Posts Tagged ‘Galaxie’

Monday, February 6th, 2012


Bry Webb and Doug Tielli at The Music Gallery in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt probably amounts to some sort of Can-rock heresy, but I think I actually like Bry Webb on his own more than I ever did with Constantines. I fully acknowledge why many hold the Cons up as one of the greatest Canadian rock acts of the past however many years/decades/centuries – I’ve seen them live, I know what they were capable of – but the fact is, his solo debut Provider has captivated me more than any of the Cons studio releases ever did. The whys of it, I’ve already covered but it’s telling that even though I had opportunities to catch the Constantines a couple years ago one last time before they went on their indefinite hiatus, I never got around to it whereas when it was announced that Webb would be playing a couple of intimate shows at The Music Gallery on Saturday night to properly mark the record’s release – he technically debuted the new songs in December at Massey Hall opening for Feist – the early show went straight into the calendar.

Opening up both sets was local fixture Doug Tielli, who came armed with just his voice and guitar; the former a slow, warm instrument with effortless falsetto, the latter a virtuosically-handled Stratocaster. Not much, but still plenty when wrapped around a half-dozen songs that ranged from country-western shuffles about cows to jazzy-yet-visceral croons to shimmering atmospheric pop and also a cover of Aretha’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”. Short but sweet.

I’d actually seen Webb solo before back in December 2009 when he was operating under the guise of Harbour Coats. I don’t know how much, if any, of that material made it onto Provider but that show did affirm that Webb was as compelling a performer on his own as with a band. For this occasion, he again had a band – dubbed The Providers – but they were hardly a conventional setup, with Webb mainly on acoustic guitar and backed by an upright bass, lap steel and pedal steel. The configuration was an inspired one, evoking a heartbeat and blood flow while Webb gave his songs breath and spirit. Even though no one doubted that Webb’s vocals, known across Canada for their rough bark, could be just as affecting as a sigh, hearing it fill the church sanctuary on gorgeous and moving moments like “Asa” and “Persistent Spirit” was still revelatory. The heaviest moment of the night came with set closer “Ex-Punks”, wherein they were joined by a drummer to add enough hammering percussion that if you looked and listened close enough, you could perceive the ghosts of the Constantines hovering overhead; not invoked, but acknowledged. For the one-song encore, they offered a cover of The Mills Brothers’ “Smoke Rings” and sent us on our way and the ready themselves to do it all over again.

Mechanical Forest Sound has a recording of “Ex-Punks” from the show he’d like to share, and BlogTO has a review. NOW, The Guelph Mercury, The Toronto Star, Spinner, Brock Press, and BlogTO have profile pieces on Webb.

Photos: Bry Webb, Doug Tielli @ The Music Gallery – February 4, 2012
MP3: Bry Webb – “Rivers Of Gold”
Stream: Bry Webb – “Undertaker”
Stream: Doug Tielli – “Deer”
Video: Doug Tielli – “Deer”

Paste has offered up a new download from the forthcoming Wooden Sky album Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun, due out February 28. They play The Opera House on April 20.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Malibu Rum”

Almost a couple years on from its release, a new video from The Acorn’s last album No Ghost. Odd timing, but there’s never a bad time to be reminded of a great band and album.

Video: The Acorn – “Misplaced”

The schedule for this year’s Canadian Musicfest is probably still a ways off, but some showcases lineups are trickling out, including this Quebec-centric one at The El Mocambo on March 22, which will feature a super-solid lineup of The Dears, Martha Wainwright, Galaxie, and Adam & The Amethysts. Advance tickets are $20 or you can try your luck with a festival wristband, of which a limited number will be admitted.

MP3: The Dears – “Blood”
MP3: Adam & The Amethysts – “Prophecy”
Video: Martha Wainwright – “You Cheated Me”
Video: Galaxie – “Piste 01”

PopMatters gets to know Dan Mangan, who will be in town to play the Indies at the Royal York on March 24.

Exclaim talks to The Darcys, who are at The Phoenix on March 1 opening for Bombay Bicycle Club and at Downsview Park for Edgefest on July 12.

A track from Rae Spoon’s new album I Can’t Keep All Of Our Secrets is now available to download. If you’re into that sort of thing. There’s also interviews at The Dalhousie Gazette and Beatroute.

MP3: Rae Spoon – “Crash Landing”

Great Lake Swimmers are streaming a second selection from their new album New Wild Everywhere, due out April 3. They play The Music Hall on June 2.

