Tuesday, March 31, 2009

White Lies - "To Lose My Life" (review) / Other News

White LiesLyrics like "This fear's got a hold on me" and "let's grow old together and die at the same time" off of UK postpunk outfit White Lies UK number one debut album "To Lose My life" (and released domestically a few weeks ago) may point towards the darker side of life but the music itself isn't all gloom and doom. Much ink seems to have been wasted on their Joy Division influence in particular and while it is indeed an influence, it comes in small doses - for example, the icy keyboard intro on 'A Place To Hide' and the nod to Joy Division's 'Atmosphere' in the intro to 'E.S.T'. But while Joy Division, at least their best known songs, always sounded bleak, the songs on "To Lose My Life" have a buoyancy to them, transcending the darker lyrical matter through a combination of sultry synths, chunky basslines, soaring guitars, and invigorating percussion. Vocalist Harry McVeigh hardly ever registers in the deadpannedness tone of Ian Curtis, and when he does keep his vocals under wraps its more of a quiet suaveness. However, when he hits those choruses it's with emphatic melodicism. For White Lies to have come along at this time may have been no mere coincidence with the renewed interest in Ian Curtis and Joy Division, but really aren't White Lies but another band in the long tradition of the marriage of pop music and misery? But there's only so much misery one can take. I'll take White Lie's pop hooks any day.

White Lies headline Lee's Place tonight with openers Friendly Fires and The Soft Pack. And me without a ticket. Oh well. They're also performing on MTV Live tonight(around 6:30-7:00 pm?) prior to the show at Lee's.

Filter has an interview with the band. Hour.ca and chartattack also profile the band.

Video: White Lies - "To Lose My Life" (live on Late Show With David Letterman - March 24, 2009
Video: White Lies - "A Place To Hide" (live on Fearless Music, NYC)
Video: White Lies - "Death" (music video)
Video: White Lies - "To Lose My Life" (music video)
Video: White Lies - "Unfinished Business" (music video)
MySpace: White Lies

Toronto experimental post-punks The Creeping Nobodies have quietly called it quits leaving a series of cancelled tour dates in their wake.

Never that familiar with themself although I do have a few of their CD's, defunct Toronto indie band Royal City are getting the retrospective treatment when Asthmatic Kitty will release a retrospective of the band on June 23. The closest I got to seeing them live was when a few of the band's members (Simon Osborne, Jim Guthrie, Nathan Lawr) played the Tranzac in August 2005 for the Three Gut Records 5th anniversary/farewell show. Back to the present, download a free song from the retrospective:

MP3: Royal City - "A Belly Was Made For Wine"

According to Against The Grain (and confirmed at least as of the writing of this post), extra tickets are available through Ticketmaster.ca for the March 31 and April 1 Rolling Tundra Revue (Constantines/Weakerthans/Waking Eyes) shows at the Phoenix.

Via The Singing Lamb (and verified at www.rootmeansquare.ca), Lewis and Clarke will open for Bat For Lashes (like they did on their previous visit in 2007) at The Mod Club on April 25.

Pitchfork has the terrific new dream-like, forest-at-night video for Great Lake Swimmers' "Pulling On A Line". The band's new album "Lost Channels" is out today, and they play a show at Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto on April 25.

Juno-winner yesterday, City and Colour will play a three-night stint at Massey Hall on May 25-27. Via Pollstar.

Concert announcements via Against The Grain: Attack In Black are at the Horseshoe on May 9 for a 19+ show, tickets $10 in advance, onsale April 2. Glasgow indiepop legends The Vaselines play a ridiculously expensive show at Lee's Palace on May 15, tickets $29.50 in advance, onsale April 2.

Calgarian orch-pop outfit Woodpigeon are confirmed for this year's NXNE (Jun 17-21), as well their hometown's Sled Island Festival (June 24-27).

Pollstar lists Toronto soulstress Esthero playing this year's Pride Festival on June 27.

Having recently performed a sold out show at Circa, pollstar is listing that Cut Copy will return to Toronto to play the Sound Academy on July 25 (as part of the TIME festival).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Concert Announcements / Music News (March 25, 2009)

Where The Wild Things AreForgive my ignorance, for I was unaware that the classic children's book "Where The Wild Things Are" was made into a film, directed by Spike Jonze no less. I got a taste of the trailer and it's as whimsical and magical as anything I've ever seen. I know I read the book, although I don't actually remember the story itself but there's a deep-seeded memory in the back of my mind of me reading the book as a child and feeling, well, care-free. The movie comes out October 16, and maybe before then I'll get reacquainted with the book. A cool thing about the trailer is that it features what seems to be an alternate version of The Arcade Fire's song "Wake Up"(via Exclaim). Very cool:

Video: Where The Wild Things Are (Trailer)

Glasgow's Camera Obscura make their return to Toronto for a 19+ show at Lee's Palace on Saturday June 27, tickets $23.50 in advance and $25.00 at the door. I do suspect this show will sell in advance so don't count on getting tickets at the door. Tickets go onsale this Saturday March 28 at 10 am. Their new album "My Maudlin Career"(a few tracks from which you can hear over at their MySpace) is out through 4AD on April 20.

ANTI- are graciously offering a free mp3 sampler of songs from artists from their roster. Which reminds me, I really should pick up Neko Case's new album "Middle Cyclone" soon.

