Posts Tagged ‘Joanna Newsom’

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Heathen Child

Review of Grinderman’s Grinderman 2

Photo By Deirdre O'CallaghanDeirdre O’CallaghanThe lines between Grinderman and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds aren’t always very clear. Quantitatively, you’ve got a few less members (which must make for some awkward scenes at the rehearsal space – “oh, I thought it was a Bad Seeds day… I’ll show myself out…”) and Cave strapping on a guitar and avoiding the piano, and qualitatively, you’ve got an even rawer, darker sound than the Bad Seeds craft and they’re hardly all sunbeams and unicorns.

Their seedier-than-Seeds 2007 debut Grinderman was soaked in the blues and testosterone and was a welcome jolt of energy from a group of players whose works had become increasingly ornate, particularly relative to their more anarchic Birthday Party origins. And when the reawakening of their rocking, raunchier side carried over to the next Bad Seeds record, 2008’s scorching Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!, it would have been reasonable to think that Grinderman had served its purpose and run its course. But no, Cave’s not done with the six-string as a songwriting tool and so we get Grinderman 2, out today.

Though still noisy and guitar-driven, 2 dials down the front-to-back pelvic thrust of its predecessor in favour of a more fully-produced sound that feels less beholden to a rigid aesthetic. And while it’s hard to imagine a video as ridiculous (in a good way) as that for “Heathen Child” being released under the Bad Seeds marque, any one of these songs could easily pass as having come from that main project, particularly the glorious “Palaces Of Montezuma” which has to rank as one of Cave’s best pop compositions in years. I’m sure that in the heads of their creators, there’s a clear distinction between these songs and those, but from the listener’s point of view all that really matters is that there’s another set of intensely and inimitably Cave compositions to absorb. No matter what the band is called.

Spinner, The Australian, The Herald and The Courier-Mail have interviews with Cave and The Line Of Best Fit talks to drummer Jim Sclavunos while The Quietus and Montreal Gazette chat with them both. The New Yorker has a profile on both The Bad Seeds and Grinderman by Sasha Frere-Jones and Pile Of Vinyl has got demos fo the first album available to download. Their North American tour starts November 11 at the Phoenix in Toronto.

Grinderman 2 is available to stream this week at Spinner.

MP3: Grinderman – “Heathen Child”
Video: Grinderman – “Heathen Child”
Stream: Grinderman / Grinderman 2
MySpace: Grinderman

Last week I was bemoaning the fact that Superchunk were crossing the border next week for a show in Montreal but weren’t coming down the 401 to play their first Toronto show in some nine years. Turns out the reason why is they’ll be here on December 9 opening up for Broken Social Scene at the Sound Academy. Yay, Superchunk, boo Sound Academy. Tickets will be $30 and go on sale Friday. In other ‘Chunk news, they’ve taken the editorial reins at the Magnet website kicking off with a Q&A and there’s features on the band at The Daily Tarheel, Billboard, The Washington Post and Chicago Reader. Finally, Videogum has premiered the hilarious first video from Majesty Shredding, out today.

Video: Superchunk – “Digging For Something”

In other announcements, Johnny Flynn’s second record Been Listening has been given an October 25 release in North America and he’s doing some solo dates to support, including an October 18 date at Lee’s Palace. About. Time.

Video: Johnny Flynn – “Kentucky Pill”

Bruce Peninsula must be about done their second record as they’ve scheduled an October 28 date at the Horseshoe. Tickets $10 in advance.

MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “Crabapples”

John Stirratt and Pat Sansone of Wilco will bring their Autumn Defense project to the Drake Underground on November 9. Their new album Once Around is out November 2.

Oxford’s Stornoway, whose debut album Beachcomber’s Windowsill was enthused about in this space back in July, have put together their first North American tour and it includes a November 30 date at the El Mocambo. Former Hold Steady moustache Franz Nicolay supports. There’s a session with the band up at NPR’s World Cafe.

