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Archive for October, 2011

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

The Twilight Hour

Still Corners, Mausoleum and Foxes In Fiction at The Drake Underground in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI spent an inordinate amount of time at this year’s SXSW chasing around London’s Still Corners, my attempts to catch one of their many sets foiled by things like not noting the difference between AM and PM on set times, showcases falling three hours behind despite having only been running for two hours and the like. I eventually caught them at a day show in an Austin Convention Centre meeting room where the room setup didn’t even allow them to perform underneath their projected lightshow, instead playing in the dark while the movies ran on another wall, and even though it was about as un-vibey a setting as you could imagine, I was still totally smitten by their retro-cinematic dreampop, making their debut Creatures Of An Hour one of my more anticipated releases of the Fall.

With that past history, and even though I didn’t have any rational reason to be worried, I still half-expected some sort of calamity to befall their Toronto debut at The Drake Underground on Tuesday night. As it turned out there was a hiccup in the evening but it affected their tourmates Ganglians, who were apparently refused entry to the country and necessitated a couple of pinch-hitters to sub in. Personally, I’d have been happy if they just dispensed with the openers and let Still Corners play – and let me get home early – but no. I was actually fine with Foxes In Fiction opening things up; I’d seen Warren Hildebrand do his thing – which is fiddling with a table covered with samplers and keys while singing and playing guitar – at the Wintergaze show in December and while the presentation options of a one-man band are limited at best, his songs were solid enough to allow it. I guess I was feeling a little less generous this evening because while the music sounded fine – even the opening ambient sample-driven piece which he described as a “pretentious experiment composed today, won’t do anything like it again” – the slow-motion electro-pop failed to come across as any more than just pleasant, largely because of the static presentation. I appreciate that to change the live formula is to change all that is Foxes In Fiction and it certainly seems to be working for him, but… yeah. Could have used a little more engagement.

But I’d have rather had another half-hour of Foxes In Fiction than have to hear Mausoleum. The trio came across as amateurish Joy Division acolytes but any cues they took from that band were made to sound awful, mostly thanks to the singer’s barked, tuneless vocals. The only upside to their set was that it was short.

Thankfully there was enough time for the air and ears to clear before Still Corners took the stage, this time with the projections directed not only squarely at the stage but the two side walls as well, creating an extra-enveloping effect. Interestingly, the band started playing with frontwoman Tessa Murry standing out on the floor, facing the stage, for an extended moment before stepping onstage – an unexpected little bit of showiness from an outfit who otherwise seemed to prefer to stay in the shadows. And though Murray’s presence was largely as demure and ghostly as her atmospheric vocals would imply, they were also stronger live than you’d expect live and her heretofore unknown crooner side was given the spotlight on a couple of stripped down numbers including a cover of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”. It’s as though they’ve realized they have a bona fide frontwoman in her rather than just another instrument and are beginning to utilize that strength, even though she’s already so much the centre of the band’s sound. It’s hard to imagine that they already existed before she joined, seeing how much of their identity her vocals comprise.

Also more pronounced live were the band’s facility with the drone and the pulse, built around whirring organ, twangy guitar and dubby bass, coming across more Stereolabby than I’d have expected and giving the sound more muscle than Creatures necessarily implied. But what I found most exciting about the show – not that the intended response for their gorgeously hazy set was necessarily excitement in any conventional sense – was how much more there was to Still Corners than I’d necessarily expected. If they simply continued making more records in their clearly-defined Morricone-meets-Slowdive aesthetic, there’d be a built-in audience for that style and sound for it and everyone would be happy – but more than that was the sense that there were still many more places they could take it, be they more seductive, romantic, mysterious or even rocking. I am more than happy to have Still Corners for what they are, but hadn’t necessarily expected more from them on future outings. That is no longer the case.

Paste has a video session with Still Corners and also declares them “Best Of What’s Next”.

