Posts Tagged ‘Dog Day’

Monday, October 5th, 2009

All Delighted People

Sufjan Stevens and Cryptacize at Lee's Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIn a recent interview posted to the Asthamtic Kitty website in which Sufjan Stevens interviewed former bandmate and now labelmate Shannon Stephens, Stevens (note spelling) said, “I’m at a point where I no longer have a deep desire to share my music with anyone, having spent many years imparting my songs to the public”. A curious sentiment that might have seemed truthful a couple months ago, when he was still largely a recluse, choosing not to follow up his 2005 opus Illinois with anything resembling a conventional record, instead favouring multimedia projects and reissues. But you couldn’t say he wasn’t much for sharing with him midway through a short, surprise tour that saw him playing venues many times smaller than his patient and devoted fanbase could easily fill and playing a wealth of new material that wasn’t really ready what you’d call “finished”. Not that anyone in the beyond-sold out Lee’s Palace on Thursday night cared.

Support came from Los Angeles’ Cryptacize, whose second record Mythomania has found its way in and out of rotation over the Summer. Some of it I find beguiling, some of it boring, but it’s generally an interesting listen, like a stack of girl group, surf, Bossa Nova and prog-rock 7″s were left out on a beach in the California sun and melted together. Fronted by the classic and crystalline voice of Nedelle Torrisi, who would also cover keys and backing vocals in Stevens’ band, their set was generally enjoyable – they certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves – but probably ran a bit long for the anxious crowd, many of whom had been standing in line since late afternoon to get a prime vantage point for Stevens.

Stevens’ last two Toronto appearances in November 2004 and September 2005 were full and proper productions for Michigan/Seven Swans and Illinois respectively, complete with costumes and synchronized stage moves, so it was evident that this night was going to be something different when the band came out in regular casual street clothes and roadied their own gear, Stevens included, to the sound of much shrieking. And “casual” would be the key word for the night, followed closely by “beautiful”, “intimate” and, well, “sloppy”. The “beautiful” is a given for anyone who’s familiar with Stevens’ orchestral folk-pop compositions and the “intimate” aspect of the show has already been covered. As for the “sloppy”, well that’s not necessarily a criticism because if anyone can make missed cues and barely-remembered lyrics endearing, it’s Stevens. But even as far into the tour as they were, it was clear they were still feeling out the new material – mostly via extended jamming with Stevens taking the opportunity to show off his electric guitar chops – and getting reacquainted with the old.

As expected, the the nearly two-hour set drew from Stevens’ last four records – including Illinois outtakes collection The Avalanche – and four new songs. I’d originally thought there were five, but the one I thought the best of the bunch, the Simon & Garfunkel-quoting “All Delighted People”, actually dates back to 2000 though the version performed was almost unrecognizable against the original. By and large, the new material, which was described by Stevens as “long-form”, demonstrated that he has lost none of his flair for grandiose musical statements and is enjoying working without the constraints of a theme (or state) to write around. By no means did any of it feel ready – if it were released on an album in their present form, they’d probably be met largely with head-scratching – but as a teaser of where he’s going and what’s possibly to come, it was tantalizing. And the old material was, as stated, beautiful. I’d forgotten how stunning Stevens’ voice was live, so fragile yet powerful, and moments like “To Be Alone With You”, “Casimir Pulaski Day” and the still-chilling encore of “John Wayne Gacy, Jr” were jaw-dropping if not quite audience-silencing. With no sign as to when a new record will be forthcoming, let alone when he’ll undertake another proper tour, this show would have to keep Stevens’ fans satisfied for possibly a long time. And as much as you can be satisfied while never wanting it to end, it delivered.

There’s further reviews of the show at Exclaim and Panic Manual. Cryptacize are heading back on tour next month with The Fiery Furnaces and will be at the El Mocambo on November 7. Sufjan Stevens’ film in tribute to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway – The BQE – will be screening for one night only at Innis Town Hall at the University of Toronto on October 25 at 7:30, tickets $10 in advance online or at Soundscapes. Stevens’ Run Rabbit Run is out tomorrow and the The BQE is out on October 20.