MP3: Stornoway – “Zorbing”
MP3: Franz Nicolay – “This Is Not A Pipe”

After a goodly number of supporting dates, Freelance Whales will be playing their own show at the El Mocambo on December 7, tickets $15. They’ve also just premiered a new video from their debut album Weathervanes.

MP3: Freelance Whales – “Generator Second Floor”
Video: Freelance Whales – “Hannah”

The Radio Dept. getting political? This new song is apparently “directed at the swedish election coming this sunday”. Of course, the salient point here is new. Radio. Dept. Their “Never Follow Suit” EP is out November 9 and a double-disc of rarities – of which this track qualifies, I think – is out in January.

MP3: The Radio Dept. – “The New Improved Hypocrisy”

The Fly, Clash and eMusic have interviews with Interpol.

The Georgia Straight talks to Matt Berninger of The National.

Another track from Sufjan Stevens’ new album The Age Of Adz is making the rounds. Stevens is at Massey Hall on October 13.

MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Too Much”

The Irish Times interviews Joanna Newsom.

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love

Jens Lekman celebrates the waltz, quantifies the size of the apocalypse

Photo By Julien BourgeoisJulien BourgeoisThe inimitable Jens Lekman has been a bit quiet since wrapping up support for 2007’s Night Falls On Kortedala but a the last couple weeks have seen not quite a flurry of activity from the Swedish singer-songwriter, but definite signs that he’s not been idle while away.

First came what he called “A Summer In 3/4 Time”, a downloadable mix/mash-up that started as a remix he did for Au Revoir Simone and turned into an extended aural treatise on 3/4 and 6/8 tempos spanning all eras and genres of pop music with some film quotes thrown in for good measure. There’s a breakdown of the what and the why at his Small Talk journal, but really all you need to know is this.

And while that was very unexpected and enjoyable, the real treat came last week when a new song surfaced and was made available for free in exchange for an email. It also came with an extended backstory describing its origins – your boilerplate boy loses girl on the eve of the US election, fakes being happy on Swedish TV and writes a song about it – but what’s most important is that the song is big and sweeping and pure Jens. And bodes very well for his next record, whenever it’s done.

MP3: Jens Lekman presents A Summer in 3/4 Time

Yours Truly solicits an acoustic performance from First Aid Kit; they’re back in North America this Fall and are at the El Mocambo on October 15.

The San Francisco Chronicle interviews Joanna Newsom.

NYC Taper is sharing a recording of The National at Terminal 5 in New York last week.

The Fly solicits an In The Courtyard video session from The Morning Bender. See them in a similar setting on Wednesday afternoon when they play a free acoustic set outside The Big Chill ice cream in Little Italy, in between opening gigs for The Black Keys at the Kool Haus on August 4 and 5.

Spinner talks to Greg Edwards of Autolux. Transit Transit is out this week and they are at Lee’s Palace on August 24.

Matt Pond PA will be at the Mod Club on October 1. They released The Dark Leaves back in the Spring.

MP3: Matt Pond PA – “Grave’s Disease”

Punk legends Bad Religion will be in town on October 14 at a venue to be announced in support of their new record The Dissent of Man, out September 28.

Video: Bad Religion – “New Dark Ages”

How do you know Broken Social Scene are down under? Interviews in Australia’s The Vine and New Zealand’s Under The Radar. And oh yeah, their new video is out.

Video: Broken Social Scene – “Forced To Love”

If you haven’t heard it yet, NPR is streaming the whole of Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs – out now if you’re analog and tomorrow if you’re digital. They play the Toronto Islands on August 14.

Stream: Arcade Fire / The Suburbs

And last but certainly not least – Grinderman is at the Phoenix on November 11, full dates at Pitchfork. Grinderman 2 is out September 14.

Trailer: Grinderman 2

Friday, May 14th, 2010


Band Of Horses at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangPeople seemed generally disappointed on Tuesday when I answered their queries of, “so what are you doing for your birthday?” with “having sushi, watching TV and editing photos”. Apparently the correct answer was some permutation of “getting loaded and causing shit” but fact was, I had been out a lot in the past few days and a quiet night at home getting caught up on whatever sounded like a great plan. It would have taken a lot to get me to abandon that plan.

