Archive for April, 2010

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

"Time To Pretend"

Jonsi and Little Boots cover MGMT (not together)

Photo By Lilja & Inga BirgisdottirLilja & Inga BirgisdottirThe first of these covers made the blog rounds not too long ago, but the timing is such that I can’t resist making it this week’s selection and the second, well, that would have been just as perfect if only…

Anyways. First, you’ve got the inexplicably (to me, anyways) popular MGMT, who released their second album Congratulations a couple of weeks ago. Despite a high chart showing, it’s gotten a pretty polarizing response for apparently not sounding much like their debut Oracular Spectacular, which by extension means that none of the songs is as immediate as “Time To Pretend” and might not inspire covers such as these ones by Jonsi or Little Boots. The Jonsi cover, recorded for BBC Radio 1, is the more transformative of the two what with being performed on sombre piano, shed of the fun-time synths of the original. Little Boots recorded hers cover for her YouTube channel and despite being armed with just her Tenori-On, does a pretty faithful rendering (the audio isn’t great as it’s ripped from said YouTube vid).

The big moment of synchronicity amongst these three versions is that MGMT are playing a tiny (for them) club show at the Mod Club this Thursday night – presumably something bigger is coming later this Summer – while Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi is playing the Sound Academy for two nights this Friday and Saturday night in support of his solo debut Go and Little Boots was supposed to play the Phoenix on Friday night but that, along with most of her North American tour dates, was canceled a couple months ago for no given reason. But still, if that hadn’t happened you could have seen all three in three nights. Whoo.

The Chicago Tribune has a feature on Jonsi while Clash talks to MGMT.

MP3: Jonsi – “Time To Pretend”
MP3: Little Boots – “Time To Pretend”
Video: Little Boots – “Time To Pretend”
Video: MGMT – “Time To Pretend”

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

CONTEST – Band Of Skulls @ The Mod Club – April 28, 2010

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangYou can’t accuse Band Of Skulls of playing hard to get – though the trio call Southampton, England home, over the past year they’ve been touring North America more than some domestic acts. By my count, they’ve played at least four Toronto shows since NXNE last June – where I saw them – and their gig here next week makes five in nine months or so. Over-saturation or just meeting demand? I can certainly believe the latter – their garage-y blues-rock isn’t especially innovative, but it is timeless and delivered with plenty of meat and attitude. And they put on a great show, as do their tourmates this time out, The Whigs, so their April 28 engagement at the Mod Club should be the perfect bill for those in the mood for something high on volume and low on nonsense.

Tickets for said show are $17.50 in advance but courtesy of Phi, I’ve got a prize pack to give away consisting of two passes to the show, your choice of their debut Baby Darling Doll Face Honey on two autographed CDs, two LPs or one autographed CD and one LP (because why should the +1 go home empty handed) and two medium-sized t-shirts (if you’re bigger or smaller than that, sorry). To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see Band Of Skulls” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address in the body, along with which combination of physical media (2xCD, 2xLP, CD/LP) you’d like the album on and get that in to me before midnight, April 26.

There’s features on the band at The Vancouver Sun and Seattle Weekly.

MP3: Band Of Skulls – “Blood”
Video: Band Of Skulls – “I Know What I Am”
Video: Band Of Skulls – “Death By Diamonds & Pearls”

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Round And Round

Ariel Pink to spread Haunted Graffiti all over North America

Photo via 4AD4ADWhat do you get when you combine a slowish news day with the last post of the week and a compulsive inability to take a day off? A post led with stuff I don’t really know anything about! Yay!

Specifically, Californian outfit Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, whom I understand are both credited and blamed for what the kids are now calling “chillwave”. I don’t know what that is, particularly, but what I’ve heard of Mr. Pink is about half interesting trippy pop and about half aimless meandering; “Round & Round”, the first promo track from 4AD debut Before Today, due out June 8, is much more the former – if it sets the tone for the album, I’d certainly be interested in hearing more. That release will be followed by a North American tour that will bring them and tourmates The Magic Kids and Pearl Harbour to the Mod Club on July 22; tickets are $15 and go on sale Saturday.

MP3: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – “Round & Round”
Video: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – “Video Demo 2010”

When incredibly prolific bands suddenly go silent, it’s rarely good news but Pitchfork has confirmed what many of us suspected – Voxtrot is calling it quits. One more short US tour and that’s all she wrote; thanks guys, it was a good run.

