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Posts Tagged ‘Jezabels’

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Animal Heart

Nina Persson increases global levels of Nina Persson with solo album

Photo By Shervin LainezShervin LainezWhither Nina Persson? Despite fronting two bands, she’s made herself pretty scarce in recent years. The Cardigans haven’t released a new record since 2006’s Super Extra Gravity and A Camp, her project with Niclas Frisk, Mark Linkous, and Nathan Larson, was last heard of on 2009’s Colonia.

But she hasn’t just been taking some down time. She recently moved to New York, splitting time between there and Malmö, and as revealed in the 2011 Swedish documentary I Am My Own Dolly Parton, was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Fortunately, it was detected early and successfully removed – she discussed in in a 2011 interview with Sweden’s Express and roughly translated into English at Cardies fansite Plain Picture Parade – and she’s since become a mother. Pretty good reasons to have stepped away from making music for a while.

And now she’s back. The Cardigans are technically active again, performing a recital of Gran Turismo at a bunch of European and Asian festivals last year and playing some “greatest hits” dates in Asia and Russia as we speak – they’re actually in Osaka tonight. Whether this will lead to more dates or recording is unclear, but The Cardigans are out of mothballs, at least.

And as for looking forwards rather than back, Persson has just announced her first solo record, implying that the A Camp name is done. The album is entitled Animal Heart, written with Larson and Eric Johnson of the now-defunct Fruit Bats, recorded at her home in Harlem, and coming with “disco and eighties soul” reference points, will be released on February 10. Persson discusses the making of the album in the official bio and has released a video for the title track of the record.

Video: Nina Persson – “Animal Heart”
Trailer: I’m My Own Dolly Parton

New Zealand psych-pop-soul singer Connan Mockasin has announced a short North American tour behind his second album Caramel; he’ll be in Toronto at The Drake Underground on January 13, tickets $13. There’s features on him at The Line Of Best Fit, Interview, Red Bull, and eMusic, you can stream the new album via The Fader and watch a new video at Nowness.

MP3: Connan Mockasin – “Dolphin Love”
Video: Connan Mockasin – “I’m The Man, That Will Find You”
Stream: Connan Mockasin / Caramel

So my sleuthing around the precise release dates of I Break Horses’ new album have turned out to be a little off, but for the better – rather than the January 28 release I speculated on, Chiaroscuro will be out in North America on January 21, the day after it comes out in Europe. No staggered releases here!

Exclaim has details on the sophomore album from The Jezebels, entitled The Brink and due out February 18. Check out the first video from it below.

Video: The Jezabels – “The End”

Spain’s Delorean have premiered the new video from Apar at Nowness; they make up their previously canceled date in support of the record at The Hoxton on February 20.

Video: Delorean – “Unhold”

Icona Pop have released a new video from This Is Icona Pop and have announced a slew of tour dates which brings them back to Toronto on March 31… opening for Miley Cyrus at the Air Canada Centre.

Video: Icona Pop – “Just Another Night”

The Fly checks in with Bo Madesen of Mew.

DIY has a brief interview with Austra-Scandinavian outfit Kate Boy.

Greek duo Keep Shelley In Athens have released a new video from their debut full-length, At Home.

Video: Keep Shelley In Athens – “Oostende”

Noisey has premiered the new video from Japanese post-rockers Mono, taken from their latest album For My Parents.

Video: Mono – “Dream Odyssey”

Phoenix have premiered their new Sofia Coppola-directed video from Bankrupt! at the MoMA website.

Video: Phoenix – “Chloroform”

Spin is streaming a new song from M83, taken from the soundtrack to You And The Night, a French film about an orgy.

Stream: M83 – “Ali & Matthias”

eMusic, Billboard, and Exclaim have interviews with Cut Copy.

Paste talks Hunger Games and other matters with Of Monsters & Men.

Rolling Stone chats with Björk, and Time has dug up an old video of a young Björk explaining how a television works.

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Terribly Dark

Review of Frida Hyvönen’s The The Soul

Photo By KnotanKnotanArtists lose record deals; it happens all the time. But when it happens to an international artist and rather than find a new deal, they disappear off your radar entirely, well that’s just a shame. Swedish singer-songwriter Frida Hyvönen was represented by Secretly Canadian for her first two albums, 2005’s Until Death Comes and 2008’s Silence Is Wild, but after that they parted ways and as such, the release of her third pop album To The Soul back in April escaped my notice completely.

