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Archive for June, 2005

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

The Kindness Of Strangers

Cheers to Toronto’s own Arts & Crafts doing their part to strengthen relations with our neighbours to the south by giving Austin’s American Analog Set a much-deserved record deal. According to Pitchfork, A&C will release AmAnSet’s Set Free in North America on September 20 (Morr Music handles distro duties in Europe and release the album there on September 6). I hope this means that the Set will have good reason to come up north and play some shows – like picking up their paycheques. The current plan has the band traversing the globe in support of the new album through the Fall, with east coast North American dates in Novermber/December. Photo from Twinhorse.

You can read an interview with AmAnSet mainman Andrew Kenney from Comes With A Smile here, and check out their tour journal for logs of their recent jaunt to Taiwan. And here’s a track from the new album:

MP3: The American Analog Set – “Immaculate Heart i”

Death Cab For Cutie’s major-label debut Plans has been bumped up a couple weeks from its original September 20 street date and will now be out on August 30. Pitchfork has details.

Chart scored some time with Keren Ann between her Jazz Festival and Olympic Island shows in Toronto this past weekend.

Some shows – A couple of UK buzz bands are coming to town: Manchester’s Nine Black Alps are at the El Mocambo on July 14, and Clash devotees Hard-Fi are at the Mod Club on July 21. Sweden’s Shout Out Louds continue to tour their debut album Howl Howl Gaff Gaff with a headlining show at Lee’s Palace on August 4. Chicago’s Redwalls support. And Neva Dinova have cancelled their July 18 show at the Horseshoe in favour of opening up for Jason Lowenstein at Lee’s Palace on the 19th. That Nine Black Alps gig is going on my calendar – I got one of their 7″s a while back, and now that I can listen to it (see below), it’s pretty damn good. Check out their MySpace for samples.

The upcoming week in shows at Torontoist, courtesy of me.

Google Earth freaks me out with its awesomeness. I zoomed right in on my parents’ house and could see the deck and the new cobblestone driveway. And their disapproving looks. Sigh. Yes mom, I’ll do the dishes.

Oh, and speaking of analog, my vinyl journey appears over. I scored a really really good deal on a used Rega Planar 2 turntable and it arrived yesterday. It’s maybe 25 years old but is in immaculate shape. It took me a little bit to get the tonearm set up properly (assuming I’ve done it properly) but it works and sounds great – and most importantly, the Saturday Looks Good To Me LP doesn’t skip! Huzzah. So now I’ll be doubly easy to find – if I’m not rooting through the used CD bins, I’ll be digging through old vinyl (or maybe I should just buy this guy’s collection). Sweetness. But it’s weird… after long last, my stereo setup is done. Finis. At least until my income goes up an order of magnitude, anyway. But what am I supposed to do now… LISTEN to music? What fun is that?

np – British Sea Power / Open Season

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Landing On Water

In a commendable but too-late effort to save Saturday’s Toronto/Barrie Live 8 show from TOTAL farce-ness, Neil Young, who performed at the original Live Aid in 1985 (as pictured here), has been added to the bill as show closer. He will not be appearing with Crazy Horse, but the Fisk University Jubilee Choir who will perform the one-note solo from “Cinnamon Girl” a capella, choral-style. I have to wonder if they’d been trying to get Neil from the start or if his addition was in response to the chorus of naysayers? Probably the former, but I’ll let myself believe the latter.

Either way, it’s going to be good to see Neil back out and about. He’s had a bit of a rough time of it lately, what with that brain aneurysm back in April and his father passing away earlier this month. He’s still keeping busy, though – in addition to working on his umpteenth album, the follow-up to Greendale, he’s also filming a concert video with director Jonathan Demme over the course of a five-night stand in August at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

Meanwhile, back to Live 8 for a moment, Tom Cochrane thinks critics of the bill should shut up. In other news, no one cares what Tom Cochrane thinks, but eye and Pop (All Love) have taken the time to respond.

