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Posts Tagged ‘Snowblink’

Friday, October 26th, 2012

London Conversations

Saint Etienne and Snowblink at The Opera House in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSo after a five year layoff, following the almost-simultaneous implosion of all my bands, I’ve begun picking up the guitar again on a regular basis. Mostly just messing around, getting my chops back in order and my calluses back, but certainly with more seriousness than I have in a very long time (though if anyone wants to start a band that sounds like The Afghan Whigs meets Catherine Wheel, get in touch). This is relevant because the last time Saint Etienne were here in 2002, despite the fact that two acts I liked – Dot Allison and Stars – were opening and that I actually did enjoy the one comp I had – Too Young To Die – I gave it a pass because I was certain that a synth/sample-only act – read: no guitars – would be boring to see.

But older and wiser, and having spent the past decade getting decidedly better acquainted with their work as well as their latest effort Words and Music by Saint Etienne, I was quite excited to make up for that missed opportunity on Wednesday night for the first show of their North American tour in support of Words & Music, whether they brought an orchestra or iPod for accompaniment. See, this is me growing as a music fan.

Opening act Snowblink more than supplied any six-string fix I might have needed. The duo of Daniela Gesundheit and Dan Goldman let their respective guitars, a Joe Satriani signature Ibanez (!) and Snowblink signature antler-laden SG for her, a homebrew Telecaster for him, merge to create a gentle, atmospheric rain shower of notes for Gesundheit’s birdlike voice to flitter through in running through selections from their new record, Inner Classics. The two got a bit of help from a third player on percussion and electronics and the audience as a bell section, but most of the magic came from the two Dans. And if you thought that Gesundheit’s vocals would be ill-suited to something as earthy as a cover of Patsy Cline’s “Fall To Pieces”, well they’d have proved you wrong.

Moving the show from the Mod Club, where it was originally intended, to the Opera House may have turned out to be overly optimistic – the audience could have easily fit into the cozier room – but it’s possible that some of their hardcore middle-aged Anglophile demographic had been peeled off by the New Order show happening over at the Sony Centre. But those who were there were excited enough to make up for the elbow room, and when the four-piece Saint Etienne – the core trio plus backing singer – took the stage, Cracknell radiant in a sequined dress, feather boa, and huge smile, they were clearly just as happy to be there.

As expected, the live set up was with producers Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs in back of the stage, safely ensconced behind their keyboards and walls of technology, and Debsey Wykes off to the side with her mic and the only acoustic instruments of the evening – a cowbell and melodica – leaving most of the stage for Cracknell. And while there wasn’t literally a single, giant spotlight on her for the show, there may as well have been because even without much else going on on stage, you couldn’t take your eyes off her; the elegant with a touch of coquette, glamorous yet grounded indie disco queen. From the opening synth beats of “Like A Motorway”, it was a near-perfect balance of hits and new material that focused on the upbeat over the torchy or ballady, turning the room into a time machine that carried the audience back to an era parallel to Britpop that was hip, stylish, and yob-free, to a romanticized London where you were 17 and the discovering music as a portal to another world – not unlike the experiences recounted in Words and Music opener “Over The Border”. It’s quite a feat to create such a vivid sense of nostalgia for a youth that wasn’t actually yours.

While my usual rule is that any electronic band would be better as a live band, it was no hardship to hear the songs done almost exactly as they were on record, given that extra dose of life by Cracknell and Wykes’ vocals and Wiggs and Stanley’s live keyboards overtop the sequences. Not many bands could make this sort of live presentation so enjoyable, but with a frontwoman like Cracknell and songs like theirs, Saint Etienne make it look effortless. I’m sure that there could be a wholly live incarnation of Saint Etienne that would be amazing to witness – “Sylvie” and “You’re In A Bad Way” would actually translate wonderfully – but it would probably require an absurd amount of players. This was more than fine as is.

After an hour long main set, they returned for a two-song encore that saw Cracknell botching the chorus in “I’ve Got Your Music”, but laughing it off and recovering wonderfully, before closing with a stellar version of “He’s On The Phone”. And despite an audience that really didn’t want to leave and demanded a second encore, that was the end. One could think about all the nuggets of perfect pop that we didn’t get to hear – “Hobart Paving”! “Hug My Soul”! – it was probably far better to focus on the goodness that we did get. Everyone seeing the band on their later dates, your in for a treat.

