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Last Month's Top Sellers

1. YO LA TENGO - There's A Riot Going On
2. US GIRLS - A Poem Unlimited
3. BAHAMAS - Earthtones
4. MARLON WILLIAMS - Make Way For Love
5. THE DECEMBERISTS - I'll Be Your Girl

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FEATURED RELEASES

Thursday
Jul262007

JEREMY STRACHAN - The Heart Of The Matter

strachanj.-heart%20of%20matter.jpgAlthough now a resident of St. John's, Nfld., Strachan has been a Toronto fixture for years. Whether as a bassist in Sea Snakes, an indie-rock sax-for-hire, or in woodwinds n' buckets duo, Feuermusik, he is an endlessly capable musician. This 36-minute solo album stretches those capabilities to their furthest yet; a four piece suite in response to the paintings of Toronto artist, Katie Bond Pretti, The Heart Of The Matter is an enthralling listen. Recorded in a T.O. art gallery and emboldened by the room's natural reverb, Strachan's sax and clarinet sing with intelligence, reserve and emotion.
Thursday
Jul262007

BLITZEN TRAPPER - Wild Mountain Nation

blitzen%20trapper-wild%20mountain.jpgThere have been recent signs that, like psychedelic rock, folk, and, well, everything else before it, 90's indie rock has been gone long enough for a new generation of musicians to stake its claim to its style. Sure enough, Blitzen Trapper bear the sonic stamp of Sebadoh, Pavement, GBV et al, where the guitar playing was sloppy and singing charmingly off-kilter. But the excellent Wild Mountain Nation warrants attention on its own merits, thanks to unexpected doses of Southern rock and country balladry to keep our 'spot-the-influence' compasses confused. The great songs don't hurt either.

Wednesday
Jul252007

BREAD - S/T

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Bread was one of those bands who I had resigned to the category of MOR '70s pop not worthy of a listen, but the amazing Elektra box Forever Changing included a few tracks which thoroughly piqued my curiousty. This album differs greatly from the other Bread material I was familiar with. David Gates wrote some incredibly unique and catchy pop tunes but, unfortunately for my tastes, quickly turned to making overly produced schmaltzy easy listening music. Check out "Don't Shut Me Out", "Family Doctor" and "Friends and Lovers" for some of the high points of this pop gem.

Wednesday
Jul252007

DANIEL HOPE - East Meets West

hoped.-east%20meets%20west.jpgI saw Daniel Hope perform Beethoven's Violin Concerto with the Koln Symphony about a year and a half ago and it was an event. I had not seen a classical violinist play with such precise recklessness in a long time. I bought this album at the concert and it remains a favourite of mine. The mixture of Indian ragas, Romanian folk dances, and Ravel rhapsodies could have proven an awkward stab at cross-genre appeal, but Hope and his accompanists make it work through sheer will and talent. An eclectic listen that retains a strong unity of themes despite its diverse repetoire.

Wednesday
Jul252007

MICHIO KURIHARA - Sunset Notes

kuriharam.-sunset.jpgSome have come to know Mr. Kurihara through his work with the underappreciated Ghost, Damon and Naomi, and most recently, Boris. Well, Sunset Notes sounds a little like all of those projects while remaining completely its own. From over-the-top builds to pretty folk songs and surf guitar riffs, one of my favourite albums of the year. A++!

Tuesday
Jul242007

YEAH YEAH YEAHS - Is Is EP

yeahyeahyeahs-isis.jpgFollowing an album whose considerably cleaner sound left their fanbase divided (2006's underrated Show Your Bones), this new EP returns to safer territory for the trio. Whether or not you enjoyed Bones, the brevity of Is Is highlights one of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' greatest strengths: their ability to sound so big with so little. The drums and guitar are both rawer and stronger than in a long while and singer Karen O sounds positively primal at times, tremblingly tender at others. A quick reminder that despite more artful recent excursions, this band can still kick ferociously and without artifice.

