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Posts Tagged ‘Lemonheads’

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Human Being

Review of Cat Power’s Sun

Photo By Stefano GiovanniniStefano GiovanniniIt seems counter-intuitive to not look forward to hearing an artist’s first album of new material in half a decade – the follow-up to arguably her best work, no less – but then things are rarely straightforward when you’re talking about Cat Power. With all respect to those who’d bestow the honour on You Are Free or Moon Pix, but The Greatest was as good as its title as far as I was concerned. It may not have been as musically adventurous or emotionally bare as some of her other works, but I found the document of an artist trying something new with the Memphis soul style and sounding so in her element irresistible.

So why fear for the follow-up? Well, there was 2008’s Jukebox, which took the aesthetic of The Greatest and applied it to a selection of classic songs and somehow ended up feeling utterly bloodless, with Chan Marshall seemingly falling into the diva trap of now being an impressive voice overemoting the words of others; it was like the feeling of comfort that permeated The Greatest had turned into complacency. Further, while the two shows I saw in 2006 in support of The Greatest were, with a few hiccups, outstanding shows that seemed to put Marshall’s reputation as a shaky live bet to bed, her appearance at the 2007 Rogers Picnic was uneven and uncomfortable and while she was certainly more together at Matador at 21 in 2010, that set didn’t really point to her leaving her Dirty Delta comfort zone anytime soon. In other words, my greatest fear for Sun, promised as far back as 2007 but only arriving next Tuesday, would that it would be an overworked, underwhelming rock’n’soul pastiche that showcased Marshall’s voice but shortchanged her songwriting. And I didn’t want to hear that happen.

Well as it turns out, there was nothing to fear. Nothing. At. All. Marshall’s soulful rasp is as rich as it ever was, but there’s little trace of the gospel-blues singer that she wore a little too well. Sun is a wildly eclectic record, and even those who’ve kept up with Cat Power through her various creative phases may be taken aback by the introduction of electronic textures, programmed beats, and even some autotuning effects, but no one would dare dismiss this as genre tourism. It’s more as if Cat Power has been captured through a prism and refracted into a spectrum of musical colours – perhaps new and unfamiliar when taken in bits, but all still very much parts of the whole.

As tempting as it would be to make the new sonic direction the story of the record, or dwell on the remarkable fact that it was not only self-produced but that Marshall played virtually every instrument on the record, to do so would be to not focus on the most crucial aspect of Sun and that the songs are fantastic. The frailties of her early work have given way to a swaggering confidence that permeates everything; Marshall is focused, confident, and not only willing to take on anything, but determined to succeed. A closer examination of the lyrics reveals as much emotional honesty as she’s ever offered – after all, you can’t raise the sun without casting some shadows – but the darkness only adds depth, it never defines. Sun is an astonishing statement from Chan Marshall that shows that rather than banish the demons of her earlier work as The Greatest might have inferred, she’s utterly made them her bitches and put them to work.

The New York Times, News.com.au, and Spin have feature pieces on Cat Power and NPR is streaming Sun ahead of its release next week. She plays The Kool Haus on October 20.

MP3: Cat Power – “Cherokee”
MP3: Cat Power – “Ruin”
Stream: Cat Power / Sun

Another stellar effort from a veteran performer out next week is Silver Age from Bob Mould; it’s also now available to stream along with an interview at Rolling Stone. The first video from said record also surfaced last week.

Video: Bob Mould – “The Descent”
Stream: Bob Mould / Silver Age

To mark the release of the Divine Fits debut long-player A Thing Called Divine Fits this week, there’s feature interviews with Britt Daniel and/or Dan Boeckner at Consequence Of Sound, The 405, Interview, 680 News, Seattle Weekly, Pitchfork, The AV Club, and The National Post. Divine Fits play Lee’s Palace on September 5.

Also out this week was Nocturne, the second album from Wild Nothing. Accompanying that were features at eMusic, The Fader, Clash, DIY, Austinist, The Line Of Best Fit, and Paste. They’re at The Great Hall on September 18.

A goodly number of show announcements to get through. We’ll start with The Killers, because statistically speaking some of you must be fans, just as some of your must be human and others dancer. Their new record Battle Born is out September 18 and they’re at The Sound Academy on September 22, tickets $54.50. That seems undersized for them so I figure this counts as the “intimate club gig” before they return in a few months at the arena level.

Video: The Killers – “Runaways”

Presumably having sorted themselves out following the departure of bassist Jen Turner, Here We Go Magic will be at The Garrison on September 23 as part of a tour support of their latest record A Different Ship. Tickets for that are $12.50 in advance. Spin has a feature on the band.

