Posts Tagged ‘Cotton Jones’

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Mondo Amore

Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea and Cotton Jones at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt was an evening of familiar faces and (slightly) unfamiliar names at The Horseshoe on Saturday night. The familiar being Nicole Atkins, whom despite playing here four times in just eight months, hadn’t been back to visit in over three years and in the interim, changed her backing band entirely and renamed them from The Sea to The Black Sea. Nor were support act Cotton Jones strangers locally, having come through a number of times in their old incarnation of Page France and a few times since.

Of the two, Cotton Jones represented the more dramatic break from their former selves. Whereas Page France were a winsome if overly saccharine indie pop outfit, Cotton Jones was the sound of that band grown up and having traded tea parties for whiskey shots. That was applicable to both frontman Michael Nau’s voice, which used to be a nasally sort of thing but was now well and proper raspy, and the band’s songwriting in general, inflected as it now was with blues, soul and assorted Southern accents. Still, it was good to see that he and fellow Page France holdover Whitney McGraw hadn’t forgotten the melodic lessons learned in that band, and I generally enjoyed Cotton Jones’ set more than I ever did anything Page France did, though I have to say that “Somehow To Keep It Going” isn’t really a grand enough song to merit as extended a reading as it got.

The circumstances and significance of Nicole Atkins’ persona and personnel changes are well reflected in her new record Mondo Amore, what with the big orchestral approach of her debut Neptune City having been shelved in favour of something decidedly leaner and meaner. Accordingly, The Black Sea numbered just three plus Atkins in conventional two-guitar, bass and drums setup and the sound they made was even more stripped down than the album.

Their set included the entirety of Mondo Amore as well as some choice selections from Neptune City and a trio of covers that really spoke to the band’s versatility – not many bands can range from Krautrock (Can), country-pop (Cotton Mather) and funk-soul (Marie Queenie Lyons) and sound perfectly natural at all of them. Props especially go to guitarist Irina Yalkowsky, who had lots of room to move and space to fill and did so without getting flashy, though her solo in I believe “The Tower” earned her an ovation – I don’t know the last time I saw that happen.

But it was still Atkins’ show and though she and her bandmates had been plagued with illness over the course of the tour, you couldn’t tell it. Her voice was as strong as it’d ever been, rough and raucous on rockers like “My Baby Don’t Lie” and “This Is For Love” and richly emotive on the torchier numbers like set opener “Heavy Boots” and closer “The Tower”, and between songs, her spirits were high and banter sharp. If the past few years have been tumultuous ones for Atkins, then judging from the record she got out of it, the confidence and charisma she’s carrying and the shows she’s now delivering, they were worthwhile.

Chart also has a review of the show. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Boston Globe and Washington Post have interviews with Atkins while Baeble Music has a Guest Apartment video session. The Colorado Springs Independent has a feature on Cotton Jones.

Photos: Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea, Cotton Jones @ The Horseshoe – February 26, 2011
MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”
MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Vitamin C”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Gotta Cheer Up”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Glorylight & Christie”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Somehow To Keep It Going”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Blood Red Sentimental Blues”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Maybe Tonight”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “The Way It Is”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Neptune City”

The Wall Street Journal talks to Tom Scharpling, who is directing the new New Jersey-saluting video for Titus Andronicus’ “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future”. They play The Horseshoe on April 1.

One of the great music magazines of the ’90s is back in online form – Option, for whom my cousin worked for a while and got me a free subscription, introduced me a tonne of bands that I didn’t realize I’d love until many years later but I’d like to think there was some subliminal effect. Hopefully they will again be a forum for great long-form music writing, and this piece on Yo La Tengo certainly makes it seem so. Welcome back!

NPR has a World Cafe session with Sharon Van Etten. She plays The Drake Underground on April 12.

Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack talk to Spinner about their new record Civilian. It’s out next week and they play The El Mocambo on April 9,

Paste, PopMatters, The Calgary Herald and The New Zealand Herald catche up with Lucinda Williams, whose new record Blessed is out today. She is at Massey Hall this week, on March 4 and 5.

Spinner interviews Ume.

DeVotchKa’s latest 100 Lovers is out today; and Spinner have interviews. They’re at The Mod Club on March 30.

