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Posts Tagged ‘Nick Cave’

Friday, October 26th, 2012

London Conversations

Saint Etienne and Snowblink at The Opera House in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSo after a five year layoff, following the almost-simultaneous implosion of all my bands, I’ve begun picking up the guitar again on a regular basis. Mostly just messing around, getting my chops back in order and my calluses back, but certainly with more seriousness than I have in a very long time (though if anyone wants to start a band that sounds like The Afghan Whigs meets Catherine Wheel, get in touch). This is relevant because the last time Saint Etienne were here in 2002, despite the fact that two acts I liked – Dot Allison and Stars – were opening and that I actually did enjoy the one comp I had – Too Young To Die – I gave it a pass because I was certain that a synth/sample-only act – read: no guitars – would be boring to see.

But older and wiser, and having spent the past decade getting decidedly better acquainted with their work as well as their latest effort Words and Music by Saint Etienne, I was quite excited to make up for that missed opportunity on Wednesday night for the first show of their North American tour in support of Words & Music, whether they brought an orchestra or iPod for accompaniment. See, this is me growing as a music fan.

Opening act Snowblink more than supplied any six-string fix I might have needed. The duo of Daniela Gesundheit and Dan Goldman let their respective guitars, a Joe Satriani signature Ibanez (!) and Snowblink signature antler-laden SG for her, a homebrew Telecaster for him, merge to create a gentle, atmospheric rain shower of notes for Gesundheit’s birdlike voice to flitter through in running through selections from their new record, Inner Classics. The two got a bit of help from a third player on percussion and electronics and the audience as a bell section, but most of the magic came from the two Dans. And if you thought that Gesundheit’s vocals would be ill-suited to something as earthy as a cover of Patsy Cline’s “Fall To Pieces”, well they’d have proved you wrong.

Moving the show from the Mod Club, where it was originally intended, to the Opera House may have turned out to be overly optimistic – the audience could have easily fit into the cozier room – but it’s possible that some of their hardcore middle-aged Anglophile demographic had been peeled off by the New Order show happening over at the Sony Centre. But those who were there were excited enough to make up for the elbow room, and when the four-piece Saint Etienne – the core trio plus backing singer – took the stage, Cracknell radiant in a sequined dress, feather boa, and huge smile, they were clearly just as happy to be there.

As expected, the live set up was with producers Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs in back of the stage, safely ensconced behind their keyboards and walls of technology, and Debsey Wykes off to the side with her mic and the only acoustic instruments of the evening – a cowbell and melodica – leaving most of the stage for Cracknell. And while there wasn’t literally a single, giant spotlight on her for the show, there may as well have been because even without much else going on on stage, you couldn’t take your eyes off her; the elegant with a touch of coquette, glamorous yet grounded indie disco queen. From the opening synth beats of “Like A Motorway”, it was a near-perfect balance of hits and new material that focused on the upbeat over the torchy or ballady, turning the room into a time machine that carried the audience back to an era parallel to Britpop that was hip, stylish, and yob-free, to a romanticized London where you were 17 and the discovering music as a portal to another world – not unlike the experiences recounted in Words and Music opener “Over The Border”. It’s quite a feat to create such a vivid sense of nostalgia for a youth that wasn’t actually yours.

While my usual rule is that any electronic band would be better as a live band, it was no hardship to hear the songs done almost exactly as they were on record, given that extra dose of life by Cracknell and Wykes’ vocals and Wiggs and Stanley’s live keyboards overtop the sequences. Not many bands could make this sort of live presentation so enjoyable, but with a frontwoman like Cracknell and songs like theirs, Saint Etienne make it look effortless. I’m sure that there could be a wholly live incarnation of Saint Etienne that would be amazing to witness – “Sylvie” and “You’re In A Bad Way” would actually translate wonderfully – but it would probably require an absurd amount of players. This was more than fine as is.

After an hour long main set, they returned for a two-song encore that saw Cracknell botching the chorus in “I’ve Got Your Music”, but laughing it off and recovering wonderfully, before closing with a stellar version of “He’s On The Phone”. And despite an audience that really didn’t want to leave and demanded a second encore, that was the end. One could think about all the nuggets of perfect pop that we didn’t get to hear – “Hobart Paving”! “Hug My Soul”! – it was probably far better to focus on the goodness that we did get. Everyone seeing the band on their later dates, your in for a treat.

