Black Diamond Bay + The High Dials + Hilotrons | Pianos | 11.09.2008



It's a bit pornographic to watch Black Diamond Bay frontman Patrick Krief play guitar. Not that he full-on sexualizes things like Prince, but the man definitely makes a serious O Face while rocking out on his instrument. Actually, so does drummer George Donoso, who is somewhere on the intensity scale between Keith Moon and Animal. This was the last of BDB's three NYC shows, their first real American assault since going from being a Krief solo project — he and Donoso were both in The Dears up until a year or so ago — into a new and destinct entity.

That said, Black Diamond Day aren't entirely dissimilar to The Dears. The '70s glam drama, an epic swagger, but Krief and Donoso were intrinsic to the sound of that band's last two albums — and what helped make them such a powerhouse live (and whose departure has left a hole I'm not sure that can ever really be filled). As Krief put it after the show, "George and I left our stink on them." And vise-versa. While they are still developing as songwriters, Black Diamond Bay are already a powerhouse live. Tight as hell, they definitely knock you back a little. Of course, part of that is the volume at which they play, which is set at Stadium. But's it's mostly the skill and passion. And the O Face.

MP3Black Diamond Bay – Brothers In Exile 

It was an all-Canadian night at Pianos put together by the folks at the Musebox. Fellow Montrealers The High Dials had probably the biggest draw the three bill line-up, and deservedly so — they were great. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for what they do: hazy '60s psych/country with spot-on harmonies and a healthy dose of druggy drone. (The band didn't tour with The Brian Jonestown Massacre for nothing.) I knew the name but thought I was unfamiliar with until they took stage, then I realized I'd seen them before, though I can't place where or when. And when I got home I found 2005 last album, War of the Wakening Phantoms, in my collection, which upon listening again I totally remember. And hopefully they'll be back soon, as their new double-album, Moon Country, is pretty great and has been listened to about six times today. I won't forget them again. 

MP3The High Dials - My Heart Is Pinned To Your Sleeve (buy High Dials music)

The official headliners were Ottowa's Hilotrons whose album Happymatic was on the "long list" for this year's Polaris Music Prize which eventually went to Caribou's Andora. (Did you ever watch my video of "Sandy"?) I know that a lot of people compare them to Tokyo Police Club and Franz Ferdinand (well that's what I read) but to me they sound like a band who could have been signed to I.R.S. in 1980 — a little Wall of Voodoo, a smidge of Skafish, and a lot of Oingo Boingo (minus the horns). (The singer sounds a little like Dick Valentine or maybe Eddie Money.) All things I like but I think I'm going to need a little more emersion for it all to sink in. They are definitely fun, though.

MP3Hilotrons – Emergency Street (buy Hilotrons at Emusic)

A few more pictures at my Flickr.

The Dears are Dead; Long Live the Dears


The good news: Montreal's The Dears are back with a new album, Missles, due in October on Dangerbird in the US and Maple Music in Canada. The bad news: the band as we've known them for the last five years is no more, with only founding members (and now married couple with daughter) Murray Lightburn and keyboardist Natalia Yanchack remaining. Which is sad, as The Dears were one of the best live bands of the '00s, playing some truly spectacular gigs in 2005 and 2006 especially. Not that they won't still be, but truly that was a classic line-up. Here's the scoop, straight from Murray's mouth (and The Dears' MySpace):

This could have been a message saying that The Dears is over.


Almost 10 years ago, The Dears made a ghetto little record called "End of A Hollywood Bedtime Story." We were a four piece back then until two dudes split right after we finished making it, leaving just me and Natalia. I called up a few people and within a month we were resurrected as a six piece. We were brand new, with a new record in hand that the others adopted as their own. We went on to make two more records, a couple of EPs and tour the world many times. Plenty of laughs. We had a couple of exits in that time but the last four years saw the same line up.

I'm not going to lie to you kids: The new Dears album has been completed since April. It is called MISSILES. We have been wandering around the music industry wilderness the whole time, trying to secure a release date for the Fall. It's getting pretty f***ed out there. We thought very seriously about doing it ourselves. But that just wasn't realistic at all. Not in the least. And our relationships with Bella Union and Arts & Crafts had run their course. So at the 11th hour, in walked Dangerbird. Our beloved MapleMusic Recordings is still there for us and will release the record in Canada while Dangerbird Records will release it everywhere else. Should be an interesting/entertaining journey.

