Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘Great Bloomers’

Monday, August 1st, 2011

CONTEST – Summerworks Music Series 2011 – August 5 to 13, 2011

Image via SummerworksSummerworks
What: Summerworks
Why: Celebrated long-running theatre festival that added a musical component four years ago.
Who: In its short run, Summerworks already counts some of the cream of the current Canadian musical crop as its alumnus – this year’s class seems certain to add to that list. For specifics, keep reading.
When: There will be six nights of live music double-headers running over the course of the festival’s week-and-a-bit duration, with the night-by-night breaking down as follows – there’s also opening and closing parties on the 4th and the 14th.

Friday, August 5 – Hooded Fang, Steven McKay
Saturday August 6 – Bonjay, Lioness
Wednesday August 10 – Great Bloomers, House League (featuring members of Forest City Lovers, Matters, Evening Hymns and more)
Thursday August 11 – Bruce Peninsula, Jennifer Castle
Friday August 12 – Miracle Fortress, Ruby Coast
Saturday August 13 – Green Go, Powers
Where: The Lower Ossington Theatre in Toronto (19+)
How: Tickets for each show are $10 in advance but courtesy of the festival, I’ve got three pairs of passes to a show of your choice to give away. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want the Summerworks” in the subject line and your full name and the show you’d like to attend in the body. Contest closes at midnight, August 4.
What else: BlogTO has previewed some of the acts performing at this year’s festival.

MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “Light Flight”
MP3: Hooded Fang – “ESP”
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Miscalculations”
MP3: Jennifer Castle – “Neverride”

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

NXNE 2011 Day Two

Fucked Up, Crocodiles, Chains Of Love and more at NXNE

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangHands down, the best thing to happen to NXNE in recent years is the designation of Yonge-Dundas Square as the festival’s main stage and making the shows staged there – usually featuring the lineup’s biggest names – free for everyone. And what’s better is that despite being located in pretty much the most central and public place in the city, there’s been no signs that they festival has been concerned about diluting the quality of the performances to be a little more family-friendly; witness last year’s near-carnage of Iggy & The Stooges or the mid-day ass-shaking sissy bounce clinic put on by Big Freedia. Passers-by were offended by the latter – and to be honest I don’t blame them – but that it happened was great.

And it was just as great that Thursday evening’s programme featured an early evening slot from a band whose credentials were impeccable; a Polaris Prize-winning local act with mounds of international critical acclaim and fronted by a national television personality. Who just happened to be called Fucked Up. And the best part? No one cared. Actually, check that – it didn’t even matter that no one cared because it implies that there were concerns about people being offended. The best part was that the show was fantastic. I don’t think I’d have believed you if you told me a couple years ago that I’d become a Fucked Up fan – I figured that respect was as far as I’d get, but fact is I think their latest David Comes To Life is terrific and I can’t think of anyone I like more as Toronto’s musical and cultural ambassadors right now than them.

After being introduced by the festival emcee – a role that Damian Abraham played last year – the band tore into “Queen Of Hearts” from the new album and Abraham tore into the crowd, body surfing into the masses and largely disappearing into the circle pit and general tumult while somehow continuing to sing. The punk rock revelling continued through the first portion of the set as Abraham’s bandmates dutifully cranked out arena-sized rock from the safe confines of the stage, with Abraham eventually climbing out to bellow out the rest of the set from the edge of the barricade while the fans carried on moshing, surfing and generally carrying on. And through it all, the spirit was amazing and celebratory, quite a far cry from the dark vibe of last year’s Stooges show, though to the casual onlooker the mayhem might have appeared similar. For Fucked Up, it was a sort of warm-up to their more familiar club-sized show at Wrongbar later that night, but for everyone else, it was a pretty high bar set for the rest of the night.

Time Out New York has an interview with Damian Abraham and the brand-new video for “Queen Of Hearts” is linked below.

Photos: Fucked Up @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 16, 2011
MP3: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Ship Of Fools”
MP3: Fucked Up – “A Little Death”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Neat Parts”
Video: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
Video: Fucked Up – “Black Albino Bones”
Video: Fucked Up – “Crooked Head”

I was pretty proud of myself for getting from Yonge to Ossington on bike in less than 8 minutes, even if it meant being a sweaty mess for the Modern Superstitions set at The Garrison. I’ve liked to check in on the local quartet from time to time, happily seeing the potential obscured by awkwardness at V Fest 2009 be more fully-realized in a much more confident Halifax Pop Explosion set last Fall. And the upward trend continued on Thursday as the band sounded louder and punchier than ever before, with new material that sounded less immediate but more impressive in its ambitions. While they could have done pretty well simply being “The Strokes fronted by a cute girl”, they’re obviously looking to do something more and that they’re arriving at these conclusions before their debut full-length is released can only be taken as a good thing. The next time I see them, I expect they’ll be ready to take on the world.

