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Alternative/Rock

Seven Layer Piano Cakes’ Justin Hoyt Lists His Top 10 Favourite Water-Related Things

Boasting a myriad of musical layers, Seven Layer Piano Cakes (aka Justin Hoyt, aka Sagittarius J) counts down his random-but-fun combination of favourite water-related things.

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Seven Layer Piano Cakes is the name given to musician Justin Hoyt’s latest musical endeavour, a tribute of sorts to the music of his past. Hoyt is probably the only lawyer and law professor you will find doubling as a serious songwriter, and it speaks to the diversity of talents he has worked hard to achieve and refine.

Based in Los Angeles, Hoyt is a classically trained pianist and singer whose goal is to write, perform, and produce music that is a throwback to the sounds and complexities of musical eras gone by. As a versatile and well-rounded musician, Hoyt prefers not to be defined by just one sound, the way artists like The Beach Boys, Elliott Smith, Depeche Mode, and Sufjan Stevens have navigated their careers. The only thing you can be sure about with Seven Layer Piano Cakes is that you will get a myriad of musical layers and some intricate vocal harmonies.

To celebrate the release of his latest single, a gothic-influenced dark pop-rocker called “Holy Water,” Hoyt, aka Sagittarius J, joins us to count down a random-but-fun liquid-influenced list of his favourite water-related things…

1. Favourite Drinking Water

“New York City tap water. Nothing beats the unfiltered goodness of NYC’s finest. There’s a reason that the pizza and bagels in New York have always been unmatched. Evian, Fiji, all this Icelandic and alkaline stuff, it’s good, sure, but I’d rather just turn the sink on and enjoy what nature gave us.”

2. Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink

Crystal Pepsi, no doubt. I swear it tastes different, and better, than regular cola. If Luther Vandross’ voice were converted into a beverage, I bet it would be Crystal Pepsi; it’s that velvety smooth. It somehow didn’t catch on when it first came out in the early to mid-’90s, but it’s still out there if you’re willing to order from places of questionable repute on the internet. I recently got a batch from Canada and can’t remember the last time I was this happy.”

3. Favourite Alcoholic Drink

“Sidecar. Likely the least popular of the classic cocktails (we can thank Mad Men for making Old Fashioneds the bro drink of choice, and Manhattans will always be popular, rightfully so), the Sidecar has always been underrated. Cognac, Cointreau, lemon juice, and a splash of orange juice, it’s like the best parts of an Orange Julius without having to go to a mall food court, with a sneaky kick to it.”

Artwork for the album ‘Nebula’ by Seven Layer Piano Cakes

4. Favourite Songs That Mention Water

“‘Smoke on the Water’ by Deep Purple, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ by Simon & Garfunkel, ‘Purple Rain’ by Prince, ‘Surf’s Up’ by the Beach Boys, ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna, ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain?’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival, ‘When the Levee Breaks’ by Led Zeppelin, ‘Digital Bath’ by Deftones, and ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’ by Burt Bacharach.”

5. Favourite Surfing Break

“Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu. Not that I can hang there, but when Pipeline is pumping, it’s one of the most beautiful sights in the world. For amateurs like myself, I would say Third Point in Malibu.”

6. Favourite Waterfall

“Vernal Falls in Yosemite. Obviously, there are bigger and more impressive waterfalls, but the waterfall is so beautiful and refreshing as you are hiking the Mist Trail and beyond up to Half Dome.”

7. Favourite Type of Assets

“Anything liquid.”

8. Favourite Water Zodiac Sign

“As a Sagittarius (fire sign), I’m a bit outside my lane on this, but if I had to pick a water sign, Pisces for sure. With all due respect to the Scorpios and Cancers of the world, I’ve found Pisces folks to be a perfect blend of creative, cerebral, and mysterious. Coincidentally, I have dated more Pisces women than any other sign.”

9. Favourite Waterbed

“All of them. I’ve never had one, but growing up, one of my best friends did, and it was magical to take a nap at his place. It was cool to see some waterbed love in the recent P.T. Anderson film Licorice Pizza. I am really hoping that waterbeds and Crystal Pepsi make a comeback in the near future.”

10. Favourite Hot Springs

“The springs near the Springs Resort & Spa in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. The place has like 20 different pools fed by the natural hot springs, featuring 20 different temperatures. Some tepid, some cool, some warm, some hot, and some are just scalding. Nothing beats skiing up at Wolf Creek and then spending the evening in those pools. Except for Crystal Pepsi.”

