Posts Tagged ‘Lucinda Williams’

Friday, March 11th, 2011

As I've Known

Epitonic is back; Wrens, still working on it

Photo via Agency GroupAgency GroupA decade ago, before there were really such things blogs but the MP3 existed, there was Epitonic. Easily the best site online for researching, discovering and hearing new and independent acts, it was a treasure trove of great things to hear right up until it was shut down in 2004. By that point there were many other avenues for sampling music via downloadable files – you’re on one right now – but the breadth and organization of Epitonic was missed.

So it’s more than great to see that they’ve returned with the same mandate and they’ve come bearing gifts – including a new track from everyone’s favourite prodigal band, The Wrens. They were last heard from, as far as records go, at about the same time Epitonic went dark so hopefully the site’s return will apply some pressure to them to get the new record – in process for years and years – finished and out. I thought that they were close when they started issuing recording dispatches in early ’09 and even played some shows at SxSW that year, but there’s still been nothing released. Their booking agency says they’re available for Spring and Summer 2011 headlining dates, though, so maybe…? Come on guys, 10 more songs and you can go back to hiding for another decade.

Either way, at least Epitonic is back.

MP3: The Wrens – “As I’ve Known”

The Battles show announced last week in support of new record Gloss Drop will be happening at The Mod Club on April 29, and not The Horseshoe as originally reported. Tickets are $15.

The Felice Brothers will be at Lee’s Palace on May 12, just a couple days after their latest album Celebration, Florida is released, tickets $17.50.

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings are back in town on May 12 for a show at the Sound Academy. The Pensicola News Journal has an interview with Jones.

Video: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – “I Learned The Hard Way”

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit have set a May 22 date at The Horseshoe Tavern in support of their new record Here We Rest, out April 12. Maria Taylor will support.

MP3: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – “Codeine”
MP3: Maria Taylor – “Song Beneath The Song”

Explosions In The Sky have released the first MP3 from their new record Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, due out April 26.

MP3: Explosions In The Sky – “Trembling Hands”

Austinist and Austin 360 chat with Will Sheff of Okkervil River about their new record I Am Very Far, due out May 10. There’s also a video session and interview at Rolling Stone and the first official MP3 from said record is now available. They play The Phoenix on June 10.

MP3: Okkervil River – “Wake And Be Fine”

Fender Guitars has a chat with proud users of their products Ume.

The AV Club talks to Lucinda Williams.

NOW‘s CMW cover story is Janelle Monáe, who headlines The Indies at The Royal York on Saturday night.

The Huffington Post talks to Mike Mills of R.E.M.. Another new video from Collapse Into Now has gone up and as a bonus, an official live studio performance clip is up at Fluxblog.

Video: R.E.M. – “Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter”
Video: R.E.M. – “Every Day Is Yours To Win” (live)

NPR is streaming a World Cafe session with Of Montreal. They’re at The Phoenix on May 3.

The Vinyl District, Rocky Mountain Collegian and NPR talk to Wye Oak about Civilian. They are at The El Mocambo on April 9 and their show in DC tonight will be streamed live on NPR.

Pitchfork reports that The Antlers have set a May 10 release date for their new record, which will bear the title Burst Apart.

The New York Times have a feature piece on The Strokes. Angles is out March 22.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are streaming the whole of their new record Belong on their website, well ahead of its March 29 release.

Stream: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart / Belong

The National have released a new video from last year’s High Violet, starring Flight Of The Conchords’ Kristen Schall and Mad Men‘s John Slattery. Black Book also has a video session with the band.

Video: The National – “Conversation 16”

Faster Louder meets The Hold Steady.

NPR is streaming a KEXP radio session with The Jayhawks, Denver Westword talks to Mark Olson and Jambands to Gary Louris.

Blurt has a feature piece on DeVotchKa, who are in town at The Mod Club on March 30.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Mondo Amore

Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea and Cotton Jones at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt was an evening of familiar faces and (slightly) unfamiliar names at The Horseshoe on Saturday night. The familiar being Nicole Atkins, whom despite playing here four times in just eight months, hadn’t been back to visit in over three years and in the interim, changed her backing band entirely and renamed them from The Sea to The Black Sea. Nor were support act Cotton Jones strangers locally, having come through a number of times in their old incarnation of Page France and a few times since.

