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Grayson Matthews ft. Andrew Austin — “Toast This Life”

Mike… There is something wonderfully familiar about this – and I don’t mean that in an ‘I’ve heard this in the commercial for Alexander Keith’ kind of way or an ‘I’ve heard this in a Mumford and Sons' kind of way. I mean this in a catchy, comforting infectious kind of way. That’s what you want from a song the first time you hear it. You want to like it right away. And you want to hear it again right away. And that’s the way I felt about this.

The song has a great build reinforced by the heaviness and the just-the-right-amount-of distortion on the drums. I know from passed Pixies conversations with you that you are a fan of the distortion. Me – not as much. But this works.

I’m also a fan of the underused mandolin. It’s subtle. They could have gone insane with a solo and that might have been interesting. But allowing the strings to flitter in and out of the song was the right thing to do.

I do think artists have to be careful with songs that are almost begging the audience to sing along in a choir-y chorus way. It seems to be the trend of choice in alt|indie rock (re: The Lumineers.) But again, in this song, it works.

I was watching the CBC documentary 'Life is a Highway' all about the Canadian music scene in the nineties and Brad Roberts of Crash Test Dummies admitted that he had every intention of writing lyrics for ‘Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.’ He just didn’t get around to it. A happy accident that worked as well.   

And then there are the lyrics. The cadence and rhythm of the verses are a little off. I have always been a big fan of this song writing device. I think it makes room for some interesting imagery like “Check the clock – it’s spinning like a cyclone.” It’s a line that plays well with the rest of the song – and something that I can relate to all too well.

After you sent me this song along with the article in the Globe and Mail, I wanted to hear more. That’s when I discovered “Where I’m From.” Although this might surprise you, for as much as I like “Toast This Life,” I love “Where I’m From.” This is not the usual fare that you might find me listening to – but I guess that’s a good thing. It’s full of drive and excitement and hope and hubris. And yes, it’s from another beer commercial! I think I need a drink! —AJ


AJ… My first inclination upon listening to this song is to get all “up in arms” about a 30-second jingle being turned into a ditty that is sold on iTunes.

But on second thought, does it really matter where we discover the new music we love?

The days of the radio or MuchMusic being the only way to find new music are long gone. Let’s face it – how many of us would have never heard of Feist, The Ting Tings, or dozens of other artists, had they not been fortunate enough to have been featured in an Apple commercial?

Would The Fray have ever had a single success without being featured on Grey’s Anatomy? And how many of the Millennial Generation discovered The Who by watching the various incarnations of C.S.I.?

As for the artists themselves, these avenues have been some of the most lucrative methods of earning money in the YouTube age. I had a conversation recently with one of the members of Canadian Jazz legends Manteca. He said that he spends a lot of time writing jingles to make money in between touring and recording with the Juno-winning ensemble. And by the way, it’s not really a novel idea to have jingle become a hit – just go back to "I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing"?

So, held to its own merits, the song by Grayson Matthews (the name of the ‘advertising’ agency/musical collective) and Andrew Austin (the singer and song’s co-writer) shows a lot of promise. Yes, it’s vaguely Mumfordian, even more so Philip Philipsian to my ears. But it’s a great song, with a vibe that sets a scene of a warm fire on a cold day, a group of friends gathered around sharing good times.

Yes, it sounds just like a beer commercial, but it makes me feel good.…Mike