Archive for November, 2009

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009


Review Of Evening Hymns’ Spirit Guides and giveaway

Photo via eveninghymns.comeveninghymns.comThey say you can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep, and nowhere is this more true than in the case of Peterborough’s Jonas Bonnetta, aka Evening Hymns, who first earned notice in these parts back in June opening up for Ohbijou. The liner notes of his second album, the just-released Spirit Guides, reads like a who’s who of the Bellwoods crew, including members of Forest City Lovers, Ohbijou and The Wooden Sky, to name but a few, and if you want to take that as an implicit “RIYL”, then you won’t be disappointed.

Throughout Spirit Guides, Bonnetta echoes the sounds of his peers – Ohbijou’s orchestral flourishes, the Wooden Sky’s rustic melancholy, Bruce Peninsula’s ghostly chorals, The Acorn’s nimble balancing of folk and rock – and as such, sounds and feels immediately comfortable to anyone who’s been following the sound of Toronto/southern Ontario over the last few years. Sublimated together, however, they form something that’s so cohesive and perfectly suited to the songs they adorn, that focusing on its familiarity is to miss the point entirely.

Wearing reverb like an early morning fog, Spirit Guides is the sound of Bonnetta wandering through the wilderness, both literally and allegorically, burdened by memory and regret and searching for salvation, shelter, something – anything. His voice is warm and worn, inherently a thing of the earth, but it still seeks to soar and when buoyed by the host of ethereal backing vocals, manages to do so. And for all the weightiness that’s implied, Spirit Guides is still every bit a pop record, full of wonderful melodies and hooks and, most importantly, the ability to make the deepest melancholia feel uplifting. It’s a lonely record that never feels alone. And though I didn’t realize it on initial listens, perhaps too busy playing “who does this remind me of”, it’s wholly remarkable and quite possibly essential.

Evening Hymns is marking the record’s release with a couple of shows next week – a free in-store at Soundscapes on Wednesday, December 2 at 7PM and a full and proper show at the Tranzac on December 4. Tickets for that will be $10 at the door but courtesy of Out Of This Spark, I’ve got a copy of Evening Hymns on CD to give away along with a couple of passes to the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to sing an Evening Hymn” in the subject line and your full name in the body, and have that in to me by midnight, December 1.

MP3: Evening Hymns – “Dead Deer”
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Broken Rifle”
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Cedars”
MySpace: Evening Hymns

Gavin Gardiner of The Wooden Sky teaches QTV – and you! – how to play “Something Waiting For Us In The Night” on guitar.

Brian Borcherdt, who opened up for The Wooden Sky at Lee’s a couple weeks back has made good on his promise to release a free album – Torches is available to grab from his website now. And it’s a double-set, no less. Or it would be if it actually existed in physical form. But you could burn it onto two discs and pretend. I will shut up now. Or after I mention he’s also got a new video from his last record Coyotes.

ZIP: Brian Borcherdt / Torches
Video: Brian Borcherdt – “While I Was Asleep”

The Hylozoists have scheduled a show at the Whipper Snapper Gallery on December 17 to celebrate the release of a new video for “Bras d’Or Lakes”. Until then, it remains heard and not seen.

MP3: The Hylozoists – “Bras d’Or Lakes”

Stereo Subversion has a feature piece on Broken Social Scene and what it sees as the advent of collectives over traditional bands.

A track from Fucked Up’s forthcoming singles collection – Couple Tracks, out January 26 – is now available to download. I Heart The Music has posted an interview with frontman Damian Abraham just before their Polaris Prize win in September.

MP3: Fucked Up – “Neat Parts”

Spinner talks to Sloan’s Chris Murphy about the hit-and-run accident which broke his collarbone this Summer and inspired the title of their just-released digital EP Hit & Run. A primarily east-coast tribute album to Sloan was also just released – Take It In is available digitally; check out The Acorn and ex-Plumtree bassist Catriona Sturton do “Snowsuit Sound” on the label’s MySpace.

