Wednesday, September 13th, 2006
Given the choice, I almost always prefer to see singer-songwriter types in a band setting. Properly and sympathetically arranged, I find extra instrumentation can only benefit good material and add an extra dynamic dimension to live performances. That said, I would cite M Ward as the exception to that rule. His solo show last February was so perfectly suited to the his repetoire at the time (he had just released Transistor Radio) that I couldn’t imagine a band adding anything that he was creating with his guitar, piano, harmonica, looper and voice.
But his latest record Post-War is a considerably more rollicking affair and for this tour, Ward was doing the full band thing including two drummers and a second guitarist. As befit such a powerful rhythm section, they practically galloped through the whole set, leaning heavily on the upbeat end of his repetoire. It’s hard to appreciate just how incredible a musician Ward is without watching him work – whether on acoustic, electric or Wurlitzer he was amazing and terrifying to behold. There’s a lot of focus on his timeless rasp of a voice, but even if he never opened his mouth and let his fingers do the talking, he’d be a legend in the making.
Seeing as how they powered through the main set, it was over (seemingly) very quickly but I felt almost as exhausted having watched it as the band must have been performig it. For the encore, Ward came out solo and acoustic and we got a taste of the wandering troubadour that dazzled at the El Mocambo last year. The band returned for a one-song second encore and that was it. As impressive as the show was, I have to say I preferred Ward solo – there was an intimacy to it that was missing this time out. I also prefer the older albums to the latest one, so that was surely part of it as well. But however Ward chooses to hit the road, he’s always something to see.
Openers were Brooklyn’s Oakley Hall who played a very similar set of psychedelic roadhouse country to the one that I saw in July when they opened for Calexico. The only difference was this time, I had one of their albums – Gypsum Strings – under my belt so I can say with some authority that they’re much better live than on record. The production on the studio product is much thinner and doesn’t capture the on-stage energy of the band. Still very enjoyable to watch as the six of them wreaked some havoc on their cramped stage setup and really a perfect fit for Ward’s audience.
Very small photo gallery this time – there was a strict “no camera” policy in effect and while I got official permission to shoot the first three songs, Ward waved me off after a song and a half and I’m lucky to have gotten what I did. It was fine with me – I shot 6 GB of photos over the weekend, a break suited me fine but I couldn’t help thinking he certainly didn’t mind me shooting him last time, as my photos on his MySpace gallery would attest. Merge has Ward’s recent performance on
The Late Late Show Letterman YouTube-d.
Photos: M Ward @ The Mod Club – September 11, 2006
MP3: M Ward – “To Go Home”
MP3: M Ward – “Post-War”
Video: M Ward – “Chinese Translation” (YouTube)
Stream: M Ward / Post-War
MySpace: M Ward
The Macon Telegraph talks to Jason Isbell of the Drive-By Truckers, playing the Phoenix on October 18.
Will Johnson talks about Centro-Matic’s longevity to The Denver Post.
The Guardian plays name that tune with Yo La Tengo. I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass hit stores yesterday and the band hits the Phoenix October 2. So much hitting.
JAM reports that Bob Dylan is happy. Having the #1 record in America will do that for a fellow, I guess.
My Old Kentucky Blog has a couple of new demos from Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s up for grabs. The band is hoping to have their sophomore disc out in Spring of ’07 but in the meantime are hitting the road yet again, this time with The Elected. They say they hope to have a Canadian date on this jaunt to make up for their cancellation back in March, and judging from their itinerary so far, expect to see them here between October 31 and November 2 if they do make it across the border. But in the meantime, there’s a live studio video session thing at Rolling Stone.
The Boston Globe talks to Band Of Horses, who have a new video out:
Video: Band Of Horses – “The Great Salt Lake” (MOV)
Puddlegum reports that a posthumus Elliott Smith album of rare and unreleased materials will be coming out on March 17 of next year.
It’s not Archives but Neil Young has gone vault-digging back to 1970 for a new live album – Live At The Fillmore East – out October 24.
Oh, Merge! reports that the release of Portastatic’s new album Be Still Please on October 10 with a digital-only EP called Sour Shores, available online at the usual outlets this week. Mac offers more details on the Portastatic blog. Intersesting that while Portastatic is confirmed to play Pop Montreal in October, there’s no Toronto date. They were just here a few months ago but usually when an act bothers to cross the border, they maximize their time in Canada. Oh well.
np – Shearwater / The Dissolving Room
Friday, June 16th, 2006
So this Wednesday was the initial deadline for nominations for the Polaris Music Prize and I have a confession to make – I had a very shallow pool of qualifying records in my collection to pick from. Most of the Canadian stuff that most impressed me either didn’t make the definition of album (30 minutes or 8 tracks) or wasn’t released between June 1, 2005 and May 31, 2006 and what I did have seemed kind of obvious, which was a little disappointing (not the albums themselves, just that I couldn’t get creative with my picks). So I went on a little research mission over the past couple weeks trying to catch up on stuff that was homegrown and that I might have missed out on.
