Danger Canadian Content - Best of 2014

Before we start we need to explain that our listings are only based on Canadian artists and reducing these down to five in each category has been a labour of love and unusually, a degree of disagreement, especially around the Best Gigs section where, due to the huge amount of gigs and split attendance we differed considerably…. Indeed, given the number of gigs we saw over the year and new releases we attended, it was a surprise that we didn’t have a top 100 let alone a top five! That said, once, we’d slugged it out (over several beers), the verdict for Danger Canadian Content’s best of 2014, in no particular order, is as follows:

Best Gigs of the Year

Little Foot Long Foot @ Cameron House - April:

 You are going it find this hard to believe but, sometimes words fail you. The gig was the last with Isaac Klein as drummer and their return to the venue where Joan Smith and Isaac first performed as a duo, bringing an end to their symbiotic musical relationship, so to say that emotions were running high as the set progressed would be putting it mildly. The result was a curious mixture of friends, family and fans, most of which would appear to have followed LFLF throughout their career. In time honoured fashion new material was played as Joan takes LFLF into a new space (see Best Releases). The set largely drawn from ‘Oh Hell’ was masterfully performed with Smith’s soaring vocals ripping the guts out of each tune, while Klein’s drumming was the perfect foil to a singer in full flow. The last song ‘Missing the point’ was delivered heart wrenchingly as it reflected the end of a long emotional road. At the end I felt privileged, honoured and exhausted to have been present, a feeling that lasted for several days at the time and which rightly warrants their place in this list.

CATL @ Horseshoe Tavern - April:

At the start of 2014, we saw Catl play in June’s Records to a very small audience, so the move to headline The Horseshoe for their latest CD release was a major step in the right direction. Add to the mix support from Mad Ones, Bloodshot Bill and a promise from Catl’s guitarist, Jamie, that it would be loud, we were provided with an explosive set from one of the hardest working duos we’ve ever seen. Before long the packed Horseshoe crowd were as worked up as the band, with the tempo rising as the set, drawn mostly from ‘This Shakin’ House’, but interspersed with Catl’s finest, progressed. With the place in a gritty blues sweatbox meltdown with ‘Gold tooth Shine’ and ‘Workin Mans Soul’, all that was left was to add the backing dancers from the ‘Gateway Blues’ video to join the stage and the celebration was complete. We left sweaty, drained, euphoric and slightly smug, knowing that Catl are the real deal.

 The Balconies @ Horseshoe Tavern - May:

Let’s start by saying that this was part of the re-dated Canadian Music Week season that saw The Balconies appear at the Horseshoe. What was remarkable here was the strength of the line up, which included The Damn Truth, The Honeyrunners, headliners Head of the Herd and the fact that The Balconies blew them all away, seriously. We’ve seen the band a few times over the last couple of years and it’s true to say that from the moment that their lead singer Jacquie, stalked onto the stage to the moment they finished, they exuded pace, power and passion, which was reflected by a packed house with an adoring audience. The set drew mostly from their debut album ‘Fast Motions’ and preceded a long tour, which won them more friends, but on that night they performed at the top end of the range, all night long…

Public Animal @ Bovine - July:

Perhaps it was the challenge of getting back from London to Toronto in time to see Public Animal at the Bovine or perhaps the fact that after the teasers back in 2013, we were seeing a true supergroup at their finest, but boy did this show rock! Firstly it was LOUD, but not so loud that the performance was lost in the mix. Public Animal embody an edgy attitude that begs you to dislike them, but a sound that won’t let you leave the door. With Blurton’s screaming lead guitar and Caitlyn’s keys and powerful haunting vocals fronting the set, which was drawn largely from their debut album ‘Habitat Animal’, the band tore through a set that made every mile of the trip worthwhile. There are no prisoners taken at a Public Animal gig and the packed confines of The Bovine suited them perfectly on this night, but don’t expect to see them here too often, bigger venues beckon.

