Friday, October 22nd, 2010
Halifax Pop Explosion 2010 Day Two
Rebekah Higgs, The Darcys, The Modern Superstitions and more at Halifax Pop Explosion
Frank YangWhen I went to Vancouver some seven years ago, I made the mistake of venturing out onto the seawall in Stanley Park without first having lunch or bringing along some water. And so it was that I ended up trudging around the perimeter of the park for over an hour, hungry thirsty and tired and accompanied only by some crazy guy who, despite being crazy, had managed to rent a bike and was following me around. The point of this being that I clearly didn’t learn anything from the experience as yesterday, driven by a desire to see the ocean, I walked from downtown to Point Pleasant Park without eating first or bringing any water. At least there wasn’t any crazy guy on a bike this time. Clearly there’s something about large parks on either coast of Canada that make me dumb as shit. Anyways.
The second night of ye olde Halifax Pop Explosion didn’t fully pass my “see only new stuff” mission, but it wasn’t entirely my fault. Take The Modern Superstitions, in all the way from Toronto – sure, I saw them last year when they played the boardwalk baby band stage at V Fest, but a) they were only called The Superstitions then, and b) they didn’t sound nearly as good as they do now. That band was very much a work in progress but this one – with a new EP in All The Things We’ve Been Told under their belts – came across much more like a finished product. Everything they sounded like they were trying to do before – show the world there was still a need for a female-fronted Strokes-y garage rock band – they were now actually doing, particularly singer Nyssa Rosaleen. Last Summer, she seemed uncomfortable with being the frontwoman of the band; now, while not exactly devouring the role, she does come across much more confidently and her delivery is all the better for it. Sometimes a dose of modernity is all it takes.
Montreal’s Camaromance was a “hey the MySpace sounds alright and I’ll be around there so why not” selection, and largely failed to remind me of why I chose to see them play. Playing as a two-guitar duo, Martine Groulx’s compositions didn’t have the same richness as the recordings and while the lack of embellishment and quiet venue allowed her downbeat, dense narratives the attention required to absorb, it also revealed it as pretty standard singer-songwriter fare.
I didn’t plan on seeing The Darcys, but some staggered set times and side-by-side venues made it happen, and I’m glad it did. I seem to check in on my fellow Torontonians every six months or so, and each time they seem to have improved markedly. This time, as always, I was impressed by their musicianship and ability to pull off the complex rhythms, intricate guitar work and great dynamics that make their epically-inclined, proggish-but-not-prog rock so compelling. But what was missing was the big hook or chorus to make them the anthems they aspire to be. No, it’s not an easy thing to achieve – it’s a skill that careers are built on – but I think they’ll get there. When? Dunno, check back with me in six months or so.
I hadn’t checked in with Halifax native Rebekah Higgs for a few years, since she was in Toronto fairly often circa her promising self-titled debut. Ruby Jean & The Thoughtful Bees, the electro-dance project which occupied her time the last little while didn’t do much for me, though, so I was pleased to hear she was returning to working sans pseudonym just in time for me to catch a hometown show. Her debut was am ambitious melding of folk, pop and electronic elements whose reach occasionally exceeded its grasp but was still quite promising, and from the sounds of the set of all-new material she showcased last night, that promise is being delivered on. As before, she played surrounded by an ocean of technology in the form of keyboards, pedals and sonic gewgaws, but even though she had a bit of trouble navigating it all mid-song, she still largely pulled off all the loops and samples needed to recreate her songs and deliver them with confidence and sass. The ingenue-ishness of her older material has been traded in for a more mature and musically rangier style and it works for her. Her new album is due out next year and will be preceded by the Little Voice digital EP coming out November 23.
Photos: Rebekah Higgs @ The Seahorse Tavern – October 21, 2010
MP3: Rebekah Higgs – “Little Voice”
Video: Rebekah Higgs – “Parables”
Video: Rebekah Higgs – “Parables” (alternate video)
MySpace: Rebekah Higgs
Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam talks about his new record Kiss Each Other Clean to Spin. There’s no official release date as of yet, but January 25 appears to be shaping up as the first big new record day of the year, so that’s as likely a candidate as any.