Archive for May, 2012

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Fragrant World

Yeasayer are now big enough to play The Sound Academy, and other assorted sundry news items

Photo By Anna PalmaAnna PalmaIt used to be that the room that every concert-goer in Toronto hated was The Kool Haus, a ridiculously-named concrete box on the waterfront that usually marked the point where a percentage of long-time fans would decide a band had gotten too big and would peel off to find the next big thing, only to have their places happily taken by folks from the more mainstream side of things who could care less that said band had been grinding it out in the clubs for years – they were that band with that one song that they’d heard on the radio/on a soundtrack/in and ad/whatever.

It was the circle of life, and it still applies now except that instead of the 2000-capacity Kool Haus marking that demarcation point, lately bands have been jumping straight from the clubs to the Sound Academy – an even more despised concrete box on the waterfront that, despite the number of people who swear they will never go to a show there, still sells out its 3000+ capacity with regularity. But on the plus side, people look at the Kool Haus a lot more affectionately these days.

All of which is to say that I’m mildly surprised – and yet not – that Brooklyn’s Yeasayer have booked themselves into The Sound Academy this Summer for their North American tour in support of their third album, Fragrant World. I guess I just didn’t think that Yeasayer had the sort of mass appeal that would justify a move from the 1000-person Phoenix, where they were their last time through in June 2011, to a room three times larger this time out. But hey, it’s happening – much to the dismay of many, I’m sure – on August 21, which also happens to be the day that the new album comes out. Tickets for that one will be $22.50 general admission and $32.50 for VIP balcony seats.

The first track from Fragrant World has been made available to download, and there’s a piece in Spin from last Fall where singer Chris Keating talked about the song, specifically.

MP3: Yeasayer – “Henrietta”

In other show announcements – The Dandy Warhols will play an in-store at Sonic Boom’s Annex location on June 3 at 4:30PM before their show at The Phoenix later that night. There’s interviews with the band at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Phoenix, and Vancouver Observer.

MP3: The Dandy Warhols – “Country Leaver”

Brooklyn’s Ava Luna have made a date at The Drake Underground for July 14, tickets $10 in advance. Their debut album Ice Level was released earlier this Winter.

MP3: Ava Luna – “Wrenning Day”

California’s RACES – yes, I believe the all caps is mandatory – will be at The Drake on July 23 in support of their debut Year Of The Witch, which is also available to stream in its entirety.

MP3: RACES – “Big Broom”
Stream: RACES / Year Of The Witch

Los Angeles ambient-electronic artist Julia Holter will be at The Horseshoe on September 22 in support of her widely-acclaimed second album Ekstasis. Tickets for that are $12 in advance and The Quietus has an interview.

Video: Julia Holter – “Our Sorrw”

Beachwood Sparks have released a second MP3 from their comeback record The Tarnished Gold, out June 26.

MP3: Beachwood Sparks – “Sparks Fly Again”

Rolling Stone has premiered the new animated video from Andrew Bird, taken from Break It Yourself. He plays Echo Beach on July 19.

Video: Andrew Bird – “eyeoneye”

Filter has a video session with School Of Seven Bells.

Room 205 has posted the second installment of their video series with Blouse.

Pitchfork solicits a guest list from Jana Hunter of Lower Dens, in town at Lee’s Palace on July 17.

Coup de Main and Tulsa World talk to Annie Clark of St. Vincent.

Ume’s Lauren Larson chats with The Dallas Observer.

The Village Voice finds out what Amy Klein has been up to since leaving Titus Andronicus last Fall – mainly starting a new band, Leda. Which sounds like this.

MP3: Leda – “Halfway”

The Stool Pigeon talks to both Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally of Beach House.

The Quietus profiles The Men, doing up NXNE with shows at The Garrison on June 14 and Wrongbar on June 15.

Blurt talks to Brett Netson of Electronic Anthology Project about synth-ing up the likes of Built To Spill and Dinosaur Jr.

Rolling Stone has a video interview with Greg Dulli about the Afghan Whigs reunion.

Bob Mould takes an in-depth look back at the Sugar years for The Quietus. Their catalog gets reissued in fancy form come July 24.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Lost Kids

Blood Red Shoes are made for walking. Or touring.

