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Posts Tagged ‘Husky’

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Black White & Blue

Ladyhawke and Computer Magic at The Hoxton in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt would have been nice to think that the many well-dressed folks milling about on King West Saturday evening were winding their way to The Hoxton, where New Zealand’s Pip Browne – aka Ladyhawke – was set to make her first Toronto appearance in almost three years exactly. But no, they were probably just out taking in the final night of TIFF, because The Hoxton was basically empty when I got there.

Being an early show with a curfew, waiting around for the more fashionably late wasn’t an option to Computer Magic got to play for a mere handful of people. The project of Brooklyite Danielle Johnson, they played as a two-piece with Johnson on keys and vox and a drummer. It wasn’t much and their on-stage mobility was decidedly limited, but they more than made do. Johnson’s synth-pop melodies were both hooky and interesting, and while her drummer favoured the pads on his hybrid acoustic/electronic drum kit, the fact that he could hit the conventional drums and hit them hard gave it all a lot more power and presence than you would have expected. My understanding is that some live versions of the band have guitar and bass to fill things out, and while I don’t doubt the extra bodies make for a more compelling live show, Computer Magic as a duo had all they really needed to make a good impression – namely, solid tunes.

For reasons entirely not her fault, Ladyhawke’s first Toronto show in September 2009 was something of a clusterfuck. It was part of a seemingly-cursed tour presented by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, beset by low attendance, a patchwork bill, and a self-destructing headliner in Ida Maria who bailed from the tour entirely the day of the Toronto show. Ladyhawke’s first set as the de facto sole headliner of the tour was actually fine, showcasing the ridiculously catchy ’80s-styled pop of her self-titled debut, but it’s hard to separate the performance in memory from the circus that surrounded it.

This outing came without the sideshow, thankfully, but also without the degree of buzz that was there the first time around. Her second album Anxiety has been rather unjustly dismissed for being built more on guitars than synths, but the electro-pop movement that she was lumped into back in 2009 was no longer fashionable anyways and if she’d stuck with the same formula, the complaints would probably be that she was sounding dated. Fact is, the change in instrumentation is more cosmetic than fundamental; the songs on Anxiety are less immediate than those on Ladyhawke, but also less obvious. Pip Browne’s melodic instincts are still more than intact, though, and it’s a solid work that will age quite nicely.

It also meant that the couple hundred people in attendance – the room had thankfully filled in some – were genuine fans, else three years behind on hearing what was supposed to be hip. Fronting a five-piece band where, perhaps fittingly given their shift in direction, the massive drum sounds and big, fuzzy guitars often drowned out the keyboardist, the Ladyhawke live experience hadn’t necessarily become more exciting. Though friendly, they’re still very businesslike on stage, having evidently drawn on plenty of glittery/glammy ’80s sonic influence but not the excess of presentation. Browne’s vintage Bryan Adams t-shirt got the most audience approval and the guitarist Danny Blanco provided most of the on-stage animation, which wasn’t really much. But the low-key presentation meant that they were able to power through an extensive set list, cramming eighteen songs into an hour and change including an unexpected cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” to open the encore. See, she knows her ’60s as well! And she knows how to write great songs that don’t need the benefit of a gossip blogger patron or fleeting musical fashionability to impress.

Computer Magic has a bunch of EPs available for free download.

Photos: Ladyhawke, Computer Magic @ The Hoxton – September 15, 2012
MP3: Ladyhawke – “Sunday Drive”
MP3: Ladyhawke – “Sunday Drive” (acoustic)
MP3: Ladyhawke – “Black White & Blue” (acoustic)
MP3: Computer Magic – “Grand Junction”
MP3: Computer Magic – “Electric Fences”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Blue Eyes”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Sunday Drive”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Black White & Blue”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Magic”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Paris Is Burning”
Video: Ladyhawke – “My Delirium”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Dusk Till Dawn”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Back Of The Van”
Video: Computer Magic – “Trinity”
Video: Computer Magic – “The End Of Time”

Evidently with a little time to kill before hitting the stage at The Great Hall on the evening of September 18, DIIV will be setting up at Sonic Boom’s Kensington location for an in-store on Tuesday afternoon at 5PM. They just released a new video from their debut Oshin last week.

MP3: DIIV – “Sometime”
Video: DIIV – “Doused”

Australian folkies Husky have a date at The Drake Underground on November 12 in support of their debut Forever So. They were here back during Canadian Musicfest, if you think you might had seen or heard them before. A Daytrotter session with the band also just went up.

