Posts Tagged ‘Modern Superstitions’

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Sentimental Dishes

Review of PS I Love You’s Death Dreams and giveaway

Photo By Vanessa HeinsVanessa HeinsKingston duo PS I Love You have a pretty well-established aesthetic. Over there, you’ve got Benjamin Nelson manning the kit with an impressively nimble brutality while looking bored to a degree that would impress Charlie Watts, and then there’s Paul Saulnier shredding every neck on his guitar while simultaneously howling and yelping into the mic. It’s a recipe best served loud and live and that’s where I preferred to experience them, where it was easier to focus on Saulnier’s fantastic fretwork than his acquired-taste vocals which I had trouble acquiring. Still, enough people enjoyed the recorded version that their 2010 debut Meet Me At The Muster Station made the 2011 Polaris Prize long list and allowed them to tour the world, seemingly incessantly.

Somewhere in all that time on the road, however, they found the time to write and record a second album and that album – Death Dreams – is out next week. And while the aforementioned aesthetic still technically hasn’t changed, there’s still been a remarkable degree of growth between albums one and two. Saulnier’s delivery is still what it was – I guess I’m mostly used to it by now – but the melodies it carries are more tuneful and memorable. Along the same lines, the guitarwork is denser more textured and puts Saulnier’s ’70s prog rock influences ahead of the the ’90s college rock-ness that defined Muster Station, but the tunes as a whole are more pop than before, with more shiny highs to go with the heavy lows. And Nelson? Still doing what he does, probably without having cracked a single smile since the first record came out. When Muster Station first came out and people were singing its praises, I was skeptical. Yeah, it was alright for what it was, but just how far can they take this? Death Dreams answers that with a resounding, “this far and probably a lot further”.

And also as far as the cover of this month’s Exclaim, which goes nicely with their advance stream of the new album and this additional online featurette. Clash is also hosting the third of their Paper Bag Sessions live videos.

Exclaim loves them some PS I Love You and so can you – the band kicks off their Spring tour at The Garrison in Toronto on May 15 and courtesy of Embrace, I have two pairs of passes to give away for the show – to enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see PS I Love You” in the subject line and your full name in the body, and have that in to me before midnight, May 10.

MP3: PS I Love You – “Princess Towers”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Sentimental Dishes”
Video: PS I Love You – “How Do You” (Paper Bag Sessions)
Stream: PS I Love You / Death Dreams

Opening up that PS I Love You show and the whole tour are another excellent twosome, Toronto’s Army Girls. Their new single “T W I C E” which was streaming last week is now available to download, so you should totally do that.

MP3: Army Girls – “T W I C E”

Toronto’s Modern Superstitions are well overdue for their debut album, but they continue to release music in drips and drabs. The Sunbleached EP that was to follow 2010’s debut All The Things We’ve Been Told EP was finished last Summer but hasn’t seen the light of day and now a couple of new songs – presumably from those sessions – will be released as a 7″ on May 29, though it’s available to buy digitally right now. One of the tracks is up to stream and they have a couple live dates ready to go – May 31 at The Garrison May 31 and a NXNE showcase on June 16. Tickets for the Garrison show are $8 and include a copy of the 7″.

Stream: Modern Superstitions – “School Days”

NME has two pieces from an interview with Metric’s Emily Haines about their new album Synthetica, due out June 12. The first single from the record was just made available to stream and… I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about what it augurs for the record.

Stream: Metric – “Youth Without Youth”

The Guardian and The Fly have feature pieces on Grimes.

The Broken Speaker has an interview with Joel Plaskett, headlining two nights at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on May 18 and 19.

Exclaim and Interview talk to Patrick Watson; they’re at The Music Hall on May 29.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse have released a video from their forthcoming album of American folk standards, Americana, out June 5.

Video: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Oh Susannah”

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

The Double Cross

Sloan, Modern Superstitions and Whale Tooth at Echo Beach in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI’ve been trying to do piggyback a write up of Sloan’s latest The Double Cross on a live review all Summer but have been constantly foiled. For their album launch in-store at Sonic Boom back in May, a perfect storm of non-functional transit made a 10-minute trip take 45 and while I could hear the show, I couldn’t see a damn thing. Then for their two-night stand at the Mod Club I was felled by a post-NXNE cold so those didn’t happen. It certainly looked as though my post explaining my Polaris ballot – on which The Double Cross earned a spot – was going to be all the opportunity I’d get to sing the record’s praises.

Though really, I think that little blurb said a lot. By rights, Sloan should be national treasures, but by getting their narrative drama over and done with so early on in their career – remember the post-Twice Removed break up/One Chord To Another reunion – they’ve only been able to make headlines with a long career of making consistently good and oft times brilliant guitar pop. That should be more than enough but it also makes them easy to take for granted – something I’ve been more than guilty of, particularly over their last few albums which may have tailed off in quality but still deserved more time than I gave them.

