Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Concert Announcements / Music News (April 29, 2009)

As the warm weather approaches (then retreats, and hopefully comes back soon), summer festival / concert info is slowly seeping through. By now rumours of this year's Virgin Festival taking place not in Toronto but in Oro, Ontario at Burl's Creek Family Event Park on August 29 and 30 have already divided music fans whether such a change in venue is a good thing. Consensus seems to be that Olympic Island, even with all it's problems, was a good enough venue and it's proximity was a bonus. does at least confirm that the Canadian Virgin Festivals are indeed returning in 2009.

Hillside Festival (taking place at Guelph Lake Island from July 24-26) has revealed a few artists so far confirmed including Lorenna McKennit, Xavier Rudd, Tokyo Police Club, Buffy Ste. Marie, Final Fantasy and David Francey.

Hip hop festival Rock The Bells has confirmed dates and venues for the travelling tour. The tour stops in Toronto on July 5 at Molson Ampitheatre.

Yonge Dundas Square has confirmed it's summer events lineup including its lunchtime Serenades In The Square series, its Global Grooves series, as well as it's free film series, this year dubbed Adrenalin Rush!. Although full details haven't been confirmed, the square will also host a multitude of festivals and events(including events related to NXNE and Luminato, among others) throughout the summer into autumn.

Chromewaves reports Halifax's Dog Day roll into Lee's Palace on May 28 and that Quebec's Malajube will play that venue on June 12. says the Malajube show is a free show, and the opener will be Hollerado.

Pride Toronto (June 19-28) gives a glimpse of some of its entertainment highlights and in addition to previously announced artists like Esthero and Gentleman Reg, it's confirmed that Islands, Opopo as well as the 80's retro Regeneration Tour (featuring ABC, Wang Chung, Heaven 17 and Cutting Crew) will also be performing. Eye's Sarah Liss has a few issues with some of the acts participating in this year's Pride Toronto, especially in terms of revelancy to the queer community.

UK ambient electronic act The Orb with openers Orchard Lounge will play an intimate19+ show at The Mod Club on July 6. Tickets onsale April 30 at 10 am.

Sunset Rubdown with openers Elfin Saddle[I thought they were terrific when they opened for Tindersticks back in March] and Witchies play Lee's Palace on July 10. Tickets $13. More North American dates over at the Sunset Rubdown's website. The band release their new album "Dragonslayer" on June 23 through Jagjaguwar.

Soundscapes informs that the Japandroids show scheduled for El Mocambo on May 9 has been just been rescheduled for July 16. Tickets can be refunded at point of purchase or will be honoured for the new date.

Fucked Up with guest Women and others TBA are playing Phoenix on July 16, tickets $16.00 onsale now. You can buy tickets online at or through the usual outlets. Via Stille Post.

M83 return to Toronto for a show at the Phoenix on July 17.

Just over the US/Canadian border, Wilco with openers Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band will be playing Lewiston Art Park on July 19. This is the same weekend that the Pitchfork Music Festival is happening in Chicago. I'd been considering going to Pitchfork but this Wilco show is tempting. This is also the same weekend(specifically on July 18) that the Siren Music Festival is happening in NYC - Pollstar reports on the lineup announcement.

Brooklyn indie rock band Obits (their most recent album "I Blame You" just out on Sub Pop) will stop in at Lee's Palace on July 23, tickets $12.

Pollstar lists Jenn Grant playing Harbourfront Centre on July 24. So far there's been no confirmation on Harbourfront Centre's World Routes Festivals' artist lineups although the Advance Events Listings media release [PDF file] does indicate that July 24 is during Harbourfront's "Canadian Voices" festival.

Eagles of Death Metal with openers Toronto's Flash Lightnin' play Kool Haus on August 2. Full dates over at the band's MySpace.

Motorhead and Reverend Horton Heat play Polson Pier on September 2.

The Killers seem to like Toronto in September [they played the Toronto Virgin Festival in 2007], as they'll be returning for a Labour Day weekend show on September 6 at Molson Ampitheatre. Tickets onsale April 30 at 10 am, tickets CA $26.25 - CA $69.50.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bat For Lashes, Lewis and Clarke @ The Mod Club (April 25, 2009)

concert review: Bat For Lashes, Lewis And Clarke @ The Mod Club (Toronto, Ontario) - April 25, 2009

Bat For Lashes @ The Mod Club: photo by Michael Ligon
Bat For Lashes @ The Mod Club: photo by Michael Ligon

The UK's been a source of some of the most interesting female musical talent for a while now although it seems that over the past several years it's been with increasing frequency. I'd already had the pleasure of seeing Lily Allen live last week at Sound Academy and this past Saturday night at The Mod Club I saw yet another of one the UK's female musical exports, Miss Natasha Khan who goes by the intriguing stage name Bat For Lashes who'd chosen Toronto as the kick-off to her North American tour in support of her second full-length "Two Suns".

Perhaps Natasha has a thing for Pennsylvanian chamber folk-rock outfit Lewis and Clarke as they'd also opened for Bat For Lashes in 2007 at the El Mocambo. Although a generally chatty crowd threatened to mire the vibe, Lewis and Clarke proceeded on with their gentle folk-rock set, expressing their sound with gently plucked acoustic guitar arrangements, delicate cello and stand-up bass, softly played drums, and the soothing vocals of frontman Lou Rogai. There wasn't much deviation from their chamber folk-rock formula from what I recall but in general they did what they did quite well. While there were signs of appreciation from the audience, I think the audience was generally indifferent. But who could blame them for being impatient to see Bat For Lashes.

