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Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Icing Sugar

Since discovering The Airfields way back in Summer of 2005, it’s been a treat watching them evolve. The trip may have been slow and occasionally difficult but each signpost along the way, from the whispery 4-track under the bedcovers charm of their debut City-State through the unexpected confidence of 2006’s Laneways EP and then last year’s limited edition teaser Yr So Wonderful, pointed to great things just down the road. And now, with the release of their debut full-length Up All Night, that promise has been delivered on.

The sounds of shyness that hid behind tape hiss on the debut has grown into a healthy musical extrovert, happy to embrace the awkward charm of its youth as well as revel in the more visceral joys of plugging in and turning up loud. The record pays homage to the classic British jangle-and-drone pop that the band so obviously holds dear, but applies an aesthetic that’s very much of the modern. The production is remarkable with sonics that are as much a part of the personality of the record as the songs – it’s not overbearing, but definitely jumped out at me at first listen (and all subsequent ones). The reverbs, in particular, should have liner note credits. And on the songwriting end, David Lush again proves his gift for memorable melodies and guitarist Ian Jackson’s two turns in the writer’s seat may come off more hesitantly and less polished, but evidence much of the latent potential that was present in the band’s first recordings.

Up All Night is officially out on February 5 but the band will have copies available at their CD release show this Saturday night, February 2, at Sneaky Dee’s with Love Kills and Terror Lake. Cover is $6 but you can get a copy of the album for just an extra $4. That’s $10 total, if your math skills aren’t working right now – which is okay. Yesterday I completely forgot how to do long division. And if you can’t make it out this weekend, circle March 6 on your calendar as they play a Canadian Music Week showcase at the Wrong Bar (the shiny new club out Parkdale way). Also stop by Skatterbrain for a nice interview with the whole band wherein they cover the origins of the band, the recording of the album and their plans for 2008 and both eye and NOW gave the record shiny four-star reviews.

MP3: The Airfields – “Never See You Smile”
MP3: The Airfields – “Yr So Wonderful”
MySpace: The Airfields

Fans of Canadian power pop (or power pop from anywhere) will also be happy to learn that Vancouver’s Salteens, last heard from on 2003’s Let Go Of Your Bad Days, are back in action after a five-year absence not with a new album, per se, but a whack of singles. For 2008, the band will be posting two tracks – an a-side and a b-side – on their website on or around the end of each month as a sort of digital 45 and they’re free to do what you will with them. The first a-side is below, the b-side should be available on their website sometime today and I’ve also posted a couple choice tracks from the last full-length. Clap along at your leisure.

MP3: The Salteens – “Hallowed Ways” (link fixed – sorry)
MP3: The Salteens – “Let Go Of Your Bad Days”
MP3: The Salteens – “Thoughts From Sound”

Staying out on the left coast, BrooklynVegan has Destroyer tour dates following the release of Trouble In Dreams on March 18. Bejar and crew will be in Toronto at Lee’s Palace on April 19, a fact which is cause for celebration but also confirms that he won’t be with The New Pornographers on their Spring tour which will be ongoing at the same time. Neko Case, however, will still be along for the ride and the openers for that jaunt are Okkervil River, which is certainly one of the odder pairings I’ve ever seen. But if we’re lucky, having Okkervil kick ass and take names every night before they take the stage will force the Pornos to raise their game a notch – last time around, they were phoning it in a bit. Look for a local date in early April but before then, they’re performing at the Indie Awards at the Royal York on March 8 as part of Canadian Music Week. You can also enjoy this World Cafe session at NPR.

Everyone’s talking about Black Mountain and their new album In The Future. There’s features and interviews with the band at The Globe & Mail, Exclaim!, Wireless Bollinger, SF Weekly, The Times Online and Harp. They’re at Lee’s Palace on March 5.

Spin recently named Basia Bulat their artist of the day and in their latest issue, they apparently give big love props to Toronto. I haven’t seen the piece yet. Basia plays Lee’s Palace on March 29.

ClickMusic talks to Land Of Talk’s Liz Powell. They’re still working the European release of Applause Cheer Boo Hiss but I would hope the new record will be along sooner rather than later this year.

Kevin Drew talks to Prefix about Kevin Drew.

Chart chats with Laura Barrett, who is also working an older EP in Earth Sciences, slated for re-release on February 26, but also has a full-length in the can and is looking at a late Spring/early Summer release for that. But in the meantime, she’s got a new Pravda-powered video. In Soviet Russia, pony robots you!