And if anyone wants to start a band that sounds like The Afghan Whigs meets Catherine Wheel meets Saint Etienne, get in touch.

Exclaim also has a review of the show and The Washington Post an interview with Sarah Cracknell.

Photos: Saint Etienne, Snowblink @ The Opera House – October 24, 2012
MP3: Saint Etienne – “Downey, CA”
MP3: Snowblink – “Unsurfed Waves”
MP3: Snowblink – “Black & White Mountains”
MP3: Snowblink – “Ambergris”
Video: Saint Etienne – “I’ve Got Your Music”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Tonight”
Video: Saint Etienne – “How We Used To Live”
Video: Saint Etienne – “The Bad Photographer”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Sylvie”
Video: Saint Etienne – “He’s On The Phone”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Hug My Soul”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Like A Motorway”
Video: Saint Etienne – “I Was Born On Christmas Day”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Pale Movie”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Hobart Paving”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Who Do You Think You Are”
Video: Saint Etienne – “You’re In A Bad Way”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Avenue”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Nothing Can Stop Us”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Kiss And Make Up”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”
Video: Snowblink – “Goodbye Eyes”
Video: Snowblink – “Black & White Mountains”
Video: Snowblink – “The Tired Bees”
Video: Snowblink – “Ambergris”

Under The Radar and Paste talk to Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes.

In conversation with The AV Club, Noel Gallagher dishes on how the solo thing is going and what’s up with his Amorphous Androgynous electronic side-project (very little).

Clash gets a look at the Joy Formidable library. They support The Gaslight Anthem at The Sound Academy on November 25 and release their second full-length Wolf’s Law on January 23.

They’d already announced the title of their third album – Holy Fire – but further details on the new record Foals have emerged at The Quietus, most interestingly that it’s been produced by Alan Moulder and Flood, and will be out February 11.

Dublin’s Little Green Cars have celebrated the close of their North American tour – it wrapped here in Toronto on Monday – with the release of the official video for their current single. Their full-length debut is due out early next year.

Video: Little Green Cars – “The John Wayne”

Even though it seems like they’ve been touring and promoting Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming forever – it’s been a year – M83 have just released a video for the third single.

Video: M83 – “Steve McQueen”

Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue have reprised their duet originally recorded for Cave’s 1995 Murder Ballads for Minogue’s new Abbey Road Sessions album, due out November 6 in North America. The track is available to stream and there’s an interview with Minogue about her quarter-century career at The Quietus.

Stream: Kylie Minogue with Nick Cave – “Where The Wild Roses Go”

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Tesselate

Alt-J and JBM at Wrongbar in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangCambridge, England quartet Alt-J couldn’t have known how prescient they were when they named their debut album An Awesome Wave, as that’s pretty much what they’ve been riding through 2012. Released across the pond in May, it only came out over here officially this past Tuesday – timed to coincide with their inaugural North American tour – but in the interim that wave of buzz had quite definitively crossed the Atlantic, ensuring that arrived on these shores more like heroes than an act with something to prove.

For most, anyways. Despite being more than predisposed to bands possessing UK passports, the appeal of Alt-J largely escapes me. Or more accurately, I get why some people would like them; I don’t get why so many people like them. I’d have thought their oddly bloodless, art rock – which I’d liken to a celibate Wild Beasts or a very politely English Grizzly Bear – would find a niche audience at best, but somehow they’ve connected to such an extent that they’re the odds-on favourite to win the Mercury Prize at the start of November. And that’s basically why I was at Wrongbar on Wednesday night to catch their Toronto debut – how often do you get the chance to see the buzziest new act out of the UK play a small club? And perhaps they were amazing performers who would win me over live. You never knew.

It didn’t take much to figure out what openers JBM were about. Named for the initials of frontman Jesse Marchant, their game as slow, broody singer-songwriter material made interesting by tastefully sparse and atmospheric arrangements, mainly courtesy of their understatedly dextrous drummer. In the demerit column were the echoes of the sort of brooding that had been left behind in the ’90s but at least they’d had the good sense to trade their plaid flannels for some gothic country livery. A touch more dynamicism and variety would have gone a long way to offset their more plodding instincts and Marchant’s vocals aren’t really expressive enough to carry what its trying to, but alright for passing a half hour or so.

