Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Tap At My Window

Photo by Phoebe Mitchell-Innes

It’s sheer coincidence that Ireland’s UAE’s National Newspaper chose to run this piece last week about three of the bright lights of the London “anti-folk” scene – Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn and Noah & The Whale – all of whom are coming to town in the next few weeks and all of whom I’d been planning on writing pieces on in the next few days. But they did, and thus anything I might have to say is completely redundant so read the article – I’m going to have a nap.

I kid, I kid. But the piece does do well to offer some context to how these artists are interrelated so it’s worth your time if you find this stuff at all interesting. And in the meantime, I’ll start things off talking about Ms Marling. Of the three acts, she’s probably the highest profile at the moment thanks to the nomination of her debut Alas, I Cannot Swim for the Mercury Prize. And while she didn’t win, the boost to her visibility is incalculable – after all, that was one of the factors that kicked me in the butt sufficiently to seek out a copy of the record, which was just released domestically last month.

And I’ll admit that the first few listens didn’t make that much of an impression. She had a good voice, rich and oaken and similar to Beth Orton’s though not as as lived-in – but save a few of the more extroverted numbers, it’s a decidedly subtle record and one that requires some time to properly seep into one’s consciousness. Which it did and before I knew it, it had worked its way into heavy rotation. Just as her voice is more worn and knowing than you’d expect from an 18-year old, yet still angelic somehow, her songs also carry a weight that should by rights belong to someone much older. But this implicit wisdom isn’t affected – the sentiments contained in the songs come from a place of first loves, heartaches, insecurity and hopefulness – intrinsically youthful but never juvenile. Anyone who’s ever re-read a diary or poetry from their high school days years later knows how difficult that can be, and Marling pulls it off marvelously. Couple the voice and words with musical accompaniment that resides mainly on the intimate and acoustic side but is capable of swelling up into bigger and broader when necessary and you’ve got a record that – had it walked away with the Mercury as many expected – would have been difficult to argue against.

Marling’s co-headline North American tour with Johnny Flynn – dubbed the “Fee Fi Fo Fum Tour” – will wrap up at the Rivoli in Toronto on October 4. Note that this room only holds 100 so if you’re at all interested in going, get tickets now. The Boston Globe has an interview with Marling, who blogged her experience as a Mercury nominee for The Guardian. WNYC also has a studio session available to listen to.

And courtesy of Press Here Publicity, I’ve got three Laura Marling prize packs to give away which consist of a limited edition tour-only 7″ with the track “I’m A Fly”, a limited edition 180-gram LP of Alas, I Cannot Swim accompanied by a live CD and an autographed poster. In other words, GOOD STUFF. Unless you don’t have a turntable in which case it’s mainly decorative stuff but still good. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want the Laura Marling stuff” in the subject line and your full mailing address in the body. The contest is open to residents of North America and will close at midnight, September 25.

MP3: Laura Marling – “Ghosts”
Video: Laura Marling – “New Romantic”
Video: Laura Marling – “Ghosts”
Video: Laura Marling – “My Manic & I”
Video: Laura Marling – “Cross Your Fingers”
Video: Laura Marling – “Night Terror”
MySpace: Laura Marling

Chatanooga Pulse and The Louisville Courier-Journal welcome Basia Bulat to the American midwest with interviews.

The Duluth Budgeteer says hello to Neko Case.

Indy Weekly talks to David Berman of Silver Jews.

Chart reports that Antony & The Johnsons will release a new EP entitled Another World on October 7. It’s the precursor to their new full-length The Crying Light which is due in January. And Antony Hegarty of said Johnsons appears in the new video from Bjork.

Video: Bjork – “Dull Flame Of Desire”

Cadence Weapon has a show scheduled for October 9 at Lee’s Palace, tickets $10. The Strand has an interview with Rollie Pemberton.

MP3: Cadence Weapon – “Real Estate”

The Awkward Stage bring their rather splendid new record Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights to the Horseshoe on October 16 along with Mint-y labelmates Vancougar and Saskatchewan’s Sylvie.