Born in 2003, V13 was a socio-political website that, in 2005, morphed into PureGrainAudio and spent 15 years developing into one of Canada's (and the world’s) leading music sites. On the eve of the site’s 15th anniversary, a full re-launch and rebrand takes us back to our roots and opens the door to a full suite of Music, Film, TV, and Cultural content.

Alternative/Rock

Glixen – “foreversoon” [Song Review]

On “foreversoon,” Glixen created a song where youthful exuberance clashes heavenly with the established shoegaze sounds of yesteryear,

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Glixen “foreversoon” single artwork
Glixen “foreversoon” single artwork

It’s been less than a year since Glixen released their debut EP, She Only Said, on Julia’s War Records. Still, the Phoenix shoegazers have already dug their heels into the DIY music scene and are heading out on an extensive US tour this year alongside the likes of Interpol, Softcult, Glitterer, and fish narc. Appearances at SXSW and Treefort will only further cement their reputation as a new band worthy of note.

To herald the busy year ahead, the band has released a new single, “foreversoon,” via the AWAL label, and it’s well worth a listen.

Says lead vocalist Aislinn Ritchie:

“‘foreversoon’ represents blissful moments of new love and intimacy. The song harnesses melancholy chords, layered with fuzzy red melodies and gliding guitars that pull you in deeper. I wanted my lyrics to feel like a conversation that expresses my infatuation and sensuality. Time is relentless and memories are fleeting, this song encapsulates those emotions forever.”

It’s a fair summation. Its youthful exuberance clashes heavenly with the established shoegaze sounds of yesteryear, think Ride, Curve and Slowdive, but with the fuzz cranked up possibly higher. Ritchie’s vocals certainly share that dreamlike quality of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, and with many of those bands back on the road this year, perhaps the time is ripe to inject fresh blood into the genre.

Glixen, photo by Jesse Beecher

Glixen, photo by Jesse Beecher

Run Time: 3:43
Release Date: February 9, 2024
Record Label: AWAL Recordings

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Album News

Slightest Clue Release Their Rocking, Five-Track EP ‘Carousel’

Vancouver indie rockers Slightest Clue recently released their ‘Carousel’ EP, inspired by the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship.

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Slightest Clue
Slightest Clue

Vancouver’s Slightest Clue is like the secret after-school project of four kids who would have passed each other without a glance in the hallway at school, but once they’re plugged in and ready to play their distinct blend of post-punk, alternative rock, and dark pop, all bets are off.

Produced by Matt Di Pomponio, their new EP, Carousel, is inspired by the beginning, middle, and end of a formative romantic relationship, spanning the trajectory from love to this loss of connection. The closing track, “Carousel,” marks the ultimate bittersweet reflection with unique harmonic layers to portray those contrasting emotions, shifting between grand and quiet tones.

Commenting on the album, the band states:

“The main theme is love, loss of relationship, and connection. The arc of the story is our foreshadowing of the end in our first song ‘These Days’ speaking on the day to day fights and how neither person can seem to get back to a happy place in the relationship. ‘Why Can’t I Call You?’ is the initial spark of infatuation and obsession with someone before you know them. ‘When You Wake Up’ talks of the blissed out honeymoon stage where everything is working and nothing could go wrong. ‘Suit Uptight!’ represents the mounting frustrations and resentments building tension from unmet needs. And finally our closing track ‘Carousel’ is the end and the bittersweet reflection of a cherished relationship that can no longer return.”

Each member, Malcolm McLaren, Hannah Kruse, Sean Ries, and Nick Sciarretta, brings distinct influences and experiences: a stage actor whose playlists go from Talking Heads to Sonic Youth to Björk, a hook-obsessed recovering choir girl, an electrical engineer whose personal idol is John Bonham, and a guitarist who played for (and left) 10 other bands before deciding this was the one for him.

Slightest Clue ‘Carousel’ [EP] album artwork

Slightest Clue ‘Carousel’ [EP] album artwork

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Alternative/Rock

Track-by-Track: The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord Cuts Through ‘It Leads To This’

The Pineapple Thief frontman Bruce Soord breaks down each track on the progressive rock band’s new record ‘It Leads To This.’

