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Posts Tagged ‘Elf Power’

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Come As You Are

Giving thanks for “Whatever happened to Alternative Nation?”

Photo By Charles PetersenCharles PetersenFell into a long-form musical journalism rabbit hole recently via The AV Club’s “Whatever Happened To Alternative Nation?” 10-part series which actually ran almost three years ago but somehow got back on my radar, probably bubbling up to the surface in the wake of their recent redesign. If you haven’t read it, it covers the years from 1990 to 1999 through the lens of author Steven Hyden’s teen years, beginning with the rise of grunge at the start of the decade through the supremacy of nu-metal and chaos of Woodstock ’99 at the end of the century.

It was of particular interest to me because, though a few years older than Hyden and situated in the suburbs of Toronto rather than Wisconsin, it roughly documents my own journey of musical discovery in high school. Though Nirvana didn’t ultimately end up meaning much to me, I still very clearly remember hearing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the very first time on a friend’s Walkman in the cafeteria in the Fall of 1991 and being impressed that I could hear the string squeaks on the opening riff. And while I would like to pretend that I was into all the ’90s bands then that I love now – your Britpop, shoegaze, college rock, what have you – most of that was discovered retroactively, and that sort of personal revisionist history is addressed in part six; fact is, I was listening to the same now-acknowledged-as-awful radio rock as everyone else – yes I owned Throwing Copper but at least knew even then that Bush was awful – and only discovered or came to appreciate the good stuff after the fact. But better late than never, right?

In any case – it’s a well-written series that covers a lot of what anyone in their 30s lived through with the benefit of hindsight and historical insight, and worth reading if you’ve got some time on your hands and a copies of Siamese Dream and Definitely Maybe handy. Plus it lets me segue into some newsy bits from acts of that era who’re still doing stuff.

Video: Nirvana – “In Bloom”

For anyone who missed it, Tanya Donelly released the fourth volume of her Swan Song Series late last week and the bonus materials are particularly sweet and topical – ten demos of Belly’s debut, Star. And lest you think that’s the end of it, a fifth EP is in the works and I think I read somewhere that it’ll be out around February.

Stream: Tanya Donelly – “Salt”

Stephen Malkmus lists off the music he grew up listening to for The Guardian; his new album with The Jicks – Wig Out At Jagbags – comes out January 7.

Black Francis of Pixies discusses the band’s second act with The Guardian; they kick of their new tour at Massey Hall on January 15.

Seeing as how Andrew Rieger and Laura Carter opened for Jeff Mangum when he was here solo in August 2011, it makes sense that they’d bring the whole band with them when he does the same; Elf Power will open up both sold-out Neutral Milk Hotel shows at The Kool Haus on January 19 and 20. They released their latest album Sunlight On The Moon earlier this year.

Video: Elf Power – “Darkest Wave”

Guided By Voices has settled on a February 18 release date for their new record Motivational Jumpsuit – their fifth since the reunion and presumably the last with the so-called “classic lineup” with now-booted drummer Kevin Fennell. Rolling Stone is streaming the first preview track from the record.

Stream: Guided By Voices – “Littlest League Possible”

Superchunk have released another video from this year’s I Hate Music.

Video: Superchunk – “Void”

The 405 chit-chats with Sebadoh.

Dialing the Wayback Machine a little further, influential ’80s Los Angeles outfit and Paisley Underground pioneers The Dream Syndicate have made a date at The Garrison for February 8, tickets $30 in advance. The Chicago Tribune talks to leader Steve Wynn about the reunion.

Video: The Dream Syndicate – “That’s What You Always Say” (live)

And back to the 21st century, Entertainment Weekly has premiered the new video from Broken Bells’ forthcoming After The Disco, out January 14, and if you’d prefer a studio session version rather than a movie star-featuring version, head over to The Guardian. Broken Bells are at The Danforth Music Hall on March 3.

Video: Broken Bells – “Holding On For Life”

Saddle Creek songstress Maria Taylor has made a date at the Drake Underground for February 9 in support of her latest album Something About Knowing. Tickets for that are $11.50 and examiner.com has an interview with Taylor.

Video: Maria Taylor – “Up All Night”

Boston psych-folk trio Quilt have announced a Winter tour in support of their second album Held in Splendor, which comes out January 28th and from which there’s a video and stream to preview. They’re at The Drake Underground on March 3, tickets $10. Philthy has an interview.

