Posts Tagged ‘Young Prisms’

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Clinging To A Scheme

The Radio Dept. and Young Prisms at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFact one: The Radio Dept. are not, by any conventional standard, an exciting live band. Fact two: I was terribly excited to see The Radio Dept. make their live Toronto debut on Monday night. The first point I’d gained first-hand knowledge of when I took a pilgrimage to see them in New York City in May 2009 for what I figured would be my only chance to see the band who’d made some of my favourite records of the past decade live, and so the fact that I was wrong about that and they were finally coming to my own hood cemented point two. And I wasn’t the only one who’d been waiting patiently for this day, judging from the other 500 people who sold out Lee’s Palace for the occasion.

Theirs wasn’t the only Toronto debut happening on this evening, though technically Young Prisms took their first Hogtown stage earlier that afternoon across the street at Sonic Boom for an in-store. Still, this was probably the first introduction for most to the group of San Francisco youngsters who just released their debut album Friends For Now and even for those of us who’d heard them in advance, there were still some revelations. For example, so effectively is the album sonically obscured and wrapped in distortion that I didn’t realize their lead singer was a girl until she took the mic. Live, they were less about the fuzz and more about the pummel, the bass and guitar often working in tandem for a unified, full-frequency drone attack with one or the other occasionally breaking formation to contribute some melody. All of which would have been overly dull if not for the fact that they had some solid pop tunes anchoring it all and a pleasantly goofy demeanour – in particular, they seemed really excited about both the concept and execution of poutine.

The Radio Dept. are about their songs. The writing of and the recording of those heartrendingly sublime synth/fuzz pop gems, first and foremost, and not the performing of or heavens forfend the promotion of, hence their taking years upon years to release a new record and reluctance to take it on the road. But because those records and songs are so good, their fans around the world can’t help but clamour to hear them live and when they oblige, as they’ve done so more frequently in the past couple of years, it’s on their terms. I think this is important to appreciating their show, which is stripped-down to say the least. Playing in near-darkness with Martin Larsson on guitar and bass, Daniel Tjäder on keys and laptop and Johan Duncanson on guitar run through a cheap-as-you-get practice guitar amp, they were clearly not about spectacle.

With the simplicity of their presentation and reliance on pre-recorded backing tracks, they often seemed like they were jamming overtop CDs or drum machines in their basements, making music for the joy of making music, never mind anything else. And that was really what it was – rather than recontextualizing their songs for the stage, it was as if they instead invited the audience into their studio to hear them work. And really, though I’m as much pro-live drummer as anyone you’ll ever meet, it would have just been wrong on many of these songs, whose simple, distorted mechanical rhythms are like their beating hearts. All of which is to say that yes, The Radio Dept. are understated performers – almost to a fault – but it’s how it has to be.

Happily, the audience seemed to understand this and there was no restlessness in the house over the course of the set. In fact, the enthusiasm of the packed house was rather at odds with the band’s reservedness – between the hearty applause after every song, each one someone out there’s favourite, and hollered requests or just thanks, their Scandinavian stoicism cracked more than a few times into smiles or even grins. They may not like touring but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy it. In return, they played a set that leaned heavily on their breakthrough Clinging To A Scheme and featured only a couple each from Pet Grief and Lesser Matters, but in keeping with the theme of their Passive Aggressive compilation, long-time fans were still rewarded with a good number of non-album singles and b-sides. At an hour including the one-song encore – the soaring “Pulling Our Weight” b-side “The City Limits” – it was far too short a night with too many wonderful songs left unplayed – especially considering that the odds of them returning soon, if ever, are long at best – but that, like expecting rock moves or extended banter, was the wrong perspective to take. That they were here at all was a gift, and a near-perfect one.

Exclaim also has a review of the show while Toronto Star and The Boston Globe have interviews with The Radio Dept. SF Weekly has an interview with Young Prisms, who are back for a show at Parts & Labour on April 21 supporting The Fresh & Onlys.

Photos: The Radio Dept., Young Prisms @ Lee’s Palace – February 7, 2011
MP3: The Radio Dept. – “On Your Side”
MP3: The Radio Dept. – “The One”
MP3: The Radio Dept. – “The New Improved Hypocrisy”
MP3: The Radio Dept. – “Never Follow Suit”
MP3: The Radio Dept. – “Heaven’s On Fire”
MP3: The Radio Dept. – “Freddie & The Trojan Horse”
MP3: The Radio Dept. – “David”
MP3: The Radio Dept. – “The Worst Taste In Music”
MP3: The Radio Dept – “A Window”
MP3: The Radio Dept – “Pulling Our Weight”
MP3: The Radio Dept. – “Why Won’t You Talk About It?”
MP3: Young Prisms – “Sugar”
MP3: Young Prisms – “Weekends And Treehouses”
Video: The Radio Dept. – “Never Follow Suit”
Video: The Radio Dept. – “The Worst Taste In Music”
Video: The Radio Dept. – “Where Damage Isn’t Already Done”
Video: The Radio Dept. – “Pulling Our Weight”

The Fly talks to Lykke Li, whose Wounded Rhymes arrives March 1. She’s at The Phoenix on May 22 and just released a new/alternate video from said record.

Video: Lykke Li – “I Follow Rivers”

Jonsi has released a video from his live album/video Live At The Wiltern, available digitally only.

Video: Jonsi – “Go Do”

A second Jeff Tweedy solo show has been announced for March 23 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre; ticket presale goes today at 10AM regular on-sale is Friday. Support for both Tweedy shows and his whole solo tour comes from Toronto’s Snowblink, whose debut Long Live is out next Tuesday and who has an in-store at Soundscapes on March 3 and an album release show at The Music Gallery on March 5.

