Archive for October, 2008

Friday, October 31st, 2008

No Soul

The Rumble Strips in Toronto

Photo ByFrank YangI’m going to have to stop using my line about any British band being able to fill a venue in notoriously Anglophilic Toronto… this past Wednesday night at the El Mocambo, The Rumble Strips were not only able to draw just a couple dozen people, they couldn’t even get their support act to show up.

Okay, in the case of tourmates Birdmonster, it was less the Rumble Strips’ fault than the border guards who wouldn’t let the San Francisco outfit into the country (I think this is at least the second time they’ve been turned away – a topic they address in a MySpace blog in a manner that pretty much guarantees they’ll never be let in…) but otherwise, I was perplexed as to why the low turnout. Sure, they’re not exactly NME darlings, but the horn-driven soul-pop of their debut Girls & Weather (reviewed here) is eminently likeable and it was hardly an expensive ticket. Was it the cold? Got news for you, Toronto, it’s only going to get worse. Wimps. I was out, and on my BICYCLE no less. Anyway.

But, as the sage show business advice goes, you play for the people who show up – not the ones who don’t – and so even to the thin house, The Rumble Strips weren’t going to phone it in. They did indeed bring it, albeit quietly at first. They led with a new song that was decidedly more sedate than anything you’d find on their debut, one of a few that would be scattered throughout the set and none of which were as immediate as the Girls & Weather material – which is as much of a commentary as I feel fit to make after a single live listen. Cue the more introspective sophomore effort? Everything else, however, was pure extroverted pop goodness.

Everything that makes The Rumble Strips distinctive on record – the horns, the hooks, Charlie Waller’s voice – somehow comes across even stronger live. The rhythm section sounds huge, with duties frequently divvied up between Matthew Wheeler on drums and bassist Sam Mansbridge on what they call “Rumble Drum” but is actually just the floor tom beat extra hard, and is super-tight. The horns… well another thing I’m going to have to stop saying is that I don’t like horns, because I loved theirs. In fact, all the band’s orchestrations and arrangements were impressive to witness. One strength that I hadn’t noticed on record but was quite evident on stage was their harmonies. Waller’s huge vocals – pitch perfect with loads of character – obviously take center stage, but three of the other four also quite ably stepped up to add their voices to the mix.

But above all else, they brought the songs. Each listen to Girls & Weather only makes me grow fonder of uptempo, feel-good, sad-sackery – with so many strengths and such personality, I am really astonished that they weren’t able to draw out more of the curious to go along with the converted who did show up. And though it’s damn near impossible to turn a room that’s only 5% full into a party, The Rumble Strips certainly tried.

Photos: The Rumble Strips @ The El Mocambo – October 29, 2008
MP3: The Rumble Strips – “Time”
MP3: The Rumble Strips – “Motorcycle”
Video: The Rumble Strips – “Girls And Boys In Love”
Video: The Rumble Strips – “Alarm Clock”
Video: The Rumble Strips – “Motorcycle”
Video: The Rumble Strips – “Oh Creole”
Video: The Rumble Strips – “Time”
MySpace: The Rumble Strips

The Independent profiles Noah & The Whale, who will be returning to Toronto for a show at the El Mocambo on December 9.

The Quietus interviews A Place To Bury Strangers. NPR is streaming part of their CMJ set last week.

Pitchfork talks to Portastatic’s Mac McCaughan.

Austin360 asks three questions of Decemberists drummer Nate Query.

The Drive-By Trucker/Hold Steady-powered “Rock & Roll Means Well” tour kicked off last night, and while the November 11 show at the Phoenix is sold out, a small block of tickets was released earlier this week via Ticketmaster and at last check, were still available. And I’m still giving away a few pairs. The Courier-Journal profiles The Hold Steady, The Winston-Salem Journal talks to the Truckers and Nashville Scene and The Village Voice talk to them both.

Paul Westerberg reflects on the legacy of The Replacements for The Guardian.

NPR welcomes Okkervil River to their studios for a World Cafe session.

Exclaim! and Get Wokingham have interviews with Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner.

An Aquarium Drunkard and The Colorado Springs Gazette interview members of DeVotchKa.

One of the Jonas Brothers interviews Elvis Costello for Rolling Stone.

The Grace Potter & The Nocturnals gig originally scheduled for the El Mocambo on December 10 now appears to be happening at Lee’s Palace.

Matador has made their Fall 2008 sampler available to download and it includes tastes of new and upcoming releases from Belle & Sebastian, Shearwater and Fucked Up.

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

When Giants Fall

Love Is All Halloween video

Swedes Love Is All are celebrating Hallowe’en by recording dark (as in luminescence, not necessarily tone) costume-laden videos for each of the songs for their forthcoming album A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night, out November 11.

