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Posts Tagged ‘Antony & The Johnsons’

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"

Boy George and Antony Hegarty cover John Lennon

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt’s that time of year again, when holiday songs become inescapable, and why should I offer any respite? Christmastime is easy covers, man. Way easy.

Trying to contribute a new song to the canon of Christmas songs is no easy feat – there’s no shortage of familiar classics to draw on – but when you’re the man who helped define what modern pop music is, maybe you’ve got something to offer. And so John Lennon’s 1971 single – assisted by Phil Spector, he himself responsible for a solid Christmas song or two – would become a holiday classic to be covered many times over, particularly by those looking to inject a little social commentary into their festive greetings; that made it a natural fit for the 2005 War Child benefit compilation Help: A Day In The Life, which closed with this rendition by Boy George and Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons.

Boy George marked the 30th anniversary of Culture Club this year by reconvening the band and recording a new album for release in 2013. He also recently accidentally offended Mexico. Antony & The Johnsons released a live, symphonic album in Cut The World earlier this year. John Lennon died thirty-two years ago last week.

MP3: Boy George with Antony Hegarty – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
Video: John Lennon – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Paper Forest

Review of Emmy The Great’s Virtue

Photo By Alex LakeAlex LakeOne of my most anticipated records of the last few years was First Love, the debut from London’s Emma-Lee Moss, aka Emmy The Great. I’d spent well over a year with my own custom compilation of her various singles, EPs and random releases on repeat before the album proper came out and perhaps inevitably felt a bit let down, though for reasons entirely my own and even so, it still made my 2009 year-end list.

There was no such weight of expectation surrounding her second album, which isn’t to say that I wasn’t anxious to hear it – I most certainly was – but even not having heard any of the new material, I figured I had a pretty good idea what to expect: acoustically-built pop songs with wonderfully clever lyrics delivered in Moss’ distinctively precise diction; more of First Love would have been just fine with me. So of course, it goes without saying that Virtue pretty much floored me. The backstory of the record isn’t essential to appreciating it, but understanding what the last couple of years have been like for Moss provides some invaluable context for the record. Read the unabridged feature from The Guardian for the full story but in brief, Moss was engaged until her formerly atheist fiancee found God and left her for the life of a missionary.

Life-altering stuff, to say the least, and so it’s no surprise that whereas the songwriting on First Love felt like a collection of tales told through characters, Virtue feels considerably more personal, even filtered through the allegories – many religious and/or mythical – that suffuse the songs. Though it’d be justified if it was, Virtue is anything but a pity party – the songs constantly struggle for some critical distance from their inspiration, adding a certain tension to the proceedings, but on “Trellick Tower” that struggle ends, the tension evaporates and the album closes on its most emotionally unguarded and affecting moment.

Virtue is a darker and weightier record than the debut, both lyrically and musically. The latter point comes thanks to the addition of more electric and electronic textures to go with the more conventional acoustic instrumentation, courtesy of producer Gareth Jones and long-time collaborator Euan Hinshelwood. Moss was never comfortable being associated with the “anti-folk” tag that tied her to some of her peers and former bandmates, but only the most stubborn would call Virtue a folk record; it’s diverse and rangy enough that anything more specific than “pop” would be debatable. If you needed more adjectives, however, I would submit any or all of “contemplative”, “elegant”, “wistful”, “gorgeous” and “essential”.

The Westmoreland Gazette has an interview with Moss about the new record. Being independently released in the UK, there’s not much chance of a North American release but Virtue is available digitally at both eMusic and iTunes. Similarly, touring over here seems unlikely but Emmy is doing two US dates in Philadelphia and New York next month, and yes, I may well have moved my flight to New York up a day so as to be able to make the show at The Studio At Webster Hall. What of it?

MP3: Emmy The Great – “A Woman, A Woman, A Century Of Sleep”
Video: Emmy The Great – “Iris”

The Guardian has an extended feature on Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons.

The Vaccines are back in town for the third time this year, this time headlining a show at The Phoenix on September 27. It’ll be all-ages, tickets $15 in advance and Tennis and Young Buffalo support.

MP3: The Vaccines – “Norgaard” (live)
MP3: Tennis – “Take Me Somewhere”

Gearing up for the release of Skying next week – everywhere but North America at least, we have to wait until August 9 – The Horrors have made the whole album available to stream and have also released a first video from the new record. They play Lee’s Palace on September 27.

