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Posts Tagged ‘Alela Diane’

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

NXNE 2011 Day Three

Dum Dum Girls, Diamond Rings, Stars and more at NXNE

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOne crucial way that NXNE has become more like its bigger, cooler acronym-a-like cousin SXSW is the increase of day shows to go along with the official evening showcases. Of course, I didn’t actually go to any of these new daytime events – the only afternoon party I hit up was one that had been happening for the last few years, the Kelp Records BBQ at the Global Village hostel, this year co-presented by the Brits at The Line Of Best Fit. After all – they had free food, cheap drinks and a solid lineup of bands. What else does a body need?

And as a bonus, I was able to catch a couple bands that otherwise would have required more hopping around in the night time. First up were The Elwins, an almost distressingly young outfit from the suburban wilds north of Toronto. Distressing because for all their fresh-faced earnestness, they possessed a polished and sophisticated pop sensibility that artists many years their elder would be envious of (and they just generally made me feel old). Hearing the amount of detail and ingenuity that had gone into their songs, you’d be tempted to think there was some pop genius sven gali behind them but I suspect that it’s all them and that’s remarkable. Their debut album And I Thank You is finished but, I believe, looking for a home. It deserves one.

BlogTO chatted with the band pre-fest. They play the Silver Dollar on July 21.

Photos: The Elwins @ Global Village – June 17, 2011
MP3: The Elwins – “Time To Kill Time”

I’d seen Saskatchewan’s Slow Down, Molasses and heard their debut I’m An Old Believer back in Fall 2009 and filed them into the ever-growing “has great potential, not there yet” file in my mind. With the release of their second album Walk Into The Sea, I was happy to move them up into the far more spacious “definitely getting there” section of my grey matter. It’s still unquestionably roots rock at its core but the band are able to take it into less-travelled territory, getting noisier where necessary but remaining heartfelt and melodic. And when you’re able to go from twang to a My Bloody Valentine cover and do it well, as this six-piece did whilst crammed into the tiny stage area set up on the hostel’s patio, then you’re onto something.

Photos: Slow Down, Molasses @ Global Village – June 17, 2011
MP3: Slow Down, Molasses – “Late Night Radio”
MP3: Slow Down, Molasses – “I’m An Old Believer”

From the laid back patio shows, things went to the mainstage at Yonge-Dundas for what became a sort of Polaris Prize sampler, with all three acts having been named to the long list the day before. Leading off was Diamond Rings, whom in my mind I’d seen a million times but in fact had not since SXSW 2010 – well over a year. And while there’s only so many changes a solo act can make to their stage show, there were a few notable changes. While it was still just John O’Regan, his keyboard and his guitar, the unicorn tapestry which used to grace his front of the former had been traded in for a more professional “Diamond Rings” banner and oh yeah, he was playing in front of thousands of people. The relentless touring and becoming BFFs with Robyn has clearly paid off because the response that Diamond Rings was getting from the decidedly younger-skewing audience was entering teen idol territory. And unsurprisingly, the show was more polished than I’d ever seen it, incorporating bigger beats, some sweet dance sequences and just generally more crowd-pleasing. I’d always thought there was a limit to how much O’Regan could do with the Diamond Rings persona, but maybe I was wrong.

Diamond Rings has just announced a tour with Twin Shadow, that includes a date at The Mod Club on October 3, tickets $15 in advance.

Photos: Diamond Rings @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 17, 2011
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Wait And See”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Show Me Your Stuff”
Video: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Wait & See”

Land Of Talk and I got our start at this very festival five years ago and while it’s only two and a half kilometers or so from The Boat in Kensington to Yonge-Dundas Square, the figurative distance covered by the band in that time is far greater. Long-gone is the scrappy power trio that wowed me so long ago, replaced by a five-piece band – six if you count Gentleman Reg in his Light Fires guise of “Regina Gentlelady” on backing vox for a few songs – and including Snailhouse’s Mike Feuerstack on guitar; certainly not the same players as last September at Lee’s. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to remember the last time I saw Land Of Talk with the same lineup twice in a row – the only constant being frontwoman Liz Powell. In any case, this was easily the largest setting I’d seen the band in and it was satisfying to see just how well their tense and yearning songs were able to scale up in presentation, helped no doubt by the three-guitar attack. It wasn’t their tightest show, but even so there was plenty of impact to be felt.

