Posts Tagged ‘Grammatics’

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Playground Hustle

The Dø at Wrongbar in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt’s not quite a French invasion, but the success of acts like Phoenix and Daft Punk in North America – and to a lesser degree M83 – certainly made the idea of bands hailing from France making inroads over here a plausible idea, not something you could have said a few years ago. Seeking to be part of this wave are Franco-Finnish duo The Dø, whose debut album A Mouthful was a hit in France when it was released in 2008. And while it’s not nearly as accessible a record for the masses as a Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, it has plenty to offer the more adventurous listener and singer Olivia Merilahti is the sort of woman who could sell anything to anyone. And so it was that the album was released in North American back in May, when the band would otherwise have been hard at work at album number two, and a Fall tour that brought them to Toronto’s Wrongbar on Saturday night.

The show was originally scheduled for the fancier digs of The Mod Club but was relocated to cozier digs late last week to provide a more compressed concert-going experience. And if anyone thought that having to downsize venues at the last minute was a bad luck, then having the club’s power go out entirely as the band were soundchecking would have been a veritable bad omen. The darkness only lasted a few minutes, though, and would be as bad as things would get – from there, everything got considerably better.

Though A Mouthful is almost dizzyingly eclectic in the sounds and styles it encompasses, The Dø live were a much more focused entity, operating in a conventional four-piece band configuration and locked into “rock” mode. This didn’t mean that they were all about extended solos or feet up on monitors (though both of those things did happen), but many of the jazz and folk idiosyncrasies of the album were checked in favour of focusing on their more immediate pop material – and a few smouldering ballads – and putting on a more direct, impactful performance. With co-conspirator Dan Levy handling bass duties, Merilahti – occasionally armed with a guitar but always with her fascinatingly plaintive voice and considerable charisma – led the band through a set including much Mouthful material, a good crop of new material and an extended and deconstructed rendering of Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope”. When they left the stage after an hour, they seemed to think they were done – as did the house DJ and roadie, who was shutting off amps – but the audience demanded more and they returned for one final song. Encores that are unplanned are great; so are shows that are over by nine. Yeah.

Photos: The Dø @ Wrongbar – September 11, 2010
MP3: The Dø – “At Last”
MP3: The Dø – “Tammie”
Video: The Dø – “At Last”
Video: The Dø – “On My Shoulders”
Video: The Dø – “The Bridge Is Broken”
Video: The Dø – “Stay (Just A Little Bit More)”
MySpace: The Dø

Spinner and The Line Of Best Fit interview Tim Burgess of The Charlatans, who are in town at Lee’s Palace on Friday night. Still not cancelled!

A non-geoblocked version of the new Manic Street Preachers video startting Anna Friel (I hear you Kristen Chenoweth) and Michael Sheen is now up on the internets, though the official making-of video is available to all to see. The Guardian’s stream of Postcards From A Young Man, out September 28, is still for residents of the UK only though.

Video: Manic Street Preachers – “(It’s Not War) Just The End Of Love”

I’m not sure what the context for this just-released Clientele live video is – the song is from 2007’s God Save The Clientele and not the new Minotaur EP – but it’s pretty so it’s worth watching regardless.

Video: The Clientele – “Somebody Changed”

Build-A-Beard talks to Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit about his beard.

Gigwise chats with Blood Red Shoes, in town at the Horseshoe on October 27 with Sky Larkin as support.

Drowned In Sound talks to Owen Brinley of the just-disbanded Grammatics about why the Leeds outfit called it a day.

MP3: Grammatics – “Double Negative”

Brazil’s Os Mutantes will be at the Opera House on November 17 with Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti.

MP3: Os Mutantes – “Anagrama”
MP3: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – “Round And Round”

Australian electronic-rock artist formerly known as Pivot – and now going by PVT – will be on tour in support of his new album Church With No Magic and be at Wrongbar on October 26.

MP3: PVT – “Quick Mile”

When tours collide! The just-announced tour teaming Small Black and Class Actress will be hitting Toronto on the same day as Delorean and Lemonade, so naturally they’ll be teaming up for one uber-show at the Mod Club on November 18.

MP3: Delorean – “Real Love”
MP3: Small Black – “Photojournalist”
MP3: Lemonade – “Lifted”
MP3: Class Actress – “All The Saints”

Marathonpacks’ Eric Harvey has a great piece at Pitchfork on the parallels and intersection of the aesthetics of photography and independent music.

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

SxSW 2010 Night Four A/V

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFull writeup of the night over here.

