Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
Fresh Snow, Data Romance, Del Bel, and more at NXNE
Frank YangI’m sure some would look at the last full day/night of a music festival as an opportunity to go hard or go home, I took NXNE’s Saturday schedule as an opportunity to go small and go (relatively) local. I’d kept a pretty conservative schedule through the festival this far, after all, why stop now?
I started out at Supermarket in Kensington to see Vancouver’s Data Romance. I wasn’t really familiar with them before stumbling across their stuff in the NXNE listings, and liking what I heard, gave them a shot. And indeed, armed with a healthy array of drum pads, synths, and laptops, duo Ajay Bhattacharyya and Amy Kirkpatrick, put on a very likeable set of electro-pop drawn from their debut album Other, the former playing electronic drums live to keep things organic and the latter adorably charismatic, her voice expressive without being excessively showy. They specialized in soulful, synthy ballads that would feel like part of the zeitgeist had it come out of the UK right now, but coming from western Canada, sounds rather unique. Accessible, interesting, and well-crafted, Data Romance could and should find a broad audience.
Photos: Data Romance @ Supermarket – June 15, 2013
MP3: Data Romance – “Spark”
Video: Data Romance – “Can’t Keep Your Mind Off”
Video: Data Romance – “The Deep”
Video: Data Romance – “She’s Been High”
Next it was to the Creatures Creating studio space – or more accurately, the tinfoil and lightshow-adorned basement of the studio space – where Toronto music and arts institution Wavelength was holding the final night of their NXNE showcases and previewing their upcoming Roadshow tour which would send three Toronto bands on the road to do their thing across Ontario and Quebec over the next couple weekends. The first of these, Most People, comprised just two people and a whole lot of musical gear of the guitar, bass, percussion, and electronic persuasion which they alternated between tag team-style while building sound-on-sound pop songs that seemed to fold in on themselves but straightened themselves out when needed, being sure to leave the hooks exposed. While their yelpy vocal stylings weren’t to my taste and the songs could stand to be more concise, there’s no denying they were fun to watch. And I’m not just saying that because they’re the only band I’ve ever seen with the same guitar amp as I have. Solidarity!
Photos: Most People @ Creatures Creating – June 15, 2013
Stream: Most People / Most People
I’d seen local jazz-noir collective Del Bel a couple times last year, but never with as lean a lineup as they had on this night – just five pieces, though I would imagine the logistics of getting any larger a group than that together and able to tour would be nigh on impossible. Even stripped down, though, they were able to both do the dark, evocative sounds of their debut Oneiric justice and give them a fresh angle that suited the boozecan feel of the room. Some new material from their forthcoming second album was also showcased, and affirmed that they’re still one of the most interesting and promising new acts bubbling under in Toronto.
Photos: Del Bel @ Creatures Creating – June 15, 2013
MP3: Del Bel with Bry Webb – “No Cure For Loneliness”
I feel as though I should offer a disclaimer about Fresh Snow – I used to be in a band with guitarist Brad Davis and have been friends for many years – but even without the personal angle, I would be excited to be writing about the band. What started as an interesting Krautrock-jam project has become a genuinely exciting psych-rock experience that exists at intersection of calculated and cacophonous. They can shift from Godspeed to Kraftwerk to Mogwai within the same song, and then segue to eminently danceable synth-led disco a few minutes later with some pleasantly woozy violin lines offering a decidedly human counterpoint to the mechanical rhythms driving things. And they might also blow the power in the venue a couple times, but nothing worthwhile comes without some cost. Their debut album i is due out in late July.
Photos: Fresh Snow @ Creatures Creating – June 15, 2013
Video: Fresh Snow – “Saturation Complete”
And that was my NXNE for 2013. Not nearly as intense as past years, but just about the right pace to keep me interested and alive. Trust me on that last point.
Unsurprisingly, with this year’s festival in the books, some of the buzzier bands who had undersized showcases have already announced bigger/proper shows for the not-too-distant future. Braids spin-off Blue Hawaii will be at Wrongbar on July 28 in support of their debut Untogether, released earlier this year and from which they’ve just released a new video.
MP3: Blue Hawaii – “In Two II”
Video: Blue Hawaii – “Reaction II”
And Majical Cloudz, who by all accounts was pretty intense in their showcases, continue to promote their debut Impersonator with a show at Wrongbar on September 17, tickets $12. The Toronto Star has an interview with frontman Devon Welsh.
