Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘Always’

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Taking My Time

Jim Guthrie Takes his Time making it onto the 2013 Polaris Prize long list

Photo By Colin MedleyColin MedleyThe 2013 Polaris Prize long list was announced yesterday, and unlike past years where there were a number of obvious frontrunners for inclusion, whether because they were by the biggest artists or had the biggest buzz over the preceding twelve months, there actually didn’t seem to be a lot of “gimmes” amongst the records eligible this year. Rather than the field having a few standouts and a lot of dark horses, it instead felt very wide and flat, which meant that guessing who’d be amongst the forty longlisted records was anyone’s guess.

And now, even with the pool of candidates narrowed from every Canadian album released in the past year down to forty, it’s difficult to speculate at who will survive onto the short list of ten albums when it’s announced on July 16; the only thing that’s certain is that this year’s Polaris – the eighth – could be the most exciting one yet, at least if you’re the sort of person who derives excitement from music awards-spotting. I’m going to refrain from any sort of guessing until at least then because truly I have no idea what the temperature of the jury at large is. But I can tell you what my ballot was, besides four-for-five at making the long list. And so I’ve got one more longlisted album to insert into my ballot before my Polaris duties for this year are done, and to be honest I have no idea what it’s going to be. Guess I’ve got some more homework to do.

The Polaris Prize will be awarded at a gala at the Carlu in Toronto on September 23.

1) Evening Hymns / Spectral Dusk (Shuffling Feet)

My connection to this record is well-documented, but even without that personal angle, it’s still a gorgeously written, performed, and recorded piece of folk-rock that succeeds at being both intensely personal, and yet universally relatable. I can usually say that from one Polaris to the next, that I don’t really have a dog in the fight, but not this year. This is my dog.

MP3: Evening Hymns – “Arrows”
Video: Evening Hymns – “Family Tree”

2) Godspeed You! Black Emperor / ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (Constellation)

Despite being the act that least likely to even acknowledge being nominated, Godspeed’s unexpected comeback record was maybe the closest thing to a sure thing I could think of. Besides the engaging narrative around the band’s return to active duty and their sneak release of the album, there’s the simple fact that the Godspeed formula still works amazingly well, particularly when they’ve got something to be angry about. Which they do.

Stream: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Mladic”

Jim Guthrie / Takes Time (Static Clang)

Another unexpected record but a wholly welcome one was Jim Guthrie’s first proper singer-songwriter record in a decade, and one that affirmed his status as one of this country’s greatest melodicists. While it seems like just a collection of pop songs, pretty much every song is a master class in arrangement and songwriting efficiency; Guthrie knows exactly how much to give and when and makes it look and sound effortless. Whether it shortlists or wins or not, the best prize would be not having to wait another ten years for its follow-up. The Huffington Post has an interview with Guthrie about the record.

Video: Jim Guthrie – “Bring On The Night”
Video: Jim Guthrie – “The Rest Is Yet To Come”

Rachel Zeffira / The Deserters (Paper Bag)

My one selection that didn’t make the long list, and I’m not really surprised it didn’t. While I think its classical-operatic-indie hybrid is as good as anything else on the list, and arguably more interesting, London-based Zeffira’s distance from the Canadian scene at large and lack of wide promotion – one lightly-attended North American show to date – probably doomed it.

Video: Rachel Zeffira – “Here On In”
Video: Rachel Zeffira – “The Deserters”

Young Galaxy / Ultramarine (Paper Bag)

It may have been the last record to make my ballot, but the fact that it’s here at all considering that for the longest time, I had no time for Young Galaxy, says a lot. I often bemoan the general lack of stylistic or artistic revolution amongst Canadian bands – more often it seems they prefer to continue refining what’s been proven to work – but Young Galaxy have successfully reinvented themselves and that impresses me. The record’s pretty damn good as well. They’ve just released a new, Bruckheimer-esque video from it.

Video: Young Galaxy – “New Summer”
Video: Young Galaxy – “Pretty Boy”

NOW meets the band formerly known as Always but now know as Alvvays; they show off their new official name tonight, June 14, at 10PM at The Silver Dollar.

Toro gets to know Toronto country-pop newcomers Beams. Their NXNE showcase is at 11PM tonight, June 14, at The Central.

