Archive for November, 2011

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011


Bon Iver’s deluxe home movies; let him show you them

Photo By D.L. AndersonD.L. AndersonYear-end lists are kind of like Christmas displays in shopping malls. Every year, they seem to come out a little earlier and are a little less welcome but there’s little choice but to accept them as a fact of life. Paste kicked things off yesterday with a very Paste-y top 50 of the year, topped off by a record that’s probably going to be getting more than a few “album of the year” accolades (though not likely around here, though I like it more than the first record), Bon Iver’s Bon Iver.

And while the news that a deluxe edition of said record was coming could reasonably be met with eye rolls, the truth of it isn’t so cash-grabby. Rather than attach some b-sides and drop it in a shiny slipcase, they’ve released a video version of the album in digital form via iTunes (if I had any idea how to link an iTunes album I’d do so but I don’t so go and make with the search) and if you only want to watch the clips and not own them, all ten are also available to watch on the YouTubes. They tend towards the abstract – certainly no narratives and nothing to match the stark Icelandic beauty of the official “Holocene” clip – but they’re pretty and if you’re of the opinion that Bon Iver works better as soundtrack music, now you’ve got something to watch while it plays in the background. And for the downloading, there’s a solo piano version of “Beth/Rest” recorded for NPR earlier this Summer that should be exhibit A in any “Bon Iver = Bruce Hornsby” debates.

Bon Iver is at Massey Hall next week for two shows; December 6 and 7.

MP3: Bon Iver – “Beth/Rest” (solo piano version)
Video: Bon Iver – “Perth” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Minnesota, WI” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Holocene” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Towers” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Michicant” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Hinnom, TX” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Wash.” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Calgary” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Lisbon, OH” (deluxe)
Video: Bon Iver – “Beth/Rest” (deluxe)

Just as the did back in 2007, Okkervil River have given their fans the gift of free music in the form of Golden Opportunities 2, a second EP of cover songs that they’re giving away for free. Unlike the first edition, I don’t know any of the artists covered this time out (okay I know who Bill Fay is but I don’t know the song) but hey – we’re here to learn, right? Look ’em up.

ZIP: Okkervil River / Golden Opportunities 2

In what could be subtitled “a preview of shows you should see next week”, The AV Club sends Aaron Dessner of The National to interview Adam Granduciel of The War On Drugs. The former are at The ACC on December 8, the latter at The Horseshoe on December 9.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel talks to Zach Condon of Beirut.

Grizzly Bear offspring CANT has released a new video from Dreams Come True.

Video: CANT – “Too Late, Too Far”

The Fader sends a self-proclaimed superfan to interview Mac McCaughan of Superchunk.

The Quietus offers a beginner’s guide to the works of Guided By Voices, about to increase by one album come January 1 when Let’s Go Eat The Factory is released via mail order; regular retail won’t happen until January 17.

Rolling Stone talks to Michael Stipe, formerly of R.E.M., about the odds of a solo career (slim to none).

And on a similiar note, Rolling Stone asks Lee Ranaldo about his new solo record Between The Times & The Tides, out March 20 of next year, and the future of Sonic Youth now that half the band are getting a divorce.

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

CONTEST – Nicole Atkins @ The Drake Underground – December 3, 2011

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWho: Nicole Atkins
What: Jersey girl singer-songwriter who released her terrific second album (and second terrific album) Mondo Amore back in January
Why: Though the toured through in support of the record with her band The Black Sea back in February, she’s doing an intimate solo tour to close out the year.
When: Saturday, December 3, 2011
Where: The Drake Underground in Toronto (19+)
Who else: Local singer-songwriter Megan Bonnell opens things up.
How: Tickets for the show are $15 in advance but courtesy of Collective Concerts, 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 Nicole Atkins” in the subject line and your full name in the body, and have that in to me before midnight, December 1.
What else: Nicole just released a holiday single cover of “Little Drummer Boy” and her free live EP …’Til Dawn is still available to download.

MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Through The Dirt And The Gravel

Review of We Were Promised Jetpacks’ In The Pit Of The Stomach

Photo By Nic ShonfeldNic ShonfeldAlongside labelmates and countrymen The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit, Glasgow-via-Edinburgh’s We Were Promised Jetpacks should have formed a 21st century dream team of new Scottish acts, dispensing their peoples’ distinctive brand of angst through their respective brands of rock. And yet while those other two won and maintain places in my heart, Jetpacks’ 2009 debut These Four Walls did’t quite win me over.

The specifics of why aren’t entirely clear, but I suspect that it was just a little too shouty, too unrelenting. Granted, those are the band’s key strengths – guitarist/vocalist Adam Thompson’s bellows overtop the breakneck musical churn – but I found Walls a bit exhausting to get through. That hardly warranted writing the band off, however, so I was more than happy to give their sophomore effort In The Pit Of The Stomach, released last month, a few spins and it’s almost as though the band heard about my complaints and decided to meet me partway. Which is awful gracious of them.

To either casual followers or die-hard fans of the band, Stomach probably sounds perfectly familiar and satisfying. It’s still loud and punishing – album closer “Pear Tree” is a six-and-a-half minute flurry of face punches – but those crescendos are now better tempered with quieter passages and a greater emphasis on melody, both vocally and instrumentally. By reining things in a bit and singing rather than shouting while the drums and guitars steadily build, “Act On Impulse” comes across far more dynamically and interesting than anything I can recall on Walls. Similarly, the instrumental front half of “Sore Thumb” is evocative of Mogwai in their gentler moods before bringing the hammer down like Mogwai in their angrier moods; which is to say it’s kind of Mogwai-ish, in a good way.

In The Pit Of The Stomach evidences the sort of artistic growth and sophistication you’d hope a young band who’re probably not given to turning their sound upside down would develop. It certainly won’t lose them any fans but it may well sway some who had been on the fence onto their side. Trust me on this.

The Dallas Observer talks to the band about guitarist Michael Palmer’s cancer scare between albums one and two.

MP3: We Were Promised Jetpacks – “Act On Impulse”
Video: We Were Promised Jetpacks – “Human Error”

I now have a Valentine and her/their name is Veronica Falls. The London quartet will be back in town for a show at The Garrison on February 14, tickets $10.50 in advance. DIY has an A-to-Z with/of the band.

MP3: Veronica Falls – “Come On Over”
MP3: Veronica Falls – “Found Love In A Graveyard”

Arena-sized in the UK, club-sized in North America, Kasabian will bring their latest album Velociraptor to The Phoenix on March 29, tickets $24.50 in advance. Perhaps they’ll be able to commiserate with Toronto about the (lack of) wisdom in naming things after dinosaurs that were briefly in fashion 20 years ago.

Video: Kasabian – “Switchblade Smiles”

Drowned In Sound gets their turn in the Los Campesinos! media-go-round.

Clash checks in with Milo Cordell of The Big Pink as they put the finishing touches on their new record Future This, out January 17.

Slow Club have a new video from Paradise.

Video: Slow Club – “If We’re Still Alive”

Similarly, Noah & The Whale have released a new clip from Last Night On Earth

Video: Noah & The Whale – “Give It All Back”

Two videos – or animations, as they’re being called – from the new Kate Bush album 50 Words For Snow have been released. It’s reasonable to expect more.

Video: Kate Bush – “Misty”
Video: Kate Bush – “Wild Man”

The New York Times Q&A’s Noel Gallagher, who has just released a short film that uses three of the songs from his solo debut as accompaniment.

Video: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – “Ride The Tiger”

NME reports that Liam Gallagher has declared Oasis material may be on the table for future Beady Eye live performances.

The Guardian proxies questions from readers to Jarvis Cocker. The Jarv answers.

The Alternate Side has posted an Elbow studio session to watch and interview to read while Under The Radar reports that the band has been tapped to record the soundtrack to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

Adele is capping off what’s been a pretty good year for her (except for all those canceled shows and throat surgery) with the release of the Live At The Royal Albert Hall DVD/BR today – Spin is streaming the audio from the document while you can watch 25 minutes of the thing at Vevo.

