites in the last couple of years, along with a recent free EP that sounds fantastic. This one’s going to make you exhausted from dancing like a complete maniac, so drink a lot of water.

Good things 2012

Words: Jeremy Curry

Since I usually regret something on my “Best Of” list, I would rather just mention that these were some good things I enjoyed at the time. I am sure they aren’t the best, as I know I will find something better that was released this year, many years down the road.

Jim O’Rourke, Oren Ambarchi and Keiji Haino – Live at SuperDeluxe Tokyo

These guys are regulars on my lists, only because I consider them masters of their craft. I usually end up enjoying everything they churn out. Seeing them live was not only a highlight of my year, but of my life. It was very loud, intense, and a quite a surreal experience. Being able to see three of my favourite musicians playing together on a single stage was pretty amazing. It was also my last day in Tokyo, which made for a great goodbye party for myself. They were loud, abrasive, screeching, wailing, flailing and squonking to my heart’s delight. I don’t know if I will ever see a show quite like that again.

Blur – 21 Box Set

Blur - 21 Box Set

Blur have been one of my favourite bands since I was in junior high. These guys were always pushing the envelope of what they could make, and would scrap everything they became famous for to start fresh. I liked that. “Song 2” was popular everywhere when it was released, and became a beer ad / jock anthem. After that, they released the album 13, which was mostly sad ballads. They have never stuck to one sound, and always strayed from getting pigeonholed into one specific genre. This box set is a really great hunk of every full-length release they have ever put out, as well as b-sides, rarities and live tracks. It’s a nice trip down memory lane, and the chance to listen to all of these unreleased tracks was a nice addition.

Patrice and Friends

A couple of his albums were released last year, but in 2012, Patrice and Friends (a.k.a. Grime producer Slackk) dropped another banger into my lap called Cherry Sorbet. It’s a nice mix of footwork, boogie, soul, R&B and funk jams moving at such a fast pace that you’re sure to be tuckered out on the dancefloor pretty quick. All of his albums are a lot of fun, but I would suggest starting with Cashmere Sheets. So many great beats pumping at you on that one.

Lone – Galaxy Garden

This might be my favorite electronic album of the year. It starts off with some wild jungle jams and keeps flowing from there. It’s a very playful but busy and intelligent album, which also contains some of my favorite tracks to bust out at the club, such as “Spirals” which samples Anneka’s vocals into what sounds like a classic Orbital track. I haven’t heard another release like it this year, and that is refreshing.

R. Stevie Moore

R. Stevie Moore

I found out about this man through The Wire and discovered his exhaustingly massive output of releases. I’ve heard a bunch of them, but haven’t even scratched the surface. His album with Ariel Pink is completely bonkers, but is also a match made in space. Those guys were meant to record together. There is a documentary about R. Stevie Moore on YouTube, and although it’s kind of boring, watching his recording process is fascinating and would also drive me completely insane. He is a master of pop music, and producing massive quantities of it.

Ryan Hemsworth

Ryan Hemsworth

I found out about Ryan Hemsworth through FACT Magazine, where he contributed one of the year’s best mixes. Playfully mixing up rap artists like Danny Brown with the Donkey Kong and Chrono Trigger soundtracks is a genius move. The beats get pretty hazy, but the drum samples push forward and keep you moving. I have a bunch of his mixes on heavy rotation at my house, as he compiled them online and gave them all away for free. I think he would be a great guy to see live, if you want to get some exercise by dancing your heart out.

Other notable albums of 2012:

O’Rourke / Ambarchi /Haino – Imikuzushi
Sir Richard Bishop – Intermezzo
Six Organs of Admittance – Ascent
Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
Mark Fell – Sentielle Objectif Actualite
Anenon – Inner Hue
BEAK> – BEAK>>
Jason Lescalleet – Songs About Nothing
Josephine Foster – Blood Rushing
Raglani – Real Colors of the Physical World
KTL – V
Stephen O’Malley & Steve Noble – St. Francis Duo
Chris Reimer – The Chad Tape
Fenn O’Berg – In Hell
Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
El-P – Cancer 4 Cure
Rangda – Formerly Extinct

Arthur’s Baguette (part 2)

Words and Photoshop: Jeremy Curry

Arthur and his mother bounced around the cabin of the plane, with Arthur holding his head down in a panic. “I can’t die this early, not now. Imagine that! The only time I really luck out and get to go somewhere I want to go, and I perish in a plane crash. Just my luck!” he thought. His mother was a lot calmer than he was, and put her arm around her terrified son. As soon as she had her arm around Arthur, the turbulence calmed to a standstill, and the plane leveled out.

Arthur waited until the seatbelt sign had turned off, and rushed to the bathroom to clean off his Coke-splattered clothing. While he walked down the aisle, he heard a girl snicker. He turned around to see her looking in his direction with a big stupid grin on her face. Was she snickering at the fact that he had Coke all over him? Or maybe it was the fact that he was much more terrified than the other passengers during the turbulence? It wasn’t until he got to the bathroom that he found out the awful truth: he had spilled Coke all over the crotch of his pants! It was a massive stain that was easily noticeable on his khakis.