Spin talks to Devon Welsh of Majical Cloudz. They play BLK BOX for NXNE on June 15 at midnight.

The National Post catches up with Gentleman Reg, who did his NXNE duties Wednesday night.

YOUNXT hada pre-NXNE interview with Olenka & The Autumn Lovers, who played a couple of shows yesterday.

aux.tv interviews No Joy, who played NXNE last night.

Exclaim talks to Katie Stelmanis of Austra, whose new record Olympia comes out June 18. They play The Phoenix on September 27.

Hooded Fang have released a new video from their latest, Gravez.

Video: Hooded Fang – “Bye Bye Land”

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Walking On The Streets

Live every day of NXNE like it’s Beach Day

Photo By Scott WitterScott WitterOh hey, it’s that time of year again where I realize it’s NXNE week and I try to throw together some sort of list of recommendations of acts to go see starting next Wednesday and through the weekend at Toronto’s many clubs and club-like venues. And probably because I’m just not as good at keeping up with what’s new and interesting as perhaps I once was, it’s not escaped my notice that a lot of the recommendations are pretty familiar names hereabouts. Sorry about that.

But maybe Beach Day will be a new name to you; they certainly have been to me. Their sound is kind of old – the surf/girl-group/garage sounds they mine are pretty vintage and even the indie rock revival of said genres probably peaked a few years ago – but the Florida trio justifies themselves quite well with sharp, concise songwriting and s/punky attitude. Their debut album Trip Trap Attack comes out next Tuesday, June 18, and they’ll be spending the weekend leading up to it gigging all around Toronto. In addition to their official showcase at Handlebar on Saturday, June 15 at 11PM, they’re also playing an afternoon in-store at Urban Outfitters on Yonge St. on Friday, June 14, at 2PM and another the Sunday evening of June 16 at Kops Records on Queen St West at 6:30PM.

Austin Town Hall, Donkey Jaw, and The G-Man have interviews with the band.

MP3: Beach Day – “Love Is Strange”
Video: Beach Day – “Beach Day”
Video: Beach Day – “Boys”

And now, the day-by-day recommends:

Wednesday, June 12

Bernice @ The Piston, 8PM – Dreamy, jazzy pop from Toronto singer Robin Dann with assistance from Owen Pallett collaborator Thom Gill. Not often mentioned as part of the new wave of R&B, but really should be.
Stream: Bernice / When I Know How To Climb

Calexico @ The Mod Club, 10PM – One of the gimmes of the fest, Tejano-infused desert-rockers Calexico never put on a bad show. This will mark their first Toronto visit in support of last year’s Algeirs and first time back in town since 2010.
MP3: Calexico – “Para”

Golden Bloom @ The Painted Lady, 11PM – For times when only singalong melodies and fuzzy guitars will do, there are bands like Golden Bloom. Their latest No Day Like Today is classic power-pop at its finest.
MP3: Golden Bloom – “Flying Mountain”

Thursday, June 13

KASHKA @ Wrongbar, 9PM – New electronic and all-caps incarnation of former Forest City Lovers frontwoman Kat Burns. Guitars may have been traded in for synths, but the songwriting remains as strong as ever.
Video: KASHKA – “Winter Light”

Moon King @ The Horseshoe, 9PM – One of Toronto’s most exciting new acts, the Spiral Beach alumnus are releasing their psych-pop debut Obsession as a series of three EPs, with two out and the third still to come. They also play Wrongbar on Friday at 9PM and Yonge-Dundas Square on Saturday at 5PM.
MP3: Moon King – “Appel”

William Tyler @ The Garrison, 9PM – Solo instrumental guitarist whose new album Impossible Truth remembers that it’s about songs and feeling over virtuosity, though there’s plenty of the latter as well.
Stream: William Tyler – “Cadillac Desert”

Camera @ The Drake Underground, 10PM – Big, emotive Brit-rock out of Wales that should push all the right buttons for those partial to big, emotive Brit-rock. Their second album is For When You Wake.
Video: Camera – “Happiness”

Diana @ The Horseshoe, 11PM – Ascendant synth-pop outfit assembled from pieces of Destroyer, Army Girls, Bonjay, and a dozen other Toronto stalwarts. Their debut Perpetual Surrender will be coming out on August 20.
MP3: Diana – “Born Again”

