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Posts Tagged ‘Amanda Mair’

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Love's Taking Strange Ways

The Mary Onettes: Same lousy name, shiny new sound

Photo via LabradorLabradorAs predisposed as I am towards things Swedish, melancholic, and anthemic, it took me a little bit to warm to Jönköping’s Mary Onettes because, well, their name is pretty awful; thankfully, their music is most definitely not. Their 2009 album Islands was a glorious thing, all Cure-meets-Bunnymen ’80s romantic angst in stadium dress. And as happy as I’d have been to have more of the same, the band has other ideas.

Their Love Forever EP released back in February made public the first fruits of their sessions with Swedish über-producer Dan Lissvik, probably best known in these parts for helping make Shapeshifter a game-changing record for Montreal’s Young Galaxy. While it doesn’t sound as though he’s been as transformative with The Mary Onettes, Lissvik’s fingerprints are clearly audible from the distinctive gleam about each sonic element – it doesn’t sound so much like the ’80s as what the ’80s thought the future might sound like.

Love Forever did fine as a teaser, and we won’t have to wait long for the main feature. Their third album Hit The Waves will be released on March 12 and a track from it has been made available to stream. Give it a listen below, along with the Love Forever material, and get anxious.

MP3: The Mary Onettes – “Love’s Taking Strange Ways”
Stream: The Mary Onettes – “Evil Coast”
Stream: The Mary Onettes / Love Forever

Correctly interpreting their sold-out show at The Drake in October as demand, Niki & The Dove are responding with supply via a North American tour that brings them back for a show at Wrongbar on January 16, tickets $15 in advance. There’s also a feature interview at Filter.

MP3: Niki & The Dove – “Tomorrow”

NPR has a video session with Jens Lekman, who also chats with The Phoenix New Times and The Dallas Observer.

Culture Fly has an interview with Amanda Mair.

Icona Pop have released a new video from their self-titled debut, out now in Sweden and sometime next year in the rest of the world. They’re also interviewed by The Daily Beast and Buzzine, and will be at The Kool Haus on December 1 opening up for Marina & The Diamonds.

Video: Icona Pop – “We Got The World”

Matador has announced the signing of Danish post-punk young’ns Iceage. Their as-yet untitled second album will be out on February 19.

The Line Of Best Fit has an interview with Björk.

Sigur Rós are almost done with their Valtari Mystery Film Experient – this “Varúð” clip is the second-last one, and the final one should be out before they’re screened in film form in a couple weeks including December 8 at The Bloor. They play The Air Canada Centre on March 30.

Video: Sigur Rós – “Varúð”

Bowery Presents got Of Monsters & Men to perform an acoustic session on the rooftop of the Music Hall of Williamsburg way back in the Spring. But they’ve only posted it now.

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Black White & Blue

Ladyhawke and Computer Magic at The Hoxton in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt would have been nice to think that the many well-dressed folks milling about on King West Saturday evening were winding their way to The Hoxton, where New Zealand’s Pip Browne – aka Ladyhawke – was set to make her first Toronto appearance in almost three years exactly. But no, they were probably just out taking in the final night of TIFF, because The Hoxton was basically empty when I got there.

Being an early show with a curfew, waiting around for the more fashionably late wasn’t an option to Computer Magic got to play for a mere handful of people. The project of Brooklyite Danielle Johnson, they played as a two-piece with Johnson on keys and vox and a drummer. It wasn’t much and their on-stage mobility was decidedly limited, but they more than made do. Johnson’s synth-pop melodies were both hooky and interesting, and while her drummer favoured the pads on his hybrid acoustic/electronic drum kit, the fact that he could hit the conventional drums and hit them hard gave it all a lot more power and presence than you would have expected. My understanding is that some live versions of the band have guitar and bass to fill things out, and while I don’t doubt the extra bodies make for a more compelling live show, Computer Magic as a duo had all they really needed to make a good impression – namely, solid tunes.

