Monday, July 28, 2008

She & Him, Opera House, Toronto, July 23, 2008

She & Him are M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel.

Mr. Ward you should already be familiar with. Whether it is his fine work on albums such as Post-War, Transfigurations of Vincent, and Transistor Radio or through various guest work with artists such as My Morning Jacket, Jenny Lewis, or Bright Eyes.

Zooey you may have seen in various roles on the silver screen. Whether it was in Elf, Bridge to Terabithia, or as the cool older sister you always wanted in Almost Famous. She seems to have taken the old actor's adage of "One for the studios, and one for yourself" to heart. It certainly has made for an interesting career trajectory.

A few years back while filming The Go-Getter, Zooey was introduced to M. Ward who was composing the film's score and soundtrack. They collaborated on a version of Linda and Richard Thompson's When I Get to the Border.

They got to talking about Zooey's home recording demo's she kept to herself and with some prodding her and Matt started working together on these. Via email from Zooey's home in Los Angeles to Matt's adopted city of Portland. Back and forth. Forth and back. In the interim She and Him, and their debut recording, Volume 1 was birthed.

Wednesday night at the Opera House brought the outfit to the fair streets of Toronto. Despite their moniker, leave no question, this is clearly Zooey's spotlight. Like on the album, Ward seems content to add flourishes and backing to Deschanel's vocals

The crowd was clearly putty in the hands of Ms. Deschanel, who to her credit never once offered anything aside to the fact that she was a wide-eyed ingenue. Aside from a few one-off shows, this was actually the first night of the She & Him extended tour. But even a few missed cues and confusion were not enough to put off the doe-eyed crowd. It speaks to Dechanel, whose "aw shucks" demeanor wins over even the most cynical. When faced with the chorus of groans that greeted her "last song of the night" proclamation, it only took a pluckish, "Hey, whaddya expect, we only got one album," to resign the masses.

Deschanel floated between vocals, tambourine, and piano through the set. Ward, playing to stage right quietly evoked until a short solo several songs in that brought yells of appreciation from the faithful.

The night featured a full backing band who rocked out a few numbers. As well received as they were, the highlight of the night was when the band departed mid-set leaving Ward and Deschanel alone on the stage. Through several songs they reminded the crowd of their moniker before inviting the band back on to close out the show.

Following one of the more resounding and heartfelt requests I've seen in a while, the duo returned for a pleasing version of Bring it on Home to Me, before concluding the evening with a run through of Ward's Magic Trick.

M. Ward - Magic Trick mp3 (from Post-War)
She & Him - I Was Made For You mp3

As previously mentioned they are out on tour. Check out their myspace for dates near you.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Acorn

Photo Credit: Remi Theriault

While I remember reading and hearing much about The Acorn in the past year or two, I never quite felt the urge to investigate. Chalk it up to a period of discontent with the blogosphere/hype machine. Was I missing out? Most definitely. I came across the video for Flood Pt. 1 the other day while watching television. Enthralled by the visuals I had to ask "who that?"
Well, it is The Acorn.

The video was produced and directed by Chris Mills. A respected music and visual artist, he also directed the video for Modest Mouse's Float On.

Flood Pt. 1
Lift your head from wild and wicked sleep
where seven-headed serpents hiss soliloquies
and while picking snails from the river of the valley
you don't see the storm clouds piling up so quietly

The rushing river rattlesnakes your legs
and baby boy has got you drinking from the dead
you lick your lips and paddle for the levee
the sinking banks are sifting through your teeth

As you float up, see the river skins the valley
and strips the sleeping sediment of memory

You lift your head from wild and wicked sleep
the withered river sputters at your feet
and all around the sound is slow and muddy
the sunlight scatters pennies through the leaves

As you wake up see the river skins the valley
you'd love to wash this summer from your memory

I was struck by how evocative and visual the lyrics are. Alliterative too. I recommend picking up the first full-length proper, Glory Hope Mountain, on which this song appears.

There is a great article that talks about the band and the creation of Glory Hope Mountain from October of last year. Go here for a good and interesting read.

The Acorn - The Flood Pt. 1 mp3

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Mornings make me wanna holla

Some Monday morning grooves for you. Or Monday eve, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., whenever you come across it.

The Hombres - Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) mp3
The Hombres were a bit of one-hitter with this tune from '67. Modelled after Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues, which according to the band was a lark masquerading as profound.

The Fugs - Kill For Peace mp3
Oldie but a goodie. It feels like the spiritual brother of Country Joe's Fixin' to Die.

James Brown - Your Cheating Heart (Hank Williams) mp3
From Dirty Laundry: The Soul of Black Country, which has soul artists covering and doing originals of country tunes. I'm not sure when the song was recorded, but it sounds like peak James Brown. All swagger and tight as fucking hell.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I wouldn't consider myself a Death Cab For Cutie fan by any stretch of the imagination. Neither before or after their Seth Cohen moment did I ever find them pleasing to my tastes. Yet, I found myself struck by a melody the other day. Upon further investigation I found the source to be Cath by Death Cab. From Narrow Stairs, their latest disc, the song has invaded me.

Cath describes a woman standing at the altar in resignation. Despite his loving her she is marrying him out of a fear that she may never be loved again, thus, she must commit or face a life alone (possibly). The plaintive "Caths," nearly yelped, the sonics that set the mood and enhance the picture, and the detailed lyrics that add texture to this portrait all combine to create a bold song.

Death Cab For Cutie - Cath mp3

The Death Cab play the Pemberton Music Festival in British Columbia on July 27th.

They recently released a video for Cath. It sticks fairly literally to the lyrics but still worth checking out

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Polaris Shortlist announced

For those unfamiliar, the Polaris Music Prize, in its third award season since its inception, awards "accolades" and a $20,000 payday to the single best Canadian album (at least 8 songs and plus 30 minutes) of the last year. Any album released in-between June 1, 2007 and May 31, 2008 is eligible.

this year's shortlist, with the winner to be announced September 29th, is:

Black Mountain - In The Future
Basia Bulat - Oh, My Darling
Caribou - Andorra
Kathleen Edwards - Asking For Flowers
Holy Fuck - LP
Plants and Animals - Parc Avenue
Stars - In Our Bedroom After The War
Shad - The Old Prince
Two Hours Traffic - Little Jabs
The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour

I've listened to all of the nominees minus Caribou and Shad's offerings and my early pick is Plants and Animals. A fantastic album, although considering last year's winner was from Montreal and Final Fantasy/Owen Pallet won the first year and his well known Montreal connections, P & A could suffer from a slight Montreal backlash. Of course, this thing is debated on "artistic merit" alone so that couldn't happen.

Now there were 40 albums long-listed a while back so there is bound to be some debate over who didn't make the cut. For my money, The Constantines' Kensington Heights and Welcome to the Night Sky by Wintersleep deserve to be there. Alas, I am no judge or jury.

The Weakerthans cordially invite the rest of the nominees to settle the matter of a winner the old fashioned way. If by old fashioned you mean a croquet tournament, which i do.