Monday, June 4, 2012

TotW: Youth Without Youth

It's true that Metric's albums seem to burn fast and bright for me, but while they do... what a sight. That said, I've loved every little sound bite that has come from their forthcoming album, Synthetica (out June 12), and I've been really enjoying their previous album, Fantasies over the last week, so maybe they're just more of a seasonal band for me?

Whatever the case, this new, heavy -rockin' track, Youth Without Youth isn't so much an evolution as it is a union of the band's earlier, almost punk, sound with the electro -heavy beat of their most recent album. Although it comes in at just under four minutes in length, it's driving drum beat never lets up, so it feels more like a two-minute attack. Emily's vocals are up front in the mix, which is just perfect here.

The band is promoting some sort of "internet hide & seek" game right now in anticipation of the album and there have been tons of audio snippets released over the last month or two. They've made the cover of Exclaim! magazine this month, and the article that goes with that coveted spot discusses a lot of the 'making of' kinda details for this new album.

It sounds like another strong release from this band. We'll find out for sure next week... but until then, give this track a listen (if you haven't already).

» Listen: Metric - Youth Without Youth

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Here's something that'll make your head spin, just a little... you know how when you're taking a photo you need to focus your image before you take it? What if you could leave that decision to after you'd taken the shot? What if you could decide to re-focus a picture you'd already shot? Enter the Lytro light field camera.

The secret to this idea of focusing and re-focusing an image after it's been shot is in the way it's shot. I'd try to explain in my own words, but I think the website does a better job of it:
Recording light fields requires an innovative, entirely new kind of sensor called a light field sensor. The light field sensor captures the color, intensity and vector direction of the rays of light. This directional information is completely lost with traditional camera sensors, which simply add up all the light rays and record them as a single amount of light.
So, with all of this data stored in this image file, you can adjust the focus -- quite dramatically -- after you've taken the shot. Both the blog for this product and the how-to videos talk about staging a photo or looking for a specific type of shot to take to get the most out of this camera... it's not the sort of thing that works well when you take a picture of two people standing next to each other against a wall, for example. You need to establish the various depths-of-field in the shot in order to really see it work.

Monday, May 7, 2012

TotW: Ropes That Way

So, getting back out of that dream-pop, electro-pop vibe that I've been featuring here for a few weeks, let's pick a bit of a sludgy blues-rock track.

Enter the Dirty Ghosts. I don't know a lot about this band -- okay, almost nothing -- but I like what I'm hearing. I'm a sucker for this dirty, muddy guitar-tone and the female vocals are perfect on this track; raw, honest and just a little strained. There are a lot of sounds and instrumentation going on here and there, but it never seems forced or overwhelming. As a whole, the song has a great, steady driving beat to it that just pulls you along and that chorus -- "...and I'll never gonna leave you with a rope " -- just gets lodged in your ears for hours.

It sounds familiar and fresh at the same time; it's got a bit of a 90s grunge sound, without sounding re-hashed. It's a great song to crank on your way to the beach or a night out. And, if you still enjoy music videos, this one has officially been posted to YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

» Listen: Dirty Ghosts - Ropes That Way

Monday, April 30, 2012

TotW: White Doves

Disco. There, I said it. But never forget that the classic, Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall (pt. 2), is also recorded with a disco drum beat... and, I mean even the Glee kids got over disco the other week, so you can to.

That said, while Toronto's Young Empires obviously has disco influences, this isn't some sort of nu-disco EP. This song, White Doves, the lead single from the band's 7-song EP, Wake All My Youth, is perhaps the least disco-esque track on the album, but it's got a great summer, pop-dance, electro- groove that just carries you along for a few minutes. A perfect 'summer night' song for the coming season. The vocals are just right in the mix, not too hard to hear, but not over-powering the song either.

Looking at the last few TotW posts, I'm obviously on-board with this electro-indie-pop sound that is happening right now; if you haven't jumped in yet, this is as good a track as any to start with. You can stream the whole album on the band's website, or check out most of it on their Radio3 band page (linked below).

