Not long ago Naomi Kavka of British Columbia transplanted herself to foggy ol’ St. John’s to study cello at Memorial University. Prior to this she was an established musician on the West Coast Canadian music scene, both as a member of folk-pop act The Arbitrarys and the country tinged duo Pocket Knife. Upon arriving in St. John’s, Naomi became part of local indie collective The Bloomsbury Group.
As if that wasn’t enough, Naomi is also currently working on her own solo EP Slammed Doors & Severance which is where today’s gorgeous track “Old Boulder” is from. Blending stark, acoustic balladry with lush layers of strings and soaring falsetto vocals, the song shows the diversity of Naomi’s musical talents.
Lately, Naomi has been playing as a duo with her friend Carole Bestvater. You can catch Naomi and Carole live twice this evening (Friday, May 17), first from 6-8 PM at The Rocket Bakery and later at The Rose & Thistle with BOATTS and The Elizabeatans.
Matt Cooke (vocals/guitar), James Lee Wright (bass) and Mike Dinn (drums) have come along way since meeting in a CBS skate park many years ago. These three childhood friends formed the band Baytown back in 2007 and have since gained rapid local notoriety with their rock, funk, soul and blues sound. In 2009 the group was nominated for Best Pop/Rock Artist of the Year by Music NL. Since then they’ve added local saxophonist extraordinaire Greg Bruce to the line-up, and in 2011 they released their debut album Two Places.
Today’s track is the brand new video for the second single from Baytown’s Two Places. The song showcases the group’s jazzier side with delicately brushed drums, softly strummed sevenths and sax. It also features some lovely guest vocals by Jessie Power of Sea Caves who released one of my favorite albums of 2011, the band’s Of Gold Of Night. Check out more from Baytown’s Two Places below.
“If you are familiar with our previous platform you will find this new and improved interface both familiar and intuitive. Please stand by for demonstration,” chimes a computerized voice over a wash of electronic drums beats, synth and muted guitar picking. No, you’re not listening to an instructional VHS from the 80′s, this is “System Calibration”, the opening track from Mercury Topaz’s second album, 2.
With their debut Strange Beliefs drawing attention in 2011, Mercury Topaz emerged as an experimental, electronic side-project of Casual Male/Trailer Camp band mates Victor Lewis and Brad Power.
As the opening track says, anyone who’s familiar with Strange Beliefs will definitely find the new record familiar, carrying on in the electronic based vein pioneered by the debut. That being said, 2, does break some new ground bringing in more subtle rock influences and echoes of Vic’s 2010 RPM album The New Depression. Much of the record reaches back to the golden age of electronic music when it was very much associated with space and sci-fi. There are touches of 80s-era Bowie (“The Weak, The Brave”), Ariel Pink (“Send Me Back”) a little of Vic’s own solo work shines through on tracks like “She Speaks With Eyes” which resembles what Guided By Voices might sound like if they traded their guitars for synthesizers. While 2 may not me as instantly accessible as Vic and Brad’s other work it is definitely a rewarding listen that will keep the discerning ear coming back. Check it out at the link below.
Derm Kean is no stranger to the St. John’s music scene. Over the years he’s started a number of killer bands that have rocked local fans, most notably Juicer who gained quite a following among punk rockers in town a few years ago. Most recently Derm has been causing a stir with his new group Derm Kean & An Incredible Woman, consisting of Christian Gagnon, Harry Parsons, Jud Haynes and Krista Power. Just last month the group shared the stage with the U.S. Girls and Bloodshot Bill as part of Lawnya Vawnya III, and just this past weekend they blew the roof off The Ship with Thee Internet and Pet Vet.
Derm and company released three songs via Bandcamp a little while ago that showcase the group’s raw intensity and fierce energy. The music is straight up punk rock infused with eerie guitars and synth that’s a little bit of Mission of Burma, a little bit of Wire and touch of Queens of the Stone Age. Today’s track “Dilemma” is my favorite of their three song internet offering. Check it out for yourself at the link below and keep your eye out for their next live show, it will be a wild time as usual.
