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Posts Tagged ‘Land Of Talk’

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

NXNE 2011 Day Three

Dum Dum Girls, Diamond Rings, Stars and more at NXNE

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOne crucial way that NXNE has become more like its bigger, cooler acronym-a-like cousin SXSW is the increase of day shows to go along with the official evening showcases. Of course, I didn’t actually go to any of these new daytime events – the only afternoon party I hit up was one that had been happening for the last few years, the Kelp Records BBQ at the Global Village hostel, this year co-presented by the Brits at The Line Of Best Fit. After all – they had free food, cheap drinks and a solid lineup of bands. What else does a body need?

And as a bonus, I was able to catch a couple bands that otherwise would have required more hopping around in the night time. First up were The Elwins, an almost distressingly young outfit from the suburban wilds north of Toronto. Distressing because for all their fresh-faced earnestness, they possessed a polished and sophisticated pop sensibility that artists many years their elder would be envious of (and they just generally made me feel old). Hearing the amount of detail and ingenuity that had gone into their songs, you’d be tempted to think there was some pop genius sven gali behind them but I suspect that it’s all them and that’s remarkable. Their debut album And I Thank You is finished but, I believe, looking for a home. It deserves one.

BlogTO chatted with the band pre-fest. They play the Silver Dollar on July 21.

Photos: The Elwins @ Global Village – June 17, 2011
MP3: The Elwins – “Time To Kill Time”

I’d seen Saskatchewan’s Slow Down, Molasses and heard their debut I’m An Old Believer back in Fall 2009 and filed them into the ever-growing “has great potential, not there yet” file in my mind. With the release of their second album Walk Into The Sea, I was happy to move them up into the far more spacious “definitely getting there” section of my grey matter. It’s still unquestionably roots rock at its core but the band are able to take it into less-travelled territory, getting noisier where necessary but remaining heartfelt and melodic. And when you’re able to go from twang to a My Bloody Valentine cover and do it well, as this six-piece did whilst crammed into the tiny stage area set up on the hostel’s patio, then you’re onto something.

Photos: Slow Down, Molasses @ Global Village – June 17, 2011
MP3: Slow Down, Molasses – “Late Night Radio”
MP3: Slow Down, Molasses – “I’m An Old Believer”

From the laid back patio shows, things went to the mainstage at Yonge-Dundas for what became a sort of Polaris Prize sampler, with all three acts having been named to the long list the day before. Leading off was Diamond Rings, whom in my mind I’d seen a million times but in fact had not since SXSW 2010 – well over a year. And while there’s only so many changes a solo act can make to their stage show, there were a few notable changes. While it was still just John O’Regan, his keyboard and his guitar, the unicorn tapestry which used to grace his front of the former had been traded in for a more professional “Diamond Rings” banner and oh yeah, he was playing in front of thousands of people. The relentless touring and becoming BFFs with Robyn has clearly paid off because the response that Diamond Rings was getting from the decidedly younger-skewing audience was entering teen idol territory. And unsurprisingly, the show was more polished than I’d ever seen it, incorporating bigger beats, some sweet dance sequences and just generally more crowd-pleasing. I’d always thought there was a limit to how much O’Regan could do with the Diamond Rings persona, but maybe I was wrong.

Diamond Rings has just announced a tour with Twin Shadow, that includes a date at The Mod Club on October 3, tickets $15 in advance.

Photos: Diamond Rings @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 17, 2011
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Wait And See”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Show Me Your Stuff”
Video: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Wait & See”

Land Of Talk and I got our start at this very festival five years ago and while it’s only two and a half kilometers or so from The Boat in Kensington to Yonge-Dundas Square, the figurative distance covered by the band in that time is far greater. Long-gone is the scrappy power trio that wowed me so long ago, replaced by a five-piece band – six if you count Gentleman Reg in his Light Fires guise of “Regina Gentlelady” on backing vox for a few songs – and including Snailhouse’s Mike Feuerstack on guitar; certainly not the same players as last September at Lee’s. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to remember the last time I saw Land Of Talk with the same lineup twice in a row – the only constant being frontwoman Liz Powell. In any case, this was easily the largest setting I’d seen the band in and it was satisfying to see just how well their tense and yearning songs were able to scale up in presentation, helped no doubt by the three-guitar attack. It wasn’t their tightest show, but even so there was plenty of impact to be felt.

