Posts Tagged ‘Amy Millan’

Monday, September 14th, 2009


The Caribou Vibration Ensemble and Koushik at The Opera House in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt’s been almost a year since Caribou’s Dan Snaith walked off the stage, giant cheque in hand, having been crowned the 2008 Polaris Music Prize winner for his stunning record Andorra. But since then, things have been largely silent in camp Caribou since then, as Snaith was presumably hard at work on the follow-up record.

Then in May, word of a live show for the Fall. Not a tour, but the sort of special event that happens when Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips calls up and asks you to come out of hiding and play a show at an old country club in the Catskills, aka ATPNY. And as befits such an occasion, rather than just call up his usual co-conspirators and play a typical Caribou show, Snaith went through his rolodex, gathered together folks from Four Tet, Junior Boys and Enon, amongst many others, and essentially assembled a super-sized Caribou, an uber-Caribou – The Caribou Vibration Ensemble.

So while the ATP performance this past weekend in Monticello, New York was the big event, Thursday night’s show at the Opera House in Toronto was much more than just a dress rehearsal. The opening act for the evening however, Koushik, may have been. Though Koushik is billed as a downbeat electronic/pop/hip-hop artist, on this night he/they were essentially 3/4 of the Caribou Vibration Ensemble – of which Koushik Ghosh was part of – in jamming mode. Not jamming in the sense of everyone on stage trading solos, but more establishing a solid, unshowy groove and building simple melodies over top. They played pretty much straight through, trading instruments and letting things go where they would, then wrapping it after about 30 minutes – right about where hypnotic began to give way to tedious. Wise.

After about a half-hour intermission, Caribou took the stage, less a band than an orchestra with distinct sections (brass over here, massive percussion setup in the middle, strings in back, keys and electronics over here) and at a full fifteen members, dwarfed the nine-piece configuration of the openers. Now at this point, I have to offer context – or lack of. I’d only gotten into Caribou during the Polaris process last year, so I’d never seen them live and further had never really listened to any of the albums previous to Andorra, so frames of reference for the performance and reinvention of the songs is limited at best. But in this instance, I think that’s alright because doing things the way they were was entirely beside the point of the evening.

Across approximately 90 minutes and ranging through the two Caribou records and one Manitoba album, the Ensemble took Snaith’s already widescreen compositions and enhanced by an impressive light show, blew them up into IMAX-scale. Describable at various points thought the set – and sometimes within a song – as electronica, jazz, tribal, psychedelic or noise but never losing sight of the pop roots, the Caribou Vibration Ensemble was a sight to behold and a sound to be heard. The high points would have been the vocal numbers – a choral “Melody Day” and Jeremy Greenspan-sung “She’s The One” – had they been properly audible. Note to sound guy – when six people gather around the mics at the front of the stage, that might be a hint that you should turn them on in the PA. As it was, from up front they were still audible enough to impress but those should have been the show-stoppers.

Those complaints aside, it was still a wholly impressive and memorable evening and I can only imagine how terrific their set was at ATP – surely standouts of an absurdly stacked lineup. And now Snaith returns to crafting the third Caribou record and the rest of us return to waiting patiently, though he’s already on record as saying it will be a departure from the classic pop of Andorra. Holding up this experience as a benchmark for future Caribou live performances is also probably unreasonable, but that’s fine – it works quite well as one of those unique experiences that I feel lucky to have been able to witness. eye and Exclaim have reviews of the show while NOW was on hand to catch some video.

Photos: The Caribou Vibration Ensemble, Koushik @ The Opera House – September 10, 2009
MP3: Caribou – “Melody Day”
MP3: Caribou – “Barnowl”
Video: Caribou – “She’s The One”
Video: Caribou – “Melody Day”
Video: Caribou – “Irene”
Video: Caribou – “Hummingbird”
MySpace: Caribou
MySpace: Koushik

And to anyone who enjoyed – as I did – watching Caribou’s touring drummer Brad Weber beat the tar out of his kit for both the Caribou and Koushik sets, note that he has his own band in Pick A Piper and they will be at the Horseshoe this coming Friday, September 18, as part of the 100th show celebrations for local promoters No Shame. Also playing are Green Go, Ruby Coast and The Skeletones Four. This is something you should attend.

Land Of Talk have released a new MP3 from their forthcoming Fun & Laughter EP, out October 13. It dost scorch.