The Singing Lamb points out that Metric will be making an in-store appearance at HMV 333 Yonge St. on April 9 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Concert Announcements / Music News (March 24, 2009)

   Leonard Cohen: photo by Tom Sheehan
Leonard CohenAs part of his first tour in 15 years, Canadian music legend Leonard Cohen played London's 02 Arena in July of 2008, recording it for posterity. That performance will be released as a two-CD set on March 31 simply entitled "Live In London" and NPR is featuring it as an exclusive first listen:

Stream: Leonard Cohen - "Live In London"

Mr. Cohen plays Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, ON on May 19.

Chartattack speaks with Julie Doiron about happiness and her new album "I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day". Julie plays a CD release show at the Horseshoe this Thursday March 26.

And while I'm pilfering chartattack, they also speak with New Zealand indie pop-rock band Cut Off Your Hands who come to town for a show at the Horseshoe on March 30.

Ms. Neko Case, who'll be playing two sold-out shows at Trinity St. Paul's in Toronto on April 17-18, is interviewed by Pitchfork.

Concert announcements courtesy of Against The Grain: French Kicks play the Horseshoe on April 27, tickets onsale March 27, $11.50 in advance, $13 at the door. Justin Rutledge will be at The Mod Club for an early show(doors 6:30 pm) on May 29, tickets onsale March 27, $15 in advance, $18 at the door.

Intriguing find of the week, NY state girl boy duo Gregory and The Hawk whose wispy-voiced indie acoustic folk is actually pretty breathtaking. According to Flowerbooking they'll be at the El Mocambo on May 2. Their most recent effort, 2008's ‘Moenie and Kitchi’ is out now through FatCat. The duo did an interview and live performance for Bandstand Busking which you can click to below:

Video: Gregory and The Hawk - live on Bandstand Busking
MySpace: Gregory and The Hawk

Toronto's Slim Twig will release his debut full-length entitled "Contempt!" through Paper Bag Records on April 28 and will be available on CD, LP and digital formats. He's set to tour

MySpace: Slim Twig

Jenn Grant will be performing at the Direct Energy Centre (100 Princes' Blvd, Toronto) on April 23 as part of the Green Toronto Awards ceremony hosted by Mayor David Miller. The award ceremony begins at 7 pm and doors open at 6:15 p.m. It's a free event but you need to RSVP by e-mailing greentorontoawards@toronto.ca

Crystal Castles will be performing as part of the TIME festival (they who've not actually updated their website yet) taking place at Sound Academy on Saturday July 25. Via The Windish Agency.

NME reports on the details of Dinosaur Jr's new album "Farm" set for release June 23, as previously reported through Jagjaguwar. No Toronto date at least as of yet, but the band will be in will be in Buffalo at The Town Ballroom on April 6.

Morrissey performed his new song "Black Cloud" on Late Show With Jimmy Fallon last night(via Pitchfork):

Video: Morrissey - "Black Cloud" (live on Late Show With Jimmy Fallon - March 23, 2009)

I'd love to see Morrissey play Toronto although with the Canadian seal hunt just beginning recently (and his critical views towards that been quite public), I don't expect Morrissey to be playing Toronto, nor Canada for that matter, anytime soon.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Concert Announcements / Music News (Mar 23, 2009)

A few concert announcement/music news morsels:

UK's White Lies whose UK number 1 debut album "To Lose A Life" was released domestically last week and whose show with Friendly Fires and The Soft Pack at Lee's Palace on March 31 is sold out, will also be playing MTV Live on March 31 prior to their proper show that night. To request free tickets, call 1-888-491-6888 or e-mail liveaudience@mtv.ca.

Beggars Group Canada lists Holy Fuck with Metric at The Mod Club on April 14. I haven't seen this show listed anywhere else - perhaps a secret show? What is confirmed though is that Metric will perform live at Edge 102.1's studios on April 14 at 3:15 pm (via edge.ca). Metric's new album "Fantasies" is out April 7. Holy Fuck will play a free show at Harbourfront on July 10 as part of this years Beats, Breaks and Cultures Festival.

Via Brooklyn Vegan, Jonathan Richman and Vic Chesnutt are touring together and will be playing a show in Toronto at The Great Hall on June 25. Holy shit.

Beggars Group also lists Jay Reatard playing The Mod Club on June 29.

Via The Mississauga News, my hometown's lined up some better-than-average talent for the Mississauga Waterfront Festival, taking place June 19-21 at Port Credit Memorial Park. Sam Roberts and Kathleen Edwards play the first night, Spoons and 54-40 the second night, and Bruce Cockburn and Hunter & Collectors' Mark Seymour play the third night. Also via The Mississauga News, the city's lined up Sloan to play Canada Day at Mississauga City Centre.

A new music video from Neko Case is now out (via Pitchfork). She plays two shows at Trinity St Paul's on April 17-18:

Video: Neko Case - "People Got A Lotta Nerve" (music video)

NME reports that Neil Young's long-awaited, career-spanning 10-disc "Archives" will be released on June 2.

In the meantime, Neil Young's newest studio album "Fork In The Road" out April 7 has spawned two new videos shot by Neil himself:

Video: Neil Young - "Cough Up the Bucks"
Video: Neil Young - "Light A Candle"

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Canadian Musicfest in Toronto (March 13, 2009)

concert review: Canadian Musicfest (part of Canadian Music Week) in Toronto - March 13, 2009

Black Hat Brigade @ Rancho Relaxo: photo by Michael Ligon
Black Hat Brigade @ Rancho Relaxo: photo by Michael Ligon

Friday the 13th turned out to be the final night of my CMF unfortunately - for reasons I can't get into, I wasn't able to make it out to my planned Saturday CMF schedule. An unplanned conclusion to my CMF as it turned out to be, in terms of new musical discoveries, it was an interesting if not fruitful evening at least.

