Friday, July 31, 2009

random top six

Here's something I haven't done in a while, a Random Top 6 list! Here's the deal: every week whenever I feel like it, I will choose a random category and choose the top 6 songs fitting that criteria. Today, inspired by the recent wave of hellfire that has descended upon Vancouver and made it too hot to think of a metaphor for how hot it is, I have picked the Top Six Fiery Songs! So, in no particular order, I give you:

The Top Six Flaming Songs

download Signal Fire by Black Hat Brigade

download This Fire by Franz Ferdinand

download Fire In The Lobby by Immaculate Machine

download Wall of Fire by Peter Elkas

download Fire by Jason Collett

download Run Through The Fire by The Waking Eyes

Honourable mention:
Babe, I'm On Fire by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Which is about 17 mintues long, so I didn't want to upload it... so here is the video!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rained Out Parade.

A free show. With Vince Vaccaro, Leeroy Stagger & Wide Mouth Mason. On the beach. Sounds all sorts of awesome, right? Well, it should have been... had it not been for the damn rain. It was on the roof of the Bathhouse at English Bay, which right away was an awkward set up. The bands were up playing on the roof, while everyone was standing down on the ground & the beach, so the "stage" was high up above everyone. So much so that you couldn't see anyone not at the edge of the roof. Like, say, the drummer. And you would think the promoters, planners or whomever would have looked at the forecast and thought "Hey, it might rain. Maybe we should have a backup plan instead of just leaving everything out in the open!" But no. It was kind of ridiculous.

Vince Vaccaro was first out at 630. I've been hearing Vaccaro for years now, and have always been interested to see him live, but I've just never got the chance, until now. Though, since he was scheduled for a short set, he only ended up playing for 20 minutes or so, getting 4 or 5 songs in.
The few songs, which included what is probably his most well known song, Heart & Hands, made for a good set, and got at least a few of the random people on the beach into it.

Then the rain really started coming down, with the thunderstorms starting up. They covered all the equipment in tarps and stood around for a while... before the rain eased up a little, or enough for Leeroy Stagger to go on. Though since he went on twenty minutes late, he got his set cut way short, only playing three songs. Which was incredibly lame. Though he did introduce the rest of his band as The Wallflowers, and I am pretty sure he said on drums was Ian Browne, so that was kind of cool. If only I'd been able to actually see him. Or hear more than three songs.

After his set, the rain came back, with a vengeance, and lightning flashing in the sky every few minutes. Eventually, they got the brilliant idea to cram everything under the one tent-thingie they had up on the roof for Wide Mouth Mason to play. Again, you'd think they would have more than the one....
Going on late, their set was cut short too. They only played a handful of songs, mostly just the singles and more well known songs. And, of course, some which were quite appropriate, like This Mourning ("And I'll sing to the rain is gone"), Rained Out Parade and Midnight Rain.

I don't blame any of the musicians for this, as they did they best they could under the circumstances. I blame the promoters and organizers for their complete lack of preparedness and ability to look at a forecast. Or up at the doomy looking clouds in the sky. Though, it made for a few cool moments, where a band would be playing and you see a bolt of lightning shoot across the sky behind them.
Ultimately, though, it was still somewhat of a disappointment. I'd been wanting to see both Vaccaro and Stagger for a while, so that was a crushing defeat. I'm just glad WMM will be back in October (for the show that was supposed to be in June, but was postponed) and hope the others will be back soon.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Calm Awaits by Black Diamond Bay.

When The Dears lineup collapsed after recording Missiles, I was wondering, as I am sure many other were, what would happen to some of the other members. Most notably, guitarist Patrick Krief.
Well, Black Diamond Bay is what happened. After putting out an EP under the name Krief, he assembled a band for live shows, but after touring for a while, he decided they "couldn’t justify not having a name for that sound." Joined by Krief's cousin, Andre Bendahan on bass and Roberto Piccioni on keys, the band also includes another ex-Dear, drummer George Donoso III.
It would be easy to liken the album to The Dears; to call Krief the "white Murray Lightburn"; to pass them off as a side project or spinoff band. Especially since half the band is former members. And under the guidance of a lesser musician, maybe that would be the case. But Patrick Krief has stepped up and proven himself to be as good a song writer as he is a guitarist.
The ten tracks on Calm Awaits are moody & layered when they need to be, yet at other times, a swirling sonic wall of guitars. And with the occasional jazzy and/or blues influence, their sound seems to be ever evolving, even throughout the coarse of a single album. Though there is always a natural flow, with songs growing as you would expect them to. Never disjointed or out of place.

