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Archive for April, 2012

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Upside Down

The Jesus & Mary Chain’s randomly-routed reunion tour finally hits Canada. Probably.

Photo via BPMBeats Per MinuteMost tours follow some sort of logical routing anchored around major markets, festivals, what have you. Reunion tours are usually even moreso, what with their main motivation – or at least one of them – being to maximize revenue rather than build audiences (unless of course you’re the Pixies, in which case your motivation is to play ever single market ever). So it’s been equally frustrating and exciting to try and figure out what The Jesus & Mary Chain would do next. After calling it a day following 1998’s Munki, they reconvened in 2007 to play Coachella and followed that up with a number of one-off and festival dates in the US, Europe, Australia, South America through 2008 – though never anything that could be construed as a proper tour – and then went silent again. Given the Reid brothers’ famously combative nature, it wasn’t unreasonable to think they’d broken up again but there was always just enough activity from the JAMC camp – word of new recordings, an interview with one of the Reids, a massive reissue series – to keep them in the “active” file.

Then as of this Spring, they were back at it. A date at SXSW was accompanied by a handful of Texas dates, but visa problems forced a couple to be canceled and a New Orleans show was rescheduled for September. And then they were playing a festival in Beijing in May. Then a run in California and Nevada in June, and another festival in North Carolina in September. It’s like their booking agent was throwing darts at a map of the world or the band was collecting frequent flier miles. And yesterday morning, another set of dates came up on their website that placed them riding the 401 this Summer, with an August 2 date in Buffalo, August 3 at The Phoenix in Toronto and an August 4 date at Osheaga in Montreal as well as more North American dates through September. Now the dates were pulled shortly thereafter (though saved on their message board) but seemed legit enough to believe that their official-ness is just a matter of timing; Osheaga confirmed their appearance this morning. I expect the Toronto PR – and ticket info – shortly.

In any case, reports from the SXSW show were that they sounded good and still appeared to hate each other; I can at least testify to the former from where I was listening out on the street. And things I did not know about the reunited JAMC – Ride’s Loz Colbert was their drummer in 2007 and 2008 (though he’s gone now) and Lush’s Phil King is their bassist. How about that?

Video: The Jesus & Mary Chain – “I Hate Rock & Roll”
Video: The Jesus & Mary Chain – “Come On”
Video: The Jesus & Mary Chain – “Head On”

Speaking of vague reunions, it figures that as soon as I build a post around the conceit that Blur are done, Damon Albarn goes off and gives an interview to Metro in which he basically says, “but maybe not”. THANKS DAMON.

Riot Of Perfume talks to Electrelane, who’ve been off hiatus since last year but not doing a lot with it until some gigs in Australia this Spring.

Spin gets a look in the M83 man-cave. They’re at The Sound Academy on May 6 and Fort York on August 4.

The Cribs discuss their new record In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull with NME; it’s out May 15.

The 405 has a video session with Amanda Mair, whose self-titled debut gets a North American release on June 5.

Spinner talks to Michael Kiwanuka, in town at The Great Hall on June 19.

Yeah they’ve been away a while – I think their last visit was like four years ago – but The Hives have a new record in Lex Hives, out June 5, and a new North American tour that brings them to The Sound Academy on June 26, tickets $28.50. And as Spin documents, they also have some new sombreros.

Video: The Hives – “Hate To Say I Told You So”

Having both sold out shows here in February in support of their new albums – Sharon Van Etten at Lee’s Palace for Tramp and Tennis at The Horseshoe for Young & Old – the two acts will see if they can’t do the same at The Phoenix on July 31, tickets $18.50.

MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Serpents”
MP3: Tennis – “Civic Halo”

Dry The River are the subject of interviews with eMusic and Spin.

Daytrotter has posted a session with Big Deal.

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Jesus Of Cool

Nick Lowe at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangMaybe listening to Jesus Of Cool and Labour Of Lust weren’t the best warm-ups for Nick Lowe’s show at The Phoenix on Monday night. After all, he was many many years removed from being the young pub-rock firebrand who recorded those first two records, having settled comfortably into the role of professorial pop singer-songwriter – a guise that’s suited his still-potent pen quite nicely, as last year’s The Old Magic proved. But if you assumed this meant that his shows would be sedate, sit-down affairs, then you were mistaken. Somewhat.