The Pacific Northwest Inlander talks to Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater, who are currently on a western tour and need some pants.

MusicOmh has an interview with Spoon bassist Rob Pope.

Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard tells MTV that their next album is on track for an early 2011 release.

Tea Party Boston – no relation to the dumbass tea parties – interviews Hutch Harris of The Thermals. Their new record, tentatively entitled Personal Life, is set for a September 7 release.

Marah hit the Horseshoe on May 29; their new record Life Is A Problem arrives June 22 – sample some of it at Soundcloud.

Mirah is at the Horseshoe on June 26.

MP3: Mirah – “Don’t Die In Me”

Under The Radar reports that Dark Night Of The Soul, the album and project from Danger Mouse, the late Mark Linkous and David Lynch, will get an official release on July 13.

The Depreciation Guild’s new album Spirit Youth isn’t out until May 18, but you can stream it now over at Spinner.

Stream: The Depreciation Guild / Spirit Youth

It’s dueling tour diaries as Phantogram and The Antlers both prepare to take notes of their upcoming west coast tour together for Spinner. The Antlers will hook up with The National before coming back to Toronto for two nights at Massey Hall on June 8 and 9.

The Guardian talks to that The National’s Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner, Hit Fix to Dessner alone, while The New York Times has both a massive feature on the band and a stream of their new record High Violet, well in advance of its May 11 release.

Stream: The National / High Violet

Great Lake Swimmers have released a new video from Lost Channels and have added a number of live dates through the Spring and Summer. That includes two unusual hometown shows: a May 1 performance at the Legion Hall at King and Niagara to tie in with their new Legion Sessions release, and another at the Hot House Cafe on May 3 as part of the Panty Schmooze benefit for women’s shelters.

Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Stealing Tomorrow”

Also one to file under “unconventional locales”, on May 28 the Toronto Reference Library will host a free show with Fucked Up and $100, intended “for kids and families and punks and book nerds”no tickets, just show up.

MP3: Fucked Up – “No Epiphany”

JAM talks to Caribou’s Dan Snaith; they play The Phoenix on May 3.

SF Station has an interview with Broken Social Scene drummer Justin Peroff about their new record Forgiveness Rock Record, coming out May 4. They play the Toronto Islands on June 19.

Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is a global charity dedicated to the elimination of land mines, and to that end have started up monthly newsletter called the Plug Five Project wherein bands and bloggers submit lists of new music they’re digging – in packs of five – and they’re delivered to your inbox. The first issue comes out next week and will feature recommendations from folks like John Vanderslice, Wavves, The Tallest Man On Earth, Gorilla Vs Bear, Largehearted Boy and, um, me. A subscription is available for a one-time fee of $2 (or 2 quid in the UK) and does directly to MAG’s work of clearing land mines.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

One Life Stand

Hot Chip and The xx at the Kool Haus in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt doesn’t seem so long ago – say, last August – that everyone wanted to know when those responsible for the mope-out/make-out soundtrack of 2009 – The xx – were going to make it to Toronto. They made that long-awaited debut in December in support of Friendly Fires but before that show had even passed, they’d booked a return engagement for this past Tuesday at the Kool Haus supporting Hot Chip and then not long after that announcement, a third local show was slated for earlier this month with jj; talk about feast or famine. Of the two April performances, I opted to hit up the later one – yes, it meant passing up their first headlining slot, but I was much keener to see Hot Chip than jj, particularly after hearing how lacklustre their live sets were at SxSW.

There were definitely parallels between this show and the one in December; both found The xx’s significant buzz drowned out by that of the more established headliners and thus, still with significant swathes of the audience to win over. Working against them was the fact that the Hot Chip fans were clearly here for a party and The xx’s mood music had some trouble getting their attention, at least those standing in my vicinity. And it’s too bad that they found talking about their rec softball leagues more stimulating than what was coming off the stage, because in a short amount of time, The xx have become a much more compelling live act.

They brought none of the fancy stage dressings I’d heard about from their headlining show – even the glowing “X” DJ booth had apparently been traded in for a non-luminous model – but the polish and confidence of their relentless touring schedule was clear. In the past, I’ve defended the band against complaints that their live show was boring by asking what those naysayers would have them do – their stage presence might be low-key but it suits the atmosphere of their music perfectly – but even I was pleased to see that they had become just a little bit more visually compelling. Mostly that was bassist Oliver Sims, who seemed to now be letting the music do with him what it would, and that was making him swing pendulously around the stage while laying down the low end. It was a little thing, but quite noticeable. Musically, they also mixed things up a bit, with new and unexpected breakdowns in “Crystal” and “Basic Space”; for any other band, you’d say they were jamming things out a bit, but The xx are pretty much the antithesis of a jamming band – their aesthetic requires everything be meticulously considered and arranged, so while I’d have been perfectly happy hearing XX reproduced, their adding in something new was pleasantly surprising. And now I’d like them to stop touring – finally – and go write a new record.