Video: Laura Barrett – “Robot Ponies”

Junkmedia talks to Rolf Klausener of The Acorn.

Born Ruffians’ tour finale/release party for their debut full-length Red, Yellow & Blue at Lee’s Palace on April 26 now also features Miracle Fortress on the bill.

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Moving Notes

It’s a Cancon kinda day.

Jane Vain & The Dark Matter are so excited about their new record – Love Is Where The Smoke Is, out January 22 – that they’re embarking on possibly the most foolish thing a Canadian band can do: a cross-country tour in the dead of Winter. If they manage to make it to Ontario, they’ll play two shows in Toronto – February 7 at the Drake Underground and February 10 at Sneaky Dee’s which, being a Sunday, will be a Wavelength show.

I’ve spent some time with the record but haven’t quite managed a way to sum it up in a succinct manner. It’s hard to put a finger on. It’s definitely a smoky record, as the title alludes, with singer Jamie Fooks’ voice sounding not a little like Chan Marshall cast as a cabaret singer in a club somewhere on the wrong side of seedy and coupled with musical backing that hints at lounge, jazz, rock and anything that could use “noir” as an adjective. There’s darkness within these ten tracks but not much in the way of catharsis – instead it just burns slowly throughout, perhaps nearing the end of the fuse but not quite reaching it before the record ends. That makes it all a bit unsettling but is also what makes it compelling.

Fooks gave The Calgary Herald a song-by-song breakdown of the new record and earlier last year, talked to BeatRoute and Chart about the band’s origins. And BeatRoute just posted a brand new feature on the band.

MP3: Jane Vain & The Dark Matter – “C’mon Baby Say Bang Bang”

And the band Jane Vain played with last time they were in town, Barrie’s Fox Jaws, have bid farewell to guitarist Derek McColeman and have a couple upcoming shows in their five-piece configuration – January 12 at the El Mocambo and February 1 at the Horseshoe.

Basia Bulat, having now conquered the hearts and minds of Canada and Europe, will set her sights on America for 2008 and release Oh My Darling Stateside on February 5. The first single will be “In The Night”, which didn’t even appear on the European edition but which now has a ridiculously fun one-take video. Following her January tour opening for Hayden, she’s setting out on a US tour of her own – dates at her MySpace. Bulat recently talked to the London Free Press about her whirlwind 2007.

MP3: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
Video: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”

Born Ruffians have completed their debut full-length, will release it on March 4 and have christened it Red, Yellow & Blue. To celebrate, they’re touring their asses off across the continent and wrap it up with a homecoming show at Lee’s Palace on April 26. The Toronto Star recently declared the trio one of “Ten To Watch in 2008” – sample the new record in aural and visual form below.

MP3: Born Ruffians – “Hummingbird”
Video: Born Ruffians – “Hummingbird”

The Ruffians’ former tourmates from this Fall – Caribou – have a two-night stand scheduled for Lee’s Palace on March 20 and 21. Tickets for that will be $15.

Magneta Lane will showcase songs from their forthcoming record Gambling With God on January 16 at the Rivoli.

Kalimba queen Laura Barrett will be re-releasing her Earth Sciences EP via Paper Bag Records on February 25. Pitchfork gives us a taste. Barrett is playing at the Gladstone this Wednesday night but don’t expect to hear this… that night’s all about Celine.

MP3: Laura Barrett – “Decepticon Island Optimists Club”

The Airfields have got a quartet of tracks from their new album Up All Night available to stream at their MySpace. It’ll be available in time for their February 2 release show at Sneaky Dee’s, which will also feature Love Kills and Terror Lake. And I’ll just say that I expected the record to be good, and it’s better.

Jason Collett is ready to release his new record Here’s To Being Here on February 5 and will mark the occasion with a cross-Canada tour making a hometown stop at Lee’s Palace on March 6.

MP3: Jason Collett – “Out Of Time”
MP3: Jason Collett – “Charlyn, Angel Of Kensington”

Also getting ready to put out a new record are The Constantines – it’s still untitled but is slated for an April 15 street date and word is they’re doing a couple of shows to celebrate it’s release around April 22 and 23. In the meantime, they’re releasing their first-ever 7″ for “Hard Feelings”, a track from the new album, next Tuesday.

Dan Bejar of Destroyer talks to Billboard about his new one Trouble in Dreams, out March 18. Touring will occur in April and May, keep an eye out for dates.

Torontoist chats with Hidden Camera Joel Gibb, who offers vague insights into what the next Hidden Cameras record might bring.