The Wooden Birds

I’m always excited to hear that Andrew Kenny from Austin’s American Analog Set is up to something. Last year, he was on tour with Broken Social Scene for Kevin Drew’s album. A couple of months ago, I was pleased to hear that he had a new band, The Wooden Birds, and that their debut album, Magnolia, was released by Barsuk Records on May 12.

The album has quickly become one of my favourite releases by Kenny. It sounds like American Analog Set going all John Wesley Harding, kind of. The signature guitar sound is still there, just as great as it ever was, but it’s the rhythm section that sets Magnolia apart from his previous releases. The bass and percussion are what give the album a distinct feeling to it. The sparse drumming and shakers set a mood that plays through the album, giving it a clear direction and tone. It really makes the record feel like an album, not just a collection of songs.

Lyrically, there are just as many gems on this record as any from American Analog Set. ‘Hometown Fantasy’, an old favourite of mine from the Home series, featuring Kenny with Ben Gibbard, gets the Wooden Bird treatment and is kicked up a notch, making it a new favourite of mine. On ‘Seven Seventeen’ I find myself questioning Kenny’s lyrics, which tell the love story of a seven and a seventeen year old. A bit odd, but it also happens to be my favourite sounding song on the album.

If this is the direction Kenny continues to head, I wouldn’t be too sad if The Wooden Birds became a more permanent fixture than American Analog Set. He seems comfortable in this band; his songs suit the sound quite well. Still, I’ll keep hoping for a Broken Social Scene Presents: Andrew Kenny record.

The Wooden Birds – Hometown Fantasy
The Wooden Birds – Seven Seventeen
The Wooden Birds – False Alarm

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— , June 10, 2009    2 Comments

Dance Yourself to Death

A couple of weeks ago at The Rivoli in Toronto, I got a chance to hear Dance Yourself to Death’s debut album, Ready for Love, for the first time at their CD release party. The intimate venue could barely contain the crowd or the size of their songs. Their first full length is one of big proportions and aspirations. You can practically see the fist pumps and hand claps of an arena-sized audience while listening to the opening song ‘We Are All Made of Stone’. On ‘Only Love’, the lights are flying and the crowed is fired up singing along with the chorus. It’s an album that screams to be played live, but works just as well while listening to it on the bus with your headphones. I caught up with singer Jen Markowitz to ask her about the new album.

Dance Yourself to Death – We Are All Made of Stone
Dance Yourself to Death – Teenage Romanticide

Kyle: I read that Elton John has a copy of your EP. How did that happen? Did you get to meet him? Were you a fan of Elton John before?

Jen: Nick Hurran, the director of a film Elton was producing called “It’s a Boy Girl Thing” came to see us play and asked us to contribute a song to the soundtrack. This was before we had recorded anything, so we hustled into the studio and put together our EP which was then sent to Elton John for approval. The next thing we knew, he wanted us to actually appear in the film playing one of our songs, so I guess he liked the EP. Were we a fan of his before? Is there anyone in the world who isn’t a fan of Elton John?

Kyle: I believe that the music being created by this generation is largely defined by the fact that it’s cool to listen to your parents record collections. Did your parents listen to a lot of the bands that influence your music?

Jen: My parents didn’t listen to pop music at all. We had a lot of classical music around when I was growing up. I really didn’t get into pop music until I was in my teens, and it wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I became obsessed with discovering the records that I should have been listening to when I was growing up. It gave me a chance to get to discover a band’s entire catalogue all at once, so it often felt like I had won the lottery.  I didn’t have my finger on the pulse at the time the records came out, but that lack of coolness served me well later on.

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— , April 20, 2009    4 Comments

Dance Yourself to Death

I first heard Dance Yourself to Death for the first time when I was volunteering as a stage hand at the NXNE music festival in Toronto this past summer.  It was the second of the three nights I worked at the Cameron House, and just by the name of the band I thought it was going to be something I would enjoy. After talking to Jen from the band, I was caught off guard when she took the mic since I didn’t know she was the singer, but after the first couple of bars I was sold. I bought their 4 song EP that night and it became a regular listen over the summer.

Their songs sound like they can fill arenas opening for a mid-80’s Bruce Springsteen or Genesis, or some pop rock band of that era. The melodies are catchy and backed with lyrics interesting enough to grab attention. I ran into Jen again a week or so ago at a Land of Talk concert,  and found out that they have their first LP due out next Wednesday, so check out iTunes or go to their myspace for more details.

Dance Yourself to Death – Living Funeral


— , January 27, 2009    1 Comment

I kicked off my 2009 partying with My Morning Jacket and 20,000 of their friends in Madison Square Garden. It was a pretty good way to start the year.

Pretty much everyone in the building was “dressed to tha nines” and had their dancing shoes on. I’ve never been to an arena concert where every person in the entire building were on their feet singing and dancing the entire show. The energy in that building was just unreal. My Morning Jacket brought their A-Game as usual. Their set lasted just under 4 hours and featured a whole lot of covers. Sam Cooke’s “Bring It All Home to Me” was my favourite of the lot.

I’d have to sum it up as the greatest concert of my life. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that kind of energy at a concert before, and you could feel the band feeding off the rest of us.

My Morning Jacket – Bring It All Home to Me (Live in NYC on NYE 2009)

Another highlight of 2009 is hearing that Telekinesis has signed to Merge Records!

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— , January 24, 2009    Comments Off on My Morning Jacket: Madison Square Garden

There’s a lot of awesome bands in Seattle. A lot of them are my favorite bands. I’m not sure what it is about the west coast, I just relate to the music there more or something, but the one that is grabbing my attention the most right now is the band that is Telekinesis.

Their songs are bright and full of life, and perfect for the summertime. They put on a warm and care free feeling of pop songs, with melodies that present the songs so perfect. I’ve had front man Michael Lerner’s melodies stuck in my head through out the summer of ’08, which was really fitting while spending a week in Seattle. They just finished recording their debut LP in Two Sticks Audio, with Chris Walla as producer. I think Walla knows how to make albums pretty awesome. If you’re not ready for fall, check out their MySpace. It’s got some fun videos of fun in the studio.

Telekinesis – Coast of Carolina


— , October 8, 2008    2 Comments