Posts Tagged ‘Sambassadeur’

Monday, May 3rd, 2010


Jonsi at The Sound Academy in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe revelation last year that Sigur Ros frontman Jon Por Birgisson was readying a solo project under his nickname of Jonsi was met with great curiosity, but also some trepidation – after all, Sigur Ros hardly seemed the sort of band that set limits on how they defined themselves, so what sort of additional creative freedoms did Birgisson need outside of that? While questions about the future of Sigur Ros were answered in a recent interview – they continue to work on new material – the answer to the first question would come earlier this year in the form of Go, a record that could easily have been sold as the new Sigur Ros record (if you didn’t check the liner notes for personnel), but also justified its existence as something completely distinct.

Obviously Jonsi’s otherworldly voice is impossible to disassociate from Sigur Ros but beyond that, Go takes the poppier bent that 2008’s Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust was noted for and runs – nay, frolics – with it in jubilant numbers like “Boy Likkoi” and “Go Do” while balancing it out with slower, sweepingly dramatic compositions… not unlike any given Sigur Ros record. How Go sets itself apart is in the details – it’s more heavily orchestrated thanks to the contributions of Nico Muhly and under it all, the songs are more conventionally structured, perhaps speaking to their simpler, acoustic origins. And oh yeah, he sings largely in English – this does dispel some of the mystery that’s integral to Sigur Ros, but does create a new kind of intimacy with the (anglophone) listener, even if it turns out Birgisson isn’t dispensing universal truths and wisdom. All of this is, of course, splitting hairs – it’s clear that whichever vehicle Birgisson chooses to channel his creativity through, he brings with him his unique aesthetic and magic and whatever he calls it, it’s something to behold.

And while his main project also sets an unbelievably high standard for live performance – their last visit to Toronto left Massey Hall filled with plumes of confetti and jaws on the floor – on Friday night, Jonsi proved he could impress just as well on his own. Originally scheduled for two nights at the Sound Academy in theatre configuration, the shows were folded into one with the hall at full size just days before the performances – officially due to the logistics of tearing down the elaborate stage set, but many believed it was simply overambitious to book someone whose name has little recognition beyond has fanbase for a multi-night stand. Which may have been true, but it’s also true that in addition to being one of the most reviled venues in the city, it’s also got one of the biggest stages in terms of square footage and laying eyes on the Jonsi setup last Friday night, it was obvious why that was a necessity.

The stage was decked out in a combination of exotic instruments, lighting rigs, scrims and screens, and yet everything had a rough, naturalistic finish that made it feel decidedly cozy for those in attendance. But just because it wasn’t built to look overly grandiose at first glance didn’t mean that advance word of the intense set design by 59 Productions was overstated. The show started on a solemn note, with Jonsi leading off with the acoustic non-album track “Stars In Still Water” and rendering selections from the slower part of his repertoire in even more drawn out and dramatic fashion while he and his band were simply lit and the accompanying projected animations looking like ghostly nature spirits around them, or a wall of flames devouring them. Just as astonishing as what we were hearing was how we were hearing it; the Sound Academy is not famous for its great sound – it’s usually acceptable at best – but on this night it sounded immaculate, with every delicate nuance of their performance heard loud and clear. The same couldn’t be said for the sightlines – I swear, if they just raised the stage a foot or foot and a half, the only thing people would have to complain about would be getting there…

As the set progressed, the tempo and energy swelled and the big pop moments of Go – “Go Do”, “Animal Arithmetic” and “Boy Likkoi” were joyous exclamation marks in the set, breaking the tension that had been built masterfully to those points and making the audience simply erupt. Throughout the course of the hour and fifteen set, they performed all of Go and a handful of new songs, and for one night only there was a special addition to the set with the band singing “Happy Birthday” in Icelandic to two of their crew. The show was perfectly paced and structured for maximum breathtaking theatricality, culminating in the encore finale of “Grow Til Tall”, in which the intensity of the musical crescendo was exponentially greater than on record and still matched, if not eclipsed, by the thunderstorm imagery that swept across every screen and surface of the stage. It was complete and utter sensory overload; I’m surprised anyone’s brains were still able to access the necessary motor skills to applaud. But we did, and even though it seemed an inadequate payment for the musical gift we’d just been given, it was all we had to offer and judging from the depths of the bows from Jonsi and his band as they took their curtain call, it was graciously accepted.

