Posts Tagged ‘Smith Westerns’

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

SxSW 2011 Day Four A/V

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSome notes from the day.

Smith Westerns
– Scrappy/snotty Chicago punks gone glam on their second album Dye It Blonde. NPR is streaming one of their SxSW showcases. They’ll be at The Phoenix on June 7 opening up for Yeasayer.
Photos: Smith Westerns @ The Mohawk Patio – March 19, 2011
MP3: Smith Westerns – “Imagine, Pt 3”
MP3: Smith Westerns – “Be My Girl”
Video: Smith Westerns – “Weekend”

Wild Flag
– Hard-rocking Sleater-Kinney/Helium/Minders supergroup whose debut album is due out around September. Rolling Stone talks to Carrie Brownstein and NPR is streaming one of their SxSW showcases.
Photos: Wild Flag @ The Mohawk Patio – March 19, 2011
MP3: Wild Flag – “Glass Tambourine”

Okkervil River
– Austin folk-rockers gearing up for the release of their new album I Am Very Far on May 10. Spinner has an interview with Will Sheff and NPR has some notes from him on their new video for lead single “Wake And Be Fine”. They play The Phoenix on June 10.
Photos: Okkervil River @ The Mohawk Patio – March 19, 2011
MP3: Okkervil River – “Wake And Be Fine”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Lost Coastlines”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe”
MP3: Okkervil River – “The President’s Dead”
MP3: Okkervil River – “No Key, No Plan”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Black”
MP3: Okkervil River – “It Ends With A Fall”
Video: Okkervil River – “Wake And Be Fine”
Video: Okkervil River – “Lost Coastlines”
Video: Okkervil River – “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe”
Video: Okkervil River – “Girl In Port”
Video: Okkervil River – “For Real”

TV On The Radio
– Brooklyn art-&-soul-rock heroes return from side and solo projects for album number four, Nine Types Of Light, which comes out April 12. They play The Sound Academy on April 18.
Photos: TV On The Radio @ The Mohawk Patio – March 19, 2011
MP3: TV On The Radio – “Will Do”
MP3: TV On The Radio – “Dry Drunk Emperor”
MP3: TV On The Radio – “Wolf Like Me”
Video: TV On The Radio – “Will Do”
Video: TV On The Radio – “Golden Age”
Video: TV On The Radio – “Dancing Choose”
Video: TV On The Radio – “Wolf Like Me”
Video: TV On The Radio – “Province”
Video: TV On The Radio – “Staring At The Sun”

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

SxSW 2011 Day Four

Wild Flag, TV On The Radio, Okkervil River and more at SxSW

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangContrary to normal festivals wherein the biggest names are often held back until the final night so as to finish things off with a bang, at SxSW artists who typically play multiple showcases over the four days want nothing more than to get out of town as quickly as possible and as such, the Saturday lineup can be kind of lean. That’s what I was expecting out of the last day, anyways, as I’d forgotten to RSVP for one of the last stacked day parties – the Mog to-do at the Mohawk – and assumed I’d be club-hopping through the afternoon looking for something to pique my interest. Until it came to my attention that there was not, in fact, any RSVP for the party and all it’d take to get in would be to stand in line nice and early for an hour or so. Which I was willing to do.

And so it was I was in The Mohawk just a few minutes into Smith Westerns’ set. I hadn’t seen them yet this festival, which might sound like no big deal but considering the number of higher-profile parties and showcases they were playing, it was more of an achievement than you might think. And it wasn’t necessarily that I was avoiding them, but their lauded new record Dye It Blonde didn’t do much for me and so I wasn’t making an effort. Still, they’d finally managed to get in front of my eyeballs and in doing so, didn’t make me regret not having caught them sooner. There were traces of the glam-rock adjectives that their new record has been garnering, but the not-especially-lively delivery and sludgy-sounding mix made them seem more stoner (or stoned) than anything. I certainly wasn’t won over and the rest of the audience appeared to be various shades of nonplussed. Maybe I’ll be generous and chalk it up as another casualty of the noon hour set time.

