Posts Tagged ‘Ida Maria’

Friday, September 21st, 2012


Alt-J and JBM at Wrongbar in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangCambridge, England quartet Alt-J couldn’t have known how prescient they were when they named their debut album An Awesome Wave, as that’s pretty much what they’ve been riding through 2012. Released across the pond in May, it only came out over here officially this past Tuesday – timed to coincide with their inaugural North American tour – but in the interim that wave of buzz had quite definitively crossed the Atlantic, ensuring that arrived on these shores more like heroes than an act with something to prove.

For most, anyways. Despite being more than predisposed to bands possessing UK passports, the appeal of Alt-J largely escapes me. Or more accurately, I get why some people would like them; I don’t get why so many people like them. I’d have thought their oddly bloodless, art rock – which I’d liken to a celibate Wild Beasts or a very politely English Grizzly Bear – would find a niche audience at best, but somehow they’ve connected to such an extent that they’re the odds-on favourite to win the Mercury Prize at the start of November. And that’s basically why I was at Wrongbar on Wednesday night to catch their Toronto debut – how often do you get the chance to see the buzziest new act out of the UK play a small club? And perhaps they were amazing performers who would win me over live. You never knew.

It didn’t take much to figure out what openers JBM were about. Named for the initials of frontman Jesse Marchant, their game as slow, broody singer-songwriter material made interesting by tastefully sparse and atmospheric arrangements, mainly courtesy of their understatedly dextrous drummer. In the demerit column were the echoes of the sort of brooding that had been left behind in the ’90s but at least they’d had the good sense to trade their plaid flannels for some gothic country livery. A touch more dynamicism and variety would have gone a long way to offset their more plodding instincts and Marchant’s vocals aren’t really expressive enough to carry what its trying to, but alright for passing a half hour or so.

However the rest of Alt-J’s Toronto debut would go, it didn’t have the most auspicious start. Opening, as Wave does, with “Intro”, the audience heard less of their jangly, intertwined, out-of-phase fingerpicked guitar movements and more of booming feedback that it took them almost the length of the song to tame – lead singer Joe Newman might have commented on it but his mic was also basically inaudible. Everything was mostly under control by the time they reached the first ‘proper’ song of the set, “Tesselate”, and from that point forwards it was smooth sailing. Some might say too smooth.

One of the good things about Wave is how the band are able to take their combination of Newman’s strangely nasal voice, almost medieval-sounding group harmonies, and contrasting cloud-like guitar parts and whirring keyboards and envelop it all with a real sense of mysteriousness. Live, with the four young English lads going about their business and recreating the album with minimal fanfare or showmanship, that veil was lifted and it’s hard to argue the music was any better for it. Not that I could have convinced most of the people around me of that.

Just as I found the critical and popular response to Wave disproportionate to what I thought it offered, the enthusiasm of the audience more than made up for the band’s reserve. Not that they were literally freaking out – there’s no measure by which this was music for freaking out to – but they sang along loudly despite there not really being any obvious singalong parts in the songs, dancing without need for heavy or steady rhythms, and waving their arms in the air just because. “Matilda”, one of the few songs with a conventional chorus, was greeted like a stadium-scale anthem. Even though by this point they must be used to big crowds at home, Alt-J seemed taken aback by the response they were getting – though mostly unflappable, Newman lost his place in “Breezeblocks” after getting distracted by the fan reaction.

Playing for 45 minutes – no encore – and covering most of Wave, it was a solid enough show that gave fans what they wanted but wasn’t the sort of performance that would change minds or sway doubters – I left with basically the same opinion that I went in with, and I’d like to think that I was open to being convinced. That’s okay, though, because Alt-J have clearly convinced more than enough people already.

The Independent has a profile piece on Alt-J and their probably impending coronation as Mercury Prize champs.

Photos: Alt-J, JBM @ Wrongbar – September 19, 2012
MP3: Alt-J – “Breezeblocks”
MP3: Alt-J – “Hand-Made”
MP3: Alt-J – “Matilda”
MP3: Alt-J – “Tesselate”
Video: Alt-J – “Something Good”
Video: Alt-J – “Fitzpleasure”
Video: Alt-J – “Breezeblocks”
Video: Alt-J – “Matilda”
Video: Alt-J – “Tessellate”
Video: JBM – “On Fire On A Tightrope”
Video: JBM – “In A Different Time”

Filter, BBC, and Edinburgh Evening News talk to another arty British band whose debut is up for the Mercury, is about to get released in North America, and are playing Wrongbar soon – that’s Django Django, whose self-title is out next Tuesday, and who are at Wrongbar on September 29.

