Archive for September, 2010

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I'll Never Live Up To You

John Vanderslice gives away EP, consolidates status as swell guy

Photo By Elizabeth WeibergElizabeth WeibergA note: I’m presently barely conscious after staying up way too late the other night doing the Polaris post-game, so I’m just going to start tossing up stuff that’s been collecting in the hopper over the last few days until I pass out.

And we’ll kick off with a new batch of fully realized, produced and presented songs from the inimitable John Vanderslice, collected under the title of Green Grow The Rushes. It’s being given away for exactly zero dollars in both high-quality MP3 and uncompressed WAV format over at his website. Why? Because he’s got these songs he wants you to hear and because he’s great. But if you want to thank the ‘Slice in some monetary way, perhaps pick up a copy of his last full-length Romanian Names? It’s not quite as free but still a great record.

MP3: John Vanderslice – “Thule Fog”
MP3: John Vanderslice – “I’ll Never Live Up To You”
ZIP: John Vanderslice / Green Grow The Rushes

Exclaim has some details on the new Iron & Wine album, entitled Kiss Each Other Clean and due out in early 2011.

Michael Benjamin Lerner of Telekinesis chats with The Washington Post.

The Thermals have released a new single from Personal Life which, in the parlance of our time, means that there’s a new MP3 to download.

MP3: The Thermals – “Never Listen To Me”

The Line Of Best Fit and Spinner talk to Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer of The Posies. Their new record Blood/Candy is out September 28.

The Boston Herald talks to drummer Bob Nastanovich of Pavement. NYC Taper has also got a recording of their Williamsburg show to share.

Clash interviews Local Natives, in town at the Mod Club on October 19.

Spin declares Lissie to be “breaking out”. She’s at the El Mocambo on October 19.

Spin gets to the root of Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s name, while Filter has a track from their new record Buzzard available to download.

MP3: Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s – “Lunatic, Lunatic, Lunatic”

Spinner serves up an Interface session with Drive-By Truckers.

R.E.M. has completed work on album number 15 and are targeting a Spring 2011 release for it.

Drowned In Sound talks to Will Sheff of Okkervil River about working with Roky Erikson on this year’s True Love Casts Out All Evil.

NYC Taper is sharing a recording of Spoon’s show in the teeny tiny Cake Shop last week.

The new Deerhunter record Halcyon Digest is streaming at NPR in advance of its release next week. They’re at Lee’s Palace the Opera House on October 19.

Stream: Deerhunter / Halcyon Digest

The AV Club, American Songwriter, The Boston Herald, Pinnastorm, The Awl and NPR have interviews with Superchunk. NPR is also streaming their show in Washington DC last week and NYC Taper offering downloads of the Brooklyn show, giving you a taste of what to expect when they return to Toronto to play the Sound Academy on December 9 opening up for Broken Social Scene; you’ll just have to imagine the pogoing.

The Sydney Morning Herald talks to Interpol.

PitchforkTV has posted a POV session with The Hold Steady.

Clash declares Holly Miranda “One To Watch”.

New York Magazine talks to Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner.

Spin gets a live preview of Nicole Atkins’ new record Mondo Amore, due out on January 25 of next year, and you can download a new track from the record over at Nicole’s website.

Daytrotter has posted a session with Ra Ra Riot, who have made good on their promise to come back to town in December – they’ll be at the Mod Club on the first of that month, tickets $16.

MP3: Ra Ra Riot – “Boy”

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Les Chemins de Verre

Karkwa wins 2010 Polaris Music Prize; English Canada says, “who?”

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThere’s been no secret about where, were I a betting man, my money would have gone in guessing who’d walk away with the 2010 Polaris Music Prize last night. From my first ballot through the announcement of the short list right up through yesterday, I’ve been pulling for Shad’s TSOL and amongst my informal polling, that seemed to be the consensus choice. Well if there’s one thing that I should have learned by now is that the Polaris will always surprise you. And surprised would be the best word to describe my reaction when Damian Abraham of Fucked Up – last year’s surprise winner – announced the $20,000 prize and accompanying year in the spotlight would go to Montreal’s Karkwa for their record Les Chemins De Verre.