Stream: Quilt – “Tired & Buttered”
Video: Quilt – “Arctic Shark”

Under The Radar gets a track-by-track walkthrough of Shearwater’s new covers album Fellow Travelers. The play The Horseshoe on March 27.

The Hold Steady are crowdfunding a new covers EP via PledgeMusic while they continue to work on a new album, due out in the new year.

Paste checks in with Colin Meloy about matters solo and Decemberist.

Magnet interviews Midlake, this week’s guest editors on their website.

The War On Drugs.

Drowned In Sound has an interview with A Place To Bury Strangers.

Bassist/organist Peter Bauer of The Walkmen tells The Washington Post that their upcoming shows in Washington DC and Philadelphia could be/will be the band’s last. Ever. For serious.

Having covered “Kill The Turkey” on last year’s Thanksgiving episode, it’s not really a surprise that The National would again spend American turkey day with Bob’s Burgers, and lo – Entertainment Weekly has an animated video of the band doing this year’s musical number, a salute to gravy boats. Happy Thanksgiving, America.

Video: The National – “Sailors In Your Mouth”

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Gung Ho

Patti Smith is coming back to Toronto and this time, she wants our electricity

Photo By Angelo CricchiAngelo CricchiAfter the longest time without a proper concert – 2000, if the internet is to be believed – 2013 has turned out to be quite the boon for Toronto-area Patti Smith fans. First there was the Camera Solo exhibition of her photography at the Art Gallery of Ontario which began running in February and just wrapped this past weekend, then the super-intimate, super-sold out 1st Thursday shows in March which begat the almost last-minute Queen Elizabeth Theatre show shortly thereafter. And while no one in attendance would argue that show was anything less than spectacular, I’m sure some wished that the primarily acoustic performance had evoked a little more of the punk pioneer’s rock’n’roll spirit.

Well those people have gotten their wish. On September 6, Smith will return for a show at Massey Hall and be backed by her long-time electric band of Lenny Kaye, Tony Shanahan, Jay Dee Daugherty, and Jack Petruzzelli. Tickets will run from $49.50 to $79.50, and a presale will go today at 2PM; hit up Collective Concerts and their attendant social media avenues for details. Regular on-sale goes Thursday at 10AM via Massey Hall’s website.

MP3: Patti Smith – “Wing”

Counting one of the most ridiculously fierce guitarists in the indie rock world right now – that’d be diminutive frontwoman Marissa Paternoster – New Jersey’s Screaming Females are coming to town for a show at Parts & Labour on August 22, tickets $10 in advance. Their last full-length Ugly came out last year but they put out the Chalk Tape EP back in February of this year; I think their last visit to town was in June 2010 supporting Ted Leo & The Pharmacists.

Video: Screaming Females – “Poison Arrow”

Atmospheric Los Angeles duo Houses released their A Quiet Darkness back in April – stream it and read an interview at Huffington Post – and they’re undertaking a North American tour behind it, hitting The Garrison on September 17.

Video: Houses – “The Beauty Surrounds”
Stream: Houses / A Quiet Darkness

Chart-topping, BRIT-winning, fresh-faced English singer-songwriter Tom Odell, whose debut album Long Way Down was released last month, will be hitting North America this Fall to try to replicate his success on this side of the pond. Full dates are still forthcoming, but he’s in Toronto at The Great Hall on September 25 and tickets are $16.50 in advance. The Daily Mail has an extensive interview with Odell.

Video: Tom Odell – “Another Love”

That Odell show happens to be on the same day that fellow Brits Bastille, who themselves had a #1 record in the UK with their debut Bad Blood, are in town and they’ve just upgraded said September 25 show from The Opera House to The Phoenix and put out a new video to boot. What oh what will the Anglophiles do.

Video: Bastille – “Things We Lost In The Fire”

Widowspeak have scored themselves a pretty plumb spot opening up for Iron & Wine for a leg of their Fall tour, including the September 28 date at The Sound Academy. Their new EP The Swamps comes out October 29.

MP3: Widowspeak – “The Devil Knows”

Japanese garage rock heroes Guitar Wolf are coming back to North America behind their latest album Beast Vibrator. They play Toronto’s Hard Luck on October 1.

Video: Guitar Wolf – “Fighting Rock”

Having managed to not come to town at all behind their debut album Give You The Ghost, Minneapolis synth-soul outfit Poliça have thoughtfully included Toronto as one of the very first dates behind their second album, Shulamith. It’s out October 22 and they’re here at The Mod Club on November 1 – tickets will run $16.50 in advance.

