Friday, December 20, 2013

The Best Music Videos of 2013

A large part of my day is spent watching music videos.  Music videos designed for broadcast television,  music videos designed to go viral and music videos that are meant to shock and start a conversation.  The later are becoming more and more frequent simply because they're a way of cutting through the clutter to become sharable (sp) online.

From videos shot on a shoestring budget to videos given feature film budgets - they're all adaptations of a single song.  Sometimes they enhance the track and other times they change the song's meaning entirely.  It's no mistake that MTV launched it's services with 'Video Killed The Radio Star' by The Buggles back in 1981.

2013 has been important for me when it came to music videos.  It was the year I learned how vital they're for the success of music.  Music videos are more necessary than ever before no matter what platform they're designed for - because we live in an A.D.D. world that's very visual.

People might not sit around a television all day waiting to see a specific music video - but the broadcast medium is still very much complimentary to music as a whole.  It's also a place in where we, as curators, can introduce viewers to new things they might not otherwise see in a cluttered online world.  It's our job and we take it very seriously.  

Here's a few of my favourite music videos from this past year which I'd love to share with you at this time.

Frightened Rabbit - 'The Woodpile'

SonReal - 'Everywhere We Go' (MuchFACT funded)

Aviccii vs Nicky Romero - 'I Could Be The One'

Thugli - 'Run This(MuchFACT funded)

Autoerotique - 'Asphyxiation' (MuchFACT funded)

Kodaline - 'All I Want

The Weeknd - 'Pretty' 

White Lies - 'First Time Caller' 

Thanks for reading / listening.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Best Concerts of 2013

*Phoenix at Garrison Commons
Toronto's easily one of the best places on earth if you like to go and see live music. On any given night there are multiple options from stadiums, soft-seaters to tiny little holes in the wall.  It's fantastic.

I try my best to make it out to as many of these shows as I can.  Luckily I get invited from label friends to many shows I wouldn't other wise know about.  It's tough to keep up with all the happenings - I don't care what your title is.  So thanks to those who drag me out.

2013 was another exceptional time in music and I got to see some real beauties.  From Stubbs in Austin to the world's greatest venue Massey Hall in Toronto - it was one hell of a year for me.  

Here's a list of my favourite concerts from this past year in no particular order.  However Frank Turner at Lee's was kind of a religious experience if I must say.

Depeche Mode at Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto.

Foy Vance at The Drake Underground in Toronto

Franz Ferdinand at Kool Haus in Toronto

Of Monsters and Men at Echo Beach in Toronto

Swedish House Mafia at Rogers Centre in Toronto

Jake Bugg at Maggie Mays in Austin

Sound City Players at Stubbs BBQ in Austin

Frank Turner at Lee's Palace in Toronto

The Weeknd at MOD Club in Toronto

Biffy Clyro at Opera House in Toronto

There were many more - but those are the top 10 stand out shows for me this year.  

I didn't film any of these so I apologize if they are terrible in advance.  I wasn't surprised that I was able to find something on YouTube that was specific to each of these shows as there are a sea of cameras going at all shows these days.  The only one I couldn't find anything for was Foy Vance - and I think that's because he asked people not to.  Now I'm guilty of taking photos at shows - or perhaps even the odd clip for instagram - but I don't really see the point in filming a full show.  Get yourself 2 drinks so that you can't even shoot reach for your phone.  It always makes for a better show.

Thanks for reading/listening.


Monday, November 25, 2013

My Top 10 Albums of 2013

This is always the toughest post of the year.  Selecting my favourite albums is a very difficult task because I live in a singles driven world.

I have no problem admitting that I love all genres of music including bubble gum pop.  I actually love pop music and have no problem telling you this.  Every time I hear Miley's wrecking ball I'm blown away at the vocals.  Without the video this song is Miley at her finest.  I'm not saying the video isn't good - because it's fantastic - but the song on its own is killer.  I digress.