Photos: Still Corners, Mausoleum, Foxes In Fiction @ The Drake Underground – October 25, 2011
MP3: Still Corners – “Into The Trees”
MP3: Still Corners – “Cuckoo”
MP3: Still Corners – “Don’t Fall In Love”
MP3: Still Corners – “Endless Summer”
MP3: Foxes In Fiction – “School Night”
MP3: Foxes In Fiction – “Lately (Deuxieme)”
MP3: Foxes In Fiction – “Flashing Lights Have Ended Now”
MP3: Foxes In Fiction – “15 Ativan (Song For Erika)”
Video: Still Corners – “Cuckoo”
Video: Still Corners – “Wish”
Video: Still Corners – “Don’t Fall In Love”
Stream: Still Corners / Creatures Of An Hour

Spinner talks to The Horrors.

Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson is streaming his debut solo record (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson for one week only. Starting earlier this week.

MP3: Stevie Jackson – “Man Of God”
Stream: Stevie Jackson / (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson

The Guardian and MTV discuss Ceremonials with Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine. It’s out November 1.

What’s better than a new video from the new Summer Camp record Welcome To Condale? How about a stream of the whole thing courtesy of The Guardian? Yeah. The record is out November 1.

MP3: Summer Camp – “Ghost Train”
Video: Summer Camp – “Down”
Stream: Summer Camp / Welcome To Condale

Stereogum has premiered a new video from We Were Promised Jetpacks’ second album In The Pit Of The Stomach.

Video: We Were Promised Jetpacks – “Human Error”

Also with a new video – Clock Opera. Their debut album is due out in March.

Video: Clock Opera – “Lesson No. 7”

The Line Of Best Fit has a two-part interview with Slow Club.

BBC discusses the art of pop songwriting with Jarvis Cocker, who just released a book of lyrics in Mother, Brother, Lover: Selected Lyrics.

BBC reports that despite Liam Gallagher’s olive branch of wanting to have an Oasis reunion in 2015, Noel is having none of it. Oh, those two.

Manic Street Preachers have put together a video archive to accompany the release of their National Treasures comp next week.

Rolling Stone solicits some thoughts on the legacy of R.E.M. from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.

The Quietus talks protest with Billy Bragg.

I Break Horses have released a new video from Hearts, which got a North American release a couple weeks ago should you have had any problem finding copies at non-import prices hereabouts.

Video: I Break Horses – “Wired”

The Fader has a video session with Niki & The Dove

Paste is streaming the new Loney Dear album Hall Music, even though it came out some weeks ago. But it’s well-timed to remind you that they play The Drake Underground on November 5. And check out this interview with Emil Svanängen at Prospectus News.

MP3: Loney Dear – “My Heart”
Stream: Loney Dear / Hall Music

The Line Of Best Fit, Express Night Out, Exclaim, eMusic, 17 Dots and Spinner have interviews with Anthony Gonzalez of M83, in town at Lee’s Palace on November 18.

Prefix talks to Luke Steele of Empire Of The Sun.

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Glass Jaw

Scud Mountain Boys route reunion tour to drop Joe Pernice off at home

Photo via Sub PopSub PopWhile far from the most earth-shattering reunion announcement by any popular measure, it was most pleasant and unexpected when word came last month that Scud Mountain Boys were getting back together for some shows in 2012. The Scud Mountain Boys, for those not in the know, were Joe Pernice’s first band of note, an alt-country foursome that evolved from the rockier Scuds and preceded the more pop-oriented and only slightly less sad-sack Pernice Brothers. Their tenure ran from 1991 to 1997 and three albums, the first two of which – Pine Box and Dance The Night Away – were collected as The Early Year and rounded out by the more fleshed-out production of Massachusetts, which pointed at the direction Pernice would follow in future endeavors.

