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Archive for October, 2011

Monday, October 31st, 2011

You're A Woman, I'm A Machine

Death From Above 1979 at Sound Academy in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFirstly, thanks to The Grid for their preview piece on the Death From Above 1979 reunion tour which finally made it home for two nights at the Sound Academy last Thursday and Friday night. They do a far better job of encapsulating the band’s backstory than I could, since though I was certainly around for their first heyday in the early aughts, I wasn’t much of a fan. Some of their disco-metal hybrid was appealing and I dug Jesse Keeler’s bass tones, but it was generally too aggressive for my tastes and Sebastien Grainger’s vocals were definitely not my thing. When they announced they were splitting up five years ago, I didn’t give it half a shrug.

So why be at the Sound Academy to see the reunion? Mostly curiosity about this reunion which, even in the era of reunions, felt different to all the others. For starters, the response to it seemed disproportionate to how big they were when they broke it off, but as The Grid points out they were on the cusp of blowing up when they split and rather than see interest in them fall off a cliff as a result, evidently it kept growing into the realm of myth. Hence the high billing on festivals worldwide. Hence the playing to more people at home over two nights than they probably did in total over their first run. So curiosity, and also the fact that I happened to be outside the Beauty Bar in Austin, Texas back in March when they were soundchecking their surprise SXSW appearance – their very first comeback show and eventual near-riot – and it sounded great.

I’ve been to my share of reunion shows and most have had the sort of demographic you’d expect; mainly older fans from said act’s first go-around indulging in a bit of nostalgia with the mean age brought down a notch by kids who discovered the act in their fallow years and finally getting a chance to see them live (I tend to straddle the two). For DFA1979, however, the audience was overwhelmingly young – so much so that you got the sense if they hadn’t booked an all-ages venue, they wouldn’t have needed two shows. My theory is that those who’d followed the band in the first half of the decade had largely outgrown them, no longer running on the necessary blend of hormones and adrenaline, and instead these shows were being attended by those who’d been in high school or college when DFA were at their peak – see above about hormones and adrenaline – but had never gotten the chance to see them live. Until now.

And with youth comes energy and the jammed room was rather crackling with it as they awaited their hometown heroes to emerge, getting into form with a little exploratory crowd surfing to Iron Maiden over the PA and chanting, “D! F! A!” the way you might hear “U! S! A!” at a monster truck rally. With that as the pre-show noise floor, then it was no surprise that security had orders to be extra-vigilant and rightly so – when the curtain covering their giant “DFA 1979 2001-2006” tombstone backdrop fell to the floor and Keeler and Grainger strode out onstage, shit was lost (and so was their stage garb, with the all-in-white, bleached-blonde Grainger looking rather Jacob and Keeler playing The Man In Black, but I digress).

I must confess to only knowing a few songs from the DFA1979 oeuvre (even though it consists of just a single full-length in You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine and a few EPs and singles) but I don’t think that was a real issue as their aesthetic is pretty limited. Imagine grinding, metallic bass and drum riffing seasoned with synths and wailing vocals and you’re pretty much there. But what they lack in range, they more than make up for in volume and vigor. They pounded out one song after another while the crowd surged like a wave pool, steadily cresting with crowd surfers as drinks, clothes and three-finger devil salutes flew about. Early on it seemed like it’d be all business for the duo, with a “Thank you, we’re from here” offered by Grainger as the only bit of banter, but later on they got chattier with a highlight of the banter being Keeler’s response to a request for a bass solo: “every song is a bass solo”.

As mentioned, things got fairly samey to me after a while with the band offering sleek aggression and relentless rhythm in lieu of hooks – not that my head ever stopped bobbing to the beat. “Romantic Rights” was appreciated not only because its killer opening riff remains a high point in the entire DFA1979 catalog, but because Grainger took the opportunity to get up from behind the kit and wander the stage while singing, proper frontman-style. But even when my attention wandered from the music, there was also the audience to watch as they continued to freak out, head bang, what have you throughout the show. I may have been there mainly out of curiosity, but for many/most this was something they’d been waiting for for years and probably never expected, considering how acrimonious the original split had seemed. And for them, I’m pretty sure it was everything they’d hoped for and more. I get it, but I still don’t like the vocals.

Exclaim, NOW, BlogTO, The National Post and The Globe & Mail all have reviews of the show(s).

Photos: Death From Above 1979 @ The Sound Academy – October 27, 2011
MP3: Death From Above 1979 – “Romantic Rights”
Video: Death From Above 1979 – “Black History Month”
Video: Death From Above 1979 – “Romantic Rights”

Arctic Monkeys have released a new video from Suck It And See.

