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Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Don't Stare At The Sun

Richard Hawley gets view of Mercury from Sky’s Edge

Photo By FacebookFacebookThe twelve album shortlist for the 2012 Mercury Prize, awarded to the best – by whatever standard the judges choose to use – British or Irish album of the past twelve months was announced yesterday, and I was pleased to see that Richard Hawley made the cut because I get to use the clever (by my standards, at least) post title above and use this sharp photo of Mr. Hawley adjusting his specs.

Truth be told, I’m a bit surprised that Standing at the Sky’s Edge made the cut. Hawley shortlisted before with 2006’s Cole’s Corner, which is as perfect example of what he’s come to be known for in his solo career – classically-styled and richly-adorned romantic pop showcasing his deep baritone and twanging guitarwork – so to recognize him again for a record that seeks to distance itself from that stereotype by way of psychedelic rock jams is a touch unexpected. I personally like the record as it really lets Hawley rip on guitar in a way that he doesn’t typically – it’s louder and rawer but still unimpeachably tasteful – but I do hope it’s more a stylistic sidebar rather than new direction because, well, everyone likes the croony Rich.

To hear both sides impeccably presented, I highly recommend cueing up this live performance at the BBC last weekend where Hawley, in his hometown of Sheffield, is accompanied for two career-spanning sets by the BBC Philharmonic. It’s as gorgeous sounding as it would appear on paper, and as BBC doesn’t like to archive their stuff indefinitely, it’s only available to stream for a couple more days. Hopefully eventually it’ll be given a live release because, well, it should. Hop to the 32 minute mark to hear Jarvis Cocker’s introduction – Jarvis should always be heard – or to the 35th minute for the start of the show. And while you’re at it, read these features interviews at Toast, The Sheffield Telegraph, and The Belfast Telegraph. Also, watch this studio session video for his new single.

Video: Richard Hawley – “Seek It” (live at Yellow Arch Studios)

As for the rest of the Mercury nominees, they line up as follows. And as has become a habit, more than a few of them are coming through town in the next few weeks – Alt-J at Wrongbar on September 19, Ben Howard at Sound Academy on September 24, and Django Django at Wrongbar on September 25. Not Hawley though – he hasn’t been back since December 2007, but hey – we can hope.

Billboard and The Quietus collect some nominee reactions. The winner of the 2012 Mercury Prize will be announced on November 1.

Alt-J / An Awesome Wave / MP3: “Tessalate”
Django Django / Django Django / MP3: “Default”
Field Music / Plumb / MP3: “A New Town”
Ben Howard / Every Kingdom / Video: “Keep Your Head Up”
Richard Hawley / Standing at the Sky’s Edge / MP3: “Down In The Woods”
Michael Kiwanuka / Home Again / MP3: “Tell Me A Tale”
Lianne La Havas / Is Your Love Big Enough? / Video: “Lost & Found”
Sam Lee / Ground of its Own / Stream: “George Collins”
The Maccabees / Given To The Wild / MP3: “Go”
Plan B / Ill Manors / Video: “Ill Manors”
Roller Trio / Roller Trio / Video: “R-O-R'”
Jessie Ware / Devotion / Video: “Wildest Moments”

The Guardian has an interview, MTV a bluffer’s guide, and Baeble Music a video session with Alt-J, who’ve just debuted a new video and are presently favoured to win the big prize.

Video: Alt-J – “Fitzpleasure”

Pitchfork has details on Field Music’s forthcoming covers mini-album Playm, due out later this Fall.

Mumford & Sons have released a video from their new album Babel, due out September 25.

Video: Mumford & Sons – “I Will Wait”

Rolling Stone has premiered a track from Tim Burgess of The Charlatans’ new solo record Oh No I Love You, out October 1 in the UK. The Independent also has an interview with Burgess, who reveals that a new Charlatans album will be on the way sometime next year.

MP3: Tim Burgess – “A Case For Vinyl”
Video: Tim Burgess – “White”

Neil Halstead has released a video from his new album Palindrome Hunches, and it gives you a pretty good idea of what his show at The Dakota on October 8 will look like.

Video: Neil Halstead – “Digging Shelters”

Frightened Rabbit are previewing their new State Hospital EP every which way ahead of its release on September 25. The video for the title track was revealed a couple weeks back and now Drowned In Sound has an acoustic video performance of that same tune and DIY has an acoustic demo video of the song, “Boxing Night”. The band are at The Mod Club on October 10 and Mark Grainger writes and Clash have interviews with Scott Hutchison.

Billboard and State talk to Two Door Cinema Club, in town at the Sound Academy on October 11.

The Guardian talks to Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes. Her new album The Haunted Man is out October 23.

