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Archive for November, 2005

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

Melt Your Heart

So word around the internet is that the Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins album, Rabbit Fur Coat (Grok album art here), has leaked two months before its official January 24 release date – in other words, exactly on schedule. Now in accordance with my mostly inflexible stance on leaks (don’t do em), I haven’t heard any of it but people seem to be pretty excited about it. I’m not surprised – Jenny has a voice made for country music, so the twang-friendly sound of this album should suit her just fine. So now while I don’t have any MP3s to share, I can point you to this feature story in the new issue of Harp (from which I also took this fetching photograph). And her MySpace blog has also transcribed this piece from Paste.

People are calling Rabbit Fur Coat a solo album for Jenny Lewis, but that’s unfair because as the credit clearly states, it was created with The Watson Twins, who were in the band Slydell and are currently at work at their own debut album, Southern Manners, also due out in January. If the one song posted at their MySpace page is any indication, they can make some gorgeous music with or without Ms Lewis… Of course, the association can only help them out, but hopefully people won’t forget that the Watsons deserve recognition on their own merits.

And not to be outdone by his Rilo Kiley bandmate (though lets be honest – he totally is), Blake Sennett’s side project The Elected will also put out their second album Sun, Sun, Sun, on January 24. Think they’ve got little side-by-side bar graphs representing respective sales of the albums at RK HQ? Me neither.

My “no leak” policy also prevents me from hearing the new Belle & Sebastian album, but thankfully Matador has revealed the album art for The Life Pursuit, out February 7, and released an mp3:

MP3: Belle & Sebastian – “Another Sunny Day”

NPR will be webcasting Calexico and Iron & Wine’s show in Washington DC tonight at around 10PM EST.

Brooklyn’s We Are Scientists are at the Horseshoe on January 14. Apparently the UK loves em. Take that as you will, and check out press from Chart and MTV.com.

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene introduces Harp to his Toronto. Which, incidentally, looks an awful lot like my Toronto. I used to work half a block away from the strip club he’s talking about.

Sarah Harmer tells JAM! about how her tour in support of the Niagara Escarpment informed her new bluegrass-y album I’m A Mountain. It’s been out in Canada for a little while now but isn’t out in the US till February 7. She’s playing a run of shows at the Harbourfront Centre tonight through Saturday, and will also do an in-store performance at the Mountain Equipment Co-op on King St on Saturday at 1PM.

Cokemachineglow has taken a different approach to the inevitable deluge of lists coming our way. I’m already becoming jaded, but with titles like “Top 7 Brief and Spitefully Expressed Occurrences of Visceral Disappointment ” and “Top 12 Songs on OK Computer“, you have my attention.

np – The Mendoza Line / Full Of Light And Full Of Fire

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

Life On Mars?

Is it wrong that while watching Spielberg’s remake of War Of The Worlds, I was cheering for the aliens? Maybe not to conquer to world, but surely to make raspberry jam of Tom Cruise and his horribly annoying brood before falling victim to the avian flu? Technically, the film was excellent – and I wouldn’t expect anything less from Spielberg. The aliens were menacing, the special effects fantastic, the suspenseful moments, um, suspenseful… but I didn’t really like this film. The main problem is that Spielberg chooses to show the alien invasion from the POV of one family, and it’s an incredibly annoying family. It’s very hard to believe that anyone faced with something as apocalyptic as an alien invasion would still find time to be all, “you never had time for me, dad!” petulant. Give me a break. Also kinda dumb – aliens doing house-to-house inspections for survivors and rooting through Tim Robbins’ porn collection.

Spielberg also continues his streak of weak endings, even though he sticks to the original explanation for the aliens’ demise. He manages to make the idea of the aliens being done in by bacteria seem incredibly trite and a cop-out, even though I think that Wells’ solution was pretty damn clever. Maybe it’s just the presence of Tom Cruise. There’s something about that guy and aliens. And don’t even get me started on the utter absurdity of the final scene… I’ve never read the original novel, nor heard the radio play or even seen the original movie so I have no comments about the 2005 edition in the greater historical context, though I definitely preferred Alan Moore’s League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen take on the story.

Win Butler talks about the year in Arcade Fire to The National Post. Via Largehearted Boy.

Those touring machines in The Magnolia Electric Co will be coming back to town on March 25 of next year. The venue is still TBA, but Lee’s Palace – where they played this past August – seems like a good bet.

The Slowdive reissues? Now Pitchfork-approved!

Andrew Kenny of American Analog Set talks setlists, labels and making out with Junkmedia. I’ve been trying to find a picture of the “iPod != turntable” t-shirts they’ve been selling on tour, but to no avail. I bought one the other week in Toronto and think it’s great, since I’m quite fond of both my iPod and my turntable.

