Posts Tagged ‘Son Volt’

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Changes Is

Review of Wheat's White Ink Black Ink and giveaway

Photo By Brittany GrayBrittany GrayTo call the Wheat story a long and winding one would be more than a little bit of understatement. I’ve made following the band something of a spectator sport over the years so when word came out that they band – whom you could never take for granted still existed let alone were working – had a new album coming out, a follow-up to 2007’s tentative and uneven but wholly welcome Everyday I Said A Prayer For Kathy And Made A One Inch Square, I reached for the popcorn.

I got a taste of the new material at SxSW in March at a performance that you couldn’t call flawless – the complexities of trying to recreate the new material live with just a trio were evident and the new stuff didn’t immediately file itself in the “win” column – but did nicely showcase the band’s joie de vivre at simply making music. The actual new record, White Ink Black Ink, out next Tuesday, maintains that sense of joy but delivers the material much more confidently – unsurprisingly, this is a band more comfortable in the studio than on the stage. Ink follows the template laid down by Kathy, with the same sort of restless creativity and messy enthusiasm but whereas the ADD left Kathy feeling somewhat distracted, Ink comes across as a more fully realized and crafted record – still meandering but with more purpose and even when it doesn’t know where it’s going, it gets there with more vim and vigor.

So on its own merits, Ink is an enjoyable bit of art-pop but for a long-time fan such as myself, it’s impossible to consider it without wondering how it compares to their early highwater marks, Medeiros and Hope & Adams. And the simple fact is, objectively or subjectively, it doesn’t because it can’t. Wheat have left that the hazy, slow motion aesthetic of their salad days far behind, and even if that period did yield superior songs – I think that’s fair to say – it’s obvious they’re very much occupied and enthused about working in the now, and Ink is evidence that the new direction might yet yield gems as rich as their earlier period. Asking them to go back would be like asking the beautiful wallflower who finally got the courage to step out on the dance floor, as awkward as their moves might be, to return to the shadows. It’s not going to happen, and probably shouldn’t anyways.

Express Night Out gets a track-by-track guide to the album from Scott Levesque and Brendan Harney. There’s also an EPK video to watch, if you are so inclined.

And because I happened to get two copies of the album for review purposes – three if you count an early CD-R, four if you count the digital version – I will happily give one away to a reader. If you’d like it, email me at contests AT with “I want the Wheat” in the subject line and your full mailing address in the body and get that in to me before midnight, July 24. Contest open to whomever.

MP3: Wheat – “Changes Is”
MP3: Wheat – “H.O.T.T.”
MP3: Wheat – “El Sincero”
MySpace: Wheat

Penguin Books has an interview with Joe Pernice about his forthcoming novel It Feels So Good When I Stop, out August 6, and you can now read an excerpt from it. Pernice will be at the Dakota Tavern on September 24 to play some songs from the soundtrack and read from the book – tickets are $18.50 and go on sale tomorrow.

Daytrotter welcomes Blitzen Trapper back for their third? fourth? millionth? session. They’ve also released a new video from last year’s Furr and have chats with Decider and The Daily Iowan.

Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Black River Killer”

JAM and Pitchfork talk to The National’s Bryan Devendorf and Bryce Dessner, respectively, while Decider looks at how Matt Berninger draws on Charles Bukowski for inspiration. And Pitchfork is streaming the band’s contribution to a forthcoming tribute album to Ciao My Shining Star, a tribute album to Mark Mulcahy coming out September 29. I will freely admit I have no idea who Mark Mucahy or Miracle Legion are/were, but they’ve got some heavyweight fans.

The Line Of Best Fit interviews St Vincent. She is at the Horseshoe on August 8.

Baltimore City Paper spends some time with hometown kids Wye Oak, whose rather lovely second album The Knot is out next Tuesday, July 21. The band also compiled a mix tape for Magnet.

The AV Club talks to Mark Olson of The Jayhawks.

The Riverfront Times talks to Son Volt’s Jay Farrar and gets the scoop on a forthcoming Jack Kerouac-themed collaboration between he and Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard.

