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Archive for July, 2009

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

The Way It Is

Nicole Atkins changes labels, band names, salutes Jacko

Photo By Lucia HolmLucia HolmIt’s been not quite two years since the release of Nicole Atkins’ debut album Neptune City and even taking into account the relentless touring that followed, you’d think she’s about due for a new record soon, right? As she tells Spinner, work on the follow-up is well underway with 38 songs written set to be pared down to a baker’s dozen for the record. But whenever it does come out, don’t look for it on Columbia Records; according to the New Jersey singer, she and the storied label “got divorced” and while she hasn’t settled on a new home, she’s looking to the indie route this time around. Also on the topic of change, her band The Sea has decided to adopt and adjective and they’ll now be known as Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea.

But until the new album is done and has a new home, Atkins is keeping busy – she was an integral part of AC Newman’s last studio and touring bands, she’s been playing gigs at JFK Airport, keeping a blog, rocking the Twitter and taking the time to record a little tribute to the late Michael Jackson. It would have been interesting to hear her try one of the funkier numbers, but a torch song to a rat works as well.

MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Ben”

Also about due for a new record is Lightspeed Champion. He’s got a shiny new website and therein, says “The album is in the hands of the label for whenever they want to release it..but they’re good with that kind a thing, it’s their job! No idea when that will be though.” Which at least implies that it’s completed though it doesn’t give much hope that the October 2009 release date I had written down is still a go. But in the meanwhile, he’s offered a new song to those who register on his site entitled “Heavy Purple”, which is of a decidedly different flavour from anything found on Falling Off The Lavender Bridge.

Jarvis Cocker is also giving away the tunes – you can grab a different edit of Futher Complications’ “You’re In My Eyes (Discosong)” from his website. Hey Jarv, don’t think I haven’t noticed you didn’t add any more North American tour dates. ‘Cause I totally did.

Beatroute talks to The Decemberists’ guitarist Chris Funk and JAM to drummer Jon Moen. They’re at the Kool Haus on August 3.

Spin has excerpted a portion of this month’s Wilco cover story online and NewsOK has a conversation with Jeff Tweedy about how the band’s five-night stand at the Riviera in Chicago in December 2007 was a defining moment for the current lineup.

As the September 8 release of Yo La Tengo’s new album Popular Songs draws nearer, they’ve released information about the bonuses tied into the Buy Early Get Now pre-order promotion, the full Fall tour itinerary surrounding the previously-announced October 3 date at the Opera House in Toronto has been unveiled and there’s a second MP3 from the album now available for grabs.

MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Here To Fall”

M83’s Anthony Gonzalez tells The Riverfront Times exactly what it takes to get slapped by a Frenchman.

The Soulsavers, the latest project fronted by Screaming Tree/Gutter Twin/general man about town Mark Lanegan have slated a Fall North American tour including a September 25 date at the Mod Club in support of their new album Broken, out August 18.

eMusic, The Dallas Observer and Express Night Out talk to Jason Molina of The Magnolia Electric Co, who just released their new album Josephine and are sharing a new MP3 from it.

MP3: Magnolia Electric Co – “Little Sad Eyes”

Here’s a guy who hasn’t been sighted in these pages lately – Sufjan Stevens. Some are waiting for part the third in his albums saluting the fifty states; they can keep waiting, because he’s turned his sights on a geographical topic a bit more micro than that – the Brookyln-Queens Expressway. He staged the musical/cinematic/whatever production live in November of 2007 and come October 20, he’ll release a multimedia package consisting of a CD of the show, a DVD of the film portions and a ViewMaster slide of… well, unless you have a ViewMaster you’ll never know. He’s also re-releasing an old electronic album dedicated to the best (read: mine) year of the Chinese Zodiac entitled Enjoy Your Rabbit on October 6, so either of these could be the filling out his set when he hits the road this Fall, and yes, there should be a Toronto date. Probably right around the time he plays Pop Montreal. Keep an eye out.

Video: The BQE- A Film By Sufjan Stevens

There’s a new video from the new Hidden Cameras record Origin:Orphan, due out September 22.

Video: The Hidden Cameras – “In The NA”

The National Post talks to The Rural Alberta Advantage. They’re at the Horseshoe on July 30.

