Posts Tagged ‘Junior Boys’

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Everything Works

Review of Miracle Fortress’ Was I The Wave?

Photo By Andre GueretteAndre GueretteI have a confession to make; I lied to you. Or more accurately, I misled you. When I wrote up Miracle Fortress’ performance at Canadian Musicfest last month, I made it out that I was as in the dark about what Graham Van Pelt had in store for album number two as most everyone else, and that my insights were based entirely on the show. This was not true. In fact, I’d gotten advanced a copy of Was I The Wave? a week or so earlier but had to keep mum about it as word of its existence was still under wraps. I was thankful for the heads up, though, because otherwise my writeup of the two-man, laser-lit rave-down may well have amounted to, “well that was different”.

After all, Miracle Fortress’ debut Five Roses was an unexpected ’60s-via-’00s classic pop jewel that came out of nowhere to end up on the 2007 Polaris Music Prize short list despite being released barely a week before the eligibility period ended. Pretty high expectations are sure to follow a debut like that, so maybe it’s no surprise that rather than rush into a follow-up, Van Pelt turned his attentions to his other band Think About Life and let ideas for Miracle Fortress percolate for a few years.

It’s not unreasonable to call Was I The Wave? a sequel to Five Roses if it’s meant in the sense of a a part two picking up not where the original left off, bu twenty years into the future. Which in this case would bring things smack dab into the ’80s, and indeed Wave is unabashed in planting its stylistic flag in that most distinctive-sounding of decades. A delicious New Wave-y, synth-pop iciness pervades much of the record, both in the writing and arrangements of the songs and the textures used to render them. Danceable yet not at all disco, at points it’s reminiscent of the period where Joy Division transitioned into New Order and at others, it reminds me how proud I am of the “Depeche Shop Boys” reference I made in the live review. It’s all a bit alien at first, but with enough familiar touchstones to allow you to keep up.

About midway through – actually, precisely with “Spectre” – said iciness begins to thaw and some of the Five Roses warmth begins to shine through. The melodies become more buoyant, less guarded, and the album’s tonal balance begins tilting towards the human. But it’s the record’s ability to balance the synthetic and the organic – its cyborg nature, if you will – that makes it so exceptional. By the end of its not-quite 40 minute running time, it’s taken you back to the same magical pop heights as Five Roses but taken a completely different route to get there. Turns out all you needed was to trust Van Pelt to guide you.

Was I The Wave? is out now in Canada and will be out May 17 in the US. Exclaim has made Miracle Fortress their cover story this month, and have more talk time with Van Pelt in another shorter piece. The Montreal Gazette also has a feature piece. Miracle Fortress’ extensive touring itinerary takes them across Canada in the company of Shad through May, and then come June it’s eastern North America with Junior Boys, a tour with starts June 9 in Toronto at The Phoenix.

MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Raw Spectacle”

Pitchfork is streaming the first single from the Junior Boys’ new record It’s All True, due June 14.

The Quietus and Spinner talk to Katie Stelmanis of Austra, whose debut Feel It Break is out May 17. They play Lee’s Palace two nights later for a hometown record release show.

The Wild Honey Pie has a video session with Snowblink, who have a date at The Music Gallery on June 16 as part of NXNE.

Bruce Peninsula continues their Fire Sale campaign to the Fall release of Open Flames, this time with a Daytrotter session.

Baeble Music is streaming video of a complete Rural Alberta Advantage performance from The Phoenix (in Austin) from SXSW and has a video interview chaser for good measure. The band are at The Phoenix (in Toronto) this Friday night.

Consquence Of Sound is streaming the third advance single from Fucked Up’s David Comes To Life, out June 7.

The Waterloo Record and Spinner profile Malajube, who have an April 30 date at The Horseshoe.

The Coast, The Sheaf, Here and The Telegram talk to Dan Mangan, who should have a new record out before the year is out.

