Posts Tagged ‘Charlotte Hatherley’

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Farewell To The Fairground

White Lies, Friendly Fires, The Soft Pack at Lee's Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangEven without the “NME Presents” endorsement attached to the tour, I suspect the White Lies/Friendly Fires/Soft Pack show at Lee’s Palace on Tuesday would have been a sell-out. All three acts came with their own built-in buzz, so in fact the venerable British publication may have been counting themselves lucky to be associated with the tour rather than the other way around.

Sole non-Brits on the bill, The Soft Pack – formerly known as The Muslims – were tasked with kicking things off. The San Diego quartet got to play to a not-especially full house, evidence that all the North American buzz that they’ve been generating since last Fall didn’t necessarily translate to the Anglophile demographic. And though I’d been hearing about them for months, this was my first time actually hearing them and I can’t say I was tremendously impressed. They certainly had a good sound – the ingredients of their surf-garage pop aesthetic sufficiently familiar but their particular recipe still reasonably fresh – but none of the songs particularly jumped out as being remarkable and their performance was pretty staid.

But most things would probably come across staid when held up against middle act, St Alban’s Friendly Fires. I wasn’t especially won over by their self-titled debut but I now realize that sitting and listening to it in the comfort of home is really the wrong environment for it. The proper setting is in a club, in front of the stage, as their dual drummer/percussionists make a glorious, rhythmic racket, the guitarist freaks and flails and singer/keyboardist Ed Macfarlane dances and shakes his hips non-stop despite the fact that, let’s be honest, he really doesn’t have any. It’s a good thing. I’ve heard them described as indie, pop, dance and various combinations thereof, and sure they all apply to some degree, but watching them go, I’d just put them down as disco and go. No, there were no glitter balls and the fashions were pretty tame, but the spirit of the unbridled, unending party? That was real. And while it did end after 40 minutes, it did so with an audience invasion and a speaker climb and mass percussive instrument abuse. The sort of thing you’d hate for any band to have to follow.

But this far into the tour, watching their countrymen bring the house down every night before they took the stage, White Lies must have been used to it. Now as I intimated in my review of their UK chart-topping debut To Lose My Life, White Lies require a certain amount of buy-in on the part of the listener. Kind of like how horror films require you to suspend disbelief, to accept that monsters exist and that their potential victims really are that stupid, White Lies need you to believe their angst is real, and that there’s genuine weight behind their vague pronouncements of profundity. Manage that, and for the most part I have, and they’re reasonably enjoyable. Behind the stark lighting, all-black outfits and Harry McVeigh’s dramatic baritone – decidedly scratchy-sounding by this point in the tour – are some truly catchy pop songs that will have you singing along, even if you feel kind of guilty about it. Get into it enough and you won’t even question the rather contrived posing and self-seriousness (it’s amusing seeing McVeigh’s baby face trying to look intense) – at least it’s entirely in character. Like Friendly Fires (and Cut Off Your Hands the night before, White Lies seemed to put stock in the notion of leaving the audience wanting more, keeping things at a very compact 40 minutes and eschewing the encore. Of course with only ten songs in their repertoire they couldn’t have gone on much longer even if they’d wanted, but closing out the night when they did and getting folks out on the streets before midnight with a solid night of tunes under their belt? Nothing wrong with that.

Chart also has a review of the show while Exclaim and The Herald Bulletin have interviews and Shockhound a video interview with White Lies.

Photos: White Lies, Friendly Fires, The Soft Pack @ Lee’s Palace – March 31, 2009
MP3: White Lies – “Death”
MP3: White Lies – “Death” (Crystal Castles remix)
MP3: Friendly Fires – “Jump In The Pool”
MP3: Friendly Fires – “Paris” (Aeroplane Remix)
MP3: The Soft Pack – “Nightlife”
Video: White Lies – “Farewell To The Fairground”
Video: White Lies – “Death”
Video: White Lies – “Unfinished Business”
Video: Friendly Fires – “Skeleton Boy”
Video: Friendly Fires – “Paris”
Video: Friendly Fires – “Jump In The Pool”
Video: Friendly Fires – “On Board”
Video: The Soft Pack – “Extinction”
MySpace: White Lies
MySpace: Friendly Fires

The Toronto Sun and Metro interview Glasvegas, in town for an early and sold-out show at the Mod Club tonight.