We want to bring you this record whole and still warm. It's beautiful; that is the only way to describe it. A blues album, essentially. It's also long and kind of paced for love making, because that really makes everything better. 58 minutes, 16 seconds, 10 songs. One song is over 11 minutes, just like the old days. Come October, we encourage you to seek it out; it is worth every penny and all the dough just goes back into making more records, not buying solid gold houses. Thanks, in advance.

We had quite an experience making it and by the end, only Natalia and I were left. The band line up as you've known has come to a close and now it's just as it was when we began: Natalia and I, looking after every aspect ourselves. Trust us when we say it is for the best. The music, philosophy — the art has been preserved with fervency. The Dears not are but is. In our mind it always has been that way, the sum of parts to create one vision. Or something like that. Personally, we feel fortunate to have a role in the birthing of every tune, in its arrival from the cosmos.

Anyway, there is a little nugget on our website, one of our faves, a soul-crushing classic:

We are moving to organize some live concerts for October with an almost completely new line up, as a seven piece. We've been rehearsing a couple times a week. It's a bit weird, to be honest, looking around at all the new faces. But it's incredibly exciting to hear the sounds come alive again, and for all the right reasons with all the right intentions. Be excited. It is a new beginning.

Eternal Love,
Murray + Natalia P/K/A THE DEARS


There's also a taster from Missles on The Dears website and MySpace, called "Meltdown in A Major."

MP3: The Dears – Meltdown in A Major (MySpace rip)

Here's the whole Missles tracklisting:

1) Disclaimer
2) Dream Job
3) Money Babies
4) Berlin Heart
5) Lights Off
6) Crisis 1 & 2
7) Demons
8) Missiles
9) Meltdown In A Major
10) Saviour

From what I can tell this is pretty recent news, and that the lineup from No Cities Left and Gang of Losers played on Missles. In an interview posted July 24 on Canadian music site I Heart Music, now ex-guitarist Patrick Kreif was asked about the new Dears album, to which he answers somewhat carefully: "The album’s done. No idea of the release date. But it’s finished, 100%.
I think it’s a good record. But at the moment, this band is our baby.
It’s a baby that still has a future, that we can mould and nurture.
It’s not an adolescent that talks back to you."

The "this band is our baby" bit he's talking about his band Black Diamond Bay, which until recently was known as Krief, but has now gone from solo-thing to main thing. BDB and also features  recently-departed Dears drummer George Donoso and the two of them will be the most-missed in the Dears.

The Dears and Black Diamond Bay both still list each other in their Top Friends on their respective MySpace pages, so maybe the split wasn't too acrimonious. I'm sure we'll learn more as the release date to Missles approaches.

Andrew Scott on Sloan’s “Reggae” Song + Bowery Shows

In the weeks leading up to the release of Sloan's new album, Parallel Play (which is out today), Yep Roc records has been sending out emails with each of the band's four members giving behind the scenes looks at the songs they wrote for the album. We got the last one today, drummer Andrew Scott who contributes four songs to the album. Two of them are unlike anything Sloan have done before, one being the overtly Dylan-esque "Down in the Basement;" and the other being the controversial "reggae" number, "Too Many."

In his typical no-bullshit way, here's what Andrew Scott has to say about it:

I've been
addicted to Trojan box sets, and Studio One box sets and the like and
generally overload on vintage Jamaican ska, rocksteady, dub, etc. I think
the musicianship is outstanding and the whole scene was so formulaic in
that every song could almost be interchangeable yet each recording is
totally different and individual. If i were teaching somebody an instrument
– I'd recommend anything from this era (of which there is shitloads) and
I'd say "play along with this stuff." Also the productions are mind
boggling in their varied use of all the same simple elements – echo and
reverb. One doesn't even have to be a stoner to get into it either –
however it certainly doesn't hurt every now and then. I wanted to pretend I
was Prince Buster. I wanted it to be repetitive and kind of hypnotic but
tuneful as well. The only thing I regret is not putting horns and sax on
it. Next time…

MP3: Sloan – Too Many

Next time indeed. He also drops this nugget about the group's dynamic, which might be a little bit to "behind the curtain" for some:

I play all the instruments on my songs for expediencies sake
and because I am very picky about what gets played and how on "tape." When
we learn to play our records live, after they are made – then everyone else
has free license to play as they feel. It just sort of ended up being that
way since our third record.

