Beach House – Depression Cherry

Beach House – Depression Cherry (Sub Pop; 2015)

Following the release of their new single “Sparks,” fans were hoping that the “dream pop” duo would be shifting their trademark reverb-soaked, dream-like sound to something more experimental on their fifth album, Depression Cherry. However, it appears that the track was only a red herring in an otherwise predictable and formulaic release.

Not to say that the album is without progress, it’s clear that the duo has gone for a more stripped-back and aggressive approach to their sound, incorporating buzzing guitar riffs, trance and even spoken word into the mix. Ultimately, there is a bare and unfinished quality to the compositions that feels unsatisfying.

Much like a dream, when you pull back the atmospheric layers and carefully crafted aesthetic, Beach House lose much of the grandeur and distinction that charmed listeners since their debut. If the band is attempting a transition, Depression Cherry is the equivalent of the band’s awkward teen phase.

Trail Track: “Levitation”
Rating: 6/10


LaRoche brings a French touch

This Montreal-based DJ mixes together the diverse genres he grew up listening to


Ólafur Arnalds & Alice Sara Ott – The Chopin Project

Ólafur Arnalds & Alice Sara Ott – The Chopin Project (Mercury Classics; 2015)

In the press release for The Chopin Project, Icelandic musician/producer, Ólafur Arnalds, explained the conception of the project: “there has been no re-invention of the way Chopin’s music has been presented since recording began, and I was longing for someone to come along and try something different.” It then became clear that he was the one to do it.

Arnalds enlisted the aid of acclaimed German-Japanese pianist, Alice Sara Ott, and searched venues around Reykjavík for pianos that exuded the right personality for the project. Using the intimate environment and vintage recording equipment, the duo recorded reinterpretations of select Chopin pieces, focusing mainly on themes of solitude and loneliness. Arnalds then mixed his own arrangements for violin, piano and synthesizer to create a multi-layered experience. The result is a captivating, dreamlike ambient soundscape that feel cinematic and modern even though it is based on compositions dating back more than 200 years.

Trial Track: “Verses”
Rating: 9/10


Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon

Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon (True Panther Sounds; 2015)

To quote author Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club: “it’s only after we’ve lost everything, that we’re free to do anything.” That quote encapsulates 29-year-old singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr.’s journey to the conception of his debut album, Goon. The Vancouver-native moved to Los Angeles to pursue music, but after a nasty breakup, losing his job, a car accident and discovering his mother had cancer, he returned home, defeated. The journey is what makes Goon so endearing. Not only is the songwriting timeless and earnest, there is a fragility and innocence to the execution that can only be attained through self-doubt and insecurity. The album channels ‘70s singer-songwriters like Randy Newman and John Lennon, but with crisp, clear production and quirky nuances that make it feel charming and modern.

For an album that was conceived through failure and loss, Goon is a triumph.

Trial Track: “Hollywood”
Rating: 9/10


THEESatisfaction – EarthEE

THEESatisfaction – EarthEE (Sub Pop; 2015)

With tracks like “Planet For Sale,” “No GMO” and “Post Black, Anyway,” it is clear that the genre-bending Seattle-based duo, THEESatisfaction, have strong opinions on the current state of affairs on their sophomore record, EarthEE.

As queer black women, rapper Stasia “Stas” Irons and vocalist Catherine “Cat” Harris-White, strive to challenge the listener with concepts of interconnectivity, feminism, race and politics.
The album blends neo-soul, jazz rap and hip-hop, with a jangly intergalactic haze of synths and airy vocals. The spot-on collaborations with Shabazz Palaces and Meshell Ndegeocello add a familiar touch to the afro-futurist psychedelic beats and spoken-word poetry style flow throughout.

What makes EarthEE so exceptional is that it manages to transcend the narcissistic tendency of hip-hop and overall cynical trend in mainstream music with its challenging political-minded content, undeniable positivity and originality.

Trial Track: “Sir Come Navigate (feat. Tendai Maraire)”

Rating: 8/10

-Paul Traunero


José González – Vestiges & Claws

José González – Vestiges & Claws (Mute; 2015)


For his third studio album, José González drew inspiration from the world around him: nature, humanism and the solidarity of human existence. Self-produced in his home studio in Gothenburg, a clear focus was put on ensuring that the songs conserved a certain rawness and warmth to preserve the visceral quality of González’s songwriting.

Vestiges & Claws features the Swedish singer-songwriter’s trademark soothing voice and fingerpicked acoustic guitar, but expands his musical palette with additional vocal and guitar overdubs, in addition to percussion. The album also channels new influences ranging from ‘70s Brazilian productions and American folk rock to West African desert blues music.

With its philosophical lyrics, simple yet endearing melodies and undeniable focus and complexity, Vestiges & Claws is a notable evolution of an artist who never fails to charm.