Though if that were true, then an hour extra sleep must make all the difference because Wild Flag were up next and raring to go. The supergroup, featuring two-thirds of Sleater-Kinney, Mary Timony of Helium and Rebecca Cole of The Minders were one of the must-see acts of this year’s SxSW, both thanks to their alternative nation pedigree and reputation for ass-kicking live shows, and this was their last gig of the week. And while they’re a whole new band with new songs – Wild Flag have more classic rock affection than either Helium or SK did – there’s plenty familiar about them, most notably in Timony and Carrie Brownstein’s distinctive vocal styles. And while neither frontwoman was ever shy about showing off their guitar skills in their past outfits, seeing them trade riffs and solos amidst scissor kicks and over-the-head playing was fantastic to behold. Wild Flag seems to have been assembled with the single clear mandate of rocking out and having fun and while nothing of the new material jumped right out as a standout composition, at least on a first live listen, that they give these talents an excuse to get out there and show folks how it’s done is plenty of reason to celebrate anything they do.

Though there was no real imperative to see Okkervil River at this year’s SxSW – they’d be coming to town later this Summer – it’s always nice to see them do hometown shows and hey, I was right there. And following Wild Flag, so was Will Sheff… though I don’t know who those other folks with him were. Okay, that’s not fair – I’d seen most of the new members before on past tours, but the net turnover in personnel since 2005’s Black Sheep Boy is still pretty stunning – of the band that made that record, only Sheff remains. But if the change in faces wasn’t enough to convince you that this wasn’t the same old Okkervil, the sound they made on stage should have erased any doubts. Okkervil have always been a boisterous live act, but where they once had an unhinged, ramshackle folk-rock charm, they now have a distinctly squalling electric character. Lead guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo’s contributions give them a punchier attack but also makes them sound more conventional than in the past, and I’m pretty sure this was the first time I’d ever seen Sheff pick up an electric guitar. Their set favoured the older material, but still previewed three songs from the forthcoming I Am Very Far, which sounds to be a rawer work than their last couple efforts. Of course, that could just be the live treatment – the May 10 release will tell the tale.

I’ve never really counted myself as a fan of TV On The Radio. I respect their collective musical abilities and unique sound, but their records haven’t ever really connected with me – I’ve tried, but it just doesn’t happen. That said, I’ve always appreciated how good they are live and even though it’s been some four and a half years since I saw them last, that fact hasn’t changed – in fact, based on this performance, it may be even more true than ever. The Brooklynites graduated onto much larger stages than the Mohawk’s long ago, so it was very cool to be able to see them work at the club level. What I find most remarkable about their performance is how, no matter how explosive they get, they never revert to chaos to make an impression – led by the magnetically charismatic Tunde Adebimpe, they’re perfectly calm and wholly in control of everything happening at all times. Since bassist Gerard Smith was doing battle with lung cancer, these shows and the upcoming tour in support of new album Nine Kinds Of Light had regular drummer Jaleel Bunton covering bass duties and guest Japhet Landis taking over behind the kit but even with the changes in personnel, they were firing on all cylinders and basically affirming that while they’d taken some time off over the past year, they were absolutely back.

All things being equal I’d have stuck around for the final act of the day, Big Boi, but I’d already had a hell of a day of music and there was lunch to be had.

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Rumour Has It

Adele at The Masonic Temple in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangAdele has been a big deal for a while, her 2008 debut 19 having picked up all kinds of accolades and awards. And that’s kind of a shame because with that level of acclaim as a floor, it’s difficult to express just how much better the follow-up 21 is. I appreciated the debut as a showcase for Ms Adkin’s talents as a singer and songwriter, but the follow up bests it in pretty much every way.

Her voice is still as formidable a presence as ever, with so much inherent strength and character that the acrobatics and oversinging that those who would aspire to be her peers inevitably resort to are wholly unnecessary. But 21‘s songs themselves are more sophisticated, melodic and dynamic and so effortlessly cross genres like soul, gospel, folk, pop and even a couple commendable forays into rock that they make the idea of genres kind of pointless. Whereas on 19 some of the songs were there to serve the voice, on 21 everything is in service to the songs. In other words, it’s a hell of a record.

And in support of it, Adele was in town last night for a taping of MTV Live which included an intimate mini-concert at the Masonic Temple. Having not seen her perform before – I think her Toronto appearances took her directly from The Rivoli to Massey Hall – I felt fortunate that I was invited to attend this show. Following a sort-of late-night talk show format segment that wasn’t as terrible as a feared and certainly featured more on-camera raunch and swearing than I’d expected, Adele came out delivered a set that was brief but also would have convinced anyone that she was the real deal.

Backed by a full six-piece band, she opened with “Rolling In The Deep” and then stripped (and sat) down with just a pianist and cup of tea for the ballady portion of the show, delivering “Someone Like You”, “Turning Tables” and 19 Dylan cover “Feel My Love” with astonishing presence despite not having much in the way of stage moves. Between songs, she took the time to banter and joke with the adoring audience – there was certainly no sign of the stage fright that she’s said to suffer from – and after inviting her band back, closed with “Chasing Pavements”. A short but completely stirring set that proved that having the lungs and the voice is only meaningful if they’re connected directly to the heart.