It’s a record that I listened to a moderate amount in the course of my juror duties, but had only made it as far as my “I should listen to this more when I have the time” list. And since the members of this year’s grand jury obviously spent much more time with the record, it’s apparently an album that merits that further attention. It’s not as though it’s inaccessible, beyond the language thing (it’s all in French if that wasn’t clear) – it’s beautifully melodic, dynamic and expertly performed atmospheric rock that certainly doesn’t require a working knowledge of the language to enjoy. In fact, that aside, it’s probably one of the more conventional yet interesting records on the short list – but I had assumed that being virtually unknown outside of Francophone Canada before their Polaris nomination, they didn’t really stand a chance.

Well, I clearly underestimated both the record and the jury because after hours of deliberations, they came to a decision that should put to rest at least one of the complaints constantly leveled against the Polaris Prize – that it’s inherently biased towards English Canada and any Francophone artists included are there on a token basis. Well Karkwa just took twenty thousands tokens to the bank and the honour of having crafted the best album in Canada in the past year – congratulations to them. Yes, they’re still all white men who play guitars but one complaint at a time, alright?

As for the gala itself, it did a fine job of keeping the hundreds in attendance at the Masonic Temple in Toronto entertained whilst the 11 men and women of the grand jury went about their duties. For the second year, they had all ten nominees on hand to perform and though no one went as all-out with hijinks or antics as they did last year, all of them made splendid arguments for why they belonged on the short list and why after all the debate and discussion over who should and should not win the prize, it’s nice to just sit back and appreciate the depth of musical talent this country has to offer.

One of the big guns of the short list kicked things off, Broken Social Scene something like a dozen members strong opening the show with the rousing instrumental “Meet Me In The Basement”, which functioned as a sort of theme song to the evening. Their set was followed by The Sadies and a demonstration of why, powered by the Good brothers’ absurd guitar-slinging and spiritually bolstered by Dallas sporting Tommy Hunter’s suit borrowed from the CBC, they’re one of the country’s most fearsome live acts.

At this point, thing shifted both geographically (to Acadia), linguistically (regional dialect Chiac) and stylistically (hip-hop) with Radio Radio. I’ve made no secret that they were my least favourite of all of the shortlisters and I’d be dismayed if they actually won, but will freely admit that they delivered a good, fun and energetic performance with the three of them trading off MC duties whilst backed by a couple members of Karkwa. Entertaining? Sure. Best album in the country? No. The performance then swung out west for Dan Mangan, who couldn’t help but deliver one of the most understated performances of the night – his singer-songwriter fare is about intimacy, not grand gestures – not even when bolstered by strings, horns and handclappers. He did, however, stage the closest thing to an audience invasion the night would see when he pulled his mic stand into the audience and climbed onto a table to lead the singalong finale to “Robots”. At first I thought he had invaded another nominee’s table as a challenge, but it turned out to be his own. Which, I suppose, was the only nice thing to do.

It seemed as though Montreal’s The Besnard Lakes were the only act to play just one song but technically, “Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent” is a two-parter – it just happened to be an epic space-rock jam that gave Jace Lasek a chance to show off his guitar chops and guitar face. Karkwa – who would in less than an hour become the talk of the town, if not country – followed with a pair of songs that you didn’t need to understand to appreciate, showcasing their impressive musical chops and probably had more than a few people wondering, “who are these guys and why haven’t I heard of them before this?” – soon to be a moot question.

It was about this time that word began circulating a winner had been selected, just when Owen Pallett – winner of the inaugural Polaris Prize a half-decade ago – was up next. His horn-augmented performance that reaffirmed him as one of Canada’s premiere musicians in the pop music sphere, his two selections from Heartland veritably crackling with creativity and imagination. Shad’s performance also crackled and, featuring a guest spot from Broken Social Scene’s Lisa Lobsinger on “Rose Garden”, certainly looked like a champion up there, closing out with a freestyle that could have been cheesy but was instead wholly inspiring.

Though arguably the most successful act on the short list, Tegan & Sara kept their set intimate with just the two sisters backed up by Pallett, who continued the trend of nominees guesting with other nominees Canada, eh? I’d not paid much attention to Tegan & Sara since their debut arrived with no small amount of hype and didn’t do anything for me, but they really did sound great up there and their banter was as entertaining as advertised. And finally, there was Caribou who, along with his sizable band all dressed in white, closed things out with a well and proper disco party although no one actually got up to dance (there wasn’t a lot of room). Like every act before them, they presented a strong case for why they should be dubbed owners of the best album in Canada, even though it had already been decided by a group who saw none of their performances.

