Canadian bands

(That’s What I Call A) Rally Cry: Album Review

During Weekend 1 of Coachella 2017, I worked the late shift. I was on from 4 p.m. until midnight, which meant I got to check out the festival earlier in the day. Most of you who attend festivals know that a lot of the hyped acts play later timeslots. With that in mind, there weren’t many bands I went to check out before my shift started each day. However, on Saturday afternoon I decided to check out Arkells set on the Outdoor Stage. I knew one of their songs at the time, “Leather Jacket”, from doing some browsing on Spotify. Since the set was in the middle of the afternoon when the desert heat is at its prime, there weren’t many people in attendance, especially in the guest viewing area. I was essentially front and center for the set. That afternoon Arkells played one of my favorite sets that I saw at Coachella last year. They had great energy. I enjoyed their music without knowing much of it. They even brought a random festival-goer onstage with them to play guitar during one of their songs. It was so cool! I’m surprised I didn’t write about them sooner.

On Friday Arkells released their fifth studio album Rally Cry so I figured it was appropriate to do an Arkells post along with an album review. Arkells is a Canadian alternative rock band from Hamilton, Ontario that formed in 2006. The band is named after a street in the Westdale neighborhood of Hamilton where they used to live and practice together. Max Kerman (lead vocals, guitar), Mike DeAngelis (vocals, guitar), Nick Dika (bass), Tim Oxford (drums), and Anthony Carone (vocals, keyboard, guitar) comprise the band. Kerman and DeAngelis met while in college at McMaster University and discovered their similar taste in music. The rest is history.

Arkells released their first album Jackson Square in October 2008. They received some media attention in 2010 when Kesha and rap singer Shad joined them on stage for a cover of Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson” while performing at a small venue show after the 2010 Much Music Awards. In October 2011, they released their second album Michigan Left. That year the band also announced the departure of original member Dan Griffin (he was replaced by Carone). In the next few years the band continued to tour and received a few notable accolades, mostly in Canada. One of those was Group of the Year at the 2012 Juno Awards.

Their third record High Noon was released in August 2014. The album earned them Group of the Year and Rock Album of the Year at the 2015 Juno Awards. They also released the self-produced EP Study Music. While on tour in spring 2016, they teased a new record. That record, Morning Report, was released in August 2016. It was their fourth full length. In 2017 along with playing Coachella on the festival circuit they also played Osheaga Festival and Sasquatch! Music Festival. Their song “Knocking at the Door” peaked at #1 on the Canadian alternative rock charts. It was also their first track to reach US Alternative Charts where it peaked at #39.

Now Arkells are back with Rally Cry. I’ve listened to a few songs from their other albums and I have to say from their first album to their most recent, their sound has remained consistent. It’s pure alternative rock. Kerman has such powerful and somewhat distinct vocals. I feel like their music and even the lead vocals are a similar sound to that of Cold War Kids. I’ve been listening to their single “Relentless” for a few weeks now. It’s a jam and currently on my workout playlist. “People’s Champ” is a protest anthem of U.S. President Donald Trump, which isn’t the first time the band has taken a political stance with their music. “Whistleblower”, “The Ballad of Hugo Chavez”, and “Knocking at the Door” have political meaning as well. Another track on the new record “Saturday Night” gives off a Bruce Springsteen-esque vibe. Overall though, every song has that same alt-rock sound that has gained the band recognition in Canada over the years.

If you’re already a fan of Arkells, you should be stoked about this album. I definitely think they’re an underrated band in the U.S. Their music is great and after seeing them at Coachella, I can attest that their live performances are great too. I might be seeing them play again in two weeks too! They’ll be joining St. Lucia on their current headlining tour and I have plans to check out one of the shows. They’ll also be headlining a Canada tour in February 2019. It’ll be one of their biggest headlining tours to date as they play arenas across the “True North Strong and Free.” I feel like they have the potential to make a name for themselves in the U.S. at some point soon as well too. Definitely check them out sooner rather than later by giving both their newest album and older albums a listen. All five of their albums certainly have “gas in the tank to go all night long” on whatever medium you’re listening on!