Consequence Of Sound has the full routing of the Saint Etienne Fall North American tour, which kicks off October 24 in Toronto at the Opera House, and adds an interview with singer Sarah Cracknell for good measure.

The Joy Formidable have offered the first video from their new album Wolf’s Law, due out in January. That’s right – the song of the same name for which they released a video last month won’t actually appear on the album.

Video: The Joy Formidable – “Cholla”

Clash meets Hot Chip. Pretty sure they’ve met before, but whatever. Exclaim and The Georgia Straight also have chats.

DIY and Uncut celebrate the 20th anniversary of Ride’s seminal Going Blank Again by talk to Mark Gardener and Andy Bell, respectively.

The Quietus gets an update from Brett Anderson about how recording sessions for that new Suede album are going. How well? Well enough that Brett Anderson is willing to talk about it.

Noel Gallagher gives NME some odds for an Oasis reunion – not good.

Spinner talks to Stevie Jackson about going it solo for a bit.

Wild Peace, the dreampoppy debut from London’s Echo Lake has been out for a while but due to tragic circumstances – drummer Pete Hayes passed away days before it was released in June – so they’re just getting back to doing press for it now. Drowned In Sound has a complete stream of the album along with song-by-song annotations by the band.

Video: Echo Lake – “Wild Peace”
Video: Echo Lake – “In Dreams”
Stream: Echo Lake / Wild Peace

Spinner chats with Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine.

NPR welcomes Bloc Party for a KCRW session.

Elbow bassist Pete Turner talks to NME about their just-released Dead In The Boot b-sides comp, as well as their plans for their next proper studio album.

Under The Radar presents a video session with Anna Calvi comprised of original instrumentals recorded at and inspired by works in the Tate Modern in London.

NPR, The Los Angeles Times, Digital Spy, and PopMatters interview Pet Shop Boys about their new album Elysium.

There’s a video for the first new Dubstar song in forever – it was originally released in time for Record Store Day in the Spring. A new album is allegedly in the works.

Video: Dubstar – “Circle Turns”

State chats with The Futureheads.

The Grid and The National Post talk to The xx.

DIY and Spinner have features on The Vaccines.

Spinner has an interview and The Line Of Best Fit a video session with Charli XCX.

Clash and The Quietus have features on TOY, but don’t use the all-caps presentation so since I presume they’d know better than I, henceforth neither shall I. Toy. There you still. Still a rubbish name.

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

FME 2012 Day Two

Feist, Louis-Jean Cormier, and more at Festival de musique émergente 2012

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSo yesterday I talked about where and what Rouyn-Noranda was; today I will do the same for FME. You don’t need to be bilingual to discern that “Festival de musique émergente” implies a mandate of focusing on new and upcoming artists, primarily but not exclusively from Québec, with a few relatively big names to bring in the less musically adventurous. It was started ten years ago when the organizers were tired of driving to Montréal eight hours away to see shows and so they started a festival as a pretence to bring bands to them.

From drawing around 3000 people in its first year to an estimated 20,000 this year, it’s concentrated on growing in scale while maintaining its intimate and sometimes impromptu vibe and also become an important showcase for European festival bookers to discover Francophone talent. It’s definitely a grassroots/boutique-type festival – think Hillside meets Iceland Airwaves, but much smaller – that brings a few days of great music and arts to a community that has an immense appetite for it but is well away from conventional touring routes and for Anglophones like myself, provide a fascinating window into the often opaque world of Québec popular music.

After a Friday morning spent ziplining in a forest a little out of town – no broken bones! A triumph! – it was into town to catch some of their “5 á 7” series of free day shows. Well, one of them – they were all at 5PM so conflicts were going to happen. I hit up Avec pas d’casque at Salle Evolu-Son on account of their latest Astronomie having made the Polaris long list this year, giving them more name recognition than anyone else playing. Lost list benefits in action! But while I knew who they were, I didn’t actually know what they sounded like so their slightly creaky country-pop was a total surprise to me. Of course, if they’d been a straightahead rock band or metal-reggae group, I’d have been just as surprised so whatever. Their down-home songwriting was augmented by some interesting instrument choices – steel and bowed guitars, a euphonium, autoharp, and kazoo were all drafted into service at some point in their set and while they demonstrated the ability to make their sound swell dramatically if they wanted to, they mostly kept it pretty mellow.