I’ve been given one of them, for “When Giants Fall”, to premiere and you can find some of the others at Pitchfork, Stereogum and Gorilla Vs Bear with more to follow.

Love Is All play the Horseshoe on December 11.

Thursday, October 30th, 2008


School Of Seven Bells / Alpinisms review

Photo By Amanda MertenAmanda MertenIt’s not often that the the first taste I get of a new band or album sends me scrambling to blog, but that’s what happened in August when I got the first taste of Alpinisms, the debut album from School Of Seven Bells. And while it’s not as though they were an unknown to me – I was more than familiar with their collective past projects (On!Air!Library!, The Secret Machines, Daylight’s For The Birds) but even with those expectations, the first two MP3s released from said album – “Conjurr” and “Half Asleep” – still floored me.

I got a full copy of the album not long after and though there’s nothing that matches those two tracks for pure pop glory, it’s because they don’t really attempt to. Though favouring the dream-pop and electronica musical niches, Alpinisms is a remarkably diverse collection that, for all its eclecticism, still manages to craft a distinct sonic identity. Much of that can be attributed to the dual vocals of sisters Alley and Claudia Deheza, whose tightly intertwined, angelic and otherworldly voices really sound unlike anything else out there. And its this uniqueness that allows the musical backdrop to liberally borrow from the last 20 years or so of sonic ideas – a little Peter Hook bass line here, a little Kevin Shields glide guitar there – and make it sound fresh.

Not everything works – some pieces meander a little more than you’d like, but given the soaring heights of the record’s high points and the obvious talent and creativity the band has on tap, it’s hard not to get excited about what else they might come up with in the future. I only hope that this project has a longer lifespan than their previous ones.

School Of Seven Bells are at the Opera House on November 20, opening for M83. Exclaim! has a review of the record and a short interview with guitarist and former Secret Machinist Benjamin Curtis.

MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Connjur”
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Half Asleep”
MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Chain”
Stream: School of Seven Bells / Alpinisms
MySpace: School Of Seven Bells

Bradley’s Almanac has got MP3s of My Bloody Valentine’s show at All Tomorrow’s Parties New York in September. Amazingly, they sound quite good and not just like “KKKKKHHKHKHKKKKK”. And if you want to full experience of the “holocaust” section of “You Made Me Realise”, I suggest standing in front of an oscillating fan so that your pants flap while simultaneously getting a full body massage. That’s a start.

Paste talks to Matt Tong of Bloc Party and Le Blogotheque ambushes the band in Paris into giving them a Takeaway Show.

NME reports that White Lies will release their debut album To Lose My Life on January 12.

Nick Cave brags to Spinner about the size of his unit.

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips talks to The Los Angeles Times about the release – finally – of Christmas On Mars on November 11 (straight to DVD, natch) and the soundtrack of which will pretty much constitute the new Flaming Lips album.

Trailer: Christmas On Mars

Stars have added a third date to their residency at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in December. In addition to the 12th and 13th, they’re now also playing on the 11th.

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

CONTEST – Kathleen Edwards and John Doe @ The Dakota Tavern – November 3, 2008

A Los Angeles punk legend and an Ottawan country-rocker might seem an odd pair, but X frontman John Doe and Kathleen Edwards appear to be kindred spirits, with the pair duetting on “The Golden State”, from Doe’s latest solo record A Year In The Wilderness, and the two setting out on a co-headline tour dubbed the “Hurtin’ & Flurtin'” tour.

And while that tour begins officially November 5 in Virginia, the pair are doing a special, intimate warm-up show in Toronto at the Dakota Tavern on Monday night (November 3), and courtesy of Eggplant Entertainment, I’ve got a pair of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I am both hurtin’ and flurtin'” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, October 30.

And if you don’t win, tickets are only available at the door. Those open at 8 and the show is at 9:30 so if you HAVE to go, get there early and cross your fingers. I haven’t been to the place yet but I hear it’s pretty tiny.

MP3: John Doe – “The Golden State”
Video: Kathleen Edwards – “The Cheapest Key”
Video: Kathleen Edwards – “I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory”
MySpace: Kathleen Edwards

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

My Party Is Better Than Yours

Emmy The Great at The Delancey and Pianos, New York City – CMJ

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThere had been a plan, back at SxSW earlier this year, to follow – “stalk” is such an ugly word – Emmy The Great to as many of her various day shows and performances as possible. As it happens, I failed utterly and was only able to see her play once, at her official showcase but it was as good as I’d hoped.

And so I planned to spend Saturday afternoon in New York City again following Ms Moss around and though I got a late start, having to hoof it from Greenwich Village to the Lower East Side – I was actually running through the subway at 14th and 8th – I managed to make her first show of the day on the roof of The Delancey. Now while I’m sure the building housed a proper stage somewhere in its environs, but the roof was just a shadowy patio with dense foliage with Emmy set up to one side with only a very basic PA – the very opposite of fancy. But she and her band do scrappy, stripped-down arrangements well – they were like a gang of buskers – so the setting wasn’t any real sort of detriment, though the sound could have been a bit better and they were basically playing in darkness. With only a handful of people paying attention – I guess 1PM was a bit early for the last day of CMJ, most likely everyone was still hung over in bed – they zipped through a set that contained songs both familiar and not, but presumably focused on the songs that had made the cut for her debut album, First Love. It was short but sweet and highlighted by drummer Pete Baker adding percussion to “Gabriel” by banging his shoe on a plastic drum case.

It was a few hours till the next engagement so I wandered the Lower East Side a bit before impending foul weather drove me to the venue – the cozy upstairs lounge at Pianos – early. This turned out to be fortuitous as the acts preceding her were certainly worth my time. The Dutchess & The Duke, a Seattle outfit built around the dual voices and guitars of Kimberly Morrison and Jesse Lortz who sound like a ’60s blues-rock band who decided to become a folk-pop band and turned out to be quite good at it. There’s melody and harmony a-plenty, but also a gruff sort of swagger that gives it all a nice bit of edge. Though they played a short set on account of a late start, but it made an impression – when I got home I dug up their new album She’s The Dutchess, He’s The Duke and will spend some time with that.

The were followed by Brooklyn’s The End Of The World, a four-piece best described as dealing in an appealing blend of classic rock and country-noir – not especially groundbreaking, but well-written and executed. Their set fell victim to a drum kit seemingly hell-bent on self-destructing, but what they did manage to get through was promising. Their new album French Exit is out November 4 and in addition to the MP3 below, another is available for frees at RCRDLBL.

Emmy’s second set of the day started out much like her first, but with a better sound system behind her and a much larger audience in front of her. Interspersing her casually confessional folk songs with hilarious between-song banter (requests for “M.I.A.” were met with, “she’s not here – she’s knocked up”), she and her band were entertaining and beguiling. It was initially disappointing when she broke a string midway through and it turned out they didn’t have a spare, but instead she borrowed bandmate Euan Hinshelwood’s guitar and completed the set solo, including absolutely stirring readings of “24” and “City Song”, the latter accented by Hinshelwood’s note-perfect harmonies. I don’t know if they’d have made the set otherwise, and if so if they’d have been as affecting, so let’s just say thank goodness for happy accidents.

I had been saving a place on my year-end list for First Love, but with its September release now moved to January of next year, I guess it’ll have to keep for another year. Based on what I saw and heard this past Saturday afternoon, I have no problem keeping that particular seat warm – this record is going to be an absolute gem.

Photos: Emmy The Great @ The Delancey, New York City – October 25, 2008
Photos: Emmy The Great, The End Of The World, The Dutchess & The Duke @ Pianos Lounge, New York City – October 25, 2008
MP3: Emmy The Great – “Easter Parade”
MP3: Emmy The Great – “Two Steps Forward” (live)
MP3: Emmy The Great – “MIA” (live from Black Room Sessions)
MP3: Emmy The Great – “The Hypnotist’s Son” (live from Black Room Sessions)
MP3: The End Of The World – “I Don’t Wanna Lose”
MP3: The Dutchess & The Duke – “Reservoir Park”
Video: Emmy The Great – “We Almost Had A Baby”
Video: Emmy The Great – “Gabriel”
Video: Emmy The Great – “Easter Parade”
Video: Emmy The Great – “MIA”
MySpace: Emmy The Great
MySpace: The End Of The World
MySpace: The Dutchess & The Duke

Duffy has a new video for a single that doesn’t appear on Rockferry, but does appear on the forthcoming deluxe edition of Rockferry, due out November 24. It’ll feature seven new tracks, including the aforementioned single. Details at MTV.

Video: Duffy – “Rain On Your Parade”

Patrick Wolf gives NME some details about half of his next record, which will be a double-album. Battles will feature his much-discussed collaboration with Alec Empire while the as-yet untitled other half will be much mellower in mood. He’s aiming for a February release.

Thousand Islands Life talks to Great Lake Swimmer Tony Dekker about choosing the Thousand Islands as the recording locale for their fourth record.

John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats talks to The Arizona Daily Star while both Darnielle and collaborator Kaki King discuss their EP Black Pear Tree with The North County Times.

Okkervil River’s Will Sheff talks The Stand-Ins with Chart. And congratulations to Corey Higgins, who won the Insound poster.

Only a trickle of concert announcements rolling in as the year winds down, but while there may not be so much in terms of volume, ones like this certainly make up for it in density – case in point, the “Jingle Bell Rock” tour which features Metric, Tokyo Police Club, The Dears and Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains winding their way across Canada in a one-horse open sleigh. Look for them December 13 at the Sound Academy and experience the special kind of hell that is being on the waterfront at night in December.