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Archive for January, 2006

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

I'd Rather Be Lucky Than Good

I’m not too proud to admit that before I went to see it on Saturday, I kept getting Woody Allen’s latest Match Point mixed up with Wimbledon. Not that I’d seen the latter. Anyway, it’s decidedly not a romantic comedy about tennis, rather a slow, taut suspense about a former tennis pro who tries to juggle his upper crust, social climber lifestyle with a mistress and does a rather poor job of it. Okay, that’s a rather flip description of the film, but I don’t want to get into it any more for fear of spoiling the plot. I believe this is exactly the third Woody Allen film I’ve seen, and based on that incredibly comprehensive sampling of his ouvre, I can say I definitely preferred it to his comedies – Allen’s humour, or more accurately his persona which he insists on projecting onto his characters – just doesn’t do it for me.

But Allen’s skill as a director is undeniable and he does a fine job in Match Point. It’s a slow film – so much time is spent building the situation and relationships that when it begins to shift gears from drama to suspense, it comes as something of a surprise. Once it does slip the thriller robes on, it builds the tension effectively but remains refreshingly grounded. There’s no giant lapses in plausability, breakdowns in logic, or frustrating moments of deus ex machina – just wholly believable luck, good and bad. Jonathan Rhys Myers and Scarlett Johansson are an absurdly handsome couple onscreen, especially contrasted against the relative dowdiness of the rest of the cast. Rhys Myers is particular effective in remaining inscrutable – by not coming off as obviously either a manipulator or opportunist, it’s hard to read exactly what he’s willing or going to do next. Overall quite a good film and it seems that getting out of New York City has done Allen’s creativity a world of good.

Bradley’s Almanac has converted another of his bootleg cassettes to MP3 form to share – this time a Spooky-era Lush show from Chicago taken from a radio broadcast, so the audio quality is pretty damn good (though you can hear the wow and flutter from the zillion times Brad has probably played the thing).

The New York Times thinks her audience might be a little scandalized to find out that Jenny Lewis likes country music. Once you’ve picked yourself up off the floor from that revelation, head over to her website and check out the video for “Rise Up With Fists”. Do kids these days even know what Hee Haw was? I mean, I barely do, and I’m old.

Mercury Rev alumnus Hopewell are at the Horseshoe April 11. I only know a little about them, but they seem like they might be up my alley. Anyone want to testify one way or the other? And Norwegian psych-rockers Serena Maneesh are at Lee’s Palace on March 30. I will not be around for that one, so I’ll have to try and catch them at SxSW (perhaps at the just-announced Under The Radar/Tag Team day party). What I’ve heard of them is pretty damn good – From Blown Speakers has an mp3 right now that may persuade you to agree. I can’t seem to find out exactly when the album is being released on these shores, I think it’s available as import right now but surely with the touring, a domestic issue is forthcoming? And Pitchfork has a live review (and references Match Point! Oh, synchronicity!).

American Music Club shows are now available at the Live Music Archive. Only one for now, but surely more to come. File under: awesome.

Amazon.com offers some advice on how to woo an indie rock girl via mix tape. Don’t ask me how I found this.

PopMatters wonders who will be the greatest bands ever once the classic rock generation is dead and buried.

24: Overheard at the White House last night – “Hey Dick, could we get away with that nerve gas thing? Jack Bauer’s not real, is he? He looks real.” This WMD twist is a good one. Clever clever. Bet the current administration wishes they thought of it first. Sure they did the White House coup thing a couple seasons ago, but this one is far more interesting and has more potential. It’s a shame Logan found a backbone so quickly – it’d have been pretty cool if they’d milked it a bit and had Jack working directly against the President for at least part of the season. But at least we got a fine (almost) tortune scene out of it. I wanted to see Cummings cry like a little girl. I just hope they have some more twists in store and it doesn’t settle into “chase the terrorist” for too long. That’s so done.

