Not Country

New Music Spotlight: Taylor Swift, James Barker Band, No Liars, Justin Timberlake, Oh Geronimo

This instalment of the New Music Spotlight offers a varied playlist to give you a taste of some of the tracks we’re into right now. From the top of the world’s playlists to a couple acts we think you should be discovering, we’ve got you covered.

In this spotlight, we’ve got five videos from pop, rock, and country. There are big label productions and indie offerings, and we are digging all of them.

Let’s do this!

Artist: Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran, Future
Hometown: Reading, PA
Genre: Pop
Related Artists: Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Selena Gomez
Single: End Game
Notes: One of my favourite tracks from the reputation era, T.Swift kills it with bff Ed Sheeran and Future on End Game. Honestly, if this is what it sounds like to have a big reputation, we’re in.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: James Barker Band
Hometown: Woodville, ON
Genre: Country
Related: Dierks Bentley, Old Dominion, Kieth Urban
Single: Good Together
Notes: JBB has moved past their 2017 EP, Game On, with their new single, and it’s working. Fans are connecting with Good Together the same way they have to earlier releases – online, and live.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: No Liars
Hometown: Victoria, BC
Genre: Punk
Related: Farewell Letter, MakeWar, Light Fire Down
Single: Guilt Trip
Notes: The second track off their forthcoming album, The Cause & The Cure, Guilt Trip reminds me of the hits and fan favourites I loved earlier in the 2000s from Brand New, The Used and more. Turn this one up.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Justin Timberlake
Hometown: Memphis, TN
Genre: Pop
Related: Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, Beyoncé
Single: Supplies
Notes: This is the second single from the upcoming Man Of The Woods album, and it’s still not what we thought was coming based on the trailer. Timberlake is keeping everyone on their toes with Supplies, bringing some powerful imagery to the screen.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Oh Geronimo
Hometown: Burlington, ON
Genre: Rock/Folk
Related: Hey Rosetta!, Texas King, Ivory Hours
Single: Mountains
Notes: The band explains that Mountains is a song about wholeheartedly pursuing your passions, while straddling the fragile line between ambition and humility. The track comes from the 2018 album, The Sled, and serves as a teaser for what we should all be ready to hear.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Ain’t Easy: The Launch’s Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine Interview, Review, and 5 Quick Questions

The Launch returned to television for its second episode, and brought with it some serious competition, creative juices, and in the end, another #1 single as Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine recorded and released a killer rendition of Ain’t Easy to the world.

The Ottawa-based duo were strong from their audition (including a stripped down and powerful take on Major Lazer’s Lean On) forward in the episode, showing confidence, talent, and a willingness to put in the work required to win the day.

Episode two mentors Jennifer Nettles and Ryan Tedder (along with Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta) worked well with the pair, with Tedder especially willing to collaborate when it came time to record the single.

We asked about the confidence they had to approach the hitmaker with their ideas and suggestions, and they told us they “wanted to walk in the room and say we love this song, here’s how we think we can make it us.” and that Tedder “opened the door for collaboration and he is a pro at that.”. Elijah added that “I think that’s what sets Ryan apart… he’s a leave your ego at the door sorta guy. And that’s exactly how Jamie and I work.”.

Elijah Woods and Jamie Fine from The Launch at Corus Toronto

Our conversation also touched on what the last couple of days have been like, and the duo told us that it’s been busy. They estimate that they had about 30 interviews on Thursday, with more lined up for Friday. They also played a live show on Thursday night, adding to the busyness of their time in Toronto around the show’s airing. It hasn’t left a lot of time for sleep, but they both agree that it could be worse.

They also said that being so busy has cut down on their ability to truly absorb what’s been happening. Ain’t Easy hit #1 on iTunes on Thursday, and as we were talking on Friday morning Elijah and Jamie learned that they had cracked the Top 25 on YouTube Canada’s trending videos list.

Elijah told us that they took a few moments to lock themselves in a bathroom on Thursday night to talk about everything that’s happened, and to realize that it’s all for real. And while it may only have been a few minutes, we’re glad they got it.

Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine (EWxJF) are certainly confident when it comes to their music, but in person they remain kind, open, and a good hang (even in a short amount of time). Those traits will no doubt help them as the continue to make music, make connections, and move forward in their career.

While we were with Elijah and Jamie we got the duo to play a quick round of 5 Quick Questions. Here we go…

Elijah Woods and Jamie Fine from The Launch at Corus Toronto

5 Quick Questions with Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine

Q) What was the first song you performed together for an audience?

EWxJF) Ain’t Easy

It was a surprising answer, but kind of cool that with five singles released before this one, they hadn’t yet performed together.

Q) What was the first album you bought?

Elijah) Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
Jamie) 50 Cent – Get Rich Or Die Tryin’

Q) Do you have a dream collaboration partner?

EWxJF) Jamie told us that Cher is her queen, but that at the top of their collaboration wishlist is Adele!

Elijah Woods and Jamie Fine from The Launch at Corus Toronto

Q) Is there a city or venue at the top of your wishlist?

EWxJF) Almost immediately, Elijah told us that Red Rocks is at the top of the list for the duo.

Q) Is there an artist that you think people should be paying more attention to?

EWxJF) Bille Eilish, Elijah told us that he found her early and has been listening whenever there’s something new to hear.

As their sixth single, Ain’t Easy looks like it will pave the way for big things for the duo out of Ottawa. They can now claim a #1 single to go with two other songs (Catchin Feels and Wouldn’t Be Enough) boasting more than 1 million spins each on Spotify.

And while they know that life is about to get busier still, they told us that connecting with fans and listeners is still important to them, and they plan to continue to do that as much as they can.

We don’t know exactly what will come next for Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine, but we know they’re well prepared to keep making the music they want to make, are willing to put in the work to make it as good as they possibly can, and are looking forward to it all!

Ain’t Easy was written by Ryan Tedder, Zach Skelton, Camila Cabello, and produced by Ryan Tedder.


Elijah Woods and Jamie Fine from The Launch at Corus TorontoElijah Woods and Jamie Fine from The Launch at Corus TorontoElijah Woods and Jamie Fine from The Launch at Corus TorontoElijah Woods and Jamie Fine from The Launch at Corus Toronto

Driving: Emma-Lee Video Premiere

Acclaimed singer and songwriter Emma-Lee is set to release her brand new EP, Fantasies: Volume 2 (Jan. 26. 2018), but we’re getting a head start on the excitement with the exclusive premiere of her music video for Driving!

The Toronto born, Nashville based, artist hit the road with director Paul Steward for the video, showing off scenic views, classic roadside neon and motels, the wonders of route 66, and a couple of spins for good measure. It’s a roadtrip that we wish we’d been on, and are more than a little jealous of.

Enjoy the song, the visuals, and check out Fantasies: Volume 1 now, so you’re ready for V2!



The Lucky Ones: The Launch’s Logan Staats Interview, Review, and 5 Quick Questions

Logan Staats, the 29 year old singer/songwriter from from Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario was chosen as the first winner of The Launch, Wednesday night on CTV, and already, his life is changing.

The indie/folk/pop singer showed off his emotional connection to music and life on the premiere episode of The Launch. And as he sang both Kings Of Leon’s Beautiful War in his audition and The Lucky Ones as a finalist in the episode’s competition, he gave Canadians an opportunity to see what he brings to the table as an artist.

Note: We also have to tip our hats to runner-up Vivian Hicks. The young singer/dancer/actor from Georgetown, ON wowed us with her voice, and shows as much talent and potential at 14 as anyone could hope the find. We’ll be watching to see what comes next for her.

