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Archive for March, 2013

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

CONTEST – David Bowie / The Next Day

Art By Jonathan BarnbrookJonathan BarnbrookWhile the surprise announcement in January that David Bowie would be releasing his first new album in a decade was largely met with equal parts shock and delight – though perhaps as much because he’d managed the impossible in keeping the existence of it a secret in hyper-connected 2013 as the actual prospect of new Bowie music. Most remarkably, though, was the fact that an artist who had successfully withdrawn from public life and transitioned into myth – and was alive and well enough to enjoy that status – had chosen to come come down from the mountain and possibly put that all at risk by reopening his legacy. Or maybe it’s not remarkable at all; after all, the man is an artist and artists create.

But strip away the remarkable narrative around The Next Day and you’ve still got a very good record that, while it doesn’t stand alongside his best epoch-defining records, still puts lie to the notion that he’s done nothing worthwhile since Scary Monsters. It is self-referential, but consciously so – the drum outro on “(You Will) Set the World on Fire” is not an accident – and the past is only used as a point of perspective; there’s no intent to try and recreate it or pretend he’s not every day of his sixty-six years.

He does intend, however, to prove that hexagenarians can rock. Fears that the first preview – “Where Are We Now?” – would set an elegiac, fragile tone for this album were wholly unfounded – The Next Day finds Bowie in full rock sophisticate mode, with “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” and “Valentine’s Day” as good as anything he’s done in the past 30 years. And while those who had romanticized the story of Bowie – enabled over the past decade by his “retirement” – may be frustrated that it’s not a work of absolute majesty and proves he’s still very much human and capable of missteps, those of us with more realistic expectations should be more than pleasantly surprised.

Courtesy of With A Bullet, I’ve got two copies of The Next Day – one on LP, one on CD – to give away to some lucky Canadian. To enter, email me at contests@chromewaves.net with “I want Bowie’s The Next Day on CD” or “I want Bowie’s The Next Day on LP” in the subject line, as the case may be, and your full name and mailing address in the body and have that to me by midnight, April 13. And again, Canucks only. Sorry, non-Canucks.

Video: David Bowie – “Where Are We Now?”
Video: David Bowie – “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Canadian Musicfest 2013 Day Four

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Sharon Van Etten at Canadian Musicfest

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI had to think for quite a while about including this show under my Canadian Musicfest coverage. Although the festival would like you believe that Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ visit on Saturday night was as a festival headliner, everyone knew that this show had little to nothing to do with Canadian Musicfest and everything to do with the tour in support of their latest effort, Push The Sky Away; I don’t even know if any of the VIP wristbands promised access actually got in. However, as I’ve exempted shows from fest coverage in the past on account of their not being explicitly listed as performers, it seems only fair to have the inverse apply. Yes, these are the things I spend energy thinking about. Pity me. In any case, it was going to be a full house for The Bad Seeds’ first Toronto show since October 2008, and with this being the band’s first time at Massey Hall – arguably the most natural setting for them – it was bound to be a memorable one.

It’s been a joy watching Sharon Van Etten’s career trajectory over the past few years, from lightly-attended opening slots in Spring 2010 through graduating to headlining status a year later and then, last year on the back of Tramp, filling rooms like Lee’s Palace and The Phoenix. So while on paper, moving back to opener status might seem like a step back, when it’s at Massey Hall and opening for Nick Cave, it’s most certainly not. Performing as a guitar and drums two-piece, her compact five-song set – including a new one that was intended to be happy but still sounded mournful – was a fine introduction to her beautifully confessional songwriting for those unfamiliar with her and for those already won over, an affirmation that her gorgeous voice belonged in cavernous halls like this. Someday. Soon.

Photos: Sharon Van Etten @ Massey Hall – March 23, 2013
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Give Out”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Kevin’s”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Serpents”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Love More”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Don’t Do It”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “I Couldn’t Save You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Consolation Prize”
Video: Sharon Van Etten – “Magic Chords”
Video: Sharon Van Etten – “Leonard”
Video: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”

Some have bemoaned the slow, stately pace of Push The Sky Away, wondering where the spit and fire that defined Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! and the two Grinderman records had gone. For my part, I think that that run of records – and you can probably include 2004’s Abbatoir Blues/Lyre Of Orpheus in there – as well as the departure of Mick Harvey following Lazarus and Cave’s work both writing and scoring films, pretty much guaranteed that Cave would get introspective next. And accepting that, it’s a gorgeous and immersive record, putting the focus on the content of Cave’s words – of which there are many – rather than the intensity of their delivery, and the Bad Seeds get to show off their atmospheric chops. Those fearing he’s gone soft would do well to remember that the band went ballad-heavy for a few records at the turn of the century before returning to the rock. Even if this current phase lasts beyond Sky, it almost certainly won’t be the last.

