Archive for May, 2009

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

You Cross My Path

Charlatans schedule Ontario club dates, hope people forget the last time they tried that

Photo By Roger SargentRoger SargentIt’s been some time since The Charlatans could be considered “buzzworthy” by any objective measure. Don’t get me wrong, it’s commendable that they’ve endured as long as they have, outliving most of their contemporaries in the baggy/Britpop eras and assembling a respectable oeuvre of singles and albums, but I will wager they’ve never been anyone in the world’s favourite band and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

They did manage to garner more headlines than they have in years last year, though, when they opted to release their tenth album, You Cross My Path, as a free download (physical formats that you had to pay for followed a couple months later). The record was also notable for being surprisingly decent. They’d lost me with 2001’s funk-soul pastiche Wonderland and I’d assumed that the plot remained lost, but Path was very much an example of the Charlatans doing what they’d always done well, melodic, danceable and anthemic and if you listen closely, cribbing shamelessly from pretty much every era of British rock.

And on a more local scale, they made a surprise concert announcement in July, making a date for the the Mod Club in October – a venue that no matter how far removed from their heyday they might be, would still be considered small for them. And, of course, they canceled the date for reasons unknown barely two weeks later. But it seems they’re bound and determined to give their Toronto-area fans an up-close and personal encounter as they’ve again announced a show at the Mod Club, this one for September 23 – that gives them four months to change their minds. They’ve also announced a couple other North American dates, including September 22 in London, Ontario, so it looks like they’re making a proper tour of this. Tickets for the Toronto show are a rather dear $36 before service charges, so you’ll have to stop and think just how badly you want to hear “The Only One I Know”. And yeah, tickets for the canceled show were a slightly more reasonable $30 but hey – the economy’s collapsed. What’re you going to do.

MP3: The Charlatans – “Oh! Vanity”
MP3: The Charlatans – “You Cross My Path”
Video: The Charlatans – “Oh Vanity”
Video: The Charlatans – “You Cross My Path”
Video: The Charlatans – “The Misbegotten”
Video: The Charlatans – “Mis-Takes”
ZIP: The Charlatans / You Cross My Path

Colorado Daily and The Colorado Springs Independent have interviews with Doves, who will be at the Kool Haus next Monday night, June 1.

Dots & Dashes talks to Patrick Wolf about new album The Bachelor, out June 1. He’ll be at the Mod Club on June 15.

White Lies discuss the state of the music industry with BBC. They’re at the Phoenix on September 26.

Florence & The Machine’s debut Lungs has a UK release date of July 6 but according to Pitchfork, it’s not going to be out in North America until October 13. Yeah, I’ll wait for the domestic release. Sure.

Clash asks Fanfarlo on how they like to pass the time while waiting.

With their North American tour set to kick off tonight in New York, A Camp took some time to talk to NME, New York Magazine, New York Press and Magnet, where Nina Persson and Nathan Larsen are also playing guest editor this week. They’ll be at the Mod Club on June 1.

The Boston Globe talks to Gentleman Reg, who will be opening up many of those A Camp shows.

While in town this week, The National stopped in at the CBC to record a performance of one of their new songs, formerly entitled “Karamazov” but now dubbed “Runaway”. Gorgeous stuff.

Video: The National – “Runaway” (live on QTV)

The San Francisco Chronicle interviews Jenny Lewis.

The Los Angeles Times profiles The Kills.

All week, PitchforkTV is running Do You Love Me Like I Love You, the documentary feature that appear on the recent Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds reissues. The first two segments are up now, more to follow.

Monday, May 25th, 2009

So Far Around The Bend

The National and Colin Stetson at the Kool Haus in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt may well have been a case of cabin fever that spurred The National to schedule a short east coast tour starting off in Toronto last Thursday. Two years removed from the release of Boxer and still a ways away from the follow-up – rumoured to have a working title of Shine and not due out at best until late 2009 and more likely 2010 – it’s not unreasonable to think they needed a break from the studio to stretch out their legs and maybe road-test a few new songs.

And so while the motivation for the show seemed simple enough, it was still significant in that it represented a definite, quantifiable step up in the band’s draw – whereas their last headlining show in October 2007 was at the 1000-capacity Phoenix, this time they were playing the twice-as-large Kool Haus and had easily sold it out. The uncomfortable and sonically dubious Kool Haus is a real wedge venue in this city, with some people steadfastly refusing to go to shows there they’d have patronized elsewhere, but with their absences compensated for by new, more recently acquired fans who unfortunately tend to mostly be of the chattier, drunker and generally irritating variety. That this would happen was an inevitability, but the question of “when” has been answered – with “now”. And while I’m one of those with no fondness for the venue, The National are on that short list of bands who’d I’d see play anywhere in this city – and so it was off to the concrete box on the waterfront with the hope that the band’s magic could compensate for the venue’s distinct lack of.

