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Posts Tagged ‘Drums’

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.

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

How Darwinian

Review of Dan Mangan’s Oh Fortune

Photo By Jonathan TaggartJonathan TaggartAs one of the most social media-savvy musicians in the country, it’s not unreasonable to say that Dan Mangan reads his own press and so he’s probably seen the phrases “everyman”, “coffee shop”, “roots-rock” and variants thereof in regards to his breakout 2009 record Nice, Nice, Very Nice many, many times. And while these descriptors were usually meant in most complimentary ways – one does’t make the Polaris shortlist on the back of negative press – his just-released follow-up Oh Fortune gives you the impression that he didn’t take those writeups as incentive to stay the course.

From the very first heavily-reverbed piano chords which open leadoff track “About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All” before giving way to strings, it’s clear that this record is built on a different game plan than its predecessor. Throughout, there’s plenty of elegantly orchestrated horns and woodwinds, but also feedbacking, layered, wall-of-noise guitars – often all side-by-side or on top of one another – and if that sounds like the complete opposite of what you’d have expected a Dan Mangan record to sound like, well I suspect that’s the point. This is not a record that can be pigeonholed as the work of a singer-songwriter or folkie; it’s brimming with full-on pop ambition and if Mangan had kept such lofty musical aspirations in check before, he’s certainly enjoying the artistic freedom that success engenders now.

But for all of that, as soon as the vocals come in it’s unmistakably a Dan Mangan record. Not having the most elastic voice becomes an pro rather than a con as it remains warm and comforting like a woollen blanket, delivering poignant and poetic lyrics that; another Mangan trademark still intact, if perhaps darker in tone this time out. And it’s Mangan’s voice and the words it carries that act as a sturdy, reliable centre amidst the swirling sonic proceedings; it’s as if between Very Nice and Fortune, Mangan was transplanted from the setting of a comfortable stool in his local into… well, it’s hard to say, exactly. The atmosphere of Fortune is consistent but difficult to pin down, also certainly part of the overarching strategy to head off preconceptions and expectations and forces the listener to consider the record on its own merits rather than what they figured a new Dan Mangan record would sound like.

It’s no small thing to shift gears or change lanes immediately after a breakthrough record; the temptation to stick to what worked – at least for the follow-up – must be immense, particularly when what worked was a time-tested, meat-and-potatoes sort of approach. So Mangan should be praised for going as conceptually far afield as he has on Oh Fortune without abandoning his core strengths and lauded for making it work so well. If it wasn’t clear from any of the above, Oh Fortune is an excellent record, expansive in scope yet efficiently delivered and both musically and lyrically rich. No, there’s nothing as immediate as “Robots” but in lieu of that degree of immediacy, you get songs that continue to reveal themselves over repeated listens. Oh Fortune confirms Mangan as one of this country’s best new songwriters and, as a bonus, forces those who’d seek to dismiss him as too conventional to find a new line of criticism. Maybe that he’s too tall. Because he’s pretty tall.

Southern Souls, The Vancouver Sun, The Winnipeg Free Press and Exclaim have interviews with Mangan and he chats with Rolling Stone about his just-released new video; there’s also three four videos from a full-album performance Mangan gave at the CBC presently online, with more to come. His Fall tour brings him to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on October 28.

MP3: Dan Mangan – “Oh Fortune”
Video: Dan Mangan – “Rows Of Houses”
Video: Dan Mangan – “About as Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All” (live at CBC)
Video: Dan Mangan – “Rows Of Houses” (live at CBC)
Video: Dan Mangan – “Post-War Blues” (live at CBC)
Video: Dan Mangan – “Oh Fortune” (live at CBC)
Stream: Dan Mangan / Oh Fortune

Also out this week is Ohbijou’s Metal Meets. Exclaim and Toro talk to bandleader Casey Mecija about making the new record. They play a release show at Trinity-St. Paul’s on September 30.

Boasting a similar album title and gracing this month’s Exclaim cover is Feist; Pitchfork also has an interview. Metals is out October 4 and she plays Massey Hall on December 1. Update: And now the album is available to stream if you sign up for her mailing list. Preview the album AND get emails from Leslie!