MP3: Land Of Talk – “May You Never”

The Hidden Cameras have finally added the hometown finale to their massive Fall tour in support of new album Origin:Orphan, out September 22, by scheduling what’s sure to be an over-the-top show at the Opera House on December 5.

Video: The Hidden Cameras – “In The NA”

And if you don’t want to wait till Winter for a little Hidden Cameras fix, consider heading out to James St in Hamilton come October 9 for Supercrawl, a combination street fair, art show and music festival that will be headlined by the aforementioned Hidden Cameras and also feature performances from Ohbijou and many more. And it’s an excuse to go to Hamilton. Who doesn’t want to go to Hamilton?

A whole mess of new videos meeting Can-con requirements hit the web last week. Great Lake Swimmers released a new one from Lost Channels. There’s features on the band at The Courier-Journal and Nashville Scene.

Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Still”

ChartAttack talks to Amy Millan about her new solo record Masters Of The Burial, out next week, as well as what’s going on with her bands Stars and Broken Social Scene. She plays the Mod Club on October 14 and has a new video from her new album.

Video: Amy Millan – “Bury This”

Also with a new vid are Cuff The Duke, who’ve got a two-night stand at the Horseshoe on October 16 and 17. There’s interviews with the band at Metro and The Corrie Tandem.

Video: Cuff The Duke – “Promises”

Oh No Forest Fires went wandering in a Newfoundland forest and refrained from setting any fires, instead they shot a live video. They’re part of a stacked bill at Lee’s Palace next Friday night, September 25, with The Balconies, Fox Jaws and Whale Tooth.

Video: Oh No Forest Fires – “New Cove Road Back Home” (Live in a Forest)

ChartAttack spends some time with Two Hours Traffic. They’ve got a gig at Lee’s Palace on October 16.

Threadless has a video interview with t-shirt models The Rural Alberta Advantage, and they’re also asking for help to name a new song.

The Line Of Best Fit declared last week Bella Union week, in honour of the UK label who brings the likes of Ohbijou and The Acorn to adoring British masses, and in an apparent show of solidarity with the label’s website, which went AWOL, TLOBF too went offline. But they’re back now and I can point you at a few of the features they offered including a guide to west Scotland from My Latest Novel, an interview between label boss Simon Raymonde and Midlake (new album forthcoming entitled The Courage of Others) and Ohbijou have put together a “get to know Canada” crossword puzzle. Of course, Line Of Best Fit readers are already well-acquainted with the Great White North thanks to their series of Oh! Canada posts and mixes, the fourth volume of which is now available to download.

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone

The Wooden Sky at Sonic Boom in Toronto

Photo by Frank YangFrank YangIt’s funny that though I offered readers an introduction to The Wooden Sky just last month, watching them play an in-store at Sonic Boom on Monday night, the eve of release for their new album If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone, it felt like I was the one being introduced to them for the first time.

Previously, I’d regarded them as very good with moments of great roots-rock band – terrific at what they did but unlikely to turn anyone’s world upside down. And initial listens to the new record backed that up – it was a definite step forward for the band in terms of concept and execution, but not a giant leap. But this understated show in the sweaty basement of a local record store was a real eye- and ear-opener. Just coming off a cross-country tour that saw them playing unusual and intimate venues – not for nothing was it called the “Bedrooms and Backtstreets Tour” – The Wooden Sky were perfectly comfortable in the cozy setting and their performance mesmerizing.

Drawing heavily on the new record with a couple selections from When Lost At Sea and a Townes Van Zandt cover thrown in for good measure, The Wooden Sky focused on their quieter side to stunning effect. In stripping things down and trading some of the crescendos on the record for a slow burn, they were able to emphasize their more emotionally resonant side. And while Gavin Gardiner’s raw twang has always been front and centre, I was particularly impressed with how effective and musically sympathetic his bandmates were – guitarist/keyboardist Simon Walker, in particular, was nothing short of astonishing with his high harmonies and the tones and textures he coaxed out of his instruments. It was like he was able to take the ghosts and bittersweet memories that inhabit Gardiner’s lyrics and give them sound and form.

