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Student Life

I <3 MTL: Hochelaga-Maisonneuve

From ghetto to gentrified, HoMa is a lesson in history

Whether you call it Hochelaga, Hochelag, HoMa, or by its full name, one thing is sure: this ‘hood’s got history. Back in the late 19th century, the area was considered a French working-class neighbourhood. In the 1980s, it eventually earned the qualifiers of “social welfare” and “ghetto” by the forked tongues of the city. Somehow, 20 years later, the neighbourhood has enjoyed a fresh boost. Was it a city effort? Or gentrification? Probably a mixture of both.

As I walk through the neighbourhood, it is quite interesting to see all the relics of the past. At 4951 Ontario St. E., corner of Viau St., stands a gigantic red brick building. Not only does the brick seem worn, but the prominent doors on each side read “Fondée 1867” and “Érigée 1906.”

The Olympic Stadium and the Maisonneuve public baths are two of the architectural sights to behold in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. Photos by Beatrice Viens Cote

What used to be here? According to Écomusée du fier monde, In 1867, Charles-Théodore Viau opened a bakery on Notre-Dame St. That very same year, he created a cookie he named “Village.” The cookie would know fast fame and, soon enough, the enterprise became one of the biggest cookie factories in Canada. In 1907, the factory moved to Ontario St., corner 1st Ave. (later renamed Viau St.), with modern and mechanized features, which helped with productivity and profitability. The Viau family sold the business in 1967. In 2001, Dare Foods bought the factory, and it closed in 2004. Today, nobody doubts the impact of the Viau family and its cookies on Quebec society. Seeing important patrimonial value in the building, the Viau cookie factory became a real estate project in 2007, and was transformed into condominiums. And maybe if you close your eyes and imagine hard enough, you’ll be able to catch a whiff of chocolate still floating around…

Walking west and turning on Morgan Ave., surprising buildings will catch your eye. They contrast with the simpler buildings and houses of the neighbourhood. The City of Maisonneuve—which was a city of its own from 1883 until 1918, when it was annexed to Montreal—had grandiose ideas. Maisonneuve’s urban project, inspired by the City Beautiful movement, was designed by American architect Frederick Gage Todd, who made Montreal his adopted city, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. Gage Todd is the man behind Mount Royal’s Beaver Lake and Île Sainte-Hélène park, built in 1938 and 1936, respectively, to name a few. The idea was to create a very long avenue, with a leafy median strip, where buildings showcasing refined architecture would be erected. For financial and technical reasons, the project could not be entirely realized. At least we can still enjoy Marius Dufresne’s great pieces of architecture: the Maisonneuve market and the Maisonneuve public baths, which both come from the Beaux-Arts and Second Empire schools. In front of these buildings, two marvellous sculptures by the well-known Alfred Laliberté can also be admired. The most recognized is surely Les Petits Baigneurs, a Beaux-Arts cast bronze sculpture-fountain that is incorporated into the façade of the public baths.

The Olympic Stadium and the Maisonneuve public baths are two of the architectural sights to behold in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. Photos by Beatrice Viens Cote

Walking down to the corner of Letourneux Ave. is reminiscent of Chicago. Here, you will see a building that will remind you of some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural creations. Since we are still in the so-called City of Maisonneuve, it won’t be that much of a surprise if I tell you that the building is (again!) a creation of Dufresne. The building, Caserne Letourneux, previously named Poste de pompiers et de police no.1 de Maisonneuve, was built from 1914 to 1915. It has had various purposes throughout the years: police and fire station, park chalet, and production site of Théâtre Sans-Fil, known for its giant puppets. As of a few months ago, the caserne’s future was strongly threatened. Strangely located—this section of Notre-Dame, on the river’s side, is mostly industrial—yet of important value, we could only hope the building would end up in the hands of a caring buyer. This buyer, as it turns out, is the Montreal Impact!

Finally, love it or hate it, I have to mention the Olympic Stadium, with its gigantic park and significant surrounding institutions (Biodôme, Insectarium, Botanical Gardens, Planetarium). I personally love the Olympic Stadium; its architecture, engineering, and planning represented colossal challenges when it was built in the ‘70s—it surely is an important Montreal symbol. Moreover, unlike many other Olympic buildings in the world, Montreal was able to give a second life to the construction. With a capacity of over 60,000 people, the stadium is the only place in the province that can welcome so many people, thus making it the ideal spot for pre-eminent national and international events. Whether it is to attend a sports game, jump and along at a concert, learn more about the solar system or flora and fauna, or admire a panorama of the city from the 45-degree and 165 metre-tall Montreal Tower, it is impossible to deny it: everyone can find an activity they love at the stadium. Besides, things don’t happen only inside, but also outside. In the summer there is always something going on on the Esplanade: Dîner en Blanc, free Montreal Symphony Orchestra concerts, the Jackalope action sports festival, the Color Me Rad 5km run, the Tour de l’Île, the Winter Village… You name it, you’ve got it. Soon enough, food trucks will also crowd the place. You have no excuse to not visit the stadium in the upcoming months.

This article would not be complete if I didn’t mention places where you can satisfy your hunger or unwind after your discovery stroll in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. Here are a few of them:

Kazumi Sushi Lounge, 6394 Sherbrooke St. E., is good for tasty sushi amid sophisticated décor—plus it’s BYOW. Culinary critics wandering around Hochelaga-Maisonneuve also often recommend Sata Sushi, 3349 Ontario St. E. Why not try both? Sushi war is on!

Try Le Valois, 25 Simon Valois Square, corner 3809 Ontario St. E., for a chic dinner—think French bistro—in a warm and casual ambience. Modern with throwbacks to Art Deco, the interior design itself is worth a visit. I totally fell in love with the colourful stained glass squares that cover most of the ceiling and run alongside one wall. With wooden panels and a statue holding two luminous globes, the restaurant has a little je ne sais quoi that reminds me of the grand hall of the Titanic. Food-wise, there are interesting things happening, among them foie gras, tartare, smoked fish and delightful wine. For nighthawks, the restaurant offers a late-night menu from 9:30 p.m. that includes an appetizer and a main course for only $22. With the décor and a deal like that, you’re all set for a delicious meal.