Photos: Land Of Talk @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 17, 2011
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Swift Coin”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “May You Never”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Corner Phone”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
Video: Land Of Talk – “It’s Okay”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Troubled”
Video: Land Of Talk – “The Man Who Breaks Things (Dark Shuffle)”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”

Stars had graduated to playing this size of show for a while now, so it wasn’t surprising that their show was tight and polished, not unlike their music itself. Stars have hit on a winning formula in crafting their romantic, synth-tinged pop and while it can get a bit samey over the big picture, on a song by song basis, it’s hard to argue with their effectiveness – songs like “Ageless Beauty”, “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” and “Reunion” are pretty much post-millenial Can-rock classics, and for good reason. The thousands packing the square were certainly happy to eat it all up as well, from the tossing of roses into the crowd to Torquil Campbell playing up the Montreal-based band’s Toronto roots. For a free fan- and family-friendly show on a warm Summer’s evening, you couldn’t really ask for anything more.

Spinner has an interview with Torq Campbell.

Photos: Stars @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 17, 2011
MP3: Stars – “Going, Going, Gone”
MP3: Stars – “Fixed”
MP3: Stars – “We Don’t Want Your Body”
MP3: Stars – “The Night Starts Here”
MP3: Stars – “Ageless Beauty”
MP3: Stars – “On Peak Hill”
Video: Stars – “We Don’t Want Your Body”
Video: Stars – “Fixed”
Video: Stars – “The Night Starts Here”
Video: Stars – “Take Me To The Riot”
Video: Stars – “Reunion”
Video: Stars – “Ageless Beauty”
Video: Stars – “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”
Video: Stars – “Elevator Love Letter”

Done with the big stage for the evening, it was off to hit the clubs starting with Rancho Relaxo. There it was Volcano Playground, who impressed with their potential at the Wintergaze show back in December; I was quite interested to see how much further they’d come in the past six months. The answer: some ways. There was a lot of instrument swapping but the transitions were smoother than last time and didn’t disrupt the flow of hte show. Opening with a moody drone, they played a shortish set of spacey pop that didn’t sound distracted, kept moving by a heavy rhythmic element. At their best, they sounded reminiscent of Slowdive if they’d mixed the ideas of Pygmalion and Souvlaki and gotten a lot heavier, and when not at their best the potential of what they might do was still evident. I’m happy to keep them on my, “keep a solid eye on” list.

Their next show is July 10 at The Garrison.

Photos: Volcano Playground @ Rancho Relaxo – June 17, 2011
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Waiting”
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Anywhere”

At this point, my original plan had been to call it an early night for lack of anything I particularly wanted to see in the immediate area I was in. But when the Twitters brought word that one of the secret guest slots which peppered the schedule was going to be filled by the Dum Dum Girls, whom I’d resigned myself to missing, and that said show was happening across the street from where I was – albeit two hours hence – I had to stick it out. And sit through Rusty. OK, I suppose I could have just sat outside on the curb for a couple hours, read a magazine, but instead I opted to take in a ’90s Can-rock reunion that god knows I never asked for. If it’s not clear, I’d never been a fan of the band when they were MuchMusic/CFNY staples but clearly many others were, because the ElMo was packed with thirtysomething bro-types who were stoked – the only word to describe it – for their heroes’ return. And to be fair, they sounded pretty good considering that none of them (I think) carried on in music in any meaningful way after their dissolution over a decade ago. Though shorn of his signature dreadlocks, Ken MacNeil was still in pretty good voice (or as good as his raspy style required) and they collectively were pretty tight – a benefit, I suppose, of not having especially complex material to relearn. But they showed a good sense of humour about their age and the reunion and seemed genuinely grateful that their fans were still there.

