Posts Tagged ‘Radio Radio’

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Les Chemins de Verre

Karkwa wins 2010 Polaris Music Prize; English Canada says, “who?”

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThere’s been no secret about where, were I a betting man, my money would have gone in guessing who’d walk away with the 2010 Polaris Music Prize last night. From my first ballot through the announcement of the short list right up through yesterday, I’ve been pulling for Shad’s TSOL and amongst my informal polling, that seemed to be the consensus choice. Well if there’s one thing that I should have learned by now is that the Polaris will always surprise you. And surprised would be the best word to describe my reaction when Damian Abraham of Fucked Up – last year’s surprise winner – announced the $20,000 prize and accompanying year in the spotlight would go to Montreal’s Karkwa for their record Les Chemins De Verre.

It’s a record that I listened to a moderate amount in the course of my juror duties, but had only made it as far as my “I should listen to this more when I have the time” list. And since the members of this year’s grand jury obviously spent much more time with the record, it’s apparently an album that merits that further attention. It’s not as though it’s inaccessible, beyond the language thing (it’s all in French if that wasn’t clear) – it’s beautifully melodic, dynamic and expertly performed atmospheric rock that certainly doesn’t require a working knowledge of the language to enjoy. In fact, that aside, it’s probably one of the more conventional yet interesting records on the short list – but I had assumed that being virtually unknown outside of Francophone Canada before their Polaris nomination, they didn’t really stand a chance.

Well, I clearly underestimated both the record and the jury because after hours of deliberations, they came to a decision that should put to rest at least one of the complaints constantly leveled against the Polaris Prize – that it’s inherently biased towards English Canada and any Francophone artists included are there on a token basis. Well Karkwa just took twenty thousands tokens to the bank and the honour of having crafted the best album in Canada in the past year – congratulations to them. Yes, they’re still all white men who play guitars but one complaint at a time, alright?

As for the gala itself, it did a fine job of keeping the hundreds in attendance at the Masonic Temple in Toronto entertained whilst the 11 men and women of the grand jury went about their duties. For the second year, they had all ten nominees on hand to perform and though no one went as all-out with hijinks or antics as they did last year, all of them made splendid arguments for why they belonged on the short list and why after all the debate and discussion over who should and should not win the prize, it’s nice to just sit back and appreciate the depth of musical talent this country has to offer.

One of the big guns of the short list kicked things off, Broken Social Scene something like a dozen members strong opening the show with the rousing instrumental “Meet Me In The Basement”, which functioned as a sort of theme song to the evening. Their set was followed by The Sadies and a demonstration of why, powered by the Good brothers’ absurd guitar-slinging and spiritually bolstered by Dallas sporting Tommy Hunter’s suit borrowed from the CBC, they’re one of the country’s most fearsome live acts.

At this point, thing shifted both geographically (to Acadia), linguistically (regional dialect Chiac) and stylistically (hip-hop) with Radio Radio. I’ve made no secret that they were my least favourite of all of the shortlisters and I’d be dismayed if they actually won, but will freely admit that they delivered a good, fun and energetic performance with the three of them trading off MC duties whilst backed by a couple members of Karkwa. Entertaining? Sure. Best album in the country? No. The performance then swung out west for Dan Mangan, who couldn’t help but deliver one of the most understated performances of the night – his singer-songwriter fare is about intimacy, not grand gestures – not even when bolstered by strings, horns and handclappers. He did, however, stage the closest thing to an audience invasion the night would see when he pulled his mic stand into the audience and climbed onto a table to lead the singalong finale to “Robots”. At first I thought he had invaded another nominee’s table as a challenge, but it turned out to be his own. Which, I suppose, was the only nice thing to do.

It seemed as though Montreal’s The Besnard Lakes were the only act to play just one song but technically, “Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent” is a two-parter – it just happened to be an epic space-rock jam that gave Jace Lasek a chance to show off his guitar chops and guitar face. Karkwa – who would in less than an hour become the talk of the town, if not country – followed with a pair of songs that you didn’t need to understand to appreciate, showcasing their impressive musical chops and probably had more than a few people wondering, “who are these guys and why haven’t I heard of them before this?” – soon to be a moot question.

It was about this time that word began circulating a winner had been selected, just when Owen Pallett – winner of the inaugural Polaris Prize a half-decade ago – was up next. His horn-augmented performance that reaffirmed him as one of Canada’s premiere musicians in the pop music sphere, his two selections from Heartland veritably crackling with creativity and imagination. Shad’s performance also crackled and, featuring a guest spot from Broken Social Scene’s Lisa Lobsinger on “Rose Garden”, certainly looked like a champion up there, closing out with a freestyle that could have been cheesy but was instead wholly inspiring.

