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Posts Tagged ‘Serena Maneesh’

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Whirlpool

Chapterhouse, Ulrich Schnauss and Fjord Rowboat at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOne might think that after last weekend’s three-day salute to the ’90s I’d be ready to get back to the 21st century, musically-speaking, but instead last Wednesday night turned the dial on the wayback-machine even further – Chapterhouse was in town. The North American leg of their reunion tour, which began in late 2009, was delayed from May until this Fall due to volcanic ash though the Toronto show was cancelled earlier for reasons unknown. Hogtown was back on for the new dates, however, and at a larger venue no less that was respectably filled. Clearly whatever reason nixed the original date wasn’t lack of interest.

For anyone with even a passing affection for the British shoegazing movement of the early ’90s, it was hard not to be interested – My Bloody Valentine aside, this was the only first-wave shoegaze band in recent memory to reunite, let alone play shows in North America, in well over a decade (if anyone wants to fact-check that statement, feel free). And while Chapterhouse weren’t as seminal – in my eyes/ears, anyways – as the likes of Ride, Slowdive or Lush, their credentials are indisputable and their debut Whirlpool an essential listen for the genre. Which is basically another way of saying, “if you are a shoegaze fan and Chapterhouse come to your town, you go”.

Locals Fjord Rowboat know how that goes, but for them it was “if Chapterhouse comes to your town, you lend them your gear and open for them”. Which they did, and in return got to play an impressive show for probably a more receptive audience than they’ve ever had. I used Chapterhouse as a reference point their 2007 debut Saved The Compliments For Morning and that still holds for the just-released follow-up Under Cover Of Brightness, the band remaining faithful to the spirit of shoegazing while remembering, unlike many modern-day purveyors of the style, that what made the greats great was that underneath the layers of sound, there were solid songs. And in the interests of disclosure, I should mention that Fjord has two former bandmates in their number. High five!

I’d lived the Ulrich Schnauss experience twice before and thought I’d figured out the secret to appreciating his electro-ambient stuff – close your eyes. Then you don’t notice that the entire “live” set consists of Schnauss playing preprogrammed tracks off his laptop while adding keyboards overtop or mixing things in real-time, or at least I assume that’s what he was doing – I couldn’t actually hear anything changing in the mix as he clicked and fiddled. This time his set came with its own visual component – projections of European urban scenes, mostly looking as though they’d been filmed from a moving car, which held ones interest for a while but after they began to loop, one’s attention began to wander. By the end, I had a new way to enjoy Schnauss’ set – as a particularly cosmic soundtrack to a game of iPhone Civilization.

One of the first thing you notice about Chapterhouse is how young they all still look – all five are barely 40 (if even) and frontmen Andrew Sherriff and Stephen Patman still look remarkably boyish. This is less a comment on their skin care regimen than the fact that they were barely into their twenties (if even) when Whirlpool was released and so, returning to Toronto for the first time in nearly 20 years, they still seemed younger than many acts making their debuts. Also setting them apart from many other acts on the road today was the fact that they weren’t out trying to win over new fans or make a name for themselves – if you were there, you knew why and what you were going to get and were just happy to be there. This isn’t to suggest that the bar for performance was lowered at all, but any mistakes or less-than-perfection – and there was some, in the way of feedback (the bad kind, not the good kind), some awkward re-learning of songs onstage and a “Crystal” that wasn’t as tight or together as you’d want – were quickly and easily forgiven.

Instead, it was much easier to focus on the good. There was the seemingly endless rotation of my favourite guitars and the massive sounds the three guitarists coaxed out of them, including Simon Rowe whose status in Mojave 3 is as unclear as the band’s itself and who missed their last tour. There was their cover of The Beatles’ “Rain”, which got a pass on my usual “no Beatles covers please” rule, their pretty much perfect rendering of “Pearl” – more than making up for “Crystal” – and a set list that, while curiously light on their second album Blood Music, delivered almost all of Whirlpool and a selection of b-sides and rarities that they must have known would be appreciated by an audience of the faithful.

While they were hardly monsters of rock onstage, it was hard to imagine that their performances inspired the originally-derisive “shoegaze” label – sure, Rowe stood pretty much stock-still through the set but Sherriff and Patman moved around and hardly glanced at their feet. Of course, unlike many of their peers Chapterhouse have always been as much about the groove as the wall of sound, sometimes referred to as “baggy-gaze” and moving further towards dance and electronic sounds with Blood Music. None of which makes them sound any more contemporary, but no one was here for contemporary. We were here for 1990 and Chapterhouse brought it.

