I know you want Another Man...

Northwestern Ontario is the latest stop to make your ears happy.  Kenora, Ontario is where Ryan Van Belleghem calls home, and you might as well pay attention now, because the 18 year old is talented.

Another Man is Van Belleghem's debut album.  The singer/songwriter wrote and composed the eleven track L.P. and released it this past November.  Finding it's way through several genres, the album demonstrates how versatile the young musician is.  It's a fact that has grown on me as I've listened to the album more and more (which has also led me to liking it more and more).

I dig the way he has played across all these genres, but my favourite two songs on the album definitely have a similar vibe.  "True" is the first track on the album, and I think that was a good choice.  He lists Jack Johnson as a musician that inspires him and it's clear on a few tracks.  I like it.  "If I come back this way" would be my another favourite.  It's the ease of the singing in these two tunes I like as well, it just sounds very natural.  

I'm really impressed with Another Man.  It's a tight eleven tracks and it certainly has sparked my interest to see where Ryan goes from here.  Calling himself an amateur, and taking the attitude that everyone has to start somewhere, there is no doubt there will be plenty of growing from here for Van Belleghem.  It's an exciting fact when you hear how much talent he already has.


Relaxing with Jessica Stuart

Jessica Stuart is bad-ass
Photos by Jaylyn Todd
The Jessica Stuart Few are wrapping up a West Coast tour right now, and despite the weather's best efforts, it couldn't be going any better.  You know it's going well when it's referred to as a "working vacation" and that's exactly what Stuart compared it to when I caught up with her at The Fort St. Cafe the other night.

Venturing out west has been great for the Toronto based group, as an invite to the Chutzpah Festival in Vancouver set the tour in motion. The chance to get out and play some gigs was great, but to do it in a familiar place at a slower pace made the winter tour quite enjoyable.

"I’m from Vancouver originally, so I got to visit with my folks who live there, and I was in Victoria more recently than I was in Van, so I have a lot of people to meet and connect to here as well. So its been really relaxed.  Also my dudes have had a chance to do some stuff, have some fun, so its not just been driving-sleeping-eating-loading-playing-loading-driving and repeat. So its been great."

Her body language completely backs her words.  She sits relaxed but aware, answering questions thoughtfully and honestly.  Through all this though you can see she means business when it comes to her music.  In todays market that demands every artist needs to have a business sense as well as the music ability, Stuart's got it.  Their latest project, a music video for "Kid Dream" is a perfect example.

The group had 100 animators trace over 2700 frames on paper.  The animators were all volunteer and varied widely in age.  The result was better than they had even imagined, and it's being received that way as well.

"It’s been great, everyone loves it.  We had the big party launch show and that was awesome, and we had the all ages launch which was for the younger folks who had been involved. So we ended up with about 30 kids and their parents at the studio where we had done a lot of the animating for the video and we played a short performance and screened the video, and that was also awesome.

Now we want to see what kind of opportunities we can find to maximize the viewership of this video.  So before launching it online we are trying out different television options, but they all have requirements about not screening the video on YouTube or anything like that before they have a chance to premiere it."

The group will know better as the week progresses just when and where the video will launch, but Stuart  doesn't seem too concerned about where it launches, her confidence obvious in the project.

New project's are not far between for the jazzy Toronto group, and 2011 is looking good.  With recordings in the works, a Toronto Arts Council grant for 8 brand new recordings, an upcoming East Coast tour, and a possible rip through the West Coast interior this summer, The Jessica Stuart Few are going to be showing up in a lot more people's music libraries.  Being in Toronto has really helped the group flourish.

"The idea that I can play every night of the week, potentially with different bands, but whatever, in Toronto, and not play the same venue twice in a year? Yeah that’s great. It’s amazing. There’s more musicians, there is more opportunities, it's just a larger scene. To be more specific. It’s not just a music scene. There’s parts or factions of the music scene that you can tap into, so that’s great."

Even with such a busy 2011 lined up already here in Canada, Stuart is thinking about the international stage, and what she has to do to get there.

"I lived in Japan when I was younger, that's how I learned the Koto. I studied out there for a year. It's good to take lessons.  I’m doing a totally non conventional style of playing and writing on Koto, so it'd be good to get back to studying other peoples work again. It can only be inspiring and make me a better player.  Also I just long for Japan. It's one of my homes. Any excuse I have to get back there I'll take it.