Photos: Land Of Talk @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 17, 2011
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Swift Coin”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “May You Never”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Corner Phone”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
Video: Land Of Talk – “It’s Okay”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Troubled”
Video: Land Of Talk – “The Man Who Breaks Things (Dark Shuffle)”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”

Stars had graduated to playing this size of show for a while now, so it wasn’t surprising that their show was tight and polished, not unlike their music itself. Stars have hit on a winning formula in crafting their romantic, synth-tinged pop and while it can get a bit samey over the big picture, on a song by song basis, it’s hard to argue with their effectiveness – songs like “Ageless Beauty”, “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” and “Reunion” are pretty much post-millenial Can-rock classics, and for good reason. The thousands packing the square were certainly happy to eat it all up as well, from the tossing of roses into the crowd to Torquil Campbell playing up the Montreal-based band’s Toronto roots. For a free fan- and family-friendly show on a warm Summer’s evening, you couldn’t really ask for anything more.

Spinner has an interview with Torq Campbell.

Photos: Stars @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 17, 2011
MP3: Stars – “Going, Going, Gone”
MP3: Stars – “Fixed”
MP3: Stars – “We Don’t Want Your Body”
MP3: Stars – “The Night Starts Here”
MP3: Stars – “Ageless Beauty”
MP3: Stars – “On Peak Hill”
Video: Stars – “We Don’t Want Your Body”
Video: Stars – “Fixed”
Video: Stars – “The Night Starts Here”
Video: Stars – “Take Me To The Riot”
Video: Stars – “Reunion”
Video: Stars – “Ageless Beauty”
Video: Stars – “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”
Video: Stars – “Elevator Love Letter”

Done with the big stage for the evening, it was off to hit the clubs starting with Rancho Relaxo. There it was Volcano Playground, who impressed with their potential at the Wintergaze show back in December; I was quite interested to see how much further they’d come in the past six months. The answer: some ways. There was a lot of instrument swapping but the transitions were smoother than last time and didn’t disrupt the flow of hte show. Opening with a moody drone, they played a shortish set of spacey pop that didn’t sound distracted, kept moving by a heavy rhythmic element. At their best, they sounded reminiscent of Slowdive if they’d mixed the ideas of Pygmalion and Souvlaki and gotten a lot heavier, and when not at their best the potential of what they might do was still evident. I’m happy to keep them on my, “keep a solid eye on” list.

Their next show is July 10 at The Garrison.

Photos: Volcano Playground @ Rancho Relaxo – June 17, 2011
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Waiting”
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Anywhere”

At this point, my original plan had been to call it an early night for lack of anything I particularly wanted to see in the immediate area I was in. But when the Twitters brought word that one of the secret guest slots which peppered the schedule was going to be filled by the Dum Dum Girls, whom I’d resigned myself to missing, and that said show was happening across the street from where I was – albeit two hours hence – I had to stick it out. And sit through Rusty. OK, I suppose I could have just sat outside on the curb for a couple hours, read a magazine, but instead I opted to take in a ’90s Can-rock reunion that god knows I never asked for. If it’s not clear, I’d never been a fan of the band when they were MuchMusic/CFNY staples but clearly many others were, because the ElMo was packed with thirtysomething bro-types who were stoked – the only word to describe it – for their heroes’ return. And to be fair, they sounded pretty good considering that none of them (I think) carried on in music in any meaningful way after their dissolution over a decade ago. Though shorn of his signature dreadlocks, Ken MacNeil was still in pretty good voice (or as good as his raspy style required) and they collectively were pretty tight – a benefit, I suppose, of not having especially complex material to relearn. But they showed a good sense of humour about their age and the reunion and seemed genuinely grateful that their fans were still there.

