Posts Tagged ‘Swans’

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Yours, Mine and Ours

Joe Pernice & Norman Blake at The Dakota Tavern in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI don’t think Toronto necessarily has an international reputation as a destination for expatriate pop geniuses, but apparently Canadian women hold a certain appeal for them. Joe Pernice of Pernice Brothers has been up here for the better part of eight years while Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub moved to Kitchener a couple years ago – both on account of their Canadian wives – and on Friday night, they were on stage together at The Dakota Tavern for a low-key show together. It had been advertised as a Joe Pernice show with the promise of a “special guest”, and while a show from Joe alone would be worth pencilling into the calendar, once the faintly-veiled clues as to who said guest would be got out, it turned into a must-see.

Anyone expecting a high-falutin’ musical summit between two of the finest pop songwriters around would have done well to dial down their expectations, though. The show was much more of a back porch strumalong between two old friends who just happened to have one hell of a songbook to draw from and though it had its share of sloppy moments, that arguably made it even more special and memorable than if it had been meticulously rehearsed. Pernice started out with a short solo set that drew from his many projects – Pernice Brothers, Joe solo, Scud Mountain Boys – and included a new song entitled “Surf’s Up” that he revealed was from a new, just-completed Scuds record. Scoop!

Blake was then invited onstage and the two spent the rest of the show playing each other’s songs – Pernice on a standard acoustic, Blake on a Nashville-strung parlour-body – and reminding the gathered that they were two of the funniest stage banterers in the business with some great repartee. There was plenty of time for banter as Blake’s guitar required plenty of tuning and retuning – their first run through of “Baby Lee” went further out of tune with each strum and forced a do-over – but when they were able to get onto a song, it was grand if clearly not overly rehearsed. Even with a music stand overflowing with notes onto the floor between them, they were happy to do things off the cuff – Blake had to teach Pernice the chords to “You Was Me” from his Jonny side-project with Euros Childs on the fly (it turned out fine) and even though their take on Fanclub’s “I Don’t Want Control Of You” was a bit of a comedy of errors, they still made it tremendously entertaining.

The stuff that was more properly arranged, however, was nothing sort of sublime. Hearing them trade verses on “Everything Flows” was easily the highlight of the night and their finale of “Alcoholiday” not far behind. You obviously didn’t have the wall of harmonies that Teenage Fanclub proper can offer, but Pernice’s falsetto was a pretty good stand-in. It wasn’t just about the Fanclub material, mind, as their work on “Loving Kind” off the last Pernice Brothers album Goodbye Killer was stirring and their cover of The Zombies’ “The Butcher’s Tale” darkly affecting. Though they obviously could have kept going all night, a hard curfew forced them to cap things at 90 minutes though they were permitted an encore of Fanclub’s “Start Again” that was a divine finale.

It’s not clear if this tweet is a joke or a promise, but an actual collaboration between the two – or even some more of these casual-vibe shows – would be a great treat and a far better way to enjoy having these talents as locals than going through their trash.

The Calgary Herald has an interview with Joe Pernice about his plans to release two albums this year – the aforementioned new Scuds record and the long-promised new Pernice Brothers album.

Photos: Joe Pernice & Norman Blake @ The Dakota Tavern – June 22, 2012
MP3: Pernice Brothers – “Somerville”
MP3: Scud Mountain Boys – “Grudge Fuck”
MP3: Teenage Fanclub – “Baby Lee”
MP3: Teenage Fanclub – “It’s All In My Mind”
MP3: Teenage Fanclub – “Everything Flows”
MP3: Jonny – “Candyfloss”
MP3: Jonny – “Gloria”

Dirty Projectors are giving away a couple tracks from their forthcoming Swing Lo Magellan, out July 10. They play The Music Hall on July 6.

MP3: Dirty Projectors – “Dance For You”
MP3: Dirty Projectors – “Gun Has No Trigger”
Video: Dirty Projectors – “Gun Has No Trigger”

The Alternate Side has a session and Clash, Houston Press, and Indy Week have interviews with Lower Dens. They play Lee’s Palace on July 17.

