Archive for February, 2011

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Will Do

TV On The Radio discover PVR, able to release record and tour without missing favourite shows

Photo via FacebookFacebookIt’s been about two and a half years since TV On The Radio’s last effort, Dear Science, and in the interim they’ve had more than a few side projectsand some acting – to keep them occupied. But a break is only a break if you get back to it and so the Brooklynites have announced that they will release their fourth studio album Nine Types Of Light on April 12 and yesterday premiered the first track, “Will Do”, via a Seattle radio station – and for those out of FM transmission range of the Emerald city, it’s available to stream at Soundcloud. Going along with the album announcement and song debut is a Spring tour, which does include Toronto – they’ll be at the Sound Academy on April 18 with general admission tickets $26.50 and VIP $35, on sale Saturday.

Stream: TV On The Radio – “Will Do”

In other concert news, the sold out March 18 Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour date at The Horseshoe is no longer sold out and no longer at the Horseshoe – it’s been moved to Lee’s Palace, which means that a couple hundred more tickets or so are available. And tangentially, the info for tomorrow morning’s presale for the August 12 and 13 Trinity-St. Paul Jeff Mangum shows is now up at the Collective Concerts website (top right rail). Fingers at the ready.

Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings have a date at The Horseshoe on April 14 in support of their new self-titled effort. Tickets for the show are $10 in advance. There’s an interview with bandleader Dylan Baldi at Exclaim, a watchable/downloadable session with the band up at Laundromatinee and a chat with the director of their new video at Spin.

MP3: Cloud Nothings – “Hey Cool Kid”
Video: Cloud Nothings – “Understand At All”

In the best band/venue pairing since Phoenix played The Phoenix, Parts & Labor’s upcoming Spring tour in support of Constant Future, out March 8, will hit Toronto on April 15 with a show at Parts & Labour. There’s also a second MP3 from the album now available to sample.

MP3: Parts & Labor – “Rest”

They were just here in November, but Junip are coming back to town for another show at Lee’s Palace on April 20.

MP3: Junip – “Rope & Summit”

Solo Super Furry Gruff Rhys has a new solo record in Hotel Shampoo, out May 3, and a North American tour in support which includes a June 11 date at The Horseshoe. The Norwich Evening News has an interview with Rhys.

MP3: Gruff Rhys – “Shark Ridden Waters”

Girl Talk has a date at the Sound Academy on July 8, tickets $30 general, $40 VIP. I suspect he could just hit “play” on All Day and go take a nap, and no one would complain.

Lyyke Li’s new record Wounded Rhymes is streaming in whole at Hype Machine in advance of its release on March 1. She plays The Phoenix May 22.

Stream: Lykke Li / Wounded Rhymes

Also streaming but already out and quite the hit is Adele’s second record 21. Interview, The Toronto Star and eye have features on the singer, who has a date at The Kool Haus on May 18.

Stream: Adele / 21

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Stand Where A Fruit Tree Drops The Things It Doesn't Need

Review of Snowblink’s Long Live and giveaway

Photo via OOTSOut Of This SparkFor an infinite number of reasons, debuts can take a long time to come together. In the case of Snowblink, those reasons included a cross-continent/international move for Daniela Gesundheit from California to Toronto in 2008 and subsequent partnering with Dan Goodman as the core of the band, the commitments that came with being a touring member of Bruce Peninsula and the fact that said record was being recorded in various locales around the continent with a wide array of collaborators, all with their own packed schedules.

But after who knows how long – I first saw them over two years ago, already impressive and fully-formed – the first Snowblink record arrived last week and if any of the above sounds like it’d be a recipe for a record that’s overcooked, overworked or overthought, fear not – Long Live is none of these things. In fact, it’s very much the opposite of over-anything, with the prevailing characteristic of the folk-pop contained within is effortless airiness; Gesundheit’s voice is clean, pure and feels the epitome of carefree as it loops and lilts through the laid-back melodies, clearly a formidable instrument but never showing off.

The musical accompaniment is similarly lush yet spacious, with a wide variety of sounds and textures – acoustic, electric, orchestral, percussive, what have you – coming into play over the course of the record. But clearly conscious of maintaining the necessary sonic negative space, the instrumentation only steps forward enough to make its presence felt, never overstaying or seeking to define the proceedings. Everything has and knows its place. While this doesn’t necessarily make for a wealth of dynamicism over the course of the record’s 15 tracks, within the margins of Long Live‘s cloudwatching from a grassy hillside aesthetic lies a whole world of musical detail, finally ready to be explored, pondered and appreciated.

