Posts Tagged ‘Liars’

Thursday, May 10th, 2012


Review of Beach House’s Bloom

Photo By Liz FlyntzLiz FlyntzIf we can regard Beach House literally as their namesake, which is to say as a holiday getaway, a reliably stolid place to escape from the real world, then the amount of adoration they’ve gotten for largely sticking to their skeletal formula through four albums now is understandable. Their fans don’t want them to reinvent themselves with each outing; they want that comforting blanket of Victoria Legrand’s narcoleptic vocals and whirring keyboard interwoven with Alex Scally’s languid slide guitar, and across their first two records – their 2006 self-titled debut and 2007’s Devotion – that’s almost exactly what they got, seasoned with some rudimentary percussion both electronic and organic.

The closest thing they’re ever likely to come to a revolution was with 2010’s Teen Dream, which managed to take a relatively huge leap forward with the production and songwriting, making interesting rhythms and pop hooks a front burner concern without compromising their core sound. A risk, perhaps, but one that paid off immensely in the form of their strongest and most critically and commercially successful work. So with that in mind, it’s not surprising that Bloom – out next Tuesday – opts to stay the course laid out by its predecessor. Surprises simply aren’t Beach House’s style.

Gorgeousness is, however. It took the aforementioned embrace of bigger sounds on Teen Dream to really make me appreciate Beach House – prior to that, I had to be in a very particular mood to listen to them for any period of time – and now they’re a band for all occasions. Having touring drummer Daniel Franz play on the whole of the record, a third member of the band even if he’s not formerly acknowledged as such, helps both ground and propel Bloom while Legrand and Scally do their thing in crafting the haunting textures and melodies that are the foundation of Beach House. And while we’re being literal about things, Bloom is an exceptionally appropriate name for this collection as there’s moments that simply burst outwards. To even suggest that the band be capable of this sort of dynamicism circa their debut would have seemed absurd, and yet just six years later, here we are – and without compromising their identity, no less.

It’s too early to say if Bloom is better than Teen Dream, but by the quantitative measure of how many times I’ve felt compelled to listen to it, it’s already well ahead. At worst, it’s as good as its predecessor and at best, its even better. In either case, it’s hard to imagine liking one and not the other and regardless of where you rank it relative to Beach House’s earlier output, despite really just being more of the same – or perhaps because of it – it’s excellent.

NPR has an advance stream of the new record and DIY, The Line Of Best Fit, The Orlando Sentinel, and Pitchfork have interviews with the band.

MP3: Beach House – “Myth”
Stream: Beach House / Bloom

Also streaming at NPR but two weeks ahead of release are The Only Place, the second album from Best Coast, and Passage, the debut from Exitmusic. Best Coast are at The Phoenix on July 21 and Exitmusic have a NXNE showcase at Wrongbar on June 14.

Stream: Best Coast / The Only Place
Stream: Exitmusic / Passage

S. Carey’s new EP Hoyas came out this week – stream it at Stereogum and read interviews with Sean Carey about the record at The Leader Telegram and Volume One.

MP3: S. Carey – “Two Angles”
Stream: S. Carey / Hoyas

In concert announcements, Joe Pernice will stretch his legs and take a mosey to The Dakota Tavern on June 22, maybe play some songs.

MP3: Pernice Brothers – “Somerville”

Having sold out Lee’s Palace their last time through, Youth Lagoon will be at The Opera House on July 12 with Father John Misty, who still has to get through Monday night’s show at the Horseshoe before he can make a return engagement. Tickets are $15.50 in advance.

MP3: Youth Lagoon – “July”
MP3: Father John Misty – “Nancy From Now On”

If part of Liars’ to-do list in preparation for the June 5 release of WIXIW was slate a North American tour, they can cross it off – they’ll be at Lee’s Palace on July 21, tickets $15. They can also check off releasing the first video from the new album.

MP3: Liars – “Scissor”
Video: Liars – “No. 1 Against The Rush”

Twin Shadow is also hitting the road in support of a new record – with Confess due out July 9, George Lewis Jr will be at Lee’s Palace on July 30 and 31, tickets $20.

MP3: Twin Shadow – “Five Seconds”
MP3: Twin Shadow – “Slow”

Merge has released a companion album to Crooked Fingers’ 2011 album Breaks In The Armor comprised of acoustic demos of the album. It’s out now and you can stream one of the tracks at Donewaiting.

Stream: Crooked Fingers – “Bad Blood” (acoustic)

Exclaim reports that some of The Mountain Goats’ early cassette releases from the early ’90s – The Hound Chronicles and Hot Garden Stomp, specifically – will be released on a single CD on June 26.

