Best of Music 2014 Staff Picks – Gilles LeBlanc

Name: Gilles LeBlanc, AKA @ROCKthusiast

City: Vaughan, i.e. the city ABOVE Toronto!

Title: Music writer and all-around mirth-maker

How long have you been with Live in Limbo? Approx. 6 months as a reviewer, although I’ve been a longtime LiL reader and admirer of Sean Chin’s from afar.

Three favourite albums of 2014 (best to worst):

1. St. Vincent, St. Vincent
    All hail the new queen of indie rock! Following a sonically successful collab with
    David Byrne, Annie Clark has arguably perfected (and should seriously consider
    patenting) her formula of genre-spanning samples, supported by ferocious
    gender-neutral guitar riffs.

2. They Want My Soul, Spoon
    Speaking of music royalty, the handsome princes from the live music capital of
    Austin reclaimed rock’s proverbial throne with an A+ album, their first in more
    than four years. On a side note, how cool is it that Toronto’s NXNE festival had
    both Spoon and St. Vincent as top-billed talents?

3. Turn Blue, The Black Keys
    The more I reflect on Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s eighth studio album in
    12 years, the more I consider it a complete effort. Turn Blue is less reliant on hit
    singles and much more of a total listening experience. Settle into a comfy bean bag
    chair, strap on some headphones and enjoy the newskool psychedelia. 

Three favourite songs of 2014:

1. “Bury Our Friends” – Sleater-Kinney
    The grrls are back, and this strong supporter of females who know how to rock
    couldn’t be happier. I can sooo see people yelling along to this when the Olympia
    natives start the concert comeback trail in their home state in February.

2. “Lonely Sunday” – Reignwolf
    I still stand by my ‘Future of Rock’ assertion when it comes to Canadian Jordan
    Cook, even though I thought he would have released a full-length album with his
    Seattle-based band by now. This bluesy grunger will have to do…for now.

3. “Gentleman” – July Talk
    I honestly can’t get enough of T.O.’s July Talk, so I was very pleased to hear them
    rapidly follow up their awesome 2013 debut with For Your Bloodshot Eyes. It’s
    only a 3-track EP, but it includes a killer studio version of perpetual live fave

Which artist or band won 2014?

Anyone who knows me probably presumes I had Jack White earmarked for this honour the moment his second solo album Lazaretto was announced. That’s not a wrong assumption; with apologies to Taylor Swift and condolences to touring keyboardist Ikey Owens (RIP), no one’s been busier or better in the past 12 months than the Third Man Records maverick. Among his accomplishments were the World’s Fastest Record, producing Neil Young, being on The Ellen Show, having the biggest-selling vinyl LP of all-time, and putting on some of the year’s most breathtaking performances. Give Jack White Live from Bonnaroo 2014 a spin if you don’t believe me!

Your favourite new/breakout artist of the year:

Royal Blood, partly because they’re the latest in a long buffet line of 2-piece extra spicy bands. (My favourite “music meal”, don’t cha know!) They’re also a couple of youngins who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, although bassist/singer Mike Kerr isn’t fond of having his pedalboard photographed 😉

How many shows did you go to this year?
Not nearly as many as I would have liked to for personal and family reasons, but this is a situation that WILL be rectified in 2015. (To Live in Limbo’s benefit!)

Three best concerts of 2014:

1. Sam Roberts Band, Fort York, July 5th
    I don’t know about y’all, but I really enjoyed TURF this year. I thought Jeff Cohen
    and friends put on an outstanding fest, one I hope sticks around, punctuated by
    Slammin’ Sammy hitting one outta the park as the Saturday night headliner.

2. Jack White, Air Canada Centre, July 31st
    I initially cringed when I first learned Jack White was going the antiseptic arena
    route for his Toronto return. Any ACC sound complaints, however, were quickly
    lost in the sheer impressiveness of his 2+ hour tour de force. AND it was my first
    review for LiL!

3. Death from Above 1979, Sonic Boom, September 26th
    Yeah, it was ANOTHER secret-type show by Toronto’s favourite dance-punk duo,
    but it definitely was a goodie in an unexpected space. I think it’s safe to say that’s
    the most moshing Sonic Boom has ever seen in its venerable old location!

Favourite festival of 2014:

This year obviously wasn’t ALL bad for me. I had the good fortune of winning a flyaway trip to the revived Pemberton Music Festival in beautiful BC, literally at the foot of Mount Currie. When I wasn’t marvelling at the majestic views, you had better believe I was rocking out to one of 2014’s best fest lineups in Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, Blondie, Metric and deadmau5.

Favourite venue this year:

I always love travelling down Bathurst Street to go to Lee’s Palace, but this past July I actually had the chance to step on its hallowed, graffiti-surrounded stage to compete in the Canadian Air Guitar Championships. Despite an obvious abundance of ROCKthusiasm, my mock rock didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but I sure had a lot of $#@%ing fun trying!

What was the biggest music news story you remember from 2014?
The easy answer to this is Jian Ghomeshi. Heck, my tweets were even dragged into the fracas that besieged the disgraced former CBC Q host. But the really big story in my humble opinion is how 2014 became the year the CBC lost its grip on Canadian culture (music included), whether it was no more advertising money from hockey to damning accusations of management protecting Ghomeshi because he was seen as a cash cow for “The Corp”.

Is there anything else you want to say about music this year?
Not really other than I resolve for 2015 to be when I seriously get into online music streaming. Songza, Spotify, Rdio, Deezer…you’ve been warned!

What artist should/will we all be paying attention to for 2015?
Feel free to call me crazy, but with tea sipping cat lover Billy Corgan saying 2015’s Day for Night will be “the end” of The Smashing Pumpkins (after the just-released and surprisingly good Monuments to an Elegy), something tells me he’s going to want to go out with an awfully loud bang. Oh, and I’m also looking forward to hearing what The Libertines come up with in terms of a reunion album – Maybe these two attention-seeking bands from disparate generations can team up for a tour of some sort!

About author

Gilles LeBlanc literally fell into “alternative rock” way back at Lollapalooza 1992, where he got caught in his first mosh pit watching some band named Pearl Jam. Since then, he’s spent the better part of his life looking for music to match the liberating rush he felt that day, with a particular chest-beating emphasis on stuff coming out of his native Canada. You can follow his alter ego on Twitter: @ROCKthusiast.