However the rest of Alt-J’s Toronto debut would go, it didn’t have the most auspicious start. Opening, as Wave does, with “Intro”, the audience heard less of their jangly, intertwined, out-of-phase fingerpicked guitar movements and more of booming feedback that it took them almost the length of the song to tame – lead singer Joe Newman might have commented on it but his mic was also basically inaudible. Everything was mostly under control by the time they reached the first ‘proper’ song of the set, “Tesselate”, and from that point forwards it was smooth sailing. Some might say too smooth.

One of the good things about Wave is how the band are able to take their combination of Newman’s strangely nasal voice, almost medieval-sounding group harmonies, and contrasting cloud-like guitar parts and whirring keyboards and envelop it all with a real sense of mysteriousness. Live, with the four young English lads going about their business and recreating the album with minimal fanfare or showmanship, that veil was lifted and it’s hard to argue the music was any better for it. Not that I could have convinced most of the people around me of that.

Just as I found the critical and popular response to Wave disproportionate to what I thought it offered, the enthusiasm of the audience more than made up for the band’s reserve. Not that they were literally freaking out – there’s no measure by which this was music for freaking out to – but they sang along loudly despite there not really being any obvious singalong parts in the songs, dancing without need for heavy or steady rhythms, and waving their arms in the air just because. “Matilda”, one of the few songs with a conventional chorus, was greeted like a stadium-scale anthem. Even though by this point they must be used to big crowds at home, Alt-J seemed taken aback by the response they were getting – though mostly unflappable, Newman lost his place in “Breezeblocks” after getting distracted by the fan reaction.

Playing for 45 minutes – no encore – and covering most of Wave, it was a solid enough show that gave fans what they wanted but wasn’t the sort of performance that would change minds or sway doubters – I left with basically the same opinion that I went in with, and I’d like to think that I was open to being convinced. That’s okay, though, because Alt-J have clearly convinced more than enough people already.

The Independent has a profile piece on Alt-J and their probably impending coronation as Mercury Prize champs.

Photos: Alt-J, JBM @ Wrongbar – September 19, 2012
MP3: Alt-J – “Breezeblocks”
MP3: Alt-J – “Hand-Made”
MP3: Alt-J – “Matilda”
MP3: Alt-J – “Tesselate”
Video: Alt-J – “Something Good”
Video: Alt-J – “Fitzpleasure”
Video: Alt-J – “Breezeblocks”
Video: Alt-J – “Matilda”
Video: Alt-J – “Tessellate”
Video: JBM – “On Fire On A Tightrope”
Video: JBM – “In A Different Time”

Filter, BBC, and Edinburgh Evening News talk to another arty British band whose debut is up for the Mercury, is about to get released in North America, and are playing Wrongbar soon – that’s Django Django, whose self-title is out next Tuesday, and who are at Wrongbar on September 29.

Spotify talks to Sam Halliday of Two Door Cinema club. They’re at Sound Academy on October 11.

NOW has an interview and Daytrotter a session with Patrick Wolf, who is at The Music Gallery next Tuesday – September 25. His new album Sunlight & Riverdark is already available digitally via iTunes and will get a physical release on October 16. The Guardian has a studio video performance of the new arrangement of “Teignmouth”, which originally appeared on his second album Wind In The Wires.

Stereogum talks to Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes about her forthcoming record The Haunted Man. It’s out October 23 and a new song from it is available to stream.

Stream: Bat For Lashes – “All Your Gold”

Gaz Coombes has released a video from his solo debut Here Come The Bombs.

Video: Gaz Coombes – “White Noise”

NME has premiered the new video from Allo Darlin’, taken from this year’s lovely Europe.

Video: Allo Darlin’ – “Northern Lights”

Spotify interviews Hot Chip, who’ve just announced an expanded edition of their latest album In Our Heads. Exclaim has details on the double-disc set, due out on November 19.

Russell Lissack of Bloc Party talks to DIY about the band’s road from hiatus to Four.

The Fly profiles Toy.

It’s worth noting that I wasn’t even supposed to be at the Alt-J show – Wednesday night was supposed to be the night of I Break Horses’ triumphant return to Toronto… right up until they canceled the tour. The second of their three session videos for Room 205 is a little bit of comfort on that front.

Video: I Break Horses – “Hearts” (live at Room 205)

Huffington Post talks to Sarah Assbring of El Perro Del Mar, whose new album Pale Fire is out November 13.

