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Archive for March, 2005

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

Nothing But The Sky

When Ivy announced that their new album, In The Clear, would be a return to the more organic, guitar-based sound of Apartment Life rather than the slicked-up synths of Long Distance, I was happy to hear it. I’m a big fan of their first two records, but found the third release to be overproduced and overly stiff. Alas, In The Clear is not the album I was hoping for. Yes, there are more guitars – it actually sounds a fair bit like the Andy Chase/Dominique Durand side-project Paco – but the production is still fairly shellac-like. And I mean that like the varnish, not the band.

Ivy’s sophisticated pop has always been distinctly urban, so perhaps the best analogy is that while the first records were the sound of a wide-eyed newcomer to the city, the last couple of releases have been the soundtracks to the lifestyle of the posh sophisticate. Still quite lovely, but comparatively slight and superficial. I’m certainly not going to turn the socialite, but all things being equal, I’d rather hang out with the ingenue without all the make-up. Reviews for the disc have been generally favourable, though, making me think that maybe I had greater expectations for this record than most.

Still, I remain a fan and live in hope that they will recapture the spontenaity of their youth and still look forward to the eventual release of their rarities compilation (maybe even moreso now) either later this year or early next year. In the meantime, the band is touring the new record and currently have dates scheduled up the west coast through May. I’m expecting east coast appearances later this Summer. It’s also good to see that they’ve made all their old videos available on their website in decent quality.

Ryan Adams sure knows how to drive a hard bargain. In favour of going to his May 3 show at the Kool Haus (there was a conflict with another show at the Phoenix that night, hence the venue change), his support act will be Rachael Yamagata, who also contributed vocals to his new one Cold Roses. On the nay side, the $30 price tag. For me, the nays have it, but it’ll be a good show nonetheless. Tix on sale Friday.

It will be interesting to see what sort of crowd turns out to see Loretta Lynn at Massey Hall on July 22 – the old-school country fans or the hipster-come-latelys who own Van Lear Rose and are really just hoping that Jack White makes an appearance? I personally hope for both. And that they fight. In the streets.

The Opera House threatens to collapse under the weight of all the hype on May 21 when LCD Soundsystem and MIA entertain the hipsters. And non-hipsters can get their rawk on at the Phoenix on May 11 with The Stereophonics and Augustana.

So, like the comics fanboy I am, I dashed out and bought Countdown To Infinite Crisis yesterday, it being the latest in DC’s unverse-altering ultra-mega crossovers. I’ll put my thoughts in spoilers just in case someone hasn’t read it yet and intends to: Man, I LIKED Blue Beetle. Like, a lot. I was all about the Giffen/DeMatties JLA and am genuinely sad by how much DC is messing with it. Killing Sue Dibney, killing Blue Beetle, evil Maxwell Lord… I mean, from the previews it was obvious that Teddy-boy bought the farm, but still. I am genuinely saddened by that, more than I thought I’d be. All this makes the publication of Formerly Known As The Justice League last year and the I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League storyline currently running in JLA Classified seem exceptionally cruel. I swear, the payoff for all this better be worthwhile.

np – Pulp / We Love Life

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

Yerself Is Steam

Why is it that movie coupons always seem to expire in the weeks when there’s really nothing in theatres that you want to see? Anyway, one such expiring coupon had me at the Carlton yesterday afternoon to see Steamboy. It’s the new film from Katsuhiro Otomo, director of Akira, and his first animated feature in 16 years. Now I recognize Akira as a masterpiece of Japanese animation, etc etc, but to be honest? I never got it. I’ve seen it a couple times and I try to keep up but by 2/3 of the way through, all it is to me is Neo-Tokyo blowing up and some kid riding a motorcycle around screaming, “TETSUO!!!!”. It certainly offered plenty of eye candy but I found it incomprehensible. Which is why I didn’t have that high of expectations going into Steamboy, but as I said – coupons were a-wasting.

However, I am pleased to report that I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a steampunk tale set in Victorian England during the London during the first World’s Fair, with three generations of inventors in conflict about how to apply their scientific discoveries to the world. Okay, that sounds a little dry, but plot-wise that’s about the size of it. It’s actually quite light in the narrative department, lacking the philosophical and dramatic heft of the best of anime, but it does have lots of loud whiz-bang – and sometimes that’s just what you need.

Most of the film is solid fight scenes as an arms race erupts and spills over into battle on the fairgrounds, destroying large swaths of London. As expected, the story does start to fracture as the film moves along, but it doesn’t cross that line into “what the hell?” like its predecessor did. The voice acting from Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina and Anna Paquin (as the male hero, for whatever reason) is decent enough though there’s not really a lot of character depth for them to try and convey. The animation and visuals are excellent and the ultra-modern 19th century technology designs and overall attention to detail are stunning. The film as a whole is good fun – not a milestone in animation or storytelling, but certainly enjoyable. Note – I saw the 106 minute North American cut, apparently the director’s cut runs an extra 20 minutes. However this is one of the rare instances where I doubt that anything really crucial was excised and the shorter version is probably better.

