About Jess Huddleston

Jess (@JessHuddles) is the music mama and song savvy nut of in a nutshell. Since she was young, Jess has noticed new acts, harassed people to find out what tune is playing and asked everyone to repeat themselves because she's plugged in. After completing a journalism degree at Carleton University, Jess stepped into the world of communications, music publicity and magazine writing, while still making time each day to share sounds. Although this funny gal also has a strong passion for fashion and all things pop culture, you're most likely to hear her rave that a particular song or album will "change your life." * Bad Habit: Smart Food. * Favourite Food: Avocado everything. * Favourite Restaurant: La Carnita. * Wine of Choice: Merlot. * Favourite Band/Artist(s): The Boss, Ryan Adams, The Walkmen, Band of Horses. * Favourite Song: All Springsteen songs, "Sweet Thing" by Van Morrison, “Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John, "I Go To The Barn" by Band of Horses and "Try a Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding. * Fashion Icon: Emily Weiss. * Favourite Movie: Only You, Forrest Gump, The Departed. * TV series: Breaking Bad or Friends. * Sport: Basketball and Soccer. * Team: Duke... but, realistically, Florida. * Blackberry or Iphone: iPhone. * Favourite Books: The Great Gatsby, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and all Kerouac.

Fall Favourite Music Video

The edge of Blue Mountain, Collingwood

Despite the fact that one of the greatest parts of Toronto is the unexpected abundance of green space throughout its downtown (truly some of the most spectacular parks I’ve seen within a city), when September rolls around – it only feels right to escape to the countryside for just a quick minute. Although trendy trench coats, knit scarves and ankle booties have already indicated we’re well on our way into autumn, there’s nothing that embodies these months like the layers of coloured treetops on a drive outside the concrete jungle.

I was lucky to have spent a large portion of the last five days in a car. I never thought I would say that, but I suppose at this time of year it’s hard to be overly opposed to the idea of back-to-back road trips when the great outdoors are at their best. Last weekend, the nuts ventured off for a little ladies retreat to Howe Island – a tiny escape in between my native Kingston and Gananoque – which involved three or so hours of car time in between Toronto and our destination. The leaves were semi-golden and not yet fully turned, but the air was a September kind of crisp, causing the water to curl in the breeze. Lovely.

As soon as I got back from Howe Island, I hopped back in the passenger seat to head to Collingwood for work – a part of Ontario that, much to many people’s dismay I’m sure, wasn’t conducive to flying or rail travel. This, again, I was surprisingly fine with. I’d never been to Collingwood, specifically Blue Mountain – the man-made mini-Tremblant-like resort village that’s surrounded by leafy hills and Georgian Bay waters. And let me tell you, somehow, half a day of traveling later – the leaves had begun their transition, and it was scenic.

Needless to say, being back in the office seems kind of tragic. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised that during my assembling a typical little YouTube playlist to get me through the rest of the week, I stumbled upon a favourite (by no means new) cover of mine that I never realized had such a pretty fall-themed music video to accompany it.

Elton John’s “Your Song” is indisputably one of my favourite songs, seeing as I spent my childhood belting out his likeable anthems alongside my Dad – squealing with laughter whenever he’d goofily mimic John’s falsetto mid-“Bennie and the Jets.” Not only does the “Your Song” timeless melody hit a chord, but the lyrics – those lyrics – go down in history as some of the most memorable. When British indie-pop artist Ellie Goulding covered it a few years ago, I wasn’t sure if her pixie-like yodel would do it proper justice, but I immediately adopted it as one of the better covers of John’s tunes. When I saw the cover’s video, featuring an obviously adorable Goulding but, more importantly, picturesque shots of my favourite season, I grew even fonder of the old classic.

So, as we edge towards Thanksgiving – the prettiest weekend of the year – I thought I’d share this little clip to get you through your week. Happy Fall.

Listen To Your Body: In The Water

One of the greatest concerns of any athlete – the damper, disappointment and heartbreak that’s always a scary possibility during any physical activity – is an injury.

Whether a rolled ankle, blown knee or weak shoulder, there is nothing more discouraging than being in the wonderful throes of an exercise routine before realizing that if you want to heal properly – you might just need to rest.  I, myself, have had this happen on a few too many occasions, much to my dismay; with an old soccer knee that loves to ache after lots of impact or a still-healing torn hip flexor that has the tendency to feel tight during oodles of continuous movement.

If you enjoy exercise, the endorphins and the time alone, realizing that you might need to take a break almost feels like a non-option. If you’re half-witted about it, like we’ve all been, you’ll try to push through the pain or find a (not so) happy medium that will most likely still aggravate the problem. Sometimes, it takes an overly painful realization or dose of tough love before understanding that you have the options of two weeks to a month of continuing your routine before losing a joint or muscle for life – or two weeks to a month of moderate activity that will soothe your injury, and your mind when it comes to knowing that all hope isn’t lost.

When a few long runs of mine proved to end with a very tender left knee about a month ago, I stupidly pushed through the pain – thinking it would pass. When walking during the day, lifting my leg while sitting in the upright position or pointing my toes became increasingly difficult – it took that dose of tough love from a friend to tell me that I needed to cool my jets and find an alternate means of exercise until I recovered.

