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Archive for March, 2011

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Valhalla Dancehall

British Sea Power and A Classic Education at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFor the first few years of their existence, the British Sea Power live experience had a reputation as something of a spectacle, thanks to their habit of decorating the stage with local foliage and then-keyboardist Eamon Hamilton’s on-stage shenanigans – both of which were in full effect the last time I saw them play a regular-type show in Toronto, way back in May 2005. Both times I’ve seen them since then – a SxSW day show and television taping – weren’t necessarily conducive to indulging in madness though since Hamilton’s departure in early 2006 the bedlam had been toned down somewhat anyways. So it’s a good thing that their records since then – 2008’s Do You Like Rock Music? and this year’s Valhalla Dancehall have easily been solid enough to warrant hearing live even if the band just stood stock still and played, though thankfully they did not.

Though I’d corresponded with A Classic Education frontman Jon Clancy for some years and despite Clancy being an Ontario ex-pat now based in Bologna, Italy, this was the first time they’d made it to Toronto. Probably on account of the fact that they’re based in Bologna, Italy. But I’d managed to see them a couple years ago at SxSW and was impressed with the scope of their musical vision, even if I didn’t think their grasp quite matched their reach yet. Interestingly, in the time since them they’ve seemingly adjusted course to point towards a simpler, more ’50s-influenced style of rock and while their scope still retains some of that grandness, mostly thanks to sophisticated little flourishes in the arrangements, but the delivery is more compact and streamlined and the net result actually suits them better. Interestingly, for as long as they’ve been around there’s still not been a full-length release – their last issue was the Hey There Stranger 12″ EP last year. Hopefully that gets rectified soon.

British Sea Power has certainly grown, both in size and maturity. To the former, multi-instrumentalist Phil Sumner and violinist Abi Fry are now apparently full-fledged band members and to the latter, well they simply don’t get up to the tricks they used to (see above). It’s as though their gawky acting act has transmuted into a sort of stateliness, and accordingly they’re not in any rush to get where they’re going – they know it’ll get there eventually. Which is why it’s sort of alright that the show, like the last couple I’d seen, seemed to start off a bit slowly despite opening with a couple of Valhalla‘s more hopped-up numbers, though the fact that Hamilton had lost his voice and couldn’t take lead on some of the songs as he normally did might have had something to do with it as well.

Still, by the time they hit the Valhalla-era non-album track “Zeus”, they were clearly warmed up. The epic-length track was played with extra vigor and from there on, the second half of the show came with loads more drive than the first – thanks, no doubt, to the inclusion of ragers such as “Spirit Of St. Louis”, “It Ended On An Oily Stage” and “Lights Out For Darker Skies”. The four-song encore brought some dynamics back into it, pairing the anthemic “Waving Flags” and “Carrion” with the more elegiac “The Great Skua” and “All In It”, but the real highlight came with the second encore which revived some of the old-school on-stage anarchy soundtracked by “Apologies To Insect Life”. Antics included but were not limited to Yan giving local “super-fan” Kayvon a ride on his shoulders before doing a reverse double stage dive into the crowd – I hope Kavon was warned of it beforehand – and Noble, who had apparently hit a critical point of inebriation, going for a crowd surf after the song had ended in order to get to the bar as quickly as possible. Okay, maybe British Sea Power haven’t matured that much. Thank goodness.

BBC America has an interview with Martin Noble and NYC Taper is sharing a recording of the New York stop on this tour.

Photos: British Sea Power, A Classic Education @ Lee’s Palace – March 24, 2011
MP3: British Sea Power – “Who’s In Control?”
MP3: British Sea Power – “Living Is So Easy”
MP3: British Sea Power – “Zeus”
MP3: British Sea Power – “Come Wander With Me”
MP3: British Sea Power – “Atom”
MP3: British Sea Power – “Please Stand Up”
MP3: A Classic Education – “Gone To Sea”
MP3: A Classic Education – “I Lost Time”
MP3: A Classic Education – “Toi”
MP3: A Classic Education – “Stay, Son”
Video: British Sea Power – “Who’s In Control”
Video: British Sea Power – “Living Is So Easy”
Video: British Sea Power – “Waving Flags”
Video: British Sea Power – “No Lucifer”
Video: British Sea Power – “Water Tower”
Video: British Sea Power – “Please Stand Up”
Video: British Sea Power – “It Ended On An Oily Stage”
Video: British Sea Power – “Childhood Memories”
Video: British Sea Power – “The Spirit Of St. Louis”
Video: British Sea Power – “Carrion”
Video: British Sea Power – “Remember Me”
Video: A Classic Education – “Gone To Sea”
Video: A Classic Education – “Toi”

