Posts Tagged ‘Fiery Furnaces’

Friday, May 7th, 2010

The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade

The Joy Formidable and The Dig at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSo yeah, I see a lot of bands live. And as a result, the list of bands that I want to see and haven’t – at least amongst those artists currently on active duty – has gotten pretty small, made up mainly of smaller acts for whom North American touring is an economical improbability. I’d placed Welsh trio The Joy Formidable in this category since discovering them last February, and so was more than a little frustrated that the place I thought I might have a chance to see them – SxSW – just wouldn’t happen. They canceled their 2009 appearance and opted for a UK tour instead this year and while they’d made a few surgical strikes to New York, there never seemed to be a greater design for conquering America… until there was.

A modest plan, perhaps, but the North American release of their most excellent debut A Balloon Called Moaning – which was one of my favourites of last year and would have been noted as such in year-end lists had I not been so pedantic about albums versus EPs – in advance of the release of their first full-length later this year was certainly a good start. The short tour that brought them to the Horseshoe in Toronto on Tuesday for a free Nu Music Nite engagement was a fantastic next step.

Their tourmates for their first expedition through the wilds of the northeast of the continent were Brooklyn’s The Dig, who were themselves readying their debut in Electric Toys, slated for a June 8 release. My advance copy of the record hadn’t made a huge impression, coming across mainly as decent if not especially distinctive college rock, but live the differences between their strengths and weaknesses were clearer. At their best, they combined the pop sense and garage-y attitude of The Strokes with a musical approach built on insistent bass riffs and dreamy, atmospheric touches. At their worst, they turned in unremarkable and plodding rote bar/blues-rock. Sadly, these seemed to be the songs that were best-received. Here’s hoping that in the long run, The Dig don’t give the people what they want and instead, make interesting music.

Though I hadn’t noticed much chatter about this show going into the evening and most of the city’s Brit-rock fans were at the Opera House selling out the Frightened Rabbit show, there was a good-sized crowd in place to welcome The Joy Formidable to Toronto. And it’s a good thing, because their brand of big guitar rock really demands an audience for full effect. To my ears, A Balloon Called Moaning is a pretty much perfect blend of sugary pop hook, spiky attitude and aesthetics that are little too effervescent to count as shoegazey (though that influence is quite evident) and live, The Joy Formidable were somehow able to make it all sound even better. There were initially some technical problems – a broken strap here, a split drum skin there – but the band made up for those early lulls with extra intensity when they were able to get everything working and when there were no more equipment glitches, that energy just snowballed. Ritzy Bryan was a tiny but magnetic frontwoman, handling both vocal and Stratocaster sonic attack duties with aplomb, and while it was hard to take your eyes off her, much credit must also go to her bandmates Rhydian Dafydd on bass and backing vocals and Matt Thomas on drums for both laying the foundation for their monolithic wall of sound and lifting her up on top of it. Though their set was just 45 minutes or so, that was more than enough time to run through the Balloon material along with some new material, cement existing fans and completely win over new ones. So completely worth the wait and, with promises to return within months – presumably when the new album arrives later this Summer – the next wait won’t be quite so long.

Photos: The Joy Formidable, The Dig @ The Horseshoe – May 4, 2010
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Austere”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Greyhounds In The Slips”
MP3: The Dig – “You’re Already Gone”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Popinjay”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Austere”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Cradle”
MySpace: The Joy Formidable

Clash talks to Editors guitarist Chris Urbanowicz about some of the most important events in his life.

The Riverfront Times and Chicago Tribune interview Frightened Rabbit.

Jez Williams of Doves looks back on the band’s career for Under The Radar.

eye interviews Massive Attack’s 3D in advance of their two shows at the Sound Academy, tonight and Sunday.

Kele has released a video for that first single from The Boxer, due out June 21. He plays the Mod Club on July 29.

Video: Kele – “Tenderoni”

Jon Wurster gives Stereogum an update on the new Superchunk record, which has been given the title of Majesty Shredding and will be out this Fall.

BBC6 talks to The National’s Matt Berninger about High Violet, out Tuesday, while Vanity Fair has a rather pointless piece wondering if The National are America’s Radiohead… yeah. Nice photos, though. The National are at Massey Hall on June 8 and 9.

