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Posts Tagged ‘Craft Spells’

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

FME 2012 Day Two

Feist, Louis-Jean Cormier, and more at Festival de musique émergente 2012

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSo yesterday I talked about where and what Rouyn-Noranda was; today I will do the same for FME. You don’t need to be bilingual to discern that “Festival de musique émergente” implies a mandate of focusing on new and upcoming artists, primarily but not exclusively from Québec, with a few relatively big names to bring in the less musically adventurous. It was started ten years ago when the organizers were tired of driving to Montréal eight hours away to see shows and so they started a festival as a pretence to bring bands to them.

From drawing around 3000 people in its first year to an estimated 20,000 this year, it’s concentrated on growing in scale while maintaining its intimate and sometimes impromptu vibe and also become an important showcase for European festival bookers to discover Francophone talent. It’s definitely a grassroots/boutique-type festival – think Hillside meets Iceland Airwaves, but much smaller – that brings a few days of great music and arts to a community that has an immense appetite for it but is well away from conventional touring routes and for Anglophones like myself, provide a fascinating window into the often opaque world of Québec popular music.

After a Friday morning spent ziplining in a forest a little out of town – no broken bones! A triumph! – it was into town to catch some of their “5 á 7” series of free day shows. Well, one of them – they were all at 5PM so conflicts were going to happen. I hit up Avec pas d’casque at Salle Evolu-Son on account of their latest Astronomie having made the Polaris long list this year, giving them more name recognition than anyone else playing. Lost list benefits in action! But while I knew who they were, I didn’t actually know what they sounded like so their slightly creaky country-pop was a total surprise to me. Of course, if they’d been a straightahead rock band or metal-reggae group, I’d have been just as surprised so whatever. Their down-home songwriting was augmented by some interesting instrument choices – steel and bowed guitars, a euphonium, autoharp, and kazoo were all drafted into service at some point in their set and while they demonstrated the ability to make their sound swell dramatically if they wanted to, they mostly kept it pretty mellow.

Photos: Avec pas d’casque @ Salle Evolu-Son – August 31, 2012
Video: Avec pas d’casque – “En attendant que ça paye”
Video: Avec pas d’casque – “Talent”
Video: Avec pas d’casque – “Dans les bras de la femme bionique”
Video: Avec pas d’casque – “Dans la nature jusqu’au cou”

For the evening programme, there wasn’t really anywhere else to be than the outdoor stage erected on 7e rue – this was where the festival’s headliner, save the special Sunday night performance, was going to be. Louis-Jean Cormier would have known what it was to be one of FME’s main draws – his band Karkwa had played the fest a number of times (their manager being the founder), most recently in 2010 – the year they won the Polaris Prize. With the band on the backburner for the foreseeable future, Cormier was using this occasion to showcase material which would appear on his solo debut, out on September 18, and while I’d seen him perform a number of times, it was always in the context of trying to introduce himself to unfamiliar audiences and win them over; it was quite different to see him in front of those who were already won over. Playing in a light, steady rain and fronting a five-piece band, Cormier gave ample proof that he was the melodic, pop heart of Karkwa. His stuff was more immediate and the fussier elements, while still present, were dialed down significantly. It was guitar pop of the sort that you didn’t need to understand the lyrics to enjoy, though the closing number’s chorus of “Goodbye Charest” made its sentiment pretty clear, along with Cormier’s political leanings and from the shouts of approval, the audience’s as well.

Photos: Louis-Jean Cormier @ Scène extérieur desjardins 7e rue – August 31, 2012
Stream: Louis-Jean Cormier – “L’ascenseur”

Being an international star, Feist has played a lot of places in Canada and abroad but it was probably safe to say she’d never played Rouyn-Noranda before. That, plus the fact that it was a festival headlining set towards the end of the touring cycle for Metals made me wonder if she might deviate from the consistent (read: same) set she’d been performing for most of the past year and maybe acquiesce to playing a few more of the hits? Not that I’d seen the set in question; I’d caught a bit of her at Osheaga but the last time I saw her perform was last October at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio, and that was a decidedly unique and guest star-laden show.

One look at the stage showed at least one way in which this would be different; Mountain Man, the trio who had been Feist’s backing singers for the entirety of the Metals tours, were absent and instead it was a four-piece band who would be playing tonight, though both Brian LeBarton and Charles Spearin’s musical workstations flanking Feist’s spot centre-stage were loaded with gear. They may have been small, but they were hardly unequipped.

Once they got started – the skies had cleared and a full moon shone – another benefit to the smaller band became evident: it gave them space. It’s difficult to be spontaneous with a big band but a lean unit – particularly one that’s been playing countless show for months – can turn on a dime and given this freedom and the casual vibe of the festival, Feist turned in an energized, exuberant set that proved that she stil knew where her indie rock roots were. Unsurprisingly, Metals material made up the bulk of the set, some of the selections had already mutated into new forms from the past year of live interpretations. I would have expected her French to be better given the time spent in Paris, but Feist was still able to engage the audience and invite them to act as choral vocalists on a few songs. The outro of “How Come You Never Go There” went alright – “whoa whoa” isn’t too hard to do – but the multi-octave harmonies on “So Sorry” were well beyond their abilities and were a kind of charming disaster.