The album starts off calm, and maybe a little ominous, with Mother's Arms, which builds to controlled ending before What We Want kicks things up a bit and Brothers In Exile erupts out of the speakers. Blue Mace slows things down again as a superb piano and strings number and leads to the heartbreaking and emotional First Time I See You Again. New Soldier keeps up the energy while Calm Awaits starts off soft and delicate then just completely loses it and explodes at the end. Weekend War is another song that just keeps getting more and more intense until the explosive finish. Murcury is another beautiful, piano driven one, which climaxes in a fantastic guitar solo and which would have made an excellent album closer, if The Wrath of Your Darkness didn't follow with its moody and almost dark, yet somehow just a little optimistic, finish.

The odd thing about the album, though, it that it is less a compliment to their live performances and more a contrast. While on stage they are a little more raw and visceral, the album is a bit more... delicate. It takes the time to explore the lush arrangements, and has a few more instruments & guest stars. Like Liam O'Neil (of The Stills) and Evan Cranley (of Stars & Broken Social Scene) on horns. This doesn't make either the live show or the album any better or worse than the other, just... different. In the end, Calm Awaits is a fantastic debut album, and may even end up in the running as one of my favourites of the year.

Download Brothers In Exile

Download First Time I See You Again

Download Murcury

Clicky to exchange monies for music

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Decemberists @ The Vogue -- 07/21/09

What a week this has been. The Decemberists show is the last of five concerts in six days! The Hazards of Love has been on of my favourite albums of the year so far, and I was really excited on how they were going to present the show.

The opening band for the night was Blind Pilot, also from Portland. A good choice in opening bands, as they had the same kind of indie-folk-pop sounds as The Decemberists. The set started out a bit slow, but ended up being really quite good. With wide array of instruments, including cello, harmonium (i think that's what it's called...), giant xylophone, banjo & mandolin, they had a rich and deep sound, and seemed to channel, at times, everyone from Damien Rice to Neko Case to The Shins, but adding their own originality and flair to each. They had a decent stage presence, even though the lead singer was a little soft spoken between songs, and there were a few times between songs they almost seemed a little awkward, but seeing as they're still a fairly new band, I am sure they'll get better in no time. I will definitely have to keep an eye ear out for them in the future.

And then, time for The Decemberists! Their set was split into two parts; for the first they came out and proceeded to play the entire Hazards of Love album front to back. If you know of the album (or, perhaps read my prior review?), there is a story spread across the songs, like a "folk-rock opera", and so it made perfect sense to play it in its entirety. Everything on the album was recreated near-perfectly, with a few variations or flourishes thrown in here and there and guest vocals Shara Worden and Becky Stark were there not only for their singing parts, but also playing backup instruments. It was, quite simply, an amazing sight and performance. The album is pretty epic on it's own, but seeing it live like this, the whole way through, was incredible and so very powerful. From the soaring vocals in The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All), the Worden's chilling vocals in The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid (her voice is, by the way, absolutely phenomenal live), the hectic everyone-drumming thumping of The Rake's Song, to the beautiful ending of Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned), it was superb. The only thing that was odd was that they used a prerecorded bit, from the album, for the kids voices in The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)... but that makes sense as I'm sure they don't want a childrens choir or something every night just for that one part.

When they finished the album, they took a short intermission, and then were back out to play the second half of their show; another hour or so! While the first half, the full album, was really tight and no chatter or anything, the second half was a lot looser and more fun and playful. Playing songs from their older albums (though, only one from The Crane Wife, which made me a sad panda), there was a fair amount of goofing around, too. At one point Colin Meloy led the whole theatre in a round, splitting the crowd into four groups, with each singing different parts. (wait, no, a round is everyone singing the same part at different times. What is it called when everyone is singing different parts at once?) and at another he had everyone sing a part, then slowly get quieter, and slowly getting louder. Think Twist & Shout. It makes no sense when I am trying to explain it, but it was pretty neat live.
At one point, near the end, Meloy started talking about the worst song he has ever written, prefacing it with a hilarious self-deprecating bit about how terrible and "douchy" it truly is, then playing a little bit of the song, Dracula's Daughter, before going launching into O Valencia!. They ended the set with a cover (what did I say yesterday? "[playing covers] is a practice I think all bands should partake in. Live covers are always fun.") of Crazy On You (Heart) with Worden & Stark coming back out to sing it. It was an insane cover and would have been an awesome way to end the show...
But wait! There's more! Coming out for the encore, Meloy did a song by himself, then was joined by half the band for The Mariner's Revenge Song, while the other half walked through the crowd with drums and cymbals. And then, half way through the song, they paused for Meloy to introduce a play in one act, with the band members in the crowd acting out the Norwegian discovery of Vancouver as Meloy narrated. It may sound silly, as I am not giving it nearly enough justice, but it was awesome and hilarious and just a fantastic way to close out the show.