Stream: Feist / Metals

Canadian Interviews is playing host to a tour diary from Bruce Peninsula. Open Flames is out October 4 but streamable now at Exclaim – they also have an interview and review – and they play an in-store at Soundscapes that evening, then a proper show at Lee’s Palace on October 27.

Stream: Bruce Peninsula / Open Flames

Their record release show for Tosta Mista safely in the books, Hooded Fang have announced they’ll play a free show at the Sanderson Branch of the Toronto Public Library (Bathurst and Dundas West) on October 1 at 2PM. They’ve also put out a new animated video.

MP3: Hooded Fang – “Den Of Love”
Video: Hooded Fang – “Brahma”

Dev Hynes’ Blood Orange has been announced as support on the upcoming tour for CANT, the solo project from Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, as well as being part of his band, all of which means that he’ll be at The Garrison on October 21. And to mark it, a new MP3 from Coastal Grooves is available to grab courtesy of Stereogum.

MP3: Blood Orange – “Champagne Coast”

J Mascis will be in town on November 4 as part of the Sleepwalk Guitar Festival taking place at The Great Hall all that weekend and ex-Television guitarist Richard Lloyd leads off the Saturday night bill followed by The Sadies. And if you were wondering just how “ex” Lloyd was with respect to Tom Verlaine and Television, this exchange documented at The Daily Swarm seems to indicate that bridges are pretty well burned. Tickets for each evening show are $25, all-day and weekend passes also available.

MP3: J Mascis – “Is It Done”
MP3: The Sadies – “Another Year Again”

English songwriting legend Ray Davies has made a date at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for November 25 in support of last year’s See My Friends though it’s unlikely any of his big-name collaborators will be joining him for these shows. Tickets are $49.50 and $69.50 plus fees.

Video: The Kinks – “Waterloo Sunset” (live)

Young Galaxy have been added to the Austra show at The Phoenix on December 1, as well as the rest that tour. They’ve also released a new video from Shapeshifting, an animated sequel to the clip for “We have Everything”.

MP3: Young Galaxy – “Peripheral Visionaries”
Video: Young Galaxy – “Peripheral Visionaries”

The War On Drugs are coming back to town, making a date for December 9 at The Horseshoe; tickets $13.50 in advance. The Washington Post and DCist have interviews and NPR a World Cafe session.

MP3: The War On Drugs – “Come To The City”

Tokyo Police Club, Born Ruffians and Said The Whale appear to be a winning combination as a second show has been added at The Phoenix for December 9, the one for the night before presumably just about sold out. Tickets are again $25 in advance.

MP3: Tokyo Police Club – “Party In The USA”
MP3: Born Ruffians – “Sole Brother”
MP3: Said The Whale – “Camilo (The Magician)”

Ryan Adams’ first show back in Toronto since Summer 2007 – he’s retired and come back out of retirement in the interim – will take place on December 10 at The Winter Garden Theatre; tickets are $45 plus fees, fan presale goes Thursday at 10AM and general onsale Friday, same time. His new record Ashes & Fire is out October 11; Exclaim takes a look back over his prolific career.

Video: Ryan Adams – “New York, New York”

Putting lie to my post in July when they announced it, The Radio Dept. have cancelled their entire Fall tour, which was to include a November 17 show at The Mod Club, “due to family related matters”. They hope to pick up again in 2012, perhaps even with some new material to share. Yeah, right.

Salon, Spinner, The Atlantic, Billboard, Paste, JAM, and aux.tv talk to Jeff Tweedy of Wilco while The Atlanta Journal-Constitution talks to Nels Cline and The Line Of Best Fit to Glenn Kotche. NYC Taper has a recording of their second of two Central Park shows available to download and CBC’s Q has a video studio session with the band.

Spinner talks to Ben Gibbard about the new Death Cab For Cutie video from Codes And Keys.

Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “Stay Young Go Dancing”

Filter, The National Post and NOW have features on Girls.

Spinner talks to The Drums, in town on October 1 with an in-store at Sonic Boom at 7PM and a show at The Mod Club a little later that evening.