It was the older material that really stood out, though, and not just because it was more familiar. “My Moon My Man” was a near-rager, replete with healthy guitar abuse, and “Feel It All” was a veritable punk rock number. The encore kept this up, with Feist and LeBarton – swapping keys for drums – turning “When I Was A Young Girl” into a garage rock-y White Stripes tribute and, with the rest of the band back on stage, making “Sea Lion Woman” a free-form jam before ending with an impressively big, “Let It Die”. It will probably be a while before Feist ever returns to Rouyn, but until then she left the town with a lot of lasting musical memories.

Spinner grabbed an interview with Feist prior to the show.

Photos: Feist @ Scène extérieur desjardins 7e rue – August 31, 2012
Video: Feist – “Anti-Pioneer”
Video: Feist – “Cicadas & Gulls”
Video: Feist – “The Bad In Each Other”
Video: Feist – “I Feel It All”
Video: Feist – “Honey Honey”
Video: Feist – “My Moon My Man”
Video: Feist – “Mushaboom”
Video: Feist – “1, 2, 3, 4”
Video: Feist – “One Evening”
Video: Feist – “It’s Cool To Love Your Family”

It would be hard to top that show, so Kandle’s midnight set at Agora des arts was doomed to pale by comparison, but even if that hadn’t been the context it probably still would have underwhelmed. The offspring of 54-40 frontman Neil Osbourne, Kandle Osborne should be commended for trying something completely different musically, but the moody, country-noir sound she’s going for is, for now at least, beyond her reach. Her voice may have the right smoky timbre but she didn’t demonstrate any of the range necessary to imbue it with emotion and her songwriting also lacked the maturity and sophistication needed to sell it. Maybe with time and experience, both musical and life, she’ll get more convincing but for now she comes across as an ingenue trying to play the femme fatale role and it’s not working.

And then we went for poutine.

Photos: Kandle @ Agora des arts – August 31, 2012
Video: Kandle – “Small”
Video: Kandle – “Knew You’d Never”
Video: Kandle – “Know My Name”

A brace of concert announcements following the long weekend yesterday. Starting with the quick and free, know that Bloc Party will augment their two-night stand at the Danforth Music Hall with a free show at Sugar Beach – that’s down at the Corus/CFNY/Edge building on Lakeshore – on September 11 at 7:30PM. Details at Arts & Crafts.

Video: Bloc Party – “Octopus”

West coast lo-fi fellows Craft Spells have a date at The Shop under Parts & Labour on September 23, tickets $12.50 for those who plan ahead.

MP3: Craft Spells – “You Should Close The Door”
MP3: Craft Spells – “Party Talk”

Aussies enamoured of their Kiwi neighbours’ jangle-pop traditions – read: Flying Nun et al – The Twerps will be at The Silver Dollar on October 22. Don’t know who they are? eMusic finds out.

Video: The Twerps – “Through The Day”

Portland’s Blitzen Trapper will find some time amidst their tour with Brandi Carlile to play a headlining show of their own at Lee’s Palace on October 22. Tickets $17.50.

MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Black River Killer”
MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Love The Way You Walk Away”

Texas psych-rock pioneer Roky Erickson is at Lee’s Palace on November 3, tickets $29.50. His last release was 2010’s Will Sheff-produced, Okkervil River-backed True Love Cast Out All Evil. The Advocate talks to Sheff about working with Erickson and what’s next for Okkervil.

Stream: Roky Erickson – “Be And Bring Me Home”

More Portlanders coming to town in the form of ornate folk outfit Horse Feathers. Their latest Cynics New Year came out in the Spring and they’ll be playing selections from it at The Drake on November 8, tickets $15.

MP3: Horse Feathers – “Fit Against The Country”
MP3: Horse Feathers – “Cascades”

And again from Australia, Tame Impala have announced a local date in support of their new record Lonerism, out October 9. Look for them and their psychedelically jammy ways at The Phoenix on November 12, tickets $20. SF Weekly has an interview.

MP3: Tame Impala – “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds”

The Twilight Sad brought No One Can Ever Know to town back in March and they’ll do so again with fellow Scots Errors in tow for a show at The Horseshoe on November 18, tickets $13.50.

MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Another Bed”
Video: Errors – “Ammaboa Glass”

Spinner talks Lawless with Nick Cave, screenwriter.

The Vinyl District interviews Pip Browne of Ladyhawke. She’s at The Hoxton on September 15.

The National Post interviews Torq Campbell of Stars. They support Metric at The Air Canada Centre on November 24.

Daytrotter sessions up an a capella Futureheads.