Trial Track: “Let It Carry You”

Rating: 8.5/10

-Paul Traunero



Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear (Sub Pop; 2015)

Though I Love You, Honeybear wears its humorous lyrics and playful arrangements like a colourful veneer, it is a highly confessional album, full of self-loathing, narcissism and contradiction. In the press release for the album, singer-songwriter and former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman explained the concept behind his sophomore release as being “about a guy named Josh Tillman who spends quite a bit of time banging his head against walls, cultivating weak ties with strangers and generally avoiding intimacy at all costs.” With a description which could probably be preceded by #whitepeopleproblems, his self-confessional approach is repeatedly clouded by a holier-than-thou treatment of the subject matter.

It is undeniable that Tillman is a hugely talented (albeit sarcastic) songwriter, but I Love You, Honeybear ultimately reveals itself as totally pretentious, misogynistic and insincere.

Trial Track: “Bored in the U.S.A.”

Rating: 5/10


Late list of top 5 albums of 2014

5. Flying Lotus –  You’re Dead!
Incorporating the improvisational spirit and ecstatic energy of hard bop jazz with Flying Lotus’ signature blend of ambient electronica and hip hop hooks, You’re Dead! immerses the listener in a twitchy, psychedelic journey, full of surprises and chaos.

Jazz music is viewed by many as a dated musical genre; You’re Dead! deserves its place on the top albums of 2014 for its innovation, creativity, and for infusing jazz music with new life and relevancy.

4. Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams
The Canadian folk-blues trio have always incorporated a cinematic quality in their music. For their third studio album, Hot Dreams, they pulled inspiration from sinister southern gothic themes and haunting tales of love, lust and the occult, to create the feeling of a film noir-style western. Lead singer Taylor Kirk’s haunting baritone, paired with the eerie atmospheric instrumentation featured throughout the album, immediately draws you into the glamorous yet menacing world unfurled. Hot Dreams feels so timeless and immersive, it’s undeniable that Timber Timbre are masters of storytelling.

3. D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah
Originally intended for a late 2015 release date, D’Angelo decided to unleash his revolutionary spiritualism in light of the recent Ferguson protests and Occupy Wall Street movement. Black Messiah is one of the most raw and organic albums of the year, painstakingly crafted during his 15-year absence from the music scene, while battling drug and alcohol addiction. This is soul music with real soul: dark and tormented, yet spiritual and uplifting. With all of the racism, violence and oppression we’ve witnessed this year, Black Messiah’s message is essential.

2. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Drawing a clear influence from her recent collaboration with ex-Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, St. Vincent’s eponymous fourth studio album is a departure from her previous sound, with glorious results. The album incorporates elements of funk and art-rock, all within St. Vincent’s distinct pop sensibility, to create an irresistibly confident and progressive release that nearly stole the top spot on my list.

1.Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste
This year saw the surprise release of Harlem rapper Azealia Banks’ highly anticipated debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste. It’s been three years since Banks’ breakout single “212,” but the delay has done nothing to affect the freshness of her tracks. The album is a fusion of hip hop, rap, UK garage and house; a seamless mix enabled by superb production, in addition to Banks’ confident rap phrasing and raw talent. Because of its fearlessly contemporary sound, unapologetic personality and all of the doubt and criticism surrounding its release, Broke With Expensive Taste has earned the top spot of 2014.


Top 5: Sweet Electric Guitars

A list of famous electric guitars and the legends who played them

5. Fender Telecaster, famously played by Jimmy Page
As one of the most effective and revolutionary designs for electric guitars, the Fender Telecaster was the first commercial solid-body, single-cutaway electric guitar produced by Fender. Page selected this model for the up-tempo hard rock solo in the final section of Led Zeppelin’s 8-minute monumental hit, “Stairway to Heaven,” from the band’s 1971 album, Led Zeppelin IV. The arrangement highlighted the cutting twang and warm bluesy tone of the Fender Telecaster which had previously made it a favourite amongst country musicians.

4. Gibson ES-355, famously played by B.B. King
Hailed as the world’s first commercial thinline archtop semi-hollow electric guitar, the Gibson ES-355 provided the versatility of the solid body along with a warmer, mellow tone of an acoustic guitar.

King’s instrument of choice is a black Gibson ES-355, which he calls “Lucille.” The name acts as a reminder of a near-death experience involving a fire at a club where King was performing, allegedly started due to two men quarreling over a woman named Lucille. An excellent solo featuring the warm tone of “Lucille” can be heard on the track “The Thrill Is Gone” from his 1969 album, Completely Well.

3. Gibson ES-175, famously played by Joe Pass
The American virtuoso jazz guitarist has collaborated with almost every jazz musician in the business and almost always with his Gibson ES-175 in hand. Deemed as one of the most famous jazz guitars in history, the Gibson ES-175 is more accessible than the Gibson L-5, due to its all-laminate construction which reduced the overall cost and prevented unwanted feedback.

