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   Friday, March 28, 2003  
Blimey, Canada! If there's anyone who still mostly regards the place as a kind of overgrown Belgium, a vague inert entity sandwiched between the rather more exotic promise of Cameroon and Cape Verde in the atlas index, think on! Not content with comandeering the alt-folk-twang high ground via Radiogram and the Tanyas they're now making a concerted play for alt-rock glory. And we're not talking here about the pop smarts of this month's NME darlings Hot Hot Heat from Vancouver. No, it's to Toronto wherein repose the rambling collective we must call Broken Social Scene. After the Tanyas' Chinatown, this group's latest album is reallyrather's second unconditionally recommended Buy! of '03.
UK label Setanta (Richard Hawley, Hem) have apparently licensed Broken Social Scene's Paper Bag labelmates Stars' new album ('Heart') for release here in the summer. If that record is anywhere near as good as BSS's You forgot it in people this blog will be amazed, not to say stunned. OK, OK, so what's it like this oddly titled thing? Well, what it isn't like might be a shorter exercise. 'Contemporary eclectic'? Each of the album's 11 substantive tracks could almost be by a different band, a natural consequence maybe of being a 10-piece-plus. Though definitely 'Indie' and rocking splendidly in places the overall feel is quite mellow; Rilo Kiley's last album might be some sort of comparison in this respect.
After a brief impressionistic keyboard overture KC accidental kicks in. A stop-start affair swinging between boffo polyrhythmic drums and becalmed clanging guitars, it's perfect consolation for anyone lamenting the imminent demise of The Dismemberment Plan. It's also - aforesaid eclecticism notwithstanding - the most untypical, out-of-joint track in the set. Things really lock in with the subsequent Stars and sons, muted but driving pop with a levitating riff and handclaps-a-gogo. Sounds like something from Wheat's Hope and Adams, with added snap and crackle. Next up is Almost crimes, a head-on collision of The Strokes and Ash with all the slashing, skidding thrills 'n' spills that implies. Sweaty. After which, bathe in the fabulous mellow comedown of Looks like the sun. Acoustic indie with a faintly soulful groove, it casually tops garlanded Brit pretenders like Turin Brakes and again offers sanctuary to Wheat fans who fear that band might be on the cusp of - to resurrect a quaint old expression - selling out [see 14/3].
The mood's sustained with the instrumental Pacific theme which jumps in a bit like Fleetwood Mac's Dreams. Horns, chiming guitars and bass to the fore, it swings along with a mix of Pizzicato Five-style ersatz lounge, The Sea and Cake and Steely Dan circa Aja. Which brings us to...whoa!
Park that car
Drop that phone
Sleep on the floor
Dream about me

Anthems for a seventeen-year-old girl is simple and repetitive. Three lines repeated over and over by the manipulated 'girlie' voice of Emily Haines. It features mainly banjo and strings. It's also as transfixing a slice of pop this listener's come across in some little while.
OK, let's pretend that bands like this could have hits. By reallyrather's reckoning Cause=time would now be the fourth. A tight, propulsive little rocker with great break-out guitar, The Sea and Cake/Archer Prewitt comes to mind again only a bit more muscular, focussed. A snapped-off ending would've been better but hey?! The mostly instrumental Shampoo suicide is initially like the missing dimension from the recent Loose Fur/Wilco records, if only Tweedy & O'Rourke had a funky bone between them. It swells into a kitchen sink wall of sound before giving way to the languid, yearning grandiosity of Lover's spit. That, by the standards of what's gone before, the ambient folk-jazz(?!) groove of I'm still your fag lacks a real melodic payoff is more than made up for by the seductively deft production.
Through it's course, You forgot it in people plays like the rock radio station of this blog's dreams. Support Broken Social Scene. Impress your friends. Buy this record.

