Thursday, October 15, 2020

All Of Us | 2020

Hi Friends,

It's been a minute since I last logged into Blogger - so I actually wondered if it still existed.  After a few failed login attempts I finally made it back.  It looks like my last post was in December of 2019.  Imagine knowing, at that point, what the year ahead was going to be like?  The world pressed pause and every single human was effected. That's why 'All of Us' truly is the perfect title for the new Sam Roberts Band record being released in 2020.

I've had the luxury of living with the new album 'All Of Us' since late May.  It's been in heavy rotation ever since.  The music's accompanied me on long bike rides for the past 6 months.  I watched the leaves grow on the trees when we first got a little reprieve from the first isolation during the first few listens.  It joined me through the sweaty sun-soaked days of summer - and it's still the soundtrack to my daily rides while the leaves have started falling again.  I really should have taken a photo each day on my rides to do one of those cool time laps photo things.  I digress.

It should be noted that this album had been written and recorded long before the World Health Organization declared the global pandemic back in March.  The band were actually in a secluded studio in Quebec putting the finishing touches on the album when that happened.  It's just the strangest of coincidences that you could mistake each and every track on this record for being a direct response to the happenings of 2020.  Perhaps that's just true of all music.  You get what you want from it and can relate pretty much any song to the times and pressures one is under at any given time.  

For me this album will remind me of these times - but it's already starting to sound different and that brings me comfort.  Timeless stuff does that.  
Many of these tracks evoke feelings of nostalgia and good times growing up for me. The track 'Ghost Town' is a personal favourite - but that same feeling comes from other tracks like 'Youth' heard here.  A few of the songs actually gave me a great sense of hope knowing that life truly is meant to be about evolving.  Listen to 'Ascension' here or give 'I Like The Way You Talk About The Future' a listen - or even the title track 'All of Us'.
At my age, and with kids, you often think about your own mortality.  There are a couple beauties on this one that take me pretty deep.  Both 'Wolf Tracks' and 'War Chest' right off the top are perfect for that.

The sum of all it's parts is what makes this album amazing though.  Your can hear each and everyone one of the band's instruments so clearly.  I feel like they're having so much fun playing each and every note.  There's simplicity bookended by melodic guitar solos like in 'Spellbound' that just take you away from everything.  There are moments where I can hear New Order coming through the keys and basslines in songs like 'Ghost Town'.  Of course the keeper of the backbeat is apparent throughout as he keeps the train on it's tracks. Just listen to how perfect the drumming is on 'Take Me Away'.

I've had the pleasure of knowing / working with these fellas and their management for about 20 years now.  They've amazed me at every single turn in their career.  They have a reputation for being some of the nicest artists around - and I totally agree with that.  They're all individually cool AF in their own way.  They refuse to fall into the classic traps of many musicians and therefor will be around for a long time to come.  They remain true to their own vibe and wear their influences on the sleeves of their jean jackets.  Each album is a reinvention both sonically and in fashion for the band - especially Jimmy on bass. They're true rock-stars and play the music I would love to play if I were in a band.  I am thrilled to call them friends.  

Give the album some solid time but make sure you go into it with a clear head.  Take a drive, go for a long bike ride, smoke a joint, smoke cigarettes and drink 30 beers, or just zone out on a hike.  This album is a 9 track masterpiece and needs to be heard in its proper sequence.  Crank it!

Stay safe.  Believe in science - and wear a fucking mask so we can all get back to seeing SRB live in concert.
Thanks for reading / listening.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Best of 2019 IMHO

Hi Friends,

I always get shit from a friend for putting my 'Best of the Year Playlist' out a bit too early.  I stand by the fact that very little awesome music comes out in month of December.  Most new music comes out in advance of the holidays with hopes it sells during the holiday season - or it's actual Christmas music.  If there's something new that's also rad I'll go back and add it.

In the meantime - this is my playlist featuring the songs I loved the most this past year.  

Some of the greats returned to the spotlight in the past 12 months including the likes of Tame Impala, The WeekndSnow Patrol, Noel Gallagher's High Flying BirdsLiam Gallagher, City and Colour, ColdplayThe National and The KillersThe Killers actually only came back to drop this very important song / video called 'Land of the Free'  and I'm glad that they did.  

