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Posts Tagged ‘Von Bondies’

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Hometowns

The Rural Alberta Advantage, Bahamas and Fox Jaws at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt was just 51 weeks ago that The Rural Alberta Advantage first stepped onto the stage at Lee’s Palace, there as support for a co-headlining show featuring two of the most lauded indie acts in Canada – The Acorn and Ohbijou. They seemed a bit awed by the scale of their surroundings, having mostly played the smaller, cozier rooms of the city to that point, but were far from intimidated and deliver another wonderful set and as I commented at the time, “I’ve long said that people simply need to hear them to love them, and I think it’s finally happening”. Now I’m not going to suggest that I have any particular soothsaying abilities, but on that point, I daresay I nailed it.

The past year has been a fairy tale for the trio, particularly the last six months or so in which they’ve gone from local heroes to genuine international (hey, America counts as a foreign country) phenomenons, re-releasing their debut album Hometowns on a major independent label and touring the continent multiple times over, selling out larger and larger venues each time out and gaining fans and accolades along the way – people hear them and they love them. Simple. So while their completely sold-out hometown show at Lee’s Palace on Friday night didn’t mark the end of their whirlwind 2009 – they commence another US tour the second week of December – it did provide a tidy, full-circle point for those of us predisposed to tidiness in such matters.

Opening the night was Barrie’s Fox Jaws, whom I hadn’t seen since August 2007 circa their debut Goodbye Doris. They’ve since released their second record and despite the epic-length title – At Odds (or: Exercises In Separation While United In The Fall) – low-frills, spirited and soulful pop-rock is still the order of the day. The raw and raspy vocals of Carleigh Aikens remains their super power but in a sense, it’s also their kryptonite. It’s so evocative of the blues-rock belters synonymous with classic rock radio that even when they try to expand their sound beyond the more straight-ahead, it tends to overpower. Still, it’s not the worst problem to have and when they play to their strengths, they put on an impressive and entertaining show.

Though I’d never seen Bahamas before, their scorecard started at a handicap. I’d seen principal Afie Jurvanen a couple times some years back, both solo and fronting Paso Mino, and hadn’t been impressed so while I was wiling to give his newest project a fair shake, it was going to be a tough sell. And the boxscore went something like this: points lost for the popped collar on the lumberjack shirt, points lost for the affected, stoner-dude banter (the “nice, nice” shtick isn’t working) , points gained for a couple of really funny jokes despite the aforementioned demerit though it’s worth noting that he was only genuinely funny when he strayed off script and actually interacted with the audience, points gained for some seriously tasty guitarwork, points gained for having better and more memorable songs than from what I recall from his past shows, points gained for playing a funky old Silvertone rather than the titular Pink Strat of his album, massive points gained for starting to cover Prince’s “Purple Rain”, all points lost for not following through with it – only delivering a couple of verses and ditching it only a little ways into the solo. I know he could have knocked it out of the park, but instead just walked away. Such a shame.

By this point, I think I should be disqualified from trying to offer up any review of an RAA show – I’ve seen them too many times (this was occasion eight or nine) and have too much affection for them as individuals and their music to even try and pretend to be objective. So with that disclaimer in mind, take my declaration that they put on yet another great show for whatever you think it’s worth. Set up in line across the front of the Lee’s stage, the trio were visibly overwhelmed by the size and fervor of the congregation of folks who’d come out to see them. And it’s understandable – as recently as this Spring, they would play constantly around the city and while always appreciated, were probably taken for granted some. But to so quickly be in a situation where outside scalpers were plying their trade and inside the fans were jumping up and down and singing along to every word – that’s a trip.

Over the course of the hour-long set, all of Hometowns was aired (save for “The Air”) and though they’ve been working that material for as long as I’ve been following the band – nigh on three years now – they still perform it with as much energy as emotion as ever and just as they don’t seem to tire of playing the songs, I still don’t tire of hearing them played. That said, it was exciting to hear more and more new material working its way into the set – some of the songs more fully evolved than others, but all carrying the trademark RAA sound and style. With the new year bringing even more touring for the band, it’s hard to say when they’ll have a chance to get down to recording album number two, but you can hardly fault them for wanting to keep riding this wave, which shows no signs of abating. After all, as the cover of The Littlest Hobo theme which they slipped in mid-set says, “Down this road that never seems to end, where new adventure lies just around the bend… Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down, until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on”. There may already be a “Ballad Of The RAA” but for the moment, this is their song.

