Archive for June, 2008

Monday, June 30th, 2008

CONTEST – Alejandro Escovedo @ The Mod Club – July 7, 2008

Photo by Mick Rock

Perhaps my position on Alejandro Escovedo pretty much sums it up – “Yeah, I’ve heard of him – he’s supposed to be really good, isn’t he?”. Despite heaps of critical acclaim and high-profile fans like Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle, he remains an underground hero at best and inexplicably overlooked by those who should be fans, if they’d only had gotten around to listening. Like me.

I’m not completely unfamiliar with his work – I have the Por Vida tribute record, which was organized to raise money to help Escovedo pay off medical bills from his near-fatal bout with hepatitis in 2003 (now thankfully recovered from) – but even that hasn’t gotten the mileage it probably deserves. But I have spent some time with his new album Real Animal, which is out next week, and as an introduction it makes fine argument for exploring his work further. It’s a vibrant work ranging from janglesome pop to incisive rock to introspective balladry, all delivered with the weathered voice of experience and a healthy dose righteous indignation. You might have thought that his brush with mortality would put him in a quieter, more contemplative mood but apparently that’s what his last album, The Boxing Mirror, covered. With this record he’s quite obviously alive and making the most of it.

Escovedo canceled his last scheduled visit to the area – he was meant to headline one of the days at Hillside last year – but will make it up next Monday, July 6, when he plays the Mod Club. Courtesy of Against The Grain I’ve got a pair of passes to the show to give away, so if you want em, email me at contests AT with “I want to see Alejandro Escovedo” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight July 3.

MP3: Alejandro Escovedo – “Always A Friend”
MySpace: Alejandro Escovedo

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Directions To See A Ghost

Photo by Frank Yang

Last Thursday night, Lee’s Palace played host to a meeting for the Toronto chapter of the “If It’s Got More Than Two Chords It’s #*%?@!-ing Jazz! Society”. Alright, not officially, but if such an organization were to be spontaneously created anywhere, the a show featuring The Black Angels and The Warlocks was as good a place as any. It was a safe bet that most everyone in attendance – almost a full house – was a connoisseur of rock of the droning variety and as such, were pretty stoked to see two of the finer purveyors of craft on tour together.

Los Angeles’ Warlocks started things off loudly as expected but also with a relatively lighter touch. Compared to their tourmates, they ply a dreamier brand of psychedelia – still deafening and utterly stoned but with the pop elements closer to the surface. They were rooted primarily in classic rock influences run through a drone rock aesthetic – there were more than just shades of Spacemen 3 in there – but also the occasional whiff of bubblegum detectable through all the smoke and haze.

There’s not many circumstances where you’d reference The Warlocks as the “lighter” half of a bill – by any measure they’re still hellaciously loud – but when The Black Angels took the stage, things got significantly darker and I’m not just talking about stage lighting. Cloaked either in darkness or projections from actual 16mm film projectors (old school!), The Austinites worked with considerably more low end, led by drummer Stephanie Bailey’s unrelenting tom pounding and giving their set a rhythmic pacing that was part military march, part ritual sacrifice. Material from their latest album Directions To See A Ghost sounded extra intense delivered thusly, which is saying something considering it’s already a bit of a head trip on record. Though both bands work in a style/genre that I have a limited amount of patience for – after X minutes of the same thing over and over again, I get antsy – the show was remarkably engaging. Partly because trying to get a camera to focus in near-pitch darkness isn’t easy, but also because when it works, drone-rock is supposed to be hypnotic and judging from the concert-goers swaying and/or flailing all around me throughout the show, I suppose it was working.

The Boston Globe profiles The Black Angels.

Photos: The Black Angels, The Warlocks @ Lee’s Palace – June 26, 2008
MP3: The Black Angels – “Doves”
MP3: The Warlocks – “So Paranoid”
MP3: The Warlocks – “Isolation”
MySpace: The Black Angels
MySpace: The Warlocks

Wall Of China is yet another blog from Ms Emma-Lee Moss, aka Emmy The Great, wherein she collects bits of writing she’s done for various publications such as this one with John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, he himself a musician who also knows his way a blog. Most everything in the blog is entertaining and adorable, but some entries seem to have been excised that still exist in the RSS feed – so until Blogger does something about that, I’d suggest hitting up said feed and finding the December 2007 entry entitled “We Have To Talk”. So best. Also, Emmy was amongst the Glastonbury performers quizzed by The Guardian this weekend about their knowledge of agriculture – she acquits herself nicely with sheep trivia. No further info on her debut album – First Love still due sometime in September – but at least she’s managed to get rid of the Weezer theme that was plaguing her MySpace.