MP3: Majical Cloudz – “Bugs Don’t Buzz”
The ALL CAPS! music festival has decided that five is enough and that this year’s edition, taking place at Gibraltar Point on the Toronto Islands across August 10 and 11, will be the final one. And who better to send it off with a fitting party than Rich Aucoin, who will headline the Sunday night alongside Brooklyn’s The Blow – closing out Saturday – and a lineup that also includes catl, Shotgun Jimmie, Elfin Saddle, and more, not to mention a whole lot of other arty stuff. A very limited number of camping passes go on sale June 25 for $52 early bird and $69 lollygagger, and festival passes where you have to go home for $24 going up to $30. Single-day tickets are $17 in advance.
MP3: Rich Aucoin – “It”
MP3: The Blow – “Hock It”
With a new double-album in Drifters/Love Is The Devil just out, Taiwan-born Montreal-based no-fi rockabilly act Dirty Beaches has announced Fall tour that hits The Garrison on September 11, tickets $13 in advance. Exclaim and Stereogum talk to Alex Zhang-Hungtai – he who is Dirty Beaches – about his latest opus.
Video: Dirty Beaches – “Casino Lisboa”
Interview, DIY, and Noisey talk to Katie Stelmanis of Austra, whose new record Olympia came out this week. They play The Phoenix on September 27.
Dears frontman Murray Lightburn has release the first MP3 and video from his forthcoming solo album Mass:Light; contrary to what I reported last month, the album itself has no announced release date yet.
MP3: Murray A. Lightburn – “Motherfuckers”
Video: Murray A. Lightburn – “Motherfuckers”
Beatroute has an interview with Toronto’s July Talk.
The Besnard Lakes talk to Beatroute.
The Georgia Straight and Beatroute check in with Yamantaka//Sonic Titan.
Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
The National, Still Corners, Hayden, and more at NXNE
Frank YangWish as we might, the day show still hasn’t quite taken hold of NXNE the way it has its heavyweight south by southwestern cousin, but there are things worth seeing and doing in the daylight hours if you look. And sometimes those things will take you to places like Urban Outfitters, who were hosting a honey of an in-store on the Friday of the festival. And sometimes, if you take the time to actually look at the address of the Urban Outfitters in question, you’ll get there on the first try, rather than use process of elimination, which is what I did. Aside: there are too many Urban Outfitters in this city.
Still, I made it to the correct Queen West UO location in time to see Florida’s Beach Day – cover boys and girls of my NXNE preview – setting up for the first of four shows they’d play in town this weekend. With their debut album Trip Trap Attack due the the following week – today, actually – they were primed to show off what they had to whomever would listen. And what they had was a fun and infectious retro-garage/surf pop sound that fit their name perfectly, though if you were to call them “Dum Dum Girls’ Little Archies”, you wouldn’t be wrong either. Besides the visual and stylistic similarities, singer-guitarist Kimmy Drake also has a Chrissie Hynde-like delivery not unlike Dee Dee Penny’s, and while their music doesn’t have the New Wave sophistication that elevates Dum Dum Girls above their peers, they do have a lot of youthful exuberance that also goes a long way. They play in an old style but do it like it’s brand new.
Photos: Beach Day @ Urban Outfitters – June 14, 2013
MP3: Beach Day – “Love Is Strange”
Video: Beach Day – “Beach Day”
Video: Beach Day – “Boys”
Following them from about as far as you could get, geographically and stylistically, were London’s Still Corners whose presence on the bill is what got me to take the day off work so as to be able to see them. It had been a long time since their local debut in October 2011 and neither their show a couple nights earlier opening for CHVRCHES nor their showcase that evening at The Horseshoe was logistically workable for me, so this was my best chance to hear Strange Pleasures live. Though the record’s ’80s-beholden, synth-heavy sound was quite a shift from the ’60s atmosphere of their debut Creatures Of An Hour, I’ve found myself liking it as much if not more. The band opted to not try and recreate their standard live show for the in-store setup, however, pre-apologizing if their messing with the set structure didn’t work as well as they hoped when they thought it up. They opened with three selections from Strange Pleasures with just band principals Tessa Murray on vocals and sequencer and Greg Hughes on guitar overtop some canned beats, the lushness of the new material’s recorded versions being traded in for some of the barer beauty more akin to the aesthetic of their debut, even when the rest of the band joined them for the remainder of the set. While they quite obviously weren’t unplugged, the performance had a similar intent with a greater emphasis put on Murray’s lovely vocals and allowing Hughes to show off some of his guitar chops. I do still wish I’d been able to hear the bigger, louder version of the show that those who saw their evening shows caught, but this was pretty special too.
The Boston Globe has an interview with Still Corners.
