Arts & Crafts
“DON’T SPEAK UNTIL you’ve caught your breath,” sings Dan Mangan. Well, that could take a while after you listen to his latest album. After hearing Oh Fortune, my heart dropped and my lungs were filled with anticipation. There simply was no room for air, let alone words.
Over the years, the folk crooner has become known for his gruff, raw voice coupled with the soft strumming of his acoustic. On his new album, Mangan pushes past the man and his guitar act and introduces a number of different musical sounds, including wind and string instruments, as well as the electric guitar. This symphonic sound compliments his vocals beautifully, adding a sense of grandeur to his intensely honest yet witty lyrics.
The album opens with the rolling percussions of “About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All” and closes on a two-minute instrumental featuring the trumpet. There has never been a better end to an album. This record is impeccably produced. While most songs struggle to transition smoothly, after listening to the entire album you cannot help but feel a sense of completeness.
Mangan is a powerful storyteller. Songs to look for on this album are: “It Starts With Them, Ends With Us”, “Post-war blues”, “Oh Fortune”, and “Rows of Houses”.
Hello Jesus | KillBeat Music
STEVE GATES’ DEBUT album is a four-song EP titled Hello Jesus. At first, I feared this album was going to be another country-folk combination album focused on Jesus and the use of a banjo. I would have been all for a Christian-based album, but the over-usage of the banjo made me gag. The entire album sounds like a bad Willie Nelson impersonation.
Gates proves himself to be a tolerable song writer, but his voice is like a drunken karaoke singer pretending to be the next country star. The only bearable song was a cover of “You Were Always on my Mind”, a duet sung with Catherine MacLellan. The song is a tribute to the missing women of Highway 16 in British Columbia, and with the help of MacLellan, it actually sounds quite pleasant. Gates’ collaborator was definitely the main reason the song was so likeable as she seems to be the only talent on the whole album.
I expected the title track “Hello Jesus” to be one of the better songs on the album, as Gates wrote it as an ode to Halifax, his hometown. This ode is ruined by his scratchy voice that distracted from the lyrics. I was annoyed after the second bar in the song and it only gets worse as the twang continued. I would like to consider myself a folk fan, but Hello Jesus is a good example of folk gone wrong. Willie Nelson himself would skip this album.
Your Kiss | Blue Drop Music/Fontana North
MARK BRAGG DOESN’T fit into just one genre of music. He can go from vaudeville to classic rock to jazz to folk, and somehow excel at all of them. In his first two albums, Bear Music and The Restless Kind, the St. John’s native showcased his ability as a musician and as a weaver of tales. His lyrics told stories of pain, loss, infatuation, and love that drew the listener in played on top of solid musical arrangements.
Your Kiss, Bragg’s newest release, starts off strong with pounding beats on “Your Boys Home” and the title track “Your Kiss”. Bragg then moves to a vaudevillian number, “Roll Baby Roll”, before he dives into classic rock with “The Cutter”, which is reminiscent of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. Bragg then takes on jazz with “The Fool”, where he tells a tale of love and loss. He finishes off the album with stunning instrumentals on “You Be The Girl” and “Rats”, bringing in the horns to finish in style.
Bragg is almost like a magician in his music. He keeps you focused on his left hand, while the right hand is busy doing something unbelievable. His ability to trick the listener provides many mind-blowing moments on the album, allowing for Bragg to change the sound of the album seamlessly. All in all, Your Kiss is a strong record, even though it seems like Bragg is trying to cover too many genres at once.
Afterimage | Independent
RECOVERY CHILD’S ALBUM Afterimage is similar to a lot of other albums. In short, it lacks originality. The music resembles the same heavy guitars, drums, and rough vocals similar to bands like Nickelback. Even after listening the album multiple times, the tracks remain unimpressive and easily forgettable.
The introduction to the album sweeps you in with ambient sounds that are misleading in terms of what’s to come. The second track, “Welcome the Future”, immediately thrusts you out of a tranquil state with growling guitars and thundering drums. Unfortunately, the growling never stops and the next two tracks hold basically the same structure. The redeeming track on the album is the final song “Moments Not Worth Remembering”. It begins slowly with vocals and an acoustic guitar. As the song goes on, a keyboard and a soft electric guitar weave into the silence. It kind of reminds me of gentler music by Nirvana, such as their song “No Apologies”.
If you’re into heavy alternative music, you might dig Recovery Child’s album Afterimage. One word of warning though: It’s short, but definitely not sweet.
Where We Are Today | urArtist music/Fontana North
TORONTO-BASED ROCK BAND Paint is back with their third studio album. The new release, Where We Are Today, is the much anticipated follow-up to 2009’s Can You Hear Me? Fans will definitely be happy to find out where Paint is today. The album is a growth from their second CD, but Paint’s distinctive sound is not lost in the shuffle.
The CD’s opener, “Boomerang”, sets the stage with hard and heavy-hitting guitars, adding texture and infusing the album with energy. Continuing on, the energy is not lost. The thundering drums and strong guitars reach their crescendo in the song “In Disguise”, after which the album slows down a bit for a more melodic feel. The changes in beat hardly affect the listener, as the switch is so seamless.
The only critique that can be given is sometimes Robb Johannes, the lead singer, is a bit too strong on vocals, causing them to mesh poorly with the melodies. The trembling vocals sometimes overpower the rock edge, making the album a tad too harsh and unsympathetic to the listener’s ears. Thankfully, this problem doesn’t plague all songs on the new release. All in all, the CD is a solid one; it is a cohesive collection of songs rather than a bunch of tracks haphazardly thrown together.