For reasons entirely not her fault, Ladyhawke’s first Toronto show in September 2009 was something of a clusterfuck. It was part of a seemingly-cursed tour presented by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, beset by low attendance, a patchwork bill, and a self-destructing headliner in Ida Maria who bailed from the tour entirely the day of the Toronto show. Ladyhawke’s first set as the de facto sole headliner of the tour was actually fine, showcasing the ridiculously catchy ’80s-styled pop of her self-titled debut, but it’s hard to separate the performance in memory from the circus that surrounded it.

This outing came without the sideshow, thankfully, but also without the degree of buzz that was there the first time around. Her second album Anxiety has been rather unjustly dismissed for being built more on guitars than synths, but the electro-pop movement that she was lumped into back in 2009 was no longer fashionable anyways and if she’d stuck with the same formula, the complaints would probably be that she was sounding dated. Fact is, the change in instrumentation is more cosmetic than fundamental; the songs on Anxiety are less immediate than those on Ladyhawke, but also less obvious. Pip Browne’s melodic instincts are still more than intact, though, and it’s a solid work that will age quite nicely.

It also meant that the couple hundred people in attendance – the room had thankfully filled in some – were genuine fans, else three years behind on hearing what was supposed to be hip. Fronting a five-piece band where, perhaps fittingly given their shift in direction, the massive drum sounds and big, fuzzy guitars often drowned out the keyboardist, the Ladyhawke live experience hadn’t necessarily become more exciting. Though friendly, they’re still very businesslike on stage, having evidently drawn on plenty of glittery/glammy ’80s sonic influence but not the excess of presentation. Browne’s vintage Bryan Adams t-shirt got the most audience approval and the guitarist Danny Blanco provided most of the on-stage animation, which wasn’t really much. But the low-key presentation meant that they were able to power through an extensive set list, cramming eighteen songs into an hour and change including an unexpected cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” to open the encore. See, she knows her ’60s as well! And she knows how to write great songs that don’t need the benefit of a gossip blogger patron or fleeting musical fashionability to impress.

Computer Magic has a bunch of EPs available for free download.

Photos: Ladyhawke, Computer Magic @ The Hoxton – September 15, 2012
MP3: Ladyhawke – “Sunday Drive”
MP3: Ladyhawke – “Sunday Drive” (acoustic)
MP3: Ladyhawke – “Black White & Blue” (acoustic)
MP3: Computer Magic – “Grand Junction”
MP3: Computer Magic – “Electric Fences”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Blue Eyes”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Sunday Drive”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Black White & Blue”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Magic”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Paris Is Burning”
Video: Ladyhawke – “My Delirium”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Dusk Till Dawn”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Back Of The Van”
Video: Computer Magic – “Trinity”
Video: Computer Magic – “The End Of Time”

Evidently with a little time to kill before hitting the stage at The Great Hall on the evening of September 18, DIIV will be setting up at Sonic Boom’s Kensington location for an in-store on Tuesday afternoon at 5PM. They just released a new video from their debut Oshin last week.

MP3: DIIV – “Sometime”
Video: DIIV – “Doused”

Australian folkies Husky have a date at The Drake Underground on November 12 in support of their debut Forever So. They were here back during Canadian Musicfest, if you think you might had seen or heard them before. A Daytrotter session with the band also just went up.

MP3: Husky – “Tidal Wave”
MP3: Husky – “History’s Door”

NPR’s big-deal advance album stream this week is Piramida, the latest from Denmark’s Efterklang. It’s out September 25.

MP3: Efterklang – “Apples”
Stream: Efterklang / Pirmada

Even though their latest Observator just came out, Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes tells Paste he’s already compiling ideas for their next album. They’re at The Phoenix on October 2.

Interview has an interview and I Love Sweden a video session with Amanda Mair.

The Quietus has an exit interview with the retiring Soundtrack Of Our Lives.

Interview talks to ascendent Swedish electro-pop duo Icona Pop.

PopMatters poses twenty questions to múm.