You like the sludge rock? Sure you do. Comets On Fire are at Lee’s Palace on June 19. BYOB – Bring your own bong.

Buzz Magazine talks to Fred Smith about Saturday Looks Good To Me and making Every Night, as well as giving a sneak peak to the next record – a double album of half boy songs (“messed up and what’s wrong with you kind of songs”) and half girl songs (“Happy, stompy, fuzzy girl-pop”), due out next year.

The official name of the Son Volt collection will be A Retrospective: 1995-2000. It’s out May 24. Still looking for a complete tracklist, but it will run 20 track and include a version of Woody Guthrie’s “I’ve Got To Know”, Del Reeves’ “Looking at the World Through a Windshield” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Open All Night”.

I just discovered Paste magazine and going through their past feature, I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll point you to their pieces on Shivaree, Low, Bright Eyes and Kathleen Edwards, but after that you gotta wade through their archives yourself.

Still bored? The plough through this fairly comprehensive library of videos, streaming audio and multimediary goodies at Prefix.

np – The Meeting Places / Find Yourself Along The Way

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Yeah We Know

Billboard reports that the resurrected Dinosaur Jr will make their television debut on The Late Late Show on April 15 and I believe the first official performance of the reunion? I think we can be assured they’ll play something OLD. I doubt I’ll stay up to watch it, I’m an old man, I need my sleep, but I’ll certainly try to track it down after the fact. Still no word on North American tour dates, but doing anything on this continent is certainly a start. You may note, however, that there is now a DinosaurJr.com, for all your reunion needs. The reissues of the first three albums came out last week courtesy of the good people at Merge.

Ze Arcade Fire grace the cover of the Canadian edition of Time this week (See cover here, via Arcadefire.net, courtesy me), and the accompanying story uses the band as a case study for examining the indie scene in Canada as well as previewing their picks for the most-anticipated independnet Canuck releases of 2005 and a couple of primers on what it is to be “indie” including an essay by Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning on the unbearable lightness of indie. What’s not online (and the feature will probably only be available for a week or two) is their “Five That Matter” piece, which picks Metric, Stars, The Organ, Death From Above 1979 and The Dears as the next big things to bust out of Canada. Of course, depending on what your frame of reference is, you could argue all five of these acts already HAVE busted out, but from Time’s POV, they’re probably sensible picks. I like how they’re mostly from all across Canada (though the Maritimes does get shut out) except Metric, who wave the ex-pat, no fixed address flag. Thanks to Arcadefire.net for the info. I’ll have your copy of the magazine in the mail this week.

CMJ has a sort of feature/review on NME reports that The Tears have pushed back the release of Here Come The Tears from May 2 to sometime in June.

Miss Modern Age points us at a cover of Blondie’s “Call Me” done by two guys I’ve never heard of and Saturday Look’s Good To Me’s divine Betty Marie Barnes. Totally lo-fi but totally awesome.

I’ve got a review of Matt Mays & El Torpedo’s new self-titled album over at Torontoist. Mays was NOW’s cover artist this week and is at the Horseshoe tonight for a free CD release show.

Ain’t It Cool is declaring that the villain in Spider-Man 3 will be Sandman. That’s… a little disappointing. While Thomas Haden Church would be a good fit for the part, Sandman seems so b-list. If this is the last Spidey movie, it’d have been good to see him go up against someone epic. Like Galactus.

So I’d pretty much given up watching Alias this season, I just fell behind too many episodes what with it being on opposite The West Wing and it really didn’t grab my interest after the first three episodes or so, too much of the same old same old. But now Soaring With Eagles points me to this TV Guide letters column where they confirm that they’ve finally convinced Lena Olin to return on May 25 for the season finale as Sydney’s supposedly-dead, probably-still-evil, awesome-nonetheless mother. MAN. So, do I just ignore it all and wait for the season 4 DVD this Fall? Or fire up bit torrent and try and catch up? I mean, West Wing is done after next week, so I could watch the last two months of Alias in real time… Hmm. Oh yeah, can anyone reassure me that this season doesn’t actually suck? That’s also a key factor.

24, back on schedule. Aaaah. Talk talk talk. Come on, I was promised scenes of violence that would be disturbing to some. DISTURBING! Jack’s kick-fu while chained to a wall doesn’t do it. Did they mean the mini-scalping of Behruz off-camera? That’s not disturbing. Nice touch with the stealth fighter – anyone want to lay bets what the endgame plan for that doodad is? There’s the obvious scenario, of course… just where is Air Force One right now anyway? Though I hear that thing’s got mad evasive skills… But I digress. Not as exciting an episode as I’d hoped, but what’re you gonna do. As as an afterthought… I wonder how many people Curtis gets to torture in a regular day?

np – Pinback / Summer In Abaddon

Monday, March 28th, 2005

Calendar Girl

Splendid talks to Amy Millan of Stars about the duality of the Canadian thang and her solo record Honey From The Tombs, which is supposed to be out this Summer (I’d heard June). Synergy Magazine also talks to Amy about this and that.

