Posts Tagged ‘Amos The Transparent’

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

David Comes To Life

Fucked Up, The Sadies, PS I Love You and Quest For Fire at The Great Hall in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe baseline for any Fucked Up show is glorious mayhem. Add in factors like a hometown show, a full-album recital of their ridiculously ambitious and critically-acclaimed, concept rock opera David Comes To Life, the last gig of an insanely busy year in support of said album that took the band around the world from bars to festivals to arenas, a fundraising benefit for Barriere Lake Solidarity, and a lineup made up of some of the band’s favourite acts from Toronto (and outlying regions), and expectations will not unreasonably be increased to ludicrous heights.

Things opened with Quest For Fire, the only act of this two-night mini-festival that I’d never seen despite them having been around for some time. And though I’d been briefed on what they were about, musically, I could have guessed from their pedalboards – any band with that many Big Muffs on stage is likely to be stoner-rock inclined, and indeed they were inclined to the big lumbering riffs, but their brief set showed they were also able to move with some velocity when needed. First band of the night and our daily recommended dose of head banging and guitar solos were well covered.

It’d been a while since I’d last seen PS I Love You, and apparently in the interim they’ve decided the two-man band thing wasn’t cutting it. For this show, at least, they’d expanded to a three-piece with Tim Bruton of Matters and countless other local acts helping out on guitar and keys. Not that Paul Saulnier necessarily needed the help – he’d also acquired a double-neck guitar to beef up his already massive sound, and on this night PS I Love You were easily the loudest I’d ever heard them. And also the proggiest – it’s interesting how when they first emerged, all the reference points were ’80s and ’90s college rock because now there’s little chance you’d peg their influences any more recent than the ’70s. There are still plenty of fret-shredding solos, but now you couldn’t ignore the sophistication in the ideas and arrangements – that Rush cover they released a little while back wasn’t ironic, I’ll tell you that.

I don’t think it’s a slight to say that The Sadies are always The Sadies, because if you’ve seen The Sadies live before, you know that means they’re always awesome. As with when I saw them last, opening up for another not-immediately obvious act in Godspeed You! Black Emperor back in April, their set skewed a little more to the rock side of things than the country – Travis Good’s fiddle did not make an appearance – and it may have felt a little looser than they normally are – at one point Dallas Good dedicated a song to everybody in the whole world – but favourites like “Ridge Runner Rell” and “Tiger Tiger” were givens for the set and as jaw-dropping as ever. That there was a mic set up in the centre of the stage but unattended for most of the set was clear sign that a guest would be joining them, but it really could been anyone since the band have worked with pretty much everyone. Who it ended up being was Andre Ethier – the former Deadly Snake, not the current Los Angeles Dodger – who led the band through a couple of tunes reminiscent of Rolling Thunder-era Dylan, this ensuring that the ’70s theme that had been running through the night remained unbroken.

And then it was time for Fucked Up. Speaking objectively, it was hard to ignore that Damian Abraham’s mic sounded either broken or deliberately distorted beyond reasoning, or that the mix wasn’t nearly as balanced as it should have been to allow a work as sonically complex as David to really shine (though standing right in front of Ben Cook’s amp probably didn’t help my perspective), or that at a few points in the set I heard the band’s usual uber-tightness waver some. But none of that mattered one whit. This was the band that had improbably become this city’s musical ambassadors to the world over the last few years celebrating an amazing year with their friends and family for a worthy cause, and any nit-picking about the technical details – which were mostly minor – were rendered completely invalid by the spirit and energy of the show.

For his traditional foray into the audience early in the show, Abraham climbed right up off the stage into the balcony and traversed the entire perimeter of the venue while his bandmates churned through “Turn The Season”. Beneath him, as they did from note one and would through the duration of the show, a relatively small but unquestionably determined mosh pit did what they do; Abraham would encourage the horseplay but also clearly kept a watchful eye on his charges. And though he’s the indisputable focal point of the band, enough can’t be said about the rest of the band and their ability to keep up the exhausting and unrelenting pace that the material demands, be it unloading massive riff after riff or providing the melodic backing vocals so essential to tempering Abraham’s gruff roar. I can’t imagine the endurance necessary to pull off a show like this, but they did it.

