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Posts Tagged ‘CANT’

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Reappear

Review of School Of Seven Bells’ Ghostory

Photo By Justin HollarJustin HollarI had actually forgotten how weird Alpinisms, the 2008 debut from New York’s School Of Seven Bells was. It basically inverted the balance of pop-to-experimentalism of the Deheza sisters’ former outfit On! Air! Library! and made itself it much more accessible than O!A!L!’s self-titled effort but was still willing to forgo the pop in parts to play with textures, exotic sounds and the interesting harmonies that their twin frontwomen could create.

2010’s Disconnect From Desire was decidedly slicker, dancier and more straight-ahead in comparison – at least relatively speaking in a dream-pop/post-shoegaze frame of reference. It successfully grew their audience but not without cost – keyboardist/vocalist Claudia Deheza left the band in the middle of a Fall tour that year, leaving the official band lineup as just sister Alejandra and guitarist Ben Curtis, replacing the musical chemistry between the two with another singer being pretty much impossible.

You would think that losing a third of the band would have more dramatic impact on their sound, but had you no knowledge of the personnel changes and just came to their just-released third album Ghostory with a familiarity of their previous efforts, you would be forgiven for assuming that everything was business as usual. Losing their keyboardist hasn’t meant losing the keys as the album still leans heavily on sequenced rhythms and synthetic atmosphere and through the magic of overdubs the band’s signature harmonies are superficially intact if less inherently magical. In fact, though the band is officially now a pair of guitarists, Ghostory is arguably less guitar-driven than before, instead favouring a more ’80s-era 4AD sheen than any overt ’90s shoegaze aesthetic; anyone who still wants to pigeonhole them as such is working with outdated information.

Perhaps the most notable thing about Ghostory is how steady on it finds the band in what they do despite the upheavals. Parsing the lyrics, which ostensibly center around a young girl literally haunted by ghosts, you can find traces of deeper, more personal emotions – loss, regret, what have you – but this is not music meant for soundtracking deep introspection. It’s for drifting, dreaming, dancing. No more, no less. The school may experience staff turnover but the lesson plan remains the same.

Ghostory is out today and available to stream in full at Spinner. After a jaunt in Europe, their North American tour brings the band to The Hoxton in Toronto on May 2. Alejandra Deheza talks to Spin about her interest in tarot cards and to Rolling Stone about the just-released first video from the album.

MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Lafaye”
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “The Night”
Video: School Of Seven Bells – “Lafaye”
Stream: School Of Seven Bells / Ghostory

Blurt chats with Amber Papini of Hospitality, in town at The Horseshoe on February 29 and The Garrison on May 4 in support of Tennis and Eleanor Friedberger, respectively.

Stereogum is streaming in whole The Clearing, the new album from Bowerbirds, out next Tuesday. They play The Garrison on March 27.

MP3: Bowerbirds – “Tuck The Darkness In”
MP3: Bowerbirds – “In The Yard”
Stream: Bowerbirds / The Clearing

NPR is streaming the whole of Milk Famous, the new one from White Rabbits, a week ahead of its March 6 release date.

MP3: White Rabbits – “Heavy Metal”
Stream: White Rabbits / Milk Famous

Young Prisms will warm up for their March 10 show at The Drake Underground with an in-store at the Kensington location of Sonic Boom that afternoon at 5PM. Their second album In Between is out March 27 and Stereogum just premiered the first video.

MP3: Young Prisms – “Floating In Blue”
Video: Young Prisms – “Floating In Blue”

James Mercer of The Shins stops in at The Alternate Side for an interview and video session. Port Of Morrow comes out March 20.

Spin has posted online the Sleigh Bells cover story from the all-new, redesigned magazine, and dang is it pretty. The magazine, not the story, but if Alexis Krauss does it for you, then it’s both. There’s also features at eMusic, AltSounds, The Guardian, and The Stool Pigeon. Sleigh Bells are at The Phoenix on March 26 and The Air Canada Centre on April 27 and 28 with Red Hot Chili Peppers.