BlogTO and Narratives also have reviews of the show.

Photos: The Rural Alberta Advantage, Bahamas, Fox Jaws @ Lee’s Palace – November 20, 2009
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Frank, AB”
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Don’t Haunt This Place”
MP3: Fox Jaws – “Karmonica”
MP3: Fox Jaws – “Quarantine Girl”
MySpace: The Rural Alberta Advantage
MySpace: Fox Jaws

Tallahassee.com, The Star-Telegram and The St. Petersburg Times interview Neko Case.

John Darnielle discusses the Biblical themes of The Life Of The World To Come with Nashville Scene.

Califone has been added as support for Wilco’s upcoming Hamilton and London shows on February 23 and 24, respectively. Their latest album is All My Friends Are Funeral Singers.

MP3: Califone – “Funeral Singers”
MP3: Califone – “Ape-Like”
Video: Califone – “Funeral Singers”

The Von Bondies, last seen in these parts tearing up the tiny Boardwalk Stage at V Fest, have set a December 5 date at the El Mocambo as part of a benefit show for Toronto’s homeless. Tickets are $15 in advance, donations of winter coats or blankets gratefully accepted.

MP3: The Von Bondies – “This Is Our Perfect Crime”
MP3: The Von Bondies – “Pale Bride”

Baeble Music has a Guest Apartment video session with El Perro Del Mar.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Virgin Festival Ontario Day Two

Virgin Festival Ontario day two with Nine Inch Nails, Pet Shop Boys and more

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangGrey skies, cold winds, threatening clouds… was there any doubt that Trent was coming to town?

It was a foregone conclusion that day two of Virgin Festival would end in a blinding and deafening display of aggression and angst courtesy of Nine Inch Nails, so I rather liked that the day would begin with the gentle piano-pop of Coeur De Pirate. Ms Beatrice Martin utterly beguiled at her Toronto debut during NXNE, and to anyone who complained about booking an act with such buzz behind her into a room as small as the Dakota Tavern, well here you go – is the Molson Amphitheatre big enough for you? And speaking of big, Coeur de Pirate as a live entity was now a five-piece band, which helped fill out not only the mix but the stage. Her two-piece setup at the Dakota befit the cozy venue, but here in this massive space, the addition of the rhythm section really helped carry her tunes out over the sparse crowd. I’ve been completely won over by her self-titled album since that NXNE show so I was more than happy to get to see her live again, and her Rihanna cover was much, much better than the Katy Perry one she’d closed with in June. It was probably a safe guess that most of those there for gate time were NIN hardcores bound and determined to be up front, so the fact that everyone who was there for 1PM seemed to respond to Coeur de Pirate most enthusiastically was a pleasant surprise.

And in what would be a recurring theme, probably more a comment on my own stereotypes than anything else, was how supportive those ultra-keen Nine Inch Nails fans were of all the other acts on the day even though many/most were of a style completely not RIYL NIN. I suppose if you’re going to be camped out on a concrete floor pressed up against a metal barricade for 10 hours you may as well have a good time. But still, kudos.

Photos: Coeur de Pirate @ The Virgin Mobile Stage – August 30, 2009
Video: Coeur De Pirate – “Comme Des Enfants”
Video: Coeur De Pirate – “Ensemble”
MySpace: Coeur De Pirate

Gentle pop was out the window for act number two, Norwegian electro-ironists Datarock. Clad in their signature red track suits, they were all about the audience engagement (and shilling their new album Red) as they tried to get the party started with their clownish stage antics and super-tight, uptempo tunes. As schticks went, theirs was entertaining and the half-hour set was just long enough to please without getting old. Datarock are undeniably goofy, but obviously don’t intend to be taken too seriously. After all, there was enough seriousness coming later in the day – for now, some fun.