Clearly I’m being punished for going to Euro at the end of May. How else to explain the number of excellent tours coming through town while I’m away, which now include 2010 year-end listers Stornoway, who are bringing Beachcomber’s Windowsill back to North America and specifically the El Mocambo, where they dazzled last December, on May 24. Tickets $13.50 in advance.

MP3: Stornoway – “Zorbing”

But the one that really hurts is that Anna Calvi has made good on her promise to make up all the March dates cancelled because of her wrist injury, and the make-up date for Toronto will be May 27, also at the El Mocambo. Funny how I went from potentially seeing her a good number of times across CMW and SxSW to not at all… though it is some consolation that while she’s soundchecking a 10-minute walk from my apartment, I’ll be on the shores of the Mediterranean listening to Pulp. Under The Radar has full tour dates and tickets for the Toronto show are $12 in advance. Paste has an interview and Calvi has just released a new video.

MP3: Anna Calvi – “Blackout”
Video: Anna Calvi – “Blackout”

PJ Harvey has released a couple more videos from Let England Shake. Spinner has an interview with Polly Jean.

Video: PJ Harvey – “England”
Video: PJ Harvey – “The Colour Of The Earth”

It’s session time for Two Door Cinema Club as NPR has them visit The World Cafe and Daytrotter has a set available to download.

Daytrotter has also posted up a session with The Futureheads.

State talks to Rab Allan and Herald Scotland to James Allan of Glasvegas about their new record Euphoric Heartbreak, out next week.

Sons & Daughters have announced their new record Mirror, Mirror will be out on June 14, and based on the first MP3 made available, they’ve gotten as far as possible from the shiny glam of 2008’s This Gift. The Line Of Best Fit has details on the release.

MP3: Sons & Daughters – “Silver Spell”

The Guardian, Gigwise and Metro talk to Patrick Wolf about his new record Lupercalia, due out May 31.

Spin finds out the origins of The Joy Formidable’s name while The Asbury Park Press have an interview and NPR is streaming one of their SxSW sets. They are at The Horseshoe this coming Saturday night, April 2.

The Guardian has a feature piece on Adele, while NPR is streaming a World Cafe session. A couple people in the last few days have asked me how they might go about getting tickets to her May 18 show at the Kool Haus. It made me laugh. Update: And now who’s laughing? The show was just moved to the Air Canada Centre. It it’s a full arena setup, that’s like an eightfold increase in capacity. Even the theatre configuration is like two and a half times the Kool Haus.

Friendly Fires have confirmed a May 16 release date for their second album Pala; Ed Macfarlane speaks briefly to Purple Revolver about the writing process. They play The Phoenix on May 30.

Exclaim has an interview with Liam Gallagher of Beady Eye, who’ve managed to sell out their show at the Sound Academy on June 20. You know they’re not playing any Oasis material, right? No matter how much you plead? Okay, just checking.

DIY, Billboard and BBC talk to Elbow and learn that the band have plans for North American touring later this year (yes!) and collaborator Richard Hawley is currently in the studio working on a new record (yes!).

Brett Anderson of Suede tells NME that the reunited band is working on new material but that it won’t necessarily translate into new recordings.

Radiohead’s new record The King Of Limbs is now streaming in whole at Spinner. They will also be releasing a limited edition 12″ single for Record Store Day, April 16, featuring non-album tracks “Supercollider” and “The Butcher”.

Stream: Radiohead / The King Of Limbs

Clash checks in with Charles Watson of Slow Club about how work is progressing on the duo’s second album.

The Georgia Straight interviews Esben & The Witch.