Pass was hailed as one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time for his refined technique, sophisticated harmonic sensibility and purity of sound. A great example of Pass’ talent and the mellow sound of the Gibson ES-175 is showcased on his incredible 1973 album, Virtuoso.

2. Fender Stratocaster, famously played by Jimi Hendrix
Notorious for his outrageous techniques and burning his guitar on stage during his live sets, Hendrix used the Stratocaster model of Fender guitar for most of his career. One of the most copied guitar shapes, the Stratocaster is a hugely versatile model that has been used in genres ranging from country to heavy metal. Hendrix’s Stratocaster was his particular favourite, which he lovingly dubbed “Black Beauty.” Its double-cutaway feature allowed Hendrix to access the upper frets and achieve higher notes than most guitars of its kind, as featured on the hit single “All Along The Watchtower” from his 1968 album, Electric Ladyland.

1. Gibson L-5, famously played by Wes Montgomery
First produced in 1922, the Gibson L-5 model was considered the top rhythm guitar during the big band era. Easily identified by its f-holes (sound holes resembling the shape of a lower-case ‘f’) and hollow design, by the time Montgomery hit the scene in 1958, the Gibson L-5 had become an easily accessible standard.

A notable feature of Montgomery’s sound was that he played with his thumb rather than with a standard guitar pick. Feeling that the pick never produced the right sound, he used the fleshy part of the thumb to create the distinct sound featured on his standout 1960 album, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery.


Top Ten: Up-and-coming POP Montreal bands

POP Montreal just wrapped-up, but continue to follow these up-and-coming artists

1. Luluc

This Australian indie duo have received critical acclaim for their subtle and refined folk tunes. Having signed to Sub Pop records within 48 hours of hearing the demo for their newest album Passerby, and sold out their show at POP Montreal, Luluc is sure to win your heart as well.

2. Esmerine

The ever expanding Montreal supergroup, comprising members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion, creates atmospheric, meditative post-rock. Already recognized with a JUNO for Instrumental Album of the Year in 2014, Esmerine deserve their rightful place in the indie pantheon.

3. How Sad

Juxtaposing wistful lyrics with hook-laden instrumentation, Montreal’s How Sad is a synth-pop phenomenon. Their upbeat live shows and energetic party vibe have made them a fan favourite at festivals like NXNE and M for Montreal. There’s nothing sad about this band’s upward trajectory!

4. Black Atlass

Frequent performer at Le Belmont under the stage name Black Atlass, 19-year-old Alex Fleming knows how to work a crowd. With a sensual mix of alternative R&B, hip hop and distorted electronic beats, Black Atlass’ sound is danceable yet sexy. This is definitely one to watch.

5. The Golden Tribe

Montreal’s The Golden Tribe certainly know how to put on a performance! The band combines psychedelic pop and funk with retro-futuristic imagery, to create an audio-visual experience with every show. A festival favourite, The Golden Tribe are definitely one of the most creative bands this city has to offer.

6. Mozart’s Sister

With layered upbeat dance pop, rivetingly powerful vocals and an undeniable charisma and confidence, Caila Thompson-Hannant (AKA Mozart’s Sister) is Montreal’s new diva. The fuzzy electro beats and quirky pop melodies from her new album, Being, are a fusion of ’80s synth-pop and ’90s R&B, and are sure turn Mozart’s Sister into a household name.

7. Ought

Combining high-energy ’90s college rock, underground politics and post-punk DIY, Montreal-based quartet Ought have drawn comparisons to Talking Heads and Television. Bursting with rage and joy, Ought transcends its influences creating a sound that is both evocative and refreshing. This is definitely a band to keep an eye on.

8. Dessa

Minneapolis-based rapper-songstress Dessa combines creative non-fiction, spoken-word and rap, to transcend genre and create a multi-platform voice for herself in hip hop music. Armed with a philosophy degree and her previous experience with rap collective Doomtree, this newcomer is sure to create waves in the scene with her original view and poeticism.

9. Pat Jordache

Pat Jordache has shed the garage pop sound of his debut for a textural new wave, funk and nu-disco meets post-punk vibe. Jordache’s newfound swagger has garnered the approval of Pitchfork, Brooklyn Vegan and the crowd at POP Montreal alike. Keep your ears open for his sophomore album, it’s sure to be a hit.

10. Jimmy Hunt

Jimmy Hunt has already gained quite a lot of critical praise in the Quebec French-language scene for his playful and eclectic folk pop sound. The francophone singer-songwriter will surely gain momentum in coming years and cross the language divide now that he has been longlisted for the 2014 Polaris Music Prize.


