Posts Tagged ‘Theoretical Girl’

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Red Mist

An introduction to Theoretical Girl

Photo By Pavla KopecnaPavla KopecnaAll throughout Theoretical Girl’s set at SxSW back in March, I was wracking my brain trying to figure out who Amy Turnnidge, she who is the central abstract idea of the band, reminded me of. This didn’t keep me from enjoying her set, but it was a relief and head slap when I finally put it together a week or two later – the name I’d been trying to dig out of my memory banks was Sarah Blackwood. Not the icy electro-pop queen she now is with Client, but the wistful synth-n-jangle ingenue she was in Dubstar. Though not dead ringers – Blackwood’s voice is higher, to say nothing of the differences in production values – they’re close, and the archness of their accents and clarity of their diction, struck me as uncanny. Also helping the parallels are that they both sing songs infused with spirited defiance and resignation, usually simultaneously, and with melody to spare.

But this is not a post about Blackwood (that was largely covered a couple years ago), but Turnnidge and Theoretical Girl. And, by extension, her debut record Divided, which came out back in August. Topically, it stays quite focused on topics of romance and regret, often interchangeably and rendered with unblinking candor, and as noted earlier, they’re themes Turnnidge is quite well-suited to articulating. Musically, Divided is rangier and deftly incorporates pop stylings of the chamber-, electro- and twee- varieties, favourably recalling the likes of Pet Shop Boys, Saint Etienne and Field Mice. The gentler, more nuanced pure pop numbers feel more effortless and natural than the rockers, but by no means can Turnnidge’s compositions not handle a little grit and volume.

But just as I left her SxSW showcase satisfied but not overwhelmed, Divided is an eminently listenable record that lacks that ineffable “something” that would firmly embed it in one’s psyche. It might be just a little too polite, too measured. Where it should be utterly heartbreaking, it only manages to elicit a mild heartache, easily remedied with a few fingers of scotch and a good night’s sleep. Next time out, and be assured I believe the next effort will be closer to the mark, I demand total emotional devastation.

This Is Fake DIY got a track-by-track breakdown of the record from Turnnidge around the time of the album’s release and The Daily Growl solicited a list of seven songs. Artrocker offers up the chord changes to “Biggest Mistake” for those inclined to sing and play along.

MP3: Theoretical Girl – “Rivals”
Video: Theoretical Girl – “Red Mist”
Video: Theoretical Girl – “Rivals”
Video: Theoretical Girl – “The Hypocrite”
MySpace: Theoretical Girl

NME reports that Florence & The Machine will be taking the deluxe edition double-dipping trend to an absurd degree with the release of a 3-CD/1-DVD edition of Lungs on November 30. In addition to the album, it’ll have a disc of live material, one of remixes, rarities and outtakes and the DVD will contain a live show and all her videos. More Florence than any rational person could reasonably want or need? Almost certainly. The Globe & Mail has a fashion spread and interview with Florence Welch about developing and maintaining her style.

Hot Chip are set to return with their fourth album One Life Stand on February 9 and have already scheduled a short North American tour to promote – they’re going to be at the Kool Haus on April 20 with The xx, who still have a prior appearance scheduled for December 2 at the Phoenix. Tickets are $23.50 in advance and go on sale November 23. What do you mean you don’t like committing to plans five months in advance? Why on earth not?

Much-feted UK outfit Wild Beasts have scheduled a Winter North American jaunt with Still Life Still in support of their new record Two Dancers and will be at the Horseshoe on February 22, tickets $15 in advance. There’s a full show from this Summer available to watch up at Domino Records and Clash has a short feature.

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

The full dates for The Cribs’ North American tour hinted at last week have been revealed and the January 15 Toronto date at The Phoenix now sits a few dates in to a fairly extensive schedule and yes, all indications are that Johnny Marr is going to be on the tour. Billboard talks to Marr and the band have also just released a new video.

Video: The Cribs – “We Share The Same Skies”

Frightened Rabbit’s sublimely-titled new record The Winter Of Mixed Drinks has been given a release date of March 1.

MPR welcomes Fanfarlo to their studios for a session. They make their Toronto debut at the El Mocambo on December 15.

Spinner talks to Camera Obscura’s Carey Lander about their selection for a Christmas single, available digitally this week. They play The Phoenix on November 26.

British Sea Power have blogged an update as to the status of album number five.

The Chronicle Herald and The Telegram talk to Billy Bragg, in tonight for a show at The Phoenix.

