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Archive for February, 2013

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Little Wings

Review of Woodpigeon’s Thumbtacks and Glue

Photo By Paolo CalamitaPaolo CalamitaHe may have migrated habitats from Calgary to Vienna, but Mark Andrew Hamilton – he who is Woodpigeon – remains one of Canada’s great, underappreciated musical treasures. Though 2009’s Polaris long-listed Treasury Library Canada raised his profile considerably, it may lie with his fourth album (or closer to fortieth, depending on how you count his many interstitial releases) Thumbtacks & Glue to properly elevate his status to where it belongs.

Thumbtacks refuses – if you’ll excuse the pun – to be pigeonholed as orchestral-folk the way past releases have. It’s still built around Hamilton’s soft, tender vocals and melodic gifts, and trades in a delicate beauty that would be easy at this point to take for granted, but incorporates a broader, more electrified sonic palate that’s unafraid to let some edges fray or layers stack upon themselves. It’s a side of Woodpigeon that’s come out in live shows in the past, but has until now been unreflected in the recordings and while acknowledging that part of its appeal is the novelty it brings to the Woodpigeon recipe, it’s difficult to argue that it doesn’t legitimately make things tastier.

Thumbtacks and Glue is out this Tuesday, February 26, and is available to stream right now over at DIY.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “Red Rover, Red Rover”
Stream: Woodpigeon / Thumbtacks & Glue

NOW talks to local electro-pop sensations Diana, whom I wish nothing but success but will admit to being disappointed that the more success they achieve, the further on the back-burner vocalist Carmen Elle will surely push Army Girls, and that’s a shame. Diana open up for Trust at Lee’s Palace tonight and are on the fun./Tegan & Sara bill at Downsview Park on July 6.

Lesser Evil, the long-awaited debut long-player from Doldrums, is also out next week and available to advance stream thanks to Pitchfork.

MP3: Doldrums – “Egypt”
MP3: Doldrums – “She Is The Wave”
Stream: Doldrums / Lesser Evil

The Line Of Best Fit and Incendiary have interviews with Suuns about their new album Images du Futur, out March 5. They play Lee’s Palace on March 23, the Saturday night of Canadian Musicfest.

Cold Specks has gone the live performance route for the latest video from I Predict A Graceful Expulsion; they have two hometown shows coming up – March 22 at the Kool Haus as part of the CMW Indies and June 8 as part of the Arts & Crafts Field Trip festival at Fort York.

Video: Cold Specks – “When The City Lights Dim”

Pitchfork has a stream of a song from Birthmarks, the new album from Born Ruffians, in stores April 16.

Stream: Born Ruffians – “Needles”

Gorilla Vs Bear has premiered a second sample of the new Young Galaxy record Ultramarine, due out April 23.

Stream: Young Galaxy – “Fall For You”

Though delayed some by some aborted sessions with Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes, Montreal’s No Joy have wrapped their second album and will release Wait To Pleasure on April 23; that same day, they’ll be in Toronto at The Garrison celebrating the new record by opening up for Clinic. You can stream the first taste of the album below.

Stream: No Joy – “Lunar Phoobia”

Toronto’s Decades, who were a pleasant new wave surprise last month, have gotten their self-titled debut together for an April 30 release and have released a first video from it that confirms it’s worth keeping an ear out for.

Video: Decades – “Tonight Again”

The Creators Project gets into the glowing cocoons that define Purity Ring’s live show. They’ll be on display when the duo pla

The Alternate Side welcomes METZ for a studio session and The 405 an interview. They’re at Lee’s Palace on May 17.

Patrick Watson has a new video from last year’s Adventures In Your Own Backyard.