MP3: The Awkward Stage – “Anime Eyes”
MP3: Vancougar – “Obvious”
MP3: Sylvie – “Rise And Fall”

Justice are at Circa on October 29.

Roots-rock veterans The Skydiggers will be at the Mod Club on November 1 in support of their new record City Of Sirens, tickets $25 in advance.

Holly Golightly has a date at the Horseshoe on November 12, tickets $11.50. Her new record is Dirt Don’t Hurt and it’s due out on October 14.

Ani DiFranco will be at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on November 26, her new album Red Letter Year is out September 30.

MP3: Ani DiFranco – “Emancipated Minor”

The King Khan & BBQ Show will make a mess of Lee’s Palace on December 5.

Stars invite their fans to come and be sad and robotic with them on December 12 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (that place again!). Tickets are $29.50.

And while I don’t normally link to individual reviews – just too damn many out there – this one for The Acorn’s Glory Hope Mountain over at Drowned In Sound – it was just released in the UK – made me smile and feel awful proud of the band, because I know where the writer is coming from in being blindsided by something so unexpectedly wonderful. The comments are heartening as well. The Acorn are releasing the companion record Heron Act on September 30 and will be on tour across North America this Fall with Ohbijou, including a November 27 show at Lee’s Palace in Toronto.

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Scotland's Shame

Photo via MySpace

When I wrote up Mogwai’s show at the Phoenix back in June, the main thesis of the piece was that Mogwai will always sound like Mogwai and that’s alright. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to formula if said formula is still potent, which based on that show it most obviously was.

And then just a day later, they released the first MP3 from their forthcoming album The Hawk Is Howling, out next Tuesday. Built around a steady synthesized bass throb and with a distinctly electronic sheen, “The Sun Smells Too Loud” was melodic, thoughtful, and melancholic whilst decidedly upbeat – no mean feat for an instrumental song. And besides being the most immediately ear-catching thing I’d heard from the band since their previous high-water mark, “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong”, it sounded rather unlike anything Mogwai had done before and thus disproved my theory from just 24 hours previous. Thanks a lot, guys.

So it’s with equal bits relief and disappointment that I can report that the rest of the album sticks largely to boilerplate Mogwai circa their last few records. Slow, sweeping and sinister with occasional forays into all-out guitar-mageddon and with some of the more synthesized touches from “Sun” manifesting themselves elsewhere, but subtly so. Conceptually the same, but it’s noteworthy that only two of the album’s ten tracks clock in at less than five minutes and that pair only barely so. This is in contrast to the last couple records in which the extended forays were the exception, not the rule, and the remainder were pop-length songs that were hardly pop. The decision to allow themselves to stretch out is beneficial as ideas and atmospheres are allowed to develop at their own pace, whereas previously they might have been prematurely truncated. It’s something that might escape notice at first, but it’s significant. Yes, Mogwai are still Mogwai but they’re getting better at being Mogwai every time out.

As the band prepares to kick off their North American tour, they’re doing press with the likes of Caliente, Tuscon Weekly, LA Weekly and Seattle Weekly. The Guardian also has a piece from Alan McGee about the band. They’re in town next Wednesday night, September 24, for another gig at the Phoenix alongside Fuck Buttons and courtesy of Against The Grain and Beggars Canada, I have contesting. Not “contesting” as in, “I contest the suggestion that hawks howl” or “I contest the attempt to pass off a bald eagle as a hawk”, but “contesting” as in “I’ve got stuff to give away”. And said stuff is as follows: five pairs of passes to the show at the Phoenix, four copies of The Hawk Is Howling on CD and two copies of the Batcat EP on 12″ vinyl. And to maximize the goodness, I’ll dole them all out separately. If you want to win the passes, email me at contests AT with “I want to see Mogwai” in the subject line and your full name in the body. If you want the CD, put “I want The Hawk Is Howling” in the subject line and your mailing address in the body. And if you want the vinyl, put “I want the Batcat” in the subject line and your mailing address in the body. And if it wasn’t clear from the sponsors of said giveaway, it’s open to residents of Canada only. Contest closes at midnight, September 21 – next Sunday night.

