My musical hero Ben Cook of Toronto’s Marvelous Darlings, Fucked Up, The Bitters, blah blah blah is finally releasing a new full-length EP under his solo power-punk pseudonym Young Guv(and he’ll be joined by his sometimes-backing band, The Scuzz). Looks like the album EP will be called A Love Too Strong, and it drops on July 24th. Should be pretttttty cool.
Dylan Baldi totally delivered on the promise of earlier recordings with this, Cloud Nothings‘ first all-original album on Car Park Records. Even though the album is by no means hi-fi, that significant bump up in recording quality and production kick the album into the big(ger) leagues. It’s rare to hear albums as consistently catchy and lovable as this one, so much so that picking highlights would basically just be picking songs off it at random. Hopefully the less-than-amazing first tracks released off the next one are misleading.
The first version of this list didn’t even include this album, but then I listened to it again and, even though it’s an album I don’t listen to much, the thing is fucking brilliant, there’s no denying it. Justin Vernon‘s songwriting is tight as shit the whole way through, and the sounds! The sounds! It’s a production monster! Holy fuck. Just listen to the drums/percussion! It’s insane – not because it’s fast and/or technically impressive, but just so creative and meticulous. And the lyrics – another “wow”. After For Emma, Forever Ago and this, I’ll be amazed if Vernon’s got any more genius in him – he’s spent more on those two albums than most do in a career.
Awesome album. Doesn’t have the genius of some other albums on this list, but makes up for it in its bad-assness and the political importance of its lyrics. Dan Boekner and wife Alexis Perry synth things up big time and write about the horror and decadence of some of the world’s darker corners. Most of this is expressed through suggestive imagery in songs like “Damage” and “Cheap Music” where they sing about “guns in the street fair” and “a thousand lonely kids making noise in the basement” because its illegal to play the music they do. Then there are the anthems. “Serve The People”, is, I would say, the best and most timely song of 2011. As dictatorships fall only to be replaced by new ones and free countries are declared battlefields, the prerogatives of the leaders of men have never in recent memory been as obvious and disgusting. “You don’t serve the people” could practically be the slogan of the year. “Repatriated”, another standout anthem, is fearful on one hand - “I see the future and it’s coming in low” – but on the other, invigorated – “Your little heart is gonna be sewn…I will never be repatriated”. It’s a song about freedom and escape, but it’s about escaping the mental prisons of North American consumerism and the ideology that what happens over there doesn’t have to matter to us over here.
While the rest of musical world obsesses over love, sex, and the self, with bands even as high brow as the Arcade Fire retreating to the suburbs to write about the desperation and despair in their own hearts (admittedly still a noble pursuit), Dan Boekner and his company from album to album appear to be the last bastion of rockers singing about the state of the world beyond the borders of our countries and ourselves. At the end of the album he sings, “gimme no no feeling” because it’s hard to keep caring about the rest of the world. The masses make the same mistakes over and over, and whether their rulers be elected or appointed, they never “serve the people”, but just make things worse and worse. But Boekner will likely keep singing his songs about the world and the people who inhabit it, because he cannot vanquish those feelings of disgust that have tormented him since he burst on the scene in 2004 with Wolf Parade‘s first album. For him it sucks, but for us, his listeners, it’s a beautiful thing.
Dan Bejar already had a solid reputation as a great songwriter from his numerous solo releases as Destroyer, as well as from his work with the New Pornographers, but nobody was expecting this. On his ninth Destroyer album, Bejar has made what is easily the greatest album out of everything he’s ever had anything to do with. And it’s a total late 70s/80s soft-rock throwback. As if Bejar wasn’t already an inscrutable figure to begin with, all these points only add to that. In fact, they make the album’s amazingness downright ridiculous. But it is what it is. And it’s a total classic. It just feels like a classic. It smells like a classic. It tastes like a classic. I bought it on vinyl a couple months ago and already I can hum every saxophone melody, every bass lines, every guitar note. I get the same feeling listening to it that I get listening to Dark Side Of The Moon or Sgt. Peppers. Some albums are like that. The Arcade Fire made a great album with The Suburbs, but Bejar deserved that Polaris Prize for this masterpiece, the reputation of which, I believe, will continue to grow in time.