2013 has delivered countless hits and seen some unsuspecting superstars hit the charts and change the game.  Lorde is the best example of this because at 17 this New Zealander went in the opposite direction of any other 17 year old on the planet when it came to song writing.  She turned heads, broke records and just signed a 2 million dollar publishing deal.  This was the single most refreshing album to come out this year and I really hope it rubs off on more to come.

My top 10 are in no particular order other than to say that Arctic Monkeys is head and shoulders above the rest.  In my opinion this is their finest work to date.  It's fucking epic.

Here are my picks for this year's finest albums and why...

Arctic Monkeys - 'AM' came out in September of this year and knocked me on my ass.  Alex's voice cuts through on each and every track on this album.  You can hear his northern English accent but it's got really attitude and soul.  The harmonies are perfect and the guitar solos unmatched by anyone this year.  This album has been a staple since I first got my hands on it and I'm certain it will be for some time to come.

I don't drive that often but was excited to do this past weekend as I literally heard 'Do I Wanna Know' 5 times on the way to and from visiting my family in the suburbs.  I love that radio is playing that track.  

Here's a standout track 'One for the Road'.

Kurt Vile - 'Wakin On A Pretty Daze' was released back in April.  I didn't pay much attention at that time but when it was suggested as something I should check out by Spotify because I had just listened to Led Zeppelin I had to.  I hardly ever listen to algorithms but am glad I did for this one.

Here's a nice intro track called 'Wakin On A Pretty Day'.

Drake - 'Nothing Was The Same' came out on September 24th of this year.  I know that exact date because it was in my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feed for about 3 months in advance.  

Drake seems to be someone that you either love or hate - and if you're the later I don't understand why. Drake is from Toronto and this city should be super proud of what he's doing.  This is his city and hip hop is his.  He continues to put the country on the map while creating some of the finest beats, grooves and rhymes around.  I loved 2011's 'Take Care' but this one has already surprised me time and time again.  

'Started From The Bottom' was cool and 'Hold On, We're Coming Home' is an anthem - but this is my favourite all time Drake track 'Too Much'

J. Cole - 'Born Sinner' came out in June.  It came out the same day as 'Yeesus' by Kanye West.  I like the Kanye record - but REALLY like this Cole album.  His mixed tape from 2011 was what got me hooked.  He's smart and deep but god damn cool as fuck.

This whole album is worth a listen and might I suggest you start with 'Rich Niggaz'.

Arcade Fire - 'Reflektor' just came out last month and is likely on every top 10 list.  I wasn't sold at first but that's simply because I hadn't taken the time.

My favourite thing about this album is that it was my good friend Tim that convinced me.  He played it over and over at a cottage weekend away.  It was mind blowing.  The combination of Win and Regine's vocals and English French is perfection.  'Joan of Arc' is stunning and among the finest tracks I've heard in my life.

This might very well go down as the equivalent to Radiohead's 'OK Computer' for a generation.

The 1975's self-titled debut was finally released in September across North America.  I've talked about them on a few occasions here - so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they've made my list. 

It truly is perfect pop music and really should be used as a soundtrack to a coming of age film.

From SXSW until now they have been a mainstay for me.  I guarantee that they will break the North American market next year.

The Belle Game - 'Ritual Tradition Habit' is a beautiful album.  I really don't know what to say other than they are worth exploring further.  I had heard their name a few times but in the last couple months I really gave it a listen.  Andrea Lo's vocals will melt your heart and ears and make you want to get up and dance.  This band are from Canada and there's no reason why they shouldn't be massive the world over.

Here's a beauty track off the album entitled 'Wait Up For You'.

Biffy Clyro - 'Opposites' (Double album) came out way back in January of this year.  I am a fan of everything that they have ever put out.  They never disappoint and are unbelievable in concert.  I saw them a few times in 2013 including at Air Canada Centre as they opened for Muse and again as they headlined their own sold out gig at The Opera House.  

This double album boasts singles like 'Black Chandelier', 'Biblical', Victory Over Th Sun' and the title track 'Opposites'.  My favourite thing about this album was that they actually came into our offices to play a few songs from that album as seen here.

