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Posts Tagged ‘tUnE-yArDs’

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Myth

Review of Beach House’s Bloom

Photo By Liz FlyntzLiz FlyntzIf we can regard Beach House literally as their namesake, which is to say as a holiday getaway, a reliably stolid place to escape from the real world, then the amount of adoration they’ve gotten for largely sticking to their skeletal formula through four albums now is understandable. Their fans don’t want them to reinvent themselves with each outing; they want that comforting blanket of Victoria Legrand’s narcoleptic vocals and whirring keyboard interwoven with Alex Scally’s languid slide guitar, and across their first two records – their 2006 self-titled debut and 2007’s Devotion – that’s almost exactly what they got, seasoned with some rudimentary percussion both electronic and organic.

The closest thing they’re ever likely to come to a revolution was with 2010’s Teen Dream, which managed to take a relatively huge leap forward with the production and songwriting, making interesting rhythms and pop hooks a front burner concern without compromising their core sound. A risk, perhaps, but one that paid off immensely in the form of their strongest and most critically and commercially successful work. So with that in mind, it’s not surprising that Bloom – out next Tuesday – opts to stay the course laid out by its predecessor. Surprises simply aren’t Beach House’s style.

Gorgeousness is, however. It took the aforementioned embrace of bigger sounds on Teen Dream to really make me appreciate Beach House – prior to that, I had to be in a very particular mood to listen to them for any period of time – and now they’re a band for all occasions. Having touring drummer Daniel Franz play on the whole of the record, a third member of the band even if he’s not formerly acknowledged as such, helps both ground and propel Bloom while Legrand and Scally do their thing in crafting the haunting textures and melodies that are the foundation of Beach House. And while we’re being literal about things, Bloom is an exceptionally appropriate name for this collection as there’s moments that simply burst outwards. To even suggest that the band be capable of this sort of dynamicism circa their debut would have seemed absurd, and yet just six years later, here we are – and without compromising their identity, no less.

It’s too early to say if Bloom is better than Teen Dream, but by the quantitative measure of how many times I’ve felt compelled to listen to it, it’s already well ahead. At worst, it’s as good as its predecessor and at best, its even better. In either case, it’s hard to imagine liking one and not the other and regardless of where you rank it relative to Beach House’s earlier output, despite really just being more of the same – or perhaps because of it – it’s excellent.

NPR has an advance stream of the new record and DIY, The Line Of Best Fit, The Orlando Sentinel, and Pitchfork have interviews with the band.

MP3: Beach House – “Myth”
Stream: Beach House / Bloom

Also streaming at NPR but two weeks ahead of release are The Only Place, the second album from Best Coast, and Passage, the debut from Exitmusic. Best Coast are at The Phoenix on July 21 and Exitmusic have a NXNE showcase at Wrongbar on June 14.

Stream: Best Coast / The Only Place
Stream: Exitmusic / Passage

S. Carey’s new EP Hoyas came out this week – stream it at Stereogum and read interviews with Sean Carey about the record at The Leader Telegram and Volume One.

MP3: S. Carey – “Two Angles”
Stream: S. Carey / Hoyas

In concert announcements, Joe Pernice will stretch his legs and take a mosey to The Dakota Tavern on June 22, maybe play some songs.

MP3: Pernice Brothers – “Somerville”

Having sold out Lee’s Palace their last time through, Youth Lagoon will be at The Opera House on July 12 with Father John Misty, who still has to get through Monday night’s show at the Horseshoe before he can make a return engagement. Tickets are $15.50 in advance.

MP3: Youth Lagoon – “July”
MP3: Father John Misty – “Nancy From Now On”

If part of Liars’ to-do list in preparation for the June 5 release of WIXIW was slate a North American tour, they can cross it off – they’ll be at Lee’s Palace on July 21, tickets $15. They can also check off releasing the first video from the new album.

MP3: Liars – “Scissor”
Video: Liars – “No. 1 Against The Rush”

Twin Shadow is also hitting the road in support of a new record – with Confess due out July 9, George Lewis Jr will be at Lee’s Palace on July 30 and 31, tickets $20.