9 PM - An Horse @ Tranzac

Surprisingly Australian guitar/drums indie rock duo An Horse's appearance on Letterman a few nights ago had little effect in creating any buzz for their CMF set. I'd expected a crowd, maybe even a lineup but encountered neither as I walked into the relatively sparse venue about 10 minutes to 9 pm. There were a row of young ladies and a few guys at the front of the stage psyched to see the band, although the scattering of other patrons seemed generally subdued. Promoting their debut album "Rearrange Us", drummer Damon Cox and guitarist/vocalist Kate Cooper kept things focused on the music although at times a little more banter would have been appreciated. Kate had a little scare with the mic as she genuinely thought she was mildy electrocuted and politely requested that someone check the mic before they continued. While someone did come up to check the mic, a few giddy audience members made an effort to chat up the duo, asking about their appearance on Letterman, and such but had little to say; the duo were generally cordial, and were even surprised that someone in the crowd was more up on their tour dates than they were (Damon mentioned they'd be back in Toronto in April but couldn't remember the date nor the venue at which point someone yelled out April 23 and Horseshoe Tavern) - but in general I think their lack of banter was a missed opportunity to better connect with the audience. Fortunately, I think they made up for it with their set of infectious scrappy, melodic indie rock, Kate Cooper's thick Aussie-accented vocals wrapping around her elastic guitar chord progressions like a glove.

Video: An Horse - "Camp Out" (live on Late Show With David Letterman - Mar 11, 2009)
MySpace: An Horse

10 PM - Angil & The Hiddentracks @ Central

I'd been intrigued by some of the YouTube live videos I'd seen of St Tinn, France band Angil & The Hiddentracks, which was enough to convince me to head down to Central to check 'em out, even convincing fellow blogger Frank Chromewaves to come along. If you thought the Drake was intimate, well then check out Central for a much more accurate example of intimacy. A row of tables lines the wall leading up to the small stage at the back, and the venue itself is barely wide enough that walking down the length of venue from the front to the back of the venue and back to the front you're almost bound to bump in to someone. The band performed as a four piece (rather than the larger membership that they're usually comprised of; I guess it's expensive for everyone to travel) imparting their sound in a more stripped down manner through drums, guitar, keyboards as well as some violin and french horn. The schizophrenic nature of their set showed the band's multi-faceted sound which jumped from lo-fi hip-hop, to Yo La Tengo-ish indie pop, to Fall-like post-punk, and classical underpinnings. It's heady stuff at times and it seemed to get lost on the chatty crowd at times, although there were times when they connected with the audience, their third song of the set being an example of their Yo La Tengo-ish indie pop side and their last song approaching instrumental bliss such that I could have imagine it sounding even better with a larger band. To be honest, their hip hop influence which they'd displayed on one song, just did not work for me. Their most recent album "Oulipo Saliva" is out now through Chemikal Underground.

MySpace: Angil & The Hiddentracks

11 PM - Ruth Minnikin and Her Bandwagon @ Holy Joe's

One of my favourite components of Ruth Minnikin's participation with Halifax orch-pop outfit The Heavy Blinkers was the lovely timbre of her vocals. She brings that same quality to her own material, although her songs favour a rootsier, East Coast folkiness. Her Bandwagon as she refers to her band, she had in tow an accordionist(Anna Plaskett?), The Heavy Blinkers' David Christiansen on bass clarinet, a drummer(Brian Murray?), and special guest Rheostatics' Tim Vesley on guitar. There seemed to be a slight disconnect between the band and the sparse crowd who seemed more interested in drinking and chatting, so when Ruth and company segued into their song "You Can't Choose Your Audience" I wasn't sure whether that was meant as a sly wink to the crowd. It was probably a mistake to have booked their set for the dank confines of Holy Joe's in the first place - I better imagine playing on someone' back porch on a warm summer evening. Maybe Ruth should write a song "We Can't Choose Our Venue".

MySpace: Ruth Minnikin and Her Bandwagon

12 AM - Black Hat Brigade @ Rancho Relaxo

I came to check out Toronto-Brampton outfit Black Hat Brigade entirely by chance only because I wanted to ensure I got in to Rancho Relaxo for Amos The transparent's set for later that night. After devouring a pizza slice I'd bought next door, I headed up to Rancho Relaxo where Black Hat Brigade were fervently performing to the enthusiastic crowd herded right up to the front of the stage. Rancho Relaxo's is the only venue I can think of where you walk in through the front door and you're at the front of the stage which worked out for me as I decided to maintain my position at the front to watch the band. Black Hat Brigade performed their brand of indie rock with sinewy guitar lines, shout-out/yelpy vocals, crisp drums and humming keyboards, reminding me of Modest Mouse at times but the band also revealed a admiration for the sea shanty on a song or two, an influence in their music that I found to be subtle and intriguing rather than overbearingly chessy. Revealing perhaps another of their influences, I loved how during one song they transitioned seamlessly into Television's "Marquee Moon" before seguing back into their own song. Songs like "Limbo" sounded a lot like Modest Mouse, perhaps a bit too much, but it was an thrilling song nonetheless as were most of their songs. Check them out again March 26 at Whippersnapper Gallery than March 28 at Walker's Brew in Brampton.