It’s a trend which The Double Cross reversed; not because I decided it was time to revisit Sloan but because the record demanded that I do. It opens with a dizzying pop medley of indelible melodies and seamless transitions that’s formally divided up as three songs but really feels like five or six, rotating through each of Chris Murphy, Jay Ferguson and Patrick Pentland as lead vocalists and with each at the very top of their games. It’s as high a high point as they’ve achieved in their two-decade run so there’s no shame in the rest of the record not quite getting back up there again. One one hand, it’s Sloan by the numbers with the requisite Pentland and Murphy rockers, Ferguson pop gems and Scott oddities but when you factor in that the band sounds as tight, energized and focused as they have in many, many years, the whole record is like a wonderful, unexpected gift.

Not unlike their free show at the shiny and new Echo Beach waterfront venue last Friday night. Though not especially well-advertised, it was part of Ontario Place’s 40th anniversary celebrations and a “through the decades” theme that had been going on for a few weeks; somewhat humorously, Sloan were tapped as a band representative of the ’00s but whatever – it was Sloan, sun and sand, all underwritten by our tax dollars.

Warm up acts numbered two, starting with locals Whale Tooth. I’d seen them back in early 2009 and had been impressed with their energy and presence. This time out they still had plenty of both thanks to frontwoman Elise LeGrow but whereas I felt they came across a bit overly breezy before, the past couple years had definitely seen the five-piece Tooth acquire some bite. LeGrow is still a formidable frontwoman and vocalist but she now sounds more like a rock singer than a jazz singer in a rock band and the band, to their credit, has toughened up and expanded their sound – it might tilt a little too U2 at points, but ambition is a commendable thing and they remain all sorts of catchy and entertaining. Pleased to make their re-acquaintance. Whale Tooth play the Summerworks closing party on August 14 at the MOCCA / Edward Day Gallery Courtyard and that show is free.

The middle act was similar to Whale Tooth in being an up and coming local rock act with a frontwoman who looked great in shorts, but Modern Superstitions differed in taking more of a garage/punk approach to things and also in that I’d seen them just a month and a half ago at NXNE. As at that show, it was quite a different band from the one on their debut EP All The Things We’ve Been Told, incidentally produced by Sloan’s Patrick Pentland. Not even a year on from that first recording, the band are tougher-sounding and carry themselves with an attitude that doesn’t feel like a front – they weren’t at all intimidated by the thousands on hand waiting to see the headliners. I said in June that the next time I saw the band, I expected they’d be ready to take on the world – I still think that’s true, their debut album currently being mixed would hold the key to that – but if I’ll be deferring that declaration until our next encounter.

It’s been a bit of an ongoing puzzle to me as to just how big Sloan is these days – see above notes about their being generally taken for granted. Using the size of their shows as a reference point, as is usually relevant for other bands, is difficult given that they rarely tour Canada conventionally in clubs and such, instead playing festivals and special events where the onus isn’t necessarily on them to fill a venue on their own. This is especially true in their adopted hometown of Toronto, where the last few times I’ve seen them were at instores or at festivals – even those Mod Club shows I missed, though sell outs, were deliberately undersized. So while this show didn’t do much to answer that question, it did offer proof that you could easily get 4000 or so to come out and chant “Slooooaaaaaaan” if you don’t charge em for it.

Though they kicked things off perfectly with the aforementioned Double Cross opening salvo, the clock was then turned right back to the Peppermint/Smeared era for “Underwhelmed” and so began a musical joyride through their greatest hits. If anyone wanted to debate whether or not Sloan have been one of this country’s best bands over the past two decades, they offered up a convincing 100-minute argument for the “aye” side. The five-piece (including touring keyboardist Gregory Macdonald) brought their A-game to go with their A-sides and the result was pretty much pure win.

Picking out highlights was both a challenge and futile, but if pressed I’d submit “Coax Me”, which remains possibly their finest three-plus minutes overall, their bringing out Brett Caswell & The Marquee Rose’s horn section to serve up duelling solos over “Everything You’ve Done Wrong” or maybe when they all simultaneous fell apart during “Shadow Of Love” – hey, it’s not a proper Sloan show unless someone or everyone fucks up at least once. Also inspired was bringing out Nyssa from Modern Superstitions to lead a cover of the Martha & The Muffins song that gave the venue it’s name. If I had to pick a lowlight of the show, it’d have to be the inclusion of “The Other Man” as the penultimate selection – it’s a song that should probably never have been written, let alone made a single – but at least it didn’t end on that note. “Money City Maniacs” may have been entirely predictable as a finale and lacked the actual air raid siren that’s appeared at other shows, but that didn’t make it any less great.

