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Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Dusk Till Dawn

Six acts to watch at SxSW 2009

Photo via ladyhawkemusic.comLadyhawkeHello from sunny – and goodness, is it sunny – Austin, Texas, where I will be spending the next five days or so inundating you with dispatches from SxSW Music that you probably care nothing about. I’m okay with that. The blow-by-blow will start tomorrow, but for today I’ll do the preview thing, listing off a half-dozen of the new or new-to-me acts that I’m most looking forward to seeing over the next four days and nights.

I admit to feeling a twinge of guilt when I listen to New Zealander Pip Brown, aka Ladyhawke, but any reservations I have about enjoying something so utterly and unabashedly ’80s retro evaporate right about the moment the chorus kicks in. My initial experience with “Paris Is Burning,” for example, went something like “oh my god I hope she’s paying Gary Numan royalt– OMG ENDORPHIN RUSH”, and that buzz recurs all throughout the record. You must understand, I grew up in the ’80s and as much as I might want to deny it for cred’s sake, that shit is absolutely baked into my DNA. Hell, I even loved the Matthew Broderick movie that’s Brown’s creative namesake. The synths, the guitars, the glossy sonics, the massive pop hooks, all of it triggers something very deep and primal and it will not be denied. On her 2008 self-titled debut, Brown manages to shed the really dubious aspects of the 1980s production aesthetic and just keep the good stuff. Or maybe she doesn’t and I’m in too deep to realize it. But you know what? I don’t care.

Ladyhawke’s official showcase goes tonight at Stubb’s at 10PM. Brown has been diagnosed with Aspberger’s Syndrome and apparently is still getting used to live performance but she doesn’t have to make eye contact – just play “Back Of The Van”. I’m really looking forward to this set. Like, totally.

The Telegraph has a feature on Ladyhawke.

MP3: Ladyhawke – “My Delirium”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Paris Is Burning”
Video: Ladyhawke – “My Delirium”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Dusk Till Dawn”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Back Of The Van”
MySpace: Ladyhawke

Though they’re decidedly overused as reference points, in the case of London’s Fanfarlo, the Arcade Fire really are an apt reference point. Just imagine if they were more folkish, less angsty and their frontman sounded like a more lilting David Byrne rather than the tightly-wound, live wire variety. I suspect that this isn’t the most compelling description of the band and for that I apologize, but their latest album Reservoir is really a grand and sweeping record with the aforementioned characteristics and is definitely worth your time. Their official showcase is on Friday at 9PM at the Central Presbyterian Church, but if you can’t make that they’re playing a number of unofficial shows throughout the week.

Channel M had the band in their studios for a five-song video session.

MP3: Fanfarlo – “Harold T Wilkins”
MP3: Fanfarlo – “I’m A Pilot”
Video: Fanfarlo – “Harold T Wilkins”
Video: Fanfarlo – “Fire Escape”
MySpace: Fanfarlo

Leeds’ Sky Larkin should be familiar to anyone who reads this site, so introductions should be unnecessary. Sufficed to say that I’m glad to finally have a chance to see them live at midnight Wednesday evening on Red 7’s patio, even if they are going to be in Toronto in a couple weeks at the Opera House opening for Los Campesinos! on April 1.

This Is Fake DIY reports that the band’s next single, “Antibodies”, will be released on cassette tape. Oh, Sky Larkin.

MP3: Sky Larkin – “Fossil, I”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Beeline”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Fossil, I”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Molten”
Video: Sky Larkin – “One Of Two”
MySpace: Sky Larkin

I don’t even know when/where/how I stumbled across Austin’s Ume but I’m so very glad I did. Loud and abrasive but with a gooey pop center, they sound to me like Belly covering Nirvana – remember, even though I grew up in the ’80s, I came of age in the ’90s and a combination like that is irresistible. If they can rip it up live the way they do in their video, this is going to as good as I’m hoping. They play at 7:30 tonight at Maggie Mae’s.

Houston Calling and Transmission have features on the band.