Fang Island have announced that their second album Major will be out on July 12; details at Spin.

Pop Etc have released a video from their self-titled debut, out June 12.

Video: Pop Etc – “Live It Up”

Explosions In The Sky have released a second video from last year’s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care.

Video: Explosions In The Sky – “Postcard From 1952”

America Give Up has yielded another video from Minneapolis’ Howler.

Video: Howler – “This One’s Different”

Rolling Stone has premiered a new video from Mates Of State, off of last year’s Mountaintops.

Video: Mates Of State – “Unless I’m Led”

The Magnetic Fields have released a second video from Love At The Bottom Of The Sea.

Video: The Magnetic Fields – “Quick!”

Interview talks to Molly Hamilton of Widowspeak, in town at The Garrison on June 15 for NXNE.

The Line Of Best Fit has a video session with Of Montreal, in town for NXNE on June 16 at Yonge-Dundas Square.

Artrocker and Drowned In Sound talk to A Place To Bury Strangers about their forthcoming album Worship, out June 26.

Red Eye and The Detroit Free Press talk to Andrew Bird, in town at Echo Beach on July 19.

Sharon Van Etten plays a video session for WBEZ; she’s at The Phoenix on July 31.

Pitchfork talks to Merrill Garbus and the director of the recent tUnE-yArDs video for “My Country”. She plays The Phoenix on August 1.

SF Weekly chats with John Vanderslice.

Reverb interviews Kurt Wagner of Lambchop.

NPR is streaming a KCRW radio session with M. Ward.

The Line Of Best Fit talks to Savoir Adore.

Ra Ra Riot talks to Spin about what they’ve got planned for album number three and to Grantland about their appreciation for hockey.

NPR has a WFUV session with Shearwater.

Spin gets a progress report on the next Dinosaur Jr album, due out later this Summer.

Greg Dulli takes The Skinny on a guided tour of The Afghan Whigs’ catalog.

Spin talks to Bob Mould about the 20th anniversary of Sugar’s Copper Blue and the single, “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” in particular. Slicing Up Eyeballs reports that two of Mould’s ’90s albums – Bob Mould and The Last Dog & Pony Show – will be getting released as a three-disc set in the UK on June 18 with the third disc consisting of a live 1998 show.

The Atlantic reflects on the significance of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on the occasion of its tenth anniversary.

The AV Club has posted the fourth part of their look at the history of R.E.M..

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Pitchfork 2010 Day 1

Robyn, Broken Social Scene, Liars and more at Pitchfork Music Festival 2010

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe Pitchfork Music Festival occupies an interesting niche in the festival landscape. It’s too small to fairly compare with the national destination-type events, even though people such as myself do travel from afar to attend, but too high-profile to be considered properly boutique. The lineup is generally solid from top to bottom, but in a mid-level club sense. Almost all of the acts, at least for the 2010 edition, are touring relentlessly and aren’t hard to catch at some point in most urban centres, and for many this is probably their first experience with a festival setting and such large stages and audiences.

So despite the fact that I had already seen or could see in the coming weeks/months many of the acts on the bill, I decided to attend this year because a) plans to hit last year’s fest were scuppered by real life, b) I skipped out on the Toronto edition of the Pavement reunion tour in favour of Iggy & The Stooges at NxNE and c) the total dearth of outdoor festivals in Toronto this year meant that to get my heat stroke in the photo pit action on, I’d have to leave town. Also, I hadn’t been to Chicago in years.

Pitchfork Fridays past tended to feature a single evening feature event like a “Don’t Look Back” full album performance, but this year they opted for a half-day of regular programming and squeezing in a couple more headliners. I arrived at Union Park, just a little outside of The Loop, just in time to hear Sharon Van Etten kick the day and the festival off on the main stage, dubbed Aluminum, previewing songs from her forthcoming album Epic. The bright – nay, blazing – afternoon sun wasn’t the most natural setting for her dark and vulnerable songs, but it’s remarkable that even massively amplified in the outdoors, her gorgeous voice was able to sound so intimate. She may not have had the same name recognition as some of the others in the lineup but hopefully for the festival early birds, she’ll have been a welcome discovery.

Photos: Sharon Van Etten @ Aluminum Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Love More”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “I Couldn’t Save You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Consolation Prize”
Video: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MySpace: Sharon Van Etten

The two main stages at Pitchfork were set up in close proximity and at 90 degrees to one another, and Friday’s staggered set times made it easy to dash from one to the other – or just turn your butt, for the seated – and catch the next act. Inaugurating the Connector stage was The Tallest Man On Earth, and though also performing solo he clearly didn’t suffer from any lack of audience familiarity – folks were stoked for Kristian Matsson and his set didn’t disappoint them. The charisma on display the one time I’d seen him at an in-store scaled quite well to the bigger venue and as he lurched and lunged around the stage whilst showcasing the upbeat folk from The Wild Hunt, the crowd collectively swooned. Though that may have also been from the heat. The Tallest Man On Earth plays Lee’s Palace on September 24.

