Posts Tagged ‘NxNE’

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Now You Like Me How?

Polaris Prize long list announcement and NxNE preview, both featuring Woodpigeon

Photo By Mason HastieMason HastieIf there’s one thing I learned from being on the Grand Jury for last year’s Polaris Prize, it’s that the duties of being a regular jurist are far, far, far, far less stressful. There’s a real burden of responsibility when you’re one of the 11 whose duty it is to choose Canada’s “best album of the year”, forcing you to consider each nominee on the short list objectively, checking as much as possible personal biases towards genre, personality, history, whatever. It’s a lot of work.

And while in theory, the regular jury is supposed to apply that same criteria to their ballots, but it’s more of a free-for-all, some choosing to vote strategically to try and get lesser-known acts some exposure, others opting to ignore more commercially successful artists (though that’s probably the same thing). I took the same approach as in past years – essentially a combination of 85% personal favourites and 15% critical merit – and went with the following picks and rationale:

1) Woodpigeon / Treasury Library Canada & Houndstooth Europa
– one of my favourite albums of 2008, it hasn’t lost any of its winsome charm in the subsequent months. Expansive in scope yet exceedingly intimate-sounding, it’s simple and heartfelt and just beautiful. has an interview with bandleader Mark Hamilton.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “Knock Knock”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Love In The Time Of Hopscotch”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Oberkampf”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Lay All Your Love On Me”
Video: Woodpigeon – “A Moment’s Peace for Mary Christa O’Keefe”
MySpace: Woodpigeon

2) Land Of Talk / Some Are Lakes
– I’d originally pegged this as a bit of a disappointment as it didn’t have the same buzzsaw intensity as their debut EP, but in time I’ve realized that the restraint and nuance of the full-length reveals them to be a much more sophisticated band than you might have originally expected. And it still kicks hard when it needs to.

MP3: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Corner Phone”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MySpace: Land Of Talk

3) Rae Spoon / Superioryouareinferior
– The latecomer, dark horse, call it what you will, I’ve explained how this record from an artist completely unknown to me prior to a few months ago quickly became one whose melodies and emotional content would come to haunt the corners of my brain.

MP3: Rae Spoon – “Come On Forest Fire Burn The Disco Down”
Stream: Rae Spoon / Superioryouareinferior
MySpace: Rae Spoon

4) Bruce Peninsula / A Mountain Is A Mouth
– That the recorded artifact even comes close to capturing the intensity of the live Bruce Peninsula experience should earn it some sort of prize. That it dropped a couple of spots where I might have placed it a few months ago is more testament to the quality of the competition than a slight on the record itself.

MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “Crabapples”
MySpace: Bruce Peninsula

5) Metric / Fantasies
– This one might surprise some people who know I’m not even remotely a rabid Metric fan, but I’d be lying if I said that Fantasies didn’t have some of the best hooks and choruses of any record from any country this year., North Country Times and Decider have features.

Video: Metric – “Sick Muse”
Video: Metric – “Gimme Sympathy”
MySpace: Metric

And to my surprise, all five of my picks made the official long list, announced yesterday, which means that not only can I rest easy knowing that my tastes broadly align with the rest of Canada’s music critics (or maybe I should despair of that?) but that I now no longer need to do anything between now and the official ceremony in late September, when I will have to help myself to cheese and crackers. The short list of ten finalists will be unveiled on July 7, and I’m not going to speculate as to how many of the above choices will still be standing when the dust settles there. Hopefully at least a couple, so I have someone to root for.

I don’t know if the timing of the Polaris long list announcement was deliberately set to coincide with the start of NXNE this week, but it certainly makes my segue easier. I took an early pass at the lineup a while back, and now that the schedule has mostly worked itself out, my picks for the week are becoming somewhat clearer. Each night would seem to have what I’ll call an “anchor” act for me to either plan around or use as a starting point for the evening. Thursday night at 10PM at Neutral for Austin’s Ume, Friday at the Dakota at 8PM for Coeur De Pirate, with whom Singing Lamb has an interview, and Saturday at the Horseshoe, 9PM, for the aforementioned Woodpigeon.

