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Archive for December, 2012

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Scrappy Happiness

Joel Plaskett Emergency and Always at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangA little piece of trivia that surprised even me when I learned it (and is really of no relevance to anything save this opening paragraph) – save for his two appearances at the Polaris Prize galas in 2007 and 2009, I’d never seen I’d never seen Joel Plaskett live. And it certainly hasn’t been for lack of opportunity – while it’s highly unlikely Plaskett will ever uproot himself from his beloved Halifax, he’s played Toronto enough to claim honourary residency.

No, it’s been partially deliberate on account of the fact that while I like Plaskett’s stuff, I’m in the seemingly minuscule group that just likes it and doesn’t love it. I’ve heard a number of – but not all – of his records and respect the work ethic that’s made him one of this country’s most beloved artists (at least in the demographic that I run with), but the breadth of his catalog and the passion of his fanbase has made the prospect of finally going to one of his shows a daunting one. Would I know (m)any songs? Would I enjoy it? If I didn’t and said so, would his street team put a hit out on me? Real concerns, people. But with the man setting up shop at The Horseshoe for five straight nights in honour of the bar’s 65th birthday and the fact that I really quite like his latest effort, this year’s Scrappy Happiness, I decided it was finally time. But of course I waited until the very last show – partly because it was an early show being a Sunday night, and partly because Always was opening.

I’d seen them a few weeks ago supporting The Joy Formidable, but while I went into that show thinking, “Always?” on account of not knowing who they were, I went into this one thinking, “Always!” on account of knowing who they were and liking what they did. Notes from that past show mostly still applied this time out, but it’s worth noting that even though they were a rhythm section-less three-piece this time out, the songs didn’t seem to suffer at all for it. The sequencer pinch-hitting in laying down backing tracks kept in the spirit and sound of their janglesome old-school indie-pop aesthetic just fine, and the simple beats kept things sprightly. The demos I originally linked to in that last review are now hidden from prying ears – apparently they weren’t for public consumption – but hopefully something finished will be revealed soon and y’all can hear – and decide – for yourselves.

Even though I freely admit to not having heard all of Plaskett’s oeuvre, I know that you don’t really have to have to know what he’s about. From grunge-pop beginnings with Thrush Hermit, he’s spent two decades establishing himself as a sort of Canuck Springsteen, specializing in The Boss’ nostalgic anthems of youth with a certain Maritime bent and intrinsically Canadian reliability – kind of an arena rock/kitchen party hybrid. You don’t have to listen long to note his habit of repeating references to people and places, but rather than sounding repetitive, it helps create and define the world his songs and their loose autobiographical narrative exist within. He believes in the purity of the rhyme and riff – particularly of the ’70s rock vintage – and the power of the “la la la” singalong. It’s not a complicated formula, but that’s what makes it so difficult to get right. And as Plaskett showed me, he’s gotten it right and makes it look easy.

Though his voice did show some of the strain of the past nights’ performances – and their respective afterparties, I’m sure – Plaskett’s energy was unflagging for the two hours he was up there. After all, it was their last show of the year; if ever there was a time to leave it all on the stage, this was it. With a couple of animatronic monkey toys adding a little Disneyworld/Chuck-E-Cheese flavour to the evening, Plaskett proved a terrific and engaging performer. Whether the acoustic troubadour crooning sensitively or the electrified preacher ripping guitar solos – with plenty of entertaining banter for either guise – he was every bit the showman without getting overly showy and selling the flair with his total earnestness.

Not being intimately familiar with the catalog proved not to be an issue, either, as there were enough tunes I knew and liked to keep me fully engaged and, for reasons noted above, the ones I didn’t were hardly difficult to get into and enjoy – though being in a big crowd who seemed to know every word to everything helped with that. And you need that kind of fanbase if you’re going to encore with an iPod-assisted musical history lesson as a lead-in to a partially-lip synced dance routine, as he did for “Fashionable People”, or turn a jam into a freestyle not-rap tribute with 65-beat count-up to mark The Horseshoe’s anniversary. As first-time Joel Plaskett shows goes, I think I could have done much, much worse.