Have you thought of swimming?” I heard from about a dozen people. Insert rolled eyes and immediate disregard. Despite the fact that I swam competitively when I was younger and clearly understand the health benefits of the sport – something about this advice really rubbed me the wrong way. I couldn’t figure out why – but a number of other injured pals seemed to have the same ignorance when it came partaking in the watery activity. Did we not want to get wet? Would it be boring? Was it too much of a hassle finding a pool? Did we want to be sweating and pounding the pavement to feel like we’d exercised? Maybe so. But when I stepped back and realized that it might be my only option during this unwelcome hiatus, I have a pool in my building, and it couldn’t be that hard – I decided to dive in, literally.

I was wildly wrong when it came to all of my previous conceptions about swimming. First of all, it took about an hour of my time – the same as a good run or circuit/weights workout – and it went by quickly. Secondly, it required grabbing a pair of goggles, a swim cap and pressing the elevator button to get to this exercise. And lastly, it is hard. In fact, it’s a workout and a half. And I was incredibly cocky in thinking otherwise.

Water is 1,000 times denser than air. Powering back and forth in a pool while synching your breathing, kicking rapidly and rotating your upper half to pierce the water and pull your body forward with the most graceful of ease – all while somersaulting your weight to pound back off the walls and do it again, and again? Not a jog in the park.  It is, without a doubt, a full-body cardiovascular exercise that burns calories, tones muscles and challenges you aerobically.

How do I feel now, you ask? Infinitely better. Not only do my limbs still feel like jelly getting out of the pool (always a good sign), but after a three-week break from my normal routine – I no longer feel weakness in my knee when flipping my feet, walking or pointing my toes. And, two nights ago, I went for a light 5km run and didn’t feel a hint of pain. So, there you have it – swimming is actually a wonderful way to heal. Healing, while working hard.

The next time you feel like you need to take a knee, sit on the bench or simply give up – remember that it’s not the end of the world or your athletic career. Remember to listen to your body, no matter how quietly it’s speaking. We’ve only got one. And sometimes, dipping into something unknown isn’t such a bad idea.

Five beginner swimming tips that I’ve remembered since diving back in:

1. Keep your head down: When swimming freestyle (or front crawl, whichever you please), keep your head facing the bottom of the pool when your face is in the water. Any upward neck slant can cause you to drag through the water, as well as induce strain on the neck and back.

2. Kicking is everything: Don’t stop kicking when you come up for air or when you’re over-focused on arm movement. Swimming is a matter of full body momentum; each piece of your smooth-running machinery helps create a more effective and effortless motion. Keep your feet flexible like flippers and the rest of your legs powerful when scissoring under the water. Michael Phelps has said that, “If you’re a good kicker, you’re a good swimmer.”

3. Breathe quick and deep: Similar to most sports – especially Yoga or Pilates – breathing is, obviously, critical. We don’t want the lifeguards jumping in – that’s just embarrassing. Try not to focus on filling your lungs with these messy gasps for air while water spills off your face; when you  alternate turning your neck from side to side in freestyle (in line with the axis of your body), or pull up from a breaststroke, focus on quick and deep pulls for air that fill about 90 per cent of your lungs. This, again, will help with endurance and momentum.

4. Switch up your strokes: Like any exercise, doing it monotonously in the same fashion – especially without music – can get tired. So, switch from freestyle to breast stroke to backstroke or butterfly, and not only watch the minutes fly by, but feel as the different muscle groups are challenged. Although a tough core workout, the backstroke is a great recovery stroke after sprint laps. The breaststroke, commonly misconceived to be the most leisurely, is a great way to simultaneously build upper and lower body strength – while working each body half in unison to push forward. The butterfly is serious stuff. Ultimately, you’ll know you’re doing any stroke right when your lengths are clean and gliding; if water is flying all over the place, you’re flailing or you feel like you’re chugging along, something is off.

5. Don’t quit your other strength training: Like other forms of cardiovascular exercise, you’ll immensely benefit from other strength or muscle-building routines. A short and rigorous core or upper body workout coupled with your swimming or running cardio can highly boost endurance and provide greater ease when slicing through the waves or running longer distances. When your various muscle groups are strengthened, your stamina and overall performance are as well.

 I also really don’t mind the smell of pool chlorine on my skin. Is that weird? Tell us about your injury healing routines below!

 

 

The Sheepdogs: Rocking A New Release

The deep American South.

Origin of some of the greatest classic rock of the century; everything ranging from Marshall Tucker Band to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Charlie Daniels – all twangy strum-savvy legends whose bluesy tales finally decorated the airwaves after being carried in their empty, lovelorn and tattered back pockets.

Saskatoon.

Not exactly the origin of too much musical genius. But, something relative about the endless plains and valleys managed to accomplish breeding the contemporary Canadian version of such righteous rock ‘n roll entertainment, better known as The Sheepdogs.

