Archive for February, 2009

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

CONTEST – AC Newman @ Lee's Palace – March 11, 2009

Photo By Caleb BuyersCaleb BuyersMost people look forward to their time off, but Carl Newman seems averse to not working even for a moment. Immediately after touring The New Pornographers’ last album Challengers into the ground, he hopped back in the studio in his solo guise of AC Newman and turned out the rather fine Get Guilty.

And now, of course, he’s heading back on tour. With a touring band that’s maybe not quite as “super-” as the Pornographers but still pretty damn good – Jon Wurster, Shane Nelken, Miranda Brown, Shaun Brodie and Tara Szczygielski – Newman will be cruising the highways and byways of North America throughout March, including a March 11 stop at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. Update: Just confirmed – Nicole Atkins, who contributes vocals to the record, will be joining the band for a few east coast dates including the Toronto show!

And, courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got a couple pairs of passes to the show to give away. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to get guilty” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, March 7.

There’s interviews with Newman at The Santa Barbara Independent and Crawdaddy.

MP3: AC Newman – “There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve”
MP3: AC Newman – “Submarines Of Stockholm”
MySpace: AC Newman

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Polite Dance Song

The Bird & The Bee's Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future review and giveaway

Photo ByAutumn de WildeAsk yourself, “what is the smoothest record I’ve heard this year?” Now if the answer is anything except The Bird & The Bee’s new record Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future, then you simply haven’t heard Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future. The sophomore effort from the duo of Inara George and Greg Kurstin is effortlessly stylish and slick, in the very best sense of the word, blending lounge, jazz, tropicalia and, most importantly, Bacharachian pop into a blend that’s unabashedly retro in spirit but still very contemporary. After all – true cool doesn’t go out of fashion.

The Bird – that’d be George – has the sort of gorgeous coo that was made to go with berets and huge sunglasses but most importantly, perfectly suited to the sort of divine melodies that you’ll find in tracks such as “My Love” and “Birthday”. The Bee – Kurstin, of course – surrounds that voice with the perfect musical shimmer and shine and vintage beats of the sort you might have gotten had modern computers existed in the ’60s. And together, they create the sort of tunes that’d perfectly soundtrack the act of driving a convertible down from the Hollywood Hills and straight into a downtown penthouse lounge. Don’t question the physics of such an act – if you’re cool enough, it’s no problem. Sure, it’s all decidedly saccharine and breezy, but when you look and sound this good, who needs depth? Just sit back and go with it.

Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future is the sort of record that, by rights, should probably only ever be played on a proper vintage turntable, and so to that end, courtesy of Toolshed Marketing, I’ve got two copies of Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future to give away in lovely double-LP form. If you’d like one of them, email me at contests AT with “I want to hear about The Bird & The Bee” in the subject line and your full mailing address in the body. The contest open to residents of North America and will close at midnight, March 6.

Culture Bully and The Seattle Times have interviews with The Bird & The Bee.

Video: The Bird & The Bee – “Love Letter To Japan”
Video: The Bird & The Bee – “Polite Dance Song”
MySpace: The Bird & The Bee

The Walker Art Center and ask some questions of Dean & Britta in advance of their performances with screenings of Warhol’s 13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests. The DVD of the film will be out March 24.

Pitchfork talks to Kyp Malone of TV On The Radio. They play the Sound Academy on June 2.

Brendan Canning discusses revenue streams with Blurt.

Filter has a feature on Andrew Bird. He plays the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on April 3.

Exclaim talks to M Ward.

PitchforkTV has a video session with Alela Diane.

The release date for the new album from Wilco has narrowed from “Spring” to “June”.

Zach Condon talks to The AV Club about bringing Beirut to Mexico for the recording of March Of The Zapotec.

eye talks to Asobi Seksu about their decision to tone it down and go it as a duo on Hush. They play the El Mocambo next Tuesday, March 3. Bell supports.