I don't know if I can say it has been one of my favourite shows this year, but that is less a slight on the show, and more a testiment to how awesome other shows have been. This is right up there, at least in my top ten performances of the year so far. (To put that in perspective, I have seen just about 60 bands play so far this year, with about two dozen shows). Hopefully it is not another three years before they are back in town.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Hell yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" | Eagles of Death Metal @ Commodore -- 07/20/09

I have to admit, I think I like Josh Homme, as a musician, individually more than I like any one of his actual bands or projects. Eagles of Death Metal was kind of a spontaneous show, and while I like the band, I haven't delved too much into their works. I knew, however, that with the inclusion of Homme, it would, at the very least, be decent and worth seeing. Of course, seeing as a main reason I was going was to see Homme, it naturally follows that I find out right before the show he's not touring with he band. Ah well.

The opening band was Flash Lightnin', who I had actually seen earlier this year opening for Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains. Here is what I had to say about them then:
The opening band, Flash Lightnin', hit the stage around 9:30 and played a surprisingly long 50 minute set for an opening band. Even though the place was still a little sparse when they went on, they seemed to captivate most of the crowd and get them pumped. Not quite everyone, though. While they were technically proficient, they sounded a little like an AC/DC cover band trying to break out on their own. Each song sounded a little too similar and high, screamy vocals and power chords and guitar solos sprinkled WAY too liberally throughout... I don't dislike guitar solos, but when every song has one -- and especially when one song has TWO of them -- they kind of lose their specialness. They also reminded me quite a bit of Wolfmother and Ladyhawke, so much so that I would have almost expected their name to be Tigerneice.
(note: i am so starting a classic rock ripoff band and calling them Tigerneice.)
They were not necessarily bad, but rather a Perfectly Acceptable Opening Band. Nothing I'm terribly interested in hearing more of, though.

Much of that still applies. They played about 40 minutes this time, and seemed to throw in some ZZ Top with their AC/DC. In fact, while decent musicians, they had absolutely nothing original; just a patchwork of other, better bands. As as for the solo issue, a tally was kept. Ten. (And a half). In a 40 minute set, they had ten guitar solos. Only two songs did not have one, and that was made up by the fact that one of the songs had two. I like guitar solos as much as the next person, but that was a little much.
(Also, the "Hell yeah" count was, I think, four)

Then it was time for Eagles of Death Metal who were, as predicted, without Josh Homme. A slightly disappointing turn of events, but even a few songs in it was forgotten, as regular Queens of the Stone Age drummer, Joey Castillo, did a damn fine job. While the band is by no means a joke, there is equal parts ironic parody and total sincerity of the whole 80's glam-rock & cock-rock scene, at least in their on stage performance. With lead singer & guitarist Jesse ‘The Devil’ Hughes grooming his awesome 'stache on stage, strutting around like he owns the place (and, for at least two nights at the Commodore, he did), coming out for the encore in his best tuxedo.... t-shirt, and going through at least a half dozen pairs of giant cop shades, everything they did was with genuine enthusiasm and energy. And beneath the smirk you can tell he loves being on stage.
They were no slouches musically, either. The entire set was tight and punchy, starting on a high and never let the 'balls to the wall' energy drop. Throughout the show they even threw in some pretty cool covers, too -- which is a practice I think all bands should partake in. Live covers are always fun. There were a couple, with Stuck In The Middle With You (Stealers Wheel) in the main set and Brown Sugar (Rolling Stones) in the encore.

I have to add one thing, though... for the last half of the set, there was a bit of a distraction. Two people, pretty much right in front of us, decided to use the Commodore as their own personal fuck-pit, with sloppy makeouts and dry humping and gratuitous grinding and pretty much the most disturbing thing you can think of... especially cos neither of them were anything remotely resembling attractive. Even worse was when she was dancing on the tables (miraculously, without it breaking) and he pulled up her skirt. Even worse was when the pale scrawny, afro'd white boy took off his shirt. Even worse when they came up and sat at the table right next to us. I saw it, and now I wish I could un-see it.

Despite that unpleasantness and the Homme-less-ness, it was a pretty damn good show, and I don't think I would hesitate to catch them again live.

