Posts Tagged ‘Dears’

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

North Star

Review of The Rural Alberta Advantage’s Departing

Photo via Vanessa HeinsVanessa HeinsIt’s fitting that there was on The Rural Albeta Advantage’s debut album Hometowns a song called “The Ballad Of The RAA” because really, theirs was a nearly perfect story. The Toronto trio went from sparsely-attended open mic nights around town through a whirlwind of buzz – including a glorious, crystalline moment in an packed Austin church – that saw them become critical and popular darlings, all on the back of that batch of perfect, almost bewilderingly-simple but heartfelt songs. If this were the feature film adaptation of their story, then the final scene might well have played out at Lee’s Palace in December 2009 with the band playing a jam-packed hometown homecoming show and basking in the love of friends and family, faded to black.

Real life, however, doesn’t get to just let the credits roll and short of disbanding, a sequel was guaranteed and a couple years on, has arrived in Departing. Now for some bands, saying that they’ve made the same record over again would be a slight but for The RAA, at least in this case, it’s meant as high praise. Their sonic signature was distinctive from day one, relying on just a handful of musical tools to bring their songs to life, and success hasn’t been converted into truckloads of new instruments to play with. They just took a break, took a breath, and got back to it.

On the similarities, Departing is still built on Nils Edenloff’s nasal rasp and battered acoustic guitar, Amy Cole’s humming keyboards and sweet harmonies and Paul Banwatt’s insane drumming; elements that might seem at odds with one another on paper yet are perfectly complimentary in practice. The songs are yearning and wistful, still informed by Edenloff’s past life as a young Albertan in love. Even so, Departing is far from redundant – it represents a further honing of the above elements, the sort that you only get from endlessly touring. The production is more consistent throughout the album – Hometowns sometimes bore the fingerprints of its drawn-out gestation – and the arc of the songs from start to finish feels more considered and fluid. And while it covers the same lyrical terrain as its predecessor, the emotional range is broader, featuring some of the band’s most gentle and raging moments. On an individual song basis, Hometowns might retain the edge in highlights but as a collection and an arc, Departing is every bit its equal if not better.

All that said, one has to wonder how much more mileage can be gotten from this formula which has served them so well thus far, both with regards to sound and songwriting. The tidiness of a trilogy aside, it’s hard to imagine a third record of this not entering diminishing returns territory and surely a band as talented as they would want to push their boundaries as well. That, however, is a deliberation for later. All that matters for now is that Departing, while not having the ineffable x-factor that comes with discovering one of your new favourite bands, is another superb record from a singular band and should be treasured.

The Rural Alberta Advantage play their biggest hometown show yet at The Phoenix on April 29. Paste, Spinner and The Wall Street Journal have interviews with the band, NPR a World Cafe session and Billboard coaxes an Abba cover out of them.

MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “North Star”
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Stamp”
Video: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Stamp”

Pitchfork talks to Tom Scharpling about directing the latest New Pornographers video for “Moves”, outtakes from which have now surfaced on Vimeo.

Wireless Bollinger exchanges words with Dan Bejar of Destroyer. He plays Lee’s Palace on March 31.

BBC, The New Zealand Herald and Herald Sun talk to Dan Snaith of Caribou, who has released a new video from last year’s Swim.

Video: Caribou – “Jamelia”

Beatroute has an interview with Born Ruffians, who have a show at The Opera House on April 16.

The New Haven Advocate and Spinner catch up with Tokyo Police Club.

Exclaim rounds up various goings-on in the world of Fucked Up, including a live record and GG Allin tribute 7″. Their next studio record David Comes To Life is due in May.

Spinner talks to John O’Regan of Diamond Rings.

Muzzle Of Bees has premiered a new video from Great Lake Swimmers.

Video: Great Lake Swimmers – “Chorus In The Underground”

PopMatters interview Rolf Klausener of The Acorn. They’ve just announced an April 28 date at The Horseshoe with Evening Hymns.

MP3: The Acorn – “Restoration”

Beatroute discusses Degeneration Street with Murray Lightburn of The Dears.

Soundproof, Prefix and Filter have features on Young Galaxy, playing at Lee’s Palace on Thursday night as part of Canadian Musicfest.

NOW, eye and The Waterloo Record talk to Karkwa in advance of their local appearances next week – March 5 at Lee’s Palace opening for Plants & Animals, March 11 at Wrongbar for Canadian Musicfest and an in-store at Sonic Boom at 9PM on March 12.