This show was also of significant contrast to the last Kool Haus performance; whereas that one was as lean and mean a rock machine as a seven-piece outfit could be, this one figured to be a more sophisticated affair, bolstered by a string section featuring members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Owen Pallett as well as the 19-piece Rose Avenue Junior Public School choir and backing singers Shilpa Ray and Sharon Van Etten. All were put to good use from the get-go as they opened with a smouldering five-song suite from Sky; slow, lush, and gorgeous but with the massive crescendo punctuating “Jubilee Street” offering a taste of what was to come. And indeed, when “Higgs Boson Blues” – arguably the centrepiece of Sky – faded out, Cave let out a snarling, “I wanna tell you ’bout a girl!” and the back catalog was open for business.

The menacing Nick Cave persona, heretofore kept in check with the slower material and informal chatter with the audience, was let off the leash and set to prowling the edge of the stage. A good portion of the floor seats had already rushed the front of the stage before the show began, and though security tried to stem the flow, Cave suggested they head to the bar and get a drink instead; after all, what’s a preacher without his congregation? The Bad Seeds played their part, as well, dressed like gentlemen assassins (the leopoard-skin lining of keyboardist Conway Savage’s suit jacket got a compliment from Cave) and Warren Ellis in the role of the loose cannon, whether abusing his violin or dancing/conducting the string section manically on “From Her To Eternity”. The children’s choir looked a touch unsettled by the intensity of the older material and were probably relieved to be sent off an hour into the show.

The remainder of the set was mostly obvious selections from throughout Cave’s repertoire, the sublime execution making up for the predictability of the selections, although the complete omission of Lazarus still rankles. The strings were used to beautiful effect on “Love Letter”, “The Mercy Seat” as harrowing an experience anyone could reasonably expect at a concert, and main set closer “Stagger Lee” an exercise in elegant mayhem. The choir returned to bolster an elegiac “Push The Sky Away” and a roaring “Tupelo” closed the night out. Having been at it with The Bad Seeds for almost 30 years, his reputation for incredible live shows is more than well-established, and yet he’s still able to send people into the night dazzled and dazed and not quite believing the show could be as good as it was. But it was. Oh, it was.

The National Post, Exclaim, BlogTO, and The Globe & Mail also have reviews of the show. The Toronto Star and NOW had feature interviews with Cave ahead of the show.

Photos: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds @ Massey Hall – March 23, 2013
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Jubilee Street”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “We No Who U R”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Midnight Man”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “More News From Nowhere”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Get Ready For Love”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Breathless”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Nature Boy”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Bring It On”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Love Letter”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Fifteen Feet Of Pure White Snow”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “As I Sat Sadly By Her Side”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “(Are You) The One That I’ve Been Waiting For”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds with PJ Harvey – “Henry Lee”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds with Kylie Minogue – “Where The Wild Roses Grow”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Red Right Hand”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Loverman”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Do You Love Me”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds with Shane McGowan – “What A Wonderful World”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “I Had A Dream, Joe”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Straight To You”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “The Weeping Song”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “The Ship Song”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Deanna”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “The Mercy Seat”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “The Singer”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Tupelo”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “In The Ghetto”

And some album streams to take us into the long weekend – Pitchfork has got an advance stream of The Black Angels’ new record Indigo Meadow, out April 2, and Philadelphia Weekly an interview with frontman Alex Maas. They’ll be at The Danforth Music Hall on April 13.

Stream: The Black Angels / Indigo Meadow

Hype Machine is hosting a stream of For Now I Am Winter, the new record from Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds. It gets a North American release on April 2.

Stream: Ólafur Arnalds / For Now I Am Winter

The Guardian is streaming the new British Sea Power album Machineries Of Joy. It comes out on April 9.

