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Archive for August, 2007

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Dancin' In The Wind

If there was such a thing as the sound of a bird made of honey, it would sound like Jenn Grant. The Haligonian songstress, who I first discovered way back last December, released her debut album Orchestra For The Moon in May and while most everyone I know who’s heard her has been beguiled, the numbers that seems to amount to are far less than she deserves.

Possessed of a marvelous voice that’s sweet, supple and dexterous, Grant has crafted a record that deftly combines pop, folk, jazz and country styles into something that could easily fit into any of those genres yet resists such pigeonholing. But what isn’t up for debate is that Orchestra is a terrific showcase for both Grant’s vocal and songwriting talents that goes down real nice and easy – and therein lies my only complaint, and it’s a minor one. Orchestra is so smooth that it can make one yearn for just a little bit of grit or earthiness. Grant sounds like she’s gliding through the whole record and it might be nice to have her touch the ground now and again, get her feet dirty a bit. The way the best angels do.

Grant has been through town innumerable times since that show at the Drake in December and I’ve, sadly, missed them all – and I’ll probably miss the next one when she plays the El Mocambo this Wednesday, September 5 opening for The Veils, here all the way from Australia. After that, her next date is at the Phoenix on November 8, opening for The Weakerthans. Tickets for that show are $25 and go on sale next Saturday, September 8.

MP3: Jenn Grant – “Dreamer”
Video: Jenn Grant – “Dreamer” (YouTube)
MySpace: Jenn Grant

And if you’re not familiar with The Veils, here’s a single and video from their current album Nux Vormica.

MP3: The Veils – “Advice For Young Mothers To Be”
Video: The Veils – “Advice For Young Mothers To Be” (YouTube)

And if that’s not your speed but you’re still looking for something to do next Wednesday, The Bruce Peninsula, who so impressed at Dog Day Afternoon a few weekends ago, have a show at the Tranzac along with Tusks and Snailhouse. eye has an interview with head Bruce Peninsulan Neil Haverty while NOW talks Tusks.

Nicole Atkins & The Sea’s debut full-length Neptune City finally has a release date of October 30 and she’ll be celebrating that night with David Letterman. She’s at Lee’s Palace two weeks prior on October 14 with The Raveonettes. Thanks to For The Records for the info.

NOW five questions Craig Minowa of Cloud Cult, opening up for Land Of Talk at the El Mocambo on Tuesday. The Boston Globe and The Portland Mercury also have interviews.

John Vanderslice’s October 1 show has undergone a change of venue and picked up some support acts. It will now go down at the El Mocambo and feature Two Gallants and Blitzen Trapper. Horseshoe tickets will be honoured at the ElMo.

Also October 1 – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Kool Haus. Tickets $24.50, on sale this morning.

Good news – Patrick Wolf returns to Toronto for a show at Lee’s Palace on October 6. Bad news – I’m in Montreal. Well, bad news for me. Everything else is good news. Tickets are $17.50 and go on sale Saturday.

Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglova – aka “the guy” and “the girl” from Once – bring the musical component of that film, The Swell Season, to the Danforth Music Hall on November 23. Hopefully the DVD will be out sometime around then as well – I still have to see it. Tickets are $28.50, on sale September 6.

Longwave, who I’m rather pleasantly surprised to see are still active, will be supporting Robbers On High Street at the Horseshoe on September 24.

Chart has details on the gala ceremony for this year’s Polaris Music Prize. It’s happening September 24 at the Phoenix, is invite-only (sorry) and will feature performances from half the nominees, namely Miracle Fortress, Julie Doiron (in Eric’s Trip band configuration), Patrick Watson, Joel Plaskett and Chad Van Gaalen. And in regards to the Arcade Fire kerfuffle reported on earlier this week, apparently the band did eventually give permission for a song to be used on the Polaris compilation CD but the disc was already at the manufacturers by the time they did so.

Harp gets acquainted with Fionn Regan, in town on September 26 with a show at the Horseshoe.