Photos: Sufjan Stevens, Cryptacize @ Lee’s Palace – October 1, 2009
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Movement VI—Isorhythmic Night Dance With Interchanges”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “The Henney Buggy Band”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Casimir Pulaski Day”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Sister”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Holland”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Year Of The Dog”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Year Of The Tiger”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Demetrius”
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “A Winner Needs A Wand”
MP3: Cryptacize – “Blue Tears”
MP3: Cryptacize – “One Block Wonders”
MP3: Cryptacize – “Mini-Mythomania” (C Spencer Yeh remix)
MP3: Cryptacize – “Tail And Mane”
MP3: Cryptacize – “Cosmic Sing Along”
MP3: Cryptacize – “No Coins”
Video: Cryptacize – “Tail And Mane”
Video: Cryptacize – “Blue Tears”
Video: Cryptacize – “Cosmic Sing Along”
MySpace: Sufjan Stevens
MySpace: Cryptacize

The Riverfront Times talks to St Vincent’s Annie Clark, who released the first part of a tour video, compiled from footage taken over the Summer.

The Mountain Goats have released a first video from The Life Of The World To Come, out tomorrow. The record is also up to stream:

Video: The Mountain Goats – “Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace”
Stream: The Mountain Goats / The Life Of The World To Come

NPR is streaming a World Cafe session with Death Cab For Cutie.

Dog Day are releasing a super-limited, vinyl-only EP entitled Elder Schoolhouse, out in late October. No digital versions of the songs are planned, save for the MP3 and live video below, so if you want, get yourself a turntable. Dog Day play the Horseshoe on November 5.

MP3: Dog Dag – “Synastry”
Video: Dog Day – “Neighbour” and “Sleeping Waiting” (live at Elder Schoolhouse)

Swedish electro-pop outfit Little Dragon have booked a North American tour in support of new record Machine Dreams, out domestically on October 20, and that includes a date at Wrongbar in Toronto on November 18.

MP3: Little Dragon – “Blinking Pigs”

Zero 7 have set a date at the Phoenix for December 3 in support of their new record Yeah Ghost.

Friday, September 25th, 2009


The Antlers at Criminal Records in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangEverything I have to say about The Antlers’ record Hospice has already been said, so I’ll focus squarely on their live performance which I was able to witness yesterday evening despite opting to see Joe Pernice at the Dakota rather than their show at the Horseshoe, thanks to their booking an in-store at Criminal Records before either got underway.

While they could easily have gotten away with doing something simple, short and stripped-down, the fairly packed store was instead treated to something akin to a full and proper set, fully plugged-in and running 40 minutes plus. And it’s just as well, because that extra volume and amplification was crucial to the impact of the set (not to mention allowing keyboardist Darby Cicci to be heard at all). Where the recorded versions of the songs were built on foundation of tension and delicacy, the live renderings were much grandiose in scale – bigger and bolder without compromising the fragile atmospherics so integral to the songs. Rather than evoking images of hospitals, they felt like cathedrals, and perhaps most importantly, felt more uplifting than despairing. The lyrical content of the songs didn’t come across so pointedly, instead taking a back seat to the rawer, more visceral impact of the sound.

So while sorry to have missed their show proper, I’m thankful to have caught close to a proper show and still got to see Joe Pernice, all before the cold which has been stalking me the last couple weeks finally took me victim. Achoo.

Photos: The Antlers @ Criminal Records – September 24, 2009
MP3: The Antlers – “Two”
MP3: The Antlers – “Two” (remastered)
MP3: The Antlers – “Bear”
MP3: The Antlers – “The Universe Is Going To Catch You”
MP3: The Antlers – “On the Roof”
MP3: The Antlers – “Stairs To The Attic”
MP3: The Antlers – “Cold War”
MP3: The Antlers – “Keys”
Video: The Antlers – “Two”
MySpace: The Antlers

And if you opted to see The Antlers last night rather than Pernice, know that Joe will be making an appearance at Word On The Street this Sunday at Queen’s Park. Not performing, but being interviewed at 4PM – though there’s nothing to say he won’t spontaneously break out into song. Details in his cover feature from this week’s eye.

SFAppeal, The Dallas Observer and The Arizona Daily Star talk to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

School Of Seven Bells’ Alpinisms, a highlight of 2008, will be getting a re-release with a second disc of remixes and alternate takes on October 13 – almost just in time for their Fall tour which brings them to Lee’s Palace in Toronto on October 15. Pitchfork has one of the tracks from the bonus disc available to download. The Diamondback and Austinist have interviews with the band.

MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Iamundernodisguise” (alternate version)

The Hook questions Decemberist Chris Funk.

