Monday, January 12th, 2009
Out Of This Spark
Forest City Lovers, The D'Urbervilles, Jenny Omnichord at The Tranzac in Toronto
Leading off was Jenny Omnichord (neé Mitchell), accurately named for her weapon of choice. And while it may seem a bit novelty at first, the Omnichord is actually a very versatile instrument, ably providing accompaniment for Mitchell’s quirky songs. It’s no stretch that her latest album Charlotte or Otis : Duets for Children, Their Parents and Other People Too is a children’s record – the aesthetic isn’t too different from her work for grown-ups. A cute and compact set highlighted by entertaining road stories and a duet with her dad.
I’d expected The D’Urbervilles to be closing things out, both because of their profile relative to their labelmates, and their general rock action-ness, but they were instead on second. Every time I see them perform I’m reminded of how potent a live act they can be, all danceable, tightly-wound new wave/anthem-rock energy, but I also find my initial opinion of their full-length debut We Are The Hunters reinforced. They’re one thing, one intangible thing, away from being amazing. One song – hell, one moment in a song – that makes everything fall into place, and considering their excellent closing cover of Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You”, maybe what they need is the right British producer. But whatever it is, I hope they find it soon. Because when they do, it will be epic.
I had to double-check to verify that the last time I’d seen Forest City Lovers live was fully a year and a half ago at Hillside – it certainly hadn’t seemed that long! But it was, and that meant that I’d not seen them since the release of their lovely album Haunting Moon Sinking last year, and that’s just not right. But it is, sadly, kind of appropriate for as much as they’re one of the finer bands Toronto has to offer, they’re also probably one of the most overlooked. A consequence, perhaps, of the characteristics that are also their greatest strengths – their subtlety and understatedness. Their folk-pop sound is definitely spare, almost skeletal at times, but every part that is there implies a richness that probably wouldn’t sound quite as wonderful if it were actually fleshed out – their sketches say more than some peoples’ oil paintings.
This show, however, sadly wasn’t a masterpiece. Now no one’s ever going to mistake The Tranzac’s acoustics for those of Massey Hall, but the sound for the Forest City Lovers’ set was exceptionally poor, with vocals being buried and the guitar and violin far too loud. While I realize that standing right up front isn’t exactly standing in the sonic sweet spot, I’ve done it enough to know how things can and should sound from that vantage point, and this wasn’t it. And it seemed it wasn’t just the house sound that was amiss – it was evident the band was having trouble hearing themselves on stage as at points tempos drifted, glances were exchanged and things simply didn’t sound as tight as they should have. It’s really to the band’s credit that they were able to mitigate these problems and still deliver an enjoyable show, even if I couldn’t really hear the words to “Orphans” (though that’s okay because I know them anyways). Perhaps things will be better when they again play the Tranzac on February 6 opening for Geoff Berner. Perhaps.
I did not stick around for final act Timber Timbre. You’d have thought that an act with a brand new album would feel like playing something – anything- from it, but instead Timber Timbre chose to play with old hi-fit equipment and guitar pedals in conducting a sonic experiment in white noise in pitch blackness. Maybe the whole thing busted out in a technicolour rock opera the minute I left, but I suspect not. I would hope they don’t pull the same thing at their Soundscapes in-store
tomorrow evening Thursday. It’s not going to sell many records.
Photos: Forest City Lovers, The D’Urbervilles, Jenny Omnichord @ The Tranzac – January 10, 2009
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “Hot Tips”
Videos: Forest City Lovers – “Pirates”
Videos: Forest City Lovers – “Please, Don’t Go”
MySpace: Forest City Lovers
Speaking of Soundscapes in-stores, Bruce Peninsula will be following up the February 3 release of A Mountain Is A Mouth with just one of those on February 4 at 6PM. So add that to their January 31 at the Horseshoe and February 22 album release party at the Polish Combatants Hall. And if you don’t want to take my word that this outfit is worthy of your attention, how about the BBC? Yeah, people will listen to anything delivered in a posh English accent.
Mates Of State and Black Kids. What are two of the most unlikely bands to hit the road together, and yet are? The indie-pop veterans with kids and the indie-pop upstarts who are kids will hit the road together this April and stop in at the Phoenix – a decidedly bigger room than either would play on their own – on April 10. The Mates are still promoting last year’s Re-Arrange Us and Black Kids are continuing to try and prove their debut Partie Traumatic is worth more than a pug.
MP3: Mates Of State – “My Only Offer”
Video: Mates Of State – “Get Better”
Video: Mates Of State – “My Only Offer”
Video: Black Kids – “Hurricane Jane”
Video: Black Kids – “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You”
Video: Black Kids – “Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo)”
Those looking forward to standing in crossed-arm, stony-faced judgment of “2009 next big thing” candidates Passion Pit will have to wait just a little bit longer. For reasons unknown, their January 24 show at the Horseshoe has been postponed until April 3. Refunds available at point of purchase or if the new date works for you, just hang onto your ticket. And work on your scowl. They’re currently band of the week over at Paste. Update: Gig is now at Lee’s Palace.