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Archive for October, 2004

Sunday, October 31st, 2004

Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

Toronto’s own Emm Gryner was an honourary Cardigan this Fall when she toured with the band on the Chicks With Attitude caravan as keyboardist and backing vocalist. The Cardies website has a cute little interview between bassist Magnus Sveningsson and Emm about their respective home and native lands of Sweden and Canada. Emm has become quite the sideman to the stars, having sang backups for David Bowie on his world tour a couple years ago, including making her (inter)national television debut with him on Saturday Night Live. All this and she still manages to be a prolific solo artist – her new album, Songs Of Love & Death, is supposed to be out now but I’ve not managed to find a copy of it anywhere yet, not even on her online store (which I’m disappointed to find is now run through Musictoday which means excessive shipping costs to Canada). And she’s hella cute, too. What’s not to love?

Thanks to Exclaim!, I’m now the proud owner of a DVD I didn’t really want and a video game I can’t play. I was one of the winners of an online contest for a Van Helsing prize pack which consisted of the movie and XBox game of the aforementioned film. I’m certainly not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially when it looks like Kate Beckinsale in a corset, so I’m not complaining. I’ll have to sell the XBox game, though, since I didn’t win the grand prize which included a game console. Oh well, the luck only goes so far.

To pick up the prize, I had to go to the DVD release/Hallowe’en party for Dawn Of The Dead. They were running the movie on the monitors behind the bar and I actually watched the whole thing, sans sound. It’s really not hard to follow a zombie movie even without the dialogue. I’m curious to see it properly though, I’m sure I missed some crucial plot points and all that. And it was so nice to see Sarah Polley back on the screen. There was also a musical component to the night, courtesy of The Tijauna Bibles. They’re a gimmicky sort of surf/punk band who perform in Mexican wrestling masks – Fun enough stuff, but I didn’t stick around for their second set.

The Guardian names off their choices for the 10 worst cover songs ever. It’s a fairly Brit-centric list, but I can agree that Duran Duran’s take on “911 Is A Joke” is a crime that transcends borders.

Observant readers may notice that I picked up a copy of Luna’s Rendezvous yesterday. This should not be interpreted as an indication that Jetset’s lame-o distribution has finally gotten copies in stores – it actually means that I lucked out and found a used copy before there were any new ones available. I feel a little bad for not giving Dean, Britta, Sean and Lee the pittance in royalties they’d have gotten if I’d bought it new, but they have only their label to blame. And anyway, I’ve already bought tickets to see them in two different cities in a couple weeks, so there. As for the album itself, I’ve given it a few listens and I think it’s a marvelous swan song. The live-off-the-floor production really gives it a warm, intimate vibe and start to finish, I’d say it’s their most consistent record since Penthouse. There’s even more excellent guitar work (read: solos!) than has been present on the last couple records. The two tracks that Sean takes vocals on are a real surprise – if you didn’t know it was him singing, you might just think that Dean had discovered a slightly different vocal style, they sound that similar. It’s a little odd to have “Astronaut” make another appearance, but it’s a slightly different version than the one on Close Cover Before Striking EP (I don’t know if it’s a remix of the original version or a new recording), but it fits well in the flow of the record album and is a truly kick-ass song, so it can stay. While I’m still sad that they’ve called it a day, I’m glad that they’ve gone out with such a strong record. Thanks, guys.

Wanna see a sneak preview of The Fantastic Four movie? Sure you do.

np – Luna / Rendezvous

Saturday, October 30th, 2004

Soft Revolution

Exclaim! dedicates their November cover to the history of Stars and the creation of their latest album, Set Yourself On Fire, which was released this past month in Canada and will be out in the rest of the world early next year. I don’t have a copy yet, but I hear it’s excellent – much more extroverted than Heart or Nightsongs. I will be sure to get a copy before I start assembling any year-end lists, however, as I suspect it’ll be worthy of consideration. I’ve just been spending waaaay too much money lately. Anyway, they’re on tour out west right now but will be back in Toronto in mid-December to play a show at the Mod Club. Details when I have ’em. And if you’re interested, you can see their performance for KCRW ‘s Morning Becomes Eclectic from last year here (RealVideo format).

