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Archive for January, 2005

Monday, January 31st, 2005

Love And Some Verses

Splendid talks to Sam Beam about the going-ons in Iron & Wine-land, including a couple soundtrack appearances and a new EP, Woman King, coming out February 22. There will also be an east coast tour this Spring, hopefully with a Toronto show and hopefully without the presence of Crazy Shrieking Girls #1 and #2. Anyone who was at the show at the Horseshoe last June knows who I’m talking about. Torr has available for download “The Trapeze Swinger”, the nine-and-a-half minute tune that Beam contributed to the In Good Company soundtrack. It’s lovely. Myself, I’ve got some good Iron & Wine stuff lined up for my mp3 of the week in weeks to come, so come back later.

JAM! previews Back To Me, the sophomore effort from Ottawa alt.country sweetheart Kathleen Edwards, due out March 1.

Long-rumoured and now confirmed, The Cocteau Twins have reunited to play Coachella this May. Legendary 80s bands reuniting for Coachella seems to be the ‘in’ thing to do these days (Pixies used to be broken up, remember?). Whether this is a one-off deal or a longer-term dealie, we’ll have to see. The rest of the Coachella lineup is pretty impressive too, but the idea of standing around in the desert for two days… just not doing it for me.

Popmatters interviews Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis. From Largehearted Boy.

Stylus should re-name their site, “List Central”. Currently, they’ve got what they call “A Non-Definitive Guide To Movies About Music” and Top 10 TV Themes of All-Time. Amazingly, there is nothing by Mike Post on their list – I thought he wrote, like, everything. Hill Street Blues, man. I used to be able to play that on the piano. Back when I knew how to play piano.

Yes, I’ve given in and put a Bloggies banner up in the corner. Come on, everyone else is lobbying, I may as well do some subtle gladhanding. Anyway, it’ll be gone by Friday, don’t worry.

Steve Holt!

np – January / Motion Sickness

Sunday, January 30th, 2005

Sunday Comics

Let’s talk comics. I do like my comics.

Merckeda asked in the comments a few days ago what I thought about Jeff Smith’s Bone. Short answer, I loved it. I had bought a couple of the trade paperbacks a few years ago, but didn’t get around to getting the rest of them. Good thing too, because last Summer after the series concluded, they released the wonderful 1300-page single-volume collection. Bone is an old-school fantasy story with lost princesses, heroic woodland creatures, ancient dragons and stupid, stupid rat creatures. Filled with action, humour, warmth, great characters and storytelling, it’s remarkable in that it’s suitable for all ages but is never cloying or ‘kiddified’. It comes with my highest recommendation. Originally presented in black and white, they’ve begun releasing colourized editions of each of the original trade paperback collections. I’d like to take a look through one of these, but I don’t feel that the story suffered one iota for the monochrome presentation – Smith’s strong clean artwork worked really well in that format.

I’ve also started reading through the entire run of what you could call the anti-Bone, Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s Transmetropolitan. Rude, cynical and insanely funny at times, I can see why Vic has been agitating me to read the series for years now – Spider Jerusalem is one true bastard. The series started out as little more than a soapbox for Ellis to rant and ruminate on society and technology, but has thankfully developed a larger-scale narrative to carry the series through. It’s quite addictive – I’m about halfway through the series and I expect to be done in another couple days.

Also highly recommended is Brian K Vaughan’s and Tony Harris’ Ex Machina. Easily one of the best new titles of last year, it’s the story of an ex-superhero turned mayor of New York City. It manages the rare feat of being very “talky” yet never boring. There are some conventional action sequences shown in flashback to the mayor’s heroing days as The Great Machine (he can talk to and control any type of machinery), but much of the story is set in present-day (or a few years before present-day) and deals with current events. It’s far less preachy than it sounds, really. But then, I like The West Wing too. The first five issues of the series have just been collected as Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days and is selling for the immensely reasonable price of $12.20 at Amazon (the US cover is $9.95). Definitely worth checking out.

Vaughan is also the writer on Y – The Last Man, which takes far far far too long to come out in paperback form.

