Posts Tagged ‘Cut Off Your Hands’

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I've Got Your Number

Reaching back to Elbow's Cast Of Thousands

Photo via relationship with Elbow has been circuitous to say the least. Their debut Asleep In The Back failed to engage and I didn’t give them another chance until 2005’s Leaders Of The Free World, a record liked well enough, but it wasn’t until last year’s The Seldom Seen Kid that they really finally clicked – partly thanks to them crafting a terrific album but also because of my finally being able to reconcile expectation with reality.

And so it’s kind of ironic that the one album of their four that I skipped in all this, 2004’s Cast Of Thousands, would turn out to maybe be my favourite of their catalog. I grabbed it off of eMusic a while back, probably just burning through some downloads, and it’s slowly but surely worked its way into my brain to the point where I got up one day, decided “I need to own this properly” and ordered up the CD. Then hearing it on a proper hi-fi system rather than just through headphones confirmed that this, indeed, was a stunning record. It has a leanness that isn’t there on the subsequent records – which isn’t to say they’re bloated, they’re just definitely “bigger”, sonically. And well as that approach serves them, Cast has a certain lithe grace and melodicism which I find irresistible, and wouldn’t have expected considering Guy Garvey’s considerable presence. And I might go so far as to say that “Switching Off” is the loveliest song in their repertoire.

All of which is apropos of nothing, save to say that if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of discovering this record and at are all interested in Elbow or the grand tradition of melancholic British rock, then do yourself a favour and seek this out. A little more in the here and now, the band performed their Mercury Prize-winning album The Seldom Seen Kid alongside the BBC Concert Orchestra back in December in the legendary Abbey Road Studios and a recording of the show – both aurally on CD and visually on DVD – will be made available come March. Those interested in pre-ordering the package can sign up to be notified when orders will be taken. I’m a little wary about what the fanciness of the package will cause it to cost, but I’m definitely curious to hear the show.

Elbow will appear on the forthcoming War Child: Heroes compilation, out February 24, covering U2’s “Running To Stand Still”. They’re also setting out on a UK tour next month supported by none other than Ottawa’s The Acorn. I find that terribly exciting for The Acorn. I don’t much expect there to be any North American touring in the near future – a damn shame – but maybe this complete concert from last Summer in Amsterdam at FabChannel will help just a little.

And to wrap up, the videos from Cast Of Thousands.

Video: Elbow – “Ribcage”
Video: Elbow – “Fallen Angel”
Video: Elbow – “Fugitive Motel”
Video: Elbow – “Not A Job”
Video: Elbow – “Not A Job” (other version)
Video: Elbow – “Grace Under Pressure”
Video: Elbow – “Switching Off”

Spinner’s Interface welcomes Glasvegas for a session. They play the Mod Club on April 3.

Magnet‘sWrens Watch” begins to yield some real dividends as they’ve got a new song, still untitled but recorded just last week, available to download. And I daresay that even in such a rough form, it sounds GREAT.

Crooked Fingers will be opening up for Neko Case on her upcoming Spring tour, including the two Toronto dates at Trinity-St Paul’s despite what ANTI-blog says (well their MySpace says so, anyways).

Blurt chats with Cut Off Your Hands about working with Bernard Butler on their debut album You And I.

Drowned In Sound interviews Of Montreal.

Denmark’s Efterklang are at the El Mocambo on April 1, tickets $10.

Asobi Seksu have released a video from their new album Hush and will play the El Mocambo on March 3.

Video: Asobi Seksu – “Me & Mary”

Paste catches up with Peter Bjorn & John, releasing Living Thing on March 31 and playing the Phoenix on April 25.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

The Broken String

Bishop Allen, Hooded Fang, Electric Owls at the El Mocambo in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI couldn’t offer any excuse for not discovering Bishop Allen sooner when I finally got around to reviewing their album The Broken String back in December, but maybe I could have just said “I hadn’t seen Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist yet”. Apparently the exposure gained from an appearance in said film has done wonders for the Brooklyn band’s profile and helped explain why the El Mocambo was so healthily full on Saturday night, despite yet another snowstorm. Ideally I’d like to chalk it up to the fact that they’re just a great pop band, but that’s probably expecting too much from the world.

Somewhat unusually, the local support was slotted between the two touring acts so up first was Electric Owls, the new project of Andy Herod, formerly of The Comas (though that outfit is technically just on hiatus right now). I’d seen that outfit some years back and had a copy of their Conductor record for a while, so I knew that Herod was a decent pop singer and songwriter, traits carried forward to his new incarnation. He played acoustically, both solo and occasionally accompanied by full arrangements on a laptop and it was the latter that made the best impression – Herod’s compositions are definitely at their best when buoyed by the proper accompaniment, even of the canned variety. Even so, his set was enjoyable and delivered with a goodly dose of humour and the polish of someone who’s been at it for a while.

