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Posts Tagged ‘Versus’

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Too Dramatic

Ra Ra Riot at The Mod Club in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSyracuse’s Ra Ra Riot have found success largely by maintaining a delicate stylistic balancing act; one that relies on the sextet’s energy and musical dexterity to offset their more ostentatious proclivities. In particular, the tendency to allow the strengths that made them distinct – the vocal acrobatics of Wes Miles and string section of Alexandra Lawn and Rebecca Zeller – to run away with things. At their best, they were a dizzyingly nimble orchestral rock ensemble; at their worst, overly indulgent and precious. Their 2008 debut The Rhumb Line deftly walked this line and on the whole, came out on the winning side.

The just-released follow-up The Orchard doesn’t get to make the same claim. As sophomore efforts demand, the band’s sound has grown from the debut but it’s done so in the direction of giving Miles more room to stretch out, vocally, and the result is a general sense of oversinging. Similarly, it sounds as though the faders on the strings have been pushed up sufficiently that rather than dance in and out of the mix equally with the other instruments, they seem to be overtop of things more often than not. Neither are major, game-changing shifts but as stated, it was a fragile state of equilibrium and one easily upset. It’s by no means a catastrophe, though – still intact is their collective musical chemistry and sense of melody and songcraft and underneath the slightly overcooked presentation are still some instantly catchy tunes. The Orchard‘s best moments are the uptempo ones that sound like they could have come straight off The Rhumb Line, which I prefer to interpret not as that they’ve already peaked creatively but instead have a strong foundation from which to grow in the right direction come record number three.

They’ve still got it just right on the stage, however, as Monday night’s free show at the Mod Club attested. Offered as a gift to fans who didn’t want to see them turn in a brief opening set at the Molson Amphitheatre on Saturday night, they delivered a full and proper show that served to remind that they’re an exceptional live act. Delivered with unrelenting energy and a punchiness that’s not really captured on record, nary a member of the band stopped moving for the better part of an hour, seemingly enthralled and compelled to dance by their music. That probably sounds more flowery than its intended, but it when the band is completely caught up in the sounds they’re making, it really sets the tone for the show and there was plenty of bopping up and down in the audience as well. The set list wisely stuck to the most up tempo songs in their repertoire and really showcased the talents of bassist Mathieu Santos, guitarist Milo Bonacci and drummer Gabriel Duquette. Though Miles, Lawn and Zeller understandably get the most attention, its those three who really lay down the rhythmic and melodic backbone of the band. But it’s the six of them operating as a single musical entity that impresses most with Ra Ra Riot and no reservations about their recorded work can diminish that.

There’s a decent recording of the show up at Hater High and according to the band, we can expect another local date some time in December. Seattle Weekly interviews guitarist Milo Bonacci.

Photos: Ra Ra Riot @ The Mod Club – August 30, 2010
MP3: Ra Ra Riot – “Boy”
MP3: Ra Ra Riot – “Dying Is Fine”
MP3: Ra Ra Riot – “Each Year” (EP version)
Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Boy”
Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Can You Tell?”
Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Ghost Under Rocks”
Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Dying Is Fine”
MySpace: Ra Ra Riot

Magnet interviews Versus in anticipation of the band taking over the editorial reins of the website this week.

Arcade Fire continue to be disinterested in making conventional music videos, and the world is a better place for it. The clip ostensibly for “We Used To Wait” can be found at The Wilderness Downtown and uses a fascinating mash-up of HTML 5 and Google Earth to take you back to the neighbourhood you grew up in. My own personal experience was surprisingly powerful, but even if yours isn’t as much so, it’s still pretty cool. There’s some background about the technologies at play over at Chrome Experiments. Oh yeah, you’ll need the Google Chrome browser for it to work properly. It’s a good browser. Worth the download.

Video: Arcade Fire – “We Used To Wait”

Interpol are also getting into the neat video racket with a POV multi-camera session over at PitchforkTV. Their self-titled album is out next week.

Also out next week is The Thermals’ new record Personal Life, which is currently streaming in whole at NPR. They’re at Lee’s Palace October 9.

Stream: The Thermals / Personal Life

Film School’s new album Fission is available to stream over at Spinner, as is Jenny & Johnny’s debut I’m Having Fun Now; both are out this week. Film School are at the El Mocambo on October 4 and Jenny & Johnny open up for Band Of Horses at the Kool Haus on October 21.

Stream: Film School / Fission
Stream: Jenny & Johnny / I’m Having Fun Now

Stereogum has premiered the new video from The Drums’ self-titled debut, which is either out now if like vinyl or on September 14 if you like CD. They’re at the Mod Club on October 21.

