Posts Tagged ‘James’

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Total Life Forever

Foals and Esben & The Witch at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI’m not going to suggest that there were stars – or planets, as the case may be – in alignment this week over Toronto but it did strike me as interesting that in the span of 72 hours, there’d be no less than four recent Mercury Prize nominees – and two winners – in town to play shows, three of them on Monday night alone. So while fellow 2010 shortlisters Villagers were at The Drake and 2007 champs Klaxons were at the Mod Club, Oxford’s Foals were at Lee’s Palace in support of their shortlisted new record, Total Life Forever (tonight’s xx show at Massey was number four, if you were wondering). And while I’m sure all the other artists made (or will make) solid cases for themselves as the cream of the current British and Irish musical crops, I’m pretty sure none of them managed to get quite as… angry, as Foals did. But more on that in a bit.

First were supporting act and subject of some modest buzz themselves, Brighton’s Esben & The Witch, who made people take notice when it was announced they’d signed to Matador for the release of their debut album next year. And if Matador was looking to up the interesting/odd quotient of their roster, then Esben certainly fit the bill. The lazy comparison – which I’m obviously not above – would be a more primal and primitive Portishead, and not just because of the gender makeup of the trio. By whatever instrumental means necessary – including all three beating the tar out of a single floor tom simultaneously – they focused on creating an unsettling and foreboding atmosphere over which Rachel Davies’ vocals – sometimes like a ghost, other times like a banshee – could ride upon. The songcraft wasn’t as sophisticated as I’d have liked or even as the recordings I’ve heard, but it was evident that it was intensity and not refinement that they were interested in conveying in performance. I’d have preferred a better balance of the two, but will wait to hear the record before firming up any opinions.

I’ve already admitted to being late to the Foals party, but even though it took me until Total Life Forever to appreciate the band, I’d always heard and believed that they put on an impressive live show. And their punchy, dancey math-punk is tailor-made for a great show – powered by a taut, ultra-tight rhythm section and steered by the dueling, palm-muted guitar symphonies of Yannis Philippakis and Jimmy Smith, they’re all about escalation and after about an hour or so of steadily building musical momentum – just about a set length, coincidentally – they’d be ready to explode and send everyone home exhausted and satisfied. I’ve no doubt that that was and is the Foals game plan, when all goes well. On Monday night, Toronto got to see what it’s like when things don’t go according to plan, and it’s actually better.

Playing in front of a completely sold-out house, things got off to a great start with the title track off Total Life Forever – the set was front-loaded with newer material – and the band playing so tightly, it was as though they were tied together by some invisible wire that kept them in perfect synchonicity but also allowed spontaneous outbursts of chaos with a swift, sudden tug. About mid way through, however, it became clear that Smith was having issues with his gear and the rest of band found themselves jamming on extended intros and instrumental passages as he and the guitar tech tried to sort it out. It seemed, from the audience’s point of view at least, that they had things sorted a few times but the look on Smith’s face to side stage made it clear that no matter what guitars, amps or cables they swapped out, things weren’t getting fixed. And while the equipment woes were technically all Smith’s, watching Philippakis while all this was going on was far more interesting.

Though on the surface he seemed to take it all stoically, it became clear that he was getting angrier and more on the edge of violence as things went off-script and was channelling said anger through his guitar; never missing a beat or a note but absolutely raging while remaining stony-faced. Fittingly, as the set progressed and the spikier Antidotes material surfaced, he began acting out; knocking over mics and stands, pounding the hell out of his floor tom, taking advantage of his wireless guitar lead to descend into the audience, climb onto the back bar, set his mic up and play from the far front corner of the room and generally express his frustration in every way he could while keeping the show going – they even came back for their encore – and not completely flipping out and destroying everything. The intensity was not lost on the crowd, who fed on it and reflected it right back at the band and helped ensure that despite the obstacles, the night was a triumph. Though if anyone after the show saw a bonfire in back of Lee’s consisting of a couple of sweet Gibson guitars and guitar amp heads… those might have been Foals’.

Panic Manual, Singing Lamb, Exclaim and Chart have reviews of the show while The Toronto Star has an interview with Foals.

Photos: Foals, Esben & The Witch @ Lee’s Palace – September 27, 2010
MP3: Foals – “Spanish Sahara”
MP3: Foals – “Balloons”
Video: Foals – “2 Trees”
Video: Foals – “Miami”
Video: Foals – “Spanish Sahara”
Video: Foals – “This Orient”
Video: Foals – “Cassius”
Video: Foals – “Balloons”
Video: Foals – “Hummer”
Video: Foals – “Mathletics”
Video: Esben & The Witch – “Marching Song”
MySpace: Foals
MySpace: Esben & The Witch

DCist, The Phoenix and The Miami Herald talk to Tim Booth of James, who will be at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre tomorrow night, September 30.

The Vaselines are the subject of a feature in The Big Issue; they have a date at the Horseshoe on October 30.

The Joy Formidable have released a video for the lead single from their debut album The Big Roar, due early next year. They’ll be at the Horseshoe on November 3.

Video: The Joy Formidable – “I Don’t Want To See You Like This”

Support for Kate Nash’s upcoming Fall tour – which includes a November 13 date at The Phoenix – has been announced as British folk trio Peggy Sue. The Daily Titan has a conversation with Nash.

Video: Peggy Sue – “Watchman”

Ryan Jarman of The Cribs talks to Spinner about the band’s upcoming hiatus.

The Guardian has an update on the condition of Charlatans drummer Jon Brookes and an optimistic timetable for his return to the band.