And since Toronto is generally hard-up for festivals of late, anything that offers locals the opportunity to hang out en masse getting heat stroke while soundtracked by live music is worth noting – like the return of the sort-of tradition of The Tragically Hip on Canada Day. This year, they’ll be at Downsview Park and be joined by Weezer, Broken Social Scene, Hey Rosetta! and Buck 65. Tickets are $59.50 plus fees and go on sale Friday. The last time I did The Tragically Hip on Canada Day was Molson Park in Barrie back in 1994… oh god. My memories of that show are now old enough to drive.

MP3: Broken Social Scene – “World Sick”
Video: The Tragically Hip – “My Music At Work”
Video: Weezer – “Keep Fishin'”
Video: Hey Rosetta! – “Yer Spring”
Video: Buck 65 – “Shutterbuggin'”

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Look At What The Light Did Now

Review of Feist’s Look At What The Light Did Now

Photo via FacebookFacebookOf all of the remarkable things that Feist has done in the past few years, one of the most impressive is managing to go from a state of almost complete ubiquity circa The Reminder to one of relative obscurity. Over the last two years, there’ve been the occasional guest appearance on others’ records and even rarer live appearances with Broken Social Scene, but by and large she’s done a fine job of keeping a low profile – presumably working on a new record but no one really knows.

That profile has risen again of late with the upcoming release of Look At What The Light Did Now, a documentary film culled from footage taken during The Reminder tour. Coming out on DVD on December 7 with an accompanying CD of recordings taken from and around the film, it received a hometown screening last night at the Royal Ontario Museum… which probably seemed like a good idea but proved to be an almost disastrous one thanks to the horrible acoustics in the main atrium. But if there was an upside to it, it was that you were forced to pay almost unnatural attention to the film to extract anything comprehensible from the echo- and reverb-drenched audio.

With regards to the film itself, some have questioned if there’s really a need for a Feist documentary when her career isn’t a decade old, and if Light was a biography of any sort, it’d be a valid question. But rather than focus on Leslie Feist the person, it spends most of its running time examining the art around The Reminder – not only the songs and the album itself, but everything surrounding it. The portion focusing on Clea Minaker’s shadow puppet/projections were particularly fascinating; I already regretted not seeing any of The Reminder shows – I last saw Feist perform way back in the Summer of 2005 – and now regret it even more now that I see what I missed.

Other segments recounted the recording of The Reminder in France, the filming of videos for “1, 2, 3, 4”, “I Feel It All” and “Mushaboom”, the last of which is not Reminder period-correct but offered some terrific anecdotes from director Patrick Daughters, and the assemblage of the artwork for The Reminder. Though there were some segments focusing on her early days and ascendancy to stardom, they were kept to a minimum, as were the behind the scenes tour footage that’re typically the bread and butter of musician docs (though the scenes of Feist and her band and crew playing ball hockey was pretty great). Instead, the topic of who she is and how she got where she is was left to be implied by her work, how she approaches her work and how and why she works with others. In focusing on the what and how rather than the who, Look At What The Light Did Now manages to be an engaging and entertaining document of one of Canada’s biggest and brightest musical stars while barely acknowledging that fact.

And in the Q&A with Feist following the screening, the inevitable question of “when is the next record coming” was raised and all that she’d offer in return was that she’d be recording over the Winter – based on that, I wouldn’t expect a new album before next Fall.

Video: Feist & Little Wings – “Look At What The Light Did Now”
Trailer: Look At What The Light Did Now

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene talks about the KC Accidental days with Spinner. Broken plays the Sound Academy on December 9 and 10.

Planets profiles Dan Mangan.

The Guardian talks to Dan Snaith of Caribou.

Away from the city for far too long – she played here four times in eight months circa Neptune CityNicole Atkins returns to Toronto for a show at the Horseshoe on February 26 with support coming from Cotton Jones; tickets $15 in advance. Her new record Mondo Amore arrives January 25.

MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Gotta Cheer Up”

Keren Ann 101, the new record from, Keren Ann will be out February 21 – the rather divine first single “My Name Is Trouble” is currently streaming at her website.

John Vanderslice has set a Janury 25 release date for his next record, which will bear the title of White Wilderness, a record recorded over three days with the assistance of the Bay Area Magik*Magik Orchestra.

The Depreciation Guild have released a new video from their latest Spirit Youth.

Video: The Depreciation Guild – “Blue Lily”

Prefix and The Toledo Blade chat with Craig Finn of The Hold Steady.

