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Posts Tagged ‘Willis Earl Beal’

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Daddy Was A Real Good Dancer

The Dismemberment Plan still have a plan to dismember you. And a new record.

Photo By Shervin Lainez Shervin Lainez 2013 has been a pretty great year for reunited/formerly retired acts releasing good to excellent new albums after many, many years – hat tip to David Bowie and My Bloody Valentine – and now it’s time to hope that Washington DC’s Dismemberment Plan keeps that streak going. This isn’t to suggest that the D-Plan are or ever were of the status of those others; a unique and spazzy/funky amalgam of post-punk, hardcore, and experimental art-pop, they were never fated to be more than a cult act but those who liked them, liked them a lot.

Still, they disbanded in 2003 and after frontman Travis Morrison’s solo debut Travistan was Pitchfork-ed through the heart, the odds of hearing from him again in any context seemed unlikely. There was a one-off D-Plan reunion show in 2007, sure, but in 2009 Morrison, after one more solo album in All Y’All, declared himself retired from music. Of course that proved to be untrue, and the Plan reunited for sporadic shows in 2011, continuing into 2012 with some new material thrown in the mix.

Which brings us to Uncanney Valley, the band’s fifth album and first in 12 years since 2001’s Change, out October 15. The Dismemberment Plan was always so unique and no one ever replicated what they did so well – or even tried – that a new record might well prove to simultaneously be a very welcome breath of fresh air and a blast from the past. Pitchfork has details on the new record as well as an interview with Morrison – nice to see no grudges are held – and while no samples of the new record have been released, we can still dig up some classic tunes and tilt the expectation-o-meter a little more towards excitement than trepidation.

And one can only hope that the new album will result in more touring – the band’s final Toronto show at Rockit in July 2003 and the “Death & Dismemberment” tour with Death Cab For Cutie at The Reverb in early 2002 were off-the-charts fun. Would love the opportunity to see them again (without hopping on a plane).

MP3: The Dismemberment Plan – “It’s So You”
MP3: The Dismemberment Plan – “You Are Invited”
MP3: The Dismemberment Plan – “The Things That Matter”
MP3: The Dismemberment Plan – “Superpowers”

Calexico has released a new EP led by a track from last year’s Algiers and intended for physical sale – at least for the moment – on their European tour only, though they promise a North American release is to come and you can get it digitally as of June 29. But you can stream Maybe On Monday right now, including its covers of Elvis Costello’s “Shabby Doll” and The Replacements’ “Unsatisfied”.

Stream: Calexico / Maybe On Monday

Yeah Yeah Yeahs have become the first band to record a video atop the Empire State Building and proven that the only thing you can really do atop the Empire State Building is run around it. The song is the latest single from Mosquito and the band are at Echo Beach on July 1.

Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Despair”

Spin has got a stream of Iron & Wine’s contribution to the soundtrack to The Lone Ranger. The soundtrack is out July 2, the movie July 3, and Iron & Wine play The Sound Academy on September 28.

Stream: Iron & Wine – “Rattling Bone”

You can now hear a couple songs from the new Scud Mountain Boys record Do You Love The Sun? courtesy of BrooklynVegan. The record is out July 9.

MP3: Scud Mountain Boys – “Double Bed”
Stream: Scud Mountain Boys – “Do You Love The Sun?”

NYC Taper has got a recording of Wilco’s amazing all-request, mostly-covers set at their Solid Sound festival last weekend. Look at that set list and tell me you don’t want to spend the time it’ll take to download it. I imagine we’ll get a more conventional show when they play The Molson Amphitheatre supporting Bob Dylan on July 15.

The next record from Explosions In The Sky won’t be a proper follow-up to 2011’s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, but the soundtrack to the Paul Rudd film Prince Avalanche. The film is out August 9, the soundtrack August 6, and one of the songs – written with composer David Wingo – has a video. Explosions In The Sky play The Air Canada Centre on October 4 opening for Nine Inch Nails.

Video: Explosions In The Sky w David Wingo – “Wading”

Under The Radar has more specifics on Okkervil River’s new full-length The Silver Gymnasium, out September 3. They play The Phoenix on September 28.

Matablog offers details on Kim Gordon’s first post/side-Sonic Youth project, entitled Body/Head and releasing their first album Coming Apart on September 10.

Janelle Monáe’s new album finally has a release date; The Electric Lady will be in stores on September 10. And damn, is her handwriting nice.

Willis Earl Beal has announced details of his second album, Nobody Knows. It’s out September 10 and a first track is available to stream below. More details at Under The Radar.

Stream: Willis Earl Beal – “Everything Unwinds”

Spin has compiled an oral history of Liz Phair’s landmark Exile In Guyville on the occasion of the record’s 20th anniversary.