I remember the first time I was introduced to Stars – it was at local Britpop/indie dance night Blow-Up at the old El Mocambo, at which I was a regular in my salad days. I think it must have been early 2000 or so (my memory ain’t what it used to be) and when my friends and I got to the ElMo, we were greeted with the odd sight of instruments set up on stage. There was a guitar, bass and keyboard and maybe a short rack of some description, but no drum kit. Since real bands have drums, there was some speculation that they were up there as props of some sort. Either way, no one seemed to know what was going on with them, and for the next couple hours people just danced around the instruments, surprisingly respectfully. Nothing got bumped or knocked over. At around 2AM, the DJ stopped the music and introduced the night’s ‘special guests’, a band from Montreal called Stars. I was intrigued, though I thought it was a terrible band name. A bunch of punters left immediately, perturbed at having their groove interrupted, but I stuck around for a bit to see what the deal was. Now this was waaay back in the band’s early days, so they were considerably, er, less polished than they are today. And wimpier. I stuck around for about four or five songs which didn’t make much of an impression and left after their cover of “This Charming Man”. Frankly, I didn’t think much of them, thought their singer was a bit of a dink and didn’t expect to hear from them again. Guess I was wrong.

NOW previews last night’s CD release show for Memphis, the side-project featuring Stars frontman Torquil Campbell and some other guy. Their debut record I Dreamed We Fell Apart came out at the end of August.

SubPop continues to bolster their roster with big names. Their newest signees? Sleater-Kinney. They start recording their next album next week with Dave Fridmann and hope for a late Spring/early Summer release.

Death Cab For Cutie are really getting into this whole political thing. Chris Walla talks to the Las Vegas Mercury and Nick Harmer talks to The GSU Signal about the whole activist-y deal. Links from LHB.

np – The Chameleons / What Does Anything Mean? Basically

Friday, October 29th, 2004

Sludgefeast

Merge has been extraordinarily tight-lipped about what we can expect from the Dinosaur Jr reissues it’s putting out next year. They’re giving the deluxe treatment to the three SST albums – Dinosaur, You’re Living All Over Me and Bug, and it’s known there will be bonus material but no info on what exactly that will entail. B-sides? Demos? Videos? Expanded liner notes? Photos of embaressing fashion crimes like this one? Apparently, yes. It’s encouraging that J and Lou are at least on civil terms these days. If they’re cooperating on assembling the materials, that’s good news for the fans. While we await further details, there is at least a finalized release date to report – all three albums will be coming out on March 22 of next year. Write it down.

I’ve been a big Dino Jr fan for ages, after all – any band that calls it’s best-of compilation Ear Bleeding Country is a-ok in my books. I don’t know if I’ll replace my copies of Bug and Living, though. Depends what the bonuses turn out to be. Personally, my favourite albums are from the tail-end of the Barlow years and the start of the Warner years. Bug through Where You Been, though “Feel The Pain” is still one of my favourite tunes to play really loud.

Back in the present, J Mascis and his Fog have been busy with some touring on both coasts (but not up here – don’t think I haven’t noticed, J), but no news on when we can expect the follow up to 2002’s Free So Free, and Merge will also be releasing Lou Barlow’s next solo record, Emoh, on January 25.

Glorious Noise takes a peak at Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing, the new biography of the late musician.

Tilly & The Wall justify their existance to The Onion AV Club. I would think their almost sickening cuteness would be reason enough.

Click here for live rarities from Leonard Cohen. If you were ever looking for the, uh, ‘circumcised’ version of “Chelsea Hotel”, you’re in luck. His latest album Dear Heather came out this past Tuesday.

Subpop is running a “Take photos of Subpop artists” contest to win a digital camera. Hmm, I’ve only got Rogue Wave and Iron & Wine pics to choose from, and there’s nothing really good in either gallery. Grumblecakes. Not that I need another digital camera, I just like to feel like a winner.

At a loss for what to dress up as for Hallowe’en? The Stranger has some timely suggestions.

np – Drive-By Truckers / Southern Rock Opera

Thursday, October 28th, 2004

Batter Up

Just in time for Hallowe’en, Geekent brings us the first good look at Christian Bale’s outfit for Batman Begins. Hrmm. Well, it’s probably a good thing he’s a creature of the night and all that. And I don’t see any nipples. Click here for the full-size pic, courtesy of Joblo.