Tonight (Friday, May 10th) three of St. John’s finest will take the stage at The Ship. These acts will be Thee Internet who will be performing a rare “at home” show, as well as two recent additions to the local scene: Derm Kean & An Incredible Woman and the creators of today’s track, Pet Vet.
Formed just last year, Pet Vet are an alt-rock band from Mount Pearl who have been creating a buzz about the downtown.
Recently Pet Vet released a four song demo EP entitled The Palace Demos which touches on the quirky, distorted groove of bands like Elf Power and The Thermals. Today’s track “Dig At You” is the opening track from The Palace Demos. It is also my personal favorite with its versatile time shifts and Kyuss-esque riffs.
Drop by The Ship tonight (May 10th) for live performances by Pet Vet, Thee Internet and Derm Kean & An Incredible Woman. Also check out Pet Vet’s The Palace Demos at the link below.
This Friday (May 10th), Atlantis Music Prize winners Thee Internet will be performing a special show at The Ship. Shows by Thee Internet have been rare of late as front-man Tyler Lovell is currently on the mainland attending school at Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology. This week Tyler is home for a short visit and rounded up the old gang for another hoorah before he heads back to school.
Today’s track “Time Crisis” is from Thee Internet’s latest EP Running Scared, which was released this past December their last St. John’s show. The song was actually written by The Crooks, another great band Tyler used to be in. You can listen to and download the entire EP as well as the band’s Atlantis award winning debut album Identity Crisis on their Bandcamp page. Also, don’t miss Thee Internet live at The Ship this Friday (May 10th) with two local up and comers Pet Vet and Derm Kean & An Incredible Woman.
The news of Jay Smith’s sudden passing on March 27th shook the Canadian music scene. A native of Cape Breton, Jay spent his life doing what he loved: writing and playing music. In the mid-2000′s, Jay gained notoriety as guitarist for acclaimed Canadian rock group Matt Mays & El Torpedo. Although Jay often played a supporting role to Matt and other great musicians, he was an accomplished singer-songwriter in his own right. He fronted the band Rock Ranger, and in 2011 released his eponymous solo album which was nominated for Music Nova Scotia’s Rock Recording of The Year. His first single, “Romantic Fool” from that album went on to hit #1 for three weeks in a row on the national radio show East Coast Countdown.
During his travels with Rock Ranger, Matt Mays and his own solo act Jay made many friends with fellow musicians and fans alike right here in Newfoundland. Hence, the loss hit the local music scene particularly hard. That’s why in memory of Jay and in support of his family and two children a who’s-who of Newfoundland musicians will come together this week for two very special benefit concerts. On Thursday (May 9th) Amelia Curran, The Once, Colleen Power, Joanna Barker and Fortunate Ones (Andrew O’Brien & Catherine Allan) will take the stage at The Ship. On Friday (May 10th) Mark Bragg & The Butchers, The Novaks, Liz Solo & Mike Kean, Pathological Lovers, Neil Conway and Tim Baker (Hey Rosetta!) will be performing at The Rock House. Don’t miss these two incredible concerts and the chance to support this great cause. Tickets are available in advance at The Ship and Fred’s Records.
I was listening to RPM Radio one evening this past March while slicing veggies for dinner and this awesome song came on. Instantly I recognized the vocals and thought to myself, “this is Pap Pap! I didn’t know they did an RPM this year!” To my surprise I looked at the computer screen only to see that it was actually a band called Parks. I went back to slicing my veggies and enjoying the tune. Later I discovered that Parks was indeed Jen King (vocals/guitar), Noah Bender (bass) and Meghan Harnum (drums), the three members of Pap Pap, only with a new name and bit of a new sound.
Parks’ RPM 2013 album Teenage Polar Bear was recorded to four track cassette by Jake Nicoll (The Burning Hell, Run to the Rocks) in two sessions this past February, which no doubt contributed to the spontaneous, off-the-floor feel that permeates the album. Stylistically it veers away from the raw garage rock of Pap Pap and into some cleaner, more melodic new wave territory. The opening title track showcases the new sound, trading in distorted guitars for clean tones, warm bass and a fast, dry drum sound. Mixing the vintage new wave of Young Marble Giants with Martha and The Muffins with modern counterparts like The Organ, and Interpol, Parks blends the past and present with a vulnerability and sweetness all their own.