Video: Patrick Watson – “Blackwind”

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

You're The Gold

Ken Stringfellow at The Drake Underground in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt seems ages ago, but early 2002 was still an era where the magazine was still a vital medium for music reviews and general discovery; I still clearly recall a live writeup in issue 49 of The Big Takeover wherein editor Jack Rabid gave Ken Stringfellow a glowing review for a show at New York’s Mercury Lounge on September 20, 2001, and how it served as a powerful musical anodyne for those in need of some healing just a week after the World Trade Center attacks. It was just a few paragraphs long but still stuck with me a good long time, and also led me to pick up Stringfellow’s second solo record Touched – an album that, had I been in the habit of publishing year-end lists at the time, almost certainly would have secured a spot.

Since then, I’d been waiting for a chance to experience the live show that had been described so vividly, but while Stringfellow has been through town a number of times over the past decade – either with R.E.M., The Posies, or The Disciplines – he never toured here behind either Touched or 2004’s Soft Commands. It was only with last year’s Danzig In The Moonlight did he plot out a comprehensive enough North American tour to make it to Toronto for his first ever solo show in the city, stopping in at The Drake Underground this past Tuesday evening.

The long wait didn’t translate into a lot of pent-up demand, unfortunately, with only a few dozen people making it out on a cold and snowy night to see a man with arguably one the most impressive indie-rock resumes of the past quarter-century. The small turnout turned out to be something of a benefit, however, as Stringfellow took advantage of the intimacy to create a genuine rapport with the audience and craft a truly memorable show. Had it been a fuller show, he might not have opened with anecdotes instead of songs, starting off by entertainingly describing his morning in Montreal and his weather-delayed trip down the 401, but turning more personal in mentioning that his son had just that morning been released from prison; indeed, as friendly and genial as Stringfellow was, he was clearly having a rare and intense day and was going to be working through some stuff with song.

He opened the musical portion of the show by stepping off the stage and playing un-miked in the round, his loud and clear tenor filling the room unaided, before eventually setting down the guitar and getting back on stage behind the keyboard, though still eschewing vocal amplification. He wasn’t above asking for a little company, though, moving some benches from the floor up onto the stage and inviting audience members to flank him whilst he performed. And oh yes, the performance.

While I’m sure many would have liked to have had a Posies song or two in the mix, the set was surprisingly satisfying for sticking to his solo material and Danzig in particular – as richly-produced and arranged as that album is, it was still somehow done justice by just Stringfellow alone (although he did locally-source a duet partner for “Doesn’t It Remind You Of Something”. “Superwise” was riveting, “Shittalkers!” searing, and an audience request for “History Buffs” fulfilled in jaw-droppingly gorgeous fashion. While the word usually connotes violence and/or screaming, Stringfellow was instead experiencing a catharsis through melody – culminating with Touched‘s “Lover’s Hymn”, and it was truly something to behold. A show I’d waited nigh on ten years for, and still worth it.

Daytrotter has posted a session with Stringfellow and American Songwriter has the new record available to stream.

Photos: Ken Stringfellow @ The Drake Underground – February 19, 2013
MP3: Ken Stringfellow – “Doesn’t It Remind You Of Something”
Video: Ken Stringfellow – “Doesn’t It Remind You Of Something”
Video: Ken Stringfellow – “Superwise”
Stream: Ken Stringfellow / Danzig In The Moonlight

NOW gears up for tomorrow night’s Solange show at the Danforth Music Hall by putting Ms Knowles on this week’s cover.

Chelsea Light Moving – aka Thurston Moore’s new band – is streaming their self-titled debut at NPR ahead of its March 5 release. They play Lee’s Palace on March 31.

MP3: Chelsea Light Moving – “Burroughs”
MP3: Chelsea Light Moving – “Frank O’Hara Hit”
MP3: Chelsea Light Moving – “Empire Of Time”
MP3: Chelsea Light Moving – “Groovy & Linda”
Stream: Chelsea Light Moving / Chelsea Light Moving

Nashville’s Caitlin Rose is streaming her new record The Stand-In at The Independent ahead of its March 5 release date. The Telegraph also has an interview with the country singer-songwriter, who plays The Garrison on April 5.