FFWD has an interview with Bruce Peninsula, who’ve just scheduled a date at the Horseshoe for October 1.

Neko Case discusses her songwriting process with The Kansas City Star.

The Dodos aren’t waiting for their new album Time To Die to leak well before its September 15 release date – they’re streaming the whole thing right now on and Pitchfork has an MP3 available to download. They will be at Lee’s Palace on October 17.

MP3: The Dodos – “Fables”
Stream: The Dodos / Time To Die

Daniel Johnston is hitting the road this Fall, including an October 17 date at the Mod Club – tickets $27.

Our Noise is the forthcoming book documenting the first 20 years of Merge Records, and in advance of its September 15 publication date, it has received a swanky website. Tangentially, Pitchfork is streaming the a-side to Superchunk’s recent limited edition 7″ single.

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

"Dead Flowers"

Uncle Tupelo covers The Rolling Stones

Photo via GumbopagesGumbo PagesI know it’s not by design – at least I hope it’s not – but both Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar seem to have gotten on synchronized creative schedules the last few years, with both Wilco and Son Volt’s releasing new records not only within the same calendar year, but even with months or even weeks of each other. It’s not entirely a recent phenomenon – both their debuts came out within six months of each other way back in 1995 – but after that they seemed to begin deliberately avoiding each other in the record stores and media cycles, probably hoping to avoid the endless comparisons and Uncle Tupelo connections, kind of like I’m doing now.

These days, however, both acts seem to have established their respective identities and stories – Tweedy the sonic adventurer with a fondness for polished ’70s pop and Farrar the dusty country troubadour – and the threat or promise of a Tupelo reunion is so implausible that their last records – Sky Blue Sky and The Search – came out within a couple months of each other and their latests, Wilco (The Album) and American Central Dust, a fortnight and week ago respectively, and few give it a second thought.

Except the likes of me, who use it as an opportunity to revisit their old band and revel in its ragged glory. This Rolling Stones cover was a staple of their live sets early on in their career. I’m not sure where or when it dates to, specifically, but signs point to the Summer of 1988. It comes from the Covers & Oddities ’88-’93 bootleg which has been circulating forever. And while you don’t really hear much Stones influence in either act these days, it’s worth noting that “Cocaine and Ashes” off the new Son Volt record was inspired by the story of Keith Richards snorting his father’s ashes. So there’s that.

The Arizona Republic has an interview with Jay Farrar.

MP3: Uncle Tupelo – “Dead Flowers”
Video: The Rolling Stones – “Dead Flowers” (live in Houston 1972)
Video: The Rolling Stones – “Dead Flowers” (live in Amsterdam 1995)

Friday, July 10th, 2009

This Day

WTF, V? Lineup speculation and goodies from Bowerbirds, Wrens, The Clientele and more

Photo By Nick HeldermanNick HeldermanI’d honestly thought I’d have been able to build a post around the Torontontario V Fest announcement this week. All signs pointed to them finally coming clean about the when, where – already a poorly kept secret, sure – but more importantly the who. And yet here we are at Friday with no official word, just seven weeks out from when it’s all supposed to go down (August 29 and 30 at Burl’s Creek near Orillia, Ontario) and so instead of reporting facts, I will delve into the rumour mill for goodies. Though when it comes straight from the artist’s mouth, it probably counts as somewhat more than rumour. I refer, of course, to the fact that Nine Inch Nails has decided that Bonnaroo would not mark their final live North American appearance, as originally intended, and instead will do a few more dates including a headlining slot at the Ontario edition of V Fest. And in addition to NIN, a few other acts came to light this week though nothing major: Thunderheist, Trouble Andrew (does his presence imply Santigold? I can’t imagine anyone would want him on his own), and though not confirmed, I don’t think it’s any big secret what the August 30 “TBA” for Toronto on the Pet Shop Boys’ Fall itinerary means.