Surprisingly, the show seemed to go by quicker than the album itself seems to and with the set finale of “Lights Go Out”, you couldn’t help but feel a huge swell of hometown pride for what had just gone down. Arguably the city’s best band right now, for whom epithets like “punk” or “hardcore” are now so stylistically inadequate, gave us a fantastic gift and reminded us that in a year when so much seems to have gone wrong civically, there was still so much to love about this city. Toronto the good, Toronto the Fucked Up.

Exclaim and BlogTO also have reviews of the show and The AV Club has an interview with drummer Josh Zucker. Pitchfork has the whole of the Fucked Up performance of David in New York City available to watch.

Photos: Fucked Up, The Sadies, PS I Love You, Quest For Fire @ The Great Hall – December 20, 2011
MP3: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Ship Of Fools”
MP3: Fucked Up – “A Little Death”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Neat Parts”
MP3: The Sadies – “Another Year Again”
MP3: The Sadies – “Anna Leigh”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Subdivisions”
MP3: PS I Love You (featuring Diamond Rings) – “Leftovers”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Get Over”
MP3: PS I Love You – “2012”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Butterflies & Boners”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Facelove”
Video: Fucked Up – “Turn The Season”
Video: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
Video: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
Video: Fucked Up – “Black Albino Bones”
Video: Fucked Up – “Crooked Head”
Video: The Sadies – “Another Day Again”
Video: The Sadies – “Cut Corners”
Video: The Sadies – “Postcards”
Video: The Sadies – “The Horseshoe”
Video: The Sadies – “Flash”
Video: PS I Love You (featuring Diamond Rings) – “Leftovers”
Video: PS I Love You – “Get Over”
Video: PS I Love You – “Facelove”
Video: Quest For Fire – “I’ve Been Trying To Leave”

Kathryn Calder has released a new video from Bright & Vivid.

Video: Kathryn Calder – “Turn A Light On”

Exclaim has details of the new Woodpigeon EP For Paolo, which will be released digitally on January 24. There’s also a new video for the title track.

Video: Woodpigeon – “For Paolo”

Colin Stetson also has a new video for his new 10″ single for “Those Who Didn’t Run”.

Video: Colin Stetson – “Those Who Didn’t Run”

Amos The Transparent have released a video from their forthcoming album Goodnight My Dear… Im Falling Apart, which compiles a pair of previously-released EPs and will be out on February 14. They play a release show for the record at The Horseshoe on February 25.

Video: Amos The Transparent – “Sure As The Weather”

It’s a two-night stand of the in sound from out west at Lee’s Palace on April 12 and 13 when Yukon Blonde and Library Voices roll into town.

MP3: Yukon Blonde – “Fire”
Video: Yukon Blonde – “Water”
Video: Library Voices – “Generation Handclap”

The first official taste of Memoryhouse’s debut full-length The Slideshow Effect is available and it’s very… awake. The album is out February 28.

MP3: Memoryhouse – “The Kids Were Wrong”

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Santa Left A Booger In My Stocking

Aqua Teen Hunger Force (and me) wish Daytrotter (and you) a merry Christmas

Illustration By Johnnie CluneyJohnnie CluneyLast post before the holidays! And it comes courtesy of the ever-lovin’ Daytrotter, who’ve managed to wrangle a studio session of soon-to-be holiday classics from the animated miscreants of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. If the idea of Shake, Meatwad and Carl celebrating the season in song doesn’t do it for you, well I’m sorry, I don’t want to know you. And no, I don’t know where Frylock is – maybe he doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Or sing. Or both. And for context, the Aqua Teen Hunger Force isn’t singing just for the joy of it – they’ve got themselves a holiday album out in Have Yourself A Meaty Little Christmas. Do with that information what you will.

