Archive for March, 2008

Monday, March 31st, 2008

In The Night

Photo by Frank Yang

Had it really been almost five months since I last saw Basia Bulat live? I know that doesn’t seem like a long time, but considering I’d caught her and her band some half-dozen times last year, that’s a long time. And in that time, she’s released her record Oh My Darling in the US and has been touring south of the border relentlessly, making Saturday night’s gig at Lee’s Palace a homecoming of sorts (yes I know she’s from London – I said “of sorts”).

For the occasion, she enlisted a couple of acts with whom she’d been been playing around southern Ontario – Ottawa’s Amos The Transparent and Toronto’s Katie Stelmanis. The former features what you could call a malleable lineup – the first time I saw them, their lineup numbered in the double digits and the last time, they were a much leaner four-piece. I was hoping that they’d see fit to bring a few more compatriots along this time to fill the larger Lee’s stage but again, it was the quartet and I suspect that I should expect that to be the case from now on. But whatever disappointment I felt about that was dispelled by the reminder that even with just the four of them, they could do the richly melancholy pop of Everything I’ve Forgotten To Forget justice, complete with harmonies and little musical and percussive accents that you might have expected to have been left in the studio.

I’d seen Katie Stelmanis before as part of Bruce Peninsula, but her own music is quite a bit removed from that collective’s rural gospel choir. Here, Stelmanis’ operatic vocals are brought to the fore but mated to electronic and acoustic percussion, guitar, synths and keyboards in way that leaves me at a bit of a loss to try and describe it beyond listing off its component parts. Sufficed to say that I found it interesting if not entirely enjoyable and her take on Roy Orbison’s “Crying” was maybe a little disturbing.

And for Basia, it must be a treat to come back to Canada to play to full houses of fans rather than trying to win over new audience after new audience in America. Which isn’t to say that she’s not succeeding – most accounts I’ve read indicate that she’s leaving a trail of fans in the US wherever she goes – but they’ll probably still have a ways to go before they can equal the excitement and cheer of the Toronto fans. The set ran a bit shorter than I’d have expected or liked, but it still hit all the high points of Oh My Darling and featured a few new songs with Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End” now being the cover song du jour. And though the road warrior lifestyle may have given the band some well-earned polish and tightness – I swear their harmonies sound better every time I see them, and that’s saying something – their giddiness and pure joy of playing music comes across as fresh as ever. And when the whole of Lee’s Palace was clapping along for the opening of “I Was A Daughter”, well it felt like Spring had finally arrived.

Chart talked to Katie Stelmanis about her new record Join Us.

Photos: Basia Bulat, Katie Stelmanis, Amos The Transparent @ Lee’s Palace – March 29, 2008
MP3: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Snakes & Ladders”
MP3: Katie Stelmanis – “In My Favour”
MP3: Amos The Transparent – “After All That Its Come To This”
Video: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
MySpace: Basia Bulat
MySpace: Katie Stelmanis
MySpace: Amos The Transparent

Stereogum has assembled another of their “man the 90s were great” tribute albums, this one for Bjork’s Post. Head over to grab covers by the likes of White Hinterland, Evangelicals and a collaboration between Final Fantasy and Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste.

Spin has put their April cover story on R.E.M. online. CBS News also has an interview and The Times followed the band around London last week. Accelerate is out tomorrow.

And speaking of magazine covers, the release of Elephant Shell on April 22 means that Tokyo Police Club’s faces will be beaming from the cover of Exclaim! for the next 30 days or so. Spinner also has a quick interview. They’ve got two shows at the Opera House on May 2 and 3.

MP3: Tokyo Police Club – “In A Cave”

The New York Daily News talks to Zooey Deschanel, the “she” of She & Him, about the genesis of the project.

Pitchfork interviews Nick Cave. His new album with the Bad Seeds, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, is out April 8.

MP3: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Bring It On”

Kevchino interviews Beach House.

Stephen Malkmus discusses Real Emotional Trash with The Boston Globe and The Bucks County Courier Times. NPR is streaming the whole of the Jicks’ recent show in Washington DC.

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

CONTEST – Blitzen Trapper/Fleet Foxes/Fox Jaws @ The El Mocambo – April 2, 2008

Photo by Annie Musselman

The last time Portland’s Blitzen Trapper came through town, they found themselves in the odd position of losing their tour headliner (Two Gallants done gone got their van broke) and being added to someone else’s show (John Vanderslice). How did they respond? By kicking serious ass.