I have to admit that my aural introduction to Bat For Lashes has been quite recent. While I've never really been a fan of Kate Bush, comparisons to her as well as a deluge of press(both official and blogs) had convinced me to give her 2007 debut "Fur and Gold" a listen and I'm glad I did. Her songs are soaked with dramaticism, dark-toned pop songs that tug at the soul whether acoustic-based(piano, harpischord, autoharp) or augmented with electronic flourishes. It's Natasha's passionate - with - an - ounce - of - pain vocals which utimately hold the melodies together and pull the listener in refusing to let go until your completely engulfed in the each song's emotional resonance. The band opened with "Two Suns" track 'Glass' and as drummer Sarah Jones launched into a solid rhythm, I could feel pulsating waves of sound wash through me. It was an intense feeling. While the pulsating waves of sound subsided to less tangible levels, the set wasn't any less intense because of it. Ash's Charlotte Hatherley took up bass guitar and background vox detail and she especially excelled with the latter while multi-instrumentalist Ben Christophers provided various accoutrements. With the stage decked out with various antique store items like Holy Mary figures, a leg-shaped lamp, angels and a wolf-themed blanket, there was an atmosphere of mysticism, an impression I'd got already from "Fur and Gold"'s album cover. Wolf-howl from Ms. Khan at one point notwithstanding, she was a lot more down-to-earth and less eccentric than I'd expected. She'd even attempted a joke (unfortunately which I hadn't caught, although others had) in response to which some audience members had chuckled which seemed to please her as she humbly responded "aww, they laughed at my joke". It was a nicely varied sounding set ranging from the invading pop of "Horse and I", the danceable "What's A Girl Got To Do", the scintillating electro-pop of "Daniel"(included twice in the set in both a quiet and 'bigger' version), and the tribal-stomp dance-pop of "Sleep Alone". Sensitive, sultry, emotional and charistmatic, as well as being one heck of a songwriter, Ms. Khan has all the makings of success. For sure, next time she won't be playing The Mod Club. While I did attain a certain level of enjoyment from Klaxons' "Myths of the Near" back in 2007, knowing what I know now of Bat For Lashes I can only say that "Fur And Gold" losing out to "Myths of the Near" for that year's Mercury Prize was total robbery.

Photos: Bat For Lashes, Lewis and Clarke @ The Mod Club (April 25, 2009)

Chromewaves and The Panic Manual, both have reviews of and photos from the show. Muchmusic also has a brief review of the show. lyncanthropy has some nice photos from the show too.

MySpace: Lewis and Clarke
MySpace: Bat For Lashes

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lily Allen, Natalie Portman's Shaved Head @ Sound Academy (April 22, 2009)

concert review: Lily Allen, Natalie Portman's Shaved Head @ Sound Academy (Toronto, Ontario) - April 22, 2009

Lily Allen @ Sound Academy(April 22, 2009): photo by Michael Ligon
Lily Allen @ Sound Academy: photo by Michael Ligon

Lily Allen, that young woman in the chiffon dress back in 2006 who'd I'd witnessed make her sold-out but all-too-brief Toronto debut at Lee's Palace is now able to play large venues like Sound Academy as she did last week to a nearly sold out audience. Her debut "Alright Still" whose popularity was a product of months of Internet buzz was favourite of mine in 2006. However, two and half years later with the release of her sophomore album "It's Not Me It's You" seems like a long time and I'd doubed whether Sound Academy was too large of a venue for Lily but witnessing the nearly sold-out crowd and many in attendance (mostly young ladies) singing along to the new songs was ample evidence that Lily's more popular than ever.

Opening the show was Seattle's Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, a band name which is just plain terrible, although the music while not the type of longevity at least had more than an ounce of fun. Like an electro-dance-rock B-52's for the new millenium they sang songs abouts beards, ponytails, Madonna, and how highschool sucks(this last song which drummer Liam Downey Jr., a devoted follower of Degrassi, devoted the song too). Lead vocals for the most part were handled energetically by vocalist Luke Smith although lone female member Claire England did her best white-girl rapping on "Sophisticated Side Ponytail".

Maybe it was because Toronto was the last stop of her current North American stop that Lily Allen seemed in such high spirits. Or maybe it was she'd had a little to drink but whatever it was she was happy. As Lily would eventually express to the crowd, she was looking forward to going home to her mom (who always cooks her tasty meals), and to her dog. With the back of the stage emblazoned with the word "Lily" in large white letters, Lily finalled made her entrance to a rapturous crowd. Coming out in a hoody covering her head she'd eventually shed the jacket altogether to reveal a black spandex outfit. She did admit to wearing Spanx (a type of slimming garment) and saying how all the women in the crowd would know what she's talking about which drew a response from the ladies.

