Wednesday, June 09, 2010

My Enigma with Tegan and Sara

I would like to preface what I'm about to say in this post with a simple statement: I love these artists.

I can't recall how long ago it was, but 'Speak Slow' was played on one of the now defunct radio stations I used to frequent, and just like that I was introduced to the Canadian sister act, Tegan and Sara. I liked the song, and their sound, but did not really look much into the duo at that time.

Fast forward a few years.

In late 2009, I was in dire need of some new music to add to my iPod for the bus rides to class, so I naturally turned to the place where I figured I could find some- the radio, in particular, free internet radio via iTunes (Seriously, if you have iTunes, utilize this, its great… and FREE). I was perusing, listening for anything that caught my ear, when I happened to hear the song 'Nineteen' by Tegan and Sara. After recognizing the artists, I decided to storm the internet to listen to more of the pair's material.

Through my search, I found a link to their first performance on The Interface on (a link to all Interface performances is this way ----> ).
This four song set contained strictly acoustic renditions of the songs 'Back In Your Head', 'The Con', 'Nineteen', and 'Dark Come Soon' off the twin sisters' latest album at the time The Con.

Armed with only their two voices, three guitars (they had a 3rd guitarist), and xylophone (on 'Back In Your Head'), Tegan and Sara sounded absolutely phenomenal. They truly did an outstanding job, especially in terms of vocal performance, where they fed off one another to create very pleasant harmonies. If they hadn't already won me over, they surely did after I saw the videos. In fact, I liked the performance so much, I downloaded the mp3 version that Spinner offered and separated it into 4 different tracks. In my opinion, these are better acoustic takes than found elsewhere (e.g. Live Session on iTunes), though Take Away Shows (link on side) also got good Tegan and Sara footage.

Interestingly enough, during this time, when I had first started going to Spinner regularly, Tegan and Sara were releasing their album Sainthood and had done a second performance on The Interface- this time, a full band one. The four songs included in the Sainthood set were the tracks 'Hell', 'Alligator', 'On Directing', and 'The Cure'.

These songs were quite different from the ones from the first performance, mainly due to the electric sound. Once again, Tegan and Sara (and band) did not disappoint and gave me more reason to love them. My favorites were the fast-paced 'Hell' and the lighter fare of 'The Cure'. I was further elated when I learned in March that the two were releasing the Sainthood Interface set on a limited vinyl pressing for Record Store Day, which I was lucky to pick up (the place I went to literally had only 1 copy of this).

At this point, I started to compare both the stripped down acoustic tracks and the full band songs to their album version counterparts, and this is where the criticism comes in. THE LIVE TRACKS WERE VASTLY SUPERIOR!! I know the aforementioned statement is just my opinion, but I want you, the reader of this post, to take a good while and listen to one version, followed by the other. Conceivably, many of you will at least be able to see where I'm coming from, and maybe even some of you will be believers. The nuances in each of the live tracks help create magnificent sounding products that are just better than the original versions. For example, the decision to use a brighter, less warm guitar tone on 'Hell' gave the tune a different, more fitting sound. I could go on and on, but I'll let you find them on your own, especially since this post is quite long as it is. Perhaps credit should also be given to the crew of The Interface who are responsible for the sound of each performance. Lastly, I know some of you will say there are bands out there that are known for being better live acts, and I will agree this is true- case in point: Phish. It is possible that this is the case, though I'm not entirely sure.

At any rate, I think we can all agree that the sisters of indie rock, Tegan and Sara, kick some major ass, and I hope one day I will get to see them in person when I have some cash.

I have updated the links on the side, and will probably add at least one more. If you would like to be linked, just say so in the comments section. For those that may want to be featured, instructions are in the post 'Back in Black'. I will try and include a small paragraph on this on the side in the near future. Next time on Nicotine & Rock: should groups trying to recreate an influence's sound lose credibility? Until then…


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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Are You Sick Of Sarah? ... I'm Not!!

Driving away from my now alma mater (it feels weird to say it), I decided to put on the radio to my college station for both sentimentality and really loving the indie rock that came across the airwaves I happened to hear in recent days. I wasn't expecting a lot, as I am not a lucky guy, but the universe had other plans. I popped on the radio while a song was in its closing. And then it happened.

The next song came blasting out of the speakers, and right off the bat I was pumped. The pounding drums, the guitars feeding off one another- it was all just perfect.

Q: So what was this song?
A: 'Not Listening' by a band, whose name is all too ironic and hilarious to me for personal reasons, called Sick Of Sarah.

After checking out the band and hearing some other songs, I became a fan. This five-some of ladies know how to pack a punch and create some kick-ass, adrenaline pumping music. However, their self-titled album is a fairly diverse one: offering up alternative sounding tracks as heard on 'Daisies' and 'Bittersweet', to the semi-acoustic like on 'Give Me A Reason', to the punk as on both 'Mr. Incredible' and 'Not Listening', and to the acoustic ballad as on 'Fall'.

The album was mixed and engineered very nicely as the instruments and vocals sound great coming out of a nearly 10 year old 2.1 Altec Lansing setup, as well as a pair of earbuds when listening on my ipod. The instrumentals are crisp, even with distorted guitars. The vocals are clean, with Abisha Uhl delivering a solid lead performance. Jessica Forsythe laid down some sick drum beats, and I'm loving the fact that above everything else, the drums really catch my attention and stand out the most- this may be different for different people though, as maybe I'm actually more accustomed to listening for it as a drummer (even though I play multiple instruments). Furthermore, neither instrumentals nor vocals are overpowered by something else- everything is very audible, which earns it a thumbs up. It's a huge rarity to find an album where you can actually sit down, walk, go to the moon, or jump around on a pogo stick while blindfolded, and actually listen to the whole thing while still enjoying every single minute. I will say that it is arguable that Sick Of Sarah truly may have done it.

I encourage those who stumble upon this blog and are in need of some new tunes, to check this band out- I've even put them in the top 'Bands You Should Know' mini-segment at the top (that's how good I think they are). 'Not Listening', 'Mr. Incredible', 'Give Me A Reason', and 'Breakdown' are definitely songs to listen to- though as I've said before, the album delivers a variety of sounds and the tracks I suggest are more of 'put this on your workout playlist' than the complete scope of the record. (For a fuller range, just pick and choose some of the ones I mentioned earlier). Hopefully, I have educated some of you, and if you already heard this band prior to about 2 weeks ago, that is awesome, and keep on supporting them.

I'll have a new post in a short while, but in the meantime...



Back In Black

Hello readers.

For those who are new to the site (and those who were around long ago and may be coming back), please feel free to comment on all posts- I like hearing back from you, and it helps me better gauge my audience.

I am also open to discussion about all things rock- that you can also post in the comments section.

If you want to be featured on the site (** c'mon people- it's free advertisement for your band**), shoot me an e-mail (provided through my profile) with the subject line 'Feature: [insert your band name here]' and in the e-mail, either include: 1.) a digital file (or several) @ 256 kbps or higher preferred, though it can be lower- it's just, and I'm sure you already know, the higher the bitrate, the truer the sound that's reproduced, or 2.) a link to a website where I can listen to your music. Feel free to talk about yourself and/or band in the e-mail as well. I'll probably ask a few questions about your band in a follow up e-mail for information to include in a post as a mixed bio, Q/A session, and discussion on the music.

Realistically, I'm not expecting much-- but it would be great to have comments, willing participants be featured on the blog, and a good, open environment to talk about the music. Now to hit the lights, do a sound check, and open the doors to this venue once again.

- Management
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