Sidebar - this album by City and Colour is a complete masterpiece from start to finish.  

There were also many new acts that I became aware of this past year including Tierra Whack, The Jon Johns, Anyway GangLizzo, Delacey, ren, Lewis Capaldi, Baby Keem  and the 2019 Polaris Music Prize winner Haviah Mighty.  

It's been a great year and my list has more country than I ever thought it would.  There's some real class in the country world plus the musicianship is top notch.  Madeline MerloSturgill Simpson, Brett Young, Lady Antebellum, Adam Hambrick w/ this song are all amazing.

This list took a while because I arranged them in order from #74 - #1.  Not a round number - I know - but these are the best of the best in my opinion.  
Have a great December and holiday season.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

The 2010's Sounded Like This...

Hi There,

It's been a very long time since I've posted something here - but seeing how we're approaching the end of a decade - here I am.

Let me start by saying that I've been spending way too much time listening to playlists I've created on Spotify each and every month since 2010.  List of the songs I discovered with each passing month I found worthy of landing a spot in each coveted playlist.  I've now taken to going through these playlists with a fine tooth comb to narrow things down to the best of the best IMHO.  That alone was so daunting and therefor after trying to organize them I quickly realized I had to stop since it's virtually impossible to do a countdown with 200+ songs that I love.  Instead I suggest that if you are going to listen that you start by clicking the shuffle button to enjoy what I consider to be a magical collection of songs from the past 10 years.

The process of creating a playlist is one of the greatest / most satisfying things I can think of.  I enjoyed every moment of making this list as it allowed me to reflect fondly on great memories while also re-hatching times that may not have been so great.  Either way a snap shot of a decade and a helpful reminder to grow as a human.  *No I'm not high;)

*Raffy and Lyla at Field Trip
I love music and if you've read this far then I'm certain you do too.

Over the past 10 years I've had the pleasure of seeing many of these artists live in concert at many fine venues in various cities big and small.  I've had the chance to interact with many of them as people - and talked music with them all.  I've been lucky enough to see some of them as they started out in small venues while they perfected their craft.

*Sam Roberts Band at Rachel Ray's Backtyard BBQ in Austin

The moments I cherish most come from sharing the experiences with other like minded folk - be it my wife or friends and colleagues alike.  I can't wait for the day I'm doing so with my daughter too:)  Many of these discoveries came from my travels to Austin, Texas for South By South West for a bunch of years.  I discovered artist like Sam Smith, Leon Bridges, Ed Sheeran, The War on Drugs, Frank Turner, Jake Bugg, The Belle Game, James Bay and The 1975.  I also had the pleasure of seeing established Canadian acts setting their sites on international audiences like City and Colour, Sam Roberts Band, Arkells, July Talk, The Sheepdogs, The Weeknd and A Tribe Called Red.  

*The 1975 at Red Eyed Fly in Austin

SXSW is clearly a more commercialized festival in 2019 than it was when it began - but that's how things work.  Advertisers need to foot the bill - so I ain't mad if it means these things still exist. Because of this there's a spotlight on the festival itself and all the other acts at it that are trying to break through.  I've also had the pleasure of seeing the likes of Depeche Mode, Stone Temple Pilots, Foo Fighters, Snoop Dogg, Gaga, Live and Kendrick Lamar through the year which is pretty rad in my books.  I can't recommend this festival enough. 

*Sam Smith at a church in Austin

I would be remiss not to say that this past decade also sucked to see my personal hero go.  Gord Downie and his music are the reason I went to work in this crazy business to begin with.  He was a true artist, poet, leader and champion of what is right.  His swansong from this earth was among the finest we will ever witness.  A cross country tour that didn't miss a beat followed by a passion project to help move this country in the right direction.  The later will take time - but his spotlight and his legacy will no doubt keep it top of mind in all we do striving for inclusion and equality for all Canadians.  Thank you Mr. are missed. 

*Gord Downie at Danforth Music Hall 

I digress.  This decade's brought me so much joy as it relates to family and friends - and much of that can be recalled, with a smile, instantly with this soundtrack I've created from 2010 - 2019.  

*The Weeknd at Air Canada Centre

*Ed Sheeran at MuchMusic Video Awards 

Enjoy the playlist here!