Photos: Modern Superstitions @ The Garrison – June 16, 2011
MP3: Modern Superstitions – “Visions Of You”
Video: Modern Superstitions – “Mercy Line”
Video: Modern Superstitions – “Visions Of You”

Leaving The Garrison, my tour of the worst venues in the city to take photographs in continued at The Velvet Underground where The Two Koreas were set to perform. I’d seen them way back in 2007 and was impressed enough at the time, but not enough to keep up with what the quartet in the years since. A recommendation to give their latest Science Island a spin confirmed that they were still at it and their facility for combining big guitar riffs with shouty yet melodic vocals was even sharper than before. And live, with frontman Stuart Berman’s dance moves thrown in, it was a good way to spend a half hour or so. And then it was back out into the night.

Spinner gets Berman to write about the duality of being in a band and writing about bands for a living.

Photos: The Two Koreas @ The Velvet Underground – June 16, 2011
MP3: The Two Koreas – “Midnight Brown”
Video: The Two Koreas – “Midnight Brown”

Getting to The Silver Dollar for 11 was strictly a logistical move to make sure I got in but it turned out to be one of the most fortuitous of the weekend, as it allowed me to see Chains of Love. The Vancouver outfit don’t do anything new whatsoever, but that’s rather the point. They take the spirit of ’50s and ’60s girl-group pop and writing new – GOOD – songs in that style and deliver them with genuine rock energy and plenty of sass and style, thanks to the charisma of frontwoman Nathalia Pizarro. A couple of gear issues threatened to stall their momentum early on but when they got going, there was no stopping them. An unknown quantity with only a 7″ and handful of MP3s entering the fest, they left as one of the bands everyone was talking about.

Photos: Chains Of Love @ The Silver Dollar – June 16, 2011
MP3: Chains Of Love – “You Got It”
MP3: Chains Of Love – “All The Time”

San Diego’s Crocodiles, on the other hand, came into NXNE with all the hype and lots to prove – not many bands get a three-night residency at a major festival for their Canadian debut. If they thought for a minute that they didn’t deserve the attention, however, you couldn’t tell from behind frontman Brandon Welchez’s Ray-Bans. Drenched in nothing but red light, they came off as cool as you could imagine and and as loud as you’d expect. On last year’s Sleep Forever, they found a good balance between the lo-fi psychedelic garage aesthetic of their scene and their fondness for big pop hooks but live, it was all about the drone and the volume. As such, guitarist Charles Rowell became the real star of the show as the amount of racket he was able to conjure out of his axe was most impressive, layering noise upon fuzz upon more noise, all delivered in riff form. Welchez gets points for simply being audible overtop of all that, but you couldn’t really hear anything more specific than that. Still, even so, a pretty bracing – and deafening – debut.

Spinner has an interview with Rowell, who post-gig also told them why they’ve never played in Canada before (hint: it’s what you think).

Photos: Crocodiles @ The Silver Dollar – June 16, 2011
MP3: Crocodiles – “Sleep Forever”
Video: Crocodiles – “Hearts Of Love”
Video: Crocodiles – “Sleep Forever”

I would have been happy to call it a night at that point but the fact that I was there, and Vancouver’s Dirty Beaches – whose debut Badlands was long-listed for this year’s Polaris Prize earlier that day – was up next was a pretty good argument for sticking around. And with regards to what Alex Zhang Hungtai – he who is Dirty Beaches – is about, all I can say is I don’t get it. I mean, I kind of do; his one-man, no-fi bedroom Elvis act certainly has a unique style to it and works on record in creating an atmosphere. But live, with Hungtai either shrieking or muttering into a plastic condensor mic or coaxing squalls of noise out of his guitar over simple looped beats, it was just kind of perplexing. The people around me went nuts, I went home. Dirty Beaches return on September 24 at the Phoenix as support for Peter Hook.

