Archive for September, 2011

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

"Back To Black"

Elbow and Lightspeed Champion cover Amy Winehouse

Photo via BBCBBCThere’s no shame in being late to the party on certain artists; it’s simply not possible to keep up with everything that’s out there, let alone apply the necessary hype filters to discern what’s genuinely good and what’s just hip noise. I tend to go with the philosophy that if it’s worth hearing, I’ll hear it eventually and if it’s not, then I won’t even know what I missed.

Of course, sometimes you realize it’s worth hearing a little too late. By the time the buzz around Amy Winehouse reached my ears back in 2007 or so, talk about her talent was already inextricable from tales of her offstage antics and addictions, so rather than potentially participate in the tabloid/gossip storm, I declined to even bother giving a listen and missed her one and only Toronto performance at The Mod Club in May of that year. Our paths would have crossed later that Summer as she was one of the big-name undercards for that year’s V Fest but her personal issues continued to grow to the point of having the pull out a couple of weeks before the festival date. There were the usual apologies and assurances that she’d make it up, but of course she didn’t. Amy Winehouse died earlier this Summer as a result of what appears to side-effects of attempting to detox at the age of 27. In the ensuing flood of tributes and remembrances, I finally took the trouble of giving her music a listen and yeah. Clearly I missed out. And clearly I’m going to be one of those adding to the posthumous sales of Back To Black.

The title track of which was covered in stately style by Elbow for a BBC Live Lounge session in June 2008; Elbow are another artist I was slow on the uptake for, only getting on board fully sometime between Leaders Of The Free World and The Seldom Seen Kid, but am now completely won over. I’ve been waiting a long time for them to return to town for their own headlining show with me as a proper fan and they’ll finally do so this Wednesday night at The Sound Academy.

And also offering an interpretation of “Back To Black” in 2008 was Dev Hynes, who at the time was still operating as Lightspeed Champion. I ignored his first band Test Icicles and justly so as they were terrible, but have been a fan of everything he’s done since. His stripped-down, acoustic rendering appeared on the NME Awards 2008 cover compilation which featured covers by artists who appeared on the NME Awards ceremony or sponsored tour that year. Hynes has since put the Lightspeed Champion monicker to bed and now records as Blood Orange, having released his debut Coastal Grooves back in August. He’ll be at The Garrison on October 21 supporting and also playing as part of CANT.

MP3: Elbow – “Back To Black”
MP3: Lightspeed Champion – “Back To Black”
Video: Amy Winehouse – “Back To Black”

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

CONTEST – Ohbijou / Metal Meets

Photo By Reynard LiReynard LiOhbijou, the orchestrally-inclined sextet who’ve been and been at the heart of the Toronto independent music scene for the past half-decade, are readying the release of their long-player Metal Meets. It’s a further refinement rather than reinvention of the elegant pop they’ve been crafting since day one. The band decided to use outside producer Jace Lasek of The Besnard Lakes rather than their own on-staff studio wizard James Bunton this time out, and the final product sounds bigger than past efforts, but not grandiosely so and as much attributable to the band’s own natural growth than whomever was manning the boards in the studio. The core of the band’s strengths, however, remain unchanged: their melodicism, musicianship, and Casey Mecija’s sweet croon and sentiments suffused with warmth, beauty and a sense of place are as strong as ever. Metal Meets it feels firmly rooted in place while stretching its arms further outwards than ever before.

The record is officially out next Tuesday and courtesy of the band, I have a special prize pack to give away consisting of a copy of Metal Meets on both CD and vinyl – sometimes you feel a little digital, sometimes a little analog – a t-shirt and a test pressing of the album, signed by the band. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to meet Ohbijou’s metal” in the subject line and your full name, mailing address and t-shirt gender and size in the body. Contest is open to residents of Canada and will close at midnight, October 2.

View and BlogTO have feature pieces on the band, who are kicking off a cross-Canada tour on the day of release and play a hometown release show on September 30 at Trinity-St. Paul’s in Toronto.

MP3: Ohbijou – “Anser”
MP3: Ohbijou – “Niagara”
Stream: Ohbijou / Metal Meets

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Kill It In The Morning

The Twilight Sad declare No One Can Ever Know about new album

Photo via Fat CatFat CatThere’s been a few pieces recently about the growth of anti-marketing in music, with artists hiding behind disguises or pseudonyms and refusing to engage the media by giving interviews or offering a backstory. Scotland’s Twilight Sad can’t undo the profile they’ve gained in the past four or five years of making deafening, gloriously miserable rock music but on their just-announced third record, they’re at least trying to get folks to avert their eyes – or at least that’s what one surmises from their decision to name it No One Can Ever Know.