And if anyone wants to start a band that sounds like The Afghan Whigs meets Catherine Wheel meets Saint Etienne, get in touch.

Exclaim also has a review of the show and The Washington Post an interview with Sarah Cracknell.

Photos: Saint Etienne, Snowblink @ The Opera House – October 24, 2012
MP3: Saint Etienne – “Downey, CA”
MP3: Snowblink – “Unsurfed Waves”
MP3: Snowblink – “Black & White Mountains”
MP3: Snowblink – “Ambergris”
Video: Saint Etienne – “I’ve Got Your Music”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Tonight”
Video: Saint Etienne – “How We Used To Live”
Video: Saint Etienne – “The Bad Photographer”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Sylvie”
Video: Saint Etienne – “He’s On The Phone”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Hug My Soul”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Like A Motorway”
Video: Saint Etienne – “I Was Born On Christmas Day”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Pale Movie”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Hobart Paving”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Who Do You Think You Are”
Video: Saint Etienne – “You’re In A Bad Way”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Avenue”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Nothing Can Stop Us”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Kiss And Make Up”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”
Video: Snowblink – “Goodbye Eyes”
Video: Snowblink – “Black & White Mountains”
Video: Snowblink – “The Tired Bees”
Video: Snowblink – “Ambergris”

Under The Radar and Paste talk to Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes.

In conversation with The AV Club, Noel Gallagher dishes on how the solo thing is going and what’s up with his Amorphous Androgynous electronic side-project (very little).

Clash gets a look at the Joy Formidable library. They support The Gaslight Anthem at The Sound Academy on November 25 and release their second full-length Wolf’s Law on January 23.

They’d already announced the title of their third album – Holy Fire – but further details on the new record Foals have emerged at The Quietus, most interestingly that it’s been produced by Alan Moulder and Flood, and will be out February 11.

Dublin’s Little Green Cars have celebrated the close of their North American tour – it wrapped here in Toronto on Monday – with the release of the official video for their current single. Their full-length debut is due out early next year.

Video: Little Green Cars – “The John Wayne”

Even though it seems like they’ve been touring and promoting Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming forever – it’s been a year – M83 have just released a video for the third single.

Video: M83 – “Steve McQueen”

Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue have reprised their duet originally recorded for Cave’s 1995 Murder Ballads for Minogue’s new Abbey Road Sessions album, due out November 6 in North America. The track is available to stream and there’s an interview with Minogue about her quarter-century career at The Quietus.

Stream: Kylie Minogue with Nick Cave – “Where The Wild Roses Go”

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Maple Serum

Rheostatics ready reunion as roadhouse reaches retirement age

Photo via rheostatics.carheostatics.caIt was a pretty sweet get for Toronto’s Legendary Horseshoe Tavern to enlist Joel Plaskett for five nights of shows from December 12 to 16 to mark its 65th birthday, but they weren’t done. Canadian art-pop icons Rheostatics, who formally disbanded after eleven studio albums, four live albums, and a farewell show at Massey Hall in 2007, are getting back together for two nights at The ‘Shoe on December 5 and 6.

It’s not quite the record-setting twelve shows in twelve nights “Fall Nationals” concert series they held at the venue for four years straight starting in 2001, but it’s an absolutely fitting way to wish the fabled room a “happy birthday”. They’ve gotten together once before since splitting, to salute friend and author Paul Quarrington in 2009, but that was a one-off and the promise of new material from Martin Tielli, Dave Bidini, Tim Vesely, and Dave Clark at this show implies that despite each of them having no shortage of other projects to concentrate on, this reunion might have some legs. But for now, these two nights are a certainty. Tickets are $29.50 in advance and go on sale this Thursday at 10AM at the usual outlets.

And so we’re clear: The Horseshoe is not retiring, being retired, pining for the fjords, or anything of the sort. Just some alliterative fun on my part. It will outlive us all.