Adele plays a sold-out show at The Kool Haus on May 18. The Daily Record has an interview.

Video: Adele – “Rolling In The Deep”
Video: Adele – “Make You Feel My Love”
Video: Adele – “Chasing Pavements”
Video: Adele – “Cold Shoulder”

Spinner, BBC and The Guardian talk to Noah & The Whale, whose new record Last Night On Earth is available to stream at NME in advance of its March 15 release date. If their goal with this record was to no longer be lumped in with the English anti-folk movement… well I think they’ve done it. Noah & The Whale and their synths will be at The Mod Club on March 24.

Stream: Noah & The Whale / Last Night On Earth

The “director’s cut” for one of Mumford & Sons’ videos from Sigh No More is now online, though curiously it’s about 9 seconds shorter than the official version.

Video: Mumford & Sons – “Winter Winds” (director’s cut)
Video: Mumford & Sons – “Winter Winds”

Spinner talks to Esben & The Witch, in town at Wrongbar next Friday night for Canadian Musicfest.

Vanity Fair and University Observer Q&A Anna Calvi, who was also supposed to be on that Wrongbar CMF bill but who has cancelled all dates prior to that one and the one after due to an arm/hand injury. So while I await the official word, it’s safe to say that the Toronto show is off as well.

The Quietus interviews Liam Gallagher of Beady Eye.

Drowned In Sound meets Gruff Rhys, who follows up the May 3 release of Hotel Shampoo with a date at The Horseshoe on June 11.

Ladytron have released a video for one of the new tracks that will appear on the Best of Ladytron: 00-10 compilation, due out March 29.

Video: Ladytron – “Age Of Hz”

Digital Spy talks to Patrick Wolf about his forthcoming new record Lupercalia, out May 31, while Spinner grabs an interview video-style.

A new Loney Dear video has surfaced. Let’s hope this means the new full-length Hall Music isn’t far behind.

Video: Loney Dear – “Young Hearts”

The Line Of Best Fit, Pitchfork, Blurt and Exclaim all have interviews with Lykke Li about her spanking new record Wounded Rhymes. She is at The Phoenix on May 22.

The Line Of Best Fit points out a new video from The Concretes and a complete live show from Paris available to stream at Grand Crew.

Video: The Concretes – “Crack In The Paint”

Blurt reports that the third salvo of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds reissues will arrive on May 17 and cover his ’90s output with bonus-loaded editions of Let Love In, Murder Ballads, The Boatman’s Call and No More Shall We Part.

R.E.M.’s new record Collapse Into Now is available to stream all over the place leading up to its release next week. Check it out at Exclaim

Stream: R.E.M. / Collapse Into Now

And here are some of the new(ish) concert announcements for this week; Joe Pug and Strand Of Oaks have a date at The Horseshoe on April 20, tickets $10.

MP3: Strand Of Oaks – “Bonfire”

Joan As Police Woman, whom I don’t think has been to Toronto in the past four years if ever – a Summer 2007 show was cancelled – will be at The Drake on April 21 as part of a tour in support of her new record The Deep Field, which comes out on April 11, tickets $12. After Ellen has a feature.

MP3: Joan As Police Woman – “The Magic”
MP3: Joan As Police Woman – “To Be Loved”

Guitar Wolf have a date at Lee’s Palace for May 17, extending their previously-announced North American tour, tickets $18.50. They released Uchusenkan Love last Fall.

MP3: Guitar Wolf – “After School Thunder”

Anti reports that Man Man are almost done work on their new record and are setting out on tour, presumably to promote. They’re in Toronto on May 26 at Lee’s Palace, tickets $17.50.

MP3: Man Man – “Top Drawer”

Sondre Lerche gives New York Magazine the scoop on his new self-titled record, due out June 7. He’ll be playing songs from it – presumably – when he hits The Mod Club on May 31, tickets $18.50.

Here’s a tour filled with more win than Charlie Sheen – Okkervil River, Titus Andronicus and Future Islands stopping in at The Phoenix on June 10, tickets $18.50 in advance. Okkervil will release their new record I Am Very Far on May 10, Titus are still working last year’s glorious The Monitor (and will still be at The Horseshoe for their own headlining show April 1) and Future Islands released In Evening Air last year.

