Archive for September, 2009

Mayer Hawthorne loves up The Drake in Toronto

September 28, 2009

27 September 2009


Mayer Hawthorne & The County brought the love to the Drake Underground on Sunday to a sold out crowd. Opening the set with “Maybe So, Maybe No”, an energetic Hawthorne and his tight band, had the crowd immediately loving it – dancing, singing along, and blowing bubbles. Yes bubbles. They totally added an old-timey feel to his old school sound. I was happy to hear Mayer have his vocal chops live and not just on the album. He seems to enjoy having fun with the crowd, making us move in tight to dance, confiding with us about love, and even stopping in the middle of “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” to ask us if we like heavy metal and country, and then starting the song again with a reggae beat. Fun stuff.

The group played the hits from his just released “A Strange Arrangement” as well as a few covers, including a great extended version of “Love is All Right” from Cliff Nobles and Co, because as Hawthorne kept telling us: it was all about the love. Overall, it was a tight and fun set and there were a lot of pretty girls in the crowd, but unfortunately they only had eyes for the Mayer. The one thing missing from the band was some live horns, but all in due time . . .

Opening DJ mymanhenri is consistently awesome at his craft, always setting the mood with his 92bpm hip-hop vibe. I unfortunately missed BUFF1 throwdown his smooth Ann Arbor hip-hop, but did get to see 14KT‘s set before the headline and BUFF sat up behind the drums during his set and chilled out as 14KT dropped dope beats. Check out their collab track “Real Appeal” on BUFF’s latest album “There’s Only One”, it’s a winner. All in all, it was a great night of Detroit soul and hip-hop with mymanhenri representing for the T.

Keep it coming y’all.

sold out

The Antlers at The Horseshoe in Toronto

September 26, 2009

24 September 2009


Brooklyn trio, The Antlers played to a full house at The Horseshoe on Thursday September 24th in Toronto. Their quiet/loud dynamic worked well in a live setting and the crowd greedily devoured it with their ears — ears which the next morning would still be ringing from the cranked speakers at the Shoe. Nevertheless, the trio played a tight set, relying heavily on the strongest tracks from their debut album “Hospice”. They opened the show with “Bear”, which immediately drew the crowd in, as Peter Silberman crooned in his eerie emo falsetto, slowly building towards the song’s powerful kick. It definitely started their set off with a bang.

At their best moments, I found myself thinking they sounded like shoegaze heroes Ride, while at their worst, I couldn’t help think that Silberman’s voice was veering off into Thom Yorke territory with his uber-emotive oooh’s and ahhhh’s. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but overall, I like listening to their album at home more than I enjoyed their live show. Part of the reason for this might be because the album is conceptual, meant to be listened to from start to end in its entirety, and their live show diffused the stirring emotion of the album by playing it out of order. Still, this is all purely subjective, as I’m sure others would say the show absolutely kicked ass and made them want to laugh and cry and give Silberman a big hug.

The Antlers are still a fledgling band, and I think they have the skills to surpass the simple grandeur of “Hospice”, but they really gotta stop listening to “The Bends” right this very instant, because the rest of the world forgot about it years ago. I guess I’m just afraid they have the potential to turn into schmlatz if they’re not careful, and this would be a bad thing for a band that’s got a good thing going.

I unfortunately missed opening band Arietta, but I did get to see most of second-billed Holly Miranda, who played a beautiful set of sparse and angular southern-tinged rock and roll. Comparisons to Cat Power and perhaps Stevie Nicks will no doubt abound, and that’s because Miranda’s voice is achingly beautiful and full of range. I think seeing her in a venue where no one is talking throughout the set would be really quite moving. Still, I was glad I was introduced to her music, as I’d never heard of her before the show.

All in all ’twas a good night. Peace.


Floating Points

September 24, 2009

floating points

Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points is having a good year. Hailing from London, this upstart producer mixes the best of dubstep, Detroit techno, hip-hop and soul into one hell of a pleasant sound. I can’t help but think of him as the Theo Parrish for the 2010’s. Because just like Theo’s music, you cannot help but wanna get up and dance. Shepherd’s track “Love Me Like This” from earlier this summer is one of my favourite mixes of the year. I defy you to listen to it and not shake your ass, ’tis near impossible…

Floating Points’ sound is kinda hard to pin down as he changes and grows with each new release. His newest EP “Vacuum” is spacey soul house with beautiful bass drops that again recall the glory days of Detroit’s renaissance. While his 12 inch “J&W Beat” is a stab at Burial-inflected two step, and both the tracks are dark and heady burners, probably some of my favourite tracks of the genre released this year. Shepherd has skills. Whereas Planet Mu labelmate, Falty DL sounds pedestrian attempting the same thing, Floating Points really sounds fresh and new and deep and groovy. I give him three thumbs up.

2010 could be an even bigger year for him. Full length debut maybe? Floating Points is one to watch out for and one to check out immediately.

Dig it.

Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day

September 11, 2009

the end of day

When I first heard the now ubiquitous “Day n Nite” I was pretty much sold from the opening synth hook. It was moody and heady with a gorgeous stoner beat. A gem in the generic world of towards-the-mainstream hip hop. Several mixtapes and remixes of “Day n Nite” followed, and then Cudi worked with Kanye on a few tracks for his inspired but ultimately failed “808 & Heartbreaks”, which helped further push him into the popular conscious. And now on the cusp of fall, Kid Cudi has dropped his much anticipated debut, “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” — an ambitious collection of nu-skoool hip-hop jams and pop anthems.

And I be digging it.