Spotify talks to Sam Halliday of Two Door Cinema club. They’re at Sound Academy on October 11.

NOW has an interview and Daytrotter a session with Patrick Wolf, who is at The Music Gallery next Tuesday – September 25. His new album Sunlight & Riverdark is already available digitally via iTunes and will get a physical release on October 16. The Guardian has a studio video performance of the new arrangement of “Teignmouth”, which originally appeared on his second album Wind In The Wires.

Stereogum talks to Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes about her forthcoming record The Haunted Man. It’s out October 23 and a new song from it is available to stream.

Stream: Bat For Lashes – “All Your Gold”

Gaz Coombes has released a video from his solo debut Here Come The Bombs.

Video: Gaz Coombes – “White Noise”

NME has premiered the new video from Allo Darlin’, taken from this year’s lovely Europe.

Video: Allo Darlin’ – “Northern Lights”

Spotify interviews Hot Chip, who’ve just announced an expanded edition of their latest album In Our Heads. Exclaim has details on the double-disc set, due out on November 19.

Russell Lissack of Bloc Party talks to DIY about the band’s road from hiatus to Four.

The Fly profiles Toy.

It’s worth noting that I wasn’t even supposed to be at the Alt-J show – Wednesday night was supposed to be the night of I Break Horses’ triumphant return to Toronto… right up until they canceled the tour. The second of their three session videos for Room 205 is a little bit of comfort on that front.

Video: I Break Horses – “Hearts” (live at Room 205)

Huffington Post talks to Sarah Assbring of El Perro Del Mar, whose new album Pale Fire is out November 13.

The Line Of Best Fit talks to Efterklang. Their new album Piramida is out on Tuesday.

Daytrotter has a session with First Aid Kit, who’ve released a new video from The Lion’s Roar. They’re at The Danforth Music Hall on September 26.

Video: First Aid Kit – “Wolf”

A Music Blog, Yea finds out what Ida Maria has been up to.

From the El Mocambo to the Kool Haus in twelve months isn’t bad – Of Monsters & Men makes their third visit to Toronto in almost a year exactly when they hit the Kool Haus on November 15. Tickets $25 in advance. Update: And a second show has been added for November 16. Mental.

MP3: Of Monsters & Men – “Little Talks”

Tame Impala have released a video from their new album Lonerism. It’s out October 9 and they play The Phoenix November 12.

Video: Tame Impala – “Elephant”

The AV Club talks to Nick Cave about his screenwriting endeavours.

Monday, June 27th, 2011

My Aim Is True

Elvis Costello & The Imposters at The Sony Centre For The Performing Arts in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIf any artist has earned the right to do whatever the hell he wants, it’s Elvis Costello. And indeed, he’s taken full advantage of this creative liberty over his three-and-a-half decade career; starting as the “angry young man” coming out of the British punk scene and becoming, at various points in his career, a country crooner, jazz singer and pop classicist and all points in between, to say nothing of his forays into acting and television talk show host. And unlike some who’ve transformed their personas to match each artistic endeavour, Costello has always remained Costello – same glasses, maybe a different hat (okay, there was the Mighty Like A Rose beard). As said, the man does what he wants and offers no apologies for it.

And if he wants to resurrect a tour concept from a quarter-century ago, “The Spectacular Spinning Songbook” wherein audience members choose the set list by randomly spinning a giant carnival wheel, then he’s going to do it – never mind that the original go-around with the wheel apparently didn’t go so well. Having been all of 11 at the time that went down, I obviously can’t comment on whether or not the criticisms of the tour were valid but considering that Costello’s two 1986 releases – King Of America and Blood & Chocolate – are basically my favourite of his records, so from my point of view circa ’86 he was on top of his game. And anyways, the idea of seeing Elvis for the first time in a decade or so playing songs pulled from throughout his career rather than to promote his last record National Ransom – which is fine and all, don’t get me wrong – sounded like a pretty good one. Which brings us to Thursday night at the rather posh Sony Centre For The Performing Arts.