Stream: Caitlin Rose / The Stand-In

Entertainment Weekly have premiered another new song from New Moon, the new record from The Men. It’s out March 5.

Stream: The Men – “I Saw Her Face”

Pitchfork solicits a video session from Local Natives. They play The Phoenix on March 28.

Spin has a stream of the first sample from the forthcoming Rilo Kiley rarities compilation RKives, targeted for an April 2 release.

Stream: Rilo Kiley – “Let Me Back In”

How To Destroy Angels – aka Trent Reznor’s new post-Nine Inch Nails project – will release their debut Welcome Oblivion on March 5, but are streaming it right now at Pitchfork and have announced their Spring tour itinerary; the venue is still TBA but they’ll be in Toronto on April 25. Update: Spin says Sound Academy.

Stream: How To Destroy Angels / Welcome Oblivion

Exclaim has details on what’s next from John Vanderslice – a Kickstarter-ed new album called Dagger Beach which should be out this Summer, and a complete album cover of Bowie’s Diamond Dogs for those who help fund it.

Backstage Rider finds out what Dean & Britta have been up to, and that’s solo records. Dean has two coming out, one produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket and the other by Jason Quever of Papercuts, and Britta has one of her own in the works. So there’s no Dean & Britta on the horizon, but lots of Dean and Britta.

NYC Taper is sharing a recording of Retribution Gospel Choir’s Nels Cline-assisted show in New York last week.

Spinner and The Quietus get James McNew of Yo La Tengo on the horn to talk about their latest, Fade.

State engages in some straight talk with Mark Eitzel.

The 405 talks to Paul Banks.

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Another Sunny Day

Belle & Sebastian ready to show off their urban, rootsy side at Toronto Urban Roots Festival

Photo By Reuben CoxReuben CoxThe Toronto Urban Roots Festival has existed under a shroud of mystery since its existence emerged late last month, and even with its grand unveiling last week, it still only had two acts on its opening night – She & Him and Camera Obscura – to its roster. A promising start, but still eliciting more questions than excitement.

That balance has arguably skewed in the other direction considerably with yesterday’s announcement of Belle & Sebastian as the headlining act on the festival’s closing night, July 7. That they’re coming to town isn’t a big surprise – their presence at the Montreal Jazz Festival a few days earlier was a matter of public record since the start of the year and the idea of their not playing Toronto was absurd – but it’s nice to be able to put a date and place to it. It will be quite a different setting from Massey Hall, which has hosted their finest moments in the city, but considering that without a new album to promote and a Summer itinerary of only big festivals, a set list packed with fan favourites from throughout their career seems likely – plus there’s something to be said for being able to get up and dance without worrying about venue security descending upon you. People, this will be great. And to further whet your Scots-pop appetites, PitchforkTV has created a documentary feature/oral history on the making If You’re Feeling Sinister.

On top of the Belle & Sebastian add, TURF will also feature Neko Case, The Joel Plaskett Emergency, and Flogging Molly amongst their performers. Neko – who could well have a new record out by then because goodness knows it’s been long enough – will also be playing on July 7, while Plaskett and Flogging Molly (Flogging? The Flogs?) have yet to confirm which of the four days they’ll be slotted on. In any case, all this – plus the promise of another 25+ acts – makes the $99.50 early bird, four-day pass seem like a pretty good deal when it goes on sale in mid-March.

MP3: Belle & Sebastian – “The Boy With The Arab Strap”
MP3: Belle & Sebastian – “Another Sunny Day”
MP3: Neko Case – “People Got A Lotta Nerve”
MP3: Joel Plaskett – “When I Go”
Video: Belle & Sebastian: If You’re Feeling Sinister

Those concerned about being able to get into UK post-punk buzz-band Savages’ March 23 Canadian Musicfest showcase at Lee’s Palace on March 23 should take note that they’ve added a second showcase the night before, March 22, at The Horseshoe. Not that Horseshoe shoes are any easier to get into during CMF, but still.

