August 31, 2007
For photos much better than mine, see the pics taken by Chromewaves.
All of the bands at the Wolfe Island Music Fest were awesome. You’ve heard me go on at length about the radness of practically each and every one of them. Of all the performers of the day, the act that I was really looking forward to seeing because she was something of a mystery to me, was Basia Bulat. She was introduced to me a while ago by the gentleman-scholars at Said the Gramophone and I have been playing the two songs off her album “Oh, My Darling” that I have quite frequently while I wait for the North American release of the disc. Bulat, with mini-orchestra in tow, lived up to my expectations and her entire set of lovely chamber-pop was amazing.
Lovely is the best way to describe the music. Bulat has an exceptionally rich voice with just the slightest quaver. The tone of her voice is like your favourite blanket on a winters day – it is warm and comforting: you want to surround yourself with it, letting it envelope and sustain you. The songs alternated between the soulful and the spritely. A lush sounds is weaved together through the autoharp and guitar wielded by Bulat and the ukulele, piano, flute and magnificent strings of her backing band. As I sat on the grass, I let the beautiful sounds coming from the stage wash over me and couldn’t think of a much better way to be spending a Saturday afternoon.
Be sure to tune in this Saturday (Sept. 1st) to Bandwidth on CBC Radio One at 5pm to hear Basia Bulat’s performance at the Ottawa Bluesfest and I highly recommend you make your way over to the Internet Archive to download an outstanding 2005 performance recorded at Zeke’s Gallery in Montreal. Below you will find a handful of the songs that were performed at Wolfe Island. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Basia Bulat, Wolfe Island Music Fest, 11 August 2007
Bulat will be releasing her amazing album (finally!) in Canada through Hardwood Records on September 18th. Those of you in Europe and Japan can get it now, if you don’t already have it, through Rough Trade (on sale for now 10GBP).
August 30, 2007
Last year, courtesy of the fine gents at IGIF, I was introduced to a few songs off the self-released album Q&A from Chicago’s Office. Their feels like it should be a guilty pleasure. On paper, I just don’t think it is something I should like. However, it is just too infections, too fun, too gloriously poppy for me to deny. Songs by the Office soon after found themselves on my summer mix tapes, never failing to inject the mixes with something upbeat and fun. There are is more than a touch of retro ’80s sound in their work but they use it without being cheesy. They fill their songs with hooks, wonderful vocal harmonies, and electro flourishes, making sure they stick in your head without becoming tiresome. Office have finally been picked up by a label and are going to be releasing “A Night at the Ritz” on September 25th on Scratchie/New Line Records. The album features a number of previously released songs which have been rerecorded and given even more polish. To celebrate the release of their new album, Office will be touring, including a few dates in Canada – their hitting Vancouver on Sept. 29th, Toronto on October 5th, and Montreal on October 6th – so mark your calendars. Full dates can be found here. And here are two pop-tacular songs from the new album.
Our second featured artist this week occupies a different part of the rock spectrum than the Office. Jonny Stevens, who might be familiar from his work with the now defunct Halifax punk band The New Breed, released a self-titled album this year featuring rock songs tinged with strains of singer-songwriter folk and informed by his punk past. On his album, Stevens is equally comfortable performing stomping anthems as he is delivering heart-felt ballads. His eminently honest lyrics are delivered without pretence, as Stevens lays it all out for you. Excellent organ work by Ian Mosher and great backing vocals throughout the album give the songs a full, rich sound. The album was released on Racket Records earlier this year and you can pick yourself up a copy here or digitally through Zunior. OR you can now download the entire album FREE from Stevens here. So, check it out and go see Stevens play if he swings through your town (he’ll be playing Fredericton tomorrow, August 31st, at Dal in Halifax on Sept. 12, and in Mount Stewart PEI, on October 5th, check his myspace for more dates as they get announced).