The set drew heavy on her most recent album "It's Not Me It's You" of course and while lyrically she's as biting and honest as ever, it does follow more of a pop-oriented approach than it's predecessor "Alright Still" which felt like a multicultural collision between Lily's London-town roots and influences from Calypso, ska, and hip hop. It was lovely to hear her perform the first album's 'Everything's Just Wonderful' which she hadn't performed at Lee's in 2006 and her infectious skanking hit 'Smile' (which she performed during the encore, by which time she'd changed into jeans and a t-shirt) but the set was truly devoted to her most recent album. I like the country-western leanings of "Not Fair" and the polished-pop of "Chinese" and "This Fear" and as the new songs unravelled before me I realized how good the new album was. Needless to say, I should really go buy it. It's only Lily who could pull off singing a song called "Fuck You", a song that's less about shock value and more of a cheeky poke at the asshole(George W. Bush) it's written about. Lily expressed while the song was written about one asshole in mind it could apply to any number of assholes, bigots, racists, or what have you. I'd have never expected Lily Allen as this generation's 'folk' music but during that song, as we'd all happily raised our middle fingers in unison, you wouldn't have doubted it.

Photos: Lily Allen @ Sound Academy (April 22, 2009)

MuchMusic and Fazer have a review of and photos from the show. Also check out reviews over at chartattack, The Toronto Sun and The Toronto Star.

MySpace: Natalie Portman's Shaved Head
MySpace: Lily Allen

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Little Girls, Steamboat, Hooded Fang @ Sonic Boom (April 18, 2009) / Other News

concert review: Little Girls, Steamboat, Hooded Fang @ Sonic Boom (Toronto, Ontario) - April 18, 2009

Hooded Fang @ Sonic Boom (April 18, 2009): photo by Michael Ligon
Hooded Fang @ Sonic Boom: photo by Michael Ligon

After a Record Store Day tour-of-duty (I hit up in order, Rotate This, Soundscapes, Criminal Records, Penguin Music, and Sunrise Records), I ended up at Sonic Boom who themselves were celebrating with an afternoon-into-evening full of instore performances from a sampling of Toronto indie up-and-comers. Having just trekked around Toronto, I managed to stick around for the first three acts.

For my first time seeing young indie pop hopefuls Hooded Fang I was fortunate as apparently they were considerably tighter than they'd been in some past shows. Playing pop music augmented by all the usual instrumental components (keys, guitar, bass, drums, horns, handclaps, and a smidge of accordion), they maintained a level of chipperness without thankfully being overly twee. As with many pop bands, they played music that sounded happy bit the lyrics revealed a more serious undertone. Perhaps their biggest strength (besides infectious melodies) were the alternating lead vocals - Daniel Lee with his suave approaching-on baritone, and Lorna Wright with her jubilant, clear timbre. They didn't outwardly express much more than a shimmy and shake (especially from Lorna and multi-instrumentalist Julia Barnes), but they're young and it's hopefully a component of their live show they'll develop over time.

Seeming like a 180 degree turn from Hooded Fang's sunny indie pop was next act Steamboat. Composed of a rhythm section comprised of a couple of people from Soundscapes and the remaining three members on lead vocals/keys, second keys, and guitar, they worked their bluesy, soul, rock angle (with a more than decent reggae cover thrown in) surprisingly well. Instead of coming off like a second-rate bar band, much of their strength in rising above that lay in the soulful lead vocals of Matt McLaren and his colourful Hammond(?) organ playing. Credit also should go to the band for being musically tight without treading into wankier territory. I wouldn't have thought the young'uns would have been much into it but they seemed to genuinely enjoy the set. Update: They have several shows coming up - April 25 at Tranzac, April 30 at Dakota Tavern and May 16 at Sneaky Dee's for a CD release.

Third act(and final act of the day for me) was fresh-out-of-the-box young Toronto 4-piece Little Girls, 'little' maybe in the sense of being slim enough to fit into slim-fit jeans, but they weren't girls. Prior to their set, I'd thought of skipping out on their set but overwhelming curiosity to find out who they were (and see if they were in fact some hip young all-girl band) convinced me to stay. Disappointment, on the visual front. Musically, I wasn't immediately impressed either, although I did appreciate their noisy, post-punk influences. They played pop music with noisier, murkier sensibilities and a minimalist D.I.Y. ethic. The vocals are a noisier, harsher version of sing-speak and lead vocalist Josh McIntyre pogoed and stumbled around the stage in an intoxicated-like fashion. Visually they screamed hip young, NME-approved band-du-jour, but it'll be interesting to see where they go from there. It was after all their FIRST SHOW EVER. They will play Rancho Relaxo on May 1 then the Over The Top Festival at Sneaky Dee's on May 10 before heading to shows in Montreal and Brooklyn.

It's Not The Band I Hate, It's Their Fans has a review also of these acts plus additional act Green Go who I unfortunately did not stick around for(maybe next time).

Photos: Little Girls, Steamboat, Hooded Fang @ Sonic Boom (April 18, 2009)
There's a cursory lineup of artists up now at the NXNE website. It's also been revealed that Atlanta's The Black Lips will be playing a free show during NXNE at Yonge Dundas Square on June 18 with Burning Brides and Melissa Auf Der Maur also on the bill. Presented by MySpace Canada.

Still kicking around, Cracker will play Lee's Palace on June 23, tickets $20.50 in advance.

Toronto's Slim Twig plays the Horseshoe on May 29 for a CD release of his debut full-length "Contempt!" out through Paper Bag Records on June 9. Tickets for the show are $10.

Pitchfork reports on the annoucement of this year's Lollapalooza (August 7-9) lineup. I haven't actually looked it. I'm rushing this post but I will look at it tonight.

