Posts Tagged ‘Caledonia’

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

NXNE 2009 Day Three

NXNE 2009 day three featuring Woodpigeon, Caledonia and Band Of Skulls

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWoodpigeon shows are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. The first time I saw them live at Pop Montreal 2007, they were a rhythm section-less five-piece, more church choir than pop band but the next time, opening for Calexico last July, they were kitted out as an eight-piece and most certainly capable of bringing the rock. So it was anyone’s guess as to which Woodpigeon would come to roost at the Horseshoe on Saturday night, opening up CBC Radio 3’s showcase for NXNE.

It was a good week by anyone’s measure for the Calgary-based band, scoring a place on the Polaris Prize long list for their latest album Treasury Library Canada & Houndstooth Europa and, as would be revealed after the show, winning the CBC Galaxie Rising Star award, and a triumphant festival performance in front a packed house would have been the perfect way to cap it off. But for all the beautiful simplicity of their orchestral folk-pop, they can still manage to be inherently confounding. Only three members of the core band – singer-guitarist Mark Hamilton, keyboardist-flautist-singer Annalea Sordi and violinist-singer Foon Yap – made the trip to Toronto and they augmented their lineup with fellow Calgarians The Summerlad, also in town for the festival, and Hylozoist Paul Aucoin on vibes.

The use of players not intimately versed with the material guaranteed there’d be some reinvention in the cards, and there certainly was along with a set list that didn’t lean heavily, or hardly at all, on their most successful record – instead they went with songs old and unreleased to go with a few choice Treasury selections. The additional players came and went as needed as the show progressed, not a lot at first but moreso later as the set built from gentle to uncharacteristically but welcome-ly intense with noisy set-closer “And As The Ship Went Down, You’d Never Looked Finer”, sure to be a highlight of their already-recorded next album Die Stadt Muzikanten. Few would have complained if the set had leaned a bit more on familiar tunes or if they’d gotten to the louder portion of the set sooner, but even as it was, few were complaining. Considering how busy the band is conquering Europe, Toronto should feel fortunate that they pay us a visit in any configuration.

CBC has an extensive feature piece on Woodpigeon, Hamilton talks to Beyond The Ear about what it was like making the Polaris long list and CBC Radio 3 is streaming all of the performances from the evening, including theirs.

Photos: Woodpigeon @ The Horseshoe – June 20, 2009
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Knock Knock”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Love In The Time Of Hopscotch”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Oberkampf”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Lay All Your Love On Me”
Video: Woodpigeon – “A Moment’s Peace for Mary Christa O’Keefe”
MySpace: Woodpigeon

After their set, I fled the sweatbox of the Horseshoe and made way to the slightly less sweaty but still pretty packed Bread & Circus in Kensington to see Caledonia, here all the way from Halifax. Their new record We Are America had gotten some last-minute Polaris lobbying from other jurors, despite not qualifying for 2009, and the handful of listens I’d given the record yielded enough highlights to intrigue so it seemed a worthy way to spend an hour or so. And for the most part it was – live, they aren’t quite as interesting as they are on record, instead more polished and with a bar- with a touch of jam-band vibe about them. Going back to the album afterwards still confirmed it was a good listen, so perhaps it’s just a matter of bringing the two mediums closer together. Their next local gig is on August 14 at Rancho Relaxo.

Photos: Caledonia @ Bread & Circus – June 20, 2009
MP3: Caledonia – “We Are America”
Video: Caledonia – “Friday Night Rock Song”
Stream: Caledonia / We Are America
MySpace: Caledonia

The next stop – and the final one for the night, though I wasn’t ready to admit that to myself at the time – was just around the block at the venerable El Mocambo for English outfit Band Of Skulls. The trio had been doing a number of gigs around town throughout NXNE to build excitement for their debut Baby Darling Dollface Honey, which is being released domestically on July 28, and I’d been hearing good things. Though the samples I’d heard going in showcased many sides of the band’s sound, ranging from quiet to loud, it was the loud that was on display for this show. They tap deep into a vein of pure garage and blues-rock but while most drawing on that for inspiration end up little more than retro-revivalists, Band Of Skulls manage to sound decidedly fresh in their approach though you’d be hard-pressed to identify exactly what it is they’re doing different. The riffs are raw and heavy and the attitude no-nonsense, but they’ve also taken the time to write good songs and acknowledge that it’s as important to be melodic as it is heavy. Having co-ed frontpersons, both with excellent voices and a surplus of charisma certainly doesn’t hurt, either. Chart declared them the best thing they saw at the festival – I’m certainly not going to go that far, but they were excellent and were a good way to close things out. Fazer has an interview.