Will Sheff of Okkervil River insists to The Arizona Daily Star that that’s his natural hair colour. Also check out Down The Oubliette, a new fansite for the band dedicated to cataloguing facts, figures and trivia about the band. Okkervil plays Lee’s Palace on September 21.

Matt Berninger tells The Washington Post the story of The National. They’re at the Phoenix on October 8.

Metro Pulse confers with Jason Isbell.

Spinner interviews Bjork. She headlines day one of V Fest next Saturday.

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Hot Freaks 2: Electric Blog-aloo

So late post today, but with good reason. With the stroke of 10AM EDT, an embargo has been lifted and I can happily announce to you a little something that An Aquarium Drunkard, La Blogothèque, Brooklynvegan, Gorilla vs Bear, My Old Kentucky Blog, You Ain’t No Picasso and I have been working on the last few months – The Hot Freaks!, part the second – a sequel to our wonderfully successful showcases during SxSW this past March, The Hot Freaks! part the first.

This time, we’re once again heading back to The Mohawk and Club DeVille in lovely (and sweltering) Austin, Texas to throw a couple of after parties in mid-September. It’s sponsored by the Dell Lounge and the lineup shakedown is as follows:

September 14 @ The Mohawk – Art Brut with Crazy Sexy Rainbow
September 14 @ Club DeVille – Grizzly Bear with Brazos
September 15 @ The Mohawk – St Vincent with Sparrow House
September 15 @ Club DeVille – The Rosebuds with Yellow Fever

Not bad, eh? Not bad at all. Admission will be free but involve a not-as-byzantine-as-it-sounds RSVP/wristband process that will be detailed on Wednesday. The first Hot Freaks! was one of the most fun and satisfying things I’ve ever had the pleasure to be involved with so I’m really looking forward to doing it all again, not to mention checking out all the great acts playing the ACL fest proper.

MP3: Grizzly Bear – “On A Neck, On A Spit”
MP3: St Vincent – “Now Now”
MP3: The Rosebuds – “Get Up Get Out”
MP3: Sparrow House – “When I Am Gone”
MP3: Yellow Fever – “Culver City”
MP3: Brazos – “Hands Up Little Gun”
Video: Art Brut – “Direct Hit” (YouTube)

Pitchfork reports that Grizzly Bear will release a new, 10-track EP entitled Friend on November 6. They’ll be in town at the Mod Club on September 20. Spinner’s Interface featured Art Brut a few days ago and The Torture Garden has an interview with St Vincent, Filter a feature and Pitchfork a guest list of this and that.

And looking to the Austin City Limits fest, transpiring the same weekend, Austinist wants to be your one stop for all things ACL-related, offering up interviews, previews and whatnot with the artists playing the fest. Check out conversations with The National, The Decemberists and Midlake. Wireless Bollinger also have an interview with Midlake, who’ll be releasing an iTunes-only EP on September 4 entitled Oak And Julian and The AV Club have a talk with The National’s Matt Berninger. And Spoon’s Britt Daniel plays “name that tune” with Harp. Love the comments about Ryan Adams.

Of course, getting to ACL requires me to survive V Fest next weekend, an event that just lost Peter Bjorn & John from its lineup as, according to their MySpace blog, they will instead be in Las Vegas hoping to catch a few seconds of screen time at the MTV Video Awards rather than play a gig to tens of thousands of festival-goers. Smart move, guys (thanks to Thierry for being the bearer of bad news). But their loss is offset by the addition of The Constantines to day two. It never ends! Whee.

Harp has a chat with Jose Gonzalez about his new record In Our Nature, which will be out on September 25. He recently recorded a Takeaway Show for La Blogotheque and will be in town for a dine-in performance at the Mod Club on December 7.

Amiina’s September 10 show at the Horseshoe has been cancelled due to illness in the band.