MP3: Here We Go Magic – “Casual”

Having been through for festivals and as support, Exitmusic finally have their own proper headlining show in support of their debut Passage. They’re at The Horseshoe on October 1, tickets $10.50.

MP3: Exitmusic – “The Sea”

Californian psych-poppers Woods will have a new record in Bend Beyond out on September 18, and they’d like to play some of it for you. Be at The Garrison on October 2 if you’ld like that too; tickets are $12.50 in advance.

MP3: Woods – “Wind Was The Wine”

There’s no measure by which this isn’t a strange tour, but it must make sense to someone. That’d be The Psychedelic Furs, The Lemonheads, and Juliana Hatfield, who will also be reprising her Ray-era bass duties in The Lemonheads. She’ll sort of have a new record to push in her self-titled cover album, a sort of companion piece to The Lemonheads’ last release, the all-cover Varshons. Wouldn’t it be weird if both their sets were all covers? Or maybe all Psychedelic Furs covers? Yeah I have no idea what this is, besides at The Danforth Music Hall on October 16. Ticket info still forthcoming.

Video: The Psychedelic Furs – “Love My Way”
Video: The Lemonheads – “It’s A Shame About Ray”
Video: Juliana Hatfield Three – “My Sister”

They are from Brooklyn, they are seventeen members strong, they are disco, they are Escort, their 2011 debut album was also Escort, I hear they were awesome at SXSW, and they’re at The Horseshoe on November 10. Tickets are $16.50 – that’s less than a dollar a band member!

MP3: Escort – “Starlight”

Yellow Ostrich are at The Garrison on November 12 in support of their second album Strange Land. $12 gets you in the door, full dates at Plug In Music.

MP3: Yellow Ostrich – “The Shakedown”

San Diego’s Pinback return with their first album in five years in Information Retrieved, and are touring in support. Said tour wraps up at Lee’s Palace on November 21, tickets $16.50.

MP3: Pinback – “From Nothing To Nowhere”

Rolling Stone has premiered the surprisingly dark new video from Bob Dylan’s forthcoming Tempest. It’s out September 11 and the man hits the Air Canada Centre on November 14.

Video: Bob Dylan – “Duquesne Whistle”

Exclaimtalks to Lou Barlow about the new Dinosaur Jr album I Bet On Sky, out September 18. They play three nights at Lee’s Palace from September 24 to 26.

The first video from Band Of Horses’ forthcoming Mirage Rock is now available to watch. It’s out September 18.

Video: Band Of Horses – “Knock Knock”

Stereogum chats with John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. Their new record Transcendental Youth is out October 2, they play The Phoenix on October 20.

Benjamin Gibbard – you may know him as just Ben – has released the first sample of his forthcoming solo record Former Lives, out October 16. He plays The Danforth Music Hall on October 14.

MP3: Benjamin Gibbard – “Teardrop Windows”

Exclaim has details on a new release from Andrew Bird, a companion piece to this year’s Break It Yourself. Hands Of Glory is out October 30.

Sleigh Bells’ Reign Of Terror has yielded another new video.

Video: Sleigh Bells – “End Of The Line”

NPR welcomes Beachwood Sparks for a video session. LA Weekly also has a feature on the band.

The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, SF Weekly, The Pitch, Colorado Daily, and Boulder Weekly have interviews with Sharon Van Etten.

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

"Confetti"

Frightened Rabbit covers The Lemonheads

Photo via AVCAV ClubSince kicking off last Summer, The AV Club Undercover series has been a real boon for covers bloggers like myself because, well, they make things so damn easy. Not only do they bring together the artists and the songs and provide high-quality video from which to extract the soundtrack, they get the artist to explain their choice. In this case, you’ve got Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison doing The Lemonheads solo style because, as he puts it, “I’ve always liked the song, you know it kind of fits in with the way that I like to write as well – it’s about a guy and a girl, and that works for me”. A-yup.

Frightened Rabbit should be working on the follow-up to last years’ Winter Of Mixed Drinks, but when Death Cab For Cutie invite you along for a Summer tour of North America’s outdoor amphitheatres, you kinda say yes. They’ll be at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre this Friday evening, July 29. As for The Lemonheads, the current lineup – who has been together since around 2005 so are pretty legit – have opted to dust off It’s A Shame About Ray for one of those complete album performance tours that are de rigeur these days and are taking it on the road this Fall – they hit Lee’s Palace on October 17.

Fun fact: I heard “Confetti” in a bar last night. Clearly a sign. Of something.

MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “Confetti”
Video: Frightened Rabbit – “Confetti”
Video: The Lemonheads – “Confetti”

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Circuital

My Morning Jacket at The Kool Haus in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI suspect my personal history with My Morning Jacket reads like many others’; discovered them circa At Dawn, was rocked by It Still Moves, had my mind blown by Z and was confounded by Evil Urges. I haven’t spent enough time with their latest Circuital yet to know how that chapter will play out, but while I bemoan the absence of even a token all-out rocker, it does feel as advertised – a return to their roots, even if they’ve brought many of the creative and musical souvenirs picked up along the trip so far with them.

Not that a final judgement on their latest effort was necessary to decide to catch their long-awaited return to Toronto – the Kentucky quintet were a fearsome live act since the first time I saw them way back in 2003 and in the years since they’ve graduated to major festival headliner status, become more creatively fearless and simply become one of the most interesting rock bands going, all without forgetting about the simple joy of bearing down and riffing the fuck out. My excuse for missing their last visit in June 2008 was seeing them a few months earlier at a Beautiful Noise taping, but all that really meant was that it was almost six years on from the last time I saw them play a proper Toronto show. Far too long.

Still, they were the ones apologizing a little ways into Monday night’s show at the Kool Haus, with frontman Jim James saying they’d wanted to come back sooner but simply hadn’t been able to. Maybe that’s why they made the rare move of dispensing with an opening act and treating us to an extended-length set, even by their standards. The show kicked off with “Victory Dance”, the lead song from Circuital, and James stalking the stage and waving his arms about like some carnival barker/madman and pretty much didn’t stop for the next two and a half hours. There’s a temptation to regard My Morning Jacket as a jam band – and for certain, they’re not averse to stretching their songs out to epic length – but that’s too reductive; the degree of physicality and theatricality that they put into their shows is as crucial to the experience as the many notes that they play. My Morning Jacket aren’t just there to play, they’re there to perform.

The epic-length show did an admirable job of representing not only the breadth of their catalog but all the stylistic facets of My Morning Jacket; no mean feat for a band that straddles so many genres and puts its own unique spin on each and every one. Barnburners like “Gideon” and “Anytime” showcased them at their hair-whipping, guitar-soloing finest while slowing down without going small on “Golden”, “Phone Went West” and “Movin’ Away”, the last of which incited not a few incidences of slow-dancing in the audience; be it slow jams or psychotic reactions, everyone was along for every step of the ride. Watching the show crest, ebb and crest again, I was struck by how even though some of their albums might be regarded as less than successful creative forays (Evil Urges I’m looking in your direction), when regarded in the context of entire the My Morning Jacket songbook, they make much more sense. The initial expeditions into uncharted terrain might be bumpy, but once that territory is charted they’ve that much more raw material to work with. You won’t find many bands capable of balancing such a clear musical identity with artistic restlessness.

These are all thoughts that crossed my mind over the course of the show, frequently punctuated with variants of, “holy shit these guys just keep going”. There was the equivalent of two of three sets from other bands in there, but when they loaded up for the monolithic “Run Thru”, you got the sense that they were moving into the final act and indeed, following a sprawling “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream”, it was up to “Mahgeetah” to close out the set in grand and extended fashion. The set, but not the show. The encore ran an extra thirty-plus minutes and if you wanted a six-song sampler of what makes My Morning Jacket so wonderfully weird and wonderful, those selections would have done the job. From the haunting “Wordless Chorus” through the psych-soul of “Holdin’ On To Black Metal”, into the ridicu-funk of “Highly Suspicious” and finally appropriately culminating with “One Big Holiday”, it was a long, strange, exhausting and amazing trip.

The National Post and BlogTO were also in attendance. eMusic has an interview with the band, NPR a World Cafe session and Spin is streaming a Muppets cover by the band. Yes they are.

Photos: My Morning Jacket @ The Kool Haus – July 11, 2011
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “You Wanna Freak Out”
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “Circuital”
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “Butch Cassidy” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “The Way That He Sings” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “One Big Holiday” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “It Beats 4 U” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “Smokin’ From Shootin'” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “Off The Record”
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “One Big Holiday”
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “The Dark”
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “Heartbreakin’ Man”
Video: My Morning Jacket – “Off The Record”

Pitchfork and The Vinyl District get Marissa Nadler to name off some of her favourite things. She plays Supermarket on July 19.

No Depression and The Huffington Post chat with Ari Picker, leader of Lost In The Trees. They play The Drake Underground on July 25.

Having just announced the September 13 release date for their new record Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Girls have put together a North American tour that stops in at the Mod Club on September 27, tickets $16.50 in advance.