Thanks for reading / listening.


Friday, February 9, 2018

Dad's Tunes

Ian Stewart and Gregg Stewart November 2017
Hi there,

It's been ages - I hope you're well :)

Finding the time to write a blog post is a bit harder these days now that I'm a Dad.  It's also made me more aware of how important that title is and how high the bar's been set for me growing-up with such a great father.  A great father who loves music might I add.

In recent weeks he and I have been talking about music (as we tend to do often) and have started coming up with lists of some of our favourite songs.  I asked my Dad to send me a top 10 list of some of his favourite songs so that I can create a playlist.  I thought this was a simple task and that he'd be able to text me within minutes of the call.  It was not.

2 weeks to the day I got a call asking some very specific questions like "Can it only be 10 songs?" and "Does it matter what era?" coupled with "How do I send this to you?".  That was when I realized I'd basically given my 77 year old father a homework assignment.  One in which he was looking to get a perfect score.  He too takes his music very seriously.

This playlist is comprised of some childhood favourites, TV show theme songs and tracks that remind me of long car rides home from hockey tournaments.  Tunes we'd here on the radio in the 80s in the back seat of the family car watching the brake lights for miles on a snow swept 401.  

Songs have the power to stick you in a time machine for good times and the bad.  In this case it's nothing but the good memories that come flooding back when we hear these ones.

Note that I was surprised at my Dad's list at first - but after some careful listens I can see that time has also made him softer.  Softer in that the lyrics mean that much more and there are some real beauties in his list.

Love ya send me your top 10 rock songs that remind you of your teenage years.

Enjoy! Click here to listen to the Spotify playlist

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Top 150 Canadian Songs of all Time List (IMHO)

Hi Friends,

Music's always going to be a subjective topic of conversation - and for me that's totally fine.

In many of my day-to-day roles I work closely with different teams to help determine lists.  List, countdowns and groupings of songs, artists, genres, eras, albums and mostly music videos.  We approach them through a democratic process and allow time for conversation and debate across the board.  Having an open mind about music, be it new or old, is vital to folk who work in music.  We sometimes forget that simple rule and become jaded - that's simply unacceptable in my books.

If music's causing debate then I'm all for it.

As we approach Canada's 150th birthday, next week, we'll all likely come across a plethora of "Top Canadian" music lists. Most likely top 150 lists at that.  Since I love a good list I've taken the liberty to my very own list to the pile.  

Here's what I consider the finest 150 Canadian songs ever recorded in the form of a Spotify playlist for you to enjoy.  

I've also realized that I really like melancholy songs while compiling this list.

  • Here's my playlist - Enjoy!  

Let the comments begin :)

Have a wonderful Canada Day long weekend!


Sunday, January 1, 2017

My 2016 in Music

My Spotify account shows that I've listened to Kermit the Frog's 'Rainbow Connection' more than any other song in the past year.  It makes sense since it's the first track on my 'New Dad Playlist' and which is part of the daily routine for my little girl.  That little girl attended her first ever concert / festival this year.  She can now boast having seen the mighty Sheepdogs and Barenaked Ladies as her first shows.

2016 may have been a pretty depressing year when it came to deaths across the music world - as heard here 'RIP 2016 Playlist' (No Prince on Spotify sorry) - but it was also a year with some amazing new music.

My personal year was very different in that I was learning the ropes and trying to balance things on the home front with an addition to our family. That meant lack of sleep and less late nights at concerts around town. It didn't mean lack of learning about new music though. It was actually the opposite - I listened way more than I had in recent years. I discovered and uncovered music from all genres while diving deep into the past through nostalgia with a different perspective on life. Here's an on-going playlist I've been working on entitled - 'The GREATEST Songs Ever Recorded IMHO'

For me 2016 could be summed up in 2 words - GORD DOWNIE. Although David Bowie, Prince, George Martin, George Michael , Glenn Frye, Phife Dogg, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen and many others passed away - it was the news of my idol Gord Downie, lead singer of The Tragically Hip, that shook me to the core. I continue to spend countless hours going deep into his band's catalogue as well as his solo work on the heels of hearing that terrible news.  This was one more thing to put perspective on life and how precious it really is.  