And don’t forget that live Mogwai recordings are available en masse at Archive.Org.

MP3: Mogwai – “The Sun Smells Too Loud”
Video: Mogwai – “Batcat”
MySpace: Mogwai

Sigur Ros tells The Times they’re not really all that highbrow. They play Massey Hall next Monday night, September 22.

The Quietus talks to Manic Street Preachers James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire about their early days on Heavenly Records.

Scotland On Sunday and Times & Transcript interview Bloc Party.

The Raveonettes are releasing three free digital-only EPs this Fall, starting with Raveonettes REMIXED, now available, Sometimes They Drop By next Tuesday and two more coming in October and November. Get the at Vice Records.

So just how many tribute albums to The Cure does the world need? At least two, apparently. In the next few months there will be two covers compilations for everyone’s favourite goth-poppers, one entitled Just Like Heaven from American Laundromat Records and Perfect As Cats from Manimal Vinyl. Wired has an interview with the folks responsible for the former,set for a January 27 release and featuring arguably the more impressive list of participants, and The Tripwire has info on the latter collection, set for release on October 28, and a download of one of the tracks from Bat For Lashes.

MP3: Bat For Lashes – “A Forest”

Billboard reports that Bob Mould is working on his autobiography along with author Michael Azerrad and is looking at releasing the story of Husker Du and Sugar from his POV in December of 2010. He’ll also have a new solo record out in March of next year.

Paste gets Matt Berninger of The National to explain some of the lyrics from Boxer.

Support for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ now sold-out show at the Kool Haus has been announced – Vancouver’s Black Mountain will be warming things up. Now don’t you wish you bought tickets so many months ago when I told you to? Black Mountain are also playing their own show at the Opera House a few nights earlier on September 27.

The Guardian profiles a few of the UK independent record labels who, contrary to the general doom and gloom usually associated with the music industry, are doing quite well.

Oh, and to all you RSS people, you may have noticed I changed my feed to a Feedburner one. Appreciate your re-pointing your readers to the new one, apologies for any inconvenience.

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

Sunday Cleaning – Volume 98

While not working or sleeping, I spent most of the past week hitting things up at the Toronto International Film Festival. Not the best batch of films I’ve seen at the festival, but the crapshoot is part of the fun, n’est-ce pas?

Mark Aselton / Gigantic

For his directorial debut, Mark Aselton manages to wrangle together a dream cast including Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman and Ed Asner and it’s the strength of these players that manages to elevate Gigantic from being just a fair first effort to something decent. It has a somewhat vague plot relating to commitment, adoption and mattress sales and engaging individual sequences that don’t always tie into a coherent whole. The dialogue is less precious and quirky but still very much post-Wes Anderson and it’s to the credit of the two leads that Deschanel and Dano are able to turn their rather boilerplate characters – manic pixie dream girl and stoically zoned out guy, respectively – into real people. It’s not an overall success – in the post-film Q&A the director admitted that some of the more curious stuff, like Zach Galifianakis’ homicidal homeless man were in there just because – but it certainly augers well for his future works. Especially if he can keep getting ensembles like this to work with.

Vicente Amorim / Good

I wish I’d know that Good was a play before it was a film because it would have explained away a number of my complaints about the adaptation. It would have explained why it was so static and monologue-ish and heavy-handed in its look at how normal citizens of 1930s Germany stood idly by or even signed up to participate in the rise of Nazism. It”s really a question that’s far too complex to ever move out of the realm of rhetoric and attempts to address it in a 90-minute film are futile and overly simplistic. While Viggo Mortensen gets top billing, his befuddled professor character is a disappointment but Jason Isaacs as his Jewish best friend fares far better. As far as acting goes – not so much in regards to plot.