Similar to the old adage that an owner slowly begins to mimic their dog after years together – or maybe it’s the other way around – this scruffy foursome certainly look the part. The part being both country canine and free-spirited revivalist rockers.

Over a year and a half after the Canuck clan won Rolling Stone Magazine’s Cover Challenge – a contest auctioning off a spot on the coveted front page, record deal with Atlantic  and subsequent airwave acclaim in return for voter’s approval of submitted tunes – the band is full leaps and bounds outside of Saskatchewan small gig territory. Their nearly immediate release Learn and Burn spread like prairie wildfire – with the olden-rock anthem “I Don’t Know” and it’s velvety, Ewan Currie-led harmonies winning hearts north and south of the border at first radio spin.

And last week, after a year of festival hopping, opening for some of their genre’s biggest acts and pressing songs in between, the ‘Dogs were let out last week – in the form of their scorching full-length major label debut.

And it really is stage-melting rock. Some people will argue that rock music has gone by the wayside, and it’s my opinion those people lack the open-mindedness to embrace new and more eclectic variations of the genre. But, oof – if you’re looking for that drive down the dusty road, cold cracked Budweiser, head to toe denim, pressed up against your sweaty love interest at the front of the stage straight-up kind of rock reincarnation, then you’ve got our home-grown boys, and producer Patrick Carney of the Black Keys, to thank for this one.

Similar to early embodiments of what so many of us view as “real rock” – the kind “they don’t make anymore” (again, a moot point – they do) – The Sheepdogs have achieved that gooey kind of 70s feel-good intimacy on this album. The kind that’s captured through an unmistakably perfect male vibrato, growling and shaking alongside the amp-baking electric guitar solos and swirling psychedelic keyboard. The kind that’s equal parts croons and riffs speaking to love lost, love gained, the ride and all of the bulls**t in between. The real rock stuff of real rock artists.

On “Never Gonna Get My Love,” a sliding George Harrison guitar wails away alongside marching band percussion while Electric Light Orchestra choral harmonies chirp from the background. Golden time-machine highlights that preach carelessness and idle, ramblin’ freedom come in the form of Allman Brothers-esque anthems “Alright OK” and a trippy sitar-laden “In My Mind”; pacified ditties that highlight Currie’s bellowing and milky Morrison-meets-Fogerty vocals. Possibly most single-ready is “Feeling Good” – a buzzing boogie so obviously influenced by Carney’s production team with a rhythmic addictiveness that will easily coax concert goers onto shoulders and women out of their shirts, whether by way of the breezy lyrics or plodding clap beat. And all of the above, plus extras and a fall tour line-up, will remind any listener that rock ‘n roll is alive, very well and proud to be Canadian.

 

 

 

I’ll be seeing The Sheepdogs this weekend at Echo Beach in Toronto, ON – tickets can be found here!

 

Album Review: Cat Power is back with ‘Sun’

When contemporary rock queen Cat Power, born Chan Marshall, emerged from the depths of her spiralling stage anxiety and substance abuse in 2008 with Jukebox, her last release of cover songs, the industry applauded her triumphant transformation and confident spin on two handfuls of old folk and bluesy classics. Cat was back, and the world had waited with bated breath to see how she was going to do it.

Jukebox was an incredibly poised materialization of the indie goddess’ trampled insecurities and newfound healthy defiance – but what would come next would be the real deal, the ultimate signifier of her revival, the comeback of the musical mastermind we came to worship when she first leaned weakly over a microphone in a dingy New York bar.

And with Tuesday’s release of Sun – the musician’s first full-length, self-written, self-produced album in over six years – now we can say that Cat is truly back. And with a pretty kind of vengeance.

Sun, this long anticipated five-years-in-the-making kind of album finally transpired – but not without its major roadblocks. Initial hesitation about Marshall’s ability to produce her own album and play all of her own instruments garnered a middle finger from the shy artist. A mid-recording break-up after four years with Hollywood actor Giovanni Ribisi led to Marshall chopping her long locks back off and dedicating a blissful ballad to his teenage daughter whom she grew to love. Popular new instruments intimidated her yesteryear soulful repertoire – yet she plugged in the synth, making it one of the most heavily heard noises on the album.

Like I said, Cat has been reborn.

And the result is the most confident, dazzling album you could have ever expected from the introverted indie sensation; one whose popularity was founded on eight classic albums such as 1998’s Moon Pix – a haunting (yet critically-acclaimed) peak into the then-struggling artist’s timid existence, featuring subdued nuggets of grungy genius like the original version of “Metal Heart” and the breathtaking “Colours and the Kids.” Albums like this and 2006’s The Greatest – a collection of duelling mournful and funky Southern-inspired jams that still erected her tattered demons at points – were near-masterpieces of their time, but on a very different level from Marshall’s 2012 uprising.