City and Colour - 'The Hurry and the Harm' is Dallas Green's equivalent to Neil Young's 'Harvest' in my opinion.  The title track is haunting and gorgeous all at once and showcases this man's strength in songwriting. 

The album has hits that won't end with 3 radio singles.  This is just the beginning for the album that came out in June as Dallas and his band have just announced their largest Canadian tour to date.  Stadium status indeed.  

Check out 'Harder Than Stone' below.

Lorde - 'Pure Heroine' came out in September.  The single 'Royals' saw it's official release back in March but now that it's nearing December the track has spent some serious time at the top of Billboard's hot 100 Chart and doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.

This is not a one hot wonder - in fact this is just the start to a long career in song-writing for young Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor.

Thanks for reading/listening,


Friday, November 8, 2013

Ode to New York City

This past weekend I was reminded why New York City truly is the greatest city on earth. I had the pleasure of taking part in the 2013 New York City Marathon that takes runners through all 5 Burroughs. I got to run alongside a record 50,000 + people that included a few friends and Raffy.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and even though it was tough I enjoyed every step of the 26.2 miles.  Running some of the most famous streets in the world was surreal as they were lined with people 5 deep on either side.  It was honestly felt I was like running through a movie scene for a few hours.

The people on NYC take so much pride in their city and even more so in their own neighborhoods. From the richest parts of 5th Avenue to the mean streets of Atlantic Avenue - the people of NYC came out to cheer on the marathoners in droves.

I always run with headphones as I find it helps me get lost in the music while being free along a route. This was different. Although I created a killer play list that included tons of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Beatles I didn't even press play once.  There's so much music at each block from gospel choirs, high school bands, local cover bands to DJs and more.

Here are some songs that will be forever burned into my brain and why.

The marathon starts in Staten Island at the bottom the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  Staten Island is sometimes the forgotten Burrough but it's home to Wu Tang.  I love Wu Tang but will always think of the following 2 songs as this is what was playing over loud speakers when that cannon went off last Sunday morning to start the race.

Frank Sinatra - 'New York, New York'

The Rolling Stones - 'Start Me Up'

Brooklyn is MASSIVE.  The bridge from Staten Island brings you right into this world class Burrough which is so diverse and wonderful.  It winds through some of the most beautiful streets that remind you of Sesame Street and other TV shows.  From the hoods to the hipsters Brooklyn encompasses majority of this foot race and shows it's true colours and character at every block.  There were lots of choirs and bands in this part of the run - but I will forever be thankful for those DJs spinning the tracks I wanted to hear as I passed through.  Here are a couple of beauties and I'm so glad they are this obvious.

Notorious B.I.G. - 'Juicy'

Beastie Boys - 'No Sleep Till Brooklyn'

You're not in Queens for all that long - but the when you are it's the hardest part of that run in my opinion.  Climbing the Queensboro Bridge seemed like it would never end.  There's also no crowd on the bridge and so the silence is deafening.  All you hear are foot steps and heavy breathing.  Before you hit that bridge there are many restaurants and bars playing music from speakers outside their establishments.  There's also people playing music from their apartment windows.  That's where I heard this beauty...

Run DMC featuring Jason Nevins - 'It's Like That'

I will however always think of The Ramones - 'Rockaway Beach' when it comes to Queens NY.  Far Rockaway is a sliver of land on the Atlantic which was destroyed by last year's Hurricane Sandy.  Raffy and her friend where supposed to run this marathon last year - but once they cancelled it we decided to head out to the Rockaways and volunteer in the hurricane relief.  That place was a mess and form an already impoverished area of the city this hurricane did the people of Queens no favours.  It was an eye opener and glad we were able to help in some way.
The Ramones - 'Rockaway Beach'

The Bronx is the home to the famous Apollo Theater which boasts legendary appearances over the years from Motown greats like Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and The Pips to Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and so many more.  I did however hear this banger as I rounded the corner to the bridge back into Manhattan.

