Cass McCombs: Night of the World

June 3rd, 2011. I had found new love. Songs can strike you at the most poignant times. The memory is still fresh, I remember the street I was driving on, the angle of the sun as it set, and the smell of lilacs riding the breeze from my open window. A streetsign whizzes by on the passenger’s side. I’m listening to ‘County Line’ for the first time, and it hit me. The ingredients were all present, I found my mind drifting along with Cass and his lackadaisical travels. A wonderful concoction began to brew, a full sensory experience and I was bewitched; the effects certainly amplified by the mid-sunset journey I was taking out into the country. I was falling in love with a girl, and there was such a beautiful connection between my wandering emotions and the nomadic roaming of McCombs’ ramblings.

I memorized every note. I began to sing every lyric. ‘County Line’, over three years later, remains one of my favorite songs of all time. Since 2011 on average, I have played ‘County Line’ once every four days. And it all traces back to a singular moment, that floral plethora of emotion, the scent of lilacs. New love.

Time, without much regard, passes. A few days ago I set out for a walk. Stricken by the loss of the love I held for three long years, I found myself wandering the neighborhood at sunset. Evening after evening I would dive into my headphones and stroll down a new path. Songs can strike you at the most poignant times. It had been a long time. ‘County Line’.

On my way to you old county // Hoping nothing’s changed
That your, pain is never-ending // That is it still the same

The song took on a new meaning. My love had changed; it wasn’t gone, but rather fading away. The ‘County Line’ McCombs crooned about was no longer a geographical marker, but rather a metaphor for my emotions. The whimsical, carefree tone was replaced by a depth of sorrow, a mourning loss, yet an acceptance of reality. Time had caught up. “You never even tried to love me // What did I have to do, to make you want me“. The world seemed to melt away, and it was as if I was hearing the song for the very first time. I was once again struck with the complexity of McCombs’ story-telling, and the very palpable realization that ‘County Line’ had become an allegorical representation of a failed relationship. The lilacs..

“I can smell the Columbine”

Cass McCombs, in my opinion, remains one of the greatest song-writers of our generation. His art is completely indescribable, a true Van Gogh. What appears to be a minimalist effort is in fact an acutely articulated story. With each singular stroke, Cass paints a picture, and sometimes true appreciation of his craft comes with a few years of age. His latest single in true Cass fashion sounds nothing quite like what we’ve heard before. Comparisons can be drawn to rock icons from all generations, but the truth is that there’s no one quite like him. Cass has rather consistently penned new stories, and he will be touring all over the States into December. So if you’re feeling up for a genuine life experience, I suggest checking these cities and snagging a pair of tickets. Bring someone you might love, and write a story of your own.

Here’s Cass McComb’s latest single, ‘Night of the World’. Is there a more appropriate song for an introspective walk at sunset? What picture do you see?

“The night is a place of real politics // My mind is up to it’s old tricks // Just can’t wait to get its fix // You’re no ordinary girl.”


Fuzzworthy: Golden Coast

The leaves are starting to turn and summer stands teetering on the brink. With colleges and universities opening their doors once more, all hope seems lost. But alas! A Golden sound is punching holes and perforating the clouds of pre-exam life misery! For those of you looking for that perfect Frosh week hand-clapper, look no further! Golden Coast has your back.

I never thought a song so upbeat would conjure up some pretty sensitive emotions, but alas, I find myself on the feels-side of a pair of misty eyes.

You don’t need no education to be // All we need is a dream and an MPC

As someone literally chasing their dreams (this… what I’m doing right now. The whole writing about music bit. The bit you’re reading), and someone rather confusingly caught in the Generation Y never-ending loop of “What the fuck am I doing with my life”, there seems no song more poignant leading up to my next few weeks heading back to University. Fortunately, my passion and education don’t stray in completely opposite directions (recent papers written include: Top 40 Music and Gender, Top 40 Music and Drugs/Alcohol, etc. etc.) Sociology has been rather generous to my fascination with all things music related. However, one degree and thousands upon thousands of dollars later I still won’t get a job in the field. To put it into perspective, I’ve hardly spent a dime on covering music. Hmmm…

But I digress! Golden Coast (Denny White & Steven Mudd) are brand new on the scene and bound to make a splash. With upbeat synthetics along the lines of Detroit two-piece Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr and the soaring harmonious vocals of blogosphere superhero St. Lucia, there’s plenty to be excited about for these West Coasters in the future. Keep your bananas peeled for their debut EP currently in the works.

Oh and eat your vegetables and don’t drop out or whatever


We Were Promised Jetpacks: ‘I Keep It Composed’

Moist mulch stuck to my pants, I shook Adam Thompson’s hand and told him how I had been a fan of his band for nearly five years. ‘These Four Walls’ was one of my favorite albums to this day, and We Were Promised Jetpacks was the only band I ended up seeing multiple times at SXSW. Unlike the first set I witnessed, the tone of the venue was far more relaxed, and I also had 360º access to the stage. It was at this point I noticed there were five members to the band, not four. I kneeled stage left beside this mysterious gentleman as he set the tone on the keys.

Stuart Michael McGachan, listed on the band’s Facebook page as responsible for “(Guitar/Keyboard/Hair)” is the most recent addition to the Scottish four-piece, and the result is a natural evolution of their sound. Where ‘In The Pit of the Stomach’ took a darker tone from their previous garage-like simplicity, their latest singles ‘Safety in Numbers’ and ‘I Keep It Composed’ take the band to new atmospheric depths. McGachan is the much-needed multi-instrumental magician, adding a layer of complexity that seems to have rubbed off on the entire band. Thompson’s lyrics are sharper, more introspective, and the delivery more certain. With their third album “Unravelling” due out in October via Fat Cat Records, we may see WWPJ’s most complete effort to date. It’s not often that indie rock bands manage to surpass the raw sound of their first album, but WWPJ may have found the missing ingredient that will see them drop the ‘indie’ label all-together.

(Shout out to the rad folks over at Clash for premiering the single earlier today!)

BONUS!

Last month’s single, ‘Safety in Numbers’


mdnt – 1v1

More smooth and sultry seduction from Brooklynite mdnt on his latest track ’1v1′. This is as sexual as you can get in three minutes with your pants still on, so lay your lady down and light a fire real quick, things are about to get steamy.

“Future Soul” artist mdnt is no stranger exploring the darker elements of soul and R&B, his down-tempo milky flow conjuring images of the late 90′s megastars that paved the way for radio-ready rhythm and soul. And yet, Usher wishes he could produce something this silky and relevant (props to Toronto’s own The Theorist for his poignant sense of direction). ’1v1′ is a breath of crisp fresh air, a new definition for soulful R&B and the inevitable future of sound. Mixing elements of lo-fi EDM with classical jazz and piano, ’1v1′ is the type of genre-bending eargasm that would make Barry White himself to turn away and blush. It speaks to the depths of our animalistic desires, a confession of warm-blooded intimacy, while the layered vocal harmonies transfigure and shift shapes. mdnt becomes whoever you want him to be, a musical manifestation of pleasure, and a voice for the future.


Weightless Video

Washed Out’s second studio album Paracosm has been out a little over a year now but it still sounds fresh a whole summer later. It might help that the Washed Out sound plays a big part in shaping the “chillwave” movement; Washed Out is one of the forefathers of chillwave to be sure. It also helps that fresh content is still being made from the album like the new video for Weightless that was released this summer.

If you’re in the US, check out the North American tour dates on the Washed Out website. If you’re not in the US or you can’t afford to travel, tune-in to Yahoo! Live on September 1st to check out a live stream of the show in Minneapolis. Click here to set a reminder for the show.

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Washed Out – Weightless (extended version)

Click here to see Washed Out’s Fall Tour Schedule


Yahoo! Live

Yahoo! Screen and Live Nation have teamed-up to create Yahoo! Live where you’ll be able to see live concerts streamed realtime. It’s a really interesting concept and something that is not easy to pull off so our hats are off to Yahoo! and Live Nation.

To celebrate its launch, Yahoo! Live will be streaming 365 shows over 365 days including performances from Washed Out, Fitz and the Tantrums, Gaslight Anthem, How to Dress Well and many more. See the schedule of upcoming shows here: screen.yahoo.com/live/


The Weekend Fuzz Returns!

It’s been a shave over six months, but tonight the stars have aligned and the prophecy has been fulfilled. The Weekend Fuzz has returned, like some sort of mythical fowl from the ashes, and it’s time to send you soaring with the smoothest jams this side of the blogosphere. Let’s go!

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Mainland

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Mainland – West Coast

This New York based quartet blew up huge last month after releasing their cover of Jason Schwartzman’s (Coconut Records) hyper-chill track ‘West Coast’. They’ve racked up nearly 100,000 listens on soundcloud and I’ve got to be responsible for at least five dozen. I always felt that Coconut Records was ahead of it’s time, and this cover finally does ‘West Coast’ full justice. It’s even beachier than the original, which is quite a feat considering the lack of acceptable beaches in NYC. But hey, sand pumps through the veins of us all. They’ve got a brand new EP out, ‘Shiner’, which you can stream in full over on soundcloud. For you vinyl junkies, it’s a steal at $12.00.

