Tag Archives: mad skills

We Like It Hot

Hot to the Touch

I love it how new music sometimes finds its way to you in the coolest and most random of ways. I was at a friend’s show last week at Rancho Relaxo and just by chance started chatting with the guy standing next to me in the crowd as I waited for the band, Goodnight, Sunrise, to go on. He explained that he was meeting some friends who hadn’t arrived yet. Never being one to pass up the opportunity to promote our little site here, I mentioned that I blog about music. When his friends showed up, he introduced me to one of them, Ryan, saying “this guy is in a really good band”. I am always intrigued by what’s going on in Toronto’s local music scene so I noted down the name of his band, Hot to the Touch, and promised to look them up.

You guys. Am I ever glad I did! I am seriously loving this band! Their first song, ‘Don’t Wanna Think About It’, is straight-up amazing from the very first listen. It is super catchy and has been stuck in my head since New Year’s. I am also totally digging ‘Part the Sea’, the other song on their single, a whimsical, upbeat pop extravaganza.

I highly suggest checking out the video for ‘In the Morning’ as well, to get an idea of their live sound.

Hot To The Touch – In The Morning from Sydney Tam on Vimeo.

Check out their website here for more info and to purchase their single. Looking forward to seeing more good stuff from these guys in the near future!

THIS JUST IN: HOT TO THE TOUCH WILL BE PLAYING A SHOW LATER THIS MONTH AT THE MOD CLUB — HEAD ON DOWN THERE JAN 29TH TO CATCH ‘EM LIVE!

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If You Wanna Make the World a Better Place…

man in the mirror

In 1992, Michael Jackson embarked on his Dangerous world tour, which ended up being his second-to-last tour ever and attracted 3.5 million fans over the course of its two years. At the time, I wasn’t a huge MJ fan. I had loved him as a kid, but by the time I was seventeen I considered myself “too cool” to be into his music. Somehow, though, my best friend’s parents got free tickets to the show in Singapore (where we were living at the time) and she invited me to go with her. Our seats were CRAZY good — like, unbelievable. Second row, centre. Yeah, I know. Apparently MJ had a special deal in place that the first 10 rows or something like that were reserved for fans under the age of 18. Anyway, the show was AMAZING — the best I’ve ever seen. It completely blew me away. I had forgotten how many great songs were in his repertoire, but it was more than that. It was a completely flawless performance, and I say that with honestly no exaggeration. It was note-perfect down to the very last detail — Jackson’s singing, his dancing, the choreography, the lighting…everything. You could tell that he must have put an unbelievable amount of time into rehearsing, but it all came off looking smooth, effortless…perfect without being rote or robotic.

I came away from the show shaking my head in awe at the sheer amount of talent that the guy possessed, and I never forgot his performance. I feel lucky to have seen an artist of such stature at the peak of his career. As we now know, the years following that tour were not kind to Michael Jackson. Allegations of child molestation led to a highly-publicized trial that took on the feel of a circus freak show. MJ’s final years were marked by increasingly erratic behavior and a dependence on prescription drugs, surrounded by a coterie of sycophants and enablers. His death in 2009, at age 51, provoked an outpouring of grief in the media as people remembered the “good” side of him — innovative creative genius, magnificent performer, humanitarian.

Jackson’s lasting legacy is a top-notch body of work. But when you think about everything he accomplished its hard not to view it all within the context of the high price he paid for success. Any semblance of a normal childhood was sacrificed in the pursuit of perfection. Driven by an overbearing stage father, his grueling life as a child star paved the road for personal unhappiness in his adult life. On the other hand, watching him perform up-close, the absolute joy he felt being onstage doing something he loved was obvious…so there’s that.

I’m not really saying anything here that hasn’t been said before, but I’ve been thinking about MJ recently because I’ve been listening to this song a lot. I love this song. I think it’s his best — at least, it’s my favorite. I’ve been thinking a lot about change, too. So often in life, change is thrust upon us. After all, the only thing that ever stays the same is the fact nothing ever stays the same, right? Oh, the irony. But sometimes the type of change that is necessary has to come from within, and that’s the most difficult. Have you ever looked at your life and realized that something needs to be different, but you’re not sure exactly what, and you don’t know how to make it happen? What do you do?

I wish I had the answers. I think MJ was on the right track here though. I guess, in the end, if you want to make a change there is only one place to look: in the mirror. If you like what you see, you’re lucky. If not…well, at least you know where to start.