And before we leave Canada, self-styled 'solo folk/punk/klezmer accordion-playing singer/songwriter' Geoff Berner - writer of Light enough to travel from the Be Good Tanyas' debut - has a new album. We Shall Not Flag Or Fail, We Shall Go On To The End is out in Canada on the Black Hen label and Berner will be over to open at least one of Billy Bragg's UK shows in May...[feature]

'The music is uniformly astounding...landing at the nexus of melody-drenched pop, Delta blues, Wall of Sound glow, ragtime, Appalachian folk and about a half dozen other styles - Pitchfork savours the new M.Ward album, and they're not alone:
'Ward's music is as steadfastly out of step with modern pop conventions as any artist since the Band's initial offerings seeped out of a Woodstock basement three decades ago...acoustic ballads, Tom Waits-styled Tin Pan Alley blues, and noisy indie-rock turns...Ward exudes the kind of hard-won honesty one doesn't hear much on records more]
'Ward puts a contemporary yet faithful spin on traditional folk, blues and country styles, as well as late-’60s/early-’70s roots-rock. ..there’s something so effortless, so honest about this music ...The kid, for lack of a better word, is a natural.' [more]

Ink 19 catches up with reallyrather's Album of '02 - and they get it right: "It's incredible stuff"

In the works: Rilo Kiley's Blake Sennet is preparing a solo album - The senate(?!) - with Bright Eyes producer/cohort Mike Mogis ... Philadelphia's superfine The Trolleyvox are mastering the long-awaited (hereabouts, at least) follow-up to the joyously rocking pop wonder that was Ephemera for the future...

Nadine slip out another track, 'Poor man's vacation', from the ever-upcoming Strange seasons album. And - despite featuring quite a bit of what can only be called whistling - lo!, 'tis another stone cold belter! C'mon, c'mon guys we need this in time for the summer...

[A don't forget - buy this record]
   posted by SMc at 6:18 AM |

   Saturday, March 22, 2003  
Some band names they just set out to reassure, y'know, to put you right there. Like Winterville, for instance. Or Maplewood. What would you expect of bands with names like that? Warm, soothing sounds; folksy pop with an undertow of twang; stripped floorboards, fresh-brewed fairly-traded beverage of choice, naturalness. And, judging by the mp3s these bands offer up, you'd be pretty much right. reallyrather stumbled across these names in the course of finding out what's become of jangly chamber popsters Champale ('Teenage Fanclub meets the backwoods orchestral arrangements of Lambchop,' as someone else suggested). Their more-than-decent debut Simple days wasn't heard by nearly enough people. They now report that they're "finally laying down tracks for the next record, one that so far features huge contributions from cello..lap steel guitar..trumpet.' Nice, but easy on the brass, guys. Winterville and Maplewood are semi-detached Champale projects. The former has apparently released an album but gives no obvious clue as to how to get hold of it which is a shame since at least a couple of the sample tracks are toothsome slices of country-pop of the right sort - check out Hockey player haircut and Felipe Alou. The ongoingness of Winterville is uncertain but Maplewood would appear to be alive and well and driving up and down Big Sur communing with that West Coast vibe of three decades back. Glistening laidback harmonic pop-rock with giveaway titles like Santa Fe and Indian summer, it's a track called Gemini on the way that appeals most here, a bit like The Tyde but (crucially) without that band's excellently frazzled psych-pop edge...

...and talking of The Tyde, the UK gets first refusal of their new material when Rough Trade Records releases a single, Go ask yer Dad on April 28. The follow-up to ace debut album Once follows in June and will be called...Twice

Amongst the blizzard of SXSW reports Cinncinnati CityBeat's correspondent surely zeroes in on the zenith of those 4 days of rock'n'roll frenzy: ' Near the end of Pedro the Lion's set of tight, un-grandiose songs, [singer David] Bazan, who barely moved at all, asked the crowd in a simple, earnest tone, "Are there any questions at this point?" A fan shouted out "What is the fastest land animal?" to which Bazan responded, "the cheetah."'
'Phew,' as they say...