Those records are set to be reissued by Pernice’s own Ashmont Records sometime around December, along with a new disc of Scud-era rarities. And though the initial run of reunion dates were limited to the American northeast, a February 25 date at Lee’s Palace in Toronto was just added – presumably to allow Joe a quick cab ride home as the Boston native has been a Hogtown resident for over half a decade now. Tickets for the show will be $16.50, on sale this Friday. The Hollywood Reporter checks in with Joe Pernice to find out how the reunion, which started with a 3-out-of-4 member performance in Connecticut in August, came to be.

And for those who prefer their Pernice in Brothers form, a new album is also in the works and should be out in 2012.

MP3: Scud Mountain Boys – “Grudge Fuck”

The Decemberists are previewing a few tracks from their new Long Live The King EP, out November 1, by streaming a couple songs at New York Magazine and Paste. Colin Meloy has also reflected on his love of R.E.M. for Mojo and finally, congratulations to keyboardist Jenny Conlee whose breast cancer is in remission.

Stream: The Decemberists – “Foregone”
Stream: The Decemberists – “E Watson”

Titus Andronicus have released a video for the Nirvana cover they released for Spin‘s Nevermind tribute album.

Video: Titus Andronicus – “Breed”

Pitchfork is streaming the b-side to the Mazzy Star comeback single “Common Burn” while pointing out the a-side is listenable over at Amazon.

Stream: Mazzy Star – “Common Burn”
Stream: Mazzy Star – “Lay Myself Down”

If anyone wasn’t sure what Wilco’s position on the whole Occupy Wall Street movement was, this stream of a Woody Guthrie song they’ve posted on their website should clarify matters.

Stream: Wilco – “The Jolly Banker”

Meanwhile, NPR goes digging through their World Cafe vaults for recordings of the Uncle Tupelo family tree.

Californian psych-pop outfit Woods have made a date at The Horseshoe for December 8. Why on earth Californians would decide to visit Canada in December is beyond me, but they are. Tickets are $13.50 in advance.

MP3: Woods – “To Clean”
MP3: Woods – “Rain On”
Video: Woods – “To Clean”

A first sample of the reunited Guided By Voices is now available to download courtesy of Matablog – and it’s kinda great. Let’s Go Eat The Factory arrives January 1.

MP3: Guided By Voices – “The Unsinkable Fats Domino”

NYC Taper is streaming Savoir Adore’s show at Cake Shop as part of CMJ from last week.

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

100 Mile House

Review of The Darcys’ The Darcys

Photo By Aaron MillerAaron MillerThere’s no shortage of variants on the sentiment that good things come to those who wait, but in the case of Toronto’s Darcys, keeping the faith would have been trying for the most steadfast optimists. The specifics of their long, four-year gap between their debut Endless Water and their self-titled follow-up – out today – are still best documented in this Toronto Star feature from back in March, which is also approximately when I got a finished copy of the record to preview. To reiterate: this album was finished and ready for the world in March, and probably even a while before that. And it’s only coming out today.

But to invoke another platitude, was The Darcys worth the wait? Has the band who has been carrying the mantle of potentially being the city’s next big thing for so long that other big things have already come and gone finally delivered on that promise? I give that a very qualified, “yes”. It definitely confirms them as an inordinately talented and ambitious outfit with a gift for dramatic, prog-pop songcraft. With lush keyboards, nimble, complex rhythms, intricately-arranged guitars set to chime and squall, and rough yet soaring vocals from frontman Jason Couse, their sound is evocative of turn of the century Radiohead and Elbow; certainly heady reference points and ones that set them apart from many of their peers.

So why the reservations? Because for as long in coming as this record has been, in the end it still tantalizes more than it satisfies. The Darcys excels at building and teasing out tension but for all the moments of release, be it instrumental or vocal, it doesn’t quite manage to offer that one grand moment that pulls it all together and transcends. It’s essentially what I noted when I saw them in Halifax a year ago, in thinking they were one big chorus away from stardom. That’s a lot to ask of a band, especially on what is for all intents and purposes a debut album, but great artistic ambitions come with great expectations.

