Tag Archives: Donnie Darko

Reasons to Pay Attention to Canada Besides the Olymipcs

Most of the time, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what our northern neighbor is up to…. until the Olympics, that is. Suddenly I’m seeing more advertisements for whale-watching in the Canadian outback than commercials featuring creepily mature babies talking about their stock options. And for me, that’s a problem. That, and getting whooped by both the British and the Canadians in curling. (Full disclosure: I’m watching curling right now, and the match is not going so well.)

The point I’m trying to slowly meandering towards is that Canada has great music, and the Canadian music scene is something definitely worth paying attention to.

The Band, on a beach near Robertson's house in Malibu in 1975

There are the big names in Canadian music. Perhaps the biggest being The Band, from Toronto, which was four-fifths Canadian, with legends Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson (fun fact: Roberstson just masterminded the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese psychological thriller Shutter Island). The one non-Canadian in the band was “the only drummer that could make you cry” – America’s own Levon Helm.

Also from Toronto was a band I talked about last week, the prog rock gods, Rush. Their last album, Snakes and Arrows, came out in 2007 but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been busy. The Sports Network (TSN), Canada’s ESPN, was looking for a way to add some pizazz to their outdated “The Hockey Theme”, originally composed in 1968. The solution? The theme, which plays before all NHL games on the network, would be re-recorded by Mr. Peart which means many, many drum fills. Oh, so many drum fills. Check it out:

The new theme is set to play for the rest of the season, and hopefully will last longer than a previous tongue in cheek version recorded by the Barenaked Ladies, who also happen to be from Toronto.

Back to music that is actually written by the artists themselves: From Midland, Ontario comes one of my favorite bands, The Born Ruffians. Formed by Luke Lalonde, Mitch Derosier and Steven Hamelin, the band makes some great music that is sparse and erratic yet wonderfully rich. Take a listen to this song, and be warned that it gets a little gory towards the end:

Luke’s unique voice is what sets the band apart from other small-time indie bands, and in terms of classic vocalists he can doo wop with the best of them. In preparation for the release of their upcoming album, Say It, the band will be playing in March at the SXSW music festival but they’ll be stopping by New York before then for two private shows, one at Colgate University and the other at NYU, for the lucky students who attend those schools.

We head back to Montreal for the so-called “trip rock” band, Beast, consisting of just two members: Betty Bonifassi, and Jean-Phi Goncalves. They’ve been growing in popularity because in addition to their main single “Mr. Hurricane” being a free download on iTunes, it was nominated at the Grammys for Best Short Form Video. Despite Bonifassi’s annoying tendency to add unnecessary syllables to words (“me-a”, “safety-a”, “sea-a” etc.), the song’s really fun to listen to thanks to a fantastic drum and bass section and some spiffy production courtesy of Goncalves. And the video has some pretty cool special effects, done at a discount by Joshua Sherrett who worked on 300. But the song is the best part, and if you don’t like bees, don’t watch this:

But no Canadian group has been so prominent in recent years as The Arcade Fire, indie-rock superstars. Husband and wife duo Win Bulter and Régine Chassange have led the band to incredible fame. They have been all over the place: possibly working with Owen Pallett (the indie-violinist who formerly released solo works under the name Final Fantasy) on the soundtrack for Richard Kelley’s (who directed Donnie Darko) upcoming film The Box (incidentally, The Box is also a Canadian new-wave band from the eighties); re-recording their song “Wake Up” for the Where the Wild Things Are trailer; and licensing that same song for this past Superbowl – all the while coming in and out of the studios so they can release their third LP sometime later this year. Wow that was a mouthful.

Some of the members of The Arcade Fire, with Butler and Chassange and their duplicates in the center

For the ardent Arcade Fire fans, here’s something at least I hadn’t heard about until this week: Three other members of The Arcade Fire, Sarah Neufeld, Kelly Pratt and Pietro Amato, play in the six person instrumental band Bell Orchestre. Here’s a sample of what their hauntingly beautiful music sounds like:

I’ll come back to Bell Orchestre and Owen Pallett  as well as the progressive bluegrass band, Nickel Creek, and others next Monday as I take a look at some bands that have been pushing the boundaries of rock and roll.

Well, we lost our match against Britain, effectively dashing our (my – and his) hopes at a curling medal. Canada is 6-0 at the time of this post… I guess they know what the sport is all aboot.