Prefix and The Faster Times have Chapterhouse interviews and Jess Barnett a conversation with Ulrich Schnauss. Exclaim and Panic Manual have reviews of the Toronto show.

Photos: Chapterhouse, Ulrich Schnauss, Fjord Rowboat @ Lee’s Palace – October 6, 2010
MP3: Chapterhouse – “Pearl”
MP3: Ulrich Schnauss – “Passing By”
MP3: Fjord Rowboat – “Carried Away”
MP3: Fjord Rowboat – “Paragon”
Video: Chapterhouse – “Breather”
Video: Chapterhouse – “April”
Video: Ulrich Schnauss – “Medusa”
Video: Fjord Rowboat – “Carried Away”
MySpace: Chapterhouse
MySpace: Fjord Rowboat

Beatroute and The Boston Globe talk to The Vaselines; they’re in town on October 30 for a show at The Horseshoe.

The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, L.A. Record and DCist have feature pieces on Teenage Fanclub.

NPR talks to Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian. He and his band are at Massey Hall tonight and their new album Write About Love is also out today – the promo TV talk show put together for the record is streaming at PitchforkTV and the performance of “I Want The World To Stop” from said programme has been excerpted as the first official video from the record.

Video: Belle & Sebastian – “I Want The World To Stop”
Video: Belle & Sebastian Write About Love

A track from Idlewild’s latest (and final?) album Post-Electric Blues has been made available to download to mark the album’s North American release today.

MP3: Idlewild – “Younger Than America”

Drowned In Sound has gone a little British Sea Power-crazy, what with the release of the new Zeus EP in advance of next year’s new full-length – they’ve commissioned a number of features from the band, including their top five UK castles, ten things they wish they hadn’t done, the joy of knitting and a guide to keeping amused on the road.

Charlatans drummer Jon Brookes takes to the band’s blog to thank fans for their support as he convalesces from surgery for a brain tumour while Clash talks to frontman Tim Burgess. A track from their new record Who We Touch has been made available to download.

MP3: The Charlatans – “Love Is Ending”

Barry Hyde of The Futureheads tells Spinner they’re planning on releasing an a capella record early next year.

The Fly has a first listen to the new White Lies record Ritual, due out January 17 in the UK.

A whole slew of new videos in the past few days from the other side of the Atlantic – let’s start with Kele, who has a new clip from his solo record The Boxer.

Video: Kele – “On The Lam”

Foals have rolled out a new video from their second record Total Life Forever.

Video: Foals – “Blue Blood”

Mystery Jets have a new short from this year’s Serotonin. eFestivals and MusicOmh also have interviews.

Video: Mystery Jets – “Show Me The Light”

6 Day Riot have a video for the first single from their forthcoming record On This Island, available in the UK on November 1.

Video: 6 Day Riot – “Take Me Out”

Oxford University’s Cherwell talks to Kate Nash, who has a new single to coincide with her North American tour. It kicks off later this month and includes a date at The Phoenix on November 13.

Video: Kate Nash – “Later On”

For whatever reason, the powers that be have decided that the UK video for La Roux’s “In For The Kill”, out for over a year, just won’t cut it for American audiences and have commissioned a new one. I guess their focus groups demanded more snakes, less cars.

Video: La Roux – “In For The Kill” (US)
Video: La Roux – “In For The Kill” (UK)

The Telegraph talks to Duffy, who releases her second album Endlessly on November 30.

Word is Johnny Flynn’s October 18 show at Lee’s Palace has been postponed until mid-November; all other shows on the North American jaunt, including the 19th in Montreal, appear to still be on, so no idea what the problem with T.O. is. Anyone else hear “Kentucky Pill” on last week’s Weeds? Of course not, because no one with any dignity should admit to watching Weeds anymore. Me, I just heard about it. On the Twitter. Yeah.

Spinner talks to Elvis Costello about his new album National Ransom, out November 2. You can download a track from the record at his website.

Norway’s Serena-Maneesh have rolled out a new video from S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor.

Video: Serena-Maneesh – “D.I.W.S.W.T.T.D.”

NPR is streaming a complete show from The Tallest Man On Earth.