Stream: Great Lake Swimmers – “Les Champs des Prog´lniture”

Pitchfork is streaming all of Fucked Up’s Chinese zodiac singles to date; that’s five so far, including the “Year Of The Tiger” one due out on February 21.

Stream: Fucked Up / Chinese Zodiac singles

Consequence Of Sound reports that Neil Young’s getting back together with Crazy Horse may yield as many as two albums – the one called Americana is apparently already recorded and a second is in the works. Or, it being Neil, maybe nothing will actually come of this.

Whole lot of talking about Leonard Cohen in the wake of last week’s release of Old Ideas: The AV Club has a primer to his recorded works, Exclaim has assembled a timeline of his career, and Spinner and The National Post have both assembled panels of musicians to talk about the influence of the man and his music. Also, two more installments of the Old Ideas With New Friends covers series have surfaced, with The Guardian presenting Cults covering “Everybody Knows” and Pitchfork hosting Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox doing his take on, “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy”.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Scenes From The Suburbs

Arcade Fire wins the 2011 Polaris Music Prize; people bragging about predicting it just look silly

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangExecutive summary of this post: Arcade Fires’s third album The Suburbs did what everyone kind of expected and won the 2011 Polaris Music Prize last night, and with the $30,000 giant novelty cheque comes loads of praise and under-the-breath mutterings about how they don’t deserve it, though that’d have happened no matter who won. If you’re the sort of person who only looks at the scoreboard and pays no attention to the boxscores, then you’re done here. If you want the blow-by-blow about how it happened, well, I don’t have that for you either. I offered my own thoughts on the record’s deserving the prize when I put it at the top of my ballot but as with every year, what happens in the Grand Jury room stays in the Grand Jury room, guarded by the ghosts of masons and templars, but I can at least report on what happened at the gala proper.

Unlike last year’s rare ten for ten in terms of shortlisters showing up to perform, only six acts were available to take the stage this year. Arcade Fire and Colin Stetson had legitimate reasons for missing out, the former having just headlined Austin City Limits the night before and unable to do it logistically (though three of the band were in attendance) and the latter being in Los Angeles as part of Bon Iver’s touring band. No official reason was given for Destroyer’s Dan Bejar not being in attendance, let alone perform and even though The Weeknd had established themselves as actually existing and being able to perform a couple months earlier, Abel Tesfaye seems to have since decided it’s more fun being an urban legend than a real person.

And so we began with Ron Sexsmith, looking dapper in a red tuxedo jacket, led his full band through a couple selections from Long Player Late Bloomer. I daresay no one was especially blown away by the performance but that’s not Sexsmith’s thing – he’s in it for the long game and will be crafting fine pop songs years from now. Austra followed and though from the same neck of the woods – Toronto represent! – was at the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum, with a dramatic visual presentation to go the intense, operatic synth-goth sound of Feel It Break. The live show was about as impressive as I’ve heard it was.

Montreal’s Galaxie were up next and were an anodyne for anyone bemoaning the lack of straight-ahead rock in today’s music. For Galaxie and their nominated record Tigre et diesel were nothing if not straight-ahead rock, with lots of meaty, 70s-vintage guitar riffs and corresponding swagger. I continue to bear them a bit of ill will for calling themselves Galaxie 500 for so long but if you heard them, there’s no way you’d confuse them with the REAL Galaxie 500. Timber Timbre recital of a couple numbers from Creep On Creepin’ On was probably the biggest revelation of the night. I’d not seen them live since it was still a Taylor Kirk solo project hiding in the dark and here, they were a full 9-piece band with string quartet and the scale of sound they made were remarkable; there was no more hiding in the shadows, instead this was Timber Timbre standing proud and tall for all to see and hear and they would not be cowed by the light.

The Timber Timbre experience was emblematic of why these Polaris galas are so great – in the months leading up to it, there’s inevitably bands you dismiss or make jokes about because you don’t believe they’ll win or even belong on the short list, but to see them in this sort of setting and doing their thing it’s very difficult to not understand and appreciate how, even if they’re not your thing, they’re almost always great in their way. Braids, whose Native Speaker I never warmed to, almost made me want to reassess my opinion of them in that manner – in fact with their first song, they had me with their obviously impressive musicianship and complex songwriting. But by their second number, those feelings of “this is so pretty” were equaled if not surpassed by feelings of, “this is so so so long”. That said, their focus is much sharper than it was when I last saw them live, so in a few years/records I may well be on board. But not yet.

