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Posts Tagged ‘Cave Singers’

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Thick As Thieves

Widowspeak and The Auras at The Garrison in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangObjectively speaking, there’s not a world of difference between Widowspeak’s 2011 self-titled debut or the follow-up Almanac, released in January of this year. You can file them both quite comfortably under “the soundtrack to dreams of dusty country roads”, not too far from lazy but not inaccurate reference points Mazzy Star and Cat Power, but something about Almanac grabs me the way that Widowspeak, as much as I dug it, didn’t. And it’s not something as simple as they’re getting more dynamic or rocking out harder, as refresher listens to their debut confirm there’s no shortage of volume spikes amidst the sleepiness. There’s just something more present, more assured, in Almanac‘s grooves – like lucid dreaming versus wake-walking. Whatever it is, I love it, and so their show at The Garrison on Monday night – their first non-festival headline date in Toronto – was a must-go on my calendar.

Local support came from The Auras, signed to Toronto’s Optical Sounds and labelmates with B-17, whom I’d just seen just a few days earlier; if there’s some sort of shadow conspiracy to get me more attuned with the city’s psych-pop scene… then it’s working. Mind you, The Auras didn’t impress the same way that B-17 did, but they’re not really built to. Comprised of fresh-faced youngsters rather than scene veterans, they were a bit of a mish-mash visually – a mass of paisley, headbands, shaggy hair, tassels, and with half the six-piece band in sunglasses, all bathed in their a bring-your-own light show. Sonically, they felt more like a a psychedelic jam session, rotating through four lead vocalists and possessing more of vague mandate to sound like a more shambolic, polite Black Angels than a firm mission statement. Understand that this is not a complaint, but actually more a point of envy. Having a group of like-minded players to jam, gig, and record with sounds like the best thing ever, actually.

I saw Widowspeak twice last year – in the same room at NXNE and a few months earlier at SXSW – but this time there was a new rhythm section in place and a fifth member in the fold on guitar and keys. The heart of the band, however – Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas – were still there, ever front and centre. Opening with Almanac leadoff “Perennials”, the template for the show was quickly established – Hamilton serenely cooing into the mic while Thomas got to play the role of guitar hero, although he would have been more effective at it had his guitar not been the quietest of the three on stage; a little more volume would have helped his leads achieve the prominence they deserved and might also have quieted the reasonably-sized if disproportionately chatty crowd audience.

As the show progressed, the chatter either diminished or the genuinely interested moved up to the front – in either case, they were drawn in by the performance, which maintained the same basic rhythm through the better part of an hour, offering a good mix of Almanac and Widowspeak material though sadly omitting two of my favourite new songs, “Devil Knows” and “Spirit Is Willing”. They did shift gears slightly towards the end with a cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” – yeah, having Hamilton wrap her voice around it is a bit on the nose, but still gorgeous – and a keyboard-led “Thick As Thieves”, before closing with a relatively raucous “Ballad Of The Golden Hour” and “Harsh Realm”. An encore wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but Hamilton was enticed to come back out for a final number, a reading of “Limbs” done solo because the rest of the band didn’t know how to play it, and were also busy selling merch off to the side. A modest finale to a modest yet wholly enjoyable show.

Iamnosuperman and Good Times have interviews with Robert Earl Thomas and The Riverfront Times chats with Molly Hamilton while El Paso What’s Up talks to both.

Photos: Widowspeak, The Auras @ The Garrison – April 16, 2013
MP3: Widowspeak – “Ballad Of The Golden Hour”
MP3: Widowspeak – “Sore Eyes”
MP3: Widowspeak – “Gun Shy”
MP3: Widowspeak – “In The Pines”
MP3: Widowspeak – “Devil Knows”
MP3: Widowspeak – “Harsh Realm”
Video: Widowspeak – “Locusts”
Stream: The Auras / The Auras

Not necessarily enough show announcements this week to devote a post, but still a few things of note. Seattle’s Cave Singers will bring their new album Naomi – released last month – to town for a show at The Horseshoe on June 17, tickets $15. There’s a feature on the band at 85-26.

MP3: The Cave Singers – “Black Leaf”
MP3: The Cave Singers – “Swim Club”

California’s Rogue Wave are back with a new record in Nightingale Floors coming out on June 4, and are teaming up with Brooklyn’s Caveman, who just released their second self-titled album, for a Summer tour that hits The Mod Club on June 25, tickets $18.50/.

MP3: Caveman – “Easy Water”
Stream: Rogue Wave – “College”

Another bi-coastal bill will team Californian psych-pop outfit Woods, still working last Fall’s Bend Beyond, with New York ’90s indie rock revivalists Parquet Courts and their debut Light Up Gold for a date at The Horseshoe on July 17, tickets $15.50.