Panic Manual has an interview with Joel Plaskett.

Photos: The Joel Plaskett Emergency, Always @ The Horseshoe – December 16, 2012
MP3: Joel Plaskett – “When I Go”
MP3: Joel Plaskett – “Deny Deny Deny”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Somewhere Else”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “Through & Through & Through”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “You Let Me Down”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Fashionable People”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “Happen Now”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “Natural Disaster”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “Paralyzed”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Work Out Fine”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Come On Teacher”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “True Patriot Love”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Maybe We Should Just Go Home”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Clueless Wonder”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “She Made A Wreck Outta Me”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “News Of Your Son”
Video: Thrush Hermit – “The Day We Hit The Coast”
Video: Thrush Hermit – “On The Sneak”
Video: Thrush Hermit – “French Inhale”

Electro-goth locals Trust have made a date for February 22 at Lee’s Palace and also released a new video from their debut TRST.

Video: Trust – “Heaven”

aux.tv has premiered the new video from Modern Superstitions’ own self-titled debut.

Video: Modern Superstitions – “Last Night’s Dress”

The Grid declares locals Moon King as “one to watch”; having seen them back in October, I concur. They’re at The Drake on December 28 as part of the $5 “What’s In The Box” concert series.

Japandroids talk to Pitchfork about making the video for “The House That Heaven Built”, to CBC Music about making their #1 rock record of the year, and The Calgary Herald, StarPhoenix, and The National Post about whatever.

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"

Boy George and Antony Hegarty cover John Lennon

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt’s that time of year again, when holiday songs become inescapable, and why should I offer any respite? Christmastime is easy covers, man. Way easy.

Trying to contribute a new song to the canon of Christmas songs is no easy feat – there’s no shortage of familiar classics to draw on – but when you’re the man who helped define what modern pop music is, maybe you’ve got something to offer. And so John Lennon’s 1971 single – assisted by Phil Spector, he himself responsible for a solid Christmas song or two – would become a holiday classic to be covered many times over, particularly by those looking to inject a little social commentary into their festive greetings; that made it a natural fit for the 2005 War Child benefit compilation Help: A Day In The Life, which closed with this rendition by Boy George and Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons.

Boy George marked the 30th anniversary of Culture Club this year by reconvening the band and recording a new album for release in 2013. He also recently accidentally offended Mexico. Antony & The Johnsons released a live, symphonic album in Cut The World earlier this year. John Lennon died thirty-two years ago last week.

MP3: Boy George with Antony Hegarty – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
Video: John Lennon – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Gotta Be That Way

The House Of Love return with a fresh coat of Paint

Photo via FacebookFacebookA pile of this and that from overseas to get to today, so why not start with the item that I’m sure the fewest people – statistically speaking – care about.

And that’s the return of The House Of Love. A cult band’s cult band, the Guy Chadwick-led outfit has probably become better known for what they didn’t do – which is become the biggest band in the UK, as many/most expected in the late-’80s – than what they did – which was release two brilliant (as well as one decent and one turgid) albums of sweeping proto-Britpop whose influence, despite the band imploding rather than exploding, can still be detected in many British guitar bands of the past quarter-century.

After disbanding in 1993, three-quarters of the original lineup – most importantly frontman Guy Chadwick and guitarist Terry Bickers – reunited in 2005 for some live dates and an album of new material in the impressively solid throughout Days Run Away. Rather than carry that momentum forwards, however, the band seemed to go underground again with most assuming that the reunion had run its course and the band had quietly gone their separate ways, content to keep their legacy alive via a seemingly endless series of reissues of their debut album – most recently this week – and archival live material.

But then would come word of a one-off live show or a festival appearance – not much, but enough to confirm the band as an ongoing proposition – and very occasional rumours of new material being written and recorded. Rumours which coalesced this week with the reveal that, indeed, a sixth studio album had been completed and that it would be out early in the new year. Further details came yesterday via Slicing Up Eyeballs, which pointed out the band had updated their Facebook with the title of the new album – She Paints Words In Red – along with the artwork and a targeted release date of March or April, via Cherry Red Records.

