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Archive for November, 2012

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

This Ladder Is Ours

The Joy Formidable and Always at The Mod Club in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangEven since they were very small and giving away downloads of their debut mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning for free in February 2009, The Joy Formidable have been huge. Huge in ambition, both sound- and career-wise, as evidenced by their massive-sounding full-length debut The Big Roar and the relentless touring schedule that surrounded it. Since their local debut in May 2010, they’ve been through Toronto a half-dozen times, including two nights this past week – Sunday night opening for The Gaslight Anthem at The Sound Academy and then on Monday with at a last-minute showcase at The Mod Club.

Since I’d seen the Welsh trio at their first three local shows, I was alright with missing their April gig at Lee’s Palace and the Gaslight show, but was pretty excited about the Mod Club one – they’d finally be showcasing some new material, what with a second album in Wolf’s Law already done and due out on January 22, and I had a feeling that their days of playing rooms as small as Mod were quickly drawing to a close.

Local openers Always have done a pretty good job of keeping their internet presence the polar opposite of the ubiquity implied by their name, but they’re actually far from anonymous, particularly if you’ve an ear for east coast pop. Frontwoman Molly Rankin had/has a burgeoning solo career in addition to being part of Nova Scotia’s most famous musical family, and guitarist Alec O’Hanley toured across the country countless times as part of Two Hours Traffic before departing last year. Assuming that their sound would be some mathematical combination of their respective roots- and power-pop histories would be unimaginative, though. Their experience with writing hooks and melodies was well-evident, but it was delivered in a vintage indie jangle-pop form, striking a good balance between low-key and bubbly and taking full advantage of Rankin’s Victora Legrand-ish sleepy vocal timbre – someone call Slumberland A&R, stat. Over the course of their set, they went from complete mystery to one of my top bands to watch in the city. For warm-ups, you can’t do much better than that.

In the year or so since I saw them last, The Joy Formidable have had quite the apprenticeship in playing arena-scale venues opening for the likes of Foo Fighters and Muse, and when you take into consideration the fact that they were a pretty explosive live act to begin with, it was reasonable to expect some fireworks. And based on the physical evidence, at least, they were equipped to do so. Having once again taken an interest in inspecting/dissecting guitarist rigs, it was hard not to notice that frontwoman Ritzy Bryan had traded her lone, albeit overflowing, pedalboard and single combo amp for a sleek, space-age floorboard with touchscreen tablet controls and an amplification setup that powered some 18 speakers. Arenas, remember?

But what makes The Joy Formidable so, well, formidable, isn’t the hardware – it’s the massive rock it’s used to move. Shoegaze with the wallflower personality excised in favour of extroversion, given shape in Bryan’s diminutive form (and crazy eyes) and huge guitar chops, with rhythm section Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas doing commendable work in just keeping up. Their hour-fifteen set was split about evenly between Balloon/Roar material and previews of Wolf’s Law, although already being a couple singles deep into the album, they weren’t necessarily unfamiliar. And though the new stuff was arguably heavier and more indebted to classic British metal than the old, it all fit very nicely with the template that The Joy Formidable have been riding to success thus far. They might not necessarily be filling rooms much bigger than this normally, but they did an outstanding job of making the couple hundred in attendance feel like they were seeing something massive in an uncommonly intimate setting, and while I can’t say they’ll ever have the fanbase to fill a stadium, by god they already play like they do.

And if you didn’t manage to score tickets to this show, fear not – Bryan announced that they’d be back in April.

PureVolume has an interview with Ritzy Bryan.

Photos: The Joy Formidable, Always @ The Mod Club – November 26, 2012
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Wolf’s Law”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Austere”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Greyhounds In The Slips”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Cradle”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “The Ladder Is Ours”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Cholla”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Wolf’s Law”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring” (new)
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Austere”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “I Don’t Want To See You Like This”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Popinjay”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring” (original)
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Austere” (original)
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Cradle”

One of the early picks for UK buzz band 2013 – Palma Violets – are setting their sights on North America early; they’ll be at The Horseshoe on January 29 – tickets $12.50 – well before their debut album arrives on February 25. They’ve got kind of a Libertines thing going on, which I guess is about due to be fashionable again what with next year slated to be the “Year of the guitar” or some such nonsense.

