Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

Bright Lights

So it’s finally here – Polaris Music Prize Weekend! As the city, nay – the COUNTRY – gears up for what’s surely the biggest event in the Canadian cultural calendar with the always popular Polaris Parade, the Polaris Hot Dog Eating Contest, the Polaris Dirigible Race, the Polaris Ultimate Fighting Championship… there’s just too much to do!

Okay, that’s not really true at all. The ceremony is Monday night, and as a member of the grand jury I’m personally starting to get a little excited/antsy, but there’s really not much to do except show up and see what happens. I’ve been spending the last few months getting acquainted and re-acquainted with the ten nominated albums, and while I bet you think you know where my inclinations like, I can tell you you might be wrong. Or right. Or neither. Records that I previously liked have not fared as well under the critical assessment that this responsibility demands, and other records that I’d dismissed have revealed new facets of themselves that have definitely given me pause. And others are exactly what I thought they were in the first place. If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve said absolutely nothing of value in the past paragraph.

But the purpose of this post isn’t to get in my head – it’s a scary and boring place – but to offer up some interesting linkage to those who are playing Polaris-spotter on Monday night. Radio Free Canuckistan has spent the past week doing a fine job of analyzing and handicapping all the nominated albums, two per day. Check out his thoughts on Black Mountain and Basia Bulat, Caribou and Kathleen Edwards, Holy Fuck and Plants & Animals, Shad and Stars and Two Hours Traffic and The Weakerthans. He also offers up some worthy records that he thinks should have made the short list.

Chart rounded up half the nominees – Holy Fuck, Shad, The Weakerthans, Two Hours Traffic and Caribou – to ask them what it’s like to be nominated and what they’d do with the $20,000 prize. NOW covers a lot of the same ground. The London Free Press – and fellow Grand Jurist James Reaney – talks to hometown noms Basia Bulat and Shad, The Globe & Mail’s Robert Everett-Green (a member of last year’s Grand Jury) looks at how the process of picking a winner works (or is supposed to work), while Zoilus (2006 Grand Jurist) responds. And more 2006 Grand Jurists comment at the National Post and Edmonton Journal. Chart is trying to guess the winner. BrooklynVegan commentates.

If you’re interested to follow along with the ceremony in real time Monday night and listen to the performances from the nominees – and thus enjoy more of the show than I will, since I’ll be sequestered away in a little room – it’s being webcast on CBC Radio 3 starting at 7PM Eastern time. And if you’re curious about the little bits of art that make up today’s image, they come from the lovely posters that were created to honour each of the nominated records – you can see the full pieces at the Polaris website.

And, if you’ve forgotten, here’s the ten nominees.

Black Mountain / In The Future / MP3: “Tyrants”
Basia Bulat / Oh My Darling / MP3: “In The Night”
Caribou / Andorra / MP3: “Melody Day”
Kathleen Edwards / Asking For Flowers
Holy Fuck / LP / MP3: “Lovely Allen”
Plants & Animals / Parc Avenue
Shad / The Old Prince / MP3: “I Don’t Like To”
Stars / In Our Bedroom After The War / MP3: “The Night Starts Here”
Two Hours Traffic / Little Jabs / MP3: “Stuck For The Summer”
The Weakerthans / Reunion Tour / MP3: “Sun In An Empty Room”

So who’s your pick to win and why? If I like your reasoning, maybe I’ll just use that instead of my own.

Friday, September 26th, 2008

A Children's Crusade On Acid

Photo via MySpace

I have a feeling October 7 is going to be a good day to visit your local record store.

Margot & The Nuclear So And Sos have released a first sample of their two upcoming albums, Animal! and Not Animal, both due out on October 7. What’s the difference? Besides the former only being available on vinyl and the latter on CD (in addition to digitally for both), the band’s MySpace blog diplomatically describes the differences thusly: “Animal! is our second album, while Not Animal is a label compiled collection of songs”. Well, it certainly sounds like this major-label relationship is going well, doesn’t it?

There is some overlap between the albums. I don’t have a tracklisting for the vinyl but both these tracks appear on the Epic-approved, band-disavowed album. For more audio, head over to My Old Kentucky Blog for some live tracks and demos and, of course, there’s the Daytrotter session from this Summer.

MP3: Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s – “As Tall As Cliffs”
MP3: Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s – “A Children’s Crusade On Acid”

Also hitting on October 7 – Life Like from The Rosebuds. Check out the title track.

MP3: The Rosebuds – “Life Like”

Though he cancelled his Summer tour a while back, El Guincho is playing make-up in November. Look for him on November 27 at the El Mocambo. Alegranza! is out October 7.

MP3: El Guincho – “Palmitos Park”
Video: El Guincho – “Palmitos Park”

In preparation for the release of Bob Dylan’s latest Bootleg SeriesTell-Tale Signs, also out October 7, you can get a free MP3 of the track “Mississippi” at and there’s also a new video.