In comparison, Toronto’s Hooded Fang came out with both the enthusiasm and slight awkwardness of an outfit that was still wet behind the ears. The co-ed six-piece outfit were unrelentingly peppy, swapping both instruments and lead vocalists from song to song. They also traded musical styles almost as much, initially to their detriment as it they sounded more like a mixtape than a band with an actual identity. But about midway through their set, things suddenly seemed to snap into place and what had been a liability now felt like a strength. A little more focus wouldn’t be a bad thing, but they’re onto something. We’ll see how much progress they make in a month when they play one of the Wavelength anniversary shows on February 14 at the Polish Combatants Hall.

The short tour two months before the release of Bishop Allen’s new album Grr… (out March 10) was obviously intended to road-test the new material, but it didn’t seem like the band wanted to make too big a deal of it – they got the new material out of the way early and only really seemed to get their glee on when they started into the old. The new stuff sounded very much in the jaunty pop vein of the old, and will surely require time spent with the recorded versions to properly appreciate the lyrical richness at which the band excels – it’s so easy to overlook that facet of things when everything is so melodic and wonderfully hooky even without having to listen closely.

As for the old, some of my favoured slower numbers from String were omitted from the set list, but it’s hard to argue with the selections that were aired as they got the band bouncing around the stage (or in the case of singer Justin Rice, showing off his running man proficiency), enlisting Andy Herod back onstage to generally help make a racket and just generally putting on a power pop party. The final two songs, the raucous “Middle Management” wrapping the main set and the beauteous “Flight 180” as the encore were the perfect way to finish things off – the former being the one from the movie and the latter the most cinematic. While it’s true that I’ve only spent a couple of months now with The Broken String, but it’s quickly worked its way into heavy rotation for exactly the reasons noted above and I can add being a terrific live band into the list of reasons to enjoy Bishop Allen. It’s not so much that they do anything new or outrageous, it’s just that like their songwriting, they do it exceedingly well and with such joy.

Photos: Bishop Allen, Hooded Fang, Electric Owls @ The El Mocambo – January 17, 2009
MP3: Bishop Allen – “Click, Click, Click, Click”
MP3: Bishop Allen – “Middle Management”
MP3: Bishop Allen – “Like Castanets”
MP3: Bishop Allen – “Rain”
MP3: Bishop Allen – “Things Are What You Make Of Them”
MP3: Bishop Allen – “Eve of Destruction”
Video: Bishop Allen – “Click, Click, Click, Click”
Video: Bishop Allen – “Middle Management”
MySpace: Bishop Allen
MySpace: Electric Owls

Clash, Rolling Stone and Paste talk to Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons. They’ll play the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on February 17 and have just released a new video from The Crying Light, which was released yesterday.

Video: Antony & The Johnsons – “Epilepsy Is Dancing”

Muzzle Of Bees interviews Gary Louris & Mark Olson – you know, saying both their names is a bit of a mouthful. They need to come up with something a little more compact, more memorable. How about… The Jayhawks? No? Just thought I’d put that out there. Ready For The Flood is out next week and they play the Mod Club on February 4.

Filter thinks you ought to know Calexico… but you already do, right?

Animal Collective have announced their world tour in support of the much gushed-over Merriweather Post Pavilion and the Toronto date will bring them to the much-beloved Sound Academy on May 16. Did I say beloved? I meant reviled. The album is currently streaming at Spinner and I may tune in just to see what all the hubbub is about.

Stream: Animal Collective / Merriweather Post Pavilion

Also on the stream is Grand, the new album from Matt & Kim. Pitchfork and Metromix have interviews with Matt, Black Book talks to Kim.

Stream: Matt & Kim / Grand

And you can also listen to the whole of You And I from Cut Off Your Hands, out yesterday and reviewed last week.

Stream: Cut Off Your Hands / You And I

Magnet follows up last week’s announcement that The Wrens were getting back to work on album number four by ringing up Charles Bissell.

MTV has dollops of casting news about the Scott Pilgrim film, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Joining Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim, Ramona Flowers) are a whole pile of people who I won’t pretend to know (besides Brandon Routh from Superman Returns). But the news of progress on the film is very exciting, and according to the AV Club, shooting is set to begin in March here in Toronto. Which still doesn’t answer the question of whether Toronto will actually be portraying Toronto in the film. It would be fun if they actually shot the requisite scenes at Sneaky Dee’s and Lee’s Palace, though. Anyways, volume five of the Scott Pilgrim chronicles – Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe – is out February 4. Update: Thanks to Scott (Pilgrim?) for pointing out the photo gallery in the comments, and in particular this cast collage. I’d actually thought for a second about doing one myself, but realized that it’d be a lot of work and probably suck. So I didn’t. But based on this, the casting does indeed look terrific.

You see what I did there? Started with a Michael Cera reference, ended with a Michael Cera reference. Mad skills, I tell ya.