Photos: Avec pas d’casque @ Salle Evolu-Son – August 31, 2012
Video: Avec pas d’casque – “En attendant que ça paye”
Video: Avec pas d’casque – “Talent”
Video: Avec pas d’casque – “Dans les bras de la femme bionique”
Video: Avec pas d’casque – “Dans la nature jusqu’au cou”

For the evening programme, there wasn’t really anywhere else to be than the outdoor stage erected on 7e rue – this was where the festival’s headliner, save the special Sunday night performance, was going to be. Louis-Jean Cormier would have known what it was to be one of FME’s main draws – his band Karkwa had played the fest a number of times (their manager being the founder), most recently in 2010 – the year they won the Polaris Prize. With the band on the backburner for the foreseeable future, Cormier was using this occasion to showcase material which would appear on his solo debut, out on September 18, and while I’d seen him perform a number of times, it was always in the context of trying to introduce himself to unfamiliar audiences and win them over; it was quite different to see him in front of those who were already won over. Playing in a light, steady rain and fronting a five-piece band, Cormier gave ample proof that he was the melodic, pop heart of Karkwa. His stuff was more immediate and the fussier elements, while still present, were dialed down significantly. It was guitar pop of the sort that you didn’t need to understand the lyrics to enjoy, though the closing number’s chorus of “Goodbye Charest” made its sentiment pretty clear, along with Cormier’s political leanings and from the shouts of approval, the audience’s as well.

Photos: Louis-Jean Cormier @ Scène extérieur desjardins 7e rue – August 31, 2012
Stream: Louis-Jean Cormier – “L’ascenseur”

Being an international star, Feist has played a lot of places in Canada and abroad but it was probably safe to say she’d never played Rouyn-Noranda before. That, plus the fact that it was a festival headlining set towards the end of the touring cycle for Metals made me wonder if she might deviate from the consistent (read: same) set she’d been performing for most of the past year and maybe acquiesce to playing a few more of the hits? Not that I’d seen the set in question; I’d caught a bit of her at Osheaga but the last time I saw her perform was last October at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio, and that was a decidedly unique and guest star-laden show.

One look at the stage showed at least one way in which this would be different; Mountain Man, the trio who had been Feist’s backing singers for the entirety of the Metals tours, were absent and instead it was a four-piece band who would be playing tonight, though both Brian LeBarton and Charles Spearin’s musical workstations flanking Feist’s spot centre-stage were loaded with gear. They may have been small, but they were hardly unequipped.

Once they got started – the skies had cleared and a full moon shone – another benefit to the smaller band became evident: it gave them space. It’s difficult to be spontaneous with a big band but a lean unit – particularly one that’s been playing countless show for months – can turn on a dime and given this freedom and the casual vibe of the festival, Feist turned in an energized, exuberant set that proved that she stil knew where her indie rock roots were. Unsurprisingly, Metals material made up the bulk of the set, some of the selections had already mutated into new forms from the past year of live interpretations. I would have expected her French to be better given the time spent in Paris, but Feist was still able to engage the audience and invite them to act as choral vocalists on a few songs. The outro of “How Come You Never Go There” went alright – “whoa whoa” isn’t too hard to do – but the multi-octave harmonies on “So Sorry” were well beyond their abilities and were a kind of charming disaster.

It was the older material that really stood out, though, and not just because it was more familiar. “My Moon My Man” was a near-rager, replete with healthy guitar abuse, and “Feel It All” was a veritable punk rock number. The encore kept this up, with Feist and LeBarton – swapping keys for drums – turning “When I Was A Young Girl” into a garage rock-y White Stripes tribute and, with the rest of the band back on stage, making “Sea Lion Woman” a free-form jam before ending with an impressively big, “Let It Die”. It will probably be a while before Feist ever returns to Rouyn, but until then she left the town with a lot of lasting musical memories.

Spinner grabbed an interview with Feist prior to the show.

Photos: Feist @ Scène extérieur desjardins 7e rue – August 31, 2012
Video: Feist – “Anti-Pioneer”
Video: Feist – “Cicadas & Gulls”
Video: Feist – “The Bad In Each Other”
Video: Feist – “I Feel It All”
Video: Feist – “Honey Honey”
Video: Feist – “My Moon My Man”
Video: Feist – “Mushaboom”
Video: Feist – “1, 2, 3, 4”
Video: Feist – “One Evening”
Video: Feist – “It’s Cool To Love Your Family”

It would be hard to top that show, so Kandle’s midnight set at Agora des arts was doomed to pale by comparison, but even if that hadn’t been the context it probably still would have underwhelmed. The offspring of 54-40 frontman Neil Osbourne, Kandle Osborne should be commended for trying something completely different musically, but the moody, country-noir sound she’s going for is, for now at least, beyond her reach. Her voice may have the right smoky timbre but she didn’t demonstrate any of the range necessary to imbue it with emotion and her songwriting also lacked the maturity and sophistication needed to sell it. Maybe with time and experience, both musical and life, she’ll get more convincing but for now she comes across as an ingenue trying to play the femme fatale role and it’s not working.