MP3: Husky – “Tidal Wave”
MP3: Husky – “History’s Door”

NPR’s big-deal advance album stream this week is Piramida, the latest from Denmark’s Efterklang. It’s out September 25.

MP3: Efterklang – “Apples”
Stream: Efterklang / Pirmada

Even though their latest Observator just came out, Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes tells Paste he’s already compiling ideas for their next album. They’re at The Phoenix on October 2.

Interview has an interview and I Love Sweden a video session with Amanda Mair.

The Quietus has an exit interview with the retiring Soundtrack Of Our Lives.

Interview talks to ascendent Swedish electro-pop duo Icona Pop.

PopMatters poses twenty questions to múm.

Rolling Stone has premiered a new video from Of Monsters & Men’s debut My Head Is An Animal.

Video: Of Monsters & Men – “Mountain Sound”

Dash Shaw and John Cameron Mitchell offer more a short film than video as their contribution to Sigur Rós’ Valtari “Mystery Film Experiment”, using both “Rembihnútur” and “Ekki múkk” as a soundtrack to their clip.

Video: Sigur Rós – “Seraph”

Laetitia Sadier has premiered a new video from Silencio. She plays The Drake on September 18 and Laetitia Sadier – “Find Me The Pulse Of The Universe”

NPR is streaming M83’s recent concert at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Canadian Musicfest 2012 Day Three

Housse de Racket, The Weather Station, Big Scary and more at Canadian Musicfest

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangNeither of Toronto’s club-level music festivals do especially well at recreating the day show culture of the likes of SXSWNXNE obviously has the edge in this department on account of being in the Summer and not the trailing edge of Winter, but that’s not stopping Canadian Musicfest from trying, at least a little. Case in point, the Aussie BBQ that took over both floors of the El Mocambo on Saturday afternoon and offering a second (or third or fourth) showcase for many of the acts in town from Down Under. And while the “barbecue” end of things could stand with some improvement – somehow I don’t think that slightly undercooked sausages wrapped in a piece of white bread is how they do things in Canberra – the musical component did just fine.

I got there in time to see Husky, a foursome from Melbourne who had the fortune of arriving to the festival on the back of having just signed a deal with Sub Pop – the legendary Seattle label would be giving their debut album Forever So a North American debut on July 12. And though they don’t hail from the Pacific northwest, it’s not hard to see the outfit – named not for the dog or their size but for frontman Husky Gawenda – fitting in just fine with the more plaid-clad portion of the label’s roster. They take the ’60s beard-folk sound into ’70s, incorporating jazz, prog, and classical elements alongside their rich, three-part harmonies. Expect some Fleet Foxes references when the album comes out, for though Gawenda’s voice doesn’t soar like Robin Pecknold’s – it’s more of a warm blanket – the parallels are there.

Photos: Husky @ The El Mocambo – March 24, 2012
MP3: Husky – “The Woods”
Video: Husky – “The Woods”
Video: Husky – “Dark Sea”

Playing immediately after and upstairs was Teeth & Tongue, whom from press photos I’d assume were at least a duo but was in fact just transplanted New Zealander Jess Cornelius, her keyboard, and a bushel of electronically-crafted pop. The backing tracks were well-arranged to make things sound full without crossing the line into karaoke territory, and Cornelius kept the attention on her with a big voice that was impressive without being showy. Moody and just a bit shy of goth-y, I imagine Teeth & Tongue excel in a full band setup but still did quite well on her own.

Photos: Teeth & Tongue @ The El Mocambo – March 24, 2012
Video: Teeth & Tongue – “Unfamiliar Skirts”
Video: Teeth & Tongue – “Sad Sun”
Stream: Teeth & Tongue / Tambourine

Next up were Perth’s Voltaire Twins, who may have been siblings – at least professionally, Jaymes and Tegan share the Voltaire surname – but were most definitely not identical twins; they couldn’t look less alike with her a pixie-like blonde and he a Michael Cera lookalike. But superficial nitpicking aside, they put on a fun and energetic set of electro-pop heavy on synths, percussion and hooks. The songwriting felt a bit shallow but this wasn’t sit, stare into your drink and ruminate music – it was bounce around tuneage and in that department, the band led by example – even when Jaymes lost power to his setup for half of the last song, he didn’t miss a step.