MP3: Girls – “Laura”

Mates Of State have made the first MP3 from their new record Mountaintops available to download and cherish. The record is out September 13 and they’re at The Phoenix on September 28.

MP3: Mates Of State – “Maracas”

The Drums have given their second record a title of Portamento and a release date of September 12 in the UK; stream the first single at Soundcloud.

Evan Dando and whomever he’s calling The Lemonheads right now will give the people what they want and tour It’s A Shame About Ray in its entirety this Fall. Presumably they will pad out the set with material from other records, given that their most popular album clocks in at like 33 minutes including, I believe, their cover of “Mrs Robinson”. I personally think they should flesh out the set with live-action recreations of the videos, but that’s just me. Blurt has details on the tour and full dates, including the October 17 stop at Lee’s Palace in Toronto.

Video: The Lemonheads – “It’s A Shame ABout Ray”

My Brightest Diamond will release a new album in All Things Will Unwind on October 18. Pitchfork has details on the record and a first MP3.

MP3: My Brightest Diamond – “Reaching Through To The Other Side”

Exclaim reports that Craig Finn is working on both a solo record and a new Hold Steady record.

New Superchunk vid from Majesty Shredding!

Video: Superchunk – “Learned To Surf”

Crawdaddy chats with Nicole Atkins.

NYC Taper is sharing a recording of a recent show from Savoir Adore.

The Kills shows The Guardian how they wrote the song “Baby Says”.

Eric Bachmann is the man of the hour – Spin gets him, in the capacity of Archers Of Loaf frontman, to list off some new music he’s listening to; Icky Mettle gets a deluxe reissue on August 2. It was also announced that the new Crooked Fingers record Breaks In The Armor would be put out on October 11 by Merge (who’re also doing the Archers reissues) and a video trailer released to go with it. And finally, The AV Club gets Crooked Fingers to cover Gershwin’s “Summertime” for their AV Undercover series on a Chicago rooftop.

Pixies drummer David Lovering confesses to Rolling Stone that now that the band have performed Dolittle for everyone on the face of the earth, they may have to write some new material.

Spin is streaming both discs of R.E.M.’s remastered and reissued edition of Lifes Rich Pageant – possibly probably still my favourite of their records – while Rolling Stone reports the band has already begun working on the follow up to this year’s Collapse Into Now.

Stream: R.E.M. / Lifes Rich Pageant Deluxe Edition

Spinner talks to Bob Mould about his memoirs while Spin solicits a playlist.

Monday, May 25th, 2009

So Far Around The Bend

The National and Colin Stetson at the Kool Haus in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt may well have been a case of cabin fever that spurred The National to schedule a short east coast tour starting off in Toronto last Thursday. Two years removed from the release of Boxer and still a ways away from the follow-up – rumoured to have a working title of Shine and not due out at best until late 2009 and more likely 2010 – it’s not unreasonable to think they needed a break from the studio to stretch out their legs and maybe road-test a few new songs.

And so while the motivation for the show seemed simple enough, it was still significant in that it represented a definite, quantifiable step up in the band’s draw – whereas their last headlining show in October 2007 was at the 1000-capacity Phoenix, this time they were playing the twice-as-large Kool Haus and had easily sold it out. The uncomfortable and sonically dubious Kool Haus is a real wedge venue in this city, with some people steadfastly refusing to go to shows there they’d have patronized elsewhere, but with their absences compensated for by new, more recently acquired fans who unfortunately tend to mostly be of the chattier, drunker and generally irritating variety. That this would happen was an inevitability, but the question of “when” has been answered – with “now”. And while I’m one of those with no fondness for the venue, The National are on that short list of bands who’d I’d see play anywhere in this city – and so it was off to the concrete box on the waterfront with the hope that the band’s magic could compensate for the venue’s distinct lack of.

I’d failed to do any sort of research on opener Colin Stetson and if I had, I might have been a bit more prepared for his set. It consisted of a half-hour of extended saxophone excursions of the avant-garde and decidedly non-melodic variety which I won’t pretend to have understood in any musical sense but did find impressive for the sheer amount of cardiovascular endurance they demanded of Stetson. At least I was able to appreciate his sense of humour, demonstrated between songs as he caught his breath and referred to his abstract compositions as love songs.