– Leeds chamber/prog-rock quartet released their self-titled debut last year and are working on album number two. Spinner has an interview.
Photos: Grammatics @ Phoenix – March 20, 2010
MP3: Grammatics – “Double Negative”
Video: Grammatics – “The Vague Archive”
Video: Grammatics – “D.I.L.E.M.M.A.”
Video: Grammatics – “New Franchise”

Gemma Ray
– Throwback rockabilly/torch singer out of the UK just released a new album in Lights Out Zoltar!. Spinner has a chat.
Photos: Gemma Ray @ The Tap Room on 6th – March 20, 2010
MP3: Gemma Ray – “100 MPH (In 2nd Gear)”
Video: Gemma Ray – “Hard Shoulder”
Video: Gemma Ray – “100 MPH (In 2nd Gear)”
Video: Gemma Ray – “Fist Of A Flower”

Class Actress
– New York ’80s-esque electro-glam trio just released their debut EP Journal Of Ardency. Out has an interview with frontwoman Elizabeth Harper.
Photos: Class Actress @ Phoenix – March 20, 2010
MP3: Class Actress – “All The Saints”
Video: Class Actress – “Let Me Take You Out”
MySpace: Class Actress

Eva & The Heartmaker
– Bubbly pop band fronted by husband-and-wife team, half of whom was a former winner of Norwegian Idol. They released their first album in North America last year, Let’s Keep This Up Forever.
Photos: Eva & The Heartmaker @ Prague – March 20, 2010
MP3: Eva & The Heartmaker – “Superhero”
Video: Eva & The Heartmaker – “Superhero”
MySpace: Eva & The Heartmaker

Venice Is Sinking
– Athens, Georgia orch-pop outfit will release the live-off-the-floor Sand & Lines: The Georgia Theatre Sessions on June 15.
Photos: Venice Is Sinking @ The Ale House – March 20, 2010
MP3: Venice Is Sinking – “Falls City”
MP3: Venice Is Sinking – “Okay”
MP3: Venice Is Sinking – “Compass”
MP3: Venice Is Sinking – “Ryan’s Song”
Video: Venice Is Sinking – “Okay”
Video: Venice Is Sinking – “Ryan’s Song”
Video: Venice Is Sinking – “Pulaski Heights”
MySpace: Venice Is Sinking

Forest City Lovers
– Toronto folk-pop up-and-comers have just completed recording their third album, due out in or around July of this year. Spinner has an interview.
Photos: Forest City Lovers @ The Ale House – March 20, 2010
MP3: Forest City Lovers – “If I Were A Tree”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “If I Were A Tree”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “Pirates”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “Song For Morrie”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “Please, Don’t Go”
MySpace: Forest City Lovers

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

SxSW 2010 Day Four

Grammatics, Venice Is Sinking, Class Actress and more at SxSW

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWhile most festivals save their biggest names for the final night, recent years have seen SxSW kind of stagger to the finish line. Everyone is exhausted, bands want to get the hell out of town ASAP and most just want it to all be over. There was supposed to be an exception to this rule in the Big Star show at Antone’s, but with the tragic passing of Alex Chilton earlier this week, that showcase became a tribute concert and if possible, an even bigger draw. So much so that festival organizers decided to make it a badge-only event, meaning that lowly wristbanders like myself were going to be shut out. But on the upside, plan B didn’t have be standing out in the cold in line waiting/hoping to get in, so at least there was that.

I did still spend a good part of the evening near Antone’s in Austin’s warehouse district, which appears to becoming the city’s fancy club district, all bouncers in suits with earpieces and velvet ropes. Perhaps the swankiest was Phoenix, where Leeds’ Grammatics were slated to open up the evening programme. I was pleasantly surprised they were at the festival, as I hadn’t thought that breaking into the US was on their agenda but perhaps with the success of acts like Muse over here, they see an opportunity. Not that Grammatics are overtly Muse-like; they shared a penchant for dramatic delivery, yes, and singer/guitarist Owen Brinley does have a similarly theatrical voice and a tendency towards Matt Bellamy-ish facial expressions, but their sound is more post-punk than prog and the inclusion of cello as a full-time instrument sets them apart. The set drew both from last year’s self-titled debut and songs to be included in the follow-up later this year, and delivered with an assuredness that belied their young ages. Their album was a grower but eventually won me over – their live set cemented that.

Post-Grammatics, I popped down the block to the decidedly less-posh Tap Room, where London’s Gemma Ray would finally be making an appearance. I say finally because she had to cancel one of her Canadian Musicfest performances because of laryngitis and was also a no-show for her showcase the night before. She was indeed in the house this time, though, and treated the small but full house to her unique film noir-rockabilly stylings, rendered in twangy guitar, looping pedals and effected vocals. The lady knows how to create an atmosphere and her cover of Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick” was an impressive bit of reinvention.