Clash talks Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite. They’re at the Phoenix on May 4.

Doves talk to The Quietus and The Irish Independent about their forthcoming album Kingdom Of Rust, out on Tuesday and streaming at the band’s MySpace right now. They play the Kool Haus on June 1.

Stream: Doves / Kingdom Of Rust

Clash and Perth Now interview Elbow. They accompany Coldplay to the Rogers Centre on July 30.

Denver Westword, The Detroit Free Press and Singing Lamb have conversations with Los Campesinos.

Matablog has details on the closest thing we’ll see to a new Belle & Sebastian record any time soon – the soundtrack to Stuart Murdoch’s God Help The Girl, which was originally supposed to be a film but there’s no mention of that aspect in the release. Take that as you will. The album is out June 23 but you can get the first MP3 for free by singing up to their mailing list on the project’s website.

Idolator reports that Charlotte Hatherley’s Cinnabar City now has a US label in Minty Fresh and have got a track from said record to hold you over until the vague Summer release date gets more specific.

Bat For Lashes, whom Hatherley is now a part of, gives an interview to The Irish Independent. They’re at the Mod Club on April 25.

In the mid-80s, XTC created ’60s psychedelic pop alter-ego in The Dukes Of Stratosphear wherein they got their Barrett on and released an EP and album that were henceforth spoken of in hushed, reverential tones by those lucky enough to have heard them. Which will now soon be everyone, potentially. Both releases, the 25 O’Clock EP, which has been padded out with goodies to album length, and Psionic Psunspot, which was already album length but is now super-size, will be out in deluxe reissue packaging come April 21.

MP3: The Dukes Of Stratosphear – “My Love Explode”
MP3: The Dukes Of Stratosphear – “Braniac’s Daughter”

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Canadian Musicfest Day Three

The Week That Was, Library Voices, We See Lights and more at Canadian Musicfest

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSo yes, I sort of wimped out on the first couple days of Canadian Musicfest, but like to think I made up for it with Saturday, hitting up something from the evening’s start to the very end although I did skip out on a couple of very attractive pre- and post-showcase events. But anyways.

Scottish septet We See Lights were making the most of their visit to Canada, playing three shows in the week – this one at Bread & Circus in Kensington being the last – though from what I’d heard from others, they weren’t what you’d call the best-attended performances. And that’s a shame because they have a lot to recommend and really, an overabundance of talent. Boasting four more than capable lead singers, they crafted lush and beautifully open-hearted whose sentimentality and earnestness was extra endearing given the youthfulness of the band – like a teenager absolutely convinced that they’re the first ones to have ever had their heart broken. They’re like the melancholic, mirror universe version of Los Campesinos! and by god they deserved to have people hear them. Dear We See Lights, please don’t hold our city’s indifference against us – please visit again.

Photos: We See Lights @ Bread & Circus – March 14, 2009
MySpace: We See Lights

After the Scots cleared out all their gear, Swedish singer-songwriter Sofia Talvik took the stage with her decidedly more stripped-down band, made up of one cellist, one percussionist and one fellow tapping out synth notes on an iPhone. The spare but thoughtful accouterments worked well at accenting Talvik’s fairly straightforward singer-songwriter fare, which was a bit disappointing in that it didn’t seem to exhibit the sort of sunny exterior/dark subtext that a lot of Swedish acts seem to imbue their work with. I thought I got whiffs of that on her latest album Jonestown, but she also didn’t play some of my favourite tracks from that record so perhaps she was just smoothing out the set list for the audience. Either way, a lovely voice and a lovely girl – hard to complain too much about that.

Photos: Sofia Talvik @ Bread & Circus – March 14, 2009
MP3: Sofia Talvik – “My James Dean”
Video: Sofia Talvik – “It’s Just Love” (with Bernard Butler)
MySpace: Sofia Talvik

At this point the plan was to again hoof it up to the Tranzac for The Morning After Girls but after seeing two streetcars zip by while walking to the stop, the transit line seemed to dry up and there was nothing else in sight. At this point it was obvious that I’d be 10-15 minutes late for their set at best and I bailed – just as well, too, as I’ve heard that their set was cut short due to technical difficulties.

