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Archive for May, 2006

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

I Never Meant To Take Your Breath Away

One of my birthday gifts a few weeks ago was a pair of tickets to the gala premiere of SARSical. As the name implies, it’s a musical based on those fun-filled halcyon days of Spring 2003 when dear old Toronto was made an international pariah for our dalliance with the SARS virus.

It originally debuted at last year’s Fringe Festival and was a big enough hit that it’s being restaged for a three-week run at the Factory Theatre. Brimming with song and dance and wit to spare, it was a hell of a lot of fun and I don’t think I stopped laughing for almost the entire duration. While it follows a few storylines, the main target of the satire is the media’s coverage of our fair city during the crisis and how our then-mayor, Mel Lastman, handled/bungled the whole thing. I don’t know how well it would translate outside of Toronto as you really have to have lived through that time to truly appreciate it, but for me it was a blast. I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun at the theatre – granted, I don’t remember the last time I was AT the theatre, but whenever that was, I think this was better.

The show has gotten a fair bit of local and national coverage with pieces in Macleans, NOW, CBC and The Toronto Star. And I could help but be reminded of this tasty treat I saw in a vending machine in Taipei a couple months ago. Mm mmm good!

Mars Needs Guitars offers up a list of his top ten shoegaze songs. Only one I don’t have/haven’t heard is Loop’s “Arc-Lite (Sonar)”. Motel De Moka also has a two part tribute to shoegazing. It’s apparently the meme of the week.

And speaking of old-school British music, YouTube has House Of Love videos! That shirt in “I Don’t Know Why I Love You”? That, Guy Chadwick, is why you guys were never big. I admit I am a little concerned about the total lack of news from the House Of Love camp since November – generally not good news for a band that rather famously imploded the first time around. It’d be a shame if they’d packed it in again – Days Run Away wasn’t a total triumph but it was solid enough to prove there might still be some gas left in the tank. Or, it appears, not.

Video: The House Of Love – “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” (YouTube)
Video: The House Of Love – “Shine On” (YouTube)
Video: The House Of Love – “Christine” (YouTube)

Bradley’s Almanac has got the recording of Film School’s recent show in Boston all nicely MP3-ed for your enjoyment to go along with the Margot & The Nuclear So And Sos set from the same show he posted last week. The Tripwire has a live acoustic video of a percentage of the band performing “Jen Is Bringin The Drugs” while The Nashville City Paper has a chat with lead Margot Richard Edwards. And hey look – the band has a Flickr account which apparently confirms “MNSS” as the official band acronym. Duly noted.

Stylus ponders magical moments from the Mountain Goats. Their new one Get Lonely is out August 22.

Dose – dead as a print publication but carrying on in a zombie online form – talks a bit with Mogwai’s Barry Burns.

Concretes drummer Lisa Milberg gives Chart some Q&A action.

Mates Of State gives Paste a five-point guide to being in a band with your spouse. Harp gets some baby talk.

So thanks to everyone who entered the Mission Of Burma contest over the past week – it’s closed now and I’ll sort out the winners in the next couple days. I’ve got the eight 12″s I’m to give away as prizes and let me tell you, they’re something else. Whoever gets these is a lucky pup. Next up in the freebies queue is a Tilly & The Wall prize pack. I’ve got three pairs of tickets to the band’s June 11 show at the Mod Club as well as copies of their new album Bottom Of Barrels, which came out last week. Because the tickets and the CDs go together, this’ll only be for locals or people willing to come to Toronto to see/get em. More info here.

np – Sonic Youth / Rather Ripped

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Sludgefeast

Calling it a freak scene is a little too obvious, no?

On June 23 at the Mod Club, one day before the Olympic Island festival, Broken Social Scene and J Mascis will join forces like Voltron and form Broken Mascis Scene – a one-off charity event for the Amma Foundation wherein they will perform songs from the Dinosaur Jr catalog at sure-to-be excruciating volumes. But really, if there was ever such a thing as a good kind of hurt, this would be it. It’s for a good cause and it’s probably your only chance ever to hear Kevin Drew sing “Raisans” or Feist tackle “Start Choppin'”. Tickets are $30 (charity, people!) and go on sale Thursday.