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Wilco (The Blog Post Title)

Review of Wilco (The Album)

Photo By Autumn de WildeAutumn de WildeI can’t help think that if you were to drug each member of Wilco with a different and unique blend of psychotropic drugs mixed with a 40 of tequila, blindfolded them, spun them around three times and then handed them instruments they didn’t even know how to play, they’d still ungodly tight and be able to play off each other with the instincts of a sea turtle returning to the beach form which it was spawned. This is what you get when you assemble such prodigious talents and have them tour relentlessly. This is Wilco’s blessing, and also Wilco’s curse.

It was more the latter on their last effort, 2007’s Sky Blue Sky. On that album, the band’s effortless execution combined with the simple, strummy songwriting to create a record that, save for a few jolts of expeditionary guitarwork from Nels Cline, was laid back to the point of being asleep. Their latest, Wilco (The Album), thankfully finds Jeff Tweedy out of his hammock and feeling both musically restless and playful, and the band doing its best to stir things up a bit more. What it doesn’t find, however, is much sense of edge or the band wandering into uncomfortable territory – this isn’t because they’re not adventurous or are sticking to the tried and true, but because they’re just too good. Tracks like “Bull Black Nova” may want to sound unhinged, with its insistent drone and Tweedy’s rasping scream, but there’s never a sense that Wilco are in anything less than complete control. The songwriting on Wilco (The Album) delivers more emotional range than the genial sentiments of Sky Blue Sky and while the musical accompaniment soars and swoops alongside it, even occasionally squalling, it’s too confident to even consider the possibility of crashing. Not that you necessarily want things to fall apart, but that potential for self-destruction is a fundamental part of rock’n’roll.

On the other hand, Wilco have nearly self-destructed enough in their history and there’ll never be a shortage of bands out there that sound on the verge of collapse, either in a good sense or not. Their current stability is well-earned and deserved, and when they use it to deliver records as out and out enjoyable at this, complaining is just pointless. Consider the duet between Tweedy and Leslie Feist on “You And I” – when initially announced, many believed it would be the final step in Wilco’s transformation into MOR balladeers. And while it’s certainly not going to scare anyone away, the final tune is so well-crafted and just outright lovely, that it transcends any sort of cliche. It may seem a bit much to suggest that Wilco can do no wrong – the very fact that they can’t is a sort of flaw unto itself – but it’s certainly no mistake to say that they’re doing a hell of a lot right.

Wilco are spending the remainder of the Summer in Europe, but have just announced a jaunt through the midwest in October that includes an October 14 date at Massey Hall in Toronto. Ticket info is still forthcoming, but you may notice on their website that they’re taking requests. Requests, people. I, for one, would be thrilled to hear anything old done by the current lineup because if it’s anything as good as the Being There suite they pulled out when opening for Neil Young at the ACC last December – “Red Eyed and Blue”, “I Got You” and “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” – well hell, that’s worth your price of admission right there.

Check out their readings of “Red Eyed and Blue” and “I Got You” from their 2008 five-night stand at the Riviera in Chicago with Andrew Bird guesting on whistle.

MP3: Wilco – “Red Eyed and Blue” (live in Chicago, February 2008)
MP3: Wilco – “I Got You” (live in Chicago, February 2008)
MySpace: Wilco

Nashville Scene talks to M Ward.

The Singing Lamb has an interview with Jenn Grant.

Arctic Monkeys have rolled out their first video from album number three, Humbug. It’s out August 25 and they’ve a date at the Kool Haus on September 29.

Video: Arctic Monkeys – “Crying Lightning”

Over at Bombsite, Dean Wareham details his process for creating the score to Andy Warhol’s …13 Most Beautiful films which Dean & Britta have been touring in support of the last while.

Artrocker talks to Amy Turrnidge, aka The Theoretical Girl, whose debut album Divided is due out August 17.

MP3: The Theoretical Girl – “Rivals”

Polarizing sister act CocoRosie will be at Lee’s Palace on September 9.

The first having sold out pretty much immediately, Metric have announced a second date at Massey Hall for October 21. And considering the following night on their calendar is still open, don’t be shocked if they announce a third.

Thao with The Get Down Stay Down have set a date at the El Mocambo for Sunday, November 1, tickets $12.00. This is exciting because it implies that I will be on a trip around then. There is a cosmic rule that I either cannot be in the city or am just leaving or returning from an exhausting trip whenever they visit. It’s true.

