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Posts Tagged ‘Wheat’

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Mandatory Holiday-themed Covers Post

A bunch of people cover a bunch of Christmas tunes

Photo via ICHCICHCI’m not really a Christmas person. I’m certainly not against it or a conscientious abstainer, at least not from its secular aspects, I just do my best to ignore it for the first couple weeks of December until denial gives way to blind panic when I realize I still have too much to do to the degree in which I do participate. Things end up so hectic that actually enjoying the season, whatever that means, is mostly out of the question.

One thing the holidays are good for, though, are covers as everyone and their mother seems inspired to track a seasonal standard or two. The potential downside of this is that the same tunes crop up, year after year, but I think I’ve collected a bunch of more recent/less ubiquitous tunes that will hopefully come across as a little fresher to your ears. Happy statutory holidays, everyone!

Billy Bragg and Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine teamed up for the BBC last year in taking on the Pogues holiday classic. I’ve mixed feelings about Welch’s parts, and not just because Kirsty MacColl can’t be touched – while it’s nice to hear her not overpower things with her voice for a change, the restrained Flo sounds kind of bored. Billy, however, is wonderful as always.

MP3: Billy Bragg and Florence & The Machine – “Fairytale Of New York”
Video: Billy Bragg and Florence & The Machine – “Fairytale Of New York”
Video: The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl – “Fairytale Of New York”

British duo Slow Club gave their debut album Yeah, So? a North American release this year and followed it up with the holiday-themed Christmas, Thanks For Nothing EP last week, which included this terrific cover this Phil Spector tune (performed by Darlene Love) which allows Rebecca Taylor to show off her pipes in a way she doesn’t get to nearly enough.

MP3: Slow Club – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
Stream: Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”

Another British duo making noise this year was Summer Camp, first thanks to the mysteriousness of their identities and then the retro-pop excellence of their debut EP Young. They got into the Christmas spirit with a cover of the beloved Waitresses tune.

MP3: Summer Camp – “Christmas Wrapping”
Stream: Summer Camp – “Christmas Wrapping”

London’s 6 Day Riot, who released their third record On This Island earlier in the year, wished their fans a merry Christmas with this cover of this Pretenders song which, for my money, is always overlooked/underappreciated when it comes to seasonal songs. It’s one of my very favourites.

MP3: 6 Day Riot – “2000 Miles”
Video: The Pretenders – “2000 Miles” (live)

Bostoninans Wheat are working on their next album, the follow-up to last year’s White Ink, Black Ink, but still found the time to record a couple of Christmas tunes to give away – the b-side is an original composition and the a-side is the song made famous by Judy Garland in Meet Me In St. Louis.

MP3: Wheat – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
MP3: Wheat – “It’s Snowing – I Love You”
Video: Judy Garland – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

Toronto’s Ohbijou covered Wham!‘s “Last Christmas” as a special treat last year about this time, and yet in the interim it hasn’t been added to the not-quite-definitive index of covers of that song over at www.last-christmas.com. Someone get on that! The band would, but they’re busy making album number three.

MP3: Ohbijou – “Last Christmas”
Video: Wham! – “Last Christmas”

The Rural Alberta Advantage only played this song – which I thought was traditional but actually only dates back to 1941 and was written by Katherine Davis (thanks Wikipedia – this past Thursday night at their hometown show at Lee’s Palace, but it was captured for posterity thanks to Joe at Mechanical Forest Sound. The RAA are set to release album number two in Departing come March 1 and have just been announced as playing the New Year’s Eve show at The Tranzac on, um, New Year’s Eve. Tickets were going fast and will now be going faster.

MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Little Drummer Boy” (live)

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Midnight Directives

Final Fantasy provides directions to Heartland

Photo by Ryan PflugerRyan PflugerAfter much teasing and delay, details have finally come forth about Final Fantasy’s long-awaited third album and follow-up to 2006’s He Poos Clouds. Though the title – Heartland – has been known since at least late 2006 (that’s the first time I mentioned it at least), the actual record has been much longer in coming. And the delays are understandable – in the interim, Owen Pallett has become the go-to string arranger in certain circles, working on records from Beirut, Pet Shop Boys and Mountain Goats to name a very few as well as putting out two EPs of his own last year.

