Friday, May 22, 2009

These Young Pups Are Impressive

While they've lost the cachet of releasing their album as an import on German label Tomlab (THE mother-flippin' BOOKS!), Haligonians Dog Day are back with the follow-up to their 2007 album Night Group. Coming to you by way of the good folks at Outside Music (who have gone from being solely a distribution force to a label to be reckoned with...) Concentration builds on the strengths of that last record and exceeds even my wildest expectations about what these young'uns were capable of.

While the washes of guitar and keyboards mask it sometimes, the vocals are the heart of Dog Day and Seth Smith and Nancy Urich are both captivating singers. Smith starts opener "Happiness" with a classic indie-rock monotone delivery before some switching up to some soaring "woo-ooo's" and then he and Urich start chanting "this is the life" and the energy sells the sentiment. Urich takes center stage on "Neighbour" though it's not exactly in the center of the mix - instead her voice is like a disembodied presence floating away from the rooted rhythm section. Curiously, Smith's "I won't turn on you / I'm not like that" near the three-minute mark is front-and-center. It's an interesting choice.

"Wait It Out" is a particular favourite, with a catchy melody and hand claps (the hand claps get me every time) supported by a driving four/four beat, but it's a disservice to the strength of the record to single out favourites. Concentration works from front to back with nary a filler cut amongst the bunch.

The band is on tour with Julie Doiron (and others), and will be playing the historic Royal Albert on June 5th if you live in Winnipeg. Full tour date info is available by clicking on this link.

Concentration is available as a digital download here on Zunior.

Here's the video for "Happiness" from the new album:

Don't forget to check out Dog Day's Myspace page, Facebook page and website.

I'll leave you with "Rome" via the fine folks at Herohill.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Sure Shots Of Soul

While I was confirmed in the United Church when I was younger, me and organized religion have since parted ways and I count myself among the agnostics of the world now. But I still get a dose of spirituality thanks to one part of my personal holy trinity (music of course; the other two being literature and film). Today's entry is all about feeling the spirit with a new gospel album out on the ever-reliable Daptone Records and a fantastic soul record from the folks at Truth and Soul.

The first of these is What Have You Done, My Brother from Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens. I heard about this one recently thanks to Justin - the MD at CFUV - who ducked out of official CMJ partying to take in a live show and raved about it. He's already calling What Have You Done... the album of the year. While my personal opinion is to award that accolade to Veckatimest (so far it's the one to beat in my books), I've been spinning this album a fair bit of late and with repeat listens it hasn't lost its luster. In fact it only gets better. An Alabama native who now calls New York her home (she plays a weekly Friday-night gig at the Fat Cat if you happen to be in the NYC...), Shelton has a wonderfully rich voice that is perfectly suited to the soul/gospel she sings. For proof, take a listen to "What Have You Done" and the b-side "I'll Take The Long Road" from the 7" available now (the full-length comes out May 26th but you can pre-order it here).

The second album that's been speaking to my soul is My World from Lee Fields & The Expressions, an album that's due out on June 2, 2009 on Truth & Soul Records. Mark your calendars now and remember to head down to your favourite local record shop a couple weeks from now to pick it up because as soon as you check out the mp3 of "Ladies" you're going to want this record. Fields released several 7" singles and an LP in the 70's but My World isn't some unearthed gem from yesteryear. It was in fact recorded over the past four years and features some stellar material you'd swear was classic soul. "Love Comes And Goes" could have come from that Four Mints record I wrote about last year, and the rhythm guitar on "Honey Dove" is so smooth it could out-seduce The Stylistics. With this and the El Michaels Affair albums, Truth and Soul are on a roll - I can hardly wait to hear what they come up with on the forthcoming Aloe Blacc record (Blacc actually appears on the My World bonus track "Truth, Deception & Lies")

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Live And In Person...

Generally I like to stick to writing about albums and leave the Upcoming Shows listings to the blogs that do a really thorough job of it - like Painting Over Silence. But a few artists that I've featured on Ear To The Sound are coming to town and it bears a brief mention and a hearty "GO CHECK THEM OUT" for all my Winnipeg peeps.

First off - mark your calendar for May 27 and 28, 2009. That's when Timber Timbre rolls through town playing a show at the LO on the first night and an in-store at Music Trader and a show at the Graffiti Gallery on the second. Three opportunities to see 'em play so you have no excuse for missing this fantastic act (who just signed to Arts & Crafts, it should be added).

Come to think of it, that's the only artist featured so far on this blog but there are a few others that I feel are worth mentioning.

The self-titled record from CLUES (on Constellation) has been getting A LOT of spins amongst a few of us at UMFM. The band features former members of Arcade Fire and Unicorns and if the live experience is anything like the record it should be a hella good show at the Pyramid on May 25th. Clues is in serious consideration as an upcoming post album-wise.

Speaking of the Pyramid, there's a clutch of great shows coming up at the downtown landmark worth checking out including Israeli punks Monotonix (May 21st), Grand Analog & Nestor Wynrush (May 27th - Grand Analog will be releasing their new record Metropolis Is Burning), and The Stills and Gentleman Reg will be playing on the 16th (if you aren't headed to the lake this May long weekend).

Indie-darling Julie Doiron is touring on the strength of her great new record I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day (umpteen consecutive weeks at #1 on Earshot) and she'll be in Winnipeg June 5th at the Albert with Halifax's Dog Day and local act Les Jupes.

The Winnipeg Jazz Festival line-up has been announced and if you slept on Alice Russell last year ask someone who didn't why you should catch her at the Pyramid on June 29th. This year's sleeper artist (i.e. the one everyone doesn't know about but will be talking about)is definitely Quantic (playing at the Pyramid on July 2nd), but I'm also excited to introduce my new son Archer to his namesake when The Sea & Cake play the Pyramid on June 30th.

Finally, one act that I never got around to writing about but who I heartily recommend checking out is New Zealand band Cut Off Your Hands. They released a great record on Frenchkiss called You & I that caught my ear earlier this year. They'll be playing the Albert on June 27th so I have time to find a babysitter.