Posts Tagged ‘Slow Down Molasses’

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, November 2nd, 2009

Northern Lights

Olenka & The Autumn Lovers, The Wilderness Of Manitoba and Slow Down Molasses at The Garrison in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangLast Thursday night was spent at The Garrison, the newlyopened west-end venue that’ll be home to the final year of Wavelength as well as a plethora of other local music happenings. A fine example of this was this evening’s bill, featuring bands with long names from near, far and sorta-near-but-not-that-close: The Wilderness Of Manitoba, Slow Down Molasses and Olenka & The Autumn Lovers.

Slow Down Molasses represented the “far”, hailing from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and were up first. I’d spent some time with their debut I’m An Old Believer in advance of the show and while the seven-piece outfit obviously has no shortage of ideas, largely revolving around a heartbreaking, widescreen country-rock epic I can definitely get behind, but I didn’t find Believer to be as focused or immersive a listening experience as it’d have probably needed to be to really wow me. Live, however, they make it work a lot better – all the many pieces come together nicely and the punchier delivery makes up for some of the thinner/wispier production choices and sometimes hesitant delivery on record. And bonus points for not only thinking to use a typewriter as a musical instrument but for making it work.

The Wilderness Of Manitoba got some face time here last week and were certainly a big part of the draw for this show. Though still a relatively new act, the word of mouth around them and the harmony-laden folk songs of their debut mini-album Hymns Of Love And Spirits has been spreading quickly so there was a pretty good size crowd assembled for their performance. And, indeed, the harmonies were pretty impressive – not divine, as the more hyperbolic might want to believe, but certainly rich and well-arranged. They brought more to the table than just their voices, though, and tastefully filled out their sound with cello, singing bowls and ukulele in addition to the more traditional guitar, bass and drums. As with the preceding band, I found the live Wilderness Of Manitoba more engaging than the recorded one, mostly thanks to the additional sonic weight of the live instrumentation – whereas Hymns seems to float above, on stage they sounded decidedly more anchored and some of the new material would certainly seem to demand that extra oomph. I know the EP just came out but I look forward to hearing what they do next.

I know I’d been intending to see London, Ontario’s Olenka & The Autumn Lovers for a long time – at least a year, and certainly they’re on my schedule every time CMW or NXNE rolls around – but it just hasn’t happened until now. So I won’t dwell on time and opportunities lost and just be thankful that finally, I am enlightened to their myriad charms. Calling them a folk band is accurate but insufficient; however trying to get more specific can be tricky. Their musical roots are Olenka Krakus’, which is to say the Old World/Eastern European/Balkan traditions which have been well-plied by the likes of Beirut and DeVotchKa in recent years, but rather than destinations as they are for those acts, for the Autumn Lovers they’re more of a starting point and they go wherever Krakus’ rich voice and vivid songwriting would go – brassy country twang one moment, mysterious Gallic chanteuse the next and all points in between. All of that was on display on Thursday night, as Krakus led her band through a spirited set which showed off their musicality and versatility and the sort of tightness that a couple weeks on the road tends to provide. I can’t provide much more specifics than that on account of not really knowing their material at the time but I’ve been rectifying that, having already put their recent Papillonette EP on heavy rotation and can say that what the cover of “Dancing In The Dark”, with which they closed the encore, lacked in polish, it more than made up for in enthusiasm and manpower. Joyous stuff, and be assured I won’t be missing them again.

Olenka’s just-wrapped eastern Canadian tour yielded features in BlogTO, JAM and The Chronicle Herald while BlogTO also talked to Slow Down, Molasses in advance of their show.