Or maybe it’s just a reference to the dark and gloomy secrets that vocalist James Graham has dredged up as lyrical fodder… which is funny because if you were to follow him on Twitter you’d know that he’s actually pretty funny, mostly occupying his thoughts with comic books, movies and retweeting people who hate his band. Either way, the album will be out in February – precise date still to be determined – and the first single, “Sick”, will be made available in mid-November. In the meantime, they’ve released a different song from the record as a preview and those expecting a wall of guitars as per their earlier works might be surprised in the shift in direction as it starts out sounding like Portishead and ends off going all New Wave. I approve.

MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Kill It In The Morning”
Trailer: The Twilight Sad / No One Can Ever Know

The National Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Examiner, Montreal Gazette and Magnet have interviews with Laura Marling, who plays The Great Hall tonight.

The Grid, Montreal Gazette, Chicago Sun-Times and Interview check in with Peter hook, in town with The Light at The Phoenix on September 24.

Room 205 has the second instalment in their video session series with Yuck. They’re at The Horseshoe on Sunday night, September 25.

Folks outside the UK won’t be able to hear but 30-second clips of NME‘s stream of Brett Anderson’s new solo record Black Rainbows, but they can read the whole of his song-by-song annotations on the record, which is out September 26. He also offers The Guardian a “How I wrote” lesson for his song “Brittle Heart”.

NOW interviews Horrors guitarist Joshua Hayward. He and his band are at Lee’s Palace on September 27.

Wild Beasts are giving away a new non-album track just because. They’re at The Mod Club on September 29 and submit to a Q&A by The Daily Texan.

MP3: Wild Beasts – “Thankless Thing”

BBC6 talks to James Blake about his plans for album number two. He’s at The Phoenix on September 30.

A double-shot of good news from Veronica Falls; not only is their excellent just-released self-titled debut available to stream in whole at Stereogum, they’ve added a headlining show at Parts & Labour on October 2, the night after they open up for The Drums at The Mod Club; tickets $7 in advance.

MP3: Veronica Falls – “Come On Over”
Stream: Veronica Falls / Veronica Falls

Geoff Barrow tells Rolling Stone that work will begin on Portishead’s fourth album in January of the new year. They’ve got two nights at The Sound Academy on October 9 and 10.

Spinner has an extended sit-down with the always chatty Noel Gallagher. His solo debut Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is out November 7 and he plays Massey Hall that evening and the one after.

The Oracle With Jessica And Elizabeth – which is a blog run by Emma-Lee Moss of Emmy The Great and Elizabeth Sankey of Summer Camp – have an interview with Charlie Fink of Noah & The Whale. They’re at The Phoenix on November 8.

Speaking of Jessica and Elizabeth’s alter-egos, Pitchfork has a track from Summer Camp’s debut Welcome To Condale which was previously only available to stream; the album is out November 8.

MP3: Summer Camp – “Better Off Without You”

And Artrocker and Clash talk to Emmy The Great about her sartorial sense and taste in books, respectively, while For Folk’s Sake settles for talking about her music.

Lanterns On The Lake have their tour guide hats on, taking Clash on a track-by-track tour of their just-released debut album Gracious Tide, Take Me Home and Drowned In Sound on a guided tour of their hometown, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

James Dean Bradfield reflects on the years covered by the forthcoming Manic Street Preachers compilation National Treasures with XFM. The collection is out October 31.

Kele Okereke tells NME that the Bloc Party hiatus is indeed over – but the rest of the band appears to have forgotten to invite him to rehearsals. And perhaps with a notion that his solo project could be become his sole project, he’s released a new video from his forthcoming EP The Hunter, out November 7. Though with Lucy Taylor taking lead vocals on the track, it’s possible he’s also been fired as singer for himself. But seriously, Bloc Party fans, don’t worry – this blog post implies that he was, as they say, taking the piss in that interview.

Video: Kele – “What Did I Do”

Blurt chats with Ritzy Bryan of The Joy Formidable.

Peter Brewis of Field Music tells BBC6 that their new record should be out in January of next year.

Male Bonding have released a new video from Endless Now.

Video: Male Bonding – “Tame The Sun”

For a limited time, 4AD is giving away a download of their limited-edition 4AD Sessions 2008-2011 compilation, which will only be available physically on a limited edition of 1000 vinyl pieces. It features performances from the likes of Iron & Wine, Stornoway and Blonde Redhead. Needless to say, it’s worth the price of your email address.

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

On Your Doorstep

An introduction to The Elwins and giveaway

Photo By Rachel Lee TentcherRachel Lee TentcherIt was just a couple nights ago that the cream of the Canadian music crop was honoured (one twenty-eight thousand times more than the others) at the Polaris Music Prize gala, but with those (mostly) veteran acts having gotten their moment in the spotlight, what say we take a look at some local talent that’s a little closer to the grassroots level? In particular, the roots of the grass up in Newmarket, ’round the north end of Toronto around where the 905 begins to give way to the 705. It’s a locale that’s generally unremarkable – apologies to Newmarketers but you know it’s true – but recently put on the indie rock map by the likes of natives Tokyo Police Club. You’d think that mathematically speaking, that would be all the musical success that would emerge from that particular neck of the woods but hey – the suburbs are apparently pretty creatively fertile terrain.