MP3: Ume – “The Conductor”
Video: Ume – “The Conductor”
MySpace: Ume

Crocodile are from Oklahoma and sound nothing like the Flaming Lips. Just to be clear. What they do sound like is chirpy, female-fronted guitar pop with just the right dollop of synth in the mix. No angle on this one – just catchy, straight-ahead good tunes. Not to be confused with Crocodiles, who will also be in Austin this week, albeit in an unofficial (no SxSW showcase) capacity. Crocodile (singular) are on at 8 tonight on the rooftop of Wave.

MP3: Crocodile – “August Is Over”
MySpace: Crocodile

I’d been hoping for a chance to see Athens, Georgia’s Venice Is Sinking since first hearing their debut Sorry About The Flowers back in 2006, but figured it was unlikely they’d ever find cause or opportunity to tour this far north. Happily, the release of the follow-up Azar, out March 31, has garnered the band a SxSW showcase – tonight at 10PM at Ace’s Lounge – where I’ll finally get to savour their lush orch-gaze in person. Yes, I said orch-gaze. Shut up.

MP3: Venice Is Sinking – “Ryan’s Song”
MP3: Venice Is Sinking – “Okay”
Video: Venice Is Sinking – “Ryan’s Song”
MySpace: Venice Is Sinking

And that’s just a tiny, tiny sample of the stuff I have on my radar this week. Obviously I won’t see nearly all of it but it’s good to have options. If you’re curious, check out my sched at sched.org and if there’s something I simply must see that’s not on there, lemme know. And I just realized that five of the six aforementioned picks are playing tonight. Go Wednesday!

And some related bits from acts showcasing at SxSW this week.

Austin’s Voxtrot are back, just a little. They’ve offered up a new track to download. Work continues on album number two.

MP3: Voxtrot – “Trepanation Party”

Filter talks to Elvis Perkins.

Soundproof interviews Gentleman Reg.

Decider talks to Asobi Seksu.

Decider also chats with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

Exclaim reports that Echo & The Bunnymen will be releasing a live, orchestrally-enhanced version of Ocean Rain recorded last November in Liverpool, on or around May 1. Needless to say, I’m excited to be seeing them – finally – this week, if in somewhat less auspicious settings than the Liverpool Echo Arena. Which isn’t to say a gay Texan cowboy bar won’t have its own unique charm.

Camera Obscura has released a video for the first single from My Maudlin Career, out April 21, and I daresay this is easily the band’s best album yet. They play Hot Freaks at the Mohawk on Saturday afternoon at 5PM.

Video: Camera Obscura – “French Navy”

Wireless Bollinger interviews The Decemberists, MPR has a session. The Hazards Of Love is out next week.

And a non-SxSW note – to everyone who actually bit on that Stone Roses reunion rumour… silly silly silly silly silly. Everyone knows they’re in Austin to play Stubb’s on Friday night with Metallica. And The Beatles.

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

"Baby, You've Got A Stew Going"

Seriously, I intended to take today off but in my meanderings around the internets, I found some concert announcements. And then some more concert announcements. And then some more. And so I took them, threw them in a pot, added some broth, a potato. Baby, I’ve got a stew going. So here we go, quick like bunny. ‘Cause I need to go get groceries.

Of all the announcements, the only one that I would have immediately decided to attend was The Long Blondes’ May 22 date at Lee’s Palace, and I say “would” rather than “will” because on that date, I will be in London. It figures – I go to the UK, they come to Canada, and that’s not the only UK band I like that’s coming to town while I’m away. As for the other, well, scan the last few days of posts and you should be able to figure it out (not officially announced yet so I can’t say). Anyway, they’re releasing their sophomore record Couples on April 8 and Pitchfork has full tour dates and album info.

MP3: The Long Blondes – “Once And Never Again”
Video: The Long Blondes – “Weekend Without Makeup”
Video: The Long Blondes – “Giddy Stratospheres”
Video: The Long Blondes – “Separated By Motorways”
Video: The Long Blondes – “Once And Never Again”

And now the rest of the shows, in chronological order. If you’ve ever wanted an excuse to spend a fortnight in April camped out at the ElMo, your ship has come in.