New York’s Class Actress brought me back to the Phoenix and when their set started, back to the ’80s. Purveyors of chilly, slinky electro-pop of that vintage, the trio showcased their debut EP Journal of Ardency, ably blending beats and hooks. Elizabeth Harper’s vocals are perfectly suited to the sound they’re going for, but her stage moves – while in the right ballpark – were a bit over the top for my tastes. I was probably in the minority there, though. But the tunes are solid and given the option of too much performance effort versus not enough, I’ll take too much.

Norway’s Eva & The Heartmaker were as last-minute an addition to my schedule as you could get, with me uploading their album Let’s Keep This Up Forever to my iPhone right before dashing out the door for the airport. I had been looking for something immediate and catchy for my Saturday night lineup and they fit the bill perfectly, all giddy, girly vocals and big guitars and playing Prague exactly when I had nothing else to go to. The band name refers to Eva Weel Skram (vox) and Thomas Stenersen (guitars) and each had more than their moments in the spotlight with her singing, obviously, and he taking a solo at every opportunity. But it fit and was entertaining, as was their saccharine if not especially deep Primitives-y power pop. Not really a meal, but a fun snack.

The temptation at this point was to call it a night/festival, but a double-bill of known and loved quantities at the cozy environs of the Ale House seemed an appropriate cap to this year’s SxSW. First up was the elegant orchestral pop of Athens, Georgia’s Venice Is Sinking, whom I’d seen last year at the bizarro burlesque club Ace’s Lounge. They seemed decidedly less confused by their surroundings this year – there was no moat around the stage or provisions for stripper poles, for starters – and turned in a more lively set than last time, with tunes from last year’s lovely Azar and their forthcoming Sand & Lines to go with their take on Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat”. They’ve also added some horns to the mix. The horns are good.

And while I’ve said that I don’t come down to Austin to see Canadian/Toronto bands, I did appreciate the synchronicity of having started things off by cheering for the home team – Basia Bulat at the Galaxy Room on Wednesday – and finishing it off the same way, taking in Forest City Lovers’ SxSW debut in the final show of the festival. Though a new record is pretty much in the can, their set stuck largely to the older tunes – familiar to me but new to most others in the bar, most of whom were heavily bearded (it was late, these are the things you notice when you’re tired), and it’s sensible to put your best foot forward in this sort of introductory show. I definitely felt the absence of newest member Tim Bruton, whose contributions on filling out their sound I’ve gotten used to in recent shows back home, but the Forest City charm was still very much in effect. A fine finish to a long, long week.

A week that got a bit longer after I missed my flight on Sunday morning and was stuck in Austin another couple days; I only got back home yesterday afternoon. But I digress – there’s worse places to be stuck than Homeslice Pizza on South Congress. I didn’t intend to stretch out the SxSW reviews so long, but the past week hasn’t gone exactly to plan and getting non-Sx stuff together is going to take a little longer. But believe it or not, stuff has continued to happen outside of Austin over the past week and I’ve got a big laundry list of it to sift through. But there’s going to be good stuff. And some free stuff. And whatnot.

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

A Design For Life

Manic Street Preachers at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFashion has never been the Manic Street Preachers’ strong suit, and that’s not just with regards to Nicky Wire’s penchant for heavy eye makeup and dresses. From their early glam-punk days through the bleakness of The Holy Bible and guitarist/songwriter Richey Edwards’ subsequent disappearance through their rise as one of the UK’s biggest arena acts in the mid-’90s, the Manics always seemed set apart from their contemporaries, many or most of whom would dissolve, reform and dissolve again while the Manics steadfastly carried on. Overtly political, unabashedly intellectual, unashamed of grandstanding guitar solos and not at all above slagging off other bands, the Manics would remain a cult band at heart, no matter how big they got.

And nowhere was that truer than in the US, a land that seemed to simultaneously enamor and repel the band. They were infatuated with the American mythology of rock’n’roll, in the life- and world-altering power of music, but their socialist values were fundamentally at odds with the States’ capitalist ideology – America inspired their dreams, drew their scorn and has always permeated their work. So the fact that they hadn’t crossed the Atlantic in over a decade – their last visit to North America was in 2001 when they performed in Cuba in front of an audience that included Fidel Castro – was curious, to say the least. No, they never achieved the sort of commercial success that some of their peers did, but they had a few singles gain traction in the wider consciousness and had the sort of devoted fanbase that some bands who had toured over here could only dream of. But whatever the reason – recent interviews indicated the band couldn’t even fully explain it – the Manics were finally, unexpectedly but fantastically, coming over for a modest tour of a dozen dates around the continent, including this past Sunday night at the Phoenix in Toronto.