Which is a shame, because I quite liked both of Hyvönen’s other releases (the above ‘pop’ distinction is necessary because her two albums under the Frida Hyvönen gives you: marque are soundtracks for a poodle-inspired dance recital and photographic exhibition and outside the scope of my experience). Death was a more skeletal affair, built largely around Hyvönen’s voice, piano, and idiosyncratic worldview, but when she toured behind it in Spring 2007, it was perfectly suited for her to perform solo, showcasing both her musical talents and genuinely eccentric personality. Silence, in comparison, filled out her sound with both bigger pop numbers and more pointedly personal compositions and I’m genuinely disappointed that she didn’t come back on tour with it – I would have loved to hear “London!” and “Dirty Dancing” live.

That disappointment pales to having to not hearing the follow-up until some four months after it was released not just because I couldn’t find a copy, but because I didn’t even know it existed. To The Soul continues the trajectory marked by the previous two data points in Hyvönen’s discography, taking her songwriting into sonically and emotionally richer territory while she’s arguably never been in finer voice. There’s more variety between her jaunty pop and sweeping ballads, as she swaps piano for synth textures on the New Wave-y “Terribly Dark” and enlists orchestral assistance on the dramatic “In Every Crowd”. Most striking about Soul is how the sort of material which was presented as grandiose pop on Silence has evolved to become almost theatrical in scale; it’s no stretch to imagine “Saying Goodbye” or “Gold” as a show-stopper in a Broadway production, and it’s not just in the presentation – the songs are just that big. The only bigger shame than the fact that the album is only available in North America via iTunes is that people probably don’t even know that much. So if you’re any kind of Hyvönen fan, know that To The Soul is out there and that it’s worth the hunt.

PSL has a video session with Hyvönen. Yes, it’s in Swedish.

Video: Frida Hyvönen – “Terribly Dark”

Pitchfork has details on Pale Fire, the finally-confirmed new record from El Perro Del Mar Pale Fire. It’s out November 13, a new single is available to stream, and tour dates are apparently forthcoming. Huzzah.

Stream: El Perro Del Mar – “Walk On By”

For Folk’s Sake talks to Anna Ternheim about her new record The Night Visitor.

The Alternate Side has a session with Niki & The Dove, with whom DIY caught a word with at Reading & Leeds Festival. They play the slightly smaller Drake Underground on October 2.

Jens Lekman talks to MTV, Playground, and The Sydney Morning Herald about his glorious new album I Know What Love Isn’t, out September 4 and arguably his best record yet. Yes, better than those other ones you love so much. Don’t believe me? The Quietus is streaming the whole thing right now. He plays The Phoenix on October 4. And if you need a refresher as to why all of Lekman’s records are so good, Paste has compiled a list of his best lyrical turns of phrase.

MP3: Jens Lekman – “Erica America”
Stream: Jens Lekman / I Know What Love Isn’t

NPR has a World Cafe session with The Tallest Man On Earth.

The Hives have released a new video from Lex Hives.

Video: The Hives – “Wait A Minute”

Denmark’s Choir Of Young Believers will be at The Drake on October 22 supporting Daughter. Their latest Rhine Gold came out back in March. Full tour dates at BrooklynVegan.

MP3: Choir Of Young Believers – “Sedated”
MP3: Choir Of Young Believers – “Patricia’s Thirst”
MP3: Choir Of Young Believers – “Nye Nummber Et”

Danish disco outfit The Asteroids Galaxy Tour return to a North American orbit for a show at The Danforth Music Hall on November 5, tickets $20. Their second album Out Of Frequency came out back in January.

MP3: The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – “Major”
MP3: The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – “Around The Bend”

DIY has a video session with Of Monsters & Men, and DigitalSpy, The Bay Bridged, Tone Deaf, and The Guardian have interviews.

German ambient-electronic duo Mouse On Mars will be at Lee’s Palace on October 19 in support of their new EP Wow, even though it’s not out until November 2. Tickets for that are $15.

Video: Mouse On Mars – “They Know Your Name”

Daytrotter has a session with The Jezabels, in town at The Mod Club on October 24.

The Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone talk to Nick Cave about writing and scoring the film Lawless.

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Osheaga 2012 Day One

Florence & The Machine, Sigur Rós, The Weeknd, and more at Osheaga

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI had decided a little while ago that I was done with big, outdoor music festivals. My last go-around was Pitchfork 2010 – not even what could be considered a “big” festival in the grand scheme of things – and even then, I was really feeling the “I am too old for this”-ness of the experience. But two years is a long time, or at least long enough to forget those aches and pains, and so when the opportunity arose at the last minute to hit Montrél’s Osheaga – Canada’ biggest and last multi-day, all-day outdoor music fest – I said, “why not”. After all, I’ve done fests all over the US and even in Europe – to not have been to the one closest to home (aside from the late Toronto V’s) seemed silly, and this year they’d assembled a pretty impressive lineup by drafting off of Lollapalooza. And so I went.

