Pink Mountaintops - Stephen McBean Reading 'Outside Love'

The third album from Stephen McBean as Pink Mountaintops, Outside Love, was released this week on Jagjaguwar. Stephen McBean, also of Black Mountain, brought several friends into the fold, including some of the Black Mountain crew, Sophie Trudeau of A Silver Mt. Zion and Godspeed You Black Emperor, and Ashley Webber of The Organ and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. The list goes on.

Based out of beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, McBean’s album is about a lot of wonderful things. Woven throughout the various arrangements are tones of melancholy, hope, vampires, and bullet holes through the walls of the summer. McBean’s collected a lot of influences, each of them unique, each of them captivating, and put them into this 10-song collection. Each song is a fresh start, a surprising development, a change from the last. Is the album like a romance novel? It’s been suggested that it is. But I prefer to see it as a collection of singles, grabbed and inspired by those random moments, subtle or obvious, that need a song. Life could be lived to a soundtrack like Outside Love; with nothing certain but a start and a finish; yet unique, surprising and refreshing every step of the way in between.

Pink Mountaintops – Holiday
Pink Mountaintops – Outside Love
Pink Mountaintops – While You Were Dreaming


— , May 13, 2009    Comments Off on Pink Mountaintops: Outside Love

The Burning Hell

It’s rare to find a band that surprises, excites, makes you think, gets you dancing, and causes unstoppable fits of laughter. The Burning Hell does all of these and then some. Lead singer/songwriter Mathias Kom may say that his band is dorky but I would have to disagree. The Burning Hell are the coolest kids around.

To try to describe the nature of The Burning Hell’s sound would be unjust. You will have to trust me and give them a listen. But to describe their intellectual and darkly humoristic lyrics, I hunted down Mathias Kom to ask him about his songwriting.

At the very outset Mathias made it clear to me was that his music has only three themes: death, things, and conferences. The first two of these shouldn’t come as a surprise; they are themes found in just about every artist’s music. But conferences? In truth, until relatively recently, Mathias taught history. As such, he is very interested in conferences (what historian wouldn’t be?); not only in how they produce important historical decisions, but more especially in the social anthropology occurring in the backrooms and behind the official text. Mathias told me that, “it is impossible for a conference to be anything but exciting and dynamic.” And he means it. If you ever have the pleasure of seeing them perform live you will question your life and wonder why you don’t attend more conferences. Here, about the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, from Baby released March 17, is ‘The Berlin Conference’.

The Burning Hell – The Berlin Conference

Mathias’ other major interest is death; talking about death, deconstructing it and proving that death is not necessarily an end. In our conversation he told me that he sees death as being a product of North American culture; that our obsession with health and fitness and living our lives stems more so from our fear of death than our embracing of life. Honestly, I find many of the Burning Hell’s songs on the subject pretty macabre, but to give you a taste here is ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ from their album Tick Tock.

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— , April 13, 2009    3 Comments

Amidst a plethora of rising international indie stars, infectious reverberating beats and the fantastic favorites, cached on my iPod is a continually growing selection of some softer down-to-earth tunes for all those times when I feel like mellowing down. The next best thing to a good book, a cup of tea and a cozy blanket, there are tons of Canadian folk artists out there that satisfy my needs when I need to take a step away from living life in the fast(er) lane.

What’s great about folk music is the complete lack of pretensions. Often, folk artists are very ‘what you see is what you get,’ whether in their songs, playing shows or face to face. That said, there is one folk artist in particular I would like to introduce everyone to; one of these artists whom, to know their music, is to know them.

Present: Craig Cardiff. It’s not often that one gets the pleasure of meeting someone as genuine, open and honest as Ontario native folk-singer Craig Cardiff. I met Craig for the first time outside of Kingston’s Grad Club on a warm spring evening about a year ago, gearing up to play an intimate show as part of a fundraiser. I can still remember how, relaxed as anything and with pint in hand, he told me about spending the day with his then two-year-old daughter picking up dog droppings from the yard. He said she would trudge around in her rubber boots, stop, point and say “poooo.” He said “pooo” too, in the same pure high-pitched childlike voice.

The way that Craig relates to his listeners, preferring to play intimate living-room shows or in prison cafeterias than to a packed pub, is the same way he writes his music; he holds absolutely nothing back. His music is simple, beautifully melodic and honest. As I’ve heard it described, it can bring you to tears on one song and have you smiling ear-to-ear on the very next.

Craig’s latest album Easter Eggs is a selection of live recordings from his tours through Canada and the States. True to form, the album includes bits of stage banter such as in ‘Circus’ where he tells hilarious stories of (his?) teenage shenanigans and various covers including Dan Bern’s ‘God Said No’. Armed with little more than his guitar, harmonica and loop peddles, Craig brings the atmosphere of his intimate live shows to your headphones. The album does not, however, include beer. Other tracks of particular note include: ‘Grandma’, which I definitely need to listen to with my Grandma, ‘Year of Funerals’, which isn’t actually as sad as it sounds like it would be and ‘Dancing Like Pierre’ which reminds me of impromptu kitchen dance parties.

Craig Cardiff – Dance Me Outside
Craig Cardiff – God Said No

However, as much as I enjoy Easter Eggs I personally prefer (or maybe I’m more used to?) Craig’s latest studio-recorded album Goodnight (Go Home) released in 2007. Goodnight is a very intimate album that brings fuller depth and musical complexity to already phenomenal and heartfelt lyrics.

Craig Cardiff – When People Go

He’s just finished his Canadian tour but if you’re in the need for some down-to-earth chillin’ time, I’m willing to bet you’ll be able to catch one of his shows in your area before too long.


— , March 30, 2009    5 Comments