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Archive for August, 2010

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Into The Great Wide Open

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Crosby, Stills & Nash at The Air Canada Centre in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangHonestly, I’d thought that Tom Petty had retired. Between the themes of he and The Heartbreakers’ last studio record, 2002’s The Last DJ, and the victory lap of 2006’s 30th anniversary tour, I thought that he’d called it a day on active touring and my opportunities to see him perform had dried up. I don’t know how or why I had that notion, but it was clearly wrong as Wednesday night, there I was at the Air Canada Centre, ready to see Mr. Petty and company for the first time and, needless to say, excited about it. Update: And further proof I thought he retired – I completely forgot about the existence of 2006’s solo record Highway Companion. Oops.

Conversely, I’d never thought that Crosby, Stills & Nash had called it a day. Even though they’d not released a CSN record proper since 1994, they’d been touring constantly – sometimes with Neil Young, more often without – and though I had respect for their work and reputation, had never felt compelled to see them live. That said, I had no problem with adding another legendary act to my, “yeah I saw them” list. And that’s about all I got out of their almost headline-length opening set, as it was clear that whatever magic they had in their younger days was greatly diminished.

I appreciate that the ’60s are a long ways gone and all three had done more than their share of living in the interim, but hearing how shaky their once-pristine trademark harmonies had gotten was disappointing to say the least. They still performed with aplomb – more rock than their folk roots with Stephen Stills taking more than a few big rock guitar solos and Graham Nash chatty and charming as the group’s de facto spokesman – but the numbers that should have shone brightest, like “Our House” and “Love The One You’re With”, came off the wobbliest and they only got away with it because most of the audience was loudly singing along with all the old chestnuts and probably weren’t paying that close attention to the actual performance. One couldn’t help but think how this would have gone if Neil were along for the ride? He’d have probably kicked their asses backstage.

Petty and The Heartbreakers likewise came to give the people what they wanted to hear but did it almost perfectly, the way you’d expect one of America’s finest rock bands of the past 35 years to do. Petty, dapper in a duster and sporting a sharp-looking beard, was all smiles and Southern charm and opened with the big bold jangle of “Listen To Her Heart” before sliding effortlessly into a slightly greased-up “You Don’t Know How It Feels”. The band sounded nothing short of amazing as a unit – maybe not so surprising considering how long they’ve been playing together, but remarkable to see and hear nonetheless. The arrangements of the songs were largely faithful to the recorded versions, leaving their perfect pop structures and southern accents intact, but improvisationally pushing the edges just enough to let them stretch out and show off a bit. This mainly applied to lead guitarist Mike Campbell, whose economical solos on record serve the song perfectly but in live setting, allow him to inject that extra dose of flash and bang.

One gets the sense that letting Campbell better showcase his talents was a large part of the reasoning behind their blues-centric new record Mojo, which I should and do appreciate for giving them the excuse to head back on the road but not much else. The blues is not alien territory for the band, being an essential part of their Americana stew, but brought to the fore as it is on the new material, it’s just not interesting with their faithfulness to the genre coming at the expense of the hooks and melodies. The four-song set of Mojo material dropped in the middle of the set really put the damper on what to that point had been some terrific momentum though on the plus side, it did give Campbell some impressive solos and allowed a good portion of the audience to refill their beer.

That said, there wasn’t any better way to get things back on track than with a gorgeously stripped down version of “Learning To Fly”, followed by a thundering “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and a grand “Refugee” to close the main set. At this point the 11PM curfew was drawing awfully close, but there was no way the nearly-full arena was going to let things end without the encore, and so they returned for “Runnin’ Down A Dream” and what I thought for sure would be the coup de grace show stopper – and my favourite Petty tune – “American Girl”. But instead of the big ringing D chord I expected, they broke into the Wildflowers-vintage descending riff of “You Wreck Me” and while I like that song a lot, it’s not “American Girl”. And after the big linked-arm bows and the house lights came up, it became clear that there would be no “American Girl”. And as great as most of the show was to that point, it was and remains a bit of a bitter finish for me… In time I’ll be able to focus on the great 100 minutes they did play and not the three they didn’t, but y’know Campbell, you could have soloed just a little less and bought some time and it would have been perfect. Just saying.

