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Archive for February, 2012

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

We Are The Same

The Tragically Hip attempt something novel, plan Canada Day shows

Photo via Amazon.comAmazonYesterday was a pretty busy one as far as festival announcements went – the first acts for this year’s Pitchfork Festival, happening July 13 to 15 in Chicago’s Union Park, were revealed; Sled Island made a pretty compelling argument for visiting Calgary from June 20 to 23; and though an official announcement is still a little ways off, the fact that Florence & The Machine, The Walkmen, tUnE-yArDs, Black Keys and The Shins will all be passing through during the August long weekend gives you a good notion of who Osheaga will be bringing to Montreal.

All of which serves to remind that we here in Toronto are again a festival-free town, at least as far as big outdoor to-dos are concerned. Sure, we may get an Olympic Island show but those aren’t ever a sure thing, Hillside is reasonably local but keeps things pretty grassroots, and club-level stuff like CMW and NXNE don’t quite stir the same amount of excitement, though the free shows at Yonge-Dundas Square during NXNE come pretty close. And yeah I know there’s stuff like Edgefest and Warped and HeavyTO, but those never interest me and are thus invalid. All of which is to say that for all the problems that it ran into over its four-year existence, I miss V Fest.

But hey, the field isn’t completely fallow – The Tragically Hip, as they often do, have announced a couple of multi-act shows in honour of the 200th anniversary of the War Of 1812 and Canada Day to take place at Butler’s Barracks in Niagara-On-The-Lake on June 30 and Burl’s Creek outside of Barrie on July 1, respectively. Not in the 416 like last year’s Weezer co-headline bro-fest at Downsview, but as good as it gets for now. Joining them for both dates will be Death Cab For Cutie, The New Pornographers, and The Rural Alberta Advantage. I’m assuming Death Cab will play the Americans in the historical re-enactment of the Battle Of Beaver Dams. It’s not as mammoth a linuep as they’ve sometimes assembled for the country’s birthday, but it’s a solid one.

Tickets are $69.50 for either show and there will be a limited number of two-days passes for $99.50 for the extra patriotic. Details at thehip.com.

MP3: Death Cab For Cutie – “Photobooth”
MP3: The New Pornographers – “(Your Hands) Together”
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “North Star”
Video: The Tragically Hip – “My Music At Work”

The Wilderness Of Manitoba will warm up for their trip down to Austin for SXSW and preview songs from their forthcoming second album with a show at The Drake Underground on March 8.

MP3: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Hermit”

Acknowledging that barely a fraction of their fanbase will get to see them at The Horseshoe on March 23 during Canadian Musicfest, Zeus have made a properly-sized hometown date at The Phoenix on June 9, tickets $15. Their second album Busting Visions is out March 27.

MP3: Zeus – “Anything You Want Dear”

Exclaim welcomes Grimes to the cover of their March issue. She’s at The Horseshoe on March 19.

Pitchfork has premiered the first track from PS I Love You’s sophomore effort Death Dreams, out May 8. They’re also playing Lee’s Palace on March 23 for Canadian Musicfest and Toronto Standard has a conversation with them and Diamond Rings, whose own second album is the process of being wrapped up.

MP3: PS I Love You – “Sentimental Dishes”

The Alternate Side welcomes Dan Mangan for a video session and interview. He plays The Indies at The Royal York on March 24.

Interview has premiered the first of a series of performance videos by The Wooden Sky showcasing songs from their new record Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun, while Exclaim has an interview with the band in this month’s issue as well as an online piece about the other projects the band are pursuing, and The Link also has a chat. They’re at The Opera House on April 20.

Interview, CBC Radio 3, Montreal Gazette, and National Post talk to Plants & Animals about their new album The End Of That, from which they’ve just released a new video. They’re at Lee’s Palace on April 21.

Video: Plants & Animals – “Lightshow”

Metric have announced a June 12 release date for their new record, which will be entitled Synthetica. I suspect that some synths went into the making of this record.

The Line Of Best Fit, Exclaim, and Minnesota Daily talk to Memoryhouse about their debut full-length The Slideshow Effect, out now and sporting a brand-new video.

Video: Memoryhouse – “The Kids Were Wrong”

Islands have released a new video from A Sleep & A Forgetting while NPR has posted a World Cafe session and Exclaim, Blurt, JAM, and Seattle Weekly interviews with the band.

Video: Islands – “Hallways”

The Scotsman talks to Kathleen Edwards, who also gives Clash a peek at some of her literary influences. The Hamilton Spectator also has some questions for their former resident.

Uptown, The Calgary Herald, and Prairie Dog interview Calgary singer-songwriter Rae Spoon.

Happy Leap Day! It’s a great day to do things you normally wouldn’t… like lead a post with The Tragically Hip! Woo!