He hadn’t felt this embarrassed since the time he started having constant wet dreams at night. He had to call Dr. Sue Johanson’s Sex With Sue advice hotline to ask if they were normal. At least then his call was anonymous. In this situation, it was only a Coke, but the girl obviously thought otherwise! He scrubbed and scrubbed away as much of the soda he could, but it was no use. He didn’t have extra clothing in his carry-on baggage, so he was just going to have to deal with soda-stained pants.

He walked back to his seat as quickly as possible, only to bump into a flight attendant carrying a food cart. Luckily, as she backed up the cart to let him back to his seat, he was able to conceal his spill. “Finally! A lucky break! My life isn’t as much of a travesty as I thought,” he said to himself. Arthur’s mom was fast asleep next to him as he sat back down. He was sort of glad, because he wanted some alone time to reflect on his current situation.

Things were going wrong for him on the plane, but at least nobody here would see him on a day-to-day basis. He didn’t recognize anybody from Degrassi, and any horrible thing that did happen could easily be omitted when he was telling his schoolmates about his trip. Well, his schoolmate Yick Yu, anyway. He had trouble finding other friends at school, but was content with having Yick as a good friend. He wondered how long that would last though, as he was starting to fall in with some of the “bad kids” at school.

Arthur was mostly concerned about Yick hanging out with Luke, who he heard was a heavy drug user. He also heard a rumour that Luke had given a guy named Shane some acid before a Gourmet Scum concert, and Shane ended up going crazy and jumping off of a bridge. Yick said it wasn’t Shane’s fault, but Arthur didn’t know whether to trust Yick anymore. He was starting to wear tie-dye t-shirts, and a single earring. He was always pretty bad at school, but what if he got into drugs? He might stop going to school altogether.

Arthur was too smart to get into the drug scene. He liked goofing off, but school was important. He didn’t want to upset his parents, who he thought were having enough trouble already with a recent divorce and trying out new relationships. Also, his sister Stephanie was wearing a lot of revealing clothing at school, and pretended Arthur did not exist, which was completely bizarre. “Oh well,” Arthur thought. “I guess sometimes it’s quantity over quality when it comes to making friends!”

He looked down at the spill on his clothes. The shirt wasn’t so bad, but the pants were looking pretty lousy. He spent the next little while with his legs touching, shuffling back and forth. He thought the friction would dry them faster. After doing that for a while, and studying his French book, an announcement came on the speaker system. “Attention ladies and gentlemen, we are about to make our descent into Paris. If you could put on your seatbelts and push your trays back into their upright position, that would be very much appreciated.” A smile beamed upon Arthur’s face. Finally! He was about to embark on his first vacation outside of the continent…

TARP IT! :: Getting footloose at the Calgary Folk Music Festival

Words: Jeremy Curry // Photos: Tye Carson

Chris Isaak in all of his glittery suited glory.

For the last 33 years, Calgary has held one of the largest and most interesting folk music festivals in North America. For four days, flocks of people bring tarps, lawn chairs, sunscreen, hidden bottles of booze and other camping supplies to hunker down and chill out on the grass in Prince’s Island Park.

That might sound like a relaxing time, but it isn’t if you’re actually running around trying to check out the music. The “tarpies”, as they are called, wait outside the festival overnight to snag the number one position in front of the stage. This goes on every day at the fest. It’s pretty wild, for such a laid back atmosphere. If you want to stand and watch the shows on the main stage, you have to go to the grassy spots on the side where the “dance area” is. There was no way I was arriving early to secure a spot of “prime real estate,” so I just loaded my bag with snacks, juice and sunscreen and stood around to watch the show.

Beirut played a set that sounded like any indie-pop band, except for the fact that they were going for some Eastern European vibes. There were a couple of songs that were nice, more of a slow-dance with your girlfriend feeling, but sometimes fell into a Dracula zone. Other songs picked up the pace and got into some heavy jambalaya jams. The people off to the side were moving and grooving, but it wasn’t until one of the members of Beirut complained about how the people on tarps weren’t allowed to dance and compared this rule to Footloose that it got everybody up off their butts and taking in the heavy doses of accordion and tuba. Was that really a rule? No dancing? That’s crazy.

After sulking in those sounds, it was time for Chris Isaak. He may have been one of the greatest performers I have ever seen. I’d heard him a lot in the past, especially his famous song/music video “Wicked Game,” which is a real crooner. Isaak was funny, charming, had an amazing back-up band, and got the entire audience excited. I have never seen an audience at the Folk Fest stop what they were doing and immerse themselves in the show like this. They had a lot of audience gimmicks, like having the piano blow up and shoot fire out of it during “Great Balls of Fire,” but we all ate it right up. Isaak and other members of the band went into the audience at times, and everybody broke the supposed “no dancing” rule once again because it was just too good to pass up such a fun opportunity. “Wicked Game” was amazing as I expected, but the whole show was quite the spectacle. I can’t forget to mention his red, glittery suit, and his disco ball suit made of mirrors he wore during the encore. It was a beautiful sight to see.

Shad: hip-hop for people whose spirits have yet to be crushed.