Eschewing any support act for the evening, Costello and The Imposters – his backing band of the past decade or so which is basically The Attractions, his backing band of the past three decades with the exception of Davy Faragher replacing bassist Bruce Thomas – took the colourfully-decorated, playground-like stage shortly after eight, supported by a go-go dancer and hostess charged with selecting and escorting audience members to spin the wheel, typically attractive and well-dressed young women. Not that they were called on until a ways into the set; Costello and company set the tone themselves opening with a blistering “I Hope You’re Happy Now” (from Blood & Chocolate) and tearing through a set of classics that established that they were here to play. At that point, Costello introduced himself as Napoleon Dynamite – his alias that predates the movie by a good twenty years – and entered sideshow barker mode and the first audience member invited to take the Spinning Songbook for a whirl landed on Punch The Clock‘s “Everyday I Write The Book”, the first Costello song I ever recall hearing. Yeah, I’d say this was a good start to the night.

Offering a blow-by-blow of the more than two-and-a-half hour show would be futile, so I won’t bother; just look at the set list. In a word, the show was amazing. In a few more words, it was a joyous romp through Costello’s extensive songbook and a few others’, with covers and cribs of artists as diverse as The Beatles, Prince and Smokey Robinson peppered through the set. What it wasn’t, however, was a greatest hits set – there were hits a-plenty, yes, but still plenty of selections from Costello’s more recent, less chart-topping records, all of which served a purpose. “I Still Have That Other Girl”, from his Painted From Memory Bacharach collaboration gave him opportunity to roam the audience crooning, “Spooky Girlfriend” – leading off a block of four “girl”-themed songs thanks to a jackpot spin on the wheel – reminded that his 2001 return to form album When I Was Cruel really was a return to form and “Turpentine” off of 2008’s Momofuku allowed Costello to showcase his “little hands of concrete” on some absolutely ripping guitar solos.

Truly, every selection was some degree of highlight but as good as it all was from note one, but as you’d expect from a veteran showman, he still saved the best for last. Closing the main set with an affecting “Shipbuilding” – I guess we were lucky no one spun that one earlier on – Costello took advantage of the break to change out of his suit coat, which was by this point completely soaked through with sweat, to change into something a little more checked and kitschy and play a couple of National Ransom tunes solo and acoustic and then into some gold lame jacket to lead the Imposters back onstage for the second encore. Not done yet, no sir. The wheel was brought back into play and though the results rigged just a bit, no one was going to complain about the Armed Forces/My Aim Is True/This Year’s Model suite of songs that ensued, including the most polite, middle-aged stage invasion you ever did see. “Pump It Up” segued into an unexpected partial cover of “Purple Rain” and following a stirring “Man Out Of Time”, they closed with “I Hope” from National Ransom.

What else can be said? It was a two-hour, forty-minute tour de force performance from one of the greatest pop songwriters of the last thirty years. Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis Costello.

The Toronto Sun, The Globe & Mail, Lithium, The National Post and Torontoist also have reviews of the show.

Photos: Elvis Costello & The Imposters @ The Sony Centre For The Performing Arts – June 23, 2011
MP3: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Radio Radio” (live at The El Mocambo)
Video: Elvis Costello & The Imposters – “Monkey To Man”
Video: Elvis Costello – “45”
Video: Elvis Costello – “13 Steps Lead Down”
Video: Elvis Costello – “Sulky Girl”
Video: Elvis Costello – “So Like Candy”
Video: Elvis Costello – “The Other Side Of Summer”
Video: Elvis Costello – “…This Town…”
Video: Elvis Costello – “Veronica”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “I Wanna Be Loved”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “The Only Flame In Town”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Let Them All Talk”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Everyday I Write The Book”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “You Little Fool”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Sweet Dreams”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Good Year For The Roses”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “New Lace Sleeves”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Clubland”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “New Amsterdam”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Possession”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Love For Tender”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “High Fidelity”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Accidents Will Happen”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Oliver’s Army”
Video: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?”
Video: Elvis Costello – “Radio, Radio”
Video: Elvis Costello – “Pump It Up”
Video: Elvis Costello – “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea”

So far this year, we’ve had visits from Duran Duran, Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark and now… The Human League? They’re going to be in town as part of a North American tour on September 18 at The Guvernment, ostensibly in support of new album Credo but let’s be honest – you know what you want to hear.

Video: The Human League – “Don’t You Want Me”

The Fader chats with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange; his debut under that name, Coastal Grooves, is out August 8.

NPR has posted a World Cafe session with James Blake. He plays The Phoenix on September 30.