I don’t expect this new record to be life-changing at all – on par with Days would be a gift – nor do I expect there’ll be any kind of effort to play live shows anywhere near this continent, but I find it pleasing to know that this band, who’s had no shortage of opportunities or incentive to simply call it day, are still making music because they want to and their fans want to hear what they have to say. Shine on.

MP3: The House Of Love – “Shine On”

All that unpleasantness this past Summer about Jaz Coleman going missing before turning up in the Sahara apparently sorted out, Killing Joke have slated a North American tour in support of their forthcoming best-of comp The Singles Collection: 1979-2012, due out April 15. They’ll be at Lee’s Palace in Toronto on April 24.

Video: Killing Joke – “Love Like Blood”

She’s gone on to become something of a rising star back in the UK since making her North American debut opening for Bon Iver last December, but Lianne La Havas hasn’t been back for a proper tour in support of her debut Is Your Love Big Enough? since. That changes this Spring, though, as she undertakes an extensive North American tour that brings her to the Opera House on April 4, tickets $21.50 in advance. NPR has a World Cafe session and The Guardian a quick feature.

Video: Lianne La Havas – “Lost & Found”

HungerTV interviews Patrick Wolf.

Esben & The Witch have released the first video from their second album Wash The Sins Not Only The Face, out January 21.

Video: Esben & The Witch – “Deathwaltz”

Frightened Rabbit have released a new video from their new record Pedestrian Verse. It’s out February 5 and they play The Phoenix March 31.

Video: Frightened Rabbit – “The Woodpile”

Foals are streaming another new song from their forthcoming album Holy Fire, out February 12.

Stream: Foals – “My Number”

The Guardian has a video session with Stornoway, who are preparing their second album Tales From Terra Firma for a March 11 release.

Billboard has a talk with Jessie Ware about her American debut and why her forthcoming introductory EP for this market will be called If You’re Never Gonna Move instead of 110%, as originally intended. She’s also released an adorable new video from her debut Devotion and given a year-end interview to The Guardian.

Video: Jessie Ware – “Sweet Talk”

DIY talks to Victoria Hesketh – aka Little Boots – about the long road to her second album, which she’s not quite prepared to share details about but assures us that it’s done and coming next year.

Los Campesinos! may be down a bassist but they’re up on Christmas, as evidenced by this seasonal tune they’re giving away.

MP3: Los Campesinos! – “A Doe To A Deer”

Elizabeth Sankey of Summer Camp talks holiday plans with DIY, and also offers an update on album number two.

The Wall Street Journal spends some quality time with Richard Hawley.

Matador has dished details on Danish post-punks Iceage’s forthcoming release, their first for the label. It’s optimistically titled You’re Nothing and will be out on February 19.

Junip will release their new album Junip on April 23, and have a wee little trailer for it.

Trailer: Junip / Junip

El Perro Del Mar has released a new video from Pale Fire.

Video: El Perro Del Mar – “Hold Off The Dawn”

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Keep Believing

Bob Mould leaves the Blue, brings the Silver

Photo By Peter EllenbyPeter EllenbyWhen Bob Mould looks back on his 2012, he should be able to reflect on a very busy and productive year. First, he released his memoirs See A Little Light – a very direct and enlightening, if somewhat dryly written, accounting of his professional and personal life over the past half-century, back in June. Shortly thereafter came the release of the complete output of his second most-important power trio in Sugar, which he’d also marked by playing the entirety of the seminal Copper Blue on tour throughout the year. And oh yeah, on top of all that, he released his first album of new material since 2009’s Life & Times in The Silver Age, rightly heralded as his strongest – and most all-out rocking – work in some time.