Monday, September 26th, 2011

The Past & Pending

The Shins and Faces On Film at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIf someone were to start one of those, “Who the eff are The Shins?” Tumblrs, there’d be no shortage of content to start with. They were once called Flake Music. They were the band who got a song with lyrics about having “dirt in your fries” to soundtrack a McDonalds commercial. They were the band that helped establish Sub Pop as the sensitive pop label for the new century rather than the sweaty grunge label for the last one. They were the band whose keyboardist was a hero to indie boys for dating one of the contestants on the first season of America’s Next Top Model and then a villain to all when he was arrested for assaulting her. They were the band that would change your life. And following the 2007 release of their third album Wincing The Night Away, which almost topped the charts worldwide (#2 in the US and Canada), they went into hiding and almost disbanded.

Or to be more precise, bandleader James Mercer opted to assert his bandleadership and essentially dismissed the rest of the band, then rather than release a new album went and worked with Danger Mouse on the largely unremarkable Broken Bells instead. Only this Summer did any concrete news about the status of The Shins emerge with a promise of a new record in 2012 and a run of tour dates through this Fall – including this past Thursday night in Toronto – with a new lineup of not-nobodies. Singer/songwriter Richard Swift, Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer, Crystal Skulls bassist Yuuki Matthews and singer/songwriter Jessica Dobson are clearly billed as the touring band for this jaunt and with no permanence implied. For the time being, these would be The Shins but for future reference, The Shins would essentially be a pseudonym for Mercer.

Boston-based openers Faces On Film knew a thing or two about one-man multi-member bands, being the project of one Mike Fiore. It took a few songs to pin down exactly what their slow-burning jangle-pop reminded me of but once I did, it was hard to hear anything else; if you imagined My Morning Jacket or Band Of Horses coming out of a northeastern college rather than the south, you’d have a pretty good sense of what they were about. Fiore has a big voice – far bigger than you’d expect to look at him – and perhaps more importantly, a penchant for interesting and structurally ambitious songwriting without being too obtuse about it. Cribbing a bit of either of those bands’ facilities for big moments wouldn’t hurt – some of the songs were heavy on build, light on payoff – but they were both interesting and entertaining and judging on audience response, left the stage with a few more fans than when they took it. And that’s really all an opener can ask for.

Reaching back in memory to the few times I’ve seen The Shins live – that’d be Summer 2002 at The Rivoli, April 2005 at The Kool Haus and Lollapalooza 2006 – the prevailing recollection was that James Mercer didn’t ever really seem to enjoy being onstage, and was perfectly happy to stand off to the side and let the more gregarious Crandall handle most banter and fan interaction. This jives with the sense that Mercer is a sort of cipher whose intensely catchy pop instincts help disguise the fact that his oblique lyrics, filled with odd and wonderful imagery actually offers little insight into the man himself. Which is not to say that songwriters owe their listeners a piece of themselves in their work, but success to the degree that The Shins achieved usually doesn’t come with the amount of privacy that Mercer has maintained.

None of which is really salient to this show, I suppose, and there’s plenty more relevant points of interest surrounding it to discuss. Like how, even though it’s only been four years since The Shins have been through town or toured to any great extent, that span is akin to a lifetime when your fanbase is on the cusp of adulthood as much of their post-Garden State demographic was when they broke out. Woud a Shins fan circa 2007 still identify as such in 2011? That was answered by the fact that there were enough interested to sell out the Phoenix and most were indeed still pretty young, though sadly most people look pretty young to me these days.

Whether they were diehards or nostalgists, they were all thrilled to hear The Shins live again (or finally, as the case may have been), no matter who was actually in the band. And why not? Whatever there might be to say about James Mercer as a boss, there’s little debate that he’s a gifted songwriter who has penned more than few tunes that are as catchy as they are quirky, and which have endured nicely – even the ones that hadn’t been heard in years and whose existence may even have been forgotten came instantly back within a few chords. Being veteran players all, there was no doubt the new lineup would be able to deliver exactly what was demanded of them and all were performed impeccably, if a bit louder and faster than on record, and with nice multi-part harmonies thrown in for good measure. Mercer was animated and affable in the frontman role, but you couldn’t argue he’d upped the charisma levels to fill Crandall’s absence; he and his crew were there to play the songs and that’s all.