And the same pretty much goes for Sloan themselves – yeah they’ve been around forever and yeah they’re pretty content trading in classically-styled pop music and not pushing boundaries, but none of that takes away from what they’ve done and continue to do. And while I don’t understand why they shun the Smeared material live – a little “Sugartune” or “I Am The Cancer” would have been a nice treat – that’s also a small complaint. What’s important is that we’ve had twenty years of Sloan and there’s no signs they’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

The Barrie Examiner has an interview with Sloan guitarist Patrick Pentland.

Photos: Sloan, Modern Superstitions, Whale Tooth @ Echo Beach – August 5, 2011
MP3: Sloan – “Follow The Leader”
MP3: Sloan – “The Answer Was You”
MP3: Sloan – “Unkind”
MP3: Sloan – “I’m Not A Kid Anymore”
MP3: Modern Superstitions – “Visions Of You”
Video: Sloan – “Unkind”
Video: Sloan – “Witch’s Wand”
Video: Sloan – “Emergency 911”
Video: Sloan – “All Used Up”
Video: Sloan – “The Rest Of My Life”
Video: Sloan – “The Other Man”
Video: Sloan – “Friendship”
Video: Sloan – “Losing California”
Video: Sloan – “She Says What She Means”
Video: Sloan – “Money City Maniacs”
Video: Sloan – “The Lines You Amend”
Video: Sloan – “Everything You’ve Done Wrong”
Video: Sloan – “The Good In Everyone”
Video: Sloan – “People Of The Sky”
Video: Sloan – “Coax Me”
Video: Sloan – “500 Up”
Video: Sloan – “Underwhelmed”
Video: Modern Superstitions – “Mercy Line”
Video: Modern Superstitions – “Visions Of You”
Video: Whale Tooth – “Hibernation Song” checks in with The Doughboys, who officially returned to active duty last night with a show at the Bovine Sex Club. They open up for Foo Fighters at The Air Canada Centre tonight… and allegedly did so last night at The Bovine as well?

It was already announced that Tasseomancy would be supporting as well as performing as part of Austra at their show at The Phoenix on December 1, but the August 30 release of their debut album Ulalume will also come with it’s own record release show – October 20 at The Great Hall. The Gauntlet also has an interview.

MP3: Tasseomancy – “Healthy Hands”
MP3: Tasseomancy – “The Darkest Of Things”

Feist talks to Rolling Stone about Metals, her first record in four years. It’s out October 4 and she plays Massey Hall on December 1.

And the Halifax Pop Explosion announced their 2011 lineup yesterday and it’s pretty stellar. I went last year and had a great time – terrific fest and terrific city; if I wasn’t in Iceland the week before I’d consider a return engagement.

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

NXNE 2011 Day Two

Fucked Up, Crocodiles, Chains Of Love and more at NXNE

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangHands down, the best thing to happen to NXNE in recent years is the designation of Yonge-Dundas Square as the festival’s main stage and making the shows staged there – usually featuring the lineup’s biggest names – free for everyone. And what’s better is that despite being located in pretty much the most central and public place in the city, there’s been no signs that they festival has been concerned about diluting the quality of the performances to be a little more family-friendly; witness last year’s near-carnage of Iggy & The Stooges or the mid-day ass-shaking sissy bounce clinic put on by Big Freedia. Passers-by were offended by the latter – and to be honest I don’t blame them – but that it happened was great.

And it was just as great that Thursday evening’s programme featured an early evening slot from a band whose credentials were impeccable; a Polaris Prize-winning local act with mounds of international critical acclaim and fronted by a national television personality. Who just happened to be called Fucked Up. And the best part? No one cared. Actually, check that – it didn’t even matter that no one cared because it implies that there were concerns about people being offended. The best part was that the show was fantastic. I don’t think I’d have believed you if you told me a couple years ago that I’d become a Fucked Up fan – I figured that respect was as far as I’d get, but fact is I think their latest David Comes To Life is terrific and I can’t think of anyone I like more as Toronto’s musical and cultural ambassadors right now than them.

After being introduced by the festival emcee – a role that Damian Abraham played last year – the band tore into “Queen Of Hearts” from the new album and Abraham tore into the crowd, body surfing into the masses and largely disappearing into the circle pit and general tumult while somehow continuing to sing. The punk rock revelling continued through the first portion of the set as Abraham’s bandmates dutifully cranked out arena-sized rock from the safe confines of the stage, with Abraham eventually climbing out to bellow out the rest of the set from the edge of the barricade while the fans carried on moshing, surfing and generally carrying on. And through it all, the spirit was amazing and celebratory, quite a far cry from the dark vibe of last year’s Stooges show, though to the casual onlooker the mayhem might have appeared similar. For Fucked Up, it was a sort of warm-up to their more familiar club-sized show at Wrongbar later that night, but for everyone else, it was a pretty high bar set for the rest of the night.