It’s worth noting that there’s already not one, not two, but three sessions in the Daytrotter archives – the first two date from 2008 and feature songs that would eventually make their way onto Long Live, the third is all Michael Jackson covers.

The record’s release will be celebrated locally with an in-store at Soundscapes on March 3 at 7PM and a proper show at The Music Gallery on March 5, a happening that will feature: “Tasseomancy reading tea leaves, Thom Gill playing New Age style music, a lecture by Owen Pallett, Ryan Driver and Jennifer Castle, and set design/ projections by Sean Frey”. Following that unique performance, they’ll be opening up for Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on his solo North American tour including two nights at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on March 22 and 23.

Tickets for the Music Gallery show are $10 in advance but courtesy of Out Of This Spark, I’ve got a pair of passes to give away along with a copy of Long Live on CD. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to Snowblink” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, March 1.

MP3: Snowblink – “Ambergris”
MP3: Snowblink – “The Tired Bees”
Video: Snowblink – “Ambergris”
Video: Snowblink – “The Haunt”

Spin has got an interview with Amy Cole of The Rural Alberta Advantage and offers a new track from their forthcoming Departing to download, while Exclaim talks to Nils Edenloff and has the whole of album number two streaming this week leading up to its March 1 release. They will be at The Phoenix on April 29.

MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “North Star”
Stream: The Rural Alberta Advantage / Departing

Sloan have announced the May 10 release of their new record The Double Cross, named in honour of the band’s 20th anniversary. They’ve also made a track from the record available to download.

MP3: Sloan – “Follow The Leader”

Exclaim and The Globe & Mail questions Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak of The Dears.

The Quietus and Skiddle talk to Suuns, who’re opening up for The Black Angels at Lee’s on April 14.

With their date supporting Plants & Animals at Lee’s on March 5 sold out, reigning Polaris winners Karkwa have confirmed their Canadian Musicfest showcase as being at Wrongbar on March 11 at 10PM, sandwiched between Brit buzz acts Anna Calvi and Esben & The Witch. Early iterations of the schedule had Memoryhouse in that slot but they’re now down the road at The Great Hall with Yukon Blonde the night before, on at 10:30.

MP3: Karkwa – “Dors Dans Mon Sang”

Rolling Stone talks to Diamond Rings, whom they declare to be an artist to watch.

And in reality-altering news, this past weekend Neko Case’s Twitter feed turned into a round table discussion about how female band members never get any groupies and aren’t happy about it. Salon rounds up the discussion and Metafilter hosts the resulting disbelief/incredulity.

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Pow Pow

Review of LCD Soundsystem’s London Sessions

Photo By Ruvan WijesooriyaRuvan WijesooriyaThough James Murphy warned us even before This Is Happening was released last Spring, the LCD Soundsystem victory lap has run for so long and through so many gigs that the idea that the band as we know it is coming to an end in a little over a month – at a final Madison Square Garden show will apparently be attended solely by scalpers – is a bit surreal. But anyone thinking that that final LP was the last word from the band should definitely look for the London Sessions live postscript released digitally late last year and physically this year.

Recorded last Summer at south London’s Pool/Miloco Studios, the hour-long Peel Session-ish document functions both as a live album and best-of compilation. It captures the band sounding tight, lean and pretty much the peak of their live powers while running through a pretty good selection of their most essential tracks, adding occasional embellishments like the Joy Division-ish guitar parts on “All My Friends” and Murphy’s hilarious ad-libbed lyrics on “Pow Pow”, but largely staying true to the originals.

But rather than make London Sessions redundant, this faithfulness makes it all the more essential – those who only know the band from the albums might well assume that they’re a largely studio creation, but those who’ve had the privilege of experiencing them in a live setting know that they’re all hellaciously good musicians and Murphy is a completely riveting frontman, even though objectively speaking he doesn’t do much on stage. Even though there’s not the crowd noises and interaction you’d typically get from a live album, there’s still plenty of live-wire energy captured and the fact that the band are doing this off the floor – there are presumably no overdubs – makes London Sessions almost as essential a component of the LCD discography as anything else they’ve done.

London Sessions was released on CD in late January and will be out as a double-LP on April 26. The Vine has an interview with James Murphy.

Video: LCD Soundsystem – “Pow Pow”
Video: LCD Soundsystem – “Drunk Girls”

Billboard talks to Death Cab For Cutie bassist Nick Harmer about their new record Codes & Keys, due out May 31.

James McNew of Yo La Tengo discusses the band’s ongoing “wheel of fortune” tour with The Vancouver Sun.