Spinner talks to Reuben Wu and Clash to Mira Aroyo of Ladytron.

The Quietus profiles Cat’s Eyes, the new project from Faris Badwan of The Horrors and opera singer Rachel Zeffira. Their self-titled debut is due out April 25.

NPR interviews Lykke Li, who is at The Phoenix on May 22. A new track from Wounded Rhymes is available to download.

MP3: Lykke Li – “Youth Knows No Pain”

Clash, Spin and DIY have features on Peter Bjorn & John, whose new record Gimme Some is out now and available to stream. They’re at Lee’s Palace on May 6.

Stream: Peter Bjorn & John / Gimme Some

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

SxSW 2011 Night Two A/V

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe what the what on this evening over here.

The Strokes
– New York’s garage-rock kings return after a half-decade away with Angles and prove they’re still capable of inducing a minor riot. There’s interviews with the band at Exclaim and Spinner while Spin has excerpted a section of this month’s cover story wherein Albert Hammond Jr talks about the extent of his drug problems.
Photos: The Strokes @ Auditorium Shores – March 17, 2011
MP3: The Strokes – “Under Cover Of Darkness”
MP3: The Strokes – “Last Nite”
Video: The Strokes – “Call Me Back”
Video: The Strokes – “Under Cover Of Darkness”
Video: The Strokes – “You Only Live Once”
Video: The Strokes – “Juicebox”
Video: The Strokes – “Reptilia”
Video: The Strokes – “The End Has No End”
Video: The Strokes – “Someday”
Video: The Strokes – “Hard To Explain”
Video: The Strokes – “Last Nite”
Video: The Strokes – “The Modern Age”

I Was Totally Destroying It
– North Carolinan power-pop outfit released their self-titled debut way back in 2007; I’d say they’re about due for something new.
Photos: I Was Totally Destroying It @ Easy Tiger Patio – March 17, 2011
MP3: I Was Totally Destroying It – “Come Out Come Out”

tUnE-yArDs
– The stage name of multi-talented and briefly Canadian Merrell Garbus will release her new record w h o k i l l on April 19. NPR is streaming one of her shows at SxSW and she plays the Horseshoe on May 12
Photos: tUnE-yArDs @ Central Presbyterian Church – March 17, 2011
MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness”
MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Sunlight”
MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Hatari”
Video: tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness”
Video: tUnE-yArDs – “Real Live Flesh”

Chapel Club
– Moody London five-piece released their debut album Palace, one of their former names, back in January. Female First has an interview.
Photos: Chapel Club @ The Bat Bar – March 17, 2011
Video: Chapel Club – “Roads”
Video: Chapel Club – “All The Eastern Girls”
Video: Chapel Club – “O Maybe I”

Oh Land
– Danish electro-pop artist Nanna Øland Fabricius is getting all kinds of attention thanks to her single “Son Of A Gun”. Her second album, a self-titled effort, is available now. The South Florida Gay News has an interview with Fabricius.
Photos: Oh Land @ Buffalo Billiards – March 17, 2011
Video: Oh Land – “Son Of A Gun”

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

SxSW 2011 Day Two A/V

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangCheck out the day’s recap over here.

Emmylou Harris
– legendary country trailblazer who releases her latest album Hard Bargain on April 26.
Photos: Emmylou Harris @ The ACC Radio Day Stage – March 17, 2011
Video: Emmylou Harris – “Not Enough”

Still Corners
– London dreampop band newly signed to Sub Pop will have their debut full-length out before the end of the year.
Photos: Still Corners @ The ACC Dot Com Day Stage – March 17, 2011
MP3: Still Corners – “Cremora”
MP3: Still Corners – “History Of Love”
Video: Still Corners – “Wish”
Video: Still Corners – “Don’t Fall In Love”

DeVotchKa
– Swoony Denver-based Balkan-Mariachi quartet released their new record 100 Lovers earlier this month. Spinner and MSN have interviews with the band, who are at The Mod Club in Toronto on March 30.
Photos: DeVotchKa @ The ACC Radio Day Stage – March 17, 2011
MP3: DeVotchKa – “100 Other Lovers”
MP3: DeVotchKa – “Transliterator”
MP3: DeVotchKa – “Venus In Furs”
MP3: DeVotchKa – “You Love Me”
Video: DeVotchKa – “100 Other Lovers”
Video: DeVotchKa – “All The Sand In All The Sea”
Video: DeVotchKa – “Till The End Of Time”
Video: DeVotchKa – “How It Ends”