Spin questions. Monsters Of Folk answer. On November 2, they perform at Massey Hall.

Austinst talks to John Vanderslice, who’s made a demo MP3 from Romanian Names available to download in support of an upcoming 7″ single for “Too Much Time” due out October 6.

MP3: John Vanderslice – “Too Much Time” (demo)

Good news – Ted Leo & The Pharmacists will have a new record out in the early part of next year. Better news – it’s coming out on Matador.

To anyone thinking about attending the October 24 White Rabbits show – note that it has been moved from the Drake to the Horseshoe, and rather than an early show it’s now a regular/late show. Adjust your plans accordingly. You have a month to do so.

Soundproof talks to Reverie Sound Revue.

There’s a new MP3 available from The Wooden Sky’s new album If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone – they’re at Lee’s Palace on November 13. The Sudbury Star talks to frontman Gavin Gardiner.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Bit Part”

Spinner gets to know Dog Day and suggests you do the same. They’re at the Horseshoe on November 5.

Young Galaxy have set a date at the Horseshoe for November 13, tickets $10.

MP3: Young Galaxy – “Long Live The Fallen World”

Mew have released a new video from No More Stories.

Video: Mew – “Repeaterbeater”

Filter chats in two parts with Mum, who’ve also made Magnet a mix tape. They’re at the Phoenix on October 27.

MP3: Mum – “Illuminated”

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Another Runaway

Ladyhawke, Semi Precious Weapons, Woodhands and Anjulie at the Opera House in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOne can’t help but feel some satisfaction that the gossip king’s much-ballyhooed tour should be undone so quickly by the sort of offstage drama that’s typically the bread and butter of gossip bloggers. Not even a week into the tour and co-headliner Ida Maria was already generating the wrong sort of buzz, playing gigs drunk and disinterestedly, then walking off the stage in Boston and cancelling New York due to “illness”, to say nothing of weak attendance throughout. So it wasn’t much surprise that on Thursday, the day of the Toronto show, it was announced that Ida Maria had left the tour due to that same “illness” and substitute acts would be added to the bills of the next few dates.

Any degree of schadenfreude, however, was tempered by the fact that the lineup was now down one good headliner – I’ll just add this to the ongoing list of Ida Maria near misses (two cancelled SxSW appearances in March due to visa issues and her dropping off the Glasvegas tour early in April – and it was really the people who were going to show who were losing out. I was still committed to attend thanks to the continued presence of Ladyhawke on the bill. Semi Precious Weapons also remained in the lineup and the Toronto bill was rounded by a couple of hometown acts, Woodhands and Anjulie.

Anjulie I knew from the posters for V Fest, where she’d been one of the Radio stage performers, and that was enough to make me think I wasn’t going to be particularly interested in her. And no, while urban/r&b pop is not my thing, there’s no discounting that this girl is good at it – great voice, great look and thankfully not given to oversinging or the diva hand, and a #1 Billboard single to boot. Playing with a tight band and backing singers, she delivered a short but varied set covering a good range of styles and had enough old-school Motown and soul nods to please, which still sounding wholly contemporary. Hometown girl done good, indeed.

So while I kind of suspect Anjulie would have been a special guest whether Ida Maria had been on the bill or not, Woodhands were almost certainly an eleventh-hour addition to fill out the bill. And while a Perez Hilton show might seem a weird place for the local indie synth-rock heroes to show up, sonically they actually fit in quite well with the sort of dancey pop theme of the evening/tour – big beats, fat synths and frantic and fun delivery from Dan Werb. Though they’ve got a reputation as one of the most enjoyable live acts in the city, I’d never actually seen them in full, plugged-in fashion before and now that I have? I’ll give ’em the thumbs up.

The audience had been slowly filling in through the evening and while not nearly sold-out – I would put attendance at around 450 tops, and that includes the local acts’ probably-sizeable guest lists – it was pretty jammed up near the front for Semi Precious Weapons and why not? This was the first act of the night that the people would have actually paid to come and see (besides Hilton himself, who was not in attendance. Instead, we got weird little video-screen introductions with him looking like Max Headroom). Which went well with the Perez-curated video clips that constituted the between set music, giving me a look at top-40 music that I really didn’t need. Anyways.