This year's Summerworks Festival has a launch party on May 3 at The Theatre Centre (1087 Queen St. West) with music from Bob Wiseman, RAA's Nils Edenloff, and Foxfire. Via Stille Post.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Neko Case, Crooked Fingers @ Trinity-St. Paul Church (April 17, 2009) / Other News

concert review: Neko Case, Crooked Fingers @ Trinity-St. Paul Church (Toronto, Ontario) - April 17, 2009

Up till last Friday night I'd seen Neko Case live three times (ok, four times if you count her shortened-set-due-to-hail-storm at Sasquatch Festival in June 2006) - January 2005 at the Phoenix, July 2005 at Harbourfront Centre, and April 2006 at Berkeley Church. Neko's one artist whom I've promised to see live every time she returns to Toronto and of course I needed no convincing to buy a ticket when I found out she'd be playing Trinity-St. Paul Church. In fact, for the occasion of the release of her newest CD "Middle Cyclone", she sold out two nights at Trinity-St. Paul's.

Opening the night was Crooked Fingers. It's a shame that after Archers of Loaf were no more, I'd never taken the time to explore Eric Bachmann's work as Crooked Fingers [I've had the debut CD for a long time and never really listened to it]. As on display at the show last Friday, it seems Bachmann's raspy vocals with Archers has developed warmer, smoother tones with Crooked Fingers. Similarly, Crooked Fingers steers away from the noisy melodicism of Archers but rather is steeped in isms of folk, country and lo-fi pop. Joining Eric were multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Tim Hussman on drums, percussion and keyboards, and maybe a few other things and bassist / vocalist Miranda Brown. With Eric on vocals and guitar, it was a deceptively simple setup but the songs were so rich in melodies and the instrumentation surprisingly robust. Banter was minimal [although he did mention something along the lines having to go to church almost every day in his youth, and not being back since], keeping the vibe of the set perhaps a little too polite. That aside, the music more than spoke for itself.

It was a casual Neko with her untamed mane of fiery red hair, dressed in sleeveless top, capri pants (which she kept on having to tug up, to the amusement of the audience) and cute but sensible shoes, who made her presence to us last Friday night. Her number one gal pal Kelley Hogan (who when she wasn't singing was like one-half of a comedy team with Neko) was there on background vox, with Jon Rauhouse on guitar and pedal steel, guitarist Paul Rigby, bassist Tom V. Ray, and drummer Barry Mirochnick, all who played on "Middle Cyclone". The set leaned most heavily on "Middle Cyclone" and Neko's previous album "Fox Confessor Brings The Flood"(highlight being "Hold On, Hold" which she'd written with Toronto's The Sadies and who she'd acknowledge to us) but she also pulled out wonderful renditions of tracks from "Blacklisted"('Deep Red Bells', 'I Wish I Was The Moon'), the title track from "The Tigers Have Spoken", as well as a cover of Sook-Yin Lee's 'Knock Loud' off of Neko's covers EP "Canadian Amp", all the while as artful, nature-themed screen projections, with the screen itself adorned by a giant owl and what seemed like silk-screened trees, were displayed behind them . There's no hesitation on my part in saying that Neko vocals were spot on and the musicianship (particularly drummer Mirchnick's spectacularly fluid drumming, Rauhouse's sublime pedal steel work, Hogan's complimentary background vox), but it was a shame that things out of Neko's control (my own tiredness, the muddy acoustics up in the balcony, the uncomfortable seating) affected my enjoyment of the show slightly. In retrospect, I should have grabbed a seat on the main floor (which I had the opportunity to do earlier in the evening) where I'd assume the acoustics would have been better and perhaps the seating may have been more comfortable. Definitely next time. Credit still needs to be given to Neko for putting on yet another great vocal performance. Wish I was able to capture some photos for posterity. Dang, no-photo policy.

There was a cool chalk drawing of Neko's "Middle Cyclone" album cover outside of the venue. Here's a photo of the creatively adorned video screen (photo taken AFTER the show was finished of course).

chartattack(who also have the setlist) and JAM! have reviews of the Friday April 17 show.

Chromewaves was at the Neko Case show Saturday night. suckingalemon has a photo of the setlist from the Saturday night show. I am SO jealous that Neko glammed it up for the night and wore a dress - not to mention having Garth Hudson as a special guest.

Apparently, Neko'll be back later this summer to play Massey Hall. I'm getting goosebumps already.

MySpace: Crooked Fingers
MySpace: Neko Case
In other news:

Tattoo Rock Parlour will host The Field, and The Juan Maclean on June 18

Female keyboards-pop trio Au Revoir Simone are at Lee's Palace on May 21, tickets $12. Their newest album "Still Night, Still Light" is out May 19 through their own label Our Secret Record Company - via The Yellow Stereo.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Record Store Day

Record Store Day
Ok, this is the obligatory Record Store Day post. But before I get into the various Record Store Day celebrations going on around town this Saturday, a story in yesterday's Toronto Star reports on the woes of one record store owner, Peter Genest of Hits and Misses(860 Bloor St. West), and how the City of Toronto wants Mr. Genest to pay a $555 license fee in order to be permitted to sell second-hand goods. The article recants the general confusion surrounding this fee to sell-hand goods and whether a record shop like Hits and Misses falls within that category. Toronto councillors Rob Ford and Howard Moscoe were asked their opinions about the situation and both agreed that it was a cash grab, quoting Ford saying "If they want to put people out of work it's a good way of doing it." From my layman's perspective, the whole licensing issue seems like such a grey area - I wonder whether any of the other record stores in Toronto have such a license. Sonic Boom? They deal with a lot of second hand inventory, but on the other hand they have just as large, if not larger stock of new inventory. Simply, I think most of the indie record shops (at least the major ones like Rotate This, Soundscapes, Criminal Records, Sonic Boom) in Toronto should be exempt from the license fee since they do not deal exclusively with second-hand goods. It's hard times to be a record store owner these days - it's difficult enough that digital downloads (legal or illegal) are drawing customers away from the physical music format. A license fee, like that imposed on Mr. Genest, is almost like a nail in the coffin. I for one will be rooting for Mr. Genest and all record stores this coming Saturday and celebrate Record Store Day wholeheartedly - just hope I can snag a limited edition Record Store Day release or two. Once a music geek, always a music geek.

