Friday, May 16, 2008

Man oh Man Man

Boy oh boy.
It dawned on me that if I'd really been thinking a few weeks back, I could have continued my alphabetical posting project for at least one entry after Ladyhawk, if I'd written about Man Man at the time.

But I didn't, and so the project was abandoned. No great loss to society, mind you, and I was pretty taken with Woodhands after their show and was itching to write about them. Since then however, I keep going back to Man Man's latest album, Rabbit Habits, and it's definitely time I wrote a little bit about it.

I've included the name Tom Waits in the labels for this post, not just because the gravel-voiced genius is Man Man's label-mate at Anti- Records (though as an aside, you should seriously check out the Anti- roster, it's phenomenal), but because Rabbit Habits sounds like it was recorded by the house band at a joint where Swordfishtrombones' "Frank's Wild Years" is forever G-05 on the jukebox.

Vocalist Honus Honus' raspy delivery is Waits-ian, but the chaotic circus melodies the band crafts are the real comparison point: horns, organ, marimba and more create a cacophony from opener "Mister Jung Stuffed," [video below] right on through to "Whale Bones." Plus the percussion has that junk-yard clang that has propelled Waits' best work.

As good as "Mister Jung Stuffed" is, the real highlight is "The Ballad of Butter Beans" where the marimba propels the band like the bloodhound of the lyrics leading a chase while a multitude of voices, layer upon layer of them, deliver both chorus and refrain - traversing octaves playfully and imaginatively. The results, to paraphrase Cole Porter, are "swellegant."

I didn't manage to find the ballad as an mp3, but here's "Top Drawer"

Be sure to visit Man Man's label, Anti-, home to an amazing roster of artists including Winnipeg's own Weakerthans.
Also check out Man Man's website and Myspace page.

And hey, if you happen to be in the Netherlands or France, Man Man are in your neck of the woods - go check 'em out live!

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

L'équanimité - C'est très bon!

Equanimity is one of the most sublime emotions of Buddhist practice. It is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love. While some may think of equanimity as dry neutrality or cool aloofness, mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as "abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will."

[quote taken from here]

One of my favourite albums of last year was Intercontinental Champion by Winnipeg band Boats. Flipping traditional pop-rock song structure on its head the album was an inventive and surprising listen that rewarded repeat listens.

Based on multiple listens to L'équanimité, lately I've taken to referring to 4d as the Francophone answer to Boats. It's a bit pithy (or maybe it's trite?) to make the comparison, but it was my immediate reaction to hearing Dominick Lareau's musical project. (Though 4d's music is significantly more 'electronic' than Boats).

Lareau wrote, performed and produced this album on his own in his adopted home of Nunavik. Far from crafting an icy, claustrophobic work as some might expect if environs shape content, L'équanimité is vibrant, extroverted and chock-a-block with interesting musical ideas.

My comprehension of the French lyrics is limited, but according to Disques Fruit, the lyrics stem from "Teaching in Puvirnituq and in Inukjuak [where] Lareau experienced the realities of the Inuit community on a daily basis. Their difficulties and their courage as well inspired his most recent work." Admirable stuff, but my appreciation for the record stems primarily from the music, in the same way that I really enjoy Jorge Ben or Cafe Tacuba, but don't really know what the heck they're singing about. 4d like those two artists, speaks the universal language of music - and he's fluent.

Amongst my favourite tracks is "la momie," which features spookily-layered vocals and some ringing guitar, which echoes like it's pinging off the side of a glacier. Sadly I can't seem to find a link to a single downloadable MP3 of 4d, but there are two selections from L'équanimité on Myspace and one other one available on the CBC Radio 3 site.

4d's official site is here, and it's well worth checking out, if only for the curious artwork.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...