But the new album is finally done and will arrive on January 12 complete with a typically high-minded and utterly bizarre concept behind it. Pallett’s full explanation can be found in the press release, but key phrases that should give you some idea of what to expect are “a farmer named Lewis and the fictional world of Spectrum”, “compositionally modeled upon the principles of electronic music” and, “inversion of a Tomita record”. What any of that means is unclear to me, but at least one can be reasonably assured that whatever it is, it will come wrapped in strange and delicious orch-pop wrappers. Unless, of course, it doesn’t.

Pitchfork has a look at the album art for Heartland and as we await a first sample of Heartland‘s aural delights, enjoy a couple of tracks from last year’s EPs.

MP3: Final Fantasy – “The Butcher”
MP3: Final Fantasy – “Ultimatum”

And if you want to talk strange synchronicity, consider Final Fantasy and Woodpigeon. Woodpigeon will also release their next album Die Stadt Muzikanten on January 12, both records will be orchestra-enhanced (Die Stadt also featuring a 30-piece choir), both just performed at the Rifflandia festival in Victoria, BC and while Pallett fell ill with what was originally feared to be swine flu (but wasn’t), Woodpigeon’s Mark Hamilton actually has come down with what appears to be the dreaded H1N1 virus. He’s been treated and is hopefully on the road to recovery, though it’s unclear if he’ll be well enough to make it to Pop Montreal this weekend. Fingers crossed. Either way he should be recovered enough by mid-month when Woodpigeon is set to participate in this Fall’s Banff Centre residency, where they’ll work on honing their craft with the likes of Steve Albini. Woodpigeon and Steve Albini – there’s a combination I’d like to hear. Update: And to be clear, the exact phrasing above was “appears to be” – tests are still not conclusive as to what grounded the ‘Pigeon and called for Jane Vain to cover for their Pop Montreal showcase, but the important thing is that Hamilton is on the mend and will be back in the (broad) general vicinity for a show at Cafe Deckuf in Ottawa on October 16 presented by I Heart Music. And he will not be contagious.

Also moving into the Banff Centre for that fortnight is Basia Bulat, also with a much-anticipated new record out in January. Heart Of My Own is out on the 26th of the month, and JAM has a chat with Bulat about the new record. Also check out a video of Basia performing “Gold Rush” in a DUMBO session.

MP3: Basia Bulat – “Gold Rush”
Video: Basia Bulat – “Gold Rush” (live at DUMBO Sessions)

As I’m following little threads and segues, It occurs to me that in addition to seeing the release of a follow-up to the inaugural Polaris Prize-winning record (He Poos Clouds, if you weren’t paying attention), both Woodpigeon and Basia’s last records were the top picks on my Polaris ballots this year as well Ohbijou’s new one Beacons, and its predecessor Swift Feet For Troubling Times topped my 2007 Polaris ballot… AND the new record was much-informed by their session at the Banff Centre last year. I daresay this post is at risk from collapsing in on itself in a quantum singularity of circular references, so I’ll finish this thread by saying that as much as I’d like to say that next year’s ballot will be full of fresh faces and new discoveries, all of the new Ohbijou, Woodpigeon and Basia records make strong arguments for repeat appearances. Wait, does that mean I’ve heard those last two records? Oh, uh, hey – look over there!

The National Post talks to Cuff The Duke’s Wayne Petti about the heaviness that informs their new record Way Down Here. There’s also features at The Georgia Straight, FFWD and Edmonton Journal. They play two nights at the Horseshoe on October 16 and 17.

MinnPost.com has an interview with Glenn Kotche of Wilco, who will be at Massey Hall for two nights on October 14 and 15.

Joe Pernice discusses his new book and album with Exclaim.