Pitchfork gets a list of their favourite things from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

PitchforkTV goes into the studio with Dinosaur Jr, who have just signed with Jagjaguwar and will release their new album this Summer.

The Daily Swarm talks to Bob Mould about his forthcoming autobiography and new album The Life & Times, due out April 7.

Tommy Stinson tells Billboard that the recent round of reissues may well close the book for good on The Replacements – a reunion does not appear to be in the cards. Magnet, in the meantime, lists of the Mats’ top five overrated and underrated songs.

NPR has a session and interview with Robyn Hitchcock. He’s at the Mod Club on April 16 with the Venus 3.

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Black Ice

Random SxSW and CMW bits with Ohbijou, Jenn Grant, Gentleman Reg and more

Photo via ohbijou.comOhbijouA bit short on time today, so just a quick one with a Canadian focus.

The release of Ohbijou’s second album Beacons is still over a month away – April 14 is the date to circle – but thanks to the deluge of MP3s that accompanies the official SxSW lineup and schedule, a sample is now available to download. I’ve had the privilege of living with a copy of Beacons for a little while now, and can say that “Black Ice” very much captures the feel of the record – taking everything that made Swift Feet For Troubling Times such a cozy orch-pop gem and makes it more expansive without losing the intimacy. A more proper review will be forthcoming, but for now enjoy the tune and remember they have a CD release show at the Opera House on April 18. And for anyone heading down to SxSW, do make an effort to catch them – in addition to their official showcase at The Ranch on the Thursday, they play the AV Club’s party on the Friday and the M4MTL vs. T4TO party at El Sol (formerly Emo’s IV at the corner of 6th and Red River) on the Saturday.

MP3: Ohbijou – “Black Ice”

Also found via the SxSW schedule – a sample of Jenn Grant’s new record Echoes. In case I don’t get around to doing a full review of the record anytime soon – entirely likely – I’ll first point you my review of her 2007 record Orchestra For The Moon and say that Echoes is almost the record that I was hoping Grant would make. She’s said in interviews that it’s a break-up record, and that emotionality is definitely reflected in the sparer, darker sound which I think suits her quite well. There’s still a bit more vocal acrobatics than I’d like but that’s a minor complaint when held against the strengths of the album. Grant plays the Reverb at midnight on March 14 for CMW and her SxSW itinerary currently consists of a couple performances on the Thursday – a 2PM afternoon performance in the Convention Centre and a 9PM official evening showcase at the Velveeta Room. Belletristic Impressions has an interview with Grant.

MP3: Jenn Grant – “Sailing By Silverships”

Another artist doing the CMW/SxSW thing – the former finds him at the Horseshoe on March 12 at 11:10PM, the latter at Beauty Bar at 9PM on March 21 – is Gentleman Reg. The SxSW site is also offering up another track from his just-released Jet Black. Interviews with Reg abound at Exclaim, The Toronto Sun, Chart, and Black Book, and though I couldn’t make his in-store at Soundscapes on Tuesday, videographer Colin Medley did and has a really nice HD clip of one of the songs performed.

MP3: Gentleman Reg – “How We Exit”

Human Highway will also be hitting the highway between Toronto and Austin next month. They’ll be at the Horseshoe at 11PM on Friday, March 13 and then for SxSW at Red-Eyed Fly at 11PM on Wednesday, March 18. Also look for them at Red 7 on the afternoon Thursday and Urban Outfitters’ parking lot on the Friday at 1PM. And Stereogum has what they call the premiere of the video for Human Highway’s “The Sound”, which means that the stuffed animal version which surfaced a little while back isn’t actually “official”. Which is too bad, because I prefer it to the new one.

MP3: Human Highway – “The Sound”
Video: Human Highway – “The Sound”
Video: Human Highway – “The Sound” (unofficial)

The Daily Growl has a handful of new Woodpigeon songs which they took the trouble of ripping from a BBC Radio 6 session.