Julian Plenti is the solo pseudonym of Paul Banks, lead singer of Interpol. The record is called Julian Plenti Is… Skyscraper and is out August 4. Whether or not a solo record from the lead singer of Interpol is necessary is unclear.

MP3: Julian Plenti – “Games For Days”
MP3: Julian Plenti – “Fun That We Have”

The Tripwire have a feature piece on Dinosaur Jr. They’re playing the Phoenix on September 30.

Daytrotter has a session and Cincinnati City Beat an interview with Bad Veins. They’re in town at the El Mocambo on August 2.

Buffalo News and Creative Loafing have interviews with Jason Lytle.

Chart has details on the second Flight Of The Conchords album, due out October 20 and bearing the title of I Told You I Was Freaky. It’ll contain all the songs featured in season two of the HBO show and while the second series got off to an alarmingly slow start, both comedically and musically, it took a serious upswing about midway through – right around the time that Michel Gondry sat in the director’s chair and gave us this bit of brilliance.

Video: Flight Of The Conchords – “Too Many Dicks On The Dance Floor”

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Milk And Honey

Review of Wye Oak's The Knot

Photo By Dan StackDan StackI quite literally swooned when I first heard Baltimore duo Wye Oak via “Warning”, the first promo MP3 from their debut album If Children in January 2008 – for a completely unknown band to hit all the right buttons for me at first listen was a pretty remarkable thing. And yet the album itself failed to build on that excitement for no one particular reason.

Best I can reason is that while the ingredients of their sound – plaintive country-folking hurt mixed with crashing, ‘gazey guitars and droning synth tones, topped with Jenn Wasser’s aching vocals – seem tailor-made to trigger my endorphin receptors, the record seemed too hesitant to really connect. It was like the band felt like a couple of kids suddenly invited to the grown-up’s table, and were a bit overwhelmed by it all. Which, for a pair of musicians barely into their twenties suddenly signed to one of America’s top independent labels, they essentially were.

And so when I heard “Take It In”, the achingly gorgeous promo MP3 from their second album and again swooned, I wasn’t sure whether that would carry over to The Knot, out this week, as a whole. Short answer – it does, and quite heartily. The Knot is a much bigger album than its predecessor. Sonically, the louds are much louder, the quiets much quieter and the textures richer and more varied – and emotionally, the highs more ecstatic and the lows more despairing. The reluctance that permeated If Children has largely been replaced with a greater confidence, and while it may be true that The Knot still drifts in points towards the monochromatic, there’s no question that it marks a big step forward for the band and begins to deliver on their immense promise. Wye Oak are at the grown-ups table because they belong there.

The Baltimore Sun has a feature piece on the band. There’s no local date at the moment but their tour itinerary takes them through the US, across to Europe and back again in the Fall. I saw them >at SxSW last year and while they don’t have immense onstage charisma, it’s amazing to watch Andy Stack work both the drums and keyboards simultaneously. I recommend catching them if they’re in your neck of the woods.

MP3: Wye Oak – “Take It In”
Stream: Wye Oak / The Knot
MySpace: Wye Oak

Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, who probably quite sensibly records simply as Mirah, will be at the Mod Club on October 6 in support of her new record (a)spera with ex-Decemberists Norfolk & Western.

Here’s an odd pairing – the stately folk-rock of Grand Archives and the ADD-prog hijinks of The Most Serene Republic. But paired they are for a North American tour that will be at the Mod Club in Toronto on October 15. Grand Archives’ new album Keep In Mind Frankenstein is out September 8, The Most Serene Republic’s …And The Ever-Expanding Universe is out now. The National Post has an interview with Milton’s finest.

MP3: Grand Archives – “Silver Among The Gold”
Video: The Most Serene Republic – “The Old Forever New Things”

Metric have set a live date on October 20 at Massey Hall with The Stills as support. That is a looooong way from their September 2003 show at the Horseshoe where they didn’t even bother with advance tickets.

A Place To Bury Strangers are making their musical manifesto very clear with the title of their second album – Exploding Head is due out October 6 and will be their first for Mute Records. They’ve already lined up a Fall tour to promote, including an October 27 date at the Mod Club in Toronto. They’re changing up dance partners all the while they’re on the road, but that show will feature Dead Confederate and All The Saints as support.