np – Lush / Topolino

Monday, January 30th, 2006

I'm Working But I'm Not Working For You

This Best Buy ad has sparked off some really interesting debate about the dilemma the larger indie labels face when large retailers (like Best Buy, Wal-Mart, etc) sell their titles at loss-leader prices, and what that does to the indie stores who have supported the labels over the years, enabling the label to muster the resources to break the larger acts in the first place? And while it’s certainly the label’s duty to ensure that their artists reach as wide an audience and sell as many records as possible, what do they do when this can potentially hurt their own retail base, to whom they also have an obligation? This is one of the trickle-down effects of indie crossing over to the mainstream that lots of people (myself included) had probably never thought of, but as you’ll read, the potential impact of no longer flying underneath the radar of popular culture can be considerable. There’s a lot to read in the following links, but it’s worthwhile to do so if you’re got the time (and the inclination).

Merge honcho Mac McCaughan is offers his POV at their own message boards and at the blog of mail-order house Saki Store where representatives of Matador and Secretly Canadian also weigh in. Read the posts in order starting here, then here, over to here and finally here, with an epilogue of sorts here.

I guess I’m lucky in the sense that there are no big box retailers I could get to from downtown Toronto, even if I wanted to, so that temptation to take advantage of their loss leader tactics isn’t really there, though I have to wonder if these marketing strategies really work? I mean, has anyone really gone into a Best Buy to pick up a cheap CD and walked out with a microwave oven? Furthermore, the good folks at Rotate This and Soundscapes here in Toronto will almost always sell for less than any of the big stores on Yonge St, so I can get a good price and clear consicence for supporting the independents. But if I were still a ‘burbanite with a Future Shop on the corner selling a title for half the price of what the local, low-volume indie store (if such even exists) does, well I honestly don’t know what I’d do. It’s one thing to spend an extra buck or so to buy indie, but if you’re going to be saving six or seven dollars a title, well dang – that adds up. What’re your thoughts on the matter?

And sorry about the relative lameness of today’s image. I wanted to find something like the Best Buy mascot being suplexed by Cat Power, but curiously Google Images came up empty.

And while I’m talking Superchunk, it’s exciting to note that the band are ending their hiatus to play SxSW in March, probably snagging the 1AM slot at Antone’s on the 18th to close out the Merge showcase and the festival itself. I doubt I’ll be willing to spend the time in line the ensure getting in to that one, but it’s certainly an option. And the band has been posting rarities on their website that didn’t make it onto their Cup Of Sand compilation from a couple years a go. Here’s the current one:

MP3: Superchunk – “Kicked In” (acoustic)

And there’s a lot more good stuff on their audio page.

Know how I said a couple days ago I didn’t know when Rainer Maria’s new one Catastrophe Keeps Us Together came out? Scratch that – it’ll be in stores April 4 on Grunion Records. Yeah, I don’t know who that is either. CMJ has a little info.

The Pitch talks boxing with Aimee Mann, who has begun an acoustic tour that will bring her to the Mod Club on February 6 with Chuck Prophet (via Largehearted Boy). Artvoice also has a feature and The Rocky Mountain Bullhorn finds out what she’s been listening to lately – nothing.

Harp reflects on the artistry of Jason Molina’s Magnolia Electric Co, who are in town March 25 at Lee’s Palace with Destroyer and Nedelle.

Howling Bells are finally streaming a new song on their website. “Wishing Stone” will be the band’s next single and is due out on Bella Union on February 27. There’s already a video produced and circulating out there somewhere – if someone finds it online, please share.

The Washington Post floats some new lingo to peppen up the category names in the Bloggie Awards. Tomorrow’s the last day to vote, so if you haven’t yet, please do so (for me as Best Canadian, natch) and if you’re stumped on some of the other categories, might I suggest Photojunkie for Best Photography (but NOT best Canadian… sorry Rannie!), Said The Gramophone for Best Writing and You Ain’t No Picasso for Best Teen?

np – Tanya Donelly / Beautysleep

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Sunday Cleaning – Volume 21

Maryrose Crook with The Renderers / Ghosts Of Our Vegas Lives (3 Beads Of Sweat)