Time Out New York has an interview with Damian Abraham and the brand-new video for “Queen Of Hearts” is linked below.

Photos: Fucked Up @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 16, 2011
MP3: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Ship Of Fools”
MP3: Fucked Up – “A Little Death”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Neat Parts”
Video: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
Video: Fucked Up – “Black Albino Bones”
Video: Fucked Up – “Crooked Head”

I was pretty proud of myself for getting from Yonge to Ossington on bike in less than 8 minutes, even if it meant being a sweaty mess for the Modern Superstitions set at The Garrison. I’ve liked to check in on the local quartet from time to time, happily seeing the potential obscured by awkwardness at V Fest 2009 be more fully-realized in a much more confident Halifax Pop Explosion set last Fall. And the upward trend continued on Thursday as the band sounded louder and punchier than ever before, with new material that sounded less immediate but more impressive in its ambitions. While they could have done pretty well simply being “The Strokes fronted by a cute girl”, they’re obviously looking to do something more and that they’re arriving at these conclusions before their debut full-length is released can only be taken as a good thing. The next time I see them, I expect they’ll be ready to take on the world.

Photos: Modern Superstitions @ The Garrison – June 16, 2011
MP3: Modern Superstitions – “Visions Of You”
Video: Modern Superstitions – “Mercy Line”
Video: Modern Superstitions – “Visions Of You”

Leaving The Garrison, my tour of the worst venues in the city to take photographs in continued at The Velvet Underground where The Two Koreas were set to perform. I’d seen them way back in 2007 and was impressed enough at the time, but not enough to keep up with what the quartet in the years since. A recommendation to give their latest Science Island a spin confirmed that they were still at it and their facility for combining big guitar riffs with shouty yet melodic vocals was even sharper than before. And live, with frontman Stuart Berman’s dance moves thrown in, it was a good way to spend a half hour or so. And then it was back out into the night.

Spinner gets Berman to write about the duality of being in a band and writing about bands for a living.

Photos: The Two Koreas @ The Velvet Underground – June 16, 2011
MP3: The Two Koreas – “Midnight Brown”
Video: The Two Koreas – “Midnight Brown”

Getting to The Silver Dollar for 11 was strictly a logistical move to make sure I got in but it turned out to be one of the most fortuitous of the weekend, as it allowed me to see Chains of Love. The Vancouver outfit don’t do anything new whatsoever, but that’s rather the point. They take the spirit of ’50s and ’60s girl-group pop and writing new – GOOD – songs in that style and deliver them with genuine rock energy and plenty of sass and style, thanks to the charisma of frontwoman Nathalia Pizarro. A couple of gear issues threatened to stall their momentum early on but when they got going, there was no stopping them. An unknown quantity with only a 7″ and handful of MP3s entering the fest, they left as one of the bands everyone was talking about.

Photos: Chains Of Love @ The Silver Dollar – June 16, 2011
MP3: Chains Of Love – “You Got It”
MP3: Chains Of Love – “All The Time”

San Diego’s Crocodiles, on the other hand, came into NXNE with all the hype and lots to prove – not many bands get a three-night residency at a major festival for their Canadian debut. If they thought for a minute that they didn’t deserve the attention, however, you couldn’t tell from behind frontman Brandon Welchez’s Ray-Bans. Drenched in nothing but red light, they came off as cool as you could imagine and and as loud as you’d expect. On last year’s Sleep Forever, they found a good balance between the lo-fi psychedelic garage aesthetic of their scene and their fondness for big pop hooks but live, it was all about the drone and the volume. As such, guitarist Charles Rowell became the real star of the show as the amount of racket he was able to conjure out of his axe was most impressive, layering noise upon fuzz upon more noise, all delivered in riff form. Welchez gets points for simply being audible overtop of all that, but you couldn’t really hear anything more specific than that. Still, even so, a pretty bracing – and deafening – debut.

Spinner has an interview with Rowell, who post-gig also told them why they’ve never played in Canada before (hint: it’s what you think).

Photos: Crocodiles @ The Silver Dollar – June 16, 2011
MP3: Crocodiles – “Sleep Forever”
Video: Crocodiles – “Hearts Of Love”
Video: Crocodiles – “Sleep Forever”

I would have been happy to call it a night at that point but the fact that I was there, and Vancouver’s Dirty Beaches – whose debut Badlands was long-listed for this year’s Polaris Prize earlier that day – was up next was a pretty good argument for sticking around. And with regards to what Alex Zhang Hungtai – he who is Dirty Beaches – is about, all I can say is I don’t get it. I mean, I kind of do; his one-man, no-fi bedroom Elvis act certainly has a unique style to it and works on record in creating an atmosphere. But live, with Hungtai either shrieking or muttering into a plastic condensor mic or coaxing squalls of noise out of his guitar over simple looped beats, it was just kind of perplexing. The people around me went nuts, I went home. Dirty Beaches return on September 24 at the Phoenix as support for Peter Hook.

