Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Lowell: photo by Michael Ligon
On the Friday night of Canadian Musicfest, I chose quality over quantity, only checking out two sets that night, but both buzz-worthy acts that in my opinion lived up to the hype. First up was Toronto singer-songwriter Lowell at Lee's Palace who was totally unknown to me before the festival. According to the her bio on the Canadian Musicfest website, over 4 days in April 2012, she worked in the studio with Grammy award winning producer Martin Terefe and the other members of the Apparatjik collective (Magne F (Aha), Guy Berryman (Coldplay) and Jonas Bjerre (MEW)) to create a mini-album entitled Apparatjik Presents lowell: if you_ _ can, 5olve thi5 jumble?, her debut which was released in late October 2012. Tagged as one to watch in 2013 by The Grid TO, she's only 21 years young but has already made some headway in Europe. Lowell's multiple appearances during this past Canadian Musicfest were apparently her first live shows in her hometown, and by what I heard at Lee's Palace that night, I was impressed. With a bank of keyboards in front of her and with a drummer accompanying her, it was a no-frills performance of subtle rhythms, whirring keyboards and Lowell's girlish vocals. I don't recall if she played her rhythmic pop single "Shake Him Off" but I can hear why she often has been compared to Swedish singer Lykke Li. I didn't quite get a full helping of her music since I arrived to the venue a little after she started her 9:30 pm set [the venue already being at almost 75% capacity] and her set seemed all-too-brief, but I look forward to checking her out live again. I'm usually hard to impress when it comes to artists / bands that are that young, so to come out of her set with my interest piqued was a nice surprise.
Photos: Lowell @ Lee's Palace, Toronto (March 22, 2013)
Video: Lowell - "Shake Him Off" (music video)
Savages: photo by Michael Ligon
Next up on my agenda were buzz act Savages from London, England who were scheduled to play a set at the Horseshoe Tavern at around 10 after 11 pm. This was the first of two appearance they had scheduled during the festival [they played a midnight set at Lee's Palace the night after]. I'd gone to the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City in October of last year and Savages were actually one of the buzziest acts of the festival, and I managed to not catch any of their appearances so I definitely thought I should make up for that. As dangerous-sounding as their name implies, the all-female four-piece consisting of Jehnny Beth on vocals, Ayse Hassan on bass guitar, Fay Milton on drums & Gemma Thompson on guitar, specialized in a spiky post-punk sound that had echoes of Siouxsie and The Banshees, Joy Division, Gang of Four, and Public Image Limited. The band had appropriately dark attire to go with their dark post-punk sound, Jehnny's stark vocal attack like a sonic punch in the face, while the band with Fay's propulsive drumming, Ayse rumbling bass, and Gemma's spiky guitar sound, sliced through the air. While Jehnny had an air of perhaps being a bit scary, she was really only like that when she zoned in to her vocal performance - she was quite thankful to the audience, the few times she spoke to us. I was too young in the late 70's / early 80's to have experienced the post-punk era first-hand, but this I imagine may have been the closest facsimile, minus the smartphone cameras that a good number of audience members had of course. The band's debut full-length entitled Silence Yourself is set to be released on May 7 via Beth's own label Pop Noire and through Matador Records.
Video: Savages - "Husbands" (live on Later with Jools Holland, 2nd October 2012)