Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘Karkwa’

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Take Me Out

The Wooden Sky readies album number three

Photo By Justin BroadbentJustin BroadbentIn an age where many young bands seek to get on the expressway to your skull immediately after their first rehearsal – assuming they rehearse instead of just uploading jams to Soundcloud – you have to appreciate a band like The Wooden Sky. They’ve taken the time to hone their songcraft and live show since forming as Friday Morning’s Regret in 2003, and with their 2009 sophomore full-length If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone and its attendant endless touring regimen, have positioned themselves as one of the country’s finest young roots-rock bands.

And after tantalizing with this Fall’s City Of Light EP, they’ll be looking to take that on-the-cusp status over the top on February 28 when their third album, an 18-track nearly-double opus 13-track regular-sized record Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun, is released. Details on the release are available over at Exclaim, as is the itinerary for their accompanying Canada-heavy North American tour. That jaunt includes a hometown show at The Opera House on April 20, tickets $15.50 in advance.

There’s no official preview track of the new album yet but this one from City Of Light, if it’s not on it, should at least point at where they’re going.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Angelina”

Rich Aucoin will bring his debut album We’re All Dying To Live and accompanying over-the-top live spectacle to the Drake Underground on January 13.

MP3: Rich Aucoin – “It”
Video: Rich Aucoin – “It”

Fresh off their three-night stand headlining the Phoenix, Tokyo Police Club are back in a support role having been added as openers for Foster The People at The Meadows at Downsview Park on June 19.

MP3: Tokyo Police Club – “Party In The USA”

Chart talks to Wes Marskell of The Darcys. They and The Balconies, with whom Plaid has an interview, are a couple of the acts playing this year’s edition of Edgefest, happening July 14 at Downsview Park.

So yeah, new Arcade Fire video(s) for “Sprawl 2 (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”, in conventional and interactive forms. Dance!

Video: Arcade Fire – “Sprawl 2 (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” (conventional)
Video: Arcade Fire – “Sprawl 2 (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” (interactive)

aux.tv talks to Bry Webb about life post-Constantines.

Exclaim has good news and bad news for Karkwa fans: the good is that the band are readying a double-live album – where I’d argue they’re at their best – to be recorded tomorrow night in Montreal and released next year, the bad is that it’ll be their last release for a while as they’re going on a hiatus after that. Which is reasonable – their Polaris win in 2010 made the touring cycle for Les chemins des verre (just certified gold, by the way) many times longer than they probably expected when they released it. Nice problem to have.

The Alternate Side has posted a session and interview with The Handsome Furs.

Exclaim has premiered the first track from John K Samson’s solo album Provincial, due out January 24.

Stream: John K Samson – “When I Write My Master’s Thesis”

CBC Radio 3 has posted a track-by-track live performance from Coeur de Pirate of her new album Blonde.

DIY has n interview and video session with Dan Mangan. Exclaim has also posted a couple of live session videos with the Dan.

Kathryn Calder talks the touring life with CBC Radio 3 and also to The Riverfront Times.

Diamond Rings talks about brushes with fame in the form of Beastie Boys and Katy Perry with Spinner.

Woodpigeon ends an extended – for them, at least – hiatus with the release of the For Paolo digital EP due out on January 16, presumably in advance of a full-length later next year.

The Line Of Best Fit has released their holiday edition of the Oh! Canada mix series. Download it and blast it from your car over the next two weeks.

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Iceland Airwaves 2011 Day Three

Austra, Olufar Arnalds, Veronica Falls and more at Iceland Airwaves

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt seems a bit counter-intuitive to travel all the way to Iceland to see a bunch of Canadian bands, but then there’s also something to be said about the sense of camaraderie one gets from hanging out with one’s countrymen in such a foreign setting. So after finally getting to sample some of Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur’s famous wares – those are hot dogs, by the by – and a bit of souvenir shopping, Saturday afternoon was largely spent at the Hressingarskálinn cafe where Canadian Blast had pitched a tent to showcase some Canuck talent to the Iceland Airwaves audience.

What was interesting was that either by coincidence or design, most all of the Canadian acts at the Blast off-venue and Airwaves as a whole fit quite nicely into the Scandinavian setting. For example, Karkwa – who opened up the Blast showcase – had the mysterious, incomprehensible language thing down pat. I think they called it, “French”. I kid, I kid. Playing with less gear than I’m used to seeing them with – keyboardist François Lafontaine was particularly light on his toys – they led their set with leaner, more rock-oriented material before allowing things to sprawl into more atmospheric realms, dazzling all the while with their musicianship. It’s funny that for the number of times I’ve seen them live and heard their Polaris-winning album Les chemins de verre, I still don’t really recognize the material when I hear it live and I think that’s why it’s my preferred Karkwa listening environment; it makes each experience unpredictable and unique.