Go to Brasserie Le Blind Pig, 3882 Ontario St. E., to welcome a very new spot! In the location of former restaurant-bar Le Chasseur, the new concept is said to be inspired by the southern States. On the menu: essentially finger food and $3 beer—something we don’t see very often in Montreal. I can’t wait to try it out.

So, next time you need a culture fix, head to Hochelaga Maisonneuve. There’s seemingly something—whether old or new— to discover around every corner. With its mix of history and modernity, a walk through Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is indeed a walk through time.

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Student Life

I <3 MTL: Verdun and LaSalle

Put some spring in your step along the St. Lawrence

I don’t know if it is the spirit of the semester break, but something in the air is fizzy and sweet and I can’t help myself from chanting: “Spring! Spring!” The idea may seem crazy, as February 2015 was the coldest month ever recorded in most of Quebec, according to CJAD. Nevertheless, doesn’t the sunlight feel warmer? February is history now; March is a new start! Spring will be here soon enough—you can count on it.

This piece is addressed to those of you who will embrace your inner child as the sun hits the snow and creates wonderful puddles to jump in. It is for those of you who are active and for whom waking up to feel the breeze is the best thing ever. It is for the contemplatives who need to find nature, history and the contemporary world at peace.

Flavourful Kingsway Bon Bons, a rainbow of pleasure. Photo by Béatrice Viens Côté.

Only a few neighbourhoods can answer those needs in Montreal, and Verdun and LaSalle are probably those that can do so best. Indeed, located along the St. Lawrence River, Verdun and LaSalle are heavenly for those who enjoy moving, playing and admiring nature. Not too far from the city, the quietude is an inspiration as much for those who live there as for those passing by.

It would be unfair not to mention the work that was done in the last 20 years to improve the neighbourhoods. Not so long ago, in the 1980s, Verdun—which used to be a city of its own—was almost abandoned. Buildings were getting old, and the shopping centres built outside the city became the object of fascination for most consumers, thus affecting commercial streets such as Wellington St. A similar scenario applied to LaSalle as well. Thankfully, citizens, urban planners and leaders combined forces to help revitalize the two neighbourhoods. Programs were put in place and led to, among other things, the enhancement of the riverbanks.

Today, no hideous buildings harm the beauty of the river. A green area was protected from Highway 20 all the way to Lachine, this being the perfect setting for the creation of pathways and bike paths. Named “Piste cyclable des Berges,” the bikeway spans about 20 kilometres, following the river and crossing various parks—Parc Arthur-Therrien, Parc du Quai-de-La Tortue; Parc de l’Honorable George-O’Reilly; Parc des Rapides; and Parc René-Lévesque, to name a few. In the first days of spring, cyclists, skaters and simple wanderers hit the road.

On their way, not only will they enjoy the scenery but they will also be able to admire sculptures made by artists from here and elsewhere. The bikeways are also a great opportunity to encounter old buildings such as the Nivard-De Saint-Dizier House (built in 1710), at 7244 Lasalle Blvd., and the Fleming Windmill (built in 1827), at 9675 Lasalle Blvd. Both of these important heritage structures can be visited once temperatures becomes milder, mid-May. Maison Nivard-de Saint-Dizier more particularly is a museum and archaeological site, and will no doubt feed the history enthusiasts out there.

Along the waterfront, passers-by might want to stop at Comptoir Luncheonette 21 behind Verdun’s Natatorium, at 6500 Lasalle Blvd., which serves healthy snacks, sandwiches, salads, coffee, smoothies, fresh juices and ice cream—a perfect deal for the summery days!

Promenade Wellington is easily accessible via bus and metro – Eìglise Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs is also said to be quite remarkable. Photo by Béatrice Viens Côté.

For thrill-seekers and wave aficionados, don’t worry—you will also find satisfaction in these neighbourhoods! It must be mentioned that adventure often comes with a price—so don’t be too surprised. A favourite option is Kayak Sans Frontières (KSF), located in Parc des Rapides, 7770 Lasalle Blvd. The nautical activity centre allows you to try kayaking, river surfing, and stand up paddleboarding (SUP), via lessons (starting up at $39) and rentals. The advantages of KSF are that it is open to everyone, from beginners to experts, and that it has a reasonable student to instructor ratio, thus ensuring a safe, quality service. KSF’s mission is to help people discover Montreal by the means of water sports, and I feel reassured to know security is an important, if not the most important value for them. Because, let’s admit it—the Lachine rapids can be quite scary. KSF seems to have chosen a successful path, combining fun and exhilaration with security, perseverance and commitment.

A second option is the Saute-Moutons jet boating, which departs from Quai de l’Horloge in the Old Port, and confronts the Lachine rapids further down in Verdun and LaSalle. At the cost of $67, it seems worth the investment. If you want to see for yourself, know that both KSF and Saute-Moutons reopen their business in May. Let’s go spring: you can do it!

Outside the water and beside the shore, you will mostly find residential areas. There are a few commercial streets, the main one being Wellington. Something about Wellington St. reminds me of Mont-Royal Ave. in the Plateau. That surely has to do with the previously mentioned refurbishment of the late ’80s. Interment of electrical wires, restoration of store façades and authorization of terracing all helped renew the road’s appearance. Furthermore, the situation keeps getting better.

In 2010, alcohol sale regulations in Verdun freed up a little, opening opportunities for microbreweries and performance venues. Before, sales were solely restricted to restaurants, grocery stores and the SAQ. There is certainly a sense of positivity that can be felt in the neighbourhood. There seems to be hope for merchants and a bright future for the population. Along with the revamping of the St. Lawrence shore, such things make me realize how much work has to be done in order to build our neighbourhoods, our city. The success of an area can never be taken for granted, but where there is passion, willingness and dedication, there is hope.