Photo By Anton CoeneAnton CoeneRemember, not so long ago, when big-ass bands with memberships numbering in the double-digits were all the fuss? Me neither. Seems two is all you need to make a racket and an impression, as yesterday’s post can attest and today’s can reinforce. What sets Brighton two-piece Blood Red Shoes apart from most of the other outfits who can tour in a Cooper Mini are the fact that though they’re plenty good at the loud, they’re much less reliant on the white noise bombast to get their message across.

Their 2010 release Fire Like This drew on plenty of ’90s-era grunge and alt.rock influences, but their strong melodic sensibilities and the mixture of drummer Steven Ansell and guitarist Laura-May Carter’s vocals had an innate sweetness, even when snarling, that couldn’t help but temper their aggression. That’s a relative statement, mind you, as anyone at their show at The Horseshoe in October 2010 could attest; there was plenty of aggression there to spare.

And there’ll be more to come. Their third album In Time To Voices was released in the UK back in March, but will get a North American release come July 24 and the band will follow that up with a North American tour that brings them back to Toronto for a show at The Drake Underground on September 26, tickets $12.50 in advance. Female First and Spoonfed have interviews with the band.

MP3: Blood Red Shoes – “Light It Up”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Lost Kids”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Cold”
Stream: Blood Red Shoes / In Time To Voices

Keeping on the blood theme – Blood Orange have released another new video from Coastal Grooves.

Video: Blood Orange – “I’m Sorry We Lied”

Coup de Main has an interview with Ryan Jarman of The Cribs, who’ve just released an interactive new video from In The Belly Of The Brazen Beast.

Video: The Cribs – “Glitters Like Gold”

2:54 have a new video from their just-released self-titled debut, and for good measure Filter has a live in-studio performance video of the same tune. Clash and Stereogum have interviews with the band, who’re at Lee’s Palace on June 16 for NXNE.

Video: 2:54 – “Creeping”

Boy, that Florence & The Machine sure do like making videos, don’t they? Here’s another from Ceremonials and head to DigitalSpy has a behind-the-scenes video of the David LaChapelle production. They’re at The Molson Amphitheatre on August 2.

Video: Florence & The Machine – “Spectrum”

Summer Camp are streaming the title track from their forthcoming new EP Always, due out July 10.

Stream: Summer Camp – “Always”

The Vaccines have announced a September 3 release date for their second album No Hope For The Vaccines and are streaming the first single and kind-of title track from it right now.

Stream: The Vaccines – “No Hope”

Also in the, “much-anticipated British sophomore efforts due out this Fall” category are Mumford & Sons, whose as-yet untitled second album will be out come September 24. Some details to be had at Paste.

DIY, Inthemix, and The Guardian interview Hot Chip, whose In Our Heads is out June 12 and who play The Sound Academy on July 15.

Clash and The Village Voice get to Elizabeth Morris of Allo Darlin’.

Daytrotter has a session up with The Wave Pictures.

The Big Takeover talks to Stevie Jackson about his new solo record (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson, out in North America on July 3.

Undersong interviews James Graham of The Twilight Sad.

The Fly has a feature piece on Richard Hawley.

Pitchfork has a +1 video session and The Georgia Straight with Spiritualized.

Artrocker talks to Tim Burgess of The Charlatans.

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Continuous Thunder

Review of Japandroids’ Celebration Rock

Photo By Lilja BirgisdottirMaoya BassiouniHaving made up my mind about the whole wave of garage-bred, white-noise, guitar-drum duos that seemed to saturate the scene a few years ago before even hearing Japandroids – three guesses what I decided about said wave, first two don’t count – they didn’t stand much chance of winning me over. And while I won’t deny their debut Post-Nothing had a certain charm within all the fuzz, it wasn’t enough to make a lasting impression. Which is why on first hearing their new one Celebration Rock, out today, I needed to ask someone – anyone – if they’d always sounded like this.

And by “this”, I mean like Hüsker Dü covering The Hold Steady. It’s a reductive description, sure, but the more I listen to Celebration Rock the more accurate I feel it is. To the former reference point, it’s a compact, intense, and driving nine songs over 35 minutes that’s intent on shredding drum skins, guitar strings, and vocal cords in a manner that the legendary hardcore trio would surely approve. To the latter, they may still rehearse in a garage but with the fist pump-friendly choruses, odes to partying, and singalong “oh oh oh oh” lyrics, they’re aiming to bring the roof down at the local bar. Or arena. The duo may hail from Vancouver but their hearts belong to the Twin Cities.

