Sunday, 31 March 2013

An Afternoon @ the National Gallery of Canada

As today is Easter Sunday, most stores are closed. therefore, options for entertainment in the city can be a bit limited. However, thanks to Twitter, I knew that the National Gallery of Canada was open until 5pm today. After we had brunch with some friends, my husband and I headed downtown for a quick visit.

The purpose of our visit was to check out Martin Creed: Work No. 202: Half the air in a given space. This exhibition is only on display until tomorrow so I was really eager to catch it before then. I had read about this exhibition through the Twitterverse and heard that it really messed with your head, causing claustrophobia and panic attacks with some visitors. Naturally, I was intrigued!

First of all, Work No. 202: Half the air in a given space is featured in the museum's Contemporary Art section. According to the National Gallery of Canada website: "In this installation the artist gives form to the air that surrounds us by precisely measuring and capturing half of it inside nearly twenty thousand black balloons. Creating an environment that is both playful and claustrophobic, he drastically alters our perception of space." This exhibition does this with the participation of the visitors.

Now, I like contemporary art. I especially like it when I get to participate. This sounded like a great idea... However, I am prone to anxiety, so being stuck in a room filled up with balloons started sounding like a bad idea. Also, I hate balloons and I cannot stand the sound of balloons popping. As I wanted in line to get in, it started to sound more and more like a bad idea.

However, after waiting for over 30 minutes, I knew I had to go in. I also wanted to face my anxieties. I held onto my husband's hand and entered the room. The experience was actually really interesting. All you see is darkness as you're moving blindly into the room. Therefore, you begin to rely a lot more on your other senses. When you stop for a moment, among the silence, you can hear the balloons rustling and moving against each other. The most prevalent factor of this exhibition is how you really become aware of your physical space. It seems like such an obvious thing but your sense of awareness really does become heightened.

Overall, I really enjoyed the exhibition. The message is quite simple but the medium is quite effective. It's worth checking out!


Then we went to see the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts 2013 winners. The piece that stood out for me was by William MacGillivray. One of his works, a video entitled Linda Joy explores the story of a young woman as she's dealing with cancer. This piece is truthful and quite powerful. It hits close to home and you get really invested in the story.

Finally, we stopped to see Clash: Conflict and Its Consequences. This photography exhibition explore war and conflict (both past and present) and features artists from Canada and abroad. After seeing 2012 World Press Photo at the Canadian War Museum last summer, I knew I had to make a stop at this exhibition. The subject matter is a really hard one. However, these images tell a powerful story. I highly recommend seeing this exhibition (on display until April 21).

Friday, 29 March 2013

Catching up With Loon Choir

Last Saturday, I went to Mavericks to check out Loon Choir, who were playing alongside André M. Bluteau, Phantom Shores and Kalle Mattson. The show had a really great turnout!

I first saw the band live last October at the Mercury Lounge for Couch Assassin's Launch Party. I was really impressed with their performance. First of all, there were so many of them on stage; they barely all fit on the tiny stage of the Mercury Lounge. My first observation was the energy that the band projected. It was quite contagious and the audience absolutely loved it!

A while ago, I spoke with Brad Sheffield, synth player of Loon Choir, and asked him about the growth of the band, the music scene in Ottawa and what's next for Loon Choir. You can check out my piece on the band on Couch Assassin here.


What local bands do you listen to? If you know a great local band/artist that deserves to be promoted, let me know. I love to write about them on Couch Assassin!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Review: Hunter Valentine @ Mavericks

Friday night, I headed to Mavericks to check out Hunter Valentine. Having heard of the group, I never actually listened to their material. However, I was curious to check out the group and see what they're all about.

Things that I knew about the band before the show:

Courtesy of
-  Hunter Valentine is an all-girl, lesbian band.
- The band was somehow connected to the reality show "The Real L Word".

Things I did not know about the band:

- They're Canadian! (from Toronto)
- They have three albums under their belts.
- The band members had starring roles in Season 3 of "The Real L Word".

The show began with performances by Fiona Noakes and The Ecstatic. Both groups did a decent job at warming up the crowd and keeping them entertained until the main act took the stage. Unfortunately, I missed most of Fiona Noakes' set so I would love the opportunity to see her live at another time. As for the Ecstatic, their sound is quite hard to pinpoint, but the members all played really well together, and the lead singer had such a huge voice (coming from such a small frame).

Hunter Valentine put on a great performance. I really enjoyed their set and their energy levels were good. Lead guitarist / singer Kiyomi McCloskey has impressive vocals and her sound is raw and gritty, yet still quite pleasant to listen to.

I really enjoyed watching these girls rock out on stage. They genuinely seem to love playing live music, which is always a plus. I was also really impressed with the evening's turnout. The show was sold out, and the majority of the crowd was female under the age of 25 (not surprising).

Overall, the show was good and quite entertaining. I'm happy I checked it out. Am I going to get my hands on some Hunter Valentine albums? I haven't decided yet... I honestly think that this is one of those instances where it's better to listen to the group live than on disc. I guess we'll wait and see... In the meantime, you can listen to "Lonely Crusade", a track of their third album "Collide and Conquer". Enjoy!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Loon Choir is Ready to Soar

Originally published on Couch Assassin.

Ottawa's Loon Choir is making waves beyond Canada's capital region.