Video: Palma Violets – “Last Of The Summer Wine”
Video: Palma Violets – “Best Of Friends”

Veronica Falls are keeping the fires of anticipation stoked before their second album Waiting For Something To Happen is finally released on February 12 – they’ve announced a North American tour for next Winter – look for them March 12 at The Garrison – and released a video for the first single from the new record.

Video: Veronica Falls – “Teenage”

Hot Chip have rolled out a new clip from this year’s In Our Heads.

Video: Hot Chip – “Don’t Deny Your Heart”

Loud & Quiet have an interview with Elena Tonra of Daughter.

The Quietus talks to Charlotte Hatherley about Sylver Tongue.

The latest Charli XCX single from her Super Ultra Mixtape now comes with a video.

Video: Charli XCX – “Cloud Aura”

Guy Garvey talks to Metro just ahead of Elbow’s promised year-long hiatus.

The Quietus talks to Mogwai about their latest projects, including soundtracking a French zombie television show. Because someone has to.

Those hoping that that last couple years’ Pulp reunion might be an ongoing concern or even yield some new music, sorry – NME reports that Jarvis Cocker has basically declared it as having run its course. We’ll always have Spain.

But wait, Britpop fans refusing to stop reliving their youth cry out, what about Blur? They’re not breaking up! No, but as The Line Of Best Fit reports, Graham Coxon put the kibosh on a new Blur record; that’s fine – intermittent singles the quality of the last ones will do. Definitely coming out next week is Parklive, the live document of this Summer’s Hyde Park show in London, and they’ve released a video clip of the final song from that show; if they had indeed called it a day, well and forever, with this show, these would have been the perfect notes to finish up on.

Video: Blur – “The Universal” (live at Hyde Park)

The Quietus and Spin chat with Johnny Marr, who releases his solo debut The Messenger on February 26.

Consequence Of Sound interviews Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris of New Order.

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

We Real Cool

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are back to set you straight. About what? EVERYTHING.

Photo By Cat StevensCat StevensLots of interesting news came down the pipe from all around the world yesterday, but tops was this from down under – the new Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds record is coming. It’s called Push The Sky Away and will be out on February 19 in North America, though interestingly I can’t confirm the label. The last few Bad Seeds releases as well as the two Grinderman records were out here on Anti, but their web presence has been conspicuously silent with regards to this release.

In any case, expectations are high for this one – their last effort Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! was one of my favourite releases of 2008 and as much as Grinderman is a funhouse mirror version of the Bad Seeds, they weren’t the Bad Seeds. Pitchfork has details and the nine-song track listing, and while we won’t get to hear the first single till next week, they’ve offered a trailer comprised of studio footage of the band at work.

Trailer: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds / Push The Sky Away

Also coming from Australia: Tame Impala make a return engagement on the back of LonerismNME‘s album of the year – for a date at the Kool Haus on March 9, tickets $25 in advance.

Video: Tame Impala – “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”

A ways north in the Pacific, Japan’s Mono have made another track from their latest album For My Parents available to download via The Quietus.

MP3: Mono – “Dream Odyssey”

Exclaim reports that pop savant Shugo Tokamaru will get a North American release for his latest album In Focus? on January 22. You may recall I quite liked his last effort Port Entropy… but probably not. Anyways, there’s a video from the new one to enjoy.

Video: Shugo Tokamaru – “Decorate”

And now to Scandinavia! Nothing But Hope And Passion has specifics on Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds’ new record For Now I Am Winter, due out in February. Arnalds recently took to Facebook to explain to his fans why the record would be coming out on a major label – Mercury – rather than indie Erased Tapes, which had released all his records to this point. Iceland Review has an interview with Arnalds.

Shout Out Louds are garnering a fair bit of attention for the first single from their forthcoming new record – as Pitchfork reports, it’s coming out on a 7″ single made of ice. Yeah. For those who don’t have a turntable they’re willing to allow to become waterlogged, you can also just stream the song below. The album should be out in February or so.