I imagine myself being in Japan within the next 2 years for sure.  The running plan at the moment is to go out there, take some contemporary Koto lessons with some non traditional people, buy a new Koto, make some connections in the music biz out there and sort of pave the way for a future tour to Japan.  And also learning music industry language, because I speak Japanese fluently, but I don't know anything about music biz talk, so that would be something very useful."

Another artist just looking to get better at her craft.  And another artist with the drive and desire that make you cheer and wish success for.  Get out and see The Jessica Stuart Few while they are still in our home and native land.  You won't be sorry.


They can't get rid of me :) We're in the Top 20!

Well thank you all yet again! Island SoapBox has survived another round of CBC Radio 3's searchlight competition to find "Canada's Best Music Website".  I am extremely humbled from the experience, really I can't thank you all enough.  I've said it a bunch of times already, but the contest really is about spotlighting Canadian music, and the people that support it.  Every single site spotlighted by searchlight (and others that weren't!) is a great example of what a community there is north of the border.  One last thank you, your votes really are appreciated, and I'll do my best to keep your eyes & ears happy with more great music and artists!

Photo Courtesy: http://www.memegenerator.net/


Burn one and join the Pack

Saskatoon Saskatchewan is the next stop on the map, as we open our ears up to The Sheepdogs.  As usual I am behind on this, but the group is in a contest to try and make the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine!  One spin through Learn & Burn, and you'll be getting all the friends you know to vote for them as well.

The 15 song album is bad ass.  Like bad ass straight from the 60/70's.  The boys like to rock, and I am glad they do.  From the first note of the album you know you are in for a treat.  It has that old-school rock vibe right then and there, and it doesn't let up.

"The one you belong to" is the name of that first track, and because of that opening riff, is probably my favourite track on the album.  I just need some friends and a dock/campsite to really complete the experience.  "Southern Dreaming" is another favourite.  These guys sound like your favourite rock groups of the past, and I just embraced this album so quickly because of that feeling.

There is also a pride issue here.  The Sheepdogs are the only Canadian band in the Rolling Stone Cover contest.  With an album that rocks like this, you'll be busy voting for the boys in between air guitar licks.


Get Rooted with Sasha Lewis

Well I've put a halt to my Toronto kick momentarily, Rooted has us interested in Salmon Arm, B.C. and the talented Sasha Lewis.  This album is another case of obvious talent from the moment you hit play.  Lewis can flat out sing, and I was ready to hear all 10 tracks immediately.

She may be from small town Canada (Dunster, B.C.) but the debut album from the talented singer/songwriter should garner big city attention.  The pace of the album changes nicely, but it maintains a constant feel.  Often it is easy to zone out of a song, and miss what you are listening to, but Lewis voice doesn't allow that.  The result is an album that plays front to back in seemingly record time.

"Until your Home" and "Reasons" are probably my two favourite songs on the album.  As I mentioned before, Lewis has a great voice and is a treat to listen to.  For me though it's often the beat that pulls me in.  The first being sort of a happy tune that is simple on the ears.  The latter similar in that it's simple as well, but it's got a different vibe that I totally dig.  For whatever reason, this album intrigued me to hear Lewis and Vince Vaccaro together.  Not sure why, but I think they could put something pretty sweet together.

You will not be sorry if you give Rooted a shot.  It's a great listen and really does a good job generating interest in the artist.  I'm confident if you listen to the record, you will be bugging her to play your hometown!



Dinosaur Bones, a rare and precious find

I am officially on a Toronto kick.  Hailing from the Big Smoke is the latest recommended listening from Island SoapBox, Dinosaur Bones, and their debut full length My Divider.  Due out March 8, this bad boy is down right good.  Taking their time in the studio (they spent over six weeks recording), the five men behind the sound have put forth 11 tracks worth listening to.

My first impression of the record was it seemed very dramatic.  The songs have a great flow, and I found myself going through a range of emotions listening, but the dramatic undertones seem to carry through.  I think that's why I'm enjoying this particular album so much, this is music that is out of my "typical listening", especially when it comes to a five piece group, but these guys have me hooked.