Video: Rheostatics – “The Tarleks”
Video: Rheostatics – “PIN”
Video: Rheostatics – “A Bad Time To Be Poor”
Video: Rheostatics – “Claire”
Video: Rheostatics – “Shaved Head”
Video: Rheostatics – “Record Body Count”
Video: Rheostatics – “Aliens (Christmas 1988)”
Video: Rheostatics – “The Ballad Of Wendel Clark, Parts I and II”"

Diamond Rings celebrates the release day for Free Expression – that’s today – with a new video and profile pieces at CBC Music and The National Post. He plays The Mod Club on November 29.

Video: Diamond Rings – “Runaway Love”

Dorkshelf interviews Daniela Gesundheit of Snowblink, who are opening up for Saint Etienne at The Opera House tomorrow night.

Spinner talks to Dan Mangan about the What Happens Next mini-documentary about the artist, who plays The Danforth Music Hall on October 25. The doc aired on CBC this past weekend; and is now available to watch online.

Video: What Happens Next: The Dan Mangan Documentary

Also of appeal to those who grew up on the Can-rock of the ’90s; CBC Music gets Matt Murphy of The Super Friendz to list off his five favourite albums of the past 20 years while The Coast gets Charles Austin to reminisce about the good old days. The reunited Haligonians hit Lee’s Palace on November 16.

Rolling Stone has premiered a new video from Stars, taken from The North. They’re at The Air Canada Centre on November 24 supporting Metric.

Video: Stars – “Backlines”

Canada.com has an interview with and CBC Music has a new video from Jenn Grant. She brings her latest The Beautiful Wild to The Winter Garden Theatre on November 24.

Video: Jenn Grant – “The Fighter”

Interview and NJ.com talk to A.C. Newman.

Kathleen Edwards talks to Exclaim and CBC Music about winning this year’s ECHO songwriting prize for her song, “A Soft Place To Land”. She also tells Exclaim about a new, all-female, all-star, all-sexy, Can-indie band she’s forming called Modern Beaver. She’s probably not serious but she has had the Twitter handle since last year and if it’s on Twitter, it has to be true. I read that on Twitter.

The Stool Pigeon talks to Dan Snaith about his Daphni project.

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Their Helicopters' Sing

Review of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

Photo By Yannick GrandmontYannick GrandmontUntil recently, Montréal’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor has been inexorably associated with a very certain moment in time, specifically the end of the last century and the dawn of this one. In addition to emerging at a time when post-rock was still an amorphous musical concept which was better felt than explained and Canada was only beginning to take steps towards becoming an international presence as home to exciting new music, Godspeed’s trilogy of albums – F# A#, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, and Yanqui U.X.O. rather perfectly captured the millennial tension of the time. By turns anxious, angstful, and angry, sounding simultaneously beautiful and terrifying, their mysteriousness gave Godspeed a sense of universality that spoke to people without the use of words. So while many were disappointed when the band went on hiatus in 2003, it also felt like a logical thing to do; their moment was ending.

One couldn’t help but wonder how they would have soundtracked the 21st century, though, what with society arguably declining further in disarray and injustice on so many fronts – if they were angry about the state of the world then, surely they’d be furious now. When they unexpectedly returned to action with live performances in 2010, it was mostly with old material that gave a generation of fans who’d only grown up with the legend a taste of what the reality was like. And though unfamiliar compositions did appear in their live sets, the band’s steadfast refusal to do interviews or offer any sort of public comment gave no hint if or when they would do anything further with them. Which, of course, was precisely how they liked it – else they wouldn’t have had the satisfaction of watching a portion of the internet blow up when they announced just last week that their fourth album, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, not only existed but was already available for sale at their live shows and would be out worldwide in a fortnight.

As ever, describing Godspeed remains a largely futile task. At least with the live shows, one could attempt to articulate the visceral experience of being assaulted with sound for night on three hours. Discussing the album, and what its intentions are, is much more difficult. Comprised of two 20-minute compositions and two six-minute drones – provided on vinyl via a 12″ and 7″ intended to be played in alternating sides – it’s unquestionably a Godspeed record from the first moment: a sample of what sounds to be a preacher leading into an electric guitar drone with violin lines dancing overtop, all evocative of a gathering storm.

