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Monday, May 15th, 2006

Takk

Time heals all. My two relatively minor regrets from my trip to Europe last Fall were missing shows by The National and Sigur Ros. Well lo and behold, eight months later both acts have returned to town – The National in March and Sigur Ros on Saturday night.

This would be my third time seeing Sigur Ros at Massey Hall, though the first in three and a half years. I missed their legendary show at the Palais Royale in April 2001 but can still hold their show from September of that year, for which I was in the front row, as one of the most amazing musical experiences I’ve ever beheld. The second time in October 2002 was less impactful, but as I commented at the time – “how many times can a band change your life?” Well while Saturday night’s show wasn’t life-changing, it was very much life-affirming – and I mean that in a completely non-schlocky sense.

My night got off to a bit of a rocky start as I realized after settling into my seat that my camera battery was still happily charging at home. Thankfully I only live one subway stop from the venue so I made a mad dash home to retrieve it – unfortunately, this meant missing most of Amina’s set. I only caught about two songs total but what I did hear was pretty and tinkly like a fairy tale jewelery box. This wouldn’t be my only opportunity to see them perform though, as they were an integral part of Sigur Ros’ band as well.

I’m no good with song names on the best of days so I won’t even bother with Sigur Ros’ foreign and cryptic titles (witness the set list – thanks, Erik). Sufficed to say that the richly orchestrated, Amina-enchanced tracks from Takk somehow made the () material sound almost raw and stripped down – certainly not adjectives one would normally use to describe Sigur Ros. The contrast in emotional content between the material Agaetis Byrjun, () and Takk is far more evident in the live setting – it’s remarkable that albums as laboured over, meticulously recorded and arranged as theirs are, still pale in comparison to the power of the live performance. Not meant as a slight against the albums, but as a point of reference in trying to describe how amazing they are on stage.

The wonder isn’t just aural, either. The show opened and closed with the performers hidden by a sheer white curtain and backlit to create eerie silhouettes the height of the stage, but for the rest of the almost two hours, it was just eight slight young Icelanders against a massive backdrop of projections and lighting effects. The coreography of the visuals with music, though subtle, was amazingly precise – especially during “Smaskifa” off of the Sigur 1/Sigur 9-era single where the silhouettes of birds on a wire, seemingly coming and going at random, all flew away the instant the last note was struck. And if the projections weren’t your style, you could always just close your eyes and let your imagination do what it would with the soundtrack. The closing number, as I believe it was four years ago, was “The Pop Song” from (), and it was as epic, terrifying and tremendous as I could have hoped.

Yeah, using this sort of language to describe the show might seem a little over the top, but the band doesn’t take any half-measures in what they do, it’s only fair to do likewise. I can’t think of another act today that is capable of channeling such pure, universal emotionalism through music. Whether singing in Icelandic or Hopelandish, I’m actually thankful I don’t understand any of it – that way it means exactly whatever I want it to. And the whole show, top to bottom, sound, sight, everything – was just beautiful. And the only thing better than second row seats? Second row seats with no one sitting in the first row directly in front of you. Hence the absence of heads in les photos. I’m glad I made the dash home for the battery, the lighting made for some dramatic shots. To whomever paid for those seats but couldn’t be bothered to show up, I thank you and you missed a hell of a night.

Here’s the closing song of () and of the night – long, but if you haven’t heard it before you really should.

MP3: Sigur Ros – “Untitled #8 (a.k.a. popplagio / the pop song)”

New records coming our way this Summer – a long time coming, The Hidden Cameras’ new one Awoo will be in stores August 15. A couple of veteran UK frontmen will be releasing their first solo efforts – Manic Street Preacher James Dean Bradfield will release The Great Western on July 24 in the UK and head Radiohead Thom Yorke has an album called The Eraser also due out July 11 – Billboard has details about that. And Luna’s The Very Best Of will be in stores on June 20, the same day as the Tell Me Do Miss Me documentary DVD. And as a footnote, congratulations to Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips who have a) completed work on their second album and b) gotten married.