And then we went for poutine.

Photos: Kandle @ Agora des arts – August 31, 2012
Video: Kandle – “Small”
Video: Kandle – “Knew You’d Never”
Video: Kandle – “Know My Name”

A brace of concert announcements following the long weekend yesterday. Starting with the quick and free, know that Bloc Party will augment their two-night stand at the Danforth Music Hall with a free show at Sugar Beach – that’s down at the Corus/CFNY/Edge building on Lakeshore – on September 11 at 7:30PM. Details at Arts & Crafts.

Video: Bloc Party – “Octopus”

West coast lo-fi fellows Craft Spells have a date at The Shop under Parts & Labour on September 23, tickets $12.50 for those who plan ahead.

MP3: Craft Spells – “You Should Close The Door”
MP3: Craft Spells – “Party Talk”

Aussies enamoured of their Kiwi neighbours’ jangle-pop traditions – read: Flying Nun et al – The Twerps will be at The Silver Dollar on October 22. Don’t know who they are? eMusic finds out.

Video: The Twerps – “Through The Day”

Portland’s Blitzen Trapper will find some time amidst their tour with Brandi Carlile to play a headlining show of their own at Lee’s Palace on October 22. Tickets $17.50.

MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Black River Killer”
MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Love The Way You Walk Away”

Texas psych-rock pioneer Roky Erickson is at Lee’s Palace on November 3, tickets $29.50. His last release was 2010’s Will Sheff-produced, Okkervil River-backed True Love Cast Out All Evil. The Advocate talks to Sheff about working with Erickson and what’s next for Okkervil.

Stream: Roky Erickson – “Be And Bring Me Home”

More Portlanders coming to town in the form of ornate folk outfit Horse Feathers. Their latest Cynics New Year came out in the Spring and they’ll be playing selections from it at The Drake on November 8, tickets $15.

MP3: Horse Feathers – “Fit Against The Country”
MP3: Horse Feathers – “Cascades”

And again from Australia, Tame Impala have announced a local date in support of their new record Lonerism, out October 9. Look for them and their psychedelically jammy ways at The Phoenix on November 12, tickets $20. SF Weekly has an interview.

MP3: Tame Impala – “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds”

The Twilight Sad brought No One Can Ever Know to town back in March and they’ll do so again with fellow Scots Errors in tow for a show at The Horseshoe on November 18, tickets $13.50.

MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Another Bed”
Video: Errors – “Ammaboa Glass”

Spinner talks Lawless with Nick Cave, screenwriter.

The Vinyl District interviews Pip Browne of Ladyhawke. She’s at The Hoxton on September 15.

The National Post interviews Torq Campbell of Stars. They support Metric at The Air Canada Centre on November 24.

Daytrotter sessions up an a capella Futureheads.

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Seamonsters

The Wedding Present, The Jet Age, Toquiwa and Zarigani $ at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSomewhere over the last few weeks Sunday night’s Wedding Present show at The Horseshoe got co-opted as the “closing party” for Canadian Musicfest, an appellation I personally refused to acknowledge. The 21st anniversary show for Seamonsters? Absolutely. The tour in support of their just-released new record Valentina? Certainly. Closing party for a festival that at no point acknowledged the band as part of their programme or acknowledged they were exponentially greater than most everyone else who played? Not so much. But I suppose if you got in for free on account of having a CMW wristband, then you probably weren’t complaining.

And if you got there in time to see the openers, you were probably a little confused. Which is fair. Of the two bands listed as accompanying The Wedding Present on this Spring tour – Washington D.C.’s Jet Age or Tokyo’s Pinky Piglets – it was never clear which was going to be at the Toronto show, which was right at the changeover point of the routing. As it turned out we were getting both but even so, there was some further confusion as Pinky Piglets no longer existed having opted to change their name to the more cryptic Toquiwa and even then, they weren’t the band that took the stage first – that was the drum and bass duo called Zarigani $, who were also Toquiwa’s rhythm section and completely unbilled; I wouldn’t have even known what they were called had it not been for the helpful sign hanging off a keyboard stand. Got all that? No? That’s okay. They played some cartoon version of punk-prog for about 15 minutes – far too short a set to try and bridge the cultural divide and understand it – and then brought out two more members and transformed, Voltron-style, into Toquiwa.

And though no less bizarre to behold, they were at least somewhat easier to get a handle on. The addition of a guitarist and lead singer solidified a kind of punk/rockabilliy aesthetic, though still totally cartoon-like. The quartet looked like they were plucked straight off the playground of the Tokyo chapter of The School Of Rock, though the ease with which singer Asuja pounded back a beer adorably solicited from the audience was a hint that they were a bit older than they looked. In any case, it was energetic, ridiculous, gobs of fun and the band thanked The Wedding Present for taking them out on tour by covering “Kennedy” in their own unique manner.

