Archive for November, 2007

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Glory Hope Mountain

A quiet (read: inactive) weekend on the blog by no means implies a quiet weekend for me – quite the opposite, actually. Familial duties, houseguests and brewing cold kept me largely offline but I still ducked out of everything on Saturday night to catch Ottawans The Acorn’s sorta-CD release show for Glory Hope Mountain at the Horseshoe.

I’d like to say that I’m mentioning the fact that I used to be in a band with Laura Barrett in the interests of full journalistic disclosure but in truth, I’m just trying to catch a little bit of cool by associating myself with her. Since picking up the kalimba a few years ago (full story at Exclaim!), Laura has become something of a local hero and not for the more novel reasons one might initially expect but because no matter what her choice of instrument, she’s a terrifically clever and idiosyncratic songwriter and artist along the lines of Nellie McKay or St Vincent, if less precocious than the former and less dramatic than the latter. Occasionally augmented by glockenspiel or synth bass pedals, she and her kalimbas played a short set of material from her 2005 Earth Sciences EP which she mentioned was being dressed up for re-release. This was the first time I’d seen her perform and, like probably everyone who’s seen her play, was totally charmed. Bring on a proper record.

Bruce Peninsula’s set wasn’t too different from the one they put on a few weeks back at Lee’s Palace. But with this purported to be their last gig for a few months while they go a-recording, I detected a little more cutting loose from the eleven Bruce Peninsulans onstage. They may have bellowed a little louder, clapped a little harder, testified a little more vociferously. Whatever it was, had it been in a barn it would have been a barn-burner. Bring on a proper record.

Don’t know if anyone caught my plug for this show on CBC Radio 3 last week but if so, and if on the off chance you opted to catch the show on my recommendation, I want to apologize for two misleading points. One, though Ohbijou’s Casey Mecija was indeed in the house as a member of the Bruce, she didn’t take the stage to sing “Lullabye” with the Acorn as I’d assumed she would. Secondly, front-Acorn Rolf Klausener has indeed shaved the mighty beard he was sporting over the Summer so anyone hoping to marvel at his hirsuteness… sorry.

But if you were in attendance, I refuse to accept either of those as reasons for not enjoying the show – it was just too good. Taking the stage to the dual-drummer pounding of “The Flood, Pt 1”, The Acorn (currently operating as a six-piece) opened up by calling up all the members of the support acts – that’s a dozen strong – to supply the tribal backing vocals and start things off with a glorious bang. I’d heard that they were going to play the entirety of Glory Hope Mountain in order and while that’d have been cool – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a whole album performed live in sequence – they opted to include material from both their Blankets! and Tin Fist EPs and keep the set mostly uptempo. The textures of Glory Hope weren’t recreated verbatim but the spirit was definitely captured with the extra percussion, various stringed instruments and Central American rhythms , not to mention the rich imagery of the songs themselves. Klausener mentioned at one point that this was the best Toronto show they’d played and though I hadn’t seen all of them, based on the handful of times I’d seen the band perform, I’d be inclined to agree. Glory Hope Mountain has been deservedly accruing praise from all corners and as a result, the band has a much brighter spotlight shining on them than they’ve ever had before – it’s good to see that they’ve risen to the occasion.

The Globe & Mail talked to both Klausener and his mother about Glory Hope Mountain this past weekend.

Photos: The Acorn, Bruce Peninsula, Laura Barrett @ The Horseshoe – November 24, 2007
MP3: The Acorn – “The Flood, Pt 1”
MP3: The Acorn – “Crooked Legs”
MP3: Laura Barrett – “Robot Ponies”
MySpace: The Acorn
MySpace: Bruce Peninsula

The venerable (and legendary) Horseshoe Tavern is turning 60 next month and is hosting a slew of great shows to mark the occasion. I’ve already noted a number of them – Richard Hawley on the 5th, six nights of Joel Plaskett from the 10th through the 16th, Rhett Miller on the 19th – but there’s still some special announcements promised. A couple of these were revealed at the end of last week and both are pretty sweet – first, there’s the kick-off celebration on the 4th with a free show from The Lowest Of The Low. If you responded to that with, “who?” rather than “alright!”, then you’re probably under the age of 30 and live in Southern Ontario in the early ’90s. Read this for some background. And secondly, Justin Rutledge’s ‘Shoe show on the 8th now also features the inimitable Howe Gelb on the bill. More surprises are planned for the 17th and 18th and if this is where they’ve set the bar, they’re sure to be great. If you have an inkling of who it might be, let me know! I won’t tell. Promise.

