<![CDATA[CosmoMusic.ca Blog]]> Sat, 10 Dec 2016 16:42:31 +0000 en hourly 1 <![CDATA[Jimmy's 'Classic' Album Review: 'Pinkerton', Weezer's Cult Classic]]> Mon, 28 Nov 2016 13:35:59 +0000

A Review By Jimmy Ruddock

"What's your favourite album of all time?"
That's a question that I've been asked countless times over the years. As difficult a question as that is to answer, there has only been one album that I have been comfortable with calling my all time favourite: Weezer's 'Pinkerton'.
As a young kid, The Beatles introduced me to the beauty and endless creative possibilities of pop music. Hearing their music for the first time as a 9 year old was mind-blowing...as much as a 9 year old's mind can be blown. At home, I continuously played their cassette tapes and CD's, and when I was at school the songs would run through my head, anxiously awaiting that moment when I got home and could press play on the stereo.
In my 20's, The Walkmen taught me the power of subtlety in music, as well as the emotional impact of live performance. Seeing them at a small club show at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern was truly one of those "last night a band changed my life" kind of moments. To see The Walkmen's singer Hamilton Leithauser belt out the soaring chorus of their song "In The New Year" from just a few feet away is one moment I will never forget.
However, I am missing a particularly significant time in my life: those all important teenage years. That time belongs to Weezer, and I will most likely never love a band quite as much as I loved them during those years. Their first two albums, the self-titled debut affectionately dubbed 'The Blue Album', and its follow-up 'Pinkerton', had a profound impact on my life; they inspired me to start writing my own songs, something which is still a huge part of my life to this day. Front man Rivers Cuomo's tales of heartbreak, social awkwardness, and insecurity really spoke to my 15 year old self in a way that no other songs had done before. While I may not listen to 'Pinkerton' as obsessively as I did as an angst-ridden teenager, now as an angst-ridden adult its impact on me has not dulled in any way, and is still just as important and significant to me.

How is one to supposed to review their all-time favourite album other than saying "just listen to it!"? I suppose I'll start by putting things in context by talking about the album that preceded it, 1994's debut 'The Blue Album'. Selling almost 3.5 million copies, the album was a monumental success, both commercially and critically. Featuring the infectious singles 'Buddy Holly', 'Undone - The Sweater Song', and 'Say It Ain't So', the album is a power-pop masterpiece, with its blend of catchy melodies, quirky, self-deprecating lyrics, and heavy guitars and instantly hummable guitar solos. So when Weezer announced their follow-up album 'Pinkerton', expectations were high. Rather than repeat the successful formula of 'The Blue Album', Rivers Cuomo had something else in mind.

Inspired by Giacomo Puccini's tragic opera 'Madama Butterfly' (Lt. Pinkerton is the name of one of the main characters in the opera), as well as his own personal life/turmoil - which included studying classical composition at Harvard in between touring, numerous failed relationships, as well as his disillusionment with his success and the rock star life - Cuomo sought to create a darker, more abrasive sound, while writing from a more direct, personal perspective. From the opening drum and fuzzed out bass of opening song 'Tired Of Sex', it is quite clear that this is not the same Weezer who sang 'Buddy Holly'. Guitar feedback squeals, vocals that are not so much sung as they are screamed, Patrick Wilson's heavy handed drumming which sounds like it may burst through the stereo speakers at any moment, and Rivers Cuomo's blistering guitar solo which harkens back to his days as a teenage metal head shredder, are just some of the features of this song. It is the perfect opener as it sets the tone for the rest of album, and allows the listener to prepare for the visceral, emotional onslaught they are about to experience. Album centrepiece 'Across The Sea' tells the tale of Cuomo receiving a letter from a Japanese fan, lamenting the fact that she's so far away from him, while finally accepting "I've got your letter, you've got my song". Musically, the song is deceptively complex, showcasing a strong classical influence, particularly during the time signature changes and key changes during the solo section. The classical influence is strong throughout the album, which led the acclaimed Vitamin String Quartet to record an instrumental tribute album to 'Pinkerton', their version of 'Across The Sea' is particularly great.

