w/The Crackling, The Daredevil Christopher Wright
Thursday, October 20, St. Matthew's United Church, $20/$25, 7:30pm
People talk about record 'cycle,'" says Vancouver's Dan Mangan in a tone that suggests he finds the concept a bit odd. "There's this idea that you tour your album, then lay low for a little while and take some time to record, and then you blast back onto the scene with a new one. We haven't really done that."
No wonder: Nice Nice, Very Nice, Mangan's second album, was one of those slow-burning records that made the word-of-mouth rounds, discovered one fan---or one sing-a-long performance---at a time; as Mangan puts it, "it was always 'new' somewhere." And given time, the album's boisterous, anthemic folk songs left an impressive path of scorched earth throughout Canada and around the world.
Despite not really leaving the road for any extended period, Mangan still managed to find time to write and record Oh Fortune, his impressive new album that is, by a good margin, his most sonically diverse set of songs to date.
"For me personally, I've kind of continually wandered further and further from being that folky, troubadour guy, towards trying to be as dynamic a musician as I can be---one who makes a lot of different kinds of noises in his life," he says. "So this record was a crucial and important step in establishing myself, not just as a singer-songwriter, but as a person, as a musician, as somebody with something to say."
About to embark on a proper "island-to-island" Canadian tour that stretches from St. John's to Victoria, Mangan---reached by phone travelling between Louisville and New York City---is audibly excited performing Oh Fortune's new anthems, which he brings to HPX Thursday night at St. Matt's.
But he's not particularly concerned about precisely recreating the album's intricate sounds live. "You know, the record is the record," he says. "It's a snapshot of what the songs mean to you in that moment when you're recording them, and you move on from there. Every time you play is an opportunity for them to live a new life.
"For us, it's less about reciting the songs and more about living them."
JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD
w/Hand Cream, Bugs in the Dark, Cold Warps
Thursday, October 20, Reflections Cabaret, 8pm, $15
Nashville's JEFF the Brotherhood, made up of brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall, is often referred to as a "buzz band," which is fine, except they've been doing this for 10 years. One could argue that "buzz" is no longer the right word. After a decade of slogging it out in the van (granted, there are only two of them: "Less people to load gear, easier to get into arguments," Jake says) it's called giving a band its due. "We don't mind it, it's kind of fun to tell people how long we've been playing when they think we are a new band, they go 'Whaaaaat?'" says Jake.
JEFF the Brotherhood became a band in 2001 while the bros were attending high school. It was with their multi-talented producer/singer/songwriter father Robert Ellis Orrall that they started Infinity Cat Recordings, the label that released the work of their previous side project, Be Your Own Pet, which they left to focus on JEFF the Brotherhood full-time. And the focus paid off, the band and their label made a deal in May with Warner's Independent Label Group, stipulating that the group's next album (to follow up critically acclaimed We Are the Champions) will be on Warner/Infinity Cat, with an eye for the entire label to eventually be partnered up with Warner. It's a move that will bring their near-illegally catchy psych-pop sound to a much wider audience and should allow for more ridiculously bizarre projects like their recent collaboration with Jack White and the Insane Clown Posse for ICP's single on Third Man Records.
"It was a lot of fun, we had a lot of laughs," says Jake. "They are all super-nice dudes." Similarly nice dudes are Montreal's Hand Cream, releasing a split tape with Crosss on Electric Voice Records at tonight's show and who Jake says he is most looking forward to seeing. As for you, do not miss Nashville's garage slingers.
w/Sex with Strangers, Jenocide, We Were Lovers
Thursday, October 20, Seahorse Tavern, 9:30pm, $15
If you bring a date to Bonjay's Pop Explosion gig on Thursday, chances are high that your night will end with sexy results. The extremely fetching Torontonian duo---singer Alanna Stuart and beatmaker Ian "Pho" Swain---like to make audiences sweat with their appealing mix of dancehall, R&B and electro. If you're not the type for dancing, it bears mentioning that Bonjay also boasts a sly indie streak that gives its music a sleek modern edge. At this year's Sappyfest, they won over a tent filled with indie kids with inventive TV on the Radio and Caribou covers along with selections from the cool-as-shit EP Broughtupsy. Highlights include "Frawdulent" ---a showstopping piece that builds upon Stuart's octave-scaling yelp---and "Gimme Gimme," a bouncy patois-laden jam that's part Santigold, part Lady Saw. Tighten my stirrup pants and pour that Hennessey down my throat---I'm ready to freak.