Since spring rhymes with sweetness (at least, in my scat-y way of speaking), I urge you to stop by confectionery Winifred Pepperpott at 3870 Wellington St. Recently opened in November 2014, the Victorian-inspired watermelon-coloured shop sells a variety of candies, mainly American and British classics, as well as European importations. Following owner Valérie Trudeau’s recommendations, I tried the Kingsway Bon Bons, which are like vintage Starbursts, and I was happily satisfied. Trudeau, who owns the store with her husband Louis-Charles Letendre, showed me around, describing her favourite candies. If you ever go (and I hope you will!), don’t limit yourself to the polite “Hi!” and shy smile. Go ahead and talk with them, ask questions—their passion and energy are sincerely contagious. This is part of the whole concept they sell, and you will leave the store with an even greater smile (because it can’t be denied: candies by themselves will already do part of the job—but fantastic service will do the rest).

Speaking of nature and renewal—or, even better, rebirth—seems to link easily with spring… Who knows, if we talk and talk about it, buds may want to blossom a little bit sooner.

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Student Life

I <3 MTL: Notre-Dame-de-Grâce

Saving grace: Food is a shining star along Sherbrooke Street

 

Similar to its district partner Côte-des-Neiges, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce is a veritable multicultural hub. It is also a neighbourhood where the long-established

Photo by Béatrice Viens Côté

bourgeoisie and poorer families cohabitate, making it an area with one of the highest social and monetary disparities in Montreal.

 

Most of the action in NDG, as it is called by locals, takes place between Villa-Maria and Vendôme metro stations, and along Monkland Ave. and Sherbrooke St. W.

 

On one side is Monkland village, with its classy boutiques and trendy restaurants that flirt with the eternal red-brick and white balustrade houses; on the other is Sherbrooke St. W, where store-owners are caught between economical difficulties— causing the closing of many businesses—and a possible revitalization. Before it is too late, I suggest we give a hand to Sherbrooke St. W., a very important Montreal street, by visiting some of its best stores and restaurants. That way, we will contribute to its revival and truly save Grace.

 

A staple of Sherbrooke St. W., located right before the Décarie when heading east, is Rôtisserie Chalet Bar-B-Q, founded in 1944. The first visit is memorable. From the outside, with its red, yellow and blue sign, the restaurant is not very impressive. Yet once you walk in, you are pleasantly surprised. Frozen in time, the place wears its name well: it is indeed a chalet. Large wood planks the colour of maple syrup cover the walls and parts of the ceiling. Customers sit on red benches and read the menu on paper placemats.

 

How is the menu? Simple, yummy, and inexpensive. For the appetizer, coleslaw is recommended. Then comes chicken, in your chosen form: leg, breast, half or full. Served with fries, barbecue sauce and a toasted roll, the chicken is barbecued on-point. As their website claims, it is “crispy and golden on the outside, tender and juicy in the inside.” I tried, although unsuccessfully, to save room for the delicious-looking desserts, a varied choice of pies and cakes. Finally, in terms of service it is very quick—sometimes maybe too quick—ideal for lunchtime. Chalet Bar-B-Q might not be the healthiest, but I would not refuse it every once in a while.

 

Another favourite on the street is Soba Sushi, at 5227 Sherbrooke St. W. Reviewers on UrbanSpoon prefer it to its not-so-far neighbour, Mikado at 5515 Monkland Ave., by seven per cent. It is also much more affordable. Don’t be misled by the menu’s ‘90s look, which features, among other things, Lucida Calligraphy, flowers and butterflies. Anyone craving a taste of Asia can find satisfaction at Soba. The choice is varied: a selection of 21 sushi and 38 maki, General Tao chicken, sweet-and-sour pork, orange beef, peanut sauce chicken, Szechuan shrimp, tempura, soups, salads, noodles… The list goes on. Moreover, the restaurant is recognized for its $8.75 lunch deals, served with steamed rice and soup every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. That being said, take-out and (free!) delivery are winners here because the relatively small dining room is not the coziest in town. Why not eat in a park nearby when spring comes? Don’t forget to ask for some chopsticks!

 

A long-appreciated café is Shäika, at 5526 Sherbrooke St. W. Sitting in a room with a slightly vintage feel punctuated by sumptuous vegetation, customers enjoy their coffee as they eat one of the delicious pressed sandwiches. Whether it is to work or to unwind, this café is the perfect place for a relaxing moment. To add even more value, the café partly transforms into a stage most days of the week to welcome musicians, who entertain customers at no cost. In the summer, the terrace is also said to be quite beautiful.

 

If you’re feeling bitter about the winter, you might as well eat comfy food at incredibly low cost—and Edwina is there to help you out. Edwina, mother of the grilled cheese, has been reinventing the classic recipe in her beloved neighbourhood since April 2014, at 5205 Sherbrooke St. W. From the personalized traditional sandwiches (served with chips and coleslaw at $4.95) to the gourmet ones (how amazing does the Leaning Tower of Cheesa sound?!), and from the $2.95 after-school specials to the fronuts (grilled cheese doughnuts), this place is not difficult to like. Some bands and stand-ups perform every now and then and, even more importantly, students get a 15 per cent discount—hello there! Why not like Edwinas Grilled Cheese on Facebook? If you don’t win a free fronut for being the 700th person to press the like button, you will at least have sexy hot cheese creations appearing on your newsfeed occasionally. Mmm, tempting.

 

Apart from restaurants, you will find Coop La Maison Verte at 5785 Sherbrooke St. W., probably the most organic and community-oriented store in NDG.  The co-op was started during the 1998 ice storm as a response to our dependence on energy and our unfortunate individualism. Through their project, the co-founders of this alternative consumption model hope to foster local trade and give more power to consumers, while enhancing the quality of the neighbourhood. The array of products is varied, from fruits, vegetables, chocolate, tea and seeds to personal and home care products, biodegradable utensils and plants. Although prices are not always student-friendly, this store is worth the visit for anyone who has the Earth at heart.