Photos: Dirty Beaches @ The Silver Dollar – June 16, 2011
MP3: Dirty Beaches – “Lord Knows Best”
Video: Dirty Beaches – “Shangri-La”

On a day where I would be seeing an Andy Bell and was writing up a band called Chains Of Love, how weird is it that an Erasure tour – including a September 11 date at the Sound Academy – be announced? Pretty weird. The show is in support of their new record Tomorrow’s World, due out this Fall, and tickets are $40.

Video: Erasure – “Chains Of Love”

As one festival ends, another begins. Or at least is announced. I speak of Summerworks, the annual convergence of theatre and music, and their 2011 music programme which was announced yesterday. Things kick off on August 4 with an all-day opening party and wrap on the 14th with same – details on performers for each are still forthcoming – but the evenings in between will shake out as follows, with all shows being held at the Lower Ossington Theatre with advance tickets $10 a night.

Friday, August 5 – Hooded Fang, Steven McKay
Saturday August 6 – Bonjay, Lioness
Wednesday August 10 – Great Bloomers, House League (featuring members of Forest City Lovers, Matters, Evening Hymns and more)
Thursday August 11 – Bruce Peninsula, Jennifer Castle
Friday August 12 – Miracle Fortress, Ruby Coast
Saturday August 13 – Green Go, Powers

The National Post talks to Shad, who will be playing a free show at Metro Square on July 1.

The Boston Globe has a visit with Chad VanGaalen.

The new Handsome Furs record Sound Kapital is streaming in whole over at Exclaim in advance of its release next week; Spin has an interview and a stream as well. They play The Horseshoe on August 1.

Stream: Handsome Furs / Sound Kapital

DIY has a pre-Glasto chat with Dan Mangan. His new record Oh, Fortune should be out in September.

Southern Souls has posted a video session with Little Scream.

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

What Do You Wanna Do?

Louise Burns and other gentle suggestions for NXNE 2011

Photo By Michelle FordMichelle FordAnother year, another NXNE, another NXNE preview post. I’ll apologize in advance if this one’s a little less thorough or exploratory than previews past, as travels and general business has taken up time that would usually be spent cruising band websites and Myspaces Facebooks, Bandcamps and Soundclouds.

But I can offer one unconditional endorsement for the coming week, and I’d like to think it’s not a wholly obvious one: Vancouver’s Louise Burns. Her debut Mellow Drama came out a couple months ago and sat in my CD stacks until some recommendations both personal and professional prompted me to dig it out and give it a spin and wow. Gifted with a crystalline voice possessing just the right amount of twang at the corners, Burns puts it to work on a remarkably strong set of songs born of a love of classic ’50s and ’60s rock’n’roll but grown to feel timeless rather than throwback. While not the most universal reference point, readers of this here site will appreciate how high praise it is when I compare her to Nicole Atkins in influence and aesthetic, though with less torchiness and more jangle in the mix. Dig those Pretenders guitar tones.

I’m quite taken with this record and so was pretty happy when Burns was a late addition to the NXNE lineup; her showcase goes 9PM on Saturday night, June 18, at Supermarket. Southern Souls has a video session with downloadable MP3s to check out.

MP3: Louise Burns – “Drop Names Not Bombs”
Video: Louise Burns – “What Do You Wanna Do?”

And here’s the day-by-day of stuff that, should you find yourself looking for something to check out, I think may be worth your while. I’ve left out some perennial recommendations because, well, that’d be kind of redundant, but they still have my implicit endorsement.

Wednesday, June 15
Young Contrarians @ Rancho Relaxo, 8PM – advertised to me as a fun sort-of side-project of local musicians who rarely play, the samples of their lightly synth-y, New Wave pop is better than lots of what I’ve heard from deadly serious, full-time bands. Check out the tune on their NXNE profile and tell me I’m wrong.