MP3: Twin Shadow – “Five Seconds”
MP3: Twin Shadow – “Slow”

Merge has released a companion album to Crooked Fingers’ 2011 album Breaks In The Armor comprised of acoustic demos of the album. It’s out now and you can stream one of the tracks at Donewaiting.

Stream: Crooked Fingers – “Bad Blood” (acoustic)

Exclaim reports that some of The Mountain Goats’ early cassette releases from the early ’90s – The Hound Chronicles and Hot Garden Stomp, specifically – will be released on a single CD on June 26.

Fang Island have announced that their second album Major will be out on July 12; details at Spin.

Pop Etc have released a video from their self-titled debut, out June 12.

Video: Pop Etc – “Live It Up”

Explosions In The Sky have released a second video from last year’s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care.

Video: Explosions In The Sky – “Postcard From 1952″

America Give Up has yielded another video from Minneapolis’ Howler.

Video: Howler – “This One’s Different”

Rolling Stone has premiered a new video from Mates Of State, off of last year’s Mountaintops.

Video: Mates Of State – “Unless I’m Led”

The Magnetic Fields have released a second video from Love At The Bottom Of The Sea.

Video: The Magnetic Fields – “Quick!”

Interview talks to Molly Hamilton of Widowspeak, in town at The Garrison on June 15 for NXNE.

The Line Of Best Fit has a video session with Of Montreal, in town for NXNE on June 16 at Yonge-Dundas Square.

Artrocker and Drowned In Sound talk to A Place To Bury Strangers about their forthcoming album Worship, out June 26.

Red Eye and The Detroit Free Press talk to Andrew Bird, in town at Echo Beach on July 19.

Sharon Van Etten plays a video session for WBEZ; she’s at The Phoenix on July 31.

Pitchfork talks to Merrill Garbus and the director of the recent tUnE-yArDs video for “My Country”. She plays The Phoenix on August 1.

SF Weekly chats with John Vanderslice.

Reverb interviews Kurt Wagner of Lambchop.

NPR is streaming a KCRW radio session with M. Ward.

The Line Of Best Fit talks to Savoir Adore.

Ra Ra Riot talks to Spin about what they’ve got planned for album number three and to Grantland about their appreciation for hockey.

NPR has a WFUV session with Shearwater.

Spin gets a progress report on the next Dinosaur Jr album, due out later this Summer.

Greg Dulli takes The Skinny on a guided tour of The Afghan Whigs’ catalog.

Spin talks to Bob Mould about the 20th anniversary of Sugar’s Copper Blue and the single, “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” in particular. Slicing Up Eyeballs reports that two of Mould’s ’90s albums – Bob Mould and The Last Dog & Pony Show – will be getting released as a three-disc set in the UK on June 18 with the third disc consisting of a live 1998 show.

The Atlantic reflects on the significance of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on the occasion of its tenth anniversary.

The AV Club has posted the fourth part of their look at the history of R.E.M..

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Jesus Of Cool

Nick Lowe at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangMaybe listening to Jesus Of Cool and Labour Of Lust weren’t the best warm-ups for Nick Lowe’s show at The Phoenix on Monday night. After all, he was many many years removed from being the young pub-rock firebrand who recorded those first two records, having settled comfortably into the role of professorial pop singer-songwriter – a guise that’s suited his still-potent pen quite nicely, as last year’s The Old Magic proved. But if you assumed this meant that his shows would be sedate, sit-down affairs, then you were mistaken. Somewhat.

Though the show was billed as Lowe with band, the man took the stage solo to open things up with something old and something new – “Stoplight Roses” from Magic and “Heart” from 1982’s Nick The Knife – before he took some time to chat up the crowd. He apologized if anyone was confused about the venue, since his recent shows had typically been at The Mod Club but with the positive reception that Magic has gotten and the increase in profile he got opening up for Wilco back in September, an upgrade in venue was not overreaching although what with the Phoenix floor being set up with chairs, the increase in capacity was probably only a couple hundred more at best.