Bradley’s Almanac has posted MP3s from a Kevin Drew/Broken Social Scene show in Boston from this past August. Pitchfork has an interview.

Sloan’s Jay Ferguson talks to JAM! about taking part in this past weekend’s Grey Cup festivities and plans for their next album.

Neil Young tonight! ‘Nuff said.

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

What Became Of The Likely Lads?

The first time I’d ever heard of The Libertines was in the context of a news item that talked about one Pete Doherty being arrested for burglarizing the apartment of his former bandmate, one Carl Barat. This is not what we call a good first impression. And from that point forward, all I’ve known of Doherty and his compatriots is the media circus that has been his life over the past however many years regarding his various drug addictions, supermodel girlfriends and what have you. It’s been enough to make me dislike him intensely without having ever heard a lick of his music.

But people whose opinions I generally trust have long insisted that there was a reason that Doherty and The Libertines were held in such high regard, that there was more to him than just the tabloid fodder. After all, it’s not overstatement to say that they, along with Coldplay, have had the greatest influence over the current state of British indie rock (whether this is good thing or not is up to you). So with the release of their best-of compilation Time For Heroes and more specifically, its arrival in my mailbox, I decided it was time to see what the fuss was all about with as much of an open mind as I could muster.

And I didn’t need to go too far into the compact collection to get it. Taking tracks from both Up The Bracket and The Libertines as well as a smattering of b-sides and miscellany, Time For Heroes makes the case for The Libertines as a potent, anthemic working class rock band in the grand tradition of The Clash though less concerned with revolution as chasing birds and getting one’s drink on (and later on their own internal drama). Some of the material presented is forgettable but the singles – “Up The Bracket”, “Time For Heroes” and “Can’t Stand Me Now” in particular – are, from the first listen, for the ages. Scrappy and snotty in all the right places and only occasionally too much so, it’s the sound that could and seemingly did launch a thousand lout-rock bands that the world could probably do without.

But it’s also the sound of a band that wasn’t built to last. Even without knowing all the specifics of the inter-band turmoil (which I only just looked up on Wikipedia), you can hear the tensions and inevitable burnout looming in the music. Before hearing their records, I would have preferred to believe that the appeal of the band lay in the drama surrounding them – it certainly made ignoring them easier – but now I see that wasn’t the case. If I were of a certain time and place in my life and looking for a soundtrack, I could see being swept up in it all and having them be the only band that mattered. None of this makes the sideshow of Doherty’s non-musical antics any less reprehensible, but now that I know how much talent he’s squandering in doing what he does, it does make it that much more tragic.

MP3: The Libertines – “Time For Heroes”
MP3: The Libertines – “Never Never”
MP3: The Libertines – “Can’t Stand Me Now”
Video: The Libertines – “What Became Of The Likely Lads” (YouTube)
Video: The Libertines – “Time For Heroes” (YouTube)
Video: The Libertines – “Can’t Stand Me Now” (YouTube)
Video: The Libertines – “Up The Bracket” (YouTube)
Video: The Libertines – “Don’t Look Back Into The Sun” (YouTube)
Video: The Libertines – “I Get Along” (YouTube)

Unrescuable Schizo offers up a nice long interview with Nicole Atkins.

NOW and JAM talk to Amy Millan in advance of Stars’ sold-out four-night stand at the Phoenix next week.

Lavender Diamond will be at Lee’s Palace on December 17.

Spin has posted an excerpt of their cover story interview with both Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Bruce Springsteen. They also solicit Boss love from The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn and The National’s Matt Berninger. Springsteen is (almost) coming to town with a show at Hamilton’s Copps coliseum on March 3 of next year.

The Washington Post blogs the A to Z of The Hold Steady while NPR is streaming theirs and Art Brut’s Washington DC shows from earlier this week.

Shout Out Louds talk to Filter.

The Last Town Chorus is in Australia. How do I know? Both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have interviews with Megan Hickey.

I’ve got family visiting this weekend so it could be another weekend without posting… yeah I’m totally turning into a slacker. But in the meantime, peruse The Guardian‘s list of 1000 albums to hear before you die and make sure to allot yourself enough time to listen to them all before kicking ye olde bucket.

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Here's Where The Story Ends

I’m a bit surprised at how much discussion the release of Rhino’s Brit Box box set has been stirring up. When it was originally announced, I gave the track list a quick once over, decided that everything I’d likely be interested in hearing from it I mostly already had and was far more interested in the packaging – an old-school English phone box festooned with band stickers and complete with flickering light.