Of the two, Cotton Jones represented the more dramatic break from their former selves. Whereas Page France were a winsome if overly saccharine indie pop outfit, Cotton Jones was the sound of that band grown up and having traded tea parties for whiskey shots. That was applicable to both frontman Michael Nau’s voice, which used to be a nasally sort of thing but was now well and proper raspy, and the band’s songwriting in general, inflected as it now was with blues, soul and assorted Southern accents. Still, it was good to see that he and fellow Page France holdover Whitney McGraw hadn’t forgotten the melodic lessons learned in that band, and I generally enjoyed Cotton Jones’ set more than I ever did anything Page France did, though I have to say that “Somehow To Keep It Going” isn’t really a grand enough song to merit as extended a reading as it got.

The circumstances and significance of Nicole Atkins’ persona and personnel changes are well reflected in her new record Mondo Amore, what with the big orchestral approach of her debut Neptune City having been shelved in favour of something decidedly leaner and meaner. Accordingly, The Black Sea numbered just three plus Atkins in conventional two-guitar, bass and drums setup and the sound they made was even more stripped down than the album.

Their set included the entirety of Mondo Amore as well as some choice selections from Neptune City and a trio of covers that really spoke to the band’s versatility – not many bands can range from Krautrock (Can), country-pop (Cotton Mather) and funk-soul (Marie Queenie Lyons) and sound perfectly natural at all of them. Props especially go to guitarist Irina Yalkowsky, who had lots of room to move and space to fill and did so without getting flashy, though her solo in I believe “The Tower” earned her an ovation – I don’t know the last time I saw that happen.

But it was still Atkins’ show and though she and her bandmates had been plagued with illness over the course of the tour, you couldn’t tell it. Her voice was as strong as it’d ever been, rough and raucous on rockers like “My Baby Don’t Lie” and “This Is For Love” and richly emotive on the torchier numbers like set opener “Heavy Boots” and closer “The Tower”, and between songs, her spirits were high and banter sharp. If the past few years have been tumultuous ones for Atkins, then judging from the record she got out of it, the confidence and charisma she’s carrying and the shows she’s now delivering, they were worthwhile.

Chart also has a review of the show. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Boston Globe and Washington Post have interviews with Atkins while Baeble Music has a Guest Apartment video session. The Colorado Springs Independent has a feature on Cotton Jones.

Photos: Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea, Cotton Jones @ The Horseshoe – February 26, 2011
MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”
MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Vitamin C”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Gotta Cheer Up”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Glorylight & Christie”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Somehow To Keep It Going”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Blood Red Sentimental Blues”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Maybe Tonight”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “The Way It Is”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Neptune City”

The Wall Street Journal talks to Tom Scharpling, who is directing the new New Jersey-saluting video for Titus Andronicus’ “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future”. They play The Horseshoe on April 1.

One of the great music magazines of the ’90s is back in online form – Option, for whom my cousin worked for a while and got me a free subscription, introduced me a tonne of bands that I didn’t realize I’d love until many years later but I’d like to think there was some subliminal effect. Hopefully they will again be a forum for great long-form music writing, and this piece on Yo La Tengo certainly makes it seem so. Welcome back!

NPR has a World Cafe session with Sharon Van Etten. She plays The Drake Underground on April 12.

Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack talk to Spinner about their new record Civilian. It’s out next week and they play The El Mocambo on April 9,

Paste, PopMatters, The Calgary Herald and The New Zealand Herald catche up with Lucinda Williams, whose new record Blessed is out today. She is at Massey Hall this week, on March 4 and 5.

Spinner interviews Ume.

DeVotchKa’s latest 100 Lovers is out today; and Spinner have interviews. They’re at The Mod Club on March 30.

And since Toronto is generally hard-up for festivals of late, anything that offers locals the opportunity to hang out en masse getting heat stroke while soundtracked by live music is worth noting – like the return of the sort-of tradition of The Tragically Hip on Canada Day. This year, they’ll be at Downsview Park and be joined by Weezer, Broken Social Scene, Hey Rosetta! and Buck 65. Tickets are $59.50 plus fees and go on sale Friday. The last time I did The Tragically Hip on Canada Day was Molson Park in Barrie back in 1994… oh god. My memories of that show are now old enough to drive.