Photos: Rusty @ The El Mocambo – June 17, 2011
Video: Rusty – “Empty Cell”

“Are you ready for us?” Dee-Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls was talking to the sound guy, but could easily have been addressing the couple hundred or so who’d stayed up till 2AM to see them play a second set of the night, following their sold-out appearance at Lee’s Palace earlier on. Cramming a busload of tunes into a half hour set, Dum Dum Girls proved why they were a cut above the other bands currently riding the girl-group/garage-pop wave – besides the most impeccable stage outfits, impressive musicianship and an innate coolness that just can’t be faked, they’ve got terrific songs that would be standouts in any production aesthetic. And they’ve got great friends, as proven when Crocodiles, fronted by Dee-Dee’s husband Brandon Welchez, popped by following their own set at the Silver Dollar across the street and offered both a 40 of whiskey and their services as backing dancers for their last song. Totally worth staying up for.

Photos: Dum Dum Girls @ The El Mocambo – June 17, 2011
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 – “He Gets Me High”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”

Spinner talks to Nicole Atkins about her latest video, which they’re also conveniently premiering. Brightest Young Things also has an interview while The Herald-Citizen talks to her about her Bonnaroo experience.

Video: Nicole Atkins – “My Baby Don’t Lie”

Similarly, Spinner has the new video from and a conversation with Alela Diane, who will be at Massey Hall on July 14 opening for Fleet Foxes.

Video: Alela Diane – “Desire”

NPR coaxes The Decemberists behind a Tiny Desk and gets them to put on a show. They’re persuasive like that.

The National Post, The Globe & Mail and NPR have interviews with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, in town at the Sound Academy on August 8.

Each Note Secure talks to Daniel Kessler of Interpol. They’re at the Rogers Centre opening for U2 on July 11.

Rolling Stone finds out what’s next for The Strokes from Nikolai Fraiture and Albert Hammond Jr; a new record and probably some North American dates in the Fall once the European festival season is done.

PopMatters talks to Erika Anderson of EMA, in town at The Garrison on July 23.

Those suffering from Grizzly Bear withdrawal will be pleased to know that bassist Chris Taylor has struck out on his own under the guise of CANT and will not only be releasing his debut album Dreams Come True on September 13 – details at Exclaim – and be taking it on the road. Full dates still to come but Toronto gets a taste on October 21 at The Garrison, tickets $14.

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, June 7th, 2011

Lights Go Up

Fucked Up comes alive

Photo By Daniel BoudDaniel BoudTo say that it has been an improbable year and a half since Fucked Up’s second album The Chemistry Of Common Life won the 2009 Polaris Music Prize would be a bit of an understatement. Beyond the long odds of a hardcore record by a band whose name is deemed unprintable by many media outlets earning the title of “best Canadian album” of the 2008-09 season, you have the band’s frontman – a big, bearded fellow with a penchant for stripping down to his shorts and smashing things on his head – becoming host of the resurrected Wedge on MuchMusic and de facto musical ambassador for Toronto across the country and abroad and the recent announcement that they’d be playing the Air Canada Centre as support for Foo Fighters. All pretty impressive accomplishments for a band whose genre of choice is by definition pretty underground and not really a common route to mainstream success.

Which makes it even more remarkable that rather than plateauing, Fucked Up may well be just getting started. Their new record David Comes To Life, out today, is one of the most-anticipated Canadian releases of the year and manages to not only meet those expectations, but exceed them. It’s billed as a concept album/rock opera and while I haven’t perused the lyrics enough confirm or deny its success in that department, I can report that whatever it’s about, David is an uplifting and invigorating pop record.

From the unrelentingly churning arena-sized riffs – maybe the ACC appearance isn’t so odd – to the backing vocals from Cults’ Madeline Follin and Jennifer Castle, David veritably bursts with melody and while Damian Abraham’s bellows still provide the most direct line to their hardcore roots, even he’s more intelligible and melodic than on past efforts. At eighteen tracks and 78 minutes, it’s still a lot to take in in a single sitting – I advise getting the vinyl for the respites that flipping sides/changing discs will allow – but any resulting exhaustion is matched by equal or greater exhilaration. I had to take peoples’ word for it that Chemistry was a great record – it didn’t quite connect with me – but with David Comes To Life, I will happily be the one spreading the word.

The Toronto Star, The AV Club, Consequence Of Sound, Spinner, Exclaim, The Globe & Mail, MTV and Pitchfork have feature pieces on Fucked Up while Toronto Standard puts Abraham in conversation with one of the other most recognizable faces in the Toronto music scene, Broken Social Scene frontman Kevin Drew.

