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Posts Tagged ‘Mountain Goats’

Monday, September 30th, 2013

The Silver Gymnasium

Okkervil River and Torres at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangEveryone’s heard the old adage about how life is like a river, ever-changing, and in the case of Austin’s Okkervil River, it’s especially apt. The faces that make up the band have changed repeatedly over the years – singer-songwriter Will Sheff being the only real constant over their 14-year existence – and they’ve had their share of stylistic and thematic shifts over that time, albeit while hewing closely to the path marked folk-rock. And so it’s fitting that following their most rangy and experimental album in 2011’s aptly-titled I Am Very Far, they’d return to their roots – or the river to its source – with The Silver Gymnasium.

After Far‘s short story songbook, Gymnasium returns to the overarching album theme with a literary angle built around the memoir, focusing on Sheff’s ’80s youth in the small town of Meriden, New Hampshire. With that shift comes a musical realignment of sorts, with the more darker, exploratory sonics of Far put aside for a strummier sound with synth accents, perhaps meant to reflect the radio pop of the era or just draw in more listeners; in either case, these are the most accessible-sounding tunes Okkervil has turned out, right alongside the Stage Names/Stand-Ins set. The material may not be of the strata – at this point, time may well show that the years spanning Black Sheep Boy and The Stage Names to be the band’s creative pinnacle – it’s a solid collection that reflects the Okkervil River that most of their fans know and love best. And with it, Okkervil returned to town on Saturday night for their first Toronto show since June 2011.

The support slot for the tour marked another achievement in a year of highlights for 22-year old Nashville-based newcomer Mackenzie Scott who, when onstage, answers to Torres. She self-released her self-titled debut in January and since then, with the help of endorsements from the likes of Sharon Van Etten, has gotten to the point where her presence on the bill constituted an actual draw. Fronting a powerful yet tasteful rhythm section, Scott’s set was built around distorted fingerpicking and raw, snarled vocals that reared up to feedback-laden, combat boot-stomping rock heights in the opening and closing numbers. Those who like their confessional singer-songwriter material with some teeth, both lyrically and musically, would be impressed.

A consequence of the earlier comment that Okkervil may have already hit their creative and critical peak a few albums back was the fact that this show was decidedly not sold out, but not being a buzz band doesn’t mean that your real fanbase is any less solid or devoted; so while those in attendance might have had a little more elbow room than in the past, their enthusiasm was hardly diminished. The Silver Gymnasium‘s one-two of “It Was My Season” and “On A Balcony” opened things up before giving way to a Black Sheep Boy‘s still-powerful “For Real” and “Black”, setting the tone for the rest of the set – a solid showing from the new record but plenty of attention to the back catalog, with only Down The River Of Golden Dreams being omitted entirely and with The Stage Names being leaned on for the show-stopping moments.

The current lineup of Okkervil, which underwent a sea change with the last record, sounded more cohesive than on the Far tour. Lead guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo’s style of guitar now better integrated into the songs in the way that it took Nels Cline a little bit to properly sound part of Wilco, and the sound of the band has adjusted accordingly with the focus alternating between Sheff’s vocals to Gurgiolo’s leads rather than the Okkervil orchestra as a whole, or maybe it just seemed this was as I was parked directly in Gurgiolo’s amp’s line of fire. Also in the “things that are different” department was Sheff’s taking the stage not in one of his signature sport coats but a leather jacket, now looking more the part of student than professor. The glasses still only lasted half the energetic and sweaty set, though, so reality wasn’t that altered. And though Jonathan Meiburg officially left the band five years ago, his vocal presence is still missed – particularly since his harmonies still appear on the records. It was a nice nod to the Okkervil of old, though, when mid-show the band left just Sheff and bassist Patrick Pestorius, the other longest-serving member of the band, to play “No Key, No Plan” acoustically.

The thing that struck me the most over the course of the show was how I’d forgotten how much I loved this band not that long ago. From 2005 to 2008 or so, they were one of the outfits in the heaviest rotation possible and somehow, unnoticed, they or I drifted away. And while those days probably aren’t coming back – despite said I would be thrilled if there was another masterpiece rattling around in Will Sheff’s head – this show was an hour-forty reminder of those times. And isn’t The Silver Gymnasium all about remembering days past?