Photos: Still Corners @ Urban Outfitters – June 14, 2013
MP3: Still Corners – “Berlin Lovers”
MP3: Still Corners – “Fireflies”
MP3: Still Corners – “Eyes”
MP3: Still Corners – “Into The Woods”
MP3: Still Corners – “Cuckoo”
MP3: Still Corners – “Endless Summer”
Video: Still Corners – “Berlin Lovers”
Video: Still Corners – “Cuckoo”
Video: Still Corners – “Into The Trees”
Video: Still Corners – “Endless Summer”
After taking a few hours to tend to this and that – which is to say napping – it was off to Yonge-Dundas Square for the festival’s ostensible headlining act, and said act’s ostensible opener. That would be Hayden, a last-minute reveal given his appearance at Arts & Crafts’ Field Trip festival the weekend before, but not really a surprise considering their history together – Hayden Desser joined The National for a cover of his “Dynamite Walls” when they played The Phoenix in October 2007 and he also interviewed frontman Matt Berninger earlier this Spring. My own history with Hayden is pretty long as well – I first saw him at the Humanities Theatre in Waterloo back in 1996, and again opening for Juliana Hatfield at Guelph’s Trasheteria in 1998… but not since. To be honest, while I’ve always appreciated what Hayden did, I was never the biggest fan – his simple and genial brand folk-pop never quite resonated with me the way it did some, and this year’s Us Alone was the first of his releases I’ve listened to in almost forever (and I like it fine). But hearing those songs played out in the open air as the sun just began to set was really an ideal way to be reminded of the power of simplicity. Leading a trio and starting out on keyboards, he worked through an unhurried set of new tunes and old favourites – occasionally punctuated by a Crazy Horse-esque noise flourish lest you start to nod off – but mostly just comfortable and enjoyable. And hearing the songs with which he first garnered attention – Everything I Long For‘s “Bad As They Seem” and “In September” took be back the nearly 20 years since I first heard them, as well as appreciate how far his songwriting has evolved while staying in the same mould. And also that the throat-shredding gruffness he needs to affect for “In September” must really hurt.
Post-City has a feature piece on Hayden.
Photos: Hayden @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 14, 2013
MP3: Hayden – “Old Dreams”
Video: Hayden – “Oh Memory”
Video: Hayden – “Rainy Saturday”
Video: Hayden – “Barely Friends”
Video: Hayden – “Where & When”
Video: Hayden – “All In One Move”
Video: Hayden – “Carried Away”
Video: Hayden – “Dynamite Walls”
Video: Hayden – “The Closer I Get”
Video: Hayden – “Bad As They Seem”
While the Yonge-Dundas Square mainstage of NXNE is fantastic in theory – free shows in the heart of the city with big names that help give a club-level festival a little major-league cachet – in practice it’s… less than fantastic. The built-in stage offers poor sightlines, made worse by the number of sponsors tents and beer cordons so that many in attendance are lucky to get some line of sight to one of the two video screens, never mind the stage. Add in massive crowds, many of whom are only there for something to do rather than actual fans and will think nothing of talking loudly through the whole set, and, well, maybe you’d be better off at the clubs. Unless, of course, the big-name headliner for this evening is one of your favourite bands of the past decade, in which case you suck up whatever complaints you might otherwise have and you see The National.
And if I thought that seeing them play an arena – albeit theatre-configured – in December 2011 was a headtrip, then seeing them in such a setting was just mental considering I still clearly remember our first meeting in March 2006 at The Horseshoe. Their environs were a touch amusing to the band, as well, with Matt Berninger commenting on the giant Beyonce H&M ads directly in his line of sight on the Eaton Centre, and Aaron Dessner noting the Blue Jays game was playing on another giant screen behind them. But they were here to do a job and do it they did.
Trouble Will Find Me lead track “I Should Live In Salt” set the tone for the evening, all stately melancholia, and certainly a far cry from the merry bedlam The Flaming Lips brought to the same stage the year prior. Even as their stages have gotten bigger, their show has remained pretty consistent – Berninger anchored centre stage, microphone gripped tightly, Dessner twins flanking him on guitars and the Devendorff rhythm section laying back and tending to business. The Dessners did alternately step out towards the audience whilst powering the band’s crescendos, but Berninger didn’t venture out to meet the audience until “England”. And while the public square is arguably the least acoustically favourable place they’ve played in the city, there was something special about hearing the likes of “Apartment Story” and “Fake Empire” ring out and off of the steel and glass surroundings.
The set naturally favoured Trouble and High Violet, but long-time fans were treated with “About Today” off of 2005′s Cherry Tree EP. Alligator has sadly gotten to the point of only being represented by the obvious “Abel” and “Mr. November”, though I will admit the latter takes on some new life when Berninger is now able to actually plunge into the crowd and be carried on the arms of, if not cheerleaders, then festival-goers. Having missed the end of their Air Canada Centre performance, their show-closing “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” was unexpected and powerful – pulling off an unplugged singalong can be difficult in a club or theatre setting; doing it on an outdoor urban stage? Nearly impossible. So of course they did, and with ease.