The set included a couple of new songs which sounded identifiably Shins-y though didn’t jump out as instant classics and otherwise balanced equal contributions from Chutes Too Narrow and Wincing The Night Away – four apiece – with a lot of Oh Inverted World filling out the rest. And it was this earliest material that still had the most nuance, even when busied up some by the rhythm section, though it was hard to no remember that back in their salad days, the greatest charm of The Shins was their simplicity and sincerity. And a fixture of past Shins shows, the cover song, not only remained intact but was doubled upon with the encore closing with faithful covers of both Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes” and Pink Floyd’ “Breathe” – and apparently the latter’s massive upcoming reissue/revival (but not reunion) is well-timed because the indie kids seem primed and ready to get their Floyd on.

If The Shins were using this tour to gauge how much of their audience remained, then based on the Toronto sample group it’s still pretty significant though it was a room half the size of the one they played their last couple times through. Still, it felt like more of a reminder that the band wrote some great songs and was still around rather than a forceful declaration of their continued relevance. Not that forcefulness has ever been The Shins’ forte – it’s been the songs. And if Mercer’s next batch of songs measure up to the work he’s done in the past, then it won’t matter who’s playing with him or even if he wants to be up there playing them at all. He’ll be able to point at the album and say, “this is what matters” and he’ll be right.

The National Post and Exclaim also have writeups of the show and Twentyfourbit has a nice piece on both The Shins’ performance at Outside Lands last month and their transformation from a band into a “James & Someone & Someone & Someone & Someone” t-shirt.

Photos: The Shins, Faces On Film @ The Phoenix – September 22, 2011
MP3: The Shins – “Australia”
MP3: The Shins – “Phantom Limb”
MP3: The Shins – “Kissing The Lipless”
MP3: The Shins – “So Says I”
MP3: The Shins – “Know Your Onion!”
Video: The Shins – “Australia”
Video: The Shins – “Phantom Limb”
Video: The Shins – “So Says I”
Video: The Shins – “Turn On Me”
Video: The Shins – “The Past & Pending”
Video: The Shins – “New Slang”
Video: The Shins – “Kissing The Lipless”
Video: The Shins – “Know Your Onion!”
Video: Faces On Film – “Manitoba”

The Drums’ show at the Mod Club this Saturday night has apparently sold well enough that they’ve added an in-store engagement earlier in the evening to satisfy demand (or do some shopping). They’ll be at Sonic Boom in The Annex at 7PM on October 1. Admission free, canned good donation encouraged.

MP3: The Drums – “Down By The Water”

The band that people initially thought was a Michael Cera project but is really a Man Man/Islands/Modest Mouse (and Shins, if you count Joe Plummer’s hired hand gig) spin-off – Mister Heavenly – have put together a tour in support of their debut Out Of Love and will be at The Great Hall on November 16. Examiner.com talks to Nick Thorburn, the Islands half of the band.

MP3: Mister Heavenly – “Bronx Sniper”
MP3: Mister Heavenly – “Pineapple Girl”

The Baltimore Sun profiles Fleet Foxes.

The Des Moines Register talks to John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats.

NPR can’t get enough Beirut, roping the band in for both a Tiny Desk Concert and World Cafe session. Zach Condon is also chatted up by the likes of The Guardian, The Independent, and The New Zealand Herald.

Stephen Malkmus talks to Pitchfork about choosing the cover art for his latest Mirror Traffic, to The Hook, hour.ca, and Metro about the contents of said album and The Vancouver Sun about Nirvana and R.E.M.

130BPM talks to Dean Wareham about revisiting the Galaxie 500 oeuvre.

The Los Angeles Times marks the release of Wilco’s new record The Whole Love tomorrow with a feature piece in the paper and a couple of extra pieces in their Pop & Hiss blog. And if you’re more the watch and listen than read type, there’s a stream of the complete set they played on Letterman available to watch at The Line Of Best Fit, a recording of their show in Central Park to download at NYC Taper and NPR will have last night’s show in Washington DC up to stream later today.

The Guardian and Billboard talk to Ryan Adams about his new record Ashes & Fire, due out October 11 but now available to stream at NPR.

Stream: Ryan Adams / Ashes & Fire

The AV Club interviews Will Sheff of Okkevil River.

Eric Bachmann of Crooked Fingers selects some sound sculptures for a feature in Impose. The new Crooked Fingers record Breaks In The Armor is out October 11 and they play The Drake Underground on November 4.