It’s probably only really relevant to discuss Godspeed in terms relative to Godspeed. From that perspective, ‘Allelujah is surprisingly concise and impressively powerful, condensing the sprawl and swirl of Skinny Fists and eschewing the hazy ambiguity of Yanqui into two focused movements that build steadily and determinedly, but also surprisingly melodically. There’s still plenty of their signature unease, but as the main compositions build, they become more anthemic and, one might almost say, optimistic. Only almost, mind you. To Ascend may be the destination, but ‘Allelujah makes it no easy trip – the two drone pieces might seem superfluous, but really do serve a purpose – “Their Helicopters’ Sing” as base camps of a sort, to regroup and recover, and “Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable” as the view from the summit. Unexpected but wholly welcome, with ‘Allelujah, Godspeed You! Black Emperor prove they not only continue to have their fingers on the pulse of our present, but actually offer some hope for the future.

‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is out next Tuesday, October 16, but available to stream in its entirety right now at Exclaim. And, against all expectation, the band have given an insightful interview to The Guardian about the band, their music, their politics, and their return. The full transcript of the email exchange is damn near poetry. Even the part about being “stoked”.

Stream: Godspeed You! Black Emperor / ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

The impressive demand to see The Weeknd live continues – they’ve added a fourth night at The Sound Academy for November 5, tickets $34.50. The physical release of his three mixtapes – Trilogy – is out November 12, and a new video was recently released.

MP3: The Weeknd – “Life Of The Party”
Video: The Weeknd – “Rolling Stone”

Army Girls have announced a November 14 date at The Garrison, tickets $8. Still no sign of those multiple full-lengths we were promised in the Summer, though.

MP3: Army Girls – “Cold & Alcohol”

Quiet for most of this year, Ohbijou will be at Lee’s Palace on December 1, tickets $15. This is a benefit show; specifics are still forthcoming. And tangentially, Ohbijou spin-off Warm Myth has released a new video.

MP3: Ohbijou – “Anser”
Video: Warm Myth – “Working”

Purity Ring have spent most of this year blowing up on the back of their debut Shrines, but really haven’t played a proper Toronto show to capitalize – their last appearances were opening for Dirty Projectors and an undersized NXNE showcase. They’re rectifying that if not soon, but on a large scale, wrapping up a North American tour at The Phoenix on February 1 of next year, tickets $15. The Creator’s Project talks to them about the lightshow that will surely accompany their performance, and they’ve also just released a collaboration of sorts with hip-hop artist Danny Brown.

MP3: Purity Ring – “Belispeak”
Stream: Purity Ring – “Belispeak” (with Danny Brown)

The Dumbing Of America, The Grid, The Line Of Best Fit, NOW, The Globe & Mail, and Pitchfork all talk to Toronto’s METZ about their self-titled debut, which has spawned a new video and gets a hometown release show at The Horseshoe on Friday night, October 12.

Video: METZ – “Wet Blanket”

Spin and The Winnipeg Free Press talk to Caribou’s Dan Snaith about his Daphni alter-ego and its debut album Jiaolong, out October 16.

Exclaim talk to A.C. Newman, who kicks off the tour for his new record Shut Down The Streets at Lee’s Palace on October 21.

The Guardian has an interview with Neil Young, who has released an epic-length video from Psychedelic Pill, out October 30. He and Crazy Horse play The Air Canada Centre on November 19.

Video: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Ramada Inn”

Jenn Grant lists of five of her favourite songs of the last 20 years for CBC Music and also talks to The Edmonton Journal. She’s at The Winter Garden Theatre on November 24.

The Wooden Sky goes over Every Child A Daughter, Every Moon A Sun track by track with The Line Of Best Fit. They’re at The Phoenix on December 1.

Snowblink have put out a new video from Inner Classics. Daniela Gesundheit lists off her five favourite albums for The 405 and also chats with The Cornell Daily Sun.

Video: Snowblink – “Goodbye Eyes”

Maisonneuve talks to Alaska B of Yamantaka/Sonic Titan.

The Austin Chronicle profiles Grimes.