1 AM - Amos The Transparent @ Rancho Relaxo

Closing out my CMF were Ottawa's Amos The Transparent. They craft an intoxicating blend of melancholy indie folk rock, mostly due to Amos frontman Jonathan Chandler's expressive vocals (although backup vocalist Kate Cooke vocals are equally appealing) and scintillating melodies. While they displayed they can crank it up and show a more rockier side, during more straightforward mid-tempo pop-rock numbers the melodies were much more apparent. As quite apparent by the crowd's reaction, Toronto seems to have taken to the Ottawa outfit, singing along with band and fist-pumping at just the right moments during key guitar power chords. Amos frontman Jonathan Chandler expressed his love for the Toronto audience even jokingly throwing out a 'Fuck Ottawa' which drew a chuckle from the crowd. Overall, I can see why some of fellow music bloggers love them - I might not be at that level yet, but I certainly could be going down that path. Not a bad way to end my Canadian Musicfest. They'll be back for a show at the Horseshoe on May 22 and will also return for NXNE for I(Heart)Music's showcase at The Drake Underground on June 18.

MySpace: Amos The Transparent

Photos: Canadian Musicfest in Toronto (March 13, 2009)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Canadian Musicfest in Toronto (March 12, 2009)

concert review: Canadian Musicfest (part of Canadian Music Week) in Toronto - March 12, 2009

2/3's of Rural Alberta Advantage @ Gladstone Hotel: photo by Michael Ligon
Paul Banwatt and Amy Cole of RAA: photo by Michael Ligon

Not much club hopping this night as after starting my night at Rancho Relaxo I parked it for the rest of the night at Eye Weekly's 3-way Throwdown over at Gladstone Hotel. I was spared the frigid temperatures for the most part, but on the other hand staying in one venue and standing up is actually more tiring that hopping from venue to venue for an entire night. Thankfully, the Gladstone's CMF lineup was interesting, if not stellar.

9 PM - We See Lights @ Rancho Relaxo

Scottish folk-rock outfit We See Light ushered in my Canadian Musicfest experience this year and were one of the highlights. While it was a thin crowd (perhaps some of which were probably members of other bands performing that night), it didn't seem to phase the band at all. The young band do have a certain fashionable indieness about them but their music is of the good honest songwriting variety, their tantalizing melodies performed with electric and acoustic instrumentation and wrapped up beautifully by their thick Scottish vocals, most notably of the band's lone female vocalist Ciaran McGuigan. Their first single "Parachutes" (a love song that draws on the analogy of a parachute as they sing 'break my fall' in unison) is off their upcoming album "Ghosts and Monsters" - it's a wonderful song that makes the transition from the in-unison-sung "Break my Fall" to the charming alternating boy-girl verses that follow. Ciaran was gracious enough to give me a free CD sampler when I asked if they had any CD's. Consider yourself fortunate if you were able to see this Scottish outfit at any of their other showcases during Canadian Musicfest.

10 PM - Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship @ Gladstone Hotel

This was only the second time I'd seen Ms. Deveaux and co. live since 2006 and she's as down-to-earth a performer as I'd remember her being. For the most part, though she did let the music speak for itself from the countrified melancholy pop of her debut (from which I recall she only played one song) to her most recent album "Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship" (which the set was heavy upon) extending the sound of her debut with meatier instrumentations most notably in guitarist Mike Feurstack's bright and brilliant guitar arrangements. She's one of the most approachable artists I've ever had the pleasure of chatting with, if ever so briefly, and while she did make reference that she's fairly under the radar in Toronto and hence hasn't toured here much, I do plead that Toronto music fans check her out.

Myspace: Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship

11 PM - The Week That Was @ Gladstone Hotel

Inked as the Toronto debut of UK's The Week That Was, it was a four member version of the band that imparted their proggish pop tunes upon the audience. Although I did mention the word 'pop' it's more a description of their sprightly textured guitar and keyboards instrumentation and less of a focus on obvious melodies. In spots, they did remind me of XTC. I've read that they've had up to 12 members in the band, but without the benefit of members on flute, horns and the such, the four-member version came across with a rockier flavour. Their music does present a certain amount of enjoyability at least in terms of their tight succinct instrumentation, and while the crowd seemed to have a positive, if polite, reaction, a few more obvious melodies wouldn't have hurt.

12 PM - Slim Twig @ Gladstone Hotel

Think an even more freak-out version of Mr. Jon Spencer, Toronto's Slim Twig siphons his obvious love for rockabilly (reverbed drenched vocals and guitar) through experimental, whigged out means, incorporating electronic effects, skronky keyboards and a Fall-like angularity. By no means my regular cup of tea but his guitar and vocal work was incendiary at times and I did enjoy the set's visceral energy. And as I'd told a fellow blogger, I'd much rather listen to Slim Twig than a conventional boring band.

1 AM - Rural Alberta Advantage @ Gladstone Hotel

I have no reasonsable explanation as to why it took me so long to see Toronto trio Rural Alberta Advantage live but damn they're good. What's most impressive is even the most rudimentary of instrumentation (acoustic guitar[Nils Edenloff], drums[impressively played by Paul Banwatt], xylophone, tambourine, handclaps[the last 3 instruments enthusiastically performed by Amy Cole], vocals) cannot deter from the fact that their songwriting is impeccable and their songs are catchy as fuck. Adding to their musical abilities, they were confident onstage and were able to encourage the audience to participate if at least to enthusiatically clap along to the songs. On more than one occasion I recall reading articles/blog posts pondering why they still are not signed yet, and I must emphatically add to that sentiment. It's only a matter of time.