Photos: Karkwa @ Hressingarskálinn – October 15, 2011
MP3: Karkwa – “Dors Dans Mon Sang”
Video: Karkwa – “Le pyromane”
Video: Karkwa – “Echapper au sort”
Video: Karkwa – “Marie tu pleures”
Video: Karkwa – “Oublie pas”
Video: Karkwa – “Échapper au sor”
Video: Karkwa – “À la chaîne”
Video: Karkwa – “Combien”
Video: Karkwa – “La facade”
Video: Karkwa – “La fuite”
Video: Karkwa – “Vrai”
Video: Karkwa – “Le coup d’etat”
Video: Karkwa – “Poisson cru”

Random Recipe couldn’t have represented a more dramatic shift in tone from Karkwa’s grand prog-pop if they tried, being a four-piece acoustic hip-hop funk band who proudly declared they formed one night when principals Fab and Frannie started busking to earn pizza money. And now they were in Reykjavik. Now musically, they weren’t really my thing but both frontwomen performed with such energy and enthusiasm that it was hard not to get caught up in it. Their debut Fold It! Mold It! came out last year.

Photos: Random Recipe @ Hressingarskálinn – October 15, 2011
Video: Random Recipe – “Bad Luck”
Video: Random Recipe – “Shipwreck”

Esmerine made the front half of the Canadian Blast lineup a Montreal-based hat trick, but again their sound was very different from that of their neighbours. Comprised of members of both Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion and built around the cello and marimba, the instrumental quartet had to pillage the country’s harp and marimba supply to equip themselves and still needed to substitute a xylophone for the latter instrument. Even so, they still managed to present themselves as a beguiling miniature orchestra and had a special guest in the form of collaborator and producer Patrick Watson – it’s not entirely clear what he was doing in Iceland but he was there – who offered vocals on a gorgeous and touching tribute to the late Lhasa de Sela, to whom the band’s latest album La Lechuza is dedicated.

Photos: Esmerine @ Hressingarskálinn – October 15, 2011
MP3: Esmerine – “A Dog River”
Video: Esmerine – “Snow Day For Lhasa”
Video: Esmerine – “Walking Through Mist I”
Video: Esmerine – “Walking Through Mist II”
Stream: Esmerine / La Lechuza

While the Canadians kept blasting away, at this point I withdrew to grab some food and just generally enjoy the last bit of daylight in Reykjavik I’d have on this trip. Such a sad thing. But before it was time to return to the real world, there was one more night of Airwaves to experience and it began in the ridiculously beautiful Norðurljós hall of the Harpa opera house – a world away, both literally and figuratively, from the basement of Parts & Labour in Toronto where I’d seen London’s Veronica Falls play just a couple weeks earlier. And in the poshest of settings just as in the grimiest, Veronica Falls were all business and their retro/C86 guitar pop great throughout, though there’s no denying that the vastly superior acoustics, sound reinforcement and lighting made this a better experience. Their set contained a number of new songs, surprising considering their self-titled debut was still a couple days from European release, but all sounded as good as you’d expect. The Line Of Best Fit has an interview with the band.

Photos: Veronica Falls @ Harpa Norðurljós – October 15, 2011
MP3: Veronica Falls – “Come On Over”
MP3: Veronica Falls – “Found Love In A Graveyard”
Video: Veronica Falls – “Bad Feeling”
Video: Veronica Falls – “Come On Over”
Video: Veronica Falls – “Beachy Head”
Video: Veronica Falls – “Found Love In A Graveyard”

I didn’t think I was particularly zoned out between sets, but I certainly didn’t notice how quickly the stage crew moved out Veronica Falls’ standard rock band backline and replaced it with Ólufar Arnalds’ elaborate setup, consisting of a grand piano, string quartet and huge projection screen. And just as you didn’t need to hear anything to know this wasn’t going to be a rock show, once they started you didn’t need to be told to know that Arnalds was Icelandic. The feeling of his homeland was there in every gentle piano note, every wavering bowed string, every stuttering electronic beat – even in the projected animated bird mobiles and flickering strobe lights. Pure, slow-motion beauty. Check out his Living Room Songs project for videos and downloads of songs recorded, one a day, in his apartment.