MP3: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Beat (Health, Life and Fire)”
MP3: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Swimming Pools”
MP3: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Bag Of Hammers”

Update: From Scott. Oh wow. Manic Street Preachers at The Phoenix, October 4, 2009. Wow.

Hey everyone who’s ever admired or complimented the artwork that graces my masthead, courtesy of illustrator Renee Nault, head on over to Design By Humans and vote for her art to grace a run of t-shirts and get a chance to wear a lovely anthropomorphic ram nattily besuited in waterfolours for your very own.

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Don't Worry About The Future

Review of Dog Day's Concentration and giveaway

Photo By Paul HammondPaul HammondHalifax’s Dog Day have got the goods to be a terrific pure pop band, capable of crafting sublime melodies and hooks, but their fondness for the noisier virtues of the indie rock canon of the ’90s ensures that they’ll never be quite so easy to pin down. As such, their 2006 effort Night Group was an incongruous yet perfectly natural bit of doom-pop, all spiky and sweet – heavy and foreboding in intent but eminently hummable in execution.

Their recently-released follow-up Concentration takes those same classic college rock ingredients and brews up something familiar, but still new. It’s less immediate than Night Group, yet somehow smoother and more melodic and textured with Seth Smith’s vocals still distinctively monotone but Nancy Urich’s vox much stronger and expressive on this outing. Some may bemoan the absence of Night Group‘s punchier elements but the dream-pop qualities of Concentration reveal themselves with deeper listens and are just as rewarding.

Touring Night Group to death was a successful strategy for the band last time out, so it’s only logical that they pile into the van yet again for Concentration. Their cross-Canada tour already covered the Maritimes earlier this month but they’re covering all points Quebec and west starting next week, including a date at Lee’s Palace in Toronto on the 28th of May. Courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got five pairs of passes to give away for this show which will also feature The Burning Hell, Wild Life and Pacific Trash Vortex and on top of that, courtesy of Pigeon Row, I’ve got two copies of Concentration on vinyl available to give away. I’ll run these contests separately, so to enter both, email me twice – contests AT – either with “I want to see Dog Day” in the subject line and your full name in the body for the passes, or “I want to hear Dog Day” in the subject line and your full mailing address in the body for the vinyl. Contest closes at midnight, May 26th.

There’s an interview with Dog day at The Coast.

Update: Just announced – Dog Day are also doing an in-store at Soundscapes on May 27 at 6PM.

MP3: Dog Day – “Rome”
Video: Dog Day – “Happiness”
MySpace: Dog Day

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of the new Royal City compilation Royal City, and can tell you it’s a beautiful package – hardcover and bookbound – and oh yeah, the music is pretty terrific too. The limited edition set collects an album’s worth of unreleased material from the departed Guelph outfit and is set for release June 23.

MP3: Royal City – “Can’t You Hear Me Calling”
MP3: Royal City – “A Belly Was Made For Wine”

Royal City guitarist Jim Guthrie’s new project Human Highway was just featured in a session on NPR.

NOW and The Cord talk to Joel Plaskett, who plays Massey Hall tomorrow night.

Metric have rolled out a new video from Fantasies.

Video: Metric – “Sick Muse”

eMusic and The Quietus have typically entertaining interviews with Jarvis Cocker. He also talks to The Guardian about his thespian ambitions in the new Wes Anderson adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr Fox.

It’s like a nostalgia trip back to SxSW 2009 at Bandstand Busking as they present a session with Fanfarlo and another with Theoretical Girl.

These days it’s rare that a record of interest is put out without my being bombarded with press releases about it well in advance, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover the existence of Hard To Find – a digital-only collection of American Analog Set rarities which quietly came out in April. Covering the band’s years with Tiger Style and Arts & Crafts, it acts as a companion volume to 2001’s Through The ’90s. Considering that Andrew Kenny is now dedicated to his new project The Wooden Birds, this set could act as the final whirr and click in the quietly lovely story of AmAnSet.

MP3: The American Analog Set – “Stoney Chariots”
MP3: The American Analog Set – “Make It Take It”

Exclaim reports on the copyright clusterfuck that will essentially prevent the Danger Mouse/Sparklehorse collaboration Dark Night Of The Soul from seeing any “legal” release.

Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs talks to Billlboard. They’re releasing a remix EP for “Zero” on June 9 on vinyl – it’s available digitally now.

Artrocker interviews School Of Seven Bells. They’ve also got a new video. A trippy new video.