Ok so rather than retype all the Record Store Day celebrations happening this Saturday around Toronto, check out Eye Weekly's rundown which covers Sunrise Records, Criminal Records, Sonic Boom, Penguin Music, and Soundscapes.

Rotate This is also taking part in Record Store Day and will be offering 10% off everything in the store.

Outside of Toronto? There are other Canadian cities participating in Record Store Day.


"Ah man, that's great. That's the fun thing about workin' in a record store - you get to play crappy pap you don't even wanna listen to." --- Barry (Jack Black) in High Fidelity

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Concert Announcements / Music News (April 15, 2009)

Local T.O. photographer Carrie Musgrave has great photos on from Metric's show at The Mod Club last night. chartattack and Eye Weekly review the show - obviously they played much of their recently released new album "Fantasies". They're playing a whack of North American and European dates but will return home to play Edgefest at Downsview Park on June 20. You can download a free remix by Brazilian electro-house duo The Twelves of Metric's 'Help I'm Alive' over at RCRD LBL.

Eye Weekly's cover girl and topic of a feature article for tomorrow's issue is Neko Case who's playing two sold out shows at Trinity St. Paul's on April 17 and 18. Hey, does anyone suspect any trouble with photo-taking with point-and-shoot cameras at the upcoming shows in Toronto. Comments over at Brooklyn Vegan about Neko's recent show in NYC at Nokia Theatre speak about camera troubles and having been forced to check them.

NOW drops some buzzy names for the upcoming NXNE festival including Black Lips, No Age, Health, Matt and Kim, King Khan & BBQ Show, Fake Blood, and These Are Powers. NOW also says that NXNE in collaboration with Luminato will present Do Make Say Think, Final Fantasy, and Berlin experimental electronic musician Robert Lippok collaborating live to perform a soundtrack to a rare print of the 1919 silent horror film "Tales Of The Uncanny" for a FREE presentation at Yonge Dundas Square on June 11.

NylonTV has a video interview with Natasha Khan aka Bat For Lashes who namedrops Dead Can Dance, talks about her alter ego Pearl and speaks about her new album "Two Suns", out in Canada April 21. Via The Music Slut. Bat For Lashes will play The Mod Club on April 25.

Also via The Music Slut, AC Newman and band (including background vocals from Nicole Atkins) performed 'Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer' (off his most recent album "Get Guilty") on Late Show With David Letterman a few days ago:

Video: AC Newman - 'Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer' (live on Late Show With David Letterman - April 13, 2009)

Kid Koala's at Lee's Palace on May 7. Via Eye Weekly.

Telepathe (who were suppose to open for Ladytron and The Faint at the Phoenix recently) play the El Mocambo with house-y electronica band Teengirl Fantasy on June 4.

Always on the pulse of new tour info, Chromewaves (courtesy of one of his recent Facebook status') informs that Phoenix (the French band) will play the Phoenix (the Toronto music venue) on June 15. Their new album "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" is out in Canada on May 26. '1901' off the new album, is streaming over at their MySpace. Phoenix also performed the song on Saturday Night Live recently:

Video: Phoenix - '1901' (live on SNL)

ScotlandOnSunday interviews reluctant frontwoman Traceyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura. They play a highly-anticipated show at Lee's Palace on June 27 with fellow-4AD labelmates opener Anni Rossi. 'French Navy' off their new album "My Maudlin Career" out on 4AD next week, has a music video:

Video: Camera Obscura - "French Navy" (music video)

NME has an exclusive stream of Depeche Mode's new album "Sounds Of The Universe", officially released in Canada on April 21. Depeche Mode, with openers Peter Bjorn and John, play Molson Ampitheatre on July 24.

UK's Friendly Fires return for a show at Lees Palace on August 10.

Magnet has interviews with both PJ Harvey [interview] and John Parish [interview] and their long-standing working relationship that's recently spawned their second collaborative effort "A Woman A Man Walked By". Polly Jean, John and band were recently on Late Night With Jay Leno to perform live:

Video: PJ Harvey & John Parish - 'Black Hearted Love' (live on Late Night With Jay Leno - Mar 26, 2009)

Kingblind point out that The Fall have signed with Domino who'll be releasing their new album whenever it's done.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Concert Announcements / Music News (April 13, 2009)

Olympic Island Concert 2009I anticipate the next few months should be busy with concert / festival announcements. Guelph's Hillside Festival and TOronto's Harbourfront Centre World Routes festivals should hopefully have some announcements over the next few weeks as their respective websites indicate. Hip Hop festival Rock The Bells will return again this year and their website does have a listing of artists confirmed so far but dates and venues are still to be announced. Over the weekend I was pondering whether Virgin Festival, Rogers Picnic or the Olympic Island Concert would make a return this year; so far no word yet on the first two, but destiny has it that the Olympic Island Concert will return this year on July 11 - on the bill are Broken Social Scene, Explosions In The Sky, Thunderheist, Beach House, Apostle Of Hustle, and Rattle Snake Choir. Tickets $49.50 onsale April 17, although a Inside Edge members presale is currently taking place at until Thursday evening.