MP3: Broken Social Scene – “World Sick”
Video: The Tragically Hip – “My Music At Work”
Video: Weezer – “Keep Fishin'”
Video: Hey Rosetta! – “Yer Spring”
Video: Buck 65 – “Shutterbuggin'”

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Pow Pow

Review of LCD Soundsystem’s London Sessions

Photo By Ruvan WijesooriyaRuvan WijesooriyaThough James Murphy warned us even before This Is Happening was released last Spring, the LCD Soundsystem victory lap has run for so long and through so many gigs that the idea that the band as we know it is coming to an end in a little over a month – at a final Madison Square Garden show will apparently be attended solely by scalpers – is a bit surreal. But anyone thinking that that final LP was the last word from the band should definitely look for the London Sessions live postscript released digitally late last year and physically this year.

Recorded last Summer at south London’s Pool/Miloco Studios, the hour-long Peel Session-ish document functions both as a live album and best-of compilation. It captures the band sounding tight, lean and pretty much the peak of their live powers while running through a pretty good selection of their most essential tracks, adding occasional embellishments like the Joy Division-ish guitar parts on “All My Friends” and Murphy’s hilarious ad-libbed lyrics on “Pow Pow”, but largely staying true to the originals.

But rather than make London Sessions redundant, this faithfulness makes it all the more essential – those who only know the band from the albums might well assume that they’re a largely studio creation, but those who’ve had the privilege of experiencing them in a live setting know that they’re all hellaciously good musicians and Murphy is a completely riveting frontman, even though objectively speaking he doesn’t do much on stage. Even though there’s not the crowd noises and interaction you’d typically get from a live album, there’s still plenty of live-wire energy captured and the fact that the band are doing this off the floor – there are presumably no overdubs – makes London Sessions almost as essential a component of the LCD discography as anything else they’ve done.

London Sessions was released on CD in late January and will be out as a double-LP on April 26. The Vine has an interview with James Murphy.

Video: LCD Soundsystem – “Pow Pow”
Video: LCD Soundsystem – “Drunk Girls”

Billboard talks to Death Cab For Cutie bassist Nick Harmer about their new record Codes & Keys, due out May 31.

James McNew of Yo La Tengo discusses the band’s ongoing “wheel of fortune” tour with The Vancouver Sun.

Ted Leo talks about striking out on a solo tour with The Los Angeles Times.

Ra Ra Riot have released a new video from The Orchard. There’s an interview with the band at The Victoria Times Colonist.

Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Too Dramatic”

NPR solicits a Tiny Desk Concert from Local Natives.

The Black Keys are going to be at the Molson Amphitheatre on July 7. Tickets $50. Fifty. Plus fees. Yup. Presale today at 10AM.

Video: The Black Keys – “Tighten Up”

Magnet Q&As Gary Louris of The Jayhawks in advance of turning over the editorial reins to he and Mark Olson this week.

NPR is streaming a studio session with Iron & Wine.

Washington City Paper talks to Mike Cooley and The Chicago Tribnue to Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers. Their new record Go-Go Boots is out today.

Aquarium Drunkard has an interview with Lucinda Williams, who will be at Massey Hall on March 4 and 5 opening up for Levon Helm and promoting her new record Blessed, out March 1.

Friday, December 3rd, 2010


Review of Now, Now’s Neighbors

Photo via Big HassleBig HassleLast year, I wrote up a duo out of Minnesota called Now, Now Every Children who impressed with their debut album Cars, a no-frills chunk of indie rock made special by Cacie Dalager’s winsome vocals, simultaneously sweet and sullen. I had been looking forward to experiencing that specialness live in August of ’09, when they were slated to play the El Mocambo, but that show was cancelled when their van broke down for not the first time on that tour and given that apparently not many tickets had been sold, it wasn’t rescheduled.

But even without conquering Canada, they rode Cars to some pretty impressive success, touring the US and Europe before enjoying some well-deserved burnout and disappearing from view. And in that time off, they retooled, ditched half of their name and gained a member (or three, depending on what promo photos you look at) and have now re-emerged as Now, Now. Though less grammatically awkward, it’s still far from great as names go but complaints like that are quickly forgotten thanks to the first release it’s attached to, the forthcoming Neighbors EP. And while I don’t know that the differences between it and Cars necessarily required an identity change, they’ve experienced a pretty remarkable artistic growth spurt in the past year.