Basia Bulat will play at The Great Hall on March 26 as part of JunoFest; tickets for the show are $17.50 or free with the $30 JunoFest wristband. And who doesn’t want a JunoFest wristband? They’re like the new LiveStrong wristband. Except not.

MP3: Basia Bulat – “Gold Rush”

Titus Andronicus have assembled a Spring tour that includes an April 1 date at The Horseshoe. Tickets are $11.50, medical bills for the bedlam that will ensue are on you.

MP3: Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union”

The Civil Wars, who’ve just released their debut Barton Hollow, will camp out at the El Mocambo for two night across April 5 and 6, tickets for each show $10.50 in advance.

MP3: The Civil Wars – “Barton Hollow”

Liam Finn will be at Lee’s Palace on April 7 with The Luyas as support. Tickets for the show are $15.

MP3: Liam Finn – “Plane Crash”
MP3: The Luyas – “Tiny Head”

Just as they promised last week when opening for The Decemberists, Wye Oak will be back on April 9 for a show at The El Mocambo. Their new record Civilian will have been out a month and a day by that point. Let’s hope Jenn Wasner’s guitar amp survives the duration of the show this time.

MP3: Wye Oak – “Civlian”

Nashville rock-rockers accumulating quite the buzz overseas Mona will be in town for a free show at The Horseshoe on April 19. Advance word likens them to Kings Of Leon so maybe make plans to get there early or stay far far away. Their self-titled debut is out May 16.

Video: Mona – “Teenager”

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Something's Turning Over

C’Mon Low, give us a new record and tour already. Oh you are? Great.

Photo By Sara KieslingSara KieslingIt might not have seemed like four years, what with Alan Sparhawk’s Retribution Gospel Choir putting out not one but 2 records in the interim, but it really has been that long since Low released their last album. The wait for a new record finally comes to an end on April 12, though, when their uncharacteristically breezily-titled ninth album C’Mon is released.

Whereas once you sort of knew exactly what to expect from a Low record – beautifully slow, slowly beautiful – they threw expectations out the window in 2005 with the unqualified rock squalls of The Great Destroyer and then followed that with the exceedingly dark and skeletal Drums & Guns. So what will C’Mon bring? Hard to say, but Dave Fridmann, who lent his unmistakeable sonic signature to those last two records is out as producer and Matt Beckley, whose resume skews decidedly top 40 has a co-producer on the record, so there’s that. The first MP3 from the record certainly sounds gentler and more organic than the last couple records, reminiscent of the warm tones of Trust, but obviously this is just one song of ten – the other nine could well be auto-tuned dance floor jams.

In conjunction with the new record, Low have slated a Spring tour that brings them to Toronto for a May 2 show at the Mod Club – their first visit since opening for Wilco at Massey Hall in June 2007 and their first headlining show since January 2006. Stereogum has an interview with Mimi Parker about the new record and how she spent the downtime, and props go to Bradley’s Almanac, who took the photo that’s being used as the cover art.

MP3: Low – “Try To Sleep”

Young Prisms, who are opening up for The Radio Dept.’s sold-out show at Lee’s Palace on the evening of February 7 will warm up with an in-store at Sonic Boom at 4PM that afternoon. And if these two appearances are insufficient or inconvenient, they’re back on April 21 at Parts & Labour supporting The Fresh & Onlys.

MP3: Young Prisms – “Sugar”

Phosphorescent, who had to cancel their show at The Horseshoe last July on account of all their gear being stolen (it was later miraculously recovered) will finally make it to town on April 10 for a show at Lee’s Palace. Their latest is last year’s Here’s To Taking It Easy.

MP3: Phosphorescent – “It’s Hard To Be Humble (When You’re From Alabama)”
MP3: Phosphorescent – “The Mermaid Parade”

Parisian pop from Jamaica may sound like a geographic impossibility but it’s a real thing. Jamaica (the band) will release their debut No Problem in North America on April 12 and follow it with a North American tour that includes a stop at Toronto’s Drake Underground on April 19.

Video: Jamaica – “I Think I Like U 2”
Video: Jamaica – “Short And Entertaining”

And whilst on the topic of French pop, Yelle is giving away an MP3 of the title track from her new record Safari Disco Club, which will be released March 29. Her massive North American tour brings her to The Opera House on May 4.

MP3: Yelle – “Safari Disco Club”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune talks to Ira Kaplan and James McNew of Yo La Tengo about the wheel of fortune controlling the destiny (and set lists) of the shows on their current tour – The AV Club examines the possibilities the wheel offers. Beatroute has a regular old interview with Kaplan.

NYC Taper is sharing a recording of The Hold Steady’s show in Brooklyn last week.

Pitchfork has a Q&A with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart as well as a stream of the title track of their new record Belong, due out March 29, while Spinner solicits frontman Kip Berman’s Super Bowl predictions.

Spin talks to The Submarines about their new record Love Notes/Letter Bombs, out April 5. They play The Horseshoe on April 22.

Crawdaddy talks songwriting with Sam Beam of Iron & Wine.

And finally, I – along with what seems like every other website in the country – has made the long list of CBC Radio 3’s survey of “Best Canadian Music Website, which is nice because it’s been a while since I’ve lost any awards. If you’re feeling like exercising your franchise and helping me lose by a smaller margin than usual, please head over there and vote because if you don’t, then the terrorists have won.