Archive for October, 2009

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

CONTEST – Junior Boys and Woodhands @ Lee’s Palace – November 6, 2009

Photo via Junior BoysJunior BoysLee’s Palace is the place to be next Friday night, at least for those who think the square wave is the sexiest sound out there. First you’ve got Toronto’s Woodhands, who favour the extroverted, in-your-face approach, their mating dance consisting of flailing limbs, showers of sweat and thrusting keytars. And at the other side of the spectrum, the smooth electro-soul sounds of Hamilton’s Junior Boys, the aural equivalent of the chilled champagne, the casual-but-deliberate brush against the arm and eyebrow arched just so. Two paths; one destination – “where are my pants?”.

Tickets to this seminar on seduction are $20 in advance but courtesy of REMG, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away for the show – to enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to get sexy with The Junior Boys” in the subject line and your full name in the body – get those in to me before midnight, November 4. Awwww yeah.

MP3: Junior Boys – “In The Morning”
MP3: Woodhands – “Dancer”

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Keep Sakes

Sky Larkin and Peggy Sue at The Cameron House in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThere are many things to like about Leeds trio Sky Larkin, not least among them their wonderfully sweet and spiky debut album The Golden Spike, but what I think I like most is how much of a good time they’re clearly having. On record, on stage, in their videos, everything Sky Larkin is permeated with a genuine, unaffected sense of fun – no brooding angst or overamped giddiness, just the natural reaction to three friends in their early 20s getting to travel around the world playing rock music without the massive weight of expectation that some of their peers are carrying (ahemxxahem). How could they not be having fun?

The band were nearing the end of a North American tour when they rolled into the Cameron House in Toronto on Wednesday night, accompanied by fellow Brits Peggy Sue, who had the co-ed trio thing in common with their tourmates but not a lot else. Fronted by the wonderfully pseudonymed (presumably) Katy Klaw and Rosa Rex with Olly Olly Olly on drums, the outfit formerly known as Peggy Sue & The Pirates (perhaps the Pirates were taken by Pete) deal in a strain of folk that’s probably too off-kilter in instrumentation and arrangement for traditionalists yet not nearly weird enough for the 21st century hippie scene. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that both Klaw and Rex have the sorts of voices that you’d normally find in soul music, rich and emotive with the right amount of rasp – they’re not equipped to create conventional folk music, even if they were inclined to do so. Their Lover Gone EP intrigued but was really too brief to get a proper handle on what they were about and while their set went a ways towards filling in the blanks, it also expanded the canvas of what they were doing enough that their net inscrutability remains unchanged. I guess I’ll just have to hear more to figure them out. I’m okay with that.

Sky Larkin don’t require nearly as much contemplation to understand – the nature of their scrappy guitar pop will be familiar to anyone who’s ever heard Sleeper or Sleater-Kinney and satisfies on an immediate and visceral level. I’d gotten to take in their live show at SxSW so I knew that the energy of the record more than translated in the live setting with the extra bonus of the fact that the band were genuinely hilarious on stage in their between-song banter. The between-banter stuff was pretty good too, with the trio turning in an energetic if a bit short set of highlights from The Golden Spike as well as their new (and free) “SMARTS” single. As befit a band that tours as much as they, they were superbly tight with frontwoman Katie Harkin effortlessly tossing off sophisticated guitar riffs and drummer Nestor Matthews literally beating his drum kit to death. A destroyed cymbal got some licks in of its own, though, inflicting a nasty bloody gash on Matthews’ hand which he insisted on playing through, finishing off the set’s last two songs with equal – if not extra – vigor. That is dedication. Sky Larkin will bleed for you.

Photos: Sky Larkin, Peggy Sue @ The Cameron House – October 28, 2009
MP3: Sky Larkin – “Fossil, I”
MP3: Sky Larkin – “Molten”
MP3: Peggy Sue – “Lover Gone”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Antibodies”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Beeline”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Fossil, I”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Molten”
Video: Sky Larkin – “One Of Two”
Video: Peggy Sue – “Lover Gone”
MySpace: Sky Larkin
MySpace: Peggy Sue

Clash has a short interview The xx, whose exhaustion-induced show cancellations haven’t affected this Fall’s North American dates opening up for Friendly Fires… yet.

Frightened Rabbit have given their third album a name – The Winter Of Mixed Drinks – and a target release date of March 2010.

Video: Frightened Rabbit – “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”

ChartAttack talks to Dog Day, who will be at the Horseshoe on November 5.

Great Lake Swimmers have released a new video from Lost Channels. They play a War Child benefit at the Dakota Tavern on November 5 and a show at Trinity-St. Paul’s on February 6 of next year.

Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Palmistry”

Vue has a cover feature on Dan Mangan.

FFWD reports on exactly what goes on at the mysterious Banff Centre, where both Woodpigeon and Basia Bulat are currently sequestered away being turned into unstoppable cybernetic killing machines honing their musical craft with an impressive team of mentors. CBC Radio 3 has also been checking in from the the Banff Centre and Woodpigeon has posted another song.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “For Norman Luxton”

Molina & Johnson (that’s Jason and Will) have released a second MP3 from Molina & Johnson, out November 3.

MP3: Molina & Johnson – “Almost Let You In”

Gigwise chats with Glenn Kotche of Wilco.

The Loyola Phoenix has an interview with Mountain Goats bassist Peter Hughes.

eye, The National Post, NPR, The Montreal Gazette, CNN and Spinner have conversations with The Swell Season, who have a date at Massey Hall on November 3.

The Raveonettes talk to The Georgia Straight.

Johnny Marr weights in on the subject of reunions with Spinner.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

The Right Place

Review of Monsters Of Folk’s self-titled debut and giveaway

Photo via Last.fmlast.fmUsually when you assemble a “supergroup”, you assemble top-notch artists for each conventional band position – kick-ass drummer from group A, shredmaster guitarist from group B, supreme bass-slapper from group C and a lead singer (assuming they’re not already one of A, B or C) whose usual bandmates are probably more than happy to get a break from and voila – a can’t-miss recipe that usually misses as often as it hits, if not more. Rarely, however, do you find multiple frontmen working together, with even the notion of managing egos and personalities enough to scare any right-thinking people away. The one notable exception being The Traveling Wilburys and the names involved there were so huge that it’s hard to imagine any of them really feeling insecure. Okay, maybe Jeff Lynne got tired of always being the last one to be named, but whatever.

While the principals of Monsters Of FolkMy Morning Jacket’s Jim James, M Ward and She & Him’s Matt Ward, Bright Eyes and The Mystic Valley Band’s Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes sideman and producer extraordinaire Mike Mogis – aren’t household names on the scale of the Wilburys, they are essentially superstars in the circles they run in. And while the first three’s getting together to tour as solo artists in 2004 made perfect sense, heading into the studio to craft a record of original material was less of a sure thing. After all – getting onstage to harmonize or tackle a cover is one thing, creating all new material together is quite another.

So the fact that the Monsters Of Folk self-titled debut, five years or so in the making, is pretty good on a universal scale can probably be interpreted as being terrific once the supergroup curve is applied. It achieves this largely by not trying to be much more than exactly what it advertises – James, Ward and Oberst contributing songs while Mogis ensures that while each composer’s tunes sound very much like they could have appeared on one of their own records, they still hang together seamlessly. James continues with the soulful excursions that marked the last couple of MMJ records, Ward’s pieces are rollicking AM radio revivals and Oberst still plays the moody, angsty card though he thankfully keeps his love-or-hate vibrato largely in check and doesn’t bring down the prevailing sense of fun that runs through the record as everyone romps in their common ground of classic rock, country, and yes – folk. No one would accuse them of saving A-grade material from their day jobs for this project, but nothing’s a throwaway, either. It’s a solid collection of songs from some top talent – nothing more, nothing less.

And it gives them an excuse to tour, as they currently are, and they’ll be in Toronto on Monday night, November 2, for a show at Massey Hall. Tickets are $36.50 to $49.50 with $1 from each going to Food Share, but courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got two pairs of tickets to the show to give away. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to be a Monster Of Folk for Hallowe’en” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, October 31. Update: Special four-packs of tickets for the show are now available – buy four and they’re $25.50 each (plus $1 charity fee).

The Vancouver Sun, The Chicago Tribune and Victoria Advocate have interviews with the Monsters Of Folk.

MP3: Monsters Of Folk – “Say Please”
Video: Monsters Of Folk – “The Right Place”
MySpace: Monsters Of Folk

Express Night Out and The Vermont Cynic chat with Annie Clark of St. Vincent.

Austinist talks to Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater about their forthcoming album The Golden Archipelago, tentatively set for a February 9 release.

Rolling Stone declares The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart to be a “breaking band”. Way to stay ahead of the curve, Rolling Stone.

The Aquarian interviews Charlie Fink, frontman for Noah & The Whale. A reminder that their double-header performance in Toronto this Saturday comes with a 12-hour gap – the in-store at Criminal Records starts at noon while their headlining set at the Horseshoe begins at midnight.

The xx’s remix/cover of Florence & The Machine’s cover of Candi Staton has been given an official video, which is itself a remix of sorts of the official video of Florence’s version. Good luck sorting out the royalties on that. Florence is at the Mod Club on November 2, The XX are at the Phoenix on December 2 – if they don’t burn out first.

