Posts Tagged ‘AC Newman’

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Spectral Dusk

Evening Hymns and Fiver at The Theatre Centre in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangJonas Bonnetta’s father passed away in February of 2009. Less than six months later, my own father was also gone. There’s a temptation to see that parallel as some explanation for why Spirit Guides, Bonnetta’s debut album as Evening Hymns, struck such a chord in me and would be one of the records that got me through that terrible year, but I think that presumes too much. I didn’t know any of the circumstances under which it was written and recorded; I just thought that it was a beautiful record.

I can’t make that same claim with respect to the follow-up album Spectral Dusk, having learned the circumstances behind its creation and being very aware of how it intersected with my own. And as curious as I was to hear Bonnetta’s meditations on the loss of his father, there was no small amount of anxiousness over here about what sort of reactions might trigger in me. For the fact is that while I write the equivalent of four or five short essays a week and can modestly claim to be pretty good at organizing and expressing thoughts, I’ve not really dealt in any tactile, therapeutic way with my own bereavement over the past three years. I’ve written nothing, only talked a little, and basically concentrated on just keeping my head above water and getting by; what else can you do? This isn’t to say that there’s an ocean of unresolved issues bubbling under the surface, but the prospect of hearing a son working through the experience in song – songs that I wanted to hear regardless – became a very real source of anxiety. Anxiety, but also hope. Perhaps I would be able to project my own story onto them – the way people are certain that the songs they hear on the radio are written specifically for them, about them – and use them as a shortcut of sorts to get myself through the grieving process.

Of course it wasn’t that easy. Death may be universal but is also intensely personal, and Spectral Dusk belongs to Bonnetta alone; he’s simply chosen to share it with us. It’s filled with vignettes, characters, and locales from his family history, rendered in fine detail and with light metaphor. The emotional reverberations may resonate with the listener in a way that could be their own, but Dusk is not nearly opaque enough to allow them to craft their own interpretation of what the songs are about. Unless you lived these songs, you are just a spectator. Musically, it aligns nicely with Spirit Guides in evoking rustic, mist-shrouded landscapes dotted with thick stands of trees, but simultaneously more expansive and fine-grained. A headphone record if ever there was one, it’s filled with determined little touches throughout the sonic field the pull you in and gives you a sense of the immense scale of what you’re hearing.

For the sad and angry places that it comes from, Spectral Dusk is a remarkably gentle record. Three years on, it exists in the acceptance stage; well past rage or bargaining. Inchoate grief has been allowed to coalesce into words and be spoken out loud, and when it reaches the inevitable point where words fail, as there will always be that which can barely be comprehended let alone conveyed, it steps back and allows atmospheric field recordings – as opens the album, underpins the instrumental “Irving Lake Access Road”, and provides the distant coda of “Spectral Dusk” – to articulate. With Dusk, Bonnetta has crafted a detailed and affectionate portrait of his father, family, and their relationships, and it’s certainly enough to know that our stories only intersect at tangents. Our fathers weren’t so similar in life and probably not in death and while I might have wanted Spectral Dusk to stand in proxy for working things out, it’s clear that it’s something I’ll have to do for myself. I can only hope that if and when I do, whatever comes of it will be a fraction as moving as Spectral Dusk is.

Whatever difficult emotions the Spectral Dusk material brought up in me as a listener must have been minuscule in comparison to how Bonnetta would feel in performing it live, but on Friday night in front of a more-than-full house at The Great Hall’s Theatre Centre, Evening Hymns held the record release show for the album – officially out on Tuesday – as part of the Summerworks music series. Opening things up were Fiver, perhaps better known as the new project from Simone Schmidt of $100. What the existence of Fiver means for the future of $100 is unclear, but Fiver are not the fraction of $100 that their name might imply. They’re smaller, yes – it was just Schmidt and a second guitarist up there this time – but fans will find much familiar about the sound of her worn vocals recounting tales of hardship over twanging, droning guitars.