"Ice Hotels" is probably my favourite right now.  I think it offers up a lot of what Dinosaur Bones offers up, and what I just talked about.  The song builds really nicely, and stays quite simple sounding while getting there.  "Bombs in the Night" would be my other favourite.  I like the driving beat behind this one, and I just really like how it's put together.  It does a weird thing in my brain I can't quite describe, I just know I enjoy it!

This album has certainly made a fan out of me.  I was not very familiar with the group before, but I am quite pleased to know about them now.  I'm thinking March 8 will be a great day for the boys, and an even better day for their fans.  With a Canadian Tour planned already, there will be plenty of opportunity to grab this album for yourself, and add to that growing fan base.


A Mafia I could join...

Ok so we're headed to Toronto yet again, with some Manchester support in there for good measure.  The Hippy Mafia "is a collaboration of five individuals from five music genres hailing from Manchester UK and Ontario Canada." according to their website.  I think they are just rad.  Besides just really digging their tunes right now, their website is pretty fun in itself.  Some of the reading is right out there, but it is entertaining to read while you listen.

They only have 4 tunes up right now, and they have an E.P. in the works.  I will certainly be keeping an eye out for that.  As for what they have up right now, I really dig Apollo Creed.  This is more music that gets me wanting to move around, an instant energy boost when you really need it.  I like the fact they mention they come from 5 different music genres, because you feel like you hear a bit of everything in there.  I really feel if you're a music fan, there will be something about The Hippy Mafia you enjoy. 

I'll be damned, we made the Top 30!

Well again folks, Island SoapBox has somehow made it through another round of CBC Radio 3's Searchlight contest for Canada's Best Music Website. Clearly I have all of you lovely folks to thank, who have made the effort to vote so often. So thank you so very much!  It is very humbling to have made it this far.  There are a TON of great sites, some amazing people from all over the country who give their time to this great music scene.  The amount of traffic this contest has created to these kinds of sites is really amazing, and ultimately the point.  More eyes and ears out there getting a chance to see what we have to offer.  Thank you all once more, and keep those votes coming!


Catch the Shortwave

Well we're headed back to Toronto again folks, and with good reason, Shortwave beckons.  Their new album The Skyline Verses, is the bands first kick at a full length, and I think they nailed it.   I don't often enjoy a record this much the first time through, but it really just sat well with me.  Eleven solid tracks make for a great play front to back.

There is something familiar about the sound of the whole record.  The first time through I was wondering if I had heard some of these songs before.  Not in the same-old-crap kinda way, but more in the favourite-old-diddy kinda way.  I really felt like the album just fell into the "old favourites pile", just like that.

This is certainly a more upbeat album, fourty-two minutes of music that gets me going.  I know usually I have pretty causal, easy listening on here, so that may be why I'm digging this as much as I am.  The energy is constant, and it's a good album to listen to for those times you're looking for a kick in the ass.

"Motown" is my favourite tune on the album.  I also think it gives a great idea of what the rest of the album is about.  It's just a super fun song, and much like the rest of the record, it fires up my inspiration as well.  The songs have such great beats, that the geeky inner-editor nerd comes out in me, and I just want to cut video to it!

It may be the bands first full length, but they are by no means new to the scene.  After giving this a spin, their experience is evident, and this album should generate nothing but positive vibes for Shortwave.


Sunshine at Solstice

Alli Sunshine plays to the Solstice Cafe

The Solstice Cafe in downtown Victoria hosted Trevor Davies album release show Friday night, and for the 60 or so people that attended, they were treated to a nice coffee house experience. Unfortunately for Trevor though, due to some technical difficulties that really slowed down his set, it was the two opening acts that really stood out.

Alex Hicks started the night with a beautiful set. Hicks, a member of Raw Hunnie, had a super strong voice that really dominated the cafe. She played the guitar quite nicely, and apart from one little slip-up during a song, she played lights out. She seemed comfortable for the most part, her interaction with the crowd was decent. She has a phenomenal voice, and I'll keep an eye out for her in the future.

