Monday, December 31, 2007

Somewhere In Rainbows

Thom Yorke - - Dec 31, 2007Reminder that Radiohead rings in the new year with a webcast at broadcasting on Current TV) tonight at midnight EST. The pre-recorded performance will feature the band performing the entirety of their new album "In Rainbows" plus some "other bits" as Thom says. Unfortunately, I'll be out tonight with a few frends as many of you will be ringing in the new year and I don't get Current TV(which will be airing repeats of the broadcast tomorrow) so I hope some of the video segments end up on a torrent, YouTube, the band's MySpace, or something. The band's new album "In Rainbows" is officially released tomorrow.

Wishing my family, friends and everyone a happy and safe new year!

Update[7:12 pm]: I just realized is broadcasting as I write. Is this the same performance which will be broadcasting on at midnight?

Update: At least for now, the video of the band's performance(which they've dubbed "Scotch Mist") is archived here. Enjoy. So in response to my question above, the answer is 'yes', the performance that was broadcasting at at approximately 7 pm EST was the same performance which aired at at midnight EST.

Update[01/01/2008 - 12:09 pm]: Pitchfork has the "Scotch Mist" videos which the band have posted to their iMeem page and they load much faster than the one at

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Favourite Concerts of 2007

As I'd mention back in June, at that point in time, seeing The National at The Opera House had been my favourite concert of the year, and I can say that that has held true as 2007 comes to a close. The following list below are the concerts that resonated with me the most in 2007 - performances that didn't merely go through the motions, but rather displayed an emotional intensity, whether it be at a loud volume like The National's Matt Berninger screaming at the top of his lungs 'My mind's not right' during "Abel", or at the other end of the volume spectrum like Great Lake Swimmer's Tony Dekker and his fragile vocals during his performance at the beautiful Church Of The Redeemer in Toronto. The crucial factor though is that the performance's emotional intensity translates to the audience - if I feel it and the audience feels it, it's simply a rush:

(Click the hyperlinked dates below for links to my original review)

Jan 04, 2007 - Basia Bulat @ The Drake Hotel
Jan 31, 2007 - Camera Obscura @ The Opera House
Mar 08, 2007 - Under Byen [Canadian Music Week] @ The Mod Club
Apr 14, 2007 - Great Lake Swimmers and friends (early show) @ Church Of The Redeemer
Apr 19, 2007 - The Diableros, The Airfields @ Sneaky Dee's
Jun 05, 2007 - The National @ The Opera House
Jun 11, 2007 - The Long Blondes, Nicole Atkins & The Sea @ Lee's Palace
Jun 30, 2007 - Wilco @ Massey Hall
Sep 18, 2007 - Rilo Kiley @ Phoenix
Sep 21, 2007 - Okkervil River @ Lee's Palace
Nov 30, 2007 - Cuff The Duke, Land of Talk @ The Mod Club
Dec 05, 2007 - Richard Hawley @ Horseshoe Tavern

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Favourite Albums of 2007

By my estimation, the number of albums I bought this year that were released this year has declined as compared to previous years. I guess I've become more selective. It's good on the pocketbook for sure. It's also been a musical cleansing - quality over quantity as they say. On a certain level, this has been reflected in the focus of this blog - my coverage of new/upcoming artists has probably declined, but then my blogging frequency has declined in general. Perhaps in 2008, my interest in the local scene and or new bands will experience a resurgence. Or maybe not. We'll see. After some contemplation, what follows are my favourite albums of 2007. Enjoy - comment/flame as you like:

PJ Harvey - White Chalk (Island)

MySpace: PJ Harvey
Video: PJ Harvey - White Chalk (live on Later With Jools Holland)
Video: PJ Harvey - When Under Ether (promo video)

This album has an undeniable quiet beauty and it's so good that if and when she does tour this album, I'd be happy if she just performed the album in it's entirety.

Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis (Rough Trade)

MySpace: Jarvis Cocker
Video: Jarvis Cocker - Don't Let Him Waste Your Time (live on Late Show With David Letterman)

This was an album I'd never have expected to purchase, but I found a used copy this summer. It was one of my late-summer listening favourites, and Jarvis is looser than ever. I was a casual Pulp fan at best but even at their most accessible(ie. "Common People") there always seemed to be a certain level of affectation in their sound. "Jarvis" is a great focused pop effort.

Feist - The Reminder (Arts & Crafts)

MySpace: Feist
Video: Feist - live on

I listened to "The Reminder" almost non-stop the first week it came out. It's one if the few albums I actually bothered to write a review of. From start to finish, it's a wonderful collection of pop songs.

The National - Boxer (Beggars Banquet)

MySpace: The National
Video: The National - Fake Empires (live on Late Show With David Letterman)

"Boxer" is an intoxicating blend of Matt Berninger's woozy vocals, simple but scintillating melodies and a rhythm section that feels like your heart beating.

Richard Hawley - Lady's Bridge (Mute)

MySpace: Richard Hawley
Video: Richard Hawley - Tonight The Streets Are Ours (music video)

The most romantic-sounding album of the year, even if lyrically, it wasn't all about romance. Mr. Hawley has a voice like butter.

Jenn Grant - Orchestra For The Moon (Paris 1919 Records)

MySpace: Jenn Grant
Video: Jenn Grant - Dreamer (music video)

Jenn Grant is as humble as east-coasters come, on one hand refreshing but on the other hand I'd suspect that if she were any more "glamorous" she could be as big as Feist, someone she's often musically compared to. "Orchestra For The Moon" encompasses a variety of musically rich sounds(pedal steel, violin, viola, cello, glockenspil, harp, etc.) but still manages to maintain a level of casualness.

Amy Winehouse - Back To Black (Island)

MySpace: Amy Winehouse
Video: Amy Winehouse - Live on The DL (

"Back To Black" has an undeniable retro soul feel to it but rather than sounding cheesy, it sounds very genuine. Tabloid fodder aside, Ms. Winehouse is a talented vocalist, sounding downright sinister at times like Eartha Kitt as on the title track, and breaking all hearts as on "Love Is A Losing Game".

Okkervil River - The Stage Names (Jagjaguwar)

MySpace: Okkervil River
Video: Okkervil River - Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe (music video)

"The Stage Names", over the course of its nine rootsy, rock songs, has a spiritual feel. By spiritual, I mean uplifting. It's hard to describe why, but uplifting is what I feel.

Basia Bulat - Oh, My Darling (Hardwood)

MySpace: Basia Bulat
Video: Basia Bulat - In The Night (music video)
Video: Basia Bulat - Before I Knew (live at LOLA Fest 2007)

Like Jenn Grant, Basia's also released a wonderful full-length debut this year. "Oh, My Darling" is full of romantic notions, as wonderfully expressed as on the intimate acoustic "Little Waltz", the infectious folk-pop of "December", and the harmony-laden "Before I Knew".

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas(Baby Please Come Home)

Merry Christmas everyone! I'm not sure if Darlene Love was on Late Show With David Letterman this year performing her seasonal classic "Christmas(Baby Please Come Home)" but to get you further into the holiday spirit(if you weren't already) you can check out her performance from last year below(and while you're at it pull out "A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector" and give it a's so good!):

Video: Darlene Love - "Christmas(Baby Please Come Home)" (live on Late Night With David Letterman - December 2006) (YouTube)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Belle and Sebastian Wish You A Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to my family, friends and everyone out there. Just a few more things to shop for tomorrow morning then I'm all set for the next two weeks off work! My blogging frequency lately has been sketchy for various reasons but if all goes well I should be back later this week(maybe Boxing Day) with my Fave Albums of 2007 post - nothing too fancy but just a reminder of a few more albums that I think need more recognition.

