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Posts Tagged ‘Megaphonic Thrift’

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

SXSW 2012 Night Three

Howler, Team Me, Tashaki Miyaki and more at SXSW

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOstensibly, SXSW is a festival meant to expose new music to the world and vice versa, so the fact that I’d spent the past evening and afternoon seeing established artists – I think Springsteen counts as established – rather than seeking out something new wasn’t lost on me. So the festival’s Friday night was devoted wholly to discovery. Onwards!

Los Angeles’ Tashaki Miyaki are working the “mysterious” angle, declining to offer information about their identities – she sings and drums and goes by Lucy, he plays guitar and is called Rocky and at Latitude 30 they were joined by an unnamed bassist/vocalist – and letting the music speak for them. I’d briefed myself with their debut EP on the way down to Austin and was led to expect some lo-fi, fuzzy garage pop but live, they were much cleaner and more precise with the vocals more up front, the harmonies intricate and the guitars reminiscent of Neil Young at his Crazy Horsiest. Their debts to The Velvet Underground are obvious – “If Not For You” is basically “Sweet Jane” – but they spend it in a boutique dealing in ’90s shoegaze. Despite looking, um, great, they weren’t the most charismatic outfit and are operate in a pretty clearly defined niche – it just happens to be my niche.

The longer you go to SXSW, the more venues show up on your no-go list; some rooms are just terrible for seeing a show. Of course, that the rooms seem to change names every year or so makes it difficult to maintain said list – it has happened that I’ve gone to what I thought was a new room and discovered it was an old hated room, Vice/Exodus I’m looking in your direction – but rarer is finding the same name in a different location. So it was that I gave Karma Lounge another shot, seeing as how it was no longer a gross upper level on 8th St but a new (?) street-level bar on 5th. So of course when I got there, everyone was dancing to Ginuwine. Maybe ironically. I don’t know. The point of this story is also unclear to me. But I was there, I was a bit confused and I was waiting for New York’s Fort Lean, whom I’d not heard but had heard good things about. And once they got underway, they were fine but not especially inspiring. The musicianship was impressive and there was clearly lots of ideas and creativity at work, with a base of old school rock’n’roll and jazzy/r&b flourishes to the vocals, but the songs seemed to lack passion. It’s not something that I’d say was specific to Fort Lean but is rather endemic in American indie rock nowadays. Wonder what things are like in, oh, Norway?

Well if Razika, playing the Iron Bear not far from where the original Karma Lounge was, were any indication, ska-pop is much more in vogue in Bergen – at least amongst the early-20’s girl-band set. Okay, probably not a good sample group but still a fun time. They were playing their seventh and final show in three days and despite being justifiably and visibly tired, they mustered up the energy for a strong finish. They played simple, bouncy pop tunes – clean and strummy without a distortion pedal in sight – and though the Norwegian half of their bilingual set was incomprehensible to me, the singalong qualities were pretty clear – you don’t need Google Translate for “whoa whoa whoa”. Basic but plenty likeable, even beyond the foreign novelty factor.

Here’s a thing about SXSW – where else can you see two young Norwegian bands, back to back, in different venues? Besides in Norway, that is. Post-Razika, I hoofed it back to the chaos of 6th St to see Oslo’s Team Me, whose debut To The Treetops! had gotten a worldwide release at the end of February. The musical gang of exuberant youths angle isn’t any new thing – every country seems to have at least a few – but if you were to put Team Me into a Hunger Games/Battle Royale scenario against, say, Los Campesinos!, I would give the edge to the Norwegians and not just because they come from Viking stock. Like their peers, they specialized in amped up twee-pop that made it feel like a drag to be old, but they managed to keep things on the right side of the enthusiastic/annoying line throughout the course of their set. I’d only heard their EP before arriving in Austin so I was pleased to hear by way of the unfamiliar material that they’d already matured in the songwriting department from those tunes. It’s to their credit that the irresistible fun of their performance was able to get me to shelve my, “I’ve seen/heard this before” reservations and just enjoy it.

Minnesota’s Howler came into the festival with a pretty good head of hype behind them – mostly thanks to the enthusiasm of the UK music press – and were perhaps even ready for the backlash stage of the media cycle; I get the sense that some would have been perfectly happy for them to fall flat during SXSW so they could play the “overrated” card. That backlash may yet happen, but it wouldn’t be because of their official showcase back at Latitude 30. They looked a combination of stylishly tousled and lazily disheveled but didn’t come with any sort of pretense – the Strokes comparisons they’re frequently saddled with certainly didn’t extend that far. Instead, they were exactly what they purported to be – five young men with a sharp if occasionally sophomoric sense of humour and a propensity for writing and playing good rock music and having a blast doing it. They blew through their 30-minute set with gusto and no small amount of anarchy – more than you might expect from their debut America Give Up and largely thanks to the axe flailing – meant in the best way – of lead guitarist Ian Nygaard. Despite liking the record, I counted myself somewhat skeptical heading into the show – consider me convinced. Howler play The Drake Underground on April 5.