I’d been told that if nothing else, Semi Precious Weapons were fun to photograph and yeah, they would have been if the entire night hadn’t been defined by horrid backlighting that made getting anything decent pretty much impossible. Which meant that I head to enjoy them on their musical merits which, I have to saw, were few. They offer transgressive glam-rock for the mall-punk set, which basically means a lot of swearing and sophomoric pottymouth banter about boobs, sex and general self-aggrandizing interspersed with high-energy if unremarkable rock songs and shout-along choruses, all delivered with over the top costumes and on-stage antics. If that sounds specifically formulated to get a response, that’s because it is and it does. This isn’t to say it wasn’t entertaining and the excitement elicited from the crowd a real boost to the evening’s energy, but not necessarily something I need to see or hear again.

Unsurprisingly, the crowd did thin out some following Semi Precious Weapons but it was still a decent-sized and enthusiastic audience on hand to welcome Pip Brown for her first Toronto appearance – and hey, less people means more room on the floor to dance. I had seen her play at SxSW and while the quality of the tunes from her self-titled debut – recently re-released with more goodies – were unimpeachable (if you like hook-laden, ’80s-flavoured synth-rock), the performance itself was generally workmanlike and not especially noteworthy and as such, my expectations weren’t the highest. It was a pleasant surprise, then, to see that Brown has upped her game in the live setting or perhaps that night at Stubb’s had been an off one – either way, her show this time out was much better. It’s hard to quantify how or why, exactly – she’s still not the most animated or charismatic performer – but she seemed much more comfortable on stage and that looseness carried over into the music. Delivered by a five-piece band, the Ladyhawke material sounded much more guitar guitar-driven live than on album – all the necessary synth parts were accounted for, but the guitars were louder and rawer. They dished out all the singles and “up” tracks from the record plus an old b-side for about 50 minutes of pop bliss. Never mind the sponsor, never mind the circus, this show was Ladyhawke’s show and it was great.

There’s a review at ChartAttack. City Sonic has a video feature on Woodhands and the Don Valley Brickworks, site of one of their most memorable – and illegal – gigs. Long way from that to Perez Presents.

Photos: Ladyhawke, Semi Precious Weapons, Woodhands, Anjulie @ The Opera House – September 17, 2009
MP3: Ladyhawke – “My Delirium”
MP3: Semi Precious Weapons – “Semi Precious Weapons”
MP3: Woodhands – “Dancer”
MP3: Woodhands – “I Wasn’t Made For Fighting”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Paris Is Burning”
Video: Ladyhawke – “My Delirium”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Dusk Till Dawn”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Back Of The Van”
Video: Semi Precious Weapons – “Magnetic Baby”
Video: Semi Precious Weapons – “Rock N Roll Never Looked So Beautiful”
Video: Semi Precious Weapons – “Her Hair Is On Fire”
Video: Semi Precious Weapons – “Semi Precious Weapons”
Video: Woodhands – “I Wasn’t Made For Fighting”
Video: Anjulie – “Boom”
Video: Anjulie – “Love Songs”
Video: Anjulie – “Day Will Come Soon”
MySpace: Ladyhawke
MySpace: Semi Precious Weapons
MySpace: Woodhands
MySpace: Anjulie

Aussies The Temper Trap, finally turning some early-year buzz into success thanks to (500) Days Of Summer, will be in town for a free show at the Horseshoe on October 20.

Video: The Temper Trap – “Science Of Fear”
Video: The Temper Trap – “Sweet Disposition”

Also free at the ‘Shoe the following week – October 27 – is Seattle garage rock outfit The Blakes, whose new record Souvenir is out October 13. Check out a track from the new record courtesy of Under The Radar.

MP3: The Blakes – “Ramshackle Hearse”

It’ll be an east-meets-west thing at the Horsesehoe on November 5 as Victoria’s Immaculate Machine meet up with Halifax’s Dog Day, tickets $10.

MP3: Dog Day – “Rome”
MP3: Immaculate Machine – “Sound The Alarms”

Patrick Watson has a date at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on December 12, where he probably hopes to be introduced as “two-time and current Polaris Music Prize winner”.

Which segues nicely into the fact that the Polaris Prize is being awarded tonight. Exclaim ran a feature last week wherein the examined the possible gender and geographic biases that exist within the jury, though I have to say that as a Toronto-based male, I don’t see what all the hubub is about. Har Har. Oh, I am also the latest (last?) subject of the “Better Know A Juror” feature on the Polaris website. Read it and know my most innermost thoughts and feelings. So let’s talk about your feelings. Who do you think will win? Should win?