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Forward Is All

Review of Sambassadeur’s European

Photo By Kjeli B PerssonKjeli B PerssonWhile it’s factually correct for Sambassadeur to have named their latest album European, it’s also a bit redundant. For from the moment album opener “Stranded”‘s power ballad piano intro segues into the sprightly orchestrally-inclined power pop verse, there’s no questioning what side of the Atlantic this record was crafted on. Or even which country.

There is something about Sambassadeur that is so very Swedish, beyond the obvious reference point of singer Anna Persson’s accent and precise, ever-so-slightly forlorn delivery. There’s the way the songs manage to be so richly appointed without becoming overburdened or overthought and they’re so wonderfully efficient in how they deliver their many irresistible hooks without ever feeling rushed. And while each song stands in pop splendour on their own, strung together they make European a delightful listening experience from start to end, a journey that lasts not even 34 minutes but easily justifies many round trips.

I had thought that Sambassadeur had reached their apex with 2007’s Migration, but clearly I underestimated them. This would normally be the part of the review where I’d say something along the lines of “I can’t wait to hear what they do next”, but I actually can because I’m perfectly happy to just keep spinning European for the foreseeable future. It’s a gem.

MP3: Sambassadeur – “Days”
MP3: Sambassadeur – “Stranded”
Video: Sambassadeur – “I Can Try”
MySpace: Sambassadeur

Spin are offering for download an unreleased track from jj, recorded circa their album jj No 2. That’s the one that got everyone excited about them, not to be confused with jj No 3, which got everyone indifferent to them. It will be getting a reissue on August 3.

MP3: jj – “Baby”
MP3: jj – “Ecstasy”

NPR has posted a World Cafe session with Shout Out Louds.

The Bellingham Herald interviews Norway’s Casiokids, who have set a date at Supermarket for August 27 in support of Topp Stemning Pa Lokal Bar.

MP3: Casiokids – “Fot i hose”
MP3: Casiokids – “Finn bikkjen!”

Serena-Maneesh return to Toronto in support of S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor with a date at The Garrison on October 1, part of a co-headline tour with Wovenhand.

MP3: Serena Maneesh – “I Just Want To See Your Face”
MP3: Serena-Maneesh – “Ayisha Abyss”

Last week, PitchforkTV ran a Cemetery Gates video session series with Jonsi and altsounds an interview.

PitchforkTV is streaming the Vincent Moon-directed Mogwai feature Adelia: I Want To Love. Their new concert film/album Burning/Special Moves is out August 24 and there’ll be a screening of the film on September 14 at the Drake Underground.

Video: Adelia: I Want To Love

Interview talks to Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys.

The Pipettes have rolled out a new video from their just-released new album Earth Vs. the Pipettes

Video: The Pipettes – “Call Me”

The Fly serves up a courtyard video session with Johnny Flynn.

If you thought the July 19 show at the Horseshoe with We Are Scientists was undersized, it’s even moreso now that Lightspeed Champion has been announced as support. He’s got a number of North American dates in support of this year’s Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You.

Video: Lightspeed Champion – “Madame Van Damme”

Spinner continues to get mileage out af an interview with The Joy Formidable. And I continue to enable them.

Chart and Exclaim chat with Kele. He plays the Mod Club solo on July 27.

Mumford & Sons tell BBC they might try something different with album number two.

Beth Orton’s August 12 show at the Mod Club has been cancelled.

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Your Head Is On Fire

Broken Bells announce North American tour and a bunch of other stuff about stuff

Photo via Broken BellsBroken BellsSo I’m sitting here on Wednesday night with a headache and a pile of links and no particular idea what I’m going to do with them. Got some contests and the last of the SxSW stuff to dole out over the long weekend, but for today, it’s gonna be one of those housecleaning posts.

Starting with the announcement of Broken Bells’ first North American tour, which includes a June 2 date at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto. The collaboration between workaholic producer Danger Mouse and Shins frontman James Mercer yielded a self-titled debut last month and while the little bit I heard of it at SxSW – from the street while they played in a parking garage – didn’t especially wow me, it’s been reasonably well-received and I feel like I should, as a Shins fan, at least give it a fair shake. The band’s set at the NPR showcase from SxSW is available to stream for anyone wondering how it translates live. Support on this tour will come from The Morning Benders, who themselves are presently on tour and will be in town at The Drake on April 14.