MySpace: Rural Alberta Advantage

Photos: Canadian Musicfest - March 12, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tindersticks, Elfin Saddle @ The Opera House (March 10, 2009)

concert review: Tindersticks, Elfin Saddle @ The Opera House (Toronto, Ontario) - March 10, 2009

  Tindersticks' Stuart Staples: photo by Michael Ligon
Tindersticks' Stuart Staples: photo by Michael LigonIt was probably for the best that if I were to be attending any shows just prior to the three days of Canadian Musicfest shows I plan to attend that it would be the Tindersticks and Elfin Saddle at The Opera House this past Tuesday night. Succintly, it's the kind of show that hardly expends any physical energy on the part of the concert-goer (other than having to stand for a few hours) and God knows I'll need my energy over the next several days. Tindersticks' and Elfin Saddle's respective songs tend towards a moody head space that's mostly about listening and absorbing the sounds. And what beautiful sounds they were.

Copping a few bits of info from their MySpace, Elfin Saddle is comprised of Emi Honda (musical saw, singing, ukulele, various drums & percussion) and Jordan Mckenzie (half-accordion, singing, glockenspiel, prepared guitar, foot drum) and for their second album now out on Montreal's Constellation Records as well as this current tour, they've added Nathan Gage (upright bass, tuba). I'd casually strolled in to The Opera House, probably a song or two into their set and there was already a healthy crowd onhand, but as a previously unknown entity to me, I was taken with them almost immediately. I would best describe them as experimental acoustic folk music. With an arsenal of instruments at hand it was interesting to see and hear the instrumental variations from song to song, though my favourite had to be Emi Honda as she tapped out interesting percussive arrangements on the ramshackle drumkit (even sporting a cymbal with a crack in it) at the same time singing some somewhat complex vocal parts. There's a little bit of a droney, mantra-like quality with the non-English lyrics on some songs but there was a buoyancy in the instrumentation that kept things from dragging. It was a very good start to the evening.

A sense of occasion, especially since this was the first Toronto show in 5 years, filled the air as the audience waited patiently for Tindersticks. When a couple of band members quietly took to the stage, there were some initial moments of cheers from the audience but as the couple of Tindersticks members quietly tapped out the opening notes of 'Introduction' (the lead track off of their most recent album "The Hungry Saw"), as if on cue the audience became eerily silent. The remaining members one-by-one came onto the stage and took to their instruments joining in on the instrumental all the while the audience maintaining their peace. It was a nice start to their set. When vocalist Stuart Staples finally made his presence known, the crowd responded with glee. They performed just about every track off "The Hungry Saw" from what I recall bookending the main set with those tracks, with some other songs (I presume some older songs) performed midway through the set. Banter was kept to a bare minimum (not without some in the audience prompting them to speak to which Stuart Staples replied he'd already said 'hello'), and overall it was a moody, smoldering set of their dark pop music. Although perhaps not always apparent on record, Tindersticks showed more vigor on relatively more energetic tracks like the pastoral pop of 'The Flicker Of A Little Girl' and the soul-pop of 'The Hungry Saw'. I think it was during the encore that Tindersticks approached their most energetic, especially as Staples picked up the maracas and vigorously shaked them. It's a spark of energy that shows the band does have the capability to kick it up a notch although perhaps chooses to keep under wraps most of the time. For most of the audience including myself, if Tindersticks were to continue down their moody, world-weary path, that'd be just fine.

Photos: Tindersticks, Elfin Saddle @ The Opera House (March 10, 2009)

Chromewaves and Eye Weekly wholeheartedly agree that the show was stellar.

MySpace: Elfin Saddle
MySpace: Tindersticks

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

2009 Canadian Musicfest (Canadian Music Week) picks

Canadian MusicfestThe newly dubbed Canadian Musicfest, the music showcase component of this year's Canadian Music Week kicks off tonight(Mar 11) with a few venues but heads into full gear from Thursday March 12 to Saturday March 14, and then ending like it started with a few select venues on Sunday(Mar 15). I'll likely skip the festivities tonight although perhaps if I get the bug I'll take in some of the Eye Weekly CMW showcase tonight at Gladstone Hotel or maybe check out Scottish indie folk-pop outfit We See Lights at the Horseshoe. I've been perusing the CMF schedule all day and I think I've finally come up with a schedule to my liking. Thursday, I mostly plan to camp out at Gladstone Hotel for the 2nd night of Eye Weekly's 3-way Throwdown with only the slight aberration that I'll likely take in We See Lights' set at Rancho Relaxo at 9 pm. However on Friday and Saturday I switch in to full club-hopping mode - if the TTC transit gods are on my side, I should hopefully make most of my planned schedule. For the life of me, I haven't found anything to my interest to check out at midnight on Friday night - perhaps I'll just swing by the Horseshoe Tavern and see how big of a lineup of people shivering in the cold there is trying to get in to see Handsome Furs. Oh good times. So taking a cue from Chromewaves recent CMF picks, here's mine (note: all the artist hyperlinks below point to their respective MySpace sites so click through and check them out):

Thursday March 12

09 PM - We See Lights @ Rancho Relaxo

Scottish folk-pop outfit. Oh those lovely Scottish accents. "Parachute" is the first single from a debut album that was suppose to have been released recently. I like it.

10 PM - Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship @ Gladstone Hotel (North Ballroom)

I've been a fan of Ottawa's Desveaux's melancholy countrified pop-rock since seeing her live back in August 2006 and regrettably haven't seen her since. It's time to remedy that.

11 PM - The Week That Was @ Gladstone Hotel (North Ballroom)

UK outfit which is the brainchild of Field Music's Peter Brewis. A multi-member group who approach a collective level of pop music sophistication, but there's something slightly askew about their sound.

12 AM - Slim Twig @ Gladstone Hotel (North Ballroom)

An amalgam of rockabilly trappings and electro-beats which surprisingly does work. Hometown boy whose debut album "Vernacular Violence" is out on Paper Bag Records.

