Originally published in CVV Magazine on July 24, 2015
The festival season in B.C. doesn’t really kick off until mid-July—well after the Coachella and Sasquatches of the west coast have long come and gone—but when it does, we enter a whole new mode of summer. This past weekend, while tens of thousands descended on Pemberton Music Festival for some of the biggest electronic and hip-hop acts touring today, Victoria hosted a different kind of festival—one that relied on a heavier guitar sound and live instrumentation rather than ear-shattering drum and bass: Rock the Shores—at the beautiful Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre in Colwood. The festival borrowed many of the acts that played Pemberton in the days before, but celebrated the older, more seasoned rock acts and breathed new life into the dying art of rock and roll.
On Saturday night, the heavyweights on the bill were The Black Keys, who had closed out the main stage at Pemberton the night before, drawing a huge crowd in Victoria from early on in the day. After a long and arduous bus trip out to Colwood’s West Shores, my group and I arrived in time to catch the end of newcomer Scott Helman, who had the crowd singing and dancing along by the end of his set to “Bungalow,” which gets quite a bit of local radio play. As the afternoon wore on, the heat and long lines for water distracted from bands like the Vancouver-based blues-rock outfit No Sinner, who played a fairly uninteresting set. At 3:00, the Kingston rock and rollers The Glorious Sons took the stage to play an excellent set, transitioning seamlessly between heavier and more psychedelic tracks. Up next were local legends 54-40, who had the crowd dancing right to the back as they rolled through their greatest hits. Victoria locals Current Swell were given a lofty introduction—“Summer doesn’t start until you’ve seen these guys live”—before getting the crowd into the festival spirit with a barrage of homegrown island folk-rock.
Then the evening really got started. As the field filled up and lineups for food curved around the site, seasoned Saskatoon rockers The Sheepdogs took the stage, playing bluesy rock with a modern twist, with songs like “The Way It Is,” “Feeling Good,” and “I Don’t Know,” as well as their recent single “Downtown.” Somewhere during the sing-along set, my group and I moved our way up to the front of the stage.
We stayed up there after the The Sheepdogs left the stage for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, who are always entertaining, and frontman Alex Ebert put on quite a show as the acid-cult leader character of Edward Sharpe, whose only desire is for “the whole damn world to come dance with [him].” There was plenty of dancing and audience participation in the set, too, and at one point during “Home” Ebert stopped the show to pass the microphone around to people in the crowd who wanted to tell stories.
The whole thing fit well with the hippie-feel of the island, and at that point it started to feel like a proper festival. The crowd, almost put under a spell by Edward Sharpe, changed dramatically as we waited for The Black Keys to take the stage, and when they finally did we were packed like sardines in the front row. They sounded good, but Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney looked tired and physically drained as they played through hits like “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Tighten Up,” and “Lonely Boy.” Ultimately, they provided the real rock of the day, closing their set with the heartachingly beautiful “Little Black Submarines,” which was a huge crowd-pleaser. They didn’t come out for an encore though, a trend that would continue for the rest of the weekend.
Day 2, though considerably smaller, was the day I was looking forward to most, with 90s rock icons Jane’s Addiction closing out the bill, as well as art-rock pioneers TV on the Radio and witty singer-songwriter Father John Misty earlier in the day. We got there just before 3:00 to catch the end of Australian Kim Churchill’s foot-stomping set. What followed was one of the strangest bookings—and sets—I’ve ever seen at a music festival with PPL MVR, a band of Sasquatches that seemed to really like auto tune. They had me won over when they played a cover of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind,” though.
I took the chance to go up to the front of the stage to take photos for what
I thought were some of the best bands on the lineup. I got some practice in with Bleachers, a new project led by Jack Antonoff from fun. that has been getting quite a bit of local radio play.
As the late afternoon wore on, former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman graced the stage as Father John Misty. His bushy beard and vocal chops make him somewhat of an indie-rock icon, while his dry sense of humor and showmanship make him very entertaining to watch as he flounces around the stage unapologetically. I was able to get within inches of him as he put on a show for the cameras.
I stayed up front for what has to be one of my favorite bands of all time: TV on the Radio. I saw them for the first time back in 2008 at Malkin Bowl in Vancouver when I was just 14 years old—at that time they were touring the now classic Dear Science, which they played just a few songs from in their short but seductive sundown set.