This left Newfoundland’s Hey Rosetta! to close things out. Contrary to their last gala appearance in 2009, the band eschewed the massive orchestral presentation that people equate with their sound and went with the core six-piece configuration to showcase a couple songs from Seeds. Their earnest compositions were pretty and pleasant, but felt more polite than passionate – many swear by their grand, heartfelt pop but it just doesn’t really connect with me… but two Polaris shortlist appearances in as many albums certainly speaks to them doing something right.

With the performances done, all that remained was to give Arcade Fire another major award to go with their Grammy, Juno and BRIT. Unlike past years, where the announcement of the winner usually resulted in at least some gasps and/or confused looks, this year’s announcement was met with applause and nods – either in agreement that the right call had been made or in resignation that none of an electronic witch, avant-garde saxman or leisure-suited poet could derail the Suburbs-sized freight train. Represented by Win Butler, Richard Reed Parry and Jeremy Gara, they were gracious winners who encouraged young bands to create greater works than they had and invited them to come record at their studio, into which they hinted that at least some of the winnings would get invested.

And so the record that was both the surest thing and the longest shot come out on top and in the process, dismantled the Polaris’ growing reputation as something of a contrarian prize. Everybody wins. Especially Arcade Fire.

For more non-performance shots from the gala and Arcade Fire press conference, check out my Flickr.

Photos: Polaris Music Prize Gala 2011 @ The Masonic Temple – September 19, 2011
MP3: Austra – “Lose It”
MP3: Braids – “Lemonade”
MP3: Destroyer – “Chinatown”
MP3: Hey Rosetta! – “Yer Spring”
MP3: Colin Stetson – “Fear Of The Unknown And The Blazing Sun”
MP3: Timber Timbre – “Black Water”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Party & The After Party”
Video: Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs”
Video: Galaxie – “Piste 01”
Video: Ron Sexsmith – “Late Bloomer” (live)

The Globe & Mail, Toronto Star and National Post ran some pre-gala Polaris pieces on the topics of citizenship and eligibility for the award, the Arcade Fire’s chances and the process and nominees and whatnot, respectively. And peeking over across the Atlantic, The Line Of Best Fit had a three-parter examining each of the shortlisted records and an interview with prize founder Steve Jordan.

Also posted prior to last night – Spinner asking Katie Stelmanis of Austra what they’d have done with their winnings and Exclaim, BlogTO and Spinner finding out how being shortlisted has affected Colin Stetson.

The Vancouver Sun and Georgia Straight talk to 2010 Polaris winners Karkwa.

The Georgia Straight, The Portland Mercury and Backseat Seattle talk to Young Galaxy as they tour over to the west coast.

Stool Pigeon talks to Chad VanGaalen. He’s at The Mod Club on October 28.

Pitchfork has an interview with Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew wherein he reveals the band are going on a hiatus after their last few shows of the year are done. Whether this means another deluge of “Broken Social Scene Presents” solo records is unclear.

The New York Times talks to Feist about her new record Metals, out October 4. She plays Massey Hall on December 1.

State interviews Alexei Perry of Handsome Furs.

Bruce Peninsula are sharing a track from their forthcoming album Open Flames, out October 4. They play an album release show at Lee’s Palace on October 27 and are interviewed by The Record.

MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “In Your Light”

Elliott Brood are marking the September 27 release of their new album Days Into Years with an in-store at Sonic Boom’s Annex location that evening at 7PM. Their proper hometown show doesn’t come until November 18 at the Phoenix so if you want to see ’em, be there with some canned goods to donate.

MP3: Elliott Brood – “Northern Air”

NOW has an interview with Rebekah Higgs, who will have a Sunday night residency at The Drake Underground throughout the month of October – that’s five shows on each of the 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th – admission $7 each.

MP3: Rebekah Higgs – “Gosh Darn Damn”

Hour has a feature piece on Montreal’s Adam & The Amethysts, whose Flickering Flashlight is out October 4 and available to stream at Exclaim. They’ll be at The Piston to celebrate with a show on October 5.

MP3: Adam & The Amethysts – “Prophecy”
Stream: Adam & The Amethysts – “Flickering Flashlight”

The Wooden Sky are going to be previewing material from their follow up to If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone with a short Fall tour that includes a hometown stop at The Dakota Tavern on October 19, tickets $15 in advance. The new album won’t be out until next year but the band will have a tour EP available at these shows to tide fans over.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Bit Part”

Shout Out Out Out Out have made a date at The Great Hall on October 27.

