Music Quickspins

Lady Gaga – Joanne

Lady Gaga – Joanne (Interscope Records, 2016)

Say “howdy” to Lady Gaga’s new release, Joanne. Who is this woman? She plays chameleon in this album, between a country gal, a pop star and an R&B singer. Oh, but she delivers—this is her most versatile album yet. Tracks like “Joanne,” “A-YO” and “Sinner’s Prayer” make it sound as though she’s been singing country her whole career. Don’t be fooled, though: her addictive pop dance songs are still present. “Dancin’ in Circles” sounds just like the Gaga tunes that have played again and again on every radio station for the past few years. Her powerful voice will get you hooked on songs like “Perfect Illusion” after just one listen. Another one of this album’s great country tracks is “Diamond Heart,” where she mixes pop and country like mashed potatoes. For “Hey Girl,” Gaga becomes the sophisticated R&B singer, as confident as can be. The track has an 80s electro mixture that sounds just right. Give Joanne a listen, you’ll go Gaga for it.

Trial Track: “Perfect Illusion”


Music Quickspins

Jojo – Mad Love.

Jojo – Mad Love. (Atlantic Records, 2016)

Jojo’s first studio album in 10 years, Mad Love., is an upbeat, empowering record with touching moments scattered throughout. The album opens with the heartfelt piano ballad “Music.,” where Jojo sings about her late father. As she reaches for the higher notes, you can hear the strain in her voice, which makes the track all the more raw and emotional. There onwards, the album is mostly a mix of club anthems and R&B tunes that dive into lyrical themes such as empowerment and doing your own thing. Many feature dance rhythms and beat drops that are typical, along with overproduced vocals. “FAB.” is arguably the most unique up-tempo track—it features rapper Remy Ma. Standing for “Fake Ass Bitches,” the song is packed with solid vocal runs and punchy lyrics. Overall, there isn’t enough depth to this record, but as Jojo concludes, from here on out, she’s going to “Rise Up.”


Trial Track: “FAB.”

Music Quickspins

Aluna George – I Remember

Aluna George – I Remember (Island Records, 2016)

Aluna George’s latest release, I Remember, brings out her soothing, soft, sweet voice which serenades your ear, and complements the album’s pop-electro sounds. I Remember features pop-electro and lounge melodies as well as smooth R&B rhythms, both of which she blends together beautifully. George opens with the track “Full Swing” which has a strong pop-electrified beat and baseline. “My Blood” follows, with a smooth R&B rhythmic sound. It’s wonderful to hear rhythm and blues being combined with soft electro beats. “Not Above Love” brings you back to the early 2000s when pop music was at its peak. “Mean What I Mean” will surely be playing in lounges and clubs in no time—it’s very modern and has electro-pop with rap verses by featured artists Leikeli47 and Dreezy. Its metallic sounds will be sure to grab your attention—The brassy sound is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Overall, the album is a beautiful blend of R&B and pop-electro, and George’s voice is the cherry on top.

Trial track: “Not Above Love”


Music Quickspins

Britney Spears – Glory

Britney Spears – Glory (RCA Records, 2016)

Oops, she did it again! Britney is back with her ninth album and she’s bringing back her classic pop sound. It’s been already 18 years since “Baby One More Time” and she continues to kill it. Glory is a record for the ultimate loud party girl who wants to have a good time. It’s flirtatious, girly and obnoxiously fun. It can bring out the diva in anyone. Her hit “Make Me” featuring G-Easy is everything a summer jam should be. It’s a catchy melody that automatically puts you in a good mood. Her hit “Clumsy” is the party girl anthem of the album. It has that catchy hook with Britney’s signature moan as she gasps ‘oops!’ and the fizzy electro beat drops. Her song “Slumber Party” is what you play when you don’t feel like going out on the town but have to. It will give you the adrenaline to dance on tables all night.

Trial Track: Clumsy



No rest for Tokyo Police Club

Keyboardist Graham Wright reminiscences about touring, new fans, and young dreaming

When Canadian indie rock group, Tokyo Police Club, first started touring in the United States, they were booking their own shows. They were paying their own way on tour with money from odd jobs back in their hometown of Newmarket, Ontario. Graham Wright recalled the need to start playing shows outside of Canada.

“We did a little bit of everything you know? We worked retail in the suburbs,” Wright explained. “You took that money that you were ostensibly saving for your college education and spent it on going to stay at a hotel in Cleveland. It was like starting a business and making an investment.”

This means of exposure was obviously a tactic for days past, before crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo could find enough fans to finance a band’s entire tour.

Nearly ten years later, Tokyo Police club has toured all over the world. They are presently playing sold-out shows on their Canadian tour, for their newest album, Forcefield, which was released in March. Forcefield is the band’s third full-length album, which took them nearly four years to perfect. While they were criticized for the lengthy gap of time between albums, Wright suggested that they had one guiding philosophy to live by: “There is no good time to put out a bad record and there’s no bad time to put out a good record.”

Ontario natives Tokyo police club went from paying for their own gigs to touring all over the world.