Then it was time for Jane’s Addiction. I grew up listening to Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro both with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s, so it was pretty special to finally get to see them live. I ran into Dave in Vail, Colorado a few years ago and he wouldn’t sign an autograph, but there’s still a photo of me with drummer Stephen Perkins floating around somewhere. Their set blew everything else out of the water.
(Photo by Dean Kaylan)
Like master puppeteers Farrell and Navarro were absolutely captivating, even with dancing girls in the background, culminating in a sensory overload unlike anything else as they grinded up against Farrell while other women swung from ropes connected to metal bars pierced through their backs for set-closer “Stop.” These old rock stars still know how to put on a show, taking every chance they could to be applauded by the receptive audience, particularly as all four gathered around the front of the stage for an acoustic rendition of “Jane Says.” The historic set—their first ever on the island—provided the perfect ending to a great weekend, and will long be sticking in the memories of those who attended.
20. Bjork: Vulnicura
Bjork’s vulnerable, honest self-portrait on Vulnicura detailed her breakup with longtime partner Matthew Barney, but its scope and breadth of sound make it much more than that. Bjork is a musical genius; socially and consciously relevant in 2015 as she rallied for women’s equality in music and stood up against climate change. However, Vulnicura finds her at her most emotionally raw.
19. Mac DeMarco: Another One
Ahh, Mac DeMarco. He won our hearts last year with Salad Days (pronounced Sah-laad days) and is back again already with Another One. Also in 2015: DeMarco directed and appeared in a number of bizarre web videos and released Some Other Ones. Watch him dance, grab himself, and play guitar in a creepy Michael Jackson mask in the video for “Another One:”
18. CHVRCHES: Every Open Eye
CHVRCHES built on their unique brand of modern synth-pop showcased on 2013’s The Bones Of What You Believe for Every Open Eye, reaching soaring new heights. Lauren Mayberry and co. also stoop up for women’s rights, slammed Donald Trump, and defended their right to be seen as a band in the past year, despite Mayberry’s burgeoning stardom.
17. Major Lazer: Peace Is The Mission
Major Lazer’s “Lean On” was everywhere this summer, but there’s more to Peace Is The Mission than just that. Features with Wild Belle, Ellie Goulding, Travi$ Scott, and Chronixx made for other highlights on a diverse album that showed off Diplo’s range and unique production style with Jillionaire and Walshy Fire, and soundtracked the beginning of the summer.
16. D’Angelo & The Vanguard: Black Messiah
Technically released at the end of 2014, Black Messiah was too late for the end of year lists last year, coming as a complete surprise and marking D’Angelo’s return after 14 years since 2000’s Voodoo. “Really Love” is now up for a Grammy, and Black Messiah has been hailed as a triumph, its influence on black music over the past year undeniable.
15. Miguel: Wildheart
Miguel’s Wildheart cements the singer’s sex symbol status, but the arrangements are luscious and diverse, making use of a wide range of production styles, such as funk, R&B, and alt-rock. Album highlights include “Coffee,” “Waves,” and “Simplethings,” but Wildheart is an album to throw on for a party, a chill Friday night, or just a good time.
14. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment: Surf
Chance The Rapper has had a busy year. When he hasn’t been talking to high school students, promoting his anti-violence and “Warmest Winter” initiatives, or being a father, he’s been collaborating, and on Surf he puts his fellow artists ahead of himself, resulting in a truly collaborative project which fuses great music with a bit of star power. Still, we can’t wait to see what he does next.
13. Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell
Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell is a hauntingly beautiful depiction of death. Nostalgic, evocative, and heartbreaking, it details Stevens’ relationship with his mother and stepfather. “Death with Dignity” and “Should Have Known Better” are just the portal into Stevens’ family portrait on Carrie & Lowell, which traverses both time and space.
12. Panda Bear: Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
The various members of Animal Collective were all fairly active this year, but Panda Bear’s Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper was the project that stood out most as a development of what AC were doing on Centipede Hz. Lennox now lives in Portugal, and his cosmopolitan brand of experimental pop is a natural segue from AC’s previous work to what’s coming next.
11. Vince Staples: Summertime ’06
Socially conscious, biting, and abrasive, Vince Staples has been hailed as the leader of the new generation of gangsta rap. On Summertime ’06 he fleshes out hooks like “I ain’t never ran from nothin’ but the police” with hard-hitting bars and sharped-edged lyricism. But there’s a lot more to Vince Staples than first meets the eye. Best Music Video of 2015.