Video: Shout Out Out Out Out – “Coming Home”

Baeblemusic has video of a live set from Suuns recorded way back at SXSW; they’re at The Garrison on October 2.

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

High For This

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 Polaris Music Prize short list

Photo via FacebookFacebookWhen the Polaris Prize long list was announced three weeks back, the general response was positive. After all, forty albums is pretty inclusive and many genres and regions were represented; pretty good cause for back-patting. But when you whittle it down to the final ten, things inevitably get contentious – so with the announcement of the 2011 short list yesterday, there were the inevitable complaints that so-and-so was robbed, such-and-such is underrepresented, etc etc. Six years in, it’s all pretty predictable if you think about it.

And as such, I personally wasn’t especially surprised with the results – after all, I did tie for first in an impromptu prediction pool amongst jurors and Polaris-spotters with eight out of ten right, and I would have gotten nine if I’d stuck with my initial instincts about the Maritime bloc. As for the two I got wrong, I’m disappointed but not wholly surprised that Sloan didn’t make the cut – continuing their career trajectory of being simultaneously adored yet taken for granted. I was, however, genuinely surprised that The Rural Alberta Advantage got passed over – though they barely missed my ballot, I thought that there’d have been enough goodwill banked from Hometowns being ineligible in the year it got wide release to carry over to Departing, but I guess not. They’ll have to settle for being generally adored. Tough life. But my picks didn’t necessarily reflect what I thought were the most deserving – note only two of my ballot entries appear on the short list – but based on pretty reliable patterns observed over the course of Polaris’ existence. We’re all just algorithms in a giant cosmic computer, maaaaaan.

As for the albums that made the cut?

Arcade Fire / The Suburbs
Well this one was a gimme; the question really is will the Suburbs-sized elephant in the jury room end up costing the band and give proof to the accusation that the Polaris punishes success? Not a lock, but if the winner comes back as anything else, people are going to want some explanations as to how and album pretty much universally feted would be deemed inadequate (relatively speaking) at home. By being heavily favoured, they are probably the biggest underdogs on the list. Oh, Canada.

Video: Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs”

Austra / Feel It Break
I figured this, Diamond Rings, Young Galaxy and Miracle Fortress would split the synth-pop vote – no way would more than one of them make the short list – and was certain that when the votes were counted, Austra would have come out on top. It strikes the right balance of weird and accessible and you can dance to it. It give it long, long odds to win but its presence here is an achievement.

MP3: Austra – “Lose It”

Braids / Native Speaker
I’ve tried, but I just can’t get into this record. But I can’t stand Animal Collective either, so I’m just not predisposed to appreciate what Braids do, and that’s fine. I’ll probably try again before all is said and done, but don’t expect any Damascene moments. I don’t think it will win, but I didn’t think that people would lose their minds for it as much as they have so I won’t say it couldn’t upset.

MP3: Braids – “Lemonade”

Destroyer / Kaputt
For an album as smooth and laid back as it appears to be, Kaputt has turned out to be remarkably polarizing, but that said it was also pretty much a lock – criticize what it is if you will, but there’s really no denying the degree of vision and craftsmanship that has gone into this record. I think if any record could win without instigating an Arcade Fire backlash debate, it’s this one. If I were on the grand jury, which I’m thankful I won’t be, I’d be championing this one.

MP3: Destroyer – “Chinatown”

Galaxie / Tigre et diesel
The question was which of this or Malajube would take the Francophone vote – I didn’t see both making it – and rather than let Malajube three-peat as shortlisters, they went with the fresh(ish) faces. And I’ll be honest, I hold a grudge against this band because they went by Galaxie 500 for far longer than is acceptable. That’s just wrong.

Video: Galaxie – “Piste 01”

Hey Rosetta! / Seeds
This is a band whom I get what they do, get how it inspires such adoration from so many, but doesn’t really do much for me. But their upwards trajectory is undeniable – they’ll be doing the theatre circuit very soon, just watch – and being past shortlisters and the most probable consensus pick amongst jurors from out east, I really should have known better than to take them off my list of predictions. Another record that I will revisit to see what I missed the first time around.

Video: Hey Rosetta! – “Young Glass”

Ron Sexsmith / Long Player Late Bloomer
No doubt there’s a whiff of lifetime achievement about Sexsmith’s inclusion, but his profile hasn’t been higher than it is now in years thanks to the documentary film and the Luminato tribute and thanks to his remarkably consistent songwriting, you couldn’t argue that this record is any less deserving than his others. And maybe people just want to see what it’d take to make the man smile.