MP3: Woods – “Wind Was The Wine”
MP3: Parquet Courts – “Borrowed Time”

Los Angeles’ Julia Holter brings last year’s Ekstasis to The Drake on July 17, tickets $16.50.

MP3: Julia Holter – “In The Same Room”

Consequence Of Sound, Spinner, Vulture, and Spin talk to Thermals frontman Hutch Harris and PopMatters to drummer Westin Glass about their just-released new record Desperate Ground, and they also talk to The AV Club and Clash respectively about action movies. The Thermals are at The Horseshoe on May 21.

MTV Hive and Stereogum have features on The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose new record Mosquito arrived this week.

Interview and The Victoria Times-Colonist talk to Sam Beam about the new Iron & Wine album Ghost On Ghost.

PopMatters, eMusic, Forbes, and Spin have features on The Flaming Lips and their new album The Terror.

The National Post talks to Steve Earle about his latest The Low Highway.

Ra Ra Riot is streaming the single they’ll be releasing for Record Store Day this Saturday via T Magazine. The Alternate Side also has a session with the band, who are here on May 25 at The Sound Academy supporting The Shins, then back for the Field Trip fest at Garrison Commons on June 8.

Stream: Ra Ra Riot – “All I Fear”

Stereogum has a stream of The Hold Steady’s contribution to this week’s Game Of Thrones closing credits, while Wired examines the intersection of the kingdoms of Westeros and the world of indie rock. The Hold Steady are here as part of the Toronto Urban Roots Fest on July 6 at Garrison Commons.

Stream: The Hold Steady – “The Bear & The Maiden Fair”

NPR has a Tiny Desk Concert concert with Yo La Tengo, one of the names at the final day of the Toronto Urban Roots Fest at Garrison Commons on July 7.

Kurt Vile is also playing TURF Sunday; Noisey has an interview with him about being a rocker parent rocker.

Janelle Monáe dishes a bit to Billboard about her long-awaited second album The Electric Lady, due out later this year.

Stereogum have premiered the new video from Low’s The Invisible Way.

Video: Low – “Just Make It Stop”

Okkervil River’s Will Sheff has squeezed another video out of his Lovestreams side-project.

Video: Lovestreams – “There’s Video”

NPR welcomes Local Natives for a World Cafe session.

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Wake And Be Fine

New Okkervil River is Very Far but almost here

Photo By Alexandra ValentiAlexandra ValentiLast year, for my 35th birthday, I got a special gift in the form of The National releasing what would be probably my favourite record of last year in High Violet. Now Okkervil River, who have a habit of running neck and neck with The National in competition for the title of “my favourite band” – it’s a real thing – look like they’re trying to win my affections the same way by announcing a May 10 release date for their new record I Am Very Far.

They’d already announced the release of lead single “Mermaid” on 12″ come February 8, but the band took to the stage on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon on Monday night to perform a different new song, “Wake And Be Fine”. And if not for Will Sheff’s distinctive vocals and presence, you might be forgiven for not recognizing them – besides the fact that New Pornographer Carl Newman and The Roots’ Questlove joined them for the occasion on vocals and drums respectively, Okkervil 2011 is a considerably different band from that which made The Stage Names and The Stand-Ins – Sheff remains, of course, as does multi-instrumentalist Scott Brackett and bassist Patrick Pestorius, but mainstays Jonathan Meiburg (keys), Brian Cassidy (guitar) and Travis Nelsen (drums) have all left the band in the past couple of years, replaced by Justin Sherburn, Lauren Gurgiolo and Cully Symington respectively. By no means is Okkervil a lesser band for the changes, but it is a different one and it will take a little adjusting to see them thusly, especially without the always-entertaining Nelson behind the kit.

But either way, the news of the imminent arrival of more Okkervil River was enough to make my day yesterday. Happy early birthday!

MP3: Okkervil River – “Wake And Be Fine” (live on Jimmy Fallon)
Video: Okkervil River – “Wake And Be Fine” (live on Jimmy Fallon)

Okkervil labelmates The Cave Singers and Lia Ices both have new records coming out – No Witch on February 22 and Grown Unknown on January 25 respectively – and have plotted a Spring tour that stops in at the Drake Underground on April 5. Tickets $13.50 in advance.