Fucked Up play two shows at NXNE on June 16, a free 8PM show at Yonge-Dundas Square and a 1AM nightcap at Wrongbar. The aforementioned Foo Fighters/ACC show is set for August 9.

MP3: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Ship Of Fools”
MP3: Fucked Up – “A Little Death”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”

Radio Free Canuckistan profiles Weeping Tile, who are headlining the release party for Have Not Been The Same at Lee’s Palace on Friday night. The National Post and Exclaim talk to Ian Jack and Michael Barclay, two of the authors on the tome about the ’90s Can-rock scene.

Best New Bands and The Montreal Gazette have interviews with Little Scream’ Laurel Sprengelmeyer, and if you missed it before, she backs up Sharon Van Etten at The AV Club Undercover on a cover of Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy”. Little Scream have augmented their June 14 date at The Mod Club opening for The Antlers by scheduling a free in-store at Soundscapes down the street the previous night, June 13, at 7PM.

MP3: Little Scream – “Cannons”

Spinner talks to Land Of Talk frontwoman Liz Powell. They’re playing for free at Yonge-Dundas Square for NXNE on June 17, their set starting at 8:30PM.

Spinner interviews Chad VanGaalen, who headlines the NXNE showcase at The Great Hall on June 18.

Beatroute, The National Post and The Georgia Straight chat with various members of Sloan about the band’s 20th anniversary. They’ve got two nights booked at The Mod Club for June 21 and 22.

Vancouver’s Japandroids are back, in person if not on record. There’s still no official word on a follow-up to 2009’s Post-Nothing beyond the fact that it’s out in 2012, but the fact that they’ve slated an extensive North American tour at least is evidence the duo are still, like, doing stuff. The Toronto stop is September 22 at Sneaky Dee’s and if you think that they’re probably too big for a venue that size… you’re probably right. Get a ticket for $12 when they go on sale Friday and make sure your insurance is paid up immediately afterwards.

MP3: Japandroids – “Younger Us”
MP3: Japandroids – “Heavenward Grand Prix”
MP3: Japandroids – “Heart Sweats”

Southern Souls has posted and acoustic session with Malajube.

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Freedom Of Choice

Are we not men? We are the NXNE 2011 lineup

Photo via WBWarner Bros.Or at least we are the first batch of acts officially announced on Tuesday for this year’s NXNE festival, running June 16 through 19 around Toronto. It’s certainly not all of them, but there’s some moderate to big names in there and perhaps most key, the headliners for the free shows at Yonge-Dundas Square that have become the centrepiece of the fest have been revealed.

While there’s no one quite of the stature of last year’s Saturday night marquee of Iggy & The Stooges, New Wave legends Devo have certainly got the pedigree to act as a worthy centrepiece for this year’s event. They and their energy domes and jumpsuits will be headlining the YDS Stage on the Saturday night, closing off what will likely be a full day’s slate of acts. They were here in Fall 2009 offering full-album performances of Q: Are We Not Men and Freedom Of Choice, but have since released their first new album in forever with last year’s Something For Everybody. Which, I’m sure, the masses will want to hear lots of material from at this show. Mm hmm.

And while there’s enough tapped for the free stage that you could have a fine weekend just camped out in front of the Eaton Centre, NXNE is still a club-level fest and there’ll be hundreds more artists from near and far vying for your attention. The schedule won’t be out for a while yet but I’ve managed to cobble together a very early list of who will be playing where and when – obviously all subject to change – and while some of this was previously announced, a lot of it is new:

Thursday, June 16, 2011
The Descendents, OFF!, Rusty, Metz @ Yonge-Dundas Square
Evan Dando & Juliana Hatfield, The Luyas @ Lee’s Palace
Snowblink, Forest City Lovers, Evening Hymns @ The Music Gallery
The Dodos, Deerhoof, Gauntlet Hair @ The Phoenix
Ty Segall, The Dig @ The Garrison
Woodsman @ The El Mocambo

Friday, June 17, 2011
Stars, Land Of Talk, Diamond Rings @ Yonge-Dundas Square
Suuns, No Joy, PS I Love You @ The Horseshoe
Bouncing Souls, Anti-Flag, The Flatliners @ The Phoenix
Art Brut @ The Mod Club
Braids @ The Garrison
Dum Dum Girls, Cults, Superhumanoids, Writer @ Lee’s Palace
Ty Segall, Julianna Barwick, Daniel Pujol, Secret Cities @ Wrongbar