But in the end, it was Karkwa, who were stunned and humbled and gracious as they were declared the winners by last year’s prom queens Fucked Up – an unexpected but worthy choice which should make for some interesting debate and discussion in the coming days and months. I personally had no dog in this race, my part in the process was done with the submission of the second ballot months ago. What I mainly got out of it – besides an evening of entertainment and a late night of photo processing and writing – is the certainty that with the Polaris, the best strategy appears to be as unknown as possible, somehow sneak onto the short list, be hardly rated to win by anyone and then walk away with the cash while the heavily favoured stand around and shrug. I think the only year that a dark horse didn’t take the prize was Caribou, which means that I had the honour of being part of the most predictable grand jury so far… yay us?

Check out photos from the gala below and watchables and listenables from the shortlisted albums after the jump.

Photos: Polaris Music Prize Gala 2010 @ The Masonic Temple – September 20, 2010


Monday, September 20th, 2010

Cloak And Cipher

Land Of Talk and Suuns at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangA lot can happen in twenty months. God knows my life is completely different (and yet in many was maddeningly the same) from what it was when I last saw Land Of Talk live, in January 2009 at The Horseshoe. Liz Powell and a different crew from which I’d first discovered them 30 months prior were wrapping up support for their debut full-length Some Are Lakes and preparing for an indefinite hiatus as Powell had to tend to some medical issues and write a new record.

With that record – Cloak And Cipher – the pretense of Land Of Talk as a conventional band was dropped in favour of acting as a pseudonym for Powell and whomever she’s collaborating with to bring the songs to life. And though they emerged as a traditional power trio antidote to the big band sprawl that afflicted so much of Canadian indie, the benefits of having whatever sounds and players are needed on hand to do the job have been borne out by records that get better and better with each release.

And it’s not as though the players being called in are a random assortment of ringers. Just as they did in that January 2009 performance, the openers at Lee’s Palace on Thursday night were also part of Land Of Talk though you wouldn’t have known it from the name. Also undergoing a transformation or two during the past year and a half were Suuns, who were formerly known as Zeroes and who went from veritable unknowns to signees to one of the bigger US independent labels, Secretly Canadian. And hearing them play, it was pretty clear what SC saw in them; a year and half ago, they impressed with their recipe for poppy/proggy, electronically-tinted No Wave/post-punk but that was more for the potential on display than the actual product – their sound felt very much like a work in progress. Now, with a new name and a full-length album entitled Zeroes QC in the can and set for October 12 release, that work feels much more complete, coherent and unique, managing to be aggressive without being alienating and as appealing to the head as to the ass. I would say these guys are officially a band to watch.

And those on hand would get to watch them again immediately after they finished up because they would comprise more than half of Land Of Talk. It’s funny that a band who emerged as a power trio antidote – even when revolving players – to the sprawling band phenomenon that still afflicts so much of Canadian indie would now be taking the stage themselves as a collective. While the formal membership of the band is essentially down to one, the band is bigger than ever – Land Of Talk: population seven, including at its largest two drummers, three guitars, keyboardist and bassist. But at the centre of it all, as ever, was Powell and aside from having the best haircut I’ve seen her sport in four years plus, she hadn’t changed – a bit awkward yet undeniably charismatic, still given to extended tuning breaks despite having a rack of guitars on hand and by and large sounding great in the new big band context.

Naturally, the set drew heavily from Cloak And Cipher but surprisingly, only a few from Some Are Lakes. Also surprising were that last year’s excellent but under-distributed Fun & Laughter EP got a couple songs on the set list but less surprising were that “16*” and “May You Never” would be two of the show’s highlights – that release boasts some of the best tunes Land Of Talk has ever put out. Fail to seek it out at your peril. And interestingly, they would strip the lineup down to a core trio – the same as at that Horseshoe show – for the Applause Cheer Boo Hiss material, perhaps respecting that those songs were just right the way they were originally conceived and wouldn’t benefit from that second kick drum underneath or a second (or third) guitar.

And perhaps the most important thing that’s changed in the past 20 months is that Land Of Talk have, apparently, gotten big. Not breakout runaway success big, but Lee’s Palace was pretty well packed with enthusiastic punters and there was an energy and excitement about the show that I’d not felt at one of their shows before. Granted, a cover story in a national magazine can’t hurt, but it felt more like despite more than their fair share of setbacks, years of hard work were finally really paying off. Land Of Talk certainly knew what they were doing, scheduling the first date of their Fall tour in Toronto – you couldn’t ask for a more confidence-boosting send-off than this one.