Though arguably the most successful act on the short list, Tegan & Sara kept their set intimate with just the two sisters backed up by Pallett, who continued the trend of nominees guesting with other nominees Canada, eh? I’d not paid much attention to Tegan & Sara since their debut arrived with no small amount of hype and didn’t do anything for me, but they really did sound great up there and their banter was as entertaining as advertised. And finally, there was Caribou who, along with his sizable band all dressed in white, closed things out with a well and proper disco party although no one actually got up to dance (there wasn’t a lot of room). Like every act before them, they presented a strong case for why they should be dubbed owners of the best album in Canada, even though it had already been decided by a group who saw none of their performances.

But in the end, it was Karkwa, who were stunned and humbled and gracious as they were declared the winners by last year’s prom queens Fucked Up – an unexpected but worthy choice which should make for some interesting debate and discussion in the coming days and months. I personally had no dog in this race, my part in the process was done with the submission of the second ballot months ago. What I mainly got out of it – besides an evening of entertainment and a late night of photo processing and writing – is the certainty that with the Polaris, the best strategy appears to be as unknown as possible, somehow sneak onto the short list, be hardly rated to win by anyone and then walk away with the cash while the heavily favoured stand around and shrug. I think the only year that a dark horse didn’t take the prize was Caribou, which means that I had the honour of being part of the most predictable grand jury so far… yay us?

Check out photos from the gala below and watchables and listenables from the shortlisted albums after the jump.

Photos: Polaris Music Prize Gala 2010 @ The Masonic Temple – September 20, 2010

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Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Eight Miles High

Music blog turns eight, pauses, gets on with it

Photo via CBCCBCHere we are – another September 2, another blogiversary and another year in the books of doing… whatever this is. I have to tell you, there’s a great temptation on my end to use this occasion to get into some existential angst about where this site has been, where it might go and what on earth I’m going to do when it all inevitably ends (I’ve no idea and that’s terrifying), instead I’m just going to say fuck it, I’ll cross or fall off that bridge when I come to it.

For now, I’ll take some satisfaction in the fact that eight years is a long time in the real world – some of my blogging peers today weren’t even in high school when I started, for goodness sake – and a veritable eternity in internet time and extend my thanks to all of my readers who’ve been along for the ride at any point along this journey. This is nearly as much fun when no one reads it. Besides that… hell, I don’t know. Every year I tell myself I’m going to prepare something special post-wise or even event-wise for the anniversary but instead, it ends up being a case of, “oh shit, what day is it again?”. I actually did manage to put something proper together last year. All you get this year is a cover of this post’s namesake by this blog’s namesake.

MP3: Ride – “Eight Miles High”

And in other news. The Toronto International Film Festival opens up next week and coinciding with it is the grand opening of the festival’s new headquarters, the Bell Lightbox, down at King and John. Which in and of itself isn’t that significant hereabouts (though a functional building is always nicer than a construction site) but to mark the occasion, they’re throwing a block party on September 12 from 11AM to 4PM with all manner of goings-on, including performances from three of the ten Polaris shortlisters – Karkwa, The Sadies and Radio Radio. They’ll be playing from 12:20PM to 2PM and at 3PM, they’re promising another musical act who is one of “Canada‚Äôs hottest global superstars”… guesses, anyone?

Beatroute interviews Win Butler of Arcade Fire.

Shout Out Out Out Out have a date at Wrongbar on November 4. Their last album was 2009’s Reintegration Time.

Video: Shout Out Out Out Out – “Coming Home”

A bunch of new videos released today that up the Can-con quotient of the internet. First there’s a clip for “Quarry Hymns” from Land Of Talk’s new album Cloak & Cipher. Exclaim has posted some more of their interview with Liz Powell than appeared in this month’s cover story. Land Of Talk play Lee’s Palace on September 16.

Video: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”

The Acorn has a wonderful new stop-action clip from No Ghost. They’re releasing a remix album entitled Make The Least Of The Day on September 14 – details at Exclaim.

Video: The Acorn – “Restoration”

Black Mountain have released a second vid from Wilderness Heart, which will be out September 14. Beatroute has an interview with the band, who will be at the Phoenix on October 31.

Video: Black Mountain – “The Hair Song”

PitchforkTV has a Tunnelvision feature on Diamond Rings, whose debut Special Affections will be out on October 26.

Tokyo Police Club’s David Monks talks to Beatroute. They’re at the Ricoh Coliseum on October 22 in support of Phoenix.

