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Posts Tagged ‘Torres’

Monday, September 30th, 2013

The Silver Gymnasium

Okkervil River and Torres at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangEveryone’s heard the old adage about how life is like a river, ever-changing, and in the case of Austin’s Okkervil River, it’s especially apt. The faces that make up the band have changed repeatedly over the years – singer-songwriter Will Sheff being the only real constant over their 14-year existence – and they’ve had their share of stylistic and thematic shifts over that time, albeit while hewing closely to the path marked folk-rock. And so it’s fitting that following their most rangy and experimental album in 2011’s aptly-titled I Am Very Far, they’d return to their roots – or the river to its source – with The Silver Gymnasium.

After Far‘s short story songbook, Gymnasium returns to the overarching album theme with a literary angle built around the memoir, focusing on Sheff’s ’80s youth in the small town of Meriden, New Hampshire. With that shift comes a musical realignment of sorts, with the more darker, exploratory sonics of Far put aside for a strummier sound with synth accents, perhaps meant to reflect the radio pop of the era or just draw in more listeners; in either case, these are the most accessible-sounding tunes Okkervil has turned out, right alongside the Stage Names/Stand-Ins set. The material may not be of the strata – at this point, time may well show that the years spanning Black Sheep Boy and The Stage Names to be the band’s creative pinnacle – it’s a solid collection that reflects the Okkervil River that most of their fans know and love best. And with it, Okkervil returned to town on Saturday night for their first Toronto show since June 2011.

The support slot for the tour marked another achievement in a year of highlights for 22-year old Nashville-based newcomer Mackenzie Scott who, when onstage, answers to Torres. She self-released her self-titled debut in January and since then, with the help of endorsements from the likes of Sharon Van Etten, has gotten to the point where her presence on the bill constituted an actual draw. Fronting a powerful yet tasteful rhythm section, Scott’s set was built around distorted fingerpicking and raw, snarled vocals that reared up to feedback-laden, combat boot-stomping rock heights in the opening and closing numbers. Those who like their confessional singer-songwriter material with some teeth, both lyrically and musically, would be impressed.

A consequence of the earlier comment that Okkervil may have already hit their creative and critical peak a few albums back was the fact that this show was decidedly not sold out, but not being a buzz band doesn’t mean that your real fanbase is any less solid or devoted; so while those in attendance might have had a little more elbow room than in the past, their enthusiasm was hardly diminished. The Silver Gymnasium‘s one-two of “It Was My Season” and “On A Balcony” opened things up before giving way to a Black Sheep Boy‘s still-powerful “For Real” and “Black”, setting the tone for the rest of the set – a solid showing from the new record but plenty of attention to the back catalog, with only Down The River Of Golden Dreams being omitted entirely and with The Stage Names being leaned on for the show-stopping moments.

The current lineup of Okkervil, which underwent a sea change with the last record, sounded more cohesive than on the Far tour. Lead guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo’s style of guitar now better integrated into the songs in the way that it took Nels Cline a little bit to properly sound part of Wilco, and the sound of the band has adjusted accordingly with the focus alternating between Sheff’s vocals to Gurgiolo’s leads rather than the Okkervil orchestra as a whole, or maybe it just seemed this was as I was parked directly in Gurgiolo’s amp’s line of fire. Also in the “things that are different” department was Sheff’s taking the stage not in one of his signature sport coats but a leather jacket, now looking more the part of student than professor. The glasses still only lasted half the energetic and sweaty set, though, so reality wasn’t that altered. And though Jonathan Meiburg officially left the band five years ago, his vocal presence is still missed – particularly since his harmonies still appear on the records. It was a nice nod to the Okkervil of old, though, when mid-show the band left just Sheff and bassist Patrick Pestorius, the other longest-serving member of the band, to play “No Key, No Plan” acoustically.

The thing that struck me the most over the course of the show was how I’d forgotten how much I loved this band not that long ago. From 2005 to 2008 or so, they were one of the outfits in the heaviest rotation possible and somehow, unnoticed, they or I drifted away. And while those days probably aren’t coming back – despite said I would be thrilled if there was another masterpiece rattling around in Will Sheff’s head – this show was an hour-forty reminder of those times. And isn’t The Silver Gymnasium all about remembering days past?

