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Monday, January 25th, 2010

Beyond

Dinosaur Jr at Sonic Boom and The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangHad you the opportunity to go back in time and tell the 23-year old me that, in just over a decade, I’d be so fortunate as to see two of my all-time guitar heroes – Johnny Marr and J Mascis – live and awesome in a one-week span, I’d have told you to shut the fuck up. And then asked why, if you had the power to go back in time, you’d offer me that bit of information instead of, oh, stock tips or sports scores. But yeah, seeing The Cribs last week and then Dinosaur Jr not once but twice on Thursday was pretty ridiculously cool.

While precognition is only slightly more plausible than temporal displacement, it’s still quite a coincidence that I selected this photo for my not-yet-failed Photo 365 project a couple weeks ago and then framed last week’s cover of the week as I did – it’s almost as though I knew that Dinosaur Jr was going to be at Sonic Boom in more than pre-recorded form. Which, of course, I did not so the almost last-minute announcement on Monday morning that the trio would be playing an in-store in the Annex record store before their sold-out show at the Phoenix was a WTF of the best kind. And one that would surely require a lot of advance planning and waiting in order to get a good spot.

I’m sure some had hopes that this would be a fully-plugged in, foundation-shaking rock extravaganza that people would be talking about for generations to come, but those sorts of expectations were just a bit unrealistic, what with all of their gear already set up and soundchecked at the Phoenix. What they did bring when they finally arrived at the packed house a half hour later than scheduled – traffic, dontcha know – was a semi-acoustic setup that wasn’t going to damage anyone’s hearing, but would provide a unique experience. They also didn’t bring Murph – apparently border issues left him at home in the land of the free and a replacement drummer in Kyle Spence, who played with Mascis in The Fog. Mascis came bearing a Gibson acoustic rather than one of his signature Jazzmasters but the fuzz pedal and tube amp that accompanied it ensure that things wouldn’t be too polite. And you could call their six-song set a bit mellow and certainly unprepared, it was not polite – a J Mascis guitar solo, even one on acoustic guitar, is epic, rambling and awesome but not polite. They may have come without a set list, but the selections they did decide on offered a pretty good representation of the Dino jr canon – three from the original trilogy of records, one from their latest Farm and most excitingly to me, a couple from the non-Barlow years, which through no real fault of Lou’s, are my favourite. Knowing that material from those records was in the mix for this tour was pretty damned exciting.

And the belief that they were focused only on Lou-era material was part of the reason that I had yet to see the resurrected Dinosaur Jr live, even though this was their third time coming through town since 2005. The first time out, my understanding was that they were only playing material from the first three records since the touring was in support of the reissues and I missed their Summer 2007 visit in support of Beyond on account of scheduling. And I’d seen the charity J Mascis/Broken Social Scene gig back in July 2006 so it’s not as though I hadn’t borne witness to J Mascis’ guitarwork before. These rationalizations were, however, entirely moot when I got to the Phoenix Thursday evening. The in-store was a delicious appetizer but this was the main course. The unbelievably loud and wholly electrified main course.

I hope that anyone who found the Sonic Boom set too low-key for their tastes had tickets for the Phoenix show. While they opened up relatively slowly with Green Mind‘s “Thumb”, the energy accumulated quickly and by the time they got to “Out There” about mid-way through, this Dinosaur was moving at full speed and leaving a trail of sonic destruction in its wake. I’d always thought of Lou Barlow as the sensitive mope-rocker of his solo career, so it was a bit odd to watch him absolutely rock out on bass, lurching and hair-whipping through the set. In contrast, J Mascis stood relatively placid at stage right, safely ensconced in his fortress of amplitude while spewing massively fuzzed-out guitar solos from his fingers and lazily drawled lyrics from his mouth.