Like some sort of bright revelation, Sun is a swooning sort of beautiful from start to finish; a sigh of relief to fans who remember her as a curious recluse that hated the sound of her voice, apologized constantly, asked if people were mad at her and possessed a sad disbelief in her own talent. On the title track, the album commences with growling undertones and atmospheric keyboard effects amidst Power chanting “We’re free with me, we can finally run” – setting a bold tone off the bat. The waltzy rhythm and perfectly auto-tuned harmonies of “3,6,9” make it an immediate highlight – fit for a sassy single or impromptu ladies-only line-dance. Maintaining heroic storytelling themes throughout the middle of the album, the final songs skyrocket the LP into brilliance. “Manhattan,” a twinkling two-chord piano ode to the city that nursed her early career, is exactly as bright as the skyline – bubbling more by the second with layered heartbeat percussion and multiple Cat’s crooning.

On “Nothin’ But Time,” what I believe to be one of the artist’s most magical songs to date, Power preaches to Ribisi’s daughter during the 11-minute piano anthem which momentarily features Iggy Pop’s wobbly vocals and coats her own gorgeous, pleading harmonies over top of each other. Telling the teenager, “Your world is just beginning/ And I know this life seems never-ending/ But you got nothing but time/ And it ain’t got nothing on you,” Power reassures the teenager – and us, and maybe herself, as well. Whoever she’s speaking to, it’s never been more believable.

 

 

The whole album is on shelves and available for stream here on NPR.

Toronto Islands: City Escape

The view from the Toronto Islands ferry

One of the many things I love about this gigantic sprawl called Toronto is that on any given day you can end up very far from where you thought you’d be.

And I don’t mean that literally. In an always evolving metropolis full of endless options – a side street, friendly suggestion or long wander can lead you to a handful of hours that are delightfully unexpected and instrumental in furthering your love for the Big Smoke. I feel like this happens to me most weekends.

Yesterday afternoon was no different. After a week of wonderful birthday celebrations for both Meghan and Kaylee – which included champagne at Tuesday night softball, lovely gifts, a heartwarming surprise visit from the Ottawa nuts and many, many laughing fits – I decided Kaylee and I needed to top off the festivities with a new Sunday activity that took us away from downtown crowds. And so, after some brainstorming, Kaylee, myself and our two friends ventured over to Hanlan’s Point – a portion of the beautiful Toronto Islands – to have an extravagant champagne and cake-filled lunch and afternoon of beach lounging. This adorable outing was the definition of proof that you don’t have to venture far to feel like you’ve accomplished a total city getaway.

If you’ve yet to explore either Hanlan’s Point, Centre Island or Ward’s Island, the waterfront picnic parks that make up the Toronto Islands, you have to do so immediately. When one thinks about trekking to an island, you might think it calls for planning, hassle and hours of your time. Wrong. I was amazed at the ease and convenience of this beautiful jaunt across the pond, considering the bliss we were treated to upon arriving. We effortlessly strolled onto a harbourfront ferry (at Queen’s Quay between Yonge and Bay) after a five-minute wait, instantly found a picnic table in the acres of green grass and weeping willows, had a stretch of soft beach all to ourselves and readily hopped right back on a ferry at the end of our relaxing day. The entire endeavour was almost all too simple considering our only fare paid was for baguette, spreads, cake and champagne – and our only moments of waiting were between turning on to our backs and fronts as we sprawled on beach towels.

Whether as part of a group outing, date or a leisurely solo excursion (one of my personal favourite things) – anything that includes a refreshing boat ride and sandy beach perch is one of the most beautiful ways to spend an afternoon, in my mind.

PS Our dear friend Cass, who joined us yesterday, was able to (cutely) tick a Toronto Island visit off her city “bucket list.” Do you have a bucket list for your city? I think it’s a great idea and we’d love to hear yours – comment below!

Full bellies, happy girls

Beautiful birthday girl and cake!

My first non-vegan cake in 10 months! (Insert major stomach ache here)

Heaven.

Happy Birthday Meg!

Well, the wonderful week of birthdays on in a nutshell continues. Today, our dear Mother Hen Meghan Brown, turns 24 years-old – and we couldn’t be prouder!

After a year of incredible accomplishments (finishing her Master’s, traveling, moving up in her full-time job, to name a few), Meghan deserves nothing more than praise and celebration. We can all recall her nose to the grind (rightfully so) during a trying handful of years that balanced both school, work and play – and how relieving it was for her to graduate with flying colours, slightly kick her feet up after decades of studying, spend time with her hobbies and plan the next step. Meghan has always been independent, brave and destined to accomplish so much; traits that make it an undoubted fact she’ll go far in what she does.

On top of all that? She’s never forgotten to be a terrific friend. We call her Mother Goose/Hen for obvious reasons; she values her friendships and relationships, puts time and effort into each of them and always looks out for others in times of need – with caring advice, a shoulder to wimper on and a witty joke to pick you up. Also, she’s the angel who cuts her night short to take care of a best friend, quietly slipping her into a chic pajama maxi-dress before tucking her into bed with watchful eyes. For all of the above – we thank you, Egg! Have a beautiful birthday – here are some of the special things your birthday party would call for…

On the meal, KATE says…

Even though our birthday girl knows how to turn on her inner diva, when it comes to good grub, sweet and simple keeps Meggo happy. She’s a lady who knows what she wants, knows how to get it and when it comes to the dinner table, it’s no different. Meghan tends to opt for tried and true classics, and although she is up for almost any new culinary adventure, she usually manages to find something on the menu that will keep her happy. Aside from her frequent visits to sushi houses, Meghan has a few  classic go-tos. Calamari is a must. A beautifully marinated steak with grilled tiger shrimp is a definite, usually with a side of truffled potatoes and al dente greens. For dessert, steer clear from chocolate, that is one thing that Meghan simply detests. Instead you can expect her to enjoy a delicate creme Brule.