Rolling Stone has premiered a new video from Of Monsters & Men’s debut My Head Is An Animal.

Video: Of Monsters & Men – “Mountain Sound”

Dash Shaw and John Cameron Mitchell offer more a short film than video as their contribution to Sigur Rós’ Valtari “Mystery Film Experiment”, using both “Rembihnútur” and “Ekki múkk” as a soundtrack to their clip.

Video: Sigur Rós – “Seraph”

Laetitia Sadier has premiered a new video from Silencio. She plays The Drake on September 18 and Laetitia Sadier – “Find Me The Pulse Of The Universe”

NPR is streaming M83′s recent concert at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love

Review of Jens Lekman’s I Know What Love Isn’t

Photo By Kristen LidellKristen LidellMany adjectives can and have been used to describe the songwriting of Swedish troubadour Jens Lekman – wry, witty, classic, charming, hilarious, to list but a very few – but “personal” is not necessarily one of the first you’d use. He’s a masterful storyteller in song, and no doubt the seeds of many of his songs come from his own life experiences or observations, but in crafting his perfect little narratives he’s usually able to distance himself from them, always a character whether he’s operating in the third person or the first. This isn’t any sort of condemnation – I’d not want “A Letter To Nina” or “You Are The Light” any other way – but is necessary to point out to understand why his third proper album, I Know What Love Isn’t, feels subtly but significatly different.

On the surface, it’s not dissimilar to his earlier efforts. Lightly but exquisitely arranged orchestral pop, albeit better-recorded this time out, and a suite of songs filled with witty couplets, brilliant plays on words, and songs about and to girls. But while the female leads in his tales have a number of different names – Danae, Catherine, Samantha, Erica, Jennifer, take a bow – there’s a sense they’re all perspectives of the same woman. As the album title implies, What Love Isn’t is a break-up album and whether Lekman sought to only use the failed romance as inspiration and not fuel is known only to him, that sadness sublimates its way into the entire record and makes the fourth wall translucent, giving it an emotional potency that his other records can’t lay claim to.

Opening with the simple, piano-led instrumental “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name” – reprised in vocal form to close the record – the front end of Love finds Lekman indulging his more emo side. Lead single “Erica America” is a smoky, jazzy piece equally tinged with nostalgia and regret and while “Become Someone Else’s” brightens up marginally thanks to a chipper piano line, it and “She Just Doesn’t Want To Be With You Anymore” wear their sentiments openly in their titles. It would be understandable for Lekman to choose to inhabit this end of the musical spectrum to work through things, but also overly obvious. And heavens forfend Lekman be obvious.

It turns out he’s playing the (relatively) long game with this record, allowing it to gradually build in tempo, and brighten in outlook as it progresses and by the time it reaches the triumvirate of “The World Moves On”, “The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love”, and “I Know What Love Isn’t”, it’s Lekman at his best, spinning vignettes and telling tales over some of his most indelible melodies, memorable choruses, and richest arrangements to date, all combining for his most cohesive and satisfying album yet. I Know What Love Isn’t may sound like a typically Lekman play on words, but it also speaks to a truth of lessons learned the hard way – the couplet “you don’t get over a broken heart/you just learn to carry it gracefully” from “The World Moves On” is the album’s thesis and triumph, and while you don’t have to have had your heart broken to appreciate it, but it doesn’t hurt.

Rolling Stone, Exclaim, DIY, Tiny Mix Tapes, eMusic, RCRDLBL, and Interview, The Quietus talk to Lekman about his new record, while The Line Of Best Fit and Pitchfork also cajole a video session. Lekman is at The Phoenix on October 4.

MP3: Jens Lekman – “Erica America”
Video: Jens Lekman – “I Know What Love Isn’t”
Video: Jens Lekman – “Erica America”

Opening up that show at The Phoenix is Taken By Trees, and they’ve just released a stream of another new song from Other Worlds, set for release on October 2.