August 24, 2007
The new album by the Last Town Chorus, “Wire Waltz”, is rather intriguing. There is something otherworldly about it, due in large part to Megan Hickey’s lap steel. Running the instrument through effects pedals, this is not what you’d hear down at the Grand Ol’ Opry – she creates haunting soundscapes. This distinct instrumentation is the perfect foundation for her amazing, melancholy songs. She offers intimate takes on loss, heartbreak, and alienation but Hickey sings with a clear, extremely strong voice, and you never get the sense that her subject matter is going to overwhelm her. One of the highlights of the album is undoubtedly the extraodinary cover of Bowie’s “Modern Love” – which Hickey slows down and stretches out to the point it resembles a dirge – but she is an impressive songwriter in her own right and “Wire Waltz” features a number of extremely strong songs in addition to the cover, including the title track, “It’s Not Over,” and “Boat”. These are captivating songs from a powerful voice.
Below you will find three songs recorded by the fine folks at MPR when TLTC visited in May. The Last Town Chorus are in Montreal tomorrow (August 25) and in Toronto the following day opening for Camera Obscura. Every review I’ve read about TLTC’s live performance has said they are outstanding live so make sure you get to those shows early. From the end of September through early November they are going to be opening for The Weakerthans in over 25 cities around North America (but no date anywhere near me? What the hell?) so you’ll have ample opportunity to catch them. Full tour dates here.
Last Town Chorus, The Current, MPR, 11 May 2007
Bonus live mp3s (from the TLTC site – where you can find links to a ton of other radio sessions, tracks from their first album etc.)
* Modern Love Recorded at Bowery Ballroom, NYC, March 3rd, 2005)
* Do You Really Wanna Hurt Me (Culture Club cover) Recorded at WFMU, February 2003
Be sure to pick up “Wire Waltz” and if you do it here and you will be supporting MPR, so do it there.
August 17, 2007
Greetings from the Birthplace of Rock n’ Roll. I’m here in Cleveland on a bit of a holiday and thought I’d take this bit of downtime to do a quick post.
After months of build up the Wolfe Island Music Fest did not dissapoint. The day was great from start to finish – for which I have to extend my thanks to Virginia and all the volunteers. You did an amazing job putting it together.
Far and away I was most excitied about seeing Wolf Parade and I wasn’t let down. Although they did not play some of their “hits” that you might expect or want them to play, we were treated to a whole wack of new material. They somehow found the time between sideprojects over the last ten months to write a bunch of new tunes which, according to the band, were played for the first time to an audience here. The new songs were really good, although perhaps need to be roadtested a bit more. Elements of Sunset Rubdown and, especially, Handsome Furs have crept in, but melded with the WP sound to great effect. With about half the set being filled with new material, they played only six songs off “Apologies to the Queen Mary” which were very impressive live. I would have loved for them to play “I’m A Runner…” but at the end of the day I can’t complain about their setlist.
I’m posting the six previously released songs below along with a new one which Dan called the best song Wolf Parade has ever written. There has been a bit of debate on the Wolf Parade forum whether he was being sarcastic or not – I don’t think he was. I’m going to reserve my final judgement until I hear a studio-version of it but it is pretty damn good, if not the best. And, at the bottom, is a link to the full show. I wasn’t planning to post the full thing here at this point in time but since someone took it from the link I placed on the message board and posted it on their blog before I could post anything here, I figured I might as well put the link here as well.
A note about the quality – while (I think) it is highly listenable it isn’t the best ever. My levels weren’t set as they should have so it is a bit rumbly in places. Also, there is a fair bit of crowd chatter at times which couldn’t be avoided. Other than that I hope you enjoy it.
Wolf Parade, Wolfe Island Music Fest, 11 August 2007
* Fine Young Cannibals (new!)
* Fancy Claps (encore)
Full set. Note – it is a big file and some people have reported errors with the first link. Someone re-uploaded it to a different hosting service so you might have better luck with that. Both links are below so take your pick.
Buy Wolf Parade’s cds. I swear it will make you a better person.
August 9, 2007
Well folks, tomorrow the Wolfe Island Music Fest kicks off! Huzzah! Starting the weekend off is the Hootenanny, featuring Jim Bryson, Luther Wright, Jenny Whiteley, semi-not-really-secret special guests (*cough* Handsome Furs! *cough*) and the lovely Julie Fader. Last year’s was a ton o’ fun – you may recall that I talked about last year’s instalment here - and I have no reason to doubt that this year’s will be too.
Julie Fader first came to my attention as she provides backup vocals, keyboards, and flute for Sarah Harmer. She is, however, a wonderful singer/songwriter in her own right. Soft guitar and the occasional keyboard, provided in part by Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh, back up Fader’s gorgeous, melancholy vocals. Tackling the time-honoured subject of loves lost and found (mostly lost), her song are intimate tales, seemingly spoken from experience, delivered quietly, as if Fader is confiding in you. Below are a few tracks performed at the Grad Club on the Friday the 13th in April of this year. Enjoy and I’ll see you at the Hootenanny!
Fader has a 5-song ep (where you can find these songs) which I imagine you can get if you contact her through her myspace page. Tickets are still available for the Wolfe Island Music Fest HERE (and will be available at the gate).
August 5, 2007
photo of Holy Fuck performing in Philadelphia, 17 May 2007, courtesy of Jalapeño.
Only one week away until the Wolfe Island Music Fest! Last year Holy Fuck, I’m told, practically stole the show. This year they are going to whip the audience into a frenzy before Wolf Parade come out to rock the socks of all present. Their improv, electro-rock dance music never fails to get the crowd moving. Holy Fuck is one of those bands who are good on cd but absolutely come alive on stage. The show at the Grad Club was absolutely packed and the audience loved every moment – from the head-bobbers down to the bat-shit-crazy freaky dancing (some people were *really* into it). HF drew mostly from the (then) new self-titled EP along with some tunes that I couldn’t identify (as usual drop me a line if you know what the titles are). The EP is amazing as it expands on the ideas of the LP, captured a little more of what they do in a live setting, and they got Owen Pallett to provide some strings for “Lovely Allen”. Do I need to tell you its outstanding? ‘Tis.
Alright folks. I’ll hopefully be able to check in before the end of the week, but if you don’t hear from me I’ll see you on Wolfe Island.
Holy Fuck, Grad Club, Kingston, 2 March 2007
1. Live in Kingston – 1
3. They’re Going to Take My Thumbs
4. Live in Kingston – 4
6. The Pulse
7. Live in Kingston – 7
8. Live in Kingston – 8
9. Lovely Allen
10. Tone Bank Jungle
11. Live in Kingston – 11
August 1, 2007
Occasionally, folks are kind enough to send music my way and I have been rather ungrateful taking way too long to talk about it here. I am going to try to make up for it starting today, by posting some short reviews with songs for you to check out.
Frenzied is not an apt description of the music of A Fine Frenzy. While it is a perfectly fine band name, the songs of Alison Sudol are calm, lovely, delicate and seductive. In “Almost Lover” (see below), a song of relationship that was not to be, she is sensitive but not vulnerable, as her confidence flows throughout. There is heartbreak but not desperation, as she realizes that the relationship she hoped for is over. There is a tinge of resignation and the vow to move on – a bit bruised by not broken. The vocals are clear, powerful, and stunningly beautiful. Accompanied by the piano and some soft orchestration which rides throughout just below, never detracting from the powerful vocals. This is one of the most gorgeous songs I have heard in a long time.
Nothing makes for a great summer jam like some blazing horns behind soulful vocals. Add some organ and chances are I’m hooked. Case in point is “Pretty Girl” by Nees and Vos, who tick all the boxes on their disc “Extended Play”. Nees and Vos are the duo of Chris Vos, who provides vocals and guitar, and Andrew Neesley who gives us the the trumpets, keyboards and production. They combine jazz and soul with subtle but effective electronic flourishes. All six songs are strong, with the aformentioned “Pretty Girl” being my favourite on the disc. Another standout is their take on the classic Bill Withers tune “Ain’t No Sunshine” – they do justice to the standard version with the extremely soulful vocals, but add electronic beats and a killer trumpet solo making it their own.
This ep would be a great soundtrack for summer nights. I recommend that for the upcoming long weekend you find a porch, open a cold beverage, put on this album and you will be all set.
Here are a couple of tracks for you to check out:
And be sure to pick up the full album for yourself here.