Tuesday
Jul242007

EMILY HAINES & THE SOFT SKELETON - What Is Free To A Good Home? EP

hainese-what%20is%20free.jpgEmily Haines' appeal has always stemmed from a generous combination of beauty and brains, but unlike her role in Metric, her solo material rests more firmly on the cerebral. This EP is a companion to last year's elegant Knives Don't Have Your Back and it's anything but a throwaway. The spirit of Haines' famous father (poet/writer Paul) permeates this music, but Emily intuitively knows how to keep proper distance, even when setting one of his poems to music ("Sprig"). In touch with her lineage but in pursuit of her own ends, this is a subtle expansion of an already strong record. 

Tuesday
Jul242007

SEBADOH - The Freed Man

sebadoh-freed.jpgLike many of their contemporaries, influential college pop collagists Sebadoh have been getting a healthy reissue/reunion revival. The latest is a mammoth 52-track version of their 'debut', The Freed Man. Although a duo, Lou Barlow and Eric Gaffney recorded 95% of this material solo, making the album more of a compilation of two artists. Despite this, they shared a lo-fi, 4-track recording style and play nicely off one another. As for the album, you're just as likely to hear a cat snoring or kid's book narration as actual songs, but that's part of the scattered appeal.

Tuesday
Jul242007

THE RUSSIAN FUTURISTS - Me, Myself and Rye

russian%20futurists-me%20myself%20rye.jpgThe work of The Russian Futurists' Matthew Hart has always been pure pop, minus the distractions of heady high-concepts. He even says as much on lead track "Let's Get Ready To Crumble": "I do pop 'cause that's how my heart goes/ I don't call it art/ no sir". That's not to say he isn't smart, as this 13-track career overview proves. A greatest hits compilation after only three albums can be argued premature, but Me, Myself and Rye serves as an excellent intro to this Toronto treasure. Pop music of the highest order, it's well-worth discovering for the first time (or all over again).

Tuesday
Jul242007

UNKLE - War Stories

unkle-war%20stories.jpgThis project of James Lavelle (Mo' Wax head) and Richard File has always produced mixed results. The addition of producer Chris Goss and Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme is promising, but doesn't add up to the album's best moments. In this superstar project (which includes strong vocal turns from The Cult's Ian Astbury), the best tracks come courtesy of underdogs. UK bruisers The Duke Spirit tramp their way through "Mayday", while criminally underrated LA trio Autolux add their pop noir skills to "Persons & Machinery". Dense and slow to reveal itself, but great moments do exist.
Sunday
Jul222007

CHARLES MINGUS SEXTET with ERIC DOLPHY - Cornell 1964

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Blue Note producer Michael Cuscuna has done it again. Having uncovered a long-lost Monk/Coltrane Carnegie Hall duo back in 2005, his archival talents return with this monster double-disc set, recorded on March 18, 1964 at Cornell University and only recently found by Mingus' widow Sue Graham. With Eric Dolphy's untimely death mere months away, Cornell 1964 captures Mingus' core workshop, unbeknownst to itself, sending off one of its most distinct and distinguished soloists.
Sunday
Jul222007

STUDIO - West Coast

studio-west%20coast.jpgAfter this year's earlier import release of the limited-edition Yearbook 1 CD, which compiled the 2006 West Coast 12" with two extra tracks, Gothenburg, Sweden's Studio have thankfully made the latter domestically available as a stand-alone disc. Boasting sunny percussion, spiky guitars and the occasional House-via-Madchester piano stab or (often very Cure-like) lead vocal, West Coast is the best kind of '80s throwback, reimagining balearic Ibiza dance-pop with a warped cosmic dub sensibility heightened no doubt by the duo's distance from both that era and locale.
Saturday
Jul212007

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Tears Full Of Soul

tears.jpgWith the passing of Dave Godin in 2004, the world lost one of its foremost soul experts. His four volume series Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures introduced many to the heartbreaking majesty of 'deep soul'. Inspired by Dave's series, David Cole of In The Basement magazine has compiled an excellent collection of "original tear jerkers from the heart and soul." 

