Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mother Mother - Simply Simple

Mother Mother is an indie rock group out of Vancouver British Columbia. I saw them live once five years ago at the Liberty Longue at the Mount Royal University, where they played to a crowd of twenty (or maybe less). I had no idea who they were at the time and I was unsure what to make of Mother Mother back then. They were weird which I often site as a good thing since weirdness and creativity often coexist, but Mother Mother was/is weird in a way that does not really suit me. The baby voices the girls sing in, I didn’t entirely care for, and there seemed to be strong reoccurring theme of femininity and childishness in their song lyrics and their stage presence that I cannot say I relate too or appreciate. I sort of forgot about Mother Mother after that, I remembered who they were and what their song style was like but I never got into them, I think I even went through a phase where I thought they were terrible, but things change.

On the last day of the Calgary Stampede I decided I was going to do everything I had meant to do all nine Stampede days prior in one day. So I drank a bottle of wine, saw Mother Mother live on the Coca Cola stage, watched the fireworks, and came into work the next day tired and hung over, as is my custom. Everyone I talked to before the concert (all of them female interestingly enough) enjoyed my story of yesteryear when I saw Mother Mother play for less than two dozen people. This was interesting to me, because this meant I knew about Mother Mother before a majority of their hardcore fans. When I got home I realized I had dirt on my face, neck, and all over my pant legs. I even had a small trickle of blood running down my forehead where I had been unintentionally kicked in the head by a crowd surfer. I got a lot more banged up then I would have expected at a concert by a light indie rock band from the left coast that I have always considered “feminine” and “childish.” Regardless I had a good time.

Anyway enough about me and my adventures, Mother Mother are weird.

Everything about them is weird. Front man Ryan Guldemond along with the two girls Molly Guldemond (Ryan’s sister I assume), and Jasmin Parkin all look like the “artsy” crowd to me, and that usual entails at least some strangeness. The tones used by the girls on Mother Mother, the baby voices I call them, is odd, and I have had more than one conversation about the name of the band Mother Mother and how it might be a deliberate name choice to describe their unorthodox style of sound. For me though it has been the themes Mother Mother’s songs in correlation with the song style that makes Mother Mother seem so weird. They have multiple songs with lyrics referring to babies and maternal instincts and concerns, and it is just a little odd to see a tall, well dressed, blonde man sprouting a Mohawk sing songs that often times sound like they are coming from a female perspective. It could be reasoned that Ryan is simply the voice for the band as a whole and since forty percent of the band is female I am just picking up on their influence on the song writing, or it could be that as a man with strong archaic masculine sensibilities that society has left me and my outdated notions of female gentility and male stoicism in the dust. I guess it could be a lot of things.

It is not often I can point to one song as the deciding factor why I have decided to like a band after being indifferent towards them for half a decade, but I can for Mother Mother, it’s “Simply Simple.” When I first heard the song I knew who it was because I recognized Ryan and the girls’ voices, as well as the unique use of keyboards, a style I was not sold on, and once again with subject matter that did not speak to my testosterone pumped perspective. Still I could not ignore the obvious truth that “Simply Simple,” was a great song. Simplicity is a beautiful thing sometimes, and I doubt it is intentional, but “Simply Simple” proves itself to be a great example of a simple structured song that works really well. I have seen Ryan with a guitar sitting on a coach in someone’s living room with the girls and they performed an awesome version of “Simply Simple,” it is rather remarkable what three people can create with just one instrument. It cannot be ignored that the melodies created between these three voices is working well, it’s a good thing they found each other.

When the year began I thought about picking “Simply Simple,” as one of my favorite songs of last year, but I wanted to brood over the idea and try to figure out some of my perceived weirdness about Mother Mother. It is funny, that a band I ignored for the better part of a decade has given me so many little things to discuss and at least two quasi interesting stories to tell. They have also given me at least one great song in amongst a collection of what I am starting to appreciate as good songs.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Also a great "simple" acoustic version:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bon Iver - Calgary

I scour the Internet for music, I have to; it is my unofficial job. 2011 was an interesting year; it was interesting for a variety of reasons. The first thing that made 2011 different was that 2010 was a tough act to follow, I own so many CDs that came out in 2010, and so many of my active favorites released albums that year, so 2011 left me kind of scratching my head and searching harder than usual. Also I am taking this whole Music In Review thing more seriously than I used too, and that could be considered interesting too I suppose.

Guess what the world thought was the best song in 2011? You will not guess it, and you know why you will not guess it, because you have never heard of it. According to many a music critic the best song of 2011 is, Bon Iver – Calgary.

I think it is fantastic that a hit song (sort of) is named after my home. When I discovered Bon Iver’s “Calgary,” my first thought was that some local band was winning the hearts of the indie crowd, but I was mistaken, the band is from Eau Claire Wisconsin. I think it’s really nice some folks decided to name their song after Calgary. Other than the oil industry and the Stampede people do not pay that much attention to us. So yeah! Somebody likes us.

Even though I never heard “Calgary” on the radio, or on MTV, or ever heard anyone ever talk about the song, apparently we are all suppose to know that it was in fact the best song of 2011. Who knew? That’s hipsters for you, always trying so hard to be obscure, and to be perfectly honest I can think of several songs I enjoyed more than “Calgary,” from last year.

I think about a lot of different things when I think of “Calgary.” Admittedly I am making a bigger deal about the name than I should, and the other music critics out there being different and slightly silly should be no surprise, but there is just so much to talk about here. I can ramble on and on about how my cool ass city of Calgary is getting noticed, and how it is a fine compliment to have a song named after us. I can ramble about how “Calgary,” is one of those songs that is undeservedly ignored by the public but grossly overrated by those folks who fancy themselves the great discoveries of the obscure. I could. I could go on and on about the social significance of this song, but I don’t want too, because it’s stupid, but I have too, but it is inevitable.

It is not a big deal that the city of Calgary has a song named after it, and listening to the lyrically content the song is clearly called “Calgary” arbitrarily; this song has nothing to do with the city of Calgary specifically. Also it is not a big deal that a bunch of pretentious music maniacs have all decided to conform to each other so they can pretend they are unique (we call them hypocrites where I came from, and I come from Calgary) that’s not important. What is important is the music.

This leads me to the point, what do I think of Bon Iver’s “Calgary?”

It is pretty good.

It is about half as good as the Internet indie subculture is making it out to be, but it is a pretty good song. “Calgary,” is very, very atmospheric, has a somewhat unique singer style from front man Justin Vernon but not really, and it has really good pacing. All in all, this is a fine piece of work, and someone should make a stand to point out that it should be noticed, and I am doing that now, but... best song of the year? Really? This is it huh folks?

Truthfully I would not have cared half so much if my city’s name was not in the title. Truthfully I would not care so much, but I was confused by my peers pleasuring themselves to this song. I guess the lesson of this Music in Review is confusion. Weirdly I like “Calgary,” almost more so for the long dialogues it could prompt, if, of course, anyone else I knew had heard the damn song... so yeah, I look forward to hearing from you.

In summation, Calgary is cool, I live there. The song is nice too. One of those songs that is underappreciated and overrated at the same time.

Until later this month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

P.S. Also everyone seems to really like Bon Iver’s cover of “I can’t make you Love me.”