Archive for April, 2009

Monday, April 27th, 2009

CONTEST – Bowerbirds @ The Drake Underground – May 2, 2009

Photo via Dead OceansDead OceansExhaustion was cited as the reason North Carolinan folk outfit Bowerbirds had to cancel their scheduled Fall 2008 tour in support of Calexico – including the November Toronto date – and it’s understandable why. They’d been on the road constantly all year in both North America and Europe in support of their debut, Hymns For A Dark Horse, and just had to take a break.

But they’re feeling better and refreshed and are embarking on a Spring tour that will take them and their elegant, percussive and harmony-laden folkery through many of the markets they didn’t make it to in the Fall, including a stop at the Drake Underground in Toronto this Saturday night, May 2. And in addition to selections from Dark Horse, expect to hear new material from their just-announced sophomore album Upper Air, which will be out July 7.

Courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got a couple pairs of passes to see Bowerbirds at The Drake on Saturday to give away. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see Bowerbirds” in the subject and your full name in the body. Contest will close at midnight, April 30.

Diamondback Online has an interview with the band.

MP3: Bowerbirds – “In Our Talons”
Video: Bowerbirds – “In Our Talons”
MySpace: Bowerbirds

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Two Suns

Bat For Lashes and Lewis & Clarke at The Mod Club in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe most beautiful day of the year so far turned into one of the foulest just in time for the early-evening start of Bat For Lashes’ Saturday night date at the Mod Club, the first for this leg of their North American tour in support of their much-heralded new album Two Suns. A more ambitious writer might try to draw some parallel between the dramatic weather shift and the themes of duality that run through the new record – I’ll just blame a high pressure system surrounded by low pressure systems and get on with it.

Rather surprisingly, support for this tour was Pennsylvanians Lewis & Clarke – surprising because they were also support the last time Bat For Lashes came to town in October 2007, and you don’t often see acts getting taken out as support twice. And their last time out couldn’t have been the most pleasant for the band either, since my recollections were the duo, as they were playing as at the time, had a poor time of trying to be heard over the chatty and inattentive audience (those of us up front notwithstanding). I also remarked at the time that maybe a full band would have had been more successful at getting peoples’ attention. Apparently bandleader Lou Rogal took my advice because the Lewis & Clarke that showed up this time was five members deep, including a drummer and string section. They delivered a set of four (maybe five) songs over 35 minutes, all of the slow and thoughtful chamber-folk variety, and while unquestionably pretty, it was all quite same-y. But at least this time, the audience was much more receptive – or at least polite. Lewis & Clarke will release a new EP Light Time on May 12.

Also rejigged significantly from last time was Bat For Lashes, the band. Whereas the troupe that visited in 2007 was a drummer-less all-female multi-instrumentalist quartet, this one had more defined musical roles and was slightly more co-ed, with Ben Christophers on keys, New Young Pony Club’s Sarah Jones on drums and the divine Charlotte Hatherley on pretty much everything. Oh, and also Natasha Khan – she whose voice, vision and songs ARE Bat For Lashes.

And as beguiling as she is on record, she’s equally charismatic on stage. She set the bar high for the show by leading with Two Suns opener “Glass”, the finest showcase for her soaring vocals, but didn’t let things lag a bit through the 70-minute set. Splitting material fairly evenly between Suns and Fur & Gold, Khan crafted a spellbinding performance that despite the rich visual presentation, didn’t rely on theatrics to rivet – rich with atmosphere and mystery, the songs were more than enough. It’s hard to pick highlights from a show really had no let-downs, but Fur singles “Prescilla” and “What’s A Girl To Do” naturally got the biggest response and single “Daniel” even got aired twice – early on, reimagined in skeletal, autoharp-led form and as the encore closer as “(Big) Daniel” (so noted on the set list), complete with the huge synths of the album version and deliciously Cure-ish guitars. Grand finale, indeed.

It’s impossible to overstate how much the new band configuration has improved their live show, which was hardly wanting in the first place. In particular, the drums, thundering and tribal, gave things a vitality that really took things to another level and Hatherley’s versatility was also put to good use, as she switched off between guitar, bass, keys, accordion and percussion in addition to providing backing vocals. For lack of a better way of putting it, Bat For Lashes v2 are just much more powerful. Though I did miss seeing the rain stick/staff of power from last time.

As for Khan, it’s remarkable how effortlessly she manages to indulge her more out-there creative impulses – her musical world is inhabited by wizards, knights and creatures of fantasy – while seeming utterly grounded, friendly and without airs. With a penchant for costumes and with stage decorations consisting of all manner of dime-store kitsch like Virgin Mary statues and ladies legs table lamps, she obviously doesn’t take things all that seriously but there’s no whiff of irony to be found, either. She makes wolf howls in her songs, for goodness sake, but also cracks jokes and at one point, looked up to see who was calling to her when an audience member yelled, “Natasha!”. Utterly charming.