NPR is streaming a World Cafe session and The Fly has an interview with with Chairlift, who are at The Horseshoe on March 28.

Pitchfork has a +1 interview and video session with Perfume Genius while Stereogum gets Mike Hadreas on the phone for an interview about Put Your Back N 2 It. He plays The Drake Underground on April 8.

Maps & Atlases have made a May 16 date at The Horseshoe in support of their forthcoming album Beware And Be Grateful; the album is out April 17, tickets for the show are $11.50 and the first MP3 is available to download courtesy of Rolling Stone.

MP3: Maps & Atlases – “Winter”

It’s happy news that the Luna back catalog is finally going to be reissued on vinyl, at least some of it. Record Store Day will see their last two albums, Romantica and Rendezvous, come out on wax (that’s April 21) and there’s plans to press my personal favourite Bewitched in early Summer and Penthouse will eventually follow. I said I was largely done re-buying albums I already owned on LP, but this is an exception. Oh yes. And coincidentally, the band played their final show seven years ago today. Sigh.

MP3: Luna – “Black Postcards”

Lower Dens have released a video for the first single from their forthcoming album Nootropics; it’s out May 1.

Video: Lower Dens – “Brains”

A visit to France has yielded some live Blouse videos worth watching; a full show at arte.tv and a session for Faits Divers; there’s also one recorded stateside at Yours Truly and an interview with the band at Drowned In Sound. Blouse are at The Garrison on May 5.

The original release has since been redacted – someone broke embargo, apparently – but it seems likely that the new Beach House album will be out on May 15 and be called Bloom. Unless, of course, it’s not – in which case, it’s another case of “oh, internet!”.

Girls have gone to Conan O’Brien to premiere the new video from Father, Son, Holy Ghost.

Video: Girls – “My Ma”

Bon Iver has released a new video from Bon Iver.

Video: Bon Iver – “Towers”

NPR has got a World Cafe session with Real Estate.

Daytrotter has posted a session with CANT.

CBC Radio 3 and CNN have conversations with The Kills, who are streaming the Velvet Underground cover that appears on the “Last Goodbye” 10″.

Stream: The Kills – “Pale Blue Eyes”

Annie Clark of St. Vincent talks to The New Zealand Herald, The Guardian, and Drowned In Sound while the director for her “Cheerleader” video explains the clip to Pitchfork.

Culture Mob talks to Ume.

Pitchfork talks to James Murphy about his life post-LCD Soundsystem.

Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs talks to Spin about the band’s reunion. No word of lie, there is no show announcement I await more eagerly than this one.

Billboard talks to Bob Mould about Sugar’s Copper Blue, which he’s taken to performing in its entirety for a handful of mostly European shows.

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Towers

Bon Iver’s deluxe home movies; let him show you them

Photo By D.L. AndersonD.L. AndersonYear-end lists are kind of like Christmas displays in shopping malls. Every year, they seem to come out a little earlier and are a little less welcome but there’s little choice but to accept them as a fact of life. Paste kicked things off yesterday with a very Paste-y top 50 of the year, topped off by a record that’s probably going to be getting more than a few “album of the year” accolades (though not likely around here, though I like it more than the first record), Bon Iver’s Bon Iver.

And while the news that a deluxe edition of said record was coming could reasonably be met with eye rolls, the truth of it isn’t so cash-grabby. Rather than attach some b-sides and drop it in a shiny slipcase, they’ve released a video version of the album in digital form via iTunes (if I had any idea how to link an iTunes album I’d do so but I don’t so go and make with the search) and if you only want to watch the clips and not own them, all ten are also available to watch on the YouTubes. They tend towards the abstract – certainly no narratives and nothing to match the stark Icelandic beauty of the official “Holocene” clip – but they’re pretty and if you’re of the opinion that Bon Iver works better as soundtrack music, now you’ve got something to watch while it plays in the background. And for the downloading, there’s a solo piano version of “Beth/Rest” recorded for NPR earlier this Summer that should be exhibit A in any “Bon Iver = Bruce Hornsby” debates.