Photos: Rusty @ The El Mocambo – June 17, 2011
Video: Rusty – “Empty Cell”

“Are you ready for us?” Dee-Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls was talking to the sound guy, but could easily have been addressing the couple hundred or so who’d stayed up till 2AM to see them play a second set of the night, following their sold-out appearance at Lee’s Palace earlier on. Cramming a busload of tunes into a half hour set, Dum Dum Girls proved why they were a cut above the other bands currently riding the girl-group/garage-pop wave – besides the most impeccable stage outfits, impressive musicianship and an innate coolness that just can’t be faked, they’ve got terrific songs that would be standouts in any production aesthetic. And they’ve got great friends, as proven when Crocodiles, fronted by Dee-Dee’s husband Brandon Welchez, popped by following their own set at the Silver Dollar across the street and offered both a 40 of whiskey and their services as backing dancers for their last song. Totally worth staying up for.

Photos: Dum Dum Girls @ The El Mocambo – June 17, 2011
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “He Gets Me High”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “D.A.L.”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “He Gets Me High”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”

Spinner talks to Nicole Atkins about her latest video, which they’re also conveniently premiering. Brightest Young Things also has an interview while The Herald-Citizen talks to her about her Bonnaroo experience.

Video: Nicole Atkins – “My Baby Don’t Lie”

Similarly, Spinner has the new video from and a conversation with Alela Diane, who will be at Massey Hall on July 14 opening for Fleet Foxes.

Video: Alela Diane – “Desire”

NPR coaxes The Decemberists behind a Tiny Desk and gets them to put on a show. They’re persuasive like that.

The National Post, The Globe & Mail and NPR have interviews with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, in town at the Sound Academy on August 8.

Each Note Secure talks to Daniel Kessler of Interpol. They’re at the Rogers Centre opening for U2 on July 11.

Rolling Stone finds out what’s next for The Strokes from Nikolai Fraiture and Albert Hammond Jr; a new record and probably some North American dates in the Fall once the European festival season is done.

PopMatters talks to Erika Anderson of EMA, in town at The Garrison on July 23.

Those suffering from Grizzly Bear withdrawal will be pleased to know that bassist Chris Taylor has struck out on his own under the guise of CANT and will not only be releasing his debut album Dreams Come True on September 13 – details at Exclaim – and be taking it on the road. Full dates still to come but Toronto gets a taste on October 21 at The Garrison, tickets $14.

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Strange Mercy

Want new records from St. Vincent, Beirut and The Jayhawks? Of course you do

Photo By Tina TyrellTina TyrellSummer’s only just arrived – climatologically speaking, at least, druidically speaking the solstice isn’t for another fortnight – but already the music industry has us looking towards Fall, at least as far as new albums are concerned. Which is fine, at least insofar as that’s typically the season for the year’s biggest releases and while “big” is a relative measure, details on a few records I’m looking forward to hearing have come to light over the last few days.

For starters, Annie Clark – aka St. Vincent – has wrapped up her third record, the follow-up to 2009’s Actor, and given it the title of Strange Mercy. At this point details are lean – Exclaim has recapped all the salient points from the press release – but it’s coming out on September 13. Mark it down.

Backing up a couple weeks to August 30 and giving some context to their two shows at The Phoenix on August 2 and 4 is the new album from Beirut. The Rip Tide will be the band’s first full-length release in four years, following The Flying Club Cup, and while you peruse the album details and track list at The Sentimentalist, you can hear the first single from the record at Soundcloud.

Jumping ahead again, we’ve got the first proper post-reunion album from The Jayhawks, which will be called Mockingbird Time and be out on September 20. Rolling Stone has the tracklisting and a video interview with the band wherein they talk about making the first new recordings with the present lineup in over 15 years.

Not quite of the same stature as the other announcements but still of interest to me, at least, is the fact that Bloomington, Indiana’s Early Day Miners have decided that acronyms are the way to go and have renamed themselves EDM. They will release their first album under that name come July 5 with Night People.

