Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Album Review: The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream

The Black Angels’ motto has always been “tune in and drone out” thanks to their heavy reliance on organ-driven psychedelic sounds. Well, on their new album Phosphene Dream, The Angels seem to still be deeply entrenched in this mantra. Granted, things have changed a bit. The band is heavily influenced by Lou Reed and his legendary art-rock group, the Velvet Underground. So much so that the group’s official logo is a picture of Velvet Underground member Nico. Where The Black Angel’s songs once drifted and dragged along in ways quite similar to the Velvet Underground, things are a little different on Phosphene Dream. Perhaps this is because they recorded the album in Los Angeles instead of in their hometown of Austin, Texas. Either way, the group has taken a small step outside their comfort zone, but definitely not a leap. Give a listen to “Telephone” and you may think that the Angels are trying to be featured in the next Apple commercial. “True Believers” sounds like a lost single from Jefferson Airplane and “Sunday Afternoon” chugs along like a song by The Doors. It’s clear that on Phosphene Dream The Black Angels are wearing their influences on their sleeves. That’s not to say that the group hasn’t formed their own musical niche in the ways of psych-rock. The ominous drone (a sound that is entirely their own) that was once at the forefront of their music now shares the spotlight with bluesier-than-ever guitars and hard-hitting drums. It seems that producer Dave Sardy (Oasis, Wolfmother, Band of Horses, Black Mountain) has given The Black Angels some of the confidence they need to baby-step away from their comfort zone. Hopefully on the group’s next album, they’ll be ready to take some bigger strides.

Watch The Black Angels perform “Telephone” on Late Night with David Letterman.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Marco Benevento Canada/U.S. Tour Dates

Piano wizard Marco Benevento and his Trio will be launching a huge tour on October 14 that will lead the group through Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto before ending off in L.A. in early December. Check out the tour dates below. Also watch Marco and the Trio play an awesome version of "Greenpoint". It features Marco's first born Ruby on keys and is sure to make you smile, unless you're a soulless robot that is.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Show Review: Land of Talk - Live at Lee's Palace, Thursday September 16, 2010

When Lizzie Powell and her band Land of Talk emerged onstage at Lee’s Palace last night I could tell we were in for a special performance. The Montreal-based indie-rock trio (rounded out by Andrew Barr on drums and Joseph Yarmush on bass and occasionally guitar) was joined by tour-mates and fellow MontrĂ©alers, Suuns. With seven musicians onstage, Land of talk was looking more like the Grateful Dead than a power-trio. Needless to say, the addition of a second drummer, backup female vocalist and a keyboard player gave the band’s songs a whole new energy. The Montreal collective opened strong as Barr triggered a digital drum loop and Lizzie launched into “Cloak and Cipher”, the title track off of the band’s latest release, which bares the very same name. Next up was “Swift Coin”, Land of Talk’s newest single. It featured some heavily distorted guitar and was nicely jammed out thanks to some beautiful soloing from Suun’s lead guitarist. “Some Are Lakes” received a huge response from the audience and was the first real sing-a-long of the night. The crowd seemed to know most of the lyrics, throwing caution to the wind and singing loud and proud.

The addition of a second female vocalist seemed to do wonders for Lizzie. As most fans of the band know, she suffered from a vocal polyp and almost had to give up singing entirely. Having another voice to rely on and harmonize with seemed to provide some extra comfort and breathing room for Lizzie, as she didn’t have to risk throwing out her voice during some of the night’s heavier numbers. One of which was “Yuppy Flu”, the anthem rocker that fully illustrates Land of Talk’s ability to enter into alt-rock territory with ease and success. When the band dropped “Quarry Hymns” it was easy to see they were hitting their stride. Lizzie rocked her way over to almost every musician on stage, smiling from ear to ear and receiving huge nods of approval from Barr.

