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Posts Tagged ‘Ohbijou’

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

From Now On

Basia Bulat and Casey Mecija at The Polish Combatants Hall in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWhen you reach a certain age and/or have blogged for a certain amount of time, the years do tend to blur together some. For example, I couldn’t believe that it was just four years between when I first saw a mostly-unknown Basia Bulat playing in a little basement tavern on Rue Saint-Denis at Pop Montreal 2006 and when I saw her last, with two acclaimed albums to her name, performing with the full Symphony Nova Scotia orchestra at Halifax Pop Explosion 2010; that, folks, is some kind of trajectory and velocity. And I also couldn’t believe that that show three years ago was the last time I saw her perform, having seen her more on the streets of Toronto than any stage.

The opportunity to turn that trend around came this past weekend with three intimate shows at the Polish Combatants Hall to mark the release of her third album, Tall Tall Shadow. It’s a record presented as something of a shift, being recorded in a legion hall in Toronto rather than the Hotel 2 Tango studios in Montreal that birthed the first two albums, and incorporating more electronic textures into her heretofore traditionally folk-based sound. None of this constitutes a reinvention and on initial listens, the listener is probably more occupied with welcoming the return of Bulat’s rich vocals delivering her first new material in almost four years than any of the sonic accoutrements. But if you’re listening for them, the shift in production aesthetic does indeed distinguish Shadow from its predecessors, as does the more sophisticated phrasing of her vocals, introducing new emotional shading into her work. Given that her first album came out when she was just 23 years old, a maturing over the course of her records is inevitable but to hear it captured so elegantly without losing the wide-eyed brightness that marked her earlier work is pretty special.

For each of the three nights of these release shows, a local solo artist was tapped to open and on the Friday night I was pleased to be able to see Casey Mecija, until very recently of Ohbijou and also one half of electronic pop project Warm Myth; it was a bill that took me way back to December 2007, where it was Bulat who was opening up for Ohbijou at Lee’s Palace. Opening up with the title track of Ohbijou’s final album Metal Meets, Mecija moved between intricately fingerpicked electric guitar, grand piano, and electronic loops and samplers – her sublime vocals gliding overop them all – and her too-brief set was an excellent reminder of just how good she is in whatever project she’s working on. While it’s sad that Ohbijou are no more, we should be thankful that she continues to make art for our ears.

If there’s any sort of downside to having seen Bulat perform so many times in the early part of her career – nine times from Fall 2006 to Summer 2008, by my Flickr count – it’s that my notions of what to expect from her shows were pretty fixed. So conversely, not seeing her live for a few years ended up being all kinds of great, not least of all because sometime between then and now, she’s started playing the autoharp standing up. Not that she was just standing; she was dancing and swinging as she led her band through the new songs, an impressive vivaciousness in her stage presence to go with her giddy sweetness of old. With her, as always, was brother Bobby on drums, Holly Coish on backing vocals and also now keys, and Alison Stewart on viola; new to the mix was Ben Whiteley of New Country Rehab on bass – hardly a stripped-down lineup but a far cry from some of those early shows where she seemed to have a veritable orchestra at her command (unlike the Halifax gig where she actually did).

In the live setting, the shifts in aesthetic were more pronounced and arrangements bolder, with Bulat spending as much time on keyboards and grand piano as the autoharp and when the picked up the guitar, it was an electric (semi-hollow; thanks) run through an actual pedalboard. This wasn’t in an attempt to “rock” – though I’ve never wished I’d brought earplugs to one of her shows before this one – but to have the tools to properly explore new territory. All little things, maybe, but nigh-unimaginable a few years ago and now perfectly reasonable.

Of the new material, Shadow closer “From Now On” received an especially gorgeous treatment, with Bulat on grand piano and Whiteley and Coish on backing vocals, topped only by the record’s emotional centre – the stark “Never Let Me Go” – in which her powerful voice was lifted by four-part harmonies to close out the main set. Many of the older songs were made fresh with re-arrangements and re-contextualization: on grand piano, “I Was A Daughter” sounded from the perspective of an adult reflecting on the past tense than a girl in the moment, while “Heart Of Mine” was completely re-cast with synths, drum pads, and vocoder for the moving parts. The encore brought things back home, though, with the hammered harp of “The Shore” perfect as is, and joyous “Before I Knew” a sublime show closer. Well, almost – the sight of Bulat standing onstage, wide-eyed and hands over her mouth before a standing ovation, was just that much better.