» Listen: Young Empires - White Doves

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

TotW: Be Patient

I am swamped at work and have no time to be writing this, and it's Tuesday (not Monday), but this song/album just has taken me by storm. It's fantastic, and I don't even think I know why.

This self-titled debut from Paper Beat Scissors came out a few weeks ago, and I heard a track on the Radio3 "New Release Tuesday" show that liked... but then I don't remember having heard it again until last Thursday, just before the long (Easter) weekend.  And then, I heard it again this morning and have found it streaming on-line and not stopped listening to it.

I've seen it listed as a folk album, but it's certainly not your grandfather's folk music.  Tim Crabtree himself (aka, Paper Beat Scissors) claims to be an 'electro-hobo from Nova Scotia'... and this seems much more fitting. While it's certainly not rock music, it's an inviting mix of acoustic guitar, electronic ambiance and haunting vocals.

There are a few tracks up on the artist's Radio3 page, and you can heard the whole album through Tim's own page (via Bandcamp, it appears). So, do yourself a favour and go take a listen... it's a wonderful album and I think it promises amazing things in the future.

» Listen: Paper Beat Scissors - Be Patient

Monday, March 12, 2012

TotW: The Kids Were Wrong

This is totally one of those songs that just crept up on me. I heard it, kinda liked it... then heard it a few more times, still enjoying it... then found myself singing/humming it... then I had to hunt it down and buy the album.

Memoryhouse are art-/space-pop duo, composer Evan Abeele and photographer Denise Nouvion, from Guelph, Ontario. According to the band's bio, the project started out as a creative outlet for the two of them; more of a multimedia music+imagery project than a 'proper' band.

Given their background, it's not surprising that they've crafted this wonderful, ethereal look and feel to everything they do. All of the album art, the photos on the new website, etc., all have this fantastic otherworldly feel to them; this haze that just makes it look dreamy. It's also a perfect companion to their music. This isn't rock 'n roll by any means.

Simple drum beats sit behind layers of synth and reverb- and chorus- drenched guitars, all supporting Denise's bright, simple, honest vocals. It's certainly not as slow as some dream-pop out there, which is nice. It's not rushing anywhere, but it's not simply floating along either. There is a lofty, positive vibe to everything going on here, which is great. As I said off-the-top, this was a band who I've been floating along with for a year or more, but this new stuff just got under my skin, in a good way. For comparison, sound-wise, I would put these guys in the company of M83 and/or B.C.'s Teen Daze, if that's any help.

» Listen: Memoryhouse - The Kids Were Wrong

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I've been using an Android -based phone for a few months now; I finally upgraded from my old QWERTY phone that had treated me so well for 3+ years as part of a family-wide phone update. However, it occurred to me that I had yet to feature an app here, of any sort. So, let's change that...

...introducing: Pixlr-o-matic, part of the Pixlr family of photo editors by Autodesk Inc. (makers of AutoCAD, 3DS Max and Maya). Although recent reports of Instagram coming to the Android platform seem more believable than all the previous reports, I stopped holding my breath a long time ago. So, in my search for a similar app, I found this one.

Unlike Instagram or other popular camera apps, this one is based on post-production of an image, rather than in-camera, on-the-fly editing or manipulation. At first, I wasn't really sold on this idea, but in hindsight, I'd much rather have a 'true/clean' copy of the image that I can later layer effects on, than only having the one distressed, bordered image that I can never clean-up or apply different effects to.

It's a simple enough application to use, having three layers of effects that you can choose to apply to any photo in your gallery: colour overlays, lighting effects and borders. Each one of these layers has a number of selections from which to choose; the app has also recently added a large number of additional layer sets (e.g., soft colour overlays, fire lighting effects) that you can install, from within the app, for free. When you've decided on how you want your image to look, you can save it back to your gallery as a seperate file. This app does lack the dedicated on-line social media community that Instagram has, however, you can choose to share your finished photographs through a number of existing services.

