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Monday, April 11th, 2011


PS I Love You and Matters at The Garrison in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangKingston duo PS I Love You has done a pretty good job for themselves of building a buzz around both themselves and their debut album Meet Me At The Muster Station, with their guitar orgiastic-sound resonating strongly with those who lived through and miss the days when guitar orgies were regular occurrences. But they’ve also gotten help with the company they keep, in particular one John O’Reagan, aka Diamond Rings, whose debut single was a split 7″ with PS I Love You and with whom they were tourmates for no small portion of the Rings ascension, including much of this Spring on the way down to SXSW and back.

A few nights ago the billing order switched, however, with PS I Love You taking on headlining duties while Diamond Rings packed away the glitter and costumes and busted out his old band – which was also his new band – to support. The existence of Matters, risen from the ashes of The D’Urbervilles, was only announced a week earlier but the new outfit probably already garnered more and higher profile attention outside of the Toronto area than The D’Urbs ever did in their tenure, with Matters being framed as Diamond Rings’ rock band rather than Diamond Rings as the electro-glam offshoot of The D’Urbs.

In any case, it added an extra degree of narrative to their show at The Garrison on Thursday night, it being Matters’ second official show following their debut in Ottawa the night before. Though my own history with The D’Urbervilles is a long one, dating back almost half a decade, a good portion of the sizable audience were clearly unfamiliar with Matters’ former incarnation and were there to see one of the city’s big musical success stories of the past couple years in a completely different context. And as it would turn out, even those of us familiar with O’Reagan in rock mode were treated to something decidedly new. The D’Urbervilles were always a good to very good post-punk/new wave kind of band, solid live and their 2008 debut We Are The Hunters certainly bursting with potential if not completely delivering on it. And while the name change certainly seemed to be cosmetic – the personnel remained the same and many unreleased songs carried over – there was no denying that Matters came with a new lease on life and manifesto that consisted of kicking some serious ass. Fronted by an O’Reagan that hadn’t been seen in these parts in some time; sporting t-shirt, jeans and ball cap and not a bit of make-up, he led his bandmates through a punishing set of rock that seemed to decide that the “post-” part of their previous incarnation’s “post-punk” descriptors were no longer necessary and released the tension that the D’Urbs specialized in in big, loud and sloppy – as in not caring who got hit, not in lack of tightness – measures. In line with that transformation was O’Reagan as a frontman; though his towering, somewhat gangly presence always made him the focal point of D’Urbs shows, the charisma and magnetism honed through the Diamond Rings experience was just as present without the costuming. Their debut album is in the can and should be out this year; it’ll be a non-issue that Matters isn’t especially Google-able – you won’t have to search to hear about them.

Not to suggest there was any sort of competitiveness between Matters and PS I Love You, but the headliners had some work to do if they were going to be what people were talking about the next morning. I had seen and enjoyed them back in September, they weren’t exactly the sorts of performers who’d leave jaws on the floor with their showmanship. Frontman Paul Saulnier occupies himself with singing/yelping, Telecaster shredding and Moog bass pedal stomping which drummer Benjamin Nelson lays down a deceptively complex backbeat – neither is much for on-stage shenanigans but verily, do they make a massively loud sound. But just that can still get you a long way and the show, which ran through most or even all of their album, was far more engaging than you might well have expected it to be. It also affirmed that I’m much more a fan of Saulnier’s vocals live, when they’re buried unders many decibels of guitars, as opposed to on record where they’re audible – but even that I’m coming around on, finding Muster Station more listenable now than when it first came out last Fall.

Any question of which act would end up stealing the show was put to rest with PS’ encore, however, as O’Reagan came out to join them for “Leftovers”, the single released back in February which featured guest vocals from Diamond Ring. But in keeping with the apparent theme of the evening, it was played with the rock turned up to 100 and though the ensuing din basically left O’Reagan inaudible, his dance moves and drumstick ninjutsu was basically a physical manifestation of the aural energy. Who, of Matters and PS I Love You, turned in the best performance of the evening? Both of them.

The Globe & Mail and The Wig have features on PS I Love You while The National Post and Exclaim were also at the show and have thoughts.

Photos: PS I Love You, Matters @ The Garrison – April 7, 2011
MP3: PS I Love You (with Diamond Rings) – “Leftovers”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Get Over”
MP3: PS I Love You – “2012”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Butterflies & Boners”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Facelove”
Video: PS I Love You – “Get Over”
Video: PS I Love You – “Butterflies & Boners”
Video: PS I Love You – “Facelove”
Video: Matters – “Get In Or Get Out”

The National Post, Spinner, NOW and Chart have features on Timber Timbre.

Sloan are offering video interview/annotations of all the songs on their forthcoming record The Double Cross, rolling out one every few days leading up the record’s May 10 release. I daresay this is their best record in some time – check the previews out on their YouTube channel.

Exclaim has details on the next release in Neil Young’s Archives series; A Treasure is a live document dating back to the country-styled Old Ways-era period of his tumultuous ’80s output and features recordings from various shows backed by the International Harvesters. It will be out on vinyl May 24 and on CD June 14.

