Archive for December, 2006

Sunday, December 31st, 2006


Friday night. Drake. Five bands. Five (plus) hours. Yikes. Brooklyn’s Mahogany were the act I most wanted to see on this night (see previous post), but they were also the last on (natch) so I got to investigate the rest of the eclectic lineup first. Breakdown is as follows:

Starting off was Sandro Perri, also known as electronic artist Polmo Polpo. Under his given name, however, he’s a much more traditional musician, offering up homespun jazzy folk (or folky jazz) accentuated by a horn player. Very laid back and pretty, if rather dozy.

I think I’m on record somewhere as saying I’m not a big fan of bands that rely on loops rather than drummers, at least in a live context, so I won’t harp further on that save to say that Montreal duo Hexes & Ohs didn’t change my position. On the plus side, their blend of 80s synth-pop and 00’s lap-pop went down really smoothly, helped by sharp songwriting and some terrific vocal work (and excellent diction) from both Edmund Lam and Heidi Donnelly. On the down side, there were points when an energy boost would have been very welcome and all the synchronized scissor kicks and audience-wandering guitar solos couldn’t get the iTunes playlist to step it up a notch. More the pity.

I’d listened to The Michael Parks, the latest album from Ottawa’s Detective Kalita (also featuring Sandro Perri on guitar) before heading out on Friday and got a general impression of a pleasant if not especially distinctive good-natured, roots-pop band. The live show bore this out, though in very compact form – some songs were extremely short – and with a bit more of a Pavement influence than I’d have expected. And I suspect singer Andy Swan was more than a little drunk.

By this point, I was getting pretty tired and Off The International Radar, with their extended, instrumental, one-chord drone rock really wasn’t helping. On another occasion, if I were in the proper mood, I might have called it hypnotic but this time it was simply monotonous and unnecessary.

But when Mahogany finally took the stage at 1:20AM, seven bright-eyed members strong, weariness was blown away in a torrent of joyous sound. Blending so many familiar sounds – you can hear bits of Stereolab, early Lush, New Order and Cocteau Twins to name but a few – into something decidedly fresh and distinct, Mahogany are the soundtrack of a future where we all have jet packs and flying cars. With three lead vocalists (two female, one male) and two bassists to go along with the huge glowing rack of electronic equipment, they crafted the most exuberant and modern take on dreampop I’ve heard in ages. Their 40-minute set, drawing mainly from their latest record Connectivity! (set list courtesy Jeff) seemed far too short for the wait but was still worth not making it to bed till after 3AM. Can’t wait till they come back.

Autopia and Somewhere Cold have brief chats with members of Mahogany.

Photos: Mahogany, Off The International Radar, Detective Kalita, Hexes And Ohs, Sandro Perri @ The Drake Underground – December 29, 2006
MP3: Mahogany – “My Bed is My Castle”
MP3: Mahogany – “Supervitesse”
MP3: Mahogany – “Springtime, Save Our Country”
MP3: Off The International Radar – “Buildin’ A Shed”
MP3: Off The International Radar – “Xiamendotcn”
MP3: Detective Kalita – “Altona, MB”
MP3: Detective Kalita – “Best Man Blues”
MP3: Hexes & Ohs – “Alive Until Saturday Night”
MP3: Hexes & Ohs – “This And Other Distances”
Video: Mahogany – “Supervitesse” (YouTube)
Video: Mahogany – “One Plus One Equals Three Or More” (YouTube)
MySpace: Mahogany
MySpace: Off The International Radar
MySpace: Detective Kalita
MySpace: Hexes & Ohs

And that’s it for concerts in 2006, and 2006 entirely. I just tallied it up, and I saw 85 shows – counting multi-day fests like Lollapalooza and SxSW as one for sake of expediency – and 281 bands – give or take – this year. That’s a lot of shows. Shee-it.

Anyways, happy new year. Play safe. See you in ’07.

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Wintering In Brooklyn

I’ve been trying to remember who, where or how I first heard the name, “The Last Town Chorus” – it may have been a blog, or more likely a forum or mailing list. But whatever the source, I know they’re a band that I’ve been pointed to at least a few times in the past and liked what I’ve heard, but for whatever reason didn’t pursue further.

Centred around Megan Hickey’s achingly plaintive voice and mournful lap steel, The Last Town Chorus trades in sad, slow-burn country vibes with enough spaciness to achieve low orbit. Their 2003 self-titled debut was based around a duo configuration and was appropriately austere and a bit static in mood (guess which one) but their new one Wire Waltz, released this year in the UK and out in March in North America, features a fuller band and more dynamic songwriting. It’ll still make you cry in your beer, but your toe might tap a bit at the same time. There’s a couple full tracks from the first album available from the band and you can sample fairly large excerpts of the whole of the new record on their website.

The Last Town Chorus are going to be in town January 23 for a free show at the Horseshoe, along with fellow Brooklynites The Films, Stars offshoot Young Galaxy and Don Vail, new project of former Treble Charger and sometime BSS-er Bill Priddle.