The next day was a big day for all of the indie kids out there. Jeff Mangum from Neutral Milk Hotel was playing a “rare” performance. That was at the end of the night. But first: Bettye LaVette!

LaVette has been around for over three decades. She became popular with a disco track, and has been making R&B / soul / blues hits every since. She recently won a couple Grammys, and mentioned this a few times during her performance, which I thought was kind of tacky… but hey, I would brag if I won something like that I’m sure. She was very energetic and was trying to get the audience going, but after relaxing all day on tarps, a lot of people were more content lazing that one out. Truth be told, as hard as she tried, LaVette wasn’t really that interesting. Every song sounded pretty similar, and I didn’t think it would get any more exciting. I heard Shad was playing over at a smaller tent, so I decided to check him out.

Seeing a rap show at the Folk Fest means you are going to see some sort of positive, uplifting musician who has a message he wants to tell you. Don’t expect any Rick Ross types here. And well, that usually means a pretty boring time for me. Sorry, but that backpacker hip-hop stuff is for young, eager, positive and uplifting people whose spirits have yet to be crushed. I’d rather hear about fantasy stuff at this point. Anyway, Shad had the whole audience moving their hands up and down in unison, so I guess he was getting his message across in the form of positive rhyme. One of his beats did sound suspiciously like an old Aesop Rock beat, which was pretty fishy. Oh well, at least everybody else had a nice time. You can’t win ‘em all.

Jeff Mangum was up next, and it was pretty lousy. The guy is headlining a night at the Folk Fest on the main stage, and requests that the two screens showing the artist in action be turned off. He’s playing solo, in the dark. Somebody tried to take a photo and he said, “I don’t mean to be a dick, but I don’t want you taking my picture”. Sorry Jeff, but you do mean to be a dick. You are headlining a major festival on the main stage, and nobody can see you unless they’re up close? That’s stupid. Also, you paved the way for so many wiener-y indie-pop bands. Quit playing live shows if you are going to be such a baby about it. I have never seen so many people leave the fest so quickly.

Hey, guess what? Randy Newman has more songs than just that one from Toy Story.

On the Sunday, Randy Newman was playing. Most people know him for doing the Toy Story soundtracks, but he also had some cool albums in the ’70s. Unfortunately, it was not really an appropriate setting for the guy. It was just him and his piano. Some of his songs were absolutely beautiful, but to stand on the side stage and hear this while a bunch of people were talking and wondering what else to do got kind of distracting. I would like to see him again, but in a smaller indoor club.

Iron and Wine were the headliners at the end of the festival. I had almost the same feeling about them as I did with Randy Newman, except I don’t really care for Iron and Wine at all. I’ve listened to a few albums, and they never did anything for me. I guess it’s pretty nice music if you have to go to bed. Well, for a headliner, the fest didn’t really go out with a bang. Maybe they scheduled it like that because it was a Sunday night, and people had to get ready for work on Monday? If so, that’s pretty smart. Otherwise, I would have accepted a slammin’ funk band to roll out and keep me feeling good vibes.

Overall, this year’s Folk Fest was alright. I understand they try to cater to all sorts of musical tastes, but that can sometimes cause conflict. Many people left during Jeff Mangum, and it’s just because they were trying to appease the younger crowd. They also brought Randy Newman in (a girl next to me said, “Toy Story was the first movie I ever saw!” I felt old) and rap acts like Shad. It’s a nice mish-mash if you’re into that sort of thing, and if you aren’t, it’s just nice to sit out in the sun, and catch some rays. I just don’t think a lot of people come for the music. It’s more of a “staycation” for a lot of people, and setting up your tarp becomes the #1 priority. A lot of the time, it felt more like a weekend for socialization. Nobody is watching bands, just drinking beers and talking about their week.

Folk Fest is what you make it, but I don’t know if I would shell out the cash to socialize and hang out in a beer tent. It’s a great place to bring the family, relax, and get to know some upcoming artists, and some classic gems. I prefer small bars or nightclubs for that “intimate” setting, but for the few months of decent weather we have, I guess people would rather sit outside. The food is usually pretty good, the audience is relaxed and for the most part, pretty laid-back, and the volunteers are very helpful and friendly. It’s no wonder the festival is so popular, but it is beyond me why you would want to watch a guy whining into a microphone, playing a guitar at night on such a massive stage, with such a huge audience. There really is no target demographic for the festival, and that’s a good thing. It just seems to be a thing to do. Just deal.

Arthur’s Baguette (part 1)

Words and Photoshop: Jeremy Curry

“Would you like peanuts or a cookie?” asked the flight attendant. “Am I able to have both?” The attendant laughed, and gave Arthur both a chocolate chip cookie and a bag of peanuts. Arthur gave a tiny smirk to the attendant and thanked her. He was on a flight to Paris, France with his mother, and he couldn’t have been happier. His mother was gracious enough to take him on the trip because he was graduating Jr. High with fantastic grades, and also because she felt that the boy needed a break. Not to mention that Arthur’s mother won the lottery! It seemed to Arthur that his luck was beginning to change. After years of being teased and being called a “geek”, he could now relax and know that things were changing for the better.

