Monday, July 17th, 2006
In My Arms We Shall Begin
As promised last Thursday, this past Saturday night was another live music double-header with a bunch of bands in a “family” meme. First was an early show at the Drake with Toronto’s Your Volunteer and Brooklynites Say Hi To Your Mom and then up to Lee’s Palace for Ottawans My Dad Vs Yours and new local outfit Kids. We’ll just go in order, noting that though it was amusing that three of the bands had similarly-themed names, that they’re still all pretty bad band names. Sorry.
I wasn’t impressed with Your Volunteer at first, writing them off as another broody, angsty alt.rock combo that probably aspired for radio play on CFNY but as their set went on, I developed some respect for what they were doing. While I still didn’t think much of the songwriting, they were musically proficient and seemed to have more sonic vision than I’d expected, breaking out ebows, keyboards, melodicas, bongos and even a musical saw in attempts to broaden the aural palette of their songs. Not all of it worked, much of it didn’t actually contribute much to the songs and were ther for the sake of being there, but I will give credit for thinking outside the box. With luck their writing will grow to the point where they can do something more cohesive and interesting with their ideas.
For a three-piece, Say Hi To Your Mom sound massive – far moreso than you’d expect from just hearing the records. Jeff Sheinkopf’s old-school synths are a wall unto themselves and bolstered by Chris Egan’s drums and Eric Elgoben’s guitars, the end result is a pretty impressive slab of hooky indie rock. I was reminded a bit of Starflyer 59 in the laid back, almost narcoleptic vocals cresting a sea of fuzz. It’s funny – Elgoben’s droll, deadpan lyrics (the new album Impeccable Blahs has a lot of songs about vampires) seem like they should completely at odds with the musical approach and yet it works perfectly. The band seemed to get stuck with a shortish set on account of having to clear out for a Prince fan convention (seriously) but expect to be back later in the Fall for what would be their fourth Toronto show of 2006. Yes, they are here a lot.
I wrote up My Dad Vs Yours in May and they were one of my Polaris Prize nominees for their new album After Winter Must Come Spring, but this was my first time seeing them live. Instrumental post-rock bands like Explosions In The Sky and Mogwai have developed reputations for stellar live shows because their music lends itself to huge dynamic shifts, allowing for a real visceral (and physical) audience response. My Dad Vs Yours’ post-pop sound relies more on strong melodicism and tightly arranged instrumentation so there weren’t any sonic kidney punches to be had, just incredibly pretty songs. There was something of a deficit in stage presence, though, and the pacing could have been better. Still, minor complaints when they pulled off “Kids On Psych Drugs” (aka “Bellicose” on the album) as sublimely as they did.
Together only since January, Kids were a complete unknown to me, but their promise of Mojave 3 and Belle & Sebastian-esque pop was enough to get me to stick around. The five-piece band certainly displayed an eclectic range of influences including the aforementioned, though I’d most liken them to a more countrified Stars. With four strong singers, presumably almost as many songwriters and solid musical chops, they’ve got a loaded hand to play but will need to work on a more cohesive sound – as they went from one lead singer to another, they came off a bit more like a mix tape than a single band. But I was impressed enough to be sure to keep an eye on them in the coming months and the forgive them some more rookie mistakes, like not tuning any of their guitars before taking the stage or having a conversation with their buddies in the audience over the PA.
All in all, not a bad night of music. Photos from the My Dad Vs Yours show here and photos from the Say Hi To Your Mom show here. And some audio below. The My Dad Vs Yours track is one of my favourite things I’ve heard this year – the combined guitar/keyboard riff in the chorus is awesome.
MP3: Your Volunteer – “Nobody Has To Cry”
MP3: Say Hi To Your Mom – “Snowcones and Puppies”
MP3: My Dad Vs Yours – “Bellicose / Kids On Psych Drugs”
MySpace: Say Hi To Your Mom
MySpace: My Dad Vs Yours
And speaking of Explosions In The Sky (which I was), the band has posted some news on their website stating that their new album is written and will be recorded in Minneapolis next month with an eye towards releasing it in February of 2007. In the meantime, however, they’ve made the whole of The Rescue, an album they released in a limited edition last year, available to download. Because they’re swell. You can download it all here, read about it here and hear one of the songs here:
And not post-rock in the least, but still exciting – the first tracks from Eric Bachmann’s To The Races are available to grab courtesy of Saddle Creek. The album is out August 22 and his Fall tour will hit the Horseshoe on September 16.
np – Bedhead / Beheaded