This month’s Exclaim timeline feature follows the long and storied career of Sloan, which will soon include the May 10 release of The Double Cross, a May 14 in-store at Sonic Boom and – just announced – an extensive North American tour that includes their first non-festival/event Toronto show in ages, a June 22 date at The Mod Club. Either they’re grossly underestimating their draw (or I’m overestimating) or they want to create some serious demand for tickets.

MP3: Sloan – “Follow The Leader”

Also just announced – Yuck will warm up for their show at The Phoenix on May 1 with an in-store at Sonic Boom that afternoon at 5PM. Admission free, canned food donations encouraged.

MP3: Yuck – “Get Away”

Dum Dum Girls’ NXNE itinerary has been sorted out somewhat and it looks like a double-header – their booking agency notes that they’ll be playing both The El Mocambo and Lee’s Palace on June 17.

MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout”

Kurt Vile & The Violators return with Woods in tow for a show at Lee’s Palace on July 13.

MP3: Kurt Vile – “Jesus Fever”
MP3: Woods – “To Clean”

Their May 18 show at The Phoenix sold out pretty much immediately, Death Cab For Cutie have put together a Summer tour more in scale with their success – they’ll be at The Molson Amphitheatre on July 29 and accompanying them will be Frightened Rabbit. Death Cab’s new record Codes & Keys arrives May 31 and another song from it is streaming over at Soundcloud.

MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”
Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “You Are A Tourist”

Okkervil River will be webcasting a live performance of their new record I Am Very Far via NPR tonight at 7PM ET. The record is out May 10 and they play The Phoenix on June 12.

R.E.M. has put out a new video from Collapse Into Now.

Video: R.E.M. – “Every Day Is Yours To Win”

The Fly welcomes J Mascis to their courtyard for an acoustic video session.

Exclaim has an interview feature with Fleet Foxes and Spin an in-studio video. Helplessness Blues is out May 3 and they’re at Massey Hall on July 14.

JAM talks to Jamie Hince of The Kills. They’re at The Sound Academy on May 1.

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven

Godspeed You! Black Emperor and The Sadies at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangRelative to most of the people seeing any part of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s three-day, four-show residency at Lee’s Palace this past weekend, for which I hit up the Saturday night performance, I didn’t want to be there at all. I did, of course, but that was nothing compared to the anticipation so many had for the Montreal post-rock forebears’ first shows here in eight years, part of their surprise return to active duty – touring, at least – announced last Spring.

I just missed out on Godspeed the first time around – either being aware of them but not getting around to listening or listening but not getting around to getting, I’m not sure – but have spent the better part of the past decade getting acquainted both with their works and their ideological and musical mythology. Much of the latter, at least locally, centered around their legendary shows at the Palais Royale in the Fall of 2001 and the Spring of 2003 so the opportunity to witness them for myself – even if not on the edge of Lake Ontario – wasn’t to be missed and would hopefully be at least a fraction as unforgettable as those performances were purported to be. Dispatches from Friday night’s show certainly implied they would be.

One thing that was certain was that I picked the right show with regards to opening acts, at least. I didn’t know who either of the other two support acts were but I was pretty certain that The Sadies were better. And that’s because The Sadies are pretty much the best, be it headlining, opening, ordering tacos, whatever. And while it could be argued that their psych-country was a bit of an odd fit for Godspeed’s widescreen sonic apocalypses, doing so would be to ignore the dark and dusty gothic undercurrent that inhabits much of their work and also the fact that The Sadies are simply awesome. Given 45 minutes and a tiny portion of the stage with which to work, they powered through a set that was basically a Sadies 101, showcasing their songwriting and musical virtuosity and on-stage tricks, like the Good brother guitar neck-swapping of “Tiger Tiger”, which Dallas still managed even though he spent the rest of the set on a stool, still hobbled by the leg broken back in February. And all except for the guy standing beside me who couldn’t have looked more unimpressed – he had his Godspeed goggles on – I’d like to think they went over well.

