Category Archives: Best Of

Concert Review: Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel) at Trinity St. Paul's Church, Toronto, August 2011

When Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel) announced a dozen shows out of nowhere, I knew that I had to be at one. Luckily enough, two of those shows were Toronto dates. Not having luck online, I was lucky enough to score tickets in person at Soundscapes for Saturday August 13th. This is the review of that night.

I arrived at Trinity St. Paul’s approximately 30 minutes before doors were to open and was about the 100th person in line. I could already tell that I was amongst true fans and that was a great feeling.

The church itself was a beautiful venue and the fact that it was a dry event really didn’t hinder the fun. The only issue, and it was a major one, was the lack of air conditioning. As each row filled, the church became more and more like a hipster sweat lodge. But when the music started, it became easier to ignore.

Openers Andrew, Scott and Laura (Members of Elf Power & The Gerbils) had an interesting sound. Each vocalist had a different vibe, from Kimya Dawson to The Decemberists, and overall, it was a great way to start the night. The highlight of the set was “Two Skies“. As good as they were, I couldn’t help constantly checking my watch as the set went on in anticipation of what was to come.

Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel) live in Toronto

Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel) live in Toronto

The crowd exploded when Jeff Mangum came onto the stage but quickly fell silent when he opened with “Oh Comely”. These were the songs that many have played and replayed for the last decade and the last thing people wanted to do was annoy the labeled-recluse Jeff Mangum, complete with his recluse hat.

Except he wasn’t how many expected. His banter with the crowd was humorous and friendly (responded to a “we miss you!” with a “but I’m right here…”) and after it was clear that he was encouraging crowd participation, the vibe of the concert became even more intimate and special.

You could almost feel the people swaying in the pews during his rendition of “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” and that same crowd became a loud gospel choir, bellowing “III LLLOOVVEEE YOOUUU JEESSUUSSS CCCHHHRRIIISTTTT” during his “King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 2”. Jeff Mangum isn’t the best singer in the world but the rough edges of his vocal range yield a sort of endearingness that I cannot compare to another musician. Any concerns about rust from his period of non-touring were completely unnecessary.

The night finished off with “Engine” as an encore and though the crowd had participated throughout (even humming an extended note which Jeff Mangum used as a backdrop for a song verse), it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop. The vulnerability of his voice paired with guitar was simply magical. To leave that church was to feel renewed (though I’m sure the moksha yoga temperature had a bit to do with that too).

During his set, he even encouraged questions to be asked from the crowd. When someone asked him “When are you going to next record?” he answered that he wouldn’t record until his heart is ready. For all our sakes, let’s hope that happens soon.

Here is audio of his rendition of “A Baby For Pree” from his first album “On Avery Island”:

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Concert Review: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (March 13, 2011 @ The Old Vic Tunnels, London England)

The Old Vic Tunnels

When I realized that I was going to be in London England at the same time as a set of performances by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros at a place called “The Old Vic Tunnels”, I knew I had to be there. I had no idea about the venue but I immediately tried to get tickets… only to find that they were all sold out. Luckily, they announced an unprecedented 5th show for Sunday March 13th and we were in luck. Having seen Edward Sharpe before, I thought I had a bit of an idea about what I was getting me and my friends into. Little did I know that I was about to experience a night that could be best described as a trip into the mind of a still-on-drugs Charlie Sheen.

Upon entering, I was grabbed by a space cowboy who said, “Welcome to Mars”, while handing me a plastic baggie with what appeared to be… drugs. I was then confronted by a woman with a clipboard who asked me what I had gotten up to since getting to Mars. When it was clear that I was just handed drugs (which ended up being sugar), a friend and I were accosted by space police who made us spin around in circles until they disappeared. We then had a chance to take a look around only to find the moon, the sun, a space bar, caskets, and… well, the night was just getting started.

The spectacle was unexpected but it meshed well with Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ whole get-up. They’re hippies and they embrace that. When we met Jade and Nico from the band before the show, they seemed extremely down to earth and approachable. Then there was the aftershow, but I’ll get to that.