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Reappear

Review of School Of Seven Bells’ Ghostory

Photo By Justin HollarJustin HollarI had actually forgotten how weird Alpinisms, the 2008 debut from New York’s School Of Seven Bells was. It basically inverted the balance of pop-to-experimentalism of the Deheza sisters’ former outfit On! Air! Library! and made itself it much more accessible than O!A!L!’s self-titled effort but was still willing to forgo the pop in parts to play with textures, exotic sounds and the interesting harmonies that their twin frontwomen could create.

2010’s Disconnect From Desire was decidedly slicker, dancier and more straight-ahead in comparison – at least relatively speaking in a dream-pop/post-shoegaze frame of reference. It successfully grew their audience but not without cost – keyboardist/vocalist Claudia Deheza left the band in the middle of a Fall tour that year, leaving the official band lineup as just sister Alejandra and guitarist Ben Curtis, replacing the musical chemistry between the two with another singer being pretty much impossible.

You would think that losing a third of the band would have more dramatic impact on their sound, but had you no knowledge of the personnel changes and just came to their just-released third album Ghostory with a familiarity of their previous efforts, you would be forgiven for assuming that everything was business as usual. Losing their keyboardist hasn’t meant losing the keys as the album still leans heavily on sequenced rhythms and synthetic atmosphere and through the magic of overdubs the band’s signature harmonies are superficially intact if less inherently magical. In fact, though the band is officially now a pair of guitarists, Ghostory is arguably less guitar-driven than before, instead favouring a more ’80s-era 4AD sheen than any overt ’90s shoegaze aesthetic; anyone who still wants to pigeonhole them as such is working with outdated information.

Perhaps the most notable thing about Ghostory is how steady on it finds the band in what they do despite the upheavals. Parsing the lyrics, which ostensibly center around a young girl literally haunted by ghosts, you can find traces of deeper, more personal emotions – loss, regret, what have you – but this is not music meant for soundtracking deep introspection. It’s for drifting, dreaming, dancing. No more, no less. The school may experience staff turnover but the lesson plan remains the same.

Ghostory is out today and available to stream in full at Spinner. After a jaunt in Europe, their North American tour brings the band to The Hoxton in Toronto on May 2. Alejandra Deheza talks to Spin about her interest in tarot cards and to Rolling Stone about the just-released first video from the album.

MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Lafaye”
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “The Night”
Video: School Of Seven Bells – “Lafaye”
Stream: School Of Seven Bells / Ghostory

Blurt chats with Amber Papini of Hospitality, in town at The Horseshoe on February 29 and The Garrison on May 4 in support of Tennis and Eleanor Friedberger, respectively.

Stereogum is streaming in whole The Clearing, the new album from Bowerbirds, out next Tuesday. They play The Garrison on March 27.

MP3: Bowerbirds – “Tuck The Darkness In”
MP3: Bowerbirds – “In The Yard”
Stream: Bowerbirds / The Clearing

NPR is streaming the whole of Milk Famous, the new one from White Rabbits, a week ahead of its March 6 release date.

MP3: White Rabbits – “Heavy Metal”
Stream: White Rabbits / Milk Famous

Young Prisms will warm up for their March 10 show at The Drake Underground with an in-store at the Kensington location of Sonic Boom that afternoon at 5PM. Their second album In Between is out March 27 and Stereogum just premiered the first video.

MP3: Young Prisms – “Floating In Blue”
Video: Young Prisms – “Floating In Blue”

James Mercer of The Shins stops in at The Alternate Side for an interview and video session. Port Of Morrow comes out March 20.

Spin has posted online the Sleigh Bells cover story from the all-new, redesigned magazine, and dang is it pretty. The magazine, not the story, but if Alexis Krauss does it for you, then it’s both. There’s also features at eMusic, AltSounds, The Guardian, and The Stool Pigeon. Sleigh Bells are at The Phoenix on March 26 and The Air Canada Centre on April 27 and 28 with Red Hot Chili Peppers.

NPR is streaming a World Cafe session and The Fly has an interview with with Chairlift, who are at The Horseshoe on March 28.

Pitchfork has a +1 interview and video session with Perfume Genius while Stereogum gets Mike Hadreas on the phone for an interview about Put Your Back N 2 It. He plays The Drake Underground on April 8.

Maps & Atlases have made a May 16 date at The Horseshoe in support of their forthcoming album Beware And Be Grateful; the album is out April 17, tickets for the show are $11.50 and the first MP3 is available to download courtesy of Rolling Stone.

MP3: Maps & Atlases – “Winter”

It’s happy news that the Luna back catalog is finally going to be reissued on vinyl, at least some of it. Record Store Day will see their last two albums, Romantica and Rendezvous, come out on wax (that’s April 21) and there’s plans to press my personal favourite Bewitched in early Summer and Penthouse will eventually follow. I said I was largely done re-buying albums I already owned on LP, but this is an exception. Oh yes. And coincidentally, the band played their final show seven years ago today. Sigh.