Also with a Christmas tune and a new album – but not a Christmas album – is The Magnetic Fields. Realism is out on January 26 and NME has posted up the one Yule-themed tune as a first taste of the record to download while Spinner talks to Stephin Merritt about the album’s influences. The Magnetic Fields will be at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto on February 8.

MP3: The Magnetic Fields – “Everything Is One Big Christmas”

A Good Day For Airplay has an exclusive download of “Let It Snow” by Jon Auer of The Posies and Big Star.

BrooklynVegan has an end-of-year interview with The Pains Of Being Pure Of Heart and another one with Antlers.

Spinner talks to Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips about their decision to cover Dark Side Of The Moon.

Some shows – big and small – coming up in the new year that you may want to take note of. Hamilton’s Dark Mean, whose free-to-download Frankencottage EP makes them worthy of note – are playing a free show at the Horseshoe on January 4. Hero Hill named their debut one of their top EPs of the year and has an interview and new song to download.

Video: Dark Mean – “Frankencottage”

The Balconies, who need no introduction in these pages, have a gig at Supermarket on January 6.

Amos The Transparent will make the trek down from Ottawa for a gig at the Horseshoe on January 9. Not sure why, but my years seem to end or start with Amos. A tradition I’m quite alright with.

MP3: Amos The Transparent – “Title Track”

$100 will be at the Horseshoe on January 22. Oh No Forest Fires are there the following night.

A little bit of Brooklyn pays Toronto a visit when Pattern Is Movement and Via Audio stop in at the Drake Underground on March 1. Via Audio’s new record Animalore is out March 9, tickets to the show are $10.

MP3: Pattern Is Movement – “Blanched & Threshed”
MP3: Pattern Is Movement – “In Tape Grass”
MP3: Via Audio – “Babies…”

I’d call Swedish electro-pop duo jj un-Googleable, but that implies that there’s something out there in the wilds of the internet to find. And really, there isn’t, except for this glowing Pitchfork review for this year’s No. 2. Their next record – the imaginatively-titled No. 3 – will be out on March 9 via Secretly Canadian and their Spring North American tour will bring them to Lee’s Palace on April 3. It’s certainly implied that The xx, who are accompanying their lower-case compatriots on most other dates, will be along for this one as well but considering they’re confirmed to be at the Kool Haus barely two weeks later supporting Hot Chip, I wouldn’t take that for granted. I’ll confirm that one way or the other when I can.

MP3: jj – “Ecstasy”

Trans Am have a date at the Horseshoe on Horseshoe April 21.

MP3: Trans Am – “Remote Control”

Canadian Musicfest has rolled out the first batch of performers for the 2010 edition of the festival, running March 10 through 14 all throughout Toronto. Noteworthy names include Constantines, reigning Mercury Prize winner Speech Debelle, The Acorn, Rural Alberta Advantage and Great Lake Swimmers.

And no noteworthy names of yet for 2010’s Olympic Island festival, but it is happening and all will be revealed on January 11 at 7:30 PM. Any guesses?

K, that’s it for a bit. Happy holidays all.

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

(North By North) East Of Hercules

NxNE announces 2009 lineup

Photo By Aubrey EdwardsAubrey EdwardsI believe it’s traditional that on one’s birthday, one should be fed and watered profusely on someone else’s dime. So that’s exactly what I did last night, for my 34th, and it was all courtesy of NxNE. It wasn’t a party just for me, of course. The festival was having their kick-off press conference wherein they promised to announce “all” the bands playing this year’s to-do, taking place June 17 to 21 around Toronto, a feat which would have been impressive to see since the reading off of hundreds of band names could have been one of the more stultifyingly dull things I’d ever be able to witness.