Over the many times I’ve seen Evening Hymns live, the only constant in the band has been Bonnetta and Sylvie Smith (originally just on backing vocals, now on bass as well); the rest of the band has ranged in numbers from zero to a whole bunch, depending on who amongst their many collaborators were available or needed for the occasion. They were a seven-piece this time out, with a couple extra guitars, drums, violin/keys, and trumpet/accordion to fill things out nicely and ably recreate the many sounds and textures of the record

With the stage surrounded by branches and candles and the band bathed in the ghostly light of projections and home movies handled by artist Sean Frey, Bonnetta and company faithfully recreated much of Spectral Dusk. They managed to include many of the little nuances that most wouldn’t have been noticed had they been left out, and taking advantage of the dynamics that live performance, imbued the material with a level of emotional release that the recordings don’t quite reach; it’s not a shortcoming of the production by any means, it’s just something that you get with volume. The weightiness of the new material was defused somewhat by Bonnetta’s easy manner and between-song banter, and by reaching back to Spirit Guides for some of its more upbeat offerings. The show ended, as Spectral Dusk does, with the title track performed alone by Bonnetta as a single-song encore. A sombre, yet uplifting finale with a son trying to create and capture that one last conversation with his father.

BlogTO also has a review of the show, and while CBC Radio captured the whole thing for a future broadcast, Mechanical Forest Sound is already sharing a track from his recording with the rest to follow soon. NOW, Dorkshelf, Arboretum Festival, and all have interviews with Bonnetta about Spectral Dusk, while CBC Music talks to Simone Schmidt about Fiver.

Photos: Evening Hymns, Fiver @ The Theatre Centre – August 17, 2012
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Arrows”
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Dead Deer”
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Broken Rifle”
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Cedars”
Video: Evening Hymns – “Family Tree”
Video: Evening Hymns – “Dead Deer”
Video: Fiver – “Oh Sienna”
Stream: Evening Hymns / Spectral Dusk

Having teased out the tour – he’s at Lee’s Palace on October 21 – and the existence of a new solo record, A.C. Newmam has revealed the title of said album – Shut Down The Streets – as well as the album art, viewable at Exclaim, and first MP3. All we need now is a release date more specific than “Fall”, but one of the Tuesdays prior to the tour’s commencement would make sense. My money is on October 16. Update: Missed it by that much. Matablog says October 9.

MP3: A.C. Newman – “I’m Not Talking”

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012


New Order get ready for live return to North America

Photo By Kevin CumminsKevin CumminsThere are two points about New Order that are difficult to dispute.

a) They were one of the greatest bands of the ’80s, whose run of albums from 1983’s Power, Corruption & Lies through 1989’s Technique and including 1987’s singles collection Substance templated and led that which we’d call indie, New Wave, post-punk, dance-rock, electronica, and were massively commercially successful at the same time. Their legacy is deep and far-reaching and even after their heyday, when roster changes and internal bickering overshadowed their music, they still managed to include at least one amazing song per otherwise uneven record that reminded you of why they mattered.

b) They were lousy live. Okay, that’s a deliberately polemic statement, especially for someone who’s never seen them live, but any live footage I’ve seen or heard has been some degree of cringe-worthy and in my years of being a fan, that’s always seemed the consensus opinion. Their official BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert album, which captured their 1087 Glastonbury set – which is to say the recording that they deemed good enough to release and sell – shone a bright light on Bernard Sumner’s inability to sing live. His voice is thin, off-key, and on this recording at least, punctuated with whoops and yelps that also manage to be way out of pitch. His shortcomings as a vocalist are evident on the albums as well, but what’s passable in a studio is decidedly less so amplified to stadium levels. Some of this was certainly due to some of the chemical accouterments of the era, but online footage from more recent shows don’t demonstrate much improvement.

