July 26, 2010 | 2 Comments
I’m going to break from my normal political routine to bring you a short post about music.
Bar none, my favourite thing about attending the Calgary Folk Music Festival year after year is discovering new bands and artists with whom I wouldn’t have otherwise come into contact. This year was no different.
And while Jon gave me a hard time over Twitter about my liking Rush but slagging Stars — I stand by my statement that Stars left me considerably underwhelmed, though I seemed to be in the minority on that front — there were plenty of other Canadian bands worth noting. Perhaps some (most?) of you are cooler than me and have already heard of these musicians, but for the uninitiated…
Library Voices – “Library Voices is a eight piece pop collective from Regina, Saskatchewan. Blending tremolo soaked guitars with analog synths, vintage organs, circuit bent electronics, accordion, saxophone, strings, theremin, Tenori-on, and glockenspiel, their songs play out like an AM radio jingle; mixing the best of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and today.”
We saw these cats on the first night (Thursday) and they were one of those head turning in the middle of a conversation, “Who the heck is this?!” kind of bands. Library Voices bill themselves as, “pop as f***!” and with good reason. Pop music has gotten a bad rap in the last few decades. Not undeservedly, of course. But we sometimes forget that the best of artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna, the Beatles and other icons was unabashedly pop for its time, though we see each as icons now.
Library Voices are on a mission to make it okay to be pop, again. Their music is bright and energizing, the lyrics are clever and clean, and in the tradition of truly great pop music, almost every cut on their album Denim on Denim (to which you can listen here) is catchy as all get out. I’ve had Party Like It’s 2012 stuck in my head for days now.
This band is definitely worth your time.
The Burning Hell – “The Burning Hell is about music to dance to while laughing about death. The Burning Hell can have anywhere from two to twenty-eight eyes, and four to fifty-six limbs, depending on the night. Fronted by the moderately agoraphobic songwriter and occasional history teacher Mathias Kom on electric ukulele, The Burning Hell is made up of these nice people who want to be your friend.”
Quirkiness in a folk fest band can either go really wrong, or really right. There is something tired and grating about a band whose schtick is, “Hey, look at us. We’re the ‘quirky’ band! Aren’t we weird?”
Seriously, nothing is so off-putting as faux-poser quirkiness. But Mathias Kom and The Burning Hell are quirky because, well, that’s just who they are.
Song topics include: death, sex, and sex after death, among many others. The Burning Hell managed to skirt that fine line between fun and irreverent in a way that made them a delight to listen and dance to.
And as was pointed out numerous times by my wife and friends, how can you not like a band that uses the word, “aforementioned” as a lyric in a song?
J.R. Shore – “At the crossroads between Nashville Tennessee, Austin Texas and Calgary Alberta, lives the musical soul of J.R. Shore. Shore, an award-winning songwriter, is equal parts storyteller, social commentator and performer. Shore’s songs provide a glimpse into years gone by, as well as present day characters with melody and lyrics that have audiences hanging on every line.”
Easily my favourite find of the whole weekend, J.R. Shore is one of those artists who doesn’t just make music, he crafts songs. Every element of what you get listening to Shore is woven together into a sonic tapestry that wraps around your shivering body like an old friend, whispering in your ear like a full moon. In the vein of the world’s great songwriters, J.R. Shore creates a full body experience that leaves you changed.
Each song has a story and listening to Shore tell them is almost as riveting as listening to him play them. Backed by a stunning band who cradle every note like a new born, I couldn’t be happier that these folks are local to me. We already have plans to attend their CD launch on August 7. The vocals of Jan McKittrick keep anguished and elevated pace with the gravel road of Shore’s baritone rumblings. And a slide guitar! They actually have someone who knows how to play a slide guitar. And well!
Do yourself a favour: turn out the lights, spread a blanket across your shoulders, balance a bottle of scotch between your knees, and spend a few hours with J.R. Shore.
You can thank me later.