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

You're Going Back

The Tallest Man On Earth tours to verify rest of world still shorter than he

Photo By Julia MårdJulia MårdYou can probably scientifically and quantitatively prove that there is nothing fresh or original about what Swede Kristian Matsson does under his stage name of The Tallest Man On Earth. He’s a folk-oriented singer-songwriter who’s armed with just an acoustic guitar and a raspy, Dylan-ish twang and in those terms, is indistinguishable from an infinite number of performers in coffee houses around the world at any given moment in time.

What sets Matsson above and apart is something more ineffable; a fine sense of melody, deft guitarwork and evocative turn of phrase, certainly, but what I like most is his enthusiastic romanticism – he’s occasionally wistful but never downbeat or morose. The cap always sits at a jaunty angle, the step always has just enough spring. It comes across well on his latest record The Wild Hunt but is so much more irresistible live – I only caught him play a short in-store at Criminal Records back on Record Store Day but it was enough to be won over by his charm and charisma as a performer, and I’m a pretty hard sell on “guy with a guitar”.

His show at the El Mocambo that evening was all kinds of sold out, but those shut out will be pleased to know that Matsson will be spending a goodly chunk of the next few months on the road – in Chicago for Pitchfork next week, but Europe the rest of the Summer before returning to North America for a continent-crossing September that includes a September 24 date at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. Support on all North American dates comes from S. Carey of Bon Iver; his solo debut All We Grow is out August 24.

MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “Burden Of Tomorrow”
MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “King Of Spain”
MP3: S. Carey – “In The Dirt”

In other concert announcement news – Scissor Sisters bring their new record Night Work out on tour and stop in at the Sound Academy on August 31; tickets $35 in advance.

Video: Scissor Sisters – “Fire With Fire”

New York’s Ratatat are also now apparently big enough to play the Sound Academy – their latest album LP4 brings them to the aforementioned venue on September 8; tickets $20 in advance.

MP3: Ratatat – “Party With Children”

Maryland’s Cotton Jones, whose new record Tall Hours In The Glowstream is out August 24, will be at the Drake on October 9 supported by Pepper Rabbit, who were just there the other night.

MP3: Cotton Jones – “Gotta Cheer Up”
MP3: Pepper Rabbit – “Red Wine”

And speaking of just here – with the Toronto Islands gig over and done, Band Of Horses are coming back to town on October 21 for a show at the Kool Haus as part of a full North American tour. Tickets are $27.50 in advance.

MP3: Band Of Horses – “Factory”

Veteran punks Social Distortion have set a date at the Kool Haus on October 23 as part of a Fall tour.

Video: Social Distortion – “I Was Wrong”

The Line Of Best Fit interviews Swedish duo jj. Awkwardness ensues.

Jonsi talks to The Quietus about his days as a Metallica fan.

Wye Oak chats with NPR; they’re at the Horseshoe on August 28.

Daytrotter has served up a session with Drive-By Truckers.

The Quietus talks to Greg Edwards of Autolux. Their Transit Transit is out August 3 and they play Lee’s Palace on August 24.

Cults, who’re at the Horseshoe on August 7 opening up for Maps & Atlases, have a new video that is awash in balloons.

Video: Cults – “Oh My God”

Ted Leo takes to the blog to address rumours circulating about his impending retirement from music.

Local Natives are featured in a Spinner Interface session and interview with Filter. They play the Mod Club on October 19.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Holly Miranda.

That Imagine Concert that was supposed to bring the spirit of the ’60s to Downsview Park this coming weekend but never announced boo about boo? It’s not dead yet. They’re now targeting Labour Day weekend to get all up in your face with peace and love – lineup and ticket details coming soon. I can’t wait.

Friday, May 1st, 2009

In The Summertime

The Rural Alberta Advantage sign with Saddle Creek, no longer our little secret

Photo By Patrick LeducPatrick LeducFor the longest time now, the phrase, “best unsigned band in Toronto/Canada/the world” has been used so often in conjunction with The Rural Alberta Advantage that they may as well have incorporated it into their name. But no longer. As hinted at a couple weeks ago and confirmed yesterday at Pitchfork, the trio’s long, slow build to critical mass – beginning with the eMusic Selects feature last Fall and culminating in their triumphant SxSW appearances in March – has now resulted in their signing to highly-regarded US label Saddle Creek. A fact which sent me digging for this piece in eye last Fall when the Omaha-based label insisted there was no master plan to snap up as much Canadian talent as possible (at that point, they’d added Tokyo Police Club, Sebastien Grainger and Land Of Talk to their roster in rapid succession). Now the truth becomes clear – we’re being annexed by Nebraska, one band at a time.