But as it happens that wasn’t the game plan. Instead, they announced the bigger names who’d be performing the festival, which would have been great… if they weren’t the same names they’d already announced on the website last month. Don’t get me wrong, having the likes of Black Lips, Matt & Kim and No Age and Woodpigeon playing is nothing to shake a stick at, and one name that hadn’t been previously announced and raised an eyebrow was Seattle garage rock legends The Sonics, who will close out the outdoor stage at Yonge-Dundas Square on the Saturday night, June 20. But it’s just that I thought with a big media event they’d have held onto a few surprises to get people excited.

And while it was a bit of an anticlimax in that regard, it doesn’t change the fact that there’s a pretty solid lineup descending on the city come mid-June including a lot of great domestic acts – many of them the usual suspects, sure, but that doesn’t make them less great. And I suppose I got my big pleasant surprise of the festival a couple days ago when I got an email from Austin trio Ume informing me they’d be coming to town for NxNE. Ume, you may or may not recall, were one of the best things I saw at SxSW back in March – a trio led by the guitar heroics of Lauren Larson who balanced pop hooks and sweet female vocals with crazy heavy riffing. I had thought I was going to have to wait until next Spring to see them again, the odds of them touring all the way up here seemed beyond remote but hey, here they come. They’ll be playing Neutral on Thursday the 18th at 10PM – not sure what else is going on that night at that time, the festival schedule is still forthcoming, but I can tell you right now that this will be one of the best bets for that night, if not the whole weekend. They’ve got a couple releases – a 2005 album in Urgent Sea which is decidedly rougher and heavier than their new most excellent Sunshower EP – also check out their SxSW WOXY session. And it’s pronounced “ooo-may”, which you’ll need to know for when people ask you what was the best new thing you saw at NxNE was.

MP3: Ume – “The Conductor”
MP3: Ume – “Wake”
Video: Ume – “The Conductor”
MySpace: Ume

Harbourfront Centre has also released their World Routes 2009 schedule, and the highlights (some previously announced) would appear to be the Constantines show on Canada Day (though Chad Vangaalen isn’t listed, all indications are he’s still playing as well), Holy Fuck with Winter Gloves for Beats, Breaks & Culture on July 10, and Jenn Grant, Gentleman Reg and Amy Millan as part of Canadian Voices the weekend of July 24 and 25. And as always, these shows are free free free.

Amos The Transparent will be at the Horseshoe on May 22 in addition to their June 18 NxNE show at the Drake Underground. They have a new EP out called My, What Big Teeth You Have… and are encouraging the existence of Amos The Transparent cover bands by putting lyrics and chord sheets for their songs on their website.

And if NxNE proper wasn’t going to keep me busy enough that week, there’s also the big-deal shows on the preceding days. Music Snobbery has an interview with Phoenix, whose Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is out May 29 and who play the Phoenix on the Monday, June 15.

And then you’ve got Patrick Wolf at the Mod Club a couple days later on Wednesday, June 17. The Sunday Mail talks to Wolf, whose The Bachelor is out June 1 in the UK and August 11 over here. I do believe I’ll be taking some time off from work that week. Yes I do.

As mentioned in last month’s writeup of Neko Case’s sublime Trinity-St Paul’s show, she’s coming back this Summer and details of said performance have been announced. Case will play Massey Hall on July 14 with tickets going for $29.50, $35.50 and $40.50. Presale goes tomorrow morning at 10AM with the password available at while the public on-sale begins May 15 at noon.

MP3: Neko Case – “Middle Cyclone”
MP3: Neko Case – “People Got A Lotta Nerve”

And if you’re looking for something damn near the opposite of Neko Case that night, you may want to consider seeing Micachu & The Shapes at the El Mocambo the eve of July 14. I (and the MBV posse) reviewed their debut album Jewellery back in March and as confounding as I found it, I can’t say that I won’t be at this show rather than see Case again. Can’t say that I will, but it’s not a no-brainer. Tickets $12.

