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Archive for January, 2010

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Something's Going To Break

Retribution Gospel Choir at The Drake Underground in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIf Alan Sparhawk is looking to avoid Neil Young comparisons with his Retribution Gospel Choir work, you wouldn’t know it. Taking the stage at the Drake Underground on Monday night, the Low frontman was almost a tribute to Shakey boasting an impressive pair of muttonchop sideburns complimenting his black, P90-equipped, Bigsby-ed Les Paul. Okay, you’d probably never catch Neil dressed as classically dapper as Sparhawk and his bandmates, but sartorial concerns aside, you don’t have to look to hard for at least one source of inspiration.

And, of course, you could hear it. Their new album 2 – which they would technically be able to sell as of midnight – is a fiery document of rock filled with the sort of extended solos that Sparhawk only occasionally gets to showcase in Low. Not as all-out chaotic as the sort that Young wrings out of Old Black – Sparhawk’s technique is decidedly more precise if no less furious – but of the same spirit. And though their set was relatively compact at an hour including encore, there were plenty of epic guitar excursions to astonish the modest-sized Monday night crowd not to mention their intensely focused songs. The fittingly titled “Electric Guitar” was a particular standout, a sonic atom bomb in a set filled with explosive numbers.

In between aural assaults, there was an almost reverent silence from the audience, almost as though they thought were at a Low gig and chatting was verboten. The band took the opportunity to engage in some hockey banter, Sparhawk mentioning he’d recently fallen on his ass while skating and drummer Eric Pollard pre-emptively congratulating us on winning the Olympic gold. “Who’ve you got in net? Luongo? Aubin? You’ve got Aubin? Fuck.”

The News-Herald has an interview with Alan Sparhawk and 2 is currently streaming over at Spinner.

Photos: Retribution Gospel Choir @ The Drake Underground – January 25, 2010
MP3: Retribution Gospel Choir – “Hide It Away”
Video: Retribution Gospel Choir – “Hide It Away”
Stream: Retribution Gospel Choir / 2
MySpace: Retribution Gospel Choir

Drive-By Truckers will be hitting the road in support of the March 16 release of The Big To-Do, and are opting to do multi-night stands in smaller rooms this time around – case in point, their April 6 and 7 dates at Lee’s Palace with Langhorne Slim opening. They’ve also let loose the first MP3 from the new album and will be the subject of a new documentary film entitled The Secret To A Happy Ending, which will begin screening at festivals starting next month.

MP3: Drive-By Truckers – “This Fucking Job”

Wolf Parade will return to active duty with a short eastern Canadian tour accompanied by We Are Wolves, possibly timed around the release of their third album which is rumoured to be complete. The Toronto date is April 7 at the Phoenix, with tickets $20 going on sale January 29.

MP3: Wolf Parade – “Language City”
MP3: Wolf Parade – “Call It A Ritual”

Following up last November’s utterly sold-out show at the Mod Club, Florence & The Machine are coming back on April 10 for a show at the Phoenix, tickets $20. Holy Hail will support.

MP3: Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With A Fist”
MP3: Florence & The Machine – “I’m Not Calling You A Liar”

The Reverend Horton Heat will be at the Phoenix on May 20 with Cracker in tow.

Though yesterday’s pre-sale for the June 8 National show at Massey Hall sold out lickety-split, another block of pre-sale tickets goes on sale today at 10AM – same link and password as yesterday and, sadly, same big-ass service charges.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs have released a new video from It’s Blitz!.

Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Skeletons”

Holly Miranda is featured in video sessions at Yours Truly and PitchforkTV, while The Guardian declares her their “New band of the day”. The Magician’s Private Library is out February 23; here’s another track from it.

MP3: Holly Miranda – “Waves”

Clash labels The Antlers “one to watch for 2010”, which is interesting considering they’d have a pretty hard time topping their breakout 2009. They’re in town on February 16 at the Phoenix opening up for Editors.

And Editors have offered up a track from their latest album In This Light And On This Evening to download.

MP3: Editors – “Papillon”

Despite what was promised just last week, The Radio Dept.’s third album Clinging To A Scheme will NOT be coming out in March. Instead it will be out in April. The 21st of April, to be precise. That’s right, an actual firm date. Firm until they move it, anyways.

And Jonsi tells Spinner that contrary to previous reports, there will be no new Sigur Ros record out this year, or in the foreseeable future. So enjoy his solo record Go when it hits on March 23, because that’s all there’s going to be for a while.

