Live music galleries

Live music galleries: Amos The Transparent [2018]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

Amos The Transparent at Ottawa Dragonboat festival 2018

Artist: Amos The Transparent
When: June 21st, 2022
Where: Ottawa Dragonboat Festival, Mooney Bay Park
Context: In just over a month, local Ottawa indie rockers Amos The Transparent are playing a show at the legendary Neat Cafe out in Burnstown to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their sophomore record, 2012’s “Goodnight My Dear…I’m Falling Apart”. It’s a show I really would have loved to have seen but it just so happens that the show sold out yesterday. Of course, thinking wistfully about missing this show got me reminiscing on the four other times that I did get to experience the six-piece orchestral indie rock outfit, the final of which was just over four years ago (for free) at Ottawa’s Dragonboat festival. They were slotted in at the opening spot for the evening but they played like headliners and had a great time doing so. Ever the crowdpleasers, they made sure to play a representative selection of fan favourites from all four of their records, not at all leaning heavily on the album they had just released. To show my appreciation, I made sure to take the opportunity to stop by the merch tent to pick up this latest album, as well as the aforementioned sophomore record, for my vinyl collection. It’s more than likely that you’ve never heard of this band so I recommend you remedy this wrong posthaste.
Point of reference song: I’m going to make you cry

Jonathan Chandler of Amos The Transparent
Olenka Reshitnyk of Amos The Transparent
James Nicol of Amos The Transparent
Christopher Wilson on the drums
Dan Hay, guitar hero
Mike Yates on the cello
Mike, Dan, and Olenka
Jonathan and Olenka rocking out

Best albums of 2022: #2 Alvvays “Blue rev”

Much has been made about the length of time that has passed between the second album by Alvvays (pronounced ‘Always’) and this new one. Indeed, five years is an eternity in the music world in this day and age, what with trends whipping by at a torrid pace and viral videos and music streaming. And yet one can’t help but refrain from laying blame, what with the events of the past few years, and those being especially pronounced for the Toronto-based indie pop band. In addition to plagues, they’ve had to overcome thefts and floods and changes in personnel, but luckily for all of us, they seem to have come out of this period of quiet all the better for it.

I’ve been following the group led by long-time friends Molly Rankin and Kerri MacLellan, as well as Alec O’Hanley, since the appearance of their self-titled debut back in 2014. I loved the dreamy bursts of sunshine indie pop on the album, the jangly nostalgia, and the youthful maturity of songcraft therein. The follow up was more of the same in taste and texture but showed a progression worth following. Much of this third record, which takes its name from a beverage favoured by the two lead protagonists in their even younger youth, was written shortly after the original touring cycle for “Antisocialites”, around the time that Sheridan Riley joined them on drums and long before Abbey Blackwell replaced founding bassist Brian Murphy. With all the delays, they really did have a fully formed idea of the album when they finally convened to record it in the fall of 2021. My understanding is that it was recorded in much the way you can hear it on the record, front to back, twice through, in one day, but that the mixing and perfectionist refining afterwards took much, much longer.

“Blue rev” is quickly becoming my favourite by the group, if it hasn’t yet achieved that honour. It goes far beyond the borders of their original pigeon-holed territory of light and jangly indie pop and at the same time, doesn’t betray it’s long-time fans. It’s noisier, louder, longer, smarter, more assured, and lots of fun. Like the previous album on this list, I have a new favourite track on the album every day and I expect that to continue as each listen reveals new layers and textures and lyrical gems to behold. The three tracks I’ve picked for your perusal were almost selected at random. Really, you could do no wrong with any track here.

“After the earthquake“: Track three on “Blue Rev” was inspired by a short story collection by excellent Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. It is three-minutes reminiscent of The Smiths but with sharper teeth, spikier hair, and more anger than mopery. It’s a remembering of good times before disaster struck and nothing was the same. And just before the two-minute mark, time stands still and Rankin murmurs and wonders aloud wrapped in a gentle synth wash: “Those days, I’d never let you fall apart. But things fade like the scent of a brand new car. Why would I ever fall in love again when every detail is over the guardrail?” It’s heartbreaking.

“Pharmacist”: The opening track and first single has been called their My Bloody Valentine song. At just over two minutes, it’s shorter than anything (save for maybe “Touched”) on “Loveless” but it’s not any less immediate. The moment the heavy layer of guitars are plopped down in the lap of the otherwise jangly palette, you feel that nervous anxiety put forth by Rankin’s  meeting up with the sister of her ex. “I hear it happens all the time. It’s alright (it’s alright). I know I never crossed your mind.” She sounds reliable and reassuring and then, any questions are put to rest by a flailing guitar solo, as if to say, pay attention, we’re not done with you yet!

“Very online guy”: One of these songs is not like the others. Where the other two were more aggressive and heavy on the noisy guitars, this last pick mines the impersonal and cold tones of 80s synth pop. It’s almost a perfect backdrop to which to set a calling out on reply guy culture and the nastiness of hiding behind the anonymity of ones and zeroes. “He’s only one flicker away. He’s only one photo, one filter away.” Even Rankins’ vocals are obscured and filtered through technological trickery, adding more fun to the chugging beat and sentient synthetic ambience. Brilliant stuff.