So it’s all well and good to focus on point a) with the news yesterday that the band – who were supposed to have broken up for good back in 2009 but who’ve turned a handful of one-off gigs into a proper ongoing concern that now includes a North American tour that wraps in Toronto on October 23 at the Sony Centre, their first time here since Summer 2001, when they were part of Moby’s Area One tour at The Docks. Purists will rightly point out that it’s not really New Order without Peter Hook – he quit the band in decidedly acrimonious fashion in 2007 – but they’ve got keyboardist Gillian Gilbert, who quit circa 2005’s Waiting For The Siren’s Call, back in the fold so they’ve still got three out of four original members – better than many bands out on the nostalgia circuit.

Ticket information is still forthcoming, but considering it won’t be cheap, it may be worth giving some thought to point b) before putting your cash on the barrelhead. But then, of course, you’ll imagine hearing “Blue Monday” live and it’ll be a done deal. That’s fine, nothing wrong with celebrating the songs more than the performance. I’ll probably be there too.

Video: New Order – “Blue Monday”
Video: New Order – “Bizarre Love Triangle”
Video: New Order – “Regret”

When Don Pyle of Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet mentioned at their Lee’s Palace show a couple weeks ago that they were going to be playing at The Cameron House in August, I wasn’t sure if he was being serious or making a joke. turns out he was serious. Exclaim reports that the band will play a benefit double-header at the tiny Queen West venue on August 12 with proceeds from the early show going to Mindfulness Without Borders and the late show benefitting Hospice Toronto. Tickets are $20 and go on sale July 28 at the Cameron House – and maybe this time they’ll have copies of Savvy Show Stoppers to sell.

MP3: Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet – “13”

Boston post-rock veterans Caspian will be at The Horseshoe on September 10 in support of their new record Waking Season, out later this Fall. Tickets are $10.50 in advance.

Trailer: Caspian / Waking Season

With a new record in Nocturne out on August 28 and now more a proper band than a pseudonym for Jack Tatum’s solo project, Wild Nothing are teaming up with New York’s DIIV – themselves no strangers to the art of being buzzy – for a Fall tour that brings them to The Great Hall on September 18, tickets $15.50 in advance. Alibi talks to Wild Nothing’s Tatum while Spin talks favourite things with DIIV leader Zachary Cole Smith.

MP3: Wild Nothing – “Nowhere”
MP3: DIIV – “Sometime”

Leeds’ Alt-J will release their debut album An Awesome Wave Stateside on September 18 and as part of their Fall tour to support it, will be in town at Wrongbar on September 19; tickets are $13 in advance. Gigwise has an interview with the band.

MP3: Alt-J – “Tessalate”
MP3: Alt-J – “Matilda”

The Antlers are marking the release today of their new Undersea EP with the announcement of a show at The Great Hall on September 25, tickets $21.50 in advance. It’s almost certainly part of a full tour, but the rest of the dates are still forthcoming. While you wait, you can hear the whole mini-album on their Facebook for the price of a ‘like’.

MP3: The Antlers – “Drift Dive”
Stream: The Antlers / Undersea

Not that they should need any help selling out The Phoenix, but Crocodiles have been announced as support for The Afghan Whigs’ October 3 show at The Phoenix. Their Endless Flowers came out last month. Remaining tickets for the show are $35.

MP3: Crocodiles – “Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9)”

The powers that be won’t say what or when with regards to head New Pornographer Carl Newman putting his A.C. Newman solo cap back on, but they have confirmed a third solo record exists, will be out this Fall, and he’ll be touring in support. That kicks off October 21 at Lee’s Palace, tickets $16.50.

MP3: A.C. Newman – “Submarines Of Stockholm”

Josh Tillman must like life on the road – having just made his Father John Misty debut here back in May and returning in support of Youth Lagoon last week, he’s announced an extensive Fall tour what brings him back for the third show in five months, hitting Lee’s Palace on October 27 with La Sera opening up. Tickets are $14.50 in advance. There’s a Father John Misty interview and session at The Alternate Side and a short interview at Melbourne Times Weekly.

MP3: Father John Misty – “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”
MP3: La Sera – “Please Be My Third Eye”

Their support duties for Best Coast done with, Those Darlins are free to announce another return to town, hitting The Garrison on October 30, tickets $12.50 in advance. They’re featured in pieces at Miami New Times and The Augusta Chronicle.