One artist whom I’ve liked what I’ve heard but have never really gotten around to really digging into is Calgarian Chad Van Gaalen. His debut album Infiniheart was a (very) small sample of hundreds of songs Van Gaalen had accumulated over the years and it definitely plays like it. Stylistically all over the map, it’s as mesmerizing as it is maddening for its eclecticism. Gentle folk tunes bump uglies with hooky pop moments, ambient instrumentals and bits that would have been symphonies if not for the absence of, well, symphonic instruments. It’s all tied together by Van Gaalen’s high, delicate voice that combined with the breadth of his musical ambition begs Sufjan Stevens comparisons – but not yet. Maybe when he starts writing concept albums for all ten provinces.
Spacelab reports that Van Gaalen will release his follow-up Skelliconnection on August 22 and while I hope there’s a higher level of production fit and finish to it. I would like to hear a more cohesive artistic statement from the fellow rather than, “here are some songs” but it sounds like he once again had a pool of songs to draw on hundreds deep so it could well be another stylistic grab bag.
And yeah, while SubPop re-released Infiniheart in August last year, well within the nomination period, it originally came out on Flemish Eye waaaaaay back in 2004 – a fact that I uncovered after I bought the album. So much for doing my homework. Here’s a sampling of tracks from here and there.
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Clinically Dead”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Echo Train”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Somewhere I Know There’s Nothing”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Traffic”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Clinically Dead” (MySpace)
So who did I end up voting for? After much hemming and hawing, I submitted the following list:
1. The New Pornographers / Twin Cinema
2. Broken Social Scene / Broken Social Scene
3. Destroyer / Destroyer’s Rubies
4. The Diableros / You Can’t Break The Strings In Our Olympic Hearts
5. My Dad Vs Yours / After Winter Must Come Spring
Like I said, kind of obvious, especially the first two. I would have LOVED to be able to get behind something more dark horse or left field, but I had to be honest about it and those are the eligible CanCon releases that got the most rotation in the past year. And I could have voted for Neil Young but I suspect that goes against the spirit of the prize.
Note to all up-and-coming bands – knock it off with the EPs! Or at the very least, make them 30 minutes long. If The Coast, The Airfields or Land Of Talk had managed to squeeze one more song or extended space-rock jam onto their recent releases, it’d have been a very different list, I tell you what. Come on guys – we’re talking a cash money prize! But, alas, such was not the case and so this is what went in to the powers that be. Not meant as a slight against any of the bands I did nominate – all fine records – but a little frustrating nonetheless. But on the plus side, I am planning on being that much more plugged into Canadian music for the upcoming year if for no other reason than to avoid another such embaressing situation. And to everyone who suggested it – Neko Case is not Canadian. Seems like it, sure, but she’s not.
And I note with some interest that My Dad Vs Yours have a show scheduled for July 15 at Lee’s Palace. Opening? Headlining? I do not know. But there you go.
While the new album won’t be out till January of next year, Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips have posted a track from their new album on their MySpace page, an Adam Green cover. And Tuesday is Luna day with the release of The Best Of Luna on CD, Lunafied in digital download format and Tell Me Do You Miss Me on DVD. For appetite-whetting purposes, Rhino has posted a clip of the DVD online – a complete performance of “Bewitched” from the farewell tour.
Video: Luna – “Bewitched” (MOV)
NOW profiles vibraphonic ensemble The Hylozoists who will be having a CD release party for La Fin Du Monde at the Horseshoe this Saturday night.
Ultra-recluse Texan legend Jandek is coming out of hiding to play a Toronto show on September 17 at… well, no one knows. But it’s happening – read here. I’ll be honest – I don’t know boo about Jandek except that his name is spoken in hushed, reverential tones and this is an event of some significance. I’m sure I’ll be hearing more about it as the date approaches.
Calexico discusses the politics of Garden Ruin with The Vancouver Sun and about growing the band’s sound with The San Francisco Chronicle and The Georgia Straight. Those attending the July 6 show at the Phoenix should note that Jason Collett appears to be off the bill and Oakley Hall are on.
Wheat’s Brendan Haney reflects on the major label experience for Loose Record and admits that, yeah, it was a bad idea. I TOLD YOU SO. It’s a shame he dismisses Per Second completely, the original Nude version was a perfectly solid record – but I already proved that. Comeback album Every Day I Said A Prayer For Kathy And Made A One-Inch Square is out this Fall. Thanks very much to Mark for the interview link.
And dig it – Arrested Development Season 3 – on DVD August 29… just a week after Veronica Mars Season 2! No word of bonuses on either disc yet but I expect the AD to be chock full ‘o nuts. And I think I’m far too excited about the opportunity to watch television shows that I’ve already seen.
np – Wheat / Hope & Adams