Posts tagged ‘mardeen’

October 30, 2009

Pop (#5).


Pop is something Canada does really, really well.  Maybe it seems like I’m reaching for another pop post, but I’m actually not.

During my teenagerdom, my sleeves were tagged with the scrawlings of east coast powerpop bands.  These groups were my version of social salvation in those typical disjointed times.  Where music acts as a good guidance counsellor you actually like.  It was simple music, but it’s this type of music that commonly makes one understand its power and communitizing qualities.  From grades 9-12, I was socially in limbo – not fully down with the super cool A-list basketball players, but also too cool for other “lesser” cliques.  So I ended up where many other social intermediaries settled – Student Council. Later in high school I found people that loved this music as much as I did, even though it was in an ironic way.  So we started a shitty band.  And I belooonged !  I found that place to be exclusive and superior and cool.  It felt right and it still does.

My older brother had a large impact on me in high school period, and an even greater impact on what I listened to.  He was high school A-list, and I still felt like it was important to climb the list ladder. So I listened.

It primarily came down to THE Halifax Pop Explosion of the 90s, the clear flagwavers of the movement being Sloan.  I still think they were truly great.

Sloan – Take The Bench

Sloan didn’t care about how close the Beatles were to their respective chests – it was undeniable, very witty, thought out, fun pop music.  Then the “second tier” of bands followed in the promenade, and it was my chance to really impress people with slightly obscure band names.  I was 17 and I felt like a young Cameron Crowe. Thrush Hermit, Local Rabbits, Super Friendz, Flashing Lights, Eric’s Trip, and The Inbreds.  Really bands like Sloan and Thrush came down to revived Beatles and The Who, where Eric’s Trip and Local Rabbits followed a modern influence of American 90s indie like Pavement and Sonic Youth.  Growing up on the Beatles, I already leaned towards certain sounds, but I was thirsty for it all.  More importantly, after thinking Pearl Jam was the be all throughout my earlier days, I was encouraged that great pop rock music could be more feminine than grunge, and that’s even without the out-of-control Chris Cornell hair.

And now we jump to the 00s.  Luckily, we still have great reasons to celebrate straightforward pop music from the east coast.  They destroy the rest of Canada in this department right now, so I present Exhibits A thru infinity.

Mardeen – Kids

Mardeen – Pretty Smart

I still don’t know why this band isn’t at least a national household name.  Their debut record Read Less Minds is just unabashed fun.  Every song is a winner, I’ve said this many times.  Unassuming, fun energy, and brings back the wit and the subtle swagger of east coast rock.  The pre-chorus starting at (0:56) of “Kids” is exactly what people should want in a pre-chorus – drenched in hook but with the knowledge that something epic may just punt your whole body after the turn.

Two Hours Traffic – Nighthawks

This is what irks me – no disrespect to Two Hours Traffic, but they don’t deserve what they got.  If Mardeen was given their chances, boy oh boy.  This is their only song that I’ve really enjoyed, and even then I really only want to stick around for the first verse and the first chorus.  The first line is perfect, too.

In Flight Safety – I Could Love You More

I’ve had a soft spot for In Flight for many years.  Their first record was one of those records that I wish I wrote.  I was simultaneously jealous and enamoured.  A great mix of Sigur Ros atmospherics with homey lyrics and folk aesthetics.  Singer John Mullane feels like a kindred spirit, and from the handful of times we’ve chatted, I think I’m right.  Compassionate, aware, and good dollops of romanticism.  It’s also a bit crazy that as their influences have changed, mine have changed in the exact same way.  From an obsession with reverb ala Sigur Ros to a slightly embarrassing fondness for cheesy Britpop to a more controlled love of darkish, sentimental, well-revealed rock like The National.  This band does not fit into the aloof and apathetic hipster cool mold, and that’s why I like them.  It always comes back to the cheese, man.  They’ve had blips of popularity, but they still are quietly creating beautiful pop music.

Wintersleep – Migration

Wintersleep brings in grungier, folkier, and darker elements to Halifax pop/rock.  They remain as one of my favourite Canadian bands.

June 18, 2009

I just saw Mardeen.


Brother Dave and I have been waiting longtime for this sight – Nova Scotia’s Mardeen on the Horseshoe stage.  Had a quick bite at Shanghai Cowgirl and made it over for an early 9PM set, advertised as a pre NXNE show.  This was the type of show that you’ll tell your friends in 2-3 years that you saw this band in front of a dozen people with just you and your brother geeking out at the front of the stage.   And may or may not have been screaming lyrics and stomping your unsupportive sneakers until thin and worn soles remain.

