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An interview with The Bright Light Social Hour

The Bright Light Social Hour

The Bright Light Social Hour

The Bright Light Social Hour seem like one of Austin’s proudest exports. Their self-titled debut was the winner of numerous Austin Music Awards last year, including band and album of the year, and their hometown shows seem to constantly expand in magnitude. However with that in mind, they also appear to be Austin’s best kept secret as their extensive touring schedule still contains gigs at smaller venues in places like London and Kingston. Regardless of the venue, their throwback brand of classic rock and southern blues seem to be gaining fans across the continent. There’s something instantly gratifying about their long instrumental interludes and singalong choruses. I was able to interview Jack O’Brien (bassist/vocals/moustache) from the band in anticipation of their Thursday show at London’s Call The Office.

How are you enjoying Toronto so far?
We looooved Toronto! Such a busy and big city but with the friendliness of a small town. We didn’t want to leave. We’re in Peterborough now spending a day off. Brian Byrne has put us up here and been endlessly gracious, hospitable and all around totally excellent.

You guys opened for Canadian alt-rock legends I Mother Earth during one of your Toronto dates, how did that get arranged?
The show was unreal, such a special night and we were so glad to be a part of it. We were putting our CMW shows together and they were looking for support and we submitted; very excited they chose us.

What Canadian bands are you a fan of?
MSTRKRFT, Monster Truck, Death From Above 1979, Chromeo, Sheep Dogs, Arcade Fire, The Band, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Great Lake Swimmers

Austin is an incredible place for live music, how do you feel like it’s shaped your sound?
There are just so many quality bands in Austin that we really had to work hard to stand out and get a little attention. It forced us to work hard at evolving our sound and live show. Being around such great bands and an ultimately very supportive music community has definitely helped us grow as musicians and songwriters.

You guys play some big venues (like Audtorium Shores last week at SXSW), is there any difference in approach when playing to smaller venues/crowds?
Honestly, not so much. We still pretty much always forget to write out a set list. The goal is to share an experience with the entire audience, but the approach really isn’t too different whether the crowd is huge or just a couple bartenders.

It seems like the the old-school rock-and-roll revival is in full swing, what do you think brought that about?
There’s always an old-school rock-and-roll revival currently in full swing. It’s hard to tire of good old rock instruments played with some booty.

Your music video “Back And Forth” seems pretty popular, are there any other plans for upcoming videos?
Yes, once we finish some of the heavy touring in the next few months, we would definitely like to do more music videos.

How would you describe the personality of your moustache?
Classy as fuck. (CAF)

Freestyling is an important form of expression in hip hop. If you had to freestyle four lines about your LP, what would you say?
We only freestyle haikus… I hope that’s ok.

luscious summer love
get everyone together
work has just begun

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#SXSW Recap: March 17th, 2012

My final day at SXSW Music started off at popular Austin venue The Mohawk to see a hell of a lineup for the party. Unfortunately, this RSVP-less free show also meant there was a hell of a lineup to get in. Gary Clark Jr. started off the day and was electric. His bluesy sound and unparalleled guitar work blew me away even while I was standing in line to see him from outside the venue. Definitely one of my favourite discoveries of the festival.

Philadelphia’s The War On Drugs followed with a swell indie rock sound. Kurt Vile and co. got the crowd moving and, at times, their sound was bit like a stripped down Arcade Fire. Excited to hear more from them.

Blitzen Trapper was next and having not heard their recent material, I was surprised to hear that they switched from their folksier sound to more of a classic-rock vibe. Though throwback is in right now (re: Sheepdogs), I kind of feel like it all sounds a bit generic. After a few songs, I headed over to the other stage to check out the much-hyped Cloud Nothings.

Cloud Nothings did not disappoint. Their brand of low-fi indie punk is impossible not to get caught up in (unless you were the crowd at The Mohawk that day, but I digress). Yelling out “I thought I would be more than this!” reminds me of when I first yelled out “You will always be a loser!” at my first Titus Andronicus show. Just awesome.

I was so caught up in that euphoria that I missed most of Bob Mould’s set but not being familiar with his work, I decided to leave that up the mass of older folks who were clearly there for him and him only.