Stream: Shout Out Louds – “Blue Ice”

Wears The Trousers has an interview with Sarah Assbring of El Perro Del Mar.

The Mary Onettes have release a video for the first single from Hit The Waves, out on March 12. You may recall I talked about it last week. But probably not.

Video: The Mary Onettes – “Evil Coast”

The Telegraph and BBC talk to the Soderberg sisters of First Aid Kit.

Denmark’s Efterklang are a pretty good first act to be announced for Canadian Musicfest next year; they’ll be at The Mod Club on March 21 as part of the festival and in support of this year’s Piramida. Exclaim has full North American dates and video of a radio session wherein they play a number of the new songs is available to watch.

MP3: Efterklang – “Apples”
Video: Efterklang – “FM4 Radio Session” (live)

Interview has an interview and Wild Honey Pie a video session with Indians, whose debut album Somewhere Else is out January 29.

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

These Streets Will Never Look the Same

Review of Chromatics’ Kill For Love

Photo By Richard BernardinRichard BernardinAs someone who is ostensibly in the business of finding and sharing new music, it’s a bit embarrassing that I’m just getting around to covering Portland’s Chromatics now. And I didn’t just miss out on their latest effort, Kill For Love, since it was released back in March. The whole Johnny Jewel extended family of Glass Candy, Desire, what have you, the extensive Italians Do It Better catalog, the fact that “Tick Of The Clock” from 2007’s Night Drive is apparently omnipresent in film soundtracks and ads. No idea of any of it. All I knew was that people around the internets really seemed to like Kill For Love, that it sounded like the sort of thing I might like, and so a few months ago I finally got around to giving the Soundcloud stream a spin.

Damn, son.

I’ve seen Kill For Love described as disco, noir, electro, retro, indie, post-punk, and dream-pop, amongst other descriptors – almost always coupled with “cinematic” and “widescreen” – and it is all of these things and more, but what gets me about it is how it manages to be so impossibly slick and synthetic, yet raw and resonant in a way that I can’t pinpoint. It operates under its own laws of emotional physics, simultaneously unending neon, urban sprawl and intense, almost smothering intimacy. Sometimes making its 77 minute running time feel like an eternity, other times a half a blink, all depending on how you’re feeling.

It works its magic through Jewel’s impossibly glamorous production, all perfectly textured keyboards and sculpted waveforms, gleaming guitars, and layered atmosphere, and singer/guitarist Ruth Radelet’s voice. In keeping with the music, it’s a study in contradictions – superficially simple in both timbre and the melodies it carries, and yet so rich and evocative, it can’t help but make a body shiver; it sounds like sex but tastes like love with the scent of regret. And while singling out specifics, I should mention that I don’t often get obsessed with individual guitar tones anymore, there’s a high probability that I’ll be breaking into the band’s studio sometime in the near future just to see what the hell Adam Miller is playing through. I probably shouldn’t have admitted that in public. Each full listen of Kill For Love is a pretty major commitment, but always worth it and offering up something new each time out.

Most likely, none of this is news to anyone who’s been following the music zeitgeist this year; the only reason I’m putting this down as a matter of record now is so that I don’t find myself justifying the appearance of a record on my year-end list (ooh, spoilers!) that I’ve never so much as mentioned. Though maybe that’d be kind of fun, too. So yes, late to the party but it’s been ongoing all year – just recently, a new mixtape entitled Running From The Sun containing alternate versions of Kill For Love tracks and unreleased tracks was made available to download, and just this week they released a new MP3 and video from the forthcoming Italians Do It Better label sampler After Dark 2, due out before the end of the year. And it’s also a small comfort to know that I didn’t miss a local live date, since there hasn’t been one. Maybe next year.

Johnny Jewel is a pretty interesting interview, as well. I’ve been catching up on his and the band’s background via these pieces from over the year at The Quietus, Self-Titled, Pitchfork, and about.com. There was also a recent interview with Radelet at The Huffington Post.