But seriously, It’s been such a treat to watch their star so deservedly ascend over the last couple years, and would like to offer the band a very hearty congratulations on the start of the next phase of their career. That will begin with a reissue of their debut album Hometowns on July 7 in the US and probably up here as well. I, for one, can’t wait to get a copy of the record in a physical form with a spine so that it doesn’t disappear on my CD shelves as soon as I file it, not that I’d likely ever forget that it was there. And I also envy those of you who’ll be getting to hear them for the first time with this wide release of the album and experience that feeling of discovery. You are in for such a treat.

North American touring is in the works for this Summer with a few dates listed in the Pitchfork piece, as well as confirmation of a couple of local festivals – Hillside in Guelph in July and Wolfe Island up in Kingston on August 8. Their next local date will be June 18 at the Drake Underground as part of I Heart Music’s NxNE showcase. Just informed they’ve got other things in the works – stay tuned.

MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Don’t Haunt This Place”
MySpace: The Rural Alberta Advantage

In other “just signed” news, Billboard reports that Australia-by-way-of-the-UK’s Howling Bells have signed to Nettwerk for the July 28 North American release of their second album Radio Wars, which was released in the UK back in February. I was pretty down on the album after hearing it, particularly with all the promise displayed in their self-titled debut, but have warmed to it a bit since. It’s still not as good as the first, but it’s really only a couple of really BAD songs that drag down the overall experience, which is largely okay with moments of pretty good. Faint praise, I know. My main hopes are that with this deal in place, they’ll finally be able to tour North America properly and not just as support on big arena-scale tours (Killers, Coldplay) that I’d have no intention of seeing.

MP3: Howling Bells – “Into The Chaos”

The Pitchfork guest list from Camera Obscura which I linked last week but then promptly went all 404 on us is now back, and will hopefully remain so. They’re at Lee’s Palace on June 27.

Neil Halstead has released another video from last year’s Oh! Mighty Engine. Halstead will also apparently be featured in today’s Daytrotter session – those usually go up by 10AM ET or so – will link when it’s available. Update: It’s up! With two new songs!

Video: Neil Halstead – “Elevenses”

The Guardian and This Is Nottingham profile Doves, whose Kingdom Of Rust apparently missed being the #1 album in the UK… by four CDs. Ouch. They play the Kool Haus on June 1.

The Quietus and The Irish Times interview Manic Street Preachers about their new album Journal For Plague Lovers, out May 18, covering the main talking points of the record – Richey and Albini. The Quietus also has a track-by-track review of the record.

The Manics also big up The Horrors’ new record Primary Colours to The Quietus as the best of the year. Express Night Out talks to frontman Faris Badwan. They’ll be at the Phoenix next Thursday opening for The Kills.

MP3: The Horrors – “Sea Within A Sea”

Exclaim talks to Eugene Kelly of The Vaselines. The double-disc retrospective Enter The Vaselines will be out on Tuesday and they’re making a rare live appearance at Lee’s Palace on May 15.

MP3: The Vaselines – “Son Of A Gun”

John Vanderslice will take his Romanian Names out on tour immediately following its May 19 release and that includes a July 10 date at The Horseshoe.

Support for the ‘Slice for that show will be Cotton Jones, who essentially used to be Page France. Their debut album is Paranoid Cocoon. Rolling Stone has a feature on the band.

MP3: Cotton Jones – “Gotta Cheer Up”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Blood Red Sentimental Blues”

British funk-soul outfit The Heavy have a date at Supermarket on June 26.

MP3: The Heavy – “Colleen”

Maximo Park will be coming to North America in support of Quicken The Heart, out May 12, for this Fall. Toronto, circle September 19 at Lee’s Palace on your calendar. Singer Paul Smith talks football and memories with BBC.

Video: Maximo Park – “The Kids Are Sick Again”

The first MP3 from Dinosaur Jr’s new album Farm, out June 23, is now available to grab. Bassist Lou Barlow talks about the new record with The Times Dispatch.

MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “I Want You To Know”

Metric’s Emily Haines gives Drowned In Sound a guide to Buenos Aires.

In case you missed it, Wilco have confirmed both the title (Wilco (The Album) and release date (June 30) for their next album. And to start the anticipation build-up, the band are giving away a non-album track – a Woody Guthrie tune – and asking that you make a donation to the Woody Guthrie Foundation & Archives in exchange. Honour system, yo.