Monday, July 20, 2009

songs of the indeterminate time period.

I wanted to start doing some sort of song(s) of the week month "whenever I feel like it" segment, so why not start today?
I'll post a few songs, probably ones that are new, newish, or new-to-me for your listening pleasure. I'll also try to include at least some diversity in the selected songs.

I missed the new Elliott BROOD album, Mountain Medows, when it came out last year, but based on recommendations and the Polaris Short List, I decided to check it out. I really liked what I heard, but the stand out track -- upon first listen at least -- was the instrumental song Chuckwagon.

Download Chuckwagon by Elliott BROOD
artists website where you may listen to more and exchange monies for music

Record of the Week Club is a really nifty idea. Their website can probably describe it better than I, so
[It] is a weekly recording session featuring musicians from diverse musical backgrounds. Never knowing who their co-creators will be — an incognito and disparate group of musicians meet at MCM Studios in Winnipeg, Canada every Wednesday evening. Over the course of one evening they are charged with the task of getting to know each other, arranging, rehearsing and recording a piece under the guidance of Mike Petkau. The song is immediately mixed and uploaded and made available for download that same night.

This song features Inuit throat singer Nikki Komaksiutiksak, electronic artist Blunderspublik and John K. Samson of The Weakerthans.

Download Keewatin Arctic by Record of the Week Club
artists website where you may listen to more and exchange monies for music

I am sure the fine fellows in Black Hat Bridage, a fairly new band out of Toronto, are already sick of being compared to Wolf Parade. So let's put a stop to that. Although I have not yet obtained their newest EP, Fathers, I have sampled a few songs from their website and myspace, and I have to say, Castlevania is one of the best songs I've heard this year. It could have easily been gimmicky, given that the song would be right at home in any great 8-bit game, but do they ever pull it off in a haunting and powerful way.

Download Castlevania by Black Hat Brigade
artists website where you may listen to more and exchange monies for music

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Joel Plaskett Emergency @ Fusion Festival -- 07/18/09

Despite the fact that it was in Surrey... how could one possibly pass up a free Joel Plaskett Emergency show? (Well, apparently people can, but that's besides the point.) And Said the Whale playing as well??? So, I braved the mean streets of Surrey for what is apparently Canada's largest multicultural festival, the Fusion Festival.

I will admit, the last time I saw Said The Whale live, I was slightly disappointed. I like their radio songs, heard on The Peak and Radio 3, but the show I saw a while back at the Biltmore had two specific drawbacks. Not only did they had the unenviable task of following Karkwa, but I am pretty sure that Karkwa blew out a speaker during their set, so when Said the Whale came on the sound was... not so good. But I was determined to give them a second chance, since I had been told from several people that was not the best representation of their live show. And I am ever so glad I did.
They hit the stage at 7 and only ended up playing for half an hour or so, but damn what a show. High energy and dynamic, they played the favourites as well as some new songs, including one to be on their next album, which featured another Vancouver musician Hannah Georgas on guest vocals. The Magician (Camilo), off their new vinyl EP, was probably my favourite of the set, as it is an insanely catchy song, as well as a great showcase of one of the bands strengths, the harmonies between vocalists/guitarists Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft.
And so, in the end, they won me over. I am sorry for every doubting the fine folks of Said The Whale, and I am now quite excited for the new album in October.

After a short break Barney Bentall & The Grand Cariboo Opry [sic] came on and, well, they sound exactly like their name implies. I don't know too much of Bentall, other than that one song, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but the whole set was a little too... Nashville. Not just their sound, but even the way they dressed, everything seemed to come straight out of the Grand Ole Opry. Which, I am sure is what they were going for... They were all fine and capable and excellent musicians, just not quite my speed. To end the set, they had Joel Plaskett come out and sing a song with them, which was pretty cool.