The Von Pip Musical Express talks to Jim Reid about the 25th anniversary of The Jesus & Mary Chain’s debut Psychocandy.

The Quietus wonders if anyone remembers Irish trio JJ72, who made some noise a decade ago. Former frontman Mark Greaney does, and talks to them about the band’s accomplishments.

Video: JJ72 – “October Swimmer”

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Electric Bloom

An introduction to Foals (for me)

Photo By Steve GullickSteve GullickI’m sitting here trying to figure out why I never listened to Oxford’s Foals. It’s not that I hadn’t heard of them – I made note of both tours they undertook a couple years ago in support of their debut Antidotes, but don’t think I gave them any sort of listen beyond the sample MP3 and maybe a MySpace drive-by. Maybe it was the saxophones that turned me off. But I’m revisiting them – both Antidotes and this year’s follow-up Total Life Forever – and it’s doing it for me.

I wouldn’t have thought that I needed another tense, new-wavey/post-punky English band in my life but Foals feel different enough from the stereotype to warrant some attention. They’re certainly pointy in all the right places, but don’t really get as frantic on the dance floor as some of their peers, opting instead to dwell moodily in the corner. I appreciate the moody dwellers, and there’s much more of this side of their personality evident on Total Life Forever. I can sort of see why I might have passed over Antidotes but the extra bit of groove and sophistication on Total Life Forever is pretty much demanding further listens.

And so I won’t be missing them when they come through town a third time – Filter reports that the quintet are coming over to North America for a Fall tour, and that includes a September 27 date at Lee’s Palace. See you there.

MP3: Foals – “Spanish Sahara”
MP3: Foals – “Balloons”
Video: Foals – “Miami”
Video: Foals – “Spanish Sahara”
Video: Foals – “This Orient”
Video: Foals – “Cassius”
Video: Foals – “Balloons”
Video: Foals – “Hummer”
Video: Foals – “Mathletics”
MySpace: Foals

And speaking of third time’s the charm, you can’t say The Charlatans ever give up. Just as they’ve managed to outlive pretty much every other Madchester and Britpop band, they keep trying to come back to North America. They were going to come in October 2008, then canceled almost immediately. Then they slated a tour for September of last year, which got nixed a month before as drummer Jon Brookes required shoulder surgery. Some might take this as a sign, but they’ve just announced a North American tour in support of a new record entitled Who We Touch, out September 14, and it again includes a Toronto date for September 17 at Lee’s Palace. The two cancelled engagements were supposed to be at the Mod Club; maybe they’re hoping the change of venue changes their fortunes. And all joking aside, I do hope they make it over here this time, as there’s not a lot of shows that I can go to and still feel like one of the younger people in the room.

MP3: The Charlatans – “Oh! Vanity”
MP3: The Charlatans – “You Cross My Path”

They mentioned that it was their first time in Canada when they opened up for Spoon back in March, but Austin’s Strange Boys certainly haven’t been strangers around town since then. I think they played another gig that weekend, were back during NXNE and now they’re coming back with a date at The Garrison on September 22.

Video: The Strange Boys – “Be Brave”

It’s a solid bill from top to bottom as Rogue Wave, Midlake and Peter Wolf Crier team up for a Fall tour that includes a September 24 date at the Opera House.

MP3: Rogue Wave – “Good Morning”
MP3: Midlake – “Acts Of Man”
MP3: Peter Wolf Crier – “Crutch & Cane”

James have compiled a couple of recent mini-albums for the North American market and will release them as the double-set The Morning After The Night Before on September 14, to be accompanied by a North American tour alongside Ed Harcourt that includes a stop at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto on September 30.

Video: James – “Sometimes (Lester Piggot)”
Video: Ed Harcourt – “Born In The ’70s”

Dr. Dog, who’ve just released a new record in Shame, Shame, will be hitting the road in support and bringing Here We Go Magic with them. Look for them at the Phoenix on October 16.

MP3: Dr. Dog – “Stranger”
MP3: Here We Go Magic – “Casual”

Florence & The Machine should probably be working on album number two, which is targeted for an early 2011 release, but instead she’s coming back to North America this Fall, perhaps looking to leverage an appearance on the Twilight soundtrack (the same appearance which has put a Volvo ad on her website… sigh). The itinerary is still taking shape, but in addition to dates in New York and New Orleans, she’ll be in Toronto at the Sound Academy on November 3. Tickets are $30, on sale next Friday, but Rogers Wireless customers have a $20 presale starting Thursday – kind of makes up for that monthly system access fee, doesn’t it?

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

Bust out your surgical masks – Clinic are releasing a new album in Bubblegum on October 5 and crossing the Atlantic to promote it. Look for them at Lee’s Palace on November 10.

MP3: Clinic – “Family”

Richard Ashcroft tells The Guardian why this last, past Verve reunion is/was the final one.

Filter and Paste chat with Teenage Fanclub, kicking off their Fall tour with two nights at the Horseshoe on September 22 and 23.

Blurt talks to Joe Boyd, producer of R.E.M.’s Fables Of The Reconstruction. Their third record is being rereleased in double deluxe form today and you can stream it over at Spinner. Only the album, though – none of the bonus goodies.

Stream: R.E.M. / Fables Of The Reconstruction

Spin is offering up another track from Versus’ forthcoming On The Ones And Threes, due out September 14. They’re at Lee’s Palace on August 13.

Under The Radar talks to The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt.

Steve Earle talks to Offbeat about his role on Treme, his Emmy nomination and New Orleans.

Spinner talks to Sharin Foo of The Raveonettes.