Some may grouse about the aforementioned problems of shows such as this and even used them as excuses to skip it, particularly knowing that the band will certainly return before long to do a proper ticketed show in a more personable venue. I took that as an extra reason to go to this show and appreciate its uniqueness, niggles aside. After all – R.E.M.’s free noon-hour show at the very same intersection in 2001 was also hardly an ideal concert setting, but it’s not one I’ll ever forget. I can’t say this one will be as indelible, all said and done, but for what it was, it was still great.
CBC Music and aux.tv have interviews with The National and NPR a World Cafe session.
Photos: The National @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 14, 2013
MP3: The National – “I’ll See You In My Dreams”
MP3: The National – “Twenty Miles To NH (Part 2)”
MP3: The National – “Exile Vilify”
MP3: The National – “Think You Can Wait”
MP3: The National – “Afraid Of Everyone”
MP3: The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
MP3: The National – “So Far Around The Bend”
MP3: The National – “Fake Empire”
MP3: The National – “90 Mile Water Wall”
MP3: The National – “Cold Girl Fever”
MP3: The National – “Son”
MP3: The National – “Beautiful Head”
Video: The National – “Sea Of Love”
Video: The National – “Demons”
Video: The National – “Exile Vilify”
Video: The National – “Think You Can Wait”
Video: The National – “Conversation 16″
Video: The National – “Terrible Love”
Video: The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
Video: The National – “So Far Around The Bend” (live)
Video: The National – “Mistaken For Strangers”
Video: The National – “Apartment Story”
Video: The National – “Abel”
Video: The National – “Lit Up”
Video: The National – “Daughters Of The Soho Riots”
Video: The National – “Sugar Wife”
Video: The National – “Son”
Exclaim has details on the new Scud Mountain Boys album, entitled Do You Love the Sun and out July 9 digitally and August 6 on vinyl.
Esquire talks the festival life with Father John Misty. He plays a non-festival at The Danforth Music Hall on August 3.
Rolling Stone talks to Tommy Stinson about the Replacements reunion which kicks off August 25 at Riot Fest in Toronto at Garrison Common.
The first song from the new Okkervil River album The Silver Gymnasium is now available to stream via lyric video. The record is out September 3 and they play The Phoenix on September 28.
Stream: Okkervil River – “It Was My Season”
The Quietus gets to know former Okkervil River-er and current Shearwater frontman Jonathan Meiburg in his capacity as an ornithologist.
Beatroute chats with Explosions In The Sky, in town supporting Nine Inch Nails at The Air Canada Centre on October 4.
NPR has premiered the new video from Low’s latest, The Invisible Way, while Drowned In Sound has posted a video session and interview with the Minnesotans.
Video: Low – “Plastic Cup”
NYC Taper is sharing a recording of The Mountain Goats show at the soon-to-be-late Maxwell’s in Hoboken a couple weeks ago.
NPR and SF Weekly talk to John Vanderslice about making his latest record Dagger Beach.
NYC Taper has a recording of an Antlers show in New York last week.
Beatroute gets to know The Thermals.
Monday, June 17th, 2013
Mikal Cronin, Diana, Moon King, and more at NXNE
Frank YangI acknowledge that most coverage of NXNE referencing “night one” would be referring to the actual first night of the festival – that being last Wednesday night – but since instead of being out at the clubs, I spent that evening dealing with plumbing issues and catching up on Game Of Thrones, “night one” hereabouts will refer to the first night I got out of the house, which is to say Thursday, which is most others’ “night two”. None of which really matters to anyone; this I also acknowledge. So let’s move on. To The Horseshoe.
I’d flagged Moon King as one of the most interesting new acts in the city since seeing them open up for Niki & The Dove last Fall, a judgement confirmed by the first two thirds of their Obsession EP trilogy. The band is generally flagged as psych-pop – which is accurate – but the way they blend melody, texture, and innocence reminds me a lot of the early shoegaze bands and I’d rate them closer in spirit and execution than most because it’s clear they’re not even trying to be.
And so I was pretty happy to start the festival by seeing how far they’d come in the past nine months. Not that they were a green outfit by any means – band principals Maddy Wilde and Daniel Woodhead cut their teeth years ago as half of Spiral Beach – but Moon King still provided a new dynamic, with Woodhead moving from drums to frontman and Wilde putting the keyboards away to focus on guitar. Still, there was a perceptible difference in their performance this time out – they sounded heavier, yet more assured; their playful side now augmented by a sense of danger, which was a good look, at least in theory. The tail end of the show got a bit too literal with that as the shop lights – you know, the yellow ones with the “DANGER EXTREMELY HOT” warning stickers on them – they were using as stage lights got knocked over during an attempted stage dive, and those of us in the front row spent the remainder of the show trying to ensure that the various things that came in contact with them and started smoking – ie, mic cables and the Horseshoe stage carpeting – didn’t erupt into flame and Great White us all. Because that would have sucked and definitely would have garnered a more negative review.