Video: The Horrors – “Still Life”
Stream: The Horrors / Skying

DIY and AOL Music UK have chats with the lads of Two Door Cinema Club; they have a date at The Phoenix on September 17.

Everyone expecting a new Spiritualized record this Fall, get ready to wait a little longer – State reports that a series of UK dates have been postponed until next year, wit said new album now targeted for a February 2012 release.

Liam Gallagher of Beady Eye tells The Sun that he’s gone clean and sober. His band has also put out a new video from Different Gear, Still Speeding.

Video: Beady Eye – “The Beat Goes On”

And Gallagher the elder – that’s Noel – has just announced details of his first post-Oasis projects. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds will release their self-titled debut on October 17 and next year, look for a collaborative record with psychedelic-electronia outfit Amorphous Androgynous. Or don’t. Fuller details at The Quietus.

The Quietus reports that Jarvis Cocker will be publishing a collection of his lyrics in book form Mother, Brother, Lover: Selected Lyrics will be out in October.

The Independent checks in on some of the one-time heroes of Britpop, including Louise Wener of Sleeper; she’s now an author and I just realized that the two volumes of her Britpop memoirs – Different For Girls and Just For One Day are actually the same book under different titles. I wish I’d realized that before I bought them both.

Slicing Up Eyeballs reports that The Jesus & Mary Chain will be embarking on an extensive catalog reissue campaign this Fall; it begins on September 19 with double-CD/single-DVD sets for Psychocandy and Darklands, followed by Automatic and Honey’s Dead the following week and final two albums Stoned & Dethroned and Munki on October 3.

Post-punk forebears The Raincoats will be remastering and reissuing their 1981 album Odyshape on September 13 and follow that up with some North American touring that includes a September 23 date at Wrongbar in Toronto.

Video: The Raincoats – “Don’t Be Mean”

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Freedom Of Choice

Are we not men? We are the NXNE 2011 lineup

Photo via WBWarner Bros.Or at least we are the first batch of acts officially announced on Tuesday for this year’s NXNE festival, running June 16 through 19 around Toronto. It’s certainly not all of them, but there’s some moderate to big names in there and perhaps most key, the headliners for the free shows at Yonge-Dundas Square that have become the centrepiece of the fest have been revealed.

While there’s no one quite of the stature of last year’s Saturday night marquee of Iggy & The Stooges, New Wave legends Devo have certainly got the pedigree to act as a worthy centrepiece for this year’s event. They and their energy domes and jumpsuits will be headlining the YDS Stage on the Saturday night, closing off what will likely be a full day’s slate of acts. They were here in Fall 2009 offering full-album performances of Q: Are We Not Men and Freedom Of Choice, but have since released their first new album in forever with last year’s Something For Everybody. Which, I’m sure, the masses will want to hear lots of material from at this show. Mm hmm.

And while there’s enough tapped for the free stage that you could have a fine weekend just camped out in front of the Eaton Centre, NXNE is still a club-level fest and there’ll be hundreds more artists from near and far vying for your attention. The schedule won’t be out for a while yet but I’ve managed to cobble together a very early list of who will be playing where and when – obviously all subject to change – and while some of this was previously announced, a lot of it is new:

Thursday, June 16, 2011
The Descendents, OFF!, Rusty, Metz @ Yonge-Dundas Square
Evan Dando & Juliana Hatfield, The Luyas @ Lee’s Palace
Snowblink, Forest City Lovers, Evening Hymns @ The Music Gallery
The Dodos, Deerhoof, Gauntlet Hair @ The Phoenix
Ty Segall, The Dig @ The Garrison
Woodsman @ The El Mocambo

Friday, June 17, 2011
Stars, Land Of Talk, Diamond Rings @ Yonge-Dundas Square
Suuns, No Joy, PS I Love You @ The Horseshoe
Bouncing Souls, Anti-Flag, The Flatliners @ The Phoenix
Art Brut @ The Mod Club
Braids @ The Garrison
Dum Dum Girls, Cults, Superhumanoids, Writer @ Lee’s Palace
Ty Segall, Julianna Barwick, Daniel Pujol, Secret Cities @ Wrongbar

Saturday, June 18, 2011
Devo, Men Without Hats, Cults, Writer @ Yonge-Dundas Square
Twin Shadow, Wild Nothing @ Lee’s Palace
Foster The People @ The Mod Club
Hot Water Music, A Wilhelm Scream, Mockingbird Wish Me Luck, Sharks @ The Opera House
Talk Normal, Prince Rama, AIDS Wolf, Grimes, Doldrums @ 918 Bathurst
Chad Van Gaalen, Braids, Jennifer Castle, Duzheknew, Grimes @ The Great Hall
The Balconies @ Sneaky Dee’s

Sunday, June 19, 2011
Wild Nothing @ The Garrison
The Pharcyde, Digable Planets @ Yonge-Dundas Square

And some of the acts who don’t have any more specific information available besides “they’ll be there” are Crocodiles and Lower Dens. Yeah, I think I can find enough to occupy myself for four evenings or so.