Saturday, June 18, 2011
Devo, Men Without Hats, Cults, Writer @ Yonge-Dundas Square
Twin Shadow, Wild Nothing @ Lee’s Palace
Foster The People @ The Mod Club
Hot Water Music, A Wilhelm Scream, Mockingbird Wish Me Luck, Sharks @ The Opera House
Talk Normal, Prince Rama, AIDS Wolf, Grimes, Doldrums @ 918 Bathurst
Chad Van Gaalen, Braids, Jennifer Castle, Duzheknew, Grimes @ The Great Hall
The Balconies @ Sneaky Dee’s

Sunday, June 19, 2011
Wild Nothing @ The Garrison
The Pharcyde, Digable Planets @ Yonge-Dundas Square

And some of the acts who don’t have any more specific information available besides “they’ll be there” are Crocodiles and Lower Dens. Yeah, I think I can find enough to occupy myself for four evenings or so.

MP3: Art Brut – “Lost Weekend”
MP3: Julianna Barwick – “The Magic Place”
MP3: Braids – “Lemonade”
MP3: Jennifer Castle – “Neverride”
MP3: Cults – “Go Outside”
MP3: Deerhoof – “The Merry Barracks”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”
MP3: The Dodos – “Don’t Stop”
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Broken Rifle”
MP3: Forest City Lovers – “Light You Up”
MP3: Foster The People – “Pumped Up Kicks”
MP3: Grimes – “Vanessa”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
MP3: The Luyas – “Tiny Head”
MP3: No Joy – “Hawaii”
MP3: OFF! – “I Don’t Belong”
MP3: Prince Rama – “Lightening Fossil”
MP3: PS I Love You (featuring Diamond Rings) – “Leftovers”
MP3: Ty Segall – “Girlfriend”
MP3: Snowblink – “Ambergris”
MP3: Stars – “We Don’t Want Your Body”
MP3: Suuns – “Up Past The Nursery”
MP3: Talk Normal – “In A Strangeland”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Sara”
MP3: Twin Shadow – “Castles In The Snow”
MP3: Woodsman – “Insects”
Video: Devo – “What We Do”
Video: The Descendents – “I’m The One”
Video: Digable Planets – “Rebirth Of Slick”
Video: Men Without Hats – “Safety Dance”
Video: The Pharcyde – “Drop”

If you prefer your festivals a little more rustically-set, Exclaim has the lineup announcement for this year’s Hillside Festival, happening in Guelph from July 22 to 24. The roster reads like a who’s who of up-and-coming Canadian talent, including The Rural Alberta Advantage, Dan Mangan, Karkwa, Little Scream and really too many more to list. Tickets go on sale May 7 at 10AM at $110 for a weekend pass and these sell out quickly every year so don’t dither too long if at all.

And while talking Canadian fests, it’s worth noting that Montreal’s Osheaga added a bunch more acts including Janelle Monae and Broken Social Scene among them, and broken things down day by day.

In other live music news, Steve Earle will be at the HMV at 333 Yonge for a signing and in-store on April 28 at 6PM – you’ll just have to buy a copy of I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive when it comes out next Tuesday for tickets. Or wait for his show opening up for Blue Rodeo at the Amphitheatre on August 20.

San Diego’s The Donkeys are in town at a venue to be determined Sneaky Dee’s on May 21 in support of their new record Born With Stripes, out on Tuesday.

MP3: The Donkeys – “Don’t Know Who We Are”

The Baseball Project – aka Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn, Peter Buck and Linda Pitmon celebrating America’s pastime in song – will bring their second album Volume 2: High & Inside to Lee’s Palace on June 1. And yeah, the Jays are at home that evening against Cleveland. Oregon Live has a feature on the band.

MP3: The Baseball Project – “1976”

Louisiana’s Givers, just here supporting Wye Oak a couple weeks ago, will return for their own show at The Garrison on June 21. Their album In Light is out June 7.

MP3: Givers – “Up Up Up”

With their new record D due out May 24, White Denim have announced a date at The El Mocambo for June 28.