In talking about the Wooden Sky in the past, I inevitable mention that I’ve been following them for over half a decade, as though that gave me some particular insight into the band that newcomers might not have. Now I think that it might have actually clouded my perceptions, convincing me I knew what to expect and what they were capable of when I quite obviously didn’t. Either way, with If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone and the way they’re translating it to the stage, The Wooden Sky are set to take their place as one of the finest bands this city has to offer – or maybe they already were, and we’re only now noticing. has a rooftop video performance with the band from late last year and the same director – Scott Cudmore – accompanied the band on their recent tour, filming all the while – that footage will be coming out in the coming weeks. There’s also an interview with the band at Sky. Aside from an appearance at the Friends In Bellwoods launch party at the Tranzac on Saturday, The Wooden Sky have no upcoming hometown dates. Americans can get a taste in October, however, as they’re heading south as support for Elliott Brood.

Photos: The Wooden Sky @ Sonic Boom – August 24, 2009
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Something Hiding For Us In The Night”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “North Dakota”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “The Wooden Sky”
Video: The Wooden Sky – “Oh My God (It Still Means A Lot To Me)”
Video: The Wooden Sky – “When Lost At Sea”

That Elliott Brood tour covers more than the US – they’re also going to be traversing most of Canada this Fall including an October 30 date at the Opera House.

MP3: Elliott Brood – “Write It All Down For You”

Final Fantasy recently taped a Black Cab Session while in the UK for the Field Day Festival. Final Fantasy plays an unrevealed location in Toronto September 5 and his new album Heartland is out in early 2010. Ambiguous much?

Thick Specs and Exclaim have interviews with Amy Millan, whose Masters Of The Burial is out September 22 and who will be at the Mod Club on October 14.

Cover boys for this month’s Exclaim are Two Hours Traffic. Their new one Territory is out September 8 and they play Lee’s Palace on October 16.

Spinner is streaming all ten nominees for the Polaris Music Prize this week – though I suspect they’re only available in Canada. The prize will be awarded on September 21.

Blurt talks to Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal.

Bradley’s Almanac is sharing live MP3s from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, recorded in Vermont way back in February on Valentine’s Day. Awwwww. They’ll be at the Horseshoe on September 7.

Laundromatinee is sharing a video session with The Avett Brothers. Look for them at the Horseshoe on September 30 and their new album I And Love And You in stores the day before.

Magnet plays over/under with The National. Interestingly, four of their five most overrated picks are some of my least favourite National tunes – I stand by “Green Gloves” – and their five most underrated are some of my most favourite. Make of that what you will.

The Wooden Birds have released a new MP3 and video from Magnolia. They’ve also announced Fall tour dates with Great Lake Swimmers but nothing in this neck of the woods.

MP3: The Wooden Birds – “Hometown Fantasy”
Video: The Wooden Birds – “Hometown Fantasy”

Uber-producer John Leckie reflects on the making of The Stone Roses’ debut album for The Quietus.

Grand Crew has an acoustic session with Camera Obscura. They’re at the Phoenix on November 26.

The Quietus talks to The xx. Their debut XX is out domestically on October 20 and they play the Phoenix on December 2.

The Mars Volta have a date at The Kool Haus on October 4 in support of their latest album Octahedron.

Video: The Mars Volta – “Since We’ve Been Wrong”

Silversun Pickups’ new record Swoon bring them to the Sound Academy on October 15 with Cage The Elephant and An Horse as support, tickets $29.50. There’s interviews with the band at, The Examiner and The Georgia Straight.

MP3: Silversun Pickups – “Panic Switch” (Bobby Evans remix)
Video: Silversun Pickups – “Panic Switch”

Rain Machine, the new project from TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone, will release their self-titled debut on September 8 and play Lee’s Palace on October 19 as part of a North American tour. Pitchfork premiered the first track from the album.

MP3: Rain Machine – “Give Blood”

La Roux returns to Toronto for her third show in seven months with a gig at the Guvernment on October 23, tickets $20.

MP3: La Roux – “Bulletproof” (Joe & Will Ask remix)
Video: La Roux – “Bulletproof”

The King Khan & BBQ Show will release Invisible Girl on November 3 and tour to support, including a December 4 date at Lee’s Palace.

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

The Hazards Of Love

The Decemberists and Heartless Bastards at The Kool Haus in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt was a bit embarrassing running not one but two contests around The Decemberists’ latest opus The Hazards Of Love without actually having heard the record, so a couple of weeks ago I went out and actually got myself a copy of the dang thing. I count myself a long-time fan of the band but haven’t been that taken with Colin Meloy’s more proggish, long-form compositions and Hazards seemed to be the grand culmination of those inclinations and honestly, I was afraid to hear it because I was afraid I’d hate it.