I was one of the luck my ones that went to a few of the band's last shows this past summer. I went to Toronto's first night with 2 lifelong pals and my older brother. It was a true celebration of the band's 30+ year career chalk full of hits.  The band also played many songs off their latest album entitled 'Man Machine Poem'.  There was no way I was going to miss this band's last show in their home town of Kingston, Ontario.  On Saturday, August 20th I made the trip with friends and soaked up what was one of the most amazing music filled days of my life.  Kingston was magical and the band managed to make this junior hockey rink feel like a sweaty little club.  Only difference was that 20 million people were watching right across this country.  It was a very special day and shined a light on the wonder that is Gord Downie. 

Here's a little video I don't remember shooting during 'Wheat Kings' on that final night.

I also managed to land tickets to Gord's 'Secret Path' performance at Roy Thompson Hall in October.  This was simply beautiful and among the most powerful messages and performances I've been witness to in my life.  I consider myself lucky to have grown-up in a time when Gord Downie was making music.  

I will be listening to Strombo's salute to The Tragically Hip this evening starting at 8pm - link here if you're interested.  

Here are a few quick lists of my favourites this past year.

Top 10 Shows
  1. Guns N Roses @ Sky Dome
  2. Metallica @ The Opera House
  3. The Weeknd @ Air Canada Centre, iHeartRADIO Jingle Ball
  4. The Killers and Sam Roberts Band @ World Cup Of Hockey Village
  5. The Tragically Hip @ The K-Rock Centre, Kingston 
  6. Gord Downie @Roy Thompson Hall
  7. Noel Gallagher @ Echo Beach 
  8. Pearl Jam @ Air Canada Centre
  9. Lumineers @ Mod Club 
  10. Jack Garett @ The Garrison 
Top 10 Songs
  1. David Bowie - 'Dollar Days'
  2. Warpaint - 'New Song'
  3. Gallant - 'Bourbon'
  4. Gord Downie - 'The Stranger' 
  5. The Tragically Hip - 'Machine' The Tragically Hip - 'In Sarnia'
  6. Michael Kiwanuka - 'Love & Hate'
  7. Sam Roberts Band - 'Roll With The Spirits'
  8. Kings of Leon - 'Walls'
  9. Alessia Cara - 'Seventeen'
  10. Red Hot Chili Peppers - 'Dark Necessities'
Top 10 Albums 
  1. David Bowie - 'Black Star'
  2. The Tragically Hip - 'Man Machine Poem'
  3. Sam Roberts Band - 'TerraForm'
  4. The Weeknd - 'Starboy'
  5. Kanye West - 'The Life Of Pablo'
  6. Kings of Leon - 'Walls'
  7. Drake - 'Views'
  8. The 1975 - 'I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It'
  9. Alessia Cara - 'Know It All'
Respect to the great songwriter and TV Dad Alan Thicke too.  I know he didn't write this one - but it's the perfect song.

Best wishes to you and yours in 2017.  


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

New Dad

On Tuesday, September 29th at 7:15am I watched my wife give birth to our daughter who we named Lyla Grace Stewart. To say it was the greatest moment of my life is an understatement. I felt like a King that day walking on a cloud with a grin from ear to ear.

In the months that followed I've found myself being nostalgic and sentimental about lots of things. I've been reflecting on my own childhood and the different things that made it so great.

Many of my fond memories come from the music playing around the house growing up. Be it Christmas time when my Mom would bust out Anne Murray albums to my Dad spinning some Jim Croce, John Denver,  and  or even Friday night theme songs from shows like M.A.S.H., Hill Street Blues or The mighty Muppet Show. There was, and still is, always music playing at 793 Millbank Road in Pickering.

Although my daughter's only 10 weeks old - I'm already trying to introduce her to music. Music that reminds me of being a kid, catchy pop anthems from artists like Queen, The Beach Boys and of course The Beatles.

I look forward to a lifetime when I'm playing new music for Lyla and learning about new music from her.  I long for the day when we can go to outdoor concerts together and talk music over meals and a day when we can reflect on her childhood.

Here are some songs that remind me of being a kid called - New Dad Playlist

A house with music playing will always be a happy home to me.

Thanks for reading/listening.