Photos: Ólufar Arnalds @ Harpa Norðurljós – October 15, 2011
MP3: Ólufar Arnalds – “Þú Ert Sólin”
Video: Ólufar Arnalds – “Hægt, kemur ljósið”
Video: Ólufar Arnalds – “3055″
Video: Ólufar Arnalds – “Ljósið”

After saying goodbye to the stunning elegance of Harpa, it was time for one more go with the hangar-like Listasafn art museum. There wasn’t nearly the degree of audience madness – or lineups, thankfully – that I’d witnessed there on Thursday, though; it seems that Austra still has a little ways to go before they elicit Beach House-scale adulation from the locals. But even hailing from Toronto as they do (hometown represent!), it’s hard to imagine a place where Katie Stelmanis and her goth-y electro-pop would feel more at home than the land of fire and ice, fairies and elves. Though I’d seen Stelmanis in her past incarnations a few times, this was just the second time I’d seen Austra live and while I appreciated them at the Polaris gala, I now appreciated that I was seeing them outside of their element – this performance, with its huge sound, overwhelming light show and hundreds of fans dancing to the beats and pulses really made things impressive. And it was so hard to reconcile the dancing priestess persona that Stelmanis now inhabits – all platinum blonde locks, mystical conjuring gestures and charisma – with the bowl-cut and glasses wallflower look she favoured in past projects. The contributions of Tasseomancy’s Lightman twins also can’t be overstated; beyond the note-perfect backing vocals, their dancing on Stelmanis’ flanks offered an extra visual element and added a real sense of ritual to the show. It may have sounded like the ’80s but it felt much more ancient. Austra plays The Phoenix on December 1.

Photos: Austra @ Listasafn – October 15, 2011
MP3: Austra – “Lose It”
MP3: Austra – “Beat & The Pulse”
Video: Austra – “Lose It”
Video: Austra – “Beat & The Pulse”

That would have been a perfect way to cap off the festival, but at some point I’d picked up a second wind and the sooner I called it a night, the sooner I’d have to be going home. And so it was to the handsome little Iðnó restaurant/hall just across the lake Tjörnin from our apartment. There, the UK’s Mazes were just getting started and funnily, their meat-and-potatoes Brit rock almost sounded exotic after the week’s eclectically arty programming. And for a little while their workmanlike delivery of sufficiently melodic tunes was like a bit of a palette cleanse, but before too long it just started getting dull and that aforementioned second wind evaporated. And that was Iceland Airwaves 2011.

Photos: Mazes @ Iðnó – October 15, 2011
MP3: Mazes – “Vampire Jive”
MP3: Mazes – “Bowie Knives”
Video: Mazes – “Summer Hits”
Video: Mazes – “Most Days”

Everything about this trip – the festival, the city, the countryside, the company – was fantastic and as cliche as it sounds, there’s really nowhere on earth like Iceland. Icelandic music fans are some of the most rabid I’ve ever seen, as a people they’re incredibly friendly and welcoming, urban or rural the country is a feast for the eyes (in a desolate sort of way) and the food isn’t that expensive. Okay, it is. But at least it’s delicious. I will be returning – I still have a full slate of things that I didn’t get around to doing – but will aim for a slightly warmer season next time. There’s only so much gale-force wind and horizontal rain a guy can take. All photos, save a few frames of film still to be developed, are up at Flickr.

Patrick Watson, mentioned just a few paragraphs back, will be in Toronto on November 10 for a show at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall, tickets $40 in advance.

Video: Patrick Watson – “Fireweed”

NOW and BlogTO talk to Tasseomancy, who have released a new video from Ulalame and will be playing a release show for the record tonight at The Great Hall and open up for Austra at The Phoenix on December 1.

Video: Tasseomancy – “Diana”

Also on that December 1 Phoenix bill are Young Galaxy, with whom Impose has an interview.

Kathryn Calder’s new album Bright & Vivid is streaming at NPR in advance of its release next Tuesday, and Exclaim has an extended tour itinerary in support of it which now includes a November 29 date at The Horseshoe in Toronto – that’s a Tuesday, which means Nu Music Nite, which means free, which means there is no excuse not to go. At all.

MP3: Kathryn Calder – “Who Are You?”
Stream: Kathryn Calder / Bright & Vivid

Spin, The Globe & Mail, The New Zealand Herald and Vogue both have feature pieces on Feist while Black Cab Sessions have just posted a session with the singer. She’s at Massey Hall on December 1.

Though The Five Ghosts is over a year old, Stars have squeezed another video out of it. And here it is.

Video: Stars – “Dead Hearts”

Miracle Fortress also has a new clip, this one from this Spring’s Was I The Wave?. Death & Taxes has an interview with Graham Van Pelt.