Photos: Moon King @ The Horseshoe – June 13, 2013
MP3: Moon King – “Appel”
MP3: Moon King – “Only Child”
Video: Moon King – “Only Child”
Video: Moon King – “Sleeping In My Car”
Having just seen Diana back in March, I didn’t expect too much of a different show than last time, but considering in the interim they’d signed to Paper Bag at home and Jagjaguwar in the US for the August 20 release of their debut Perpetual Surrender, the attention they’ve been garnering has certainly increased. But if anyone was worried that their ascent has gotten to their heads, fear not – they may have started late, but it was because they were scrambling looking for a MIDI cable rather than trying to keep anyone waiting. And so while the set might have started a bit discombobulated, it was nice watching it all quickly fall into place and the band get their feet under them. And assuming a couple months didn’t make that big a difference in the live show proved to be wrong – Diana demonstrated some legitimate funk and disco moves to go with their smooth synth-pop soul stylings, and Carmen Elle seems much more at ease fronting the band and now more convincingly inhabits the character of the songs – not that that precludes her dropping to her knees and ripping an impressive guitar solo. Good to see you can take the girl out of the Army, but you can’t take the army out of the girl.
Photos: Diana @ The Horseshoe – June 13, 2013
MP3: Diana – “Born Again”
Video: Diana – “Born Again”
At this point I abandoned the sure-thing-ness offered by The Horseshoe, both room and lineup, and trekked up to Kensington to inspect a new venue called Handlebar and a new band called Valleys. Okay, not that new as I’ve commented on the solidity of their debut album Are You Going To Stand There And Talk Weird All Night?, but still. Sadly, both were some degree of disappointment. Handlebar for being basically being pitch-black by photographic standards, and Valleys for just being a generally lacklustre live show. I appreciate that the difference in being a studio project and live band can be immense, but the disservice that Valleys did their really quite good debut was unfortunate. With Marc St. Louis on guitar and Matilda Perks on keys playing of backing tracks, it was the least interesting path from recording to stage one could take and both seemed decidedly disinterested in making even that sound compelling. Tempos were off, pitch was off, the mix was off… perhaps it was an off night, perhaps the problems with the venue extended to the sound and not just the light, but based on this showing, I’d still recommend hearing Talk Weird and its synthetically cinematic charms, but skipping the show.
Photos: Valleys @ Handlebar – June 13, 2013
Video: Valleys – “Undream A Year”
A list-minute decision to see if I could get into The Silver Dollar to see Californian Mikal Cronin start his three-night stand – it turned out I could – would still allow me to close the night on an up note -a VERY up note. I’d only just gotten around to hearing Cronin’s second album MCII a couple weeks ago, and its Big Muff-drenched power-pop was impossible not to fall for immediately. Not just for me, but for many – I was glad I’d gotten there just a little early, because by show time the Dollar was jammed with garage rock fans looking to blow off a little steam. And indeed, Cronin and his crew provided the perfect soundtrack for their mosh-pitting, beer-tossing, crowd-surfing tomfoolery. It did get rowdy, but stayed good-natured, just like Cronin’s music – plenty of fuzzy edges but warm and chewy inside. Loud, energetic, and fun, it was exactly the way to close out the night and Cronin’s promises of Limp Bizkit and Smash Mouth covers on the following nights was almost enough to get me to go back.
Photos: Mikal Cronin @ The Silver Dollar – June 13, 2013
MP3: Mikal Cronin – “Apathy”
MP3: Mikal Cronin – “Get Along”
Video: Mikal Cronin – “Change”
BlogTO has an interview with Japandroids, who inaugurate the new Adelaide Music Hall with a show tonight. And if you wanted to know more about Toronto’s newest venue – which is Opera House-sized, if you were wondering – The Grid is on it.
DIY, The Line Of Best Fit, and Spin have features on Sigur Rós in advance of the release of their new album Kveikur on June 18.
Exclaim has details on Smilewound, the new album from múm; it’s out September 17 and there’s a new video from it.
Video: múm – “Toothwheels”
Ólafur Arnalds has released a new video from his latest album For Now I Am Winter.
Video: Ólafur Arnalds – “Only The Winds”
Beatroute and Creative Loafing talk to Copenhagen’s Iceage.
The Guardian gets to know the ladies of Icona Pop, coming to town to play The Grove Fest at Garrison Common on August 3.
Interview gets to know Nick Cave.
