Vancouver, the Canadian One

There is a saying: Nothing good ever comes out of Canada.

I might be paraphrasing.

Irregardless, other than currency that can easily be altered to look like Mr. Spock and curling, nothing good ever comes out of Canada.

Except poutine. And Canadian bands like the New Pornographers.

Hailing from Vancouver B.C., the New Pornographers fall somewhere in the power pop/indie pop continuum. From the release of their first album, Mass Romantic (2000), to the present, the band has garnered respect and accolades: Mass Romantic was chosen the 24th best indie album ever by Blender magazine, Electric Version (their second album) was voted the 79th best album of the decade by Rolling Stone magazine and Brill Bruisers (2014) charted at #13 in the U.S. Yet I’m guessing that many of us have never heard of this successful band. As a proper introduction, let us look at their fifth album, Together, from 2010.

NPTogetherSugar-sweet pop, tight harmonies and a happy mood dominate the songs on Together. A distinct ELO influence is heard in the vocal harmonies as well as in the use of strings and classical-oriented interludes. Many songs are driven by guitars, but keyboards also play a significant role. Unlike typical pop music, Together’s songs unfold in a variety of complex ways, often with introductions that starkly contrast the bodies of the songs. Unusual time signatures and accents combine with frequent texture changes to create intriguing musical palettes. In short, Together could easily become one of my favorite albums.

Perhaps what I like best about this album is that songs do not go where expected. Or start where expected. Take for example Your Hands (Together). At the start of this song the music starts and stops frequently until finally the drums enter playing triplets, which creates a strange rhythmic juxtaposition. Later, instrumental breaks which in most songs would be filled with solos are here filled with space – making them seem like anti-solos. Throughout the song textures change often, for example drums coming in and out rather than playing continuously. Overall, this song is a pleasant surprise that keeps the listener guessing.

Together is one of those unexpected gems that one finds every now and again. If you like catchy music that’s a bit on the different side, give this one a spin.

White Lung is another noteworthy Vancouver band. When they started out in 2006, the group played primarily punk and hardcore. Recently their music has evolved to a slightly more poppish sensibility. Deep Fantasy (2014), however, fits squarely into the hardcore category.

WLDeepIf I had to pick a single word to describe Deep Fantasy, it would be dense. Vocals, guitar and drums are astonishingly busy, the band’s sound palette tends to be bright and distorted, tempos are fast, songs are very short. As we say in the recording biz, they saturate the tape. Lyrics deal with heavy life issues: addiction, dysmorphia, rape culture. Coupled with the aggressive music, these lyrics are quite compelling.

The first song, Drown with the Monster, is an excellent introduction to this impenetrable wall of sound. The listener is immediately hit with urban assault guitar and rapid-fire drums. These are quickly joined by harpy-inflected (in a good way) vocals. Though there are relatively peaceful moments, the song is a 2:04 blitzkrieg of the senses. With its abrupt ending, one cannot help but feel relief. And then to cue it up again.

So yes, Regina, good things do come out of Canada on occasion. The Vancouver music scene is filled with impressive performers who make albums that can be found at EPL. As always, check them out.

Citius, Altius, Fortius

This February there’s anticipation building up the road from us because, on the night of February 12, 2010, the 21st Winter Olympic Games will commence in Vancouver, British Columbia. The lighting of the Olympic cauldron will signify the start of two weeks of thrills and excitement. Those attending the games will have the wonderful opportunity to meet people from many nations and observe the very best athletes from all over the globe. Many of us will not be able to attend, but there are other ways of enjoying these Olympic Games. You can watch the events on television and then read about them at the Everett Public Library. We have many books pertaining to the Winter Olympic Games, athletes and their sports.

The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team by Wayne Coffey, tells the story of the “Miracle on Ice” when the amateur U.S. hockey team beat the highly favored Russians. Going for the Gold: Apolo Anto Ohno, Skating on the Edge by Thomas Lang is a biography of the Seattle short track speed skater who will be skating in his third Winter Olympics this year.

Freeze Frame : A Photographic History of the Winter Olympics by Sue Macy highlights the history of the Winter Olympics from their inception in 1924 to today, and includes profiles of Olympic athletes and information on the lesser known winter sports. One of these lesser known sports is curling, and so to remedy that we have on our shelves Curling for Dummies by Bob Weeks.

We also have some general guides to the Vancouver games. The Winter Olympics: An Insider’s Guide to the Legends, the Lore, and the Games: Vancouver edition by Ron C. Judd and The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics: 2010 Edition by David Wallechinsky and Jaime Loucky will keep you well informed about all the events and participants. 

If surfing the web is more your style, there are plenty of web sites to keep you up to date on the games.  You may want to check out the coverage of the games from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as well as NBC here in the states.  The Offical Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics site and the U.S. Olympic Committee are good sources of information as well. 

So, settle in for two weeks of nonstop thrills and spills as the city of Vancouver along with mascots Quatchi, Miga, Sumi and Mukmuk welcome the world “with glowing hearts” (Vancouver Olympic motto).