New songs sound great, but just wanted more songs.  Opening slots + anthemic songs make Mike go something something.

Mardeen – Pretty Smart

January 6, 2009

My 2008 albums.

Let my list add to the online listnoise, it makes my opinion feel important.  So score one for egotime.

Overall I feel like 2008 wasn’t a major year for life-altering music, but some solid offerings nonetheless.

shearwater10. ShearwaterRook – Belle and Sebastian meets The National meets Elbow with a Morrissey-derived vocal.  Melancholy, intelligent, some slightly diversified arrangements and dynamics, and a great amount of intensity weaved into many of the tracks.  Closing track “The Snow Leopard” is a definite tip of the hat to Radiohead’s “You and Whose Army”.

mogwai9. MogwaiHawk is Howling – Who doesn’t love a good British post-rock instrumental once in ahwile?  Not a lot of critical acclaim for this one, but it was one of my favourite Mogwai records for sure.  Some classic sounds – nice grand piano, analog delays, tasteful reverb.  A great moody record.

the_seldom_seen_kid8. ElbowThe Seldom Seen Kid – perhaps my favourite Elbow record.  Simple yet dark, what Elbow does best.  Vocals are British lullabies, beautiful production (especially drum sounds, wow).  A lot of strong songs that will grow on me even more than they already have.

vacuity7. VacuityAt the Command of the Blanket Sky– Kitchener friends Vacuity have really made a strong, thought provoking record.  Definitely for fans of OK Computer, No Logo, 1984, V for Vendetta, and self-awareness.  Intense and solid vocals, beautiful and intelligent arrangements, welcomed unique lyrical style, great drumming, classic Fender tones.  To exemplify a progressive and experimental business model,  they have decided to put up their album online for all.  Download the album for FREE here.

sigurrosnew6.Sigur Ros Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust – Perhaps more of an honorary mention, this band could very well be my favourite band ever.  I prefer 2005’s Takk and 2002’s ( ), but this offering is a welcomed new direction for the band – happy!  Single Gobbledigook is a truly great song, while others are more reminiscent of their earlier stuff.

microcastle5. Deerhunter Microcastle – I got to this band/album quite late, only a few months ago.  But they’ve been able to successfully do what I’ve always wanted to do in a band – create a great Radiohead influenced sound that doesn’t sound like Radiohead.  They combine my love of post-rock with many fuzzy/shoegazy instrumentals, my love of 60s melodies with clear Brian Wilson/Beatles nods paired with solid Radiohead/NY rock guitars.

deathcab4. Death Cab for CutieNarrow Stairs – This record proves that this band can go broader, deeper, and at the same time get the #1 billboard debut upon release.  If you want to hear one of the best drummers in rock music, listen to this record for Jason McGerr.  If you want to hear one of the best indie producers, listen to this record for Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla.  A band worthy of popularity.  Pop with brains.

boniver3. Bon IverFor Emma, Forever Ago – If TV on the Radio made a heartfelt acoustic record, this would still be better.  The indie-cred backstory is perfect (he spent a winter isolated in a cabin in the midwest and made a record) and his songs have soul and real feeling, it’s clearly felt.  The clear winners are the opening and closing tracks in “Flume” and “re: stacks”.  The opening lyric of the album (“I am my mother’s only one / it’s enough“) and closing lyric of the album (“This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization / It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away / Your love will be safe with me“) are perfect bookends for this intimate and melodic record.

mardeen2. Mardeen – Read Less Minds – A great current twist on classic 90s Halifax Pop Explosion powerpop.  So so hooky, every track is a true gem.  These guys will make waves very shortly, or at least they deserve to.  I get a mix of The Stills, The Super Friendz, males singing good 90s Liz Phair, Interpol, and Sloan.

fleet-foxes-fleet-foxes-4330771. Fleet FoxesFleet Foxes It’s on a lot of top lists, and this is my true winner for the year.  This album hit me more than any album has in a couple of years.  It’s undeniably melodic, cathedral, soulful, genuine music.  People overcompare with Jim James references, mainly because JJ and Robin Pecknold from Fleet Foxes have the two strongest voices in American rock today.  The spotlight of this album is clearly vocal – 4 part harmonies and not just root-3rd-5th-octave.  Some real haunting harmonies.  Winners include “White Winter Hymnal”, “Blue Ridge Mountains”, and “Quiet Houses”.

Some of the moments in this Fleet Foxes video, c/o indie staple Blogotheque are my favourite of the year:

October 14, 2008

Pop Montreal 2008.