More exciting concert announcements courtesy of Against The Grain: psych-rock outfit Pink Mountaintops stop for a show at the Horseshoe on June 14, tickets $11.50 in advance, onsale April 16. Promoting their newest album "Hazards of Love" out now, The Decemberists with openers Heartless Bastards will play Kool Haus on August 3, tickets a whopping $30.50, onsale April 16.

Colin Medley spotlights Jenn Grant in his video Soundcheck. Jenn plays the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia - her MySpace lists her playing the festival on July 3-5.

The Toronto Star speaks with Neko Case about her new album "Middle Cyclone", major label record deals, and being a nature freak. She plays two way sold-out shows at Trinity St. Paul's on April 17 & 18. NPR has a stream of Neko's recent show at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC.

NPR's offering an exclusive first listen, starting today, to Camera Obscura's newest album "My Maudlin Career" which is officially released next week. They play a show at Lee's Palace on June 27.

Fazer has a very enjoyable interview with The English Beat's Dave Wakeling, speaking about director John Hughes and music, playing live, file-sharing, alcohol and the band's 30th anniversary. Good Stuff. The English Beat play two shows in Toronto at Lee's Palace this week, on April 15 (tickets still available I think) and April 17 (sold out).

Rob from Burgeoning Metropolis has an entertaining e-mail exchange with Bryan from Black Hat Brigade. Comparisons to Wolf Parade and Modest Mouse aside (given that I'm not really that familiar with those bands), I'm starting to dig Black Hat Brigade. They played a great set at Canadian Musicfest last month. They headline a show at Lee's Palace on April 23 with Australia's Youth Group and Toronto's Bellewoods also on the bill.

NOW has a feature with Olenka and The Autumn Lovers including a few audio interview clips with vocalist/songwriter Olenka Krakus. They played a few local shows over the last few days and I didn't make it out to either but they'll return to open for Barzin at the Rivoli on May 1, before they head out east for a tour. I've been listening to Olenka and The Autumn Lovers self-titled debut which I should hopefully have a review of up soon.

No Toronto date, but Ted Leo's playing the Tralf in Buffalo, NY on June 17. More dates at Brooklyn Vegan.

Phil Spector's a musical genious but he's also now a convicted murderer.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Concert Announcements / Music News (April 10, 2009)

Over The Top Festival 2009

Although only April(btw, Happy Easter everyone), here's some early news on some upcoming festivals as well as some other concert announcements:

Eric Warner brings his annual Over The Top indie festival back this year to take place at various venues in Toronto from May 21-24. What started out as a music festival will this year at least include some films and plays. The music lineup's as follows(taken from Stille Post):

May 21:
Merbow w. Growing & METZ @ Polish Combatants Hall [tickets]
Clues w. Special Guests @ Sneaky Dee's [tickets]
Baby Dee w. Timber Timbre & Ghost Bees @ 67 Nassau [tickets]

May 22:
Mecca Normal - "How Art & Music Can Change the World" @ 67 Nassau [tickets]
Think About Life w. Tuneyards & Bayonets @ Polish Combatants Hall [tickets]
Ulysses & The Siren, The Narrative, Cool Dad & Guests @ Sneaky Dee's [not on sale online]
MV+EE, WOODS + Special Guest @ Whippersnapper Gallery [tickets]

May 23:
Five Blank Pages (Final Show) w. Oh No Forest Fires & Boys Who Say No @ The Mod Club [tickets]
Budos Band w. Word People, Kae Sun & DJ John Kong @ Polish Combatants Hall [tickets]
Tiny Masters of Today w. Windom Earle & The Superstitions @ Whippersnapper Gallery [tickets]
Shellshag, Fiasco & Special Guests @ Sneaky Dee's [tickets]

May 24:
Concert on a Transit Bus, BBQ and Acoustic Concert [not on sale yet]

While not my thing overall, the Toronto Jazz Festival has in recent years at least seemed to draw a few bands that I'd been interested in seeing if it were not for the ticket price. Thanks to The Singing Lamb for pointing out the following - Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings(with Blackburn also on the bill) bring some soul to Nathan Phillips Square on June 26, tickets $35. That same night, Jose Gonzalez brings his self-named Trio to Harbourfront's Enwave Theare, tickets $30. June 27, The Sea and Cake infuse some post-rock sonics into the festival when they play The Supermarket, tickets $27.50.

Mr. Dan Burke's drops some names who'll be taking part at his NeXT-at-NXNE showcase taking this place in June at the Silver Dollar and Velvet Underground - artists include Japan's Zoobombs, Red Mass, CATL, The Golden Triangle(from Brooklyn), The Two Koreas, The Sedatives, "PIZZA PARTY" DJs, Teen Anger, Hexes and Ohs, and Revolvers. Via Stille Post

Toronto's Gentleman Reg gets a 7.3 from Pitchfork for his newest album "Jet Black". Reg gets busy with several months of touring (US & Canada) starting with an instore on April 18 at Sonic Boom then returns home for a show at The Mod Club (opening for A Camp) on June 1 and after that returning for Pride Toronto to perform on the South Stage on June 27.