Ted Leo talks about striking out on a solo tour with The Los Angeles Times.

Ra Ra Riot have released a new video from The Orchard. There’s an interview with the band at The Victoria Times Colonist.

Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Too Dramatic”

NPR solicits a Tiny Desk Concert from Local Natives.

The Black Keys are going to be at the Molson Amphitheatre on July 7. Tickets $50. Fifty. Plus fees. Yup. Presale today at 10AM.

Video: The Black Keys – “Tighten Up”

Magnet Q&As Gary Louris of The Jayhawks in advance of turning over the editorial reins to he and Mark Olson this week.

NPR is streaming a studio session with Iron & Wine.

Washington City Paper talks to Mike Cooley and The Chicago Tribnue to Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers. Their new record Go-Go Boots is out today.

Aquarium Drunkard has an interview with Lucinda Williams, who will be at Massey Hall on March 4 and 5 opening up for Levon Helm and promoting her new record Blessed, out March 1.

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Honeymoon Punch

Jenn Grant, Rae Spoon and Olenka & The Autumn Lovers at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangYou would think that my appreciation of a triple-bill of artists familiar and favoured would be of the “comfort food” variety more than anything else, but Saturday night’s lineup at the Horseshoe featuring Jenn Grant, Rae Spoon and Olenka & The Autumn Lovers offered up more than its share of pleasant surprises.

By rights, Olenka’s superb second album And Now We Sing should have gotten a proper writeup hereabouts by now, but having stuck it on my 2010 year-end list without having uttered a word about it beforehand, it felt like that was the more compelling endorsement. I’ll expand a bit now, though, and say that with this record, the London, Ontario outfit has gone from a Balkan-inflected orchestral folk collective to an astonishingly ambitious and versatile band – the core of their sound remains, but their songs are richer, more melodic and dynamic and able to include heretofore foreign elements like a big rock guitar solo or countrified steel twang and make it feel like the most natural thing in the world. Each song on Sing is its own distinct and fully-realized work but fit perfectly alongside each other, strung together on Olenka Krakus’ rich and rangy voice, to make a whole even greater than the sum of its impressive parts. And this, very briefly, is why And Now We Sing was one of my favourite listens to come out of 2010.

Which brings us back to Saturday night; whereas she played her last show at The Horseshoe last November solo, this time Krakus brought along the Autumn Lover ladies string section – Sara Froese on violin, Kelly Wallraff on cello and both on vocals – and a non-lady (read: guy) on upright bass. Yes indeed, there were a lot of f-holes on stage and accordingly, the song selection leaned towards their more old world eastern European roots both in sound and lyrical theme. Now Krakus is a strong solo performer, but it can’t be overstated how much the strings and more crucially, Froese and Wallraff’s harmonies brought to their sound, nor the fact that even though the band configuration meant that most of my favourite songs from Sing were left out of the set, it was still a wholly satisfying performance. Think about that.

Seeing as how Rae Spoon performs solo, it’s more difficult for him to mix things up but even so, it wasn’t the same show as I saw when he play The Rivoli in November 2009. For starters, that show was in support of his mostly-folky and wholly-beautiful Superioryouareinferior and since then, he’s put out the decidedly more electro-dance Love Is A Hunter and picked up an electric guitar. But even plugged in and backed by a laptop, Spoon couldn’t hide his countrified roots and even made the relative failure to completely reinvent himself as a disco maven a recurring joke throughout the set, amongst many other jokes – he had some top-notch comedic material at the ready. That, and a voice of heart-breaking clarity and a brace of great songs were really all he needed for a successful set.

I had been more than a few years since I saw Halifax’s Jenn Grant, celebrating the release of her third album Honeymoon Punch, in a live setting so it’s entirely possible that she’s grown from fronting a basic four-piece band to leading a six-piece keyboard-loaded musical army… but I am guessing not. Nevertheless, she and her bandmates clearly came set to do full justice to the bouncy, synth-heavy pop of her latest effort – a sound which to these ears, at least, suits her the best of the singer-songwriter/adult-contemporary/folk-jazz styles that she’s touched on over the years. The sophisticated flourishes in her singing and songwriting couldn’t be suppressed if you tried, so having them accent big, hooky tunes that match her own natural effervescence sounds like a no-brainer and make for a pretty terrific record.