But a number of outlets have used the occasion of the set’s release to do more than just review the collection, but to revisit the era that it aspires to document – namely, the British “indie” scene from 1984 through 1999.’s blog, in particular, has gone a bit batshit using the set as a jumping-off point for a number of posts – examining the track list, citing notable omissions, remembering American shoegazers, celebrating the glory of Luke Haines, rounding up fancy box set packaging and Bez. That’s a lot of mileage out of a single box.

The Riverfront Times uses the set as an excuse to get in touch with some of the artists who’ve since fallen off the radar of popular music and gets quotes from Lush’s Miki Berenyi (mostly covering the same ground as here) as well as a word from Mark Gardener of Ride about the likelihood of a reunion in that camp (that is sound of me not holding my breath). The Village Voice takes a less rose-coloured look at the era in question and PopMatters weighs in with a fairly massive disc-by-disc review, complete with video clip aids.

For my part, I already did this from my own personal point of view a couple years ago on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Oasis/Blur fued and there’s not really much need to cover that terrain again. But I will say that as time munches on, I find myself looking a bit more fondly upon some of the bands I’d disowned from that era. I guess I’m no longer worried about being judged if someone finds a Sleeper or Echobelly record in my collection. Hey, they had some good tunes. Wonder if there are compilations out there? Still not missing my Shed Seven records, though.

While the box set divvies its contents into four parts – the forebears, the shoegazers, the Britpoppers and the end days – I see three distinctions. The stuff that I discovered after the fact, the stuff I lived through and the stuff that drove me away from the UK (musically speaking) for some years. Just scanning the track listing again brings back all sorts of memories. As pretty much every review has stated, the song selection seems pretty random – some obvious singles, some questionable non-singles, some conspicuous absences, some perplexing inclusions – but if you consider that in its scattershotedness it actually offers a pretty good sample of the content over fifteen years of NME and Select, there may be more of a plan behind it than it may appear at first. Or maybe it is just a dog’s breakfast. Only the Rhino knows. But one thing is for certain – this set should be a boon for aspiring Britpop DJs. Pop all four discs into a carousel, hit shuffle and go hit on some drunk frosh.

And hey, maybe that aspiring Britpop DJ can be you! Courtesy of Rhino and vLES, I’ve got a Brit Box to give away to one lucky Anglophile. To enter, peruse the track listing and tell me in the comments who is missing from the set and should be represented in lieu of, say, Gay Dad. No one’s going to go to bat for Gay Dad. Feel free to nominate a song as well. Acts whose don’t naturally fit in with the Britpop/Brit-indie theme are exempt and I will be the sole arbiter of who falls under that particular brolly. Also try to steer it to overlooked acts rather than those whose absence is so obvious that it’s got to be a case of not being able to secure the rights to a song – hello Radiohead, Polly Jean Harvey. Be sure to include an accurate, if spam-proofed email when leaving the comment as well. Contest open to residents of North America only, please, everyone everywhere and it will close at midnight November 30.

vLES has been trumpeting a week of Brit Box-related content including interviews with Brett Anderson and streaming concerts but I’ll be damned if I can find any actual content on their site. Maybe you’ll have better luck. I should also note that the artwork that accompanies this post comes from the comic series Phonogram, which I’ve enthused about before and which is quite relevant to this discussion as it deals with Britpop retro-fetishism though I suspect protagonist David Kohl wouldn’t approve of Kula Shaker being given props in any way, shape or form.

Finally, a smattering of videos from some of the bands I’ve been reminded that I like as well as my nomination for most notable omission from the collection – The House Of Love. They deserve the recognition and I vote to kick out both Gay Dad AND Hurricane #1 to make room.

Stream: The Brit Box Disc 1
MP3: The House Of Love – “Shine On”
Video: The Sundays – “Here’s Where The Story Ends” (YouTube)
Video: Chapterhouse – “Pearl” (YouTube)
Video: The Boo Radleys – “Lazarus” (YouTube)
Video: Echobelly – “Insomniac” (YouTube)
Video: Sleeper – “Sale Of The Century” (YouTube)

Bradley’s Almanac is offering up audio of Spiritualized’s show in Boston this past Monday, the final North American date of their Acoustic Mainlines tour.