We’ll back in two more sleeps with album #1. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Blushing “Possessions”
9. Just Mustard “Heart under”
8. Jeanines “Don’t wait for a sign”
7. The Reds, Pinks and Purples “Summer at land’s end”
6. Tallies “Patina”
5. Suede “Autofiction”
4. Wet Leg “Wet Leg”
3. Beach House “Once twice melody”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.


Best albums of 2022: Albums #10 through #6

Good morning everyone! And happy Monday!

I don’t know about you folks but I am looking forward to the holiday season. I’ve just got a couple of working days left and then, I’m off until early in the new year.

The new year. New beginnings always bring hope for better things. I’ve already heard stirrings of some great music coming out in 2023 but before we get ahead of ourselves, we should take care of closing off 2022.

Indeed, there’s been lots of great music this year as well. And though I’ve had to curtail my vinyl collecting a bit with all the supply chain issues and the rising costs all around, this doesn’t mean I haven’t been listening to all the new music coming out via the various streaming services.

I’ve discovered lots of new artists and rekindled my relationship with many others. Just a couple of days ago, I shared five great albums that didn’t quite make the cut but are worth your attentions nonetheless. Today, marks the start of my top ten countdown in earnest, starting with albums #10 through #6. Then, I plan to post about my favourite five over the next week and half, hopefully, getting them all in by the end of the year.

With all the excellent releases, I am sure I missed out on one or two so as we go through my own 10 favourite albums, I welcome your comments and thoughts and perhaps even your own top ten favourites in the comments space provided.

Let’s do this.

#10 Blushing “Possessions”

Yes, Virginia, social media does work for good sometimes. I kept seeing Blushing pop up on my Twitter feed because of their interactions with some of my favourite shoegaze bands. Well, at some point, I must’ve started following the Austin-based shoegaze quartet because I definitely knew in advance of their self-titled debut’s release back in 2019. I was pretty sure I knew what I was in for when I gave it a go but was still pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. For their sophomore release, Blushing convinced one of their heroes, Miki Berenyi, to collaborate on a track, really showcasing the similarity in vocal styles. And the rest of the album sounds to my ears like a huge step forward in all senses, fitting neatly on a shelf right next to the best of, not just Lush’s back catalogue, but alongside many of their ilk.

#9 Just Mustard “Heart under”

I haven’t yet heard the 2018 debut by the Dundalk, Ireland-based five piece but I am pretty sure it would fit right in my wheelhouse given that the adjective most used to describe it is shoegaze. I definitely plan to check it out over the upcoming holiday season, the period I usually use to catch up on music I might have previously missed, especially given how much I love this sophomore release. Of course, “Heart under” has a bit more industrial racket and gothy gloom added to it for the shoegaze adjective to be reapplied here. But it’s the haunting vocals of frontwoman Katie Ball that really sets this album apart for me this year and has everyone I’ve recommended it to likening their sound to dark dream poppers Cranes. My friend Tim, who actually turned me on to that latter band back in 90s, had said of “Heart under”, “Not sure about Just Mustard as a band name, but I added that album to my spotify”.

#8 Jeanines “Don’t wait for a sign”

Slumberland Records first came to my attention in the early 2010s when I discovered Allo Darlin’s sophomore record “Europe” and went down the rabbit hole exploring various twee and indie pop bands. Ever since then, they’ve become one of my favourite indie labels, being home to so many excellent bands over the years. And after purchasing a copy of Black Hearted Brother’s lone album off of them one Bandcamp Friday a couple of years ago, I have been getting emails from them every time they release a new album and usually it’s been worth my time to check it out. Jeanines’ sophomore album was definitely one of these this year. It very much fits in the vein of DIY twee and indie pop Slumberland sound. The rapid fire tracks all come in around the one and a half minute mark so that the total of all thirteen on the album is a measly twenty minutes. And yet, it’s far from fleeting. Each impression is deep and each melody will hook you until long after the last note reverberates away.

#7 The Reds, Pinks and Purples “Summer at land’s end”

I came across Glenn Donaldson (aka The Reds, Pinks & Purples) last year and his album “Uncommon weather” ended up being my favourite album of 2021. I loved it so much that I immediately doubled back to investigate his previous two (excellent) albums, released in 2019 and 2020 respectively. The man has been on a serious productive streak of late. This fourth album, “Summer at land’s end”, is far from the only collection of new music he’s released this year. Indeed, it seems like every other week I am getting a notification that he has concocted a new EP, mini-album, or companion album, and all of it is consistently excellent. This just happens to be the first thing that came out of his camp this year and the one I’ve spent the most time with. It is just more romantic, hazy, retro, atmospheric diary entries from Donaldson, whose voice I could listen to at any hour of the day. And yeah, he’s another artist on the Slumberland Records roster.

#6 Tallies “Patina”

It’s kind of a cliché that sophomore albums are considered to be challenging to most new artists. For this reason, I was somewhat surprised to realize that four of these first five albums in my top ten list are just that. So as great as they are, it makes me think that the future can only be brighter, and for Tallies especially. The Toronto-based indie pop band had already wowed those with a keen ear to the past glories of the indie pop renaissance in the eighties with their self-titled debut in 2019. Just around the time they announced the forthcoming release of “Patina” earlier this year, they were signed to Simon Raymonde’s UK label Bella Union. The album arrived on a welcome cloud of Sunday afternoon bliss, jangly wind chimes floating on memories of a warm breeze, all of it a haze from yesterday. Lovely stuff, all nine tracks.

Stay tuned for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.