One of the biggest bands in Ireland, Bell X1 try to win over North Americans with a tour in support of their album Flock, which has a February 19 release on these shores. The tour starts in Toronto on March 12 at the El Mocambo.

MP3: Bell X1 – “Rocky Took A Lover”
Video: Bell X1 – “Flame”

One of the next big things out of the UK – Duffy – is at the Mod Club on March 18, tickets $15.50.

Video: Duffy – “Rockferry”
Video: Duffy – “Mercy”

Sunset Rubdown are at Lee’s Palace on March 30, tickets $12. They’re still touring in support of last year’s
Random Spirit Lover.

MP3: Sunset Rubdown – “Winged Wicked Things”
MP3: Sunset Rubdown – ” Up On Your Leopard, Upon The End Of Your Feral Days”

Wolf Eyes hit Lee’s on April 1, no foolin’ (that was so bad). $12 in advance. Full dates here.

MP3: Wolf Eyes – “Stabbed In The Face”
MP3: Wolf Eyes – “The Driller”

Mick Jones’ new outfit Carbon/Silicon tour their debut Last Post to Lee’s Palace on April 2. Matt Pond PA support. Their new record Last Light was released last year.

MP3: Carbon/Silicon – “What The Fuck”
Video: Carbon/Silicon – “The News”
Video: Matt Pond PA – “Locate The Pieces”

VHS Or Beta are at the El Mocambo on April 3 in support of 2007’s Bring On The Comets. Admission is $10.

Video: VHS Or Beta – “Can’t Believe A Single Word”

Seattle’s Throw Me The Statue, coming off last year’s About To Walk EP and set to release their full-length Moonbeams at on February 19, are at the El Mocambo April 4. Tickets are $10. Other tour dates here.

MP3: Throw Me The Statue – “About To Walk”

The Dodos, all the way from San Francisco, will be at the El Mocambo on April 9 in support of their new record Visiter, out March 18. Full tour dates here.

MP3: The Dodos – “Jody”
MP3: The Dodos – “Fools”
Video: The Dodos – “Fools”

Minneapolis’ Cloud Cult have a new album in the can – Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) – set for an April 8 release and will tour in support, stopping at the El Mocambo on April 14. That show will cost you $10.

Video: Cloud Cult – “Chemicals Collide”

Saul Williams and Dragons Of Zynth have a date at the Mod Club on April 14. This is a musical show for Williams, not just spoken word. Though he’s likely to speak at some point during the show as well.

MP3: Saul Williams – “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
Video: Saul Williams – “Sunday Bloody Sunday”

From the ashes of Pretty Girls Make Graves come The Cave Singers, who released their debut Invitation Songs last year. They’re at the Horseshoe on April 30, tickets $10.

MP3: The Cave Singers – “Seeds Of Night”
Video: The Cave Singers – “Dancing On Our Graves”

Laura Veirs, still working last year’s Saltbreakers, returns to town for a show at the El Mocambo on May 24 with Liam Finn. His debut is Call Me Lightning and yes, from his surname, you can surmise he grew up in a somewhat crowded house. Admission is $10 in advance.

MP3: Laura Veirs – “Galaxies”
MP3: Liam Finn – “Second Chance”
Video: Laura Veirs – “Cast A Hook In Me”
Video: Liam Finn – “Second Chance”

And finally, this Pitchfork piece indicates that on July 4, Harbourfront Centre will play host to both Ladytron and Datarock, almost certainly as part of their annual Beats, Breaks & Culture festival… which would mean this show is free. Yay for free. Ladytron’s new record Velocifero is out June 3.

MP3: Ladytron – “Destroy Everything You Touch”
MP3: Ladytron – “Destroy Everything You Touch” (Hot Chip remix)
MP3: Datarock – “Fa-Fa-Fa”
Video: Ladytron – “Destroy Everything You Touch”
Video: Datarock – “Fa-Fa-Fa”
Video: Datarock – “Bulldozer”

Reveille welcomes Basia Bulat back to Minneapolis. She plays Lee’s Palace on March 29.