He heard that quote first from the band’s manager. “I don’t know if this is an original to him or if he stole it from someone else,” he said. If anything, Forcefield sounds even more complex and sonically layered than their older songs, a result of the quality time spent on the material.

Having played shows since 2005, the band has accumulated many fans who have been following their progress for years. They consider being able to keep people engaged and listening over this time span a point of pride. But, as Wright suggested, it’s always nice to see new faces too.

Just recently there was a fan who came to one of their shows and stood directly in front of the stage, singing every word to only the new songs, from Forcefield. Frequently at their shows, lead singer Dave Monks plays an acoustic version of the highly requested song, “Tessellate” from their debut album, Elephant Shell (2008).

Recalling one concert where fans were whistling the piano riffs from the song, Wright laughed. “You can’t whistle in union, it’s not a thing that people do, but I admired their dedication.”

Tokyo Police Club have often included playing shows in smaller cities while on tour. They say that not much thought ever went into specifically picking smaller Canadian cities, but that they have always played them because, as a Canadian band, “it’s just been like a part of [the] business model,” Wright said.

However, nothing is intrinsically Canadian about the band aside from their origins. Their sound is a fusion of indie rock and punk, with distinct and strong vocals, catchy choruses and cool guitar riffs.

When asked about the band as contributors and representatives to and of Canadian music, Wright dismissed the notion of pigeonholing themselves.

“I have no interest in border divides on style … it seems pointless to me to ever shoehorn yourself or try and identify with one particular scene, its just limiting,” he said.

Tokyo Police Club have established themselves in a more global context of indie music culture playing festivals and shows in Europe and Asia. While touring in a band is something Wright said he always dreamed about as a young boy, inspired by watching rock ‘n’ roll documentaries, a well-deserved day off is something he really looks forward to.

After playing show after show, Wright explained, “you feel like you’ve earned the right to indulge yourself a little.” With three successful albums completed and eighteen shows to play over the next four weeks, a day off is surely deserved.

Arts Music Student Life

POP Montreal 2013 in photos

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Don’t POP til you get enough

Photo by L.P Maurice

Grizzly Bear

A music student’s wet dream. If three-part vocal harmonies performed by musicians juggling several instruments at once doesn’t get you off – I don’t think anything ever will.  Grizzly Bear’s performance at L’Olympia Sunday night left us speechless. Really, we have no words.

Bassist, producer, and back-up vocalist Chris Taylor casually looped in the sax, oboe and flute, Christopher Bear snapped away on the drums, and lead vocalists Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen ethereally breathed life into their melodies, plucking away at piano keys and guitar strings.

The boys are touring in promotion of the latest addition to their musical catalog. Shields was released earlier this month, much to the brava of those that were fans of their earlier, less commercial work. The bandmates took some time apart last year to work on solo projects and develop their own, individual musical styles. Their live show proves that they successfully honed their strengths, regrouped and learned to meld together better than ever.


Unknown Mortal Orchestra

As Grizzly Bear’s openers at L’Olympia on Sunday, Unknown Mortal Orchestra lucked out in playing to a packed house. And there really couldn’t be a band more deserving of the spotlight.

UMO are hardly ‘unknown,’ for they’ve lapped the Pitchfork crowd multiple times in the past year alone, stealing several festival gigs. You really do have to see them live to understand all the brouhaha. UMO performed as a three piece, just a guitarist-vocalist, drummer and bass player. Somehow, the sound that generated from their instruments pumped with all the manpower of a full funk-rock orchestra. This is rock that you can really groove to. Choosing to tag along on the Shields tour was a smart move for UMO, chances are pretty high that they’ll gather an immense following before the end of the year.


An Evening with David Byrne & St. Vincent

On paper, David Byrne and St. Vincent’s Annie Clark may seem like an odd pair. In the Plateau’s majestic church Eglise Saint-Jeane Baptiste, they dropped jaws. The two are touring on the heels of their collaborative effort, Love This Giant, released at the beginning of the month. Clark’s angelic, pitch-perfect voice blended harmoniously with Byrne’s signature Talking Heads warble. And man, can that girl shred; Clark’s skills on the electric guitar are near unmatched by any female rockstar. The evening was a hoot. In between Byrne’s quips and – how could I not mention – a fully choreographed set list, it was truly a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience.


How Music Works w/ David Byrne and Win Butler

At the Ukrainian Federation on Saturday night, POP-ers had the opportunity to meet the men behind all their adulation. Yes, David Byrne recently wrote a book called How Music Works, but his talk with Arcade Fire’s Win Butler didn’t really stick to what lies on the pages. It was hardly a lecture. Butler and Byrne exchanged jokes, jabs, and perspectives on success in the music industry. Discussion topics were kept quite light, from ‘what to wear on stage’ to ‘why musicians use choreography in their routines.’ Perhaps the only real insight we gained from the talk was hearing Byrne and Butler’s public realization of the end of music as a commodity. For as internet pirates continue to allow albums to go for free, recording artists look to the live show as the real product.


