Friday, January 26th, 2007
I had been quite excited about seeing Brooklyn’s The Last Town Chorus at the Horseshoe this past Tuesday night – since the show was announced last month, I’d been getting cozy with their self-titled debut. It’s a spare, stark record focusing on Megan Hickey’s rich, mournful twang and her equally keening lap steel guitar. The follow-up Wire Waltz, out domestically on March 6, sounds like it’ll be a more fully-arranged and band-based affair and it was that configuration that came across the border for the band’s Toronto debut.
Hickey, accompanied by a guitarist and keyboardist, played seated (they all did) but what they band lacked in onstage mobility, they made up for with emotion and intensity. Considerably louder and more powerful than you’d expect based on the recordings, Hickey was riveting to watch, whether singing her heartrendingly sad songs or coaxing her guitar to weep alongside her. The band recently had a breakthrough of sorts with a cover of David Bowie’s “Modern Love” appearing on Grey’s Anatomy but while that’s a bit of a dubious thing to build a career on, the fact is that the cover really is remarkable and I’ve always thought the song itself was highly underrated (it’s been one of my favourite Bowie songs for nigh on 25 years now – seriously). If a cover on a TV show is what it takes to get people to hear Last Town Chorus, then so be it – I can’t imagine anyone hearing this wouldn’t be drawn in and made a fan. Hickey mentioned that she expects to return to Toronto sometime in March after the album is released. And when she does, you should be there.
While there was a decent-sized crowd in attendance for The Last Town Chorus, it’s likely most of them were there to see the band on after, Montreal’s Young Galaxy. It’s funny – though the band says they don’t want to be considered a spin-off of Stars (singer/guitarist Stephen Ramsay was guitarist in Stars for the past few years before recently departing), they’ve not done much to discourage comparisons, from signing to the same label, selecting a similarly astrologically-inspired name or even just doing the boy/girl vocal pop thing.
The difference, however, would be that on that last point Ramsay and Catherine McCandless don’t offer nearly the chemistry or charisma of Torq Campbell and Amy Millan. At one point in the show, Ramsay mentioned something to the effect of everyone being really high – whether in jest or not, that would actually explain a lot, not least of which was Ramsay’s glassy, thousand yard stare. They seemed laid back to the point of being disinterested and it didn’t make for a very compelling show – their songs, while nicely textured and arranged, don’t boast the kind of hooks that demand your attention so if the band isn’t compensating for that with some sort of effort, it’s just going to drift on by, which is pretty much what happened. Things did pick up towards the end of the set, both in terms of song quality and performance, but by that point I was pretty anxious to just go home. They’ll release their debut album this Spring so I expect they’ll get more opportunities to impress in the near future. Hope they do.
Metromix talks to Last Town Chorus’ Megan Hickey.
Photos: Young Galaxy, The Last Town Chorus @ The Horseshoe – January 23, 2007
MP3: The Last Town Chorus – “Modern Love” (live)
MP3: The Last Town Chorus – “Change Your Mind”
MP3: The Last Town Chorus – “Oregon”
Video: The Last Town Chorus – “Modern Love” (YouTube)
MySpace: The Last Town Chorus
MySpace: Young Galaxy
Drowned In Sound has details on the debut full-length from Fields – Everything Last Winter will be out April 2 in the UK and will hopefully be out sometime around then in North America via, I believe, Vice. And speaking of stateside releases, you won’t have to pay import prices for the new Idlewild – while Make Another World is out February 26 in the UK, it will be out in North America on Sanctuary sometime in May.
While most of the CMW schedule was posted a little while ago, a couple of the more high-profile showcases had been left blank – namely those at the Horseshoe and Lee’s Palace. Well the lineups for those have been announced and as you might expect during Canadian Music Week, they’re loaded down with, well, Canadian music. The Friday night will be the loaded one, with the ‘Shoe hosting Land Of Talk, Cadence Weapon, You Say Party! We Say Die!, Mother Mother, Peter Elkas, Kill The Lights and The Adam Brown. Of course with seven bands, you’re looking at, what, 15 minute sets? But you can’t complain about lack of variety.
Over at Lee’s Palace, you’ve got a slightly more manageable lineup – The Besnard Lakes, We Are Wolves, Pop Levi, Rock Plaza Central and Baby Eagle and Woolly Leaves with a special guest (maybe the rest of The Constantines?). Admission to either show will be either a CMW wristband though assuming those go with the usual “limited wristbands” policy, buying a $10 advance ticket might be your best bet.
But CMW isn’t the only game in town – Pitter Patter has released the schedule for their festival, running concurrently with CMW and in clubs all along the Golden Horseshoe, from Hamilton to Oshawa. They’ve got an absurd number of bands signed up and if between the two events you can’t find something worthwhile to see in Toronto between March 7 and 11, well damn. Nuts to you.