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TOPS

Unbelievably chill vibes from Montreal’s TOPS. Their latest single ‘Outside’ is a dreamy, forlorn love ballad. It oozes synthual sadness, creamy romanticism and loneliness. Is it 3 AM? Are you driving home? This is goosebump worthy material, and it’s masterfully crafted. Don’t write them off as another new-wave revival act either, they’ve got far too much depth to be pidgeon-holed. It’s a small departure from their previous work, but if “Outside” is an indication of their next LP due out on September 2nd, there’s plenty reason to bust those leg warmers out of the closet and start combing your hair to one side. (Which is perfect, since that’s currently cool and shit)

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LELAND

Deets are still scarce on Leland, for five months his single ‘Aware’ went completely unnoticed (eventually the keen ear of Chris Danks and our friends at HillyDilly brushed off the dust). Even at a paltry 24,000 listens it’s still flying far beneath the radar of the mainstream eye. But this New York based electro-pop act seems poised to blow up. It’s a rarity to stumble upon such a radio-ready and polished piece of power-pop, and his confidence is absolutely infectious. This is new-shoes music, so lace up your oxford wingtips and press that shirt, you must be this fresh to listen.

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Mt. St.

I went on a full blown spiritual journey with Mt. St.’s ‘Oh’ just three days ago. Needless to say, I am in complete awe of their first two songs, and research turns up very little on the identity of the individuals behind this brand new project. The blogosphere is abuzz with speculation, and rightfully so, “Oh” is a frothy synthshake at it’s most creamy. A song that seems to transcend emotion, somewhere on the horizon of downbeat uncertainty, yet the clouds seem to break with great speed.

“He don’t call/He don’t call at all”
“He don’t call/He don’t call at all”
“He don’t call/He don’t call at all”
“He don’t call/He don’t call at all”

Never has heartbreak sounded this optimistic, and my hopes are high for the inevitable release of their first album. “Oh” is magnificent. Audio dopamine. Musical heroin. A full body-high, and exactly the type of music that truly makes me feel.

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That’s it for now. Keep your ears peeled for more in the very near future, the Fuzz hath returned!


Calgary Folk Fest 2014: Part II

I parked myself next to the tree I had sat beside the year prior and scarfed down three slices of pizza from the Avatara food truck. Clouds and frowns were both absent from the park on Saturday afternoon, and everyone was in high spirits. Children stumbled up the hill towards me, grinning madly and shouting incoherent gibberish. I sat and studied the parents, all well-dressed, well-spoken and seemingly well-educated. Every movement they made, from lazy stretches to simple gestures in conversation seemed so purposeful, so certain. I began to wonder what I was doing with my life, nearly 25 years old with few hopes and dreams outside of double-fisting booze and inhaling illegal substances. Then I realized these yuppies weren’t young and successful in spite of me, rather they were all in their mid-30′s. They had a decade on me, at least. There was a generational drift occurring, it seemed we were growing up later and later, and a small part of me yearned for the 30′s and real life responsibility. I felt like a 25 year old child. Might as well join the kids and go for a tumble down the hill.

Narcissism aside, it was a gorgeous day at the Calgary Folk Fest. The afternoon shows were always incredible entertainment, as three to four bands would pile on stage and take turns jamming out.

“This one’s mostly in C minor but it has a weird breakdown… Fuck.. I uh don’t know how to play music”

Matthew Swann was an absolute riot, and he had me in stitches with his off-colour commentary and self-depreciative humor. The music was fantastic as well, and the mixed audience of graham cracker crunching Canadians were a very gracious host. Playing with The Blue Warblers, Jaron Freeman-Fox, and Hello Moth, Swann was a standout, and a welcome bit of dry humor on a scorching afternoon. I decided to skip over to the Eau Claire Market Collective outside the grounds and catch a quick set by local favorites Raleigh.

It was a modest set as they swam through a handful of tracks from their latest release, “Sun Grenades & Grenadine Skies“, as well as a Syd Barrett cover and a brand new tune “Sunlight”. The vibrations were great. Geiger shot me a quick nod between verses while I snagged a few photos. It was a serene scene, independent vendors peddled vegan-conscious hemp products of all varieties while potential customers weaved in and out of one another slowly. It all seemed very Canadian, and the music certaintly helped.