Born Ruffians

These Ontarians played not once, twice but three times throughout POP Montreal. The indie-pop-rockers are kind of behind in terms of the Canadian music scene. They toured throughout the summer and continue to this fall, but are still relying on old material. Their last album, Say It, was released in 2010. Despite the lack of excitement in their set lists, the Ruffians still put on a good show – they managed to gather large crowds at each of their sets.


Mozart’s Sister

All the hens have been clucking over Mozart’s Sister. Caila Thompson-Hannant has been bouncingaround the Mile End’s hip-but-encouraging music scene for a few years now, but she is finally getting noticed thanks to her Arbutus label mate Grimes. When she performs as Mozart’s Sister, Thompson-Hannant belts it and sexes it up. She made sure to take advantage of the spotlight at her free show at Parc de la Petite-Italie on Thursday and at Eglise POP Little Burgundy on Saturday night.


Rich Aucoin

There is no such thing as a Rich Aucoin ‘show.’ It’s the Rich Aucoin experience. He pulled out the confetti, rainbow parachute and YouTube video memes galore at Divan Orange yet again. Aucoin may be one of the best performers out there; he convinces entire crowds to join him in reciting virtually all of the lyrics to his songs and whips them into a sweaty, dance-induced frenzy. He has toured relentlessly, bringing the ‘experience’ all over North America in the wake of his 2011 release, We’re All Dying To Live.


A gothic birthday party, UNzipped

Photo : Andrew McNeill

With the band’s biggest festival appearance yet just days away, UN’s Kara Keith was fretting over footwear before set lists.
“It’s all about the outfits, right?” reasoned Keith.
UN, a gothic rock/electro-pop duo featuring Concordia grad Jen Reimer on drums with Keith on vocals and piano, is jetting off to Austin, Texas to play POP Montreal’s showcase at the SXSW Music Festival.
Over 2,000 acts from all over the world flock to SXSW every year to mingle with music industry professionals, debut new material and wrestle for exposure. Buzzing reviews at this festival can change an artist’s life overnight. Just one year after her SXSW debut, former McGill student and electronic musician Grimes has gone from virtually unknown to posing for Vogue.
“I haven’t gone to SXSW before, but I’ve done a lot of crazy shit in my life,” said Keith. “It’s just another five-day-long party where I don’t have a home to go to at night.”
Keith and Reimer have been playing together in bands for over five years, but they first collaborated as UN in 2010 and have just released their debut album, Nu. Keith’s confidence on stage is magnetic, her voice deep, dark and borderline satanic. Backed by snappy synth, piano and Reimer’s fierce animalistic drumming, this is something you must dance to, entranced in your own world.
UN’s sound and stage presence has the ability to whisk the crowd away to a subterranean gothic birthday party, providing an escape from the mundane.
“It’s cathartic for me,” explained Keith. “That’s why it ends up being cathartic for other people.
All the melodies, lyrics and ideas are from my singular experience. I walk about with those songs all the time.”
Reimer and Keith left their families behind in Alberta before becoming Mile End inhabitants. They attended separate classical music conservatories in Edmonton and Calgary, but met at an artist residency program at the Banff Centre in 2007.
“We started jamming together in these little huts in the woods, spending night upon night playing music,” revealed Keith. “We instantly connected.”
At the time, Keith studied piano, while Reimer was perfecting the French horn. Reimer picked up the drums as recently as two years ago for UN’s first performance in New York City, though she had only been practising for three weeks.
“[Reimer] already had so much skill in her body from being a very accomplished classical musician,” explained Keith.
Keith found Alberta hostile to artists, as rent was skyrocketing and it was difficult to find space to practise or play.
“It wasn’t a very nurturing community, and we felt like outsiders,” said Keith. “There were no other women doing anything [like us].”
The pair clicked with producer Howard Bilerman, known for his work on Arcade Fire’s Funeral (2004), while at The Banff Centre. Keith wrote a record while in Alberta, but flew to Montreal in 2008 to record with Reimer, Bilerman and a band of 10 other people.
“That was our foray into Montreal. We were just going to come for two weeks and make a record,” said Keith, “but that record took six months.
“We quickly evolved, realized it was an amazing city, and now we are very happy here.”
Though the songstress was unhappy in Alberta, the record she wrote while living there is curiously upbeat, and became quite popular. Keith’s indie-pop single, “Kick this City,” caught fire in 2008 and was picked up by CBC for radio play.
Since moving to Montreal and forming UN, Keith’s songwriting has turned to gloom.
“What’s funny is that as I’ve gotten my life more organized, been happier, got really good friends, moved to a great new city, and started taking care of myself, I started writing really dark music,” said Keith.
Despite the drastic change in her musical tone, Keith insisted that it’s completely unintentional. She challenged herself to depart from her more complicated classical roots and produce music that was simple, strong and straight from the gut.
“I’m not trying to do anything, I don’t listen to music, and I don’t know what our ‘sound’ is,” said Keith. “Neither does Jen.”

UN debuts at SXSW on March 16 at Hotel Vegas in Austin, Texas.

To download their new album visit their bandcamp:

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