Ottawa XPress, The Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen and Brock Press have feature pieces on Jenn Grant.

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Stand Where A Fruit Tree Drops The Things It Doesn't Need

Review of Snowblink’s Long Live and giveaway

Photo via OOTSOut Of This SparkFor an infinite number of reasons, debuts can take a long time to come together. In the case of Snowblink, those reasons included a cross-continent/international move for Daniela Gesundheit from California to Toronto in 2008 and subsequent partnering with Dan Goodman as the core of the band, the commitments that came with being a touring member of Bruce Peninsula and the fact that said record was being recorded in various locales around the continent with a wide array of collaborators, all with their own packed schedules.

But after who knows how long – I first saw them over two years ago, already impressive and fully-formed – the first Snowblink record arrived last week and if any of the above sounds like it’d be a recipe for a record that’s overcooked, overworked or overthought, fear not – Long Live is none of these things. In fact, it’s very much the opposite of over-anything, with the prevailing characteristic of the folk-pop contained within is effortless airiness; Gesundheit’s voice is clean, pure and feels the epitome of carefree as it loops and lilts through the laid-back melodies, clearly a formidable instrument but never showing off.

The musical accompaniment is similarly lush yet spacious, with a wide variety of sounds and textures – acoustic, electric, orchestral, percussive, what have you – coming into play over the course of the record. But clearly conscious of maintaining the necessary sonic negative space, the instrumentation only steps forward enough to make its presence felt, never overstaying or seeking to define the proceedings. Everything has and knows its place. While this doesn’t necessarily make for a wealth of dynamicism over the course of the record’s 15 tracks, within the margins of Long Live‘s cloudwatching from a grassy hillside aesthetic lies a whole world of musical detail, finally ready to be explored, pondered and appreciated.

It’s worth noting that there’s already not one, not two, but three sessions in the Daytrotter archives – the first two date from 2008 and feature songs that would eventually make their way onto Long Live, the third is all Michael Jackson covers.

The record’s release will be celebrated locally with an in-store at Soundscapes on March 3 at 7PM and a proper show at The Music Gallery on March 5, a happening that will feature: “Tasseomancy reading tea leaves, Thom Gill playing New Age style music, a lecture by Owen Pallett, Ryan Driver and Jennifer Castle, and set design/ projections by Sean Frey”. Following that unique performance, they’ll be opening up for Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on his solo North American tour including two nights at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on March 22 and 23.

Tickets for the Music Gallery show are $10 in advance but courtesy of Out Of This Spark, I’ve got a pair of passes to give away along with a copy of Long Live on CD. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to Snowblink” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, March 1.

MP3: Snowblink – “Ambergris”
MP3: Snowblink – “The Tired Bees”
Video: Snowblink – “Ambergris”
Video: Snowblink – “The Haunt”

Spin has got an interview with Amy Cole of The Rural Alberta Advantage and offers a new track from their forthcoming Departing to download, while Exclaim talks to Nils Edenloff and has the whole of album number two streaming this week leading up to its March 1 release. They will be at The Phoenix on April 29.

MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “North Star”
Stream: The Rural Alberta Advantage / Departing

Sloan have announced the May 10 release of their new record The Double Cross, named in honour of the band’s 20th anniversary. They’ve also made a track from the record available to download.

MP3: Sloan – “Follow The Leader”

Exclaim and The Globe & Mail questions Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak of The Dears.

The Quietus and Skiddle talk to Suuns, who’re opening up for The Black Angels at Lee’s on April 14.

With their date supporting Plants & Animals at Lee’s on March 5 sold out, reigning Polaris winners Karkwa have confirmed their Canadian Musicfest showcase as being at Wrongbar on March 11 at 10PM, sandwiched between Brit buzz acts Anna Calvi and Esben & The Witch. Early iterations of the schedule had Memoryhouse in that slot but they’re now down the road at The Great Hall with Yukon Blonde the night before, on at 10:30.

MP3: Karkwa – “Dors Dans Mon Sang”

Rolling Stone talks to Diamond Rings, whom they declare to be an artist to watch.

And in reality-altering news, this past weekend Neko Case’s Twitter feed turned into a round table discussion about how female band members never get any groupies and aren’t happy about it. Salon rounds up the discussion and Metafilter hosts the resulting disbelief/incredulity.