Also working their way touring through US and Canada over the next few months is Vancouver's The Pack A.D. who'll be at The Drake on April 17 and Horseshoe Tavern (w/ The Hanson Brothers & Potty Umbrella) on April 25.

Headlights will open for Loney Dear at the Rivoli on May 8. Cryptacize and Casiotone For The Painfully Alone will be at The Boat on July 8. Via Chromewaves.

Asobi Seksu will open for Yann Tiersen at The Mod Club on April 19. Via REMG.

UK's Gomez will be playin the Phoenix on May 29. The band's new album "New Tide" was just released. Check out the first single "Airstream Driver" over at their MySpace.

Randy Bachman plays a free show at Yonge Dundas Square on June 5, helping to kick off the just-over-a-week-long Luminato arts festival.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Glasvegas, Von Iva @ The Mod Club (April 3, 2009)

concert review: Glasvegas, Von Iva @ The Mod Club (Toronto, Ontario) - April 3, 2009

James Allan of Glasvegas: photo by Michael Ligon

Over the last few month's Glasgow, Scotland's Glasvegas have been working the promo route, having gone to SXSW, played Letterman and Craig Ferguson, and touring intensively. They finally made it to Toronto for a show at The Mod Club last Friday night. When tickets went onsale, they sold out almost immediately, a good indication that more than a few people were aware of this wonderful band. Melding the sound of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Phil Spector and 60's pop, Glasvegas create a wonderful melodic racket.

Taking the place of Norweigan indie artist Ida Maria who'd originally been scheduled to open was San Francisco trio Von Iva. Working their electro-soul rock from a basis of drums, keyboards and vocals they do bear a bit of resemblance to The Gossip, although stylistically, both visually and musically, they trade in The Gossip's dance-punk angle and play it with a glammier sheen. Even though they're from San Francisco, they sound L.A. / Hollywood to me, if that makes any sense. Perhaps it's not surprising that they've already appeared in a film, the recent "Yes Man" where they played 'Munchausen by Proxy', the band backing Zooey Deschanel's character in the film. Von Iva vocalist Jillian Iva definitely has some vocal chops and she played to the crowd, at one point jumping down from the stage to get all up in the audience's faces. A bit cliched perhaps, and maybe she wasn't aware how stoic Toronto audiences could be, but you can't blame her for trying. Ok, maybe you can.

To put it succintly, Glasvegas' Toronto debut last Friday at The Mod Club was triumphant. With the rain having come down steadily all day, letting up slightly as the day ushered in the night, Glasvegas just seemed like the perfect soundtrack. Their rockabilly greaser fashions, in particular bassist Paul Donoghue wearing a Clash t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his shoudlers, and vocalist James Allan looking a lot like Joe Strummer, evoked a certain rock n' roll spirit that did carry over into their music. From the opening notes of their 'hit' song "Geraldine" it was pure bliss. Anchoring their melancholy melodies, it was an arsenal of guitar pedals which they used to augment their guitars(Rab Allan) and bass, while the primitive drum rhythms(played competently enough by Caroline McKay) kept things at pace. Guitarist Rab Allan frequently faced into his guitar amp while playing for a desired noisy effect. The lighting, hues of red and blue, and strobe lights which bordered epileptic levels seemed to mirror the frequent audio chaos. However, things did grow calmer when James Allan performed solo, shedding his black leather jacket to reveal a droopy black sleeveless shirt underneath. Whether the music was loud or softer, the crowd (one of the most enthusiastic I've ever seen recently) was along for the ride every step of the way, clapping hands and singing along with enthusiasm. Glasvegas displayed an anthemic streak that I could definitely see them playing larger venues. Even in a venue as intimate as The Mod Club, at the end of the show James proceeded to play up to the audience applause and cheers, and as if he were looking out at a stadium-sized sea of people, he proceeded to point to every part of the venue including the balcony as if he were thanking us one by one for giving them the best show of their life.

Photos: Glasvegas, Von Iva @ The Mod Club (April 3, 2009)

Chromewaves, The Toronto Sun and eye all have glowing reviews of the show.

MySpace: Von Iva
MySpace: Glasvegas
Fan Site: Glasvegas

Friday, April 03, 2009

White Lies, Friendly Fires, The Soft Pack @ Lee's Palace (March 31, 2009)

concert review: White Lies, Friendly Fires, The Soft Pack @ Lee's Palace (Toronto, Ontario) - March 31, 2009

   White Lies' Harry McVeigh: photo by Michael Ligon
White Lies' Harry McVeigh: photo by Michael Ligon

This past Tuesday night at Lee's Palace brought the "NME Presents" co-headlining tour of two hotly tipped UK acts, White Lies and Friendly Fire with San Diego's The Soft Pack along as the opener and of course it was sold out. I've been enjoying White Lies' debut "To Lose My Life" recently and had been disappointed that advance tickets had sold out so I decided to go to the venue early and perhaps get a ticket from a scalper and was pleasantly surprised that they were selling some tickets at the door. Score.