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009


Review of Charlotte Hatherley’s New Worlds

Photo via MyspaceMySpaceI don’t remember if I read somewhere that Charlotte Hatherley has synesthesia (the condition wherein your visual cognition is tied to your aural and, amongst other symptoms, you see colours or shapes when you hear sounds – experienced by the likes of Lightspeed Champion and Ida Maria, amongst others), but even if she doesn’t you could be forgiven if you assumed she did. Her first two solo records, Grey Will Fade and The Deep Blue, obviously referenced colours in their titles and her while her third record New Worlds has no chromatic reference in its name, the music within is fairly obsessed with all the shades of the rainbow.

Almost every song references a colour, either as literal, metaphor or adjective, and that theme acts as a common thread between the ten songs which run a stylistic gamut from spiky rockers (“Colours”) to dreamy ballads (the front half of “Alexander”l) with forays into circus music (the unexpected “Firebird”). Whereas her debut was a pretty straight-ahead, hooktacular bit of power pop, The Deep Blue dialed down much of the instant gratification quotient in favour of songs that favoured a more leisurely and eccentric New Wave-friendly approach. While it was unfailingly melodic, full of tasty guitarwork and with its share of high points, its eclecticism came at the expense of some cohesion. New Worlds hangs together much better, making it a much smoother and enjoyable ride as it twists and turns from hook to hook and successfully balances Grey‘s pop/rock-friendliness with Blue‘s more experimental inclinations. To do either well is difficult enough; to do them both as naturally and effortlessly as Hatherley has proven herself able with record number three is a feat.

New Worlds was supposed to be the first Charlotte Hatherley album to get North American distribution but that’s shaken out to be just digital (eMusic and iTunes in the US, iTune-only in Canada), so those of use still enamored with physical media had to go the import route anyways. Still, rumours persist of some North American (read: US) tour dates in the new year – a Charlotte show is on the list of things I would get on a plane for. Okay, it’s not an especially exclusive list, but still.

MP3: Charlotte Hatherley – “Colours”
MP3: Charlotte Hatherley – “White”
Video: Charlotte Hatherley – “Alexander”
Video: Charlotte Hatherley – “White”
MySpace: Charlotte Hatherley

Spin declares Fanfarlo to be a “hot new band”, and if that’s not enough to convince you to come out and see them at the El Mocambo on December 15, then I don’t know what is.

I asked (rhetorically) what reason Billy Bragg had to be touring Canada this month – well besides serenading the masses, he’s also found the time to address Parliament on the subject of copyright and perform for picketers outside the Canadian Museum of Civilization. He also chatted with The Vancouver Sun.

Same Some has an extensive interview with Patrick Wolf.

Pitchfork talks to the director of the video for Jarvis Cocker’s “Further Complications” about the making of the clip.

Video: Jarvis Cocker – “Further Complications”

The Line Of Best Fit has details on Massive Attack’s next album, entitled Heligoland and due out on February 8.

Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce talks to The Quietus about how working on the 10th anniversary reissue of Ladies & Gentleman We Are Floating In Space influenced the writing of the next Spiritualized record, currently in progress. The reissue is out December 9 in a variety of formats, including this ridiculously cool blister pack edition.

Adam Franklin discusses the feelings around Swervedriver’s first hometown show in over a decade with The Oxford Mail. Oxford being their hometown. If that wasn’t clear.

The Independent profiles Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine.

There’s a trio of Noah & The Whale remixes for “Love Of An Orchestra” available to grab for free – enjoy reinterpretations by Max Tundra, Night Waves and Gold Panda.

Both Drowned In Sound and The Skinny declare that 2010 will be the year of the (Frightened) Rabbit. Their new album The Winter Of Mixed Drinks is out March 1 and Stereogum has radio rips of a couple new songs to download.

JAM talks to Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos.

Camera Obscura’s forthcoming Christmas single is now available to stream over at 4AD. The Jim Reeves cover is out on 7″ and digitally on December 8 and they play the Phoenix this Thursday night – congratulations to Scott and Andrea, who won passes to the show.