Though you might think the eccentric nature of Bat For Lashes would be sufficient to consign them to cult band status – not that there’s anything wrong with that – but the fact that this show was not only sold out but with people desperately looking for tickets seems to imply that they’re bound for bigger things. But even so, even if within a year you’re seeing Bat For Lashes in venues holding thousands, I have a feeling that if you holler “Natasha!” during a quiet moment between songs, she’ll still look up and go, “yes?”.

There are feature pieces on Bat For Lashes at CMJ and The Boston Phoenix.

Photos: Bat For Lashes, Lewis & Clarke @ The Mod Club – April 25, 2009
MP3: Bat For Lashes – “Glass” (live)
MP3: Bat For Lashes – “I’m On Fire”
MP3: Lewis & Clarke – “Petrified Forest”
MP3: Lewis & Clarke – “Before It Breaks You”
Stream: Lewis & Clarke / Light Time
Video: Bat For Lashes – “Daniel”
Video: Bat for Lashes – “Whats A Girl To Do”
Video: Bat for Lashes – “Prescilla”
MySpace: Bat For Lashes
MySpace: Lewis & Clarke

Interview talks to Lily Allen, who has a newish video. Kinda regret not seeing her last week, enjoying her new one It’s Not Me, It’s You more than I’d expected. Hope her vague promises to retire are false.

Video: Lily Allen – “Not Fair”

Daytrotter has posted a session they recorded with Glasvegas during SxSW.

The first track from Stuart Murdoch’s God Help The Girl – I’m not sure whether to call it a band, project, play, or what – is now up for grabs and shock, it sounds a LOT like Belle & Sebastian. Which is to say it sounds wonderful. The album is out June 23.

MP3: God Help The Girl – “Come Monday Night”

The Sunday Mail has a 60-second interview with Camera Obscura. They’re at Lee’s Palace on June 27.

Channel M has a video session with My Latest Novel, whose second album Death & Entrances is out May 18.

PJ Harvey and John Parish discuss A Woman A Man Walked By with Pitchfork.

Drowned In Sound gets Adam Franklin to comment on the whole phenomenon/idea of “shoegaze”. Short version, he doesn’t think much of it but it’s an entertaining read. Franklin is supporting The Church on their Summer North American tour, which has a stop at the Ottawa Bluesfest on July 11 but so far hasn’t extended to include a Toronto date.

MP3: Adam Franklin – “Autumn Leaf”

Fans of XTC psych-pop alter-egos The Dukes Of Stratosphear should check out these two podcasts wherein Andy Partridge reminisces with producer John Leckie about the recording of 25 O’Clock and Psionic Psunspot, both of which were reissued in deluxe form last week.

MP3: The Dukes Of Stratosphear – “My Love Explode”
MP3: The Dukes Of Stratosphear – “Braniac’s Daughter”

Channel M has a video interview with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

A double-shot of Leonard Cohen docs for you – courtesy of the National Film Board, the 1965 documentary Ladies And Gentlemen… Mr Leonard Cohen and over at Pitchfork, the 2009 live concert film Leonard Cohen: Live In London. And apropos of nothing, whilst digging around IMDB I found that Lenny guest-starred in an episode of Miami Vice in 1986 playing a villain named Francois Zolan. I didn’t think it possible, but I think Cohen just got that much more awesome in my eyes. He plays Copps Coliseum on May 19.

Video: Ladies And Gentlemen… Mr Leonard Cohen
Video: Leonard Cohen Live In London

Seattle-based power-popper Telekinesis will be at the Horseshoe on June 10 in support of his/their excellent self-titled debut.

MP3: Telekinesis – “Coast Of Carolina”
MP3: Telekinesis – “I Saw Lightning”
Video: Telekinesis – “Tokyo”

Brooklyn’s Obits will bring their debut long-player I Blame You to Lee’s Palace on July 23, tickets $12.

MP3: Obits – “Pine On”

Eagles Of Death Metal are at the Kool Haus on August 2, tickets $27.50.

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

The Kills cover Patsy Cline (and/or Willie Nelson)

Photo via iTunesiTunesThe Kills have been called a lot of things – punk, blues, rock, garage – but never country. So it was a bit of an eye/ear-opener when the duo opted to perform a Patsy Cline cover as part of an acoustic session they recorded for iTunes earlier this year. Even more surprising was that singer Alison Mosshart actually did the country classic some justice – that she’s got a pair of pipes is well-established, but till now she’s specialized in sounding sexy, raw and unhinged. Vulnerable and yearning – that’s new.

But don’t expect to see too much – or any – of this side on The Kills’ current tour, which rolls into The Phoenix next Thursday night, May 7. They’re still touring 2008’s greasily excellent Midnight Boom, whose seedy urban vibe is as far from the country as you can get. They’re also reissuing their 2003 debut Keep On Your Mean Side on May 5, bolstered with five bonus cuts.

There’s an extensive feature on Alison Mosshart at Interview Magazine.