KOU CHOU CHING
w/Something Good, Tiny Danza, Ambition
Thursday, October 20, Khyber, 10:30pm, $10
Taiwan's "ambassadors of rap" have made the considerable trek to our little city for this year's HPX (and to Pop Montreal, prior). Blending international musical influences, a core value of Taiwanese sovereignty, a desire to promote Taiwanese fashion and artistic culture with straight-up sweet sounds, Kou Chou Ching's live show might be just the ticket to refresh your ears this year. KCC (named after a Taiwanese saying about the harvest season) add folk influences to their happy sounding raps and create a hip-hop style that is markedly different from the genre's North American roots. This will be the only group during Pop Explosion rapping in Chinese, Taiwanese, Hakka and Hoklo. Mark my words.
ELECTRIC VOICE SHOWCASE
w/Transfixed, Cat Bag
Thursday, October 20, Lost and Found, 6pm, pwyc
Over the last decade there has been a dedicated and growing number of musicians and purveyors of experimental music and art in north end Halifax. Without the tireless efforts of this group of people, Halifax wouldn't have a music scene half as interesting as it has now. There wouldn't be Friendly Dimension, there wouldn't be an Obey Convention and there wouldn't be the Electric Voice showcase at this year's Pop Explosion.
The goal of the showcase is to highlight the work of visual and musical artists working in experimental forms. It's the vision of Truro transplant and ex-member of Pig, Matt Samways. "Without singular justification of the Electric Voice operation, it currently exists exercising the fundamentals of a record label and creating an eccentric roster," explains Samways. "It is an agency where I convey the desire and ability to manipulate the production of sound and visual art in collaboration with admired musicians and artists."
Counted among those inspired and admired artists is Heather Rappard who will be performing at the showcase. Rappard will recycle analogue and digital video, which will be, as Samways describes, "conducted through a reflective installation to create a luminescent and perhaps estranging atmosphere." Sounds like a beautiful vision.
w/Carleton Stone, Charlotte Cornfield, Kim Churchill
Thursday, October 20, Bus Stop Theatre, 7:30pm, $10
Ben Caplan just returned---as of three days ago---from a whirlwind tour of Holland, Germany, Belgium and the UK. Before those dates he toured Canada and has post-HPX plans to criss-cross our country again. What I'm saying is, he gets around. The busy Haligonian musician/songwriter is doing this under his own power, too. "I have to be working all of the time booking, making records, finding financing, writing grants, researching what visas I need," says Caplan. "I don't have a manager or label or any of that stuff. That said, it's been the most rewarding year of my life."
Caplan is releasing his album In the Time of Great Remembering tonight at the Bus Stop Theatre, and couldn't be happier to see it come to fruition: "In a way it's kind of the best of Ben Caplan from the last five years," he says. It's also important to him to have the record come out during Pop Explosion. "Five or six years ago when I was playing the odd show at the Wardroom or the Grad House, Pop Explosion seemed like this impossibly far away pedestal amazingly beyond my reach," Caplan says. "And even after this tour, where my biggest show was to 1,200 people, I still feel that way. I hold it in such high regard, it's so well curated." It may not be a cobblestone street in Rotterdam, but tonight it's home.
w/The Thermals, Bike Rodeo, Dream Friends
Thursday, October 20, Olympic Community Hall, 9pm, $18/$25
This New Jersey five-piece doesn't make a whole lot of sense on paper.
Sometimes even the recordings can be a bit scatterbrained and off-putting; terms like "grandiose," "self-indulgent" and "shambolic" tend to riddle reviews, positive or otherwise. Its particular brand of revisionist rock and roll is a pastiche built from the radical celtic rock of the Pogues, the sneering anti-suburbanism of Conor Oberst's Desaparecidos and the reformed gutter punk of The Replacements.
Since debuting in 2008 with The Airing of Grievances, Titus Andronicus has been the cause of much polarity among music critics. Many feel the group is too raucous, self-loathing and indulgent for its own good, while others herald its irreverence and pop references as an exciting new voice of individualism in American rock music. Early misconceptions of the group saw it plagued with the "emo" tag. But since releasing The Monitor (an hour-long record loosely based on the American Civil War) in 2010, comparisons to Bruce Springsteen have become much more common.
Neither label is very fair. Firstly, where emo is generally understood as self-loathing or concerned with lonesome suffering, Titus Andronicus is interested in revelling in communal struggles and dismantling the fears of the 21st century. As far as comparisons to Springsteen go, Titus is much too self-aware, transparent and nihilistic to be singing about---or to---the same America as The Boss. Singer Patrick Stickles even goes so far as discern his generation from that of the Boss' on The Monitor's lead track, "A More Perfect Union": "No, I never wanted to change the world/ but I'm looking for a new New Jersey/Because tramps like us, baby, we were born to die."
While its identity can be confusing and its art unflinchingly brazen, one thing is for sure: its live shows are absolutely blistering. The combination of the members' unbridled energy and the songs' anthemic quality result in an incredibly cathartic experience that is the clearest example of this band's singular power.
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