Video: The Drums – “Down By The Water”

Cleveland Scene talks to Doug Martsch of Built To Spill.

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Invincible Hero

Versus and Soft Copy at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI don’t really maintain any sort of live music “bucket list” – I find the very notion a bit creepy – but there are bands whom I’ve long wanted to see but never gotten the opportunity for whatever reason. Near the top of the list are New York’s Versus, whom I discovered just after they finished promoting their last record Hurrah, back in 2000. Of course, at the time I didn’t know that they’d basically be going on a decade-long hiatus after frontman Richard Baluyut moved to San Francisco. That they weren’t going to be coming around any time soon became clear as every member began rolling out their own projects and aside from very occasional one-off gigs, Versus remained dormant.

But a move back to the east coast by Baluyut took the band out of mothballs and though the band is down to a trio, their new record On The Ones And Threes sounds like almost no time at all had passed between it and Hurrah. It’s still split between guitar-driven ragers and more thoughtful pieces, marked with Baluyut and Fontaine Toups’ distinctive vocals both together and apart and though still quintessentially ’90s college rock in spirit, doesn’t feel out of time or fashion in 2010. It’s a good record and perhaps more importantly, an excuse to tour again for the first time in a decade.

This tour brought them to Lee’s Palace with Merge labelmates and fellow ’90s survivors Polvo, though a lack of history with the headliners and questionable ability to stay upright made it unlikely I’d stay late enough to see them play. I did arrive in time to see local openers Soft Copy, however, and am glad I did both for their own set and the greater role they’d play in the evening’s narrative. To the former, the trio wore their post-punk influences squarely on their sleeves, drawing in particular from Mission Of Burma’s more melodic side. They had all the tension and intensity you’d want from an act trading in that sound, but with an immediate tunefulness that made them accessible to anyone. With two albums in Wolf, Wolves & More Wolves and Vicious Modernism under their belts, they’ve been around a little while as a unit and individually in various bands a hell of a lot longer, but they were a new find to me and a good one at that.

The constants in Versus have always been Richard Baluyut and Fontaine Toups – the rest of the band has been a bit of a revolving door even though they’ve often kept it in the family. For this iteration of the reunion, original drummer Ed Baluyut was back on the drummer’s stool on the record which is why it was surprising when they started playing, accompanied by Margaret White on violin and keys, Ed wasn’t behind the kit. No one was. They played a couple songs with this setup, Toups seeming to attack her bass extra heavily for some percussive effect, and it sort of worked – especially with White’s violin adding un-Versus-ish textures – but I was starting to think that I’d have to put an asterisk beside my “yeah, I finally saw Versus” anecdote when someone came out from the side of the stage and got behind the kit: Soft Copy’s drummer, Paul Boddum.

As Richard would explain, a new baby had necessitated Ed’s return to New York, leaving the band short-handed and so Boddum – who happened to be a sizable fan of the band – was enlisted that afternoon to fill in, though only in principal. They had no rehearsal or sound check and this was their first time playing together, but even without those qualifiers Boddum did a hell of a job pinch-hitting. Fills were kept simple and a couple of cues were missed, but you could see the band get more comfortable with the arrangement as the set progressed and by the set’s end, when the older material circa The Stars Are Insane was aired out, they were practically grooving and Baluyut was able to dig in to some fierce guitar work. I don’t doubt that had the proper line-up been in place, the show might have been a bit better paced or had some more momentum behind it, but this was just cooler to see and they sounded pretty great regardless. They wrapped their set to tremendous applause, Polvo went on, I went home and Paul went with Versus to play with them in Montreal.

Soft Copy’s next show is this Wednesday night at The Shop at Parts & Labour.

Photos: Versus, Soft Copy @ Lee’s Palace – August 13, 2010
MP3: Versus – “Invincible Hero”
MP3: Versus – “Deseret”
MP3: Soft Copy – “Hot Cakes”
MP3: Soft Copy – “Extra Cirricular”
MP3: Soft Copy – “First Date”
Video: Versus – “Scientists”
MySpace: Versus
MySpace: Soft Copy

The Village Voice interviews Dean Wareham of Dean & Britta about the Warhol 13 Most Beautiful project and revisiting the Galaxie 500 ouvre on their upcoming Fall tour.

Seattle Weekly and Spinner interview Craig Finn of The Hold Steady.

Sharon Van Etten previews a couple of songs from Epic for NPR’s World Cafe. The new record is out October 5 and she’ll be at Lee’s Palace on November 5 supporting Junip.

Billboard talks to Interpol about their return to the indies for self-titled album number four, out September 7.