Photos: Okkervil River, Torres @ The Phoenix – September 28, 2013
MP3: Okkervil River – “Wake And Be Fine”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Mermaid”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Lost Coastlines”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe”
MP3: Okkervil River – “The President’s Dead”
MP3: Okkervil River – “No Key, No Plan”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Black”
MP3: Okkervil River – “It Ends With A Fall”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Kansas City”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Listening To Otis Redding At Home During Christmas”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Red”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Westfall”
Stream: Torres – “Honey”
Video: Okkervil River – “Your Past Life As A Blast”
Video: Okkervil River – “Wake And Be Fine”
Video: Okkervil River – “Lost Coastlines”
Video: Okkervil River – “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe”
Video: Okkervil River – “Girl In Port”
Video: Okkervil River – “For Real”

Stereogum have premiered a stream of a new Phantogram song, taken – as they’ve just revealed – from a new self-titled EP that will be out on September 30, which is to say today. Their second full-length is coming next year.

Stream: Phnatogram – “Celebrating Nothing”

Polar and Billboard have interviews with Cameron Mesirow of Glasser, whose new album Interiors comes out October 8 and is streaming at The Guardian. She plays The Drake Underground come October 13.

Stream: Glasser / Interiors

Billboard and Vulture talk to Sleigh Bells about their new record Bitter Rivals. It’s out October 8 and they play The Phoenix on November 13.

Dean Wareham has made available for preorder his new solo mini-album Emancipated Hearts, which will be out as a 10″ LP on October 15.

Interview talks to Mazzy Star, who have marked the release this week of their new record Seasons Of Your Day with a new video. They play The Danforth Music Hall on November 16.

Video: Mazzy Star – “California”

Though rumours that the current Guided By Voices reunion will be winding down have been floating basically since it began, they’ve confirmed that they’ll be releasing a fourth studio album in Motivational Jumpsuit late next February, amidst a slew of other Bob Pollard-related releases. Stereogum has all the details.

Rolling Stone reports that Television have had a new studio album in the can since 2007 – presumably after Richard Lloyd left and Jimmy Rip replaced him – but that it won’t see the light of day until Tom Verlaine decides he wants to, if ever. So do with that information what you will.

Modern Farmer talks to John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats about goats.

Magnet turns their website over to Superchunk/Mountain Goats drummer Jon Wurster with a Q&A, while Washington City Paper chats with Mac McCaughan.

The National discusses their inclusion on the soundtrack of the new Hunger Games soundtrack with NME.

The Quietus reflects on the 20th anniversary of The Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen.

Gaper’s Block, Des Moines Register, and NOW chat with Sam Beam of Iron & Wine.

aux.tv has an interview with Kurt Vile.

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Givin Em What They Love

Janelle Monáe is ready for prime time with Fall tour

Photo By Marc BaptisteMarc BaptisteWhile the awesomeness of Janelle Monáe as a live performer is a matter of public record, she’s not necessarily been a road warrior in building that reputation, at least not from a Torontonian’s perspective. Yeah, the unclassifiable-but-let’s-say-R&B star was here twice last year, but the Toronto Jazz Festival show was a very dear $70 ticket and the Elton John-powered Fashion Cares event was inherently exclusive, so it’s not unreasonable to say that her fanbase didn’t have much chance to see her. And her two previous visits – Canadian Musicfest 2011 and as part of the Arcade Fire’s 2010 Olympic Island jamboree – were parts of festival bills, so also not exactly conventional shows. All of which is to say that it’s kind of impressive that Monáe has gotten where she is without having really ever played a conventional show here.

Until now, anyways. With the September 10 release of her hotly-anticipated new record The Electric Lady almost upon us, Monáe has put together what may be her most comprehensive North American tour to date and it includes a Toronto date at The Kool Haus on October 19. And while it can be argued that Monáe’s live show is worth it at any price, that tickets for this one are a most reasonable $25 is good news. Pitchfork has the full itinerary and another new track, this one featuring nu-R&B star Miguel, has been made available to stream.

Video: Janelle Monáe – “Dance Apocalyptic”
Stream: Janelle Monáe featuring Miguel – “Primetime”

Because sometimes advance notice isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and even though their album probably won’t be out until next year, The New Mendicants – that’s Joe Pernice of Pernice Brothers, Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub, and Mike Belitsky of The Sadies – have announced a show at The Dakota Tavern for next Monday, August 26, just because. Tickets are $12 in advance and it’s an early show – 8:15 start – because Joe wants to watch the Red Sox game that night. Yeah. Anyone who was at the first Pernice/Blake show at the same room last June knows that it will be fun and hilarious, so get on that.