Dalager’s voice is still as beguiling an instrument as ever, but the growth in their songwriting and musicianship is what really stands out – the arrangements are more sophisticated and dynamic, yet leaner. It’s as though they’ve figured out how to do much more with less, and while the EP only really numbers four proper songs – two are acoustic versions and one an instrumental introduction – and clocks in at barely 20 minutes, it feels rangier and more satisfying than many bands’ can muster in twice the length. It might be just a teaser for a full-length that won’t be out for a while yet (it’s not being recorded until the new year), but it’s a strong reminder that Now, Now, or whatever they’re calling themselves a few months from now, are an outfit worth hearing.

Spin has a chat with the band and Filter is streaming the whole of Neighbors, which is out next Tuesday, December 7.

MP3: Now, Now – “Neighbors”
MP3: Now, Now – “Roommates”
Stream: Now, Now / Neighbors

The Fly has an acoustic video session with Warpaint.

Lucinda Williams will release a new album in Blessed on March 1, just in time for her dates at Massey Hall on March 4 and 5 opening up for Levon Helm. Paste has details.

Bandstand Busking hearkens back to warmer days (read: the Summer) with this session featuring Forest City Lovers.

Rae Spoon returns to Toronto sor a show at the Gladstone on December 12.

MP3: Rae Spoon – “Death By Elektro”
MP3: Rae Spoon – “You Can Dance”

Exclaim is streaming four of the songs to be found on the CD component of Feist’s forthcoming Look At What The Light Did Now doc, out on Tuesday.

JAM and talk to The Lowest Of The Low, celebrating the 20th anniversary reissue of Shakespeare… My Butt with two sold-out shows at Lee’s Palace tonight and tomorrow and an in-store at Sonic Boom on Saturday afternoon at 3PM.

Drowned In Sound has unearthed the transcript of an interview with Efrim Manuck of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, just in time for their return to active duty via All Tomorrow’s Parties. They’ve got four sold-out shows set for Lee’s Palace next April.

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

The Hazards Of Love

The Decemberists and Heartless Bastards at The Kool Haus in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt was a bit embarrassing running not one but two contests around The Decemberists’ latest opus The Hazards Of Love without actually having heard the record, so a couple of weeks ago I went out and actually got myself a copy of the dang thing. I count myself a long-time fan of the band but haven’t been that taken with Colin Meloy’s more proggish, long-form compositions and Hazards seemed to be the grand culmination of those inclinations and honestly, I was afraid to hear it because I was afraid I’d hate it.

Happily, I don’t. I don’t love it, but definitely enjoyed it more than I’d expected. It moves briskly, the more overindulgent sections don’t overstay their welcome and nestled within the whole thing are a handful of standout songs that would have fit nicely on a conventional album. And the vocal performances from Shara Worden and Rebecca Stark, both in backing and as soloists, remind how good Meloy sounds when there’s a female foil for his vocals. And perhaps most importantly, now that he’s gotten the rock opera thing out of his system, perhaps he’ll get back to his real strengths as a storyteller within a single song rather than the multi-part epics.

But the one place where a rock opera belongs is on the stage, and the touring production of The Hazards Of Love finally arrived for a one-night stand in Toronto on Monday night at the Kool Haus. I had assumed that after their last visit in November 2006 that they’d continue their upwards trajectory through the city’s venues and visit us next at Massey Hall, which would have been ideal for a show such as this. But it was the haus of kool yet again.

Touring support came from Cincinnati’s Heartless Bastards, who’d been having a pretty good year with the response to their latest album The Mountain. I had some trouble listening to the album not because of the music, but because of the mastering – the way it distorted on playback, I was sure I’d gotten a bad copy of the CD or something. Then I (accidentally?) got sent another and again, distortion. I understand that fuzz is part of their sound, but this was something else entirely. Finally getting past that, I was able to appreciate what everyone was and that’s a thick slab of country-blues rock anchored by Erika Wennerstrom’s raw, raspy vocals and greasy guitarwork. That’s also what we got in the live setting, their impressively visceral set going over well with the Decemberists’ (presumably) more cerebrally-oriented audience.