Like Kanye, Kid Cudi may not be the greatest rapper out there. Like Kanye, he may use the same word twice for a rhyme: “And I tried to piece the puzzle of the universe / Split an eighth of shrooms just so I could see the universe”, but Cudi lacks the soul-crushing egoism that has hindered Kanye from making the album he really wants to, and I’m afraid now it may be too late for him. So in steps young upshoot Cudi from the Cleve, and Kanye knows a star when he hears one. So he hitches his manicured nails in there, and brings Common with, knowing that they will be the ones riding Cudi’s coat tails in order to stay in the hip inner circle of an ever changing scene. From a business POV, West and Common are smart muthafuckas, but also, from a hip-hop POV, Common and West have the rep and the cred. So it’s a win-win for all three artists. Common does a smooth job narrating between tracks, but I gotta say, the song the two vets rap on “Make Her Say”, sounds out of place on an album of far out jams…

In a way, “Man on the Moon’s” musical aesthetic seems much closer to Andre 3000’s “The Love Below” than Kanye’s “808 & Heartbreaks”.

Still, Kid Cudi has never sounded more honest and fresh as he does on this album. “Soundtrack 2 My Life” is an emotional and personal song about Cudi’s life thus far, and it’s highly effective as both an awesome cut and a moving vignette of the young rapper. Other highlights are “Sky Might Fall”, a slow, synthed-out jam, where Cudi continues to reveal his vocal chops. “Alive” is also quite memorable with Ratatat’s signature production and Cudi’s chorus hook: “Everytime the moon shines, I become alive!” “CuDi Zone” is also a hit, with it’s punctuated strings, deep synth line, and another hooky chorus. Cudi does an excellent job with the rap/sing dynamic, and guess what folks: 100% vocoder free! To be sure, his “I’m a loner-stoner weirdo plagued with nightmares” vibe does get a bit trite, but hey, he’s young still…

Closing off the album is a second collab with Ratatat and the help of MGMT called “Pursuit of Happiness”, which is just screaming for remixes, followed by the amazing stoner jam “Hyyerr” featuring fellow Cleveland rapper Chip Tha Ripper, that sounds like an old Outkast/Goodie Mob track. So smoove. I dig this track so much, I kind of wish it was the last song of the album, but instead, “Man on the Moon” ends with the poppy, send you off on a high note, “Up Up & Away”, which is still a fine closer.

The album has emotion, dope production, good lyrics, some great guests, and a solid flow. My friend Jeff has dubbed it the “hip-pop” album of the year, which I think is fitting. Could it still stand to lose a couple tracks? Maybe. And I’m scratching my head at the omission of the actual song “Man on the Moon” from his “A Kid Named Cudi” mixtape, but overall, ding ding ding, yes folks we have a mafuckin winner whether you wanna believe it or not. This is definitely a “fall” album, so check it out before them leaves turn yellow. Peace.

Edit: CUDi makes the cut on my BEST OF 2009 LIST.

man on the moon

Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement

September 7, 2009


Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Mayer Hawthorne is about to blow up big time. His full-length debut album hits stores on September 8th, 2009, and is an amazingly authentic take on Motown and Detroit soul from the 60’s. This is nu-skoool soul that you could play for your Mom and before you knew it, she’d be up and dancing dirty with your Dad in the living room. Meshing the sounds of Smokey, Marvin, Curtis, and the Temps, Mayer Hawthorne’s album, “A Strange Arrangement” plays like a warped 33 from your parents old LP collection, but also manages to sound like the next shit at the same time.

Growing up on the outskirts of Detroit, Hawthorne listened to the rich musical history of Motown via all the amazing radio stations in the Detroit area (104.3 WOMC!!) and felt connected to the sound and emotion of that era—and now he’s put out one of the smoothest soul albums I’ve heard in years. Some of the tracks sound just a little too close to the artists he’s paying respect to—for example “Your Easy Lovin’ Aint Pleasin” sounds like a sped up “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes, and “The Ills” could be an unreleased Curtis Mayfield track, but cuts like “Shiny and New”, “Maybe So, Maybe No”, and title track “A Strange Arrangement” reveal Hawthorne’s skills at their best. Overall, the album is an absolute burner. Infectious, nostalgic, emotional, smooth, and really really fucking groovy. I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that he’s a pasty white dude, and that not only does he have a fantastic voice, but also plays all the instruments on the album! Wow.

Mayer Hawthorne & The County are making their Toronto debut at The Drake Hotel on Sunday, September 27th. I’ll be there and wearing my heart on my sleeve. Edit: I was there! Check him out immediately! Peace.

mayer hawthorne

The Field – Yesterday and Today (Kompakt)

September 1, 2009

the field

When Axel Willner aka The Field appeared out of the ether in 2007 with the excellent “From Here We Go Sublime”, the album spun relentlessly in my apartment for months. There was something really hypnotic about his looped tech-ambience that sounded fresh and new at a time when techno was starting to sound a bit samey and lackluster. Two years blinked by and he returned with “Yesterday and Today” in the spring of this year. I immediately grabbed it, but for some reason was hesitant to listen to it. For some reason felt it wouldn’t be able to hold up to “Sublime”. But in the last few weeks I’ve finally gotten into it, and now think it an amazing follow up. In fact, I think it’s better. A more fully realized vision of his musical aesthetic.

The second track “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” slows the tempo down and adds lush vocals in the mix to fantastic effect, and then “Leave It” comes next — a sprawling and emotive track of 4/4 techno bliss — and when the bass hook drops at the 3 minute mark, I am fucking sold. Wooh. One of my fave songs of the summer for sure. I’ve listened to it so many times in the last few weeks it’s embarrassing. I’m sure my neighbours wanna kill me, but I can’t get enough. The title track is also fantastic and features John Stanier from Battles adding some live drums to the mix, which I think really works. Altogether, this is an excellent album and right now is looking like a top ten of the year.

Love it.