Cherry Chapstick

Cherry Chapstick hail from Kingston, Ontario and consist of Julian Flavin, Evan Mullen and Nigel Ward. The trio celebrated the release of their debut EP Silencer last weekend at the Wolfe Island Music Festival where I had the opportunity to meet up with the guys and talk about what’s going on.

The band were open, humble and really excited to be there; in my mind all of the necessary hallmarks of great musicians or great-musicians-to-be. These guys have been playing together for a few years – in fact, they met back in high school, but have only existed as Cherry Chapstick for the past three months. Three months isn’t long, but while the rest of us were playing in the sun, the trio have been busy writing and recording an their excellent EP, booking shows and winning lots of hearts.  Including mine.

The music is incredibly well-mixed, well-balanced shoegaze or electronic indie dance. A couple of tracks have a touch of a disco beat which have won me over heart and soul. The band cite Fred Falke, Daft Punk, the Radio Dept, M83, French House, and the 80s in general among their influences. In short, they’ve got taste.

For now, Chapstick are going to be taking an eight month hiatus come September (something about education and future careers), but will be back sooner than we know it with a full album that will be knocking us off our feet and taking our breath away. “We’re planning for World Tour oh-eleven,” Evan told me, and I’m going to hold him to it. By then they’ll hopefully be able to incorporate some new sounds including one from a crazy synth Nigel told me about that “sounds like a tiger or a chainsaw, just more major.”

Cherry Chapstick – The Drop
Cherry Chapstick – Silencer

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— , August 17, 2009    7 Comments

Travis Morrison

If his website is accurate, Travis Morrison, former frontman of the late, great Dismemberment Plan, has retired from the music scene. Whether this is permanent remains to be seen, but it’s a loss that still gets me down. After all, how many people would name their band after a throwaway line from the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day? His solo material after the ‘Plan disbanded wasn’t exactly critically lauded. His debut solo disc Travistan received a whopping zero from the geniuses at Pitchfork, which effectively killed his career in the internet age. How ironic, they killed his career then report on its death. To have him leave the scene completely seems a shame, but at the same time, he’s left behind a respectable back catalogue of some pretty awesome music. Kudos to you Travis Morrison, enjoy your retirement, and don’t hesitate to reform the band if you get bored.

Travis Morrison – Any Open Door

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— , July 4, 2009    2 Comments

Handsome Furs

A couple of weeks ago, the Polaris Music Prize announced its  long list of nominees for 2009. Each year the prize is awarded to the best Canadian album chosen by a jury of a hundred-odd music writers, editors and bloggers from all over the country. Any album produced in Canada within the last year by a Canadian band is eligible for nomination. How it goes is that jury members select their five favourite albums, and the top forty make the Polaris long list. A few weeks later, after the albums on the long list have been played repeatedly and agonized over, the Jury selects their top ten for the Polaris short list. This year the short list will be announced on July 7 and the grand prize, an amazing $20,000, will be awarded on September 21.

The Polaris Music Prize was started a mere three years ago in 2006. The very first winner of the prize was Final Fantasy for his album He Poos Clouds. Since then the contest has served to assist numerous Canadian artists by promoting their albums and giving a massive boost to its winners. In 2007, Patrick Watson won for his album Close to Paradise and in 2009 Caribou won for Andorra. Other giants have been included in the Polaris short list for their remarkable releases, including Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Feist, Miracle Fortress, the New Pornographers, Sarah Harmer, the Weakerthans, and the list goes on and on.

This year’s long list features a ton of amazing Canadian talent. Many bands are fresh members of the music scene and many are well-established veterans. The Arkells, Beast, and Coeur de Pirate have all been nominated for debut albums, whereas Metric, The Stills, Martha Wainwright and Leonard Cohen are all recognized for their ongoing work. Patrick Watson is back with another album after his big win two years ago, as are Wolf Parade, Junior Boys, Joel Plaskett and Chad VanGaalen who also all made the short list in 2007. Finally, Ca Va Cool favourites Japandroids, Handsome Furs, and Pink Mountaintops made this year’s long list, much to Ca Va pride.

