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Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Retrograde

James Blake wins Mercury Prize, hopes people will now stop asking him about tennis

Photo By Nabil ElderkinNabil ElderkinJames Blake is hardly an unknown in certain circles, but it’s understandable if he has some identity issues. He’s often mixed up with the American tennis player of the same name, and just last night at a gathering of British music industry types who ought to know better, he was introduced by BBC presenter Lauren Laverne as treacle-singing countryman James Blunt. It’s a good thing they got it right a few minutes later when he was announced winner of the 2013 Mercury Music Prize for his album Overgrown.

In doing so, he bested not only the heavily favoured (Laura Mvula), buzz bands (Disclosure), stars (Arctic Monkeys), legends (David Bowie), and underdogs (Jon Hopkins ), but allowed the genres of indie, pop, R&B, electronic, dubstep, and whatever else he might have been described as to claim victory. For a prize that inevitably leaves people crying unfair or out of touch for whatever reason, not a bad compromise. I only wish that he’d named the album after the first single so that we could make the easy – and accurate – joke about the Mercury being in Retrograde. Ah, opportunities missed.

And it makes Blake’s decision to cancel a few dates of his current North American tour to attend the Mercury ceremony look like a pretty smart move. He’s back across the pond after some celebrations, I’m sure, and will be taking the stage at The Kool Haus in Toronto on November 10. Under The Radar and Clash have conveniently-timed features on Blake

Video: Video: James Blake – “Retrograde”
Video: Video: James Blake – “Overgrown”

And though they didn’t win, some of the nominees were using the occasion and extra attention to unveil some goodies. David Bowie premiered a video for the James Murphy remix of “Love Is Lost” that appears on The Next Day Extra deluxe edition of his new record which comes out November 5; watch it below and read a little of the making-of for the clip via The Mirror. And five of the new songs that also appear on the Extra release are available to stream – for Canadians only – at CBC Music, although some enterprising internet-user has already ripped four of them to non-geoblocked YouTube; “God Bless The Girl” appeared on the Japanese release of The Next Day, so that doesn’t technically count as new, but you may as well stream that too.

Video: David Bowie – “Love Is Lost” (Hello Steve Reich Mix)
Stream: David Bowie – “Atomica”
Stream: David Bowie – “The Informer”
Stream: David Bowie – “Like A Rocket Man”
Stream: David Bowie – “Born In A UFO”
Stream: David Bowie – “God Bless The Girl”

Though surely relieved to have not won something they were clearly uncomfortable with, Savages still timed the release of a new video from Silence Yourself to coincide with the ceremony. Guitarist Gemma Thompson took to Tumblr to discuss the new Vonnegut-inspired clip and DIY has a cover story on the band.

Video: Savages – “Marshal Dear”

Although not Mercury-recognized, Frightened Rabbit also released a new clip from Pedestrian Verse via DIY.

Video: Frightened Rabbit – “Holy”

Los Campesinos! have put out a new video from their latest No Blues, which is out now in the UK but doesn’t get North American release until November 12. A Heart Is A Spade, Pitchfork, and Interview talk to the band about the new record.

Video: Los Campesinos! – “Avocado, Baby”

Daughter are using tour footage/their tour diary as the new video from If You Leave

Video: Daughter – “Amsterdam”

BrooklynVegan interviews Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, though the subject of his Mercury Prize conspiracy theories don’t come up. Shields leads MBV into the Kool Haus on November 5.

Blood Orange has released a lyric video for the second preview of his next record Cupid Deluxe, coming out November 19.

Lyric Video: Blood Orange – “You’re Not Good Enough”

Veronica Falls are now streaming the b-side of their new Australia/Japan tour 7″, being released to those not seeing them on said tour come December 9.

Stream: Veronica Falls – “Ned You Around”

Yuck v2.0 makes their Toronto debut behind their second album Glow & Behold at The Garrison on January 17, part of a full North American tour.

Video: Yuck – “Middle Sea”

Mogwai have announced a January 21 release date for their new studio album Rave Tapes; stream the first song from it below.

Stream: Mogwai – “Remurdered”

Former Mercury Prize winners Elbow have given their new record – already locked in for a March 10 release – the title of Carry Her Carry Me; details at Exclaim.

Daytrotter has a session with Fanfarlo, who’ve just released their The Sea EP ahead of a new full-length due out next year.

The 405 has an interview with Kele Okereke of Bloc Party.

The Guardian has premiered a mini-documentary film of The Vaccines on the road.

