Archive for September, 2010

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

CONTEST – The Temper Trap @ The Phoenix – October 5, 2010

Photo via MySpaceMySpaceWho: The Temper Trap
What: Melbourne, Australia’s entry into the dance-kids-like-it-and-indie-kids-like-it sweepstakes made their way into the public consciousness via last year’s (500) Days Of Summer.
Why: Promotion of their debut Conditions will bring them to Toronto to the third time in less than twelve months, starting last October with a free show at the Horseshoe through an appearance at the Mod Club in March and now a headlining gig at The Phoenix. Not a bad year
When: Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Where: The Phoenix in Toronto (19+)
Who else: England’s Delphic and New York’s The Hundred In The Hands make it a well and proper international evening
How: Tickets are $21.50 in advance but courtesy of Collective Concerts, I’ve got a pair of passes to give way for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to get caught in The Temper Trap” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest will close at midnight, September 29.

MP3: The Temper Trap – “Down River”
Video: The Temper Trap – “Love Lost”
Video: The Temper Trap – “Fader”
Video: The Temper Trap – “Sweet Disposition”

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

CONTEST – Van Dyke Parks @ The Music Gallery – September 29, 2010

Photo via MySpaceMySpaceWho: Van Dyke Parks
What: Legendary American composer and arranger best known for working on Brian Wilson’s lost and then found masterpiece Smile, but who is most recently known for the rich orchestral arrangements on Joanna Newsom’s Ys.
Why: Parks rarely tours and performs, so when he chooses to, you don’t ask why – just when, where and how much
When: Wednesday, September 29
Where: The Music Gallery in Toronto
Who else: New York’s Clare & The Reasons, whose debut The Movie featured production and arrangement work from Parks, will both open and act as Parks’ band
How: Tickets are $30 in advance but courtesy of Union Events, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see Van Dyke Parks” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, September 26.
What else: Daytrotter just posted a session with Clare & The Reasons.

Video: Van Dyke Parks with Clare & The Reasons – “He Needs Me” (live)

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Disconnect From Desire

School Of Seven Bells, Active Child and Bishop Morocco at The Mod Club in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWhile I appreciate that there were a lot of entertainment options in Toronto on Wednesday night – TIFF screenings, TIFF parties, no shortage of other concerts big and small – it was still disappointing that there were probably more people camped out in front of the Horseshoe thanks to rumours of a Boss appearance that had been debunked for hours than at the Mod Club to see School Of Seven Bells perform.

You’d have thought that at least the local openers would have gotten some support but the room was barely a dozen people deep when Bishop Morocco took the stage, but within a few songs I couldn’t say I blamed people for staying away. Their plodding, post-punk stylings lacked any of the personality, dynamics or tension needed to sell it and what few compelling melodies they did have were delivered blandly and indifferently. About midway through their set they brought a live drummer out to replace their drum machine and the quality of the music improved immeasurably, raising the question of why they didn’t utilize him for the whole set – the simple programmed beats they used to that point hardly added anything and wouldn’t have been hard to reproduce. Their second half managed to redeem the performance enough that I wouldn’t call it bad, but it still wasn’t especially good. And as a note, modulation effects on vocals don’t work for anyone. Don’t do it.

Active Child – the nom de plume of Los Angeles’ Pat Grossi – was a similarly barely-known quantity coming into the night but made a much more favourable impression. Performing with a bassist/backing vocalist, Grossi moved from harp to keys to guitar over the course of their set, showcasing his musical versatility, melodic intuition and stunningly soulful and operatic vocals, if at the expense of some focus. Some points seemed more directionless than others – everyone likes covering Joy Division’s “Ceremony” for fun but I don’t know that it needs to be part of anyone’s live set – but as a whole it was a warm and appealing performance that should have sent at least a few people over to the merch table to pick up a copy of his debut EP Curtis Lane.

I think my appreciation for School Of Seven Bells has been well-documented. Their debut Alpinisms was one of my favourites of 2008 and this year’s Disconnect From Desire, with it more polished 4AD-ish sheen and greater commitment to pop, is a worthy follow-up. But I’ve never been thrilled with their live shows for reasons that one of the openers had already quite ably demonstrated – canned beats. In the past, the live band was the same as the studio band which meant that behind the Dehaza twins and guitarist Benjamin Curtis, there was… a drum machine. As soaring as the songs they built around it might have been, in a live setting they always felt held back by the soullessness of the programmed beats. And this is not a problem specific to School Of Seven Bells; I maintain there isn’t a live band out there that wouldn’t sound better with a live drummer than even the most sophisticated software.

This is something that School Of Seven Bells seem to have come around on, as their live band now has an actual person behind an actual drum kit and consequently, they put on the best show I’ve seen from them yet. As always, there was guitarist Ali Dehaza on stage left and keyboardist Claudia stage right, Curtis set up behind them both, ensconced in his fortress of guitar gear and rocking out like a teenager in his bedroom with a tennis racket, and a drummer whose name may not have been known but whose presence was surely felt. The programmed beats were still there, underpinning everything, but the sheer muscular force of the percussion and overall volume gave the show a physicality that, quite frankly, kicked ass. Playing to those strengths, the hour-long set focused on the most direct songs from both records and the combination of the weighty sound and angelic, perfect harmonies of the sisters made for a sublime wall of sound on numbers like “Half Asleep” and “Windstorm” that, frustratingly, not a whole lot of people were there to enjoy. I’m sad that so few people came out, not just for the band for not having the audience they deserved but for those who weren’t there because they truly missed out on a great show.

Panic Manual was also on hand for the show. PopMatters has an interview with School Of Seven Bells and NME reports that the band will be re-recording some of their songs in Sim-ese for the soundtrack to the video game The Sims 3. I think I think that’s awesome.

Photos: School Of Seven Bells, Active Child, Bishop Morocco @ The Mod Club – September 15, 2010
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Windstorm”
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Babelonia”
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Connjur”
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Chain”
MP3: Active Child – “Wilderness”
MP3: Active Child – “Body Heat (So Far Away)”
MP3: Bishop Morocco – “Last Year’s Disco Guitars”
Video: School Of Seven Bells – “Windstorm”
Video: School Of Seven Bells – “My Cabal”
Video: School Of Seven Bells – “Half Asleep”
Video: Bishop Morocco – “Last Year’s Disco Guitars”
MySpace: School Of Seven Bells
MySpace: Active Child

Blonde Redhead have released a video from their latest Penny Sparkle. They play The Phoenix on October 17.

Video: Blonde Redhead – “Not Getting There”

Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Spin all have various features on Kevin Barnes and Of Montreal; PitchforkTV also has a Cemetery Gates video session with the band and NPR is streaming their show in Washington DC from earlier this week.

A new track from Sharon Van Etten’s forthcoming Epic is up for grabs and the album is streaming in whole at NPR. At some point in the near future I will write about why this record is fantastic, but for now, trust me and celebrate the fact that the original October 5 release date has apparently been moved up to next Tuesday. Also make plans to see her open up for Junip on November 5 at Lee’s Palace or wherever she/they are playing near you. The Daily Times and Washington Post have interviews.

MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Don’t Do It”
Stream: Sharon Van Etten / Epic

Blurt profiles Film School, who bring their new record Fission to the El Mocambo on October 4.

Warpaint, who made their Toronto debut opening up for School Of Seven Bells last Fall at Lee’s, have released the first MP3 from their forthcoming debut The Fool, out October 25. They’re at Massey Hall on September 29 opening up for The xx, who incidentally have told NME not to expect a follow-up anytime soon. Or maybe at all.

MP3: Warpaint – “Undertow”

Twenty-Four Bit reports that PJ Harvey may have a new record out as soon as next February.

NME has it that Duffy will release her second album, entited Endlessly, on November 30.

Spin reports that The Joy Formidable have named their debut full-length The Big Roar and the first single, “I Don’t Want To See You Like This”, is now streaming at their website. The record isn’t out until 2011 but expect to hear lots of it on their Fall North American tour which kicks off November 3 at the Horseshoe in Toronto.

NOW talks to Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub in advance of their two-night stand at the Horseshoe next Wednesday and Thursday nights.

And it would be funny if it wasn’t so serious, but The Charlatans have – get ready for it – cancelled tonight’s show at Lee’s Palace. Drummer Jon Brookes suffered a seizure during their show in Philadelphia Wednesday night and was taken to hospital. He is expected to make a full recovery but it forced the cancellation of both Canadian dates on their North American tour. For those keeping score, this is their third straight failed attempt to play Toronto in the last few years and the second nixed because of a Brookes medical situation (the last time he needed shoulder surgery). Refunds are available at point of purchase but the date is currently in the process of being rescheduled, although their itinerary leaves little flexibility through mid-November. But hey – fourth time’s the charm, right? Best wishes to Brookes on a speedy recovery and I will do my best to not jinx them in the future with jokes about tour cancellations/calamities. The San Francisco Examiner has an interview with Tim Burgess.