 

Finally, I must make honourable mention of multicultural stores that have served locals through the years: Akhavan, Iranian grocery store (6170 Sherbrooke St. W.), Pâtisserie Wawel, Polish bakery (5499 Sherbrooke St. W.), Épicerie Coréenne et Japonaise, Korean and Japanese grocery store (6151 Sherbrooke St. W.), and Fruits Rocky Montana, Sri-Lankan grocery store (5704 Sherbrooke St. W.).

 

That, my friends, is NDG’s Sherbrooke St. W. in a nutshell. Please enjoy and eat responsibly. Oh, and before it gets jealous, go say hello to Monkland Ave.—it’s not bad either!

 

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Student Life

I <3 MTL: explore all corners of our city

Côte-des-Neiges is a multicultural and student sanctuary

Montreal obsesses us, for its mystery and its joie de vivre; for its bilingual reality—but also its multicultural one; for its impossible yet joyful winter. Montreal is also a city of obsessions, from hockey to festivals, from food to potholes.

Montreal is not perfect, yet we promise to love it or to find ways to love it. We see its beauty; we see beauty in the ugly.

That is why, today, I am undertaking to celebrate Montreal, with its imperfection that makes us love it so much. Over the next weeks I will attempt to portray its neighbourhoods through an exploration of their specific attractions, whether they are restaurants, bars, sights, stores or activities. Vive Montréal!

On the corner of de la Côte-des-Neiges Rd. and Jean-Brillant St., day or night, people stop by the infamous and colourful Marché Les Trottier. Berries in the summer, taffy in spring, trees in December—the owners live to the beat of the seasons, to the great satisfaction of the customers. Besides the market, children giggle and scream as they play in the schoolyard. Not far from there, CEGEP students throw a Frisbee in the park, while a father pushes his child on a swing. Eventually, university students show up with their six-packs of beer and play pétanque.

What better place than Côte-des-Neiges to understand the common Montreal idea of vie de quartier? The neighbourhood, which shares a district with Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, is often claimed as the multicultural heart of the city. A quick stroll through the neighbourhood confirms this effortlessly, with numerous restaurants revealing flavours from all over the world. Developed on the northwest slope of Mount Royal, Côte-des-Neiges is only a 10-minute bus ride away from the city centre.

However, that is not its only positive feature. In fact, if Côte-des-Neiges is the neighbourhood it is today, it is probably due to its abundance of schools: Collège Notre-Dame, Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, Université de Montréal, HEC, and Polytechnique are found there. Every day, students flock up and down the streets. School life drives the neighbourhood; we could also probably claim it as the young heart of the city. With the other important factor of the hospitals (CHU Sainte-Justine and Jewish General Hospital), it is no wonder that the area is so dynamic and counts numerous 24-hour establishments. Indeed, the services at hand are a perfect reflection of the presence of schools and hospitals, and thus of the neighbourhood’s population.

So what does one do here? The saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” applies in Côte-des-Neiges. As skeptical as some restaurants may make you—especially when they are located in basements—they will not disappoint, and you will be able to find quality at a reasonable price.

One of my favourites is Atami Sushi, at 5499 de la Côte-des-Neiges Rd. When you open the door at street-level, you will find yourself in a cold, grey and aqua staircase illuminated with neon lights. Don’t be fooled by the atmosphere of the stairwell, because upstairs is a hidden gem.

As you walk through the lobby, you feel like you are in a whole new world. A few customers wait for their takeout orders, sitting on white leather couches under warm purplish lighting. Others distract themselves by contemplating the gigantic aquarium where a few exotic fish swim. In the entrance of the dining room sits a counter where two or three pairs of hands are busy creating, carefully but rapidly, these small meals of raw fish, rice, and seaweed.

The dining room itself is warm and cozy, with a mixture of tables and red benches. The place is not ideal for big and loud parties, but it is perfect if you are looking for something low-key. Although it is probably not the cheapest restaurant of the neighbourhood (it costs at least $15 to leave with a full belly), it shouldn’t be dismissed, for the taste of its fresh ingredients, the immaculate presentation and the general ambiance. Let’s consider it a not-too-expensive luxury.

Another must is Armenian pizza restaurant Arouch. To call it a restaurant is perhaps an overstatement. Located at 5216 de la Côte-des-Neiges Rd., it would be more accurate to call the branch—because three other Arouch restaurants can be found in the metropolitan area—a counter. Here, people wait in line at lunchtime to get thin crust pita-like pizzas, designed to the taste of the customer. Indeed, after choosing their pizza style (zahtar, Armenian cheese, lahmajoun, soujouk (Armenian sausage), and so on), people can add on toppings and get salads such as tabbouleh or greek salad on the side. Moreover, the price will make you readers happy: a sandwich can cost less than $4! In brief, you don’t go there for the experience or the service, but rather for a good snack to eat on the run—and don’t we love that,  students? (Psst! You will also find a branch at JMSB, 1600 de Maisonneuve Blvd. O.)

Besides schools, parks, markets, and restaurants, there are, of course, bars. Most popular is, without a doubt, the festive Resto-Bar La Maisonnée at 5385 Gatineau Ave., which is a hotspot for students. Gather all your friends for the best beer pong, hockey, or karaoke nights in the neighbourhood.

For those of you who want to have a more relaxed and educational moment, I highly recommend La maison de la culture at 5290 de la Côte-des-Neiges Rd. The building also houses a public library, holds art exhibitions of all sorts, and presents concerts, films and theatre. Good news: access to these is also free most of the time.

Finally, it would be impossible to portray Côte-des-Neiges properly without highlighting its historical sites. Obviously, Saint-Joseph’s Oratory, at 3800 Queen-Mary Rd., is worth seeing. The imposing church, high up on the mountain at 300 metres, is a real work of architecture, inside and outside. The organs are worth mentioning, and so are the legendary steps, which number over 200! Whether it is for spirituality or physical exercise, the stairs offer a memorable climb and, at the top, a fantastic view of Montreal and its surroundings.

For a further exploration of Côte-des-Neiges’ patrimony, the 343 acre Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery at 4601 de la Côte-des-Neiges Rd. is also worth the visit. Said to be the biggest in Canada, the Catholic cemetery—open to all religious affiliations—is the resting place of important personalities. Far from being morbid, this site is a green oasis, favourable to peaceful and revitalizing excursions.

