Archive for February, 2006

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

Looking Forward To Seeing You

Wilco obsessives – I’m looking at you, me – will have to wait till later in the year for the band’s new album but are going to get some serious fixes in the next couple months with new albums from Loose Fur and
Golden Smog. Billboard has details of the new Golden Smog record, Another Fine Day, which is due out on July 18 via Lost Highway and Drag City has the mighty morphin’ video for “Hey Chicken”, the first single from Born Again In The USA, which is out March 21. And The Indianapolis Star talks to Loose Fur/Wilco stickman Glenn Kotche about his new solo record Mobile, which is coming out March 7. Junkmedia also has a round-up of all the Wilco extra-cirricular activities going on right now.

I don’t hold out much hope of Golden Smog touring, at least not with the “dream” lineup – the logistics would probably be a nightmare to even consider. A fact that makes me even sadder that I missed out on their two-nights at the Horseshoe waaaaay back in 1998. THAT would have been a hell of a thing to see, let me tell you, but I was probably busy not studying for exams or something. And elsewhere in the Golden Smog extend family – Dan Murphy’s Soul Aslyum will release their first album in a dog’s age, Crazy Mixed Up World, on April 4 (Rolling Stone has more).

My favourite album of 2005, The National’s Alligator, was recently quietly reissued (so quietly that I can’t find any actual info about where/why/when) so that it now includes a bonus disc featuring all five of the Alligator b-sides as well as three music videos for the album. Now seeing as how I’ve already bought this album on LP and CD, does it seem fair that I should shell out a third time? I think not, and thankfully, neither does Beggars – they’ve made all the bonus disc material available to download to those already with a physical copy of the album. You have to punch in the UPC to access the goodies, but when you do, everything’s there to download. Awesomeness. If you iTunes-ed it or something… then I dunno. Ask Beggars. And a reminder – The National are in town for a show at the Horseshoe on March 22. Last I checked, tickets were going fast so if you’re snoozing, you’re losing. Also, unofficial National videographer Vincent Moon has uploaded a bunch of his work, including National live footage and videos, to YouTube. Check it out. And a final postscript – National sideproject Clogs are getting some good reviews. Worth checking out?

I’m a little dismayed that I didn’t hear about the release of Saturday Looks Good To Me’s Sound On Sound compilation CD before I got the flyer from Polyvinyl. It’s 30 tracks and almost 80 minutes of SLGTM b-sides, rarities and limited edition goodies, and it came out two weeks ago. Consider it the perfect dose of pop goodness to hold you over till their new (double?) album is out later this year. And they’ll be all over SxSW next month as well – don’t miss em.

And speaking of SxSW, would anyone happen to have an extra wristband kicking around? I thought I had all my ducks in a row with a press pass, but with two weeks to go before I leave, the publication who was going to send me hasn’t heard boo from the Sx people and I’m getting antsy. I suppose I could shell out the $300+ for one on eBay, but dammit I really don’t want to. There’s still a chance my press pass could come through, I guess – I have no idea what the notification procedure/schedule is, but considering my contingency plan right now is to hit all the day shows, then go back to my hotel and watch Soprano reruns at night… Sx veterans – what’re my options here? I’ve heard that sometimes wristbands are still available at certain clubs before the festival starts? I’ll be arriving Tuesday afternoon… And oh yeah, would anyone have a photo pass they’d be willing to donate/sell/trade? And if you think I’m begging now, man, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Update: Alas and alack, I have been officially turned down for a press pass. I am officially checking my dignity at the door…

Proof of Neko Case’s universal (magazine) appeal – both serious newsweekly Macleans and gay mag Fab are over the moon about Ms Case. Billboard is just kind of wishy-washy. Fox Confessor Brings The Flood is out next Tuesday and she will perform selections from the new platter on April 2 at the Danforth Music Hall.

Big shows, little shows – Depeche Mode return to Toronto on May 18 for a show at the Air Canada Centre, Aussies The Grates are at the Horseshoe March 11 and Isobel Campbell will be doing an in-store at Soundscapes this Saturday, March 4 at 3PM before her proper show at Revival, just down the street, that evening. She talks to Billboard about her first-ever North American tour.

Oh, and everyone who was pissed off about The Docks for Belle & Sebastian on Saturday – and I think there were about 3000 of you? The band hated it too. Which raises the question of where can the band play next time they roll through town? Opt for the smaller, more opulant and more expensive Massey Hall again knowing it will sell out in a heartbeat and shut many fans out? Or take a chance on some place like the Ricoh Coliseum, which holds 3500 in its smallest configuration? I’ve never been to the Ricoh and wouldn’t expect an arena would be much better than the Docks (suckage in different ways), but that’s pretty much the extent of options in this town at that size. Someone needs to bulldoze something and build a nice sounding hall.