Bon Iver is at Massey Hall next week for two shows; December 6 and 7.

MP3: Bon Iver – “Beth/Rest” (solo piano version)
Video: Bon Iver – “Perth” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Minnesota, WI” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Holocene” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Towers” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Michicant” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Hinnom, TX” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Wash.” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Calgary” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Lisbon, OH” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Beth/Rest” (deluxe)

Just as the did back in 2007, Okkervil River have given their fans the gift of free music in the form of Golden Opportunities 2, a second EP of cover songs that they’re giving away for free. Unlike the first edition, I don’t know any of the artists covered this time out (okay I know who Bill Fay is but I don’t know the song) but hey – we’re here to learn, right? Look ’em up.

ZIP: Okkervil River / Golden Opportunities 2

In what could be subtitled “a preview of shows you should see next week”, The AV Club sends Aaron Dessner of The National to interview Adam Granduciel of The War On Drugs. The former are at The ACC on December 8, the latter at The Horseshoe on December 9.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel talks to Zach Condon of Beirut.

Grizzly Bear offspring CANT has released a new video from Dreams Come True.

Video: CANT – “Too Late, Too Far”

The Fader sends a self-proclaimed superfan to interview Mac McCaughan of Superchunk.

The Quietus offers a beginner’s guide to the works of Guided By Voices, about to increase by one album come January 1 when Let’s Go Eat The Factory is released via mail order; regular retail won’t happen until January 17.

Rolling Stone talks to Michael Stipe, formerly of R.E.M., about the odds of a solo career (slim to none).

And on a similiar note, Rolling Stone asks Lee Ranaldo about his new solo record Between The Times & The Tides, out March 20 of next year, and the future of Sonic Youth now that half the band are getting a divorce.

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Answer

CANT, Luke Temple and Blood Orange at The Garrison in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOne of the shifts in the music industry over the last few years has been the evolution of bands as brands (google it, it’s a phrase) with as much, or more, equity being place in an artist’s name and identity as with their work. So it was interesting to hit up The Garrison on Friday night for a triple bill of acts who were quite consciously not trading under their more successful brands – there was one side project, one solo project and one complete re-brand.

First up and most enticing to me was Blood Orange, the new project from one Devonté Hynes. Though only 26, he’s already established a track record for building up projects and then walking away, disbanding the NME-championed punk rock Test Icicles in 2006 then putting out two records of ambitious, Americana-influenced pop as Lightspeed Champion before deciding to make his funk-soul side-project his main gig. Coastal Grooves, his debut as Blood Orange, came out earlier this Fall and as much as I was sad to see Lightspeed Champion retired, it’s hard to argue that Blood Orange is as good a showcase for Hynes’ talents as there’s ever been. The irresistible melodies of Lavender Bridge and to a slightly lesser degree, Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You are largely intact but they’re now driven by deep, slow jam grooves and ripping guitar solos and more mature songwriting themes.

It’s the sort of record that could and perhaps should be done justice live with a full band, but instead Hynes stayed true to the home studio aesthetic of the project and took the stage with just himself, a sequencer and his guitar. It wasn’t much but it was more than enough as two songs into the set, Hynes moved the mic stand into the audience and played most of the rest of his set in the round, only interrupting the sequence of souful vocals and guitar shredding to hop back on stage to adjust his pedals and/or sequencer and right back to getting down. Maybe the best thing about it was how nonchalantly Hynes went about his business, as though a solo set that surely required considerable thought and preparation to sound to full was no big deal at all, and occasionally throwing in a bit of flash like a knee slide or tossing his guitar in the air and catching it without missing a beat. He capped it off with an extended, Prince-worthy guitar solo back onstage complete with behind-the-head riffing and once the backing track ended, he was up and out, at least for now. No big deal.