The Line Of Best Fit talks to Efterklang. Their new album Piramida is out on Tuesday.

Daytrotter has a session with First Aid Kit, who’ve released a new video from The Lion’s Roar. They’re at The Danforth Music Hall on September 26.

Video: First Aid Kit – “Wolf”

A Music Blog, Yea finds out what Ida Maria has been up to.

From the El Mocambo to the Kool Haus in twelve months isn’t bad – Of Monsters & Men makes their third visit to Toronto in almost a year exactly when they hit the Kool Haus on November 15. Tickets $25 in advance. Update: And a second show has been added for November 16. Mental.

MP3: Of Monsters & Men – “Little Talks”

Tame Impala have released a video from their new album Lonerism. It’s out October 9 and they play The Phoenix November 12.

Video: Tame Impala – “Elephant”

The AV Club talks to Nick Cave about his screenwriting endeavours.

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

FME 2012 Day Two

Feist, Louis-Jean Cormier, and more at Festival de musique émergente 2012

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSo yesterday I talked about where and what Rouyn-Noranda was; today I will do the same for FME. You don’t need to be bilingual to discern that “Festival de musique émergente” implies a mandate of focusing on new and upcoming artists, primarily but not exclusively from Québec, with a few relatively big names to bring in the less musically adventurous. It was started ten years ago when the organizers were tired of driving to Montréal eight hours away to see shows and so they started a festival as a pretence to bring bands to them.

From drawing around 3000 people in its first year to an estimated 20,000 this year, it’s concentrated on growing in scale while maintaining its intimate and sometimes impromptu vibe and also become an important showcase for European festival bookers to discover Francophone talent. It’s definitely a grassroots/boutique-type festival – think Hillside meets Iceland Airwaves, but much smaller – that brings a few days of great music and arts to a community that has an immense appetite for it but is well away from conventional touring routes and for Anglophones like myself, provide a fascinating window into the often opaque world of Québec popular music.

After a Friday morning spent ziplining in a forest a little out of town – no broken bones! A triumph! – it was into town to catch some of their “5 á 7” series of free day shows. Well, one of them – they were all at 5PM so conflicts were going to happen. I hit up Avec pas d’casque at Salle Evolu-Son on account of their latest Astronomie having made the Polaris long list this year, giving them more name recognition than anyone else playing. Lost list benefits in action! But while I knew who they were, I didn’t actually know what they sounded like so their slightly creaky country-pop was a total surprise to me. Of course, if they’d been a straightahead rock band or metal-reggae group, I’d have been just as surprised so whatever. Their down-home songwriting was augmented by some interesting instrument choices – steel and bowed guitars, a euphonium, autoharp, and kazoo were all drafted into service at some point in their set and while they demonstrated the ability to make their sound swell dramatically if they wanted to, they mostly kept it pretty mellow.

Photos: Avec pas d’casque @ Salle Evolu-Son – August 31, 2012
Video: Avec pas d’casque – “En attendant que ça paye”
Video: Avec pas d’casque – “Talent”
Video: Avec pas d’casque – “Dans les bras de la femme bionique”
Video: Avec pas d’casque – “Dans la nature jusqu’au cou”

For the evening programme, there wasn’t really anywhere else to be than the outdoor stage erected on 7e rue – this was where the festival’s headliner, save the special Sunday night performance, was going to be. Louis-Jean Cormier would have known what it was to be one of FME’s main draws – his band Karkwa had played the fest a number of times (their manager being the founder), most recently in 2010 – the year they won the Polaris Prize. With the band on the backburner for the foreseeable future, Cormier was using this occasion to showcase material which would appear on his solo debut, out on September 18, and while I’d seen him perform a number of times, it was always in the context of trying to introduce himself to unfamiliar audiences and win them over; it was quite different to see him in front of those who were already won over. Playing in a light, steady rain and fronting a five-piece band, Cormier gave ample proof that he was the melodic, pop heart of Karkwa. His stuff was more immediate and the fussier elements, while still present, were dialed down significantly. It was guitar pop of the sort that you didn’t need to understand the lyrics to enjoy, though the closing number’s chorus of “Goodbye Charest” made its sentiment pretty clear, along with Cormier’s political leanings and from the shouts of approval, the audience’s as well.