Options for the Thursday night include Kensington Prairie at C’est What or The Balconies at the Drake for 9PM, Kittens Ablaze at the Rivoli or Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head at the El Mocambo at 11 and probably The Darcys at midnight.

With Coeur De Pirate being an early show, Friday is kind of wide open. Will almost certainly hit up Parlovr at Supermarket at 9, hope Swedes via Ireland Kill Krinkle Club are better than their name at Holy Joe’s for 10 and if not, there’s The Superstitions playing just downstairs at the Reverb. The UK’s Koogaphone have piqued my interest for 11PM – they’re upstairs at the El Mocambo – and seeing as how I’ve meant to see Provincial Parks for some time now, midnight at Rancho Relaxo seems as good an opportunity as any. 1AM will probably send me back to the Reverb for Parallels, though having The Sadies at the El Mocambo at the same time is about as sure a bet as you can get.

Saturday starts at the Horseshoe for Woodpigeon, and while staying at the ‘Shoe for NXNE for the stacked CBC-sponsored lineups is always an option, I will likely head to Bread & Circus to see Caledonia – though they didn’t make the long list, they got some substantial last-minute Polaris nomination buzz. Speaking of buzz, Band Of Skulls is getting enough that I’ll likely check them out at the El Mocambo but staying at Bread & Circus – with their lovely bright lights – for Olenka & The Autumn Lovers is also an option. Post-midnight is still entirely up in the air – suggestions are welcome, though they’d have to compete against the “go home and go to sleep” option, which is always a compelling one.

And if the official showcases aren’t enough to keep you busy, there’s always the unofficial ones, which generally take the form of in-stores. I haven’t seen anything slated for Sonic Boom, which is a bit unusual, but Criminal Records has a nice little lineup this week – Apostle Of Hustle at 7PM tonight, Said The Whale and The Daredevil Christopher Wright on the 19th, starting at 6PM.

As mentioned before, Ohbijou are doing an in-store at Soundscapes on Wednesday, June 17 at 7PM to mark the release of Beacons, a record you can probably expect to see me talking about when I do my Polaris Prize writeup for 2010. They talk to CBC Radio 3 and The National Post about the new album. They’ll also do a full show at the Opera House on June 25 – still have passes and prizes to give away for that.

The National Post has a Soundcheck video feature on Dog Day.

Someone obviously thinks I need to visit Montreal again. Today, Pop Montreal, taking place September 30 to October 4, revealed their initial lineup and as rumoured, the list includes the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Chairlift, Destroyer and the Dalai Lama (what?) – all fine acts, but their presence in Montreal almost certainly augurs a trip down the 401 to Toronto within a day or two. But more compelling is the addition to Osheaga (August 1 and 2) of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. When the initial lineup was announced and it was obvious they were importing chunks of All Points West’s roster wholesale, I bemoaned the fact that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs weren’t among them. Well apparently it was just a matter of time, because now with them and Elbow performing along with The Decemberists and Lykke Li amongst a host of others – and the fact that until V gets their act together and gives me a reason to head up to Orillia – 2009 is looking festival-free and that simply will not do.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Birds Flew Backwards

Review of Doves' Kingdom Of Rust

Photo via doves.netdoves.netConsistency is no great fault, particularly when the standard that one rarely fails to meet is as high as it is for Britain’s Doves. For nearly a decade, since their 2000 debut Lost Souls, the trio has turned out an album of classic-sounding, widescreen, melancholic space-rock every few years, each of which manages to expand and build on that which came before to some degree, but never coming up with the watershed record, the game-changer, the quantum leap forward. Some might argue that Lost Souls was that record, one so fully-realized right out of the gate that we should be thankful they’ve managed to maintain that level of quality and to an extent, that’s true. Not one of their albums have been a misstep, each rich with equal parts yearning emotion, musical textures and fist-pumping anthemicism, but even so there’s a risk in feeling too familiar.

Their latest, Kingdom Of Rust, perhaps even despite their best efforts, feels just that familiar. To their credit, they do go out of their way to incorporate new influences into their sound – the motorik rhythms of “Jetstream”, the country-western gallop of the title track, the scorching psych-rock of “House Of Mirrors” – but by the time they’re done with it, they’ve been so effectively absorbed by the band’s own personality that the finished pieces still feel Mancunian grey and simply Doves-ish. On the plus side, being Doves-ish means there’s at least a couple of spectacular moments – in this case, the soaring “Winter Hill” is the album standout – and not really any glaring weak spots. But I can’t help feeling I’ve heard this all before.