With mentors Shania Twain, busbee, and Big Machine Label Group CEO, Scott Borchetta guiding him through the process of auditioning, recording, and performing The Lucky Ones, Staats overcame the challenges of making the song his own, and earning the release of the single.

We had a chance to talk to Logan on the phone about the experience, what it’s been like in the short time since the airing of the episode and release of the song, and what’s coming next.

Logan told us that things have been non-stop for the last few days with media obligations, the airing of the show, a show in Toronto, and more going on. We asked if he’s been getting any sleep, and he told us that Thursday night was his first good, long, deep sleep in the last few days, the kind that you don’t really want to wake up from.

Sleep, and more specifically dreaming, came up again when we asked him about The Lucky Ones hitting #1 on the iTunes charts on Thursday. Logan said that he saw the email in the morning when he woke up and it felt like one of those moments when you’re half awake and aren’t quite sure if you’re still dreaming or if you’re in real life. He said he pinched himself all day to confirm it was real. Logan also told us that the experience of looking at the charts and seeing his name, not only in the company of, but above artists like Ed Sheeran and Post Malone was wild.

We talked about Logan’s episode of The Launch and asked about a few details of his experience. The one moment that we talked about most came during Logan’s time in the studio recording The Lucky Ones. On the broadcast it was easy to see that he was struggling a little bit to make the song his own And he confirmed that for us. He explained it as a kind of reverse from previous experiences in the studio where a producer may be trying to understand the artist and help bring their vision to life. On The Launch, it was busbee trying to get Logan to bring his vision to life.

We also talked about Scott Borchetta’s role in the room, and the scene where he talks to Logan during the recording. Logan told us that there was more to that conversation than what we saw on the show and that Scott was fantastic and working through those moments.


While we had Logan on the line we also took a quick minute to play a round of 5 Quick Question… here we go!

5 Quick Questions with Logan Staats

Q1) What was the first song you performed in front of an audience?

Logan) Ash’s

Have a listen…

Q2) What was the first album you bought?

Logan) Daft Punk

Logan told us that he bought the album in about grade 5, and that Oasis’s (What’s The Story) Morning Glory came soon after that.

Q3) Do you have a dream duet partner?

Logan) Taylor Swift

Now that Logan has had the chance to work with Big Machine, this feels like a great fit.

Q4) Is there a city or venue that is high on your wish list to play?

Logan) Massey Hall

He feels like it’s a staple for many Ontario artists, and with some wheels in motion now, he hopes to be on the legendary stage sooner rather than later.

Q5) Is there an artist you love that you think people should be paying more attention to?

Logan) Stonetrotter

Logan came across Stonetrotter on the festival circuit and was all-in right away. He told us that A Ghost In My Own Skin was the track to start with.

We asked Logan what he’s been working on since his episode of The Launch with recorded and while he had to keep his secret (only his mom and dad knew that he had won). He told us that because he was already working on his own music he was able to push forward with those projects, to write new songs, and be prepared for what comes next. Staats says that he has a bunch of new songs that he hopes to be able to choose from when the time comes to work on releasing new music.

Near the end of our call we asked Logan if he has any goals that he’s working towards and songwriting was on the list. He hopes to make a trip to Nashville to work with Big Machine, go on a writing retreat, and then release new music to the world. Here’s hoping he’s able to check all of those things off his list.

We also asked Logan if there was anything big or important to him that he wanted to share with the world or put a spotlight on, and as he mentioned on The Launch, he brought up the subject of the residential schools and their history. The cause is important to him as is the history and making sure that this isn’t a subject that fades into the background without the recognition, action, and awareness it deserves. Logan also gave credit to CTV, Bell Media, and Scott Borchetta for their assistance and willingness to help him use this platform to raise awareness and shine a light on a cause that’s so important to him. He seems genuinely thankful for the opportunity to take CTV to the school his grandparents attended, and to share his experiences and that history with the world.

We don’t know what the future will bring to Logan Staats, but we do know that The Lucky Ones is a great track with a performance that he should be proud of and that could be the stepping-stone for the rest of his career.

Listen to The Lucky Ones now and stay tuned to see what happens next week on The Launch.

The Lucky Ones was written by busbee, Bebe Rexha, MoZella, Justin Franks (Frank E), Casper & B and produced by busbee.

New Music Spotlight: Birds of Bellwoods, Jack White, Our Lady Peace, Vance Joy and Wes Mack

In our second January New Music Spotlight, we’re highlighting three Canadian acts, one Australian act and one American act. Genre-wise we’re recommending some alt-folk, some rock, some folk-pop and a little country music.

In this spotlight, we’ve got five videos with some very different concepts. Sit back, have a watch, and a listen and let us know what you think.

Let’s do this!

Artist: Birds of Bellwoods
Hometown: Toronto
Genre: Alt-Folk
Related: Duncan FellowsYoung in the CityThe Corcoran Brothers
Song: Feel It Still – Cover – Portugal. The Man
Notes: One of my favourite Toronto bands. I’ve been talking about their talent for a few years now. Birds of Bellwoods cover Portugal. The Man’s hit, which currenlty sits with over 94,000,000 views on YouTube. It’s a great song and an amazing cover.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Jack White
Hometown: Detroit / Nashville
Genre: Rock
Related Artists: The RaconteursThe White StripesThe Black Keys
Song: Connected by Love
Notes: The video, which was released on Wednesday, already has over 500,000 plays. The imagery is visually compelling and the music is dirty, synthy and bluesy all at the same time. Jack White gives us a great emotional performance and delivers lyrics we can all relate to with grace.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Our Lady Peace
Hometown: Toronto
Genre: Rock
Related Artists: Big WreckCollective SoulMatthew Good
Song: Falling Into Place
Notes: Our Lady Peace gives us a great story video. It’s classic sounding OLP with a positive message. I challenge you to watch it and not smile.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Vance Joy
Hometown: Melbourne
Genre: Folk-Pop
Related Artists:
Song: We’re Going Home
Notes: We’ve been fans of Vance Joy since we the first time we heard him. We’re Going Home is from his upcoming album Nation of Two which is out on February 23rd. The instantly recognizable voice is layered with beautiful backgrounds and real people. The chorus is catchy and I’m expecting to hear a lot of this track on the radio.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Wes Mack
Hometown: Calgary
Genre: Country
Related Artists: Jojo MasonAndrew HyattPetric
Song: House on Fire
Notes: First let us say that we’re very happy that there’s new music from Wes Mack. It’s a fun video, with a boys vs. girls story. House on Fire is fresh and summery and it’s something we can use a big helping of. I’ve already got the chorus stuck in my head and if country music is your thing, I think you’ll really like this one too.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

The Launch on CTV: Series Preview and Episode Guide

This Wednesday, Scott Borchetta, CTV, and a list of music industry heavyweights will put a spotlight on Canadian music when The Launch premieres.

Borchetta, the industry veteran and head of Big Machine Label Group (Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line, Reba, and more) will be joined by Shania Twain, Alessia Cara, Fergie, Nikki Sixx, Jennifer Nettles, busbee, Ryan Tedder, Boy George, Julia Michaels, Stephan Moccio, Dann Huff and Ian Kirkpatrick to mentor and launch the careers of talented and deserving Canadian musicians.

The seven episode series will include 30 independent musicians competing for the opportunity to release a brand new single, written and produced by world-renowned talent. Click Here to see all of the musicians and learn more about them through their Q&A videos.

The first six episodes of The Launch will feature five artists each, working with their mentors and recording their version of that week’s song. At the end of each episode, the winning artist will have their version of the song released immediately following the airing of the episode.