Which brings us to The Elwins, a rather distressingly young quartet whom you may – but probably don’t – recall being mentioned hereabouts back during NXNE. They played a day show at Global Village and despite having to compete with free food and drink for peoples’ attention, did an impressive job of showcasing the goods – and those goods are great. The Elwins seek to make their mark in the field of classically-styled indie pop; a decidedly crowded market to be sure, but there’s an unreal degree of polish and sophistication throughout their songs that acts many years their senior never achieve. Their debut full-length And I Thank You is bright-eyed, effortless and loaded with jangle to spare. They stack melody upon melody behind frontman Matthew Sweeney’s coy and boyish vocals; pop trainspotters could spend hours debating if they’re more twee than power, but every minute spend debating is a minute not spent head-bobbing, toe-tapping, etc. To wit, this is good stuff.

And you can’t buy it. Not because the band don’t want you to have it, but because they haven’t found anyone to help them put it out yet and yes, even in this age of internet wonders, bands often need some support and infrastructure to get their stuff out there effectively. And if you want to play the “hey just give it away for free!” card, they already did that – their 2009 debut five-song EP was and is available for free download (samples and link below) and while it does a good job of expressing what The Elwins are about, know that the album is miles better. And they’ll go one step of the way to proving it next week on September 30 when give away one of the songs and release a video for same – like a hot pop injection for your eyes and ears – and top if off by anchoring a release party at the El Mocambo that evening. They’ll be supported by The Pinecones, Dwayne Gretzky and – back from a three-year hiatus – The Bicycles.

Tickets for the show are $7 in advance and $10 at the door, but courtesy of No Shame, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see The Elwins” in the subject line and your full name in the body and have that in to me before midnight, September 28.

If you want to hear more, check out their 2010 Southern Souls session and if you like what you hear and like to put out bands’ albums, you know what to do.

MP3: The Elwins – “Dear, Oh My”
MP3: The Elwins – “Time To Kill Time”
ZIP: The Elwins / The Elwins EP

Coincidentally and perhaps inspirationally, another Toronto band that had been looking for a home for their record for the longest time – The Darcys – has finally done so and done so in style, inking a deal with Arts & Crafts to put out their self-titled effort on October 25. has an interview with drummer Wes Marskell about the long and winding road of this record and with the album announcement comes a couple of show announcements – they’re at Lee’s Palace on October 13 supporting The Besnard Lakes and will headline their own release show at The Horseshoe on November 18. You can stream a new track from the record below or download it in exchange for your email address at their website.

MP3: The Darcys – “House Built Around Your Voice”
Stream: The Darcys – “Shaking Down The Old Bones”

Ohbijou are streaming their new record Metal Meets over at Exclaim ahead of its release next week. They play Trinity-St. Paul’s on September 30.

MP3: Ohbijou – “Anser”
MP3: Ohbijou – “Niagara”
Stream: Ohbijou / Metal Meets

Also up for stream though not out until October 4 is Oh Fortune, the new album from Dan Mangan – you can hear it all at and a video session taped at Hillside in the Summer has just gone up at Southern Souls. He plays The Queen Elizabeth Theatre on October 28.

MP3: Dan Mangan – “Oh Fortune”
Stream: Dan Mangan / Oh Fortune

Bruce Peninsula are celebrating the October 4 release of Open Flames with a free in-store at Soundscapes that evening starting at 7PM. The Queen’s Journal, Toro and Guelph Mercury have features on the band.

MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “In Your Light”

Realizing it’s been a while since they’ve played a proper, non-festival/non-opening show at home – and not since David Comes To Life came out in the Summer I believe, Fucked Up have decided to take care of business at The Mod Club on October 11, tickets $17 in advance.

MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
MP3: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”

Minneapolis Fucking Rocks interviews Amy Cole of The Rural Alberta Advantage. They’re at The Phoenix on November 17.

Louise Burns has released a new video from her excellent Mellow Drama; she’s in town at The Music Gallery on November 18 opening up for Matthew Barber.

Video: Louise Burns – “Island Vacation”

And to loop back to the Polaris Prize, you can watch the whole of the gala including performances at MuchMusic and take note of this fun backstage interview between Win Butler and Damian Abraham just after the Arcade Fire win wherein they compare the sizes of their… cheques.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

R.E.M. (1980-2011)

Photo via REMR.E.M.R.E.M. call it a day

Thank you Michael, Mike, Peter and Bill for everything.

Update: Past R.E.M. posts:
The Final Toronto show – June 2008
SXSW 2008 – March 2008 (with photos)
Best-of review – September 2006
An album-by-album career review – August 2004
My history with the band – August 2004

Video: R.E.M. – “Radio Free Europe”