I’d failed to do any sort of research on opener Colin Stetson and if I had, I might have been a bit more prepared for his set. It consisted of a half-hour of extended saxophone excursions of the avant-garde and decidedly non-melodic variety which I won’t pretend to have understood in any musical sense but did find impressive for the sheer amount of cardiovascular endurance they demanded of Stetson. At least I was able to appreciate his sense of humour, demonstrated between songs as he caught his breath and referred to his abstract compositions as love songs.

Stetson would re-take the stage as part of The National, who were traveling as a nine-piece this time out – the core five, Doveman’s Thomas Bartlett again handling keyboards and a three-piece horn section. For some acts, almost doubling the size of their lineup would be a clear warning sign of out of control sonic ambitions, but The National actually seemed to play things more intimately and create a looser club vibe rather than play up to the size of the room and really, that’s one of their greatest strengths – the ability to craft songs that simultaneously anthemic in scope yet intensely personal. They did take advantage of the larger stage, singer Matt Berninger in particular wandering to and fro throughout the set, but vibe-wise it wasn’t far removed from their earlier visits in smaller rooms.

They did, however, come off a bit rusty in performance, their time away from the road very much in evidence as they sought to find their feet. Musically, they sounded tight but were not able to overcome the Kool Haus’ boomy acoustics and Berninger, perhaps rediscovering the joys of the rider, dropped the mic a couple of times during the more energetic tunes, failed to sing directly into it for the choruses of “Mr. November” making it an unintentional audience participation number and forgot the words to the start of main set closer “Fake Empire”. These were just minor blemishes though, and made things a touch more memorable and entertaining – I’m biased, though. There’s not much The National could do to actually disappoint me.

The closest they came was not taking advantage of being without a particular album to promote and mixing up the set list, but when this means a set comprised of two of my favourite albums of this century – Boxer and Alligator – that’s hardly something to complain about. I would have liked to hear “So Far Around The Bend” from the Dark Was The Night benefit comp, but a minor point. They also showcased three new songs and made it clear that while Boxer was their creative high point so far, they’re still aiming higher. One of the tunes, “Blood Buzz Ohio”, was particularly grand and whereas new, unfamiliar songs usually get polite applause this one got a huge ovation. One listen and it was that good.

As mentioned, the new record is still way off in the distance, but it can’t come too soon for me. And while most selfish fans (myself included) would hope their favourite bands stay small and theirs only, I hope the National gets just big enough to begin booking themselves into Massey Hall… and then staying there.

Chart also has a review of the show.

Photos: The National, Colin Stetson @ The Kool Haus – May 21, 2009
MP3: The National – “So Far Around The Bend”
MP3: The National – “Fake Empire”
MP3: The National – “Son”
MP3: The National – “Beautiful Head”
Video: The National – “So Far Around The Bend” (live)
Video: The National – “Mistaken For Strangers”
Video: The National – “Apartment Story”
Video: The National – “Abel”
Video: The National – “Lit Up”
Video: The National – “Daughters Of The Soho Riots”
Video: The National – “Sugar Wife”
Video: The National – “Son”
MySpace: The National
MySpace: Colin Stetson

The New York Times has a big feature on Grizzly Bear, whose Veckatimest is easily the big new release of the week. The band recently partook in a Black Cab Session and have rolled out a new video. Their June 5 show at the Phoenix is sold out, if you were wondering.

Video: Grizzly Bear – “Two Weeks”

NPR hearts themselves some St. Vincent, streaming her recent show in Washington DC as well conducting an interview. And a note to locals – the August 8 Toronto show announced last week is NOT happening at Lee’s Palace, but will be at the Horseshoe – so as fast as you thought it was going to sell out? It’ll actually be faster.

Scotland’s 1990s have canceled their upcoming North American tour due to “unforeseen circumstances”, including their June 3 date at the Horseshoe.

The Lemonheads’ new covers record Varshons hits stores on June 23 and the tour to support will wrap up on July 4 in Toronto at Lee’s Palace – tickets for that are $20.

Peter Murphy, who himself will be releasing a series of four covers as singles, will be at the Opera House on July 11.

If you needed another reason to see Neko Case at Massey Hall on July 14, how about the fact that Jason Lytle has been added as support? There’s an interview with Lytle at The Skinny.

But if that reason’s not good enough, you also have the option of seeing a little Man Man action that same night, July 14, at Lee’s Palace. Tickets for that are $16.50. They have a new video from last year’s Rabbit Habits.

MP3: Man Man – “Top Drawer”
Video: Man Man – “Rabbit Habits”

So I’ve had some good luck soliciting shopping advice from y’all before, so let’s try this again. I need new headphones. My current Shure SE210s have begun to crap out in exactly the same way as the Shure SE210s they replaced barely two months (via warranty) in that the midrange driver in the left earbud seems to be cacking out. I found these ‘phones to be eminently comfortable and quite good sounding, but don’t really think I’d trust another pair of Shures. I think I definitely want another pair of in-ears, but that means that I can’t test them out before buying and reviews can only go so far. Currently considering some Ultimate Ears 4vi (the iPhone compatibility – particularly the pause/play button – is tempting) or the Etymotic ER6i. Also looked at offerings around that price point from Sennheiser, but have never really like their bass-heavy sounds – I want clarity, detail and general flatness. Recommendations?