Furthermore, if you were a fan of Picnik (on the web) previously, you've no doubt heard that it's being closed down (on April 19, 2012, and absorbed into Google+ somehow); if you like what you see in this Android app, Pixlr is on the web too and includes many more features that you can enjoy and experiment with.

It's a free, ad-free, download on the Android Market (and is also available for iOS). Go check it out!

» Found at: Android Market - Pixlr-o-matic

Monday, March 5, 2012

TotW: What Have I Done

I'm a little surprised that it's taken someone this long to call their band Portage & Main, after the (unoffically) coldest street intersection in Canada, but I'm glad these guys did. Not only is it a great band name, but these guys are putting out some really great stuff.

From Vancouver, this band has put together a really full, classic, rock sound on this track, What Have I Done. Combined with clean instrumentation and wonderful backing vocals, little guitar riffs between verses and choruses, this sound is so timeless... yet so hard to get right. It's certainly a song that stands on it's own as an original, but it carries that feeling that you've heard it somewhere before as well; that familiar, welcome feeling.

On the band's website, their bio says, in part, this:
So sit by the light of Portage & Main’s fire and listen to alluring tales of the human experience as your weary travelers traverse the peaks of the misty mountains and wade through the depths of the rivers below.
At first blush, this sounds like it says a whole lot of nothing... but then once you've heard a few songs by these guys, it somehow seems to make more and more sense. If nothing else, it's a very apt description of their sound and vision.

The band is on tour now, but you can also catch them doing a Green Couch Session on the web anytime.

» Listen: Portage & Main - What Have I Done

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I'm a sucker for magic. I've never seen a live show, but I have caught a number of David Copperfield, David Blaine and Criss Angel shows on tv over the years... as well as the four-part "Breaking the Magician's Code" series featuring the "Masked Magician".

But, for me, nobody does it better than Penn & Teller... especially when they'll go so far as showing you how the trick is done, and it still doesn't seem possible. In a recent pair of articles for, the silent half of the duo, Teller, talks about how magic is done in a way I haven't seen expressed so neatly before.

In the article, Teller Speaks on the Enduring Appeal of Magic, he talks about how he got into doing magic and the intellengence of magic, both on the part of the performer and the audience. In Teller Reveals His Secrets, he lays out seven principals of magic, and then shows how they're all used in a common trick. Again, as is always their strong suit, even after walking me through the trick, it still somehow seems magical to me.

For an example of this, here is a 2010 YouTube clip of the pair doing the classic "cup & balls" illusion: first with red plastic cups... and then with clear plastic cups. And, even though everything is spelled out for you the second time around, the skill with which they do it is incredible.

» Found at:"Appeal" / "Reveal"

Monday, February 27, 2012

TotW: Way Home

The Track of the Week feature is back! After a quiet month here, as a result of a total re-design on the Radio3 side of things, I think the new CBC Music site is stable enough to start linking to again.

You might have previously heard this week's artist as a part of her family band, The Rankin Family. However, Molly Rankin is now out on her own with a debut EP (released back in 2010 apparently!) available for purchase... and it sounds fantastic.

This is a great little solo number, with a wonderfully playful, rolling feel to it. There are some handclaps, a little bit of do- do- do- do- style singing in the bridge; and Molly's voice is just perfect for this style. There is something so inviting and honest about it.

"Way Home" isn't an overly-complex song, lyrically, but it shouldn't be. It's a short song about a lost or unrequited love; coming in at under three minutes, it just feels right as it is.

» Listen: Way Home - Molly Rankin

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


One of my first ever posts here was about the beauty of the Beau's beer packaging. That was way back in 2010, but now it seems like someone else has had the same idea and created a whole blog dedicated to the design and style of beer packaging! Enter Oh Beautiful Beer.