Unlike other reality style music shows, fans will not have a direct impact on which of the artists participating will win from week to week. The mentors starring in each episode will make the decision, and the song will be released. This isn’t a popularity contest, this is music.

The seventh episode (Just Launched, recently added to the season) will be an in-depth look at the six artists who won their weeks and had their songs released to the world. Bell Media has also announced that an extended Director’s Cut of the series will be released to Canadian streaming service Crave TV each week following the broadcast premiere.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, check out the promo here…

The six competition episodes have been announced in detail by Bell Media, with mentors and artists revealed.

The Launch, Season 1 Episode Guide

Episode 1: Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Mentors: Shania Twain, busbee
Artists
Havelin (Edmonton, AB)
Julia Tomlinson (King City, ON)
Logan Staats (Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River reserve, ON)
The Revel Boys (Toronto, ON)
Vivian Hicks (Georgetown, ON)

Episode 2: Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mentors: Jennifer Nettles, Ryan Tedder
Artists
Basil Phoenix (The Pas, MB)
Divine Lightbody (Brampton, ON)
Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine (Ottawa, ON)
JP Maurice (Vancouver, BC)
LITEYEARS (Hamilton, ON)

Episode 3: Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Mentors: Fergie, Stephan Moccio
Artists
Ezra Jordan (Toronto, ON)
Faiza (Toronto, ON)
Jaryd Stanley (Rothesay, NB)
Poesy (Ancaster, ON)
Sariyah Hines (London, ON)

Episode 4: Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Mentors: Nikki Sixx, Dann Huff
Artists
Amy Bishop (Calgary, AB)
Chad Price (London, ON)
Dylan Menzie (Belle River, PEI)
Sons Of Daughters (Vancouver, BC)
The Static Shift (Calgary, AB)

Episode 5: Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mentors: Julia Michaels, Ian Kirkpatrick
Artists
James Marshall (Acton, ON)
Jayd Ink (Toronto, ON)
Nicky MacKenzie (Salt Spring Island, BC)
Noelle Maracle (Tyendinaga, ON)
Zack Lane (Moncton, NB)

Episode 6: Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mentors: Boy George, Alessia Cara, Stephan Moccio
Artists
Elequen (Forest, ON)
Ethan Young (Toronto, ON)
Grace Bakker (Toronto, ON)
Raymond Salgado (Lantzville, BC)
Victoria Azevedo (Toronto, ON)

Episode 7: Wednesday, February 21, 2018

“…An in-depth look at the continuation of the journey for the six breakthrough artists selected at the end of each episode of the series for the life-changing opportunity to record and launch a new, original song.”bellmedia.ca

The first season of The Launch wrapped production (minus the seventh episode) in Toronto in fall 2017, and airs weekly starting January 10, 2018.

Filthy: Justin Timberlake Single and Video Release

Justin Timberlake is back, and he’s back in a big way.

Filthy, the first release from his upcoming (and recently announced) album, Man Of The Woods, dropped in the early morning hours of Friday, January 5 and instantly started burning up the internet.

At the time of this post, the official music video for Filthy already has more than 1,000,000 views, and if you add in the (presumably) hundreds of thousands (or more) streams on Spotify, Apple Music, etc., it’s easy to say that this track is on fire. And not only is it on fire, there are a lot of people out in the world who are eager to tell you that it IS fire.

“Does he ever get it wrong? Damn that’s good!” – Trish’s response to Filthy

However, because this is music, it’s art, and we’re dealing with the internet where opinions are everywhere, there’s no consensus here.

The Filthy music video has (at the time of this post) 54,000ish Thumbs Up on YouTube – and 6,000ish Thumbs Down. And there are also tweets that share unhappy opinions with the song. Such is life. Ain’t no song going to make everyone happy, especially when an artist is willing to try something new.

We also need to address the fact that Filthy isn’t a country song. Or a roots song. Or a folky/rock/Memphis-Blues inspired song.

The Man Of The Woods preview video (at the bottom of the post in case you haven’t seen it – or you want to watch it again) made a lot of people think that we were going to get an album full of songs that could end up on country radio. Filthy has already proved that that’s not the case.

This is a pop jam with danceable beats, electronic hits, funky George Clinton-esque rhythms and JT doing what we know he can with a pop melody.

There are some theories floating around about it though…


In the end, it comes down to this… Justin Timberlake has hit us a with a song that’s going to be played often (and very loud as per his instruction), will get people moving on dance floors, in their living rooms, and wherever else they want to get down.

Filthy may or may not represent what we’re going to get from the other 15 songs on Man Of The Woods, but it doesn’t matter right now. Right now we have one new song, and it’s a bop.

If you haven’t seen the video yet, hit play. If you have seen it, leave a comment telling us what you think. And, tell us what you think of Filthy, and what you hope we hear from the rest of his upcoming album!

We don’t know exactly what to expect from the complete Man Of The Woods album, but here’s what we do know…

🔥 Man Of The Woods  is listed on iTunes as pop – verifying that it’s not the country album some people predicted or supposed

🔥 Man Of The Woods  will include a collaboration with Chris Stapleton, which could mean that either JT really does strip it down for some Memphis inspired blues/country, OR Stapleton is going to show us something we haven’t seen from him in the pop genre

🔥 Man Of The Woods releases in full on Friday, February 2, 2018

🔥 Man Of The Woods is listed on iTunes with 16 tracks

Justin Timberlake, Man Of The Woods Tracklist

1. Filthy
2. Midnight Summer Jam
3. Sauce
4. Man Of The Woods
5. Higher, Higher
6. Wave
7. Supplies
8. Morning Light ft. Alicia Keys
9. Say Something ft. Chris Stapleton
10. Hers (interlude)
11. Flannel
12. Montana
13. Breeze Off The Pond
14. Livin’ Off The Land
15. The Hard Stuff
16. Young Man

New Music Spotlight: Sir Rosevelt, Sykamore, Marianas Trench, Tucker Beathard, and EXES

The new year is here, and while we hope 2018 brings a lot of new experiences, opportunities, and music – one thing remains the same… we are here to share new music that we dig.

So, here are five songs that we think deserve your attention and spins. We’ve got a mix of pop/rock/country on the list, we’ve got Canadian talent as well as American, and we’ve even got a unofficially released track to share with you all.

Ready? Let’s Do This!

The Music

Artist: Sir Rosevelt
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Genre: Pop
Related Artists: Zac Brown Band, Sam Hunt, The Cadillac Three
Single: Hurricane
Notes: Zac Brown’s side project is a lot of fun, and while it’s different than what country fans of Zac Brown Band are used to, it’s worth a listen for adventurous ears. Hit play and enjoy the Sam Hunt-esque vibes, the choral support, and the new music.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Sykamore
Hometown: Carseland, AB
Genre: Country
Related Artists: Jess Moskaluke, Madeline Merlo, Andrew Hyatt
Single: Better Half
Notes: With a brand new EP coming on January 5, Sykamore ended 2017 with her first official music video. We’ve known the song, Better Half, for a while, but now that it’s got a video, the album, and some wider exposure, we’re sure that more people will be picking up on the Alberta country singer/songwriter. Enjoy.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Marianas Trench
Hometown: Vancouver, BC
Genre: Pop/Rock
Related Artists: Hedley, The Summer Set, Every Avenue
Single: Rhythm Of Your Heart
Notes: Marianas Trench knows what they’re good at, and Rhythm Of Your Heart is another example of that expertise. The pop jam from the Vancouver group comes with a video game themed lyric video that is as much fun to watch as the song is to listen to – and sets our expectations high for the official video to come.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Tucker Beathard
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Genre: Country
Related Artists: Chase Bryant, Drew Baldridge, Eric Church
Single: chasing you with whiskey
Notes: chasing you with whiskey hasn’t been released to iTunes or Spotify, and the video wasn’t posted to his official Vevo channel – but Tucker did share the link through his social channels, and it is him singing the song. Here’s what we do know: we like this track, we like the way Tucker sounds, and if this is a glimpse of what’s coming next from Tucker Beathard, we like that too.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: EXES
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Genre: Pop
Related Artists: Ella Vos, Luna Shadows, Glades
Single: Taxi
Notes: This indie electro-dream-pop track came to us from Spotify, and we’re glad it did. Exes share a beat laden pop tune that pairs Allie McDonald’s voice with a backing track that allows for a smooth groove. They say they write songs about their exes, and if that’s the case, Taxi certainly fits the bill.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

New Touch: Caveboy, Parallels, and Aviva at The Rivoli

On a frigid Wednesday night in Toronto, we hit the back room at The Rivoli on Queen Street West to check out some talented musicians on stage, and celebrate Trish’s birthday.

