Monday, September 24th, 2007
La Da Da
I’ve been singing the praises of Basia Bulat for almost a whole year now so seeing her play to two packed shows at the Music Gallery on Saturday (well the late show was packed, I’m assuming the early was as well) to mark the Canadian release of her debut album Oh, My Darling was an immensely satisfying experience.
The venue, which functions as St. George the Martyr Church when not hosting events, was a decidedly more formal setting than the cozy bars and festival stages where I was used to seeing Bulat and her band but even dressed up for the occasion, there was no repressing their giddiness on stage – even when they were trying to be proper and serious in thanking everyone for coming, there was always the hint that any of them would break out into a grin at any moment. Such was the tone of the night.
But it fit perfectly. Bulat’s ensemble craft chamber pop with the curtains and windows thrown open and sunshine pouring in – it’s the sound of rejoicing. Taking advantage of the church acoustics with the best vocal harmonies and string arrangements I’ve heard from them, Bulat and her band ran through pretty much every song in their repertoire and filled out the encore with covers of The Strokes and Sam Cooke. Two more disparate artists you’d be hard pressed to find but Bulat made them sound like a perfectly matched pair. A splendid evening to celebrate the emergence of a fine new talent.
A mention should also be given to Wayne Petti, who just as he did in opening for Patrick Wolf back in May, demonstrated a keen understanding of the role of warm-up act. He was warm and engaging and kept his set short, yet impressed enough in the space given to make me want to revisit his work with Cuff The Duke, whose new album Sidelines Of The City is out October 23. They’ve got an in-store at Criminal Records that same day and then a proper show at the Mod Club on November 29.
And I should note that the new track that appears on the domestic version of Oh, My Darling is “The Night”, a rollicking piano-led piece that’s been a highlight of their recent live shows. Instead of being tacked onto the end, it’s dropped right in the middle of the running order and you know what? It works. Well.
Update: eye also has a review of Saturday night’s show.
So tonight’s big to-do is the awarding of the second annual Polaris Music Prize. If Ms Bulat’s record had gotten a domestic release at the same time as the European back in May, she’d have been eligible though only by a couple of weeks and almost certainly not long enough to beguile enough jurors to make the shortlist – but now with a September release, she’s eligible for next year’s prize and I’m certainly expecting her to make my list.
But back to this year. Reuters has a piece on the real-world effects that making the shortlist has had for some of the nominees and The Globe & Mail looks at how all the nominees have fared with critics abroad. BrooklynVegan has analyzed the nominees and offers their prediction for who’ll walk away with the giant cheque (though if they’re correct, she’ll have to accept by proxy). Also not attending will be Arcade Fire, who will be in Seattle. Richard Reed Perry talked to that town’s Post-Intelligencer. Update: Radio Free Canuckistan offers up their predictions for tonight.
But six of the ten nominees will certainly be in attendance tonight – they’re performing. Of them, The New Pollution has a feature on Miracle Fortress, The Georgia Straight talks to The Besnard Lakes and QRO has a Q&A with Patrick Watson.
And looking now to bands who were eligible this year but didn’t make the cut, Great Lake Swimmers will play an in-store at Criminal Records on Thursday, September 27 at 7PM in advance of their show at the Phoenix on this coming Saturday. And Sloan have released a first video from Never Hear The End Of It. They’ve got a gig in town on November 25, venue still to be announced.
And some activity from artists who’ll have records eligible for next year’s prize – The Sadies, whose swirlingly psychedelic New Seasons was out domestically last week and in the US next week, have a couple gigs scheduled for early November – on the 2nd at
the Horseshoe Lee’s Palace and then on the 3rd at Lee’s Palace the Horseshoe.
AOL Music Canada features Stars, whose In Our Bedroom After The War is supposed to be out on Tuesday in old-school vinyl and plastic forms, but I can’t find any online retailers who seem especially interested in selling anything but the digital format that’s been available since July. Interesting. They’ve got a three-night stand at the Phoenix on November 26, 27 and 28.
And Neil Young added a third date to his Massey Hall residency that same week but that show, November 29, sold out as soon as it was announced as well. I managed to get tickets for the front row of the gallery for the Monday night and am as giddy as a little girl about it. Chrome Dreams II is out October 16 but if I understand the promotion correctly, all ticketholders get a free copy of the new album. Which makes that $100 a ticket price just a little easier to bear. Juuuust a little.
The Acorn, another short-odds favourite for next year’s Polaris list, are streaming the whole of their new album Glory Hope Mountain on MySpace right now. It’s out tomorrow and they’re at the Horseshoe November 24.
Stream: The Acorn / Glory Hope Mountain
Chart (again) gets the low-down on the sophomore effort from The Diableros, whose debut You Can’t Break The Strings In Our Olympic Hearts was on my short list for the 2006 Polaris Prize. Aren’t Ready For The Country is out October 16 and they play a CD release show at the Horseshoe on October 26.
And finally, The AV Club has put together a wholly uncomprehensive yet surprisingly thorough primer to the Canadian indie rock scene.
Back tomorrow with more Can-Con and dispatches from the Polaris gala. In the meantime, grok the finalists and offer your predictions for who walks away with the $20,000. Me, I think Feist should win but would be astonished if she did – instead, I’d like to see Miracle Fortress take it home. Either way, if you’re so inclined you can follow along at home as the ceremony will be broadcast live on the CBC Radio 3 Sirius satellite station, so to the six of you with Sirius radio, tune in!