The band's quirky sense of humour is still present despite the darker, more confessional subject matter of the lyrics. This humour is most evident both musically and lyrically on the lovably goofy lead single 'El Scorcho', in which Cuomo falls for a girl who is so cool she's never even heard of Green Day, "how cool is that", while in the chorus he tries to convince her of his worth, singing "I'm a lot like you, so please, hello, I'm here, I'm waiting, I think I'd be good for you, and you'd be good for me." In the punk rock bridge that seemingly comes out of nowhere, he reveals his social insecurity about how he can only truly express himself through his music; "How stupid is it? I can't talk about it, I gotta sing about it and make a record of my heart." After nine tracks of tortured, confessional, visceral, raw music, it is oddly appropriate that album closer 'Butterfly' is an unaccompanied acoustic track. Perhaps the most confessional song on the album, Cuomo admits that sometimes he can be a bad person, putting the blame on no one but himself, he apologizes to everyone he has done wrong, with the last words on the album being "I'm sorry".

Upon its initial release, 'Pinkerton' was almost universally panned by the critics, including Rolling Stone magazine infamously calling it 1996's second worst album of the year. Perhaps critics were not prepared for the album, or perhaps it was ahead of its time, but in the twenty years since its release it has undergone a serious reappraisal - Rolling Stone magazine has since re-reviewed it with a perfect 5 star review. 'Pinkerton' is a brave, emotional, powerful, timeless album, and even if it doesn't have as much of an impact on you as it has had on me, I truly hope you will give it a listen, you won't regret it. So, after all of that I guess the only thing I have left to say is...just listen to it!

Order 'Pinkerton' Here

About Mobile Fidelity Productions
'Pinkerton' and Weezer's debut 'The Blue Album' are also available in high end limited mobile fidelity editions. These deluxe gatefold 180 gram vinyl are remastered from the original master tapes, and they fully capture the energy and dynamics of the band to the point that if you turn up the volume loud enough it sounds like the band is playing in your room...believe me, I've tried it.

Also Available:

]]>
http://cosmomusic.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Weezer_Pinkerton1-240x160.jpg <![CDATA[Jimmy's 'Classic' Album Review: 'Pinkerton', Weezer's Cult Classic]]>
<![CDATA[A Memory of Leonard Cohen, 1934-2016]]> Fri, 11 Nov 2016 10:51:49 +0000

By Jimmy Ruddock

I was on a road trip with a few of my friends around this time of the year about 6 or 7 years ago. We decided to stop for a few days in Montreal to see a concert, and to do some sightseeing around the city. We arrived on a Saturday, and that night was a particularly late and debauched one, in the most respectful of ways of course. So when I awoke at around 7:00 AM the following Sunday morning (I've never been able to sleep well in hotel beds), I knew that my friends would most likely be enjoying their peaceful slumber for at least another few hours. Not wanting to waste a moment, I decided to forego sleep in favour of adventuring! As I walked out of the hotel into the rainy morning Montreal streets, I knew only one artist would be appropriate to soundtrack my adventure, one of Montreal's most beloved sons, the great Leonard Cohen. I quickly pulled up his first three albums on my iPod - 'Songs Of Leonard Cohen', 'Songs From A Room', and 'Songs Of Love and Hate' - and began my walk.

As I aimlessly wandered the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, I imagined myself as a young Leonard Cohen, taking in, and being inspired by the sights and sounds of the city. I think at one point I even contemplated buying a pack of cigarettes(I've never smoked a day in my life) just to fully embrace my newfound Leonard Cohen-ness...I didn't. While I was being a poseur pretending to be this legendary poet, and one of the coolest men of all time, one word popped into my head: authenticity. Listening to the beautiful songs of Leonard Cohen, tripping down the cobblestone streets as I admired the architecture of the old buildings, while the church bells of Notre Dame rang through the rainy morning skies of Old Montreal. It was like an authenticity overload!
Authenticity is one of the most important traits to me not only in music, but in life in general. I often question the honesty and integrity in musicians: do they really mean what they're playing/singing about, or are they simply trying to come up with the formula to write a hit song?

I also often question the honesty and integrity of people in a similar way. However, there is no questioning the authenticity or honesty of Leonard Cohen. He was about as much of a real deal as there ever has been, not only as a musician but also as a person.

Upon returning to the hotel a few hours later, my friends were up and preparing for another memorable day, little did they know that I had just had the most memorable experience of the trip; that magical rainy Montreal morning spent with Leonard Cohen as my soundtrack.

Leonard, you will be missed, you were a true inspiration. Rest In Peace.

Leonard Cohen's latest album 'You Want It Darker' will be released on vinyl on Dec 9, 2016.