One thing Mould didn’t get time to do this year, though, was come north of the border to play some shows. It would have been great to have one of the Copper Blue shows up here, but it didn’t happen – which makes me feel extra-fortunate that I was able to catch on at SXSW, not that that does the rest of his Toronto fanbase much good. But while it seems improbably that 2013 will be as busy for Bob as 2012, he’s added a few more dates including his first local show since Fall 2009, on March 1 at The Horseshoe. Yes he could easily play a bigger room – which is why this will be extra-great. It won’t be a Copper Blue recital – he officially retired that in November – but one of the perks of having thirty years worth of material to draw from is that he can assemble a near-infinite number of different set lists and they’ll all be fantastic. Bob will bring the tunes, you bring the earplugs. Tickets for the show are $24.50, on sale tomorrow.

Another thing Mould has been doing this year? Turning to Kickstarter to fund a release of the See A Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould concert film recorded in Los Angeles last November, wherein a collection of musicians including Dave Grohl, Britt Daniel, Craig Finn, and Britt Daniel came together to perform works from Mould’s entire career. Sound like something you’d want to see? Me too – so chip in if you can.

And finally – last thing – Mould is doing a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” on Monday, December 17, starting at 1PM. So if there’s something you’ve been wanting to ask him – that’s your chance.

Video: Bob Mould – “The Descent”

Also hellaciously busy this year were Guided By Voices, with the reunited indie rock icons releasing fully three new albums in barely 11 months. So what do you do for an encore? As Tobin Sprout tells Ghettoblaster, one more album and an EP in January for sure, and maybe another album after that.

The Afghan Whigs, who set stages on fire (figuratively) with their reunion tour through much of this year, play a video session for NPR.

It would be reasonable to assume that Alan Sparhawk would be focusing on Low next year, what with a new album in The Invisible Way coming out March 19, but no – his Retribution Gospel Choir will release a two-track, Nels Cline-starring third album entitled 3 on January 22, with some touring scheduled for the early part of the year. A warm-up for Low, I guess. Details on the release over here. And back to Low, there’s a mini-documentary film at BYUtv about the band’s 20-year history together.

NYCTaper has recordings of the first two nights of Yo La Tengo’s Hannukah shows at Maxwell’s this week. New album Fade is out January 15 and they’re at The Phoenix on February 9.

Funny Or Die has got a pretty damn funny video short featuring Cat Power singing to a class of second-graders while being Cat Power.

Josh Ritter has announced the return of Josh Ritter in both recorded and live formats. To the former, his new record The Beast In In Tracks will be out March 5 – stream a new song below – and to the latter, he’s announced a Spring tour that brings him to the Danforth Music Hall on April 16.

Stream: Josh Ritter – “Joy To You Baby”

Widowspeak have premiered a stream of another new song from Almanac over at Paste. The album is out January 22.

Stream: Widowspeak – “The Dark Age”

Also doing the preview stream thing is Ra Ra Riot; Entertainment Weekly brings you the second taste of Beta Love, out January 22. They’re at Lee’s Palace on March 6 and there’s an interview with the band at The Shreveport Times.

Stream: Ra Ra Riot – “When I Dream”

Spinner chats with Christopher Owens about his solo debut Lysandre. It’s out January 15 and he plays The Mod Club on January 18.

PopMatters interviews Savoir Adore.

Chairlift are giving away an EP’s worth of demos for Something via Soundcloud.

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Do You Want To Die Together?

Stars want to sex you up on Spring tour. And also kill you.

Photo By Norman WongNorman WongConsidering their fanbases intersect pretty heavily, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to think that Stars’ Autumn jaunt supporting Metric across Canada’s finest arenas would constitute the bulk of their touring in support of their latest effort The North. Not unreasonable, but also incorrect.

Following forays to Europe and Australasia this Winter, Stars will embark on another transcontinental tour in the Spring with certain cities hosting a two-night stand that the band promise will be more than just repeated sets. They’ve dubbed these shows “Evenings Of Sex & Death” and will be plumbing their discographies for songs relating to each topic – not difficult, certainly – to create themed evenings. And if that means super-fans will want to attend both nights rather than just choose one or another, then all the better. Though let’s be honest, they would have anyways. Toronto plays host to one of the two-parters on March 20 and 21 at the Danforth Music Hall, with tickets for individual nights going for $29.50 a piece or $50 for both evenings. These go on sale this Saturday at 10AM.

