September 23, 2007
photo by Tinycakevillage, taken at the kvrx/i eat records day party, March 16, 2007.
Tomorrow the second Polaris Prize will be awarded at a gala event in Toronto. I wasn’t really sure what to think when I first saw the list. There were a few names that I would love to see on the oversized cheque (Julie Doiron, especially) and one who I am not terribly fond of (Joel Plaskett – I just don’t dig it) and then a whole whack of acts that I think are really great and would be pleased enough if they won. One band that I was quite surprised to see shortlisted, and quite pleased to see that they were, is Graham Van Pelt, aka Miracle Fortress.
The debut full-length by Miracle Fortress nominated for the prize, “Five Roses” is filled with gloriously breezy pop songs constructed from gently delivered lyrics, fuzzy guitars, gauzy synths, and carefully measured doses of percussion. These elements are densely and carefully layered, to create a dreamy and entrancing sound. Performing live, the Van Pelt along with Jordan Robson-Cramer, Jessie Stein, and Adam Waito, do not so much re-create the sound of the album as re-interpret it. Van Pelt presents his music serenely, as might be expected, as the sonic layers are seemingly effortlessly laid down. I don’t know if Miracle Fortress will take home the big prize tomorrow, but if they do I think it would be well deserved.
Miracle Fortress, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, 10 September 2007
Be cooler than your friends – own the stunning ‘Five Roses’ before it wins the Polaris.
September 14, 2007
This past Tuesday, Toronto’s Picastro released their third album Whore Luck. The trio of Liz Hysen, Nick Storring, and Brandon Valdivia make extraordinary music that is experimental without being inaccessible. Picastro are in no rush. They take their time getting to their destination without letting their songs meander. They do not fall pray to self-indulgence and go off in all directions, rather they remain focused, allowing their music to unfold slowly and purposefully. Picastro restrain themselves, maintaining a subdued tone throughout, but with occasional sharp punctuations where Hysen’s voice expands, guitars and strings swell, and the drums crash. As these flourishes are used sparingly, their impact is so much the greater. This album is filled with striking moments – the lushness of the strings in “All Erase” at about the 1min. mark, the disquieting “If You Have Ghosts”, the echoing piano on “Friends of Mine” – but Whore Luck is much more than a collection of such moments as the vocals and instrumentation coalesces, creating a hauntingly beautiful whole.
The below radio session from the wonderful WFMU features Picastro in conversation with Irene Trudel from last year. They played a number of songs live, including several at-that-time untitled songs which now have titles and can be found on Whore Luck, along with a solo performance by Hysen and a couple of songs off their release “Metal Cares”.
Picastro have a number of upcoming cd release shows in Canada: they play Hamilton tonight, Sept. 14th with Wooden Stars, Sept. 15 they hit Montreal with the Divorced & Triceratreetops, they are in Toronto at the Music Gallery as part of the X-Avant series with the Madawaska String Quartet on Sept. 16th, and on Sept. 20 they will be in Guelph. They play Chicago on the 23rd of September before heading to Europe. They will be all over the place, in both North American and Europe in October and November, giving you plenty of chances to see them live so get out there and see ’em. Check out their myspace page for full details.
Picastro, Irene Trudel show, WFMU, 6 February 2006
1. intro (talk)
2. No Contest
3. All Erase
4. long weekend (talk)
7. take suggestions (talk)
8. one more (talk)
9. I Can’t Fall Asleep
10. a weird feeling (talk)
11. Liz Hysen solo song (untitled)
12. send your emails (talk)
September 7, 2007
WAS at T in the Park, 2006, photos by Jane Stockdale for the BBC.
Living in a college town, I tend to have mixed feelings about September. The invasion of students means the bars and restaurants are much more crowded, there are longer line-ups everywhere, the city is generally much noisier and busier, and the tranquility of the summer is broken (man, I really am one step away from being the crotchety old guy sitting on his porch shaking his fist at the “young whippersnappers”, aren’t I?). However, with the invasion of students isn’t all bad. New life is breathed into the city and, most importantly, with the school year comes a whole slew of great concerts. And this year is shaping up to be a killer year, with concerts every week, sometimes several (or even several on the same night! Ack! Choices must me made!) – be sure to check out The Grad Club and The Artel and all the other usual suspects for the skinny on who’s playing where and when. Of course, I’ll try to do my best to keep you informed, as well.
This year is starting off with a pretty big bang with the annual Queen’s Frosh Concert. Tonight, Sept. 7th, Metric return to the campus’ most glamourous parking lot and this year they are bringing along We Are Scientists. You know my position on openers – that they have to grab your attention and refuse to let you ignore them – well, WAS definitely fit that bill. I have the distinct feeling that the openers are going to steal the show. With their frenetic indie rock – all guitars and squeals and driving rhythms – they will no doubt have all in attendance bouncing along. So get out there early and enjoy yourself.
Alright, you only have a few hours to get tickets if you are a Kingstonian who happens to be reading this – frosh get in free, upper years and (i’m told) alumni can get tickets through the QEA for $15. Everyone else, it seems, is SOL. I don’t think I’ll be heading down to the show so let me know how it was, ok? WAS are playing the Osheaga Festival on Sunday and are going to be all over the UK in November so check ’em out if you get the chance. Metric are hitting V Fest in Toronto this weekend and Halifax and St. John’s on Sept. 14 and 16th respectively before spending the rest of the month touring the US.
For those who are unfamiliar with WAS or would like a refresher, here they are performing at the 2006 T in the Park festival, courtesy of the always awesome Steve Lamaq1.
We Are Scientists, T in the Park, Balado, Scotland, 9 July 2006
1. Lousy Reputation/Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt
2. Worth the Wait
3. It’s A Hit
4. This Scene Is Dead
6. two guitars (talk)
7. The Great Escape
WAS have underwear (with a kitten on them, really) and all kinds of rad t-shirts and other things along with their cds for purchase HERE. Buy ’em because one more pair of undies = one less day you need to laundry.