Photograph by Jonathan Taggart

Just over a week ago,  the long list for the 2010 Polaris Music Prize, honouring the year’s best Canadian album,  was announced. The eclectic mix of artists includes former Polaris winners Owen Pallett and Caribou, as well as an array of previous Shortlisters and newcomers to the award. Having only heard about a quarter of the albums on the list, it’s hard to say if there’s a frontrunner. Like Frank Yang over at Chromewaves, I was a big fan of Reverie Sound Revue, so that snub leaves me a little cold. Forgiveness Rock Record is undoubtedly the most widely heard nominee, but as Patrick Watson’s win in 2007 proved, the Polaris jury doesn’t take popularity under consideration. That said, I’ll be pulling for Basia Bulat. Heart of My Own is a pretty good album of pretty good folk. The list of forty will be narrowed down to ten on July 6th, with the winner to be revealed September 20th. Check after the break for the full long list, and enjoy some tracks from the nominees while debating your own personal shortlist.

Dan Mangan – Robots
Basia Bulat – Heart of My Own
Owen Pallett – Lewis Takes Off His Shirt

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— , June 30, 2010    Comments Off on Polaris Prize 2010 Long List Announced
Photograph by Caroline Desilets

Photograph by Caroline Desilets

The latest record from Plants and Animals proves with striking clarity that rock ‘n’ roll need not be convoluted and tedious. La La Land focuses on the twist and shout, sweaty psychedelia, and roaring guitars. The record opts to be played at full volume to an empty room rather than having to be throttled to an audience of thousands. Following up Parc Avenue, Plants and Animals have found a way to balance a louder, ripped-up sound while creating a tight collection of ballads that inherit the spirit of their memorable first effort. Their second album released by Secret City Records last month feels bigger and rowdier. La La Land sounds like Parc Avenue went to a night at the opera and decided to bring a six-pack and foam finger. I recently had the chance to speak with Warren Spicer and we discussed everything from Canada’s status in the music world and the new Plants and Animals record to whimsical CFL dreams and three-legged dog hybrids.

Plants and Animals – Feedback in the Field
Plants and Animals – The Mama Papa
Plants and Animals – Tom Cruz

Jan: Are you excited for how La La Land will be received, how did you approach this album after the success of Parc Avenue?

Warren Spicer: You just hope for the best. I think we’ve made another record that we we’re happy with and it was done around Christmas time. So we’ve been sitting around and waiting for it to come out for a while, you kind of lose track of where it actually is. Then people start to get their hands on it and it takes on a life of its own – a more public life.

Jan: So when did you start work on La La Land?

Warren: I guess about last December.

Jan: So was most of the writing done in Montreal or while you were on tour?

Warren: I would say most of it was done in Montreal; some of it was done in France, too. We recorded half the record in a studio outside of Paris. We wrote and recorded some stuff while we were out there as well, but most of it was done in Montreal.

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— , June 14, 2010    Comments Off on Plants and Animals

Born Ruffians

The year’s not over yet, but now is as good a time as any to look back on the past 12 11 months of music and highlight the stuff that shone the brightest for me this year. After a huge star-power filled 2007 that brought out releases from some of my favourite bands like Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Spoon, and Interpol, 2008 was largely a blank slate for me. Outside of the new Death Cab for Cutie album, I wasn’t particularly anticipating anything, so the void was filled with a variety of releases from bands both new and old I discovered throughout the year. Mind you, I’ve likely missed out on a lot so far, so consider this list fairly fluid. Without further ado, the best of what I’ve heard in ’08.


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— , December 2, 2008    4 Comments

Plants & Animals

The London Ontario Live Arts Festival has come and gone for another year, and again I was there. I previously expressed my concerns over the line-up, and while it didn’t live up to last year’s event, there were still some gems to be found. I didn’t bring my camera, so you’ll have to do without my shoddy amateur photograpy.