Caveboy, Parallels, and Aviva all took their turn on the stage, warming up the crowd and keep spirits during the mid-week, holiday break live show.

Aviva…

The 19 year old singer and actress (Family Channel’s Backstage & CBC’s Workin’ Moms) showed her pop chops to start the show. Singing songs from her 2017 EP, Songs About Boys, Aviva charmed the crowd and showed her ability to put forth fun pop music to a live crowd.

Songs like Fire To Start, Princesses Don’t Cry, Hype (her first single), and WILD (her next single), all played well with the early crowd. And if there’s anything we’d hope to see the next time we catch Aviva on stage that we didn’t see this time, it would be a live band to back her. That would be a lot of fun.

Parallels…

Parallels released their third album, Metropolis, in 2017, and on Wednesday night they mixed in some of the tracks from the record to entertain the Toronto crowd during their mid-show set.

With an electro-pop sound and a dance party vibe, Parallels gave all of the bass we could have hoped for, and along with the smooth vocals of Holly Dodson we were given a string of songs that were a whole lot of fun.

Tell The World, Civilization, and the title track, Metropolis, all gave the Queen Street West audience something to groove to, and showed us that the third album from Parallels should be a stepping stone to their fourth, and more!

Caveboy…

Caveboy headlined the show and were ready to go as the main event at The Rivoli.

The Alt Dream Pop trio from Montreal looked and showed that they felt at home on the Toronto stage. They ripped through fan favourites, 2017 releases, and new music that’s coming soon in a year-ending show that we’re glad we got to see.

Note: Caveboy also played I Wanna Dance With Somebody – which is always, always a good choice!

During the set we got the hear 2017 release, Raconteur, as well as Love Song from their self-titled 2015 EP, and Landslide, which we hope we’ll find on an early 2018 album.

Related: NXNE 2017 Port Lands – Caveboy Q&A

The songs, none directly connected to each other, all worked well in the set, and will continue to help Caveboy build bigger and longer sets that crowds will be able to dance and jam along to.

We’ll be ready!

More Photos of Caveboy at The Rivoli

More Photos of Parallels at The Rivoli

More Photos of Aviva at The Rivoli

Trish’s 10 Most Listened to Albums of 2017!

One of my favourite things to do, as we get to the end of a year is look back. It’s a great time to reflect, a great time to look forward and a great time for Top 10 lists.

Note: I suggest that you listen, while you read.

Recently, someone said to me, “I don’t know how you find time to listen to music.“. My response was, “I don’t know how you live without music in your life every day.”. For me, music is a constant. It lifts me when I’m down, it drowns out the noise of the world when it’s too much and it gives me hope.

2017 has been an interesting year for me music-wise, and I think my Most Listened to Albums list reflects this.

Following Joshua’s lead, my list isn’t in any order and I’ve added an honourable mention section at the bottom.

Let’s do this!

 Imagine Dragons: ƎVOLVE (2017)

Most played track: Thunder

I’ve been a huge fan of Imagine Dragons since the release of their debut album Night Visions. Having been lucky enough to have caught the band live for both the Smoke + Mirrors tour and the ƎVOLVE, it was an easy call to put this album on my list.

When they started teasing this album in 2016 I was excited and when they released Believer on February 1st, I listened and I was over the moon. It gives us the awesome signature drums we associate with the band, plus there are so many words in this song, and Dan sings them like it’s nothing (trust us, is a huge deal), and their use of “the drop” in this song is perfection.

The track Yesterday is one of my favourites and a big part of that is because of the experience of hearing this song live, with tens of thousands of people singing along. I still get goosebumps and tear up every time I hear this track.

And yet, when I head to Spotify, Thunder is always my first choice. There’s just something about it that I love.

ƎVOLVE debuted at number two on the US Billboard Top 200, ending up at number one in both Canada and on the US Rock chart. It’s gone platinum in the US and Austria and gold in France, Italy, Poland and Sweden. Singles Thunder and Believer both charted in the top 5 and Whatever it Takes has over 112 million views on YouTube.

Imagine Dragons also captured a spot on my Highlights and Top Memories of 2017 post.

Imagine Dragons - Evolve Cover Art

 Oddisee: The Iceberg (2017)

Most played track: Built by Pictures

The Iceberg opens with minimalist horns and finger snapping and just like that, you’re in.

Oddisee, with Good Compny behind him, has put together the perfect combination of a super talented live band paired with important political hip-hop.

I’m the first to admit that I’m late to the Oddisee party and I’m doing my best to catch up. The Iceberg has some of my favourite lyrics of the year including this one from Hold it Back.

I make more than my sister
Cause I was born as a mister
And I ain’t never been to college, and she graduated honors
Yet the bosses think that I’m a better fit, huh
– Oddisee

The album is funky, abundant with thoughtful lyrics and stories that give us a snapshot of life, and although I couldn’t find it on any Billboard charts, it struck a chord with me. Give this one a listen, there are 12 tracks and I can bet at least one of them will stick with you.

Oddisee - The Iceberg cover art

Johnson Crook: The Album (2017)

Most played track: Hardwired

This Toronto-based band is familiar to you if you’re a regular reader. We’ve been tracking the guys since we first came across them as Boots and Hearts Emerging Artist entrants. Since that time we’ve gotten to know Noel Johnson, Trevor Crook, Nathan Crook and Jared Craig pretty well. We’ve watched them hone their craft and come into their own.

The Album is the first full-length offering from Johnson Crook and it’s a rich collection of stories, harmonies, textures and melodies. It gives you a little bit of everything and wraps it up in a tidy package. You’ll find fun upbeat party tunes, anthemic songs and tender, soft and sometimes sad love songs.

Putting this album on the list was an easy choice, I have a copy in my car and I listen regularly on Spotify. Choosing a most-played track, now that was the tricky part. It’s rare that I put this album on and don’t listen straight through and my favourite song changes based on my mood. In the end, I went with Hardwired mostly because I feel it and I think you will too.

I’m going to say it again, you should be listening to Johnson Crook. The band got a nice little bump in their streaming numbers when Spotify included their dark and sorrowful song Shadows on the Folk 2017 Playlist. They’re in some pretty special company on that list.

Johnson Crook The Album cover

Midland: On The Rocks (2017)

Most played track: This Old Heart

There’s something campy about Midland. And by campy I mean great. They don’t take themselves too seriously, they’ve found a way to mix classic country with today’s more modern sound and it’s working.

