Posts Tagged ‘Eagles Of Death Metal’

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Little Faith

Review of The National’s High Violet

Photo By Keith KlenowskiKeith KlenowskiTo suggest I’m a little bit biased when it comes to The National is something of an understatement. The Cincinnati by way of Brooklyn band has put out two of my favourite records of the century in Alligator and Boxer, and when word came that their next record would arrive in 2010, I reserved a spot for it in my year-end list. That’s about as big a declaration of faith in the greatness of a record as a blogger can make.

The flipside of this, however, is the probably unrealistic expectations that accompany that faith. Boxer was almost exactly the record I needed at that point in my life, and the odds of that sort of synchronicity happening again with its successor is probably about nil. This understanding did allow me some perspective in contemplating High Violet, but didn’t change the fact that it had some enormous footsteps to follow in. After all, Boxer was widely considered to be a watershed album. How do you follow up a career peak?

By turning it into a plateau. If there were a way to actually quantify such things, High Violet would rate as almost as good or even better than Boxer, with the plus-minus determined only by one’s personal resonance with the material and the tone of the record. Whereas Boxer felt like a lightening of philosophy after the noir-ish Alligator, its elegiac mood has darkened again on High Violet. The glimmers of hopefulness that punctuated Boxer seem to have been muted and the angst and anxiety is again creeping in around the edges. This doesn’t, however, herald a return to the cathartic rock moves of Alligator; much to the dismay of fist-pumpers everywhere, it’s clear the band is well past its days of writing tracks like “Abel” and “Mr. November”. Instead, it manifests itself in a lyrical clarity that’s a ways removed from Matt Berninger’s typical obliqueness and his delivery, which finds him not necessarily expanding his range – I don’t think anyone expects him to find another octave anytime soon – but songs like “Anyone’s Ghost” and “Conversation 16” find him pushing it in unfamiliar directions or dwelling in parts of his voice that he might have only passed through fleetingly in the past en route to more comfortable territory.

Though longtime collaborator Peter Katis is still credited as providing additional production and mixing, High Violet notably lists the primary recording site as guitarist Aaron Dessner’s garage and the band as sole producers; it’s evident that the studio was heavily utilized as an instrument on this outing, which represents an aural shift from the cleaner textures of Boxer towards something denser and sometimes hazier. Album opener “Terrible Love” sounds almost filthy with its base of fuzzy, tremoloed guitars and I’m still not sure what the oscillating tones that bookend “Little Faith” are. More familiarly, the orchestral accents and choral vocals that embellished Boxer have returned, but feel more like integral parts of their sound.

Ultimately, High Violet triumphs by not trying to eclipse Boxer, but stand alongside it. The band offers growth without abandoning its strengths – hell, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “England” are two of the most National songs they’ve ever recorded. It’s thoughtful, sad and stately and, for all the shadows it casts, is downright luminous. The National are incapable of disappointing.

There are features on the band at The Wall Street Journal, Spinner, The Fly, Canadian Press and The AV Club. Their live-to-web show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in support of the Red Hot Organization is still available to stream at YouTube and you’ll probably get a lot higher quality stream watching it after the fact than in real time.

The National play Massey Hall on June 8 and 9.

MP3: The National – “Afraid Of Everyone”
MP3: The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
Video: The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
MySpace: The National

The Antlers, who are opening both of those National dates and others on the tour, are interviewed by Beatroute and The Guardian.

Pitchfork interviews Craig Finn and Tad Kubler of The Hold Steady; they’re at the Kool Haus on July 18.

It was announced last week that bassist Carlos Dengler, upon completion of their new record, has left Interpol. Expect to see a new face – and perhaps moustache – holding down the low end when they open for U2 at the Rogers Centre on July 3. No release date for album number four has been confirmed.

PopMatters talks to The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt. Strange Powers, the documentary about he and his band, will be getting a limited theatrical release on October 27.

Trailer: Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields

Acoustic Guitar interviews M Ward, who will be in town on June 9 at the Sound Academy as the “him” in She & Him.

Reuters and The State profile Band Of Horses, whose Infinite Arms is out tomorrow. They play the Toronto Islands on June 19.

Nada Surf busts out the covers for NPR’s World Cafe.

Also paying a visit to the World Cafe is Josh Ritter, who plays a few songs from his new record So The World Runs Away.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have released a video for the title track of last year’s Higher Than The Stars EP.