Chart, NOW and BlogTO were on hand with reviews of their own. Suuns’ debut EP Zeroes is available to download for free.

Photos: Land Of Talk, Suuns @ Lee’s Palace – September 16, 2010
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Swift Coin”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “May You Never”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Corner Phone”
MP3: Suuns – “Up Past The Nursery”
MP3: Suuns – “Arena”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
Video: Land Of Talk – “It’s Okay”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Troubled”
Video: Land Of Talk – “The Man Who Breaks Things (Dark Shuffle)”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”
ZIP: Suuns / Zeroes
MySpace: Land Of Talk
MySpace: Suuns

Spinner and The Line Of Best Fit get to know Shad, who has just released a new video from TSOL and goes into tonight’s Polaris Music Prize heavily favoured – by me as well as others – to win it all.

Video: Shad – “We, Myself & I”

Caribou, who also stands a fair shot at winning and becoming the first repeat champion in the prize’s existence, talks to Spinner.

The AV Club scores an interview with Jeremy Gara and Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire.

Work In Progress talks literature with Destroyer’s Dan Bejar.

The Chicago Tribune talks to Neil Young and producer Daniel Lanois about his new record Le Noise, which will be in stores next Tuesday. Another new video from said record premiered last week.

Video: Neil Young – “Hitchhiker”

eye, Spinner and The Globe & Mail participate in the annual Polaris Music Prize credibility hand-wringing, of which I’m sure I’ll find more of as the day progresses. It’s become like a tailgate party to the actual award. And for a proper tailgate party/viewing experience, head over to the Drake Hotel tonight as they’ll be screening the gala live and also play host to the afterparty, where winners, losers and jurors will mingle in epic awkwardness.

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

"Balloons"/"Super Inuit"

Holy Fuck covers Foals covers Holy Fuck

Image via Young TurksYoung TurksAt first blush, neither Foals nor Holy Fuck have much in common with the other. One is an Oxford, UK-based post-punk outfit built on stabby guitars and tense vocals, the other is a Toronto, Canada-bred electronic-rock band based on squelching synths and no vocals. But both have been nominated for prestigious, astrologically-named awards in their respective countries, are likely to induce dancing – though while Holy Fuck can soundtrack proper grooving, Foals are more likely to induce nervous twitching – and the two toured the UK together back in 2007.

It was an experience which seemed positive enough that they released a now out-of-print split 12″ wherein each covered one of the others’ songs – Foals tackling the opening track from Holy Fuck’s debut LP and Holy Fuck transmuting one of the singles from Foals’ first record Antidotes. Neither sounds much like the original but sound pretty cool in their own right, and that’s really kind of the point, isn’t it?

Both Foals and Holy Fuck have released new records this year – Foals with Total Life Forever and Holy Fuck with Latin – and both are touring North America (though not together this time) and their paths will almost cross in Toronto next week – Foals are at Lee’s Palace on September 27 and Holy Fuck at the Phoenix on September 29. Red & Black has an interview with Holy Fuck.

MP3: Foals – “Super Inuit”
MP3: Holy Fuck – “Balloons”
Video: Holy Fuck – “Super Inuit”
Video: Foals – “Balloons”

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

CONTEST – Hot Hot Heat @ The Mod Club – October 8, 2010

Photo By Darren AnkenmanDarren AnkenmanWho: Hot Hot Heat
What: Victoria dance-rock veterans who’ve outlived the scene and sound that first brought them into the public eye
Why: With their fourth album Future Breeds hitting stores earlier this Summer, it’s time for a North American tour to promote
When: Friday, October 8, 2010
Where: The Mod Club in Toronto
Who else: West coasters tap east coasters Hey Rosetta and Rich Aucoin for a coast-to-coast Canadian content bill
How: Tickets for the show are $29.50 in advance but courtesy of Union Events, I have two pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to feel the Hot Hot Heat” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, October 3.
What else: There’s interviews with the band at Pique, Question, Seattle Weekly and The Baltimore Sun.

MP3: Hot Hot Heat – “21 @ 12”
MP3: Hot Hot Heat – “Bandages”