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Archive for June, 2011

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

CONTEST – Joel Plaskett / EMERGENCYs, false alarms, shipwrecks, castaways, fragile creatures, special features, demons and demonstrations

Image via New ScotlandNew ScotlandJoel Plaskett is something akin to a national treasure to those who place great value on things like classically-styled, distinctly Canadian-flavoured pop-rock songwriting and Plaskett has hardly been shy about keeping his creative riches to himself. Over a seventeen-year career, reaching back to the first Thrush Hermit EP and through his work fronting The Emergency and under his own name solo, he’s released at least eight proper albums and more EPs, the most recent of which – Three – was a triple-disc set.

And yet for all of the material that he’s released officially, countless more has remained in the vaults – at least until now. Plaskett has just released EMERGENCYs, false alarms, shipwrecks, castaways, fragile creatures, special features, demons and demonstrations, compilation of demos, outtakes and whatnot culled from his post-Thrush Hermit works – those cupboards were cleared last year – that does a good job of reinforcing just how consistent a talent Plaskett is; though the material contained within spans a decade, it all hangs together very nicely and feels far from a collection of cast-offs.

The compilation is available either digitally or in an LP/CD combo package, with the wax providing a home to a dozen tracks and the compact disc containing all those and another eight, and courtesy of Pigeon Row, I’ve got two of these LP/CD sets to give away. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want the Joel Plaskett” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address in the body. Contest is open to residents of Canada and will close at midnight, July 1.

Exclaim talks to Plaskett about looking back and what comes next.

MP3: Joel Plaskett – “When I Go”
Stream: Joel Plaskett / EMERGENCYs, false alarms, shipwrecks, castaways, fragile creatures, special features, demons and demonstrations

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

CONTEST – Sianspheric & Ringo Deathstarr @ The Garrison – June 30, 2011

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWho: Sianspheric and Ringo Deathstarr
What: One is a long-running (with some breaks) psych/space rock veterans from Hamilton; the other an up-and-coming trio of MBV devotees from Austin
Why: Because you’re tired of being able to hear? Sianspheric are a decade on from their last album The Sound of the Colour of the Sun but their rare live shows are alway worth getting mobilized for. And Ringo Deathstarr, besides rocking a great name, have a solidly-received debut in Colour Trip that amps up the pop aspects of the shoegaze scene without compromising any of the sonic impact.
When: Thursday, June 30, 2011
Where: The Garrison in Toronto (19+)
How: Tickets are $10 in advance but courtesy of Sonic Unyon, I’ve got two pairs of passes to the show to give away and as a bonus, a copy of Colour Trip on CD for each winner. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to see Sianspheric” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, June 27.
What else: The Georgia Straight and Soundspike have Ringo Deathstarr features.

MP3: Sianspheric – “All This Happened”
MP3: Ringo Deathstarr – “Imagine Hearts”

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Different Gear, Still Speeding

Beady Eye at The Sound Academy in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIf it were possible to discuss Beady Eye and their debut album Different Gear, Still Speeding based strictly on their musical merits and not their backstory, then it would be a fairly short conversation: alright-enough Brit-rock, hardly re-inventing the wheel. But taking into account that the band comprises 4/5 of the final lineup of Oasis, less chief songwriter Noel Gallagher, extra scrutiny is unavoidable. Which is unfortunate since despite the band’s – well, Liam Gallagher’s – insistence that they’re going to be the biggest band in the world, they don’t aspire to much more than solid, meat-and-potatoes rock’n’roll. And in that, especially considering the younger Gallagher’s rather unspectacular songwriting efforts in Oasis, Different Gear is surprisingly decent, with a good dose of swagger and energy and thankfully fewer than expected cringe-worthy lyrics. After all, Liam has never pretended there was a poet underneath the gruff exterior; Noel was the sensitive one.

While Beady Eye have hardly set the world ablaze with their debut, they found it worthwhile to bring it across the Atlantic for their first North American tour starting this past weekend in Chicago and landing in Toronto’s Sound Academy on Monday night. It would be the first time Liam would take a stage here since Oasis’ final assault-interrupted performance at V Fest 2008, and clearly the faithful had been waiting – the giant Union Jack flag waving from the balcony and random chants of “Liam!” a few of the signs that the band were on friendly turf. And really, it’s a rare sort of crowd who sings along en masse to The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” over the PA, isn’t it? When the lights dimmed a few minutes later than the scheduled start time – it wouldn’t have done to not let the final bars of The Stone Roses’ “I Am The Resurrection” not ring out, after all – the cheers went up and out strode Liam Gallagher in appropriately ridiculous Union Jack topcoat and his more conservatively dressed compatriots and we were away.