When I first saw Londoner Charli XCX back at SXSW, the buzz around here was very much in the embryonic stage – people were talking about her but with very little actual music released, it wasn’t entirely clear why they were talking about her. Her short, low-key, afternoon set in the front room of Red Eyed Fly didn’t do much to clarify that either though to be fair, it clearly wasn’t her ideal setting. Which isn’t to say that opening up a festival under the blazing sun and smothering humidity was her element, but it was certainly closer. With a drummer, keyboardist, and no shortage of backing tracks behind her, she led things off with an energized set of clubby electro-pop that went over well with the smattering of early birds gathering in front of the Parc Jean-Drapeau mainstage. Sometimes said backing tracks were more audible than the live instrumentation, but the balance of things eventually settled down and that Charli XCX had a strong voice, capable of conveying both playfulness and drama, was evident – she was no ingenue up there, and though her sound is very much for the kids, her respectable cover of Echo & The Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” went some way to endearing her to the oldsters in the audience.

Digital Spy and Paper have interviews with Charli XCX.

Photos: Charli XCX @ Scène de la montagne – August 3, 2012
MP3: Charli XCX – “I’ll Never Know”
MP3: Charli XCX – “Valentine”
MP3: Charli XCX – “Nuclear Seasons”
Video: Charli XCX – “Nuclear Seasons”
Video: Charli XCX – “You’re The One”

Typically, bands playing festivals have to agree to a radius clause that prevents them from playing any other local shows for a certain amount of time. Australia’s Jezabels, on the other hand, were playing their second Montrél show in less than 24 hours having played a club show the night before for MMOI, an event running parallel/in conjunction with Osheaga tasked with putting a spotlight on specific acts from around the world. But if they were feeling the effects of the hectic schedule, it didn’t show. Already rising stars down under, they’ve been working hard at making a similar dent in North America on the back of their debut album Prisoner and though their set started over 10 minutes late due to soundchecking issues, they used the remaining time to showcase their stadium rock ambitions with frontwoman Hayley Mary’s soaring vocals and arm-waving choruses.

Zimbio has a feature interview with the band, and they’ve just announced a date at The Mod Club on October 24.

Photos: The Jezabels @ Scène des arbes – August 3, 2012
MP3: The Jezabels – “Try Colour”
MP3: The Jezabels – “Endless Summer”
MP3: The Jezabels – “Mace Spray”
Video: The Jezabels – “Rosebud”
Video: The Jezabels – “Try Colour”
Video: The Jezabels – “Endless Summer”
Video: The Jezabels – “Mace Spray”
Video: The Jezabels – “Easy To Love”
Video: The Jezabels – “Hurt Me”

Following up on the same stage were California’s Dum Dum Girls, who were also plagued with technical problems – the first big cheer of the day went not for their retro garage pop, but when they were finally able to get bassist Malia James’ mic working. Still on the road for last year’s Only In Dreams but also in advance of their new EP End Of Daze, out September 25, they put on an energetic set that wasn’t too different from the times I saw them last year at NXNE and at SXSW – right down to the sweltering heat making their make-up run – but their harmonies sounded more up front this time and, oh – both Dee Dee and Malia changed their hair colours, if that’s the sort of thing you’re keeping track of. Though the myriad technical issues persisted through their set – at times there were as many techs on stage as band members – they soldiered through for a solid set.

Photos: Dum Dum Girls @ Scène des arbes – August 3, 2012
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Lord Knows”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Bedroom Eyes”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Coming Down”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “He Gets Me High”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “D.A.L.”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Coming Down”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Bedroom Eyes”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “He Gets Me High”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”

It seems I only see Franz Ferdinand at festivals – the last time being Toronto’s final V Fest in 2009 – but that’s okay, as they’re a fantastic festival band. The timing was a bit odd as there’s been no official word on a follow-up to 2009’s Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, though a release sometime this year has been promised for a while and new songs have been trickling out in live sets. In any case, it’s probably safe to say that no one cared that there wasn’t a new record out because they wanted to hear the old stuff, which Franz delivered with gusto. Opening with “Dark Of The Matinée” and powering through basically non-stop disco-rock anthems before closing with, “This Fire”, theirs was the first set that made the day feel like it was entering prime time. There was one new song, thrown in for good measure and sounding for lack of a better description very Franz. Also new was Alex Kapranos’ moustache which, even with his formidable swagger, I don’t think he pulled off. Can’t win ’em all, guys.