The Roots closed out the day and everything I had ever heard about their live performances rang true. They were incredible. From tuba solos, to busting out classic tunes like “Sweet Child Of Mine” on guitar, to seeing legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff join ?uestlove on stage for a drum solo, to the impeccable delivery of Blackthought, they blew the packed crowd away. Consummate professionals. Possibly the best band I saw in Austin.

I decided to close off my night at one of the coolest venues I’ve ever been to, the Moody Theatre (where they film Austin City Limits). The acoustics in there were unbelievable and I was lucky to get a great spot on the balcony.

The crowd was ready for a loud night as Sleigh Bells strutted out in front of 12 massive amps. The noise was loud enough to drown out everything, including any clarity in Alexis Krauss’ delivery. That was probably for the best as I don’t think that she was offering much. Now this might sound a bit like “Get Off My Lawn” talk but I just don’t get it. The problem with this sort of music is that it feels a bit superfluous if the lead vocalist isn’t either: a) completely magnetic or b) contributing to the instrumentation. There were songs when she was solo on stage singing to a backing track, something normally reserved for “singers”. Instead we were stuck with what seemed like a poor man’s Alice Glass (of Crystal Castles).

But don’t just listen to me ranting. Judge for yourself:

My anticipation for the act after Sleigh Bells probably didn’t help her cause. Nas followed up by performing all of his groundbreaking album “Illmatic”. Joined on stage by DJ Premier, Pete Rock and AZ, it was Nasty Nas in his element. Songs like “It Aint Hard To Tell” and “The World Is Yours” seemed to cross off a line on most of the crowd’s bucket lists. He also played some new material which sounded promising and other classics from his discography (“One Mic” and “They Shootin'” were standouts). Overall, an incredible way to end my SXSW experience.

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#SXSW Photo Recap: March 15th, 2012

The Stage On Sixth: Dinosaur Feathers
HypeM’s Hype Hotel: Lee Fields & The Expressions, Youth Lagoon, Alabama Shakes
The Belmont: Arkells, Titus Andronicus, Jesus & Mary Chain

Look out for:
-a beardless Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus
-subtle tension in the eyes of JAMC’s Jim Reid

See my review here.

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Concert Review: Phife Dawg at APK Live (London, Ontario) (Feb. 16, 2012)

Phife Dawg performing live in 2012

The currently-enigmatic Phife Dawg played a concert at APK Live in London, Ontario last night and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. Before the show, I tried to look up his past setlists, tried to find out about his other upcoming shows, wondered what the hip-hop legend was doing in a smaller venue in a smaller town but found few answers. I had no idea what to expect but seeing as how Tribe put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen (2006 at Kool Haus), there was no way I was missing this.

Opener after opener hit the stage as is often the case with bigger shows in London but when Phife finally hit the stage around 12:30 AM, it was everything we had hoped for. Playing many classics from his Tribe Called Quest days, the packed venue was on fire. Scenario, Electric Relaxation, Award Tour, Can I Kick It, Bonita Applebaum, and Stir It Up (Steve Biko), were just some of the numbers that he brought out. He even let the crowd do the Q-Tip verses. He also unveiled some new solo tracks which had decent production (and also some of his old solo tracks like “Flawless”).

After seeing Beats Rhymes & Life, I was unsure of how he would hold up for a whole set due to his health issues. I noticed that he did lose some energy as the set went on but he hid it well and the crowd was more than willing to fill in the missing verses. Overall, an amazing experience. Super humble, he even stuck around for autographs and photos after the show.

He’s playing Toronto tonight (February 17th, 2012) at Revival at a Hip-Hop Karaoke event.

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The lack of a standout, groundbreaking album separated 2011 from 2010. Last year, we had The Suburbs, Kanye’s twisted fantasy and Titus Andronicus’ epic call to arms. This year, we instead had slightly disappointing follow-ups from Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Feist, The Strokes, TV On The Radio, Radiohead and a bunch of solid slightly-memorable albums. With that said, if I were to choose an album that stood out from 2011’s offerings, I’d say that Adele’s 21 spoke the most to me. It used to be a lot cooler to say that you were a fan of Adele before her meteoric rise to fame but if someone wants to pretend that Adele doesn’t have one of the best voices in music and that her heartwrenching songs aren’t up there with some of the best pop music of the past decade, well, I respectfully disagree. House Of Balloons (The Weeknd) and Strange Mercy (St. Vincent) are up there as well.