It was a personal thrill to hear “Feel The Pain” from Without A Sound, not their most celebrated record but my gateway drug into the world of Dinosaur Jr, and “The Wagon” which closed their in-store set in grand style but was even better delivered at a billion decibels. For the finale they went back to the (more) classic material with a blistering “Freak Scene” and a Living All Over Me-centric encore of “Kracked” and “Sludgefeast” before inviting Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham onstage to close things out with early b-side “Chunks”. It was an epic show and, knowing that this no longer really counts as a reunion or a farewell, there’s no reason to not expect more of the same in the future.

The Ottawa Citizen and hour.ca have interviews with J Mascis. aux.tv and For The Records were in attendance at the in-store while Chart, eye and The Music Slut report back from the Phoenix show. NYC Taper is sharing a recording of the Dinosaur Jr show in Brooklyn last week.

Photos: Dinosaur Jr @ The Phoenix – January 21, 2010
Photos: Dinosaur Jr @ Sonic Boom – January 21, 2010
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “I Want You To Know”
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “Almost Ready”
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “Freak Scene”
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “Forget The Swan”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Over It”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Been There All The Time”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Feel The Pain”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Get Me”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Start Choppin'”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “The Wagon”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Freak Scene”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Just Like Heaven”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Little Fury Things”
MySpace: Dinosaur Jr

Spinner talks to Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook about a Sonic Youth feud that never really was. F’ed Up’s Couple Tracks comp is out this week and they play the Opera House on February 26.

St. Louis Today talks to James McNew of Yo La Tengo.

Wilco are doing their bit for Haiti relief efforts by offering a couple of complete live recordings from last year – Keyspan Park in New York and HMV Forum in London – in exchange for a minimum $15 donation to either OXFAM or Doctors Without Borders.

The New Have Advocate, Chart, The Duluth News-Tribune and The California Chronicle have interviews with Alan Sparhawk of the Retribution Gospel Choir, in town at the Drake Underground tonight.

The Hold Steady are a moustache down – keyboardist Franz Nicolay has officially left the band.

Fans of free shows and record store ambiance have a tough decision to make on February 5 – to see Great Lake Swimmers at Sonic Boom at 6:30PM or Hawksley Workman at Criminal Records at 6PM. Of course, both have their own proper shows coming up – Great Lake Swimmers at Trinity-St. Paul’s the following night and Workman at Massey Hall on April 24 – but they’re not free and you can’t shop for Animal Collective LPs while they play. Okay, maybe that last bit’s not such a bad thing.

MP3: Great Lake Swimmers – “Pulling On A Line”
MP3: Hawksley Workman – “Maniacs”

Aussies The Temper Trap are setting out on a North American tour that includes a date at the Mod Club on March 30 with Danes The Kissaway Trail. The former’s debut Conditions came out last year while the latter’s second album Sleep Mountain is due out in March.

MP3: The Temper Trap – “Down River”

Good Friday will be a day of hard choices for Toronto dream-pop aficionados. In addition to A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s show at The Garrison on April 2, Norwegian sonic apocalypse merchants Serena Maneesh will be just a short hop away at the Great Hall that night to showcase their new album S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor, out March 23. This may not necessarily be an either-or proposition – the venues are just a kilometer apart and if set times are obliging, you could do parts of both. That was the case the last time Serena Maneesh were here at Lee’s Palace in September 2006 and Early Day Miners were a couple blocks away at The Tranzac – Serena Maneesh managed to utterly demolish their set both figuratively and literally in under 45 minutes and I made it to the EDM show in plenty of time. Here’s hoping they haven’t learned any lessons in endurance in the past few years. Tickets for the show are already on sale for $15.

MP3: Serena Maneesh – “Ayisha Abyss”

If you, like I, are missing seeing Sharon Van Etten open up for Great Lake Swimmers at the aforementioned Trinity-St. Paul’s show on February 6, you’ll be pleased to know she’ll be back on April 5 for a show at the Horseshoe with Megafaun. I’m not so familiar with Megafaun but Van Etten’s Because I Was In Love is a quiet gem of a record – The AV Club and On Milwaukee have interviews with the singer-songwriter.

MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MP3: Megafaun – “The Fade”
MP3: Megafaun – “Kaufman’s Ballad”

SubPop punks Pissed Jeans are at the Horseshoe on April 12, tickets $12. Their third album King Of Jeans came out last Summer.

MP3: Pissed Jeans – “Dream Smotherer”
MP3: Pissed Jeans – “False Jesii Part 2″
MP3: Pissed Jeans – “People Person”
MP3: Pissed Jeans – “I’ve Still Got You (Ice Cream)”

With their new album Romance Is Boring out tomorrow, Los Campesinos! have plotted a North American tour that kicks off with an April 20 show at The Phoenix. Clash has an interview with the band and Gareth Campesinos tells Drowned In Sound why he’s auctioning off his glockenspiel (and donating the proceeds to Haitian relief).

Saturday, September 16th, 2006

Return Of The Native

An upside to Serena-Maneesh’s stage-destroying short set on Wednesday was that I was able to hoof it a couple blocks down to the Tranzac to see Early Day Miners. I was exhausted but also really wanted to hear them play their latest album Offshore, which is rapidly becoming one of my favourite albums of the year.

If the album Offshore is described as the “director’s cut” of the song, originally off of Let Us Garlands Bring, then the live show was like the “edited for TV” version – still maintaining all the sex, violence and language as well as the widescreen aspect ratio, just trimmed slightly for length. The fact that they began a fair bit later than their scheduled start time which was a concern, considering the Tranzac has a pretty firm midnight curfew and with the intention being to play the album in its entirety, it’d have been a travesty if they were cut off.

Happily, they were able to get through the whole thing, or at least the important parts – I think they cut maybe five to ten minutes of droning and jamming. As I mentioned earlier this month, the record tends to blur into a singular, epic entity for me. High points were the thundering drums of opener “Land Of Pale Saints” and closer “Hymn Beneath The Pallisades” as well as the majestic centrepiece of “Return Of The Native” with keyboardist Kate Long ably handling Amber Webber’s recorded vocals. I’m pretty sure all points in between were present and accounted for, nothing sounded missing. In fact, it actually sounded better live – the seven-piece band making the compositions even more dynamic than they are on the album without losing any of the rich, mournful ambience. Excellent. I’ve seen a lot of live music over the past week on stages huge and tiny, and this lightly-attended show in a converted community centre was one of the best. I’m very glad that I was able to stick it out.

Only downside was right before they started playing when they said, “you can turn all the lights off – we can pretty much play in the dark”. Le sigh.

Photos: Early Day Miners @ Tranzac – September 13, 2006
MP3: Early Day Miners – “Return Of The Native”
MySpace: Early Day Miners

Bradley’s Almanac comes through again with a live set from Austin’s The New Year, who may well be the last band I have yet to see live and whom I have no great expectation of ever seeing unless I go to them. They never seem to want to cross that ol’ border.

Anyone disappointed with the track selection for the North American edition of The Best Of Luna will be pleased to know that Beggars, the label that handled most of their career in Europe, will be releasing their own two-disc edition on October 9. It’s not perfect either, also criminally overlooking swan song Rendezvous though to be fair, I don’t think they had the rights to that album. But it does have a number of tracks that the US edition is missing and more importantly, is a double-disc set with a CD-version of the covers compilation released in digital-only form over here as Lunafied though again, the tracklist varies slightly. Which is to say that Luna completists had better get their credit cards out…

The Los Angeles Times talks to Starflyer 59’s Jason Martin. Their new album My Island came out on Tuesday.

Radio Free Silver Lake chats with Dirty On Purpose’s Joe Jurewicz. DoP are in town November 9 at Lee’s and have also made a bunch of radio sessions available to download. Nice.