In the meantime, check out the MySpace of Belle and Sebastian who are streaming a lovely brassy new Christmas tune "Are You Coming Over For Xmas", which the band will be offering for free download from midnight on Christmas eve until midnight on Christmas night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I See A Mansard Roof Through The Trees

concert review: Vampire Weekend, We're Marching On, The Torrent @ El Mocambo (Toronto, Ontario), December 13, 2007

Vampire Weekend at El Mocambo: photo by Michael Ligon

I like to think that I'm not easily swayed by the buzz surrounding certain new bands but when something as savorily saccharine as Brooklyn band Vampire Weekend's "Mansard Roof" is, with it's playful keyboards, lush strings, and strummed guitar, vibrant rhythm section, and delectable melodies, that was enough for me to decide to check out the band live when they came to Toronto for a show at El Mocambo last week on December 13.

Opening the show were Toronto 3-piece The Torrent, generally a guitar/drums/keyboards configuration, with some violin at times. The baritone vocals of Cameron Groves reminded me of Calvin Johnson although not as deep perhaps and the minimalist guitar/keyboards/drums arrangements had a new-wavey pop feel a la B-52's . Guitarist Michael Edward Barry was in The Hidden Cameras - his guitar playing was primitive but was more than well-suited to the music. Tara Azzopardi did double-duty energetically alternating between keyboards and drums. I think they're a new band - they're MySpace songs have barely a 100 hits as of now. They're official website indicates they're full-length is out this spring. You can also check them out live in January, first on the 11th at Silver Dollar, then on the 27th at Sneaky Dee's as part of Wavelength.

Next up were Toronto's We're Marching On, a group of young gents exhuberantly performing their brand of skewed pop music, hints of melody intermixed with quickly strummed electric guitar, added keyboards, and vocals that at their most vibrant were shouty and yelpy. Prior to the start of their set, I'd ducked out of the club only to come back to find that the club had filled in nicely(and quickly I might add) for We're Marching On's set. They were energetic, and yes even entertaining - I could imagine them bringing down the house say at The Boat or Sneaky Dee's, a few of Toronto's more indie rock oriented music venues - but the crowd at the El Mocambo, from what I recall seemed somewhat subdued. I believe the gent on keyboards is also in Ohbijou if I'm not mistaken, but then you know, all these indie rock kids start to look the same after a while.

And finally, Brooklyn four-piece Vampire Weekend. They set up their own equipment, at that time giving the audience a glimpse of their now-somewhat-known preppy wardrobe, albeit the keyboardist and drummer in particular looking like they just rolled out of bed. But for all the preconceptions of them being spoiled rich kids just because they all met while going to Ivy League school Columbia University, I couldn't give a shit. Their self-proclaimed music style of "upper west side Soweto" is interesting - I think they succeed when the Paul Simon "Graceland"-era comparisons are toned down. While the African-esque "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" on it's own merits is an entertaining melodic throwaway, part of it sounds like it came straight out of "The Lion King". During that song and a few other moments I felt their appropriation of African rhythms and instrumentation(based on my layman's knowledge of African music) felt a little unsettling(ie. how is that this Brooklyn band came to be influenced by such influences. Is this a gimmick?). Fortunately, I think the guys succeeded overall in not sounding too gimmicky. They started their set straight off with my favourite song off their MySpace, "Mansard Roof", later performing the punchy English Beat-esque pop of "APunk". The band got the audience involved with a song entitled "One(Blake’s Got A New Face)" being sure to point out that the song "One" that they would perform was not a cover of either the Metallica or U2 song, although Metallica's "One" was obviously present in part of the guitar arrangements of Vampire Weekend's "One". At a point in the song, lead vocalist Koenig got the audience to shout out the song's bracketed titled ie. "Blake's Got A New Face", which the audience did with enthusiasm. The musicianship was skillfully performed overall, more than enough proof that these guys are no flukes. Their debut album will be in stores on January 29 of the new year through XL Recordings and you can see the tracklisting here.

Check out a few of my photos from the show.

MySpace: The Torrent
MySpace: We're Marching On
MySpace: Vampire Weekend

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Anorak Christmas

Christmas Tree at Eaton Centre

The image of the Christmas Tree at the Eaton Centre above is a lot nicer than what a lot of GTA'ers woke up to this morning. I know a lot of people wanted a white Christmas but this is ridiculous.