Monday, November 23rd, 2009


The Rural Alberta Advantage, Bahamas and Fox Jaws at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt was just 51 weeks ago that The Rural Alberta Advantage first stepped onto the stage at Lee’s Palace, there as support for a co-headlining show featuring two of the most lauded indie acts in Canada – The Acorn and Ohbijou. They seemed a bit awed by the scale of their surroundings, having mostly played the smaller, cozier rooms of the city to that point, but were far from intimidated and deliver another wonderful set and as I commented at the time, “I’ve long said that people simply need to hear them to love them, and I think it’s finally happening”. Now I’m not going to suggest that I have any particular soothsaying abilities, but on that point, I daresay I nailed it.

The past year has been a fairy tale for the trio, particularly the last six months or so in which they’ve gone from local heroes to genuine international (hey, America counts as a foreign country) phenomenons, re-releasing their debut album Hometowns on a major independent label and touring the continent multiple times over, selling out larger and larger venues each time out and gaining fans and accolades along the way – people hear them and they love them. Simple. So while their completely sold-out hometown show at Lee’s Palace on Friday night didn’t mark the end of their whirlwind 2009 – they commence another US tour the second week of December – it did provide a tidy, full-circle point for those of us predisposed to tidiness in such matters.

Opening the night was Barrie’s Fox Jaws, whom I hadn’t seen since August 2007 circa their debut Goodbye Doris. They’ve since released their second record and despite the epic-length title – At Odds (or: Exercises In Separation While United In The Fall) – low-frills, spirited and soulful pop-rock is still the order of the day. The raw and raspy vocals of Carleigh Aikens remains their super power but in a sense, it’s also their kryptonite. It’s so evocative of the blues-rock belters synonymous with classic rock radio that even when they try to expand their sound beyond the more straight-ahead, it tends to overpower. Still, it’s not the worst problem to have and when they play to their strengths, they put on an impressive and entertaining show.

Though I’d never seen Bahamas before, their scorecard started at a handicap. I’d seen principal Afie Jurvanen a couple times some years back, both solo and fronting Paso Mino, and hadn’t been impressed so while I was wiling to give his newest project a fair shake, it was going to be a tough sell. And the boxscore went something like this: points lost for the popped collar on the lumberjack shirt, points lost for the affected, stoner-dude banter (the “nice, nice” shtick isn’t working) , points gained for a couple of really funny jokes despite the aforementioned demerit though it’s worth noting that he was only genuinely funny when he strayed off script and actually interacted with the audience, points gained for some seriously tasty guitarwork, points gained for having better and more memorable songs than from what I recall from his past shows, points gained for playing a funky old Silvertone rather than the titular Pink Strat of his album, massive points gained for starting to cover Prince’s “Purple Rain”, all points lost for not following through with it – only delivering a couple of verses and ditching it only a little ways into the solo. I know he could have knocked it out of the park, but instead just walked away. Such a shame.

By this point, I think I should be disqualified from trying to offer up any review of an RAA show – I’ve seen them too many times (this was occasion eight or nine) and have too much affection for them as individuals and their music to even try and pretend to be objective. So with that disclaimer in mind, take my declaration that they put on yet another great show for whatever you think it’s worth. Set up in line across the front of the Lee’s stage, the trio were visibly overwhelmed by the size and fervor of the congregation of folks who’d come out to see them. And it’s understandable – as recently as this Spring, they would play constantly around the city and while always appreciated, were probably taken for granted some. But to so quickly be in a situation where outside scalpers were plying their trade and inside the fans were jumping up and down and singing along to every word – that’s a trip.