MP3: EDM – “StereoVideo”

And because new is not always better, it’s exciting to hear that the entire Archers Of Loaf catalog will be getting reissued courtesy of Merge, complete with bonus goodies, starting with Icky Mettle on August 2. Similar treatments for Vee Vee, All the Nation’s Airports and White Trash Heroes will follow in 2012, hopefully with more tour dates – none of the announced reunion shows so far come anywhere near the 416. But we do get a Crooked Fingers gig at the Horseshoe on July 3 and NPR is streaming their set at Sasquatch last weekend.

MP3: Archers Of Loaf – “What Did You Expect”

And some show news – Cults are clearly looking to maximize their NXNE experience, adding an in-store at Kops on Queen St for June 17 at 8PM to go with their midnight show at Lee’s Palace that same evening and their 6PM time slot at Yonge-Dundas Square the next day. Their self-titled debut is streaming in whole at Spinner and there’s interviews with the band at Exclaim, Spinner, Stereoboard and The Australian and oh, there’s a new video.

MP3: Cults – “Go Outside”
Video: Cults – “Abducted”
Stream: Cults / Cults

Ours are apparently still around and have a show at Wrongbar on June 20, tickets $10 in advance.

Video: Ours – “Realize”

New Jersey’s Real Estate have a date at The Garrison for July 19, tickets $18.50. A follow-up to 2009’s self-titled debut should be due soon. Ish. Though it’s just been announced that said record will be out on Domino in October. So there’s that.

MP3: Real Estate – “Beach Comber”
MP3: Real Estate – “Green River”

DNTEL – aka Jimmy Tamborello, aka the half of The Postal Service who is not married to Zooey Deschanel – will be taking his show on the road in support of last year’s After Parties 1 and After Parties 2 EPs with a show at The Horseshoe on August 14, tickets $11.50.

MP3: DNTEL – “The Distance”
MP3: DNTEL – “Dumb Luck”

Kyuss Lives! – whom I’ve learned are not actually Kyuss, what with the absence of Josh Homme, but are close enough for Kyuss fans to get excited about – have a date at the Sound Academy on September 16, tickets $29.50 for general admission, $50.00 for balcony.

Video: Kyuss – “Demon Cleaner”

I thought I’d be waiting ages for Baltimore’s Lower Dens to come to town, and lo and behold – three shows in just over a month. In addition to their two NXNE appearances (The Garrison on June 15 at 10PM and Lee’s Palace on June 16 at 1AM), they’ll be here on July 23 at The Rivoli as support for Cass McCombs.

MP3: Lower Dens – “Hospice Gates”

Battles return to town on October 4 for a show at The Phoenix, tickets $18.50 in advance. Their new album Gloss Drop is streaming now at Spinner, who have also posted an Interface session with the band as well as an interview. Clash also has a feature piece.

Video: Battles – “Ice Cream”
Stream: Battles / Gloss Drop

Spin gets Okkervil River frontman Will Sheff and Steve Earle to play a couple of their own songs on camera. New York Magazine, City Pages and amNY also have features on Okkervil River, who are at The Phoenix on Friday night. Earle plays The Molson Amphitheatre on August 20.

Uprooted Music Revue and The Georgia Straight have features on Alela Diane, in town at The Rivoli on June 11.

Beatroute talks to Kristen Reynolds of Dum Dum Girls, who are at Lee’s Palace on June 17 for NXNE.

Esquire, The Vancouver Sun and The Wall Street Journal talk to My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James. My Morning Jacket are at The Kool Haus on July 11.

The Line Of Best Fit, Los Angeles Times, Contact Music and The Quietus get to know Erika Anderson, aka EMA. She’s at The Garrison on July 23.

Exclaim, The Daily Sundial, San Jose Mercury News and Filter have feature interviews with Death Cab For Cutie. They play The Molson Amphitheatre on July 29.

The New York Times profiles Bon Iver – the man, the band, the myth. The album of the same name is out on June 21 and they play The Sound Academy on August 8.

The Rosebuds, who open up that show and the whole tour for Bon Iver, are featured in pieces at Spin and Interview. Their new record Loud Planes Fly Low came out this week.