The Naked & Famous
– New Wave-ing New Zealanders whose debut Passive Me, Aggressive You, now available domestically, is making waves in North America. Music Snobbery has an interview with the band, who will be at The Phoenix on April 30 in support of Foals.
Photos: The Naked & Famous @ Lustre Pearl – March 17, 2011
Video: The Naked & Famous – “Young Blood”
Video: The Naked & Famous – “Punching In A Dream”
Video: The Naked & Famous – “Girls Like You”
Video: The Naked & Famous – “All Of This”

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Sunken Treasure

Jeff Tweedy and Snowblink at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThis show was a week ago; I think this may actually be my longest delay between witness and writeup ever and, in fact, Jeff Tweedy’s solo tour is just about over. So if you were waiting on some kind of report from opening night at Toronto’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre to decide if it was worth picking up one of the few remaining tickets for a later date… I’m sorry. Sorry that you would allow anything I say or do to influence your decision-making – you know I’m drunk most of the time, right?

But if I had gotten this review up sooner, I could have exhorted everyone going to any of the shows to arrive early enough to catch Snowblink, as local duo had been tapped to open up every show on the tour – maybe those at Wilco HQ had seen my glowing review of their debut Long Live? Either way, even though it was a tremendous opportunity for them, as soon as the lights dimmed it was clear they weren’t just happy to be there. The pair of Daniela Gesundheit and Dan Goldman took the stage carrying lanterns and eventually set up in their own, white cloth-strewn side of the stage – they were going to put on their show. And what a show it was – Gesundheit’s voice was strong and clear and sounded divine in the theatre’s acoustics, and their simple two-guitar arrangements – including an oustanding cover of Springsteen’s “State Trooper” – were subtly embellished with loops, percussion and electronic flourishes. Gesundheit might be a California native, but Toronto now proudly claims her as our own.

Wilco might have last been here as recently as October 2009, but it’s been much, much longer since Jeff Tweedy has come to town with just his acoustic guitars and songbook – so long that Tweedy himself didn’t remember ever having done so. In fact, it had been almost a decade exactly since he played Trinity-St. Paul’s on March 1, 2001, and when reminded of that by the audience he wryly referred to those as “the bad old days”. And while that may have been true for him from both a personal and professional sense, it’s impossible to deny that those were also some of Wilco’s most creatively fertile years, but also an era not often revisited with the full band.

And for about 90 minutes, alone on stage save for a circle of five acoustics and occasional visits from his guitar tech Steve (who was celebrating a birthday), Tweedy would revisit all eras of his career as well as some of his side-projects to air out some songs which would likely never otherwise be heard in these parts. Such as the original, non-Krautrock arrangement of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot b-side “Magazine Called Sunset” or Loose Fur selections “The Ruling Class” and “Chinese Apple”. And of course there were the couple of rare forays into the Uncle Tupelo canon – I know “Gun” would have been too much to hope for, but “Wait Up” was a most certainly welcome and the encore-closing, unamplified “Acuff-Rose” was for the ages. And from Wilco proper, there was a “Poor Places” which I thought turned out better than he seemed to, a rousing “Shot In The Arm” and a new song which has been unofficially dubbed “Open Up Your Mind”.

Considering who the Wilco dynamic has changed with the addition of virtuoso players like Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche, it was good to be reminded that without Tweedy’s songs at the core, beautiful and resonant even stripped down to their essences, it’d all be for naught. Tweedy on his own was also a different sort of performer, more inclined to engage and banter with the audience (and not berate us for not standing up this time), debate grammar, vocabulary and requests and crack more than few jokes, his best being that which accompanied the photographic evidence of his visit to local Wilco-themed sandwich shop Sky Blue Sky, and to which he added they “seemed a little safe – why not try some mulch, tinsel or fibreglass?”.

