Posts Tagged ‘Howling Bells’

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

The Biggest And Longest Adventure Ever

The Grates get North American release date for Teeth Lost, Hearts Won, tour erratically to celebrate

Photo va MySpaceMySpaceWhat’s that, you thought there’d be a review of Tuesday night’s Sonic Youth show top of page today? So did I, but it turns out that holidays can be the absolute worst days to try and get work done. So SY tomorrow, this today.

And “this” is the happy news that Brisbane, Australia’s most energetic pop band – The Grates – have finally inked a North American deal to release their second album Teeth Lost, Hearts Won on this side of the world. Considering how much fun their 2006 debut Gravity Won’t Get You High was, I found it confounding that the trio were at SxSW this year without a deal for their sophomore effort, released last August down under, especially after seeing their rhythmic gymnastic-infused set at Hot Freaks. But that’s been resolved, as Teeth Lost, Hearts Won will be getting a domestic release via Thirty Tigers on September 15.

They’re also doing some touring during July, but not through any sort of conventional routing – the band has a residency scheduled at Pianos in New York on July 15, 22 and 29 but on the off days are apparently putting making Tourism Canada very happy by crossing the border for a show in Ottawa at the Live 88 Lounge on the 12th, then back up to play Hillside in Guelph the weekend of July 24 to 26 and the following Tuesday, July 28, at the Horseshoe in Toronto. You can reasonably expect more North American dates to get added in and around those shows, but if you want to try and predict where and when they’ll be, you’re braver than I.

There’s one of the tracks from the new record available to download below and you can get another by signing up to their mailing list.

MP3: The Grates – “Burn Bridges”
Video: The Grates – “Burn Bridges”
Video: The Grates – “Aw Yeah”
MySpace: The Grates

Ex-Concrete Victoria Bergsmann has completed her second album as Taken By TreesEast Of Eden will be released on September 8, more details at The Line Of Best Fit.

NPR offers up a session with Loney Dear – they have a date at the Horseshoe on October 13.

Also on that bill are Asobi Seksu. There’s a “Getting To Know” feature on them at Filter.

Altsounds interviews The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, who have a date at the Horseshoe on September 7.

Drowned In Sound has an interview with The Twilight Sad. Forget The Night Ahead is out September 22.

PitchforkTV heads down to the New York Stock Exchange with The Thermals.

Also at PitchforkTV – an installment of their Cemetary Gates series featuring Ra Ra Riot – they’re at Lee’s Palace on September 11.

Elvis Perkins In Dearland have a new video out, taken from their self-titled album.

Video: Elvis Perkins – “Chains, Chains, Chains”

Also with a new vid are Death Cab For Cutie. It comes from their recently-released The Open Door EP.

Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “Little Bribes”

A free and legal MP3 from Patrick Wolf’s The Bachelor, getting a North American release on August 11.

MP3: Patrick Wolf – “The Vulture”

Filter gets to know Howling Bells, whose Radio Wars will get a North American release on July 28.

Le Blogotheque has a video session – more of a party, really – with Beirut. For more in that style, check out The Flying Club Cup video series from a few years back – still beautiful. They’ve got a sold-out show at the Phoenix on July 9.

Blurt has an interview with St Vincent’s Annie Clark. She is at the Horseshoe on August 8.

Friday, May 1st, 2009

In The Summertime

The Rural Alberta Advantage sign with Saddle Creek, no longer our little secret

Photo By Patrick LeducPatrick LeducFor the longest time now, the phrase, “best unsigned band in Toronto/Canada/the world” has been used so often in conjunction with The Rural Alberta Advantage that they may as well have incorporated it into their name. But no longer. As hinted at a couple weeks ago and confirmed yesterday at Pitchfork, the trio’s long, slow build to critical mass – beginning with the eMusic Selects feature last Fall and culminating in their triumphant SxSW appearances in March – has now resulted in their signing to highly-regarded US label Saddle Creek. A fact which sent me digging for this piece in eye last Fall when the Omaha-based label insisted there was no master plan to snap up as much Canadian talent as possible (at that point, they’d added Tokyo Police Club, Sebastien Grainger and Land Of Talk to their roster in rapid succession). Now the truth becomes clear – we’re being annexed by Nebraska, one band at a time.