Photos: Louis-Jean Cormier @ Scène extérieur desjardins 7e rue – August 31, 2012
Stream: Louis-Jean Cormier – “L’ascenseur”

Being an international star, Feist has played a lot of places in Canada and abroad but it was probably safe to say she’d never played Rouyn-Noranda before. That, plus the fact that it was a festival headlining set towards the end of the touring cycle for Metals made me wonder if she might deviate from the consistent (read: same) set she’d been performing for most of the past year and maybe acquiesce to playing a few more of the hits? Not that I’d seen the set in question; I’d caught a bit of her at Osheaga but the last time I saw her perform was last October at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio, and that was a decidedly unique and guest star-laden show.

One look at the stage showed at least one way in which this would be different; Mountain Man, the trio who had been Feist’s backing singers for the entirety of the Metals tours, were absent and instead it was a four-piece band who would be playing tonight, though both Brian LeBarton and Charles Spearin’s musical workstations flanking Feist’s spot centre-stage were loaded with gear. They may have been small, but they were hardly unequipped.

Once they got started – the skies had cleared and a full moon shone – another benefit to the smaller band became evident: it gave them space. It’s difficult to be spontaneous with a big band but a lean unit – particularly one that’s been playing countless show for months – can turn on a dime and given this freedom and the casual vibe of the festival, Feist turned in an energized, exuberant set that proved that she stil knew where her indie rock roots were. Unsurprisingly, Metals material made up the bulk of the set, some of the selections had already mutated into new forms from the past year of live interpretations. I would have expected her French to be better given the time spent in Paris, but Feist was still able to engage the audience and invite them to act as choral vocalists on a few songs. The outro of “How Come You Never Go There” went alright – “whoa whoa” isn’t too hard to do – but the multi-octave harmonies on “So Sorry” were well beyond their abilities and were a kind of charming disaster.

It was the older material that really stood out, though, and not just because it was more familiar. “My Moon My Man” was a near-rager, replete with healthy guitar abuse, and “Feel It All” was a veritable punk rock number. The encore kept this up, with Feist and LeBarton – swapping keys for drums – turning “When I Was A Young Girl” into a garage rock-y White Stripes tribute and, with the rest of the band back on stage, making “Sea Lion Woman” a free-form jam before ending with an impressively big, “Let It Die”. It will probably be a while before Feist ever returns to Rouyn, but until then she left the town with a lot of lasting musical memories.

Spinner grabbed an interview with Feist prior to the show.

Photos: Feist @ Scène extérieur desjardins 7e rue – August 31, 2012
Video: Feist – “Anti-Pioneer”
Video: Feist – “Cicadas & Gulls”
Video: Feist – “The Bad In Each Other”
Video: Feist – “I Feel It All”
Video: Feist – “Honey Honey”
Video: Feist – “My Moon My Man”
Video: Feist – “Mushaboom”
Video: Feist – “1, 2, 3, 4”
Video: Feist – “One Evening”
Video: Feist – “It’s Cool To Love Your Family”

It would be hard to top that show, so Kandle’s midnight set at Agora des arts was doomed to pale by comparison, but even if that hadn’t been the context it probably still would have underwhelmed. The offspring of 54-40 frontman Neil Osbourne, Kandle Osborne should be commended for trying something completely different musically, but the moody, country-noir sound she’s going for is, for now at least, beyond her reach. Her voice may have the right smoky timbre but she didn’t demonstrate any of the range necessary to imbue it with emotion and her songwriting also lacked the maturity and sophistication needed to sell it. Maybe with time and experience, both musical and life, she’ll get more convincing but for now she comes across as an ingenue trying to play the femme fatale role and it’s not working.

And then we went for poutine.

Photos: Kandle @ Agora des arts – August 31, 2012
Video: Kandle – “Small”
Video: Kandle – “Knew You’d Never”
Video: Kandle – “Know My Name”

A brace of concert announcements following the long weekend yesterday. Starting with the quick and free, know that Bloc Party will augment their two-night stand at the Danforth Music Hall with a free show at Sugar Beach – that’s down at the Corus/CFNY/Edge building on Lakeshore – on September 11 at 7:30PM. Details at Arts & Crafts.

Video: Bloc Party – “Octopus”

West coast lo-fi fellows Craft Spells have a date at The Shop under Parts & Labour on September 23, tickets $12.50 for those who plan ahead.

MP3: Craft Spells – “You Should Close The Door”
MP3: Craft Spells – “Party Talk”

Aussies enamoured of their Kiwi neighbours’ jangle-pop traditions – read: Flying Nun et al – The Twerps will be at The Silver Dollar on October 22. Don’t know who they are? eMusic finds out.

Video: The Twerps – “Through The Day”

Portland’s Blitzen Trapper will find some time amidst their tour with Brandi Carlile to play a headlining show of their own at Lee’s Palace on October 22. Tickets $17.50.

MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Black River Killer”
MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Love The Way You Walk Away”

Texas psych-rock pioneer Roky Erickson is at Lee’s Palace on November 3, tickets $29.50. His last release was 2010’s Will Sheff-produced, Okkervil River-backed True Love Cast Out All Evil. The Advocate talks to Sheff about working with Erickson and what’s next for Okkervil.

Stream: Roky Erickson – “Be And Bring Me Home”

More Portlanders coming to town in the form of ornate folk outfit Horse Feathers. Their latest Cynics New Year came out in the Spring and they’ll be playing selections from it at The Drake on November 8, tickets $15.

MP3: Horse Feathers – “Fit Against The Country”
MP3: Horse Feathers – “Cascades”

And again from Australia, Tame Impala have announced a local date in support of their new record Lonerism, out October 9. Look for them and their psychedelically jammy ways at The Phoenix on November 12, tickets $20. SF Weekly has an interview.

MP3: Tame Impala – “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds”

The Twilight Sad brought No One Can Ever Know to town back in March and they’ll do so again with fellow Scots Errors in tow for a show at The Horseshoe on November 18, tickets $13.50.

MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Another Bed”
Video: Errors – “Ammaboa Glass”

Spinner talks Lawless with Nick Cave, screenwriter.

The Vinyl District interviews Pip Browne of Ladyhawke. She’s at The Hoxton on September 15.

The National Post interviews Torq Campbell of Stars. They support Metric at The Air Canada Centre on November 24.

Daytrotter sessions up an a capella Futureheads.

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Terribly Dark

Review of Frida Hyvönen’s The The Soul

Photo By KnotanKnotanArtists lose record deals; it happens all the time. But when it happens to an international artist and rather than find a new deal, they disappear off your radar entirely, well that’s just a shame. Swedish singer-songwriter Frida Hyvönen was represented by Secretly Canadian for her first two albums, 2005’s Until Death Comes and 2008’s Silence Is Wild, but after that they parted ways and as such, the release of her third pop album To The Soul back in April escaped my notice completely.

Which is a shame, because I quite liked both of Hyvönen’s other releases (the above ‘pop’ distinction is necessary because her two albums under the Frida Hyvönen gives you: marque are soundtracks for a poodle-inspired dance recital and photographic exhibition and outside the scope of my experience). Death was a more skeletal affair, built largely around Hyvönen’s voice, piano, and idiosyncratic worldview, but when she toured behind it in Spring 2007, it was perfectly suited for her to perform solo, showcasing both her musical talents and genuinely eccentric personality. Silence, in comparison, filled out her sound with both bigger pop numbers and more pointedly personal compositions and I’m genuinely disappointed that she didn’t come back on tour with it – I would have loved to hear “London!” and “Dirty Dancing” live.

That disappointment pales to having to not hearing the follow-up until some four months after it was released not just because I couldn’t find a copy, but because I didn’t even know it existed. To The Soul continues the trajectory marked by the previous two data points in Hyvönen’s discography, taking her songwriting into sonically and emotionally richer territory while she’s arguably never been in finer voice. There’s more variety between her jaunty pop and sweeping ballads, as she swaps piano for synth textures on the New Wave-y “Terribly Dark” and enlists orchestral assistance on the dramatic “In Every Crowd”. Most striking about Soul is how the sort of material which was presented as grandiose pop on Silence has evolved to become almost theatrical in scale; it’s no stretch to imagine “Saying Goodbye” or “Gold” as a show-stopper in a Broadway production, and it’s not just in the presentation – the songs are just that big. The only bigger shame than the fact that the album is only available in North America via iTunes is that people probably don’t even know that much. So if you’re any kind of Hyvönen fan, know that To The Soul is out there and that it’s worth the hunt.

PSL has a video session with Hyvönen. Yes, it’s in Swedish.

Video: Frida Hyvönen – “Terribly Dark”

Pitchfork has details on Pale Fire, the finally-confirmed new record from El Perro Del Mar Pale Fire. It’s out November 13, a new single is available to stream, and tour dates are apparently forthcoming. Huzzah.

Stream: El Perro Del Mar – “Walk On By”

For Folk’s Sake talks to Anna Ternheim about her new record The Night Visitor.

The Alternate Side has a session with Niki & The Dove, with whom DIY caught a word with at Reading & Leeds Festival. They play the slightly smaller Drake Underground on October 2.

Jens Lekman talks to MTV, Playground, and The Sydney Morning Herald about his glorious new album I Know What Love Isn’t, out September 4 and arguably his best record yet. Yes, better than those other ones you love so much. Don’t believe me? The Quietus is streaming the whole thing right now. He plays The Phoenix on October 4. And if you need a refresher as to why all of Lekman’s records are so good, Paste has compiled a list of his best lyrical turns of phrase.

MP3: Jens Lekman – “Erica America”
Stream: Jens Lekman / I Know What Love Isn’t

NPR has a World Cafe session with The Tallest Man On Earth.

The Hives have released a new video from Lex Hives.

Video: The Hives – “Wait A Minute”

Denmark’s Choir Of Young Believers will be at The Drake on October 22 supporting Daughter. Their latest Rhine Gold came out back in March. Full tour dates at BrooklynVegan.

MP3: Choir Of Young Believers – “Sedated”
MP3: Choir Of Young Believers – “Patricia’s Thirst”
MP3: Choir Of Young Believers – “Nye Nummber Et”

Danish disco outfit The Asteroids Galaxy Tour return to a North American orbit for a show at The Danforth Music Hall on November 5, tickets $20. Their second album Out Of Frequency came out back in January.

MP3: The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – “Major”
MP3: The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – “Around The Bend”

DIY has a video session with Of Monsters & Men, and DigitalSpy, The Bay Bridged, Tone Deaf, and The Guardian have interviews.

German ambient-electronic duo Mouse On Mars will be at Lee’s Palace on October 19 in support of their new EP Wow, even though it’s not out until November 2. Tickets for that are $15.

Video: Mouse On Mars – “They Know Your Name”

Daytrotter has a session with The Jezabels, in town at The Mod Club on October 24.

The Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone talk to Nick Cave about writing and scoring the film Lawless.

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Oceans Burning

The Horrors and The Stepkids at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe narrative around The Horrors’ second album Primary Colours was a simple one – the band who made Strange House, with the outlandish costumes and stage names, were no more and in their place was a lean, fearsome combo who weren’t part of a shoegaze revival but a shoegaze revitalization. Primary Colours learned from the sound-sculpting lessons of the past and applied them towards creating something familiar yet undeniably fresh. It was a remarkable thing. Their visit in October 2009 in support of Primary Colours confirmed that even if they’d ditched the accoutrements, they’d kept the punk energy and intensity that came with their earlier incarnation in a live setting. And so for their show on Tuesday night in support of their more textured and impressionistic third album Skying, the only real question was how great was it going to be?

There were still surprises to be had, however, including the support act – a trio from Connecticut, of all places, called The Stepkids. Taking the stage dressed completely in white – to match the sheets draped over their gear and the backdrop behind them – they laid into a set of super-’70s psychedelic disco slow jams while trippy projections that seemed culled from episodes of The Electric Company danced overtop. All three were virtuosic players and singers, alternating lead vocals and combining on impeccable three-part falsetto harmonies, and on top of it all the material from their self-titled debut – which was officially released that same day – was more than solid. Initially the old-school Horrors fans in attendance didn’t look impressed, having come to the show to freak out rather than get their freak on, but by the set’s end there were more than a few brightly-dyed heads bobbing up and down with the groove. Which just goes to show – you can’t fight the funk.

It’d be dishonest to say that the opening of The Horrors’ set didn’t seem a little devoid of occasion, with the band strolling out one by one and kicking into Skying opener “Changing The Rain” without so much as dimming the lights. I can appreciate that they’ve reached a point where their music is strong enough that dressing it up is unnecessary, but a little attention to presentation is always nice, no? As it turned out, they were just doing me a favour in leaving the lights up long enough to get some decent photos. Within a few songs they began to dim and perhaps not coincidentally, the band’s energy levels began to rise and it became clear that this wasn’t just a recital, but a trip – a descent, and one of which the band was in complete control. It was loud and intense but there was no sense of chaos. Instead, their display of power was graceful and elegant and a thing to behold.