Tickets still remain for the Olympic Island gig though I’m wondering if the “more bands TBA” is going to come through anytime soon. For those whom this won’t slake their Broken Social thirst, the band will also be playing the WEMF – or World Electronic Music Festival – the weekend of July 23 up in Tweed, Ontario. BSS + electronic music festival + Tweed = WTF?

Jambands.com talks to Lou Barlow about the Dinosaur Jr reunion and his solo works. Why it’s just J at the Olympic Island fest and not Dino Jr, I do not know. And since neither band seems especially down with the free and legal MP3 thing, here’s some videos instead.

Video: Broken Social Scene – “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)” (MOV)
Video: Broken Social Scene – “7/4 (Shoreline)” (MOV)
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Freak Scene” (YouTube)
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “The Wagon” (YouTube)

In keeping with the Marvel Team-Up theme of today’s post, I direct you to the new issue of Harp. It’s their “Red Hot + Cool” ish, which is basically an excuse to pull a whole bunch of artists together for a single photoshoot. The theme this year is “Rock Of Ages” so you’ve got a lot of old artist/new artist and “so-and-so was my inspiration” bits. There’s pieces on Steve Earle (article), Emmylou Harris (article), Jay Farrar (article), Josh Ritter (article), Kathleen Edwards (article), Allison Moorer (article) and in the duets portion of the show, Michael Stipe with Conor Oberst (article) and Tom Verlaine with Thurston Moore (article). Whew. I just bought the actual magazine so I don’t have to read all that online, but hey – don’t let me stop you.

And some footnotes – The Event Guide talks The Animal Years with Josh Ritter, Allison Moorer releases Getting Somewhere June 13, incidentally the same day that Bright Eyes plays Massey Hall. Verlaine and Television are at the Phoenix June 9 while Emmylou Harris is at the Molson Amphitheatre with Mark Knopfler June 19.

Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket, who incidentally were last year’s Harp-approved Red Hot + Cool artist, talks to Chart about the band getting back on track following Jim James’ bout with pneumonia at the end of last year while drummer Patrick Hallaran tells The Mercury News . Captain’s Dead has the audio from the band’s recent performance on Austin City Limits Torr).

Thanks to Neil for informing me that I was given a quick shout out in the June issue of Q magazine in the UK. I had a look at the blurb and it said I was witty (yay), American (boo) and covered obscure bands like Voxtrot and The Airfields as well as popular ones like The Strokes (say what?). I’d have bought a copy for my archives but it would have meant that I’d own a magazine with Oasis on the cover. No thanks.

Filmjunk brings tidings of good news that the first season of The Tick animated series will finally be making its way to DVD as The Tick: The Belated 10th Anniversary Edition. Note that it doesn’t say “complete first season” – that’s because of some legal issues (?), only twelve of the thirteen season one episodes will be in the set. Boo. And no extras. Boo. But The Tick! Yay.

np – Mojave 3 / Puzzles Like You

Monday, May 29th, 2006

The Last Beat Of My Heart

One thing you can say about Denver’s DeVotchKa – they sure as hell don’t sound like anyone else. Horns, strings and guitars crash into each other in an otherworldly Gypsy/mariachi/rock and roll film score mashup (Calexico vs Gogol Bordello?) and above it all, Nick Urata’s impassioned, unbelievable croon. Their new record Curse Your Little Heart is something of a stopgap while they work on the follow-up to 2004’s How It Ends, consisting of just one original and five covers from exceedingly disparate sources.

But no matter where they come from, DeVotchKa makes the songs their own with rhythms, instrumentation and delivery that the original writers likely never concieved of. It’s probably telling that two of the strongest songs on the EP are also the unlikeliest ones – Siouxsie & The Banshees’ “The Last Beat Of My Heart” and The Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs”. I won’t go so far as to say that they’re superior for that’ll surely put me on some zealot’s hit list, but by god they stand up on their own.