Under The Radar has details on the debut album from London’s Still Corners; Creatures Of An Hour will be out on October 11 and the first MP3 is available to grab now.

MP3: Still Corners – “Cuckoo”

Glasvegas have released a new video from Euphoric Heartbreak.

Video: Glasvegas – “Shine Like Stars”

DIY chatted with Yuck whilst at Glastonbury this weekend.

NPR checks in with Ida Maria, whose new album Katla came out very quietly at the start of the month, at least in digital form. The record is streaming on her website right now.

Stream: Ida Maria / Katla

NPR has a profile of Nick Cave, whose rendering of The Zombies’ classic “She’s Not There” with Neko Case, recorded for this season’s True Blood soundtrack, is available to stream over at KCRW.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

The Bold Arrow Of Time

Tame Impala and Yuck at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe city’s music critics had to be a little disappointed upon arriving at the Phoenix on Sunday night and seeing signs informing them that Chicago’s Yawn had cancelled their appearance because of car trouble in Montreal – after all, had their set been anything less than impressive, the review would have written itself. But the opportunity to be simultaneously succinct and lazy still presented itself with London’s Yuck, not that it was needed.

I saw the quartet back at SXSW, where they were one of the festival’s buzz bands thanks to the made-in-a-world-where-Bandwagonesque-trumped-Nevermind melodic fuzz pop of their self-titled debut and, perhaps looking a little too firmly through the lens of a photographer, wasn’t impressed. For an outfit riding a surge of interest that most bands would give a limb for, they seemed exceedingly bored with the whole thing – and this was on the very first night of a week packed with shows. But that didn’t give them enough credit for how they sounded, which was pretty great – any perceived indifference didn’t apply to their playing, which mitigated any disappointment in their lack of stage diving.

In any case, it seems that the time on the road has done the band a lot of good in pretty much every department. They still seem to have a running contest amongst themselves to see who can look the most expressionless but there were a few earnest if awkward attempts at audience banter and in performance, they weren’t inanimate, allowing themselves to bob up and down with the beat or wander around the stage – singer Daniel Blumberg even contributing a few convincing screams where called for. Musically, the songs have evolved some from their recorded versions, incorporating extended musical segues or in the case of set closer “Rubber”, devolving into a sludgy dirge (meant in a mostly positive sense). But it’s the songs that are Yuck’s greatest strengths, so filled with hooks and melodies that owe much to the ’90s but are also timelessly pop. And unlike some of their distortion pedal fetishist contemporaries who use the noise to bury rather than buoy, Yuck sound almost hi-fi in their sonic clarity. Almost. But still plenty fuzzy.

Australian headliners Tame Impala also know their way around a pedalboard, as evidenced by last year’s psych-rock standout debut Innerspeaker, but clarity is not at the top of their mission statement. In wrapping frontman Kevin Parker’s voice in a distinctive echo-reverb, they effectively conjure up the ghosts of Barrett-era Pink Floyd but grafted onto big guitar and synth riffs and propelled by massive, grooving rhythms, Tame Impala are very much their own beast. Most importantly, though, they brings songs to the table – something that’s too often overlooked by acts in this particular niche of rock’n’roll, more concerned they are with sonic mayhem than actual substance. But armed with well-crafted, melodic and memorable songs, Tame Impala are the complete psych-rock package and even with just one album to their name, they set the standard.

And they put on a pretty terrific show, too. Their hour-fifteen long, encore-less set showcased their ability to marry hooks with grooves and jam without sounding jammy, always keeping focus and never losing the plot. A particular highlight was their cover of Massive Attack’s “Angel”, which introduced some darkness to their sound by maintaining the mystery and menace of the original. I’m also used to bands of their ilk performing in the dark and aloofly preferring to let their music speak for them and while they hardly busted out a light show, the oscilloscope on acid projected behind them offered some extra visual interest. The set was also punctuated with friendly banter, though it got a touch odd when they announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed (to confused applause) and dedicated buoyant instrumental “Jeremy’s Storm” to him, which they apologized for afterwards, lest anyone think it was in tribute. An odd and memorable moment in a show that was plenty memorable enough already.

Exclaim and NOW have reviews of the show and The Globe & Mail an interview with Tame Impala. The Boston Herald and have features on Yuck.