But seriously, It’s been such a treat to watch their star so deservedly ascend over the last couple years, and would like to offer the band a very hearty congratulations on the start of the next phase of their career. That will begin with a reissue of their debut album Hometowns on July 7 in the US and probably up here as well. I, for one, can’t wait to get a copy of the record in a physical form with a spine so that it doesn’t disappear on my CD shelves as soon as I file it, not that I’d likely ever forget that it was there. And I also envy those of you who’ll be getting to hear them for the first time with this wide release of the album and experience that feeling of discovery. You are in for such a treat.

North American touring is in the works for this Summer with a few dates listed in the Pitchfork piece, as well as confirmation of a couple of local festivals – Hillside in Guelph in July and Wolfe Island up in Kingston on August 8. Their next local date will be June 18 at the Drake Underground as part of I Heart Music’s NxNE showcase. Just informed they’ve got other things in the works – stay tuned.

MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Don’t Haunt This Place”
MySpace: The Rural Alberta Advantage

In other “just signed” news, Billboard reports that Australia-by-way-of-the-UK’s Howling Bells have signed to Nettwerk for the July 28 North American release of their second album Radio Wars, which was released in the UK back in February. I was pretty down on the album after hearing it, particularly with all the promise displayed in their self-titled debut, but have warmed to it a bit since. It’s still not as good as the first, but it’s really only a couple of really BAD songs that drag down the overall experience, which is largely okay with moments of pretty good. Faint praise, I know. My main hopes are that with this deal in place, they’ll finally be able to tour North America properly and not just as support on big arena-scale tours (Killers, Coldplay) that I’d have no intention of seeing.

MP3: Howling Bells – “Into The Chaos”

The Pitchfork guest list from Camera Obscura which I linked last week but then promptly went all 404 on us is now back, and will hopefully remain so. They’re at Lee’s Palace on June 27.

Neil Halstead has released another video from last year’s Oh! Mighty Engine. Halstead will also apparently be featured in today’s Daytrotter session – those usually go up by 10AM ET or so – will link when it’s available. Update: It’s up! With two new songs!

Video: Neil Halstead – “Elevenses”

The Guardian and This Is Nottingham profile Doves, whose Kingdom Of Rust apparently missed being the #1 album in the UK… by four CDs. Ouch. They play the Kool Haus on June 1.

The Quietus and The Irish Times interview Manic Street Preachers about their new album Journal For Plague Lovers, out May 18, covering the main talking points of the record – Richey and Albini. The Quietus also has a track-by-track review of the record.

The Manics also big up The Horrors’ new record Primary Colours to The Quietus as the best of the year. Express Night Out talks to frontman Faris Badwan. They’ll be at the Phoenix next Thursday opening for The Kills.

MP3: The Horrors – “Sea Within A Sea”

Exclaim talks to Eugene Kelly of The Vaselines. The double-disc retrospective Enter The Vaselines will be out on Tuesday and they’re making a rare live appearance at Lee’s Palace on May 15.

MP3: The Vaselines – “Son Of A Gun”

John Vanderslice will take his Romanian Names out on tour immediately following its May 19 release and that includes a July 10 date at The Horseshoe.

Support for the ‘Slice for that show will be Cotton Jones, who essentially used to be Page France. Their debut album is Paranoid Cocoon. Rolling Stone has a feature on the band.

MP3: Cotton Jones – “Gotta Cheer Up”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Blood Red Sentimental Blues”

British funk-soul outfit The Heavy have a date at Supermarket on June 26.

MP3: The Heavy – “Colleen”

Maximo Park will be coming to North America in support of Quicken The Heart, out May 12, for this Fall. Toronto, circle September 19 at Lee’s Palace on your calendar. Singer Paul Smith talks football and memories with BBC.