So yeah. Another week, another non-announcement. On the plus side, it’s evident that they’re trying to put together something really good and the last Canadian V of the Summer will have a bona fide, big-time headline act – I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Trent but there’s no arguing his stature – but on the downside, even a leak this size hasn’t been enough to prod them into announcing anything, which to my paranoid sensibilities doesn’t necessarily bode well for the rest of the bill. But it’ll come, and until then, I’m going to engage in more rampant and unfounded lineup speculation while clearing out a big old pile of links and stuff.

Paste talks to Bowerbirds about their second album Upper Air was released this week. Daytrotter and They Shoot Music have also released sessions with the band – audio and video respectively – who are on the road to support. They’re not doing anything August 29 or 30, but do have a date at Sneaky Dee’s next week on July 14 so it’s unlikely they’re playing V Fest.

Magnet’s “Wrens Watch” feature has coaxed another new song demo MP3 from Wrens, who continue to work on their follow-up to Meadowlands. It’s conceivable that they could make the trek up here for V – the calendar is clear – but probably haven’t been invited.

Pitchfork has the first taste of Bonfires On The Heath, the new album from The Clientele, out October 6. They played V Fest back in 2007 and while I’d love to see them again, they’re already making a short North American trek this month and probably won’t be back till the Fall.

MP3: The Clientele – “I Wonder Who We Are”

Editors’ Tom Smith keeps up the sci-fi soundtrack talking points in discussing their new record In This Light And On This Evening, out September 21, with NME. The band also played V in 2007 and would certainly be welcomed back, but are probably going to stick to Europe for the Fall before coming to North America to promote.

The Line Of Best Fit talks to Yo La Tengo – their new record Popular Songs is out September 8. They’ve got a November European tour scheduled – they could do North America before that, but probably no dates before the record is released.

Ca Va Cool has an interview with Telekinesis’ Michael Benjamin Lerner. Their calendar is clear for late August but they’re far too small to be added to a festival bill when they’re not already touring through the region.

Wheat are offering a new MP3 from their forthcoming album White Ink Black Ink, due out July 21. Odds of playing V? Less than Telekinesis.

MP3: Wheat – “Changes Is”

The Bird & The Bee have a new video from Ray Guns Are Not Just For The Future. They have nothing on the schedule, and I’d personally love to see them again in any setting. But they are probably not playing V.

Video: The Bird & The Bee – “My Love”

Jenny Lewis has released yet another new video from Acid Tongue. Why ask why? She’s finishing some US tour dates and is in Japan in early August. Maybe she can come to Toronto in late August.

Video: Jenny Lewis – “See Fernando”

NPR interviews Steve Earle. He’s at Massey Hall on Saturday, which really precludes his playing V in August. Not that he probably would anyways.

PitchforkTV is streaming the Townes Van Zandt documentary Be Here To Love Me for the next week. I saw this film at TIFF 2004 and it’s a lovely work. It’d be quite a coup if V got Townes to play, but I’m not holding my breath.

Video: Be Here To Love Me

The Denver Post interviews Son Volt’s Jay Farrar. They’re touring from July through early August, then picking up again second week of September. Don’t see them interrupting the downtime to trek up here to play in front of, well, people who probably aren’t fans. The NIN and Son Volt fanbase Venn diagrams don’t overlap much.

American Songwriter has excerpted a portion of their cover feature on Wilco, The Boston Globe has an interview with Jeff Tweedy and The Boston Herald talks to Nels Cline about his role in the band. They’re in Dublin on August 28. Probably not in Toronto on August 29 or 30.

NPR is streaming Sonic Youth’s recent show in Washington DC. They’re playing the Vancouver V Fest but having just played Toronto last week, I don’t expect a return engagement so soon.

Spinner gets Metric to recount their run-in with Spinal Tap at Stonehenge after Glastonbury this year. Metric are seemingly playing every other V in the country, I give them very good odds for being at the Toronto edition. Spinal Tap just did the “unwigged” thing at Massey Hall, but doing V – in character, of course – would be kinda great. Their new record is Back From The Dead.

Malajube have a new video from their Polaris-nominated album Labyrinthes. Their schedule is clear, they could be at V.