And I assume that this wasn’t the only city where they made an impression because they’re currently crossing the continent on their own headlining tour in support of last year’s Wild Mountain Nation and are back this Wednesday night for a show at the El Mocambo, and they’re bringing along with them Sub Pop labelmates Fleet Foxes, who judging from their pre-SxSW buzz and post-SxSW roar, will be the ones with their names in big letters on the marquee next time around, especially after their self-titled debut comes out June 3. And rounding out the Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom-esque bill are Barrie’s Fox Jaws.

Courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away to this show – to enter, send me an email at contests AT with “I wish to trap a fleet fox with jaws” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, March 31 which is to say tomorrow.

Daytrotter had Blitzen Trapper in for sessions not once, but twice in the last few months while The Boston Globe, eye, The Washington Post Express and The News & Observer all have interviews with the band.

MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Wild Mountain Nation”
MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Sci-Fi Kid” (Principal Participant Kingswood’ Remix)
MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Sci-Fi Kid” (40 Thieves Remix)
MP3: Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal”
MP3: Fox Jaws – “Karmonica”
MP3: Fox Jaws – “Quarantine Girl”
Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Devil’s A-Go-Go”
Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Wild Mountain Nation”
Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Woof & Warp of the Quiet Giant’s Hem”
MySpace: Blitzen Trapper
MySpace: Fox Jaws

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Ejector Seat Reservation

Photo by Matt Anker

This is a bit of news I’ve been waiting anxiously to be able to announce – dates have been trickling out piecemeal for Swervedriver’s North American reunion tour and while a Toronto date was confirmed as happening, the when and the where weren’t being leaked… until now. Brooklynvegan has if not full then extensive tour dates for the reconstituted Swervies this Summer and that includes a June 13 stop in Toronto at Lee’s Palace, the timing of which indicates that it’ll be a NxNE-affiliated gig.

I don’t know why, but I’m as excited for this tour as I am any of the other 1997 resurrections making their way to town this year, and I wasn’t even that big a Swervies fan the first time around though that could be because I only got on board in time for their unremarkable swan song 99th Dream. But perhaps it’s that lack of heightened expectations or anxiety about being disappointed that makes me think this could be great. Adam Franklin has been doing solid work as a solo artist and I don’t know what the rest of the band has been up to in the interim, but it’s doubtful they’re doing this for a big payday so maybe, just maybe, it’s about the music. How novel would that be?

It occurs to me that I still need to find a copy of their debut Raise between now and, oh, June, but in the meantime there’s always the free downloads the band is offering of live versions of their four albums as well as a slew of b-sides and rarities. Now that’s a band that know how to take care of their fans.

MP3: Swervedriver – “Son Of Mustang Ford” (live at St Andrew’s Hall)
MP3: Swervedriver – “Duel” (live on Stockholm radio)
MP3: Swervedriver – “Last Train To Satansville” (live at Maxwell’s)
MP3: Swervedriver – “Bring Me The Head Of The Fortune Teller” (live on Stockholm radio)
Video: Swervedriver – “Never Lose That Feeling”
Video: Swervedriver – “Duel”
Video: Swervedriver – “Sandblasted”
Video: Swervedriver – “Son Of Mustang Ford”
MySpace: Swervedriver

I’ll admit it – the addition yesterday of Jarvis Cocker to the lineup of July’s Pitchfork Festival had me pricing flights and hotels to Chicago. Now if Jarv just stayed on his side of the Atlantic and minded his own business, I’d probably accept that the odds of me seeing him live are slim to none, but the fact that he is obviously willing and able to come to North America to perform and yet hasn’t come to visit Toronto is a bitter pill to swallow. I’m just hoping that this Pitchfork date is part of a proper tour and we’ll be basking in the glow of his Cocker-ness before the year’s out. Fingers crossed. And now’s as good a time as any to link that Archie vs Pulp cartoon thing that everyone was talking about… what, two weeks ago? An eternity. Which reminds me of Jamie Hewlett’s comic version of the same song which made the rounds a few years ago.

Billy Bragg talks to Chart about his forthcoming Mr Love & Justice, out April 8. He plays Harbourfront Centre on June 17.

Also coming to Harbourfront this Summer is Ladytron, who play there on July 4 in support of their new album Velocifero. Check out the first MP3 from it below.

MP3: Ladytron – “Black Cat”

AllMusic gets on the Lucky Soul bandwagon.

The Grand Rapids Press Q&As Explosions In The Sky. The Riverfront Times also grabbed an interview along with outtakes.

John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats extols the virtues of Ozzy Osbourne for NPR also offers up a session with the man. John, not Ozzy.

