Posts Tagged ‘Monsters Of Folk’

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

CONTEST – Conor Oberst @ Massey Hall – December 8, 2012

Photo By Zach HollowellZach HollowellWho: Conor Oberst
What: Bright Eyes and Desaparecidos frontman, one-quarter of Monsters Of Folk, solo artist, Saddle Creek impressario, and perennial cover star of Non-Threatening Boys Magazine. You know who he is.
Why: Though he’s performing under his own name, he hasn’t released a solo record since 2009’s Outer South, which was technically credited to him and the Mystic Valley Band. Prior set lists indicate this is more a revue of his entire prodigious career – regardless of project – rather in support of anything specific. That there is the sound of absolutely none of his fans complaining.
When: Saturday, December 8, 2012
Where: Massey Hall in Toronto (all-ages)
Who else: Cold Specks is the very worthy opener for this show.
How: Tickets for the show range from $39.50 to $69.50 in advance, but courtesy of Collective Concerts, I’ve got one pairs of tickets to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see Conor Oberst and I promise I won’t cry” in the subject line and your full name in the body, and have that in to me before midnight, December 3.
What else: The Philadelphia Inquirer has an interview with Oberst.

MP3: Conor Oberst – “Danny Callahan”
MP3: Bright Eyes – “Lover I Don’t Have To Love”
MP3: Desaparecidos – “The Happiest Place On Earth”
MP3: Monsters Of Folk – “Say Please”

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010


Spoon, Deerhunter and The Strange Boys at The Sound Academy in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangAs of Monday night, it had been four and a half years since I saw Spoon live and just over four years since I’d been to The Sound Academy (nee The Docks) for a show. One of these streaks I was anxious to break; the other I was not. To be fair, I only missed one of their Toronto shows – a 2008 appearance at the Kool Haus in support of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – but apparently that was the one where they officially crossed over to “rock star” status. That last time at The Phoenix in November 2005, it felt like a show for Spoon fans – this time, at a room three times the size but just as full, it felt more like the show was simply the place to be that night. That’s not intended with any snarkiness, just an observation.

This tour saw the band bringing two others on tour with them – one who surely benefited from being shown off in front of such-sized audiences and another that probably could have packed a respectably-sized room all on their own. The former of these were The Strange Boys, who hailed from Austin, Texas and proudly carried on that city’s tradition of psychedelic-garage rock. Granted, they weren’t overly trippy, preferring focused pop structures over sprawling jams and weren’t above injecting some twang into their sound, but their roots and skill at said stylings were clear. A little more energy or stage presence wouldn’t have been unwelcome, but still a solid start to the evening from a band making their first visit to Canada.

Deerhunter, on the other hand, were probably responsible for drawing no small percentage of the audience, if not just for themselves then for tilting the decision of whether to see Spoon in one the city’s least-favoured venues into the “yea” column. Though their psychedelic/shoegazing/pop affinities would make them seem the sort of thing I’d really be into, I had not listened to Deerhunter much before and certainly hadn’t seen them live. And now I wish I had, because their set was pretty superb – musically, they were far more direct (read: less wall of noise) than I’d expected, but with enough bludgeoning volume and droning excursions to keep it sufficiently trippy and the show itself was livened up with Bradford Cox’s space cadet stage banter, an unexpected stage invasion from one of The Black Lips (or perhaps expected considering that before they began the song, Cox dedicated it to his fellow Atlantans) and another guest appearance from Spoon’s Britt Daniel, who took over on guitar from Cox while the gangly bandleader engaged in some on-stage shenanigans I couldn’t actually see from my angle – see the eye review for specifics. As far as their recorded works go, I’ve only really spent time with Microcastle – further recommendations are welcome.