MP3: Okkervil River – “Wake And Be Fine” (live on Jimmy Fallon)
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union”
MP3: Future Islands – “Tin Man”

That same night but costing $18.50 less than the Okkervil show – that’s free, if you don’t feel like doing the math – is The Joel Plaskett Emergency performing at Metro Hall as part of this year’s Luminato arts festival. Their set time is 9:20PM.

MP3: The Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Deny Deny Deny”

And finally, some fellow with Britpop love in his heart and too much time on his hands has begun digitizing archives of Select Magazine. I bought so many mediocre records based on their boundless enthusiasm, but also some awesome ones. Ah, nostalgia.

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

One For You, One For Me

Bright Eyes bring The People’s Key to the people

Photo via FacebookFacebookThat sound you hear is the sound of legions of Bright Eyes fans, whom having just recovered from the news that Conor Oberst was returning to that project for one more record in The People’s Key on February 15, are swooning and weeping (with joy) even more at the announcement of the first leg of tour dates to support said record.

Oberst last played Toronto as Bright Eyes back in May of 2007 with a show at Massey Hall, but didn’t return with his own Mystic Valley Band solo thing. He did make an appearance last Fall with his Monsters Of Folk compatriots, again at Massey, but TO Conor-ites will finally get a proper fix next March when he leads whomever is in Bright Eyes this time out for a show at the Sound Academy on March 13. Not the classy digs he’s gotten used to over the last couple visits, no, but venue complaints aside you can bet that the date is being circled on a lot of calendars right now, especially if the rumours that this is Oberst’s final kick at the Bright Eyes can are accurate.

Tickets for the Toronto show are $34.50 for general admission (aka those who need to be as close to Conor as possible) and $49.50 for VIP (aka those who need to be as far from those who need to be as close to Conor as possible) and go on sale this Friday, December 17.

MP3: Bright Eyes – “Four Winds”
MP3: Bright Eyes – “Lua”
MP3: Bright Eyes – “Lover I Don’t Have To Love”

Connoisseurs of French pop will be pleased to know that Parisians Revolver have made a date at the Drake Underground for March 3, tickets $10.50 in advance. Their debut Music For A While was released domestically back in August.

MP3: Revolver – “Get Around Town”
Video: Revolver – “Leave Me Alone”
Video: Revolver – “Balulalow”

Those who missed Chicagoan glam-punk moppets The Smith Westerns last month when they opened for Florence & The Machine and played a tiny after show the same evening will be pleased to know they’ve slated a proper tour and will be back in town at the Horseshoe on February 28. And they’ve put out a new video, too. Their second album Dye It Blonde is out January 18.

MP3: Smith Westerns – “Imagine, Pt 3”
Video: The Smith Westerns – “Weekend”

The first sample of The Rural Alberta Advantage’s new record Departing is now up for grabs. The record is out March 1 and they play a sold-out show at Lee’s Palace tomorrow night.

MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Stamp”

Dodos frontman Meric Long talks to Pitchfork about their plans for album number three.

The Mountain Goats are giving away a new MP3 for a song that won’t be appearing on their next album All Eternals Deck when it’s released on March 29. But hey – new Mountain Goats.

MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Tyler Lambert’s Grave”

NPR has a World Cafe session with Johnny Flynn.

The Quietus interviews Titus Andronicus. The band, not the fictional character.

The first video from Nicole Atkins’ forthcoming Mondo Amore is now available for all to see. The record is out January 25 and she plays the Horseshoe on February 26.

Video: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”

Colin Meloy previews some of The Decemberists’ new record The King Is Dead in session for NPR. The album is out January 18 and they play The Sound Academy on February 1.

The AV Club’s AV Undercover series from this Summer is over and done, they’re busting out the covers series for the holiday season with Holiday Undercover, which includes Shearwater covering Randy Newman’s bummer seasonal tune “God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)” and Kate Nash taking on Slade’s “Merry X-Mas Everybody”.

And speaking of Randy Newman, he’s coming to town for a date at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall on March 26 of next year.

Video: Randy Newman – “I Love LA”

American Songwriter contemplates the career of Jay Farrar and chooses their 20 favourite songs.