Luke Temple, best known for fronting Brookyln’s Here We Go Magic but recently returned to his solo roots for this year’s Don’t Act Like You Don’t Care wasn’t even going to try and top the Blood Orange show. Performing as a two-piece with Natalie Bergen on bass and keys, his set had a casual, almost ad-libbed vibe and the material more country-ish overtones and certainly not as refined as Here We Go Magic’s prog-pop. You got the sense that Temple wasn’t especially impressed with the lack of attention being paid by the chatty audience but to be fair, his low-key approach and material didn’t offer a lot of reason to.

Audience attention was no problem for CANT, the side-project from Grizzly Bear bassist Chris Taylor. Now I’m more of a Grizzly Bear respecter than admirer, but I was surprised how much I genuinely enjoyed Dreams Come True, the CANT debut which came out last month. It still has the meticulousness that marks his main band’s work, but its R&B angle feels looser, more dynamic and more immediately soulful. Live, Taylor led a four-piece band that included Dev Hynes on guitar and the two would spend the set swapping instruments and enduring electric shocks as they did so due to bad grounds. But no pain, no gain and for the better part of an hour, Taylor and co ran through an enjoyable set of Dreams material, offering Taylor a chance to show off his pipes and Hynes to further showboat on guitar a little more. Grizzly Bear has always gotten a great reception in Toronto and this show proved that Bear cub projects were also wholly welcome, with Taylor telling the wildly applauding fans at the show’s end that this had been the best show of the tour. I’m inclined to believe him.

The Pitch, Metro, The Daily Cardinal and The Dossier Journal have interviews with Chris Taylor while NOW talks to Dev Hynes.

Photos: CANT, Luke Temple, Blood Orange @ The Garrison – October 21, 2011
MP3: CANT – “Be Around (Rough Cutz)”
MP3: Luke Temple – “Ophelia”
MP3: Luke Temple – “More Than Muscle”
MP3: Blood Orange – “Dinner”
MP3: Blood Orange – “Sutphin Boulevard”
MP3: Blood Orange – “Champagne Coast”
Video: CANT – “Believe”
Video: Luke Temple – “More Than Muscle”
Video: Blood Orange – “Sutphin Boulevard”
Video: Blood Orange – “Dinner”
Video: Blood Orange – “S’Cooled”
Video: Blood Orange – “I’m Sorry We Lied”

The Sun and Newsweek talk to Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine, whose new record Ceremonials is streaming over at Pretty Much Amazing in advance of its release on November 1.

Stream: Florence & The Machine / Ceremonials

Drowned In Sound are streaming the cryptically-titled A Frightened Rabbit EP, which is in fact a free EP from Frightened Rabbit, available to download over at Grabtrax. Quad News also has a chat with Scott Hutchinson.

MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “Scottish Winds”
Stream: Frightened Rabbit / A Frightened Rabbit EP

The Fly sets up a Summer Camp in their courtyard and records a video session. The duo’s debut Welcome To Condale arrives November 8.

Billy Bragg tells The Sabotage Times it’s time for bands to get political again. He also weighs in on matters political with The Scotsman and The Irish Times.

James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers talks to NME about the band’s plans following the release of their National Treasures compilation next week; look for a break and then a reinvention.

Pitchfork, The Telegraph, Shortlist and Billboard talk to Noel Gallagher about his High Flying Birds, which come to roost at Massey Hall on November 7 and 8 and at record stores November 8.

Meanwhile, little brother Liam is sounding a bit conciliatory in talking to Rolling Stone, telling them that he’d be open to an Oasis reunion in 2015 or so. Uh huh.

The Sabotage Times talks to Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris about the transition from being Joy Division to New Order.

The Irish Independent talks to Annie Clark of St. Vincent, in town at The Phoenix on December 15.

New Wild Flag video!

