Posts Tagged ‘Clock Opera’

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Iceland Airwaves 2011 Day Two

tUnE-yArDs, Niki & The Dove and Clock Opera at Iceland Airwaves

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangRight, so where was I? Oh yes, Iceland. Yes, still. With the (attempted) road trips portion of the trip over and done with, the Friday morning was spent doing a general wander around Reykjavik, taking advantage of some actual sunshine and only a little rain (documentation of which is over at the ever-expanding Flickr set). The weather again turned foul in the afternoon but by that point, we were on an Airwaves press bus tour that took us first to the studio headquarters of the Bedroom Community label, then to the Árbæjarsafn open air museum where we were introduced to the joys(?) of Brennivin vodka and dried fish. The final stop, which had been kept secret, was Nauthólsvik beach, where we were invited to go for a dip in the frigid sea before relaxing in an artificial geothermal spring. I graciously declined. Then, following a memorable three-hour fancy-pants dinner at Dill, located in the Norræna Húsið, it was back to the clubs.

Or the club, as was the case on this night. As far as I was concerned, NASA was the place to be and the huge queue out front proved that hundreds agreed with me. Happily, the VIP/media line was moving reasonably quickly and I got inside just as the mood of those gathered outside started to turn a bit rioty with shoving, yelling and more shoving. Not that it was any calmer inside the jam-packed club, but at least these people were freaking out for a better reason. Swedish electro-pop duo Niki & The Dove were just wrapping up as I got in, but from what little I saw they had star power in abundance. And hula-hoop dancers. Though they’ve been signed to SubPop in North America for a while now, they’ve only just started to release material – a 12″ single back in the Summer and a digital EP in The Drummer released just yesterday – but in occupying a space somewhere between Lykke Li and Florence & The Machine, albeit more synthetically-textured than either, but frontwoman Malin Dahlström has genuine star power and it’s hard not to imagine that by the time their debut full-length arrives next year, success will be theirs for the taking. The Guardian and Chronicle Live have interviews with the band and The Drummer is available to stream.

Photos: Niki & The Dove @ NASA – October 14, 2011
MP3: Niki & The Dove – “The Fox”
Video: Niki & The Dove – “The Drummer”
Stream: Niki & The Dove / The Drummer

I’m not sure if Merrell Garbus of tUnE-yArDs counts as a bonafide star yet, but considering she’d guested with Yoko Ono the night before and was one of the festival’s big names, as far as Airwaves and more importantly those piled into NASA were concerned, she was close enough. I’d missed her Toronto show a few weeks earlier, but did have her SXSW show as a reference point. Not that there was any comparing the Central Presbyterian Church in March with the atmosphere in NASA this night – the former was silent and respectful, the latter frenzied even by Airwaves standards – but what was common between the two was an incredible performance. Accompanying herself on drums or ukulele, Garbus led her four-piece band through a clattering, pounding, yodeling, and peculiarly soulful celebration of song while her fans danced and tried their best to sing along. I particularly appreciated the expressiveness of Garbus’ warpaint-decorated face because if there was a running theme with the international acts at this festival, it was how the uncertainty or even apprehension about playing to an audience for the first time transformed into elation at how joyously they were received by the locals. You never get tired of seeing the sideways glances between bandmates that communicate, “holy shit”. Not ever.

Photos: tUnE-yArDs @ NASA – October 14, 2011
MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Powa”
MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness”
MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Sunlight”
MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Hatari”
Video: tUnE-yArDs – “Gangsta”
Video: tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness”
Video: tUnE-yArDs – “Real Live Flesh”

Compared to the two acts that preceded them, London’s Clock Opera – another highlight from SXSW – seemed positively conventional. But by any other standards, their balance of electronic and organic rock, of ’80s-ish romanticism, thoroughly modern synth textures and timeless tension-and-release songcraft, was distinctive and bracing. It’s like dance-rock without any of the disco signifiers that that descriptor usually implies, more anthemic and visceral than slick and sexy and there’s more than a hint of Guy Garvey in vocalist Guy Connelly’s delivery. Searching out their own music at the moment can be an exercise in frustration – they’ve a few singles of original material but have their names on many remixes – but when their debut album comes out in March of next year, I predict it will be huge.