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Penny Sparkle

Blonde Redhead at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI loved Blonde Redhead’s 23. Lots of people did. All churning guitars, delicate vocals and big, danceable rhythms, it was like a lost, great Creation Records album and ably scratched an itch that few had been able to reach in years and years. So I understand where people are coming from in not feeling this year’s follow-up, Penny Sparkle, and its synths-first dedication to atmosphere. And the complaints that the record sort of wandered aimlessly and lacked the drive and direction of its predecessor? Truth there as well. But I find that to be one of the album’s strengths, rather than a weakness – if you were going to go for an aimless wander, which I certainly advocate as an activity now and again, I can think of worse soundtracks than Penny Sparkle and its gauzy charms. Point being, it is its own thing and on the terms that it was intended, it’s a pretty good record.

Either way, “aimless” was not going to be a word to describe their performance at The Phoenix on Sunday night. Even before they took the stage, it was clear they were here on business. Their elaborate set dressings included smoke machines, numerous spotlights, decorative overhead reflector umbrellas and numerous incandescent light bulbs with flickering filaments similar in shape to their album artwork – it all looked quite fabulous, though it was a nightmare to shoot in. When they finally did come out to play – 25 minutes later than scheduled – it was with plenty of direction, and that direction was clearly in your face with the bass. Over an hour-long set that went back and forth between 23 and Penny Sparkle like the two sides of the same coin they really are, the trio – occasionally a quartet with the help of a second keyboardist – followed a deep, continuous groove that alternately showcased Kazu Makino’s keening vocals and sinewy dance moves, Amedeo Pace’s otherworldy guitarwork, twin Simone Pace’s acoustic and electronic drum mastery or all at once.

As you’d expect, the Penny Sparkle material was much heavier live, thanks in no small part to the massive amounts of low end being pumped into the decently-filled Phoenix. It was actually excessive and to the sound’s detriment at a few points, but you had to be impressed at the amount of bass a band without a bassist produced. The band was very much in the zone and while that meant that chit-chat was off the agenda – besides some quick hellos and thanks, there was no audience interaction – the musical payoff was worth it. Long-time fans were rewarded with the encore, which I can only assume delved further back into their catalog because a) I didn’t recognize the selections and b) they were much more unhinged than the familiar, recent stuff and certainly sounded like I imagine Blonde Redhead did in their noisier days, before bringing things back to the present for a gentle denouement. And then a final wave and goodbye.

Chart also has a review of the show.

Photos: Blonde Redhead @ The Phoenix – October 17, 2010
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “Here Sometimes”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “23”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “Not Getting There”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “Misery Is A Butterfly”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “In Particular”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “A Cure”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “Missile”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “Distilled”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “My Impure Hair”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “Top Ranking”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “The Dress”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “Silently”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “23”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “Melody”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “Equus”
MySpace: Blonde Redhead

Exclaim reports that The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have set a March 2011 release date for their as-yet untitled second album.

Anyone who’s wanted to see Chicago punks Smith Westerns but not trek to (or pay for) the Sound Academy to see them support Florence & The Machine on November 3, take heart – following their opening set they’ll head across town to Parts & Labour the headline their own sweaty show – admission $6 at the door.

MP3: Smith Westerns – “Imagine, Pt 3”

The New York Times talks to Sufjan Stevens.

The title of R.E.M.’s next album has been revealed – Collapse Into Now will be out early next year.

Check out Titus Andronicus turning in a performance of “The Battle of Hampton Roads” in a video session for For No One.

The whole of Warpaint’s debut The Fool is available to stream at Hype Machine a week before its release next Tuesday. The Telegraph has an interview with the band.

Stream: Warpaint / The Fool

NYCTaper is sharing a recording of a live Built To Spill show.

The Los Angeles Times examines the concept of middle-aged rock bands using Superchunk and The Vaselines as case studies; both are coming to town soon(ish) – The Vaselines at The Horseshoe on October 30 and Superchunk at The Sound Academy on December 9, supporting Broken Social Scene. Clash also talks to the Scottish duo about the dangers of nostalgia.

Frightened Rabbit have a new video from The Winter Of Mixed Drinks.

Video: Frightened Rabbit – “The Loneliness And The Scream”

Spinner, and USA Today profile Mumford & Sons, who are playing a sold-out show at The Sound Academy on November 13.

The Guardian interviews Elvis Costello. His new record National Ransom will be out November 2.

Under The Radar has a feature on the sisters of First Aid Kit.

Israel’s Monotonix are better known for their anarchic live shows than anything they’ve ever committed to tape, so even though their new album Not Yet isn’t coming out until January 25 of next year, they’re staging a two-legged North American tour this Fall that will test the structural integrity of Sneaky Dee’s on December 11. I doubt many will be complaining that they don’t know the words to the new material, but one sample of the new record can be had below.

MP3: Monotonix – “Give Me More”