Filter thinks you should already know The Magnetic Fields.

Billboard profiles Ra Ra Riot as they prepare for the of their sophomore effort The Orchard, which isn’t out till next Tuesday but is now streaming in whole at NPR. There’s also a new video from the record but only Americans are allowed to see it – foreigners can watch the ad, but not the vid. They’re at the Molson Amphitheatre on August 28. Video: Non-geoblocked version of the vid now up.

Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Boy”
Stream: Ra Ra Riot / The Orchard

Paste and Filter have features on Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, who just released their new record Let It Sway, currently available to stream at MBV Music. They’re at the El Mocambo on September 4.

Stream: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin / Let It Sway

Belle & Sebastian have revealed the REAL artwork to their new record Write About Love, served up a video clip from an alleged band-themed TV show with a snippet of a new song and given the record a release date – October 12. That is, incidentally, the same day that the band will be playing Massey Hall in Toronto so yeah, that’ll be a bit of an occasion.

M.I.A. will bring /\/\/\Y/\ to the Sound Academy on September 22 – tickets $40 in advance, $75 for VIP.

Video: M.I.A – “XXXO”

Exclaim reports that Marnie Stern has a date at Wrongbar on October 3. Her new, self-title record is out on October 5.

MP3: Marnie Stern – “For Ash”

OK Go return for a show at The Phoenix on October 14, tickets $20 in advance.

Video: OK Go – “This Too Shall Pass”

California’s Avi Buffalo have made a date at the Horseshoe on October 18; The Los Angeles Times has a feature on the band.

MP3: Avi Buffalo – “Remember Last Time”
MP3: Avi Buffalo – “What’s In It For?”

So much of the chatter yesterday was about how Scott Pilgrim vs The World did so poorly at the box office (coming in #5 with $10.5 million in the US) and with some taking some schadenfreude about how despite all the online buzz leading up to its release, it still did relatively poorly. That’s bunk. This film may as well have been called Scott Pilgrim vs The Fated For Cult Movie Status – there’s nothing about it that implies it would have made big bank. Not the cast, not the director, not the premise and certainly not the setting (Toronto? Pah). In fact, it’s remarkable that it was even made in Hollywood. If it just happens that a disproportionate percentage of the otherwise small target demographic is on Twitter, well there’s nothing to be done about that and I do believe that most everyone who expressed excitement about the film before release will go out and pay to see it – it simply won’t add up to much compared to folks who’ve apparently been counting the days until a new Dolph Lundgren film came out.

Anyways, I saw it on opening night (of course) and by and large loved it. It was a little odd having it shift from following the books almost verbatim to being its own thing midway through the Lee’s Palace fight and I was disappointed that none of Honest Ed’s, Sneaky Dee’s or the Reference Library made an appearance, but by and large it was as faithful to the text and the spirit of the source as it could be while still being a decent movie. That came at the expense of some/a lot of the character depth – neither Scott nor Ramona ended up with much explanation for why they were how they were – but so be it. It was still tremendously fun and entertaining and I eagerly await the infinite iterations of the DVD/BR editions. And since there wasn’t going to be a sequel anyways, there’s really no concern about how much or little money it makes. That’s Universal’s problem, not mine.

Filter has a great piece on another film that was probably too weird for the world at the time of its release… and even now – The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. I won’t lie – I can’t see John Lithgow as anyone but Dr. Lizardo and hold out hope that someday, we’ll see Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League make it into production. And come on – best closing credits/theme music ever.

Trailer: The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

"Twenty Four Hours"

Versus cover Joy Division

Image via WikidepiaWikidepiaA Means To An End, the 1995 tribute album to Joy Division, is a curious entity. Though their status as legends had been cemented for many years, it was still largely an underground and music geek thing – I’m pretty sure you couldn’t get Closer t-shirts in child sizes as you can now (it’s true, I’ve seen them). And I remember a not inconsiderable marketing push behind A Means To An End when it came out – on a major label – even though there wasn’t really a single act on the track list who was a household name; at best they were dorm room names.

But maybe there was a kid out there who picked up The Crow soundtrack the year before and lost his shit to the Nine Inch Nails’ version of “Dead Souls” and actually learned that it wasn’t a NIN song and thus learned who Joy Division were and, being in the middle of the ’90s alt.rock explosion, wanted to hear their songs done by artists who were relevant to them (and unknown to everyone else, thus increasing their potential cool points). Maybe A Means To An End was for them.