Due to the lack of a lot of stand-out albums, I thought it would be more interesting to look at some of my favourite songs from the past year, so I present:’s
Top 11 Songs of 2011

11. tUnE-yArDs- Gangsta

It seems like tUnE-yArDs has a love-it-or-hate-it sound because every time I rave about this song, I get some weird looks from my friends. Love the way it kicks off and the unexpected directions it takes you along the course of the song. A pleasant surprise that definitely gets your head nodding.

10. Gardens & Villa- Carrizo Plain

The dreamy country twang that starts off “Carrizo Plain” is a nice intro to a slow and steady build. The climb to a refrain of “you and I are intertwined” paired with understated harmonies makes this song a favourite of 2011.

9. Fucked Up- Queen Of Hearts

I don’t think I really “got” Fucked Up until I was at their NXNE show and got kicked in the face in a moshpit while Damian had his shirt off yelling at the top of his lungs. Even though it isn’t really a genre that I listen to often, “Queen Of Hearts” has just enough of a “something else” (possibly the female vocals) that makes it a favourite.

8. Danny Brown- Die Like A Rockstar

Garish in-your-face flow and killer production on his entire mixtape, XXX, Danny Brown made a huge statement in 2011. This was no better evident than on “Die Like A Rockstar”. Sort of like what I wish Tyler The Creator’s Goblin would have sounded like.

7. Future Islands- Balance

Though their album On The Water was largely forgettable, “Balance” had something fresh and addictive about it that made it impossible to not replay. The 80’s Bowie “China Girl” vibe, the fantastic video, and the unique vocals really made this an endearing track.

6. Kendrick Lamar- HiiiPower

At first Kendrick Lamar‘s flow on tracks like “ADHD” really put me off. Then I sat down and gave Section 80 a thorough listen. Needless to say, I was absolutely blown away by some tracks. Conscious hip-hop like back in the days of Non-Phixion. His flow on this track is what I wish Kanye’s verses on Watch The Throne would have sounded like. Food for thought, bitches.

5. The Weeknd- What You Need

With his three 2011 mixtapes, The Weeknd is single-handedly saving R&B. Though each release had its strengths, House of Balloons was undeniably my favourite. On this track, the production and Tesfaye’s voice just envelops you in an atmosphere that makes it impossible to confuse what you want and what you need. Smooth is an understatement.

4. Adele- Someone Like You

Disarming in its premise and beautifully executed, songs like this make you realize that sometimes, all you need is a voice and a piano. With that said, it works best when that voice is Adele‘s. I don’t think it’s possible to watch her perform this track and not be moved. Her staggering success in 2011, which was otherwise dominated by LMFAOs and Pitbulls, really is awesome and well deserved.

3. St. Vincent- Strange Mercy

Unique and incredible, I’ve never heard anything like this track before. The unconventional artistry of lines like “your Hemingway jawline looks just like his”, the unexpected anti-cop climax and the brooding undertones, there is just so much to love about this track.

2. Hey Rosetta!- Welcome

One of the best bands I’ve ever seen live, I’ve struggled to enjoy Hey Rosetta!‘s recordings as much as when I see them in person. With that said, there’s always a few tracks that blow me away in both settings and “Welcome” is certainly in that camp. Trademark crescendoes, a beautiful breakdown and the lyrics are a treat.

1. Lana Del Rey- Video Games

In a year full of enigmas like WU LYF and The Weeknd, I feel like Lana Del Rey‘s old Hollywood image has caught some unfair criticism. Whatever you think of the premise, it’s impossible to not get caught up in the swirling strings and captivating words of “Video Games”. It doesn’t hurt that she’s gorgeous (depends on who you ask though). Makes you rethink the gaming. For a while.

Honourable Mention:

Clams Casino- Motivation, Frank Ocean- Swim Good, Feist- Comfort Me, Braids- Plath Heart, EMA- Anteroom, Lykke Li- I Follow Rivers, The Antlers- Putting The Dog To Sleep, Fleet Foxes- Montezuma, Drake- Marvin’s Room (without that 4th verse from the album), The Black Keys- Little Black Submarines, Adele + Jamie XX + Childish Gambino- Rolling In The Deep (Remix), Shabazz Palaces- Swerve.

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