MP3: White Denim – “Anvil Everything”

Antony & The Johnsons have released a new video from last year’s Swanlights

Video: Antony & The Johnsons – “Swanlights”

Spinner reports that one of The National’s next projects will be curating a Grateful Dead tribute album for charity. I can only hope that everyone involved covers “Touch Of Grey” because that’s about the only Dead song I know.

Exclaim talks to Explosions In The Sky guitarist Munaf Rayani about their new record Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, out on Tuesday.

My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James goes over some of his influences for Spin. Their new record Circuital comes out May 31 and they play The Kool Haus on July 11.

Titus Andronicus discusses his love of Fucked Up and plans for following up The Monitor with Spinner.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Iron & Wine while The Washington Post and Boston Herald have interviews with Sam Beam.

Spectrum Culture and Spin interview Michael Benjamin Lerner of Telekinesis. They’re at Lee’s Palace on May 27.

Bon Iver has declared their intention to make the Summer solstice a little more wintry by releasing their new self-titled album on June 21. Details at Pitchfork.

And finally, sympathies to family, friends and fans of TV On The Radio bassist Gerard Smith, who lost his battle with lung cancer yesterday morning. Fuck you, cancer. Just fuck you.

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Canadian Musicfest 2011 Day One

Young Galaxy, Miracle Fortress, Imaginary Cities and more at Canadian Musicfest

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSomeday, possibly not too far in the future, I will have to either admit that Canadian Musicfest begins in earnest on Wednesday nights now, and not Thursdays as it has in the past, or begin ignoring it completely. It’s currently even odds as to which it’ll be. But either way, the 2011 edition started for me on Thursday evening at Lee’s Palace, which would be my only stop for the evening. Hey, it’s not my fault that the programmers put together a bill worth staying put for. Though it is my fault that I’m lazy. Anyways.

I’ve seen The Wilderness Of Manitoba a number of times, most recently last November. And while the intervening months have been eventful for the band, most particularly in the form of a US release for their debut When You Left The Fire come May – their live show continues to be refinements of that with which they’ve been building their audience for the last while. Which is to say, pretty harmony-laden folk-pop that served as a welcome acoustical blanket on a damp, cold night as this one. It was good to see that when obliged to fill the largest room I’ve seen them in, at least, there were not only able to embiggen their sound to fill it out, but they did so by adding some instrumental breaks that introduced a welcome little bit of darkness and/or even chaos to the edges of their sound. Given how good and versatile players they all are, it’d be nice to see the musicianship of the band be given as much weight as their vocals. Or they should go completely post-rock their next time out.

Torontoist and Toro have interviews with the band and a new video has premiered over at Paste.

Photos: The Wilderness Of Manitoba @ Lee’s Palace – March 10, 2011
MP3: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Hermit”
MP3: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Mother Song”
Video: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Orono Park”
Video: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “November”

At first I thought it was odd that I hadn’t seen Miracle Fortress since Summer 2008, but while Graham Van Pelt hasn’t been completely in hiding since then, he hasn’t provided a lot of opportunities to see his solo project live. Partly because he was concentrating on his disco-rock outfit Think About Life and partly because, apparently, it takes a while to completely deconstruct and reconstruct yourself creatively. This, at least, was what could be inferred from his set, which completely eschewed his 2007 debut Five Roses in favour of new material from his second album which is being teased with the acronym WITW? and is due out in April. The My Bloody Beach Boys ’60s/’90s dreampop of the debut has largely been checked in favour of a sleeker, more synthetic ’80s-ish Depeche Shop Boys sound – albeit more guitar-heavy – and while the aesthetic shift take a moment to adjust to, what matters is that Van Pelt’s impeccable songcraft still underpins it all and it sounds fantastic. In addition to the stylistic shifts, Miracle Fortress has also shed the conventional band configuration that it grew into circa Five Roses and this time out, was just Van Pelt on guitar and synths, a drummer basically doubling the pre-recorded rhythm tracks and a laser-light show which probably could have used some smoke machine support for full effect. Still, for such a limited setup, the show had a lot of physicality and energy and affirmed that if you’d forgotten about Miracle Fortress and their greatness over the past few years, prepare to be reminded.

Spinner and eye also have reviews of the performance.

