Posts Tagged ‘Cults’

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Off Ramp Up Ahead

This Record Store Day, buy some records and see a bunch of bands for free

Photo via sistermusic.casistermusic.caNext Saturday, April 16, is Record Store Day and no matter what your feelings on the event itself and its attempts to convince you that you really need those songs you already have on a coloured 7″, you can’t argue with some of the perks. Specifically, the fact that many of the local retail establishments around town like to entice you into their stores with the promise of free live music.

So far, Sonic Boom has the biggest lineup, running from day through night and pretty impressive. There’s no one quite the stature of Sloan, as they had last year, but there’s both Canadian indie rock veterans with pedigree and rookies with promise on offer this year. Things will shake down as follows:

1PM – Modern Superstitions
2PM – Teenanger
3PM – Bidniband (ex-Rheostatic Dave Bidni)
4PM – Light Fires (Gentleman Reg and Ohbijou’s James Bunton)
5PM – Ben Gunning (former Local Rabbit)
6PM – Sister (two-thirds of Scott Pilgrim-inspiring Plumtree)
8PM – Zeus
9PM – The Wooden Sky

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Something Hiding In The Night For Us”
MP3: Zeus – “Marching Through Your Head”
MP3: Sister – “Orion”
MP3: Modern Superstitions – “Visions Of You”

Further downtown at Criminal Records, you’ve got a 7PM acoustic set from The Grey Kingdom, aka the solo project from Attack In Black’s Spencer Burton. They’ll also be the only ones with the vinyl edition of his debut album Eulogy Of Her And Her And Her, so if that’s your bag then that’s the place to be. And even if it’s not, the rather exhaustive list of RSD exclusives that they’ve ordered – and usually get at least some if not a lot of – should be enough to entice you.

If memory serves, both Kops and Sunrise had bands in last year – no word yet if they’ll do so again this year, but I’ll update if they do.

And not associated with Record Store Day but definitely worth your time and costing you exactly zero dollars will be The Sadies at The Toronto Reference Library as part of their Make Some Noise series – there’s no advance tickets, so show up before doors at 7:30PM on April 16 – the show starts at 8 – and enjoy. The Toronto Public Library has a chat with drummer Mike Belitsky.

MP3: The Sadies – “Another Year Again”

Ron Sexsmith will play an acoustic in-store set at Sonic Boom on April 21 at 6PM in advance of his sold-out show at Lee’s Palace that evening.

Video: Ron Sexsmith – “Late Bloomer” (live)

This one’s half-free – Cults’ show at Lee’s Palace on the Friday night of NXNE will be standard ticket/wristband/badge admission, but they’ll also be on whatever bill gets put together for the free shows at Yonge-Dundas Square the next day, June 18 – perfect if you’d rather, you know, go outside. Their self-titled debut will be out on June 7.

MP3: Cults – “Go Outside”

Twin Shadow is also coming to town for NXNE – he and his band are at Lee’s on June 18 – but that one will cost you unless you’ve got a wristband or badge and feel like walking into the shows just by flashing it is close enough to free for you.

MP3: Twin Shadow – “Castles In The Snow”

Back to the gratis but on a completely different scale is the opening event for this year’s Toronto Jazz Festival – which will feature the legendary (and that’s putting it mildly) Aretha Franklin at Metro Hall on June 24, showtime 8:30. Aretha. For free. PEOPLE.

Video: Aretha Franklin – “Respect” (live)

And on Canada Day, given that there doesn’t seem to be a Harbourfront Centre show for the first time in years, your best bet will be Shad – also at Metro Hall – starting at 5:30PM. Too early in the day for fireworks so we’ll have to settle for some freestyling.

MP3: Shad – “Rose Garden”

And finally, one you’ll have to pay for but should be worth it: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have added a bunch of tour dates through the Summer in support of new album Belong and their itinerary brings them back to Toronto for the first time since September 2009 – they’ll be at The Opera House on August 2. Blurt has an interview with frontman Kip Berman.

Video: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “Heart In Your Heartbreak”

The Head & The Heart have released a new MP# from their self-titled debut which should be on every one of your shopping lists for Record Store Day (when it’s released).