Canadians are well-represented on MTV’s post-CMJ list of bands who live up to the hype – Four out of ten, not bad at all. Arcade Fire, Controller.Controller, Death From Above 1979 and The Dears all get shout-outs from the channel that still likes to pretend it has anything to do with music. From For The Records.

eye introduces Augie March to Toronto. The Aussie outfit will be at The 360 next Monday. I’ve heard very little of their stuff but will be in attendance, hoping to be impressed. Locals The Old Souls support.

NOW presents the winners of their annual “Best of Toronto” poll. The results for these things are always disappointing – the readers poll is inevitably predictable and depressingly lowest common denominator (HMV as best music store? Weep), but the critics picks are at least editorialized and rationalized. Their music picks are a nice little shout out to various personalities in the local music scene.

Congratulations to the Red Sox Nation on being World Champions. It’s been a long time coming. So does that officially make the Leafs the most pathetic team in sports?

Yeah, running a little late today. Going to be all over the GTA at meetings for the rest of the day. Sometimes work happens.

np – Luna / Bewitched

Wednesday, October 27th, 2004

The Peel Sessions

I have no John Peel story. I have no anecdote about a defining moment in my life when I heard the band that would alter reality for me on his radio show. In fact, I’ve never listened to his show. It wasn’t an option through the 80s or most of the 90s, and even if it was, I likely wouldn’t have known who he was. His name only started cropping up when I was university and actively broadening my musical horizons, particularly as I began discovering music coming from the UK.

The phrase “John Peel Sessions” became more commonplace as I sought out the more esoteric releases for the bands I was discovering. At first it didn’t even occur to me that it was in reference to a person – I thought it was a studio, or a place, like Maida Vale, a brand name or some sort of industry. It just seemed to be far too ubiquitous and pervasive to be an individual – but I was wrong. It turned out it was all of the above, but more than that, it was one man. A veritable institution who has left a legacy that’s awe-inspiring.

It’s impossible to try and concieve of what the independent and alternative music worlds, even the mainstream, would have looked like without his influence. So no, I have no stories. I only know that it’s impossible to overstate his importance in the history of all music that I hold dear, and now that he’s gone I just want to salute him and thank him and wish him safe journey.

Not surprisingly, tributes have been rolling in from everywhere:

  • BBC1 has his official obituary
  • NME, The Guardian, XFM and ITV gathered memorials from the artists who likely wouldn’t have had careers without him, whether directly or indirectly
  • Chart has assembled on of their usual “Ten Reasons…” obit, but this is one of the rare occasions that only ten seems so inadequate
  • The London News also goes the ‘top ten’ route
  • Pitchfork puts the snark away to remember the man
  • The message board for his radio show has naturally been overflowing with testaments from his listeners
  • And there’s just too many more to list – check out the Google News citations for more

The blogosphere has been paying tribute to the man – amongst the following links you’ll find essays, links to songs from his radio show, more articles trying to articulate his importance and his legacy and just some general tributes. Try to take the time to read through some of them if you can.

There are some archive sites dedicated to his show at Radio Plus and Peel Sessions.

Man.

Thanks to Eugene for sending me this bit of news from the merry land of Gedge, whose Wedding Present and Cinerama projects were both great favourites of Peel. In addition to a tribute to Peel from Dave Gedge, they mention the first Wedding Present single in seven years, Interstate 5, will be coming out in the UK on November 8 to be followed by a new album, Take Fountain, in early 2005. The Cinerama DVD Get Up And Go will also be getting a North American release on November 16.

Chart finds out why The Delgados have ratcheted up the happy on Universal Audio.

Ask and thou shalt receive – iTunes is coming to Canada in November. I wonder how much tracks will cost?

Sterogum caps off the Ashlee Simpson madness with a brilliant Photoshop contest. You have to see it to appreciate it. Now please God let this be the end of Ashlee Simpson mentions on my site – I’m getting far far far too many references from Google for search strings like “Ashlee Simpson” and “Saturday Night Live”. Not that that last sentence is going to help matters any. Urrrrgggh.

Oh, and I was right yesterday – no one in town had Luna’s Rendezvous.

np – Ted Leo & The Pharmacists / Shake The Sheets