Video: Maximo Park – “The Kids Are Sick Again”

The first MP3 from Dinosaur Jr’s new album Farm, out June 23, is now available to grab. Bassist Lou Barlow talks about the new record with The Times Dispatch.

MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “I Want You To Know”

Metric’s Emily Haines gives Drowned In Sound a guide to Buenos Aires.

In case you missed it, Wilco have confirmed both the title (Wilco (The Album) and release date (June 30) for their next album. And to start the anticipation build-up, the band are giving away a non-album track – a Woody Guthrie tune – and asking that you make a donation to the Woody Guthrie Foundation & Archives in exchange. Honour system, yo.

Friday, March 6th, 2009


Asobi Seksu and Bell at the El Mocambo in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWhile most bands spend their entire careers trying to nail down that elusive “signature sound”, actually achieving that goal can be as much a curse as a blessing. In the case of New York’s Asobi Seksu being “that band that sounds like J-pop meets My Bloody Valentine” certainly set them apart, but there’s only so much you can do within those boundaries and considering they damn near perfected it with their last album Citrus, the very real question facing them heading into album number three would have been, “what next?”

Their answer was to first strip the roster down to just principals Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna and then head back into the studio with much more Spector on their minds than Shields. And as you might expect, the resultant album Hush requires that the listener’s expectations be adjusted. Though things aren’t nearly as subdued as the album title might imply, they have traded in much of their fuzz-pedal squall for fluffier clouds of reverb and while the leaner sonic approach actually suits them quite well, it also seems their pop instincts were dulled in the process and by making their songs more atmospheric, they’ve also lost some substance. The record sounds more like a band in the process of creating a new identity rather than presenting a completed one.

Their live show, however, remains quite familiar as Tuesday night’s engagement at the El Mocambo proved. Though they’d paid a visit just five months prior, they still managed to draw a very healthy crowd and regardless of the band’s new creative direction, if they came expecting to be assaulted and battered by sound they weren’t disappointed. Apparently all the distortion pedals that didn’t make it into the studio were in the band’s touring van, because they had all their noisemaking toys along with them and weren’t afraid to use them – their signature Christmas and strobe light stage setup was also along for the ride. I was pleased to see that they’ve also developed a distinctive stage presence, with Hanna pacing the stage looking for pedals to stomp on and Chikudate cooly cooing into the microphone and whipping her hair around. And mixed in with the Citrus material and given the more muscular delivery, the Hush songs sounded much more alive, providing a bit of respite – but only a bit – from the sonic tumult of the older songs. If Asobi are looking for some pointers on where to take their sound, perhaps listening to a recording of one of their shows would be a good start – for my money, they’ve got the perfect formula right there.

Tourmates Bell also hailed from New York and the duo – frontwoman and namesake Olga Bell on keyboards and Jason Nazary on drums and both on laptops – were excited to be on their very first tour, this being the second show. Their sound is an interesting take on electronica, melding Bell’s powerful and elastic vocals with unconventional melodies, pop structures and dynamic live drumming. It’s the sort of thing that draws you in, then pushes you away and then pulls you back, sometimes all at once. Kind of strange but definitely intriguing.

Decider has an interview with Asobi Seksu, Gothamist has one with Bell.

Photos: Asobi Seksu, Bell @ The El Mocambo – March 3, 2009
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Me & Mary”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Familiar Light”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “New Years”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Thursday”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “I’m Happy But You Don’t Like Me”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Let Them Wait”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Sooner”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Walk On The Moon”
MP3: Bell – “Magic Tape”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Me & Mary”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Thursday”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Goodbye”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Walk On The Moon”
MySpace: Asobi Seksu
MySpace: Bell

Black Book interviews Anthony Gonzalez of M83.

Ben Curtis of School Of Seven Bells talks to Drowned In Sound and This Is Fake DIY.

Pitchfork solicits a list of this and that from Stuart Staples of Tindersticks while NOW, The Washington Post, Express and New York Press settle for interviews. They play the Opera House on Tuesday night.