Video: Bob Dylan – “Dreamin’ Of You”

The Montreal Gazette talks to Will Sheff of Okkervil River, at the Phoenix on October 12, Daytrotter has some video of Sheff playing a Randy Newman cover (with simian companion) and Paste gets his thoughts on the topic of murder ballads.

That’s a topic Nick Cave knows a thing or two about – Six Billion Stories talks to him about the making of his Murder Ballads record, while Crawdaddy, The Chicago Tribune, SF Weekly and The Chicago Tribune have interviews with the head of the Bad Seeds, who are at the Kool Haus next Wednesday, and you bet your sweet bippy I’m excited about it.

Helpful information from the UK! Simon Jones of The Verve gives Filter a guided tour of Manchester while Mogwai’s Barry Burns offers some cautionary advice to The Quietus for anyone considering a career in grade school teaching.

AM NY talks to Steve Earle about being a New Yorker.

Nicole Atkins reflects on her whirlwind year for The Shreveport Times.

Spin interviews Ra Ra Riot, gets them to play track and field, shoots video. Tuscon Weekly and San Diego City Beat also have interviews but no AV or phys ed components.

Matablog has details on the next edition in the Pavement fancy-pants reissue series. Brighten The Corners: Nicene Creedence Ed. is out November 18.

Drowned In Sound interviews David Berman of the Silver Jews.

Daytrotter has an extra-long session with Centro-Matic.

The Quietus and Paste interview TV On The Radio.

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Do What You Do

Photo by Frank Yang

English quartet Noah & The Whale rolled into the Horseshoe on Tuesday night for a free show, though given the moderate amount of buzz surrounding them and their just-released debut Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down, they could have charged for tickets. Not a whole lot, but some. But the intention surrounding this tour appears to be to garner goodwill for the band and there’s not many better ways to do that than to leave some extra cash in the punter’s pocket for beer, a CD, a t-shirt, whatever.

Their support on this tour happened to be a local girl in the form of Lindi Ortega, so the hometown aspect of her performance was a nice bonus. Though she obviously had the voice and looks to pull off the full-on diva thing, she instead served it up with a pleasant Martha Wainwright-gone-boho/glam approach, and not nearly as over the top as she could have been. Her songs were pleasant if a bit slight and kept her set cheerful, charming and compact.

Though they’ve been happy to take whatever benefits being lumped in with the English anti-folk scene might offer, the “folk” appellation doesn’t really suit them as their live performance makes clear. They may still be plying their craft on fiddles and harmoniums but deep down, the kids just want to rock. But even the best of intentions can be sidetracked by unforseen circumstances and in this case, it was frontman Charlie Fink attempting to fight off a cold that made his normally nasal and groan-y vocals sound even moreso. As a result, Noah & The Whale’s introduction to Toronto started off a bit slow but gradually picked up steam as things progressed.

Louder and more ragged than one might expect given the shiny twee-ness of the recordings – hell, one new song they played was downright sombre – they evidenced some good energy considering Fink’s illness and got the audience involved with some crowd-baiting – encouraging singalongs, talking about how good Montreal was the night before, textbook stuff. Ortega was invited onstage to handle Laura Marling’s vocal parts from the album and though her mic wasn’t working for “Five Years Time”, she sounded quite good on “Rocks & Daggers” – not as ethereal as Marling, but her more powerful delivery also worked well. With a set clocking in at under an hour and a one-song encore showing off their punk rock side (taken from their A Sides side project), they were solid though not remarkable. Though you could attribute some of that to the illness, the truth is probably more along the lines of them simply not being one of those overwhelming live acts – they’ll show up, play their songs and crack some jokes but as long as their songs continue to be of the quality of those that make up Peaceful, that’ll be plenty.

The Boston Herald talks to the band about their desire to make a good (and free) first impression on North America while New City Chicago talks to Fink about his songwriting.

Photos: Noah & The Whale, Lindi Ortega @ The Horseshoe – September 23, 2008
MP3: Noah & The Whale – “2 Bodies 1 Heart”
Video: Noah & The Whale – “Five Years Time”
Video: Noah & The Whale – “2 Bodies 1 Heart”
Video: Noah & The Whale – “Shape Of My Heart”
MySpace: Noah & The Whale
MySpace: Lindi Ortega

This Is Fake DIY interviews Johnny Flynn, playing the Rivoli next Saturday night, October 4.

It’s been a good/bad week for concert cancellations. Though the blog entry from Land Of Talk hoped that the laryngitis Liz Powell finds herself afflicted with – I guess that makes them Land Of No Talk – would only claim a couple of shows, their tour dates now show all Ontario dates – including Saturday’s show at Lee’s Palace – as being cancelled. Making this week’s feature in eye considerably less timely, though the subhead stating that the band were “born under a bad sign” is eerily prescient.