Bob Dylan is the latest artist to buy into the insidious Starbucks-only release game. The coffee shop will be the only place you can get a copy of Bob Dylan: Live at the Gaslight 1962, which compiles live recordings from very early on in Dylan’s career. It will be released on August 30 and won’t be available anywhere else for at least 18 months. Also coming out on the 30th but available everywhere is No Direction Home: the Soundtrack, the seventh volume in the consistently excellent Bootleg Series. The Scorcese-helmed documentary it accompanies will debut on PBS in late September. More info at Billboard.

Okay, enough with the old dudes. Here’s some sort-of old dudes – Aversion talks to The Posies about the inevitabilty of their reunion and Every Kind Of Light, which came out on Tuesday. From For The Records.

And now, all the young dudes. Bradley’s Almanac has most of a live set from Dirty On Purpose’s Boston show a couple weeks ago available to download. And it seems a little silly to congratulate the band on their first Pitchfork news item, but I will anyways.

eMusic talks to Colin Meloy of The Decemberists about this and that and this.

Largehearted Boy gets my favourite pop culture pundit, Chuck Klosterman, to put together a theoretical mix tape to tie in with his new book, Killing Yourself to Live : 85% of a True Story, which came out yesterday and which the Toronto library does not even have on order. Boooo.

The Incredible Hulk is sick of Tom Cruise. Hulk smash puny actor!

np – Frontier Index / Frontier Index

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

Watching The Detectives

To everyone who told me that it would be worth my while to watch Veronica Mars, I thank you. Being an avowed fan of the “sassy girl” television genre, it definitely hit the spot. So much so that after seeing the first few episodes, I was going to be damned if I was going to wait through CTV’s pokey one-a-week airing schedule and so I downloaded the whole of season one a couple weeks ago and pretty much powered through them in a weekend. Don’t judge me. It was so worth it.

The show combines a season-long plotline about solving the murder of Veronica’s best friend with individual single episode-mysteries, generally set in the local high school, playing like a cross between Nancy Drew and Buffy (The Arizona Republic looks at just how well Veronica Mars is doing at filling the shoes of Buffy). Did I mention that in addition to being a high school student, Ms Mars also works as a private investigator for her dad’s agency? Yeah, there’s the angle. The main storyline wrapped up very very nicely in the season finale – whatever will they do for an encore? Like the aforementioned vampire-slaying show, Veronica Mars combines sharp writing with very solid acting and a cute blonde protagonist, though Veronica Mars is somewhat lighter in the angst and melodrama. Unfortunately, it also follows in Buffy’s footsteps in another way – much critical acclaim, poor ratings.

It has been renewed for a second season, but will no doubt remain on the bubble for its lifespan, however long that is (though I’d prefer the show die than acquiese to the network’s helpful suggestions on how to improve the show – bring in Tara Reid as a sidekick? Oh god no. Having Paris Hilton guest star once was bad enough). It’s a damn shame, but sadly par for the course. As with everything else on television, the first season will be coming out on DVD this Fall. The only question is what sort of extras, if any, there will be.

The show also possesses a sharp, indie-friendly soundtrack that’s looking for fresh talent for season two. Said producer Rob Thomas:

“Here’s how it works. You e-mail me MP3s of unsigned bands. I’ll make sure that at least once every four episodes, we’ll use one of these bands in the show. We’ll pay the band $1000 for the use. Send these MP3s along with band contact information to music@slaverats.com. I’d love to use bands that are actually fans of the show, but it’s no requirement. As most of you know, I’ve used quite a few songs by Austin, TX bands. That’s my home. Those are the bands I know, but y’all have the chance to enlighten me about your particular region now.

Sounds like a pretty good deal.

I think I’m going to try and give every post this week an Elvis Costello-themed title.

Anyone who missed Broken Social Scene’s Feist/Haines/Millan-powered show at Olympic Island this past Sunday (that would be me) would do well to be at Dundas Square on July 8 at 10pm when they perform a free show as part of the Celebrate Toronto street festival. Chances of the full-chanteuse lineup are nil, however, as Feist is in Minnesota, Metric in PEI that day and Stars are is Stockholm the day before, Ottawa the day after. She could theoretically squeeze all that travel and a one-hour nighttime BSS set in, but I’m not holding my breath. They should bill this one Broken Sausage Scene.