Photos: Clock Opera @ NASA – October 14, 2011
MP3: Clock Opera – “Once And For All”
MP3: Clock Opera – “Belongings” (live at Maida Vale)
Video: Clock Opera – “Belongings”
Video: Clock Opera – “Once And For All”
Video: Clock Opera – “White Noise”

So yes, after a decade and a half of rumours and denials, The Stone Roses are getting back together. There’ll be a pair of homecoming gigs in Manchester next June followed by a world tour and maybe even a new record. You’d think that as someone who ranks The Stone Roses as one of the greatest records ever made, I would find this exciting but the fact is that no one, not even the staunchest fans, could ever claim the Roses as a good live band even in their heyday. Over twenty years later, with John Squire and Reni having largely been out of music and Ian Brown’s solo career being uneven at best, it’s hard to imagine that this will be good, let alone great. But even so, if this tour comes anywhere near – and the words “world tour” certainly imply it will – I’ll be there. Anxious, and not entirely in a good way, but there. The Quietus reports on yesterday’s press conference wherein the four original members announced their intentions and The Sabotage Times better articulates why this reunion might not be a good thing.

Video: The Stone Roses – “I Wanna Be Adored”

Jarvis Cocker, someone who knows a thing or two about successful reunions, talks to The Guardian about the state of pop music.

Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien talks to BBC6 about the band’s touring plans for 2012, which may include playing not-so-fan-friendly set lists at indoor venues.

Billy Bragg has compiled all the one-off protest songs he’s released over the past decade as well as a few new songs and has released them as Fight Songs. Something to put on the boombox, perhaps, whilst occupying a place of your choosing. The Sabotage Times and Brooklyn Rail have interviews with the Bard of Barking.

Pop power couple Emmy The Great and Ash’s Tim Wheeler have teamed to release a Christmas album entitled This Is Christmas, the first MP3 from which you can download in exchange for a Facebook like. It will be released on November 21.

A new track from Summer Camp’s debut Welcome To Condale is up to stream at Paste, while Consequence Of Sound has an interview with the duo and Daytrotter a session. The album is out November 8.

Stream: Summer Camp – “Down”

Peggy Sue have released a new video from their new record Acrobats, due out next Tuesday. They play The Garrison on November 13.

Video: Peggy Sue – “All We’ll Keep”

Exclaim and Stereogum talk to M83 about the just-released Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. They’re at Lee’s Palace on November 18.

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Rolling In The Deep

Adele at The Air Canada Centre

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt happens far too infrequently, but sometimes the good guys win. Sometimes immense talent, great songs and hard work can triumph over image and marketing and when it does, you get improbably wonderful things like Adele becoming and more importantly remaining pretty much the biggest artist in music for 2011 for months on end, on the strength of her sophomore album 21. Granted, her story is hardly one of an out of nowhere dark horse – her debut 19 already made her a star and garnered her two Grammy awards – but the degree to which 21 has catapulted her into the stratosphere is still remarkable.

That the Toronto stop of her North American tour on Wednesday night was originally booked into the Kool Haus – considerably smaller than the posh environs of Massey Hall where she last performed in 2009 – certainly seemed to imply that people were underestimating her draw, and that the show was moved to the many times larger Air Canada Centre after selling out instantly was representative of just how much bigger – and faster – her fanbase was growing. Granted, it was in theatre configuration, accommodating approximately 5200 patrons instead of the 16000 of the full arena, but if you don’t think she could have easily sold a few thousand more tickets then you’re just not paying attention.

I had the privilege of seeing Adele at an MTV Live taping back in March and so had a sense of how she was live – which is to say wonderfully warm and engaging, with no sense of the stage fright she’s supposedly afflicted with – but that was a short set in front of a maybe a couple hundred people. This would be considerably more on every level, and yet Adele Adkins somehow managed to make an arena show in front of thousands feel just as intimate as that studio performance.

Things opened with a touch of theatricality – with Adele starting “Hometown Glory” from behind a curtain before stepping onstage to rafter-shaking shrieks – but for most of the show, it was all about simple, direct and genuine connection between Adele and her fans, which for all of her prodigious artistic gifts may be her greatest strength. Chatty, conversational and more than a little crude between songs, punctuated by a huge and endearing cackle, Adele was able to make a massive room feel as intimate as a small club or even more like a private performance for some friends in the front room. It’s impossible to overstate the intensity of the personal rapport that seemed to exist between she and almost every one of the thousands in the audience – it’s hard to imagine any other artist of her stature taking stage time to talk about the experiences that informed her songs, her affection for her pet dachshund or gush about bands she’s currently listening to (incidentally, she gave big props to Toronto R&B outfit The Weeknd).