Opening with “Four Letter Word”, Gallagher in his familiar nose-on-the-mic, arms-behind-his-back post and picking lyrics off a teleprompter, the first thing you noticed was that they were loud. More specifically, Gallagher was loud – heinously so. It was as if his monitor mix was being fed into the house by accident, so much louder were his vocals than the band that it was like hearing someone singing at the top of their lungs to music playing on their earphones. Thankfully within a few songs it was sorted somewhat – or fleeing to the back of the venue made the difference – and the remainder of the set was entertaining in a steady head-nodding sense. Each song from Different Gear as well as a couple of non-album tracks and one new composition was aired out, each with its own staging and adhering closely to their studio versions. And while it obviously wasn’t the context I’d ideally like to have seen, it was good to see Andy Bell back on guitar and taking a few solos in person.

Without that much material on hand and a sworn oath to not delve into the Oasis songbook, it wasn’t surprising that the main set was over in less than an hour, closing with “Champagne Supernova”-like psychedelic slow jam “The Morning Son” before returning for a two-song encore that brought the show to a respectable length. Throughout, Gallagher conducted himself with an interesting combination of confidence and humility, as though he still believed that he was fronting the best band in the world but understood that he had to prove it; this solid showing was a good start. Will Beady Eye, as their song declares, “stand the test of time like The Beatles and The Stones”? Not likely, to be honest, but at least they’ve bought themselves some of that time to get there.

Metro, The Grid and Shortlist have typically entertaining interviews with Gallagher and his bandmates. Chart, examiner.com and JAM also have reviews of the show.

Photos: Beady Eye @ The Sound Academy – June 20, 2011
MP3: Beady Eye – “The Roller”
Video: Beady Eye – “Millionaire”
Video: Beady Eye – “Four Letter Word”
Video: Beady Eye – “Bring The Light”

Loads of new videos making their way across the pond over the last few days. Let’s sum up.

Amor de Dias has a new clip from Street Of The Love Of Days. Alasdair MacLean and Lupe Núñez-Fernández are also playing guest editor this week at Magnet starting with a Q&A and submitted a guest list of inspirations to Critical Mob.

Video: Amor de Dias – “Wild Winter Trees”

The latest single from Anna Calvi also comes with a video.

Video: Anna Calvi – “Desire”

The previously mailing-list-sign-up-only video for the new Slow Club single is now available for all to see. It comes from their second album Paradise, which is out September 12 – NME has details.

Video: Slow Club – “Two Cousins”

Friendly Fires have confirmed their Fall North American tour which includes the make-up for the cancelled Toronto show, now taking place October 23 at The Phoenix. The Georgia Straight and Black Book have interviews with the band and oh yeah, there’s a new video from Pala.

Video: Friendly Fires – “Hawaiian Air”

Yuck have a new, kind of disturbing clip from their self-titled debut. RTE has an interview with the band.

Video: Yuck – “Shook Down”

The new clip from Noah & The Whale’s Last Night On Earth is appropriately slick and cinematic. And nice dance moves, Charlie. Creative Loafing has an interview.

Video: Noah & The Whale – “Life Is Life”

The Joy Formidable’s Big Roar has yielded a new video, which proves their affection for ’90s alt.rock extends to video aesthetic.

Video: The Joy Formidable – “A Heavy Abacus”

It’s not a proper promo clip, but people will still want to see this live video of Radiohead performing a new, non-album track. It’s taken from their upcoming From The Basement webcast, which I believe will be aired on July 1.

Video: Radiohead – “Staircase” (live)

Some news from components of Blur; Clash checks in with Graham Coxon on the state of his next record while The Guardian has a feature on the many projects of Damon Albarn, including an opera about John Dee and a tease about possible North American Blur dates next year – hello Coachella?