I don’t, however, need any help getting acquainted with the collected works of Spoon, having followed them attentively since 2001’s Girls Can Tell, and if there’s a downside to their consistently excellent output over this decade – hell, century – it’s that it can cause one to take them for granted a bit. Some have criticized this year’s Transference as being less focused than its pop-friendly predecessor Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, I – for reasons I can’t quite articulate – prefer it. Both sides of the argument would have been perfectly happy with Monday night’s set list, then, as it opened with Transference’s sublime closer “Nobody Gets Me But You” and drew heavily from both records – seven tracks from each – while also hitting most of the essential notes from all the other Merge releases, even going as far back as 1997’s Soft Effects for the unexpected, “I Could See The Dude”.

In total, they ran through an impressive 25 songs over an hour and forty minutes, aptly showcasing the band’s unique sound and dynamic. Britt Daniel – he of the scratchy voice and stabby six-string – is front and centre, dancing around the stage in his herky-jerky manner as if pulled uncontrollably by his guitar but the contributions of his bandmates can’t be overstated, even if they seem perfectly happy to stay in the background. Eric Harvey’s keys provided the melodic underpinnings that allow Daniel’s guitar lines to wander while he impossibly tight and just funky enough rhythm section of Jim Eno and Rob Pope were omnipresent on this night – possibly because the Sound Academy’s acoustics leaned way towards the bassy. And don’t get me started on the sightlines – it’s a sad situation when you find yourself pining for the environs of the Kool Haus.

In my comments from that Phoenix show in 2005, I noted that ‘I will have to amend my one-line synopsis on Spoon live from “they put on a good show” to “they usually put on a good show, but sometimes they put on a GREAT show”. If Monday was a proper indication of how far they’ve progressed as a live act in the past half-decade, then their work on stage is almost on par with in the studio and I’ll have to update my notes to read, “they put on a great show” – no qualifiers.

Westword, NOW, CBC, The Quietus, The Toronto Star, The Chronicle Herald,NPR, The Toronto Sun and The San Francisco Chronicle have feature pieces on Spoon. Spin has excerpted this month’s feature piece that puts Britt Daniel in conversation with Ray Davies and New York Magazine talks to him about the art of the set list. Chart, The Globe & Mail and Exclaim have reviews of the show. The Fly profiles The Strange Boys.

Photos: Spoon, Deerhunter, The Strange Boys @ The Sound Academy – March 29, 2010
MP3: Spoon – “The Underdog”
MP3: Spoon – “I Turn My Camera On”
MP3: Spoon – “The Way We Get By”
MP3: Spoon – “This Book Is A Movie”
MP3: Spoon – “Mountain To Sound”
MP3: Spoon – “Chips & Dip”
MP3: Spoon – “Idiot Driver”
MP3: Deerhunter – “Wash Off”
MP3: Deerhunter – “Rainwater Cassette Exchange”
Video: Spoon – “Written In Reverse”
Video: Spoon – “The Underdog”
Video: Spoon – “Don’t You Evah”
Video: Spoon – “The Two Sides Of Monsieur Valentine”
Video: Spoon – “I Turn My Camera On”
Video: Spoon – “Sister Jack”
Video: Spoon – “Jonathan Fisk”
Video: Spoon – “Small Stakes”
Video: Spoon – “Everything Hits At Once”
Video: Deerhunter – “Agoraphobia”
Video: Deerhunter – “Strange Lights”
Video: The Strange Boys – “Be Brave”
Video: The Strange Boys – “Woe Is You And Me”

The Line Of Best Fit and Montreal Gazette have interviews with Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater; The Gazette has also posted the full transcript of their interview. Shearwater play Lee’s Palace tomorrow night, April 1.

Also on the bill for that show are Wye Oak, who played a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR.

Daytrotter is featuring a session with Richard Buckner.

Paste reports that Tift Merritt will release a new record entitled See You On The Moon on June 1. The Fayetteville Observer has an interview with Merritt.

Pitchfork has details on Blitzen Trapper’s new album Destroyer Of The Void, due out June 8.

MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Heaven & Earth”

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco is interviewed by The Miami Herald, Palm Beach Pulse and The Weekender while Le Blogotheque has a Take-Away Show with the band.

The Fly talks to The National frontman Matt Berninger about their new album High Violet, out May 11. They play Massey Hall on June 8 and 9.

LAist and The Dallas Observer chat with Ted Leo, who’s released a new video from The Brutalist Bricks. A Toronto show has also finally been announced – Ted and the Pharmacists will be at Lee’s Palace on June 26, tickets $15.

Video: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “The Mighty Sparrow”

Spinner, Prefix and Blurt have features on the Drive-By Truckers, who bring their new album The Big To-Do to Lee’s Palace for two nights next week, April 6 and 7.

Their respective members have moved on to new projects for the time being, but that hasn’t stopped Monsters Of Folk from releasing a new video from their self-titled album.

Video: Monsters Of Folk – “Dear God”

Crawdaddy profiles John Vanderslice.

NPR is streaming the entirety of Joanna Newsom’s concert in Washington DC last week.

Under The Radar talks to School Of Seven Bells’ Alejandra Deheza about their new album Disconnect From Desire. She says it will be out this Spring; it now being Spring, I am less confident than her about this point – it will be out this year, though.

Phantogram have released a new video from Eyelid Movies. If you’ve been having trouble finding in stores in Canada, there’s a reason – apparently it’s not out here until April 6, their deal with Barsuk not counting north of the 49th? Don’t know, but it’s worth seeking out wherever you have to go to do it. Playtonic Dialogues has an interview.

Video: Phantogram – “Mouthful Of Diamonds”

Portland atmospheric electronicist Eluvium will be at the Drake on May 22 in support of his new album Similes; tickets $12 in advance.

MP3: Eluvium – “The Motion Makes Me Last”

tUnE-yArDs brings her much-feted (but not really understood by me) debut BiRd-BrAiNs to the Horseshoe on June 13 – tickets $12 in advance. I tried, really I did.

MP3: tUnE-yArDs – “Sunlight”
Video: tUnE-yArDs – “Real Live Flesh”

Blurt, Pitchfork and Paul Westerberg – via The New York Times – eulogize Alex Chilton of Big Star.

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Being On Our Own

Review of Fruit Bats’ The Ruminant Band

Photo By Annie BeedyAnnie BeedyThe last time Seattle’s Fruit Bats visited was way back in 2005, opening up for Son Volt at the Opera House and in support of their album Spelled In Bones. At the time, I couldn’t help but be disappointed in the album and show not for what they were, but what they weren’t – namely their previous effort Mouthfuls and the cozy little show at the long-defunct B-Side in 2003.

And as I stated at the time, it was mainly the departure of vocalist Gillian Lisee from the Fruit Bats lineup that I had trouble with, having been such a fan of the way she and main Bat-man Eric Johnson’s parts played off one another on that earlier record. Objectively speaking, Johnson and the new Fruit Bats lineup did just fine on their own in crafting winning and winsome folk-pop – perhaps even better, with a less sleepy and more dynamic sound – but at the time I was having none of it and subsequently paid little attention to them over the next few years. Which worked out well, as the Fruit Bats went on a hiatus of sorts shortly thereafter with Johnson bringing home paycheques as a member of The Shins. And though James Mercer has cleaned house somewhat since The Shins’ last record, at last check Johnson was not only still a member, but Fruit Bats bassist Ron Lewis had also been recruited as a Shin.

Fruit Bats has continued as an ongoing proposition, however, and this past Summer they returned with a new album in The Ruminant Band. And with the benefit of a few years perspective, it’s easier to appreciate what Johnson has done since Mouthfuls – the new record is another terrific collection of feel-good, classically-styled pop that goes down real easy. Those who like some bitter with their sweet would be well advised to look elsewhere, because angst and melancholy aren’t part of the Fruit Bats recipe – just head-nodding, toe-tapping and melody to spare. Not to say that some female harmonies wouldn’t be the perfect compliment at a few points, but that’s neither here nor there.