01 AM - Rural Alberta Advantage @ Gladstone Hotel (North Ballroom)

Toronto indie-rock trio I've been meaning to check out live for a long time. Yes I've heard they're very good. Their debut album "Hometowns" is out now.

Friday March 13

08 PM - Little Scream @ Silver Dollar

Montreal singer-songrwiter who's yet to jump onto the internet bandwagon with her own website or MySpace. Someone from her camp recently e-mailed me and asked if they could use a photo of mine of her (from her show at the Horseshoe opening for Land of Talk earlier this year) for use in future promotional material to which I said alright. She reminds me a little of Cat Power if that's of any value.

09 PM - An Horse @ Tranzac

Australian spunky indie-rock girl/boy duo (Kate Cooper and Damon Fox). Actually the last time I saw Kate Cooper was when her other band Iron On came through town for CMW in 2006 and they were very good. An Horse perform on Late Show With David Letterman tonight. Letterman AND Tranzac in the same week - too weird.

10 PM - The Darling Demaes @ Silver Dollar

Thanks to Chromewaves for pointing out this set. They made Montreal Mirror's list of Noisemakers for 2009. Could be the dark horse favourite of the whole festival for me.

11 PM - Ruth Minnikin and Her Bandwagon @ Holy Joe's

With her sometimes band The Heavy Blinkers currently on hiatus it seems, at least I can get a Minnikin fix, albeit of the folkier, rootsier kind.

12 AM - OPEN

01 AM - Amos The Transparent @ Rancho Relaxo

Like Toronto's RAA, I've made a pledge to check out this Ottawa band that everyone else has raved about.

Saturday March 14

09 PM - Heidi Happy @ The Supermaket

Swiss singer-songwriter whose vocals (at least according to samples off her MySpace) remind me a little of The Cardigans/A Camp's Nina Persson.

10 PM - Whale Tooth @ Sneaky Dee's

Toronto band that make the happiest-sounding pop music I've heard in a long time, although the main attractions is vocalist Elise LeGrow's exhuberant vocals. Also see RAA, and Amos The Transparent above.

11 PM - Dog Day @ Drake Underground

Young, scrappy Haligonian indie pop-rock four-piece. Caught them a couple times during last year's CMW. Wickedly good tunes, though hopefully they have worked on their stage presence.

12 AM - Sprengjuhollin @ Rivoli

Icelandic folk-rock outfit who sing in both Icelandic and English. Their current MySpace tagline is "Icelandic indiepop for the masses".

01 AM - Skibunny @ Central

This Belfast outfit are apparently top remixers and promoters back at home, but have also found time to make their own music. Having sampled some of their electro-poppy tunes over at their MySpace, I'd conclude there is some substance there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A.C. Newman - "Get Guilty" (review)

A.C. NewmanWith his new album "Get Guilty" under the guise of A.C. Newman, Carl Newman takes a break from his main gig with The New Pornographers. Although it's easy to make a statement like none of the songs on the album would sound out of place on a New Pornographers album, but that actually wouldn't be true. Perhaps that last statement is more true with A.C. Newman's debut album "The Slow Wonder", a punchier record that featured more straightforward melodies that were quite reminiscient of Newman's contributions to the New Porns like 'Twin Cinema'. However upon listen to Newman's new album, it's quite apparent that he's seemingly traded in the first record's punchiness for a newfound level of pop sophistication which had been his bread and butter as a member of 90's Sub Pop retro-pop softies Zumpano.

The mini symphonic pop of 'There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve" opens the album confidently then leading into the pop brilliance of "The Heartbreak Kid". It's with the punchier 'Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer' with accompanying background female vox that he starts to sound more like the New Porns. The densely layered pop brilliance of "Prophets" is a wonderful song full of intricate melodic and instrumetal arrangements but in my opinion would sound a little out of place on any of the existing New Porns album. "Submarines of Stockholm" feels like an exercise in 60's psychedelia reminiscient of Jellyfish especially with the la-la-la-la vocals that dot the song at times. Skipping ahead to 'The Palace at 4 a.m.', it's pop music that aspires toward a sound that sounds like Phil Spector got ahold of the production strings, that although not quite a wall of sound, does feature a slight bit more echo in the recording. 'Changeling', 'Elemental', and 'Young Atlantis' continue to explore the more serious tone of his pop sophistication pursuits which does make a strong arguement for the existence of solo persona. I was thoroughly engrossed with the album's consistency but maybe most of all because it's a strong reminder how good Zumpano were. 'Get Guilty' concludes defiantly with 'All Of My Days And All Of My Days Off' a collective noise of vocals and band instrumentation that retreats back to the New Porns sound that we know and love - you know, just to let us know that he hasn't given up on them.

A.C. Newman plays Lee's Palace with opener Dent May tomorrow night. I might just make it down there.

Video: A.C. Newman - "The Changeling" (The DUMBO sessions)
Video: A.C. Newman - "The Palace at 4 a.m." (The DUMBO sessions)
Video: A.C. Newman - "Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer" (The DUMBO sessions)

MySpace: A.C. Newman

Monday, March 09, 2009

Tindersticks - "The Hungry Saw" (review)

   Tindersticks: photo by Richard Dumas
Tindersticks: photo by Richard DumasPerhaps it's no better time than the present that music fans take hold of Nottingham, England outfit Tindersticks from the reigns of obscurity. They've been releasing albums of smoldering, woozy, smoky pop music since their self-titled debut way back in 2003 and while I've been aware of them since then and have even listened to them on occasion, I've only gained a deeped appreciation for them more recently. In some ways they're more relevant than ever, with Tindersticks' frontman Stuart Staples vocally bowing down to the altar of Leonard Cohen who he himself has gained a new audience with younger folks as he readies to embark on his first US tour in 15 years. Tindersticks also remind me of a woozier, more exotic version of The National's dark, organic pop-rock, that band's frontman Matt Berninger also taking cues from Mr. Cohen. Further, artists like Portishead (especially their newer material) and Antony and The Johnsons evoke a similar desperation in their music that Tindersticks have pursued more than occasionally.