Arthur prepared for his trip by reading Beginner’s French for two weeks straight, and signing books on France out of the library. He may have wasted a couple weeks of vacation time reading, but it was well worth it if he was going to immerse himself in the culture. He couldn’t wait to stand at the top of the Eiffel Tower! He was a little disgusted to hear that the French enjoy eating frogs’ legs, but also heard they had good cheese. He managed to get a couple of addresses from friends and acquaintances back at his school, so he could write them postcards. His best friend Yick Yu would probably appreciate one, although he was treating him a little differently since his mother won the lottery. He seemed to be jealous, taking it out on Arthur by making snarky comments. Oh well, Yick and Arthur got through a lot of tough times during Jr. High, so the least he could do to say “thanks” would be to write him a postcard, and maybe pick him up a souvenir.

Caitlin Ryan was another friend who’s address he had managed to snag. She wasn’t a good friend, just more of an acquaintance and a frequent partner when it came to school activities. Arthur had a major crush on her, and wanted to make her “more than a friend”. He thought he might be able to express his feelings for her in the postcard. When he got back, maybe she would be waiting at the airport to thank him. Maybe she would wrap her arms around him and tell him that she loves him, and was too shy to express her feelings until now! Then they would share a passionate kiss next to the baggage claim. He wasn’t thinking about how his dad would be with him, or that Caitlin was too young to drive, so her mom would probably have to drive her all the way to the airport for this to work. How would she know when he arrives? He couldn’t call her. Logistics be damned, Arthur was just thinking of a beautiful moment.

As Arthur sipped on a tiny glass of Coke, the plane started to rattle quickly, and performed what could only be described as a huge hop. Coke splattered all over Arthur’s face and his new white dress shirt. “Aw, why did I have to wear white?!” he whined out loud. “Attention ladies and gentlemen, we are traveling though a bit of turbulence here. If you could please stay seated and fasten your seatbelts until we turn the seatbelt sign back off, that would be much appreciated,” the captain said. Arthur looked at his mother with a troubled expression…

Shedding My Skin Post-Sled

Words: Jeremy Curry // Photos courtesy of Sled Island

Well, it’s been another insane week of music, art, comedy, friends, foes, party riots, pool parties, BBQs, and way too many beers to count. It’s been a wild ride at this year’s Sled Island. Things were looking a bit suspect at first, but the line-up was scheduled so that there weren’t too many conflicting artists. I’m sure people would argue that point, considering we all have different tastes, but in my opinion, I didn’t miss out on a lot.

WEDNESDAY

Nü Sensae (photo: Crystal Sujata)

Wednesday was when things started rolling along, although it wasn’t a very good idea for me to start rolling along at 10:00 pm. The Russian Circles were playing at the Dicken’s Pub, and Boris were headlining as the “secret” guest. It wasn’t much of a secret, though. The line-up outside was huge, and everybody seemed to be waiting in line to see Boris play. The place was at capacity, so it was a better idea to move on down to the Bamboo for Nü Sensae. They’re a three piece from Vancouver that play some pretty insane punk rock, but have some pretty jarring riffs, sort of in the Sonic Youth vein. The vocals squeal like a hawk being captured by a bear, and the guitar/bass combo was ferocious. This got the crowd into a wild mood, which was kind of distracting from such a powerful set.

After that, it was time to chill out and go to bed. The next three days were filled with so many shows it was hard to keep up.

THURSDAY

Too High Crew (photo: Liz Collins)

Thursday started off with a pool party up on 14A Street. The place was filled with people yammering on about what shows they were “stoked” about. There were free hot dogs, beers and heaters for all until they ran out, which was pretty fast. Each Other, Sheer Agony and the Too High Crew kept the party chill while we kept it cool in the pool. That is, until some total asshole peed in it and ruined it for everyone. Thanks a lot, you pile of trash. Otherwise, it was a huge success! Like last year, the pool was filled with dry ice and ended up looking like a child’s cauldron.

After that, there was a show at the Hillhurst United Church by two Montreal titans. CFCF opened the show with a very soothing set featuring many tracks from his latest EP, Exercises. A lot of it sounded like Philip Glass incorporating drum samples into his music. The David Sylvian cover “September” may have been the highlight. The bass was so low, I thought about making a cocoon for myself and hanging out there for a while.

CFCF was followed by the slow building textures of Tim Hecker, who almost put the audience into “The Drone Zone”. The only illumination in the whole place was the natural light coming through the pane glass windows. It was getting darker, so the whole thing was a tiring, hallucination of sound. This was a good thing. It was a completely different experience from seeing any other band at the festival. I wasn’t sure if I was being encouraged to soak myself in the drones and take a vibrating nap or not.

Gold (photo: David Kenney)

Broken City was the next place to run to. Having a bike is necessary for the festival, and I broke mine last year. Sled Island did have some to rent, but apparently not enough. Walking is relaxing, but not when you have to get from one venue to the next, knowing the show could possibly be sold out. It was also an issue for Shabazz Palaces, because on this particular evening, the bar was at double the capacity.

Openers Rap X and Gold had a cozy audience. Gold was one of the more notable local bands playing this year. They had some pretty interesting guitar riffs, dreamlike vocals so tender they were falling off the bone, and just good times all around. A solid performance.