The Grid, The Globe and Mail, JAM, and The Huffington Post all had conversations with Basia about the new record and release shows.

Photos: Basia Bulat, Warm Myth @ The Polish Combatants Hall – October 11, 2013
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Go On”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Gold Rush”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
MP3: Ohbijou – “Anser”
MP3: Ohbijou – “Mossy Lungs”
Video: Basia Bulat – “Tall Tall Shadow”
Video: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
Video: Ohbijou – “Niagara”
Video: Ohbijou – “New Years”
Video: Ohbijou – “The Woods”

With the release of Flying Colours as of today, CBC Music has turned the reins of their website over to Shad who is blogging up a storm with readables. And if you’d rather hang with Shad in meatspace, remember that he’s playing an in-store at Sonic Boom in the Annex tonight at 7PM, has a sold-out show at The Opera House on October 19, and returns to the Danforth Music Hall on January 31.

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan have made another new song from their second album Uzu available to stream via Pitchfork, and also recently stopped in at the CBC for a Q video session. The album is out October 29 and they’ve scheduled a date behind it at The Garrison for November 6.

Stream: Yamantaka//Sonic Titan – “Windflower”

DIY has details on a new EP from No Joy entitled Pastel And Pass Out, which will be out on November 4. One of the new songs from the release is available to stream below.

Stream: No Joy – “Last Boss”

Beatroute and The Ottawa Citizen interview The Sadies about their latest album Internal Sounds. They get external with them at Lee’s Palace on November 15.

Dears frontman Murray Lightburn talks to aux.tv and The Toronto Star about his solo work.

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Reflekhoter Chamber

Arcade Fire blah blah Reflektor blah blah

Photo By Korey RicheyKorey RicheyBlah blah Arcade Fire blah blah? Blah blah Reflektor blah blah, double album blah blah Rodin’s Orpheus and Eurydice blah blah October 29. Blah blah “Reflektor” blah blah first single blah blah 9/9/9:00 blah blah – weekend leak blah blah David Bowie blah blah James Murphy – blah blah disco-riffic.

Blah blah video premieres blah blah Anton Corbijn blah blah conventional video blah blah Vincent Morriset blah blah Google Creative Lab blah blah interactive video blah blah Creators Project blah blah boombox collaboration.

Blah blah Win Butler blah blah interview blah blah BBC1’s Zane Lowe; blah blah summaries blah blah Pitchfork, blah blah CBC Music, blah blah Spin.

Blah! Blah blah semi-secret shows blah blah Salsatheque in Montreal blah blah world tour coming. Blah blah promotional machine, blah blah blah. Blah, blah Saturday Night Live blah season premiere blah Tina Fey blah September 28.

Whew.

Video: Arcade Fire – “Reflektor”
Video: Arcade Fire – “Reflektor” (interactive)

With their new 7″ out this week, Stars have deemed it safe to stream the b-side over at Under The Radar.

Stream: Stars – “The Light”

The Weeknd has put out a new video from the just-released Kiss Land. He plays three nights at Massey Hall on October 17, 19, and 20.

Video: The Weeknd – “Live For”

Bullett got to premiere another new track from The Darcys’ new album Warring, but the fact that CBC Music now has the entire record available to stream ahead of its release next week, September 17, makes it kind of moot. For those outside Canada and geoblocked, KCRW also has a stream. The Darcys play Adelaide Hall on October 11.

Stream: The Darcys – “Horses Fell”
Stream: The Darcys / Warring

Also out September 17 and available to stream is Internal Sounds, the latest effort from The Sadies and you can hear that at Exclaim as well as read an interview with the band about the new album.

Stream: The Sadies / Internal Sounds

Beatroute has an interview with Young Galaxy, who’ve made another new track from the Ultramarine deluxe edition coming out September 24 available to stream.

Stream: Young Galaxy – “Sea Drug”

Hear Nebraska and NOW talk to Basia Bulat about her new album Tall Tall Shadow, coming out October 1. She plays The Polish Combatants Hall on October 10, 11, and 12 to celebrate its release and if you’re thinking that’s one extra date than the last time you checked, you are correct – they’ve added a third show on the 12th, which makes this less a concert than a veritable Basia-fest. Tickets for that show, like the others, are $20.

Video: Basia Bulat – “It Can’t Be You”

Exclaim has got the video for the title track of Great Lake Swimmer Tony Dekker’s solo debut, Prayer Of The Woods. It’s out October 8.

Video: Tony Dekker – “Prayer Of The Woods”

NOW catches a quick word with Shad, whose new album Flying Colours is out October 15 and who plays The Opera House on October 19.

Montreal’s Suuns have slated an October 19 show at the Adelaide Hall in support of this year’s Images du Futur; tickets for that are $15.

MP3: Suuns – “Edie’s Dream”

Vancouver’s excellent Belle Game will be at The Drake Underground on October 25 behind their equally excellent debut Ritual Tradition Habit, tickets an eminently reasonable $12.50 in advance.

MP3: The Belle Game – “Blame Fiction”

Because he really doesn’t need a particular reason, Joel Plaskett will be at The Danforth Music Hall on November 2 to play some songs accompanied by his father Bill. They’ll do two sets that night and tickets run $29.50 in advance.

MP3: Joel Plaskett – “When I Go”

Former Forest City Lovers frontwoman Kat Burns has announced details of her full-length debut as the electro-pop act Kashka; Bound will be out November 5 and details can be found at Exclaim and a super-brief trailer below.

Trailer: Kashka / Bound

Beatroute has a feature on Braids, who play The Great Hall on November 10.

Hayden has announced a Fall tour which wraps up with a hometown show at the Danforth Music Hall on November 30, tickets running from $32.50 to $39.50 in advance. He’s also released a new video from his latest effort, Us Alone.

Video: Hayden – “Blurry Nights”

Mechanical Forest Sound is sharing a recording of Ohbijou’s farewell show at The Great Hall last weekend.

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Hunting

While I was out… featuring The Darcys and things of a Canadian nature

Photo By Zach SlootskyZach SlootskyConsidering how much of the narrative around The Darcys’ first two records were focused squarely on the past – the band’s self-title inexorably tied to the band’s own turbulent history and their Aja cover album to their affection for Steely Dan’s work – it’s understandable that the promotional lead-up to the September 17 release of their new record Warring would be so eyes forward, full steam ahead.

Since its initial announcement at the end of July, they’ve released streams of two new songs and crowdsourced remixes, and last week they premiered a first video at Esquire followed yesterday by another new stream via Tumblr. A full album stream should surface next week sometime, but it’s already a sure thing that Warring is a dark and dramatic work that balances the progressive and accessible.

Further, they’ve announced a first batch of live dates in support of Warring and it includes a hometown record release show at the Adelaide Music Hall on October 11. Tickets for that are $20 and some are bundled with early release LPs available at stores around Toronto now – details here.

Stream: The Darcys – “Hunting”
Video: The Darcys – “The River”

Panic Manual conducts an exit interview with Ohbijou, who go on indefinite hiatus following a farewell show at The Great Hall on September 7.

NPR has an advance stream of The Weeknd’s new album Kiss Land, which is officially out on September 10. He plays three nights at Massey Hall on October 17, 19, and 20.

Stream: The Weeknd / Kiss Land

Southern Souls has a video session with Austra. They play The Phoenix on September 26.

Flare gets fashion spread-y with Carmen Elle of Diana and Basia Bulat, amongst other Toronto musicians. The former plays The Great Hall on September 26, the latter releases Tall Tall Shadow on October 1 and plays The Polish Combatants Hall on October 10 and 11.

Dears frontman Murray Lightburn will bring his just-released solo record Mass:Light to the stage at Adelaide Hall on October 12, tickets $15 in advance with a number of 2-for-1 packages improving the value proposition. The Take has an interview with Lightburn about the new record.

MP3: Murray Lightburn – “Motherfuckers”

Shad has released a new video from his forthcoming Flying Colours, which you can watch below and read (the lyrics) over at Rap Genius. The album is out October 15 and he plays The Opera House on October 19.

Video: Shad – “Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)”

Maritime singer-songwriter Rose Cousins has announced a North American tour behind last year’s still-wonderful We Have Made A Spark; she’s at The Dakota Tavern on October 17.

MP3: Rose Cousins – “The Darkness”

Exclaim reports that The Elwins are aiming to have their second album out by the middle of next year, but in the meantime are doing what they do second-best – the best being writing super-poppy tunes – and that’s touring their butts off. Amidst dates in Europe, the US, and the rest of Canada, they’ll play a hometown show at The Horseshoe on October 19.

Video: The Elwins – “Helpful Assistance”

Pitchfork talks to Yamantaka//Sonic Titan about their new album Uzu, coming out October 29.

Spencer Krug will release a new album as Moonface on October 29; the first song from Julia with Blue Jeans On is now available to stream.

Stream: Moonface – “Everyone Is Noah, Everyone Is The Ark”

Arcade Fire has posted a trailer for their next album Reflektor, which people are assuming they’ll hear a first and proper sample from on September 9 at 9PM, as per their marketing campaign. Pitchfork has specifics on what is known thus far. The album is out proper on October 29. Update: Consequence Of Sound has the dirt – “Reflektor” is the first single, the video is directed by Anton Corbijn, and the 12″ single of it will go on sale on September 9 at 9PM if you can find a record store that is open then.

Trailer: Arcade Fire / Reflektor

Having had to cancel his June 30 show at The Hoxton, Mac DeMarco has announced the make-up date for that show at the same venue on November 24. The Music has an interview with DeMarco.

MP3: Mac DeMarco – “Freaking Out The Neighbourhood”

After way too long, The Balconies have gotten their second album Fast Motions together and will have it out later this Fall; Ion Magazine has premiered the first video from it.

Video: The Balconies – “The Slo”

Evening Hymns have premiered a new video from last year’s Spectral Dusk at Clash.

Video: Evening Hymns – “Arrows”

Baeble Music has a videos session with Stars.

Noisey talks to Valleys.

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Memoriam

Ohbijou says “au revoir”, throws going-away party

Photo via FacebookFacebookThere was some sad news last week announcement last week that local stalwarts Ohbijou were going on an indefinite hiatus. Sad because not only was the city losing one of its finest orch-folk bands after three lovely albums – 2006’s Swift Feet For Troubling Times, 2009’s Beacons, and 2011’s Metal Meets – but it felt like the closing of a chapter in the story of Toronto’s independent music scene, one of particular resonance for me.

After making their acquaintance when they opened the very first V Fest in September 2006, I went on to see the band many many many many times over the years and delighted in seeing them grow in leaps and bounds as a live band. Further, their debut Swift Feet topped my 2007 Polaris ballot and I felt Beacons was even better; I don’t recall why it didn’t make my 2010 Polaris ballot though coming out on the very first day of the eligibility period may have caused to get lost in the shuffle. All of which is to say that Ohbijou have been a very rewarding band to be a fan of over the years.

Further, it’s not without significance that they were the very first band to open that inaugural V Fest as Broken Social Scene closed the fest the next night; that was about the time that the initial Can-indie rock explosion was beginning to settle and if you were to draw a rough circle around the artists that represented Toronto across Canada and abroad in the post-Broken era, it could well be the Bellwoods musical community led largely and hosted literally by Ohbijou. You can’t look at the lineup of artists that they drew together for the two Friends In Bellwoods compilations in support of the Daily Bread Food Bank and not be impressed by the names involved: The Acorn, Basia Bulat, The Rural Alberta Advantage, the Diamond Rings-begetting D’Urbervilles, Forest City Lovers, Bruce Peninsula, Evening Hymns, Hooded Fang, the pre-Austra Katie Stelmanis, Snowblink, Timber Timbre, and The Wooden Sky, to name but a few. These are many of the bands that over the run of this blog, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing arise from playing tiny clubs or gallery spaces to much larger stages and acclaim, and have been proud to share an area code with.