Back for a third time this year, The Pipettes will be in town at the Opera House on October 5. The domestic edition of We Are The Pipettes will be out a few days prior on October 2 and Pitchfork has the new cover art and info on bonus tracks. Dr Dog play the Mod Club on October 6 (tickets $13.50), The Besnard Lakes return for a show at the Horseshoe on October 12 and Ween are at The Docks on October 26. Film School will be in town on October 29 for a show at the El Mocambo with Land Of Talk (also playing there this coming Tuesday with Cloud Cult) and Eulogies. Film School’s Hideout is out September 11.

Have you seen this teaser for The Dark Knght already? I hadn’t. Interesting that Heath Ledger sounds like he’s trying to channel Jack Nicholson…

Trailer: The Dark Knight

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Come On, Come Out

Strange contrast in musical experiences Tuesday night. Within the span of two hours I went from simple in-store performance from a veteran performer making a comeback of sorts to an industry-only showcase in a ritzy lounge featuring an up-and-coming young artist in a coming out party of sorts. And then I went home, ate a frozen pizza and did laundry.

The former was Mark Olson, in town for a show at the El Mocambo in support of his solo debut The Salvation Blues and offering up a teaser via a half-hour set at Soundscapes. I hadn’t heard anything Olson had done since leaving The Jayhawks but he eased me into things by opening with “Over My Shoulder” from Tomorrow The Green Grass. The band obviously sounded different but the song still sounded as lovely as it did when I first heard it over a decade ago.

Olson himself has obviously aged but his voice still sounds great. And as befits someone whose personal life has gone through the turmoil that his recently has, it was good to see him with the demeanor of someone who’s just come out of a long, dark tunnel and is learning to take joy in life again. The new songs reflected that vibe and didn’t sound a bit out of place alongside his ‘Hawks material though he still knew what everyone wanted to hear and finished off with a nice reading of “Blue”, a classic song if ever there was one. And while the touring backing vocalist/drummer filled in ably, you couldn’t help missing Gary Louris’ harmonies – the forthcoming Olson/Louris album, due out next year, can’t come soon enough.

And as soon as the in-store was done, it was time to zip across town to Club 279 on the top floor of the Hard Rock Cafe at Dundas Square where A Fine Frenzy was playing a private showcase during an off night from opening for Rufus Wainwright. I enjoyed listening to Alison Sudol’s debut record One Cell In The Sea enough when reviewing it to accept an invite to said shindig and to be reminded of how weird music industry events are. Grabbing a spring roll and drink from the open bar, I settled onto one of the leather couches in front of the stage and waited for the show to start. Not quite another night at the Horseshoe.

Playing as a three-piece, A Fine Frenzy kept their set short perhaps as befit a room full of industry folk in schmooze mode. Seeing her/them (damned pronouns) live didn’t really offer any new revelations or disappointments relative to my impressions from the record – Sudol’s rich voice and piano sounded great and her sharp melodic sense helped make some of the more generic songs at least very pretty and the standout songs – “Almost Lover” and especially “Rangers” – sound pretty damn spectacular. That Sudol is talented is undeniable – for me, the question is whether she’s got it in her to step out of the adult-contemporary singer-songwriter box and do something really interesting and unexpected. It’s perfectly fine if she doesn’t – a good song is a good song and the world always needs more of those – but if she did it could be really excellent. She returns to town with Brandi Carlile on October 9 at the Phoenix and The London Free Press has a brief chat with Sudol.

That frozen pizza really hit the spot, too.

Photos: Mark Olson @ Soundscapes – August 28, 2007
Photos: A Fine Frenzy @ Club 279 – August 28, 2007
MP3: A Fine Frenzy – “Come On Come Out” (live At MPR)
MP3: A Fine Frenzy – “Almost Lovers” (live At MPR)
Video: Mark Olson – “National Express” (YouTube)
Video: A Fine Frenzy – “Rangers” (YouTube)
Video: A Fine Frenzy – “Almost Lover” (YouTube)
MySpace: A Fine Frenzy

Thanks to Spinner for offering up Elvis Perkins’ new video for “While You Were Sleeping” without restricting it to US residents only.