MP3: Micachu & The Shapes – “Lips”

At long last, Frightened Rabbit are no longer frightened of Toronto and will play their own headlining show on July 22 at the Horseshoe, tickets $13.50 – book it.

MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “The Modern Leper”
MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “Head Rolls Off”
MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “Old Old Fashioned” (live)

Jack White’s new band – the Alison Mosshart-fronted Dead Weather – will be taking their debut album Horehound, out June 16, on the road and stop in at the Kool Haus on July 22.

Video: The Dead Weather – “Hang You From The Heavens”

The Walkmen have a date at Lee’s Palace on July 24, Cass McCombs supports.

Video: The Walkmen – “In The New Year”

NPR is streaming the whole of John Vanderslice’s new record Romanian Names, which is due out next week. He plays the Horseshoe on July 10.

Stream: John Vanderslice / Romanian Names

Good Radio Dept news for me – they’re playing a second show, albeit a short one, this weekend at NYC Popfest on Friday night at Don Hill’s in Greenwich to go along with their main gig on Saturday night at Bell House. Double the Radio Dept! Good Radio Dept news for everyone – they’re releasing a new EP on June 23 entitled David, hopefully a sign that Clinging To A Scheme will be out soon thereafter. Of course, I thought the same thing for last year’s Freddie & The Trojan Horse EP… but think positive!

Stuart Murdoch talks to Pitchfork about his God Help The Girl project, the album for which will be released on June 23. They are also soliciting subscriptions to the project, which will get you a steady stream of physical and digital goodies sent to your mailbox and inbox over the next few months.

Hooves On Turf recorded a video session with Fanfarlo back during SxSW, which is now online. The band are going to be giving their brilliant Reservoir album a more-proper retail release in the UK soon, but for everyone else, ordering it direct from the band is still the best way to get it, which you really really should.

MP3: Fanfarlo – “Pilot”

Avenue 61 interviews 6 Day Riot, last year’s top find of NxNE. Their new album 6 Day Riot Have A Plan will be out on July 6 in the UK.

The Los Angeles Times and Reuters talk to James Mercer of The Shins.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009


Trespassers William reveals The Natural Order Of Things

Photo via MySpaceMySpaceIt’s one of those bits and bobs days. Let’s begin.

Seattle dreampop artisans Trespassers William, who appear to once again be down to the core membership of guitarist Matt Browne and singer-guitarist Anna-Lynne Williams, have released details about their next release. The Natural Order Of Things is a five-track EP which follows 2007’s The Noble House as the band’s second consecutive mini-album since their last full-length, 2006’s exquisite Having.

It’s difficult to say what sort of direction this new release will augur for the band – The Noble House was a significant departure from Having, abandoning the trademark sonic denseness of producer Dave Fridmann for a balance between sparer, folkier material more in line with their debut release Anchor and sprawling ambient/instrumental excursions. Couple that with the surprisingly loud and heavy (though in very relative terms) live performance I caught at SxSW last year and you’ve got an act whose only constant seems to be Williams’ beautifully mournful voice and the ability to surprise without becoming too unfamiliar. Am I excited to hear this new release? Yes, I’d say so.

The Natural Order Of Things is due out on the 25th of May via UK label Gizeh, and to pique interest, they’ve provided the lead track”Sparrow” for download. I’ve also provided a track from Having for those of you who haven’t heard it, which is unfortunately probably most of you.

MP3: Trespassers William – “Sparrow”
MP3: Trespassers William – “Safe Sound

Congratulations go out to Aquarium Drunkard, who has just released a tribute album to Paul McCartney’s 1971 solo record RAM with an impressive roster of Los Angeles-based talent including Earlimart and Radar Bros. The album is available to download for free, but listeners are encouraged to make a donation to Macca-approved charity No More Landmines.

It figures, but almost immediately following last week’s post anticipating the new record and tour from Ohbijou, word came down that the album release has been delayed and the previously-announced Spring tour – including the April 18 date at the Opera House – have been postponed. Details are still forthcoming, but until then savour “Black Ice”, as it’s all there’ll be for the time being.

