Archive for May, 2010

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Magic Word

Fucked Up and $100 at The Toronto Reference Library in Toronto (duh)

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangTruth be told, I don’t really like listening to Fucked Up. This isn’t any sort of comment on them in particular, just the fact that hardcore – their genre of choice – has never done much for me though if I were given the choice of current hardcore acts to listen to, I’d certainly choose them. If The Chemistry Of Common Life was Fucked Up’s Zen Arcade, then let me know when they release their Candy Apple Grey.

That said, I am a big fan of how they’ve become unlikely but excellent musical champions and ambassadors for Toronto at home and abroad, how they’ve used their elevated profile as reigning Polaris Prize winners to shed light on important social issues and their ridiculously entertaining and intense live shows. The hometown pride and sense of community was in full effect this past Friday night when they played a free show in the atrium of the Toronto Reference Library. That’s right, a free hardcore show in the lobby of a public library – no tickets, just show up – as part of the Toronto Public Library’s Make Some Noise Take Some Noise program, which makes sure that the library system is well-stocked with local and Canadian music, holds periodic concerts and workshops to engage the community with their local scene and generally be awesome.

The undercard for the night was almost as far from screaming hardcore as you could get – local country-rock outfit $100, themselves 2009 Polaris Prize long-listers for their debut Forest Of Tears. On record and live, they’ve always come across to me as a decent but not especially exciting act – good at what they do, but not really bringing anything fresh to the table. That general opinion hasn’t changed much, but their set was more entertaining than I remembered them being and the material they introduced as new had more immediacy and personality. And points to singer Simone Fornow for pointing out, while introducing their ode to the bleakness of work “Fourteen Hour Day”, that the Reference Library’s many floors overlooking the atrium would offer librarians an easy way out. A bleak sentiment, but pretty hilarious in context.

Given the disparity in styles between the two acts, it’s not surprising that there was some audience turnaround between sets with some folks who’d been sitting genially at the foot of the stage for $100 wisely decamping for somewhere more out of the line of fire. Wise, because when Fucked Up finally got up there, pretty much all hell broke loose in the very best way. I don’t know if anyone thought that their fanbase might have gotten tamer what with having (marginally) more mainstream exposure, but even though there were many, like me, who’d probably never be at another hardcore show in their lives, the kids crowdsurfing, stage-diving and generally going batshit. It was the sort of thing you’d normally only expect to see in such a locale after some breaking and entering, but this was an officially sanctioned and sponsored event. By the library.

There was a relative lull about mid-set where they invited some strings onstage and frontman Damian Abraham – by this point half-naked as always – set up behind a lectern for the epic-length “Year Of The Ox” but that just gave the audience an opportunity to catch their breath and when the band revved back up, so did the crowd. Despite being knocked down a couple of times, I managed to hold my position at the front side of the stage for most of the show but eventually had to pull back when my camera lens was knocked off the body – that’s not supposed to happen – and ceased functioning. A casualty of rock’n’roll – if you’re gonna go, that’s the way to do it (actually it’s just going to be in the shop a couple weeks). Anyways, from my final vantage point on the perimeter, watching the final throes of the chaos, I couldn’t help marveling – again – that this was happening in the public library. Sometimes – okay, lots of times – I love this city.

Exclaim rounds up what’s coming up for Fucked Up – a Fall tour with Public Enemy and new album entitled David Comes to Life in October chief among them, while Vue, See and Uptown ran features on the band when they were out west a couple weeks ago.

Photos: Fucked Up, $100 @ The Toronto Reference Library – May 28, 2010
MP3: Fucked Up – “Neat Parts”
MP3: Fucked Up – “No Epiphany”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Twice Born”
Video: Fucked Up – “Black Albino Bones”
Video: Fucked Up – “Crooked Head”
MySpace: Fucked Up
MySpace: $100

Interview talks to Emily Haines of Metric. They’re at the Molson Amphitheatre on July 9 and have released a new video from Fantasies.

Video: Metric – “Stadium Love”

Spinner, The Winnipeg Free Press, Whistler Question and Pique talk to Shad about his new record TSOL. He plays the Opera House on June 12 and has a new video. Yes.

Video: Shad – “Rose Garden”

Stereogum gets a status update on the new Black Mountain album from Amber Webber. It may or may not be called Wilderness but it will definitely be previewed when they play the Horseshoe on July 23.

Carl Newman of The New Pornographers gives Chart the incredible true origin of their band name – and it’s not the Jimmy Swaggert quote that’s usually cited. They’re at the Sound Academy on June 15, and as a sidebar, New Pornographers vocalist/keyboardist Kathryn Calder has a solo record coming out entitled Are You My Mother? on August 10.