Shabazz Palaces (photo: David Kenney)

After this, the bar got pretty insane, filling up to the brim while Prince Rama performed. Luckily a lot of folks had elsewhere to go when Shabazz came on. Either that, or they left halfway through because they didn’t get it. Their loss I suppose, because it was one of the better rap shows to come to Calgary in a very long time. The grooves were slow and intriguing, with thumb pianos plink-plonking under a twisted lyrical adventure through space and time. It was blasphemy to leave this show.

FRIDAY

The Evaporators and Andrew WK (photo: Arif Ansari)

Another hearty day full of cool shit. I started at Local 510 to see another fantastic new local band, New Friends. Their set began like a witches’ ceremony. I thought we may be letting spirits, specters and ghouls enter the bar to terrorize patrons, but that wasn’t the case. The rest of the set was more along the lines of post-rock, but without all of that nasty build-up we’re so used to. What a yawner that would be. Instead, it was a real slab of icing.

Electronic bleep-bloop tape hiss guru Nate Young followed with a really interesting set. He dawned his shades and blasted out pretty pulsating, murky electronics with warped tape loops. People walking by outside on the street had no fucking idea what was going on. Were we building an evil robot indoors? No, just seeing a master at work.

A few doors down, the Evaporators were starting up a legendary set! They started off with the classic tune “Mario Cuomo Works at Domo”. It just got more fun and exciting as the show progressed. Andrew WK ended up onstage to play with the band, and even to play his song “Party Hard”. Everyone in the audience was totally psyched and had a really fun time. There was a lot of audience participation, which can usually be annoying, but with Nardwuar the Human Serviette, it’s an honour. He is definitely a Canadian treasure, and always fun to see. You will never see anybody with that much energy in your life. Combined with Andrew WK? It just makes me tired thinking about it.

Unfortunately for Feist fans it started to rain, and they had to watch the show at Olympic Plaza amongst the huge puddles. Oh well, my mom said it was good.

Thurston Moore (photo: David Kenney)

Over at the Grand Theatre, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan played a show that was visually fun and pretty goddamn loud. It was stepping into a psychedelic mountain of sound, dragons, hairy monster things, jingle bells, heavy jams, and one moment where I don’t think any of the band members even blinked for about 8 minutes during a song. For a band that also focuses on a visual component to their music, they were actually really fun to see. They opened the whole thing with “Queens”, one of the best build-ups to a furious jam I have heard in a while.

Thurston Moore followed with a pretty great set, filled with old numbers from the Psychic Hearts era, and a bunch of brand spankin’ new tracks from his forthcoming record with his new band, Chelsea Light Moving. The standout track from the new material was a song called “Burroughs”, which sounded like a classic Moore jam. The very best was when he played the title track from Psychic Hearts. Everyone’s head starting bobbing in unison. We were in a sit-down theatre, so we couldn’t really party down.

There were always so many choices after that show but because of missing Boris on Wednesday, I thought I’d make it up by seeing them at the Distillery after Thurston Moore. I have no idea why I thought this would be a good idea. If you have read any of my previous Sled Island articles, you would know that I think this is the most disgusting place in the city. This time it wasn’t totally horrible, aside from the dickhead bouncers and the bathroom that was literally covered in garbage. I don’t think I could see the floor at all in the bathroom, because it was covered in layers of trash! Besides that, it wasn’t so bad.

I arrived when a band called Black Mastiff started. They sounded like southern rock meets metal riffs. It would probably work well if I were rolling down a river with heavy rapids in hell. Ancients came on afterwards, starting off their set by yelling “tittays!!” into the mic. I don’t know about you, but I think this is really lame (but appropriate for the Distillery). I was expecting the worst from this band, but they weren’t that bad. They had some pretty crazy metal riffs going on, and made the crowd go pretty insane. Boris headlined the whole shindig with a pretty mixed bag of material, new and old. The new J-pop material isn’t all that fun, and I personally prefer the old heavy sludge jams, which were too few and far between. It was time to leave. I had heard they played the album Feedbacker in its entirety the previous night, so I was kicking myself for missing out.

BeatRoute was having an afterparty at their HQ, and it was a goddamn nightmare. It was so packed with people in some areas, and was a definite fire hazard. They ran out of alcohol very early into the party, which may have been a blessing in disguise, considering how incredibly wasted people were. I didn’t even know who or what was going on, because half of the time I was waiting for the bathroom, or waiting for somebody to move out of the way. Wait, wait, wait. It was time to hit the sack.

SATURDAY

Han Bennink (photo: Katie Hyde)

The last full day of the festival. Local 510 was having a free hangover breakfast with breakfast tacos! Ironically, I could not eat the tacos because I was too hungover. Way to go, old body. There were loads of good bands playing as well, but I was in such a bad state I couldn’t deal with loud sounds. I did eventually manage to catch the comedy at the Auburn Saloon, though. Why is it called the “Auburn Saloon”? It is hardly a saloon. Shit, I think I am actually trying to make a joke. I apologize.