So, it’s a hardcore rock opera double album about a kid named David who works in a lightbulb factory in a fiction UK town in the late 70s. There are also four 7″ singles with more songs relating to the story and an entire album of songs by fictional bands from this fictional UK town. That’s all well and good, glad to see some people getting a little interesting and ambitious. The amazing thing is that somehow Fucked Up managed to pull all of this off and make it perfectly. No, seriously. Perfectly. Most albums can’t even manage to make one single full-length album of decent music.
David Comes Alive takes about one song to get revved up, the instrumental intro “Let Her Rest”. As soon as “Queen Of Hearts” kicks in, the album doesn’t give an inch in quality or intensity until “The Truest Road” closes the album off. Somehow all the songs sound different and are powerful, catchy, and amazingly melodic. The entire thing bristles with this huge, beautiful, uplifting guitar sound reminiscent of golden era The Who - not surprising, considering those guys usually are the first that come to mind whenever anyone thinks ‘rock opera’. And the female vocals courtesy of Jennifer Castle and Cults‘ Madeline Follin are such a perfect cherry on top of everything. What is the whole thing about lyrically? Something about love and death. Not totally sure. But I’d still call it a tremendous achievement by almost any standard, and if Fucked Up do call it a day now, they’ll have checked out on a truly astounding (and very loud) note.
My beloved Fucked Up are going to be releasing this new “I Hate Summer” split 7″ on Bruise Cruise Records, and it’ll be given away to those attending the Bruise Cruise Festival that’s going down in February aboard a large boat.
The song itself is pretty lightweight – short, fast, got some hooks in there, lo-fi production. Clearly they didn’t go in with the kind of budget or ambition they did for David Comes Alive, but I don’t think anyone could really blame them – that shit was pretty epic. Anyways, it’s enjoyable, so enjoy it. They also made a cute little Christmas video promo for the Bruise Cruise thing that they’re headlining (see above).
Oh, and what’s on the other side of the split? A song by Detroit garage-rockers The Dirtbombs. Who are pretty awesome and will also be playing Bruise Cruise. (viaExclaim)
Indie rock has been really big on big name collaborations for the last little while. Atlas Sound and Panda Bear hookin’ up for “Walkabout” and Wilco and Feist (neither of whom are really indie anymore) hookin’ up for “You And I” is old news now, but lately we had Bon Iver doing a song with James Blake, the Flaming Lips doing EPs with prettymucheveryone, and Beck producing all the 90s oldschoolers. Now Wavves is doing songs with his girl in Beach Coast and my boys (and girl) in Toronto (or maybe the world)’s best hardcore band, Fucked Up for his Life Sux EP (dropping Sept. 20th). I’m not a huge fan of the former, but I am a huge fan of the latter, so I listened and here are the thoughts that went through my head.
Marc: Well, Wavves‘ band is decent enough but he definitely gets a hell of a bump in the back end from the pummeling power of Fucked Up. Those guys always just blow the track up, even when it’s super compressed so that your eardrums and brain aren’t destroyed by their pure unadulterated awesomeness. The song itself isn’t a new masterpiece – not that quickie one-off collaborations are known to be – but it is sharp, somewhat catchy, got a decent chorus, and (most importantly) features Fucked Up. And when something features Fucked Up, it can only be so bad (aka not bad at all). So whatever, it’s decent, an enjoyable curiosity.
This year’s NXNE festival was phenomenal. The movies and conferences could’ve maybe been just a little, tiny bit better, but the bands were a knock out of the park. My only complaint would be that there were too many awesome bands. I had to make some tough choices. But that’s what a great festival should be like: an overbundance of awesome. And that’s what this year’s NXNE was. And the amazing weather didn’t hurt either. Here are are writeups for each day of the festival:
What a fucking day. This was probably the best day of the festival, as well as the most exhausting, and the most painful, since I had to sacrifice seeing Chad Vangaalen and my beloved Handsome Furs for reasons of practicality. On the other hand, the bands the Gold Soundz crew did see were pretty fucking awesome.