Video: Broken Bells – “The High Road”

Moving on to stuff coming through town over the next few months – Serena-Maneesh’s appearance tomorrow night has been moved from The Great Hall to the Drake Underground; appropriate since the Norwegians’ new record S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor was recorded in a cave. Cave? Underground? Get it? Bah.

Rolling Stone declares Swedes Love Is All to be “breaking” and talks to frontwoman Josephine Olausson. They bring their new record Two Thousand and Ten Injuries to the Horseshoe on Saturday night, April 3.

MP3: Love Is All – “Bigger, Bolder”

NOW, hour.ca and The Chicago Tribune interview The xx, in town at the Phoenix on April 4 and again at the Kool Haus on April 20.

In addition to two shows at Lee’s Palace next week – April 6 and 7 – the Drive-By Truckers will be doing an in-store across the street at Sonic Boom on the 7th at 5PM in what’s being billed as “Patterson Hood & Members of Drive By Truckers”. In other words, expect to see Hood with an acoustic guitar and a passel of songs, and maybe some of his bandmates will show up if they feel so inclined. I warn you though, Cooley, that if you try to stand on the monitors while taking a solo you WILL hit your head on the ceiling – you can have that one for free. Spinner has a chat with Hood about his Southern roots.

State and Owen Pallett, who plays the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on April 8.

Donewaiting interviews Fanfarlo frontman Simon Balthazar. They play Lee’s Palace on April 9.

Plants & Animals are celebrating the April 20 release of their second album La La Land with a free show at the Horseshoe that night. Beatroute has an interview.

The Province and The Montreal Gazette profile Dan Mangan, in town at the Horseshoe on April 22.

The Fly and MOG talk to Jonsi about his new solo record Go, which is due out next Tuesday. The whole album is currently streaming at NPR and he has two dates at the Sound Academy on April 30 and May 1.

Stream: Jonsi / Go

The Fly talks to Caribou main man Dan Snaith about his new record Swim. It’s out April 20 and he plays the Phoenix on May 3.

The Joy Formidable frontwoman Ritzy Bryan gives The Fly a sneak preview of their upcoming full-length follow-up to last year’s A Balloon Called Moaning; a record which is getting a North American release on May 4, the same day they play a free, sure to be awesome show at the Horseshoe. Strange Glue has the remainder of their North American tour dates.

Bad Veins have been added as support for Two Door Cinema Club’s show at Wrongbar on May 17. This will be their first time in Toronto, after their show with Now Now Every Children last Summer was snookered by a dead van. Spinner has an interview with the Cincinnati duo.

MP3: Bad Veins – “Gold & Warm”
MP3: Bad Veins – “Go Home”

The Sadies will celebrate the release of their new record Dark Circles with a show at Lee’s Palace on May 22; tickets $18 in advance. They’ll also be your Canada Day entertainment at Harbourfront Centre – July 1, yo.

Exclaim converses with John K Samson of The Weakerthans, who play the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on May 26.

Spin has a stream of a new song from the second Born Ruffians record Say It, due June 1, and they also note that there’ll be a show at the Horseshoe in Toronto on May 28.

German electronica duo Mouse On Mars have a date at the Drake Underground on June 1, though their next record isn’t due out until next year. Sometimes you just have to get out of the house, I guess.

Video: Mouse On Mars – “Actionist Respoke”

His two nights at the Drake Underground on June 11 and 12 will be super-cozy, but Robyn Hitchcock takes intimate a step further in this Black Cab Session.

Tiger Weekly talks to Ted Leo, who brings his Pharmacists to Lee’s Palace on June 26.

And now to the stuff not coming through town in the next while – Black Mountain frontman Stephen McBean gives Exclaim a sneak preview of their next album, tentatively entitled Wilderness Heart and due out later in the Summer.

Soundproof and Spinner talk to Mark Hamilton of Woodpigeon, who has offered a tribute to Alex Chilton in the form of a cover of “Thirteen”.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “Thirteen”

Bad Panda Records Q&A’s Great Lake Swimmer Tony Dekker and offers up a free live track to download.

MP3: Great Lake Swimmers – “Gonna Make It Through This Year” (live)

Woodhands have released a new video for the best tune – in my humble opinion – from Remorsecapade.

Video: Woodhands – “Dissembler”

The Line Of Best Fit and Drowned In Sound talk to Joel Gibb of The Hidden Cameras.

Tokyo Police Club have set a June 8 release date for their second album Champ and are giving away the first MP3 from it on their website; The Brock Press talks to keyboardist Graham Wright about the new record.

An acoustic version of one of the tracks from Bettie Serveert’s new record Pharmacy Of Love is up for grabs.

MP3: Bettie Serveert – “Semaphore” (acoustic)

Yours Truly has a video session with Taken By Trees.

4AD reports that Camera Obscura and Richard Hawley will be releasing a split-7″ on May 17 wherein the former covers the latter’s “The Nights Are Cold” while the latter remixes the former’s “The Sweetest Thing”. Clearly, I must have this.

NME reports that Glasvegas drummer Caroline McKay has left the band.

The Line Of Best Fit and The Fly have interviews with Laura Marling, whose I Speak Because I Can is out next week in North America, though for now it doesn’t appear there’s any vinyl edition of said album on the horizon. Bah.

Editors bassist Russell Leetch talks to The Line Of Best Fit.

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Blow Yr Brains In The Morning Rain

Review of Serena-Maneesh’s S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor and giveaway

Photo By Alex John BeckAlex John BeckI headed into SxSW last week with a list of artists I wanted to see at the festival and I actually did quite well at crossing names off of it – the only two really notable misses were Los Angeles’ Local Natives and Norwegian ragna-rockers Serena-Maneesh. I had experienced the Norwegians in Austin before – their gleefully insane set was one of the highlights of the 2006 festival – but this time out, their schedules and mine just didn’t gel.

Though our last encounter was four years ago at a short but destructive (see a trend?) show at Lee’s Palace in September 2006, I haven’t missed much with the band in the interim. It’s taken them that long to follow up their self-titled debut, which they finally did this week with the release of S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor, and if you think they’ve spent the time away learning new tricks… think again.

Quantitatively, Abyss is probably more sophisticated and melodic than its predecessor, but the underlying template remains very much the same, and it’s easily summed up as My Bloody Velvet Underground, all dreamy vocals overtop unrelenting rhythms and swirling aural chaos, divided into concise pop jewels and sprawling jams. And while the potency of the formula isn’t necessarily diminished on a visceral level – that’d be like saying that being punched in the face doesn’t hurt as much the second time – it doesn’t feel as fresh this time out, even if it may well be a better record.

It certainly contains their finest moment to date in “I Just Want To See Your Face”, a divine-sounding lost MBV track if ever there was one with vocalist Lina Wallinder channeling Belinda Butcher more than a little. And perhaps it’s telling that they’re at their best when sounding their most derivative? These, however, are considerations that are only likely to arise when you’re not actually listening to the album and have time to think objectively. When immersed in it, you’ll likely be too busy exalting in the sonic bedlam to worry if it’s really bringing anything new to the table – and that goes double for their live show, which though I haven’t seen it in some years I can’t imagine being any less chaotic.

To prove that point, Serena-Maneesh returns to Toronto on April 2 for a show at the Great Hall; tickets are $14 in advance but courtesy of Union Events, I’ve got five pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to see Serena-Maneesh” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Obviously this giveaway is only good for folks in the Toronto area – to all residents of North America, including locals who enter the concert giveaway, and courtesy of 4AD, I’ve also got a limited-edition 12″ single of “Ayisha Abyss” up for grabs. If you’d like that, email me again at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want 12″ of Serena-Maneesh” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address in the body. Contest for both closes at midnight, March 31.

The Georgia Straight interviews Serena-Maneesh frontman Emil Nikolaisen.

MP3: Serena Maneesh – “I Just Want To See Your Face”
MP3: Serena-Maneesh – “Ayisha Abyss”
Video: Serena-Maneesh – “I Just Want To See Your Face”
Stream: Serena-Maneesh / S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor
MySpace: Serena-Maneesh

Exclaim talks to Jonsi, who has released a new video from his solo record Go, originally supposed to be out this week but now pushed back until April 6. He still plays the Sound Academy on April 30 and May 1.

Video: Jonsi – “Kolnidur”

NPR’s World Cafe doubles up on the Swedes with one session featuring El Perro Del Mar and another with Taken By Trees. AndPop and Smile At Your Sister also have interviews with El Perro Del Mar’s Sarah Assbring.

The AV Club, hour.ca and The Boston Herald talk to The Big Pink.

Paste and Express Night Out talk to The xx. They are at the Phoenix on April 4 and the Kool Haus on April 20. Both shows are sold out.