The Toronto Sun, The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail and eye all have reviews of the show.

Photos: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Crosby, Stills & Nash @ The Air Canada Centre – August 25, 2010
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Walls”
Video: Tom Petty – “You Wreck Me”
Video: Tom Petty – “You Don’t Know How It Feels”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Peace In L.A.”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “King’s Highway”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Into The Great Wide Open”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Learnin’ To Fly”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Yer So Bad”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “A Face In The Crowd”
Video: Tom Petty – “Free Fallin'”
Video: Tom Petty – “Runnin’ Down A Dream”
Video: Tom Petty – “I Won’t Back Down”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Jammin’ Me”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Rebels”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Don’t Come Around Here No More”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “You Got Lucky”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me)”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “The Waiting”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Here Comes My Girl”
Video: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Refugee”
MySpace: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
MySpace: Crosby, Stills & Nash

As expected with such a massive tour already lined up, Sufjan Stevens will release his first new and proper album in ages on October 12, the day before he plays Massey Hall. Pitchfork has details on what to expect from The Age Of Adz and the first MP3 is up for grabs.

MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “I Walked”

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem clarifies (or makes vaguer) his intentions to retire the band to The Quietus.

New York Magazine talks to Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal. Their new record False Priest is out September 14.

The Montreal Gazette and Chart have feature interviews with Land Of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell. They play Lee’s Palace on September 16.

alt.ohio interviews Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, complete video of whose show in San Francisco from this past May is available to stream in its entirety at Revision 3.

Rose Elinor Dougall has premiered a new video from Without Why over at The Guardian. Her debut album is out on Monday.

Video: Rose Elinor Dougall – “Carry On”

The Vine interviews Warren Ellis of Grinderman. Grinderman 2 is out September 14 and they kick off their North American tour November 11 in Toronto at the Phoenix.

The second part of Le Blogotheque’s Take-Away Shows from NXNE is now up.

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

All's Well That Ends

Los Campesinos! release EP, return to North America, won’t stay down

Photo By Jon BergmanJon BergmanNot much stops Los Campesinos!. The Welsh troupe shook off the departure of two founding members – keyboardist Aleksandra last Summer and drummer Ollie almost exactly a year later – and have ploughed ahead, continuing to release new music at a ridiculous pace, including their third album Romance Is Boring earlier this year and just this week, following up with a new EP entitled All’s Well That Ends. And just last week, frontman Gareth took a header whilst stage-diving and despite suffering “a sprained wrist, ripped ear, mild concussion and a ‘lump on the head'”, finished the song and the gig.

One thing that they couldn’t plough through, however, was a volcano – namely Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull. Said geological entity’s disquiet this past Spring forced the band to scotch a number of North American dates as they sat in a Heathrow departure lounge instead of pogoing around east coast stages, but they’re aiming to make some of those up and more. They just announced a Fall tour which kicks off in one of the cities who lost a show – Toronto – but instead of the spacious Phoenix, where they were slated to play in April, they’ll instead be at the decidedly clubbier Wrongbar on October 8. Considering the new joint is less than half the size of the old joint, expect the $20 tickets to be gone fast when they go on sale at 10AM on Friday.

MP3: Los Campesinos! – “There Are Listed Buildings”
MP3: Los Campesinos! – “The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future”

Paste reports that Noah & The Whale have targeted a March 2011 release for their third album.

Mojo talks to Johnny Marr about his soundtrack work.

Spinner talks to Glen Hansard of The Swell Season about their upcoming projects, which include a Frames reunion and tour for him and a solo record from Marketa Irglova.

Spin talks to Klara S&omul;derberg of First Aid Kit, who will be in town at the El Mocambo on October 15.

Boston post-punk legends Mission Of Burma have booked a date at The Garrison on October 22. So far it looks like a one-off and not part of a tour, but considering they didn’t come up here for last year’s The Sound The Speed The Light and are making it up to us. Either way, if my records are correct, they haven’t been here since Fall of 2006 and while the reunion has been ongoing for some time, do not take them for granted and if you haven’t seen them, do so. End PSA.