Stream: Savages – “Flying To Berlin”

Jenn Grant is at The Horseshoe on April 13, still touring last year’s The Beautiful Wild. Tickets for that show are $15 in advance.

Video: Jenn Grant – “The Fighter”

Widowspeak have finally plotted out a North American tour in support of their excellent second album Almanac; catch them at The Garrison on April 14, tickets $10.50 in advance.

MP3: Widowspeak – “Ballad Of The Golden Hour”

Marnie Stern will be at Parts & Labour on April 16 behind her new record The Chronicles Of Marnia. Hit up Pitchfork for full dates and a stream of a new track.

MP3: Marnie Stern – “Transparency Is The New Mystery”

EmptyMansions, aka the solo project of Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino, will release their debut album snakes/vultures/sulfate on April 2 and be at Garrison on April 30 in support. Toneluster has an interview with Fogarino about the project and Rolling Stone has premiered the first video from the record.

Video: EmptyMansions – “ThatMan”

Booking two shows three months apart isn’t usually considered prudent – they just played The Phoenix at the start of February – but arguably Purity Ring still have the demand to do it. Plus, they’re bringing along Blue Hawaii – side-project of Braids frontwoman Raphaelle Standell-Preston – to sweeten the bill. They’re at The Danforth Music Hall on May 5, tickets $22.50 for floors and $20.00 for balcony.

MP3: Purity Ring – “Belispeak”
MP3: Blue Hawaii – “In Two II”

And in long-awaited – as in ten years or so – news, The Postal Service are finally coming to Toronto. To mark the 10th anniversary of the release of Give Up – a decade ago this past Monday, to be exact – they’ve announced a massive North American tour that brings them to the Air Canada Centre on June 11, tickets $49.50 to $59.50, on sale February 25 (presale) and 28 (general onsale). And to the FAQ section: yes, it will be in theatre configuration but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that expand if demand outstrips the 6000 or so seats that allows – remember, they sold out the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn in a heartbeat; yes, Jenny Lewis will be along for the ride to sing her parts and presumably cover Jen Wood’s parts for “Nothing Better”; yes, the album is only 45 minutes long but think of all the extra material that the April 9 deluxe edition of Give Up will bring. It’ll run an hour at least.

MP3: The Postal Service – “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”
MP3: The Postal Service – “Such Great Heights”

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

The Right Thing Right

Johnny Marr dispatches The Messenger early

Photo By Jon ShardJon ShardIt’s been a while since both Morrissey and Johnny Marr have been in the news simultaneously, and not just issuing denials of Smiths reunions. Moz, unfortunately, is making headlines for his health issues and resulting tour cancellations – though that’s probably better than for making outrageously offensive comments – but Marr’s press cycle is decidedly more positive as he’s now just a week out from the release of his new record The Messenger.

It’s not entirely clear to me why The Messenger is being called his solo debut; even though 2003’s Boomslang was credited to Johnny Marr & The Healers, I don’t think anyone looked at it as a songwriting partnership between Marr and Zak Starkey. Of course, the fact that that record wasn’t very good may play a part in why they’d rather present The Messenger as its own standalone thing rather than a follow-up. In any case, with the February 26 release date of the new record almost upon us, the whole of it is now available for advance stream at Rolling Stone.

I’m not sure what general expectations around the record are. It’s great to have Marr and his guitar back and not just playing sideman, even though that’s the role through which his legend was largely formed. For my part, I just wanted it to be better than Boomslang which was disappointingly lacking in personality and sounded like a late-era Britpop also-ran. The Messenger feels sprightlier, more melodic, and more classically Marr – more jangle than riff. Whereas I couldn’t wait for Boomslang to be over, I’ve been hitting repeat on The Messenger – consider it endorsed?