Drowned In Sound meets Band Of Horses, whose Infinite Arms arrive May 18 and who play the Toronto Islands on June 19.

Spinner welcomes The Hold Steady to their studios for an Interface session, while Paste and The Herald have interviews. They play the Kool Haus on July 18.

Daytrotter is offering a session with Lambchop.

Grab “Babelonia”, the first MP3 from the new School Of Seven Bells record Disconnect From Desire, by signing up for their mailing list. The record is out July 13.

Karen Elson – who may well be known as a singer-songwriter first and foremost but for now will have to settle for being a top model and Mrs Jack White – has a date at the El Mocambo on June 16 as part of a tour in support of her solo debut The Ghost Who Walks, out May 25 in the UK and later this year in North America. Tickets for the show are $15 in advance. Black Book has an interview.

Video: Karen Elson – “The Ghost Who Walks”

The Fiery Furnaces, who seem to have played every room – big and small – in the city, will be doing the small when they return on June 21 for a show at the Drake Underground. Their last release was 2009’s I’m Going Away.

MP3: The Fiery Furnaces – “The End Is Near”

Maps & Atlases – just here on Tuesday opening for Frightened Rabbit – return for a show at the Horseshoe on August 7 in support of their new record Perch Patchwork, out June 29.

MP3: Maps & Atlases – “Solid Ground”

Spin talks to Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons about their just-announced new record Swanlights, which will be out October 5.

Friday, September 11th, 2009

More Stars Than There Are In Heaven

Review of Yo La Tengo's Popular Songs

Photo via FacebookFacebookThere’s a good run of albums, there’s career consistency and then there’s Yo La Tengo. The New Jersey outfit has been turning out full-length gems for almost a quarter-century now, and while some are held in higher regard than others, their consistently high standard has been nothing short of astonishing. And this isn’t a case of a band finding a style they excel in and working on variations of that theme, at least not unless you consider “restless creativity and experimentation in the realms of pop music” to be a single theme. So in sitting down with their twelfth proper album Popular Songs, you would have an excuse to not be surprised by what they have to offer, but none to not be delighted.

2006’s I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass was a welcome dose of energy for those afraid that the two preceding records were finding the band settling into a comfortable, somnambulant zone, bringing back not only the band’s noisier side but also their genre-hopping aesthetic. It wasn’t as many individually sublime moments as their previous highwater mark I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, but as a collection it was a more than worthy addition to their discography. If this was as good as Yo La Tengo could be 20 years in, then we should consider ourselves lucky. But if Ass was the luck equivalent of finding a $20 bill in the street Popular Songs is like winning the lottery.

Okay, that’s probably overstating it but Songs has a certain something that you didn’t even realize Ass lacked. It’s hard to articulate exactly what that is, but it’s the ineffable quality that distinguishes a classic Yo La record from just a great one. I’ll put it down as a sense of fun. Ass had the sense of the band exploring terrain that they hadn’t visited in a while (and tinged with the sense of looking for a way to stay interested) and that sense of curiosity yielded its own rewards, but now it sounds like they’re comfortable again and are having fun with it. Everything that makes Yo La Tengo wonderful is present in abundance – the quiet, extended meditations (“The Fireside”), the skronky garage pop (“Nothing To Hide”), the gentle folk of “When It’s Dark”, the jazzy grooves (“Periodically Double Or Triple”) – and all points in between. For most bands, it’s probably too much to expect them to turn in one of the best albums of their career after the 20-year mark. Once again Yo La Tengo have defied expectations.

Spinner talks to the band about the secret of their longevity as well as the secrets of their songwriting. Paste also has a feature peice and also gets Ira Kaplan to offer up a recommended listening list.

Yo La Tengo are at the Opera House in Toronto on October 3.

MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Here To Fall”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Periodically Double Or Triple”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “When It’s Dark”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Nothing To Hide”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Avalon Or Someone Very Similar”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Periodically Double Or Triple”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Here To Fall”
MySpace: Yo La Tengo

DCist salutes Velocity Girl’s wonderful Simpatico! record, talking to most of the band about the making of the album. I loved that record. Must put it back into rotation this weekend.

Video: Velocity Girl – “Sorry Again”
Video: Velocity Girl – “I Can’t Stop Smiling”

Decider talks to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

Wye Oak have released a new video from their excellent second album The Knot.