Matablog is offering the first listen to a song from Stephen Malkmus’ new album Mirror Traffic, set for an August 23 release.

MP3: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – “Senator”

Daytrotter serves up a session with J Mascis.

PopMatters talks to Sharon Van Etten.

Hitfix interviews Travis Morrison of The Dismemberment Plan.

John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats chats with Drop D and his band stopped in at The AV Club Undercover to turn in a Jawbreaker cover.

NPR has posted a World Cafe session with Warpaint.

The Star-Tribune talks to Sam Beam of Iron & Wine.

The Quietus gets some time with The Kills’ Jamie Hince.

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Good Fortune

Weeping Tile celebrate celebration of ’90s CanRock

Photo By Graham KennedyGraham KennedyCanadian music circa 2011 is doing pretty great; more plentiful, creative and respected at home and abroad than ever before. No doubt sometime in the not too distant future, someone will write a book about this 21st century musical renaissance that (mostly) put an end to having Bryan Adams and Celine Dion as our national ambassadors of song.

But this golden age didn’t just happen, and the crucial decade that laid the foundation for today was documented by local scribes Michael Barclay, Jason Schneider and Ian AD Jack in the 2001 book Have Not Been The Same: The CanRock Renaissance 1985-1995, which documented the rise of Canadian music as it emerged from local scenes, college campuses and the underground in general to produce acts who are institutions today and inspired countless others to follow, such as Blue Rodeo, Sloan and The Tragically Hip and a slew of others familiar to me from my time as a university newspaper music writer and general nascent music obsessive.

I can’t actually go into detail about the book because, well, I haven’t read it. Originally released in 2001, it has been out of print for over half a decade (though yes the Toronto library has copies, shush now) but that unfortunate status is being rectified, just in time for the volume’s tenth anniversary. An expanded and updated second edition will be released on July 1 and if that’s not cause for celebration, then I don’t know what is. Okay, maybe Canada’s 144th birthday. But I digress.

A proper celebration of the occasion will be happening on June 10 at Lee’s Palace, and feature a terrific, period-correct bill. It’s led by the Cold Snap-era Weeping Tile, the Sarah Harmer-led outfit who occasionally break hiatus for special occasions like this, Wolfe Island 2007 or whenever Harmer feels like putting the folk-pop aside to make a righteous racket. Joining them are Guelph’s recently reunited jazz-rock heroes King Cobb Steelie and Kevin Kane, co-leader of Vancouver’s also recently-reunited Grapes Of Wrath and though he’ll be here with his solo career band, I’ll bet you can expect to hear some GOW tunes in the set.

The concert/book release announcement at Barclay’s Radio Free Canuckistan says that ticket information is still forthcoming but proceeds will be donated to Centre For Addiction & Mental Health. Read the book, see the show, support a worthy cause, bask in it all.

MP3: Weeping Tile – “Good Fortune”
Video: King Cobb Steelie – “Rational”
Video: Kevin Kane – “All The Things I Wasn’t” (live)

Ron Hawkins, whose Lowest Of The Low were possibly/probably the most important band for me in the era covered by Have Not Been The Same, will play an in-store at Sonic Boom on May 28 at 3PM to promote his new solo record Straitjacket Love. He’s also got two solo shows at Graffiti’s in Kensington on May 26 and 27 and a full-band residency at The Drake on June 22, 29, July 6 and 13. The Low are at Massey Hall on May 7.

NOW and The National Post chat with The Rural Alberta Advantage in advance of tonight’s show at The Phoenix. NOW have also got another Southern Souls-shot video with the band, this one a performance of “Barnes’ Yard”.

The Toronto Star and Toronto Standard talk to Malajube, in town for a show at The Horseshoe on Saturday night, April 30.

DIY welcomes Timber Timbre to the UK with an interview.

Dan Mangan gives Exclaim a sneak preview of his new record, which may be called Oh, Fortune and will likely be out come September. hour also has a chat.

NOW welcomes The Kills to Toronto, where they’ll play The Sound Academy on May 1.