Stream: Taken By Trees – “Large”

Maria Lindén of I Break Horses gives DIY some insight to where she’s headed with album number two. Room 205 has also posted the first installment of a video session with the band that gives you an idea of what the live incarnation of the band sounds like (awesome). The next two will follow over the next fortnight.

Video: I Break Horses – “Wired” (live at Room 205)

Clash has got a download of Amanda Mair performing an acoustic version of “Doubt”, from her self-titled debut.

MP3: Amanda Mair – “Doubt” (acoustic)

Rolling Stone gets to know Swedish electro-pop duo Icona Pop. They have a new single which they’re thoughtfully streaming for all to hear.

Stream: Icona Pop – “Ready For The Weekend”

Spin, The Georgia Straight, and Seattle Weekly talks to Niki & The Dove, in town at The Drake on October 2.

Efterklang have made a track from their new album Piramida available to download, sample, and savour. It’s out September 25.

MP3: Efterklang – “Apples”

4AD has announced the signing of Denmark’s Søen Løkke Juul – aka Indians – by way of a 4AD Session. Their full-length debut won’t be out until early in the new year, but he and his band will introduce themselves at The Horseshoe on November 23 in support of Other Lives.

MP3: Indians – “I Am Haunted”
Video: Indians – “Magic Kids”
Video: Indians – “New”

NPR and DIY interview The Raveonettes. Observator is out today – they’ve released a new video for the occasion – and they’re at The Phoenix on October 2.

Video: The Raveonettes – “The Enemy”

DIY, Spinner, and Clash say “what’s up” to Of Monsters & Men

The 405 and Under The Radar interview Laetitia Sadier. She plays The Drake on September 18.

Nick Cave is still in screenwriter mode, but in discussing Lawless conversation inevitably turns to music and it’s been confirmed that a new Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album is already complete and is due out in February of next year. Exclaim has some details.

The Wall Street Journal interviews Takaakira Goto of Mono, who bring their new record For My Parents to the Horseshoe tomorrow night.

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Sit Tight

Review of It Hugs Back’s Laughing Party

Photo via It Hugs Backithugsback.co.ukThough I only gave it a very passing mention when it came out, I was really quite fond of British quartet It Hugs Back’s 2009 debut Inside Your Guitar; after all, I described their aesthetic of narcoleptic vocals, humming organs, and understated guitar heroics as a charming blend of American Analog Set and Yo La Tengo – how could I not like its fuzzy, mid-fi charms? But I lost track of them between then and now, though not without reason: first, they found their way off of 4AD – that wouldn’t have helped them stay on my radar – and frontman Matthew Sims became touring guitarist with Wire, so that would have been keeping them otherwise busy as well.

They’ve still found the time to regroup and record a second album, however, and Laughing Party kicks off with as much of a declaration of intent as you can imagine by way of a raw and squalling 15-minute guitarfest called “The Big E” that’s built on one repeated king-size riff but with enough undulations to keep it hypnotic rather than monotonous. Though the necessary ingredients were all there on Inside Your Guitar, there was nothing to hint that the band had the vision or ambition to attempt something quite so epic; good on them. Unsurprisingly, nothing that follows it on Laughing Party has the same sort of scope – the nine-and-a-half minute “Times Square” makes an argument but jams at a more meandering pace – but the band don’t fully fall back into the sleepy ways of their debut. Sometimes the tempos slow back down, but even so enough noise and aggression – not to mention some extra sparkle and jangle – seeps into the cracks to make Party a solid step forward.

What they were doing was fine, but the added dynamics and melodicism are hard to argue against as improvements. Tunes like the crashing, hooky single “Half American” or “Happy” are excellent representations of what It Hugs Back 2012 can do that it was hard to imagine the 2009 edition pulling off. Laughing Party isn’t likely to make It Hugs Back household names or even make 4AD regret their decision to let them go, but for those who dig on what they do, it strikes just the right balance of comfortable and adventurous.