The venue went from Brit-beloved to Brit-bred for the final act of the night, 2:54. Led by a pair of sisters, the four-piece has been framed as a dreampop/shoegazey kind of band but really, they’re more aggressively seductive than dreamy, with dark, goth-y tones. Lead guitarist Hannah Thurlow might prefer to examine her shoes than put on a show, but guitarist-vocalist Colette Thurlow has no problem making eye contact and holding it, all with a bit of a snarl; certainly more Siouxsie than Slowdive. I could do with a little more melody and less moodiness in their sound, but with the band having just signed with Fat Possum for the North American release of their self-titled debut on May 28, I’ll probably be hearing more of them either way.

See? All new bands on Friday night. Get off my case.

Elsewhere: Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard have reconvened as Dead Can Dance and are targeting a Summer release for a new record. So confident are they that this will be the case, that they’ve booked a North American tour – their first in some seven years – for late Summer that includes an August 23 date at the Sony Centre in Toronto, with tickets at the $49.50, $67.50, and $99.50 price points.

Video: Dead Can Dance – “The Carnival Is Over”

Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine tells NME that there may some sort of collaboration with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange in the works. Blood Orange is opening up some of her dates this Summer, though not August 2 at The Molson Amphitheatre.

eMusic and The AV Club chat with David Gedge of The Wedding Present. They’re at The Horseshoe on Sunday night, March 25.

So those My Bloody Valentine remasters/reissues that have been promised since the band reunited four years ago but have been constantly pushed back? Well DIY reports that they’re finally really truly going to come out on May 7, and in addition to the double-disc sets of Loveless and Isn’t Anything, there’ll be a third release entitled EP’s 1988-1991 which, as the name cryptically implies, collects the EPs and singles of the era as well as some unreleased material. I guess we may as well believe it will happen because it doesn’t really make a difference if we don’t.

Video: My Bloody Valentine – “Soon”

Whilst we’re back in the UK of the ’90s, let’s meet up with PopMatters who’ve a piece on the greatness of Swervedriver and another one that celebrates the 20th anniversaries this month of The Charlatans’ Between 10th and 11th and Ride’s Going Blank Again. Twenty. Yes. Old. You. Me. All.

Taking the noise-pop and eading back to Norway, Drowned In Sound talks to The Megaphonic Thrift, who’ve just released their second self-titled album last week.

Stream: The Megaphonic Thrift – “Raising Flags”
Video: The Megaphonic Thrift – “Moonstruck”

The Village Voice and The New York Daily News profile First Aid Kit, in town at The Great Hall on April 4.

eMusic talks to the founders of the great Swedish label Labrador. Who’d have guessed that a desire to not sign Stars would lead to their “Swedes only!” roster policy!

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Four Letter Word

My laptop died last night so as karmic retribution, you get Beady Eye

Photo By Steve GullickSteve GullickSo good times, my laptop died last night after 3.5 years of service due to a failed hard drive. I had planned on replacing it this year anyways, but hoped to squeeze a little more out of it – like a week. Fittingly, it died just as I was looking at the new upgraded Macbook Pros on the Apple site so… yeah. Anyways. Just some stuff from the old world to clear out before the weekend, so…

Beady Eye. Their debut Different Gear, Still Speeding is out over here on March 1 and kind of surprisingly, advance word seems to be that it’s not terrible. Not any kind of groundbreaking, being mostly bog-standard retro-styled Brit rock, but pretty alright for what it is. I haven’t heard it, this is just what I’m hearing. Anyways, I do hope it does okay if just for Andy Bell’s sake, and I get the sense that they’ll be doing a proper North American promotional push and that should include touring, perhaps come Fall. Anyways. The Guardian, BBC, Spinner and Exclaim all have features on the band.

MP3: Beady Eye – “The Roller”

Under The Radar talks to Andy Bell’s former compatriot Mark Gardener on the occasion of Ride’s 20th anniversary and yes, the reunion question comes up and no, there are not plans for it but as the Bieb says – never say never.

Captain’s Dead has rounded up a bunch of Lush’s Black Sessions MP3s for your shoegazing nostalgia purposes. Another band highly unlikely to ever get back together.

