Frank YangDespite only seeing four bands, I like to think that I covered a fair bit of ground – stylistically, geographically, exploratorily (?), what have you – on the first night of Canadian Musicfest. The Friday night stuck slightly closer to home on all fronts but yielded much better and consistent results.
The evening kicked off at Rancho Relaxo with Neufovin in all the way from Finland (I mistakenly called them Norwegian in my festival preview and apologize profusely). Besides having an affinity for anything Scandinavian, the foursome impressed me with the samples posted online – they’ve yet to release a debut album but already sound like a tight and creative unit only somewhat all over the place with respect to what they want to sound like. But based on their set, they were leaning towards a low-level orbit brand of space-rock, propelled by their nimble drummer whose work reminded me of The National’s Bryan Devendorf and that’s basically the highest praise I can give a drummer; I could have just sat and listened to him play all night. The vocals could use a little more expressiveness but hearing their confident transitions from sonic grace to chaos and back again, I would definitely like to hear that debut whenever it’s done.
Photos: Neufvoin @ Rancho Relaxo – March 23, 2012
MP3: Neufvoin – “Drunken Captain”
MP3: Neufvoin – “Polar Song”
MP3: Neufvoin – “Villasukka”
MP3: Neufvoin – “Mouse On Mars”
Video: Neufvoin – “Polar Song”
I’m not sure who booked New York’s The Big Sleep into The Painted Lady, but it was a weird venue for them, being better suited to singer-songwriter acts than heavy, lumbering rock acts – to wit, they kept getting asked to turn down their amps through their set. But while the band had a track record, their third album Nature Experiments had just come out in January and was their first in four years; they probably had to work to get back onto peoples’ radars. I for one had lost track of them after seeing them at Pop Montreal 2006 circa their debut Son Of The Tiger, but remembered them well enough to know I wanted to see/hear them again, given the chance. Happily, time hadn’t messed with my memory and they were as good as I recalled, coming across equal parts intense and cool and heavy all around. Sonya Balchandani and Danny Barria have distinct vocal styles but maintain a similarly detached personality, offering a nice balance to their decidedly pummelling guitar-bass-keys instrumental groove. I imagine it’d make great car chase music.
Photos: The Big Sleep @ The Painted Lady – March 23, 2012
MP3: The Big Sleep – “Ace”
MP3: The Big Sleep – “Bad Blood”
MP3: The Big Sleep – “Pinkies”
MP3: The Big Sleep – “Murder”
MP3: The Big Sleep – “You Can’t Touch The Untouchable”
Video: The Big Sleep – “Ace”
Video: The Big Sleep – “Valentine”
Video: The Big Sleep – “Murder”
At this point, the best laid plans kind of fell apart as catching a streetcar across College from Ossington to Spadina turned into walking across College from Ossington to Spadina, an exercise that took quite a bit longer than intended (it wasn’t by choice). But being late for an 11PM showcase means you’re early for an 11:30 one, so I managed to slip into the El Mocambo between sets and get in position for one of the festival’s hotter acts, Vancouver’s retro-soul revivalists Chains of Love. They’d been a highlight of last year’s NXNE and their just-released debut Strange Grey Days was a solid one, so I was pretty content with this plan B. This show was somewhat less gleefully chaotic than that Silver Dollar show – the ElMo stage affording enough space that the band weren’t falling over each other up there – but while that was part of the fun last time, its loss was mitigated by the fact that the band were more polished and all-around better sounding than last time, and the extra space allowed for frontwoman Nathalia Pizarro’s dance moves and tambourine workout. They wisely stuck to their uptempo material for the set and while that meant that it was all over extra fast – I don’t think it even clocked in at half an hour – they definitely proved that NXNE show wasn’t any kind of fluke. Spinner has an interview with the band.