As entertaining as it would likely be to just sit and chat for an hour and a half with Adele, there was no forgetting that music was the order of the evening. Improvisation wasn’t on the menu, save for a few subtle shifts in arrangements, with the emphasis on her huge, expressive voice and playing the songs everyone wanted to hear the way they knew them, but with plenty of verve and as singalong-able as possible – something the house happily obliged, at times creating an almost choral effect. Backed by a seven-piece band, Adele delivered exactly the sort of set you’d expect, comprising most of 21 – often introduced as “new songs” as though they were something to be politely endured before she got to the old favourites instead of the material that brought both her and her fans here on this evening – and a decent amount of 19. The show built to a finale that was completely predictable – “Chasing Pavements” and “Make You Feel My Love” to close the main set and “Someone Like You” and “Rolling In The Deep” making up the encore – but also completely rousing. You don’t need to surprise when you’re this good. Adele is like the friend who goes onto great things, but never forgets where she came from – not “is like”, but “is” – and though musically she trades in broken hearts, there was nothing but love at the ACC on this night.

The Globe & Mail has a feature piece on Adele and also a review of the show. The Toronto Sun, National Post, Toronto Star and Exclaim also have writeups of the evening.

Photos: Adele @ The Air Canada Centre – May 18, 2011
Video: Adele – “Rolling In The Deep”
Video: Adele – “Make You Feel My Love”
Video: Adele – “Chasing Pavements”
Video: Adele – “Cold Shoulder”

Interview has a brief talk with Anna Calvi, who has a date at The El Mocambo on May 27.

PJ Harvey discusses the visual side of her art with Spinner.

Pitchfork has an extensive interview with Kate Bush, who released her first album in over five years this week with Director’s Cut. The record is streaming in whole over at NPR.

Stream: Kate Bush / Director’s Cut

New York Magazine and The Chicago Tribune talk to Will Sergeant of Echo & The Bunnymen while The Aquarian chats with Ian McCulloch.

Johnny Marr talks up his upcoming projects with Billboard.

The Guardian talks to Brett Anderson and Mat Osman about why the reunited Suede are so fashionable again – just in time for Brett Anderson (the solo artist) to announce the September 26 release of his next record, Black Rainbows. Details on the album at NME.

The second single from Patrick Wolf’s forthcoming Lupercalia now has a video and it indeed confirms that, on this record, Wolf is in his happy place. It’s out June 20.

Video: Patrick Wolf – “House”

Foals discuss possible directions of their next record with

The Guardian, Gigwise and Clash have feature pieces on Friendly Fires, whose new record Pala is out next week and are in town at The Phoenix on May 30.

NME gets some information on the next Muse record from rhythm section Dominic Howard and Chris Wolstenholme.

The Aquarian talks to Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner. They’re at The Kool Haus on Saturday and their new album Suck It And See is out June 7.

Also on the bill are The Vaccines, who have a new video from their debut What Did You Expect From The Vaccines, due out May 31.

Video: The Vaccines – “All In White”

NPR have posted a WFUV radio session with Noah & The Whale, with whom North Country Times, Oregon Music News, The Telegraph and The Edinburgh Evening News have interviews.

James Blake has a new video from James Blake.

Video: James Blake – “Lindesfarne”

Artrocker has a piece from Clock Opera frontman Guy Connelly about writing their latest single “Belongings”, for which they’ve just released a video and are streaming both sides at Soundcloud. DIY also solicits an alphabetized list of… stuff from the band. These guys were one of the more exciting discoveries at SXSW and the lead-up to their debut album verifies that the excitement is justified.

Video: Clock Opera – “Belongings”

Ladytron are streaming the first single from new album Gravity The Seducer at Soundcloud, well in advance of its September 13 release date.

Art Brut are streaming their new record Brilliant! Tragic! over at Paste. They play The Mod Club on June 17 for NXNE.

Stream: Art Brut / Brilliant! Tragic!

And according to Under The Radar, the Friday night of NXNE – June 17 – will also bring Oxford’s Swervedriver back to town for the first time since, well, NXNE 2008. Venue still to be announced but this should be one of the highlights of the festival.

MP3: Swervedriver – “Duel” (live)

IFC has both an interview with Euros and Norman of Jonny and premiered a new video from the duo. They are at The Drake Underground on June 3 and 4.