When we settled in with our kick-in-the-face punch that tasted a lot like porch climber, we were in for even more entertainment. I can say, without a doubt, that this is the most entertained I’ve ever been before a headliner has performed their set. Various circus performances involving fire, rings, and acrobatics followed and kept the crowd awestruck.

There were modern art installations involving film, illustration and lights and various performers mingling throughout the crowd. We actually missed the opener because we were too busy taking everything in.

When Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros took the stage, it was magic, expected magic. The performances of hit songs “40 Day Dream” and “Home” were electric to say the least. The set was consistently good with the only lowpoints being a few new songs, some of which I wasn’t a fan of (mainly the saccharine “We Are Each Other” which involved repeating the phrase “every part of you is just another part of me”). It was also unfortunate that nothing was played from Alex Ebert’s recent solo release, though I suppose that was to be expected. But all in all, it was a hell of a show.

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros performing at The Old Vic Tunnels

When the show is analyzed in the context of how it was presented, I must say that it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever experienced. After the show, milk and cookies were served to people as they left the show and the band performed in the tunnels outside for the smaller crowd that was left. In that glorious moment sitting on the pavement in a tunnel, arm in arm singing Lean on Me and other classics, we all became hippies.

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The response to Arcade Fire’s “Album of the Year” Grammy victory

When monumental decisions are made, it is often the general public that offers the best insight. After Arcade Fire won Album of the Year at the Grammy’s, I went to the Grammy Facebook page (a beacon of human discourse) to gauge the reaction. What I found was profound debate and thoughtful lamentations on the state of modern music. I chose some of the best to share. Dissidents basically fall into two camps, those who respectfully disagree with Arcade Fire making the Album of the Year and those who are certain that there has been some foul play.

Those who respectfully disagree:

Eminem should win more than 2 awards especially ”Album Of The Year” Arcade Fire?? Who are them???

Dis year Grammy is some how cos most of the awards went to wrong people

who decides the winner? are the judges 10 years old kids? 53rd grammys sucked tbh

Recovery dezrved the grammy if not then need u now did this is disapointing :(

Ok seriously?!? The Grammy people suck!! People got Grammys that didn’t deserve them!! Arcade fire?! Are you f**cking kidding me?!? Who runs this crap? They need to be fired! Worst show ever!! Trying to be like the MTV VMAS,lmao!! Get a real ear into the music n not this crap that only a few peeps have heard of! 2 thumbs down!!

f*uking grammy award … disasterous .undeserving people won the award.. Its sucks at last f*ucks

Two words, U SUCK. Get a freakin grip and pick the deserving artists. The artists who everyone loves, and sings along to all year. Don’t pick some alternative rock, kings of leon wannabes (Arcade Fire)that noooo one has ever heard of. Its lame and u clearly have no clue what good music is. Pssh get a freakin grip.

Best album -Arcade Fire!!!!! Lady gaga has 2000000000 times more talent than them! Heavy metal or what!

Eminem should win it why some band never heard of won it

The band that won “album of the year”? Yeah umm who the heck are they? never heard of them…never heard their music on the radio…wow that was a huge let down.

Well, I forgot it was on, and I never watch award shows; what surprised me was Eminem and I think his album should have been best of the year. That winning band leader lived in Montreal for some time and couldn’t even give it a French pronunciation, which is very easy–monrayall, in Kaybek, and I only speak and write un peu Francais. I thought they were mediocre.

Eminem does deserve the award! Wu else?

No one knew who the F Arcade Fire was before tonight! Wish that were still true for me!!!

As much as it makes my nuts shrink to say it, Id rather listen to Barbara Streisan than Arcade Fire who?!!!


Even with the ALBUM OF THE YEAR Award, I’ve never HEARD of the group that won that Grammy either. I think maybe the voting needs to be left to the PUBLIC (you know the people that actually listen to the music) ~ Come on now they supposedly beat out Eminem!

I am in shock that Arcade Fire won!!!! Nobody has even heard of them!!!!