Summer Camp share their top ten favourite horror films with Consequence Of Sound – just in time for American Thanksgiving!

And to bring it all around, Clash wonders if the Mercury Prize might be better if it were more like Canada’s Polaris Prize.

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Metal & Dust

Review of London Grammar’s If You Wait

Photo By Paolo ZerbiniPaolo ZerbiniI’m sure it’s purely coincidence, but it’s a hell of one that the title of If You Wait, the 2013 debut from London Grammar, is but one word apart from If You Leave, the 2013 debut Daughter. After all, both are London-based, female-fronted three-pieces with atmospheric aesthetics, singular vocal signatures, and who plumb the depths of the heart’s frailties for lyrical inspiration.

But while they occupy a similar space, London Grammar stake out their own territory. A ways away from Elena Tonra’s wistful sigh of a voice, Hannah Reid’s rich, husky alto is clearly a powerful instrument akin to Florence Welch’s but rather than use it to blow the doors off, she keeps it set on a deep and steady soul-infused smoulder that expresses her wounded sentiments in rich tones. The musical accompaniment, built largely around guitar and piano, is sparse by default but more than able to swell for effect and works well in adding to the twilight ambience. One does wish that Dan Rothman’s lines and style – palm-muted and echoed – was a little less xx-marks-the-spot, but there’s no arguing its effectiveness in this context.

If there’s a complaint to be made about If You Wait, it’s in that the London Grammar aesthetic is a little too defined and consistently applied and over the course of the record starts feeling a bit monochromatic. It feels like a photograph of something beautiful, viewable from a single angle, than a living, breathing thing – more than acceptable for now, but a limitation they’ll have to transcend sooner rather than later.

NME reports that If You Wait is presently the odds-on favourite to win the Mercury Prize, the shortlist of which will be announced tomorrow and whose winner will be announced October 30. The West Australian and The Guardian have feature pieces on London Grammar and The Line Of Best Fit has a video of their covering La Roux for BBC’s Live Lounge. If You Wait is out today, September 10, and their inaugural North American tour brings them to Toronto for a show at The Great Hall on October 4.

Video: London Grammar – “Strong”
Video: London Grammar – “Wasting My Young Years”

The Guardian has a stream of Summer Camp’s second self-titled album, out now, while The Fly has a feature piece on the duo and Noisey gets them to go through and comment on their old photo albums.

Stream: Summer Camp / Summer Camp

Interview, Spin, The Telegraph, Tone Deaf, and The Fly mark today’s release of Arctic Monkeys’ AM with feature interviews; they play The Kool Haus on September 15.

DIY and vita.mn talk to CHVRCHES as the September 24 release date of their debut The Bones Of What You Believe draws near; but first they play The Danforth Music Hall on September 15.

NPR is streaming the new Elvis Costello/Roots collaboration Wise Up Ghost ahead of its September 17 release date.

Stream: Elvis Costello with The Roots / Wise Up Ghost

Peter Hook updates The Hollywood Reporter on the attempts to take possession of those Joy Division/New Order master tapes rescued from the trash recently. And as you can assume from the word “attempts”, they’re not going well. Hook plays The Hoxton on September 18.

Pitchfork has got a stream of another new track from Laura Groves, nee Blue Roses, taken from her new EP Thinking About Thinking, due out September 30.

Stream: Laura Groves – “Pale Shadows”

Yuck has released an in-studio video of them getting their New Order on; their second album Glow & Behold comes out September 30.

Video: Yuck – “Age Of Consent”

Frightened Rabbit play a video session for The Line Of Best Fit from a pirate ship at the End Of The Road festival; they are at The Kool Haus on October 21.

The 405 talks to Polly Scattergood, who has released a new video from her second album Arrows, originally set for a June release but now locked in to an October 21 street date.

Video: Polly Scattergood – “Cocoon”

MTV Hive has an interview and NPR a World Cafe session with Franz Ferdinand, who’ve just put out a new video from Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action; they play The Kool Haus October 24.

Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Evil Eye”

Though still coy about details of a new album, The High Wire have made another new song available to download.

MP3: The High Wire – “The Thames & The Tide”

The xx tell NME they’re already at work on album number three.

Little Boots has released a new video from Nocturnes.

Video: Little Boots – “Satellite”

NME and Billboard talk to Billy Bragg about being recognized for his “outstanding contribution to music” by the UK’s Association of Independent Music.

The Guardian talks to James Allan of Glasvegas.

God Is In The TV has an interview with Chris Olley of Six By Seven.

The Wedding Present are streaming a new single which will be available for sale as a 7″ on their upcoming UK tour.