In addition to their October 31 show at the Horseshoe, Noah & The Whale will be doing an in-store at Criminal Records earlier that night, precise time to be announced. Perfect for everyone with Hallowe’en plans as well as those who need a double-dose of weepy break-up tunes. And the band will probably have replaced if not recovered all the gear that was stolen the other night – tough break, that. Some seriously nice equipment in that trailer.

Never ones to be slaves to convention, Wheat have decided that rather than release another video from White Ink Black Ink, they’re releasing a video game. It’s Windows-only, unfortunately, so I can’t tell you if it’s any good or if up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-B-A-start gets you any free lives, but if you’re on a PC and take it for a spin, let me know how it is. I’m curious.

Volcano Choir has released a first video from their debut album Unmap.

Video: Volcano Choir – “Island, IS”

Love Shack, Baby and The Diamondback have interviews with The Antlers.

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

The East Coast

The Daredevil Christopher Wright plans in-store derring-do and cross-border shopping

Photo ByColey Beekman & Jeremy NelsonYou might not think it – I certainly didn’t – but the shortest path between the exotic locales of DeKalb, Illinois and Winooski, Vermont runs directly through Toronto, Ontario. And that’s what brings Wisconsin-based trio The Daredevil Christopher Wright through town tomorrow evening, August 28, for a free in-store at Criminal Records on Queen West.

It’s not their first visit to the city – they were here in June during NXNE and made friends and fans as well as a fine impression at both at their official showcase and an in-store, also at Criminal Records, and it’s not hard to see why. Their debut In Deference To A Broken Back – steaming in full at their MySpace – is full of rich and whimsical orchestral-pop that’s eminently likeable, well-suited to spontaneous bouts of humming or clapping along or just soundtracking these last days of Summer (and don’t think I haven’t noticed we’ve lost about 10 degrees in ambient temperature these last few days. Nature, you’re on my list).

The show begins at 6PM and is free as our health care system. The band is just starting a massive tour so if you live anywhere in the eastern US or midwest, you’ll probably get a chance to check them. Probably not for free, though. On Milwaukee has an interview with the band, who were named “Band Of The Week” by Paste back in May and recorded a Daytrotter session last year.

MP3: The Daredevil Christopher Wright – “The East Coast”
MP3: The Daredevil Christopher Wright – “How To Get My Head Back On My Shoulders”
Stream: The Daredevil Christopher Wright / In Deference To A Broken Back
MySpace: The Daredevil Christopher Wright

Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who produced much of the Daredevil Christopher Wright record, has a new project called Volcano Choir who will release their debut album Unmap on September 22. It kind of sounds like this.

MP3: The Volcano Choir – “Island Is”

Spinner welcomes Joe Pernice to their studios for an Interface session and The San Francisco Chronicle has an interview. Joe is at the Dakota Tavern on September 24.

Magnet Q&As Richard Thompson about his new box set, Walking On A Wire: 1968-2009

Islands will release their new record Vapours on September 22 and the first MP3 is available below. The second can be had at Stereogum. They’re at the Kool Haus on October 14 opening up for The Happy Mondays and The Psychedelic Furs.

MP3: Islands – “Vapours”

White Hinterland will be in town at a venue to be announced on October 10. Casey Deinel’s last release was last year’s Luniculaire EP.

MP3: White Hinterland – “Chante de Grillon”
MP3: White Hinterland – “Dreaming Of The Plum Trees”

Decider and The Boston Herald talks to members of Wheat.

The Line Of Best Fit interviews Charlie Fink of Noah & The Whale, whose First Days Of Spring, is out on Monday in the UK and domestically on October 6.

Mumford & Sons have released the first video from their debut album Sigh No More, due out October 5. From this, I daresay the record will be worth the long, long wait.

Video: Mumford & Sons – “Little Lion Man”

Clash talks to Arctic Monkeys, in town at the Kool Haus on September 29.