The Toronto Sun, Montreal Gazette and Boston Herald have interviews with Jonsi and Sticky, Live Music Project, Chart, eye and The Toronto Sun (again) have reviews of the show.

Photos: Jonsi @ The Sound Academy – April 30, 2010
MP3: Jonsi – “Boy Lilikoi”
Video: Jonsi – “Kolnidur”
Video: Jonsi – “Go Do”
MySpace: Jonsi

Under The Radar interviews Anna Persson of Sambassadeur and learns why the band have not and likely will not be touring North America anytime soon. But if you’re willing to travel there, Persson gave MOG a quick guide to Sweden.

The Radio Dept have no such excuses about traveling – besides not wanting to, I guess – and with Clinging To A Scheme receiving largely luminous reviews, they’ve got plenty of incentive. Not that I expect them to capitalize on it… Soundproof has a feature interview with frontman Johan Duncanson. Update: Turns out they do have an excuse for not touring, as they tell Exclaim.

Broken Social Scene are marking the release of Forgiveness Rock Record with a special one-day, hometown in-store tour. On May 9, some configuration of the band – or perhaps four different ones – will be playing four shows around Toronto, starting at Criminal Records at 2PM, Rotate This at 4PM, Soundscapes at 6PM and finally Sonic Boom at 8PM, with limited guaranteed-entry tickets available with purchase of the new record at each of the stores. Hopefully this is old news to you as they had special dispensation to sell the record since last Friday, well before the official release tomorrow, but if not, better call each of these fine retail establishments to see who – if anyone – has got some ducats left. There’s feature pieces on BSS at NPR, National Post and The Toronto Sun, and they play the Toronto Islands on June 19.

Sarah Harmer, whose new record Oh Little Fire is due out June 22, will play a record release show that evening at the Palais Royale – tickets $32.50.

The Flaming Lips/Spoon double-bill scheduled for July 8 at the Molson Amphitheatre just turned into a triple-header with the addition of Tokyo Police Club as opener. Their new record Champ is out June 8.

The reconstituted Hole have set a date at the Sound Academy for July 10, $35. I suppose having a definite when and where is better than hanging out on an overpass and just hoping to see a train wreck.

The pairing of Real Estate and Kurt Vile are coming to town as part of a joint North American tour, the July 20 date is set, the venue is still to be finalized.

MP3: Real Estate – “Black Lake”
MP3: Real Estate – “Beach Comber”
MP3: Kurt Vile – “Overnite Religion”
MP3: Kurt Vile – “Hunchback”

The Black Keys, whose new record Brothers is due out May 18, have set a date for August 3 at the Kool Haus, tickets $30 in advance on sale Friday at 10AM. Reuters has an interview with the band.

Video: The Black Keys – “Next Girl”

If you’re the sort who hates Summer and would rather look forward to Fall – and happen to take lunch near the Eaton Centre – Woodpigeon will be playing a free show at Yonge-Dundas Square at 12:30PM on October 6 and $100 do the same the following week, October 13.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “Empty-Hall Sing-Along”

And looking even further ahead, the Killing Joke show originally set for May 25 but postponed has been rescheduled for December 7, still at The Phoenix. Tie a string on your finger so you don’t forget!