British Sea Power released their Krankenhaus? EP in physical form this week, though it’s been available digitally since October. In addition to the five tracks, there’s two videos on the CD version of the release, one of which you can watch below via Pitchfork. The band’s next full length, Do You Like Rock Music? is out February 12.

MP3: British Sea Power – “Atom”
Video: British Sea Power – “Water Tower”

LiveDaily talks to Emma Pollock.

NME reports that Billy Bragg is set to release his first album of new material in six years. Mr Love & Justice will be out on March 3 in the UK.

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

CONTEST – Celebration @ The El Mocambo – November 26, 2007

Everything I know about Baltimore, I learned from The Wire and watching some Orioles games. But obviously the drug trade and Camden Yards aren’t sufficiently representative of bmore because neither of those explain Celebration. And I’m not sure I can explain them either as the rich blend of jazz, gospel, soul and art-rock on their second album The Modern Tribe would be difficult for someone with a broad expanse of musical knowledge to describe, let alone me.

And so I won’t try. Instead I refer you to this feature in NOW, the audio-video supplements below and their upcoming show on Monday, November 26 at the El Mocambo alongside Dragons Of Zynth (whom eye profiles) and Sebastien Grainger. And that last one I can help you with because courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away for the show. If you want, email me at contests AT with “I want to Celebrat(ion)” in the subject line and your full name in the email body. And do it before midnight Thursday night. That is all.

MP3: Celebration – “Evergreen”
MP3: Celebration – “Hands Off My Gold” (SMD Remix)
Video: Celebration – “Evergreen” (YouTube)
MySpace: Celebration

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

Pistol Grip

I’ve always wondered about the logistics of the garage band. I don’t know about you, but growing up, my garage had cars in it. And a lawnmower. And boxes of various shapes and sizes containing stuff we’d never need again but couldn’t bear to throw out. But certainly nothing inspirational and most months of the year, pretty cold.

The childhood garages of the two brothers and one non-sibling that form The Blakes, on the other hand, must have housed not only the rudimentary implements of a rock band but crates of old records spanning the history of rock from the UK of the ’60s through New York City in the ’70s (via Detroit), Minneapolis in the ’80s and their native Seattle in the 1990s. Their self-titled debut bristles with raw, Nuggets-y energy with the requisite amounts of slop and snot but also an impressively sophisticated pop sensibility and enough stylistic left turns to avoid any pigeonhole you might try to set in front of them (and getting more than a little dizzy in the process). Deceptively simple on first listen, further listens hint that their garages may have housed a few cases of Guided By Voices’ empties, The Strokes’ tight jeans and some of The Cure’s leftover mascara. And there’s probably still more treasures waiting to be unearthed.

The Blakes are in town Monday night for a show at the Silver Dollar, unfortunately opposite my date with Neil Young at Massey Hall. NPR is streaming a session recorded for KEXP during CMJ last month. NOW has a feature. And, courtesy of Outside Music, I’ve got some copies of The Blakes to give away – one grand prize winner will get the CD also get a copy of a limited-edition EP while two other winners will get a copy of the CD. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I Want The Blakes” in the subject line and your mailing address in the body. Contest will close at midnight, November 24, Canadians only please.

MP3: The Blakes – “Pistol Grip”
MP3: The Blakes – “Don’t Bother Me”

Pitchfork brings tidings of the new Mountain Goats record! It’s called Heretic Pride, will be out February 19 and feature a bevy of guest stars, including St Vincent’s Annie Clark and Superchunk’s Jon Wurster.

The ‘Fork also directs us to this video for Okkervil River’s “Girl In Port” which is apparently as official a video as there’s going to be for the song. It features Will Sheff playing the song solo and acoustic beside a castle in front of a beautiful Italian sunset intercut with footage of the band’s holiday videos from Italy. For real.

Video: Okkervil River – “Girl In Port” (YouTube)

Relix talks to Josh Ritter.

Zach Condon of Beirut talks to Drowned In Sound while MSNBC discusses the Flying Club Cup video project with both he and the Blogotheque folks who put it together.

For The Records points out that Jenn Grant will be back in town on December 28 for a show at the Drake. It appears that this year, just like last, I’ll be spending a lot of the end of December at the Drake.

NPR is streaming all two hours and thirty-two seconds of Kevin Drew’s show in DC from this weekend as well as a thirteen minute and forty-two second interview. Relix also has a short interview – it will last as long as it takes you to read.

I’m Not There is out in the US this week but not in Canada till next Wednesday, apparently. Oregon Daily and The AV Club both talk to director Todd Haynes.