Photos: Datarock @ The Virgin Mobile Stage – August 30, 2009
MP3: Datarock – “True Stories”
Video: Datarock – “True Stories”
Video: Datarock – “Fa-Fa-Fa”
Video: Datarock – “Bulldozer”
Stream: Datarock / Red
MySpace: Datarock

I have never been able to get a good handle on Mew, the Danish prog-pop ensemble who were capable of shifting from indescribable tweeness to unrelenting aggression at the drop of a hat, all the while remaining simultaneously weird and accessible. Their September 2006 show at the Mod Club remains one of the most singularly odd shows I’ve ever been to, to say nothing of the most frustrating to photograph – and not for poor light like most shows. Read the review for specifics. Anyways, their new record No More Stories still hasn’t grown on me, seeming to be much less focused than And The Glass-Handed Kites, and on top of that they seemed to be having sound issues both on stage and in the house, Jonas Bjerre’s vocals being largely inaudible. Oh, and he still has the worst mic technique in the world, again largely foiling my attempts to get anything resembling a flattering photograph. But the set was salvaged by a majestic reading of “The Zookeeper’s Boy” from Kites that very much demonstrated why, even though they can be confounding, Mew are still worth paying attention to. When they hit it, they hit it hard.

Photos: Mew @ The Virgin Mobile Stage – August 30, 2009
MP3: Mew – “Repeaterbeater”
MP3: Mew – “Introducing Palace Players”
Video: Mew – “Introducing Palace Players”
Video: Mew – “Special”
Video: Mew – “The Zookeeper’s Boy”
MySpace: Mew

I didn’t know anything about New Orleans’ MuteMath prior to their second Virgin Festival appearance in Toronto (they also played in 2007 but I missed them), but everyone told me they put on a great show. And that they did. Visually, they were tremendously entertaining – anytime you have a drummer who needs to duct tape his headphones onto his head, you’re in for a good time. And it wasn’t just for show – Darren King was a monster on the kit and great to watch and his bandmates not far behind, particularly frontman/keyboardist Paul Meany who gave great photo, striking poses with his keytar and showing off his dental work. Musically, they weren’t as impressive – decent radio-ready modern rock, but nothing that really stuck with me after their set was done. But hell of a performance.

Photos: MuteMath @ The Virgin Mobile Stage – August 30, 2009
Video: MuteMath – “Spotlight”
Video: MuteMath – “Typical”
MySpace: MuteMath

I skipped out on the Cold War Kids blog buzz back in 2006 or so, and watching them dull up the stage on this afternoon, I was at a loss to understand how I was in the minority then of those who wasn’t impressed. Shouty and aimless, the best Cold War Kids could muster from the audience was polite applause and general indifference. If looking for positives, they were one of the more mobile acts I’d seen this weekend, all four of the band members endlessly roaming the stage while they played and swapping up instruments. But beyond that, not much to report.

Photos: Cold War Kids @ The Virgin Mobile Stage – August 30, 2009
MP3: Cold War Kids – “Hospital Beds”
Video: Cold War Kids – “We Used To Vacation”
Video: Cold War Kids – “Something Is Not Right With Me”
MySpace: Cold War Kids

The token hip-hop act on the mainstage for the festival was N.E.R.D., who came with a pretty impressive CV including a Shortlist Prize and extensive top 40 production/writing credits via Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo’s work in The Neptunes. I got this from asking people around me, “so who are these guys?”, just to be clear. But if the crowd needed waking up after Cold War Kids – which they did – N.E.R.D. were the ones to do it. Their set was basically a big party, with dancers recruited from the audience, crowd-baiting shout outs and pandering to the hometown by yelling, “TORONTO!” a lot. It was pretty cheesy but wholly effective – this was a crowd that wanted to get excited. Like Franz Ferdinand the night before, N.E.R.D.’s set was a clear indicator that the evening was ramping up and it was now prime time. Which, with Our Lady Peace up next, meant dinner.

Photos: N.E.R.D. @ The Virgin Mobile Stage – August 30, 2009
Video: N.E.R.D. – “Everyone Nose”
Video: N.E.R.D. – “Sooner Or Later”
Video: N.E.R.D. – “She Wants To Move”
Video: N.E.R.D. – “Rock Star”
MySpace: N.E.R.D.