Coming up on their one-year anniversary next month, OBB has expanded to a whole host of social media sites, but the body of their collection still seems to be on their own Tumblr-style blog. Be sure to click through to the actual article to see more packaging images and/or a description about the design inspiration or origin.

Along the same lines, when I found this site I also discovered Untappd. It's a social -networking site designed around the enjoyment of beer. Complete with mobile apps (for iOS and Android) as well as tie-ins to Foresquare and Facebook, it's a great way for those who are already using these other services to find and enjoy great beers together. Personally, I'm sticking with a pen and the great beer journal my wife gave me for Christmas; but if you weren't as lucky, give this a look-see.

» Found at: Oh Beautiful Beer

Monday, January 30, 2012

TotW: Shaking Down the Old Bones

The Darcys are going to win you over. And you over there. And you in the back. One way or another, these guys are going to make it... they've already been through far too much not to. Oh, and I should mention that they're also quite amazing.

Rather than go into everything that's happened to the band since they formed way back in 2007, let me direct you to a Toronto Star article from last March; Ben Rayner covers it all pretty well in there if you're interested. Long story, short: after surprise line-up changes, struggles with producers, money and labels, these guys have stuck it out, evolved, and are currently making new fans with the help of Murray Lightburn (The Dears) and the still-influential, Toronto -based Arts & Crafts label.

Trying to describe these guys is hard; I hear The National, radiohead, Elbow and - more obviously - The Dears and Steely Dan, in their sound. The lead single from their self-titled album, Don't Bleed Me, is a short, rockin' blast of a single. It doesn't conform exactly to your standard verse- chorus- verse structure, and it's not easy to declare it as a guitar -driven track exactly... but it's both of these, and neither of these. It's sonically muddy, in a good way, and the vocals are forward in the mix right up until the last 30 seconds of beautiful, layered, noise.

The song I've highlighted as my Track of the Week, Shaking Down the Old Bones, starts off as very Kid A -era radiohead -heavy. It's a lot quieter than the aforementioned single, but there is still a lot going on here. The drummer, while understated in the first half of the track, is still very solid. The haunting vocals are floating along just perfectly here. The latter half of the song tells the story with conversation style lyrics overtop the instrumentation. A great way to end a 5+ minute song.

Have a listen on CBC Radio3 if you'd like (linked below), or head right to the band's website (linked above) to download - for free - not only their debut album on A&C, but also their follow-up, a complete cover of the 1977 jazz-rock classic, Steely Dan's album, Aja. Exclaim! has all the details on how this came to be. Not surprisingly, I've heard it already and it's likewise impressive.

» Listen: The Darcy's - Shaking Down the Old Bones

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Wow, I can't believe it's been so long. But, the guys are back together again... for at least one show.

I'll let Jag have the first word on their return, as he spelled it out so well on the band's (new) website:
We initially shied away from the idea of a 'reunion' in the classic sense, as they usually seem thrown together solely to make some quick cash, and nothing to do with being a band.  We decided that we would definitely entertain ending this silly 'hiatus' thing only if we had new music to go with it.  If you can't write and record together and barely stand each other, why would you even think about 'reuniting'?  For us, these elements all go hand in hand, and have allowed the continuation of IME.
These guys were a centrepiece of my mid-90s Canadian new rock collection. I was lucky enough to see them in concert a few times, both at festivals and small club shows, and they never gave any less that 110% on stage. The popular story is that their label abandoned them during promotion of their fourth album, refusing to help get their music radio play and/or any sort of publicity; there was also some debate over the release of a "best of" album that the band didn't really want to have released (at least, not under the conditions that it was released). This is the history that I remember, but it sounds like the band plans to clear some air about these things on their newly minted The OpenMouth Blog.

The band released four really incredible albums over the years; some of my favourite stuff they've done is the least 'radio friendly' stuff that gets tucked away at the end of their albums... but then I've never had a problem with a song being more than four minutes in length (or even more than 10 minutes long!).