Todd Barry was one of the funniest comedians to come to Calgary. He told a girl that came to the show with a personal fan that it was “pretentious”, and proceeded to make many fan jokes throughout his set. He was extremely sarcastic, worked the crowd so well, and never fell flat. Tim Heidecker followed with a set that was basically poking fun at shitty, unfunny, sexist comedians. Think of a comedian who tries to copy Andrew Dice Clay (who also sucks) and fails miserably and there you go. He dropped the mic many times, had to take cue cards out at every moment, and made fun of his wife, “the nag”. He was the perfect comedian to bring alongside Neil Hamburger.

I wasn’t too familiar with Natasha Leggero, but she was another incredible comic. Her observational humor was fantastic, and reminded me of all of the dumpy things I have encountered in America, including the revamped TLC channel. 19 kids and counting! Neil Hamburger closed the show with a lot of coughing, hacking, yelling at the audience, making fun of all of the “shitty” bands playing, and having a joke-tribute to the recently deceased Whitney Houston. It was possibly the best comedy show in Calgary in a very long time.

Had a long walk over to the Ironwood to catch a wild set from Dutch jazz drummer Han Bennink, Toronto saxophonist Brodie West and Terrie Ex, from legendary punk band The Ex. Bennink was one of the most incredible drummers I have ever seen, playing with his foot bouncing on the snare at one point, while West sqounked out some squiggly sax blasts, and Ex gnarled with a coat hanger across his guitar. It was a spectacle that I cannot believe was even playing at the festival. Snailhouse capped the show off with their last show (I think?). It brought back so many memories from my high school days. The song “Twenty One Years” had all of the old high school memories flooding back. It was a great song to put on mix tapes for babes. It probably still is! Anyway, it was a really great nostalgic trip, and still holds up. Chris Vail, Chris Dadge and Aaron Booth all played in the band, which was even better. They are very important local musicians here in Calgary. Thanks a lot to Chris Dadge for putting on such a great show!

From here I walked on over to the Legion to finish off the night with Andrew WK. A dance duo by the name of SNAKATAK & Tessa G were gettin’ busy when I arrived. The beats were pretty cheeseball, but the party was bumpin’. People were going wild, and all the songs were about dancing and having fun. It was contagious, because within a few minutes, I was dancing pretty hard. They were actually a pretty wild duo to see! The beats may have been a bit silly, but leave your briefcase at the door and just have some fun!

Cherie Lily (photo: David Kenney)

Cherie Lily came on afterwards with her “Houserobics” music or whatever it is called, and that turned out to be another really fun time to dance. The party was flowing pretty nicely, and everybody was in great spirits until… Andrew WK came on.

Now, Andrew WK is a fun person, does a lot of cool things and is very positive when it comes to partying and having fun. He even did a motivational talk earlier in the week about partying and having a fun life. Unfortunately, before he came on I kind of had a feeling things weren’t going to be as fun as expected. When it was announced he was coming on stage, people started getting a little pushy to get close to the front. I moved back, because I am not in the mood for thrashing around like a maniac. He came on, and the audience went insane. People were flying all over the place, and a huge group of kids ended up dancing on stage.

From there, it was people jumping off stage every one second, and even massive asshole dudes behind me were elbowing my friend and I in the back. It was a very unsafe place to be. People were coming out of the pit, injured and looking almost dead in some cases. Andrew WK warned the audience that if they kept up the wild times, the party would get cancelled. Sure enough, after another song, the lights came on and the party was over. It was pretty sad to see a crowd turn into a bunch of goons in a few seconds flat. We were having such fun before! Anyway, the ambulance came and everybody had to go home.

Sometimes Calgary can’t have nice things. People forgot all about respecting each other and keeping cool, so everyone can have a nice time. I wasn’t even in the pit and I was being elbowed in the back. Calm it down you goddamn goons! It kind of made Calgarians look like a bunch of Neanderthals. I heard a guy from a band when I was leaving saying he wanted to “get the fuck out of here as fast as possible”. Now, that is not what I want to hear! It sucks that a few bad eggs can ruin everybody else’s day.

SUNDAY

Duchess Says (photo: Doug Springer)

Sunday I woke up at the crack of 6 pm to catch the last show at the Republik. When I arrived, a great band called The Blind Shake was playing. They were a high-energy rock and roll band that just killed it on stage. Such intensity. I don’t think I blinked an eye during their set. I hear sometimes bands “kicked out the jams”, but I don’t usually see it in the literal sense. They did just that.

The band that closed the whole show was Duchess Says, a female-fronted group from Montreal. The girl had such a wonderful stage presence and such a cool vocal style that I told a friend of mine I wanted to marry her. A guy in front of me turned around and said “get in line”. She was so intense, yet really fun and got the audience involved. She let people come on stage, but instead of last night’s fiasco, everybody just danced harmlessly. I don’t know, is this band “dance-rock”? I don’t like that term, but I guess it suits them. Her vocal style was so wild and insane, like nothing I have heard before. The jams had everybody shaking their butts. It was so much fun.