I will admit freely that this was my first exposure to DeVotchKa and a covers EP probably isn’t the best way to gauge a band, but songs notwithstanding their sound is more than a little exhilerating and based on the How It Ends tracks available on their MySpace, their originals won’t be a let down. The last full-length just went on my shopping list – maybe I’ll get it on June 27 when they play the El Mocambo (tickets $10). Every time I listen to Curse Your Little Heart, I get a little more excited for this show. I suspect it’ll be a scorcher. I Guess I’m Floating also recently wrote up DeVotchKa. Great minds something something.

MP3: DeVotchKa – “Venus In Furs”
MP3: DeVotchKa – “How It Ends”
MP3: DeVotchKa – “You Love Me”

DeVotchKa’s tourmates on this jaunt are Portland’s Norfolk & Western, who are promoting their new album The Gilded Age. Like their compatriots, they create idiosyncratic folk music that sounds almost completely out of time – they can step from turn-of-the-century banjo plucking to speaker-shredding fuzz guitar in a half beat and make it sound completely natural. The Oregonian profiles Adam Selzer, singer and half of the core duo that drive the band. The other half is one Rachel Blumberg, whom you may (or may not) remember as former drummer for The Decemberists – some thought she was crazy when she quit that band early last year to concentrate on N&W, but after hearing some of what she’s been up to, I don’t really question the move anymore. This stuff is good. Here are a couple of tracks from The Gilded Age and you can hear more at their MySpace.

MP3: Norfolk & Western – “Clyde & New Orleans”
MP3: Norfolk & Western – “There Are No Places Left For Us”
MP3: Norfolk & Western – “Porch Destruction”

And it should be noted that she who replaced Rachel Blumberg in the Decemberists for their 2005 touring schedule, Ms Petra Haden, is no longer playing with the band. In a post on the Decemberists message board, Colin Meloy said:

“it’s an amicable thing; we still are friends. For one thing, we initially had asked her to come aboard as a touring musician for just the Picaresque tours. We hadn’t really expected to take her on as a full-time part of the band. There was some talk about that happening, but in the end, after the tours were over and we were back in the comforts of our homes it didn’t necessarily still make sense”.

Anyone who saw the Haden-powered shows (as I did last May) will attest that her pipes and violin were huge additions to the band and her departure is most unfortunate – but it’s obvious that she has her own muse to follow, like the one that compelled her to record completely a capella versions of The Who Sell Out, MJ’s “Thriller” and the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”. Also demonstrating her gift for a cover was her take on Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” which she performed with The Decemberists and is one of my most popular past MP3 of the week requests. So before you ask, here you go. Call these and the DeVotchKa track some cover of the week bonuses.

MP3: Petra Haden – “God Only Knows”
MP3: Petra Haden – “Thriller”
MP3: The Decemberists featuring Petra Haden – “Wuthering Heights”

Decemberists bassist Nate Query talks to The Oxford Student and drops some clues as to what to expect from their new album. Via Largehearted Boy.

Paste talks to John Covertino and Joey Burns about Calexico’s first recordings – done on Covertino’s answering machine – and their latest ones, collected as Garden Ruin. They also run off their their top 5 musical thrift store finds.

Arcade Fire will be releasing a live DVD this Summer in advance of the follow-up to Funeral, which is still expected for Fall of 2006. AF’s Will Butler guest-blogged at Said The Gramophone last week.

The Globe & Mail talks about being sexy with Amy Millan, whose Honey From The Tombs is out Tuesday and she plays the Mod Club June 10. I Heart Music has a couple of Stars radio sessions with KEXP up for download.