MP3: Kathryn Calder – “Slip Away”

NPR talks to Win and Will Butler of Arcade Fire about their new record The Suburbs, coming August 3. They play the Toronto Islands on August 14.

Dallas Good of The Sadies talks to JAM and The Winnipeg Free Press while brother Travis chats with The Vancouver Sun. They play a free show at Harbourfront Centre on Canada Day, July 1.

NOW and Exclaim have interviews with Born Ruffians, whose new record Say It is out tomorrow.

Audio Blood Media is kicking off NXNE this year in style – and altitude – with a show on the observation deck of the CN Tower featuring The Meligrove Band, Hollerado and The Balconies. Admission is by contest only – enter here.

Also happening during NXNE is the release of the new Diamond Rings single, which will happen at his June 18 show at Wrongbar. Pitchfork, however, has a streamable preview of the new track – “Show Me Your Stuff” – right now.

And to double back on the “things about Toronto that are awesome/things that happened in the Toronto Reference Library” tip… new Scott Pilgrim Vs The World trailer! Book six – Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour – is out July 20 and the movie opens August 13. Midnight opening night screening – who’s in?

Trailer: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

"Pretty In Pink"

The National cover The Psychedelic Furs

Illustration By Johnnie CluneyJohnnie CluneyThe what: The National recording a rare and unexpected cover – a shimmering interpretation of “Pretty In Pink” by British art rockers Psychedelic Furs, which inspired the John Hughes ’80s teen classic film of the same name and in turn, became one of the band’s biggest hits in North America (after being re-recorded and cleaned up, of course).

The when and where: It was recorded in 2007 for internet treasure Daytrotter whilst the band were on tour in support of Boxer.

The why now: The National released their latest opus High Violet earlier this month. Violet isn’t too far off from pink on most colour wheels worth their salt. The National are in town next week for two shows at Massey Hall – June 8 and June 9. The Psychedelic Furs are in town for an intimate show at Lee’s Palace for the first of those nights, June 8. I don’t expect any Richard Butler guest spots with The National or anything, but these are the sort of sychronicities that make me happy.

The what else: The Houston Chronicle has an interview with The National while Consequence Of Sound has found some videos of Matt Berninger and the Dessner brothers playing stripped-down versions of “Anyone’s Ghost” and “Fake Empire” outside of Los Angeles garage. Just because, I guess.

MP3: The National – “Pretty In Pink”
Video: The Psychedelic Furs – “Pretty In Pink” (original)
Video: Psychedelic Furs – “Pretty In Pink” (soundtrack version)

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

CONTEST – Gord Downie & The Country Of Miracles / The Grand Bounce

Image via AmazonAmazonWhen Sloan sang, “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans” in “Coax Me”, they were referring to Consolidated but the sentiment could well have applied to their fellow Canadian rock icons The Tragically Hip, who have the dubious honour of possessing some of the most obnoxious fans north of the 49th. My last run-in with them was thankfully some 17 years ago (whew!) but I still shake my head at the memory of them essentially booing Daniel Lanois off the stage at Molson Park, as though it would have brought The Hip out to play any sooner. And amazingly, all these years later, they still come out in throngs and sit through all the new material that the band continue to produce, just waiting to hear “50 Mission Cap” and “New Orleans Is Sinking” and high five one another.

So while I’m sure that Gord Downie appreciates his fans and the fact that they’re loyalty pays his mortgage, it’s not surprising that he’s felt the need to craft a solo career, separate from The Hip, that in theory allows him to explore his art without worrying about how it might be received by his band’s less open-minded fanbase. His third such solo endeavour The Grand Bounce finds him backed by a new band called The Country Of Miracles and produced by Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla. With its bright, faintly country-rock vibe and Downie’s ever-evocative lyricism, The Grand Bounce is honestly the first Hip or Hip-related project I’ve listened to since the turn of the century and, if they’ve all been nearly as good as this is, perhaps I shouldn’t have let those aforementioned fans put me off their more recent works. That said, you still couldn’t pay me enough to go to a Hip show. No sir.

The Grand Bounce is out on June 8 on CD but the double-vinyl edition was quietly released yesterday and courtesy of Universal Music Canada, I’ve got a copy of the LP to give away. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want The Grand Bounce” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address in the body and get that to me before midnight, June 8 – contest open to residents of Canada.

Video: Gord Downie & The Country Of Miracles – “The East Wind”

Friday, May 28th, 2010

The Remains Of The Day

Mono and The Twilight Sad at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe curious pairing of Japan’s Mono and Scotland’s Twilight Sad probably hasn’t yielded many tour stories as they trek across North America – after all, the former can barely speak English, if at all, and the latter might speak English but it’s delivered in such a thick brogue that even native Anglophones would have trouble deciphering it. I imagine there’s been a lot of nodding and pointing. But what they lack in linguistic common ground, they make up for in their mutual affinity and expertise in sonic devastation and those skills were put on display on Wednesday night at Lee’s Palace.