Photos: Franz Ferdinand @ Scène de la rivière – August 3, 2012
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Can’t Stop Feeling”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “No You Girls”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Ulysses”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Eleanor Put Your Boots On”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Jeremy Fraser”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Wine In The Afternoon”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “L. Wells”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Fallen”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Walk Away”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Do You Want To”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “This Fire”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Michael”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “The Dark Of The Matinee”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Darts Of Pleasure”

Abel Tesfaye – the Toronto-based R&B singer known professionally as The Weeknd – spent most of 2011 shrouded in mystery, eschewing interviews and overt publicity and riding his trilogy of mixtapes – House Of Balloons/Thursday/Echoes Of Silence – to huge acclaim and a place on that year’s Polaris Prize shortlist. But seeing as how internet acclaim doesn’t put food on the table, it was only a matter of time before Tesfaye stepped out of the shadows and onto the stage. Specifically, big festival stages like at Osheaga. Fronting a five-piece band and facing a massive crowd of enthusiastic fans, Tesfaye certainly didn’t come across as someone who would shy away from attention. Though he wasn’t a showy performer, he was charismatic and in great voice. It was interesting to see how big a smile he wore considering how dark a perspective he frequently writes from, but I suppose it’s hard to be glum when you’ve got thousands of people – many of them young women – screaming for you. His set went overtime with a drawn-out, vocally acrobatic version of “Wicked Games” and was one of the many points in the weekend when the tag-team setup of the Osheaga mainstages made for an interesting contrast, with half the crowd swooning and the other half, waiting for Florence & The Machine’s set to begin, stewing.

Photos: The Weeknd @ Scène de la montagnes – August 3, 2012
MP3: The Weeknd – “Loft Music”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Life Of The Party”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Zone”
MP3: The Weeknd – “House Of Balloons – Glass Table Girls”
MP3: The Weeknd – “What Do You Need”
MP3: The Weeknd – “D.D.”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Fall”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Birds (Part 1)”
MP3: The Weeknd – “High For This”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Initiation”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Wicked Games”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Montreal”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Outside”
MP3: The Weeknd – “XO/The Host”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Same Old Song”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Morning”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Rolling Stone”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Birds (Part 2)”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Heaven Or Las Vegas”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Knowing”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Coming Down”
Video: The Weeknd – “The Knowing”

Florence & The Machine could only been delayed, however, not denied. I regard it as a statement of fact rather than boast that I was on board with Florence Welch way early on, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Her first releases painted her as a sort of crazy art-rock eccentric with prodigious vocal gifts but seemingly no inclination to use them conventionally or consistently – which may and well have been the plan at first, but at some point it became evident that big, roof-rattling anthems would be better use for her talents to say nothing of more marketable. Her debut Lungs somewhat split the difference between the two directions, albeit with the older material polished up so as to not embarrass their siblings, but her second album Ceremonials was all bombastic singles with little use for variety or restraint, and it’s hard to argue with the success of that direction – fully half the album has been released as singles and she’s a massive star worldwide, as her marquee billing at festivals like this testified.

Though not the Friday closer, Florence certainly drew the largest crowd of the day and taking the ornately-decorated stage in a billowing blue dress, she was certainly up for the occasion. Sweeping from one side of the stage to other so as to not neglect anyone, the dramatic flourishes and stage moves I commented on at her Toronto debut in November 2009 have only gotten bigger in the interim (I’ve missed all her local shows since) but she tempers the grandiosity of the presentation with appreciation and affection for her fans and playful moves like leaping up and down onstage, heels be damned. It’s possible that it’s all rehearsed and routine, but from my vantage point up front, her huge smile was genuine. It was nice. And it may seem odd to say, but losing her voice as she did a couple weeks ago may have been good for Welch – a complaint I’ve had about her live performance before was that her vocal power would come at the expense of pitch – read: she was flat a lot – but this time out, she was demonstrating more restraint in her delivery, perhaps intending to save her voice but reaping the benefits of being more controlled, more in key, and more dynamic as a result. Whatever it was, even though I don’t necessarily count myself a big fan anymore, I thoroughly enjoyed her set. Some artists are made for festivals.

The National Post, Toronto Star, Montreal Gazette, and The Globe & Mail have interviews with Welch.