For many, The Von Bondies are best known for a certain physical altercation with a certain fellow Detroit band a few years back – who, incidentally, were covered/sampled/quoted by N.E.R.D. earlier that afternoon – but for the throngs of V Festers who gathered around the Boardwalk stage around dinnertime, they were known as the band who put on a thoroughly kick-ass rock show and looked to be having the best time doing it. Though an act who’s been around as long as they might have had legitimate complaint about being relegated to the baby stage (they even took the trouble to build a riser for the stage so people could see), there was no grousing from the quartet – just grins, jokes and flat-out rock. They’ve already played Toronto twice this year in support of their new album Love, Hate And Then There’s You but I suspect if they return again, they’ll have a lot more fans in attendance.

Photos: The Von Bondies @ The Boardwalk Stage – August 30, 2009
MP3: The Von Bondies – “This Is Our Perfect Crime”
MP3: The Von Bondies – “Pale Bride”
Video: The Von Bondies – “Pale Bride”
MySpace: The Von Bondies

I had a friend in high school whose favourite band was the Pet Shop Boys. I never understood that until Sunday night. I’d always liked the handful of songs I knew, and certainly had no aversion to the synth-pop, but until Pet Shop Boys were announced as part of the V Fest lineup, I’d never really gave them a second thought. In the weeks leading up to this show, I took the time to brush up on my musical education and before long, I was supremely excited for their set. I didn’t realize just how masterful Messrs Tennant and Lowe were with the pop song, but everything I listened to – whether I knew it beforehand or not – was instantly embedded in my skull. Add in the fact that they’re just as well-known for their elaborate live shows and there was no way this wasn’t going to be great. I know most everyone there was going to be waiting for NIN, but for me the night was all about PSB.

And by god they did not disappoint. With a set comprised of a wall of giant white boxes, Lowe and Tennant took the stage with cubes on their heads and accompanied by a pair of dancers also in box couture. From there, it was an almost non-stop, meticulously choreographed and executed technicolour dance-pop extravaganza of costumes, dancers and massive video wall projections. The set wasn’t quite the greatest hits package I’d expected, but to be fair their latest album Yes did chart at #4 in the UK – hardly the sign of a band needing to rest on past laurels. But still, they busted out “Suburbia”, “Go West”, “You Are Always On My Mind”, an unexpected cover of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and they closed their main set with an exquisite, silver glitter confetti-exploding “It’s A Sin”. And for a second, I thought that might have been it but when roadies in white lab coats and hard hats came out with brooms and vacuums to clean up the confetti, it was obvious it wasn’t over. Of course not. There still had to be “West End Girls”. And they returned and there was “West End Girls”. And it was brilliant.

I think it’s safe to say that Nine Inch Nails has never had such an opener before, and to their credit Reznor’s army of black-clad fans seemed to eat it up for the most part. I would bet that Trent was watching from the side and had his head bobbing at the very least. If you did not love this set then you must put far too much energy into being a sourpuss.

Photos: Pet Shop Boys @ The Virgin Mobile Stage – August 30, 2009
Video: Pet Shop Boys – “Love Etc”
Video: Pet Shop Boys – “Suburbia”
Video: Pet Shop Boys – “Go West”
Video: Pet Shop Boys – “Jealousy”
Video: Pet Shop Boys – “What Have I Done To Deserve This”
Video: Pet Shop Boys – “Always On My Mind”
Video: Pet Shop Boys – “Where The Streets Have No Name”
Video: Pet Shop Boys – “West End Girls”
MySpace: Pet Shop Boys

While my weekend had peaked, for most everyone else the main event was still to come. I never liked Nine Inch Nails. Back in high school, I was less about aggressive angst and more about mope angst, and that’s not even mentioning the memories of pub nights in university whenever THAT song came on and the floor filled with the jock types who just had to sing along with THAT chorus because, well, it spoke to them. You know what I’m talking about. But since then my attitude towards NIN has softened somewhat and Reznor, for his part, seems to have found a sense of humour. I still haven’t listened to anything he’s released in years, but I bear him no enmity. So while I had no real intention of sticking around for his full two-hour set, I did want to see what was sure to be an impressive performance to say nothing of the sense of occasion, this being the last Nine Inch Nails show in Canada – perhaps ever, if the publicity people are to be believed.