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Hot Tips

The D’Urbervilles, Forest City Lovers, Evening Hymns and Jenny Omnichord at The Garrison in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIf you were at The Garrison on Friday night and felt a sense of deja vu, it was with good reason. Though the occasion was the third anniversary party for Toronto label Out Of This Spark, you might have also been at the second anniversary party a year ago at The Tranzac which featured 3/4 of the same performers in The D’Urbervilles, Forest City Lovers and Jenny Omnichord, or maybe the Evening Hymns release show in December, or perhaps at the Summerworks show in August which showcased The D’Urbervilles and Forest City Lovers, both separately and together. Maybe you were at one of these shows. Maybe you were at all of them. I was, anyways, and so trying to write this one up without overtly repeating myself is a bit of a challenge. But here we go.

As with last year, Jenny Omnichord (née Mitchell) was batting leadoff, armed with a couple of her namesake electronic instruments and a brace of odd and entertaining songs and banter. Her stuff was unapologetically twee and childlike, but also with a distinct streak of black humour running through them. Not necessarily the sort of stuff I’d listen to on my own, but as a way to kick off an evening, you could do far worse.

Following her were Evening Hymns, who’d crafted one of my favourite records of last year in Spirit Guides and while many artists spend their careers trying to capture the energy of their live show on record, the challenge of Evening Hymns is how to recreate the scope and grandeur of the album on stage. They came close at the record release show, but that required something like a dozen players and liberal use of smoke machines. This time out, they were a compact five-piece unit less concerned with recreating the songs as they were recorded than rendering them as best they could with what they had, and by and large it worked. While it was clear there was still some gelling necessary before they’d be at their best, all the parts needed to do these songs justice were in place – if this is the unit to take Spirit Guides on the road and out into the world, then it’s in good hands.

Much of the appeal of Forest City Lovers is their understatedness, and the way their melodic folk-pop insinuates itself into your mind subtly, rather than jump all about in your face. That said, it’s been quite nice to see them becoming more engaging and extroverted with each show and release of new music without losing those qualities – in particular, the two sides of their recent “Phodilus and Tyto” 7″ don’t even clock in at seven minutes, but offer a very exciting look at where their third album, currently being recorded, could be heading. Goodness knows they were the highlights of their live set, and considering the selections from Haunting Moon Sinking and The Sun And The Wind were no slouches, that’s saying something. The new record is easily one of the local releases I’m most looking forward to this year.

Considering how quickly frontman John O’Reagan’s Diamond Rings electro-pop solo project has taken off, it would be understandable if he opted to shelve the rock keep the eyeshadow on all the time. But happily, the man can multitask and The D’Urbervilles are wrapping up work on a new record and a number of new tunes were showcased in their set. Each time I see them, I further appreciate how they manage to evoke New Wave-ish/dance-rock touchstones without sounding like every other New Wave-ish/dance rock acts. Their set was short, punchy and would have been a fine cap to the evening and a testament to the quality of talent on the label, but they weren’t quite done yet.

As they did at the Summerworks show, the encore for the entire night brought Jenny Omnichord, Forest City Lovers and The D’Urbervilles out on stage together to perform one each of their songs in massive lineup-style. It wasn’t quite the prepared reimagining of the material as they’d done in August, but still good fun to see and hear regardless. And then they were done.

Narratives and Singing Lamb also have reviews of the show. Many of the performers are in action again over the next while – Forest City Lovers frontwoman Kat Burns is opening up solo-style for Asobi Seksu at the Drake on February 1, Evening Hymns are at the Music Gallery on February 10 as part of Wavelength 500 and The D’Urbervilles are opening up for Fucked Up at the Opera House on February 26.

Photos: The D’Urbervilles, Forest City Lovers, Evening Hymns, Jenny Omnichord @ The Garrison – January 22, 2010
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “Dragnet”
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “Spin The Bottle”
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “Hot Tips”
MP3: Forest City Lovers – “Scared Of Time”
MP3: Forest City Lovers – “Oh Humility” (live)
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Dead Deer”
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Broken Rifle”
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Cedars”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “If I Were A Tree”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “Pirates”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “Song For Morrie”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “Please, Don’t Go”
MySpace: The D’Urbervilles
MySpace: Forest City Lovers
MySpace: Evening Hymns

Speaking of Diamond Rings, the final seven copies of their split-7″ with PS I Love You – which with a “Best New Music” honorific for each of its sides may well be the bestreviewed piece of music in the history of Pitchfork, at least from a linear or temporal density perspective – are now up on eBay with new hand-screened arwtork and signed by the artists, and with proceeds of the auction going to Haitian relief efforts. Diamond Rings also has a couple of Canadian Musicfest showcases announced – March 11 at the Garrison and March 12 at The Silver Dollar – to go with their February 11 show at the Steam Whistle Roundhouse for Wavelength 500.