Photos: Florence & The Machine @ Scène de la rivière – August 3, 2012
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Breaking Down”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Spectrum (Say My Name)”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Breath Of Life”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Never Let Me Go”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “No Light, No Light”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Shake It Out”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “What The Water Gave Me”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Heavy In Your Arms”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Cosmic Love”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “You’ve Got The Love”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Drumming Song”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With A Fist”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Dog Days Are Over”

To paraphrase Winston Zeddemore, when someone asks you if you want to see Sigur Rós twice in 72 hours, you say YES. So a couple days after seeing their blissful set at Echo Beach in Toronto, I was lucky enough to see Iceland’s finest once again. And as great as their Osheaga set was, it really made me thankful that I saw that Toronto show as it was nearly twice as long and far better-paced to allow the beauty of what they do to come through. In a festival setting and limited to a set time of just an hour, they had to dispense with most of the slower, more ambient parts of their show in favour of a more compressed, impactful set list. I appreciated that it wasn’t necessarily their own audience they were playing in front of – I’m sure many didn’t even know who they were – but I did hope that for those unfamiliar, their set would be a gateway of sorts to something magical and otherworldly. Judging from the chants of, “Justice! Justice” that grew from the other half of the mainstage area as their set drew to a close, that probably wasn’t the case. Alas.

The National Post has an interview.

Photos: Sigur Rós @ Scène de la montagne – August 3, 2012
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Gobbledigook”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Hoppípolla”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Popplagio / The Pop Song”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Staralfur”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Svefn-G-Englar”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Nýja lagið”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Rembihnútur”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Fjögur Píanó”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Varúð” (version two)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Varúð” (version one)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Ég anda” (version two)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Ég anda” (version one)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Ekki Múkk”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Við Spilum Endalaust “
Video: Sigur Rós – “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Gobbledigook”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Sæglópur”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Hoppípolla”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Glósóli”
Video: Sigur Rós – “(Vaka)”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Viðrar vel til loftárása”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Svefn-G-Englar”

And finally, there was Justice for all. At least all who were left. Though the ostensible headliners, the French disco-rock duo had a markedly smaller audience than Florence did but they were still legion and really, that just meant more room to dance. The pair set up atop/behind their signature wall of electronic consoles and wings of Marshall stacks – and giant glowing cross, yes – but from the angle up close it looked more ridiculous than impressive, with Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay looking like little more than severed heads sitting atop their setup. Certainly there was no way to see what they were actually doing up there, whether DJing records or playing Pac-Man, but no one seemed to care. They had a raging dance party to engage in, and rage they did. Justice provided an excellent soundtrack to ending a long, hot day of great music and also for walking to the subway.

The Montreal Gazette and NOW have interviews.

Photos: Justice @ Scène de la rivière – August 3, 2012
MP3: Justice – “On’N’On”
Video: Justice – “New Lands”
Video: Justice – “On’N’On”
Video: Justice – “Audio, Video, Disco”
Video: Justice – “Civilization”
Video: Justice – “Phantom Pt. II”
Video: Justice – “Stress”
Video: Justice – “DVNO”
Video: Justice – “D.A.N.C.E.”

And a few concert announcements that may be relevant to your interests. Just here in May, LA’s Grouplove are back in support of Never Trust A Happy Song for a show at The Phoenix on November 5, tickets $24 in advance.

Video: Grouplove – “Colours”

Aimee Mann has announced a Fall tour behind her new album Charmer, out September 18, and is bringing an expected tourmate with her – Ted Leo. I assume he’s leaving the Pharmacists at home for this outing and will be dialing down the punk a bit so as to not scare Mann’s audience, but it’s an interesting pairing. The Toronto show is November 6 at the Danforth Music Hall, tickets $27.50 and $32.50.

MP3: Aimee Mann – “Charmer”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Bottled In Cork”

After expressing surprise that Yeasayer were big enough to play the Sound Academy, as they were meant to on August 21, it appears that they in fact aren’t. On either count. Their new album Fragrant World is still out that day, but they’ll not be in Toronto until November 9 and it will be at the markedly smaller Danforth Music Hall. Anyone who says they are upset about the change in venue is lying and should not be allowed near small children.

Rachael Yamagata has made a date at The Mod Club for December 1, tickets $15. Her latest album Chesapeake came out last Fall.

Video: Rachael Yamagata – “Even If I Don’t”

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

The Darkness

Review of Rose Cousins’ We Have Made A Spark

Photo By Shervin IainezShervin IainezRose Cousins is not a new artist. The Charlottetown by way of Halifax artist has been releasing music for the better part of a decade and I’ve technically heard her before as she’s guested on any number of Maritime-born records including Joel Plaskett’s, but I’d not heard any of her own material until her third full-length album We Have Made A Spark, released at the end of February. And clearly that’s been my loss.