Friday, June 14th, 2013
Jim Guthrie Takes his Time making it onto the 2013 Polaris Prize long list
Colin MedleyThe 2013 Polaris Prize long list was announced yesterday, and unlike past years where there were a number of obvious frontrunners for inclusion, whether because they were by the biggest artists or had the biggest buzz over the preceding twelve months, there actually didn’t seem to be a lot of “gimmes” amongst the records eligible this year. Rather than the field having a few standouts and a lot of dark horses, it instead felt very wide and flat, which meant that guessing who’d be amongst the forty longlisted records was anyone’s guess.
And now, even with the pool of candidates narrowed from every Canadian album released in the past year down to forty, it’s difficult to speculate at who will survive onto the short list of ten albums when it’s announced on July 16; the only thing that’s certain is that this year’s Polaris – the eighth – could be the most exciting one yet, at least if you’re the sort of person who derives excitement from music awards-spotting. I’m going to refrain from any sort of guessing until at least then because truly I have no idea what the temperature of the jury at large is. But I can tell you what my ballot was, besides four-for-five at making the long list. And so I’ve got one more longlisted album to insert into my ballot before my Polaris duties for this year are done, and to be honest I have no idea what it’s going to be. Guess I’ve got some more homework to do.
The Polaris Prize will be awarded at a gala at the Carlu in Toronto on September 23.
1) Evening Hymns / Spectral Dusk (Shuffling Feet)
My connection to this record is well-documented, but even without that personal angle, it’s still a gorgeously written, performed, and recorded piece of folk-rock that succeeds at being both intensely personal, and yet universally relatable. I can usually say that from one Polaris to the next, that I don’t really have a dog in the fight, but not this year. This is my dog.
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Arrows”
Video: Evening Hymns – “Family Tree”
2) Godspeed You! Black Emperor / ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (Constellation)
Despite being the act that least likely to even acknowledge being nominated, Godspeed’s unexpected comeback record was maybe the closest thing to a sure thing I could think of. Besides the engaging narrative around the band’s return to active duty and their sneak release of the album, there’s the simple fact that the Godspeed formula still works amazingly well, particularly when they’ve got something to be angry about. Which they do.
Stream: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Mladic”
Jim Guthrie / Takes Time (Static Clang)
Another unexpected record but a wholly welcome one was Jim Guthrie’s first proper singer-songwriter record in a decade, and one that affirmed his status as one of this country’s greatest melodicists. While it seems like just a collection of pop songs, pretty much every song is a master class in arrangement and songwriting efficiency; Guthrie knows exactly how much to give and when and makes it look and sound effortless. Whether it shortlists or wins or not, the best prize would be not having to wait another ten years for its follow-up. The Huffington Post has an interview with Guthrie about the record.
Video: Jim Guthrie – “Bring On The Night”
Video: Jim Guthrie – “The Rest Is Yet To Come”
Rachel Zeffira / The Deserters (Paper Bag)
My one selection that didn’t make the long list, and I’m not really surprised it didn’t. While I think its classical-operatic-indie hybrid is as good as anything else on the list, and arguably more interesting, London-based Zeffira’s distance from the Canadian scene at large and lack of wide promotion – one lightly-attended North American show to date – probably doomed it.
Video: Rachel Zeffira – “Here On In”
Video: Rachel Zeffira – “The Deserters”
Young Galaxy / Ultramarine (Paper Bag)
It may have been the last record to make my ballot, but the fact that it’s here at all considering that for the longest time, I had no time for Young Galaxy, says a lot. I often bemoan the general lack of stylistic or artistic revolution amongst Canadian bands – more often it seems they prefer to continue refining what’s been proven to work – but Young Galaxy have successfully reinvented themselves and that impresses me. The record’s pretty damn good as well. They’ve just released a new, Bruckheimer-esque video from it.
Video: Young Galaxy – “New Summer”
Video: Young Galaxy – “Pretty Boy”
NOW meets the band formerly known as Always but now know as Alvvays; they show off their new official name tonight, June 14, at 10PM at The Silver Dollar.
Toro gets to know Toronto country-pop newcomers Beams. Their NXNE showcase is at 11PM tonight, June 14, at The Central.
Spin talks to Devon Welsh of Majical Cloudz. They play BLK BOX for NXNE on June 15 at midnight.
The National Post catches up with Gentleman Reg, who did his NXNE duties Wednesday night.
YOUNXT hada pre-NXNE interview with Olenka & The Autumn Lovers, who played a couple of shows yesterday.
aux.tv interviews No Joy, who played NXNE last night.
Exclaim talks to Katie Stelmanis of Austra, whose new record Olympia comes out June 18. They play The Phoenix on September 27.