Video: Florence & The Machine – “You’ve Got The Love” (The xx remix)
Video: Florence & The Machine – “You’ve Got The Love”

Ian McCulloch of Echo & The Bunnymen talks to Exclaim.

Radio Free Canuckistan has a fascinating conversation with to Stuart Berman about his Broken Social biography
This Book Is Broken, and the past ten years in Canadian independent music in general. Berman is being interviewed about the book in front of a live audience this Friday night at Harbourfront Centre as part of the International Festival of Authors – congratulations go to Janet for winning the passes to the event.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009


An introduction to The Wilderness Of Manitoba

TWOMPhoto via MySpaceMySpaceOpening up with the sound of bird noises might be a bit of an over-sell, but forgiveness comes easily when the multi-layered harmonies of Toronto’s The Wilderness Of Manitoba arrive and usher in their debut EP, Hymns Of Love And Spirits. Sharing members with Provincial Parks and Key Witness, The Wilderness of Manitoba come with a very clear and direct mandate – to craft gentle, intricate folk songs of the sort that no one seems to make anymore. Of course, that’s a mandate that many have taken on in recent years and so, ironically, there’s a good number of artists presently making those sorts of songs.

The Wilderness Of Manitoba still manage to stand tall amongst their peers, however, and stand out. Obviously drawing inspiration from both the English and American folk revivals of the 1960s, they place an emphasis on choral vocals that give the mini-album a certain dreamy quality that splits the difference between spiritual and ghostly. The musical arrangements are similarly kept ethereal, all gentle acoustic guitar, spare percussion with an occasional guest appearance from a banjo, cello or keys and carried aloft on a plush cloud of reverb. It’s a record that drifts by prettily, seemingly untethered from earthly concerns yet tangible enough to still carry a very real emotional heft. It haunts, like a fond but faded memory.

The Wilderness Of Manitoba are playing The Garrison tomorrow night with Olenka & The Autumn Lovers and Slow Down Molasses. BlogTO interviewed the band at the end of the Summer while The Line Of Best Fit had a more recent conversation.

MP3: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Bluebirds”

Timber Timbre has made his self-titled debut available as a free download through the end of Saturday, October 31. He plays a free show at the North York Central Library on November 7. It’s all about the free.

MP3: Timber Timbre – “Demon Host”
Video: Timber Timbre – “Demon Host”
Video: Timber Timbre – “We’ll Find Out”
ZIP: Timber Timbre / Timber Timbre talks to Liz Powell of Land Of Talk.

Blurt reports that Midlake will finally release their new record The Courage of Others on February 2.

Fazer has got an interview with Logan Kroeber of The Dodos.

Tiny Mix Tapes talks to Thao. Aaah, that’s some good alliteration right there. Thao plays the El Mocambo on November 1.

The Quietus asks Alison Mosshart what’s up with each of her bands, The Kills and The Dead Weather – new records from both in 2010. There you go.

PitchforkTV has added a video interview segment with Yo La Tengo to go with their Don’t Look Down session performances. The Skinny, San Diego News Network, The San Francisco Examiner and Vail Daily also have interviews.

Magnet picks their five most overrated and underrated Galaxie 500 songs. Is it really possible for a band that’s chronically underrated to have overrated songs?

Sweden’s Shout Out Louds have completed their new album and named it Work – look for it February 23 of next year.

Mid to late December is usually a real dead zone for tours coming through town, so what are the odds that two shows I’d want to see would arrive on the same night? Apparently pretty good. There’s no way I’m not going to be seeing Fanfarlo at the El Mocambo that night, but am sad that it means missing seeing Blue Roses – aka English singer-songwriter Laura Groves who released a lovely self-titled debut back in the Spring – at the Drake Underground, opening up for Marcus Foster, whom I don’t know at all. There’s no reason I can think of not to be at Fanfarlo, but if you can come up with one it better be because you’re at this show instead.

MP3: Blue Roses – “Doubtful Comforts”
MP3: Blue Roses – “I Am Leaving”

It’s not new album news, per se, but NME’s reporting that Lightspeed Champion will have a new single out entitled “Marlene” on January 25 is certainly a good omen that record number two is coming.

Exclaim talks to The xx. They’re at the Phoenix on December 2.

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009


Review of Bishop Allen’s Grr… and giveaway

Photo By Sebastian MlynarskiSebastian MlynarskiLet it never be said I’m beholden to the traditional press cycle when it comes to reviews. At least not when it comes to Brooklyn’s Bishop Allen. I only got around to writing up their second album, The Broken String last December, almost a year and a half after it was released, and here I am now just getting to their latest Grr… though in this case, the delay is a mere seven months. Almost eight. At least I got the review of their show here in January up within days.