Photos: Dirty Beaches @ The Silver Dollar – June 16, 2011
MP3: Dirty Beaches – “Lord Knows Best”
Video: Dirty Beaches – “Shangri-La”

On a day where I would be seeing an Andy Bell and was writing up a band called Chains Of Love, how weird is it that an Erasure tour – including a September 11 date at the Sound Academy – be announced? Pretty weird. The show is in support of their new record Tomorrow’s World, due out this Fall, and tickets are $40.

Video: Erasure – “Chains Of Love”

As one festival ends, another begins. Or at least is announced. I speak of Summerworks, the annual convergence of theatre and music, and their 2011 music programme which was announced yesterday. Things kick off on August 4 with an all-day opening party and wrap on the 14th with same – details on performers for each are still forthcoming – but the evenings in between will shake out as follows, with all shows being held at the Lower Ossington Theatre with advance tickets $10 a night.

Friday, August 5 – Hooded Fang, Steven McKay
Saturday August 6 – Bonjay, Lioness
Wednesday August 10 – Great Bloomers, House League (featuring members of Forest City Lovers, Matters, Evening Hymns and more)
Thursday August 11 – Bruce Peninsula, Jennifer Castle
Friday August 12 – Miracle Fortress, Ruby Coast
Saturday August 13 – Green Go, Powers

The National Post talks to Shad, who will be playing a free show at Metro Square on July 1.

The Boston Globe has a visit with Chad VanGaalen.

The new Handsome Furs record Sound Kapital is streaming in whole over at Exclaim in advance of its release next week; Spin has an interview and a stream as well. They play The Horseshoe on August 1.

Stream: Handsome Furs / Sound Kapital

DIY has a pre-Glasto chat with Dan Mangan. His new record Oh, Fortune should be out in September.

Southern Souls has posted a video session with Little Scream.

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

When It's Dark

Yo La Tengo and The Horse's Ha at The Opera House in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIn my review of Yo La Tengo’s latest Popular Songs, I lauded the New Jersey trio for their unbelievable ability to deliver excellent album after excellent album over their 25-year career, and having seen them five times before Saturday night’s show at the Opera House, I felt comfortable thinking that same sense of consistency could be applied to their live shows. There’d be a handful of new songs, a brace of old standards and at least a couple unexpected surprises from deep in their catalog. Performance-wise, you could count on Ira Kaplan being alternately hilarious and irascible, be guaranteed a transcendent moment or two and assured of at least one jam would go on for far too long. I know more than one person who’s said, “I love them but don’t think I need to see them again” and it’s a fair statement to make. I myself was going to skip out on this show in favour of one of a multitude of other entertainment options available that evening, but the excellence of Popular Songs persuaded me to go back for more.

Excepting their Beautiful Noise taping last April (that season is now airing on SunTV, by the by), this past Saturday night was Yo La’s first visit back to Toronto in three years and taking place at the Opera House rather than their usual digs at The Phoenix, it was a cozier show than they’ve played here in some time – TV taping aside. As such it was sold out, 800 steadfast fans giving up the early part of Nuit Blanche (or avoiding it entirely) in favour of getting their eardrums massaged and having no second thoughts about it.

Support for the Canadian dates on tour came from Chicago duo The Horse’s Ha, whose pedigree includes Freakwater and The Zincs, and who’ve just released their debut Of The Cathmawr Yards. Their brand of Americana-folk was on the decidedly polite and proper side, dusty-sounding yet immaculately clean in its delivery. Jim Elkington and Janet Beveridge Bean’s voices worked well together, but it was more their supporting players that kept things interesting, offering a rhythmic, musical backbone that they didn’t let fly until later in the set, culminating in a decidedly rewarding shredding cello solo. The Horse’s Ha have got talent and power on hand, and would do well to loosen the reins a bit.

Here’s the funny thing about the list of Yo La Tengo live givens I rattled off earlier – they didn’t happen. It could be that as much as their fans were feeling their shows were getting a bit familiar to hear, the band thought it was getting a bit familiar to play so just as Popular Songs seemed to take every Yo La song template and offer something new in that mould, their live show would also benefit from such a makeover. The set was far heavier on new songs than I’d expected, making up fully half the main set and as such the show felt simultaneously fresh and comfortable and when the band did reach further back into their extensive catalog for numbers like “Big Day Coming” or “Stockholm Syndrome”, it felt like even more of a treat. I was especially pleased to hear “Black Flowers” make an appearance, it being my favourite track off I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass and sadly omitted from the set last time around. And the choice of encore covers this time out – a James McNew-sung Velvet Underground’s “She’s My Best Friend” and Devo’s “Gates Of Steel” – were also impeccable.