At the end of our journey, we stop by the infamous and colourful Marché Les Trottier, to the sound of children giggling and screaming in the schoolyard not too far away. In March, we will be able to get sticky and sweet taffy, as we enjoy the uplifting rays of spring sunlight. Everything in Côte-des-Neiges seems to be made for those passing by to understand what their vie de quartier is—and it is quite successful.

Next week, we will explore the home of Jay Baruchel and Loyola Campus. Yes, you have guess right: nothing else than Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, or NDG for those in the know.

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Music

Young the Giant: a vibrant performance with reciprocal admiration

Only weeks after releasing their second studio album, Mind Over Matter, in January, California-based band Young the Giant hit the road. As expected, the quintet stopped by their drummer François Comtois’ hometown, to the pleasure of their Montreal fans, who filled up Métropolis to the brim on  March 6.

The opening act was the shy but oh so talented Australian singer-songwriter, James Keogh, better known as Vance Joy. Accompanied by three musicians, guitar around the neck, Vance Joy warmed up the numerous rosy cheeks still getting in the room with a romantic and sunny cocktail of folk-infused guitar playing. Hypnotized by his other-end-of-the-world accent, the crowd warmly welcomed each of his songs. The young man eventually gave up his guitar for the ukulele, his signature instrument, to perform “Play With Fire.” After expressing his profound gratitude for being part of Young the Giant’s tour, Vance Joy ended his set with the certified triple platinum and very jovial tune, “Riptide.”

After waiting for what seemed like forever, Metropolis’ lights went down as Young the Giant’s members discreetly entered onto the stage and played “Slow Dive.” Continuing with their most recent album, the band played “Anagram” then dropped “It’s About Time,” first single off of  Mind Over Matter. Not surprisingly, François saluted Montreal folks in the language of Molière, before digging into their eponymous album with “I Got.”

Sprinkled with frontman Sameer Gadhia’s funky dance moves, some cowbell and  tambourine here and there, the energy of the party on stage translated into the audience. The energy was pumping out at every corner of the room, and the mob had no choice but to sing along, jump and raise their arms high up.

Photo by Sabrina Giancioppi

As a pause to a pretty intense first half, lead singer Gadhia presented the atmospheric ballad “Firelight,” a “song [that] is about letting go,” said Gadhia. It was a moment of great emotion, blessed by Gadhia’s powerfully warm voice.

The band left the stage after “Crystallized,” the second single off their latest album. As is the case every time a wonderful band disappears before an encore, fans expressed their love by chanting “Ole Ole,” clapping their hands, and stomping their feet. Visibly, Young the Giant couldn’t resist the seismic admiration, and came back to perform  “Apartment.”

What followed is probably one of the most important highlights of the night. Yes, Young the Giant had a surprise for us Montrealers:

“We actually never played it in front of an audience. François will sing,” said Sameer.

The die-hard fans guessed right: their local, beloved drummer would borrow from Belgian sensation Stromae with a cover of “Formidable,” as they had done previously a few weeks earlier on a Dutch radio station.

The boys went on with the pop-ish Mind Over Matter and landed a final, crowd-favourite bomb, “My Body,” satisfying the souls who wanted more. Bodies literally went wild, as many aficionados tried their hand at crowd surfing; Gadhia himself strolled down the stage. The entire encore was quite a spectacle and concluded the nearly two-hour performance on a blissful note.

Undoubtedly a successful night, Gadhia confessed: “Montreal, I’ll tell you something… and no, I don’t say this every night: you guys are BY FAR the best audience”. There is no wonder every head in the room thought: “But guys, you make it so easy. C’est vous qui êtes formidables”.

Set lists:

Vance Joy:

– Emmylou

– From Afar

– Red Eye

– Wasted Time

– Snaggletooth

– All I Ever Wanted

– Play With Fire

– Riptide

Young the Giant:

– Slow Dive

– Anagram

– It’s About Time

– I Got

– Eros

– Guns Out

– Waves

– Teachers

– Firelight

– Strings

– Paralysis

– Camera

– Cough Syrup

– Crystallized

Encore:

– Apartment

– Formidable (Stromae cover)

– Mind Over Matter

– My Body

Categories
Music

Valentine’s Day Mixtape

“…And the next song is dedicated to all the lovers in the room.” Who hasn’t heard this sentence at a party at least once in their life? Whether it was at a high school dance or at a wedding, it seems we can’t escape these slow dance tunes. The following is a compilation of some of the best romantic songs from the last 70 years. Side A is a nostalgic homage to our grandparents and our parents, where Side B features an amalgamation of songs Millennials had their first slow dance to, along with some more recent ones. When the signal is given, find your partner and sway along to this mixtape. After all, “any little lovin’ needs a little dancin’.”

Side A: Golden Treasures (1940-1980)

1. “It’s Been a Long, Long Time” – Harry James & Helen Forrest – Single

2. “Lover Man ” – Billie Holiday – Single

3. “La Vie en Rose” – Edith Piaf – Chansons Parisiennes

4. “Too Young” – Nat King Cole – The Nat King Cole Story

5. “Love Me Tender” – Elvis Presley – Single

6. “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” – Paul Anka – Put Your Head on My Shoulder

7. “Something” – The Beatles – Abbey Road

8. “Stairway To Heaven” – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV

9. “Angie” – The Rolling Stones – Goat’s Head Soup

10. “If You Leave Me Now” – Chicago – Chicago X

Side B: A New Wave (1980-Now)

1. “Total Eclipse of The Heart” – Bonnie Tyler – Faster Than the Speed of Night

2. “More Than Words” – Extreme – Extreme II: Pornograffitti

3. “Bed of Roses” – Bon Jovi – Keep The Faith

4. “I’ll Always Be Right There” – Bryan Adams – 18 Til I Die

5. “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” – Aerosmith – Armageddon: The Album