Video: Miracle Fortress – “Possession”

Exclaim has a stream of The Wooden Sky’s new tour-only EP, which they think sounds best on cassette tape, and courtesy of Webster Media Consulting I’ve got two copies to give away – to enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want The Wooden Sky cassette” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address in the body; the fact that you’ve actually read this far and own a working cassette deck or walkman are the only other barriers to entry. Contest closes at midnight, October 25.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Angelina”
Stream: The Wooden Sky / City Of Light

The National Post and Ottawa Xpress have interviews with Dan Mangan, who plays The Queen Elizabeth Theatre on October 28.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Scenes From The Suburbs

Arcade Fire wins the 2011 Polaris Music Prize; people bragging about predicting it just look silly

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangExecutive summary of this post: Arcade Fires’s third album The Suburbs did what everyone kind of expected and won the 2011 Polaris Music Prize last night, and with the $30,000 giant novelty cheque comes loads of praise and under-the-breath mutterings about how they don’t deserve it, though that’d have happened no matter who won. If you’re the sort of person who only looks at the scoreboard and pays no attention to the boxscores, then you’re done here. If you want the blow-by-blow about how it happened, well, I don’t have that for you either. I offered my own thoughts on the record’s deserving the prize when I put it at the top of my ballot but as with every year, what happens in the Grand Jury room stays in the Grand Jury room, guarded by the ghosts of masons and templars, but I can at least report on what happened at the gala proper.

Unlike last year’s rare ten for ten in terms of shortlisters showing up to perform, only six acts were available to take the stage this year. Arcade Fire and Colin Stetson had legitimate reasons for missing out, the former having just headlined Austin City Limits the night before and unable to do it logistically (though three of the band were in attendance) and the latter being in Los Angeles as part of Bon Iver’s touring band. No official reason was given for Destroyer’s Dan Bejar not being in attendance, let alone perform and even though The Weeknd had established themselves as actually existing and being able to perform a couple months earlier, Abel Tesfaye seems to have since decided it’s more fun being an urban legend than a real person.

And so we began with Ron Sexsmith, looking dapper in a red tuxedo jacket, led his full band through a couple selections from Long Player Late Bloomer. I daresay no one was especially blown away by the performance but that’s not Sexsmith’s thing – he’s in it for the long game and will be crafting fine pop songs years from now. Austra followed and though from the same neck of the woods – Toronto represent! – was at the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum, with a dramatic visual presentation to go the intense, operatic synth-goth sound of Feel It Break. The live show was about as impressive as I’ve heard it was.

Montreal’s Galaxie were up next and were an anodyne for anyone bemoaning the lack of straight-ahead rock in today’s music. For Galaxie and their nominated record Tigre et diesel were nothing if not straight-ahead rock, with lots of meaty, 70s-vintage guitar riffs and corresponding swagger. I continue to bear them a bit of ill will for calling themselves Galaxie 500 for so long but if you heard them, there’s no way you’d confuse them with the REAL Galaxie 500. Timber Timbre recital of a couple numbers from Creep On Creepin’ On was probably the biggest revelation of the night. I’d not seen them live since it was still a Taylor Kirk solo project hiding in the dark and here, they were a full 9-piece band with string quartet and the scale of sound they made were remarkable; there was no more hiding in the shadows, instead this was Timber Timbre standing proud and tall for all to see and hear and they would not be cowed by the light.

The Timber Timbre experience was emblematic of why these Polaris galas are so great – in the months leading up to it, there’s inevitably bands you dismiss or make jokes about because you don’t believe they’ll win or even belong on the short list, but to see them in this sort of setting and doing their thing it’s very difficult to not understand and appreciate how, even if they’re not your thing, they’re almost always great in their way. Braids, whose Native Speaker I never warmed to, almost made me want to reassess my opinion of them in that manner – in fact with their first song, they had me with their obviously impressive musicianship and complex songwriting. But by their second number, those feelings of “this is so pretty” were equaled if not surpassed by feelings of, “this is so so so long”. That said, their focus is much sharper than it was when I last saw them live, so in a few years/records I may well be on board. But not yet.

This left Newfoundland’s Hey Rosetta! to close things out. Contrary to their last gala appearance in 2009, the band eschewed the massive orchestral presentation that people equate with their sound and went with the core six-piece configuration to showcase a couple songs from Seeds. Their earnest compositions were pretty and pleasant, but felt more polite than passionate – many swear by their grand, heartfelt pop but it just doesn’t really connect with me… but two Polaris shortlist appearances in as many albums certainly speaks to them doing something right.