MP3: Those Darlins – “Red Light Love”

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Kinds Of Light

It’s streaming day in Canada with new albums from Memoryhouse, The Wooden Sky, Trust and more

Photo By Vanessa HeinsVanessa HeinsIt’s gotten to the point where the Tuesday before an album is officially released is as much a day to look forward to as the day an album is actually released. That’s because it’s standard practice these days to make any record anyone might care to buy available to stream at least a week before its official street date – it theoretically helps offset downloads of leaks, gets the promo cycle revved up, all of that sort of thing. It’s a trend I’m fully in favour of.

And based on this, it would seem that there’s a lot of anticipated Can-con coming out next week, starting with The Slideshow Effect from Guelph-via-Toronto duo Memoryhouse. It may be just their first album, but it already sees them trying to expand their sound beyond the slow-motion dreampop that got them attention in the first place without diluting that appeal. Does it work? Let’s find out. The Quietus has a song-by-song annotation of the record from the band and 77 Square and DIY have interviews.

MP3: Memoryhouse – “Walk With Me”
MP3: Memoryhouse – “The Kids Were Wrong”
Stream: Memoryhouse / The Slideshow Effect

Further over in the electronic spectrum is another Toronto-born debut; TRST, the first record from Trust – it should hold much appeal for goths who still like to get their dance on. They have a record release show at Wrongbar on March 3. The Grid has an interview.

Video: Trust – “Bulbform”
Video: Trust – “Candy Walls”
Stream: Trust / TRST

The new Wooden Sky album Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun is also much anticipated by fans of the rootsier side of things, and it’s now up to stream at Paste. They play The Opera House on April 20.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Malibu Rum”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Child Of The Valley”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Angelina”
Stream: The Wooden Sky / Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun

And if you needed more evidence that Paste loves them some Canadian acts, they’ve also got the new Plants & Animals record The End Of That available to hear. They play Lee’s Palace on April 21.

MP3: Plants & Animals – “Song For Love”
MP3: Plants & Animals – “Lightshow”
Stream: Plants & Animals / The End Of That

You don’t have to wait until next week to get a hold of PS I Love You’s collection of Meet Me At The Muster Station radio session tracks – the Kingston duo are giving The Muster Sessions away via Facebook in exchange for an email address, and is streaming over at Exclaim if you’re the sort who wants to know what they’re getting for their email address before they hand it over. Their official second album Death Dreams is out May 8 and they’re at Lee’s Palace on March 23 for Canadian Musicfest.

Stream: PS I Love You / The Muster Sessions

Patrick Watson will bring their new record Adventures In Your Own Backyard to The Music Hall on May 29, tickets $29.50 and $24.50 in advance. The album is out April 30 and I’ve noticed in the SXSW schedule, they’re listed as “Patrick Watson & The Wooden Arms” – are they done with pretending “Patrick Watson” refers to the band and not just the man?

MP3: Patrick Watson – “Into Giants”

CBC Radio 3 chats with The Elwins, whose debut And We Thank You is officially out now. They have a release party for it at the Burroghes Building this Friday, February 24, and are also Rancho Relaxo on March 25 for Canadian Musicfest.

Nick Thorburn tells Exclaim that if you think the new Islands record is dark, you haven’t seen anything yet. They’re at The Music Gallery on February 28.

Billboard, Blurt, The Montreal Gazette, The Ottawa Citizen, and The Edmonton Journal have feature pieces on Grimes. She’s at The Horseshoe on March 19.

Exclaim reports that the next Black Mountain record will come in the form of a soundtrack for the surfer film Year Zero; it will be out on April 3 and the first track is available to download.

MP3: Black Mountain – “Mary Lou”

The Toronto Standard has a video session with Army Girls. Still waiting on the where and when of their Canadian Musicfest gig; it will be a highlight of the fest, guaranteed.

Jenn Grant gives CBC Radio 3 a look into her songwriting process.