And then shortly after 9, Joel Plaskett Emergency (including Peter Elkas!) came out, and rocked. The fuck. Out. His show a couple months back, for the tour to support Three, was one of my favourite shows this year, but was billed as a solo, Emergency-less show, with just him, his father, and Ana & Rose. That night was a bit more mellow, and this show, with the Emergency, seemed like a fantastic companion to it. With unparallelled enthusiasm and energy, you can really tell how much you can tell he just loves to be on stage. His liveliness, the sheer force he emits just by being there, and not to mention all the little asides and stories he throws into his songs, in the intros, mid song, changing things up and joking around, all go toward showcasing how much of a presence Plaskett has on stage, with a band or without. The set was just more proof how Plaskett is one of this countries the best live acts.
They hit mostly from the Emergency albums, with a few from Three; starting off with the Whitefang version of Work Out Fine, getting everyones psyched, and not letting the energy drop for the next hour and change. Mid way through, half of the band took a break while Plaskett and Elkas did one of my favourites from Three, Rollin Rollin Rollin, then Elkas took a break as well for Joel to do the newly reworked Love This Town (now with 75% less Kelowna-hatred). The band members came back for Nowhere With You, which had many people singing along and A Million Dollars before they ended the "main" set with the fantastic Wishful Thinking, even throwing in a guitar duel mid-song with the amazingly talented Peter Elkas. After only a few minutes they came back out and Plaskett took a seat at the drums for Fashionable People to end the night on an incredible high.

Yet another fantastic show, not that I expected anything less from Mr. Plaskett, and it was nice to see I was wrong about Said The Whale the first time around.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Destroyer @ Biltmore Cabaret -- 07/17/09

It was night two of the Dan-Bejar-Fest, having seen him contributing to The New Pornographers (while opening for Death Cab) the previous night. I had seen Destroyer a couple times prior, once at a sold out show at the Commodore and once as part of the Stanley Park Singing Exhibition at Malkin Bowl and so I was actually a little confused as to why they would play the Biltmore, a venue that holds less than 400 people... but since I enjoy the place so much, I didn't think too hard about it.

The first band of the night was Attics & Cellars and the best way to describe them is a five-piece Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett, not Squaresoft). They had the same kind of light and strings-y sound, with the band consisting of a couple violins, cello, drums & on keyboard and vocals was Jason Zumpano, a Vancouver musician who has worked with the likes of Carl Newman (in one of his pre-New Pornos band) & Destroyer. They had a very interesting set, in that as soon as the curtain opened, they started playing, and did not stop until they were done, half an hour later. It was either one really long song, or they just flowed everything together extraordinarily well. That's not to say it was repetitive or anything, as there were distinct differences between songs, but I don't think I've ever seen a band just play a solid set like that. At the end they just announced their name and left the stage. It was not only really interesting, but quite good as well. I don't think I saw an album there for purchase, but I really wish I had been able to pick one up. I can't wait to see these guys again.
(I also just found out, in doing my "research" after writing this, that on the cello is none other than Megan Bradfield, who I am of fan of and has worked with such artists as Limblifter, AC Newman, The Awkward Stage, and Matthew Good!)

Second up, hitting the stage around 10:45 (in contrast, that was about the time the previous nights show was ending) was another Vancouver band, The Shilohs.They were... fine. Maybe a on the bland or generic side. They had the whole blues-rock thing going, and while there was certainly nothing wrong with them, it was nothing I haven't heard other bands do better.

And finally, going on at around quarter to midnight, was Destroyer. Or rather, I should say Dan Bejar. He took the stage alone and with an acoustic guitar and proceeded to play what was pretty much an acoustic set! I wasn't sure how a lot of his songs would work that way, as some songs can be quite dense, but I should have known better than to doubt Bejar. There were, obviously, subtle differences in the songs, but everything turned out great; even things like the piano heavy European Oils (a song that I had not seen him do live before!) sounded completely natural and fantastic. I have often proclaimed my opinion of Bejar as a musical genius (albeit one that may border on insanity), and seeing him solo on stage was just further proof of that.
Playing a great range of old and new songs -- and even throwing in one of his New Pornographers contributions, Streets of Fire -- he seemed very relaxed and almost as if he was making the set up as he went along. At one point he stopped and asked for requests, saying he would play "anything". Since he is notoriously shy or untalkative, though, he didn't say too much, rather was just content to play. He was on for just shy of an hour before his "encore" of a couple more songs than taking off into the night.

Another fantastic night of music, with the discovery of Attics & Cellars, and a great surprise to see Bejar acoustic, since I was naturally expecting a full band to be with him. Especially in a setting that intimate. Now it makes sense why the show was at the Biltmore, since I don't know how well that type of show would have worked at a bigger venue.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"We're a part of you, and you're a part of us." "Whether you like it or not!" - Death Cab For Cutie & New Pornographers @ Pacific Coliseum -- 07/16/09

What is it with Death Cab picking awesome touring mates? I like them well enough, but both times I've seen them live, I've been going more for another band. The first time it was Franz Ferdinand, and this time? The New Pornographers. I like Death Cab well enough, but I am not sure I would have paid as much to see just them at a place like Pacific Coliseum, so I am glad they have been playing with some great bands.