It’s not a record that stops you in your tracks – describe it as singer-songwriter that’d be comfortable at an adult contemporary party and lists towards the rootsy end of things and you wouldn’t be wrong – but that wouldn’t give credit to the emotional richness that Cousins infuses her work with. Her voice has that special blend of wistfulness and resignation that’s put to good use throughout Spark and ably supported by the lean and tasteful arrangements. But the sense of something ineffably special about this record really emerges on the record’s back half, with “For The Best” and “This Light” acting as a particularly powerful one-two punch and the cover of Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind” finishing the listener off. Predominantly slow and sad, yet still standing tall, Spark articulates the sorts of feelings and experiences that everyone has either known or will know soon enough.

Uptown and The Edmonton Journal have feature pieces on Cousins and Southern Souls recently posted a video session with her. She plays The Rivoli on May 3.

MP3: Rose Cousins – “The Darkness”

The Elwins are helping celebrate Record Store Day with an in-store at Soundscapes on the evening of April 21 at 7PM; details over at Facebook. They’ve also been added to the support bill for Zeus at The Phoenix on June 9.

MP3: The Elwins – “Stuck In The Middle”

Sonic Boom is also once again celebrating Record Store Day with their own in-store mini-festival; this year they’ll have Army Girls, The Darcys, Born Ruffians, Plants & Animals, Bloodshot Bill, Fresh Snow, Lioness, Eight And A Half, and Diemonds. Now that’s a lineup and the schedule for the day looks like this.

MP3: Plants & Animals – “Song For Love”
MP3: The Darcys – “Shaking Down The Old Bones”
Video: Diemonds – “Take On The Night”
Video: Eight And A Half – “Scissors”
Video: Lioness – “You’re My Heart”

Though she figures to be around six months pregnant by that time, Coeur de Pirate has made a date at The Opera House for June 1, tickets $22.50 in advance. Rock!

Video: Coeur de Pirate – “Golden Baby”

The 2012 LuminaTO arts festival schedule is out, and from the music end of things, it’s got quite a bit to offer, mostly for free. Highlights include a Rufus Wainwright show on June 10, a Dan Mangan/Kathleen Edwards double-bill on the afternoon of June 16 (hopefully Ms. Edwards’ voice will be back) and an Ohbijou show on the afternoon of June 17; all of these are at David Pecault Square and are free. And yes, that second weekend is the same time as NXNE. So much culture you’re going to choke. The Line Of Best Fit has a video session and interview and Black Cab Sessions do their thing with Wainwright and NPR has a Tiny Desk Concert and Beatroute and The Calgary Herald have feature stories on Kathleen Edwards.

MP3: Kathleen Edwards – “Change The Sheets”
MP3: Dan Mangan – “Oh Fortune”
MP3: Ohbijou – “Anser”
Video: Rufus Wainwright – “Out Of The Game”

The Great Hall gets dark and synthy on July 13 when it hosts a show featuring Toronto’s Trust and New York’s Light Asylum; tickets for that are $12.50 in advance.

MP3: Light Asylum – “A Certain Person”
Video: Trust – “Bulbform”

I don’t remember the last time Little Scream played her own headlining show hereabouts – has she ever? – but she has great luck with opening gigs, having been added as warm-up for Beirut at The Sound Academy on July 19.

MP3: Little Scream – “Cannons”

Kind of an mish-mash of a bill, both in terms of genre and geography, but you’ve got The Sam Roberts Band, Bombay Bicycle Club, and The Jezabels at Echo Beach on July 26 – tickets $39.50 for general admission and $55.00 for VIP.

MP3: The Jezabels – “Try Colour”
Video: Sam Roberts – “I Feel You”
Video: Bombay Bicycle Club – “Shuffle”

Beatroute, The Georgia Straight, and here profile Chains Of Love, who’re in town at The Great Hall opening up for Said The Whale on April 14.

With the release of the new Moonface record With Sinai: Heartbreaking Bravery nigh – it’s out April 17 – it’s time for some premieres; a new video over at Spin and a stream of the whole record at The AV Club.

MP3: Moonface – “Teary Eyes And Bloody Lips”
Video: Moonface – “Teary Eyes And Bloody Lips”
Stream: Moonface / With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery

The fourth part of The Wooden Sky’s Grace On A Hill video series has premiered at IFC. They’re at The Opera House on April 20.