I’ve been meaning to give Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee and her second album Cerulean Salt a proper write-up for a little while now, but just haven’t gotten around to it. But given that with the record’s European release, it’s available to stream in whole at NME right now, you may as well just go and listen to it and not worry about what I have to say about it save that it’s really terrific. There’s feature interviews with Crutchfield at The Guardian, The Line Of Best Fit, NPR, and Time.

Video: Waxahatchee – “Coast To Coast”
Stream: Waxahatchee / Cerulean Salt

Also from NYC Taper and Solid Sound is Low’s set from the festival, as well as one from Brooklyn a few days earlier.

Chart talks to Fred Thomas of Saturday Looks Good To Me.

It was more shrugs than tears when it was announced Kim Deal was leaving Pixies earlier this month, what with the band having been more nostalgia profiteers than trailblazing artists since their reunion in 2004, but with the surprise drop of a new song – with Deal on it – this morning, we are reminded of how great they still could have been in the 21st century had they wanted to, and yes, a tear. Unless, of course, this isn’t the end but some sort of beginning…?

MP3: Pixies – “Bagboy”
Video: Pixies – “Bagboy”

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Sun

Cat Power, Willis Earl Beal, and Xray Eyeballs at The Kool Haus in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangEvery good thing you’ve heard about Cat Power live is true, and also a lie; the same goes for every bad thing. The reputation that Chan Marshall gained as a fragile, erratic performer over the first decade or so of her career may have seemed overstated to mythic proportions, but few have made great efforts to dispute it. I can’t speak from experience – though a modest fan since Moon Pix, I’d avoided seeing her in concert because of that reputation and reports from the Toronto shows I’d missed in that time seemed to bear out that I hadn’t missed much.

So it was with great surprise and pleasure that my first two Cat Power shows in Fall 2006 – an intimate solo show at Lee’s Palace and a full band performance at The Phoenix, both in support of The Greatest, were sublime experiences. The former had a few awkward moments though they were far outnumbered by the great ones, but the latter, powered by the Memphis Rhythm Band, was about as perfect as you could get. A subsequent show at the 2007 Rogers Picnic was far less assured – though she got the benefit of the doubt as that whole day was just weird – and the last time I saw her at Matador at 21, she again sounded great; any reservations were more about the continued absence of new material than the performance itself. So I was optimistic for her first Toronto show since early 2008 this past Saturday night, since it was coming in support of her game-changing and excellent new album Sun; surely the sass and confidence that went into crafting that record would translate live? It’d be a couple of support acts before we’d find out.

Leadoff hitters Xray Eyeballs may have hailed from Brooklyn, but their psychedelic garage rock sound was decidedly west coast in lineage. With guitarist O.J. San Felipe and bassist Carly Rabalais trading off lead vocals while laying down beds of fuzzy guitars, simple percussion, and whirring synths, their set wasn’t sophisticated but not amateurish, either. It wasn’t a new sound by any stretch nor was their take on it overly memorable, but decent enough for passing a half hour. Though a note to San Felipe – they’re called Straploks and you should look into them.

I’d heard many good things about Chicago’s Willis Earl Beal prior to his being a late but welcome addition as support for this tour – that he was a poet, a soul-singer, a visual artist, an eccentric, a philosopher, and a hell of a performer – but despite him having come through town twice already in support of his lauded debut Acousmatic Sorcery, I hadn’t had a chance to explore further and his being a late addition as support for this leg of the tour was welcome news. He took the stage not with a band but a couple of mannequins, and instead literally played to backing tapes – he had a reel-to-reel tape machine set up behind him, providing the musical backing for him to sing over.

And really, even if he’d brought a full orchestra with him, it’s unlikely anyone would have noticed as it was nigh impossible to take your eyes off of him once he got going. With a huge voice that could go from a soulfully supple to hitting like a sack of gravel, he sang like an avatar of manic desperation while pacing the stage and turning everything around him – the mic stand, the flag that had covered his tape machine, a folding chair, his clothes – into a performance prop and closing out with mic twirls whilst doing The Running Man. Using an artist as singular as Tom Waits as a reference point for any other performer is usually unwise as it’s far too high a bar for mortals to measure against, but for Willis Earl Beal? It’s both stylistically accurate and speaks to the man’s potential. Pretty much amazing.

That the intro music for Cat Power’s set was Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm” – it played twice, once when they band was scheduled to take the stage and again fifteen minutes later when they actually did – was telling. Just as Dylan has earled a reputation as a difficult live act, frequently inverting and rearranging his classic songs to the point of being unrecognizable, so to has Marshall taken to treating her songbook as raw material for crafting something new rather than as canon to be performed respectfully. Also unrecognizable was Marshall herself, following her band onstage in leather jacket and the short, spiky, blonde hairdo debuted in her video for “Cherokee” further punkified with shaved sides. That song opened the show, but rather than stay in character from the video and battle zombies, she instead did battle with the incense burning on stage, constantly fussing with it while singing and then turning her attention to the two mics set up for her – indistinguishable to the eye and ear – through “Sun”, and then the mic stands on “3, 6, 9”. To her credit, she mostly sounded alright while this was going on, if not as in key or articulate as one would like, but it was distracting to watch.