Beirut has released a video for the title track of last year’s The Rip Tide. They are at The Sound Academy on July 19.

Video: Beirut – “The Rip Tide”

The Antlers are streaming a track from their forthcoming EP Undersea, due out July 24.

Stream: The Antlers – “Drift Dive”

The Shins have rolled out a new video from Port Of Morrow; they’re in town August 4 opening up for The Black Keys at The Molson Amphitheatre.

Video: The Shins – “No Way Down”

Pitchfork talks to Cat Power about her new record Sun, due for release on September 4.

Aimee Mann has given Rolling Stone the title track of her new record Charmer to stream. It’s out September 18.

Stream: Aimee Mann – “Charmer”

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion has taken their reunion from the stage into the studio and are set to release their first new album since 2004’s Damage in Meat & Bone, out September 18. Then they’ll take in back to the stage with a series of live dates that includes an October 18 appearance at The Horseshoe in Toronto. Stream one of the new songs below.

Stream: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – “Black Mold”

San Fransciso goth-gazers The Soft Moon will be at The Drake Underground on September 22, tickets $11.50 in advance.

MP3: The Soft Moon – “Tiny Spiders”
MP3: The Soft Moon – “Breathe The Fire”

Michael Gira’s Swans will make an appearance at Lee’s Palace on October 25 in support of their new double-record We Rose From Your Bed With The Sun In Our Head, tickets for that $26.50 in advance.

MP3: Swans – “Sex God Sex”

Matt & Kim are preparing for the Fall release of their new record Let’s Go with a video for the title track.

Video: Matt & Kim – “Let’s Go”

Boulder Weekly has a tete-a-tete with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco while The Daily Herald and Missoulian chat with Nels Cline.

Interview talks to Munaf Rayani of Explosions In The Sky.

Spinner documents a typical day in the life of The Flaming Lips, assuming that playing a free show in downtown Toronto as part of NXNE counts as typical for these guys. Maybe it does. You don’t know.

Okay, gotta go. San Francisco beckons.

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Ending On A High Note

a-ha and Ray Materick at Massey Hall in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI’ve taken a bit of ribbing in the last while about not only attending Monday night’s a-ha show at Massey Hall, but for being excited about it. Which is sort of fair, I suppose, as the Norwegian trio largely fell off the North American radar around 1987, despite not only maintaining but growing a massive fanbase worldwide over the past two decades plus. But those who assumed the band had been creatively fallow since Hunting High And Low – or even no longer in existence – not only missed out on 25 years or so of great pop music, but by ignoring the Toronto stop on the band’s farewell tour, an amazing show as well.

I can’t pretend that I’ve kept up with a-ha in all that time. Their first three albums or so were staples of my youth, thanks to my older brother’s music collection, but circa 1990’s East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon, grunge/alternative broke out and there was little room in this 15-year old’s world for sophisticated Euro-pop. Even so, I’ve always had a soft spot for them, gave new singles a listen whenever they crossed my path and taken notice if they made any sort of news – as they did when they announced last Fall that they would split up after a final world tour that would cover most of 2010. And when Toronto was listed as one of the four North American cities and seven shows on this continent in total to host one of these farewell shows, I decided I kind of had to be there. Which brings us to Monday.

If you’ve ever wondered what 24 years of pent-up demand felt like – that’s how long it had been since a-ha’s last and only visit to Toronto – then Massey, where that show also happened, was the place to be. I would imagine that anyone who only knew them as “that band with that song and that video” was elsewhere on this evening (or else had too much disposable income) because while the theatre wasn’t quite sold out – I wager there were a couple hundred of the less choice seats vacant – but the buzz of anticipation from the other couple thousand plus in attendance more than made up for the empty seats.