With a September release date, you’d think it would be tough to get on a year-end list, but I’ve had a chance to hear Midland live twice this year, first at Toronto’s The Dakota and then again at Boots and Hearts. These guys are super talented and I’m glad that they’ve taken time from their busy schedules to work on music together. It’s amazing.

In case you didn’t know, Midland is lead singer Mark Wystrach who was an actor and underwear model, bass player Cameron Duddy who’s an MTV Video Music award-winning video director (Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars) and lead guitarist, Jess Carson. They come together with luscious harmonies and great guitar work and we get the feeling of a honky-tonk loud and clear.

On The Rocks has a beefy 13 tracks and after This Old Heart, I’d include Electric Rodeo, Drinkin’ Problem, Check Cashin’ Country and Burn Out to my list of favourites.

This Old Heart is a great story song and one that I embraced wholeheartedly.

Andrew Hyatt: Iron & Ashes (2017)

Most played track: Most of Me

I first saw Andrew Hyatt in 2015 at Burlington’s Sound of Music and I saw the spark of what was to come.

Since then Hyatt has gone on to release his first full-length album and he’s started a professional relationship with Dallas Smith, with Smith is now acting as Andrew’s manager. This change saw him heading out on tour with the Canadian Country star and releasing a brand new single, Do It With You, which is brand new music. This has us looking forward to even more new music.

Iron & Ashes is a record about changes and life. It includes three tracks from his EP Never Back Down including Goodbye Gone, Running on Empty and my most played track, Most of Me. There are twelve tracks and they run the spectrum including some heartbreaking stuff (She Ain’t You), some fun, upbeat party songs (MGR, That’s How I’m Livin’) and songs that are fresh and hopeful (On Me, Laid Back And Easy). 

If you’re a fan of country, rock or even pop, give this one a listen.

 Joey Bada$$: ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ (2017)

Most played track: ROCKABYE BABY (feat. ScHoolboy Q)

The latest offering from New York’s Joey Bada$$ dropped on April 7th, 2017. So far we’ve seen three singles – Devastated, Land of the Free and Temptation. If we’re looking at numbers, and we are, AABA peaked at number 5 on the Billboard Top 200 chart

There’s a distinct split on this album, the first half, that he refers to as “The Heroes Side,” is laid-back. It’s melodic and while the music is less dark, the subject matter is anything but. The second half, which Joey refers to as “The Vindictive Villainous Side,” is a collection of tenacious songs.

The album is rife with controversial topics including oppression and the consequences of that oppression, police brutality, and to my delight, Donald Trump. There are lots of other artists featured on AABA including J. Cole, Chronixx, ScHoolboy Q and more.

My favourite track on the album is Rockabye Baby featuring ScHoolboy Q, there’s something about the piano part that gets stuck in my head. The lyrics and yeah, there’s a “Fuck Donald Trump”. This song makes my body move, the chorus is impossible to ignore. I love his delivery and with this album, he’s created a fan in me.

Joey Badass - ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADASS Cover Art

USS: New World Alphabet (2017)

Most played track: Work Shoes

New World Alphabet is the fifth studio album for USS. It’s full of catchy choruses paired with thoughtful and provoking verses. It’s classic USS and the first single, Work Shoes, is my most listened to track. Jason and Ash have been making music together now for 10 years and there’s a maturity about this album.

The guys did a very cool kick off to their tour with six shows in the six. They started at the Cameron House followed by The Mod Club, The Opera House, Rivoli, Adelaide Hall and finished up the six at The Danforth Music Hall. It was a fun, exciting time and fans of USS were thrilled.

USS - New World Alphabet Album Art

Lindsay Ell: The Project (2017)

Most played track: Waiting On You

I love this album and I especially love Waiting On You. I find it impossible to not sing along when this song comes on. It’s rock and roll, it’s bluesy, but it’s still country.

The record, produced by Sugarland’s Kristian Bush is produced beautifully and it’s full of positive messages and love.

The Project is twelve songs and it includes previously released promo singles like Good, Criminal, Space, and Worth the Wait as well some brand new songs. It’s a put it on and leave it album. It’s a great listen anytime.

Lindsay Ell - The Project Cover Art

James Barker Band: Game On (2017)

Most played track: Chills

This EP and especially this song were impossible to ignore. It was everywhere and I played it a ton on Spotify. In fact, Chills was my most played song of 2017.

This is great songwriting paired with great delivery. James Barker wrote the song with Travis Wood, Gavin Slate and Donovan Woods who are kicking out country hits like nobody’s business. Chills was the third single released from Game On and the band’s first number one.

The band toured with Dean Brody during 2017 and they’re set to headline their own tour starting January 11th in Halifax with Meghan Patrick and Jojo Mason. We’ll be chatting with them soon and we’re expecting there will be new music coming!

James Barker Band - Game On cover art

Ferraro: Losing Sleep (2017)

Most played track: Losing Sleep

Losing Sleep is the first full-length album from the Cameron House’s Ferraro brothers. It’s got an old time rock and roll feel and while prepping for my interview with the band prior to this year’s NXNE, it got stuck in my head. And it stayed there. I’m a fan of 50’s music and there’s a hint of that here but the music doesn’t feel dated. It’s fresh, fun and full of amazing harmonies.

This record falls into the put it on and leave it category for me. Ten great tracks and while the title track Losing Sleep gets my most played track nod, Shake It Off and Coffee & Smokes are close behind.

Ferraro - Losing Sleep Cover Art

Honourable mentions

Barney Bentall: The Drifter and the Preacher, Cage the Elephant: Unpeeled, Crown Lands: Rise Over Run, Dallas Smith: Side Effects, JJ Shiplett: Something to Believe In, Jess Moskaluke: Past The Past, Lady Antebellum: Heart Break, Matthew Good: Something Like a Storm, and last but definitely not least a single, that I couldn’t leave off my year-end list – Goodnight, Sunrise: Remember Now.

Header photo by Edu Grande on Unsplash

Joshua’s Highlights and Top Memories of 2017!

2017 was a year packed with great experiences, moments, and memories. I had the chance to see a lot of live music, review great albums, and interview some very talented people.

I am a lucky dude to get to do what I love and share it here and through our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and I look forward to doing more of it in 2018 and beyond!

Here are five of my favourite musical memories of this year, I’d love to hear some of yours in the comment section!

Country Set of the Year

Eric Church at Air Canada Centre, Toronto (March 2, 2017)

Toronto can be cold in March, especially in hockey arenas, but when Eric Church came to the Air Canada Centre, and 16,000+ came to see him, things heated up in a hurry.

For more than three hours Eric Church played hits and fan favourites. There was no opening act. There was no bullshit. There was just Church, his band, and his fans living and loving on country music in Canada’s biggest city.

Having seen Church live once before at Boots & Hearts, I thought I knew what I was getting into. But from my seat in the ACC, I experienced something different. Something more intimate… because while 16,000 is a lot of fans, it’s smaller than nearly 40,000 fans. And whenever you put a roof and walls around music and let it stay in the room instead of floating off into the night, things are instantly more real and the ability to feel the music in your bones is increased.

I don’t know when, where, or if I’ll see Eric Church live again. But I can tell you now that even if I never do again, I’ve got my melody to remind me of a memory.

Holdin’ My Own: Eric Church Takes Toronto

Rock and Roll Set of the Year

Arkells at Budweiser Stage, Toronto (June 24, 2017)

My 2016 and 2017 playlists have included a lot of Arkells… and on a summer night in Toronto I added some live rock and roll to the year.

I stood on the grass, and I cheered and sang and danced and loved every minute of the show. And even now, looking back, I remember how great it was to watch Max direct the crowd while he and the band rolled through a set of radio hits and fan favourites.