With regards to the lag times, for The Broken String the defense was that, well, I didn’t really know the band but had hung onto the CD for just that long because I had a hunch I’d like it. Why I didn’t just spin the thing sooner and find out is an excellent question. I have a team of experts researching that right now. But for Grr…, it was simply a matter of waiting for the record to win me over the way its predecessor did. And waiting. And waiting. See, what I appreciated about The Broken String was the collegiate cleverness, tempered with open-hearted earnestness and mated with terrific singalong melodies.

And while you can still sing along with Grr…, the band seems to have regressed to a simpler state as far as songwriting goes. This doesn’t seem to be an accident, but a deliberate stylistic shift – the lyrical density and detailed storytelling has given way to more impressionistic wordplay and sometimes nonsensical rhymes. The production is much drier and leaner, often emphasizing just Justin Rice’s voice and Christian Rudder’s guitar, and even the album title and art is primary school basic and playful. And maybe that’s the point of this record, to step back from The Broken String, strip things down to and get back to basics for a spell. If so, job well done. Grr… is a study in simplicity, doing more with less and seeing just how far you can go powered just by melody. It was personally a bit frustrating to have a band I’d just gotten into shelve from those characteristics that drew me to them in the first place, but Grr… is still a pop treat by more objective standards.

The band is currently on tour and will be at the El Mocambo in Toronto on Friday night, October 30. Tickets are $15 in advance but courtesy of REMG, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to go Grrr” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, October 28.

MP3: Bishop Allen – “Dimmer”
MP3: Bishop Allen – “The Ancient Commonsense Of Things”
Video: Bishop Allen – “Shanghaied”
Video: Bishop Allen – “Dimmer”
MySpace: Bishop Allen

Pitchfork and Offbeat have interviews with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips.

PopMatters and The AV Club chat with Thao Nguyen, namesake of Thao with The Get Down Stay Down. They’re at the El Mocambo this Sunday, November 1, and passes and CDs are still up for grabs.

Daytrotter has got a massive session with The Magnolia Electric Co available to download.

Stereogum points out that a the CBC’s QTV has been compiling a series of video guitar lessons from musical guests passing through their studios, including The National and Vampire Weekend. Did I just stop writing to dust of the guitar and learn to play, “Fake Empire”? Maybe I did. Maybe I did. Also discovered I lost my capo. No “Slow Show” for me.

Neither of these are officially confirmed, but February 9 may see a new record from Shearwater entitled The Golden Archipelago appear in stores. Jonathan Meiburg provided some details on the record this Summer to Michael Hoinski and chimed in on the band’s message boards to discuss some of the possible forms the album would be appearing in – namely different tracklistings and running orders for the CD and LP editions, with the LP coming out as a longer entity than the CD.

PitchforkTV coaxes Yo La Tengo onto a rooftop to play some songs. Or else.

The California Literary Review has an extensive feature on Nicole Atkins, currently on the road with her band The Black Sea road-testing material for album number two, set to be recorded this Winter and released next year.

NPR has a World Cafe session with New York’s Freelance Whales, who will be touring with Fanfarlo this Fall including their December 9 date at the El Mocambo so if you’re planning on being at that show – which you obviously should – make their acquaintance now. Stereogum also declared them a band to watch back in September.

Check out the third new video appearing on the Land Of Talk EP Fun & Laughter, out today. It’s stunning.

Video: Land Of Talk – “It’s Okay”

Basia Bulat will lead up to the January 26 release of her new record Heart Of My Own with her biggest and fanciest Toronto show yet, playing Trinity-St. Paul’s on January 16. Tickets are $20 in advance, on sale Thursday.

MP3: Basia Bulat – “Gold Rush”

The Line Of Best Fit has details on the next Los Campesinos record Romance Is Boring, due out January 26.

Interview has a short chat with The xx. They’re at the Phoenix on December 2.

Elbow’s Guy Garvey gives Drowned In Sound a track-by-track blow-by-blow of the deluxe edition reissue of their debut Asleep In The Back, due out on November 10.

As much as I want to put stock in this typically sensationalistic NME piece on a possible Pulp reunion for Glastonbury next year, I’m far more inclined to side with Idolator’s take on it. Jarvis is much too canny to let something as huge as that slip in that manner. And on second thought, I hope it’s false because I don’t want to have to really face the question of just how far (distance, expense, camping in mud) would I be willing to go to see Pulp live. I suspect the answer is not as far as would be necessary.