Photos: Tame Impala, Yuck @ The Phoenix – May 1, 2011
MP3: Tame Impala – “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds”
MP3: Yuck – “Get Away”
MP3: Yuck – “Georgia”
MP3: Yuck – “Automatic”
MP3: Yuck – “Daughter”
MP3: Yuck – “Coconut Bible”
Video: Tame Impala – “Expectation”
Video: Tame Impala – “Lucidity”
Video: Tame Impala – “Solitude Is Bliss”
Video: Yuck – “Get Away”
Video: Yuck – “Holing Out”

An Horse have just released their second album Walls and will be playing a free in-store at Criminal Records on May 15 at a time TBD in advance of their show at Mod Club the following evening opening up for Manchester Orchestra.

Video: An Horse – “Dressed Sharply”

Their commitments opening up for Foals completed as of this past weekend, Kiwis The Naked & Famous have set their own headlining date at Lee’s Palace for August 9, tickets $15 in advance. Blast has an interview with the band.

Video: The Naked & Famous – “Girls Like You”

Australia’s Sia and Denmark’s Oh Land are teaming up for a tour that brings them to The Phoenix on July 24, tickets $24.50 in advance. Sia’s latest We Are Born came out last year while Oh Land’s self-titled debut came out in March. The Los Angeles Times talks to Oh Land’s Nanna Øland Fabricius about her work.

Video: Sia – “Clap Your Hands”
Video: Oh Land – “Son Of A Gun”

Spin reports that Ida Maria is done with album number two and is even sharing a new tune from the record – look for Katla on June 7.

MP3: Ida Maria – “Cherry Red”

Italian radio show Maps has a downloadable radio session from Allo Darlin’, who will be at The El Mocambo on June 11.

MP3: Allo Darlin’ – “If Loneliness Was Art” (live on Maps)

Under The Radar is streaming the whole of the new Wild Beasts record Smother a week ahead of its May 10 release. Interview has an interview.

Stream: Wild Beasts / Smother

Mogwai talk to about their plans to release a new EP this Fall, tentatively titled Earth Division. The AV Club also has an interview with Stuart Braithwaite.

Rolling Stone declares Anna Calvi an artist to watch, and you can do just that as a recent show in Paris is available to watch in its entirety at ARTE. It should give you an idea of what you will see – and what I’ll be missing – when she’s at the El Mocambo on May 27.

Pitchfork talks to Stanley Donwood, the artist responsible for the artwork and packaging for Radiohead’s The King Of Limbs.

Aquarium Drunkard chats with Norman Blake of Jonny, who kick off their North American tour with two nights at The Drake Underground on June 3 and 4.

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Another Runaway

Ladyhawke, Semi Precious Weapons, Woodhands and Anjulie at the Opera House in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOne can’t help but feel some satisfaction that the gossip king’s much-ballyhooed tour should be undone so quickly by the sort of offstage drama that’s typically the bread and butter of gossip bloggers. Not even a week into the tour and co-headliner Ida Maria was already generating the wrong sort of buzz, playing gigs drunk and disinterestedly, then walking off the stage in Boston and cancelling New York due to “illness”, to say nothing of weak attendance throughout. So it wasn’t much surprise that on Thursday, the day of the Toronto show, it was announced that Ida Maria had left the tour due to that same “illness” and substitute acts would be added to the bills of the next few dates.

Any degree of schadenfreude, however, was tempered by the fact that the lineup was now down one good headliner – I’ll just add this to the ongoing list of Ida Maria near misses (two cancelled SxSW appearances in March due to visa issues and her dropping off the Glasvegas tour early in April – and it was really the people who were going to show who were losing out. I was still committed to attend thanks to the continued presence of Ladyhawke on the bill. Semi Precious Weapons also remained in the lineup and the Toronto bill was rounded by a couple of hometown acts, Woodhands and Anjulie.

Anjulie I knew from the posters for V Fest, where she’d been one of the Radio stage performers, and that was enough to make me think I wasn’t going to be particularly interested in her. And no, while urban/r&b pop is not my thing, there’s no discounting that this girl is good at it – great voice, great look and thankfully not given to oversinging or the diva hand, and a #1 Billboard single to boot. Playing with a tight band and backing singers, she delivered a short but varied set covering a good range of styles and had enough old-school Motown and soul nods to please, which still sounding wholly contemporary. Hometown girl done good, indeed.