]]>
http://cosmomusic.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-240x160.jpg <![CDATA[A Memory of Leonard Cohen, 1934-2016]]>
<![CDATA[Jimmy's Album Review: Green Day's Back To Basics Revolution]]> Thu, 13 Oct 2016 18:45:01 +0000

Green Day: Revolution Radio

A Review By Jimmy Ruddock

The date was November 2, 2004, and I was part of the sold out crowd at Green Day's Air Canada Centre Toronto concert. The band were promoting their newly released album 'American Idiot', an album which would prove to be incredibly important in the band's career. This night was also particularly significant because it was the night of the George Bush vs John Kerry US Presidential Election. This fact was not lost on the audience, as front man Billie Joe Armstrong had been quite outspoken about his distaste for the Bush Administration, at one point in the show declaring to the crowd that "if Bush wins I'm moving to Canada". The subject matter of 'American Idiot', a concept album and punk rock opera, dealt with the disillusionment of the generation growing up under the Bush regime, and dealing with such traumatic events as September 11, and the Iraq War. The album marked a career comeback for Green Day, after a period of declining relevance and album sales. 'American Idiot' would prove to be incredibly successful, selling 15 million copies worldwide, winning the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album, spawning a Broadway musical, and being praised by many publications as one of the best concept albums of all time. In the ensuing years, Green Day's artistic ambition did not wane in anyway, releasing the follow-up concept album '21st Century Breakdown', and three albums in quick succession, 'Uno!','Dos!', and 'Tre!' So, it is quite interesting then that Green Day are once again releasing an album during another tumultuous US Presidential Election. While still remaining angry and politically charged, 'Revolution Radio' has more of a back to basics approach than their last few albums, with Armstrong describing it as "not so much a makeover as a make under".

Green Day made a name for them for themselves with the incredibly catchy, adolescent, and at times crass pop punk anthems of 1994's 'Dookie' and 1995's 'Insomniac'. Follow-up albums 'Nimrod' and 'Warning' showed signs of a band maturing, with more acoustic, folk elements, particularly the TV show clip montage and graduation/prom staple 'Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)'. After the release of 'American Idiot', Green Day introduced themselves to a whole new generation of fans, and enjoyed the most successful phase in their career. Rather than continuing to up the ante with another conceptual work, Green Day have employed a back to basics approach to 'Revolution Radio', with more of an emphasis on individual songs, rather than an overarching concept or theme. First single 'Bang Bang' has all of the traits of a classic Green Day song, with its furious power chords, Mike Dirnt's melodic bass playing, and Tre Cool's always energetic drumming. Yet the song's subject matter is more in line with the band's political material, with Armstrong commenting on the increased gun violence in the US, by singing from the point of view of a mass shooter. The next song, title track 'Revolution Radio', is equally as furious as the song before it, with Armstrong encouraging the youth to stand up to the corrupt status quo. While the band definitely get their point across in these two songs, the lyrics do take a back seat to the music, with Armstrong resorting to sloganeering and catch phrases for the most part. So, it's a nice change of pace with the nostalgic storytelling of youthful indiscretion on 'Outlaws', with it's predictably appropriate 1950's inspired chord progression and wistful vocal melodies. On the nearly 7 minute multi part epic 'Forever Now' the band return to the punk rock opera stylings of 'American Idiot' and '21st Century Breakdown', revisiting some of the melodic and lyrical themes of album opener 'Somewhere Now' and title track 'Revolution Radio'. The lovely acoustic number 'Ordinary World' is a fitting conclusion to the album, in which Armstrong casts himself as a failed rocker turned family man.

Green Day's back to basics album 'Revolution Radio' has once again revitalized and re-energized both the band and its fan base, and with 2016 being the 30th anniversary of Green Day being a band (doesn't that make you feel old?), there is no doubt that they have plenty of life left in them, and many more great albums to come.

Order Revolution Radio Here

Key Tracks

Outlaws

Forever Now

Ordinary World


 

 

 

Also Available:

]]>
http://cosmomusic.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/revolutionradio-240x160.jpg <![CDATA[Jimmy's Album Review: Green Day's Back To Basics Revolution]]>
<![CDATA[Pearl Jam Delights Collectors With Vinyl Reissues of 'No Code' and 'Yield']]> Tue, 11 Oct 2016 11:50:27 +0000

A Vinyl Review by Jimmy Ruddock

There are many bands who have devoted fan bases. Those fans who eagerly await each new album, purchase concert tickets every time their band comes to town, and proudly wear the t-shirt with the tour dates on the back of that aforementioned concert. Then there are those few bands who transcend all of that: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, and Pearl Jam, amongst a few select others. For fans of these bands simply owning the albums and the t-shirt is not enough. These are the kind of fans who spend far too much time seeking out live bootlegs, unreleased recordings, rare 7 inch singles, and out of print albums, as well as other rare collectibles. The only way I know this is because I must admit to being one of these rabid collector fans, spending many hours searching through dusty old bins of records in the hopes of finding a hidden gem. If anyone is curious, I've been collecting records since I became a massive Beatle fan at the age of 8, and have yet to find my 'holy grail record'. It is this infamous Beatles record, so if anyone has any tips on where to get one, please let me know!