I’d been tipped in advance of a few things with regards to the Godspeed live experience: That it would run two and a half hours, that photographically speaking house left was the better side to camp out on, that there would be no interaction between the band and the audience, with the band set up in a semi-circle and more intent on communicating with each other than those there to see them. And oh yeah, it would be incredible. I’ll be honest – as much as I wanted it to be a great show, I also hoped to somehow dispel some of the hyperbole that had enveloped the band in their time away by seeing and hearing it with my own earballs. And instead, I fear I may only be contributing to it.

The show-opening “Hope Drone” ceremony, wherein each band member entered the stage one at a time and began contributing to the din, wasn’t nearly as formal as I’d expected. It actually emerged out of sound check, perhaps at the expense of some of the drama, and the audience didn’t stop chattering until about halfway through when they finally turned on the film projectors. With the band arranged around the perimeter of the stage and three guitarists seated and hunched over, it was these projections of birds, glyphs, maps and a scrawled word “hope” which provided most of the evening’s illumination and visual interest – at least if you kept your eyes open. Eyes closed, you would be faced with whatever terrifying and beautiful imagery their music made your mind create.

The show drew heavily from the band’s masterwork, 2000’s Life Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, adding unreleased live staple “Albania” and one composition from F#A#∞ before closing with both sides of their Slow Riot For A New Zerø Kanada EP, but the specifics of what were played were really less important than the epic whole they created. And here’s where the hyperbole comes in. There was something unbelievably primal and elemental about what Godspeed You! Black Emperor create; like a force of nature if nature were sentient and pissed off. They moved slowly and inexorably, with massive weight and delicate grace and meant to be simultaneously marvelled at, feared and celebrated. The sound was deafening while perfectly clear, brutally beautiful and hitting with the impact of unchecked emotion made sound. I don’t doubt that the marathon-length shows are intended to add a dimension of actual physical exhaustion to the experience – are your knees buckling because you’re tired or because the existential momentousness of it all is too much to bear? Probably the former, but you can’t be sure.

But for those who endured and persevered through the entire show, who watched each member depart as they entered as “BBF3” was deconstructed, there was a very real sense of catharsis and transcendence – words far overused in music writing but wholly appropriate here – from the experience. Maybe it was because witnessing the performance had subtly changed everyone. Maybe it was just relief that they could finally get away from the pile of throw-up that someone left near the front of the stage during the second song. But either way, it was one to remember.

The National Post has a review of Friday night’s show; most notes are applicable to Saturday’s.

Photos: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Sadies @ Lee’s Palace – April 23, 2011
MP3: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven”
MP3: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “The Buildings They Are Sleeping Now”
MP3: The Sadies – “Another Year Again”
MP3: The Sadies – “Anna Leigh”
Video: The Sadies – “Another Day Again”
Video: The Sadies – “Cut Corners”
Video: The Sadies – “Postcards”
Video: The Sadies – “The Horseshoe”
Video: The Sadies – “Flash”

Billboard profiles Explosions In The Sky, whose new record Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is out tomorrow.

Shearwater performed the whole of their last three albums – those dubbed The Island Arc – in a special hometown show in Austin earlier this year, and now a live album has been assembled, available to stream or digitally purchase at the band’s Bandcamp. The trilogy of Palo Santo, Rook and The Golden Archipelago is also notable as it represents the band’s entire tenure on Matador; they just announced that they’ve signed to Sub Pop for their next record, due out in 2012.

Drowned In Sound and The Line Of Best Fit and Billboard have features on Okkervil River, whose new record I Am Very Far will arrive on May 10. They play The Phoenix on June 10.

Also out May 10 is The Antlers’ new record Burst Apart, which is streaming in whole at NPR. They are at The Mod Club on June 14.

Stream: The Antlers / Burst Apart

Arriving in town a day before their sold-out show at The Mod Club, Battles will play an in-store at Sonic Boom on April 28 at 7PM, admission free with suggested donation of a canned food good. Their new record Gloss Drop is out June 7 and Drowned In Sound has an interview with the band.

Video: Battles – “Tonto”

Both Junior Boys and Miracle Fortress have new albums at the ready – the former with It’s All True due June 14 and the latter with tomorrow’s Was I The Wave? – so it makes perfect sense that they’d team up for a Summer tour that kicks off at The Phoenix on June 9. North America, dancing shoes at the ready.