Photos: Voltaire Twins @ The El Mocambo – March 24, 2012
MP3: Voltaire Twins – “Animalia”
Video: Voltaire Twins – “Animalia”

I think a lot of people have pre-conceived notions about how a two-piece, guitar/drums band will sound – blame The White Stripes, I think – but Melbourne’s Big Scary refused to fulfill those stereotypes. Rather than bombast, they focused on tightly-arranged vocals and instrumentation with Tom Iansek moving from guitar to keys and Jo Syme holding down the kit and both singing rather soulfully. Their songs were earnest and full and covered territory from moody ballads through bluesy – but not blues – rockers.

Photos: Big Scary @ The El Mocambo – March 24, 2012
MP3: Big Scary – “Autumn”
Video: Big Scary – “Leaving Home”
Video: Big Scary – “Gladiator”
Video: Big Scary – “Mix Tape”
Video: Big Scary – “Tuesday Is Rent Day”
Stream: Big Scary / MixTape

At this point it was nice – and necessary – to take a little break from the live music, but the proverbial second wind arrived just in time to carry me down to Parkdale to see The Weather Station at The Drake Underground. I knew Tamara Lindeman as one of the newer members of Bruce Peninsula but also knew that her second solo album All Of It Was Mine was getting as much praise (if not more) than that band. And rightly so; though it’s a simple recording, it’s also intricately detailed both literally and metaphorically and the arrangements may be spare but they’re also meticulously considered. Both on record and on stage, where Lindeman played guitar or banjo and was accompanied only by lap steel, a couple backing singers and drums for a couple songs, it’s evident there’s tremendous depth to the songs and the space left around them just afforded a better view and when they ended suddenly, as they sometimes did, it’s because they said what they needed to and nothing more. A remarkable set and a remarkable record. Pitchfork has an interview with Lindeman, who plays The Mod Club on April 13 in support of Bahamas.

Photos: The Weather Station @ The Drake Underground – March 24, 2012
MP3: The Weather Station – “Everything I Saw”

It was then down the street to Wrongbar for the last venue of the night and the festival. First up was Montreal five-piece The Breezes, who were a last-minute addition to the fest when Iceland’s Bloodgroup pulled out. My understanding is that the band have been somewhat… chameleonic in their musical stylings in the past, but it seems that they’ve settled – for the moment at least – on a classic guitar pop template for their sound. With their three lead vocalists, comparisons to Teenage Fanclub came to mind but are offered only with the caveat that The Breezes bring a little more swing to things and aren’t as brilliant as those Scots but that’s not really a slight – who is? They were genial performers despite the slim crowd in the early going, and really got most interesting towards the end of their set with some of their noisier or more experimental tendencies began to bleed into their songs. If they decide to shift gears again, that might be one way to go.

Photos: The Breezes @ Wrongbar – March 24, 2012
MP3: The Breezes – “Promethean Eyes”
Video: The Breezes – “Oceans”
Video: The Breezes – “Count To Eleven”

Having known Reg Vermue for some years and seen Gentleman Reg countless times, adjusting to his new identity as Regina Theegentlelady in Light Fires, his/her new project with Ohbijou’s James Bunton, has taken a little time. But that’s also because it’s taken a little time for it to coalesce from concept to execution and based on this show, it might be just about there. Though Reg/Regina’s vocals are still as distinctive as ever, their disco-ish electro is a far cry from the guitar-pop of Gentleman Reg and oh yeah, seeing him/her pulling off some fairly elaborate and aerobic dance routines to go with the songs – though climbing on top of two wobbly barstools to sing would not have topped my list of smart things to do – was also new. There’s only been a single released but an album is in the works, and if you’re waiting for more Gentleman Reg material, it might be a while – Light Fires would seem to be the priority right now.

Photos: Light Fires @ Wrongbar – March 24, 2012
Video: Light Fires – “Ten Feet Tall”

And finishing things off in grand fashion were Parisian duo Housse de Racket. Their elevator pitch would sound something like, “Phoenix meets The Strokes” and while that’s not wrong – their second album Alesia certainly has some of that eminently danceable guitar/synth-pop with that distinctive Gallic sheen to it – it wouldn’t have done the intensity of their live show justice. Pierre Leroux had synths at the ready but spent most of the show attending to – or abusing – his Telecaster while co-conspirator Victor le Masne dazzled with his heavy, yet nimble drumming. Not dancing was not an option, and while the room wasn’t nearly full – if this show had taken place outside a festival or if they’d been rightfully identified as one of the must-sees of the week rather than be overlooked, I wager at it’d have been at least 50% better attended – those there took advantage of the extra space to bust a move or two; you couldn’t not. With plenty of French charm, they worked the room like it was a much bigger crowd and by set’s end, having built up a real head of steam, were damn near heroic-sounding; a grand and dazzling end to the festival. The Georgia Straight has an interview with the band.

Photos: Housse de Racket @ Wrongbar – March 24, 2012
MP3: Housse de Racket – “Roman”
Video: Housse de Racket – “Chateau”
Video: Housse de Racket – “Roman”
Video: Housse de Racket – “Oh Yeah!”
Video: Housse de Racket – “Synthétiseur”
Video: Housse de Racket – “1-2-3-4”

And before I collapse into the weekend, which I need to do – writing up festivals is arguably more tiring than actually attending them – there’s some show announcements you should really know about.

Sweden’s We Are Serenades used to be called just Serenades but presumably they ran into some legal troubles on that front. In any case, it’s still Adam Olenius of Shout Out Louds and Markus Krunegard and their rather Euro-pop debut Criminal Heaven gets a North American release on April 17. In support, they’re putting together a North American tour and will be at The Garrison on May 14. They were one of the bands I wanted to but failed to see at SXSW, so I may try and hit this one up.

MP3: We Are Serenades – “Birds”
MP3: We Are Serenades – “Oceans”
Video: We Are Serenades – “Oceans”

One of the show announcements I’ve been waiting for all year is finally here. As Eric Bachmann promised last Summer, the Archers Of Loaf reunion is coming to Toronto on June 16 at The Phoenix as part of NXNE. Tickets are $24.50 in advance and go on sale today. Yeah I know you’ve bought Radiohead tickets. Your loss.

MP3: Archers Of Loaf – “Harnessed In Slums”
MP3: Archers Of Loaf – “What Did You Expect”
MP3: Archers Of Loaf – “Wrong”

Nashville’s JEFF The Brotherhood – just here in February – are coming back for a show at Wrongbar on June 23, tickets $13 in advance.

Video: JEFF The Brotherhood – “Whatever I Want”

And I never listened to Swedish hardcore punks Refused back when they were still around – almost the definition of not my thing – but apparently they were big enough that their reunion tour can support not one but two nights at The Sound Academy, with OFF! – themselves sporting impressive punk credentials – as support. Those dates are July 22 and 23 and tickets are $35.99 in advance.

MP3: OFF! – “King Kong Brigade”
Video: Refused – “New Noise”

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Here It Comes

Army Girls lead charge into Canadian Musicfest 2012

Photo By Katie SadieKatie SadieSo yeah, Canadian Musicfest kind of screwed me over this year. For the past however many years, we’ve had a good arrangement: Canadian Music Week, as it was once know, runs the week before SXSW and allows me to a) get into some semblance of game shape for a club-hopping festival, b) check out some bands that I might otherwise have to find time to see in Austin, and c) allow me to build up a backlog of content to allow me to keep posting while I’m experiencing taco country. Everybody wins. But for this year, for some inexplicable reason, CMW/CMF decided to move to the week AFTER SXSW, not only invalidating all of the above points but also making next week doubly busy as I try to plough through gigs of SXSW content and still hit the clubs for CMF. And oh yeah, go back to work.

All of which would be more acceptable if the schedule shift had been to accomodate some impressive talent in the festival lineup; I don’t think I’m creating any scandals by saying that that is not so much the case. Compared to past years, there’s seems to be a real dearth of either breakout or on-the-cusp acts, be they local or international – or maybe I’m just not up on what the kids are into these days. They still like the I Mother Earth? Really? Anyways, none of this is to say there’s nothing worth seeing next week – not at all – it just might take a little more research to fill out one’s schedule. I’ve done some of that research. Let me share some of it with you.

Army Girls – It’s a bit cruel that the only showcase I could theoretically make for this duo – my pick for the best up-and-coming act in Toronto – is at the most remote venue in the city and appears to be scheduled so that the set’s no longer than 20 minutes, but even so I will bet that it’d be worth the trek. Amazingly hooky guitar pop with the right amount of abrasiveness.

Thursday, March 22, 10:30PM @ Parts & Labour
Friday, March 23, 2:00PM @ The Toronto Institute For The Enjoyment Of Music

Stream: Army Girls / Close To The Bone

Lake Forest – you might think that a solo project from The Wilderness Of Manitoba’s Will Whitwham a touch redundant since he sings lead and writes most of the WOM material, but his debut album Silver Skies stands apart enough to justify itself while offering plenty to appeal to fans of his band.

Thursday, March 22, 1:00AM @ The Cameron House

MP3: Lake Forest – “Autumn Skies”

Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Singer-songwriter whose debut Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm has made him something of a rising star in his native England; nothing wrong with taking the opportunity to see him in an intimate setting in case he catches on similarly over here.