Stream: The Wedding Present – “Two Bridges”

NPR marks the 20th anniversary of Britpop with a playlist of the scene’s best.

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

The Universe Expanded

While I was out… featuring Franz Ferdinand and things of a British nature

Photo By Andrew KnowlesAndrew KnowlesThe biggest releases of last week both happened to be Scottish in nationality. There was Franz Ferdinand’s fourth long-player Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, which was the topic of conversation with Alex Kaparnos at NPR, Billboard, Canada.com, and DIY, while Kapranos and Bob Hardy both chat with Stereogum and Paul Thomson answers the phone when CBC calls. Further, Pitchfork has video of that acoustic Grimes cover the band played for French radio that everyone was linking to last week. They play The Kool Haus come October 24.

Meanwhile, with their new b-sides comp The Third Eye Centre finally out, Belle & Sebastian have released a new video featuring Hannah Murray from Skins and Game Of Thrones. Under The Radar has compiled their multi-part interview with the band into a single piece, PopMatters has a chat with Richard Colburn, and over at The Quietus, Stuart Murdoch opts to talk about other peoples’ records rather than his own.

Video: Belle & Sebastian – “Your Cover’s Blown” (Miaoux Miaoux remix)

James Allan talks to The Quietus, MusicRadar, and Yahoo! about Glasvegas’ new album Later… When The TV Turns To Static. It wasn’t alluded to in the lede, despite being Scottish, because a) it came out this week and not last week, and b) not many people care anymore.

Arctic Monkeys are streaming a new b-side which doesn’t appear on AM, due out September 10. And if you only care about the songs which do appear on the album, you’re in luck – the whole thing is now streaming at iTunes. Arctic Monkeys are at The Kool Haus on September 15.

Stream: Arctic Monkeys – “Stop The World I Want To Get Off With You”
Stream: Arctic Monkeys / AM

Drowned In Sound talks to London Grammar, who are offering a full stream of their debut album If You Wait via their own website with just a few hoops to jump through. The record is out September 10 and they play The Great Hall on October 4.

Stream: London Grammar / If You Wait

In a video session for Gigwise, Frightened Rabbit offer up a cover of Jessie Ware’s “Wildest Moments” and another track from the Late March, Death March EP, out September 10, is available to stream via Stereogum. They play The Kool Haus on October 17.

Stream: Frightened Rabbit – “Candlelit”

Savages have premiered a new performance video from Silence Yourself at Pitchfork; they play The Opera House on September 12.

Video: Savages – “I Am Here”

Gigwise and MusicRadar check in with CHVRCHES, whose debut The Bones Of What You Believe is almost finally out on September 24 but not before they headline the Danforth Music Hall on September 15.

James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers talks to Wales Online about their new album Rewind The Film, while Nicky Wire takes The Quietus through the new record track by track. And NME has posted the whole of their recent Wire-led Twitter Q&A. Rewind The Film is out September 16.

The Quietus looks at the many, many collaborations Elvis Costello has undertaken in his career, the latest of which is Wise Up Ghost with The Roots, due out September 17. Costello talks to The Brisbane Times about the new record.

Peter Hook talks about matters past, present, future, and legal with Billboard, Pitchfork, The Huffington Post, Exclaim, and The Dumbing Of America. He leads his new band The Light through old material at The Hoxton on September 18.

Daughter are streaming a new b-side; they play The Phoenix on September 29.

Stream: Daughter – “Smoke”

Yuck talks to Rolling Stone about carrying on without their original frontman, as documented on their new album Glow & Behold, out September 30.

Two Door Cinema Club have released a video for the title track of their new Changing Of The Seasons EP, due out September 30; NME has details. They play The Danforth Music Hall on October 15.

Video: Two Door Cinema Club – “Changing Of The Seasons”

Anna Calvi has released the first video from her forthcoming One Breath, out October 7.

Video: Anna Calvi – “Eliza”

Lanterns On The Lake have released a video for the title track of their new album Until The Colours Run, which is due out on October 7 in the UK and will get a North American release early next year on January 14.

Video: Lanterns On The Lake – “Until The Colours Run”

The Line Of Best Fit reports Suede will finally reissue their entire catalog on vinyl on October 21, but the catch is you have to buy them all in one super-expensive box set, it’s only available in the UK, and you have to take A New Morning with the rest. And oh, they released a new video from Bloodsports.

Video: Suede – “For The Strangers”

Los Campesinos! have confirmed an October 29 release date for their new record No Blues, and have made the first track from it available to stream.

