Another year, Another Best of List

Hey hey hey.  So, my internet pals, it’s that time of year again. That time when you get to hear me ramble on and on and on and on about all my favourite musical things of the year.

Boy what a year 2017 was. I almost can’t believe we made it through, but hey we did, so let’s celebrate with some great tunes.

Leif Vollebekk – Twin Solitude

Number one on my list and number one in my heart forever is Leif Vollebekk. Y’all have heard me ramble on about Leif before. Heck, his single he released last year even made my list in 2016 so it’s only fitting that the whole damn album made this years. Twin Solitude is without a doubt one of my favourite albums of all time. Seriously. I know I say this a lot, and then it drops off my radar… But not this one. I fall asleep to it. I listen to it on the subway, or while I’m doing homework, when I’m cooking, or simply when I’m freaking out about the great unknown that is life and need something to calm me down. It’s a constant in my life, and every time I turn someone else onto #teamleif I feel a little sense of accomplishment and joy. So, if you’re one of the sorry few I haven’t aggressively pushed my love of  Leif Vollebekk onto, here he is.

Right??? Right.

Laura Marling – Semper Femina

I’ve loved Laura Marling for a long, long time. However, this is the first time that I’ve loved a Laura Marling album in full. There’s something about this album that just grabs me from the get go and never lets go. It’s beautiful and haunting and catchy just like Laura Marling always is, but there’s an extra something that makes it even better this time in my (not so) humble opinion.

Portugal. The Man – Woodstock

This was my happy, catchy album of the year. There’s always one album each year that becomes my go to album when I need a pick me up with jams that get me going and aren’t my go to sad folky boys with their acoustic guitars. Portugal. The Man quickly became that for me this year. You may have heard Feel It Still only the radio lots and lots this year (because it’s a damn good song) but the rest of the album is just as awesome so go check it out.

Jon and Roy – The Road Ahead is Golden

I’ve known Jon and Roy’s music for many, many years. They were a Hillside discovery of mine a long time ago and I fell in love with one of their first albums, Another Noon. And then I kind of forgot they existed for 8 years… And as a very happy surprise I stumbled across their newest album on Spotify that was released this year and have been addicted ever since. They’re the perfect blend of happy folk, with kind of off kilter beats that keep you hooked and fantastic wonky vocals. You can’t help but tap your foot or bob your head just a lil’ bit (keep listening for those great hand drum solos).

Junip – Junip

Junip was one of my happiest 2017 discoveries. This album was actually released in 2013, but I discovered it in 2017, so I consider it a best of for my year of music. I’ve had this album on a constant repeat since my Dad passed it along to me, and it’s safe to say it will be on repeat for quite a while still. It’s actually a music project of artist Jose Gonzalez, which is interesting to me, because I’ve never been able to get into Jose Gonzalez’s music but this project I’m definitely a fan of. It reminds me a bit of early Alt-J but a little more consistent. Every song on the album is fantastic and keeps you hooked until the very end.

Tinariwen – Elwan

Tinariwen was another fantastic discovery of my Dads. As soon as I heard it I was hooked. They’re a group of Tuareg musicians hailing from the Sahara Dessert of Mali. There’s something about this whole album that is just so good (even if you have no idea what they’re saying). I saw them play at Massey Hall this past April and it’s safe to say it’s one of my favourite live shows I’ve ever seen. It actually brought me to tears a few times, which is very, very rare for me. The band has had a tumultuous history and you can hear that in their music for sure. I promise it’s worth checking out and listening to on a Sunday morning.

Until next year my friends… Have a happy, music filled 2018!




So, it’s that time of year again, I guess…

Hi Pals. So, we almost made it to the end of 2016. Halle-freaking-lujiah, amiright??? If nothing else, 2016 was a year of some great music and I’m here, just like every year, to bring you my best of 2016 list. As always, not everything on the list came out in 2016 but I did discover it in 2016 so that’s pretty much the same thing, right? There were some pretty awesome albums this year and after much, much deliberation I’ve narrowed it down to these 9 musical gems. So, without further ado and in no particular order let’s let the rambling commence.

Donovan Woods – Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled + They Are Going Away EPSo, Donovan Woods put out two pretty fabulous works of music this year. A full length album and a pretty stellar little gem of an EP. For those of you that have been with me from the beginning, you know how I feel about Donovan Woods (and will probably always feel about Donovan Woods). And he’s been featured on many a littlethumbup blog post. These two albums were no exception for me. He’s a fabulous songwriter and he crafts really catchy, beautiful little songs that suck you in from the beginning. I went to see him a few weeks ago at Trinity St. Paul’s in Toronto and it was super fantastic. He’s such an unsuspecting person but then he just blows you away with this beautiful voice and incredible instrumentation. Here’s a song from the EP and the full length album.

