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Archive for December, 2011

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

David Comes To Life

Fucked Up, The Sadies, PS I Love You and Quest For Fire at The Great Hall in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe baseline for any Fucked Up show is glorious mayhem. Add in factors like a hometown show, a full-album recital of their ridiculously ambitious and critically-acclaimed, concept rock opera David Comes To Life, the last gig of an insanely busy year in support of said album that took the band around the world from bars to festivals to arenas, a fundraising benefit for Barriere Lake Solidarity, and a lineup made up of some of the band’s favourite acts from Toronto (and outlying regions), and expectations will not unreasonably be increased to ludicrous heights.

Things opened with Quest For Fire, the only act of this two-night mini-festival that I’d never seen despite them having been around for some time. And though I’d been briefed on what they were about, musically, I could have guessed from their pedalboards – any band with that many Big Muffs on stage is likely to be stoner-rock inclined, and indeed they were inclined to the big lumbering riffs, but their brief set showed they were also able to move with some velocity when needed. First band of the night and our daily recommended dose of head banging and guitar solos were well covered.

It’d been a while since I’d last seen PS I Love You, and apparently in the interim they’ve decided the two-man band thing wasn’t cutting it. For this show, at least, they’d expanded to a three-piece with Tim Bruton of Matters and countless other local acts helping out on guitar and keys. Not that Paul Saulnier necessarily needed the help – he’d also acquired a double-neck guitar to beef up his already massive sound, and on this night PS I Love You were easily the loudest I’d ever heard them. And also the proggiest – it’s interesting how when they first emerged, all the reference points were ’80s and ’90s college rock because now there’s little chance you’d peg their influences any more recent than the ’70s. There are still plenty of fret-shredding solos, but now you couldn’t ignore the sophistication in the ideas and arrangements – that Rush cover they released a little while back wasn’t ironic, I’ll tell you that.

I don’t think it’s a slight to say that The Sadies are always The Sadies, because if you’ve seen The Sadies live before, you know that means they’re always awesome. As with when I saw them last, opening up for another not-immediately obvious act in Godspeed You! Black Emperor back in April, their set skewed a little more to the rock side of things than the country – Travis Good’s fiddle did not make an appearance – and it may have felt a little looser than they normally are – at one point Dallas Good dedicated a song to everybody in the whole world – but favourites like “Ridge Runner Rell” and “Tiger Tiger” were givens for the set and as jaw-dropping as ever. That there was a mic set up in the centre of the stage but unattended for most of the set was clear sign that a guest would be joining them, but it really could been anyone since the band have worked with pretty much everyone. Who it ended up being was Andre Ethier – the former Deadly Snake, not the current Los Angeles Dodger – who led the band through a couple of tunes reminiscent of Rolling Thunder-era Dylan, this ensuring that the ’70s theme that had been running through the night remained unbroken.

And then it was time for Fucked Up. Speaking objectively, it was hard to ignore that Damian Abraham’s mic sounded either broken or deliberately distorted beyond reasoning, or that the mix wasn’t nearly as balanced as it should have been to allow a work as sonically complex as David to really shine (though standing right in front of Ben Cook’s amp probably didn’t help my perspective), or that at a few points in the set I heard the band’s usual uber-tightness waver some. But none of that mattered one whit. This was the band that had improbably become this city’s musical ambassadors to the world over the last few years celebrating an amazing year with their friends and family for a worthy cause, and any nit-picking about the technical details – which were mostly minor – were rendered completely invalid by the spirit and energy of the show.

For his traditional foray into the audience early in the show, Abraham climbed right up off the stage into the balcony and traversed the entire perimeter of the venue while his bandmates churned through “Turn The Season”. Beneath him, as they did from note one and would through the duration of the show, a relatively small but unquestionably determined mosh pit did what they do; Abraham would encourage the horseplay but also clearly kept a watchful eye on his charges. And though he’s the indisputable focal point of the band, enough can’t be said about the rest of the band and their ability to keep up the exhausting and unrelenting pace that the material demands, be it unloading massive riff after riff or providing the melodic backing vocals so essential to tempering Abraham’s gruff roar. I can’t imagine the endurance necessary to pull off a show like this, but they did it.