Hooded Fang have released a new video from their latest, Gravez.
Video: Hooded Fang – “Bye Bye Land”
Thursday, June 13th, 2013
The Postal Service and Mates Of State at The Air Canada Centre in Toronto
Frank YangThough generally referred to as a reunion, the return this year of The Postal Service to active duty is unlike most others in that it’s to mark a very specific occasion – the 10th anniversary and reissue of their only album Give Up – and comes with absolutely no promise or expectation of carrying on after the occasion is past. And as much as people might think they want a second Postal Service record, I suspect that the truth is they don’t.
Much of the magic of Give Up is that it exists as a single specific point in space and time, and not just as the album where indie, emo, and electronica converged and created a template for countless artists to follow. It’s also special because it was the soundtrack for so many lives in 2003, and by not releasing a follow-up or even having The Postal Service really exist outside of the recordings, remained a snapshot of a moment trapped in amber. No one grew up with this band, or risked being disappointed by a subsequent effort that didn’t make them feel the way Give Up did. And by that same token, it’s a safe bet that no one who piled into the Air Canada Centre a decade later to finally hear these songs played live were remotely the same person they were when they fell in love with the band. And yet they came – not in nearly enough number to fill the theatre-configured arena, but enough to create a time-warped sense of community fuelled by excitement and nostalgia.
It would have been pretty funny and entertaining had Toronto drawn the Big Freedia card in the opening band rotation – the looks on passers by’s faces as they were introduced to the Sissy Bounce when she played Yonge-Dundas at NXNE 2010 is a fond memory – but I was more than happy to get Mates Of State’s first date of the tour. I hadn’t seen them since they kicked off Virgin Fest 2009, and while it’s unfortunate that there were about as many people on hand to see them this time as then – which is to say not a lot – they still put on a wholly enjoyable set, at least after getting over the shock of them playing as a four-piece, though there’s no denying that the extra dimension added by the supporting keys and guitar sounded nice, particularly the trumpet on “Rearrange Us” and “My Only Offer”. But the heart of Mates Of State remain Kori Gardner and Jason Hammell’s keys-and-drums-and-harmonies-and-adorableness, and though their recent work isn’t quite as sugar-giddy as the early stuff, it’s still got plenty of sweetness and remains delightful. I mean, how can you not love banter like, “That’s Kori, isn’t she hot?”. You can’t.
Given that The Postal Service didn’t even record Give Up as a proper band – their name refers to how Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello traded musical ideas via physical DAT – getting a guy on a laptop and another on guitar to translate live in as large a venue as an arena was surely no small task. So to fill things out, they promoted Jenny Lewis from backing vocalist to almost co-frontperson with guitar and keyboard duties, and enlisted Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds on glock and vox – certainly a fine ensemble, augmented by an acoustic drum kit on the stage for those moments when canned beats just wouldn’t do. And as to the problem of having only two sides of material to draw from, they naturally played the whole of Give Up, opening with “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”, as well as the four new/unreleased tracks from the anniversary edition, a Beat Happening cover, and the proto-Postal Dntel track “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan” – making for a respectable-length set, all things considered.
So that was the what it was; what about the how it was? In all, pretty good. They certainly did all they could to make it a visually engaging show, with Gibbard dipping into his Death Cab dance moves, Lewis strutting around like she owned the stage – and really, she did, in front of some slickly-lit stage sets and glowing backdrops. And even though he was restricted to his podium at the back of the stage dropping beats, Tamborello got to contribute vocals to “Sleeping In” – not great vocals, but whatever – and again Daft Punk vocoder-styled at the end of “Recycled Air”. The showiness of the performance worked on the upbeat numbers, but for my personal Give Up high point – the Ben Gibbard-Jen Wood duet “Nothing Better” – it felt to its detriment and out of character. On record, the singalong melody belies the dark sentiments of the lyrics, and the whole feels like a incredibly personal conversation you can’t help be eavesdrop in. Live though, with Lewis’ big sassy vocals in place of Wood’s weary originals, it felt more like a work of broad theatre rather than the intimate moment it should have been. This may be my complaint alone, but there it is.
Still, one down point amongst many high points isn’t bad at all. High points like Lewis’ big rock guitar solo to close out “This Place Is A Prison”, the nearly-deafening shoegaze treatment of “Natural Anthem” to close out the main set, the being reminded that the simple guitar line in “Such Great Heights” may well be one of the riffs of the century so far. By the time the show’s hour and fifteen running time was up, it was clear that this wasn’t a reunion meant to help you recapture your youth, or wherever you were in 2003 the first time you first heard “District” or “Heights”; it was intended to celebrate where you’ve gone in the ten years that have followed. Not for nothing, I think, was “Brand New Colony” the show closer and the final lyrics uttered, “Everything will change”. Because you can’t go back, but you can remember.