Spinner features The New Pornographers in an Interface session. They play the Phoenix with Okkervil River on April 9.

With the Grammy Awards set for tomorrow night, the media has finally found a reason to give multiple nominee Feist some attention. Witness pieces in The Globe & Mail, The Toronto Sun, The Vancouver Sun, The Belfast Telegraph and The Los Angeles Times. Feist plays the Sony Centre on May 13.

Efrim Menuck tells Drowned In Sound why Godspeed You! Black Emperor had to stop, and how you can essentially change their status from “hiatus” to “defunct”. His current project, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band will release 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons on March 25 and play two nights at Lee’s Palace on June 7 and 8.

Apparently Arcade Fire aren’t the only Canadian band whose music was used by Fox in last week’s Super Bowl broadcast without permission. Chart reports that Ottawa’s My Dad Vs Yours had about 90 seconds of their song “Habla Paisano” used as background music in an interview segment without permission and, more crucially, without compensation. They are currently investigating the legalities of their situation.

Best news ever – according to this Globe & Mail travel piece on Austin, Texas, Air Canada will begin offering direct flights from Toronto starting May. NO MORE LAYOVERS IN O’HARE, BITCHES. I just did a quick test reservation for mid-May… $474 return. Hot diggity dog. If that holds for March as well, SxSW just got $200 cheaper and four hours faster. Of course, one flight a day means I have to book next year, oh, right now to get a seat but I’m willing to do that. I am.

Friday, December 30th, 2005

The Start Of Something

Thanks to Matt the other day for tipping me off that Austin’s Voxtrot would finally be touring up through Toronto for a show at Sneaky Dee’s on April 13 with California’s Irving. Voxtrot first appeared on my radar when I was wading through bands to check out at SxSW back in March, and though I didn’t end up catching their performance, I was impressed by their ultra-melodic, just retro enough pop stylings. And then I promptly forgot about them.

They did make inroads in the popular conciousness throughout 2005, though, as I’d see their name appear in blogs and whatnot periodically and be reminded, “hey – I liked them, I should check them out again”… and then I’d promptly forget about them again. But I won’t be making that mistake again – especially not now that Spin named them band of the day (there can only be 365 of those in a year!) and Gorilla Vs Bear named their debut Raised By Wolves EP his top EP of the year, and almost top record, period. They will be issuing a follow-up EP in the Spring which will no doubt fuel the slowly but steadily growing buzz surrounding the band – hell, Indie Interviews has them pegged as one of the Texas bands set to explode in 2006. That’s ALL of Texas. And Texas is big, y’know.

Need evidence? Check out one of the tracks from Raised By Wolves and stream some more at their MySpace page. Also, frontman Ramesh Srivastava keeps a blog, so you KNOW they’re cool. Cause bloggers are cool.

MP3: Voxtrot – “The Start Of Something”

Also appearing at Sneaky Dee’s this Spring – Montreal’s Kiss Me Deadly, playing a show March 23. And Evan Dando will be at the Horseshoe, sans “reunited” Lemonheads for whatever reason, on February 11. Tickets are $17.50.

And thanks to that Indie Interviews piece for the info that Shearwater’s new full-length has a title and a release date. Look for Palo Santo in finer indie-friendly record shops on April 22.

I keep wanting this year to be officially over, but the newspapers won’t let it go… The Globe & Mail and Toronto Star both have 2005 retrospective overview thingees.

Stylus pays tribute to some of the big name artists of 2005 in haiku form.

So SxSW 2006 is officially a go. For me, I mean. I booked my flight, hotel and rental car yesterday, and am working on some arrangements for the actual festival admission and whatnot now. It also means I’ll begin posting interesting schedule and artist appearance info as I come across it, alongside such fine sites as SxSW Baby and Donewaiting (I assume See You In The Pit will be back as we get closer to March as well. Having one festival under my belt means I’ll be better prepared to enjoy the festivities next year – hence the rental car (to make the day shows wherever they may be), hotel with free wireless internet (for easy blogging whilst there) and perhaps most importantly, I’ll know where the hell everything is. Yeah.

np – Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins / Rabbit Fur Coat