Opening the show were The Soft Pack, who apparently were previously known as The Muslims (Hmmm, I wonder why they changed their name?) They played an abrasive, angular brand of garage rock, with a lot of scratchy guitar work, thick basslines and earnest, shout-y vocals. They were part Velvet Undergound(minimalist rock instrumentation), part The Fall(dry vocals), and a dash of a CBGB's vibe circa late 70's like Television (guitar work). Their cue from The Velvets showed up particularly in the modified basic drumkit which the drummer played standing up, banging out simple yet effective rhythms although played with a lot more gusto. Perhaps a bit derivative but at least the influences are stellar and they more than did them justice.

For some, UK's Friendly Fires' set could have been THE headlining set of the evening as they absolutley brought it. Their disco-ish dance rock has one foot in the disco-punk revival of a a few years back and the other set in the electronic dance realm and really the resulting output sounds pretty fresh. Disco-y high-hat taps, rapid-fire wooden block beats, thick basslines, pumping keyboards, delicious programmed beats, and the emotive, smooth vocals from vocalist Ed McFarlane. It was all in there. Mr. McFarlane's competent frontman duties extend to his stage presence, singing and dancing to the beats totally devoid of any self-consciousness. By the time the band finished their set, they left most of the crowd drenched in sweat, some even yelling out for more. Yes, as I said at the beginning of this paragraph, they brought it. White Lies had to follow that.

The four youthful, black-clad lads of White Lies, their band name emblazoned in black and white across the drumkit's bass drum had, much to answer to following Friendly Fires' set. This after all was a CO-headlining tour and if you're going to perform last you'd better bring it. White Lies's set wasn't the sweat-filled euphoria of Friendly Fires' set but they did an admirable job nonetheless. They're not a band that you'd expect stage antics anyway but they at least exuded a certain level of enthusiasm. Charles Cave, bassist and co-vocalist on one song, rocked his lanky body back and forth, his bass guitar slung over his shoulder as he swung it from side to side. Vocalist Harry McVeigh exuded a subtle charisma and coolness, totally in line with the dark tone of the music singing with an earnestness, especially when their songs' choruses hit. Adding to the fold were the succinct drumming of Jack Lawrence-Brown and their touring keyboardist's (whose name I don't know, sorry) humming keys. Their debut album "To Lose My Life" may sound polished but thankfully the live set was performed with more of a raw feel, especially in the rhythm section, while still maintaining the album's melodic sensibility and musicianship. So no, they weren't the second coming of Joy Division, Echo and The Bunnymen, and any other band they've been compared to but they did siphon those influences well enough into a sweet racket full of thrilling melodies and big choruses. Fantastic.

Photos: White Lies, Friendly Fires, The Soft Pack @ Lee's Palace (March 31, 2009)

MySpace: The Soft Pack
MySpace: Friendly Fires
MySpace: White Lies

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Junior Boys, Max Tundra @ The Mod Club (March 29, 2009)

concert review: Junior Boys, Max Tundra at The Mod Club (Toronto, Ontario) - March 29, 2009

   Junior Boys @ The Mod Club (Mar 29, 2009): photo by Michael Ligon
Junior Boys at The Mod Club: photo by Michael Ligon

A cause for celebration at The Mod Club last weekend as it'd been a good two years since I'd last seen Junior Boys live and they were celebrating the release of their recently release third full-length "Begone Dull Care" out through Domino Records. Joining them for the show was labelmate Max Tundra who came brandishing his own poptronics. I consider myself fortunate to have caught the second show of their two night stint at The Mod Club as I'd read that the first show became victim to the venue's early curfew (in order to prepare for the venue's dance party night) and Junior Boys only got so far as to performing only six songs.

UK one-man-band, electro-pop act Max Tundra opened the night definitely on the playful side of things. His music is like a double-syringed shot of adrenaline on one hand meant for dancing (or at least nodding your head incessantly) and on the other hand his playful melodic vocals do grab your ears for listening pleasure. Always seeming to be in constant motion, he worked his way between his mic, keyboards, sampler, melodics, and a few percussive instruments, and when he had the sparest of moments would even throw in a spastic dance move or two. A nod to rave culture on one acid-laced dance track, or ending his set with an electro rendition of The Sound of Music's 'So Long, Farewell' might seem a little campy in retrospect but it was all in good fun. He's like a kid that never grew up - and he's now making a living at it. We should all be jealous.

While the darker-toned electro-pop of "So This Is Goodbye" remains their masterpiece (at least in my opinion), Junior Boy's new album "Begone Dull Care" doesn't fall far behind. But whereas Depeche Mode feels like a strong influence on "So This Is Goodbye" and does even extend to a few tracks on "Begone Dull Care" (especially opening track 'Parralel Lines'), it also seems like the Boys have been listening to more r n'b (listen to 'Hazel', 'Sneak A Picture', and 'The Animator'). While the set lay most heavily on the new album there was also a generous helping from "So This Is Goodbye" as well as a few from their debut full-length. Their live show hasn't changed much with sampler extraordinaire Matthew Didemus noodling about competently but not much else and vocalist/keyboardist Jeremy Greenspan thankfully being more animated for both of them. As I've said before and will say again, their live set does benefit greatly from their live drummer beefing up the songs and giving them more of a band feel. As their live set showed, Junior Boys make music pop music that you can sing as well as dance to[and dancing many did including myself, or at least my version of it], drawing together such disparate music fans like indie, dance and others. Now how's that for unifying?

Photos: Junior Boys, Max Tundra @ The Mod Club (March 29, 2009)

MySpace: Max Tundra
MySpace: Junior Boys
MySpace: Domino Records