And it really was something to see. A massive light show, huge sounds and the mighty roar of the crowd – still not completely sold out, but enough to make a racket. Reznor and company played the dynamics of the set masterfully, moving from a clenched whisper to hoarse scream and still, after all these years, sounding like he really means it. Impressive. Also impressive was that in the time I stuck around (just under an hour), I heard two songs I recognized and one I actually liked – “March Of The Pigs”. The other was THAT song. Yeah. Anyways, when Reznor decided it was time for a piano recital, I decided it was time to go home.

Photos: Nine Inch Nails @ The Virgin Mobile Stage – August 30, 2009
Video: Nine Inch Nails – “The Perfect Drug”
Video: Nine Inch Nails – “The Hand That Feeds”
Video: Nine Inch Nails – “Wish”
Video: Nine Inch Nails – “March Of The Pigs”
Video: Nine Inch Nails – “The Day The World Went Away (Quiet)”
Video: Nine Inch Nails – “Closer”
Video: Nine Inch Nails – “Hurt”
MySpace: Nine Inch Nails

Finally, agonizingly, the fourth Virgin Festival in Toronto was in the books. For all the complaining that went on leading up to it – justified and not – and the potential for fiasco, it actually went pretty well. The talent assembled was unique amongst the year’s festival circuit and solid to great, though there wasn’t quite enough of it to offer many options to attendees. While some – myself and my feet included – liked being able to stay in one spot at one stage through the day and still get to see most of the acts, it didn’t really feel like a proper festival. Also not helping the vibe was the venue – as mentioned yesterday, the assigned seating left huge tracts of real estate empty for most of the day, and that just suffocated any chance for a real festival vibe to develop. Sure it was the best they could do on short notice and in that context, it was fine – an empty Burl’s Creek would have been even less vibey – but it’s hardly a desirable locale for future events. And I’m really hoping that the festival and brand survives this annus horribilis, learns some valuable lessons and is able to maintain or win back the the faith of festival-goers put off by any number of things surrounding their five events this year. But also keep in mind that people like to complain. Complaining is fun. But put together the right lineup and even the haters will show up again. See you next year, I hope. Islands again? Downsview? Somewhere with wide, open spaces please.

Reviews of the weekend can be found at The Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, National Post, Spinner and ChartAttack.

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Come On Pilgrim

Nine Inch Nails, Pixies, Grizzly Bear and Pet Shop Boys for Virgin Festival Toronto/Ontario 2009

Photo via MySpaceMySpaceSo here we go. Some four months after I’d originally expected to see it in my inbox and after much rumour-mongering, hand-wringing, bitching and moaning, it’s here. The lineup for Toronto’s – sorry, Ontario’sVirgin Festival 2009. It’s far and away the most mixed bag of nuts yet, with names guaranteed to both delight and confound, no matter what you’re into.

So really, the question is this; is this lineup enough to get you out to Burl’s Creek park near Orillia and camp for two or three nights with all the attendant logistical hassles? And perhaps more importantly… was this worth the wait? The fact that 2-day tickets this year are just $99 ($105 after fees) – I think that’s a full $30-$40 less than past years – may help sway your opinion towards the “yes” side, though that’s just admission – camping costs another $100 for two nights and $135 for three nights (note – prices are per campsite, not per person, to a maximum four people per site) and there’s various VIP options for those with low self esteem. There will also be information on commuting assistance forthcoming for those citygoers who are afraid to venture north of Dupont, let alone into cottage country.

But anyways. Here it is, with the standard “more to come!” note attached.