Photos: The Tallest Man On Earth @ Connector Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “King Of Spain”
MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “Burden Of Tomorrow”

Liars and I had never been properly introduced, with the one time I tried giving them a listen apparently coming when they were at their most abrasive and I quickly moved on with my life. This first encounter started out rockily, with my camera seemingly self-destructing as soon as the band took the stage. It turned out that my camera grip was actually overheating just from the ambient temperature and was shorting everything out, so once removed and with things working again, the panic began to abate I was able to turn my attention back to the Brooklynites. I didn’t know any material and they were hardly what you’d call an immediately accessible pop, but their first dose of proper rock energy for the day and festival was welcome. Frontman Angus Andrew was a compelling frontman and stage presence, aggressively prowling around the stage during songs and cracking off-colour jokes between, including an invitation to use the water station in his pants. Entertaining, but the lack of familiarity kept me from getting too engaged. Liars play Lee’s Palace on September 29.

Photos: Liars @ Connector Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: Liars – “Scissor”
MP3: Liars – “Plaster Casts Of Everything”
MP3: Liars – “Loose Nuts On The Veladrome”
Video: Liars – “Scissors””
Video: Liars – “The Overachievers”
Video: Liars – “Houseclouds”
Video: Liars – “Plaster Casts Of Everything”
Video: Liars – “The Other Side Of Mt. Heart Attack”
MySpace: Liars

The aforementioned lack of familiarity didn’t affect enjoyment of Swedish dance-pop diva Robyn’s set because, well, it was Swedish dance-pop and that stuff is made to cross all lines, borders and bring world peace. Big hooks were the order of the day as she, backed by two drummers and two keyboardists all clad in white, got the Pitchfork crowd – pretty sizeable by point in the day – dancing at best, bobbing up and down at worst. I’d never quite understood the massive acclaim that Robyn got, I mean I thought her stuff was perfectly enjoyable but not commensurate with the level of hosannas laid at her feet. On stage, however, she did a great job of earning the hype, dancing, strutting and posing like a pro and just working the crowd perfectly; good times abounded. Someone is due for some reevaluation by me. That someone being Robyn. In case that wasn’t clear. She plays the Molson Amphitheatre on July 30.

Photos: Robyn @ Aluminum Stage – July 16, 2010
Video: Robyn – “Dancing On My Own”
Video: Robyn – “Dream On”
Video: Robyn – “Konichiwa Bitches”
Video: Robyn – “Handle Me”
Video: Robyn – “Do You Know (What It Takes)”
Video: Robyn – “My Only Reason”
Video: Robyn – “With Every Heartbeat”

Oh Broken Social Scene. I’ve covered my own history with the band, but that in-store appearance aside it had still been almost four years since I’d seen a proper Broken show. And while that full-lineup throwdown was as good a last show as you could imagine, I was interested to see how they sounded with their slimmed-down lineup and fully awake. The deliberately lean aesthetic carried over to their live show, which despite supplementing the now core seven members with Forgiveness Rock Record producer John McEntire as second drummer and some locally-recruited string and brass players, sounded much less grandiose than the old days where they’d trot out six or seven guitarists all doing god knows what simultaneously. Their new approach was certainly more focused, but I can’t say I didn’t miss some of the old grandiosity, some of which – okay, a lot of which – was captured in their finale of “Meet Me In The Basement”, which sounded fantastic and proved that even when you think you’re done with them, Broken Social Scene are still capable of stop and marvel. NPR has a World Cafe session with the band and Asia One an interview.

Photos: Broken Social Scene @ Connector Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “World Sick”
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “Fire Eye’d Boy”
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “Hotel”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Meet Me In The Basement”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “7/4 (Shoreline)”
Video: Broken Social Scene -“Fire Eye’d Boy”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Her Disappearing Scene”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Major Label Debut”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Cause = Time”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Almost Crimes”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Lover’s Spit”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “I’m Still Your Fag”
MySpace: Broken Social Scene

My interest in seeing Modest Mouse was pretty close to nil, but considering they were the headliners, I figured I should at least sample their set and get some pics. As it turned out, the process for rotating photographers in and out of the pit didn’t have the kinks worked out and as a result, I got to shoot maybe a minute of one song before getting the boot. I wasn’t especially disappointed and seeing as how nothing they were playing was either familiar or especially interesting, I took it as a sign to call it a night and go get some dinner.