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I Won’t Treat You Like You’re Typical

I’ve always liked alternative styles of music. I’ve listened to alternative rock, indie rock, indie pop, emo, screamo, pop punk, punk rock, ska, hardcore, and lately even some of that mainstream EDM stuff. After I graduated from college, my music interests started to shift a bit towards the indie music genre. I wrote about it once and refer to it as my second musical enlightenment. Since then, I’ve been into the indie rock/indie pop scene. However, there were times during high school and college where I’ve been interested in indie artists. I think my first interest in indie bands came from watching The OC. Bands like Death Cab For Cute, Band of Horses, Spoon, Rooney, and Nada Surf had musical influence on the show. Indie music was a huge part of the series due to Seth Cohen’s (one of the main characters) interest in the indie scene. After the OC went off the air in 2007, I had interests in indie bands here and there before my main indie phase took over in 2011. One of those bands was the indie pop/rock duo, Tegan and Sara.

Identical twin sisters, Tegan Rain Quin and Sara Keirsten Quin formed their band in the late 90’s while still in high school. The Canadian duo, who hail from Calgary, Alberta, recorded their first demos in high school and began touring shortly after graduation. They released their first album, Under Feet Like Ours, in 1999. Since then, the band has released 7 other records. Their latest and eighth album, Love You to Death, was released June 3, 2016. They’ve also toured numerous times worldwide on both headlining tours and in support of many well-known acts and have played countless music festivals. Their seventh album, Heartthrob, released in 2013 is their highest charting album to date (number 3 on Billboard’s Top 200) and sold 49,000 copies in its first week. The album earned them more attention in the music world as well as a growth in their dedicated fan base.

Tegan and Sara’s sound has progressed since their debut in 1999. They went from folk/alternative rock to indie rock to indie pop and now to more of a straight pop sound. Their ability to grow musically along with having a devout following has allowed them to continue to make music for 20 years, even though the sisters are only in their mid-30’s.

Tegan and Sara have used their platform beyond the music world too. As out lesbians, both are huge advocates for LGBT equality, thus gaining a large following from the LGBT community. They’ve also advocated in support of other causes but their strong involvement in LGBT rights is well known and has made them a favorite act of community members.

I first heard of Tegan and Sara through a friend who had lyrics from their song “Take Me Anywhere” on her MySpace profile. At the time, I always confused Tegan and Sara and fellow girl duo Meg & Dia. Eventually Tegan and Sara won my heart over once I became interested in their music during my sophomore and junior year of college. I don’t remember how, why, or exactly when my interest started, but I do remember listening to their music while driving to class during the winter. I can honestly say they’ve never been my favorite band. I’ve only been a casual listener since around 2009 while in college. In fact, I purchased my first Tegan and Sara album in 2014 on a Black Friday deal. A few months prior I got into the song “Closer”, a year after it was all over mainstream radio, so a $7 copy of Heartthrob was a great deal in my mind. I had the album on repeat during my Christmas trip to visit family and Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Christmas Town. It was one of my favorite Black Friday CD purchases and was my go to album of the time.

A few weeks ago, my friend told me she had tickets for a Tegan and Sara show in the beginning of November. She planned on attending with her roommate and her roommate’s girlfriend. When she told me, I expressed interest in going and she said I should join them. I decided to go for it, purchasing my tickets a solid three weeks before the show. Last Thursday night was the night. I saw Tegan and Sara live for the first time (along with Hayley Kiyoko and ARIZONA, but that’s another show and another story). As a casual fan, I wasn’t as stoked for the show as I’ve been for others, but it surely exceeded my expectations. I had the best time. Tegan and Sara played a variety of songs from older albums along with ones from their newer releases. They also took the time to tell stories in between songs and advocate for the upcoming Presidential election. Even as Canadians they let us know they had our backs no matter the results. It was evident that the crowd was made up of plenty of longtime fans who knew the words to every song and created an energy difficult to replicate by singing a-long and dancing for the entirety of their set. There was something special about the atmosphere at the show that made it unlike other shows I’ve been to. Not to mention, I also attended with a great group of people who appreciate the twins’ music and music in general.

I feel like Tegan and Sara’s music can appeal to so many people because of how their music has grown and changed through the years. If you’ve never heard of them, please check them out soon. They’re good. If you have, you can totally vouch for me and if you ever have a chance to see them live in a smaller venue, go for it. It’s better than you know. Here’s some of my favorite Tegan and Sara songs, but there’s plenty to pick from with 8 albums so feel free to scan through all their tunes:

  1. Nineteen
  2. Walking With the Ghost
  3. The Con
  4. Closer
  5. Hell
  6. I Couldn’t Be Your Friend
  7. I Was A Fool
  8. Boyfriend
  9. Goodbye, Goodbye
  10. Stop Desire