Stream: The New Mendicants – “This Time”

Stars are headlining a free show at Nathan Philips Square on September 1 as part of Unifest, intended to inaugurate the formation of a new workers union, so if you’re a fan of romantic synth-pop but also a die-hard right-wing conservative, I feel for you. But not that much.

MP3: Stars – “The Theory Of Relativity”

American electro-r&b artist How To Dress Well is in town at The Garrison on November 2 behind last year’s Total Loss; tickets for that are $15.

MP3: How To Dress Well – “Ready For The World”

Sebadoh have announced a Fall tour in support of Defend Yourself, their first new record in almost a decade and a half, coming September 17. Lou Barlow and company will be at The Horseshoe on November 8, tickets $20 in advance. Rolling Stone talks to Lou Barlow about the release.

Video: Sebadoh – “All Kinds”

While they’ve not yet completed the follow-up to last year’s For My Parents – epic Japanese post-rock doesn’t come quick, you know – Mono have announced a North American tour that brings them back to The Horseshoe on November 15. Tickets for that are $15.

MP3: Mono – “Dream Odyssey”

It’s kind of hit-or-miss which buzzy British independent acts choose to tour North America – no inexpensive proposition – but English retro-psychedelics Temples are taking the plunge, even without a debut album to push. Full dates are still to come but they will be at The Horseshoe on November 20, tickets $11.50. Drowned In Sound had a feature on the band back in the Spring.

Video: Temples – “Colours To Life”
Video: Temples – “Shelter Song”

And in the debits column of this week’s concert news, Charli XCX has cancelled her Fall North American tour in order to support Paramore in the UK. That includes her September 16 show at The Hoxton, which will be rescheduled with all the others.

Rolling Stone talks to Laura Ballance and Exclaim to Jon Wurster of Superchunk about their just-released new record I Hate Music, from which they’ve just released a new video. And over at Spin, there’s a piece about what Superchunk and Merge Records have meant for their hometown of Durham, North Carolina.

Video: Superchunk – “Me & You & Jackie Mitoo”

David Roback of Mazzy Star talks to Rolling Stone about their new record Seasons Of Your Day, out September 24, and others that may or may not have already been recorded and may or may not be released.

The Guitar Magazine talks shop with Steve Earle. He and The Dukes play Massey Hall on October 29.

Grantland gets Charles Bissell of The Wrens to update them on the state of their next record – a decade in coming – and comment on why its taking so damn long.

Pitchfork goes lightning round in questions for John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats.

DIY checks in with Zachary Cole Smith of DIIV.

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Your Theme

Review of Superchunk’s I Hate Music

Photo By Jason ArthursJason ArthursMajesty Shredding was a surprise on many levels: most obviously that it existed at all, coming almost a decade on from Superchunk’s last record, but also that it was so damn good. Rather than continue with the more contemplative and textured tones of their last couple of pre-hiatus records – which have their own strengths, make no mistake – they opted to channel their much more matured songwriting instincts through the adrenalized punkish power-pop of their most beloved records and majesty did indeed ensue. That record felt like such a gift that hoping for a follow-up, let alone one as good, seemed too much to ask. As it turns out, we didn’t need to – Superchunk were going to do it anyways.

The cheekily-titled I Hate Music remarkably carries forward almost all the momentum of Shredding. Perhaps with an iota or two less energy, maybe a slightly slower overall BPM, but it’s still bursting with hooks delivered via thick guitar riffs and leads and Mac McCaughan’s still-waiting-for-puberty vocals. It’s the same recipe that served them well in helping create the template for college rock in the ’90s and retains its potency today, its appeal not in nostalgia but in the timeless appeal of great songs played loudly and with passion. Through fuzz pedals.

There’s a temptation to equate Superchunk’s fruitful second act with their having discovered a fountain of youth or gone back in time, but there’s something about Shredding and Hate that sounds like they could only have been made by those who’ve got some years under their belts. A band who took enough of a break to maybe no longer need to make music together, but instead want to. They’re the sound of a great band having fun and just loving music.

I Hate Music is out next Tuesday, August 20, but available to stream in whole now at NPR.

Stream: Superchunk / I Hate Music

Crocodiles also have their new record Crimes Of Passion streaming at NPR before it’s in stores next week. They’re at Lee’s Palace on November 19.

Stream: Crocodiles / Crimes Of Passion

Head over to Nylon to hear a new track from the forthcoming Blouse record Imperium, coming September 17.

Stream: Blouse – “A Feeling Like This”

With Brooklyn electro-dream-pop trio Au Revoir Simone announcing a September 24 release date for their new record Move In Spectrums – a new video was just premiered at Spin – it logically follows that they’ll be on tour – and so they are, stopping in at The Drake Underground on October 20.