And if you’ve heard of Last Town Chorus, tell me where you found out about them. This is gonna bug me.

MP3: The Last Town Chorus – “Change Your Mind”
MP3: The Last Town Chorus – “Oregon”
MySpace: The Last Town Chorus

And also just announced, making up for last Fall’s cancelled show – Sunset Rubdown and Xiu Xiu at Lee’s Palace on April 12, tickets $13.

Friday, December 29th, 2006

Baby I've Changed

Fountains Of Wayne have announced the release of their fourth album, Traffic And Weather, on April 3 and I’ve been trying to decide if I care. I was a big fan of their first two releases, Fountains Of Wayne and Utopia Parkway but was decidedly nonplussed about their breakout record, 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers.

While superficially it sounded just as power poppy and hooky as its predecessors, it also sounded just that – superficial. Not that the first two records were paragons of depth or complexity or anything, but they sounded more sincerely silly and whimsical while WIM had a whiff of calculation about it (it was also overlong and watered down with sub par material). Of course, it paid off huge for the band with their first big hit in “Stacy’s Mom” and while I certainly don’t begrudge them their payday, I can’t help but fear that the taste of success will encourage them to go back to that well and become the novelty band that they feared becoming when they shelved their cover of Britney Spears’ “Baby, One More Time”.

Of course, it’s also possible that I’ve simply lost my taste for such concentrated three-minute power pop sugar bombs. I’ll be revisiting their catalog before April to find out if that’s so, but will likely grab the new one either way. Just because.

MP3: Fountains Of Wayne – “Baby, One More Time”

AOL is one of the few media outlets not writing off the last week of the year, offering an Interface session with The Hold Steady and a DL interview with Aimee Mann. Craig Finn talks to The Indianapolis Star.

Check out the new video from Amy Millan:

Video: Amy Millan – “Skinny Boy” (MOV)

Guitar Player talks shop with Sonic Youth in regards to their latest Rather Ripped.

The Autumn Defense, side gig of Wilco’s John Stirratt and Pat Sansone, will be at the Horseshoe on March 24 to promote their new self-titled album, out January 16.

Basia Bulat, whose set was so enjoyable at Pop Montreal will be playing her first headlining show in Toronto on January 4, a venue that I seem to be spending far too much at (though I did skip the Russian Futurists show last night – just too tired to head out). For The Records has done a fine job of rounding up all you need to know about Ms Bulat, so I’ll just sum up by saying that she’s playing with Barzin, cover is $7 and her debut full-length Oh, My Darling will be out in February on Rough Trade in many parts of the world (but not here, I don’t think).

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Speak To Me Bones

Tuesday evening marked the first night of The Drake Underground’s What’s In The Box? Boxing Week music series, featuring five bands every night through December 30 for $5. Of course, what you save on cover you pay for in drink prices, but whatever.

I got there a bit late, missing all but the very end of Foxfire Forest’s set but what I heard of their bizarro indie-lounge sounded pretty good, despite some symptoms of Toronto collectivitis (huge lineup, over the top stage hijinks). I expect our paths will cross again in the future.

The first whole set I did see was from Toronto’s We Are The Take, and the experience was not unlike being force-fed a loaf of Wonder bread. Sounding like an unholy melange of Coldplay, John Mayer and Great Big Sea, they produced some of the most banal, MOR-with-a-bullet rock I’ve heard in a long time (and not long enough, as far as I’m concerned). While they had good chops, they haven’t yet reached that level of bland slickness that will earn them that coveted spot on a generic romantic comedy movie soundtrack but when they do? Look out. Seriously.

With her bandmates decamped to the Maritimes for the holidays, Land Of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell was next up for what was intended to be a solo show but ended up being not so much. She started with some selections from Applause Cheer Boo Hiss accompanied on electric guitar, which when stripped of the driving rhythm section sounded all the more spidery, tense and anxious and reinforced the Cat Power-ish qualities of Powell’s voice. But while it sounded fine, It was obvious she wasn’t totally comfortable playing without her band and a few songs in she half-jokingly invited anyone in the audience to come up and play drums for her – an invitation that the drummer for Foxfire Forest accepted. While he mostly kept things simple for presumably not knowing the songs, he was able to mostly read the dynamics and give things a solid energy boost and helped Powell loosen up some. It’s good that he was more than up to the task because I can think of few things more potentially awkward than having a stranger come on stage to play and risk them not having any idea of what to do.

Powell closed off with a couple songs accompanied on acoustic by her (boyfriend?) JS Williams including “Nothing Up My Sleeve”, a cover taken from Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot demos collection. Wholly unexpected but a real treat, which is pretty much what you could say about the whole set. Powell performing solo isn’t a dramatically different affair than a proper Land Of Talk show but in lieu of finally getting a LoT headlining show someday, somewhere (please!), I’ll take what I can get.

And if you’re going to the Drake for any of the remaining nights, note that things start on time at 9PM.