24 – come back tomorrow. I was out and totally misjudged the time-shifting thing with my TV. Long story short – had to tape it at 1AM last night, will watch later today.

np – Yo La Tengo / I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One

Monday, February 27th, 2006

The Goalkeeper's Revenge

Was there anywhere better to be on Saturday night than on the Toronto waterfront at the Docks? Well, yeah, pretty much anywhere warm would have been nicer, but only if Belle & Sebastian and The New Pornographers would have come along as well. It was the completely sold-out opening night of the all-star tour, and that bill was pretty much the only thing that could have gotten me to go venture down to that venue again, let alone in the dead of winter.

Despite the fact that the New Pornographers are a pretty hot band in their own right right now, this tour wasn’t being billed as a co-headline deal and no one was pretending it was. They may well have played a sold-out show at the 1000-capactiy Phoenix just last October, but here they were the opening act with all that implied – no lights, a compact set and rather dodgy sound. It was a stripped-down lineup compared to the dream team tour from the Fall leaving five core members to do their best to recreate the miniature pop masterpieces of their three albums. The results were respectable, but not amazing – without the vocal power and idiosyncracies of Neko Case and Dan Bejar respectively, they compensated with quantity, almost everyone in the band stepping up the mic to fill things out. Keyboardist Kathryn Calder was probably under the most scrutiny but acquitted herself quite nicely in pinch-hitting for Neko Case. It was a treat having drummer Kurt Dahle moved up to the front of the stage as the man is a delight to watch, all stick spins and drummer faces. Carl Newman mentioned being awestruck at playing with the Scottish headliners and claimed to not have even spoken to them yet, and whether he was being serious or not, there was a bit of nervousness or stiffness in the band’s performance. So while they certainly got the crowd revved up effectively, they wouldn’t be stealing the show on this night.

The Scottish septet’s last appearance in Toronto at Massey Hall in November 2003 is still on my books as one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, so the bar was set pretty high for their performance Saturday. It wouldn’t have been realistic to expect the same show anyway – the sound has evolved with The Life Pursuit boasting a more stripped down feel (a relative term, yes) compared to their earlier records and the lineup reflected this. Whereas before they played with a miniature pop orchestra in tow, this time around they had just one auxilliary player handling some keyboard and cello duties. What hadn’t changed, thankfully, was the sheer sense of fun the band brought to the stage. Somehow managing to be both shy and swaggering at the same time, Stuart Murdoch had the 3000-strong crowd eating out of his hand and Stevie Jackson was the perfect slightly nebbish foil to Murdoch’s impish frontman.

Is there was any doubt that Belle & Sebastian had grown into an honest-to-God party band, they were dispelled with the live renditions of the glammy, stompy Life Pursuit numbers. It was impossible not to move, especially after Murdoch baited the audience by commenting on Toronto’s apparently international reputation for not dancing at shows – not that there was really room to bust a move, but there was some definite localized shimmying going on throughout the crowd. The band got into the act as well during “Electronic Rennaissance”, with Stevie doing a subdued robot while Stuart pulled the running man out of mothballs. While The Life Pursuit still provided the bulk of the set list, they also drew fairly heavily from Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister as well as some EP tracks – the middle period albums were almost completely shut out. There was some teasing at the start of the encore with Murdoch soliciting requests from audience, though there quite obviously no intention of deviating from the game plan. They played two more Sinister tracks (I don’t think anyone was disappointed their requests weren’t honoured) and bid us goodnight at almost the stroke of midnight.

If there was any irksome point, it was when Murdoch invited the girl who was the only black mark on the last show back onstage to sing with them again (recap: last time, the band invited an audience member onstage to sing a song and this girl got to do so – and requested the band play one of her own compositions, much to my and many others’ irritation). At least this time, she sang one of their songs and rather well I admit, but the attitude/arrogance she carried herself with both last time and this time wasn’t endearing in the least. Boo. But that complaint notwithstanding (even though it did pull down the momentum of the show for the next little while), I had a wonderful time and even managed to get out of there without excruciating back pain. Bonus.

Photos! Hell yes. If you were one of the poor souls way at the back, this is what it looked like up front… Also, reviews from For The Records and Bury Me Not (the trick to having the Docks not suck completely is to show up hours before the doors open. Sad but true), review and pics from Suckingalemon (who also got pics of both bands’ setlists – TNP, B&S) and more excellent pics from theplot and Rock Paper Pixels. Oh, and I was mistaken – Stuart wasn’t wearing the exact same shirt as last time – this time it was a long-sleeve. Update: Chart has their review up.

Postscript – The New York Post (Bugmenot) takes a moment to talk to Sarah Martin and Stevie Jackson.

