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Archive for July, 2005

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

Sunday Cleaning – Volume 1

So as I’ve mentioned in the past, people send me things. CDs mostly, often MP3s or MySpace links, sometimes books, sometimes DVDs. Some of it I work into regular posting, other stuff can fall by the wayside – not necessarily a reflection of the quality of the stuff (though sometimes it is), more often it’s simply a case of not enough time to give it the attention it may deserve. In the interests of clearing out my “To Listen To Pile” (AKA “The Guilt Pile”), I’m starting a semi-regular Sunday feature that I’m calling Sunday Cleaning.

Basically, I’ll try to review a few things a week. I’ll attempt to keep things eclectic. Some will be current, some will not. I don’t guarantee that I’ll have listened to things I review more than a couple times (if even), or that I’ll have the musical taste/context/knowledge to give it the due that someone more qualified might. Sometimes the reviews will seem a little flippant, dimissive or indifferent for that I apologize in advance. But remember – you sent me this stuff, most of the time I didn’t ask for it. You’ve been warned. The records reviewed in this column won’t be keeping with my usual mandate of talking about stuff I like or am interested in – this is about clearing out the backlog (not to mention taking a little pressure off the publishing schedule).

And without further ado.

Innaway / Innaway (Some Records)

Innaway offer up a blend of classic rock psychedelia with a light sprinkling of blues, served up in a laid-back SoCal fashion. While musically rooted in days of yore, Innaway keep it sounding fresh with more modern production values and touches of ambient and electronica. They work programmed beats into their sound without it being too obvious or out of place, something many bands have tried without as much success. And while they could surely get by coasting on singer/guitarist Jim Schwartz’s remarkable tenor, but the fact that they back it up with creative and impressive musicianship proves they could well be worth watching.

Stream their album here or check out their MySpace.

Kate Earl / Fate Is The Hunter (Record Collection)

Kate Earl’s people sent me a huge-ass press kit. Colour photocopies, stickers, temporary tattoos, a lock of hair, all very impressive. I didn’t look at any of it. I have to think that press clippings and fashion shoots from teen magazines and whatnot could only work against my impressions of Ms Earl, so I figured I’d just listen to the record and give a go. Hailing from Alaska but now based out of LA, Earl is blessed with a sweet, pure voice and fittingly, her debut is a pleasant, inoffensive slice of upbeat MOR focused on themes of love and self-discovery – you know, the usual. The album has enough genre-hopping to allow for maximum market appeal (R&B? Jazz? Pop? Folk? Check check check and check) and features some A-list session musician talent (Jon Brion, Wendy Melvoin, Pete Thomas). With the proper PR people, there’s no reason Kate Earl couldn’t find her own niche in the adult-contemporary market.

Audio available on her MySpace page.

Satellite Rides

Unabashedly wearing their influences in their name, Halifax’s Satellite Rides trade in rootsy pop-rock. They don’t have Rhett Miller’s incisively clever lyricism or vocal prowess and aren’t as twang-ified as their namesakes (that’s Dallas’ Old 97s, if you were wondering), but the guitar work is pretty damn sharp and the songs hooky enough to soundtrack a good night out at the local social club. Their recorded output comprises a single self-released, self-titled EP, a couple of tracks from which you can hear below:

MP3: Satellite Rides – “Ever Be The Same”

MP3: Satellite Rides – “Kill Them With Kindness”

Hmm, most of the stuff in this first edition was at least polite. But don’t worry – I know there’s stuff to come that’s just DIRE. Knives out, fellas. Knives out.

np – The Replacements / Pleased To Meet Me

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

The Sky Above, The Field Below

This may have been the first time I’ve ever watched a movie exclusively because I enjoyed the soundtrack. The completist in me demanded that I get the Friday Night Lights soundtrack to augment my Explosions In The Sky collection – the Austin-based instrumental combo provided the score for the high school football film. Though it reprised some of the songs from The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, the mixes/arrangements and edits were different enough that the soundtrack had its own personality and wasn’t redundant. The Daniel Lanois instrumental was also quite nice and surprisingly fit very well with the Explosions material. No comment on the Bad Company track, though.

Anyway, having enjoyed the soundtrack, I was curious to see how the music worked in the context of the film. Most sports films utilized horrid, cliched classic rock anthems – how would EITS’ sound compliment the film? Quite well. For a sports film, Friday Night Lights had a unique mood and direction which the soundtrack definitely enhanced. Haunting and elegiac for the most part, though explosive – pardon the pun – when called for. In some sequences, it seemed like the film was simply acting as a video for the audio. A very odd video, granted, but a music video nonetheless.

But getting back to the film, I particularly liked how the culture of high school football in texas was neither outright celebrated nor condemned – it was simply portrayed as a matter of fact, and somewhat ambivalently so. Being as far removed as humanly possible from being a smalltown Texan football fan, a lot of it was completely alien to me and rather fascinating. I’m not big on football – I understand it well enough to watch, not that I do – but will admit it makes for excellent cinema. Friday Night Lights stands apart from your stereotypical sports film by stepping back from the predictable “scrappy team of underdogs does good” angle (though being based on a true story certainly helped keep them in check) and takes a more meditative, philosophical approach – Billy Bob Thornton is particularly zen as the high school coach. Sports films aren’t a staple of my cinematic diet, but I have to say – this one was pretty damn good.