The Jet Age, on the other hand, were about as opposite a band as you were likely to find, comprised of three guys who appeared to have lived through and learned from the days of ’90s college rock. They were a pretty straight power trio playing pretty straight rock with hints of hardcore in their DNA, each player clearly proficient with their instrument but having a fair bit of trouble sounding like they were actually playing with one another instead of overtop, falling out of time with each other on more than few occasions. Their monitors may have had something to do with it – their timing seemed to improve after some adjustments to their mixes – but that didn’t do anything to address the fact that their songs were, at best, unmemorable.

It sounds a bit perverse, but I actually had to make every effort to avoid seeing The Wedding Present at SXSW. They were playing a number of shows there but only one was a Seamonsters recital – I was actually there right before they went on and fled – so I would have had to catch at least two of them to equal this one and festival burnout notwithstanding, seeing them back in Toronto seemed the most logical thing to do. And kudos to The Wedding Present for being clever enough to keep me coming back; this would be my seventh time seeing David Gedge and company in the past decade or so, most recently in April 2010 doing Bizarro. So you’d think that I could skip one, but not seeing/hearing them play Seamonsters wasn’t even on the table – it’s easily my favourite Wedding Present record, marking the point at which they really evolved beyond being a clever singles band with a distinctive sound to an outfit capable of creating complete albums that were both emotionally and sonically rich.

Which is not to say that just hearing them showcase Valentina wouldn’t have been sufficient draw. Whatever he’s called his project, Gedge has been a remarkably consistent songwriter over the past quarter-century and even with the four-year layoff from El Rey, he’s not lost a step. It doesn’t break new ground – at this point, that’s not something to be expected – but does prove that the failures and foibles of romance will always be fertile ground for someone like Gedge to till and Valentina confirms that his lyrical edge is sharp as ever and musically, well loud guitars really never go out of style.

Unlike the Bizarro show where they had no new record to push and were thus able to preface the main event with a random selection of material drawn from throughout their career, this night’s first act leaned heavily on Valentina but the back catalog sprinkles – particularly “Quick Before It Melts” from the Cinerama years and Take Fountain closer “Perfect Blue” – were unexpected but tasty. That’s an upside of a band with a signature sound – with nothing ever sounding out of place in the set, you never know what they’ll pull out of their hats.

Well with the Seamonsters set, I suppose you knew exactly what they were going to do, and even though this was far from the same band that recorded that record – all the non-Gedge members were long gone and even this 2012 lineup was different from the one here last time, longtime bassist Terry de Castro having retired at the end of 2010 – they still attacked the material with the intensity you might expect from those who originally crafted it. I’d heard many of the songs included in sets before – and they were usually highlights – but played end to end they were able to recreate that crucial dimension of its flow, with all the churn, drone and lurch of the recording. It didn’t reproduce the gut-punch I felt when I heard it the first time, but it recalled it and that’s really all you could ask for. And while the band stuck to their tradition of not playing encores, that they played two more songs after the final note of “Octopussy” died out – not the bonus tracks from the US edition, that’d have been too much to hope – felt just as good.

And so what’s next? It’s still a few years before the 20th anniversary of Watusi; maybe the band will have gotten the right back and the album back in print by then? Be kind of an odd anniversary show otherwise. Or maybe a return to Cinerama! I’d be there. And possibly the only one.

BlogTO also has a review of the show and The Japan Times talks to Toquiwa about how they ended up touring with The Wedding Present.

Photos: The Wedding Present, The Jet Age, Toquiwa, Zarigani$ @ The Horseshoe – March 25, 2012
MP3: The Wedding Present – “You’re Dead”
MP3: The Wedding Present – “The Thing I Like Best About Him Is His Girl Friend”
Video: The Wedding Present – “You Jane”
Video: The Wedding Present – “You’re Dead”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Don’t Take Me Home Until I’m Drunk”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Ringway To Seatac”
Video: The Wedding Present – “I’m From Further North Than You”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Don’t Touch That Dial”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Interstate 5”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family”
Video: The Wedding Present – “No Christmas”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Loveslave”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Boing!”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Come Play With Me”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Silver Shorts”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Three”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Go Go Dancer”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Blue Eyes”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Dalliance”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Crawl”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Brassneck”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm”
Video: The Jet Age – “I Want You”
Video: The Jet Age – “I’m Starting To Wonder”
Video: Toquiwa – “Tokyo Merry Go Round”

Having taken an extended break following 2009’s disappointing Quicken The Heart, Maximo Park return on June 11 with album number four, The National Health. The title track is available to stream and initial impressions are that the time off has done them a world of good. Hope that’s the case.