On the drinks, CAT says…

Remember the time Meghan signed a hefty visa tab “I like to party”? I sure do. Meghan may have a 9 – 5 government job, enjoy the occasional night in with her cat or a rerun or two of Grey’s Anatomy, but that’s only one side of this (sometimes) wild girl. Give her an excuse and she’s the first one at the bar yelling “SHOTS!” While the Ottawa contingency of nuts will make sure there’s many of those accompanying our night out this evening, we also know that Meg often opts for the casual bevy. Our girly and traditional pal likes sticking to the classics, and who can resist a Strawberry Daiquiri? Tried, tested and true, this drink is one of Meggo’s faves for a night out with the gals. When it comes to dinner and a nice glass of wine Pinot Grigio is definitely where her finger lands on the wine list. I’ll never forget the first time she brought the cool Voga wine bottle to one of our potluck’s. A conversation piece and delicious vino in one. Again, for post meal drinks Meg heads for a classic. She won’t want to try anything with egg whites in it, too much garnish or squid ink – to that she’d say “I’d pay to know what that is.” No, Meg, like our idol Carrie Bradshaw, would be perfectly happy with a Cosmo. Simple and perfect. Finally, for her late night go-to she’ll order a Jaeger Bomb (or six). Just enough kick to get the party started and smooth enough to go down without any chase. We may not line 19 of these up, like we did on her 19th birthday, but you can bet there’s a j-bomb or two in Meghan’s near future.

On the music, JESS says…

You can’t nail this birthday girl’s music taste down – and I mean that in a very good way. As a singer with a trained melodic ear, Meg appreciates pretty notes, thoughtful lyrics and big uplifting anthems just as much as the next gal (if not more). That being said, that eclectic taste, ranging from romantic sounds to dance floor classics, has never excluded one of her greatest loves: a bumping beat. Her keen ear for all things hip-hop and R&B, which was most likely fostered in her early days as a dancer, often leaves Meg rapidly rhyming her pants off in the middle of a party – her quick tongue flying along with the catchy verses and fan favourites. Meg feels music, so whether it’s Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” echoing across a pub, Coldplay flying through the open windows of a roadtripping vehicle or “99 Problems” beating down on a dance floor, she’ll make sure everyone listens up and pays attention to the joyful jams. Some of my favourite moments with Eggo are cued by the opening beat of an old-school hip-hop classic, a motionless stare and smirk at each other and a loving rap battle. Now that’s friendship.

1. Theory of Relativity – Stars (new!) 2. Ignition – R. Kelly 3. No Church In The Wild – Jay-Z and Kanye 4. Beez in the Trap – Nicki Minaj 5. Juicy – Notorious BIG 6. Drop it Like Its Hot – Snoop-a-Loop 7. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Lauryn Hill 8. We’ve Got It Goin’ On – Backstreet Boys 9. Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve 9. Lemme See – Usher 10. Title and Registration – Death Cab For Cutie

On the outfit, KAYLEE says…

Meghan is lucky enough to have been born with the best accessory one could dream of: gorgeous piercing blue eyes. For this reason alone, her birthday dress should be a bright cerulean to make every guest a little more jealous of her coveted feature (ahem, brown eyed girl currently typing). A statement silver necklace and her signature pearl studs make the look birthday ready, and a neutral clutch with touches of colour, ties it all together with a perfect birthday bow. Now, the shoes. You may have noticed that these babies are none other than Jimmy Choo…but it is my belief that we all (most especially Meg) deserve a little spoiling on our special days, and these cream coloured, tiny wedge, classic sandals are just the ticket for each of Meg’s 24th year celebrations. As Meg’s style evolves with each life change she embarks on, I am thrilled to see her take risks with fashion; wearing bold patterns, unique accessories, and always staying true to her classic style and fun-loving self.

September New Music Preview

Did anyone else look at their calendar this week, puzzled? It doesn’t seem quite right that August is half over, the days are slowly going to get shorter and the ease of wandering out the front door with no sleeves or pant legs are things we should start cherishing before they’re no more. The upside of August being half over? Getting closer to wearing the prematurely purchased fall jackets hanging stiff and unworn in your closet, the crisp smell of the fall season (a given)…and new music releases. There’s something about those long drives down the golden tree-lined roads near the end of September that’s made so much better with a gaggle of new CDs fresh off the shelves. Then again, I might be the only person who still buys CDs. EIther way, without further adieu – here are a few notes, bands and beats to look forward to in September of 2012:

1. The Sheepdogs – The Sheepdogs: Canada’s breakout brood of scruffy rockers are back with their third self-titled release on September 4th, featuring the first single “The Way It Is.” This soulful revival-rock track follows suit with the rest of the Rolling Stone Cover Contest band’s winning yesteryear sound – only this time they vocally move away from Fogerty and into Morrison territory with lead singer Ewan Currie’s psychedelic baritone howl. “You look good when you’re shaking my way, let me think of something awful to say,” he bellows; fulfilling the cool, sexualized classic rock genre expectations and leaving us curious what else they have up their chambray sleeves.