And so even with so many of those acts soldiering on, with Ohbijou hanging it up for the foreseeable future it really does feel like the end of an era. But going out on a down note just wouldn’t be their style, so with this lovely video message from frontwoman Casey Mecija as an invitation, the band have announced a final show – with many of the aforementioned Bellwoods artists as guests – on September 7 at The Great Hall; tickets for the show are $20 in advance. I know everyone looked at the Arts & Crafts Field Trip fest as the year’s big celebration of Toronto’s emergence as a musical heavyweight; in its way, I think this matters as much.

MP3: Ohbijou – “Anser”
MP3: Ohbijou – “Mossy Lungs”
Video: Ohbijou – “Niagara”
Video: Ohbijou – “New Years”
Video: Ohbijou – “The Woods”

Braids have premiered a new video from their forthcoming Flourish//Perish; it’s out August 20.

Video: Braids – “In Kind”

The Weeknd appears to be totally over his camera-shyness, as evidenced by Abel Tesfaye plastering his face on the cover of the forthcoming Kiss Land, which can be seen at The Line Of Best Fit. And more relevantly, the release date for said record appears to be August 27 September 10; well ahead of his three-night stand at Massey Hall on October 17, 19, and 20.

Exclaim talks to Colin Stetson about getting another Polaris nod for his New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light and his contributions to the forthcoming Arcade Fire record. Stetson plays The Great Hall on September 5 as part of the Constellation Records touring caravan.

Lightning Dust have released another video from their latest Fantasy. They play The Drake Underground on September 10.

Video: Lightning Dust – “Loaded Gun”

Kathleen Edwards talks festival life from the artist’s perspective with CBC Music.

Loud & Quiet has an interview with METZ.

Indie88 talks with Young Galaxy.

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Their Helicopters' Sing

Review of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

Photo By Yannick GrandmontYannick GrandmontUntil recently, Montréal’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor has been inexorably associated with a very certain moment in time, specifically the end of the last century and the dawn of this one. In addition to emerging at a time when post-rock was still an amorphous musical concept which was better felt than explained and Canada was only beginning to take steps towards becoming an international presence as home to exciting new music, Godspeed’s trilogy of albums – F# A#, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, and Yanqui U.X.O. rather perfectly captured the millennial tension of the time. By turns anxious, angstful, and angry, sounding simultaneously beautiful and terrifying, their mysteriousness gave Godspeed a sense of universality that spoke to people without the use of words. So while many were disappointed when the band went on hiatus in 2003, it also felt like a logical thing to do; their moment was ending.

One couldn’t help but wonder how they would have soundtracked the 21st century, though, what with society arguably declining further in disarray and injustice on so many fronts – if they were angry about the state of the world then, surely they’d be furious now. When they unexpectedly returned to action with live performances in 2010, it was mostly with old material that gave a generation of fans who’d only grown up with the legend a taste of what the reality was like. And though unfamiliar compositions did appear in their live sets, the band’s steadfast refusal to do interviews or offer any sort of public comment gave no hint if or when they would do anything further with them. Which, of course, was precisely how they liked it – else they wouldn’t have had the satisfaction of watching a portion of the internet blow up when they announced just last week that their fourth album, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, not only existed but was already available for sale at their live shows and would be out worldwide in a fortnight.

As ever, describing Godspeed remains a largely futile task. At least with the live shows, one could attempt to articulate the visceral experience of being assaulted with sound for night on three hours. Discussing the album, and what its intentions are, is much more difficult. Comprised of two 20-minute compositions and two six-minute drones – provided on vinyl via a 12″ and 7″ intended to be played in alternating sides – it’s unquestionably a Godspeed record from the first moment: a sample of what sounds to be a preacher leading into an electric guitar drone with violin lines dancing overtop, all evocative of a gathering storm.

It’s probably only really relevant to discuss Godspeed in terms relative to Godspeed. From that perspective, ‘Allelujah is surprisingly concise and impressively powerful, condensing the sprawl and swirl of Skinny Fists and eschewing the hazy ambiguity of Yanqui into two focused movements that build steadily and determinedly, but also surprisingly melodically. There’s still plenty of their signature unease, but as the main compositions build, they become more anthemic and, one might almost say, optimistic. Only almost, mind you. To Ascend may be the destination, but ‘Allelujah makes it no easy trip – the two drone pieces might seem superfluous, but really do serve a purpose – “Their Helicopters’ Sing” as base camps of a sort, to regroup and recover, and “Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable” as the view from the summit. Unexpected but wholly welcome, with ‘Allelujah, Godspeed You! Black Emperor prove they not only continue to have their fingers on the pulse of our present, but actually offer some hope for the future.

‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is out next Tuesday, October 16, but available to stream in its entirety right now at Exclaim. And, against all expectation, the band have given an insightful interview to The Guardian about the band, their music, their politics, and their return. The full transcript of the email exchange is damn near poetry. Even the part about being “stoked”.

Stream: Godspeed You! Black Emperor / ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

The impressive demand to see The Weeknd live continues – they’ve added a fourth night at The Sound Academy for November 5, tickets $34.50. The physical release of his three mixtapes – Trilogy – is out November 12, and a new video was recently released.

MP3: The Weeknd – “Life Of The Party”
Video: The Weeknd – “Rolling Stone”

Army Girls have announced a November 14 date at The Garrison, tickets $8. Still no sign of those multiple full-lengths we were promised in the Summer, though.

MP3: Army Girls – “Cold & Alcohol”

Quiet for most of this year, Ohbijou will be at Lee’s Palace on December 1, tickets $15. This is a benefit show; specifics are still forthcoming. And tangentially, Ohbijou spin-off Warm Myth has released a new video.

MP3: Ohbijou – “Anser”
Video: Warm Myth – “Working”

Purity Ring have spent most of this year blowing up on the back of their debut Shrines, but really haven’t played a proper Toronto show to capitalize – their last appearances were opening for Dirty Projectors and an undersized NXNE showcase. They’re rectifying that if not soon, but on a large scale, wrapping up a North American tour at The Phoenix on February 1 of next year, tickets $15. The Creator’s Project talks to them about the lightshow that will surely accompany their performance, and they’ve also just released a collaboration of sorts with hip-hop artist Danny Brown.

MP3: Purity Ring – “Belispeak”
Stream: Purity Ring – “Belispeak” (with Danny Brown)

The Dumbing Of America, The Grid, The Line Of Best Fit, NOW, The Globe & Mail, and Pitchfork all talk to Toronto’s METZ about their self-titled debut, which has spawned a new video and gets a hometown release show at The Horseshoe on Friday night, October 12.

Video: METZ – “Wet Blanket”

Spin and The Winnipeg Free Press talk to Caribou’s Dan Snaith about his Daphni alter-ego and its debut album Jiaolong, out October 16.

Exclaim talk to A.C. Newman, who kicks off the tour for his new record Shut Down The Streets at Lee’s Palace on October 21.

The Guardian has an interview with Neil Young, who has released an epic-length video from Psychedelic Pill, out October 30. He and Crazy Horse play The Air Canada Centre on November 19.

Video: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Ramada Inn”

Jenn Grant lists of five of her favourite songs of the last 20 years for CBC Music and also talks to The Edmonton Journal. She’s at The Winter Garden Theatre on November 24.

The Wooden Sky goes over Every Child A Daughter, Every Moon A Sun track by track with The Line Of Best Fit. They’re at The Phoenix on December 1.

Snowblink have put out a new video from Inner Classics. Daniela Gesundheit lists off her five favourite albums for The 405 and also chats with The Cornell Daily Sun.

Video: Snowblink – “Goodbye Eyes”

Maisonneuve talks to Alaska B of Yamantaka/Sonic Titan.

The Austin Chronicle profiles Grimes.

Exclaim has details on a new compilation of rarities and being released as a soundtrack of sorts for Have Not Been The Same, the definitive tome of Can-rock in the ’90s. It’s out November 13 and features tracks from Sloan, Doughboys, Skydiggers, and other bands of that vintage, and all proceeds will go to Kids Help Phone.