Seattle band Pearl Jam has been one of the most successful rock bands of the last 25 years, releasing some of the most seminal albums of the 90's, as well as being renowned for their legendary live shows. Selling over 60 million albums worldwide, they have outlasted many of their their 90's grunge/alternative contemporaries, while continuing to influence many current bands, and maintaining their rabid fan base through new album releases and tours.
So, upon the announcement of the 20th anniversary vinyl reissue of Pearl Jam's 1996 album 'No Code', as well as their 1998 album 'Yield', collectors worldwide rejoiced! Both of these albums have been out of print on vinyl since their original release, and have sold for hundreds of dollars in the ensuing years, with 'No Code' selling for as high as $600-700 (mainly due to the fact that in 1996 vinyl pressings were relatively small due to the lack of demand in the CD dominated market)! Thankfully now Pearl Jam fans can fill in the gaps of their vinyl collection without having to break the bank.

Pearl Jam: No Code

After the release of three incredibly successful albums ('Ten', 'Vs', and 'Vitalogy'), many Pearl Jams fans were confused by the eclectic and experimental nature of 'No Code', which showed a break from the band's earlier polished stadium rock sound, favouring rootsy ballads, with lyrical themes touching on spirituality and self examination . During this time in the band's career, many felt that they were deliberately making decisions to sabotage their success, which included a much publicized boycott of Ticketmaster, as well as refusal to do any press or release music videos to promote the upcoming album. The first single from the album 'Who You Are' is perhaps the least Pearl Jam sounding song the band has ever recorded, a tactic front man Eddie Vedder later admitted to as being a conscious decision to keep the size of the band's audience down. In many ways Vedder was successful in this respect, as for many years it was the band's least successful album both commercially and critically, despite the fact that the album still topped the charts. However, more recently the album has undergone a reappraisal of sorts, with many now crediting its uncompromising nature as being a big part of the band's longevity.

About The Vinyl:

Legendary Grammy-winning mastering engineer Robert Ludwig (whose mastering credits include Led Zeppelin, Queen, Nirvana, Daft Punk, as well as over 3000 other credits) remastered 'No Code' specifically for this 150-gram vinyl reissue, and the package will include recreations of the original artwork with nine random replica Polaroid/lyric cards.

Order 'No Code' Here

Pearl Jam: Yield

Following the introspective, experimental nature of 'No Code', 1998's 'Yield' signaled a return to Pearl Jam's more accessible mainstream rock sound. The promotion of the album included the iconic Todd Mcfarlane directed music video for single 'Do The Evolution', as well as a full worldwide tour after relenting to Ticketmaster's policies, in an attempt to make concerts more accommodating to their fans. Creatively, the album was the band's most collaborative effort, with all band members contributing to the songwriting, allowing Vedder to concentrate on his lyrics, which Pitchfork Media declared as being "the most lyrically powerful album Pearl Jam have ever produced". Featuring the singles 'Given To Fly', 'Wishlist', and 'Do The Evolution', 'Yield' became the band's fifth straight platinum album.

About The Vinyl:

'Yield' has been reissued on 150-gram vinyl for the first time since the album's original release. Like 'No Code', the album was specifically mastered for vinyl by Robert Ludwig, and the artwork features recreations of the original packaging.

Order 'Yield' Here

]]>
http://cosmomusic.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/nocode1-240x160.jpg <![CDATA[Pearl Jam Delights Collectors With Vinyl Reissues of 'No Code' and 'Yield']]>
<![CDATA[Jimmy's 'Classic' Album Review: The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds: Mono vs Stereo]]> Mon, 29 Aug 2016 11:42:05 +0000

The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds

A Review By Jimmy Ruddock

This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Beach Boys' classic 1966 album 'Pet Sounds'. The album is a genuine masterpiece, universally considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time. It features some of the greatest moments in the history of pop music, including the thrilling opener 'Wouldn't It Be Nice', and my personal all-time favourite song, the absolutely beautiful 'God Only Knows'.

