Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Joe Banfi’s EP seeks answers

8 Feb

Exactly 45 seconds in to Joe Banfi’s “Nomads,” I decided it needed to be shared.

“Nomads” is the title track of Joe Banfi’s newest EP. Released less than a month ago, the song catches you instantly with a deep and dark bass before backing off to let in the lead vocals, high-pitched and soft in comparison. It’s something of a shock as the song grabs you and lets go, only to climb right back into that former intensity. The rise and fall isn’t jarring, though – it’s a smooth ride right to the end. Of particular enjoyment is the emotion in each clearly-articulated word. The lyrics are irrelevant – you can find the story just in the singer’s tone. (Download a free MP3 here.) Note the rolling drumbeat that keep the song pushing forward.

The second track, “Family,” carries the melancholy confusion of the first, but more subtly. While “Nomads” opened with a crash of instruments, this track is more preoccupied with its lyrics. It built slowly, with strings approaching and retreating multiple times, eventually ending with what felt like something of an intentional down, for the artist as much as the listener.

“Olive Green” is the first song that climbs out of the sadness characterizing the first two tracks. Starting with a lonely sound, the background acoustic guitar slowly grows into the richness created by a layering of emotions.

This is just an EP, one characterized by a question that Banfi is unable before the album ends. As Brotherkid has pointed out, one gets tired of listening to hit after hit without the strength of a full album – but this is an EP that promises the album will come. It’s just not quite there yet, and in the meantime, “Nomads” is well worth mulling over.

Sadly, Joe Banfi is currently touring the U.K. and unlikely to make a stop in Chicago anytime soon.


Fear And Loathing In Toronto: “Vinyl” Documentary Is Worth A Spin

30 Dec

Vinyl. A documentary film from 2000 by Alan Zweig.

Following the recommendation of one of my closest and most trusted record/movie addicts, I watched “Vinyl”, a celebrated documentary by Canadian filmmaker Alan Zweig. Five years in the making, Vinyl is (at times) a very dark film that is impossible to look away from. It’s also far too easy to identify with some of the attributes of Zweig’s cast of LP loving characters, as well as the solitary filmmaker himself.

In Vinyl, Zweig (an avid record collector), converses with the camera through a mirror, reflecting on his day-to-day life — killing mice, making mix tapes for himself — while lamenting the fact that he’d rather be putting together a bicycle for his yet-to-be born daughter. Aged 48 at the time, Zweig had unfortunately not yet found a wife to have said daughter with. If that isn’t sad enough, during the course of the film Zweig introduces us to some of his fellow audiophiles: collectors that run the gamut  from Coltrane obsessives, chain-smoking K-tel enthusiasts, to straight-up record hoarders. He explores basements and bathrooms filled with 45’s and 12″s, tries to reason with a fellow collector who no longer has room to move in his small apartment due to his vinyl obsession, is told by a friend that the reason he can’t find a wife is because he’s “too fat”, and celebrates New Year’s Eve alone. Again. It’s not surprising that half-way through Vinyl, you start to wonder if Zweig might have decided he’d be better off record shopping with Jimi Hendrix up in heaven.

Thankfully, Zweig’s story has a happy ending. Now 60, Zweig is happily married and a father to a daughter born in 2011. He has four more documentary style films to his credit that have been well received, and is currently filming his fifth full-length feature, “When Jews Were Funny”. Zweig says that the success of Vinyl “changed his life”.

It’s pretty easy to watch Vinyl in its entirety online, but I’m not going to be the one to tell you exactly where. I will however recommend that you follow Zweig, a self-described “late bloomer” (aren’t we all?) on Twitter.

What happened to music in 2012

28 Dec

2012 had a lot of great music (as well as a lot that made me want to cut off my ears), but the music industry itself also underwent some changes. Here are three of the trends music saw in 2012.

The one man (or woman) band
These days  it’s all about the one-and-two-man (or woman, or woman-and-man) bands. No more are the massive groups featuring drums and backup singers and bassists and guitars and a few other funky instruments. It’s all about an acoustic guitar and melancholy melody.

I understand why it happened. With record companies fronting less money for tours, it’s nearly impossible to take a band on the road and make a name for yourself. With today’s recording technology and predominance of social media, it’s incredibly easy to make music and then promote it as a solo artist.

And, in all fairness, I love many of these one-person acts. My last two posts – Peter Bradley Adams and Dave Baxter – are both solo artists I can’t get enough of. My music library is full of similar musicians. But there are days I pine for, oh, say, the 11-member  Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. They’ve got energy and a sound that just can’t be matched by a solo artist sitting on stage all by their lonesome.

Streaming is struggling
I listen to Pandora about 42.5 hours per week (8.5 hours at work x 5 days per week), and, in the back of my mind, I’ve always wondered: why would anyone pay for this site when the free version is totally awesome?

Apparently it’s a fair question. According to NPR, streaming websites are hurting for money, and desperately. Spotify has never made money; Pandora, the other biggest streaming site, has had the occasional profitable quarter but then goes right back into the red.

Maybe this will be the trend that finally gets us paying for streaming – when every music site goes bankrupt, the gasp of horror from society will finally cause us to cough up the money. That, or YouTube will basically take over the world.

Find your (vinyl) roots
This might seem obvious, considering the blog, but it’s also an important trend. While more and more people are streaming their music, more and more are simultaneously purchasing vinyl as well. Streaming is great for the workplace and downloading music is great for IPods, but when you’re sitting down and listening to music instead of using it as background noise, vinyl is becoming the way to go (again).

In the words of one musician I spoke with recently: “A great way to get your band out there is to put some songs on vinyl and go sell it to record stores. They’ll buy it without even listening – that’s how high the demand for vinyl is right now.”