MP3: Chromatics – “Cherry”
MP3: Chromatics – “Kill For Love”
MP3: Chromatics / Running From The Sun
Video: Chromatics – “Cherry”
Video: Chromatics – “After Dark”
Stream: Chromatics / Kill For Love

New York post-hardcore outfit Quicksand are the latest ’90s act to pull a reunion together, heading out on a North American tour that comes to The Phoenix on January 9, tickets $29.

Video: Quicksand – “Delusional”

With a new album in Wonderful, Glorious due out on February 5, Eels have announced a North American tour that brings them to The Phoenix on February 25.

Stream: Eels – “Peach Blossom”

City Pages and Reverb interview Paul Banks in the capacity of both solo artist and Interpol frontman. The 10th anniversary Turn On The Bright Lights deluxe set is out December 4.

NPR welcomes Calexico to the World Cafe.

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Twice Removed

Sloan at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt’s probably a reach to think that Sloan had some sort of master plan for the past couple years that would pull their career from the respectable but not overly remarkable holding pattern that it’d been in for the past few albums and make them both exciting and relevant again, but that’s pretty much what they’ve managed to do. Their twentieth anniversary as a band last year was kept from being a one-way trip down memory lane thanks to The Double Cross, arguably their best album this century (those arguing otherwise would generally be arguing for 2006’s Never Hear The End Of It). Further, their partaking in the “Don’t Look Back”-style album recital shows – Once Chord To Another for a local show last December and Twice Removed for this Fall tour – was an attractive hook for getting old fans who might have lost interest in recent years to be reminded of why they loved the band in the first place and that despite ups and downs in their discography, they’re still one of the best acts this country has produced in the past two decades.

I covered the landmark-ness of Twice Removed back in September, and as you’d expect given its iconic status, The Phoenix was sold out for Thursday night’s (adopted) hometown performance, the second-last show of their cross-country tour. Not as many people as who’d shown up for their epic show at Echo Beach last August, but that was a free show – hardly a fair point of comparison by numbers, but you could probably make a case for this show’s crowd winning on enthusiasm and anticipation. Despite promising to be on at the stroke of 8 – as with many shows on this tour, there was no opening act – the stage remained empty until quarter-to-nine, perhaps all a ploy to get some old-school “Slooo-aaaaan” changes going. If so, it worked.

When they finally took the stage, it was straight into “Penpals” and the first of many boisterous, singalong moments. And here’s where I’ll make a point about Twice Removed that I didn’t mention last time – for all the love laid at its doorstep, it’s really quite an odd record. Catching the band in the process of transitioning from a noise- to power-pop outfit and before each of the four songwriters had settled into the roles and styles that’d define them henceforth, it’s high on quirk and creative forays that they’d not repeat later in their career. In practical terms, it also meant that fewer Twice Removed songs made it into live sets than their more chart-friendly peers. Why play “Bells On” rather than “She Means What She Says”? “I Hate My Generation” instead of “The Rest Of My Life”? Maybe the Twice Removed recital was largely fan service and a nostalgia exercise, but it’s also true that its songs don’t get nearly the live attention that they deserve, and was as much of a treat as anyone could have hoped.

Even though the band took a decidedly businesslike approach to getting through the material – little talking, straight onto the next song – they still created no shortage of magical little moments; fitting for an album defined more by its magical little moments than any big, rousing singles. Patrick Pentland’s “Loosens” reminding everyone that he was the sensitive pop guy in the band before he decided to become the classic rock guy, Chris Murphy and Andrew Scott going it alone for the guitar-and-drum highlight “Deeper Than Beauty”, the irresistible chorus of Jay Ferguson’s “Snowsuit Sound”, and perhaps most of all, their bringing out jale’s Jennifer Pierce to reprise her harmonies with Pentland on too-sweet-for-words album closer “I Can Feel It”.