Stream: Los Campesinos! – “What Death Leaves Behind”

M.I.A. is streaming another new track from her forthcoming Matangi, out November 5.

Stream: M.I.A. – “Come Walk With Me”

The Charli XCX show originally scheduled for September 16 at The Hoxton has been rescheduled to Saturday, November 9, and will now take place at Wrongbar. All previous tickets will be honoured and all the new dates can be seen at Exclaim.

MP3: Charli XCX – “Valentine”

Drowned In Sound checks in with Josh Hayward of The Horrors on the status of their next album, due out in early 2014.

Drowned In Sound chats with David Gedge of The Wedding Present, who will be undertaking an exhaustive reissue series of their back catalog in the near future; FACT has details on that.

Tessa Murray talks to Vogue about the new Still Corners video from Strange Pleasures.

Video: Still Corners – “Fireflies”

Under The Radar and Pitchfork talk to Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream.

With the assistance of Hefner’s Darren Hayman, Allo Darlin’ frontwoman Elizabeth Morris has put together a solo EP entitled Optimism, available for digital purchase now.

eMusic has an interview with Billy Bragg.

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Autobahn

“Wir fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n auf der Autobahn”, or, “I’m going to Germany, bye bye.”

Art by Emil SchultEmil SchultWhy yes, it is another deck-clearing, pre-vacation post. Bit of a Euro theme to this one because I am headed over to the Old World tonight, spending the next week and a bit in Berlin and Stockholm – so no, I won’t be anywhere near the autobahn, but I may fly over them en route and anyways as part of my cultural preparation for the trip, I’ve discovered the wonder of Kraftwerk. Anyways, let’s get to it – I still have to pack.

Video: Kraftwerk – “Autobahn” (live)

The Guardian are advance streaming the Belle & Sebastian b-sides compilation The Third Eye Centre ahead of its release next week, and to go along with the listening Under The Radar has a track-by-track commentary from the band.

Stream: Belle & Sebastian / The Third Eye Centre

Spin talks to Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand. Their new record Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action is out next week and they’re at The Kool Haus on October 24.

Stereogum sets up a Turntable Interview with Empire Of The Sun. They play The Danforth Music Hall on September 9.

Drowned In Sound talks to Emiliana Torrini about her new record Tookah, due out September 10.

Gorilla Vs Bear is streaming a new track from London Grammar’s debut album If You Wait. It’s out September 10 and their October 4 show at BLK BOX has been moved upstairs to The Great Hall.

Stream: London Grammar – “Interlude”

Frightened Rabbit will release a different, North American version of their Late March, Death March EP on September 10 with a different track listing from the European version which came out back in June; Stereogum has a stream of one of the new songs and Paste an acoustic performance video of the same tune. Frightened Rabbit play The Kool Haus on October 17.

Stream: Frightened Rabbit – “Radio Silence”

Savages have announced their third local show in six months, coming back to town for a date at The Opera House on September 12 – tickets for that are $20.

Video: Savages – “Shut Up”

The Darcys list off five of the albums that influenced their studio time in making their new record Warring for CBC Music. It’s out September 17.

The resuscitated The Dismemberment Plan are streaming another tune from their new record Uncanney Valley, due out October 15.

Stream: The Dismemberment Plan – “Invisible”

Emotive Irish newcomers Kodaline – one of the longlisted bands for the BBC’s Sound of 2013 list way back in January – are staging a North American tour around a CMJ appearance and behind their debut album In A Perfect World; they’ll be at The Garrison on October 20.

Video: Kodaline – “All I Want”

Los Angeles synth-rock trio Sir Sly have made a date at The Horseshoe for October 21.

MP3: Sir Sly – “Ghost”

The Dumbing Of America talks to Mark Van Hoen, one of Neil Halstead’s collaborators in Black Hearted Brother. Their debut Stars Are Our Home is out October 22.

The National Post interviews Raphaelle Standell-Preston of Braids. They play The Great Hall on November 10.

Spin has got the latest video from English psych-rock newcomers Temples as well as confirmation that their debut album won’t be out until 2014, not that that’s stopping them from being here to play The Horseshoe on November 20.

Video: Temples – “Keep It In The Dark”

Under The Radar talks to former Ride frontman Mark Gardener about a new collaborative project he’s working on with former Cocteau Twin guitarist Robin Guthrie. The swirly swirly fruits of that project could see the light of day before the year is out.

Tim Burgess of The Charlatans remembers their late drummer Jon Brookes in a blog post at NME.