With a new Wilco album likely due out in the Summer, it’s a pretty safe bet that Tweedy will be back with his cohorts in tow for another couple nights at Massey Hall. And it’ll be expansive and filled with amazing musicianship, no doubt, but that just makes simple shows like this one all the more special.

The Toronto Sun, The National Post, The Globe & Mail and Chart were all in attendance; three out of four dentists agreed it was a great show.

Photos: Jeff Tweedy, Snowblink @ The Queen Elizabeth Theatre – March 22, 2011
MP3: Wilco – “What Light”
MP3: Wilco – “Spiders” (live)
MP3: Snowblink – “Ambergris”
MP3: Snowblink – “The Tired Bees”
Video: Wilco – “What Light”
Video: Wilco – “Outtasite (Outta Mind)”
Video: Wilco – “Box Full Of Letters”
Video: Wilco – “I Must Be High”
Video: Snowblink – “Ambergris”
Video: Snowblink – “The Haunt”

From the ashes of The Broken West and to The Drake Underground comes Pasadena’s Apex Manor; Ross Flournoy’s new band will be opening up for Jonny on June 3 and 4. Their debut The Year Of Magical Drinking is out now.

MP3: Apex Manor – “Under The Gun”

With the May 10 release date of their new record Burst Apart not really all that far off, The Antlers have put together a North American tour that includes a June 14 stop at The Mod Club with Little Scream supporting. She had to bail on the last few dates of her tour with Sharon Van Etten, including the April 12 date at The Drake, to go to Europe with Junip so this will be her next local date. Not that you needed the extra incentive to go see The Antlers, of course. The band performed the whole of the new record live at SxSW and NPR has the stream.

MP3: The Antlers – “Two”

There were here no less than four times last year, and they’re totally coming back for more – that’s Phantogram, and they’ll be at 69 Bathurst on July 28 in the company of The Glitch Mob.

MP3: Phantogram – “When I’m Small”

The Village Voice talks to Amy Klein of Titus Andronicus, who are in town for a show at The Horseshoe on April 1 and again on June 10 at The Phoenix supporting Okkervil River.

Exclaim, Billboard, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and Mother Jones all have features on The Mountain Goats. Their new record All Eternals Deck is out now and they’re at The Opera House on April 3.

MP3: The Mountain Goats – “The Age Of Kings”

Blurt, The Huffington Post, Fogged Clarity, Los Angeles Times and The Von Pip Musical Express have profiles of Wye Oak, in town at The El Mocambo on April 9.

Sharon Van Etten is featured in The Phoenix New Times, Spin and Georgia Straight while NPR is streaming one of her SxSW performances. She’s at The Drake Underground on April 12, and yes that’s her doing backing vocals on The National’s contribution to the soundtrack for the film Win Win, which is now available to download.

MP3: The National – “Think You Can Wait”

Spinner, Pedestrian TV and Vanity Fair have interviews with The Kills, whose new record Blood Pressures is out next week. NPR is streaming one of their SxSW performances so you know what to expect when they hit The Sound Academy on May 1. The new album is also streaming in whole at their website.

Stream: The Kills / Blood Pressures

Low have made available a new MP3 from their forthcoming C’Mon, which is out April 12. They’re at The Mod Club on May 2 with Memoryhouse supporting.

MP3: Low – “Especially Me”

CNN has an interview with Shonna Tucker of Drive-By Truckers, who have a date at The Phoenix on June 15.

PopMatters and Blurt have interviews with The Dodos, who’ve put out a new video from No Color. They’re at The Phoenix on June 16 for NXNE.

Video: The Dodos – “Black Night”

Exclaim reports that My Morning Jacket have assigned a May 31 release date for their new record Circuital. They will be at The Kool Haus on July 11 to support.

Metro Pulse talks high fidelity with Asobi Seksu.

Paste and Blurt have interviews with J Masics, who has released a new Chad Van Gaalen-directied video from Several Shades Of Why

Video: J Mascis – “Not Enough”

MTV Hive has an interview with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes while NPR is streaming their show from Auditorium Shores at SxSW.