Also in his opening monologue, Lowe mentioned that despite the new record being received quite favourably, it wouldn’t be one of “those” shows and that the set list had been optimized for “quality entertainment,” and the man wasn’t lying. After bringing his band out, he led them through a set that went from jazzy on the slower end of things to rollicking rockabilly at the other and both established the strength of his career’s body of work and affirmed that his recent records were as good as his old ones, in their way. After all, Lowe’s talents have always been his way with words and melodies, not in the fashions they were dressed in. I was a bit surprised how that Jesus Of Cool and Labour Of Lust didn’t get a bit more attention – besides being arguably his most famous records, they were also the ones recently reissued – but Lust was only represented by “Without Love” and “Cruel To Be Kind” and Jesus ignored completely.

No one was complaining, though. The audience was dead silent when they needed to be and whooped it up when appropriate, to say nothing of the sounds of female swooning that periodically punctuated the show; indeed, Lowe was a study in songwriting, charm and aging well. It wasn’t until the finale of the main set – “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ‘n’ Roll)” – that they finally got up out of their seats – well, five of them at least – to turn the space at the front of the stage into a dance floor. They were joined by many more for the encores, the first of which was highlighted by a hymnal version of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” and the second which found Lowe, again alone onstage, performing a song by the other iconic British artist to whom he’ll be forever tied – Elvis Costello and “Alison”, and that he missed a chord change while singing “My aim is true” only made the whole thing that much more perfect.

The Toronto Sun and NOW also have reviews of the show; Interview has an interview.

Photos: Nick Lowe @ The Phoenix – April 23, 2012
Video: Nick Lowe – “Sensitive Man”
Video: Nick Lowe – “All Men Are Liars”
Video: Nick Lowe – “I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock And Roll)”
Video: Nick Lowe – “Half A Boy And Half A Man”
Video: Nick Lowe – “Cruel To Be Kind”
Video: Nick Lowe – “Crackin’ Up”

The Line Of Best Fit revisits Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Woody Guthrie-saluting Mermaid Avenue releases; Mermaid Avenue: Volume III would appear to only be available in physical form in the Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions. Alas. Maybe take it up with Billy when his North American tour brings him through the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia on July 8? It looks like that’s as close as he’s getting to Hogtown this time out.

Tiny Mix Tapes interviews Sleigh Bells, back in Toronto next week on April 27 and 28 at the Air Canada Centre opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers.

With Lower Dens’ new album Nootropics due out next week – May 1 – DIY has both a stream of the whole thing and song-by-song annotations from the band.

MP3: Lower Dens – “Brains”
MP3: Lower Dens – “Propagation”
Stream: Lower Dens / Nootropics

La Sera – aka Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls – brings her new record Sees The Light to The Shop Under Parts & Labour on May 13, part of a North American tour.

MP3: La Sera – “Please Be My Third Eye”

The AV Club has got a stream of Fear Fun – the debut album from Father John Misty, aka J. Tillman ex of Fleet Foxes – ahead of its May 1 release date as well as an interview with the man. He plays The Horseshoe on May 14.

MP3: Father John Misty – “Nancy From Now On”
MP3: Father John Misty – “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”
Stream: Father John Misty / Fear Fun

Billboard has a feature piece on Beach House, whose new album Bloom is out May 15.

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips talks to Forbes about why the band has been so dedicated to making weird records/releases over the last couple of years; basically, just to see if they could. Another of the tracks from their Record Store Day Heady Fwends has just been made into a video. The Flaming Lips play a free show for NXNE at Yonge-Dundas Square on June 16.

Video: The Flaming Lips with Prefuse 73 – “The Supermoon Made Me Want To Pee”

And going on before the Lips and doubling the insane live show quotient will be Of Montreal. They’ve just released a new video from this year’s Paralytic Stalks and NPR is streaming last night’s show in Washington DC. And if you’re curious about some of the other NXNE scheduling that I’ve sussed out, last week’s post is in a constant state of update.

Video: Of Montreal – “Spiteful Intervention”

These United States – whose last attempted visit was derailed, I believe, by something we Torontonians like to call the G20 riots, will give it another go with a show at The Horseshoe on June 22. Update: okay, so they were actually here just a couple weeks ago opening for Trampled By Turtles. Fine.

MP3: These United States – “The Great Rivers”
MP3: These United States – “Water & Wheat”

Their fourth album Magic Hour due out on May 28, New York’s Scissor Sisters have set a date at the Sound Academy for June 28 – tickets are $32.50 for general admission and $42.50 for VIP.

