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Archive for February, 2008

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Bête Noire


Photo by Sam Holden

Though I came of age in the early ’90s, neither the Screaming Trees nor Afghan Whigs figured heavily into my musical development. I dug a few of the singles from each but I just couldn’t relate to their brand of bellowing angst – was more of a moper than a shouter. Did I say was?

Even though it’s been some 15 years since either band reached their commercial peaks with Sweet Oblivion and Gentlemen respectively, the frontmen from each band have never stepped out of the public eye. Mark Lanegan has carved out a critically acclaimed solo career in addition to his duties as a sometime-Queen Of The Stone Age and unlikely duet partner with Isobel Campbell while Greg Dulli has been a Twilight Singer for as long as he was an Afghan Whig and now the pair, who’ve worked together before in the Twilight Singers, are set to release the first album from their long-percolating collaboration as The Gutter TwinsSaturnalia, out Tuesday. And hell, if you’ve been waiting a long time for this? It was worth it.

It’s hard to imagine a situation in which Greg Dulli would be the good cop, but here – even though his vocals drip with the greasy soul and anguished lasciviousness that have long been his hallmark, they can’t withstand Lanegan’s weight of a thousand tombstones baritone. When he steps in, it’s like every light in the room dims and the temperature drops by ten degrees. The man has presence. They both do. And together, whether trading lead vocals or in harmony, they’ve produced a record that stands as one of the finer pure rock records I’ve heard in ages. Dominated by huge guitars (“Idle Hands” is an apocalypse I could get into) but also drenched in piano, strings and mellotron – this is no collection of home demos cobbled together – Saturnalia is grandiose but never loses the rawness or darkness that gives it its crackling vibrancy. Of course, when you’ve got two singers who sound like their concert rider could consist of nothing but whiskey and gravel, how could it? The songwriting drips with blues and soul with dashes of Americana and shows two veteran songwriters still restless, still searching and still not the kind of guys you’d want to run into in a dark alley. Absolutely bracing.

You can stream the whole album on their MySpace and they kick off their North American tour tomorrow at Noise Pop in San Francisco, with a Toronto date on March 14 at the Mod Club. There’s not many things that could make me wish I was here at home that week rather than eating tortilla-wrapped foodstuffs in Austin, but this show is one of them. And there’s a terrific feature on Lanegan in the new issue of Magnet, featuring conversations with many of his collaborators over the years as well as the man himself.

MP3: The Gutter Twins – “Idle Hands”
Video: Afghan Whigs – “Gentlemen”
Video: Screaming Trees – “Nearly Lost You”
MySpace: The Gutter Twins

The Oakland Tribune discusses the life story of The Mountain Goats with John Darnielle.

The Herald Sun gets to know Interpol frontman Paul Banks.

A Place To Bury Strangers tells The Deseret News they are pro-internet.

Drowned In Sound talks to Beach House about Devotion. They’ve a new video and are at the El Mocambo on March 28.

Video: Beach House – “Heart Of Chambers”

Thinking about heading to the ElMo this Sunday night to see Headlights and Evangelicals, aren’t that familiar with either band and don’t have a lot of time to spare? Have no fear – just check out the track below wherein Headlights cover Evangelicals. If you like the performance and the songwriting, it’s win-win. If you don’t like either… well there’s a new episode of The Simpsons on. You could watch that.

MP3: Headlights – “Skeleton Man”
MP3: Evangelicals – “Skeleton Man”

Billboard reports that Elbow’s next album The Seldom Seen Kid will get a North American release on April 22 courtesy of Fiction/Geffen.

Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion, who plays a free show at the Horseshoe on Tuesday night, chats with Exclaim!.

The Westender talks to British Sea Power, whose Martin Noble writes in The Guardian about the debut of The Modern Ovens, his Jonathan Richman covers band.