Photos: Chains Of Love @ The El Mocambo – March 23, 2012
MP3: Chains Of Love – “In Between”
MP3: Chains Of Love – “Breaking My Heart”
MP3: Chains Of Love – “You Got It”
And if Chains Of Love were going to pass on their title of “best new discovery at The Silver Dollar during a music festival” – it’s a real thing, look it up – then across the street July Talk were ready to take it. I didn’t know a thing about them ahead of time, but The Silver Dollar is usually a pretty safe bet during either CMF or NXNE – at the very least, whatever you see will be loud and rocking and at the very most, it’ll be amazing. That might be overselling July Talk a bit, but they were definitely one of the most entertaining sets I’d see all week. Fronted by the duo of Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay, they offered a sort of rowdy, sleazy blues punkabilly take on June & Johnny/Gram & Emmylou with not a little Sailor & Lula/Mickey & Mallory dynamic thrown into the mix. They two were electric onstage, whether playfully shoving, biting or rubbing up against each other or working the audience – Fay graciously put lipstick on more than a few members of the crowd – all the while leading their band through some foot-stomping, ass-shaking tunes that were almost as tuneful as they were theatrical. Tremendously fun, and I don’t know what is says about me that I assumed they were an out-of-town act from Los Angeles or the like… and not from right here in Toronto. Who knew we had it in us?
Photos: July Talk @ The Silver Dollar – March 23, 2012
M4A: July Talk – “Paper Girl”
M4A: July Talk – “The Garden”
PS I Love You are gearing up for the May 8 release of Death Dreams with a second MP3 and a set of tour dates that includes a May 15 date at The Garrison.
MP3: PS I Love You – “Princess Towers”
The AV Club gets to know Army Girls; they’re opening up some of those PS I Love You dates, no word if they’re going to be doing so in Toronto but one can hope. Update: Yup, they’re opening the Garrison show.
And not to give up the title of pre-eminent loud Canadian rock duo, Japandroids will release their new one Celebration Rock on June 5 and have plotted their own Summer tour which brings them to The Horseshoe on June 23. A stream from the new record is available now.
Stream: Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”
It almost goes without saying that the just-announced Fucked Up show at The Power Plant art gallery space at Harbourfront on May 1 will be something more than just a concert, but they haven’t said what yet. But if you’re looking to get some Fucked Up in you life, keep the date open.
MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
The Wooden Sky have released the third instalment of their “Grace On A Hill” video session series at Chart. They play The Opera House on April 20.
Exclaim and The Awl talk to Tony Dekker of Great Lake Swimmers, whose new album New Wild Everywhere is out next week and streaming in full over at aux.tv. They’re at The Music Hall on June 2 and have just announced an in-store at Sonic Boom for April 3 at 6PM.
Stream: Great Lake Swimmers / New Wild Everywhere
Opening up that Great Lake Swimmers show will be Cold Specks, who was profiled by NOW and The Globe & Mail. I Predict A Graceful Explosion will be out May 22.
The Globe & Mail, Willamette Weekly, Edmonton Journal, and NOW talk to John K Samson.
Exclaim and aux.tv talk to Joel Plaskett about his new record Scrappy Happiness. He’s at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre on May 18 and 19.
The National Post and Spinner chat with John O’Regan of Diamond Rings about his second album and how it feels to be a Juno nominee.
Also up for a Juno is Dan Mangan; The Vancouver Sun has an interview with the singer-songwriter.
Spin points to a stream if another of Arcade Fire’s contributions to the Hunger Games soundtrack.
Stream: Arcade Fire – “Horn Of Plenty”
Pitchfork reports that Caribou’s performance at the 2009 ATP festival as the Caribou Vibration Ensemble is available to watch in its entirety at Vimeo. Caribou opens up for Radiohead at Downsview Park on June 16.
A track from Moonface’s new album With Sinai: Heartbreaking Bravery is now available to download. It’s out April 17.
MP3: Moonface – “Headed For The Door”
DIY interviews Claire Boucher of Grimes.