MP3: The Head & The Heart – “Lost In My Mind”

Blurt is streaming the whole of The Submarines’ new record Love Notes/Letter Bombs. They play The Horseshoe April 22.

Stream: The Submarines / Love Notes/Letter Bombs

TV On The Radio is streaming the whole of their new record Nine Types Of Light at The Guardian. The album is out next Tuesday and they’re at The Sound Academy on April 18. Interview has an interview. Fancy that.

Stream: TV On The Radio / Nine Types Of Light

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

What We've Become

Review of The Concretes’ WYWH and giveaway

Photo By Olle KirchmeierOlle KirchmeierFor a band whose name implies durability and solidity, Sweden’s Concretes have had a remarkably fluid existence. Their 2005 self-titled debut introduced them as adorably introverted Motown revivalists while the follow-up In Colour took its title to heart, broadening their palette to include bigger pop arrangements.

It all went off the rails shortly thereafter, however, as the band had their gear stolen somewhere in the American midwest and then had to cancel the remainder of their tour after lead singer Victoria Bergsman fell ill with exhaustion. Her convalescence would become a permanent departure and though she would eventually returning to music as the critically-acclaimed, folk-oriented Taken By Trees, her former bandmates were left to figure out what would become of The Concretes.

The decision was made to carry on with drummer Lisa Milberg, who had taken a couple of lead vocal turns on In Colour, stepping out from behind the kit to assume the frontwoman role full time. I didn’t hear all of their next record Hey Trouble as it wasn’t released in North America, but the couple samples I did hear were underwhelming and I got the impression that, once again, the title was quite fitting with the band documenting the growing pains of their search for a new identity to tape. But now having heard their latest effort WYWH, I’d like to give Trouble a listen if just to fill in some of the blanks of how they got to where they are now – and from the sounds of it, it’s a smoky after-hours dance club.

WYWH – as in “wish you were here” – cultivates a dark, groove-based sullen disco vibe that suits Milberg’s wounded and worn vocals perfectly. It’s not a persona I’d have expected from her given her ebullient turn on In Colour‘s “Song For The Songs”, but it’s the perfect protagonist for haunting these songs. While the singles “All Day” and “Good Evening” emphasize the pulsing, dancier side of the record, it’s in the gentler moments like “Sing For Me” that the record’s heart really beats. I’m sure that many wrote off The Concretes when Bergsman left and yes, it may have taken them a record to find their footing, but they’ve more than successfully reinvented themselves with melodicism intact and plenty of new tricks to offer.

The Concretes kick off their first North American tour since their ill-fated one almost five years ago in a couple of weeks, and will be stopping in at the Horseshoe in Toronto on January 17. Tickets for the show are $15 in advance but courtesy of Collective Concerts, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see The Concretes” in the subject line and your full name in the body, and have that in to me before midnight, January 12.

MP3: The Concretes – “All Day”
MP3: The Concretes – “Good Evening”
Video: The Concretes – “All Day”

Remember when music videos for songs from soundtracks were montages of clips from the film? Sometimes with footage of the artist acting as though they were also in the film interspliced? Well it’s only the former and none of the latter in this clip for Jonsi’s contribution to the soundtrack for last year’s How To Train Your Dragon feature, which is too bad because the world could use a CGI-ed Jonsi.

Video: Jonsi – “Sticks & Stones”

This Is Ellie, aka blog of RTHK Radio 3 in Hong Kong DJ Ellie Davis, has an audio interview with Emmy The Great, wherein she reveals that her second album might not be ready in time for February as originally intended, that the record will almost certainly be called Virtue and also offers an in-studio performance of a new song. And that was one mighty run-on sentence.

2010 buzz band become 2011 buzz band Cults have made a date at The Horseshoe for April 4, where they will preview material from their debut album due out in May. Which hopefully means they’ll have more decent material to offer than when they were here last August. Full dates at Death & Taxes.

MP3: Cults – “Go Outside”
MP3: Cults – “Most Wanted”

Toro Y Moi has skedded dates in support of his second album Underneath The Pine, due out February 22. Exclaim has the full North American itinerary, which includes a stop at Wrongbar on April 7.