MP3: Mission Of Burma – “1, 2, 3 Partyy”
MP3: Mission Of Burma – “Max Ernst”

Exclaim reports that Matt & Kim have given their next record a name and release date. Expect to hear a lot of Sidewalks when they play the Phoenix on October 29, as it will be in stores the following Tuesday, November 2.

Daytrotter has a session with The Depreciation Guild; they’re at the El Mocambo on October 4.

NPR is streaming a studio session with Stars. They will be at Massey Hall on October 23.

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Death By Elektro

Review of Rae Spoon’s Love Is A Hunter

Photo By JJ LevineJJ LevineRae Spoon’s last album, 2008’s Superioryouareinferior, may have served as the point of entry for me into the Calgary native’s works, but his fifth album was more of an exit for him in that it represented a push out of the country-folk scene with which he’d been associated and into the (relatively) broader realm of Canadian indie-pop. Maybe not the promised land, but without that bit of crossover, the record probably wouldn’t have otherwise caught my ear certainly wouldn’t have last year’s Polaris ballot.

For the follow-up record Love Is A Hunter, Spoon’s muse took him a little farther afield – Berlin, to be precise. The influence of the time spent abroad was more overt on last year’s free-to-download Alexandre Decoupigny collaboration What Are You Waiting For? (Worauf Wartest Du?), but the time spent in and around the European dance scene is still echoes quite clearly on Hunter.

But rather than try to craft a record of club bangers or electro-clash anthems, Spoon makes those influences lyrical concerns than sonic ones, opting to contemplate the experiences and interactions, diary-style, and thus sticks to his strengths. This isn’t to say that it’s all more of the same, though. Spoon’s sound is still more folk than anything else – you can take the boy out of the country and all that – but Hunter comes fairly suffused with electronic beats and textures that dance in and around the compositions, offering an interesting counterpoint to Spoon’s crystalline voice and otherwise spare arrangements. They don’t necessarily elevate them, but they do add some extra aural interest. And while the meeting of influences on Hunter doesn’t create the same stop-in-your tracks, emotional impact of Superioryouareinferior, it does further the case as Rae Spoon as one of the country’s up-and-coming songsmiths and certainly a talent to continue watching.

Exclaim has a short piece on Spoon, who kicks off a cross-Canada tour next week and plays the Gladstone in Toronto on October 22.

MP3: Rae Spoon – “Death By Elektro”
MP3: Rae Spoon – “You Can Dance”
Video: Rae Spoon – “Love Is A Hunter”

Details have emerged about the forthcoming Neil Young album produced by Daniel Lanois. It will be entitled Le Noise and be available on September 28 in pretty much every format imaginable (LP, CD, MP3, Blu-Ray, iPhone…). I’m not the biggest fan of Lanois’ own work, but as a producer he’s helmed some amazing records and triggered creative renaissances from some legendary artists. Really anxious to hear what he’s done with Neil.

Exclaim has put Land Of Talk’s Liz Powell on the cover of their September issue with accompanying feature piece. They’re at Lee’s Palace on September 16.

MP3: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”

MOG talks to Matt Camirand of Black Mountain. Their new record Wilderness Heart is out September 14 and they play the Phoenix on October 31.

Arcade Fire’s first video from The Suburbs is a live clip of “Ready To Start” recorded in July in London.

Video: Arcade Fire – “Ready To Start”

Two Hours Traffic have a new clip from this year’s Territory.

Video: Two Hours Traffic – “Happiness Burns”

There’s also a new video from Tokyo Police Club’s new record Champ. They’ll be showcasing it when they open up for Phoenix at the Ricoh Coliseum on October 22. Still find it weird that they haven’t done or scheduled a headlining hometown show for the new record yet.

Video: Tokyo Police Club – “Bambi”

Hot Hot Heat and Hey Rosetta will pair up for a show at the Mod Club on October 8, tickets $29.25.

MP3: Hot Hot Heat – “21 @ 12” (alternate version)
Video: Hey Rosetta – “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

The lineup for this year’s Supercrawl, the annual arts and music free street thing in Hamilton, has been announced and offers a compelling argument for making the trek to Steeltown – on September 25, they’ll be presenting performances from Elliott Brood, Cadence Weapon and Bruce Peninsula, amongst many others. And did I mention it’s free?