So while I kind of suspect Anjulie would have been a special guest whether Ida Maria had been on the bill or not, Woodhands were almost certainly an eleventh-hour addition to fill out the bill. And while a Perez Hilton show might seem a weird place for the local indie synth-rock heroes to show up, sonically they actually fit in quite well with the sort of dancey pop theme of the evening/tour – big beats, fat synths and frantic and fun delivery from Dan Werb. Though they’ve got a reputation as one of the most enjoyable live acts in the city, I’d never actually seen them in full, plugged-in fashion before and now that I have? I’ll give ’em the thumbs up.

The audience had been slowly filling in through the evening and while not nearly sold-out – I would put attendance at around 450 tops, and that includes the local acts’ probably-sizeable guest lists – it was pretty jammed up near the front for Semi Precious Weapons and why not? This was the first act of the night that the people would have actually paid to come and see (besides Hilton himself, who was not in attendance. Instead, we got weird little video-screen introductions with him looking like Max Headroom). Which went well with the Perez-curated video clips that constituted the between set music, giving me a look at top-40 music that I really didn’t need. Anyways.

I’d been told that if nothing else, Semi Precious Weapons were fun to photograph and yeah, they would have been if the entire night hadn’t been defined by horrid backlighting that made getting anything decent pretty much impossible. Which meant that I head to enjoy them on their musical merits which, I have to saw, were few. They offer transgressive glam-rock for the mall-punk set, which basically means a lot of swearing and sophomoric pottymouth banter about boobs, sex and general self-aggrandizing interspersed with high-energy if unremarkable rock songs and shout-along choruses, all delivered with over the top costumes and on-stage antics. If that sounds specifically formulated to get a response, that’s because it is and it does. This isn’t to say it wasn’t entertaining and the excitement elicited from the crowd a real boost to the evening’s energy, but not necessarily something I need to see or hear again.

Unsurprisingly, the crowd did thin out some following Semi Precious Weapons but it was still a decent-sized and enthusiastic audience on hand to welcome Pip Brown for her first Toronto appearance – and hey, less people means more room on the floor to dance. I had seen her play at SxSW and while the quality of the tunes from her self-titled debut – recently re-released with more goodies – were unimpeachable (if you like hook-laden, ’80s-flavoured synth-rock), the performance itself was generally workmanlike and not especially noteworthy and as such, my expectations weren’t the highest. It was a pleasant surprise, then, to see that Brown has upped her game in the live setting or perhaps that night at Stubb’s had been an off one – either way, her show this time out was much better. It’s hard to quantify how or why, exactly – she’s still not the most animated or charismatic performer – but she seemed much more comfortable on stage and that looseness carried over into the music. Delivered by a five-piece band, the Ladyhawke material sounded much more guitar guitar-driven live than on album – all the necessary synth parts were accounted for, but the guitars were louder and rawer. They dished out all the singles and “up” tracks from the record plus an old b-side for about 50 minutes of pop bliss. Never mind the sponsor, never mind the circus, this show was Ladyhawke’s show and it was great.

There’s a review at ChartAttack. City Sonic has a video feature on Woodhands and the Don Valley Brickworks, site of one of their most memorable – and illegal – gigs. Long way from that to Perez Presents.

Photos: Ladyhawke, Semi Precious Weapons, Woodhands, Anjulie @ The Opera House – September 17, 2009
MP3: Ladyhawke – “My Delirium”
MP3: Semi Precious Weapons – “Semi Precious Weapons”
MP3: Woodhands – “Dancer”
MP3: Woodhands – “I Wasn’t Made For Fighting”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Paris Is Burning”
Video: Ladyhawke – “My Delirium”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Dusk Till Dawn”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Back Of The Van”
Video: Semi Precious Weapons – “Magnetic Baby”
Video: Semi Precious Weapons – “Rock N Roll Never Looked So Beautiful”
Video: Semi Precious Weapons – “Her Hair Is On Fire”
Video: Semi Precious Weapons – “Semi Precious Weapons”
Video: Woodhands – “I Wasn’t Made For Fighting”
Video: Anjulie – “Boom”
Video: Anjulie – “Love Songs”
Video: Anjulie – “Day Will Come Soon”
MySpace: Ladyhawke
MySpace: Semi Precious Weapons
MySpace: Woodhands
MySpace: Anjulie

Aussies The Temper Trap, finally turning some early-year buzz into success thanks to (500) Days Of Summer, will be in town for a free show at the Horseshoe on October 20.