Lianne La Havas – Blood. This album actually came out in 2015, but I somehow missed it so it’s a 2016 discovery for me. Every once and a while I come across a Soul/R&B album that pulls at my heartstrings and doesn’t let go and this is one of those for me. Sometimes I get in such a folk rut and it takes music like this to pull me out. Blood is just a really damn great Soul album and Lianna La Havas’ voice is seriously other worldly. If you’re looking for a getting ready for your day album than this is your jam. I’m an especilly huge fan of the song What You Don’t Do, posted below. Try not to groove, I dare you.

Anderson .Paak – Malibu. This is not my norm. I’ll be the first to admit it. But it made so many lists of great music for 2016 I figured I really ought to check it out. So I did, and boy am I happy I did. Malibu is a masterful piece of work with some pretty catchy songs and seriously awesome beats. That horn section, though… It’s one of those great (and kind of rare these days) albums that truly works best in its entirety and it feels like it was crafted with that intention.

Leif Vollebekk – Elegy. This is just one song that was released from his upcoming album, Twin Solitude, coming out in winter 2017. Right off the bat I know I’m excited for the album from this song alone. I’ve had it on constant repeat since early December when it was released. Not to mention it’s an incredibly beautiful music video. I’m not a huge music video person, but this one really sucked me in right from the get go. Those dance moves, though…

PUP – The Dream Is Over. So, I’ve been pretty behind the whole PUP train. I think I just assumed I wouldn’t like it because it didn’t include a plaid-laiden dude with an acoustic guitar and some nice folk jams. But it turns out I do like other genres of music, who knew? So I hopped aboard the PUP train and I’ve been riding it ever since (enough with the train metaphor now?). PUP does the whole loud, shouty, guitary thing but they do it an awesome sloppy, bounce up and down kind of way and it’s pretty freaking awesome. This is my I need to get my shit together and get off the damn couch album. Works like a charm every single time. Attached is a pretty cool music video featuring Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Thigs. On an entirely different note, how AMAZING was Stranger Things???? It definitely makes my Best Of TV Shows List.

WARNING: make sure your speakers are turned down if you’re secretly reading my blog post while at work (which is super flattering, btw) and about to watch this video.

Regina Spektor – Remeber Us To Life. I mean what can I really say here… Regina Spektor is a musical goddess and she always will be. Enough said. This album doesn’t disappoint. It’s got everything you’d want in a Regina Spektor album. That quirky voice, oddly beautiful and sometimes just plain confusing lyrics and really really great pop undertones.

Various Artists – God Don’t Never Change. This is a compilation CD of songs by Blind Willie Johnson (I want a Blues name – Tiny Thumb Emma? Stumpy Legs Bowen? Maybe I’ll work on the name a little more…) covered by a variety of musicians. It features some pretty stellar songs by musicians like Tom Waits (wouldn’t be a littlethumbup post without a Tom Waits mention), Lucinda Williams and Cowboy Junkies to name only a few. The album kicks off with Wait’s kickass cover of The Soul Of A Man, and trust me you’ll be hooked as soon as that voice reaches out and punches you in the face (+ those hand claps!!!). If, like me, you’ve been on the hunt for an awesome gospel Sunday album/playlist (because let’s be honest who isn’t on the hunt for that…) than this is your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s got everything you need. Great songs. Growelly voices. Beautiful harmonies. Catchy riffs. Just listen to it already.

Bon Iver – 22, A Million. Like most of the world I fell completely head over heels in love with For Emma, Forever Ago (not just because it has my name in it) but I didn’t much care for anything else Bon Iver released in between. Until this moment. If you’re hoping for another For Emma that’s not the case with the newest album. But if you’re hoping for a refreshing new Bon Iver album that’s a little more experimental and electronic than his other stuff but still has that chill down the spine inducing voice we all love than boy oh boy is this the album for you.

Emily Dacus – No Burden. This album is SO good. It reminds me a bit of Courtney Barnett with that dead pan, I don’t give a damn voice. But this album holds so much warmth. Her lyricism is really, really great and there’s so much intricate awesome in each song. It’s definitely worth a listen or two or three. She’s refreshing and interesting and the album has that special something (whatever that is).

Some honourable mentions:

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love brought to me… Emma’s Best Of list for 2015

Hi all my Friendly Friends! I hope this Christmas is treating you well and that Santa brings you everything you could possibly dream of. For me personally all I’m dreaming of is a White Christmas. I spent last Christmas in Nicaragua dreaming of the snow, and this year I feel like I’m in Nicaragua all over again with this weather. I’m not happy Mother Nature. Not happy at all.

However, lucky for us although Mother Nature let us down this year, the Music Gods reigned supreme and delivered some pretty stellar offerings.

As I say every year, this time of the year is complete heaven for an unconditional music nerd like myself. All the Best Of lists for the year come out, and it also gives me an opportunity to look back and explore some of my favourites from the year. So without further a-do, I offer to all you fine folks, my Best of 2015 List. Now, like every year, not all these things came out this year, some are just things I discovered or fell in love with this year. Albums that will forever remind me of the memories of 2015.