Big Pun - 'Still Not A Player'

Manhattan is where the madness ends.  The race crosses back into Manhattan at the Madison Avenue Bridge at 139th street.  It makes it way to 5th Avenue all the way to Geggenheim Museum and then into Central Park.  I was a bit delirious at this point and don't recall hearing too many songs.  It was all crowds screaming and encouraging you to push yourself as it was almost over.  The only song I do recall was so stereotypical yet perfect at the same time.  It was none other than Jay Z featuring Alicia Keys - 'Empire State of Mind'.

If you ever get the chance to participate in this great race don't hesitate - do it.  

Thanks for reading/listening,


Thursday, October 31, 2013

The 1975

Most of you are likely thinking The 1975 are just another boy band.  Well maybe you're right - but it's a different kind of boy band in that they're playing their own instruments and writing perfect pop songs that have the feel of 1980s new wave.

I've recommended their singles over the last 6 months simply because I like them.  This self-titled album is wonderful and chalk full of hits.  I can't believe they're not a household name in North America as yet.  I predict they will be - but cracking America's though.  It always has been for UK acts but if the likes of Ed Sheeran and Olly Murs are able to do it then there's no reason these lads from Cheshire, England can't do it.

I first heard the song 'Chocolate' via BBC Radio 1 on Zane Lowe's show earlier this year.  Zane took them under his wing and gave them enough respect allowing them to avoid a bit of that boy band labelling.  Then I saw them twice at SXSW in Austin and was sold.  They played to about 100 people at Red Eyed Fly without time for a sound check.  They played 5 songs in record time during that particular showcase and that was part of their charm.  The lead singer grabbed the mic and said something like "We locked ourselves in a room and watched John Hughes films then wrote these songs" and went straight into their hit song 'The City'.

John Hughes carefully selected the music and culture surrounding his films.  From Simple Mind's 'Don't You Forget About Me' in The Breakfast Club, The Thompson Twins 'If You Were Here' in Sixteen Candles to Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark's 'If You Leave' in Pretty In Pink.  I'm certain John would have loved The 1975 and that at least one of their tracks would have appeared in one of his films.

Here are a few tracks from the band that I really like...





Their fan base may very well be 20 something girls - but good music is good music and I recommend you give this album a listen.  I'm a fan.

Thanks for reading/listening.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Use Your Illusion

In September of 1991 Guns N' Roses released 2 albums entitled 'Use Your Illusion I' and 'Use Your Illusion II'.  They were both epic and still stand-up 22 years later.  

Like any album released in the 90s this music was a full body of work and meant to be heard in sequence.  Of course there were singles - but they were literally extractions to drive the album as a whole.  That's sadly not the case for most releases today.  I wish it were not true - but most popular music is about the almighty single.  I digress.

Guns N' Roses will go down in history as one of the greatest, most successful, inspirational acts of all time.  They'll also go down in history as one of the most dramatic stories of inner fighting and turmoil.  

These 2 albums remind me of grade 9.  They remind me of freedom and new experiences.  They both played as a backdrop to me and my friends growing up in the suburbs with little to do but go to bush parties, local McDonalds, Pizza Pizza, Subway parking lots and people's houses when their parents were away.

These albums also remind me of innocence and the loss of a friend in grade 9.

A guy that I grew up with passed away after a snowmobile accident the winter these albums came out.  He was your regular freshman that loved hockey, girls and music.  G N' R was his band and for him these 2 albums were gospel.  They played over loud speakers at his wake and will forever transport me to that time when I hear them.   Gone but not forgotten.

These albums are fantastic and should be in every collection.  I prefer part 2 (Blue Cover) because 'Civil War', 'Knocking on Heaven's Door', 'Don't Cry (extended version)' and 'You Could Be Mine' (from Terminator) are on that one.  They might not be something I listen to on a daily basis - but when they come out they're welcomed with open arms.

Here are a few standout tracks from this collection.

'Civil War'

'Knocking On Heaven's Door'

'Get In The Ring'

'Don't Cry'

'The Garden'

'November Rain'

Thanks for reading/listening.


Friday, August 16, 2013

6 Recommendations

I can't believe it's mid August already and that majority of the summer festivals are done for another year.  I only made it out to a few - much to my chagrin.  I make a promise to the music Gods that I'll make up for this come September/October.  