Though the show was billed as Lowe with band, the man took the stage solo to open things up with something old and something new – “Stoplight Roses” from Magic and “Heart” from 1982’s Nick The Knife – before he took some time to chat up the crowd. He apologized if anyone was confused about the venue, since his recent shows had typically been at The Mod Club but with the positive reception that Magic has gotten and the increase in profile he got opening up for Wilco back in September, an upgrade in venue was not overreaching although what with the Phoenix floor being set up with chairs, the increase in capacity was probably only a couple hundred more at best.

Also in his opening monologue, Lowe mentioned that despite the new record being received quite favourably, it wouldn’t be one of “those” shows and that the set list had been optimized for “quality entertainment,” and the man wasn’t lying. After bringing his band out, he led them through a set that went from jazzy on the slower end of things to rollicking rockabilly at the other and both established the strength of his career’s body of work and affirmed that his recent records were as good as his old ones, in their way. After all, Lowe’s talents have always been his way with words and melodies, not in the fashions they were dressed in. I was a bit surprised how that Jesus Of Cool and Labour Of Lust didn’t get a bit more attention – besides being arguably his most famous records, they were also the ones recently reissued – but Lust was only represented by “Without Love” and “Cruel To Be Kind” and Jesus ignored completely.

No one was complaining, though. The audience was dead silent when they needed to be and whooped it up when appropriate, to say nothing of the sounds of female swooning that periodically punctuated the show; indeed, Lowe was a study in songwriting, charm and aging well. It wasn’t until the finale of the main set – “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ‘n’ Roll)” – that they finally got up out of their seats – well, five of them at least – to turn the space at the front of the stage into a dance floor. They were joined by many more for the encores, the first of which was highlighted by a hymnal version of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” and the second which found Lowe, again alone onstage, performing a song by the other iconic British artist to whom he’ll be forever tied – Elvis Costello and “Alison”, and that he missed a chord change while singing “My aim is true” only made the whole thing that much more perfect.

The Toronto Sun and NOW also have reviews of the show; Interview has an interview.

Photos: Nick Lowe @ The Phoenix – April 23, 2012
Video: Nick Lowe – “Sensitive Man”
Video: Nick Lowe – “All Men Are Liars”
Video: Nick Lowe – “I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock And Roll)”
Video: Nick Lowe – “Half A Boy And Half A Man”
Video: Nick Lowe – “Cruel To Be Kind”
Video: Nick Lowe – “Crackin’ Up”

The Line Of Best Fit revisits Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Woody Guthrie-saluting Mermaid Avenue releases; Mermaid Avenue: Volume III would appear to only be available in physical form in the Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions. Alas. Maybe take it up with Billy when his North American tour brings him through the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia on July 8? It looks like that’s as close as he’s getting to Hogtown this time out.

Tiny Mix Tapes interviews Sleigh Bells, back in Toronto next week on April 27 and 28 at the Air Canada Centre opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers.

With Lower Dens’ new album Nootropics due out next week – May 1 – DIY has both a stream of the whole thing and song-by-song annotations from the band.

MP3: Lower Dens – “Brains”
MP3: Lower Dens – “Propagation”
Stream: Lower Dens / Nootropics

La Sera – aka Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls – brings her new record Sees The Light to The Shop Under Parts & Labour on May 13, part of a North American tour.

MP3: La Sera – “Please Be My Third Eye”

The AV Club has got a stream of Fear Fun – the debut album from Father John Misty, aka J. Tillman ex of Fleet Foxes – ahead of its May 1 release date as well as an interview with the man. He plays The Horseshoe on May 14.

MP3: Father John Misty – “Nancy From Now On”
MP3: Father John Misty – “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”
Stream: Father John Misty / Fear Fun

Billboard has a feature piece on Beach House, whose new album Bloom is out May 15.

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips talks to Forbes about why the band has been so dedicated to making weird records/releases over the last couple of years; basically, just to see if they could. Another of the tracks from their Record Store Day Heady Fwends has just been made into a video. The Flaming Lips play a free show for NXNE at Yonge-Dundas Square on June 16.