Stetson would re-take the stage as part of The National, who were traveling as a nine-piece this time out – the core five, Doveman’s Thomas Bartlett again handling keyboards and a three-piece horn section. For some acts, almost doubling the size of their lineup would be a clear warning sign of out of control sonic ambitions, but The National actually seemed to play things more intimately and create a looser club vibe rather than play up to the size of the room and really, that’s one of their greatest strengths – the ability to craft songs that simultaneously anthemic in scope yet intensely personal. They did take advantage of the larger stage, singer Matt Berninger in particular wandering to and fro throughout the set, but vibe-wise it wasn’t far removed from their earlier visits in smaller rooms.

They did, however, come off a bit rusty in performance, their time away from the road very much in evidence as they sought to find their feet. Musically, they sounded tight but were not able to overcome the Kool Haus’ boomy acoustics and Berninger, perhaps rediscovering the joys of the rider, dropped the mic a couple of times during the more energetic tunes, failed to sing directly into it for the choruses of “Mr. November” making it an unintentional audience participation number and forgot the words to the start of main set closer “Fake Empire”. These were just minor blemishes though, and made things a touch more memorable and entertaining – I’m biased, though. There’s not much The National could do to actually disappoint me.

The closest they came was not taking advantage of being without a particular album to promote and mixing up the set list, but when this means a set comprised of two of my favourite albums of this century – Boxer and Alligator – that’s hardly something to complain about. I would have liked to hear “So Far Around The Bend” from the Dark Was The Night benefit comp, but a minor point. They also showcased three new songs and made it clear that while Boxer was their creative high point so far, they’re still aiming higher. One of the tunes, “Blood Buzz Ohio”, was particularly grand and whereas new, unfamiliar songs usually get polite applause this one got a huge ovation. One listen and it was that good.

As mentioned, the new record is still way off in the distance, but it can’t come too soon for me. And while most selfish fans (myself included) would hope their favourite bands stay small and theirs only, I hope the National gets just big enough to begin booking themselves into Massey Hall… and then staying there.

Chart also has a review of the show.

Photos: The National, Colin Stetson @ The Kool Haus – May 21, 2009
MP3: The National – “So Far Around The Bend”
MP3: The National – “Fake Empire”
MP3: The National – “Son”
MP3: The National – “Beautiful Head”
Video: The National – “So Far Around The Bend” (live)
Video: The National – “Mistaken For Strangers”
Video: The National – “Apartment Story”
Video: The National – “Abel”
Video: The National – “Lit Up”
Video: The National – “Daughters Of The Soho Riots”
Video: The National – “Sugar Wife”
Video: The National – “Son”
MySpace: The National
MySpace: Colin Stetson

The New York Times has a big feature on Grizzly Bear, whose Veckatimest is easily the big new release of the week. The band recently partook in a Black Cab Session and have rolled out a new video. Their June 5 show at the Phoenix is sold out, if you were wondering.

Video: Grizzly Bear – “Two Weeks”

NPR hearts themselves some St. Vincent, streaming her recent show in Washington DC as well conducting an interview. And a note to locals – the August 8 Toronto show announced last week is NOT happening at Lee’s Palace, but will be at the Horseshoe – so as fast as you thought it was going to sell out? It’ll actually be faster.

Scotland’s 1990s have canceled their upcoming North American tour due to “unforeseen circumstances”, including their June 3 date at the Horseshoe.

The Lemonheads’ new covers record Varshons hits stores on June 23 and the tour to support will wrap up on July 4 in Toronto at Lee’s Palace – tickets for that are $20.

Peter Murphy, who himself will be releasing a series of four covers as singles, will be at the Opera House on July 11.

If you needed another reason to see Neko Case at Massey Hall on July 14, how about the fact that Jason Lytle has been added as support? There’s an interview with Lytle at The Skinny.

But if that reason’s not good enough, you also have the option of seeing a little Man Man action that same night, July 14, at Lee’s Palace. Tickets for that are $16.50. They have a new video from last year’s Rabbit Habits.

MP3: Man Man – “Top Drawer”
Video: Man Man – “Rabbit Habits”

So I’ve had some good luck soliciting shopping advice from y’all before, so let’s try this again. I need new headphones. My current Shure SE210s have begun to crap out in exactly the same way as the Shure SE210s they replaced barely two months (via warranty) in that the midrange driver in the left earbud seems to be cacking out. I found these ‘phones to be eminently comfortable and quite good sounding, but don’t really think I’d trust another pair of Shures. I think I definitely want another pair of in-ears, but that means that I can’t test them out before buying and reviews can only go so far. Currently considering some Ultimate Ears Super.fi 4vi (the iPhone compatibility – particularly the pause/play button – is tempting) or the Etymotic ER6i. Also looked at offerings around that price point from Sennheiser, but have never really like their bass-heavy sounds – I want clarity, detail and general flatness. Recommendations?