With the performances done, all that remained was to give Arcade Fire another major award to go with their Grammy, Juno and BRIT. Unlike past years, where the announcement of the winner usually resulted in at least some gasps and/or confused looks, this year’s announcement was met with applause and nods – either in agreement that the right call had been made or in resignation that none of an electronic witch, avant-garde saxman or leisure-suited poet could derail the Suburbs-sized freight train. Represented by Win Butler, Richard Reed Parry and Jeremy Gara, they were gracious winners who encouraged young bands to create greater works than they had and invited them to come record at their studio, into which they hinted that at least some of the winnings would get invested.

And so the record that was both the surest thing and the longest shot come out on top and in the process, dismantled the Polaris’ growing reputation as something of a contrarian prize. Everybody wins. Especially Arcade Fire.

For more non-performance shots from the gala and Arcade Fire press conference, check out my Flickr.

Photos: Polaris Music Prize Gala 2011 @ The Masonic Temple – September 19, 2011
MP3: Austra – “Lose It”
MP3: Braids – “Lemonade”
MP3: Destroyer – “Chinatown”
MP3: Hey Rosetta! – “Yer Spring”
MP3: Colin Stetson – “Fear Of The Unknown And The Blazing Sun”
MP3: Timber Timbre – “Black Water”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Party & The After Party”
Video: Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs”
Video: Galaxie – “Piste 01″
Video: Ron Sexsmith – “Late Bloomer” (live)

The Globe & Mail, Toronto Star and National Post ran some pre-gala Polaris pieces on the topics of citizenship and eligibility for the award, the Arcade Fire’s chances and the process and nominees and whatnot, respectively. And peeking over across the Atlantic, The Line Of Best Fit had a three-parter examining each of the shortlisted records and an interview with prize founder Steve Jordan.

Also posted prior to last night – Spinner asking Katie Stelmanis of Austra what they’d have done with their winnings and Exclaim, BlogTO and Spinner finding out how being shortlisted has affected Colin Stetson.

The Vancouver Sun and Georgia Straight talk to 2010 Polaris winners Karkwa.

The Georgia Straight, The Portland Mercury and Backseat Seattle talk to Young Galaxy as they tour over to the west coast.

Stool Pigeon talks to Chad VanGaalen. He’s at The Mod Club on October 28.

Pitchfork has an interview with Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew wherein he reveals the band are going on a hiatus after their last few shows of the year are done. Whether this means another deluge of “Broken Social Scene Presents” solo records is unclear.

The New York Times talks to Feist about her new record Metals, out October 4. She plays Massey Hall on December 1.

State interviews Alexei Perry of Handsome Furs.

Bruce Peninsula are sharing a track from their forthcoming album Open Flames, out October 4. They play an album release show at Lee’s Palace on October 27 and are interviewed by The Record.

MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “In Your Light”

Elliott Brood are marking the September 27 release of their new album Days Into Years with an in-store at Sonic Boom’s Annex location that evening at 7PM. Their proper hometown show doesn’t come until November 18 at the Phoenix so if you want to see ‘em, be there with some canned goods to donate.

MP3: Elliott Brood – “Northern Air”

NOW has an interview with Rebekah Higgs, who will have a Sunday night residency at The Drake Underground throughout the month of October – that’s five shows on each of the 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th – admission $7 each.

MP3: Rebekah Higgs – “Gosh Darn Damn”

Hour has a feature piece on Montreal’s Adam & The Amethysts, whose Flickering Flashlight is out October 4 and available to stream at Exclaim. They’ll be at The Piston to celebrate with a show on October 5.

MP3: Adam & The Amethysts – “Prophecy”
Stream: Adam & The Amethysts – “Flickering Flashlight”

The Wooden Sky are going to be previewing material from their follow up to If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone with a short Fall tour that includes a hometown stop at The Dakota Tavern on October 19, tickets $15 in advance. The new album won’t be out until next year but the band will have a tour EP available at these shows to tide fans over.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Bit Part”

Shout Out Out Out Out have made a date at The Great Hall on October 27.

Video: Shout Out Out Out Out – “Coming Home”

Baeblemusic has video of a live set from Suuns recorded way back at SXSW; they’re at The Garrison on October 2.

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Half Light II

2011 Polaris Music Prize long list is long

Photo By Anton CorbijnAnton CorbijnIt only took about six minutes via Twitter to announce the forty albums long-listed for the sixth edition of the Polaris Music Prize, we’ll have the next three weeks to argue over their relative merits and come July 6, when the ten record-strong short list is announced, another couple months to hash those out before the September 19 gala in Toronto when a yet-to-be-determined grand jury declares their pick for the best Canadian album of the past year. And there’s more at stake this year than in the past, literally-speaking – the grand prize purse has been increased from $20000 to $30000 and for the first time, the other short listed artists will go home with more than a poster and an understanding of how Shad feels; they’ll all take home $2000 prizes.