NME has details on Jarvis Cocker’s forthcoming album – relevant points are that it’s out May 19, but is still untitled now entitled Further Complications (via PF) and was produced by Steve Albini… now that’ll be a 180 from the Richard Hawley-helmed romantic lushness of the first record. Can’t wait.

Clash has an extended and thoughtful interview with Ian Brown about the history of The Stone Roses on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of their debut album. Yes, the “r” word comes up. No, don’t hold your breath.

Magnet Q&As Frightened Rabbit and NPR welcomes them to for an interview and session.

Gemma Hayes has released a new video from last year’s The Hollow Of Morning. I think the “swoon” is implicit anytime I write about her, is it not?

Video: Gemma Hayes – “Home”

Wireless Bollinger, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and Clash interview Howling Bells, whose new album Radio Wars is – I’m sad to say – being rather justly pilloried. It’s just not very good and considering how much I’d been looking forward to it, is quite a disappointment. Not giving up on the band but it’s a let-down.

MP3: Howling Bells – “Into The Chaos”

Pitchfork reveals that one of the tracks on the new Wilco album – still untitled and set for a June release – will feature a duet between Jeff Tweedy and Feist.

To mark their upcoming tour in support of Neko Case, Crooked Fingers have released a new digital EP for “Your Control”, the closing track from their last album Forfeit/Fortune which is a duet between Eric Bachmann and Case. The EP also features a couple covers of Crooked Fingers tunes by Spoon and Lambchop.

Neko Case gives Spinner some of the ground rules for being in her band and talks to JAM about the naturalist themes that run through her work. She also talks to The Los Angeles Times and The Globe & Mail. She’s at Trinity-St Paul’s on April 17 and 18.

The Ithaca Journal and NOW talk to AC Newman, who is playing Lee’s Palace next Wednesday night.

Peaches has a date at the Phoenix on May 20. Her new album I Feel Cream is out May 4.

Grizzly Bear have mapped out a massive tour in support of new album Veckatimest – the Toronto date is June 5 at the Phoenix. The album is out May 26.

The National Post recorded a video feature on Ohbijou circa their show at Lee’s Palace last November, including a street corner performance backed by The Acorn. And more clarity on the status of Beacons – the band has signed a deal in the UK with Bella Union, making them labelmates – at least over there – with Fleet Foxes and Andrew Bird. Pretty good company. Beacons is set for a June 8 release there and plans are afoot for the North American release and rescheduled tour dates to fall in line with that.

Paste talks to Craig Finn about The Hold Steady about their forthcoming live CD/DVD set A Positive Rage, due out April 7.

Blurt reports that Richard Thompson will be the subject of a four-disc box set entitled Walking On A Wire: Richard Thompson (1968-2009) and due out June 30.

NOW talks to creator Bryan Lee-O’Malley and director Edgar Wright about the upcoming Scott Pilgrim and its Toronto roots.

Update: Sad news – Dutch concert webcast site FabChannel is closing its (virtual) doors next week – you have seven days to go root through their massive and beautiful archives. Get to it.

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

One Of Two

Sky Larkin and Emmy The Great annotate debut albums

Photo By Liam HenryLiam HenryIt’s really of no surprise whatsoever that I misread the offer tied to pre-orders of Sky Larkin’s debut album The Golden Spike, which I reported on a couple weeks back. I had thought that by committing to the purchase, you’d immediately get MP3 downloads of both the album proper and the live recordings of the same songs. As it turns out, you just get the live set.

But that’s okay, because February 9 isn’t that far off and the live version of the record is really pretty good. It’s obviously a bit rawer than I expect the album to be – though not that much, I expect it to be raw – but the je ne sais quoi that I really like about this band is very much in evidence. I think it’s how they disguise a surprising melodic sophistication behind a youthful energy and directness. At first it sounds like scrappy, jagged pop – which it is – but it’s also much more than that. The already-released singles have been consistently terrific and the rest of the album isn’t far off. Can’t wait to hear the proper thing, and they’re definitely on my “to-see” list for SxSW this year.