Death Cab For Cutie have released a new video. Update: And this just in – the Death Cab is coming back to town for a show April 5 at the Sound Academy with Cold War Kids and Ra Ra Riot as support. Tickets $40.50, on sale Thursday.

Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “Grapevine Fires”

PopMatters interviews Mac McCaughan about matters Superchunk, Portastatic and Merge. Superchunk’s new Leaves in the Gutter EP is out April 7.

New York Magazine profiles The Mountain Goats and their fans.

Le Blogotheque filmed a Take-Away Show with Johnny Flynn in Buenos Aires.

NPR talks to Neko Case, whose Middle Cyclone is out today.

Halifax’s Dog Day will release their new album Concentration on April 21 – get a taste below. They play the The Drake Underground on March 14 as part of CMW.

MP3: Dog Day – “Rome”

Amos The Transparent will also be in town next week for CMW – look for them at Rancho Relaxo at 1AM on Friday night – and they’ll have a new release along with them. The My, What Big Teeth You Have… EP will be available at live shows through the Spring and Summer and receive proper distribution come Fall – you can hear a couple tracks at their MySpace.

Magnet speaks to Wheat’s Brendan Harney about the forthcoming reissue of Hope & Adams and Medeiros and new album White Ink, Black Ink.

Pulp (online UK magazine, not band) welcomes Woodpigeon to their, uh, boardroom? for a session. Available in video and downloadable audio forms.

Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste writes Drowned In Sound a letter about their forthcoming album Veckatimest, out May 26.

Justin Townes Earle – son of Steve, yes, but an accomplished singer-songwriter in his own right – releases his debut sophomore effort Midnight At The Movies today and has a date at the Horseshoe on April 22, tickets $12.50. Laundromatinee featured Earle in a session a little while back, and if you’ve got a van to sell, he’s looking.

MP3: Justin Townes Earle – “Mama’s Eyes”
MP3: Justin Townes Earle – “What I Mean To You”

Yes, they were here just a few weeks ago but The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are coming back again. Can they pack Lee’s Palace again, so soon? We’ll find out April 28 – tickets for that show are $10.

MP3: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “Everything With You”

Lady Sovereign has a date at Lee’s Palace on May 1, tickets $20.

Loney Dear, whose Dear John has grown on me some since I reviewed it in January, has scheduled a North American headlining tour for May and will be at the Rivoli in Toronto on May 8.

MP3: Loney Dear – “Airport Surroundings”

They’re calling it “Unwigged & Unplugged: An Evening with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer”, but what it REALLY is is Spinal Tap. Only without the wigs. And costumes. And with Folksmen songs from A Mighty Wind. Okay, maybe it’s not really Spinal Tap. But it’s as close as you’re going to get anytime soon, and it’ll be happening at Massey Hall on May 21. Billboard has complete tour dates and details and Vanity Fair has an interview with the band… in character.

MP3: Spinal Tap – “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”

Monday, January 5th, 2009

(Here's To) New Beginnings

Amos The Transparent, Whale Tooth, Bellewoods at Rancho Relaxo in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThough concert season is always light during the end and start of the year, this year’s layoff of 19 days seemed exceptionally long. And so when I finally got back out on the club circuit last Friday night, I was mentally unprepared for the sheer crush of humanity that awaited me. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration but Rancho Relaxo – not exactly a large room under any circumstances – seemed extra packed with punters.

Now I’m sure that some of them were just folks out looking for something or anything to do on the last weekend of the holidays, or just Two-Way Monologues regulars, but it’s also not unreasonable to assume that the draw of Amos The Transparent had grown to the point that the usual haunts wouldn’t be able to house them much longer. Since first discovering the band at Pop Montreal in 2007 (also the same evening I first saw Woodpigeon – that’s called a good night), they and their debut album Everything I’ve Forgotten To Forget have not only become fast favourites, but easy candidates for the title of best unknown band in Canada. And maybe it’s just as well that they’re shedding the “unknown” part of that accolade because their before too long, either of their bill-mates on this night might be ready to lay claim to it.