The Quietus has a quick interview with Simms, a premiere of the video for “Half American” and a stream of the new record.

MP3: It Hugs Back – “Massachusetts”
MP3: It Hugs Back – “Half American”
Video: It Hugs Back – “Half-American”
Stream: It Hugs Back / Laughing Party

For Folk’s Sake, Contactmusic, and NPR talk to Kristian Mattson, aka The Tallest Man On Earth. He’s at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre on June 15.

Laura Marling offers CBC Music some A’s to their Q’s and also talks to The Washington Examiner and Red Eye. She plays The Phoenix on June 17.

The Guardian has a Bands In Transit video session with Mystery Jets. They’ll be at the Sound Academy on June 19 opening up for Keane.

JAM and Blurt talk with The Hives, who are showing off their new video from Lex Hives and will be at The Sound Academy on June 26.

Video: The Hives – “Go Right Ahead”

Hot Chip talks to Pitchfork about their just-released new album In Our Heads and gives Billboard a track-by-track video annotation of the record. They bring it to the Sound Academy on July 15.

Shortlist talks to Richard Hawley about his latest Standing At The Sky’s Edge, out now in the UK but due a domestic release on August 28.

The Vaccines have released the first video from their second album, No Hope For The Vaccines. It’s out September 3.

Video: The Vaccines – “No Hope”

Jens Lekman gives Pitchfork some insight on his new record I Know What Love Isn’t, out September 4.

Pet Shop Boys have released the first video from their new album Elysium, due out on September 18. Details at Clash.

Video: Pet Shop Boys – “Invisible”

Los Campesinos! wish Paul Heaton of Housemartins/Beautiful South fame a happy 50th birthday by way of a cover of “I Love You (But You’re Boring)” off Welcome To The Beautiful South – I really loved that record in high school – at Pitchfork.

MP3: Los Campesinos! – “I Love You (But You’re Boring)”

NPR has a World Cafe session and GQ an interview with Jason Pierce of Spiritualized.

Graham Coxon offers Music News some vague comments on the state of Blur.

Daytrotter has a session with Veronica Falls.

DIY gets to know Amanda Mair.

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Sense

Review of Amanda Mair’s Amanda Mair

Photo By Kjell B PerssonKjell B PerssonIt’s not unfair to say that Labrador Records has something of a “house sound”, and not just for the Swedish accents. With acts like The Radio Dept., Acid House Kings, and Sambassadeur on their roster, they’re a reliable source for warm, fuzzy, indie pop-ish sounds and so when they announce a new signing, it’s usually worth paying some attention – even when on paper the artist doesn’t seem have much in common with the rest of their roster. Or in the case of Amanda Mair, especially when. Not many labels would sign a 15-year old singer-pianist on the strength of her raw talent – there weren’t even any demos – but Labrador did just that in 2010. And having given her a couple years to hone her craft before sending her into the studio with Philip Ekström of The Mary Onettes and the result – her self-titled debut, released in Sweden in February and in North America this week – has proven worth the wait.

It’s hard not to want to use Mair’s youth as a qualifier for offering praise, but the fact is that Amanda Mair would be an accomplished collection of polished pop and piano balladry from an artist of any age. Mair does just fine on the latter with a direct, unadorned presentation – her voice is innately suited to tugging at the heartstrings – but Ekström deserves credit for making the former so sonically dense and interesting without overwhelming her. The choice of a lightly but distinctly ’80s production style is an interesting one, considering those years were a distant memory before Mair was born, but it really does work – for those old enough to remember the era, the sounds are familiar but Mair’s presence is so fresh that it never feels deliberately retro or nostalgic.

Her lyrics may come across a bit vague – one would hope she doesn’t yet have the sort of life experience that would allow her to pen truly pointed, emotional songs – but that gives them a sort of universality that serves her well and the delivery is well-balanced between earnest open-heartedness and knowing wisdom. I suspect every review of this record closes with some sentiment along the lines of how good she already is and how much better she’ll surely get as she gains more experience, but it really is true. And while Mair’s upside is astonishing, don’t assume that Amanda Mair is all about potential – she’s already arrived.