Stream: Adele / Live At The Royal Albert Hall
Video: Adele / Live At The Royal Albert Hall (excerpt)

Kate Jackson talks to NME about her post-Long Blondes solo ambitions.

State chats with Clock Opera, whose debut album should be out in the new year.

NME follows Wild Beasts around on tour for a while.

The Stool Pigeon chats with Robyn Hitchcock.

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Purple Rain

Prince at The Air Canada Centre in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangThierry CôtéI feel the need to preface this by saying I am not a Prince fan. And I feel the need to clarify that statement by stating that what I mean is that when it comes to an artist as prolific, prodigious and… somewhat peculiar as Prince, the true fans are in a different class. They follow his creative left turns, experiments and indulgences wherever they may go, they join his fan clubs, they keep the faith that his genius – an objectively measurable trait, not subjective praise – may yet result in more works that reach the heights of what he’s attained in the past. And that’s not me. It does not, by any stretch, mean that I don’t like the massive body of work that Prince Rogers Nelson has released over his thirty-plus year career – indeed, I grew up on ’80s top 40 radio, the same era in which his best works made him a global superstar and a lot of those songs are in my musical DNA. But real and proper Prince fans are a special breed and I don’t count myself amongst them.

But I was rubbing elbows with them on Saturday night, the second night of the opening stop of his much-anticipated “Welcome 2 Canada” tour at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. My degree of fandom only justified buying nosebleed seats for the show, which would be my first time ever seeing him live, but word out of the first night was that there were free ticket upgrades to be had if you just asked the right people. And indeed there were, which is how I ended up in the VIP “Purple Circle” section of the floors, nestled cozily into the top corner of the massive “Love symbol”-shaped stage which was set up in the middle of the arena. Not that I’m bragging or anything… okay, I am a little. But from the floor, I could see where I would have been sitting otherwise, and believe me when I say they were possibly the saddest seats in the entire venue. So this was better.

Advance information from the first show was also encouraging – a set jammed full of hits showcasing his mastery of funk, soul, rock, pop, everything, running over three hours in length with six encores and a guest appearance from legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker. Would we do as well on night two? Despite the advertised 8PM show time, the lights didn’t dim until 8:50 – which was fine, Friday had to wait until quarter past 9 – and anyone intending to hold Prince to account for tardiness promptly forgot as the artist formerly and forever known as Prince rose from the middle of the stage and led the NPG into “Gold”. And as strong an open as that was, the second selection was already a show-stopper – “Purple Rain”, wrought as epically as one could imagine. Few artists would be confident enough to bust out what is arguably their greatest composition so early in the show but as he would point out later on in the show, he had over 145 hits to choose from; the veracity of this claim can be debated, the confidence behind it cannot.

In any case, it was a damn near transcendent moment culminating with a guitar solo that was just beyond. Everyone was on their feet. Dancing, singing, clapping, screaming, whatever. All of it justified. And as the dust settled from the extended coda, a synth tone slowly rose in the mix. It was obvious what song it had to be, but surely he’d give us a chance to recover, to catch our breaths? He couldn’t possibly be going from “Purple Rain” straight into– “Dearly beloved…”. Okay, yes he could. The spoken word intro to “Let’s Go Crazy” was milked for all its worth but the payoff – including a foray into “Delirious” and then back for (another) epic guitar solo – was more than worth it.

And that was essentially the format of the show; technically probably medleys but more like suites of songs, built around a massive hit and segueing into covers (Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People”, Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music”, Chic’s “Le Freak” all got nods), deeper cuts, extended solos, whatever. If you didn’t know one of the songs, which I didn’t for a fair bit, it didn’t really matter because a) it would shift into something you did know soon enough, b) it was being delivered with such verve and style that you’d be dancing along anyways or c) you’d be too busy gawking at the showmanship onstage to notice.