Sloan left the stage on that high for an extended intermission, but returned for a second 45-minute set of career-spanning material that offered a good balance of hits and deep cuts, an extra bit of focus on Double Cross and a four-song mini-set of Andrew Scott tunes in the middle of it all. It may not have been formulated to keep a packed house packed – people began peeling off throughout the second set as it became clear that it wouldn’t be a greatest hits revue – but I have to respect the band for keeping it unpredictable (though thankfully not as unpredictable as their all b-sides set at Sonic Boom for Record Store Day 2010. And I can only hope that those who left early got a good night’s sleep, because it meant they missed hearing Jennifer Pierce return for the encore to cover her parts on Smeared‘s rarely-played “I Am The Cancer”, didn’t get to see Chris Murphy’s one scissor-kick of the night during “Losing California”, and didn’t get to sing along with “Underwhelmed” for the set closer.

It’s no easy thing to work both the nostalgia circuit and maintain your status as a creative, active band simultaneously – I can only think of The Wedding Present as far as acts who are even really trying over the long term – but Sloan are doing a fine job of it. During the show, they promised a new studio album in 2013 and a One Chord To Another deluxe reissue set after that. What’s next, Navy Blues live? Bring it. I’ll stay interested until Pretty Together.

NOW, BlogTO, and The Record talk to Jay Ferguson about revisiting Twice Removed. The National Post also has a writeup of the show.

Photos: Sloan @ The Phoenix – November 22, 2012
MP3: Sloan – “Follow The Leader”
MP3: Sloan – “The Answer Was You”
MP3: Sloan – “Unkind”
MP3: Sloan – “I’m Not A Kid Anymore”
Video: Sloan – “Unkind”
Video: Sloan – “Witch’s Wand”
Video: Sloan – “Emergency 911”
Video: Sloan – “All Used Up”
Video: Sloan – “The Rest Of My Life”
Video: Sloan – “The Other Man”
Video: Sloan – “Friendship”
Video: Sloan – “Losing California”
Video: Sloan – “She Says What She Means”
Video: Sloan – “Money City Maniacs”
Video: Sloan – “The Lines You Amend”
Video: Sloan – “Everything You’ve Done Wrong”
Video: Sloan – “The Good In Everyone”
Video: Sloan – “People Of The Sky”
Video: Sloan – “Coax Me”
Video: Sloan – “500 Up”
Video: Sloan – “Underwhelmed”

Another track from Crystal Castles’ new album (III) has been made available to download.

MP3: Crystal Castles – “Affection”

CBC Music talks to Gentleman Reg about his new album Leisure Life, which they’ve also got available to stream in whole. He plays a record release show at The Gladstone on December 2.

Stream: Gentleman Reg / Leisure Life

Also available to steam at CBC Music with attendant Q&A is The Dears’ new Live At Pasagüero live album, out digitally this week.

Stream: The Dears / Live At Pasagüero

Spinner has an interview and Bowery Presents an acoustic video session with Diamond Rings, coming home for a show at The Mod Club this week on November 29.

Pop This and The Vancouver Sun have interviews with Cold Specks, opening up for Conor Oberst at Massey Hall on December 8.

The Fly talks to Purity Ring, in town at The Phoenix on February 1.

The Grid Q&As Emily Haines of Metric.

Spinner and State have long and short interviews with Torq Campbell and Pat McGee of Stars, respectively.

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

"Breed"

Titus Andronicus covers Nirvana

Photo via SpinSpinSeeing as how I’m presently some combination of underslept, overtired, and probably hung over, I’m keeping this brief. Which is good because this week’s selection doesn’t really need a lot of description beyond, “it’s Titus Andronicus covering Nirvana’s ‘Breed'” – it sounds exactly as you would think it would, all punk, snot, and snarl.

It was the New Jersey outfit’s contribution to last year’s Newermind, a tribute album assembled by Spin to mark the twentieth anniversary of Nevermind. Some of the other contributions may have been more creative or unexpected, but for capturing the intensity and attitude of Nirvana, Patrick Stickles and company got it right.

Titus Andronicus are at Lee’s Palace this Tuesday in support of their third album, Local Business. I imagine the twentieth anniversary editions of In Utero are being readied for release next year as we speak.

MP3: Titus Andronicus – “Breed”
Video: Nirvana – “Breed”