2. The XX – Coexist: In 2009, it seemed as if the world halted to listen to – and heavily praise – the first ethereal indie-rock release from this boy-girl fronted Brit band. Amidst waves of critical acclaim, a spot on every “best of” list that year and a consequently heightened anticipation of future releases, the foursome took a hiatus as quiet as their mellow sounds for nearly three years. Now, with “Angels” and “Chained” leaked – two sleepy indie-pop jams as enticing, and pretty, as those on their debut –  it’s simple to see that XX has marked the spot again.

3. A$AP Rocky – LongLiveA$AP:Got rich off a mixtape,” said Drizzy. “Which b**ch you know made a million off a mixtape?”said Nicki.  Rocky’s hip-hop pals have said it, and he’s lived it – after being welcomed with open arms and critical acclaim to the rap game last year when he released his debut mixtape LiveLoveA$AP. On September 11th, the famed soft-spoken rhymesmith (who’s the same age as us five nuts) is trying out the full-length gig beginning with his slow-mo “Purple Kisses” – an explicit, thick-bassed release that samples piano acid jazz underneath his quick verses and a snail-slow hype man chorus. Check it out, but maybe don’t listen with a parent nearby.

4. Dave Matthews – Away From the World: Well, this September 11th release will be perfection. I have so much timeless love for roots-rock guru Dave Matthews and his versatile, instrument-laden Southern collective. The thing about Dave is despite his longstanding spot in the rock world – his prolific melodies, song poetry and live persona never diminish. Sure, he’s reached that place in his personal life and career where he chooses to push aside the complications and soul-searching that decorate a young musician’s pages and instead point out the silver lining – writing about the bliss of aging and just choosing to get along. Maybe it isn’t deep enough for those seeking knotty questions or youthful angst, but I can’t think of anything as intriguing as a rock prophet who has more perspective than most others out there. You’ll hear this on his latest, “Mercy.” Having a bad week? Listen from 3 minutes onward.

5. Mumford & Sons – Babel: Despite the wild hip-hop kick I’ve been on as of late, the first single “I Will Wait” has played an integral role in my late summer playlists. Exactly what you would expect, exactly how it should sound, and exactly what every woman hopes to have sung to her. Something about Mumford & Sons’ romance folk-rock remains so incredibly believable; it never seems like a crock of musical fluff – it feels genuine, it feels like a big breath of fresh air. Even if we’ve heard variations of it before. Maybe it’s the harmonic excellence, charming accents or jostling banjos that never fail to send chills up my spine – or maybe it’s the real truth in Marcus’ lovelorn pleas. This has been worth the wait.

 

Other artists releasing albums in September: Lupe Fiasco, Two Door Cinema Club, Bob Dylan TI, Animal Collective, The Avett Brothers, Ne-Yo, Nelly Furtado, The Killers, Aimee Mann, Ben Folds Five, No Doubt

Five Friends…

Five nuts in January 2010

TGIF, nuts! As you’ll note from our “About Us” section – us five gals are very rarely in the same vicinity, which is one of the most wonderful perks of having this blog. It rounds us together when highways, commitments and life’s funny complications make it difficult to do so otherwise, sometimes for months at a time.

Have you heard about the project below? If you have two, five or seven best friends – it sounds like it would be such a neat idea. Similar to how the five of us will someday look back at (while still writing for it, of course) in a nutshell‘s archived posts to reminisce and laugh at the observations we made during this very transient and amusing period of our young adult lives – these guys chose to do so by taking the same goofy photo, at the same place, over the course of 30 years.

Think you’d try it? If you already have, send them to us – we’d love to see and hear your story!

Check this out: Five Friends Take The Same Group Photo for 30 years

YOLO at OVO 2012: Drake Comes Home

Riding up the CN tower, ferrying to Toronto island, strolling through the Distillery District, lounging in the Beaches, dinner and drinks on King West. These are all highly necessary tourist activities that I would consider “must-dos” on any Torontonian’s lists.

Seeing Drake with 16,000 of your closest Toronto friends and fellow rap lovers in the very city that raised our own hip-hop megastar? Well, that tops just about any of them.

OVO Fest, standing for “October’s Very Own” (a shout-out to the rapper’s birthday month), is now always something of a spectacle in the city, long before the date even nears. As the one concert that brings Drizzy back to his stomping grounds to wow his Canadian peers each year, OVO manages to cast a buzzing hype over the 416; an excitement that comes not only from Toronto’s obsession with the hometown legend, but also the precedent-setting surprise guest line-up of the world’s most spectacular urban acts who are apparently just chomping at the bit to accompany the young gun back to the Big Smoke. Every year it’s different – Jay-Z, Eminem and Stevie Wonder are a few of the golden guests who’ve touched down at Pearson with him – and every year it gets a little more shocking.