The group showed off their experimental side as swirling noises, more characteristic of Wilco than Land of Talk, filled Lee’s Palace. The walls of noise were slowly ripped down by the heavy sounds of “Sixteen Asterisk” which was followed by “May You Never”. The latter showcased Barr’s proficiency behind his kit as he banged away with maracas rather than traditional sticks. A few tunes later the group waved goodbye and headed off stage. The noise from the crowd was deafening and obviously un-ignorable as Land of Talk quickly reemerged to play one of their slowest and most beautiful tunes titled “It’s Okay”. Once again, the group departed but the fans were unsatisfied with a stingy one song encore (although that’s all the set list, which I managed to grab had listed). They came out once more (as a trio this time) and played two more songs including their classic “Summer Special”.

Last night Land of Talk were treated as if they were Toronto-bred, and the brimming smiles from each musician onstage undoubtedly ensured that they’ll be coming back to Toronto in the near future.

Photo Credits: Lani Warsh

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Show Review: Dirty Projectors - Live at the Opera House, Wednesday September 15, 2010

On a cool Wednesday night, Brooklyn’s own Dirty Projectors brought their jittery take on progressive rock to Toronto’s Opera House. The band was in fine form as lead singer and guitarist Dave Longstreth (looking as lanky and sweaty as ever) and crew harmonized beautifully on material from not only their latest release, Bitte Orca, but on songs from their seven album catalogue as well.

Although the audience appeared to be utterly captivated throughout the entirety of the night, the loudest cheers most certainly came for Bitte Orca songs such as the standout “No Intention” and a hushed version of “The Bride.” The crowd simply erupted during the hip-hop influenced “Stillness In The Move” which saw Amber Coffman taking on lead vocals. Her vocal range was wickedly impressive as Coffman reached the tunes signature high notes with Mariah Carey-like ease. The Projectors treated the packed Opera House to some brand new material that they recently recorded with the legendary and eccentric Icelandic singer Bjork. Without the strange presence of Bjork however, the songs didn’t seem too far removed from the themes found on Bitte Orca.

The evening’s biggest surprise came as Longstreth introduced Toronto native Owen Pallett to add some violin work on “Two Doves.” Only Longstreth, Coffman and Pallett remained on stage for the gentle lullaby during which the crowd was absolutely silent. The classical guitar riffs of “Temecula Sunrise” had Toronto fans standing still, watching the band intently before being hit with the songs surprisingly heavy drum blasts. Smiles could be seen all around as fans awkwardly attempted to dance to the track’s odd time signatures with very little success.

The Projectors left the stage for no more than a minute before reemerging for a four-song encore. “Cannibal Resource,” the opening track off Bitte Orca was strategically saved for last and was met with rowdy applause and cheers. Two hours later the band left the stage for good having delivered a pristine performance that fans of the Dirty Projectors have simply come to expect this deep in the band’s career.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Dr. Dog Music Video: Shadow People

Check out this brand new video for "Shadow People" off of Dr. Dog's latest album titled Shame, Shame.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Surprise Me Mr. Davis/The Slip/Big Light New Year's Eve Run

Suit up! Surprise Me Mr. Davis, The Slip and Big Light have just announced some big New Year's Eve plans. The group's will be heading to Fall River, Brooklyn and finally California (in various incarnations) for a quick run.

Fall River, MA’s Narrows Center For The Arts on December 27
Brooklyn, New York’s Brooklyn Bowl on December 28.
San Francisco, CA's Cafe Du Nord on December 30**
San Francisco, CA's Cafe Du Nord on December 31***

**As The Slip (Nathan Moore opens)
*** Big Light opens

Buffalo Springfield to Reunite at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit

Buffalo Springfield, the 1960s folk-rock group featuring Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Jim Messina. This will be the bands first performance since 1968 so its fitting that they should play for charity at a Neil Young arranged event. Springfield will play each night, October 23 and 24 at Mountain View, CA’s Shoreline Amphitheater. Moreover, Pearl Jam will play each night as well as they are celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band.

