Saturday, February 28, 2009
I did some research before setting out on my adventure, and, thanks to OurFaves, was able to compile a list of record stores in the same area. Toronto is huge, but, even still, I never realized I'd find so many music stores on one street! Queen St. W is definitely the place to be if you're a music and memorabilia lover! I must have gone to about ten different independent stores, and found the following four most unique:
Kops Records / Vintage Sounds (229 Queen St. W): Two record shops in one sounds pretty cool, if you ask me! While Kops houses a collection of contemporary vinyl, Vintage Sounds, located upstairs, has piles upon piles of boxes of 45s and LPs from the 50s to the 90s. Being a big Tori Amos fan, I was set on coming across something unique for my collection in my record shop visits. It was my first time at a mostly vinyl store, and, not entirely sure where to start digging, I asked assistance of the elderly man working there. I was excited when he knew exactly where to look, and handed me two hard to find 45s! The prices were great, too -- $3.99 each.
Moog Audio (442 Queen St. W): An interesting store, especially for those who are interested in working with vinyl. Although Moog carries a selection of records, they also sell a wide range of equipment. The layout of the store is very modern, with stations set up in an open space -- you are able to choose from a selection of unique records to test out various turntables and other DJing equipment. Not quite what I was looking for, but it was still neat place. The staff is very knowledgeable, so it would definitely be worth the visit if you're thinking about picking up a turntable.
Criminal Records (493 Queen St. W): There were actually quite a few music stores on Queen St. W that I hadn't seen listed online, and Criminal Records was one of them. The name was hilarious, though, so I had to check it out! I recall a few steps or a ramp leading down into Criminal, and the lights were dimmed toward the back of the store where the independent music and vinyl was located -- what a great underground feel! Closer to the front of the store were contemporary records. Criminal also had a large selection of vintage band t-shirts -- unfortunately I wasn't able to purchase any because I haven't robbed a bank lately! ;) I'll definitely have to go back when I have more money. Overall, Criminal Records had a great selection of music and memorabilia! Best of all? It's legal!
Neurotica (642 Queen St. W): This was the last store I visited, and I was pretty impressed. It was well organized considering the small amount of space and large amount of product... music was literally spilling out onto the street -- there were CDs arranged on shelves outside the store. Inside, CDs were arranged around the perimeter of the store, as well as on shelves hanging on the walls. A large vinyl section is located in the middle of the store, and is nicely organized on racks rather than in the usual boxes. There was so much stuff that I wanted to buy at Neurotica! I was happy to find a few CDs I'd wanted to check out, but hadn't seen at any other used store I've been to -- The Tragically Hip's Road Apples, Sinéad O'Connor's The Lion And The Cobra, and Suzanne Vega's Nine Objects of Desire. $7.95 each -- not a bad price for some great finds! You've got to be careful when paying though because Neurotica's counter is partially made up of a very high pile of CDs, tapes, and DVDs! Oh, and a secret shopping tip... if you make conversation with whoever's working while you're at Neurotica, they'll give you a 10% off card for your next visit!
If you've never gone on a used record shop hop, I recommend it! Definitely a fun way to spend an afternoon, not to mention a great way to support independent music stores.
Monday, February 23, 2009
At the event I was fortunate to hang out with self-taught guitarist, and singer-songwriter Lori Girard, whom I was introduced to by my drummer friend, Julie Howes. Lori’s performance with her band, Stop’n’Askher, was phenomenal! Lori sings lead vocals and rocks out on her acoustic guitar with Ron Van Boheemen on bass, Barry McKeon on drums, and Andrew Malo on guitar. The band opened with a cover of Sheryl Crow's All I Wanna Do, and played a great set including Girard's very own I Told You So, Teeter Totter, Head Games, and Karma, among others. They also performed an incredible cover of Janis Joplin's Me and Bobby McGee:
While she often plays with the band, Lori also has been playing a live solo show for four years under her stage name, Askher. She also plays in three duos -- Askher and Newman (who opened for April Wine), Askher Fonti, and Askher and C!
When she’s not on stage, or recording in her home studio, Ms. Girard can be found teaching high school English and French! The multitasking musician is also a mother of two, and one who has a fun sense of humour -- when asked by a new fan whether she likes playing alone, her reply was, “I like to play with myself!” Lori then spoke more seriously about her love for music, and how it has helped to guide her:
“I think everything in the world comes in waves -- sound waves, light waves -- waves go up and down, and life goes up and down. When I’m up, I know I’m going down again, but then I’ll get up again.” – Lori Girard
Askher's words can certainly speak to anyone -- we all have our ups and downs, but we need to know that the sun will shine again even when we're feeling low. Lori's positive philosophy comes out in her song Karma:
This particular video was taped in 2007, but I'm posting it because the sound quality is much better than it is in the video of Karma I took at last week's show. Both are amazing performances, so it's not hard to see why Lori has been nominated for two London Music Awards this year! Make sure to vote for her as your favourite London singer-songwriter under “Lori Girard” and as your favourite composer under “Askher.” By the way, Lori's opening for Cheryl Hardy on Saturday, March 14th, so if you're in London, be sure to head on over to Norma Jean's!Askher’s lyrics are filled with emotion and, with over 10 years of experience, her energy on stage shines through to show her passion for performing. Lori is one of those artists whose music really speaks to my soul. I have a feeling that one day she'll strike a record deal. After all, such would be karma for playing so many wonderful shows!
Monday, February 16, 2009
"The GRAMMYs are the only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position."
"To positively impact the lives of musicians, industry members and our society at large."
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I first found out about PS22 from some friends on a Tori Amos forum. Being a huge fan, I was intrigued to learn that a group of young students were performing covers of her complex songs. With the help of Undented, the PS22 of 2007 received a once in a lifetime offer from Sony Music -- to sing with Tori!
"They were so good! Their arrangements -- their sound -- it was so good... It was... disarming. It means so much that they took it and made it their own." - Tori Amos
Sunday, February 1, 2009
In the Winter 2009 inaugural issue of Ms. Magazine, feminist folk musician, Ani DiFranco, speaks out to President Obama:
"I have received so many breathless letters myself and now it's role-reversal time. You have reawakened a disillusioned and passive electorate and begun healing racial wounds that have crippled us for centuries." (photo to left by Rhea Anna for Ms. Magazine)Ani is an example of an artist who gives back to the people. On one hand her music is personal, which makes it accessible. On the other, it is popular because it is political.
Ani`s most recent song, November 4, 2008, is a direct reference to election day. In an interview by Italian blogger, Eleonora Bianchini, Ani declares that her politics are somewhat left of Obama`s, that she`s more radical than him. Nevertheless she rejoices about what she believes he will bring to America.
There has been some controversy within the Ani fan community because the lyrics to November 4 seem not as poetic as what the little folksinger is capable of. What is important, however, is that she has captured a moment with her music. Ani spent the week after election day writing this song. It`s not about how poetic it is, or how popular Obama is. Ani is human and like many, it is great to see that she is in tune with a vision for change. November 4, 2008 is another outlet for the expression of independence and opinion that has given Ani her name in the industry.
To watch additional solo and live versions of November 4th, 2008, step on over to Righteous Babe Records!