Beyond the marvelous song selection, the show benefited from a dynamic arc that felt new to Yo La Tengo shows. Past shows had felt like enjoyable meanders through their repertoire but this show had a more unified feel to it, starting out a touch restrained despite opening with the uptempo “Double Dare”, going gentle in the middle while inviting Georgia Hubley out from behind the kit to sing and then closing out big with a gloriously frantic and guitar-abusive “And The Glitter Is Gone” and sugar-buzzed “Sugarcube”. Throw in a perfectly casual double-encore – James had to remind Ira of the chords to the VU tune – and you had a glorious, and perhaps more importantly faith-restoring, Yo La Tengo show. “I love them, when can I see them again?”.

And oh yeah, Ira seemed to be in a great mood. Maybe that was all the difference.

There’s interviews with the band at hour.ca, Beatroute and The National Post.

Photos: Yo La Tengo, The Horse’s Ha @ The Opera House – October 3, 2009
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Here To Fall”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Periodically Double Or Triple”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Beanbag Chair”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “The Summer” (live on KEXP)
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “I Feel Like Going Home” (live on KCMP)
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Little Eyes”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Don’t Have To Be So Sad”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “From A Motel 6”
MP3: The Horse’s Ha – “Asleep In A Waterfall”
MP3: The Horse’s Ha – “The Piss Choir”
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”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Sugarcube”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Tom Courtenay”
MySpace: Yo La Tengo

And if you’re wondering, trying to start Nuit Blanche at 1AM at Queen West and Yonge is quite possibly the stupidest thing you can do, and that includes live scorpions infected with bubonic plague. I got a good look at a lot of lineups before giving up and heading home. Oh, and I had some popcorn. Woo, art! Woo, culture!

Spinner and JustOut talk to Bob Mould.

NPR is streaming the new Flaming Lips record Embryonic for a week, leading up to its October 13 release date.

Stream: The Flaming Lips / Embryonic

PitchforkTV has a Cemetery Gates session with Grizzly Bear.

It’s getting/already gotten colder than any right-thinking person would like, but if you’re thinking there’s still time to take one last hop out to the Toronto Islands then do it next Saturday, October 17, and stop by the ALL CAPS! Island Show at the Artscape Gibraltar Point. It starts at 3PM, goes till 10 and features a bunch of acts including but not only Great Bloomers, Adam & The Amethysts and Snowblink. It’s $10 or PWYC and all-ages.

You’ll have a clinic in teaching the indie kids to dance when Junior Boys and Woodhands hit Lee’s Palace on November 6. Junior Boys were just featured in a Daytrotter session.

MP3: Junior Boys – “In The Morning”
MP3: Woodhands – “Dancer”

The annual Make Some Noise events presented by the Toronto Public Library returns on November 7 when Bruce Peninsula and Timber Timbre make the North York Central Library sound like it’s haunted.

MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “Crabapples”
MP3: Timber Timbre – “Demon Host”

Constantines will celebrate their 10th anniversary with a pair of special shows at Lee’s Palace on December 10 and 11. Ticket pre-sales are already on, with early birds eligible for extra goodies.

MP3: Constantines – “Nighttime Anytime It’s Alright”

The Line Of Best Fit is offering a fifth volume of “Oh! Canada” series of downloadable Canuck mixes.

CBC Radio 3 has a shiny new website and the same old annoying habit of constantly rewriting the location in the browser back to radio3.cbc.ca. Seriously, WTF.

And if you’re one of those people who not only still has cable, but has those ridiculously high-numbered channels which seem to only show Law & Order reruns, check out channel 107 as aux.tv went on the air (well, the digital cable air) last weekend and features a slew of terrific music television programming that goes well beyond videos. There’s details on what the channel hopes to offer and how they’ll do it at The Globe & Mail and ChartAttack.

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Shine A Light

Constantines and Chad Van Gaalen at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFor the last few years, Harbourfront Centre has been the go-to spot for Canada Day celebrations in Toronto. Each year, they put on a free show on the lake with some of the top domestic acts of the moment, but on a year-to-year basis they’ve also been doing a pretty great job of representing all the facets of what we’d call Canadian indie rock. Back in 2007 (I missed the 2006 show featuring The Dears), they showcased the more avant garde end of the spectrum with Final Fantasy and Do Make Say Think, and last year put the spotlight on the female and folky with Martha Wainwright and Basia Bulat. For 2009, they traded the estrogen for some testosterone, bringing in hometown heroes Constantines and Calgary’s Chad Van Gaalen.