Lower Dens @ The Garrison, 10PM – hypnotically atmospheric Baltimore outfit finally returning to Toronto for a couple of NXNE shows, this one and another at 1AM on Thursday, June 16, at Lee’s Palace. One of the bands I really hope to catch but won’t be surprised if I miss completely.
MP3: Lower Dens – “Hospice Gates”

Ume @ The Drake Underground, 11PM – the Austin-based power trio who’re personal favourites will be previewing their new album Phantoms, due out on August 30. They always put on an absolutely scorching live show courtesy the guitar heroics of frontwoman Lauren Larson.
MP3: Ume – “The Conductor”

The Postelles @ The Garrison, 11PM – New York guitar-pop band that sounds like a New York guitar-pop band, which is to say kind of throwback garage-y and a lot catchy. Billboard and The Washington Examiner have features.
MP3: The Postelles – “Hold On”

Library Voices @ The Rivoli, 12AM – unflappable Saskatchewan collective who’ve endured theft, floods and living in Saskatchewan to keep putting out upbeat, catchy pop will release their second album Summer Of Lust on August 23. NOW, The National Post and The Leader-Post have interviews.
Video: Library Voices – “Drinking Games”

Thursday, June 16
Evening Hymns @ The Music Gallery, 8PM – Toronto duo built around the duo of Jonas Bonetta and Sylvie Smith will be previewing their second album, as yet untitled but due out in the Fall, in pretty much the most perfect setting short of a mist-covered mountaintop. Spill has an interview with Bonetta.
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Broken Rifle”

Fucked Up @ Yonge-Dundas Square, 8PM – the chance to see the 2009 Polaris Prize winners do their crowd-invading, half-naked thing in a public square is not to be missed, nor is the opportunity to hear their latest opus David Comes To Life live. They’ll also play Wrongbar at 1AM the same evening. The National Post has a feature.
MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”

Modern Superstitions @ The Garrison, 9PM – constantly on my festival “you ought to see” lists because, well, you ought to see them. Their catchy garage-pop get better every time out.
MP3: Modern Superstitions – “Visions Of You”

The Two Koreas @ The Velvet Underground, 10PM – in brief: local rock scribes form rock band, make surprisingly good guitar-rock record, get other local rock scribes to recommend seeing them and regret no longer being in bands.
MP3: The Two Koreas – “Midnight Brown”

Cowboy And Indian @ The Comfort Zone, 10PM – CRUCIFICTORIOUS!
MP3: Cowboy And Indian – “Ledbellies”

Slow Down, Molasses @ The Dakota Tavern, 11PM – sprawling Prairie collective who’ve found an extra dose of cohesion and rock on their second album Walk Into The Sea
MP3: Slow Down, Molasses – “Late Night Radio”

Evan Dando & Juliana Hatfield @ Lee’s Palace, 12AM – one of Alternative Nation’s original power couples, now back together and doing… I’m not exactly sure. But expecting to slapped upside the head with ’90s nostalgia probably isn’t unreasonable.
Video: The Lemonheads – “It’s A Shame About Ray”
Video: The Juliana Hatfield Three – “Spin The Bottle”

Bruce Peninsula @ The Rivoli, 1AM – local gospel-blues-folk choir continues their gradual return to active duty with their first live show in what seems like forever. Their second album Open Flames is out this Fall
MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “Light Flight”

Friday, June 17
Art Brut @ The Mod Club, 9PM – hilarious and whip-smart Brits will showcase their new record Brilliant! Tragic. Paste has a profile.
MP3: Art Brut – “Lost Weekend”

Volcano Playground @ Rancho Relaxo, 11PM – Atmospheric synth-pop made right here in Toronto that pulls together all manner of influence into something impressively unique. A local act to keep an eye on, whether at NXNE or not.
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Waiting”

Julianna Barwick @ Wrongbar, 11PM – Haunting, ambient soundscapes built on layers of vocals and imagination.
MP3: Julianna Barwick – “The Magic Place”

Swervedriver @ The Great Hall, 12AM – British shoegaze legends making a rare appearance in these parts… even if their last appearance in 2008 was at this very same festival.
MP3: Swervedriver – “Last Train To Satansville” (live)

Dum Dum Girls @ Lee’s Palace, 12AM – sun-kissed Californian garage-pop from the guaranteed best-dressed band at the fest. Including Devo. Spinner and NOW have interviews.
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”

Olenka & The Autumn Lovers @ The Gladstone Hotel, 12AM – London orchestral-folk faves finally return with a new, full lineup that should allow them to recreate more of if not all of their gorgeous And Now We Sing album
MP3: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers – “Odessa”

Rouge @ Sneaky Dee’s, 3AM – if for some reason you’re still awake and looking for something to do, their electro-pop will make a compelling argument for dancing, dancing, dancing.