Saturday, August 29
Ben Harper & The Relentless7
Pixies
Franz Ferdinand
Paolo Nutini
Grizzly Bear
Mates Of State
Sloan
LIGHTS
Plants & Animals
Down With Webster
The Rural Alberta Advantage
Iglu & Hartly

Sunday, August 30
Nine Inch Nails
Pet Shop Boys
Our Lady Peace
N.E.R.D.
Cold War Kids
MuteMath
Mew
Thunderheist
Coeur De Pirate
The Von Bondies
Datarock
HyperCrush
Trouble Andrew
Silver Starling
The D’Urbervilles

For myself, I have to say this is a pretty attractive lineup, and I love how acronym-heavy the Sunday is, should make for easy texting. Providing there’s no scheduling SNAFUs I see more than enough to keep me interested from start to finish, and if this were somewhere more accessible then it’d be a no-brainer to attend. I wonder if the Pixies will be doing their Doolittle show or if it’ll be a normal set? I assume they, like Pet Shop Boys, will be closing out the second stage rather than warming up for the wholly incompatible “headliners” on each night. The location does give me pause, though – as I think I’ve mentioned before, I have unfond memories of sitting on the 400 for hours while trying to get to Molson Park, and now you have to add in getting through/around Barrie and to an even more remote location. So yeah, this’ll take some thinking. And maybe a helicopter rental. And yourselves? Who’s already airing out their tents and stocking up on industrial-strength blackfly repellant, and who’s, well, not?

And here’s a by no means comprehensive but decent sampling of what you might be hearing waft across Lake Simcoe that last weekend of August.

MP3: Grizzly Bear – “Cheerleader”
MP3: Mew – “Repeaterbeater”
MP3: Mates Of State – “My Only Offer”
MP3: Sloan – “I’m Not A Kid Anymore”
MP3: Thunderheist – “Jerk It”
MP3: Cold War Kids – “Hospital Beds”
MP3: The Von Bondies – “Pale Bride”
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Frank, AB”
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “Dragnet”
Video: Pixies – “Here Comes Your Man”
Video: Pet Shop Boys – “Love Etc”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Can’t Stop Feeling”
Video: Mute Math – “Spotlight”
Video: Coeur De Pirate – “Comme Des Enfants”

Matablog has details on the new Mission Of Burma record The Sound The Speed The Light, due out October 6. They also have the first MP3, with a decidedly un-MOB title but a very MOB sound.

MP3: Mission Of Burma – “1, 2, 3, Partyy!”

Bandstand Busking has posted a show from Woodpigeon.

They’ve already got a show at the El Mocambo this Thursday, but Japandroids have already scheduled another one at the Horseshoe for September 19 with The Mt St Helen’s Vietnam Band. Tickets $10.

MP3: Japandroids – “Young Hearts Spark Fire”
MP3: The Mt St Helen’s Vietnam Band – “Cheer For Fate”

If you don’t catch her free show at Harbourfront on July 25, Amy Millan has booked a cross-Canada tour including an October 14 date at the Mod Club in support of Masters Of The Burial, out September 8. Tickets for that show are $15.

Black Key gone solo Dan Auerbach will bring his Keep It Hid to the Phoenix on November 7 with Justin Townes Earle and Jessica Lea Mayfield as support. Tickets $20.50.

MP3: Dan Auerbach – “I Want Some More”
MP3: Justin Townes Earle – “Midnight At The Movies”
Video: Jessica Lea Mayfield – “Kiss Me Again”

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Curly Teeth

Review of Micachu & The Shapes’ Jewellery

Photo By Olly HearseyOlly HearseyThe announcement that London trio Micachu & The Shapes had been signed to Rough Trade came with a short video for the song “Lips”, and curious as to who this latest labelmate to faves like British Sea Power and Basia Bulat was, I gave it a spin. And after viewing the 90-second clip, the only response I could come up with was, “uh, what?”. It depicted a scruffy-looking trio with an androgynous-looking frontperson creating a racket that seemed willfully primitive, and yet you couldn’t deny how meticulously and precisely it was all assembled – a method to the madness indeed. My initial reaction was that I never wanted to hear this again. My second reaction was to hit the repeat button.