Aimee Mann talks to The New Zealand Herald about her latest obsession, pugilism, and how it relates to her career and her latest album, The Forgotten Arm. And not to be outdone by the missus, Michael Penn is releasing a new album of his own – Mr Hollywood Jr, 1947 is out August 2. You can stream it here.

Now that the initial press hoopla around Nellie McKay’s Get Away From Me has faded away, PhillyBurbs finds out what she plans to do for an encore with her sophomore release due out in September. Via Pop (All Love).

Interviews! Pitchfork talks to Doves, Stylus raps with Interpol’s Carlos Dengler and Chart chats with Stephen Malkmus.

Pretty amazing response to the Doves contest. You guys do like the free stuff, dontcha? Obviously I’ve made it too easy. Next time… next time you’re gonna have to EARN it… Oh yes.

np – Engineers / Engineers

Monday, June 27th, 2005

Play One More For My Radio Sweetheart

Seattle’s KEXP is easily one of the finest radio stations on the continent, at least in my puny frame of reference. There’s not one station (besides the CBC) that I will listen to within reception range of me, though not having a radio tuner certainly helps with that decision, but I gladly turn on the KEXP webcast when I’m not spinning a CD or something. I remember being stopped in my tracks in the hostel in Seattle last year as I realized that the great music being piped through the PA wasn’t the staff’s CD collection but the radio.

Anyway, the point of this besides adding to my word count is that KEXP is releasing Live at KEXP Vol. 1 August 23 and it will offer up 19 excellent tracks from artists such as Sea Ray (pictured here at KEXP), Belle & Sebastian and Rilo Kiley, all culled from sessions for the radio station. Pitchfork has more deets. You can wade through KEXP’s live archives online, but the CD will be worth having regardless.

Want another reason Wilco is the best band in the world right now? They do a mean, unironic Captain & Tenille cover (via Muzzle Of Bees). As the band’s current tour winds its way through the northeast, the media trail follows. Check out these pieces from The Boston Herald, Buffalo News and Pulse Niagara. They’re playing in Buffalo on Wednesday.

The Montreal Mirror gets Feist to muse at the eclectic and unpredictable nature of her crossover appeal. Feist reaches out to all peoples this Friday with a free Canada Day show at Harbourfront.

Some sneak previews – an Icelandic newspaper gets a first listen to the new Sigur Ros album, which is completed and mixed and should be released this Fall, and Billboard offers a preview of My Morning Jacket’s Z, out September 20.

Despite absolutely zero interest from MTV (they asked) and the risk of a “cease and desist” if they keep using the name, Joe Pernice is pushing forward with his dream of creating the indie rock Cribs. Episode 2 is up… In this episode, Joe tries to get insurance. “It’s religious music”.

Dear NME: Two of the four Stone Roses getting together onstage is not a fucking reunion.

All music bloggers should add this to their bookmarks – Snobsite is the self-proclaimed home of the Rock Snob’s Dictionary! While the tone is kind of snarky, it’s actually pretty informative and it’s all tongue-in-cheek. I think.

Chuck Klosterman composes his list of 10 Things That Aren’t The Best Albums Of The Past 20 Years for Spin.

It’s not escaped my attention that while I’ve gotten pretty good at photography in the worst possible lighting conditions (read: concerts), I’m still not very good in less trying conditions like, oh, daylight. Since it’s going to be important in the near future for me be able to take decent pictures somewhere besides Lee’s Palace, I’ve decided to get some practice shooting in different, more colourful locales. And what’s more different and colourful than the annual Pride parade? Sure, it doesn’t hurt that the parade route goes by one block from my building, but I figured it’d be fun to head down and take in some of the spectacle. Here’s the results. My goodness some of those guys are in shape.