Bands like Ra Ra Riot, who hit the stage promptly at 7. My friends description of them as "like Hey Rosetta!.... but really not at all" was surprisingly apt, even if the only similarities between the bands are the inclusion of a cello & violin to add a great depth to their sound. One that is an incredibly catchy indie pop-esque sound, almost bordering on twee-pop. With six members on stage, they never felt to cluttered and had a pretty good stage presence, if maybe looking a little out of place playing a stadium show. They seem like they would be much more comfortable playing smaller club venues. It was a pretty good set, though, and made me want to search out and get their new album (which, fun fact, I am listening to as I write this very sentence). Hopefully they're back soon enough for a show of their own, since I would really like to check them out more.

Next up, right at 8 (the only good thing about curfew shows is the strict timetable) was The New Pornographers. This was my fourth time seeing them live -- having seen them once a year since '06 -- and... I don't want to say the worst, because that implies it was bad, but it was the least good. It was still a great set, but just because it was at the Coliseum, which is not a great venue, and because they were opening, the set was all too short. But again, it was still a damn good set! They opened with My Rights Versus Yours, with all the regular crew on stage, sans Neko Case (who is touring on her own, in Michigan last night), though Kathryn Calder did her usual superb job of filling in for all of Case's vocals.
Before the show, I was really hoping that Bejar would make an appearance, since Destroyer would be playing a show the next night at the Biltmore. And of course as soon as the first song ended, Bejar popped out from backstage and they launched into Myriad Harbour!
The 50 minute-or-so set consisted of a fair amount of new and old, hitting at least one song from each album, which was really cool. I wasn't sure how they would structure their setlist, due to opening for someone like DCFC, but I am glad they went with the list they did. I was especially thrilled that they played Testament To Youth In Verse, as it's one of my favourites of theirs, and for some reason I thought they would not.
Newman was in fine form, too, crowd banter-wise. He expressed enthusiasm for playing at the Coliseum, saying his first show was when he was 9, seeing Rod Stewart there ("back when he was awesome"), then occasionally interjecting between songs what other acts he had seen. He seemed genuinely thrilled to be playing there, as did the rest of the members.
They finished off the set with another of my favourite songs, of all time, not just Pornos, The Bleeding Heart Show, which never fails to leave me awestruck, especially at Kurt Dahle's drumming. The man is a fucking maniac.
I managed to keep track of their setlist, which was:
My Rights Versus Yours, Myriad Harbour, The Laws Have Changed, Use It, Jackie Dressed In Cobras, All The Old Showstoppers, Challengers, The Spirit of Giving In, Mass Romantic, Testament to Youth In Verse, Sing Me Spanish Techno, Bleeding Heart Show

At that point, I could have gone home happy, but there was still Death Cab for Cutie to go! Hitting the stage at about 9:15, they played just about an hour and a half, right up until curfew. Again, I fully admit I was going to see The New Pornos, so Death Cab was almost like an added bonus. They are really good live, playing as tight as you would expect a band that has been around for as long as they have. Though, maybe a little on the stiff side, but you can still tell after all this time, they're not just going through the motions, rather they still enjoy playing.
Their set also consisted of a good number of new and old, starting off blasting through a half dozen songs before introducing themselves, then right back to the music. Gibbard and the rest were pretty quiet through the night, just letting the music speak for itself. The one story he told was their first meeting with The New Pornos, 9 years ago, where the members of Death Cab drank all their beer.
They hit all their big songs and hits, too, but saved them for later in the show and/or the encore. My favourite would have to be I Will Possess Your Heart, or more specifically, the introduction to the song, 4 minutes or so of instrumental, which is my favourite bit of any Death Cab song, I would say.

Even though it was at the Pacific Coliseum, which is usually a sub par venue at best, it was still a pretty damn good show and with three great bands, definitely worth the money. I was kind of hoping for some sort of New Porno + Death Cab (New Pornographer for Cutie?) jam up, but those [almost] never end up happening, so I wasn't too disappointed. A great way, also, to kick off my streak of 5 concerts in 6 days...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Without Friends I'd Die

My current obsession -- as you may be able to tell from my weekly charts there on the sidebar -- is the new album from The Ghost Is Dancing, entitled Battles On. I will have a full album review... eventually, but for now I would like to share this video. For the last song on the album, Without Friends, it is a simple, yet infinitely charming video. And I'm a sucker for things done all in one take.

The Ghost is Dancing - Without Friends.