MP3: Luna – “Black Postcards”

Lower Dens have released a video for the first single from their forthcoming album Nootropics; it’s out May 1.

Video: Lower Dens – “Brains”

A visit to France has yielded some live Blouse videos worth watching; a full show at arte.tv and a session for Faits Divers; there’s also one recorded stateside at Yours Truly and an interview with the band at Drowned In Sound. Blouse are at The Garrison on May 5.

The original release has since been redacted – someone broke embargo, apparently – but it seems likely that the new Beach House album will be out on May 15 and be called Bloom. Unless, of course, it’s not – in which case, it’s another case of “oh, internet!”.

Girls have gone to Conan O’Brien to premiere the new video from Father, Son, Holy Ghost.

Video: Girls – “My Ma”

Bon Iver has released a new video from Bon Iver.

Video: Bon Iver – “Towers”

NPR has got a World Cafe session with Real Estate.

Daytrotter has posted a session with CANT.

CBC Radio 3 and CNN have conversations with The Kills, who are streaming the Velvet Underground cover that appears on the “Last Goodbye” 10″.

Stream: The Kills – “Pale Blue Eyes”

Annie Clark of St. Vincent talks to The New Zealand Herald, The Guardian, and Drowned In Sound while the director for her “Cheerleader” video explains the clip to Pitchfork.

Culture Mob talks to Ume.

Pitchfork talks to James Murphy about his life post-LCD Soundsystem.

Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs talks to Spin about the band’s reunion. No word of lie, there is no show announcement I await more eagerly than this one.

Billboard talks to Bob Mould about Sugar’s Copper Blue, which he’s taken to performing in its entirety for a handful of mostly European shows.

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Dance the Night Away

Scud Mountain Boys at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangEven in this age of band reunions run amuck, the returns of some outfits to active duty seem highly unlikely. Maybe the animosity between the principals is too deep for even the biggest prospective paydays to put aside, or the prospect of being regarded as a nostalgia act rather than active, vital artist is too unpalatable, or maybe the band’s audience wasn’t all that big the first time around and their legend hasn’t necessarily grown enough in the interim to make it seem worthwhile.

Any and all of these could reasonably have applied to early ’90s alt.country outfit Scud Mountain Boys. A falling out, the specifics of which have grown vague, left it so that singer-guitarist Joe Pernice hadn’t spoken to the other three in some fourteen years, Pernice had since established himself as a successful bandleader via Pernice Brothers and solo artist, and though the Scuds certainly had their devotees, their name wasn’t exactly topping anyone’s list of dream Coachella headliner reunions. And yet last Summer, following the death of a close mutual friend, Pernice decided to reach out to his former bandmates and revisit the old material – net result, a string of live dates along the east coast in early 2012 that wrapped up, for the moment, this past Saturday night at Lee’s Palace in Pernice’s adopted hometown of Toronto.

Any question about the vibe of the night was answered with the band’s stage setup, carried over from their original incarnation – a kitchen table set up in the middle of the stage, adorned with a small lamp and surrounded with comfortable chairs. It was both symbolic, hearkening to the band’s beginnings sitting around a kitchen table playing music together, and practical, giving them a place to put their drinks. And with regards to my earlier comments that no one was waiting for this reunion – that’s not to say that it wasn’t welcome; a few hundred locals were out for the occasion, and some were louder and rowdier than the band themselves.

Being more a fan of the Pernice Brothers’ ornate pop than the Scuds’ country leanings – relatively speaking, just to be clear – I’ve always preferred the more produced third album Massachusetts to their sparser, earlier records Pine Box and Dance The Night Away (collected and rereleased as The Early Year) but hearing the earlier material was a great reminder that those simpler recordings still contained some great, great songs. And also that as much as history has framed the Scuds as Pernice’s old band – and he was great, having shaved for the occasion and looking a lot like Elvis Costello, and still a hilarious onstage personality who despite planning to become a Canadian citizen this year, hadn’t forgotten his Boston roots (“Pogge or Rask?”) – the others were far more than just a supporting cast. Drummer Tom Shea was deft on mandolin for the front half of the show before taking up behind the drum kit, bassist Stephen Desaulniers’ voice has more of an innate twang than Pernice’s honeyed vocals and guitarist Bruce Tull’s leads offered a great balance of emotion and melody.