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The Pineapple Thief in 2023, photo by Tina Korhonen
The Pineapple Thief in 2023, photo by Tina Korhonen

It’s been a bit of a renaissance period for The Pineapple Thief over the last few years. This revitalization has resulted in the brand-new album It Leads To This. Released on February 9th via Kscope Records, the eight new songs comprise more of frontman Bruce Soord’s observations and deductions about life and the world around him. The initial concept for the record came together rather quickly, but the actual lyrical and musical components took time. Finalizing these songs required much work and collaboration between Soord and his three bandmates. Each member had a conception of what was satisfactory regarding the songs. Coming to that common ground took time, but in the end, each member was extremely pleased with the final product.

The release of It Leads To This coincides with the 25th anniversary since The Pineapple Thief formed. In that time, they have released over 20 full-length albums and EPs. It Leads To This proved to be one of the most intense writing periods ever for the band. They worked on these new tracks for almost three years. Each band member pushed each other to go above and beyond what they felt capable of. It was extremely fruitful from an artistic perspective, but personally, it did pose challenges for the band members.

Joining us today for an exclusive track-by-track rundown of It Leads To This is Bruce Soord himself. He takes us through each song on the record, their inspirations, motivations, and how they came together.

1. “Put It Right”

Bruce Soord: “This was the first song we wrote for the album, right in the depths of the pandemic. I remember standing outside my studio, which is in the garden of my home, when we were in full lockdown. I looked at the blue sky, not a vapour trail to be seen. Even the hum of my small town was gone. As a songwriter, you’re obviously going to take that in and use it. I started to ponder the fragile state of the world. I mean, how can the world be brought to its knees overnight? Which then led to thoughts about the past, essentially a re-evaluation. Are we all to blame? Was I to blame?”

2. “Rubicon”

“As soon as the lockdown was lifted, I remember talking to (drummer) Gavin (Harrison), and he had the idea to write some songs in the same room. I know, radical, right? So I got in the car and drove to his house. Honestly, in the history of The Pineapple Thief, I had never written in this way. Songs were built up in our various studios over weeks and months.. But we were up for trying something new. It could have been a very long disaster – a 6 day jam in E. But to my surprise, we wrote four songs in this way. The first one being Rubicon.

“The verses are in a ‘5/4 shuffle’ which is quite unique (see Gavin’s drum playthrough on the Vic Firth YouTube channel). The song is actually about Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, destroying the Roman republic for his own selfish ambitions. History repeating itself indeed…”

3. “It Leads To This”

“Following on from the theme of ‘Put It Right,’ this is essentially a positive song about focusing on the right things in life. What are going to be your biggest regrets on your deathbed? It’s obvious but also easy to miss. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, I wish I had spent more time with my family and friends. It’s a love song really. ‘For all this time, I didn’t notice you…’”

4. “The Frost”

“I came up with the riff on my 6-string baritone guitar, so it has a low, edgy feel which I really love. This was a song that came together really quickly between the four of us (plus some great contributions from our touring guitarist Beren Matthews on guitars and backing vocals who played throughout the record). It’s about spending your life with a soulmate, through thick and thin, no matter how bad things get.”

5. “All That’s Left”

“Thematically, this continues the theme from ‘It Leads to This’ and, for me, is dominated by the riff and the middle section, which I love playing live. Again, it’s low in register, written using my baritone, massive drums.”

The Pineapple Thief ‘It Leads To This’ album artwork

The Pineapple Thief ‘It Leads To This’ album artwork

6. “Now It’s Yours”

“Written during the sessions with Gavin, this song goes on a bit of a journey. Soft, atmospheric, big riffs, a guitar solo… Lyrically, looking at the world as an older guy with a family about to be let loose into the world. What the hell are they going to inherit? Well, now it’s yours…”

7. “Every Trace Of Us”

“Again written during the Gavin sessions, I remember Gavin had the intro riff written on his Wurli keyboard he has in his studio. I took it, added some more chords in the progression and the song snowballed from there. Lyrically this is about the pressure of modern life, expectation, pressure, and the mental repercussions of it all. Modern life can tear every trace of us apart.”

8. “To Forget”

“I had this finger-picked acoustic guitar part, which the band liked, so I developed the first part of the song and came up with the words pretty quickly. Us humans, especially as we grow older, have to come to terms with loss and, in a lot of cases, tragedy. Touching on the debate as to whether life is a gift or a curse (I am firmly in the ‘gift’ camp). However, living with tragedy isn’t easy. Remembering isn’t easy, to forget is impossible.”

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