Stars are touring across Canada as part of the Exclaim! tour and Amy plays a solo show May 6 at the Poor Alex in Toronto as part of Over The Top. I think the Exclaim! show is sold out (though maybe not quite yet) while ducats for Amy’s solo show go on sale this Thursday for $13. Also, you can stream the band’s performance on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic from last Wednesday – thanks to Brooklynvegan for the pointer. Set Yourself On Fire just got release in the US a few weeks ago, and so far reviews have been quite positive. And I’ve already talked about them conquering SxSW last week, so I won’t go there again.

BV also links to this Dutch site with a stream of a live Feist performance from 2004. I like how they describe her as “Alternative Norah Jones”. No wait, I don’t.

The Great Lake Swimmers will be playing an instore at Soundscapes at 6pm this Thursday (March 31). It’s probably just Tony Dekker solo, which is how he’ll be performing whilst opening for Crooked Fingers at the Horseshoe that night. Their new album Bodies And Minds came out a couple weeks ago and they’ll be performing a CD release show at the Music Gallery on April 2 though it is damn close to if not already sold out.

As for the headliners of that show, CMJ asks Eric Bachmann about sex, Skynyrd and bullfighting while Junkmedia just asks him about the new album, Dignity and Shame. Booooring. Also, Eastern Fiction has released a new 7″ Crooked Fingers single recorded live on their last tour opening for The Delgados. Both sides are taken from Dignity and Shame, the a-side is a duet with The Delgados’ Emma Pollack. The recording, done live to minidisc, is a little crackly in parts but the perfomance is quite excellent.

The new Fruit Bats album Spelled In Bones will be out on SubPop July 26.

Stylus looks to improve on perfection, coming up with a new tracklisting/order for Wilco’s Being There.

I ended up getting my Doves ticket this weekend after all – while Rotate downtown was sold out, Sonic Temple way up in North York still had a stack almost an inch thick and yet were completely sold out of Weezer tickets. Hooray for the suburbs.

Newsarama talks to creator Frank Miller about Sin City.

np – Kathleen Edwards / Back To Me

Sunday, March 27th, 2005

The Sky Is Falling

Odd as it may sound, one of my best SxSW musical discoveries didn’t come from seeing a band play. When doing some last-minute showcase browsing before heading to Austin last week, I came across The Oktober People, a four-piece from Albequerque, New Mexico. Liking the samples I heard from the SxSW guide, I added them to my “maybe” list but didn’t end up catching them as they were on the same time as Dirty On Purpose. However, when I went to catch Experimental Aircraft’s day show on Friday, the label sponsoring the show was giving out a whack of free CDs, The Oktober People’s self-titled album amongst them. Since the name seemed familiar, though I don’t remember what I liked about them, I grabbed a copy and went on my way.

Now let’s be honest – usually when someone hands you a free CD, the odds of it actually impressing are pretty slim. So when I finally popped it into my CD player at the airport on Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself very impressed with what I was hearing. Musically, their serpentine, echoed guitar lines and loping bass melodies recall Mogwai and Explosions In The Sky, and while the loud-quiet dynamic is present, it’s not the punchline. There’s also some Verve-like atmospherics enevloping everything and many of the songs have vocals that keep them fairly grounded in more conventional song structures rather than multi-movement compositions (though some do approach epic-length). The quality of those vocals – somewhat frail and spidery, like Deserters Songs-era Mercury Rev – work perfectly with the music. There’s nothing blazingly original in the ingredients that The Oktober People work with, but the end result is quite stunning nonetheless. If you couldn’t tell, I’m quite taken with their work.

I don’t regret my decision to go see Dirty On Purpose last Thursday night at all, but I do wish I’d somehow been able to have been in two places at once. Since The Oktober People seem to rarely tour outside their native Southwest, so the odds of them finding their way up here by any means other than getting horribly horribly lost are pretty slim… but at least I’ve got the record. You can sample some of their self-titled debut at the band’s MySpace page, or start off with this one (from their own website):

MP3: The Oktober People – “The Sky Is Falling”.

Go, discover.

Am I the only one who had no idea that The Decemberists had a Purevolume page that includes a handful of mp3 rarities for free download? So everyone who’s been writing to me to get their “Human Behaviour” cover, go there instead. And while you’re waiting for the files to transfer, check out these interviews with Colin Meloy at Seattle Weekly wherein they play jukebox (via TMFTML) and The New York Daily News (via LHB).

Seattle’s Crystal Skulls will be supporting The Wedding Present on the first leg of their North American tour, including their April 26 show at Lee’s Palace.

As I’m currently trying to come up with a band name, The Guardian offers some suggestions on band names – the best and the weirdest. I’m taking notes.

The Guardian also has this piece on SxSW and what it means for UK bands looking to make it on this side of the Atlantic.

np – Guided By Voices / Half Smiles Of The Decomposed