Though judging from the nervous anticipation in the audience, it’s probably a mistake to assume that the Decemberists fanbase doesn’t love the band with body parts besides the brain. After all, as soon as keyboardist Jenny Conlee took the stage to get things started, she was presented with a rather massive bouquet of flowers – welcome back to Toronto! Starting with “Prelude”, she was followed shortly by the rest of the band – much shrieking for Meloy, naturally – and for the next hour it was The Hazards Of Love, non-stop and I think that even if I didn’t appreciate the album, I’d have enjoyed the live performance. They didn’t go so far as to actually act out the narrative, it’s a bit too vague for that, but you couldn’t help but be impressed with how tightly they moved through the piece, with all the attendant instrument and stage changes, without missing a beat. Things did lag somewhat around the 3/4 mark, just as the record does, but the big finish more than compensated. For my money, the best part of the show was the fact that Worden and Stark were along for the tour and able to not only recreate their vocal parts, but add some impressive visual pizazz to the proceedings – Stark embodying the sweet and innocent Margaret and Worden the vampish, glammy forest queen. I’d always known that Worden had the voice for more theatrical endeavours but she also had the moves.

With Hazards wrapped, you’d have to think the band exhausted and so the 15-minute break was well-earned. But let it never be said the Decemberists don’t offer value for dollar, and so when they returned, it wasn’t just for an encore but an almost-full second set, made up of songs new – both songs just-unveiled over the weekend were aired out – and old, ranging from “The Crane Wife” from their last record to “Shiny” off their debut 5 Songs EP, all punctuated by entertainingly rambling banter from Meloy. It seems that having to remain mum throughout all of The Hazards Of Love was a real trial for him, as he was positively loquacious in the second set, chatting and working the crowd as much as singing. The highlight, however, was once again thanks to the Diamond ladies Worden and Stark as they came out to trade verses on a positively ripping cover of Heart’s “Crazy On You”. So so good – check out the video from their Minnesota show if you don’t believe me.

At this point they’d been going for two hours, including the intermission, so I assumed things were done and headed out. Silly me. From the street behind the Kool Haus, I heard them once again come out for an encore and thankfully one of the venue security guys needed some air because he propped open one of the doors and I was able to hear “Eli, The Barrow Boy” and a massive sing-along “Sons & Daughters” finally wrap the evening. Holy cats those guys and gals can put on a show.

Chart also has a review of the show. NOW,, Isthmus and The Chicago Tribune have interviews with The Decemberists and NPR is streaming some highlights of their set from the Newport Folk Festival over the weekend as well as their rendition of The Hazards Of Love in its entirety from SxSW in March.

Photos: The Decemberists, The Heartless Bastards @ The Kool Haus – August 3, 2009
MP3: The Decemberists – “The Engine Driver”
MP3: The Decemberists – “The Soldiering Life”
MP3: The Decemberists – “Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect”
MP3: Heartless Bastards – “The Mountain”
MP3: Heartless Bastards – “Early In The Morning” (acoustic)
MP3: Heartless Bastards – “Searching For The Ghost” (acoustic)
MP3: Heartless Bastards – “If I Were A Carpenter”
Video: The Decemberists – “Crazy On You” (live in Minnesota)
Video: The Decemberists – “O Valencia”
Video: The Decemberists – “16 Military Wives”
Video: The Decemberists – “The Tain”
Video: The Decemberists – “The Soldiering Life”
Video: The Decemberists – “Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect”
Video: The Decemberists – “The Bachelor & The Bride”
Video: Heartless Bastards – “All This Time”
MySpace: The Decemberists
MySpace: Heartless Bastards

Lucinda Williams is in town for two nights at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on October 10 and 11. Seeing as how it’s her 30th anniversary tour, the first night she will be performing selections from her 20th century albums, from Ramblin’ through Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, while the second night will focus on the last 10 years, from Essence through last year’s Little Honey. Wow.

A Camp has released a new video from Colonia.

Video: A Camp – “Love Has Left The Room”

The Singing Lamb interviews Amy Millan. Her second solo album Masters Of The Burial is out September 8 and she plays the Mod Club on October 14.

The Black Heart Procession will release a new album in Six on October 6 and are touring to support including a November 5 date at Lee’s Palace. PitchforkTV is also streaming a film that accompanied the band’s 2002 album Amore del Tropico.

MP3: The Black Heart Procession – “Rats”
Video: The Black Heart Procession – “The Witching Stone”
Video: The Black Heart Procession: The Tropics Of Love

State talks to Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear, who will be at day one of Virgin Festival Ontario, August 29 at Burl’s Creek.

Earfarm interviews Andrew Kenny of The Wooden Birds. They also played a studio session for Paste.

Clash has a feature on Explosions In The Sky.

New Radiohead song will cost you one quid. What, you wanted to pay what you can again? Pfft. Details on the track at NME.

So the Blur reunion… over and done? Alex says so, Damon says so, Graham says not so fast?