There’s a number of excellent Bruce Peninsula live videos up over at as part of their “Camera Music” series, though the song recorded at the Soundscapes in-store is conspicuously absent. Still forthcoming or didn’t make the cut?

Exclaim‘s cover story this month is Montreal’s Malajube, thanks to the recent release of their new record Labyrinthes. Their CMW showcase finds them at the El Mocambo at midnight, Thursday March 12.

MP3: Malajube – “Porte Disparu”

Spinner talks to Metric’s Emily Haines about their new album Fantasies, due out April 14. They’re slated to play Edgefest on June 20 at Downsview Park.

Okay, that wasn’t so quick. I have no idea why I ever say that.

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Fossil, I

Review of Sky Larkin's The Golden Spike and live video from Amsterdam

Photo via FabchannelFabChannelAfter considerable listens, I think I’ve twigged on to why I’m so taken with The Golden Spike, the debut album from Leeds’ Sky Larkin’s. The crackling pop-punk energy, barely contained in the power trio configuration, the odd and wiry yet undeniably accomplished guitarwork, the raspy vocals that can’t quite conceal the sweetness underneath – they remind me of Land Of Talk. A more youthful version, to be sure, with more exuberance and less anxiety, but the parallels – now that they’ve occurred to me – are obvious.

And, of course, after I’d written that, I did a little archive digging and discovered that in my first post about the band, way back in August 2008, I said the first taste of the band “grab(bed) me in a way that I don’t think I’ve been grabbed since I first heard Land Of Talk”. Technically, though, I was only using LoT as a chronological reference point and not necessarily as a stylistic one, as I’ve now done. But I actually completely forgot I said that and the preceding paragraph was written completely ignorant of that original observation. Okay, I’m boring the life out of me now. Moving on.

Band comparisons notwithstanding, I’m also totally taken with The Golden Spike because it’s a superb bit of guitar pop. Katie Harkin, she of the aforementioned guitarwork and vocals, is a forceful presence and her songs are unconventional and elliptical enough to encourage intensive listening, yet remain utterly melodic and hummable. It’s a corker of a record, and surely one of the finer debuts we’ll see this year. As previously mentioned, their label Wichita Recordings are setting up North American operations and The Golden Spike will be one of their first domestic releases – you can be certain I’ll let you know more about that as information becomes available.

FabChannel webcast the band’s show in Amsterdam this past weekend but don’t have it up in their archives for your eternal enjoyment just yet. They have, however, prepped a couple of songs from the show and have graciously allowed me to share them with you. Please enjoy.

MP3: Sky Larkin – “Fossil, I”
MP3: Sky Larkin – “Molten”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Beeline”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Fossil, I”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Molten”
Video: Sky Larkin – “One Of Two”
MySpace: Sky Larkin

Emmy The Great talks to NME about some of her lyrics and reveals the story of her “first love”. Drowned in Sound also has a two-part interview with the singer.

Details on the debut full-length from Florence & The Machine are still forthcoming, but this pre-order listing at CDWow seems to hint at July 6th release date, or thereabouts. Much more confirmable is the April 28 release of the A Lot Of Love, A Lot Of Blood EP, which collects her singles to this point and an unreleased track.

MP3: Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With A Fist”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With A Fist”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Dog Days Are Over”

Spinner talks to PJ Harvey and John Parish about their working history together. Their collaborative album A Woman A Man Walked By is out March 30.

CD Times interviews The Joy Formidable.

QRO talks to Los Campesinos!. They’re at the Opera House on April 1.

This Is Fake DIY and Clash converse with Tilly & The Wall.

Magnet takes it upon themselves to identify the five most overrated and underrated Radiohead songs.

Exclaim! has a feature-length interview with Neko Case and have also assembled a timeline tracking her life and times. Her new album Middle Cyclone is out next Tuesday and the title track is now available to download. Her label is also giving away autographed copies of the record. She’s at Trinity-St Paul’s on April 17 and 18.