Leading off were Bellewoods, a Toronto five-piece who built widescreen, slow-motion soundscapes on a strong foundation of countrified hurt that reminded me of Whiskeytown at their more bottle-bottomed moments. Though their material is a touch monochromatic, they evidenced enough sonic ingenuity in their songcraft and arrangements – and some nice guitar excursions – that I expect there’s promising things to come. A full-length album was completed last Fall and details on a release should come soon.

Taking Bellewoods’ stately pace and ratcheting up about a zillion percent were middle act, Toronto’s Whale Tooth and their highly danceable, feel-good pop led by Elise LeGrow and Norm Maschke’s terrific vocal chemistry. LeGrow’s jazz training was evident as soon as she opened her mouth but she rather than overpower things, she demonstrated exactly the right amount of style, verve and charisma to be a magnetic frontperson – bouncing around the stage like a superball also helped. Their songwriting is definitely on the breezy side, maybe a little too much so for some, but there is no denying that live, they’re a good time and a half.

Perhaps I was spoiled in having my first Amos The Transparent show feature a cast of thousands (or at least seven or eight), but in the times I’d seen them since their four-piece configuration never quite seemed to do the richness of Forgotten‘s material justice. They were all great shows, don’t get me wrong, but I always noticed the absence of manpower – or should I say, the woman power. Some of the finest moments on the album were the duets between frontman Jonathan Chandler and vocalist Ana Miura (and on one track Amy Millan), and that was something that the all-boys lineup just couldn’t recreate. So I was very pleased to see that the Amos live experience is now a six-piece, with recent additions Dan Hay on guitar and Kate Cooke on vocals. Cooke’s voice is decidedly bolder and brassier than Miura’s sweeter, more forlorn presence on the record, but after a mental adjustment of expectations she filled the vacancy admirably.

As for the show itself, it was typically excellent with great enthusiasm and intensity, though the Rancho’s little stage forced the band to be rather stationary. The set was made up mainly of Forgotten material but with a smattering of new songs to whet the appetite for the next album. And it seemed that people were ready for some new material because a surprising amount of the audience was singing along with the old songs, loudly and lustily. All these people who were filling Rancho – they were fans. I don’t say that with incredulity, just to be clear, but satisfaction.

It actually struck me while watching them that they reminded me not a little of Wilco, able to take their strong pop sensibilities and folkish roots and from there, grow their sound upwards and outwards, respectful of the traditions that informed them without being beholden to them. Or maybe I just noticed Jonathan Chandler’s Wilco t-shirt. But watching the band and their musical abilities and combining that with the restless creativity of the songcraft… I don’t think it’s a left-field comparison. A lofty one, yes, but not overly so.

Metro has an interview with Amos’ Chandler, who according to their MySpace, will be back in town for a show at Sneaky Dee’s on January 23.

Photos: Amos The Transparent, Whale Tooth, Bellewoods @ Rancho Relaxo – January 2, 2009
MP3: Amos The Transparent – “Title Track”
MP3: Whale Tooth – “Hibernation Song”
MP3: Whale Tooth – “Sleepwalking”
MP3: Whale Tooth – “6 Billion”
MySpace: Amos The Transparent

The Guardian profiles Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons. Their new album The Crying Light is out January 20 and they play the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on February 17.

Also out January 20 is Noble Beast, the new one from Andrew Bird. NPR is currently streaming the whole thing and Bird was the subject of a feature at The New York Times this weekend. He has an April 3 date at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Update: You can also stream the instrumental bonus disc – via Pitchfork.

Stream: Andrew Bird / Noble Beast
Stream: Andrew Bird / Useless Creatures