Thursday, June 16th, 2011
The Antlers and Little Scream at The Mod Club in Toronto
Frank YangA week straight of show-going is a pretty foreboding thing when you’re generally more inclined to stay home and watch television, but if the first night of said run – which began Tuesday at The Mod Club with The Antlers and Little Scream – is a bellwether of the next seven (or ten) nights out, then I say bring it on.
Though both acts were familiar, their performances were still new to me in crucial ways, in particular with Little Scream whom I’d last seen two years ago in a pair of solo performances that were both enigmatic and intriguing. Contrast that with this evening, where Laurel Sprengelmeyer was fronting a six-piece band and promoting her debut album The Golden Record; an album that’s been well-received but interestingly not done much to clarify the mystery of who Little Scream is, offering highlights in the individual songs but not really feeling particularly cohesive as it ranges from style to style, held together only by Sprengelmeyer’s impressive vocals. The live incarnation remedied this somewhat, unifying things by being both heavier and proggier throughout and offering itself up as a variant of rock built on folk instead of blues. Sprengelmeyer jokingly compared them to Iron Maiden, on account of the three-guitar configuration but just as she did a couple years ago, I was most reminded of The Who, despite the lack of any obvious nods. Why, I can’t explain, just as I still can’t fully put my finger on what makes Little Scream what they are – but I’ll keep trying.
The Antlers broke out via the unlikeliest of records in Hospice, a beautifully grim and harrowing meditation on mortality. I saw them three times in the cycle for that record, twice as openers and once at an in-store, and each time their performances seemed to be exercises in exorcising the darkness of that material by taking the songs and stretching them out into something new. The catharsis would appear complete with the band’s new record Burst Apart, which feels like fresh growth on a former blast site; sensual and sinewy, it practically glistens with life.
The sense of rebirth also carried over live, where the three-piece had added a fourth player on bass and guitar and frontman Peter Silberman, formerly content to set up off the side and hide somewhat behind keyboards, was up front and centre. As mentioned, this was my first time seeing The Antlers headlining their own show, but considering that even in a support setting they weren’t given to brevity – when opening for Editors, they stretched out five songs over 40 minutes – I expected epic-scale things from the Brooklynites and was not disappointed. With the extra four- or six-strings on hand, The Antlers were able to jam out the Burst-heavy set and allow Silberman to roam and even dance around the stage when not stealing the spotlight with his haunting falsetto. The few Hospice songs that did make an appearance were recognizable but decidedly incongruous from their original versions, the transformations applied over the two years of touring having taken hold permanently without diminishing their emotional power or beauty.
For many in the sold-out house, I’m sure the Hospice tracks were the highlights but given my difficult personal relationship with the record (it may have been written as a metaphor but for me was all too literal) it was the Burst Apart material that really shone. Free of the thematic and narrative constraints of its predecessor, the new record isn’t necessarily happy but it does have an optimism threaded throughout that’s genuinely uplifting, rather than simply trying to overcome its own weight. That the band were able to not only recreate this feeling live but amplify it was nothing short of remarkable.
Photos: The Antlers, Little Scream @ The Mod Club – June 14, 2011
MP3: The Antlers – “Parentheses”
MP3: The Antlers – “I Don’t Want Love”
MP3: The Antlers – “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out”
MP3: The Antlers – “Two”
MP3: The Antlers – “Sylvia”
MP3: The Antlers – “Bear”
MP3: Little Scream – “Cannons”
MP3: Little Scream – “The Heron & The Fox”
Video: The Antlers – “Bear”
Video: The Antlers – “Two”
Video: Little Scream – “Red Hunting Jacket”
Video: Little Scream – “The Lamb”
Following in her brother’s footsteps and getting to work outside the context of The Fiery Furnaces, Eleanor Friedberger has set a July 12 release date for her solo debut Last Summer, and scheduled a Summer tour that includes a free show at The Horseshoe on July 19. The first single from the album is available to hear and watch.
You get exactly zero points if you can guess what Portland synth-poppers STRFKR used to be called. Or maybe are still called, depending on who you ask and what company you’re in. You can be in their company at Lee’s Palace on September 20, where they’ll be showing off their new record Reptilians. Full dates at Exclaim.
The Daily Swarm has gone through Bob Mould’s just-released new memoirs See A Little Light and posted their picks for some of the more intriguing passages contained therein and NPR have excerpted the first chapter. The Pioneer Press and The Bellingham Herald talk to Mould about looking back on his life for the book.
That’s the same Bon Iver whose Justin Vernon is all dapper and shit as the cover story of the new Spin. There’s also interviews at Exclaim and The Vancouver Sun and the first video from Bon Iver, Bon Iver is now out – presumably not financed by the Alberta Tourism board.
Video: Bon Iver – “Calgary”
Video: Buffalo Tom – “Guilty Girls”