Video: The Arctic Monkeys – “Evil Twin”

PopMatters chats with Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons.

The Quietus talks to Jim Reid of The Jesus & Mary Chain.

Exclaim reports that Elvis Costello will be releasing a live set culled from the Los Angeles dates of this year’s “The Spectacular Spinning Songbook” tour, which came through town in June. Elvis Costello & the Imposters: The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook!!! will be released as a limited-edition CD/DVD/10″ box set on December 6 – with price to match – and less fancy editions will be released in the new year.

GQ talks to PJ Harvey.

Spin is offering a stream of the opening track from Noel Gallagher’s solo debut Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, out next Tuesday and showcased over two nights at Massey Hall on November 7 and 8. The Globe & Mail has an interview.

Stream: Noel Gallagher – “Everybody’s On The Run”

Nicky Wire of Manic Street Preachers discusses his Polaroid fetish with The Guardian. The images compiled over the Manics’ career will be compiled in a book entitled Death of a Polaroid: A Manics Family Album, out next month, and the band’s new best-of comp National Treasures is out today in the UK.

The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Globe & Mail and The Guardian talk to Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine about her second album Ceremonials, out this week.

Exclaim points to a stream of both sides of a new 7″ from former Long Blondes singer Kate Jackson, limited to 300 pieces and due out December 7. You may recall a different song was premiered a few months back, but it wasn’t sold physically so this is her first “proper” release.

MP3: The Kate Jackson Group – “Date With Dawn”
Stream: The Kate Jackson Group – “Wonder Feeling”
Stream: The Kate Jackson Group – “The Atlantic”

And Prince has announced two dates at the Air Canada Centre on November 25 and 26 as part of his “Welcome 2 Canada” tour. Yes he’s crazy but he’s also an incredible performer and if the “Welcome 2 America” shows already done are any indication, he’s giving the fans what they want this time out. So… yeah. Tickets on sale this Friday, November 4 at 10AM, ranging from $67.75 to $268.25, fees included.

Video: Prince – “Let’s Go Crazy”

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

"Wonderwall"

Ryan Adams covers Oasis

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOasis had more than a few hits back in the day, but if you were to have to pick a signature tune – for all the rock and bombast in their repertoire – you’d probably have to pick their acoustic 1995 single, “Wonderwall”. And yet its been a rather mutable song; never mind the million versions that’ve graced coffee houses and open mics around the world, even Oasis fans would be split between favouring the original (What’s The Story) Morning Glory version with Liam Gallagher on vocals or the Noel-sung version that was frequently performed live.

Ryan Adams has done a pretty good job of making it his own as well. He included it on his 2003 Love Is Hell, Part 1 EP and it became a staple of live sets, both solo and with The Cardinals, for years to come. His reading didn’t differ wildly from the original – mainly a looser, more boozy phrasing and tempo – but it was enough to make it feel his own and influence Noel Gallagher to adjust his own performance style to mirror it, at least for a while. Two live Adams recordings – one in-studio at BBC Radio 1 in 2004 and one at the Telluride Blues Festival in Colorado with The Cardinals circa 2008 – demonstrate his take on the tune and a stream of a Noel Gallagher & Gem Archer performance in a 2005 radio session show how it affected the original.

Ryan Adams released Ashes & Fire earlier this month and will be at the Winter Garden Theatre on December 10. Noel Gallagher has two dates at Massey Hall next week on November 7 and 8 and though his solo debut Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is ostensibly the reason for the visit, there’s pretty much no way you won’t be hearing the elder Gallagher play this song at the shows. No way at all.

MP3: Ryan Adams – “Wonderwall” (live at BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge, January 15, 2004)
MP3: Ryan Adams – “Wonderwall” (live at Telluride Bluegrass Festival, June 19, 2008)
Video: Oasis – “Wonderwall”
Stream: Noel Gallagher & Gem Archer – “Wonderwall” (Ryan Adams arrangement)

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

CONTEST – Blind Pilot @ Lee’s Palace – November 10, 2011

Photo via FacebookFacebookWho: Blind Pilot
What: Acoustic-strumming, bike-riding ambassadors of Portlandia who sometimes number two, sometimes number legion.
Why: They released their second album We Are The Tide in September and they’re hitting the road to support. A bit cold for bikes, though.
When: Thursday, November 10, 2011
Where: Lee’s Palace in Toronto (19+)
Who else: Gregory Alan Isakov opens. No not that Gregory Alan Isakov, the other one.
How: Tickets for the show are $15.50 in advance but courtesy of Collective Concerts, I have two pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to see Blind Pilot” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, November 7.
What else: The Birmingham Times has an interview and Reverb a downloadable session.