Though they’d finally earned headlining honours their last time through town in October of last year, The Twilight Sad were again in the support slot this time. Now I’m never one to complain about venues leaving the stage lights up, but seeing a band whose music tends towards a certain mood – darkness and melancholy – it was odd seeing the Glasgow five-piece so well lit… at least for a song. Singer James Graham asked for them to be dimmed, not for ambience but because it was hot enough in Lee’s without a bank of incandescent stage lights pointed at you.

None of which is really meaningful except to say that it started their set off on a strange note that seemed to carry over into their performance. Part of the joys of The Twilight Sad live has always been the sheer, visceral impact of their sound and though it was plenty loud – I pulled the earplugs out a couple times to verify – it still didn’t seem quite loud enough. Certainly Andy MacFarlane had his amps turned up and James Graham was hardly taking it easy on the mic, but it took them a while – almost the whole set – to get the momentum going sufficiently to create what I’d call a proper Twilight Sad experience. They got there, though, and by Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters “I Am Taking The Train Home”, I was feeling the magic and pulverizing set closer “Cold Days From The Birdhouse” sealed the deal.

I’d never seen Mono before, and my experience with their recorded works only went so far as their EP collection Gone. Even so, instrumental post-rock isn’t really the sort of genre where you have to be intimately familiar with a band’s compositions to appreciate the show – it’s more about the impact and emotiveness of the performance as it happens rather than the hearing of a favourite tunes. And in the case of Mono, the performance is in reference primarily to the music and not the band’s showmanship. The four members are rather the epitome of staying in the background and letting the music speak for them, for not only did they not utter a word, they set up a ways back into the stage and only bassist Tamaki Kunishi played standing up – both Takaakira Goto and Yasunori Takada played primarily seated and hunched over their guitars, hair obscuring their faces, though they occasionally stood and still managed to strike some impressive rock poses at various points in the night.

Trying to describe Mono invites some obvious comparisons, at least in my frame of reference, but really, in this style you’ve only got a certain number of tools to work with. The clean, intertwining guitar lines, the deafening riffage, the quiet-loud dynamic shifts… what sets the artists apart is the emotional quotient of their work; what they’re trying to convey to the listener. And where the likes of Mogwai evoke tension and anxiety and Explosions In The Sky trade in uplift and anthem, Mono’s prevailing mood is of elegant, elegiac sadness. The way their set unfolded was like an alternately hypnotic and crushing epic, wordless tragedy – surprisingly western in classical musical influence but wholly eastern in its solemn dignity. As previously noted, I couldn’t tell you what songs they played but I can say that whatever the individual components were, the sum of it was nearly two hours of breathtaking, bludgeoning beauty. Astonishing.

The Twilight Sad will release a new EP entitled The Wrong Side Of The Car on July 26.

Photos: Mono, The Twilight Sad @ Lee’s Palace – May 26, 2010
MP3: Mono – “Ashes In The Snow”
MP3: Mono – “Follow The Map”
MP3: Mono – “Gone”
MP3: Mono – “The Flames Beyond The Cold Mountain”
MP3: Mono – “Halcyon (Beautiful Days)”
MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Reflection Of The Television”
MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Cold Days From The Birdhouse”
MP3: The Twilight Sad – “That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy”
Video: Mono – “Follow The Map”
Video: The Twilight Sad – “The Room”
Video: The Twilight Sad – “Seven Years Of Letters”
Video: The Twilight Sad – “I Became A Prostitute”
Video: The Twilight Sad – “And She Would Darken The Memory”
MySpace: Mono
MySpace: The Twilight Sad

Drowned In Sound meets Charlotte Gainsbourg, who has released a new video from IRM.

Video: Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Time Of The Assassins”

Nicky Wire resorts to Aerosmith analogies in describing to XFM how the Manic Street Preachers’ new record is shaping up.

PitchforkTV has a Tunnelvision session with The Clientele.

Elvis Costello will have at least two new releases this year: an album of new material entitled American Ransom on October 3 and a best-of covering the past 20 years called Pomp & Pout: The Universal Years, due on June 29.

Mumford & Sons have a new video from Sigh No More; City Pages has an interview.

Video: Mumford & Sons – “Roll Your Stone Away”

Spinner continues their conversation with Tender Trap’s Amelia Fletcher.

The New York Times has a profile of M.I.A. which has ignited a bit of a brouhaha – details at Exclaim. M.I.A.’s new record /\/\/\Y/\ is out July 13.

Fucked Up have posted some details and thoughts on tonight’s free show at the Toronto Reference Library. Doors are at 7:30, things start at 8 and while the library atrium is big, you’d best get there early if you’re planning on attending. Forewarned.