And if so, then they’d have discovered New York’s Versus doing a mostly faithful but still distinctly Versus (thanks to the vocals of James Baluyut and Fontaine Toups) version of “Twenty Four Hours”. And they’d have become fans of that band through the rest of the ’90s, only to lose them when they went on an extended hiatus in 2000. A hiatus that would last a decade until this coming Tuesday’s release of On The Ones And Threes, a Versus record that sounds like Versus never went away. And then they would be happy.

Versus play Lee’s Palace on August 13.

MP3: Versus – “Twenty Four Hours”
Stream: Joy Division – “Twenty Four Hours”

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

No Place To Fall

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan chart North American tour

Photo via VanguardVanguard RecordsI almost ended up repeating myself verbatim from four and a half years ago when the news that Isobel Campbell was putting together a Fall North American tour in support of Hawk, her new record with Mark Lanegan out August 24. Specifically the “Torontonians haven’t seen Isobel Campbell since she sulked offstage fromBelle & Sebastian’s May 2002 show at the Kool Haus… and then quit the band a couple of weeks later” part. Because, well, it was true then.

The context, however, was that it was supposed to no longer be true as of that following March as Campbell was scheduled to play Revival during CMW in support of her new record Ballad Of The Broken Seas, her first collaboration with Lanegan, and thus give Toronto a fonder memory of she who had by then established herself as a singer-songwriter of repute and not just the girl who used to be in Belle & Sebastian. Alas, that show was cancelled on account of her coming down with the flu and though I was able to see her shortly thereafter at SxSW with Eugene Kelly spotting for Lanegan, fans back home weren’t so fortunate – if fortunate is the correct word, as that SxSW performance was somewhat disappointing.

2008’s Sunday At Devil Dirt found Campbell working with Lanegan again and this time, the dynamic between the two, which was a bit forced their first time out, was much more natural and consequently, the blues and Americana-drenched results far more compelling. All signs point to Hawk continuing in that direction, which makes the fact that the tour is happening and that Lanegan is going to be along for the ride rather exciting news. Campbell’s immune system willing, the Toronto date will be October 20 at Lee’s Palace (and not the Mod Club as the Under The Radar piece states – this from the promoter).

This track is from Sunday At Devil Dirt. A couple of new songs are streaming at Campbell’s MySpace.

MP3: Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – “Trouble”

The working relationship with BBQ apparently done for good, it’ll be King Khan & The Shrines causing shit at Lee’s Palace on October 8.

MP3: King Khan & The Shrines – “Land Of The Freak”

With the September 7 release date for Personal Life drawing ever near, The Thermals have slated a North American tour supported by Cymbals Eat Guitars that stops in at Lee’s Palace on October 9. They talk to Spinner about writing their single “Canada” on stage at a gig in Buffalo.

MP3: The Thermals – “I Don’t Believe You”
MP3: Cymbals Eat Guitars – “Wind Phoenix”

Though the initial salvo of dates seemed so skip over Toronto, the full itinerary for Gorillaz’ Autumn North American tour will indeed be stopping here – at the Air Canada Centre on October 13, to be precise.

Video: Gorillaz – “Stylo”

Exclaim talks to Versus, whose new record On The Ones And Threes is out on Tuesday and available to stream now. They’re at Lee’s Palace on August 13.

Stream: Versus / On The Ones And Threes

NME gets some bon mots from Emmy The Great about what to expect from album number two, already 99% funded and due out in February of next year.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Tift Merritt.

GQ and Time Out have interviews with M.I.A.. Cussing ensues.

Pitchfork solicits a guest list from Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast; they’re at Lee’s Palace on September 25.

NYCTaper is sharing audio from The Flaming Lips’ show in Central Park on Monday night.

They Shoot Music solicits and acoustic set from A Place To Bury Strangers.

Noizefests chats with Mel Draisey of The Clientele. Their new release Minotaur is out August 31.

The Quietus has an extensive, career-spanning interview with Dean Wareham of Dean & Britta.

The Village Voice talks to Jason Pierce about the lasting legacy of Spiritualized’s Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Electric Bloom

An introduction to Foals (for me)

Photo By Steve GullickSteve GullickI’m sitting here trying to figure out why I never listened to Oxford’s Foals. It’s not that I hadn’t heard of them – I made note of both tours they undertook a couple years ago in support of their debut Antidotes, but don’t think I gave them any sort of listen beyond the sample MP3 and maybe a MySpace drive-by. Maybe it was the saxophones that turned me off. But I’m revisiting them – both Antidotes and this year’s follow-up Total Life Forever – and it’s doing it for me.