Photos: Liz Powell, We Are The Take @ The Drake Underground – December 26, 2006
MySpace: Land Of Talk

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

What's In The Box? (See Whatcha Got)

Hooray for Boxing Day sales. While I generally buy less CDs overall in a year nowadays than maybe I once did, I usually open up the wallet throttle for the post-Christmas sales – pick up some stuff that I’ve had as promos or downloads and want in proper art-laden form as well as try out some new stuff, see how it goes. Here’s yesterday’s haul:

Richard Buckner / Meadow (Merge) – I’ve had this one as an art-less promo copy since the Summer and intended to pick it up at his show in September but, for whatever reason, didn’t. It makes me want to go on a road trip. If I had a car. And come on, it’s Gillard-powered.

MP3: Richard Buckner – “Town”

Califone / Roots & Crowns (Thrill Jockey) – Califone have forever been filed under the “mean to investigate” pile, but I never have. This record made more than a few appearances in my reader’s poll and I got it for dirt cheap, so why not? I’ll report back on my findings when I’ve actually had a chance to listen to it.

Video: Califone – “Spider’s House” (MOV)
MySpace: Califone

Jarvis Cocker / Jarvis (Rough Trade) – Of all the bands from the Britpop era, I think it’s Pulp that has aged the best and whom I still have the most affection for. Jarv has been out of sight for a while now but from what I’ve heard from this one, he hasn’t lost his edge. I’m eager to get into this one.

Video: Jarvis Cocker – “Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time” (Youtube)

Destroyer / Destroyer’s Rubies (Merge) – An eMusic acquisition I’ve meant to get in physical form for some time now. Maybe the biggest grower of the year for me, starting from “WTF” back in May or so and now a firm “OMG”. It will certainly get more spins now that I can listen to it somewhere besides work (on the iPod).

MP3: Destroyer – “European Oils”
MySpace: Destroyer

Early Day Miners / Let Us Garlands Bring (Secretly Canadian) – You may recall EDM’s latest Offshore appearing as a dark horse in this year’s year-end list. I’m now delving into their back catalog, starting with this album on which the original “Offshore” song, which inspired this year’s full-length, appeared. It turned it up used in the most unlikely of shops – a second-hand store specializing in classical vinyl.

MP3: Early Day Miners – “Autumn Wake”
MySpace: EArly Day Miners

Jose Gonzalez / Veneer (Mute) – I hadn’t really intended on getting this but I found it second-hand for a good price and I’ve definitely liked what I’ve heard, so why not? Only buying what you plan on buying makes for boring shopping.

MP3: Jose Gonzalez – “Stay In The Shade”
Video: Jose Gonzalez – “Hand On Your Heart” (MOV)
Video: Jose Gonzalez – “Stay In The Shade” (MOV)
MySpace: Jose Gonzalez

Great Lake Swimmers / Great Lake Swimmers (Weewerk) – I’d initially thought that just getting the second record, Bodies & Minds, would satisfy my GLS joneses but as it turns out, it just makes me want more. And I’m a sucker for grain silo records.

MP3: Great Lake Swimmers – “I Will Never See The Sun”
MP3: Great Lake Swimmers – “Moving Pictures Silent Films”
MySpace: Great Lake Swimmers

The Hold Steady / Almost Killed Me (French Kiss) – I don’t think I need to talk about The Hold Steady anymore. Their first album is another eMusic acquisition that I’ve played to death, which raises the question of why then I would want to get it in a much more fragile, physical form? Because, that’s why.

MP3: The Hold Steady – “The Swish”
Video: The Hold Steady – “The Swish” (YouTube)
MySpace: The Hold Steady

Mazzy Star / So Tonight That I Might See (Capitol) – I’ve meant to pick this up for, oh, about 13 years or so but never have. Actually the last few years I’ve been waiting for the Unreflected best-of but it’s been delayed so many times that I doubt it’ll ever see the light of day. And considering they only have three proper albums and they’re all dirt cheap, it seems silly to put it off any longer. Their narcoleptic blend of folk/blues, dreampop and Hope Sandoval’s deliciously languid vocals are right up my alley and I’ll neglect this band no longer.

Video: Mazzy Star – “Fade Into You” (YouTube)
MySpace: Mazzy Star

Joanna Newsom / The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City) – Yet another eMusic album made flesh. Like The Hold Steady, (too) much e-ink has been spilled on Ms Newsom so I’ll just say that I like this record more than Ys and now that I’ll be able to play it at home, proper-like, I’ll probably like it even more.

Video: Joanna Newsom – “The Sprout & The Bean”

Also picked up the new Cat Power-ed issue of Magnet – and correct me if I’m wrong, but did she not acquire the bling medallion in the cover photo at the Toronto show in September? Pretty sure she did.

And also in the new MagnetKevin Shields contributes a long piece, setting the record straight about the making of Loveless and declares, “we are 100 percent going to make another My Bloody Valentine record unless we die or something”. Bring it on, Kev-o.

And despite the post title, there is no Boo Radleys content in this post. Except this.

MP3: The Boo Radleys – “What’s In The Box? (See Whatcha Got)”