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By Mary Chang
on Friday, 27th May 2016 at 12:00 pm
Words by Jennifer Williams
I always thought Neil Gaiman’s short story How to Talk to Girls at Parties sounded like a song that Jarvis Cocker would write. Seriously, think about it. It just makes sense. Fitting it is, then, that this week sees the release of the UK SkyArts TV series Neil Gaiman’s Likely Stories. The four, 30-minute mini-films are the work of Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, who gave us the cinematic gem that is 20,000 Days on Earth. Along for the ride, Cocker is along for the ride too, onboard to provide the musical accompaniment to Gaiman’s imagination made flesh. Let’s be honest: there are many people that could do the job, sure. But very few should, or could take on the task with elegance, sex appeal, and yes, the creep factor. In short, Jarvis is THE person for the job, and he delivers.
Included in the press release for the EP featuring the first substantial new music from Jarvis Cocker we learn a wee bit about the project from the man himself: “Four grubby tales set in all night cafes, low rent drinking dens and doctor’s surgeries. I didn’t have to leave my comfort zone for this assignment.” Gaiman is a writer with his own take on the human condition with a balance of cold realisation and yet maintaining elements of warmth, even if it gets a bit scary sometimes. What Gaiman achieves in his literary work, Cocker strives, succeeds, and often exceeds similar in his songwriting. The evocative ‘Likely Stories’ theme comes complete with warm female backing vocals, set against a musical backdrop that is uneasy and unhinged.
It also also does have a bit of Nick Cave vibe. (‘Red Right Hand’, anyone?) While both Cave and Cocker are master storytellers, their methods do vary a bit. Where Cave leans more towards the cerebral, the Cocker approach is all about the affective laced with the intellectual. We are talking about Jarvis Cocker though, so there is no shortage of sex appeal. Cave has his sexy moments too, but they are just that: moments. Jarvis’ vocals will pretty much make text from the mundane to the murderous into a more sensuous affair. On the track ‘Foraging’ on this EP, on this EP, for example, the lyrics are comprised solely of a list of edible fungi, and yet it sounds like a proper come on.
Sex and the creep factor is a winning combination for Cocker, and this really shows through on EP track ‘Looking for the Girl’. He sounds like that guy that recites the most amazing romantic poetry, poetry that he probably penned after killing off potential rivals. ‘Poor Babes in the Woods’, the track the closes the EP out, is not even 3 minutes long, but Cocker does not need extra time to flip the fear switch in this sinister lullabye.
Fans of old school Pulp – and by old school I am talking ‘Masters of the Universe’ type stuff here – you will find much to appreciate in this new release in this new release. The final result is a score that is equally beguiling as it is haunting,, making it the perfect sonic companion for Gaiman’s narratives. Here’s to hoping the show is as good as its soundtrack.
‘Likely Stories’, a new EP from Jarvis Cocker to accompany the release of the UK SkyArts TV series of the same name, is out today, this today, Friday, the 27th of May, on Rough Trade Records. A 7″ version of the EP is available now in the UK; the American release will will follows on the 3rd of June. Watch the trailer to the TV series below.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 26th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
You know that phrase, “loud enough to wake the dead”? Saturday night at Canadian Music Week 2016 may not have been all that loud, but it was definitely the most crowded night out in town, with plenty of locals out and about to lend a party atmosphere. It sure was very cold and windy, making me wonder whilst wearing my hat and gloves if the dearly departed residents of St. James’ church cemetery near my accommodation for the week were rattling around in their graves.
When it comes to the elements, I consider myself reasonably hearty stock if dressed appropriately, having faced wind and driving rain in my face on many occasions in the UK. However, following along in a theme that has repeated in most everywhere in North America this spring, it was just too damn cold Saturday night. In stark contrast, I saw The Spook School play an early set at the Garrison that afternoon when it was sunny and bright, and I had wished we could have bottled that poppy sunniness and used an atomizer over the entire chilly week of CMW 2016.