Since forming in late 1961, The Beach Boys enjoyed enormous success with their surf rock sound, including such classic singles as 'I Get Around', 'Surfin' USA', and 'California Girls', to name a few. However, by 1965, Brian Wilson, the band's leader and songwriter, was not content to simply continue with this sound, but instead wanted to make an album that reflected his increasingly growing talent as a composer, arranger, and producer. Inspired by The Beatles' album 'Rubber Soul', which he described as "the first album I listened to where every song was a gas", Wilson sought to surpass that album by creating a sophisticated work that elevated traditional rock music to the level of art music.

Featuring The Beach Boys' elaborate vocal harmonies, Wilson's symphonic arrangements, the use of non-traditional instruments (bicycle bells, barking dogs, and a theremin), and musical elements as diverse as jazz, classical, exotica, and avant garde, 'Pet Sounds' was a major achievement. The lyrical tone of the album reflected Wilson's growing isolation from the world, with the subject matter dealing with the vagaries of love and the pain of heartbreak, and the crippling feeling of anxiety and self doubt. Music jounalist Stephen Davis described it as: "This trenchant cycle of love songs has the emotional impact of a shatteringly evocative novel...nobody was prepared for anything so soulful, so lovely, something one had to think about so much." Perhaps Davis was correct in saying nobody was quite prepared for 'Pet Sounds', as initially the commercial and critical reception was quite poor, with many people, including some of Wilson's own band mates (cough...Mike Love...cough), just not understanding the music.

Despite the poor sales and lukewarm critical reception, the album was still incredibly influential, particularly for many of The Beach Boys' contemporaries. It signaled a turning point in rock music, inspiring others to take chances and experiment with their music. Whereas previously rock music was simply considered to be music to dance to, it could now be taken seriously as music that was to be contemplated, and listened to. Paul McCartney cited 'Pet Sounds' as one of his favourite albums, and the primary inspiration for The Beatles' 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band', and Bob Dylan declared that Brian Wilson's left ear should be donated to the Smithsonian, which appropriately brings us to the next part of this review.

Mono vs Stereo

Mono: a system of sound recording and reproduction using only a single channel.

Stereo: a system of sound recording or reproduction using two or more separate channels to produce a more realistic effect by capturing the spatial dimensions of a performance.

Despite the fact that the first mass produced stereo LPs began in 1958, many artists including The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Kinks, and The Beach Boys chose to record and release their early albums in mono. In the case of The Beach Boys, in particular, perhaps a big part of their decision to record in mono was because of Brian Wilson's partial deafness in one ear. Another significant reason was Wilson's adoration of famed producer Phil Spector's 'Wall Of Sound' mono recording approach. Since Wilson had total control of every aspect of 'Pet Sounds', a stereo mix of the album was not created, and it was only released in mono. It wasn't until several years later (1997), that the first true stereo mix of the album was released. Since the release of that stereo mix the debate between mono and stereo has raged on, with many mono purists comparing the stereo mix of 'Pet Sounds' to the blasphemy of colourizing a classic black and white movie.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of 'Pet Sounds', both Mono and Stereo versions of the LP have been released on 180 gram vinyl. I'll highlight some of the features/benefits of both below.

Mono:

- True to Brian Wilson's original artistic vision.

- The sound is warm and compact, giving it a full, punchy sound, particularly during some of the isolated drum/percussion moments.

- It replicates Wilson's own version of Spector's 'Wall Of Sound' production, particularly in recreating the sound of a bunch of musicians all jammed into a tight space playing together. A clean, detailed sound was not what Wilson was going for, it was supposed to be one huge sound.

Order Pet Sounds (Mono) 50th Anniversary 180 Gram Vinyl

Stereo:

- Sounds come alive, and the differentiation of instruments is much more clear, parts that had been seemingly hidden in the mono version will all of a sudden be clear and spacious.

- While it may lack some of the power and fullness of the mono mix, it more than makes up for it in depth, and introduces a different perspective of the album.

- Some may say the stereo mix is revisionist, however, it is important to note that Brian Wilson approved, and supervised the stereo mix from the original tapes.

Order Pet Sounds (Stereo) 50th Anniversary 180 Gram Vinyl

Conclusion:

I don't mean to sound diplomatic, but in the debate of 'Pet Sounds' Mono vs Stereo, one does not supersede the other, they are simply both amazing for different reasons. In keeping with the prior movie analogy, it's not so much like colourizing a black and white film, but more so like having a 2D and 3D version of the same movie. They are equally good, yet different versions, and different experiences, except...you know...probably your eyes won't start to hurt when listening to the stereo version.

