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Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Razzle Dazzle Rose

UK bands kicking off a month-long North American tour could do far worse than to do so in Toronto, as I doubt there are many more cities on the continent more favourably inclined to all things British. Scotland’s Camera Obscura did just that this past Tuesday night to a sold-out, sweltering Horseshoe in support of their excellent new album, Let’s Get Out Of This Country.

Toronto’s Diableros got the nod to open both the Toronto and Montreal shows on the tour – a bit of an odd choice, stylistically, but I wasn’t going to complain as I’ve missed numerous opportunities to see them play in the past half-year and was thankful for the gimme. Many have complained about the fuzzy production of their debut album You Can’t Break The Strings In Our Olympic Hearts but after seeing them live, I gotta say – that’s what they sound like. The guitars may jangle a little cleaner but everything else, from the organs doing battle with the distorto-bass for sonic space to Phoebe Lee’s propulsive drums and Pete Carmichael’s howl sound remarkably similar live to how they do on record – or maybe that should be the other way around. Either way, their set was intense and impassioned and actually got the front of the club packed with both the converted and the curious, no mean feat for an opening band – even a hotly-tipped local one.

Much of what makes Let’s Get Out Of This Country such a leap forwards from the aptly-titled Underachievers Please Try Harder is the extra vim in songs like “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”, “If Looks Could Kill” and the title track that bust the band out of any twee-pop pigeonhole one might have been tempted to place them in. But in a set that drew heavily from both those records, it was unavoidable that the energy levels would drift back towards the more delicate mid-tempo numbers. Luckily, the band has gotten quite good at those over the years. There were a few flubs that could be chalked up to first-show jitters, but maybe because they accepted that there were going to be a few hiccups in the performance (right before starting the show, they realized that the soundman had all their set lists) and that the audience wasn’t going to hold it against them, they were quite relaxed onstage. Tracyanne Campbell, carrying the frontperson mantle entirely on her own after the departure of John Henderson at the start of last year, was surprisingly chipper and chatty and certainly set a good tone for the night though it’s a shame she got the coughs during the outro of “Lloyd” and couldn’t sing it properly. Alas. But a thoroughly enjoyable show if maybe not as intoxicating as the album it was in support of.

I look at my photos from Tuesday and my photos from two years ago and I laugh. Ha ha. Tracyanne also talks to The Independent Weekly about Lloyd Cole.

MP3: Camera Obscura – “Let’s Get Out Of This Country
MP3: The Diableros – “Push It To Monday”
Video: Camera Obscura – “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken” (MOV)
Video: The Diableros – “Sugar Laced Soul” (MOV)
MySpace: Camera Obscura
MySpace: The Diableros

The Airfields, a band which at last check counted two Diableros amongst their roster, have a new video from their Laneways EP. It’s a charming little retro film montage set to one of the saddest and prettiest songs on the record.

Video: The Airfields – “Red Fox” (YouTube)

The New Pollution talked to The Concretes when they kicked off their own North American tour at the Horseshoe back in May. Hopefully Camera Obscura’s turns out better than their Swedish compatriots’ did.

Aversion has some info on the new Sparklehorse record. Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain will be out September 26 and is described as being “in the style of VivaDixie/Good Morning Spider“. While I’m personally of the belief that It’s A Wonderful Life is the best Sparklehorse record, when Mark Linkous releases a new record after a half-decade, you take it whatever it sounds like. Either way, NME has the tracklisting.

NOW talks to The M’s about working with Jonathan Demme on the video for “Future Women”. The M’s open up for Wilco at Massey Hall tomorrow night.

Bradley’s Almanac has a recording of Buffalo Tom’s recent hometown show in Boston.

Update: Anyone need a single ticket for Wilco tomorrow night? 6th row floor, centre-right. I paid around $58 so best offer thereabouts. Email me. Thanks.

np – Luna / Rendezvous

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

Running Out

Oh, Mates Of State, if only we could bottle your energy and pep and sell it to the masses. Well until someone comes up with a way for us to mainline Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, we’ll have to settle for aural fixes. Though on paper there’s many angles from which to apply the gimmick tag to the drum-and-keyboard duo (They’re married! They have no guitars! They’re as cute as kittens riding puppies!), the bottom line with them is they make some unbelievably hooky pop records and their latest Bring It Back may well be their best one yet.

What I’d heard of Mates Of State in the past was undeniably fun and catchy, but was always a bit too much on the saccharine side for safe prolonged exposures. Something about the new record is different though – while all they’ve still got all the exuberance, there are some laugh lines showing, a little bit of weariness. It’s subtle, oh so subtle, but I hear it and it gives things a little more emotional heft. There’s some newfound sonic heft as well, the arrangements being unbelievably full for just a two-piece act.

But the husband-wife angle does make for some entertaining interview dynamics. Nerve asked the duo about their porn habits and groupie action (of course they did), Suicide Girls wants to talk about their daughter and Indieinterviews does the podcast thing with the band.

