Sgt. Pepper’s 50th Anniversary

In the early 2000’s, before blogs, Facebook and Instagram became the most important means of personal online expression, there were free websites that would allow a person to make their own website. As long as you knew some basic html, you could work with the templates provided to create a space on the world wide web that was all your own. A few of my friends and I did just that, creating webpages that reflected our personal interests and updated people on what was going on in our lives. It turns out that both of my webpages, from my highschool and university years, are still online. “Great, Joe. Your old website is still up. So what? What does this have to do with Sgt. Pepper’s 50th anniversary?” says an anonymous guest’s voice. Well, I used to write music reviews, something I started when I did my co-op placement, in Grade 12, at The Charlatan, Carleton University’s student newspaper. I liked writing album reviews (still do, though I don’t have time for it anymore), and I’d post them on my website. One of them was for Sgt. Pepper. Sgt. Pepper made an impression on me long before I realized it. As a young Joe, I had access to a limited number of tapes, all of which belonged to my parents, until I could start buying my own. The Beatles’ blue album is the first Beatles tape I can remember actively listening to, enjoying songs like Sgt Pepper, With A Little Help From My Friends, and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. I did my Grade 8 song project on Penny...

Album Review #10- 1989 by Taylor Swift + Special Announcement

1989 by Taylor Swift J- You may find yourself in one of two camps regarding this selection of ours. Camp A: Duh! Taylor Swift is one of the biggest names in pop music today and her album has spawned 6 singles. It’s over a year old, debuted at #1 on Billboard, and has sold over 8.6 million copies worldwide. It features 3 #1 singles and has been nominated for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for this year’s Grammy awards. She’s kind of a big deal and her music is boss. Camp B: Um…Joe, are you serious? Since when did you start liking Taylor Swift? Aren’t you, more or less, anti-pop charts and more into classic rock and indie rock? Didn’t you make fun of T-Swizzle the other day? This must be Michaela’s influence! Explain yourself! To be honest, I’ve always noticed how catchy Taylor Swift’s songs are, but I hadn’t considered myself a fan until this album. Michaela bought this album and hid it from me because she was embarrassed of what I’d say. That was our starting point with 1989. She knew it would be catchy and fun, and I thought it would be over-produced and dumb. Then, we started listening to it in the car, to and from work, and like the Grinch, in Dr. Seuss’ famous Christmas tale, my heart began to grow in size. There was now room there for a Taylor Swift album, and my wife and I had great fun belting out songs like “Welcome to New York” (our official NYC March Break trip theme song) and “Bad Blood”...

Album #9- Chasing Yesterday by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Chasing Yesterday by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds M- As soon as you hear the single (Riverman), you know you’ve got to run out and pick this one up. J- Yeah. I think we were in the car, listening to CBC Radio 2 as we often do, and they played the single. I didn’t know I was missing that song in my life until I heard it. M-He’s still got it, people. Do I need to share much more? J- Well, it’s an album review, so that’d be appropriate. M-It’s Noel Gallagher. J- Yes it is but it’s not Oasis. It’s his solo project so people might be concerned it won’t be as good. M-Put your full trust in his legendary status and give it a listen. Awesome lyrically and the melodies are pretty much golden. J- My favourites, given those criteria, are “The Girl With The X-Ray Eyes”, “While The Song Remains The Same”, which has got some touches of jazz and funk to it. M-A very smooth eeriness in some, and head-bobbing rock in others. J- Like “The Dying Of The Light”, with its slow pace, wailing guitar notes and gentle keyboard sounds for the eeriness. Head-bobbing rock would be… “The Mexican” and an Oasis-esque bopper like “You Know We Can’t Go Back”. M-Cool female vocal harmonies too. J- Yeah, that was a nice touch. So was the use of instruments like saxophone on a few tracks. M-Is it an earth shattering rock album? No. But it’s solid. J- It is solid. It’s a generally decent listen all the way through. M-Super easy to listen to. That...