Canada.com has an interview with Amy Millan.

MP3: Stars – “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It”
MP3: Stars – “The Theory Of Relativity”

The Drake Hotel has released details of this year’s What’s In The Box Boxing Week concert series, which they’ve been doing since 2006 and sees five bands and/or DJs playing the Underground each night from December 26 to 30 with a modest $5 cover for all. There’s still some TBAs in the itinerary, but with names like July Talk, Born Ruffians frontman Luke Lalonde, Dusted, and Zeus in the mix, you know they’re going to be sold out regardless of who else gets added.

MP3: Zeus – “Anything You Want Dear”
MP3: Dusted – “(Into The) Atmosphere”
Stream: Luke Lalonde – “(Grand) Rhythmnals”
Video: July Talk – “Paper Girl”

Looking ahead to the new year, Basia Bulat – who will have a new record out in 2013 – will be performing at the January installment of the Art Gallery Of Ontario’s 1st Thursday monthly programme on January 3. If you’re not familiar with it – and I wasn’t until I went to this month’s – $10 gets you not only the show, but run of the AGO’s exhibits with the addition of impromptu dance clubs, taco bars, and drop-in life-drawing classes. It’s good fun, but know that it will sell out so advance tickets are recommended and people get quite dressed up for it. Except for the ones who are naked.

MP3: Basia Bulat – “Gold Rush”

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan – who incidentally played this month’s 1st Thursday – will be at The Garrison on January 18, part of a compact Ontario tour. Dazed & Confused has an interview with band principals Alaska and Ruby.

Video: Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – “Hoshi Neko”

Fucked Up have squeezed another video out of David Comes To Life. They headline their Long Winter show at The Great Hall on Friday and will also open up the Alexisonfire farewell show at The Sound Academy on December 27.

Video: Fucked Up – “Inside A Frame”

DIY has details on the European release of Woodpigeon’s new album Thumbtacks & Glue, which is perhaps fitting since Mark Hamilton is now an Austria-residing ex-pat. It’s out February 25 over there, and should be released around then in Canada via Boompa. You can stream one of the new songs right now. Update: Under The Radar confirms February 26 as the North American release and has another new track to download.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “Red Rover, Red Rover”
Stream: Woodpigeon – “Sufferin’ Suckatash”

PEI power-poppers Two Hours Traffic have announced details of their next album, entitled Foolish Blood and due out February 19. Head over to Exclaim for details and stream the first single below.

Stream: Two Hours Traffic – “Last Star”

Chains Of Love have made a single from their forthcoming second album – now revealed to be called Misery Makers and due out in the Spring – available to download.

MP3: Chains Of Love – “Pretend”

Beatroute and The Chicago Tribune talk to Japandroids.

The Line Of Best Fit has released this year’s holiday edition of their Oh! Canada compilation – or Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada – for free download, featuring holiday-themed original songs from the likes of The Wilderness Of Manitoba, The Acorn, and Del Bel amongst many others. One of those others being Kathryn Calder, who has upped the ante with a video for her contribution, which is intended as a fundraiser for Plan Canada’s Because I Am A Girl charity – read Calder’s message for the video at The Line Of Best Fit.

Video: Kathryn Calder – “Little Ones”

And whilst talking about charitable Christmas compilations, Zunior has assembled a tribute album to surf rock heroes The Ventures’ 1965 release The Ventures Christmas Album, featuring names like Sister and Super Friendz. All proceeds from the comp will go to The Daily Bread Food Bank.

And if you hadn’t taken a boo yet, the first batch of names who will be in town from March 19 to 24 for Canadian Musicfest were rolled out last week. Putting aside the big names like Nick Cave and Rihanna who clearly are not in town for Canadian Musicfest but will be admitting approximately one lucky wristband holder for marketing purposes, I look forward to seeing acts like… ok I’ll get back to you.