Video: Malajube – “Luna”

The Scotsman talks to Dean & Britta. I don’t think their 13 Most Beautiful… Warhol soundtrack show would work too well on a big outdoor stage.

Mew are releasing their new album No More Stories… on August 25 and have already been tapped to play some of Nine Inch Nails’ other “final” shows – why not this one? Spinner has an MP3 from the new record.

MP3: Mew – “Repeaterbeater”

PitchforkTV is running video of Fleet Foxes’ performance from Pitchfork Festival last year. Obviously they do the festival thing, but with an August 4 date at Massey Hall, a V slot is unlikely.

But for everyone who had tickets for that Fleet Foxes show and were crushed that it meant missing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs show at the Kool Haus that same night, rejoice! A second Yeah Yeah Yeahs show has been added for August 5, same venue. Tickets $32.50, on sale today at 10AM. And yes, this pretty much guarantees that they won’t be at V – that is, if being at Reading/Leeds across the Atlantic wasn’t guarantee enough.

Off The Beaten Tracks gets an acoustic video session out of The Thermals. They’re in Europe through mid-August. Swinging by Toronto en route back to Portland seems improbable.

Decider and Austin360 have features on Spoon. Besides their own Spoon-fest in Austin this weekend and performance at the Wanderlust yoga/music festival in Lake Tahoe at the end of the month, they’re not doing much. They could be playing V.

Contact Music has an interview with Glasvegas – they’re one of many bands at Reading/Leeds the weekend of V, so are obviously not playing Toronto. What’s more curious is the routing of their mid-September tour supporting Kings Of Leon, which puts them in Long Island on the 14th, Montreal on the 16th, Ottawa on the 17th, Hamilton on the 19th, London on the 20th and Detroit on the 22nd. Obviously this leaves many opportunities to make a Toronto stop, and yet there currently is none. As I said, curious.

Daytrotter has a session with Ida Maria, who seems awfully reluctant to make her Toronto debut. She’s on tour in North America till early August and then will be back for Monolith in Denver in mid-September. Obviously a lot more dates would have to surface to keep her on the continent from late August till then, but I can see it happening.

NPR is streaming a radio session with Phoenix. They’re playing V in the UK the weekend before the Ontario edition, and are back in September for a string of dates including Monolith and ACL. Odds of them playing our V are slim to none.

The List talks to St Vincent’s Annie Clark, who is at the Horseshoe on August 8 and will consequently not be at V Fest.

And while I know it’ll never happen, I would love beyond words for Superchunk to come and play V Fest. Or play anywhere nearby. This acoustic version of “Detroit Has A Skyline Too” came from a recent radio session. Loverly.

MP3: Superchunk – “Detroit Has A Skyline” (acoustic)

The Boxer Rebellion, who made headlines by charting in the top 10 on iTunes’ charts with the wholly independent release of their second album Union, will be at the Mod Club on August 8 – tickets $11.50. Though they’d probably fit the V demographic, this show means they’re unlikely to be there.

Video: The Boxer Rebellion – “Evacuate”

Either of these bands – …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead and The Secret Machines – would be a decent addition to a festival bill, but they won’t be to V because they’ve got a date at Lee’s Palace on September 22 – tickets $18.50.

MP3: The Secret Machines – “Dreaming Of Dreaming”
MP3: The Secret Machines – “Atomic Heels”

You know, this little “who’s playing V” meme turned out a helluva lot more tiring than I expected. Whew.

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Massage The History

Sonic Youth at Massey Hall in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt’s a long way from CBGBs in New York to Massey Hall in Toronto – geographically, stylistically, even temporally. The former defined by its role as the primordial ooze from whence punk rock first emerged, the latter known largely for the legendary folk and jazz artists who graced its stage. CBGBs was a place to begin, Massey a place to arrive, but the path between the two is one that’s been trod by few acts. As of this past Tuesday night, Sonic Youth became one of them.