I knew they basically did everything by themselves on the last couple records but was unaware it had been that way since One Chord to Another. Sloan plays Bowery Ballroom next Thursday and Friday and tickets are still available for both shows. I sound like a broken record, but if you've never seen Sloan live, you're really missing out.

Sloan Sloan Sloan

I haven’t written about Sloan since last May. Which is a long time for me. So get ready, I’ve got lots of info.

Firstly, this is the cover to the band’s new album, Parallel Play — This is the band’s eighth studio effort and the title is a reference to the stage in kids’ development when they play next to each other but not with each other. Which is their winking way of describing how the band works these days. For more on this, bassist Chris Murphy had this to say:

Collaboration can be difficult. Our band does less of it than we used to and it’s too bad. It may just be a romantic feeling but the songs where something major was added by someone other than the main writer are my favorite. I definitely come in with finished song structures but I like to leave room for someone to play something I wasn’t expecting.

We never fight. We just stew. Aren’t the best bands the ones that are founded in passive aggressiveness? If this is true then we are truly the best band ever. When you’ve gone this long without a real fight there is the constant fear that if we start telling each other the truth that it will be the end of the band.

If we videoed this process even Metallica would think we looked like goofs:

"Don’t try to make my song sound like the fucking Traveling Wilburys!"
"Yeah well give your backwards delay wah pedal to some 15 year old that thinks it’s cool!"
…band over.

We have all developed a sophisticated sense of humor that we use against each other at times. Patrick is the funniest man alive but he also loves digital delay. That would make me a Traveling Wilbury.

This is the most democratic, percentage-wise, Sloan record we’ve gotten in a long time. As you may know, all four members write and sing and this time it’s pretty evenly split, with everyone getting three songs, except drummer Andrew Scott who gets four. Clocking in at 35 minutes, Parallel Play is their shortest ever. Kinda funny, as their last one, 2006’s Never Hear the End of It, was their longest. It’s out June 10 on Yep Roc but you can hear it right now, via a streaming player on the Yep Roc website. But here’s the first single, Chris Murphy’s "I’m Not a Kid Anymore":

MP3: Sloan – I’m Not a Kid Anymore
(Pre-order Parallel Play)

I’ve listened to the album a few times and it’s another strong one in their 17-year career. Chris Murphy brings snark and melody, Patrick Pentland delivers the Big Riffs, and Jay Furgeson‘s encyclopedic pop knowledge gives us the best songs on the album, including highpoint "Cheap Champagne," which should please anyone who really dug Navy Blues‘ "C’mon C’mon." As for drummer Andrew Scott, he generally classes up the joint, and finally answers the question many Sloan fans have been asking: "When will Sloan’s genre-plundering finally lead them to reggae?" The time is now, folks.

They may all be nearing 40, most of them with kids, but they’ve still got it. Certainly, they’re still easily one of the most consistently awesome live shows of my rock-show-going existence. If you’ve never experienced Sloan in person, shame on you, but you can rectify that shortly as they’ll be in the States in June:

Jun 14    Detroit        Majestic Theatre
Jun 15    Philadelphia    North Star Bar   
Jun 17    Washington, D    Black Cat   
Jun 18    Cambridge, MA    T.T. The Bear’s (buy)
Jun 19    New York, NY    Bowery Ballroom   
Jun 20    New York, NY    Bowery Ballroom   
Jun 22    Cleveland, OH    Grog Shop   
Jun 23    Chicago, IL    Double Door

Tickets for the Bowery shows are on sale this Friday.

But wait, there’s more! Lots more ("witch music," "techno," etc)… after the jump.

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Hello Blue Roses | Glassland Gallery | 2.16.2008

"Playing live sucks," Dan Bejar joked, or sort of joked, in consolation as Sydney Vermont struggled finding the chords on her acoustic guitar in the low lighting of Glasslands Gallery. She had started and restarted the song about eight times and was clearly ready to move on to the next one but gbave it one last go and muddled through.