The Manics continue to play arenas and massive festivals in the UK, but in North America they were undertaking a club tour, playing rooms many, many times smaller than to which they were accustomed. The Phoenix was full though not sold out, and by most reports boasted the largest crowd of the tour. But even if the audience could be generously counted at a thousand, the energy and anticipation in the crowd felt much greater. Though the tour was ostensibly in support of their ninth and newest album Journal For Plague Lovers, a stunning return to form featuring lyrics left behind by Edwards days before he vanished, all the shows had been much more career retrospectives, a reward to their fans for their patience and a reminder of why they still cared.

And from the moment James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore took the stage to huge roars and returned the favour with the equally huge roar of “Motorcycle Emptiness”, for the next 90 minutes there was no other band in the world. Playing with an energy and vigor that would have been impressive coming from musicians half their age, the Manics tore through a career-spanning set list that offered something from almost everything, but at the same time seemed to not feature enough from anything. Only two songs from The Holy Bible? Just a pair from Everything Must Go? Not one selection from Lifeblood? But going down the “why didn’t they play such and such” can only lead to tears, and this show was the furthest thing from that. It was a steady stream of someone’s favourite song followed by someone else’s favourite song, a celebration of the Manic Street Preachers, of their lost brother Richey Edwards and a life dedicated to making anthemic, intelligent and above all ass-kicking rock music.

Though more accustomed to playing much larger stages, the Manics relished the more intimate environs and being in closer contact to the zealous audience which Bradfield called, ” the loudest on the tour so far”. In return, they paid tribute to their favourite Torontonians with Bradfield playing the intro to “The Spirit Of Radio” before segueing into “Faster” and Wire later quoting lyrics from said same song. If there was a spot where the show waned a bit, it was when Bradfield took a solo acoustic turn on “This Is Yesterday” and “The Everlasting”, a move which I suspect works better in front of much more massive crowds, but that dip was only relative to the unflagging highs of the rest of the set, which would culminate in a glorious “Motown Junk”, never truer “You Love Us” and anthem of anthems show-closer “A Design For Life”. It was a fitting finale to a show that took my sky-high expectations and showed me that they weren’t nearly high enough.

Long. Live. The Manics.

Panic Manual, Fazer and ChartAttack have weighed in with their reviews of the show while The Denver Post, Metro and Boston Herald have interviews with the band.

And sorry about the massive video list… the Manics just upped high-quality versions of all their videos to YouTube and I got a mite carried away going through it all. But good stuff there. Gooooood stuff. And I forgot I had this remix of “Motorcycle Emptiness” lying around – it was a b-side to the “Australia” single circa Everything Must Go and sounds majestic. Strings!

Photos: Manic Street Preachers @ The Phoenix – October 4, 2009
MP3: Manic Street Preachers – “Motorcycle Emptiness” (Stealth Sonic Orchestra remix)
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Jackie Collins Existential Question Time”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Indian Summer”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Autumnsong”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “The Love Of Richard Nixon”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Empty Souls”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “There By The Grace Of God”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Ocean Spray”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Found That Soul”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “So Why So Sad”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Let Robeson Sing”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “The Masses Against The Classes”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “The Everlasting”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Tsunami”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Ready For Drowning”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “A Design For Life”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Everything Must Go”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Kevin Carter”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “She Is Suffering”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Revol”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Faster”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Roses In The Hospital”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “La Tristesse Durera (A Scream To A Sigh)”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Little Baby Nothing”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Stay Beautiful”
Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Motorcycle Emptiness”
MySpace: Manic Street Preachers

Los Campesinos! have released a video from their as-yet untitled third album, due out in the early part of 2010.

Video: Los Campesinos! – “These Are Listed Buildings”

The National Post talks to Muse frontman Matt Bellamy about their new record The Resistance.

Video: Muse – “Uprising”

Mumford & Sons talk to Clash about their just-released debut Sigh No More.

Leeds’ Grammatics, who caught my attention last year before I was, I dunno, distracted by a shiny object, are building interest for a new single out in November and second album to follow in the year year by releasing an MP3 from their self-titled debut from earlier this year. And it’s worked as far as encouraging me to put the album on my iPhone so I can forget to listen to it while at work, not just at home. The track also features vocals from Laura Groves of Blue Roses, whom I’ve also meant to pay more attention to.

MP3: Grammatics – “Inkjet Lakes”

The Quietus and Spinner have interviews with Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch. Their new record The Fountain is out October 12 and they play the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on October 20.