Video: School Of Seven Bells – “My Cabal”

The Line Of Best Fit, The Sun, The Georgia Straight and The Village Voice have features on Grizzly Bear. They’ll release Veckatimest next Tuesday, May 26, and have a show at the Phoenix on June 5. There’s also an in-studio performance at WNYC streaming at NPR.

Decider and Rolling Stone interview St Vincent’s Annie Clark. She will be at Lee’s Palace on August 8, and has just made available another MP3 from Actor.

MP3: St. Vincent – “Actor Out Of Work”

Paste and Decider have interviews with John Vanderslice, while I Pick My Nose has an interview AND a tour of the ‘Slice’s garden. He will be at the Horseshoe on July 10.

Good Times, Metro Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz Sentinel talk to Jenny Lewis.

My contest to give away copies of Dean Wareham’s memoirs Black Postcards wraps up tomorrow night, but if you don’t win a copy – and let me just say that the response to the contest has been overwhelmingly good and I wish I could give you all books – take heart, the folks at Ear Farm are also giving copies away AND they’ve got an interview with Wareham to go with it. So head on over and hedge your bets.

Other commitments keep me from partaking in this year’s Over The Top Fest, which began last night, but if you’re around this weekend and are looking to partake in some music and/or film, it’s really your best bet for discovering something new. There’s previews of some of the acts at this week’s NOW and eye.

Ottawa’s I Heart Music has been a tireless promoter of independent Canadian music for some years now, introducing both myself and countless others to great up-and-coming domestic talent via the blog and many, many live showcases. And it appears that no good deed goes unpunished as SOCAN, the national agency tasked to collecting royalties for Canadian songwriters, has gone after Matthew for royalties owed on his live shows, to the tune of a couple thousand dollars. Now if you’re of the inclination to donate to music media types in financial distress, you’ve obviously got a few options these days but Matt is fighting the good fight and deserves some support.

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

SxSW 2009 A/V – Theoretical Girl

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangTheoretical Girl
London, England, United Kingdom

Nom du plume of English pop artist Amy Turrnidge, who sometimes performs solo and sometimes with her band the Equations. Her debut is due out in August of 2009
Show review

Photos: Theoretical Girl @ Latitude 30 – March 21, 2009
MP3: Theoretical Girl – “Rivals”
Video: Theoretical Girl – “The Boy I Left Behind”
Video: Theoretical Girl – “The Hypocrite”
MySpace: Theoretical Girl
MySpace: Theoretical Girl (acoustic)

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

SxSW 2009 Night Four

Echo & The Bunnymen, Theoretical Girl, Wintersleep and more at SxSW

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe last night of SxSW began not on 6th St, where it normally does, but down at the Auditorium Shores amphitheatre where the festival puts on large-scale free shows for the locals by way of thanks for putting up with the massive influx of visitors each year. Some friends wanted to unwind down there, away from the chaos of downtown, to the narcoleptic tones of Beach House. The last time I’d seen them they were lulling a dozen or so people to sleep beside a roaring fire in the front room of the Tranzac, so to see them on a massive stage in front of thousands in broad daylight was different, to say the least. But their sleepy spell was the same, just exponentially louder, so it was nice to just kick back with a beer and unwind for a bit.

But just a bit. Within an hour, I was in a cab back downtown, trying to meet up with a university friend with whom I’d been playing text-tag with for a couple days. We arranged to meet up at Brush Square Park, where as luck would have it Little Boots was getting ready to play a label party. I had hoped that this set might provide an opportunity for better photos than the Emo’s Annex show a couple nights back, but this time instead of red floodlights there were simply no lights. Terrific. Show-wise, notes from Thursday night’s to-do still apply – I watched the first bit of her set then went off to commiserate.

Heading into the heart of the bedlam that was 6th St, I wound my way to the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 for a set by Theoretical Girl. Fronted by Amy Eleanor Turnnidge – the namesake of the band – and backed by players dubbed The Equations, they delivered archly charming and clever pop with a distinctly retro-mod vibe. The material all displayed a consistent level of goodness but not much really stood out as a single that would sweep the nation (whichever nation). That said, there’s enough appeal that I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime in the near future, if her hooks become as sharp as her wit, success for the Theoretical Girl could became a reality.