Exclaim has details on a new compilation of rarities and being released as a soundtrack of sorts for Have Not Been The Same, the definitive tome of Can-rock in the ’90s. It’s out November 13 and features tracks from Sloan, Doughboys, Skydiggers, and other bands of that vintage, and all proceeds will go to Kids Help Phone.

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Time Flies

The Horseshoe turns 65, Joel Plaskett volunteers to jump out of cake five times

Photo By Ingram BarssIngram BarssThere’s been a series of articles The Grid for the past year called Then & Now that has been diligently recording the history of Toronto’s musical history by way of its clubs and venues, many of which have been consigned to history regardless of what legendary acts have sweat upon their stages. It’s truly fascinating reading – especially if you take the time to look up what sort of pedestrian businesses reside at those addresses today – but it’s comforting to know that the odds of The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern ever entering that particular dead pool are slim to none.

The Queen West bar – beloved in the city and renowned internationally as an amazing place to both see and play a show – is marking its 65th year this December, and while the birthday celebrations will last for the better part of the month, one of the main events will run from December 12 to 16, when Can-rock icon and friend to woodland creatures Joel Plaskett sets up shop for five nights, including an all-ages throw-down on the final day – hey, even kids love Joel Plaskett. If this all sounds familiar, it may be because he did the same thing back in 2007 for the ‘Shoe’s 60th birthday, playing one of his albums in its entirety each night for six straight nights. It’s not clear if there’s going to be any sort of theme for these shows – one would think there has to be some way that they’re going to be distinguished from each other – but whatever it is, you know it’s going to be a good time. Tickets range from $25 to $29.50 per show and go on sale this Thursday.

MP3: Joel Plaskett – “When I Go”

Also making a date at The Horseshoe are Montreal’s Malajube; their last release La Caverne came out last year, but they’ll be in town on November 24, tickets $15.

MP3: Malajube – “Synesthésie”

The Toronto Public Library’s Make Some Noise program is back, and they’ll be bringing Bry Webb to the Parkdale branch on October 26 to play some songs from Provider, which was just released in the US today. That show is free and starts at 8PM.

MP3: Bry Webb – “Rivers Of Gold”

Fans of art and music (which is also art, yes, let’s not get pedantic) may be interested in the 1st Thursdays series at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which kicks off this Thursday, October 4, with a performance from Bahamas; he just released a new video from Barchords.

Video: Bahamas – “Lost In The Light”

Bruce Peninsula vocalist Misha Bower has just released a book of short stories entitled Music For Uninvited Guests, and it comes with musical accompaniment in the form of a mixtape of music from her various projects and a new song, which is streamable. There’s a book launch/concert on October 11 at the Great Hall which will feature performances from Doug Paisley, Simone Schmidt, Sean Donald and some of Bruce Peninsula.

Stream: Misha Bower – “I’m All About”

Toronto’s METZ may sound all rough and tumble – and hella loud – on their self-titled debut, but they’ve got some fancy friends. To wit, this feature piece in The New Yorker by no less than Sasha Frere-Jones, accompanied by a stream of the entire thing. The piece at Exclaim is fine too, I guess. The album is out next Tuesday and the band plays a hometown release show for it at the Horseshoe on October 12.

MP3: METZ – “Wet Blanket”
MP3: METZ – “Headache”
Stream: METZ / METZ

AC Newman’s new solo record Shut Down The Streets has apparently inspired a short film. It’s out October 9, he brings it to Lee’s Palace on October 21, and he talks to Chronogram about it. Update: And now the album is streaming at Pitchfork.

Video: Want You To Know
Stream: AC Newman / Shut Down The Streets

So there’s a new Godspeed You! Black Emperor record coming, their first in a decade. ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is out October 16 though physical copies are already on sale at their shows. Big news, short blurb. What, did you expect a series of making-of YouTube vids starring Efrim? No. The record exists. The end.

Caribou’s Dan Snaith will release Jiaolong, his first record under the alias of Daphni, on October 16 but it’s now streaming in whole over at Resident Advisor.

MP3: Daphni – “Ye Ye”
Stream: Daphni / JIAOLONG

Dan Mangan will have something new to go with his Fall tour that brings him to the Danforth Music Hall on October 25 – the “Radicals” 7″ single will be out October 16 and feature a new song on the A-side and a Yukon Blonde cover on the flip. Stream the former and watch a video for the latter now.