Video: Scissor Sisters – “Only The Horses”

Andrew Bird has extended his Summer tour in support of Break It Yourself to include a July 19 date at Echo Beach in Toronto. Tickets are $35 in advance, full itinerary at Under The Radar.

MP3: Andrew Bird – “Eyeoneye”
MP3: Andrew Bird – “Give It Away”

Rolling Stone talks to Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs. She’s at The Phoenix on August 1.

To everyone reporting that Cat Power had named her new record, Sun – it’s not really news. She named announced it as the name of her next studio album following The Greatest as early as 2007, reported that the album was done in 2008 and then said that she’d shelved it in 2009. The more pertinent question is did she change her mind about those sessions and is releasing five-year old recordings or was she so attached to the album title that she’s using it for a whole new set of songs. In any case, it is news – assuming it’s true – that the record will be out on September 11. I’ll wait for Matador to chime in.

Exclaim solicits an acoustic video session with Nada Surf.

The Blue Indian chats with Bowerbirds.

The Mountain Goats play a video session for Paste and bassist Peter Hughes chats with Tone Deaf.

The Village Voice talks to Kurt Wagner of Lambchop, and if you missed last week’s guest editor run at Magnet, check it out – they discuss the origins of each song on Mr. M.

State talks to Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields.

Clash sends Crispin Glover to interview J. Mascis. Stranger things have happened, but not much.

Proxart talks to Anna-Lynne Williams of Trespassers William; on Facebook this week, she reported that the final Trespassers release – a double-disc cupboard clearing compilation – had gone off for mastering. Details on that release soon, one hopes.

The AV Club has posted their third instalment documenting the history of R.E.M..

Monday, April 16th, 2012

It's Only Life

Review of The Shins’ Port Of Morrow and giveaway

Photo By Annie BeedyAnnie BeedyI’d like to, if I could, refer you back to my writeup of The Shins on the occasion of their visit to Toronto last September. In it, I mused about how this band had a Forrest Gump-like knack for getting pulled into conversations bigger than themselves and how all of that seemed out of scale with James Mercer’s desire to simply write pop songs. That hasn’t necessarily subsided as some of the pieces I’ve read surrounding last month’s release of Port Of Morrow were built around the very questionable thesis that The Shins are already a reunion or nostalgia act (four albums over eleven years is hardly a snail’s pace these days, people).

Having already gotten that end of things out of my system with the aforementioned live review, I’m going to try and just talk about Port Of Morrow in the context of being a new Shins record, and nothing else. And it’s actually not too difficult to do because even with all that’s happened between this record and 2007’s Wincing The Night Away – namely the sacking of the band and shelving the whole thing in favour of Broken Bells – Port makes it feel like nothing has transpired and no time has elapsed.

The sonic aesthetic seems a bit shinier than before, more distinctly in line with ’70s studio pop but still following the path laid out by the albums that came before. Mercer’s distinctive, reedy voice manages to keep up – sometimes barely – with the looping melodies he writes for his cryptically evocative lyrics, accompanied by some ratio of jangly guitars to moody synths. The songwriting is also as solid as before, peaking with lead single “Simple Song” – it easily belongs on any post-career best-of compilation – and while it doesn’t again reach those heights, there’s an admirable lack of filler across the other nine tracks. It seems that it really doesn’t matter who’s along for the ride with James Mercer, The Shins remain as The Shins ever were. It’s funny that a band that was sold to so many as being life-changing should find their greatest strength in their constancy.

The Shins premiered their new video for “The Rifle’s Spiral” on the Nintendo DS platform last week, because they’re cool/annoying like that – it should be available for those of us without portable video game systems this week. They open up for The Black Keys at The Molson Amphitheatre on August 4.

Also, courtesy of With A Bullet, I have several copies of Port Of Morrow to give away – one on LP and three on CD. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want The Shins” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address in the body, and indicate if you’d like to be eligible for the vinyl, digital or both. Contest is only open to residents of Canada – sorry, rest of the world – and closes at midnight, April 29. Update: The prizing has been upgraded to four LPs; if you’re CD-only, sorry, can no longer oblige. Maybe buy a turntable?