Something like a last-minute, surprise show from Band Of Horses.

The band were in town, enjoying a day off from their tour supporting Pearl Jam in Buffalo the night before and doing press for their forthcoming album Infinite Arms when the opportunity arose to insert themselves into the weekly free Nu Music Nite series at the ‘Shoe. After the decision was made and thanks to the marvels of modern mobile and social technology, I got word of the show around 7:45PM, a decision that those two episodes of The Pacific would keep at least another night was made by 7:47PM and I was one of just a few people at the Horseshoe by 8:30PM when the doors opened. This guaranteed a front-row spot but also meant waiting through the other bands on the bill, an experience that’s not really worth recounting. Band Of Horses were due to start at or around 11:15PM and by 10:30 or so, coincidentally just about the time that people who’d opted to stay home and watch Lost would have been able to get in gear, the ‘Shoe was full to an extent befitting the specialness of the occasion.

I’d only seen Band Of Horses live twice before, circa their debut Everything All The Time at SxSW 2006 and again a few months later at Lee’s Palace. What I remembered most about the Lee’s show was that while the show sounded marvelous, it wasn’t the most energetic affair what with frontman Ben Bridwell spending most of the show seated at the pedal steel. Well with no steel guitar on hand this night – all of their equipment was begged and borrowed – Bridwell would have to stand on his own legs and this would have to be a more physically engaging show. To say the least. Bridwell and bandmates rolled out on stage around 11:30, greeted by a packed house – congratulations Toronto, you’re capable of hustling when you need to – and, after prefacing their set with the disclaimer of, “we never do this”, put on as tremendous a display of flying by the seat of your pants as you’ll ever see.

Understand that Band Of Horses, by indie rock standards, are getting pretty big – and with Infinite Arms as their major label debut, can probably expect to just get bigger – so performing in a small bar setting is probably a rare opportunity for them, and as far as cutting loose and having a good time goes, they didn’t squander it – it was hard to gauge who had the bigger grins on their faces, the audience or the band. Unequipped to properly recreate their more atmospheric side – as stated, Bridwell was steel-less and, after breaking a number of strings, more often than not guitar-less, and Ryan Monroe was on six-string duty rather than keyboards – they opted to indulge their more raucous side, which doesn’t get to rear its head on record all that often. And any concerns about Bridwell’s willingness to move around and play frontman were wholly unfounded – the man was all over the stage, singing to the audience, singing to the sky (or ceiling, whatever), and proving without a doubt that there was nothing wrong with his legs.

Unsurprisingly, a number of tunes from Infinite Arms were previewed and while some have fairly criticized the album as being overly soft around the edges, they certainly toughened them up this time out. A few more familiar songs from Cease To Begin and handful of well-chosen covers – Gram Parsons’ “Song For You” and head-spinning encore of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait” among them – filled out the hour-long set. They even thoughfully snuck in a “Happy birthday” into the set – ostensibly for drummer Creighton Barrett, but I just imagined it was for me. Not that they needed to – simply showing up and playing a fantastic set for my impromptu 35th birthday party was plenty. Though handing out the beer from their rider to the audience at show’s end was a nice touch. There should always be loot bags.

NOW, eye and Panic Manual all made it to the ‘Shoe in time for the show but the weeklies didn’t seem to have a great time, for some reason. Band Of Horses return for the show at the Toronto Island Concert on June 19 – expect them to play the “majestic” angle at that show. Infinite Arms is out on Tuesday.