Stream: Dan Mangan – “We Want To Be Pleasantly Surprised, Not Expectedly Let Down”
Video: Dan Mangan – “Stairway”

The Wilderness Of Manitoba have released a video from their new record Island Of Echoes, which they bring to Trinty-St. Paul’s on October 26.

Video: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Morning Sun”

NPR has an interview with Neil Young and Spin offers some choice excerpts from his new memoirs Waging Heavy Peace. His new album with Crazy Horse, Psychedelic Pill, is out October 30 and they play The Air Canada Centre on November 19.

Crystal Castles have confirmed a November 6 release date for their new record (III) and to mark the occasion, have made a new track from it available to download. They play The Kool Haus on November 3.

MP3: Crystal Castles – “Wrath Of God”

Beatroute, The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, and The Regina Leader-Post talk to Jenn Grant about her new record The Beautiful Wild, which came out last week and has been streaming at Exclaim, along with a new video. She’s at The Winter Garden Theatre on November 24.

Video: Jenn Grant – “In The Belly Of The Dragon”
Stream: Jenn Grant / The Beautiful Wild

The Wooden Sky have released a new video from Every Child A Daughter, Every Moon A Sun. They’re at The Phoenix on December 1.

Video: The Wooden Sky – “I’m Your Man”

CBC Music reports that Chad Van Gaalen is working on a full-length animated science fiction feature which he’s called Tarbox. Yeah, that won’t be weird at all.

Spanish site Vigopolis has got a video session of Basia Bulat playing a new song, so if you were wondering what Basia was doing – she’s in Spain playing new songs for Spanish websites. And giving interviews in Spanish. Because why wouldn’t she.

Spinner talked to Vancouver’s You Say Party, who officially returned to active duty this weekend at PBR10.

CBC Music talks to Snowblink.

Michael Barclay of Radio Free Canuckistan givs Macleans as detailed a description as he’s allowed of how things went down in the Polaris grand jury room last Monday such that Feist was allowed to walk away champion.

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Metals

Feist wins 2012 Polaris Music Prize to almost universal, “yeah, okay”

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangA day later than I would have liked – but some things like after parties, gin and tonics, and going to bed way too late can’t be helped – here’s my official writeup of Monday night’s Polaris Music Prize gala, in convenient short and long versions.

The short: Feist won the $30,000 prize for Metals. This pleased some people, displeased others. Eventually, everyone got on with their lives. Some got drunk first. Not naming names.

The long: Despite telling anyone who asked – or who’d listen – that I could see perfectly reasonable scenarios wherein six or seven of this year’s shortlist could walk off with the prize, I was more than a little surprised that in the end, it was Feist. This despite the fact that I become more convinced as time goes by that history will hold her as one of the most creative Canadian artists of this decade. I just thought that for all its artfulness, subtle merits, and general grower-ness, it hadn’t seemed to generate the sort of passion amongst listeners that would allow it to come out on top of such a strong pack of albums through what was surely a rough-and-tumble critical throw-down. Shows what I know.

That announcement came at the end of another largely entertaining Polaris gala, dedicated this year to the memory of Canadian music icon Sam ‘The Record Man’ Sniderman who’d passed away the day before.. Now that it’s in its seventh year, folks pretty much know what to expect: CBC’s Grant Lawrence hosting – this year with MuchMusic’s Lauren Toyota as co-host – cracking a few jokes but mainly passing things off to the journalists/jurors who would introduce each of the nominees and, if they were present, said artist would make an appearance or perform. This year’s live slate included seven of the ten shortlisters, with Japandroids bowing out on account of touring in Europe, Handsome Furs not performing on account of no longer existing, and Drake not showing up on account of being Drake.