We will return with non-Belle & Sebastian-related content tomorrow.

np – Shearwater / Winged Life

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

Sunday Cleaning Volume 25

In honour of the Acadamy Awards next week, the fact that I’ve seen a bunch of movies lately without any blog comment and the fact that I haven’t had time to listen to any of the promo stuff I’ve been sent lately, a movie edition of Sunday Cleaning! Oh, and much-belated commentary on last week’s 24.

Nick Park & Steve Box / Wallace & Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

Why can’t all movies be this fun? It’s an odd world we live in where the G-rated films are some of the best ones out there. Before this, I’d not seen any Wallace & Gromit shorts (though I did see Chicken Run), so the adventures of the cheese-loving inventor and his faithful pooch were new to me. It was clever and crafty, but without the nod-nod-wink-wink pop culture references that have become the norm in animated features. And come on – claymation is amazing. Fun fun fun fun fun. If I wasn’t so lazy, I’d go look up synonyms for “fun”, because they’d all apply. And the bonus feature where they show how to make a rabbit out of some wire and plasticine is awesome.

Martin Campbell / The Legend Of Zorro

There was nothing inherently wrong with the idea of making a sequel to The Mask Of Zorro – Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who were excellent in the first, were back on board and there was no reason it couldn’t have been another fun romp through 18th century California… except someone decided that it should be equal parts screwball romantic comedy, James Bond-style thriller and Spy Kids family friendly. In other words, a complete dog’s breakfast. The plot goes from silly to ludicrious and while Banderas and Zeta-Jones, who still have excellent chemistry, try to make the best of it, their efforts are overwhelmed by the sheer awfulness of the script. And this film just offers further evidence that including children in films is almost never a good idea. Disclaimer – I saw this film on the plane and had no say in its selection.

Fernando Meirelles / The Constant Gardener

You know, I think this may have been the first film I’ve seen with Ralph Fiennes where’s he’s not playing some manner of freak. Oh wait, no I saw Quiz Show way back when, but for some reason only remember him in Red Dragon and Harry Potter. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. This film, filmed on location in Kenya, was superb – Fiennes and Rachel Wiesz have a real chemistry between them and the plot, involving pharmaceutical companies testing drugs on poor Kenyans, is timely and disturbing. It works on every level – as a romance, thriller, drama, mystery… Fernando Meirelles, who also made City Of God, proves he’s for real and one hell of a director. And the title of the film, which always perplexed me, finally made sense after seeing it. Still odd, though.

Bennett Miller / Capote

Another film that’s about as good as the hype – this one pretty much rides entirely on Philip Seymour Hoffman, and he delivers. He takes a role that would have been so easy to turn into caricature and instead gives it real depth while maintaining the superficial veneer that was Capote’s public face. It’s amazing to see the change in his character as he becomes more and more entwined with the killers he’s researching for his book, In Cold Blood, as it becomes evident that the psychological toll it’s taking is far more than he bargained for. And first-time director Bennett Miller does a remarkable job in both documenting it and making Manitoba look even bleaker than normal.


Looks like last week was the one-third season character rotation episode. Exit medium-bad, enter big bad. Enter new spy guys.. and exit new spy guys. Nathanson sure looked to be outnumbered and outgunned in that warehouse. Good thing he had all those fast cuts to keep the baddies disoriented. Too bad he didn’t have enough sense to not crawl out in the open when the helicoptor opened fire. I rather like how they’re involving the president far more in this season’s storyline, making him and his decisions more integral to the plot. But I still want to punch him in the face. I propose a new 24 drinking game – every time Logan delegates a decision to someone else, you have a drink. Guarantee you’ll be loaded in under 15 minutes.

Saturday, February 25th, 2006


The long-awaited The New York Times Magazine piece on the Toronto indie music scene gets published tomorrow, but is already online at their website (Bugmenot). While there are nods to Toronto institutions like Wavelength and Blocks Blocks Blocks, the piece unsurprisingly focuses squarely on Broken Social Scene with Kevin Drew acting as unofficial ambassador for the city.

Though it’s no doubt annoying to some who feel that BSS are overexposed/sell outs/just plain bad, this is an entirely logical move by the Times. Besides being the highest profile act in the city right now, talking about BSS also tangentially covers something like half the other bands in the city. But never let it be said that reason stood in the way of a good old fashioned bitching. It took the kids at Stille Post, who posted the article earlier this week, a little while but there’s now some hearty debate/complaining about the Scene versus the scene and who’s in and who’s out and other such drama. I had been a little disappointed before that they’d initially shown an uncharacteristic amount of restraint in tearing the article to shreds, but I guess they were just getting warmed up. There was also some less prickly commentary from two of our city blogs, Torontoist and Paved.