Trailer: Good

Guy Ritchie / RocknRolla

I had initially been only moderately enthused about this as I thought the Guy Ritchie English Gangster Film genre was played out. As it turns out, it’s only the Guy Ritchie wannabes that should be avoided – the original still has the goods. Though it’s another ensemble crime/comedy caper in the vein of Snatch and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, it’s still got loads of style and wit. There’s Russian mobsters, English hard men, junkies, poofs, Stringer Bell, a femme fatale and a painting of a MacGuffin. Only the titular rock star doesn’t really seem to have any particular purpose, but he’s good for a laugh. Ritchie is obviously in his comfort zone and complaining about that is like going to a Bond film and saying, “what, another spy film?”. It is what it is.

Trailer: RocknRolla

Richard Eyre / The Other Man

I spent the first third of The Other Man convinced that the projector had skipped a reel. Though it was obvious that the time-jumping narrative was deliberate, I couldn’t believe that it was being executed in such a graceless manner. I mean, I can appreciate the necessity of the device to keep the viewer off balance, but when you’re doing so with scenes that are staged identically and you can’t tell if a day/month/year has elapsed or even what country the characters are in, well that’s just shoddy storytelling. And it’s a bit of a waste of what could have been an interesting story, with Neeson as a husband obsessed with finding the man he suspects his wife of having an affair with – that’s Banderas, and that’s not a spoiler because you see as much before the opening credits are done. Neither is at their best (I personally think Banderas is a better actor than he generally gets credit for) and I’m fairly certain that the moments of laugh out loud humour were wholly unintentional.

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Perfect Games

Photo via Merge Records

I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On, the 2006 debut from The Broken West, was a perfect example of a band breaking no new ground whatsoever, but being so good at it that criticisms like that are irrelevant. Go On was a splendid bit of ’70s SoCal, Big Star meets Byrds power-pop revival that proudly wore its influences on its pearl-buttoned sleeves and if they’d opted to follow it up with more of the same, few would have complained.

But instead, with the just-released Now Or Heaven, they’ve managed to pull off the rare feat of displaying marked growth without giving up any of what made them noteworthy in the first place. Still abundant are the sun-kissed harmonies, jangle-riffic guitars and hooks upon hooks, but things are less overtly paisley and plaid – there’s some cloud cover over the valley now, and within those cast shadows things are more rhythmic and textured. The production is more adventurous and a greater reliance on keyboards to stir up the sonic stew and while things might be a touch more sedate this time out, the subtle but significant evolution is most welcome.

The Broken West are currently on the road and will be at the Horseshoe next Wednesday night, September 17, along with The French Kicks. They’re the subject of features at An Aquarium Drunkard, Reveille and The Hartford Courant.

MP3: The Broken West – “Perfect Games”
MP3: The Broken West – “Auctioneer”
MySpace: The Broken West

Okkervil River’s new record Stand Ins was finally released this week, and with it came the final intallment of the covers project – this one featuring their tourmates for this upcoming Fall jaunt, including the October 12 date at the Phoenix, Crooked Fingers. There’s also an MP3 available from their forthcoming new album Forfeit/Fortune, out October 7. Pitchfork solicited a guest list from Okkervil frontman Will Sheff – usually when asked, most artists give them a laundry list. Sheff gives them a series of essays. Isthmus Q&A’s drummer Travis Nelson.

MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Phony Revolutions”
Video: Crooked Fingers – “Bruce Wayne Campbell Interviewed on the Roof of the Chelsea Hotel, 1979”

Daytrotter sessions up with Frightened Rabbit. They’re at Lee’s Palace on October 21, the same day their live acoustic record Liver! Lung! FR! is released.

MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “Old Old Fashioned” (live)

Toronto’s FemBots return with a new album in Calling Out, out next Tuesday, and will follow up with a number of shows – there’s an in-store at Soundscapes on September 25 at 6PM, a proper gig at the Music Gallery on September 26 and looking ahead a bit, another show at the Dakota Tavern on November 7.

MP3: FemBots – “Good Days”

Edmonton double-drummered dance-rock crew Shout Out Out Out Out are at Lee’s Palace on October 30, tickets $15.

It’s a double double-shot of Montreal rock when Sam Roberts and The Stills roll into the Danforth Music Hall on November 13 and 14.