MP3: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Facelove”

Pitchfork has details on the new album from Caribou, entitled Swim and due out April 20 – get the first MP3 in exchange for your email address.

Woodpigeon has paid tribute to the passing of Kate McGarrigle with a cover of what is probably their most famous song to those of a certain generation who grew up watching NFB shorts – “The Log Driver’s Waltz”. Woodpigeon plays the Drake Underground on February 11 and have an in-store at Soundscapes on February 14.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “The Log Driver’s Waltz” (live)

Celebrate the release of Basia Bulat’s new album Heart Of My Own today with a stunning performance of “The Shore” for Le Blogotheque’s Takeaway Shows, video sessions and interviews at Baeble Music’s Guest Apartment and interviews at The National Post, Canadian Press, Exclaim and Ca Va Cool.

Macleans has made available online the feature piece on Owen Pallett that came out of the multi-part interview posted at Radio Free Canuckistan last week. Pallett also plays cover boy of this month’s Exclaim, which I’ll link up when it goes up later today is live. He plays the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on April 8.

Southern Souls have posted a video session with The Balconies. They’re at the Drake Underground on February 10.

Kelowna.com talks to Joel Plaskett. He and the Thrush Hermit reunion are at Lee’s Palace on March 26 and 27.

Soundproof has an interview with Amy Millan, who is putting the solo thing on the back burner this year with both new Broken Social Scene and Stars records in the works.

Singing Lamb chats with Ohbijou’s Casey Mecija.

Those disappointed by the collateral damage from Fanfarlo’s canceled show last December will be pleased to know that the opener, Freelance Whales, will be joining the previously-announced Cymbals Eat Guitars tour and be at the El Mocambo on April 6. Express Night Out and The AV Club have features on the band, whose debut Weathervanes is getting a re-release on March 16.

And the best news of yesterday was that The National’s new album – previously rumoured to be entitled Shine but currently nameless – will be out in May and they’ll be on tour shortly thereafter with a Toronto date at Massey Hall on June 8. Massey Hall. This will be majestic. Ticket presale goes this morning at 10AM – your password is “bloodbuzz” – with tickets ranging in price from $32.50 to $53.50.

Monday, January 25th, 2010

CONTEST – Everything All The Time, Lioness and Rich Aucoin @ The Horseshoe – January 30, 2010

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangBig-voiced frontwomen. Loads of synths. No guitars. This Saturday night at the Horseshoe will come two examples of how differently that same musical recipe can come out. On one hand, you’ve got Everything All The Time, led by Alanna Stuart, and their breezy, vintage-y feel-good synth-pop. On the other, the decidedly heavier and darker Lioness, who back Vanessa Fischer with sounds and attitude befitting their disco-punk roots. And rounding things out is Halifax’s Rich Aucoin, whose keyboard-first, big orchestral dance-pop actually fits quite nicely between the two of them, but being a dude he didn’t really fit into the preceding argument.

Anyways. The takeaway from all this is that it’s a solid, eclectic bill at the ‘Shoe this Saturday night – January 30 – and while admission is $8 at the door, courtesy of contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to see Everything All The Time” in the subject line and your full name in the body, and get that in to me before midnight, January 28.

MP3: Everything All The Time – “Lazy Days”
MP3: Rich Aucoin – “10,342 Cuts For the US”
Video: Lioness – “What You Do Will Come Back To You”

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Beyond

Dinosaur Jr at Sonic Boom and The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangHad you the opportunity to go back in time and tell the 23-year old me that, in just over a decade, I’d be so fortunate as to see two of my all-time guitar heroes – Johnny Marr and J Mascis – live and awesome in a one-week span, I’d have told you to shut the fuck up. And then asked why, if you had the power to go back in time, you’d offer me that bit of information instead of, oh, stock tips or sports scores. But yeah, seeing The Cribs last week and then Dinosaur Jr not once but twice on Thursday was pretty ridiculously cool.

While precognition is only slightly more plausible than temporal displacement, it’s still quite a coincidence that I selected this photo for my not-yet-failed Photo 365 project a couple weeks ago and then framed last week’s cover of the week as I did – it’s almost as though I knew that Dinosaur Jr was going to be at Sonic Boom in more than pre-recorded form. Which, of course, I did not so the almost last-minute announcement on Monday morning that the trio would be playing an in-store in the Annex record store before their sold-out show at the Phoenix was a WTF of the best kind. And one that would surely require a lot of advance planning and waiting in order to get a good spot.