And now that Glastonbury is done, The Verve have made a track from their forthcoming album Forth available to download in advance of the August 19 release date in exchange for your contact info. What a deal! The track, “Mover”, is a damn sight better than the official single, “Love Is Noise”, because you actually get some notion as to why Nick McCabe is one of the best guitarists the UK has turned out in the past 20 years, but as a song it still feels half-baked. Actually everything new that the reunited Verve has released has sounded like that – like jams that had verses and choruses arbitrarily defined and edited down to songs length, with one eye in the studio fixed on the release date circled on the calendar. Or maybe they’re saving the best stuff for the album. Maybe. Update: Stereogum points out that “Mover” is actually not on the album. Whether this bodes well or ill for the material that did make the album is unclear.

First reported by The National Post and confirmed on the official website, this year’s Hillside Festival now has a marquee name to close out Sunday night in Broken Social Scene. And if those Arcade Fire rumours the Post is also spreading have any grounding in reality at all, you can probably expect full-on indie kid amphibious invasion of Guelph Lake this July 25 through 27.

Death Vessel, aka the impossibly high-voiced Joel Thibodeau, will release his Sub Pop debut Nothing Is Precious Enough for Us on August 19 and be at the El Mocambo on August 28 to play songs from it.

MP3: Death Vessel – “Bruno’s Torso”

The Notwist will kick off their Fall North American tour in support of the just-released The Devil, You + Me in Toronto at Lee’s Palace on October 10.

JAM learns that it’s not a good idea to tell Aimee Mann to smile. She opens up for Squeeze at the Kool Haus on August 18.

Pitchfork talks to Liz Phair… wait, didn’t they just do that? Oh, that was It’s different, cause it’s TV.

The Guardian profiles The Ting Tings.

JAM talks to Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers.

The Telegraph heads to Mexico with Sigur Ros. Ambulances ensue. Hoping their September 22 show at Massey Hall is less calamitous.

Daytrotter joins the Retribution Gospel Choir in song and session. Hallelujah.

Metro asks five questions of The National.

An Aquarium Drunkard has part one of an interview with The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn. Their Stay Positive is out July 15. Update: Part two is now up.

Drowned In Sound selects their favourite songs of 2008 so far.

Yesterday was the Pride Parade here in Toronto and seeing as how it’s the most entertaining photographic opportunity to occur within 200 metres of my apartment every year, I was there camera in hand. Photos at my Flickr and anyone who has an aversion to full-frontal nudity is warned not to click. Cause they let it all hang out, yo.

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

CONTEST – Calexico @ The Mod Club – July 6, 2008

Photo by Wendy Lynch

Though well-regarded by many, I found Calexico’s last effort – Garden Ruin – to be a moderate disappointment. By taking a more conventional, pop-oriented approach, they shed most everything that made Calexico such a unique creative entity – namely the arid, Mariachi-infused desert flavour and instrumental excursions – and turned into a far less interesting band. Which is a shame, since for my money they struck the perfect balance between the pop and experimentalism on 2003’s Feast Of Wire. Now if they’d just called it a Joey Burns solo project backed by Calexico – which is really what it sounded like – then I’d have been fine with it, but with the band marque on it I expected more.

Anyway, they get a chance to make amends with their next record, Carried To Dust, which is out September 9. To preview the new album, they’re doing a cross-Canada tour next month and no matter how you feel about their records, Calexico live never disappoint. They’ll be at the Mod Club next Sunday, July 6, and courtesy of Against The Grain I’ve got one pair of passes to give away for the show. To enter, send me an email at contests AT with “Yo quiero Calexico” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, July 2.

MP3: Calexico – “Cruel”
Video: Calexico – “Cruel”
MySpace: Calexico

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Sunday Cleaning – Volume 93

The Awkward Stage / Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights (Mint)

On The Awkward Stage’s debut Heaven Is For Easy Girls, Shane Nelken’s wry, sardonic lyricism was perfectly matched to archly orchestral arrangements that served to deliver their barbed and frequently hilarious sentiments in that much more pointed fashion. With the follow-up, he’s chosen to take a more guitar rock approach, maintaining the meticulous production aesthetic but adding considerably more muscle to the sound. In doing so, he’s proven he’s as adept at crafting loud and unrelentingly melodic power pop as his more famous compadre AC Newman but not without a cost – by making the musical accompaniment so rock out-able, it’s entirely possible to make it through the entire album without appreciating his songwriting because you’re too busy playing air guitar.

MP3: The Awkward Stage – “Anime Eyes”

Ghost Bees / Tasseomancy (Youth Club)

Reviewers attempting to work the “twin sisters from Canada making music” angle with Halifax’s Ghost Bees in order to reference another better-known act to whom that applies will quickly find themselves in a dead end. Led by the tightly woven harmonies of Romy and Sari Lightman, Ghost Bees evoke turn of the century folk – not this century, the last one – rendered in mandolin and lace. Richly anachronistic with references historical and fanstastical, the mood on this six-song EP is austere and creepy, like standing in an immaculately-kept Victorian house and though you can’t see them, you know there’s spiders everywhere.