It’s So Easy To Fall In Love With This Excellent Buddy Holly Tribute Album

buddy holly

ALBUM REVIEW FOR: Listen To Me: Buddy Holly

I love Buddy Holly. When I was a little kid, my dad used to play his songs for me on the guitar, especially ‘Everyday’ and ‘Peggy Sue’. They were such amazing tunes — seemingly simple, yet so catchy — and they always made me happy. The fact that they could be equally enjoyed by a 5 year old (me) and a dude in his 30s (my dad) speaks volumes, I think. As an adult, whenever I’m feeling a little blue I always return to those songs that made me feel such joy when I was young. And Buddy Holly really did write joyful songs. You can hear the enthusiasm and optimism in all of his tunes. Even the ones about heartbreak are strangely (and pleasingly) cheerful, as if he’s saying “well, that’s the way life goes! You win some, you lose some”. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that for someone who was only 22 (!!) when he died, his songs, though straightforward, resonate with an emotional and lyrical maturity that is fairly extraordinary.

So you can imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to review Listen To Me: Buddy Holly, a new tribute compilation featuring iconic artists such as Stevie Nicks, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, and Linda Ronstadt. There’s also newer artists included too, from Pat Monahan to Zooey Deschanel to The Fray and Cobra Starship.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the 16 tracks:

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Pearl Jam Rocks the ACC on Ten’s 20th Anniversary Tour

pearl jam

Plaid shirt? Check.

Hate on for Ticketmaster? Check.

Yup, ready to see Pearl Jam.

It’s been 20 years since Ten was released and I was feeling a bit nostalgic, but I didn’t want the show to be a nostalgia trip. I just wanted to Rock Out in the here and now.

It was hard, though, not going back to the 90’s — angst, aggression and apathy. The whole concert for me was a mix of feeling very connected to that 90’s stuff (I am a Gen X’er) and very removed from it (I’m 43). It was easy feeling the rage in ‘Jeremy’ and ‘Corduroy,’ screaming along with everyone else. Damn it feels good to scream amongst thousands. And then they played ‘State of Love and Trust,’ which used to take me instantly to a violent and angry place, but I was now somehow removed from Vedder’s screaming and pleading and had difficulty connecting with his energy. Like I said I’m 43 — I only have so much angst and aggression…or maybe that just says a lot about me because the band had no lack of it. They were near the start of their tour in Toronto and they were fired up — Eddie was always close to his bottles of red wine.

Stone Gossard’s family was in the house and during an extended ‘Even Flow’ jam Gossard filled his solo with reckless aggression and emotion. It felt like he was pushing the guitar further than it could go — but it still went there. I kept thinking that if his guitar just split apart after the solo I wouldn’t be surprised, maybe even a little relieved. It was a great ride and the crowd responded with amped-up enthusiasm.

Eddie dedicated ‘Wishlist’ to Doug Gilmour and I thought to myself “nice one Dougie”. I smiled as I thought of Dougie rocking out to Pearl Jam and how fucking amazing he was in the ‘93 playoffs and how good it felt to believe in the Leafs.

Eddie talked about how NYC stood for Neil Young Country and the crowd went nuts — like I said, it’s so good to scream with thousands of people — especially in praise of Neil.

And that was the night for me: sometimes screaming, sometimes feeling far away from the 90’s and the way I felt then, and sometimes thinking about hockey. I will give the concert a 7, and the band a Ten.


Song(s) of the Day: a couple of classics from a man who knows his music

roy orbison

patsy cline

I hope that everyone had a good holiday weekend! The Finn and I were out of the city, at his dad’s cottage in Haliburton. It’s a beautiful spot. On Sunday night we sat around listening to old 45s and drinking shots of Grand Marnier, which is actually really good, you guys. I totally thought it’d be super strong and difficult to drink, but it turns out that it’s quite delightful. Or maybe I’m just an alcoholic! No matter. Anyway, as you may recall, a few weeks ago The Finn’s dad called me out for not including any Patsy Cline songs on my list of top breakup tunes. So this weekend I guess he decided it was high time that we ignorant youth received some schooling in some of the classics of his generation.