Stream: Maximo Park – “The National Health”

DIY talks to The Futureheads about their new a capella record Rant, out this week, from which they’ve just released a video and there’s another “no instruments, please” video performance over at Digital Spy.

Video: The Futureheads – “The Old Dun Cow”

The Herald has a feature interview with Gerard Love, while The Guardian is streaming the whole of Electric Cables, the Teenage Fanclub songwriter’s gorgeous x1000 solo debut as Lightships, out this week.

Stream: Lightships / Electric Cables

The Fly check in with Hot Chip as they prepare for the June 12 release of In Our Heads and subsequent live date at The Sound Academy on July 15.

The Line Of Best Fit gets to know Fanfarlo.

Stereogum talks to Jason Pierce of Spiritualized about their new album Sweet Heart Sweet Light, out April 17. They play The Phoenix on May 5.

NPR talks to Noel Gallagher.

Clash interviews Graham Coxon.

The AV Club offers a Gateway To Geekery for Britpop, suggesting entry points for the works of Suede, Blur, and Pulp amongst others. I can offer a more concise guide: all of them. You’re welcome.

The Tallest Man On Earth has announced a new album entitled There’s No Leaving Now, due out June 12. Exclaim has details as well as some – not all – North American tour dates.

Niki & The Dove have released a new video from their forthcoming debut Instinct, out May 14 in Europe; a North American release date has not yet been confirmed.

Video: Niki & The Dove – “Tomorrow”

The Boston Globe and NOW talk to First Aid Kit while NPR puts them behind a Tiny Desk and makes them play a show. They do the same though from a regular old stage on April 4 at The Great Hall.

Daytrotter has posted a session with The Raveonettes.

MusicOmh chats with Pip Browne of Ladyhawke, whose new album Anxiety is out May 25.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Horses Jumping

Slow Club and Air Waves at The Rivoli in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt’s said that for bands seeking exposure, television is the new radio as far as reaching a mass audience is concerned. Sheffield’s Slow Club can probably speak a little to that, having done pretty well as far as advert and show soundtracking goes. Not having cable or watch much/any broadcast TV, I had no idea about this – I found the duo the old fashioned way by having their 2009 debut Yeah So show up in my mailbox – but it did explain why instead of finding The Rivoli a quarter-full with Anglophiles on Sunday night for their Toronto debut, it was instead jammed full with Chuck fans.

Geting taken on tour with a more popular band is also a good way to garner new fans, so Air Waves lucked out there. But getting put in front of an audience is only half of it – you still have to win them over, and on that count the Brookyln quartet didn’t do so well. Frontwoman Nicole Schneit started things off solo and her fumbled guitarwork and off-key singing set the tone for the rest of their show. Bringing on the rest of the band helped mask those shortcomings to a degree, but if you cared about things like melodies or being on pitch in your music, it was still pretty poor; the songs themselves might not have been so bad but the delivery was difficult to get past. They have their fans, that much is obvious – the members of Slow Club in the audience were their loudest cheerers and Rebecca Taylor joined them on backing vox for one song – but I simply couldn’t fathom it.

At the other side of the spectrum, Slow Club made the very best of first impressions with Taylor and Charles Watson opening with an acoustic cover of Pulp’s, “Disco 2000” – a bold move but they pulled it off masterfully and then, bringing out the rest of the band, went straight into the rollicking “Where I’m Waking” off second album Paradise. That’s right – they had a band with them. Though they pulled off the duo thing with great aplomb when I saw them at SXSW 2010 and the old-school purist in me would like to bemoan the format change, it’s impossible to argue that the extra hands didn’t really improve things. The guitar-and-drums thing fit the spirit of Yeah So perfectly, but the more fully-rendered Paradise really did need the extra manpower to do justice.

While Watson stuck to guitar and vocal duties and really proved himself the anchor of the group, Taylor was constantly shifting roles – singer, guitarist, second drummer, first drummer – but always the focal point and frontwoman. The hour-long set – the band’s first sellout in North America, Watson was pleased to announced – focused mainly on Paradise material and also previewed a couple of new songs which continued on in the more soulful direction of Paradise and according to Taylor would appear on a forthcoming EP. The band’s more manic folk-rock tendencies from their debut were nodded at via the Paradise singles but their more sophisticated – albeit still energetic – side was primarily on display. Still, it was nice to see it back down to Charles and Rebecca for the encore as they headed into the audience, unamplified as they do, for a lvely reading of “Gold Mountain” before heading back onstage for a rollicking, “Giving Up On Love” to close things out. I had kind of hoped/expected to have their first show here to be a cozier, more intimate affair but hey – a big party was pretty good as well.