Photos: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers, The Wilderness Of Manitoba, Slow Down Molasses @ The Garrison – October 29, 2009
MP3: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers – “Eggshells”
MP3: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Bluebirds”
MP3: Slow Down, Molasses – “I’m An Old Believer”
MySpace: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers
MySpace: Slow Down Molasses

And this segues nicely into the second half of this post as Olenka & The Autumn Lovers placed an impressive 27th in the 2009 edition of I Heart Music’s “Hottest Bands In Canada” poll, the results of which were announced at the end of last week and which was topped by The Rural Alberta Advantage – which, really, was the only possible sensible outcome. As always, it’s a far from comprehensive survey of Canadian online music writer/blogger types, but does give a decent impression of who’s being talked about… by Canadian online music writer/blogger types. Eight of my ten picks made the final list, and as in past years, my picks were a melange of subjective opinion and objective fact, served with a healthy dose of rushing to get it in before the deadline. My full ballot with pithy blurbage is below.

1. The Rural Alberta Advantage – To hear them or see them is to love them, and while buzz had been growing steadily since last Fall, it was a storybook SxSW this past Spring that made them arguably one of the hottest Canadian exports of the year and it’s a tale that shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Don’t Haunt This Place”

2. Fucked Up – Winning the Polaris Prize should pretty much guarantee you a top-5 spot in this poll, and by doing so, Fucked Up have taken hardcore just a little bit further into the mainstream and are as unlikely and appropriate ambassadors for Canadian music as you’ll find.

MP3: Fucked Up – “No Epiphany”

3. Metric – The tale of the tape doesn’t lie – they scored their second Polaris nomination for “Fantasies”, sold tens of thousands of records and are selling out large theatres across the country. they may be hated by many but are loved by even more.

Video: Metric – “Sick Muse”

4. Ohbijou – They released a glittering jewel of a sophomore effort in “Beacons”, toured relentlessly across Canada, the United States and Europe and with their Bellwoods house, now a thing of myth, essentially acted as a fulcrum for a new wave of bands coming out of Toronto. And somehow managed to raise almost $20,000 for the food bank at the same time.

MP3: Ohbijou – “Black Ice”

5. Woodpigeon – Calgary’s best-kept secret has started getting the sort of accolades at home that they’ve been earning abroad and turned a limited run record of non-album tracks into a Polaris long-listed record. Just imagine what they’ll do when they release Die Stadt Muzikanten in January, an album that’s actually meant to be an album.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “Love In The Time Of Hopscotch”

6. Final Fantasy – Getting ranked for a record that’s not out yet and a hot year that’s not actually occurred yet is a bit like winning the Nobel Peace Prize without having actually brokered any peace, but the anticipation for Owen Pallet’s first record in almost four years is substantial enough to warrant it.

MP3: Final Fantasy – “Ultimatum”

7. Chad Van Gaalen – I will personally probably never take a seat on this particular bandwagon, but there’s no denying that the cult of Chad continues to grow with every record he puts out. And if this were a poll of Canada’s oddest musicians, he’d be number one with a bullet.

MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “City Of Electric Light”

8. The Wooden Sky – Long-time fixtures of the Toronto scene, their new record “If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone” feels like a game-changer for the band in every sense. They’ve made records, they’ve toured their asses off and now, people are talking. A lot.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Bit Part”

9. Dan Mangan – while I still think that declaring him “artist of the year”, as Verge XM did, is a bit premature, there’s no question that “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” is a watershed record for the Vancouver artist and one that could and should elevate him to the ranks of the finest new songwriters in the country.

MP3: Dan Mangan – “Road Regrets”

10. The Balconies – “Hottest in Canada” is probably an overstatement as they’re still hardly known outside of Ottawa and Toronto, but this power trio have got the songs and the style to ensure that by the time this poll runs next year, they’ll have made a much bigger name for themselves. Consider this a pre-emptive move.

MP3: The Balconies – “300 Pages”

And a couple related notes – The Rural Alberta Advantage will play an in-store at Soundscapes on November 17 at 7PM as a warm-up to their big show at Lee’s Palace on the 20th. Oh, and they’re playing the Olympics, too.

The Torture Garden has an interview with Final Fantasy’s Owen Pallett. Heartland is out January 12.

Dan Mangan has released a new video for “Robots” from Nice, Nice, Very Nice. Brace yourself for adorableness.

Video: Dan Mangan – “Robots”

The Line Of Best Fit has posted a sixth “Oh! Canada” downloadable mixtape, chock full of the best new Canadiana as judged by the British.