Archive for June, 2005

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

Into The Morning

It was a game-time decision but I headed down to the Horseshoe to partake in the Frontier Index CD release party for their self-titled debut album on Rainbow Quartz. I wasn’t nearly as wiped out as I usually am by Friday evening, and the promise of a spot on the guest list and gratis CD didn’t hurt. For the record – I CAN be bought, and it doesn’t take much. No sir.

Leading things off were The Parkas, formerly based out of London but now scattered all over Southern Ontario. Big props to them for not only keeping the band together, but still sounding good while doing it. Starting off a little slow, they seemed to gain energy and confidence with each article of clothing the singer doffed. Their set wasn’t long enough for him to do an Anthony Keidis impersonation (thankfully), but by the end they were fully in the zone, sounding not unlike Exile-era Rolling Stones at last call, a staggering (in the wobbling sense, not the heartbreaking genius sense) blend of country rocking soul. The dudes are some kind of funny onstage, too.

The middle act went to Andy Magoffin, who incidentally produced both the Frontier Index and Parkas. First performing a couple of numbers with just Jenny Mitchell of Barmitzvah Brothers as Crime Travellers, he then brought up the rest of the band to complete The Two Minute Miracles lineup. After the high-energy Parkas, Magoffin’s considerably quieter pop gems got lost a bit in the crowd chatter, but still sounded good. I confess that I didn’t give him my undivided attention, I ended up by the merch table talking comics with Graig, but what I heard when I tuned in sounded good. Honest.

By this point, it was pretty goddamn late, the guests of honour at this particular party not taking the stage until 12:30. I’m impressed by how much better of a live band Frontier Index have gotten since the first time I saw them last August (opening for the Parkas, coincidentally). They’ve headed further in the country direction, playing up the natural twang in guitarist Corey Hernden and drummer Mick Jackson’s voices but keeping one foot in the rock world (on the monitor whilst soloing, natch). The best touchstones I can think of are post-Olson Jayhawks with a dash of ‘Mats swagger thrown in. That’s about how I’d describe the album as well, after just one intial listen. The production is very clean and reminiscent of Wilco’s A.M.. But back to the live show – the band was certainly feeding of the positive energy of the crowd, composed of family, friends, fans and general well-wishers to put on a terrifically tight show. Now with a proper album to support, I’m expecting Frontier Index to start making some waves in the greater public consciousness through the second half of the year. Hopefully big things are coming.

The album is out in Canada on Tuesday, the US in August and internationally come Fall. Check out their electronic press kit for some audio that I couldn’t actually get working and pics – six of the eight of which are mine! Here are some more for them to pad their press kits.

Various corners of blogsburg are taking advantage of the year’s halfway point to compose those ultimate in music writer indulgences, the best-of list. Brooklynvegan has his up and My Old Kentucky Blog has his favourite AND his biggest disappointments. Muzzle Of Bees has chosen to accentuate the negative and has only listed off his worst of ’05. I may whip together a list next week if it’s a slow one.

Rolling Stone talks to Carl Newman about what to expect from the new New Pornographers record, Twin Cinema, out August 23. Link from Largehearted Boy. This report that they’re playing the Docks here in Toronto on October 9 really makes me unhappy. Unhappy enough to not go.

Embrace has never done much for me, but with Longwave opening up on their upcoming tour, I guess I’ll be giving them another look. They’ll both be at Lee’s Palace on July 26 along with Augustana. You can listen to all of Longwave’s new album There’s A Fire over at MySpace. The audio was kind of fucked up earlier this week, but the proper authorities have been notified so hopefully that’s sorted out. Either way, the album is out for real on Tuesday.

CMJ talks to Stephen Malkmus about domesticity and Face The Truth.

Explosions In The Sky apologize for the continuing non-functionality of their website and make up for it by re-releasing their long-out-of-print debut album How Strange, Innocence, on or around October 11. Until then, check out these live tracks from a show in San Francisco in June 2003, courtesy of Transmission 3000.

Yeah, late post. Late night.

np – Explosions In The Sky / Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Spirit Flags

Hamilton’s A Northern Chorus has been keeping the shoegaze/space rock flame alive in Ontario for some years now, and they are celebrating the release of their third album Bitter Hands Resign (out earlier this year in Canada, out this past week in the US) with a special CD release show tomorrow night at Lee’s Palace. They will be playing as an expanded lineup, with former members Erin Aurich (violin) and Graham Walsh (keys) rejoining the band for the occasion. ANC has always been something of a revolving door, I bet if they got every one of their former members out they’d be falling off the stage, but it’d sound HUGE. Tickets for the show are $7 at the door.

Splendid talks to the band and gets a Hamilton-Wentworth/Halton geography lesson while NOW, who probably already know where Hamilton is, finds out they’re not really a political band no matter what Thunder Bay thinks (I guarantee that Splendid doesn’t know where Thunder Bay is).