Really, who are Arcade Fire? This will go down in history as one of your worst… Who is voting? You wonder why we hate the music industry…

Answer me this someone, Eminem has 28 million fans on facebook, Lady Gaga has 28 million fans, 21 million people like Justin Bieber. Arcade Fire has 600,000. It makes no sense that Arcade Fire won. How is someone that isnt even know of going to win best album?

I’m sorry but this years Grammys was kind of retarded and messed up. Nobody knows who arcade fire is! And they can’t really sing. And I haven’t ever heard of that girl who won female artist of the year! I cant even pronounce her name!!!!!!

IM SO PISSED! Who the F are that bnd! I didnt evn knw they EXIST! I hate you! :@ EMINEM SHOULD WON!

Maybe somebody knows something about Arcade Fire, that I don’t. They sucked. I would’nt play that crap in the mall, gym. And definately not on my IPOD.

R U FCKN KIDDING ME ????!!!!?!!! LMFAO !!! “The Suburbs” ( WHO!!??? ) beat out LADY GAGA and KATY PERRY and EMINEM for Album of the Year …. LMFAO!!!! * The GRAMMY’s are a FCKN’ JOKE !!!!!!!!!!!!

Eminem and Katy Perry should collaborate on a song titled “Disgrace to the Human Race” and dedicate it to Arcade Fire who sounded like a middle school band that had a temper tantrum, really is this what popular music has come to…….? are they from Montreal?? is this America???

What a disgusting display of a winning album of the year. What the hell was that? No one has ever heard of them. They were terrible! It has to be a mistake because that was a scam. Worst Grammy’s EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Never watching the grammys again.. WORST one yet! Arcade fire had the worst performance in history and did not deserve album of the year!! So rigged what a joke

you people are idiots… how are you gonna vote arcade fire best album!?!?! They are no where near the caliber of Lady A, Katie Perry, Lady Gaga, and most of all Eminem!!! Seriously how many #1 singles have they had compared to any of the other 4 nominated!!!! YALL ARE IDIOTS!!!! Never watching ever again!!!!

ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? ALBUM OF THE YEAR…. Who has every heard of this band?!?!?!?!!?

That was watered-down punk!! That sucked!

All Grammys suck, but this one is by far the worst!!! Arcade Fire=ghey!!!!

Eminem deserved album of the year, arcade who? who the hell are the suburbs or whoever really wow bunch of nobodys in my music libary..

If you have to Google a band to figure out who they are they shouldn’t have won the biggest award of the night! Anyone but that lame group should have one and it would have been ok…… GRAMMYS are the SCAMMIES!

worst grammy show ever! How can you give album of the year to some ridiculous band nobody cares about. Who votes for these winners? Obviousily people that don’t listen to the radio and what people want to hear. What a joke!

BOO!!! this is crap, who the hell is this band we have never heard of! GAGA OR EMINEM!!! you guys need to get current!

Whatever happened to talent? The best album award goes to a band that is mediocre and makes noise instead of music.What’s wrong with the world?

I hate the grammys of this year awful arcade fire what a hell were you thinking??? I reallu wanna know

omg!!….r u serious??…….eminem rocked the charts this year, and you gave it to arcade fire????……OMG I CANT BELIEVE THIS!!! EMINEM SHOULD HAVE ONE THIS!!!!

q’ pedooo con los que gaaanaron el disco del añoo FRAUDE eraaaa LADY GAGAA? (I assume this is about Arcade Fire but I can’t be sure)

Sooo… SoundScan sales of the Arcade Fire’s ‘The Suburbs’: 486,000. Every other album of the year contender- more than 1 mil. – round of applause to them or Terrible Academy this year?

After that circus act?? I wouldn’t have hired them to play a kindergarten graduation after that.

I know my music an I’ve never heard of them ! Horrible !

Who is that? What album sold the most last couple years? Pretty sure it wuz eminem with recovery

Never heard of this WEIRD band before!!! SUCK! it’s undeserved I AM GONNA HATE THEM

who n what! Nebver even heard of thembefore so how can they win album of the year! YALL SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Got it wrong!

What the balls? ! How did those folks from the hillbillies from the osarks win!? Not Gaga?!