Arctic Monkeys have rolled out a new video from Humbug.

Video: Arctic Monkeys – “My Propeller”

The Quietus revisits Suede circa Coming Up.

Elbow frontman Guy Garvey discusses the importance of the album with BBC6.

Let’s Wrestle make a mixtape for Magnet. They’ll be at the Horseshoe on April 18 with Quasi, who’ve just released a new video from American Gong.

Video: Quasi – “Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler”

Carrie Brownstein tells Pitchfork that a Sleater-Kinney reunion could happen in the next three to five years.

The Listener and Aquarium Drunkard talk to Dean Wareham. The new set of Galaxie 500 reissues came out this week.

Each Note Secure interviews A Place To Bury Strangers, who’ve just released a new video from Exploding Head.

Video: A Place To Bury Strangers – “Ego Death”

MGMT, whose second album Congratulations arrives April 13, will be at the Mod Club on April 29 for an intimate-type show. Not as intimate as their surprise gig at Captain John’s Seafood Restaurant a couple weeks ago, but the Mod Club probably smells better. Tickets are $30 and go on sale Saturday at 10AM.

Though not currently listed on their tour itinerary, CocoRosie will be at the Phoenix on June 15 in support of their new album Grey Oceans, out May 11.

Whilst killing time during my accidental time off in Austin earlier this week, I happened up on the Yard Dog art gallery on South Congress where they were selling pieces by one Jon Langford, whom as it happens is in town tonight at the Horseshoe with The Sadies and in addition to the regular sort of merch, will have some of his artwork available for sale – this stuff is cool and better than a t-shirt. Check it – and the show – out tonight.

Spinner, JAM and NOW have features on the Thrush Hermit reunion which rolls into Lee’s Palace this weekend for shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

And oh yeah, the official trailer for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is now out and it’s onomatopoeiariffic. The film is released August 13 while the sixth and final book of the series, recently revealed to have the titled of Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, will be out July 20.

Trailer: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Soft As Chalk

Joanna Newsom at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI don’t know exactly when I became a Joanna Newsom fan. Though I’d certainly heard people talk about her, my first exposure to her music wasn’t through either of her first two records but by seeing her live on her first visit to Toronto in October 2006 – a breathtaking performance that had me picking up The Milk-Eyed Mender almost immediately thereafter and the follow-up Ys when it came out later that year, but even then I didn’t listen to them all that much. They were my go-to records for when I was in the mood for ornate and expansive, harp-led folk music, sure, but for some reason that wasn’t that often.

Even so, I was still amongst those who picked up her new triple-album Have One On Me on the day of release, and while you’d think that two hours of Joanna Newsom for anyone less than a fanatic would be overwhelming, I instead found it surprisingly immersive and immediate. It’s less quirky than Mender and less epic than Ys, but to my ears, more fully realized. Whereas the talking points for her earlier records focused on her unusual voice or the elaborate orchestrations that adorned her compositions, the only thing worth talking about on Have One On Me is the songs themselves. It’s as though she’s developed enough confidence in her craft to no longer hide behind an affected singing style or lush orchestrations, and though on paper it makes her more conventional, the sheer quality of the work makes that complaint null and void. If I wasn’t a huge Joanna Newsom fan before hearing Have One On Me, I certainly was by the time side 6 hit the runout groove.

As such, I fit right in with the rest of sold-out crowd packed into the Phoenix on Saturday night, breathlessly awaiting her first appearance in Toronto in three and a half years. And waiting. It was at least 20 minutes past her scheduled start time before the curtains were drawn back and her band’s setup revealed. Whereas her last visit was just her solo, this time she brought a five-piece backing band – drums, horn, strings and guitar – to help recreate the arrangements on the record and she herself would start things off not at her signature harp, but the grand piano. Leading off with “Easy”, Newsom managed the impressive feat of utterly silencing 1000 people as she played, all of whom were hanging on every note she played, every word she sang.