The Toronto Star, Huffington Post, and Exclaim also have reviews of the show, and The Toronto Star also has a show previewing interview.
Photos: The Postal Service, Mates Of State @ The Air Canada Centre – June 11, 2013
MP3: The Postal Service – “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”
MP3: The Postal Service – “Such Great Heights”
MP3: Dntel – “(This Is) The Dream Of Evan And Chan”
MP3: Mates Of State – “Palomino”
MP3: Mates Of State – “Maracas”
MP3: Mates Of State – “My Only Offer”
MP3: Mates Of State – “Think Long”
MP3: Mates Of State – “Hoarding It For Home”
Video: The Postal Service – “Against All Odds”
Video: The Postal Service – “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”
Video: The Postal Service – “Such Great Heights”
Video: The Postal Service – “We Will Become Silhouettes”
Video: Mates Of State – “Unless I’m Led”
Video: Mates Of State – “Palomino”
Video: Mates Of State – “Sway”
Video: Mates Of State – “Maracas”
Video: Mates Of State – “True Love Will Find You In The End”
Video: Mates Of State – “I Am A Scientist”
Video: Mates Of State – “My Only Offer”
Video: Mates Of State – “Get Better”
Video: Mates Of State – “Like U Crazy”
Video: Mates Of State – “Fraud In The 80s”
Video: Mates Of State – “Goods (All In Your Head)”
Video: Mates Of State – “Fluke”
Video: Mates Of State – “Gotta Get A Problem”
NPR has an interview and a Tiny Desk Concert with The National, who are at Yonge-Dundas Square for a free show tomorrow night, June 14. The Globe & Mail also has an interview with Matt Berninger.
Nylon is streaming Beach Day’s debut album Trip Trap Attack ahead of its release next Tuesday. As mentioned earlier this week, Beach Day are all over NXNE, playing Urban Outfitters Friday afternoon at 2, Handlebar Saturday night at 11, and a Kops instore Sunday at 6:30.
Stream: Beach Day / Trip Trap Attack
Kurt Vile has released a new video from Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze. He and his Violators play the final day of TURF at Garrison Common on July 4.
Video: Kurt Vile – “KV Crimes”
Neko Case has confirmed details of her new ew “title=”The Worse Things Get”>Pitchfork. She also plays the Toronto Urban Roots Fest at Garrison Common on July 4.
Stream: Neko Case – “Man”
Trailer: Neko Case / The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
The Village Voice talks to Yo La Tengo about the imminent closing of their Hoboken home away from home, Maxwell’s; The Province and Denver Post also have features. They’re here for TURF on July 4 as well.
PopMatters and NPR talk to Jason Isbell, in town at Lee’s Palace on August 2.
Beatroute has a quick word with Superchunk, whose new record I Hate Music is out August 20.
Stereogum has a video session with Wild Nothing. They open up for Local Natives at The Kool Haus on September 21.
Billboard gets some more info from Janelle Monáe about her new album The Electric Lady, coming in September.
Tiny Mix Tapes has an interview with Charles Bradley.
Dungeonesse have a new video from Dungeonesse; it is not called “Dungeonesse”.
Video: Dungeonesse – “Nightlight”
Sharon Van Etten has released a stream of a new old song, originally released as part of a compilation CD for Esopus magazine in 2010.
Stream: Sharon Van Etten – “Esao Andrews”
Tiny Mix Tapes gets to know Caitlin Rose.
The National Post talks NXNE with Calexico; they were here last night.
And a couple noteworthy show announcements that missed yesterday’s cutoff – first, Blonde Redhead may not have the follow-up to 2010′s Penny Sparkle ready for release until early 2014, but they’re still doing some touring this year. They’ll be at The Adelaide Music Hall on July 15, tickets $22.50 in advance.
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “Here Sometimes”
And also, Riot Fest announced their 2013 lineup last night, and it’s a doozy. We’ll ignore the August 24 acts for the moment because I have no idea who any of them are, but Sunday, August 25 will be headlined by the first Replacements show in 22 years. That’s right – Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson back together again as The Mats. And if that wasn’t worth your $50 ticket, the lineup ALSO includes Iggy & The Stooges, The Weakerthans, Rocket From The Crypt, Dinosaur Jr, Best Coast, and more. That goes down at, of course, Garrison Common. The Replacements, people. The Replacements.
MP3: The Weakerthans – “Night Windows”
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “Freak Scene”
Video: The Replacements – “Bastards Of Young”
Video: Iggy & The Stooges – “Search & Destroy”
Video: Rocket From The Crypt – “On A Rope”
Video: Best Coast – “When I’m With You”