Analogue Productions 200 Gram Vinyl (Mono and Stereo):

To the die hard 'Pet Sounds' fans out there, there is a third 50th Anniversary Edition of the album available for special order. It's a 200 gram pressing (in either Mono or Stereo) produced by Analogue Productions. Analogue Productions is a company that specializes in audiophile reproductions of classic albums. Their LP reissues feature thicker grade vinyl (180 gram or better), and their audio mastering is done using only the original analogue master tapes.

Order Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Analogue Productions 200 Gram Vinyl

]]>
http://cosmomusic.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/pet-sounds-large1-240x160.jpg <![CDATA[Jimmy's 'Classic' Album Review: The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds: Mono vs Stereo]]>
<![CDATA[Exciting NEW Piano Books Series - The Lang Lang Piano Method Books]]> Wed, 10 Aug 2016 12:49:22 +0000 "I loved making my new series for complete beginners and presenting a new way of learning the piano that 21st Century children can relate to." Lang LangĀ 

Join the super hero world of Lang Lang and come on a piano adventure with The Lang Lang Piano Method Series.

Lang Lang Piano Method Book 1

Level 1

Level 1 introduces complete beginners to different five-finger positions, note reading, moving around the keyboard, and developing both hands equally right from the start. The five progressive books in The Lang Lang Piano Method provide a unique and imaginative way for complete beginners to learn the piano with the world's most successful concert pianist, Lang Lang. There's plenty to play all around the keyboard right from the start. Fun, imaginative pieces develop the left and right hands equally, and supporting audio features exclusive performances by Lang Lang of the concert pieces. Musicianship is developed through theory pages and listening to exclusive performances by Lang Lang of piano classics for children. "I've written The Lang Lang Piano Method to inspire today's kids with my passion for the piano." ---Lang Lang

Lang Lang Piano Method Book 2

Level 2

Level 2 builds on the first book by introducing eighth notes (quavers), simple hands together, and thumb-under technique.

Lang Lang Piano Method Book 3

Level 3

Level 3 continues the progression by extending the note range to an octave, exploring different keys, and including more hands-together in pieces.

All 3 Level books are NOW AVAILABLE and in-stock at Cosmo Music!

Hear some words from the man himself on his new series here:

]]>
<![CDATA[Jimmy's Album Review - The Avalanches Triumphantly Return With 'Wildflower']]> Wed, 27 Jul 2016 16:25:32 +0000

The Avalanches - Wildflower

A Review by Jimmy Ruddock

Before I begin this review I think it's important to start with a few definitions.

1. Plunderphonics: Any music made by taking one or more existing audio recordings and altering them in some way to make a new composition.
2. Crate Digger: A person who habitually looks through crates of vinyl records at music shops, especially in pursuit of rare or interesting albums.
3. Sampling: The technique of digitally encoding music or sound and reusing it as part of a composition or recording.

It's been 16 years since Australian band The Avalanches released their classic album 'Since I Left You'. With each passing year, and the likelihood of a follow up album seeming less and less likely, the album has grown to have a legendary, almost mythical status. Rightfully so, as 'Since I Left You' took sampling, and the genre of plunderphonics to another level. With no original music recorded, the album consists of thousands of samples, including melodies from obscure Motown B-sides, flamenco guitar, dialogue from instructional/self-help videos, disco grooves, clips from 1950's Western movies, and to top it all off, the bass line from Madonna's 1983 hit 'Holiday'. That's just a sampling (pardon the pun) of what made 'Since I Left You' such a groundbreaking album. The very fact that this kind of music requires searching for and listening to hundreds of records sounds time consuming enough, not to mention finding creative ways of using those samples to make new, orginal music. I just don't think most people imagined it would take 16 years for them to finally release the follow up album. So, with those definitions and backstory out of the way, I think we can finally begin the review of The Avalanches new record, 'Wildflower'.