Describing themselves as a 7 piece indie-rock/art-pop band, the group includes Derek Atkinson (lead vocals, guitar), Nicole Yates (vocals, piano, keys), Dan Larmour (guitar, vocals), Brad Sheffield (synth), Kathleen Cauley (violin), Jamie LeClair (bass), and Baris Bilgen (drums). Loon Choir came to be through a combination of old friends reconnecting, old bands members and former roommates jamming, and Kijiji ads seeking musicians.

Although the band name is poetic and quite intriguing, there's no specific story behind it. "We just thought it was a name that could bring numerous images to mind," explained Brad Sheffield. "The two main ones being the chaotic beauty of loons on a lake and the other, a bunch of crazy people singing in a choir."

2012 featured plenty of highlights for the band, including the release of their second record "Fire Poems". Many great things stemmed from their album release, including a release party at the Rainbow Bistro, two Ontario tours, an East Coast tour and a performance in Ottawa's biggest music festival. "Playing Bluesfest for the first time was very fun and exciting," shared Sheffield. Last October, Loon Choir was one of the headliners for Couch Assassin's official Launch Party at the Mercury Lounge.

Recently, the band has received a lot of support from CBC Radio 3. Loon Choir was in the running for CBC Music's Searchlight contest for Canada's Best New Artist. In addition, their recent show on March 2nd at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern was named Top 5 Gigs of the Weekend on CBC Music's Grant Lawrence's blog.

A Loon Choir show feels like a jam session among old friends; it exudes a lot of energy. "We really try to lay it all out there and just go crazy on stage in the hopes that it becomes infectious," said Sheffield. Although the group really enjoys playing together on stage, there are other perks to performing live shows. "Besides the rush of actually playing a live show, the best part is meeting lots of cool people who care about art and music", added Sheffield, "and some of [these people] are in cool bands that we get to see for free, so that's awesome too."

According to Loon Choir, the city's music scene is thriving. "Ottawa has some great bands, like Fevers, Kalle Mattson, The Gallop, Tindervox, Phantom Shores, Amos The Transparent, Roberta Bondar, Flying Horses, The Acorn, Trees... I forgot so many other ones but yeah, the Ottawa scene is alive in our eyes." Ottawa also has some great music venues. When asked to name their favourite venue, Loon Choir could not pick just one. "We've obviously played a lot of Ottawa venues but I think Mavericks, Cafe Dekcuf, Mercury Lounge, Rainbow Bistro and Live Lounge are where our most memorable shows have taken place."

When asked what artists or groups Loon Choir would like to play with, Sheffield stayed rather silent on the subject. "I could sit here all day and tell you bands we'd like to play with, but I don't want to jinx it," he joked.

2013 looks bright for Loon Choir, as big plans are on the horizon. "We're planning a big tour with an awesome band from BC," shared Sheffield. "We're in the midst of writing a new LP, which we hope to record towards the end of the year." Loon Choir will also be playing RBC Ottawa Bluesfest again this year. The band will also keep expanding: "We're adding more friends and more Kijiji responders to the band," added Sheffield. "We're always trying to expand and keep moving forward."

Be sure to check Loon Choir opening for Kalle Mattson with Phantom Shores and André M. Bluteau on Saturday, March 23rd at Mavericks.

Monday, 11 March 2013

2013 Osheaga Lineup Announced

After weeks of anticipation and speculation, the 2013 Osheaga lineup was announced this evening. And people are excited!

The acts that I am most excited to see include:

10) The Lumineers
9) Tegan and Sara
8) Jimmy Eat World
7) Ben Howard
6) Vampire Weekend
5) Alt-J
4) Two Door Cinema Club
3) Phoenix
2) Ellie Goulding
1) Mumford & Sons

I'm most excited to see Mumford & Sons. I was considering traveling to Simcoe (Ontario) to see them play the Northfolk County Festival. However, this show will be closer and (possibly) more convenient for me. The only downside to seeing Mumford & Sons play Osheaga as opposed to the Northfolk County Festival is that Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros are not scheduled to play.

Although there are a few acts that I'm excited to see, I am not overly impressed with the lineup. I was expecting more bigger acts. Last year, I only attended the last day of the festival. This year, I was planning on attending all three days of the festival. However, I am thinking that I might not get the full festival pass, after all. I might just stick with last year's plan and attend the one day where the most bands I want to see are playing.

What are you excited to see at this year's Osheaga?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Review: Tegan and Sara "Heartthrob"

Last week-end, I was finally able to listen to Tegan and Sara's latest album "Heartthrob". Although it was released in late January, I didn't get a chance to give it a go 'til now.

I've been a casual fan of Tegan and Sara for a few years. However, when I heard the new album's first single, I knew they were onto something with the direction of "Heartthrob". The song entitled "Closer" has been doing very well on the charts and I suspect the duo has gained many new fans due to its success.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
The themes of this album are quite obvious:  love, breakups and relationships. Although these sound generic and possibly boring, we can all relate to them. Many songs on the album stand out for me, including "Goodbye, Goodbye", "I Was A Fool", and "Closer". The sound of this album reminds me of old school Roxette and I love it!

However, I do understand why some Tegan and Sara fans are critical of this album. In comparison to their other albums, "Heartthrob" is pure pop music. It is unapologetic, in your face pop with a strong electronic influence (with a hint of the 80's). The album is well produced and the harmonies are fantastic. Overall, I believe this is a strong album for the duo.

I can't wait to see these gals live at the Ottawa Bluesfest this summer. In the meantime, check out the video for "Closer", which is fabulous! I love everything about this music video. Enjoy!