Daytrotter has posted a session with Kathleen Edwards.

Watch this Evening Hymns performance from Belgium wherein they perform “Dead Deer” with a big-ass band. Majestic. Still waiting on Spectral Dusk details. And waiting.

Video: Evening Hymns – “Dead Deer” (live at Transmusicales de Rennes)

Syncopated Sound talks to Damian Abraham of Fucked Up.

The Old Ideas With New Friends Leonard Cohen cover series continues, with Exclaim hosting a clip of Nicole Atkins doing “Bird On A Wire” and Matablog offering up AC Newman covering “Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”.

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

"Take On Me"

A.C. Newman covers a-ha

Image via sheandhimfan.comsheandhimfan.comAs New Pornographers mastermind Carl Newman – operating under his solo guise of A.C. Newman – begins his contribution to last year’s Starbucks Valentine’s Day-themed Sweetheart covers compilation, you get the sense that maybe he’s taking the easy way out. The signature opening keyboard lines of a-ha’s “Take On Me” are represented by some background pads before Newman comes in on acoustic guitar, strumming and singing coffee house-style. Which would be fine, I suppose, as stripping down any ’80s synth-pop tune to six strings and voice would qualify as a reinvention.

When the chorus arrives, however, so to do the synths return with some reverb-laden strings in tow and they remain through the remainder of the song, adding a ghostly majesty to the proceedings and perhaps giving Newman the wherewithal to not only attempt but hit those signature Morten Harket high notes – Newman has many talents, but massive vocal range generally isn’t one of them so it’s quite a feat. And then the signature riff does arrive in the bridge, sounding Casio-powered and string-assisted, and with that checked off it’s just riding the chorus through to the end whilst letting the strings off the leash to up the grandeur.

And that, kids, is how you do a cover.

The New Pornographers’ Together is out this week and they play The Sound Academy on June 15. a-ha’s farewell world tour arrives at Massey Hall on May 10 and I am giving away tickets.

MP3: A.C. Newman – “Take On Me”
Video: a-ha – “Take On Me”

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Letters From A Voyage To Sweden

NYC Popfest with Cats On Fire, Liechtenstein, The Tartans and Don Lennon at Don Hill's in New York City

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt seems a bit ridiculous to say that I was in New York City on Friday night with nothing to do, but right up until the middle of last week, it looked like that was what it was going to be. Which isn’t to say I would have spent the evening watching television in my hotel room… but that was certainly not beyond the realm of possibility. I’d been considering hitting up the Friday night show of NYC Popfest, despite not knowing any of the acts on the bill, mainly because Don Hill’s was conveniently located just down Greenwich Ave from my hotel, but when the “special guest” was revealed to be The Radio Dept playing a second show in addition to the one I’d booked this whole trip to see, well that sealed it.

Doors for the show opened some 70 minutes later than scheduled, so there wasn’t hardly anyone inside when local solo act Don Lennon started the evening off. An acoustic singer-songwriter sort, Lennon’s songs were interesting, tuneful and topical and certainly clever, but not especially funny. Which isn’t to suggest that lyrical cleverness needs to be delivered with humour, but Lennon’s narratives seemed to be all set up and no punchline – or maybe he was just more deadpan than I was capable of appreciating.

Los Angelenos The Tartans required no such close examination to appreciate – they wore their influences and the sound on their cardigan sleeves. The five-piece band were like factory issue twee-pop with bouncy rhythms, boy-girl harmonies, instrument and lead vocal swapping and strategically-placed melodica, glockenspiel and handclaps… but while they certainly nailed the look, they only managed to graze the sound. Certainly, their tunes were peppy, sing-song friendly and melody-laden but the lacked the sort of personality that would have been necessary to really make an impression. On the plus side, they were still very much a new band and obviously talented – there’s no reason to think that with time, the substance and focus won’t come. But at the moment, they’re not there.

The Radio Dept, I will cover tomorrow along with their headlining performance at The Bell House in Brooklyn. Patience!