Video: The Temper Trap – “Science Of Fear”
Video: The Temper Trap – “Sweet Disposition”

Also free at the ‘Shoe the following week – October 27 – is Seattle garage rock outfit The Blakes, whose new record Souvenir is out October 13. Check out a track from the new record courtesy of Under The Radar.

MP3: The Blakes – “Ramshackle Hearse”

It’ll be an east-meets-west thing at the Horsesehoe on November 5 as Victoria’s Immaculate Machine meet up with Halifax’s Dog Day, tickets $10.

MP3: Dog Day – “Rome”
MP3: Immaculate Machine – “Sound The Alarms”

Patrick Watson has a date at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on December 12, where he probably hopes to be introduced as “two-time and current Polaris Music Prize winner”.

Which segues nicely into the fact that the Polaris Prize is being awarded tonight. Exclaim ran a feature last week wherein the examined the possible gender and geographic biases that exist within the jury, though I have to say that as a Toronto-based male, I don’t see what all the hubub is about. Har Har. Oh, I am also the latest (last?) subject of the “Better Know A Juror” feature on the Polaris website. Read it and know my most innermost thoughts and feelings. So let’s talk about your feelings. Who do you think will win? Should win?

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

No Brakes

Little Boots and Yes Giantess at Wrongbar in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt could be inferred from last week’s review of Little Boots’ debut Hands that I felt that she’d failed to deliver on the immense expectations foisted on her at the start of the year, what with everyone in the media ready to crown Ms Victoria Hesketh the queen of pop for 2009 and so her failure to utterly dominate every aspect of the music industry could only be viewed as a disappointment. This is, in fact, not necessarily my view – I think Hands is a tremendously fun and catchy record. I was just interpreting the general tenor of the press, which had been ready to attend her coronation just months ago.

Well it may have come a little later than expected but Monday night’s show at Wrongbar in Toronto – the first of her North American tour – could well have been mistaken for one. You’d have had trouble finding anyone in the packed, sweaty club who wasn’t ready to declare the pint-sized electro-pop artist the greatest thing to happen to music since the invention of the Victrola. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an overstatement but people were indeed excited and anxious. And as the wait dragged on, restless and bored.

Openers Yes Giantess from Boston had done a decent job of warming things up. Collegiate-looking and casually dressed in t-shirts and plaid shirts, the quartet looked like they should be strapping on guitars and playing disaffected garage rock but instead, they were three keyboards and a drummer and turned out punchy, catchy synth-pop that offered more enthusiasm than sophistication but was enjoyable nonetheless. Over the course of their short set – barely a half hour if even that – the club had begun to fill in nicely and as they loaded out, the room began to pack in.

Exactly why it took an hour to set up the stage for a three-piece band, two-thirds of which were synths, is unclear, but as the clock ticked past 11:30 – half an hour past the scheduled start time – the anxiousness was palpable. Surely it wasn’t some ploy to build more anticipation? Does that actually work? Apparently it does. When her band finally took their places and they opened up with “Meddle”, the place went nuts, and didn’t stop for pretty much the duration of her set. Unsurprisingly, she stayed away from the slower numbers from Hands and stuck to the big, anthemic dancefloor bangers and while that made for a shorter set than you may have wanted for the price of admission, there was no skimping on the energy of the show.

Hesketh was pretty much always in motion, dancing and working both sides of the room when not tending to her keyboard, theremin and tambourine. Her signature Tenori-On and Stylophone were also on hand but as with the two previous times I’d seen her play, exactly what they did remained a mystery. She complained that the Tenori-On wasn’t working before the start of main set closer “Remedy” but they went on to play it exactly as I’d have expected it to sound if it was all systems go. Following a short break, they returned for their cover of Freddie Mercury and Giorgio Moroder’s “Love Kills” before going into an extended “Stuck On Repeat” which was as close to a jam as a largely synthesized and sequenced band could get. The only disappointment on the night was “Symmetry”, in which the absence of duet partner Philip Oakey was keenly felt. Both Hesketh’s drummer and keyboardist were mic-ed and tried to cover the boy parts, but were too low in the mix and un-Oakey-ish to properly compensate. But that’s a minor complaint, and was to be expected.

As they proved at SxSW, Little Boots sets a fine example for electro-pop acts hoping to succeed in the live setting – bring a live drummer, a willingness to keep the energy levels dimed for the duration of the show and oh yeah, have some terrific tunes. Worth the wait, and if the reception at the other stops on the tour come close to the one she got in Toronto, critics may want to reconsider writing Little Boots off.