Saturday, June 18
Cults @ Yonge-Dundas Square, 7PM – possibly the buzziest of all the buzz bands playing the festival, thanks to the love for the retro-pop that adorns their self-titled debut. They also playing at midnight at Lee’s Palace on June 17. Filter and Boston Globe have features.
MP3: Cults- “Go Outside”

Bellewoods @ The Dakota Tavern, 9PM – raggedly lovely and rockingly downcast outfit preparing for the upcoming release of their debut Don’t Rely On Me
MP3: Bellewoods – “Take Me Out”

Devo @ Yonge-Dundas Square, 9:30PM – They’re legends, they’re the headliners, they’re free. Are they not men? They are DEVO.
Video: Devo – “Girl U Want”

Smoke Fairies @ The Dakota Tavern, 10PM – English folk-blues duo specializing in tight harmonies and creepy atmosphere. Tour Dates has an interview.
MP3: Smoke Fairies – “Strange Moon Rising”

Peelander-Z @ The Comfort Zone, 12AM – A single look should be all you need to know if you want to see the planet’s premiere Japanese action comic punk band. They also play an all-ages show at Sneaky Dee’s at 5PM that afternoon. Spinner has an interview.
MP3: Peelander-Z – “Tacos Tacos Tacos”

Chad VanGaalen @ The Great Hall, 12AM – The release of Diaper Island brings Canada’s premier weirdo-pop auteur back to town. The Take and National Post have interviews.
MP3: Chad Vangaalen – “Sara”

Secret Cities @ The Dakota Tavern, 12AM – Classic, lightly psychedelic pop low on fidelity but high on songs, hailing from the music hotbed of Fargo, North Dakota. They’re also playing 9PM Friday at Wrongbar and 5PM Saturday at The Rivoli
MP3: Secret Cities – “The Park”

Obviously, this is just a tiny sample of what’s on offer this week at the clubs around town – to be honest, I haven’t even sorted out what I’m going to be seeing so I can’t very well say with any authority that these are the acts you should be seeing. But hopefully there’s something in the selections above that click with you and at least register as an option for your festival itinerary. And if you need more, check out festival previews at Spin (focusing on worthy Torontonian acts), OTM, BlogTO, Toro (two-parter) and The Line Of Best Fit

And note that these only covered the official evening showcases; while things are still far from Austin-scale, there’s more day shows and whatnot this than I ever recall, which is good news for everyone – particularly underagers and people without the time/money/energy for the club crawl. There’s a number of in-store shows, the Kelp Records/Line Of Best Fit BBQ on Friday, an Rdio-sponsored thing and BrooklynVegan-branded boat cruise on Saturday afternoon and the Live In Bellwoods performances in the park running afternoons from Thursday through Sunday to name the ones that are on my radar. And there’s also a launch party for the just-released Static Zine on the Sunday, which will feature live shows at both Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches and in Christie Pits.

Update: Just posted – Spinner’s as-comprehensive-as-you’ll-find guide to NXNE afterparties, day shows and secret shows.

So yeah, NXNE. Here we go.

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Lucky 1's

Shad and Miracle Fortress at Wrongbar in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThere’s not a lot of cross-Canada tours that skip over Toronto, but the Exclaim/Scion-sponsored country-wide trek headlined by Shad, and for this leg also featuring fellow Polaris shortlist alumni Miracle Fortress, looked to be doing just that with Thursday night’s show at Wrongbar presented as a private show, attended by contest winners and attendees of Exclaim’s 19th anniversary party which went before the show. But it’s not as though either artist had been strangers hereabouts lately – both performed in March as part of Canadian Musicfest, and both had more upcoming local dates over the next couple of months; if you wanted to see either of them, you will still have your chances. If you wanted some of the tasty hors d’oeuvres and free beer that was being handed out to party guests… well, sorry – can’t help you there.

But if you were curious about how the show itself went, that I can comment on. I’ve already talked about how much I like Miracle Fortress’ second album, the gorgeous blend of new wave and classic pop that is Was I The Wave?, and so was pretty excited to see/hear it live armed with an intimate knowledge of its contents rather than just the one-week head start I had in March. And while this performance was pretty similar in structure and presentation to that previous show – Graham Van Pelt on guitars, keys, and general sonic sorcery and Greg Napier on drums, a few laser-lighting and strobe effects and a lot of darkness – there were a few fresh observations.

In particular, the realization that as much as Van Pelt is often characterized as preferring to studio to the stage and only touring because it’s necessary, the live Miracle Fortress experience is as intricately arranged and choreographed in its way as the record – whereas the touring incarnation of Miracle Fortress changed a fair bit over the course of promoting 2007’s Five Roses, it’s pretty clear that Van Pelt knew exactly how he wanted Was I The Wave? to be presented live. The way that the duo are able to recreate all the nuances and textures of Was I The Wave? while incorporating a few more visceral live flourishes to keep it from feeling to pre-programmed was quite impressive, as was the fact that even with all the multi-tasking he needs to manage, Van Pelt’s vocals were pitch-perfect. In short, Miracle Fortress sounded fantastic.