I’m sure some had hopes that this would be a fully-plugged in, foundation-shaking rock extravaganza that people would be talking about for generations to come, but those sorts of expectations were just a bit unrealistic, what with all of their gear already set up and soundchecked at the Phoenix. What they did bring when they finally arrived at the packed house a half hour later than scheduled – traffic, dontcha know – was a semi-acoustic setup that wasn’t going to damage anyone’s hearing, but would provide a unique experience. They also didn’t bring Murph – apparently border issues left him at home in the land of the free and a replacement drummer in Kyle Spence, who played with Mascis in The Fog. Mascis came bearing a Gibson acoustic rather than one of his signature Jazzmasters but the fuzz pedal and tube amp that accompanied it ensure that things wouldn’t be too polite. And you could call their six-song set a bit mellow and certainly unprepared, it was not polite – a J Mascis guitar solo, even one on acoustic guitar, is epic, rambling and awesome but not polite. They may have come without a set list, but the selections they did decide on offered a pretty good representation of the Dino jr canon – three from the original trilogy of records, one from their latest Farm and most excitingly to me, a couple from the non-Barlow years, which through no real fault of Lou’s, are my favourite. Knowing that material from those records was in the mix for this tour was pretty damned exciting.

And the belief that they were focused only on Lou-era material was part of the reason that I had yet to see the resurrected Dinosaur Jr live, even though this was their third time coming through town since 2005. The first time out, my understanding was that they were only playing material from the first three records since the touring was in support of the reissues and I missed their Summer 2007 visit in support of Beyond on account of scheduling. And I’d seen the charity J Mascis/Broken Social Scene gig back in July 2006 so it’s not as though I hadn’t borne witness to J Mascis’ guitarwork before. These rationalizations were, however, entirely moot when I got to the Phoenix Thursday evening. The in-store was a delicious appetizer but this was the main course. The unbelievably loud and wholly electrified main course.

I hope that anyone who found the Sonic Boom set too low-key for their tastes had tickets for the Phoenix show. While they opened up relatively slowly with Green Mind‘s “Thumb”, the energy accumulated quickly and by the time they got to “Out There” about mid-way through, this Dinosaur was moving at full speed and leaving a trail of sonic destruction in its wake. I’d always thought of Lou Barlow as the sensitive mope-rocker of his solo career, so it was a bit odd to watch him absolutely rock out on bass, lurching and hair-whipping through the set. In contrast, J Mascis stood relatively placid at stage right, safely ensconced in his fortress of amplitude while spewing massively fuzzed-out guitar solos from his fingers and lazily drawled lyrics from his mouth.

It was a personal thrill to hear “Feel The Pain” from Without A Sound, not their most celebrated record but my gateway drug into the world of Dinosaur Jr, and “The Wagon” which closed their in-store set in grand style but was even better delivered at a billion decibels. For the finale they went back to the (more) classic material with a blistering “Freak Scene” and a Living All Over Me-centric encore of “Kracked” and “Sludgefeast” before inviting Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham onstage to close things out with early b-side “Chunks”. It was an epic show and, knowing that this no longer really counts as a reunion or a farewell, there’s no reason to not expect more of the same in the future.

The Ottawa Citizen and hour.ca have interviews with J Mascis. aux.tv and For The Records were in attendance at the in-store while Chart, eye and The Music Slut report back from the Phoenix show. NYC Taper is sharing a recording of the Dinosaur Jr show in Brooklyn last week.

Photos: Dinosaur Jr @ The Phoenix – January 21, 2010
Photos: Dinosaur Jr @ Sonic Boom – January 21, 2010
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “I Want You To Know”
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “Almost Ready”
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “Freak Scene”
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “Forget The Swan”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Over It”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Been There All The Time”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Feel The Pain”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Get Me”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Start Choppin'”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “The Wagon”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Freak Scene”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Just Like Heaven”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Little Fury Things”
MySpace: Dinosaur Jr

Spinner talks to Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook about a Sonic Youth feud that never really was. F’ed Up’s Couple Tracks comp is out this week and they play the Opera House on February 26.

St. Louis Today talks to James McNew of Yo La Tengo.

Wilco are doing their bit for Haiti relief efforts by offering a couple of complete live recordings from last year – Keyspan Park in New York and HMV Forum in London – in exchange for a minimum $15 donation to either OXFAM or Doctors Without Borders.