Next up was Alli Sunshine, and filling in for the Blue Sparrows was Trevor Davies' band mates, Bassist Phil Albert, and drummer Dave Klasen. Sunshine was the reason we were at the show, and she didn't disappoint. She is a very personable performer on the stage, and you get a real sense of her enthusiasm. Even with band members who had never played with her, and on a borrowed keyboard, she had the cafe's full attention. I was very happy to find that her voice was even better in person, and I'm really curious to see her with her own band now (especially with some guitar!).

Trevor Davies closed up the night at the cafe. As I mentioned earlier, they had some problems with their gear, and the set never really had a flow. Those difficulties shortened their set, and it was really too bad. I'm not sure if it was the difficulties, but I don't think their stuff is for me. Not to say it isn't good, because the crowd that Davies brought in last night certainly seemed like they got what they wanted. All in all, it was a great Friday night.


Everybody should be Making War

This rad cover shot was taken by my buddy from
Well Ellisa Hartman is fast becoming an Island SoapBox favourite, and the Making War E.P. has strengthened her case.  I remember her excitement for the release, and I can understand why.  The 6 song E.P. is a great showcase of her talents, and should please current fans as well as intrigue new ones.

"Making War" and "Smitten" are probably the two catchiest tunes on the album.  Both make you want to sing along, and I think these two will catch your attention and really allow you to enjoy the rest of the album, which rings along at a slightly slower pace.  As it's 6 songs, it's a quick play, but an enjoyable listen that will leave people searching out more Ellisa Hartman.

She is another musician on Vancouver Island who is just so incredibly personable, you want her to succeed.  This album is definitely a strong performance, and I think demand for this now Campbell River based musician should be on the rise.  Look for an interview in the coming weeks with Ellisa!

Searchlight Top 60

Well the surprise just gets better.  Thank's to all your votes, Island SoapBox has cracked CBC Radio 3's Searchlight for the Best Canadian Music Website.  Thank you all very much, it is very flattering and humbling.  The idea of spreading the word about music I enjoy was what pushed me to start writing this, and I'm just so excited that there a few more eyes and ears out there right now!  With so many other fantastic sites that do the same thing still on the list, I think the most obvious point that has come from this competition is the amazing music community that exists here.  Every music fan in Canada has something to be proud of.  The talent is phenomenal, as well is the support.  Make sure you keep voting, and help this community along further!
I have a contest going right now, in hopes of hearing who you are voting for, I would love for you to enter!


Feel the R3 Love

Can you feel the love around here?
I am still way too excited to be part of this! So many good blogs and websites are on the list, and it seems everyone knows each other some way or another.  In spirit of this, I'm going to do a little contest! Leave a comment below for who you will be voting for.   I'm gonna give out a prize or two to some people that leave comments randomly!  I have a bad-ass CBC Radio 3 shirt that just makes sense to give away first.  And of course make sure you vote daily, a winner will be announced March 10! 


Add some Sunshine to your winter listening

Alli Sunshine and the Blue Sparrows offered up The Muse E.P. this past December.  Now I should have spread the word on this earlier, but hey, we're here now!  I've been listening to this album quite a bit over the past month, and Nanaimo certainly has another group to be proud of.

This is an excellent 5 song showcase that has me eager to hear (and see) more.  Alli Sunshine has a beautiful voice, which easily keeps your interest itself.  The instruments are equally great, and I enjoy the diversity of the 5 tracks.  "House of Hanover" and "Baby" are my favourites, I can't choose between the two.  "House of Hanover" is a gorgeous song, a slower pace that really let's you enjoy Sunshine's brilliance.  "Baby" has a super fun guitar solo that makes me love the entire album.  The whole song is fun to hear build, and I just really enjoy how it leaves me feeling.

The Muse E.P. is worth your time for sure.  The group sounds wonderful, and I think can safely say this is a job well done.  All 5 songs create an interest to hear more. A great Vancouver Island group that will be worth watching out for.

R3's Searchlight

I was totally shocked and pumped to find out Island SoapBox is long listed on CBC Radio 3's Searchlight for the best Canadian music website.  I hope that you can go there, and vote for your favourite blog (if that happens to be this one, then you are awesome, rock on!).  Please get on and vote regardless, as it helps people spread the indie word around this beautiful country!

photo courtesy: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Qii0RxMolYE/SaibCLNVahI/AAAAAAAAA4Q/FMR3SdeCofk/s1600-h/shock.jpg