So, besides a few bad eggs, it was a really great festival. There were a few new acts I want to get into, and a lot of older acts that were very impressive. Every year it is something for so many people to look forward to, for those who don’t like the Stampede that churns out a ton of assholes every year. It’s a great alternative for music, comedy, art and film lovers. Even if I moan and complain about the festival at the beginning because “the bands were better last year”, I’m usually wrong. There are so many new and upcoming acts to check out, and OK bands that end up putting on incredible shows. The best part is, Sled Island supports so many local artists, businesses, filmmakers, and bands. People come from all over to check out the festival, and it’s nice for people to come home and tell their friends about a cool local thing they saw. It was a pretty good show all around. Thanks a lot, Sled Island!

Sledding in the Summer

Words: Jeremy Curry

Since 2007, Sled Island has been a pretty fun summer time event for those of us who enjoy a variety of independent bands, a few major old-timers (The Melvins, Boredoms, etc.), the celebration of local artists, and some noteworthy comedians. Each year, the festival gets larger, hosts a wider variety of events and attracts more people. It supports a wide variety of local venues, and has managed to snag Olympic Plaza as its main venue. It’s become one of the larger festivals in North America, and has done so by getting such an interesting variety of acts every year. The major bands have been covered to death every year, including this disgusting review by a Calgary Herald “journalist” a few years ago, where he only went to Olympic Plaza for one afternoon to shit on the festival. I’d like to talk about some of the lesser known and new acts coming to the fest that you should check out. I will also mention my one major qualm about the festival, and that is that venue The Distillery. What a gross heap of shit. I don’t know why they keep getting shows there. The sound is so horrible, and the staff is very surly. Unless they hired completely new staff, I can see that place being just as disgusting as it has been in the past. Anyway, on with the list!

GreyScreen

GreyScreen is local Calgarian gaming wizard Kevin Stebner. He’s been featured on Weird Canada and recently had a really insane show at MTT Fest. He makes some of the most incredible electronic 8-bit grooves out of a slew of Game Boys, and sometimes busts out the ol’ NES Power Glove. Making music out of Game Boys sounds like it may be as exciting as a minimal house laptop musician, but Stebner comes at his gaming consoles with an intense energy that will get you dancing your ass off. He works on many projects at once, so don’t expect to see Grey Screen every second week like a lot of bands in the city. He may even grace us with an 8-bit Black Flag cover. Here’s hoping SST doesn’t give him a cease and desist for that.

Role Mach

Garage rock is difficult to get into, unless you don’t care that every single band you like sounds exactly the same. Role Mach play the garage tunes, but with a horn section! I have to admit, adding horn sections to a lot of music makes me weak in the knees (except ska), and the vocalist for this band belts out these crazy jittery vocals, reminiscent of a few early ’80s New York post-punk acts. If you are nursing a hangover, you might want to check this band out. They will wake you up in no time.

Grown-Ups

Another local act, but this band plays every week at Tubby Dog so it’s cool if you miss them. I’m kidding, of course. Grown-Ups are a great band to listen to on your Walkman while you’re mowing the lawn, with an Old Milwaukee tall-can in one hand. You asked your son to mow the lawn, but he ran off to smoke pot with his dirtbag friend you can’t stand. It’s angry dad music. They do have a song about Tubby Dog, and Sara Hughes, drummer of Grown-Ups, has her Tubby Documentary playing at the fest as well. Highly recommended.

Nate Young

Nate Young is a master of noise, as witnessed in his bands Wolf Eyes and Stare Case. Wolf Eyes were probably the loudest, most confusing band to be signed onto Sub Pop. Stare Case is more of an avant-blues act, but with some pretty squawked out tones and horrifying squeals. Young may be a pretty out-there experience for the fest, but it would be well worth your time to see him, and take a break from all of the mid-range rock bands. This is sure to give you a big ear scrape.

YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN

Is this a popular band? If not, they should be. YT//ST is a collective of performance artists who weave through a heap of genres to make some of the most gnarly, hypnotizing jams possible. Sometimes reminiscent of the Boredoms, and sometimes it gets a little bit on the King Crimson side of things. They usually have wild stage make-up and put on a pretty interesting show. Stage antics can be a bit tiresome, but when you have professional performance artists busting out some chant wearing white face paint, that’s OK with me.

Lab Coast

More local jams to check out here. Lab Coast have been compared to Guided By Voices a lot, and it’s not that much of a stretch. They are a pretty solid pop/rock band, with short songs and incredibly catchy hooks. They are one of the best bands in the city right now. Despite their comparison to GBV, they do have their own distinct sound, and are a perfect companion to a nice summer’s day.

The Bitterweed Draw

Keeping the local spirit alive, The Bitterweed Draw played an after party at MTT Fest recently, and got the mostly drunk and tired crowd to have a completely insane hoedown. The band would be great to listen to while rolling down the Mississippi, or just chugging back some brews by the campfire. It’s old-school Americana. Banjo pickin’, washboard scratchin’, hootin’ and hollerin’ jams at their finest. Made by Calgarians. Hold on to your suspenders, twirl your mustache and blow into a jug. It’ll be a good time.

Teledrome

Another exciting local band, Teledrome are hard to categorize. I don’t want to say “synth punk” or “synth pop”, but it is a bit of a mixed bag of the two, and a little bit goth-y. Ryan Sadler and friends create some pretty amazing hooks, and will definitely get your butt shaking. Unless you are goth, where I guess you’d rather be swooping back and forth slowly, like a spirit in the night. Anyway, they are pretty fun, and a band to look out for in the future.

