Monday, June 25th, 2007
This weekend’s slate of shows read a bit like my finalists list for this year’s Polaris Music Prize, what with Miracle Fortress on the Saturday evening (check back tomorrow) and The Besnard Lakes on Friday at the Horseshoe, in support of their perhaps prophetically-titled album Are The Dark Horse. And if that sentence is as awkward as I suspect it is, I apologize.
Opening for the Besnards for this night (though they weren’t technically headlining, I didn’t stick around for final act In-Flight Safety) was fellow Montrealer Jade McNelis, whose debut All The Fables EP was released this past March. With a strong voice, classically-trained piano chops and a solid band behind her, McNelis’ material was good but still a little too easy to accurately describe as “girl with a piano”. She reminded me of Emm Gryner, though steeped more in jazz and rock than straight pop and balladry. Enjoyable and lots of potential, but not distinctive enough to make me take notice… yet. The Toronto Star talked to McNelis before NxNE at the start of June.
I think I managed to miss the Besnard Lakes live maybe a half-dozen times in the past nine months or so, and that’s with my actually making an effort to see them. Scheduling issues, as they say. But this night, I finally got to see them and the timing was good as Are The Dark Horse has recently been burrowing its way further into my consciousness. The six-piece band came fully armed to recreate The Dark Horse‘s psychedelic pop otherworld, pedalboards and smoke machines a-plenty, but for some reason, they didn’t bring the reverb. Whereas the album is drenched in bottom-of-a-well reverberation, they played this show mostly dry. But rather than dispel some of the material’s mystique, their Beach Boys backed by Hendrix vibe remained intact and if anything, the more direct sound served to emphasize the classic rock goodness of the band’s triple guitar attack.
And I’d like to point out just how impressive their guitar arrangements were – even with the three axes, their choice of tone and notes played was such that no one ever stepped on each others’ parts or sounded unnecessary. Probably a geeky thing to notice but it definitely caught my ear. Actually the tightness and focus of their set overall surprised me a bit – with a record ripe for jamming out, I would have expected some more extended musical excursions but they kept things firmly on track. Probably being the middle band, albeit the one most were there to see, with a fixed time slot had something to do with that. But seeing it performed live confirmed that Horse was one of the most interesting Canadian albums of the past year – yes, I’m still in Polaris-think mode. Only disappointment on the night? They were sold out of the flaming horse t-shirts in my size.
Muzzle Of Bees has details on Magnolia Electric Co’s forthcoming release The Sojourner Boxset, which as implied will collect a wealth of recent unreleased MEC material over four CDs, one DVD, 5,000 copies and out August 7. Molina and co are at Lee’s Palace on October 5.
Some forthcoming release news – Super Furry Animals will release Hey Venus! on August 28 – full details at Prefix. Super Furry frontman Gruff Rhys will be in town doing the solo thing September 25 with a show at the Rivoli. The Weakerthans’ Reunion Tour is out September 25, details at Punknews, and Aversion has it that British Sea Power’s third album will bear the cryptic title of Now That’s What I Call World War One Joy Division. Ask for it by name sometime this Fall.
JAM! caught up with Ryan Adams during his recent tour stop in Toronto. Sadly, no further revelations of drug abuse or near-death experiences – just talk about his music. Booooring. Easy Tiger is out tomorrow, critical reaction is decent.