There’s a stream of the album available at MTV, but it’s geoblocked to the US. Americans, have at it. Everyone else, just trust me.

MP3: Amanda Mair – “House”
MP3: Amanda Mair – “Sense”
MP3: Amanda Mair – “Doubt”
Video: Amanda Mair – “House”
Video: Amanda Mair – “Sense”
Stream: Amanda Mair / Amanda Mair (US only)

Anna Ternheim released her new album The Night Visitor this week, and it’s available to stream in whole at Spinner.

MP3: Anna Ternheim – “Walking Aimlessly”
MP3: Anna Ternheim – “The Longer The Waiting (The Sweeter The Kiss)”
Stream: Anna Ternheim / The Night Visitor

NPR is streaming The Tallest Man On Earth’s new album There’s No Leaving Now ahead of its release next Tuesday. Kristian Matsson hits the stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on June 15.

MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “1904″
Stream: The Tallest Man On Earth / There’s No Leaving Now

Interview, The Music, and The Herald Sun talk to The Hives, in town at The Sound Academy on June 26.

Rolling Stone talks to Sigur Rós’ Georg Holm about their new album Valtari, from which they’ve released another video from their “Mystery Film Experiment” series. They play Echo Beach on August 1

Video: Sigur Rós – “Varúð”

Denmark’s Efterklang premiered songs from their forthcoming album Piramida in performance with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the end of May, and a video of one of them has been released to get people excited for the new set of songs, due out this Fall.

Video: Efterklang – “The Ghost” (live)

The Guardian wonders what’s up with the women who helped define the synthy sound of 2009: La Roux is supposed to have a second album out this year but there’s been nary a peep out of Elly Jackson in ages; Ladyhawke traded a lot of the keys for guitars on her just-released second album Anxiety – there’s interviews with Pip Browne at The New Zealand Herald and The Music; and Little Boots just debuted a new video taken from her second album which, while it clearly exists, has yet to have any specifics revealed.

Video: Little Boots – “Headphones”

NPR is streaming Hot Chip’s latest In Our Heads, due out next Tuesday. The Music talks to singer Alexis Taylor and they play The Sound Academy on July 15.

Stream: Hot Chip / In Our Heads

Pitchfork checks in with The xx, who’ve announced their second album Coexist will be released on September 11. They’ll preview the new material when they play a sold-out show at The Phoenix on July 28.

There’s a complete Clock Opera show from Amsterdam in May available to watch at 3voor12.

The Line Of Best Fit says hello to Mystery Jets, themselves saying hello when they open up for Keane at The Sound Academy on June 19.

Most pleased to hear that Richard Hawley’s latest Standing At The Sky’s Edge will be getting a North American physical release on August 28 – it’ll be available digitally next week – because I was getting close to biting the bullet and paying the $40+ for the import vinyl. Yay procrastination! And yay for a sample track from the album to download. Now let’s just get some touring happening over here…

MP3: Richard Hawley – “Leave Your Body Behind You”

Neil Halstead’s new solo record Palindrome Hunches – originally targeted for an August release – will now be out come September 11, but to make up for the delay a first MP3 has been made available for listening.

MP3: Neil Halstead – “Full Moon Rising”

Jarvis Cocker talks to The Guardian about his work raising awareness for Arctic environmental concerns.

MusicOmh chats with Supergrass frontman gone solo Gaz Coombes.

Muse have announced a September 17 release date for their new record The 2nd Law. The accompanying trailer does not inspire confidence, as it would appear to be a bombastic concept album about peak oil.

Trailer: Muse / The 2nd Law

The AV Club takes the occasion of the recent reissues to examine the career and importance of My Bloody Valentine.

Interview and NME both mark the 40th anniversary of David Bowie’s The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust; the former with an interview originally published in March 1973 and the latter with an interactive look at the album cover.