MP3: Junior Boys – “In The Morning”
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Raw Spectacle”

Alela Diane released her second album Alela Diane and Wild Divine at the start of the month and has now released her touring itinerary for the Summer; look for her on June 11 at The Rivoli on Toronto.

MP3: Alela Diane – “To Begin”

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

CONTEST – Junior Boys and Woodhands @ Lee’s Palace – November 6, 2009

Photo via Junior BoysJunior BoysLee’s Palace is the place to be next Friday night, at least for those who think the square wave is the sexiest sound out there. First you’ve got Toronto’s Woodhands, who favour the extroverted, in-your-face approach, their mating dance consisting of flailing limbs, showers of sweat and thrusting keytars. And at the other side of the spectrum, the smooth electro-soul sounds of Hamilton’s Junior Boys, the aural equivalent of the chilled champagne, the casual-but-deliberate brush against the arm and eyebrow arched just so. Two paths; one destination – “where are my pants?”.

Tickets to this seminar on seduction are $20 in advance but courtesy of REMG, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away for the show – to enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to get sexy with The Junior Boys” in the subject line and your full name in the body – get those in to me before midnight, November 4. Awwww yeah.

MP3: Junior Boys – “In The Morning”
MP3: Woodhands – “Dancer”

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

When It's Dark

Yo La Tengo and The Horse's Ha at The Opera House in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIn my review of Yo La Tengo’s latest Popular Songs, I lauded the New Jersey trio for their unbelievable ability to deliver excellent album after excellent album over their 25-year career, and having seen them five times before Saturday night’s show at the Opera House, I felt comfortable thinking that same sense of consistency could be applied to their live shows. There’d be a handful of new songs, a brace of old standards and at least a couple unexpected surprises from deep in their catalog. Performance-wise, you could count on Ira Kaplan being alternately hilarious and irascible, be guaranteed a transcendent moment or two and assured of at least one jam would go on for far too long. I know more than one person who’s said, “I love them but don’t think I need to see them again” and it’s a fair statement to make. I myself was going to skip out on this show in favour of one of a multitude of other entertainment options available that evening, but the excellence of Popular Songs persuaded me to go back for more.

Excepting their Beautiful Noise taping last April (that season is now airing on SunTV, by the by), this past Saturday night was Yo La’s first visit back to Toronto in three years and taking place at the Opera House rather than their usual digs at The Phoenix, it was a cozier show than they’ve played here in some time – TV taping aside. As such it was sold out, 800 steadfast fans giving up the early part of Nuit Blanche (or avoiding it entirely) in favour of getting their eardrums massaged and having no second thoughts about it.

Support for the Canadian dates on tour came from Chicago duo The Horse’s Ha, whose pedigree includes Freakwater and The Zincs, and who’ve just released their debut Of The Cathmawr Yards. Their brand of Americana-folk was on the decidedly polite and proper side, dusty-sounding yet immaculately clean in its delivery. Jim Elkington and Janet Beveridge Bean’s voices worked well together, but it was more their supporting players that kept things interesting, offering a rhythmic, musical backbone that they didn’t let fly until later in the set, culminating in a decidedly rewarding shredding cello solo. The Horse’s Ha have got talent and power on hand, and would do well to loosen the reins a bit.

Here’s the funny thing about the list of Yo La Tengo live givens I rattled off earlier – they didn’t happen. It could be that as much as their fans were feeling their shows were getting a bit familiar to hear, the band thought it was getting a bit familiar to play so just as Popular Songs seemed to take every Yo La song template and offer something new in that mould, their live show would also benefit from such a makeover. The set was far heavier on new songs than I’d expected, making up fully half the main set and as such the show felt simultaneously fresh and comfortable and when the band did reach further back into their extensive catalog for numbers like “Big Day Coming” or “Stockholm Syndrome”, it felt like even more of a treat. I was especially pleased to hear “Black Flowers” make an appearance, it being my favourite track off I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass and sadly omitted from the set last time around. And the choice of encore covers this time out – a James McNew-sung Velvet Underground’s “She’s My Best Friend” and Devo’s “Gates Of Steel” – were also impeccable.