Happily, I don’t. I don’t love it, but definitely enjoyed it more than I’d expected. It moves briskly, the more overindulgent sections don’t overstay their welcome and nestled within the whole thing are a handful of standout songs that would have fit nicely on a conventional album. And the vocal performances from Shara Worden and Rebecca Stark, both in backing and as soloists, remind how good Meloy sounds when there’s a female foil for his vocals. And perhaps most importantly, now that he’s gotten the rock opera thing out of his system, perhaps he’ll get back to his real strengths as a storyteller within a single song rather than the multi-part epics.

But the one place where a rock opera belongs is on the stage, and the touring production of The Hazards Of Love finally arrived for a one-night stand in Toronto on Monday night at the Kool Haus. I had assumed that after their last visit in November 2006 that they’d continue their upwards trajectory through the city’s venues and visit us next at Massey Hall, which would have been ideal for a show such as this. But it was the haus of kool yet again.

Touring support came from Cincinnati’s Heartless Bastards, who’d been having a pretty good year with the response to their latest album The Mountain. I had some trouble listening to the album not because of the music, but because of the mastering – the way it distorted on playback, I was sure I’d gotten a bad copy of the CD or something. Then I (accidentally?) got sent another and again, distortion. I understand that fuzz is part of their sound, but this was something else entirely. Finally getting past that, I was able to appreciate what everyone was and that’s a thick slab of country-blues rock anchored by Erika Wennerstrom’s raw, raspy vocals and greasy guitarwork. That’s also what we got in the live setting, their impressively visceral set going over well with the Decemberists’ (presumably) more cerebrally-oriented audience.

Though judging from the nervous anticipation in the audience, it’s probably a mistake to assume that the Decemberists fanbase doesn’t love the band with body parts besides the brain. After all, as soon as keyboardist Jenny Conlee took the stage to get things started, she was presented with a rather massive bouquet of flowers – welcome back to Toronto! Starting with “Prelude”, she was followed shortly by the rest of the band – much shrieking for Meloy, naturally – and for the next hour it was The Hazards Of Love, non-stop and I think that even if I didn’t appreciate the album, I’d have enjoyed the live performance. They didn’t go so far as to actually act out the narrative, it’s a bit too vague for that, but you couldn’t help but be impressed with how tightly they moved through the piece, with all the attendant instrument and stage changes, without missing a beat. Things did lag somewhat around the 3/4 mark, just as the record does, but the big finish more than compensated. For my money, the best part of the show was the fact that Worden and Stark were along for the tour and able to not only recreate their vocal parts, but add some impressive visual pizazz to the proceedings – Stark embodying the sweet and innocent Margaret and Worden the vampish, glammy forest queen. I’d always known that Worden had the voice for more theatrical endeavours but she also had the moves.

With Hazards wrapped, you’d have to think the band exhausted and so the 15-minute break was well-earned. But let it never be said the Decemberists don’t offer value for dollar, and so when they returned, it wasn’t just for an encore but an almost-full second set, made up of songs new – both songs just-unveiled over the weekend were aired out – and old, ranging from “The Crane Wife” from their last record to “Shiny” off their debut 5 Songs EP, all punctuated by entertainingly rambling banter from Meloy. It seems that having to remain mum throughout all of The Hazards Of Love was a real trial for him, as he was positively loquacious in the second set, chatting and working the crowd as much as singing. The highlight, however, was once again thanks to the Diamond ladies Worden and Stark as they came out to trade verses on a positively ripping cover of Heart’s “Crazy On You”. So so good – check out the video from their Minnesota show if you don’t believe me.

At this point they’d been going for two hours, including the intermission, so I assumed things were done and headed out. Silly me. From the street behind the Kool Haus, I heard them once again come out for an encore and thankfully one of the venue security guys needed some air because he propped open one of the doors and I was able to hear “Eli, The Barrow Boy” and a massive sing-along “Sons & Daughters” finally wrap the evening. Holy cats those guys and gals can put on a show.

Chart also has a review of the show. NOW,, Isthmus and The Chicago Tribune have interviews with The Decemberists and NPR is streaming some highlights of their set from the Newport Folk Festival over the weekend as well as their rendition of The Hazards Of Love in its entirety from SxSW in March.