"It's been a whirlwind couple of years," the Be Good Tanyas' Frazey Ford tells the Vancouver Sun. "I think I'll be spending a lot of time standing back at some point and going, 'What happened? There we were jamming in our living room one day and two years later, there we were, on a huge stage in London." Now back home after promoting the UK release of Chinatown, the Tanyas work the local press:
'Not so long ago, after the Be Good Tanyas had released their Blue Horse debut, they were looking good to a lot of 50-something British men and their wives. The after-tea crowd came in droves, having heard the Vancouver trio's unique country-folk blend on legendary veteran BBC DJ Whispering Bob Harris's show, and fallen hard. It was the first U.K. tour for the BGT, and with their newfound older demographic, they were playing to sold-out audiences. From the start, there was nothing conventional about the Be Good Tanyas. "They'd open the doors and this slide of men in their 50s would pile in with their wives," says Frazey. "It was kind of funny."
Ford isn't sure why they've broken through so swiftly on the other side of the Atlantic, although she thinks it might have something to do with non-commercial interests.
"I don't know. It was just a real lucky thing. I think England is like Canada in a way that they have the BBC, and everybody listens to it. So, if the BBC decides they're going to play you, you can really get the ball rolling quickly and a lot of the DJs there played the album. They actually give a break to people who don't have huge funding for their promotion effort."
'The trio is going to wind up their tour at the end of March so that Ford can take time to have a baby. "I'm doing all right, but I get grumpy. It's not humane to drag a pregnant woman around airport after airport. "It's a lot on the plate," she says, sighing. "I've never been a mom before, and I don't know how it's going to be. It's going to be a huge adjustment. It's not like we're not stopping forever, but there'll be a period of adjusting and figuring out how touring will work."' | Vancouver Sun 20 Mar

Wait, there's more (you know you want it):
'Slouching lazily in chairs in a Toronto restaurant, Samantha Parton and Trish Klein say they're still a bit mystified by their success and the treatment that comes along with it. "I went to go see a friend's band play in a bar and this guy comes up to me and says 'What's somebody of your status doing in a place like this?'" Parton says, wrinkling her face in confusion like she did for the man. "What was he talking about?" Now that the girls are home, they're not expecting -- or seeking -- the star treatment.
"Britain is so instrumental in launching the careers of so many North American artists," Klein says. "They were the first people to appreciate Jimi Hendrix." "In Britain, they really put you up on a pedestal, over here it doesn't feel like that at all," Parton adds. "I feel warm and protected with Canadian audiences."
While Parton tries to sound nonchalant about the rave reviews the band has attracted along the road, it's obvious she's proud of the achievement. "I don't like putting anyone on a pedestal, but it is nice when you've admired someone for many years and then they turn around and tell you they admire what you do. . .It's great,' " she says
"Hang out with Emmylou Harris in Nashville!" Klein interjects'. | Canadian Press 17 Mar

OK, that's enough Tanyas (for this week anyway)...

"Getting dropped by a major label is a badge of honor these days, isn't it?"
LA-based ex-pat country-rockers Minibar, having been 'let go' by Universal after their debut, have signed with indie label Foodchain for release of their follow-up. Fly below the radar is due on June 18. "I don't think it's a huge departure," continues frontman Simon Petty in the LA Times. "Maybe it's a little less alt-country than the first record, if that's how people found that. There are more influences on this album. The harmonies still stack up West Coast-style, but the music nods more to our British roots."

"I could stay in the studio forever and never leave. My wife would just slide tortillas under the door so I wouldn't starve." - John Askew aka Tracker, interviewed...
   posted by SMc at 5:18 AM |

   Friday, March 14, 2003  
Logistical stuff, unwellness, "more things to life than music", etc...

Anyone who already has some M.Ward in their collection will of course be buying Transfiguration of Vincent blind (or should that be 'deaf'?), out in Europe via Matador April 28. Allmusic have already got it and it's pushed them right off the fence: 'nothing less than spectacular...[he's] the real deal.' The man himself kinda reveals more here. As before, Ward enlists the services of touchstone geezer Adam Selzer who appeared on reallyrather's Best of '02 runner-up album Polk by Tracker (if you haven't got yours yet, why not!) and it's equally ace predecessor, Ames. Selzer is also one of a rotating cast who pitch in to realise Kyle Field's delightfully wonky vision on Little Wings' Light green leaves.
A 'favourites of '02' list contender for sure had this blog come across it sooner, the dozen tunes on Light green leaves have a very loose, good-natured, homespun feel. ''Like a more upbeat Will Oldham..tapping an alt-country vein that's heavier on the "alt" than the country,' said AMG, who really liked it; '..marvel at how many disingenuous folk songs one man can author in the shortest given period of time,' suggests Pitchfork who really didn't. With undertones of Bacharach here & there, what we have is simple strummin', light percussion harmonies which reallyrather can quite imagine would have many wincing. But for anyone who can handle the likes of Mendoza Line's Timothy Bracy, or Conor Oberst, this is a low-key treat. Fall sweep marvellously book-end's M.Ward's O'Brien; The way i deux is another cracker and the closest Little Wings get here to stirring energy. Small changes keep things alive, Under your blanket's female vocal and the simple jaunty accordian on Uh-oh (it's morning time again). Far too whimsical for some certainly, reallyrather has the facts and, frankly, is voting 'Yes!'...