Chartrigger, Time Out Chicago and Time Out Dubai have interviews with Hesketh.

Photos: Little Boots, Yes Giantess @ Wrongbar – September 14, 2009
MP3: Little Boots – “Love Kills” (Buffetlibre vs Sidechains remix)
MP3: Little Boots – “Meddle” (remix)
MP3: Little Boots – “Earthquake” (Yes Giantess remix)
MP3: Yes Giantess – “You Were Young”
Video: Little Boots – “Remedy”
Video: Little Boots – “New In Town”
MySpace: Little Boots
MySpace: Yes Giantess

The Star Observer talks to Elly Jackson of La Roux.

Check out the new video from Glasvegas, who are not making a stop in Toronto on this current Fall tour even though they totally could. There’s an interview with drummer Caroline McKay at JAM.

Video: Glasvegas – “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry”

PitchforkTV visits DC Comics HQ with Eddie Argos of Art Brut.

The Globe & Mail talks to Nick Cave about his new novel The Death Of Bunny Munro. He’s at the Indigo in the Eaton Centre this evening for a Q&A and reading.

The Grates discus their new record Teeth Lost, Hearts Won – now out in North America – with Blurt.

Paste asks Karen O about her work on the soundtrack for Where The Wild Things Are, the new trailer for which was released this week. The movie is out October 16.

Trailer: Where The Wild Things Are

The Chicago Sun-Times chats with Ida Maria, who apparently had a breakdown of some kind in Boston the other night… here’s hoping she gets it together in time for tomorrow night’s show at the Opera House. Co-headlining that show is Ladyhawke, who is the subject of features at Flavorwire and The Independent. There’s also a remix contest going on over at Filter, where you can have your way with “My Delirium”

Check out the title track from Thao with The Get Down Stay Down’s forthcoming album Know Better Learn Faster, and note that pre-orders of the album – out October 13 – will come with a ticket to a show on their upcoming tour including the November 1 date at the El Mocambo in Toronto.

MP3: Thao With The Get Down Stay Down – “Know Better Learn Faster”

The Daredevil Christopher Wright, whom you may recall from this post, will return for a show at the Free Times Cafe on October 7.

MP3: The Daredevil Christopher Wright – “The East Coast”

Vampire Weekend – who just announced details of their second album Contra, due out January 12 of next year – will preview the new record with a pair of Canadian dates including an October 8 date at the Horseshoe. Word is tickets go on sale tomorrow morning via Ticketmaster only.

MP3: Vampire Weekend – “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”

Also pending further details is Fucked Up’s fourth annual Fucked Up Fest, happening over Hallowe’en weekend – information on participants and dates at Exclaim.

Florence & The Machine will make their Toronto debut on November 2 at the Mod Club, thus scuppering my plans of seeing Monsters Of Folk make their Toronto debut at Massey Hall that same night. Tough call, but I think I have to go with Flo. And M Ward wouldn’t let me take pictures anyways. Tickets $15.

MP3: Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With A Fist”

The Rural Alberta Advantage have set a date for Lee’s Palace on November 4, tickets $15. Lee’s! They grow up so fast!

Apostle Of Hustle will also be doing a hometown show at Lee’s – look for them on November 19.

MP3: Apostle Of Hustle – “Perfect Fit”

And here’s an interesting/exciting announcement – DEVO is coming to town for the first time in a quarter-century. They’ll be at the Phoenix on November 23 and 24, playing Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO! and Freedom Of Choice in their entirety, respectively. And there’s no reason to believe the energy domes will not be along for the ride. Tickets will be $48.25 with premium tickets including a meet and greet with the band available for $99.75. Either price tier will get you a bundle of demo MP3s to download. Those will go on sale on September 18.

Video: DEVO – “Whip It!”

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros will be at the El Mocambo on November 24, tickets $12.50. There’s a session with the band at Daytrotter and a Q&A at Denver Westword.

MP3: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – “40 Day Dream”

Their last gig at the Phoenix being such a triumph, Phoenix will return for a show at the Sound Academy on December 5 and to make sure things go just as well as they did that show, they’re even bringing Amazing Baby back to open. Tickets for that are $28.

MP3: Amazing Baby – “Bayonets”
Video: Phoenix – “Lisztomania”