I wasn’t completely truthful when I said earlier that I knew nothing of the bands playing this show – I’d gotten a few mailings last week about Swedish trio Liechtenstein, so I had a notion of what to expect from them. Unfortunately, while the samples I’d been given held some promise, their live experience didn’t do much to deliver on that. With their ’50s-primitivist retro-pop sound, the best parallel I can draw is Vivian Girls, but while Liechtenstein are unquestionably better musicians and are arguably pursuing more interesting creative paths, they don’t make it sound especially catchy – and if you’re playing something called Popfest, you better have some hooks at the ready. Their new record Survival Strategies is out June 2.

I realize that I’ve sounded rather down on everything covered so far, but don’t interpret that as my having a bad time – none of it was by any means bad, simply unimpressive and when you’re facing a large bill with a lot of unknowns, you’re hoping at least one of them will turn out to be a genuinely pleasant surprise rather than just a way to pass the time. Final band Cats On Fire, over all the way from Finland, didn’t out and out wow me but they certainly managed to get me to overcome my disdain for their name and wrapped things up on a high note. Charming and upbeat and hailing from the Smiths school of pop, they didn’t necessarily do anything new – new isn’t really the motivating factor for a lot of indiepop – but they did it well and with vigor. Mattias Bjorkas was an animated and entertaining frontman, all archness and gyrations, delivering tunes from their newly-released album Our Temperance Movement amongst others. After a sweaty set they were called back for an encore and had the crowd properly worked up for the indie-pop dance party that followed. Me, I went back to the hotel and got some sleep.

Photos: Cats On Fire, Liechtenstein, The Radio Dept, The Tartans, Don Lennon @ Don Hill’s – May 15, 2009
MP3: Cats On Fire – “Horoscope”
MP3: Liechtenstein – “Roses In The Park”
MP3: The Tartans – “My Baby Doesn’t Care For You”
Video: Cats On Fire – “Tears In Your Cup”
Video: Liechtenstein – “Security By Design”
Video: Don Lennon – “Last Comic Standing”
Video: Don Lennon – “Where Is The New Adventure”
MySpace: Cats On Fire
MySpace: Liechtenstein
MySpace: The Tartans
MySpace: Don Lennon

The Yorkshire Evening Post interviews A Camp’s Nina Persson and Spin has a couple MP3s available to download – the new single and an acoustic version of a track from Colonia. A Camp play the Mod Club on June 1.

MP3: A Camp – “Love Has Left The Room”
MP3: A Camp – “I Signed The Line” (Harlem Session)

Denmark’s Mew manage to take the blue ribbon for most ridiculous album title of the year. No More Stories Are Told Today I’m Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories The World Is Grey I’m Tired Let’s Wash Away is out August 25.

Dazed Digital has the premiere of the new video from Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, out May 29, as well as an interview with Christian Mazzalai from the band. They’re at the Phoenix on June 15.

Video: Phoenix – “1901”

Dallas Morning News and Metromix talk to Annie Clark, aka St Vincent. She’s finally announced a Toronto date and will be at Lee’s Palace on August 8 – via For The Records.

Underworld are at the Kool Haus on August 11.

For a limited time – like the rest of today – NME is offering a couple downloads to mark the release of the new Manic Street Preachers album Journal For Plague Lovers. A remix by The Horrors, James Dean Bradfield’s favourite new band and one of many contributing to a forthcoming remix album of Plague Lovers, and a cover of The Horrors’ “Vision Blurred” from Primary Colours by the Manics.

MP3: Manic Street Preachers – “Doors Closing Slowly” (Horrors remix)
MP3: Manic Street Preachers – “Vision Blurred”

NPR welcomes AC Newman to the World Cafe for a session.

Telekinesis and An Horse are teaming up for a Summer tour that includes a June 10 stop at the Horseshoe. There’s new videos from both and an MP3 from the Aussies to whet your appetite for the gig.

MP3: An Horse – “Camp Out”
Video: Telekinesis – “Awkward Kisser”
Video: An Horse – “Camp Out”

The Washington Post interviews The Thermals.