Drowned In Sound talks to Yan of British Sea Power. They’re at Lee’s Palace on March 24.

Spinner talks to Norman Blake of Jonny, whose self-titled debut is due out in North America on April 12.

Spinner has an interview with Ellie Goulding, whose debut Lights gets a US release on March 8 and who is at The Phoenix on March 27.

The Mirror reports that Duffy, disappointed in the disappointment surrounding her disappointing second record Endlessly, is considering ending her music career.

Exclaim has made PJ Harvey their cover story for the month.

The Independent and Tour Dates chat with Patrick Wolf, whose new record Lupercalia is out May 23.

The Quietus, Irish Independent and Irish Times interview Guy Garvey of Elbow, whose build a rocket boys! is out March 8 in the UK but not until April 12 in North America.

Glasvegas have released a new video from their second album Euphoric Heartbreak, due out April 4. Guitarist Rab Allan talks to The Scotsman while James Allan offers a track-by-track overview of the record to The Daily Record.

Video: Glasvegas – “Euphoria, Take My Hand”

Also with a new clip are White Lies, taken from Ritual. Dose has an interview with the band.

Video: White Lies – “Strangers”

The Quietus reports that Wild Beasts have given their new record a title of Smother and release date of May 10.

Secret Sessions has a solo acoustic video session and interview with Tim Compton of The High Wire.

PitchforkTV has a Tunnelvision session with Yuck, who also have their self-title up to stream at Soundcloud. They play The Phoenix on May 1 and Gigwise has an interview.

Stream: Yuck / Yuck

Lykke Li talks to Spinner and Billboard and names off her dream band to The Independent. Her new record Wounded Rhymes is out on Tuesday and she plays The Phoenix on May 22.

Shockhound, Consequence Of Sound and Spinner chat with The Radio Dept, who just picked up their second Best New Whatevs in less than a year from Pitchfork. They’re at The Horseshoe on May 29.

Peter Bjorn & John have a new vid from Gimme Some, out March 29. They play Lee’s Palace on May 6.

Video: Peter Bjorn & John – “Second Chance”

The Megaphonic Thrift have rolled out a new vid from Decay Decoy, out March 8.

Video: The Megaphonic Thrift – “Talks Like A Weed King”

Keren Ann’s new record 101 is now streamable in advance of its March 22 release. She plays The Drake Underground on June 28.

Stream: Keren Ann / 101

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Dragon Vs Dust

Review of The Megaphonic Thrift’s Decay Decoy

Photo By Magne SandnesMagne SandnesOriginality is an important trait, no question about that, but sometimes slavish imitation can be alright too, particularly when it explores a sound or style that’s not already been strip-mined to death and is done well. And so it is that Norway’s Megaphonic Thrift get a pass for their debut album Decay Decoy, released in Norway last Spring and due out in North America on March 8.

When I saw the band at SxSW 2010, their ’90s alt.guitar rock influences, in particular Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr, were clearly audible even through the massive wall of sound and feedback. Despite the obviousness of what they did, I appreciated that they were able to effectively channel the melodicism of their forebears as well as their penchant for instrument abuse – often acts are so intent on the latter, they lose sight of the former.

If there’s any surprise about Decay Decoy, it’s how clean-sounding it is. Any shoegazing references that their live show might have encouraged must be put away when you hear just how much clarity and separation there is in the recording. Guitars still rage and shriek, but they don’t spill all over everything else and leave the bass, drums and vocals refreshingly unobscured. And with frontman Richard Mykleburst so high in the mix, one thing becomes very clear – this band loves Sonic Youth, specifically early DGC-era Sonic Youth, when they were at their poppiest. His voice is tighter and less drawl-y than Thurston Moore’s and bassist Linn Frokedal’s singing is far more polished than Kim Gordon’s ever was, but the dynamic between the two has more than a few echoes of alt.rock’s first couple – I’m guessing that’s not by accident. Nor did it just happen that “Candy Sin” sounds like a cover of “Silver Rocket” changed just enough to not involve the lawyers…

Understand that none of this is calling the band out or even criticizing them – they’re clearly comfortable broadcasting their influences and the thrill they’re getting out of making music like that which they love is obvious in the enthusiasm with which it’s done. Originality is good, but it really all comes down to the tunes and those, The Megaphonic Thrift have.

Subba-Cultcha has an interview with the band and Filter are sharing a track from the record.

MP3: The Megaphonic Thrift – “Candy Sin”
Video: The Megaphonic Thrift – “Acid Blues”

Rawkblog and QRO have interviews with The Radio Dept. while Oregon Music News at least tries to. The band are indeed returning for a show at The Horseshoe on May 29.