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— , July 1, 2009    27 Comments

Bruce Peninsula

On top of having just been announced as being on the Polaris Music Prize 2009 long list late last week, Toronto’s Bruce Peninsula have just started their three week Canadian tour with their first  performance taking place on Saturday in a slightly soggy Kingston, Ontario at the annual Skeleton Park Music Festival. More a collective than a band, the group usually consists of anywhere from 7 to 12 members. Started in 2006 by Matt Cully and Misha Bower, the group has grown to include a dynamic cast including Neil Haverty, Andrew Barker, Steve McKay, Leon Taheny, Kari Peddle, Daniela Geshundheit, Katie Stelmanis, Caseey Mecija, Maya Postepski, Isla Craig and Doc Dunn.

Bruce Peninsula’s sound ranges from folk to gospel, from jazz to soul. Focus is put on choir vocals. Honest, uninhibited and gutty, they use beautiful harmonies and call-and-response singing to utterly enchant their listeners. I challenge you to listen to them without finding yourself wishing to be a part of that beautiful choir, or at least thinking you’re lost in some alternate ethereal universe.

Listening to Bruce Peninsula is a pleasure. They are an awesome gang with an awesome sound. In the spirit of awesomeness, I sat down with Matt and Neil. Rather, I sat, they stood. What else can you do when its pouring rain and you have to crash the remnants of a bake sale tent to make sure your paper stays dry? As you read: start with a listen to ‘Shanty Song’, included below, off the well-deserved Polaris nominee A Mountain Is a Mouth.

So we didn’t steal the last lonely muffin or the crumbs that sat next to it, but we did talk some music. I learned some pretty cool things about this band, two things in particular that need to be shared: how Bruce Peninsula has chosen to approach their music and what their up-coming tour means to them.

Matt let me know that when putting the band together it was important for them to make sure they were doing so from a non-commercial standpoint. Therefore, they weren’t going to allow themselves to be in any way constrained by questions of “why?” but ask instead, “why not?” So when they added instruments or their amazing choir there was no need to consider whether or not they could do it. As Neil put it, “we want to hear what we want to hear.” Never mind the rest. Following on that same ethic, they told me of how the Bruce Peninsula sound is a result of songs being worked and re-worked – that writing a song can take up to six months – that the sound cannot be accepted without everyone getting to put their own hands in the plasticine and everyone having their say. As Matt put it, “we are our own audience.”

Bruce Peninsula – Shanty Song
Bruce Peninsula – 2nd 4th World War
Bruce Peninsula – Weave Myself a Dress

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— , June 22, 2009    1 Comment

Ask me for a list of my favourite things and three things will invariably find themselves near the top: film, indie pop, and musicals. Regular Ca Va Cool readers may remember my unabashed love for the quirky underside of Broadway or my yearning for certain bands to return to their indie pop roots. Needless to say, when I heard that Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch was working on a movie musical, I immediately set out to learn as much as possible about the project. Hours of tireless investigative journalism later (read: I googled it), here’s what I know, and what you should be excited to learn, about God Help the Girl.

About five years ago, while out for a jog, Stuart Murdoch first had the idea for a song entitled ‘God Help the Girl’. In his head, Murdoch could hear the tune sung by female vocals backed with strings. He realized this was something new, which would have to be separate from his songwriting work with Belle & Sebastian. During the recording and subsequent touring of Belle & Sebastian’s latest LP, The Life Pursuit, more songs came to him. He started to identify two or three main characters behind the words to the songs. Murdoch held auditions and internet-wide singing contests, searching for the voices to match these characters. He found three main vocalists: Catherine Ireton, Brittany Stallings, and Dina Bankole. Along with seven other vocalists, including Neil Hannon from the Divine Comedy and Asya from Smoosh, the trio recorded the soundtrack of a musical film which has yet to be written, much less filmed. The result is an album which shares the title of that very first song, set to be released June 22.

Murdoch is currently writing the screenplay to accompany his soundtrack, with plans to film sometime in 2010. Though the final script has yet to be written, we do know that God Help the Girl (the film) will be about a three-woman singing group, that it may end tragically, and that the music will be beautiful. God Help the Girl (the album) features two songs previously recorded by Belle & Sebastian (‘Act of the Apostle II’ and ‘Funny Little Frog’ from The Life Pursuit) and a host of new songs which showcase Murdoch’s original vision. Gorgeous vocals from Ireton, Stallings, and Bankole, along with sweeping orchestral accompaniment hint at the cinematic potential of the finished product. The remake of one of my favourite Belle & Sebastian songs, ‘Funny Little Frog’, allows for a direct contrast between Murdoch’s two musical minds, with the new female version trading in the the Scottish group’s indie pop jangle for 60’s-inspired strings and harmonies.

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— , June 6, 2009    2 Comments