The 90-minute set was actually more dynamic than a show anchored around a kitchen table might have implied, the Massachusetts material almost rocking out (thought still seated) and main set closer “Cigarette Sandwich” coming across particularly rollicking. But perhaps most importantly, given the history of the band, everyone onstage seemed to be having a grand time of it and that spirit carried over into the audience, including former Pernice Brothers and current Sadies drummer Mike Belitsky. He was texting taunts at Pernice during the encore, causing him to crack up whilst trying to sing the somber Cher cover of “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” (the table was also good for holding mobile phones). A hilarious end to a wholly entertaining show, and if that ends up being it for the Scuds reunion – there are no more dates on the sched and Joe will be turning his attention to the new Pernice Brothers record due out this year – then it went out on a high note.

The Washington Post has an interview with Pernice about getting the band back together.

Photos: Scud Mountain Boys @ Lee’s Palace – February 25, 2012
MP3: Scud Mountain Boys – “Grudge Fuck”
Stream: Scud Mountain Boys – “In A Ditch”
Stream: Scud Mountain Boys – “Sangre de Cristo”

Both The Line Of Best Fit and DIY crash Stephin Merritt’s hotel room to record Magnetic Fields video sessions, while NPR has new album Love At The Bottom Of The Sea streaming in full before it emerges next Tuesday. They’re at the Sound Academy on March 30.

Stream: The Magnetic Fields / Love At The Bottom Of The Sea

Spin solicits a list of Sharon Van Etten’s favourite things; The Ottawa Citizen also has a chat.

Frankie Rose – whose CV takes her through such acts as Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls and The Outs – has released her acclaimed debut under her own name alone in Interstellar and will bring it to The Shop Under Parts & Labour on May 2.

MP3: Frankie Rose – “Little Brown Haired Girls”

Beirut has released a new video from last year’s delicious The Rip Tide. Hear it, and others like it, when the band are at The Sound Academy on July 19.

Video: Beirut – “Vagabond”

Baeble Music has premiered a new video from The Wooden Birds, taken from Two Matchsticks.

Video: The Wooden Birds – “Long Time To Lose It”

Drowned In Sound chats with Andrew Bird, whose new album Break It Yourself is out March 6 and now streaming in full at NPR.

Stream: Andrew Bird / Break It Yourself

NPR welcomes Nada Surf for a World Cafe session. They play The Opera House on April 4.

Spin interviews James Mercer of The Shins. Their new album Port Of Morrow comes out March 20.

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

"Why Won't You Stay"

Lambchop covers American Music Club

Photo via Rateyourmusic.comRateyourmusic.comA lot of folks were surprised when Nashville’s Lambchop returned with their new record Mr. M last week. Not because it was great – that’s pretty much the baseline for anything that Kurt Wagner and cohort release – but that it happened at all, many assuming they’d quietly called it a day after 2008’s OH (Ohio).

But as surprise comebacks go, it doesn’t hold a candle to the return of San Francisco’s American Music Club, who against all expectation reformed in 2003 after a decade apart and with frontman Mark Eitzel having cultivated a relatively fruitful solo career. The AMC reunion yielded two very good albums – Love Songs For Patriots and The Golden Age and a goodly amount of touring before apparently being put back into mothballs. Alas.

In the midst of their first hiatus, American Music Club got what all revered yet underappreciated bands get and that’s a tribute album – Come On Beautiful: The Songs Of American Music Club collected a bevy of artists who may have been small names circa 2001, but would go on to much larger things – including Lambchop. Kurt Wagner, on the band’s artist page on the compilation website (still up!) talks about how he initially didn’t care for AMC but came around on them. And in the present day, he talks to The AV Club about Mr. M.

MP3: Lambchop – “Why Won’t You Stay”
Video: American Music Club – “Why Won’t You Stay” (live in Ireland, 2004)

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

CONTEST – The Walkmen @ The Phoenix – March 2, 2012

Photo via thewalkmen.comthewalkmen.comWho: The Walkmen
What: Veteran New York rockers who’ve carved out a successful, decade-long career consisting of six albums with a seventh on the way.
Why: A 10th anniversary is as good a time as any to have a look back and throw a party, so the band are doing just that with a series of one-off, career-retrospective shows
When: Friday, March 2, 2012
Where: The Phoenix in Toronto (19+)
Who else: It’s billed as “An Evening With The Walkmen”, not “An Evening With The Walkmen And Some Other Band That Will Keep You From Seeing The Walkmen For An Extra Hour”. So there.
How: Tickets for the show are $26 in advance but courtesy of Collective Concerts, I’ve got one pair of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with, “I want to be a Walkman” in the subject line and your full name in the body, and have that in to me before midnight, February 28.
What else: Hardly getting stuck in the past, they’ve just completed the follow-up to 2010’s Lisbon – they talk to Paste and Stereogum about the new record, which they hope to have out in the Spring and which you can expect to hear material from when they open for Florence & The Machine at The Molson Amphitheatre on August 2.

MP3: The Walkmen – “Stranded”
MP3: The Walkmen – “Four Provinces”
MP3: The Walkmen – “In The New Year”