Stream: British Sea Power / Machineries Of Joy

Yeah Yeah Yeahs have rolled out the first video from Mosquito, out April 16. It features a lot of face-sucking.

Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”

Spin points to a stream of the b-side from The Strokes’ 7″ contribution to Record Store Day this year. If you think it sounds a lot like one of the songs on Comedown Machine, you’re not wrong.

Stream: The Strokes – “Fast Animals”

Clash talks to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, in town at the Kool Haus on May 9.

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Canadian Musicfest 2013 Day Three

Savages, Limblifter, and more at Canadian Musicfest

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIf you’re ever debating what to do on a given evening of either Canadian Musicfest or NXNE, you can always do far worse than to simply post up at either The Horseshoe or Lee’s Palace for the entire evening. These Toronto anchors always host a solid bill of bands, both local and international, buzzy and unheralded, covering a swath of genres that will surely have something to delight the ears. Granted, I was there with a more specific mandate than to just take in some music – I wanted to see Savages – but still opted to spend the whole night there and see some other acts I’d not seen before. Because isn’t that the point of these things?

Vancouver’s Zolas drew the opening slot and my immediate impression of their lanky, piano-heavy and slightly funky rock was that they sounded like Spoon, but those comparisons became less valid as the set progressed. The ingredients were similar, but their recipe drew more from laid-back, ’70s pop-rock than the tense, ’80s post-punk influences of the Austinites. This didn’t make their set any less enjoyable, but I can’t say I wasn’t a bit disappointed that they weren’t a more adventurous outfit. Still, their sound was a crowd-pleasing one and when frontman Zachary Gray left the stage to sing the final song from the audience, it felt like he had been invited rather than invaded.

Photos: The Zolas @ The Horseshoe – March 22, 2013
Video: The Zolas – “Escape Artist”
Video: The Zolas – “Cab Driver”
Video: The Zolas – “Knot In My Heart”
Video: The Zolas – “No Talking”
Video: The Zolas – “The Great Collapse”

There’s almost no chance I’d have ever seen Dustin Bentall & The Smokes perform if not for the inherent eclecticism of club festival lineups. Not because I’d have gone out of my to avoid them, but because their brand of unaffected roots-rock ceased being the sort of thing that piqued my curiosity some time ago. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining, because it absolutely was – Bentall has an easy charm and his songs a friendly familiarity that helps compensate for the rather pedestrian songwriting, to say nothing of the live show – Kendel Carson’s aggressively virtuosic lead fiddle playing could make anything sound amazing.

Photos: Dustin Bentall & The Smokes @ The Horseshoe – March 22, 2013
MP3: Dustin Bentall & The Smokes – “Railroad”
Video: Dustin Bentall & The Smokes – “Streets With No Name”

Hamilton’s Young Rival have been kicking around for a while now – six years and two albums, says Wikipedia – but our paths had yet to cross, or at least until last month when one of their clips was shortlisted for the Prism Prize. In any case, I was advised just before their set to expect something between garage rock and power pop, and while this was true, their set tilted much more towards the former. They offered great guitarwork and a solid rhythm section and songwriting which while not the most memorable, was more than serviceable for rock’n’roll. I would have expected more showmanship from a power trio as tight as they were, but while they weren’t disinterested, they also didn’t seem especially fussed about wowing the audience.

Photos: Young Rival @ The Horseshoe – March 22, 2013
Video: Young Rival – “Two Reasons”
Video: Young Rival – “Nothing You Know Well”
Video: Young Rival – “The Ocean”
Video: Young Rival – “Authentic”
Video: Young Rival – “Your Island”

It was good to see that each of the acts on the bill had their own fanbase turn out, based on the enthusiasm of varying percentages of the audience and the constant turnover of the folks gathered up front, but for me it was London four-piece Savages who were the reason for being here this night. Not because I’m a huge fan, but because I’m not. Or more accurately, I was curious to see if the hype around a band with hardly any recorded output and yet just signed to one of the most respected labels around was justified. And for the record, their “they’re amazing live” reputation actually counted as something of a strike in my books, since talking about the performance before establishing the songs are there raises flags with me.