6. “Underneath Your Clothes” – Shakira – Laundry Service

7. “You and Me” – Lifehouse – Lifehouse

8. “La Bartendresse” – Éric Lapointe – Coupable

9. “L’ascenseur” – Louis-Jean Cormier – Le Treizième Étage

10. “No.1 Party Anthem” – Arctic Monkeys – AM

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Music

Quickspins – Jan. 28, 2014

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Give The People What They Want (Daptone; 2014) 

Although Give The People What They Want was written and recorded before the diagnosis of Sharon Jones’ pancreatic cancer, we can’t help but feel that this fifth studio album stands as a testament to her strength and resilience. Now fully recovered from her treatment, Jones demonstrates that an artist can remain relevant without adhering to fleeting trends. Authenticity has always been the key to her success, and Give The People What They Want is surely dishing out plenty of that. The tracks are a mixture of soul and funk that could each have easily been Motown hits from the late 1960s or ‘70s. As always, the real gem is Jones’ powerful vocals that are perfectly suited to both the deep funk grooves and soulful ballads. Jones’ triumphant comeback is finally giving the people what they need!

Trial Track: “Making Up and Breaking Up”

Rating: 8/10

– Paul Traunero

 

Against Me! –Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble Music; 2014)

Against Me!’s newest album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, is a perfect evolution of the band’s sound. It has been a long and eventful three and a half years since the group’s last studio album, White Crosses. Laura Jane Grace, formerly Tom Gabel, the band’s lead singer, came out as a transgender woman in 2012. Transgender Dysphoria Blues brings Against Me! back to its punk roots. Musically, the band combines the clarity of its more recent releases with the distorted guitars of its older tracks. The manner in which Grace belts out genuine feelings of both happiness and total alienation leaves nothing to be desired. Lyrically, this album does not touch on politics like its predecessors often did. Instead, the album focuses mainly on Grace’s personal life as she dealt with gender dysphoria. With Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Against Me! proves that it is still one of the best punk bands around.

Trial Track: Black Me Out

8.5/10

-Justinas Staskevicius

Young the Giant – Mind Over Matter (Fueled By Ramen; 2014)

Three years and a half after the release of their well received eponymous album, Californian quintet Young the Giant is back with a recipe mixing old and new. Their distinctive, stunning vocals and catchy melodies are blended with a different sound that borrows a lot more of  pop than indie-rock/alternative, debatably making the album overproduced.

Yet, it seems that everyone stands to gain from the new path. Objectively, YtG’s sophomore album is well balanced: from great arena rock hymns like “It’s About Time,” to the enchanting lullaby “Firelight” that proves lead singer Sameer Gadhia’s talent, we can’t deny the band has made an overwhelmingly pleasing album.

We can ignore the pop-ish path recently taken, and hopefully Young the Giant will give “Paralysis,” the final track off the album that closes with a questionable ‘fade out’, the flamboyant finale it deserves on March 6 at Metropolis.

 Trial Track: “Firelight”

Rating: 7.5/10

– Béatrice Viens Côté

 

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Music

Quickspins – Sept. 17, 2013

The Bloody Beetroots – HIDE (Ultra;2013)

Not many do it like Italian DJ/producer Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo alias The Bloody Beetroots. Recently, he told Life&Times that value shouldn’t be replaced by speed so despite being part of the EDM scene, Rifo prefers quality to quantity.Therefore it’s no wonder he’s been working on HIDE for four years.Influenced by different musical genres and time periods, HIDE mostly encourages listeners to dance – and sometimes headbang. The album starts off with “Spank”, which asks: “Do you wanna dance?” And there we go, the electro-punk symphony has started, a distinctive delirium signed SBCR.

Some songs such as “All The Girls (Around The World)” suggest smoother beats, which establishes a great intermission to the very dynamic album. Fans of more pop-ish EDM will appreciate “Chronicles of A Fallen Love,” whereas others will like “The Beat” for its resemblance to Daft Punk. Special mention to the blazing collaboration with Sir Paul McCartney. Seriously? History of rock meeting electro-punk? We couldn’t ask for more. The album drops on Sept 17.

Trial Track: “Spank” feat. TAI & Bart B More

Rating: 9.5/10

– Béatrice Viens Côté

 

Emilíana Torrini – Tookah (Rough Trade Records; 2013)

About the title of her fourth studio album, Tookah, the Icelandic singer-songwriter is reported as saying: “it is the core of you. The ‘you’ before life decorated you like a Christmas tree with all your baggage. It is what connects us with everyone and everything. Some call it god. I call mine Tookah.”

Torrini explores a new soundscape with Tookah. A mixture of atmospheric synthesizers and acoustic instrumentation envelop  her folky indie pop melodies to create a richly layered, evocative experience. Some comparisons can be made with Cat Power’s most recent album, Sun. However, this is the album of an artist who is constantly evolving and has now crafted a sound that is comfortably and definitively her own.

Tookah succeeds in drawing us into Torrini’s dream world, with its poetry and focus in a way that feels both effortless yet thoughtful.

Trial Track: “When Fever Breaks”

Rating: 8/10

– Paul Traunero

2Chainz- B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time (Def Jam Recordings; 2013)

Put on your Versace aprons, 2Chainz is makin bread with his new album, B.O.A.T.S II:Me Time. The album, released shortly after his arrest in Oklahoma, demonstrates a wide variety of sounds. From the classic 2Chainz tongue-in-cheek lyrics over killer samples to some reflective pieces on his life thus far, Mr.Chainz is really giving us a taste of what he can do and expanding his repertoire in the studio and the kitchen.

While Kanye has offended patissiers everywhere, 2Chainz gives shoutouts to his stove, raps about baking soda and gives us a lesson in measurement all in the same album while still making tracks that flow into each other perfectly and have their own flavours, leaving listeners satiated. Maybe his next single will be featuring Martha Stewart?