Our memories can often be confusing; are we ever really sure that what we're remembering is what actually happened at the time? Most of us tend to be nostalgic for the past, whether it's reminiscing with old friends about exaggerated versions of high school stories, or chalking up painful memories to experience, or even laughing about things that once seemed so serious. Perhaps the great Bruce Springsteen said it best in his 1973 hit 'Rosalita', "Someday we'll look back on this and it'll all seem funny". So, while listening to 'Wildflower', the idea of memory is persistent, and feelings of nostalgia are unavoidable. The very nature of the music evokes the passage of time, as the musical samples span several decades, often within the same song. Just as our memories can be distorted and intertwined through time, so too does the music have a similar effect, with different genres intermingling with one another, and snippets of half-heard conversations and atmospheric sound effects fading in and out. Clever production choices, like songs that sound like they're stuck between stations on the radio, and melodies that can be barely heard underneath ambient street sounds, make for incredibly atmospheric moments. I found these moments to be particularly meaningful in that they brought up some childhood memories that I hadn't thought of in years. One such memory may seem to be inconsequential, but perhaps because of the detail and beauty of the image, it transported me back to the my 10 year old self. The memory was of me playing in a park and hearing the faint sound of a lifeguard's radio being drowned (again, pardon the unfortunate pun) out by the joyful screams of children at an outdoor community pool on the hottest day of the summer. Why that particular memory? I have no idea. All I know is that this album seems to have the power of uncovering long forgotten memories.

It's astounding how musically eclectic this album is, starting with the joyful Motown soul of 'Because I'm Me', and the calypso infused, 'Sound Of Music' referencing 'Frankie Sinatra'. The next track, 'Subways' conjures images of the gritty 1970's New York of 'Taxi Driver', 'Saturday Night Fever', and 'The Warriors'. While 'Colours' and 'Harmony' are slices of Beatlesque 1960's psychedelia. Not to mention the short instrumental interlude pieces ('Zap!' and 'Wildflower'), which provide some of the album's loveliest moments. 'Zap!', with its swirling strings, chirping birds, and lonely harmonica, provides the backdrop for a young boy's monologue about his love of the freedom of flying, while also lamenting "the only bad part about flying is having to come back down". On title track 'Wildflower', a woman's deep sigh is the only lyric necessary to accompany its beautiful descending chord progression. It's this attention to detail that truly makes 'Wildflower' a special record, and one that creates an emotional connection by tapping into the idea of our memories and how confusing and beautiful they can be.

It's not very often that a record can make you remember long lost memories, or feelings that you had long ago forgotten. This, alongside the fact that the music is just so vibrant and eclectic, is what really sets 'Wildflower' apart from every other album I've heard this year, making it my front runner for album of the year. So, I guess the inevitable question to sum up this review is: was it worth the 16 year wait between 'Since I Left You' and 'Wildflower'? If it wasn't obvious enough from this review, of course the answer is yes, let's just hope it doesn't take quite as long for the next album.

About The Vinyl:
The band members of The Avalanches spent many hours searching through record stores, scouring the bins for rare, oftentimes forgotten vinyl. So what better way to experience the fruits of all of their labour ('Wildflower') than listening to it on vinyl. Explore the beauty of the warmth of analogue with this 2 LP set, complete with colourful inner sleeves, and Sly and The Family Stone referencing album cover.

Order Wildflower Today

Key Tracks*

- Because I'm Me

- Subways

- Harmony

*Even though I just listed my key tracks, this album really needs to be experienced as a complete album to get the full effect.

If you like this album, try these:

]]>
http://cosmomusic.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/wildflower1-240x160.jpg <![CDATA[Jimmy's Album Review - The Avalanches Triumphantly Return With 'Wildflower']]>
<![CDATA[Advance Stream of 'Loud Hailer', Jeff Beck's Latest Musical Statement]]> Fri, 08 Jul 2016 12:01:34 +0000

Jeff Beck: Loud Hailer

Jeff Beck,the legendary Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame guitarist, is often referred to as the "guitarist's guitarist". So, whenever he releases a new album, guitarists, in particular take note. Throughout his illustrious career Beck has always been a forward thinking musician, always thinking outside of the box, developing innovative guitar techniques. Starting with the British Invasion garage rock of The Yardbirds, to the pre Led Zeppelin bluesy hard rock of the Jeff Beck Group, to the landmark jazz fusion albums "Blow By Blow" and "Wired", and most recently his electronic influenced albums, he has never been content to repeat himself, always wanting to explore new musical territories. On his latest record - his first studio album in six years - "Loud Hailer", this is no exception. Enlisting two female vocalists, Rosie Bones and Carmen Vandenberg, who co-wrote the eleven tracks alongside Beck, the album features funk, electronic music, and soul and blues, with a particular emphasis on vocal songs. Describing the album as a statement of the world today, Beck said "I loved the idea of being at a rally and using this loud device to shout my point of view."
- Jimmy Ruddock