Denver Westword has an in-depth conversation with John Vanderslice, who has a date at The Drake Underground on May 10.

Jason Isbell has conversations with Prefix and The Patriot-Ledger. He and The 400 Unit play The Horseshoe on May 22.

The Bay Bridged is sharing MP3s from a session with Thao & Mirah, who bring their Thao & Mirah collaboration to Lee’s Palace on June 5. Oregon Music News and LA Weekly talk to the pair about working together, and yes – that is a Pat Benatar cover.

MP3: Thao & Mirah – “Folks” (live)
MP3: Thao & Mirah – “Love Is A Battlefield” (live)

Paste catches up with Alela Diane, who brings her new record Alela Diane and Wild Divine to The Rivolli on June 11.

Titus Andronicus’ new Garden State-tripping, New Jersey-celebrating video from The Monitor – almost enough to make you not make a beeline for Penn Station as soon as you land in Newark. Almost. AM New York has an interview with the band, who are in town at The Phoenix on June 10 opening for Okkervil River.

Video: Titus Andronicus – “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future”

Spinner sits down with David Lovering and Joey Santiago of Pixies while The Montreal Gazette talks to Santiago alone.

Toro and The Seattle Times talk to members of The Head & The Heart.

Spinner has a feature piece on Explosions In The Sky.

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven

Godspeed You! Black Emperor and The Sadies at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangRelative to most of the people seeing any part of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s three-day, four-show residency at Lee’s Palace this past weekend, for which I hit up the Saturday night performance, I didn’t want to be there at all. I did, of course, but that was nothing compared to the anticipation so many had for the Montreal post-rock forebears’ first shows here in eight years, part of their surprise return to active duty – touring, at least – announced last Spring.

I just missed out on Godspeed the first time around – either being aware of them but not getting around to listening or listening but not getting around to getting, I’m not sure – but have spent the better part of the past decade getting acquainted both with their works and their ideological and musical mythology. Much of the latter, at least locally, centered around their legendary shows at the Palais Royale in the Fall of 2001 and the Spring of 2003 so the opportunity to witness them for myself – even if not on the edge of Lake Ontario – wasn’t to be missed and would hopefully be at least a fraction as unforgettable as those performances were purported to be. Dispatches from Friday night’s show certainly implied they would be.

One thing that was certain was that I picked the right show with regards to opening acts, at least. I didn’t know who either of the other two support acts were but I was pretty certain that The Sadies were better. And that’s because The Sadies are pretty much the best, be it headlining, opening, ordering tacos, whatever. And while it could be argued that their psych-country was a bit of an odd fit for Godspeed’s widescreen sonic apocalypses, doing so would be to ignore the dark and dusty gothic undercurrent that inhabits much of their work and also the fact that The Sadies are simply awesome. Given 45 minutes and a tiny portion of the stage with which to work, they powered through a set that was basically a Sadies 101, showcasing their songwriting and musical virtuosity and on-stage tricks, like the Good brother guitar neck-swapping of “Tiger Tiger”, which Dallas still managed even though he spent the rest of the set on a stool, still hobbled by the leg broken back in February. And all except for the guy standing beside me who couldn’t have looked more unimpressed – he had his Godspeed goggles on – I’d like to think they went over well.

I’d been tipped in advance of a few things with regards to the Godspeed live experience: That it would run two and a half hours, that photographically speaking house left was the better side to camp out on, that there would be no interaction between the band and the audience, with the band set up in a semi-circle and more intent on communicating with each other than those there to see them. And oh yeah, it would be incredible. I’ll be honest – as much as I wanted it to be a great show, I also hoped to somehow dispel some of the hyperbole that had enveloped the band in their time away by seeing and hearing it with my own earballs. And instead, I fear I may only be contributing to it.

The show-opening “Hope Drone” ceremony, wherein each band member entered the stage one at a time and began contributing to the din, wasn’t nearly as formal as I’d expected. It actually emerged out of sound check, perhaps at the expense of some of the drama, and the audience didn’t stop chattering until about halfway through when they finally turned on the film projectors. With the band arranged around the perimeter of the stage and three guitarists seated and hunched over, it was these projections of birds, glyphs, maps and a scrawled word “hope” which provided most of the evening’s illumination and visual interest – at least if you kept your eyes open. Eyes closed, you would be faced with whatever terrifying and beautiful imagery their music made your mind create.