The Phoenix has a feature piece on Wheat, who have released a new video from White Ink Black Ink. I’m still giving a copy of the album away – come and get it.

Video: Wheat – “Changes Is”

Beatroute talks to Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo.

Frank Black tells Music Radar that “As far as any new Pixies records, I’m literally in the dark,” so anyone flocking to Virgin Festival at Burl’s Creek on August 29 had best be prepared to only hear the classics. Try to contain your disappointment.

Magnet does the over-under with The Velvet Underground’s catalog.

And oh yeah, this was news to me so it might be news to you; that free Dears show at Harbourfront this Sunday is a matinee show – they’re on the Sirius Stage at 3PM. And Laura Barrett is on the Redpath Stage at 4:30PM, since you’ll already be there.

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Who Can Say

Bat For Lashes, Florence & The Machine and The Horrors among 2009 Mercury Prize nominees

Photo via BeggarsBeggarsSince I went to the trouble last week of making my generally meaningless predictions for the 2009 Mercury Prize nominees, it only makes sense that I take a look at the actual shortlist – announced this morning – and compare. And the first thing that I find is that the UK’s bookies, who ostensibly do this sort of thing for living, don’t have any more clue than I do. While only one of my picks made the actual list – and really the only one I expeted to – neither of the oddmsakers’ two favourites – Doves’ Kingdom Of Rust or Little Boots’ Hands – were to be found in to this morning’s announcements, whereas perennial critical kicking bags Kasabian did. Of course, if The Horrors can put out a career-salvaging album and garner a nod, why not Kasabian? I haven’t heard it – maybe it’s brilliant. Maybe. Also surprised that La Roux made the list while Little Boots did not because, well, I much prefer Little Boots to La Roux. Go figure.

Anyways, the nominees for this year are as follows:

Bat For Lashes / Two Suns / MP3: “Glass” (live)
Speech Debelle / Speech Therapy / Video: “Go Then Bye”
Florence & The Machine / Lungs / MP3: “Kiss With A Fist”
Friendly Fires / Friendly Fires / MP3: “Jump In The Pool”
Glasvegas / Glasvegas / Video: “Geraldine”
Lisa Hannigan / Sea Sew / MP3: “Lille”
The Horrors / Primary Colours / MP3: “Sea Within A Sea”
The Invisible / The Invisible / Video: “London Girl”
Kasabian / West Rider Lunatic Pauper Asylum / Video: “Vlad The Impaler”
La Roux / La Roux / MP3: “Bulletproof” (Joe & Will Ask remix)
Led Bib / Sensible Shoes / MP3: “Yes, Again”
Sweet Billy Pilgrim / Twice Born Men / MP3: “Truth Only Smiles”

I’m sure there’ll be complaints and criticisms galore, but with almost half the list being female artists the Mercury will at least avoid the “solo white male” complaints leveled at the Polaris Prize shortlist this year, and similarly you’d never find something like contemporary jazzers Led Bib on a nomination list open to 140 critics. I don’t necessarily advocate the exclusive jury approach over the inclusive, but it does yield some interesting results.

Anyways, my money remains on Bat For Lashes – obvious, sure, but I stand by it – but I can also get behind Florence or The Horrors. Either way, I don’t really have a horse in this race, I’m just a curious bystander. BBC has launched their Mercury minisite complete with interviews with the nominees, The Guardian has already gotten fresh odds from a bookie on the shortlist, Clash comments on the list and NME‘s editors have also chimed in on who they think will take the big prize come September 8. NME has also provided a bluffer’s guide to the nominees so you can sound all knowledgeable and stuff at the water cooler (though you could probably say whatever the hell you want about any of them because your co-workers probably won’t know what the hell you’re talking about).

The Guardian talks to Friendly Fires – they’re at Lee’s Palace on August 10.

Paper declares Little Boots to be one of their sounds of Summer and Stuff New Zealand and The Mirror also have features. She’s in town at Wrongbar on September 14.

Oh, hello three unreleased songs from My Bloody Valentine. Did you get lost en route to the studio to be added onto those Isn’t Anything/Loveless reissues which never came out? That’s okay, leaking to the internet is probably best for everyone involved.