MP3: Art Brut – “Lost Weekend”
MP3: Julianna Barwick – “The Magic Place”
MP3: Braids – “Lemonade”
MP3: Jennifer Castle – “Neverride”
MP3: Cults – “Go Outside”
MP3: Deerhoof – “The Merry Barracks”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”
MP3: The Dodos – “Don’t Stop”
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Broken Rifle”
MP3: Forest City Lovers – “Light You Up”
MP3: Foster The People – “Pumped Up Kicks”
MP3: Grimes – “Vanessa”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
MP3: The Luyas – “Tiny Head”
MP3: No Joy – “Hawaii”
MP3: OFF! – “I Don’t Belong”
MP3: Prince Rama – “Lightening Fossil”
MP3: PS I Love You (featuring Diamond Rings) – “Leftovers”
MP3: Ty Segall – “Girlfriend”
MP3: Snowblink – “Ambergris”
MP3: Stars – “We Don’t Want Your Body”
MP3: Suuns – “Up Past The Nursery”
MP3: Talk Normal – “In A Strangeland”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Sara”
MP3: Twin Shadow – “Castles In The Snow”
MP3: Woodsman – “Insects”
Video: Devo – “What We Do”
Video: The Descendents – “I’m The One”
Video: Digable Planets – “Rebirth Of Slick”
Video: Men Without Hats – “Safety Dance”
Video: The Pharcyde – “Drop”

If you prefer your festivals a little more rustically-set, Exclaim has the lineup announcement for this year’s Hillside Festival, happening in Guelph from July 22 to 24. The roster reads like a who’s who of up-and-coming Canadian talent, including The Rural Alberta Advantage, Dan Mangan, Karkwa, Little Scream and really too many more to list. Tickets go on sale May 7 at 10AM at $110 for a weekend pass and these sell out quickly every year so don’t dither too long if at all.

And while talking Canadian fests, it’s worth noting that Montreal’s Osheaga added a bunch more acts including Janelle Monae and Broken Social Scene among them, and broken things down day by day.

In other live music news, Steve Earle will be at the HMV at 333 Yonge for a signing and in-store on April 28 at 6PM – you’ll just have to buy a copy of I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive when it comes out next Tuesday for tickets. Or wait for his show opening up for Blue Rodeo at the Amphitheatre on August 20.

San Diego’s The Donkeys are in town at a venue to be determined Sneaky Dee’s on May 21 in support of their new record Born With Stripes, out on Tuesday.

MP3: The Donkeys – “Don’t Know Who We Are”

The Baseball Project – aka Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn, Peter Buck and Linda Pitmon celebrating America’s pastime in song – will bring their second album Volume 2: High & Inside to Lee’s Palace on June 1. And yeah, the Jays are at home that evening against Cleveland. Oregon Live has a feature on the band.

MP3: The Baseball Project – “1976”

Louisiana’s Givers, just here supporting Wye Oak a couple weeks ago, will return for their own show at The Garrison on June 21. Their album In Light is out June 7.

MP3: Givers – “Up Up Up”

With their new record D due out May 24, White Denim have announced a date at The El Mocambo for June 28.

MP3: White Denim – “Anvil Everything”

Antony & The Johnsons have released a new video from last year’s Swanlights

Video: Antony & The Johnsons – “Swanlights”

Spinner reports that one of The National’s next projects will be curating a Grateful Dead tribute album for charity. I can only hope that everyone involved covers “Touch Of Grey” because that’s about the only Dead song I know.

Exclaim talks to Explosions In The Sky guitarist Munaf Rayani about their new record Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, out on Tuesday.

My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James goes over some of his influences for Spin. Their new record Circuital comes out May 31 and they play The Kool Haus on July 11.

Titus Andronicus discusses his love of Fucked Up and plans for following up The Monitor with Spinner.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Iron & Wine while The Washington Post and Boston Herald have interviews with Sam Beam.