In any case, Savages took the stage certainly looking as you’d expect – lights dimmed, faces stern, and dressed all in black save for frontwoman Jehny Beth, who in addition to looking an uncanny hybrid of Ian Curtis and Sinead O’Connor, also wore a pair of bright red heels. And for the next 40 minutes, it was all business – that business being a relentless, sonic pummeling of the post-punk variety, all hard edges and not so much interested in hooks as stabs. Each song had a distinct musical angle to distinguish it from the others without compromising their aesthetic consistency, but this wasn’t always enough to make them memorable, particularly measured against the standard of their two best songs and set closers, “She Will” – which was highlighted by drummer Fay Milton absolutely destroying her splash cymbal – and “Husbands”. No question Savages put on a good show, but I will still reserve judgement until the May 7 release of Silence Yourself when I can hear if they’ve got the songs to back up the performance.

Photos: Savages @ The Horseshoe – March 22, 2013
Stream: Savages – “She Will”

There’s probably a rule somewhere that you can’t call it a festival without some ’90s-vintage reunion act, and that’s where the night’s ostensible headliners Limblifter came in. I wouldn’t say I had any particular affection or enmity towards the Vancouver band, having liked some of their hits back in the day and been indifferent to others, but I could think of worse things than to hear “Vicious” live. It’s worth noting that just as frontman Ryan Dahle has aged remarkably well over the past 15 years, Limblifter’s sound has also held up pretty well. Their slightly strangled, angsty grunge-pop is still very much of an era – on hearing “Screwed Up” I half-expected a space-time wormhole to open up and drag me back to my sophomore year (this would not have been a good thing) – but enough of their repertoire is strong enough melodically to still impress so many years hence; to wit, “Tinfoil” still sounded great. And as evidence that Limblifter was still a going concern in 2013, they introduced some new material that didn’t feel out of place with the old. Whether the folks in attendance were actually interested in adding to their Limblifter collection rather than just hearing the old tunes remains to be seen, but for this night, at least, they were loving it.

The KW Record has an interview with Limblifter.

Photos: Limblifter @ The Horseshoe – March 22, 2013
Video: Limblifter – “Perfect Day To Disappear”
Video: Limblifter – “Wake Up To The Sun”
Video: Limblifter – “Cordova”
Video: Limblifter – “Vicious”
Video: Limblifter – “On The Moon”
Video: Limblifter – “Ariel Vs Lotus”
Video: Limblifter – “Tinfoil”

NOW and The Montreal Gazette talk to The Besnard Lakes about their new album Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO, out April 2. And if you were thinking that it was about time an advance stream of the album surfaced, you would be correct – CBC Music has it (for Canadians).

Stream: The Besnard Lakes / Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO

Beatroute, The Leader-Post, The Province, Metro, and The Times-Colonist chat with Born Ruffians about their new album Birthmarks, out April 16.

Exclaim has premiered the first video from Gentleman Reg’s latest album Leisure Life. He’ll play songs from it at an in-store at Sunrise Records on Yonge St on April 19.

Video: Gentleman Reg – “Waiting Around For Gold”

Consequence Of Sound reports that Caribou will celebrate Record Store Day with vinyl reissues of his first three albums. That’s April 20 for those not keeping track.

Portals talks to Stephen Ramsay of Young Galaxy about the story behind their new single “Pretty Boy”. Their new album Ultramarine is out April 23 and another track from it is available to stream:

Stream: Young Galaxy – “New Summer”

Exclaim talks to Rachel Zeffira, who is in town for a rare show at The Drake on May 2.

NPR has video of one of METZ’s performances at SXSW this year. They play Lee’s Palace on May 17 and then Downsview Park opening up for Weezer on July 12.

The Toronto Sun, Black Book, and amNY chat with Stars, BlogTO with The Darcys, and The Georgia Straight, Vue, Playback, and FFWD with Hayden – all of whom are part of the Field Trip festival at Garrison Common on June 8.

A Heart Is A Spade and Noisey grabbed interviews with Diamond Rings at SXSW; he opens up both of OMD’s shows at the Danforth Music Hall on July 11 and 19.

Exclaim rounds up some details on Shad’s next album, Flying Colours.

Kestrels have released a new video from A Ghost History.

Video: Kestrels – “Drowning Girl”

Suuns answers questions from Spinner, Noisey, The 405, All The Write Notes, and Ca Va Cool.