Photos: Band Of Horses @ The Horseshoe – May 11, 2010
MP3: Band Of Horses – “Factory”
MP3: Band Of Horses – “No One’s Gonna Love You”
MP3: Band Of Horses – “Is There A Ghost”
MP3: Band Of Horses – “The Great Salt Lake”
MP3: Band Of Horses – “The Funeral”
Video: Band Of Horses – “NW Apartment”
Video: Band Of Horses – “Compliments”
Video: Band Of Horses – “No One’s Gonna Love You”
Video: Band Of Horses – “Is There A Ghost”
Video: Band Of Horses – “The Great Salt Lake”
Video: Band Of Horses – “The Funeral”
Stream: Band Of Horses / Infinite Arms
MySpace: Band Of Horses

Also playing Toronto Islands that day are Beach House; the DVD they made to accompany Teen Dream, comprising a video for each song on the album, is streaming this week at PitchforkTV.

Video: Beach House / Teen Dream

Spin investigates how Blitzen Trapper got their name. Their new record Destroyer Of The Void is out June 8 and they bring it to the Opera House on August 3.

Crooked Fingers have managed to fan-fund Reservoir Songs 2 in its entirety via Kickstarter, and as a thank-you, are offering an MP3 of the John Hartford cover. The 12″ EP will be out on July 6; a new Crooked Fingers full-length will follow later this year.

MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Gentle On My Mind”

NPR has a World Cafe session and Drowned In Sound an interview with She & Him. They’re at the Sound Academy on June 9.

Josh Ritter talks to Spinner about his new record So The World Runs Away.

Joanna Newsom trash talks some Lady Gaga in an interview with The Guardian, while her chat with The Quietus stays much more focused on Have One On Me. She’s also the cover girl on the current issue of Under The Radar; the piece isn’t online but Stereogum has a bit of a precis.

BrooklynVegan interviews Laura Marling.

Music Snobbery talks to Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons.

Sky Larkin have announced their sophomore album will be entitled Kaleide and be available in August; you can download a mini-EP consisting of the title track and a couple of b-sides from their website right now.

The Georgia Straight and Twin Cities Daily Planet profile Shout Out Louds.

For Folk’s Sake has an interview with Basia Bulat, who will be at the Phoenix on June 3.

Chart talks to Hannah Georgas.

Broken Social Scene is featured in Clash, Spinner and The Independent. They play the Toronto Islands on June 19.

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

"Peach, Plum, Pear"

Final Fantasy covers Joanna Newsom

Image via WikipediaWikipediaFlashback: 2006. Tiny Toronto label Escape Goat Records releases Young Canadian Mothers, a 10″ 7″ EP for local violin wunderkind Owen Pallett, who had released his debut album Has A Good Home under the Final Fantasy moniker the year before. It includes a cover of a song The Milk-Eyed Mender, the debut from California harpist Joanna Newsom, which had come out two year prior to decidedly polarizing response. The song in question – “Peach, Plum, Pear” – was a perfect pairing of two decidedly idiosyncratic artists who seemed destined to ply their craft on the fringes of the pop music world.

Fast forward to 2010 and the two former outsiders are now very much on the inside. In addition to being a highly in-demand string arranger for high profile acts like Arcade Fire, Pet Shop Boys and The Last Shadow Puppets, Pallett – now operating under his own name – won the inaugural Polaris Music Prize in 2006 and threatens to be the first repeat winner with this year’s Heartland. Newsom’s epic Ys was similarly one of the most acclaimed albums of 2006 and her new triple-album Have One On Me is, if possible, even more acclaimed. And Pallett’s recording of “Peach, Plum, Pear”? Still perfect.

Pallett plays the Queen Elizabeth Theatre this Thursday evening, April 8. Having just wrapped a North American tour, Newsom may be hitting the road again this Fall.

MP3: Final Fantasy – “Peach, Plum, Pear”
Video: Joanna Newsom – “Peach, Plum, Pear” (live)

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010


Spoon, Deerhunter and The Strange Boys at The Sound Academy in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangAs of Monday night, it had been four and a half years since I saw Spoon live and just over four years since I’d been to The Sound Academy (nee The Docks) for a show. One of these streaks I was anxious to break; the other I was not. To be fair, I only missed one of their Toronto shows – a 2008 appearance at the Kool Haus in support of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – but apparently that was the one where they officially crossed over to “rock star” status. That last time at The Phoenix in November 2005, it felt like a show for Spoon fans – this time, at a room three times the size but just as full, it felt more like the show was simply the place to be that night. That’s not intended with any snarkiness, just an observation.