Exclaim! interviews Zooey Deschanel of She & Him, Paste talks to both she and him.

Paper profiles and plays dress-up with Joanna Newsom.

The Asheville Citizen-Times interviews Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers.

JAM! and The Chicago Tribune talk to Gary Louris about going solo on Vagabonds. He’s at the Mod Club tomorrow night.

Friday, March 28th, 2008

This Gift

Photo by Frank Yang

Blame Belle & Sebastian, or perhaps Teenage Fanclub, but in my mind Scots are generally synonymous with often quiet, unfailingly melodic and frequently bookish music. Even Mogwai, noisemongers they may be, rarely raise their voices past a mumble when it comes time to sing.

So I have Sons & Daughters to thank for blowing that stereotype to little bitty pieces. I’d never paid them much heed before, but some positive reviews and the fact that Bernard Butler was in the producer’s seat for their third record This Gift was enough to get me to pay attention and boy howdy, am I glad I did. From start to finish, it’s a breakneck galloping hybrid of glam and rockabilly led by Adele Bethel’s devilish and delicious snarl and Scott Paterson’s jackhammer guitar riffs and hollered backing vox. There’s none of my imagined Scottish politeness, their brogues are not cozy anoraks. They are fierce and fiery and will not settle for whispering when shouting will do. And on top of all of this, they are pop. So very pop, with barbs and hooks and no compunctions about using them.

If it’s not clear, I really like the record and so relative to my enthusiasm for the record, I expected Lee’s Palace to be packed on Wednesday night. And while it was a healthy enough audience, everyone had plenty of personal space and they all seemed to be of the established fanbase and not necessarily new converts like myself or simply the curious, enticed by any sort of hype or buzz.

Opening things up was California quartet Bodies Of Water, who evade easy description. The most obviously remarkable thing about them are their harmonies – flawless choral four-parters that would be impressive if they simply performed a capella. But they don’t – they take a musical mystery tour through the sounds of the ’70s, paying special attention to the lessons of prog rock as well as influences you’d file under psychedelia or country. The net result is technically stunning but the overworked songcraft and arrangements ended up feeling a bit sterile.

Sterility wasn’t a concern for the headliners, though exhaustion quite obviously was. Toronto was the last date on this leg of their North American tour (they return for a west coast swing in a month starting at Coachella) and the wear and tear was evident. Bethel’s voice was noticeably frayed around the edges and bassist Ailidh Lennon was fighting a nasty case of the flu, though you couldn’t tell if it hadn’t been mentioned – her playing was fine and though her pallor was deathly pale, I’m fairly certain she always looks like that. But the nice thing about the finals shows of tours is that the band has no reason not to leave it all on stage and whatever the band had left in the tank, they did their best to use it up at Lee’s, Bethel prowling the stage like a wild cat on the hunt.

I had caught a couple of their day shows at SxSW and while those were great, they’re really not a daytime band. At night, in a dank club (not that Lee’s is especially dank) is where their goth-country punk noir really belongs. I was only really familiar with the This Gift material, which made up half the hour-long set, and while that sounded great it was the older material – aka the stuff I didn’t really recognize – that really stood out. No, they’re not as finely crafted pop songs as the new stuff but that allowed them the be delivered with a lot more brute force intensity. And Sons & Daughters do brute force well, with a snarl and a smile.

FabChannel has a terrific quality video of a Sons & Daughters concert in Amsterdam from last month.

Photos: Sons & Daughters, Bodies Of Water @ Lee’s Palace – March 26, 2008
MP3: Sons & Daughters – “Dance Me In”
MP3: Sons & Daughters – “Johnny Cash”
MP3: Sons & Daughters – “Gilt Complex” (acoustic, live on Vic Galloway)
MP3: Sons & Daughters – “Chains” (acoustic, live on Vic Galloway)
MP3: Bodies Of Water – “I Guess I’ll Forget The Sound, I Guess I Guess”
MP3: Bodies Of Water – “These Are The Eyes”
MP3: Bodies Of Water – “Doves Circle The Sky”
MP3: Bodies Of Water – “We Are Co-Existors”
Video: Sons & Daughters – “Gilt Complex”
Video: Sons & Daughters – “Darling”
Video: Bodies Of Water – “I Heard A Sound”
MySpace: Sons & Daughters
MySpace: Bodies Of Water

Pitchfork has an interview with Colin Greenwood of Radiohead.

Chart talks to The Gutter Twins, who’ve just released the first appropriately seedy video from Saturnalia.

Video: The Gutter Twins – “All Misery/Flowers”

Ray Davies, in town at the Danforth Music Hall on April 3, chats with Spinner.

