Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Canadian Musicfest w/ New Look, Speech Debelle, Neon Indian, Hey Marseilles (March 11, 2010)

Hey Marseilles: photo by Michael Ligon
  Hey Marseilles: photo by Michael Ligon

New Look (March 11, 9 pm, Lee's Palace): It was a thin crowd onhand for Mississauga/Dundas electro-soul-pop duo New Look. The duo, who are also married, were comprised of lead vocalist/keyboardist Sarah Ruba (who started her career out as a fashion model) and Adam Pavao who handled the programming and beats. They strolled onto the stage to a quiet audience, myself overhearing Sarah utter the word 'silence'. It was a barebones setup with Sarah playing a keyboard strapped around her shoulder and Adam handling the technoligical side but the duo soon won over the small crowd with Sarah's strong, soulful, demure vocals and Adam's electronic wizadry. They were musically reminisicent of Junior Boys combining creative electronic noodling with a song-based approach. During their last song, Sarah sang "He doesn't even know that I'm alive" and as the song neared it's conclusion, Sarah's soulful vocal prowess was on full display. The duo released a 4-song e.p. entitled "How's My Hair?" for free on their website in 2008 - it's no longer available for download but with a little intersurfing, I guarantee you'll find it. The duo are expected to release their debut album this year.

Photos: New Look @ Lee's Palace (March 11, 2010)

Speech Debelle [MySpace] (March 11, 10 pm, Lee's Palace): UK 2009 Mercury Prize winner Speech Debelle showed herself to be a versatle artist and while her forte is rapping(in an attractive British accent), she's integrated that into a musical mix that combines, hip-hop, pop, and r n'b flavours. Dressed in a black leather jacket, black sunglasses, and black jeans, her flow was superb as she seemed to utter a continuous stream of words without so much as a stumble. Her band, featuring acoustic guitar, stand-up bass, and drums, had provided a short instrumental interlude prior to Speech strolling onto the stage, and for the remainder of the set they provided subtle melodic accoutrements to her lyrical zest. The crowd at Lee's had filled in a little more at this point, and there were definite fans in the audience with one audience member even requesting a song, and ACTUALLY having it fulfilled. Her 2009 Mercury Prize-winning debut album "Speech Therapy" is out now. So far for the night, I was batting two for two.

Photos: Speech Debelle @ Lee's Palace (March 11, 2010)

Neon Indian (March 11, 11 pm, Lee's Palace): The Pitchfork-hyped, Denton, Texas band Neon Indian led by bushy-haired main composer/songwriter Alan Palomo were up next. Having released their debut album "Psychic Chasms" in October 2009, the band have been riding a wave of buzz within a short amount of time. The electro-psychedelic-pop of their song "Deadbeat Summer" had caught many persons attention, with Pitchfork declaring it the thirteen best song of 2009. Not exactly a stunner, but it is a fun-filled track. Alan rounded out the live band with a drummer, keyboardist and guitarist and while of course the keyboard setup between him and keyboardist is of course sedantary, Alan made up for it with a vibrant vocal stage presence which also extended to his guitarist and drummer. Melodic, hummable but also danceable, it was quite obvious that the crowd were there to see Neon Indian, some a little to vocal at times (buy hey, I'm sure the band appreciated it).

Photos: Neon Indian @ Lee's Palace (March 11, 2010)

Hey Marseilles [MySpace] (March 11, 12 am, Clinton's): I skipped out on Sweden electro-pop outfit Little Dragon[who'll fortunately be back in Toronto on March 30 for a show at Wrongbar; tickets $13.50] and decided to head down the street to cap off the night with Seattle indie-folk, chamber-pop outfit Hey Marseilles who were playing a midnight set at Clinton's. I'd liked what I heard on their MySpace and live they displayed a competence beyond their youthful appearance. The Decemberists seemed to be a strong influence, with vocalist Matt Bishop sounding a little like Colin Meloy at times, and the varied musical instrumentation which included violin, viola, accordion, guitar, trumpet, drums, and percussion displayed similar folk-pop qualities though less of The Decemberists sea shanty-isms. It's a shame first of all that everyone was sitting down, but secondly it was even worse that a chatty 40 % of the patrons had to ruin it for the rest of us. Matt even tried playing up to our Canadian pride by mentioning our recent hockey win, which for all intensive purposes, didn't get any response. Oh well, he tried. That was my first, and perhaps the last time, I'll ever go to Clinton's. The net result ended up being that I enjoyed Hey Marseilles on their musical merits but the sit-down crowd and the chatty atmosphere, entirely ruined the experience for me. Hopefully, they'll come back up here again. The band's 2008 independently released debut album "To Travels & Trunks" is planned for re-release and national distribution this year.

Photos: Hey Marseilles @ Lee's Palace (March 11, 2010)

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