Video: The Flaming Lips with Prefuse 73 – “The Supermoon Made Me Want To Pee”

And going on before the Lips and doubling the insane live show quotient will be Of Montreal. They’ve just released a new video from this year’s Paralytic Stalks and NPR is streaming last night’s show in Washington DC. And if you’re curious about some of the other NXNE scheduling that I’ve sussed out, last week’s post is in a constant state of update.

Video: Of Montreal – “Spiteful Intervention”

These United States – whose last attempted visit was derailed, I believe, by something we Torontonians like to call the G20 riots, will give it another go with a show at The Horseshoe on June 22. Update: okay, so they were actually here just a couple weeks ago opening for Trampled By Turtles. Fine.

MP3: These United States – “The Great Rivers”
MP3: These United States – “Water & Wheat”

Their fourth album Magic Hour due out on May 28, New York’s Scissor Sisters have set a date at the Sound Academy for June 28 – tickets are $32.50 for general admission and $42.50 for VIP.

Video: Scissor Sisters – “Only The Horses”

Andrew Bird has extended his Summer tour in support of Break It Yourself to include a July 19 date at Echo Beach in Toronto. Tickets are $35 in advance, full itinerary at Under The Radar.

MP3: Andrew Bird – “Eyeoneye”
MP3: Andrew Bird – “Give It Away”

Rolling Stone talks to Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs. She’s at The Phoenix on August 1.

To everyone reporting that Cat Power had named her new record, Sun – it’s not really news. She named announced it as the name of her next studio album following The Greatest as early as 2007, reported that the album was done in 2008 and then said that she’d shelved it in 2009. The more pertinent question is did she change her mind about those sessions and is releasing five-year old recordings or was she so attached to the album title that she’s using it for a whole new set of songs. In any case, it is news – assuming it’s true – that the record will be out on September 11. I’ll wait for Matador to chime in.

Exclaim solicits an acoustic video session with Nada Surf.

The Blue Indian chats with Bowerbirds.

The Mountain Goats play a video session for Paste and bassist Peter Hughes chats with Tone Deaf.

The Village Voice talks to Kurt Wagner of Lambchop, and if you missed last week’s guest editor run at Magnet, check it out – they discuss the origins of each song on Mr. M.

State talks to Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields.

Clash sends Crispin Glover to interview J. Mascis. Stranger things have happened, but not much.

Proxart talks to Anna-Lynne Williams of Trespassers William; on Facebook this week, she reported that the final Trespassers release – a double-disc cupboard clearing compilation – had gone off for mastering. Details on that release soon, one hopes.

The AV Club has posted their third instalment documenting the history of R.E.M..

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

To The End

Blur turn 21, clearly believe adage about leaving a beautiful corpse. In a box.

Photo via FacebookFacebookIf you accept that Damon Albarn is speaking truth and that these are the end times for Blur, you have to admit they’re doing it right. They’ve got their August 12 date at Hyde Park in London earmarked as the swan song, a lovely new (final) single in “Under The Westway” in the can and ready to surely top the charts one last time, and before they go, they’re clearing out the archival cupboards well and proper.

On July 31, to mark the 21st anniversary of their debut album Leisure and presumably the end of their career, they’ll release Blur 21 – a massive, career-spanning box set that will be made available in two formats. The digital box will contain all seven studio albums in remastered and expanded double-CD format, four discs of rarities not redundant to the material on each album’s bonus disc, three DVDs of live performances and videos, a 7″ of a Seymour-era single, and a fancy hardbound book about the band. The vinyl box will contain all seven albums on vinyl. And for the fans who aren’t insane collectors, each gussied-up album will be available individually in both CD and LP formats.

Yes that is a lot of Blur, but if you’re any degree of fan, try watching the trailer for the set and not thinking, “man I want that set”. If you’re curious, the pricing in Canada comes in at around $320 for either the vinyl box or the digital.

Trailer: Blur 21

If you’re interested in what Albarn will do with himself since he’s bringing the curtain down on both Blur and Gorillaz, then this stream at NPR of his Dr. Dee solo album/opera might offer some idea of his direction.