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

The Space Of Your Mind

Review of Black Mountain’s Wilderness Heart

Photo By Ryan Walter WagnerRyan Walter WagnerI had the opportunity/duty of thinking very hard about Black Mountain’s last album, 2008’s In The Future, when it was put on the Polaris Music Prize short list for that year and I was put on the grand jury. And while I respected the craftsmanship and scope of the record, I couldn’t quite take it and its big, vintage stoner-rock moves seriously enough to champion it and couldn’t get past the impression that it was a nudge-nudge kind of joke to the band as well. True or not, it’s what I felt in my gut and that was ultimately what I had to go with (and if you look at my notes from the jury process, you’ll see that my thoughts on Plants & Animals amounted to, “I want a cheeseburger”).

The just-released follow-up Wilderness Heart, however, doesn’t raise any such flags. It keeps most of the requisite ’70s touchstones that define Black Mountain – the chugging guitar riffs, sweeping organs and prevailing mood of dystopic science fiction ominousness – but if feels as though the sludgy, slow-motion haze that permeated Future has been lifted somewhat, and Heart finds the Vancouverites operating with eyes clearer and less dilated.

Added to their repertoire of reference points are some country stylings in the form of some more acoustic textures and more prominent interplay between Stephen McBean’s drawl and Amber Webber’s twang. Putting their voices on a more equal footing establishes them as the band’s greatest strength and gives those who glazed over during their more proggish excursions something to sink their ears into. And for those who liked Black Mountain exactly the way they were, there’s still a goodly amount of rock action, it’s just delivered in more concise packages. There’s almost a temptation to call Wilderness Heart a pop record, but that’s going a bit too far – it’s still a rock record through and through with plenty of opportunities for headbanging – just be prepared to sway for extended periods of time as well.

Spinner, The Quietus, Dose and The Vancouver Sun have feature pieces on the band. They’ll be at the Phoenix on October 31.

MP3: Black Mountain – “The Hair Song”
MP3: Black Mountain – “Old Fangs”
Video: Black Mountain – “The Hair Song”
Video: Black Mountain – “Old Fangs”
MySpace: Black Mountain

Spin has put online a great excerpt from their forthcoming cover story on Arcade Fire and also posted some behind-the-scenes shots from the corresponding photo shoot.

The Toronto Sun asks Shad if he thinks he’s going to win the Polaris Prize. Modesty ensues.

Caribou rates the cover of this week’s NOW, leading up to tomorrow night’s show at the Phoenix and their opportunity to repeat as Polaris winner on Monday. Daytrotter also has a session.

eye talks to Liz Powell of Land Of Talk, who will be lighting up Lee’s Palace tonight.

Billboard talks to Neil Young and Daniel Lanois about Young’s new record Le Noise, out September 28. The first sample of the record is available via a new video and… it’s not what you might expect. Unless you expected something really weird and looped, in which case it’s pretty much exactly what you expected.

Video: Neil Young – “Angry World”

PopMatters interviews Emily Haines in tracking Metric’s journey from the world of indie into the mainstream.

Tokyo Police Club keyboardist Graham Wright tells Chart that he washes his hands of the band’s videos. They play the Ricoh Coliseum on October 22 opening up for Phoenix.

Two Hours Traffic are crossing the country yet again and will wrap up their Fall tour on November 13 at The Horseshoe.

MP3: Two Hours Traffic – “Territory”

The Walrus ties a bit of a sensationalistic title to an otherwise decent article some of the background, ideals and realities of the Polaris Music Prize, the fifth of which is being awarded next Monday night. eye also ponders the credibility and the debates about the credibility of the award. Chart, meanwhile, handicaps this year’s nominees.

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010


Mystery Jets and PS I Love You at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangAbout midway through last night’s show at the Horseshoe, Mystery Jets frontman Blaine Harrison mentioned that earlier that day, they’d learned their US visas had fallen through and as such, this show could have been the first, last and only date on their already-short North American tour. Certainly not news any band who had hauled themselves and no small amount of equipment across an ocean would want to hear. But rather than let it dampen their spirits, the English four-piece channeled any frustrations into an impressive show that, if it turned out to be the only one they played, would still mark the tour as a success. Of sorts.

First up were Kingston duo PS I Love You, who had been making noise figuratively and literally since last year (at least) and were gearing up for the October 5 release of their debut Meet Me At The Muster Station. And while I liked the singles that had preceded the full-length, Muster Station felt like a let down because it rebalanced their sound such that their strengths – the big, melodic college rock-vintage guitar heroics – were turned down and their weaknesses – frontman Paul Saulnier’s Mercer/Krug-aping vocals – were turned up. Obviously identifying this as a deficiency is a subjective judgement, but it made the record feel like a wet blanket on my enthusiasm for the band. An enthusiasm that was rekindled by their opening set, which corrected the cosmic balance by burying the vocals and showcasing their musical sides. Saulnier’s ability to evoke the heyday of Superchunk and Dinosaur Jr. (you could argue their heyday is right now, but I digress) with his fretwork can’t be understated, particularly while handling low end via the bass pedals at his feet. The pair produced a great musical energy despite not having much in the way of stage presence and prompted me to give the album another chance which, really, is as much as you could ask for.

And back to Mystery Jets. I’m a relative newcomer to the band, being only really familiar with their latest album Serotonin, but I find it interesting how they were described to me before I actually got to sit down and listen. Terms like “post-Libertines” and “psychedelic” were commonplace and really, they’re all wrong. Temporally-speaking, they did enter the UK musical landscape after messrs Doherty and Barat made their mark, but they hardly share the same laddish/loutish affectations, instead coming across as unabashedly romantic and with little attitude (meant positively) and the psychedelia tag might apply to their fashion sense, but musically they’re pretty straight-ahead Brit-rock, reliant on great melodies, big choruses and just a touch of danceability. Over the course of an hour, they split their set evenly between Serotonin and its predecessor, 2008’s Twenty-One, and gave the respectably-sized crowd something to get boisterous about – which they did, right through to the soaring encore-closer “Dreaming Of Another World”. Any concerns about what would happen to the rest of the tour were set aside in favour of just enjoying the moment. And it’s just as well for at the time of this writing, the first of two New York shows had been cancelled. Good thing they’ve already got plans to return for more North American shows in January – visas permitting.

Chart and Panic Manual also have reviews of the show.

Photos: Mystery Jets, PS I Love You @ The Horseshoe – September 13, 2010
MP3: Mystery Jets – “Dreaming Of Another World”
MP3: Mystery Jets – “Flash A Hungry Smile”
MP3: PS I Love You – “2012”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Butterflies & Boners”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Facelove”
Video: Mystery Jets – “Dreaming Of Another World”
Video: Mystery Jets – “Half In Love With Elizabeth”
Video: Mystery Jets – “Two Doors Down”
Video: Mystery Jets – “Young Love”
Video: Mystery Jets – “Flakes”
Video: Mystery Jets – “The Boy Who Ran Away”
Video: Mystery Jets – “Alas Agnes”
Video: Mystery Jets – “You Can’t Fool Me Dennis”
Video: PS I Love You – “Facelove”
MySpace: Mystery Jets

Fresh off her appearance at the MTV VMAs, Florence & The Machine have released a new video for their contribution to the latest Twilight soundtrack. Florence plays the Sound Academy on November 3.

Video: Florence & The Machine – “Heavy In Your Arms”

Barry Burns of Mogwai talks to Prefix about the band’s new Special Moves/Burning live set and to Clash about working on their new album, which it was just announced would be released on SubPop when it’s done next year instead of their long-time home at Matador.

Bettie Serveert have released a video for the sort-of title track of their new record Pharmacy Of Love. They’re gearing up for their first North American tour in far too long, which includes a September 28 date at the Drake Underground.

Video: Bettie Serveert – “The Pharmacy”

And also with a new video are The Concretes, whose new record WYWH will be out November 8.

Video: The Concretes – “All Day”

Australian psychedelicists Tame Impala have assembled a North American tour that stops in at the Horseshoe on November 24. Skiddle has an interview.

MP3: Tame Impala – “Runaway, Houses, City, Clouds”

Clash has a twopart interview with Alan McGee, former head of Creation Records, on the occasion of the release of the documentary Upside Down: The Story Of Creation Records sometime around the end of the year. It goes without saying that I must see this.

Trailer: Upside Down: The Story Of Creation Records