The show drew heavily from the band’s masterwork, 2000’s Life Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, adding unreleased live staple “Albania” and one composition from F#A#∞ before closing with both sides of their Slow Riot For A New Zerø Kanada EP, but the specifics of what were played were really less important than the epic whole they created. And here’s where the hyperbole comes in. There was something unbelievably primal and elemental about what Godspeed You! Black Emperor create; like a force of nature if nature were sentient and pissed off. They moved slowly and inexorably, with massive weight and delicate grace and meant to be simultaneously marvelled at, feared and celebrated. The sound was deafening while perfectly clear, brutally beautiful and hitting with the impact of unchecked emotion made sound. I don’t doubt that the marathon-length shows are intended to add a dimension of actual physical exhaustion to the experience – are your knees buckling because you’re tired or because the existential momentousness of it all is too much to bear? Probably the former, but you can’t be sure.

But for those who endured and persevered through the entire show, who watched each member depart as they entered as “BBF3” was deconstructed, there was a very real sense of catharsis and transcendence – words far overused in music writing but wholly appropriate here – from the experience. Maybe it was because witnessing the performance had subtly changed everyone. Maybe it was just relief that they could finally get away from the pile of throw-up that someone left near the front of the stage during the second song. But either way, it was one to remember.

The National Post has a review of Friday night’s show; most notes are applicable to Saturday’s.

Photos: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Sadies @ Lee’s Palace – April 23, 2011
MP3: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven”
MP3: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “The Buildings They Are Sleeping Now”
MP3: The Sadies – “Another Year Again”
MP3: The Sadies – “Anna Leigh”
Video: The Sadies – “Another Day Again”
Video: The Sadies – “Cut Corners”
Video: The Sadies – “Postcards”
Video: The Sadies – “The Horseshoe”
Video: The Sadies – “Flash”

Billboard profiles Explosions In The Sky, whose new record Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is out tomorrow.

Shearwater performed the whole of their last three albums – those dubbed The Island Arc – in a special hometown show in Austin earlier this year, and now a live album has been assembled, available to stream or digitally purchase at the band’s Bandcamp. The trilogy of Palo Santo, Rook and The Golden Archipelago is also notable as it represents the band’s entire tenure on Matador; they just announced that they’ve signed to Sub Pop for their next record, due out in 2012.

Drowned In Sound and The Line Of Best Fit and Billboard have features on Okkervil River, whose new record I Am Very Far will arrive on May 10. They play The Phoenix on June 10.

Also out May 10 is The Antlers’ new record Burst Apart, which is streaming in whole at NPR. They are at The Mod Club on June 14.

Stream: The Antlers / Burst Apart

Arriving in town a day before their sold-out show at The Mod Club, Battles will play an in-store at Sonic Boom on April 28 at 7PM, admission free with suggested donation of a canned food good. Their new record Gloss Drop is out June 7 and Drowned In Sound has an interview with the band.

Video: Battles – “Tonto”

Both Junior Boys and Miracle Fortress have new albums at the ready – the former with It’s All True due June 14 and the latter with tomorrow’s Was I The Wave? – so it makes perfect sense that they’d team up for a Summer tour that kicks off at The Phoenix on June 9. North America, dancing shoes at the ready.

MP3: Junior Boys – “In The Morning”
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Raw Spectacle”

Alela Diane released her second album Alela Diane and Wild Divine at the start of the month and has now released her touring itinerary for the Summer; look for her on June 11 at The Rivoli on Toronto.

MP3: Alela Diane – “To Begin”

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

It Happened Today

R.E.M. return (to form, to past, with new record, whatever)

Photo By Anton CorbijnAnton CorbijnR.E.M.’s new album Collapse Into Now is finally out today, and the talking points around it say that it’s their best record since Bill Berry left the band, their best in a decade and a half, their best in five efforts (not counting live records), whatever. All of which, incidentally, was said about their last record Accelerate, and all of which was true in that case and is true in this case.