As the third installment of OVO approached – following an astonishing year for the nine-time Grammy nominated rapper after the release of his sophomore album Take Care – I was ready to slap the next person who asked me if I was attending. No, I was not. I had the pleasure of seeing Florence and the Machine, The Walkmen, M83, Austra and Justice this week – all right here in Toronto – and just didn’t feel it was likely that I would be tacking on another concert to my hyper-musical week. With rumours swirling about which big names would be joining Drizzy at Molson Ampitheatre, as well as knowledge that A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd were concrete members of the Sunday night line-up, I was secretly crying inside for days. Sure, I had an incredible concert week – but I am a gigantic rap fan, and seeing the hip-hop face of Toronto (and Canada) bring the show home once a year is the stuff of history books.

On Sunday afternoon, as my fear-of-missing-out symptoms were at a sickening level and I was pathetically reading the OVO rumour mill via Twitter – I happened to eyeball a reasonably priced lawn ticket (where my friend was going to be) before immediately contacting the person for the stub. In the wise words of the Young Money crew as well as those spattered in glitter on the many homemade t-shirts I cringed at on the concert grounds…YOLO, right? YOLO.

Drake at OVO 2012 – image c/o Sarjoun Faour

After securing a prime spot on the lawn, watching the masses flood in and grooving to The Weeknd’s impressive slow jams, a nervous hush fell over the crowd as we waited for the underground king to step out in front of the shadowing skyline. Anyone who didn’t have a fresh beer or empty bladder immediately regretted their life choices, because we all knew the drill – there wouldn’t be a dull moment in the next two hours, nor one that you would  be comfortable missing. And with that, aboard an elevated platform beneath the flashing lights – the head-to-toe white clad knight appeared.

Looking beefy and proud, the rap ambassador hammered his fist towards the ground to the huge opening beat of “Lord Knows,” amidst a deafening roar from his hometown fans. With every rhyme spit, as well as any interjecting commentary, he ignited a match beneath the thousands of people, sending them leaping into the air and screaming for their lives. “Every year, I feel like this is my mother-f**king birthday,” he hollered with conviction. That one really did the trick.

With a wide smile, Drizzy shouted out to his birthplace (St.Michael’s Hospital) and the musical success of so many of “Toronto’s finest,” bringing camera-shy The Weeknd back on stage for “Crew Love” before pulling up his sleeveless top to reveal a fine-looking ribcage and the new home to huge “416” ink. Needless to say, you could cut the Toronto pride with a knife – especially when he made Canuck-boosting statements like, “If you go to Dubai and you hear my sh**, that’s Toronto. If you go to Africa and you hear my sh**, that’s Toronto.” International crew love.

As if the women in the audience needed more cause to faint, at one point the rapper paused to address the haters before playing a few lady-praising tracks. “People say I make too much music for women. You’re f**king right I make too much music for women. I don’t make music for b**ches, I don’t make music for little girls – I make music for women,” he shouted over top a shrill eruption. From there, he went on to play every single one of his pumped-up tracks – ranging from “The Motto” and “Forever” to a gorgeous pyro-caked “Take Care” and “HYFR” (dedicated to his label head Lil’ Wayne, who couldn’t make it).

Of course, there came a point when the surprise guest anticipation was unbearable. How on earth was he going to top himself? Naturally, you bring out Rick Ross and then the Doggfather. As the extra lanky Snoop Dogg Lion sauntered out (he played for a Toronto crowd of 700 a few short days before), drugs and drink in hand and jams like “Beautiful” and “Drop it Like It’s Hot” in tow, the crowd hopped left and right – touching a mediocre volume that would be topped within minutes when a blonde-wigged, busty Nicki Minaj strolled onto stage to see her “hubby, Drizzy.” With the duet “Make Me Proud” as well as her own “Beez in the Trap” effortlessly delivered, Minaj wrapped herself around Drake at center stage while he admitted she was “the most beautiful thing in the world” and took the stage back for himself.  At the end of the night, although Snoopy Dogg-Lion-whatever and Nicki are impressive MCs, it was obvious that this year Drake wouldn’t be exhibiting any hip-hop royalty bigger than the 25 year-old superstar himself – and refreshingly, he certainly doesn’t need to anymore. He’s more than enough.

Dedicating the show to the victims of Scarborough’s recent shooting and dropping news that next year’s OVO will take place at the 50,000 capacity Roger’s Centre – Drake showed as much humanly possible love to his city, visibly demonstrating that the colossal rap event is as momentous to him as it is to all of us. “Toronto, we need to take a moment as a city,” he uttered with a bowed head. And what a moment that was.