Video: Wye Oak – “Sight, Flight”

Billboard talks to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Robert Been about the live CD/DVD set – creatively titled Live – due out November 10. Their new studio album is targeted for a Spring 2010 release.

The upcoming tour that pairs like-it-loud Asobi Seksu with like-it-low Loney Dear and Anna Ternheim was a bit of a head-scratcher until it was announced that Asobi would be releasing an acoustic album entitled Rewolf November 10, recasting old songs originally done loud in a quieter setting. The Village Voice confirms that the band is taking this setup live, so expect to see them as you’ve never seen them before when they play the Horseshoe on October 14 – no bad thing if you’ve already seen them many times before.

The Flaming Lips’ continues to talk smack about Arcade Fire to The Independent. Embryonic is due out October 13.

The Times Daily checks in with Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers. They just released a rarities and b-sides comp entitled The Fine Print last week and will have a new studio album out in February.

Under The Radar mind-melds with Telekinesis.

New Grizzly Bear video.

Video: Grizzly Bear – “While You Wait For The Others”

The endlessly prolific The Fiery Furnaces, whose latest album at the time of this writing is I’m Going Away but may well be something new by the time you read this, will be at the El Mocambo on November 7, tickets $20.

MP3: The Fiery Furnaces – “The End Is Near”

Obviously not ones for verbosity, San Francisco’s buzzy, fuzzy poppy Girls have set a September 22 release date for their debut album Album and Fall touring bring them to the El Mocambo on November 10.

MP3: Girls – “Lust For Life”
Video: Girls – “Lust For Life”

The Quietus talks to Warren Ellis about the second Grinderman album, which should be out sometime next year.

Doves have rolled out a new video from Kingdom Of Rust

Video: Doves – “Winter Hill”

Little Boots recorded a Black Cab Session in Austin during SxSW in March. So THAT’S what the Tenori-On does! And technically, Austin cabs are not uniformly black but that’s neither here nor there. Little Boots plays Wrongbar on Monday night.

Video: Little Boots – “Stuck On Repeat” (live on Black Cab Sessions)

BeatRoute talks to Arctic Monkeys. They’re at the Kool Haus on September 29.

Shanghaiist chats with Handsome Furs.

Blare grabbed an interview with Jay Ferguson of Sloan a couple weeks back at V Fest, where he revealed there were plans to release a new digital EP this Fall and that he’s done with making CDs. Not albums, just CDs. The band also just announced they’ll be playing a free show outside the Air Canada Centre next Wednesday night, September 16, before the Leafs-Bruins pre-season game. This may well be the highlight of the season for Leafs fans.

And speaking of free public shows, that Neil Young performance that was supposed to happen at Yonge-Dundas Square on Monday is off. You can stop lining up now. Why? The Toronto Star, who reported the event in the first place, got a hold of Young and he says he had no idea he was supposed to perform in the first place and was never going to be in town. Hmm. The Jonathan Demme concert film Neil Young Trunk Show is still coming to the Film Festival though, so you can try an line up for that.

Trailer: Neil Young Trunk Show

Pitchfork invites an array of indie-rock luminaries to make “best of” lists for the century so far.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Phoenix and Amazing Baby at the Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangYou might think the novelty of seeing Phoenix (the band) at the Phoenix (the venue) might have worn off during the two months between the announcement and the actual show on Monday, but it really didn’t. But besides that, the prospect of seeing the French band perform their superb new album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix live was plenty of reason to be excited, and I wasn’t alone in that sentiment – the show was completely sold out.

Their tourmates for this jaunt were Amazing Baby, hailing from the slightly less glamorous locale of Brooklyn. Though the band had played our Hot Freaks showcase at SxSW back in March, I missed them on account of being terrorized by Peelander-Z – I had given their new album Rewild, out next week, a few spins so they weren’t a complete unknown. The album is a melting pot of rock styles, most prominently glam in the ’70s sense of the word, but in live presentation the band’s aesthetic was more garage/80s rock-correct than anything else – lots of hair whipping and even some two-handed guitar tapping. You don’t see that every day. Their set barely clocked in at 25 minutes and didn’t make as much of an impression as their album was beginning to – I’ll spend more time with that before firming up any opinions.