Popmatters pays tribute to the late Grant McLennan.

The Cleveland Plains Dealer discusses the “emo” tag with Rainer Maria, in town at the Horseshoe tonight with Ambulette.

A most promising show will be going down at the El Mocambo on June 27 with DeVotchKa and Norfolk & Western. Both have just released new EPs – Curse Your Little Heart for the former, A Gilded Age for the latter. Also, The M’s have been tapped as support for the second half of Wilco’s Summer tour, including the July 7 Massey Hall show.

Billboard talks to Amy Millan about making Honey From The Tombs, out May 30. She reveals there’ll be touring to support in the Fall before heading back into the studio to work on the new Stars record, hopefully for a Spring ’07 release. She’s playing a special album release show June 10 at the Mod Club, Fembots supporting.

Last night was the final episode of The West Wing, and I am sad. I’ve watched the show faithfully since its inception seven seasons ago, and is – I believe – the longest relationship I’ve ever had with a television program. Despite a shaky fifth season in the wake of creator Aaron Sorkin’s departure, the series finished incredibly strongly and actually left me wanting them to carry on with the Santos administration but am probably glad they’re not. Always leave them wanting more, right? The final episode had many nice touches, not least of which was Martin Sheen’s brief scene with real-life daughter Renee (“Tell your mother I’ll see her soon”) – that was sweet. But man, especially after watching the repeat of the pilot before the final episode? I miss John Spencer. Read some farewells to the series from The San Jose Mercury News, The Chicago Sun-Times, the BBC and The Washington Post. Yeah, it may have been just a make-believe White House, but compared to what we’ve got today… What was that about Karl Rove?

np – The M’s / Future Women

Monday, April 17th, 2006

Breaking The Ice

After several delays, it’s been officially announced that Mojave 3 will release their fifth album, Puzzles Of You, on June 20. You can take a look at the album art here. Neil Halstead talked to Billboard about the new record and says that it’s more of a pop record than the relatively drifting and gauzey Spoon And Rafter. Halstead also says the band is planning to tour North America in September (yay) and that he will record a second solo album later this year (double yay).

The album will be preceded by a single on May 29 in the UK for “Breaking The Ice” which will be accompanied by a video that has already been shot. 4AD has posted some photos from the video shoot. Is that a beard, Neil? The video should be posted online for your viewing pleasure any time now. But in the meantime, enjoy the fact that a bunch of M3 shows are now available to download from Archive.org and once again, I direct you to a demo version of a Puzzles Of You track that the band graciously made available on their website a little while back.

MP3: Mojave 3 – “Big Star Baby” (demo)

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene discusses the importance of community with The Independent. The Olympic Island website has been updated with some details of the BSS-curated festival being held there on June 24. Apparently there is one more act that is waiting to be confirmed for the show.

Sigur Ros keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson discusses the band’s futility at being rock stars with The Japan Times. The band will re-release their “HoppĂ­polla” single on May 1, thanks to the song’s use in the BBC’s Planet Earth television program. The band will be at Massey Hall with string-wielding compatriots Amina on May 13.

Ireland’s Event Guide discusses the lifespan of Low with Alan Sparhawk. This link and many of the above courtesy of Largehearted Boy.

Dose talks to Calexico’s Joey Burns about shifting sytylistic gears on Garden Ruin.

One of The Big Takeover’s bloggers thinks it’s just a matter of time before MP3 blogs get made an example of for their/our constant copyright infringement. It’s interesting that the tone of the piece seems to be eagerly anticipating the day that sites like Fluxblog gets the smackdown. I find it a little puzzling that someone writing for BTO would have such a conservative view of enforcing copyrights and support for the record industry’s big hammer tactics towards dealing with online media.

np – Decoder Ring / Fractions