There’d been some speculation before the record’s release that given the breakout year their compatriots in Elbow had in 2008, that this might be the year that another band of never-too-fashionable northerners got their due. I still hold out hope that that’ll happen someday, but I don’t think Kingdom Of Rust is the record to do it. It’s a good record and a fine addition to the Doves discography, successful at adding further depth an detail to the musical world that Doves have already created, but doesn’t extend its boundaries. It’s pretty much exactly the record that long-time fans were probably expecting, and sometimes what you’re expecting isn’t what you actually want.

PopMatters has an interview with Doves and NME TV has a chat with the band on video. Q gets the band to offer thoughts on each of their albums – Lost Souls, The Last Broadcast, Some Cities and Kingdom Of Rust. Doves are at the Kool Haus in Toronto on June 1.

Video: Doves – “Kingdom Of Rust”
MySpace: Doves

Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan counts down her five favourite albums to Spinner. She’s at the Mod Club on Saturday night for a sold-out show.

Shoegaze week continues at Drowned In Sound as they interview Neil Halstead of Slowdive and Mojave 3. They also salute Slowdive’s oeuvre.

Blurt also gets in on the shoegaze action, reporting that Chapterhouse’s 1991 debut Whirlpool is getting reissued next week with a few bonus tracks.

NME is offering a track from The Early Years for download, the band’s contribution to a compilation by UK shoegaze label Sonic Cathedral.

MP3: The Early Years – “Like A Suicide”

JAM Q&As Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke.

You can currently stream The Cure’s recent secret MySpace show in Los Angeles in its entirety over at their MySpace.

Franz Ferdinand will release a dub version of their latest album Tonight entitled Blood on June 1 – details at Billboard. They’re at the Kool Haus on May 4.

State has an interview with Carey Lander and The Village Voice with Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura, latest recipient of the Pitchfork “Best New Music” honour for My Maudlin Career. They’re at Lee’s Palace on June 27.

NOW profiles Adele, who is playing Massey Hall on April 29.

Paste gets to know Micachu & The Shapes.

Artrocker goes behind the scenes of Sky Larkin’s latest video for “Antibodies”. Their debut The Golden Spike was supposed to be out domestically in North America by now, but apparently “technical difficulties” are holding that up some. No idea what the problem is – the CDs they had in the UK turned out fine. They just need to ship a few boxes of those over here posthaste.

MPR welcomes Robyn Hitchcock to their studios for a session.

I remember when people were all excited about M83 FINALLY came to town for the first time… Now they’re back for their fourth show in a year. Kinda less special. Look for them at the Phoenix on July 17.

NxNE has revealed a few more of the names set to play the festival this June 18 through 20.

But I suppose the biggest reveal yesterday was the fact that Virgin Festival is indeed coming back to Ontario for a fourth year (and also to Calgary and BC, apparently)- but you’ll note I said Ontario and not Toronto. I already knew that this year’s edition wasn’t happening at the Toronto Islands, but I’d assumed that meant Downsview Park. Nope. Try Burl’s Creek between Barrie and Orillia, an hour north of the city. That’s right – August 29 and 30 way up in cottage country – first reported at Consequence Of Sound and confirmed by myself through folks who know. I suppose this is actually keeping in the V Fest tradition, after all the UK editions in Chelmsford and Staffordshire are hardly in the hearts of any burgeoning metropolises, but then the British have an established tradition of traveling to and camping out at outdoor festivals. Over here? Not so much. So whereas my attendance at the first three were gimmes – festival a 10 minute bike ride from home? sure! – this one is far from it. I’m not a camper by any definition so there’s a whole issue of lodging to be dealt with on top of the transportation – I have not-so-fond memories of sitting for hours in traffic on the 400 up to Molson Park way back in the day – and that’s not even mentioning the prospects of being devoured by insects and/or bears. I’m going to reserve final judgment until I see the actual lineup – which should be soon – but it’s going to have to be pretty damned impressive.