Speaking of which, The Guardian has a piece on the remarkable resurgance of vinyl sales in the UK. Seeing sales numbers like those attributed to Paul Weller’s latest album (55% CD, 38% LP) are pretty astounding, and the general upswing in record sales are attributed in large part to the indie rock demographic. Yay, us. I got my turntable properly set up this weekend and fitted with a Grado Red cart. It sounds superb.

Yes, this is shaping up to be a bit of a slow week. Sorry.

np – Sparklehorse / Good Morning Spider

Monday, November 28th, 2005

Salesman At The Day Of The Parade

So to recap: Rogue Wave’s first album? Not so impressed. Their second album? Very impressed. The first time I saw their live show? Apparently I thought it was alright, though all that’s really stuck with me in the year since is that they were really loud. So how about seeing them live the second time? I’ll get to that, but first – the openers.

Hailing from Montreal via Brooklyn, JF Robitaille opened things up with a very brief but enjoyable set of acoustic pop, accompained by Ainsley Mcwha on backing vocals. What struck me the most about his set, and it’ll probably sound a little odd, was that he had excellent diction. And that’s important. Good songs too, but I really liked how well he was able to articulate his words while singing. Umm, yeah. Robitaille is playing a full set at The Drake tonight, and is worth checking out.

For my thoughts on The Ghost Is Dancing, I refer you back to my review of their show a few months ago at the Distillery. Pretty much everything I said still holds, though I did enjoy that show more than this one. Nothing to do with the performance of the band themselves they’re still jubilant, fun and silly onstage but they were more fun running around the floor of the Gibsone Jessop Gallery amidst the audience than confined to the stage of the ‘Shoe. But despite this, they put on a good set and get bonus points for the balloon hats. They’re easily my top pick for local band I’d get to play a loft party or Bar Mitzvah.

Early on in their set, Zach Rogue confessed that he’d been in a really bad mood but was feeling much better now – thanks, no doubt, to a very healthy Sunday night crowd to see him and his band. Most of the set list drew from Descended Like Vultures and their performance was solid, if not overwhelming. Relative to last Summer’s show they definitely got their volume issues under control, though I was still thankful for my earplugs. They were also definitely tighter as a band, thanks no doubt to the constant touring and recording the new album together. It was unfortunate that towards the end of the set, “10:1” was marred by Gram Lebron’s breaking of his A-string on, like, the second chord of the song. That seemed to throw the band off, and what should have been the centrepiece of the set instead left them stumbling through not only that one, but “Temporary” as well. They managed to get it together, though, and finished strongly with “Endless Shovel”. The encore ensured things ended on an up note and included their cover of Buddy Holly’s “Everyday”, though I’d have preferred to hear their take on R.E.M.’s “Catapult”, which has also been appearing on set lists on this tour. Overall a perfectly satisfying show, just the right length for a weary boy on a Sunday night, but I think I prefer the album. Photo here. Rogue Wave will be back again on March 11 with Nada Surf at Lee’s Palace.

Nothing like an American long weekend to ensure dead quiet across blog-land. This is all I’ve got for today.

np – Metric / Live It Out

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

Sunday Cleaning – Volume 16

This week’s edition covers a bundle of stuff I recently got from the good people at Boompa out in sunny Vancouver.

The Ladies & Gentlemen / Small Sins (Boompa)

On this record, The Ladies & Gentlemen are actually just one gentleman, Mr Thom D’Arcy, formerly of Toronto’s Carnations. After the dissolution of his former outfit, D’arcy holed up in his basement and recorded these ten songs all by his lonesome. The warm, burbling keyboards and hushed, intimate vocals create a mellow, late-night vibe, but that laid back-ness is a bit of a rope-a-dope because when the chorus’ swell in “Stay” and “Threw It All Away”, it’s pure pop joy. Since recording the album, D’Arcy has assembled a proper band to bring his bedroom symphonies to the stage as well as kicked off an apparent trend of bands donning all-white stage garb (hello, Dragonette and Islands). Assuming the band enters the studio to record the follow-up as a band, it will be interesting to see how it sounds having more than one cook in the kitchen. The Ladies & Gentlemen are currently on a good old fashioned cross-country tour with Sylvie and Wintersleep.