A little background information about the Finn’s dad — we’ll call him Finn Sr. If you are at all familiar with the Finnish as a people, you will know that even though they often have hilarious, subversive senses of humor, they generally appear fairly stone-faced. If you are not aware of this, hanging out with them can be a little intimidating. Before I met Finn Sr. for the first time, the Finn and his friends tried to prepare me. “It may seem like he doesn’t like you,” they said, “but don’t worry. He just doesn’t smile that often”. I definitely spent the first few years of my relationship with the Finn worried that Finn Sr. thought I was a complete fool, since he’s pretty no-nonsense, and anyone who has met me knows that my genetic makeup is about 80% nonsense. Anyway, over the years I have gradually gotten to know Finn Sr. better and have come to appreciate the depth of his humor and character. He is a very cool dude. This past weekend he was telling me about the Finnish word sisu. There’s no real English equivalent, but basically it means “strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity”. It’s a quality that Finns are very proud of. If you want to know more, you can read about it here. (The one example of the Finnish heavy metal singer injuring himself without noticing makes me laugh because it reminds me of the time that the Finn and his brother went out on a winter walk with Finn Sr. When they returned home after an hour and a half of tramping through the woods, Finn Sr. removed his boots and one of his feet was bleeding profusely. He had stepped on a large nail that had embedded itself in his boot and the sole of his foot. “Oh my god, Dad!” the Finn and his brother exclaimed. “Why didn’t you make us stop so you could get the nail out of your foot??” Finn Sr.’s reply: “I didn’t want to cut short our walk”. That’s stoicism, people).

Anyway, as I was saying, we listened to a lot of music on Sunday night (including some rather spirited Russian folk music) but the two records I enjoyed the most were Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison. I’ve always liked Orbison — Finn Sr. and I agree that he has the best voice of all time — but I’ve had only a casual acquaintance with Patsy Cline’s music. Well, let me tell you, Finn Sr. is right — no one does ‘hurtin’ music’ better than Patsy. Seriously, the emotion in her voice is incredible, and I love it how pretty much every song is about a man who’s done her wrong but she still loves him anyway. Even the song below, ‘Walkin’ After Midnight,” though relatively upbeat (for Patsy), is still about a woman out in the middle of the night searching for her (presumably misbehaving) husband/lover.

So please enjoy ‘Walkin’ After Midnight,” along with Roy Orbison’s cover of ‘Love Hurts’ (so, so good. GAH! That voice!!)

You know, life can be tough, kids. But with a little Patsy for the pain, a little Roy for the soul — and lot of sisu — we just might make it through.


LTEV Contest: Win tickets to My Morning Jacket!

my morning jacket

Do you ever wish you could clone yourself?

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “Of course I do, Spencer. Who doesn’t want to clone themselves? Duh…” Sorry, consider it a rhetorical question. Cloning seems like the sort of thing that would start out as a delightful experiment but quickly go horribly awry, which is likely why we humans are drawn to the concept (or am I the only one?) Sometimes I think that it would be better, in fact, to have a robot version of yourself. Although I am pretty sure that Robot Spencer would turn out to be wickedly evil and would cut a swathe of destruction through my life, ruining my job and marriage, making snide remarks to my friends, and forcing me to turn against it, culminating in an epic battle royale involving flame throwers and explosives. Who would emerge as the victor? Hopefully we will never have to find out the answer to that question.

Maybe what I’m really asking is, do you ever wish you could be in two places at once? Of course we know this is impossible (unless you subscribe to the theories of Hugh Everett III. Why can’t someone just go ahead and prove the whole parallel universes deal once and for all? Jeez. I’m waiting, Science).

Sadly, this proof is unlikely to occur in time for July 11th. Why is July 11th an important date, you ask? Because there are two musical events happening simultaneously that evening that we have tickets for. And I desperately want to attend both of them.

How did this happen? Let me explain. A few years ago, The Finn and I had a friend who worked as a bartender at The Berkeley Church in Toronto. They were in the midst of filming Season 3 of the show “Beautiful Noise,” a music profile and performance series, and he let us sneak in for free to catch a few of the acts. My Morning Jacket happened to be on the bill and we were absolutely blown away by their live performance. Like seriously, it was just massive amounts of AMAZINGNESS. They had just flown in from somewhere in South America about two hours prior to the show and they still KILLED it. After that I became completely obsessed with their live album, Okonokos. They are one of those bands that really takes it to the next level live in concert, and Jim James has one of the coolest voices I’ve heard in a long time.

Anyway, when I was looking around for a birthday present for The Finn this year I realized that they were playing a show here in Toronto on July 11th so I got us tickets. Yay! Great, good plan, ready to go, super pumped. I can’t tell you how excited I was about seeing them live again.

Except…

July 11th is the same night that U2 is playing their rescheduled show.

F&CK.

You guys. I love U2. Like, I love love LOVE them. The Joshua Tree is my favourite album. ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ is my favourite song. When I went to see them two years ago and they started playing that song, I cried. I totally cried like a baby.

