Archive for August, 2011

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

A Lack Of Understanding

Review of The Vaccines’ What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?

Photo By Leon DiaperLeon DiaperLondon’s Vaccines were really asking for it with the title of their debut album, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?, what with it sounding like equal parts challenge and excuse. For my part, I didn’t expect a hell of a lot. You see, as Anglophile as I am, I’m also hella suspicious of acts that arrive on a tidal wave of hype as I’ve owned too many CDs from British guitar bands that proved to have very little shelf life. And given The Vaccines arrived with a well-orchestrated, a major label-funded buzz blitz, I assumed they’d be all hat, no cattle.

Well I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again. Rather than lose my interest with each listen, time spent with What Did You Expect‘s brief running time only made me want to hit repeat. They don’t pretend to be anything more than what they are, which is to say a quartet of kids playing rock music, but it’s uncanny the way they manage to evoke the best of British rock from over the last decade – the meat-and-potatoes simplicity of Arctic Monkeys, the scrappy snottiness of The Libertines, the open-hearted romanticism of Bloc Party – without actually sounding like any of them. Most key, however, is the fact that they’re able to write songs that are anthemic in scope yet punkish in packaging and catchy enough to warrant praise entirely on their own creative merits – “All In White” is downright stirring. It may well be that they’re just the next British guitar band of the moment, but it’s The Vaccines’ moment and they’re making the most of it.

And while this would normally be the point in the post where I tell you that The Vaccines are coming to town soon, an announcement yesterday actually instead pulled their entire Fall tour, including the September 27 date at The Phoenix – Justin Hayward-Young will need surgery on his throat for the third time this year, and doctor’s orders do not include gallivanting around the globe singing rock music. While I wasn’t going to be hitting that particular show, I was looking forward to seeing that at Iceland Airwaves in October and that show is also scotched. Here’s hoping Hayward-Young’s recovery is quick and the make-up date is a convenient one.

NME talked the band at Reading/Leeds this past weekend about their plans for album number two and Sabotage Times has an interview with guitarist Freddie Cowan.

MP3: The Vaccines – “Norgaard”
MP3: The Vaccines – “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)”
Video: The Vaccines – “Norgaard”
Video: The Vaccines – “All In White”

The Telegraph has an interview with Elbow frontman Guy Garvey. They’re at The Sound Academy on September 28 and the video of a session from this past Spring in the crypt at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral is available to stream for the next week at Absolute Radio.

The Gallagher brothers’ ongoing duel of one-upmanship has spilled over into their North American touring itinerary. Noel Gallagher has announced the first Stateside live dates in support of his solo debut Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, out November 8, and though it’s limited to major markets as the first Beady Eye jaunt was, it’s much more ambitious in scope. For example, while Beady Eye were able to fill if not quite sell out the Sound Academy back in June, Noel has booked not one but two nights at Massey Hall to open up the tour on November 7 and 8 – tickets $39.50 and $99.50 plus fees, on sale on September 9 at 10AM. Now I know that Oasis fans are devoted and Noel has said he’d play material from said band live, but still – that’s kind of… well that’s a lot of tickets to expect to sell. That’s all. Anyways, NME has another new song from the debut album available to stream.

Stream: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – “If I Had A Gun”
Video: Noel Gallagher & The High Flying Birds – “The Death Of You And Me”

Meanwhile, over at BBC6, Liam Gallagher discusses the slander lawsuit that remains against his brother about comments surrounding the end of Oasis and the next Beady Eye record.

Paste has a feature piece on Laura Marling, whose new record A Creature I Don’t Know is out on September 13 and who plays The Great Hall on September 23.

BBC has a conversation with Charlie Fink of Noah & The Whale about their plans for album number four and the influences being applied to it.

Ladytron’s Reuben Wu talks Gravity The Seducer with DIY; the album is out September 13 and they play The Phoenix on October 5.

The Quietus gets Portishead to select thirteen of their favourite albums. They’re at The Sound Academy on October 9 and 10.

Sweden’s The Sounds have set a North American tour in support of their new album Something To Die For; look for them at The Opera House on October 26.