Cœur de pirate @ The Great Hall, 11PM – Having taken some time off since last Fall to focus on motherhood, Beatrice Martin is back on the road with songs from 2011’s Blonde and perhaps some new material as well.
Video: Coeur de Pirate – “Place de la République”

Valleys @ Handlebar, 11PM – Montreal duo whose debut Are You Going To Stand There And Talk Weird All Night? is a solid and occasionally sublime piece of cinematic synth-pop. May as well put them on your radar now because they’re going to get there eventually. They’re also playing The Garrison on Friday night at 10.
Video: Valleys – “Undream A Year”

Olenka & The Autumn Lovers @ The Great Hall, 12AM – London folk-pop collective who’ve yet to properly follow-up 2010’s And Now We Sing, but whose two recent EPs Hard Times and It’s Alright make fine stopgaps until it comes. As do their shows. They also play an acoustic set that afternoon in Bellwoods at 4PM.
Stream: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers / It’s Alright

Mikal Cronin @ The Silver Dollar, 12AM – This year’s rock’n’roll residency goes to San the Francisco-based singer-songwriter who accents his gleaming pop compositions with just the right amount of garage-harvested fuzz, as evidenced by his second album MCII. He also plays June 14 at 12AM and June 15 at 1AM. Catch one or all; you won’t regret it. Missoulian, SF Weekly, and Red Eye have features.
Video: Mikal Cronin – “Change”

No Joy @ BLK BOX, 12AM – Montreal trio who infuse their shoegaze roots with a healthy dose of punk rock aggression; be glad they’re looking at their shoes because eye contact probably means they’re gonna fight you. Their second album Wait To Pleasure came out a couple months ago.
Video: No Joy – “Hare Tarot Lies”

Del Bel @ The Great Hall, 1AM – Local film noir-inspired collective who should have some new material to show off; they’ve been working on the follow-up to 2011’s Oneiric for a while now.
Stream: Del Bel / Oneiric

Friday, June 14

Decades @ Urban Outfitters, 12PM – Toronto glam/New Wave newcomers who’ve got a really solid self-titled debut to show off will kick off a great day show lineup ahead of their set at The Silver Dollar that night at 11PM.
Video: Decades – “In Sequins”

Still Corners @ Urban Outfitters, 3PM – English dreampop outfit who’ve recast their band lineup and sound between 2011’s Creatures Of An Hour and this year’s Strange Pleasures and somehow come out out just as good, if not better. Their official showcase goes later this night at The Horseshoe at 10PM.
MP3: Still Corners – “Berlin Lovers”

Hayden @ Yonge-Dundas Square, 8:30PM – Announced as the opener for The National during his set at Field Trip this past Saturday, it looks like NXNE is doubling down on gravel-voiced melancholy as what the fans are after.
MP3: Hayden – “Old Dreams”

The National @ Yonge-Dundas Square, 9:30PM – Oh yeah, these guys. They’re alright. May as well see them – it’s free, after all.
MP3: The National – “Fake Empire”

July Talk @ The Mod Club, 10PM – Torontonians whose country-punk with a dash of New Wave formula makes for a great live show and, as their self-titled debut proves, a great record as well.
Video: July Talk – “Guns & Ammunition”

Always @ The Silver Dollar, 10PM – It’s not entirely clear whether these transplanted Maritimers are going by Always or Alwaayz or Alvvays, but that question is less important than when we’ll finally get an official release from these relative newcomers. Some of the finest indie-pop to come out of the 416 in some time.
Stream: Always – “Next Of Kin”

The Magic @ BLK BOX, 11PM – Whether it’s because they took so long to finally release their debut Ragged Gold or the general un-searchability of their name, it is a damn shame that more people are not hot to this Guelph outfit’s smooth and sexy disco-pop. ‘Cause it’s smooth and sexy.
MP3: The Magic – “Door To Door”

The Super Friendz @ The Great Hall, 11PM – Sloan’s Peppermint recital set might be the big draw at the Murderrecords showcase, but miss seeing these intermittently-reunited power-pop mavens at your peril. Matt Murphy is still a hell of a frontman and the songs oh so hold up.
Video: The Super Friendz – “10 Lbs”

The Soft Moon @ The Garrison, 12AM – Bay Area band whose brand of icy post-punk comes with the “darkwave” hashtag. This show’s mandatory for those seeking some gloomy quarters in the warm, June night.
MP3: The Soft Moon – “Breathe The Fire”