MP3: Cave Singers – “Swim Club”
MP3: Lia Ices – “Grown Unknown”
MP3: Lia Ices – “Daphne”

Of Montreal may already be plotting the follow-up to last year’s False Priest – or so Kevin Barnes tells Spin – but they’re not done touring said record. They’ll be coming back to Toronto for the first time in two and a half years – yes it’s been that long – for a show at The Phoenix on May 3, tickets $28 on sale now.

MP3: Of Montreal – “Sex Karma”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Coquet Coquette”

Pitchfork reports that The Dodos have recruited one Neko Case to help them out on their new record No Color, due out March 14. Her vocals will grace about half of the album, which will be great, but I think it’d have been more great if they got her to play all kinds of instruments but not sing a note. Because that’s how my sense of humour works.

The rumour mill has it that The Strokes’ fourth album will be out on March 22. Which jives with what’s already known, but until there’s an official announcement, it’s just hearsay. Hearsay I’m willing to blog, clearly.

Much more official is the word on the new record from The Kills – it will be called Blood Pressures, it will be out on April 5 and Pitchfork has specifics.

Blurt and I Like Music talk to Lissie, in town at the Opera House on January 24.

Colin Meloy tells Exclaim that The King Is Dead, the new Decemberists record due next week, could be their last for a while as they attend to other projects. So see them at The Sound Academy on February 1 while you can. There’s also and interview at The Sydney Morning Herald.

Beatroute talks to Sam Fogarino of Interpol, who have two Toronto visits on the books this year – a headlining date at the Sound Academy for February 15 and a support slot for U2 at the ACC on July 12.

Sam Beam talks to Billboard about the new Iron & Wine record Kiss Each Other Clean, out January 25, and to Spin about the origins of his band’s name.

The AV Club has words with The Dismemberment Plan’s Travis Morrison.

Beatroute has an interview with The Thermals.

MTV UK has a complete video session with Warpaint and it’s not geoblocked like the US site is.

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Shine A Light

Constantines and Chad Van Gaalen at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFor the last few years, Harbourfront Centre has been the go-to spot for Canada Day celebrations in Toronto. Each year, they put on a free show on the lake with some of the top domestic acts of the moment, but on a year-to-year basis they’ve also been doing a pretty great job of representing all the facets of what we’d call Canadian indie rock. Back in 2007 (I missed the 2006 show featuring The Dears), they showcased the more avant garde end of the spectrum with Final Fantasy and Do Make Say Think, and last year put the spotlight on the female and folky with Martha Wainwright and Basia Bulat. For 2009, they traded the estrogen for some testosterone, bringing in hometown heroes Constantines and Calgary’s Chad Van Gaalen.

Van Gaalen I’ve honestly done my best to get into his records in the past – after all, with the sheer amount of love he gets from all quarters, he must have something going for him – but have never really managed to do it. There’s just something about his particular DIY sonic aesthetic that doesn’t do it for me. And so it’s ironic that I’d find someone who’s generally regarded as a home studio auteur to be so much more enjoyable in a live setting. He started the evening in interesting form, first coming out with a broom and sweeping the stage clean, then saluting the national anthem by way of dropping his pants, and then finally making funny but probably family-inappropriate gestures with his finger and his fly. Yeah. Musically, he led his band through selections from all three of his albums and damn if they don’t just sound much fuller and more realized than they do in their studio incarnations? Maybe it’s the extra oomph of the live rhythm section (helped by the fact that I had planted my ass right in front of the PA bass bin) or the fact that his voice sounds less reedy and the guitars fatter, but it was just so much more satisfying an experience and allowed me to see and hear the artist that others do – I just prefer his more direct and less idiosyncratic side. Odds are I won’t care so much for his next studio record but if he puts out a live album, I may pay more attention.

Constantines, on the other hand, I’m fully guilty of not having paid enough attention to since day one. That was resolved somewhat last year, when I got my first Cons record in Kensington Heights and saw them live twice – the first time at a super-intimate club show and the second at the somewhat less-intimate but still awe-inspiring V Fest. Both shows, though quite different, certainly confirmed their long-standing reputation as an incredible and intense live act. I expected nothing less from them this time out.

My education hasn’t reached too far into their back catalog, however, so aside from the Kensington material their set was only familiar from past live experiences and so rather than comment on what was played, I’ll focus on how it was played – in a word, exceptionally. The Cons have been at it a long time and as such, are about as tight a rock machine as you’ll find anywhere. Their songs are lean, but not thin – within each hard-charging piece are myriad little songwriting and arrangement details that give their sound extra complexity. But really, live, what you’ll hear – or more correctly FEEL – is the swirl of the guitar and keyboard riffs, the unrelenting thump of the rhythm section and most importantly Bry Webb’s big, raw rasp, occasionally augmented by guest Jennifer Castle’s gentler backing vocals. It’s just rock, yeah, but it’s rock done right.

And while they started things out dressed up for the occasion – Webb’s white suit over tropical shirt ensemble was particularly inspired – the intensity of the performance and sweat generated quickly got them looking less natty and, consequently, more appropriate. Clean and proper just doesn’t suit them. And the greatness of their show was pretty much encapsulated by a moment in “Shine A Light”, towards the end of their set, where one by one the Cons pointed out across Lake Ontario and the audience clued in and turned around, just in time to see fireworks going off. A magical moment. If you’re looking for ambassadors for Canadian rock or, as it turns out, a soundtrack to Canada Day, you can’t do much better than Constantines.

Photos: Constantines, Chad Van Gaalen @ Harbourfront Centre – July 1, 2009
MP3: Constantines – “Hard Feelings”
MP3: Constantines – “Nighttime Anytime It’s Alright”
MP3: Constantines – “On To You”
MP3: Constantines – “Love In Fear”
MP3: Constantines – “Soon Enough”
MP3: Constantines – “Arizona”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Willow Tree”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “City Of Electric Light”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Graveyard”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Clinically Dead”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Somewhere I Know There’s Nothing”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Flower Gardens”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Echo Train”
Video: Constantines – “Credit River”
Video: Constantines – “Our Age”
Video: Constantines – “Hard Feelings”
Video: Constantines – “Working Full-Time”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Flower Gardens”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Clinically Dead”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Red Hot Drops”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Molten Light”
MySpace: Constantines
MySpace: Chad Van Gaalen

Summerworks has released the lineup to the music component of their annual theatre/performing arts festival, and with acts like Miracle Fortress, Think About Life, The D’Urbervilles and Forest City Lovers amongst the artists performing, you really should plan on spending much of the week from August 6 to the 15th at The Theatre Centre at The Great Hall.

dose.ca interviews Matt Cully and Vue talks to Neil Haverty, both of Bruce Peninsula, who are embarking on a western Canadian tour this week.

Arts & Crafts has released some official information on the next Hidden Cameras record – Origin:Orphan will be released on September 22 and they’re offering a free download of “Walk On” in exchange for your email.

Emily Haines of Metric tells The National Post about some of her favourite things about Toronto in the Summertime. Curiously, navigating piles of uncollected garbage on the city streets because of the city worker strike does not make the cut.

MBV Music has the second installment in the Reverie Sound Revue blog tour – a bit later than expected, but maybe they got held up at the border or something. This video is a stripped-down studio rendering of “Off Rooftops” from their just-released self-titled debut.

The results of those TARA Secret Sessions which have been taking place at The Audio Recording Academy – perhaps you’ve seen the ads somewhere online – are being made available online to download and enjoy, including some by Oh No Forest Fires and Great Bloomers. The sessions continue through the month of July and admission to all is free. Oh No Forest Fires have blogged a bit about their session.

Spinner.ca – née AOL Music Canada – has posted the first of a multi-part feature on the history, present and future of independent music in Canada, featuring conversations with journalist types and members of Sloan and The Stills.

Congratulations go out to Eric’s Trip and Rheostatics, the inaugural inductees to the Zunior Canadian Independent Music Hall of Fame, whose aim is to select and salute two trailblazing Canadian independent artists each year and for which I was honoured to be a juror for the 2009 edition.

If you missed or enjoyed Amazing Baby opening up for Phoenix last month, you will be pleased to know they have their own show scheduled for August 4 at the Drake Underground in support of their new album Rewild – tickets $13.

MP3: Amazing Baby – “Bayonets”

Modest Mouse have added as second Toronto date to their Summer tour – they’ll be at the Sound Academy on August 22 in addition to the 21. Tickets $30.

The Cave Singers and Lightning Dust have a date at the Horseshoe on September 14, tickets $12. Both have new albums coming soon – the former with Welcome Joy, out August 18, and the latter with Infinite Light, out August 4.

MP3: The Cave Singers – “Beach House”
MP3: Lightning Dust – “I Knew”
MP3: Lightning Dust – “Never Seen”

The Hold Steady are also rolling into town a little earlier than planned – there’s a second Lee’s Palace show set for September 26 to go with the September 27 one, so if you’d rather rock yourself into oblivion on a Saturday night, you’re all set. Tickets $21.50.

Icelandic electro-dream-poppers (is that still an accurate, if broad description?) Mum return with a new album due out on August 24 entitled Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know and will follow that up with a Fall North American tour that includes an October 27 date at The Phoenix in Toronto, tickets $20.