Radiohead have decided that working for the weekend isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and rather than release their new album The King Of Limbs tomorrow, as originally promised, they’ve turned on the download link for those who pre-ordered it as of right now. And they’ve released a new video. So those of you who were hoping to not have their Twitter/Facebook/RSS feeds turn into all Radiohead, all the time until tomorrow… sorry.

Video: Radiohead – “Lotus Flower”

eMusic has an interview with PJ Harvey, while The AV Club offers some suggestions on where to start for newcomers to her wildly varied career.

Ellie Goulding’s March 27 Canadian debut has been moved from The Great Hall to The Phoenix.

NPR talks to Adele, who follows the release of 21 next week with a show at The Kool Haus on May 18.

NME reports that The Horrors will be out with a new record in July of this year.

Sloucher talks to Esben & The Witch, who have a date at Wrongbar on March 11.

Spinner has an interview with Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite while Drowned In Sound has a couple pieces from Barry Burns. They have a date at The Phoenix on April 26.

Graham Coxon tells NME that while Blur are indeed playing together and recording stuff, fans shouldn’t expect anything to be released anytime soon.

Shugo Tokumaru’s Port Entropy – released this week and reviewed a few weeks ago – is now streaming in whole at Spinner.

Stream: Shugo Tokumaru / Port Entropy

Spin finds out where An Horse got their name. Their new record Walls is out April 26.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

SxSW 2010 Night One A/V

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFull writeup of the evening over here.

Visqueen
– Seattle-based power-pop outfit fronted by the awesome Rachel Flotard released Message To Garcia last year. Spinner has an interview.
Photos: Visqueen @ Stubb’s – March 17, 2010
MP3: Visqueen – “Hand Me Down”
MP3: Visqueen – “Beautiful Amnesia”
Video: Visqueen – “Crush On Radio”
Video: Visqueen – “Mrs. Elder”
MySpace: Visqueen

Trespassers William
– Seattle duo released The Natural Order Of Things EP last year and are currently working on their third full-length album while their cover of “The Rainbow Connection” from Sing Me To Sleep: Indie Lullabies is streaming over here. Spinner has a chat with the band.
Photos: Trespassers William @ 18th Floor at Hilton Garden – March 17, 2010
MP3: Trespassers William – “Sparrow”
MP3: Trespassers William – “Lie In The Sound”
MySpace: Trespassers William

Fanfarlo
– Swede-fronted London-based pop orchestra still riding high on last year’s glorious Reservoir are currently on tour in North America and will make their Toronto debut on April 9 at Lee’s Palace. They’re also giving away a free live EP on their website in exchange for an email address.
Photos: Fanfarlo @ The Galaxy Room Backyard – March 17, 2010
MP3: Fanfarlo – “Harold T Wilkins”
MP3: Fanfarlo – “I’m A Pilot”
MP3: Fanfarlo – “Luna”
MP3: Fanfarlo – “Finish Line”
Video: Fanfarlo – “The Walls Are Coming Down”
Video: Fanfarlo – “Harold T Wilkins”
Video: Fanfarlo – “Fire Escape”
MySpace: Fanfarlo

The Megaphonic Thrift
– Norwegian sonic anarchists released their debut full-length Decay Decoy at the start of March. Spinner has an interview.
Photos: The Megaphonic Thrift @ Habana Calle 6 – March 17, 2010
Video: The Megaphonic Thrift – “Acid Blues”

Rose Elinor Dougall
– Former Pipette who will release her solo debut Without Why in the Fall talks to Under The Radar.
Photos: Rose Elinor Dougall @ The Galaxy Room – March 17, 2010
MP3: Rose Elinor Dougall – “Fallen Over”
Video: Rose Elinor Dougall – “Start/Stop/Synchro”
MySpace: Rose Elinor Dougall

The Invisible
– London-based three-piece whose 2009 self-titled debut was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize begin a North American tour this week that stops at The Opera House in Toronto on Friday, April 2.
Photos: The Invisible @ Latitude 30 – March 17, 2010
MP3: The Invisible – “London Girl”
Video: The Invisible – “Jacob & The Angel”
Video: The Invisible – “London Girl”
MySpace: The Invisible

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

SxSW 2010 Night One

Rose Elinor Dougall, Fanfarlo, Trespassers William and more at SxSW

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt used to be that at 8PM, you could still wander into Stubb’s relatively easily as most were still getting their beer and BBQ on and couldn’t be expected to be in go-mode so early in the night. Apparently those days are past. Upon arriving at one of Sx’s largest venues, I was greeted with a line that went down and around the block, certainly the largest one I’d ever considered getting into. But seeing as how I had no other enticing options for that time slot, I opted to line up with everyone else and hope for the best. Things moved at just the right speed to not abandon ship and I managed to get into the venue and as politely as possible, plow my way up to the photo pit just in time to be let in for Seattle’s Visqueen.