Video: Ron Sexsmith – “Late Bloomer” (live)

Colin Stetson / New History Warfare Vol. 2 – Judges
Easily the most left-field shortlisted album in the prize’s history, I don’t get New History Warfare at all. But then I don’t get hardly anything about where it comes from and what it’s about, so that’s okay. I do know that Stetson has an incredible pair of lungs and the record is an astonishing physical feat, but on the topic of its musicality, I defer to those more qualified to pass judgement. And it’d be kind of awesome if it won if just for the coast-to-coast head scratching that would surely ensue.

MP3: Colin Stetson – “Fear of the Unknown and the Blazing Sun [ft. Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden]”

Timber Timbre / Creep On Creepin’ On
I know a lot of people who think Timber Timbre should have won in 2009, even though they didn’t even make the short list, so with a – in my judgement – better album in hand and a much stronger national profile, I’m not at all surprised it made the cut this time. I think it’s still a little genre/weird to garner the necessary broad grand jury support to really make a run, but Polaris tends to be predictably unpredictable so maybe they should have the inside track.

MP3: Timber Timbre – “Black Water”

The Weeknd / House Of Balloons
Another record that comes from a separate musical world from the one I usually inhabit, but one that got my attention from the first listen. A little hip-hop, a little r&b, a little indie rock and a lot sexy and moody – though not necessarily sexy moody – it’s definitely noteworthy and probably deserves its placement. And it’s got that whole mysterious identity and album-for-free (click above) thing going for it.

MP3: The Weeknd – “The Party & The After Party”

So my overall prediction for the night of September 19? I think the jury will for maybe the first time do the obvious thing let Arcade Fire take it. Failing that, Destroyer. And if not one of those two, then all bets are off.

Colin Stetson will get to see if a Polaris appearance translates into concert attendance when he plays The Drake on August 26, tickets $12 in advance. The Georgia Straight and Montreal Gazette have interviews.

Austra are releasing a new remix album entitled Sparkle on August 23 on vinyl, later this month digitally.

MP3: Austra – “Spellwork” (MNDR Nighttime remix)

NYC Taper has posted recordings of a recent visit to the Big Apple from Sloan. And oh, new video and interview with Andrew Scott at Thick Specs.

Video: Sloan – “Unkind”

PS I Love You have announced the release of an odds-and-sods compilation entitled, descriptively enough, Figure It Out: A Collection of Singles and EPs by PS I Love You and it’ll be out August 30. It will be followed by an extensive North American tour that includes a date at Toronto’s Great Hall on October 1. Full dates and track listing at and yes, it’s that “Subdivisions”.

MP3: PS I Love You – “2012”

Le Blogotheque has posted a Les Soirees des poches video session with Plants & Animals.

Dan Mangan has announced a September 27 release date for his new album Oh Fortune and is giving away the title track from said record below. And if you need more, Herohill has posted videos of a living room show Mangan performed in Halifax a couple months ago.

MP3: Dan Mangan – “Oh Fortune”

Spinner has words with Chad VanGaalen.

Broken Social Scene drummer Justin Peroff gets political for a moment with

Fucked Up demonstrate to Pitchfork how to make a bong in 60 seconds and also fess up to the obvious parallels between David Comes To Life and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. chats with Dan Boeckner of Handsome Furs, in town at The Horseshoe on August 1 and 2.

Interview has premiered the first song from Ohbijou’s forthcoming third album Metal Meets, due out September 27.

If you’re looking for something to do over the August long weekend, you may not need to look further than The Great Hall and Toronto Underground Cinema; that’s when those venues will host over three nights the inaugural Out Of The Box Festival, featuring a slew of the city/province’s up-and-coming acts including personal faves and bands to watch Olenka & The Autumn Lovers, Ruby Spirit, Heartbeat Hotel and Foxes In Fiction to name but a very few. Admission is $10 at the door, $15 for a weekend pass and the schedule will be forthcoming soon.

Hamilton dreampop veterans A Northern Chorus called it a day back in Summer 2008, but have regrouped for a couple of shows next month, one in Hamilton at The Casbah on August 12 and one at The Garrison in Toronto on August 13.

Video: A Northern Chorus – “Winterize”

And speaking of good things that come from The Hammer, Supercrawl has announced the first wave of their muscial lineup for September 10, and it includes the likes of Broken Social Scene, J Mascis and The Megaphonic Thrift, amongst many others. And oh yeah, it’s all free.