It was that kind of show. Hello Blue Roses, Bejar’s other other group with his Girfriend Vermont, hadn’t played a live show in 18 months, with Bejar adding, "our last show was 18 minutes long. Tonight we’re determined to top 30!"  The stops and starts probably helped extend the show well into record length. They played maybe eight songs, mainly with Vermont singing and occasional flute, and Bejar on Guitar and occasional vocals. The set was loose, jokey and had a distinct ’70s folk vibe to it — I kept thinking of Judy Collins for some reason. Probably the flute.

Despite having a New Pornographer (and Destoyer) in the house, Glasslands was crowded but definitely not packed. Carl Newman was in the house, as was the Phosphorecent guy. Not an essential show, but glad I went.

MP3: Hello Blue Roses – Sunny Skies
(Buy it)

I shot video of the same song:

Better pictures at Brooklyn Vegan.

CMJ 2007 Day Two| Bella | Knitting Factory Old Office

BellaBest stage accoutrement ever: a tiny little table lamp with the Bella logo stitched into the shade that was perched on the guitar amp. I tried to take a picture of it (you can see it under the KF logo in this picture) but the white balance makes it to bright to really see it in all its darling glory.

Bella are cute like that. But not twee. The Canadaian-American trio mix the sweet and salty: boy-girl vocals full of "bah bahs" and harmonies, but also crunchy guitars and a healthy dose of attitude. Their debut, No One Will Know, is fairly slick but live, Bella are messier and loud with the three members switching instruments every few songs.quite a lot over the last couple months.

The Knitting Factory Old Office, where the Mint Records showcase was happening, is nobody’s idea of an ideal venue, but it felt more like a party than most gigs. CBC beverage cozies and decorated bags of candy were tossed into the crowd. You could tell most of the audience knew the bands. (They were likely the other bands on the bill.) I had to dash off to the Music Hall of Williamsburg after their set, so I didn’t get to see the other bands (maybe I would’ve stayed if they’d brought Novillero and the Bicycles back this year) but my second night of CMJ definitely started on a good note.

MP3: DBella – Give it a Night
(Buy it)

Bumpershine was there too, and pretty sure I saw the Modern Age, but no posts by her on it so cannot confirm or deny.

Caribou | Bowery Ballroom | 10.06.2007

Caribou_bowery01Saturday night was Merge Records night in New York with three of the label”s biggest band in town playing separate shows. Most indie lovers went with Option 1: The Arcade Fire at Randals Island. (Apparently some other bands played too.) Option 2, if so lucky, was to see Spoon perform on Saturday Night Live. Some of us, those who don’t like standing in a field for five hours or have friends at NBC, went for Option 3. I think I made the right choice.

Last time I saw Dan Snaith was at Bowery Ballroom in 2001, back when he was still using the Manitoba moniker. More has changed since then than just the name of the band. After two albums of albums of laptop cacophony with hints of melody, Caribou has gone pop for the just-released Andorra, which I think is one of the year’s best. Mind you, he still makes room for the psychedelic freakout, and his idea of Pop is not the same as, say, James Blunt’s, but its still loaded with undeniably catchy tunes.

The psychedelic freakout aspect plays a little more heavily in Caribou’s live show, which features lysergic projections and an overload of percussion. Two drum kits were front and center, with dedicated man Brad Weber on one and the second for Snaith, who played it at least part of every song, when he wasn’t on guitar or keyboards.

I have stated many times before that two things that push my buttons are a) putting the drums at the front of the stage and b) two drummers. So this was my kind of show, even if all this pounding turned some of the tight, perfect songs on Andorra into longer, wilder things… with false endings. Every single song had a point where at least one person in the audience clapped before it kicked back in, usually with another three minutes of double-drums and flashing, seizure-inducing lights.

As I’m not an epileptic, I found it all awesome. If Snaith and Weber weren’t so good on their kits, it wouldn’t have worked. But they were so in synch, it was a thing to behold. And the rest of the band, guitarist Andy Smith and bassist Andy Lloyd, were nothing to sneeze at either. I left quite happy about where I had chosen to be that night, and even though the show was indoors, I still found Caribou outstanding in their field. Wah wah!