Video: The Sounds – “Something To Die For”

If anyone was wondering – as I was – if there was going to be a way to get hands on a vinyl copy of I Break Horses’ gorgeous debut Hearts on vinyl in Canada without paying crazy import prices, take, um, heart – apparently there is an October 18 street date for physical editions of the record.

DIY reports that Sweden’s Those Dancing Days have decided to go on hiatus to tend to things IRL for a while. This is disappointing as they were one of the bands who had to pull out of SXSW this year due to visa snafus and I was hoping they’d make it up next year. Guess not.

Video: Those Dancing Days – “Reaching Forward”

Danish punks Iceage have released a new video from their debut New Brigade.

Video: Iceage – “You’re Blessed”

The lead track from the forthcoming M83 double-album ridicu-epic Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is now available to stream. They’re at Lee’s Palace on November 18.

Stream: M83 – “Intro”

The Jezabels have released a video to go with the first MP3 from Prisoner, out September 16 in their native Australia but not until next Spring over here. They’re at The Phoenix opening up for Hey Rosetta! on November 24 and possibly the just-announced second show on November 23; still waiting on confirmation of that.

MP3: The Jezabels – “Endless Summer”
Video: The Jezabels – “Endless Summer”

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011


Wild Flag is pretty effin’ wild

Photo By John ClarkJohn ClarkEven before anyone heard a note, there was little doubt that Wild Flag would be fantastic. With two-thirds of Sleater-Kinney in Janet Weiss and Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony of Helium and Rebecca Cole of The Minders, they had about as unimpeachable a pedigree as any band really could. And yet, as history has shown many times, a lot of things look good on paper but don’t live up to expectations in reality. Wild Flag is not one of those things.

I was able to confirm their collective awesomeness at SXSW where their mid-afternoon set was a glorious flurry of duelling guitar solos, scissor kicks and general rock’n’roll fun, and even though pretty much every song was being heard for the first time, they were memorable and considerably more immediate and accessible than either much of Sleater-Kinney’s output and most of Helium’s ever was.

But hell, don’t take my word for it. A couple weeks ahead of the September 13 release of their self-titled debut, the entire album is now available to stream in its entirety at NPR. That, incidentally, is where Brownstein worked as a blogger for years following SK’s hiatus. Considering her focus on writing as well as comedy and acting in the last five years in lieu of music and the fact that Timony hasn’t put anything out since 2007’s The Shapes We Make, it’s no wonder that they collectively had so much rock pent up inside. Rock that they’ve now gifted to us. Fire it up, yo.

They toured through the Spring, but the Fall leg will finally bring them to Toronto for a show at Lee’s Palace on October 12… and alas I won’t be there. But don’t feel bad for me (not that you necessarily would) – I saw them at SXSW and I’ll be in Iceland at the time so… yeah, I’ll be okay. But if you’re here or in one of the other cities on the itinerary, don’t miss them.

MP3: Wild Flag – “Romance”
MP3: Wild Flag – “Glass Tambourine”
Stream: Wild Flag / Wild Flag

Phantoms, the long-awaited new album from Austin’s Ume, is out today and available to stream in whole over at Spinner. There’s also a streamable radio session with the band over at KDHX and an interview with frontwoman Lauren Larson at The Horn.

MP3: Ume – “Captive”
Stream: Ume / Phantoms

Billboard talks to Zach Condon of Beirut; The Rip Tide.

Stereogum checks in with Mates Of State about their new record Mountaintops, out September 13. They’re at The Phoenix on September 28.

The Drums’ new record Portamento is now up and streaming; the record is out September 13 and they play The Mod Club on October 1.

Stream: The Drums / Portamento

Paste has a stream of Blitzen Trapper’s new long-player American Goldwing, also due out September 13, as well as a new video. They play The Opera House on October 30.

MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Love The Way You Walk Away”
MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “American Goldwing”
Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Love The Way You Walk Away”
Stream: Blitzen Trapper / American Goldwing

NPR has premiered the first new Olivia Tremor Control song in nigh on a decade and has an interview with Will Cullen Hart. The OTC reunion hits Lee’s Palace on September 16.

