Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
Cover Your Tracks
An introduction to Blue Roses
Danny NorthI had spent the last few days getting contradictory answers as to whether the December 15 Fanfarlo show at the El Mocambo I’d been so looking forward to and the Montreal date the following night were cancelled or not, but yesterday afternoon the band settled the matter – frontman Simon Balthazar’s passport was stolen in Portland and there was no getting a replacement in time to make the Canadian dates. They’ll surely visit us another time, but not next week.
But goodness knows I’m nothing if not someone who always sees the bright side of things (stop laughing) so if there’s a silver lining here, it’s that the evening is freed up to head down to the Drake Underground to see the Canadian debut of Blue Roses. Both the stage name of Ms Laura Groves of England as well as the title of her debut album, the thing that will strike you first about Blue Roses is her voice; Groves possesses a soprano that will stop you in your tracks, then watch in amazement as it soars and swoops around you. The paths it traces are more than a little reminiscent of Kate Bush or, using a more contemporary reference point, Joanna Newsom albeit less boundary-pushing than the former or potentially polarizing than the latter.
Whether accompanied by elegantly fingerpicked guitar or dramatic piano, the music of Blue Roses maintains a light, airy feel, even when the lyrical matter gets weighty or melancholic. And putting aside the arrangements and their delicate balance of traditional and modern tones, the sense of wide-eyed optimism remains – it’s just inherent in Groves’ 21-year old voice. It’s the sound of youth and hopefulness, though not necessarily naivete – these songs have been lived in. Just as Bush or Newsom sound like their songs belong to some dark and mysterious, fairy-inhabited woods, Groves’ songs inhabit a simpler, more pastoral place – one of open fields and meadows, where the skies might be overcast but are worth celebrating nonetheless.
Groves digitally released a new EP yesterday entitled Does Anyone Love Me Now and is currently on her debut tour of North America supporting Marcus Foster and, as previously mentioned, will be at the Drake Underground on December 15. Stereogum collected a series of live performance videos recorded in assorted idyllic locales while Off The Beaten Tracks captured a couple of songs on tape at this Summer’s Edinburgh Festival before the rains came. The Quietus talked to Groves about her hometown of Shipley, Yorkshire.
The Drake will also be hosting another young and talented English singer-songwriter in the coming months, though I would think that Laura Marling could easily fill a much larger room than the Underground. Perhaps the February 9 engagement is intended to be a deliberately undersized and intimate show to mark the release of her second album, which currently has no name or street date but February is as reasonable a guess as any. Either way, expect the $13.50 tickets, which go on sale Friday, to go fast.
Marling will also be heading to India this month to do some shows accompanied by Mumford & Sons, with whom she made her Toronto debut last October. Spinner talks to Marcus Mumford about how that tour came about. Mumford & Sons play the decidedly less exotic but much more easily accessible El Mocambo on February 15, their debut Sigh No More will get a North American release on March 2 and you can download a free stripped-down version of their “White Blank Page” over at The Times.
The February 16 release of Lightspeed Champion’s next proper album Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You may still be a couple months off, but those looking for a more immediate fix need look no further than Dev Hynes’ own website where he’s begun posting what he calls a series of bootlegs, which are essentially off-the-cuff albums of Hynes messing about. The first to be made available is House-Sitting Songs, which as the title implies, was “recorded mid May 2009 within a week whilst house-sitting for a friend of mine in Manhattan”. Hynes talks to Spinner about his reasons for releasing the record and what else is yet to come.
I had thought that Asobi Seksu’s last visit in October might be an acoustic set, given their quieter tourmates in Loney Dear and Anna Ternheim and the impending release of their new acoustic record Rewolf but no – it was as big and loud a performance as ever. They will, however, be busting out the acoustics – and presumably leaving the strobe lights at home – for their February 1 show at the Drake. Tickets for that will be $10 in advance. Flavorwire talks to Yuki Chikudate about the decision to make an acoustic record.
Though they were just here, The Big Pink have announced another tour for next Spring where they’ll be accompanied by fellow strobe junkies A Place To Bury Strangers. Deafness and blindness guaranteed. The Toronto date is March 24 at the Mod Club.