I’ve no doubt that much of the aforementioned debate will center around a certain record from a certain Montreal outfit that’s cleaned up at major awards worldwide. It almost seems like a foregone conclusion that they’ll do the same here, but if there’s one thing that past Polaris winners have shown, it’s that the jury likes the underdog and the more successful you are, the less likely you are to add this particular statuette to your mantle. If there was a statuette, that is. Having served my grand juror duty back in 2008, I’m happy that I won’t have to be part of the decision-making process on this one, but I would love to be a fly on the wall of the creepy jury room in the Masonic Temple that Monday evening in September, you bet your sweet bippy.

As for my part in this process, it’s just about done – four of my five picks made the long list, which means that I have to revisit my ballot and pick a longlisted record to replace the one that failed to garner quite enough journo love country-wide. And without going back over past ballot posts to see if this is redundant or not, I’ll quickly outline my personal criteria for my picks. Beyond the obvious, “do I like it a lot?”, I ask myself if the record is or feels “important”, whether for music, Canadian music or just the artist’s own narrative. If that sounds nebulous, that’s because it is. I know some people agonize over these sorts of lists, but honestly I find them pretty simple – I don’t pick the records I think are worthy, they tell me if they are. And so, without further ado, here was my Polaris long list ballot for 2011 with some explanations.

1. Arcade Fire / The Suburbs
Even though this wasn’t even amongst my favourite albums of 2010, taking into the Polaris mandate of rewarding the album with the greatest artistic merit I accepted that this had to be at the top of my list. It’s an album with thematic and musical ambitions that you simply don’t see much of or often enough. And while its reach does exceed its grasp at a few points, said grasp is still higher than most would even consider aspiring to, and the end result strikes a universal chord you can’t deny.
Video: Arcade Fire – “We Used To Wait”

2. Destroyer / Kaputt
Destroyer has always made excellent records, so that the most un-Destroyer record yet would also be maybe the best one is something not many saw coming. But by going lounge and trading (some) guitars for smooth synths and saxes, Dan Bejar has created an immersive sonic world that’s sleek, sad and sexy.
MP3: Destroyer – “Chinatown”

3. Miracle Fortress / Was I The Wave?
By the time I heard this record in early March, the Polaris-judging part of my brain was just about full and most of my ballot complete – or so I thought. Graham Van Pelt’s retro-futuristic sophomore effort refused release my attention though, holding it like some irresistibly shiny object dancing hypnotically in front of my eyes/ears. Which it essentially is.
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Raw Spectacle”

4. Olenka & The Autumn Lovers / And Now We Sing
About as small and local a release as you’re likely to find discussed in Polaris circles, I didn’t really expect this one to make the long list, but certainly not because it’s not as good or better than the albums that did. Time has proven that my last-minute, gut-instinct inclusion of Sing on my 2010 year-end list was justified; it’s a special record, more people simply need to hear it.
MP3: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers – “Odessa”

5. Sloan / The Double Cross
If the Polaris was awarded to the the best first three songs on a record, then everyone else could just go home – Sloan would take it in a cake walk. The pop veterans celebrated their twentieth anniversary by making their strongest record in a decade and reminding anyone who’s taken them for granted – which is to say everyone – just how good they could be.
MP3: Sloan – “The Answer Was You”

I have a little while to rejig my ballot to replace the Olenka record with something else off the long list. I have a few options I’m weighing. Maybe I’ll fill you in when a decision is made. Maybe.

Spin has got a 30-minute Arcade Fire video feature from MuchMusic’s The Wedge, wherein the band are interviewed by Damian Abraham, frontman for 2009 Polaris champs Fucked Up. Fucked Up are also featured in Blare, Spin, NOW and Spinner. Their two NXNE appearances now done, their next local show will be on August 9 at the Air Canada Centre opening up for Foo Fighters.

While on the topic of former Polaris recipients, since they’ll be in town to hand over the title of “reigning Polaris Music Prize winner” on the 19th of September, Karkwa have scheduled a Canadian tour that includes show at Lee’s Palace for September 17, tickets $12.

MP3: Karkwa – “Dors Dans Mon Sang”

Though they’ve got two NXNE showcases this week – tonight at The Garrison, tomorrow at The Great Hall, long-listers Braids have scheduled another as part of a Fall tour – they’ll be at The Horseshoe on October 14. Spinner has an interview.

MP3: Braids – “Lemonade”

The Quietus and Sydney Morning Herald interview Dan Bejar of Destroyer.