Leading up to this show, I’d heard more than a few people comment on how Hot Chip were a great live band, a sentiment I found this somewhat odd considering that I’d seen them at Lollapalooza 2006 and, while I apparently enjoyed their set, the impression I’ve carried with me from that set was that they were kind of… dry in a live setting. Well, apparently it’s not fair to judge a band based on a mid-day, festival side-stage set because here, in front of a sold-out, ready to go audience of their own fans, they were fantastic. Now, I’ve only been peripherally acquainted with Hot Chip’s works until their latest, the comparatively sedate One Life Stand, but I’d always thought of them as a cerebral electro-pop band that you could also dance to if so inclined, but as it turns out they’re also a dancey electro-pop band that you can sit and wrap your head around, and on this night, it was the dancing that ruled.

Even though Toronto has a reputation as a town that likes to stand around at shows – arm-crossing optional – I’ve seen folks dance before. Never, however, quite like at this show. Most of the masses engaged in the bouncing and arm-waving that tends to be all once can get away with in big crowds, but out on the periphery there were people taking advantage of the open space to dance and dance elaborately, and not to be seen but just to let the music move them. And the dance party wasn’t just happening in the audience; on stage and despite being largely tethered to their keyboards and percussion setups, the London six-piece was in a celebratory mood and themselves dancing up a storm, helped along by the fact it was lead singer Alexis Taylor’s 30th birthday. Over the 80-minute set, they served up much of One Life Stand and most of the hits of their earlier records – thus making it a set for which I was actually able to recognize the bulk of the material – and did so with tremendous energy and big smiles, to boot. Hot Chip? Great live band.

Exclaim and Panic Manual also have reviews of the show. The xx have just released a new video for “Islands” and NPR will be webcasting both Hot Chip and The xx’s sets from Washington D.C. on April 24.

Photos: Hot Chip, The xx @ The Kool Haus – April 20, 2010
MP3: The xx – “Basic Space”
Video: Hot Chip – “I Feel Better”
Video: Hot Chip – “One Life Stand”
Video: Hot Chip – “One Pure Thought”
Video: Hot Chip – “Ready For The Floor”
Video: Hot Chip – “The Warning”
Video: Hot Chip – “Over And Over”
Video: Hot Chip – “Colours”
Video: Hot Chip – “And I Was A Boy From School”
Video: Hot Chip – “Playboy”
Video: The xx – “Islands”
Video: The xx – “Basic Space”
Video: The xx – “Crystalised”
MySpace: Hot Chip
MySpace: The xx

PopMatters talks to Daddy G of Massive Attack, who have two nights at the Sound Academy on May 7 and 9.

Editors have released two new videos – one from In This Light & On This Evening and one for the track they released on a 7″ for Record Store Day last week.

Video: Editors – “Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool”
Video: Editors – “Last Day”

BBC talks to The Futureheads about their new record The Chaos, due out June 1 and to be followed by a June 10 date at the Mod Club.

Paste declares We Were Promised Jetpacks amongst the “best of what’s next”.

The Dallas Observer talks to Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, whom after almost a week of volcano-induced delays are now on a plane and en route to salvage their North American tour, meaning their May 4 show at the Opera House is a go.

Barring any more Icelandic ash spewing, Kate Nash will also make it over here in time to begin her North American tour in support of My Best Friend Is You at the Mod Club next Monday night. BBC, Seattle Post-Intelligencier and Spinner all talk to Nash about her sophomore effort.

The Daily Growl solicits a list of seven significant songs from Lucky Soul.

Gwenno Saunders of The Pipettes talks to Spinner about the band’s lineup changes; their new record Earth Vs. the Pipettes, due out June 28.

Oh, and I’ve started one of those Formspring things. Ask me questions! Or, y’know, don’t. S’cool.