Album Review #8- Strange Desire by Bleachers

Strange Desire by Bleachers J- So, my pal Sandy and I have shared many conversations on albums over the years. We concluded that one trend of music producers, bands and singers is to frontload an album with the best songs. Hook the listener in to your best stuff and although the album might be 12 to 13 songs, it’ll be the first 5 that leave a lasting impression. On those albums, the singles can be found in those first 5 songs, too. Our suggestion was that the band or singer should’ve released an EP, instead, to ensure a more consistent quality. Not all albums fit these criteria and, certainly this is a subjective matter, since some people enjoy the “deep cuts” more than the “singles”. So what does this has to do with Strange Desire? Bleachers’ debut full-length is front-loaded….but it’s also middle-loaded and end-loaded. The first five songs feature the chart-topping singles: “Rollercoaster”, which is as good a summer anthem as I’ve heard in recent years, and “I Wanna Get Better”, a song that does that cool thing where it talks about a serious topic (in this case, depression) but does so in an upbeat, infectiously joyful manner. So, if Bleachers, aka Jack Antonoff, also of fun., had stopped at the fifth song, he would have produced one helluva sweet pop EP. Thankfully, he continued to 11, had Grimes and Yoko Ono guest star on a few songs and produced an album of creative synth melodies, interesting electronic sampling, and meaningful lyrics. I appreciate the musical themes he’s created on this album, melodies or melody shapes that repeat...

Album Review #7- Coming Home by Leon Bridges

Coming Home by Leon Bridges J- During a time of the year when many of us are coming home for the holidays, or wishing they could, I felt it appropriate to share this gem of an album. Released about 6 months ago, Leon Bridges has impressed darn near everyone who’s heard him sing. If you type “Leon Bridges sucks” or “Leon Bridges is a bad singer” into your preferred search engine, you will find only results on how wonderful and talented Leon is. This is the kind of album that can be enjoyed as a listening experience unto itself, for a chill evening with a friend or loved one, even for a dance party. There’s a fine mix of uptempo, swingin’ tunes, waltzes and ballads. Although there are definitely a few songs that stand out from the others, I fully recommend appreciating this album as a whole. It only clocks in at about 34 minutes and you will not tire of listening to this 21st century crooner’s voice, blessed by many comparisons to Sam Cooke, another amazing r&b singer from the 50’s and 60’s. My top 3 on this album include: “Smooth Sailin’”, because of the rhythmic verse melody and the infectious groove, “Lisa Sawyer”, Leon’s ode to his mother, and “River”, the final song where he truly bears his soul in a stripped-down, Gospel-influenced prayer. This guy is such a breath of fresh air amidst a pop landscape where so many artists are trying to write the same song. Leon Bridges has no contemporary comparisons and, in this case, that’s a compliment. For fans of great singing, soul...

Album Review #6- The Firewatcher’s Daughter by Brandi Carlile

The Firewatcher’s Daughter by Brandi Carlile M- Don’t know her? Look this lady up immediately. Like, stop reading this post and Google her now and listen to this woman sing. It’s basically life changing. With a voice that is angelic and as smooth as silk in one song, and full on bluesy rock in the next, there’s no doubt she’s got incredible talent. Beautiful harmonies by her and the twins, ones that’ll make you tear up if you get emotional easily, and ones you want to belt with the windows down, driving down a dirt road…or any road for that matter. Good job on going Indie Brandi. Her creativity shines big time. Some faves – Wherever is Your Heart, Blood Muscle Skin & Bone, Mainstream Kid, and Wilder   J- Ditto. We had the pleasure of witnessing Brandi’s live show in Williamsburg, NY, this past March. I’ve long known of my wife’s love of Brandi’s music but it truly wasn’t until this album that I bought in. Hearing Brandi, and the Hanseroth twins that flank her on stage, supporting her songs with their amazing harmonies, guitar playing and songwriting, made me appreciate the music so much more. So, like she said, go and listen to this woman sing. She’s got a real gift. Watch the LIVE music video for the first single: Brandi Carlile- The Firewatcher’s Daughter (live) You can buy this album at an awesome local business called Odds and Sods Record...