Celebration Rock is big, unapologetic rock that manages to feel both vitally youthful and nostalgic at the same time while more than succeeding at its titular mission statement of making the kids freak out. It’s hard to say exactly what kind of shelf life it will have – records that rely on full-on intensity from start to finish have a tendency to exhaust after a while – but the only way to find out is to keep it turned up loud and set to repeat. No problem there.

Japandroids play Lee’s Palace on June 23. DIY, Spinner, and Pitchfork have interviews with the band and NPR is streaming the album in whole right now – the US release is next week, it was only released today in Canada to make it Polaris Prize-eligible. It may prove to be a wise move.

MP3: Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”
Stream: Japandroids / Celebration Rock

The Line Of Best Fit has a video session with PS I Love You, who’ve released a new video from Death Dreams.

Video: PS I Love You – “Princess Towers”

Coeur de Pirate warms up for hsr show at The Opera House on June 1 with an in-store at Sonic Boom the night before, that’s May 31, at 7PM. The Georgia Straight also has an interview with Beatrice Martin.

Video: Coeur de Pirate – “Golden Baby”

With her June 2 date at The Music Hall supporting Great Lake Swimmers just about here, Cold Specks has announced her own headlining date on August 8 at The Great Hall with Snowblink supporting; tickets are $15 in advance. The National Post and Shaw Connect have interviews with Al Spx while CBC Radio 3 talks to her about her songwriting process.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse have another two videos out for Americana, out next week but streaming in whole at Rolling Stone right now. Meanwhile, Exclaim has details on some forthcoming retrospective releases that aren’t music – the Jonathan Demme-directed documentary Neil Young Journeys will get a theatrical release on June 29 and Neil’s memoirs Waging Heavy Peace will be released on October 2.

Video: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “God Save The Queen”
Video: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Clementine”
Stream: Neil Young & Crazy Horse / Americana

A new song from Metric’s forthcoming Synthetica has been made available to stream. The album is out June 12.

Stream: Metric – “Speed The Collapse”

Like The Wooden Sky but hate their songs? Well you may be a freak, but your ship has come in – the band are playing an all-covers show at The Burroghes Building on June 15 as part of a benefit for Dream.Love.Cure; tickets are $10 in advance, details at Facebook. And Paste has premiered the final installment of their “Grace On A Hill” video series – forewarned, they’re playing their own songs.

Dan Snaith talks to Under The Radar about how things are progressing on the next Caribou record. They open for Radiohead at Downsview Park on June 16.

No Joy will release a new EP entitled Negaverse on June 19, from which you can stream a track right now. They’ve also been announced as support for Lower Dens’ July 17 date at Lee’s Palace.

Stream: No Joy – “Junior”

Daytrotter has a session with The Darcys, whose next hometown show is July 12 at Downsview Park as part of Edgefest.

The Quietus interviews Grimes, rolling into town (on a train) at Fort York on July 13.

Monday, May 28th, 2012


Review of Sigur Rós’ Valtari

Photo By Lilja BirgisdottirLilja BirgisdottirConsidering how otherworldly a starting point they began at, way back with their 1997 debut Von and their breakout 1999 album Agætis byrjun, it’s remarkable how accessible – relatively, at least – Sigur Rós have gotten over the past decade plus without really compromising any of what makes them so unique. Though 2002’s () closed with a what they called “The Pop Song”, it was 2005’s Takk… and 2008’s Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust that saw the Icelandic quartet really elevating their melodicism to the level of their flair for beauty and the dramatic.

The band went on a hiatus of sorts following Með suð, yet still managed to diffuse the veil of mystery even further with Inni, the band’s double-live set which captured them at their most raw and primal, and frontman Jonsi’s solo debut Go, which found him singing in English for the first time and while still lyrically opaque, at least you could understand what he was saying (this doesn’t apply to those who speak Icelandic and/or Hopelandic). So if you were to plot their artistic trajectory on a graph – as you do – then it would be reasonable to assume that Valtari, their first album in over four years, would be as immediate and tuneful a record as the band had ever crafted. Reasonable, and completely wrong.

The best signpost that pointed to what Valtari would be was 2009’s Riceboy Sleeps, released by Jonsi & Alex (Alex being Alex Somers of Parachutes and Jonsi’s boyfriend), which was a largely ambient collection that, while pretty, was ultimately too ephemeral to really make an impression. Valtari comes from that same place of thoughtful and drifting airiness, but is much more focused and carries the sort of emotional and musical heft that one expects of a Sigur Rós record.