Note: If you’re looking to get lost down a YouTube rabbit hole, I suggest a long list of Arkells live performance videos.

There were more than 17,000 people at Budweiser Stage that night to see July Talk and Arkells, and it was a moment and memory that I’m glad I was able to experience and add to my year. It was fun, like live rock and roll is when things go right. The energy was right. And just like they did at WayHome 2016, Arkells owned the stage and held the crowd in their hands as they put on their show.

Let’s do it again in 2018!

Celebrating Summer: Arkells, July Talk & Friends Rock Toronto!

Breakout Band in a Little Bar

Midland at The Dakota Tavern, Toronto (April 25, 2017)

In late April, before the excitement of summertime or a number one hit on the radio in Canada first, and the United States – Midland came to Toronto for the first time, and made a stop at The Dakota Tavern to play an acoustic showcase for media, industry, and some lucky fans.

Mark, Jess, and Cameron were funny, smooth, and showed off the talent that country music fans have come to know and fall in love with as 2017 has progressed. And while it’s awesome to listen to the album and sing along (On The Rocks is a quality listen), and to remember seeing Midland on stage at Boots & Hearts in August with Drinkin’ Problem at the top of the charts… it’s amazing to think back to that night in April, in a basement bar in Toronto, and remember those boys picking and strumming and singing.

That night they played songs we know all the words to know from the album, songs they had release on YouTube before that, and heard for ourselves just how legit their harmonies and songwriting chops are.

I’m not sure many people are going to get that kind of chance again. I’m glad we didn’t miss ours.

Drinkin’ Problem: Midland Comes North to Toronto

Favourite Interview of the Year

Jessica Mitchell, The Feature

In June of this year we published a Jessica Mitchell feature that looked at the moments in her life that have helped push her to where she is now. I wrote about the music, the memories, and the woman herself.

Over the last couple of years we’ve had a few chances to catch up with Jessica Mitchell in interviews, but in preparation for the feature, we had my most memorable interview of 2017.

Trish and I met Jessica on a rooftop patio in Toronto and sat for more than an hour. We talked about childhood memories, we took turns telling stories, and we learned more about Jessica Mitchell than we knew before.

But more than the information we took away from that day, and the story that I was able to write and share, we left knowing more than ever that Jessica Mitchell is one of the most genuine, thoughtful people we know.

It took months of planning before we made it happen, but I don’t begrudge that, because that interview was a highlight of my year.

Moments: Jessica Mitchell, the Feature

Live Song That Broke Me

Tim Hicks – Throw A Ball

When you are as fortunate as we are to see a lot of live music every year, there’s a higher statistical chance that there will be moments that transcend the enjoyment of the music and turn into emotional moments and memories. This fall, at one of my favourite venues in Toronto, I got to experience one of those moments.

Tim Hicks, Canadian country music star, was one of five featured performers on stage at The Dakota Tavern for Four Chords And The Truth, a singer/songwriter event that celebrates music. At that event we got to hear Tim Hicks play a new song, an unreleased track that nearly broke me.

The song, Throw A Ball, is dedicated to Hicks’ young son and tells the story of a boy growing up playing catch with his dad, and then becoming a father and playing catch with his son. It’s a story song, the kind that country music is best at, and it resonated with me as a kid who grew up loving baseball and playing with my dad.

It also hit me hard because just over a year ago I lost my dad, AND next summer I’m going to become a father for the first time. And as I listened to Tim Hicks sing his song, and tell his story, I thought about my story and the memories that I hold onto, and the memories that I hope to be lucky enough to make in the future.

I hope that some day Hicks records Throw A Ball so you can all hear it. But until then, I will hold onto the memory of that night in Toronto, listening with my eyes closed, wondering if I was going to cry.

Four Chords and the Truth: Marc Jordan, Tim Hicks, Damhnait Doyle, Andrea Ramolo, Bill Bell & Friends

I hope your 2017 was as memorable as mine was. And I hope that we all make twice as many good memories in 2018.

Joshua’s 10 Most Listened to Albums of 2017!

As we get ready to put a wrap in 2017, it’s time to look back at some of the music that we loved most from the year. And while this post isn’t a ranking of best albums and likely won’t match your most played records of the year… it is a list of my 10 most listened to albums of 2017!

Like years past, these 10 albums aren’t listed in any order. I don’t have the spin numbers to rank them 1 to 10, and all of them deserve to be played over and over, so it’s honestly too hard for me to put them in order just for the sake of doing so.

Unlike years past, all of the albums on this list were released in 2017… in other years I’ve listed holdovers and classics, but this year I’m keeping it current.

It’s exciting for me to note that this list includes 6 debut full-length albums, 4 albums by Canadian arists, and breaks down in a 7/2/1 split for country/rock/pop.

The truth is that this list could have been way deeper, with more and more albums listed and shared and showed off… so at the bottom of the post you’ll find the honourable mention section. It might be cheating, but those albums deserve a listen too!

The truth as well is that this list could have been way deeper, with more and more albums listed and shared and showed off… so at the bottom of the post you’ll find the honourable mention section. It might be cheating, but those albums deserve a listen too!

Ready? Here we go!

Joshua’s 10 Most Listened to Albums of 2017!

 Taylor Swift: Reputation (2017)

Most played track: Don’t Blame Me

From the moment I woke up on release day, Reputation has been in high rotation. Taylor Swift showed everyone that she’s still capable of swinging for the fences, and connecting – just like she did on 1989.

Yes, she’s a divisive artist and personality – but I’ve been team T.Swift since day 1, and if she insists on releasing bangers like these, I’m not going anywhere.

Carly Pearce: Every Little Thing (2017)

Most played track: Every Little Thing

The breakout female country star of 2017 is Carly Pearce. And on her debut album, Pearce showed that Every Little Thing is just the start of what she’s going to bring to the country music world. Her follow up single, Hide The Wine is catchy as hell, and tracks like If My Name Was Whiskey get stuck in my head on a regular basis.

Midland: On The Rocks (2017)

Most played track: Drinkin’ Problem

I saw Midland live twice in 2017, and when they played songs from their debut album, my ears were happy.

These three dudes did good work breaking into the Nashville scene, and they’ve earned a Canadian following too, with Drinkin’ Problem going to #1 north of the border before it did in the US. Listen to songs like This Old Heart and Check Cashin’ Country for that semi-throwback vibe that I can’t get enough of.

Foo Fighters: Concrete & Gold (2017)

Most played track: Run

When I shared my review of Concrete & Gold earlier this year a friend replied that it could have been summed up in one word, “awesome”.

While I’m happy to have written a little more than that, he was right. With the release of this record, Foo Fighters showed that they’ve still got it. And while we highly encourage the growth of young rock and roll acts, it’s fantastic to have these guys still ripping things up in the studio and on the road.

Foo Fighters Concrete & Gold

Little Big Town: The Breaker (2017)

Most played track: Better Man

I’ve been a fan of Little Big Town since the beginning. I can tell you where I was when they followed me on Twitter. So when an album as good as The Breaker is available to me from a band I love, you can’t be surprised that I played the hell out of it.

With the song of the year (Better Man) included, this album served as a reminder that Little Big Town are major country music stars, belonging in the upper tier of acts when we talk about Nashville.

Little Big Town The Breaker album cover

Andrew Hyatt: Iron & Ashes (2017)

Most played track: She Ain’t You

Andrew Hyatt had a hell of a year in Canadian country music. In the spring we watched him play two shows in Toronto during Canadian music week, and nearer the end of the year we caught up with him on tour with Dallas Smith.