Shoot. I promised myself that I would contain my Canadian accent… but no one’s gonna take it to heart, eh? OKAY, I’ll stop. As long as Canada keeps turning out great tunes, I’ll leave them alone. I can take solace in good music. That, and the fact that we beat them in hockey. USA!

Happy listening,

~Josh

[If I missed your favorite Canadian band, please feel free to let me and the rest of the readers know by leaving a comment down below!]

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PEAK KEYWORD: JINGOISM

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Where in the World is David Byrne? [Part 1]

David Byrne

David Byrne

We all know David Byrne as the wildly animate singer of the Talking Heads, who’s carefree singing kept people talking about the Talking Heads long after the 80’s were over. But what some people may not know is that David Byrne has had one of the most prolific and varied careers long after the last Talking Heads record, Naked, was released in 1988.

To give a brief background of Mr. Byrne – he was born in Dumbarton, Scotland in 1952. He moved to Canada when he was two, and by age five he had taught himself to play the accordion. At 9 his family had moved to Boston, and by the time he enrolled in high school he had picked up the guitar and violin as well. Andrew Bird, eat your heart out.

But David Byrne is not only a passionate lover of music, he is as accomplished a visual artist as a sonic one. For a year, he took art classes at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, and then dropped out due to the fact that he thought the classes weren’t worth the money. However, the school was invaluable to him in that it brought him together with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth who would form the Talking Heads with Jerry Harrison.

From left to right: Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Byrne, and Tina Weymouth

From left to right: Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Byrne, and Tina Weymouth

During the band’s more than fifteen-year run from their first show in 1975 until they broke up in 1991, Byrne was extremely busy. Among other things, he directed all of the Talking Heads’ music videos, created the score for “The Catherine Wheel” a ballet choreographed by Twyla Tharp and formed the record label Luaka Bop – which highlights Brazilian pop artists.

After the Talking Heads’ official break-up, David Byrne created a series of albums – many of them having Latin themes or even Spanish language lyrics. In 2002, he released the record Uh-Oh, the cover of which shows a choir of angels surrounding a cartoon dog seated on a heavenly throne.

 

"Uh-Oh" by David Byrne

"Uh-Oh" by David Byrne

On his website all Byrne offers about the record is that “funk and Latin grooves were combined together”, but any combination of ago-go bells and bass clarinet, like this record has deserves a listen. “Now I’m Your Mom”, the first track on the album has lyrics that will both amaze and shock you:

Oh little girl
Please understand

And listen to the words I say

I was your dad

Now I’m your mom

I hope you’ll comprehend someday
 
This track goes one to have one of the best instrumental breakdowns in any song that I have heard. Layer by layer, Byrne and his band build up the the sound – but what makes it so incredible is that the layers are made up of horns and woodwind instruments. In thirty seconds, he brings in two french horns, a flugelhorn, flute, clarinet and of course my personal favorite – the bass clarinet.

David Byrne has a way of absorbing everything around him and then incorporating what he collects into his own re-creations of the world. He playfully nudges religion in “A Walk in the Dark” off of the same album (and also throws in some more bass clarinet to boot):

Now Jesus, Mary and the Holy Ghost

Took one look and said, “Hey, we’re lost!”

“How the hell do we get outa here?”

They s*** their pants, they got so scared

"Look Into the Eyeball" by David Byrne

"Look Into the Eyeball" by David Byrne

Byrne continued this trend in a later solo project called Look Into the Eyeball (2001). The slick song U.B. Jesus proclaims

Jesus is big

Jesus is strong

Jesus’ll kill you if you don’t get along
 
Jesus has swing
Jesus has skills
Go on & try it if you don’t believe he will
 

But David Byrne has mellowed out a little but with his most recent record Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (2008). For the recording he teamed up again with British rocker Brian Eno, who played with the Talking Heads from 1978 to 1982. The album is more probing than anything else David Byrne has done since the Talking Heads and is fatalist in a Donnie Darko sort of way. You can listen to the whole album here.

Byrne and Brian Eno

Byrne and Brian Eno

Ok, so more David Byrne to come in the next post! Including recent developments with N.A.S.A., the music group (not to be confused with the makers of the vomit comet) and Fatboy Slim’s band the BPA.

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