Duffy tells Digital Spy she’s not all that familiar with frequent reference point Dusty Springfield. And apparently the UK version of her video for “Mercy” wasn’t good enough for North America because they made a new one.

Video: Duffy – “Mercy” (US version)

Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater talks to Pitchfork about the forthcoming Rook (out June 3), ornithology and maintaining his Okkervil River commitments. Shearwater will be at Lee’s Palace on May 11 and Okkervil River at the Phoenix on April 9, but it doesn’t sound like we should expect to see Meiburg onstage at that one. Alas.

Black Mountain does the press thing with JAM!, The Gateway and The Chicago Tribune.

CMJ talks to Laura Cantrell about her forthcoming, digital-only covers EP Trains and Boats and Planes, from which this acoustic New Order cover is taken. The EP will be available on April 15.

MP3: Laura Cantell – “Love Vigilantes”

Concert news of note – due to popular demand, Jens Lekman’s two-night stand at the Music Gallery has been combined Voltron-style into a single night on April 8 at the Great Hall out on Queen West. All tickets for either night at the music gallery will be honoured and more tickets are now on sale.

Elsewhere, Creature, out of Brighton UK, Montreal, Quebec, is at the Rivoli on April 26. Spiral Beach are at the Opera House on May 17, Snowden and Colour Revolt are at Lee’s Palace on May 21. Sea Wolf is back for a gig at the El Mocambo on June 3 and Nine Inch Nails are at the Air Canada Centre on August 5.

MP3: Creature – “Brigette Bardot”
MP3: Snowden – “Anti-Anti”
MP3: Colour Revlot – “A Siren”
MP3: Colour Revolt – “Naked And Red”
MP3: Spiral Beach – “Made Of Stone”
MP3: Spiral Beach – “Kind Of Beast”
MP3: Sea Wolf – “You’re A Wolf”
MP3: Sea Wolf – “The Garden That You Planted”

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

True Blue

Photo by Darren Ankenman

If Gary Louris had released Vagabonds under the Jayhawks mantle, no one would have batted an eye. But having essentially retired that outfit – ironically at a time when he was again working with fellow founder Mark Olson (their Ready For The Flood is out this Fall) – that wasn’t an option. And so we have Gary Louris’ first solo record which, hopefully without being too reductive, sounds like a Jayhawks record.

And that’s a good thing. Rather than going the acoustic-y, singer-songwriter route, which he surely would have excelled at as well, he’s turned out a richly-produced, full-band album of roots rock with touches of gospel and soul. It’s definitely powered by Louris’ distinctive electric guitar work but still rarely strays from its mid-tempo groove and treads on familiar ground, both musically and lyrically. That’s alright, though, as Louris has earned the right to move at whatever pace and through whatever terrain he so chooses. And so while it doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises, Vagabonds manages to be quietly and thoughtfully sweeping and with five years gone since the last Jayhawks record, it’s good to have him back.

Louris is doing the press circuit as well as hitting the road, giving interviews to My Old Kentucky Blog, JamBase, eye,, The Phoenix and Exclaim!. And as for the touring, he rolls into Toronto this Sunday for a show at the Mod Club and courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got one pair of passes to give away to the show. If you want, email me at contests AT with “I promise not to shout out too many Jayhawks requests” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes tonight (March 27) at midnight.

You can stream the whole of Vagabonds on Gary’s MySpace.

MySpace: Gary Louris

A couple of veteran acts coming to town – Crowded House have booked a two-night stand at the Danforth Music Hall on May 6 and 7, while Emmylou Harris will be at Massey Hall on June 16.

And not veteran in the least, UK punk, rock and soul outfit The Heavy are going to be at Lee’s Palace on May 10. I’ve heard some good things about these guys. Anyone want to endorse or decry?

MP3: The Heavy – “Colleen”
Video: The Heavy – “That Kind Of Man”
MySpace: The Heavy

M.I.A. returns for a show at the Sound Academy on June 2.

Reveille chats with Headlights.

Amy Millan relates the story of Stars to Cleveland Scene while Torq Campbell gives The AV Club a look at his iPod.

Daytrotter ponies up a session with A Place To Bury Strangers.

Exclaim! talks to The Coast, who release their debut Expatriate in Canada on April 1 but not until August 19 in the US. They’re playing a record release show at the Horseshoe on April 18.

The D’Urbervilles tell JAM! they’re not a Toronto band. They will still play here, however, as they intend to on May 1 at the UKULA store as part of the Over The Top Fest.