Complaints that it’s too atmospheric or leisurely paced aren’t entirely misplaced, particularly for those more attuned to their recent releases; those who’ve been following the band since the beginning will find the more free-form compositional style familiar. It doesn’t shortchange the songwriting – every song has a solid melodic core to anchor it – but does concentrates on the sound just as much, maybe more. If you crave the more visceral, body blow side of the band then perhaps cue up Inni as only “Varúð” here really enters that territory, but if you’re able to take the time to stop, sit back, and appreciate the exquisite elegance and detail to be found in the decay of a single piano note, the rasp of a cymbal scrape, the anticipation in a breath, or even the faux-vinyl static crackles that dust the front half of the album, there’s still transcendence to be found.

NPR has been streaming Valtari in advance of its formal release tomorrow. DIY, The Herald, and Grapevine have interviews with the band, the last of which confirms that keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson will not be touring with the band this Summer, including their August 1 show at Echo Beach.

Valtari was introduced by way of a video for the single “Ekki Muk” which was essentially an animated version of the album art – perfectly fitting for the song but not very exciting – but the band have unveiled a much more ambitious video project to go along with the record: a dozen filmmakers were given a modest budget to work with and asked to create visuals for a song from the record, free of creative control from the band. The first of them, for “Ég Anda” by Ragnar Kjartansson, was released next week and the others will follow through the Summer, a new one every couple weeks. And while the “Ég Anda” is currently geoblocked in Canada, I’m told that it should be unshackled very shortly, so check back.

Video: Sigur Rós – “Ég Anda”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Ekki Muk”
Stream: Sigur Rós / Valtari

Of Monsters & Men discuss their unexpectedly meteoric rise with The National Post.

Bands In Transit have a video session with Niki & The Dove, recorded at The Great Escape in Brighton. Instinct gets a North American release on August 7.

Also imported from Sweden but arriving a bit sooner is the self-titled debut from Amanda Mair. A new MP3 from the record, out June 5, has been made available, there’s a video session to watch at The Line Of Best Fit, and an interview to read at Coup de main.

MP3: Amanda Mair – “House”

Pitchfork and Gigwise profile Swedish electro-pop duo Icona Pop, whose 2011 EP Nights Like This is a good bit of fun, yes it is.

Video: Icona Pop – “I Love It”
Video: Icona Pop – “Nights Like This”

Flavorwire has a video session and QRO an interview with We Are Serenades.

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

"Play The Game"

Beach House covers Queen

Image via Red HotRed HotThere’s a lot of stock descriptors that are used to describe Beach House: dreamy, hazy, dreamy, gauzy, dreamy, etc. There aren’t, however, a lot of allusions to grandiose, stadium-sized classic rock. So that the band would opt to cover as grandiose, stadium-sized and classic rock a band as Queen is an interesting choice. Wisely, however, they didn’t go for the bigger end of the band’s catalog, but instead the sort-of title track from 1980’s The Game, which offers some stately and mid-tempo common ground between their relative styles. The recording was done for 2009’s indie-centric Red Hot benefit compilation Dark Was The Night, though it was only available a) via iTunes and b) when you purchased the album in its entirety, so those who went for a physical copy weren’t left with many options for hearing it. Hello internet!

Beach House have just released their fourth album in Bloom and its garnering arguably the best reviews of their career. Queen ended in 1991 with the death of Freddie Mercury, despite Brian May and Roger Taylor’s attempts to keep it going in various incarnations with guest vocalists (John Deacon wisely excused himself from these endeavours by retiring in 1997) and various extra-cirricular projects. A couple that have been in the news of late are the 10th anniversary of the Queen-themed musical We Will Rock You, which will apparently soon be featuring a disappointing-on-so-many-levels Freddie Mercury hologram, and the Queen Extravaganza tribute tour, which is produced by Roger Taylor and will be stopping in Toronto at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Tuesday night, May 29.

I would personally suggest ignoring all of that stuff, putting on Classic Queen and just enjoy one of the greatest rock bands ever. Or maybe watch the Freddie Mercury Google Doodle. Or watch the video for “The Game” and try to deal with the cognitive dissonance of hearing the distinctive tone of Brian May’s Red Special while watching him play a Stratocaster (though the “why” of it is explained here).

MP3: Beach House – “Play The Game”
Video: Queen – “Play The Game”