I wouldn’t have thought that I needed another tense, new-wavey/post-punky English band in my life but Foals feel different enough from the stereotype to warrant some attention. They’re certainly pointy in all the right places, but don’t really get as frantic on the dance floor as some of their peers, opting instead to dwell moodily in the corner. I appreciate the moody dwellers, and there’s much more of this side of their personality evident on Total Life Forever. I can sort of see why I might have passed over Antidotes but the extra bit of groove and sophistication on Total Life Forever is pretty much demanding further listens.

And so I won’t be missing them when they come through town a third time – Filter reports that the quintet are coming over to North America for a Fall tour, and that includes a September 27 date at Lee’s Palace. See you there.

MP3: Foals – “Spanish Sahara”
MP3: Foals – “Balloons”
Video: Foals – “Miami”
Video: Foals – “Spanish Sahara”
Video: Foals – “This Orient”
Video: Foals – “Cassius”
Video: Foals – “Balloons”
Video: Foals – “Hummer”
Video: Foals – “Mathletics”
MySpace: Foals

And speaking of third time’s the charm, you can’t say The Charlatans ever give up. Just as they’ve managed to outlive pretty much every other Madchester and Britpop band, they keep trying to come back to North America. They were going to come in October 2008, then canceled almost immediately. Then they slated a tour for September of last year, which got nixed a month before as drummer Jon Brookes required shoulder surgery. Some might take this as a sign, but they’ve just announced a North American tour in support of a new record entitled Who We Touch, out September 14, and it again includes a Toronto date for September 17 at Lee’s Palace. The two cancelled engagements were supposed to be at the Mod Club; maybe they’re hoping the change of venue changes their fortunes. And all joking aside, I do hope they make it over here this time, as there’s not a lot of shows that I can go to and still feel like one of the younger people in the room.

MP3: The Charlatans – “Oh! Vanity”
MP3: The Charlatans – “You Cross My Path”

They mentioned that it was their first time in Canada when they opened up for Spoon back in March, but Austin’s Strange Boys certainly haven’t been strangers around town since then. I think they played another gig that weekend, were back during NXNE and now they’re coming back with a date at The Garrison on September 22.

Video: The Strange Boys – “Be Brave”

It’s a solid bill from top to bottom as Rogue Wave, Midlake and Peter Wolf Crier team up for a Fall tour that includes a September 24 date at the Opera House.

MP3: Rogue Wave – “Good Morning”
MP3: Midlake – “Acts Of Man”
MP3: Peter Wolf Crier – “Crutch & Cane”

James have compiled a couple of recent mini-albums for the North American market and will release them as the double-set The Morning After The Night Before on September 14, to be accompanied by a North American tour alongside Ed Harcourt that includes a stop at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto on September 30.

Video: James – “Sometimes (Lester Piggot)”
Video: Ed Harcourt – “Born In The ’70s”

Dr. Dog, who’ve just released a new record in Shame, Shame, will be hitting the road in support and bringing Here We Go Magic with them. Look for them at the Phoenix on October 16.

MP3: Dr. Dog – “Stranger”
MP3: Here We Go Magic – “Casual”

Florence & The Machine should probably be working on album number two, which is targeted for an early 2011 release, but instead she’s coming back to North America this Fall, perhaps looking to leverage an appearance on the Twilight soundtrack (the same appearance which has put a Volvo ad on her website… sigh). The itinerary is still taking shape, but in addition to dates in New York and New Orleans, she’ll be in Toronto at the Sound Academy on November 3. Tickets are $30, on sale next Friday, but Rogers Wireless customers have a $20 presale starting Thursday – kind of makes up for that monthly system access fee, doesn’t it?

MP3: Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With A Fist”

Bust out your surgical masks – Clinic are releasing a new album in Bubblegum on October 5 and crossing the Atlantic to promote it. Look for them at Lee’s Palace on November 10.

MP3: Clinic – “Family”

Richard Ashcroft tells The Guardian why this last, past Verve reunion is/was the final one.

Filter and Paste chat with Teenage Fanclub, kicking off their Fall tour with two nights at the Horseshoe on September 22 and 23.

Blurt talks to Joe Boyd, producer of R.E.M.’s Fables Of The Reconstruction. Their third record is being rereleased in double deluxe form today and you can stream it over at Spinner. Only the album, though – none of the bonus goodies.

Stream: R.E.M. / Fables Of The Reconstruction

Spin is offering up another track from Versus’ forthcoming On The Ones And Threes, due out September 14. They’re at Lee’s Palace on August 13.

Under The Radar talks to The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt.

Steve Earle talks to Offbeat about his role on Treme, his Emmy nomination and New Orleans.

Spinner talks to Sharin Foo of The Raveonettes.