Still no specifics on the “why”, if there are any, surrounding the Fucked Up show at The Power Plant on May 1, but the band have announced that it’ll be free. So the “why” now matters that much less than “when do we line up”, yes?

CBC Music has got a video session with PS I Love You wherein they preview material from Death Dreams ahead of its May 8 release. They’re at The Garrison on May 15.

JAM, The Victoria Times-Colonist, Banff Cragg & Canyon, and Beatroute talk to Joel Plaskett. He’s at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre on May 18 and 19.

Spinner and The Globe & Mail chat with Tony Dekker of Great Lake Swimmers, who’ve made a track from New Wild Everywhere available to download and also released a new video. There’s also clips from their performance at the Glenn Gould Studio last month at CBC Music. They play The Music Hall on June 2.

MP3: Great Lake Swimmers – “The Great Exhale”
Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “New Wild Everywhere”

Guelph disco-pop ensemble The Magic are streaming the first single from their debut Ragged Gold, due out June 25.

Stream: The Magic – “Mr. Hollywood”

Feist has released a new video from Metals.

Video: Feist – “Bittersweet Melodies”

NPR serves up a World Cafe session and Planet S an interview with John K Samson.

Daytrotter has posted a new session with Timber Timbre.

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

SXSW 2012 Night Four

Django Django, Michael Kiwanuke, And So I Watch Your From Afar and more at SXSW

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangTaking into account how incredibly efficient I was at catching my must-see bands of SXSW on the first day of the festival, I knew that it was a very real possibility that come Saturday night, I’d have nothing left that I wanted to see… and that was almost the case. Thankfully I’d kept a few things in my back pocket and either skipped earlier in the week for just such a scenario or had been putting off for Canadian Musicfest the following week. It’s called planning, folks. And if those contingencies didn’t work out, well I could just sit back and survey the chaos brought on by the final night of the festival, the return of the University of Texas students after spring break and St. Patrick’s day all converging on 6th St.

London’s Michael Kiwanuka might well have found his way into the spotlight in his own time, but getting named as BBC’s Sound Of 2012 certainly expedited the process. So rather than play one of the festival’s smaller, more intimate clubs for his SXSW debut, he was here on one of the biggest stages at Stubb’s amphitheatre and while it’s possible or probable that something cozier would have better suited him, the way he was able to fill the night sky with just his voice, acoustic guitar and accompanying bassist was remarkable. It’s a simple, time-tested recipe and perfectly suited for Kiwanuka’s romantic, folk-soul songwriting; I admit to being a bit surprised that the BBC went with something so traditional for their usually musically forward-looking honour, but kicking back and just luxuriating in Kiwanuka’s warm vocals, it’s tough to form a good argument against it.

From there it was a necessary to try and navigate the bedlam of 6th – oh, the sea of wobbling people dressed in green – and back to Latitude 30 where odds were I was just going to park myself for the next few hours. First up were Clock Opera, whom I’d seen way back on Wednesday and would be the only repeat act of the week. And it’s just as well because though this was probably the exact same set that I’d seen at The Mohawk, this performance was better in every sense. The crowd was more enthusiastic, the sound was bigger and cleaner, the setting much more atmospheric and the band much tighter. It’s probably no surprise that their last show of the fest was better than the first – there’s a sweet spot for bands at SXSW playing multiple showcases where they’ve settled into the rapid-fire showcase groove before beginning to fall apart from fatigue; Clock Opera hit it just right. Anticipation for their debut Ways To Forget, out April 23, remains high.

Sometimes the drive-by showcase dynamic of club festivals isn’t suited to appreciating certain bands, and they’re unfairly dismissed in favour of something more immediate. Fortunately for Django Django – who formed in Edinburgh but now reside in London – they manage to impress and intrigue while remaining inscrutable such that you may not fully understand why you want to hear more of them, but you do. I did, at least. The built an unfussy kind of art rock – conveniently collected on their self-titled debut – on a deep, inescapable groove full of odd turns and angles and littered with all manner of synths and percussion. As said, it’s not immediately pop but the treasures that lay just beneath the surface are evident; it’s music you may be surprised to find yourself intensely dancing to, but dance to it you will.

Next up was supposed to be someone called Maverick Sabre – a very superficial investigation didn’t make it seem the sort of thing I’d be particularly interested in, but someone had just bought be a whiskey so I opted to hang out for a bit. However, it became clear that it wasn’t going to be what I expected when, instead of a band setup, they wheeled a DJ table onto the stage and at the top of the hour, rather than some hip-hop/r&b the room filled with some heavy electronic beats. It turned out that Sabre (Maverick?) had to cancel and was replaced at the last minute by London-born/Manchester-raised Callum Wright, who operates as D/R/U/G/S. It’s a bit of a shame that I spent about half his set trying to figure out just what was going on and who this was, because he was pretty damn good.