Matthew Sweet is giving away an acoustic EP in exchange for an email address over at Noise Trade, but if you want to leave a little something in the tip jar provided, that’s cool too. His new studio album Modern Art is out tomorrow.

How do you let people listen to a six-hour song? By being The Flaming Lips and having fans willing to hack into two-hour blocks and post them on Soundcloud. The Line Of Best Fit has gathered them together in one place… if you dare.

Stream: The Flaming Lips – “I Found This Star On The Ground”

R.E.M.’s disbandment last week led to no shortage of tributes and testimonials to their greatness, the full depth of which will probably be fully appreciated now that their career has that final punctuation point on it. And I don’t refer to their final studio album Collapse Into Now but the just-announced best-of set Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011 which will be out on November 15 and be the first compilation to compile material from both their IRS and Warner Bros. years. Of course, the label-specific comps – And I Feel Fine for the indie and In Time are more thorough, but the new set will also cover their final three studio albums as well as some extra material from the post-Collapse sessions. And hopefully the double-disc reissue series of their catalog will continue, because those are gold through and through. And if you want to read some of the better R.E.M. tributes, check out pieces at The Atlantic, Rolling Stone and Spin. Update: Rolling Stone also has an exit interview with Mike Mills.

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Walking On A Wire

Richard Thompson at Koerner Hall in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI’ve been mentally composing my writeup for Richard Thompson’s visit to Toronto last week, as I do, and went digging through my archives for past pieces on the artist to perhaps link to as relevant, also standard procedure, which brought this piece I wrote back in 2005. And it’s helpful, as it actually covers a lot of the preface that I was preparing, but also mortifying as I didn’t realize that I’d already written – sometimes verbatim – what I was planning to write with regards to my personal history with Thompson’s music. You know you’ve been doing this too long when you’re recycling material without even knowing it. So go back and read that, if you please. I’ll wait here. And if you can’t be bothered, I’ll simply sum up with the fact that Thompson is one of the world’s greatest living singer/songwriter/guitarists and this isn’t up for debate.

Finding that entry was also notable because it reminded me that I hadn’t done a very good job of keeping up with Thompson’s work since then, missing both Front Parlour Ballads and last year’s Dream Attic; and while I do have 2007’s Sweet Warrior, I haven’t exactly worn it out. Similarly, I missed both of Thompson’s last visits – in 2008 at the Danforth Music Hall and 2005 at Trinity-St. Paul’s – my only live experience being back in 2003 at the Toronto Star Bluesfest at Exhibition Place, a jaw-dropping experience despite the less than auspicious setting. There would be no complaints about the venue last Thursday night, with Thompson being booked into the jaw-droppingly gorgeous – both visually and acoustically – Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music – a fitting room for a recently-honoured Officer of the Order of the British Empire, methinks. This was to be a solo show in all regards, just Thompson with a single acoustic guitar – no band, no opener, not even an amplifier (though he was mic-ed – the acoustics of the room weren’t THAT good) – truly as simple as you could get, but also all that he’d need.

Well, that and his immense, almost 40-year deep songbook. For over an hour and a half, Thompson explored the breadth of his repertoire including a nod back to his early days with Fairport Convention by way of a cover of Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” and a couple of selections from Shoot Out The Lights though not the title track, which I grudgingly accept as an electric song. Much of the set, however, focused on his ’90s material – well-documented on the Action Packed compilation – indicating that I wasn’t the only one who was most familiar with his works from that era. Highlights were plentiful, with any fears that an unplugged set would mean less guitar heroics put well to rest early on with astonishing excursions on Mock Tudor‘s “Crawl Back (Under My Stone)”, his one-man, six-string Zydeco band impersonation on “Valerie” or even how his down-tuning segued perfectly into the intro of his tour de force “Vincent Black Lightning 1952”.

If anything, playing acoustic didn’t mean fewer solos, only more astonishing ones. Understand that Thompson doesn’t solo like anyone else – for someone of his instrumental repute, he’s one of the least-copied because, well, it’s damn near impossible to ape his unique blend of folk, Celtic, and rock moves. And while you might reasonably question why a player would want to make his axe sound like bagpipes, hearing how Thompson works it into his music – making leads less about being showy as adding intense instrumental conversations to the topic at hand – you’d get it. The 1100 or so people on hand this night certainly did.