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Canadian Musicfest 2013 Day Two

Sóley, Kool Thing, and more at Canadian Musicfest

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangShow cancellations are pretty much part and parcel of the Canadian Musicfest experience, particularly when you’re most keen on the international acts who’ve been duped coerced into playing the fest, but it’s especially disappointing when it’s a) one of the bands you most wanted to see, b) they were one of the very first acts confirmed for the fest in November, and c) it happens just hours before showtime.

But things like lymph node infections do happen, and with Efterklang singer Casper Clausen out of commission, their showcase at The Mod Club with Nightlands was nixed. I should be pleased for the band and their fans that Clausen recovered in time to pick up the tour in Montreal the next night and that Toronto was the only lost date, but I’m not really. So suddenly left with no plans for the evening, I opted for the in-store at Moog Audio presented by Scandiphile sites Nordic By Nature and Swede + Sour – even if I was going to miss out on the Danes, I could still get my Swede/Norwegian/Icelandic musical fix.

Sweden would get a bit of short shrift, unfortunately. Perhaps in keeping with their tight, Krautrock-influenced sound, Malmö’s This Is Head started precisely on time and I was running late, meaning I missed the first half of their set and was only able to take in a song and a half. Thankfully, their songs were pretty long and while their live sound was more of a conventional rock setup than I’d have expected from what I recalled of their 2010 debut 0001, it was still tight and grooving in the right places. I look forward to hearing their second album The Album ID when it gets released in North America later this Spring.

Photos: This Is Head @ Moog Audio – March 21, 2013
Video: This Is Head – “A-B Version”
Video: This Is Head – “De Trop”
Video: This Is Head – “0011”
Video: This Is Head – “0007”

Whatever it is in the water in the nordic countries that produces idiosyncratic female electro-pop artists, Sandra Kolstad has been drinking it. Fronting a three-piece band comprised of two keyboards and a percussionist, she turned in a set of energetic art-pop made of synths and tight, inventive percussion that may not have stood out from other artists doing similar things, but didn’t pale against them either. And while Kolstad was game for getting naked in her latest video, on this evening it was her drummer who stripped down for the appreciation of those who appreciate tall, half-naked, Scandinavian men.

Photos: Sandra Kolstad @ Moog Audio – March 21, 2013
Stream: Sandra Kolstad – “Right Now”
Video: Sandra Kolstad – “Run Away (Where Are We?)”
Video: Sandra Kolstad – “The Well (We Will Change It All”
Video: Sandra Kolstad – “Fire Burn, Blood Flow”
Video: Sandra Kolstad – “Circles (It’s Got Every Little Part Of Me Running In)”

As enjoyable as the other two acts were, it was mainly Sóley whom I was here to see. Though she had a few other sets over the course of the festival, all were in conflict with something else I wanted to see, so if there was a silver lining to Efterklang’s misfortunes, it was this. For me, at least. Her 2011 album We Sink has been doing regular duty in evoking reminiscences of Iceland for me, and listening to her recreate those songs live I found myself trying to decide if her delicate electro-folk sounded more like a fairy sporting a cybernetic exoskeleton or a space station overrun by moss and trees. With the sound of her layered vocals slowly permeating the room like ghostly echoes, Sóley was understatedly presented, yet sonically perfect. The National Post has an interview with Sóley Stefánsdóttir.

Photos: Sóley @ Moog Audio – March 21, 2013
MP3: Sóley – “Pretty Face”
MP3: Sóley – “Blue Leaves”
Video: Sóley – “I’ll Drown”
Video: Sóley – “Pretty Face”
Video: Sóley – “Smashed Birds”
Video: Sóley – “Blue Leaves”

The in-store complete, I engaged in the only club-hopping I’d do for the festival and hoofed it over to The Drake Underground to catch Irish-German outfit Kool Thing. As it turns out, I didn’t need to rush as their start time was delayed by some manner of broken gear – it’s never a good sign when everyone in the band are standing around, staring down at a single piece of equipment, talking. They eventually got underway, though, and I spent most of their abbreviated set trying to remember why I had wanted to see the duo of Jon Dark and Julie Chance (plus drummer) in the first place. This isn’t to say their faintly electro-goth sound wasn’t alright – their voices blended well and the guitar-keys recipe yielded some nice atmosphere – but it felt played out and obvious. A full set may have allowed them to better demonstrate what they could do, but that wasn’t in the cards this night. And with that, I was home just before – in a perfect world – Efterklang’s set would have begun. Sigh.