Video: Au Revoir Simone – “Somebody Who”

Interview, The New York Times, co.create, and Rolling Stone talk to Explosions In The Sky about recording the Prince Avalanche soundtrack, from which they’ve just released a new video. They play The Air Canada Centre on October 4 in support of Nine Inch Nails.

Video: Explosions In The Sky with David Wingo – “Send Off”

After a few near passes during festival season, Steve Earle has finally announced a Toronto date in support of his latest record The Low Highway; he and The Dukes will be at Massey Hall on October 29, tickets ranging from $35 to $64.50. The Edmonton Journal has an interview with Earle.

Video: Steve Earle – “Invisible”

NPR is hosting the premiered of the new video from Ra Ra Riot, taken from their latest record Beta Love.

Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Binary Mind”

The Daily Swarm asks James McNew about the secret to Yo La Tengo’s longevity.

Under The Radar and Vita.mn talk to Matt Berninger of The National.

John Darnielle talks to NPR and Salon about the making of The Mountain Goats’ recently-reissued All Hail West Texas.

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Blame The Muse

Tanya Donelly’s Swan Song is anything but

Illustration By Louisa BertmanLouisa BertmanIt’s understandable if you’d thought we’d heard the last in the way of new music from Tanya Donelly. Output from the former Throwing Muse/Breeder/Belly frontwoman gone solo basically stopped with 2006’s recorded-live This Hungry Life, and when Spin went knocking in 2010, she revealed that following the birth of her second child, she’d embarked on a new career as a postpartum doula because, well, pretty much anything pays better than professional musician – even one with a CV as impressive as hers.

She didn’t go completely silent, though. Besides intermittently appearing on American Laundromat’s endless stream of tribute albums and compilations, she was heard in lovely form on in duet with Bill Janovitz on Buffalo Tom’s 2011 effort Skins, and this past May was seen as well as heard when she made an appearance on stage with The Breeders in Boston to sing on a couple songs. So pleasant surprises but hardly evidence of any sort of full-fledged return to making music.

But she has been making music; oh how she’s been making music. This week saw the release of the first volume in what she’s calling the Swan Song Series – a series of EPs being released every month for at least the next three months. The songs – which may or may not all be available to stream via Soundcloud right now – aren’t just home-recorded sketches, either; they’re fully-arranged and -produced songs with a host of guest contributors including Janovitz and The Magnetic Fields’ Claudia Gonson. They’re very much keeping in tone with her last couple solo records – lightly jazzy and sophisticated but immediately and directly melodic – and all impeccably lovely. Tanya Donelly is back and the world is a better place for it.

Video: Tanya Donelly – “Mass Ave”
Stream: Tanya Donelly / Swan Song Series

Vue Weekly has a cover story on Neko Case, who has made another song from The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You available to preview via lyric video. It’s out September 3.

Lyric Video: Neko Case – “Night Still Comes”

The Line Of Best Fit has details on the release of the second Boardwalk Empire soundtrack album, which will find the likes of The National and Patti Smith, amongst others, covering prohibition-era songs which will appear in the HBO series. The National’s contribution has been available to download for a while and Rolling Stone has a stream of Smith’s contribution. The album is out September 3, the new season of Boardwalk Empire begins September 8. Patti Smith plays Massey Hall on September 6. City Pages and Rolling Stone have interviews with The National, who have made one of the performances from their upcoming episode of The Artist’s Den available to watch.

MP3: The National – “I’ll See You In My Dreams”
Stream: Patti Smith – “I Ain’t Got Nobody”

Esquire has premiered a stream of the new song from Okkervil River’s forthcoming The Silver Gymnasium. It’s out September 3 and they play The Phoenix on September 28.

Stream: Okkervil River – “Stay Young”

My Daily, BBC News, and Clash have interviews and NPR has a World Cafe session with Lissie, whose new record Return To Forever comes out September 10.

Creative Loafing and Consequence Of Sound talk to Speedy Ortiz, who’re in town at The Horseshoe on September 15 supporting Chelsea Light Moving.

Panic Manual talks to a pre-meltdown Father John Misty; a post-meltdown FJM returns for a solo show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on October 15.

Also at Esquire is a stream of the first sample of the new Head & The Heart record Let’s Be Still, due out October 15. They’re at The Danforth Music Hall on October 31.

