Thursday, July 12, 2018

Nitai Hershkovits - "Robin"

So as I understand it, Wah Wah 45 is releasing Time Grove Roots as sort of a teaser for a forthcoming album from Time Grove. Roots gathers older material from the composite parts of Time Grove to give you a taste of what each member is capable of on their own in advance of hearing what they accomplish as a group. This all caught my eye because Amir Bresler and Sefi Zisling are included and the pair have been featured on RR and on my radio show in the past. Plus the details make mention of Rejoicer, a recent addition to the Stones Throw coterie and that's a label I always keep an ear on. The name I didn't know is pianist Nitai Hershkovits, who is credited as guiding Time Grove. Needless to say I was glad that the preview track is Hershkovits' "Robin" so I could get a sense of what their style is and it definitely fits the description of "forward thinking, melodic jazz meets electronic wizardry." Looking forward to hearing what all the players accomplish together.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

My Polaris Prize Ballot - 2018 Round Two

So last night at midnight was the deadline for submitting my second-round ballot for the 2018 Polaris Prize. I previously shared my vote for round one and only 2 out of the 5 I voted for made the official Long List from which I then had to submit a new five.

My #1 overall, Jeremy Dutcher, made the cut so it stayed exactly where I put it, while Zaki Ibrahim moved up from #3 to #2 leaving me open slots for #3, 4 and 5.

My own longlist (which I shared in the last post) had sixteen records in common with the official list:  
Allie - Nightshade 
Alvvays - Antisocialites 
Bernice - Puff LP: in the air without a shape 
Bonjay - Lush Life 
Daniel Caesar - Freudian  
Jeremy Dutcher - Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa 
Faith Healer - Try  
Zaki Ibrahim - The Secret Life Of Planets 
Iskwe - The Fight Within 
Pierre Kwenders - MAKANDA at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time 
Partner - In Search of Lost Time 
Snotty Nose Rez Kids - The Average Savage 
U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited 
The Weather Station - The Weather Station 
Weaves - Wide Open 
Charlotte Day Wilson - Stone Woman EP

Subtracting Dutcher and Ibrahim, that meant I had 14 records to consider for the final three slots and after due consideration and a fair amount of 'hemming and hawing' this is what I ended up submitting:









Fingers-crossed I do a bit better on Round Two, but best of luck to all of the artists listed above, and most especially to "my five."

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Tsvia Abarbanel - "Mi Nishkani"

I won't pretend to be up on my private pressing Yemenite jazz of the 1970s but I know enough to keep tabs on folks and labels who do know about these things. Fortuna Records are a Soundcloud follow I first came across when they posted material from Grazia. More recently they released the Eastern Soul EP from Tsvia Abarbanel and "Mi Nishkani" is a track I keep coming back to. The thumpy tom drum with its distortion is strangely beguiling and insistent and the same can be said for Abarbanel's soaring vocals. Plus there's this intensely jazzy riff on the piano that comes in and out and could've come from an Erroll Garner track.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Fatima - "Caught In A Lie"

Yellow Memories was one of my favourite albums of 2014, so I'm stoked that UK vocalist Fatima is set to release the follow-up this fall. And Yet It's All Love is due in September on Eglo Records and just over a week ago she debuted the second single from the LP. Natureboy Flako's production just POPS with crisp drumming and clipped bass-lines adding punch underneath Fatima's warm, rolling delivery. Penciling this one in to my 2018 Longlist on spec based on the strong start that "Caught In A Lie" and "Somebody Else" set.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Natalie Evans - "In Trees"

It's not in service of '90s Britpop, but Natalie Evans vocals' make me recall Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays as both share a breathy delivery and an effortlessly high vocal range. On "In Trees" (below) and the rest of Better At Night, Evans blends folk and pop in equal measure and has me thinking back to favourite songs from Harmony Trowbridge and Casey Dienel. Evans plays guitar, piano and harp (check out "Empty Rooms and Aeroplanes' for the harp highlight) and knows which instrument to employ on each song for maximum musical effect. With no song nearing the 3:30 mark and a few just cracking one minute, this is an all-too-brief glimpse at a talent on the rise.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

My Polaris Prize Ballot - 2018 Round One

It's that time of year again. The mid-year sweats that have nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with filling out my ballot for the first round of the Polaris Prize voting.



If you think I agonize over my personal Year-End Top 20, that's nothing compared to the second-guessing and third-listening I do to winnow down my Polaris picks. Because these selections actually have some real-world import and could lead to some cold-hard cash for one great act.

All told, there were 224 official suggestions of albums for the June 2017 - May 2018 eligibility period, and my own longlist included 39 of those titles.

I try to be internally consistent with my selections, so you'll see some overlap between the June-December 2017 period Polaris titles and my January - December 2017 longlist / Top 20 and at the end of this year you'll see the titles from January - May 2018. Though I should mention that unlike my own Top 20 where I don't consider EPs, they are eligible for the Polaris and thus there are a couple on my Polaris longlist that don't / won't make the Year-End cut, and that a few albums released in 2017 are on my Polaris list but I didn't discover them in time to consider for the 2017 calendar year.

Clear as mud??

Without further ado, here's the albums (in alphabetical order) that made my own Polaris longlist, and from which I selected my first round ballot of 5.

Allie - Nightshade
Alvvays - Antisocialites
Astral Swans - Strange Prisons
Julie Aube - Joie de vivre
Beatchild & The Slakadeliqs - Heavy Rockin' Steady
Bernice - Puff LP
Birthday Boy & Trish - Joseph
Bonjay - Lush Life
Daniel Caesar - Freudian
Chet Doxas - Rich In Symbols
Jeremy Dutcher - Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa
Faith Healer - Try
Freak Heat Waves - Beyond XXXL
Heavy Bell - By Grand Central Station
Zaki Ibrahim - The Secret Life Of Planets
Iskwe - The Fight Within
Julie & The Wrong Guys - Julie & The Wrong Guys
Pierre Kwenders - MAKANDA
L Con - Insecurities in Being
Chris LaRocca - Voila
Peggy Lee - Echo Paiting
Mauno - Tuning
Mise En Scene - Still Life On Fire
Partner - In Search of Lost Time
PARTYNEXTDOOR - Seven Days
Rhye - Blood
Emie R. Roussel Trio - Intersections
Gabrielle Shonk - Gabrielle Shonk
Sick Boss - Sick Boss
Snotty Nose Rez Kids - The Average Savage
The Sorority - PLEDGE
Maylee Todd - Acts of Love
U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited
Victime - La femme taupe
Wares - Wares
The Weather Station - The Weather Station
Weaves - Wide Open
Charlotte Day Wilson - Stone Woman EP
Witch Prophet - The Golden Octave


And here's what I voted for:


Thursday, May 31, 2018

L CON - "The Art of Staying Tough"

I am currently mainlining the late suggestions by fellow jurors for the 2018 Polaris Prize to give them consideration before finalizing my Longlist ballot and among the contenders is this brand-new album by L CON. Insecurities in Being was released last Friday and slips in to the eligibility period under the wire.

After two full listens I can't say it will crack my Top 5, but it's certainly a strong record that has found a place on my own longlist and if I could give the award to a song and not an album, there's a case to be made for "The Art of Staying Tough." Guest vocalist Casey MQ was unknown to me before this but with this Anohni-esque turn I will definitely be keeping tabs on them. The fragility of their voice on top of the already emotionally fraught lyrics ("this heavy heart / won't go far"... "even when your insides are crumbling / and your outside's all alone") makes this a quietly devastating song.



And here's a version where L CON herself handles the vocals.