And Fruit Bats will be here for the first time since that Opera House show with Son Volt – they’ll be at The Horseshoe on March 24, tickets $10. Usually doctor’s orders are to hole up for at least a week post-SxSW to handle the breakfast taco withdrawal, but here an exception might be in order.

MP3: Fruit Bats – “The Ruminant Band”
MP3: Fruit Bats – “My Unusual Friend”
Video: Fruit Bats – “The Ruminant Band”
MySpace: The Fruit Bats

While the new Shins record has no more precise target than sometime in 2010, James Mercer’s side-project with the ubiquitous Dangermouse – Broken Bells – is much more real. The album isn’t out till March 8 but the duo are giving away an MP3 of “The High Road” for one day only – today – in exchange for your email address. Head over to their website to submit and receive. There’s more details on the project at Exclaim.

Paste checks in with The Long Winters’ John Roderick about an upcoming collaboration with Kathleen Edwards, which should see the light of day after the next Long Winters album is completed. Which can’t be soon enough.

Penny Black interviews Trespassers William, who also recently recorded a video session with Off The Beaten Tracks, featuring a couple of songs from Trespassers William side projects but performed by both principals of Trespassers William. Which sort of makes them covers but not. Trespassers William are recording a new album this year.

The second installment of Paste‘s “Moog Sessions” is up and features a performance from White Rabbits.

NPR is streaming a radio session with Monsters Of Folk.

Exclaim reports that the Flaming Lips cover album of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon will have the excessive but factually accurate title of The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing the Dark Side of the Moon. It will be released digitally only – tomorrow on iTunes and next Tuesday at other online retailers. Pitchfork talks to Wayne Coyne and his nephew Dennis (of the titular Star Death and The White Dwarfs) about their decision to remake the classic rock staple. NPR also has an interview with The Flaming Lips frontman about their other “proper” album, Embryonic.

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Something Hiding For Us In The Night

The Wooden Sky, Hooded Fang and Brian Borcherdt at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIn leading up to Friday night’s show at Lee’s Palace, I’d wondered aloud as to why it had taken The Wooden Sky so long to play a proper hometown show, what with their latest record, the ex If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone having come out all the way back in August. Walking into Lee’s, I got my answer – they were building their sets. The stage was breathtakingly decorated with all manner of props and sculptures built of paperback books and pages, which my iPhone photo does not do justice (yes I had my regular gear with me and no, I didn’t take a proper picture – shut up). In both concept and execution, it was one of the coolest things I’d seen as far as art installations go, certainly better than stuff I’d seen at Nuit Blanche – big salute to artists Chris Mills and Tim Oakley for their work. So yeah, I was wholly impressed before a single act had taken the stage. A good sign.

Brian Borcherdt is certainly best known as co-leader of Holy Fuck, but before achieving instrumental electronica fame he plied his trade in a range of rock bands and as a solo artist, and it was the latter that kicked things off Friday. Armed with just a Jazzmaster and material from last year’s Coyotes, he showed off his more atmospheric if not quieter side, songwriting chops and an impressive voice that obviously doesn’t get called on much in Holy Fuck. He was joined by Julie Fader, with whom he’s setting out on tour, and then invited his drummer/collaborator on brand-new project Fields Of Fur and turned the rest of the set into a rehearsal of sorts, showing off his more rock-worthy side.

I had caught Hooded Fang a few times at the start of the year. Even then, over the span of just a month, they became a much more improved outfit, trading some amateurishness for assuredness without giving up the sense of fun and whimsy that gives them much of their charm. They still sound like Los Campesinos! crossed with Saturday Looks Good To Me, trading some of the former’s frantic tendancies and the latter’s Motown debt for an extra dose of tweeness and some of the distinctively Toronto big-band chaos (Hooded Fang numbered seven members). They still add a little more saccharine than I like in my musical diet, but there’s no arguing their upwards trajectory – look for their debut album early in the new year.