Entertainment Weekly has the tracklisting for the Heroes soundtrack, out March 18, which will feature artists such as Bob Dylan, Wilco and the first new Jesus & Mary Chain single in a decade. None of which changes the fact that it’s a terrible show.

Canadian Music Week hits next week and while we, as a city, haven’t cottoned to the culture of the day show yet – and probably never will – we have rather taken to the art of the in-store. Just consider the many mergers of live performance and retail next week: On Thursday, March 6 at 5PM you have Immaculate Machine at Soundscapes, then it’s a quick jaunt on the Bathurst 511 to Sonic Boom where Matthew Barber will be playing in the basement at 7PM. Then on March 7, Attack In Black will make those same wood-paneled walls rattle with a show at 7PM. Laura Barrett will serenade Soundscapes on Saturday the 8th at 4PM and then on Sunday at 4PM, once you’ve recovered from whatever CMW hangover you’re nursing, head back to Soundscapes for a show from Forest City Lovers. Yes? Yes.

And not an in-store, but there might be a merch table – Emily Haines plays the Phoenix on March 30.

And here’s something to wind out the week… new Iron Man trailer. May 2. Yes.

Trailer: Iron Man

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Come Clean


Photo via Eisley

I’m not a believer in the idea of “guilty pleasures” but if I were to hold the music I listen to up against an objective scale running from “cool” to “not so cool”, Eisley would almost certainly have to fall into the latter end of the curve.

And on paper, there’s a lot that about them that you could consider cred-defeating. An outfit comprised of all siblings and one cousin hailing from the Texas Bible belt and trading in earnest, major label-endorsed pop-rock would appear to have about as much edge as a rubber ball. But what they do have, and what all the studio gloss can’t obscure, is a glorious pop sensibility that guarantees at least a half-dozen melodic moments per album, delivered in the angelic voices of one of the DuPree sisters (or all three in harmony), that remind me of why I buy their records. Compared to their mostly midtempo debut Room Noises, 2007’s Combinations showcased the band’s rockier side though at the expense of some of the first record’s lyrical whimsy.

Eisley came through town a few times in support of Room Noises – I caught their first headlining show and felt old – but they’ve yet to tour through for Combinations until now. Their Spring tour still has many holes in it but their April 9 date at Lee’s Palace is on the books.

MP3: Eisley – “Golly Sandra” (live)
MP3: Eisley – “I Wasn’t Prepared” (live)
MP3: Eisley – “Just Like We Do” (live)
Video: Eisley – “Invasion”
MySpace: Eisley

As promised at his in-store last week, Kinks-man Ray Davies has booked a North American tour in support of his new solo record Working Man’s Cafe and will be at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on April 3. Good news for everyone who couldn’t make it to HMV to see him play or who could make it but couldn’t see him anyway.

Anglo-Gallic trio The Teenagers return to town for a show at ANTI (nee Spin Gallery out on Queen West) on May 1 – full tour dates on their site. They will be celebrating the March 18 release of their debut Reality Check.

MP3: The Teenagers – “Starlett Johansson”
Video: The Teenagers – “Starlett Johansson”

The two-thirds of Low-powered Retribution Gospel Choir makes its Toronto debut June 21 at the Rivoli. Their debut, self-titled album is due out March 18.

NOW Q&A’s Devonte Hynes of Lightspeed Champion. He’s at the Horseshoe for a free show on Tuesday night (March 4).

Chart has a feature on Super Furry Animals.

Kevin Drew has a new video he’d like to share with you.

Video: Kevin Drew – “Lucky Ones”

The Georgia Straight talks to British Sea Power about the recording process of Do You Like Rock Music?. They’re at Lee’s Palace on May 16.

Black Mountain, playing Lee’s Palace on March 5, talk to NOW, The Montreal Gazette, The Chronicle Herald and hour.ca. Also on the bill is Bon Iver, who just released For Emma, Forever Ago last week. ArtistDirect, PopMatters and MP3.com chat with Justin Vernon.