MP3: Neko Case – “Middle Cyclone”

Maria Taylor has a date at the El Mocambo on April 17, tickets $10. Her new record LadyLuck is out April 7. $10

MP3: Maria Taylor – “Time Lapse Lifeline”
Video: Maria Taylor – “Time Lapse Lifeline”

Ladyhawk return for a show at the Horseshoe on April 23, tickets $12.50.

MP3: Ladyhawk – “I Don’t Always Know What You’re Saying”
MP3: Ladyhawk – “S.T.H.D.”

Elvis Perkins In Dearland will be hitting the road in support of their self-titled record, due March 10, and will play the Horseshoe on April 29.

MP3: Elvis Perkins In Dearland – “Shampoo”

Not part of their upcoming Spring itinerary, but Plants & Animals will be at the Mod Club on May 7.

MP3: Plants & Animals – “Bye Bye Bye”

And finally, an incredulous shout-out to Zoilus’ Carl Wilson, who will be appearing on The Colbert Report next Wednesday night to talk about his 33-1/3 book Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey To The End Of Taste. All instigated, if you didn’t know, by the Green Goblin 2. What a strange, strange thing.

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I'm Your Man

CONTEST – Leonard Cohen at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton – May 19, 2009

Photo via AEGAEG LiveI’ve given away a lot of stuff over the years, some big, some small, but most or all, I like to think, pretty cool and of genuine interest to those who visit. But I think I can say with no small degree of certainty that this is the coolest contest I’ve ever been able to run.

Leonard Cohen is a figure for whom the term “living legend” was created. He’s not just a Canadian icon, but a global one. He’s… well come on. He’s Leonard Cohen. And though he’s kept a low profile in recent years, he returned to full-on active duty last year with a rapturously-received Canadian and European tour and has carried that forward into 2009, first being revealed as one of the top-billed performers at Coachella, then playing his first American show in over 15 years in New York City last week and almost before that show was over, announcing a massive North American tour. Having played a four-night stand in Toronto last year, he’s not coming to the 416 this time around but will be just down the QEW on May 19 for a date at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton.

And this is where it gets exciting. Courtesy of AEG Live, I have two pairs of tickets to give away for the show. That’s right. Leonard Cohen tickets. For you. The public on-sale for the show is at 10AM on Monday morning, but rather than feverishly hitting refresh on your browser when you should be working and worrying about getting shunted to TicketsNow, two lucky readers will be able to sit back and relax in the knowledge that two golden ducats will be waiting for them at the Copps will call on the 19th of May. Are you excited? Hell, I’m excited and I don’t even know if I’m going to get to go to the show.

And it’s going to work like this. To enter, you need to select your favourite Leonard Cohen lyric, be it a line, a couplet, a verse, and tell me why you love it. Make it 100-150 words, give or take, and leave it in the comments. The submission is just the price of admission – winners will still be chosen at random from submissions. Make sure to include your email in the submission so I can contact the winners. Closing time for this one will be Sunday night, March 1, at midnight. Hop to it.

And to send you on your way and get you in the spirit, Leonard just contributed a new poem to The New Yorker. His Live In London album, taken from last year’s tour, is out on March 31 – details at Billboard.

Update: The New York Times has an interview.
Update 2: NPR is streaming his show at the Beacon Theatre in NYC from last week.
Update 3: The Globe & Mail has an interview.

Contest is closed – congratulations to Matthew and Dimitri, who won the tickets. Thanks to everyone for participating.

Video: Leonard Cohen – “Democracy”
Video: Leonard Cohen – “Closing Time”
Video: Leonard Cohen – “Dance Me To The End Of Love”
Video: Leonard Cohen – “In My Secret Life”
Video: Leonard Cohen – “First We Take Manhattan”
MySpace: Leonard Cohen