Archive for January, 2010

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

"Asleep And Dreaming"/"You're My Only Home"

Woodpigeon covers The Magnetic Fields

Photo By Lindsey BakerLindsey BakerIn last week’s selection, I mentioned that The Magnetic Fields were one the most-covered bands around (a completely arbitrary statement I can’t back up with hard facts), a fact that surely causes Stephin Merritt no small amount of distress, considering he’s on record as not being a fan of having his compositions reinterpreted by others.

Even so, I would hope he couldn’t find much to complain about in these renditions of 3% of 69 Love Songs by Calgary’s Woodpigeon. Recorded last Fall whilst in Ottawa on tour and posted on their website for free, the recordings are as simple as simple gets – just Mark Hamilton, an acoustic guitar and a little help from some friends – but serve the heartfelt sentiments of the songs perfectly.

In addition to having both released new albums this month – The Magnetic Fields with Realism and Woodpigeon with Die Stadt Muzikanten – both are coming to town in a couple weeks – the former at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on February 8 and the latter at the Drake Underground on February 11. Woodpigeon also play an in-store at Soundscapes at 5PM on, fittingly enough, Valentine’s Day. Perhaps a love song or 69 would be in order.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “Asleep And Dreaming”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “You’re My Only Home”
Stream:The Magnetic Fields – “Asleep And Dreaming”
Stream:The Magnetic Fields – “You’re My Only Home”

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

CONTEST – Laura Marling @ Lee’s Palace – February 9, 2010

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI did a double-take when English folkie Laura Marling’s upcoming show in Toronto was announced back in December because a) besides being due for a new album, there had been no official news about a release, so I certainly wasn’t expecting any North American touring so soon, and b) the venue announced – the Drake Underground – seemed awfully small. Granted, Marling isn’t an act of the stature of, say, Duffy or Adele, but she is a highly-regarded artist and Mercury Prize finalist who’d almost filled the not-much-smaller Rivoli on her first visit to town back in October 2008. Best I could figure was that they were deliberately doing smaller rooms as part of a pre-release junket to build interest in the new record, and this stop would sell out right fast.

The first part seems to have been on the money – Marling’s North American tour comes a couple months before the April 6 release of her sophomore record I Speak Because I Can and comprises just eight dates on both coasts, mostly in cozier rooms. I was also right about the selling out, as ducats for the show went pretty quickly and as such, it’s been moved to the decidedly larger Lee’s Palace – not as intimate a setting as The Drake, perhaps, but one that should be able to accommodate all her Toronto-based fans.

And if you’re one of those fans, you’re in luck. Tickets for the show are $13.50 in advance but courtesy of Collective Concerts, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away to the show – to enter, email me at contests AT with “I enter the Laura Marling contest because I can” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest will close at midnight, February 3.

Video: Laura Marling – “Devil’s Spoke”

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

CONTEST – Hadouken! @ The El Mocambo – February 9, 2010

Photo via MySpaceMySpaceI never played Street Fighter 2. I was all about Mortal Kombat 2, on account of it coming out for the PC when I was in first-year university and it’s effectiveness as a time-waster. I would generally play Raiden, partly as a tribute to the thespian skills of Christopher Lambert, and partly because his torpedo move was by far the easiest to remember. Back-back-forward. I could also teleport fairly consistently but only shoot lightning by accident and never actually knew any of the finishing moves so more often than not, my opponent would just fall down on his own.

The kids of British electro-rap-rock outfit Hadouken! were clearly Street Fighter disciples, having named their band after one of Ryu’s special moves, and it’s probably for the best since naming yourself after Raiden’s nonsensical battle cry would probably limit career prospects. A career which, given the interest surrounding the upcoming release of their frantic, dancey and party-friendly second album For The Masses next Tuesday, February 2, is coming along quite nicely.

They’re playing the El Mocambo on February 9, one of just three North American dates along with New York and Los Angeles to promote the new record before they return in April for Coachella and, presumably, more dates. Tickets are $12 in advance but courtesy of Live Nation, I have three pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to HADOUKEN!” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Get that in to me before midnight, February 3.

There’s interviews with the band at The Daily Record, MTV UK and NME.

MP3: Hadouken! – “M.A.D.”
Video: Hadouken! – “Turn The Lights Out”
Video: Hadouken! – “M.A.D.”

Friday, January 29th, 2010


Woodhands at The Smiling Buddha in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSomething of a cold snap hit Toronto yesterday, so I was fortunate to have an invite to what was promised to be a hot and sweaty dance party at the Smiling Buddha bar, soundtracked by Woodhands showcasing their just-released second album Remorsecapade. Granted, it’d have probably been just as warm if I’d just stayed home, but experience has taught me that the odds of dance parties breaking out in my living room tend to be close to nil.

