ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
The Heavy Blinkers
The Night and I Are Still So Young
On the surface, the Beach Boys-esque pop of the Heavy Blinkers’ fourth
record is a sunny gem, yet The Night I Are Still So Young is made for what
happens when the sun goes down.
Airy harmonies coo and sigh to a lush symphony of timpani, trumpets, and majestic
strings that aid the Nova Scotia five-piece band. The combination leads to
lazy lullabies like the opening number, “Filtered Light.” This
segues into full-on, technicolour dreams like “In the Morning,” which
contains melodic verses that would make The Mamas and the Papas proud.
On “Gentle Strength,” co-vocalist Ruth Minniken takes the lead
and delivers a sweetly somber performance. It’s a song of hope and the
central theme of this record. Whether you’re a stargazer from the East
Coast or a dreamer from the West, the Blinkers remind you that you still have
one thing to look forward to: the night.
Van Lear Rose
Despite the fact that she’s closing in on 70 years of age,
Loretta Lynn’s voice is still as strong and sweet as it was
when she released her first single over 40 years ago. On Van Lear
Rose, Lynn displays that she is her own best muse.
Lynn wrote all 13 tracks, and while she sticks to the usual country
music themes of God, lost love and rural life, she incorporates
some of her trademark feminism to songs such as “Women’s
Prison” and “Mrs. Leroy Brown.”
The backing band is led by Jack White of The White Stripes, a
huge Lynn fan who also produced the album. The two duet on “Portland
Oregon,” and White’s atmospheric guitar counts as a
Van Lear Rose is notable not only for being an example of White’s
ever-expanding musical prowess, but also for being a good old-fashioned
country record from a Nashville legend.
It’s an obvious joke, but you need to be patient to be a
George Michael fan. Patience is only Michael’s second original
album in 14 years, and his first since 1996’s Older.
Michael covers no new ground, as the song selection includes a
standard soulful ballad (“My Mother Had a Brother”),
an up-tempo dance/rock track (“Freeek! ‘04”),
and an interminably long techno song meant for the clubs (“Precious
Box,” which hopefully isn’t a reference to Michael’s
favourite stall in the men’s washroom).
Michael claims that Patience will be his last studio album, as
his future songs will be released over the Internet. Perhaps he’s
hoping if people hear his music one song at a time, they won’t
realize how much he’s slipped since his mid-’80s songwriting
Who Killed the Zutons?
On “Zuton Fever,” singer David McCabe complains that
he’s “got the Zuton fever in [his] head.” One
wonders if this is as curable as gonorrhea, but nevertheless, the
Zutons’ music contains such an infectious pop/funk grooves
that you too will catch the fever, for which the only prescription
is more cowb... er, Zutons records.
Every song on Who Killed the Zutons? is a catchy and flat-out
fun piece of horn-filled zaniness. The false climaxes during the
chorus of “Pressure Point” toy with being one of those
epiphanic moments of rock music and even though the song doesn’t
fully bust out it is still satisfying.
Only a few less masterful tracks, such as “Dirty Dancehall”,
keep this record from being a masterpiece.
Randy Bachman should probably give Burton Cummings a call and
stick to rock ‘n’ roll.
Bachman’s newest album, Jazz Thing, is a compilation of original
and cover songs not reflecting his classic rock roots but rather — you
guessed it — jazz.
You’ll get lost if you look to hear the familiar guitar
riffs from his days with The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
Bachman’s awesome guitar talent isn’t put on display
at all and his voice, which was always second to his guitar playing,
is front and centre.
Most of the songs are originals, but there is a very unique cover
of the late great Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line,” as
well as a George Gershwin cover.
Jazz Thing is a decent album but for Bachman fans who want to
hear nothing but “American Woman,” it isn’t for
There’s no other way to put it: the self-titled debut from
Scissor Sisters is a pretty gay album.
This isn’t meant in any derogatory fashion — far from
it. There’s just no other way to describe music that sounds
like Elton John, George Michael’s dance grooves, and Prince’s
vocals got together and had a kid.
It would be derivative if it wasn’t so well done. Scissor
Sisters seem to be equally adept as the house band for an all-night
disco as they would in a straight-up (pardon the pun) rock concert.
Singers Jake Shears and Ana Matronic are able to meld their voices
into a range of octaves that can go low, as in the piano ballad “Mary,” or
all the way up to Bee Gees-esque falsettos. Another highlight is
the techno cover of “Comfortably Numb” that puts the “pink” in
Jamie Cullum is a 24-year-old jazz pianist from England who is
unmistakably talented at both singing and piano-playing. Unfortunately,
he has yet to master the art of not being boring.
His debut album is a combination of original songs by himself
and his brother Ben, classic standards like “I Get A Kick
Out Of You” and jazz-ercised covers of offbeat-yet-mainstream
tracks, including Pharrell Williams’ “Frontin’” and
Radiohead’s “High and Dry.”
The problem comes from taking these songs and turning them into
covers that almost bury the electricity of the original recordings.
You wouldn’t think it possible to perform a dull version
of “Singin’ In The Rain,” one of the most exuberant
songs ever written, but Cullum somehow pulls it off.
The title track is a witty examination of post-college life that
will no doubt make many soon-to-be convocating students shed a
tear in rueful recognition. The classic songs are generally well
done, showing that at Cullum at least has the fundamentals of his
genre down pat. There is little else, however, to show that Cullum
is anything more than a poor man’s Harry Connick Jr.