Chase Sequence has an interview with Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee-O’Malley about the new book and the Scott Pilgrim movie. Attending the release party for Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness (it’s great – get it) was my Saturday night. Partaking in Doors Open was much of the rest of my weekend. Check out the pics at Flickr. Critical Kitten also did Doors Open and has some really nice photos of places I didn’t get into, what with “doors open” not necessarily meaning “jump the queue”.

np – Smoosh / Free To Stay

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Sunday Cleaning – Volume 35

Maritime / We, The Vehicles (Flameshovel)

Maritime carry a lot of baggage what with being formed from the remains of two well-loved indie stalwarts, abdicated emo kings The Promise Ring and DC prog-punkers Dismemberment Plan. But I’ve not really heard the former and don’t really think the bassist of the latter carries all that much of the old outfit’s legacy, so their new band actually gets a pretty clean slate from me (note – bassist Eric Axelson has now left the band). We, The Vehicles is unashamedly pop record but what makes it interesting is that none of those involved really sound like they’re all that used to the style. Davey von Bohlen’s rasp (which reminds a little too much of the little guy from Stereophonics) sometimes sounds like it’s having some trouble with the complex melodies demanded of it but that extra bit of tension is oddly engaging. But every once in a while what I suspect are traces of their old outfits still peek through, be it through a guitar line or a particular lyric that sounds a little out of place in the current outfit but that the players are still obviously comfortable with. Maritime may have a shiny pop coating but it’s still got chewy emo centre.

MP3: Maritime – “Tearing Up The Oxygen”
MP3: Maritime – “Calm”
MP3: Maritime – “Parade Of Punk Rock T-Shirts”
Maritime @ MySpace

Whysall Lane / Whysall Lane (Blackball Records)

One of many offshoots from 90s indie rock legend Versus, Whysall Lane is the new project from Versus leader Richard Baulyut and while his former compatriots have struck out (relatively) new or different sonic ground in The Fontaine Toups and +/-, Baluyut sticks to the tried and true in his new band. Bassist Mikel Delgado’s backing vocals even sound uncannily like Fontaine Toups’. Though Whysall Lane was formed almost immediately after Versus went on hiatus, it’s taken five years to release their first album but Baluyut hasn’t lost his songwriting style or chops in the interim. Taut and melodic, it’s an familiar sound with a new name but welcome all the same.

MP3: Whysall Lane – “Time Machine”
MP3: Whysall Lane – “The Way Back”
MP3: Whysall Lane – “Pillows”
Whysall Lane @ MySpace

You Won’t Die, It’s Only A Diet

You Won’t Die (It’s Only A Diet) is the musical pseudonym of Chicago drummer/songwriter/schoolteacher Todd Finkel. Usually home demos from someone who’s a drummer first are cause for a little alarm, but these are more than a pleasant surprise. Finkel has crafted some ornate, sophisticated little gems that marry modern DIY indie aesthetic with the spirit of 70s AM pop. If only everything that showed up in my inbox unannounced was such a treat. Todd’s having some web issues at the moment so I’ll host a couple files for him in the interim. Someone give this guy a proper MySpace page, please? Update: Todd has sent me a couple more MP3s. Enjoy.

MP3: You Won’t Die It’s Only A Diet – “Rise”
MP3: You Won’t Die It’s Only A Diet – “Farewell”
MP3: You Won’t Die It’s Only A Diet – “Back To Someone”
MP3: You Won’t Die It’s Only A Diet – “Open Road”

np – DeVotchKa / Curse Your Little Heart

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

Crush On Radio

Harp declares Rachel Flotard their red-hot crush for 2006 and I’m not going to disagree. How could you? Consider the evidence – she’s a hellacious singer, guitarist and songwriter and as good as she is at the power-pop of Visqueen, she’s somehow also got the pipes to sing backup for Neko Case. Throw in the fact that she’s goddamn funny, somehow finds time to pen a relationship column for Three Imaginary Girls and is a looker and half and by god you’ve got a renaissance woman for the 21st century.

Visqueen are currently recording their third album for release sometime this year. Here’s some AV from their last record Sunset On Dateland and, courtesy of their MySpace page, a John Fogerty cover. For reals.