I think there’s a temptation to not take Woodhands entirely seriously – I mean, the image of Dan Werb shrieking himself hoarse whilst rocking out with a keytar will tend to elicit double-takes. But perhaps the visuals are meant to disarm, because you dismiss Woodhands at your peril – the energy and intensity of their aural experience is deadly serious… or at least as serious as synth-rock that intends to grab you by the lapels and scream, “ARE YOU HAVING A GOOD TIME?” in your face can be. It was something I experienced first in September when the duo were a last-minute addition to Toronto stop of the ill-fated Perez Hilton tour, but this setting was much better suited for them as far as atmosphere went.

With drummer Paul Banwatt behind his kit and Werb manning a massive bank of synths and mixers to go with his keytar, Woodhands takes up almost as much room on stage as a conventional rock band and were about as loud. Their set drew from both their debut Heart Attack and the new record, with this being the first time some of the new material had been translated live. Any hiccups were lost on the packed bar, though, whom I think were attempting to dance though it was hard to tell past the wall of photographers up front – myself included – trying in vain to shoot in the near-darkness of the room. There was definitely swaying and bobbing, at least, and a Rockwell nod from Banwatt. The high point of the set came at the finale when guest vocalist Maylee Todd joined them to reprise her vocals on “Dissembler” and “Dancer”, easily my favourite cuts off of Remorsecode and Heart Attack, respectively. Werb and Banwatt are great on their own but the addition of the female element really puts them over the top.

Evil Monito talks to Dan Werb about their past touring experiences. Their future touring experiences will include a free show at MTV Canada on February 2 (hit them up for tickets) and a cross-Canada tour that includes a March 11 show at the Opera House opening up for k-os.

Photos: Woodhands @ The Smiling Buddha – January 28, 2010
MP3: Woodhands – “Pockets”
MP3: Woodhands – “Dancer”
MP3: Woodhands – “I Wasn’t Made For Fighting”
Video: Woodhands – “CP24”
Video: Woodhands – “I Wasn’t Made For Fighting”
MySpace: Woodhands

The Vancouver Sun, The Calgary Herald and The Georgia Straight talk to Joel Plaskett. In addition to those Thrush Hermit reunion shows at Lee’s on March 26 and 27, it appears Plaskett is making a Canadian Musicfest appearance at the Mod Club on March 13 as part of the Sirius Songwriter’s Cafe, so think acoustic-y and talk-y. And Jeff Martin from the Tea Party is there too, so ask your self how much you like Joel Plaskett.

And speaking of Canadian Musicfest, the list of confirmed performers has gotten bigger, more hyperlinked (that’s right, I said “hyperlink”. In 2010. Deal with it) and a very preliminary schedule is up.

Pitchfork solicits a list of his current favourite things from Owen Pallett. He plays the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on April 8.

Spinner has premiered the new video from Zeus’ full-length debut Say Us, due out February 23. They’re playing Lee’s Palace on March 10.

Video: Zeus – “Marching Through Your Head”

Daytrotter has posted up a downloadable session with The Dears.

RCRDLBL is giving away an acoustic Metric track.

A few more-specific-than-previously-known-but-still-vague album release dates… look for a new record from Land Of Talk this Spring, the next effort from The Acorn come May, which is approximately when Born Ruffians’ Say It should be out. The Acorn are at Lee’s Palace on March 12 and Born Ruffians at The Phoenix on March 14.

BBC6, The List and The Times talk to White Rabbits.

Ear Farm has a short interview with Sharon Van Etten, in town twice in the next while – opening up for Great Lake Swimmers at Trinity-St. Paul’s on February 6 and then at the Horseshoe on April 5 with Megafaun.

The Bird & The Bee have announced they’ll release the self-explanatory Guiltless Pleasures Volume 1: A Tribute To Daryl Hall And John Oates on March 23, which I personally find quite exciting because having grown up in the ’80s I have a distinctly unironic appreciation for the works of Hall & Oates, and having seen The Bird & The Bee do “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” at SxSW last year, I know they’ll do a fantastic job with them. Yep.

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

I Don't Know What To Say

Review of The Magnetic Fields’ Realism

Image via NonesuchNonesuchI recently finished reading Our Noise, the book about Merge Records’ 20th anniversary (which is excellent and highly recommended, by the way), and was struck by three of the bands covered in-depth, and the paths they’ve taken. There was Spoon, who despite becoming more successful with each album have chosen to stick with the label that got them there; Neutral Milk Hotel, who retired after crafting their masterpiece; and The Magnetic Fields, who used their own career-defining work as a stepping stone to the majors, and a deal with Nonesuch. And much like the problem of a sports team signing a free agent player after a career year, there was no guarantee that they’d ever be able to repeat the feat.