Brazos @ Sneaky Dee’s, 12AM – Elegant and melodic indie pop hailing from and named for a street in Austin, Texas; they just released their second album Saltwater. Also playing at the St. James Gazebo on Saturday at 6PM and supporting Villagers at The Great Hall that night at 11PM.
MP3: Brazos – “How The Ranks Was Won”

Gold & Youth @ BLK BOX, 1AM – Vancouver synth-pop band whose debut Beyond Wilderness delivers on a lot of promise and still promises more. This show offers solid, “I saw them when” bragging rights potential.
Video: Gold & Youth – “Jewel”

Odonis Odonis @ The Garrison, 1AM – The growth of these Torontonians from curiousity to compelling has been pretty remarkable to see. I’m still not entirely sure how to describe their particular post-punk niche, but it is definitely getting more and more interesting.
Video: Odonis Odonis – “New World”

Saturday, June 15

Villagers @ Side Door, 8PM – Irish Mercury Prize nominees who’ve got a fresh new album out in {Awayland}. This showcase is an acoustic set; if you want the full band experience, be sure to catch their Great Hall show that same night at midnight.
Video: Villagers – “Passing A Message”

Data Romance @ Supermarket, 10PM – West coast duo that likes to inject a little sexy somethin’ somethin’ into their electro-pop, with sexy results.
MP3: Data Romance – “Spark”

The Sour Notes @ Sneaky Dee’s, 12AM – I’d not heard of this Austin band until a friend said that their co-ed harmonies overtop richly-arranged, yet effortlessly light pop tunes was exactly the sort of thing I’d like. And it was, and so maybe it is for you as well. They’ve also got a NXNE warm-up show at the Horseshoe tomorrow night; it’s free and they’re on at 12:20AM.
MP3: The Sour Notes – “Two Hands Wait”

Majical Cloudz @ The Great Hall, 12AM – On the strength of the confessional electronica of Impersonator, the Montreal duo of Devon Welsh and Matthew Otto have become one of Canada’s most talked-about new acts. So of course this showcase will be hard to get into and yet worth trying anyways.
MP3: Majical Cloudz – “Childhood’s End”

Iceage @ The Horseshoe, 12AM – These Danes barely out of their teens will be declaring their propensity for taut, angular post-punk and inciting sweaty, rowdy, and occasionally violent live shows at customs. And I have no information that they will be the Special Guest at The Garrison on Sunday night at midnight, but…
MP3: Iceage – “New Brigade”

Fresh Snow @ Creatures Creating, 1AM – This show kicks off the Wavelength Road Show which takes Toronto’s new krautrock hopes, as well as Del Bel and Most People, around Ontario and Quebec.
Video: Fresh Snow – “Saturation Complete”

Fucked Up @ The Horseshoe, 1AM – It’s Fucked Up in the Horseshoe. What else do you need to know?
MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”

Lower @ Cherry Cola’s, 2AM – Iceage’s countrymen and tourmates also do the Scandi-post-punk thing, but are less fury, more menace. They also play The Garrison on Sunday night, June 16, at 11PM.
Stream: Lower – “Someone’s Got It In For Me”

Sunday, June 16

Mickey Avalon @ Yonge-Dundas Square, 3PM – Alls I know is that I couldn’t stop laughing at the scene in Harold & Kumar Go To Guantanamo Bay soundtracked by this song, and the prospect that it might be blasting out of the YDS PA at all the Eaton Centre shoppers is kind of great.
Video: Mickey Avalon – “My Dick”

And as befits a proper citywide festival, there’s a number of day shows and whatnot happening this week: The Arts & Crafts pop-up shop at Queen and Dovercourt which coincided with this past weekend’s Field Trip fest will remain popped up with shows and DJ sets every night; there’s the aforementioned Urban Outfitters day show on the 14th; the now-annual Bruise Cruise which takes you, a bunch of other festival-goers and a few choice bands on a tour around the islands; they’ve not yet announced details but it seems implausible that Sonic Boom won’t have at least a day of in-stores. And if you like records and buying records and watching other people buy records, do hit up the Independent Label Market going on at the Ryerson campus all day Saturday.