Instead, plan B became the El Mocambo and Regina’s Library Voices and goodness, all consolation prizes should be so satisfying. I should say that at this point, I’m utterly skeptical about bands whose rosters could also be fielded as a baseball team, but Library Voices – nine members strong – won me over. Yes they indulged in the same sort of antics other big bands do – instrument swapping, raucous on-stage behaviour, general shenanigans – but they did it so well and so infectiously, that my cynicism was melted away within a couple songs. And in more quantitative terms, they may be a big-ass band but their sound is surprisingly focused and the songs are grand and hooky. I’m not sure I could subsist on a diet of what they’re serving, but for one musical meal, at least, it was tasty.

Photos: Library Voices @ The El Mocambo – March 14, 2009
MP3: Library Voices – “Step Off The Map And Float”
MySpace: Library Voices

This was only halfway through the night? Egads. When discussing my CMF schedule with someone, don’t remember who, mention of The Assistants reminded said unknown person that he’d seen them at a Jesus & Mary Chain tribute night once upon a time, whereas my only live experience with them was a few years ago at a shoegaze tribute night. The point of this being that The Assistants really don’t sound anything like shoegaze, so their presence at these shows and ensuing mental associations is erroneous to say the least. What they do sound like, as their set at Neutral confirmed, is good to great ’80s-inflected jangle-pop. A little Go-Betweens and New Order for the hip influences, a dash of Tom Petty and Dire Straits for the not-so-hip though, for the record, I like Tom Petty and Dire Straits and make these comparisons flatteringly. They play next April 11 at the Mod Club.

Photos: The Assistants @ Neutral – March 14, 2009
MP3: The Assistants – “Fiction”
MySpace: The Assistants

I’d originally planned to wrap the night at this point, but I still hadn’t seen the band I had circled before this whole week began, and since they were on at 1 it I had some time to kill – back to Bread & Circus. On stage were Abbey, hailing from Pembrooke, outside Ottawa, and notable for being the new project of Jordan Zadarozny, ex of Blinker The Star, who were almost the next big thing for a moment in the ’90s. And that brief shining moment definitely comes across in the music, which is big, downstroke-heavy guitar rock with just enough pop in it to not be rawk. Not offensive, but the most memorable thing about their set was the band blowing a fuse a couple songs in.

Photos: Abbey @ Bread & Circus – March 14, 2009

And then, finally, it was around the block to the El Mocambo for The Week That Was – an appropriately-named act to finish things off, I think. I’ll tell myself that everyone who wanted to see them had done so Thursday night at the Gladstone because the turnout for this show, hastily scheduled last week after they were removed from the Ting Tings bill, was pretty meagre. The Week That Was, however, are pros and didn’t let something like that dissuade them from putting on a performance that was worth the wait, somehow managing to recreate the breadth and impact of their densely prog-pop self-titled debut with only four players, even though the record was recorded with upwards of ten members. Though not exactly overflowing with stage presence – frontman Peter Brewis spent kept his eyes shut most of the time – the playing was tight and impactful. With Brewis returning to concentrate on Field Music after this North American tour is done, it was possibly the last time these songs would be aired so it’s good that they were done justice.

Photos: The Week That Was @ The El Mocambo – March 14, 2009
MP3: The Week That Was – “Scratch The Surface”
MP3: The Week That Was – “Learn To Learn”
Video: The Week That Was – “Scratch The Surface”
Video: The Week That Was – “Learn To Learn”

And yeah, that’s another CMW/CMF in the can. There’s a crapload of CMF coverage at eye, Chart, The Toronto Star… oh hell, just google the rest.

And here’s a smattering of non-CMF/SxSW stuff to hopefully appease those who have no interest in either.

Billboard profiles Bob Mould, whose The Life & Times is out April 7.

Bob Dylan’s next album will be entitled Together Through Life and be released on April 28. Billboard has more details.

Spin has details on the forthcoming Bloc Party remix album Intimacy Remixed, due out May 11. There’s also a downright disturbing video for for one of the mixes. Egads.