I've been picking up Tindersticks' albums with voracity recently but mostly have been delving into their most recent album "The Hungry Saw", their first album in five years. It's an album that evokes different moods. The desolate piano film-noir-ish instrumental of the opening track 'Introduction' segues into the organ and punctuated guitar of 'Yesterday's Tomorrows' evoking the imagery of a dark, smoky bar. 'The Flicker Of A Little Girl' takes a surprising turn at pastoral pop music with it's acoustic guitar and quiet shuffling drums. The said piano & violin lament of 'Come Feel The Sun' quiets things down again. The horns and vibrato instrumental of 'E-Type' gives way to some subtle Thom York-like vocal meanderings, and then hands things over to the dark cinematic orchestral pop of 'The Other Side Of The World'. Yet another instrumental dots the album with 'The Organist Entertains' combining a string arrangement, keyboards and mysterious melody tapped out on piano. It's the title track 'The Hungry Saw' that finally sees the band approaching mid-tempo shuffling soul-pop with organ, guitar and drums. Skipping to the end of the album, the album's penultimate track 'All The Love' is perhaps it's most poignant, as Stuart Staples' confessional vocals intertwine with lonely-sounding oohing female background vocals. When the album concludes with the emphatic slow-building orchestral pop-rock of 'The Turns We Took', it is glorious.

A seven-member touring version of Tindersticks takes the stage tomorrow night at The Opera House and I fully expect it to be a fulfilling experience.

Video: Tindersticks - "Hungry Saw" (acoustic)
Video: Tindersticks - "Yesterday's Tomorrow" (live in Washington, DC - March 5, 2009)
Video: Tindersticks - "The Flicker Of A Little Girl" (live @ De Laatste Show - March 12, 2008)
Video: Tindersticks - "All The Love" (live 2009)

MySpace: Tindersticks

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Airborne Toxic Event, Alberta Cross, The Henry Clay People @ The Mod Club (March 4, 2009)

concert review: The Airborne Toxic Event, Alberta Cross, The Henry Clay People @ The Mod Club (Toronto, Ontario) - March 4, 2009

The Airborne Toxic Event @ The Mod Club (Mar 4, 2009): photo by Michael Ligon
The Airborne Toxic Event: photo by Michael Ligon

Oh Los Angeles. I'd been through Los Angeles as I'd arrived and departed from there back in 2004 when my friend and I went to Coachella. Los Angeles is such a sprawling monstrosity of a city, both beautiful and ugly, and when it comes to it's music scene, from my outsider perspective it's hard to pinpoint anything indentifiable of it. From my understanding, it's probably more likely that bands from Los Angeles identify themselves more by their neighbourhood than Los Angeles proper. Last Wednesday night at The Mod Club, headliners The Airborne Toxic Event came to represent Los Feliz while one of the openers The Henry Clay People came to represent Glendale. As much as the Los Angeles music scene has been under the radar for me lately (in comparison to say the London[UK] and NYC), the show last Wednesday showed that it was alive and kicking.

I came in to the venue just after first openers The Henry Clay People had started their set it seemed and there was already a healthy crowd there. I was fortunate to catch most of their set but had I'd only seen the Pavement sticker on one of the guy's guitar cases and their set-closing cover of The Rolling Stones' 'Honky Tonky Woman', it would have been more than an accurate reflection of their influences. Singer Joey Siara sang with a bit of Malkmus' slackness, but otherwise the songs were a rollicking stab at rock n' roll as I'd ever heard. Joey's younger brother Andy on guitar also took turns at lead vocals and at the tender age of 22 [I believe I recall Joey saying that Andy just turned 22] showed that he's no slouch in the vocals department. It was just a bonus to their set when Airborne's Steven Chen joined them for one song to contribute some of his guitar virtuosity. It's a shame that they live all the way on the west coast but hopefully they'll make a trek through Toronto again soon.

Perhaps a bit of cross-country ambassadorship brought Brooklyn's Alberta Cross to the bill, filling the second opener slot. Although based in Brooklyn, their MySpace reveals they're an Anglo-Swedish outfit - as to how they ended up in Brooklyn, that alone is probably a story into itself but I haven't read that much into the band. Musically they have one foot in classic rock, maybe most notably Neil Young as on 'Song Three Blues' which churns slowly with it's keyboards, crunchy guitars and vocalist Petter Ericson Stakee's high-pitched croon. The band does reflect a more contemporary alt-rock sound on the sombre but urgent 'Leave Us Or Forgive Us'. Most notable in the instrumentation department in my opinion was guitarist Sam Kearney who's meaty guitar arrangements added much to the band's sound. I'm undecided as to whether Petter's high-pitched vocals are the best fit to the band's sound although the more I listen to the band's songs on their MysPace the more I'm thinking the band's music speaks for itself. Overall, they had a more serious tone to their set than the one preceding it but ultimately it was inspired.