Video: Jonny – “You Was Me”

They Shoot Music has a video session with Gruff Ryhs, and he’s also the subject of features at Nashville Scene, The Village Voice and Today Online. He has a date at The Horseshoe for June 11.

NPR has posted a World Cafe session with The Joy Formidable.

And with that, folks, things go into vacation mode over the next couple weeks. There’ll still be updates and whatnot, just maybe fewer, probably leaner and almost certainly at odd hours. And any last-minute suggestions of things to see and do in Barcelona are welcome.

Monday, March 28th, 2011

SxSW 2011 Night One A/V

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFull writeup of the evening’s itinerary over here.

– Hotly-tipped band of London youngsters who channel the spirit of the ’90s, evoking the likes of Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur Jr and Pavement on their self-titled debut. The Line Of Best Fit and Dirty Laundry have video sessions and The National an interview with the band, who open up for Tame Impala at The Phoenix on May 1. NPR has a stream of the Stubb’s show.
Photos: Yuck @ Stubb’s- March 16, 2011
MP3: Yuck – “Get Away”
MP3: Yuck – “Georgia”
MP3: Yuck – “Automatic”
MP3: Yuck – “Daughter”
MP3: Yuck – “Coconut Bible”
Video: Yuck – “Get Away”
Video: Yuck – “Holing Out”

James Blake
– the current face of dubstep and electro-soul just released his self-titled debut and will be touring North America in May. His May 14 date at The Rivoli in Toronto was just moved to Lee’s Palace, allowing another 300 or so people to either swoon or not get it. Pitchfork has a feature interview with Blake and NPR is streaming the performance from Stubb’s.
Photos: James Blake @ Stubb’s – March 16, 2011
MP3: James Blake – “To Care (Like You)”
Video: James Blake – “The Wilhelm Scream”
Video: James Blake – “Limit To Your Love”

Now, Now
– Minnesota power-pop trio who recently dropped the “Every Children” from their name and the Neighbours EP. A new full-length is being recorded and should be out this year.
Photos: Now Now @ The Parish Underground – March 16, 2011
MP3: Now, Now – “Neighbors”
MP3: Now, Now – “Roommates”
MP3: Now, Now Every Children – “Everyone You Know”
MP3: Now, Now Every Children – “Sleep Through Summer”
MP3: Now, Now Every Children – “Cars”
Video: Now, Now Every Children – “Friends With My Sister”

Clock Opera
– grandiose electro-rock from London with enormous upside; currently only releasing singles but should be due out an album sometime this year.
Photos: Clock Opera @ The Bat Bar – March 16, 2011
MP3: Clock Opera – “Once And For All”
Video: Clock Opera – “Once And For All”
Video: Clock Opera – “White Noise”

Ellie Goulding
– Declared the BBC Sound of 2010, the young English “folktronica” artist is seeking to break into America, releasing her debut Lights domestically earlier this month and touring the continent. The Baltimore Sun and The Big Issue have interviews.
Photos: Ellie Goulding @ The Bat Bar – March 16, 2011
Video: Ellie Goulding – “Your Song”
Video: Ellie Goulding – “The Writer”
Video: Ellie Goulding – “Starry Eyed”

Summer Camp
– London duo whose sense of nostalgia for the ’80s is matched only by their ability to craft perfect retro pop tunes, as evidenced by last year’s Young EP.
Photos: Summer Camp @ Latitude 30 – March 16, 2011
MP3: Summer Camp – “Ghost Train”
Video: Summer Camp – “Ghost Train”

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

SxSW 2011 Night One

Ellie Goulding, Yuck, Summer Camp and more at SxSW

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt was nice to have the opportunity to knock off some of the “must-sees” from my list with the very start of the official portion of the festival, thanks to NPR and Stubb’s. The former’s showcase at the latter let me see British buzz acts Yuck and James Blake early and, if blown away, circle one of their shows later in the week for an encore performance.

At the risk of being all, “what’s with kids these days”, I was genuinely surprised at how indifferent the London quartet appeared to be about being at SxSW, having such a large audience, just generally everything, even though they said they were happy to be there. I realize the slacker aesthetic was a large part of the acts to which they’ve been largely compared – your Pavements, Dino Jrs, what have you – but if the nonchalance was an affectation, it was an off-putting one. There’s no shame in looking like you’re enjoying yourselves. With that out of the way, they did sound terrific, filling their set with tunes from their self-titled record made even bigger and hookier than on disc – it was good to see that they at least took that aspect of their performance seriously. People looking to criticize them won’t be able to target their musicianship or songwriting, but their charisma? Fire away.

