“They’re like My Bloody Valentine but more math rock,” was how Trevor (of Doomsquad) described Toronto’s Whimm to me the other night at the Magpie. After actually listening to them, I wouldn’t say they’re really all that shoegazey, but they do make some nice guitars sounds. Turns out these math-gazers are playing tonight at the aforementioned Magpie as part of a little Buzz Records showcase. Also – they put out an EP in February. Here are some tracks.
Greetings from LA what whaaaaat! Actually, I hate this city – everything’s too far apart and I hate the whole Hollywood models/actors/actresses crowd. But, that being said, there is some cool stuff. Silverlake is cool. Venice Beach is alright. There are a bunch of bars that play cool music, but the party starts to die down at a lot of places pretty early, like 11, 12ish, when we’re just getting started in Toronto. In Montreal they’re not even done pre-drinking by then.
In any case, I was at Vacation in Silverlake and leafing through the local music section, when the Kent State LP The Wrong Side Of History showed up with a sticker that said “GBV meets MBV meets Jesu”. I took it to the girl at the cash register and said, “That’s a pretty bold comparison – you know anything about this?” She read the sticker as though she maybe didn’t actually know what all these Bs and Vs stood for, but she played some of their stuff of the store computer and I could kind of see where the sticker-writer was coming from.
Sometimes albums come out and for some reason or other they’re just not given the appreciation they deserve. Or sometimes great albums come out, are enjoyed, but then unfairly forgotten, while others become beloved classics. In this new feature, Reevaluated, I’ll take a second look at great albums that deserve to be remembered and cherished but for some reason just aren’t. This week’s pick is Glasgow-based Teenage Fanclub‘s 1997 album Songs From Northern Britain.
Though Songs From Northern Britain was hardly an ignored release – becoming their highest charting album in the UK; named by Nick Hornby as one of his favourite albums; receiving glowing reviews – when people hear about Teenage Fanclub these days, the album that gets all the attention is 1991′s Bandwagonesque, and mainly because it edged out R.E.M.‘s Out Of Time, Nirvana‘s Nevermind, and My Bloody Valentine‘s Loveless for Spin’s Album Of The Year title, in a choice that today seems ludicrous. While Bandwagonesque is still a great album, today it sounds somewhat tame and dated.
Songs From Northern Britain, on the other hand, sounds like a power-pop lovers wet dream, with track after track of big hooks and gorgeous harmonies. Musically and lyrically it’s better than Bandwagonesque while also featuring better (less-dated-sounding) production, and overall it’s more consistent. Tracks like “Ain’t That Enough” and “Take The Long Way Round” in particular simply glisten with pure harmonic pop glory.
Admittedly the album does sound a little dated – but only a little – and all of Teenage Fanclub‘s singers always had kinda blandish voices. But sometimes great songwriting overcomes all obstacles, meanwhile all the gifts in the world often can’t make up for poor songwriting. Songs From Northern Britain is a stellar case of the former, and should be the album we talk about when we talk about Teenage Fanclub. And we should talk about Teenage Fanclub more to begin with, cuz they were and continue to be a great band.
So check it out: Gold Soundz 2.0! Hopefully you – whoever you are – reading the site like the new look. We’re still tweaking things so hopefully soon everything will be perfect, until then…whatever. I made this mix last week because I had some old playlists for this kind of stuff but I felt it was time to put together something new. Also, soon I’ll be posting mixes of recent mp3s (just like back in the old days!) but I haven’t posted many new mp3s lately because of all the getting out of the army-coming back to Toronto-redoing the site stuff.
This mix is a little on the short side, but whatever, it’s a good starter. Also you’ll notice two of the songs are from middle eastern artists – Lebanese pop star Nancy Ashram and Tel Aviv shoegazers Vaadat Charigim. I guess I’m not totally tossing out the middle eastern interest I’ve tried to inject into this blog since I moved there nearly two years ago. Hopefully it makes your makeout session (should you ever put this mix to use) a little more exotic
Well, well…Mr. Shields…took your sweet fucking time, didn’t you?
In any case, it’s good to have My Bloody Valentine back with a new album. And not just any new album, but a new album that’s actually great. The extent to which it is a masterpiece may remain to be determined, but the fact is that this is a solid and often stunning album that somehow manages not to disappoint, and even improve melodically on the band’s past work.