Thursday, March 22, 11:00PM @ The Cameron House
Friday, March 23, 9:10PM @ Supermarket

MP3: Benjamin Francis Leftwich – “Ticket To Ride” (Beatles cover)
Video: Benjamin Francis Leftwich – “Pictures”

Neufvoin – solidly anthemic guitar rock from hailing from the fjords of Norway wilds of Finland. They’re still young – a debut album is supposed to be out this Spring – but they already sound sophisticated and assured. Was originally just looking for something to fill a time slot but now I quite want to see these guys.

Thursday, March 22, 12:30AM @ El Mocambo (upstairs)
Friday, March 23, 9:00PM @ Rancho Relaxo

MP3: Neufvoin – “Drunken Captain”
MP3: Neufvoin – “Polar Song”
MP3: Neufvoin – “Villasukka”
Video: Neufvoin – “Polar Song”

Fred – I’m pretty sure I’ve seen these Cork (Ireland) natives on the lineups for past CMWs and NXNEs both, so they’re no strangers to our city. But if they’re still strangers to you, and you like big, friendly pop-rock of the sort that fills their new record Leaving My Empire, then you ought to get acquainted.

Thursday, March 22, 11:00PM @ The Rivoli

MP3: Fred – “Eleven”
Video: Fred – “Eleven”

Husky – recent signees to SubPop who fit the label’s rustic/bearded division perfectly, despite hailing from Australia rather than the Pacific Northwest. Their debut Forever So is out July 10; get on board now.

Saturday, March 24, 2:45PM @ The El Mocambo
Saturday, March 24, 9:00PM @ The Garrison
Sunday, March 25, 9:00PM @ The Velvet Underground

MP3: Husky – “The Woods”
Video: Husky – “The Woods”

Louise Burns – Vancouver artist whose debut Mellow Drama made my shortlist for the 2010 Polaris Prize; I wasn’t surprised she didn’t make the shortlist but I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had. For some reason, she’s got no official showcase – just this day show. So if you’re free, take advantage of the opportunity. Update: An official showcase has been added.

Wednesday, March 21, 10:00PM @ The Drake Underground
Thursday, March 22, 4:00PM @ The Toronto Institute For The Enjoyment Of Music

MP3: Louise Burns – “What Do You Wanna Do?”
MP3: Louise Burns – “Drop Names Not Bombs”

And this isn’t all I’d recommend at all, but I need to save some stuff for my actual festival coverage, yeah? Yeah. And the full, three-day sched for those Toronto Institute For The Enjoyment Of Music afternoon shows is over here

BlogTO gets to know The Elwins, whom they declare one of the city’s breakout bands for this year. I don’t disagree. Their next show is March 25 at Rancho Relaxo as part of the Canadian Musicfest grace note and if you ever wanted to see the band, along with Luke Lalonde of Born Ruffians cover Beyonce – this is your lucky day. There’s also an interview at Exclaim where they talk about how they personalised their tour down to SXSW for each tour stop.

Video: The Elwins with Luke Lalonde – “Countdown”

Exclaim and The Georgia Straight talk to Memoryhouse; they play a record release show for The Slideshow Effect at The El Mocambo on April 13.

Forest City Lovers have made a date at The Great Hall on April 19. Tickets $12 in advance.

MP3: Forest City Lovers – “Light You Up”

American Songwriter is hosting the second instalment of The Wooden Sky’s “Grace On A Hill” video session series. The band is at The Opera House on April 20.

Billboard talks to Patrick Watson about his new record Adventures In Your Own Backyard, out April 30. He’s at The Music Hall on May 29.

Congratulations to the newly pregnant Coeur de Pirate, who has just released a new video from Blonde.

Video: Coeur de Pirate – “Golden Baby”

Beatrice Martin is also featured in a fashion spread for Brixton. Which in and of itself wouldn’t necessarily be noteworthy, but it also allows me to point at this fashion shoot for The Bay featuring some familiar local musician faces belonging to Diamond Rings and Fucked Up, amongst others. Sassy!

Clash and State profile Grimes. She plays The Horseshoe March 19.

Macleans looks at the ongoing trend of ’90s Can-rock bands hopping on the reunion bandwagon, including The Inbreds and Treble Charger, both of whom are getting high billing at Canadian Musicfest next week.

The Grid salutes Exclaim on the occasion of their 20th anniversary. I am doing the same. Exclaim, I salute you!