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Posts Tagged ‘National’

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

2013

Chromewaves’ favourite albums of 2013

2013Image by Christine KwanChristine Kwan

If it’s the year’s end and this is a list, then this must be a year-end list. You should all know the drill by now: ten albums released this year, listed alphabetically and not in order of preference, that largely reflects my listening habits for the year. No promises that all of these records will remain in favour as the years pass – goodness knows that past lists don’t bat 1.000 for shelf life – but I’ll take honesty over prognostication.

There’s only one debut in the batch, but a few sophomore efforts that reinforce the fact that the artists are no flash in the pans, and that’s arguably more exciting than some rookie who tears up the league the first time out and then fades away. Two – or three, depending on definition – reunion/comeback albums as well, which is also surprising considering most records of this ilk are half-hearted excuses to stage cash-grab tours. Which I’m not inherently against, but to have artists back as genuine creative forces and not just nostalgia machines is obviously better, no?

Either way, pretty good year for music. And many thanks to Christine Kwan for taking the chore of making graphics for this list off my hamfisted hands from concept to execution and dressing them in seasonal finery.

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Monday, December 16th, 2013

Lost It To Trying

Son Lux raises Lanterns on tour

Photo By Tim NavisTim NavisDenver-born, New York-based artist Ryan Lott has been popping up on a good number of year-end lists – or at least his alias of Son Lux has – on the strength of his latest album Lanterns. I’d seen descriptors like post-rock and hip-hop attached to his work in the past, but on delving into Lanterns they’re only as much a factor as every other genre of popular music out there, all of which is thrown into the mix but none of which dominates.

Instead, Lanterns is an electro-orchestral opus that sounds like the classical past being recreated from incomplete notes by robots from the future. Those seeking a more concrete frame of reference can look to James Blake and also Sufjan Stevens, with whom Lott collaborates in S/S/S, with Lanterns occupying some of that middle space between Seven Swans and Age Of Adz. Yes, that’s a pretty big space, but it’s one worth exploring. As is Lanterns.

Son Lux have announced some Spring headlining dates in support of his latest album; look for him at The Drake Underground on March 23, tickets $12 in advance. The 405, Bowlegs, and Interview have interviews with Lott and Stereogum has premiered a new video.

MP3: Son Lux – “Lost It To Trying”
Video: Son Lux – “Pyre”
Video: Son Lux – “Lost It To Trying”
Stream: Son Lux / Lanterns

Broken Bells have released a stream of the title track from their new album After The Disco. It’s out January 14 and they play The Danforth Music Hall on March 3.

Stream: Broken Bells – “After The Disco”

Californian synth-pop outfit Gardens & Villa have announced a North American tour behind their second album Dunes, out February 4, and will be at The Drake Underground on February 27, tickets $13.50.

Stream: Gardens & Villa – “Bullet Train”

Pitchfork reports that Speedy Ortiz will be releasing a new EP called Real Hair on February 11, a quarter of which you can stream below. They’re in town for NXNE next June.

Stream: Speedy Ortiz – “Everything’s Bigger”

Esquire chats with Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices. Their new record Motivational Jumpsuit comes out February 18.

Even though Shearwater just released an album of covers in Fellow Travelers, their version of Frank Ocean’s “Novocane” wasn’t included – probably because they haven’t toured together. Yet. Anyways, the track was released as part of a split-7″ with Low for Record Store Day, and is now available to stream if you missed out on the limited edition vinyl. Maybe they’ll play it when they hit The Horseshoe on March 27.

Stream: Shearwater – “Novocane”

Erika M Anderson – aka EMA – has announced details of her follow-up to 2011’s Past Life Martyred Saints and they can be found at her new label of Matador. The Future’s Void will be out in the Spring and the first single from it can be streamed below.

Stream: EMA – “Satellites”

In conversation with Rolling Stone, James Murphy reveals that the final LCD Soundsystem show at Madison Square Garden – as documented in Shut Up And Play The Hits – is being remixed for release as a live album.

NPR is streaming a KCRW session with of Montreal.

NOW talked to Charles Bradley ahead of his show at the Kool Haus last week.

Drowned In Sound and The Line Of Best Fit talk to Aaron Dessner of The National about this and that and what it’ll be like to open for Neil Young at Hyde Park next June.

Neko Case has released a new video of the lyric variety from The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.

Lyric Video: Neko Case – “Calling Cards”

Tone Deaf talks to Lee Ranaldo about his solo work and the future of Sonic Youth.

Willamette Week and Seattle Weekly have interviews and NPR has posted a World Cafe session with Midlake.

There’s updates from the Sparklehorse tribute album project reported on last month: Last Box Of Sparklers: A Tribute To Mark Linkous is into its final week of fundraising, and remain $7000 short of their $50000 goal. To encourage those who might be able to help them bridge that gap, Box Of Stars have made a few more of the songs that are a part of the project available to stream, most notably The Joy Formidable’s take on “Gold Day” and The Flaming Lips‘ version of “It’s A Sad And Beautiful World”.