Filter‘s recent cover story on TV On The Radio is now online. Return To Cookie Mountain came out on Tuesday and while I dutifully pre-ordered it, it still hasn’t arrived from Insound. Bastiches! But to compensate (slightly), they’ve got the first single available to download. TVOTR are at the Opera House October 12.

MP3: TV On The Radio – “Wolf Like Me”

Wonderfully breezy New York folk combo Hem are at the Horseshoe on October 16. Their new record Funnel Cloud came out earlier this month.

My second (and last) TIFF film this year was Exiled, a new film from director Johnnie To who apparently is quite the big name back in Hong Kong. I had never heard of him and had basically selected the film blindly – well I guess I got lucky because it was excellent. Ostensibly a gangster flick about five childhood friends double-crossing gang leaders in Macau, it’s really more a buddy flick with lots of stylish gunplay, action sequences and a strong dose of humour. If this film is typical of To’s cinematic output then I really have to investigate further, maybe starting with The Mission, to which Exiled was an unofficial sequel/prequel featuring much of the same cast and some common plot threads. To also had two other films running at the festival – now that’s impressive. Consolation Champs was also in attendance and has a more detailed, equally postive review.

Trailer: Exiled (YouTube)

Has anyone else upgraded to iTunes 7 and found that they have no desktop icons for the shortcuts? Weird.

np – Cat Power / You Are Free

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

The Rise And Fall Of The Letter P

As far as the music industry goes, this Tuesday effectively marks the end of Summer and the start of the Fall album season, as the record stores are going to be deluged with great new releases from now till at least October (at which point the new releases trickle off and are replaced by compilations and box sets for the holiday season). Here’s a Hollywood Squares of stuff that’ll be in stores today that’s worth your time and money – some of it I’ve talked about, others I will probably get to in the future, but most I’ve heard and can certainly recommend.

On topic, BrooklynVegan linked to this Yahoo News piece wondering if backloading the big-name releases in the fourth quarter is really the best strategy for the industry. Not surprisingly, none of the albums I’m excited about are referenced in the piece – after all, it despairs me to no end to know that all of these records, combined, will be outsold by Paris Hilton’s debut CD. Probably exponentially.

But enough sad thoughts. Time to plan your trip to the record store – most of these artists are on tour as well.

Eric Bachmann / To The Races
MP3: Eric Bachmann – “Lonesome Warrior”
On tour – in Toronto @ The Horseshoe, September 16

Early Day Miners / Offshore
MP3: Early Day Miners – “Return Of The Native”
On tour – in Toronto @ The Tranzac, September 13

Headlights / Kill Them With Kindness
MP3: Headlights – “Put Us Back Together Right”
On tour

The Hidden CamerasAWOO
MP3: The Hidden Cameras – “Death Of A Tune”
On tour – in Toronto @ Harbourfront Centre, August 26 and @ Olympic Island, September 9

Lambchop / Damaged
MP3: Lambchop – “Crackers”
On tour – in Toronto @ The Mod Club, September 24

Jason Molina / Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go
MP3: Jason Molina – “Get Out Get Out Get Out”
On tour – in Toronto @ Lee’s Palace, September 12

The Mountain Goats / Get Lonely!
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Woke Up New”
On tour – in Toronto @ Lee’s Palace, September 19

Chad Van Gaalen / Skelliconnection
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Flower Gardens”
On tour

What Made Milwaukee Famous / Trying To Never Catch Up
MP3: What Made Milwaukee Famous – “Sweet Lady”
On tour – in Toronto @ Lee’s Palace, October 4

And speaking of WWMF, Stereogum has an quickie interview with the band and AOL is streaming the whole of their album right now. Also, Punknews reports that the vinyl version of Bachmann’s To The Races will have a different version of the title track – with vocals – and Pitchfork has a faint praise review of the Headlights record.

The Grates give PopMatters a guide to touring on the cheap. Gravity Won’t Get You High is out next Tuesday and they’re at Lee’s Palace with Rogue Wave on September 9.