I had completely forgotten about the UK’s Engineers, purveyors of Pink Floyd-esque ambient rock on their self-titled debut back in 2005 but they’re still kicking and have just released their second album with Three Fact Fader, which is just as dreamy but with some more kick. The Quietus and The Line Of Best Fit have interviews with the band about their time away and their return.

Video: Engineers – “Clean Coloured Wire”

The Village Voice talks to Frightened Rabbit, who have a sold-out show at the Horseshoe on Wednesday night, July 22.

The Quietus has details on the new Editors album In This Light And On This Evening, which appears to have been pushed back a few weeks and is now set for an October 12 release.

Oasis were apparently (almost) attacked (hugged) onstage again. Hey guys, maybe it’s you.

Stepping back from life as a Raconteur, Brendan Benson will release a new solo album in My Old, Familiar Friend on August 18 and follow that up with a spot of touring, including an August 24 date at the Mod Club in Toronto – tickets $13.50.

Aussies An Horse must like it here – they’re back for their fourth Toronto show in six months on September 11 at the Drake Underground, tickets $10.

MP3: An Horse – “Postcards”

Brazilian psych legends Os Mutantes will release their first album in over 35 years in Haih, out September 7, and are at the Opera House on October 2, tickets $25.

Yo La Tengo are at the Opera House on October 3, meaning I have to choose between Yo La and Destroyer that same evening at the Horseshoe. I do not like these sorts of dilemmas. Their new album Popular Songs is out September 8.

MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Periodically Double Or Triple”

Those who worship the drone and get unnerved by unnecessary key changes – hell, chord changes – will be thrilled to hear that The Raveonettes are hitting the road this Fall with The Black Angels. Full dates are still trickling out but the Toronto stop will be October 22 at the Phoenix, tickets $18.50. The Raveonettes talk to Spinner about their just-completed their new album In and Out of Control, which has a shiny release date of October 6. The Black Angels haven’t been up to much since last year’s Directions To See A Ghost. Billboard has full dates and words with Sharin Foo.

MP3: The Raveonettes – “Dead Sound”
MP3: The Black Angels – “The First Vietnamese War”

Peter Bjorn & John are back again on November 11 for another date at the Phoenix – tickets $20. They’re also at the Molson Amphitheatre this Friday, July 24, opening for Depeche Mode but if that’s news to you, you’re probably not going.

Video: Peter Bjorn & John – “Nothing To Worry About”

Spinner.ca’s endless feature series on the history and future of Canada’s independent music scene turns its lonely eyes to Montreal in its latest installment, talking to members past and present of Arcade Fire, The Dears and The Stills.

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Not One, But Two

Review of Now, Now Every Children's Cars

Photo By Melissa HesseMelissa HesseSeeing as how Minneapolis’ Now, Now Every Children is just a two-piece, trying to distill the appeal of their debut Cars down to even simpler components might seem like folly but it’s not only possible, it’s easy – it’s Cacie Dalager’s voice. Sure, you could say that the lead singer’s voice is the most obvious make or break thing for any pop band, but for NNEC, it’s much more than that.

It’s not an especially powerful instrument, at least as far as strength and range goes, but it does seem to reside in that magical frequency where innocence, experience, hope and cynicism intersect – her timbre and phrasing managing to evoke all of the above at various points throughout the record, often simultaneously. It has a natural sleepy sweetness but when used to deliver sentiments of feisty defiance as it does on Cars, it’s a potent combination.

But even for all the praise I lay at the base of Dalager’s throat, it does not stand alone. That would be gross. Now, Now Every Children’s musical accouterments are not many, but they are well-chosen and effective. All the sounds on Cars were created by Dalager and co-conspirator Bradley Hale – chugging electric guitar, friendly synth lines and organ drones courtesy of the former and clattering percussion from the latter, all placed exactly so to give the songs heft whilst keeping them lean. It’s a real accomplishment that Cars sounds so vibrantly live off the floor, considering its decidedly studio origins, and also how it melds hummable, sing-songy melodies with a raw sonic attack. It’s certainly not a new idea, but Now, Now Every Children do it in a way that sounds fresh, even to jaded ears.