Photos: Slow Club, Air Waves @ The Rivoli – February 19, 2012
MP3: Air Waves – “Knockout”
MP3: Air Waves – “Keys”
Video: Slow Club – “If We’re Still Alive”
Video: Slow Club – “Where I’m Waking”
Video: Slow Club – “Two Cousins”
Video: Slow Club – “It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful”
Video: Slow Club – “Trophy Room”
Video: Slow Club – “Giving Up On Love”
Video: Slow Club – “Come On Youth”

I thought for sure they’d go for an arena date, but the Florence & The Machine date in support of Ceremonials for Toronto will be August 2 at the Molson Amphitheatre. Update: Tickets are $24.50, $39.50 and $49.50 plus fees, on sale Friday, The Walkmen are opening.

Video: Florence & The Machine – “No Light, No Light”

eMusic gets to know Veronica Falls.

The Quietus interviews Trailer Trash Tracys.

i-D talks to Greg Hughes of Still Corners, who’ve just debuted a new video from last year’s Creatures Of An Hour.

Video: Still Corners – “Endless Summer”

Clock Opera continue to pave the way to the April 9 release of Ways To Forget with videos; there’s a stripped-down performance clip of the current single and four-part “making of” series to watch at their YouTube channel.

Video: Clock Opera – “Once And For All” (under the floorboards session)

The Wedding Present have released the first video from their new album Valentina, out March 20. They’re at The Horseshoe on March 25.

Video: The Wedding Present – “You Jane”

Magnet kicks off a week of The Big Pink as guest editors with a band Q&A feature.

Field Music discusses the economics of being in a band with The Guardian.

Saint Etienne have released a video from their forthcoming album Words And Music By Saint Etienne, due out on May 21; full details on the album were just released and can be read over at The Line Of Best Fit.

Video: Saint Etienne – “Tonight”

Lightships – the new project from Teenage Fanclub’s Gerard Love – has released another video from their debut Electric Cables, coming April 3.

Video: Lightships – “Sweetness In Her Spark”

The Futureheads talk to NME about the process of recording their new a capella album Rant, out April 2.

NME has excerpted some choice passages from an upcoming feature interview with Noel Gallagher, and amongst other things the former Oasis songwriter says these days he’d rather collaborate with Damon Albarn of Blur than Radiohead.

Know who else is willing to collaborate with Albarn? Graham Coxon. The pair debuted a new Blur song the other night at a War Child benefit show, and while it’s a bit slower/ballad-y than anyone should hope a new Blur record would be, it’s unequivocally gorgeous. There’s a good quality video of the performance at Consequence Of Sound, NME antes up with a video of the full band doing a run-through of “Tender” before tonight’s appearance at The Brits and Alex James offers some thoughts on Blur as an ongoing proposition at The Sun. And oh yeah, the band is playing the closing ceremonies for the Olympics, says DIY.

Video: Blur – “Under The West Way” (live)

NPR is streaming the new Fanfarlo album Rooms Filled With Light ahead of its February 28 official release, and a third live session video has surfaced. The band are at The Mod Club on March 24.

Video: Fanfarlo – “Bones” (live session video)
Stream: Fanfarlo / Rooms Filled With Light

The Line Of Best Fit are streaming the whole of the new The Mary Onettes EP Love Forever, along with song-by-song annotations from the band. It’s out February 28.

MP3: The Mary Onettes – “Love’s Taking Strange Ways”
Stream: The Mary Onettes / Love Forever

Niki & The Dove’s debut album finally has a title and a release date, at least in Europe. Instinct will be out on May 14 on the eastern side of the Atlantic.

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

All Eyes On You

Veronica Falls, Brilliant Colors and Hands & Teeth at The Garrison in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangJust so we’re clear, I am not stalking Veronica Falls. It’s pure coincidence that I’ve seen the London-based band three times in the past year in three different countries – America, Canada, and Iceland – on two different continents. Really. Okay, it’s not as though I was running into them on the street while they were playing – their self-titled debut was one of my favourites of last year (and barely missed my year-end list) so when the opportunity to see them live has presented itself, I’ve taken it. And when a fourth chance came around as it did on Tuesday night at The Garrison, I also took that.

It also gave me the opportunity to see what local outfit Hands & Teeth were about, what with them garnering a fair bit of attention hereabouts for their just released their debut full-length Hunting Season. That the five-piece were talented and had no shortage of ideas was unquestionable but like many young bands with a surplus of talent and ideas, it felt like they hadn’t quite figured out how to manage it all. Their sound was a solid balance of pop and prog but came across as busy as it was catchy. Having four capable lead vocalists made for some exquisite harmonies but also made their overall personality hard to pin down. Similarly, the instrument swapping seemed showy and unnecessary; rather than trying so hard to demonstrate that they’re good, they’d be better off simply being good. Because despite all this, they clearly were.