I’ve never been able to get into ANC as much as I’d like – their sound is lush and beautiful, but resides a little too much on the ethereal side for me. It doesn’t have quite enough substance to really get its hooks into me, and the same goes double for the vocals. They drift overtop like a gentle breeze, pleasant and refreshing but ultimately unable to properly billow the sails. I’ve only got Spirit Flags, however. Maybe I should keep working at it or give Bitter Hands Resign a shot (it’s streamable in its entirety over at Sonic Unyon). The folks at 75 Or Less were all about it earlier this Spring.

MP3: A Northern Chorus – “The Shepherd & The Chauffeur”

Here’s something I never expected to see – PopMatters sent a couple of correspondants up to NxNE earlier this month to see what the deal was. I’ve never seen the festival considered from a non-local, non-cynical perspective and it’s quite interesting. They also give big props to The Frontier Index, who coincidentally are playing a CD release show for their debut self-titled album tonight at the Horseshoe. Go and have a similar epiphany. The second part of the feature should be up today. What other wonderful things will they have to say about a weekend in Hogtown? We wait with bated breath. Update: The second part of the feature is up with more festival reviews. To reiterate, it’s really interesting to get the unbiased outsider perspective on some of these acts, without the filter of the local hype/backlash machine. Good reading.

Billboard also gets the inside scoop on the first new Posies record in seven years, Every Kind Of Light, out Tuesday. Filter has an MP3 of the first single, “Conversations”, available to download. And the Posies-powered new Big Star album has an August 23 release date, though it remains untitled. You can pre-order it at Not Lame.

John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats explains to The East Bay Express why he can’t play “Cubs In Five” anymore.

The New York Times wonders why The Believer‘s music issue this year (which just hit stores this week) is so indie/alt-centric. Good question, I’m not complaining though (obvs). I do admit that the complete lack of ads in the magazine is a little unnerving to me for some reason. It’s like reading PBS. This link (and the last one) from Largehearted Boy.

Here are my photos from Eisley’s Lee’s Palace show on Wednesday. There’s lots of them – good lighting + cute subjects = many photos. Simple math.

np – Luna / Rendezvous

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

Marvelous Things

Tyler, Texas’ Eisley make me feel old. If I were, say, 10 years younger, I’m sure I’d be a moony-eyed fanboy for any one of the three DuPree sisters, with their big sad eyes, sweet vocals and just-the-right-side-of-emo pop songs. They’re like the indie rock Corrs or something… But as it is, I will say they’re every bit as talented as they are adorable, and hope that keeps me out of dirty old man territory.

I really didn’t know what sort of a turn-out to expect for their first headlining show here (a fact Sherri repeated many times) – the band has gotten approximately zero press up here, I don’t think the album has gotten a domestic release and even though you’d expect their fanbase to number largely teenage girls, they were playing a 19+ venue on a Wednesday night. A recipe for disaster? They’ve actually been through town trice before opening much larger shows (Coldplay, Snow Patrol and New Found Glory) but I don’t know how much of a local fanbase of their own those shows would have translated into. In their tour diary, the band says they would have been ecstatic if 200-250 people (half capacity) showed up. As it turned out, they were about bang on. Not only was the crowd a respectable size, they seemed to be genuine hardcore fans, requesting older non-album material and cheering when they got them.

Me, I only really knew the stuff from Room Noises. It had taken me a little time to chisel through the glossy production on Room Noises, but after that I was quite pleased about how much depth there was in the music. This was far more sophisticated than you might expect from so young a band. If I had one complaint, however, it was that it was a little too mid-tempo and measured. So it was gratifying to find that live, they were a good deal louder and willing to colour outside the lines a bit. While Sheri and Stacy’s vocals and harmonies were still impeccable, the instrumentation had an energy that was sorely lacking from the album versions and really gave everything some extra punch. They also had more energy onstage than I’d been led to believe (except for Stacy, who didn’t get up from her Rhodes). They weren’t, like, KISS or anything, but they seemed pretty comfortable and into it up there.