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Step Up For The Cool Cats

Palma Violets, Decades, and Always at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFor those not in the business of keeping up with the buzz bands of the moment, Palma Violets may not yet have appeared on your radar. Though the release of their debut album 180 is still a month out, they’ve already been heralded as the vanguard of the return of guitar rock – I didn’t realize it had ever gone away – and various permutations of This Year’s Model. A title which, while a tremendously helpful leg up as far as getting people interested goes, is also a decidedly two-edged thing as by its very definition, it means that next year it’ll be someone else. Perhaps this is was why they opted to stage a North American tour before their record was out or the buzz had necessarily carried over the Atlantic except to the most devout Anglophiles; they built their name in the UK based on their live show, so why not do the same over here? And so, motivated by curiosity and an urge to get the first show of 2013 in the books, even in the tail end of a frigid cold snap, it was to the Horseshoe I went last Thursday night.

Opening up were some familiar faces in Always – very familiar, as they’d also supported the last few shows I caught at the end of 2012; such ubiquity from an act that had done its best to keep as low a profile online as possible. Each time out had been a little different, however – the full five-piece lineup that opened for The Joy Formidable was back following the stripped-down trio configuration that supported Joel Plaskett, and superficially frontwoman Molly Rankin was now very blonde. The tunes, as always, were indie-pop gems and with the full band back in place, it was a chance to again appreciate how well-arranged and fully-formed the songs were and their selection of The Primitives’ 1988 UK hit “Crash” as a cover was perfectly suited. Perhaps best of all, the online demos that went AWOL shortly after my first writeup on the band have now been replaced with properly-recorded versions that are meant for public ears to hear, so you don’t have to take my word for anything anymore – just go listen.

I’d spent the weeks leading up to the show assuming that the middle band on the will was this Decades – a metal band from Albany, New York – and not this Decades from right here in Toronto. Bands, let this be a warning for you and your generic names. Even when the five-piece took the stage and clearly weren’t metal-punk bros, their wildly-mixed aesthetic – flowery shirts, fedoras, medallions, hoodies, eyeliner – didn’t offer much guidance as to what to expect. When they started playing, however, it all came together as a well-studied blend of goth and New Wave that struck a good balance between concise and atmospheric and was over and done in under 30 minutes. They’d have benefitted from a cleaner mix – particular on the vocals and guitar – and a decision to either commit to or dispense with a look, but were enjoyable well beyond simply not being what I feared/expected.

The problem, as Palma Violets are likely to find as their coming-out party progresses through 2013, is the question that will be asked will not simply be “are they good?” but “do they live up to the hype?”. And based on the three singles they’ve released to date and this show, the answer from this quarter to the former will be “not bad,” but to the latter, “no”. Frontmen Sam Fryer and Chilli Jesson have a great energy and chemistry onstage and do a good job of engaging a favourably disposed audience, but they don’t have the same facility for melody or anthemicism as the band they’re most frequently compared to, The Libertines. Their approach is punkier and more willing to descend into noisier, thuggish territory which goes to the band’s good live reputation but ultimately and most importantly, the songs aren’t very memorable. Their biggest single to date – “Best Of Friends” – succeeded in inciting a bit of laddish dancing and singalongs, but there wasn’t much sense that they brought anything more to the game than all the bands that held their place in the spotlight in years past. This isn’t to say that 180 won’t still surprise and reveal new depths, but whether their career trajectory will go more the way of The Vaccines or Brother remains unclear.

Photos: Palma Violets, Decades, Always @ The Horseshoe – January 24, 2013
Video: Palma Violets – “Step Up For The Cool Cats”
Video: Palma Violets – “Last Of The Summer Wine”
Video: Palma Violets – “Best Of Friends”
Stream: Decades – “Celebrate”
Stream: Decades – “Can You Love Me Now”
Stream: Always – “Next Of Kin”
Stream: Always – “The Ones Who Love You”

DIY gets to know The History Of Apple Pie, whose debut Out Of View is out this week.

The Guardian, Clash, and Spin profile Frightened Rabbit and their new album Pedestrian Verse. It’s out next week on February 5, but is available to stream at The Guardian right now. They’re at The Phoenix on March 31.

Stream: Frightened Rabbit / Pedestrian Verse

NME reports that British Sea Power have completed work on their next album and will release Machineries Of Joy on April 1.