MP3: Echo & The Bunnymen – “I Think I Need It Too”

The Skinny has a feature piece on Franz Ferdinand.

New York Press talks to The Twilight Sad and also to We Were Promised Jetpacks, both of whom are at the El Mocambo this Saturday night.

Their labelmates and countrymen Frightened Rabbit are releasing a new single entitled “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” on November 16 and which will appear on their next record, due out in early 2010. The two sides are currently streaming at their label website.

Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai tells BBC their next album, due next year, will be self-released. Exclaim also reports that they’ve got a live album and film coming out sooner rather than later.

Though it’s been all the rage digitally and was made available for sale in Canada a few weeks ago, The xx’s debut XX is out in the US today and is streaming at Spinner. They’re at the Phoenix on December 2 in support of Friendy Fires.

Stream: The xx / XX

And Baeble Music is streaming video of a full Friendy Fires show in New York City.

Clash and Spinner have interviews with Massive Attack, whose new Splitting The Atom EP is available to stream.

Stream: Massive Attack / Splitting The Atom

And sorry about the heinous outages/slow load times/general crappiness of the site lately. My hosting has been kind of shit lately. Looking into it.

Monday, November 17th, 2008

New Franchise

Grammatics and Drowned In Sound's tips for 2009

Photo via In Sound continues to peek ahead to the new year with a list of ten acts that their writers think the world will be all agog about in 2009. I can personally endorse Mumford & Sons, whom I saw in October, and Sky Larkin, whom I’ve not seen but like what I’ve heard. Presumably there’s an album in the works for the former and The Golden Spike, the debut from the latter, is due out in February.

I also quite like what I’m hearing from fresh-faced, Leeds-based moppets Grammatics, though I’ll want to hear more before committing to any kind of endorsement. After all, the last time I was won over by a first listen to a band fronted by a skinny dude with a high voice from that part of the world, I ended up with a JJ72 album in my collection. My first impressions can’t always be trusted. But full-time cellist? You have my attention. Their three singles released thus far do tickle my fancy, when their debut album comes out in the first part of next year, I’ll be checking it out and hoping that I don’t regret too much not going to see them for free when I was in London back in May. You can get an MP3 of latest single “New Franchise” for frees on their website by signing up for their mailing list.

Video: Grammatics – “The Vague Archive”
Video: Grammatics – “D.I.L.E.M.M.A.”
Video: Grammatics – “New Franchise”
MySpace: Grammatics

I also checked out DiS-approved Catherine A.D. over the weekend, and while the first song streaming on her MySpace, “Carry Your Heart”, has promise, the debut EP The Bedroom Sessions is a snooze.

Not on their list but obviously high on mine is Emmy The Great, whose debut First Love finally has a release date. It’ll be out on February 2, and I thank For Folk’s Sake for the best news I had all Friday.

Varsity profiles Noah & The Whale, paying us a visit at the Rivoli on December 9. For Folk’s Sake (them again!) report that the band will be releasing a Christmas mini-album on December 22.

Laura Marling talks to Scotland On Sunday.

The Times invites British Sea Power to put both Rock Band and Guitar Hero through their paces.

Lykke Li is charting out another North American tour and will be returning to Toronto again for a show at the Phoenix on February 6. Javno and SF Weekly have interviews.

Washington Square News and The Charlotte Observer interview M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez. He and his band are at the Opera House on Thursday night, and are running a video contest for next single “We Own The Sky” – details at Pitchfork.

Tourmates for M83 this go-around are School Of Seven Bells, whose Ben Curtis talks to Exclaim about his new band and his old band. There’s a new remix of a song from Alpinisms by Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie available for grabsies.

MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “My Cabal” (Robin Guthrie mix)

Anna-Lynne Williams of Trespassers William talks to Roots & Resonance about her songwriting process and juggling different projects. There’ll be a new Trespassers William EP due out sometime in the new year. The band released a video from their last album Having a little while back.

Video: Trespassers William – “Weakening”

NPR has a Tiny Desk Concert with Shearwater.

PitchforkTV is currently streaming the whole of Silver Jew, the documentary about Silver Jews frontman David Berman.

I don’t know if this is new or old or just not previously widely circulated, but there’s a video for The Decemberists’ 2004 epic-single “The Tain” up for viewing at PitchforkTV – all 18 minutes of it. This video is the same length as an episode of The Office with the commercials cut out. Spin has a video interview with Colin Meloy as well as a stream of one of the b-sides from their ongoing Always The Bridesmaid single series. Their new album Hazards Of Love is due out in April.

Video: The Decemberists – “The Tain”