MP3: Toro Y Moi – “Still Sound”
MP3: Toro Y Moi – “Blessa”

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Perch Patchwork

Maps & Atlases, Cults and Laura Stevenson & The Cans at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangHeading into Saturday night, I had a managed to go a full six weeks without hitting a club show – only partly by design – and feeling on the cusp of official “shut-in” status and a full week of activities coming up, I figured that it was a good time to start getting back into game shape with a trio of bands with whom I was only passingly familiar – enough so to think that it might be a good show, but not enough to really know what to expect.

Leading off were Brooklyn’s Laura Stevenson & The Cans, who at the core are sweet, jangly and slightly twangy pop-rock but get a bit orchestral and right noisy around the edges. Namesake Stevenson has an immediately likeable crystalline voice and her bandmates do a fine job of providing the proper accompaniment to keep things dynamic and interesting. Apparently not enough to keep the folks standing beside me from believing that loudly quoting 30 Rock jokes was more entertaining than what was going on onstage, but what can you do. Stevenson’s record A RecorD is available for free download with donations welcome. You should do both of these things.

New York duo Cults came into the night with the highest buzz-to-recording ratio, the enthusiasm that met their “Go Outside” 7″ earlier this Summer being responsible for their being able to tour the continent before they’d released anything else and do it as a full six-piece band instead of just the core two-piece with taped backing tracks. And while they had more than the four songs released so far to fill up a set, it may have been a blessing that being held up at the border and arriving at the club late forced them to truncate their show a bit. While the newer material fit the Motown-in-Summer mould that the single did, none of it was as instantly catchy and their relative green-ness as a live act was also evident – what made Madeline Follin’s vocals sound sweet and girly on record came across thin on stage and co-conspirator Brian Oblivion had the annoying habit of constantly brushing his hair back behind his ears while playing. That aside, they were clearly comfortable as live performers – no given – and they’ve got a good sound so one hopes they’ll improve with time. What I got most out of their set, though, was just how much I miss Saturday Looks Good To Me, who did what Cults do so much better and were summarily ignored for it. Oh SLGTM.

I’d given Maps & Atlases’ latest Perch Patchwork a number of listens in advance of the show to try and get a handle on exactly what the Chicago quartet were about and… well, I’m pretty sure I failed. Were they math-rock? Prog-rock? Jam-rock? Pop-rock? Folk-rock? Just rock? The answer, apparently, was yes. Maps & Atlases somehow straddle all of these genres and while you can’t say their union is seamless – some sounds weren’t meant to go gently together – they largely make it work thanks to the fact that they’re all astonishing musicians and they seem to think what they’re doing is perfectly normal. Constantly shifting tempos and time signatures rendered by heavy yet nimble percussion and mad guitar tapping figures underneath, high and lonesome vocals and plaintive melodies overtop. Certainly, no one sounds like them and like most distinctive bands, they drew a modestly-sized but wholly enthusiastic audience who cheered wildly for every feat of musicianship, of which there were many. I didn’t fall in love with them, but I was impressed. And that was enough.

Photos: Maps & Atlases, Cults, Laura Stevenson & The Cans @ The Horseshoe – August 7, 2010
MP3: Maps & Atlases – “Solid Ground”
MP3: Cults – “Go Outside”
MP3: Cults – “Most Wanted”
MP3: Laura Stevenson & The Cans – “Holy Ghost!”
Video: Cults – “Oh My God”
MySpace: Maps & Atlases
MySpace: Laura Stevenson & The Cans

Spinner has an Interface session with The National.

NYC Taper has a recording of Spoon set opening up for Arcade Fire at Madison Square Garden in New York last Wednesday.

In conversation with Spinner, Interpol’s Sam Fogarino discusses Interpol and the band’s journey from indie to major to indie again. The record is out September 7 and they’re at the Kool Haus tomorrow night.

NPR is streaming a World Cafe session with Laura Marling.

St. Louis Today chats with Phoenix guitarist Laurent Brancowitz. They play the Ricoh Coliseum on October 26.