Shabazz Palaces

One of the more popular acts to come to Sled Island, but I don’t actually know how well Shabazz Palaces are received in the city. As with most festivals, they like to squeak in one or two rap acts to mix things up. Good choice this year, as Shabazz Palaces bring the quality futuristic rap grooves to the festival. We’ve had some Wu-Tang giants in the past, which have had some pretty massive rap-alongs, but Shabazz Palaces is a more recent outfit from Seattle, with Digable Planets’ Ishmael Butler leading the collective. Black Up was one of the best rap albums of 2011, and their stage show is something special. The beats are murky and wonky, an outer-worldly feeling. The lyrics are poetic in nature, and blow most other rappers away in quality.

Well, with that in mind, I hope somebody actually reads this and takes my reviews in consideration. Do whatever you want, but these musicians are very interesting to say the least. Enjoy the festival.

2011: The Backwards Relationship

Words: Jeremy Curry

The year 2011 felt like one of my past relationships going backwards. It started off long, frustrating and complicated, but it ended with excitement, wonder and a hell of a lot of questions. The reason for this is because I’ve moved from my hometown of Calgary, Alberta, to the monstrous super champion funzone of Tokyo, Japan. I am surprised the city has not eaten me alive yet. I’ve attended a couple of live events, but the city is so breathtaking and vibrant that anywhere I go turns out to be a fantastic treat. I have yet to find myself in a state of boredom or frustration. I am sure being unemployed will catch up to me soon. Anyway, I’ve seen loads of crazy outfits and cute cartoons and just plain weird junk, so let’s move on.

BURT BACHARACH

I’ve always loved Burt, but it wasn’t until this year that I heard the five disc anthology Something Big, that I really started to appreciate the guy. He creates these perfect pop songs that seem so innocent and fun, yet have this gushing feeling of love all over the damn place. Colour me sentimental. These songs can sound kind of corny sometimes, but man are they arranged in such a perfect way. It’s hard to describe the feeling I get when I play “(They Long To Be) Close To You” or “All Kinds Of People”. It’s like sitting by a roaring fire on a cold day, sipping hot chocolate while your border collie brings you your slippers and your daily newspaper (mine would be The Onion). Oh, and there’s a roast cooking in the oven too!

JIM O’ROURKE’S MANY ALBUMS RELEASED THIS YEAR

Jim O’Rourke is my favorite musician, so it was kind of crazy for me this year, when he released about eight albums I think? I don’t know if this is correct, but some great ones are the compilations Old News Vol. 5 and Old News Vol. 6. His album Indeed with Oren Ambarchi was like riding a death-cycle into No Man’s Land, and the album with Ambarchi and Keiji Haino, In A Flash Everything Comes Together As One, was a wonked out whirlwind of improvised freak outs, brain-blasting riffs and jarring electronics. He also worked with the group Fire! for a release on Rune Grammafon called, Unreleased? Yet the real gem I heard this year was called One Bird, Two Bird with Mats Gustafsson and Merzbow. This is one of the most abrasive, brutal and awesome records I have heard all year. Gustafsson squonks out the gnarliest sax wails I have ever heard. Like his life depends on tearing up eardrums. Merzbow and O’Rourke flicker in and out with hisses, drones and wobbly tones that would have you think you’re in droid hell. For somebody who has been churning out an insane quantity of albums, the quality is still top-notch.

THE BEACH BOYS SMILE SESSIONS

It was so cool that this was released this year. I had no idea! Snuck out from under me, I guess. This is another pop masterwork that was never really finished and is considered to be one of the greatest American unfinished records. I don’t know who else you could lump into that category? Does Meat Loaf have a fantastic unfinished record we have yet to hear about? Doubtful. The Smile Sessions are pretty much as close as it gets to the completion of the record, with tons of extra stuff on the vinyl editions. It’s a great way to choose your own adventure as to how you think the tracks should have gone together, although I was quite happy with this result. Oh, I also forgot about Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. They didn’t finish that album, but they released it anyway because they didn’t give a shit.

Here are some good albums that came out this year:

DJ Quik- The Book of David

200 Years – s/t

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan – YT//ST

Wild Flag – s/t

Thundercat – The Golden Age of the Apocalypse

P.J Harvey – Let England Shake

Master Musicians of Bukkake – Totem Three

Masami Akita, Mats Gustafsson & Jim O’Rourke – One Bird, Two Bird

Cyclo – id

Boston Spaceships – Let it Beard

David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time

Evil Madness – Super Great Love

FORMA – s/t

Gui Boratto – III

P.G. Six – Starry Mind

G-Side – The One… Cohesive

Ellen Fullman – Through Glass Panes

Rustie – Glass Swords

The Beach Boys – The Smile Sessions (reissue)

LFO – Frequencies (reissue)

Savaging Spires – s/t

Mark McGuire – Get Lost

The Roots – undun

Shabazz Palaces – Black Up

Sonic Youth – Simon Werner a Disparu

Everything else? Kinda shitty.