Monday, August 9th, 2010
Maps & Atlases, Cults and Laura Stevenson & The Cans at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangHeading into Saturday night, I had a managed to go a full six weeks without hitting a club show – only partly by design – and feeling on the cusp of official “shut-in” status and a full week of activities coming up, I figured that it was a good time to start getting back into game shape with a trio of bands with whom I was only passingly familiar – enough so to think that it might be a good show, but not enough to really know what to expect.
Leading off were Brooklyn’s Laura Stevenson & The Cans, who at the core are sweet, jangly and slightly twangy pop-rock but get a bit orchestral and right noisy around the edges. Namesake Stevenson has an immediately likeable crystalline voice and her bandmates do a fine job of providing the proper accompaniment to keep things dynamic and interesting. Apparently not enough to keep the folks standing beside me from believing that loudly quoting 30 Rock jokes was more entertaining than what was going on onstage, but what can you do. Stevenson’s record A RecorD is available for free download with donations welcome. You should do both of these things.
New York duo Cults came into the night with the highest buzz-to-recording ratio, the enthusiasm that met their “Go Outside” 7″ earlier this Summer being responsible for their being able to tour the continent before they’d released anything else and do it as a full six-piece band instead of just the core two-piece with taped backing tracks. And while they had more than the four songs released so far to fill up a set, it may have been a blessing that being held up at the border and arriving at the club late forced them to truncate their show a bit. While the newer material fit the Motown-in-Summer mould that the single did, none of it was as instantly catchy and their relative green-ness as a live act was also evident – what made Madeline Follin’s vocals sound sweet and girly on record came across thin on stage and co-conspirator Brian Oblivion had the annoying habit of constantly brushing his hair back behind his ears while playing. That aside, they were clearly comfortable as live performers – no given – and they’ve got a good sound so one hopes they’ll improve with time. What I got most out of their set, though, was just how much I miss Saturday Looks Good To Me, who did what Cults do so much better and were summarily ignored for it. Oh SLGTM.
I’d given Maps & Atlases’ latest Perch Patchwork a number of listens in advance of the show to try and get a handle on exactly what the Chicago quartet were about and… well, I’m pretty sure I failed. Were they math-rock? Prog-rock? Jam-rock? Pop-rock? Folk-rock? Just rock? The answer, apparently, was yes. Maps & Atlases somehow straddle all of these genres and while you can’t say their union is seamless – some sounds weren’t meant to go gently together – they largely make it work thanks to the fact that they’re all astonishing musicians and they seem to think what they’re doing is perfectly normal. Constantly shifting tempos and time signatures rendered by heavy yet nimble percussion and mad guitar tapping figures underneath, high and lonesome vocals and plaintive melodies overtop. Certainly, no one sounds like them and like most distinctive bands, they drew a modestly-sized but wholly enthusiastic audience who cheered wildly for every feat of musicianship, of which there were many. I didn’t fall in love with them, but I was impressed. And that was enough.
Photos: Maps & Atlases, Cults, Laura Stevenson & The Cans @ The Horseshoe – August 7, 2010
MP3: Maps & Atlases – “Solid Ground”
MP3: Cults – “Go Outside”
MP3: Cults – “Most Wanted”
MP3: Laura Stevenson & The Cans – “Holy Ghost!”
Video: Cults – “Oh My God”
MySpace: Maps & Atlases
MySpace: Laura Stevenson & The Cans
In conversation with Spinner, Interpol’s Sam Fogarino discusses Interpol and the band’s journey from indie to major to indie again. The record is out September 7 and they’re at the Kool Haus tomorrow night.