The perennial question of, “who plays when?” had an extra angle this year in, “who plays after Fucked Up?” And since it would be unfair to make any one act follow their maniacal live show, the organizers probably did the smart thing in making everyone follow them while also kicking the show off with a bang. With the band laying down David Comes To Life, frontman Damian Abraham wandered onstage in a sweatshirt and backpack, looking like he just ducked out of class at Ryerson to attend to this, and got down to it. Having seen Fucked Up many times, this performance seemed a little more perfunctory than usual – not surprising given the setting, and unlike in 2009, they were here as former champions, not outsiders with something to prove. Still, they sounded good, Abraham still stripped down to his shorts and it was nice hearing Jennifer Castle on hand to reprise her vocals on “The Other Shoe”.

Handsome Furs had their moment next, with Alexei Perry offering an emotional and heartfelt thank you to all – Polaris and public – for their support over the band’s career. CBC has the full text of her acceptance speech, which no matter what came next would be the most moving part of the evening.

While some artists in the past have used the Polaris gala as an opportunity to do something different or fancy, Cold Specks opted to eschew performance frills and played to her strengths, letting her huge, emotive voice carry the songs from I Predict A Graceful Expulsion to the roof of the concert hall while her band played it spare and tasteful. Sticking with the “let the music do the talking” modus, Al Spx offered few words after performance, offering just, “cool” and “thanks”.

Cadence Weapon had the stage next, and playing with just his DJ as he always did, there was a lot of stage for him to work with. Taking advantage of the spotlight and working with efficiency, he got through three songs in his allotted time, rapping, dancing, and as on the nominated Hope In Dirt City, even trying a little actual singing. The beats were turned up loud but still sounded pretty tinny, though that’s less a flaw than a deliberate fidelity choice as on the record. One would hope.

Conversely, Kathleen Edwards only offered up one song, but decked it out with youth choir in addition to her full band. But rather than flirt with excess, “Soft Place To Land” from Voyageur was as vulnerable and bare a performance as the evening would offer. Edwards’ detractors – myself sometimes amongst them – often take issue with the traditionalness of her songwriting, but moments like this were a potent reminder that sometimes words, a voice, and a guitar are all you need. And a youth choir, if you’ve got access to one. Her acceptance speech was also solid and worth transcribing, or at least CBC Music thought so.

It’s possible that Grimes was conscious of how visually static her performance might seem, given that she wouldn’t have the time to deck the stage out in the way she would for her usual shows, so she did the only logical thing to spice it up: she hired a male pole dancer. And so as she went to work assembling the selections from the heavily-favoured Visions live, layering keyboards, triggering samples, and providing vocals, dancer Gary – whom she said she’d only met 10 minutes earlier – wowed the crowd with his moves up and down the stripper pole. It was all very tasteful and artistic, but not entirely PG – after messing up at one point an effected and very amplified, “fuck” rang out. Yup.

While acknowledging that Yamantaka//Sonic Titan might have a tough time recreating the dense and dynamic visual atmosphere of their typical live shows, I had still hoped that they’d be as much of a wild card on the evening’s performances as they were on the shortlist itself. That wasn’t to be, as they played without full costumes or stage props – the kabuki make-up was there, though – and chose the most prog and pop ends of YT//ST – “Reverse Crystal” and “Hoshi Neko” – to introduce themselves. It wasn’t as out there as some might have hoped for, but compared to Cold Specks, it still may as well have been from the furthest reaches of outer space.

Finally, there was Feist. She’d already begun slowly disassembling her Metals touring band when I saw her at FME earlier this month, so it wasn’t surprising that she had assembled a new band for the occasion. And while I didn’t recognize them at first, they were actually all familiar faces – Dan and Daniela from Snowblink on one side of her, AroarA (aka Andrew Whiteman from Broken Social Scene and Ariel Engle) on the other, forming a pretty formidable guitarmy with the added firepower of four-part harmonies. And this goes to what I’d said earlier about her creativity. No one would have said boo if Feist had just performed a couple songs from Metals solo – Feist solo is far from a simple, strummy affair – she instead went out and enlisted a new batch of players and rearranged the songs yet again for maybe a one-off performance. And while the other Metals shows were hardly polite, polished affairs, this was a raw, forceful performance that had the record had this kind of energy, even fewer people would be taking issue with its Polaris win.

And the win. Feist may genuinely not have expected to win – she’d later say she, like so many others, expected Grimes to take it – she reacted pretty quickly to the announcement of her name by Tim Kingsbury and Jeremy Gara of Arcade Fire, repping last year’s winners, and immediately ducked under her table.