This tour saw the band bringing two others on tour with them – one who surely benefited from being shown off in front of such-sized audiences and another that probably could have packed a respectably-sized room all on their own. The former of these were The Strange Boys, who hailed from Austin, Texas and proudly carried on that city’s tradition of psychedelic-garage rock. Granted, they weren’t overly trippy, preferring focused pop structures over sprawling jams and weren’t above injecting some twang into their sound, but their roots and skill at said stylings were clear. A little more energy or stage presence wouldn’t have been unwelcome, but still a solid start to the evening from a band making their first visit to Canada.

Deerhunter, on the other hand, were probably responsible for drawing no small percentage of the audience, if not just for themselves then for tilting the decision of whether to see Spoon in one the city’s least-favoured venues into the “yea” column. Though their psychedelic/shoegazing/pop affinities would make them seem the sort of thing I’d really be into, I had not listened to Deerhunter much before and certainly hadn’t seen them live. And now I wish I had, because their set was pretty superb – musically, they were far more direct (read: less wall of noise) than I’d expected, but with enough bludgeoning volume and droning excursions to keep it sufficiently trippy and the show itself was livened up with Bradford Cox’s space cadet stage banter, an unexpected stage invasion from one of The Black Lips (or perhaps expected considering that before they began the song, Cox dedicated it to his fellow Atlantans) and another guest appearance from Spoon’s Britt Daniel, who took over on guitar from Cox while the gangly bandleader engaged in some on-stage shenanigans I couldn’t actually see from my angle – see the eye review for specifics. As far as their recorded works go, I’ve only really spent time with Microcastle – further recommendations are welcome.

I don’t, however, need any help getting acquainted with the collected works of Spoon, having followed them attentively since 2001’s Girls Can Tell, and if there’s a downside to their consistently excellent output over this decade – hell, century – it’s that it can cause one to take them for granted a bit. Some have criticized this year’s Transference as being less focused than its pop-friendly predecessor Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, I – for reasons I can’t quite articulate – prefer it. Both sides of the argument would have been perfectly happy with Monday night’s set list, then, as it opened with Transference’s sublime closer “Nobody Gets Me But You” and drew heavily from both records – seven tracks from each – while also hitting most of the essential notes from all the other Merge releases, even going as far back as 1997’s Soft Effects for the unexpected, “I Could See The Dude”.

In total, they ran through an impressive 25 songs over an hour and forty minutes, aptly showcasing the band’s unique sound and dynamic. Britt Daniel – he of the scratchy voice and stabby six-string – is front and centre, dancing around the stage in his herky-jerky manner as if pulled uncontrollably by his guitar but the contributions of his bandmates can’t be overstated, even if they seem perfectly happy to stay in the background. Eric Harvey’s keys provided the melodic underpinnings that allow Daniel’s guitar lines to wander while he impossibly tight and just funky enough rhythm section of Jim Eno and Rob Pope were omnipresent on this night – possibly because the Sound Academy’s acoustics leaned way towards the bassy. And don’t get me started on the sightlines – it’s a sad situation when you find yourself pining for the environs of the Kool Haus.

In my comments from that Phoenix show in 2005, I noted that ‘I will have to amend my one-line synopsis on Spoon live from “they put on a good show” to “they usually put on a good show, but sometimes they put on a GREAT show”. If Monday was a proper indication of how far they’ve progressed as a live act in the past half-decade, then their work on stage is almost on par with in the studio and I’ll have to update my notes to read, “they put on a great show” – no qualifiers.

Westword, NOW, CBC, The Quietus, The Toronto Star, The Chronicle Herald,NPR, The Toronto Sun and The San Francisco Chronicle have feature pieces on Spoon. Spin has excerpted this month’s feature piece that puts Britt Daniel in conversation with Ray Davies and New York Magazine talks to him about the art of the set list. Chart, The Globe & Mail and Exclaim have reviews of the show. The Fly profiles The Strange Boys.