So to rub salt in to the wound, I thought I'd remind you of a couple of winter outdoor shows coming up in the new year. As part of the WinterCity Festival coming to Toronto from January 25 to February 7 of '08, Nathan Phillips Square will be hosting a couple of free concerts: as you might already know, Tokyo Police Club come to the Square on Saturday, January 26(8:45 - 10 pm) and I just found out that The Weakerthans will be there on Saturday, February 2(8:45 - 10 pm). I didn't make it to The Golden Dogs/In-Flight Safety show at Nathan Phillips Square yesterday - damn, I should have went because compared to today's weather, yesterday was a cakewalk.

Thanks to John Sakamoto and his Anti-Hit List for pointing me towards Swedish pop gal Sally Shapiro's MySpace and her piano mix of her modern Christmas indiepop classic "Anorak Christmas". Reminds me, where could I buy an anorak like this?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

These Lights In Our Hearts They Tell No Lies

concert review: Richard Hawley, Ferraby Lionheart @ Horseshoe Tavern (Toronto, Ontario), December 5, 2007

Richard Hawley @ Horseshoe Tavern: photo by Michael Ligon

As part of the Horseshoe Tavern's 60th Anniversary celebrations, Mercury Music Prize-nominee Richard Hawley with opener Ferraby Lionheart came to the venue on December 5 last week. Sold out, if not at least close to capacity by the time Mr. Hawley hit the stage, the Tolkien-esque-named Ferraby Lionheart from Los Angeles and his band opened the show with a pleasant set of introspective if not sometimes sunny folk-pop tunes. For my first listen, there was a hint of promise - a few sparkling melodies here and there and the spare band instrumentation compliments the melodies nicely. If the audience was only politely receptive to Ferraby's set, it was only probably because we were impatient for Mr. Hawley to come on.

Pulp references aside(I was never a big Pulp fan and didn't even know Mr. Hawley was in the band at one time), I really first knew Richard Hawley through his association with A Girl Called Eddy who Mr. Hawley had produced her debut album from a few years back, a striking, emotional album of Bacharach-esque melancholic pop songs. I've only recently caught onto Mr. Hawley's output, initially through his MySpace and more recently with his most recent album "Lady's Bridge" which I picked up based upon the recommendations of many bloggers and critics. Starkingly romantic at times but also able to cut loose a little with a little twang and rockabilly, Mr. Hawley's an enigma in the pop scene, at least in terms of mainstream exposure. Richard and his band, a mostly bespectacled bunch decked out in black suit jackets, white shirts and dark jeans, with Richard sporting a greasy, tousled, pompadoured hair style, took the stage to a warm reception from the near-capacity audience. After a few salutations from RIchard, he cheekily got things going by saying "Let's Ballad" to the amusement of at least some of us who picked up on that quick quip. Romantic set-opener, "Valentine" got things underway nicely. In the preceding banter to next song "Roll River Roll", Richard said that the song was written about the Great Sheffield[his hometown] Flood of 1864 and that in an ironic twist several months after he wrote the tune, Sheffield experienced a flood. His most familiar tune to me so far, "Tonight The Streets Are Ours" was greeted with glee from me and even with the canned strings played through a synth, it still sounded glorious. I can only imagine how great a live string section would sound. As an aside, "...Streets..." sounded a lot like Scotland's Edwyn Collins, making me want to revisit some of his works. The venue-appropriate, pop-abilly romp of "Serious"(with Richard asking the audience if we wanted to hear some rockabilly) got a few in the crowd cutting a rug on the spot where they stood. Overall, it was one of my favourite shows of the year and a worthy addition to the Horseshoe Tavern's illustrious history. Just hope it doesn't take Mr. Hawley twelve years(the length of time he'd said he'd last been in Toronto) to come back.

Here are my photos from the show.