Tripwire reports that British Sea Power will make up for delaying the release of album number three, Now That’s What I Call World War One Joy Division, by releasing a five-song, two-video EP in October to coincide with a short, Toronto-free tour of the east coast. Apparently they don’t seem to think they owe us for that cancelled show last Fall – they’re wrong, of course. We will have our British Sea Power. One way or another.

New York North Carolina singer-songwriter Alina Simone, who has a raw Cat Power meets PJ Harvey sort of angle going on, is in town for a show at Rancho Relaxo this Saturday, September 1 in support of her new album Placelessness. And speaking of being without a place, they need a place to crash.

MP3: Alina Simone – “Black Water”
MP3: Alina Simone – “Saw-Edged Grass”

Robbers On High Street, who’ve just released Grand Animals, have a September 24 date at The Horseshoe. At least part of that show will sound a little like this:

MP3: Robbers On High Street – “Crown Victoria”

Sam Beam discusses the sonic expansion of The Shepherd’s Dog with Harp. Iron & Wine are at the Danforth Music Hall on September 25, the same day the album is released.

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Mabye

Yesterday’s mid-afternoon announcement of interesting late-night television content seemed to go pretty well, so here’s another.

The mighty Okkervil River will make what I believe is their network TV appearance tonight on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, performing “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe” from The Stage Names. The same song, incidentally, for which there’s now a video that you can grok below – it starts about 40 seconds in. Conan is on tonight at 12:35 AM EDT and the band will be on towards the end, so say 1:20 AM EDT. Also appearing on tonight’s show are Jeff Goldblum and Devon Aoki, aka The Fly and that samurai girl from Sin City.

AZCentral.com has a talk with Will Sheff about the new album and Pollstar mentions that there are a couple bonus tracks kicking around – “(Shannon Wilsey on the) Starry Stairs” is available at iTunes and a new recording of “Love To A Monster”, which appeared on the Australia-only Overboard And Down EP, is available at eMusic. Actually, I’d double-check that it is different from the Overboard & Down version…

Update: Okay, that was pretty damned awesome. Will post a link when NBC puts the show online…
Update 2: YouTube-d.

MP3: Okkervil River – “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe”
Video: Okkervil River – “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe” (YouTube)
Video: Okkervil River – “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe” (live on Conan O’Brien) (YouTube)

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Let's Get Out Of This Country

It’s hard to believe that I was initially uninterested in going to see Camera Obscura at the Phoenix on Sunday night. After all, I’d already seen them twice in support of 2006′s wonderful Let’s Get Out Of This Country – was a third time really necessary? But when The Last Town Chorus was announced as support, it occurred to me that here was an opportunity to see two bands I really liked and who had nothing to prove to me. I could actually go to a show I knew I’d enjoy start to finish and know almost every song and I was hemming and hawing about it? Duh.

I realize that saying this will probably undermine any credibility I have as a music critic just a bit, but I want to have Megan Hickey’s babies. Not only is she who is The Last Town Chorus beautiful, a helluva lap steel guitarist and blessed with the voice of a totally bummed out angel, she’s also funny as shit. In between performing selections from her terrific second album Wire Waltz, Hickey regaled the audience with wonderfully odd and goofy stream-of-consciousness banter that provided a counterpoint to her sad, sliding-steel, space-country songs. Playing as a duo this time (they were a three-piece with keyboardist in January), they were far louder and more physical onstage than you’d have thought two seated guitarists could be with Hickey moving and swaying as one with her lap steel as she coaxed it into both gently weeping and madly howling. Mesmerizing, and even moreso every time I hear the record or see her live. Though this was already her third time through town this year, she promised to return again this Fall – immediately following this tour, she’s heading on the road with Mark Olson and after that has a string of dates with The Weakerthans.