10. Hot Chip: Why Make Sense?
Hot Chip’s Why Make Sense? took soaring singles “Hurache Lights” and “Need You Now” and based a whole album around that retro-modern sound. Hot Chip look to the tradition of artists like Bruce Springsteen and LCD Soundsystem in order to place themselves within the canon of the great electronic bands of the past, and on Why Make Sense? they do just that.
9. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
Clever and quick-witted, Courtney Barnett has become known as Australia’s indie-rock goofball. However, on Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, Barnett (sometimes) broaches heavier topics, such as environmental threats to the Great Barrier Reef. But she always keeps her distance, never letting on a firm stance. Thus, Sometimes (often comically) explores a large range of contemporary topics.
8. Mark Ronson: Uptown Special
There is more to Mark Ronson’s Uptown Special than “Uptown Funk.” A lot more. A truly modern rock record, traversing funk, R&B, and psychedelic rock, Ronson’s sense of what works musically is impeccable. The features with Kevin Parker (Tame Impala), Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow), Stevie Wonder, and Mystikal make for some of the best rock jams of the year, and make the album a remarkably fluid listen from start to finish.
7. Kurt Vile: b’lieve i’m goin down…
Kurt Vile’s b’lieve i’m goin down… opens with “Pretty Pimpin,” a 5 minute long, rollicking track that sets up the rest of the album in its self-aware depiction of the man behind it. “That’s Life, tho (almost hate to say),” “Life Like This,” and “Wild Imagination” are album highlights, but Vile lets you into his head on b’lieve i’m going down, and once you start listening, it will be hard to get it out of yours.
6. Neon Indian: VEGA INTL. Night School
One of 2015’s most triumphant returns was Neon Indian, with VEGA INTL. Night School, Alan Palomo’s first release since 2011’s Era Extraña (remember “Polish Girl“?). Palomo’s chillwave sound is bigger, funkier, and grander on VEGA INTL. Night School, with catchy hits like “Annie” and the epic “Slumlord.” A very welcome return from one of chillwave’s finest.
5. Father John Misty: I Love You, Honeybear
What would we have done without Father John Misty in 2015? His wry social commentary, brilliant wit, and cynicism made for one of the best albums (possibly ever) about love and relationships in the 21st century. “Bored In The USA,” “The Ideal Husband,” and “True Affection” are just some of the titles thrown out that encapsulate the magnetic attraction of Father John.
4. Tame Impala: Currents
Tame Impala’s Currents is Kevin Parker’s biggest statement to date. On it, he takes everything that was central to the Tame Impala project and adapts it to the changes in his personal life, the expectation that has come with his burgeoning success, and the current changes to how we experience music-and blasts off into uncharted territory…
Read the full review here.
3. Grimes: Art Angels
Grimes burst onto the scene back in 2012 with Visions, an album that topped many year-end lists that year. Under enormous pressure, Claire Boucher released Art Angels this year to widespread critical acclaim. An album that takes an immense range of musical knowledge and production styles and distills it into Boucher’s signature brand of alt-pop, Art Angels is one of the most important albums ever made by a female producer.
2. Jamie xx: In Colour
Jamie xx is a master-sampler. On his solo debut, In Colour, he proves that he doesn’t need a band to create anthemic and ground-breaking electronic music. “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” takes a sample of The Persuasions’ “Good Times” and builds it up with Young Thug and Popcaan, while “Loud Places” samples Idris Muhammed’s “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This.” Certainly, listening to In Colour feels like being on a cloud.
1. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp A Butterfly
It should be no surprise that Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is topping virtually ever year-end list that has come out this year. Why?
The fact that there are still people out on the streets in some parts of the U.S. chanting “We gon be alright” in solidarity with the victims of police brutality is a testament to the power of music to enact social change. Lamar’s “Alright” has become an anthem for the anti-police movement in the United States in large part because it speaks to the universal…
Read the full think piece here.
Best New Artist: Empress Of, Me
Best EP: FKA twigs, M3LL155X
Best Collaboration: Big Grams, Big Grams
Best Mixtape: Erykah Badu, But You Caint Use My Phone
Best Cat Album: Run the Jewels, Meow the Jewels