The most amazing thing about the album, however, is that it actually sounds like the My Bloody Valentine album that I think we all wanted to hear as the follow-up to Loveless: all the churning, wall-of-noise guitars, the melodies, the sensuality – everything that made us love My Bloody Valentine in the first place is still there. I would’ve thought that after all this time and with Kevin Shields being as crazy as he’s gotta be they would’ve sprung something totally weird and unexpected on us all, but no, this is the exact My Bloody Valentine we know and love with a couple tweaks maybe in the rhythm department. Whereas Loveless‘ drums were all (or almost all) programmed on account of Colm Ó Cíosóig being extremely ill at the time and unable to play – and pushed far back in the mix – here the man is back in action and all percussion is given considerably more volume and attention. There’s been some writing about Kevin Shields having gotten into jungle music and drum n’ bass or whatever after Loveless, but the influence of such genres is, if not always exactly subtle, at least restrained.
Honestly, if that’s all Shields has in him and we never get another My Bloody Valentine album – something I doubt anyone holding their breath for at this point – it’s cool. The man and the band didn’t have to do anything after Loveless, and the fact that they did and it’s this good is just like…you’re good. You passed. You made a solid amount of great art; you pass at life. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be amazing to hear Shields and MBV putting shit out on some conception of a regular basis – it would – but the pressure is off now. You made your masterpiece and you followed it up. Good stuff, bro.
I fell in love with The Brian Jonestown Massacre after seeing DiG when I was 15. I know that BJM frontman Anton Newcombe didn’t appreciate his portrayal in the film, but to me, the band I saw in that film was so incredible because it was almost as if all they had was their love of 60′s music and their conviction that they could make music just as good for their time. And that went a long way. I immediately went out and bought Their Satanic Majesty’s Second Request - that was a great album. I downloaded the rest of their discography and loved most of it – there were a couple albums I wasn’t that excited about – namely the newer ones, as much as I hate to say it. The BJM were a great band in the 90′s, partly because they were so out of time and place – there was nothing ’90′s’ about their music after Methodrone. By 2003′s And This Is Our Music they kind of consolidated their sound and they lost that great ‘fandom’ energy that made them so exciting up to that point, as they jumped from exploring one sound to another with each new album – all the time, still sounding so essentially like themselves. I stopped listening to them for a while, only returning after hearing them at a trashy hipster bar in Brooklyn in 2010 and remembering how great a band they were, especially if you listened to them in the right context. When I found out they were coming to Tel Aviv, I was psyched to have a chance to finally see them live after listening to them for so many years. I managed to get a guestlist spot to cover the show, and so here are my impressions of the BJM in 2012.
The lineup I saw included many of the key players from the band I fell in love with in DiG, such as Matt Valentine and Joel Gion. They all actually look pretty much the same, despite the fact the band I saw in that movie was really at least 10 years younger than the one I saw on Wednesday. Unfortunately though, it’s not quite the same band. These weren’t the young fuck-ups in an up-and-coming band with a hopeful future ahead of them and the world at their feet from the movie – these were musicians. Perhaps they were playing the music they knew and loved - indeed, much of the set was from their classic 90′s output – and perhaps they were having a great time doing so. But that ‘youth element’, that unpredictability they were so renown for, was nowhere to be seen.
Musically they sounded professional – not astoundingly tight, not loosey-goosey – but professional, able. They played the songs; they sounded like they did on record. Ironically, there may have been a lot of audience members in the 90′s who wondered why this band couldn’t put their shit aside and just play a fucking concert, but here they were doing just that with no problems and at all…and it just didn’t feel special. And with a band like the BJM it is all about the feeling. The BJM isn’t Radiohead - they’re not a band whose songs in and of themselves are really all that mindblowing – nor are they Led Zeppelin or some band known for being really tight and technically impressive. What made them so great in the first place was the feeling that they had and could infect their listeners with. And you can still hear that feeling on their 90′s records, but in 2012, it’s just not there anymore. Most likely this is something they can’t be blamed for – they’ve gotten older and they’re just not that young and exciting anymore.
I believe that there’s going to be a time when The Brian Jonestown Massacre are really, really cool again and we’re going to re-love them like we do Guided By Voices – but I don’t think we’re there yet. My advice to the band from this perspective would be: lay low for a bit and then come back and play a bunch of reunion shows that makes everybody piss their pants, just like Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine did and continue to do. But that being said, at least in Tel Aviv, there’s plenty of demand for them right now – indeed, the show was pretty full – and maybe the bandmembers need the cash.