If you’d been hoping that the new old Pulp song that surfaced at the very end of last year might become available to purchase legitimately, rejoice – Artrocker reports that it should be available for iTunes download as of today (though not there at the moment, as far as I can tell). But if you’re happy with the stream, that’s cool too. Jarv ain’t fussed.

Stream: Pulp – “After You”

DIY and Elle interview The Joy Formidable. They’re at The Phoenix on April 12.

Rolling Stone talks to guitarist Earl Slick about the secret recording sessions that produced the new David Bowie record The Next Day, out March 12.

Richard Thompson’s new Electric album is up to stream at NPR; it’s out next week and he plays Massey Hall supporting Emmylou Harris on March 22.

Stream: Richard Thompson / Electric

Clash and The Quietus talk to Esben & The Witch.

SF Weekly interviews Patrick Wolf.

Interview catches up with Emmy The Great at the Sundance Film Festival, where the film Austenland – which she scored – premiered.

And normally I wouldn’t file a single tweet as news, but when it recounts Kevin Shields saying at last night’s My Bloody Valentine show as saying their new album would be available in “two to three days”… that’s news. You missed your 2012 deadline, Kev, but come through on this promise and all is forgiven.

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Scrappy Happiness

Joel Plaskett Emergency and Always at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangA little piece of trivia that surprised even me when I learned it (and is really of no relevance to anything save this opening paragraph) – save for his two appearances at the Polaris Prize galas in 2007 and 2009, I’d never seen I’d never seen Joel Plaskett live. And it certainly hasn’t been for lack of opportunity – while it’s highly unlikely Plaskett will ever uproot himself from his beloved Halifax, he’s played Toronto enough to claim honourary residency.

No, it’s been partially deliberate on account of the fact that while I like Plaskett’s stuff, I’m in the seemingly minuscule group that just likes it and doesn’t love it. I’ve heard a number of – but not all – of his records and respect the work ethic that’s made him one of this country’s most beloved artists (at least in the demographic that I run with), but the breadth of his catalog and the passion of his fanbase has made the prospect of finally going to one of his shows a daunting one. Would I know (m)any songs? Would I enjoy it? If I didn’t and said so, would his street team put a hit out on me? Real concerns, people. But with the man setting up shop at The Horseshoe for five straight nights in honour of the bar’s 65th birthday and the fact that I really quite like his latest effort, this year’s Scrappy Happiness, I decided it was finally time. But of course I waited until the very last show – partly because it was an early show being a Sunday night, and partly because Always was opening.

I’d seen them a few weeks ago supporting The Joy Formidable, but while I went into that show thinking, “Always?” on account of not knowing who they were, I went into this one thinking, “Always!” on account of knowing who they were and liking what they did. Notes from that past show mostly still applied this time out, but it’s worth noting that even though they were a rhythm section-less three-piece this time out, the songs didn’t seem to suffer at all for it. The sequencer pinch-hitting in laying down backing tracks kept in the spirit and sound of their janglesome old-school indie-pop aesthetic just fine, and the simple beats kept things sprightly. The demos I originally linked to in that last review are now hidden from prying ears – apparently they weren’t for public consumption – but hopefully something finished will be revealed soon and y’all can hear – and decide – for yourselves.

Even though I freely admit to not having heard all of Plaskett’s oeuvre, I know that you don’t really have to have to know what he’s about. From grunge-pop beginnings with Thrush Hermit, he’s spent two decades establishing himself as a sort of Canuck Springsteen, specializing in The Boss’ nostalgic anthems of youth with a certain Maritime bent and intrinsically Canadian reliability – kind of an arena rock/kitchen party hybrid. You don’t have to listen long to note his habit of repeating references to people and places, but rather than sounding repetitive, it helps create and define the world his songs and their loose autobiographical narrative exist within. He believes in the purity of the rhyme and riff – particularly of the ’70s rock vintage – and the power of the “la la la” singalong. It’s not a complicated formula, but that’s what makes it so difficult to get right. And as Plaskett showed me, he’s gotten it right and makes it look easy.