Photos: Kool Thing @ The Drake Underground – March 21, 2013
Stream: Kool Thing – “TV Tower”
Video: Kool Thing – “PLAN.LIFE.GO”
Video: Kool Thing – “Light Games”
Video: Kool Thing – “The Sign”

Sigur Rós have added some extra context to the North American tour which brings them to the Air Canada Centre on March 30; instead of a second tour in support of last year’s ambient Valtari, it’s now a pre-release tour in support of their next album, the much heavier Kveikur, due out June 18. Pitchfork has details on the release and the first video from the album can be watched below.

Video: Sigur Rós – “Brennisteinn”

The Guardian and Billboard talk to The Knife about their new record Shaking The Habitual, due out April 9.

April 9 will also be the release date for the soundtrack from the new Tom Cruise vehicle Oblivion, which is only noteworthy in that M83 is doing the score. Pitchfork is streaming the theme song from the film, featuring Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfør.

Stream: M83 featuring Susanne Sundfør – “Oblivion”

The Fly has an interview with Junip, who’ve made a new track from their forthcoming self-titled album, out April 23, available to download. They’ll be at The Great Hall on June 10.

MP3: Junip – “Your Life Your Call”

Swedish pop veterans Club 8 have made the first track from their forthcoming album Above The City available to download. It’s out May 21.

Stream: Club 8 – “Stop Taking My Time”

The Line Of Best Fit has a video session with Of Monsters & Men. They co-headline the CBC Music Festival at Echo Beach on May 25.

Totally Stockholm interviews Elliphant, in town June 7 at The Phoenix opening up for Twin Shadow.

Exclaim and Filter talk to Iceage, coming to Toronto for NXNE on June 15 and 16.

And just because this week’s roundup of concert announcements got pushed down to second-billing to the CMW writeup, don’t think that means that nothing good was revealed. For instance – Memory Tapes will be bring last year’s Grace/Confusion to Wrongbar on April 11. Tickets for that will be $12 in advance.

MP3: Memory Tapes – “Sheila”

Austin’s Pure X – specialists in doing it slow and dreamy – will be at The Silver Dollar on May 7 as part of a North American tour in support of their new album Crawling up the Stairs, out May 14. Tickets for the show are $12.50 in advance.

MP3: Pure X – “Someone Else”
MP3: Pure X – “Things In My Head”

Los Angeles trio Sir Sly – whom I’m not going to pretend I know much about but who seemed to emerge from SXSW as one of the talked-about acts – will be in town at Wrongbar on May 14 as part of a Spring tour. Tickets for that are $10.

MP3: Sir Sly – “Ghost”

Portland’s Thermals have announced the dates for their Spring tour in support of Desperate Ground via Stereogum, and also debuted the first video from the album, out April 16. Look for them at The Horseshoe on May 21, tickets $15.

MP3: The Thermals – “Now We Can See”
Video: The Thermals – “Born To Kill”

British folk sister act The Staves will be at The Great Hall on May 23, presumably as part of a tour in support of the North American release of their debut Dead & Born & Grown, out this month. Tickets for the show are $14.50. Hit Fix, Blogcritics, and examiner.com have interviews with the Staveley-Taylor sisters.

Video: The Staves – “Facing West”

Jonathan Richman, who continues to not have anything resembling an official internet presence in 2013, will be doing things in meatspace at The Great Hall on June 5 and 6.

Stream: Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – “Roadrunner”

If you were thinking CHVRCHES were just here, you were right. But they’re coming back as part of a Summer tour, and while the June 12 date at The Hoxton may make you think it’s a NXNE show, so far there are no indications that it is – so maybe pony up the $16 for a ticket instead of waving your wristband around. And while that show is still months ahead of their debut album’s release in September, their Recover EP is out now and streaming over at Pitchfork.

MP3: CHVRCHES – “The Mother We Share”
Stream: CHVRCHES / Recover

What IS part of NXNE – and still venue-less at the time of writing – is the June 14 return of Still Corners, whose new album Strange Pleasures will be out May 7.

MP3: Still Corners – “Fireflies”

Space-surf pioneers Man Or Astro-man? are hitting the road and have made a date at Lee’s Palace for June 17, tickets $17.50.