Summer Camp have turned to Pledge Music to garner financing for their debut album, and have put together some very neat and entertaining rewards for various pledge levels. The real reward, of course, will be a record of wonderful pop music like the track “Nobody Knows You”, which they’re trading for your email address, but if you want to walk away with Jeremy Warmsley’s bass guitar, well that can happen too. Clash talks to Elizabeth Sankey about the new album and fundraising efforts.

Clash quizzes Emmy The Great about this, that and the other thing.

Laura Marling has announced the September 13 release of her third album A Creature I Don’t Know. She talks to Spin a bit about what to expect and The Line Of Best Fit has more specifics. The record is already available to pre-order.

Bella Union has announced details on the debut album from Newcastle’s Lanterns On The Lake, who rather beguiled at SXSW. Gracious Tide, Take Me Home will be out on September 19 in the UK – the first MP3 from it is available to have and the hold now.

MP3: Lanterns On The Lake – “You’re Almost There”

The Quietus talks to The Horrors and gets a track-by-track breakdown of their new record Skying, due out July 12. They play Lee’s Palace on September 27.

Spinner, HitFix and The Mirror talk to Guy Garvey of Elbow, finally coming back to town for a show at the Sound Academy on September 28.

Pitchfork filmed a short James Blake film at Primavera last month; Blake is at The Phoenix on September 30.

The Daily Record asks Glasvegas frontman James Allan where he’s living nowadays while Rab Allan talks to Metro.

Spin is streaming a second preview track from the new Ladytron album Gravity The Seducer, due out September 13.

Billboard, BBC and The Quietus talk to Patrick Wolf about his new record Lupercalia while The Fly has an acoustic courtyard session with the artist.

Interview interviews Kate Bush.

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

NXNE 2011 Day Four

Horse Feathers, Louise Burns, Cults and more at NXNE

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOne perennial highlight – okay, for two years – of my SXSW adventures was throwing day parties where we could invite Japanese Action Comic Punk outfit Peelander-Z to wreak havoc. So it was nice to see that not only were the Peelanders in town for NXNE, but they had an all-ages afternoon show scheduled at Sneaky Dee’s on the Saturday.

I guess Toronto’s still getting used to the idea of having shows when it’s still daylight out, because the gig was only attended by a few dozen – including some kids in cute homemade Peelander t-shirts – but I suspect that even faced with an audience of one, Peelander-Z would give it their all (and make said individual very uncomfortable). The show was a little different from when they were here in September, with Peelander Pink a little more involved in the proceedings and a dance number at the end, but the chewy centre was classic Peelander with human bowling, band swapping and squid costume jump rope/limbo line amongst other shenanigans. Tonnes of fun, but I couldn’t help wondering how insane it would have been if they’d been put on at Yonge-Dundas Square, with its throngs of unsuspecting bystanders and eminently climbable stage. Maybe next time.

Spinner has a surprisingly coherent interview with Peelander Yellow.

Photos: Peelander-Z @ Sneaky Dee’s – June 18, 2011
MP3: Peelander-Z – “Tacos Tacos Tacos”
MP3: Peelander-Z – “E-I-E-I-O”
MP3: Peelander-Z – “S.T.E.A.K.”
MP3: Peelander-Z – “Rocket Gold Star”
MP3: Peelander-Z – “Champion”
MP3: Peelander-Z – “Panda Punk”
Video: Peelander-Z – “E-I-E-I-O”
Video: Peelander-Z – “Ninja High Schooool”
Video: Peelander-Z – “S.T.E.A.K.”
Video: Peelander-Z – “Mad Tiger”

Bridging the day and night programming at Yonge-Dundas Square was uber-buzz band of the hour, New York’s Cults. I’d seen them last Summer when their hype was still more of the underground variety and been somewhat underwhelmed, appreciating the style of what they were doing and some of their songs but overall felt that they were still too green to be touring the continent. Fast forward a year and their self-titled debut is garnering decent reviews and me? Still not overly impressed. Their onstage presence is better, but Madeline Follin still looks uncomfortable as a frontwoman, though maybe she was just unaccustomed to such a large stage in daylight. In any case the songs were more fully-realized and the audience was certainly responsive though anyone looking for electricity would be left wanting. Don’t get me wrong – they’re fine and all, but I find the raves they’re getting disproportionate to what they’re actually doing. And once again, I would like to point out that sadly departed Saturday Looks Good To Me did the Motown/retro-pop revival thing SO much better and more interestingly not that long ago. Every Night, people. Every. Night.