In no particular order….

Pokey LaFarge – Something In The Water. I’ve loved Pokey for a long time, if not just for the opportunity to say the word Pokey in a serious sentence and try not to giggle. Although I’ve loved him for awhile, I’ve never loved a whole album of his. I’ve always found songs here and there I really enjoyed but I never found his albums very cohesive. However with this years release of Something In The Water I find myself constantly playing this whole album and sending myself back to St. Louis with some good ol’ ragtime blues. It’s also a damn fine live show if you ever get the opportunity.

Leon Bridges – Coming Home. I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t my typical musical genre. And yes, I may be slightly embarassed to put it here. But hey, “you do you” right? Nobody can deny the unbelievable groove of this album. It’s become my go-to crank it loud music while I try desperately to become a human in the mornings and get ready for my day. With those catchy hooks, Leon’s smooth, smooth voice and some great lines, this album is sure to bring you right back to the days of Sam Cooke and that great 1950’s soul/gospel medley. Give it a few chances. I promise by the third listen you’ll be grooving along, dreaming of a time way past.

Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter. This album caught my interest… and my heart strings from the first listen. Along the lines of Pokey, I’d always liked some songs by Brandi but it wasn’t until the release of The Firewatcher’s Daughter that I fell head over heels in love with her. She’s got an air of country to her, but there’s so much more behind her music and lyrics. When I first got home from Nicaragua I was introduced to her song Wherever Is Your Heart, which I felt so perfectly summed up everything I was feeling from my trip and I think my nostalgia mixed with her beautiful lyrics makes this album special everytime I listen to it. Regardless of the memories it evokes for me this album is bound to make you swoon, and even if every song isn’t your thang I can guarnatee there’s a song for everyone in this album.

Glen Hansard – Didn’t He Ramble. For those of you who know me well, you know how much I love Glen Hansard. I have from beginning of his career with The Frames, through  the era of The Once and into the days of The Swell Season with Marketa Irglova, and I still love him as a solo artist. In fact I may love him even more. This album is still very much along the lines of Glen’s typical quiet, folky ramble and no it may not be the most incredible album to ever be created, however it works so fantastically as an album and it all blends really cohesively into one long, fantastic Irish blend of instrumental bits, fantastic vocals and some stellar lyrics. If you’re looking to cozy up, take a breath and be lulled into a dreamy state than Glen is your dude.

Frazey Ford – Indian Ocean. This album was actually a 2014 release, but I was in Nicaragua when it came out, so it was truly a 2015 discovery for me. I grew up with Frazey’s voice constantly in my ear, as my mom was a huge Be Good Tanya’s fan. I’ve loved her voice always, and I think in this album it really shines. There’s something about her lyrics and voice that instantly hook you and pull you into her world. Although I rarely understand a word she says, you just feel like it’s prolific and beautiful. It’s one of those albums I can put on pretty much anytime and it hits that musical spot.

Birds of Bellwoods – The Fifth. This is an EP released by a fantastic up and coming Toronto band. I discovered them while on the hunt for bands for the Fly Away Home Music Festival, and although they couldn’t make the festival, I instantly fell in love with their sound. It’s something I’ve never really heard before – and that’s a pretty hard thing to come across these days. The songs really take you on a journey  with the likes of “Sky” which breaks your heart with every word, and then just as quickly with their song “Come Home” that makes your heart all warm and squishy. The instrumentation on the record is incredible, and that mixed with beautiful vocals, stunning harmonies and some killer lyrics make the 5 song EP something pretty damn special.

The Mountain Goats – Tallahassee. Quite by accident this year, thanks to the work of rdio, the incredible, weird and quirky work of The Mountain Goats stumbled into my life. The Mountain Goats are an indie/folk/rock/alternative (insert every adjective to describe this kind of band here) band that were formed in the early 1990’s by the group’s frontman John Darnielle. I don’t know how I went 21 years without them being in my life, but something about Darnielle’s somewhat nassaly voice, the really weird lyrics and phrasing all combine to make one of the strangest and loveliest albums I’ve ever heard. They totally have that early 90’s Neutral Milk Hotel type sound, however I find The Mountain Goats less pretentious and more listenable (sorry Jeff Mangum). It’s still a little rough at times, and his voice gets a little aggressive but just as quickly it turns into sweet songs like “Idylls of the King.”

This next one got nice and rambly in typical Emma style, so I thought I’d save it for the last, for all of you who are still with me.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. This album is quite possibly one of the GREATEST things I’ve heard in quite awhile. It’s been a really recent discovery for me, but since the moment I found it it’s been on repeat. Apparently I’ve been waaaay behind the bandwagon on this guy. I usually pride myself on often finding bands before they make it so I get to watch and gloat a bit as their music careers explode (could I sound more full of myself?!), however with Nathaniel Rateliff I’m way behind the times… I even heard his song S.O.B. being played in the Bulk Barn yesterday. When you listen to the song you’ll understand why that’s so strange.