Today’s Sufjan Stevens is an interview with Nerve. Link thanks to Dreams Of Horses.

The Newport Mercury profiles recent Rhode Island transplant Ted Leo. Ted and his Pharmacists are in Toronto September 29 at the Mod Club and hope to have their new album out around February of next year. Link via Bradley’s Almanac.

The oft-delayed Mazzy Star anthology now has another release target – January 2006 – and a name: Unreflected: The Best of Mazzy Star. It will be available in both standard CD or deluxe CD/DVD packages.

This Rubber Soul tribute album is pretty freakin’ sweet. It’s called This Bird Has Flown – A 40th Anniversary Tribute to the Beatles’ Rubber Soul and is out on October 25.

More contests! I’m going to help some lucky Torontonians plan out their live music schedule next week by giving away passes to see either the Magnolia Electric Co next Friday (August 5), X country side-project The Knitters on Sunday (August 7) or Smog on Monday (August 8). I’ll have the details up on the contests page later today, so check back and when you see the banner up top, make with the clicky.

np – Crooked Fingers / Dignity And Shame

Friday, July 29th, 2005

Girls & Sunshine

Good news and bad news from Brooklyn’s Dirty On Purpose. The good news is that they’ve completed their video for “Mind Blindness” and have posted the final edit online for all to see. There’s more and more buzz building around the re-release of their Sleep Late For A Better Tomorrow EP, which will be in stores (again) September 6.

Now the bad news is that keyboardist Erika Forster has left the band to concentrate on her other project, Au Revoir Simone. The roster change became public when the band took the stage last week one girl short. The Modern Age and Manhattan Carnivore documented the ensuing audience drama. DoP will carry on as a four-piece, with the remaining boys drawing straws to see who gets to sing the high parts from here on out.

Also good news/bad news – good news, Sparklehorse have finally unveiled their new website. Bad news – still nothing concrete on the new album. Doesn’t look like 2005 is going to yield anything new from Mr Linkous.

Something like five years after splitting, The Boo Radleys finally have a proper website. It’s mainly to promote their Find The Way Out double-disc anthology, but there’s some actual honest-to-God content there too. Audio clips from their discography are accompanied by song notes from the band members and they’re also soliciting fan questions to be answered periodically by the Boos. The anthology was released at the start of July in the UK and is available over here as an import.

The Tears tell XFM about the inevitability of the Butler/Anderson reunion. Via The Rock Snob.

British Sea Power teach PopMatters how to make an album. Easy!

The Salt Lake City Weekly is next in line with a Sufjan Stevens interview. It never ends.

The Twin Cities run two-two-two Teenage Fanclub articles – one from Pulse Of The Twin Cities and one from Pioneer Press (Bugmenot).

The Boston Phoenix catches up with prodigal son, Joe Pernice. Too bad, Beantown – he’s ours now!

Exlaim! salutes Three Gut Records as the Toronto-based label prepares to close up shop. Speaking of which, yesterday morning on my bike ride into work, I rode past Jim Guthrie on Beverly St. Swear to God. True story.

Sigur Ros talks a bit to NME about what to expect from Takk, out September 13.

Spin interviews one of their own, Mr Chuck Klosterman, about his new book Killing Yourself To Live. I’ve got a copy of this on my bookshelf in my “to read” pile. It’s a modest-sized pile. Via BrooklynVegan.

np – Husker Du / Flip Your Wig

Thursday, July 28th, 2005

The Heaven and Hell Cotillion

Well shit, you guys went to town in the comments section yesterday, didn’t you?

I was playing some blog-a-link follow-the-leader yesterday and it yielded some interesting reading. Starting from Brookylnvegan’s post about hipsterdom triggered by the Wikipedia entry for said term. From there, there was quick visit to Catbirdseat’s clasic Hipster Bingo (and it’s companion piece The Guide To Indie Hair) as well as pit stops at The Hipster Handbook and The Morning News’ Non-Expert: Hipster. Also fun were links in BV’s comments to Austinist’s His & Hers guides to bagging yourself some hipster action in Tejas’ capital.

But the most interesting link was the one to Pandas That Won’t Screw To Save Their Species, which expands the discussion on the hipster phenomenon to include auteur-of-his-generation Wes Anderson and irony in general. The Slate article that inspired the post is a particularly good read, and helps articulate some of the disappointment I felt with The Life Aquatic (though I think I was considerably more generous to the film than most). N+1 looks at the arrested development that links Anderson and the Hipster generation. CityPages also riffs a bit on the art and culture of what it terms the “LittleBlue SmurfBoy” generation. And, on the flipside of it all, The Orlando Sentinel has a piece on hipsterism burnout (I found this one myself!). And tangentially-related: Stylus continues to analyze what they call “the problem with indie”.