NOW interviewed those involved with the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour that rolled through town a few weeks back, while NYC Taper has a recording of one of the New York shows.

eye and The Georgia Straight check in with Warpaint.

The Los Angeles Times, Spinner, The Boot, The Telegraph and Publishers Weekly all talk to Steve Earle about I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, which is both the name of his new record, out April 26, and first novel, out May 12.

Rolling Stone chats with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who has set a June target for their second record.

Spinner, The Phoenix and The Fly have interviews with Buffalo Tom.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart discuss their new record Belong with The Line Of Best Fit, The University Observer, Jambands and Exclaim. And oh hey new video.

Video: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “Heart In Your Heartbreak”

Pitchfork pays tribute to the hanging-it-up LCD Soundsystem with an exhaustive analysis of the band’s catalog. Seriously, it’s exhausting.

Austinist and The Huffington Post interview Liz Phair.

NYC Taper has posted a recording of Yo La Tengo’s show at Maxwell’s in New Jersey last week.

NPR doubles up on The Head & The Heart, streaming both one of their SxSW sets and a World Cafe session. The Big Takeover has an interview with the band, whose self-titled debut gets a reissue on April 16.

Monday, March 28th, 2011

SxSW 2011 Night One A/V

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFull writeup of the evening’s itinerary over here.

Yuck
– Hotly-tipped band of London youngsters who channel the spirit of the ’90s, evoking the likes of Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur Jr and Pavement on their self-titled debut. The Line Of Best Fit and Dirty Laundry have video sessions and The National an interview with the band, who open up for Tame Impala at The Phoenix on May 1. NPR has a stream of the Stubb’s show.
Photos: Yuck @ Stubb’s- March 16, 2011
MP3: Yuck – “Get Away”
MP3: Yuck – “Georgia”
MP3: Yuck – “Automatic”
MP3: Yuck – “Daughter”
MP3: Yuck – “Coconut Bible”
Video: Yuck – “Get Away”
Video: Yuck – “Holing Out”

James Blake
– the current face of dubstep and electro-soul just released his self-titled debut and will be touring North America in May. His May 14 date at The Rivoli in Toronto was just moved to Lee’s Palace, allowing another 300 or so people to either swoon or not get it. Pitchfork has a feature interview with Blake and NPR is streaming the performance from Stubb’s.
Photos: James Blake @ Stubb’s – March 16, 2011
MP3: James Blake – “To Care (Like You)”
Video: James Blake – “The Wilhelm Scream”
Video: James Blake – “Limit To Your Love”

Now, Now
– Minnesota power-pop trio who recently dropped the “Every Children” from their name and the Neighbours EP. A new full-length is being recorded and should be out this year.
Photos: Now Now @ The Parish Underground – March 16, 2011
MP3: Now, Now – “Neighbors”
MP3: Now, Now – “Roommates”
MP3: Now, Now Every Children – “Everyone You Know”
MP3: Now, Now Every Children – “Sleep Through Summer”
MP3: Now, Now Every Children – “Cars”
Video: Now, Now Every Children – “Friends With My Sister”

Clock Opera
– grandiose electro-rock from London with enormous upside; currently only releasing singles but should be due out an album sometime this year.
Photos: Clock Opera @ The Bat Bar – March 16, 2011
MP3: Clock Opera – “Once And For All”
Video: Clock Opera – “Once And For All”
Video: Clock Opera – “White Noise”

Ellie Goulding
– Declared the BBC Sound of 2010, the young English “folktronica” artist is seeking to break into America, releasing her debut Lights domestically earlier this month and touring the continent. The Baltimore Sun and The Big Issue have interviews.
Photos: Ellie Goulding @ The Bat Bar – March 16, 2011
Video: Ellie Goulding – “Your Song”
Video: Ellie Goulding – “The Writer”
Video: Ellie Goulding – “Starry Eyed”

Summer Camp
– London duo whose sense of nostalgia for the ’80s is matched only by their ability to craft perfect retro pop tunes, as evidenced by last year’s Young EP.
Photos: Summer Camp @ Latitude 30 – March 16, 2011
MP3: Summer Camp – “Ghost Train”
Video: Summer Camp – “Ghost Train”