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Found Out

Review of Caribou’s Swim

Photo via City SlangCity SlangOkay, I get it – Andorra was a gateway drug, a bit of bait and switch. After failing to really connect with either his Manitoba output or The Milk Of Human Kindness, his first record as Caribou, Dan Snaith managed to draw me in with his 2008 foray into classic pop structures and songcraft and then, once I was hooked, he turned right around and dove back into parts unknown and pulled me right along with him.

The world of Swim, at least initially, feels wholly alien compared to the more familiar touchstones of the Polaris-winning Andorra or the more overtly electronic aesthetic of his other works. Though plenty of real instrumentation weaves in and out of the mix, there’s a decidedly synthetic texture across the record that combined with it’s dense, intimate sonic architecture makes it simultaneously disorienting and entrancing – you can’t help but want to touch it, and don’t really have a choice in the matter. Also insistent is the rhythmic backbone of the record – a throbbing, undulating, liquidous thing that you’re tempted to call disco or dance, but while you can, should and probably must move to it, Swim doesn’t sound like it was intended just for dancing or good times; It feels darker and more desperate than that, as though the publicly romantic sentiments of Andorra have led behind closed doors and now given way to something slinkier, sexier and seedier.

With further listens, Swim becomes more familiar as a Caribou record and for someone more familiar with the full breadth of Snaith’s career, perhaps it’s a much more logical next step than Andorra was a previous one, but what does seem clear to me now is that even when Caribou sounds little like what you think or thought Caribou sounded like, it still sounds like Caribou. And though blending electronic sensibilities with pop ones isn’t especially unusual or groundbreaking in this day and age, the way Snaith goes about it – and the results he gets – are wholly unique, thanks to the slightly warped lens that his musical vision is projected out of.

Caribou set out on a North American tour starting on April 3 at the Phoenix in Toronto, with a full-band Toro Y Moi opening up most dates. Clash, The Times, Spoonfed, The National Post, Exclaim and Spinner have features on Snaith and his newest work.

MP3: Caribou – “Odessa”
MP3: Caribou – “Odessa” (David Wrench’s Drumapella remix)
Video: Caribou – “Odessa”
MySpace: Caribou

Shad will follow-up to his own Polaris nominated album The Old Prince with TSOL, out May 25. The first video and MP3 are out now and do they make a good first impression? Yes they do. Shad plays the Opera House on June 12.

MP3: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”
Video: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”

Bostonist interviews Owen Pallett.

JAM, The Vancouver Sun and Ottawa Citizen profile Plants & Animals, whose La La Land was released yesterday.

So you love Metric’s? How much? Can you put a price on it? How about $60? Yeah? Great – because that’s how much floors for their just-announced July 9 show at the Molson Amphitheatre will run you. Too much? Luckily, 200-level seats are only $52, and lawns a bargain at $44 before fees. That Passion Pit and Holy Fuck are support for the show helps the overall value marginally, but those are still jaw-droppingly high prices. It makes the “we’re independent!” angle of this Chart piece on the band’s two Juno award wins kind of ironic, considering they’re now charging their fans many times over what many major label bands do for tickets – it’s almost Bieber/Buble-expensive. Yeah, congratulations. Oh yeah, Metric has a new video too.

Video: Metric – “Gold Gun Girls”

Pitchfork reports that Broken Social Scene’s new album Forgiveness Rock Record will be released with a 10-track bonus EP entitled Lo-Fi For The Dividing Nights, available with all pre-orders and at selected retail outlets (HMV and indies) in Canada and indies only in the US.

Crystal Castles had intended to release their second album on June 8, but online leakage have prompted them to move that timetable up a bit – or a lot. NME reports that the self-titled effort will now be made available digitally starting this Friday, April 23, with the physical release to follow on May 24. The play the Kool Haus on August 14.

Jonsi talks to Interview and tells Spinner that reports of Sigur Ros’ hiatus have been exagerrated; they’ll be working on new material in between his solo tours. He has two dates at the Sound Academy on April 30 and May 1.

PopMatters interview Shout Out Louds; they play the Mod Club on May 8.

Spinner talks to Mac McCaughan about the past and future of Merge Records, and no – he doesn’t know when the new Arcade Fire record will be done, or more accurately, he’s not telling. But with their addition to this year’s edition of Ottawa Bluesfest, they’ll now be back in live action by July 13 – surely they’ll have something out for the kids to shout along with by then? And what might the lineup of talent who’ll be up the 401 the weekend of July 10 and 11 imply about the perplexing Imagine Concert at Downsview – an event which, despite fake tweets to the contrary, is apparently still all systems go.