They recently gave Drowned In Sound a song-by-song commentary on the record and there’s also interviews at This Is Fake DIY and The Yorkshire Evening Post.

MP3: Sky Larkin – “Molten”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Beeline”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Fossil, I”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Molten”
Video: Sky Larkin – “One Of Two”
MySpace: Sky Larkin

In curiously parallel fashion, The Reading Evening Post has album annotations for the other British debut record I’ve got coming to me in the mail hopefully not long after February 9 – Emmy the Great’s First Love, so in the interest of consistency I’ll link up all the videos released so far for songs appearing on the record (though I suspect “Easter Parade” and “M.I.A.” have been re-recorded for the album). And if you thought I was overly effusive about her, check out Drowned In Sound’s review of the album – they make me look positively measured in comparison. There’s also an interview over at Oxford University’s Cherwell.

Video: Emmy The Great – “First Love”
Video: Emmy The Great – “We Almost Had A Baby”
Video: Emmy The Great – “Easter Parade”
Video: Emmy The Great – “M.I.A.”

Camera Obscura haven’t let slip many details about album number four, now complete and set for a release sooner rather than later in 2009, but they did post a MySpace blog yesterday announcing that it when it was released, it would be by the venerable 4AD label.

Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison tells The Chicago Tribune how a failed relationship inspired The Midnight Organ Fight. You know, in case it wasn’t abundantly clear from the lyrics.

eye, The Telegraph and The List talk to Franz Ferdinand on the occasion of the release of Tonight, in stores on Tuesday.

Glasvegas have released a new video from Glasvegas. Their April 3 show at the Mod Club is totally sold out.

Video: Glasvegas – “Flowers & Football Tops”

Incidentally, support for the Glasvegas tour has been announced as Ida Maria, who is herself getting no small amount of attention. Her album Fortress Round My Heart got a major label release last year, but now that she’s gone indie again, she’s re-releasing a different version on February 9.

Video: Ida Maria – “Oh My God”
Video: Ida Maria – “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked”
Video: Ida Maria – “Stella”

I was dismayed to have missed Asobi Seksu’s visit to the Horseshoe back in October – way too much going on to go, if I recall – but will get the chance to make that up on March 3 when their tour in support of Hush, out February 17, brings them to the El Mocambo.

The Von Pip Musical Express has an interview with Juanita Stein of Howling Bells. The moving target of a release date for Radio Wars seems to have settled on March 2, but I need to confirm that. Update: NME is also saying March 2. We’ll go with that.

Minipop stopped in for a Daytrotter session last week.

Decider interviews Anthony Gonzalez of M83, in town at the Air Canada Centre in support of The Killers tomorrow night.

It’s an odd bit of contesting, but Annuals are giving away tickets to their show at the El Mocambo on Saturday night as well as a pair of passes to the Art Gallery Of Ontario. Yeah, I dunno. Enter here.

Thursday, January 15th, 2009


Review of Cut Off Your Hands' You And I

Photo By Brad FafejtaBrad FafejtaLast Summer I started getting hit up via IM by someone – associate, friend, fan, I don’t know – eagerly extolling the virtues of one New Zealand outfit named Cut Off Your Hands. Now getting ambushed out of the blue like that isn’t really the way to endear yourself – or whomever you’re promoting – to me, but I was feeling magnanimous and went and gave their MySpace a listen. And wasn’t impressed. It sounded like the sort of hepped up, jerk-and-stab New Wave/post-punk that seemed inescapable a couple years ago and now just seemed dated. I told anonymous PR dude it wasn’t turning the crank, he said he understood but also mentioned that the tracks I’d heard were demos, and that the band were working on the proper album with producer Bernard Butler… so yeah, that got my attention and I filed it away for future reference.