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Quiet Houses

Fleet Foxes and Dungen at Massey Hall in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWould Robin Pecknold have a guitar strap?

That was really the only burning question in my mind going into Tuesday night’s Fleet Foxes show at Massey Hall in Toronto. The initial one when this show was first announced back in April – could this band who didn’t even play to a full house at the El Mocambo last April in support of Blitzen Trapper now fill a venue as large and storied (to say nothing of expensive) as Massey Hall – was answered by the fact that the 2750-seat hall was completely and utterly sold out, their appeal apparently transcending demographic and generation and drawing young and old, hippies and hipsters, businessmen and alt.bros.

So really, whether or not the 23-year old frontman still preferred to perform seated or if he would deign to stand up and give his fans a good look at him was the only unknown. That, and would they be as good as everyone obviously expected they would be. Certainly, based on the adulation their 2008 self-titled debut received, topping numerous year-end lists, expectations were high. For myself, I didn’t love the record as much as many though it was impossible to not be impressed by the talent and craft that went into it – I just found it was a record I respected more than I adored. Still, the opportunity to see them return to town not as buzzy up-and-comers but bona fide stars was not one I wanted to pass up.

Support on this tour seemed a bit unusual to me, coming in the form of Swedish psychedelic merchants Dungen. My only previous encounter with them was their 2005 album Ta Det Lugnt and re-reading my review, I didn’t appear to be too taken with them. I suspect I’d have had a different opinion if I’d seen them live, however, as their set was a pretty impressive musical slap upside the head. It did start out as the sort of pastoral, folkish-psychedelia I’d remembered but as their set went on, it got more intense and jammed-out like a delayed-effect acid trip. By the end of their 40 minutes, I could fully understand why Fleet Foxes would later declare them to be their favourite band in the world. That was some heady stuff.

Playing a venue like Massey Hall is enough to unnerve any artist, but there was no sense of nervousness amongst Fleet Foxes when they finally ambled out to roaring applause that you’d normally expect for local heroes or the like. And it wasn’t due to a lack of appreciation for the history of the stage on which they stood – the Neil Young between-set mix and historical facts about the building rattled off by Pecknold (courtesy Wikipedia) were proof of that. It was simply confidence that not only did they belong on that stage, but that they’d own it.

And from the opening a capella of “Sun Giant”, they did just that. Their performance was nothing short of amazing, with their pristine four-part harmonies filling every nook and cranny of Massey’s beautiful acoustics. Hearing them sing, it wasn’t a question of whether they could play the room but whether they should ever be allowed to play anywhere else. Their set covered almost their entire recorded output as well as three new songs, one of which featured some unexpected but effective synth textures. Between songs, Pecknold – who was indeed performing upright – made casual and entertaining banter with the audience though it was drummer J Tillman who provided the most comic relief. Again, if these guys were at all nervous about the show, they were hiding it well.

Highlights were difficult to pick out – they pretty much dazzled for the full hour forty-five – but when Pecknold started the encore at the edge of the stage, unplugged and unmiked, to sing traditional folk song “Katie Cruel”, that was easily a moment for the ages. He doesn’t have the biggest voice, necessarily, but given the space and the dead silent audience, it sounded stunning. And while they surely intended to finish with “Blue Ridge Mountains”, as good a note as any to go out on, Toronto – who had waited a long time for them to return – refused to let go and a humbled and appreciative Pecknold came out again for a solo reading of “Meadowlark”. I still can’t say as though I love Fleet Foxes – the whys of that I’m not entirely clear on either – but I am awed by them and their abilities. These are some ungodly talented boys.

Chart, eye and NOW also have reviews of the show, and The Montreal Mirror and The Oakland Press have interviews. Daytrotter recently trotted out a session with Dungen.

Photos: Fleet Foxes, Dungen @ Massey Hall – August 4, 2009
MP3: Fleet Foxes – “Mykonos”
MP3: Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal”
MP3: Dungen – “Satt Att Se”
Video: Fleet Foxes – “Mykonos”
Video: Fleet Foxes – “He Doesn’t Know Why”
Video: Dungen – “Familj”
Video: Dungen – “Festival”
Video: Dungen – “Panda”
Video: Dungen – “Stadsvandringar”
Video: Dungen – “Solen stiger upp”
MySpace: Dungen

Blitzen Trapper have released an MP3 to go with the new video they rolled out from Furr a couple weeks ago. On Milwaukee has an interview.

MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Black River Killer”
Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Black River Killer”

NPR Wilco is streaming a World Cafe session with Wilco and American Songwriter has finished counting down their top twenty Jeff Tweedy compositions of all-time. Pre-sale for Wilco’s October 14 show at Massey Hall go on sale next Wednesday at 10AM via Front Gate (the show’s not listed yet) and public on-sale is next Friday at 10AM. Oh, and if you’re looking for Wilco and Wilco-related downloads a-plenty, Owl & Bear is your new best friend.

Austin360 talks to M Ward, who will be at Massey Hall on November 2 as part of the Monsters Of Folk. Their self-titled debut album is out September 22.

And fellow Monster Of Folk Jim James this week released his debut solo effort as Yim Yames, the George Harrison tribute EP Tribute To. Paste, The New York Times and The Courier-Journal have interviews with James/Yames and the EP is streaming at Spinner.

Stream: Yim Yames / Tribute To

JamBands talks to Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers. Hood is also featured solo in a Daytrotter session.

The Courier-Journal and Metromix talk to Josh Ritter.

NPR is streaming Neko Case’s set at the Newport Folk Festival last weekend. The Edmonton Journal and SEE also have interviews.

Pitchfork reports that Devendra Banhart’s major-label debut What We Will Be is due out in October.

Soundproof has a quick feature on Dog Day.

The Deadbolt has an interview with Tony Dekker of Great Lake Swimmers.

Black Cab Sessions takes Woodpigeon for a ride.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Now You Like Me How?

Polaris Prize long list announcement and NxNE preview, both featuring Woodpigeon

Photo By Mason HastieMason HastieIf there’s one thing I learned from being on the Grand Jury for last year’s Polaris Prize, it’s that the duties of being a regular jurist are far, far, far, far less stressful. There’s a real burden of responsibility when you’re one of the 11 whose duty it is to choose Canada’s “best album of the year”, forcing you to consider each nominee on the short list objectively, checking as much as possible personal biases towards genre, personality, history, whatever. It’s a lot of work.

And while in theory, the regular jury is supposed to apply that same criteria to their ballots, but it’s more of a free-for-all, some choosing to vote strategically to try and get lesser-known acts some exposure, others opting to ignore more commercially successful artists (though that’s probably the same thing). I took the same approach as in past years – essentially a combination of 85% personal favourites and 15% critical merit – and went with the following picks and rationale:

1) Woodpigeon / Treasury Library Canada & Houndstooth Europa
– one of my favourite albums of 2008, it hasn’t lost any of its winsome charm in the subsequent months. Expansive in scope yet exceedingly intimate-sounding, it’s simple and heartfelt and just beautiful. has an interview with bandleader Mark Hamilton.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “Knock Knock”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Love In The Time Of Hopscotch”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Oberkampf”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Lay All Your Love On Me”
Video: Woodpigeon – “A Moment’s Peace for Mary Christa O’Keefe”
MySpace: Woodpigeon

2) Land Of Talk / Some Are Lakes
– I’d originally pegged this as a bit of a disappointment as it didn’t have the same buzzsaw intensity as their debut EP, but in time I’ve realized that the restraint and nuance of the full-length reveals them to be a much more sophisticated band than you might have originally expected. And it still kicks hard when it needs to.

MP3: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Corner Phone”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MySpace: Land Of Talk

3) Rae Spoon / Superioryouareinferior
– The latecomer, dark horse, call it what you will, I’ve explained how this record from an artist completely unknown to me prior to a few months ago quickly became one whose melodies and emotional content would come to haunt the corners of my brain.

MP3: Rae Spoon – “Come On Forest Fire Burn The Disco Down”
Stream: Rae Spoon / Superioryouareinferior
MySpace: Rae Spoon

4) Bruce Peninsula / A Mountain Is A Mouth
– That the recorded artifact even comes close to capturing the intensity of the live Bruce Peninsula experience should earn it some sort of prize. That it dropped a couple of spots where I might have placed it a few months ago is more testament to the quality of the competition than a slight on the record itself.

MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “Crabapples”
MySpace: Bruce Peninsula

5) Metric / Fantasies
– This one might surprise some people who know I’m not even remotely a rabid Metric fan, but I’d be lying if I said that Fantasies didn’t have some of the best hooks and choruses of any record from any country this year., North Country Times and Decider have features.