So my only attended show for my virginal Pop Montreal experience (due to poorness) was Hot Chip last Wednesday at Metropolis on St. Laurent.  Honestly I was just really slow on the uptake – I checked out the full program the second day of the festival and realized one of my favourite Canadian up and comers Mardeen were playing an amazing east-coast focused show the night before.  I would’ve foregone a few cartons of Tropicana to see them for sure.

Hot Chip definitely didn’t disappoint, although the $6.25 domestics did.  They played all of the singles, all of the goodies, and the live drummer made a massive difference overall.  Well played HC.

One thing that gets to me at times (among a lot of hipster bands) is the suffocating amount of irony.  The lead singer was wearing a unabomber-inspired white coveralls, those late 80s dad rapist glasses, and looked like Screech’s long lost penpal.  On one hand I do appreciate that the rock and roll mould is being broken, and that nerdy dudes are getting laid, but it’s the amount of “coolaloof” that comes with this irony that I dislike.

“And I Was A Boy From School” was the highlight, and they encored with a tasteful version of Sinead’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”.  Not a bad choice at all.  First time at Metropolis too – pretty much the best venue I’ve been to along with the Opera House.  Perfect size for crowd energy and intimacy, classy, nice balcony, plus the Montreal crowd never disappoints.  Montreal 1 (million).

October 8, 2008

Fresh listens.

Just some albums and songs I’ve been enjoying/evaluating lately:

TV On The RadioDear Science – Guess what, don’t like it as much as everyone else does.  But that’s been true with every TVOTR record I’ve ever heard.  I feel like this band is playing two hand touch on the soccer field and I haven’t been invited yet, but they’ve given me a look up and down a few times.  Maybe I’m not smart enough, but I’m going to be proud of my judgment and not feel like a hipster sheep.  The first half of the record lacks any sense of melody, but the second half is admittedly kicking my ass.  This is definitely their shiniest and catchiest effort to date, thank goodness.  My fave record of theirs so far.  After a few listens through, “Golden Age” (single), “Family Tree”, and “Love Dog” are my standouts.  Dave Sitek (guitarist/programmer/producer/brain child of Scarlett Johannson’s Tom Waits cover record) did an amazing job, as usual.  His ear for arrangement is unreal, both seen on this record as well as Scarlett’s.  Say what you want about that record, the arrangements were incredibly good.  I feel like this band has important things to say so I’m going to stick around.  I just don’t know why they have to subject me to shitty Prince dilution the first 5 songs.

MardeenRead Less Minds – alright, now for some straightforward, WYSIWYG Canadian rock.  This record has been high on my playlist recently.  Not overly a new release, but these songs are irrefutably fun.  Think good 90s Halifax Pop Explosion (Sloan, Super Friendz, Thrush Hermit) meets The Stills meets diluted Interpol meets dudes singing Exile in Guyville.  This is proof that Halifax still produces world class powerpop.  Three lead singers, a good dichotomy of machismo aesthetic and teeny, vulnerable lyrics.  Single “Kids” is an anthemic tetebanger, “Things Are Hot” could be track 7 on the Stills’ Logic Will Break Your Heart, and “Telephones” showcases their young abandon in a very rock and roll way.  Find them on MySpace, buy at Zunior.

MogwaiHawk is Howling – Surprisingly like it.  I find Mogwai tiring sometimes, just a slightly improved version of watery Explosions in the Sky.  But Hawk is Howling offers smarter arrangements, fun song titles (“I’m Jim Morrison”, “I’m Dead”, “Daphne and the Brain”, “Thank You Space Expert”), and some earnestly moving songs.  If you like instrumental, post-rock, ambient styles, give this some time.  Glad they impressed me, they’ve been around long enough.

The KillersHuman single – produced by Stuart Price (who did Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor), the disco gloves are officially coming off.  Production sounds good on the track, but the Killers need to realize they still need at least touch on what makes them the buckers – anthems.  I wanted a “When You Were Young” inspired track, and it still could’ve been dancey!  I just wanted some big tones!  The chorus is a huge letdown and the verses are completely aimless.  The only part that gets me going is the interlude directly after the first chorus.  I like the arrangement for the most part, but there is just not enough song in there.  I saw them on SNL, Brandon’s voice actually stood up and sounded good!  Miracle on 30 Rockefeller.  I’m proud of him, it’s about time he started catching up to his mouth.  Hear it streaming on their official website.


Nota Bene. After listening to “Human” some of the day, the chorus totally permeated the stuck in head routine.  Also realized it sounds like Lionel Richie circa 2000.


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