Monday, July 6, 2009

High On Jackson Hill by Immaculate Machine

I am going to admit right off the bat, this was a hard album for me to review. I have loved Immaculate Machine since the moment I saw them open for the New Pornographers (even before knowing about the two bands connections) and was eagerly anticipating High On Jackson Hill. But after digesting it, I almost can't help but almost feel that it is a transition album. Just after it came out, drummer Luke Kozlowski left the group and they picked up a couple new members.
The album itself also feels... off. While the previous three LPs all felt balanced, this one feels very Brooke-heavy. Which, don't get me wrong, isn't really a bad thing. I like Brooke Gallupe. He is a talented musician, a very fine songsmith and his voice on this album is better than it's ever been. But it was the interaction with him and Kathryn Calder (part-time New Pornographer and long lost niece of Carl Newman) that made me love the band. It's the reason why Dear Confessor is among my favourite songs. The way their voices intertwine, and how the verses play off each other... I find this album does not have nearly as much as that, with most of the time Calder being backup vocals. Heck, even the awesome painted fold-out poster (done by the new bassist and sister, Caitlin Gallupe) that comes with it only contains Brooke amongst the trees.

That being said, the album does succeed in being quite versatile. Don't build A Bridge is a great opening track and does have a fair amount of duelling vocals, while the next two songs are more individual with Gallupe's Thank Me Later and You Destroyer, the only track with a strong Calder focus; a very laid back and folksey number that comes together seamlessly. Sound The Alarms is the first single and can only be described as anthemic, with more great contrast between their voices. The next few songs are almost all Brooke, with He's A Biter rocks it out while I Know It's Not as Easy is Brooke's chance to give in to his folky side, almost a companion to You Destroyer. Primary Colours then brings everything back for the most lavish track on the album, with scant R&B influences and sing-along chorus. Neighbours Don't Mind reminds us they haven't forgotten how to crank it up. It also almost sounds like a counterpart to Nothing Ever Happens from the last album, Fables. Compare the previous song about being stuck in a crumby apartment: "or else we get it much too loud / the neighbours bang the walls and shout" with the new songs: "But the neighbours won't mind if we turn it up a little"
If I Know It's Not as Easy was a companion to You Destroyer, then And It Was is the culmination of both the songs, a soft and heartbreaking duet between the two vocalists, the first chorus belonging to Brooke, the second Kathryn and them sharing the final one.
Brooke takes centre stage again with You Got Us Into This Mess before the album closes with two of my favourites from it, the awesomely titled Only Love You For Your Car which is a great poppy and bouncy tune. Luke's main contribution to the album, Blurry Days, seems an odd choice for closing the album, however, since it is probably the song that most reminds me of prior albums, with all three members seemingly working as one unit. It almost seems like a "goodbye" to the old Immaculate Machine.

One major reason -- aside from laziness -- that I review albums month(s) after they are released is to give me time to be with the album, so I am not just making snap decisions. Had I reviewed this just after it came out, I would have been much more harsh on it. Since I have given it time, it has grown on me. I still think it is not the strongest Immaculate Machine album, but I also think I would have liked it a lot better had it been a Brooke Gallupe solo project. I know that he was doing some solo shows before the album came out, and with Calder busy with the New Pornographers, it is no surprise he took centre stage for the album. It is a very solid album, and shows a vast amount of growth in the band, in Gallupes songwriting abilities and their ability to pull off any style they try. And I want to reiterate again, it's not that I don't like Brooke, or that I like Kathryn better. If the album were more Calder-heavy, I would like to think I'd have the same reaction. For me, Immaculate Machine works -- or worked -- better as a unit.

For all my complaints, though, I really did like the album. And while I may miss the "old" Immaculate Machine, I am very intrigued in seeing how the band grows, as this albums proves anything they decide to tackle will, if nothing else, be interesting and compelling.

Download And It Was

Download Only Love You For Your Car

Download Blurry Days

Clicky to exchange monies for music

Friday, July 3, 2009

Goodbye Richard's...

Well, it is official. I first heard about it back in October (here's the post on the old blog) and I mentioned it on the Sunset Rubdown live review... but today Exclaim confirms Richard's on Richards is closing its doors.

I have seen some great shows and artists there -- come to think of it, I have never seen a bad show...
The Stills, Ben Lee (thrice), Matt Mays, Final Fantasy & Basia Bulat, Cary Brothers, Chad VanGaalen, Jason Collett, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Sebastien Grainger, Jets Overhead, Black Diamond Bay, Sunset Rubdown... and two of my favourite shows of all times have occurred there:
The Dears, from about a months back, and
A secret, invite-only Canada Day show featuring Matthew Good a couple years ago.