Video: Metric – “Sick Muse”
Video: Metric – “Gimme Sympathy”
MySpace: Metric

And to my surprise, all five of my picks made the official long list, announced yesterday, which means that not only can I rest easy knowing that my tastes broadly align with the rest of Canada’s music critics (or maybe I should despair of that?) but that I now no longer need to do anything between now and the official ceremony in late September, when I will have to help myself to cheese and crackers. The short list of ten finalists will be unveiled on July 7, and I’m not going to speculate as to how many of the above choices will still be standing when the dust settles there. Hopefully at least a couple, so I have someone to root for.

I don’t know if the timing of the Polaris long list announcement was deliberately set to coincide with the start of NXNE this week, but it certainly makes my segue easier. I took an early pass at the lineup a while back, and now that the schedule has mostly worked itself out, my picks for the week are becoming somewhat clearer. Each night would seem to have what I’ll call an “anchor” act for me to either plan around or use as a starting point for the evening. Thursday night at 10PM at Neutral for Austin’s Ume, Friday at the Dakota at 8PM for Coeur De Pirate, with whom Singing Lamb has an interview, and Saturday at the Horseshoe, 9PM, for the aforementioned Woodpigeon.

Options for the Thursday night include Kensington Prairie at C’est What or The Balconies at the Drake for 9PM, Kittens Ablaze at the Rivoli or Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head at the El Mocambo at 11 and probably The Darcys at midnight.

With Coeur De Pirate being an early show, Friday is kind of wide open. Will almost certainly hit up Parlovr at Supermarket at 9, hope Swedes via Ireland Kill Krinkle Club are better than their name at Holy Joe’s for 10 and if not, there’s The Superstitions playing just downstairs at the Reverb. The UK’s Koogaphone have piqued my interest for 11PM – they’re upstairs at the El Mocambo – and seeing as how I’ve meant to see Provincial Parks for some time now, midnight at Rancho Relaxo seems as good an opportunity as any. 1AM will probably send me back to the Reverb for Parallels, though having The Sadies at the El Mocambo at the same time is about as sure a bet as you can get.

Saturday starts at the Horseshoe for Woodpigeon, and while staying at the ‘Shoe for NXNE for the stacked CBC-sponsored lineups is always an option, I will likely head to Bread & Circus to see Caledonia – though they didn’t make the long list, they got some substantial last-minute Polaris nomination buzz. Speaking of buzz, Band Of Skulls is getting enough that I’ll likely check them out at the El Mocambo but staying at Bread & Circus – with their lovely bright lights – for Olenka & The Autumn Lovers is also an option. Post-midnight is still entirely up in the air – suggestions are welcome, though they’d have to compete against the “go home and go to sleep” option, which is always a compelling one.

And if the official showcases aren’t enough to keep you busy, there’s always the unofficial ones, which generally take the form of in-stores. I haven’t seen anything slated for Sonic Boom, which is a bit unusual, but Criminal Records has a nice little lineup this week – Apostle Of Hustle at 7PM tonight, Said The Whale and The Daredevil Christopher Wright on the 19th, starting at 6PM.

As mentioned before, Ohbijou are doing an in-store at Soundscapes on Wednesday, June 17 at 7PM to mark the release of Beacons, a record you can probably expect to see me talking about when I do my Polaris Prize writeup for 2010. They talk to CBC Radio 3 and The National Post about the new album. They’ll also do a full show at the Opera House on June 25 – still have passes and prizes to give away for that.

The National Post has a Soundcheck video feature on Dog Day.

Someone obviously thinks I need to visit Montreal again. Today, Pop Montreal, taking place September 30 to October 4, revealed their initial lineup and as rumoured, the list includes the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Chairlift, Destroyer and the Dalai Lama (what?) – all fine acts, but their presence in Montreal almost certainly augurs a trip down the 401 to Toronto within a day or two. But more compelling is the addition to Osheaga (August 1 and 2) of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. When the initial lineup was announced and it was obvious they were importing chunks of All Points West’s roster wholesale, I bemoaned the fact that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs weren’t among them. Well apparently it was just a matter of time, because now with them and Elbow performing along with The Decemberists and Lykke Li amongst a host of others – and the fact that until V gets their act together and gives me a reason to head up to Orillia – 2009 is looking festival-free and that simply will not do.