Video: Poliça – “Tiff”

Veteran – as in a 40-year career in counting – Los Angeles avant-power-pop duo Sparks have scheduled a rare local date at Lee’s Palace on November 2, tickets $30.

MP3: Sparks – “The Rhythm Thief”

Rolling Stone reports that Bob Dylan will focus on the era surrounding his much-maligned Self-Portrait album, circa 1969 to 1971, for The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 – Another Self Portrait (1969-1971), due out August 27.

NPR has premiered an interactive stream of another song from the new Okkervil River album The Silver Gymnasium, coming out September 3. They play The Phoenix on September 28.

Stream: Okkervil River – “Down Down The Deep River”

Pitchfork has details on and a first stream from the new Elf Power record Sunlight On The Moon, due out October 1.

Stream: Elf Power – “Sunlight On The Moon”

Rolling Stone reports that you can hear a new track from The Dismemberment Plan’s forthcoming Uncanney Valley – out October 15 – by calling them on the phone at 252-64-DPLAN. That number again is 252-64-DPLAN. Operators are standing by.

The Flaming Lips have released a new video from their last album, The Terror.

Video: The Flaming Lips – “Turning Violent”

Clearly Dinosaur Jr don’t have an issue with cross-promotion. According to Consequence Of Sound and Pitchfork, unreleased songs – including a cover of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” – are being made available to folks to buy or think about buying Keep shoes or Skullcandy headphones.

Stream: Dinosaur Jr – “Fade Into You”

Noisetrade has a live Caitlin Rose EP available for purchase or free download, depending on how generous you feel.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Ghost

Jeff Mangum and Andrew, Scott & Laura at Trinity-St. Paul’s in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIf we’re being completely honest, there’s a not-insubstantial part of me that wishes that this past weekend’s shows by Neutral Milk Hotel bandleader Jeff Mangum at Trinity-St. Paul’s had never happened. There was just something poetic about the disappearing act he pulled following In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, as though the album-closing sounds of the guitar being set down, chair being pushed back and footsteps into the distance was of him leaving this plane and taking his rightful place in some cosmic musical pantheon, having created one of the more perfect records of recent memory.

Of course, I suspect it’s over-romanticized shit like that that’s exactly why Mangum has finally emerged from seclusion. In the thirteen years since he disbanded Neutral Milk Hotel, his story has taken on mythic proportions as a new generation of the indie-inclined discover his masterpiece but can find no trace of its auteur – just field recordings of Bulgarian folk music, sound collages, very occasional guest appearances on the records of his Elephant 6 compatriots and rumours. So many rumours. Even if Mangum wanted to make a return to recording, releasing and performing music, surely the weight of expectation that would surround whatever came next would be unbearable.

So may as well just get it over with. Mangum sightings haven’t been unheard of in recent years, but a surprise Brooklyn loft show last December had the scent of something more than just a one-off; it felt more like carefully laying the groundwork for something bigger and within months, a relatively full-scale comeback was in place – both playing and curating some ATP Festival shows in the UK and US and headlining a number of east coast dates from the late Summer through the Fall. When the Toronto shows were announced, I theorized that this was Mangum’s effort to deconstruct the mythology around himself, to remind people that he was just a guy with a guitar and some songs and maybe, just maybe, not all that big a deal.

If that was the intent, mind you, maybe booking two nights in a church wasn’t the best way to make the point. For the Friday night show, the lineups began just after noon and by the time doors opened, stretched around more than a couple city blocks. And after all were admitted and dutifully took their places in the pews, it would still be an extended wait in the sweltering chapel before the show got underway. For support, Mangum brought along some old friends performing as Scott, Andrew & Laura – as in Scott Spillane of The Gerbils and Andrew Reiger and Laura Carter of Elf Power; certainly not household names but well-appreciated by those who knew them. Their set saw them trading off instruments and playing selections from their respective repertoires, striking a typically Elephant 6 balance of musical proficiency and primitivism but it was impossible to not be impressed by their final song, a Gerbils composition which had Spillane bellowing mournfully while Carter played trumpet unamplified into the church ceiling.

Just how reclusive has Jeff Mangum been? So much so that between sets, when a lanky figure in a light checked shirt and long brown hair tucked under a pageboy cap strode out on stage to check the four guitars set up around a chair, hardly anyone noticed that this was the man that they’d been waiting for months to years to forever in breathless anticipation to see live. They noticed when he came out the second time though – the dimmed lights must have helped – and he was welcomed back to Toronto, to the stage, with huge applause. And with the first strummed chords of “Oh Comely”, it began.