A longtime mainstay of the New Zealand underground music scene, Maryrose Crook and her band The Renderers will release Ghosts Of Our Vegas Lives on February 7, some two plus years after it was originally recorded. Consider Jesse Syles fronting the Bad Seeds and you’re in the ballpark. Her smoky, mournful vocals blend with The Renderers’ ghostly, mildly creepy backings to create a work of atmospheric, gothic country noir. The album starts out in rather somnambulant territory but on later tracks like “Blood Of The Angels” and “Sea Of Total Darkness”, they raise the tension and energy levels to rather electrifying effect before closing with the gentle “Outgoing Queen”. It’s like moving from an unsettling dream to full-out nightmare before waking up. Catbirdseat calls it “David Lynch-ian”, and that’s as good a description as any. Recommended.

MP3: Maryrose Crook with The Renderers – “Night Train”
MP3: Maryrose Crook with The Renderers – “Storm From The East”

Jonny Lives! / Get Steady! (Eleven Seven Music)

The press release for Jonny Lives! overreaches a bit by initially comparing New York’s Jonny Lives! to The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Who, but comes down to reality later on in namechecking Fountains Of Wayne and The Mooney Suzuki. This EP, which precedes their debut full-length due out in May, is pretty straightforward power-pop delivered with a good amount of energy and attitude, but thankfully no snottiness. They’re may not stand out in the crowd on paper, but they’ve got the potential to churn out that one hit single that will get in everyone’s faces and be horribly annoying after a couple weeks/months – probably via a soundtrack – but make the band rich. And really, isn’t that what music is all about?

Jonny Lives! @ MySpace
Jonny Lives! @ PureVolume

np – Cat Power / The Greatest

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

Hang Out With Intelligent People

Rob Dickinson, who put on quite a stellar show at The Horseshoe last October will be back for a show at Lee’s Palace on March 7 in support of Fresh Wine For The Horses, which is turning out to having a surprisingly long shelf life for me. I wonder if he’s still doing the acoustic with band configuration or if he’s amping it up for the larger venues? Considering some jackass stole all his gear and personal belongings in Portland a few weeks ago, maybe not (though if you want to donate some money or deodorant, you can contatct him via MySpace for a mailing address).

The Los Angeles Times talks to Rob about life post-Wheel and So Much Silence saw Rob in Scottsdale a few nights ago and recorded the show. He’s got about half the show up right now, and more are coming. Nice to see “Eat My Dust You Insensitive Fuck” make it into the set list – Happy Days is the one album I almost never listen to (yes, even less than Wishville) on account of it straying a little too close to metal-ish territory for my tastes, but I forget there are some great tunes on there as well. I should revisit.

And some more shows – The Two Koreas, Final Fantasy and Gentleman Reg will be at Lee’s Palace February 15 for an Images Festival party and The Stills will be at the Berkeley Church (I think that’s a church on Berkeley) with current love-em/hate-ems-du-jour Morningwood and Interpol’s Carlos D will also be along for the ride providing… moral support? That’s on March 8. Old 97 gone solo Rhett Miller will be at the Horseshoe on March 14 and Jamie Lidell’s Motown-tronica is at Lee’s on April 21 ($15.00). And in bad news/good news, Field Music have postponed their March 11 show at Sneaky Dee’s – bad because, well, they’ve postponed, but good because they might reschedule on a night that I can go!

Soulshine pays tribute to one of Canada’s unofficial poet laureates, Leonard Cohen. Not that you need a reason to salute the man. He’s Leonard Cohen. And The Calgary Sun and Canada.com catch up with another of our national treasures, Neil Young, at Sundance where his new documentary Heart Of Gold debuted. I’ve been lucky enough to get passes to a sneak preview of the film so I’ll be reporting back on it in a couple weeks.

The Fader reprints their recent cover story on Cat Power. Via For The Records. I just picked up The Greatest yesterday – my first new album purchase of 2006, if you can believe it. And it’s a good start. The digipack is shiiiiiiny.

Lou Barlow announced on his website that he’s going into the studio very soon to work on a new Dinosaur Jr album. I really have no idea what to expect from that.