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Yuppy Flu

Land Of Talk, Zeroes, Little Scream at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI figure that by the end of last Thursday night, there was something like a sixty-degree centigrade difference in temperature between the patio at the Horseshoe and the front of the stage. Outside, it was the middle of a particularly nasty cold snap. Inside, it was a particularly intense show for a nearly-packed house from Land Of Talk.

It was a show a long time in coming. For the band, it was their first headlining date in a long time – their headlining tour in September to mark the release of Some Are Lakes, itself long-awaited, and while they technically made a Toronto appearance in late November opening for Broken Social Scene, there were many who wouldn’t accept an abbreviated set in an inhospitable venue. That included myself, whom after seeing them what seemed like every other week back in 2007, hadn’t seen them play since September 2007.

It’s been tough going for the band, with what had initially seemed like an unstoppable upwards trajectory turn into a seemingly endless series of stalls. In particular, a series of personnel changes that saw 2/3 of the initial lineup depart since the release of Applause Cheer Boo Hiss and health issues that were making this mini-tour of three Ontario dates the band’s last for some time. Not really ideal circumstances to promote a new record. But those were concerns for the past and the future – in the present, Land Of Talk were finally here and they’d brought friends with them from Montreal.

Little Scream were one of those most unique of acts – the ones without a website, MySpace or any information that I could find online – and as such, were a completely unknown quantity going in. Which was rather exciting, to be honest. And the reality of it wasn’t bad, either. An artist to whom a lot of the descriptors frequently used for Land Of Talk could also apply, singing with a PJ Harvey-ish intensity while playing riffs that echoed classic rock progressions (think Who) on an acoustic guitar amplified to the point of raggedness. At points, it seemed she was singing to herself in a trance rather than to the audience. Intriguing stuff, wish it were at all possible to find out more.

Zeroes were considerably less singular in their approach, flirting with pop, prog, new wave and punk that reminded me most of Wire and Franz Ferdinand. Some ideas worked better than others, but they veered from one to the next so quickly that any missteps were quickly left behind and the next brought to the fore. Unfailingly interesting and danceable, if you dance like a bit of a spaz.

Though the material is consistently superb, I’ve always found Land Of Talk to be a good to very good live act, with the obvious potential to be great but not quite hitting the target, at least not in any of the times I’d seen them. That, based on this show, is no longer the case. The trio put on an unquestionably powerful show, Liz Powell in particular displaying a sense of confidence that I hadn’t seen before. They split the set fairly evenly between Applause Cheer and Some Are Lakes material, with the latter being given a jolt of energy and excitement that I didn’t find to be present on the recorded versions. The album definitely succeeded in terms of stylistic growth, but it came at the expense of some of the live-wire sizzle of the first record. Translated live, the electricity was back.

And while I was dismayed by the departures of Bucky Wheaton and Chris McCarron, the rhythm section to which I’d first come to the band, new arrivals Andrew Barr – who played on the new album – and bassist Joe Yarmush – who also played in Zeroes but took the time to change outfits between sets – were also superb. Circumstances have dictated that Land Of Talk be considered the Liz Powell show, but her bandmates were doing their best to seem just as indispensable.

The show was a tremendous reminder of why Land Of Talk are one of the best new acts in the country, and ironically it came just as the band was going on hiatus. Though you couldn’t tell by listening, Powell is going in for surgery on her voice at month’s end and everything is on hold while she convalesces. It’s a good thing that Land Of Talk’s fans are used to waiting and know that it’s worth it.

eye and BlogTO also have reviews of the show, while The Whig Standard has a short feature and in The Globe & Mail, Carl Wilson talks to Powell about the band’s endless run of tough breaks.

Photos: Land Of Talk, Zeroes, Little Scream @ The Horseshoe – January 15, 2009
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Corner Phone”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”
MP3: Zeroes – “Arenas”
MP3: Zeroes – “Lamentia”
MP3: Zeroes – “Optimist”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”
MySpace: Land Of Talk

Aquarium Drunkard interviews The Rosebuds. JamBase also has a feature.

The Sydney Morning Herald profiles Annie Clark of St Vincent.

Dr Dog, who released Fate last year, and The Cave Singers, who are still working 2007’s Invitation Songs, will be in town together on April 4 for a show at Lee’s Palace, tickets $13.50.

MP3: Dr. Dog – “The Old Days”
MP3: Dr. Dog – “The Ark”
MP3: The Cave Singers – “Seeds Of Night”

Following up the release of As Seen Through Windows on March 10, Bell Orchestre will play the Courthouse on April 24, tickets $15.

The Toronto Star talks to Bret and Jemaine of Flight Of The Conchords.