Thursday, January 15th, 2009


Review of Cut Off Your Hands' You And I

Photo By Brad FafejtaBrad FafejtaLast Summer I started getting hit up via IM by someone – associate, friend, fan, I don’t know – eagerly extolling the virtues of one New Zealand outfit named Cut Off Your Hands. Now getting ambushed out of the blue like that isn’t really the way to endear yourself – or whomever you’re promoting – to me, but I was feeling magnanimous and went and gave their MySpace a listen. And wasn’t impressed. It sounded like the sort of hepped up, jerk-and-stab New Wave/post-punk that seemed inescapable a couple years ago and now just seemed dated. I told anonymous PR dude it wasn’t turning the crank, he said he understood but also mentioned that the tracks I’d heard were demos, and that the band were working on the proper album with producer Bernard Butler… so yeah, that got my attention and I filed it away for future reference.

That future turned out to be late last month, when a copy of the finished product – You And I, in stores on Tuesday – showed up, and out of my deep respect for Butler and his work, I gave it a spin. And another. And another. To my surprise, I found if not addictive then quite enjoyable – even though the observations I’d made some months previous were still correct, I didn’t mind so much. In fact, the fact that they were mining a sound that was no longer so fashionable was part of the appeal – they sounded less like an outfit chasing a trend than one simply doing what they do. After all, before it was done to death it sounded pretty good, didn’t it? And Butler’s touch has also helped, buffing out some but not all of the edges and giving it just the right amount of sheen. Judging from the string of successes he’s had lately, the man has become a master of pop conciseness and brevity, ironic considering how grandiose and sprawling his vision was in his Suede days.

While it’s the uptempo songs that make the most immediate impression – Nick Johnston’s strained vocals and the band’s taut, musical gallop rather punch you in the face with danceable hooks – it’s the slower moments, where things retreat to an austere croon, that stood out for me. Not because they’re the best songs, but because they speak to a musical vision broader than the variations on a single theme that they’re currently best at. It’s easy to be dismissive of them – goodness knows I was – but I find I’m quite liking them regardless, and think they’ve got some significant upside above and beyond what they’ve already shown. And even if I’m wrong, they’re still turning out some catchy party pop songs and that’s alright with me as well.

The band are going to be on this continent and conducting a west coast tour in February supporting Ra Ra Riot, and more dates are forthcoming. And for some reason, they’ve cut three videos for one single and also one for the title track of the album, which does not appear on the album.

MP3: Cut Off Your Hands – “Turn Cold”
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “Expectations” (version 1)
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “Expectations” (version 2)
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “Expectations” (version 3)
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “Oh Girl”
Video: Cut Off Your Hands – “You And I”
MySpace: Cut Off Your Hands

Howling Bells have released a new and rather awful video from their sophomore album Radio Wars, which had been set for a February 9 release, but which I’m thinking is now unlikely. It’s almost still certainly going to be a late Winter/Spring release, but probably not quite so soon.

Video: Howling Bells – “Cities Burning Down”

Land Of Talk’s Liz Powell makes use of her voice while she still has it, talking to The National Post, The Toronto Sun, NOW and eye in advance of tonight’s show at the Horseshoe.

Oasis have turned their “let’s have buskers play songs from our new album” PR stunt in New York City last Fall into a little documentary. This took place just after the assault on Noel Gallagher in Toronto, hence his conspicuous absence from the proceedings.

Video: Dig Out Your Soul In The Streets

The Quietus reports that British Sea Power’s next album will be a soundtrack for the 1934 documentary Man Of Aran and consist of new and reworked old material. It is due out in the Spring. It will probably be odd.

Chart, The Courier Mail, The Daily Telegraph and The Age talk to Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce.

Pitchfork has details on the next stage in EMI’s neverending Radiohead back catalog exploitation campaign. It includes releasing all their past singles on 7″ 12″ vinyl and putting out deluxe CD/DVD editions of their first three albums, each of which will include the period-correct b-sides and promo clips. I’d be lying if I said that the idea of getting those b-sides in CD-quality wasn’t a tempting one, but the whole thing is just a bit too unsavory for my tastes. The CDs are out March 24, the 7″s 12″s on April 21.

The Bay Bridged and Black Book have interviews with The Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner. They’re looking to release a new album for September.

The Quietus reports that Sonic Youth should be done their next album, currently entitled The Eternal, in time for a June release. This will be their first for Matador.

Peter Bjorn & John will release Living Thing on March 30.

Pitchfork has the first MP3 from Asobi Seksu’s new record Hush, out February 17.

MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Familiar Light”

Handsome Furs have released an MP3 from their new album Face Control. It’s out March 10 and they play the Horseshoe on March 13.

MP3: Handsome Furs – “I’m Confused”

eye has posted the results of their annual music critics poll, and going over the results, I’m wondering why I even bothered participating. Exactly one of my picks in any category made the final tallies.

Likewise, my suggestion for the CBC Radio 2 “Playlist For Obama”Destroyer’s “My Favourite Year” – also doesn’t appear to have made the cut. My original suggestion was actually anything by Godspeed You! Black Emperor but it was decided that a 20-minute instrumental was probably too long to use. More like too AWESOME.