New Dave Grohl Book

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  Moby Celebrates with REPRISE

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  Joe Bonamassa Live!

  Rodrigo Y Gabriela Interview

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  Young Knives Are Back!

  Montreux Jazz Festival 2021

  Music & Brexit

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  My Best Albums for 2020

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  Is The USA Nightmare Over?

  Download Back in 2021!

  On Barbra Streisand

  Roger Waters Us + Them Review

  Skunk Anansie 2021 Tour

  Metallica’s S&M2 Review

  The State We’re In…

  Welcome Back! But To What?

  What Have We Done?


  Photojournalism Hero

  Samantha Fish Live

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  My 100 Favourite Albums

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  Roger Waters on Amused To Death

New Album Reviews


Braids SHADOW OFFERING. Secret City Records

There’s more hopefulness in this record than anything else I’ve written. I think the songs are more human, more tangible, more honest.” - Raphaelle Standell-Preston

Montreal-based three-piece (Raphaelle Standell-Preston - guitar, keyboards, lead vocals; Austin Tufts - drums, vocals; Taylor Smith - bass, guitar, percussion, vocals) indie art rock band Braids formed in 2007 in Alberta. The band has won several awards in Canada and garnered excellent reviews from the USA and the UK. This, their fourth album was produced by Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie).

“‘Snow Angel’ was written in the immediate wake of the 2016 U.S. election, as our collective conscience took a sharp inhale,” says the band in a written statement. “It’s a diary entry of sorts – a snapshot of the mind grappling with our era’s endless barrage of content and destruction, continents away and close to home. This moment, with our world in the midst of a pandemic, is admittedly a new context. But I can’t help but sense the song speaks to feelings many of us are experiencing – uncertainty, angst and a desperate desire to make sense of it all.”

Singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston elaborates: “For me, it was deeply therapeutic to write and sing this song; saying things out loud can help us to not feel so alone, can help validate our natural fears about the future of our world, and can bring to light some of the hard questions that many of us are asking ourselves. I believe that art can change our relationship to fear. We hope this song can offer you a moment of catharsis and relief, in the same way writing and performing it has for us.”


It’s easy to see why Braids is the top art-rock band in Canada. The opening of the album’s first track ‘Here For U’ is quiet backed by delicate piano notes and a visceral Standell-Preston voice that compells one to keep listening. The chorus erupts out of the silence before the fragility returns. I’m reminded of Kate Bush at her intimate best. It’s a brave but utterly beautiful opening romantic gambit.

‘Young Buck’ is next and changes completely with a pacier, rockier and more rhythmic sound. The vocal is more passionate and aggressive - a complete turnaround. Lyrically, it exhibits the strength of the band’s song-writing:

“Shook my foundation/Young buck, 22-year old who treats me badly/The blaring example of what I am drawn towards and should strongly move away from/Young buck/Was just a new chapter/While I’m playing this waiting game/For the one/I think I’ll love forever/But we’re still not together/Together. ‘Eclipse’ follows the same more extrovert path but with a vocal that screams expression and with piano providing a relentless rhythm in the background. ”

‘Just Let Me’ reverts to the more personal and intimate with a well-judged raising of the temperature in the choruses. It’s one of my many favourites on a record that’s never short of door-opening melodies. At this point I have to acknowledge the marvellous job done by Chris Walla in conveying the mood swings and delicacy here. ‘Upheaval II’ offers up further sonic diversity in a mid-paced rocker with percussion providing a solid foundation. ‘Fear Of Men’ changes yet again with darting electronics offering a distinctive and effective backdrop to another fragile Standell-Preston vocal that occasionally ignites with great emotion.

The fast-moving lead single ‘Snow Angel’ is next and underlines the partial topical and polemic nature of the album:

“Focusing on a flower/The clouds overhead/The lips of my lover/Mother Nature and her offerings/A reminder that life is beautiful still/Amongst all the madness, the chaos/The need to march in the streets/Fake news, and indoctrination/Closed borders, and deportation/I’ve been deeply sad/A sadness deeper than after reduction/Am I only just realizing the injustice that exists?/Cloaked in white privilege since the day I was born/Blinders on, blinders on/It’s a feeling where I wonder if everything is gonna be okay/And when I say everything, I’m not talking about my little everything, my little life/I mean the planet, I mean the oceans, people fighting for the right to a safe life/ The polars bears floating away on a brink of ice/What have we done to them?/The only way I can ease the all consuming, rising feeling, as we reach no return is to grab that pillow and give a good, long scream/Sit with the release/Maybe go for a run/Come home, turn on the TV, go numb for a bit/Look at the suffering that I cause, that I cause, that I, I, I, I, I/I recycle, I compost, I buy second-hand/God, I’m disgusting/Like that’s enough of a plan/Staring at my iPhone Green smoothie recipe/How to start your day right/Slipped right through my hand/Clean up the glass on the ground…”

Much of this verse is talked which adds to the drama and intensity of the song. It’s an adventurous and original masterpiece. ‘Ocean’ is a song that wanders along like a gently burbling mountain stream. ‘Note To Self’ with its brushed snare drums, subtle piano notes and contemplative vocal ends this brilliant and beautiful album on a high note. Put simply if you buy one album in 2020, make it this one. ESSENTIAL.


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