I found all of this reading quite fascinating – I think I’m just old enough to have escaped ground zero of the Hipster phenomenon (I like how one of the pieces, I forget which, calls the Hipster the younger sibling of the Slacker), instead lingering at the periphery of the blast radius and playing observer, watching with frequent confusion, occasional disgust but always complete fascination. I think one of the fundamental differences is that I’m not big on irony. I love it in my comedy, but not in my lifestyle. It’s too much goddamn work, life’s too short to waste on things you don’t genuinely enjoy and really, I’m too self-conscious to not realize that, ironically or not, I’d still look pretty stupid in most of those clothes. And I can’t grow a moustache, ironic or otherwise.

Everyone who missed out on The Go! Team at Lee’s Palace last week will get another shot to see the UK outfit October 30 when they play the Phoenix. Speaking of hipsters… I kid. Everyone I know who went to their last show said it was fantastic, unabashedly and unironically. Expect this one to sell out just as fast.

The week in shows at Torontoist, via me.

The Guardian talks to Colin Meloy of The Decemberists in hopes of determining what it is about them that inspires such fierce loyalty amongst their fanbase. Via Largehearted Boy.

The Toronto Star previews Aimee Mann’s show at the Phoenix tomorrow night.

Torr has the new Cardigans single, “I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer”, available to download. It’s surprisingly rocking and upbeat, considering how melancholy Long Gone Before Daylight was. The new album, Super Extra Gravity, is out October 17.

Producer Rob Thomas spills the beans on what he’s got in store for season two of Veronica Mars, premiering on September 21. The season one DVD isn’t due out till mid-October. Thanks to Zoilus for the link.

np – British Sea Power / The Decline Of British Sea Power

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

Heartbreaker

Pitchfork gets back in the ring with Ryan Adams for a rematch after their interview last year. I am linking this even though I’ve recently come to the realization that I no longer really care about DRA. I came to this epiphany when I saw the umpteenth copy of Cold Roses in the used bins and still couldn’t convince myself to drop $10 on it. That’s my subconcious trying to tell me something.

Yes, I was a big Whiskeytown fan and yes, I thought – and still think – Heartbreaker is an amazing record, but my patience for his mercurial behaviour and increasingly patchy albums has dropped below the Mendoza line. When you’re more interesting as a celebrity eccentric than you are as a musician, something’s wrong. I used to insist that the boy had great potential and that he’d get it together, but I’m not sure about either of those points anymore. Maybe if I read a review of an album that doesn’t bemoan his lack of quality control or say something along the lines of, “this would have been a great 40-minute record instead of a 130-minute double album”, I’ll reinvestigate. Until that day, however, I guess I’ll just wait for the best-of.

But I will still tell you that his next album, Jacksonville City Nights, is out on September 27 and the final volume of his 2005 trilogy, 29, is still slated for a November 1 release but considering how much time they allotted to work Cold Roses, unless they’re just going to rush the next two out, I would expect to see that get pushed back, especially since Jacksonville has already been pushed back two months since its initially announced release date. Finally, he’s also cover boy on the new issue of Harp this month.

But aside from all of that, I give the man props for being indirectly responsible for my closest celebrity encounter so far, standing about 3 metres away from Elton John at Adams’ October 2001 show at Lee’s Palace. Regardless of how I felt about Gold, that was a great show.

Here are the pics from Monday night’s Teenage Fanclub show – and to make up for making you wait a day, a piece from the New York Daily News.

Uh-oh, Fall conflict! After avoiding the Big Smoke for years and years, The Mountain Goats are back for a second go-around just five months after their debut with another show at Lee’s Palace on October 17. The May show back on my birthday was superb, but I have Son Volt locked in on my calendar for that evening. I hope the Goats don’t bring along any top-notch openers, though, because that could make things far more complicated.

Scotland’s Sons and Daughters are at Lee’s Palace September 5. Tickets $9, on sale today.

Billboard talks to Alex Chilton about reviving Big Star for their first album of new material since Third/Sister Lovers. The record in question, In Space, has been pushed back a couple of weeks and is now due out September 27 but when you’ve been waiting for 27 years, what’s another two weeks? Zoilus rubs his hands with anticipation and digs up a Big Star piece he wrote for The Globe & Mail a couple years ago.

Also in the “welcome back” department – Filter brings word that Mark Gardener will release his first solo album These Beautiful Ghosts on October 11. I wonder if the album title is a nod to the legacy of his old band? Gardener will be touring North America in support of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club this Fall, including a September 24 date at the Phoenix.

Pop (All Love) tries to quantitatively evaluate who exactly is the Best Band In The World, using an elaborate and fascinating baseball analogy, and finds that none other than Arcade Fire should be the odds-on favourite for world domination. Best line I’ve read this week? “Modest Mouse are a decent club, but they really only have one ace starting pitcher (a southpaw named Jesus de la Floaton)”.

Heavy.com has been putting out their Sumosonic compilation CDs for a while now, and they’re always interesting and eclectic collections with sharp packaging. Subscriptions are technically free, though you pay a nominal postage fee, but they’re currently offering a free copy, including gratis postage, to folks in Candada and the US. Check it out – subscribe or don’t, free is free is free.

np – Bob Mould / Workbook