At first, the venue seemed a peculiar choice – putting a band whose reputation was built so heavily on dissonance in a room with the most splendid acoustics in the city. But in truth Sonic Youth became about so much more than just noise a long time ago and the complexity of their songs really were demanding of the room in which they were performed. Plus it held about the right amount of people.

I didn’t arrive in time to catch most of openers The Entrance Band, but did hear enough to find it ironic that such a trad-sounding hard rock band would be supporting such an avant-garde one. I didn’t feel like I’d missed much but if I did, I could console myself with the knowledge that they’d be back in town on August 20 at the Annex Wreck Room supporting Nebula.

I’ve already come clean about being only a casual Sonic Youth fan, but most of that enthusiasm has been built on their most recent records, say from Murray Street up to and definitely including their latest The Eternal as they’ve struck what, to my ears, is the perfect balance of atonality and melody. And having only ever seen them once live before, at Lollapalooza 2006, I was pretty excited to do so again. From the buzz in the hall, it was pretty clear everyone else was excited as well but I suspect that most were much more hardcore than I and thus exponentially more stoked. Takeaway: people were looking forward to the show.

And the long-time fans were catered with the first song, “She Is Not Alone” dating back to the band’s 1982 debut. Of course I didn’t know this song – it and most others were verified via set list – but it was a slow, hypnotic sort of dirge featuring massive guitar freak-out from Thurston Moore that many probably hoped would be a set loaded with classic material. These people would probably be disappointed. With “Sacred Trickster”, the band made it clear that they would not be partaking in any career retrospectives – they were still creative and vital and had eyes dead set forward, and would prove it by playing eleven straight songs from The Eternal.

Now these were some of the songs I was most familiar with, but that’s a pretty relative statement – I don’t find Sonic Youth to be a band I necessarily enjoy on an individual song basis, but more as a whole aural experience and that’s exactly what they delivered. A massive, dense and cinematic sonic rendering that was simultaneously aggressive, gentle, intense and detached. Seemingly incongruous guitar parts wove around each other perfectly, lunging and lurching around the alternating vocals of Moore, Lee Ranaldo and Kim Gordon, all of whom initially looked every bit their age but with every song, became more and more ageless – the healing power of music, I suppose. And you know, for a band that’s been around as long as they and are so unquestioningly influential, it’s remarkable how no one but no one sounds like them. Following a stunning rendering of “Massage The History”, featuring the unexpected sight of Moore on acoustic guitar, the band finally threw the old-timers a bone with a searing set closer in “Pacific Coast Highway” from Sister. The two encores were similarly steered towards older material with the exception of “What We Know”, the final Eternal track that hadn’t yet been aired. If they’d run them in order, they could have billed it as a “Don’t Look Back” show, albeit for their newest record.

I can understand if some fans felt let down by the focus on the new stuff – I would have even liked to have heard some Rather Ripped stuff, as that may be my favourite recent album of theirs – but with a catalog as broad and deep as theirs, there’s no way they could have satisfied everyone. But from a sheer performance point of view, I can’t believe anyone was actually disappointed in any way by the show they were given. Simply epic.

There’s further reviews of the show at The National Post, eye, NOW and Fazer. Check out interviews with the band at Crawdaddy, eye, The Toronto Sun and Spinner.

Photos: Sonic Youth @ Massey Hall – June 30, 2009
MP3: Sonic Youth – “Sacred Trickster”
MP3: Sonic Youth – “Incinerate”
Video: Sonic Youth – “Sacred Trickster”
Video: Sonic Youth – “Incinerate”
Video: Sonic Youth – “Death Valley 1969”
MySpace: Sonic Youth

Blurt has an interview with Dinosaur Jr, while Exclaim has assembled a career-spanning timeline of their existence. They’re at the Phoenix on September 30.

The Big Takeover has a massive five-part interview with Bob Mould. He’s at the Mod Club on October 5.

Gibson Guitars talk to Neil Young about Archives Volume One.

Wilco (The Album) was released this week and in its wake comes Wilco (the media glut). There’s interviews with Jeff Tweedy at Time, The New York Times and JAM while American Songwriter chats with Nels Cline and Paste with Cline and John Stirrat.