Last night’s show reinforced my opinion that this band is capable of doing some great things. My fear is that Reprise would rather see them churn out safer, less ambitious soundtrack-ready material rather than realize their full creative potential and won’t encourage them to wander farther afield. I hope I’m wrong, but my lack of faith in the major label A&R is a matter of public record. But one thing that the majors are apparently good for is guitars and merch. They were travelling with some seriously nice equipment and the merch area at Lee’s Palace was practically turned into a little Eisley boutique with a full range of t-shirts, posters and gewgaws. No copies of the independent EPs, of course. I know I should have grabbed those in Austin…

The openers on this tour were fellow Texans Pilotdrift and Ohio’s Lovedrug. The former were pretty interesting, offering up a proggy-pop sound that ranged from folkier numbers to more rocked out ones, occasionally flirting with Buckley-esque over-emoting. On the whole, however, I enjoyed their stuff – it was considerably more compelling than I’d expected. Oh, and they get full points for unironic use of the keytar. Lovedrug, on the other hand, did nothing for me. I’ve never really listened to emo rock but they’re pretty much what I figure it sounds like. Incredibly earnest tunes that reminded of a heavier Coldplay. At points, I forgot why I was at the show and wondered what on earth I was doing listening to this stuff. They seemed to have their disciples, however, as most of the people around me seemed to be there to see Lovedrug more than the headliners. Each opener only played for around 35 minutes – both acts had huge stage setups that required a lot of set up and tear down time. Piccies tomorrow or later tonight.

Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam and Calexico’s Joey Burns tell Billboard about their In The Reins project, recorded last year and due for release on September 20. This has the potential to be ridiculously good, it’s a shame that it’s only an EP (though a 7-song one). The ensuing tour, which will feature individual sets by both Iron & Wine and Calexico as well as a collaborative one, will be ridiculously good.

The Toronto Star previews Keren Ann’s two shows this weekend – one at the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival and one at the Olympic Island concert. Now that’s a lady with crossover appeal.

Another upcoming week in shows over at Torontoist.

Forbes advises their audience of millionaire playboys of just how much it would cost them to become crime-fighters a la Batman. Answer? Not actually as much as you’d think.

I was planning on doing a round-up post of the promo stuff I’ve been getting in the mail, but am going to have to put that off a bit as I got almost a dozen records in the mail yesterday, 95% of it stuff I’ve never heard of (the other 5% being Moby… and I got an 8×10 glossy as well!). Maybe I’ll take a weekend next month and just power through them, or maybe I’ll set up a dedicated reviews page. I dunno. It could be interesting, it could be awful. We shall see. But I’m telling you, the sheer MASS of the mail I had to carry upstairs was ridiculous.

Guess who forgot to turn their alarm on last night? Hence the lateness of this post and my general discombobulated state this morning. On the plus side, I’m well rested after getting to bed at 2AM…

np – various artists / The Believer Music Issue Jun/Jul 2005

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

Cuts Like A Knife

The question wasn’t whether the Canadian Live 8 concert announcenment yesterday would prove worthy of scorn, but how much. The answer is SCADS. It’s like they gift-wrapped the whole thing for critics and naysayers with a big stinky bow on top. The concert will indeed be held in Park Place (née Molson Park) and feature such luminaries as Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Blue Rodeo, Great Big Sea, Our Lady Peace, African Guitar Summit, Barenaked Ladies, Jan Arden, Bruce Cockburn, Deep Purple, Gordon Lightfoot, Tragically Hip, Tom Cochrane, Motley Crue and Sam Roberts and it will be hosted by Dan Ackroyd and Tom Green (I would have rather had Terrance and Phillip, especially with Celine taking part). I find it amusing that the CBC article says that Barrie “won” the concert. Getting stuck with Our Lady Peace doesn’t feel much like winning to me.

Now I don’t necessarily have anything against most of these performers but collectively put forward as the face of Canadian music, it’s about as horrid, irrelevant and anachronistic as you could possibly get. It’s like they’ve taken every bit of progress we’ve made in recent years in building a reputation as a country that produces innovative, creative and just kick-ass music and summarily dismissed it. “Yeah, you young’ns are all great but we’re going to go with the ‘Everything I Do’ guy”. Celine won’t even actually BE at the show, she’s phoning her performance in. Nice “headliner” (I’ve heard Bry-boy is doing the same but can’t confirm that). It’s a sad day when Motley Crue is the most exciting act on the bill. Hell, I could have accepted it if they had gotten Nickelback and Avril – certainly not my cup of tea but at least you could rationalize their popularity and global profile. Instead, we get artists who aren’t even relevant in Canada anymore, let alone abroad. At this point, it wouldn’t shock me if they added Glass Tiger, Honeymoon Suite, Cats Can Fly, The Box… Sigh. Know what a better lineup would have been? Leonard Cohen. Just Lenny. Sitting on stage, doing whatever. Making toast. Gawd. CHAGRINED.

Chart is hoping against hope that rumours of more acts to be added will make the event worth covering (since they’ll have to anyway) and Radio Dan has his own act-by-act take on the lineup. Hello Newman prognosticated this days ago, Torontist is enraged and Pop (All Love) is just confused. As are we all, Aaron. As are we all.

Update: Ben Rayner at The Toronto Star also has some words.

Update 2: Organizer Michael Cohl is getting defensive about the Live 8 lineup. GOOD. And Jet has been added to the bill. Yeah, THEY’LL salvage this fiasco.