Calexico’s new record Carried To Dust was released this week and the tour dates in support have been announced. Look for them at the Phoenix on November 18 along with Bowerbirds, tickets $18.50. Caliente has an interview with Joey Burns, The Independent has a feature and Spinner is currently streaming the whole record, which is rightly being hailed as a return to form.

Stream: Calexico / Carried To Dust

Brooklynites Parts & Labour are turning out a new record in Receivers on October 21 and will be in town at Sneaky Dee’s a month later on November 21. Since their last visit last Summer in support of Mapmaker, they’ve rotated drummers yet again – which is a shame because Christopher Weingarten was an absolute beast on the kit – but they seem to have gotten even more pop which to me, anyway, isn’t a bad thing at all. Tickets $8.

MP3: Parts & Labour – “Nowhere’s Nigh”

With the December 4 show sold out, a second Neil Young and Wilco show has been announced for December 5. Having already shelled out $100 for the 4th, I will have to reluctantly let this one pass me by, marking the first local Wilco show that I will have missed in nine years. A moment, please. Paste talks to Neil and Glide to one of the US Marines featured in the CSNY documentary Living With War.

After releasing two albums in Snowflake Midnight and Strange Attractor on September 30, Mercury Rev will strike out on tour and as an added bonus, support for a few of dates including the December 9 stop at the Opera House in Toronto will be Dean & Britta. You think they’ll encore with a little “Car Wash Hair”? How could they not? The New York Times has a feature piece on the band.

Also currently spinning at Spinner – Soft Airplane from Chad Van Gaalen, in town at the Mod Club on October 4 and the cover story on this month’s BeatRoute and The New Year’s new self-title. They’re at Lee’s Palace on October 15.

Stream: Chad VanGaalen / Soft Airplane
Stream: The New Year / The New Year

The Baltimore Sun chats with Aimee Mann.

New York Times profiles TV On The Radio, whose new record Dear Science hits the street on September 23.

Howe Gelb discusses Giant Sand’s new record proVisions with Blurt.

Matthew Sweet talks to both Paste and Jambase.

The Riverfront Times has an interview with Tift Merritt.

JAM talks to Sloan’s Chris Murphy.

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Out Of Our Hands

Photo via Second Motion

On the Dublin leg of my jaunt to the British Isles back in May, I had a short list of things to do. One, have a pint at the Guinness Storehouse – check. Two, pick up a copy of The Hollow Of Morning, the third album from Irish singer-songwriter Gemma Hayes, which was conveniently released the week before I arrived.

Hayes’ debut Night On My Side demonstrated her equal facility for gently acoustic folkish fare and densely electrified rockers, both perfectly framing her delicate and emotive vocals. It established her as a rising young talent and garnered a place on the Mercury Prize shortlist in 2002. The follow-up, 2005’s The Roads Don’t Love You, clearly showed her label’s intention to package her as a much more standard singer-songwriter and while it had its high points, was overly sanitized and subsequently didn’t yield the desired results and she was dropped shortly thereafter. After taking some time to regroup, she slowly began work on album number three and the finished product is a much simpler affair, sonically speaking. Drier in production and with a much more intimate atmosphere, it also feels more relaxed and natural than its predecessor – obviously benefitting from the absence of pressure to turn out a radio hit. And while it dwells mostly on the acoustic side of things, there is one moment of glorious sonic oblivion in “Out Of Our Hands”, with a guitar sound that could only come from one man – Kevin Shields.

Shields has long been cited as one of Hayes’ musical idols and the two have collaborated on recordings that have yet to see the light of day and it’s this relationship that got Gemma Hayes on the bill for the My Bloody Valentine-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties in New York State in a couple weeks. And that single appearance has slowly been expanded to a tour, including a show here in Toronto at Supermarket on September 26. I’ve seen Hayes once live at SxSW in 2006 and though it was just a brief acoustic day set, it was still as good as I’d hoped. I don’t know if this will be a similarly unplugged show or if there’s a band along for the ride, but consider this – MBV are in town the night before at Ricoh Coliseum and Shields has joined her on stage before. With that night being an off day before their Chicago show, If he’s still in town… you know where I’m going with this, do you not? And even if he doesn’t show, the fact that she’s finally coming to town after some five years of waiting – it’s good news. Yes.