Teenage Polar Bear by Parks is one of many stand-outs from this year’s RPM crop and definitely one of my favorites. Check it out for yourself at the link below.
This Saturday (May 4th) and Sunday (May 5th), Mightypop will be bringing Matthew Barber and Justin Rutledge to The Rocket Room. The boys are two of Canada’s finest, and being more familiar with Matthew’s work I decided to feature a song by Justin as today’s track. “Kapuskasing Coffee” is from Justin’s brand new album Valleyheart (2013), his fifth since the release of his debut No Never Alone in 2004.
What is Kapuskasing coffee you ask? I’m not 100 per cent sure, but I do know it’s associated with the small town of of Kapuskasing, Ontario where Justin and his family lived for a brief time when he was young. The song is a tender ballad about retracing one’s steps in life and reconnecting with your past to keep you grounded in the present. The track comes in video form courtesy of Southern Souls and features the beautiful back up vocals of Carina Round (Puscifer, Early Winters).
Don’t miss Justin Rutledge and Matthew Barber with special guest Katie Baggs this weekend at The Rocket Room. These will be intimate shows capped at 125 people so you’d better play it safe and get tickets in advance at Fred’s Records and O’Brien’s Music. Shows start at 8 PM.
The Last Gasp RPM Challenge Noise Jam has become a bit of a tradition here in St. John’s. Each year, people come together on the last day of the challenge to record 35 minutes of music, noise or whatever comes out of spontaneous, unrehearsed jamming. Last year the jam resulted in The Benevolent Void and this year it produced Noun/Bonehead by ________ Doublespeak.
This year RPMers from the west coast of the province also latched onto the idea of a last minute noise jam. Black Chair Section consists of musicians Ryan David Butt, Chantal Perry, Nicholas J Hamlyn, Mark Feener, Tom Cochrane, Rachael Joffred and Leslie Ball, all of whom are from the Corner Brook area. The group gathered at Gary Bennett Music during the last few hours of RPM 2013 and jammed out 35 minutes of sound which they burned to CD and dubbed “March”.
Although it was called a “noise jam”, the results are actually quite melodic and musical. Created using various percussion instruments, guitar and keyboard, “March” begins as a very upbeat, guitar driven pop song and then veers off into all kinds of different directions such as a Bo-Diddley-esque stomp and a very weird kind of tribal dance with spacey synth and guitar. Check it out.
Every February the RPM Challenge yields some very unique and impressive concept albums. One such work from this year’s crop is Jeff Foran’s bicycle-themed album Cycle.
“The idea for this album is to pay homage to my two favourite things: drumming and cycling,” says Jeff about the project. The record traces a fictitious bicycle journey from its start with a field recording of Jeff prepping his bike for the road on “Bike Setup” to its finish with the closing track “The Ride Home” — the musical equivalent to a victory lap, introduced by the sound of a bottle of champagne being opened. It’s poured until the fizz of bubbles gives way to triumphant organ, drums and hand claps.
Just like a real bike ride, there are many unexpected points of interest along the way. “A Tough Climb” serves up a grinding tempo of lumbering bass, ringing cymbal bells and spritely xylophone, and all together paints a sonic portrait of a long, hard ride uphill. Then there’s the reggae-infused, easy-riding feel of “Ride On” and the frantic cacophony of “Traffic Jam”. Although the album is primarily instrumental, today’s track “Mexico to Florida” is a jazzy number that features some lovely Andrew Bird-esque vocals and whistling. Check out the rest of Jeff Foran’s RPM 2013 album Cycle for yourself at the link below.
You already recognize the name Joel Thomas Hynes from his literary work, such as the novel Down To The Dirt, which was later adapted to film. You may also recognize him from his acting roles in that movie, as well as other movies like Crackie or TV shows like Hatching, Matching & Dispatching and Republic of Doyle. But if you have your ear to the ground of the local music scene you may also be familiar with Joel’s work as a singer-songwriter.