The Toronto Star reminds itself that My Bloody Valentine were never all that popular. Tonight! Kool Haus!

Via the AV ClubWilco are doing their best to country-rock the vote by offering a download of a live MP3 of themselves and Fleet Foxes covering Bob Dylan via The Band’s “I Shall Be Released” in Oregon last month to anyone who pledges to vote in the 2008 election. Of course, it doesn’t specify WHICH election or even check if you live somewhere that’s having an election this year, but that’s between you and your sense of democratic duty. Wilco are at the Air Canada Centre on December 4 and 5.

Matablog offers details on the forthcoming solo record from Carl Newman, who will take off his New Pornographer hat and replace it with his A.C. derby. Get Guilty will be released on January 20 of next year.

The St Louis Post-Dispatch interviews Torq Campbell of Stars. They’re playing two nights at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on December 12 and 13.

Muzzle Of Bees asks five questions of Hayden, opening up for Feist on November 1 and 3 at Massey Hall and the Air Canada Centre, respectively.

Smashing Pumpkins will be playing two completely different sets when they roll into Massey Hall on November 3 and 4. And since these dates are part of their 20th anniversary tour, there’ll hopefully be no pretending that they’re still a relevant artistic force and it’ll just be wall to wall Siamese Dream and Gish. One hopes. Dates and details at Pitchfork.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Don't Believe The Truth

Photo via Homeroom

Poor Noel Gallagher. Thanks to the injuries sustained a couple weeks back when this chump attacked him onstage here in Toronto – injuries that are considerably more serious than initially reported – Oasis has had to cancel a number of European dates on top of the scrapped North American tour earlier this month. Assuming Gallagher gets his health back in order sooner rather than later, Oasis should be back in North America in December since that’s when they’ve said the cancelled London, Ontario show would be made up. Whether they risk another visit to Toronto at that time remains to be seen.

It’s a much healthier and happier Gallagher who shows up in this Spin interview, talking about the making of Dig Out Your Soul, due out October 7 (or already out if you know where to look), and the various feuds attributed to him over the years. Not as hilariously profane as this Exclaim! piece from a couple years back, but still a good read.

And speaking of Dig Out Your Soul, The Quietus reports that the album has the Ryan Adams seal of approval – for what that’s worth – but preferring to form their own opinion, they’ve given the record a listen and assembled a track-by-track review of their own.

And also to be filed under meaningless endorsements, Simon Jones of The Verve tells Spinner that their new material got the thumbs up from Liam Gallagher. He also insists to Undercover that the band won’t split again. Honest.

NME reports on the never-ending yet probably never-resolving prospects of a Blur reunion. In this chapter – Graham Coxon, the man who essentially split the band in the first place and who has generally resisted overtures to give it another go, says that Damon Albarn has no rights to say that the band are done. And Alex James and Dave Rowntree discover they’re actually twins, separated at birth.

Prefix has an interview with Portishead’s Geoff Barrow about the usual Portishead topics – their absence, their new record, their reluctance to tour, et cetera, et cetera.

Peter Hook discusses a myriad of topics, including the forthcoming New Order reissues coming September 30, with Drowned In Sound.

Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit writes about the band’s successes in America versus the UK and life on the road for The Guardian. They’ll be at Lee’s Palace on October 21.

PitchforkTV invites The Futureheads to a New York City rooftop to play some songs for them in a two-part video feature. Adelaide Now has an interview and the band tells BBC that another record is in the works for next year.

Leeds’ Sky Larkin – whom I blogged about last month – have released a new video from their still way-off debut album, due February 2009 or so.

Video: Sky Larkin – “Fossil, I”

In chatting with Billboard, Guy Garvey of Elbow reveals that they’ll be following up their Mercury Prize-winning album The Seldom Seen Kid with a record FOR kids, seldom seen or otherwise. That project will actually happen in parallel with their proper fifth album, presumably skewed towards adults.

MTV UK has details on the next star-studded edition of the War Child benefit album, entitled Heroes and out November 25 in North America. While it’s a shame that these records continue to be necessary, at least the talent assembled means that they’ll sell a ton and help the cause.

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008


Photo by Frank Yang

In the two years since Sigur Ros last paid us a visit – May 2006, if you were wondering – they’ve discovered pop. Or at least, that’s what the talking points around their latest record Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust would have you believe. This is not actually true.

If there was a watershed moment in the Icelandic quartet’s career, it would have been 2005’s Takk, which saw the band making a conscious effort to try a more direct form of songwriting, at least relative to their first records. Compared to everyone else, they still sounded like an herd of space manatees in heat. Med Sud is a progression of that aesthetic shift. Yes, “Gobbledigook” is probably the most accessible thing they’ve ever written but there’s still far more sprawl on the record than conciseness. And that’s okay, because there’s plenty of pop bands in the world, but only one Sigur Ros.