Surprisingly, the show seemed to go by quicker than the album itself seems to and with the set finale of “Lights Go Out”, you couldn’t help but feel a huge swell of hometown pride for what had just gone down. Arguably the city’s best band right now, for whom epithets like “punk” or “hardcore” are now so stylistically inadequate, gave us a fantastic gift and reminded us that in a year when so much seems to have gone wrong civically, there was still so much to love about this city. Toronto the good, Toronto the Fucked Up.

Exclaim and BlogTO also have reviews of the show and The AV Club has an interview with drummer Josh Zucker. Pitchfork has the whole of the Fucked Up performance of David in New York City available to watch.

Photos: Fucked Up, The Sadies, PS I Love You, Quest For Fire @ The Great Hall – December 20, 2011
MP3: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Ship Of Fools”
MP3: Fucked Up – “A Little Death”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Neat Parts”
MP3: The Sadies – “Another Year Again”
MP3: The Sadies – “Anna Leigh”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Subdivisions”
MP3: PS I Love You (featuring Diamond Rings) – “Leftovers”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Get Over”
MP3: PS I Love You – “2012”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Butterflies & Boners”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Facelove”
Video: Fucked Up – “Turn The Season”
Video: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
Video: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
Video: Fucked Up – “Black Albino Bones”
Video: Fucked Up – “Crooked Head”
Video: The Sadies – “Another Day Again”
Video: The Sadies – “Cut Corners”
Video: The Sadies – “Postcards”
Video: The Sadies – “The Horseshoe”
Video: The Sadies – “Flash”
Video: PS I Love You (featuring Diamond Rings) – “Leftovers”
Video: PS I Love You – “Get Over”
Video: PS I Love You – “Facelove”
Video: Quest For Fire – “I’ve Been Trying To Leave”

Kathryn Calder has released a new video from Bright & Vivid.

Video: Kathryn Calder – “Turn A Light On”

Exclaim has details of the new Woodpigeon EP For Paolo, which will be released digitally on January 24. There’s also a new video for the title track.

Video: Woodpigeon – “For Paolo”

Colin Stetson also has a new video for his new 10″ single for “Those Who Didn’t Run”.

Video: Colin Stetson – “Those Who Didn’t Run”

Amos The Transparent have released a video from their forthcoming album Goodnight My Dear… Im Falling Apart, which compiles a pair of previously-released EPs and will be out on February 14. They play a release show for the record at The Horseshoe on February 25.

Video: Amos The Transparent – “Sure As The Weather”

It’s a two-night stand of the in sound from out west at Lee’s Palace on April 12 and 13 when Yukon Blonde and Library Voices roll into town.

MP3: Yukon Blonde – “Fire”
Video: Yukon Blonde – “Water”
Video: Library Voices – “Generation Handclap”

The first official taste of Memoryhouse’s debut full-length The Slideshow Effect is available and it’s very… awake. The album is out February 28.

MP3: Memoryhouse – “The Kids Were Wrong”

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Tallulah

Allo Darlin’ send postcards from Europe

Illustration By Paul RainsPaul RainsOne of the criteria – really, the main one – for my year-end list was basically, “how many times did I listen to this record?”. Which I think is reasonable. If we were to take out the “must have been released in 2011” stipulation, however, the list would have been rather different – at least to the extent that Allo Darlin’s 2010 self-titled debut would have surely made the list. And if I’d assembled a supplementary list of favourite 7″ singles of the year, their “Darren”/”Wu-Tang Clan” picture disc – a tribute to the Hefner frontman and cover of one of his compositions as The French – would have been at the top (and the bottom as it was the only 7″ I bought this year).

If it’s not clear, the ukulele-powered, Aussie-fronted London quartet rather charmed me this year and for the reasons why, check out my review of the record and also of their live show in June. And so after playing catch-up on their back catalog (well, the one album and a handful of singles) this year, I’m trilled that details on their second album have started to come to light. It was known that it’d be called Europe as far back as the Summer, but now Altsounds reports that a first single entitled “Capricornia” will be out on February 13 with the full-length to follow sometime in May. eburban ups the ante by saying the record will be released in North America by Slumberland – a fact confirmed by the band via Twitter – and on April 3 with a North American tour to follow. Those bits are unconfirmed but I’m certainly on board with hoping its true.