Photos: The Decemberists, The Heartless Bastards @ The Kool Haus – August 3, 2009
MP3: The Decemberists – “The Engine Driver”
MP3: The Decemberists – “The Soldiering Life”
MP3: The Decemberists – “Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect”
MP3: Heartless Bastards – “The Mountain”
MP3: Heartless Bastards – “Early In The Morning” (acoustic)
MP3: Heartless Bastards – “Searching For The Ghost” (acoustic)
MP3: Heartless Bastards – “If I Were A Carpenter”
Video: The Decemberists – “Crazy On You” (live in Minnesota)
Video: The Decemberists – “O Valencia”
Video: The Decemberists – “16 Military Wives”
Video: The Decemberists – “The Tain”
Video: The Decemberists – “The Soldiering Life”
Video: The Decemberists – “Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect”
Video: The Decemberists – “The Bachelor & The Bride”
Video: Heartless Bastards – “All This Time”
MySpace: The Decemberists
MySpace: Heartless Bastards

Lucinda Williams is in town for two nights at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on October 10 and 11. Seeing as how it’s her 30th anniversary tour, the first night she will be performing selections from her 20th century albums, from Ramblin’ through Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, while the second night will focus on the last 10 years, from Essence through last year’s Little Honey. Wow.

A Camp has released a new video from Colonia.

Video: A Camp – “Love Has Left The Room”

The Singing Lamb interviews Amy Millan. Her second solo album Masters Of The Burial is out September 8 and she plays the Mod Club on October 14.

The Black Heart Procession will release a new album in Six on October 6 and are touring to support including a November 5 date at Lee’s Palace. PitchforkTV is also streaming a film that accompanied the band’s 2002 album Amore del Tropico.

MP3: The Black Heart Procession – “Rats”
Video: The Black Heart Procession – “The Witching Stone”
Video: The Black Heart Procession: The Tropics Of Love

State talks to Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear, who will be at day one of Virgin Festival Ontario, August 29 at Burl’s Creek.

Earfarm interviews Andrew Kenny of The Wooden Birds. They also played a studio session for Paste.

Clash has a feature on Explosions In The Sky.

New Radiohead song will cost you one quid. What, you wanted to pay what you can again? Pfft. Details on the track at NME.

So the Blur reunion… over and done? Alex says so, Damon says so, Graham says not so fast?

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Come On Pilgrim

Nine Inch Nails, Pixies, Grizzly Bear and Pet Shop Boys for Virgin Festival Toronto/Ontario 2009

Photo via MySpaceMySpaceSo here we go. Some four months after I’d originally expected to see it in my inbox and after much rumour-mongering, hand-wringing, bitching and moaning, it’s here. The lineup for Toronto’s – sorry, Ontario’sVirgin Festival 2009. It’s far and away the most mixed bag of nuts yet, with names guaranteed to both delight and confound, no matter what you’re into.

So really, the question is this; is this lineup enough to get you out to Burl’s Creek park near Orillia and camp for two or three nights with all the attendant logistical hassles? And perhaps more importantly… was this worth the wait? The fact that 2-day tickets this year are just $99 ($105 after fees) – I think that’s a full $30-$40 less than past years – may help sway your opinion towards the “yes” side, though that’s just admission – camping costs another $100 for two nights and $135 for three nights (note – prices are per campsite, not per person, to a maximum four people per site) and there’s various VIP options for those with low self esteem. There will also be information on commuting assistance forthcoming for those citygoers who are afraid to venture north of Dupont, let alone into cottage country.

But anyways. Here it is, with the standard “more to come!” note attached.

Saturday, August 29
Ben Harper & The Relentless7
Franz Ferdinand
Paolo Nutini
Grizzly Bear
Mates Of State
Plants & Animals
Down With Webster
The Rural Alberta Advantage
Iglu & Hartly

Sunday, August 30
Nine Inch Nails
Pet Shop Boys
Our Lady Peace
Cold War Kids
Coeur De Pirate
The Von Bondies
Trouble Andrew
Silver Starling
The D’Urbervilles

For myself, I have to say this is a pretty attractive lineup, and I love how acronym-heavy the Sunday is, should make for easy texting. Providing there’s no scheduling SNAFUs I see more than enough to keep me interested from start to finish, and if this were somewhere more accessible then it’d be a no-brainer to attend. I wonder if the Pixies will be doing their Doolittle show or if it’ll be a normal set? I assume they, like Pet Shop Boys, will be closing out the second stage rather than warming up for the wholly incompatible “headliners” on each night. The location does give me pause, though – as I think I’ve mentioned before, I have unfond memories of sitting on the 400 for hours while trying to get to Molson Park, and now you have to add in getting through/around Barrie and to an even more remote location. So yeah, this’ll take some thinking. And maybe a helicopter rental. And yourselves? Who’s already airing out their tents and stocking up on industrial-strength blackfly repellant, and who’s, well, not?