I was actually a bit torn as to whether to stick around for Slow Club, since I’d just seen them in Toronto less than a month prior. That’s one of the peculiar things about SXSW – you’ll find yourself actively avoiding the bands you know and love because it means not discovering something new. But given that there was nothing else on offer that hour calling my name and I was already sitting right there, I let inertia win the day. The early part of their set was mildly calamitous with falling mic stands, failing guitar straps and broken microphones but they took it all in stride and it all became part of the fun; the band was simply too good to be deterred. It was something of a condensed version of the Toronto show with the older material scrapped in favour of focusing on Paradise and the new material earmarked for a forthcoming EP, but all delivered with gusto and enthusiasm by Charles and Rebecca. Such a lovely band.

Avoiding the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day seems like pretty obvious advice but for whatever reason, I did the opposite to close out the festival and hit up Friends Bar, which was hosting a lineup of all-Irish acts in order to see Belfast’s And So I Watch You From Afar. That’s right – even though I probably could have just given a hobo $5 to punch me in the face for the same net effect, I instead went to an Irish bar at 1AM on St. Patrick’s Day on the final night of SXSW to see a really loud, aggressive rock band. But at least I saved the $5. Now I’d listened to their 2009 self-titled debut and like to think I had an idea of what to expect, but rather than some variant of post-rock, it was more a kind of instrumental metal with some hardcore punk and even a touch of traditional Irish folk sprinkled on top – to wit, lots of insane riffing, pogoing around the stage, dueling guitar leads and at least one broken bass string. Then factor in the falling-down drunk crowd moshing, lurching and jigging and you’ve got something akin to mayhem. It was actually fun for a little while to be in the middle of – it certainly wakes you up – but eventually I fled to the fringes of the crowd and then out onto 6th to watch the rest from the street.

And then I left. Seeya, SXSW. Seeya, Austin. And thank goodness I’m done with festival coverage for a while. OH WAIT.

The Guardian talks to Graham Coxon about his new solo record A+E and are also streaming the whole thing ahead of its April 2 release date. And not to be outdone, The Quietus chats with Damon Albarn. No Blur insights are offered on either side.

Stream: Graham Coxon / A+E

Belle & Sebastian have released a video for their Primitives cover, taken from the Late Night Tales, Vol 2 compilation that’s just out today.

Video: Belle & Sebastian – “Crash”

DIY has a feature on and video session with Blood Red Shoes. Clash also has a feature.

Richard Hawley has offered up a stream of the first taste of his new record Standing At The Sky’s Edge, out May 7. And dare I say someone is getting their rock on? Yes, I do believe I do.

Stream: Richard Hawley – “Leave Your Body Behind You”

Keane are coming to town to promote their new album Strangeland, out May 7, and they’re bringing Mystery Jets, who’re putting out their own new album Radlands on April 30. Hm, that’s a whole lot of “-land” titles. Anyways, the Toronto date is June 19 and tickets are $45 in advance.

Stream: Keane – “Silenced By The Night”
Stream: Mystery Jets – “Someone Purer”

The big/best news of yesterday was that Sigur Ros would be releasing their sixth solo album on May 29, entitled Valtari, and if that wasn’t enough, they also released the first video from it. Now all we need is a Toronto live date to go with the Montreal Osheaga appearance in August, yeah? Word is that this is a more ambient kind of record than 2008’s Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust; the first preview certainly seems to bear that out.

Video: Sigur Ros – “Ekki Mukk”

Paste examines how Of Monsters & Men became Iceland’s biggest musical export since, well, Sigur Ros. The Georgia Straight also has an interview and Rolling Stone has a video session recorded at SXSW. Their debut My Head Is An Animal is streaming in whole at NPR ahead of its release next week and they play The Phoenix on April 12.

MP3: Of Monsters & Men – “Little Talks”
Stream: Of Monsters & Men / My Head Is An Animal

Exclaim reports that The Raveonettes will release a new, four-song EP entitled Into The Night on April 24 – they’re also hosting the widget that lets you trade your email for an MP3 of the title track. A new album should be out later this year.

The Jezabels have released a new video from Prisoner; they’re at The Mod Club on April 18.

Video: The Jezabels – “Rosebud”

The Stool Pigeon, Vogue Australia, and Stuff interview Pip Browne of Ladyhawke. The new album Anxiety is out May 28.