Over the course of the hour-long set, all of Hometowns was aired (save for “The Air”) and though they’ve been working that material for as long as I’ve been following the band – nigh on three years now – they still perform it with as much energy as emotion as ever and just as they don’t seem to tire of playing the songs, I still don’t tire of hearing them played. That said, it was exciting to hear more and more new material working its way into the set – some of the songs more fully evolved than others, but all carrying the trademark RAA sound and style. With the new year bringing even more touring for the band, it’s hard to say when they’ll have a chance to get down to recording album number two, but you can hardly fault them for wanting to keep riding this wave, which shows no signs of abating. After all, as the cover of The Littlest Hobo theme which they slipped in mid-set says, “Down this road that never seems to end, where new adventure lies just around the bend… Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down, until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on”. There may already be a “Ballad Of The RAA” but for the moment, this is their song.

BlogTO and Narratives also have reviews of the show.

Photos: The Rural Alberta Advantage, Bahamas, Fox Jaws @ Lee’s Palace – November 20, 2009
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Frank, AB”
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Don’t Haunt This Place”
MP3: Fox Jaws – “Karmonica”
MP3: Fox Jaws – “Quarantine Girl”
MySpace: The Rural Alberta Advantage
MySpace: Fox Jaws, The Star-Telegram and The St. Petersburg Times interview Neko Case.

John Darnielle discusses the Biblical themes of The Life Of The World To Come with Nashville Scene.

Califone has been added as support for Wilco’s upcoming Hamilton and London shows on February 23 and 24, respectively. Their latest album is All My Friends Are Funeral Singers.

MP3: Califone – “Funeral Singers”
MP3: Califone – “Ape-Like”
Video: Califone – “Funeral Singers”

The Von Bondies, last seen in these parts tearing up the tiny Boardwalk Stage at V Fest, have set a December 5 date at the El Mocambo as part of a benefit show for Toronto’s homeless. Tickets are $15 in advance, donations of winter coats or blankets gratefully accepted.

MP3: The Von Bondies – “This Is Our Perfect Crime”
MP3: The Von Bondies – “Pale Bride”

Baeble Music has a Guest Apartment video session with El Perro Del Mar.

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

"Head Like A Hole"

Devo cover Nine Inch Nails

Photo via AmazonAmazonAt first glance, it seems a strange pairing – absurdist ’80s New Wave/art-rock pioneers Devo taking on nihilist ’90s industrial rock pioneers Nine Inch Nails, but no stranger than the project for which it was intended – the soundtrack to the 1996 US release of Jackie Chan’s Supercop. Of course, nothing is ever really that ridiculous where Devo is involved, ridiculousness being key to their creative mandate. And I’ve always found Nine Inch Nails somewhat ridiculous as well, so Devo’s re-do of their angst anthem actually goes down better in these parts than the original.

Devo are wrapping a short North American tour this Monday and Tuesday in Toronto with shows at The Phoenix wherein their perform Q: Are We Not Men? A: We are DEVO! and Freedom Of Choice in their entirety, one each night, and will release their first new album in twenty years next year with Fresh. Nine Inch Nails went on hiatus this year following a final round of touring, giving Trent Reznor more time to focus on his Twittering.

NOW has an interview with Devo’s Gerald Casale.

MP3: Devo – “Head Like A Hole”
Video: Nine Inch Nails – “Head Like A Hole”

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

CONTEST – Camera Obscura @ The Phoenix – November 26, 2009

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThings that you can take to the bank: one, that every couple years Scotland’s Camera Obscura will return with a new album of gorgeous, increasingly orchestral pop and two, that they’ll tour North America at least twice in support of said record, if not more.

To point one, we have their latest record My Maudlin Career, released back in April, and to point two, we have a two-week trek that started earlier this week and which rolls into The Phoenix in Toronto next Thursday, November 26, and which follows a Summer tour that saw them play Lee’s Palace back in June. And actually, this was their third North American jaunt in 2009, with them having played some dates at SxSW in March, though that itinerary didn’t bring them up this way.

Tickets for the Toronto show are $20.50 in advance, 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 see Camera Obscura” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Get that to me before midnight, November 23.

MP3: Camera Obscura – “My Maudlin Career”
MP3: Camera Obscura – “French Navy”
Video: Camera Obscura – “The Sweetest Thing”
Video: Camera Obscura – “Honey In The Sun”
Video: Camera Obscura – “French Navy”