At this point, plan “see Echo & The Bunnymen in small club” went into effect. The gist of the plan, essentially, was to show up at Rusty Spurs a couple hours early and just wait it out until their scheduled midnight set. The fact that there wasn’t an awful lot of interest going on elsewhere on Saturday night made it an easier decision to make. As chance would have it, the two lead-in acts weren’t entirely unfamiliar, both hailing from Canada. The first, Halifax’s Wintersleep, were largely unknown to me though I was aware they were one of the more successful new acts on the Can-rock scene of the last few years. Cursory listens hadn’t impressed, but seeing them live was, if not a revelation, a definite eye-opener. Their grand, atmospheric rock was much nimbler than I’d expected and they displayed a significant amount of on-stage presence and charisma. I understand why they’re of the stature they are back home, and from the enthusiasm of the crowd – presuming they’re not all Canuck ex-pats – their appeal seems to be translating abroad as well.

It was about now that the post-Hot Freaks adrenaline wore off and the weight of the week hit me like two tonnes of bricks. I actually almost spontaneously fell down during Wintersleep’s set, so that’s my excuse for not having a whole lot to say about the set from Montreal’s High Dials. What I found most surprising about their show was that the band still existed – I hadn’t seen or heard them in some six years, though to be fair, I wasn’t really paying attention. But here they were, still turning out high-energy but not especially distinctive mod-inflected guitar rock. And seeing as how the show was running some 30 minutes late, I just wanted them to be gone and the Bunnymen to arrive.

And 30 minutes behind turned into more than 45 before the Liverpool legends finally appeared. Now the whole “big band/little club” thing can be taken two ways – as an opportunity for superstars to re-connect on an intimate level with their fans, or as the manifestation of the proverbial, “see you on the way down”. This Echo & The Bunnymen show fell somewhere in-between. Having already played some three or four shows during the festival, there wasn’t quite the sense of occasion around this last gig – especially not with PJ Harvey wowing them at Stubb’s down the street – but the room, which by my estimation held around 400 tops, was still packed with fans from the surprisingly young to the unsurprisingly old.

Though a natural conclusion to make given the recent surge in ’80s/’90s-vintage reunions, it’s unfair to Echo & The Bunnymen in with those. Although down to only half the original membership, they got back together over a decade ago and continue to produce decent new works, if not nearly as seminal as their older material. And it’s almost unfortunate that they’re still a creatively active band, because that’s not what those in attendance wanted to hear. They wanted to hear the classics, dammit.

And not at all grudgingly, the band complied, kicking off with “Lips Like Sugar” and delivering pretty much a greatest hits set. Of the only two remaining original members, guitar god Will Sergeant looked decidedly his age but singer Ian McCulloch, improbably decked out in a woolen pea coat despite the sweltering heat, was almost eerily ageless. McCulloch was surprisingly gracious, given his irascibile reputation, going so far as to crack some jokes and even a smile or two over the course of the night, though his temper did flare up at a couple points in the evening. Vocally, he was also in pretty good form – any time you thought that his voice might be showing its age, he’d find another gear and belt out the most crucial part of the song the way it was meant to be. Similarly, Sergeant was inspiring on guitar, as much for reminding you of all the brilliant parts he’d written over the years as for what he was actually playing.

But somehow it didn’t feel like they were big stars playing a special, tiny show. For the greatness of their repertoire, their charisma didn’t feel stadium-sized and set to blow the club to pieces, but simply club-sized. Whatever presence McCulloch once had that allowed him to perform without moving but still mesmerizing isn’t really there anymore – see Liam Gallagher for an example of that talent in action. That, however, didn’t keep me from enjoying the show any less, though. I was perfectly happy to take them for what they were and enjoy hearing the likes of “Bring On The Dancing Horses”, “Back Of Love” and – most crucially – “The Killing Moon” live. A completely satisfactory way to close out SxSW 2009 as far as I was concerned.

And, save for another, oh, 40 or so of those little A/V posts – bear with me, please – that’s it for South-by coverage for this year. Final tallies were 46 performances by 44 different acts, 20GB of photos and one kick-ass time. I suspect there’s an inversely proportional relation between my perception of the quality of the festival’s lineup and how good a time I have. A couple months ago, I called the assembled talent “weaksauce” – meant partly in jest and only relative to the acts that I’d hoped would be in attendance – but I still nearly killed myself running around downtown Austin trying to catch all the bands I wanted to see and the last thing I needed was more choices to agonize over. And so to all bands and friends new and old who made the trip one of the best weeks I’ve had in recent memory, I thank you and will see y’all next year.