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Change Of Heart

El Perro Del Mar and Taken By Trees at The Mod Club in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThere’d been some underlying confusion surrounding Sunday night’s show at the Mod Club since it was announced. First it was El Perro Del Mar. Then it was El Perro Del Mar and Anna Ternheim. Then it was El Perro Del Mar, Taken By Trees and Anna Ternheim. Then it was El Perro Del Mar and Taken By Trees. Then it was Taken By Trees and El Perro Del Mar, on account of their alternating closer, co-headliner arrangement. An arrangement that got turned around somewhere mid-tour and so by the time it was all said and done, it was Taken By Trees opening and El Perro Del Mar closing. And about as much reason as one would ever need to be sure to arrive at the venue on time, though I’d like to think that anyone attending this show would have the good sense to want to see both acts regardless of order.

I’d always felt that the greatest strength of The Concretes was how Victoria Bergsman’s sleepy vocals contrasted with the big pop arrangements underneath. Since going solo as Taken By Trees, contrast has been exchanged for compliment, as the gently orchestrated folk accompaniments of her new project mesh perfectly with her voice. Open Field had very much the sort of pastoral aesthetic you’d expect a voice like Bergsman’s to wrap itself in, but she mixed that recipe up a bit on her latest record, East Of Eden, which sounds very much a product of being recorded in Pakistan without being overwhelmingly so.

Though still quite demure, Bergsman seemed in much better spirits than her last visit to Toronto on the final Concretes tour in May 2006 – she visited Montreal once circa Open Field but for whatever reason didn’t make the trip down the highway. Thanks to the backlighting and smoky incense haze, she appeared more silhouette than anything, but what you weren’t able to see was more than made up for by what you heard. With the help of a terrific backing band, she was able to forge the airy folk-pop of her debut with the eastern influences of her latest into a strong and distinctive sound, with a welcome emphasis on the rhythmic elements of her songs. In fact, I liked Taken By Trees considerably more live than on record; the extra oomph served her well. Now if only we could get her to allow some light on her face, we’d be cooking with gas.

Henceforth, I swear to no longer describe El Perro Del Mar as “sad”. Despite the persona that comes across on her records, the Sarah Assbring that danced onstage to “Let Me In” from her latest record Love Is Not Pop was no melancholic moper. Sharing a band with Taken By Trees meant that Assbring only needed to strap on the guitar for a few numbers and spent the rest dancing and generally putting on the sort of show that I would not have expected.

The set drew mainly from the new record, which to be fair, does expand El Perro Del Mar’s sound well beyond the ’50s doo-wop that underpinned her first two records. Live, her sound was transformed further as the shimmering guitarwork and solid, danceable basslines gave everything a distinctively ’80s 4AD-ish sheen that really suited her. And considering one of her set’s highlights was an unexpected cover of The xx’s “Shelter” – done faithfully yet still sounding every bit like El Perro Del Mar – perhaps that’s a direction she’ll be moving further in in the future. Either way, it does seem certain she’ll be moving. And swaying. And dancing.

Chicagoist has an interview with Victoria Bergsman and Pitchfork has some audience video of El Perro Del Mar’s xx cover from the New York show. Panic Manual, Chart, Exclaim and It’s Not The Band I Hate It’s Their Fans also have reviews of the Toronto show.

Photos: El Perro Del Mar, Taken By Trees @ The Mod Club – February 21, 2010
MP3: El Perro Del Mar – “Change Of Heart”
MP3: El Perro Del Mar – “Change Of Heart” (Rakamonie Remix)
MP3: El Perro Del Mar – “Glory To The World”
MP3: El Perro Del Mar – “God Knows (You Gotta Give To Get)”
MP3: Taken By Trees – “Anna”
MP3: Taken By Trees – “My Boys”
MP3: Taken By Trees – “Watch The Waves”
MP3: Taken By Trees – “Lost & Found”
Video: El Perro Del Mar – “Change Of Heart”
Video: El Perro Del Mar – “Glory To The World”
Video: El Perro Del Mar – “God Knows (You Gotta Give To Get)”
Video: Taken By Trees – “My Boys”
Video: Taken By Trees – “Lost And Found”
MySpace: El Perro Del Mar
MySpace: Taken By Trees

New from Sweden this week and streaming at Spinner are European, the new record from Sambassadeur, Work from Shout Out Louds, who are also coming to town for a show at the Mod Club on May 8.