Though his voice did show some of the strain of the past nights’ performances – and their respective afterparties, I’m sure – Plaskett’s energy was unflagging for the two hours he was up there. After all, it was their last show of the year; if ever there was a time to leave it all on the stage, this was it. With a couple of animatronic monkey toys adding a little Disneyworld/Chuck-E-Cheese flavour to the evening, Plaskett proved a terrific and engaging performer. Whether the acoustic troubadour crooning sensitively or the electrified preacher ripping guitar solos – with plenty of entertaining banter for either guise – he was every bit the showman without getting overly showy and selling the flair with his total earnestness.

Not being intimately familiar with the catalog proved not to be an issue, either, as there were enough tunes I knew and liked to keep me fully engaged and, for reasons noted above, the ones I didn’t were hardly difficult to get into and enjoy – though being in a big crowd who seemed to know every word to everything helped with that. And you need that kind of fanbase if you’re going to encore with an iPod-assisted musical history lesson as a lead-in to a partially-lip synced dance routine, as he did for “Fashionable People”, or turn a jam into a freestyle not-rap tribute with 65-beat count-up to mark The Horseshoe’s anniversary. As first-time Joel Plaskett shows goes, I think I could have done much, much worse.

Panic Manual has an interview with Joel Plaskett.

Photos: The Joel Plaskett Emergency, Always @ The Horseshoe – December 16, 2012
MP3: Joel Plaskett – “When I Go”
MP3: Joel Plaskett – “Deny Deny Deny”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Somewhere Else”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “Through & Through & Through”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “You Let Me Down”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Fashionable People”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “Happen Now”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “Natural Disaster”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “Paralyzed”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Work Out Fine”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Come On Teacher”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “True Patriot Love”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Maybe We Should Just Go Home”
Video: Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Clueless Wonder”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “She Made A Wreck Outta Me”
Video: Joel Plaskett – “News Of Your Son”
Video: Thrush Hermit – “The Day We Hit The Coast”
Video: Thrush Hermit – “On The Sneak”
Video: Thrush Hermit – “French Inhale”

Electro-goth locals Trust have made a date for February 22 at Lee’s Palace and also released a new video from their debut TRST.

Video: Trust – “Heaven”

aux.tv has premiered the new video from Modern Superstitions’ own self-titled debut.

Video: Modern Superstitions – “Last Night’s Dress”

The Grid declares locals Moon King as “one to watch”; having seen them back in October, I concur. They’re at The Drake on December 28 as part of the $5 “What’s In The Box” concert series.

Japandroids talk to Pitchfork about making the video for “The House That Heaven Built”, to CBC Music about making their #1 rock record of the year, and The Calgary Herald, StarPhoenix, and The National Post about whatever.

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

This Ladder Is Ours

The Joy Formidable and Always at The Mod Club in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangEven since they were very small and giving away downloads of their debut mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning for free in February 2009, The Joy Formidable have been huge. Huge in ambition, both sound- and career-wise, as evidenced by their massive-sounding full-length debut The Big Roar and the relentless touring schedule that surrounded it. Since their local debut in May 2010, they’ve been through Toronto a half-dozen times, including two nights this past week – Sunday night opening for The Gaslight Anthem at The Sound Academy and then on Monday with at a last-minute showcase at The Mod Club.

Since I’d seen the Welsh trio at their first three local shows, I was alright with missing their April gig at Lee’s Palace and the Gaslight show, but was pretty excited about the Mod Club one – they’d finally be showcasing some new material, what with a second album in Wolf’s Law already done and due out on January 22, and I had a feeling that their days of playing rooms as small as Mod were quickly drawing to a close.

Local openers Always have done a pretty good job of keeping their internet presence the polar opposite of the ubiquity implied by their name, but they’re actually far from anonymous, particularly if you’ve an ear for east coast pop. Frontwoman Molly Rankin had/has a burgeoning solo career in addition to being part of Nova Scotia’s most famous musical family, and guitarist Alec O’Hanley toured across the country countless times as part of Two Hours Traffic before departing last year. Assuming that their sound would be some mathematical combination of their respective roots- and power-pop histories would be unimaginative, though. Their experience with writing hooks and melodies was well-evident, but it was delivered in a vintage indie jangle-pop form, striking a good balance between low-key and bubbly and taking full advantage of Rankin’s Victora Legrand-ish sleepy vocal timbre – someone call Slumberland A&R, stat. Over the course of their set, they went from complete mystery to one of my top bands to watch in the city. For warm-ups, you can’t do much better than that.