And a final Vertigo note, I recently went through all of Bill Willingham’s Fables. I bought the first trade a couple years ago and didn’t really get into it, but upon second visit, I now appreciate its cleverness and charm. I think the first time around, I was put off by how “straight” they were playing the story of fairy tale characters driven from their homeland and forced to live in New York City – I was too used to how Neil Gaiman had handled fairy tales in Sandman, as high fantasy and ancient lore. Willingham is much more down-to-earth in his approach, and now that I get it, it works. And anything with Mark Buckingham artwork is always great.

I got Craig Thompson’s Blankets from the library the other day. Haven’t started reading it, don’t even really know what it’s about, but I’ve seen some good press on it. It looks very emo.

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s feature film Mirrormask made its debut at the Sundance film festival this past week. It’s still unclear if this will be getting a theatrical release, even limited, or go straight to DVD, but I’m hoping that good press can net it some big-screen release. The Salt Lake Tribune looked at the making of the $4-million dollar fantasy film and the official website has a new trailer online now.

The BBC recently conducted an interview with Alan Moore – you can listen to it on their site or read the transcript at Comic Book Resources. And speaking of Moore’s work, pre-production continues on the film adaptation of Watchmen, now being directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy), so expect casting rumours/news to start pretty soon. The Beat is excited. And while it’s old news, Natalie Portman has been cast in the adaptation of V For Vendetta, directed by the Wachowski Brothers. I had thought that after the Matrix debacle, they’d never work again. Guess I was wrong. Achtung Baby did a comparison a little while back of the trade paperback cover and the teaser movie poster. If they can stay this faithful to the source material through the whole process, this could be something good.

The so-aweseome-my-head-explodes Justice League Unlimited wrapped up their third season this weekend with the conclusion of “The Once And Future Thing” (Hal Jordan! Hal Jordan!!!), and will be starting their fourth season this coming Saturday. Why they call the first 13 episodes one season and the next 13 episodes following right after a second season, I have no idea. But as long as they keep making em, I’m not complaining. Comics Continuum has a sneak peek at what’s to come.

Ever wonder just where Gotham City and Metropolis were? DC Atlas has the answers – New Jersey and Deleware, respectively. I don’t know, Batman just got far less cool in my estimation. I just can’t picture the Batmobile tooling around with plates that say, “The Garden State”.

np – Bettie Serveert / Attagirl

Saturday, January 29th, 2005

Radio, Live Transmission

Check out this week’s edition of CBC Radio 3 for a master list of their past 102 radio sessions (and some live concert sets). The recent Arcade Fire has already spread around the interweb like ebola, but there’s scads more in the vaults. It’s not just the music that’s worthwhile, but the presentation is terrific – the essays and photos that accompany the sessions really enhance the experience. Is it wrong that this is one of the things that makes me most proud to be Canadian? Nuts to universal health care, I want my tax dollars to go towards bringing the rock, thank you very much. There’s truly an embarrassment of riches here, I can’t even start naming names of who they’ve got there – but I will say that the Sigur Ros and Feist sets are fine places to start. Go now and marvel.

American Music Club has released a live album recorded at the Rex Theatre in Pittsburgh in November of last year. A Toast To You is available off their website for $10 plus shipping, they also have the tracklisting. It’s good to see “Amusing Interlude #2” finally make it onto a CD, but I’m still hoping for a studio version.

Mercury Rev’s The Secret Migration, released in the UK this past Monday, has a North American street date of May 3. Initial reviews are good.

I always like it when a new issue of Exclaim! hits the streets (and web) – more content to post. Case in point – the Feb issue brings us a couple short pieces on M83 (article), Low ((article) and a cover feature on Bright Eyes (article).

Junkmedia talks to Wilco axeman Nels Cline about balancing his solo projects and being a member of Wilco. And tangentially, Drag City has confirmed that 2005 will see a second Loose Fur album.

I was in the mood for a little stupid at the video store yesterday, and so came home with Anchorman. Whole lotta stupid there, but I was in the right mindset so it was laugh out loud funny for most of it, particularly the news team rumble. I would have liked it if it were even more over the top than it was, but that’s just me.

Can’t think of a better way to start the weekend than having an order of music waiting for me in the mailbox. I’ll be spending the next few days getting acquainted with the sounds of January’s Motion Sickness and the self-titled releases from On! Air! Library! and Pacific UV. Expect some commentary in the next little while.

np – On! Air! Library! / On! Air! Library!

Friday, January 28th, 2005

Where'd You Learn To Kiss That Way?