Video: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “Higher Than The Stars”

Pitchfork reports that some industrious fans have compiled an album’s worth of Titus Andronicus rarities and made them available for download as Feats Of Strength. Odds of them busting out any of this material when they play The Horseshoe on July 14 are poor.

A couple of big shows have just gotten attached to NXNEEagles Of Death Metal at The Phoenix on June 16 and Girl Talk at the Sound Academy on June 18. Expect their names to show up in advertising all over the place and for a modest number of wristbands to get into each show (50 for Girl Talk). And speaking of NXNE, the schedule for this year’s festival is now online and yes, just like every other year, it’s impossible to use/navigate/save/do anything with. It’s called a grid, people – look into it.

Video: Eagles Of Death Metal – “Cherry Cola”
Video: Girl Talk – “Feed The Animals”

Au Revoir Simone have scheduled a date at the Great Hall for July 15. Their last release was 2009’s Still Night Still Light but they were recently featured in session at Daytrotter.

MP3: Au Revoir Simone – “Shadows”
MP3: Au Revoir Simone – “All Or Nothing”

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is back and will be exploding blues all over the Horseshoe Lee’s Palace on July 31. There’s no new material coming out of this short reunion, but there is a best-of comp in Dirty Shirt Rock ‘N’ Roll: The First Ten Years and reissues of the studio albums proper are imminent. Magnet has a Q&A with Spencer, who will be playing guest editor on their site this week.

Video: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – “Talk About The Blues”

I’m really not sure what you could expect from a Van Dyke Parks live show, but Toronto will find out on September 29 when the arranger to the likes of The Beach Boys and Joanna Newsom, along with Clare & The Reasons, plays the Music Gallery.

MP3: Clare & The Reasons – “Ooh You Hurt Me So”

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Two Suns

Bat For Lashes and Lewis & Clarke at The Mod Club in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe most beautiful day of the year so far turned into one of the foulest just in time for the early-evening start of Bat For Lashes’ Saturday night date at the Mod Club, the first for this leg of their North American tour in support of their much-heralded new album Two Suns. A more ambitious writer might try to draw some parallel between the dramatic weather shift and the themes of duality that run through the new record – I’ll just blame a high pressure system surrounded by low pressure systems and get on with it.

Rather surprisingly, support for this tour was Pennsylvanians Lewis & Clarke – surprising because they were also support the last time Bat For Lashes came to town in October 2007, and you don’t often see acts getting taken out as support twice. And their last time out couldn’t have been the most pleasant for the band either, since my recollections were the duo, as they were playing as at the time, had a poor time of trying to be heard over the chatty and inattentive audience (those of us up front notwithstanding). I also remarked at the time that maybe a full band would have had been more successful at getting peoples’ attention. Apparently bandleader Lou Rogal took my advice because the Lewis & Clarke that showed up this time was five members deep, including a drummer and string section. They delivered a set of four (maybe five) songs over 35 minutes, all of the slow and thoughtful chamber-folk variety, and while unquestionably pretty, it was all quite same-y. But at least this time, the audience was much more receptive – or at least polite. Lewis & Clarke will release a new EP Light Time on May 12.

Also rejigged significantly from last time was Bat For Lashes, the band. Whereas the troupe that visited in 2007 was a drummer-less all-female multi-instrumentalist quartet, this one had more defined musical roles and was slightly more co-ed, with Ben Christophers on keys, New Young Pony Club’s Sarah Jones on drums and the divine Charlotte Hatherley on pretty much everything. Oh, and also Natasha Khan – she whose voice, vision and songs ARE Bat For Lashes.

And as beguiling as she is on record, she’s equally charismatic on stage. She set the bar high for the show by leading with Two Suns opener “Glass”, the finest showcase for her soaring vocals, but didn’t let things lag a bit through the 70-minute set. Splitting material fairly evenly between Suns and Fur & Gold, Khan crafted a spellbinding performance that despite the rich visual presentation, didn’t rely on theatrics to rivet – rich with atmosphere and mystery, the songs were more than enough. It’s hard to pick highlights from a show really had no let-downs, but Fur singles “Prescilla” and “What’s A Girl To Do” naturally got the biggest response and single “Daniel” even got aired twice – early on, reimagined in skeletal, autoharp-led form and as the encore closer as “(Big) Daniel” (so noted on the set list), complete with the huge synths of the album version and deliciously Cure-ish guitars. Grand finale, indeed.