Photos: Modest Mouse @ Aluminum Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: Modest Mouse – “Worms Vs. Birds”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Dashboard”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Float On”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Ocean Breathes Salty”
Video: Modest Mouse – “The Whale Song”
Video: Modest Mouse – “King Rat”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Satellite Skin”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Missed The Boat”
MySpace: Modest Mouse

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Yaa I Get It

Shad at Sonic Boom in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI think I’m done qualifying any opinions I might voice on the subject of hip-hop. Which doesn’t happen often, no, but when it does, I’ve always felt the need to point out that I don’t have the experience with the genre to form what I’d consider a properly contextualized viewpoint and so end up with a quarter-assed collection of observations rather than my usual half-assed.

This insecurity manifested itself most acutely a couple years ago when I was on the grand jury for the 2008 Polaris Prize and was unsure about throwing my support behind Shad’s shortlisted sophomore album The Old Prince because, even though I knew I liked it, I wasn’t sure I could actually say it was a great – objectively-speaking – rap album because, well, I didn’t know what that meant, exactly. And I’d like to think that I wasn’t the swing vote in The Old Prince not winning that year.

I’m much more confident this time around about things Shad and Polaris, specifically his new record TSOL – out today – and where it stands relative to my ballot when it goes in in a couple weeks – because it’ll be on there. From the first listen, TSOL succeeded in capturing my attention thanks to Shadrach Kabango’s imaginative wordplay and ability to convey heart and humour without getting schmaltzy. It doesn’t hurt that it’s more direct and pop-rock influenced than The Old Prince, which had more jazzy inclinations, but that doesn’t make it less sophisticated than its predecessor – just louder and heavier at a few key points. And strong enough that I can get up and say that this is one of the best, or at least one of my favourite, Canadian records of the past twelve months. Of any genre.

Shad was marking the release of the new record last night with an in-store at Sonic Boom, and despite it being perfect long weekend weather for basking in the sun, a goodly number of folks headed for the Annex record store’s basement to see the London-bred, Vancouver-based rapper showcase some of his material. Though a non-functioning guitar kept him from demonstrating his instrumental skills, his mic was working just fine and backed by a DJ and bassist-keyboardist – and getting guest vocals on “We Are The Ones” from Relic – he powered through a selection of TSOL tracks, highlights including his soulful tribute to women in “Keep Shining” and the big rock declaration of “We, Myself & I” (can someone please tell me where that guitar riff is lifted from). Those, combined with a couple of must-haves from The Old Prince demonstrated why despite sometimes seeming easy-going and self-effacing to a fault, he’s a charismatic and energetic MC, more than capable of working a room and putting on a show equal to the material. As Polaris jurors, we’e not supposed to let the artist’s live show influence our decision-making process – it’s all about the records – but it never hurts to have decisions that have already been made be reinforced.

Shad plays the Opera House on June 12. He talks to Winnipeg Free Press and Metro, is the cover boy of this month’s Exclaim and gives Spinner a track-by-track breakdown of the new record.

Photos: Shad @ Sonic Boom – May 24, 2010
MP3: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”
MP3: Shad – “I Don’t Really Like To”
Video: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”
Video: Shad – “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home”
Video: Shad – “I Don’t Really Like To”
Video: Shad – “Brother (Watching)”
MySpace: Shad

Filter gets to know The Besnard Lakes. They’re at the Mod Club on June 17 as part of NXNE.

Inside Toronto talks to Kat Burns of Forest City Lovers about their love of forests in cities. Their new record Carriage is out June 29 and they play the LEAF celebrations at Wychwood Barns on June 11.

Deer Tick were just here in April but will be putting out a new record in The Black Dirt Sessions on June 8 and as such, will be returning for a date at the Horseshoe on August 10. New York Magazine talks to frontman John McCauley.

MP3: Deer Tick – “Twenty Miles”

New York’s Liars will be at Lee’s Palace on September 29 in support of this year’s Sisterworld. The Georgia Straight has an interview with Angus Andrew.

Video: Liars – “The Overachievers”
Video: Liars – “Scissor”

The San Francisco Chronicle talks to Matt Berninger of The National. They’re in town on June 8 and 9 at Massey Hall.

Daytrotter has posted up a session with The Dodos; they’ve got a date at the Sound Academy on June 15 opening up for The New Pornographers.

Spin talks to Band Of Horses’ Ben Bridwell. They are at the Toronto Islands on June 19.

Josh Ritter talks to Spinner about his literary ambitions: his debut novel Bright’s Passage is due out next Summer.