Archive for September, 2009

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Floorboards Under The Bed

Review of The Twilight Sad's Forget The Night Ahead

Photo By Nic ShonfeldNic ShonfeldI’ve described – in spirit, if not precise words – The Twilight Sad’s debut album Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters as a sonically monolithic slab of angst, a crescendo sustained over 40 minutes, the sound of a man standing on a Scottish cliff face, arms raised and bellowing against the world. And also one of my favourite records of 2007.

Needless to say, the follow-up was anxiously awaited and though the release of a couple EPs and a collection of live tracks and rarities certainly helped make that wait bearable, that material also came largely from the timeframe of the debut. Which was fine, but didn’t really help answer the question of what sort of direction the band would take for album number two, because as much as I liked the debut, duplicating that recipe almost certainly wouldn’t work again, or at least yield greatly diminished returns and I believed them to be capable of so much more.

And while their set opening up for Mogwai back in May offered a tantalizing preview of the new material, only proper listens to Forget The Night Ahead prove that faith to be justified. With it, the band have largely managed to maintain the immensity of sound that defined Autumns, but have shed enough sonic and emotional weight to be more nimble, more dynamic. And in doing so, the Twilight Sad have opened up space for James Graham’s more sophisticated songwriting to come to the fore. Whereas the lyrics on Autumns were more on the impenetrably abstract side, Night is more evocative in imagery, almost cinematic, and less opaque while remaining sufficiently inscrutability. And glum and depressed as hell. That’s crucial.

Obviously Night doesn’t offer quite the same gut punch of discovery that Autumns – it can’t – but it may well be the superior record. That’s a subjective call, but it does prove that The Twilight Sad have more than one trick in their arsenal, or they’ve figured out how to get even more mileage out of that one. Either way, consider the sophomore slump evaded and The Twilight Sad a band to hopefully soundtrack many more nights of sitting in a dark corner, rocking gently back and forth.

The Twilight Sad are entering the second half of a North American tour that brings them to the El Mocambo on October 10. Exclaim piggybacked a short interview with Graham onto their review of the record and Clash solicited a song-by-song annotation from the band to go with their stream of the album.

MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Reflection Of The Television”
Video: The Twilight Sad – “I Became A Prostitute”
Stream: The Twilight Sad / Forget The Night Ahead
MySpace: The Twilight Sad

Also currently streaming is Richard Hawley’s new one Truelove’s Gutter. It’s excellent. In case you were wondering. There’s interviews at The Chester Chronicle and Shields Gazette and Clash asks him how he’d spend his last day on Earth.

Stream: Richard Hawley / Truelove’s Gutter

JAM and Metro talk to Arctic Monkeys. The band also stopped in for a session at MPR.

Check out the third single from former Pipette Rose Elinor Dougall’s forthcoming solo record Without Why, due out next year. I know that the point of pre-release singles is to build anticipation for the record, but in this case it’s working especially well – all three so far have been quite great.

MP3: Rose Elinor Dougall – “Fallen Over”

Music Snobbery and The Derby Telegraph interview Noah & The Whale, whose First Days Of Spring will be out in North America on October 6 and who play the Horseshoe on October 31. The album is also currently streaming at NPR.

Stream: Noah & The Whale / First Days Of Spring

Exclaim and Out interview Little Boots.

Alasdair MacLean discusses The Clientele’s new record Bonfires On The Heath with Spinner and Exclaim while multi-instrumentalist Mel Draisey talks to Rocksellout. The album is out October 6.

BBC gets a status update from The Futureheads on their next record.

The San Francisco Examiner, Pioneer Press and The Georgia Straight welcome Manic Street Preachers to North America for their first tour in a decade. Need I mention how stoked I am for this Sunday’s show at the Phoenix?

Remember when Blur who was saying that their reunion might yield more shows or an album? Not anymore. Alas. But hey, he has a new solo video. Which is almost as good. Almost.

Video: Graham Coxon – “Dead Bees”

BBC and Spinner talk to Ian Brown about his new record My Way. Exclaim also reports that he’s working with Johnny Marr on a television soundtrack.

Rolling Stone and Interview talk to Bad Lieutenant’s Bernard Sumner.