Trial Track: Mainstream Ratchet

9/10

-Maddy Comi

 

Elvis Costello and The Roots-Wise Up Ghost (Blue Note; 2013)

Wise Up Ghost is an interesting collaborative experiment between the industry veteran Elvis Costello and the house band for Late NightWith Jimmy Fallon, The Roots. While far from Costello’s first partnership, Wise Up Ghost is a definite stylistic departure from his previous album, National Ransom, which might leave some Costello fans unsatisfied. However, this collaboration clearly displays a wide range of influences conglomerated into an overall funky hip-hop work with hypnotic drum patterns that manage to ingrain themselves into the listener’s ear drum.

Costello’s vocals bring an interesting foreground to this well-crafted beat that hits the mark more often than not. As some avid listeners of Costello have realized, many of the tracks on this album borrow, either lyrically or instrumentally, from his back catalogue such as “Stick Out Your Tongue”, making reference to “Pills And Soap” off of 1983’s Punch The Clock. While the mix of Elvis Costello and hip-hop might not be for everyone, those looking for a marriage of the old and new should check out Wise Up Ghost when it drops on Sept.17.

Trial Track: “Walk Us Up Town”

8/10

-Justinas Staskevicius

The Weeknd – Kiss Land (Republic Records;2013)

Emerging in 2011 as a mysterious and dark, yet refreshing new sound, Abel Tesfaye, better known to us as The Weeknd, captivatedlisteners with the release of his debut project, House of Balloons. Two mixtapes, a compilation album, and a rumoured -and untrue- beef with Drake later, The Weeknd has finally released a studio album with all new material. Kiss Land has The Weeknd addressing his newfound success, along with the female fans and drugs that accompany such a lifestyle. He describes Kiss Land as a symbol of tour life, but also describes it as a “terrifying place”, and as a place he’s never been before.

While Abel’s lyrics and subject material do offer an insight into his new world, the mundane, isolated lyrics and beats can easily go over the listener’s head after a while, causing the listener to yearn for The Weeknd’s superior singles. All in all, The Weeknd’s Kiss Land is a good, not great, studio debut for The Weeknd. It’s an album his hardcore fans can surely appreciate, if they blast it on really good speakers. Those who aren’t familiar with The Weeknd’s style needn’t use this album as a starting point.

Trial Track: “Belong To The World”

Rating: 7/10

Julian McKenzie

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Music

Mixtapes – Babyshambles, Jack Johnson, Neko Case, MGMT

Babyshambles – Sequel to the Prequel (Parlophone; 2013)

Despite a rocky six year hiatus, Babyshambles released their latest album Sequel to the Prequel. The album features 12 new tracks showcasing the band’s maturity as musicians and lyricists. The tracklist holds a handful of different genres, all the while staying true to their British post-punk, alternative-rock sound. The opening track “Fireman” sets up listeners for a good time with its fast-paced beat, pounding drums, slick guitar riffs and lead singer, Pete Doherty’s, signature semi-inaudible vocals. “Dr. No” is an infusion of ska, reggae and rock with slightly menacing and unsettling lyrics.

While Doherty was battling his own demons, bassist Drew McConnell was recovering from a near fatal accident which served as inspiration for “Picture Me In a Hospital”. The track stands out on the album with its warm, English country feel and violins. Safe to say that the Brits’ third album boasts a musical maturity hardly seen on previous Babyshambles work. The album dropped Sept. 2.

Rating: 7/10

Trial Track: “Picture Me In a Hospital”

-Jessica Romera

 

Jack Johnson – From Here From Now To You (Brushfire Records; 2013)

It has been three years since beloved Hawaiian musician (and surfer) Jack Johnson has released an album. It could be said that he doesn’t bring much variety to his sound, but imperfections are sometimes what build up the greatest things. In fact, Johnson has an ability only a few artists have these days: he stays true to himself. He doesn’t make music for business but for his own pleasure and for those who appreciate it most.

This is proven when hearing the beginning of his first single “I Got You”. It’s mostly a mix of mellow guitar, catchy whistling and soft percussion for listeners’ enjoyment. Not entirely different from his previous work, but still worth listening to. Why? Simply because his music is filled with sunshine and soothes the soul. It was created to make our hearts at peace. Keeping everything casual, nobody would be surprised to learn that Johnson records his music barefoot and goes surfing while on break. From Here From Now To You is the perfect album for an endless summer. It comes out on Sept. 17.

Trial Track: “I Got You” or “Radiate”

Rating: 9/10

– Béatrice Viens Côté

Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You (ANTI-; 2013)

With her sixth studio album and first release in over four years, Neko Case demonstrates what an artist in the clutches of deep personal loss and depression sounds like. During the inception of The Worse Things Get, Case experienced the death of both her parents and grandmother. However, don’t expect a mournful album in the traditional sense. With her distinct brand of fire and humour, the alternative-country queen reveals the tension and intensity that arises from facing loss, regret and isolation.

Deeply personal without becoming self-indulgent or sentimental, this album is not as immediately accessible as her previous releases. What it lacks in ease, it makes up for in wit, audacity and passion.

Trail Track: “Where Did I Leave That Fire”

Rating: 7/10

– Paul Traunero

MGMT – MGMT (Columbia; 2013)

How can a band such as MGMT evolve after the success of their first two albums? Even though they won the 2010 Grammy Award for
Best New Artist, the duo promise not to fall into the commercial side of the industry. Their latest self-titled album will still provide that psychedelic signature sound not intended for mainstream radio.

Their first single “Your Life Is A Lie” is a two-minute tune featuring cowbell, grunge-like guitar and bass, and repetitive percussions. Add to this a curious solo and you get the entire sense of the song. At least we can appreciate the goofy video they made for it. Some fans might regret the synthesizers and catchy melodies of their previous songs (think of the most famous “Electric Feel”), but we can’t judge the entire album simply off the one single. Let’s say we’ll take the time to listen to the leaked tracks before buying MGMT’s third opus – unless you’re  an unconditional aficionado. The album drops Sept. 17.