I first discovered the song S.O.B. by Nathaniel and thought I had hit music gold. I figured there was no point even listening to the rest of the album because there was no way it would compare, but it did. With catchy choruses, great sing-a-longs and clappy bits (we all know how I love a sing-y, clappy bit) not to mention some pretty incredible lyrics, harmonies and Nathaniel’s oh so perfect growly voice, I can confidently say this is one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time. It’s got some country, it’s got some grit, it’s got some folk, its even got a little gospel and honestly, what more could you want? Have I mentioned I’m addicted?

On another note: his older, solo stuff is also pretty stellar although not quite as punch you in the face amazing as his most recent.

I’ve attached the link to his video for S.O.B. I dare you NOT to awkwardly swing your hips and sing along to this one.

Two more noteworthy albums I’ve recently discovered that make my bonus two:

Josh Ritter – Sermon On The Rocks

Scott Merritt – Of

Happy 2014 Y’all

Alright folks, it’s that time of year again. Everywhere you go you’re bombarded by a million “Best Of” lists, whether it be the best movies, books, fashions or TV Shows. However, us true music nerds know the best lists are all about music. Christmas is a time when everyone is out bustling around, shopping, and visiting. It’s also the time when all the music nerds come out of hiding and brave the malls just so they can pick a copy of every music magazines “Best Of” list. For those of you who don’t partake in this yearly tradition so strongly it almost becomes a religion…. well I feel for you. The impending new year is a perfect time to not only make resolutions you’ll never keep, but also to think back on all the great music you discovered that year. I missed writing a Best Of post last year, and for that I’m truly sorry, but I’m here now, and I’ve collected my favourites of the year, whether they be 2013 releases, or just things I discovered or fell in love with this year. Hope you enjoy, and please let me know what you think should have made the list! I’m going to do things a little differently, and my list is going to include full albums I loved, as well as singles and videos I really liked.

The Lone Bellow – The Lone Bellow

This was a later in the year discovery for me, but I’ve been addicted ever since. I actually heard their single “You Never Need Nobody” on Radio 2 Morning with Tom Power this summer and was totally hooked. I even used it as my alarm song to wake up to every morning, however, for some stupid reason I didn’t think to look up any more of their music. My Dad actually sent me the link before Christmas and I gave it another listen and totally fell in love. It’s been on constant repeat ever since. It’s a great blend of folk/singer-songwriter/roots, there’s even a little country twang thrown in there from time to time. The band consists of two guys and a girl and they harmonize beautifully. They all have gorgeous voices which just really isn’t fair. She’s got a seriously damn cool voice though. If I could sing I would want to sound like her. It’s seriously kick ass.

Each song is quite masterfully put together, and tells a complex story. They’re all basically love songs, but let’s be honest, what isn’t a love song these days? I’ve come to the conclusion that “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional” should probably be my theme song, as those of you that know me can probably understand. They’re by far one of my favourite bands to come out of 2013 and I can’t wait to see what they do next as this is just their debut album. Attached is their cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” This might be one of my favourite covers and a pretty awesome little video to.

Leif Vollebekk – North Americana

This has to be by far one of my favourite albums of 2013, and probably of all time. It’s that perfect blend of folk/roots and that extra special something something that makes an album so great (I know that was really vague…). From about the first second I heard one of those melodic guitar licks and his perfect raspy/jazz voice I fell in love. He creates an intricate blend of instruments and voice to create a mini masterpiece in each song. You can hear the time and consideration that went into each one, but the songs never sound too controlled or restrained, and there are moments of pure genius hidden in each song like a little gem. The songs are great on their own, but as an album they flow perfectly. It’s also a great live show if you ever get the chance. He changes the arrangements so much, it almost sounds like new material. This one has been on constant repeat in my house. Between my Dad and I, it was played almost every day for a few weeks after first discovering it. I can always tell a great album when I continue to go back to it, after the initial discovery wears off and I’ve definitely done that with this one.

July Talk – July Talk

We all know how I feel about this album already. Now, it didn’t come out it in 2013, but I discovered it this summer and my life hasn’t been the same since. I’ve never had a musical project affect me quite the way July Talk did. There is something about the push and pull of his Tom Waits-esque growl against her angelic voice that really gets me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like this, and I’m not sure I ever will again. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I don’t even know how to begin to define it, all I know is you should really just give it a listen for yourself. I’ve met people that either fall in love with it instantly, or can’t even stand to listen to it. I guess it’s like cilantro… you just never know. All I know is this album will always be a go to for me if I need to get out some pent up anger or work out some issues, it’s perfect for that.