Monday night was another sold out show for the Icelandic quartet at their now-traditional digs in town, Massey Hall. They could obviously play and fill a much larger room, but the classy environs and acoustics of the Old Lady Of Shuter Street are too perfectly suited for the band to ever consider moving… having said that, watch them play somewhere huge and awful next time. Anyway. Support on this tour came from fellow Icelanders Parachutes, whom are easily described as sounding very Icelandic. This might seem awful reductive, but the fact is they sounded almost exactly like a Mum cover band made up of grade school students trying their hand at covering Sigur Ros. The eight-piece were quite effective at creating the shimmering, tinkertoy orchestra that might imply, but didn’t manage to establish any sort of identity of their own. Everything they did had been done better before, and would be done so again about a half hour after they finished up.

In all the past times I’d seen Sigur Ros, the show was very much in keeping with the mysteriousness of the first couple albums. The band seemed perfectly content – even intent – on keeping as low a profile as possible and letting the music (and lightshow) carry everything. This time, even though they started out as one might have expected with the sombre Takk closer “Heysatan” in almost pitch darkness – great for us photographers – there was obviously something else going on. For starters, there were costumes. Most notable were Jonsi Birgisson looking like Chris Martin’s stunt double and drummer Orri Pall Dyrason looking like a vagrant Burger King. This was not the wardrobe of individuals looking to blend into the background. And throughout the course of the set as they alternated the older moody material with the newer, more sprightly songs – all delivered with grandeur and drama – there were even more happenings unprecedented at a Sigur Ros show. Banter (though a lot of it was in Icelandic I think), invitations to sing along, and even a few performance flubs (just enough to be endearing). This was a Sigur Ros not as aliens, not as elves, but simply as people. It seems like an obvious enough statement but in the past, not necessarily the case.

And there was an encore. I don’t think I’d ever seen them do an encore before, and when they tore into their usual apocalyptic set closer of “Popplagio / The Pop Song”, I assumed that would be it. Goodness knows that a song that intense would be near impossible to follow. And so, as the band left the stage and the crowd stood in applause, I thought that’d be it. The band would come out for their curtain call and everyone would go home. But instead, the roadies were scurrying around on stage, bringing out acoustic guitars and quite obviously setting up for more songs. Unbelievable. And return they did, for a reading of “Illgresi” and then, with Parachutes on hand with drums and percussion and Birgisson asking everyone to clap along, the real finale of “Gobbledigook” and the at the crescendo of that, Massey Hall quite literally exploded in brightly coloured confetti – possibly one of the most joyous things I’ve ever seen. I wish I’d had my camera at the ready but even without, it’s an image that I won’t soon forget.

The Boston Globe has an interview with drummer Dyrason. Update: Reviews up at eye, Chart and The Toronto Sun.

Photos: Sigur Ros @ Massey Hall – September 22, 2008
MP3: Sigur Ros – “Gobbledigook”
MP3: Sigur Ros – “Popplagio / The Pop Song”
MP3: Sigur Ros – “Staralfur”
Video: Sigur Ros – “Gobbledigook”
Video: Sigur Ros – “Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur”
MySpace: Sigur Ros

Mogwai are releasing The Hawk Is Howling today and they’re marking the occasion… by by cancelling their North American tour. Medical issues have felled drummer Martin Bulloch and all remaining dates – including Wednesday’s gig at the Phoenix – have been axed. They will be rescheduled for Spring 2009 and all tickets for this show will be honoured then, or you can return them at point of purchase for a refund. But as consolation, here’s an interview with Stuart Braithwaite at Wired and The Quietus has an apology from Bulloch for having a dodgy heart.

And if you’re disappointed about losing out on that particular opportunity to go deaf, remember that My Bloody Valentine are at the Kool Haus on Thursday. Spin has a profile on the band and Billboard a review of their first North American show in forever at ATP in New York this past weekend and The New York Times has a feature and interview with Kevin Shields.

Pitchfork talks to Brendan Canning about his next video and the possible return of Broken Social Scene as a band and not a brand for solo projects. Broken Social Scene the band – they’ve probably realized that’s more marketable – have scheduled a local date at the Sound Academy on November 27, tickets $25. Don’t complain about the venue – it’s your own fault you made the band popular.

Sunset Rubdown are at Lee’s Palace on October 13, tickets $12.

MP3: Sunset Rubdown – “Stadiums & Shrines II”

Neva Dinova have a date at the El Mocambo on November 5, tickets $9. Their new album is You May Already Be Dreaming. Also on the bill are McCarthy Trenching.

MP3: Neva Dinova – “Clouds”
MP3: Neva Dinova – “Will The Ladies Send You Flowers?”