Photos: Okkervil River, Torres @ The Phoenix – September 28, 2013
MP3: Okkervil River – “Wake And Be Fine”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Mermaid”
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”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Kansas City”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Listening To Otis Redding At Home During Christmas”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Red”
MP3: Okkervil River – “Westfall”
Stream: Torres – “Honey”
Video: Okkervil River – “Your Past Life As A Blast”
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”

Stereogum have premiered a stream of a new Phantogram song, taken – as they’ve just revealed – from a new self-titled EP that will be out on September 30, which is to say today. Their second full-length is coming next year.

Stream: Phnatogram – “Celebrating Nothing”

Polar and Billboard have interviews with Cameron Mesirow of Glasser, whose new album Interiors comes out October 8 and is streaming at The Guardian. She plays The Drake Underground come October 13.

Stream: Glasser / Interiors

Billboard and Vulture talk to Sleigh Bells about their new record Bitter Rivals. It’s out October 8 and they play The Phoenix on November 13.

Dean Wareham has made available for preorder his new solo mini-album Emancipated Hearts, which will be out as a 10″ LP on October 15.

Interview talks to Mazzy Star, who have marked the release this week of their new record Seasons Of Your Day with a new video. They play The Danforth Music Hall on November 16.

Video: Mazzy Star – “California”

Though rumours that the current Guided By Voices reunion will be winding down have been floating basically since it began, they’ve confirmed that they’ll be releasing a fourth studio album in Motivational Jumpsuit late next February, amidst a slew of other Bob Pollard-related releases. Stereogum has all the details.

Rolling Stone reports that Television have had a new studio album in the can since 2007 – presumably after Richard Lloyd left and Jimmy Rip replaced him – but that it won’t see the light of day until Tom Verlaine decides he wants to, if ever. So do with that information what you will.

Modern Farmer talks to John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats about goats.

Magnet turns their website over to Superchunk/Mountain Goats drummer Jon Wurster with a Q&A, while Washington City Paper chats with Mac McCaughan.

The National discusses their inclusion on the soundtrack of the new Hunger Games soundtrack with NME.

The Quietus reflects on the 20th anniversary of The Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen.

Gaper’s Block, Des Moines Register, and NOW chat with Sam Beam of Iron & Wine.

aux.tv has an interview with Kurt Vile.

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Sacrilege

Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Echo Beach in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt’s just about scientific fact that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs don’t put on a bad show. The New York punk rock/New Wave trio have built and cemented this reputation since their inception in 2000, and though I missed their earliest visits to Toronto, I can testify to the spectacularness of their last two visits – an undersized semi-private TIFF party at the Berkeley Church in September 2007 circa their Is Is EP and their two-night stand at The Kool Haus in support of It’s Blitz! in August 2009. And so while their fourth long-player Mosquito is a relative disappointment – the high points are decent and the rest largely forgettable – their show at Echo Beach on Monday night behind it was plenty of reason to get excited, even if the long weekend timing meant that Echo Beach wasn’t even half full to greet them.

The band’s elevation towards the top of festival lineups this Summer meant that regular tour routing was largely out the window and as such, this date – announced barely a month ago – felt squeezed in between other commitments, and the relative spartan-ness of their set dressing – there basically was none – added to this feeling, though if that meant that we didn’t have to look at a giant backdrop of the Mosquito album art, then that was hardly a bad thing. And if any band could feel confident about having to come out and get by on the strength of their songbook, it’s the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And having Karen O as a frontwoman certainly doesn’t hurt.

Because let’s be honest, even if they’d gone full Flaming Lips with their stage show, no one would be looking at anything but Karen O. As her bandmates – guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase, plus live utility player David Pajo of Slint and Interpol fame – got down to business, O bounded around the stage as magnetic a performer as you’ll find in rock music today. Decked out in a tasseled white outfit and with a headlamp strapped to her forehead, presumably keeping in theme with show opener “Under The Earth”, O kept the energy levels and audience enthusiasm in the red, even when the confetti cannon that should have doused everyone in glitter at the peak of “Black Tongue” failed to go off.

And that kind of set the tone for the front half of the show – trying their best but not quite clicking. There were several missed cues, the usually super-tight band felt a little out of step with each other, and midway through the set, O declared she’d forgotten the words to “Down Boy”. Being followed by the largely aimless “Subway”, it was starting to feel like this might be a rare off night for the band. They might have felt it as well, as “Maps” – as much of a sure thing in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs arsenal as you’re likely to find – got an extended intro where O dedicated the song to everyone she could think of that perhaps allowed the band to regroup.