Someone over on the Merge message board recently posted the challenge, “Without using “belle and sebastian” or “camera obscura” define twee”. I hope he wasn’t really trying to play stump the chump, because there’s a dead simple answer to that one – The Field Mice.

The band most closely identified with the Sarah Records label, London’s Field Mice pretty much laid the template for wispy, depressing and sensitive UK pop music – without them, you could argue that there would be no Belle & Sebastian or Camera Obscura (and some would argue that that would be a better world, but we’ll ignore those mean people). Long a favourite of the cardigan-wearing crowd, their sound went beyond acoustic mope music, creatively integrating electronic elements into their sound and even rocking out once in a while – they did own electric guitars and distortion pedals, although they likely stepped on them very very gently. Mostly a singles band, the band’s three albums have just been expanded and reissued. I’ve got the Where’d You Learn To Kiss That Way double disc compilation which I think encompasses almost everything they put out – I don’t think there’s anything else on the albums that I especially need to have.

I like the Field Mice, but am also a fan of their latest incarnation, Trembling Blue Stars. Formed after lead Mouse Bobby Wratten split up with fellow Field Mouse keyboardist Annemari Davies, the fallout from this breakup provided Wratten with plenty of songwriting material. The outfit released one album of breakup songs, and then in what may be the most masochistic personnel move in the history of indie rock, Wratten enlisted Davies to sing backup on the band’s next two records – she was singing songs written by him about her breaking up with him. Davies left the band after that, and a new lineup was assembled for Alive To Every Smile, which featured a much more upbeat and lively sound which I quite liked. Since then, they put out A Certain Evening Light, a compilation of rarities, in 2003, and a new studio album, Seven Autumn Flowers, just came out domestically this month. I mean to pick it up eventually.

Alive To Every Smile came out in North America on SubPop, of all places, and their microsite for the album is still up, as is the sample mp3 of the first TBS song I heard and the one that absolutely hooked me – “The Ghost Of An Unkissed Kiss”. Check it out:

MP3: Trembling Blue Stars – “The Ghost Of An Unkissed Kiss”

And for some Field Mice samples, the ever-helpful MP3.com is a good place to start.

And speaking of Camera Obscura, I was surprised to notice on their website a message from last December that co-lead vocalist John Henderson is no longer with the band. Despite this loss, work a new record continues, presumably with Tracyanne taking on all vocal duties. A shame, their voices worked quite nicely together.

Ryan Adams fans will be pleased to see he hasn’t curbed his prodigious output one bit – he will be releasing no less than three albums in 2005: Cold Roses, a double album recorded with his current backing band The Cardinals, is out April 19, and 29 and Jacksonville will follow at some point later in the year with touring to follow. Some samples from one of the records can be heard on his website.

MusicTap has the low-down on the next three Cure deluxe reissues, Seventeen Seconds, Faith and Pornography. These should be out in April.

Maybe it’s just the cosmos lined up against me, but it seems that every time Canadian Music Week rolls around, my concert is already filled up, usually with non-CMW events no less. This year, I’ve got three shows in five nights spread across CMW weekend (Ambulance Ltd on March 2, Steve Earle on March 4 and Keren-Ann on March 6). Technically, I have two open nights, but I seriously question whether I’ll have the energy to make it five nights in a row of show-going.

However, now that the CMW schedule seems to be finalized, I can at least make a list of shows I would consider going to if I did have the constitution of a younger man:

Thursday, March 3:

A Northern Chorus, Damon & Naomi @ The El Mocambo

Justin Rutledge @ The Rivoli

The Remains of Brian Borcherdt @ The 360

Friday, March 4:

Hinterland @ Clinton’s

SS Cardiacs @ Rockit

Great Lake Swimmers @ Healy’s

Friday Morning’s Regret @ Holy Joe’s

Magneta Lane @ The Horseshoe

Tahiti 80 @ The Reverb

Saturday, March 5:

Gentleman Reg @ The Comfort Zone

The Telepathic Butterflies, The Frontier Index @ Healy’s

Jay Bennett @ Lee’s Palace

Not a bad lineup at all, I may well end up going to something on the Thursday or the Saturday, but there will be no club hopping. Note – this is not a recommended schedule, just a laundry list. I’m sure it’s logistically impossible to hit every one of these performances.