MP3: Blind Pilot – “Keep You Right”

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

CONTEST – Crooked Fingers @ The Drake Underground – November 8, 2011

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWho: Crooked Fingers
What: Ongoing and constantly evolving project of Eric Bachmann, one of America’s finest songwriters of the past twenty years.
Why: Though largely occupied with the revival of Archers Of Loaf this year, Bachmann also found the time to make an excellent new album in Breaks In The Armor; he previewed it here in July but is coming back now that the record is out.
When: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Where: The Drake Underground in Toronto (19+)
Who else: Highly-regarded Pennsylvanian singer-songwriter Timothy Showalter who trades as Strand Of Oaks supports the tour.
How: Tickets for the show are $15.50 in advance but courtesy of Merge Records, I’ve got two prize pack consisting of a pair of passes to the show and copies of Breaks In The Armor and the first Archers’ reissue Icky Mettle on CD as well as a Crooked Fingers sticker to give away. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want Crooked Fingers” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address in the body. Contest closes at midnight, November 3.

MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Typhoon”
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “What Did You Expect”

Friday, October 28th, 2011

We All Go Back To Where We Belong

R.E.M. say goodbye with poet, actress proxies

Photo via REMREMHQYou can’t really call it a long goodbye – the announcement last month about the dissolution of R.E.M. was about as abrupt as they come, with no farewell tour or even a final show attached – but shortly thereafter they did announce a final release in the form of the Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage 1982-2011 compilation which is set to come out November 15. And amongst its 40-song, career-spanning tracklist are the final three songs that R.E.M. will release, recorded after the Collapse Into Now sessions but before they knew that that album would end up being their last.

And from those three songs has come what is almost certainly R.E.M.’s last single – a gentle tune entitled “We All Go Back To Where We Belong” – but there’s no final video; there’s two. The clips, directed by Michael Stipe and Dominic DeJoseph, are about as simple as you get – single-take black-and-white screen test-style films of poet John Giorno and actress Kirsten Dunst as they listen to the song, presumably for the first time. It’s a nice, understated idea that Interview has a quick analysis of. Black Book also has some fun with the concept, trying to get in Dunst’s head during recording.

Also in the farewells and remembrances category, here’s a piece I’ve written for The Iceberg’s “A Song and A Memory” series about one of the most pivotal songs/albums/bands in my life. R.E.M. has also posted up some thoughts about it. Synchronicity!

Finally, JAM has recounted a chat Mojo had with Mike Mills in which he says to not expect a Michael Stipe solo project soon or ever.

Stream: R.E.M. – “We All Go Back To Where We Belong”
Video: R.E.M. – “We All Go Back To Where We Belong” (John Giorno version)
Video: R.E.M. – “We All Go Back To Where We Belong” (Kirsten Dunst version)

Spin gets Matthew Sweet to look back and reflect on the 20th anniversary of Girlfriend.

Exclaim has put Tom Waits on their cover this month.

The Decemberists appear to be ready to stream the whole of their new EP Long Live The King in piecemeal form before it comes out on November 1. Two more tracks from it have been made available to stream at Stereogum and Rolling Stone.

Stream: The Decemberists – “I 4 U & U 4 Me”
Stream: The Decemberists – “Burying Davy”

Memory Tapes have released a new video from Player Piano; The Daily Princetonian has a quick interview with Dayve Hawk.

Video: Memory Tapes – “Offers”

The National have released a new MP3 for their contribution to If a Lot of Bands Play in the Woods…, a covers/remix album of The Philistines Jr’s 2010 album If A Band Plays In The Woods. The connection between the two being the fact that Philistines Jr counts one Peter Katis among its number, and Katis has produced a crapload of great bands, many of whom also appear on the record. It’s out November 1 and there’s more details at Pitchfork. And yes it’s kind of a treat to hear Matt Berninger sing about cats. The National are at The Air Canada Centre on December 8.

MP3: The National – “Twenty Miles To NH (Part 2)”

Also on that bill are Wye Oak, whose Jenn Wasner offers a songwriting lesson and video performance to The AV Club’s “One Track Mind” feature.

Nola.com, The Dallas Observer, The Phoenix New Times, and Offbeat talk to Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole of Wild Flag.

Pitchfork has a video session with The Antlers, The Daily Tarheel and Daily Free Press have interviews.

GQ talks to Jim James of My Morning Jacket as part of their music issue.