St Louis Today and The Colorado Springs Independent discuss Son Volt’s American Central Dust with Jay Farrar.

PopMatters considers the legacy of Uncle Tupelo.

Steve Earle talks to He’s at Massey Hall on July 11.

Daytrotter is sharing a session with Mark Olson & Gary Louris, recorded in March at SxSW.

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Just The Same But Brand New

St. Vincent sessions up and visits Letterman

Photo By Annabel MehranAnnabel MehranIt’s been a long week – I hope you’ll allow me to decompress with some much-needed link dumping.

And it’ll begin with St. Vincent, who wrap an extensive leg of North American touring tonight in Brooklyn before spending July in Europe in support of her second album Actor. Then come August, it’s back onto the highways of America for a short northeastern jaunt which will wrap with an August 8 show in Toronto at the Horseshoe, a gig which perplexingly isn’t yet sold out, so if you’ve been dithering about whether to go or not, the following should these video sessions with Ms Clark which surfaced over the past week should certainly nudge you off the fence, and if you’ve already got the date saved, they’ll serve to simultaneously whet and appease your appetite to see St Vincent live.

Her Lake Fever Sessions set sees her dazzling in a solo acoustic setting, while the inaugural “Cemetary Gates” series at Pitchfork TV sets Clark and her band in a Brooklyn graveyard (well, in a church in a graveyard), plugged in and presumably with a mandate to wake the dead. She was also on Letterman last night, performing “Marrow” – it’s probably too much to hope that the horn section is coming on tour with her – and You Ain’t No Picasso posted up an interview conducted a few weeks back in Kentucky.

Video: St Vincent – “Marrow” (live on Letterman)

Oregon Public Broadcasting welcomed Neko Case to their studios for a session and interview. Her tourmate Jason Lytle just released a new video. Both are at Massey Hall on July 14.

Video: Jason Lytle – “It’s The Weekend”

SpinEarth talks to Emily Haines of Metric.

Patterson Hood discusses his new solo record Murdering Oscar with Paste and The Washington Examiner. You can currently stream the whole thing at Spinner.

Stream: Patterson Hood / Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)

Aquarium Drunkard and Paste talk to Jay Farrar about Son Volt’s new record American Central Dust, out July 7.

Acoustic Guitar asks Elvis Costello about his acoustic guitar (and other stuff). Costello is at Massey Hall on August 28.

Also at Massey Hall, this show on July 11, is Steve Earle. He has a Q&A with Magnet.

Interview talks to Swedish singer-songwriter Anna Ternheim. She has been added to the bill alongside Loney Dear and Asobi Seksu at the Horseshoe on October 13. Her new record Leaving On A Mayday will be out in North America on August 11.

MP3: Anna Ternheim – “To Be Gone”

eye talks to Casey Mecija of Ohbijou, who are playing the Opera House tonight.

Woods have a date at Sneaky Dee’s on August 8.

MP3: Woods – “To Clean”
Video: Woods – “To Clean”

Lemonade and Cale Parks will be at the El Mocambo on August 24.

MP3: Lemonade – “Big Weekend”
MP3: Cale Parks – “One At A Time”

Here’s a peculiar bill – The Happy Mondays and The Psychedelic Furs are teaming up for a North American tour this Fall, including a stop at the Kool Haus on October 14. I call it peculiar because the two acts were hardly contemporaries and probably wouldn’t have shared the same fanbase even if they were. But I guess they have the demographic now – nostalgic Anglophiles who wish they were twenty years younger.

They’re here in a couple weeks on July 9 opening up for Beirut at the Phoenix, but since that gig is plum sold out, The Dodos have announced a full North American tour for this Fall in support of their new record Time To Die, out September 15. Their tourmates will be kiwis The Ruby Suns and the local stop will be October 17 at Lee’s Palace.

MP3: The Dodos – “Fools”
MP3: The Ruby Suns – “Tane Mahuta”