Stream: Sambassadeur / European
Stream: Shout Out Louds / Work

Spinner talks to Serena-Maneesh frontman Emil Nikolaisen about his distaste for music prizes and showcase festivals. Not that that’s stopping him from playing a showcase festival in Texas next month. Their new album S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor is out March 23 and they play The Great Hall on April 2.

Some other Norwegians coming to town – a-Ha will be at Massey Hall on May 11 as part of their farewell tour. I’ll have you know I listened to these guys a lot back in the day, and their first three records were pretty damn good. Much more than just “Take On Me”. Though that’s still a great tune. As is this one. Seriously thinking about going to this, though I don’t know if it’s quite how I want to spend my 35th birthday.

Video: a-ha – “The Sun Always Shines On TV”

The Raveonettes have rolled out a new video from In And Out Of Control.

Video: The Raveonettes – “Heart Of Stone”

Under The Radar talks to Simon Blathazar of Fanfarlo. They’ll be at Lee’s Palace on April 9.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Mumford & Sons.

The Tripwire has a feature piece on The xx, in town on April 4 at The Phoenix and April 20 at the Kool Haus.

Lucky Soul are giving away the title track from their new album A Coming Of Age in exchange for your email – believe me, it’s a deal and a half. The album is out on April 5 19 and is, no word of lie or exaggeration, awesome.

The Washington Post and Washington City Paper interview Alisdair Maclean of The Clientele, coming to town for a show at the Horseshoe on March 19.

Spinner has an Interface session with The Cribs.

Beyond Race and The Sentimentalist interview The Big Pink. They’re at the Mod Club on March 24.

NME has collected some of Jarvis Cocker’s finest bon mots over the years into an entertaining slideshow.

Barely six months after bringing their orchestral Ocean Rain to Toronto, Echo & The Bunnymen will return on April 23 for a show at the Phoenix. Presumably the only strings in play this time will be the ones on their guitars.

MP3: Echo & The Bunnymen – “I Think I Need It Too”

The Times discusses the political and the personal with Billy Bragg.

Music Snobbery interviews The Joy Formidable, who are putting the finishing touches on their debut full-length album and starting to book some North American dates for May – just NYC and the Truck Festival so far, but fingers crossed.

Frightened Rabbit are gearing up for the March 9 release of The Winter Of Mixed Drinks with a second video for new single “Nothing Like You” and a full steam of the new album on their MySpace. Scott Hutchison also talks to Tour Dates UK. The band are at The Opera House on May 4.

Video: Frightened Rabbit – “Nothing Like You”
Video: Frightened Rabbit – “Nothing Like You” (alternate version)
Stream: Frightened Rabbit / The Winter Of Mixed Drinks

Spinner reports that The Twilight Sad have replaced the low end supplied by recently departed bassist Craig Orzel. the new lineup will be in action for their upcoming North American tour which stops in at Lee’s Palace on May 26.

Aversion talks to We Were Promised Jetpacks.

PopMatters checks in with Glasvegas’ Rab Allen. The band is currently working on album number two.

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Good Morning

Review of Rogue Wave’s Permalight and giveaway

Photo via MySpaceMySpaceRogue Wave’s 2003 debut Out Of The Shadow was aptly named, considering they’d spend the first few years of their existence trying to accomplish just that from their labelmates The Shins. Both helped Sub Pop shed its hard rock reputation and redefine itself as the go-to label for quality indie-pop, but it was The Shins that busted out into mainstream success while Rogue Wave toiled away to just modest acclaim.

Fast-forward a few (or more than a few years) and Sub Pop is now known as sensitive bearded dude central, The Shins are down to just frontman James Mercer and on hiatus, and Rogue Wave trundles on. No longer on Sub Pop, the lineup has changed a number of times – frontman Zach Schwartz and drummer Pat Spurgeon the only constants – and endured more than their fair share of hardships and tragedies including but not limited to paralysis, organ failure and death. But with their fourth album Permalight, due out March 2, they have come out through it all with possibly the most upbeat and enjoyable album yet.

Their sound has taken exceptionally well to the addition of electronic elements, the injection of synths and loops helping the record’s standout tracks reach an orbit that earlier albums had only hinted at. The simple folk-pop structures, sharp melodicism and gentle, dreamy vocals that have always lain at the heart of Schwartz’s compositions remain, but the production augments them, Steve Austin-style, such that the tunes feel tauter, more dynamic and hookier than certainly I ever thought they’d be able to deliver. Numbers such as “Good Morning” and the title track burst forth from the speakers with technicolour vim, sounding not like a band beaten down by life but buoyed by it, despite it all. Shins, the ball is in your court.

Rogue Wave on tour starting at the end of this month and through April in support of the new record. They’re playing the Mod Club in Toronto on February 26 – tickets are $15 in advance, but courtesy of LiveNation, I’ve got three pairs of passes to give away to the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to ride the Rogue Wave” in the subject line and your full name in the body – contest closes at midnight, February 22. And while you’re angling for free Rogue Wave stuff, head over here to trade your email for a download of the album’s opening track.

MP3: Rogue Wave – “Good Morning”
MySpace: Rogue Wave

The Scotsman profiles Spoon, in town on March 29 at the Sound Academy.

JamBase talks to John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats.

Kurt Vile will play an in-store at Criminal Records on Friday, February 26th in advance of his show opening up for Fucked Up at the Opera House later that evening. Exact time to be determined. In-store goes at 6:30PM.

MP3: Kurt Vile – “Overnite Religion”
MP3: Kurt Vile – “Hunchback”

Pitchfork asks Ted Leo to list off his most profound musical influences at all ages from youth to today. His new album The Brutalist Bricks is out March 9.

Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields tells Chart that advances in technology have facilitated his return to synthesizers on his next record, while NPR has an interview and session.

Crawdaddy talks to Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, while Stereogum gets a look around his Oklahoma City digs.

Aquarium Drunkard interviews The Antlers. They’re at the Phoenix tonight opening up for Editors.

JAM has a feature piece on Wilco. They’re in the area next week with shows at Hamilton Place Theatre on February 23 and London’s Centennial Hall on February 24.

Westword talks to Annie Clark of St. Vincent.

Pitchfork interviews Beach House, in town at the Opera House on March 30.

Holly Miranda is currently streaming the whole of her solo debut The Magician’s Private Library at her MySpace a week ahead of its February 23 release.

Stream: Holly Miranda / The Magician’s Private Library

Illness has forced Kings Of Convenience to postpone their North American tour, which was supposed to start last week. That’s postponed, not canceled – the February 18 date at The Phoenix will be made up on June 8, same venue.

Sweden’s Sambassadeur are sharing another track from their forthcoming album European, due out February 23.

MP3: Sambassadeur – “Stranded”

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

God Knows I Had Plans

Review of The Mary Onettes’ Islands

Photo By Gunnar BjorlingGunnar BjorlingI am convinced that somewhere within the Labrador Records offices in Stockholm, there exists a magical machine that issues mandates to bands on the roster as to what their next albums must sound like. For example, The Radio Dept drew “Belle & Sebastian meets the Jesus & Mary Chain” for their debut and then “depressed Pet Shop Boys” for the follow-up and The Mary Onettes, it seems, were told to make their new record Puzzles sound like “the Shout Out Louds covering Echo & The Bunnymen”, though their official bio namechecks a-ha as well, and I don’t know that I’d argue that point.

This reductive one-liner approach isn’t intended to be dismissive because though I may poke fun at them for wearing their influences on their sleeves, they wear them like goddamn supermodels. Islands brims with grandly romantic songs built on shimmering guitar figures, swelling synths and soaring melodies and tempered by the distinctive Scandinavian melancholy that makes the best Swedish pop so delectable. Some of the numbers drift by, well-meaning if a touch anonymous, but the hits are bullseyes, particularly if you’ve a weak spot as I do for the sounds and styles that are their primary inspirations – “Puzzles” and “God Knows I Had Plans”, in particular, are clean sniper head-shots of awesome.

Frustratingly, like most of their labelmates, The Mary Onettes aren’t given to a lot of touring on this side of the Atlantic – they just wrapped a four-date jaunt in the eastern US which got some high profile attention but probably won’t be a precursor to more extensive visits in the future. I still maintain that a Labrador traveling caravan tour across North America with a pile of their bands on the bill would… probably lose a tonne of money, but certainly make for some great music.

Strange Glue has a song-by-song walkthrough of Islands from frontman Phillip Ekstrom. RCRDLBL has a second MP3 from the album available to download.

MP3: The Mary Onettes – “Puzzles”
Video: The Mary Onettes – “Puzzles”
MySpace: The Mary Onettes

Coincidentally, labelmates Sambassadeur – whose one-line mandate could be “twee-folk Camera Obscura meets orch-pop Camera Obscura sometime in the ’80s” – have gotten a new record ready for a January 2010 release. The first MP3 from European is available to grab below.

MP3: Sambassadeur – “Days”

Norwegian shoegaze/drone merchants Serena-Maneesh return after a five-year hiatus with a new album on 4AD in March 2010. I think I liked these guys alright – I recall their live shows were ridiculous but honestly, it’s been so long, I don’t remember.

Video: Serena-Maneesh – “Drain Cosmetics”
Video: Serena-Maneesh – “Sapphire Eyes”

Though Editors won’t release their new album In This Light And On This Evening doesn’t get a North American release until January 19 of the new year, that’s not stopping the PR engine over here from getting started – Spin talks to frontman Tom Smith about the title track of the album while Spinner is streaming the whole record for a week.

Stream: Editors / In This Light And On This Evening

The Guardian has the premiere of the new Patrick Wolf video from The Bachelor, presumably the last single because 2010 is supposed to be the year of the sequel, The Conqueror! has an inerview with Wolf.

Video: Patrick Wolf – “Damaris”

Spinner goes behind the scenes of the latest Ladyhawke video for “Magic”. She talks to WA Today about the confusion/controversy arising from different countries wanting to lay claim to her success (born in New Zealand, started her music in Australia, now resides in Britain).

Video: Ladyhawke – “Magic”

I had to stop ragging on Joe Pernice for never playing any local shows since becoming a Toronto resident after his wonderful Dakota Tavern show in September and it seems the return to live local performance has stuck. Joe will be performing at the Music Gallery on Wednesday night along with D-Sisive and The Reveries as part of “Songs For Jesse Presley”, an art project named for Elvis Presley’s stillborn twin brother and co-presented by Zoilus, who has more information on the show.

The AV Club talks to The Swell Season’s Glen Hansard.

Some of you who’ve been visiting a while may recall a few years ago, I auctioned off a copy of Emily Haines’ super-rare first solo record Cut In Half And Also Double as a fundraising effort for Pat Spurgeon, drummer of Rogue Wave, who needed a kidney transplant. Not that Metric or Rogue Wave had anything in common, but it was the most potentially valuable music-related thing that I didn’t have any need to keep. I consider the efforts a success, netting $177.50 USD, and Spurgeon eventually had the necessary transplant and is feeling much better now. And he’s also the subject of a documentary film called D Tour, which follows Spurgeon in his search for a suitable transplant while continuing to live the rock’n’roll dream.

Trailer: D Tour