In the year or so since I saw them last, The Joy Formidable have had quite the apprenticeship in playing arena-scale venues opening for the likes of Foo Fighters and Muse, and when you take into consideration the fact that they were a pretty explosive live act to begin with, it was reasonable to expect some fireworks. And based on the physical evidence, at least, they were equipped to do so. Having once again taken an interest in inspecting/dissecting guitarist rigs, it was hard not to notice that frontwoman Ritzy Bryan had traded her lone, albeit overflowing, pedalboard and single combo amp for a sleek, space-age floorboard with touchscreen tablet controls and an amplification setup that powered some 18 speakers. Arenas, remember?

But what makes The Joy Formidable so, well, formidable, isn’t the hardware – it’s the massive rock it’s used to move. Shoegaze with the wallflower personality excised in favour of extroversion, given shape in Bryan’s diminutive form (and crazy eyes) and huge guitar chops, with rhythm section Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas doing commendable work in just keeping up. Their hour-fifteen set was split about evenly between Balloon/Roar material and previews of Wolf’s Law, although already being a couple singles deep into the album, they weren’t necessarily unfamiliar. And though the new stuff was arguably heavier and more indebted to classic British metal than the old, it all fit very nicely with the template that The Joy Formidable have been riding to success thus far. They might not necessarily be filling rooms much bigger than this normally, but they did an outstanding job of making the couple hundred in attendance feel like they were seeing something massive in an uncommonly intimate setting, and while I can’t say they’ll ever have the fanbase to fill a stadium, by god they already play like they do.

And if you didn’t manage to score tickets to this show, fear not – Bryan announced that they’d be back in April.

PureVolume has an interview with Ritzy Bryan.

Photos: The Joy Formidable, Always @ The Mod Club – November 26, 2012
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Wolf’s Law”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Austere”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Greyhounds In The Slips”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Cradle”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “The Ladder Is Ours”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Cholla”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Wolf’s Law”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring” (new)
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Austere”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “I Don’t Want To See You Like This”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Popinjay”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring” (original)
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Austere” (original)
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Cradle”

One of the early picks for UK buzz band 2013 – Palma Violets – are setting their sights on North America early; they’ll be at The Horseshoe on January 29 – tickets $12.50 – well before their debut album arrives on February 25. They’ve got kind of a Libertines thing going on, which I guess is about due to be fashionable again what with next year slated to be the “Year of the guitar” or some such nonsense.

Video: Palma Violets – “Last Of The Summer Wine”
Video: Palma Violets – “Best Of Friends”

Veronica Falls are keeping the fires of anticipation stoked before their second album Waiting For Something To Happen is finally released on February 12 – they’ve announced a North American tour for next Winter – look for them March 12 at The Garrison – and released a video for the first single from the new record.

Video: Veronica Falls – “Teenage”

Hot Chip have rolled out a new clip from this year’s In Our Heads.

Video: Hot Chip – “Don’t Deny Your Heart”

Loud & Quiet have an interview with Elena Tonra of Daughter.

The Quietus talks to Charlotte Hatherley about Sylver Tongue.

The latest Charli XCX single from her Super Ultra Mixtape now comes with a video.

Video: Charli XCX – “Cloud Aura”

Guy Garvey talks to Metro just ahead of Elbow’s promised year-long hiatus.

The Quietus talks to Mogwai about their latest projects, including soundtracking a French zombie television show. Because someone has to.

Those hoping that that last couple years’ Pulp reunion might be an ongoing concern or even yield some new music, sorry – NME reports that Jarvis Cocker has basically declared it as having run its course. We’ll always have Spain.

But wait, Britpop fans refusing to stop reliving their youth cry out, what about Blur? They’re not breaking up! No, but as The Line Of Best Fit reports, Graham Coxon put the kibosh on a new Blur record; that’s fine – intermittent singles the quality of the last ones will do. Definitely coming out next week is Parklive, the live document of this Summer’s Hyde Park show in London, and they’ve released a video clip of the final song from that show; if they had indeed called it a day, well and forever, with this show, these would have been the perfect notes to finish up on.

Video: Blur – “The Universal” (live at Hyde Park)

The Quietus and Spin chat with Johnny Marr, who releases his solo debut The Messenger on February 26.

Consequence Of Sound interviews Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris of New Order.