It's not all bad news, though.
The club’s liquor licence has been transferred from the current 1036 Richards location to 556 Seymour Street (the former home of A&B Sound), where a new club is expected to open in mid-October. According to the Georgia Straight, the new establishment will have four lounges, a 5,000-square-foot dance floor, two art galleries and will feature dance nights on weekends, with live music Sunday through Thursday.

There is no way that this Richard's on Seymour will be quite the same as before... but at least we're coming out even, not losing a venue.

As a tribute, here is a video I found on the YouTubes from the recent Dears show there.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"They sound like robots... in the jungle." Sunset Rubdown @ Richard's -- 06/30/09

Sunset Rubdown is quite possibly my favourite project of Spencer Krug, and considering his other bands are Wolf Parade and Swan Lake, that's saying something. (Though, for full disclosure, I am not a huge fan of Wolf Parade. I think it's that I don't care for the other half, Dan Boeckner... but that's for another time).So when they come in to town there's no doubt I'm gonna be there. Especially when playing Richard's.

The first band of the night was Elfin Saddle, and wow. Their website touts them as "the unusual union of a small Japanese woman, a Canadian woodsman, and a ramshackle pile of objects and instruments" though the live act consisted of a third member. And through the course of their set they played the following instruments: upright bass, baritone, banjo, ukulele, kick drum, symbol, full drum set, xylophone, accordion, saw, recorder. At the very least. And the main two members were playing multiple instruments at once. The "Canadian woodsman" (Jordan McKenzie) was playing a kick drum on the floor with hit foot, accordion with one hand, and the xylophone with the other. While singing. It was a very impressive display. Musically, they were very good as well; they had a kind of Bjork and/or Animal Collective feel, but without the pretentious suck. The vocals were split between the two, with some of Emi Honda's songs sung in Japanese, and while they were good live, I could see the vocals, from both of them, being a bit much over the length of a full album. I would have liked them much better had they been an instrumental band. That being said, I still really enjoyed them and am kind of regretting not picking up their album there.
I also attempted to take a video of the last song from my fancy new phone, but the sound wasn't the greatest. The above pic is just a cap from the video, hence the questionable quality.

The second band of the night was another three piece, Witchies from Montreal. They were Perfectly Acceptable Music. Nothing too spectacular, but nothing terrible. With guitar, drums and synth, they had kind of a generic indie rock sound going for them, and after some technical problems to start played a decent set. Ultimately forgettable, however.

And finally, Sunset Rubdown. Having not seen them live before, I was not sure what to expect, since their albums can be very dense. Turns out me fears were unfounded. With leader of the band Spencer Krug alternating between guitars and keyboard, another guitarist, bass, at times two drummers, and what can only be described as a Dan Deacon-esque table of crazy sounds, they had a full, rich, and incredible sound. Starting things off with an older and lighter song, The Empty Threats of Little Lord before bringing the house down with Idiot Heart, a song from the newest album, Dragonslayer. From then on the rest of the set focused mostly on the later two albums, that & Random Spirit Lovers, and the more high energy songs from those, for the most part.
Krug had a great energy about him while playing, like a bottled storm, yet between songs, when talking was very humble and appreciative of everyone. Aside from wishing his father, in attendance, a happy birthday and dedicating a song ("This song is about getting really drunk. This one's for you, dad!") and telling a story of climbing the giant cross on Mount Royal in a blizzard, he didn't have too much to say, though. Some other highlights of the set included Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!, Winged/Wicked Things and The Mending of the Gown, all of which played with an incredible intensity and got everyone moving.
The main set ended with the awesome, ten minute long saga Dragon's Lair, then they came back out for the "encore", starting with an older & mellow song, Us Ones in Between and then going absolutely crazy ending the night with Nightingale/December Song. Krug introduced the song as one he was unsure that they would be able to pull off live, since it could be "a bit of a clusterfuck", but brought out some extra hands, two members of Elfin Saddle came out to play guitar & bass, substituting while the other members went and played more drums.

While probably not amongst my favourite shows of the year, it was still a damn good show put on by Sunset Rubdown. I have heard rumours that the stalled construction that was to tear Richard's on Richards down is getting going again, and it may be gone soon. If that's the case, this was a perfectly good "last show" to see there.
Though I do hope they have some sort of good-bye-extravaganza with local musicians playing a farewell show. Like Matt Good. And New Pornos. And Destroyer. And then they all jam together at the end.