More reviews of the show over at chromewaves, It's Not The Band I Hate..., Eye Weekly,

MySpace: Richard Hawley
MySpace: Ferraby Lionheart

On a related note:

- there's a FLAC download(over at nyctaper) of Mr. Hawley's performance at Bowery Ballroom on December 1, 2007.
- Richard gives a heads up that you can now download his recent London Apple store session from iTunes.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Remember The Good Times

concert review: Cuff The Duke, Land Of Talk @ The Mod Club (Toronto, Ontario), November 30, 2007

Land Of Talk's Elizabeth Powell @ The Mod Club: photo by Michael Ligon

Cuff The Duke @ The Mod Club: photo by Michael Ligon

On a snowy Friday evening over a week ago[on November 30], Oshawa's Cuff The Duke played a CD release show at The Mod Club for their newly released album "Sidelines of The City"[Hardwood Records], and if that show was any indication, then their subsequent hometown two-night stint at The Velvet Elvis must have been barn-burners. Cuff The Duke's Wayne Petti(Guitar, Lead Vocals, Moog, Bass) and Paul Lowman(bass guitar, piano, fiddle, vocals) are the sole original members with new members Dale Murray(Guitar, Pedal Steel, Vocals) and Corey Wood(Drums, Percussion) now joining the fold. It's almost hard to believe that this at-one-time-unknown band who'd I first seen in 2003 at the Horseshoe Tavern(opening for Versus) are now onto their third album and playing to quite-devoted fans. I've been largely ignorant of their debut release(save for their song "Ballad Of A Lonely Construction Worker") and their new album "Sidelines Of The City" but was quite taken with their eponymous-titled second album when it first came out, an equal parts reflection of their country-roots and pop influences. From what I've heard from the new album, the pop-rock influences are more to the forefront and from their show at The Mod Club, the band's as tight as ever. Opening up the show were Montreal trio Land of Talk who for one reason or another I had not seen live up till then, although had really been wanting to see live for a long time. As visceral as their melodic pop rock sounds on record, my impression of the band bashing away was not entirely a correct one - perhaps it's true in relation to the drummer and partially to the bassist, but vocalist/guitarist Elizabeth Powell seemed slightly more reserved than I expected, almost cradling her guitar, although the amplification of her raspy voice and meaty guitar arrangements was more than enough to compensate. The "Applause Cheer Boo Hiss" tunes were fantastic. I think the band played a few new songs, not as immediately grabbing, but hopefully more of a sign of my unfamiliarity of them.

Wayne was as appreciative as could be for the large, devoted(though not sold out) turn out, raising his drink to the crowd. As he did at the HMV instore a few days prior, he gave props to his hometown, in particular with introduction to new song "Rossland Square", the neighbourhood where he grew up. In slight consolation to my disappointment for not getting tickets to the recent Neil Young Massey Hall shows, Cuff The Duke(who coincidentally will be at Massey Hall opening up for Blue Rodeo this coming February) showed their prowess in Crazy Horse-esque like guitar freakouts with which I believe was their new song "By Winter's End". Guitarist Dale Murray was really a standout, effortlessly making the transition between lead and pedal steel guitar, as natural of a musician that you could swear that he'd been part of the band since the beginning. As their eponymous-titled second album was really their breakout, it was those album's songs, mid-to-up-tempo footstompers like "The Future Hangs", "Take My Money And Run", and "Belgium Or Peru", which seemed to connect with the audience the most. On more than one occassion, I think I heard someone yell out "Ballad"(in reference to their song "Ballad Of A Lonely Construction Worker") so when it came up during the encore(especially with it's phrase "Everything will be alright, will be alright...) it was to an appreciative response. And what seems to be the indie-rock cover du jour, The Travelling Wilburys' "Handle With Care"[I've heard Jenn Grant, and Jenny Lewis cover this tune], Cuff The Duke brought up openers Land of Talk for a rousing rendition of the song(I didn't know it at the time but Wayne had the lyrics scribbled on paper just in case). The encore and the night ended off as Wayne invited audience members to come on to the stage as each band member was given the spotlight to display his musical prowess, and when bassist Paul Lowman picked up a guitar and solo'd the heck out of it it was just one of many moments you realize just how talented these guys are.

Here are more of my photos from the show.
Also, I have photos from the band's instore at HMV(on November 28).

MySpace: Cuff The Duke
MySpace: Land Of Talk

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Silver Bells

Christmas Tree at Yonge Dundas SquareAs I walk/drive/ride the streetcar around Toronto, I realize how many Christmas lights and decorations are up this year. Do yourself a favour and get yourself downtown to check it out. The Christmas lights down Yonge St. between College St. and Queen St. are in particular really nice. So is the tree above at Yonge Dundas Square. And really, I need all the help I can get to keep from Christmas Day sneaking up on me. Who hasn't started their shopping yet? I haven't.

And what's Christmas(for better or worse) if not for the music? East-coaster Jenn Grant has some Christmas tunes("Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", "O Holy Night", "Silver Bells") streaming over at her MySpace. What a lovely way to get you into the holiday mood(though it would have been even better if she could make the mp3's available - pretty please, Jenn?). Jenn's back in town for a post-Christmas/pre-New Year gig at The Drake Lounge on December 28.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

New Seasons

There's more press over at chartattack about Toronto music venue Horseshoe Tavern's 60th Anniversary, also mentioning that the venue will host a private party this Thursday December 8 featuring sets by The Sadies and The Waco Brothers for which the public can win tickets by emailing Forgive my lateness of this posting if by chance all public tickets are gone at this point. The Wacos will be playing a proper ticketed show at the Horseshoe Tavern this Friday night which you probably can still get tickets for. Probably. The Sadies are back at the Horseshoe Tavern on New Year's Eve for more wholesome fun.

Toronto-by-way-of-Halifax(well Matt Murphy, anyway) band City Field are apparently still a going concern[whatever happened to the album you promised us last year?]. A few City Field shows are fast approaching. This coming Saturday December 8, they play an ALL CAPS show at WhipperSnapper Gallery with Kaeru, Big Digits, and The Youngest. The following day, December 9, City Field will be at Smiling Buddha(@ College & Dovercourt) along with The Saffron Sect, and The Hoa-Hoa's. Full details for both shows here and here respectively.

The Hidden Cameras are going to be at The Great Hall, Hart House on December 13. Full details about the show are here - it's a benefit concert featuring The Hidden Cameras, Montreal's Sister Suvi and local Toronto musician Allie Hughes and tickets $5 advance for students, $10 at the door for students and $15.00 at the door for everyone else. In the meantime, B(oot)log has an audio rip of The Hidden Cameras' live set at The Triple Door in Seattle fro December 2, 2006.

The Drake Hotel will host The Two Koreas on December 29. Listen to the band's live session for XM Radio's The Verge.

Welsh popsters Super Furry Animals are booked for a show at The Mod Club on February 20, 2008. While I wasn't impressed with their last show at the Phoenix in 2005, maybe I should give 'em another chance.

Pollstar is listing Jonathan Richman and Matt Costa at the Phoenix on February 27, 2008.

Check out chromewaves' 2nd annual year-end Readers' Poll contest for a chance to win some free schwag - I'm still working on my list Frank, but I realized that 1) I've cut back considerably in my music buying habit and 2) that I've been REALLY lazy in giving albums a full/thorough listen.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Lucky Horseshoe

The Toronto Star's Greg Quill celebrates the Horseshoe Tavern's 60th birthday emphasizing the venue's illustrious past in booking acts that go on to greater things while Toronto music-vet Moe Berg waxes nostalgic about his 'Shoe memories.

So is it safe to assume that Blue Rodeo will be one of the surprise guests playing at the Horseshoe as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations? If you click the first link above and go to the right grey sidebar on that page, Blue Rodeo are listed as part of the celebrations, although this is yet to be confirmed on the Horseshoe Tavern website - the Horseshoe website currently lists December 17 & 18 as featuring surprise special guests. Hmmmm.