And Jewellery, the trio’s debut – out today in UK out April 7 in North America – follows much the same pattern, simultaneously repelling and addicting with a dozen tracks of no-fi, hip-hop, anti-pop seemingly built from found sounds, circuit-bent electronics, willfully abused junk shop instruments and the hollered vocals of Mica Levi. It sounds dementedly otherworldly at first, but with repeated listens it becomes clear that it’s very much of this world – just gleefully turned inside-out and upside-down but never straying too too far into abstractionism. It’s like it knows it can only be anti-pop if there’s still some pop in there, so for every obtuse sound collage like “Ship”, there’s an only slightly bizarro melodic gem like “Golden Phone”. And while it’s nice to be able to metaphorically come up for air with tunes like that, I’m as surprised as anyone that I’m actually eager to dive back down into the depths of musical confoundment. Don’t take this as a Damascene moment that finds me abandoning good, old-fashioned pop for a life in the musical outer fringes, but I think my horizons just got a little bit wider. Just a bit.

MBV Music is currently streaming the whole of the album for today only and it’s officially unofficial Micachu day there – keep checking in for thoughts and commentary on the record from the other contributors. Drowned In Sound has an interview with Levi conducted by Emmy The Great, I Like Music offers an annoyingly paginated feature and The Telegraph profiles the band and confirms that Levi really does know exactly what she’s doing, whether it sounds like it or not.

MP3: Micachu & The Shapes – “Lips”
Video: Micachu & The Shapes – “Lips”
Stream: Micachu & The Shapes / Jewellery

The Sun has a feature on Polly Scattergood, whose debut self-titled album is out in the UK today. The bad news is that the North American release date is still a couple months off – May 19 – but the good news is that it’s even getting a North American release, which hopefully implies some touring/promo on this side of the pond. I got a promo of the album last week and my initial enthusiasm has proven not to be misplaced in the least.

Scotland On Sunday sits down with Charlie Fink of Noah & The Whale about their new album The First Days Of Spring, set for release sometime around the last days of Spring, in June. They play the Mod Club on April 27 and support for that tour has been announced as Ferraby Lionheart and Anni Rossi.

MP3: Anni Rossi – “Ecology”
MP3: Anni Rossi – “Wheelpusher”

St Vincent has released the first MP3 from her new album Actor, out May 5.

MP3: St Vincent – “The Strangers”

And St Vincent’s will be teaming up with The National on a cover of Crooked Fingers’ “Sleep All Summer” for SCORE! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers, a cryptically-named compilation celebrating Merge Records’ 20th anniversary by means of cover songs. Details at Pitchfork. And while there’s no shortage of mouth-watering contributions on the album, this particular one jumped out at me because Dignity & Shame is by far my favourite Crooked Fingers record (and I love them all quite a bit) and Annie Clark and Matt Berninger are about as perfectly cast to step into Lara Meyerratken and Eric Bachmann’s shoes on this song as anyone on the planet. You can hear the original on the Crooked Fingers MySpace. The National are at the Kool Haus May 21, Crooked Fingers at Trinity-St Paul’s April 17 and 18.

PitchforkTV and NPR are offering video and audio, respectively, from Antony & The Johnsons’ recent concert in Washington DC. The Advocate has an interview.

Yes, they were here just last week but Asobi Seksu will be back on April 19 at the Mod Club as support for French composer Yann Tiersen, perhaps best known for his work scoring Amelie. Is it a pairing that makes any sense? I have no idea. But there it is. Tickets are $20 in advance.

Also in the “back so soon?” category, The Von Bondies – here in February at the Horseshoe – are back on May 29 for a gig at Lee’s Palace. Tickets for that will be $13.50.

MP3: The Von Bondies – “This Is Our Perfect Crime”
MP3: The Von Bondies – “Pale Bride”

Brooklyn’s Kevin Devine has a date at the El Mocambo on June 3. Tickets $11.

MP3: Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band – “Brother’s Blood”

And finally, U2 will be at the Rogers Centre on September 16.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

The Crowning

Review of A Camp's Colonia

Photo via mySpaceMySpaceThe first A Camp album came at an interesting time, with The Cardigans having proven themselves not just a one-hit wonder but a two-hit one (“My Favourite Game” to go along with “Lovefool”) but also rather burning out in the process. Nina Persson used the downtime to explore country music and Americana with the assistance of Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous and not only crafted an excellent record in their self-titled debut, but carried the influences back to The Cardigans to inform my personal favourite of their repertoire, Long Gone Before Daylight. That stylistic uniformity went out the window with their next record, the eclectic but still very solid Super Extra Gravity and with the Cardies again on a break, Persson has taken that grab-bag aesthetic back to A Camp.