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

All Our Summer Songs

Saturday Looks Good To Me decides Saturday still looks pretty good, reforms for new album and tour

Photo via PolyvinylPolyvinylUsually when an interesting press release shows up in my inbox, the contents show up ad nauseum in my RSS, Twitter, Facebook, whatever over the next few hours – such is the nature of the press cycle in the digital age. But one of the best pieces of news over the last few days, at least for me, hasn’t yet found its way into the internet echo chamber, and that’s the anouncement of the return of Saturday Looks Good To Me.

Not that I’m entirely surprised; the Ann Arbor, Michigan outfit never quite set the world on fire despite producing two nearly perfect records of Motown/Northern Soul revivalist pop in 2003’s All Your Summer Songs and 2004’s Every Night and had been basically in drydock since the release of 2007’s Fill Up The Room. Songwriter Fred Thomas and vocalist Betty Marie Barnes regrouped in 2010 as Mighty Clouds and released one decent self-titled effort but remained largely under the radar.

But anyways – back to the presser. Basically, it announced that Thomas had reconvened a new version of the band with long-time bassist Scott DeRoche, Ryan Howard (with whom he formed City Center in SLGTM’s downtime) and new singer Carol Gray for a Spring tour (though no local date), a re-release of All Your Summer Songs on heavy vinyl for Record Store Day and a new album due out in the Fall. There’s no guarantee that it will reach the greatness of their earlier records – the constantly shifting lineup doesn’t always gel and sometimes Thomas’ more experimental urges can be to the detriment of the songs, but I’m optimistic nonetheless. If you’re unfamiliar with them, do get acquainted – there’s MP3s and full album streams below, and a sampler mix over at Soundcloud.

MP3: Saturday Looks Good To Me – “Make A Plan”
MP3: Saturday Looks Good To Me – “The Girl’s Distracted”
MP3: Saturday Looks Good To Me – “Until The World Stops Spinning”
MP3: Saturday Looks Good To Me – “The Sun Doesn’t Want To Shine”
MP3: Saturday Looks Good To Me – “Meet Me By The Water”
Stream: Saturday Looks Good To Me / Every Night
Stream: Saturday Looks Good To Me / All Your Summer Songs
Stream: Mighty Clouds / Mighty Clouds

The Drums, with Brooklyn’s Craft Spells in tow, will make a return engagement on April 27 at The Phoenix – tickets $17.50 in advance – part of another tour in support of last year’s Portamento. They’ve also just released a new video from said record and sat for an interview with The Daily Record.

MP3: The Drums – “Down By The Water”
MP3: Craft Spells – “You Should Close The Door”
Video: The Drums – “Days”

Baltimore’s Future Islands will bring last year’s On The Water to The Horseshoe on May 3, tickets $11.50 in advance.

MP3: Future Islands – “Before The Bridge”

With a new album in Always ready for release next Tuesday, Xiu Xiu have announced a Spring tour with Vancouver’s Dirty Beaches that brings them to Lee’s Palace on May 12, tickets $13.50 in advance.

MP3: Xiu Xiu – “Hi”
MP3: Xiu Xiu – “Hi” (acoustic)
MP3: Dirty Beaches – “Lord Knows Best”

If you’re thinking, “wait – their March 14 show at The Air Canada Centre doesn’t happen for another two weeks”, you are correct – but that hasn’t stopped The Black Keys from announcing another Toronto date for August 4 at the Molson Amphitheatre, this time with The Shins. Tickets for that will be $35 and $60 in advance. What can you say – their El Camino just keeps going and going; The Shins can only hope Port Of Morrow has remotely the same momentum when it arrives on March 20 – The Quietus has an interview with James Mercer about the new record.

MP3: The Shins – “Know Your Onion!”
Video: The Black Keys – “Gold On The Ceiling”

DIY and The Daily Tar Heel interview Bowerbirds, whose new album The Clearing, is out next week. They play The Garrison on March 27.

Paste and The Quietus profile Andrew Bird, whose new album Break It Yourself is out Tuesday. You can watch a video performance of one of the new songs at PitchforkTV.

In conversation with DIY, Howler reveal they’ve already begun work on the follow-up to America Give Up; they’ll showcase that first album at The Drake on April 5.

The AV Club has got the artwork and tracklist for the Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions box from Billy Bragg and Wilco, as well as the official release date of April 21.

Ben Curtis of School Of Seven Bells talks to Spinner and picks some of his favourite records for The Skinny. They’re at The Hoxton on May 2.

The Retribution Gospel Choir is in a giving mood, offering a new EP entitled The Revolution for free download from their website in exchange for an email address.

MP3: Retribution Gospel Choir – “The Stone (Revolution!)”

NYC Taper is sharing a recording of Sharon Van Etten’s New York show this past weekend, while Blare and The Calgary Herald have interviews.

Clash has a feature piece on Real Estate.

Toronto Standard has an interview with yours truly about the topic of blogging in advance of a panel I’m on this Friday evening for the Toronto Music Industry Association, also on the topic of blogging. I will be fielding any questions about anything except blogging.