And here’s a by no means comprehensive but decent sampling of what you might be hearing waft across Lake Simcoe that last weekend of August.

MP3: Grizzly Bear – “Cheerleader”
MP3: Mew – “Repeaterbeater”
MP3: Mates Of State – “My Only Offer”
MP3: Sloan – “I’m Not A Kid Anymore”
MP3: Thunderheist – “Jerk It”
MP3: Cold War Kids – “Hospital Beds”
MP3: The Von Bondies – “Pale Bride”
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Frank, AB”
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “Dragnet”
Video: Pixies – “Here Comes Your Man”
Video: Pet Shop Boys – “Love Etc”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Can’t Stop Feeling”
Video: Mute Math – “Spotlight”
Video: Coeur De Pirate – “Comme Des Enfants”

Matablog has details on the new Mission Of Burma record The Sound The Speed The Light, due out October 6. They also have the first MP3, with a decidedly un-MOB title but a very MOB sound.

MP3: Mission Of Burma – “1, 2, 3, Partyy!”

Bandstand Busking has posted a show from Woodpigeon.

They’ve already got a show at the El Mocambo this Thursday, but Japandroids have already scheduled another one at the Horseshoe for September 19 with The Mt St Helen’s Vietnam Band. Tickets $10.

MP3: Japandroids – “Young Hearts Spark Fire”
MP3: The Mt St Helen’s Vietnam Band – “Cheer For Fate”

If you don’t catch her free show at Harbourfront on July 25, Amy Millan has booked a cross-Canada tour including an October 14 date at the Mod Club in support of Masters Of The Burial, out September 8. Tickets for that show are $15.

Black Key gone solo Dan Auerbach will bring his Keep It Hid to the Phoenix on November 7 with Justin Townes Earle and Jessica Lea Mayfield as support. Tickets $20.50.

MP3: Dan Auerbach – “I Want Some More”
MP3: Justin Townes Earle – “Midnight At The Movies”
Video: Jessica Lea Mayfield – “Kiss Me Again”

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Make It Gold

Ohbijou, Great Bloomers and Evening Hymns at the Opera House in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangYou might say this gig was a long time coming. After their triumphant show at Lee’s Palace last November to wrap their continent-spanning tour with The Acorn, Toronto’s orch-pop heroes Ohbijou went into seclusion to work on their sophomore album and emerged this Spring with Beacons. Or at least they were supposed to – almost as soon as they were announced in late February, the April release date and accompanying tour, including a hometown release party, were all were suddenly cancelled with only vague explanations offered.

As it turned out, the band who had been so successful with the DIY approach on their debut, Swift Feet For Troubling Times, had been successfully courted by labels at home and abroad and the delay was necessary to prepare for the record’s release on Bella Union earlier this month in the UK and Last Gang in North America. The record was unquestionably worth the wait, which only left the show and the band’s return to live action this past Thursday night at the Opera House. And from the moment you walked into the venue, it was clear that this would be special occasion – after all, how often do you arrive at a concert hall to find it decked out huge swathes of fabric meant to make it look like the inside of a volcano? Okay, I probably wouldn’t have realized it was supposed to be a volcano if I wasn’t told – the set dressing was taken from Ohbijou’s recently-filmed and yet-to-be-released video for “New Years” – but whatever I would have assumed it to be otherwise, it would have been impressive.

As is only appropriate for hometown record release shows, Ohbijou invited a few friends along to open up, the first of which was Evening Hymns. Jonas Bonnetta usually performs as a solo artist and that’s how his set began, but perhaps intimidated by the volcano decor, for this night he brought along a few friends to help out – six more, to be precise. And while you might think that songs built for one might be overwhelmed by the addition of a half-dozen sets of helping hands, all of the guest players were remarkably sympathetic to the songs and Bonnetta’s simple and plaintive folk-pop sounded even better “big”, like scratchy 8mm home movies blown up to widescreen and somehow not losing any of its charm. My first experience with Evening Hymns but almost certainly not to be the last.