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

This Is Happening

LCD Soundsystem at The Kool Haus in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI was there. In 2010. On a Tuesday night in May at the Kool Haus in Toronto. I was there when LCD Soundsystem, here from New York City, played what might have been their last show in the city. I saw them support of their third album, This Is Happening. I was there when LCD Soundsystem took my recollection of the only other time I’ve seen them, at Austin City Limits in 2007 which I found, maybe because of the early afternoon set time, kind of passive and unengaging but still entertaining. I was there when they showed me how very wrong I was, except for the entertaining part. And even that was gross understatement. Because LCD Soundsystem, at least on this night, was nothing short of amazing.

I was there when despite being surrounded by a legion of players and a forest of gear and despite looking more like a high school gym teacher than a rock star, James Murphy made bellowing into an old-school, CB-style microphone with either his talk-singing or Bowie-crooning vocals the most riveting thing you’ve ever seen. Never mind working the drums or the cowbell. I saw the rock kids and the dance kids and the punkers and the ravers and the jocks and the hipsters came together for almost two hours of insanely tight and irresistibly rhythmic common ground and make it feel like this discofied union is how things should always be. I heard James Murphy make the case for LCD as music for moving the ass while stimulating the brain. I heard James Murphy make the case for LCD as music for deep thought while shaking the ass. I was there when he made the case for being old as being awesome. I saw LCD Soundsystem turn a concert into a party.

I heard Murphy touchingly dedicate a stirring rendition of “All My Friends” to legendary and beloved Toronto artist and impresario Will Munro, who passed away from cancer this weekend. I was there when they busted out the laser show. I was there during the encore when things got a little rough up front and Murphy had to stop “Losing My Edge” to let security do their thing. I saw him ask the audience, while emphasizing that he was coming from the most positive place, to bring their enthusiasm down just a notch so as to not hurt anyone. I was there when they closed out with “New York I Love You” and its “Empire State of Mind” coda and despite this being Toronto, we felt that love and returned it.

I was there. And it was awesome.

Panic Manual was there. Chart was there. eye was there. Exclaim was there. The Georgia Straight and Montreal Gazette weren’t there but they have interviews.

Photos: LCD Soundsystem @ The Kool Haus – May 25, 2010
Video: LCD Soundsystem – “Drunk Girls”
Video: LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends”
Video: LCD Soundsystem – “Someone Great”
Video: LCD Soundsystem – “North American Scum”
Video: LCD Soundsystem – “Tribulations”
Video: LCD Soundsystem – “Daft Punk Is Playing”
Video: LCD Soundsystem – “Movement”
Video: LCD Soundsystem – “Losing My Edge”
MySpace: LCD Soundsystem

Baltimore-based but Anglo-influenced synth-pop trio Future Islands will be at Double Double Land (209 Augusta in Kensington Market – it’s okay, I had to look it up too) on June 7. Their debut album In The Air came out earlier this month. Apparently they’re quite good live, and are Guardian-approved. The Santa Barbara Independent has an interview.

MP3: Future Islands – “Tin Man”
MP3: Future Islands – “In The Fall”
Video: Future Islands – “Tin Man”

Philadelphia Weekly, The Sydney Star Observer and The Village Voice chat with Holly Miranda.

Pitchfork has details on The Orchard, the sophomore record from Ra Ra Riot, due August 24. They are at the Molson Amphitheatre on August 28 supporting Tegan & Sara and City & Colour.

The Daily Emerald talks to John Roderick of The Long Winters.

The AV Club talks to Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses, who are playing the Toronto Islands on June 19.

Paste talks to Broken Social Scene drummer Justin Peroff. BSS play the Toronto Islands on June 19. The trailer for the Bruce MacDonald-helmed Broken-themed/set/soundtracked-yet-fictional film This Movie Is Broken is now available to view; the movie opens on June 25, details over at Exclaim.

Trailer: This Movie Is Broken

Carl Newman of The New Pornographers may now reside in America, but he’s still Canadian enough to teach The New York Times a thing or two about maple syrup. The New Pornographers are at the Sound Academy on June 15.

NME reports that Arcade Fire’s third album will be entitled The Suburbs and be out on August 2 in the UK, presumably August 3 in North America. It looks like this. The single for the title track is out today. It is streaming at their website. They play the Toronto Islands on August 14.

Chromeo are at the Phoenix on August 3 with Holy Ghost! – who opened up for LCD on Tuesday – as support. Their new record Business Casual drops August 17.

Video: Chromeo – “Night By Night”

MusicOmh and Chart interview Holy Fuck. They are at the Molson Amphitheatre on July 9 opening up for Metric.

Tiny Mix Tapes, SEE and The Washington Post talk to Dan Snaith of Caribou.