Van Gaalen I’ve honestly done my best to get into his records in the past – after all, with the sheer amount of love he gets from all quarters, he must have something going for him – but have never really managed to do it. There’s just something about his particular DIY sonic aesthetic that doesn’t do it for me. And so it’s ironic that I’d find someone who’s generally regarded as a home studio auteur to be so much more enjoyable in a live setting. He started the evening in interesting form, first coming out with a broom and sweeping the stage clean, then saluting the national anthem by way of dropping his pants, and then finally making funny but probably family-inappropriate gestures with his finger and his fly. Yeah. Musically, he led his band through selections from all three of his albums and damn if they don’t just sound much fuller and more realized than they do in their studio incarnations? Maybe it’s the extra oomph of the live rhythm section (helped by the fact that I had planted my ass right in front of the PA bass bin) or the fact that his voice sounds less reedy and the guitars fatter, but it was just so much more satisfying an experience and allowed me to see and hear the artist that others do – I just prefer his more direct and less idiosyncratic side. Odds are I won’t care so much for his next studio record but if he puts out a live album, I may pay more attention.

Constantines, on the other hand, I’m fully guilty of not having paid enough attention to since day one. That was resolved somewhat last year, when I got my first Cons record in Kensington Heights and saw them live twice – the first time at a super-intimate club show and the second at the somewhat less-intimate but still awe-inspiring V Fest. Both shows, though quite different, certainly confirmed their long-standing reputation as an incredible and intense live act. I expected nothing less from them this time out.

My education hasn’t reached too far into their back catalog, however, so aside from the Kensington material their set was only familiar from past live experiences and so rather than comment on what was played, I’ll focus on how it was played – in a word, exceptionally. The Cons have been at it a long time and as such, are about as tight a rock machine as you’ll find anywhere. Their songs are lean, but not thin – within each hard-charging piece are myriad little songwriting and arrangement details that give their sound extra complexity. But really, live, what you’ll hear – or more correctly FEEL – is the swirl of the guitar and keyboard riffs, the unrelenting thump of the rhythm section and most importantly Bry Webb’s big, raw rasp, occasionally augmented by guest Jennifer Castle’s gentler backing vocals. It’s just rock, yeah, but it’s rock done right.

And while they started things out dressed up for the occasion – Webb’s white suit over tropical shirt ensemble was particularly inspired – the intensity of the performance and sweat generated quickly got them looking less natty and, consequently, more appropriate. Clean and proper just doesn’t suit them. And the greatness of their show was pretty much encapsulated by a moment in “Shine A Light”, towards the end of their set, where one by one the Cons pointed out across Lake Ontario and the audience clued in and turned around, just in time to see fireworks going off. A magical moment. If you’re looking for ambassadors for Canadian rock or, as it turns out, a soundtrack to Canada Day, you can’t do much better than Constantines.

Photos: Constantines, Chad Van Gaalen @ Harbourfront Centre – July 1, 2009
MP3: Constantines – “Hard Feelings”
MP3: Constantines – “Nighttime Anytime It’s Alright”
MP3: Constantines – “On To You”
MP3: Constantines – “Love In Fear”
MP3: Constantines – “Soon Enough”
MP3: Constantines – “Arizona”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Willow Tree”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “City Of Electric Light”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Graveyard”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Clinically Dead”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Somewhere I Know There’s Nothing”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Flower Gardens”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Echo Train”
Video: Constantines – “Credit River”
Video: Constantines – “Our Age”
Video: Constantines – “Hard Feelings”
Video: Constantines – “Working Full-Time”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Flower Gardens”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Clinically Dead”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Red Hot Drops”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Molten Light”
MySpace: Constantines
MySpace: Chad Van Gaalen

Summerworks has released the lineup to the music component of their annual theatre/performing arts festival, and with acts like Miracle Fortress, Think About Life, The D’Urbervilles and Forest City Lovers amongst the artists performing, you really should plan on spending much of the week from August 6 to the 15th at The Theatre Centre at The Great Hall.

dose.ca interviews Matt Cully and Vue talks to Neil Haverty, both of Bruce Peninsula, who are embarking on a western Canadian tour this week.

