Checking In

Hey. Just checking in with an official blog update. Although I update the social media platforms on a semi-regular basis, this space is something I haven’t gotten around to much this year. I’m hoping to amend that by updating with some musical thoughts, album suggestions, video updates and cover/demo sharing over the next few months. More recently, my wife and I had the pleasure of playing a set, opening for Kosmo’s Factory’s 20th anniversary concert. It was good to get out on stage again and sing some of our favourite songs. Tis a little trickier now that we have a little baby in the house! We also enjoyed the Ottawa Bluesfest lineup this year. We had the pleasure of standing second row for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. We danced in the rain to The Lumineers. We swayed and sweated on a humid evening to the new alt rock of Half Moon Run. All acts we hadn’t seen before and all acts we enjoyed for different reasons. Noel Gallagher because he’s a legend and his newest album, as we reviewed some months ago, is fantastic. The Lumineers because they’re delightful and harmonious and folky. Half Moon Run because they’re energetic and fun and quite talented musicians. Taking time for live music is something that’s still important to us and makes for a pretty great date night. Date nights are essential for couples with new babies because, hey, parents need time to connect with one another, too! So there’s my piece of advice for the month…date nights are good. Schedule them regularly. More to come later this...

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...