Monday, February 14th, 2011

5 Chords

Review of The Dears’ Degeneration Street

Photo via DangerbirdDangerbirdThat The Dears never really realized the lofty expectations that accompanied them when they emerged out of Montreal at the turn of the century really isn’t important. Nor is the fact that they turned out to be more foreshadowing of the great Canadian indie renaissance of the past decade rather than leaders of it, or that the drama surrounding the band and its endlessly changing roster often overshadowed their already-quite dramatic music. All that really matters is that they’re still at it and their new record Degeneration Street is, for my money, their best yet.

That should probably be accompanied by the caveat that I’ve never really been a fan of The Dears. Their early albums, for which they were the most feted, had the sort of grandeur that I liked but was lacking in the hooks that would have kept my attention over the course of their sprawling records. 2006’s Gang Of Losers, while hardly perfect, was the first of their releases that I really warmed to. And even though many found it too conventionally “rock” compared to their more expansive efforts, most would agree that 2008’s murkily rambling Missiles, which bore the fingerprints of its difficult birth (most of the band quit or left during its recording), was a low point for the band.

It may have been a necessary nadir, though, as Degeneration Street finds the band – reconstituted with a number of band members from earlier incarnations – striking a lean and focused balance of rock, soul and prog with plenty of pop and just about the right amount of self-indulgence. Tracks like “5 Chords” and “Thrones” are the sort of soaring, guitar-propelled anthems that far too few Canadian acts even attempt, let alone pull off, while opener “Omega Dog” proves that it’s possible for the band to showcase the scope of their ambitions without taking six-plus minutes to do it and the unexpectedly retro bounce of “Yesteryear” shows they’ve still got some surprises up their sleeves. I’m inclined to give veteran producer Tony Hoffer props for helping the band pull it together, though just as much credit must go to Dears leader Murray Lightburn – a man with a bit of a reputation for being artistically controlling – for allowing someone else to take the reins. It might have taken five albums over eleven years, but The Dears may have finally arrived.

Degeneration Street is out tomorrow and currently streaming in its entirety at The Montreal Gazette has a feature piece on the band and the album will be spotlighted in the first Polaris Record Salon, wherein a Polaris juror argues for the record’s inclusion in this year’s longlist/shortlist/ – it takes place Tuesday night at The Drake Underground and will also feature a live interview with Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak. Doors at 7, starts at 8 and will feature a listening party for the album. And if you’d rather hear them play than see them speak, they will play an in-store at Sonic Boom this coming Thursday evening, February 17, at 7PM – admission free with a donation of canned goods.

MP3: The Dears – “Blood”
Video: The Dears – “Omega Dog”
Stream: The Dears / Degeneration Street

The Guardian has a feature interview with Arcade Fire while Pitchfork has details on their upcoming Scenes From The Suburbs short film, helmed by Spike Jonze. And oh yeah congratulations to the band on last night’s “Album Of The Year” Grammy Award. Wait, who? features Young Galaxy in the latest installment of their Camera Music video session series, while Spinner and Chart talk to the band, who will be taking a pregnancy-induced hiatus at the end of April. Best catch them at Lee’s Palace on March 10 while you can.

The Besnard Lakes tell Spinner they’re going back into the studio to work on their next record as soon as this Summer.

Shad has released a new video from TSOL; he’s playing at The Indie Awards during Canadian Musicfest on March 12.

Video: Shad – “Keep Shining”

Self-Titled talks to Tom Scharpling about directing the latest New Pornographers video. You know which one.

Exclaim reports that Destroyer’s Dan Bejar has an impersonator…. and his name is Dan Bejar. For serious. The real(er) Dan Bejar and his Destroyer crew will be at Lee’s Palace on March 31.

With Drums & Colour interviews Mark Hamilton of Woodpigeon.

Forest City Lovers have announced an April 1 show at The Garrison, where they will be accompanied by Slow Down Molasses and Kite Hill. NOW has a feature on Forest City Lovers’ Kat Burns and her artwork-an-hour An Hour Of My Time art project and she’s got a solo show at Holy Oak on March 3.

MP3: Forest City Lovers – “Light You Up”

The Star Phoenix talks to Mike Belitsky and Planet S to Dallas Good of The Sadies. They’ve got a date at The Mod Club on March 11 with a yet-to-be-announced special headliner.