Spectrum Culture and Spin interview Michael Benjamin Lerner of Telekinesis. They’re at Lee’s Palace on May 27.

Bon Iver has declared their intention to make the Summer solstice a little more wintry by releasing their new self-titled album on June 21. Details at Pitchfork.

And finally, sympathies to family, friends and fans of TV On The Radio bassist Gerard Smith, who lost his battle with lung cancer yesterday morning. Fuck you, cancer. Just fuck you.

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

All We Grow

S. Carey and White Hinterland at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangTo the person who said they’d hoped S. Carey would play a Bon Iver cover at the Horseshoe on Sunday night – really? Though to be fair, I can understand it – without the angle of Sean Carey also being Justin Vernon’s drummer, there might well have been far fewer people in attendance, and that’d have been a shame as Carey’s solo debut All We Grow is a jewel of a record on entirely its own merits. But even if they didn’t know that in advance, by that point in Carey’s set – nearing the end – any right-thinking person would have been so taken by the performance that they shouldn’t have even been able to muster a “Bon who?”

That should probably say “performances” – plural – because opener White Hinterland was pretty terrific as well. I’d only listened to Casei Dienel’s stuff in passing before, but clearly I’ve been missing out. With Shawn Creeden alongside her, Dienel crafted a set that was earthy and organic despite hardly utilizing a single acoustic instrument. Using keys, samples and loopers, Dienel would subtly loop and layer her birdlike vocals into a swirling cloud of folktronica that had more than a hint of Lykke Li-like sultriness. She also offered up a cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” (how I was able to recognize the song without ever having actually heard it, I do not know) before bringing out S. Carey to back her on a couple of songs, a favour which she would later return. I know I have a copy of her latest album Kairos kicking around somewhere… I really need to find it.

If White Hinterland’s set was an exercise in making something wholly organic-sounding out of inorganic instruments, S. Carey’s was a study in rendering a studio-crafted record entirely live. We All Grow is a record rich with layered sounds, clearly indebted to late-era Talk Talk, and I certainly wouldn’t have expected all of them to be recreated live… so I was very pleasantly surprised when they were. Fronting a five-piece band and sticking mainly to keyboards, Sean Carey led his bandmates through one of the simply prettiest hours of music I’ve experienced in recent memory. Be it the immaculate four-part harmonies or the masterful musicianship of all hands with through the gentlest atmospheric moments or the crashing crescendos, they sounded amazing and the only time the only thing greater than enjoying the moment was anticipating how they’d do the remaining pieces from the album justice. I appreciate this sounds a touch overly effusive but it really was lovely, and perfectly capped in the encore when Dienel came out contribute vocals to their cover of The Notwist’s “Consequences”. Just oh so pretty.

Photos: S. Carey, White Hinterland @ The Horseshoe – December 19, 2010
MP3: S. Carey – “In The Dirt”
MP3: S. Carey – “In The Stream”
MP3: White Hinterland – “No Logic”
MP3: White Hinterland – “Dreaming Of The Plum Trees”
MP3: White Hinterland – “Chant de Grillon”
MP3: White Hinterland – “Icarus”
Video: White Hinterland – “No Logic”
Video: White Hinterland – “Amsterdam”
Video: White Hinterland – “Icarus”
Myspace: S. Carey
Myspace: White Hinterland

Pitchfork and The Telegraph have interviews with The National while NYC Taper is sharing a recording of their set opening for Yo La Tengo during their Hannukah residency at Maxwell’s at the start of the month.

My Old Kentucky Blog interviews Nicole Atkins – her new record Mondo Amore arrives January 25 and she will be at The Horseshoe on February 26.

Interview talks to Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes about the rocking direction of their next record The People’s Key, out February 15 and the first MP3 from which is available in swap for an email over at Pitchfork. They’re at the Sound Academy on March 13.

aux.tv chats with Ra Ra Riot.

Spinner chats with Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was still waiting for Minnesota’s Now Now to make up their cancelled Summer 2009 date; good news is they’re finally making it here on February 13 for a show at the Mod Club, bad news is it’s part of a large bill of emo-punk-pop acts that I’d rather not have anything to do with (Hellogoodbye, Gold Motel, You Me And Everyone We Know) so yeah, maybe next time.

MP3: Now Now – “Neighbors”

Rocky Votolato and Matt Pond (presumably solo, sans PA), will be teaming up for a Spring tour that stops in at the Drake on March 23.