Colonia, released in Europe last week but not out in North America until April 28, collects 11 songs that could have been Cardigans tunes in another life but could never be mistaken as such in the forms that they’ve been recorded in here. With the formal addition of Persson’s husband Nathan Larson (of Shudder To Think) and Niclas Frisk as members of A Camp, it’s now more of an official band than before but rather than imprint that band with a particular sonic identity, they instead reinvent themselves in whatever way necessary to compliment the songs. Persson’s vocals are unmistakable but the sounds that surround it incorporate elements of show tunes, electronica, glam and country to name just a very few – there’s enough of everything to make it sound familiar but never to the point of being able to place a song in a tidy pigeonhole.

If there’s a common thread, it’s the sonic richness and elegance each song is imbued with. No matter what they put in it, it sounds marvelous, even if some songs are less memorable than others. But the keepers are worth cherishing – “My America” is buoyed by jaunty horns, the languidness of “Chinatown” beautifully channels Television in its guitar lines and lead single “Stronger Than Jesus” boasts a melody that’s as indelible as anything Persson’s ever come up with. Though I wish as much as any fan that the Cardies break will be a short one – apparently Persson’s bandmates are all using the time to tend to fatherly duties – if it continues to yield more A Camp records then there’ll be no word of complaint from me.

Persson is engaged in conversation by The Sunday Mail, The Telegraph and The Independent. And perhaps as a way of making up for the fact that the album isn’t out domestically for another three months, Nettwerk have made available a live session MP3 of “Stronger Than Jesus”. Update: Stereogum is streaming another song from the record and talk to Nina about it.

MP3: A Camp – “Stronger Than Jesus” (Harlem Session)
Video: A Camp – “Stronger Than Jesus”
MySpace: A Camp

The Toronto Sun, The Province, Montreal Mirror and CityPages interview Lykke Li.

Spin gets a sneak preview of the new album from Mew, currently untitled but targeted for a June release.

There’s new videos from both bands playing The Phoenix on April 25 – Peter Bjorn & John, whose Living Thing is out March 25, and Chairlift.

Video: Peter Bjorn & John – “Nothing To Worry About”
Video: Chairlift – “Evident Utensil”

Also with a new video – School Of Seven Bells.

Video: School Of Seven Bells – “Half Asleep”

Check out the title track of The Thermals’ new album Now We Can See, set for release on April 7.

MP3: The Thermals – “Now We Can See”

Some in-stores of note to tell you about. The Von Bondies will hit up Criminal Records this Friday, February 13, at 5PM before heading down the street for their show at the Horseshoe. And next weekend,Alela Diane, whose To Be Still is coming out next Tuesday, will be at Soundscapes on February 21 at 6:30PM in advance of her show at the Horseshoe that evening opening for Blitzen Trapper and the next day (February 22) at 3PM, Sonic Boom will host Ben Kweller leading up to his show at the Mod Club that evening.

MP3: Alela Diane – “White As Diamonds”
Video: Alela Diane – “White As Diamonds”
Video: Ben Kweller – “Fight”

The National are returning. They’re at the Kool Haus on May 21, tickets $24.50.

And finally, The Chicago Sun-Times weighs in on what could be the most disturbing bit of music industry news in a sea of disturbing music industry news, the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster. No good can come of this, none at all. But my question is – how does this affect the Canadian divisions of those respective companies? I ask because I remember way back in the ’90s when Pearl Jam were boycotting all US TicketMaster venues, they still played TM-serviced venues up here and said that was because TicketMaster Canada was a separate entity from the US one they were protesting. Though it could/should have been pointed out that even if that were true from a corporate POV, they were still as asshat-acular as their Stateside counterparts when it came to price gouging and exorbitant service charges. And do you have to have bought tickets for a specific show to take part in the class action suit or can you just be generally irritated?