Inside Llewyn Davis (the soundtrack)

This is a Coen Brother’s movie that hasn’t even come out yet, but I’ve been completely hooked to the soundtrack since I first heard a sample. The movie is all about a struggling folk musician in the 60’s and features music from Mumford & Sons, Justin Timberlake and Bob Dylan, I mean what’s not to love about that?! All the songs are great and they really create a real atmosphere of the time and the music that was being played. If you’re looking for a great folk soundtrack (and really, who’s not?) than this is perfect for you. I’m an especially big fan of the songs the Auld Triangle and Green, Green Rocky Road. Below is a clip of the movie and one of the songs from the soundtrack.

Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart and other songs

I dished to all of you about my sincere love for Frank Turner in the spring, and I still feel the same way. I’ve actually never listened to a whole album of his stuff, I’ve just bought a selection of songs, but I’ve loved every one of them. I think he’s a great voice for a bunch of issues and he follows along in Billy Bragg’s shoes a bit when it comes not only to his style of music but to how he chooses to present himself. He classifies himself as folk/punk which I’m just realizing now is actually a whole genre of music, who knew!? However, if the rest of it sounds like Frank Turner and Billy Bragg I could probably get into it. His newest album Tape Deck Heart, which was released this spring has a bunch of great songs on it. I’m especially addicted to “Recovery” and “The Way I Tend to Be.” His songs are actually quite depressing, but for some reason it kind of seems like get-up-and-go music for me. It’s a funny juxtaposition, but I recommend giving it a try and seeing if it has the same affect on you.

Jack Johnson – From Here to Now to You

I’m a sucker for Jack Johnson. I always have been. There’s something about his surfer/cool vibe that really works for me sometimes. When I need to just chill out or get into a happy place, he’s always my guy. I think this album which was released this fall is actually my favourite of all his albums in their entirety. All his songs are pretty cute and catchy and air on the side of cheesy, but somehow he pulls it off. “I Got You” and “You Remind Me Of You” are exceptionally adorable. This is probably one of the most mainstream albums on the list, but I just can’t help myself when it comes to him. Plus, he seems like a really interesting guy in real life. He’s funded and created a few different charities and he seems pretty involved in his life and community, which I really respect coming from someone who is in the position to make things happen. I wish more celebrities used their power for the greater good.

Below is his video for “I Got You” which is probably one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Here’s your happy for the day.

Half Moon Run – Dark Eyes

This album kind of took me by surprise. I just sort of came across them one day while looking for another band. They’re a Canadian group based in Montreal which is extra awesome. They have a really interesting sort of indie/pop sort of sound, and all their songs are super catchy and original. I’ve found myself putting this album on quite a few times when I wanted to escape from all my depressing folky boys. “Call Me in the Afternoon” and “Full Circle” are probably two of my faves if you’re looking for a quick introduction to them. I love seeing this sort of stuff come out of the Canadian music industry. It gives me so much hope for where the industry can go.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love

This song didn’t actually come out this year, but for some reason I’m only just discovering it. For those of you who haven’t heard it, this song was released by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis last fall (2012) on their album The Heist. It’s a pro-gay marriage/love song. Neither Macklemore or Ryan Lewis are gay, which raised a bunch of anger from some people, but I think it means even more coming from a straight rapper, standing up for something he believes in, especially in a genre so rooted in homophobia. I’ve even heard it played in a few malls and restaurants. I think it’s pretty incredible that it’s catching on like this, and that people are allowing it to be so widespread. It’s a step in the right direction for sure. If you’ve got time to watch the video I highly recommend it and really listen to the lyrics, it’s amazingly powerful and I tear every time when he says, “No freedom ‘til we’re equal, damn right I support it.”

Mary Lambert, who recorded the female vocals, created a whole song based on the chorus and produced a video that went with it, because she realized there wasn’t a cute love story video about a lesbian couple and she wanted that to change. It’s pretty great as well.

These are by far my favourite things that were released in 2013 or that I discovered. Below I’m going to attach a list of a few other things I really loved. I didn’t want to do a write up for everything I discovered this year, or else you’d be reading this post for hours. Plus, some of the things on the list are repeats I’ve already gushed to you about before, however it doesn’t mean I didn’t love these albums any less.

  • The Dunwells – Blind Sighted Faith (One of my favourite Hillside 2013 discoveries, shockingly I still find myself listening to this all the time)
  • Willy Mason – Carry On (This was a Gentlemen of the Road discovery that was probably one of my favourite summer 2013 albums)
  • Donovan Woods – Don’t Get Too Grand (This was an early 2013 discovery that I sort of forgot about until just recently and shame on me for that, because this really is a great album)
  • Sam Cash & The Romantic Dogs – Stand Togther, Fall Together (Possibly one of the greatest band names of all time, also just a really great band. I especially love their song Fall Together)
  • Lorde – Pure Heroine (The mega-hit Royals is only one of Lorde’s many musical gems. The whole album is surprisingly great. I can’t wait to hear more from her, plus she’s only 17…)
  • Wild Child – Pillow Talk (This albums is a little different for me, but I highly recommend it, it’s got a great indie/alternative vibe, and it was my summer jam on the way to work every day)
  • Shakey Graves – Roll the Bones (This was a discovery from working at Paquin this summer. He’s a got a really interesting sound to his music and it’s really good late night/study/party/whatever music)

Below is a video that Shakey Graves and Wild Child did together. It’s a pretty happy song and they just look like they’re having so much fun that I thought it would be a good way to end this post and welcome all of you into 2014, a year full of new music and possibilities.

A Constant Reminder

It’s Monday. It’s raining. I’m curled up in my favourite chair drinking tea. Love Actually is playing on TV for the millionth time. Life is good and I’m content… at least for now. I’ve been thinking for the past few days how I can possibly convey my experience from this past weekend for all you lovely readers. I’m still not sure if I know how, but here goes my attempt. I do hope you enjoy the rest of your rainy day, and embrace the coming fall vibes.

My weekend at Mumford & Son’s Gentlemen of the Road festival left me full of so many feelings I can’t even explain. It made me realize that music is the most powerful tool I think our world has. It can evoke emotions from happiness, to complete melancholy, to utter despair and just as quickly back to pure joy. I’ve been too a lot of festivals in my life, and even more concerts, but the experience that Mumford & Son’s curated in their festival – Gentlemen of the Road – is by fair a unique experience.

From the location, to the marketing and packaging, to the most important aspect – the music – the weekend flowed perfectly and created an atmosphere that filled everyone to the brim with joy and great music. The festival lasted two days, and showcased more than 10 bands from Canadians such as Dan Mangan (who crowd surfed during Robots) and Hey Rosetta!, to country jam band Old Crow Medicine Show, and gospel crazies Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. There were about a million highlights from the weekend I could ramble on and on about, but I really must stick to the shining star at the end of a long, hot, and emotionally draining weekend, the instigators of the whole festival – Mumford & Sons.

Now I must be honest. They were actually the band I was looking forward to the least, even though it was their festival. I just assumed there was no way they could move the crowd or create a “music moment” as I hadn’t seen a big band in a large venue do this yet. But boy oh boy was I wrong. From the second the band stepped out, before Marcus Mumford had even opened his angelic mouth to sing a note, the crowd was buzzing with anticipation already singing along to a song that hadn’t even started. This continued throughout the entire concert. The atmosphere never wavered and they had 35 000 people wrapped around their 8 perfect pinky fingers. I’ve never been to such a sing-along love-fest as this concert. From where I was standing there was not one person who wasn’t singing along (or at least trying to). You just couldn’t help it.

I know my whole mantra on this blog is to support the underdog – the small little indie band – but my mantra on this blog is to also support fantastic music when I see it. And that’s really what Mumford & Sons are all about at the core. They’re fabulous musicians trying to make their way in this industry, and it’s quite obvious that they were very humbled by this whole experience. I have nothing wrong with a popular band if I think they are musicians above all else. Our music industry is so polluted with people whose main focus is not to be true to the music, and I think that’s where things really go wrong. When I think about some of my favourite popular bands – Arcade Fire, Tom Waits, etc… – I see that this is a trait that can be associated with each, the ability to keep your personal life separate from your music, while still maintaining a true relationship with each fan. I think that may be what makes a great band truly great.

In return, I was quite humbled by seeing Mumford & Sons, and how down to earth they seemed. I mean as much as they possibly can be, seeing as they’re one of the biggest bands in the world right now. How incredibly cool is it though, that the biggest band right now is also a truly talented group of gentlemen who really love what they do and how it affects people. The encore of the show consisted of two totally quiet acoustic numbers, one a cover of Springsteen’s I’m On Fire, and the other a totally acapella version of their beautiful song, Reminder. As I watched these 4 guys on stage all I could wonder was what was going through their heads. How does it feel to watch your music affect so many people in such an extreme way. I couldn’t even imagine how it felt. But, all I can say is they certainly seemed quite humbled and it felt they really realized it was a privilege to be cherished not damaged.

They created an atmosphere in their show that was so personal and open, it made you feel like you were there all alone, even if you were sharing the moment with 35 000 other people who felt exactly the same way. It almost brought my entire group to tears as we realized how much this music was touching people. How often does a band come around that sings such hopeful and uplifting songs well not being cheesy or over the top. They even accused Canada of being the cheesiest bunch of folks they’d ever played for, as everyone whipped their phones and lighters out to sway along to Ghosts That We Knew. What a bunch of sappy people.