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Savage Night At The Opera

Review of Destroyer’s Kaputt

Photo By Ted BoisTed BoisSometimes you just get a hankering for some Dan Bejar, a need to ride that train of thought through station stops no one else’s visit and which moves at that distinctive languid-yet-mile-a-minute cadence. And while it’s possible to get one’s fix via with his mandatory three-songs per New Pornographers record or various side-projects, it’s Destroyer that offers the best, purest hit of Dan. The catch being that like one of his most obvious influences, David Bowie, you never know what form that hit is going to take from one record to the next.

Having made his perhaps most direct and “rock” work – a very relative statement – with 2006’s Destroyer’s Rubies and followed it up with a record that explored similar if denser terrain with Trouble In Dreams, he’s now made a hard – or maybe that should be soft – left on Kaputt. Guitars remain present but take a back seat to billowing synths, soulful backing vox and slinky sax as the listener is invited into an ’80s-vintage discotheque/lounge as such things exist in the Destroyer-verse. In finding the groove, the record is less inclined to wander and even though a few tracks still exceed the five-minute mark and one, the previously-released “Bay Of Pigs” exceeds eleven, it feels like a much more focused record than past efforts.

Lyrically… well let’s be honest – trying to decipher a Destroyer record has always been somewhat an exercise in futility and Kaputt is no less opaque than its predecessors. But while a micro analysis of the words in play only lead to head-scratching, a more macro view reveals a consistently downcast tone and themes of broken romances, accusations and regrets. One is tempted to wonder if casting such motifs against the musical soundtrack more associated with coupling is a deliberate bit of irony on Bejar’s part or perhaps it’s just coincidence. Whatever his intent, with Kaputt Bejar has pulled off the difficult task of making a record that’s completely different from his past works and yet still classic Destroyer. Which is to say unique, fascinating and worth the time and effort it takes to comprehend.

Kaputt is out tomorrow and Destroyer’s North American tour hits Lee’s Palace on March 31. Pitchfork talks to Dawn Garcia, director of the wonderfully bizarre video for the album’s title track.

MP3: Destroyer – “Chinatown”
Video: Destroyer – “Kaputt”

Metric have released a video for their cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “Expecting To Fly” – it had shown up in some of Emily Haines’ solo live sets but I guess they decided to do a version with the rest of the band. And make a video

Video: Metric – “Expecting To Fly”

As The Dears ramp up to the February 15 release of their new record Degeneration Street, they’ve come out with a new MP3, a video and a chat with Spin and scheduled an in-store at Sonic Boom for February 17 at 7PM – admission free with donation of a canned good.

MP3: The Dears – “Blood”
Video: The Dears – “Omega Dog”

Guttersnipe News and The Calgary Herald have interviews with Sarah Harmer and CBC Radio 2 is streaming her show at Massey Hall last Fall.

Bruce Peninsula frontman Neil Haverty discusses his leukemia treatment with Exclaim; the C For Cure benefit show goes January 29 at the Music Gallery.

eye has an interview with Tokyo Police Club while The AV Club is offering a mashup between them and their current tourmates Two Door Cinema Club… because that’s what tourmates do. Mash. Tokyo Police Club will also be playing the just-announced Edgefest ’11 at Downsview Park on July 9 along with Rise Against, A Perfect Circle, The Weakerthans and more.

MP3: Two Door Tokyo Cinema Cub – “Breakneck Speed Can Work”

Exclaim and Spinner talk to Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham about his new gig as host of The Wedge (premiering this Wednesday) and his band’s new album/musical David Comes To Life, which is targeted for a May release.

Spinner chats with Nils Edenloff and Amy Cole of The Rural Alberta Advantage, whose new record Departing will be out March 1 and which has already yielded this terrific new video.

Video: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Stamp”

Exclaim reports that Basia Bulat will be teaming up with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra for a performance at Hamilton Place Studio Theatre on February 3 – though similar in concept to her performance with Symphony Nova Scotia at the Halifax Pop Explosion, Owen Pallett has re-written the arrangements for this show to suit the philharmonic and the venue. Tickets for the show are $23 in advance and $25 at the door.

Clash declares Suuns to be a band to watch in 2011, and you can do just that when they play Sonic Boom on January 29 at 4PM and then open for The Besnard Lakes across the street at Lee’s Palace later that evening. The Concordian also has an interview.

The Toronto Star profiles Diamond Rings, kicking off his tour opening for Robyn at The Sound Academy on January 26.