While hardly idle in the past decade – Stephin Merritt has tried his hand at soundtracks and musicals – the output from the formerly prolific Magnetic Fields has slowed down considerably, with this week’s Realism only their third release in the past decade and, perhaps more importantly, the final part of their self-declared “no synths” trilogy. Important not so much because it represents the climax of another creative masterwork, but because the return to synthesized sounds on the next record will hopefully mean a return to form for the band.

This is not to suggest that the problems with The Magnetic Fields’ 21st century output have been chiefly tied to their choice of instrumentation or their choice of label. It’s just that since the concepts behind their albums switched from thematic to aesthetic, they’ve been consistently less memorable. And it’s not that writing songs whose titles began with the letter “i” – as on i – or are recorded with an early Jesus & Mary Chain production style – as on the aptly-titled Distortion – couldn’t yield good records; it’s just that they haven’t been up to the standard of earlier Magnetic Fields works and I’d rather blame the conceit than the creator.

Realism‘s angle is that it’s the folk-pop record, recorded almost completely with acoustic instruments, and as such it’s sonically lovely; the guitars, strings and woodwinds far more pleasing to these ears, at least, than the unrelenting square wave-ism of Distortion. On the songwriting side of things, however, it sadly fits with its predecessors as feeling decidedly detached and not measuring up to what Merritt has already proven himself capable of. Certainly it’s melodic and more than few clever turns of phrase, but the honest, emotional vulnerability that was present in his Merge-era work and which seemed to evaporate post-Love Songs remains elusive, hidden behind a shield of irony. But Merritt has always been more interested in the craftsmanship of the song rather than its potential as a means of personal, emotional expression so perhaps this isn’t a surprise, and more the natural and inevitable evolution of his art. I personally hope that’s not the case, and somewhere in the closet with all his synths also lies his heart and they’ll all be back in play with the next record.

The Magnetic Fields play the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on February 8. Exclaim has assembled a timeline following the career of Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields. The National Post, CBC, Metro Weekly, Spinner, Pitchfork and Drowned In Sound all have interviews with Merritt and DiS also has a stream of the album. There’s also a series of videos about the making of the record over at Nonesuch and How Fucking Romantic is a wonderful blog dedicated to rendering 69 Love Songs in illustration.

MP3: The Magnetic Fields – “Everything Is One Big Christmas”
Video: The Magnetic Fields – “We Are Having A Hootenanny”
Stream: The Magnetic Fields / Realism
MySpace: The Magnetic Fields

Exclaim and NPR have interviews with Spoon. They’re at the Sound Academy on March 29.

Paper and The Baltimore Sun have feature interviews with Beach House, whose Teen Dream was finally released this week. Of all the videos they briefly premiered last week, the one for “Silver Soul” has stuck around. The others can be seen on the DVD component of the album. They play the Opera House on March 30.

Video: Beach House – “Silver Soul”

Prefix talks to Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasser and Andy Stack. They’ll be at Lee’s Palace on April 1 opening up for Shearwater.

Shearwater frontman Jonathan Meiburg has penned a piece for The Huffington Post on the topics of climate change and population explosion. Their new album The Golden Archipelago is out February 23.

Dallas Observer has a huge feature on Midlake while The Line Of Best Fit and QuickDFW interview frontman Tim Smith. Their new album The Courage Of Others is out next week but streaming at NPR now, while The Guardian will be giving away five studio session tracks from the band this Saturday.

Stream: Midlake / The Courage Of Others

Pitchfork has some details on and a stream of a new song from Joanna Newsom’s forthcoming triple – you read that right – album Have One On Me, out March 23. She plays The Phoenix on March 13.

Tulsa World interviews Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan.

Sterogum gets a progress report from School Of Seven Bells on their second album Disconnect From Desire, due out this Spring.

Spinner talks to Rogue Wave’s Zach Schwartz about their new record Permalight, due out March 2. They’re at the Mod Cub on February 26.

MP3: Rogue Wave – “Good Morning”

Black Book talks to Steve Earle.

Full dates for the Serena Maneesh North American tour have been announced, but contrary to what the listing says the April 2 Toronto show will indeed be at The Great Hall, as previously reported, and not the Opera House. I asked; it’s cool. S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor is still out March 23 and a second MP3 from the record has just been put out into the world.

MP3: Serena Maneesh – “I Just Want To See Your Face”