NOW, New York Magazine and NPR have feature pieces on Cults.

Photos: Cults @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 18, 2011
MP3: Cults – “Go Outside”
MP3: Cults – “Most Wanted”
Video: Cults – “Abducted”
Video: Cults – “Oh My God”

I encouraged everyone to make Louise Burns’ Saturday gig a must-see on their schedule, and considering that between that post and the show her debut Mellow Drama was also long-listed for the Polaris, I assumed that it’d be standing-room only in Supermarket’s back room and while a decently-sized crowd showed up, sitting or even lying down was also an option. This is what you get for being scheduled against DEVO, I guess. Still, Burns and her band The Moonshiners – five players including backing vocalist – impressed those who were there with a solid set that proved that despite the innate twang of her voice, pigeonholing Burns as a retro/rootsy-type artist is really insufficient – in fact the combination of Burns’ deftly melodic basslines and the dual chiming Telecasters had me drawing Smiths comparisons; I’ll wager anything that she’s got a healthy collection of ’80s Anglo-indie at home. I’ll also wager that Burns’ star will continue to rise over the coming months – excess elbow room at her shows will not be a problem.

Photos: Louise Burns @ Supermarket – June 18, 2011
MP3: Louise Burns – “What Do You Wanna Do?”
MP3: Louise Burns – “Drop Names Not Bombs”
Video: Louise Burns – “What Do You Wanna Do?”

The final night of NXNE had no shortage of high-profile shows sure to draw big crowds and fill up early. Which is why I opted to avoid all of them and camp out in the cozy underground shelter of The Dakota Tavern to wind out the festival. Traffic woes – even on a bike – meant it took longer to get from A to B than it should have, but I still made it in time to catch most of the Smoke Fairies’ set. The London-based duo play English folk with American blues undertones built around haunting haunting harmonies and intertwined guitar lines; though quite young, they made a convincingly old sound. In between songs from their new record Through Low Light And Trees, they offered stories about being stoned on Nyquil, disturbing Ben Mulroney and visitng island petting zoos. Entertaining? Rather.

Photos: Smoke Fairies @ The Dakota Tavern – June 18, 2011
MP3: Smoke Fairies – “Strange Moon Rising”
Video: Smoke Fairies – “Living With Ghosts”
Video: Smoke Fairies – “Hotel Room”
Video: Smoke Fairies – “Strange Moon Rising”
Video: Smoke Fairies – “Frozen Heart”

I didn’t know much about the next act, Portland’s Horse Feathers, save for that they were on Kill Rock Stars and presumably decent. That would prove to be the understatement of the festival. The quartet, led by singer-songwriter Justin Ringle put on a jaw-droppingly beautful showcase of dramatically orchestrated country/folk music, the dexterity of which was remarkable for the delicacy of the arrangements. There was no way that something so intricate should have carried so much weight, and yet it did. A pity it wasn’t quite breathtaking enough to shut up some of the talkers who insisted on jabbering throughout the set, but even they couldn’t ruin the performance. Easily one of the discoveries of the festival and you can bet I now own a copy of last year’s Thistled Spring.

Photos: Horse Feathers @ The Dakota Tavern – June 18, 2011
MP3: Horse Feathers – “Thistled Spring”
MP3: Horse Feathers – “Curs In The Weeds”
MP3: Horse Feathers – “Belly Of June”
MP3: Horse Feathers – “Drain You”
Video: Horse Feathers – “Belly Of June”
Video: Horse Feathers – “Curs In The Weeds”

North Dakota’s Secret Cities were the main band that I had wanted to come to The Dakota to see, but by this point I’d rather forgotten that. Their set, showcasing their new record Strange Hearts, did a good job of reminding me of that fact. The recorded versions of their songs happily exist in a fuzzy, mid-fi state, reminiscent of the heyday of the Elephant 6, but live things have a more necessary clarity and considerably more volume, thanks to clattering double drums, layered vocals, and hooks a-plenty. A melange of almost every pop styling imaginable, they ably offset proggier inclinations with a genial goofiness and general all-around charm.