Stream: The Joy Formidable – “Gold Day”
Stream: The Flaming Lips – “It’s A Sad And Beautiful World”
Stream: Last Box Of Sparklers: A Tribute To Mark Linkous sampler

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Come As You Are

Giving thanks for “Whatever happened to Alternative Nation?”

Photo By Charles PetersenCharles PetersenFell into a long-form musical journalism rabbit hole recently via The AV Club’s “Whatever Happened To Alternative Nation?” 10-part series which actually ran almost three years ago but somehow got back on my radar, probably bubbling up to the surface in the wake of their recent redesign. If you haven’t read it, it covers the years from 1990 to 1999 through the lens of author Steven Hyden’s teen years, beginning with the rise of grunge at the start of the decade through the supremacy of nu-metal and chaos of Woodstock ’99 at the end of the century.

It was of particular interest to me because, though a few years older than Hyden and situated in the suburbs of Toronto rather than Wisconsin, it roughly documents my own journey of musical discovery in high school. Though Nirvana didn’t ultimately end up meaning much to me, I still very clearly remember hearing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the very first time on a friend’s Walkman in the cafeteria in the Fall of 1991 and being impressed that I could hear the string squeaks on the opening riff. And while I would like to pretend that I was into all the ’90s bands then that I love now – your Britpop, shoegaze, college rock, what have you – most of that was discovered retroactively, and that sort of personal revisionist history is addressed in part six; fact is, I was listening to the same now-acknowledged-as-awful radio rock as everyone else – yes I owned Throwing Copper but at least knew even then that Bush was awful – and only discovered or came to appreciate the good stuff after the fact. But better late than never, right?

In any case – it’s a well-written series that covers a lot of what anyone in their 30s lived through with the benefit of hindsight and historical insight, and worth reading if you’ve got some time on your hands and a copies of Siamese Dream and Definitely Maybe handy. Plus it lets me segue into some newsy bits from acts of that era who’re still doing stuff.

Video: Nirvana – “In Bloom”

For anyone who missed it, Tanya Donelly released the fourth volume of her Swan Song Series late last week and the bonus materials are particularly sweet and topical – ten demos of Belly’s debut, Star. And lest you think that’s the end of it, a fifth EP is in the works and I think I read somewhere that it’ll be out around February.

Stream: Tanya Donelly – “Salt”

Stephen Malkmus lists off the music he grew up listening to for The Guardian; his new album with The Jicks – Wig Out At Jagbags – comes out January 7.

Black Francis of Pixies discusses the band’s second act with The Guardian; they kick of their new tour at Massey Hall on January 15.

Seeing as how Andrew Rieger and Laura Carter opened for Jeff Mangum when he was here solo in August 2011, it makes sense that they’d bring the whole band with them when he does the same; Elf Power will open up both sold-out Neutral Milk Hotel shows at The Kool Haus on January 19 and 20. They released their latest album Sunlight On The Moon earlier this year.

Video: Elf Power – “Darkest Wave”

Guided By Voices has settled on a February 18 release date for their new record Motivational Jumpsuit – their fifth since the reunion and presumably the last with the so-called “classic lineup” with now-booted drummer Kevin Fennell. Rolling Stone is streaming the first preview track from the record.

Stream: Guided By Voices – “Littlest League Possible”

Superchunk have released another video from this year’s I Hate Music.

Video: Superchunk – “Void”

The 405 chit-chats with Sebadoh.

Dialing the Wayback Machine a little further, influential ’80s Los Angeles outfit and Paisley Underground pioneers The Dream Syndicate have made a date at The Garrison for February 8, tickets $30 in advance. The Chicago Tribune talks to leader Steve Wynn about the reunion.

Video: The Dream Syndicate – “That’s What You Always Say” (live)

And back to the 21st century, Entertainment Weekly has premiered the new video from Broken Bells’ forthcoming After The Disco, out January 14, and if you’d prefer a studio session version rather than a movie star-featuring version, head over to The Guardian. Broken Bells are at The Danforth Music Hall on March 3.

Video: Broken Bells – “Holding On For Life”

Saddle Creek songstress Maria Taylor has made a date at the Drake Underground for February 9 in support of her latest album Something About Knowing. Tickets for that are $11.50 and examiner.com has an interview with Taylor.

Video: Maria Taylor – “Up All Night”

Boston psych-folk trio Quilt have announced a Winter tour in support of their second album Held in Splendor, which comes out January 28th and from which there’s a video and stream to preview. They’re at The Drake Underground on March 3, tickets $10. Philthy has an interview.

Stream: Quilt – “Tired & Buttered”
Video: Quilt – “Arctic Shark”

Under The Radar gets a track-by-track walkthrough of Shearwater’s new covers album Fellow Travelers. The play The Horseshoe on March 27.

The Hold Steady are crowdfunding a new covers EP via PledgeMusic while they continue to work on a new album, due out in the new year.

Paste checks in with Colin Meloy about matters solo and Decemberist.

Magnet interviews Midlake, this week’s guest editors on their website.

The War On Drugs.

Drowned In Sound has an interview with A Place To Bury Strangers.