No matter what the weather this summer the music being released is HOT. There's so many great albums, singles and videos out there right now.  Something for everybody and some of the finest each genre has produced in some time.

Here's a quick list of recommended listening and watching from me to you.

Big Sean feat. Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica - 'Control'

Kendrick's verse raised the bar on this release.  The reaction went wide and solidified Kendrick's place as Rap Royalty.  Dr. Dre's protege is the real deal and may have just forced the rap game to become better.  It's exciting and coming straight out of Compton once again.  

Drake - 'Hold On We're Going Home'

Toronto is on the map.  Not only is it on the map - it's fast becoming the place to be and is well equipped with the talent from singers, rappers, producers and more.  Drake's latest track featuring Toronto's Majid Jordan is unreal.  This is my favourite track of the year.  Drake showed the World that he's in top form at this summer's OVO Festival as he brought out TLC, Ma$e, Diddy, J. Cole and even Yeezus to name a few.  Drake's new album drops on September 17th and I for one cannot wait.

Lorde - 'Tennis Court'

You are likely familiar with her breakout hit 'Royals' by now as it's garnering some serious buzz around the globe.  She's definitely no one hit wonder though and has lots of room to grow.  New Zealander Lorde is a mere 16 years of age and is killing it.  Dig deeper with this artist - it's refreshing to hear this is what the new 16 year old brings to the table. 

SonReal - 'Everywhere We Go'

Hailing from the West Coast of Canada rapper SonReal has finally hit his stride.  This is one of the coolest tracks and beats I've heard coming out of Canada in a while.  The video is next level and so fucking great.  Very proud to say that MuchFACT played a part in funding this video. 

Sterephonics - 'Violins and Tamborines' 

This Welsh band are one of my favourite acts of all time.  They're the whole package in my eyes as they bring harmonies, songwriting, guitar riffs and stadium sounds to each and every track.  Their forthcoming album gets released in early September and I've had the pleasure of hearing it in advance.  There are once again some subtle Tragically Hip references on the album as the band pay homage to Kingston's own.  Stereophonics somehow grew-up in the 90s listening to what most Canadians did including our beloved Tragically Hip.  Check this beauty stand-out track when you have a chance.

The Weeknd - 'Kissland'

A colleague of mine came by my office the other day so excited to play me this track.  He had just discovered that the album cut was not the same as the video to which we have become familiar.  The album version is longer and could be mistaken for 2 tracks in one.  Once again we discover that Toronto is a hot bed for talent as The Weeknd is poised to take over once this new album entitled 'Kissland' gets released on September 10th.

Thanks for listening,


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer Music

It's been hot as hell in Toronto and even worse in NYC this week.  There's no escaping it, but for most people it beats the heck out of winter.  To me the best thing about the summer are all the outdoor shows and lots of music festivals going on.  My favourite place on earth is still the lawn at Molson Amphitheatre as that sun sets on Toronto when a great band is on stage.

Between Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, NYC and Chicago there's no lack of great shows to take in.  Some of the world's biggest festivals that boast the greatest performers today are within a few hour driving radius.  The concert business is alive and well in the summer of 2013.

I'm not going to make it up to Montreal for Osheaga this year - but am hoping to check out The Grove and perhaps a bit of Veldt and OVO Festivals that same weekend.  All 3 are in Toronto and cover all kinds of popular music from Hip Hop, Rock, Folk to EDM.  Toronto is a world class city and these events solidify that.

Here are some amazing new songs that I'm loving and think might make your summer that much better.

Arctic Monkeys - 'Do I Wanna Know?'

Lorde - 'Royals'

Daft Punk - 'Lose Yourself To Dance'

White Lies - 'There Goes Our Love Again'

Frank Turner - 'Recovery'

J. Cole - 'Rich Ni#@as'

Foals - 'Bad Habits'

Half Moon Run - 'Full Circle'

Miley Cyrus - 'We Can't Stop'
*Twerking aside - this is the definitely song of the summer

Thanks for reading/listening,