Arts & Crafts has released some official information on the next Hidden Cameras record – Origin:Orphan will be released on September 22 and they’re offering a free download of “Walk On” in exchange for your email.

Emily Haines of Metric tells The National Post about some of her favourite things about Toronto in the Summertime. Curiously, navigating piles of uncollected garbage on the city streets because of the city worker strike does not make the cut.

MBV Music has the second installment in the Reverie Sound Revue blog tour – a bit later than expected, but maybe they got held up at the border or something. This video is a stripped-down studio rendering of “Off Rooftops” from their just-released self-titled debut.

The results of those TARA Secret Sessions which have been taking place at The Audio Recording Academy – perhaps you’ve seen the ads somewhere online – are being made available online to download and enjoy, including some by Oh No Forest Fires and Great Bloomers. The sessions continue through the month of July and admission to all is free. Oh No Forest Fires have blogged a bit about their session.

Spinner.ca – née AOL Music Canada – has posted the first of a multi-part feature on the history, present and future of independent music in Canada, featuring conversations with journalist types and members of Sloan and The Stills.

Congratulations go out to Eric’s Trip and Rheostatics, the inaugural inductees to the Zunior Canadian Independent Music Hall of Fame, whose aim is to select and salute two trailblazing Canadian independent artists each year and for which I was honoured to be a juror for the 2009 edition.

If you missed or enjoyed Amazing Baby opening up for Phoenix last month, you will be pleased to know they have their own show scheduled for August 4 at the Drake Underground in support of their new album Rewild – tickets $13.

MP3: Amazing Baby – “Bayonets”

Modest Mouse have added as second Toronto date to their Summer tour – they’ll be at the Sound Academy on August 22 in addition to the 21. Tickets $30.

The Cave Singers and Lightning Dust have a date at the Horseshoe on September 14, tickets $12. Both have new albums coming soon – the former with Welcome Joy, out August 18, and the latter with Infinite Light, out August 4.

MP3: The Cave Singers – “Beach House”
MP3: Lightning Dust – “I Knew”
MP3: Lightning Dust – “Never Seen”

The Hold Steady are also rolling into town a little earlier than planned – there’s a second Lee’s Palace show set for September 26 to go with the September 27 one, so if you’d rather rock yourself into oblivion on a Saturday night, you’re all set. Tickets $21.50.

Icelandic electro-dream-poppers (is that still an accurate, if broad description?) Mum return with a new album due out on August 24 entitled Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know and will follow that up with a Fall North American tour that includes an October 27 date at The Phoenix in Toronto, tickets $20.

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Make It Gold

Ohbijou, Great Bloomers and Evening Hymns at the Opera House in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangYou might say this gig was a long time coming. After their triumphant show at Lee’s Palace last November to wrap their continent-spanning tour with The Acorn, Toronto’s orch-pop heroes Ohbijou went into seclusion to work on their sophomore album and emerged this Spring with Beacons. Or at least they were supposed to – almost as soon as they were announced in late February, the April release date and accompanying tour, including a hometown release party, were all were suddenly cancelled with only vague explanations offered.

As it turned out, the band who had been so successful with the DIY approach on their debut, Swift Feet For Troubling Times, had been successfully courted by labels at home and abroad and the delay was necessary to prepare for the record’s release on Bella Union earlier this month in the UK and Last Gang in North America. The record was unquestionably worth the wait, which only left the show and the band’s return to live action this past Thursday night at the Opera House. And from the moment you walked into the venue, it was clear that this would be special occasion – after all, how often do you arrive at a concert hall to find it decked out huge swathes of fabric meant to make it look like the inside of a volcano? Okay, I probably wouldn’t have realized it was supposed to be a volcano if I wasn’t told – the set dressing was taken from Ohbijou’s recently-filmed and yet-to-be-released video for “New Years” – but whatever I would have assumed it to be otherwise, it would have been impressive.

As is only appropriate for hometown record release shows, Ohbijou invited a few friends along to open up, the first of which was Evening Hymns. Jonas Bonnetta usually performs as a solo artist and that’s how his set began, but perhaps intimidated by the volcano decor, for this night he brought along a few friends to help out – six more, to be precise. And while you might think that songs built for one might be overwhelmed by the addition of a half-dozen sets of helping hands, all of the guest players were remarkably sympathetic to the songs and Bonnetta’s simple and plaintive folk-pop sounded even better “big”, like scratchy 8mm home movies blown up to widescreen and somehow not losing any of its charm. My first experience with Evening Hymns but almost certainly not to be the last.