A little more BSS linkage – Australia’s The Age has an interview with Charles Spearin and Stereogum has the band’s version of “Puff The Magic Dragon”, which whill appear on See You On The Moon, an album of children’s songs being put out by Paper Bag Records. The ‘Gum has both the album version and an earlier version that was apparently rejected for being too “freaky”.

More previewing tonight’s big show – talks to Carl Newman of The New Pornographers and Chart chats with Chris Geddes of Belle & Sebastian.

While firm new release info from Ted Leo is still forthcoming, he’s posted a couple of rehearsal demos of new tracks that should appear on the album. Check them out:

MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Army Bound”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Some Beginner’s Mind”

Some show updates – Metal Hearts will be playing with Minus The Bear at Lee’s Palace on April 23, tickets $13.50, and The Elected will be at The Horseshoe on March 30.

np – Explosions In The Sky / How Strange, Innocence

Friday, February 24th, 2006

Dressed Up In You

The much-anticipated Belle & Sebastian/New Pornographers North American tour kicks of tomorrow night right here in Toronto (doors 7:30, TNP @ 8:30, B&S @ 10:00, if you were wondering), and the local weeklies are doing their part to build some excitement, not that anyone really needs the help. NOW talked to Sarah Martin about how they ended up working with producer Tony Hoffer on The Life Pursuit and how “Dressed Up In You” isn’t necessarily about Isobel Campbell, but isn’t necessarily not while eye gets a brief moment with guitarist Bob Kildea. For The Records directs us to this piece in Time’s European edition that discusses the new album with Stuart Murdoch as well as this Montreal Mirror chat with Martin.

The Put The Book Back On The Shelf comic anthology finally came out this week – it’s a nice little package but I wasn’t especially blown away by any of the works. Some were overly literal, some overly interpretive, but the ones that used the lyrics as a jumping-off point to tell a new story rather than just illustrate them were the more interesting, if not always successful. Matador has provided a bunch of Life Pursuit-related downloads like screen savers and wallpapers, for those of you inclined to dress up your computers, and is also running a contest that will give the best karaoke version (audio or video) of “Dressed Up In You” flight, hotel and tickets to the March 25 show in Seattle, as well as the opportunity to get onstage and sing with the band. They’ve even provided an instrumental version of the song to help you along. The contest closes on March 1, so think carefully before entering (you may win) and get cracking. Oh, and Filter has also got a new MP3 from the album for those who haven’t gotten it yet. “Another Sunny Day” is as buoyant as the title suggests.

MP3: Belle & Sebastian – “Another Sunny Day”
MP3: Belle & Sebastian – “Dressed Up In You” (instrumental)

Ms Isobel Campbell is getting a fair bit of press of her own, and it’s finally based more on her work than her status as former Belle & Sebastian cellist. Her album with Mark Lanegan, Ballad Of The Broken Seas, just came out and she’s in town for a CMW-branded show at Revival next Saturday, March 4. She tells NOW that if it sounds like her and Lanegan weren’t in the same room at the same time singing their parts, it’s because they weren’t. The Toronto Star offers up quite possibly the worst-titled article ever and The Sunday Herald has a piece on the truly odd pairing of Lanegan and Campbell.

I’ve been listening to the album a bit, and I think that when you get past the fact that you’re listening to the guy from The Screaming Trees and the girl from Belle & Sebastian (well, formerly in both cases), you’ll find it’s really an interesting record. Campbell has said she wanted to create a record that was timeless, and it definitely sounds out of time. I had sort of stopped paying attention to Campbell’s solo jags after the second Gentle Waves record, but she could well turn out to eventually be more than a B&S sidebar… though she tells Gigwise that she’d still be willing to play cello for them. Maybe.

And while I’m cribbing stuff from NOW, here’s a list of what Emily Haines of Metric is listening to right now. She also tells The London Free Press that the band’s Juno nomination isn’t exactly validating and The National Post that CFNY no longer hates them. And has a chit-chat with both Haines and Jimmy Shaw. It was just brought to my attention that Haines’ Cut In Half And Also Double solo album from years and years ago, which I found a copy of a couple years ago, is going for crazy money on eBay. I may well put my children through college with this CD. Metric plays two sold-out shows at the Kool Haus tonight and tomorrow.

The (almost) whole of Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins’ Rabbit Fur Coat is now available to download free and legal from Team Love (her label). Her website has also been on the ball with press roundups, collecting scans of pieces in Elle, Uncut, The LA Times, New York Times and Time. Lewis and Twins are at the Opera House in Toronto on March 16 with Jonathan Rice and Whispertown 2000. Don’t have tickets yet but want to go (but not pay)? Keep checking back here – I’ll be in Austin that week, but I may be able to hook you up…

Try as I might, I cannot get any of my torrents for this past week’s 24 to complete. They can’t find any seeders and top out at around 98%. ANNOYING.

np – Elliott Smith / From A Basement On The Hill