Stream: Damon Albarn / Dr. Dee

And while on the topic of reissues from seminal British bands from the ’90s, Exclaim points out that Ride are marking the 20th anniversary of Going Blank Again with a deluxe reissue consisting of a remaster of the album and a DVD of their 1992 show at the Brixton Academy (though probably in Region 1 and PAL format). It was also just pointed out to me that Going Blank Again got a vinyl reissue in February of this year thanks to Japanese archival label Obscure Alternatives.

Video: Ride – “Twisterella”

The Guardian and The Independent talk to Tim Burgess of The Charlatans about his forthcoming memoirs Tellin’ Stories, due out May 29. Slicing Up Eyeballs reports that their 1997 album of the same name will get its own 15th anniversary reissue on May 28 in double-disc format.

Video: The Charlatans – “North Country Boy”

Exclaim talks to Jason Pierce of Spiritualized. They’re at The Phoenix on May 5.

Austin City Limits is offering a tease of their recent Radiohead performance which was recorded in March but won’t air until the Fall. They’re at Downsview Park on June 16.

Video: Radiohead – “Lotus Flower” (live on Austin City Limits)

Pitchfork gets Jonny Marr to recount his musical influences through the years.

Clash talks literary influences with Gerard Love of Lightships.

Pitchfork talks to Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne about their new album Words And Music By Saint Etienne, due out on May 21; they’ve also got a stream of a new song from the album.

Stream: Saint Etienne – “Answer Song”

Pitchfork reports that Field Music will be collecting all the covers they’ve recorded over the years and releasing them in album form this Fall. I like Field Music covers. This pleases me.

State and Metro talk to Mystery Jets about their new record Radlands, out May 1, while NME has a stream of the whole thing. They’re at The Sound Academy on June 19 opening up for Keane.

Stream: Mystery Jets / Radlands

The Big Pink have released a new video from Future This.

Video: The Big Pink – “Lose Your Mind”

DIY has both a stream of Europe, the lovely new record from Allo Darlin’, and song-by-song commentary by the band. It’s out on May 1 over here but if you were to get it in the UK via Rough Trade, you could get it with a limited edition bonus CD containing six cover songs including this Go-Betweens tune, which they’re also offering as a stream.

Stream: Allo Darlin’ – “Dive For Your Memory”
Stream: Allo Darlin’ / Europe

We don’t have details on her second album yet, but Little Boots has released a second MP3 from it (“Shake” was offered up as a stream last November).

MP3: Little Boots – “Every Night I Say A Prayer”

Emmy The Great has released the second of her “God Of Loneliess” comics at Drowned In Sound along with another remix; that’s the third, another came out late last week. The Virtue deluxe edition and “God Of Loneliness” single are both out May 7.

MP3: Emmy The Great – “God Of Loneliness” (Dems remix)

Glide has a chat with Dry The River, who’ve released a new video from their debut Shallow Bed.

Video: Dry The River – “No Rest”

Daytrotter has posted a session with Johnny Flynn and The Guardian has an interview.

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Monuments

Review of Yann Tiersen’s Skyline and giveaway

Photo via FacebookFacebookWhilst perusing the shelves at Soundscapes on Saturday, was a little surprised to find Yann Tiersen’s latest Skyline – released last year in Europe and last week in North America – filed under “World Music”. Looking a bit closer, I saw that it was actually in a World Music subsection marked, “French Pop” which I suppose is technically accurate, but also not really. In fact, I’m glad it’s not my job to try and file Tiersen’s records because it’s something of an impossible task.

Sure, his arguably most famous work – the soundtrack to Amélie – is a gimme (soundtracks, if it wasn’t clear). A case could be made for filing the rest of his work alongside it; though they may not have been crafted to score any particular film, their cinematic scope is undeniable – Skyline opener “Another Shore” certainly seems like it was recorded straight to IMAX. And yet with its melodic richness and compact song structures, it would be understandable to head straight for the pop/rock section of your local music store, or “Alternative” if such segregation still exists. With its dreamy, widescreen ambitions and acoustic underpinnings, “Monuments” sounds like it could be an outtake from Mercury Rev’s “Deserter’s Songs” and if you traded the glider-esque guitars of “The Gutter” for some synths, it could pass for an M83 tune – and you wouldn’t file M83 under French Pop, would you?