Photos: Young Galaxy @ Lee’s Palace – March 10, 2011
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”
Video: Miracle Fortress – “Maybe Lately”
Video: Miracle Fortress – “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”

Winnipeg’s Imaginary Cities must have felt like they won the lottery when tapped to open up for Pixies on their upcoming North American tour, but judging on their Canadian Musicfest set if they’re going to make the most of the opportunity, they’ve got a little more work to do on their live performance. What they can’t do much about, and probably shouldn’t, is their material, which is solid if not overly remarkable pop-rock – it’s not their fault that it’s rather conventional-sounding next to the Pixies’ genre-bending/defining body of work. But the delivery of said material could be improved; while it certainly looked like they were having a good time, with bandleaders Rusty Matyas and Marti Sarbit looking all smiles on stage, they moved and performed with a decided stiffness and self-consciousness, like when Matyas went for the foot-on-the-monitor move at a moment when not only was he not taking a solo, but his guitar wasn’t even audible in the mix. But to their credit, the show and the material both improved as their set progressed and it became clear that they excelled at the mid-tempo pop numbers rather than when trying to rock out.

Spinner and The Montreal Gazette have interviews with the band.

Photos: Imaginary Cities @ Lee’s Palace – March 10, 2011
MP3: Imaginary Cities – “Hummingbird”

The rehabilitation of Young Galaxy around these parts has come a long way thanks to their latest album Shapeshifting, but that re-appraisal hadn’t yet extended to their live show. A poor first impression in early 2007, wherein they seemed to be some combination of bored and stoned, was mitigated somewhat in Summer 2008 opening up for Death Cab on the Islands and I was hoping that this outing, bolstered by the best material they’ve had to work with, would move them firmly into the plus column.

About midway through their set, Stephen Ramsay apologized to the audience for not being “slick” yet with regards to their show, and it wasn’t unjustified – there were some sound issues, the four-piece band had a lot of gear to wrangle and they weren’t going to be mistaken for a well-oiled machine. But despite the hiccups, it was impressive how well they were able to find the right balance of organicness and synthesis, maintaining the studio-ness of the recordings’ while giving them the humanity necessary to make them come along on stage. And it had the desired effect on the audience, as the well-filled room was dancing – or at least swaying – with the pulse of the music and it didn’t go unnoticed on the band. Ramsay and the decidedly pregnant Catherine McCandless were clearly pleased with the turnout and the response, appearing more engaged and probably feeling pretty validated in the risks taken to get to this point – clearly the critical rebirth of Young Galaxy extended to themselves.

NOW has a feature interview on Young Galaxy while Panic Manual and Spinner were also in attendance.

Photos: Young Galaxy @ Lee’s Palace – March 10, 2011
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Peripheral Visionaries”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “We Have Everything”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Cover Your Tracks”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Long Live The Fallen World”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Outside The City”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Come And See”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Swing Your Heartache”
Video: Young Galaxy – “We Have Everything”
Video: Young Galaxy – “The Alchemy Between Us”
Video: Young Galaxy – “Outside The City”
Video: Young Galaxy – “Come And See”

A little bit of sleuthing my Exclaim has revealed a June 7 release date for Fucked Up’s new record David Comes To Life. They also reported last week that the band would be performing a live soundtrack to the 1928 silent film West Of Zanzibar as part of the Images Festival. It’ll happen on the closing night of the festival, April 9, at the Toronto Underground Cinema and cost $12 in advance.

Diamond Rings has released another video from Special Affections.

Video: Diamond Rings – “It’s Not My Party”

Southern Souls has a video session with Land Of Talk, filmed in Toronto’s Kensington Market.

TV On The Radio have made a track from their forthcoming Nine Types Of Light available to download. The album is out April 12 and they play The Sound Academy on April 18.

MP3: TV On The Radio – “Caffeinated Consciousness”

For Folk’s Sake and The New Current interview Nicole Atkins. NPR is streaming her recent WXPN session while NYC Taper is sharing a recording of the homecoming finale of her recent tour.

J Mascis lists his favourite guitarists for The Guardian. His solo record Several Shades Of Why is out on Tuesday.

The Chicago Tribune profiles Warpaint, in town at Wrongbar on March 26.