Not to suggest in any way, shape or form that they don’t deserve it, but when did The Wooden Sky get so many fans? The last few times I saw them were in basements or as openers and while they’ve certainly been around long enough to have amassed an audience, the size and enthusiasm of the crowd on this night was a surprise. Mind you, the fact that much of the audience seemed to be dewy-eyed girls implies the band has an appeal beyond their songcraft that I hadn’t picked up on before… Regardless, Lee’s was damn near full and dressed to the nines and The Wooden Sky took full advantage of the opportunity.

Their last Toronto performance, an intimate in-store at Sonic Boom in August, showcased the band’s intimate side just as Gone largely does – plumbing the still, deep reservoir of wistfulness and melancholy to impressive effect – and while they didn’t give that facet of their music short shrift, it was good – no, great – to see them get loud and raucous again. Featuring guest appearances from members of The Magic, Forest City Lovers and Evening Hymns, the set drew from both Gone and their first record under the Wooden Sky mantle, When Lost At Sea and presented a portrait of a band whom you could still accurately call roots-rock, but who were clearly using roots as precisely that. A foundation on which to draw on and grow something new from, and with Gone as a watershed record for the band and one I have no shame in saying I didn’t realize they had in them, I can’t wait to see where they go from here. The (wooden) sky is the limit.

BlogTO also has a review of the show. The Wooden Sky continue touring through Ontario and Quebec the rest of the month and there’s interviews with frontman Gavin Gardiner at Pulse Niagara and Brock Press. The Yarmouth County Vanguard talks to Brian Borcherdt.

Photos: The Wooden Sky, Hooded Fang, Brian Borcherdt @ Lee’s Palace – November 13, 2009
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Bit Part”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Something Hiding For Us In The Night”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “North Dakota”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “The Wooden Sky”
MP3: Hooded Fang – “Land Of Giants”
MP3: Hooded Fang – “The Pageant”
MP3: Hooded Fang – “Circles And Blocks”
Video: The Wooden Sky – “Oh My God (It Still Means A Lot To Me)”
Video: The Wooden Sky – “When Lost At Sea”
Video: Brian Borcherdt – “Scout Leader”
MySpace: Hooded Fang
MySpace: Brian Borcherdt

The two sides of Forest City Lovers’ imminent “Phodilus and Tyto” 7″ single are currently available to stream on the band’s MySpace. The 7″ should be available for purchase on November 20, the tracks will also be available to purchase digitally and a video for the b-side of “If I Were A Tree” is also imminent – all of which does a good job of building excitement for the band’s third album, currently targeted for a late Spring/early Summer 2010 release.

Most of the live music-oriented New Year’s Eve events around town tend towards the country-rock vein – which is fine – but for those who prefer a little less twang in their “auld lang syne” – also fine – there’s an impressive to-do at the Tranzac that evening featuring performances from Gentleman Reg, The Magic, Jim Guthrie, Diamond Rings and Laura Barrett, amongst others. Tickets are $12 in advance and do not include cold buffet or little plastic cups of flat champagne.

There’s a video session with The Wilderness Of Manitoba up at Southern Souls and another MP3 from Hymns Of Love And Spirits available to beguile. They play The Holy Oak (Bloor and Landsdowne) on November 21.

MP3: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Bluebirds”

Another Monsters Of Folk video.

Video: Monsters Of Folk – “Say Please”

Chart talks to Alela Diane, who plays the Horseshoe tonight.

Spinner gets a new album status update from Alison Mosshart of The Kills, who denies that Kate Moss ever threw a laptop containing all their demos into a swimming pool.

Black Cab Sessions drives School Of Seven Bells around Austin in exchange for a song. Alejandra Dehaza talks to NME about preparing to record album number two, entitled Disconnect From Desire and due out sometime in the middle of next year.