That future turned out to be late last month, when a copy of the finished product – You And I, in stores on Tuesday – showed up, and out of my deep respect for Butler and his work, I gave it a spin. And another. And another. To my surprise, I found if not addictive then quite enjoyable – even though the observations I’d made some months previous were still correct, I didn’t mind so much. In fact, the fact that they were mining a sound that was no longer so fashionable was part of the appeal – they sounded less like an outfit chasing a trend than one simply doing what they do. After all, before it was done to death it sounded pretty good, didn’t it? And Butler’s touch has also helped, buffing out some but not all of the edges and giving it just the right amount of sheen. Judging from the string of successes he’s had lately, the man has become a master of pop conciseness and brevity, ironic considering how grandiose and sprawling his vision was in his Suede days.

While it’s the uptempo songs that make the most immediate impression – Nick Johnston’s strained vocals and the band’s taut, musical gallop rather punch you in the face with danceable hooks – it’s the slower moments, where things retreat to an austere croon, that stood out for me. Not because they’re the best songs, but because they speak to a musical vision broader than the variations on a single theme that they’re currently best at. It’s easy to be dismissive of them – goodness knows I was – but I find I’m quite liking them regardless, and think they’ve got some significant upside above and beyond what they’ve already shown. And even if I’m wrong, they’re still turning out some catchy party pop songs and that’s alright with me as well.

The band are going to be on this continent and conducting a west coast tour in February supporting Ra Ra Riot, and more dates are forthcoming. And for some reason, they’ve cut three videos for one single and also one for the title track of the album, which does not appear on the album.

MP3: Cut Off Your Hands – “Turn Cold”
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “Expectations” (version 1)
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “Expectations” (version 2)
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “Expectations” (version 3)
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “Oh Girl”
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “You And I”
MySpace: Cut Off Your Hands

Howling Bells have released a new and rather awful video from their sophomore album Radio Wars, which had been set for a February 9 release, but which I’m thinking is now unlikely. It’s almost still certainly going to be a late Winter/Spring release, but probably not quite so soon.

Video: Howling Bells – “Cities Burning Down”

Land Of Talk’s Liz Powell makes use of her voice while she still has it, talking to The National Post, The Toronto Sun, NOW and eye in advance of tonight’s show at the Horseshoe.

Oasis have turned their “let’s have buskers play songs from our new album” PR stunt in New York City last Fall into a little documentary. This took place just after the assault on Noel Gallagher in Toronto, hence his conspicuous absence from the proceedings.

Video: Dig Out Your Soul In The Streets

The Quietus reports that British Sea Power’s next album will be a soundtrack for the 1934 documentary Man Of Aran and consist of new and reworked old material. It is due out in the Spring. It will probably be odd.

Chart, The Courier Mail, The Daily Telegraph and The Age talk to Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce.

Pitchfork has details on the next stage in EMI’s neverending Radiohead back catalog exploitation campaign. It includes releasing all their past singles on 7″ 12″ vinyl and putting out deluxe CD/DVD editions of their first three albums, each of which will include the period-correct b-sides and promo clips. I’d be lying if I said that the idea of getting those b-sides in CD-quality wasn’t a tempting one, but the whole thing is just a bit too unsavory for my tastes. The CDs are out March 24, the 7″s 12″s on April 21.

The Bay Bridged and Black Book have interviews with The Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner. They’re looking to release a new album for September.

The Quietus reports that Sonic Youth should be done their next album, currently entitled The Eternal, in time for a June release. This will be their first for Matador.

Peter Bjorn & John will release Living Thing on March 30.

Pitchfork has the first MP3 from Asobi Seksu’s new record Hush, out February 17.

MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Familiar Light”

Handsome Furs have released an MP3 from their new album Face Control. It’s out March 10 and they play the Horseshoe on March 13.

MP3: Handsome Furs – “I’m Confused”

eye has posted the results of their annual music critics poll, and going over the results, I’m wondering why I even bothered participating. Exactly one of my picks in any category made the final tallies.

Likewise, my suggestion for the CBC Radio 2 “Playlist For Obama”Destroyer’s “My Favourite Year” – also doesn’t appear to have made the cut. My original suggestion was actually anything by Godspeed You! Black Emperor but it was decided that a 20-minute instrumental was probably too long to use. More like too AWESOME.