Video: Bloc Party – “Signs” (Armand Van Helden remix)

Swedish rockers The Sounds have a date at the Mod Club on April 28. Their new album is Crossing The Rubicon and due out May 26.

And one to file under “didn’t see that coming” – Charlotte Hatherley has joined Bat For Lashes. She will be guitarist in Natasha Khan’s touring band through the Fall while they promote Two Suns, out April 6. So the good news is that Ms Hatherley will finally be coming to North America on tour, the bad news is she’s not doing any of her own songs. The more good news is she’s still going to be playing some great songs. The more bad news is this means the release of her next solo record Cinnabar City has been pushed back from the Spring to September. The even more good news is that it looks like the record will get a North American release and that proper touring of her own will follow. Oh hell, just read her MySpace blog for details. And be at the Mod Club on April 25 to welcome Charlotte – and Bat For Lashes – to Toronto.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a plane to catch.

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Be Thankful

Headlights rewind and remix, Charlotte Hatherley visits Cinnabar City, XTC covered and uncovered

Photo By Marius HansenMarius HansenLast July, I was introduced to Spanish site Buffet Libre on account of their releasing a massive compilation of covers – mainly of ’80s pop tunes – by a slew of artists I’d mostly never heard of, but also the likes of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and Electric Soft Parade. That was only the first salvo, however, and they’ve rung in the new year with part the second – another massive batch of covers, this one featuring the likes of Headlights, Au Revoir Simone and Amiina… and a whole pile of bands I’ve never heard of. Lots to wade through, and a bit fortuitously timed since I was just soliciting cover versions a couple days ago.

So why the picture of Ms Charlotte Hatherley, who does not appear on the aforementioned comp? Well hearing Headlights’ sleepy cover of XTC’s “Making Plans For Nigel” reminded me how much I enjoyed Hatherley’s own take on Swindon’s favourite sons in “This Is Pop”, recorded for a radio session in 2007. And it also reminded me to check on the progress of her third album, and what do you know? It’s completed and has a title – Cinnabar City – and is set for release in the first part of this year. According to the flowery language of the official release, it was tracked in a single week in London, has uber-producer Alan Moulder’s fingerprints on it in some capacity (probably mixing) and features “prog-pop, pop-punk and electro-junk”. Alls I know is that I’ve really enjoyed both Grey Will Fade and The Deep Blue, so whenever this one sees the light of day, I’ll be there.

Rewinding (ahem) a moment back to Champaign, Illinois’ finest pop band, Headlights, they released a remix record in the cryptically-titled Remixes late last year. It’s limited to 1000 copies so if you want, move it. All racing, no stopping.

I’ll tie up this twisty bit of blog with a trio of XTC covers – Hatherley’s, Headlights’ and SSLYBY’s from the first Rewind comp – and point you to XTC’s MySpace blog, which features extensive interviews with both Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding about a different song of theirs each week… and they’ve been doing this since October 2006. I know some of y’all are crazy XTC fans, so if this is news to you, consider your day/week wasted. You’re welcome.

MP3: Charlotte Hatherley – “This Is Pop”
MP3: Headlights – “Making Plans For Nigel”
MP3: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – “Another Satellite”

The AV Club talks to Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard while Alternative Press has an interview with Chris Walla. I somehow doubt that Walla is going to get his wish for a louder, angrier Death Cab – becoming Mr Zoey Deschanel isn’t really the sort of thing that’d press Gibbard’s “rage” buttons.

Paste declares Gemma Hayes their artist of the week.

Matador continues to play “what the fuck” in announcing the release of a Condo Fucks album in March entitled Fuckbook. The Condo Fucks are a long-running joke alias for Yo La Tengo and it’s unclear if this is actually a new YLT record, an actual YLT side-project record or just an excuse for the Beggars Group to add yet another Fuck band to their roster though I have to say, if they’re not from Toronto – fictionally or otherwise – the critical acclaim isn’t guaranteed.

MP3: Condo Fucks – “Whatcha Gonna Do About It”

NPR profiles Blitzen Trapper, in town at the Horseshoe on February 21.

New York Press and The Daily Record talk to Glasvegas, whose self-titled debut gets a North American release today.

Daytrotter has a session with Thao.

Pitchfork interviews Love Is All’s Josephine Olausson.