Photos: Band Of Skulls @ The El Mocambo – June 20, 2009
MP3: Band Of Skulls – “Blood”
Video: Band Of Skulls – “I Know What I Am”

And that was it for NXNE 2009. I guess one more way in which it was like its SxSW cousin was even though I grumbled about the lineup, calling it weaker than in past years, I probably had the best time of all the NXNEs I’ve attended thanks to the chance to just run into and hang out with friends in town for the fest. That and things were unquestionably better organized and run this year than in the past, helping create a genuine sense of excitement about stuff happening around the city. Would have been nice if the weather had cooperated a little bit more, but you can’t have everything.

Ca Va Cool turns their spotlight on Bruce Peninsula, talking to Matt Cully and Neil Haverty.

Spinner reports that My Morning Jacket are currently on hiatus, though it sounds like a proper temporary break rather than an open-ended, “see you in ten years” one.

Metro talks to Patrick Wolf.

NPR has an interview with Bat For Lashes.

If you hadn’t heard, tonight’s Dirty Projectors show at Lee’s Palace as well as tomorrow’s in Montreal have been cancelled on account of the band flipping their van whilst en route to Toronto. Everyone is alright and while the shows are outright cancelled and not postponed – refunds available at point of purchase – hopefully they’ll be able to make them up sooner rather than later.

And anyone looking to add to the list of artists who will NOT be playing Ontario/Toronto’s V-Fest this year, take note that in addition to being the same weekend as Reading/Leeds and Outside Lands, our V will also be competing for talent against Baltimore’s Virgin Mobile Free Fest which will, as the name implies, be FREE. Wow.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Now You Like Me How?

Polaris Prize long list announcement and NxNE preview, both featuring Woodpigeon

Photo By Mason HastieMason HastieIf there’s one thing I learned from being on the Grand Jury for last year’s Polaris Prize, it’s that the duties of being a regular jurist are far, far, far, far less stressful. There’s a real burden of responsibility when you’re one of the 11 whose duty it is to choose Canada’s “best album of the year”, forcing you to consider each nominee on the short list objectively, checking as much as possible personal biases towards genre, personality, history, whatever. It’s a lot of work.

And while in theory, the regular jury is supposed to apply that same criteria to their ballots, but it’s more of a free-for-all, some choosing to vote strategically to try and get lesser-known acts some exposure, others opting to ignore more commercially successful artists (though that’s probably the same thing). I took the same approach as in past years – essentially a combination of 85% personal favourites and 15% critical merit – and went with the following picks and rationale:

1) Woodpigeon / Treasury Library Canada & Houndstooth Europa
– one of my favourite albums of 2008, it hasn’t lost any of its winsome charm in the subsequent months. Expansive in scope yet exceedingly intimate-sounding, it’s simple and heartfelt and just beautiful. has an interview with bandleader Mark Hamilton.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “Knock Knock”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Love In The Time Of Hopscotch”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Oberkampf”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Lay All Your Love On Me”
Video: Woodpigeon – “A Moment’s Peace for Mary Christa O’Keefe”
MySpace: Woodpigeon

2) Land Of Talk / Some Are Lakes
– I’d originally pegged this as a bit of a disappointment as it didn’t have the same buzzsaw intensity as their debut EP, but in time I’ve realized that the restraint and nuance of the full-length reveals them to be a much more sophisticated band than you might have originally expected. And it still kicks hard when it needs to.

MP3: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Corner Phone”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MySpace: Land Of Talk

3) Rae Spoon / Superioryouareinferior
– The latecomer, dark horse, call it what you will, I’ve explained how this record from an artist completely unknown to me prior to a few months ago quickly became one whose melodies and emotional content would come to haunt the corners of my brain.

MP3: Rae Spoon – “Come On Forest Fire Burn The Disco Down”
Stream: Rae Spoon / Superioryouareinferior
MySpace: Rae Spoon

4) Bruce Peninsula / A Mountain Is A Mouth
– That the recorded artifact even comes close to capturing the intensity of the live Bruce Peninsula experience should earn it some sort of prize. That it dropped a couple of spots where I might have placed it a few months ago is more testament to the quality of the competition than a slight on the record itself.

MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “Crabapples”
MySpace: Bruce Peninsula

5) Metric / Fantasies
– This one might surprise some people who know I’m not even remotely a rabid Metric fan, but I’d be lying if I said that Fantasies didn’t have some of the best hooks and choruses of any record from any country this year., North Country Times and Decider have features.

Video: Metric – “Sick Muse”
Video: Metric – “Gimme Sympathy”
MySpace: Metric

And to my surprise, all five of my picks made the official long list, announced yesterday, which means that not only can I rest easy knowing that my tastes broadly align with the rest of Canada’s music critics (or maybe I should despair of that?) but that I now no longer need to do anything between now and the official ceremony in late September, when I will have to help myself to cheese and crackers. The short list of ten finalists will be unveiled on July 7, and I’m not going to speculate as to how many of the above choices will still be standing when the dust settles there. Hopefully at least a couple, so I have someone to root for.

I don’t know if the timing of the Polaris long list announcement was deliberately set to coincide with the start of NXNE this week, but it certainly makes my segue easier. I took an early pass at the lineup a while back, and now that the schedule has mostly worked itself out, my picks for the week are becoming somewhat clearer. Each night would seem to have what I’ll call an “anchor” act for me to either plan around or use as a starting point for the evening. Thursday night at 10PM at Neutral for Austin’s Ume, Friday at the Dakota at 8PM for Coeur De Pirate, with whom Singing Lamb has an interview, and Saturday at the Horseshoe, 9PM, for the aforementioned Woodpigeon.

Options for the Thursday night include Kensington Prairie at C’est What or The Balconies at the Drake for 9PM, Kittens Ablaze at the Rivoli or Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head at the El Mocambo at 11 and probably The Darcys at midnight.

With Coeur De Pirate being an early show, Friday is kind of wide open. Will almost certainly hit up Parlovr at Supermarket at 9, hope Swedes via Ireland Kill Krinkle Club are better than their name at Holy Joe’s for 10 and if not, there’s The Superstitions playing just downstairs at the Reverb. The UK’s Koogaphone have piqued my interest for 11PM – they’re upstairs at the El Mocambo – and seeing as how I’ve meant to see Provincial Parks for some time now, midnight at Rancho Relaxo seems as good an opportunity as any. 1AM will probably send me back to the Reverb for Parallels, though having The Sadies at the El Mocambo at the same time is about as sure a bet as you can get.

Saturday starts at the Horseshoe for Woodpigeon, and while staying at the ‘Shoe for NXNE for the stacked CBC-sponsored lineups is always an option, I will likely head to Bread & Circus to see Caledonia – though they didn’t make the long list, they got some substantial last-minute Polaris nomination buzz. Speaking of buzz, Band Of Skulls is getting enough that I’ll likely check them out at the El Mocambo but staying at Bread & Circus – with their lovely bright lights – for Olenka & The Autumn Lovers is also an option. Post-midnight is still entirely up in the air – suggestions are welcome, though they’d have to compete against the “go home and go to sleep” option, which is always a compelling one.

And if the official showcases aren’t enough to keep you busy, there’s always the unofficial ones, which generally take the form of in-stores. I haven’t seen anything slated for Sonic Boom, which is a bit unusual, but Criminal Records has a nice little lineup this week – Apostle Of Hustle at 7PM tonight, Said The Whale and The Daredevil Christopher Wright on the 19th, starting at 6PM.

As mentioned before, Ohbijou are doing an in-store at Soundscapes on Wednesday, June 17 at 7PM to mark the release of Beacons, a record you can probably expect to see me talking about when I do my Polaris Prize writeup for 2010. They talk to CBC Radio 3 and The National Post about the new album. They’ll also do a full show at the Opera House on June 25 – still have passes and prizes to give away for that.

The National Post has a Soundcheck video feature on Dog Day.

Someone obviously thinks I need to visit Montreal again. Today, Pop Montreal, taking place September 30 to October 4, revealed their initial lineup and as rumoured, the list includes the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Chairlift, Destroyer and the Dalai Lama (what?) – all fine acts, but their presence in Montreal almost certainly augurs a trip down the 401 to Toronto within a day or two. But more compelling is the addition to Osheaga (August 1 and 2) of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. When the initial lineup was announced and it was obvious they were importing chunks of All Points West’s roster wholesale, I bemoaned the fact that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs weren’t among them. Well apparently it was just a matter of time, because now with them and Elbow performing along with The Decemberists and Lykke Li amongst a host of others – and the fact that until V gets their act together and gives me a reason to head up to Orillia – 2009 is looking festival-free and that simply will not do.