The Iron & Ashes album is packed with tracks that Hyatt needed to share with the world and country music fans. And with a little grungy rock and a little country sweetness mixed together in his heart, Andrew Hyatt showed everyone that listened that he’s got what it takes to hang.

The Beaches: Late Show (2017)

Most played track: Money

That thing we said about encouraging the growth of young rock and rollers – The Beaches embody all of it. These women from Toronto have been ripping it up on stage, and now fans have a chance to rock along at home while listening to Late Show.

With the release of the album, radio support for their single, Money – and a US/Canada tour opening for Death From Above, The Beaches introduced themselves to a lot of new fans this year… and if I had to bet, I’d say there are more fans to be made in 2018.

The Beaches Late Show Album Cover

Thomas Rhett: Life Changes (2017)

Most played track: Life Changes

This record earned its spins from me with catchy songs, great lyrics, and Thomas Rhett’s continued ability to capture my attention. It also became a memory that I’ll never forget when it attached itself to the story I tell about learning I’m going to be a dad in 2018.

I reviewed the Life Changes album for its September release, talked to friends, family, and industry folks about songs like Life Changes and Rhett’s journey of fatherhood – and then, a week later I found out that I’m going to be a first time dad.

I’ve listened to the album a bunch more since then, and when I do, I think of that.

JJ Shiplett: Something To Believe In (2017)

Most played track: Higher Ground

JJ Shiplett’s debut album didn’t surprise me, because we’d had the chance to see him play the songs live on a few occasions before the release – but wanting to hear them again on the record and playing them a bunch is a testament to their quality and how much I like them.

Shiplett’s voice is unique, his fans are all in, and Something To Believe In album serves as an introduction to what should be a career full of music and stories from one of our favourite redheads.

Johnson Crook : The Album (2017)

Most played track: Call Me Home

Johnson Crook may not be a household name, but they’re making people take notice playing shows in Toronto, across Canada at festivals, and by teaming up with the legendary Tom Cochrane on Mr. Nobody. Songs like Call Me Home and their debut single, Minnedosa, will get you moving… you’ll dig ’em.

We’ve been covering Johnson Crook for the last few years, and have watched as they’ve developed their live show, and the songs on their album. And with four part harmonies, a roots based sound, and a touch of rock and roll thrown in when it fits best, The Album is exactly what we hoped to get from the boys on their debut record.

Johnson Crook The Album cover

And now, as promised, the list of albums that I listened to a whole bunch, but not quite enough to crack the top 10…

Honourable mentions

Shania Twain: Now, Jess Moskaluke: Past The Past, Lady Antebellum: Heart Break, The Katherines: To Bring You My Heart, Joey Landreth: Whiskey, Lindsay Ell: The Project, Jojo Mason: Both Sides Of The Bar, River Town Saints: River Town Saints, The Cadillac Three: Legacy, James Barker Band: Game On, Arkells: Morning Report (Deluxe)

Trish’s Highlights and Top Memories of 2017!

2017 was a year loaded with lots of hard work, unbelievable experiences, and of course, music. I got to meet, and spend time with some amazingly talented people. I got to listen to live music from my favourite artists and bands, new and old, and I had the pleasure of being able to share it with all of you. Below are my five live performance highlights for the year.

Every day I’m aware of how privileged I am to do this job, to bring together my love of music, writing and photography and to live a life where music is everywhere.

Were you at any of these shows? Let me know in the comments.

Hip Hop Set of the Year

Oddisee at Lee’s Palace, Toronto (May 27, 2017)

It’s not very often I take a pass on free music and photo access but in this case, I didn’t even apply to shoot and review the Oddisee show.

I’d been listening to The Iceberg since it’s release in February and was so looking forward to just being a fan. It was a beautifully warm May day and I met up with people I knew in line who were just as excited as I was. It was a sold out show and Lee’s Palace was packed to the back with fans of 24-year-old Amir Mohamed el Khalifa. Opening for Oddisee was Good Compny, his band, and they were brilliant. Showing off their amazing musical skills the band got the crowd ready for Oddisee to take the stage, and take over the crowd.

From the second he took the stage, Oddisee connected with us and he didn’t let go until he walked off the stage. Going into the show, I was pretty comfortable with the songs and thought I knew all the words, but there were people in the audience, singing every single word and he noticed. If this is a new name for you, and you have any interest in rap, hip-hop, jazz or even pop, you need to give his music a listen. I promise you won’t regret it.

Note: This is my only club show set highlight.

Oddisee performance taken from Facebook

Rock and Roll Set of the Year

Cage the Elephant at WayHome, Oro-Medonte (July 28, 2017)

I’ve been a fan of Cage the Elephant since their debut release in 2008 but they’d kinda fallen off my radar.

That completely changed this July when I saw them live for the first time. Wow! This show gets my Rock and Roll set of the year highlight for all the right reasons. It was full of hits, it delivered the new music from Unpeeled, it was loud, it was vibrant and it was the most energetic set of 2017. There was running and jumping and there was confetti, all perfectly timed and amazing.

As a photographer, this set gave me everything I could have hoped for and it also gave me my favourite image of the year. I smile every time I think about this set, that’s a win in my book.

Whole Wide World: Cage The Elephant at WayHome 2017

Emotional Moment Set of the Year

Imagine Dragons at WayHome, Oro-Medonte (July 29, 2017)

Right smack in the middle of WayHome, I had the most emotional moment I’ve ever experienced at a live show.  That encounter was delivered by Day 2 headliner, Imagine Dragons. And I wasn’t alone.

While in the photo pit, amongst 25+ other photographers, Dan Reyolds reached out and touched my heart. It was electric. It was the music and it was the message, “Spread peace, spread love.”. It was real and it was heartfelt.

If there was a masterclass on how to deliver three opening songs for photographers, while not taking away from the crowd, Imagine Dragons could lead this class. They gave us everything including smiles, jumps, close-ups, add in Dan leaving the stage and getting behind us to lean on the barricades, so that he could get as close as possible to the crowd, all the while singing his ass off. It was spectacular showmanship and we ate it up.

As we left the pit, there was chatter between photogs exclaiming, that they gave us everything we could have hoped for. Full disclosure here – I cried twice during the first three songs. This isn’t a normal thing, normally I’m working, I’m in work mode and while I enjoy the music and experience, it doesn’t normally affect me like this. Kudos to Imagine Dragons for connecting on a level I’d never experienced before.

Whatever It Takes: Imagine Dragons at WayHome 2017

Country Set of the Year

Keith Urban at Boots and Hearts, Oro-Medonte (August 11, 2017)

After a super hot steamy early August Friday, the weather took a little turn, and by little, I mean from cloudy threatening skies to a full out tornado warning.

Tens of thousands of people, who’d been waiting all day for headliner Keith Urban to take the stage, were surprised to be told that they had to leave the stage area and return to their tents. After quite a delay, the thunder and lightning passed and everyone was allowed to return to the stage area. Fans ran for the front and Keith opened the set with Long Hot Summer and proceeded to put on a show like nobody’s business. We were not surprised when his name appeared on the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year nominee list, this was easily one of my top five highlights of the year.

Urban played a full set, in spite of the delay, and thanked us all for coming back, like we wouldn’t. During his set, two more showers made their way through the area but he carried on like it was business as usual even giving us a sassy, “Rain ain’t nothing but a thang”.

Keith Urban is an amazing guitar player, fantastic singer and I’d stand in the rain all day for another performance like this one.

Ripcord: Keith Urban at Boots & Hearts 2017

Classic Set of the Year

Midnight Oil at Budweiser Stage, Toronto (August 25, 2017)

In the category of bands, I forgot how much I loved, I give you Midnight Oil.