Who knows where it'll go; I'm just happy that they're back together having fun with music. If we get a few good singles, that's great. If it's just a one-off show, then so be it... I'll always have the back catalogue to enjoy.  Are/Were you a fan of the band?  Favourite album or track?

» Found at: I Mother Earth .ca
» Watch: Like the Sun (youTube)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


There are a lot of things in our world that I believe we just take for granted. The calendar on our wall, on our desk, on our cell phones and whatnot is almost certainly one of them. Who would ever think of changing it? Apparently, a lot of people.

National Geographic linked to one of the latest, in a long line of, new calendar proposals yesterday. Doing away with the 'leap day' (February 29th, which appears in every calendar year divisible by 4... unless it's the start of a new century... unless that century-starting year is also divisible by 400) and, instead, offer a 'leap week' every 5-6 years! The purpose for the 'leap' is still the same: to knock the calendar back in-line with the actual rotation of the Earth which isn't exactly 365 days long.

The proposal for this, the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, is to start the conversion in 2013 and have it fully implemented on January 1, 2017.

Benefits of this calendar include:
  • the days of the year are always the same day of the week; for example, Christmas (December 25th) will always fall on a Sunday;
  • the year will always start on a Sunday and end on a Saturday;
  • there are still seven days in a week (whereas a lot of other proposed calendars, apparently, suggest other numbers of days per week);
The case is made that calendar reform isn't something that can easily happen; the author realizes that asking the entire world(?) to change the calendar they use isn't going to be a simple switch. However, that's not reason enough to not put the idea forward and see what sort of support can be found for it. There will also be personal reasons for people to oppose the idea. What if your birthday is on January 31st? There is no January 31st in the new calendar... so when is your birthday now?!

What do you think? Would you ever imagine a world with a different calendar? Does the idea of February having 30 days every year freak you out?

» Found at: The Henry Foundation @ John Hopkins University

Monday, January 9, 2012

TotW: Lightshow

I first heard about the band, Plants & Animals, during the 2010 Polaris Music Prize long list. Their album, La La Land, had just come out and it was generating a lot of buzz in the Radio3 community. I don't remember being blown away by it, but it seemed solid enough. The album didn't make the Short List cut, but that only fueled the flames for some.

Two years later, the band is back and as strong as ever with their new release, The End of That, coming out in mid-February. This lead single, Lightshow, showcases their brand of guitar pop/rock in a great way and indicates that this will be an album to watch for in the first quarter of 2012.

The trio are as tight as ever: vocally strong, drums and guitars in perfect sync. The song moves along, with enough twists and turns to keep it interesting, but not alienate new listeners. The guitars have this great almost-clean tone, and things get quiet, then everything comes back loud and fuzzy; there are these little riffs that play throughout and I love them.  I don't really know what to say about this song, specifically... I missed it the first few times it was played on Radio3 and only saw all the comments about what a great tune it was. When I finally caught it, I knew what the fuss was about.

Any how, I think it deserves a listen ... and I'm off to have another listen to the band's previous release in anticipation of the new album.

» Listen: Plants & Animals - Lightshow

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I don't think this is the first time that I've seen a book used as a carving medium; however, this is perhaps the most impressive example of it that I remember.

Now, I have no idea if this requires the artist – in this case, Canadian Guy Laramee – to glue just the books together, or the books and all the pages, or what, to prepare for something like this, but the results are stunning. The one pictured above really stands out to me as the lighting of the building/cavern is perfect. Clicking the image above will display a much higher resolution version of the sculpture, showing you the detail work on the cavern walls, etc.

I love the imperfect nature of the medium; the way that the pages are tattered and worn and bent. I would think that doing something like this would be very, very dusty work and the idea of working in any reductive medium like this – as, I guess, almost any scupture work would be – frightens me. Dig a little too much in an area, and you can't just put it back. Patience.

There are many more examples of similar works on Laramee's site; click the "The Great Wall" and "Biblos" links under the "Recent Work" header for a look.

» Found at: Guy Laramee's Portfolio site