DISLIKE*Infinity….. I am sure the jury has gone mad probably they had lottsa alcohol and picked up some random people for Grammys.. I hate this Grammys… Eminem or atleast Katy Perry…. complete bummer… :-(

O you mean to tell me that a MOSH PIT, any-race-hatin-other-then-their-own type of band Beat out ANYBODY ELSE in that category????????? WHAT A FREAKING JOKE!!!!!!!!!!! (I’m actually not sure what this one means but I think it fits?)

All of these unknown artists need to get there own award show… How can arcade of whatever… Win over eminem… Marshall Bruce Mathers III… The one the media loves to hate.. The one who always comes back with something mind blowing… And a Grammy award winning rapper… There aren’t a lot of rappers in the industry that are award winning like eminem… I’m just saying… Arcade whatever….. REALLY?! I mean REALLY!!?!?!?!

You people at the music industry are unreal!!! you should let the public vote, you gave grammys to people who are so untalented, a disgrace to the music industry, and people we have never even heard of, what a joke!!!! Eminen deserved his, but some of the others did not.


Arcade Fire is Crap!!!! GaGa was robbed. Nobody will know who the hell Arcade Fire is next year. That award was just pissed away. Thanks Grammys!

Worse grammy show worse album of the year, worse halftime show at the super bowl, whats my point music in this age sucks! Few good artists out there and Arcade fire who SUCK! and Fergie isn’t lookint that hot either. Eh Arcade Fire you suck!

WTF…..OMG seriously…..Who is Arcade Fire anyway? I listen to Eminem’s RECOVERY every freakin day….. that in my book is album of the freaking year, when you can listen to a freakin CD everyday and not get sick of it……Im totally disappointed.

ALL 4 albums of the last nominated list are out on worldwide radios…where the hell do they have AF…in Canada…?
and that’s reason to win what…? surely not the award the got !


Very disappointed in this – i don’t know anyone who knows about them – something is rigged!

Fans who are suspicious of possible colluding, corruption and bribery:


The Grammys are rigged. Just because some who thinks they know what’s good gets to vote doesn’t mean it’s good. At the end of the day music is a peoples game and not a persons game.

wth? Album of the yr went to who?Arcade Fire? Who r they really?Grammy’s sucked this yr!and who did Arcade Fire sleep with to get the award?

Esperanza Spalding N Arcade Fire??….well, these a surprising winners….never heard of them. Did someone hacked the database of the Grammy’s?


Grammy’s are so rigged…A crying shame that whomever decides the winners, do not know anything about music.

Rigged… Worst show in years… We dont care about the ones we dont know.. We want to see the best in the ones we do know. This is not the place to promote up and coming artists, but a place to recognize the artist that are pushing the envelop and making their mark on music. Not a place to give some unrecognized group/person a little publicity to boost their sales… Who determines what “Best” is. I listen to all genres and I can honestly say… That was not the best anything I have ever heard. Any one of the others could have won. Just not some no name unheard of band that basically sucked on their performance tonight. I have no interest in listening to their music based on those performances much less go out and purchase some random music made by them. Just saying.


Arcade Fire winning that last award against such talented other performers goes to show everyone what a good check, $$$$$ on the table will do for your career at “The Grammys”….start saving all you newcomers…next year could be your chance ! lololololol

…Later on, these folks listened to Sigur Rós and their heads exploded.

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So I’ve procrastinated on writing this list for a while, mostly because I felt like 2010 was a great year for music. There was a lot to choose from when trying to find 10 albums, much from artists that I’d never heard of before this past year. With that said, there were also a lot of disappointments from some of my favourites. Ra Ra Riot, Sufjan Stevens, The National, Stars, Gorillaz, Born Ruffians and Vampire Weekend all released albums that I was not fond of. In fact, I even hated some of them (Stars, I’m looking squarely at you). The bright spots definitely outshone the missteps though.’s
Top 10 Albums of 2010

10. Mumford & Sons- Sigh No More

British accents, crescendos, relatable music. Like a lot of indie stuff in the past few years except you can show all your friends without some of them looking at you weird. You know which friends I’m talking about.
Highlights: Sigh No More, Awake My Soul