Stereogum is sharing an MP3 from the new Ivy album All Hours, out September 20.

The Guardian has a feature piece on Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, in town at Lee’s Palace on September 24.

Check out another track from the new Dum Dum Girls record Only In Dreams, due out September 27. They play Lee’s on October 16.

MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Bedroom Eyes”

Babelgum is hosting a US edition of Black Cab Sessions with Strand Of Oaks, who will be at The Drake Underground on November 8 opening up for Crooked Fingers.

Though best known as a country-noir crooner outfit, thanks to her recent dalliances with Sunn O))) Jesse Sykes of Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter has got some prog-metal cred. We’ll see if any of that has rubbed off on their latest Marble Son when they’re here on November 10 for a show at The Drake before hitting the road with The Sadies. There’s features on Sykes at Seattle Weekly and Willamette Week and you can stream a recent radio session at KEXP.

MP3: Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter – “Come To Mary”

Confirming that it is, indeed, time to get paid, Jeff Mangum has launched a new, official Neutral Milk Hotel website and will be releasing an elaborate vinyl-only box set including unreleased Neutral Milk material on November 22. Head over to Pitchfork for details and spend some time poking around as Mangum has loaded it down with content.

DIY has an interview with Dayve Hawk of Memory Tapes.

The Daily Star talks to Nikolai Fraiture of The Strokes.

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Where I'm Waking

Review of Slow Club’s Paradise

Photo By Laura PannackLaura PannackEven though I was very much a fan of Slow Club’s 2009 debut Yeah, So?, I don’t think I ever did a proper write-up for it – I guess I hoped that seeing them twice at SXSW as well as having them play our Eastbound & Found day show would be sufficient implied endorsement… but still, by way of compensation, here’s my thoughts on the Sheffield, UK duo of Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor’s follow-up Paradise a couple of weeks ahead of its September 13 release. Just in case I get distracted again.

Doing so still requires I talk a bit about Yeah, So?, though. If I were to distill what I liked about it down to a couple points, it’d be how they were able to take their fairly rudimentary setup of guitar and drums (and occasional piano) and make it sound deliriously fun, thanks to their tandem vocals, irresistibly hooky yet sardonic songcraft and the sense of giddy abandon they injected into much of it while still retaining their ability to get sad. It was like power-folk-pop and wonderful in its simplicity.

That the pair would seek to evolve sonically from their debut wasn’t in question – they couldn’t really go very far in the other direction – but the degree to which they’ve refined their sound on the second go-around is pretty significant. The old-school soul influence that lurked underneath Yeah, So? is brought to the fore on Paradise and bolstered with some richer arrangements and production values. The busker-y aesthetic that permeated their debut is largely kicked to the curb in favour of some unabashed Motown moves; it’s an ambitious move, but Taylor has raised her game as a vocalist to match and the results give Slow Club a bare, emotional depth that’s surprising. It comes at the cost of some of their immediacy and gleefulness, but that’s growing up for you. There’s a part of me that wishes they’d taken an extra album or two to get where they are, but kids these days. What are you gonna do… besides sit back, listen and appreciate?

Slow Club will be coming over to North America in November, but for now only dates in New York and Los Angeles have been confirmed. Here’s hoping the “more TBA” in the press release isn’t just a tease.

Stream: Slow Club – “Where I’m Waking”
Video: Slow Club – “Where I’m Waking”
Video: Slow Club – “Two Cousins”

Newcastle’s Lanterns On The Lake are offering another taste of their forthcoming debut Gracious Tide, Take Me Home, in audio and video forms, ahead of its September 19 UK release.

MP3: Lanterns On The Lake – “Keep On Trying”
Video: Lanterns On The Lake – “Keep On Trying”

How much does The Line Of Best Fit like I Break Horses and their out-this-week debut album Hearts? In addition to streaming the whole thing, they went all the way to Sweden to record a video session with the band, the first installment of which – “Winter Beats” – is now online. And not to be left out, Clash has track-by-track notes on the album from songwriter Maria Linden.