No one should have had to be told that San Francisco’s Brilliant Colors were Veronica Falls’ labelmates on Slumberland; the quartet rather embodied the label’s aesthetic of scrappy, lo-fi American ’80s indie pop with a dash of New Zealand/Flying Nun thrown in for good measure. They had to fight through an inordinate number of sound issues for such a simple, straight-ahead band (two guitars, bass, drums, one vocal) but eventually got sorted enough to get through their set, which had decent energy if not a lot of charisma and included a cover of The Who’s “So Sad About Us” as well as material from their latest Again & Again. As familiar-sounding as their material was, it wasn’t the most memorable but if you had that vintage of indie pop in your veins, there was no way it wouldn’t resonate at least a little.

It was nice to considerably more people out to see Veronica Falls this time out than that gathered in the basement at Parts & Labour last October – even with it being Valentine’s Day – and the band were dressed for the occasion with guitarist/vocalists Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare and drummer Patrick Doyle all done up in matching red-and-white striped shirts; bassist Marion Herbain might have had the same on under her sweater, I couldn’t tell. Not that any of that really mattered, it was just a fun detail. What did matter was that they came to play, powering through their set of darkly-hued, C86-vintage pop with punk rock efficiency – the dozen-song set, which included a few new tunes, plus one-song encore of undetermined cover was over in just 35 minutes.

As with past performances, Doyle again reaffirmed his position as the band’s secret weapon keeping super-tight time with his stripped-down, mostly cymbal-less kit, all while contributing backing vocals but unlike past performances, Clifford and Hoare weren’t as tight as they typically were. It was actually a bit funny to hear their vocals completely out of sync for the opening verse of “Wedding Day”, though they got it together once Doyle came in with the beat – we’ll blame that on persistent stage sound issues. So while technically less than perfect, the band still seemed to have a good time – Clifford was dancier onstage than I’d seen her – and no one was complaining; we’ll still call it a pretty good Valentine’s Day.

Vice and The Montreal Mirror have interviews with Veronica Falls.

Photos: Veronica Falls, Brilliant Colors, Hands & Teeth @ The Garrison – February 14, 2012
MP3: Veronica Falls – “Come On Over”
MP3: Veronica Falls – “Found Love In A Graveyard”
MP3: Brilliant Colors – “How Much Younger”
MP3: Brilliant Colors – “Value Lines”
Video: Veronica Falls – “Bad Feeling”
Video: Veronica Falls – “Come On Over”
Video: Veronica Falls – “Beachy Head”
Video: Veronica Falls – “Found Love In A Graveyard”
Video: Brilliant Colors – “‘Round Your Way”
Video: Brilliant Colors – “How Much Younger”
Video: Brilliant Colors – “Hey Dan”
Video: Brilliant Colors – “Highly Evolved”
Video: Brilliant Colors – “English Cities”
Stream: Hands & Teeth / Hunting Season

Blood Orange has put out a new video from Coastal Grooves.

Video: Blood Orange – “Forget It”

Also with a new video is Laura Marling, this one the closing song from last year’s A Creature I Don’t Know.

Video: Laura Marling – “All My Rage”

I don’t know what Mulberry is, but they deserve props for getting Summer Camp and Big Deal to record videos of them covering Fleetwood Mac and The Jesus & Mary Chain, respectively, for some Valentine’s Day campaign.

Video: Summer Camp – “Everywhere”
Video: Big Deal – “Sometimes Always”

Artrocker reports that The Futureheads’ next album will be completely a capella, entitled Rant and out April 2. It will consist of instrument-less reworkings of some of their songs and covers of others; I’m particularly keen to hear their cover of Richard Thompson’s “Beeswing”. But for now, we will have to settle for this stream of their new version of “Robot”.

Stream: The Futureheads – “Robot” (a capella)

The Cribs – now Johnny Marr-less again – have completed their fifth album and will release In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull on May 8. A download of the first single is up for grabs courtesy of Spin and they’ll be at Lee’s Palace on April 11 as part of a North American tour, tickets $17.50 in advance.

MP3: The Cribs – “Chi-Town”

Norwegian electro disco virtuoso Lindstrøm has made a date at Wrongbar for May 26, tickets $15 in advance.

MP3: Lindstrøm – “De Javu”

The Line Of Best Fit reports that Swedish songstress Frida Hyvönen has a new album entitled To The Soul coming out on April 18 and the first single is available to stream.

Stream: Frida Hyvönen – “Terribly Dark”

NYC Taper has one of the shows from Björk’s New York residency available to download. A-yup.