Photos: Secret Cities @ The Dakota Tavern – June 18, 2011
MP3: Secret Cities – “The Park”
MP3: Secret Cities – “Boyfriends”
MP3: Secret Cities – “Luv Crime”
MP3: Secret Cities – “On Holiday”
MP3: Secret Cities – “Bright Teeth”
MP3: Secret Cities – “PG Pt 1”
MP3: Secret Cities – “Pink City”
Video: Secret Cities – “Always Friends”
Video: Secret Cities – “Pink City”

And closing the festival out were locals New Country Rehab who, as their name might imply, were a pretty much down-home country band who didn’t need a festival as an excuse to play a honky-tonk like The Dakota. Opening with a cover of Springsteen’s “State Trooper”, they took an obvious respect for traditional country, infused with some fresh energy to say nothing of ridiculous musicianship and stopped just short of entering alt.country/country-rock territory. Just enough to get the people dancing, which they most surely did. I stuck around long enough to enjoy their take on Creedence’s “Effigy” and then called it a day/night/festival. THAT’S IT.

Spinner has an interview with the band.

Photos: New Country Rehab @ The Dakota Tavern – June 18, 2011
MP3: New Country Rehab – “Angel Of Death”

As I wrap up this year’s NXNE coverage, a few pre-festival interviews that I missed earlier, all courtesy of Torontoist – this one with The Balconies, this one with Olenka & The Autumn Lovers and this one with Snowblink.

Details on the first official Memoryhouse release from SubPop have been revealed, and it’s not going to be their debut album. Instead, their debut EP The Years has been rerecorded, remixed and remastered and had a couple extra tracks added on; it will be given wide release on September 13, presumably pushing their proper debut album back until 2012.

MP3: Memoryhouse – “Modern, Normal”

Ohbijou have announced details of their third album, entitled Metal Meets and due out on September 27. Exclaim has details and a teaser video.

NPR welcomes The Rural Alberta Advantage to their studios for a World Cafe session while Metro offers up an interview.

Chart talks to Jay Ferguson of Sloan.

There doesn’t look like there’ll be any Olympic Island concerts this year, but a just-announced free show from Sarah Harmer, Serena Ryder and Skydiggers on July 16 on Centre Island is nothing to shake a stick at. It’s part of Parks Day, presented by Parks Canada, and is – as mentioned – free. Your tax dollars at work!

Video: Sarah Harmer – “Captive”
Video: Serena Ryder – “Little Bit Of Red”
Video: Skydiggers – “I Will Give You Everything”

The Boot talks to Neil Young about his just-released archival release A Treasure.

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

NXNE 2011 Day Three

Dum Dum Girls, Diamond Rings, Stars and more at NXNE

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOne crucial way that NXNE has become more like its bigger, cooler acronym-a-like cousin SXSW is the increase of day shows to go along with the official evening showcases. Of course, I didn’t actually go to any of these new daytime events – the only afternoon party I hit up was one that had been happening for the last few years, the Kelp Records BBQ at the Global Village hostel, this year co-presented by the Brits at The Line Of Best Fit. After all – they had free food, cheap drinks and a solid lineup of bands. What else does a body need?

And as a bonus, I was able to catch a couple bands that otherwise would have required more hopping around in the night time. First up were The Elwins, an almost distressingly young outfit from the suburban wilds north of Toronto. Distressing because for all their fresh-faced earnestness, they possessed a polished and sophisticated pop sensibility that artists many years their elder would be envious of (and they just generally made me feel old). Hearing the amount of detail and ingenuity that had gone into their songs, you’d be tempted to think there was some pop genius sven gali behind them but I suspect that it’s all them and that’s remarkable. Their debut album And I Thank You is finished but, I believe, looking for a home. It deserves one.

BlogTO chatted with the band pre-fest. They play the Silver Dollar on July 21.

Photos: The Elwins @ Global Village – June 17, 2011
MP3: The Elwins – “Time To Kill Time”

I’d seen Saskatchewan’s Slow Down, Molasses and heard their debut I’m An Old Believer back in Fall 2009 and filed them into the ever-growing “has great potential, not there yet” file in my mind. With the release of their second album Walk Into The Sea, I was happy to move them up into the far more spacious “definitely getting there” section of my grey matter. It’s still unquestionably roots rock at its core but the band are able to take it into less-travelled territory, getting noisier where necessary but remaining heartfelt and melodic. And when you’re able to go from twang to a My Bloody Valentine cover and do it well, as this six-piece did whilst crammed into the tiny stage area set up on the hostel’s patio, then you’re onto something.

