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Archive for October, 2010

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Death Rays

Mogwai want to remind you of your own mortality and will do it in person

Photo By Steve GullickSteve GullickWith 2010 tasked largely to the production and promotion of Burning and Special Moves, their aural and visual live summation of their first decade and half of existence, Mogwai will enter 2011 with eyes pointed straight ahead. The Scots have released released details of their seventh studio album, which will carry the typically wonderful title of Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. There really is something to be said for being a mostly-instrumental band who never has to sing their titles in a chorus or anything.

Their first record to be released in North America on their new label SubPop, it will be made available on February 15 over here while coming out the day before on their own Rock Action label in the UK. An extensive world tour will precede, coincide with and follow the record’s release, starting in the UK and Europe and making its way across the Atlantic for North American dates come April – Toronto gets our on April 26 when the band plays The Phoenix.

And apropos of nothing, besides the fact that it’s a Mogwai song, the new Batman movie has a title and it’s Hallowe’en this weekend … Batcat! LOL.

Video: Mogwai – “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead”

eMusic, PhillyBurbs and The Chicago Tribune have interviews with Teenage Fanclub.

Chart, eye and Clash talk to The Vaselines, who are coming to play The Horseshoe on October 30.

La Roux’s Elly Jackson tells Spinner she’s losing interest in the old synth-pop sound.

Matador has revealed details on and offered up the first MP3 from the forthcoming debut album from Brits Esben & The Witch; Violet Cries will be released in North America on February 7, a week after it’s out in the UK. I said after seeing them live in September that I’d wait to hear the record, when presumably they’d be operating with more structure, before deciding if I liked them or not. So here we will go.

MP3: Esben & The Witch – “Warpath”

NME has details on the inevitable forthcoming deluxe edition of Mumford & Sons’ debut Sigh No More, the “deluxe” referring to the new accompanying live CD and DVD. It will be out in the Spring but apparently those who’ve already shelled out for the non-deluxe version – which is to say most everyone who would have wanted it – can download the bonus material for free. Details on how that’ll work forthcoming, I assume. Mumford & Sons play a sold-out gig at the Sound Academy on November 13.

Spinner interviews Damon Albarn, presently of Gorillaz but for all time of Blur.

NME reports that Charlatans drummer Jon Brookes, felled by a brain tumour last month, has already recovered enough to have reclaimed his (drum) throne by playing the band’s encore in Birmingham last Saturday.

Under The Radar and The University Observer talk to Two Door Cinema Club, who offer Drowned In Sound a guide to bands on how to “make it”.

The Von Pip Musical Express chats with Lisa Milberg of The Concretes. Their new record WYWH is out November 8.

John Eriksson of Peter Bjorn & John (he’s the John) gives Spin a status update on their next record.

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

This Is The Scrunchyface Of My Dreams

Shearwater + Xiu Xiu = Blue Water White Death

Photo via Pitch PerfectPitch PerfectFor fans of a certain artfully raw and dramatic brand of indie rock, neither Jonathan Meiburg nor Jamie Stewart really needs an introduction. The former was a principal in Okkervil River and now fronts Shearwater, while the latter has been the creative force behind Xiu Xiu since 2002, and for the benefit of those familiar with one and not the other, their bands had toured together in recent years.

And now, they’ve made an album together. Over the course of a week earlier this year, Meiburg and Stewart came together in a studio to write and record and the result is Blue Water White Death – the name of both the project and the album. Presented in very spare sonic terms, it sounds very much like what you’d expect the offspring of Shearwater and Xiu Xiu to sound like, taking advantage of the fact that Meiburg and Stewarts voices are similar enough to sound like flip sides of the same emotional coin; Meiburg the powerful and Stewart the fragile. I didn’t really expect to like Blue Water White Death as much as I do, figuring my affection for Shearwater and disinterest in Xiu Xiu woulf cancel each other out, but these eight starkly beautiful and unsettlingly discordant songs are surprisingly compelling listening throughout.

Interview talks to Jonathan Meiburg about the origins of the project and working with Stewart.

MP3: Blue Water White Death – “Song For The Greater Jihad”
Video: Blue Water White Death – “Grunt Tube”

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals will bring their new self-titled album to town for a show at Lee’s Palace on December 7, tickets $15.

Video: Grace Potter & The Nocturals – “Paris (Ooh La La)”

Proving that there’s still no shortage of demand for things broken and/or social, Broken Social Scene have added a second show at the Sound Academy on December 10, tickets $30 in advance. Note that Superchunk don’t appear to be playing that second show, so they’ll only be performing on the 9th. The Courier-Journal talks to the ‘Chunk’s Mac McCaughan.

MP3: Broken Social Scene – “World Sick”

Former Beta Band frontman Steve Mason released his solo debut Boys Outside back in May and will be playing some select North American dates in mid-December to support; his tour wraps on December 20 at Wrongbar in Toronto. Wales Online has an interview and there’s a couple acoustic live tracks to download over at Domino.

MP3: Steve Mason – “All Come Down”
Video: Steve Mason – “Lost & Found”

Personal matters have forced Dum Dum Girls to cancel the remainder of their tour supporting The Vaselines, including Saturday night’s show at The Horseshoe.

eMusic and BBC have features on Warpaint. Their debut album The Fool was released this week.

Spinner talks to Rhett Miller of Old 97’s – he and bassist Murry Hammond will be playing songs from their new album The Grand Theatre Volume One when the pair play the El Mocambo on November 10.

Strange Powers, the documentary about Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields, will be making its Canadian premiere at the TIFF Lightbox on November 4. No idea if it’s a one-off or limited run, but if you want to see it on the big screen, you best set the evening aside and finagle tickets.

Trailer: Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Halifax Pop Explosion 2010 Day Four

It Kills, Great Lake Swimmers, Milks & Rectangles and more at Halifax Pop Explosion

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI guess the final day of coverage is as good a time as any to talk about some of the non-Pop Explosion aspects of my visit to Halifax, which was my first-ever visit to the east coast and first trip within Canada in over three years. Though to be honest, I didn’t do a whole lot that wasn’t HPX-related – some wandering around downtown Halifax, which seemed to be in a particularly epic state of construction and/or renovation, the previously mentioned fast/walkabout to Point Pleasant, and most enjoyably a visit to the exceedingly photogenic but also incredibly cold and windy Peggys Cove, which had the added bonus of some picturesque Autumn foliage on the drive out.

Still, the best parts of the trip were thanks to the festival and conference, where I got to participate in a panel on blogging (natch) with You Ain’t No Picasso, Hero Hill and The Line Of Best Fit (and apologies to anyone who misinterpreted when I said, “the first songs you write will be terrible, and the next ones will also be terrible but less so” – I was trying to be encouraging! They’ll get better!) and just generally got to hang out with peeps old and new; Halifax offers many great places for lounging about, waiting for the… leisurely wait staff.

And of course there was the music. I’d gone relatively light on shows through the first few days so Saturday was the day to make it up some – and a good start was a matinee performance by Great Lake Swimmers. I hadn’t seen the band play since Spring 2007, by which point they’d already graduated to playing churches and halls that complimented their gorgeous, ghostly folk – pretty much the polar opposite from the dark and (pleasantly) grubby Seahorse Tavern. And as lovely as the performances in those more stately venues are, there was something really exciting about seeing them in relatively rougher and tumbler (?) environs – they ran through their set with more jump and flourish than I think I’ve ever seen them with and having a great time of it. Seeing as how a tour of churches and the like would be a special outing for most bands, I propose that the Great Lake Swimmers cross Canada while playing the seediest clubs possible. By the time they hit the coast, they’ll be downright metal.

Photos: Great Lake Swimmers @ The Seahorse Tavern – October 23, 2010
MP3: Great Lake Swimmers – “Pulling On A Line”
MP3: Great Lake Swimmers – “Your Rocky Spine”
MP3: Great Lake Swimmers – “I Am A Part Of A Large Family”
Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “River’s Edge”
Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Stealing Tomorrow”
Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Palmistry”
Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Pulling On A Line”
Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Still”
Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Back Stage With The Modern Dancers”
Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Your Rocky Spine”
Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “To Leave It All Behind”
Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Bodies & Minds”
MySpace: Great Lake Swimmers

The evening programme kicked off at Hero Hill’s showcase at the cozy Company House and locals It Kills. Of all the bands’ MySpaces I cruised in advance of the festival, theirs caught my attention the most and buoyed by Radio Free Canuckistan’s glowing review of their self-titled debut, it was one of the few immovable shows on my schedule. Describing them is no easy task; the four-piece of guitar, cello, drums and piano certainly incorporated elements of Godspeed, Kronos and Explosions into their baroque take on orchestral post-rock, but rather than the build-and-release typical of the style, they instead meditate on the moment like a suspended breath. Add on top of that choral harmonies that may or may not be wordless – it could be hard to tell in the mix – and you had something that had familiar touchstones but still sounded unlike anything I’d heard before. Recommended? Yeah.

Photos: It Kills @ The Company House – October 23, 2010
MP3: It Kills – “Jump Kid”

It was then down the street to the Paragon Theatre for Toronto’s Dilly Dally. I hadn’t heard of them before but they were pretty appealing in their punky (though not especially punk) rock, which came liberally drenched in grease and snot, but also with a dollop of melody and attitude. About midway through their set frontwoman Katie Monks mentioned her brother’s band would be playing later that night, and something snapped into place – you could hear some of the same record collection DNA that informs Tokyo Police Club’s sound in Dilly Dally’s, but while rougher, the latter is potentially more interesting. Their set lasted barely 30 minutes and exhausted their entire repertoire, but it was more than enough to impress. They have a couple of Toronto shows coming up – The Tranzac tomorrow night, October 27, and The Garage on November 5.

Photos: Dilly Dally @ The Paragon Theatre – October 23, 2010
MP3: Dilly Dally – “Helen Hunt”
MP3: Dilly Dally – “Pretty Pretty Pictures”

The lack of anywhere else to be at 10PM kept me at the Paragon for Calgary’s Ghostkeeper, even though their self-titled debut had failed to impress me the way it had those who got it onto this year’s Polaris long list. Happily, I found them more enjoyable live as their brand of abrupt, deconstructed blues and pop was prone to outbursts of rocking out and was softened up by some nice boy-girl vocals. Even so, about midway through their set I noticed on Twitter that someone said the venue was at capacity and, being the generous soul I am, I decided to let someone else have my spot.

Photos: Ghostkeeper @ The Paragon Theatre – October 23, 2010
MP3: Ghostkeeper – “Like Moose Do”
MP3: Ghostkeeper – “By Morning”
Video: Ghostkeeper – “Haunted”

After a visit to Pizza Corner for my first donair and one of the messiest dining experiences of my life, it was to the Foggy Goggle for the last stop of the night and the festival. Prince Edward Island’s Milks & Rectangles wasn’t the reason I went there, initially, but quickly into their set they became just about the highlight of the night. I would be surprised if any reviews of the band failed to mention Franz Ferdinand, and the comparison is an apt one – though they may not cut as dapper a figure as the Scots, they do mine much of the same New Wave/post-punk dance rock landscape and do it really well. That’s not all they’ve got in their arsenal, though – they also had a knack for half-anthemic (no fist pumping) singalongs and quirky art-rock, but most importantly, they knew that if you got the girls in the audience dancing, you’d already won. And having apparently brought an entire party with them from PEI, the girls were definitely dancing. It was a loud, sweaty and irresistible set that deserved – and got – an encore. Their last two EPs – Dirty Gold and Troubleshooters – are available to download for free and while neither quite captures the tightness and excellence of the live show, they do affirm that this is a band that could do great things.

Photos: Milks & Rectangles @ The Foggy Goggle – October 23, 2010
MP3: Milks & Rectangles – “Gold Teeth / Diamond Ring”
MP3: Milks & Rectangles – “Wink And A Gun (The Jury’s Hung)”
MySpace: Milks & Rectangles

And to wrap it all up, Gramercy Riffs. Now I had thought that, hailing from St. John’s, Newfoundland, that they’d have a flotilla of fans out to support them but as it turns out, they now call Toronto and Montreal home and this was, apparently, their first time playing Halifax. Needless to say, the big, rowdy throw-down I expected didn’t quite happen but considering how… boisterous their appearance at NXNE got and how it didn’t quite feature the band at their best, maybe that was a good thing. Because though this performance was a few degrees more subdued than that one, it was also less ramshackle and put the focus on the band’s proper strengths – namely their two excellent frontpersons in Mara Pellerin and Lee Hanlon (even though Pellerin’s vocals were poorly mixed for much of the show). Their different yet complimentary deliveries elevate Gramercy Riffs and their debut It’s Heartbreak above many others who’d seek to make adjectiveless pop-rock. A performance level somewhere between this one and the NXNE one would have been ideal, but still a good time and a good wrap to the fest.

Photos: Gramercy Riffs @ The Foggy Goggle – October 23, 2010
MP3: Gramercy Riffs – “Call Me”
MySpace: Gramercy Riffs

Many thanks to the folks at HPX and in Halifax in general for a great trip. Less thanks to the security staff at Stanfield International airport, who take whole Maritime friendliness a touch too far in stopping to chat with everyone who passes through their metal detector. I barely made it onto my flight and that included a 10-minute boarding delay. But anyways.

Under The Radar has details on the new album from The DearsDegeneration Street will be out February 15 of next year and the first single, “Omega Dog”, is available now for $0.99.

I don’t know if all the names will fit on the sandwich board outside, but a worthy bill hits the Horseshoe on November 25 with The Wilderness Of Manitoba, Leif Vollebekk and Olenka & The Autumn Lovers.

MP3: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Hermit”
MP3: Leif Vollebekk – “Northernmost Eva Maria”
MP3: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers – “Eggshells”

There’s interviews with Diamond Rings over at aux.tv, Macleans, Spinner, Exclaim and Interview. Special Affections is out now and the record release show goes tonight at the Garrison.

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Halifax Pop Explosion 2010 Day Three

Basia Bulat with Symphony Nova Scotia at Halifax Pop Explosion

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe “see something new” mandate largely fell apart on the third night of Halifax Pop Explosion, but with good reason; when you get the opportunity to see Basia Bulat perform with a symphony, you take it. Bulat was the third artist to be brought together with Symphony Nova Scotia as part of the Pop Explosion, Ron Sexsmith and Owen Pallett had done so in past years, and it was Pallett who crafted the orchestral arrangements of Bulat’s songs for this performance which took place in the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on the Dalhousie campus.

The evening was structured more like a symphony concert than a pop one, split into two halves and opening with the symphony performing a piece by Toronto composer Jordan Pal before being joined by Bulat and bandmates Holly Coish on vocals and taropatch and Bobby Bulat on drums. Bulat’s songs have often been called orchestral-pop and often come out of the box lovingly adorned with strings, brass and woodwinds, but the strength of her work comes from the emotional directness of their simple folk hearts. So to hear them with their sonic dressings increased tenfold (or so) was fascinating to witness. Pallett’s treatments took those supporting elements and gave them a new level of animation, sometimes taking hues that were muted and enhancing them to technocolour levels or simply adding all-new shapes and colours and in doing so, inverting the tone of the song completely. The symphony emphasized the shadows lurking on “Heart Of My Own” and practically inverted the usually-joyous “I Was A Daughter” into an elegiac sort of farewell.

For me, the real test would be “The Shore”, which was pretty much perfect in its austere presentation on Heart Of My Own and was even more stunning in its live solo arrangement. The rearranged version pretty much came out of it a draw, with the timpani and percussion giving it a stirring, tidal rumble but the trilling woodwinds distracting from the song’s emotional heft. And that would largely sum up how the collaborative pieces went – a lot of embellishment and some distraction. When they played together, it could feel trepidatious, particularly rhythmically, as though songs that were used to flitting freely in light Summer dresses were now having to move with heavy, fancy formal wear on. But even so, in the end the pieces were always made winners not by the massive orchestra or Pallett’s contributions, but by Bulat and her songs.

In addition to the eight orchestral pieces, Bulat played a number of selections either with Coish and her brother or solo, and those performances – aided by the theatre’s stunning acoustics – were just as much highlights of the night as those with the symphony. In particular, one of two new songs – “It Can’t Be You” – featured a vocal performance from Bulat that was just jaw-dropping, and the encore-closing unamplified stomp-and-clap of “Death Come Creeping” on the fancy auditorium stage in front of the orchestra, was as wonderful as it was incongruous. More, actually.

I won’t say that the symphonic treatments improved Bulat’s songs – I think they’re “right” the way they were originally conceived and presented – but that wasn’t the intention in the first place. Rather, it was an artistic and musical experiment for everyone involved that yielded interesting and frequently beautiful results, and one that I still feel privileged to have gotten to see. Here’s hoping that more orchestral collaborations are in the cards for the future so that others can share that privilege and the works can evolve further as their own entities.

This ended up being the only thing I attended on the third night of HPX – partly because Rebecca Cohn was far enough from any other venue that it would have required a whole lot of effort to get anywhere else, partly because the idea of going to a little club after this show and getting blasted in the face with some punk rock wasn’t very palatable and partly because it was going to be more fun to just kick back and hang out with friends afterwards. I’d make up for it the next night.

The Halifax Chronicle-Herald also has a review of the show. She now opens up a series of cross-Canada shows for Josh Ritter, including tomorrow night at The Phoenix.

Photos: Basia Bulat with Symphony Nova Scotia @ Rebecca Cohn Auditorium – October 22, 2010
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Go On”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Gold Rush”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Snakes & Ladders”
Video: Basia Bulat – “The Pilgriming Vine”
Video: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
MySpace: Basia Bulat

Rae Spoon rolled out a couple more videos from Love Is A Hunter over the last while.

Video: Rae Spoon – “There is a Light (but it’s not for everyone)”
Video: Rae Spoon – “Joan”

Sufjan Stevens talks about some of the personal issues that informed and delayed The Age Of Adz with Exclaim.

The Vancouver Sun talks to Matt Ward of She & Him.

The Asheville Citizen-Times chats with Band Of Horses’ Bill Reynolds and Tyler Ramsey.

NPR interviews School Of Seven Bells.

The video for Johnny Flynn’s new single is out, featuring a live performance in a garden with Laura Marling covering her parts as she does on the studio version on Been Listening. Flynn will be at Lee’s Palace on November 14.

Video: Johnny Flynn with Laura Marling – “The Water”

A couple of interesting international bands are on the Nu Music Nite bill at The Horseshoe tomorrow night (October 26). From the UK there’s folk singer Alessi’s Ark and all the way from Australia, The Jezebels. Easier for you to give the samples a listen, than for me to try and describe a couple of acts I’m only a little familiar with, but the combination of both on one bill and it being free makes it hard for me to stay cooped up at home, as much as I’d like to.

MP3: The Jezebels – “Mace Spray”
MP3: Alessi’s Ark – “Hands In The Sink”

The Dumbing Of America and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer interview Sky Larkin, who are in town at the Horseshoe on Wednesday night.

Under The Radar talks to Rose Elinor Dougall.

Lykke Li has put out a new single – mainly digital but also as a 7″ for collectors – and you can download the a-side below and the b-side at her website. A new album should be out in the early part of next year.

MP3: Lykke Li – “Get Some”

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

"Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)"

Superchunk covers David Bowie

Image vis AmazonAmazonI was originally going to save this for next week so that it could go up ON Hallowe’en, but then realized that if I did that, it’d only be timely for a day and then be like the jack o’lantern that sits on the porch from November 1, slowly mouldering and having bits of its face eaten by raccoons. Okay, that’s not quite what I meant to say but it’s going up today so you can add it to Hallowe’en mixes, play it at parties, what have you.

“It” being Superchunk’s cover of the title track from David Bowie’s 1980 album, originally released as a b-side to the “1000 Pounds” single, circa Come Pick Me Up, and again on their 2004 b-sides compilation Cup Of Sand. I don’t know if there was any compelling reason to choose this particular Bowie tune, but they rip it up so why not?

Superchunk returned to active duty this year after nine years away with the excellent Majesty Shredding and will make a long-awaited return to Toronto on December 9 in a supporting slot for Broken Social Scene at the Sound Academy. David Bowie has been unofficially retired since 2003’s Reality, not touring since heart surgery cut short the promo jaunt for said record in 2004. In the interim, his legend has only grown as a new generation of indie kids discover his work and if/when he ever makes a new record or tours, the news would break Twitter in half. In the meantime, he is happily being David Bowie and probably ignoring calls from Coachella to come play their festival daily, if not hourly.

MP3: Superchunk – “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”
Video: David Bowie – “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” (live)