MP3: The Kills – “Crazy”
Video: Patsy Cline – “Crazy”

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

CONTEST – Great Bloomers @ The Horseshoe – May 2, 2009

Photo By David WaldmanDavid WaldmanI feel a fair bit peer pressure around Toronto youngsters Great Bloomers, on account of the fact that I have friends who really like them and friends who are working with them and yet the couple times I saw them like last Summer, I came away impressed with various facets of them – their impressive musicianship in particular – but overall, not as smitten as I thought I would be. Their promise was obvious, but I didn’t think it was as coalesced as it needed to be at that point.

And now, some time later, they’ve just released their debut album Speak Of Trouble and it demonstrates a band that’s made great strides since we last crossed paths. It’s impeccably recorded and performed – almost unsettlingly so for an outfit just getting started. Theirs are an impressively polished batch of songs led by Lowell Sostomi’s twangy voice but also incorporating Southern rock boogie and jangly guitar and piano pop hooks. If you’re looking for the sloppiness of youth, look elsewhere – and therein lies the heart of my reservations, which are the same as I’d have since day one. It’s all so polite. Which is certainly better than affected angst, but still. Oh well, I suppose there’s plenty of greater complaints one could have than a record sounding too good, right?

The Great Bloomers are celebrating their album’s release next Saturday at the Horseshoe, May 2, and courtesy of Maple Music, I’ve got three prize packs to give away consisting of a pair of passes to the show and a copy of the new record on CD. AND for those who can’t make it or simply reside elsewhere, two more copies of the CD to dispense. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see Great Bloomers” in the subject line if you can go to the show and “I want the Great Bloomers CD” if you just want the disc. In either case, include your full name and mailing address in the body and get that to me by midnight, April 30.

There’s an interview with the band at The Cord and a video feature at The National Post.

MP3: Great Bloomers – “The Young Ones Slept”

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Actor Out Of Work

Review of St Vincent's Actor

Photo By Annabel MerhanAnnabel MerhanMs Annie Clark – St Vincent – will release her second album Actor in a couple weeks on May 5, and while I’m a bit reluctant to invoke the “Disney-esque” adjective that so many other early reviews have, I must admit that it really is appropriate.

The way that Clark’s trilling voice delivers melodies that skip and soars overtop richly-appointed arrangements, you could imagine these songs soundtracking any animated Disney film (or all of them, since they’re pretty much identical). Of course, you’d have to work in a few scenes of fast-cut ultra-violence to accommodate the moments when her buzzsaw-toned, guitar-shredding interludes makes their appearances, but hey – that’s what the kids are into these days.

The combination of conventionally pretty and so-wonderfully-abrasive-they’re-pretty textures seem like they could get gimmicky, but Clark does it so naturally and guilelessly that you can’t imagine she’s doing it just to be contrary or to muck things up for the sake of muckery. This is actually how she hears things unfolding in her head, and we’re just fortunate to be able to share in the experience along with her. I quite liked St Vincent’s debut Marry Me, but with the way the follow-up is more focused without giving up the adventurousness or eccentricity that defined the debut, I think I’m already well on the way to liking record number two even more than the first.

Billboard talks to Clark about the creative process for Actor, while For Folk’s Sake had a phone interview with her earlier this week wherein they covered topics including the record’s striking cover photo, favourite current bands and her adventures on Twitter. St Vincent has live dates scattered throughout the Summer, but nothing that brings her up this way yet. Perhaps we’ll be able to welcome her to Toronto come Fall.

MP3: St Vincent – “The Strangers”
Video: St Vincent – “Actor Out Of Work”
Stream: St Vincent / Actor

Drowned In Sound and The Winnipeg Free Press have interviews with Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Fazer talks to Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw of Metric.

Alison Mosshart talks to Billboard about balancing her main gig as frontwoman for The Kills with her new project with Jack White, The Dead Weather. Mosshart was taken to hospital during a gig in Denver earlier this week but she’s alright and The Kills will still be at the Phoenix on May 7.

And the band touring with them, The Horrors, have just released a new video from their new record Primary Colours. Couldn’t have let it out a couple days ago to line up with my review of the record, eh? Metro has an interview with the band’s frontman, Faris Badwan.

Video: The Horrors – “Who Can Say”

Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura lists off her favourite things for Pitchfork. See? Just because she so rarely smiles doesn’t mean she doesn’t like stuff. Camera Obscura are at Lee’s Palace on June 27.

NOW and The Boston Globe talk to Chairlift, in town tomorrow night for a show at the Phoenix.

Billboard discusses Romanian Names, out May 19, with John Vanderslice.

Blurt talks to Mark Olson.

NOW and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune profile M Ward, who has a show at the Phoenix on Monday night.

Robyn Hitchcock offers Paste his thoughts on The Decemberists. They’re at the Kool Haus on August 3.

Baeble Music has a video interview with Great Lake Swimmers, who have a show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre tomorrow night.

Alejandro Escovedo returns to Toronto on June 16 for a show at Trinity-St Paul’s with Joseph Arthur.