 Trial Track: “Your Life is A Lie”

Rating: 7/10

-Béatrice Viens Côté

 

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Music

Osheaga 2013 raised the bar sky high

Montreal, summer, and music: three words that sound perfect together. Of the numerous music festivals that took place during the summer season, there is one in particular that caught our attention, maybe because music lovers wait an entire year for this weekend of musical and artistic enchantment. We’re talking of course about the Osheaga Music & Arts Festival.
The festival, which took place from Aug. 2 to Aug. 4 on the beautiful site of Parc Jean-Drapeau, celebrated its eighth anniversary this year. Every year, Osheaga attracts more and more international spectators and welcomes them with open arms. Flags from all over the globe were displayed proudly across the terrain, showing Montreal’s pride in its diversity.

Press Photo Susan Moss

There were high expectations for this year’s edition and it is safe to say that they were met. First, the lineup pleased music lovers of every genre. Second, the schedule was more than satisfying. Of course, it can never be perfect, but with more than 30 artists per day and five stages, festival goers had the possibility to experience most of the performers even if they were playing simultaneously.
Despite the great lineup, many music lovers were unable to attend all three days of the summer bonanza and were therefore forced to choose between which sets they would rather see. But with amazing artists performing each day, Osheaga attendees witnessed Capital Cities kick off the festival with energy, they sunbathed with Daughter, Ben Howard and Alt-J, clapped their hands with The Head & The Heart, heard Ellie Goulding’s adorable british accent, sang out loud with Vampire Weekend and Phoenix, dreamed with Beach House, travelled back in time with The Cure and danced with A Tribe Called Red.

Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig on stage at Osheaga 2013. Press photo.

Many concerns about the traffic flow onsite were brought up – apparently there had been some problems last year – but it seemed like everything had been fixed so that all daily 40,000 concert goers could enjoy their experience. Also, the various types of food installations were pleasing to both the vegetarian as much as the carnivore and the sweet tooth.
Osheaga not only had a strong musical scene, it also celebrated the arts in general. Thus, in the peaceful surroundings near La Scène Verte and La Scène des Arbres, people could devote themselves to various artistic activities such as graffiti, chalk drawing or body painting.
A tent was erected for an exposition called Musique sur papier, which consisted of 50 or so concert posters made by different graphic designers. The festival’s decorators should also be properly credited for their work. The decorations completely enthralled the festival goers and propelled them even further into a place of wonder and delight. There were small bulbs, big luminous balloons, origami-styled lamps, naïve and colourful writing made out of wool and ropes.
Although it’s been said over and over again, there is no denying the fact that the Osheaga Arts & Music Festival is nothing short of spectacular. Even though the previous years were astounding, it seemed like this year’s edition allowed the festival to reach a whole new level of musical excellence.

Categories
Music

Weekly Mixtape: Osheaga Dreaming

The end of winter is almost like Christmas for indie music lovers. Music festivals’ lineups get revealed and we keep waiting for the day we’ll finally receive the gift we soon hope to unwrap in Montreal: the Osheaga festival. From year to year, varied lists of musicians are presented, sometimes surprising but always terrific, thanks to big names but also emerging local and national artists. We’ll help you learn more about the 2013 edition with this week’s mixtape. Side A features music from more well-known bands that will put you into the mood as you’re getting more and more excited about Osheaga and start planning your perfect music weekend. Side B provides songs from musicians that are worth discovering and that should get more recognition.

 

SIDE A: Knowledge acquired

1. “Lisztomania” – Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus

2. “Winter Winds” – Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

3. “Pictures of You” – The Cure – Disintegration

4. “Cousins” – Vampire Weekend – Contra

5. “Stubborn Love” – The Lumineers – The Lumineers

6. “Demons” – Imagine Dragons – Night Visions

7. “Wings”– Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

8. “Explosions” – Ellie Goulding – Halcyon

9. “Undercover Martyn” – Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History

10. “Swimming Pool (Drank)” – Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city

 

SIDE B: Feeling audacious

1. “Other People” – Beach House – Bloom

2. “Old Pine” – Ben Howard – Every Kingdom

3. “Tongue Tied” – Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song

4. “Lightning Bolt” – Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg

5. “Safe and Sound” – Capital Cities – Capital Cities EP

6. “Nights Like This” – Icona Pop – Nights Like This EP

7. “Show Me Your Stuff” – Diamond Rings – Show Me Your Stuff

8. “Vehl” – Kidnap Kid – Single

9. “White Noise” ft. AlunaGeorge – Disclosure – Single

10. “Feed Me Diamonds” ft. Raven – MNDR – Feed Me Diamonds

 

 

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Music

Caught in the gossamer

It was so hot at Metropolis Friday night that the poor kids on the dance floor got sprayed by the security guards – but what a good heat it was!

A bunch of (good-looking and stylish) young adults in the 18 to 30 age bracket came to spend the night with American band Passion Pit. Expectations were high for the five musicians who had performed well last August at Osheaga, one week after Gossamer was released.

Everyone obeyed as Passion Pit’s leader Michael Angelakos put his mic towards the crowd so that they could answer the lyrics back.

It was so hot at Metropolis Friday night that the poor kids on the dance floor got sprayed by the security guards – but what a good heat it was! (Photo by Béatrice Viens Côté)

It was a moment of absolute joyfulness.

The crowd went crazy when they heard the first notes of “Carried Away”, the third song of the concert. (Go watch the music video with the wonderful Sophia Bush if you haven’t yet! Plus, it had just come out the day before the show, right in time for Valentine’s Day.)

Several people approved by shouting cheerfully as Angelakos asked, “Who was there at Pop Montreal in 2008?!” He then asked us to put our hands in the air, right before starting to play their Gossamer hit “Take A Walk.” He didn’t have to beg.

The setting wasn’t very complex – big luminous balloons hanging from the ceiling over the stage – but it became quite interesting when the crowd realized that the balloons changed colours, went up and down, and also illuminated according to the beat of the song. It got even more magical when thousands of bubbles filled up the room for the popular “Take A Walk” in the middle of the show.

The band left the stage after 16 songs, to which people started shouting: “Sleepyhead! Sleepyhead!” Metropolis was like an earthquake, and the crowd’s wishes were fulfilled. Passion Pit came back to play a rather unusual song, and there were no sleepy heads in the house.

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