: Caribou – Eli
(Buy Andorra)

And here’s video from the encore, the last six minutes. I’m pretty sure there was a song attached to this…

Sloan | Bowery Ballroom | 1.18.2007

"Oh my god, did you hear their last song? It was so bad-ass!" Dorian Thornton, bassist from openers Spiral Beach, was enthusing at the merch table to bandmate Daniel Woodhead. He was talking about Sloan's "If It Feels Good Do It" and they both started miming the song's Big Rawk Riff. Sloan have had plenty of air guitar moments over the course of their eight albums and it was certainly heartening to see two kids (Spiral Beach are all still in their teens) so pumped for a group 15 years their senior.

Then again, it's hard not be psyched after a Sloan show, because they are, in a word, awesome. Few bands today have a better time putting on a great show than these Canadians. Everyone at the sold-out, jam-packed show last night at the Bowery was super-psyched, pumped, enthused, etc, etc. Regular readers of this blog (Hi Kelly! Hi Toby!) are well-aware of my love of Sloan: power pop kings, riff-gods, masters of harmony, players of Christmas parties, makers of delicious cassoulet.

Sloan's latest album, Never Hear the End of It, hit US stores last Tuesday, and the setlist drew heavily from it, playing 19 of its 30 songs. Of course, many of those were only about two minutes long (or less) and segued into one another as they do on the record, making for mini-medleys. I thought this actually made the show even more exciting, as all four members write and sing it kept things really moving.

The best of these was the second of two Andrew Scott suites where they powered through "I Can't Sleep," "I Know You," "Something's Wrong" and "I've Gotta Try," which is going to the be official US single, complete with a just-shot music video. It really felt like Andrew's night. He got a lot of mike time this time around (he had no songs on Sloan's last album, Action Pact) but more than that he was just such a powerhouse behind the kit all night. Usually, Chris Murphy's antics demand attention but I spent most of my time watching Andrew. (Except when Chris licked his way up the microphone stand, which was both funny and gross all at once.)

Despite the dominance of the new album, they made lots of room for the classics, including "The Lines That You Amend," "C'mon, C'mon," "Money City Maniacs," "Anyone Who's Anyone," "Chester the Molester," "The Good in Everyone," "Penpals" (which they played at its proper fast speed) and "The Other Man," a song a lot of Sloan fans hate but I actually really like. To each his own. Nothing from the first album, though.

The show was at least 90 minutes though the crowd would've stayed for twice that. The band hung out downstairs after the show, chatting with fans. Andrew told me about some sushi place near the club that he said was really good — had eaten at twice since getting into town, actually — but I can't remember the name. (So much for this being a music-and-food blog. I really need to step up.) Jay Ferguson, meanwhile, refuted Andrew's claim that he had never eaten a shrimp. He has… he just doesn't like them, okay!

Openers and fellow Torontoians Spiral Beach were a lot of fun. I don't even know how to describe them. They're a bit like the Coral or the Zutons, by way of Oingo Boingo (minus the horns). Psychotic circus music? You could definitely dance to it. I am anxious to hear what they sound like on record.

Fluxblog was also there, and has the full setlist. The awesome pictures used here were swiped from Kathryn Yu's Flickr photostream. She always has great concert shots, but has really outdone herself here. Dig this picture of Patrick Pentland in full rock star pose…


SoundBites Best of 2005 | Albums

Don’t let anyone say 2005 was a crummy year for music. I coulda done a Top 50. But that takes too much time. Here’s my Top 20 Albums of 2005, which probably changed more than NME‘s lineup right down to posting.

ElbowLeaders of the Free World (V2) | Elbow‘s third album is not only the best thing they’ve ever done, it was the best thing I heard anyone do in 2005. Gorgeous melodies, inventive arrangements and musicianship, and some of the most heartfelt (without treacle) lyrics around. And Guy Garvey‘s amazing voice on top of it all. Album of the Year by a mile. Best songs: "Station Approach," "The Stops," "Mexican Standoff," "The Everthere."

Art BrutBang Bang Rock and Roll
(Fierce Panda) | The year’s most flat-out enjoyable record. The humor
in singer Eddie Argos‘ lyrics hits you first ("I’ve seen her
naked…TWICE!") but these are songs that are funny, not novelty rock.
(Some may disagree.) And, as Argos sings on their manifesto "Formed a
Band," this is not irony. "We’re just talking to the kids!" The hits
keep coming through all 12 tracks, from "My Little Brother" through
"18,000 Lira."