Now, Now Every Children are currently on the road and will be in Toronto on August 2 for a date at the El Mocambo. Locals who aren’t out of town getting their Simcoe Day on are heartily encouraged to attend. There’s interviews with the band at Decider and Interview.

MP3: Now, Now Every Children – “Everyone You Know”
MP3: Now, Now Every Children – “Sleep Through Summer”
MP3: Now, Now Every Children – “Cars”
Video: Now, Now Every Children – “Friends With My Sister”

Also on that tour (and thus at the El Mo on August 2) is another duo from the midwest, Cincinnati’s Bad Veins. They’re releasing their debut self-titled album tomorrow and are the subject of a feature at Filter and a session at Ardent Sessions. The album is also streaming at Spinner.

MP3: Bad Veins – “Gold And Warm”
Video: Bad Veins – “Gold And Warm”
Stream: Bad Veins / Bad Veins

PitchforkTV is streaming a Yeah Yeah Yeahs featurette for one week only – well, the rest of this week anyways. It was originally released as a teaser for this year’s release of It’s Blitz!. Yeah Yeah Yeahs are playing two shows at the Kool Haus on August 4 and 5.

Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Snakesweat

Spinner has an Interface session and San Diego City Beat with Ida Maria.

MPR is streaming a radio session with The Jayhawks.

The Jim James/M Ward/Conor Oberst/Mike Mogis-powered supergroup Monsters Of Folk are giving away an MP3 from their upcoming self-titled debut, out September 22, in exchange for your politeness. Grab it off their website, read some comments on the project from band members at Spinner and NME and keep an eye out for tour dates for this Fall.

Interestingly, Jim James is credited on the Monsters Of Folk website as “Yim Yames”, his solo alter ego. Tribute To, his George Harrison tribute EP, will be out on August 4 and a full-length solo record is in the works. Billboard talks to James/Yames about the Harrison EP, a song from which is available to download on his website.

LexGo and Pantagraph talk to Neko Case.

Director Bruce MacDonald explains his plans for the Broken Social Scene-powered film This Movie Is Broken to The Globe & Mail. They’re aiming for a release something early next year.

Pitchfork salutes Merge Records on the occasion of its 20th anniversary by talking to some of the label’s marquee artists, including Arcade Fire, Spoon and M Ward.

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

"Independent Women"

Elbow covers Destiny's Child

Photo By Andy WhittonAndy WhittonSo the excitement was great when it appeared that Elbow were going to be playing their first show in Toronto in some time at the Phoenix on July 29. The listing popped up on the venue’s website and I dutifully reported it as pretty much a done deal – so when it disappeared a few days later, I assumed someone had jumped the gun and waited for the official announcement to come. And waited. And waited. And while waiting, I seemed to become the go-to for news on the show, with incoming emails and tweets and whatever looking for ticket on-sale information, information that I didn’t have. Until I made some inquiries and discovered that the show HAD been for real, but was no longer as the band had gotten a better offer for that evening. So to anyone and everyone who’d hoped to see Elbow that evening, you still can – you’ll just have to tune into The Late Show with David Letterman to do so. Good for Elbow, not so good for Hogtown.

Sure, you can still see them the evening of the 30th at the Rogers Centre, opening for Coldplay, but that’s hardly the setting or the context a fan would want to experience them in. Plus it’s sold out and would have been really expensive anyways. And so we sit and hope against hope that they’ll find their way back to North America for their own shows sometime soon. Perhaps in an orchestral setting as they’ve been wont to do of late. Hey, if we’re wishing for gigs that aren’t likely to happen anytime soon, why not go big?

Also unlikely but very real is the scenario of Elbow, Mancunian mope-rockers extraordinaire, covering American R&B queens Destiny’s Child but they did just for a 2002 BBC1 Live Lounge session with Jo Whiley, turning in a jaunty and tongue-mostly-in-cheek version of the trio’s smash hit from the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack. And while a Destiny’s Child reunion isn’t happening, two-thirds of the band are on the road and had Toronto on their itineraries – Kelly Rowland was here a couple weeks ago to perform during Pride and Beyonce will play the Molson Amphitheatre tomorrow night.

MP3: Elbow – “Independent Women”
Video: Destiny’s Child – “Independent Women”