The set was divided evenly between Primary Colours and Skying, with lanky frontman Faris Badwan’s limited repertoire of stage moves – either gripping and grimacing into the microphone stand or foot on the monitor, doing the same – more than enough to command the packed house’s attention. It’d have been undivided attention if not for Joshua Hayward proving more and more that he’s as crucial an element in their sound. It’s astonishing that he’s the band’s only guitarist and is able to recreate so many of the records’ textures live and move from atmospheric soundscape to crushing riff at the drop of a hat. And as if to give him his proper due, the set built up to an epic, trance-like finale of Skying centrepiece “Moving Further Away”, which served as a showcase for his talents and brought what had been a rather short set – the main set ran just 45-minutes – to a respectable running length. Not that anyone should have been looking at their watches; that would have meant having to tear your eyes away from the show.

The National Post was also on hand and has a writeup. The Los Angeles Times has an interview with The Stepkids.

Photos: The Horrors, The Stepkids @ Lee’s Palace – September 28, 2011
MP3: The Horrors – “Moving Further Away”
MP3: The Horrors – “Sea Within A Sea”
MP3: The Stepkids – “Legend”
MP3: The Stepkids – “Shadows On Behalf”
Video: The Horrors – “Still Life”
Video: The Horrors – “Whole New Way”
Video: The Horrors – “Mirror’s Image”
Video: The Horrors – “Who Can Say”
Video: The Horrors – “Sea Within A Sea”
Video: The Horrors – “She Is The New Thing”
Video: The Horrors – “Gloves”
Video: The Horrors – “Count In Fives”
Video: The Horrors – “Sheena Is A Parasite”
Video: The Stepkids – “Wonderfox

The Phoenix has an interview with James Blake, who’s at The Phoenix (the venue not the Boston paper) on Friday night. There’s also a piece at Clash.

The Stool Pigeon interviews Veronica Falls, in town at The Mod Club opening for The Drums on October 1 and headlining their own show at Parts & Labour the following night.

Loney Dear has released a new video from Hall Music, out October 4 and followed up with a show at The Drake Underground on November 4.

Video: Loney Dear – “My Heart”

The Skinny talks to We Were Promised Jetpacks about their new record In The Pit Of The Stomach, which is out October 4 and streaming in whole over at Clash.

Stream: We Were Promised Jetpacks / In The Pit Of The Stomach

Drowned In Sound talks to Jim Reid of The Jesus & Mary Chain about their ongoing reissue series, which wraps up next week, and the odds of a new album: not nil, but not great.

BBC talks to Portishead’s Geoff Barrow about their plans for a new record once their North American tour – which includes two nights at the Sound Academy on October 9 and 10 – is done. And The Village Voice talks to him about this long-running relationship with hip-hop.

Pitchfork is streaming another bonus track from the deluxe reissue of Yuck’s debut Yuck, out October 11, and Room 205 has posted the third and final instalment in their video session series with the band.

Stream: Yuck – “Soothe Me”

Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine has a chat with Interview about her forthcoming second album Ceremonials, out November 1.

Noel Gallagher has released a second video from his solo debut Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, out November 7. He’s at Massey Hall on November 7 and 8.

Video: Noel Gallagher – “If I Had A Gun”

Drowned In Sound, The Skinny and MusicOmh talk to Anthony Gonzalez of M83 about their new record Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, out October 18. They’re at Lee’s Palace on November 18.

Belle & Sebastian guitarist Stevie Jackson has released details of his solo debut (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson, which is available now digitally and will be out physically whenever he gets physical copies back from the pressing plant.

MP3: Stevie Jackson – “Man Of God”

Much drama over the past day about Bloc Party and Kele Okereke’s status within it, but it appears to have shaken out that he’s still their singer, they’re still back in the studio and people are still far too easy to get worked up about rumours.

The Quietus, The Daily Star talk to Brett Anderson about matters solo and Suede.

Sleepover Shows has a video session with Frightened Rabbit.

The AV Club salues Nick Cave on the occasion of his birthday with a beginner’s guide to his works.