Stream: The Head & The Heart – “Shake”

The Line Of Best Fit has good news and bad news for Midlake fans. The good news is their first album since 2010’s The Courage Of Others will be called Antiphon and is out November 5. The bad news is that singer and songwriter Tim Smith isn’t on it, having left the band. Guitarist Eric Pulido has stepped up as frontman and you can hear Midlake mk2 on the title track of the new album, which is available to stream.

Stream: Midlake – “Antiphon”

Savoir Adore have released a new video from their reissued Our Nature.

Video: Savoir Adore – “Regalia”

Pitchfork gets behind the scenes of Yo La Tengo’s last video from Fade and premieres the next one.

Video: Yo La Tengo – “Is That Enough”

John Vanderslice is streaming the A-side of a new 7″ single released earlier this week. On topic, Engadget gets a tour of his Tiny Telephone studio in San Francisco.

Stream: John Vanderslice – “Song For Clay Miller”

Our Scattered Words and The Calgary Herald have interviews with Sharon Van Etten.

NPR are streaming The Mountain Goats’ set from the Newport Folk Festival last month.

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists visit The AV Club to cover The Ramones for their AV Club Undercover series.

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Common Burn

Mazzy Star will release their new album when they’re good and ready. And they’re good and ready.

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWell you certainly can’t accuse Mazzy Star of rushing it. The California duo of David Roback and Hope Sandoval released their last studio album of narcoleptic dream-pop Among My Swan in 1996, and while they were actively touring as late as 2000, it was presumed that with Sandoval’s unveiling of her solo project with The Warm Intentions and Roback’s general staying off the radar that the band itself was no longer a going concern.

But then in 2009, while doing press behind the second Warm Intentions record Through The Devil Softly, Sandoval mentioned that she and Roback were working together on a fourth Mazzy Star record, proof of which would come fully two years later with the release of the “Common Burn” single, which featured not one but two new Mazzy Star songs. Surely more wouldn’t be far behind? Sure, if you operate in geological time. Though the band did return to the stage for some US dates around Coachella 2012 and a number of European dates that Summer, nary a word was breathed about the status of that fourth record… until now.

Acting like it’s no big deal, Mazzy Star have announced the September 24 release of Seasons Of Your Day as well as a preview of one of the new songs that will appear on it. Spin has more details and the track listing, which confirms that both sides of their 2012 single will also be on the record. Meaning that when their first album in 17 years finally comes out, you’ll have already heard almost a third of it. Oh well.

Stream: Mazzy Star – “California”
Stream: Mazzy Star – “Common Burn”
Stream: Mazzy Star – “Lay Myself Down”

With the reissue of The Mountain Goats’ All Hail West Texas today, John Darnielle has dug up an unreleased We Shall All Be Healed-era tune to stream. He took to Tumblr to explain the track.

Stream: The Mountain Goats – “You & Me On A High Balcony”

Also out today is the new “Chained To Love” 12″ from Divine Fits. Both sides are now available to stream via lyric videos.

Lyric Video: Divine Fits – “Ain’t That The Way”
Lyric Video: Divine Fits – “Chained To Love”

NPR and The Cleveland Plains Dealer talk with Jason Isbell. He’s in town at Lee’s Palace on August 2.

Pitchfork follows Will Sheff of Okkervil River to some open mic nights where he plays songs from The Silver Gymnasium with a childhood friend. The record is out September 3 and they – Okkervil River proper, not Will and bud – play The Phoenix on September 28.

Funny Or Die gets Neko Case to play one of their Dressing Room Sessions. No, that’s not a real thing. Her new record The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You is out September 3.

Paste have premiered the new video from Lissie’s forthcoming Return To Forever, out September 10.

Video: Lissie – “Further Away (Romance Police)”

Janelle Monáe discusses her new album The Electric Lady with The Fly. It’s out September 10.

NME gets to know Speedy Ortiz, who are in town in support of Chelsea Light Moving at The Horseshoe on September 15.

Rolling Stone talks to The Dismemberment Plan about their album Uncanney Valley, due out October 15. You can now stream the formerly telephone-only first preview of it without a phone.

Stream: The Dismemberment Plan – “Waiting”

Noisey has an in-depth interview with Johnny Jewel of Chromatics, as well as a million other bands.

MTV Hive talks to Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips about his forthcoming comic book endeavours and Stereogum has premiered a new video of a relatively old Devo cover because if you have videos of Devo covers lying around, you may as well release them.

Video: The Flaming Lips – “Gates Of Steel”

Low plays a video session for Pitchfork’s City Of Music series.