Also good news is that to get a copy of her new album, you don’t need to fly to Dublin. It’s getting a North American release on September 30 courtesy of Second Motion Records and to whet your appetite, the aforementioned Kevin Shields-enhanced track “Out Of Our Hands” is available as a free download over at RCRDLBL. Get it and I’ll see you at Supermarket. There’s also older live video and audio at fan site Making Waves and some AV from her first two albums below as well a video of her performing with Shields.

MP3: Gemma Hayes – “Happy Sad”
Video: Gemma Hayes – “Back Of My Hand”
Video: Gemma Hayes – “Hanging Around”
Video: Gemma Hayes – “Let A Good Thing Go”
Video: Gemma Hayes – “Happy Sad”
Video: Gemma Hayes with Kevin Shields – “Whiskey Girl” (live)
MySpace: Gemma Hayes

Congratulations go out to Elbow on winning the Nationwide Mercury Prize for The Seldom Seen Kid, a record that I’ve learned to almost love. Before Tuesday night’s awards ceremony, Guy Garvey told The Sunday Mail what he might do if they won, and after the ceremony, he wrote a piece for The Guardian about the experience of taking the big prize. They also tell NME that they forgot to thank collaborator Richard Hawley, himself a former Mercury nominee, for his work on the record.

Video: Elbow – “Grounds For Divorce”
Video: Elbow – “One Day Like This”
Video: Elbow – “The Bones Of You”
MySpace: Elbow

Mercury losers Radiohead told Teletext Planet they’re absolutely thrilled for Elbow’s win and Gigwise they’d have been embarrassed to win. I’m sure the fact that they can probably make the £20,000 purse with just a couple tour dates helps ease the sting a bit. NPR is streaming the band’s tour-closing show in Santa Barbara from a couple weeks ago.

The Quietus talks to Brett Anderson.

The AV Club has an interview with Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce.

Pitchfork reports that Frightened Rabbit will be releasing an acoustic live album entitled Liver! Lung! FR! to coincide with their upcoming Fall tour. It’s out October 21 and presumably they’ll copies on hand that night when they’re in Toronto to play Lee’s Palace. NPR is currently offering an interview and session to stream. Update: Pitchfork now also has a track from the live record available to download.

MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “Old Old Fashioned” (live)

Chart and The Calgary Herald talk to Bloc Party’s Kele Okerke about their sneak attack new album Intimacy, which is apparently still a work in progress. As NME reports, the next single from the band doesn’t actually appear on the digital version of the album that they started selling last month though I’m pleased to mention that I got an email last night that gave me, as someone who’d already purchased the album, a download of the new single for freesies. The new tune, “Talons”, is streaming on the band’s MySpace and they’ve also got a video together for it.

Video: Bloc Party – “Talons”

Goths rejoice – just in time for Hallowe’en, Sisters Of Mercy will be in town for a show at the Phoenix on October 28. Mascara not mandatory, but recommended.

The Duke Spirit will finally make up for those cancelled CMW gigs on October 29 with a show at the Phoenix. They’re touring alongside System Of A Down side-project Scars On Broadway, about whom I know nothing but I presume they’re big enough to justify a show at the Phoenix because the Duke Spirit certainly aren’t…

MP3: The Duke Spirit – “Lassoo”
Video: The Duke Spirit – “Lassoo”
Video: The Duke Spirit – “The Step & The Walk”

Kaiser Chiefs are coming back to town. Their new album Off With Their Heads is out October 13 and they’ll be at the Mod Club on November 18. Frontman Ricky Wilson tells Showbiz Spy that he’s a fan of the Mercury Awards, of which his band has lost one so far.

Video: Kaiser Chiefs – “Never Miss A Beat”

And to wrap up the running Mercury Prize meme in today’s post, This Is Fake DIY has compiled a list of their top five Mercury Prize snubs and The Manchester Evening News lists off their five Mercury high and low points over the years.