In 2012, he recorded Backroom Demos as part of the RPM Challenge, a collection of stark, acoustic numbers that showcased his world-weary rasp and lyrical prowess. The accomplished lyrical component of Backroom Demos was no surprise, given Joel’s literary background, but his raw, emotive delivery was a pleasant one and it’s the driving force behind the record. It calls to mind some of the darker work of Ron Hynes, Springsteen, Fred Eaglesmith and Eamon McGrath.
Since last year’s RPM, Joel has continued to write and record new material, one example of which is today’s track, “Bleed You Dry (I Hung My Head)”. Recorded at Stagehouse Studios and produced by Phil Churchill, the song extends the shadows of Backroom Demos into a higher production value and a more atmospheric sound courtesy of some tastefully placed piano, drums and electric guitar. Whether Joel’s songs, past or new, will be released as an official album remains to be seen, but in the meantime you can enjoy today’s track and enjoy more of his music at the link below.
So The Burning Hell are off again, traversing the globe and bringing their songs to audiences across Canada and Europe. Although St. John’s has proudly been home base for this amazing group for the past few years, it seems it may be quite a while before we see them again.
That being said, The Burning Hell and its individual members have had a huge impact on the local music scene during their time here, and have left us with lots of great music and memories to look back on and make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
For me, one of these memories will definitely be the 2013 tour kick-off/People album release show at The Rocket Room just a few weeks ago, the best Burning Hell show I’ve seen to date, ending with Mathias conducting an audience choir singing “Love” and “Jud” in alternation and unison as a tribute to local music guru and Mightypop promoter Jud Haynes.
As a parting gift to the city they called home for the last while, The Burning Hell have left us with their brilliant and hilarious new video “Amateur Rappers”, which features Mathias recruiting the band members for his “cult” from various well known haunts in the downtown vicinity. The video is as entertaining as the song — one of the many standouts from People — and appears there as full band rock version of a track from Mathias’ 2012 RPM album.
If you haven’t checked out The Burning Hell’s new album People yet, you really should. Also, if you’re fortunate enough to be in one of the towns that the band will be playing on their current tour, you should go and and see them.
All the best to The Burning Hell as they set out on their latest adventure. Thanks for the music and the memories.
Today’s track “Own” comes to us courtesy of The Thymes front-man Jeremy Rice. Although it sounds like a full band effort, this is not a new Thymes song, it is actually the A-side of a digital solo single that Jeremy has just released.
“I’ve been working on the new Thymes album, but that’s gonna be another little while, so I figured I’d put out something on my ‘own’ in the meantime,” says Jeremy regarding the project.
“Own” is a blistering slice of rock and roll with all vocals and guitars performed by Jeremy and backed by an actually convincing drum machine. The flipside of the single is the dreamy Tom Petty meets the Beatles style “Good Old Days” which features drums by Devon Milley and a lush mix, courtesy of Krisjan Leslie.
You can catch Jeremy this Saturday (April 27th) with his band The Thymes live at The Rock House along with Other People and Those Lasers. Drop by and maybe you’ll get a sneak preview of some new Thymes material, or even full band renditions of the great new songs on Jeremy’s solo single.
If you haven’t heard Kate Pike and The Loose Boots yet, tonight (Thursday, April 25th) would be the perfect opportunity as they will be playing a fundraiser show at CBTG’s along with Little Things, Spiffy and Navigator Black & the Indighost. The band formed in 2011 and consists of Kate Pike, Davey Zegerac and Paul Sheppard. Last month Kate & The Loose Boots released their debut album 6 to One 1/2 Doz. to The Other, packed with eleven tracks of what the trio call “grease folk”, a fusion of old school country twang with the raw energy and lightening speed of punk. Musically the group call to mind The Cramps while Kate’s wild, unrestrained vocals sound like a blend of Liz Pickard, Linda Perry and Poly Styrene.
Today’s track “Slingshot” is probably my favorite from 6 to One 1/2 Doz. to The Other with it’s crazy fast drum beat, tinny D.Boon-esque guitars and clocking in at one second over a minute in true punk fashion. Drop by CBTG’s tonight to hear Kate Pike and The Loose Boots live along with Little Things, Spiffy and Navigator Black & the Indighost. Show starts at 10:15 and ll proceeds go to a good cause.