Even Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell was compelled to comment on their ubiquitousness in our town, saying that she feared we’d be sick of them by now. Judging from the nicely full Phoenix, that was not the case. Excepting the odd festival date, this show marked not only the end of Camera Obscura’s North American tour but the end of their touring cycle for Let’s Get Out Of This Country and it was obvious that they were quite happy to be going home for a rest – but not before letting it all out for this final performance. Where past CO shows were marked by their low-key stage presence and Tracyanne’s famously stony face, this night was tremendously fun and loose and Tracyanne was caught with a grin on her face more than a few times.

Playing with a substitute drummer and multi-instrumentalist, the band played through the bulk of Country and damn near overloaded the PA during “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”. Camera Obscura too loud for the PA? I’m sure that’s the seventh sign. They also delved into their back catalog and threw in a couple of covers including their lullabye-friendly version of ABBA’s “Super Trouper”. But it was in the encore that they really got silly, first sending out guitarist Kenny McKeeve to play “Rocky Racoon” solo while the band sat as his feet and took pictures (apparently he lost a bet) and then closing out with a “Razzle Dazzle Rose” that culminated in an honest-to-god, noise-tacular guitar jam. I never would have thought they had it in them. They should play every show like it’s their last one. Seriously.

eye also has a review of the show (though just the Camera Obscura set) and Bootlog has got a session The Last Town Chorus recorded for Minnesota Public Radio in May available to download.

Photos: Camera Obscura, The Last Town Chorus @ The Phoenix – August 26, 2007
MP3: Camera Obscura – “Let’s Get Out Of This Country”
MP3: Camera Obscura – “If Looks Could Kill”
MP3: The Last Town Chorus – “It’s Not Over”
MP3: The Last Town Chorus – “Modern Love” (live)
MP3: The Last Town Chorus – “Change Your Mind”
MP3: The Last Town Chorus – “Oregon”
MP3: The Last Town Chorus – “Do You Really Wanna Hurt Me?” (live)
Video: Camera Obscura – “Let’s Get Out Of This Country” (MOV)
Video: Camera Obscura – “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken” (MOV)
Video: Camera Obscura – “If Looks Could Kill” (YouTube)
Video: The Last Town Chorus – “Modern Love” (YouTube)
MySpace: Camera Obscura
MySpace: The Last Town Chorus

Last Town Chorus’ next tourmate, Mark Olson, is in town tonight for a show at the El Mocambo as well as an in-store and signing session at Soundscapes starting at 6PM. St Louis Today and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune talk to the former Jayhawk about the single life, the solo life and his new album The Salvation Blues. And as for the Weakerthans, their new record Reunion Tour is out September 25 and the first MP3 from it is available below. They’re also running a series of webisodes documenting the recording of the album – the first >two of which are up now.

MP3: The Weakerthans – “Night Windows”

And speaking of reunion tours, Billboard adds fuel to the fire by reporting that My Bloody Valentine are considering reuniting for a performance at Coachella 2008. Assuming this happens – and it could, Kevin Shields has been insisting that MBV isn’t dead since he came out of hiding a few years ago – the question becomes am I, as a card-carrying shoegaze freak, obligated to fly out to the California desert to bear witness? Good question. Update: And they’re MySpace-d! Via LHB.

And another reunion tour, that of The Waterboys, arrives at the Danforth Music Hall on November 5.

Also from the pages of Billboard, news that HMV Canada (who have untethered www.hmv.ca from amazon.ca and now exists as its own online shop) has opted to slash the prices of their catalog titles by up to 33%. This sounds like great news though in reality, it only brings their prices down to be in line with the independent stores (at least as far as the indie-r titles go). And while any indication that the industry is realizing that CDs are too expensive is a good thing, I can’t shake the feeling that this move is somehow furthering the devaluation of music as a whole and now CDs are just being used as loss leaders to get folks in the store and shopping for video games. And anyways, if anyone was actually willing to pay the $27 white sticker price for a copy of Sticky Fingers, well a fool and his money and all that.