I was torn on Friday, as I would’ve liked to see Bocce since I’ve heard their show is much improved. I previously saw them a few years ago after they opened for Shout Out Out Out Out instead of Crystal Castles, who were no-shows. Sadly, even promises of songs about bears couldn’t force me to go clear across the city to see them that early. The free shows appearing at Victoria Park that day weren’t that appealing to me, so I only caught a bit of Do Make Say Think before travelling to Call the Office where the real night would begin. While I wasn’t flat out bored by DMSY this time around, I still have issues with post-rock in the live setting. For me, it works well as background music but when it’s forced to take centre stage, I’m not really sure what to think. I mean, I can’t dance to it, it’s too disjointed. I can’t just sit there, it’s too hypnotic. Anyway, enough babbling, suffice it to say, I was ready for a chance of pace.

I left the park early to beat the rush heading to the bar for the after-party, thus the room was still rather quiet. Sure enough, the masses began to pile in as Woodhands began their set. I was only passingly familiar with the duo, having stumbled upon a few songs in the blogosphere and figuring it was worth the gamble to see them. Indeed it was. A keytar was an integral part of their act, how can you not love keytars? After acknowledging the city, noting that they usually play the Alex P. Keaton (a place I oddly have yet to visit), the pair burst into an electro-dance party that got the people moving. Highlights include a rap session resulting in the drummer jumping into the crowd, hilariously performing a Jay-Z song he didn’t really know, before stopping and moving onto a cover he actually knew. The band closed with Dancer, the first track from their album Heart Attack. In lieu of the woman singing on the album, the drummer took lead vocals on the verses, sheepishly saying it was because he sounded like a girl. All in all, they were good fun.

Woodhands – Dancer

After a brief interlude and rush to the bar, We Are Wolves took centre stage and owned it for the rest of the night. The Frenchmen commanded your attention while ordering you to dance, and dance you did. I was also relatively unprepared for what the three-piece brought to the table, having only heard the single Fight and Kiss before the show, but the frantic rock and roll was crowd pleasing and a fitting end to the night.

We Are Wolves – Fight and Kiss

Day two had two acts playing the Victoria Park bandshell I was interested in; the first was Plants and Animals. The band drew quite a large crowd even before they burst into the opening chords of Good Friend. What followed was a pretty excellent set of folk-tinged rock and roll, marked by guitarist/vocalist Warren Spicer existentially musing on life while tuning his guitar, as well as an excellent whistle opening to Feedback in the Field by drummer Matthew Woodley. After ending the show on a high note with Bye, Bye, Bye, the band was brought back for an extremely forced encore after the rather obnoxious MC got the crowd to chant “PLANTS AND ANIMALS.” This isn’t knocking the band, but really the MC, whose schtick got a little unbearable after awhile. Even moreso when he pulled out the classic, “When I say holy, you say: FUCK!”

Plants and Animals – Good Friend

After the childish chanting of their name (seriously, aren’t we over that yet?) Holy Fuck hit the stage and started performing their phat beats with their fantastic machines. Truth be told, my experiences seeing Holy Fuck have been mixed at best, it’s highly dependent on my mood (or relative degree of sobriety). This time around, I couldn’t help feeling something was off in the sound department. Perhaps it was just the open stage in comparison to the usual seedy clubs I frequent, but that atmosphere can’t be undervalued. It certainly would’ve gotten more people moving, in any case. Anyway, I really only go so I can hear them play Lovely Allen, then I can leave happily.

Holy Fuck – Lovely Allen

Line-up concerns aside, LOLAfest is a hugely important event to London, and I have to give full credit to the people that make it happen year after year. I don’t know where I’ll be this time next year, but hopefully LOLAfest is back and stronger than ever.

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— , September 21, 2008    2 Comments

Plants & Animals

I just checked out Montreal’s Plants & Animals this weekend at the Wolfe Island Music Festival and couldn’t have been more pleased. A bit Wolf Parade, a bit Apostle of Hustle, but undeniably their own, Plants & Animals is definitely becoming one of Canada’s indie bands to watch. They released their debut album on Secret City Records this February, which was announced in July as one of the contenders for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize.

Plants & Animals – Bye Bye Bye
Plants & Animals – Good Friend

The winner of Polaris will be announced on September 29. The 2008 shortlist is as follows:

I’m rooting for Two Hours Traffic because they’re pretty much my favourite Canadian band right now, their album rules, and they’re the underdog. Any other favourites?

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— , August 15, 2008    2 Comments