In any case, a first taste of the new album comes via a video assembled from tour footage for the song “Tallulah”, and if you’re guessing that’s a reference to indie-pop forebears Talulah Gosh – spelling aside – you’re probably right. And if you’re guessing I’m saving a spot on the “favourites of 2012” list for Europe, you’re also probably right.

MP3: Allo Darlin’ – “My Heart Is A Drummer”
Video: Allo Darlin’ – “Tallulah”

Pitchfork reports that Stuart Murdoch has turned to Kickstarter to gather financing for his musical film adaptation of God Help The Girl, hoping to get it done before turning his attention to the next Belle & Sebastian record. So if you want that follow-up to Write About Love sooner rather than later, chip in a bit.

MP3: God Help The Girl – “Come Monday Night”

In conversation with Rolling Stone , Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons compares the band’s new material to both Black Sabbath and Nick Drake. Neither Black Sabbath or Nick Drake fans are impressed.

Both sides of the new Radiohead single are available to stream and purchase from your preferred digital retail outlet.

Stream: Radiohead – “The Daily Mail”
Stream: Radiohead – “Staircase”

Chart talks covers with Anna Calvi.

Artrocker gets an update on the return of Bloc Party from drummer Matt Tong.

Sweden’s Mary Onettes have prepared a new EP entitled Love Forever, half of it produced by Dan Lissvik who made the last Young Galaxy such a gem. I’d have been looking forward to whatever they put out next but this makes it extra tantalizing. It’s out February 28.

Interview talks to Swedish duo Serenades.

The Guardian interviews Anthony Gonzalez of M83. They’re at the Sound Academy on May 6.

Jim Sclavunos tells Faster Louder that while Grinderman is on the back burner for now, The Bad Seeds are indeed back in action.

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Champagne Year

St. Vincent and Cold Specks at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIn discussing the latest St. Vincent album Strange Mercy, I mentioned that Annie Clark’s greatest strength as a songwriter was her creative restlessness; a trait which has over the course of her relatively short career already taken her to more interesting places than some artists even conceive of visiting. If we turn our attention to her live show, that title of “most appropriate single adjective” would probably have to be “control”.

Just as she has a very specific idea of how her compositions should sound on record, she hits the road with a very specific idea of how they should be presented on stage, such that each time I’ve seen her its been not only with a different set of musicians, but a different configuration of instruments and sounds. Not that you need much more than Clark, her voice and her guitar to spellbind; that’s all she brought on her first visit back in February 2007 before her debut Marry Me was released and it was far more memorable than Midlake’s headlining set. Her last time through Toronto in August 2009, the more complex orchestration of Actor necessitated a multi-instrumentalist, multi-tasking five-piece St. Vincent. So who and what would they be for the leaner and more snarling Strange Mercy?

First, opening up were Cold Specks who had to make waves in Europe with her debut 7″ release before getting some attention back home; though Cold Specks is now based in London, Al Spx originally hails from the borough of Etobicoke. Performing seated as a two-piece with an accompanying guitarist/vocalist, Cold Specks tried to win over the packed, talkative room without a lot of success. Her meditative gospel-folk songs and their low-key deliver was designed more to haunt than command, and this wasn’t really the environment for that approach to succeed. Those of us up front were able to appreciate its subtleties and the way the weight of the material built slowly as the set progressed, but even from in close it was very gradual. Getting the opportunity to make her debut on a big stage like this may have been an impressive achievement, but Cold Specks is probably better suited to smaller rooms and more attentive audiences for now.

St. Vincent, on the other hand, has well and properly graduated to rooms of this size. Backed by a drummer manning a kit the size of which seemed physically impossible for an individual to manage and two keyboard/synth players, Annie Clark delivered a set that was configured for and leaned heavily on Strange Mercy – no horns or second effected vocal mic this time – only dipping slightly into Actor and not even acknowledging Marry Me until the finale of the show. The new material was delivered with gusto, Clark shifting from siren to shredder with the shake of her head and unleashing the squalling guitar breaks that so happily punctuate the record, unleashing chaos but in a totally precise manner (though having the strobe lights continually synched with the solos seemed a bit on the nose over the course of the night). The intensity of her performance was an interesting counterpoint to her poise between songs, where she would graciously acknowledge the shouts of, “we love you!” and “you’re so pretty!” from the audience while tuning or offer up some charming anecdote to make everyone fall in love with her just a little bit more.