Steve Earle discusses prison and Elvis with hour.ca. He’s at Massey Hall on March 4.

If you missed NPR’s stream of Wilco’s show in DC last night, fret not – it’ll be online soon it’s online now. And the band are also going to be on Saturday Night Live this Saturday night – playing live – with guest host Ellen Page.

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Expelled From Love

Greetings and welcome, if you’re here following the magical breadcrumb trail of video interviews with The Raveonettes wherein they discuss each track from their new album Lust Lust Lust. Already aired (aired?) have been segments at BrooklynVegan, My Old Kentucky Blog and Tripwire and still to come before the week winds down are installments at You Ain’t No Picasso and The Music Slut.

I’m still a relative newcomer to the Danish duo, my first exposure to them coming in the live context last October and as you could tell from that review, I wasn’t especially blown away. Though their aesthetic – equal parts girl group pop and Jesus And Mary Chain noise – is samey by design, being unfamiliar with their work made distinguishing one song from the next difficult, particularly with a two-guitar and drums configuration and volume in the red.

Happily, some time spent with Lust Lust Lust has yielded much more positive results. In a studio setting, their noisier inclinations are kept in check at the mixing board and the white noise – while absolutely still present – is applied more strategically and doesn’t obscure their pop craft and little musical embellishments which, underneath all the squall, is really quite pretty and even delicate. Some songs, like the lead-off “Aly, Walk With Me” flirt with a more sinister tone but it’s when the indulge their musical sweet tooth that they come across the best. Their sonic modus operendi is specific enough that it ensures you either get/like them or you don’t and while I’m not necessarily inclined to seek out their older records – they still don’t strike me as a band you need an encyclopedic catalog from – I’ve settled quite nicely on the “pro” side of the fence.

And so we come to the “exclusive interview” portion of the post – Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner talking a bit about two more tracks from Lust Lust List – “Expelled From Love” and “You Want The Candy”.

The Raveonettes discuss “Expelled From Love”

The Raveonettes discuss “You Want The Candy”

The Ravonettes are touring in support of Lust Lust Lust and stop in at the Opera House in Toronto on March 21. Exclaim! also has a brief interview with the band and Wagner talks Valentine’s Day to San Diego City Beat.

MP3: The Raveonettes – “Dead Sound”
MP3: The Raveonettes – “Aly, Walk With Me”
Video: The Raveonettes – “Dead Sound”
Video: The Raveonettes – “You Want The Candy”
Video: The Raveonettes – “Aly, Walk With Me”

If you actually read through those numerous “who’s going to break out in 2008″ lists from the UK press I linked at the start of the year, one name that kept coming up was Foals, out of Oxford. I’m not sure I’m convinced, but they’ve sold enough people to land themselves a North American deal with SubPop ((and unlike many of said label’s recent signings, despite their equine name they sound nothing like Band Of Horses) and a North American tour to support their debut Antidotes when it’s released March 24. The Toronto stop is May 2 at Lee’s Palace.

MP3: Foals – “Balloons”
Video: Foals – “Cassius”
Video: Foals – “Balloons”
Video: Foals – “Hummer”
Video: Foals – “Mathletics”
MySpace: Foals

Drowned In Sound and Gigwise talk to The Long Blondes about Couples, out April 8. They play Lee’s Palace on May 22.

There were some rumours yesterday that the reason Radiohead’s August 15 date in Toronto at the Molson Amphitheatre was released outside the context of a full tour announcement was that it was going to be part of the announcement for this year’s edition of Edgefest, the CFNY-sponsored festival that was responsible for inflicting the likes of Our Lady Peace and The Tea Party on us for far too many years in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Well as Billboard reports, such is not the case – instead, Edgefest will feature a reconstituted Stone Temple Pilots, those elegant bachelors who hope they’re still foxy to you, alongside a puzzling bill that includes Linkin Park, Sam Roberts and The Coast. That to-do goes down July 12 at Downsview Park.