Toronto dreampoppers Heartbeat Hotelare gonna be dropping a new 12″ EP on November 26th called Intae Woe. You can stream it right now off their bandcamp (linked to above). I’d say it’s probably the best thing they’ve ever done; its six great songs of gorgeous, reverb-drenched guitars, aching melodies, and swirling ambience. Legits, yo. You can grab it for $5 at their release party at The Silver Dollar.
In honour of the 20th anniversary of My Bloody Valentine‘s masterpiece album Loveless, we, the indie-rockers of Toronto, would like to show our gratitude with this covers compilation. You can download it for free off soundcloud, but please support the original artists who created the masterpiece by heading over to your local record store and purchasing the album on vinyl. It’s totally worth it.
Over the last year or so, Memoryhouse went from an interesting, little Guelph-based shoegaze project to a Sub Pop-signed, Toronto-based buzz band – and it all started with one little EP Evan Abeele and Denise Nouvion recorded at home. With the Sub Pop release re-recorded The Years EP coming up next week (it’s out on the 13th) and a looming debut album, I managed to grab a phone interview with guitarist Evan Abeele to discuss the band’s beginnings, shoegaze music, and Virginia Woolf.
And if you feel like listening to the new version of The Years while reading this, here it is for your enjoyment:
M: How exactly did everything begin?
E: I met Denise at a concert where she was shooting the band for a magazine. I knew one of her friends that she was with. Then we would just always end up running into eachother at shows in Guelph, where we both used to live. It just kind of started from that. We started hanging out, we had similar tastes, similar ideas about art, and so we felt we should probably try collaborating.
M: I read somewhere that you are a “neo-classical composer” – is that true?
E: I studied it, but it’s not something I actively pursue. It was kind of what I did before Memoryhouse, classical and ambient stuff, but it’s just kind of a side-project for me now.
M: Before Memoryhouse, was that what you wanted to actively pursue?
E: I don’t know, it was just something I wanted to understand a bit better. I don’t always have an interest in that kind of music, mainly I was interested in baroque composition, orchestral type stuff. When I first heard Memoryhouse by Max Richter – which is what we’re named after – I started really considering minimalist and neo-classical music, which is not really about what you’re arranging or what you’re not really arranging, it’s the stages in-between those arrangements. I guess I found that interesting.
M: A lot of people would call the music you guys make shoegaze; is that something you guys endorse? Are you fans of shoegaze?
E: We’re definitely fans of shoegaze, or at least I am. It’s always hard to understand where people come from with shoegaze because to me it’s all about like really, really big distorted guitars and walls of sound. I don’t think we do that on our recordings, but we do like doing that live. That’s something I’m a fan of – just having really sick, reverb-drenched layers of guitar, because I am a huge fan of Kevin Shields, My Bloody Valentine, that whole shoegaze aesthetic. I’m not sure if we really come across as shoegaze. We definitely take it as a compliment when people call us that, but I guess it’s hard for me to associate my perception of shoegaze with other people’s, but it’s definitely cool if you want to call us that.
M: What are your favourite shoegaze bands?
E: I like Slowdive a lot. My Bloody Valentine, obviously. Ride are very cool. I don’t know if Cocteau Twins are shoegaze but I like them a lot too.
M: You guys released this EP, The Years – how did that come about? When you recorded it with Denise was it like, “Let’s try recording some stuff,” or…
E: Yeah, absolutely. The unfortunate thing was that it was us just trying to come into ourselves in a sense, we were just testing the waters. It’s weird to come back and readdress it and reassess it now that we’re on Sub Pop. I guess the idea with the remake/reissue is to make it a more clear statement of intent from us.
E: I guess it kind of got passed around a lot, like a lot of people were posting about it. We just kind of put it online and eventually it got to a few Pitchfork writers who then emailed me some questions about it and then it got on the site.
M: And when you got that email from Pitchfork what was your reaction?
E: Um, I don’t know, I guess I thought it was pretty cool because obviously they’re hugely influential. At first I didn’t really care, it was like, “Oh, some writer from Pitchfork is emailing me about The Years.” I guess I didn’t really process it until I saw it on the website, then I was like, “Oh, it actually got there.”