It’s impossible to overstate how much the new band configuration has improved their live show, which was hardly wanting in the first place. In particular, the drums, thundering and tribal, gave things a vitality that really took things to another level and Hatherley’s versatility was also put to good use, as she switched off between guitar, bass, keys, accordion and percussion in addition to providing backing vocals. For lack of a better way of putting it, Bat For Lashes v2 are just much more powerful. Though I did miss seeing the rain stick/staff of power from last time.

As for Khan, it’s remarkable how effortlessly she manages to indulge her more out-there creative impulses – her musical world is inhabited by wizards, knights and creatures of fantasy – while seeming utterly grounded, friendly and without airs. With a penchant for costumes and with stage decorations consisting of all manner of dime-store kitsch like Virgin Mary statues and ladies legs table lamps, she obviously doesn’t take things all that seriously but there’s no whiff of irony to be found, either. She makes wolf howls in her songs, for goodness sake, but also cracks jokes and at one point, looked up to see who was calling to her when an audience member yelled, “Natasha!”. Utterly charming.

Though you might think the eccentric nature of Bat For Lashes would be sufficient to consign them to cult band status – not that there’s anything wrong with that – but the fact that this show was not only sold out but with people desperately looking for tickets seems to imply that they’re bound for bigger things. But even so, even if within a year you’re seeing Bat For Lashes in venues holding thousands, I have a feeling that if you holler “Natasha!” during a quiet moment between songs, she’ll still look up and go, “yes?”.

There are feature pieces on Bat For Lashes at CMJ and The Boston Phoenix.

Photos: Bat For Lashes, Lewis & Clarke @ The Mod Club – April 25, 2009
MP3: Bat For Lashes – “Glass” (live)
MP3: Bat For Lashes – “I’m On Fire”
MP3: Lewis & Clarke – “Petrified Forest”
MP3: Lewis & Clarke – “Before It Breaks You”
Stream: Lewis & Clarke / Light Time
Video: Bat For Lashes – “Daniel”
Video: Bat for Lashes – “Whats A Girl To Do”
Video: Bat for Lashes – “Prescilla”
MySpace: Bat For Lashes
MySpace: Lewis & Clarke

Interview talks to Lily Allen, who has a newish video. Kinda regret not seeing her last week, enjoying her new one It’s Not Me, It’s You more than I’d expected. Hope her vague promises to retire are false.

Video: Lily Allen – “Not Fair”

Daytrotter has posted a session they recorded with Glasvegas during SxSW.

The first track from Stuart Murdoch’s God Help The Girl – I’m not sure whether to call it a band, project, play, or what – is now up for grabs and shock, it sounds a LOT like Belle & Sebastian. Which is to say it sounds wonderful. The album is out June 23.

MP3: God Help The Girl – “Come Monday Night”

The Sunday Mail has a 60-second interview with Camera Obscura. They’re at Lee’s Palace on June 27.

Channel M has a video session with My Latest Novel, whose second album Death & Entrances is out May 18.

PJ Harvey and John Parish discuss A Woman A Man Walked By with Pitchfork.

Drowned In Sound gets Adam Franklin to comment on the whole phenomenon/idea of “shoegaze”. Short version, he doesn’t think much of it but it’s an entertaining read. Franklin is supporting The Church on their Summer North American tour, which has a stop at the Ottawa Bluesfest on July 11 but so far hasn’t extended to include a Toronto date.

MP3: Adam Franklin – “Autumn Leaf”

Fans of XTC psych-pop alter-egos The Dukes Of Stratosphear should check out these two podcasts wherein Andy Partridge reminisces with producer John Leckie about the recording of 25 O’Clock and Psionic Psunspot, both of which were reissued in deluxe form last week.

MP3: The Dukes Of Stratosphear – “My Love Explode”
MP3: The Dukes Of Stratosphear – “Braniac’s Daughter”

Channel M has a video interview with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

A double-shot of Leonard Cohen docs for you – courtesy of the National Film Board, the 1965 documentary Ladies And Gentlemen… Mr Leonard Cohen and over at Pitchfork, the 2009 live concert film Leonard Cohen: Live In London. And apropos of nothing, whilst digging around IMDB I found that Lenny guest-starred in an episode of Miami Vice in 1986 playing a villain named Francois Zolan. I didn’t think it possible, but I think Cohen just got that much more awesome in my eyes. He plays Copps Coliseum on May 19.

Video: Ladies And Gentlemen… Mr Leonard Cohen
Video: Leonard Cohen Live In London

Seattle-based power-popper Telekinesis will be at the Horseshoe on June 10 in support of his/their excellent self-titled debut.