What I realized at the end of the show is they’re capable of putting on such a powerful live show because every instrument comes from them. There’s no synthesizers, or drum machines, or even a drum set for that matter (which is pretty remarkable), or auto-tune, it’s just entirely there own sound and it doesn’t need any enhancements. How unusual is it to see a live band that doesn’t even have a constant drummer. I think it’s this real throwback to the birth of live folk/rock music that people are so entranced with, and why wouldn’t you be, it’s such a unique aspect to have these days.

They were in total command of the show from the beginning though considering the large crowd, Marcus even asked the crowd to be fucking quiet at one point, and believe it or not – they were. The amazing thing is this didn’t come off as a cocky or obnoxious move, it just made everyone realize how much they should be enjoying the moment (at least that’s how I felt). I know it’s hard to imagine the scene from my ramblings on, but believe me – it was an experience I’m still trying to figure out. When I think back to the 4 guys driving on motorcycles down foreign country roads as seen in their video of The Cave, I think it’s truly impressive they’ve accomplished this much in their careers at the age of 26. I’m more than happy to call myself a supporter of this band and I really can’t wait to see how they continue to change the direction of the music industry, what better band could there be to do this. I think their music should be a constant reminder as they say, of where music can go and where it can take us if we let it.

All else aside, it made me a bigger Mumford & Sons fan than I was before. I discovered some of their songs that I didn’t even really know existed even though I’d heard them before. I was especially taken by For Those Below and Reminder.

The show ended with a group number – bringing all the bands on stage that had performed that weekend to awkwardly and charmingly jam to The Bands The Weight, seeing as Mumford chose Simcoe because it was the home of Rick Danko of The Band. Nothing could of capped the night off more perfectly or sent people off feeling more full of Canadian pride and joy. It was truly a weekend to remember, it gave me a little more hope for the music industry in the future – and the revolution of the banjo, talk about a sexy instrument.

That’s all for now. Until next time, I hope you listen to some great music and enjoy the dwindling last few days of summer. Thanks for letting me ramble on and on.

Here’s my new fave by Mumford & Son’s as well as a pretty sweet interview they did with Jian Ghomeshi on Q if you have the time to take a listen and a look at what it feels like to see them live, and the atmosphere they create.

My Christmas in July

Hi Guys! Hope you’re having a wonderful last week of July. Enjoy it well you can. Those pesky back to school ads are already bombarding every TV channel, radio station and billboard around, as if we needed any more of a reminder that fall is quickly approaching and it’s time to start thinking about packing lunches, bumpy bus rides, and math class. All things I try to avoid at all costs. However – for me – it’s not the back to school ads or the impending change of season in the air that reminds me that summer’s almost over, but my very favourite weekend of the whole summer and probably the whole year.  That’s right, HILLSIDE. My Christmas in July. My music mecca of the year, and one of my very favourite places in the whole world. As always, this one lived up to the (very high) standards, and brought with it much holiday cheer and new music.

Since I started this blog way back in 2010, I’ve always done some kind of Hillside retrospect. I figured that 2013 shouldn’t be any different, so here’s a few of my favourite discoveries from the weekend. Now, I’m a total music nerd and listen to all the bands ahead of time, print out my own schedule, and circle everything I want to see. Some people are not this extreme. In fact, most of the people who attend are not this extreme. But hey, what can a music loving girl do, but be a total nerd? You’d think this process leaves little room for new discoveries, but somehow a few things always sneak by me, until I’m sitting in that field listening to it, and it just hits me. Below are a few of those moments. I’m going to go in order of when I saw the band over the weekend, just to be somewhat organized, not that you’d know the difference.

On a side note, this is not to say that these were the only stand-out performances of the weekend, but just the ones that were new things to me. Some other great shows of the weekend included Said the Whale, Two Hours Traffic, Gregory Hoskins, July Talk (probably one of the craziest live shows I’ve ever seen at Hillside. Let’s just say I got kicked in the head in a very unfortunate crowd surfing accident, that basically ended on top of me) and the ever powerful and enchanting Mr. Shane Koyczan. Seriously, I can’t get over that guy. If you ever have the chance to see him live, I highly, highly recommend it. Now, back to the post.

My first amazing discovery of the weekend was by a band called Reuben & the Dark from Calgary, Alberta. They were part of the Arts & Crafts showcase presentation, and were totally engaging. I have to admit, when they first walked onto the stage, I was worried I was in for another average Canadian Indie folk/rock band. And at times they are just that, but then they hit you with these incredible harmonies and you’d be totally hooked again. It’s not very often you see a boy band pull off impressive harmonies, but these guys certainly managed it. Sadly, by the time I made my way over to the merch tent they were sold out of CD’s (if that’s any indication of the kind of show it was), but I highly recommend checking some of their stuff out too. For now, here’s a peak at their great song writing and lovely harmonies.