And speaking of The Coast, Exclaim! has the first sample of their new album Expatriate, due out April 1. Sounds great, and almost nothing like The Coast you might remember from their EP.

That Verve show at Ricoh Coliseum I was talking about last week? It’s on. Are there still 10,000 Verve fans willing to shell out $60-$70 a ticket ten years after their heyday? Tickets go on sale March 8 at noon right now ($70 floors, anyway – not seats) – let’s find out. Oh, and I told you so. If you’re tour tracking, after playing Coachella on April 25, Music Snobbery has them in Las Vegas on the 26th and New York City on April 28 and 29.

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan are releasing Sunday At Devil Dirt on May 5, a follow-up to 2005’s Ballad Of The Broken Seas. Presumably this is Lanegan’s way of cleansing himself after getting dirty in The Gutter with Greg Dulli.

British Sea Power’s Yan and Noble keep a tour diary for Drowned In Sound. BSP play Lee’s Palace on May 16 and headline The Hot Freaks’ Friday sched at the Mohawk during SxSW.

Minnesota Public Radio invites Nicole Atkins into their studio for a session. She opens Hot Freaks at the Mohawk at noon on Friday, March 14.

Slate ponders, “whither Jeff Mangum?”

Will Johnson finally appears to be getting his multiple band disorder under control… or at least consolidating them. The next Centro-Matic album will also be the next South San Gabriel record and both will be a double album called Dual Hawks, due out April 8. The set will contain one album credited to Centro-Matic and one to South San Gabriel and both will have the same name. Got that? Thanks, Will, for clearing that all up for us.

And, as inexplicable as it is, call this the third straight day with Manic Street Preachers content. In this case, a feature in the new Exclaim! about the martyrdom of musicians who die young. Yeah, yeah, Richey Edwards isn’t dead. Move on.

Oh yeah, I’m trying out this media player widget thing which you can see beside most MP3 links. Try it out. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

All The Lost Souls Welcome You To San Francisco


Photo by Piper Ferguson

When Mark Eitzel of American Music Club described the band’s new album The Golden Age, released last week, as having an “overall sound… lighter than on previous AMC recordings”. Some, such as myself, interpreted this as meaning that the record would be of the upbeat, pop variety as opposed to the agitation and anger that informed 2004’s comeback record Love Songs For Patirots.

But no, as the gentle acoustic fingerpicking that opens “All My Love” reveals, it doesn’t mean that Eitzel is feeling happy – just mellow. The overall vibe of Golden Age is reminiscent of the quieter moments of their 1991 masterpiece Everclear, less the darkness lurking in the corners. It’s probably too much to assume that Eitzel’s famously mercurial temper has been tamed but his gentler, clear-eyed self is definitely on display here. Lyrically he’s still melancholic at best and fatalistic at worst, but always delivered with a wit and wry turn of phrase that sugar-coats the bitterest sentiment. I have always maintained that Mark Eitzel is one of the finest rock lyricists of the past two decades and The Golden Age does nothing to dissuade me from that opinion.

Musically, things are built off a primarily acoustic base with newcomers in the rhythm section Sean Hoffman Steve Didelot also step in quite ably in replacing Danny Pearson and Tim Mooney – no mean feat. But if Eitzel’s words provide AMC’s heart, it’s Vudi – the only other remaining original member – who is the band’s blood. As always, he manages to inject the perfect electrical guitar adornments overtop, underneath and in the spaces in between, only occasionally allowing his fretwork to breach the placid surface of the record like a sea serpent rising, all menace and foreboding, before again sinking back into the depths leaving things serene but shaken. Even though the album’s tempo rarely rises above a canter, Vudi ensures that The Golden Age remains, unquestionably, a rock album. A beautiful, gleaming rock.

The Golden Age unfolds at a slow, languorous pace both over its 55 minutes and across repeated listens but is more rewarding each time through. If Love Songs was the sound of a band announcing themselves as still vital even after a decade in mothballs, The Golden Age is even more impressive in that they don’t sound like they’re trying at all but prove it again anyways.

American Music Club touring Europe and North America this Spring and play Lee’s Palace on April 17, their first Toronto show in 14 years. Do not miss it.

MP3: American Music Club – “All The Lost Souls Welcome You To San Francisco”
MP3: American Music Club – “I Know That’s Not Really You”
MP3: American Music Club – “All My Love”
Stream: American Music Club / The Golden Age
MySpace: American Music Club

Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields recounts a Spice Girls encounter to Time Out: New York and discusses the sanctity of the live music experience with the The San Francisco Chronicle.

Wireless Bollinger discusses Heretic Pride with John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats.

Shearwater. Rook. June 3. Details. Howard? Lee’s. May 11. OMG.

MP3: Shearwater – “Rooks”

NPR is featuring a short World Cafe session with Basia Bulat. Basia is at Lee’s Palace on March 29 with Katie Stelmanis and Amos The Transparent.

Mates Of State will release their new album Re-Arrange Us on May 20.

Drowned In Sound contemplates the works of Manic Street Preachers, album by album. Absolutely correct about Know Your Enemy but I gave Lifeblood another listen just the other day and it’s not so bad at all.

Stephen Malkmus’ new one Real Emotional Trash isn’t out till March 4 but you can stream it now at Spinner.

Stream: Stephen Malkmus / Real Emotional Trash

Also on the stream but out today is Beach House’s Devotion from which another MP3 is now available, if you need some take-away. The record was ordained “Best New Music” and The Baltimore Sun also has an interview with the band, who’re at the El Mocambo on March 28.

MP3: Beach House – “Heart Of Chamber”
Stream: Beach House / Devotion

Playing the same venue (ElMo) a few days later on April 1 and releasing her new album Another Country today (also available to stream) is Tift Merritt, with whom PopMatters has an interview.

Stream: Tift Merritt / Another Country

Shelby Lynne brings her tribute to Dusty Springfield, as documented on her new album Just A Little Lovin’, to the Mod Club on March 31, tickets $20. USA Today discusses the love of Dusty with her.

Video: Shelby Lynne – “Anyone Who Had A Heart”

When I was in high school and just getting into music outside the mainstream, my cousin had a job at Option magazine and got me a subscription. For a couple years, I got these wonderfully thick and glossy magazines covering artists I’d never, ever heard of… like Uncle Tupelo, PJ Harvey and Liz Phair. Periodically, when I’m at my parents’ place, I go through those issues and marvel at the stuff that I’d discover and cherish years later that I’d already been exposed to, if just in passing, so long before. My point is that my first issue featured Meat Beat Manifesto on the cover and they’re at Lee’s Palace on April 23. Tickets are $16.50, their new album Autoimmune is out April 8 and yes, this paragraph was utterly self-indulgent. What of it.

MP3: Meat Beat Manifesto – “International”
MP3: Meat Beat Manifesto – “Bush Of Lies”

Mark Kozelek has a habit of releasing records with his band, Sun Kil Moon as he is with April, out April 1, and then touring them as a solo act, as he is when he plays Lee’s Palace on June 10. Tickets $15.

And finally, Radiohead will be at the Molson Amphitheatre on August 15 (via MuchMusic). Some of you may recall that the last time they had August date at the Amphitheatre, some five years ago, the eastern seaboard lost power for three days. Now I’m not saying that one necessarily had anything to do with the other, but when you’re picking up your ticket (no, I don’t know when they go on sale), you may want to get some bottled water while you’re at it. Y’know, you never know.