As has been typical for the past few years, Marshall eschewed guitar duties to concentrate on singing – and fussing – leaving her four-piece backing band to the music, and theirs was not an easy task. They had to give the songs enough structure so as to stay intact and relatively recognizable, yet allow Marshall the space to roam and improvise as she was wont to do. And this was where I saw where the crucial difference between this show and the Greatest show would be – in that setting, Marshall had to rein herself in to meet the supremely tight and professional standards of that veteran outfit, but here she was in charge and it was her players’ job to follow her, wherever she felt like going. While they stuck to the Sun material, things stayed fairly steady and onstage eccentrics aside – the incense/mic/stand fiddling and rambling banter persisted – the audience remained onside.

The middle portion of the set was probably more trying. A reading of the unreleased “Bully” found Marshall in her best voice of the evening to that point as being accompanied only by piano, being distracted wasn’t really an option, and from that she went into an almost operatic, dramatically backlit performance of Mexican icon Pedro Infante’s “Angelitos Negros” (a Jukebox bonus track), and then a half-speed, Moon Pix-skeletal version of “The Greatest” that traded almost all melody for a steadily building, almost ominous dynamic – an interesting interpretation, but perhaps not what an audience who’d been waiting over 10 minutes for something remotely familiar wanted.

It having been a half-decade since she’d toured an album of original material through town, most were probably hoping to hear more catalog material but given how it was being presented, they were probably thankful whenever the set returned to Sun and more familiar if recent sounds. When Marshall finally strapped on a guitar for “Silent Machine”, it was both invigorating and frustrating – for those four minutes, her Danelectro was like a lightning rod that channeled everything the band could be into that slinky, sexy, slide riff and they were tight and focused like they’d not been the rest of the show. And of course, while that was the only song that Marshall would play an instrument and the indisputable high point of the show, they did raise their game for a powerful “Nothin’ But Time” and “Peace and Love”. Lest the momentum keep going, however, they went back to You Are Free for a sprawling, deconstructed “I Don’t Blame You”, before again pulling it together for a strong “Ruin”. For the show’s close of I think “Rambling (Wo)man” – I can’t be sure – a fan handed Marshall a bouquet of flowers which she spend most of the song distributing amongst her band and then tossing, flower by flower, into the audience. And continuing in a giving theme, gave away a t-shirt and all the lyrics sheets she had on stage before requesting – and receiving – a fan’s Charlie Chaplin t-shirt.

It was a nice moment and close to a show that was, even to die-hard fans and apologists, uneven and oft frustrating. Though Marshall seemed in good spirits throughout and any performance where she doesn’t halt a song midway through to complain about the monitors or just walk right off is a positive one, for as long as she’s been doing this she should be much better. She can be and has been. But perhaps for an artist for whom, “is she alright?” is always a legitimate question – a brace of cancelled promotional appearances before the start of the tour was cause for concern, as was her tweet from the inside of an ambulance the afternoon of the show – perhaps overt fan service by way of her song selections and arrangements is too much to ask. Perhaps it’s enough that she’s again making great records, and that your odds of seeing a good show – while still obviously not even – are much better than they once were. At least she’s trying.

NOW, The National Post, and BlogTO were also on hand for the show.

Photos: Cat Power, Willis Earl Beal, Xray Eyeballs @ The Kool Haus – October 20, 2012
MP3: Cat Power – “Ruin”
MP3: Cat Power – “Cherokee”
MP3: Cat Power – “Manhattan”
MP3: Cat Power – “Metal Heart”
MP3: Cat Power – “The Greatest”
MP3: Cat Power – “He-War”
MP3: Cat Power – “Nude As The News”
MP3: Willis Earl Beal – “Monotony”
MP3: Willis Earl Beal – “Blue Escape”
MP3: Willis Earl Beal – “White Noise”
MP3: Xray Eyeballs – “Crystal”
MP3: Xray Eyeballs – “Egyptian Magician”
Video: Cat Power – “Cherokee”
Video: Cat Power – “King Rides By”
Video: Cat Power – “Living Proof”
Video: Cat Power – “Lived In Bars”
Video: Cat Power – “He War”
Video: Cat Power – “Crossbones Style”
Video: Willis Earl Beal – “Monotony”
Video: Xray Eyeballs – “X”
Video: Xray Eyeballs – “Crystal”

Sufjan Stevens has made one of the songs from his upcoming Silver & Gold Christmas song box set available for download. The set’s not out until November 13 so think of it like that one gift that you were allowed to open on Christmas Eve. It’s just like that.

MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Ding-A-Ling-A-Ring-A-Ling”

Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus talks to Consequence Of Sound. They’re at Lee’s Palace on November 27.

Clash and The Oklahoman meet Band Of Horses, in town at Massey Hall on December 5.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Grizzly Bear.

NYC Taper is sharing another The Mountain Goats live recording from last week.

Pitchfork talks to Sharon Van Etten about making her recent video for “Magic Chords”; Varsity just talks to her about whatever.

DIY has a feature interview with Savoir Adore.

The San Francisco Chronicle and CBC Music chat with Joey Burns of Calexico while The 405 also ropes John Covertino into their conversation.

NPR talks to Benjamin Gibbard.

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Take Me With You When You Go

Everyone waiting for a Jack White Toronto date can chill out because there’s now a Jack White Toronto date

Photo By Jo McCaugheyJo McCaugheyTwo, actually.

Typically big albums come with big tours, but while Jack White’s solo debut Blunderbuss has been inarguably one of the biggest releases of the year for the adjectiveless rock set, his touring itinerary – at least in North America – has been relatively scattershot, favouring short stretches anchored by festival dates. And while no one would call the dates announced yesterday any kind of cross-country marathon, it does include the first three eastern Canadian dates since the end of The White Stripes, two of which are in Toronto.

White and his two backing bands will be at The Sony Centre for a two-night stand on October 3 and 4 – maybe one night for the all-she Birds backing band and one for the all-he Buzzards? The venue is a bit surprising of a choice since the room holds only 3200 or so; that’s hardly nothing, but remember that that this is a guy who headlines major festivals and who has a fanbase that will think nothing of shelling out to hit both nights. So even though the usually seated venue will have a standing, general admission area set up to increase capacity and rocking out real estate, that’s still not a lot of tickets up for grabs. So when the $45, $59.50, and $75 – plus service charges, natch – tickets go on sale Friday at 11AM… well good luck.

MP3: Jack White – “Blunderbuss”
Video: Jack White – “Sixteen Saltines”
Video: Jack White – “Freedom At 21”
Video: Jack White – “Love Interruption”

Chicagoan outsider folk artist/poet Willis Earl Beal is back in town at The Drake on October 1 for a show in support of his debut, Acousmatic Sorcery; tickets $15.50 in advance. Pitchfork has full Autumn tour dates and details on his plans for an animated short film.

MP3: Willis Earl Beal – “White Noise”

Ben Folds Five, reunited and ready to release their first album in 13 years in The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind on September 18, have put together a tour that brings them to the Kool Haus on October 15, tickets $37.50. On one hand, I loved their first two records. On the other, I don’t know how much of my college years I necessarily need to revisit. Hmm. Folds talks to Spin about why he decided to re-form his old band now, and the answer is a bit longer than, “cha-ching”.

Video: Ben Folds Five – “Song For The Dumped”

The impeccably punk-pedigreed OFF! are back in town for a show at Wrongbar on October 23. I guess this is why we won’t be seeing a proper Red Kross tour this Fall… The Village Voice has an interview with frontman Keith Morris.

Video: OFF! – “Wiped Out”

Matthew Dear and Light Asylum will team up for a show at The Hoxton on November 9. The Skinny talks to Dear about his new album Beams, out August 27.

MP3: Matthew Dear – “Earthforms”
MP3: Light Asylum – “A Certain Person”

Portland electro-rock duo The Helio Sequence will release their new record Negotiations on September 11, and have slated a full North American tour to support – look for them at The Horseshoe on November 12. One preview MP3 was released a little while ago and Rolling Stone has just debuted a second.

MP3: The Helio Sequence – “October”
MP3: The Helio Sequence – “Hall Of Mirrors”

Pitchfork has details on the long-awaited third album from Titus Andronicus: Local Business will be out September 23. And okay two years isn’t really such a long time since The Monitor but still. Woo?

Fang Island have released a first video from their latest effort Major. College Times has a quick interview.

Video: Fang Island – “Sisterly”

Rolling Stone talks to Band Of Horses’ Ben Bridwell about working with legendary producer Glynn Johns on their new record Mirage Rock. They play Echo Beach tomorrow night, August 15, and release said record on September 18.

Grizzly Bear have released another track from their forthcoming album Shields, out September 18. They play Massey Hall on September 26.

MP3: Grizzly Bear – “Yet Again”

Rolling Stone and Prague Post check in with Greg Dulli on the The Afghan Whigs reunion, rolling into The Phoenix on October 3.

Rolling Stone talks to Victoria Legrand of Beach House. They play The Kool Haus on October 13.

OVRLD checks in with Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater.

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips submits to an interview with QRO because goodness knows he hates being interviewed.