Archive for October, 2010

Local Natives at The Mod Club in Toronto

October 22, 2010

19 October 2010

L.A. scenesters Local Natives played their Toronto debut to a sold out crowd at The Mod Club this Tuesday, and wowed with strong vocals and a tight live performance. The young band was brimming with energy and enthusiasm as they showcased tracks off of their critically-acclaimed album, Gorilla Manor.

The crowd sang and chanted along with the band, making it feel as if Local Natives were seasoned veterans in the scene, rather than rising stars on their first headlining tour. What impressed me most was their live vocal chops, as they effortlessly hit every note, whether in chorus or alone, reminding me at times of the powerful harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young — which is no small feat.

The band emitted an air of subtle class on stage, void of rock star status, letting the music speak for them, which I found very refreshing. Highlights for me were “Wide Eyes” and “Who Knows Who Cares” (which the entire crowd sang along with), their version of the Talking Heads hit “Warning Sign”, “Cards and Quarters”, and “Sun Hands”, which they played as their encore and brought the crowd to a frenzy.

I almost didn’t go to this show due to an early morning, yet I was super glad I did, as it ended up being one of the best live shows I’ve seen this year, and at the same time reminded me how much I love Gorilla Manor. I’ve been listening to the album every day since the show, and have fallen in love with it all over again.

Funny concert moment: Singer-keyboardist Kelcey Ayer saying: “It’s great to be here in Vancouver!” and then quickly realizing his mistake and running red-faced off the stage . . . we’ll let it slide this time since his voice sounded so damn good during “Cubism Dream”.

Local Natives are definitely a band to watch because they are only going to get bigger and better. Awesome album and amazing show. Check ’em if you’ve yet to do so…

Sufjan Stevens at Massey Hall in Toronto

October 19, 2010

13 October 2010

Sufjan Stevens played the venerable Massey Hall in Toronto on Wednesday and skillfully showcased material from his brand new album The Age of Adz. Toronto was his second stop in a 23 city North American tour, that finds Sufjan and his band playing in beautiful historic venues across the United States. The tour will then move on to Australia and Europe at the start of 2011.

And what a spectacle it was. Flanked by two drummers, bass, guitar, keyboards, synths, horns, and two back-up singers/dancers (11 people in all on stage), Sufjan and his band held me in rapture from the opening moments of the 12 minute epic “All Delighted People”. Yet, it wasn’t until they played “Too Much” from The Age of Adz, that I became fully immersed.

The new material from Adz is above and beyond anything he has produced thus far, mixing folk, electronica, pop, cinematic orchestra and indie rock, and filtering it all through the sensibilities of a Broadway musical. So then for me, everything he played off of Adz was an immersive and amazing adventure in live music. In short, the new stuff kicks ass — it is inspiring, off kilter, and very emotional. The show was backdropped with an impressive visual performance as well, finding inspiration and using artwork from eccentric American artist Royal Robertson.

The Age of Adz is a brilliant and challenging album. Its production value is what makes it a challenge, as it’ll take a few listens for you to take it all in, but what makes it brilliant is that by the second listen, you’ll already find the melodies glued to your brain. You’ll wake up humming the chorus to “I Walked” and end up singing the coda of “Vesuvius” in the shower. The repetitive nature of the lyrics and the simple melodies hidden under the surface makes Adz a highly accessible album, yet some may still find it too “electronic” or “layered” for their tastes, but with repeat listens it is quite rewarding…

The album climaxes with the 25-minute “Impossible Soul”, which Sufjan dubbed a “love cycle”, as there’s 5 different movements within the song. And yes, they played it live, and barely missed a beat. “Impossible Soul” is my favourite song of the year, as it embraces and exploits practically every genre of the last 50 years — from 60’s rock to Disney-esque orchestra to hip-hop to techno to simple folk. What other song features a raunchy guitar solo, an inspirational sing-a-long, and some kick ass autotune? And more importantly, what other song smashes all these genres together and does it so effectively? I’ve yet to find any other. And the fact that they pulled it off so well live was absolutely fantastic. I was singing along word for word as Sufjan started up a little dance party on the stage.

Those who showed up actually expecting him to play old songs from Illinois and Michigan, when he had just released two albums of new material, seemed a bit disappointed to have to sit through an hour and a half of unfamiliar material, yet for me (who had Adz in my possession the minute of its digital release) it was hands down the best live show of the year.

*photos courtesy of Mateusz Garbulinski

1. All Delighted People
2. Heirloom
3. Too Much
4. Futile Devices
5. The Age Of Adz
6. I Walked
7. Now That I’m Older
8. Vesuvius
9. Get Real Get Right
10. Enchanting Ghost
11. The Owl and The Tanager
12. Impossible Soul
13. Chicago
14. Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
15. John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

Morgan Packard – Moment Again Elsewhere

October 18, 2010

For Juno Records

Morgan Packard returns with the follow up to his acclaimed Airships Fill The Sky with Moment Again Elsewhere, an album of rich home-listening electronica. Mixing his adeptness for rhythm and gently churning basslines, with the use of saxophone, piano, and accordion, Packard has crafted another album of quiet yet beat-driven music that one can put on and get lost in.

Using a software program of his own design called Ripple, Packard creates a wash of subtle ambient moodscapes that sound just as organic as they do digital and the effect is captivating. Tracks like “Insist”, “Window”, and “Although” pulsate slowly and steadily and are accented with clicks, cuts, and sonic whirrs. The longest track on the album, “Moment” sits comfortably in between the work of Andreas Tilliander and Shuttle358 — it hints at dub and jazz-inflected rhythms and is arguably the album’s best track.