 July Talk @ TURF - July:

One thing that the DCC collective can agree on is that July Talk are an exceptional live band, but their showing at the Toronto Urban Roots Festival, was nothing short of remarkable. Out of their comfort zone, in broad daylight and faced with a much bigger and dare we say sober audience than usual, it could have gone badly wrong. It didn’t. In terms of pure energy, the visual and physical antagonism shown towards each other from Peter and Leah and a set of (now) established songs, July Talk added significant stagecraft to their performance, teasing and cajoling the increasingly vocal audience to remind them of the words at one point, which was simple, but brilliantly timed and executed. It is impossible to take your eyes from the front two who appear to hate and love each other at the same time with an intensity that draws you in and keeps you there. A remarkable set from an amazing band. If these guys are not on at least the New Band stage at Glastonbury next year, they should replace their management, end of.


Best Releases of the Year (2014)

Short, but sweet, these releases have been on our playlist ever since we heard them and they’re still there…. Again in no particular order we present….

Biblical - Monsoon Season:

 We never, repeat never, play an album back to back once we’ve been through the first playing, except in this case. With a mere six tracks, but with over 36 minutes of playing time, this is a stellar album and one which reflects the intensity of their stage presence. Awesomely powerful and with an addiction that defies belief, Biblical cover a massive range of rock genres, including Pink Floyd.

Standout Track: Monsoon Season.

Shawn Clarke - William:

From a great set at TWimFest to a permanent fixture, Chez Moose, the response from people who’ve listened to the album, without introduction, have included such comments as, ‘this is Paul Simon right?’ and more often ‘Wow, who’s this?’ This is a superb album written by a very talented singer writer, as recognised by his success in the songwriter category in the annual Now Magazine/‘Best of Toronto’ poll. Beautifully crafted, played and sung, I defy you not to be tapping your foot and singing the chorus to most songs on first listening.

Standout Track: Sound of Ticking Tocking

Little Foot Long Foot - Woman:

We’ve waited a long time for this release and it was worth every minute, as it represents an evolution from the previous line up. ‘Woman’ has an increased subtlety in terms of delivery with Smith’s natural blues vocals being stretched in terms of range and boy, does it work. Don’t get us wrong, it retains all of LFLF’s usual ballsy rock and roll, but there is more depth and completeness here overall than in some of their earlier material. If ‘Woman’ is the new benchmark for LFLF and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be, then the future is bright.

Standout Track: Heavy

 

CATL - This Shakin’ House:

Lovers of  Blues/Country/Rock will love this album as much as we do. From the opening track CATL have produced their most complete and consistent album to date and it’s a beauty. Road testing the tracks from a continuous gigging regime paid off handsomely and ‘This Shakin House’ retains that live feel throughout with barnstorming foot stompers to more measured an slower tunes. A permanent deck party guest last summer, it’s still getting a lot of play now.

Standout Track: FU Blues


Miranda Mulholland - Whipping Boy:

 We’d seen Mulholland playing with NQ Arbuckle and curiosity linked to a tremendous performance that night ended up a random purchase of ‘Whipping Boy’, which is stunning album. Ranging from great vocals, through fiddle playing that could cut down trees, to a jazz/blues club feel, every track is brilliantly delivered. Mulholland’s talent and versatility provide a platform for her crystal clear vocals and haunting fiddle throughout, but in a style that defies pigeon holing. At the end of the day it’s the sheer variety of styles and tunes on this album, from rousing Celtic tunes to playing the 1940’s femme fatale and much more, that make it difficult to take ‘Whipping Boy’ off the player.

Standout Track: Shiloh

Cameron House - Little Foot Long Foot - 11-04-2014

Litte Foot Long Foot

Horseshoe Tavern - The Balconies - 09-05-2014

Catl

The Horseshoe Tavern - Catl - 24-04-2014

July Talk

TURF - July Talk - 06-07-2014

The Balconies


All photos reproduced by kind permission of Back2basicsphotography.com