The band has material new and old available on their MySpace page while new label Barsuk has put together an eCard for the new album with a bunch of songs streaming as well as the video for the single “Fraud In The 80s”, which you can download below:

MP3: Mates Of State – “Fraud In The 80s”
Video: Mates Of State – “Fraud In The 80s” (MOV)

NME has the whole of Howling Bells’ self-titled debut album available to stream right now. The record is officially out in the UK on Monday, but pre-orders were sent out in advance – I’ve had mine since Tuesday and it’s good. Go listen.

And more previews – the Golden Smog MySpace page has got one complete track and three teasers from their new album, Another Fine Day, out July 18. Smogger Gary Louris tells The San Francisco Chronicle that despite all the “yes we’re broken up no we’re not” back-and-forth last year, The Jayhawks are basically done.

And a Louris segue – Billboard finally has info on the all-star (including Gary) live Sadies album recorded at Lee’s Palace back in February. It’s a 41-track (!) double-disc set called In Concert Volume One and will be out August 8. Yep Roc has the official release.

NOW and The Toronto Sun preview the Over The Top Fest, happening right now. As we speak. This very second.

And on the concert tip – The Concretes will be performing an instore at Soundscapes tonight at 7 before their headlining show at the Horseshoe later this evening. Pitchfork previews the tour. Tap-tacular sugar buzz Tilly & The Wall will be at the Mod Club June 11 (tickets $13.50) to celebrate their new album Bottom Of Barrels, out May 23, and alt.country veterans The Bottle Rockets are at Lee’s June 12 ($10.50). Their new album Zoysia is out June 6. July 26 sees The Futureheads, whose News And Tributes is out June 13, along with new XL Recordings signees and blogosphere darlings Tapes N Tapes at the Phoenix.

Some of the festivals taking place at Harbourfront this Summer are getting announced. Some highlights – The Dears and Jason Collett as part of Power of Place, happening over Canada Day weekend, Konono No 1 and Jamie Lidell with Beats, Breaks & Culture the following weekend while The Weakerthans headline rom the Peg!, a salute to the music of Winnipeg, July 28, 29 and 30.

The AV Club’s rundown of this summer’s movie crop is almost certainly more entertaining than most of the films coming out between now and September.

np – Wilco / A Ghost Is Born

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

Still Hungover

I’ll freely admit I expected the worst before I listened to Catfish Haven’s Please Come Back EP – for whatever reason, I steeled myself for some indie-friendly faux-blues act like (insert name of preferred two-piece, colour-themed band here) which has never been my cup of tea. So how pleased was I to find instead a slab of raw, deep Southern soul straight out of the land of Stax and Volt? Singer/guitarist George Hunter’s rasp is raw, anguished and utterly convincing, especially when propelled by the lean, insistent rhythm section. Opener “Please Come Back” is easily the high point of the six-song, 24-minute set, but the rest, composed of yearning ballads and gritty rockers, aren’t far behind. It’s a compact debut, but a gripping one.

Daytrotter has an extensive feature on the band (via Grant Manship), who play Sneaky Dee’s on May 6 with Asobi Seksu and PAS/CAL as part of The Over The Top Fest. Three disparate but wonderful bands on one bill. Awesome. Check out a some of their tunes below – there’s more music on their website and MySpace.

MP3: Catfish Haven – “Please Come Back”
MP3: Catfish Haven – “Madalin” (new demo)

CTV reports on Neil Young’s appearance on CNN Tuesday night while Reprise head honcho Howie Klein offers his thoughts on the record after having heard it, and it looks like any fears I had about them not having the guts to market or release it were unfounded. Look for Living With War in the early Summer.

John Vanderslice loves being interviewed, like by NOW. Yell rude and unexpected questions at him when he plays the El Mocambo on Friday night.

The Tufts Daily has an interview with Rhett Miller, who is currently pushing his solo record The Believer. His day job will be releasing a best-of on June 20 called Hit By A Train: The Best Of The Old 97’s. Full details here.

New Buffalo, who represents the Australian arm of Arts & Crafts’ global empire, will be opening for The Concretes on their two Canadian dates, including May 4 at the Horseshoe. I’ve had a chance to listen to the Concretes’ In Colour a few times now, and am enjoying it maybe more than most. It’s definitely a lot more immediate and pop than their first record, and while I can understand missing some of the orch-Motown vibe, the new country-ish vibe also sits well with me.

And in a similar musical vein – Glasgow’s Camera Obscura will release their third full-length Let’s Get Out Of This Century on June 6. Hear one of the new songs on their MySpace, a wonderful tribute to fellow Scot Lloyd Cole. I totally need to listen to Rattlesnakes again.

Also noteworthy in local concert news – Minneapolis’ Brooklyn’s Hold Steady will be at Lee’s Palace on July 31 (full tour dates here) while The Charlatans are at The Phoenix May 22, tickets are $27.50 and go on sale Saturday. The Jose Gonzalez/Juana Molina show on June 26 now has a home – it’ll be happening at Trinty-St Paul’s, absolutely the perfect place for it but that means it won’t be cheap. And finally, punk legends Stiff Little Fingers will be at the Horseshoe on June 13, tickets $23, while 80s Bossa Nova revivalists Nouvelle Vague are at the Mod Club on September 14.

np – Centro-Matic / Fort Recovery