When the lights dimmed for the start of the show, anticipation turned into confusion as the opener was introduced as Hamilton folksinger Ray Materick, who had a few radio hits back in the ’70s. His appearance was not without context, as this piece in eye explains, but it was an odd pairing to say the least. While Materick delivered a short set of his material new and old, the audience managed to stay on the right side of polite while not really paying much attention. Which is probably all that could have been expected.

“Polite” wouldn’t be the word to describe the atmosphere when the house lights dimmed a second time and the giant video screen that served as backdrop to the otherwise bare-bones stage setup began playing a montage of sweeping abstract visuals – “madness” might be more accurate. And “madness squared” for when the visuals resolved into a giant “2010” and the band strode onto a Toronto stage for the first time in almost a quarter century. Not that you could necessarily tell that much time had elapsed by looking at them – though all around 50 years of age, they all looked remarkably well-kept and youthful. But they weren’t here just to act as testaments to the benefits of nordic living; they were here to put on a show.

And with the title track of their latest (last) album Foot Of The Mountain, they began a backwards journey through their discography that was clearly designed to remind to deliver maximum hit value while serving to remind that they were writing solid songs to the very end. It didn’t take them even an hour to blow through the ’00s and ’90s, highlighted by “Summer Moved On” from 2000’s Minor Earth Major Sky wherein Morten Harkett proved he had lost not iota of range or power from his voice over the years, hitting and holding the high notes for an absurdly long time. The sweeping “Stay On These Roads” and “The Living Daylights”, backed by Bond-ian visuals, marked the start of the golden age portion of their set and immediately shifted gears for a two-song, acoustic break of “And You Tell Me” and “Early Morning”. They spent the remainder of the main set with their first two records, Scoundrel Days and Hunting High & Low, including stellar readings of “Manhattan Skyline” and “I’ve Been Losing You”. When they walked off stage following “Cry Wolf”, no one believed for a millisecond they weren’t coming back, and following an extended video montage of stills and photos from the band’s earliest days, they returned for a soaring “The Sun Always Shines On TV” and “Hunting High & Low”, and after one final encore, it was “Take On Me” and the end.

From start to finish, the trio – backed by a drummer and keyboardist/bassist – put on a nearly perfect performance, striking the right balance of slickness and honesty, not unlike their music. Though this was a farewell tour, there was no sense of sadness or regret to be found – more than anything, the prevailing emotion was pride in a body of work assembled over a career any artist should be envious of and a sincere appreciation for the fans who stood steadfast by them, even though they were more or less neglected since the start of the ’90s. If North America had some appreciation for adult contemporary-ish pop music that wasn’t r&b-based or just pap, a-ha might well have been the stars here that they were in the rest of the world. But as it was, we just got this one final opportunity to say hello and goodbye and were grateful for it.

The Toronto Sun also has a review of the show and The National Post Chicago Sun-Times have interviews with guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy. a-ha’s first two albums will be reissued in double-CD expanded form on June 28 by Rhino.

Photos: a-ha, Ray Materick @ Massey Hall – May 10, 2010
Video: a-ha – “Shadowside”
Video: a-ha – “Nothing Is Keeping You Here”
Video: a-ha – “Foot Of The Mountain”
Video: a-ha – “Cosy Prisons”
Video: a-ha – “Analogue”
Video: a-ha – “Celice”
Video: a-ha – “Lifelines”
Video: a-ha – “Forever Not Yours”
Video: a-ha – “I Wish I Cared”
Video: a-ha – “Velvet”
Video: a-ha – “Minor Earth Major Sky”
Video: a-ha – “Summer Moved On”
Video: a-ha – “Shapes That Go Together”
Video: a-ha – “Angel”
Video: a-ha – “Dark Is The Night”
Video: a-ha – “Move To Memphis”
Video: a-ha – “There’s Never A Forever Thing”
Video: a-ha – “I Call Your Name”
Video: a-ha – “Crying In The Rain”
Video: a-ha – “You Are The One”
Video: a-ha – “Touchy!”
Video: a-ha – “The Blood That Moves The Body”
Video: a-ha – “Stay On These Roads”
Video: a-ha – “The Living Daylights”
Video: a-ha – “Manhattan Skyline”
Video: a-ha – “Cry Wolf”
Video: a-ha – “I’ve Been Losing You”
Video: a-ha – “Hunting High & Low”
Video: a-ha – “Train Of Thought”
Video: a-ha – “The Sun Always Shines On TV”
Video: a-ha – “Take On Me”
MySpace: a-ha

Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit will release their debut full-length The Big Black & The Blue on May 25. Hear songs from it when they play the Rivoli on June 11. And also by clicking below. That works too.

MP3: First Aid Kit – “Hard Believer”
MP3: First Aid Kit – “Sailor Song” (live)

Delays, whose a-ha cover remains this week’s cover selection for a few more days, have released a first MP3 from their new record Star Tiger, Star Ariel, due out June 21.

MP3: Delays – “Find A Home (New Forest Shaker)”

Field Music have released a new video from (Measure).

Video: Field Music – “Let’s Write A Book”

Damon Albarn tells NME that new Blur singles are likely, but not a proper album. Until they collect said singles into an album.

M.I.A. has named her new album /\/\/\Y/\. Yeah, someone needs to talk to her handlers. It’s out July 13.

The Fly checks in with Ritzy of The Joy Formidable to see how work on their debut full-length is going. It’s targeted for an Autumn release. Blare also has an interview.

The San Jose Mercury News and The Georgia Straight talk to Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit.

The Big Pink have premiered a new video from last year’s A Brief History Of Love.

Video: The Big Pink – “Tonight”

Shad will mark the release of his new record TSOL – out May 25 – with an in-store performance at Sonic Boom on May 24 at 7PM. He plays a full show at the Opera House on June 12.

MP3: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”

Keane are hoping their fanbase has increased about five fold since the last time they were here as they’re booked into the Molson Amphitheatre on July 30. They just released a new album entitled Night Train.

Video: Keane – “Clear Skies”

The UK’s Wild Beasts return to town in support of Two Dancers with a date at the Mod Club on August 6.

MP3: Wild Beasts – “All The King’s Men”

The August 7 show at the Horseshoe with Maps & Atlases just got that much buzzier with the addition of mysteriously shimmering Motown-y New York duo Cults. Their debut 7″ is available to download for free at their website. Listen and find out what all the cool kids are talking about for the next 3 seconds.

MP3: Cults – “Go Outside”

Logistical issues have snookered the August 8 Empire Of The Sun show at the Sound Academy. They apologize and hope to make it back, but not to the point of offering anything resembling a window when that might happen. So don’t expect it to happen.

Michael Gira’s newly-reformed (as in formed again, not as in served hard time but feeling much better) Swans have put together a Fall tour that includes an October 2 date at Lee’s Palace.

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

CONTEST – Michael Gira @ The Drake Underground – June 12 and 13, 2009

Photo via MySpaceMichael GiraEven if Michael Gira had done nothing else musically besides found and front Swans for over a decade, bringing comfort and aid to those who like their music loud, abrasive and confrontational, his place in the annals of (cult) music history would be assured. But besides founding Young God Records and releasing records by the likes of Devendra Banhart and Akron/Family, he’s since forged a solo career that’s as noteworthy as anything he did with Swans, and really a lot more listenable but just as intense in its own way, just expressed in a more acoustic-based, gothic-folk idiom.

Gira is currently on the road and will be stopping in at the Drake Underground in Toronto for two dates next week, Friday June 12 and Saturday June 13. And courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got a pair of passes to give away for each show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see Michael Gira on Friday” or “I want to see Michael Gira on Saturday” in the subject line, whichever the case may be, and put your full name in the message body. Contest closes at midnight, June 9.

MP3: Michael Gira – “You See Through Me”
MP3: Michael Gira – “Where Does Your Body Begin”
MP3: Michael Gira – “Un Real”