Recovering gracefully, she accepted the giant novelty cheque and opened her acceptance speech with the pullquote-ready soundbite, “This was my worst fear”. It’s unclear if she meant public speaking – you’d think she’d be used to having an audience by now – or actually winning the Polaris. The latter would be understandable for as much as Feist is generally universally respected in Canadian music, she’s committed the cardinal-to-some sin of being successful and as soon as her name was announced, you know the “she doesn’t need the money” comments began to swirl. Which, of course, is absolutely no one’s business but hers, but in the post-gala press conference she mentioned that at least some of the winnings would go to support the fight against the Melanchthon mega-quarry north of Toronto. See, there’s an upside when someone who doesn’t necessarily need to pay off van repair bills and bar tabs comes into the prize money.

In any case, the Polaris win is a very nice punctuation point on Feist’s year of Metals, and I’ve no doubt she’ll wear the title of reigning Polaris champ well. And if you don’t like it, just wait twelve months – there’ll be a new musical injustice for you to rage about.

Canada.com, Exclaim, Torontoist, Rolling Stone, Spinner, and The Globe & Mail were all on hand to cover the proceedings, and The Grid has documented the evening in animated .gif form.

Photos from the evening are below, and if you needed a refresher as to the what of the shortlist, I’ve got that too.

Photos: The Polaris Music Prize 2012 Gala @ The Masonic Temple – September 24, 2012

Cadence Weapon / Hope In Dirt City (Upper Class Recordings)
MP3: Cadence Weapon – “Conditioning

Cold Specks / I Predict A Graceful Expulsion (Arts & Crafts)
Video: Cold Specks – “Blank Maps”

Drake / Take Care (Universal Republic)
Video: Drake – “Marvin’s Room”

Kathleen Edwards / Voyageur (Maple Music)
MP3: Kathleen Edwards – “Change The Sheets”

Feist / Metals (Arts & Crafts)
Video: Feist – “The Bad In Each Other”

Fucked Up / David Comes To Life (Matador)
MP3: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”

Grimes / Visions (Artbus)
MP3: Grimes – “Oblivion”

Handsome Furs / Sound Kapital (Sub Pop)
MP3: Handsome Furs – “Repatriated”

Japandroids / Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)
MP3: Japandroids – “Younger Us”

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan / YT//ST (Psychic Handshake)
Video: Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – “Hoshi Neko”

BlogTO grabbed a pre-gala interview with Fucked Up.

DIY has a chat with Grimes.

Spinner talked to Yamantaka//Sonic Titan about the whirlwind of acclaim that brought them from obscurity to the Polaris shortlist, and Pitchfork points to a stream of the band covering David Bowie as a bonus track attached to a new compilation from Paper Bag Records. As part of their 10th anniversary celebrations (which kick off Thursday night at The Great Hall for three evenings and at which new signees Yamantaka//Sonic Titan play Friday), they’ve assembled a tribute album to David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars – itself turning 40 this year – and it’s available for free download. And while this comp would be noteworthy fun simply for existing, it’s actually really good. Like REALLY good. Listen to it while you read this piece at The National Post about the decade of Paper Bag.

Stream: Yamantaka//Sonic Titan – “John, I’m Only Dancing”

Crystal Castles have released a new video from their still-untitled third album, due out sometime in November. And speaking of November, their November 3 4 show at The Kool Haus is now happening on November 4 3; all tickets are still valid for the new date. And I’ve probably not helped the confusion at all. Sorries. Update 2: Pitchfork reports the album will be called (III) and will be out November 5.

Video: Crystal Castles – “Plague”

Spin has premiered a new video from Caribou extra-electronic side-project Daphni whose debut album Jialong arrives October 16.

Video: Daphni – “Pairs”

Rolling Stone has premiered the first video from Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s new album Psychedelic Pill, and no – they’re still clearly not allotting much budget to their videos in Neil’s camp. We won’t be seeing anything of the calibre of “Wonderin’” anytime soon. The album is out October 30 and they’re at the Air Canada Centre on 19.

Video: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Walk Like A Giant”