That said, it’s important to again note that these songs and this record have been hanging around for a long time and might very well not reflect where The Darcys actually are, circa late 2011. I remain confident that any expectations around the band will still be realized, and possibly sooner than we might expect; to make up for the delay in getting The Darcys out, the band already have two more albums in the can and will be putting them out in the new year. If you consider The Darcys as the first instalment in a trilogy, then it becomes a much more exciting entity as it sets the stage for the sequels. And for all the extra pressure that may put on the band, one suspects that after spending so long waiting for their moment, they’ll relish the opportunity to rise to the challenge.

The Darcys is being made available for free digitally and for sale as an LP; head over to the Arts & Crafts website to download it in exchange for an email address or stream it in whole at Spinner. Additionally, the band has recorded a live video for each song from the album and I’m pleased to be able to premiere the one for the album’s lead-off track, “100 Mile House”. The others will be going up today at a variety of sites around the internet – I’ll update this post with links as I collect them, starting with Exclaim (“Glasnost”), aux.tv (“I Will Be Light”), Baeble Music (“The Mountains Make Way”), Chart (“When I Am New Again”), Spinner (“Shaking Down The Old Bones”), The Line Of Best Fit (“Don’t Bleed Me”), Absolute Punk (“Edmonton To Purgatory”), Wood & Wires (“Des Animeaux”) and CBC Radio 3 (“The Mountains Make Way”). That’s all!

The Darcys play a hometown record release show at The Horseshoe on November 18.

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

The Halifax Chronicle Herald, The Coast, and Aux.tv have feature interviews with Fucked Up.

The Big Takeover has an interview with Evan Abeele of Memoryhouse.

The Line Of Best Fit is streaming another new track from Kathleen Edwards’ forthcoming Voyageur, out January 17.

Stream: Kathleen Edwards – “Sidecar”

Diamond Rings has made a b-side from a tour-only 7″ for “You & Me” available to stream, a cover of Teenage Fanclub’s “Mellow Doubt”. Rather an unlikely song from an unlikely band, but I like it.

Stream: Diamond Rings – “Mellow Doubt”

Speaking of tour-only goodies, those hitting up one of Chad VanGaalen’s upcoming shows will be able to pick up one or all of eight cassette-only releases of material from the VanGaalen vaults. You can stream a sampler of the Cassette Tape Series over at Flemish Eye. VanGaalen plays The Mod Club on October 28 and there’s features at The Georgia Straight, Here and hour.

BlogTO catches up with The Balconies, who have just released their new Kill Count EP, though it’s only available at shows. Which means you’ll have to be at The Horseshoe on October 29 if you want to get a copy.

While a touch disappointed that the release of Spectral Dusk, the new record from Evening Hymns has been pushed back from this year until Spring 2012, that’s more than offset by finally being given a taste of the finished product – a new song is streaming over at Facebook.

Stream: Evening Hymns – “Asleep In The Pews”

Spin reports that Leonard Cohen will release a new studio album next year, entitled Old Ideas.

It’s not really common for books to have soundtracks, but when the book is Have Not Been The Same, the recently-reissued definitive tome on Canadian rock in the ’90s, then it’s almost a necessity. And so it is that come next month, we will have Too Cool To Live; Too Smart To Die, a tribute album featuring current Canadian acts covering songs of the book’s era, including Forest City Lovers tackling Sloan, Great Lake Swimmers saluting Grapes Of Wrath, Bruce Peninsula’s Neil Haverty reinterpreting Rheostatics and much more. A full tracklisting of who does what can be found at Radio Free Canuckistan, blog of one of the book’s authors, and the comp itself will be out digitally on November 15 and be available exclusively via Zunior with all proceeds going to support the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health in Toronto.

The Line Of Best Fit has released a special Halifax Pop Explosion edition of their Oh! Canada compilations available to download.