The nebulously-maned Music Reviews blog interviews Dean Wareham. The third Dean & Britta album appears targeted for a mid-2010 release.

The Line Of Best Fit and Epigram interview Christian Mazzalai of Phoenix. They’re at the Sound Academy on December 5.

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Stillness Is The Move

Review of Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca and giveaway

Photo By Sarah CassSarah CassThere’s not much question that Bitte Orca, the latest record from Brooklyn’s Dirty Projectors, is one of the most feted records of the year – the critical math says so and so do a goodly number of people whose tastes I respect and frequently align with my own. And as such, I’ve put more time than I might normally into the record, seeking a point of ingress to understanding and appreciating what everyone else seems to get but which I don’t. And I think I’m about ready to throw in the towel.

To its merits, Bitte Orca is meticulously crafted and a fine showcase for the talents and abilities of all involved. Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian’s vocals swoop birdlike in, out and around the dense musical arrangements of Dirty Projector mastermind Dave Longstreth and while his own voice isn’t nearly as lovely as theirs, it’s also an impressively distinctive and agile instrument. The record draws deep from modern R&B for inspiration and does a fine job of keeping many of those reference points intact while rendering them with different sounds and textures but that, I think is where they lose me.

The thing that bugs me most about most of what’s classed as R&B these days is the relentless showiness of the vocals. The acrobatics, the over-emoting, the pure ostentatiousness of it all. So that the Dirty Projectors emulate this aesthetic so well and extend it to the instrumentation is pretty much a recipe for not doing it for me. There’s no shortage of moments that come close, but they’re almost inevitably undone by a flurry of vocal trills or an epically meandering guitar line that serve no musical purpose that I can discern except to prove that they could do it. And it’s the fact that they come so close to catching my ear but fail to do so that’s most frustrating – I thought their contribution with David Byrne for the Dark Was The Night charity compilation was terrific, and if Bitte Orca had some of the focus that track did, I’d probably be toeing the party line in celebrating the record’s genius. Instead, despite my best efforts, I have to align myself with one fictionalized Emperor Joseph II, even if it means ultimately being on the wrong side of history… “there are simply too many notes”.

So that’s me, but I know lots of you love you some Dirty Projectors and are excited that the band are coming back this coming Saturday, November 14, for a show at the Opera House. Tickets are $16 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 be a Dirty Projection” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Also feel free to tell me why I’m an idiot for not loving the band. Contest closes at midnight, November 12.

Dirty Projectors are declared the epitome of Brooklyn awesomeness in a New York Magazine about how awesome Brooklyn is. Tiny Mix Tapes dissects – including charts and sheet music – a Dirty Projectors song.

MP3: Dirty Projectors – “Stillness Is The Move”
MP3: Dirty Projectors – “Useful Chamber”
MP3: Dirty Projectors – “Temecula Sunrise”
MP3: Dirty Projectors & David Byrne – “Knotty Pine”
Video: Dirty Projectors – “Stillness Is The Move”

Grizzly Bear, another critical darling whose altar I can’t quite bring myself to genuflect before, have released a new video from Veckatimest.

Video: Grizzly Bear – “Ready, Able”

Paste talks to Beach House, who are preparing to release their third record in Teen Dream on January 26 of the new year.

Clash interviews Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo.

Monsters Of Folk have a new video.

Video: Monsters of Folk – “Temazcal”

Yours Truly has a living room video session with Thao with The Get Down Stay Down.

Pixies are offering a free live EP of Doolittle performances to mark the start of their Doolittle 20th Anniversary tour. Grab it from their website.

Beatroute and JAM interview Ohbijou, who were the victims of a violin theft in Montreal a couple days back. See said violin in happier times in a video performance at Southern Souls.

Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham tells New York Magazine what the band are doing with their Polaris Music Prize winnings – a star-studded remake of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid.