Archive for November, 2010

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

All We Make Is Entertainment

Review of Manic Street Preachers’ Postcards From A Young Man

Photo by Dean ChalkeyDean ChalkeyMost bands with longevity – if they’re lucky – have a career arc that starts with a good to great debut and trends upwards towards a critical and hopefully commercial peak – simultaneously, if fortune wills it – before entering a decline that’s hopefully gradual enough so as to not really be noticed at the time. Cap it off with a late-career bounce and/or best-of comp and maybe quit while you’re still ahead, overall. Until the reunion, anyways.

Manic Street Preachers threw that out the window before even their first album, declaring their intention to sell 20 million copies of their debut and then break up at the height of their powers. And while this didn’t happen, their narrative did end up considerably twistier than most – release successful debut, endure mandatory difficult second record, rebound with critically acclaimed effort, lose chief songwriter to mysterious circumstances, regroup for their biggest commercial and critical success, release follow-ups of diminishing quality before respectively levelling out and then surprise everyone by deliberately trying to recreate the spirit of album three using lyrics left behind by the departed songwriter and have the results, rather than exploitative, be phenomenal.

This is where the Manics found themselves with last year’s Journal For Plague Lovers, a deliberate revisit to The Holy Bible built around the words of their lost member Richey Edwards. And just as that record deliberately paralleled their third record, its follow-up Postcards From A Young Man looks to album four, the massive in every sense Everything Must Go as a reference. The dry, Albini production values of Journal are traded in for grandiose anthems laden with strings and choirs that offer no apologies for reaching for the stars. It’s a reminder that as good as the Manics were at being emphatically, viciously angry, they were arguably better at being starry-eyed romantics, and it’s that side of them that is on display with this effort. But unlike Everything, which for its widescreen staging was still downcast in tone, what with dealing with Edwards’ disappearance, Postcards casts far fewer shadows. Granted, this also gives it less emotional heft, but it’s far from empty calories. There’s still plenty of dense lyricism, huge choruses, fiery guitar solos, a guest spot/croak from Ian McCulloch and an affirmation that while the Manics took a mid-career breather, they’re once again at the top of their game.

Even though the release of Journal and accompanying tour were supposed to mark the Manics’ return to the North American marketplace, Postcards has yet to receive a domestic release. Until that happens, any hope that the further Stateside shows the band promised last year will materialize remain just wishful thinking. Or maybe they’ll wait for the next record – for all the hubbub surrounding the “last attempt at mass communication” rhetoric that accompanied Postcards and whether it meant it would be the Manics’ final record, according to this interview with Nicky Wire at NME, the band are already writing their next record, have given it a working title of 70 Songs Of Hatred And Failure and are calling it an exercise in “pure indulgence”. So it’s a revisit to Know Your Enemy, then? Bring it on.

Note that the below MP3 does not appear on Postcards, but is a period-correct and was given away in conjunction with the promotion of Postcards.

MP3: Manic Street Preachers – “I’m Leaving You For Solitude”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Some Kind Of Nothingness”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “(It’s Not War) It’s Just The End Of Love”

Digging A Hole, The Bangkok Post and CNNgo check in with Tim Burgess of The Charlatans.

The long wait for a new record from PJ Harvey is almost over – NME reports that Polly Jean’s next record Let England Shake will be out on February 14.

Trip-hop survivors Morcheeba, with original vocalist Sky Edwards back in the fold, will be touring North America next year in support of their latest Blood Like Lemonade and will be at The Phoenix on February 20. Tickets $32.50 in advance.

Video: Morcheeba – “Blood Like Lemonade”

VBS has a video interview with Emmy The Great and producer Gareth Jones, who is working with her on album number two. It’s targeted for a February 2011 release.

Laura Marling has released a video for her Neil Young cover, taken from her recent 7″ release.

Video: Laura Marling – “The Needle & The Damage Done”

NME reports that Noah & The Whale have given their third album a name – Last Night On Earth – and that it’ll be out in March of next year. Presumably before they roll into town for a show at the Mod Club on March 24, tickets $17.50 in advance.