Video: Wild Flag – “Electric Band”

The New York Times profiles Tom Waits ahead of the release of Bad As Me on Tuesday.

The Pittsburgh Tribune, Red & Black and American Songwriter talk to Matthew Sweet on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Girlfriend and the release of his new record Modern Art.

And sadly, Titus Andronicus just got a little less awesome with the announcement that Amy Klein, aka Amy Andronicus, aka the most ass-kicking embodiment of rock’n’roll going, announced that the shows at Halifax Pop Explosion this weekend were her last with the band, as she’s going to be concentrating on other projects from here on. Update: Patrick Stickles has posted his own thanks and farewell to Amy.

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Walking On A Wire

Richard Thompson at Koerner Hall in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI’ve been mentally composing my writeup for Richard Thompson’s visit to Toronto last week, as I do, and went digging through my archives for past pieces on the artist to perhaps link to as relevant, also standard procedure, which brought this piece I wrote back in 2005. And it’s helpful, as it actually covers a lot of the preface that I was preparing, but also mortifying as I didn’t realize that I’d already written – sometimes verbatim – what I was planning to write with regards to my personal history with Thompson’s music. You know you’ve been doing this too long when you’re recycling material without even knowing it. So go back and read that, if you please. I’ll wait here. And if you can’t be bothered, I’ll simply sum up with the fact that Thompson is one of the world’s greatest living singer/songwriter/guitarists and this isn’t up for debate.

Finding that entry was also notable because it reminded me that I hadn’t done a very good job of keeping up with Thompson’s work since then, missing both Front Parlour Ballads and last year’s Dream Attic; and while I do have 2007’s Sweet Warrior, I haven’t exactly worn it out. Similarly, I missed both of Thompson’s last visits – in 2008 at the Danforth Music Hall and 2005 at Trinity-St. Paul’s – my only live experience being back in 2003 at the Toronto Star Bluesfest at Exhibition Place, a jaw-dropping experience despite the less than auspicious setting. There would be no complaints about the venue last Thursday night, with Thompson being booked into the jaw-droppingly gorgeous – both visually and acoustically – Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music – a fitting room for a recently-honoured Officer of the Order of the British Empire, methinks. This was to be a solo show in all regards, just Thompson with a single acoustic guitar – no band, no opener, not even an amplifier (though he was mic-ed – the acoustics of the room weren’t THAT good) – truly as simple as you could get, but also all that he’d need.

Well, that and his immense, almost 40-year deep songbook. For over an hour and a half, Thompson explored the breadth of his repertoire including a nod back to his early days with Fairport Convention by way of a cover of Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” and a couple of selections from Shoot Out The Lights though not the title track, which I grudgingly accept as an electric song. Much of the set, however, focused on his ’90s material – well-documented on the Action Packed compilation – indicating that I wasn’t the only one who was most familiar with his works from that era. Highlights were plentiful, with any fears that an unplugged set would mean less guitar heroics put well to rest early on with astonishing excursions on Mock Tudor‘s “Crawl Back (Under My Stone)”, his one-man, six-string Zydeco band impersonation on “Valerie” or even how his down-tuning segued perfectly into the intro of his tour de force “Vincent Black Lightning 1952”.

If anything, playing acoustic didn’t mean fewer solos, only more astonishing ones. Understand that Thompson doesn’t solo like anyone else – for someone of his instrumental repute, he’s one of the least-copied because, well, it’s damn near impossible to ape his unique blend of folk, Celtic, and rock moves. And while you might reasonably question why a player would want to make his axe sound like bagpipes, hearing how Thompson works it into his music – making leads less about being showy as adding intense instrumental conversations to the topic at hand – you’d get it. The 1100 or so people on hand this night certainly did.