MP3: The Ladies & Gentlemen – “Stay”
The Ladies & Gentlemen @ MySpace

Catlow / Kiss The World (Boompa)

Natasha Thirsk used to lead Vancouver’s Dirtmitts but has since struck out on her own under the nom the plume of Catlow. Her debut album will sound pretty familar to anyone who lived through the alterna-girl rock heyday of the early- to mid-nineties, as the combination of Thirsk’s sweet vocals and fuzzed guitars wouldn’t have been out of place alongside Juliana Hatfield, Veruca Salt or Letters To Cleo. There’s snarling rockers, gentle ballads and some electronic-y bits thrown in for good measure. Some of the numbers feel a overly synthetic in the production and the gamut of styles are maybe a little too eclectic for the album’s own good, but Thirsk’s voice is fantastic and a treat to listen to, even if it does make me feel old to realize that it’s been over twelve years since I bought Become What You Are on cassette.

MP3: Catlow – “Number One”
MP3: Catlow – “Don’t Think”
Catlow @ MySpace

My Project: Blue / My Project: Blue (Boompa)

It’s kind of fortunate for Vancouver trio My Project: Blue that I’ve been going through a Bowie phase, because it gives me a positive frame of reference for listening to their debut EP. Their mix of glammy/new-wave sounds is built on a bed of acoustic and electric guitars and fat analog synth lines and reminds me a little of a Coles Notes version of Changesbowie. Chad Blue’s warble sounds not unlike Destroyer’s Dan Bejar, though his melodic sense isn’t nearly as twisted. I’m tempted to suggest Jill Southern’s vocals be used to greater effect to offset the eccentricity of Blue’s delivery, but MP:B is probably more interesting if you don’t smooth out the edges. I think it’d be even more interesting if they headed further into left field, creatively, and introduce some more sonic chaos into their sound. The production on the EP is pretty clean and could use a healthier dose of weird… But that’s just me.

MP3: My Project: Blue – “Control Of Me”
My Project: Blue @ MySpace

np – Wheat / Per Second Per Second Per Second Every Second

Saturday, November 26th, 2005

Music With Heart

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate one of my very favourite publications, The Big Takeover, on (finally) giving their website the overhaul it so richly deserved and desperately needed. What had been little more than a holding page and pointer to their online subscription form is now an impressive blog hub, with journals from almost a dozen magazine contributors. They’ve only been online for a week or so, but it looks like there’ll be a steady stream of reviews, editorials and features as well as, hopefully, content from the magazine. There’s also a weekly top 10 feature that should provide no shortage of worthy listening reccomendations.

Since I first picked up BTO about five years ago and was immediately struck by how different it was from most everything else on the newsstand. First, it was about five times the thickness and secondly, their coverage seemed immune to trend-following – they covered what they liked, fashion be damned, using their tagline (and this post’s title) as a manifesto. The enthusiasm and passion of the writers is evident on every page and it also translates in the interviews – the artists usually respond to to the sincere interest of their interviewers, resulting in insightful and candid conversations that can be light years away from the usual talking points you find in many music publications. It was inspiring to read journalism that didn’t feel influenced by PR or advertiser pressures, and I daresay that it’s been an inspiration to me as a music hack. All respect to EIC and founder Jack Rabid, who has been fighting the good fight for a quarter century now.

Their new issue should be out any week now, and features Death Cab For Cutie on the cover. Okay, that goes a little against what I was saying about them being immune to trends, but come on – any magazine that’d put a big ugly closeup of Bob Pollard on their cover deserves some credit for not pandering. And vote for The Big Takeover in the Plug Awards – they’re nominated in the “Zine Of The Year”.

Billboard talks to Jeff Tweedy about the latest incarnation of Wilco, Kicking Television and gives a progress report on the new album. Recordonline.com also has a brief interview (Bugmenot).

Thanks go to Torr for directing me to this BBC broadcast, which features an interview with Rachel Goswell of Mojave 3 about 4AD’s 25th anniversary and a couple of more tracks from the forthcoming new album, due out next March (the M3 segment starts around 20:40). I will echo Torr’s sentiments that the new Mojave 3 record is at the very top of my most eagerly anticipated records for ’06.

And related – My Mean Magpie brings attention to Sarah Hepburn, formerly of Glorybox. Sarah’s Stars & Haze, which was produced by Neil Halstead and features performances from several Mojave 3-ers. He has a link to a video from the record – it’s interesting, not at all Mojave-like.

The story of Rogue Wave, as told to Chart. Rogue Wave are at the Horseshoe tomorrow night.

Rolling Stone enumerates the best DVD releases of the year.

Sony follows up their rootkit fiasco by invading San Francisco with bouncy balls. IS THERE NO DEPTH TO WHICH THESE PEOPLE WON’T SINK?!? Make sure to check out the making of clip as well.

np – David Bowie / Low