Next up on my list of new discoveries is a band called The Dunwells. An English pop/folk (not sure this is real thing, but oh well….) band. I’m not sure what drew me to this show in the first place, but boy was I happy I went. Now, they got stuck with the 1:00 slot on a Sunday afternoon on the main stage, which is a bit of a bummer slot (especially for what feels like a club/bar band), but they managed to get the increasingly growing crowd dancing and singing along. A pretty impressive feat, considering none of the people dancing and singing knew any of their material. It quickly had me engaged and I loved to see their stage presence. Sometimes at a festival like Hillside I find some bands just shut down and don’t bother engaging the crowd, but it certainly pays off to put some effort into your set. The Dunwells consist of “two brothers, a few cousins, and a best mate.” Boy, do I wish my family was that talented and we could tour together. But sadly, no one would attend that show, not even our own mothers, so I guess we’ll just have to stick to going to see great live music instead. I’m really into a few of their songs right now, but here’s the one I’m really into right now. Enjoy. Because everyone needs to rock out to good pop song every once and while, right!?

And lastly, a Sunday evening discovery, just in the nick of time, the very talented Pokey Lafarge. A string ragtime, western swing, and country blues musician. The minute Pokey starts singing you’re immediately transported back to the 50’s from the bands clothing, to his slicked back, greased hair, to the tap your toe catchy songs coming out of his mouth in a perfect southern twang. It’s a practiced act, and it shouldn’t work, but something about the bands chemistry and his amazing stage presence and engaging lyrics had the whole crowd on their feet dancing along. Now, his actual set on the main stage was rained out (because it always rains at Hillside) so tons of people packed into the sun stage Sunday evening to catch a glimpse of Pokey Lafarge and tap their toes along for a few tunes. He ended his set with a Chuck Berry cover, which had my mom and I wondering, how would Chuck feel about a bunch of white people totally white dancing to a white guys version of his song… No matter what, it was a great set. Pokey recently signed to former White Stripes front man Jack White’s label Third Man Records, and has been getting lots of recognition. It’s not my usual music, but it’s just so darn catchy, I couldn’t resist. So please, close your eyes, relax, and get ready to be transported back to where it all started. On another side note, I think his band name should be Pokey Lafarge and the Sideburns rather than the South City Three. I mean seriously, that facial hair…

I hope you made it through that whole post, and if not, maybe you’ll come back later. For now I’m off to bed. I hope you enjoyed your little taste of Hillside and are seriously contemplating why you weren’t there yourselves. Until next time, I hope you listen to some great music and soak up those last rays of sun.

Nerdy Boys Get Down

Good morning All! And a happy bright, and lovely Sunday morning to you! As I stated in my last blog, I just can’t control when the muse hits me (or when I have the time), but boy, let me tell you, did the muse ever hit.

As you know, last week I was trying really hard to break out of my comfort zone and try something new, but this week I’m right back to my favourite – nerdy, awkward, plaid wearing, musicians. But, the thing that makes this week so different – they’re DANCING, awkward, plaid wearing, musicians. That’s right folks, DANCING! Something I’m sure you never thought you’d see a gangly, indie musician doing.

I’ve been compiling this video list for quite some time now. It all started when I saw Donovan Woods new video for his song Coldest State from his newest album, Don’t Get Too Grand (which is beyond fabulous by the way). It’s a really simple premise, but I promise you won’t be disappointed, there’s no way you could be (unless you have a heart the size of the Grinch). Warning: what follows will absolutely brighten your day and make you laugh out loud multiply times. Just thought you should know.

So, first up, the instigator of this whole post, Mr. Woods himself with his absolutely delightful video for The Coldest State. Prepare to have your insides melt into a puddle of adorable musician-ness.

Adorable, right!?

This next video is not actually a plaid wearing, singer-songwriter group, but they do some pretty fantastic nerdy dancing (and the kid is adorable), so I felt it should be added. Here’s The National with their new video for Sea of Love, a great song, and a pretty darn awesome video. Please note the guy in the upper left corner (he’s my favourite).

The next video on the list is a new discovery for me, that my mom actually came across, while perusing the Gentlemen of the Road tour line-up. Not only is this video enough to brighten your whole day (and maybe tomorrow too) but it’s a super catchy song I’ve been singing in my head since I first saw it. The old man is my favourite…of course. Here’s Willy Mason with I Got Gold.

And finally, my last nerdy dancing video for you (for this week, anyways) is something I came across last night (which really inspired me to do this post) while spending waaaaay too much time looking for stupid YouTube videos online. Let me tell you, I was not expecting to find anything as truly amusing as this, but alas, I did. This is a cover of The Proclaimers I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), and some pretty great dancing to boot. Trust me, you won’t be able to not smile during this (seriously the muscles around your mouth are going to hurt).

If you got through the entire post, congratulations! I hope that brightened your day just a little, and maybe even introduced you to some great new music too. And the moral of this story is, some people just have too much time on their hands, but it makes for an amusing video, so who cares. I’m going to go practice a nerdy dance routine of my own now, so until next time, I hope you discover some great new music and have a lovely Sunday.