Montreal’s Valleys have released a new video from their debut Are You Going To Stand There And Talk Weird All Night?.

Video: Valleys – “Absolutely Everything All The Time”

Toronto’s shoegazing Breeze, whose live show helped kick off this week, have a new video.

Video: Breeze – “Dolls”

Phoenix drop in on NPR to record a World Cafe session, while Pitchfork talks to both Thomas Mars and R. Kelly about their unlikely collaborations.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Shout Out Louds.

Beatroute talks to Icona Pop.

Billboard examines Annie’s impact on Norwegian pop.

Okay, bye for now.

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

(I Don't Mean To) Wonder

Neil Halstead rediscovers his distortion pedals, forms Black Hearted Brother

Photo via FacebookFacebookFor as long as he’s been out of Slowdive – and probably longer, if you consider how much a departure their electronic-ambient final record Pygmalion was – Neil Halstead has been hearing fans beg him to return to his electric, amplified roots as a shoegazing pioneer, never mind that everything he’s done in the past 20 years, from fronting the cosmic-country Mojave 3 to his current acoustic-folkie solo carer – has been in the opposite trajectory. And while for the longest time, he’d deflect live requests for Slowdive songs with “that’s another band”, on his last tour he finally relented and included versions of “Alison” and “40 Days” in the set, even bringing along a delay pedal for proper effect. This, combined with comments made last Summer that a Slowdive reunion wasn’t out of the question – even with Rachel Goswell basically retired from music – set hopeful shoegazing hearts a-flutter with the prospect that the previously unthinkable might happen and Halstead would want to make some bona fide noise again.

And indeed he does, just not in the way that people necessarily expected. I thank The Dumbing Of America for pointing me yesterday to Black Hearted Brother, a new band featuring Halstead and two friends with producer credits on Mojave 3 and Halstead solo records – Mark Van Hoen, ex of Seefeel and Nick Holton, apparently of something called Holton’s Opulant Oog. Some years in the making – and perhaps indirectly responsible for Halstead’s renewed interest in his old works – they’ve come together to create something loud, trippy, and tuneful, or at least that’s what the first song from the project – premiered at Spin – would imply. Their debut album Stars Are Our Home will be out on October 22, and on a thread on his own Facebook page, Halstead sounds genuinely enthused about the project and mentions that he hopes to tour behind it. Here’s hoping that if they do, they’ll have rehearsed a few Slowdive songs for the inevitable requests.

Stream: Black Hearted Brother – “(I Don’t Mean To) Wonder”

DIY, Digital Spy, and Gigwise chat with White Lies about their new album Big TV, out August 21. They play The Opera House on October 1.

Mumford & Sons have released a new video from Babel which aims to trigger crises of faith amongst those who hate their band but love actors Ed Helms, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte; Rolling Stone finds out how the clip came together. They play The Molson Amphitheatre on August 26.

Video: Mumford & Sons – “Hopeless Wanderer”

Frightened Rabbit are streaming one of the three new tracks that will appear on their Woodpile EP when it comes out on September 1; Chicago Magazine and Red Bull Music also have interviews. They are in town at The Kool Haus on October 17.

Stream: Frightened Rabbit – “Default Blues”

Delorean are streaming another new track from their forthcoming Apar, due out September 10. They play The Horseshoe on October 17.

Stream: Delorean – “Destitute Time”

CHVRCHES have released a new video for one of their oldest songs; it will appear on their debut The Bones of What You Believe when it comes out on September 24. They play the Danforth Music Hall on September 15.

Video: CHVRCHES – “The Mother We Share”

Anna Calvi has announced an October 7 release date for her second album, entitled One Breath. DIY has details and you can watch the trailer for the record below.

Trailer: Anna Calvi / One Breath

The Guardian has premiered a new PJ Harvey song written for the last British resident being held in Guantanamo Bay.

MP3: PJ Harvey – “Shaker Amaar”

MTV Hive has an interview with Belfast’s Little Green Cars, who’ve released a new video from their debut Absolute Zero since last we checked in.

Video: Little Green Cars – “Big Red Dragon”

M83 has somehow squeezed another video out of 2011’s Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, and if you live in the US you can watch it via Stereogum. Everyone else can, evidently, suck it. Thank goodness for people who know how to rip YouTube videos.

Video: M83 – “Claudia Lewis”

Sigur Rós, on the other hand, have turned to fans from anywhere to source Instagram video footage for their latest video from Kveikur.

Video: Sigur Rós – “Stormur”

BlipTV has a video session with Still Corners.