While it’s all well and good to focus on Thompson’s instrumental prowess, it’s crucial to note that on his songwriting scoreboard, each unearthly bend and riff is matched by a lyric of deliciously black English humour or a character either wronged or doing the wronging in love. Perhaps it was the setting and his having my undivided attention, but even songs that I didn’t like so much on record like Sweet Warrior‘s cruse ship comedy “Johnny’s Far Away” was considerably more entertaining live, thanks in no small part to the humorous intros Thompson prepended onto it and others. A bevy of charmingly corny jokes also got Thompson through a patch of having to change a string on his guitar; to reiterate – the man restrung his own guitar. He only brought the one.

It doesn’t seem right to register complaints for such a stunning show, but I was disappointed that neither of Mirror Blue‘s finest acoustic moments – “King Of Bohemia” and “Beeswing” – were left out. But for the encores we did get his cover of Britney Spears’ “Oops, I Did It Again” which engendered an audience singalong – hilarious if you consider the age demographic of most in attendance – as well as the wonderfully dark “I Misunderstood” and a gorgeous reading of “Walking On A Wire”. The standard line on Richard Thompson is that he’s one of the world’s most under-recognized and underappreciated musicians – which may well be true – but you wouldn’t have known it from this performance and the reception it got.

The Ottawa Citizen, The Toronto Star, NOW, Montreal Gazette and Morton Grove Champion have interviews with Richard Thompson.

Photos: Richard Thompson @ Koerner Hall – September 8, 2011
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Harlan’s Bounce”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Treadwell No More”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Uninhabited Man”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Dear Janet Jackson”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Banks Of The Nile”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “The Sights And Sounds Of London Town”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “I Agree With Pat Methany”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Keep Your Distance”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Vincent Black Lightning 1952”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Hard On Me”

Zach Condon of Beirut is interviewed by NPR and given his run of Drowned In Sound to post whatever he and his bandmates like, but not before submitting to an interview. And oh, there’s a new video available from The Rip Tide.

Video: Beirut – “Santa Fe”

Drowned In Sound interviews Ringo Deathstarr about their new odds-and-sods album Sparkler, due out tomorrow.

The Line Of Best Fit has a feature interview and Billboard goes into St. Vincent’s Twitter PR strategy for Strange Mercy, out tomorrow.

Salon, New York Magazine and Slate have feature pieces on Wild Flag, whose self-titled debut is finally out tomorrow. They’re at Lee’s Palace on October 12.

Christopher Owens of Girls gets interviewed by The Guardian about their new record Father, Son, Holy Ghost, out tomorrow. They play The Mod Club on September 27.

Stereogum talks influences with The Drums, who are at The Mod Club on October 1 in support of new album Portamento, out tomorrow. There’s also an interview at Digital Spy.

Spin talks to Chris Taylor of CANT (and also Grizzly Bear, while Pitchfork has a stream of Dreams Come True, his solo debut in that identity. It’s out tomorrow and he plays The Garrison on October 21.

Stream: CANT / Dreams Come True

Explosions In The Sky have released another video from Take Care, Take Care, Take Care and are profiled in The Georgia Straight, Boise Weekly and LAist. They’re at the Sound Academy on October 7.

Video: Explosions In The Sky – “Be Comfortable, Creature”

Exclaim has details on the She & Him Christmas album A Very She & Him Christmas, which is due out October 25 and will exist whether you like it to or not.

Maria Taylor returns to town in support of her new record Overlook with a show at The Drake Underground on November 13.

MP3: Maria Taylor – “Matador”
MP3: Maria Taylor – “Bad Idea?”

Mastodon have made a date at the Kool Haus for November 25, tickets $29.50. Their new album The Hunter is out September 27; I’m gonna go ahead and guess that it’s heavy.

Video: Mastodon – “Black Tongue”

The Big Takeover has posted the second part of their interview with Jonathan Donahue of Mercury Rev.

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

NXNE 2011 Day Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spinner has an interview with Torq Campbell.

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

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

Their next show is July 10 at The Garrison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video: Alela Diane – “Desire”

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

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

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

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

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

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