But while Accelerate probably tried a bit too hard to reestablish the band’s rock credentials, Collapse feels much more natural and relaxed and has a real vintage R.E.M. air about it. Sporting a good balance of rockers, ballads and more experimental compositions, it feels like they’re pushing out creatively because they’re curious and want to, and not because they feel like they should, and it just so happens that the results sound pretty familiar. While song for song, there probably aren’t any future classics in here, it’s as lively, melodic and interesting a record as they’ve made in ages and confirms that not only are they still creatively vital, but they’re legitimately into a new fertile period. And that, I will happily take.

Matthew Fluxblog ranked R.E.M.’s entire catalog from best to worst for Nerve. The Guardian and Dazed have interviews with Michael Stipe, while The Wall Street Journal talks to Mike Mills and Beatweek to Peter Buck. The New York Times also talks to Stipe about the Collapse Into Now Film Project, wherein a different director will create a video for each of the twelve tracks from the album. Three of them are already out:

Video: R.E.M. – “Mine Smell Like Honey”
Video: R.E.M. – “Überin”
Video: R.E.M. – “It Happened Today”

Pitchfork has the latest edition of “What Kind Of Whacked Out Shit Are The Flaming Lips Up To Now” – and in this month’s edition, edible life-sized gummy heads with three new songs embedded inside.

Magnet has a Q&A with Buffalo Tom, which can only mean that the Bostonians are taking over the editorial chair for the next week. The Boston Herald and Writers On Process also have interviews with the band, whose new record Skins is out today.

Crawdaddy offers a beginner’s guide to The Mountain Goats. Their new record All Eternals Deck is out March 29, they play The Opera House on April 3.

Dismemberment Plan frontman Travis Morrison discusses reissues and reunions with Glide while guitarist Eric Axelson chats with This Is Fake DIY.

Spinner interviews Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. They play The Sound Academy this coming Sunday, March 13.

The Quietus talks to Doug Martsch of Built To Spill.

Spinner talks to John Vanderslice, who will be at the Drake Underground on May 10.

The National Post, Georgia Straight and American Songwriter have feature pieces on DeVotchKa, who play The Mod Club on March 30.

Pitchfork interviews The Strokes. Their new record Angles is out March 22.

NPR is streaming a World Cafe session with Iron & Wine.

Spinner has an interview with Asobi Seksu’s James Hanna.

The first MP3 from Alela Diane’s new record Alela Diane & Wild Divine is now available to download. The record comes out April 5.

MP3: Alela Diane – “To Begin”

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s Kip Berman talks to Spinner about their new record Belong, due out March 29.

The Head & The Heart have released a video from their self-titled debut, coming out in physical form on April 16.

Video: The Head & The Heart – “Lost In My Mind”

Los Angeles’ Foster The People have made a date at Lee’s Palace on April 3, accompanied by Grouplove. Spinner interviews the band, whose album Torches will be released May 24.

MP3: Foster The People – “Pumped Up Kicks”
Video: Grouplove – “Colors”

And if you missed the morning updates to yesterday’s Brit-centric post, there were a couple of major show announcements to start the day. First, Arctic Monkeys will be at the Kool Haus on May 21 and secondly, Beady Eye will make their Canadian debut at the Sound Academy on June 20. Exclaim and Billboard also just posted interviews with the latter’s Liam Gallagher and The AV Club one with Gallagher and Gem Archer.

MP3: Beady Eye – “The Roller”
Video: Arctic Monkeys – “Brick By Brick”

NPR is streaming the whole of The Joy Formidable’s debut The Big Roar in advance of next week’s release. They play The Horseshoe on April 2.

Stream: The Joy Formidable / The Big Roar

Spinner has an interview with Yuck. They are at The Phoenix on May 1.

Drowned In Sound talks to Reuben Wu of Ladytron. Their Best of Ladytron: 00-10 is out March 29.