You may note I’m running a little Doves contest up in the corner. I’m more distracted by the fact that the banner graphic does not line up properly with the other interface elements. Anal retentiveness… kicking in… I will have to fix that tonight. In the meantime, email me to enter and win junk. I promise to only sell HALF the entries to spam lists, so if you happen to win the prize and not get an inbox full of Viagara offers, it’s like you’ve won twice! Thank me later.

np – As The Poets Affirm / The Jaws that Bite, The Claws that Catch

Sunday, June 26th, 2005

Where Flowers Should Be

Cleverly titled “Eyes To the Ground”, the fundraiser for the Ear To The Ground Festival that took place at the Gibsone Jessop Gallery in the Distillery District promised “shoegazer pop, performance and art” – which to me is like promising crack to a crack whore. Music being the crack and me being the crack whore, if that wasn’t clear.

Ear To The Ground, for those not familiar, is a big to-do happening September 16-18 at Exhibition Place and one of the many events I’m fairly upset about having to miss while I’m away that month. It’s billed as “a celebration of the independent spirit” and will feature art, music, film and theatre from outside the mainstream presented in a professional environment. While the festival has been keeping a bit of a low profile up until now, it seems they’re ramping up the PR machine as the dates draw closer and the information about artists participating becomes confirmed. There should be some more announcements in the upcoming days, which I of course will relay, but from what I know of what they’ve got planned and the people involved, this should be an amazing addition to the Toronto scene.

But back to last night. The three acts on the bill were mostly unknown quantities to me. I’d heard the names from around town before, but top-billed As The Poets Affirm were the only act I’d heard and were the main draw for me. But as it turns out, the organizers knew what they were doing – bot In Support Of Living and The Ghost Is Dancing were excellent compliments to the bill.

In Support Of Living covered the shoegaze component of the bill quite capably, cloaked in darkness and hardly moving. They used complete programmed backing tracks which they augmented with live instrumentation – extra drums, guitar, bass, keys, flute. From a live performance angle, it was a bit of a cheat but musically, it worked quite well. I was in eyes-closed, head-nodding mode for most of it. That usually means I was enjoying it or falling asleep, and while it was the former I’m sure that the band would have considered the latter to be mission accomplished as well.

But any sort of narcolepsy ISOL might have induced was quickly blown out by The Ghost Is Dancing. Joyously chaotic and cacaphonous yet always melodic, they invaded the audience, banged on plastic barrels, broke out accordians and violins… Hmm, sound sort of familiar? Lazy musical comparison #1 – a far less morose Arcade Fire probably in desperate need of Ritalin (Tom Cruise weeps) but totally enjoying the ride but not at all derivative, just reminiscent. Excellent stuff, check some out at their MySpace page.

Ottawa’s As The Poets Affirm were brought to my attention by Jason over at Mystery & Misery, and for that I thank him. Lazy musical comparison #2 – If Godspeed You Black Emperor! is claustrophobic, As The Poets Affirm are agoraphobic. They don’t sound as dark or bleak, but even in their less-dense sound, they’re amazingly epic and intense. Backboned by an amazing drummer and led by cello, their post-rock, primarily instrumental compositions are an excellent fix for anyone seeking, well, epically intense, primarily instrumental, post-rock compositions backboned by an amazing drummer and led by cello. You know who you are.

You can get both their albums – either electronically or in CD form – from Zunior, or check out some mp3s on their site.

MP3: As The Poets Affirm – “A Lie Told Before Breakfast”

I don’t know how effective a fundraiser it was – there weren’t really that many people in attendance and considering the total number of band members from all three acts numbered 19, I imagine even fewer paid to get in. And seeing as how it was held in a gallery and not an actual concert venue (though it was nice), “stage” lighting was non-existant and all photos are rendered in artsy black-and-white silhouette-o-vision.

On my way to the show, I cut across Church St and therefore through the heart of the Pride Week parties. What do I hear booming from one of the disco tents? “It’s Raining Men”. Swear to god. It was awesome.

I have this huge backlog of links and tidbits and whatnot that I keep pushing back so as to keep these posts from getting too damn long – this is unprecedented. Usually I’m scrimping and scraping. Moderation is the key, so I’ll get to those in the next few days. BUT – I will say this. I want to read Saddam Hussein’s novel. I’m serious.

np – Godspeed You Black Emperor! / Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven!