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Posts Tagged ‘Owen Pallett’

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Catch My Breath

You, Me, NPR, and everyone we know

Photo By Laura Lynn PetrickLaura Lynn PetrickYou may recall last week that I mentioned that this week, an interview I gave NPR’s World Cafe as part of their “Sense Of Place” series on Toronto would be airing this week. And that it did on Wednesday – and let me tell you it’s goddamn weird seeing your own name and face show up in your RSS feed – though I haven’t actually listened to it yet… Nor am I likely to. I saw the hot dogs being made, y’know?

To recap – the theme of the interview was to list off five up and coming Toronto acts for NPR listeners to discover, and bits of the interview have been excerpted over the week for their blog along with a download from the band. So far, they’ve run pieces on Fresh Snow, PUP, The Elwins, and Beliefs – all of whom I think exemplify very different aspects of what’s going on, musically, in this city – and today we will have either Alvvays or Del Bel… hopefully both, though that’s out of my hands. We recorded bits on six bands as a safety in case there were any unforeseen issues. I’ll update with today’s post when it goes up later today. Update: Alvvays piece is up; Del Bel should be up tomorrow.

In any case, all six are worth your time whether you’re into psych-kraut, power-pop, punk, cinematic noir, jangle-indie, or shoegaze. Fresh Snow and Beliefs – pictured above – are both on the bill for the next installment of Long Winter, happening December 13 at The Great Hall, and Fresh Snow are also playing the next Steam Whistle Unsigned showcase at the Steam Whistle Roundhouse on November 29. PUP are finishing up an epic North American tour this weekend, the CMJ show of which is available to hear at NYC Taper; there’s also an interview at The Regina Leader=Post. The Elwins have a couple Ontario dates to close out the month but are gearing up to release their second album next year, as are Del Bel. Alvvays’ self-titled debut will finally be out early next year, and they’re opening up for Young Galaxy at The Hoxton tonight.

Just a few of the many, many, great sounds coming out of Toronto right now. I do hope you dig.

MP3: Fresh Snow – “Saturation Complete”
MP3: The Elwins – “Stuck In The Middle”
MP3: PUP – “Reservoir”
MP3: Beliefs – “Catch My Breath”
MP3: Del Bel – “Dusk Light”
MP3: Alvvays – “Adult Diversion”

Also recorded while they were in town, World Cafe has an acoustic session with James and Emily from Metric.

July Talk, who’ll be at the Sound Academy on December 3 opening up for Frank Turner, also recorded a World Cafe session and are interviewed in The Edmonton Journal, Georgia Straight, and Pique.

Young Galaxy have released yet another video from their Ultramarine Deluxe edition; that’s a remarkable amount of singles from material that didn’t make the original album. As mentioned, they’re at The Hoxton on November 22.

Video: Young Galaxy – “Crying My Heart Out”

The Quietus has a stream of Destroyer’s new Five Spanish Songs EP, coming out on Tuesday. Dan Bejar talks about the record with Reverb.

Stream: Destroyer / Five Spanish Songs

Thee Silver Mount Zion have announced a January 21 release date for their new album, Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything; details at Constellation Records, excerpt of one of the new songs and trailer for the record below.

Stream: Thee Silver Mount Zion – “Austerity Blues” (excerpt)
Trailer: Thee Silver Mount Zion / Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything

The Winnipeg Free Press, Metro, and aux.tv make with the chit-chat with Shad. He’s back in town January 31 at The Danforth Music Hall.

The Creators Project has revealed the actual official video for Arcade Fire’s “Afterlife”, taken from Reflektor – that live, Spike Jonze-directed YouTube Awards thing from a few weeks back was just a live, Spike Jonze-directed YouTube Awards thing. And because you apparently can’t get enough Arcade Fire, NME has video from a three-song French television performance. They play The Air Canada Centre on March 13.

Video: Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”

The Grid, The Toronto Star, and BlogTO chat with Owen Pallett, who talks a bit about his new album In Conflict, due early next year, amongst other topics including his new ballet. Exclaim has a helpful round up of everything that’s currently known about the follow-up to Heartland.

The Globe and Mail, San Francisco Examiner, and PopMatters talk to Spencer Krug of Moonface.

Majical Cloudz have made a studio version of a live favourite available to stream; Matablog has some background on the track.

Stream: Majical Cloudz – “Savage”

Oh Comely has a chat with Diana.

Exclaim has details in the next installment in Sloan’s vinyl bootleg series – the 500-piece limited edition of Tokyo Japan 2002 went on sale on Wednesday, so if you wanted one but were counting on me to let you know about it, then you need to re-evaluate your news-gathering strategies.

aux.tv takes a fascinating look at Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook’s career as a child actor.

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Young Canadian Mothers

Owen Pallett, Basia Bulat, Bry Webb and more gather for the Newman Boys Benefit

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFriday nights usually find Torontonians spoilt for entertainment options and tonight will be no exception, but if you’re at all unsure of what to do with your evening then consider heading down to Lee’s Palace. It’s hosting a benefit concert for three young Oakville boys whom, following a tragic series of events, were orphaned in January of this year and in addition to all the emotional devastation, were left in a dire financial situation.

Their uncle, however, was a founding member of The Hidden Cameras and has deep connections to the Guelph and Toronto music communities and has organized a benefit show at Lee’s that will feature performances from some of the best this city has to offer, including Owen Pallett, Basia Bulat, Sandro Perri, Bry Webb, Jim Guthrie, Nathan Lawr, Andre Ethier, Ohbijou’s Casey Mecija and Light Fires.

Tickets for the show are $15 in advance and at the door, and proceeds will go to both a trust fund for the boys and Halton Women’s Place. Specifics can be found at the Facebook event and there are feature pieces on the benefit at The Grid and CBC Music. And if you can’t make it and still want to help out, donations can be made at Newman Boys Trust Fund. There’s not really any more worthy cause than this.

MP3: Owen Pallett – “A Man With No Ankles”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Gold Rush”
MP3: Bry Webb – “Rivers Of Gold”

Saturday is Record Store Day and, while you’ve already been briefed on the day-long in-store festival at the Annex location of Sonic Boom, but that’s not the only place you can enjoy some live music on whilst getting your shopping on – Soundscapes will be hosting Toronto’s next great power-pop hopes The Elwins at 7PM. They’ll surely have copies of their debut And I Thank You for sale – they just debuted a new video from it – but in the spirit of the occasion they’ll also have a limited-edition handmade CD containing a new remix and their cover of Beyonce’s “Countdown”, which will also be available to download free via their Bandcamp.

Video: The Elwins – “Are You Flying With A Different Bird?”

While on the topic of Record Store Day, one of the more sought-after releases is sure to be the Feistadon release – that’s Feist/Mastadon covering each other on either side of a split-7″ – and if you’re not lucky enough to get your hands on one you can at least hear it via stream.

Stream: Feist – “Black Tongue” (Mastadon cover)
Stream: Mastadon – “A Commotion”

The split-7″ between Toronto’s METZ and Fresh Snow is probably one of the more limited releases out there tomorrow – it’s only available at Sonic Boom. METZ contribute a cover of Sparklehorse’s “Pig” and Fresh Snow’s new track continues to establish them as one of the city’s new bands to watch, building on a rock-steady Krautrock foundation with horns and pretty, interesting things. They’re playing a Sonic Boom in-store tomorrow at 6 and are at The Boat on May 9. Both sides of the release are up for stream.

Stream: METZ – “Pig” (Sparklehorse cover)
Stream: Fresh Snow – “BMX-Based Tactics”

And oh, if you’re planning on spending oodles of money on vinyl and are going to listen to them on a turntable you bought at Urban Outfitters… read this New York Times piece on turntables and set a little money aside to save up for a Rega. You’re welcome. There’s also chats with some of Toronto’s record stores about RSD at Plaid and across the pond, The Stool Pigeon has an interview with Martin Mills, head of the Beggars group of independent labels (Matador/4AD/XL) about the annual event.

NOW and Post City talk to Plants & Animals, who are at Sonic Boom tomorrow afternoon before their show at Lee’s Palace that night, and then will be at NXNE in June and are allegedly going to on the bill with Sam Roberts at Echo Beach on July 26. All of which is to say that if you are a Plants & Animals fan, you have no excuse whatsoever for not seeing them play. Unless you’re just lazy. Can’t argue with that.

The Chronicle-Herald talks to Rose Cousins, in town at The Rivoli on May 3.

Exclaim and Spinner chat with Patrick Watson while aux.tv points to a mini-documentary on the making of his latest album Adventures In Your Own Backyard. He plays The Music Hall on May 29.

Spinner collects some more details on the new Metric album Synthetica, due June 12.

Dan Mangan is the subject of a just-released short documentary film. He plays a free show at Pecault Square on the afternoon of June 16 for LuminaTO.

Video: In The Car With Dan Mangan

Hidden Cameras fans wondering why the band’s recently-announced itinerary of eastern Canada dates didn’t include a hometown show in Toronto now have their answer – the band will be playing a free show at Harbourfront Centre on Canada Day, July 1. I remember seeing them on that same stage for the Indie Unlimited festival back in August 2006. And now I feel terribly old.

MP3: The Hidden Cameras = “In The NA”
MP3: The Hidden Cameras – “Walk On”

The big fest announcement hereabouts this week was NXNE, but Guelph’s Hillside Festival also let the world know who would be gathering on the shores of Guelph Lake from July 27 to 29 – Bry Webb, Cold Specks, Kathleen Edwards, Great Lake Swimmers, Memoryhouse, Chad VanGaalen and more.

NPR is streaming a World Cafe session with Grimes and The List has an interview.

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

New Ceremony

Dry The River at The Garrison in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangTwo points. One, I am rather smitten with Dry The River’s debut album Shallow Bed, out now in the UK and coming out in North America on April 17. Two, I am somewhat suspicious of how smitten I am with said record as history shows that my infatuation with British bands who trade in big, emotive rock can be short-lived, either for overexposure or for having a shelf life that’s shorter than one would hope. As such, I went into seeing them at SXSW something of a skeptic and came out a believer – their performance was one of the most stirring I saw all week by a band not hailing from E Street – and as much as seeing them make their Toronto debut less than a fortnight later might have seemed redundant, it was also not to be missed. After all, if things played out for the band as they certainly seemed like they might, the next time they visited would be in a much bigger room.

I wasn’t the only one with that idea, evidently, as The Garrison was decidedly full before they took the stage. With all respect to Bowerbirds and their fanbase, I suspect the support was as much of a draw on this tour as the headliners if not moreso. Still, the five-piece took the stage humbly and a bit taken aback by the turnout – reasonable, as apparently their show the night before in Montreal had been downgraded to an impromptu coffee shop show after Bowerbirds’ van broke down and the main show had to be cancelled – and opened with “No Rest”, whose soaring chorus couldn’t help but win over everyone and anyone within earshot. The band’s ability to build from quiet to crescendo was a potent weapon, but one they used judiciously – if anything, they played things quieter than on record, emphasizing the folkier aspects of their sound and keeping the big guns in reserve for when they’d be most effective, like the crashing intro to “Bible Belt” and the grand, heart-stopping finale of “Lion’s Den”.

As I mentioned in that SXSW writeup, from a strictly musical point of view, there’s no reason that Dry The River can’t follow the trail laid by the likes of Mumford & Sons to mass success. If anything holds them back, it’s their lack of pre-packaged marketability, Dry The River being decidedly scruffier and less ready for the cover of Non-Threatening Boys than their tweed-clad countrymen. But if that keeps their star from ascending quite so quickly and we early adopters can keep them to ourselves a bit longer, I’m all for that.

Alas, something came up and I couldn’t stick around to see Bowerbirds’ set, but I’m sure they were lovely. Next time.

Panic Manual and Syncopated Sound also have reviews of the show. NPR and Toro have interviews with the band, Clash asks guitarist Matthew Taylor to curate his dream festival lineup and The Alternate Side and Daytrotter have posted sessions with the band.

Photos: Dry The River @ The Garrison – March 27, 2012
MP3: Dry The River – “New Ceremony”
Video: Dry The River – “No Rest”
Video: Dry The River – “Chambers & The Valves”
Video: Dry The River – “Weights & Measures”

Ascendent British soul singer Michael Kiwanuka will make his proper Toronto debut – he played an invite-only thing during CMW – at The Great Hall on June 19, tickets $15 in advance. Rolling Stone has all the North American dates and a chat with the singer while Chart antes up with a video session.

MP3: Michael Kiwanuka – “Tell Me A Tale”

M. Ward is gearing up for the release of his new album A Wasteland Companion next week with a Daytrotter session and New York Times interview; you can also now download the lead single from said record if you like.

MP3: M. Ward – “Primitive Girl”

The Quietus interviews Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low and also get Sparhawk to list off his favourite albums. They’re at Massey Hall in support of Death Cab For Cutie on April 19.

Jana Hunter of Lower Dens talks to Spin about their new record Nootropics, out May 1.

Their tour having wrapped up last night right here in Toronto, A Place To Bury Strangers have announced the June 26 release of their next full-length album Worship, and the first single is now available to download courtesy of Spin. The AV Club and The Phoenix have interviews with guitarist Oliver Ackermann.

MP3: A Place To Bury Strangers – “You Are The One”

The Riverfront Times talks to Roger Miller of Mission Of Burma; their new one Unsound is due out on July 9.

NPR serves up a World Cafe session with tUnE-yArDs, in town at The Phoenix on August 1.

Dum Dum Girls has released a new video from last year’s Only In Dreams.

Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Coming Down”

Interview interviews Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal. The Star-Ledger, LA Weekly, Boise Weekly, and What’s Up also have features.

Aquarium Drunkard grabs an interview with Dean Wareham.

Bryce Dessner of The National talks to You Ain’t No Picasso.

CBC, The Awl, The Toronto Star, and Exclaim all ran features on The Magnetic Fields in advance of last week’s show at The Sound Academy.

The Line Of Best Fit talks to Andrew Bird.

NPR is streaming a recording of a collaboration between The Mountain Goats, Owen Pallett, and vocal group Anonymous 4 at the Ecstatic Music Festival in New York.

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Iceland Airwaves 2011 Day One

Beach House, Raised Among Wolves, Of Monsters & Men and more at Iceland Airwaves

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangCalling this “day one” of Iceland Airwaves isn’t strictly correct. Though the festival did really start in earnest on the Thursday, there was a fair bit of programming on the Wednesday night and though I was on the fence about leaving the comfort of the apartment late at night, I fell on the side of heading to NASA, one of the festival’s main venues, facing onto Austurvöllur square a couple blocks away.

The attraction were Iceland’s own Of Monsters & Men, whom although a new band – their debut album My Head Is An Animal only came out in September – were clearly already a hot commodity locally as the venue was jammed to the rafters. And watching them perform, it wasn’t hard to understand why; their sound fell somewhere between Arcade Fire and Fanfarlo with not a little Stars to be found in the vocal interplay between Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson – in other words, eminently likeable. They were neither as dramatic or twee as those reference points might imply, nestled comfortably in the middle, but still big-sounding and making the most of their 10-piece lineup. Normally they numbered six, but this was a special occasion after all and so there were plenty of handclaps, gang vocals and a brief cover of Kool & The Gang’s “Celebrate”. I don’t know that the songs are quite up to the level of the delivery, but they were fun – no question. And word is they’ll be bringing their show to Toronto next month… details will be forthcoming.

Photos: Of Monsters & Men @ NASA – October 13, 2011
MP3: Of Monsters & Men – “Little Talks”

Slipping back into travelogue mode for a moment, Thursday saw another attempt to get out of the city and though it was hardly a nice day, the elements didn’t stop us from getting out to Þingvellir national park and Þingvallavatn. On the way, there were stops at Mosfell to check out one of those churches that just pops up out of nowhere and befriend a couple of extraordinarily friendly and pretty Icelandic ponies as well as some stunning fields of volcanic rock. As the park was situated across the continental divide between the North American and European tectonic plates, chasms and cliffs were the norm and landmarks were the thousand year-old, man-made waterfall called Öxaráfoss and the site of the first Icelandic parliament – Alþing – dating back to 930 AD. Yes, it just looked like a mound near a cliff face but still. HISTORY. Flickr has been updated with visuals and oh, on the way back into town, I completely forgot how roundabouts work just for a moment and hit an SUV for some hot Hyundai on Hyundai action. At Icelandic roundabouts, the inner lane has the right of way; that’s one to grow on, kids. While the other car was undamaged, the front end of mine was kind of mashed – but no one was hurt except my Visa card in covering the insurance deductible. Le sigh.

Back in town, we attempted to cheer the home team in seeing Owen Pallett play an afternoon off-venue – the Airwaves name for day shows – but it turned out that our support wasn’t needed; Kaffibarinn was beyond jammed and while I could hear him and Les Mouches, I didn’t lay an eye on them the whole time there. Pallett and company had been in the country for a couple of weeks leading up to the festival recording, and accordingly their set was split between old favourites, albeit somewhat reconfigured to be more keyboard-heavy, and new songs which further imply a synthier direction for the new record. The crush of humanity kept me from staying to the very end and anyways, I had a banged-up car to return.

MP3: Owen Pallett – “A Man With No Ankles”
MP3: Owen Pallett – “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”
MP3: Final Fantasy – “The Butcher”
MP3: Final Fantasy – “Ultimatum”
Video: Owen Pallett – “The Great Elsewhere”
Video: Owen Pallett – “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”
Video: Final Fantasy – “Horsetail Feathers”
Video: Final Fantasy – “The Butcher”
Video: Final Fantasy – “He Poos Clouds”
Video: Final Fantasy – “This Lamb Sells Condos”

The evening program began literally two doors down from our apartment – didn’t I mention it was conveniently located? – at the Tjarnarbíó theatre for Danish septet Raised Among Wolves. As you might expect from a band with that many players, they traded in orchestrally-inclined pop not far removed from what Of Monsters & Men were serving up the night before though Wolves were more stereotypically Scandinavian, being more elegantly polished in performance and romantically melancholic in tone. They were also better-dressed, with a decidedly northlander-ish marching band dress code in effect. It doesn’t appear that they’ve got any proper releases yet, but while their catalog is lean their ambitions are extensive – there’s no doubt they’ll be looking to replace those synth patches with a proper orchestra and the toy piano with a full grand. Though they’ll probably still paint their name on the side. Charming and brimming with promise.

Photos: Raised By Wolves @ Tjarnarbíó – October 13, 2011
MP3: Raised By Wolves – “Boys Will Be Kings” (demo)
MP3: Raised By Wolves – “Tin Foil Empire” (demo)
MP3: Raised By Wolves – “The Bear” (demo)

By the time I got to the gorgeous Kaldalón room in the Harpa opera house to see Iceland’s Nóra, I was thinking that I’d have to fit some black metal into my itinerary to offset all the orch-pop that was making up my Airwaves experience so far. But I like what I like, I suppose. Cheekily introducing themselves as “celebrated Icelandic rock band Nóra”, the brother-and-sister-led fivesome initially seemed to have some trouble with the clean acoustics of the room, with their vocals turned up considerably louder than their instruments and consequently sounding detached from the music though inviting a three-piece horn section out for a portion of the set helped fill out the mix. Singing in Icelandic and drawing from their debut Er einhver aö hlusta?, they were largely upbeat and peppy though a couple numbers at the end of the set proved they could get tense and angsty when called for and they were sonically ambitious throughout. A reliance on keyboards kept their stage presence rather static, but some dry stage banter helped endear them nonetheless.

Photos: Nóra @ Harpa Kaldalón – October 13, 2011
MP3: Nóra – “Opin fyrir morói”
Stream: Nóra / Er einhver aö hlusta?

Any fears of the festival getting too “all twee, all the time” were stopped dead with Retro Stefson at Listasafn, the Reykjavik Art Museum and another major venue. They were many things – disco, funk, hip-hop, rock, electro – but certainly not twee. And definitely a party. Though there’s something like seven of them in the band, it was hard to pay any attention to anyone besides singer/guitarist Unnsteinn Manuel Stefánsson and percussionist/dancer Haraldur Ari Stefánsson, and not just because the rest of the band was completely obscured in smoke and strobes. The former Stefánsson was more than a little Prince-like with his virtuostic guitar-playing and singing even he seemed restrained compared to the latter Stefánsson’s gyrating, thrusting and audience-invading/crowd-surfing antics. I think it’s safe to say they were one of the strangest lead-in acts that Beach House has ever had.