Moment Again Elsewhere is really an album that needs to be listened to in its entirety. There is no stand out track per se, but Packard is skilled at establishing mood, and as the album plays out, one feels a sense of digitized calm wash over them and swirl about the room. Fans of Taylor Deupree, Ezekiel Honig, Shuttle358, and Andreas Tilliander should check this out. It is one worthy of repeat listens and an excellent addition into the ever growing canon of electronic music for the home listener. Peace.

Marc Houle – Drift (Minus Records)

October 9, 2010

For Juno Records

Minus Records mainstay Marc Houle returns with his new full-length album, Drift, and continues to further refine his sound. Written in Berlin during the bleak winter months of 2009, Drift stands apart from anything Houle has released to date. He’s stripped away much of the wackiness and playfulness that has become his signature, for a more dark and cold aesthetic. Houle’s sound has never been one that is easy to classify, as he’s always been a bit left of centre when it comes to techno – he doesn’t just write dancefloor bangers and/or head-bobbing numbers for home listening, yet his music has always fit comfortably both in and out of the party.

With tracks “Seeing in the Dark” and “Drift” one envisions the darkest Berlin club – an abandoned warehouse in a cold grey industrial neighbourhood, or a claustrophobic basement rave in a dilapidated building in Detroit, seem to suit these tracks just fine – where night has long since switched over to morning, but the kids seem compelled to continue as long as the party allows them.

Those tracks and the 7-minute “Melting”, are perhaps the moodiest compositions on the album, driven by Houle’s subtle use of analogue synths and rumbling bass. Drift all but abandons the quirky use of 8-bit sounds that Houle seemed to love so much in his earlier releases, yet what is interesting with Drift is that he has replaced those sounds with guitar. Opening song “Inside”, which I imagine would be an amazing track for driving on the Autobahn, as well as “Sweet”, “The Next”, and “Hammering”, feature processed guitar lines that hint at new wave and dark wave and are a great addition to his sound.

By the album’s last track, “Hammering”, there seems to be some light in the grey winter, the sun has peeked its head after months of absence, and the old playful Houle peeks his head out as well, closing with a guitar-based track that is funky and jazzy and reminiscent of Tortoise. Drift is undoubtedly a cold and dark album, but Marc Houle is as hot and bright as ever. Check it.

Mount Kimbie at The Drake Underground

October 2, 2010

30 September 2010

Dom Maker and Kai Campos, better known as Mount Kimbie, made their Toronto debut at the Drake Underground this Thursday night and did not disappoint. The young UK duo played a live set free of laptops, using a Native Instruments sampler, a Roland SP-555, and a KORG Kaoss pad, as well as, real guitar, synth and drums, they managed to create an interesting and varied live version of their clipped paced dubstep sound. Tracks like “Carbonated”, “Field” and “Ode to Bear” sounded great live, with tweaked samples, live instrumentation, additional beats, and deep bass. The opening seconds of “Maybes” sounded downright cavernous in the dark and packed Drake Underground, and the vocal samples swirled and panned around the room. The live version of “William” featured Dom singing the muted lyrics with his thick British accent, which I thought was a nice touch. Although their set was relatively short, and perhaps at times just a bit too low on the bpms for the ravenous crowd, it was great to see these guys play live in a small venue. Nice stuff.

Local hero mymanhenri got the show going, playing great tracks by all our faves including FlyLo, Floating Points, and Onra, who will also be making his Toronto debut at the Drake Underground on Oct 10th. Another one you should not miss. Check it.

Foals at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

October 2, 2010

27 September 2010

UK indie rockers, Foals, returned to Lee’s Palace on Monday in support of their sophomore release Total Life Forever and played to a sold out crowd. The band got off to a moody start with a somewhat choppy version of “Miami”, as it seemed to take frontman Yannis Philipakkis a couple tracks to get into the mood of the set. Also, guitarist Jimmy Smith suffered from constant technical difficulties with his guitar, which halted the momentum of the show on quite a few occasions. Still, Foals blasted through tracks off of Total Life Forever and Antidotes to the crowd’s delight. The crowd danced and screamed and sang along, reaching frenzy during the kick in “Spanish Sahara”.

I thought it was a good show, but wasn’t as impressed as I was after their first stop at Lee’s in the spring of 2008. And I’ll tell you why: firstly, they did not play “Black Gold”, which is my favourite song off of their new album, and arguably the strongest song they have written to date. Secondly, I found the show to go completely against everything the band has claimed they have become (more mature, dynamic, and understated) since the release of Antidotes. At this show, Yannis acted like a bit of a rockstar, kicking over mic stands and beer bottles, running into the crowd with his “wireless” guitar, jumping on the bar and (accidentally) smashing a light. Sure, it’s all good showmanship, but there was something in his overall manner and attitude that took away from the authenticity of it all. To me, it seemed like he would’ve rather been somewhere else. The rest of the band fulfilled their duties well, bass and drums as tight as ever, and keyboard dude still just as superfluous.

Lastly, and perhaps this is what irked me the most, was that instead of nurturing this new maturity and dynamism on stage, their live show was overly loud, prone to drawn-out jams, and at times down right sloppy. I had expected their live performance would have gotten tighter and stronger since their first trip across the pond, but instead they relied on older material and amplifier volume to fill in the blanks and in the end it fell flat. Nevertheless, Total Life Forever will still be up there on my end of year list and it was a good show, but Foals still have some growing up to do.