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips talks to Billboard and Spinner about the joys of having the creative freedom to do whatever the hell they want, which they’re taking full advantage of this year. Aside from the wacky-ass releases, they’re working on a Yoshimi musical stage production. Of course they are.

This interview from last month with Guided By Voices’ Bob Pollard at The Buddha Den certainly seems to hint that GBV will be coming back to Toronto for the first time in pretty much forever in June, but that NXNE rumour was pretty thoroughly debunked by one who’d know so… yeah. But at least there’s a five-part interview to pass the time and if you really need a GBV fix, they’re at Brooklyn’s Northside Festival that same weekend playing McCarren Park (which is another reason why I thought they might be making the trip up here).

Pixies meet the press in advance of their Canadian Doolittle tour; Joey Santiago talks to JAM, Metro and The Chronicle Herald score some time with Dave Lovering and The Chronicle Herald also gets Kim Deal on the phone. They’ve got two nights at Massey Hall next week, April 18 and 19.

Spinner chats with J Mascis for unplugging to go solo.

The Huffington Post and The Boston Globe have interviews with the members of Buffalo Tom.

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

CONTEST – Matt & Kim @ The Phoenix – October 29, 2010

Photo via Right On PRRight On PRWho: Matt & Kim
What: The happiest punk-pop drum-keyboard couple anywhere in the universe. They love their jobs more than you love a basket full of kittens.
Why: They’re already on the road, unwilling to wait for the November 2 release of their new record Sidewalks.
When: Friday, October 29, 2010 at 8PM
Where: The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto (all-ages)
Who else: Donnis supports
How: Tickets are $18.50 in advance but courtesy of Embrace, I’ve got three pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see Matt & Kim” in the subject line and your full name in the body, and have that in to me before midnight, October 25.
What else: On the road for their biggest tour yet and with a new record coming, there’s plenty of press a-happening – check out interviews at The Dallas Observer, The Baltimore Sun, The Palm Beach Post and The Pitch

MP3: Matt & Kim – “Yea Yeah”

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

CONTEST – Matt Pond PA @ The Mod Club – October 1, 2010

Photo By Munekazu ShimizuMunekazu ShimizuWho: Matt Pond PA
What: Philadelphia-born, Brookyln-based, Pennsylvania-saluting, orchestral-popping, always poignant indie rocker. And his band.
Why: Though their eighth album The Dark Leaves was released back in April, their touring itinerary is only bringing them up to Toronto now.
When: Friday, October 1, 2010
Where: The Mod Club in Toronto (early show)
Who else: Openers right now yet to be announced. But it’ll be someone. And they’ll be on first.
How: Tickets are $12 in advance but courtesy of Canvas Media, I’ve got three pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see Matt Pond PA” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight , September 29.

MP3: Matt Pond PA – “Starting”
Video: Matt Pond PA – “Remains”

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Yea Yeah

Matt & Kim, The Lemurs, The Canvas Waiting at The Mohawk in Austin, Texas

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangAs those of you who have nothing better to do than monitor my Facebook status or Twitter feed know, I was far from home this past weekend. Texas far, to be precise. Thanks to Philips and their UnDiscovered Austin program, I was whisked away to the Tejas capitol along with a handful of other blog folk for an evening at no cost to me, save the physical toll of being flying halfway across the continent and back in a 30-hour period. And that there is my corporate whore disclaimer. Moving on.

The purpose of the trip was essentially to attend a “secret” show at the Mohawk featuring Matt & Kim. This was fortuitous as I’d actually wanted to see them when they came through Toronto last month, but I opted to go see Neil Halstead that night instead. I had absolutely no regrets about that on my part, but was glad for the opportunity to make that up. Getting out of town for a weekend while picking up around 30 degrees centigrade in ambient temperature was just gravy.

Opening the show up were winners of a contest sponsored by the aforementioned UnDiscovered Austin initiative, ostensibly dedicated to discovering the best unsigned acts in Austin. For a city that’s turned out as many sublime acts as ATX has, however, I have to think they could have done better than The Canvas Waiting. Their earnest and rote pop-rock was almost offensively inoffensive and sounded not unlike the Goo Goo Dolls, which you can interpret as either praise or damnation depending on your affection for the Goo Goo Dolls. In the battle for my attention, they quickly lost to an open bar.

Faring decidedly better were middle act The Lemurs and their taut, Anglo-friendly new wave stylings. Though I’d be hard-pressed to pick out a standout song, they put on a good show – equally danceable and rocking – and definitely elevated the energy level for the night and got those in attendance engaged. Or at least me. Their latest release is the Million Little Bits EP.

I can’t say as that I’m that familiar with Matt & Kim’s recorded output, but the one time I saw them last year made me a definite fan of their live show. I can’t think of any other band that seem to be having quite as much pure, unadulterated fun when they play, and this show did nothing to change that impression of the band. At one point, singer/keyboardist Matt Johnson said that they hated being called “cute”, so I’ll go with “adorable”, and there’s naught they can do about it. He’s like a hyperactive kid overdosed on happy pills on stage and drummer Kim Schifino sports a perma-grin as if the last drum hit was the greatest thing in the world, at least until the next one. Their joy is so real and pure, it’s contagious. And the songs are pretty damn catchy too.