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Answer

CANT, Luke Temple and Blood Orange at The Garrison in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOne of the shifts in the music industry over the last few years has been the evolution of bands as brands (google it, it’s a phrase) with as much, or more, equity being place in an artist’s name and identity as with their work. So it was interesting to hit up The Garrison on Friday night for a triple bill of acts who were quite consciously not trading under their more successful brands – there was one side project, one solo project and one complete re-brand.

First up and most enticing to me was Blood Orange, the new project from one Devonté Hynes. Though only 26, he’s already established a track record for building up projects and then walking away, disbanding the NME-championed punk rock Test Icicles in 2006 then putting out two records of ambitious, Americana-influenced pop as Lightspeed Champion before deciding to make his funk-soul side-project his main gig. Coastal Grooves, his debut as Blood Orange, came out earlier this Fall and as much as I was sad to see Lightspeed Champion retired, it’s hard to argue that Blood Orange is as good a showcase for Hynes’ talents as there’s ever been. The irresistible melodies of Lavender Bridge and to a slightly lesser degree, Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You are largely intact but they’re now driven by deep, slow jam grooves and ripping guitar solos and more mature songwriting themes.

It’s the sort of record that could and perhaps should be done justice live with a full band, but instead Hynes stayed true to the home studio aesthetic of the project and took the stage with just himself, a sequencer and his guitar. It wasn’t much but it was more than enough as two songs into the set, Hynes moved the mic stand into the audience and played most of the rest of his set in the round, only interrupting the sequence of souful vocals and guitar shredding to hop back on stage to adjust his pedals and/or sequencer and right back to getting down. Maybe the best thing about it was how nonchalantly Hynes went about his business, as though a solo set that surely required considerable thought and preparation to sound to full was no big deal at all, and occasionally throwing in a bit of flash like a knee slide or tossing his guitar in the air and catching it without missing a beat. He capped it off with an extended, Prince-worthy guitar solo back onstage complete with behind-the-head riffing and once the backing track ended, he was up and out, at least for now. No big deal.

Luke Temple, best known for fronting Brookyln’s Here We Go Magic but recently returned to his solo roots for this year’s Don’t Act Like You Don’t Care wasn’t even going to try and top the Blood Orange show. Performing as a two-piece with Natalie Bergen on bass and keys, his set had a casual, almost ad-libbed vibe and the material more country-ish overtones and certainly not as refined as Here We Go Magic’s prog-pop. You got the sense that Temple wasn’t especially impressed with the lack of attention being paid by the chatty audience but to be fair, his low-key approach and material didn’t offer a lot of reason to.

Audience attention was no problem for CANT, the side-project from Grizzly Bear bassist Chris Taylor. Now I’m more of a Grizzly Bear respecter than admirer, but I was surprised how much I genuinely enjoyed Dreams Come True, the CANT debut which came out last month. It still has the meticulousness that marks his main band’s work, but its R&B angle feels looser, more dynamic and more immediately soulful. Live, Taylor led a four-piece band that included Dev Hynes on guitar and the two would spend the set swapping instruments and enduring electric shocks as they did so due to bad grounds. But no pain, no gain and for the better part of an hour, Taylor and co ran through an enjoyable set of Dreams material, offering Taylor a chance to show off his pipes and Hynes to further showboat on guitar a little more. Grizzly Bear has always gotten a great reception in Toronto and this show proved that Bear cub projects were also wholly welcome, with Taylor telling the wildly applauding fans at the show’s end that this had been the best show of the tour. I’m inclined to believe him.

The Pitch, Metro, The Daily Cardinal and The Dossier Journal have interviews with Chris Taylor while NOW talks to Dev Hynes.