Photos: Spoon, Deerhunter, The Strange Boys @ The Sound Academy – March 29, 2010
MP3: Spoon – “The Underdog”
MP3: Spoon – “I Turn My Camera On”
MP3: Spoon – “The Way We Get By”
MP3: Spoon – “This Book Is A Movie”
MP3: Spoon – “Mountain To Sound”
MP3: Spoon – “Chips & Dip”
MP3: Spoon – “Idiot Driver”
MP3: Deerhunter – “Wash Off”
MP3: Deerhunter – “Rainwater Cassette Exchange”
Video: Spoon – “Written In Reverse”
Video: Spoon – “The Underdog”
Video: Spoon – “Don’t You Evah”
Video: Spoon – “The Two Sides Of Monsieur Valentine”
Video: Spoon – “I Turn My Camera On”
Video: Spoon – “Sister Jack”
Video: Spoon – “Jonathan Fisk”
Video: Spoon – “Small Stakes”
Video: Spoon – “Everything Hits At Once”
Video: Deerhunter – “Agoraphobia”
Video: Deerhunter – “Strange Lights”
Video: The Strange Boys – “Be Brave”
Video: The Strange Boys – “Woe Is You And Me”

The Line Of Best Fit and Montreal Gazette have interviews with Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater; The Gazette has also posted the full transcript of their interview. Shearwater play Lee’s Palace tomorrow night, April 1.

Also on the bill for that show are Wye Oak, who played a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR.

Daytrotter is featuring a session with Richard Buckner.

Paste reports that Tift Merritt will release a new record entitled See You On The Moon on June 1. The Fayetteville Observer has an interview with Merritt.

Pitchfork has details on Blitzen Trapper’s new album Destroyer Of The Void, due out June 8.

MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Heaven & Earth”

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco is interviewed by The Miami Herald, Palm Beach Pulse and The Weekender while Le Blogotheque has a Take-Away Show with the band.

The Fly talks to The National frontman Matt Berninger about their new album High Violet, out May 11. They play Massey Hall on June 8 and 9.

LAist and The Dallas Observer chat with Ted Leo, who’s released a new video from The Brutalist Bricks. A Toronto show has also finally been announced – Ted and the Pharmacists will be at Lee’s Palace on June 26, tickets $15.

Video: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “The Mighty Sparrow”

Spinner, Prefix and Blurt have features on the Drive-By Truckers, who bring their new album The Big To-Do to Lee’s Palace for two nights next week, April 6 and 7.

Their respective members have moved on to new projects for the time being, but that hasn’t stopped Monsters Of Folk from releasing a new video from their self-titled album.

Video: Monsters Of Folk – “Dear God”

Crawdaddy profiles John Vanderslice.

NPR is streaming the entirety of Joanna Newsom’s concert in Washington DC last week.

Under The Radar talks to School Of Seven Bells’ Alejandra Deheza about their new album Disconnect From Desire. She says it will be out this Spring; it now being Spring, I am less confident than her about this point – it will be out this year, though.

Phantogram have released a new video from Eyelid Movies. If you’ve been having trouble finding in stores in Canada, there’s a reason – apparently it’s not out here until April 6, their deal with Barsuk not counting north of the 49th? Don’t know, but it’s worth seeking out wherever you have to go to do it. Playtonic Dialogues has an interview.

Video: Phantogram – “Mouthful Of Diamonds”

Portland atmospheric electronicist Eluvium will be at the Drake on May 22 in support of his new album Similes; tickets $12 in advance.

MP3: Eluvium – “The Motion Makes Me Last”

tUnE-yArDs brings her much-feted (but not really understood by me) debut BiRd-BrAiNs to the Horseshoe on June 13 – tickets $12 in advance. I tried, really I did.

MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Sunlight”
Video: tUnE-yArDs – “Real Live Flesh”

Blurt, Pitchfork and Paul Westerberg – via The New York Times – eulogize Alex Chilton of Big Star.