Their set was breakneck fast and fun, drawing on their debut self-title and presumably the forthcoming follow-up Grand, due out January 20 of next year. I can’t say for sure as I don’t know the old material well enough to distinguish it from the new, and let’s be fair – a two-piece like them is only capable of so much sonic variety. But what they lack in range, they more than make up for in pop savvy and glee.

And that was the trip. Probably not the most efficient way to see Matt & Kim – they’re setting out on tour this Spring with Cut Copy including a Toronto date at Circa on March 20 – but certainly a fun, if exhausting, one. And I got to have breakfast tacos. I love me some breakfast tacos.

You can download an MP3 of the first single from Grand at Green Label Sound.

Photos: Matt & Kim, The Lemurs, The Canvas Waiting @ The Mohawk, Austin TX – December 13, 2008
MP3: Matt & Kim – “No More Long Years”
MP3: Matt & Kim – “Yea Yeah”
MP3: The Lemurs – “Yours, Mine, Ours”
MP3: The Lemurs – “They Do What They Want”
Video: Matt & Kim – “Daylight”
Video: Matt & Kim – “Yea Yeah”
Video: Matt & Kim – “5K”
MySpace: Matt & Kim
MySpace: The Lemurs
MySpace: The Canvas Waiting

The Globe & Mail has just run an interview conducted with Oasis’ Noel Gallagher pre-assault, while Detroit News got a word with him more recently, prior to their current North American tour. And apparently the dude who used Noel as a tackling dummy at V Fest skipped out on a court appearance yesterday and there’s now an arrest warrant out for him. What a sparkling example of humanity. Oasis fans, I believe you’re now allowed to go all vigilante on his ass.

Stereogum kicks off their new Decomposed video sessions series with School Of Seven Bells.

ANTI-blog has a video interview with Neko Case about the making of her new album Middle Cyclone, out March 3.

Also with the video preview – there may not be a release date for Neil Young’s Archives, Volume 1 but there is now a video trailer… and if you had any doubts before as to whether or not this set would be worth the wait and/or money, put those to rest. This thing looks unbelievable.

Trailer: Neil Young / Archives, Volume 1

Further to yesterday’s announcement of the Blitzen Trapper show at the Horseshoe on February 21, it’s been announced that support for the tour will be folksinger Alela Diane, who was recommended to me a number of times from independent sources in the last couple weeks. I’ll call that a sign. She’s releasing a new album in To Be Still on February 17th, from which you can check an MP3 and there’s also a session she recorded earlier this year for Songs By Toad and going way back to last year, a Daytrotter session.

MP3: Alela Diane – “White As Diamonds”

The lineup for this year’s What’s In The Box? music series taking place at the Drake Hotel the final week of December (five nights, five acts, five bucks) has been announced… and I don’t know who any of these acts are. The first two years had at least one or two performers whom I was excited to see – Mahogany in 2006 and A Place To Bury Strangers last year – but the five acts with top billing this time around leave me scratching my head. Skratch Bastid? Willy Joy? Kap Bambino? Slim Twig? Nosaj Thing? Okay, Slim Twig I know, but anyone care to testify on behalf of any of the others?

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

CONTEST – Matthew Barber / Ghost Notes

Some might challenge the legitimacy of “singer-songwriter” as a genre because as vague and pigeonhole-y as epithets as “jazz”, “rock” or “country” might be, they at least give some indication as to the musical gene pool from which an artist is descended. But what does “singer-songwriter” tell you? That the person in question both sings and writes. That’s helpful.

But consider Toronto’s Matthew Barber, who releases his new album Ghost Notes this week. It’s too soft to file under “rock”, too jauntily contemporary for the folk crowd and let’s not even get into the whole “pop” thing, whatever that might mean these days. And so we’re left with the singer – he has a fine voice, expressive and articulate yet not elastic enough to allow over-singing – and the songwriting, which covers the well-worn terrain of love and heartache but is well-crafted and mated to fine musicianship and sharp, yet subtle arrangements. It’s all quite pleasant but a bit overly-soft for my tastes. But hey, that’s singer-songwriter for ya.

Barber is playing an in-store at Sonic Boom next Thursday evening, March 6, at 7PM then jaunts down to Austin for some SxSW action before returning to his home and native land for the cross-Canada “Sibling Revelry” tour with sister Jill Barber which stops in at the Rivoli on April 3 (Chart and BeatRoute talk to both Barbers about the upcoming tour). And, courtesy of Stage Fright Publicity, I’ve got three copies of Ghost Notes to give away. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want some hot singer-songwriter action” in the subject line and your full mailing address in the body. Get these in to me by the time Barber takes the Sonic Boom stage at 7PM on March 6 and, for a change, this contest is open to anyone anywhere.

And you can stream the whole record on his MySpace right now.

MP3: Matthew Barber – “Easily Bruised” (demo)
MySpace: Matthew Barber