Photos: CANT, Luke Temple, Blood Orange @ The Garrison – October 21, 2011
MP3: CANT – “Be Around (Rough Cutz)”
MP3: Luke Temple – “Ophelia”
MP3: Luke Temple – “More Than Muscle”
MP3: Blood Orange – “Dinner”
MP3: Blood Orange – “Sutphin Boulevard”
MP3: Blood Orange – “Champagne Coast”
Video: CANT – “Believe”
Video: Luke Temple – “More Than Muscle”
Video: Blood Orange – “Sutphin Boulevard”
Video: Blood Orange – “Dinner”
Video: Blood Orange – “S’Cooled”
Video: Blood Orange – “I’m Sorry We Lied”

The Sun and Newsweek talk to Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine, whose new record Ceremonials is streaming over at Pretty Much Amazing in advance of its release on November 1.

Stream: Florence & The Machine / Ceremonials

Drowned In Sound are streaming the cryptically-titled A Frightened Rabbit EP, which is in fact a free EP from Frightened Rabbit, available to download over at Grabtrax. Quad News also has a chat with Scott Hutchinson.

MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “Scottish Winds”
Stream: Frightened Rabbit / A Frightened Rabbit EP

The Fly sets up a Summer Camp in their courtyard and records a video session. The duo’s debut Welcome To Condale arrives November 8.

Billy Bragg tells The Sabotage Times it’s time for bands to get political again. He also weighs in on matters political with The Scotsman and The Irish Times.

James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers talks to NME about the band’s plans following the release of their National Treasures compilation next week; look for a break and then a reinvention.

Pitchfork, The Telegraph, Shortlist and Billboard talk to Noel Gallagher about his High Flying Birds, which come to roost at Massey Hall on November 7 and 8 and at record stores November 8.

Meanwhile, little brother Liam is sounding a bit conciliatory in talking to Rolling Stone, telling them that he’d be open to an Oasis reunion in 2015 or so. Uh huh.

The Sabotage Times talks to Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris about the transition from being Joy Division to New Order.

The Irish Independent talks to Annie Clark of St. Vincent, in town at The Phoenix on December 15.

New Wild Flag video!

Video: Wild Flag – “Electric Band”

The New York Times profiles Tom Waits ahead of the release of Bad As Me on Tuesday.

The Pittsburgh Tribune, Red & Black and American Songwriter talk to Matthew Sweet on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Girlfriend and the release of his new record Modern Art.

And sadly, Titus Andronicus just got a little less awesome with the announcement that Amy Klein, aka Amy Andronicus, aka the most ass-kicking embodiment of rock’n’roll going, announced that the shows at Halifax Pop Explosion this weekend were her last with the band, as she’s going to be concentrating on other projects from here on. Update: Patrick Stickles has posted his own thanks and farewell to Amy.

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

"Luno"

Death From Above 1979 covers Bloc Party

image via WikipediaWikipediaAs recently as a year ago, it didn’t look like this cover would ever get a chance to be aired out again in a legitimate manner. Sure, I posted it back in 2007 when Sebastien Grainger’s new band The Mountains opened up for Bloc Party, but that was tenuous at best – Death From Above 1979 had been inactive since 2006 and Bloc Party were formally on hiatus as of Summer 2009.

And yet here we are, with both sides of the equation back in action. DFA1979’s return to performance was unexpected and improbable, considering the terms on which the original run ended (check out the original farewell note) but time heals all and if not, money makes a pretty good bandage and DFA1979 has been doing the festival circuit all year and are finally doing some Canadian dates, including two hometown nights at the Sound Academy on October 27 and 28.

As for Bloc Party, they got back to business this Fall and garnered some headlines with both Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack “took the piss”, as the Brits say, with the media and started a little firestorm about Okereke having been kicked out of the band and the other three auditioning new singers (Grainger has a little fun with that on Twitter). But with the dust settled and the transcripts and recordings made a matter of public record, the net take-away is that Bloc Party remains Bloc Party and are working on a fourth record. Just like they always said they would.

As for this track, it originally showed up as the b-side to DFA1979’s “Black History Month” single and was then included in the Silent Alarm Remixed album because, well, it was pretty great.

MP3: Death From Above 1979 – “Luno”
Video: Bloc Party – “Luno” (live)