Great Bloomers, on the other hand, I was pretty well-acquainted with already, both live and on record, via their debut full-length Speak Of Trouble. And while I’ll happily testify to their talent as musicians, they’ve yet to win me over as a band – this performance included. I thought we were making some progress early on when I realized that their country-pop stylings actually had roots in southern soul as well, and that made their rather pristine musicianship – which I had found at odds with what I like to hear in my – much more appropriate. And they confirmed my thoughts on them, both good and bad, mid-set when they inserted a cover of James Carr’s “The Dark End Of The Street” and, sadly, failed to do it any kind of justice. “Dark End Of The Street” is a stone cold classic and one of the most emotionally resonant songs around, and the Bloomers’ rendering of it as a jaunty pop tune, stripped of all its inherent anguish, was just… wrong. The rest of their set was fine, objectively speaking – they’ve got some good tunes and deliver them with aplomb – but they need to take “covering soul standards” off their “things we do well” list.

The first few times I saw Ohbijou live, what struck me the most was how much louder, effervescent and dynamic the band was on stage relative to the cozy sleepiness of Swift Feet‘s recorded incarnations. Beacons has ensured that that’s no longer a talking point for the band, capturing as it does much more of those peaks and valleys, the grand crescendos and the hushed passages. Instead, discussion will have to focus on just how well the band recreates the sweep of the record in a live setting, which they definitely do, though sidebars about how startlingly loud Casey Mecija’s voice can get when she pushes it are also appropriate. Nominally a six-piece, the band swelled to a 10- or 11-piece at points – it was hard to tell what with all the volcano decor obstructing views – including strings, keys and double bass, adding an extra musical weight that was at the same time weightless. Their set blended material old and new into a perfect statement of why they’re one of the finest young bands Canada has to offer, and while I know I’ll miss the days when they played out around town frequently, it’s no small amount of consolation to know that when they’re not here it’s because they’re now taking their lovely songs and sharing them with the rest of the world. And I know that only we get the volcano decorations.

In addition to their new record, Ohbijou have curated a second volume of their Friends In Bellwoods benefit compilation, due out later this Summer. Just as the first one gathered two CDs worth of the finest independent artists in the southern Ontario region, the second will feature rare and unreleased contributions from the likes of The Acorn, Basia Bulat, Great Lake Swimmers and of course Ohbijou, amongst many many others. And one would hope that the second volume also duplicates the charitable success of the first, which raised over $11,000 in donations for the Daily Bread Food Bank. Stay tuned for information on the release date for the album and the accompanying release show/party.

Photos: Ohbijou, Great Bloomers, Evening Hymns @ The Opera House – June 25 2009
MP3: Ohbijou – “Black Ice”
MP3: Great Bloomers – “The Young Ones Slept”
Video: Ohbijou – “The Woods”
MySpace: Ohbijou

Filter has reprinted their pairing of actor Zach Galifianakis with Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew wherein the former asks the latter about the video/short film he directed for Feist’s “The Water” and movies in general. Broken Social Scene will be playing on the water next Friday – July 11 – for a free show at Harbourfront Centre. Maybe Feist will join them.

Video: Feist – “The Water”

Chart has details on Amy Millan’s second solo record Masters Of The Burial which will be released September 8. Expect to hear the new material when she plays a free show at Harbourfront Centre on July 25.

Exclaim has some info on the next album from The Hidden Cameras Well, just the title – Origin: Orphan – and the fact that it exists. Look for it sometime before the year is out.

You can hear new songs from both Amy Millan and The Hidden Cameras’ albums on the just-released Arts & Crafts Sampler Volume 6, which is yours for the low low price of your email address.

Pitchfork has got a new Fleet Foxes song recorded for the BBC available to download. They’re at Massey Hall on August 4.

MP3: Fleet Foxes – “Blue Spotted Tail” (live on BBC6)

Bishop Allen have released a new video from Grr….

Video: Bishop Allen – “Shanghaied”

Pitchfork has an interview with Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste.

Spoon almost managed to release a new EP this week as a complete surprise, but then the internet got a whiff of it and ruined it. Way to go, internet. It’s called Got Nuffin, it’s out tomorrow and MBV Music has details.