Okay, I’m done with this nonsense now.

If you like the Laura Cantrell track I’ve got as MP3 of the week, check out this NYC subway map of her influences. If you don’t like the track, then you have no soul. Get out of my house! The power of Christ compels you!

Wilco confesses to The Houston Chronicle that they want to make a dance record.

Indiana’s Early Day Miners roll into town with Windsor For The Derby at Rancho Relaxo on August 19. I’ve liked the little I’ve heard from EDM – maybe this one’ll break my August concert drought. Of course Rancho Relaxo in the middle of August could well be like a sauna in Hell… we’ll keep that one on the maybe pile.

Thanks to BrooklynVegan for the tip-off that Spoon is now part of the Live Music Archive.

Bigwig Avi Arad tells about Marvel’s long-term plans for making films from their comic book properties. Some of it is intriguing, some of it disturbing.

Neil Gaiman will be in town on or around October 7 on the promotional tour for his new novel, Anansi Boys. Complete preliminary schedule here.

Oh yeah, the banner on the side? Sorry. But I did warn you…

np – Low / The Great Destroyer

Tuesday, June 21st, 2005

We're Just Friends

Oh the perks of fame. I wonder where Chris was going dressed up all fancy-like (save for the gym bag) before the band accosted him? Insert your own “more cowbell” joke – I’m not going there.

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a Wilco post. Let’s rectify that. Jeff Tweedy tells CNN that he’s feeling great now, thanks for asking. He also thinks that becoming a rock star is “a pretty lame goal”, at least as far as his son is concerned. He also tells MLive he’s not impressed with the Michael Jackson media frenzy. The Rocky Mountain News finds there’s still mileage to be gotten out of asking Jeff about A Ghost Is Born and Detroit’s Metro Times asks Nels Cline what it was like being Guitar Player cover boy this past Winter. And Spin ranked Yankee Hotel Foxtrot at #77 on their inane “100 Greatest Albums 1985-2005” list. Full list here (as tends to be my average with these lists, I’ve got 32 of their picks. I’m always around 1/3 cool).

Wilco are wrapping up their Summer touring schedule and will be heading back into the studio to record their sixth album this August. A live CD/DVD will be coming out this Fall just in time for stuffing stockings or giving out as Hallowe’en favours.

Paste asks Joe Pernice about poetry, his past and just what business he has getting happy on Discover A Lovelier You. Interestingly, despite good overall reviews, some fans have really been lashing out against this record. I hear it as another solid but not that different addition to his ouvre – not a watershed moment, but still perfectly worthy. Maybe it’s the slightly glossier 80s-ish production they object to? Pernice has never denied his love of 80s post-punk and new wave, but it’s never been quite so evident in his own work. It’s definitely a ways away from the bummed out orch-pop sound that Pernice was working with on Overcome By Happiness, but hardly obscures the songs. I think some people just like to complain.

Ex-Delgado Emma Pollack isn’t wasting any time in the wake of her band’s dissolution – Pitchfork reports she’s already signed to 4AD as a solo artist with an eye towards releasing her debut album next year.

The New York Daily News gives Dirty On Purpose some love. Jinners has compiled a slew more press clippings from the band’s CD (re-)release party this past weekend for their Sleep Late For A Better Tomorrow EP.

Some shows – The Soundtrack Of Our Loves (TSOOL to their friends and lawyers) are at the Horseshoe July 6 after opening up for Robert Plant at the Amphitheatre, Scout Niblett, who had originally been slated to open the Electrelane show a couple weeks ago, will be at the Horseshoe – for real this time – for her own show August 1, and creepy-esque gothists Cranes are at Lee’s Palace September 15. And tickets for the September 10 Sufjan Stevens show go on sale tomorrow – not today – for $20 a pop at the usual outlets. I’d been saying that I wanted to keep my Summer concert sched relatively light, but with September shows being announced now, I may have done a little too well. So far I’ve got NOTHING going on in August. I find that unsettling.

MuchMusic has a too-short clip of Arcade Fire’s marching band-powered performance of “Rebellion” at this weekend’s MuchMusic Video Awards. I would have really liked to see this but there was no way in hell I was sitting through any of the show/debacle. There is a torrent of it kicking around already, though I haven’t downloaded it yet. From For The Records.

Stylus embarks on their most ambitious “Playing God” column yet, offering up their own revision of Rhino’s Whatever: The ’90s Pop and Culture Box. I started reading it but was quickly overcome by the noxious fumes of high school and university nostalgia. There is shit there that I simply did not EVER need to be reminded of again. Gawd. I fear that if I ever come within 20 feet of the actual box set, I will quite literally spontaneously combust and never be heard from again.

np – The Radio Dept / Lesser Matters