None of which should be taken as implying that Tiersen lacks his own sonic identity; that Skyline hangs together so well despite covering so much stylistic ground is a real testament to his skills as a songwriter, composer, and bandleader. It’s the sort of record you could put on as shifting aural wallpaper or listen to intently over headphones and get something new and different out of each time. Maybe where you file it is a moot point since the best place for it is in your CD player or on your turntable.

The Sydney Morning Herald has an interview with Tiersen and he plays a video session for The Yellow Bird Project. Tiersen is in town at The Phoenix on May 2, and courtesy of Union Events, 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 Yann Tiersen” in the subject line and your full name in the body and have that in to me before midnight, April 29.

Stream: Yann Tiersen – “I’m Gonna Live Anyhow”
Video: Yann Tiersen – “The Gutter (skyline)”
Video: Yann Tiersen – “Monuments”
Video: Yann Tiersen – “Another Shore”
Video: Yann Tiersen – “The Trial”

The Toronto Star has an interview and NPR a World Cafe session with Of Monsters & Men.

Drowned In Sound has a stream of the Ólafur Arnalds/Nils Frahm collaborative EP which was released this weekend for Record Store Day.

Stream: Ólafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm / Stare

Whereas in North America, Sigur Rós’ contribution to the list of Record Store Day exclusives was their 2007 double-EP set Hvarf/Heim on vinyl, Europe got the first single from their next album Valtari on 10″ wax. The b-side of “Ekki Múkk” has turned up online as a stream, and while it is a non-album track, it does lend credence to reports that Valtari finds the band getting back in touch with their atmospheric side. Sigur Rós play Echo Beach on August 1.

Stream: Sigur Ros – “Kvistur”

Ane Brun has made her new single – a collaboration with José González – available to download. Her latest It All Starts With One gets a North American release on May 1 and she plays The Great Hall on May 10.

MP3: Ane Brun featuring José González – “Worship”

Niki & The Dove have released another new video from their debut Instinct. It has a European release date of May 14 and a North American one of August 7, but those on this side of the pond who are handy with computers can get it digitally/legitimately on May 15. Intreview also has a feature.

Video: Niki & The Dove – “Hot Summer”

In what is I think their third visit to Toronto in less than as many years, Shonen Knife will be at the Hart House Quadrangle at University Of Toronto on August 23. Yes, that is an unusual venue. Exclaim has details on the tour, which is in support of their new record Pop Tune, out June 6.

Video: Shonen Knife – “Super Group”

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

"The Weight"

Wilco, Nick Lowe & Mavis Staples cover The Band

Photo via YouTubeYouTubeNot the best week for the world of music, this past one. First there was the news that Robin Gibb of The Bee-Gees, who’d started the month with the good news that his cancer was in remission, had fallen into a coma due to pneumonia; then on Wednesday, Dick Clark was felled by a heart attack. Arguably the hardest blow came Thursday, however, when it was announced that Levon Helm – drummer and vocalist for The Band – had passed away from a battle with cancer that he’d seemingly beaten over a decade earlier.

His loss was immediately felt all throughout the music world, with tributes by way of covers of The Band’s music ringing out from stages everywhere. This week’s selection wasn’t one of them, but instead comes from a dressing room at Chicago’s Civic Opera House in December of last year. Helm was still alive and well, then, so all that Wilco, Nick Lowe, and Mavis Staples were saluting at that time was one of the great songs of twentieth century popular music, one which easily transcends geography, genre and generations.

Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche of Wilco were just some of the countless artists who paid tribute to Helm this weekend; Bob Dylan was another. There are worthy looks back at Helm’s life and legacy at Exclaim, The AV Club, and Billboard.

Nick Lowe is in town tomorrow night for a show at The Phoenix in support of his latest record The Old Magic. Wilco continue to tour last year’s The Whole Love; Band songs have graced their set lists in the past and it’s not unreasonable to expect that they’ll be working their way back in. Mavis Staples released the Jeff Tweedy-produced You Are Not Alone back in 2010 – she’s still on the road for that one.

And in a bit of good news, Robin Gibb is out of his coma.

MP3: Wilco, Nick Lowe & Mavis Staples – “The Weight” (live – Chicago, December 2011)
Video: Wilco, Nick Lowe & Mavis Staples – “The Weight” (live – Chicago, December 2011)
Video: The Band – “The Weight” (live – Festival Express, 1970)