Video: The Shins – “Simple Song”
Video: The Shins – “Bait & Switch”

I still have fond memories of seeing The Shins for the first time back in Summer 2002 – just before this blog came into existence – at The Rivoli in Toronto, opening up for Los Angeles’ psychedelic-country outfit Beachwood Sparks. The Shins would eventually go on to great things while the Sparks went on hiatus shortly afterwards… a hiatus that is now over. Pitchfork reports the reconvened band will return with their third album The Tarnished Gold on June 26. One of the new tracks and a couple of old ones are posted below.

MP3: Beachwood Sparks – “Forget The Song”
MP3: Beachwood Sparks – “Confusion Is Nothing New”
MP3: Beachwood Sparks – “Drinkswater”

The Fly talks to Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast. Her new record The Only Place is out on May 15 and they’re at The Phoenix on July 21.

Wears The Trousers has an interview with Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls.

School Of Seven Bells have a new video from Ghostory. They’re at The Hoxton on May 2 and are the subject of interviews at The Star-Telegram, The Citizen-Times, The Pitch, and The National.

Video: School Of Seven Bells – “Reappear”

tUnE-yArDs has released a new video from WHOKILL, featuring some face that may be familiar if you’ve seen the old videos from WHOKILL. There’s also interviews with Merril Garbus at OC Weekly and The Santa Barbara Independent; she plays The Phoenix on August 1.

Video: tUnE-yArDs – “My Country”

Lambchop have squeezed a new video out of Mr. M. Indy Week, Magnet, and The Washington Post have chats with Kurt Wagner.

Video: Lambchop – “2B2″

M. Ward is the subject of feature pieces at Spinner, Paste, The Vancouver Sun, Clash, American Songwriter, Ventura County Star, and Flagstaff Live.

NPR welcomes Perfume Genius to WFUV for a radio session featuring a new song. There’s also features at The Georgia Straight and Dazed, and the second part of the interview between Michael Stipe and Mike Hadreas is now up at East Village Boys.

NPR has made The Magnetic Fields’ day show at SXSW available to stream, and also have a radio interview with Stephin Merritt available. There’s also pieces at The Guelph Mercury and Creative Loafing.

Rolling Stone caught up with Annie Clark of St. Vincent to talk about her next album – a collaboration with David Byrne that should be out in the Fall. Pitchfork also points out that her entire Coachella set is available to watch online and a new song which appears on her Record Store Day 7″ makes its live premiere and scorches.

Video: St. Vincent @ Coachella 2012

QRO talks to Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater.

Greg Dulli talks to DIY about the Afghan Whigs reunion.

New York electro-rock/soul/funk acts Penguin Prison and Class Actress are teaming up for a co-headline tour which brings them to Wrongbar on June 7;

Video: Penguin Prison – “Don’t Fuck With My Money”
Video: Class Actress – “Weekend”

You have the Toronto Jazz Festival to thank for bringing Janelle Monáe back to Toronto for the first time since CMW 2011; she’ll be playing the outdoor stage at Nathan Phillips Square on June 22, and hopefully you can find a spot to watch from the unticketed area because admission is a rather dear $62.50.

Video: Janelle Monáe – “Tightrope”

Also in town for the Jazz Festival is Nellie McKay, whose boycott of Canada in protest of the seal hunts is apparently over. She’ll be at The Horseshoe on June 30, tickets $20 in advance.

Video: Nellie McKay – “Real Life”

San Francisco electronic artist Tycho is back in town on July 10 for a date at The Hoxton.

MP3: Tycho – “Hours”
MP3: Tycho – “Coastal Brake”

And Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – perhaps you’ve heard of them – have finally added a Toronto date for their Wrecking Ball tour. They’ll be at The Rogers Centre on August 24 with tickets going on sale April 20; no pricing as yet but you can bet it won’t be cheap and that it’ll still be worth it. They’ve also released a new video from Wrecking Ball recorded at the Moody Theater show at SXSW in March. If you look really closely, you can see me in the stands! Okay, no you can’t. Update: Tickets are $35 and $115. Nicely done, Bruce.