Event Lineup:


Buffalo Springfield
Pearl Jam
Elvis Costello
Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson
Lucinda Williams
Billy Idol
Jackson Browne and David Lindley
Modest Mouse
Grizzly Bear


Buffalo Springfield
Pearl Jam
T-Bone Burnett’s Speaking Clock Revue featuring Elton John, Leon Russell, Elvis Costello, Ralph Stanley, Neko Case and Jeff Bridges
Elvis Costello
Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson
Modest Mouse
Grizzly Bear

Watch Buffalo Springfield play their classic "For What It's Worth" live at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shine A Light Productions Presents: Bowlive Sneak Preview

From our good friends over at Shine A Light Productions:

In honor of Soulive's new release, Rubber Soulive (Sept 14 from Royal Family Records), we are releasing this SNEAK PREVIEW of footage compiled during the filming for the forthcoming "BOWLIVE" DVD from Shine A Light Productions & Royal Family Records.

Shot on March 5th, 2010 as part of Soulive's now-legendary residency at Brooklyn Bowl, this selection combines two tracks on the forthcoming Beatles tribute. Both "Eleanor Rigby" and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" will appear on the 11-track album.

Recorded over four days at drummer Alan Evans' own Playonbrother Studios in upstate New York, Rubber Soulive presents the band back in its original trio format. After a handful of albums experimenting with different vocalists and horn sections, it's apparent from the album's opening track, a greasy rendition of "Drive My Car," that a return to form was in order. For the next 40 minutes, Soulive add their inimitable stamp to one classic after the next from The Beatles' adored catalog. A stately bounce informs "In My Life" punctuated by a majestic organ break courtesy of Neal Evans. "Eleanor Rigby" finds Alan pushing insistent syncopation into the backbeat and Neal covering a full string section with his two hands. A gorgeous rendition of "Something" makes clear that while Krasno can get down with the best of them, he can also dig deep into the heart of a ballad as he rings every last drop of emotion from the classic George Harrison melody. The trio rounds out the set with a three-dimensional version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." The performance concisely encapsulates the definitive Soulive sound built upon the trio's shimmering, wah-drenched guitar licks, soaring Hammond organ lines and relentlessly propulsive swing.

Rubber Soulive takes its place in a lineage of classic instrumental albums by the likes of Booker T. & The M.G.'s, George Benson and Count Basie that have paid tribute to The Beatles.

Rubber Soulive is available September 14 on vinyl, CD and mp3.

Stay tuned to both Royal Family Records and Shine A Light Productions for information on the release of the "BOWLIVE" DVD, which will feature a plethora of musical luminaries and over 2 hours of live music.

Watch a raging version of "Eleanor Rigby / I Want You (She's So Heavy)" Live at Brooklyn Bowl.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Phish Announce Coral Sky DVD Release

Who doesn't love the onslaught of Phish content recently. Between the 3D release of Festival 8, the non-stop touring and the loads of great HD quality video footage on YouTube, the band has decided to release a 2 disc DVD of their November 2nd 1996 performance at Coral Sky Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, Florida. According to the band “the complete, uncut concert was created from archival videotapes of the multi-camera lawn screen feed and the audio was mixed from multi-track masters in stereo PCM and 5.1 surround.”

Phish has leaked a video songs from the up-coming DVD, including superb versions of "Julius", "Run Like An Antelope" and "Harry Hood".

Phish - Julius (Coral Sky '96) from Hidden Track on Vimeo.

Phish - Coral Sky 11/2/96 "Run Like An Antelope" from Phish on Vimeo.

Phish - Harry Hood (Coral Sky '96) from Hidden Track on Vimeo.

Umphrey's McGee Confirms New Year's Eve Plans

Umphreaks rejoice. Chicago's favourite jamband will be returning to their home city for a 3 night run at the Riviera Theatre. Umphrey's will play December 29 and finish on the 31. The band, who typically plays Chicago during the New Year had this to say. “We’ve played nearly every room in Chicago over the course of our career, to continue keeping things interesting, we’ve chosen one of our favorite venues in the city this year, the Riviera Theatre, with a perfect combination of lots of open floor for dancing and seats in the balcony with great sight lines,” keyboardist Joel Cummins said in a statement. “We can’t wait to feel the energy in this legendary Chicago haunt explode!”.