Pitchfork, Clash, and Time have interviews with Marr and NME got him to play “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Know” for the first time in a quarter-century by way of a guitar lesson. Marr’s North American tour – backed by The Healers but not the same Boomslang Healers – kicks off in April and will stop in Toronto at The Phoenix on April 27.

Stream: Johnny Marr / The Messenger

The Sun, The Guardian, and eMusic have features on Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds on the occasion of the release of Push The Sky Away today. They play Massey Hall on March 23.

The Fly interviews Iceage. Their new album You’re Nothing is out today.

Esquire has an interview with Thom Yorke, usually of Radiohead but lately of Atoms For Peace. Yorke and his AFP compatriots hosted a Reddit AMA yesterday in advance of the release of AMOK on February 26, and have also begun streaming the new album in whole at NPR. Oh, and if a Thom Yorke-Flea collaboration doesn’t float your boat, know that Radiohead will be reconvening this year to work on a new album.

Stream: Atoms For Peace / AMOK

NPR is streaming Shout Out Louds’ latest effort Optica ahead of its February 26 release date. They play The Opera House on May 14.

Stream: Shout Out Louds / Optica

The Line Of Best Fit interviews Søen Løkke Juul of Indians, who are at The Drake on March 5.

The Independent talks to Kate Nash about her third album Girl Talk, due out on March 5. She plays The Horseshoe on March 15.

For Folks Sake talks to Stornoway about their second album Tales From Terra Firma, coming March 19. They’ve just released the first video from the album.

Video: Stornoway – “Knock Me On The Head”

Clash interviews The Joy Formidable about their new record Wolf’s Law, which they bring to The Phoenix on April 12.

Phoenix have premiered the first sample of Bankrupt! at Pitchfork by way of lyric video, and yes it sounds like Phoenix. Bankrupt! is out April 22.

Lyric Video: Phoenix – “Entertainment”

Primal Scream have released the first video from their new record More Light, which is due out on May 6.

Video: Primal Scream – “2013”

The Line Of Best Fit talks to Foals, in town at The Kool Haus on May 11.

Though there’s maddeningly no word on an actual full-length release, Kate Jackson – ex-Long Blondes – has made the whole of her recording sessions with Bernard Butler available to stream. Which will have to suffice for the foreseeable future.

NPR welcomes Bat For Lashes for a World Cafe session.

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Ask The Angels

Patti Smith already coming to Toronto, now staying in Toronto

Photo By Edward MapplethorpeEdward MapplethorpeAt least for another night.

As exciting as it was when punk/poet/photographer/icon Patti Smith announced two intimate shows as part of the Art Gallery Of Ontario’s 1st Thursday series to support her Camera Solo exhibition, you had to know that it was going to be a bit of a scramble – to put it very mildly – to get one of the 800 or so available tickets. Unsurprisingly, it was a mess with the AGO’s website crashing some 10 minutes before tickets were even supposed to go on sale, and the only people who ended up getting tickets were those with the wisdom to line up for hours in person – in a blizzard, mind you – or able to somehow get through the switchboards to reach a ticket agent by phone. Needless to say, a lot of people were left shut out and disappointed about missing Smith’s first Toronto performances in who even knows how long.

And while those people won’t be getting into her first two shows in who even knows how long, they’ve certainly got a chance at getting into her third. Perhaps hearing the cries of her disappointed fans – or maybe someone wished upon a meteorite – Smith has announced another show at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre on March 9. Billed as “An evening of words and music in memory of Robert Mapplethorpe”, it falls on the 14th anniversary of the death of her former partner who has informed so much of her life and work. The music part of the show will see Smith backed by most of her band – Tony Shanahan, Jackson Smith, and Jesse Smith; only guitarist Lenny Kaye will be absent this performance.

Tickets for the show range from $29.50 to $49.50 and go on sale Monday, February 18, at noon via TicketFly. So if you were thinking of keeping the alarm off and sleeping your way through the Family Day holiday, maybe reconsider.

MP3: Patti Smith – “Wing”