Video: Man Or Astro-Man? – “Spferic Waves”

Darkwavers Cold Cave haven’t said specifically when their new EP Oceans With No End will be coming out, but presumably it’ll be around the time they roll their Summer tour into the Shop Under Parts & Labour – June 26. But Cold Cave isn’t the only thing that Wes Eisold has on the go – his old hardcore band American Nightmare is getting back into action and according to this Exclaim piece, one of the two reunion shows confirmed so far will be on June 6 in Toronto at a venue to be announced The Phoenix.

MP3: Cold Cave – “The Great Pan Is Dead”

And this week’s Toronto Urban Roots Fest additions come from near and far – the (relatively) near being Toronto’s own The Wooden Sky and Nova Scotia’s Matt Mays & El Torpedo, and the absolutely far being Australians The Cat Empire and Xavier Rudd. Early-bird deals on multi-day tickets end tonight at 10PM, and single-day tickets go on sale this Thursday; the day-by-day breakdown is on their schedule.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Angelina”
Video: The Cat Empire – “Brighter Than Gold”
Video: Xavier Rudd – “Bow Down”
Video: Matt Mays – “Take It On Faith”

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Canadian Musicfest 2013 Day One

CHVRCHES and Diana at Canadian Musicfest

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI went into this year’s Canadian Musicfest with a pretty basic plan – see as little as possible. Okay, that’s not really accurate since that would have easily been accomplished by staying home and I was still out four nights in a row, but rather than engage in the club-hopping that the fest usually demands, I opted to choose one thing a night that I was genuinely interested in seeing rather than trek around the city hoping to shake something worthwhile out of the lineup. Wednesday night, that honour went to a show that was one of the more hotly-tipped of the festival, despite being able to count both bands on the bill’s officially-released songs on one hand.

Diana may have been a relatively new name on the Toronto scene, but the faces were quite familiar, featuring players whose CVs include Everything All The Time, Donlands & Mortimer, Bonjay, and Warm Myth, to name but a few, but the elevator pitch was that this was the sax player from Destroyer’s new synth-pop project with Carmen Elle of Army Girls on vocals and they’d already arguably gotten more buzz abroad than any of their past projects combined (Destroyer excepted, of course).

As someone who came to the band mainly through Army Girls – and was a bit resentful at them for taking Elle’s attention away from her rock project – it was unusual to hear her voice in such a context, surrounded by smooth synth tones and saxophone lines rather than her spiky guitarwork, her voice was more bruised than sultry. Whether by design or happenstance, it created an odd tension between the image she presented as frontwoman; as charming and charismatic as usual, but interestingly at odds with the music would have conventionally presumed. And that applied to Diana as a whole – slinky, soulful synth-pop, yes, but with something else going on in there and it’s that je ne sais quoi that will, unfortunately for me but great for Diana, probably keep Army Girls fans waiting for those albums a little longer.

Photos: Diana @ The Mod Club – March 20, 2013
MP3: Diana – “Born Again”
Stream: Diana – “Perpetual Surrender”

The hype around Scottish trio CHVRCHES has probably put some off of them entirely already, some six months from the release of their debut album, and that’s a shame. Because as far as I can tell, they’re not being posited as saviours of anything, just a new band with some really good songs. Or maybe that new – none of them are rookies in the music biz, with keyboardists Iain Cook and Martin Doherty having done duty in Aerogramme and Twilight Sad, respectively, and singer Lauren Mayberry formerly doing time in Blue Sky Archives. That past experience might explain why despite being a heavily-feted band on their first tour abroad, CHVRCHES were remarkably confident and assured in their Canadian debut. Taking the stage to the strains of an oddly pitch-shifted version of “Let’s Go Crazy”, they opened with last year’s debut single “Lies” and laid out very clearly what they were about – big synth sounds from the fellows and beguiling vocals from Mayberry.

CHRVCHES haven’t solved the the inherent problem of how to put on a compelling live show when you’re two blokes tethered to keyboards and girl singer who’s not Sarah Cracknell, but when you’ve got the songs, everything else becomes somewhat trivial. While a fairly static performer, Mayberry wasn’t a wallflower and offered up some charming banter – Ryan Gosling topped her list of things to thank Canada for – the best part of the show was the fact that it proved that their songwriting chops were equal to the hype. “Recover”, with its irresistible chorus, remained the high point of their works so far but everything was fairly bursting with hooks and melodies, led by Mayberry’s youthful and yearning vocals. It’s refreshing that at a time when synth acts are a dime a dozen, one can still stand out by sticking to the time-tested rules of pop music. After closing with “The Mother We Share”, they returned for a one-song encore that bookended the set with Prince salutations and their totally straight but still fun cover of “I Would Die 4 U”. And then they doused everyone with a bubble machine.