Stylus takes another desperate and unfortunate step towards becoming Pitchfork Jr with their Worst Albums Of The Week feature. Satire is fine, but not if it’s not funny. And this just isn’t funny.

Emory Wheel looks at the persistant appeal of vinyl in the digital age. Via Coolfer.

np – Maryrose Crook with The Renderers / Ghosts Of Our Vegas Lives

Friday, January 27th, 2006

The Man In The Iron Mask

Harp solicits some words of wisdom from the Barking Bard, Billy Bragg. Many bon mots to be found there, but I particularly like this one:

“I think cynicism is the enemy of anyone who wants to make the world a better place. In the end I think the most corrosive thing for the human spirit is cynicism. And you can’t argue with a cynic. They have all the fucking answers.”

His “Hope Not Hate Tour” comes through Toronto on March 11 at the Opera House, his first time back in Toronto since his Talking Woody show at the El Mocambo in 2003. This show won’t be nearly as intimate as that one, but it will be cozier than his 2001 appearance at the Molson Amphitheatre, at least. While the ElMo show was (almost) exclusively Woody Guthrie material, this show should cover all eras from Bragg’s illustrious career since it will be in support of the nine-disc Volume 1 box set being released on February 21 (and which you can preorder now from Yep Roc). Incidentally, Talking With The Taxman About Poetry was declared the 51st greatest British album of all time by the NME. Of course, any list that would put the Arct!c M0nkeys at #5 is dubious beyond words, but it’s still nice to see the props.

Billy recently appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered to promote the set’s release – you can hear the archived show here and they’ve also got a track from the Internationale/Live and Dubious disc. After the Toronto show, he’ll wind his way down to Austin for SxSW, for which he’ll be a keynote speaker. Then it’s a handful more US dates before returning back home to the UK.

And a fellow often compared to Billy, Ted Leo, talks gear in his latest news update. Of limited interest to most, but great interest to me. It seems that every time I see him play live, something of his is blowing up, be it his amp or Echoplex or whatever. You Ain’t No Picasso, up for “Dreamiest Teen” in the Bloggies, has a couple of Ted covers up for grabs – done acoustic because, presumably, all his electric gear blew up again.

Grandaddy will pass away quietly on May 9, leaving Just Like the Fambly Cat as their last will and testament. Pitchfork runs the obituary.

Rainer Maria have named their new album – Catastrophe Keeps Us Together – but still no release date I can find. They’ve got a new teaser track streaming on their website and it sounds just as good as “Burn”, the last sample they put up. This record is very quickly moving up the ranks of stuff I’m looking forward to hearing this year.

Glide talks to Rogue Wave.

Aquarium Drunk has an MP3-ed version of Kathleen Edwards’ long out-of-print debut EP Building 55 available for download.

Popmatters gets way too pedantic about the definition of “indie”. DIY is great, but if a SubPop or Matador is willing to do the heavy lifting of promotion, distribution, recording, etc, without demanding an artistic compromise, why in god’s name would anyone want to do it themselves? My take on “indie” is more abstract – to my mind, it means “independently minded” in terms of creativity and artistry (yeah, I’m probably being overly idealistic on this point but bear with me) and has nothing to do with the business end of things. The fact that bands that pursue this sort of direction happen to exist almost exclusively on independent labels is pure coincidence. Okay, not PURE coincidence, but it’s a consequence, not a reason, and the fact that so many acts that often have little to do their peers, stylistically, has s become a genre unto itself is just plain curious. So while those who argue the point that as a label it’s meaningless are technically correct, I find it simply makes for a much shorter conversation when people ask “so what kind of music do you like?'”. Rock = Zeppelin, alternative = Korn, indie = Magnetic Fields. Simple.

Thanks to Bradley of Almanac fame for the shout-out in his Get To Know Your Blogger feature over at Muzzle Of Bees. Brad has just posted one of his epically long posts if you got a minute or thousand to kill.

np – Ted Leo & The Pharmacists / Shake The Sheets