MP3: Visqueen – “Blue”
MP3: Visqueen – “Centerfield”
MP3: Visqueen – “Buttercup”
Video: Visqueen – “Crush On Radio” (MOV)

The return of Wheat appears imminent. After going on hiatus in late 2004, there were rumblings of a return last year with the appearance of a cryptic “everyday i said a prayer for kathy and made a one inch square – 2006” message on their website. As it turns out, this will be the title of their new album, due out later this year, and the first sample from it has been released to the wilds of the internet. It’s important to note that Ricky Brennan is no longer in the band – he is busy with his new project Duresse, who have just released their debut Elate EP though what I’ve heard doesn’t especially excite. Wheat soldiers on as Scott and Brendan and from the sounds of it, have rediscovered some of the magic that made Medeiros and Hope & Adams so special. This pleases us.

MP3: Wheat – “What Everyone Keeps Telling Me”
MP3: Duresse – “Ghost Ship”

More wonders of YouTube – Neil Young, circa 1976, asking for directions in Glasgow and then busking on the street with “The Old Laughing Lady” on banjo. Thanks to Kevin, author of Neil Young Nation, for the link.

Video: Neil Young – “The Old Laughing Lady” (YouTube)

Pitchfork is first out the gates with info on the new Mountain Goats record Get Lonely, which will be out August 22. To quote PF quoting 4AD, “If [the last Mountain Goats album, 2005’s] The Sunset Tree derived its power and energy from an unblinking exorcism of personal demons, Get Lonely is perhaps the quiet, haunted aftermath. It’s a reflective, intimate record; the mood is one of bittersweet resignation rather than cathartic release”.

August 22 is turning into one of those perfect storm of new release dates. In addition to the Goats record, there’s the previously announced new ones from Eric Bachmann, M Ward and Lambchop, and just announced – Champaign, Illinois’ Headlights’ debut full-length Kill Them With Kindness will also be in stores that day. Someone, not naming names, just got a copy in the mail and someone – again, anonymous – is liking what they’re hearing.

The Toronto Sun rounds up the upcoming concert season, naturally focusing mainly on larger venue and outdoor shows. Interesting that they claim to confirm Morrissey for two nights, October 14 and 15, at Massey Hall. Oh Moz, does this mean you forgive us for our reckless clubbing of baby seals? They also pencil in Belle & Sebastian for a return engagement sometime in July, though the implied Molson Amphitheatre venue doesn’t really excite. I can’t imagine it’d be anything but reserved seating – including the lawns would be 16,000 people and that’s just a little much, methinks. They also toss out Sonic Youth in August, The Flaming Lips as part of some sort of festival (though not together?). Of course, any article that credits The Raconteurs to Jack Black can’t be held up as having huge credibility (they claim a club show sometime in the Fall).

And one show not mentioned in the piece but confirmed by Brooklynvegan are Australia’s Grates, who are at Lee’s Palace on June 22.

And to tie together the last paragraph and the one before it, The Syndey Morning Herald talks to Mick Cooke of Belle & Sebastian. Good for Mick. No one ever talks to the trumpet player.

Any locals looking for a guide for Doors Open Toronto this weekend, check out this Google Map mash-up courtesy of The Toronto Star (via Torontoist). This is a fun event – the CBC building was a little bit of a let down last year (ooh, empty sound stage) but I’m going to try and hit some more interesting spots this year. Operative word being “try”. And also tonight – the Scott Pilgrim launch party. The Toronto Star talks to creator Bryan Lee-O’Malley.

So X-Men 3 came out yesterday and reviews aren’t awful, at least for a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. I’ve not seen it yet, but probably in the next week or so. Related – Slashfilm lists off Ten Ways to Ruin A Comic Book Movie, PopMatters considers Alan Moore’s complaints about V For Vendetta and Wired contemplates Superman.

np – Headlights / Kill Them With Kindness