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Ten More Songs

2010 Polaris Music Prize short list announced

Photo By Amanda SchenkAmanda SchenkTwo and a half weeks after announcing what a panel of unadventurous, sexist, regionally biased and indie-rockist media types had collectively decided were the 40 best Canadian albums of the past year, the Polaris Music Prize yesterday whittled said list down to a short list of ten, thus helping narrow the pool of records that everyone will complain are unworthy of recognition for the next two and a half months until a final overrated and predictably mainstream record is selected by a jury of people who are obviously pursuing their own agendas and wouldn’t know the best album in the country from a hole in the ground.

Okay, that was a bit over the top cynical but probably isn’t too far off from how some regard the prize awarded to what is deemed the Canadian album “of the highest artistic integrity”, now entering its fifth year and having gone in that time from a curious Juno upstart to an internationally recognized honour. And yeah, if so inclined you can pick holes in the prize’s methodology, jury and validity but the fact is, it’s done a pretty great job of supporting and spotlighting great Canadian artists and records over the past half decade and with this year’s list of finalists, continues to do so. Some would point to the presence of five past nominees – including two winners – on the list as proof that things are too narrow or predictable, but that’s what happens when you’ve got artists who’re at the top of their game turning out great records, and should really be cause for celebration rather than disdain.

I’ve talked at some length about many of the nominees, but haven’t really said much about Darker Circles, the latest from Canadian music veterans and first-time nominees The Sadies, and that’s probably because I’ve been following the band for so long that I pretty much take them and their awesomeness for granted now. It’s a given that they’ll tour incessantly and turn in incendiary shows every night, back up countless legendary artists on stage and on record and do it all while dressed impeccably and making it look easy. And lost in all of that is the fact that each album they’ve put out in recent years has been much more than just an excuse to tour – the brothers Good have also become excellent songwriters, making their unique psych-country-punk-surf-rock hybrid not only a showcase for their astounding musicianship, but their storytelling abilities. That Darker Circles made the short list only surprised me in that it felt like a logical progression in their growth and not a quantum leap ahead that demanded your notice, but I won’t complain either way.

That said, I still believe that Shad absolutely should and very well could win. Though if we get a repeat winner for the first time this year… I’m okay with that too.

The Polaris Prize short list for this year is as follows; a winner will be selected the evening of September 20.

The Besnard Lakes / The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
MP3: The Besnard Lakes – “Albatross”

Broken Social Scene / Forgiveness Rock Record
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “World Sick”

Caribou / Swim
MP3: Caribou – “Odessa”

Karkwa / Les Chemins De Verre
Video: Karkwa – “Moi-Lèger” (live)

Dan Mangan / Nice, Nice, Very Nice
MP3: Dan Mangan – “Robots”

Owen Pallett / Heartland
Video: Owen Pallett – “Lewis Takes His Shirt Off”

Radio Radio / Belmundo Regal
Video: Radio Radio – “Dekshoo”

The Sadies / Darker Circles
Video: The Sadies – “Postcards”

Shad / TSOL
MP3: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”

Tegan & Sara / Sainthood
Video: Tegan & Sara – “Alligator”

Chart gets inaugural prize winner Owen Pallett’s thoughts on being nominated a second time, as well as second-time nom Shad. They also talk to Dan Mangan and The Sadies about being first time short-listers.

Ca Va Cool and The Korea Times talk to Caribou’s Dan Snaith.

They Shoot Music has posted a video session with The Hidden Cameras, whose contribution to the Buffet Libre Peace compilation – a fundraiser for Amnesty International – is now available to download. They play two nights at the Lower Ossington Theatre on August 5 and 6 as part of Summerworks.

MP3: The Hidden Cameras – “The Mild Mannered Army”

Also doing the video session thing are The Acorn; they’ve got performances up at The Fly and Southern Souls.

Toronto’s Zeus have released a new ninja-powered video.

Video: Zeus – “How Does It Feel”

Blurt profiles Wolf Parade.

ABC News examines the musical and marketing stratagems of Arcade Fire, whose new record The Suburbs arrives August 3. They play the Toronto Islands on August 14.

Spinner has the album art for and tour dates in support of Land Of Talk’s new record Cloak & Cipher, out August 24. They’ll be at Lee’s Palace on September 16 and presale packages consisting of the new album on CD and concert tickets are available. There’s also a live session with the band from last Fall available to stream or download at CBC Radio 3 (talking stops and music starts at around 1:50).

Magnet has an interview with Evan Cranley of Stars as they take over their website for the week. They also play Massey Hall on October 23.

Spinner solicits opinions from various Canadian musicians on the G20 clusterfuck that went down in Toronto a couple weekends ago.