And finally, if you’re all nostalgic for this past June when NXNE descended on the city like so much a plague of locusts, then check out this feature at Le Blogotheque where the duly commissioned Take-Away Show videographers captured performances from a number of artists in the streets of Toronto. Part one features The Soft Pack, Avi Buffalo, Library Voices and DM Stith and there’s more to come.

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

You And I Know

Ra Ra Riot announce (almost) last-minute (sort-of) private Toronto club show

Photo By Doron GildDoron GildIt’s understandable if Toronto fans of Syracuse’s Ra Ra Riot waiting for them to come back to town turned their frowns upside down and then right back again when their local appearance this coming Saturday was announced – rather than a proper club show to showcase the material from their just-released-today second album The Orchard, they were booked in at the Molson Amphitheatre opening up for City & Colour and Tegan & Sara. Which isn’t to say that some of their fanbase ven diagrams don’t overlap, but most were probably hoping for something a little more intimate and inexpensive.

So for those folks, it’s time to get happy again as it was announced yesterday that the band would be sticking around in town a few more days (or maybe just driving back from Syracuse, it’s not far) to play a special show at the Mod Club next Monday night with no advance tickets; admission is limited to those who either buy a copy of The Orchard at one of the city’s independent record stores (Soundscapes, Criminal Records, Rotate This and Sonic Boom), online via Arts & Crafts or who enter a contest by emailing contest@arts-crafts.ca. Obviously total capacity is limited and nothing is guaranteed, but it’s a pretty cool chance to see a terrific live band in a more amenable setting than, say, the Amphitheatre. And am I the only one who appreciates the clockwork nature of Ra Ra Riot’s visits? This will be the third year in a row they’ve come through within the two week span around the start of September. Okay, maybe it’s just me.

Soundproof talks to violinist Rebecca Zeller while Exclaim has a combination interview/review. Intereview!

MP3: Ra Ra Riot – “Boy”
Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Boy”

Prior to taking the stage at the Horseshoe later that night in full-band mode backed by Mike Watt and The Missingmen, Lou Barlow will be showcasing his solo and acoustic (presumably) side via an in-store at Criminal Records this Saturday, August 28, at 7PM. Express Night Out and Isthmus Daily Paper talk to Barlow.

MP3: Lou Barlow – “Losercore”

Seattle’s Mt. St. Helen’s Vietnam Band will bring their shiny new record Where the Messengers Meet to the Drake Underground on September 18.

MP3: Mt. St. Helen’s Vietnam Band – “Leaving Trails”
MP3: Mt. St. Helen’s Vietnam Band – “Hurrah”

The resuscitated, presumably still very loud and almost certainly still pissed off Atari Teenage Riot will be at the Phoenix on October 4.

Video: Atari Teenage Riot – “Revolution Action”

Illinois girl Lissie, whose debut Catching A Tiger is probably a lot more pop and less country than most would have expected but still a good showcase for her talents, will make her Toronto debut at the El Mocambo on October 19, tickets $12.50. If the buzz around her continues as it has, expect this one to sell out quickly, even if it’s just to people who want to hear her cover Lady Gaga. MTV has an interview.

MP3: Lissie – “Little Lovin'”
MP3: Lissie – “In Sleep” (live)
Video: Lissie – “Cuckoo”

Ted Leo has released a glorious new video which is the culmination of all his retirement talk since way back in July… well played, sir.

Video: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Bottled In Cork”

The Montreal Mirror have a short interview with Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus (who appears in the aforementioned Ted Leo video – did you see him and his mighty beard?). They’ve made available for download the opening track from The Monitor, edited down to radio length, and while it’s logical in that it’s pretty long in its original form, know that the proper way to experience the song is as it appears on the record – followed by the rest of the record.

MP3: Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union” (radio edit)

There’s a new Antony & The Johnsons for a song from both the Thank You For Your Love EP, out today, and the Swanlights full-length, out October 12.

Video: Antony & The Johnsons – “Thank You For Your Love”

Sufjan Stevens has put out an epic-length EP entitled All Delighted People which is available to stream for free and to download from his Bandcamp for $5 and sets the stage for what we might expect when he plays Massey Hall on October 13.

QRO talks to Scott Devendorf of The National.