New PornographersTwin Cinema (Matador) | Not as immediate and crammed with hooks as either The Electric Version or Mass Romantic, album number three for this mostly-Canadian supergroup seemed like a bit of a dud on arrival. Weeks of play, however, and songs constantly coming up on shuffle on the iPod, have proven Twin Cinema to be another batch of winning songs with perhaps the most staying power of them all. Dig new New breed: "Sing Me Spanish Techno," "These Are the Fables," "The Jessica Numbers."

Of MontrealThe Sunlandic Twins
(Polyvinyl) I remember seeing Of Montreal back in 1999, playing with
Ladybug Transistor. There were props and slide-flutes and other twee
type things. I didn’t like them. But somewhere down the line they
transformed from utter whimsy into a band capable of filtering poppy,
’60s-inspired melodies through Eno-esque new wave. I was hooked. One of
2005’s earlier releases (well, April), The Sunlandic Twins has
stayed with me for most of the year. Get some Sun:"Requiem for
O.M.M.2," "Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)," "Forecast
Fascist Future."

The RakesCapture/Release
(V2) | These guys have, so
far, been met mostly with shrugs in America (the record’s not out yet here), dismissed as the latest
post-punk whatever. There may be a little disco hi-hat in the drumming,
but The Rakes are miles better than any of the others and actually
remind me of Pink Flag-era Wire with a working-class attitude
and an articulate grasp of late-20s ennui. "Might as well go out for a
fifth night in a row" indeed. Capture/Release is genius from start-to-finish and has some of the year’s
best singles, too, including "Work Work Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)," "22
Grand Job," and "Strasbourg."

Field MusicField Music (Memphis Industries) | Despite having ties to both the Futureheads (singer Andrew Moore used to be in them) and Maximo Park (they share a drummer), Sunderland, England’s Field Music sound nothing like them. It’s all delicate, sparse arrangements (not unlike Spoon), nods to ’60s baroque pop, and a cut-the-fat approach to album making. Debut album of the year, rock division. Choice cuts: "If Only the Moon Were Up," "Shorter Shorter," "Got to Write a Letter"

LCD SoundsystemLCD Soundsystem (DFA/Capitol) | When LCD Soundsystem‘s debut got two Grammy noms, I began to question my own taste for including this on my best-of list but no, dammit, this is a great album. It still sounds great after having it for nearly a year, and being played at every party, before every show, and on The O.C. It will be interesting to see what James Murphy does next. Killer jams: "Daft Punk is Playing in My House," "Tribulations," "Beat Connection"

My Morning JacketZ (ATO) | Like The Clientele, My Morning Jacket dare to drop one of their calling cards (the gallons of reverb), then drop a key band member and pull a 180 musically. The result being the best album they’ve ever done and the first one I’ve truly liked start-to-finish. And yet they still sound like My Morning Jacket, thanks in no small part to Jim James voice-of-heaven vocals. Prime cuts: "Wordless Chorus," "Into the Woods," "Anytime"

Richard HawleyColes Corner (Mute) |
Third album’s the charm for this former axeman for Longpigs and Pulp,
who once again leaves indie stylings behind in favor of full-on crooner
mode, a la Roy Orbison, Burt Bacharach, Marty Robbins, or even
Morrissey. Even though it was written about Sheffield, England, Coles Corner
makes a gorgeous soundtrack for NYC too, and sounds even better after
midnight. Swoon: "The Ocean," "Hotel Room," "Born Under a Bad Sign,"
"Coles Corner"

Malcolm MiddletonInto the Woods (Chemikal Underground) | If you read the lyrics sheet, you may wonder about the state of mind of Arab Strap‘s Malcolm Middleton
on his second solo album. For example, on "A Happy Medium" he sings,
"Woke up again today/Realized I hate myself/My Brain is a disease." But
Into the Woods is not a dreary exercise in woe-is-me-isms. Like so many
before him, Middleton turns his pain, fear and doubts into something
beautiful. Even those who have never had any time for Arab Strap should
give this one a chance. Get into: "My Loneliness Shines," "You’re Gonna
Break My Heart," "A Happy Medium"

The other 10 after the jump…

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