Photos: Retro Stefson @ Listasafn – October 13, 2011
Video: Retro Stefson – “Kimba”
Video: Retro Stefson – “Medallion”

I don’t think it’s a real slight to say that Beach House aren’t a conventionally great live act. Both Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand are generally content to sit or stand stock still with their instruments and let their hypnotic songs and maybe the light show do the work. In the case of the Listasafn show, billed as one of the festival’s headlining slots and marking the band’s first time in the country, they maybe let the light show get away from them as the combination of blinding backlights and smoke made it so that both were little more than stationary silhouettes for the show. It was frustrating to watch (and photograph) but did work from time to time, most notably for “Norway” when the lights went white and the entire stage lit up in tiny LEDs, presenting Legrand as a disembodied voice in a field of stars. Whatever they looked like, though, they sounded grand with the tinny canned beats segueing into huge live drums and Legrand’s smoky vocals filling the hall along with thousands of Icelanders, dancing and swaying in a giant collective swoon.

Photos: Beach House @ Listasafn – October 13, 2011
MP3: Beach House – “I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun”
MP3: Beach House – “Zebra”
MP3: Beach House – “Norway”
MP3: Beach House – “Gila”
MP3: Beach House – “Heart Of Chamber”
MP3: Beach House – “Master Of None”
Video: Beach House – “Walk In The Park”
Video: Beach House – “Silver Soul”
Video: Beach House – “Used To Be”
Video: Beach House – “You Came To Me”
Video: Beach House – “Heart Of Chambers”

Having already released a couple of videos, Fanfarlo have finally revealed details of their second album – Rooms Filled With Light will be available on February 28, details at Under The Radar.

Video: Fanfarlo – “Replicate”
Video: Fanfarlo – “De.Con.Struc.Tion”

DIY gets to know Amanda Mair, the teenage singer-songwriter who’s the latest addition to the Labrador Records roster. She’s released two singles in advance of a debut album due in late 2011 or more likely early 2012.

MP3: Amanda Mair – “Doubt”
MP3: Amanda Mair – “House”

Studio360 and The Los Angeles Times talk Biophilia with Bjork.

Sigur Rós have made another track from the Inni live set available to download. The audio/video document is available as of November 8, but is currently screening at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto.

MP3: Sigur Rós – “Ný Batteri”

Interview and Billboard talk to Anthony Gonzalez of M83 on the occasion of the release of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming this week. They’ve also just released a new video from said record. Look for them at Lee’s Palace on November 18.

Video: M83 – “Midnight City”

The hour-long Phoenix documentary From A Mess To The Masses is now available to watch in full online.

Video: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – From A Mess To The Masses

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Port Of Call

Beirut and Owen Pallett & Les Mouches at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe timing of Beirut’s first shows back in Toronto in a couple of years was a bit curious, coming as it did three weeks before the release of their new record The Rip Tide (though it’s out digitally tomorrow). You wouldn’t hear any word of complaint about it from their fans, however, as most would already be acquainted with the new material via live recordings circulating online and any opportunity to see the Zach Condon-led orkestar was to be celebrated, not questioned. Particularly when there were two of them – I was at the second show last Thursday evening – and especially when Owen Pallett was going to be there as support.

Pallett’s presence wasn’t just happenstance – he worked on their 2007 album The Flying Club Cup and they with him on his Spectrum, 14th Century EP and they’d toured together in the past. So lots of history there and thus completely appropriate that Pallett opened his set and the show with a reading of “Cliquot”, the song he co-wrote and sang lead on from The Flying Club Cup. Normally it wouldn’t be notable that Pallett played the first couple songs of the show on his own as with a few exceptions he’s been a solo performer for much of his career, but this was one of the first shows billed as Owen Pallett & Les Mouches wherein he was joined by Rob Gordon and Matt Smith, his bandmates in said pre-Final Fantasy trio. I was curious as to how this would work, not just because I’ve always loved the one-man orchestra aspect of Pallett’s live shows but because my memories of Les Mouches circa seven or eight years ago aren’t especially fond (personal musical taste).

It didn’t take long for any potential misgivings to be put to rest, however, as Smith and Gordon’s contributions to Pallett’s compositions were stunning. The drums were used less for rhythm than as accents and filling in the orchestral space, alternately evoking tuba and timpani parts, while Smith’s guitar was put to work simulating a brass section or pizzicato sings; only on the rare occasions where they were intended to sound like conventional guitar and drums did they sound at all odd. They were at their fullest-sounding when Kelly Pratt of Beirut joined in on trumpet but as their set wound down, it was back down to Pallett on his own. Les Mouches were meant to rejoin on “This Is the Dream of Win and Regine” but technical difficulties scuppered that visit to Has A Good Home, meaning the two final songs were a terrific cover of Caribou’s “Odessa” and finally Heartland‘s “Lewis Takes His Shirt Off”. By rights, an artist of Pallett’s stature shouldn’t be opening up for anyone, particularly in his hometown, but I’m certainly more than happy he did.

I’ve only ever been a casual Beirut fan, mostly indifferent to Gulag Orkestar while everyone else was losing their minds for it. It took a rousing SXSW 2007 set and some time spent with The Flying Club Cup to win me over and even then, I didn’t make it to any of their local shows since then. All of which is to say this would be my first proper Beirut concert experience, and it was a good one. I’d go so far as to say that having only a moderate degree of familiarity with their records enhanced my enjoyment of it as the twists and turns of the songs – all horns and swoons, loping bass, wheezing accordion and martial drums and on a few occasions Pallett’s violin – were made all the more exciting from the not knowing what could come next. And of course, it would be remiss to not mention Condon’s rich, sonorous voice which for all the swirling instrumentation remains the core of Beirut. He’s blessed with pipes that can make just about anything sound timeless and romantic, which he uses to full effect and when combined with the theatricality inherent in the act of stepping back and raising a horn to your mouth, it’s hard not to put on a stirring show.

The set list covered all points of the Beirut discography including more than half of The Rip Tide, which suited me just fine as in my estimation it’s their finest work yet; more song-focused than their earlier works and leaner-sounding while remaining plenty lush. I was a bit surprised that the March Of The Zapotec/Realpeople Holland got as much play as it did, but pleasantly so as in peeling away the more overt electronic elements from the Realpeople material turned them into some of the highlights of the show, particularly main set closer “My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille”. At an hour and fifteen minutes including encore, the show ran a bit shorter than I’d expected but the arc of the journey was pretty much perfect.

BlogTO was also on hand for Thursday’s show while The Globe & Mail, Exclaim and The National Post offered thoughts on the Tuesday night show.

The Rip Tide is streaming in full at NPR up until its August 30 street date.

Photos: Beirut, Owen Pallett & Les Mouches @ The Phoenix – August 4, 2011
MP3: Beirut – “My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille”
MP3: Beirut – “Postcards From Italy”
MP3: Owen Pallett – “A Man With No Ankles”
MP3: Owen Pallett – “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”
MP3: Final Fantasy – “The Butcher”
MP3: Final Fantasy – “Ultimatum”
Video: Beirut – “Elephant Gun”
Video: Beirut – “The Concubine
Video: Beirut – “Postcards From Italy”
Video: Owen Pallett – “The Great Elsewhere”
Video: Owen Pallett – “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”
Video: Final Fantasy – “Horsetail Feathers”
Video: Final Fantasy – “The Butcher”
Video: Final Fantasy – “He Poos Clouds”
Video: Final Fantasy – “This Lamb Sells Condos”
Stream: Beirut / The Rip Tide

Jens Lekman has made the title track of his forthcoming EP An Argument With Myself available to download. It comes out September 20.

MP3: Jens Lekman – “An Argument With Myself”

Pitchfork has got Peter Bjorn & John preforming the whole of their latest Gimme Some on camera. They play Lee’s Palace on September 2 and 3.

The North American dates in support of Bryan Ferry’s latest Olympia have been announced and a Casino Rama date on October 8 is standing in for a proper Toronto show.

Video: Roxy Music – “More Than This”

The Guardian profiles Devonté Hynes of Blood Orange, whose debut Coastal Grooves arrives August 30.

Laura Marling has released the first video from her next album A Creature I Don’t Know; the album is out September 13 and she plays The Great Hall on September 23.

Video: Laura Marling – “Sophia”

Spinner and The San Francisco Chronicle interview Ellie Goulding.