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Little Jabs


Photo by Frank Yang

Ah, musical comfort food. There’s really something to be said for hitting a show where you know the bands and you know what to expect and that’s what they deliver. For example, Saturday night’s CBC Radio3-sponsored to-do at the Horseshoe featuring Charlottetown’s Two Hours Traffic, on tour across Canada, and locals The Wooden Sky and My Shaky Jane. All of whom I’d seen in the past six months or so and who offer their own distinct but easily digestible varieties of the pop song.

My Shaky Jane serve theirs up with more than a little rock. I caught them in December opening up for The Lowest Of The Low’s final show and while I was impressed by their energy and showmanship, it was the headliners who obviously occupied all my attention that night. This time they were coming off a cross-country tour and were little more subdued but also extremely tight and gave it their all in delivering songs akin to ’60s British invasion pop dressed up in the decadence of ’70s classic rock.

By contrast, The Wooden Sky had a rougher set and not just from their more country-hewn songcraft. Their show at Tiger Bar in November showed me how good they could be but this night they just seemed out of sorts. Their set started a bit late and while their slow burn approach with a nice shift from My Shaky Jane’s all-out approach, they didn’t quite manage to get out of second gear though they did try – “North Dakota” sounded great. But full points for finishing on a high note with a solid cover of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ “American Girl” (there’s not nearly enough Tom Petty covers out there) though I have to make a half point deduction for not trying to tackle the outro solo. Come on.

Two Hours Traffic seem to have come a long way since I caught them at this same venue in July, and not just in terms of the odometer in their van. For starters, they packed the place this time and perhaps more tellingly, the first few rows of fans were made up of enthusiastic young girls. I can imagine the band looking out on the audience and thinking, “yes, this is why we started a band”. And what’s not to like? The PEI foursome are just a shave and a quick haircut from a cover shoot for Non-Threatening Boys magazine and they write some of the most perfect, sing-along pop songs you’ll ever hear. And while they hadn’t picked up any wacky Monkees-like stage antics – though the Magnetic Fields cover was most unexpected – there was definitely more energy and engagement than last time. But I suppose there wasn’t much need for the band to be dancing up there because the fans down front were definitely picking up the slack.

Like a big serving of musical Shepherd’s pie.

Photos: Two Hours Traffic, The Wooden Sky, My Shaky Jane @ The Horseshoe – February 23, 2008
MP3: Two Hours Traffic – “Backseat Sweetheart” (live at the Horseshoe – June 9, 2007, via CBCR3)
MP3: Two Hours Traffic – “Better Safe Than Sorry” (live at the Horseshoe – June 9, 2007, via CBCR3)
MP3: Two Hours Traffic – “Heat Seeker” (live at the Horseshoe – June 9, 2007, via CBCR3)
MP3: Two Hours Traffic – “Stuck For The Summer”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “North Dakota”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “The Wooden Sky”
MP3: My Shaky Jane – “The Books That She Carries”
MP3: My Shaky Jane – “Dark And Bright”
MP3: My Shaky Jane – “Youth”
Video: Two Hours Traffic – “Nighthawks”
Video: Two Hours Traffic – “Stuck For The Summer”
Video: Two Hours Traffic – “Jezebel”
Video: The Wooden Sky – “When Lost At Sea”
Stream: Two Hours Traffic / Little Jabs
MySpace: Two Hours Traffic
MySpace: The Wooden Sky
MySpace: My Shaky Jane

So Much Silence has the audio from a session The National recently recorded for WBAA. They’re apparently playing SxSW (my money’s on Saturday night at Stubb’s) and are in Toronto on June 8 at the Molson Amphitheatre opening for R.E.M..

The Hold Steady are so enthused about finishing up the recording of their fourth album, possibly titled Stay Positive, that they had to call up Pitchfork and tell them all about it.

The New York Daily News and News & Observer talk to Tift Merritt about her new album Another Country, out tomorrow. She’s at the El Mocambo on April 1.

The Times contemplates the UK music press’ habit of alternately loving and despising artists over the course of their career using the Manic Street Preachers (currently loved) as a case study.