Photos: Slow Down, Molasses @ Global Village – June 17, 2011
MP3: Slow Down, Molasses – “Late Night Radio”
MP3: Slow Down, Molasses – “I’m An Old Believer”

From the laid back patio shows, things went to the mainstage at Yonge-Dundas for what became a sort of Polaris Prize sampler, with all three acts having been named to the long list the day before. Leading off was Diamond Rings, whom in my mind I’d seen a million times but in fact had not since SXSW 2010 – well over a year. And while there’s only so many changes a solo act can make to their stage show, there were a few notable changes. While it was still just John O’Regan, his keyboard and his guitar, the unicorn tapestry which used to grace his front of the former had been traded in for a more professional “Diamond Rings” banner and oh yeah, he was playing in front of thousands of people. The relentless touring and becoming BFFs with Robyn has clearly paid off because the response that Diamond Rings was getting from the decidedly younger-skewing audience was entering teen idol territory. And unsurprisingly, the show was more polished than I’d ever seen it, incorporating bigger beats, some sweet dance sequences and just generally more crowd-pleasing. I’d always thought there was a limit to how much O’Regan could do with the Diamond Rings persona, but maybe I was wrong.

Diamond Rings has just announced a tour with Twin Shadow, that includes a date at The Mod Club on October 3, tickets $15 in advance.

Photos: Diamond Rings @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 17, 2011
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Wait And See”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Show Me Your Stuff”
Video: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Wait & See”

Land Of Talk and I got our start at this very festival five years ago and while it’s only two and a half kilometers or so from The Boat in Kensington to Yonge-Dundas Square, the figurative distance covered by the band in that time is far greater. Long-gone is the scrappy power trio that wowed me so long ago, replaced by a five-piece band – six if you count Gentleman Reg in his Light Fires guise of “Regina Gentlelady” on backing vox for a few songs – and including Snailhouse’s Mike Feuerstack on guitar; certainly not the same players as last September at Lee’s. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to remember the last time I saw Land Of Talk with the same lineup twice in a row – the only constant being frontwoman Liz Powell. In any case, this was easily the largest setting I’d seen the band in and it was satisfying to see just how well their tense and yearning songs were able to scale up in presentation, helped no doubt by the three-guitar attack. It wasn’t their tightest show, but even so there was plenty of impact to be felt.

Photos: Land Of Talk @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 17, 2011
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Swift Coin”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “May You Never”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Corner Phone”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
Video: Land Of Talk – “It’s Okay”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Troubled”
Video: Land Of Talk – “The Man Who Breaks Things (Dark Shuffle)”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”

Stars had graduated to playing this size of show for a while now, so it wasn’t surprising that their show was tight and polished, not unlike their music itself. Stars have hit on a winning formula in crafting their romantic, synth-tinged pop and while it can get a bit samey over the big picture, on a song by song basis, it’s hard to argue with their effectiveness – songs like “Ageless Beauty”, “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” and “Reunion” are pretty much post-millenial Can-rock classics, and for good reason. The thousands packing the square were certainly happy to eat it all up as well, from the tossing of roses into the crowd to Torquil Campbell playing up the Montreal-based band’s Toronto roots. For a free fan- and family-friendly show on a warm Summer’s evening, you couldn’t really ask for anything more.

Spinner has an interview with Torq Campbell.

Photos: Stars @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 17, 2011
MP3: Stars – “Going, Going, Gone”
MP3: Stars – “Fixed”
MP3: Stars – “We Don’t Want Your Body”
MP3: Stars – “The Night Starts Here”
MP3: Stars – “Ageless Beauty”
MP3: Stars – “On Peak Hill”
Video: Stars – “We Don’t Want Your Body”
Video: Stars – “Fixed”
Video: Stars – “The Night Starts Here”
Video: Stars – “Take Me To The Riot”
Video: Stars – “Reunion”
Video: Stars – “Ageless Beauty”
Video: Stars – “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”
Video: Stars – “Elevator Love Letter”

Done with the big stage for the evening, it was off to hit the clubs starting with Rancho Relaxo. There it was Volcano Playground, who impressed with their potential at the Wintergaze show back in December; I was quite interested to see how much further they’d come in the past six months. The answer: some ways. There was a lot of instrument swapping but the transitions were smoother than last time and didn’t disrupt the flow of hte show. Opening with a moody drone, they played a shortish set of spacey pop that didn’t sound distracted, kept moving by a heavy rhythmic element. At their best, they sounded reminiscent of Slowdive if they’d mixed the ideas of Pygmalion and Souvlaki and gotten a lot heavier, and when not at their best the potential of what they might do was still evident. I’m happy to keep them on my, “keep a solid eye on” list.