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Arise, Watch

Buffalo Tom arise again

Photo via MyspaceMyspaceI don’t really participate in Twitter memes, but if I were to ride the one currently trending for #why90srocked, one of my contributions might be Boston’s Buffalo Tom. One of my favourite bands of that decade, their Let Me Come Over and Big Red Letter Day were two of the gateways that led me to the world of college rock (what the kids now mostly call indie) – jangly guitars, raspy vocals, big hooks all around, what’s not to like? Unfortunately they, like many of the acts of that era, didn’t find the underground to be especially profitable and eventually called it a day at the end of the 20th century when the responsibilities of real life came calling (frontman Bill Janovitz became and continues to be a realtor).

But like many of their peers, Buffalo Tom found a second act years later when they discovered their fans from back in the day were still there and so was their appetite for their music. I for one was thrilled to finally see them live not once but twice in 2007, both terrifically high energy performances with just the right amount of slop, and their comeback album Three Easy Pieces also stood tall alongside their past works. There were no disappointments here.

And I don’t expect any on their second post-reunion album, Skins. The Buffalo Tom formula isn’t necessarily a broad one, but it is deep enough to expect the veteran songwriters to be able to pull a dozen or so good tunes out of it every few years. Stereogum has the first MP3 from the album available to download, and though it starts out favouring the band’s more pensive side it builds quickly to a big rock breakdown, and Janovitz’s voice is unmistakeable. Consider the appetite whetted. Skins is out on February 15 of next year and The Alternate Side has an interview with Janovitz.

Grab the title track from their last record for a taste of their more pop-oriented side. Update: The new track is now available for anyone to disseminate. Yay!

MP3: Buffalo Tom – “Arise, Watch”
MP3: Buffalo Tom – “Three Easy Pieces”

Chunklet interviews Andy Earles, biographer of Husker Du and author of Husker Du: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock.

Creative Loafing talks to Jon Wurster and City Pages to Mac McCaughan of Superchunk. They’re playing an in-store at Sonic Boom on December 9 at 3PM before hitting up the Sound Academy that evening opening up for Broken Social Scene.

The Vine interviews Doug Martsch of Built To Spill.

Rolling Stone reports that in addition to the reissues of Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow The Green Grass on January 18, the same day that a short tour kicks off at The Phoenix in Toronto, The Jayhawks will be releasing a new album under their proper name – previously a stumbling point – in the Spring of next year.

Magnet has gone archive-digging and come up with their 2002 feature piece on Wilco circa Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, arguably the most interesting period of their career.

Old 97’s frontman Rhett Miller talks to Spinner about his love of hockey while bassist Murry Hammond chats with Metromix.

Conor Oberst will return to Bright Eyes for the first time since 2007 for The People’s Key, due February 15. Details at American Songwriter.

Interpol heads to Europe and does the press circuit with Metro, The Guardian and Drowned In Sound.

Spoon has collected the demos and alternate takes of songs that were posted to their website over the past couple years and are offering it for sale as the digital compilation Bonus Songs 2008-2009.

Yours Truly has a video session with S. Carey, in town at The Horseshoe on December 19.

The Fly has an acoustic session with Local Natives.

Spinner talks to Warpaint bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg while the band talks about and performs the song “Warpaint” in session for The Guardian.

The Besnard Lakes have set a date at Lee’s Palace for January 29, tickets $15 in advance.

MP3: The Besnard Lakes – “Albatross”

Scots Biffy Clyro will bring their Mercury-shortlisted Only Revolutions to The Garrison on February 16, tickets $15 in advance.

Video: Biffy Clyro – “God and Satan”

Asobi Seksu will hit the road following the the February 11 release of their new record Fluorescence and stop in at The Horseshoe on February 27.

MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Trails”

Cold War Kids will be at Lee’s Palace on March 18 in support of their new record Mine Is Yours, out January 25. Tickets $20 in advance. The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Spinner and The Hook have features on the band.

The Whig and Edmonton Journal interview Dan Mangan, who just recorded a World Cafe session for NPR.

San Francisco Weekly and Exclaim chat with The Sadies, who will be holding their annual New Year’s Eve throwdown at The Horseshoe on December 31.

Wolf Parade discuss their decision to take an indefinite hiatus with

Exclaim declares Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs as their pop/rock album of the year and talk to Win Butler about it.

The Dears are giving away a track from their forthcoming Degeneration Street over at Dangerbird. The record is out February 15.