Thursday
Jul192007

BOWERBIRDS - Hymns For A Dark Horse

bowerbirds-hymns.jpgThis North Carolina trio make the kind of blissful porch music that is happily stuck between eras. It is equally as indebted to American folk and country traditions as it is to the interpretations of those traditions by current artists such as Iron and Wine, Devendra Banhart and Sufjan Stevens. The scope is decidedly more jolly, sober, and focused than those three artists respectively, creating a record that conveys the joy of singing with friends and family. With instrumentation rarely beyond guitar, accordian and percussion, Hymns For A Dark Horse is indeed imbued with a spiritual quality.

Thursday
Jul192007

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Required Listening 2

va-requiredlistening_2.jpgLocal label head John Kong started the Do Right label as a way to showcase local electronic, jazz, soul and hip hop acts. In a short time, he has proven that Toronto is a hotbed for more than just indie rock. Although the second in his Required Listening compilations draws from outside T.O., Abdominal's excellent opener "T-Ode" makes certain we know where Kong's heart lies (the track even features an intro by Toronto mayor David Miller!). Like its predecessor, this collection is an excellent cross-section of jazz, hip hop and soul, and a great reminder of just how diverse this town can be.
Tuesday
Jul172007

NICK DRAKE - Family Tree

nick%20drake-family%20tree.jpgNick Drake's relative unpopularity during his life, mysterious death, and perfectly-contained trio of studio albums have made for a legacy that is as concise as it is enigmatic. Such musicians are always ripe for posthumous releases: enter Family Tree. Unlike the studio outtake comps Time of No Reply and Made To Love Magic, Family Tree is culled from home recordings and demos made prior to his 1969 debut, Five Leaves Left. Like a superhero's origin story, these 28 tracks provide great insight, in many ways predicting the paths down which Drake would later wander.

Tuesday
Jul172007

OSVALDO GOLIJOV - Oceana

golijov-oceana.jpgThe well-traveled Golijov's latest speaks of his varied heritage (covering Argentina, Isreal and Eastern Europe). The titular song cycle mixes swelling choral refrains, Reichian passages and even a Tropicalia break. Tying it all together is Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza, whose introspection counters the choir's full-force gales well. After this unpredictable piece, we settle into calmer, yet still deep waters. Both the plantive "Tenebrae" and the sublime "Three Songs" (featuring Kronos Quartet and soprano Dawn Upshaw respectively) convey Golijov's wanderlust with subtle conviction.

Tuesday
Jul172007

YOU'RE GONNA MISS ME - DVD

you're%20gonna%20miss%20me.jpgLegendary 13th Floor Elevators' singer, solo artist and psych-rock originator Roky Erickson is tailor-made for documentary treatment. Making said film is a tough proposition, but You're Gonna Miss Me succeeds nicely. Owner of a potent wail and explosive songwriting, Erickson was equally owned by a litany of drug addictions and mental health problems (culminating in shock therapy and an unfortunate stint in a mental institution). Director Keven McAlester focuses not only on Erickson, but on the toll his life has taken on his family, who battle to enforce their own view on how to best save him. 

Monday
Jul162007

CHRISTOPHER DELAURENTI - Favorite Intermissions

delaurentic-fave%20inter.jpgChristopher DeLaurenti is a Seattle-based composer who has turned in one of the more unlikely field recordings in recent memory. Using a leather vest embedded with small mics, cables and a Mini-disc, he secretly recorded the intermission practicing and improvising of classical musicians. After seven years and over 50 hours of recording, he has culled the cream of the crop and produced Favorite Intermissions. Raising questions about the history of the avant-garde, this disc is a peculiar and engaging listen, giving us the rare chance to hear these musicians autonomous and relaxed.

Monday
Jul162007

THE FOR CARNATION - Promised Works

for%20carnation-promised.jpgAs the Slint reunion continues to roll on, it's appropriate that singer Brian McMahan's other project, The For Carnation, gets a much needed reissue. Promised Works collects Fight Songs and Marshmallows, the two EPs which introduced the group to the world. TFC removed Slint's indie-rock edge to distill a pure ether of unsettled calm. Spoken rather than sung, implied rather than played, these songs float, drift and possess with such amorphous grace that they take time to reveal themselves. The end product is a body of work that, while short-lived, is lasting and singular.