The National Post talks to Greg Edwards of Autolux, in town tonight at Lee’s Palace.

Pitchfork has details on the next A Sunny Day In Glasgow, which will be called Autumn, Again and be available to download completely for free as of October 19. Until then, you can have one track. But just one.

MP3: A Sunny Day In Glasgow – “Drink Drank Drunk”

Spinner and Exclaim talk to The Drums, who’re at The Mod Club on October 21.

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Light It Up

An introduction to Blood Red Shoes

Photo By Steve GullickSteve GullickThough English – they hail from Brighton, England – most reference points for the duo of Laura-May Carter and Steven Ansell, aka Blood Red Shoes, hail from this side of the Atlantic. With she on guitar and he on drums, they’re a touch too polished to really call punk but are much indebted to the grunge movement of the ’90s and all that followed and some of what preceded it. Which is to say they deliver a loud, punchy attack that’s light on frills, heavy on distortion and informed by angst but with enough pop hooks and charisma to be worthy of attention.

Ansell handles the majority of vocals from behind the kit but Carter’s backing vox and occasional leads offer some welcome compliment and contrast to his decidedly aggressive approach to the mic. This is not to suggest that Carter’s contributions are any more gentle than Ansell’s – she’s behind all the furious guitar riffage on their records, and there’s a lot of it. Though there’s just the two of them, they make a righteously large and full sound.

Their 2008 debut Box Of Secrets showcased their tried and true approach effectively, but their follow-up Fire Like This doesn’t sacrifice the intensity but adds just enough sophistication and nuance to their sound to keep them interesting over extended listens. It’s this foot that they’re putting forward when album number two, released in the Spring in the UK, becomes their North American debut on October 5 (following an appearance on the Scott Pilgrim vs The World soundtrack), which will be followed by a two-week North American tour, including an October 27 date at the Horseshoe in Toronto.

Glasswerk documents the “smash your shit” ethos that went into the making of their new video for “Heartsink”.

MP3: Blood Red Shoes – “Light It Up”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Heartsink”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Don’t Ask”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Colours Fade”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “This Is Not For You”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Say Something, Say Anything”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “I Wish I Was Someone Better”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “It’s Getting Boring By The Sea”
MySpace: Blood Red Shoes

BBC6 gets a status update on their new album from Elbow. Its current working title is Lippy Kids – somehow I don’t expect that one to stick.

Digital Spy reports that Patrick Wolf’s next record will no longer be called The Conqueror nor be a thematic sequel to last year’s The Bachelor. Nor is it on pace to be complete in time for release this year, as originally intended.

The Twilight Sad have released a video for the title track from their new EP The Wrong Car, due out on September 28. It’s long, angsty and puppet-powered.

Video: The Twilight Sad – “The Wrong Car”

The Line Of Best Fit and Clash talk to Barry Burns of Mogwai, whose live audio/video experience Burning/Special Moves is out tomorrow.

Kele gets critical of his output with Bloc Party in conversation with Spinner. He will be at the Mod Club – solo-style – on September 3.

Manic Street Preachers are building anticipation for their new record by giving away a non-album track to download. Postcards From A Young Man is out September 28.

MP3: Manic Street Preachers – “I’m Leaving You For Solitude”

Shut Your Fucking Face And Listen talks to frontman Wesley Patrick Gonzalez of Let’s Wrestle. Wrestling does not ensue, at least not on the record.

Isobel Campbell talks about her working relationship with Mark Lanegan to The Guardian and to The Herald about making their new album together, Hawk. It’s out this week and streaming in its entirety at Facebook. They’re at Lee’s Palace on October 20.

Stream: Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan / Hawk

Also streaming in whole is Rose Elinor Dougall’s solo debut Without Why – it’s out next week.

Stream: Rose Elinor Dougall / Without Why

Exciting news from The Radio Dept. – following the release of a new single on November for “Never Follow Suit”, the reclusive Swedes will be coming to North America for a pair of shows in New York City on November 30 and December 1. And while I flew down there the last time they paid a visit, I’m hoping that won’t be necessary this time as they’re also promising more US (North American dates?) in early 2011 following the release of a double-disc compilation of b-sides and rarities in January. Radio Dept! Doing stuff! Yay! More details on the above available at Under The Radar.