24 fans who tried to call the number displayed for dead Debbie’s mom a few episodes ago might have found themselves talking to Carlos Bernard (Tony), Reiko Aylesworth (Michelle) and Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe). Because since they’re no longer in the show, they have nothing better to do than answer the phone and talk to obsessive fans (bugmenot: wow@mail.com / sowhat).

np – Ride / Waves

Thursday, January 27th, 2005

Pot Kettle Black

One of the most obnoxious trends in music right now is the habit of re-releasing a successful album six months down the road with some bonus attached, be it an EP or a DVD or whatever. I don’t care how you try to justify it, it’s a cash grab and a slap in the face to the fans who would want the bonuses since they’ve almost certainly already bought the original issue. I hardly think there’s anyone out there who were on the fence about getting the album, but now that there’s a bonus disc they’re convinced. It’s flat out insulting to the fans, and any artist who goes along with such a marketing plan is diminished in my eyes for doing so.

So you can imagine my disappointment when Pitchfork reported yesterday that Wilco was re-releasing A Ghost Is Born on March 7 with a bonus 5-song EP containing import bonus track “Kicking Television”, three live tracks and the heretofore unreleased “Panthers”, which has been floating around online in live versions for some time now. How could it be that the band that had been so generous to their fans two years ago in giving away the More Like The Moon EP online was now going along with one of the most egregious music marketing tactics of recent times?

Well as it turns out, there was no reason to doubt – Rolling Stone had more of the story than Pitchfork, revealing that the songs on the bonus EP were once again going to be made available for free from Wilcoworld for those who had previously bought copies of Ghost as of March 7. And to top it all off, they’re also releasing deluxe vinyl editions of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born on March 8. We will never again doubt that Wilco is a band that does right by its fanbase. Amen.

But since we’re on the topic, here’s an mp3 ripped from their recent Austin City Limits broadcast, courtesy of the folks at Via Chicago – it’s a beautiful version and Nels Cline contributes a ripping solo.

MP3: Wilco – “Ashes Of American Flags (ACL)”

Look at that – 27 days into the new year before my first Wilco post. Who won the pool?

Matador reports that that other Canadian pop supergroup, The New Pornographers, are in the studio working on their third album and hope to have it handed in to the label my mid-March with an eye towards a late Summer/early Fall release. Says mainman Carl Newman,

“Various unintentional influences have crept into our work, some of which are quickly removed: The Moody Blues, Tubeway Army, Wings, always Wings, never The Beatles, Eno of course, you can’t play ebow without sounding like Eno, Modern English, middle period post-Gabriel Genesis, The Stranglers, the vocal inflections on “Dreadlock Holiday” remain a steady influence, we’re still trying to find a way to insert some dub/white reggae in the mix, just as an intellectual exercise, to see if we can do it without being dropped from the label. I know it sounds awful but it will all work out.”

Half of Squeeze, the half named Glenn Tilbrook, brings his solo act to the Mod Club on April 17.

Interpol aren’t coming to Toronto on the next leg of their Antics tour, but they are going to be in Niagara Falls, NY on March 10, if you feel like a road trip. Do some factory outlet shopping, see some Interpol, you know – the usual. Q And Not U support.

Here are my photos from Tuesday’s Broken Social Scene show. The lighting was really dire and getting anything resembling a true colour was damn near impossible, so I’ve processed them all in black and white. It gives me a lot more latitude to crank levels and I think the end result still looks pretty sharp – I may go the B&W route more often from now on, particularly when light is at a premium. And they also contrast nicely with the shots from their show last August, which were some of the most colourful pics I’ve taken yet (hooray for well-lit outdoor stages). I actually nearly got turned away at the door for having my camera with me – that’s never happened at Lee’s before, I hope it’s not going to become a standing policy. However, I convinced the doorman to let me go and check the camera at the coat check instead of walking home in the snow and back. Much to my surprise, there wasn’t actually a coat check open, so I just walked in. Huh.

The BBC covers The Bloggies, the website for which is now back up with enough bandwidth to allow you to peruse and vote. Vote for me in “Best Canadian” and vote for Largehearted Boy, from whom I got the link, in “Best Entertainment”. And Vote for Pedro. Update: …Aaaaand they’re down again. My goodness.

np – Camera Obscura / Underachievers Please Try Harder