Say what you will about his idiosyncrasies out in the real world, but on stage Prince is king. The set up was relative spartan, with the band stationed at the very top of the Love symbol and Prince’s mic set up in the middle, but every inch of it got a workout as he roamed, strutted and sashayed to every corner of the arena, either dancing or ripping guitar lines or both, working the crowd into a frenzy with each wag of his finger, cock of his head, shake of his ass. Even at 53, he looked ageless, had boundless energy and still oozed sexuality. For serious. And while some may have chosen to see his many “TORONTO!” shout-outs as contrived, I chose to believe there was genuine affection being expressed – he did use to live here, after all. And the look of delight on his face on hearing the roar of his fans? There was no faking that.

His three backing singers – Shelby J, Elisa Dease, and Liv Warfield – got almost as much of a workout as they kept up with their boss and even took lead on a cover of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” while Prince took a short breather, and they were periodically joined onstage by guitarist/vocalist Andy Allo who was almost as much of a presence on stage as Prince. Almost. And for a few songs, a number of lucky fans were invited onstage to dance at the front of the stage. It was a spectacle, no doubt, but unlike many shows of this scale it was still first and foremost a band, onstage, playing – no props, no set pieces, no Prince dancers. Okay, there were confetti cannons that showered all in purple and gold but come on – it was the purple rain.

You got a sense the main set was ramping up to a finale when it went to all hits, all the time – a euphoric run that ran “Little Red Corvette” into “Take Me With U” into “Raspberry Beret” into “Cream” but wrapped with not an official Prince tune but “Cool”, which he wrote for The Time in 1981. A curious finish, but not the finish at all as everyone knew – here came the encores. Until this point, the baby grand piano set up on the far left of the stage had been used as little more than a prop for climbing on and writhing, but when Prince sat down at it and the unmistakeable synthetic beat of “When Doves Cry” ran out through the ACC, it became clear that it wasn’t a piano at all, but a sampler station set up to allow him to recreate the complexities of the songs solo while simultaneously laying bare just how simple they were at their core. Astonishing to see, and when the band rejoined him for a grand and funky “Kiss”, which culminated in an extended dance/ass-shaking solo that brought the house down, most everyone was sure this was just them getting warmed up for another extended run – but no, that was it.

You knew that someone like Prince wasn’t going to repeat himself night after night, but I didn’t expect that would be as two-edged a sword as it felt. Rather than six encores, we got one and rather than the three hours ten Friday night’s audience got, this night ran a comparatively light two hours twenty. And yes, I completely understand how ridiculous it is to criticize an artist for “only” giving over two hours of top-of-his-game, unbelievably entertaining effort but still, it felt like the show was ended prematurely and an unworthy punctuation mark on what was otherwise been a stellar show. Happily, that latter fact – that I had just seen a bona fide legendary artist from as close up as you could possibly get and been thrilled for the duration – has become the prevailing memory. I’ve heard some words of disappointment in the show from die-hard fans who’ve got numerous past Prince experiences to compare with, and I can see where they’re coming from. Hell, if I’d even gone to both nights of this stand I’d probably have thought the first was better (based on pure quantitative comparisons), but this was my first Prince show and it was incredible and I’m grateful to have it. Still not going to call myself a fan by the standards established at the start of this piece, but after Saturday night I’m exponentially moreso. His name is Prince. And he is funky.

Spinner, The Globe & Mail, The National Post, CTV, The Toronto Sun and The Toronto Star have reviews of the Friday night while NOW was on hand for night two. The Toronto Star also landed a pre-tour email interview with the artist.

No photos as there are no photos of Prince. We weren’t even allowed to take our phones out in the Purple Circle, so many thanks to Thierry from Sonic Weapons who was able to snap the accompanying shot at the Friday night show. And the list below is what happens when my OCD meets Google and an extensive videography. Be afraid.