Video: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – “Death To My Hometown”

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

New Ceremony

Dry The River at The Garrison in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangTwo points. One, I am rather smitten with Dry The River’s debut album Shallow Bed, out now in the UK and coming out in North America on April 17. Two, I am somewhat suspicious of how smitten I am with said record as history shows that my infatuation with British bands who trade in big, emotive rock can be short-lived, either for overexposure or for having a shelf life that’s shorter than one would hope. As such, I went into seeing them at SXSW something of a skeptic and came out a believer – their performance was one of the most stirring I saw all week by a band not hailing from E Street – and as much as seeing them make their Toronto debut less than a fortnight later might have seemed redundant, it was also not to be missed. After all, if things played out for the band as they certainly seemed like they might, the next time they visited would be in a much bigger room.

I wasn’t the only one with that idea, evidently, as The Garrison was decidedly full before they took the stage. With all respect to Bowerbirds and their fanbase, I suspect the support was as much of a draw on this tour as the headliners if not moreso. Still, the five-piece took the stage humbly and a bit taken aback by the turnout – reasonable, as apparently their show the night before in Montreal had been downgraded to an impromptu coffee shop show after Bowerbirds’ van broke down and the main show had to be cancelled – and opened with “No Rest”, whose soaring chorus couldn’t help but win over everyone and anyone within earshot. The band’s ability to build from quiet to crescendo was a potent weapon, but one they used judiciously – if anything, they played things quieter than on record, emphasizing the folkier aspects of their sound and keeping the big guns in reserve for when they’d be most effective, like the crashing intro to “Bible Belt” and the grand, heart-stopping finale of “Lion’s Den”.

As I mentioned in that SXSW writeup, from a strictly musical point of view, there’s no reason that Dry The River can’t follow the trail laid by the likes of Mumford & Sons to mass success. If anything holds them back, it’s their lack of pre-packaged marketability, Dry The River being decidedly scruffier and less ready for the cover of Non-Threatening Boys than their tweed-clad countrymen. But if that keeps their star from ascending quite so quickly and we early adopters can keep them to ourselves a bit longer, I’m all for that.

Alas, something came up and I couldn’t stick around to see Bowerbirds’ set, but I’m sure they were lovely. Next time.

Panic Manual and Syncopated Sound also have reviews of the show. NPR and Toro have interviews with the band, Clash asks guitarist Matthew Taylor to curate his dream festival lineup and The Alternate Side and Daytrotter have posted sessions with the band.

Photos: Dry The River @ The Garrison – March 27, 2012
MP3: Dry The River – “New Ceremony”
Video: Dry The River – “No Rest”
Video: Dry The River – “Chambers & The Valves”
Video: Dry The River – “Weights & Measures”

Ascendent British soul singer Michael Kiwanuka will make his proper Toronto debut – he played an invite-only thing during CMW – at The Great Hall on June 19, tickets $15 in advance. Rolling Stone has all the North American dates and a chat with the singer while Chart antes up with a video session.

MP3: Michael Kiwanuka – “Tell Me A Tale”

M. Ward is gearing up for the release of his new album A Wasteland Companion next week with a Daytrotter session and New York Times interview; you can also now download the lead single from said record if you like.

MP3: M. Ward – “Primitive Girl”

The Quietus interviews Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low and also get Sparhawk to list off his favourite albums. They’re at Massey Hall in support of Death Cab For Cutie on April 19.

Jana Hunter of Lower Dens talks to Spin about their new record Nootropics, out May 1.

Their tour having wrapped up last night right here in Toronto, A Place To Bury Strangers have announced the June 26 release of their next full-length album Worship, and the first single is now available to download courtesy of Spin. The AV Club and The Phoenix have interviews with guitarist Oliver Ackermann.

MP3: A Place To Bury Strangers – “You Are The One”

The Riverfront Times talks to Roger Miller of Mission Of Burma; their new one Unsound is due out on July 9.

NPR serves up a World Cafe session with tUnE-yArDs, in town at The Phoenix on August 1.

Dum Dum Girls has released a new video from last year’s Only In Dreams.

Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Coming Down”

Interview interviews Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal. The Star-Ledger, LA Weekly, Boise Weekly, and What’s Up also have features.

Aquarium Drunkard grabs an interview with Dean Wareham.

Bryce Dessner of The National talks to You Ain’t No Picasso.

CBC, The Awl, The Toronto Star, and Exclaim all ran features on The Magnetic Fields in advance of last week’s show at The Sound Academy.