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Raleigh – Still Light

“They’re based out of Brooklyn, but don’t hold that against them!”

The Lone Bellow was the first big mainstage act of the day, and admittedly it was the first time I had heard of the band. An aged volunteer couldn’t stop spouting off about how amazing they were, and I was skeptical at first as she didn’t strike me as a music savvy individual. Fortunately for everyone, The Lone Bellow was perhaps the best performance of the entire festival.

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The Lone Bellow – You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional

It was the perfect mix; they had enough old country roots to keep the older crowd entertained, and enough youthful charisma to absolutely blow me away. I scribbled the words “Infinitely awesome”, and sat in awe as they obliterated the stage.

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The Lone Bellow – You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To

Over at Stage 5, Portland act ‘Typhoons’ was working through one of the lengthiest soundchecks of the festival, and rightfully so, considering there were a near dozen band members and each one played at least three instruments. Two drummers and their kits sat facing one another, set to duel, and I was taken aback by the sheer volume of human beings crowded onto the stage. They must be band kids, I thought.

“C’mon people, this is not sitting down music” a young man gestured to the crowd of horizontals. I was curious to see which direction Typhoon would take their music, and I was pleasantly surprised when they managed to completely transition between different genres and tempos with relative ease. Their sound was incredibly versatile, morphing and blending between songs and traversing the landscape of indie alternative. With so many options and so many instruments, Typhoon couldn’t have been more aptly named, and their whirlwind style was at times emotional, and at other times completely understated. They were a tour-de-force, and the crowd wasn’t sitting for long.

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Typhoon – The Honest Truth

“The music is just so darned loud!” she wore far more wrinkles than she should have, but this old gal seemed down to party. There was a weird subculture that emerged in the beer gardens fueled by alcoholism and the desire to be surrounded by people. Groups of individuals had literally paid $40 a ticket to stand in the gardens and pay $7 a drink. It was the strangest phenomenon. Undoubtedly, the party in Calgary was at the Folk Fest, and these individuals were far more infatuated by the idea of being in a beer gardens than being at a music festival. For others, the beer gardens was a mere pit stop, a quick re-fuel before the next show, and after a speedious red-wine double-fist I made my way to the main stage to catch Jason Isbell.

I’d been a casual fan of Isbell’s for a few years. To me, he was singing pure country music, a genre that had seemingly died out years ago. The American Country Music scene had transformed in the last twenty years in such a heinous way. Growing up in Alberta, I knew all the words to Roy, Hank and Willie, Merle and Patsy, and even the last hangers-on to an era of music that was murdered by the pop giant. Isbell was one of the originals, he made country music about real shit. But I doubt he’d even label himself as such; Jason Isbell was simply being himself. There was a rugged honesty to his tone and projection, and I wrote very few notes as I listened.

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Jason Isbell – Alabama Pines

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Jason Isbell – Different Days

Local hero Chad VanGaalen was rather confusingly set to take to the smaller stage, and the crowd was buzzing. There were a lot of underagers experiencing their first high; anxious and uncertain, not sure how to dance, and Chad certaintly didn’t make things easier for the rattled youth as he blasted them with a massive five-minute wall of reverb and pedalwork. I stood backstage snapping photos outward, and the scene was quite breathtaking as the sun began to set. The poor kids had their breath taken regardless, as Chad mercilessly hammered away on his electric.

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Chad VanGaalen – Cut Off My Hands

“I smell the doobies, thank you”

Chad played some music, to which I assumed was from his latest album “Shrink Dust”, but it was infinitely difficult to figure out which song was actually playing. I scribbled down “Yeahhaughh (sp?)” in my notepad to signify the title of the tune I was hearing. Naturally, when checking the track list later, Yeahhaughh was not present. Van Gaalen was a musical mad scientist, and his art isn’t limited only to his music, which is why the show seemed somewhat incomplete. Yet there was no denying his immense talent, even without the slapstick fucking weirdness that encompasses his visual artistry.

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Chad VanGaalen – Monster

For a complete change of pace, the biggest act of the evening was a Canadian legend of another variety, Bruce Cockburn. The man had literally been making music since before my parents were born, and I was quite excited to sit directly in front of a folk God.

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Bruce Cockburn – Lovers in a Dangerous Time

Even after the press got kicked out of the pit, I managed to sweet-talk my way back in thanks to the pushover-softy they put in charge of security. Cockburn was an absolute guitar wizard, whizzing between frets and chords effortlessly. It was an incredible sight to behold, and unlike the majority of aged legends still touring, Cockburn sounded just as crisp and as poignant as his studio recordings from decades past. The old drifter’s lyricism resonated quite well with the gluten-free generation, and although he rarely spoke, his music spoke volumes and volumes.

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Bruce Cockburn – Silver Wheels

Seun Kuti and the Egypt 80 were the last performance of the night, and admittedly I spent the majority of my time oogling the onstage backup singers/dancers. He played music, busted out the sax, and boogied down. According to my roommate, Kuti was the son of the most famous Nigerian musician of all time, Fela Kuti. The music certainly wasn’t my flavor, but as a connoisseur of sound I could appreciate the complexity of the arrangements. Truthfully, I was hypnotized by the rhythm, and the first three songs blended into a flash of color and noise. It was an energetic performance, and a solid ending to the third day of the festival.

“May I take your plate?” I watched this little swindler for a solid half hour as a sea of Canadian artists jammed out on the small stage. The Calgary Folk Fest had pushed the envelope on a number of green intiatives, and one of the new programs instilled was a plate recycling refund. All food trucks took a $2 deposit on the reusable plates they handed out with each dish, and this deposit could be easily obtained at one of the two plate refund tents. Naturally, everyone returned their plates when they were financially motivated to do so, but with this new program came opportunity. He was adorable, no older than eleven and a smooth talker. He would approach people sitting down who couldn’t be arsed to take a three minute walk to the refund tent, and offer to take their plates. Not everyone fell for his charms, but he made a solid killing regardless. I eavesdropped on his conversation with a festival volunteer, how he had made over $400 during the weekend, and how he was the ring leader of a very lucrative child labor operation. “Never be afraid of rejection” he quipped. I had a solid chuckle, and then I realized I wasn’t making a fucking dime for all the hard work I was doing. Christ, this kid was bound for success.

Sunday was a day of relaxation, the afternoon was littered with collaborative sets, and the atmosphere was mellow and reserved. There were a few big names left on the list, but the final day of Folk Fest was always one of quiet reflection, quite befitting of a Sunday in the park.

The first big act of the day was some supergroup with a notable Calgarian at the helm. I can’t quite remember the name, and perhaps rightfully so. They had the lengthiest list of press requests I’d ever seen, and they were less than welcoming to those in the press pit. We were advised to stay out of the center, and naturally, we all obliged, but after three minutes or so we were warned by their security cartel that we were far too close. Already shoved off to the side of the stage, we shot eachother disparaging looks as we were forced to shoot from a solid thirty feet away. I shrugged my shoulders and continued to take photos from a lengthy distance, but apparently this wasn’t far enough, as the security shoved us back once more. The end result was that we were completely off to stage right, and the opportunity for photos had diminished entirely. Apparently, this was regular fare for the Calgarian in question. The majority of the photographers in the pit looked completely pissed, and by the end of the second song we all left in droves, cursing and shaking our heads.

They played music. It was good, I guess. I elected not to pay attention, and not to give them a second thought.

The Jayhawks, in stark contrast, were more than graceful and welcoming, and pieced together a fantastic set of old classics and material that spanned the their releases in the late 90′s.

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The Jayhawks – Save It For A Rainy Day

After the show, I was completely exhausted. Four days of frantic writing, socializing and public drunkenness had taken a toll on my system. I had invited a girl to join me at the festival, but it seemed wholly unlikely that we would be meeting up at any point. She was with her close friends, and although we worked together for two months we hadn’t built up the necessary rapport to spend any time together. After a quick stop by the river for some pre-rolled alone time, I elected to leave early.

My phone hummed in my pocket. It was her. I was already seven blocks away, but I picked up regardless.

“Where are you?”
“I’m just near the press exit” I lied.
“Come and dance with me.”

That was all it took. Completely buzzing from my riverside session, I was struck with all kinds of emotions. I had to go back. I booked it as fast as I could.

The grand finale of the Folk Fest is a true sight to behold. Colorful balloon characters of all varieties are stuck on tall poles and paraded above the crowd, glowing beautifully in the darkness while the audiences floods to the stage and dances. It’s a blur of colour and laughter, and a magnificent end to the festivities. We danced together for a half hour or so before the emotional end, but the fun doesn’t stop there for those lucky enough to have access to the afterparty. My night went from dud to stud as we made our way to the Westin for the mayhem that was about to ensue.

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Special thanks to the volunteers and the Calgary Folk Fest staff who work tirelessly each year to keep our Festival as groovy as possible! See you soon!