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Milk And Honey

Review of Wye Oak's The Knot

Photo By Dan StackDan StackI quite literally swooned when I first heard Baltimore duo Wye Oak via “Warning”, the first promo MP3 from their debut album If Children in January 2008 – for a completely unknown band to hit all the right buttons for me at first listen was a pretty remarkable thing. And yet the album itself failed to build on that excitement for no one particular reason.

Best I can reason is that while the ingredients of their sound – plaintive country-folking hurt mixed with crashing, ‘gazey guitars and droning synth tones, topped with Jenn Wasser’s aching vocals – seem tailor-made to trigger my endorphin receptors, the record seemed too hesitant to really connect. It was like the band felt like a couple of kids suddenly invited to the grown-up’s table, and were a bit overwhelmed by it all. Which, for a pair of musicians barely into their twenties suddenly signed to one of America’s top independent labels, they essentially were.

And so when I heard “Take It In”, the achingly gorgeous promo MP3 from their second album and again swooned, I wasn’t sure whether that would carry over to The Knot, out this week, as a whole. Short answer – it does, and quite heartily. The Knot is a much bigger album than its predecessor. Sonically, the louds are much louder, the quiets much quieter and the textures richer and more varied – and emotionally, the highs more ecstatic and the lows more despairing. The reluctance that permeated If Children has largely been replaced with a greater confidence, and while it may be true that The Knot still drifts in points towards the monochromatic, there’s no question that it marks a big step forward for the band and begins to deliver on their immense promise. Wye Oak are at the grown-ups table because they belong there.

The Baltimore Sun has a feature piece on the band. There’s no local date at the moment but their tour itinerary takes them through the US, across to Europe and back again in the Fall. I saw them >at SxSW last year and while they don’t have immense onstage charisma, it’s amazing to watch Andy Stack work both the drums and keyboards simultaneously. I recommend catching them if they’re in your neck of the woods.

MP3: Wye Oak – “Take It In”
Stream: Wye Oak / The Knot
MySpace: Wye Oak

Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, who probably quite sensibly records simply as Mirah, will be at the Mod Club on October 6 in support of her new record (a)spera with ex-Decemberists Norfolk & Western.

Here’s an odd pairing – the stately folk-rock of Grand Archives and the ADD-prog hijinks of The Most Serene Republic. But paired they are for a North American tour that will be at the Mod Club in Toronto on October 15. Grand Archives’ new album Keep In Mind Frankenstein is out September 8, The Most Serene Republic’s …And The Ever-Expanding Universe is out now. The National Post has an interview with Milton’s finest.

MP3: Grand Archives – “Silver Among The Gold”
Video: The Most Serene Republic – “The Old Forever New Things”

Metric have set a live date on October 20 at Massey Hall with The Stills as support. That is a looooong way from their September 2003 show at the Horseshoe where they didn’t even bother with advance tickets.

A Place To Bury Strangers are making their musical manifesto very clear with the title of their second album – Exploding Head is due out October 6 and will be their first for Mute Records. They’ve already lined up a Fall tour to promote, including an October 27 date at the Mod Club in Toronto. They’re changing up dance partners all the while they’re on the road, but that show will feature Dead Confederate and All The Saints as support.

The Phoenix has a feature piece on Wheat, who have released a new video from White Ink Black Ink. I’m still giving a copy of the album away – come and get it.

Video: Wheat – “Changes Is”

Beatroute talks to Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo.

Frank Black tells Music Radar that “As far as any new Pixies records, I’m literally in the dark,” so anyone flocking to Virgin Festival at Burl’s Creek on August 29 had best be prepared to only hear the classics. Try to contain your disappointment.

Magnet does the over-under with The Velvet Underground’s catalog.

And oh yeah, this was news to me so it might be news to you; that free Dears show at Harbourfront this Sunday is a matinee show – they’re on the Sirius Stage at 3PM. And Laura Barrett is on the Redpath Stage at 4:30PM, since you’ll already be there.

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Changes Is

Review of Wheat's White Ink Black Ink and giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Black River Killer”

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

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

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

The AV Club talks to Mark Olson of The Jayhawks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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