While it’s all well and good to focus on Thompson’s instrumental prowess, it’s crucial to note that on his songwriting scoreboard, each unearthly bend and riff is matched by a lyric of deliciously black English humour or a character either wronged or doing the wronging in love. Perhaps it was the setting and his having my undivided attention, but even songs that I didn’t like so much on record like Sweet Warrior‘s cruse ship comedy “Johnny’s Far Away” was considerably more entertaining live, thanks in no small part to the humorous intros Thompson prepended onto it and others. A bevy of charmingly corny jokes also got Thompson through a patch of having to change a string on his guitar; to reiterate – the man restrung his own guitar. He only brought the one.

It doesn’t seem right to register complaints for such a stunning show, but I was disappointed that neither of Mirror Blue‘s finest acoustic moments – “King Of Bohemia” and “Beeswing” – were left out. But for the encores we did get his cover of Britney Spears’ “Oops, I Did It Again” which engendered an audience singalong – hilarious if you consider the age demographic of most in attendance – as well as the wonderfully dark “I Misunderstood” and a gorgeous reading of “Walking On A Wire”. The standard line on Richard Thompson is that he’s one of the world’s most under-recognized and underappreciated musicians – which may well be true – but you wouldn’t have known it from this performance and the reception it got.

The Ottawa Citizen, The Toronto Star, NOW, Montreal Gazette and Morton Grove Champion have interviews with Richard Thompson.

Photos: Richard Thompson @ Koerner Hall – September 8, 2011
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Harlan’s Bounce”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Treadwell No More”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Uninhabited Man”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Dear Janet Jackson”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Banks Of The Nile”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “The Sights And Sounds Of London Town”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “I Agree With Pat Methany”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Keep Your Distance”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Vincent Black Lightning 1952”
MP3: Richard Thompson – “Hard On Me”

Zach Condon of Beirut is interviewed by NPR and given his run of Drowned In Sound to post whatever he and his bandmates like, but not before submitting to an interview. And oh, there’s a new video available from The Rip Tide.

Video: Beirut – “Santa Fe”

Drowned In Sound interviews Ringo Deathstarr about their new odds-and-sods album Sparkler, due out tomorrow.

The Line Of Best Fit has a feature interview and Billboard goes into St. Vincent’s Twitter PR strategy for Strange Mercy, out tomorrow.

Salon, New York Magazine and Slate have feature pieces on Wild Flag, whose self-titled debut is finally out tomorrow. They’re at Lee’s Palace on October 12.

Christopher Owens of Girls gets interviewed by The Guardian about their new record Father, Son, Holy Ghost, out tomorrow. They play The Mod Club on September 27.

Stereogum talks influences with The Drums, who are at The Mod Club on October 1 in support of new album Portamento, out tomorrow. There’s also an interview at Digital Spy.

Spin talks to Chris Taylor of CANT (and also Grizzly Bear, while Pitchfork has a stream of Dreams Come True, his solo debut in that identity. It’s out tomorrow and he plays The Garrison on October 21.

Stream: CANT / Dreams Come True

Explosions In The Sky have released another video from Take Care, Take Care, Take Care and are profiled in The Georgia Straight, Boise Weekly and LAist. They’re at the Sound Academy on October 7.

Video: Explosions In The Sky – “Be Comfortable, Creature”

Exclaim has details on the She & Him Christmas album A Very She & Him Christmas, which is due out October 25 and will exist whether you like it to or not.

Maria Taylor returns to town in support of her new record Overlook with a show at The Drake Underground on November 13.

MP3: Maria Taylor – “Matador”
MP3: Maria Taylor – “Bad Idea?”

Mastodon have made a date at the Kool Haus for November 25, tickets $29.50. Their new album The Hunter is out September 27; I’m gonna go ahead and guess that it’s heavy.

Video: Mastodon – “Black Tongue”

The Big Takeover has posted the second part of their interview with Jonathan Donahue of Mercury Rev.

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Nine Lives

Music blog turns nine, fails to come up with any clever theme that involves turning nine

Here we are, another September 2, another year, another “oh my god am I still doing this” post. As far at themes go, I was torn between the good ol’ Eveready cat logo or some of Gustave Doré’s illustrations from the ninth circle of Dante’s Inferno – but I’ve gotten some grief lately over being a bit of a gloomy gus so I went with the cartoon kitty. And the “nine lives” bit? Maybe, but I’m certainly not on number one.