Ghost Bees are at Rancho Relaxo this Thursday night with Laura Barrett and Fall Horsie.

MP3: Ghost Bees – “Vampires Of The West Coast”

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Predict The Day

I gave up on Ladytron a long time ago. Way back in 2000 I was coerced by a blend of UK hype and the promise of cute girls and picked up their Play Girl single, which subsequently failed to impress for reasons I can’t even recall at this point – probably too cold and mechanical for my tastes at the time – and I didn’t pay much heed to them over the next eight years and three albums. But when album number four, Velocifero, showed up on my doorstep, I figured that everyone deserves a second chance and here’s to rewarding my magnanimous nature.

They’re still fashionably icy and sexily synthetic but there’s an organic urgency underneath it all that either wasn’t there or I didn’t detect all those years ago that has really drawn me into the album. It’s like the ghost in the machine is trying to get out. Vocalists Mira Aroyo and Helen Marnie offer two distinct personalities to the more uniform musical accompaniment of analog synths and programmed beats, the former emphasizing the more distant, mechanical aspects of their sound and the latter offering a more melodic, human dimension. The balance is a blend of synth and pop that hits a musical sweet spot for me in a way that hasn’t happened since I discovered Dubstar many moons ago, though they’re obviously much darker in mood. I’m still soaking in the new album but suspect that a trip to The Witching Hour isn’t far off.

But first there’ll be a visit to Harbourfront next Friday – their current tour wraps up this week with a string of Canadian dates including a free show at on the lakefront on July 4 as part of the Beats, Breaks & Culture festival. I’ve read some complaints about their live show about how they just stand there and play/sing, but in their case I think that’s entirely the point. If they jumped around or ambulated more than absolutely necessary, it’d just ruin the mood.

The Denver Post and The Sunday Mail have interviews with the band, and courtesy of Nettwerk, I’ve got two prize packs consisting of a copy of Velocifero on CD and a Ladytron tote bag. If you want, email me at contests AT with “I want the Ladytron stuff” in the subject line and your mailing address in the body. Contest open to whomever, wherever, and will close at midnight July 5 to coincide with the end of the North American leg of their tour.

MP3: Ladytron – “Black Cat”
Video: Ladytron – “Ghosts”
MySpace: Ladytron

Drowned In Sound points to the new video from Primal Scream’s hopefully comeback album Beautiful Future, out July 22. And contrary to the song’s title, Bobby Gillespie’s old band – The Jesus & Mary Chain – are hoping you CAN go back as they’re releasing a four-CD box set of b-sides and rarities entitled The Power of Negative Thinking on September 30. Full details at Billboard.

Video: Primal Scream – “Can’t Go Back”

National Geographic will be webcasting tomorrow night’s Bjork/Sigur Ros concert from Reykjavik starting at 7PM GMT, which is 2PM EDT actually I’m not sure, you do the math… And a reminder that tickets for Sigur Ros’ Toronto show at Massey Hall September 22 go on sale at 10AM EDT today. Update: For future reference – the Massey Hall website does NOT like Firefox. My Firefox, anyways. IE was lickety split… after I spent like 10 minutes waiting for FF to load. Anyway, I got row O, seat 15, floors.

MTV talks to Anthony Gonzalez of M83.

The National Post talks to Jose Gonzalez. Congrats to Jonathan and Garrett who won the passes to see him in Halifax and Saskatoon, respectively – everyone else, the contest for Winnipeg passes and CDs is still open.

Minnesota Public Radio welcome Shearwater to their studios for an interview and session.

Everyone’s talking to Lykke Li. The Swedish singer, who releases her debut Youth Novels in North America on August 19 and play the Mod Club in Toronto on October 24, is the subject of features and interviews at Spin, This Is Fake DIY, Blurt and The Independent.

JAM talks to The Ting Tings.

Thick Specs offers up a positive review of You May Need A Murdere, the Low documentary currently screening over at Deaf Indie Elephants has gone to the trouble of ripping a Bee-Gees cover bonus track from the DVD of the film.

JAM and The Georgia Straight talk to Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers.

Pitchfork points us to a new video from Stars.

Video: Stars – “Bitches In Tokyo”

A reminder that tonight marks A Northern Chorus’ final Toronto show ever, and tomorrow night at the Casbah is their final show period. Stop by and thank them for their years of service to the dreampop cause. Chart, The Spec and View salute the Steeltown crew.

Drowned In Sound ask the artists who released their favourite albums of 2008 so far to name their favourite albums of 2008 so far.