Richard Thompson lists off his favourite covers of his own songs for Spinner and otherwise chats with The Los Angeles Times and The Kansas City Star

Mogwai are offering a free download of “Pano Rano”, the first single from their forthcoming Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. The album is out February 15 and they play The Phoenix on April 26.

Exclaim reports on the super-fancy and then some 20th anniversary edition of Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, due out on March 7 of next year. For those who want to be free to do what they want to do, who want to be free to ride, and want to be free to ride their machines without being hassled by The Man, and who want to get loaded, and who want to have a good time. And that’s what they’re gonna do. They’re gonna have a good time. They’re gonna have a party!

The Arts Desk and The Quietus converse with Jim Reid of The Jesus And Mary Chain.

State welcomes ex-pat Gemma Hayes back to Ireland; she’s due for a new album sometime in 2011.

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Archer On The Beach

Destroyer heads to the beach, Chinatown

Photo via MergeMergeJust a short one today as I’m still recovering from a) replacing all the carpet in my apartment with hardwood (well, laminate) in a single day and b) trying to clean up the enormous mess generated by a). Exhausting stuff, that.

So I’ll let Dan Bejar take it away. Now a couple years removed from Trouble In Dreams and with Pornographer duties largely done with for a while, Dan is getting Destroyer back into gear. Following up last year’s epic-length “Bay Of Pigs” 12″, Bejar released a second limited edition 12″ for the song “Archer On The Beach” earlier this month, but if you haven’t already got your copy secured, then you’re out of luck – all 1000 copies are spoken for. But you can stream the song, and its spoken-word b-side “Grief Point”, courtesy of Merge.

There’s still plenty of time to reserve a copy of the new Destroyer LP Kaputt, though – it’s not out for another two months, on January 25. The first MP3 is now up and while it’s not a cover of the Luna song (how great would that be?), it’s a pretty sweet if chilled out tune that incorporates some of the electronic and atmospheric touches of the aforementioned 12″ releases and some wonderfully questionable saxophone. I’ve been in the mood for a new Destroyer record for a while now – looking forward to hearing the rest of this.

MP3: Destroyer – “Chinatown”
Stream: Destroyer – “Archer On The Beach”/”Grief Point”

Montreal represents on March 5 when Lee’s Palace welcomes 2008 Polaris Prize shortlisters Plants & Animals and 2010 Polaris Prize winners Karkwa. Tickets for the show are $15 in advance.

MP3: Plants & Animals – “Tom Cruz”
MP3: Karkwa – “Dors Dans Mon Sang”

Exclaim has details on a Nick Drake tribute/benefit concert taking place at Trinity-St. Paul’s in Toronto on November 28.

BBC talks to Mark Hamilton of Woodpigeon on the topic of concert taping. Mark has been posting various sundry MP3s to the Woodpigeon site all Fall, including this live solo one from Montreal’s CJLO.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “…And as the Ship Went Down, You’d Never Looked Finer (Live on CJLO)”

S. Carey, in town at the Horseshoe on December 19, is featured in a Daytrotter session.

School Of Seven Bells have released a new video from Disconnect From Desire and have been tapped to open up for Interpol on their North American tour next year – including the February 15 stop at the Sound Academy in Toronto.

Video: School Of Seven Bells – “I L U”

Also with a new video is Sufjan Stevens, who’s taken the song title to heart with regards to the clip’s art direction. Tribute will be paid to a simpler Sufjan by means of a tribute album to his Seven Swans record featuring Bonnie Prince Billy and a number of Asthmatic Kitty artists. Seven Swans Reimagined will be out on March 22.

Video: Sufjan Stevens – “Too Much”

The Radio Dept.’s Martin Carlberg discusses the band’s modest career ambitions with Spinner. Their singles and b-sides compilation Passive Aggressive is out on January 25 and they make their Toronto debut at Lee’s Palace on February 7.