No such expectations of showmanship accompanied dubstep/soul-pop wunderkind James Blake’s first show of the fest and one of his first on this continent. You almost felt sorry for him that he would be thrust onto the stage at one of the festival’s biggest stages for his first SxSW experience, but that’s what he gets for being the alleged next big thing, right? His live setup consisted of a couple banks of keyboards, with himself at stage far left, a percussionist with both acoustic drums and electronic pads and a guitarist/keyboardist – all seated and clearly not intent on putting on a dazzling show, unless the open space in front was being reserved for the James Blake Dancers. It was not. When they got underway, it was evident that this was a performance that would be just as effective with eyes closed as open, amounting to a sort of pulsing real-time remix, his keys and voice being cut-and-pasted over the beats. The more soulful songs where his voice was left largely un-effected, like Feist’s “Limit To Your Love” and his “hit” “Wilhelm Scream” were still pretty stirring, though. It was interesting enough but this material wasn’t really designed for live performance, at least not in an amphitheatre setting. I suspect the more intimate shows later in the week, like at the Central Presbyterian Church, were more complimentary.

Decamping from Stubb’s to The Parish Underground let me cross Minnesota’s Now Now off my to-see list, both for the fest and overall. The trio is probably justifiably classifiable as emo pop, hence their being attached to bills I’ve no interest in seeing when they come to town, but it’s crunchy and hooky and I like it. And when you’ve got two nearly-identical girls who look barely old enough to drive chunking out riffs and thinline Telecasters, well that’s just good fun. I do think they’re good and talented enough to transcend any sort of genre circuit that they might otherwise be stuck in, but if not? We’ll always have Austin.

Unsure of what to do next, I decided to break my general “no Canadian bands” rule to stop in at the Quebec-commandeered Spill to see The Dears, but already running late, the band was unable to get their gear set up – goodness gracious they travel with a lot of keyboards – and after 15 minutes or so into their allotted set time and seeing them still sorting out power cords, I aborted and decided to get a head start on my midnight appointment.

And it’s a good thing I did because getting to Bat Bar early allowed me to meet London’s Clock Opera. At first they sounded like another lightly-danceable Brit-rock band, but after a few songs it was evident they had a certain dramatic, fist-raising quality to their songs that set them apart from the usual. I haven’t had time to do more research on who they are and what they’re up to, but certainly intend to. Consider that they had jammed the floor space with fans, sending latecomers like myself to the venue balcony, and several people asked me, in the capacity of total stranger, who they were and where they were from. I consider that a very good sign.

In the audience turnover between sets I was able to scootch downstairs and get up front for Ellie Goulding, about whom I knew only that she was declared the sound of 2010 by BBC, though all I needed her to be was the sound of the next 40 minutes or so. It’s always nice when established international acts come to SxSW and have to prove themselves again, because you get them delivering their finely-honed performances in much smaller venues than they’re used to playing. Case in point was Goulding, who was clearly used to bigger stages and as such was able to pretty well blow the roof off of Bat Bar. I’ve seen her referred to as “folktronica” and I suppose that’s descriptive, what with her building a kind of snarly electro-pop on an acoustic guitar base (though she only strapped on the guitar for a few songs) but her stuff sampled so many styles and genres that really, only a descriptor as broad and meaningless as “pop” could apply. And great. Definitely great.

And the greatness continued to the night’s close over at Latitude 30 for London’s Summer Camp. The duo of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey made some headlines last year by cultivating an air of mystery around their identities when first releasing their tasty sun-kissed retro-pop, but since coming out as who they are, they’ve remained conversation-worthy thanks to the general wonderful-ness of their tunes. That said, I didn’t necessarily expect too much from them live as studio duos who don’t recruit additional players, as they didn’t, aren’t normally equipped to bring it on stage. But playing in front of very specifically-assembled video montages, Summer Camp were far more charismatic and energetic performers than I ever would have expected. Warmsley’s guitar and keys and both his and Sankey’s vocals brought a lot of liveliness that more than made up for the reliance on canned backing tracks. Without a finished album they didn’t have as much material as one would have liked but what they had was pretty much bliss.