SIGH. What to do? In the end, we decided that we just could not miss U2. But, our loss could be your gain. We are giving away our My Morning Jacket tickets to one lucky Let Them Read Vinyl reader. The winner will receive two tickets — so you can bring a friend/spouse/significant other/relative/nemesis/archenemy/evil robot of your choosing. Whoever you decide to take with you, my advice is that it’s not someone you’re on a first date with, because this band is so good that you will forget all about your date as soon as the music starts and ignore them for the rest of the evening. This will probably make them mad and they will refuse to date you again, and then you will blame old Spencer and LTEV for your ruined love life. So don’t say we didn’t warn you.

All you have to do to enter the contest is tell us, in the comments section: what is the best concert you ever saw, and why? Doesn’t have to be a super long answer, a few sentences or a paragraph will suffice. We will choose the winner using highly scientifical methods (don’t worry, these will be totally impartial — we are bound by the music blogger code of ethics) and we’ll notify the winner by e-mail.

The deadline for entry is 12:00 midnight on Friday, July 1st.

The only qualification to enter this contest is that you must have a cell phone. Tickets were purchased through the Rogers Wireless Box Office so we will text them to you, and you bring your phone to the venue with the text (they scan your phone for entry). If you lose the text, it can be re-sent to you. More information about the Rogers Wireless Box Office can be found here.

Here’s a preview of what YOU could be seeing on July 11th. This song is so good it makes me want to cry:

SHOW DETAILS:
July 11th 2011, Kool Haus, 132 Queens Quay East, Toronto, Ontario. Doors at 7pm. All Ages. GA Floors.


Album Obsessions: Brian Wilson’s SMiLE

SMiLE

In 2004 Brian Wilson released his long-awaited Smile, which had been Smiley Smile as a Beach Boy project and was scrapped due to drugs, mental illness, the Beatles and trying to get the sound he wanted on ‘Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow’. All that, it’s lore, and the unfinished album is legend.

Anyway, 37 years later or however long it was he finally recorded this beast with members of his backing band and The Wondermints. Critics universally agreed it was genius, brilliant, etc., and it did ok in sales considering how long it had been ‘out there’. I bought it and listened a few times but got lost early and for long stretches in all the harmonies and lack of guitar and oblique syncopation. Much singing, strange lyrics, and almost too much like a capella/choral singing to ‘hook’ me.

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Christian’s Top Ten: Guitar Players

my second foray into the blogosphere…to re-iterate, if you didn’t see my last list these picks are personal and subjective, although i also happen to be right. please send in your comments and your “i can’t believe u didn’t pick ???” and your “what the f’s” along as well so i can destroy them. in all seriousness though i had fun coming up with this list and it got me listening to some great music that i haven’t heard in a long time.

here are my “top ten guitarists”:

1. jimmy page

jimmy page

a legend, an icon, a musical god…what more can be said about james patrick page. as the founder and lead architect of the greatest band of all time, jimmy has cemented his place in history. generations decades from now will still be listening to his music and will continue to be just as gobsmacked as i was when i heard my first led zep track. a friend of mine said a long time ago: “the rolling stones are my favourite band, but if i had to genetically create the ultimate rock band it would be led zeppelin”. i know what he meant. each member of that band defined their respective roles and instruments for the hordes of bands to follow. the man who harnessed all that energy and laid out the blueprint for all this to happen was page.

as a young man cutting his teeth in the london session scene page performed on tracks for the who, the kinks, and donovan. in fact one of my favourite jimmy moments isn’t even a part of zep’s canon, it’s the first three notes he plays in joe cocker’s version of “with a little help from my friends”. he hangs onto to those notes like his life depended on it which truly showcases his incredible feel and passion for the instrument. jimmy had it all — smoking chops, amazing tones, a veritable riff machine, he was badass cool, wore great clothes, the dude even had better hair than everybody else. on the short list for the “greatest rock star of all time” title (yet again, another list), pagey was also a really debaucherous fellow which is how i like my rockstars. ahhh the stories he could tell. anyway i chose jimmy for the number one spot because i cant think of anybody else that fits all of my “personal criteria” whereas jimmy nails it. one aspect of page’s immense talent that seems to be undervalued is his revolutionary production chops. listen to any album recorded in the 60’s then put on zep 1. no comparison, sonically nothing had sounded like that before, nothing.

like i said the guy had it all (just stay away from the mid-late 70’s bootleg stuff, not good. let’s just he had some issues with drugs at the time). jimmy, like beethoven, is a genius and his music will be around for as long. i’ll bet some of you thought that another “jimi” would be in this spot. sorry.

essential listening: really?

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