Beyond the marvelous song selection, the show benefited from a dynamic arc that felt new to Yo La Tengo shows. Past shows had felt like enjoyable meanders through their repertoire but this show had a more unified feel to it, starting out a touch restrained despite opening with the uptempo “Double Dare”, going gentle in the middle while inviting Georgia Hubley out from behind the kit to sing and then closing out big with a gloriously frantic and guitar-abusive “And The Glitter Is Gone” and sugar-buzzed “Sugarcube”. Throw in a perfectly casual double-encore – James had to remind Ira of the chords to the VU tune – and you had a glorious, and perhaps more importantly faith-restoring, Yo La Tengo show. “I love them, when can I see them again?”.

And oh yeah, Ira seemed to be in a great mood. Maybe that was all the difference.

There’s interviews with the band at, Beatroute and The National Post.

Photos: Yo La Tengo, The Horse’s Ha @ The Opera House – October 3, 2009
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Here To Fall”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Periodically Double Or Triple”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Beanbag Chair”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “The Summer” (live on KEXP)
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “I Feel Like Going Home” (live on KCMP)
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Little Eyes”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Don’t Have To Be So Sad”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “From A Motel 6”
MP3: The Horse’s Ha – “Asleep In A Waterfall”
MP3: The Horse’s Ha – “The Piss Choir”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “When It’s Dark”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Nothing To Hide”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Avalon Or Someone Very Similar”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Periodically Double Or Triple”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Here To Fall”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Sugarcube”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Tom Courtenay”
MySpace: Yo La Tengo

And if you’re wondering, trying to start Nuit Blanche at 1AM at Queen West and Yonge is quite possibly the stupidest thing you can do, and that includes live scorpions infected with bubonic plague. I got a good look at a lot of lineups before giving up and heading home. Oh, and I had some popcorn. Woo, art! Woo, culture!

Spinner and JustOut talk to Bob Mould.

NPR is streaming the new Flaming Lips record Embryonic for a week, leading up to its October 13 release date.

Stream: The Flaming Lips / Embryonic

PitchforkTV has a Cemetery Gates session with Grizzly Bear.

It’s getting/already gotten colder than any right-thinking person would like, but if you’re thinking there’s still time to take one last hop out to the Toronto Islands then do it next Saturday, October 17, and stop by the ALL CAPS! Island Show at the Artscape Gibraltar Point. It starts at 3PM, goes till 10 and features a bunch of acts including but not only Great Bloomers, Adam & The Amethysts and Snowblink. It’s $10 or PWYC and all-ages.

You’ll have a clinic in teaching the indie kids to dance when Junior Boys and Woodhands hit Lee’s Palace on November 6. Junior Boys were just featured in a Daytrotter session.

MP3: Junior Boys – “In The Morning”
MP3: Woodhands – “Dancer”

The annual Make Some Noise events presented by the Toronto Public Library returns on November 7 when Bruce Peninsula and Timber Timbre make the North York Central Library sound like it’s haunted.

MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “Crabapples”
MP3: Timber Timbre – “Demon Host”

Constantines will celebrate their 10th anniversary with a pair of special shows at Lee’s Palace on December 10 and 11. Ticket pre-sales are already on, with early birds eligible for extra goodies.

MP3: Constantines – “Nighttime Anytime It’s Alright”

The Line Of Best Fit is offering a fifth volume of “Oh! Canada” series of downloadable Canuck mixes.

CBC Radio 3 has a shiny new website and the same old annoying habit of constantly rewriting the location in the browser back to Seriously, WTF.

And if you’re one of those people who not only still has cable, but has those ridiculously high-numbered channels which seem to only show Law & Order reruns, check out channel 107 as went on the air (well, the digital cable air) last weekend and features a slew of terrific music television programming that goes well beyond videos. There’s details on what the channel hopes to offer and how they’ll do it at The Globe & Mail and ChartAttack.