And while Shad is always fantastic live as a performer, you couldn’t say that his hour-long headlining set sounded fantastic. Somehow Miracle Fortress’ elaborate setup was easier to amplify than Shad’s mic, turntable and bassist because he had to fight his way through feedback, poor levels and generally muddy sound. Luckily, though, he was in a fighting mood and despite all of that, he put on the most aggressive show I’ve seen from him yet. I don’t mean that in any sort of confrontational sense – that’s not Shad’s game – but just in the amount of energy and enthusiasm he put into it. If you’ve seen him before, you know that his baseline is pretty energetic; this was better.

For his set, he drew heavily on last year’s breakout TSOL and took advantage of the city to invite some guests out; Lisa Lobsinger of Reverie Sound Revue and Broken Social Scene to reprise her parts on “Rose Garden” and Grand Analog’s Odario Williams to take lead on their track “Electric City”, on which Shad guested. But from my perspective, the most memorable guest was the hopefully drunken girl who barged her way to the front for the last few songs of the set and proceeded to writhe and gyrate all over the stage monitors like she was auditioning for a Warrant video. I’m really not sure what she was trying to accomplish – though if it was to be laughed at by the rest of the audience, the club staff and security she succeeded – but as many points as Shad scored for the rest of his set, he gets bonus for not getting distracted. Wish I could say the same but I was doing my best to not get elbowed in the head by her dance moves. Memorable, if nothing else.

BlogTO was also on hand for wasabi mashed potatoes and a review of the show. Ca Va Cool ,, The Vancouver Sun and See interview Graham Van Pelt; Was I The Wave? gets a US release tomorrow. Shad will be playing at showcase to be announced as part of NXNE and also a free Canada Day show at Metro Square as part of the Toronto Jazz Festival. Miracle Fortress will be at The Phoenix on June 9 as support for Junior Boys. Update: Shad will perform at The New Social on June 18.

Photos: Shad, Miracle Fortress @ Wrongbar – May 12, 2011
MP3: Shad – “Rose Garden”
MP3: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”
MP3: Shad – “I’ll Never Understand”
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Raw Spectacle”
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”
Video: Shad – “Keep Shining”
Video: Shad – “We Myself & I”
Video: Shad – “Rose Garden”
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)”
Video: Miracle Fortress – “Maybe Lately”
Video: Miracle Fortress – “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”

DIY, Spinner and BlogTO talk to Katie Stelmanis of Austra, whose record Feel It Break is out tomorrow and who plays Lee’s Palace on May 19.

Spinner talks to Suuns, who are playing the Horseshoe on June 17 as part of NXNE.

Ottawa XPress profiles The Balconies, whose NXNE showcase goes at 1AM the evening of June 18 at Sneaky Dee’s.

Yours Truly has a stunningly-shot video performance from Basia Bulat playing a new song.

Modern Superstitions quietly rolled out a sharp new video a couple months ago. Worth a watch, as is the band themselves.

Video: Modern Superstitions – “Mercy Line”

Spinner talks to Will Whitwham of The Wilderness Of Manitoba about taking their folk-pop around the world.

Southern Souls has both audio and video from The Darcys’ show at Steam Whistle Brewing a couple weeks ago.

Five words that I never thought I’d see together – Fucked Up and Air Canada Centre (unless it was in the context of how the Leafs do on the ice). And yet Toronto’s premiere hardcore outfit will indeed be going arena-sized on August 9 when they open up for Foo Fighters. And on top of it all, Montreal pop-punkers from the ’90s The Doughboys are back together and will also be on the bill. Fun fact – my band in high school covered The Doughboys’ “Shine” because I liked playing the riff. Yes, I basically made a hash of it every time; I fail to see what that has to do with anything. Fucked Up’s David Comes To Life is out June 7 and the band have released a mini-doc video talking about the new record.

MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
Video: Foo Fighters – “Rope”
Video: Doughboys – “Shine”

Handsome Furs have made the first MP3 from their forthcoming Sound Kapital available to download without and bloodletting or having to sign up for any mailing lists. The record is out June 28.

MP3: Handsome Furs – “What About Us”

Efforts to catch Sloan’s in-store at Sonic Boom on Saturday were largely foiled thanks to the TTC, who got me there about 40 minutes later than expected. As a result, I couldn’t see anything and there won’t be much writeup beyond saying that The Double Cross continues to impress me with how top-to-bottom great it is, they’re still not nor will they likely ever be an airtight live band but that’s part of their charm and I’m going to have to hit their June 22 show at The Mod Club now. In the meantime, check out this Q&A with Patrick Pentland as the band prepare to commandeer the Magnet website for a week, this guided tour of Sloan’s rehearsal space at Metro, this review/reminiscence of the record/band from Dave Ullrich of Inbreds at Thick Specs and two more installments in their video tributes – a choral “Everything You’ve Done Wrong” and celebrities choosing their favourite Sloan albums.