Video: Prince – “Crimson And Clover”
Video: Prince – “Chocolate Box”
Video: Prince – “Somewhere Here On Earth”
Video: Prince – “Song Of The Heart”
Video: Prince – “Fury”
Video: Prince – “Black Sweat”
Video: Prince – “Cinnamon Girl”
Video: Prince – “Call My Name”
Video: Prince – “Musicology”
Video: Prince – “The Daisy Chain”
Video: Prince – “U Make My Sun Shine”
Video: Prince – “The Greatest Romance Ever Sold”
Video: Prince – “Face Down”
Video: Prince – “The Holy River”
Video: Prince – “I HAte U”
Video: Prince – “Dolphin”
Video: Prince – “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World”
Video: Prince – “Acknowledge Me”
Video: Prince – “Pink Cashmere”
Video: Prince – “Peach”
Video: Prince – “7”
Video: Prince – “Damn U”
Video: Prince – “The Continental”
Video: Prince – “Blue Light”
Video: Prince – “The Morning Papers”
Video: Prince – “My Name Is Prince”
Video: Prince – “Sexy MF”
Video: Prince – “Willing And Able”
Video: Prince – “Insatiable”
Video: Prince – “Money Don’t Matter 2Night”
Video: Prince – “Diamonds And Pearls”
Video: Prince – “Cream”
Video: Prince – “Gangsta Glam”
Video: Prince – “Violet The Organ Grinder”
Video: Prince – “Gett Off”
Video: Prince – “Question Of U”
Video: Prince – “New Power Generation”
Video: Prince – “Thieves In The Temple”
Video: Prince – “Scandalous”
Video: Prince – “Partyman”
Video: Prince – “Batdance”
Video: Prince – “Eye Wish U Heaven”
Video: Prince – “Glam Slam”
Video: Prince – “Alphabet St.”
Video: Prince – “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man”
Video: Prince – “U Got The Look”
Video: Prince – “Sign O’ The Times”
Video: Prince – “Anotherloverholenyohead”
Video: Prince – “Boys & Girls”
Video: Prince – “Mountains”
Video: Prince – “Kiss”
Video: Prince – “America”
Video: Prince – “Paisley Park”
Video: Prince – “Raspberry Beret”
Video: Prince – “4 The Tears In Your Eyes”
Video: Prince – “Take Me With U”
Video: Prince – “I Would Die 4 U/ Baby I’m A Star”
Video: Prince – “Purple Rain”
Video: Prince – “Let’s Go Crazy”
Video: Prince – “When Doves Cry”
Video: Prince – “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”
Video: Prince – “Automatic”
Video: Prince – “Little Red Corvette”
Video: Prince – “1999”
Video: Prince – “Sexuality”
Video: Prince – “Controversy”
Video: Prince – “Dirty Mind”
Video: Prince – “Uptown”
Video: Prince – “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?”
Video: Prince – “I Wanna Be Your Lover”

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

"Islands In The Stream"

Feist & The Constantines cover Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton

Image via ExclaimExclaimI am old enough to remember when “Islands In The Stream” was a hit for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton back in 1983 (though probably more for Rogers as was taken from his Eyes That See in the Dark album), and the variety show performance linked below is really all you needed to know about it. So clean-cut, family-friendly and catchy as hell.

The version recorded by Feist and The Constantines for a limited-run 7″ in 2008 certainly turns down the glitz and turns up the smoulder. And though it sounds exponentially more personal and intimate than the original, it’s still very chaste – I guess we’ll put that on the lyrics; it’s certainly not the delivery – Ms Feist and Mr Webb have some serious vocal chemistry.

Feist released her fourth album Metals back in October. The Constantines are on indefinite hiatus (don’t call it a break-up, the collective wails of despair from their fanbase would be too much to bear) and frontman Bry Webb – who again duets with Feist on the new record – released his solo debut Provider last week. Both will be at Massey Hall on Thursday night – Feist headlining, Webb opening and it’s pretty even money he’ll be joining her during her set.

Kenny Rogers released a new album of gospel songs earlier this year in The Love Of God and continues to be a fried chicken magnate and mens style inspiration/internet meme. Dolly Parton also released a new album in 2011 – Better Day – and has her own extra-musical ventures in Dollywood.

And one thing about “Islands In The Stream” that I didn’t know: it was written by The Bee Gees – best wishes to Robin Gibb in his fight against cancer.

MP3: Feist & The Constantines – “Islands In The Stream”
Video: Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton – “Islands In The Stream”