M: So you guys signed with Sub Pop a while ago – how did that happen?
E: It was a similar situation to the Pitchfork writer. They emailed us and when I saw that it was a Sub Pop email address I didn’t lose it. We were talking to labels at the time but seeing that name attached to that email, it just wasn’t the same because they’re obviously such a hugely influential label and just a label that meant a lot to me personally. I adore their releases. It was pretty crazy. We got to talking and talked about our plans for the next couple years and Memoryhouse ended up signing a contract with them.
M: Can you explain a bit what you mean when you say Sub Pop is a label that means a lot to you personally?
E: Well, they introduced the world to Nirvana and obviously Nirvana’s Nirvana, and they were hugely influential. They’ve released classic albums like The Shins’ Oh, Inverted World and stuff like that. They’ve just been that label with that kind of reach that affects you in your day-to-day life. It’s not just something transient like other labels. Sub Pop really know who they are and they really know the musicians that they’re working with. It’s really special to be working with a label that has that kind of cache.
M: You recently added a couple members to the band, what made you guys decide to do that?
E: We definitely knew that we wanted to find a more organic space, especially live. I’m not an electronic musician and I really have a very novice understanding of electronic music. I’m a big fan of listening to it but I just don’t have any formal training with it so it’s always just something I’m not going to have a great grasp on. With the initial release of The Years it was just two people working in a small home studio and we didn’t have studio drums at our disposal so having electronic beats and synthesizers made sense in that context, but we want to move away from that. The “Caregiver” single was the first step towards making a more organic space both live and in the studio, so we hooked up with our drummer Daniel (Gray), and Warren (Hildebrand) – who is the lead guy in Foxes In Fiction* – and right now we’re playing as a five-piece. It’s been really cool to see the new songs come life, because they were all written with a five-piece band in mind. They’re a more playable set of songs rather than having electronic layers and textures that were harder to translate into a live performance.
M: So what’s going on with the album you guys are working on?
E: It’s pretty secret right now. We have all the songs written, we’re done pre-tracking and we’re going to work on it for the rest of the summer. It’ll be out I guess first quarter 2012.
M: Are you working with any producers?
E: I don’t think we’re quite at liberty to say just yet but he’s a Toronto-based musician/producer. He’s really, really talented and kind of an auteur, that’s why we sought him out. It wasn’t like a predictable choice where you get a buzz-y producer that’s going to make you the next Vampire Weekend or something. We wanted someone that releases very nuanced, specific material and we really wanted to capture that kind of feel.
M: What’s the story with the song “Heirloom”?
E: “Heirloom” is one of my favourite songs. We originally intended it to be the A-side of the single but everyone said that “Caregiver” was the more clear A-side, which I would still contest to this day. It was our first really upbeat song, which is cool because the LP has a lot of those uptempo numbers, it’s very balanced. It definitely was a very positive turn for us because it proved that we could write upbeat numbers but still retain our own identity in them.
M: Final question: what is your relationship with My Bloody Valentine’s “When You Sleep”?
E: When we decided to cover “When You Sleep” we were on tour and we were staying at this place in the UK, in Notting Hill actually, and they had this cool upright piano that was like super out of tune. I would just mess around on it because we’d have these long stretches of time off when we were touring Europe so we’d hang out and write songs. We knew that we were going to be doing a video with Yourstru.ly when we landed in San Francisco so we were trying to decide what we should do for that performance. I guess I just decided that it would be interesting to reinterpret “When You Sleep” as a ballad, just completely strip all the idiosyncracies from that song and insert Memoryhouse into it. That was the general idea.
As a listener, it’s a really epic song. It’s really cool. It’s kind of about confusion and misinterpretation and that’s definitely something that I’m a fan of myself in writing. I always tend to go towards the more obscure feelings and sentiments. I definitely think that’s something that My Bloody Valentine are masters of. I guess it’s something very easy to relate to on a very visceral level. And it’s also just a really awesome song.
Our Toronto brethren in experimental-pop project Moon King have released a new, all-Simpsons footage video for their song “Big Dumb Blue Angel” which you can see above. I’ve heard it before, but upon a closer listen, Daniel Woodhead and Maddy Wilde‘s harmonies remind me considerably of Ecstacy and Wine-era My Bloody Valentine…no? Anyway, Moon King‘s playing a bunch of shows in Toronto and Brooklyn soon, you can check the dates here.