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Set The Sails

Review of Dan Mangan's Nice, Nice, Very Nice

Photo By Jonathan TaggartJonathan TaggartSaying I was a bit award-ed out following last week’s Polaris Prize gala would be something of an understatement, so the ceremonies for the Verge XM Awards the following night were largely ignored around these parts. But that doesn’t mean the results weren’t of interest – okay, Alexisonfire winning album of the year was of zero interest, but the declaration of Vancouver’s Dan Mangan as artist of the year certainly drew a double-take. This response had nothing to do with Mangan or his work, simply the fact that it’s a pretty heady honour to bestow on someone who’d only released his new album Nice, Nice, Very Nice a little over a month prior, though that was preceded by the Roboteering EP in the Spring. The whys and wherefores of that do interest me, but we’ll set that aside for now and just consider the record.

And it’s a good one. On the surface, it’s a tuneful collection of roots-rock/pop, hummably melodic and understatedly orchestrated, but what’s most compelling is the narrator that Mangan inhabits in his songs. Though his likeable rasp implies a certain forthrightness of character, that he’s the sort of guy who tells is straight and like it is, lyrically he’s much slipperier. Sardonic observer of the world around him one moment, absurdist storyteller the next, but I suppose when done right the two really aren’t all that different. You’re never sure if Mangan is telling tall tales or pouring his broken heart out because he does both with a twinkle in his eye; the unreliable narrator, the court jester, or just the guy perched on a barstool, it doesn’t really matter – there’s as much cosmic truth as fiction in these songs and either is where you find it. And if you’re just looking for some great songs, they’re here too. Artist of the Year still strikes me as a bit premature, but if Mangan is still finding himself up for awards in a year’s time or so, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

Mangan kicks off a cross-country tour this week and will be in Toronto in a couple weeks on October 16 for an in-store at Criminal Records on October 16 at 6PM and a gig proper at the Rivoli that night. Then it’s off to the UK and Europe. Okay, maybe he’s having a really good year after all. There’s features on Mangan at The Georgia Straight.

MP3: Dan Mangan – “Road Regrets”
MP3: Dan Mangan – “Robots”
Video: Dan Mangan – “The Indie Queens Are Waiting”
Stream: Dan Mangan / Roboteering
Stream: Dan Mangan / Nice, Nice, Very Nice
MySpace: Dan Mangan

As promised, Sloan are giving away a new song. “Take It Upon Yourself” is a Chris song that sounds like a Jay song (it’s the piano) and is available for frees in exchange for your email address.

Note that the Rural Alberta Advantage show originally scheduled for November 4 at Lee’s Palace has been moved to November 20 – tickets for the former date are still good. There’s an interview with frontman Nils Edenloff at The Maneater.

Forest City Lovers have completed their first 7″ single, available to pre-order now in advance of its November 10 release. Something to hold you over until they release album number three next year.

Portions of the Caribou Vibration Ensemble performance at All Tomorrow’s Parties NY have been made available to stream or download at the Free Music Archive, with word that a full live album may be forthcoming. The Toronto show was amazing – I expect this was nothing less.

MP3: The Caribou Vibration Ensemble – “Skunks”
MP3: The Caribou Vibration Ensemble – “Barnowl”
MP3: The Caribou Vibration Ensemble – “Brahminy Kite”
MP3: The Caribou Vibration Ensemble – “A Final Warning”

Handsome Furs have set a date for Lee’s Palace on December 5, tickets $15. No occasion, just bringing some rock.

MP3: Handsome Furs – “I’m Confused”

NPR has a World Cafe session with The Jayhawks.

Spinner has another video taken from the forthcoming live R.E.M. album Live At The Olympia, out October 27.

Video: R.E.M. – “Man-Sized Wreath” (live)

Long-time R.E.M. sideman and once-and-future Posie Ken Stringfellow has a new band of Norwegians called The Disciplines. It’s got a garage-ish bent, but there’s no suppressing Stringfellow’s canny pop sensibilities. They’re heading out for a North American tour next month, including a stop at the Velvet Underground in Toronto on October 22 ($8 in advance), and are also looking for places to crash in many of the cities on the itinerary and a Vox AC30 amp to borrow.

Video: The Disciplines – “Best Mistake”
Video: The Disciplines – “Yours For The Taking (Smoking Kills)”

AZCentral talks to the other principal in the Posies, Jon Auer.