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

R.I.P. Jay Bennett (1963-2009)

Photo via CSTChicago Sun-TimesI’ve spent the night following some terribly sad news that I was hoping wasn’t true, but apparently is – former Wilco guitarist and songwriter Jay Bennett passed away this weekend. It’s unfortunate that Bennett is mostly remembered for the way he left the band, famously documented in the I Am Trying To Break Your Heart film, and not for the magic he brought to the band via production and songwriting from Being There through Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – still arguably their best three records.

I’d like to pay tribute to the man with one of my favourite Wilco tunes, which happens to be primarily a Bennett composition. “Venus Stop The Train” was never officially released, probably due to his departure for the band, but did surface on the much-bootlegged Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos collection as well as Bennett’s solo debut The Palace At 4am (Part I) albeit in a drastically different form. I much prefer the starkness of the Wilco version, with just Jeff Tweedy singing overtop piano presumably played by Bennett.

Bennett released a slew of solo records post-Wilco, the latest of which – Whatever Happened I Apologize – came out last year and is available for free download. He was working on his sixth, Kicking At The Perfumed Air, at the time of his death.

Such a sad, sad thing – rest in peace, Jay.

MP3: Wilco – “Venus Stop the Train”
ZIP: Jay Bennett / Whatever Happened, I Apologize

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Doves (and more) cover The Smiths

Photo via doves.netDovesSo the great and powerful Moz turned the big 5-0 last week – do you think that when being presented with gifts, he thought, “please, please, please let me get what I want this time”? No, probably not. But even if I personally don’t care for much of what he’s done post-Smiths, I salute the man on the occasion of his half-century.

And I’m sure his fellow Mancunians in Doves do likewise. No strangers themselves to the mopey end of rock, Doves paid tribute to their hometown hero back in 2002 for a BBC2 special – it’s a pretty straight version and the first line of the lyrics is cut off in the recording, apologies, but it’s a nice delicate moment from the band.

Doves’ North American tour in support of Kingdom Of Rust is now underway and includes a date at the Kool Haus in Toronto next Monday night, June 1. There’s features on the band at The Corrie Tandem and The Georgia Straight. Morrissey released his latest solo record Years Of Refusal earlier this year.

And since it’s a birthday and what’s a birthday without a party, here’s a handful more covers of “Please, Please”. Yes, I ran most of these back in 2004, but that was a different time – Moz was a sprightly 45 and still willing to play shows in Canada. So here’s covers from from The Jealous Girlfriends (taken from their Comfortably Uncomfortable album), Muse (from the Not Another Teen Movie soundtrack) and versions of indeterminate origin from Josh Rouse, Halo Benders and Swearing At Motorists.

MP3:Doves – “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”
MP3: The Jealous Girlfriends – “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”
MP3: Muse – “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”
MP3: Josh Rouse – “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”
MP3: Swearing At Motorists – “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”
MP3: Halo Benders – “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”
Video: Morrissey – “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” (live)

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

CONTEST – Apostle Of Hustle's Eats Darkness giveaway

Photo By Aaron Mackenzie FraserAaron Mackenzie FraserSo it was – and remains – a bummer that the Olympic Island concert for July was canceled, but if you were dead set on seeing Apostle Of Hustle showcase tunes from their new record Eats Darkness, which was released earlier this week, you’ve still got opportunities – Andrew Whiteman and company have got two nights reserved at the Music Gallery next Thursday and Friday – May 28 and 29 – for their record release show. Tickets are $22 and you can buy them at, Soundscapes, Criminal Records, and Rotate This and each ticket includes a free digital download of the album.

And, courtesy of Arts & Crafts, I’ve got some swag to give away for both those who can (logistically) attend said shows and those who cannot. To the former, I’ve got one grand prize consisting of a pair of tickets to the Friday night show (May 29), a copy of Eats Darkness on LP, an Eats Darkness poster and an Apostle Of Hustle t-shirt. To the latter, I’ve got two second prizes consisting of the album on LP and poster. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want Apostle Of Hustle” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address in the body – also indicate if you are local to Toronto and want to go to the show so as to be eligible for the grand prize. Otherwise I’ll only include you in consideration for the second prize. Contest closes at midnight, May 27 and is open to Canadians.

There’s interviews and such with Whiteman about the new record at BlogTO, The Vancouver Sun, Chart and The Guelph Mercury.

MP3: Apostle Of Hustle – “Perfect Fit”
MySpace: Apostle Of Hustle