Quickspins – Timber Timbre, Johnny Cash, Shakira,

Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams (Arts & Crafts; 2014)

Following their 2011 Polaris Prize nominated album, Creep on Creepin’ On, Timber Timbre have released Hot Dreams. Like the name suggests, Hot Dreams dances in the twilight, somewhere between dusk and dawn with an eerily cool and haunting sound signature to the Canadian folk trio.

Like their previous records, Hot Dreams is organic and cinematic. Taylor Kirk’s vocals border on disembodiment, featured against violinist Mika Posen’s string arrangements, and percussionist Simon Trottier’s lap steel drums. The title track is soft, moody and melancholic with traces of lamentation and yearning, elements recurrently felt throughout the group’s fifth album. Hot Dreams also plays with Western themes; “Grand Canyon” and “The Three Sisters” sound like the backdrop to a lone ranger riding through the Mojave desert. Hot Dreams is a blend of resounding rhythms and carefully composed melodies, proving that Timber Timbre are masters at musical storytelling.


Trial Track: “Grand Canyon”

Rating: 9/10

-Jessica Romera

Johnny Cash – Out Among The Stars (Columbia Legacy/Sony; 2014)

The ’80s were a rough time both creatively and personally for Johnny Cash. Not only was he in and out of rehab, his marriage to June Carter was falling apart and he hadn’t had a number one single since “One Piece at a Time” in 1976. His record label decided to enlist the aid of ‘countrypolitan’ producer Billy Sherrill to update his sound. The results caused the album to be shelved until it was unearthed 30 years later. Out Among The Stars is not a bad album per se: Cash’s vocals are at their peak, but the hokey production drains all of the grit and darkness out of his storytelling; qualities that fans have come to expect from “The Man in Black.”

Regardless of its faults, Out Among The Stars is still an interesting piece of lost recording history and attests that even the legendary Johnny Cash struggled to find his creative direction.

Trial Track: “She Used To Love Me A Lot”

Rating: 5.5/10

-Paul Traunero


Shakira- Shakira (RCA; 2014)

Here’s a riddle. What blends the most generic sounds imaginable with one of pop music’s most recognizable and original voices? Shakira’s new album, that’s what. Self-titled record: that’s been done. Random stars du-jour (like Blake Shelton) featured on a totally forgettable track: predictable. Featuring a reggae, country, dance, rock and electro song for broader appeal: seen before. Did we mention the cliché romantic lyrics about love and heartbreak? Yet somehow everything Shakira creates manages to stand apart in the heavy-radio-play, about-to-be-mixed-for-the-club bracket. The originality is mostly due to some all-Spanish songs like “I Can’t Remember To Forget You,” which is included in its full Spanish version as “Nunca Me Acuerdo De Olvidarte.” That nasal thing she does with her voice also reminds you of how sensually powerful she is as a musician. So what Shakira by Shakira can offer is paradox. It sounds like déjà-vu but it’s also fun, bold and unique. Riddled indeed.

Trial Track: “Can’t Remember To Forget You”

Rating: 4.5/10

-Romain Dompnier


Mixtape – Spring is in the Air

With spring fast approaching, The Concordian compiled a mixtape that reflects our love-hate relationship with the season. Countless love songs have been written about the springtime, but spring can also be a time for heartbreak and transition.

As we impatiently watch the months of heavy snow slowly melt away, we also see all that discarded trash begin to surface. As we stop to smell the flowers, we can’t help but get a whiff of unpleasantness; it’s this duality of the season that has inspired artists and musicians alike for years.

So clutch your lover tight and bask in the optimism of Side A: “Love in Springtime” and when things aren’t looking so rosy, flip to Side B: “Spring Heartbreak,” for the sludgy remains of a long winter.


Side A: “Love in Springtime”

1. “White Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

2. “Love is A Place” – Metric – Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?

3. “Here Comes the Sun” – The Beatles – Abbey Road

4. “April In Paris” – Thad Jones – The Magnificent Thad Jones

5. “Exercises In Free Love” – Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona

6. “Looks Just Like The Sun” – Broken Social Scene -You Forgot It in People

7. “Scenic World” – Beirut – Lon Gisland

8. “Time of the Season” – The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle

9. “Taste Of The Sun” – Meat Puppets – No Joke!

10. “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” – Simon and Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme 

Side B: “Spring Heartbreak”

1. “Another Spring” – Nina Simone – Nina Simone and Piano

2. “Piledriver Waltz” – Alex Turner – Submarine EP

3. “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” – Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!

4. “Walk in the Park” – Beach House – Teen Dream

5. “Stormy Weather” – Billie Holiday – An Evening with Billie Holiday

6. “Spring Song” – Mose Allison – Back Country Suite


7. “Ain’t No Sunshine” – Bill Withers – Just as I Am

8. “Spring Is Here” – Chet Baker – Deep in a Dream

9. “Rainy Weather Blues” – Bessie Smith –The Complete Columbia Recordings

10. “The Park” – Feist – The Reminder

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