Following two amazing opening bands (The Living End and Matthew Good), Midnight Oil turned up at the Budweiser Stage on a warm August night, and blew it up!

The energy level was intense, the messages were genuine and the music brought it all together. They played all of their hits and everyone sang along, including me. Peter Garrett moves and sings like a man in his 20’s and the band’s lyrics are just as relevant today as the day they were written. In addition to being my classic set of the year, they’re also my Aussie set of the year.

Midnight Oil, Matthew Good and The Living End at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage

Thank you to the artists, the teams that help bring us together, and thank you to our readers. Thank you all for supporting us and thank you for filling my life with music. I’m looking forward to 2018 and more highlights.

Horseshoe Holiday Bash: Jane’s Party, The Kents, and Caren

‘Tis the season for holiday parties, and at The Horseshoe Tavern on Tuesday night we enjoyed a Holiday Bash with Jane’s Party, The Kents, and Caren.

From the jump it was clear that Toronto was in the spirit of the season, with live music fans covering the checkerboard floor, and jamming along with the action on stage. The four act show (sadly we weren’t able to stick around for The Almighty Rhombus to close things out) was certainly a celebration, with festive decorations on stage, and good feelings throughout.

The show started with Caren taking to the stage with her band.

Playing the legendary Toronto stage to celebrate the season, and give people a chance to listen to her play songs from her self-titled 2017 EP, Caren held her own on Tuesday night. Both with her band, and during a solo acoustic break in the middle of the set, she was engaging and entertaining.

The sounds were smooth, and the songs hold a lyrical depth that is as refreshing as it is impactful. To hear Caren play songs like Teach Me and Berlin live was a nice way to follow-up the listens I’ve put in since the EP’s October release.

Watch for more from Caren in 2018 as she looks to build on the momentum she’s started to find this year.

We’ve got more photos of Caren at the bottom of this post, scroll on down to check them out.

The Kents continued the Holiday Bash when they took the stage next, and they put The Horseshoe Tavern fully in the spirit when they played a cover of the Saturday Night Live classic, I Wish It Was Christmas Today.

But it wasn’t all skit show covers, The Kents also released an EP in October 2017, and were ready to play songs from Within Waves for the early week Toronto crowd. Upping the energy to four piece rock and roll levels and playing songs including Caroline (I Can’t Explain) and From The Street, we got a taste of what The Kents have to offer. And we’d gladly take more of it.

With EP releases in both 2016 and 2017, The Kents are consistent in their ability to provide new music. Here’s hoping there’s more in 2018 to continue their young career.

Want to see more photos of The Kents from the Holiday Bash at The Horseshoe Tavern? Scroll down, we’ve got some!

Local boys, Jane’s Party were next on the stage, and the name that brought many of The Horseshoe Tavern attendants out on Tuesday night.

The four part rock and roll outfit were amped up from the get go, and put on a great club gig to compliment the outdoor set we saw from them this summer at the CNE when they opened for Sam Roberts and ripped through songs like Cigarette Buzz.

The Tuesday night Jane’s Party set included What I’ve Been Missing and Old Friends… and a little extra taste of Christmas music that we’ll be remembering from the Holiday Bash. Early in the set we got a taste of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Carol Of The Bells, and Good King Wenceslas on guitar – and it was the kind of special little touch that makes live music worth going to see – especially at this time of year.

Jane’s Party did what they do, bringing fans to the front of the stage, keeping them moving, and supplying the soundtrack to a night out in the city. We’ll be seeing them again… hope we see you there.

AND, Jane’s Party dropped a Christmas single this year. Give Last Train Home This Christmas a listen and get in the spirit!

Now, check out the rest of our photos of Jane’s Party

More Photos of Jane’s Party at The Horseshoe Tavern

More Photos of The Kents at The Horseshoe Tavern

More Photos of Caren at The Horseshoe Tavern

1 month ago

Hard As I Can: Joey Landreth with Roman Clarke at The Drake Underground

On Monday night in Toronto, Massey Hall brought two talented Prairie boys to The Drake Underground for a night of music and more as Joey Landreth and Roman Clarke hit the stage on Queen Street West.

Earlier this year, Joey Landreth released his debut solo album, Whiskey, exactly two years after the award winning and critically acclaimed release of Let It Lie by The Bros. Landreth in 2015. Since the release, Landreth has been busy on the road, playing the songs from the new album, as well as working on new material for his solo follow-up, and a new album from The Bros. Landreth. It’s a heavy workload, including recording sessions in Toronto this week leading up to Christmas, but it hasn’t taken a single thing away from his performances on stage.

Roman Clarke opened the show, and the Manitoba native, and member of The Middle Coast, started the night with wit and talent.

Clarke also released new music in 2017, with his EP, Looking For Mine, dropping in September, following The Making Of: from The Middle Coast in April. And on Monday night he played the Toronto audience some of the 2017 releases as he sat at his keyboard.

Roman Clarke’s voice has a depth that will catch you off guard if you’re not ready for it. It’s smooth and strong, with the gentle vulnerability it needs to carry the soft and emotional moments that come when needed in his storytelling and songs. And when he’s not singing, Clarke is funny, engaging with the crowd through jokes that allow for a feeling of comfort and ease during his captivating solo performance.

During his time on stage, the early crowd at The Drake Underground heard Roman roll through songs from his EP including, Waiting, Let You Fall, and Looking For Mine. And while we don’t know Roman’s 2018 plans or schedule, we can tell you that we hope to see him again in Toronto, either solo or with The Middle Coast, or if we’re lucky, both.

As Joey Landreth prepared to start his set, the Queen Street West audience moved forward, getting closer to the stage and the man they came to see. And, when Landreth took the stage, accompanied by Meg Dolovich on bass and Michael Carbone on drums, they gave all of their attention to the stage.

I’ve said before that Joey Landreth can be mesmerizing on stage, and he proved it in Toronto on Monday night. From the opening notes of Hard As I Can, Landreth had the crowd all in, it was pindrop quiet (aside from the instruments on stage) and there was a feeling of peace and calm as folks gathered at The Drake Underground let the music wash over them.

To watch and listen to Joey Landreth on guitar is something that is hard for me to describe. You can see it on YouTube and Facebook as he plays onstage or alone in a room, his skill is incredible. And when you go ahead and add his songwriting and singing to the equation, you can feel the emotion drip from both his strings and his words. It’s a combination that not many can boast, and it’s special to witness.

In the middle of the set, Landreth gave Meg and Michael a break, taking the stage to himself, and allowing his voice and guitar to stand alone in the spotlight. It became super clear in that time that Joey Landreth could captivate a room in any city, on any stage, any time he wanted to give it a go.

During his set, Joey Landreth gave life to songs from his 2017 album, Whiskey, and The Bros. Landreth’s, Let It Lie, as well as covers and new songs that we’ll have to hope for in 2018. The crowd swayed and sang along to Made Up Mind, Time Served, Still Feel Gone, Gone Girl, Let It Lie, and Whiskey. And when Joey came back to the stage alone for his encore, playing Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire, the crowd got quiet and attentive one more time as the show came to a gentle landing.

Monday night was the second chance I’d had to see Joey Landreth live in 2017, and both lived up to every hope and expectation. It was lovely to add drums and bass to the Toronto show, just as it was amazing to see him solo in Oshawa. And if I’m lucky enough to see him again in 2017, solo or with the band, I’ll be a happy dude.

More Photos of Joey Landreth at The Drake Underground, presented by Massey Hall

More Photos of Roman Clarke at The Drake Underground, presented by Massey Hall

1 month ago
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