I had been enjoying Message To Garcia, the latest slab of power pop from Rachel Flotard and company, so to hear them start with a vocal-and-cello crooner was a bit of a surprise – had there been a change of direction in the past year, perhaps inspired by Flotard’s stint as sidewoman to Neko Case a few years ago? Not in the least – with song two, the electric guitars came out and the big rock began. Their set was only four songs, but they were jam-packed with hooks, riffs and melodies, anchored by Flotard’s not inconsiderable charisma.

It was as I was leaving Stubb’s and heading to the Hilton Garden 18th Floor – a clever name for a conference room on the 18th floor of the Hilton Garden hotel – that word of Alex Chilton’s passing reached me, ensuring that the rest of the night would be at least moderately bummed out. So in that sense, the serenely downcast sounds of Trespassers William were an ideal choice. The Seattle outfit do not tour North America much, so SxSW has been my only opportunity to see them – their show in 2008 was a considerably different affair from this one, featuring a much larger band and a much louder approach. This time out, it was just principals Anna-Lynne Williams and Matt Brown with some help on drums from Robert Gomez and accordingly, it was much quieter and intimate. Their set included a couple of new songs, hopefully from a forthcoming album, and closed with a remarkable cover of Radiohead’s “Videotape”, for which Williams’ voice seemed tailor-made. A welcome pause from the general chaos of SxSW.

A chaos which I flung myself right into by trying to get into Fanfarlo at the Galaxy Room Backyard next. There wasn’t any real urgency to see them this week since they’ll be coming to Toronto in a few weeks (April 9 at Lee’s, assuming that no passports are stolen), but gave it a go and after a moderate wait in line, got in just in time for the start of the set. Or what would have been the start of the set had they started on time. Instead, they continued to soundcheck for nigh on 20 minutes longer and then, when things were set and the clock ticking, the showcase sponsor actually came out and read a prepared introduction. Dude, the house is packed and things are already running stupid late. Shut up and get off. Which he eventually did and the London five-piece came on, playing an abbreviated set that didn’t quite match the grandeur of their show last year, but a big tent is not the Central Presbyterian Church so that probably couldn’t be expected. They sounded leaner and scrappier than that show, but more boisterous and less polite – positive things both. I attribute that to frontman Simon Balthazar’s not wearing a bow tie this time out.

Post-Fanfarlo, I was almost at Latitude 30 for Johnny Flynn when I decided I’d be better off seeing someone I’d never seen before, and that meant Norway’s Megaphonic Thrift – which turned out to be a great idea except that I had forgotten I hated Habana Calle 6 as a venue. They too were running late with sound check, not getting started until 15 minutes into their set, but you don’t need a lot of time to get across what they’re about. Take one part Sonic Youth and one part Dinosaur Jr, throw them in a blender and set to “pop” and let it ride. Hellaciously loud and rife with guitar abuse, if the above recipe sounds like an awesome combination to you, then The Megaphonic Thrift may well be the most awesome thing to come down the pipe in the last 10 years.

Ex-Pipette Rose Elinor Dougall went completely against SxSW convention by booking only one single show at the festival, official or otherwise, which made her midnight show at the Galaxy Room a must-see. Previewing material from her forthcoming solo debut Without Why, due out sometime this year, Dougall seemed quite keen to break from her past by trading polka dot dresses for a black leather jacket and assembling a band more keen on ’80s dreampop guitar textures than ’50s girl group sounds. Always the strongest singer in the Pipettes, Dougall’s solo material puts that voice front and centre overtop some solid songwriting and sharp pop sensibilities. I do wish the Pipettes Mk 2 all the luck in continuing on through all their roster changes, but it’s very clear that Dougall made the right choice in setting out on her own. Definitely looking forward to that album.

As a nightcap, I stopped in at Latitude 30 en route back to the hotel to see London’s The Invisible. They did me the favour of playing “London Girl” as their second song of the set, so I didn’t feel too bad when I ducked out early. Their low-key, chilled-out groove was clearly doing it for some – there was some impressive dancing going on in the audience – but wasn’t what I needed just then. I was not going to need any help in falling asleep this night.