MP3: Telekinesis – “Coast Of Carolina”
MP3: Telekinesis – “I Saw Lightning”
Video: Telekinesis – “Tokyo”

Brooklyn’s Obits will bring their debut long-player I Blame You to Lee’s Palace on July 23, tickets $12.

MP3: Obits – “Pine On”

Eagles Of Death Metal are at the Kool Haus on August 2, tickets $27.50.

Monday, December 15th, 2008

A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night

Love Is All, Crystal Stilts, Tropics at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangBrevity is the watchword of the day. ‘Tis been a long weekend.

Heading into Thurday night’s show at the Horseshoe, I was interested to see the headliner, curious about the much-buzzed about support act and completely unfamiliar with the local opener. We’ll start there.

I’d not heard of Tropics but half of the duo was Slim Twig, whom I was also mostly unfamiliar but at least I’d heard his name before. But it was his bandmate, drummer Simone TB, whom I found much more interesting – together, they were turning out some seriously loud garage-a-billy but while Twig’s guitar and vocal approach reminded me of a more abrasive but less interesting Jon Spencer, TB’s drumming was always deft and inventive and pushed their sound into more unpredictable places.

The drummer also stole the show for the Brooklyn outfit Crystal Stilts, but that wasn’t necessarily much of a feat. That’s not meant to take away from what Frankie Rose contributed behind the kit, as she and guitarist JB Townsend did a fine job of giving the band’s Spector-worshipping pop some punch, but more a comment on the sucking charisma vacuum that was frontman Brad Hargett. His droning Ian Curtis-ish vocals, already swathed in metallic reverb on record, seemed to be buried even further in the live mix and when he occasionally stepped on the reverb pedal his mic was run through, he may as well have not been there – an impression augmented by his complete lack of physical presence. Though not turning my world upside down, I do find some of Crystal Stilts’ output interesting, if overly one-dimensional. Live, however, they were wholly unengaging.

This left it up to headliners Love Is All to make the night worthwhile and while their set barely clocked in at forty minutes, they more than delivered. I’ve only recently gotten into the band, mainly on the strength of their latest release A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night, and was pleasantly surprised that they were even more enjoyable live. The scrappy production and clangy reverb of the recorded product gave way to a much fuller and polished live sound and a greater emphasis on their dancier attributes, thanks to a much more prominently feature Markus Gorsch – yes, the drummer once again ruled the day. But he didn’t steal the show – with a frontwoman as manic and energetic as Josephine Olausson, that’s next to impossible. Either banging away on her keyboard or caterwauling gleefully to the audience, and I mean that in the best possible sense, she led her bandmates through a delicate balance of sweet pop and sonic skronk.

The Chicago Tribune has a feature on Love Is All while The New Gay has a short interview with Olausson. The local media was apparently all excited about Crystal Stilts’ visit – there were pieces on the band in eye, NOW and Chart. Pity about their performance. To hear for yourself, check out a show available to download at NYC Taper – I haven’t listened to the particular show they’re offering, but I don’t think that the Toronto show was any kind of aberration from the norm. Call it a hunch. eye also has a review of the show.

Photos: Love Is All, Crystal Stilts, Tropics @ The Horseshoe – December 11, 2008
MP3: Love Is All – “Wishing Well”
MP3: Crystal Stilts – “Crystal Stilts”
MP3: Crystal Stilts – “Shattered Shine”
Video: Love Is All – “Wishing Well”
MySpace: Love Is All

If there was some way of knowing which Primal Scream was coming to North America next year, I might be more interested in their just-announced March 24 show at the Opera House Phoenix (tickets $35). If we’re talking XTRMNTR or Vanishing Point Primal Scream, I’m in. If we’re talking Give Out But Don’t Give Up or Screamadelica, I’m out (heresy on the second one, I know but whatever). And I have no idea who they are circa their last few records. If they’re going to play “Shoot Speed/Kill Light”, that might be persuasion enough but something tells me the name of the first single off latest release Beautiful Future might prove to be prescient… This Is Nottingham interviews guitarist Barry Cadogan. Update: Venue appears to be different from what I thought – now the Phoenix, not Opera House.

Video: Primal Scream – “Can’t Go Back”

Also just announced – Eagles Of Death Metal at the Phoenix on February 20, tickets $27.50.

Filter interviews Of Montreal.

Pitchfork has details on the new Arcade Fire DVD Miroir Noir, which will be available digitally starting today and in physical form next year.

The AV Club talks to Mates Of State.

The Times talks to Elbow’s Guy Garvey, Adele and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon about their breakthrough 2008s.