M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez talks to Pitchfork about his plans for his next record.

Nick Cave tells Spinner that a new Nick Cave record should be out next year – just as soon as he writes it. In the meantime, Grinderman remains on the front burner – The AV Club talks to Warren Ellis about making Grinderman 2.

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Someday I Will Treat You Good (revisited)

Mark Linkous’ Salt Chunk Mary demos

Photo via MyspaceMyspaceSometime around, oh man, 2001 or 2002, I got a CD-R from a friend of mine in Richmond, Virginia containing a number of 8-track demo recordings circa 1993 by a local outfit called Salt Chunk Mary. They didn’t do too much but their singer-guitarist, a fellow by the name of Mark Linkous would go on to form a new project called Sparklehorse and over the next fifteen years or so, would craft four gorgeous records of otherworldly, fractured Americana before suddenly taking his own life in March of this year.

I had posted the best-sounding of these demos, including an early version of “Someday I Will Treat You Good” from his/their 1995 debut Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot, back in 2006 to mark the release of Sparklehorse’s new record Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain, and since then every few months I’ve gotten a request from someone to hear the rest of them. A request I’d have obliged if I hadn’t misplaced the CD-R… or thought I’d misplaced it. Turns out it was in the rest of my CD collection under “S”. In the interim, Linkous passed away so as a way of fulfilling those requests and paying tribute to the man, here’s the demos in their entirety.

As with the ones I posted before, I’ve made up song titles based on the choruses – hopefully no one objects – and this Richmond Times-Dispatch interview remains essentially the only documentation online of Salt Chunk Mary’s existence.

Thanks for the music, Mark. Hope you’ve found some peace.

MP3: Salt Chunk Mary – “Won’t Know If You Don’t Try”
MP3: Salt Chunk Mary – “Rest Your Worried Mind”
MP3: Salt Chunk Mary – “instrumental”
MP3: Salt Chunk Mary – “Someday I Will Treat You Good”
MP3: Salt Chunk Mary – “I Take It All Back”
MP3: Salt Chunk Mary – “There Ain’t Nobody But You”
MP3: Salt Chunk Mary – “Break My Mind”
MP3: Salt Chunk Mary – “I”
MP3: Salt Chunk Mary – “Sorry Now”

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Look At What The Light Did Now

Review of Feist’s Look At What The Light Did Now

Photo via FacebookFacebookOf all of the remarkable things that Feist has done in the past few years, one of the most impressive is managing to go from a state of almost complete ubiquity circa The Reminder to one of relative obscurity. Over the last two years, there’ve been the occasional guest appearance on others’ records and even rarer live appearances with Broken Social Scene, but by and large she’s done a fine job of keeping a low profile – presumably working on a new record but no one really knows.

That profile has risen again of late with the upcoming release of Look At What The Light Did Now, a documentary film culled from footage taken during The Reminder tour. Coming out on DVD on December 7 with an accompanying CD of recordings taken from and around the film, it received a hometown screening last night at the Royal Ontario Museum… which probably seemed like a good idea but proved to be an almost disastrous one thanks to the horrible acoustics in the main atrium. But if there was an upside to it, it was that you were forced to pay almost unnatural attention to the film to extract anything comprehensible from the echo- and reverb-drenched audio.

With regards to the film itself, some have questioned if there’s really a need for a Feist documentary when her career isn’t a decade old, and if Light was a biography of any sort, it’d be a valid question. But rather than focus on Leslie Feist the person, it spends most of its running time examining the art around The Reminder – not only the songs and the album itself, but everything surrounding it. The portion focusing on Clea Minaker’s shadow puppet/projections were particularly fascinating; I already regretted not seeing any of The Reminder shows – I last saw Feist perform way back in the Summer of 2005 – and now regret it even more now that I see what I missed.

Other segments recounted the recording of The Reminder in France, the filming of videos for “1, 2, 3, 4”, “I Feel It All” and “Mushaboom”, the last of which is not Reminder period-correct but offered some terrific anecdotes from director Patrick Daughters, and the assemblage of the artwork for The Reminder. Though there were some segments focusing on her early days and ascendancy to stardom, they were kept to a minimum, as were the behind the scenes tour footage that’re typically the bread and butter of musician docs (though the scenes of Feist and her band and crew playing ball hockey was pretty great). Instead, the topic of who she is and how she got where she is was left to be implied by her work, how she approaches her work and how and why she works with others. In focusing on the what and how rather than the who, Look At What The Light Did Now manages to be an engaging and entertaining document of one of Canada’s biggest and brightest musical stars while barely acknowledging that fact.

And in the Q&A with Feist following the screening, the inevitable question of “when is the next record coming” was raised and all that she’d offer in return was that she’d be recording over the Winter – based on that, I wouldn’t expect a new album before next Fall.

Video: Feist & Little Wings – “Look At What The Light Did Now”
Trailer: Look At What The Light Did Now

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene talks about the KC Accidental days with Spinner. Broken plays the Sound Academy on December 9 and 10.

Planets profiles Dan Mangan.

The Guardian talks to Dan Snaith of Caribou.

Away from the city for far too long – she played here four times in eight months circa Neptune CityNicole Atkins returns to Toronto for a show at the Horseshoe on February 26 with support coming from Cotton Jones; tickets $15 in advance. Her new record Mondo Amore arrives January 25.

MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Gotta Cheer Up”

Keren Ann 101, the new record from, Keren Ann will be out February 21 – the rather divine first single “My Name Is Trouble” is currently streaming at her website.

John Vanderslice has set a Janury 25 release date for his next record, which will bear the title of White Wilderness, a record recorded over three days with the assistance of the Bay Area Magik*Magik Orchestra.

The Depreciation Guild have released a new video from their latest Spirit Youth.

Video: The Depreciation Guild – “Blue Lily”

Prefix and The Toledo Blade chat with Craig Finn of The Hold Steady.

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

"I Shall Be Released"

Wilco and Fleet Foxes cover Bob Dylan and/or The Band

Photo via YouTubeYouTubeLast week saw the release of a rather specific kind of tribute album – one devoted to The Band, which in and of itself isn’t that remarkable since their place in music history has been cemented for decades. But what made Garth Hudson Presents A Canadian Celebration Of The Band was, as the title clearly states, the fact that it was curated by and features guest spots from The Band’s keyboardist Garth Hudson and all participants were passport-carrying Canucks.

So even if they’d offered, Wilco and Fleet Foxes would have been politely told “no” by virtue of their collective American-ness. And it was their American-ness that prompted them to, in the Fall of 2008, to country-rock the vote by offering an MP3 of them performing “I Shall Be Released” in Bend, Oregon earlier that Summer in exchange for a pledge to vote in that year’s Presidential election (and if you weren’t American, it was implied that you were promising to vote in whichever democratic exercise was coming up in your own neighbourhood next). Interestingly, none of the participants in the new tribute record chose to cover “I Shall Be Released” – perhaps the stickiness of it having a sole Bob Dylan writers credit rather than a Band co-write, despite being performed by them and appearing on the seminal Music From Big Pink scared folks off?

In other Yankee Band-related news, A Canadian Celebration Of The Band gets a release south of the border as an import this week, though the price discrepancy and parity of currency probably makes it cheaper to order it from Canada anyways, and Band drummer Levon Helm will be bringing his famous Midnight Ramble shows to Toronto next year on March 4 and 5 at Massey Hall where he’ll be joined by Lucinda Williams.

Garth Hudson talks to The Toronto Sun, The Toronto Star and Spinner about the tribute project and tells how Neko Case’s honourary Canadian-ness wasn’t enough to keep her contribution on the record.

MP3: Wilco with Fleet Foxes – “I Shall Be Released”
Video: Wilco with Fleet Foxes – “I Shall Be Released” (live)
Video: The Band – “I Shall Be Released” (live)