9. El Guincho- Pop Negro

The first time I saw the video for lead single Bombay, it was definitely a WTF moment. As confusing as the video was, the music really shone through. Infectious Spanish pop music with Afro-Carribean influences. 2010 was a random year for sure.
Highlights: Bombay, Soca Del Eclipse

8. Arctic Monkeys- Humbug

This album is on no other Best of 2010 lists. Mostly because it was released in 2009. With that said, it got panned by a lot of critics and magazines and I brushed it off as a mistake a year ago. At some point during 2010, I gave the album another listen and realized what I had missed out on. You should too. Darker with few catchy hooks, it was a departure from the Arctic Monkeys sound that I had grown accustomed to. But after some time to simmer on it, it’s an awesome album.
Highlights: Dance Little Liar, Cornerstone

7. The Black Keys- Brothers

Two guys making a lot of noise together and it finally worked on an album for me. An accessible sort of blues that has enough of a contemporary shine to really make me look forward to whatever they have coming next.
Highlights: Tighten Up, The Only One

6. Shad- TSOL

Real hip hop stand up. London, Ontario was responsible for more than a beatboxing pop-cover artist in 2010. Shad really has a knack for choosing beats that’ll get your head nodding and his lyrics become more and more refined with every album.
Highlights: A Good Name, Rose Garden

5. Local Natives- Gorilla Manor

Just a solid album all around. When I first heard the song “Airplanes“, I was blown away. Little did I know that it wasn’t even the best song on their album.
Highlights: Wide Eyes, Cubism Dream

4. Beach House- Teen Dream

Dreamy indie pop, this album immediately spoke to me. The airy vocals remind me a bit of Fleet Foxes except Beach House can at times actually outshine.
Highlights: Silver Soul, 10 Mile Stereo

3. Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

I mistakenly wrote Kanye off a few years back. He’d started focusing on autotune, started doing even crazier shit and I just got tired of trying to explain his antics in my head. Then 2010 came around and I started hearing the singles on his new album. I still refused to be swayed. Then I saw him perform on SNL and I was taken aback. His cocky demeanor, his nonsensical lyrics, they were all still there, but it suddenly was working for me. I ‘got’ him again. Then he released an album featuring Bon Iver on three tracks and the complete 180 in my mind was complete. Even though he’s still releasing self-indulgent, pretentious 30-minute music “videos” and is still doing crazy shit, I’m now a fan once again. Let’s have a toast for the douchebag.
Highlights: Lost in the World, Runaway

2. Arcade Fire- The Suburbs

Everything clicked for Arcade Fire in 2010. I mean, they were big before but suddenly they had the same name recognition as Coldplay and Radiohead. They had youtube web broadcasts of shows, they had a number one album in the States and they deserved every bit of that success because The Suburbs is a hell of an album. It was better than Neon Bible and better than almost everything released in 2010. The lead single “Ready To Start” came along at a point in my life when I was ready to start a lot of things as well, one of those life-defining sort of songs.
Highlights: Ready To Start, Half Light II (No Celebration)

1. Titus Andronicus- The Monitor

I had never heard of Titus Andronicus before 2010 (besides the Shakespeare play) and a lot of people I know still haven’t. That’s a shame but it’s not surprising. The songs on this album are nothing short of epic but I wouldn’t say that they’re the most accessible. Buried under civil war references, Bright-Eyes-esque aching vocals and 4-5 minute long build-ups are bar-song rally cries and incredible hooks. The lyrics are dark but they contain a glimmer of hope, you just have to get through the entire album a few times to hear it. It’s complex, it’s simple, it’s the best album of 2010 and you’d be missing out if you didn’t give it a few chances. They’re also awesome live.

Listen to The Battle Of Hampton Roads below:

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Isaac Brock (of Modest Mouse) with Broken Social Scene- The World At Large (live @ The Sound Academy)

Isaac Brock, lead singer of Modest Mouse, makes an extremely unexpected surprise appearance at Broken Social Scene’s last concert of 2008 (November 28th, Toronto, The Sound Academy). The last song he performed: The World At Large.

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