City Pages Q&A’s Built To Spill, whose new record There Is No Enemy is out next week and who have Lee’s Palace reserved for two nights, October 6 and 7.

Epigram Music talks to Sufjan Stevens about his BQE project, out October 20. He plays Lee’s Palace on Thursday night, October 1.

St Vincent’s Annice clark talks to Radar Online about her contribution to the soundtrack to New Moon, which I’m content to know nothing about save for one of the protagonists sparkles. Clark also gives an interview to The Vanguard.

There’s a new video for the Taken By Trees cover of Animal Collective’s “My Girls”, from her new album East Of Eden.

Video: Taken By Trees – “My Boys”

Blurt has a feature on Monsters Of Folk, who will be at Massey Hall on November 2.

Monday, September 28th, 2009

It Feels So Good When I Stop

Joe Pernice and Kate Boothman at The Dakota Tavern in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe last time Joe Pernice took a Toronto stage, he promised that as a new resident of the city, he might find himself playing more gigs around town and that he’d see us soon.

That was over four years ago.

Being fair, Joe has hardly been idle in that time. He released another Pernice Brothers record in Live A Little, became a father and wrote his first novel It Feels So Good When I Stop, which was the occasion for him to again get up, guitar in hand, in front of an audience of his neighbours – literally, as the Dakota Tavern was stumbling distance from his west-end digs.

Opening up was Kate Boothman, a local who had accompanied Joe on a couple of the US dates of this brief tour. Her short set didn’t do much for me, her folkish compositions failing to take off mostly on account of her rather flat vocal phrasing. The one tune she did with Julie Fader on harmonies fared better, so perhaps she works better when fronting her band Sunbear – people who’d stick around would find out as she’d be playing a full-band set after Joe went on.

Seeing as how the occasion for the show was both the release of the book and Joe’s latest record – a soundtrack of sorts to the book comprised of covers of songs mentioned in the book – the evening was being billed as a combination performance/reading, a format which actually worked really well. The evening started with Pernice, looking not a little like a fitter Elvis Costello, reading a passage from the novel and though he’d thank us at the end for being patient with him for doing so, it was our pleasure – his dry delivery really gave the book (which I have but still haven’t read sorry sorry sorry) life and I, for one, found it wholly engaging. This was followed by a set of covers from the soundtrack record and another reading, all interspersed with Pernice’s razor-sharp and self-effacing wit. Though his songwriting persona is famously bummed out (or “exquisitely sad”, he is truly one funny guy.

The real gold came next, though, as Pernice followed up with a lengthy set of his own material. The solo acoustic configuration precluded a lot of the regular Pernice Brothers material, as rich and full band-arranged as those tend to be, so instead the Dakota was treated to a trove of riches from the other eddies of Pernice’s career – the Big Tobacco solo record, the Chappaquiddick Skyline one-off project and to close it out, a suite of Scud Mountain Boys tunes that reinforced just how wonderful and consistent Pernice’s songwriting has been for so long. All told, Pernice played for nearly two hours – remarkable considering that Pernice Brothers live tended towards shorter sets – filled with songs, stories and banter. And before leaving the stage, he once again mentioned that now that he’s a Torontonian, maybe he’d play some more gigs around town. Alone or with band, book it and we’ll be there Joe. Just don’t wait another four years to do so.

The Globe & Mail has a feature piece on Joe and his book with outtakes from the interview available over at Zoilus. NOW and The Los Angeles Times also have pieces on Pernice. Now that the promotional rounds for the book are about done, Pernice is getting back to work on the already-started next Pernice Brothers record. Look for that sometime in the new year.

Photos: Joe Pernice, Kate Boothman @ The Dakota Tavern – September 24, 2009
MP3: Pernice Brothers – “Somerville”
Video: Pernice Brothers – “Somerville”
Video: Pernice Brothers – “Baby In Two”
Video: Pernice Brothers – “The Weakest Shade Of Blue”
Video: Pernice Brothers – “Working Girls”
MySpace: Pernice Brothers

Nick Cave is another musician whose recent foray into fiction – in his case his second novel The Death Of Bunny Munro – has been generating press. There’s conversations with Cave about the book at The Winnipeg Free Press, Time, CBC, The Toronto Star, The National Post and The Montreal Gazette, which also offers a full transcript of the interview. The Ampersand also got a musical endorsement for Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers.