The New Have Advocate, Chart, The Duluth News-Tribune and The California Chronicle have interviews with Alan Sparhawk of the Retribution Gospel Choir, in town at the Drake Underground tonight.

The Hold Steady are a moustache down – keyboardist Franz Nicolay has officially left the band.

Fans of free shows and record store ambiance have a tough decision to make on February 5 – to see Great Lake Swimmers at Sonic Boom at 6:30PM or Hawksley Workman at Criminal Records at 6PM. Of course, both have their own proper shows coming up – Great Lake Swimmers at Trinity-St. Paul’s the following night and Workman at Massey Hall on April 24 – but they’re not free and you can’t shop for Animal Collective LPs while they play. Okay, maybe that last bit’s not such a bad thing.

MP3: Great Lake Swimmers – “Pulling On A Line”
MP3: Hawksley Workman – “Maniacs”

Aussies The Temper Trap are setting out on a North American tour that includes a date at the Mod Club on March 30 with Danes The Kissaway Trail. The former’s debut Conditions came out last year while the latter’s second album Sleep Mountain is due out in March.

MP3: The Temper Trap – “Down River”

Good Friday will be a day of hard choices for Toronto dream-pop aficionados. In addition to A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s show at The Garrison on April 2, Norwegian sonic apocalypse merchants Serena Maneesh will be just a short hop away at the Great Hall that night to showcase their new album S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor, out March 23. This may not necessarily be an either-or proposition – the venues are just a kilometer apart and if set times are obliging, you could do parts of both. That was the case the last time Serena Maneesh were here at Lee’s Palace in September 2006 and Early Day Miners were a couple blocks away at The Tranzac – Serena Maneesh managed to utterly demolish their set both figuratively and literally in under 45 minutes and I made it to the EDM show in plenty of time. Here’s hoping they haven’t learned any lessons in endurance in the past few years. Tickets for the show are already on sale for $15.

MP3: Serena Maneesh – “Ayisha Abyss”

If you, like I, are missing seeing Sharon Van Etten open up for Great Lake Swimmers at the aforementioned Trinity-St. Paul’s show on February 6, you’ll be pleased to know she’ll be back on April 5 for a show at the Horseshoe with Megafaun. I’m not so familiar with Megafaun but Van Etten’s Because I Was In Love is a quiet gem of a record – The AV Club and On Milwaukee have interviews with the singer-songwriter.

MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MP3: Megafaun – “The Fade”
MP3: Megafaun – “Kaufman’s Ballad”

SubPop punks Pissed Jeans are at the Horseshoe on April 12, tickets $12. Their third album King Of Jeans came out last Summer.

MP3: Pissed Jeans – “Dream Smotherer”
MP3: Pissed Jeans – “False Jesii Part 2”
MP3: Pissed Jeans – “People Person”
MP3: Pissed Jeans – “I’ve Still Got You (Ice Cream)”

With their new album Romance Is Boring out tomorrow, Los Campesinos! have plotted a North American tour that kicks off with an April 20 show at The Phoenix. Clash has an interview with the band and Gareth Campesinos tells Drowned In Sound why he’s auctioning off his glockenspiel (and donating the proceeds to Haitian relief).

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

"If I Were A Rich Man"

The Magnetic Fields cover Fiddler On The Roof

Image via AmazonAmazonStephin Merritt is not a man generally given to performing other peoples’ songs. And while it’s a bit ironic, considering his songs are some of the most-covered in indie-dom, you can hardly blame him considering how ridiculously prolific he is with various bands in The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths, The Gothic Archies and The Future Bible Heroes, to say nothing of his recent stage musical work. The man writes a lot of quality tunes and there’s only so much time in the day – why waste it on other peoples’ material?

When he does reinterpret someone else’s song, however, he picks his spots. Like his contribution to Knitting On The Roof, the 1999 tribute album to the Broadway classic, wherein he offers a ukulele-powered rendition of the show’s most famous song and makes it about a million times more dour in the process. His Reb Tevye is not a jolly sort, no. Of course, it’s also hard to imagine Merritt dancing around a barn or consorting with chickens so perhaps direct comparisons to Topol’s interpretation are misplaced.

The new Magnetic Fields album Realism is out this week and they play the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on February 8. There are currently no major productions of Fiddler On The Roof running anywhere A touring production of Fiddler On The Roof is coming to Toronto in June and you can rent the movie pretty much anywhere. Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum.

MP3: The Magnetic Fields – “If I Were A Rich Man”
Video: “If I Were A Rich Man” (from Fiddler On The Roof)