NPR interviews Bjork.

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

You're Going Back

The Tallest Man On Earth tours to verify rest of world still shorter than he

Photo By Julia MårdJulia MårdYou can probably scientifically and quantitatively prove that there is nothing fresh or original about what Swede Kristian Matsson does under his stage name of The Tallest Man On Earth. He’s a folk-oriented singer-songwriter who’s armed with just an acoustic guitar and a raspy, Dylan-ish twang and in those terms, is indistinguishable from an infinite number of performers in coffee houses around the world at any given moment in time.

What sets Matsson above and apart is something more ineffable; a fine sense of melody, deft guitarwork and evocative turn of phrase, certainly, but what I like most is his enthusiastic romanticism – he’s occasionally wistful but never downbeat or morose. The cap always sits at a jaunty angle, the step always has just enough spring. It comes across well on his latest record The Wild Hunt but is so much more irresistible live – I only caught him play a short in-store at Criminal Records back on Record Store Day but it was enough to be won over by his charm and charisma as a performer, and I’m a pretty hard sell on “guy with a guitar”.

His show at the El Mocambo that evening was all kinds of sold out, but those shut out will be pleased to know that Matsson will be spending a goodly chunk of the next few months on the road – in Chicago for Pitchfork next week, but Europe the rest of the Summer before returning to North America for a continent-crossing September that includes a September 24 date at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. Support on all North American dates comes from S. Carey of Bon Iver; his solo debut All We Grow is out August 24.

MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “Burden Of Tomorrow”
MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “King Of Spain”
MP3: S. Carey – “In The Dirt”

In other concert announcement news – Scissor Sisters bring their new record Night Work out on tour and stop in at the Sound Academy on August 31; tickets $35 in advance.

Video: Scissor Sisters – “Fire With Fire”

New York’s Ratatat are also now apparently big enough to play the Sound Academy – their latest album LP4 brings them to the aforementioned venue on September 8; tickets $20 in advance.

MP3: Ratatat – “Party With Children”

Maryland’s Cotton Jones, whose new record Tall Hours In The Glowstream is out August 24, will be at the Drake on October 9 supported by Pepper Rabbit, who were just there the other night.

MP3: Cotton Jones – “Gotta Cheer Up”
MP3: Pepper Rabbit – “Red Wine”

And speaking of just here – with the Toronto Islands gig over and done, Band Of Horses are coming back to town on October 21 for a show at the Kool Haus as part of a full North American tour. Tickets are $27.50 in advance.

MP3: Band Of Horses – “Factory”

Veteran punks Social Distortion have set a date at the Kool Haus on October 23 as part of a Fall tour.

Video: Social Distortion – “I Was Wrong”

The Line Of Best Fit interviews Swedish duo jj. Awkwardness ensues.

Jonsi talks to The Quietus about his days as a Metallica fan.

Wye Oak chats with NPR; they’re at the Horseshoe on August 28.

Daytrotter has served up a session with Drive-By Truckers.

The Quietus talks to Greg Edwards of Autolux. Their Transit Transit is out August 3 and they play Lee’s Palace on August 24.

Cults, who’re at the Horseshoe on August 7 opening up for Maps & Atlases, have a new video that is awash in balloons.

Video: Cults – “Oh My God”

Ted Leo takes to the blog to address rumours circulating about his impending retirement from music.

Local Natives are featured in a Spinner Interface session and interview with Filter. They play the Mod Club on October 19.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Holly Miranda.

That Imagine Concert that was supposed to bring the spirit of the ’60s to Downsview Park this coming weekend but never announced boo about boo? It’s not dead yet. They’re now targeting Labour Day weekend to get all up in your face with peace and love – lineup and ticket details coming soon. I can’t wait.

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Ending On A High Note

a-ha and Ray Materick at Massey Hall in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI’ve taken a bit of ribbing in the last while about not only attending Monday night’s a-ha show at Massey Hall, but for being excited about it. Which is sort of fair, I suppose, as the Norwegian trio largely fell off the North American radar around 1987, despite not only maintaining but growing a massive fanbase worldwide over the past two decades plus. But those who assumed the band had been creatively fallow since Hunting High And Low – or even no longer in existence – not only missed out on 25 years or so of great pop music, but by ignoring the Toronto stop on the band’s farewell tour, an amazing show as well.

I can’t pretend that I’ve kept up with a-ha in all that time. Their first three albums or so were staples of my youth, thanks to my older brother’s music collection, but circa 1990’s East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon, grunge/alternative broke out and there was little room in this 15-year old’s world for sophisticated Euro-pop. Even so, I’ve always had a soft spot for them, gave new singles a listen whenever they crossed my path and taken notice if they made any sort of news – as they did when they announced last Fall that they would split up after a final world tour that would cover most of 2010. And when Toronto was listed as one of the four North American cities and seven shows on this continent in total to host one of these farewell shows, I decided I kind of had to be there. Which brings us to Monday.

If you’ve ever wondered what 24 years of pent-up demand felt like – that’s how long it had been since a-ha’s last and only visit to Toronto – then Massey, where that show also happened, was the place to be. I would imagine that anyone who only knew them as “that band with that song and that video” was elsewhere on this evening (or else had too much disposable income) because while the theatre wasn’t quite sold out – I wager there were a couple hundred of the less choice seats vacant – but the buzz of anticipation from the other couple thousand plus in attendance more than made up for the empty seats.

When the lights dimmed for the start of the show, anticipation turned into confusion as the opener was introduced as Hamilton folksinger Ray Materick, who had a few radio hits back in the ’70s. His appearance was not without context, as this piece in eye explains, but it was an odd pairing to say the least. While Materick delivered a short set of his material new and old, the audience managed to stay on the right side of polite while not really paying much attention. Which is probably all that could have been expected.

“Polite” wouldn’t be the word to describe the atmosphere when the house lights dimmed a second time and the giant video screen that served as backdrop to the otherwise bare-bones stage setup began playing a montage of sweeping abstract visuals – “madness” might be more accurate. And “madness squared” for when the visuals resolved into a giant “2010” and the band strode onto a Toronto stage for the first time in almost a quarter century. Not that you could necessarily tell that much time had elapsed by looking at them – though all around 50 years of age, they all looked remarkably well-kept and youthful. But they weren’t here just to act as testaments to the benefits of nordic living; they were here to put on a show.

And with the title track of their latest (last) album Foot Of The Mountain, they began a backwards journey through their discography that was clearly designed to remind to deliver maximum hit value while serving to remind that they were writing solid songs to the very end. It didn’t take them even an hour to blow through the ’00s and ’90s, highlighted by “Summer Moved On” from 2000’s Minor Earth Major Sky wherein Morten Harkett proved he had lost not iota of range or power from his voice over the years, hitting and holding the high notes for an absurdly long time. The sweeping “Stay On These Roads” and “The Living Daylights”, backed by Bond-ian visuals, marked the start of the golden age portion of their set and immediately shifted gears for a two-song, acoustic break of “And You Tell Me” and “Early Morning”. They spent the remainder of the main set with their first two records, Scoundrel Days and Hunting High & Low, including stellar readings of “Manhattan Skyline” and “I’ve Been Losing You”. When they walked off stage following “Cry Wolf”, no one believed for a millisecond they weren’t coming back, and following an extended video montage of stills and photos from the band’s earliest days, they returned for a soaring “The Sun Always Shines On TV” and “Hunting High & Low”, and after one final encore, it was “Take On Me” and the end.

From start to finish, the trio – backed by a drummer and keyboardist/bassist – put on a nearly perfect performance, striking the right balance of slickness and honesty, not unlike their music. Though this was a farewell tour, there was no sense of sadness or regret to be found – more than anything, the prevailing emotion was pride in a body of work assembled over a career any artist should be envious of and a sincere appreciation for the fans who stood steadfast by them, even though they were more or less neglected since the start of the ’90s. If North America had some appreciation for adult contemporary-ish pop music that wasn’t r&b-based or just pap, a-ha might well have been the stars here that they were in the rest of the world. But as it was, we just got this one final opportunity to say hello and goodbye and were grateful for it.

The Toronto Sun also has a review of the show and The National Post Chicago Sun-Times have interviews with guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy. a-ha’s first two albums will be reissued in double-CD expanded form on June 28 by Rhino.

Photos: a-ha, Ray Materick @ Massey Hall – May 10, 2010
Video: a-ha – “Shadowside”
Video: a-ha – “Nothing Is Keeping You Here”
Video: a-ha – “Foot Of The Mountain”
Video: a-ha – “Cosy Prisons”
Video: a-ha – “Analogue”
Video: a-ha – “Celice”
Video: a-ha – “Lifelines”
Video: a-ha – “Forever Not Yours”
Video: a-ha – “I Wish I Cared”
Video: a-ha – “Velvet”
Video: a-ha – “Minor Earth Major Sky”
Video: a-ha – “Summer Moved On”
Video: a-ha – “Shapes That Go Together”
Video: a-ha – “Angel”
Video: a-ha – “Dark Is The Night”
Video: a-ha – “Move To Memphis”
Video: a-ha – “There’s Never A Forever Thing”
Video: a-ha – “I Call Your Name”
Video: a-ha – “Crying In The Rain”
Video: a-ha – “You Are The One”
Video: a-ha – “Touchy!”
Video: a-ha – “The Blood That Moves The Body”
Video: a-ha – “Stay On These Roads”
Video: a-ha – “The Living Daylights”
Video: a-ha – “Manhattan Skyline”
Video: a-ha – “Cry Wolf”
Video: a-ha – “I’ve Been Losing You”
Video: a-ha – “Hunting High & Low”
Video: a-ha – “Train Of Thought”
Video: a-ha – “The Sun Always Shines On TV”
Video: a-ha – “Take On Me”
MySpace: a-ha

Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit will release their debut full-length The Big Black & The Blue on May 25. Hear songs from it when they play the Rivoli on June 11. And also by clicking below. That works too.

MP3: First Aid Kit – “Hard Believer”
MP3: First Aid Kit – “Sailor Song” (live)

Delays, whose a-ha cover remains this week’s cover selection for a few more days, have released a first MP3 from their new record Star Tiger, Star Ariel, due out June 21.

MP3: Delays – “Find A Home (New Forest Shaker)”

Field Music have released a new video from (Measure).

Video: Field Music – “Let’s Write A Book”

Damon Albarn tells NME that new Blur singles are likely, but not a proper album. Until they collect said singles into an album.

M.I.A. has named her new album /\/\/\Y/\. Yeah, someone needs to talk to her handlers. It’s out July 13.

The Fly checks in with Ritzy of The Joy Formidable to see how work on their debut full-length is going. It’s targeted for an Autumn release. Blare also has an interview.

The San Jose Mercury News and The Georgia Straight talk to Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit.

The Big Pink have premiered a new video from last year’s A Brief History Of Love.

Video: The Big Pink – “Tonight”

Shad will mark the release of his new record TSOL – out May 25 – with an in-store performance at Sonic Boom on May 24 at 7PM. He plays a full show at the Opera House on June 12.

MP3: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”

Keane are hoping their fanbase has increased about five fold since the last time they were here as they’re booked into the Molson Amphitheatre on July 30. They just released a new album entitled Night Train.

Video: Keane – “Clear Skies”

The UK’s Wild Beasts return to town in support of Two Dancers with a date at the Mod Club on August 6.

MP3: Wild Beasts – “All The King’s Men”

The August 7 show at the Horseshoe with Maps & Atlases just got that much buzzier with the addition of mysteriously shimmering Motown-y New York duo Cults. Their debut 7″ is available to download for free at their website. Listen and find out what all the cool kids are talking about for the next 3 seconds.

MP3: Cults – “Go Outside”

Logistical issues have snookered the August 8 Empire Of The Sun show at the Sound Academy. They apologize and hope to make it back, but not to the point of offering anything resembling a window when that might happen. So don’t expect it to happen.

Michael Gira’s newly-reformed (as in formed again, not as in served hard time but feeling much better) Swans have put together a Fall tour that includes an October 2 date at Lee’s Palace.