Stream Jeff Beck's "Loud Hailer" right now before it is released on Friday, July 15th below:


Also Available from Jeff Beck:

]]>
<![CDATA[Jimmy's Album Review - Radiohead's 'A Moon Shaped Pool' is a beautiful new classic]]> Thu, 30 Jun 2016 11:41:36 +0000

Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool

A Review by Jimmy Ruddock

It's kind of a big deal every time Radiohead release a new album. They have released some of the most acclaimed and influential albums of the last 20 years ('The Bends', 'Ok Computer', 'Kid A', to name a few), so expectations were high for 'A Moon Shaped Pool', their first since 2011's 'The King Of Limbs'. From the percussive strings of opener 'Burn The Witch', to heartbreaking closer 'True Love Waits', Radiohead sound like a band full of confidence, ready to meet those high expectations. Subtlety, minimalism, and soul crushing sadness are the best ways of describing this compelling new album. Now, I hope that description hasn't turned you off of this record, because all of those characteristics, at least in the case of 'A Moon Shaped Pool', are definitely positive.

Understated, fractured pianos shimmer, hypnotic percussion gives the songs an electronic pulse, cinematic, and at times dissonant string arrangements fade in and out of songs, and frontman Thom Yorke's eerie vocal melodies float over the mix, often acting as just another instrument on the song, and not the focal point (note to the reader: there are no fist pumping sing along stadium anthems on this album, I hope you're not disappointed). This should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Radiohead's past work, as virtually all of these qualities have been present on every Radiohead album since 2000's masterpiece 'Kid A'. While that album ('Kid A') had an overall feeling of cold alienation (I mean that as the highest compliment), 'A Moon Shaped Pool' feels different, with a certain positivity emanating from the very sad subject matter of the songs. Perhaps it's something as simple as the acoustic guitars and piano on several songs, or guitarist Jonny Greenwood's string and choral arrangements, which add a certain warmth, and act as a rootsy counterpoint to the colder, more electronic based songs.

That said, this is still quite a heavy album, with most of that heaviness coming from Thom Yorke's lyrics. Now, Mr. Yorke is not a singer known for his diction (he tends to mumble a lot), and his lyrics are often difficult to decipher, but it's not hard to tell that he's been going through a tough time. This is most evident on the aforementioned album closer 'True Love Waits'. After an album full of sad songs, you may think that Radiohead would decide to change things up by ending the album with the positive, romantically titled 'True Love Waits'. Don't be fooled...this is Radiohead who we're talking about, after all. In the song, Yorke describes a dysfunctional relationship in which he is doing anything he can to make the relationship work, even if that means compromising everything he believes in, just to avoid the inevitability of the loneliness that is to come.

This is a heavy, sad record, but is also ultimately a life affirming, beautiful one, and it's another classic in Radiohead's already impressive discography.

About the Vinyl:
With artwork by longtime Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood (he's created all of their art since 1994), the physical vinyl release of 'A Moon Shaped Pool' is as beautiful as the music on the records. Two 180 gram black vinyl records are packaged in a double gatefold design cover, with artwork continued on the inside sleeve. It's definitely a great addition to any vinyl fan's collection. Also, to those who appreciate the convenience of digital, each record comes with a digital download card of the album.

Key Tracks:
- Daydreaming
- Present Tense
- True Love Waits

Click Here to order 'A Moon Shaped Pool' today:

Also Available from Radiohead:

]]>
http://cosmomusic.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Radioheadalbumcover-240x160.jpg <![CDATA[Jimmy's Album Review - Radiohead's 'A Moon Shaped Pool' is a beautiful new classic]]>
<![CDATA[What's New? Ryan and Cristina have March's Cosmo Minute Report!]]> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 13:06:46 +0000 Ryan & Cristina are back with January 2015's Cosmo Minute Report!

The Suhr 2015 Collection has arrived! Inspired by nature, these are some truly authentic premium instruments.
Click here to see more!

Antonio Sanchez, grammy award winner and composer for the Academy Award winning Best Picture Birdman, will be hosting an intimate clinic on the Cosmopolitan Music Hall stage!
Click here for more details!

Former drummer and founding member of Our Lady Peace will be hosting a drum clinic at the Cosmopolitan Music Hall!
Click here for details!

Drum Performance Clinic with Jeremy Taggart - Sept 25, 2015

The RCM Celebration Series is out now!
Click here to find out more!

Stay tuned for more Cosmo Minute Reports!

]]>