The show was front-ended with a mix of older and newer material, keeping the dynamic at a fairly steady keel and if anyone in the packed house had not yet heard the new record, it probably would have felt perfectly familiar for the first while. But a solo turn on Punch‘s gentlest moment, the Sarah Harmer-ish “Paradise Mountain”, marked the start of what was basically a recital of the new record; all of it ended up getting aired and that was absolutely fine with me and, it seemed, the rest of the packed house. Care was taken to reproduce as many of the album’s tones and textures as possible – hence the five-part synth orchestra on “Walk Away” and the marching band tom which Grant took great delight in banging around stage for the outro of main set closer “Stars To Waves”. For the encore, there was a cover of Ron Sexsmith’s “Dragonfly On Bay St” and finally her first single “Dreamer”, before calling it a night and capping a performance that affirmed that if Honeymoon Punch makes Jenn Grant a star – as it rightly should – she’s more than ready to take the call.

The Autumn ringers, which is to say local Torontonian musicians, will sit in with Olenka when she opens up for Mark Berube at The Garrison on March 3 and the full and proper Autumn Lovers will be on hand for their Canadian Musicfest showcases, Friday March 11 at 4PM at a venue to be announced and then 8PM that same night at The Drake Underground. The Vancouver Sun, Northern Life and The Georgia Straight have interviews with Rae Spoon. The Waterloo Record and NOW have features on Jenn Grant.

Photos: Jenn Grant, Rae Spoon, Olenka & The Autumn Lovers @ The Horseshoe – February 19, 2011
MP3: Jenn Grant – “Dreamer”
MP3: Rae Spoon – “Death By Elektro”
MP3: Rae Spoon – “You Can Dance”
MP3: Rae Spoon – “Come On Forest Fire” (CPI Remix)
MP3: Rae Spoon – “There Is A Light”
MP3: Rae Spoon – “Come On Forest Fire Burn The Disco Down”
MP3: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers – “Odessa”
Video: Jenn Grant – “Getcha Good”
Video: Jenn Grant – “You’ll Go Far”
Video: Jenn Grant – “Heartbreaker”
Video: Jenn Grant – “Dreamer”
Video: Rae Spoon – “There is a Light (But It’s Not For Everyone)”
Video: Rae Spoon – “Joan”
Video: Rae Spoon – “Love Is A Hunter”

PS I Love You have released a new MP3 that features a little vocal help from compadre Diamond Rings. PS I Love You is at The Garrison on April 7.

MP3: PS I Love You – “Leftovers” (featuring Diamond Rings)

I don’t recall having seen either of these videos by The Besnard Lakes from The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night – maybe you haven’t either.

Video: The Besnard Lakes – “Albatross”
Video: The Besnard Lakes – “And This Is What We Call Progress”

China Shop talks to Stephen Ramsay of Young Galaxy, who are at Lee’s Palace on March 10 and have made a new remix EP available to download for free.

ZIP: Young Galaxy / Cover Your Tracks

The National Post and JAM caught up with members of Arcade Fire in the immediate wake of last week’s big Grammy win, while New York Magazine addresses the whole “never heard of them” reaction that also occurred in the wake of the big Grammy win. The National Post also has an interview with the band about their collaborative short film with Spike Jonze.

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

"The Headmaster Ritual"

Radiohead covers The Smiths

Photo via YouTubeYouTubeThose scamps in Radiohead did it again. After ambushing music fans with their last album In Rainbows, the existence of which was revealed just 10 days before it was put up for sale at a pay-what-you-will price, the band did the same for their new record The King Of Limbs, announcing last Monday that it’d be available to download as of Saturday and then surprising yet again by moving the release ahead 24 hours, allowing fans to devour and digest the eight-song offering as of Friday morning.

The release of In Rainbows was followed almost exactly a month later on November 9, 2007 with a webcast of a live studio performance by the band for producer Nigel Godrich’s From The Basement television series and amidst performances of all of In Rainbows, they threw in a couple of covers that were like manna from heaven for fans of their old pop-structured, guitar-driven sound – one of Joy Division’s “Ceremony” and this one of The Smiths. A reminder that they’re perfectly capable of sounding like their old, twentieth-century selves… they’re simply choosing not to.

It remains to be seen if Radiohead have any such plans to follow The King Of Limbs – history certainly implies that they’ll do something interesting and unexpected, and a fresh world tour seem inevitable. As for The Smiths, the closest they’ve come to a reunion is Morrissey and Marr teaming up to agree that cruelty to animals is bad. The Huffington Post had a chat with former bassist Andy Rourke.

MP3: Radiohead – “The Headmaster Ritual”
Video: Radiohead – “The Headmaster Ritual” (on From The Basement)
Video: The Smiths – “The Headmaster Ritual”