So yes, still here, doing what I’m doing while noting that the landscape of things continues to change around me and the traditional-form blog, such as this one here, are becoming increasingly archaic. That’s cool with me; I can appreciate the vintage vibe, yo. And as I can feel a pointless ramble coming on, I will check myself and simply say that I have now been doing this for a quarter of my life and can’t remember not doing it… so for reading and validating that effort, I thank you. That’s about all I’ve got to say for this annual state-of-the-whatever post. Kind of weak, but don’t worry – I’ve already got next year’s decade post a-brewing. It’ll be a doozie.

Did you know the traditional ninth anniversary gift is pottery and the modern ninth anniversary gift is leather? Me neither. So what else we got?

The Independent has an interview with Emma-Lee Moss of Emmy The Great.

NOW previews tonight’s Male Bonding show at The Horseshoe by talking with the band about their just-released second album Endless Now. The Boston Globe and I Like Music also have interviews.

The Guardian has a feature profile on Laura Marling, whose third album A Creature I Don’t Know is out on September 13. She is at The Great Hall on September 23.

Spin has posted up a video session with Annie Clark of St. Vincent, whose latest Strange Mercy arrives September 13.

Aquarium Drunkard interviews the members of Olivia Tremor Control, whose reunion tour hits Lee’s Palace on September 16.

Veronica Falls have released a new video from their self-titled debut, due out September 20. They’re at The Mod Club opening up for The Drums on October 1. And speaking of The Drums, they’ve released the second video in their Visiomento series promoting Portamento, out September 13.

Video: Veronica Falls – “Bad Feeling”

Spinner and The Irish Independent talk to Yuck, who will be at The Horseshoe on September 24.

Slicing Up Eyeballs reports that the principals of New Order have put aside their seething hatred of one another enough to agree to release some outtakes from their last studio album, 2005’s Waiting For The Sirens’ Call though they’re still debating the exact format of the release. Live4Ever has an interview with Peter Hook, who brings his new outfit The Light playing material from his old outfit Joy Division to town for a show at The Phoenix on September 24.

Video: New Order – “Jetstream”

Rolling Stone declares Dum Dum Girls a “band to watch”, just in time for the September 27 release of Only In Dreams. They’re at Lee’s Palace on October 16 and if you missed it earlier this week – I added it to a post a little late – a second superb MP3 from the album has been made available to download.

MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Bedroom Eyes”

It won’t be here in time for his September 30 show at The Phoenix, but James Blake has announced the release of a new six-track EP entitled Enough Thunder for October 10; details at The Independent.

Blurt has a feature interview with Explosions In The Sky, in town at The Sound Academy on October 7.

Pitchfork reports that the release date for Bjork’s new album Biophilia has been pushed back from September 27 to October 11.

San Francisco psych-rockers Thee Oh Sees have made a date at The Horseshoe for October 21 in support of this Summer’s Castlemania, though Prefix reports they’ve already got another album ready to go in Carrion Crawler/The Dream, due out November 15.

MP3: Thee Oh Sees – “I Need Seed”

I talked last week about how much I was looking forward to Welcome To Condale, the debut album from Summer Camp; well to go along with a brand-new website, the duo have confirmed that the album will have a North American release one week after the UK release on November 8.

The Line Of Best Fit reports that Los Campesinos! will release their fourth album, entitled Hello Sadness, on November 15. And while that’s good news for fans, there’s also some bad news as it was announced via blog that violinist Harriet Campesinos! would be following in keyboardist Aleksandra’s two-year old footsteps and leave the band in favour of university and re-assuming her old surname. Perhaps that’s the sadness the album’s title is referring to?

NPR has a World Cafe session with Anna Calvi. It’s amazing how small her speaking voice is, compared to how massive her singing voice is. Whew. She will be at Lee’s Palace on December 8.

TV On The Radio have a new video from Nine Types Of Light

Video: TV On The Radio – “Second Song”

Also with a new clip are White Lies, from Ritual.

Video: White Lies – “The Power & The Glory”

American Songwriter rounds up some of the releases that will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birth next year, including but certainly not limited to a Wilco/Billy Bragg Mermaid Avenue box set.