Great Bloomers, on the other hand, I was pretty well-acquainted with already, both live and on record, via their debut full-length Speak Of Trouble. And while I’ll happily testify to their talent as musicians, they’ve yet to win me over as a band – this performance included. I thought we were making some progress early on when I realized that their country-pop stylings actually had roots in southern soul as well, and that made their rather pristine musicianship – which I had found at odds with what I like to hear in my alt.country – much more appropriate. And they confirmed my thoughts on them, both good and bad, mid-set when they inserted a cover of James Carr’s “The Dark End Of The Street” and, sadly, failed to do it any kind of justice. “Dark End Of The Street” is a stone cold classic and one of the most emotionally resonant songs around, and the Bloomers’ rendering of it as a jaunty pop tune, stripped of all its inherent anguish, was just… wrong. The rest of their set was fine, objectively speaking – they’ve got some good tunes and deliver them with aplomb – but they need to take “covering soul standards” off their “things we do well” list.

The first few times I saw Ohbijou live, what struck me the most was how much louder, effervescent and dynamic the band was on stage relative to the cozy sleepiness of Swift Feet‘s recorded incarnations. Beacons has ensured that that’s no longer a talking point for the band, capturing as it does much more of those peaks and valleys, the grand crescendos and the hushed passages. Instead, discussion will have to focus on just how well the band recreates the sweep of the record in a live setting, which they definitely do, though sidebars about how startlingly loud Casey Mecija’s voice can get when she pushes it are also appropriate. Nominally a six-piece, the band swelled to a 10- or 11-piece at points – it was hard to tell what with all the volcano decor obstructing views – including strings, keys and double bass, adding an extra musical weight that was at the same time weightless. Their set blended material old and new into a perfect statement of why they’re one of the finest young bands Canada has to offer, and while I know I’ll miss the days when they played out around town frequently, it’s no small amount of consolation to know that when they’re not here it’s because they’re now taking their lovely songs and sharing them with the rest of the world. And I know that only we get the volcano decorations.

In addition to their new record, Ohbijou have curated a second volume of their Friends In Bellwoods benefit compilation, due out later this Summer. Just as the first one gathered two CDs worth of the finest independent artists in the southern Ontario region, the second will feature rare and unreleased contributions from the likes of The Acorn, Basia Bulat, Great Lake Swimmers and of course Ohbijou, amongst many many others. And one would hope that the second volume also duplicates the charitable success of the first, which raised over $11,000 in donations for the Daily Bread Food Bank. Stay tuned for information on the release date for the album and the accompanying release show/party.

Photos: Ohbijou, Great Bloomers, Evening Hymns @ The Opera House – June 25 2009
MP3: Ohbijou – “Black Ice”
MP3: Great Bloomers – “The Young Ones Slept”
Video: Ohbijou – “The Woods”
MySpace: Ohbijou

Filter has reprinted their pairing of actor Zach Galifianakis with Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew wherein the former asks the latter about the video/short film he directed for Feist’s “The Water” and movies in general. Broken Social Scene will be playing on the water next Friday – July 11 – for a free show at Harbourfront Centre. Maybe Feist will join them.

Video: Feist – “The Water”

Chart has details on Amy Millan’s second solo record Masters Of The Burial which will be released September 8. Expect to hear the new material when she plays a free show at Harbourfront Centre on July 25.

Exclaim has some info on the next album from The Hidden Cameras Well, just the title – Origin: Orphan – and the fact that it exists. Look for it sometime before the year is out.

You can hear new songs from both Amy Millan and The Hidden Cameras’ albums on the just-released Arts & Crafts Sampler Volume 6, which is yours for the low low price of your email address.

Pitchfork has got a new Fleet Foxes song recorded for the BBC available to download. They’re at Massey Hall on August 4.

MP3: Fleet Foxes – “Blue Spotted Tail” (live on BBC6)

Bishop Allen have released a new video from Grr….

Video: Bishop Allen – “Shanghaied”

Pitchfork has an interview with Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste.

Spoon almost managed to release a new EP this week as a complete surprise, but then the internet got a whiff of it and ruined it. Way to go, internet. It’s called Got Nuffin, it’s out tomorrow and MBV Music has details.