Jeff Mangum is often held up as the archetype for nasally-voiced indie-folk singers, but my first impression of hearing him in person was just how refined and powerful that voice was; Neutral Milk may have favoured a lo-fi, ramshackle aesthetic for their recordings but it certainly wasn’t to cover up the vocals. Of course, with this being a Mangum solo show and not a Neutral Milk reunion, that aesthetic was shelved anyways as the only flourishes on the voice and acoustic guitar configuration came courtesy of Spillane and Carter, who stepped up to add some crucial horn and clarinet parts to songs like “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” and “Ghost”. But for the most part, it was just Mangum and the rapt silence of his audience – a silence that burst into huge ovations when each and every song ended, as though they’d just witnessed the greatest thing ever and really, who’s to say they hadn’t?

Between songs, Mangum certainly didn’t come off like a recluse or eccentric, coming off chatty and friendly; at one point he asked, “Are you guys happy?” to an overwhelmingly positive response before having that question returned to him (he said he was). Also in the far-from-precious department, his requests – nay, demands – that the house sing along with him – further proof that he didn’t want our reverence, he wanted us to celebrate with him. There may not have been as much sincerity behind a full house singing “I love you Jesus Christ” as there would be when Trinity was actually serving as a conventional house of worship, but there was no denying that there was some genuine transfiguration occurring – or more accurately, a reverse-transfiguration with a musical demigod happily becoming just a man.

Though he apparently confirmed on Saturday night that he had been writing, no new songs were introduced. The hour-long set including one-song “Engine” encore encompassed selections from both Neutral Milk albums – though curiously no “Two-Headed Boy, Part One” on either night – and a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End” wrought so lovely that I almost believed it could be true. But considering I’d just see Jeff Mangum perform live, I think one wish fulfilled on the evening was plenty.

NOW, Spin and The National Post was also on hand Friday while The Grid, The Globe & Mail and Exclaim have writeups of the very-similar Saturday night show; Southern Souls has also some audio from Saturday. And oh, there was no photography permitted at the show hence my sketch of the artist gracing the top of this post; it’s been a long time since I’ve drawn, and in that time I clearly forgot that a) I need light to draw, b) an eraser can be a handy tool and c) I was never very good at drawing. But anyways.

MP3: Neutral Milk Hotel – “Holland 1945”

Paste is streaming the Stephin Merritt rarities collection Obscurities a week before its August 23 release. This release marks the return of Merritt to Merge Records and the next Magnetic Fields record will be out on the same label next year.

MP3: Stephin Merritt – “Forever And A Day”
Stream: Stephin Merritt / Obscurities

DIY has a feature interview with Stephen Malkmus on the occasion of the release of Mirror Traffic next week. The album is up to stream in its entirety over at NPR; Malkmus and The Jicks play The Phoenix on September 23.

MP3: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – “Tigers”
MP3: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – “Senator”
Stream: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks / Mirror Traffic

Tuscaloosa News and Birmingham Box talk to Justin Townes Earle, in town at The Horseshoe on August 26.

KDHX talks to Laruen Larson of Ume; their new record Phantoms is out August 30.

Spin has posted online their cover story on St. Vincent for next month’s “Style Issue” – and if you think that means lots of snazzy pictures of Annie Clark to go with the interview, you’d be right. Her new record Strange Mercy arrives September 13.

Wilco have released a video teaser for the song “Almost” off their new album The Whole Love, which shows if nothing else that this album proves they’ve found the “Beautifully ugly” setting on Nels Cline. The album is out September 27 and they play Massey Hall on September 16 and 17.

Rolling Stone talks to Matthew Sweet about his new album Modern Art, due out September 27.

MP3: Matthew Sweet – “She Walks The Night”

Making good on his promise in July to return when the new record was out, Eric Bachmann will bring Crooked Fingers back to town for a show at the Drake Underground on November 8 in support of Breaks In The Armor, out October 11. Merge has the full tour itinerary, for which Strand Of Oaks will be supporting.

MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Phony Revolutions”
MP3: Strand Of Oaks – “Bonfire”

Portland’s Blind Pilot will follow up the September 13 release of We Are The Tide with a tour that brings them to Lee’s Palace on November 10, tickets $15.50 in advance.

MP3: Blind Pilot – “Keep You Right”

Warpaint dish to NME about their plans for album number two.