NOW talks NXNE with PS I Love You, whose debut Meet Me At The Muster Station made the long list cut.

All three acts playing the free show at Yonge-Dundas Square tonight made the 2011 long list; The National Post talks to Stars, Spinner and The National Post chat with Land Of Talk’s Liz Powell and The Grid profiles John O’Reagan of Diamond Rings. The Diamond Rings remix rainbow project has also just released a reimagining of a NOW Handsome Furs tune. Stars have a new video.

MP3: Diamond Rings – “What About Us” (Diamond Rings remix)
Video: Stars – “We Don’t Want Your Body”

The Grid has an interview with the aforementioned NOW Handsome Furs, who are at The Garrison on Saturday night and The Horseshoe on August 1.

All three acts who played The Music Gallery last night also got some NXNE media attention; NOW profiled Snowblink, Blare got Evening Hymns’ Jonas Bonetta to give Tom Petty’s Wildflowers some love and The National Post and Post-City talked to Forest City Lovers’ Kat Burns.

Spinner talks to No Joy.

Spinner and NOW have interviews with Chad VanGaalen, who is playing The Great Hall on Saturday night.

Friday nights at Yonge-Dundas Square have been declared as “Indie Friday” and will host a weekly series of free shows to earn the title; particularly notable are shows from The Sadies on July 22 and the double-bill of Zeus and Jason Collett on September 9. All shows are free free free.

MP3: The Sadies – “Another Year Again”
MP3: Jason Collett – “Bitter Beauty”
MP3: Zeus – “Marching Through Your Head”

On July 28, The Tranzac will host the pretty terrific double-bill of Gentleman Reg and Rae Spoon; tickets for the show just $10.

MP3: Gentleman Reg – “We’re In A Thunderstorm”
MP3: Rae Spoon – “Death By Elektro”

And just in time for Summer/Polaris/NXNE/whatever June 17 means to you, The Line Of Best Fit have released their seventeenth (!!!) Oh! Canada downloadable mix.

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Canadian Musicfest 2011 Day Two

Karkwa, Esben & The Witch, Adam & The Amethysts and more at Canadian Musicfest

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe Friday night of Canadian Musicfest saw the only bit of club-hopping that I’d be engaging in over the weekend, but even that was just across a couple of blocks in Parkdale, and I took a streetcar. No, not so much with the spirit of the club-level festival.

Stop one was the Drake Underground for Olenka & The Autumn Lovers. I’d seen them just a few weeks prior, but while that show had been as a stripped-down four-piece, advance billing promised a full lineup for this one. But instead of the stage-filling configuration that played The Garrison in October 2009, this show was again Olenka Krakus with Sara Froese on violin, Kelly Wallraff on cello and Tyler Belluz on upright bass. And if there’s any trace of disappointment in that, it’s just because it meant that some of the songs from And Now We Sing that required a fuller presentation would again be left out of the set. And yes, this show was similar if not identical in structure to the Horseshoe show but actually probably better overall thanks to the more intimate setting encouraging a more conversational tone between Krakus and the attentive audience. Don’t get me wrong – I still love these songs and am happy to hear them however they’re presented, but if next time out they bring a drummer along… I won’t be upset.

Spinner has an interview with Olenka Krakus.

Photos: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers @ The Drake Underground – March 11, 2011
MP3: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers – “Odessa”

Montreal’s Adam & The Amethysts made a positive impression with their debut Amethyst Amulet back in 2008, but kind of fell off the radar since I saw them live that Summer. That looks to change with the impending release of their second album Flickering Flashlight, and while details of that release are still forthcoming their showcase did a good job of reminding why they were worth paying attention to in the first place. Their appreciation and affinity for classically-styled, music in the vein of The Zombies is still as sharp as ever, their songs all understated hooks and sneaky sophistication. I wasn’t able to stick around for the whole of their set but was there long enough to whet my appetite for the new record. Hope it gets out sooner rather than later.

Chart has thoughts on their set.

Photos: Adam & The Amethysts @ The Drake Underground – March 11, 2011
MP3: Adam & The Amethysts – “Prophecy”
Video: Adam & The Amethysts – “Gitche Gumee Yeah Yeah”

Then it was further into the dark heart of Parkdale to Wrongbar, where 2/3 of what would have been the best bill of the festival were ready to make an argument that it still was. Leading their case was reigning Polaris Music Prize winners Karkwa, who’d been spending no small amount of time since the win last September introducing themselves and the winning record Le chemins de verre to English Canada. And making those introductions by way of live performance was really putting their best foot forward as their show was nothing less than electrifying. I’d seen them play at the Polaris gala and while I didn’t know it at the time, that was Karkwa at their most subdued what with frontman Louis-Jean Cormier on piano – and while that was fine, having him brandish guitars as he did this night made for a very different sort of show.