If that’s indeed what they did, then it worked. Current single “Despair” was given a reading that put the album version to shame, and the double-whammy of “Y Control” and “Turn Into” elevated things to a far more characteristic Yeah Yeah Yeahs level; Zinner’s guitar solo in the latter was especially fiery. Again, perhaps symbolically, when O stomped on the confetti cannon trigger in jubilant main set-closer “Heads Will Roll”, that shit went off. The first encore opened with one of their finest pop confections – “Cheated Hearts” – amusingly featuring pretty much the whole of the front row being passed the mic to sing (badly) the “oooh ooooh”s in the bridge – and closed with a razor-edged “Tick”, and though by this point much of the crowd had begun inching towards the exit, those who stayed up close got an eyeful in second encore as in “Date With The Night”, O shoved the microphone down her pants and then into her mouth. As you do.

At well under an hour and a half, the show felt a bit slight in length and, compared to the terrifying Berkeley Church and triumphant Kool Haus shows, in substance. But if it failed to deliver in awe, it still more than did so in fun and the only reservations, really, come from the fact that while Yeah Yeah Yeahs don’t ever put on a bad show, they have put on better.

The National Post, Toronto Sun, Toronto Star, and NOW also have reviews of the show.

Photos: Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ Echo Beach – July 1, 2013
MP3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Date With The Night”
MP3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”
MP3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Machine”
MP3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Miles Away”
MP3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Art Star”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Despair”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Mosquito”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Skeletons”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Heads Will Roll”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Zero”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Cheated Hearts”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Turn Into”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Gold Lion”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Y Control”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Pin”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Date With The Night”

Given that putting out a record on New York label Captured Tracks is becoming as much a sign of quality in the ’00s as doing the same on, say, 4AD, was in the ’80s – some/many will be pleased to know that Los Angeles-based duo Soft Metals are coming to The Drake on August 16 in support of their forthcoming Lenses LP, out July 16. They’ll also be pleased to know admission is $10.

MP3: Soft Metals – “The Cold World Melts”
MP3: Soft Metals – “Psychic Driving”

It’s been a while since North Carolina alt.country songstress Tift Merritt has been through town – Spring 2008 in support of Another Country, I think – but she’s here at The Drake on September 6 in support of last year’s Traveling Alone. Tickets for that are $17.50 in advance.

Video: Tift Merritt – “Virginia, No One Can Warn You”

Chicago folksinger Angel Olsen has been getting a lot of attention for her debut album Half Way Home, originally released last Fall and reissued in May, and she’s just announced a Fall tour that brings her to The Drake on September 26, tickets $13.50 in advance.

MP3: Angel Olsen – “Always Half Strange” (live at Saki)
MP3: Angel Olsen – “Free” (live at Saki)

Nashville singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott trades under the name Torres and her self-released, self-titled debut has garnered enough praise and turned the right heads to get her added as support to Okkervil River’s Fall tour, which means she’s in town at The Phoenix on September 27. Do yourself a favour and get to know her before then.

Video: Torres – “When Winter’s Over” (live in studio)
Video: Torres – “Jealousy & I” (live in studio)

Even though tales of their… troubles on the road continue to pile up, Los Angeles’ Foxygen continue to tour behind their debut We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic; they’re back in Toronto for the third time this year with a show at The Hoxton on October 1, tickets $15.

MP3: Foxygen – “Waitin’ 4 U”

NYC Taper is sharing a recording of Wilco’s no-request set at their Solid Sound festival last month; they’ll play a shortened version of the set at The Molson Amphitheatre on July 15 whilst opening for Bob Dylan.

Billboard talks to Mac McCaughan of Superchunk and Merge Records about Superchunk and Merge Records. The latter releases the new album from the former, I Hate Music, on August 20.

The Guardian talks to Janelle Monáe about her new album The Electric Lady, which is out September 10 and has just produced a new video.

Video: Janelle Monáe – “Dance Apocalyptic”

NPR has a World Cafe session with Iron & Wine. They play The Sound Academy on September 28.

DIY gets to know Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee.