Posts Tagged ‘Bell Orchestre’

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Yuppy Flu

Land Of Talk, Zeroes, Little Scream at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI figure that by the end of last Thursday night, there was something like a sixty-degree centigrade difference in temperature between the patio at the Horseshoe and the front of the stage. Outside, it was the middle of a particularly nasty cold snap. Inside, it was a particularly intense show for a nearly-packed house from Land Of Talk.

It was a show a long time in coming. For the band, it was their first headlining date in a long time – their headlining tour in September to mark the release of Some Are Lakes, itself long-awaited, and while they technically made a Toronto appearance in late November opening for Broken Social Scene, there were many who wouldn’t accept an abbreviated set in an inhospitable venue. That included myself, whom after seeing them what seemed like every other week back in 2007, hadn’t seen them play since September 2007.

It’s been tough going for the band, with what had initially seemed like an unstoppable upwards trajectory turn into a seemingly endless series of stalls. In particular, a series of personnel changes that saw 2/3 of the initial lineup depart since the release of Applause Cheer Boo Hiss and health issues that were making this mini-tour of three Ontario dates the band’s last for some time. Not really ideal circumstances to promote a new record. But those were concerns for the past and the future – in the present, Land Of Talk were finally here and they’d brought friends with them from Montreal.

Little Scream were one of those most unique of acts – the ones without a website, MySpace or any information that I could find online – and as such, were a completely unknown quantity going in. Which was rather exciting, to be honest. And the reality of it wasn’t bad, either. An artist to whom a lot of the descriptors frequently used for Land Of Talk could also apply, singing with a PJ Harvey-ish intensity while playing riffs that echoed classic rock progressions (think Who) on an acoustic guitar amplified to the point of raggedness. At points, it seemed she was singing to herself in a trance rather than to the audience. Intriguing stuff, wish it were at all possible to find out more.

Zeroes were considerably less singular in their approach, flirting with pop, prog, new wave and punk that reminded me most of Wire and Franz Ferdinand. Some ideas worked better than others, but they veered from one to the next so quickly that any missteps were quickly left behind and the next brought to the fore. Unfailingly interesting and danceable, if you dance like a bit of a spaz.

Though the material is consistently superb, I’ve always found Land Of Talk to be a good to very good live act, with the obvious potential to be great but not quite hitting the target, at least not in any of the times I’d seen them. That, based on this show, is no longer the case. The trio put on an unquestionably powerful show, Liz Powell in particular displaying a sense of confidence that I hadn’t seen before. They split the set fairly evenly between Applause Cheer and Some Are Lakes material, with the latter being given a jolt of energy and excitement that I didn’t find to be present on the recorded versions. The album definitely succeeded in terms of stylistic growth, but it came at the expense of some of the live-wire sizzle of the first record. Translated live, the electricity was back.

And while I was dismayed by the departures of Bucky Wheaton and Chris McCarron, the rhythm section to which I’d first come to the band, new arrivals Andrew Barr – who played on the new album – and bassist Joe Yarmush – who also played in Zeroes but took the time to change outfits between sets – were also superb. Circumstances have dictated that Land Of Talk be considered the Liz Powell show, but her bandmates were doing their best to seem just as indispensable.

The show was a tremendous reminder of why Land Of Talk are one of the best new acts in the country, and ironically it came just as the band was going on hiatus. Though you couldn’t tell by listening, Powell is going in for surgery on her voice at month’s end and everything is on hold while she convalesces. It’s a good thing that Land Of Talk’s fans are used to waiting and know that it’s worth it.

eye and BlogTO also have reviews of the show, while The Whig Standard has a short feature and in The Globe & Mail, Carl Wilson talks to Powell about the band’s endless run of tough breaks.

Photos: Land Of Talk, Zeroes, Little Scream @ The Horseshoe – January 15, 2009
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Corner Phone”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”
MP3: Zeroes – “Arenas”
MP3: Zeroes – “Lamentia”
MP3: Zeroes – “Optimist”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”
MySpace: Land Of Talk

Aquarium Drunkard interviews The Rosebuds. JamBase also has a feature.

The Sydney Morning Herald profiles Annie Clark of St Vincent.

Dr Dog, who released Fate last year, and The Cave Singers, who are still working 2007’s Invitation Songs, will be in town together on April 4 for a show at Lee’s Palace, tickets $13.50.

MP3: Dr. Dog – “The Old Days”
MP3: Dr. Dog – “The Ark”
MP3: The Cave Singers – “Seeds Of Night”

Following up the release of As Seen Through Windows on March 10, Bell Orchestre will play the Courthouse on April 24, tickets $15.

The Toronto Star talks to Bret and Jemaine of Flight Of The Conchords.

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Out Of This Spark

Forest City Lovers, The D'Urbervilles, Jenny Omnichord at The Tranzac in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangAny sort of preamble for Saturday night’s Out Of This Spark second anniversary party at the Tranzac was covered in Friday’s post, so let’s just dive right into the post-mortem.

Leading off was Jenny Omnichord (neé Mitchell), accurately named for her weapon of choice. And while it may seem a bit novelty at first, the Omnichord is actually a very versatile instrument, ably providing accompaniment for Mitchell’s quirky songs. It’s no stretch that her latest album Charlotte or Otis : Duets for Children, Their Parents and Other People Too is a children’s record – the aesthetic isn’t too different from her work for grown-ups. A cute and compact set highlighted by entertaining road stories and a duet with her dad.

I’d expected The D’Urbervilles to be closing things out, both because of their profile relative to their labelmates, and their general rock action-ness, but they were instead on second. Every time I see them perform I’m reminded of how potent a live act they can be, all danceable, tightly-wound new wave/anthem-rock energy, but I also find my initial opinion of their full-length debut We Are The Hunters reinforced. They’re one thing, one intangible thing, away from being amazing. One song – hell, one moment in a song – that makes everything fall into place, and considering their excellent closing cover of Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You”, maybe what they need is the right British producer. But whatever it is, I hope they find it soon. Because when they do, it will be epic.

I had to double-check to verify that the last time I’d seen Forest City Lovers live was fully a year and a half ago at Hillside – it certainly hadn’t seemed that long! But it was, and that meant that I’d not seen them since the release of their lovely album Haunting Moon Sinking last year, and that’s just not right. But it is, sadly, kind of appropriate for as much as they’re one of the finer bands Toronto has to offer, they’re also probably one of the most overlooked. A consequence, perhaps, of the characteristics that are also their greatest strengths – their subtlety and understatedness. Their folk-pop sound is definitely spare, almost skeletal at times, but every part that is there implies a richness that probably wouldn’t sound quite as wonderful if it were actually fleshed out – their sketches say more than some peoples’ oil paintings.

This show, however, sadly wasn’t a masterpiece. Now no one’s ever going to mistake The Tranzac’s acoustics for those of Massey Hall, but the sound for the Forest City Lovers’ set was exceptionally poor, with vocals being buried and the guitar and violin far too loud. While I realize that standing right up front isn’t exactly standing in the sonic sweet spot, I’ve done it enough to know how things can and should sound from that vantage point, and this wasn’t it. And it seemed it wasn’t just the house sound that was amiss – it was evident the band was having trouble hearing themselves on stage as at points tempos drifted, glances were exchanged and things simply didn’t sound as tight as they should have. It’s really to the band’s credit that they were able to mitigate these problems and still deliver an enjoyable show, even if I couldn’t really hear the words to “Orphans” (though that’s okay because I know them anyways). Perhaps things will be better when they again play the Tranzac on February 6 opening for Geoff Berner. Perhaps.

I did not stick around for final act Timber Timbre. You’d have thought that an act with a brand new album would feel like playing something – anything- from it, but instead Timber Timbre chose to play with old hi-fit equipment and guitar pedals in conducting a sonic experiment in white noise in pitch blackness. Maybe the whole thing busted out in a technicolour rock opera the minute I left, but I suspect not. I would hope they don’t pull the same thing at their Soundscapes in-store tomorrow evening Thursday. It’s not going to sell many records.

Photos: Forest City Lovers, The D’Urbervilles, Jenny Omnichord @ The Tranzac – January 10, 2009
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “Hot Tips”
Videos: Forest City Lovers – “Pirates”
Videos: Forest City Lovers – “Please, Don’t Go”
MySpace: Forest City Lovers

Speaking of Soundscapes in-stores, Bruce Peninsula will be following up the February 3 release of A Mountain Is A Mouth with just one of those on February 4 at 6PM. So add that to their January 31 at the Horseshoe and February 22 album release party at the Polish Combatants Hall. And if you don’t want to take my word that this outfit is worthy of your attention, how about the BBC? Yeah, people will listen to anything delivered in a posh English accent.

Bell Orchestre will release their second album As Seen Through Windows on March 10 via Arts & Crafts.

PitchforkTV has a session with AC Newman, whose Get Guilty is out next week and who plays Lee’s Palace on March 11.

Pitchfork is offering a download of the title track from Bon Iver’s new EP Blood Bank, out next Tuesday. And you can stream the whole thing at their MySpace.

MP3: Bon Iver – “Blood Bank”

Mates Of State and Black Kids. What are two of the most unlikely bands to hit the road together, and yet are? The indie-pop veterans with kids and the indie-pop upstarts who are kids will hit the road together this April and stop in at the Phoenix – a decidedly bigger room than either would play on their own – on April 10. The Mates are still promoting last year’s Re-Arrange Us and Black Kids are continuing to try and prove their debut Partie Traumatic is worth more than a pug.

MP3: Mates Of State – “My Only Offer”
Video: Mates Of State – “Get Better”
Video: Mates Of State – “My Only Offer”
Video: Black Kids – “Hurricane Jane”
Video: Black Kids – “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You”
Video: Black Kids – “Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo)”

Those looking forward to standing in crossed-arm, stony-faced judgment of “2009 next big thing” candidates Passion Pit will have to wait just a little bit longer. For reasons unknown, their January 24 show at the Horseshoe has been postponed until April 3. Refunds available at point of purchase or if the new date works for you, just hang onto your ticket. And work on your scowl. They’re currently band of the week over at Paste. Update: Gig is now at Lee’s Palace.