NPR has got a World Cafe session with TV On The Radio.

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Yesterday's World

Elephant 6 collective to tour North America yelling, “surprise!”

Photo via Ground ControlGround ControlSo maybe some of you heard that Jeff Mangum, that guy who used to be in that one band, played a surprise show of Neutral Milk Hotel tunes to a Brooklyn crowd of about 75 this past weekend (MP3s or it didn’t happen). And while that’s a pretty cool thing in and of itself, not to mention giving those in attendance bragging rights in certain circles for the rest of their lives, that it happened just before word that the Elephant 6 collective of which the Neutral Milk was a founding member was planning a big Spring touring to-do was… interesting. Not implying anything untoward, simply observing that if it was a coincidence, it was a well-timed one.

Said to-do is the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour, which was first rolled out at about this time of the year in 2008 by former Neutral Milk Hotelier, current Music Tapes leader and all-around Christmas fan Julian Koster. It consisted of a massive and random group of Elephant 6 alumni past and present, including members of Apples In Stereo, Elf Power, Circulatory System, Olivia Tremor Control amongst others – which is to say about 1/10 the population of Athens, Georgia – who trekked about performing holiday songs and each others’ compositions and generally celebrating the spirit of pop, psychedelia and community that informed the movement back in their heyday of the mid-’90s. And apparently they had such a good time of it, they’re doing it again.

The details on the who and the what are unclear as of yet – Koster will certainly be driving it again, covering much of the same terrain as his ongoing Lullabye Tour – but the itinerary is up, showing dates across North America running from late February through the end of March. You know, exactly when there aren’t any real holidays. Unlike the original Holiday Tour, this one includes a Toronto stop on March 18 at the Horseshoe, which is great for those of us who will be hundreds of miles away at SxSW at the time (that’s not a plea for sympathy, just statement of fact), particularly since none of Elf Power, Circulatory System or the reunited Olivia Tremor Control have come up this way in forever. But it is what it is and what it should be is an excitingly unpredictable treat for fans and you can bet no one is forgetting that Mangum made appearances at some of those shows in 2008… Will he be along this time out? Maybe he just needs to get re-accustomed to playing live OH WAIT.

The AV Club talked to Koster about the tour back in the Fall of 2008 while NPR has audio from the Chicago stop of that tour – all two and a half hours of it.

MP3: Music Tapes – “Majesty”
MP3: Neutral Milk Hotel – “Holland 1945”
MP3: The Apples In Stereo – “Benefits Of Lying With Your Friend”
MP3: Elf Power – “Stranger In The Window”
MP3: Circulatory System – “Yesterday’s World”
MP3: Circulatory System – “Now”

It’s understandable if you thought that The Wooden Sky’s show at Lee’s back at the start of November was their last local hurrah for the year, but they’ve got one more engagement on the calendar – an intimate December 19 show at the Music Gallery with Philadelphia’s Strand Of Oaks. It’s an all-ages gig, tickets $25 and all proceeds going to the Daily Bread Food Bank.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Something Hiding For Us In The Night”
MP3: Strand Of Oaks – “Bonfire”

The double-bill of one-man act Wild Nothing and many-man band Abe Vigoda have made a date at Wrongbar on February 17, full dates of the tour available at Pitchfork.

MP3: Wild Nothing – “Golden Haze”
MP3: Abe Vigoda – “Throwing Shade”

Akron/Family will follow up the February 8 release of S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT with a date at The Horseshoe on February 20. And if you haven’t read the background on the record, Consequence Of Sound has details… which sound mental.

MP3: Akron/Family – “River”

The Low Anthem, who are readying their Smart Flesh for a February 22 release, have made a date at The Great Hall for March 2 – tickets $17.50 in advance. You can grab the first MP3 from said record in exchange for your email at their website.

Clash talks to LCD Soundsystem main man James Murphy.

Drowned In Sound interviews Britt Daniel and Eric Harvey of Spoon.

Exclaim has details on the long-awaited second Rural Alberta Advantage record. Departing will be out on March 1 and you can expect to hear at least some of it at their sold-out Lee’s Palace show next Thursday, December 16.

Daytrotter’s recent sojourn to Pop Montreal has yielded sessions with Karkwa and also with Diamond Rings. Karkwa are at Lee’s Palace on March 5.

Monday has a feature on Dan Mangan.

The Guardian, Winnipeg Free Press and Pitchfork talk to Feist about her Look At What The Light Did Now documentary, out today on DVD.