An affirmative thumbs-up also goes to The Be Good Tanyas second release, Chinatown. Ten weeks into the year, this takes an early lead with more of the beautifully affecting folk simplicity we were introduced to on Blue horse. The mood here is bit more sombre and consistent but there are no wrong turns and, once again, it's their own compositions which hit home. Ship out on the sea and In spite of all the damage encapsulate the way the Tanyas bring this music down from the mountain and onto the streets. (Apparently, guest vocal menace Emmylou has been sniffing around. Hey, girls, if she offers in future stay unique, just say 'Thanks, but no!') reallyrather caught lovely shows in Brighton and HMV Oxford Street where they packed the aisles.

So, Nadine finally sign up with Trampoline Records (founded by Pete Yorn & co.) for release of Strange seasons. Interesting choice; the Trampoline family of course also sort of includes Gingersol who relaunched their own Trainwreck at cbgb's last month...

Judging by the comments on their message board, seems like reallyrather's decision to pass up Wheat when they opened John Mayer's UK dates was a wise one:
"Unfortunately, I can't think of a single positive thing to say about Wheat's performance. This was straight up and down meat and potatoes rock. Zero subtlety, zero atmosphere, zero excitement and zero interest from me. This was a band I loved and they were absolutely shit."
Hmm...anyone else?
"Wheat just pumped out the 3 minute pop tunes one after another...too much pointless keyboard playing from the Billy Joel school of '70s rock"
Now reallyrather was aware that wheat allergy was increasingly common but dear oh dear, crikey, etc. So, what have you got to say for y'self, Mr Ricky Brennan? Well, quite a lot actually [edited]:
"First off, we have evolved quite a bit in the last almost three years since 'Hope and Adams', and the progression of the band may seem more drastic to some than it seems to us. We're not the same band that made 'Medeiros'. That's what we were into then, and now we're into other things. Most people's tastes change in five years. We do still have many songs with some of the vibe that we have always had, and in fact tried to include a few in the set we've been playing. When you only have 35minutes you're somewhat limited. When we get to headline and play for an hour or more we can include more of the earlier stuff. The keyboard thing is a brand new endeavor that we are trying out. We have always had lots of keyboards on our records and thought about doing it ourselves but decided we would rather stick to guitars and have someone join us who could cover a lot of other bases. it's too bad that the opening bit with the keyboard player doing synth sounds didnt translate because we were actually hoping that would seem kinda cool and he was using some of the sounds that we used on medeiros so we in fact thought we were taking it back a bit. Guess you can't win sometimes. We are excited about our new record and what we are doing, and anyone who wants to come along for the ride is welcome."
Sounds like the band wouldn't mind being on the radio a bit more than they have been in the past and are shaping themselves accordingly which needn't necessarily mean becoming less interesting. They swung by BBC 6Music when in London and played a couple of numbers from the forthcoming album Per second, per second, per second, every second - media players at the ready...

Josh Rouse announces completion of new album 1972 with production by Brad Jones. Presumably you'll get to hear some of these noo tunes at his one-off London show on May 12 at the charmingly un-rock'n'roll Bush Hall. Having caught his solo Borderline show last year, reallyrather can't honestly recommend this one - he's not quite as charismatic as he seems to think he is. If it was a full-band gig, the ticket would be booked already...
   posted by SMc at 10:52 AM |