Marc: First event of the day was the Bruise Cruise, presented by M For Montreal and Brooklyn Vegan. Assunta and I got to the boat at like 1:30, got on, got some free food, beer. The thing set out onto the lake; the wind was blowing, the sun was shining, everyone onboard was cool and hip and enjoying themselves. It was basically like hipster heaven on Earth, and hopefully noone takes offence at my using that term, as I full endorse hipsterness or the hipster movement or whatever. What I mean is the entire boat thing was just plain awesome in every sense.
First band we saw was Montreal’s francophone garage-rockersJesus Les Filles. They were pretty awesome. Great songs. Solid performers.
Unfortunately we missed Uncle Bad Touch (despite my being a fan of “Mikey of Priestess“). We needed a good reason to leave the breezey, beautiful deck of the boat to come to the hot-as-fuck lower part – so that band didn’t make the cut but we made sure to come down for Young Governor‘s set. If you read this blog much, you know my fandom of all things Ben Cook (Fucked Up, Bitters, Marvelous Darlings) is borderline ob/excessive, so yeah, it was an awesome set. They stuck to the faster, punkier songs that make up most of the Young Guv output (“Summer Girl”, “Virginia Creeper”), but it would’ve been nice to hear some of the softer stuff (“Married Man”, “To Burt”) just because its also awesome…and those are some of my favourite songs. When are we going to get a full album of this stuff!?!? Soon please…
Assunta: I only saw the two last songs of Ty Segall‘s set. People holding bottles or cups full of water were throwing it everywhere – it was dripping from the ceiling, off the bodies in the crowd, it was pretty crazy. One band member went crowd surfing and basically got sandwiched between the people and the low-hanging ceiling, and at one point about 10 people stormed the stage and just went berserk. So yeah, pretty fun set to watch.
Marc: Once I got off the boat, I ran to the conference centre at the Hyatt to catch So You Want To Found A Startup, Eh? with Tara Hunt, the CEO and co-founder of Buyosphere.com. Although I only caught the last 20 minutes or so of the conference, Tara came off as a really personable, charming, knowledgeable (and pretty cute) woman, and what she told the crowd was actually helpful, not just obvious, such as good books to read, things to consider about presenting to potential investors, programs in Canada designed to help web startups, as well as many other things, many more of which I’m sure I missed.
From there I ran my ass off to get to Yonge and Dundas to catch DOM‘s set only to find out that they cancelled a half hour before they were supposed to go on. WTF DOM! You guys are bums. So I grabbed a burrito and waited around until the next set.
Cults went up next and gave a decent performance. Though just a bit overhyped, they’re a pretty good band and they gave a pretty good performance to a crowd that seemed to have a ‘yeah, they’re pretty good’ vibe.
After Cults, I ran home to make dinner and write about Friday’s NXNE happenings. That took about two and a half hours, forcing me to miss the Flemish Eye/Weird Canada showcase at The Great Hall that I wanted to check out before Wild Nothing at Lee’s Palace. But oh well – I went straight to Lee’s and luckily got to skip the line with my press pass and go straight in. Wild Nothing was great. I actually listened to Gemini again today and it felt a little limp in comparison to the surprisingly lively show the band put on. Not only did a real drummer help, but even lead singer Jack Tatum – who writes all the moody gems and whom you’d expect to be kind of mopey – was relatively lively in his own semi-awkward way.
Twin Shadow played after and was fucking amazing. The room was packed, lead singer George Lewis was having a great time, getting into the songs, making jokes (“We want to thank SXSW for having us!”), the band was raging. It was just a great, great set. Even fucking Brendan Canning and Allie Hughes were dancing behind us!
Crazy. And then after the set, Lewis was writing on T-shirts, joking around with people, for the whole night he was kind of like the most popular kid in art school.
Closing off the night for us was another bunch of shoegazers, this time Toronto’s Memoryhouse. Since I last saw them at our launch party show Wintergaze, they’ve beefed up from a three-piece to a bad-ass quintet, losing a bit of the intimacy but gaining some serious muscle and tightening up big time. I loved it. Especially my personal favourite track “Heirloom”, which sounded fucking awesome, improving on the recording (which is great also) by giving it some serious balls. Although I will admit I like the sparser version they do of My Bloody Valentine‘s classic “When You Sleep” more than the rock band-y one they did last night.
Although I believe Wednesday is the first official day of NXNE, yesterday was the first day I really got to enjoy, and it’s the first day that the thing really takes over the city. And it was beautiful, all the musicians in town were out walking the streets, going from venue to venue, show to show. So many amazing bands were playing that we all had to make some tough decisions (Gauntlet Hair, Lower Dens, Fucked Up and No Joy all at the same time! Gahhhh!!!). Anyways, here were the shows and events I did end up seeing.
Marc: My day began with two conferences, the first of which was Ideas Chasing Money Vs. Money Chasing Ideas with Baris Karadogan of Hip Digital and Garo Keresteci of FUSE Marketing. In short, the whole thing felt a bit like this. I don’t think I got too much out of it. The second conference I went to was HootSuite – Building A Brand, which kind of fell flat. The presenter, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes, couldn’t make it to Toronto so he did his presentation via Skype or some online video thing. The connection was bad, and to add to the difficulties, the conference in the next room was judging songs on their radio playability and blasting each track so loud that we couldn’t even hear Holmes when the connection did come through. And even then, most of his presentation seemed kind of like, “We did this and that and paid attention to users and monitored their response…” I wouldn’t exactly call it a revolutionary presentation, but Hootsuiteis something I’m definitely going to look into more, so I got that out of it.
First show I went to of the day was Fucked Up‘s free Yonge and Dundas performance. And it was amaaazziiiiinnnnngggg. As usual. This was the first time I saw them play the new songs off David Comes To Life and they were huge and awesome and the crowd loved them. People knew the words, were moshing like crazy, crowdsurfing – it was nuts. As always though with hardcore shows, everyone was really nice, if somebody fell, ten people were reaching out to pick them back up and throw them back into the mayhem. Abraham came out into the crowd and everyone was hugging him, rubbing his head, just giving him a lot of love. It was awesome. But Fucked Up are always amazing. It’s too bad their set was short and I missed half of it by coming late
After that I was planning on hitting up The Dodos show at the Phoenix but had to wait around for a friend at Yonge and Dundas, so I watched OFF‘s set in the meantime. Lead singer Keith Morris of Black Flag/Circle Jerks fame looks pretty grizzled, but him and the band were huge and played a very solid set. At one point he made a point of calling all people in politics evil, which is pretty classic, but a little ironic considering his band was playing a festival that probably gets a considerable amount of government funding. Anyways….After that I made my way over to the Phoenix as planned (although delayed) for Deerhoof‘s set.
The place was pretty packed. Deerhoof (a four-piece at the moment) looked really cool onstage, with each member doing their own thing, moving around, keeping things lively, nobody really stole the show from any of the other members, it was a true group effort. That being said, drummer Greg Saunier was hilariously animated on drums, and his slow. shakey. stage banter…was very…funny…too…Okay, maybe he did steal the show a bit. The set as a whole was superb – the band sounded powerful, fun, and the instrumental interplay between members was a great thing to see live.
After that, guest writer Assunta and I trekked back to the downtown core to check out the Lefse Records showcase at The El Mocambo, since we blog about and sometimes interview and even book bands they and their PR/management company Banter Media And Management send us emails about. Though we missed Chicago’s A Lull, we got there just before lo-fi San Diego psych-rockers Tape Deck Mountain went on. While they were setting up we went to grab pizza, but by the time we got back they were on their last song (we were only gone for 20 minutes, it was a pretty short set). It was a pretty cool song though, and sounded really big and noisy and blissed out.
Next up was Colorado ‘buzz-band’ Gauntlet Hair, who came on to a now-packed (before empty) house and announced that they were drunk, tired and worn out but whatever. Though at first I think the sound guy was having trouble with the electronic drum kit they played, two songs in everything came together and the band’s killer mix of gorgeous Cocteau Twins-esque effects-crazy guitars, sharp melodies and deep, bloopy electronic-drums drumming sounded awesome. Their shirtless drummer was also pretty hilarious.
Last night, to celebrate the release of their new album, David Comes T o Life, Toronto hardcore rockers Fucked Up turned the Clint Roenisch gallery on Queen St. into a record store/party space, with members of the band selling LPs, 7″s, T-Shirts and other apparel, as well as giving away beer, chips, and lightbulbs. It was really, really cool and everyone there looked really cool. Among the crowd familiar faces included Pitchfork/The Grid/This Book Is Broken writer/online editor/author Stuart Berman, and Toronto lo-fi indie-rockers Little Girls frontman, Josh McIntyre. Here are some pics taken in hipstamatic on my iPhone cuz I’m pro like that.
People chilling outside (cuz it was ridiculously crowded inside)
On the right you can see members of Fucked Up working as the ‘employees’ of the record stores. Frontman Damian Abraham is conspicuously absent.
The film-like promo posters for David Comes To Life
Danny man, pick up your fucking phone, I know you wanted to talk about this album. Now you don’t get to, cuz I wanted to make sure to get this out before the Pop Up Record Store Fucked Up is doing tonight in Toronto. Anyways. Onto my solo feelings regarding the new Fucked Up album, David Come To Life.
Marc: So, yeah, David Comes To Life is just a flat out masterpiece. It is better than I thought it would be, and I thought it would be a masterpiece.
As the early singles suggested, Fucked Up have decided, “Fuck it, let’s write pop songs” and it’s totally working for them. The songs on the album are catchy, they’re uplifting, they’re about love and sadness and life and dreams and regret and the whole thing is just glorious, glorious I say! Yeah, there’s a story to the thing, I’ve listened to the thing like 20 times in the last week and I still don’t really get it, nor can I understand what Damian is saying 90% of the time. I’m waiting for the lyric sheets. I’m sure it’s very interesting, but you don’t need to know it to love the album.
Interestingly though, for a double-album rock opera, it’s not very eclectic – this is no London Calling, and even Zen Arcade felt more varied and experimental – nor are there really any motifs for those expecting something like The Who‘s classic rock operas, but even at 18 full-length songs (no 0:54 seconds bullshit here and there’s only one kind of instrumental passage at the intro, the rest are legit songs in every sense of the word) it kicks off hard and does not let up until the end. If they decide to tour the thing like a travelling show, playing the album front to back at each show, I can’t imagine how frontman Damian ‘Pink Eyes’ Abraham can possibly not cough out his vocal chords. But he’s managed this long, so I imagine he’ll be fine.
Possibly my favourite thing about the album: the female vocals are soooo awesome. Courtesy of Madeline Follin of Cults and excellent Flemish Eye artist Jennifer Castle, they contrast amazingly well with Abraham’s shredded scrowl. Pretty much every song with female vocals is a highlight (and on an all-awesome album to boot), so yeah, “Queen Of Hearts”, “The Other Shoe”, “Turn The Season” (sooooo good), and the gorgeous “One More Night”.
Yes, Fucked Up are now makers of gorgeous music.
With the release of David Comes To Life and its spin-off album compilation David’s Town, Fucked Up‘s mad ambition and even more miraculous ability to pull their crazy shit off with ridiculous success qualifies them as one of the best indie rock bands in the world. For relz. Fucked Up just gave everyone one more big reason to be proud of Toronto.