CBC Music and DIY have interviews with CHVRCHES while NPR has video of one of their sets at SXSW earlier this month. Update: And, just announced, CHVRCHES are back on June 12 at The Hoxton, possibly/probably a NXNE show.

Photos: CHVRCHES @ The Mod Club – March 20, 2013
MP3: CHVRCHES – “The Mother We Share”
Stream: CHVRCHES – “Lies”
Video: CHVRCHES – “Recover”

Peace takes DIY on a walkthrough of their debut album In Love, out in the UK today. They’ll bring it to NXNE on June 15.

CBC Music has an interview with Charles Bradley and an advance stream of his new record Victim Of Love, out April 2, while Clash excerpts an interview with the man. He’ll be at the Phoenix on May 11.

Stream: Charles Bradley / Victim Of Love

Stereogum has an interview with Benjamin Michael Lerner of Telekinesis. Their new album Domarion is out April 2 but streaming now in whole at NPR. They’re at The Horseshoe on May 12.

MP3: Telekinesis – “Ghosts & Creatures”
Stream: Telekinesis / Domarion

A new Jessie Ware track taken from the inevitable deluxe edition of Devotion – the “Gold Edition” – is now available to stream. It’s out in the UK on April 15, the day before the regular (yet slightly enhanced) version of Devotion gets a North American release. She plays The Opera House on April 6.

Stream: Jessie Ware – “Imagine It Was Us”

A track from Kurt Vile’s new record Walkin’ On A Pretty Daze is now available to download. It’s out April 9 and he plays the Toronto Urban Roots Fest at Garrison Commons on July 7.

MP3: Kurt Vile – “Never Run Away”

The Postal Service has made another of the unreleased tracks from the 10th anniversary edition of Give Up available to stream. It’s out April 9 and they play The Air Canada Centre on June 11.

Stream: The Postal Service – “Turn Around”

Room 205 has posted the first of three video sessions with Redd Kross; they’re in town at The Horseshoe on April 11.

Loud & Quiet talks to Palma Violets, in town at Lee’s Palace on May 3.

Primal Scream are streaming the second single from their new album More Light, out May 6.

Stream: Primal Scream – “It’s Alright, It’s OK”

Deerhunter have announced the May 7 release of their new album Monomania. Typically cryptic details on the release can be found at 4AD.

Having let the dust settle from the announcement that their new album would be out in May and be followed by extensive touring, The National have revealed some more pertinent details – specifically that it’ll be called Trouble Will Find Me, that it will be out May 21, and the artwork and tracklisting look something like this. And additionally, in conversation with Gothamist, drummer Bryan Devendorf offers some insight into the recording sessions and what guest artists you’ll hear on the record. The National will headline Yonge-Dundas Square for NXNE on June 14, and the tour documentary on the band Mistaken For Strangers will screen at Hot Docs on April 30, May 2, and May 5.

Stephin Merritt has turned his attention to his Future Bible Heroes project, announcing the June 4 release of their first album in over a decade, Partygoing. It’s available either on its own or part of the Memories of Love, Eternal Youth and Partygoing set which includes reissues of their first two albums as well as a bonus disc of rarities. Details on all that at Merge, first track from Partygoing to stream below.

Stream: Future Bible Heroes – “Living, Loving, Partygoing”

Flavorwire is streaming another track from John Vanderslice’s cover album of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, which will accompany the June 11 release of his new album of original material, Dagger Beach.

Stream: John Vanderslice – “Diamanthunde”

The Quietus have confirmed a new Echo & The Bunnymen album is on the way. Ian McCulloch says that it’ll be called The Garden Of Meedlin’ and will be out before the year is out.

The Line Of Best Fit has a video session and The Georgia Straight an interview with Veronica Falls.

To mark the passing of Jason Molina last week, all of his recorded output as Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co, or Jason Molina is available to stream. The best way to remember him.

NYC Taper is sharing recordings of a Low show in New York last week while Drowned In Sound has a video session and interview with the band.