My French hasn’t gotten any better since September so I still didn’t understand any of what they were singing, but the collective musicianship of the band and melodic and visceral impact of their songs needed no translation. Not even Le chemins de verre properly captured the intense dynamics and surprising amount of brutalism (a good thing) that was on display here. I know that there was a fair bit of head-scratching when Karkwa won the Polaris, both with respect to who they were and whether they deserved it. The former shouldn’t be an issue anymore and the latter? Just go see them live. And make sure the guitars are out.

Spinner and Chart were also on hand at the show while The Globe & Mail has a feature piece.

Photos: Karkwa @ Wrongbar – March 11, 2011
MP3: Karkwa – “Dors Dans Mon Sang”
Video: Karkwa – “Le pyromane”
Video: Karkwa – “Echapper au sort”
Video: Karkwa – “Marie tu pleures”
Video: Karkwa – “Oublie pas”
Video: Karkwa – “Échapper au sor”
Video: Karkwa – “À la chaîne”
Video: Karkwa – “Combien”
Video: Karkwa – “La facade”
Video: Karkwa – “La fuite”
Video: Karkwa – “Vrai”
Video: Karkwa – “Le coup d’etat”
Video: Karkwa – “Poisson cru”

It took a while to tear down after Karkwa’s set – to say they’ve got a lot of gear is an understatement – it didn’t take long to get Brighton’s Esben & The Witch, who don’t need a whole lot in the way of equipment to build their dark, atmospheric sound, to get ready to go. This show was considerably different from their local debut supporting Foals back in September; whereas that one came across as decidedly primal and amorphous with its heavy percussion and free-form vocals, this performance had much more structure, dynamics and overall intent – as though the building blocks that had been present but strewn about in the Fall had now been assembled into something using their debut Violet Cries as a blueprint. But even though it was more controlled, there was still plenty of intensity on offer be it from Daniel Copeman’s hair-whipping guitarwork, Rachel Davies’ plaintive vocals or any or all of the band beating the bejesus out of a single floor tom. Though Esben in general isn’t really my thing, I think I still prefer the album to the live show – it offers up their songs in their most fully-formed state – but neither form is boring.

Chart also has a review of the show.

Photos: Esben & The Witch @ Wrongbar – March 11, 2011
MP3: Esben & The Witch – “Warpath”
Video: Esben & The Witch – “Warpath”
Video: Esben & The Witch – “Marching Song”

Spin chats with Noah & The Whale before soliciting a video performance from the band. Their new record Last Night On Earth is out today and they play The Mod Club on March 24.

British Sea Power have released a new video from Valhalla Dancehall, just in time for their North American tour, which starts next week and hits Lee’s Palace on March 24.

Video: British Sea Power – “Who’s In Control”

Clash has an interview with Ritzy Bryan of The Joy Formidable, whose The Big Roar is now officially out in North America. They’re at The Horseshoe on April 2.

Another video from Mogwai’s latest Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will has been released. The band are at The Phoenix on April 26.

Video: Mogwai – “San Pedro”

Drowned In Sound meets Yuck, who’re giving away their single to download. They’re at The Phoenix on May 1.

MP3: Yuck – “Get Away”

NPR has a World Cafe session and JAM an interview with chart-topper Adele. Her May 18 show at the Kool Haus is looking mighty undersized and intimate right about now, eh?

With the April 12 release of their self-titled debut just about here, Jonny – aka Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci’s Euros Childs – have announced a North American tour that kicks off with two nights at the Drake Underground in Toronto on June 3 and 4.

Video: Jonny – “Candyfloss”

Elvis Costello’s tour in support of last year’s National Ransom brings him to the Sony Centre on June 23.

The Quietus has details on the extensive series of Suede remasters and reissues that will be getting rolled out starting May 30 and ending June 22. I am loathe to re-buy these albums, particularly on CD, but man I can’t imagine not having the “definitive” Dog Man Star. Damn you, Suede.

PopMatters and Under The Radar talk to Elbow’s Pete Turner and Guy Garvey respectively about the band’s stunning new record build a rocket boys!.

The title track from PJ Harvey’s latest Let England Shake is now available to download.

MP3: PJ Harvey – “Let England Shake”

Mumford & Sons tells Rolling Stone they’re intending to record album number two this year.

DIY talks to Ladytron’s Reuben Wu. Their Best of Ladytron: 00-10 is out March 29.

The Creators Project Q&As Mica Levi of Micachu.