Figurines, who are Danish by the way, are at the Horseshoe on October 22, tickets $10. And Jet are at the Guvernment October 1.

If you were wondering why Grizzly Bear cancelled their Fall tour including the Sept 23 date at the El Mocambo, it’s because they’re now supporting TV On The Radio on their tour, including the October 12 date at the Opera House. Pitchfork has details and full dates.

And Pulse Of The Twin Cities has a piece on digital music and includes a nice shout-out to yours truly. Nice enough that I will refrain from commenting on the minefield of bad HTML special characters throughout the piece.

np – Catfish Haven / Tell Me

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

The Bones Of An Idol

So the ten finalists for the inaugural Polaris Music Prize were announced yesterday and to no one’s surprise, the list is heavily indie rock-centric and Toronto/Ontario-centric, to say nothing of Toronto indie rock-centric.

Of my nominations, the only one I’m a little surprised about not making the list is Destroyer. I thought Destroyer’s Rubies would have been a critic’s pick shoo-in – guess not. What I am surprised about are the presence of Sarah Harmer and Metric, as I didn’t feel their latest efforts measured up the the benchmarks set by their earlier works. But, as I noticed when I was trying to make my picks, the pool of eligible acts was pretty slim this year.

But without further delay – the final 10:

Broken Social Scene / Broken Social Scene (Arts & Crafts/EMI)
Cadence Weapon / Breaking Kayfabe (Upper Class/EMI)
The Deadly Snakes / Porcella (Paper Bag/Universal)
Final Fantasy / He Poos Clouds (Blocks Recording Club/Sonic Unyon)
Sarah Harmer / I’m A Mountain (Cold Snap/Universal)
K’naan / The Dusty Foot Philosopher (Track & Field/Sony BMG)
Malajube / Trompe L’oeil (Dare to Care/Outside)
Metric / Live It Out (Last Gang/Universal)
The New Pornographers / Twin Cinema (Mint/Outside)
Wolf Parade / Apologies To The Queen Mary (Sub Pop/Outside)

Anyway, each of the nominated bands will contribute a track to a compilation CD to be released on August 22 and the winner of the $20,000 grand prize will be selected on September 18 from a final jury of 11 of the 120 original jurors. And for those looking for an angle by which to condemn this event, the main sponsors of the prize are evil conglomorate Rogers and Yahoo!. Boo, hiss! Chart talks to Polaris exec Steve Jordan about the short list while The Globe & Mail contemplates the list.

But for the record, I’m pulling for the New Pornograpers, which means I will have to fight Zoilus.

Exclaim!’s review of Mojave 3’s Puzzles Of You includes a brief interview with Neil Halstead.

The Los Angeles Times talks to members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Belle & Sebastian’s Mick Cooke about their collaboration/performance at the Hollywood Bowl tomorrow night.

The New Pollution asks Stuart Brathwaite of Mogwai if they’ve mellowed.

Glide counts off the buzz bands of 2006 so far and essentially wraps up the entire indie rock blogosphere in one tidy list.

The Sadies are holding a CD release party for In Concert Vol. 1 (out August 8) at the Horseshoe September 8 and 9. You know what they should do? They should record it and release it as Volume 2, then record the release party for THAT and put it out as Volume 3, and so forth and so forth. That’d be awesome. Elsewhere, Early Day Miners are at Club Tranzac on September 13, Lambchop and The Tosca String Quartet are at Mod Club September 24 ($20), Be Your Own Pet are at the Horseshoe September 25, blogger beloveds Beirut (see above) are at the ‘Shoe October 4 ($10), Hot Chip at Mod Club October November 6 ($15) and from the Britpop graveyard – The Bluetones – BLUETONES – are at Lee’s Palace on Oct 6. Seriously.

np – Gemma Hayes / The Roads Don’t Love You