The Line Of Best Fit talks to Andrew Bird.

NPR is streaming a recording of a collaboration between The Mountain Goats, Owen Pallett, and vocal group Anonymous 4 at the Ecstatic Music Festival in New York.

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Tramp

Sharon Van Etten and Shearwater at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangTwo records is not really a lot of data from which to plot a creative trajectory, but based on Sharon Van Etten’s first couple records, you could make some projections. Her 2009 debut Because I Was In Love was simple and spare, elevated above your standard singer-songwriter fare by Van Etten’s gorgeous bruise of a voice and her correspondingly confessional songwriting; 2010’s mini-album epic showed what she could do with backing players, offering a perfect set of songs that arced from the darkness, both in tone and theme, of “A Crime” to the aching and even hopeful “Love More” in just over half an hour. So when word came that she was working with The National’s Aaron Dessner on her third effort, one could reasonably assume that it would be even more polished – in the best sense of the word – than its predecessors.

Which is why, I think, that it’s taken me longer than expected to wrap my head around Tramp. It’s not immediately more focused than epic, instead retreating back into the sprawl and thematic shadows of Because I Was In Love; the album shifts gears from song to song, for instance bouncing from the rocking “Serpents” through the drifting “Kevin’s” into the sprightly “Leonard” and within the songs, she favours more elliptical than direct melodies. Anyone fearing that Van Etten would be going pop the third time out can rest easy. Once personal expectations are checked in favour of what’s actually been delivered, Tramp affirms itself as a solid showcase of Van Etten’s talents; muscular where strength is called for and gentle when all it needs is to softly support. As a record to break Van Etten out to a broader audience, I still think epic was better suited, but Tramp is clearly doing the job just fine. Lee’s Palace, where she played Tuesday night, is a good deal larger than The Drake which hosted her first/last headlining visit in April 2011, and it was well and truly sold out.

It was gratifying to see that the room was comfortably full for Shearwater, who despite having finally graduated to headliner status for their last visit in April 2010 and having just released their own exceptional record in Animal Joy, were back in the supporting role on this tour. Now I had seen Shearwater a dozen times or so in various incarnations over the years since first seeing them in this very room in May 2005, but had never seen them like this – quite literally. Despite having commented on how the rawness of Animal Joy could be attributed to stripping things down to the core trio of Jonathan Meiburg, Kim Burke and Thor Harris, neither Burke nor Harris were to be seen on this night – instead, Shearwater was Meiburg and four all-new faces; clearly, even long-time fans were going to have to check their expectations.

And even the longest-term Shearwater fan couldn’t have been prepared for what this incarnation of the band would be about. Past writeups of both their albums and live shows inevitably centered around the sense of mystery and atmosphere that they created, led by Meiburg’s soaring vocals. Now, that voice was more banshee than choirboy and the band – all electric guitars, keys and drums – was unrelentingly urgent and visceral. No two ways about it, Shearwater 2012 is a rock band and a great one – “You As You Were” was jaw-dropping and set-closer “Star Of The Age” was stirringly anthemic in a way that the album version only hinted at. The bulk of the nearly hour-long set drew from Animal Joy, but “Rooks” from Rook and “The Snow Leopard” and “Castaways” represented The Golden Archipelago well, coming even more alive with this band configuration. Make no mistake, both Harris and Burke were missed but at the same time, I couldn’t imagine wanting to hear the new songs played any other way than they had. If the night had ended here, it’d have been a triumph.

But it wasn’t the end; this was still Sharon Van Etten’s night, even if her performance was more of a gentle, hour-long come-down following Shearwater’s bracing set. She also fronted a different band from the one she brought through last Spring; Doug Keith remained a fixture on bass but the drummer – whose name eluded me – was new, I think, and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Heather Woods Broderick was definitely new. What remained the same was the disarming charm that Van Etten brought to the stage with her smile and light banter, which helped balance out the emotional weightiness of her material.