My plans for the last night of CMW 2016 would take place solely and in one of the nicer clubs in all of Toronto. Velvet Underground on Queen Street would be seeing out the festival in style, thanks to a ‘Music is Great Britain’-branded showcase put on by UK Trade and Investment. The first two bands on the bill are friends of TGTF; the other two, well, you’ll have to read on.
As a rule, TGTF does not condone skipping school for the sake of music. However, we’re going to give The Orielles a wide berth, as they arrived in Toronto as close as humanly possible to play their first show during CMW while catching as much school as they could before they left. I understand they had finals to return to after; I hope the adrenaline off their first North American music festival saw the band through them.
While they played, excited whispers abounded all around me. “They’re how old?” “And they can play *that* well?” “When did you discover them?” “Liverpool Sound City?” “No, 2013?” “Seriously???” “How old are they again???” Opening the UKTI showcase might well have been ample cause for anxiety, but the young yet experienced in gigs trio from Halifax came out with tune after tune. The Orielles’ first North American appearance was a triumph in every sense of the word, impressing industry and punters alike with their energetic garage and surf-tinged performance.
The People The Poet, now SXSW veterans after showcasing back to back in 2015 and 2016, were up next. From the surfy, psych vibe created by the Orielles, the Welsh band brought things back squarely to good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. The vocals of frontman Leon Stanford – growly, emphatic and Joe Cocker-esque – are a force to be reckoned with on their own. But accompanied by the band’s driving instrumentation with the anthemic glow of any Springsteen number worth its salt, the complete package of The People The Poet provide a formidable punch. Check out recent single ‘Club 27’ below.
Very early on in my CMW 2016 schedule preparation, I’d pencilled in The Undivided for my last night in Toronto. I’d gone through the profiles of all the UK bands headed out to the festival, and I had been most impressed with the oomph of ‘Invincible’. I fully felt the emotions of this band, displayed on their sleeve for all to see. It was a feeling I’d experienced 2 years ago at Liverpool Sound City when faced with Geordies Boy Jumps Ship for the first time. (They’ve just released their debut album this month, and I couldn’t have been prouder of and happier for them.) When you listen to the power of their music and lyrics together, you just know this means an awful lot to every member of the band. Even more weirdly coincidental, both of these bands’ names suggest an inclusionary, “all for one, one for all” mentality that is comforting in this crazy world we live in.
The Welsh band released their latest EP ‘Satellites’ on the 6th of May when we were all out in Toronto, so I hadn’t had a chance to listen to it. It’s on Spotify now, and it’s good stuff. This is loud, fast-paced rock with plenty of heart, and you should do yourself the favour of checking them out now. You know, before they hit it big and I say in a smug tone “I told you so” to your face.
I have gotten onboard with Slaves and have been known to sing along – loudly – to ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie’. However, I have to admit that I still haven’t quite figured out the appeal of Fat White Family. Is it the camp posturing of Lias Saoudi that gets people hot and bothered? Is it the spitting? Is it the sleaze of ‘Touch the Leather’? Or is it just the anarchic feel of their brand of punk? Of all the bands at the UKTI showcase, they brought in the biggest crowd of the night. Is that a commentary on the music lovers of Toronto? Let’s hope not.
I left Velvet Underground with the same feeling I had closing out what will probably be my final Sound City in 2014. What was I missing about this hugely hyped band? A few weeks out now from my first CMW, I have come to the acceptance yet again that as they say, there’s no accounting for taste. TGTF will continue to do what we’ve always done: champion the little guy and the music that moves us. And we appreciate you all – bands and fans alike – being along with us for the ride.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 25th May 2016 at 6:00 pm
Brighton’s Fear of Men are gearing up to release second album next week. Ahead of the LP’s drop, they’ve released a new video for a track from it. From its title, ‘Trauma’ sounds like a heavy listen, but the approach used in the promo utilises what looks like black mud and two actors clearly up for getting a wee bit dirty. Watch the mess unfold in the promo video below.
‘Fall Forever’, Brighton trio Fear of Men’s sophomore full-length effort, will be available from Kanine Records on the 3rd of June. For more on the band on TGTF, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 25th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
For at least 1 day during a multi-day festival, you owe it to yourself the benefit of a doubt to have a relaxed day. Or you do what I did on Friday at Canadian Music Week 2016, taking it easy and succumbing to the throes of a bad cold Friday night.
It started promisingly enough. Demi Louise, the lovely yet inexplicably unsigned Australian singer/songwriter who I befriended at SXSW 2016, played a blistering series of shows out in Toronto. One of the more relaxed shows she did was at Drake One Fifty Friday afternoon. Despite a chilly wind that pervaded the city all week, the young Demi brought the sunniness from her hometown of Melbourne to the afternoon’s festivities. Her beautiful voice shone on her current single ‘Taxi Driver’, while she sparkled in her stage patter, so honoured in winning a songwriting award now displayed proudly in her family’s home.
I had every intention to make it in time for Vancouver duo Fine Times at the Cave, the dance venue above the famous Lee’s Palace. Unfortunately, I made it just as they were packing up. No matter. I hung out for who I was really waiting for, electropop artist NINA. The German-born, London-based musician was dressed to the nines in a white suit jacket with black accents. And as might be expected for someone from her genre, the beats of her music were massive, and the feeling of girl power – or maybe better phrased as independent woman power! – came through in her uplifting, empowering tunes. She has an EP out this Friday, which should be a great introduction of her music to new fans and a cementing of her talent to her already devoted fan base.
Due to a terrible miscalculation in distance and location, I missed both Northern Ireland’s PORTS and The Magnettes from Sweden playing at the Nightowl. I’ll have to visit the venue next year. When I realised the error of my ways, I decided to cut my losses and head on to the Smiling Buddha, where I had planned to finish out my evening. The College Street venue’s line-up for the night was not one of enlightenment, unless you’re the kind of person who finds hard rock a pathway to such a higher plane.
Double Date with Death are a Montreal lo-fi trio who play loud, hard and fast. If I were to say I could distinguish between their songs, I’d be lying, as I didn’t have time to investigate their music properly prior to the festival. In a way, I’m sure the band themselves had no idea how well the venue’s lack of variation in stage lighting reflect the name of their band perfectly. That said, I did enjoy their slapdash, unforgiving delivery and there were plenty of headbanging punters who clearly agreed.
Broken Hands were up next. Compared to the bare stage setup of Double Date with Death, the Kent band used up nearly every single centimeter of space at the Smiling Buddha. I’d had a taste of their debut album ‘Turbulence’, having the opportunity to watch them do an in-store at Rough Trade East last October shortly after the LP’s release. However, I was sure after touring around the album in the UK, their confidence would be sky high out here in Toronto.
Happily, they exceeded my expectations, the conjunction of sound ringing in my ears. Although frontman Dale Norton was dressed in a white lab coat and looked more appropriate for a biology lab, once the music started, he was more like an angry beast having finally been let out of his cage. More in your face than I had ever experienced before, Norton’s stage presence has definitely increased multifold, spitting out the lyrics to ‘Who Sent You?’ and ‘Meteor’ with strength and a sneer. The only fault to their set, which is a minor quibble, is that the moments of mellowness and balladry on ‘Turbulence’ didn’t get an airing. However, given the tone for the evening and it being their last show in Toronto for the week, I don’t blame them for leaving it all onstage in a blistering show of power.
Right, so on to the last act of the night, Overhead, the Albatross. Being courted on social media by family members of a band performing isn’t something I am used to, but it did increase my curiosity about them. They had even more band members and stuff than Broken Hands did, so they didn’t bother staying all onstage, with two of their group joining us on the floor.