Stream: I Break Horses / Hearts

NME is pointing to a stream the b-side from Anna Calvi’s next single, “Suzanne & I”. It’s a cover of The Shirelles’ “Baby It’s You”, which was also tackled by The Beatles way back when. And while you’re at it, stream the b-side of Calvi’s last b-side from the “Desire” single – another cover, this one of Leonard Cohen’s “Joan Of Arc”. Anna Calvi is at Lee’s Palace on December 8.

Stream: Anna Calvi – “Baby It’s You”
Stream: Anna Calvi – “Joan Of Arc”

Gemma Hayes has released a video from her latest album Let It Break.

Video: Gemma Hayes – “Keep Running”

Portishead’s Geoff Barrow tells Spinner the band intends to put out new material following their upcoming North American tour, which sees them play two nights at The Sound Academy on October 10 and 11.

The Quietus gives Blur’s generally dismissed debut album Leisure a re-evaluation.

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

"Don't You Want Me"/"Human"

Future Bible Heroes and The 6ths with Lloyd Cole cover The Human League

Photo via WikipediaWikipediaIt’s no error that the just-released Obscurities collection of rarities and ephemera came out credited to Stephin Merritt, considering that it drew material from all of many projects such as The Magnetic Fields, Future Bible Heroes, Gothic Archies or The 6ths in addition to works released under his own name. And considering how prolific Merritt is, it’s also no surprise that a lot of material that would have qualified for inclusion got left out – gotta keep something in reserve for the multi-volume box set, after all.

One credit on his vast resume that would require some extra liner notes would be Reproductions, a 2001 tribute album to British synth-pop pioneers The Human League, which he produced and appeared on thrice – once as Stephin Merritt credit “covering” a 30-second instrumental, once as Future Bible Heroes and once as The 6ths, both of those covering some of the Human League’s biggest hits but also with Merritt taking a backseat as the mandate of those projects dictated. On the former, it’s Claudia Gonson taking Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley’s parts while Merritt naturally stands in for Philip Oakey. On the latter, it’s Commotions frontman Lloyd Cole playing mandatory guest vocalist and handling Oakey’s leads while Merritt takes over Catherall’s parts in the bridge. He’s nothing if not versatile.

Obscurities marks Merritt’s return to Merge Records, for whom he’ll be recording the next Magnetic Fields record, due out next year. Lloyd Cole’s last solo album Broken Record came out last Fall and he toured it through North America earlier this Summer. Despite being synonymous with the ’80s, The Human League never stopped releasing albums, though their latest Credo is only their second in sixteen years. It’s still excuse enough for their first North American tour in who knows how long – they’ll be at The Guvernment in Toronto on September 18; has an interview with Oakey.

MP3: Future Bible Heroes – “Don’t You Want Me”
MP3: The 6ths – “Human”
Video: The Human League – “Don’t You Want Me”
Video: The Human League – “Human”

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

CONTEST – Empire Of The Sun @ The Sound Academy – September 13, 2011

Art by Aaron Hayward & David HomerAaron Hayward & David HomerWho: Empire Of The Sun
What: Cosmic-scaled electro-pop from the Australian minds of Luke Steele (The Sleepy Jackson) and prodigal Pnau partner Nick Littlemore.
Why: They’re taking advantage of appearances on the North American Summer festival circuit to craft a proper tour and make up a number of cancelled shows from last year before heading back into the studio to record the follow-up to 2009’s Walking On A Dream.
When: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Where: Sadly, the post title is not a typo – just yesterday, it was announced that the due to “unforeseen production issues”, the show was being moved from it’s original open-air waterfront venue to the much-reviled waterfront shoebox The Sound Academy.
Who else: Miami Horror – who are neither from Miami or horrible (they’re also Aussies) are opening up.
How: Tickets for the show are $39.50 in advance but courtesy of Embrace, I have two pairs of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to join the Empire Of The Sun” in the subject line and your full name in the body, and have that in to me before midnight, September 6.

Video: Empire Of The Sun – “Half Mast”
Video: Empire Of The Sun – “Without You”
Video: Empire Of The Sun – “Walking On A Dream”
Video: Empire Of The Sun – “We Are The People”