Tuesday, November 6th, 2007
I’m told that Glen Hansard of The Frames doesn’t like to talk about The Commitments, in which he played guitarist Outspan Foster. And while it makes me sad that he sees the need to disavow one of my favourite films so, he can rest easy knowing that if anyone asks him about his acting career from here on out, they’ll be far more interested in his performance in Once.
Originally released in Ireland in 2006 and then trickling out in limited release worldwide over the past year, it follows an Irish street busker and Czech emigree who meet in Dublin and begin a musical relationship over the course of a week. It’s a tremendously romantic film, though not necessarily in the conventional boy-girl sense – that the “will they/won’t they” is beside the point seems to be entirely the point. Instead, Once celebrates the romance of music and dreams with nary an ounce of cynicism but also without being treacly or grandiose. It’s perfectly content to work on a very small and human scale that makes it feel that much more real and affecting. An utterly charming film. Those in Toronto still hoping to catch it can do so this weekend at the Bloor (screening Thursday, Saturday and Sunday) and for everyone else, it will be out on DVD on December 18. The Guardian talks to director John Carney, who used to be bassist in The Frames, about the making of the film.
Of course, you can’t talk about Once without talking about the music, since that’s the very core of the film. As the film demands, most of the material was written by Hansard and as such, sounds very Frames-y. Which is unfortunate as I’ve never really cared for The Frames – far too bombastic for my tastes – but in this context, with Marketa Irglova’s voice and piano softening things up and keeping Hansard in check, it works and turns out a handful of really outstanding songs. I do wonder what it’d have been like to listen to the soundtrack before seeing the film and to hear it without connecting the songs to the emotional weight they carried onscreen, but short of suffering a sharp blow to the head, I guess I’ll never know. And not being able to separate “Falling Slowly” with the scene of them first connecting in the music store? I’m okay with that.
Hansard and Irglova have also leveraged the success of the film and soundtrack into a proper band (as well as a romantic relationship, though he’s literally twice her age – ew). Dubbed The Swell Season, they’ve released an album and have been touring North America and performing songs from the film though considering the ticket prices for some of the shows, I hope they’ve got a little more in the repertoire than just that. The Toronto stop of the tour will be on November 23 at the Danforth Music Hall with Mary Margaret O’Hara opening and courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got passes to give away. More specifically, one grand prize of a pair of passes to the show and a copy of the Once soundtrack on CD and two runner-up prizes of just the soundtrack CD. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to see Swell Season” in the subject line and your full name in the body before midnight, November 15.
Also crossing the lines between music and film, Sigur Ros. By this point, people pretty much know whether they find the Icelandic quartet mesmerizing or monotonous and so if you’re in the latter camp, just move on. If you’re still here, you’re likely a bit frustrated that their Fall releases – the Hvarf/Heim double-CD set and the Heima DVD – have been real moving targets on the release calendar. As it stands, the CDs will be out on November 20 and the DVD, originally intended to be out the same day, will now be available December 4 though Toronto-dwellers should note that there’ll be a screening of the film at The Royal in Little Italy on November 23 at 11:15PM. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door and if you live elsewhere, check the listings at your local rep cinemas and art houses – there’s a good chance that it’s screening nearby in the next little while. Update: Clarification from XL, the label releasing the CD and DVD – the CD is already out in Canada and the DVD is still on for November 20. The above dates are only for the US.
I’ve not seen the film but I have heard the CDs (conveniently streamable below) and while it’s hardly essential – half of it is unreleased material, the other half acoustic versions of old songs – it’s not unnecessary, either. The second disc, in particular, is worth hearing if for no other reason than when Sigur Ros says “unplugged”, they don’t mean they sit around the campfire strumming guit-boxes and singing folk songs in Hopelandish, it means they bring in an orchestra to replace the sonic sweep and impact that normally would have been achieved by electrification. It’s just a different way of achieving the same sense of majesty.
NME reports that just as they did for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born, Wilco is re-releasing Sky Blue Sky for Europe with a 5-song bonus CD containing new and live recordings. And just as they did for both of those albums, they’ll be making the new material available digitally to everyone who’s already bought a copy of the album. The physical edition will be released next Monday, and I imagine the bonus goodies will be available to download at the same time.
Liz Powell of Land Of Talk seethes to StudentDirect about how their dream tour opening for The Decemberists in the UK turned into a sort of a nightmare when the headliners cancelled all the shows… and didn’t tell them.
“We turned up in Bristol and started unloading only to find the venue locked. We went around the front and found the whole place shut down and a notice announcing the rest of their tour was cancelled due to ‘band illness’. No one had bothered to tell us anything. The only reason we were on this fucking tour was that band. They were all amazing shows, we might have broken even, we might have got some new fans and then they come along and cancel. They’ve never bothered to contact us. They’re not that popular with us right now.”
First their gear gets ripped off, now this. Poor Land Of Talk. Update: Actually, apparently the UK cancellations happened a month ago, at the start of October. So first they got stood up in the UK, THEN they got their gear stolen. Not that that’s any better.