A friend described them as “a cross between Arcade Fire and Godspeed You! Black Emperor”, which doesn’t help me much as I’m not a follower of either band. There’s definitely a rebellious prog edge to Overhead, the Albatross, which makes total sense, given that they’ve christened themselves with a name that while not indicating dangerous subversiveness, it’s sufficient to note the brazen headstrongness of doing their own thing and exactly what they want. Curious? Have a watch and listen to their song ‘Big River Man’ below.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 24th May 2016 at 6:00 pm
Header photo by Mia Mala McDonald
Aussie psych rockers Methyl Ethyl, led by Jake Webb, released their debut album this spring on Beggars imprint 4AD. The band from Perth’s first single ‘Rogues’ was born in the heat of an Australian summer according to triplej, and it’s hard to argue that ‘On Inhuman Spectacle’ is not a reflection of that kind of environment. Take, for example, ‘Twilight Driving’, a single taken from the debut. There is an ease in their musical style that equal parts throwback and fresh sunniness. And let’s face it, we’ve got a long weekend on the brain, and we could do with some gentle coddling this Tuesday night. Watch the promo video ‘Twilight Driving’ from the exciting new trio from down under below. ‘On Inhuman Spectacle’ is a global release available now.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 24th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
So that I would not miss one of my must-see bands a good 20-minute walk away, I left the Music from Ireland showcase at the Rivoli before Dublin grunge act Fangclub settled onstage. From what I heard from other punters, they went down a treat, so Carrie and I will need to investigate them further at some point. Walking up Spadina Avenue, then west on Dundas Street, I returned to the Studio Bar, where I’d interviewed Llanelli, Wales group Cut Ribbons earlier before dinner.
I understood The Studio Bar’s lineup for the evening to be entirely electronic, or at least electropop / synthpop based. So it was no surprised to see electronics at the ready when I arrived and local Toronto duo Featurette were performing. They weren’t that bad, per se, but having seen my fair share of mediocre electronic acts at festivals all over the world, it was hard to be impressed. Further dampening any enthusiasm I may have had about them was singer Lexie Jay singing (er, shouting) into a megaphone a song that I’m guessing was by Drake (?), complete with lyrics that can’t be repeated on a family Web site. I give them credit for giving it their all to a handful of onlookers, but not much else.
Cut Ribbons, whose debut album ‘We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn’ was among my top 5 albums of last year. After some warm-up shows in Guelph and an invigorating visit to Niagara Falls that very morning, they were raring to go, eager to show off new material they’ve been working on at home. While I enjoyed them as much as I did seeing them on the Horizons / Gorwelions stage at the Great Escape 2015, I wish there would have been more punters seeing them that night. That would be one of the cons of Canadian Music Festival: if you’re not hyped enough going out to Toronto, and you find yourself at one of the further out venues, you might not get a great turnout. However, professionals as they are, they put on a great show and I’m really looking forward to hearing their newest music – their new acoustic-based music! – when they make it available to the public. For now, check out a live session track of ‘Helen of Troy’ they shared 2 months ago.
Walking back to the Rivoli with much purpose, I was all about making sure I made it in time for Daithi, with whom I’d had a great chat with Wednesday afternoon in Toronto. On paper, a traditional Irish fiddler mixing his instrument with disparate genres of electronic, house and math rock shouldn’t work. However, live, it’s an entirely unique, lively performance. It’s my understanding that many of the punters who saw him earlier in the evening at Drake Underground walked quite a distance back east to see him play a longer set at the Rivoli. At 1:30 in the morning thousands of miles away from Ireland, Daithi succeeded in being the centre of attention at a dance party of his own creation.
While I have some friends enjoy EDM a whole lot but don’t enjoy watching an electronic master at work, I love the spectacle. Making something off the cuff, from general guidelines the artist has set but otherwise allowed himself to improvise up and away from, and being present while that ephemeral art is being made is an amazing honour in itself. For more on this exciting musical alchemist, have a listen to my chat with him in Toronto here. Want a feel for his music and with a very happy tabletop cat? You’re welcome.
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