Bassist/organist Peter Bauer of The Walkmen tells The Washington Post that their upcoming shows in Washington DC and Philadelphia could be/will be the band’s last. Ever. For serious.

Having covered “Kill The Turkey” on last year’s Thanksgiving episode, it’s not really a surprise that The National would again spend American turkey day with Bob’s Burgers, and lo – Entertainment Weekly has an animated video of the band doing this year’s musical number, a salute to gravy boats. Happy Thanksgiving, America.

Video: The National – “Sailors In Your Mouth”

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Chords I've Known

Tribute to Sparklehorse seeks tributes from fans

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSparklehorse were never an especially commercially successful band during their lifetime, their heartbroken transistor radio cosmic country finding only a cult audience, but a lot of that cult audience were other artists. And so almost four years after Mark Linkous took his own life, the Box Of Stars organization, which seeks to raise awareness of mental health issues through music, has gathered together an impressive roster of those fans for Last Box Of Sparklers: A Tribute To Mark Linkous.

Amongst the contributors you’ll find Sparklehorse forebears, contemporaries, and followers including The Flaming Lips, Dinosaur Jr, Cowboy Junkies, Phantogram, and The Joy Formidable. Financing for the release is currently being sourced through Indiegogo and with nine days to go, they’re 40% of the way to their $50,000 goal. It would be a shame on so many levels if this project didn’t happen so if you were a fan of Sparklehorse – or are a fan of any of the contributing artists and would like to be introduced to the sad and beautiful world of Sparklehorse – see about contributing.

Pitchfork has more details on the project and a stream of Mercury Rev’s track.

Stream: Mercury Rev – “Sea Of Teeth”
Trailer: Last Box Of Sparkers: A Tribute To Mark Linkous

The National have made their contribution to the new The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack – due out November 19 – available to stream and guitarist Aaron Dessner gives NME some insight into their plans for their next album.

Stream: The National – “Lean”

Unofficial ambassador of Arizona to the world – never mind that Walter White fellow – Howe Gelb has made a date at The Drake Underground on December 7 to play songs from his new solo record The Coincidentalist, his first visit since bringing the ‘Sno Angel Like You gospel project to Lee’s Palace in December 2006. Tickets for that will be $17.50.

Stream: Howe Gelb – “Vortexas”

Pitchfork and Rolling Stone talk to Stephen Malkmus about his new album with The Jicks, entitled Wig Out at Jagbags and due in January 7; details at Matablog, lyric video for a new song below. Sing along!

Lyric Video: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – “Lariat”

The whole of Warpaint’s set at the Pitchfork Paris festival earlier this month is available to watch online; I would expect some tracks from their new album Warpaint, out January 21, are included in the set.

Video: Warpaint live at Pitchfork Paris 2014

Though just here last last month, San Francisco’s Weekend are coming back to town and bringing Philadelphia’s unbelievably loud Nothing – themselves just here in August – for a show at The Garrison on January 21; tickets are $10.50 in advance.

MP3: Weekend – “Coma Summer”
Video: Nothing – “Downward Years To Come”

Le Tigre alumnus JD Samson & MEN are touring behind their new record Labor and will be at The Garrison on January 26. Noisey has an interview with Samson.

Video: JD Samson & MEN – “Making Art”

Rolling Stone has premiered a stream of the new song by Hospitality, taken from their sophomore album Trouble, coming out January 27.

Stream: Hospitality – “I Miss Your Bones”

Austin’s White Denim have announced Winter dates behind their new, Jeff Tweedy-produced album Corsicana Lemonade; dates and a stream of the album can be had at Exclaim, and they include a March 3 date at The Horseshoe, tickets $15.50. The Irish Examiner has an interview with the band and NPR a video session.

Stream: White Denim / Corsicana Lemonade
Video: White Denim – “Pretty Green”

Billboard talks to Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers about their new album, recorded in a fortnight and set for release in March of the new year.

We Are Scientists have slated a Spring tour behind their new EP Business Casual – which includes a cover of Berlin’s love theme from Top Gun which itself has a video – and they’ll be at Lee’s Palace on April 22.

Video: We Are Scientists – “Take My Breath Away”

Innocent Words has an interview with Tanya Donelly.

Superchunk have made the latest edition of their Clambake live album series – a 1996 vintage show in Melbourne – available to stream for free.

Stream: Superchunk / Clambakes Volume 7: Shut the F*ck Up!…No, We Love You – Live at the Corner Hotel 1996

NYC Taper is sharing a record of Built To Spill’s visit to Irving Plaza in New York last week.

PopMatters, The Georgia Straight, and San Francisco Examiner talk to Cameron Mesirow of Glasser.

The Alternate Side has a session with The Dismemberment Plan.

eMusic, Paste, and Filter have interviews with Midlake, who also offer instructions on how to make an old-fashioned.

Noisey talks to Josh Tillman of Father John Misty.

Spin and The Fly talk to Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips.

The 405 interviews The Men.

Rolling Stone has a eulogy for Lou Reed by his wife Laurie Anderson, as well as video of his final interview.

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.