Their next show is July 10 at The Garrison.

Photos: Volcano Playground @ Rancho Relaxo – June 17, 2011
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Waiting”
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Anywhere”

At this point, my original plan had been to call it an early night for lack of anything I particularly wanted to see in the immediate area I was in. But when the Twitters brought word that one of the secret guest slots which peppered the schedule was going to be filled by the Dum Dum Girls, whom I’d resigned myself to missing, and that said show was happening across the street from where I was – albeit two hours hence – I had to stick it out. And sit through Rusty. OK, I suppose I could have just sat outside on the curb for a couple hours, read a magazine, but instead I opted to take in a ’90s Can-rock reunion that god knows I never asked for. If it’s not clear, I’d never been a fan of the band when they were MuchMusic/CFNY staples but clearly many others were, because the ElMo was packed with thirtysomething bro-types who were stoked – the only word to describe it – for their heroes’ return. And to be fair, they sounded pretty good considering that none of them (I think) carried on in music in any meaningful way after their dissolution over a decade ago. Though shorn of his signature dreadlocks, Ken MacNeil was still in pretty good voice (or as good as his raspy style required) and they collectively were pretty tight – a benefit, I suppose, of not having especially complex material to relearn. But they showed a good sense of humour about their age and the reunion and seemed genuinely grateful that their fans were still there.

Photos: Rusty @ The El Mocambo – June 17, 2011
Video: Rusty – “Empty Cell”

“Are you ready for us?” Dee-Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls was talking to the sound guy, but could easily have been addressing the couple hundred or so who’d stayed up till 2AM to see them play a second set of the night, following their sold-out appearance at Lee’s Palace earlier on. Cramming a busload of tunes into a half hour set, Dum Dum Girls proved why they were a cut above the other bands currently riding the girl-group/garage-pop wave – besides the most impeccable stage outfits, impressive musicianship and an innate coolness that just can’t be faked, they’ve got terrific songs that would be standouts in any production aesthetic. And they’ve got great friends, as proven when Crocodiles, fronted by Dee-Dee’s husband Brandon Welchez, popped by following their own set at the Silver Dollar across the street and offered both a 40 of whiskey and their services as backing dancers for their last song. Totally worth staying up for.

Photos: Dum Dum Girls @ The El Mocambo – June 17, 2011
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “He Gets Me High”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “D.A.L.”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “He Gets Me High”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”

Spinner talks to Nicole Atkins about her latest video, which they’re also conveniently premiering. Brightest Young Things also has an interview while The Herald-Citizen talks to her about her Bonnaroo experience.

Video: Nicole Atkins – “My Baby Don’t Lie”

Similarly, Spinner has the new video from and a conversation with Alela Diane, who will be at Massey Hall on July 14 opening for Fleet Foxes.

Video: Alela Diane – “Desire”

NPR coaxes The Decemberists behind a Tiny Desk and gets them to put on a show. They’re persuasive like that.

The National Post, The Globe & Mail and NPR have interviews with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, in town at the Sound Academy on August 8.

Each Note Secure talks to Daniel Kessler of Interpol. They’re at the Rogers Centre opening for U2 on July 11.

Rolling Stone finds out what’s next for The Strokes from Nikolai Fraiture and Albert Hammond Jr; a new record and probably some North American dates in the Fall once the European festival season is done.

PopMatters talks to Erika Anderson of EMA, in town at The Garrison on July 23.

Those suffering from Grizzly Bear withdrawal will be pleased to know that bassist Chris Taylor has struck out on his own under the guise of CANT and will not only be releasing his debut album Dreams Come True on September 13 – details at Exclaim – and be taking it on the road. Full dates still to come but Toronto gets a taste on October 21 at The Garrison, tickets $14.