Watch Umphrey's cover the Beatles' classic "With A Little Help From My Friends" with some Joe Cocker flare on NYE 2009.

Show Review: Vampire Weekend - Live in Toronto at the Molson Canadian Ampitheatre, September 7, 2010

Despite the threat of a lurking thunderstorm, Vampire Weekend along with openers Dum Dum Girls and Beach House were able to draw in a wide variety of Toronto concertgoers. Tweens, teens, hipsters and even a surprising number of baby-boomers braved the grey sky for a chance to see some of the most buzzed about indie bands on the scene today.

Opening the show was the Dum Dum Girls. Giving Jay-Z a run for his money in their “all black everything”, the Dum Dum Girls laid down some broody, drum heavy tunes to a relatively small crowd. The Girls opened with a choice cover of “Play With Fire” by The Doors, a perfect fit for this neo-psychedelic group who elegantly juxtapose their dark, down-tuned rock with beautiful three part harmonies. While they no doubt opened strong, the Dum Dum Girls’ original songs all seemed to follow very similar themes. Even though the band sounded tight, each song blurred into the next due to a lack a variety in strong structure.

Next up was Pitchfork favourites Beach House. There was much discussion about how their dreamy, synth-heavy sound would translate to a huge outdoor stadium. Word was that their last performance at the Toronto Island was sub-par, and I think Beach House knew it and was ready to change some minds. The duo of Victoria Legrand (lead vocals/keys) and Alex Scally (guitar/keys) were rounded out with drums and a guitarist for the entirety of their performance. It’s easy to fall victim to Beach House’s mellow and hypnotic sound as it ranges from lush and swirling to trance-y and rocking. Legrand’s powerful voice was in fine form and her reverb laced “oohs and aaahs” acted as introductions and backdrops to most of the band’s songs. The presence of a full, four-piece band and the huge crowd was enough for Beach House to pull out a very strong performance that was sure to leave a good impression.

Finally it was time for the evening’s main act. The lights went down and Vampire Weekend emerged onto the stage while, get this, DJ Khaled’s summer banger “All I Do Is Win” blasted over the P.A. Drummer Chris Tomson joined in for a few bars, teasing fans that may have been expecting the group’s first hip-hop cover since singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig’s departure from his old rap group. Rather, the group launched into “Holiday” off of the new release, Contra. Vampire Weekend sounded just as they always do. Bright and poppy with a little bit of punk rock thrown in for good measure. All over the Ampitheatre fans could be seen belting out each and every lyric while the group laid down their unique take on African rhythm-meets-prepster lyrics and sensibilities. A particularly chatty Ezra Koenig treated us to a brief auto-tuned speech about condominiums in Toronto before the band blasted into “California English”. Tomson (who was arguably the star of the night) hit us with a full-fledged drum assault during “Cousins” which gave many fans an excuse to crowd surf to the band’s infectious pop sounds. The true highlight of the night came mid-set as the band performed a tight cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m Going Down”. This might have been the only song of the night that was not a sing-a-long, but nobody seemed to mind. While the group’s performance was largely a success, the evening’s pace was certainly hindered by the four-and-a-half minute snorer that is “I Think Ur A Contra”. Ezra prefaced the song by saying the band used to be too nervous to play the song live, and perhaps it should remain shelved. Vampire Weekend ended strong however with a fast-paced, three-song encore that included “Horchata”, “Mansard Roof”, and “Walcott”. Twenty-one songs and ninety minutes later, the show was over. Vampire Weekend delivered a fantastic, high-energy show and audience members took home another great memory as the summer quickly fades away.

White Sky
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
I Stand Corrected
California English
Taxi Cab
One (Blake's Got a New Face)
I'm Goin' Down (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Diplomat's Son
I Think Ur A Contra
Giving Up The Gun
Oxford Comma

Mansard Roof

Watch Vampire Weekend perform "Mansard Roof" (Note: The band's chandeliers were taken away at customs so they instructed us to raise our hands and wiggle our fingers like sea anemones)

Photo credits: Pete Nema at Sticky Magazine