If I could go back in time I would have not skipped The Airborne Toxic Event's set at last year's Virgin Festival purely on the basis of what I still believe is an awful band name. Maybe it was with a little serendipity that I heard their magnificent single 'Sometime Around Midnight' on The Edge a few months back and actually enjoyed it immensely - it's a song that builds from quietly sung vocals and guitar strums to a swell of instrumentation and strings with the urgency and sonic similarities of Arcade Fire. And I here I thought that mainstream alternative rock radio had gone down the shithole. It's surprising to me that the band is from Los Angeles as they don't meet any of my preconvieved notions of what a band from LA should sound like (nor look like, taking cues it seems from Interpol in their mostly black attire). Aside from the aforementioned Arcade Fire comparison with 'Sometime Around Midnight', just a sampling of their sounds on their MySpace bears to mind New York City with the Strokes-ian pop textures of 'Gasoline' and the Interpol-ish post-punk and deadpannedness vocals on 'This Is Nowhere'. As their live set would attain to, violinist Anna Bulbrook's playing as well as guitarist Steven Chen's atmospheric guitar melodies added a anthemic dimension to their music at times. With only one album, their 2008 self-titled debut, under their belt, their set was understandbly short(although they did play a few new songs) but ultimately satisfying. During the end of their third last song of their main set, a fight broke out around the front of the stage (near me actually, but I had nothing to do with it, I swear) between two groups of patrons and the guilty party was subsequently kicked out as the band played on. In some way it felt the whole incident was on cue as just as the guilty part was led out by security, the band seemingly cued into 'Sometime Around Midnight' and the crowd's euphoria was almost tangible. The show could have ended their for me and I'd have been satisfied but they played one more song('Innocence') then came back for an encore towards the end of which they invited audience members to jump up on to the stage with them as people gladfully did and the band brought the song to a rousing conclusion. Expect big things from them in 2009. And Toronto, consider yourself lucky as the band had to cancel their subsequent Ottawa and Montreal dates due to aggravation of vocalist Mikel Jollett's laryngitis, which I'd never have guessed he had based on their Toronto show.

Photos: The Airborne Toxic Event, Alberta Cross, The Henry Clay People @ The Mod Club (March 4, 2009)

MySpace: The Henry Clay People
MySpace: Alberta Cross
MySpace: The Airborne Toxic Event

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Concert Announcements & Music News (March 4, 2009)

Still plugging last year's "Narrow Stairs", Death Cab For Cutie will return for a show at Sound Academy on April 5. Openers are Cold War Kids and Ra Ra Riot. Tickets onsale tomorrow, for $40.50 a pop.

Willie Nelson is at Massey Hall on April 8 & 9. Full dates here.

UK soul-pop songstress Adele is at Massey Hall on April 29.

Locals Spiral Beach and Vancouver's Hey Ocean are at the Horseshoe Tavern on April 24.

Gavin Rossdale stops in for a show at Music Hall Theatre on April 25. [last four items via Pollstar]

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart return to Toronto for a repeat performance at Lee's Palace on April 28, tickets $10.00. Lead singer Kip Berman did mention at their last show there on February 12 that Toronto had been their largest crowd ever. They have a little crush on Toronto now I guess. [Via rootmeansquare]

UK's Lady Sovereign returns to these shores and will play Lee's Palace on May 1, tickets $20. Her newest album "Jigsaw" is out April 6 in the UK. [Via rootmeansquare]

Montreal band Patrick Watson are at Trinity St Paul's on May 2 according to Pollstar.

Loney Dear who I really don't know much about but everyone else(well bloggers anyway) seems to have heard, is heading out on a North American tour, stopping in for a show in Toronto at the Rivoli on May 8.

May 8 will also see Vivial Girls and Crystal Antlers stopping in for a show at the Horseshoe Tavern. Via Ground Control Touring.

chartattack reports that The Tragically Hip will tour North America to promote their new album "We Are The Same" due out April 7. Their playing Massey Hall May 11-12 and then May 14-16. Wonderin' why they might be taking May 13th off? Rest day perhaps? Check out Ticketmaster.ca for presales which are happening as we speak, but the public onsale goes down Friday March 6, with tickets topping out at $89.50 with some 3rd level Gallery seating between CA $49.50 - CA $69.50.

UK's Doves are at Kool Haus on June 1. Via Chromewaves.

It's been confirmed that Brooklyn's Dirty Projectors will open for TV On The Radio at Sound Academy on June 2. Tickets to that show are $22.50. [Via rootmeansquare]

Grizzly Bear move up to a larger venue this time around, when they stop in for a show at the Phoenix on June 5.

It's been confirmed that Coldplay will be playing Rogers Centre(rather than Molson Ampitheatre) on July 30. Interested parties should probably consider the advice over at Stille Post who point out that a special time limited offer at Ticketmaster.ca tomorrow at 10 AM - "Be first to purchase Argos single game vouchers for $33 each, and as a bonus you will instantly be able to purchase your Coldplay tickets to the band's July 30th show ahead of the public."

London's (Ontario that is) Olenka and The Autumn Lovers have a brand spanking new website. Some dates are listed over at her site including what might be her last Toronto date for a while (since her May and June seems to be booked up for now) taking place at the Rivoli on April 9 as part of Megan Hamilton's CD Release show (I guess Olenka and her band will be opening).

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Coast, The Diableros, Oh No Forest Fires @ Horseshoe Tavern (February 28, 2009)

Oh No Forest Fires @ Horseshoe (Feb 28, 2009): photo by Michael Ligon

The Diableros' Pete Carmichael @ Horseshoe (Feb 28, 2009): photo by Michael Ligon

The Coast's Ben Spurr @ Horseshoe (Feb 28, 2009): photo by Michael Ligon

Photos: The Coast, The Diableros, Oh No Forest Fires @ Horseshoe Tavern (February 28, 2009)

MySpace: Oh No Forest Fires
MySpace: The Diableros
MySpace: The Coast