Archive for February, 2011

Wild Nothing at Wrongbar in Toronto

February 21, 2011

17 February 2011

Wild Nothing played their Toronto debut to a sold out crowd at Wrongbar and sounded almost as good as the fight I saw between a cat and a raccoon on the walk home. I was stoked to see Jack Tatum bring his bedroom project out into the world, but sadly he should have stayed home. I love his two albums Gemini and the Golden Haze EP, but unfortunately the live Wild Nothing experience only hampers what is a budding career and an impressive string of releases for the young musician.

Tatum records everything himself for his albums, where he is able to have complete control, but for the live show he recruited a band for the tour and they pretty much sucked. Sure they hit all the notes, but they were obviously still working out some kinks and the show was sloppy at best.

Worst of all: Tatum’s voice. Man, he truly CANNOT sing live. In his studio he can manipulate his voice and play with his falsetto, but on stage he was tone deaf, off key, and didn’t even dare try the high notes, going lower instead and sounding just plain bad.

I’d love to give the young band the benefit of the doubt, but after two failed attempts at playing “Gemini” due to sound problems and then trying it again for a third time I left, happy to be free to breathe in the crisp night air. What a let down. My advice is to stay home and listen to the albums instead and pray that Tatum rethinks his entire live show and reconsiders what it is he really wants to do with his Wild Nothing project.

The Besnard Lakes + Suuns at Lee’s Palace

February 9, 2011

It was a Montreal takeover at Lee’s on Saturday January 29th, as rockers The Besnard Lakes and emerging proggers Suuns played Toronto. It was a perfect storm of music and mayhem as several Aquarians (including myself) all convened at the show to conclude a week long celebration of birthdays. We missed opening act Valleys, but arrived just in time for Suuns, whose album Zeroes QC has been on heavy rotation on my stereo as of late. They played a tight set but I found the sound was a bit muddied, the bass too low in the mix, and the keyboards too loud, as if the sound guys had everything tweaked just right for the Besnards and didn’t want to touch the board for Suuns. Still, the young band were great and I look forward to seeing them again soon.

Sound problems were definitely not an issue for The Besnard Lakes, who played an amazing set, showcasing their 2010 release The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night. Halfway through their set, fuelled by Jameson and Redbull, I too began to think I was the roaring night and started to veer off into the world of savagery. Nevertheless, the show still absolutely rocked. Rich White’s guitar was tight and loud, and Jace Lasek’s voice was immaculate, as was Olga Goreas’ driving bass. The Besnard Lakes are one of the best live bands around, and overall you couldn’t ask for a better night of MTL rock and roll at Lee’s. Right, Stew?

*photos courtesy of Mateusz Garbulinski

James Blake – James Blake

February 9, 2011

After a trio of rich and varied EP’s in 2010, which were all lumped under the banner of dubstep, the young and talented James Blake has released his debut full-length on a big major label. For those who had their hopes pinned on Blake producing the definitive instrumental dubstep masterpiece of the year, you may want to stop reading this right now, because what Blake has created instead is a soulful and strange collection of emotional almost-pop songs. Hints at dubstep and techno and darkness swirl along the edges of this album, but at its heart Blake’s debut attempts to go much further than just making you want to shake your booty in a dark club, it attempts to tap into your own emotions and make you reflect.

Simply put the album is an exercise in restraint, and a new avenue for Blake to explore emotions not just through rhythm but also through his own voice. We were given a taste of this late last fall as Blake’s cover of “Limit to your Love” began to pop up on blogs and music sites, and damn the kid could sing! And what sparse piano! And wow that bass wobble! Blake has truly reworked the song in his own style, while still sticking very close to Feist’s original, and the result is beautiful.

Every track on the album features Blake’s voice in the front of the mix, either clean or digitally enhanced by vocoder. Second track “Wilhelm’s Scream” is the song that will catch the listener first, as Blake uses a minimal beat and synth line to pull you in. He uses the word “falling” over and over in the track, and what’s interesting is the production creates the sensation of falling, as it slowly builds and layers itself into a wall of distortion and sensation. It’s a brilliant song that had me floored upon first listen.

The following tracks “I Never Learnt to Share” and “Lindesfarne I/II” are a bit more of a slow burn, yet once they seep into your consciousness, you’ll be craving the off-time bassline drops in “I Never Learnt to Share” and the guitar/vocal melody of “Lindesfarne II”. The opening section of “Lindesfarne I”, recalls Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” and builds into a gentle folk song. The stripped down piano-based tracks “Give me my Month” and “Why Don’t You Call Me” bring to mind both Coldplay and Bon Iver.

Who woulda thunk that James Blake would be compared to Bon Iver? And yet, overall the album totally works. Penultimate track “I Mind” finds Blake showing up his pals Mount Kimbie at their own game, and making it seem effortless. If there was one thing that was a bit disappointing about Mount Kimbie’s own debut full-length last year, was that it was simply more of the same, and arguably not as exciting as their earlier attempts at post-dubstep grandeur. Yet, one will never be able to say this about Blake who has been evolving and tweaking and growing exponentially with each release. And he’s only 22(!) Expect much more from this young producer, and check out this album, because it’s the year’s most interesting release to date.