After a trio of songs on the piano – and after the allotted time for photography was over, hence the piano-only gallery – Newsom moved to the harp for “In California” and remained there for the remainder of the set. For all the elegance of the music, the first part of the set was marked by some endearingly grounded interaction from Newsom and her band. She forgot the words to “The Book Of Right-On” and then took an extended break to tune her harp, leaving drummer Neal Morgan to chat with the crowd, answer questions and generally buy time. Time which would turn out to be at a premium, as the Phoenix’s looming curfew would put a hard cap on the proceedings. Getting back down to business, they played “No Provenance” and the title track from the new record before closing with the sole Ys cut, “Emily”. Everything was uniformly gorgeous-sounding, the Phoenix never sounding better. The only source of disappointment on the evening was that it ended at 9PM, though after some (myself included) had left – the house lights and music were on! – the stalwarts managed to call Newsom and her band back for an encore. I’m sorry I missed that reading of “Baby Birch”, but it in no way diminishes the hour of music I did get to take in. Just as I said after her last show…. Amazing.

The National Post, The Globe & Mail, Exclaim and Chart all have reviews of the show and share the complaint that the set was too short. I agree, but would point out that Newsom’s Mod Club show wasn’t more than an hour long and while I’ve never played a harp, I imagine it’s pretty fatiguing – especially for 10-minute stretches whilst singing. She was toweling herself off after the more sprawling numbers. I don’t know if she does especially long shows, curfew or not? Maybe we’ll find out when her show in Washington DC on March 23 is webcast live on NPR.

Photos: Joanna Newsom @ The Phoenix – March 13, 2010
Video: Joanna Newsom – “The Sprout & The Bean”

Gibson Guitars talks to Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers about his guitars (natch) and just-released new album The Big To-Do, currently streaming at Spinner – who also have an interview. They’re at Lee’s Palace on April 6 and 7 and were, curiously, the pre-show music over the PA at the Joanna Newsom show. Maybe they were late taking the stage because she was playing air guitar to Southern Rock Opera.

Stream: Drive-By Truckers / The Big To-Do

New York drone merchants Cold Cave have a date at Wrongbar on June 19.

MP3: Cold Cave – “Theme From Tomorrowland”
MP3: Cold Cave – “Laurels Of Erotomania”
MP3: Cold Cave – “Life Magazine”
Video: Cold Cave – “Life Magazine”

Pitchfork has a feature interview with Matt Ward and Zooey Deschanel of She & Him, whose new album Volume Two is streaming in its entirety over at NPR, a week before its March 23 release. They play The Phoenix on June 9.

Stream: She & Him / Volume Two

Wye Oak will be releasing a new EP entitled My Neighbor / My Creator on June 8, and are sharing a first MP3 from said release. They’re hitting the road with Shearwater this Spring and will be at Lee’s Palace with them on April 1.

MP3: Wye Oak – “I Hope You Die”

Billboard talks to Spoon drummer Jim Eno. They play The Sound Academy on March 29.

4AD has details of what’s sure to be one of the coolest Record Store Day specials this year – a live concert DVD from The Mountain Goats wherein John Darnielle performs The Life Of The World To Come in its entirety.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Ted Leo.

Magnet kicks off a week of handing the editorial reins to Miles Kurosky, whose solo debut The Desert Of Shallow Effects is out now.

Check out the new video from Retribution Gospel Choir.

Video: Retribution Gospel Choir – “Workin’ Hard”

NPR has a Tiny Desk Concert with The Antlers. They’re opening up for The National at Massey Hall on June 8 and 9.

And speaking of The National, Pitchfork has details on their new one High Violet, due out May 11 including cover art and tracklisting.

New Hot Chip video! They’re at the Kool Haus on April 20.

Video: Hot Chip – “I Feel Better”

The Quietus talks to Bernard Sumner of Bad Lieutenant.

Spinner talks to Swedish duo First Aid Kit. They’re at the Rivoli on June 12.

Serena-Maneesh, whose new record S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor comes out March 23, talk to Spinner. They play the Great Hall on April 2.

Exclaim talks to John K Samson of The Weakerthans, whose Live At The Burton Cummings Theatre is out next week and streaming right now at Exclaim. They play an in-store at Sonic Boom on March 25 and a proper show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on May 26.

Stream: The Weakerthans / Live At The Burton Cummings Theatre

The Toronto date for Lilith Fair has been announced – it’s happening July 24 at the Molson Amphitheatre. I had been saying that if we got the right combination of acts from the pool of talent already announced to be participating, it could be good. Well so far, we have not.

And y’all will excuse me as I immerse myself in South By South Nonsense for the next few days – trip down was completely uneventful, which was all I hoped for, and though it’s a touch cooler here in ATX than I’d like (or have packed for), it’s gonna be a good time.