MP3: Rocky Votolato – “Red River”
MP3: Matt Pond PA – “Starting”

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Fire Like This

Blood Red Shoes and Sky Larkin at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIs it possible for a band to steal their own show? It is when you’re far more interested in the support act than the headliner, as I was Wednesday night at The Horseshoe. I had already planned to attend even when it was just Brighton, UK’s Blood Red Shoes on the bill – I liked their two albums, including their latest and first North American release Fire Like This, well enough – but when Sky Larkin were announced as support, well it became an absolute must-see.

I had loved the Leeds trio’s 2009 debut The Golden Spike and rate this year’s follow-up Kaleide only slightly behind it, though at only a few months old it’s got lots of time to curry more favour. The difference between the two is really just degrees, as both are packed with wiry, spiky pop whose melodic qualities make them immediate and yet whose quirkiness allows them to continue to grow and unfold with repeated listens. And while these traits are very much in evidence in the live setting, what you notice most about the band on stage is just how much fun they’re having and how effortless they make it all seem.

When they’re playing, you just have to watch frontwoman Katie Harkin and how she seems at one with her guitar whilst dancing, hopping and swaying around the stage without missing a beat or note, or maybe drummer Nestor Matthews as he gives some epic drummer face while punishing his kit for some heinous transgressions. And between songs, their bantering with the audience and each other was just as entertaining – bassist Doug Adams may have been generally more placid on stage than his bandmates, but he did offer some choice words about Toronto’s new mayor-elect (“I’ve been reading about this Rob Ford guy – he’s an asshole!”). Their set didn’t crackle quite and fiercely as their visit to the Cameron Houe down the street a year and a day earlier, but it was still plenty great and Matthews got to celebrate his birthday without bleeding all over his kit.

So even before the headliners even set foot on stage, the night was deemed a success but even if, on paper, you preferred Sky Larkin’s more classically indie guitar-pop, there wasn’t going to be any resisting of Blood Red Shoes’ blunt instrument, ’90s alt rock-saluting attack. With Laura-Mary Carter on guitar, Steven Ansell on drums and both on vocals, their musical approach may have been less nuanced than their openers, but they understood the effectiveness of coming on strong and not letting up for a moment. And so it was that their relentless set focused on the most aggressive moments of Fire Like This and their debut Box Of Secrets and the permutations of their simple musical recipe – thick riffs and spidery lines from Carter’s Telecaster and steady, heavy rhythms from Ansell’s kit. On record, the balance of the vocals seems to favour Ansell, his hollers coming across more forcefully than Carter’s dulcet singing style, but live, it was much more evenly split and it was for the better. There may have only the two of them but they roared like a much larger band and in response, the smallish but enthusiastic audience cheered like a packed stadium. Go for the Sky Larkin, stay for the Blood Red Shoes, leave dazed and satisfied.

The Valley Star, Georgia Straight and San Francisco Examiner have features on Blood Red Shoes.

Photos: Blood Red Shoes, Sky Larkin @ The Horseshoe – October 27, 2010
MP3: Blood Red Shoes – “Light It Up”
MP3: Sky Larkin – “Kaleide”
MP3: Sky Larkin – “Molten”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Heartsink”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Don’t Ask”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Colours Fade”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “This Is Not For You”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Say Something, Say Anything”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “I Wish I Was Someone Better”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “It’s Getting Boring By The Sea”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Still Windmills”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Antibodies”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Beeline”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Fossil, I”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Molten”
Video: Sky Larkin – “One Of Two”
MySpace: Blood Red Shoes
MySpace: Sky Larkin

Interview talks to Elly Jackson of La Roux.

Clash and Dallas Voice have feature interviews with Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons.

Prefix has an interview with The Drums, who’ve just released a new video from their self-titled debut.

Video: The Drums – “Me & The Moon”

The Daily Iowan and Interview discover Phantogram.

The Walrus and Consequence Of Sound catch up with Liz Phair, who tries to explain every song on her mostly awful new record Funstyle to New York Magazine.

The Lissie show originally scheduled for last Tuesday and then cancelled when she lost her voice has now been rescheduled for January 18 of next year, but moved from the relatively cozy confines of the El Mocambo to the more spacious Opera House. Tickets for the new show are $15 and tickets for the old one will still be honoured.

MP3: Lissie – “Everywhere I Go”

New York Magazine gets some choice words from Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields. Strange Powers, the documentary on Merritt and his music, opens in Toronto next Thursday.