 Warning: Explicit Language

*inanutshell doesn’t own any rights to the above video

Summer Loving These

Happy Hump Day! In order to get us over the mound and into weekend bliss – two days that may or may not be filled with shopping, reading, listening and more – I thought I would highlight a few of the items I’ve been loving lately. Similar to Kaylee’s midday musings or Meghan’s must-have cosmetics, here is a glimpse into six things that I’ve pondered greatly, and happily indulged in, throughout the blazing heat wave:

JOE FRESH’s NEW LINE: Shockingly, most of the line isn’t for sale online yet – but if you head to the freshest Joe Fresh near you, you’re bound to get a glimpse of the delicious work/play clothing combinations stacked on the affordable yet trendy racks. Unfortunately (but not really), good ol’ Mr. Fresh is my corner store (sigh) along with an LCBO parked next to it (sigh) and one of the city’s largest Loblaws below – making it incredibly difficult to pick up a bag of grapefruits…without grabbing a bottle of Cab-Sauvignon…without pitching for a flirty new work skirt. It’s a problem, but I’ve come to terms with it. Right now at Joe Fresh, this August’s silky blouses, skinny and vibrant Audrey Hepburn slacks and imitation leather bits spattered throughout the collection have made it increasingly impossible to walk out empty-handed.

Joe Fresh Fall 2012 runway show

GLUTEN-FREE VEGAN ALMOND THUMBPRINT COOKIES: I’ve been a gluten-free and soy-free (as well as many other uncategorized “frees”) vegan for the past three months in light of some testing, and although I likely won’t be that combination for much longer, I’ve learned to love cooking more than I already did. The common (and exhausting) question is, of course, what can I eat? My answer – just about anything I want. For instance, this past week I had “mac” (brown rice pasta) and “cheese” (cashew cream sauce), lasagna (using zucchini, squash, homemade marinara sauce and almond milk/nutritional yeast “cheese”), countless savoury stir fries and tasty desserts – all mimicking the real deal and leaving me oh-so-satisfied. As for these comfort cookies, Kaylee can attest to the very best part of the recipe being the finger-licking homemade jam. You can find the jist of the recipe here (I played around a bit with my own ingredients).

THE LUMINEERS: If you’ve yet to hop on this friendly folk-rock collective‘s ramblin’ train, do so immediately. This summer has been an eclectic one, since both the indie, hip-hop and electro genres have been heating up with tastes of new releases – however, their romantic front-porch Americana takes the (gluten-free) cake as one of the most played albums of the month. Nights parked on breezy balconies with these stomping folk stories are just about as lovely as it gets. Two other fun facts: the threesome is currently touring with another favourite band of mine, The Civil Wars, overseas – and someone I know will be playing the below (favourite) tune of mine during their wedding first dance with her new husband. Precious.

The Lumineers get a lot of play out here.

2012 POLARIS MUSIC PRIZE SHORT LIST:  I’m pretty pleased with the ten artists who made the coveted Polaris Prize short list this year, and like every other year, even more excited to hear which act takes the cake for best full-length Canadian album of the year. Featuring Canuck music veterans like Drake, Feist and Kathleen Edwards, the list also includes a few stand-up rookies, including Cold Specks, Grimes and Japanroids. I can’t wait to be there on September 24th when the notable jurors decide this year’s lucky winner. Who do you want to see take it?

Arcade Fire accepting last year’s 2011 Polaris Prize

NIKE SPORTBAND When I purchased the new Nike Sportband, the salesperson fulfilled his duty in thoroughly explaining the limitless funky features of the running gadget. But what I remember most in the blur of information overload was what he called out to me as I exited the store. “You’re going to have so much fun,” he exclaimed. I figured I might, of course, or else I wouldn’t have bought it. But, wow – I had no idea what I was in for. This multifaceted little bracelet connects to a chip I slide into my Nike shoe, tracking my distance, pace, calories, time and more throughout the jog. When I come home, I unhinge the face of the watch, plug it in the USB port in my computer and read all about my mileage, splits, and progress from other dashes – before gathering suggestions for routes in my area, competitions with other runners and goals I might want to set. I’m addicted to both the online and offline experience already, and highly recommend it for anyone looking to measure themselves accurately or have a more social running experience. It knows me better than I know myself at this point.

My favourite toys.

THIS NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE (Elissa Gootman’s “Maternity Leave? It’s more like a pause“): I thought this was an incredibly interesting piece inspired by Marissa Mayer, a lady who’s the talk of the town these days for a number of reasons. Firstly, the blonde 37 year-old powerhouse was named CEO of Yahoo last week, which came before her promptly announcing she would be giving birth in October and only taking a few weeks of “working” maternity leave. “I like to stay in the rhythm of things,” she told Fortune. This NYT article is in response to dueling internet reactions of scorn and praise for the young executive – referencing the recently written Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” and arguing whether short or “working” maternity leaves are empowering or frowned-upon in our hyper-connected, overworked society. Although this is no reflection of what my own approach would be, I, personally, think Mayer is fabulous – and who are we to judge how good of a Mother she’ll be? Strong women are worked to the bone everyday to juggle overwhelming commitments – whether you’re a single mother working in retail with no option of maternity “leave” or the CEO of a multinational internet company who is prepared to stick her nose to the grind. What do you think?

Yahoo’s Newest Queen of the Crop

What would be on your summer favourites list? Leave us a comment below or tweet it at @inanutshellca!