I required no such critical faculties for Phoenix – just set endorphin receptors to 10, wait for them to kick off with “Lisztomania” and let go. If you’ve only heard their studio albums, or even just their latest as I’ve already said I have, you might think that their pristine production and absurdly precise musicianship is a studio creation. Live, however, they expand from a four-piece to six and are every bit as tight and even more dynamic. The massive pop hooks were recreated impeccably but the also demonstrated their ability to get far heavier and funkier than their recorded works had ever implied. It’s easy to think of Phoenix as a breezy pop band but they can get down and dirty – yet remain sonically immaculate – when they choose to.

Watching the band run through a set naturally heavy on Wolfgang but still drawing from their other three albums, you couldn’t help but be impressed with how hard they worked to make it sound so effortless. Singer Thomas Mars frequently looked winded and got progressively sweatier after each song, unsurprising considering how much physicality he put into his performance, roaming around the stage, climbing monitors and generally working the crowd like a pro. It was thus understandable that during the instrumental interlude of “Love Like A Sunset”, he simply lay down on the stage, back against a floor monitor, to recover for a few minutes. And the breather did him well as the band managed to take a show that had run pretty much full-tilt from the word go and take it to another level for the end, whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

All through the night Mars and his bandmates had a sort of incredulous look on their faces, perhaps not quite believing the breadth and intensity of the audience’s enthusiasm. After all, Phoenix were supposed to be one of those bands that no one could understand why they didn’t break out big – they weren’t actually supposed to break out big. But for this night, at least, they were greeted like conquering heroes and no one wanted it to end. So with the final number of the encore, the irresistible “1901”, the band thought they were finished – instruments were unstrapped and amplifiers turned off – but guitarist Laurent Brancowitz kept playing the staccato riff, unwilling to admit it was over – and quickly instruments and amps went back on and they played the outro again, Mars taking the opportunity to leap into the audience and commune properly with their fans. After that euphoric finish, it was finally over and one of the better albums of the year so far had begot one of the best shows of the year so far.

The AV Club has an interview with Phoenix’s Thomas Mars and The Boston Herald with Laurent Brancowitz, while Daytrotter recently posted a session with Amazing Baby recorded back at SxSW.

Photos: Phoenix, Amazing Baby @ The Phoenix – June 15, 2009
MP3: Amazing Baby – “Bayonets”
Video: Phoenix – “1901”
Video: Phoenix – “1901” (acoustic)
Video: Phoenix – “Lisztomania”
Video: Phoenix – “Consolation Prize”
Video: Phoenix – “If I Ever Feel Better”
Video: Phoenix – “Long Distance Call”
Video: Phoenix – “Twenty-One One Zero”
Video: Phoenix – “Run Run Run”
Video: Amazing Baby – “Headdress”
MySpace: Phoenix
MySpace: Amazing Baby

Austin instrumentalists The Octopus Project are at Lee’s Palace on July 28, tickets $8.50.

MP3: The Octopus Project – “I Saw The Bright Shinies”
MP3: The Octopus Project – “Music Is Happiness”

Cursive have a date at The Horseshoe on August 1 in support of their latest album, the horribly-titled Mama, I’m Swollen. Tickets for that one are $15.50.

MP3: Cursive – “From The Hips”
MP3: Cursive – “Mama, I’m Swollen”

Apparently a new 7″ is all the excuse that Modest Mouse need to hit the road. They’ll release a new single on June 23 – Spinner is streaming the a-side right now – and traverse North America in August. The Toronto date is August 21 at the Sound Academy and tickets are $30.

Loney Dear, who had to cancel their May Toronto date on account of a busted-up van, will make that up on October 13 with a show at the Horseshoe – and as a bonus, they’re bringing Asobi Seksu along with them. Actually, Asobi might headline – they’re a much larger draw hereabouts. Full tour dates at Pitchfork.

MP3: Loney Dear – “Airport Surroundings”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Familiar Light”

The Fiery Furnaces have a new album in the can called I’m Going Away and will release it on July 1.

MP3: The Fiery Furnaces – “The End Is Near”

Black Book and The Aquarian profile School Of Seven Bells.

Interview interviews TV On The Radio.

Muzzle Of Bees asks five questions of Handsome Furs.

MP3: Handsome Furs – “Radio Kaliningrad”