With the exception of “Save Yourself” early on, the main set was made up exclusively of Tramp material, with Van Etten resisting requests for “Tornado” to rep Because I Was In Love but she did offer up a searing “Serpents” as a dedication to one audience member, being sure to clarify that “this is not about you but for you”. It has to be said that live, the material hung together better for me than it did on record – the blend of omnichord and harmonium on “Magic Chords” was, well, magical and using a triple guitar setup not for aggression but atmosphere on “I’m Wrong” and allowing that to bloom and gently settle into the set-closing “Joke Or A Lie” was pretty special. For the encore, it as back to the harmonium for a reading of “Love More” that made you really grateful that Broderick and her harmonies were now part of the band and then, to close out on an up note, they invited Shearwater back onstage for a cover of The Soft Boys’ “I Wanna Destroy You” that was raucous, sloppy and a great if unexpected way to finish the night.

The National Post also has a review of the show and the Toronto media welcomed Van Etten to town with interviews in Chart, The Toronto Standard, The Grid, The National Post, The Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Toro, and NOW and out of town, The Boston Phoenix says hello. Meanwhile, Blurt has a feature on Shearwater and Meiburg gives The Montreal Gazette a list of what he’s listening to these days and pens an essay on Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock for adequacy.net.

Photos: Sharon Van Etten, Shearwater @ Lee’s Palace – February 21, 2012
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Serpents”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Love More”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Don’t Do It”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “I Couldn’t Save You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Consolation Prize”
MP3: Shearwater – “You As You Were”
MP3: Shearwater – “Breaking The Yearlings”
MP3: Shearwater – “Black Eyes”
MP3: Shearwater – “God Made Me”
MP3: Shearwater – “Castaways”
MP3: Shearwater – “South Col”
MP3: Shearwater – “The Snow Leopard”
MP3: Shearwater – “Rooks”
MP3: Shearwater – “Red Sea, Black Sea”
MP3: Shearwater – “Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five”
MP3: Shearwater – “White Waves”
MP3: Shearwater – “Whipping Boy”
Video: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
Video: Shearwater – “Breaking The Yearlings”

Peppy Los Angeles soundtrack fodder outfit Grouplove have made a date at Wrongbar for May 9, tickets $18. It’s part of a Spring tourNever Trust A Happy Song.

Video: Grouplove – “Colours”

Mark Lanegan has taken a break from being a grim, gravelly voice for hire to release a new solo record in Blues Funeral that’s, well, probably grim and gravelly. He and band will be taking it on tour and stop in at The Mod Club on May 15, tickets $15 in advance, and there’s features at The Quietus and Exclaim.

MP3: Mark Lanegan Band – “The Gravedigger’s Song”
Video: Mark Lanegan Band – “The Gravedigger’s Song”

tUnE-yArDs is pretty sure people are still discovering and being wowed by last year’s WHOKILL, and so she’s going to give them another chance to hear it live – Toronto gets its third show for the album on August 1 at The Phoenix, tickets $20.

MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Powa”
MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness”

Bon Iver has released a full 25-minute video session recorded for their European label wherein Justin Vernon and Sean Carey do Bon Iver-y things. And incidentally, Carey will release a new EP entitled Hoyas on May 8; his 2010 solo debut All We Grow was a gem, so if you dig what he does in the session, check his work out.

Video: Bon Iver / 4AD Sessions

Paste talks to Beth and Philip of Bowerbirds while Eater has some food-talk with violinist Mark Paulson. Their new record The Clearing comes out March 6 and they’re at The Garrison on March 27.

Kurt Wagner of Lambchop discusses the song, “If Not I’ll Just Die” with NPR; he also talks Mr. M with No Depression and The Telegraph.

Rolling Stone reports that the long-rumoured Mermaid Avenue, Vol III from Billy Bragg and Wilco will finally be coming out this year, just in time for the centenary of Woody Guthrie’s birth. It’ll be available either as part of the four-disc Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions with the first two albums and the Man In The Sand documentary film or on its own. More details on the release are available at Billy Bragg’s blog.

A second sample of M. Ward’s forthcoming A Wasteland Companion is now available to stream; it’s out April 10.

Stream: M. Ward – “Primitive Girl”

James Mercer of The Shins talks to Exclaim about their new album Port Of Morrow, due out March 20. The first video from said record was released a couple days ago and you can finally watch it online, after originally only being available as an iTunes download – free, sure, but annoying and I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come, PR-speaking.

Video: The Shins – “Simple Song”