The Times talks to Steve Earle, who is working on his first novel I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.

NPR talks to Fanfarlo about their literary inspirations (their name comes from Baudelaire) while Tourdates also has an interview with frontman Simon Balthazar and if you’ve still not heard it (shame!), Clash is streaming the album right now.

Stream: Fanfarlo / Reservoir

This Is Nottingham has an interview with Charlotte Hatherley, who has released a video for the second single from her third album New Worlds. It will be out October 20.

Video: Charlotte Hatherley – “Alexander”

The Dodos have a new video from Time To Die. Look for them at Lee’s Palace on October 17.

Video: The Dodos – “Fables”

The Rural Alberta Advantage stopped in at Minnesota Public Radio for a streaming session and gave an interview to Decider. They’re also in the new issue of Spin but that piece isn’t online yet. They play Lee’s Palace on November 4.

The first MP3 from El Perro Del Mar’s new album Love Is Not Pop, out October 20, is now available to download. There’s also an interview at the Buenos Aires Herald. She opens for Peter Bjorn & John at the Phoenix on November 11.

MP3: El Perro Del Mar – “Change Of Heart”

Daily Finance chats with Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance of Merge Records about their 20th anniversary as an independent music label. Babelgum is also hosting a whole slew of video footage from the XX Merge festival in Carrboro back in July.

The National Post has a nice little feature on Canadian sportscasting legend and inveterate music fan – that IS him you see at all those gigs around town – Dave Hodge.

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

"The One I Love"

Sufjan Stevens covers R.E.M.

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSince being Mr Ubiquity back in 2005, circa Illinois, Sufjan Stevens has largely gone quiet – a collection of Christmas carols here, a tribute to a New York expressway there, but certainly not a new album by conventional standards, and certainly not a continuation of his fifty states initiative.

So by those standards, this Autumn is a bounty for Sufjan fans – there’s the October 6 release of Run Rabbit Run , a rejigged and re-orchestrated version of his 2001 electronic salute to the Chinese zodiac Enjoy Your Rabbit and then a couple weeks later the multimedia extravaganza The BQE on October 20. And then there’s the intimate Fall tour which brings Mr Stevens and who-knows-what theme to Lee’s Palace on Thursday night – there don’t appear to be any costumes this time around, but there are new songs and old favourites drawn mainly from Illinois and Seven Swans. What you hear there is the sound of no one complaining.

It also gives me an excuse to dig up this week’s brief but lovely selection, Mr Stevens covering R.E.M. solo at Judson College in November, 2003. And even though work has only just begun on a new album, R.E.M. are putting out a new record this Fall in the form of the cryptically-titled Live At The Olympia In Dublin, out October 27.

MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “The One I Love”
Video: R.E.M. – “The One I Love”

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

CONTEST – The Avett Brothers @ The Horseshoe – September 30, 2009

Photo By CrackerfarmCrackerfarmFor as often as they’re cited as having one foot in the world of bluegrass and another in punk rock, you might expect The Avett Brothers to be some sweat-drenched, hellfire-picking outfit leaving a trail of wanton destruction in their wake. And while there’s no denying they’ve got the instrumental virtuosity that you’d expect from the former or the latent energy or wildness inherent in the latter, their new record I And Love And You – out Tuesday – is best described as elegant. Unbelievably elegant pop tunes, built on stately acoustic arrangements and soaring harmonies but fully capable of acting out and letting their roots show. Love is only the second Avetts album I’ve listened to so I can’t say with any sort of authority where they’ve been but where they are now, with their major-label debut, is somewhere pretty special.

And on the topic of where they’re going to be, though it took a little while to confirm – original tour routing seemed to have them going from Dallas to Toronto to New Orleans over the course of five days – the Avetts will indeed be at the Horseshoe on Wednesday night, September 30. Tickets are $17.50 in advance and $20 at the door, but courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to be an Avett Brother” in the subject line and your full name in the body – get that in to me by midnight, Monday night, September 28.

There’s interviews with the band at The Daily Times, Reuters and Metro Spirit while Paste gets some commentary from them on their song “Laundry Room” from the new record. And in addition to streaming the new record in advance of its release, NPR has a radio session with them.

MP3: The Avett Brothers – “I And Love And You”
Video: The Avett Brothers – “I And Love And You”
Stream: The Avett Brothers / I And Love And You