This isn’t to suggest that it was an operation of military precision; “Dilettante” took three tries to get right, with Clark having to stop herself twice on account of forgetting the lyrics though she made the exercise of soliciting cues from the audience one of the most endearing moments of the night. It was with the late-set cover of The Pop Group’s “She Is Beyond Good & Evil” – rendered far more aggressively than any of her own material – that the show seemed to allow more anarchy to seep in. Shortly thereafter, Clark appeared to break the theremin during its solo on “Northern Lights” and though the encore opened with a lovely keyboard-vocal arrangement of “The Party”, it closed with a riff-heavy, almost metal-derived version of “Your Lips Are Red” which saw Clark turn an edge-of-stage guitar solo into an impromptu crowd surf – while sustaining both the soloing and her perfect posture – before getting back on stage and basically attacking her roadie with her guitar (in what I presume was a playful manner). It was a fantastic finale to an impressive show and showed that maybe the best thing about Annie Clark’s being in control is her ability to lose it.

NOW, The National Post, and The Globe & Mail also have reviews of the show while The Grid has a quick interview. The Toronto Star has a profile of Cold Specks.

Photos: St. Vincent, Cold Specks @ The Phoenix – December 15, 2011
MP3: St. Vincent – “Surgeon”
MP3: St. Vincent – “Actor Out Of Work”
MP3: St. Vincent – “The Strangers”
MP3: St. Vincent – “Now Now”
Stream: Cold Specks – “Holland”
Video: St. Vincent – “Cruel”
Video: St. Vincent – “Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood”
Video: St. Vincent – “Actor Out Of Work”
Video: St. Vincent – “Jesus Saves I Spend”

NYC Taper has got one of The National’s homecoming High Violet finale shows available to download, including the two new songs – “Rylan” and “I Need My Girl” – that the band has been premiering on this tour.

Also at NYC TaperMy Morning Jacket’s Madison Square Garden show from last week.

Rolling Stone has premiered the new video from Nicole Atkins’ Mondo Amore.

Video: Nicole Atkins – “Hotel Plaster”

Exclaim reports that Cat Power will be releasing some new material in the form of a charity single on Christmas Eve. Details are still forthcoming but it’s confirmation that Chan Marshall has been doing stuff. Musical stuff.

That new Guided By Voices album, Let’s Go Eat The Factory? NPR has got that up to stream, two weeks before its January 1 digital release and a full month before its January 17 physical release.

Stream: Guided By Voices – “Let’s Go Eat The Factory”

Their visit in the Fall a casualty of the cancelled Vaccines tour, Tennis have made a date at The Horseshoe for February 29, just a couple weeks after their second album Young And Old is released on February 14.

MP3: Tennis – “Civic Halo”
MP3: Tennis – “Self-Seal Mishap”
Video: Tennis – “Deep In The Woods”

Youth Lagoon will bring his much year-ended debut album The Year Of Hibernation to Lee’s Palace on March 31. Blare has an interview.

MP3: Youth Lagoon – “July”

Memphis country-punk stalwarts Lucero are back at Lee’s Palace on April 14. Their new album Women & Work will be out in the Spring, presumably in time to sell at these shows.

Video: Lucero – “What Are You Willing To Lose?”

Spin has got the new Sleigh Bells single available to stream. Reign Of Terror is out February 14.

Stream: Sleigh Bells – “Born To Lose”

Paste has posted a video session with Centro-Matic.

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

"Cloudbusting"

Neil Halstead and Gemma Hayes cover Kate Bush

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOne of the music stories of 2011 was the return of Kate Bush from whatever misty English castle she’d been hiding in since releasing her last album, Aerial, in 2005. It began with the curious remix/renovation project Director’s Cut in the Spring, but was followed by a proper collection of new works this Fall in 50 Words For Snow. And there was much rejoicing throughout the land. To mark this – and also because I’ve had the tune kicking around my head for a while – are a couple covers of one of my favourite Kate Bush songs by two artists who don’t, incidentally, belong to the ever-growing cohort of Kate Bush art-rock devotees emerging into the UK music scene of late.

Given that Bush was one of Britain’s biggest stars when Neil Halstead first led Slowdive out of Reading in 1989, it’s unlikely that wasn’t some degree of fan. And though his solo output has been fine – 2008’s Oh Mighty Engine was quite enjoyable – I’m hoping he can draw inspiration from her comeback this year to restart Mojave 3. They’ve been on hiatus since 2006’s Puzzles Like You, though the band did reconvene to play some shows earlier this year – precisely who was in the lineup is unclear to me, though. Otherwise all that he’s done this year is contribute a track to his label’s Christmas compilation, a one-off in the vein of where this cover comes from – a collection of indie lullabies. Sorry Neil, we want more.

Irish singer-songwriter Gemma Hayes put out her fourth solo record Feel It Break earlier this year so even though it took three years to follow up Hollow Of Morning, she escapes any chiding for being lazy. And certainly none for not being generous; this live recording of “Cloudbusting” comes from an early December 2009 gig in Cork, Ireland and was given away for free by Hayes a couple weeks later.

MP3: Neil Halstead – “Cloudbusting”
MP3: Gemma Hayes – “Cloudbusting”
Video: Kate Bush – “Cloudbusting”

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Take Me Out

The Wooden Sky readies album number three

Photo By Justin BroadbentJustin BroadbentIn an age where many young bands seek to get on the expressway to your skull immediately after their first rehearsal – assuming they rehearse instead of just uploading jams to Soundcloud – you have to appreciate a band like The Wooden Sky. They’ve taken the time to hone their songcraft and live show since forming as Friday Morning’s Regret in 2003, and with their 2009 sophomore full-length If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone and its attendant endless touring regimen, have positioned themselves as one of the country’s finest young roots-rock bands.

And after tantalizing with this Fall’s City Of Light EP, they’ll be looking to take that on-the-cusp status over the top on February 28 when their third album, an 18-track nearly-double opus 13-track regular-sized record Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun, is released. Details on the release are available over at Exclaim, as is the itinerary for their accompanying Canada-heavy North American tour. That jaunt includes a hometown show at The Opera House on April 20, tickets $15.50 in advance.

There’s no official preview track of the new album yet but this one from City Of Light, if it’s not on it, should at least point at where they’re going.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Angelina”

Rich Aucoin will bring his debut album We’re All Dying To Live and accompanying over-the-top live spectacle to the Drake Underground on January 13.

MP3: Rich Aucoin – “It”
Video: Rich Aucoin – “It”

Fresh off their three-night stand headlining the Phoenix, Tokyo Police Club are back in a support role having been added as openers for Foster The People at The Meadows at Downsview Park on June 19.

MP3: Tokyo Police Club – “Party In The USA”

Chart talks to Wes Marskell of The Darcys. They and The Balconies, with whom Plaid has an interview, are a couple of the acts playing this year’s edition of Edgefest, happening July 14 at Downsview Park.

So yeah, new Arcade Fire video(s) for “Sprawl 2 (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”, in conventional and interactive forms. Dance!

Video: Arcade Fire – “Sprawl 2 (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” (conventional)
Video: Arcade Fire – “Sprawl 2 (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” (interactive)

aux.tv talks to Bry Webb about life post-Constantines.

Exclaim has good news and bad news for Karkwa fans: the good is that the band are readying a double-live album – where I’d argue they’re at their best – to be recorded tomorrow night in Montreal and released next year, the bad is that it’ll be their last release for a while as they’re going on a hiatus after that. Which is reasonable – their Polaris win in 2010 made the touring cycle for Les chemins des verre (just certified gold, by the way) many times longer than they probably expected when they released it. Nice problem to have.

The Alternate Side has posted a session and interview with The Handsome Furs.

Exclaim has premiered the first track from John K Samson’s solo album Provincial, due out January 24.

Stream: John K Samson – “When I Write My Master’s Thesis”

CBC Radio 3 has posted a track-by-track live performance from Coeur de Pirate of her new album Blonde.

DIY has n interview and video session with Dan Mangan. Exclaim has also posted a couple of live session videos with the Dan.

Kathryn Calder talks the touring life with CBC Radio 3 and also to The Riverfront Times.

Diamond Rings talks about brushes with fame in the form of Beastie Boys and Katy Perry with Spinner.

Woodpigeon ends an extended – for them, at least – hiatus with the release of the For Paolo digital EP due out on January 16, presumably in advance of a full-length later next year.

The Line Of Best Fit has released their holiday edition of the Oh! Canada mix series. Download it and blast it from your car over the next two weeks.