Video: Trash Talk – “Slander”

I’ve been listening to Sacramento hardcore band Trash Talk a lot lately, especially their awesome 5-song Awake EP. A lot of people that don’t normally dig this kind of music like this band, so real HC fans probably hate them, but whaddayagonnado?

Anyway, this animated clip for their track “Slander” is pretty awesome. Is it pro whacked-out acid trips or against them? We might never know, but I think everyone can agree that waking up to a dude peeing on your heading is always a bit alarming.

Film Review: Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca

Trying to sift through the legend of Serge Gainsbourg is no small task. In France, the man is considered a demigod, a raconteur of astounding wit who changed the face of music. Here in North America, he’s viewed more as a drunk lothario whose musical output conjures images of a triple-x Leonard Cohen. As with most things in life, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, not that Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life makes any effort to reconcile myth from man.

Made in France, director Joann Sfar (who also wrote the graphic novel on which the film is based) includes the quote “Gainsbourg transcends reality. I much prefer his lies to his truths” at the end of the film, making it abundantly clear which side of the divide he falls on. The film follows the usual biopic formula, showing key moments from the singer’s life. He grew up Jewish in Nazi-occupied France, becoming a disenchanted painter before following his songwriting muse.

Along the way, he romances a number of high profile women, Juliette Gréco, Bridget Bardot and Jane Birkin among them.Throughout the movie, Sfar shows how at odds Gainsbourg was with himself, showing a grotesque caricature following him throughout his life, questioning his decisions.

Some terrific performances from Kacey Mottet Klein as the young Lucien Ginsburg (his real name) and Eric Elmosnino as the adult one carry the film, along with Gainsbourg’s genuinely interesting life story, as he bounces from woman to woman, encountering some of twentieth century France’s most influential figures (Fréhel, Dali).

In terms of extras, the DVD includes the usual deleted scenes and making-of featurettes. Although occasionally funny, ultimately there is very little to elevate Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life beyond the level of run-of-the-mill biopic.

“Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus”

DVD Review: Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca

For long-time fans of Kings of LeonTalihina Sky does what their fifth album, last year’s Come Around Sundown, failed to: bring the Oklahoma quartet back to their Southern U.S. roots.

The film follows the Followills (brothers Jared, Caleb and Nathan, and cousin Matthew) back to Talihina, Oklahoma for a family reunion. Introducing their extended family, including grandpa Leon (from whom they took their name), the film builds a pretty vivid picture of their rigid and insular Pentecostal upbringing.

Their rise to fame is told via interviews with band and family members (the lines are frequently blurred) and through archival footage – the clip of Nathan and Caleb singing hymns on television is particularly priceless. Their tales of drinking moonshine and fornicating with distant cousins paint the family as honest-to-God hillbillies and, at times, makes it difficult to take their lives seriously. Far more touching is the interview with their father, a preacher who led a double life that eventually tore the family apart and played a big part in steering son Caleb away from becoming a preacher himself.

Director Stephen C. Mitchell, a friend of the group, does a great job of painting a portrait of the band’s childhood, but leaves a massive gap in the story, specifically: how did these God-fearing children make the transition from religion to rock’n’roll? It’s hinted at but never really explained. Similarly, the story of their rise to fame leaves out the long-running disparity in popularity between Europe and the U.S., which only embraced these good-ole-boys after they transformed themselves into U2-esque stadium rockers.

Deleted scenes and home movies are included, as are two separate commentary tracks, one with director Mitchell, Nathan and Caleb, and the other with producer Casey McGrath, Jared and Matthew, which are really more of a chance for the guys to get together and goof on each other rather than provide insightful info. Still, it’s fun to listen to band members at their most off-the-cuff. Despite some omissions, Talihina Sky is a unique film that reminds us why we fell in love with Kings of Leon in the first place.

“Talihina Sky”

Record Review: Yuck – “Yuck” (Deluxe Edition)

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca

Yuck’s self-titled debut was a refreshing blast of fuzzed-out ’90s slacker rock. But like Teenage Fanclub, to whom the London, UK quartet are often compared, it was their songs that helped the record rack up year-end list accolades. So while tacking on a second disc of B-sides is a crass move, the extra tracks are a welcome companion to an album many of us have had on repeat all year.

The extra songs won’t do away with the constant comparisons to squelch-y ’90s groups, with “Georgia” B-side “The Base of a Dream is Empty” the closest they’ve come to reproducing My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. None of the six tracks best the material on the album proper, but they come a very close second with “Doctor’s in my Bed,” the clear standout.

Cleaning house this early in a band’s career looks a bit overzealous, but when the material is this strong, we’ll take it.

“Georgia”

DVD Review: Talking Heads – “Chronology”

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca

It’s worth noting that Talking Heads are the band behind Stop Making Sense, generally considered to be the greatest concert film of all time. So any collection of live performances from the band is going to have an incredibly steep hill to climb.

Perhaps then it’s better to view this hodgepodge of performances as a prequel to that famed film, chronologically charting the quartet’s evolution from wiry art-school punks to funky global rock stars before retiring from the road all together. The stiff CBGB performance from 1975 barely hints at the live force they would become, but helps to put in perspective just how out of place Talking Heads were. By the time they hit American Bandstand with their cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” it was clear the group had found their groove.

The band’s original run ends with a performance of “Burning Down the House” on Late Night with David Letterman, displaying many of the theatrical elements that the group would exploit with Stop Making Sense director Jonathan Demme. It ends, fittingly, with a performance of “Life During Wartime,” from the band’s 2002 Rock ‘n’ Roll Induction Ceremony.

The deluxe edition of the DVD comes beautifully packaged like a hardcover book and includes a lengthy, unedited essay Lester Bangs wrote as a review of Fear of Music forThe Village Voice in August of 1979. Bonus features include a great 35-minute doc from 1979 that finds the band discussing their history and music up to that point. Also included is a 1978 interview with David Byrne and audio commentary from all four band members.

While some might argue with the selection of tracks included (many of the band’s later hits are missing, while rarities like “Love→Building On Fire” make a welcome appearance), this collection is essential to understanding the live evolution of one of music’s most interesting and challenging groups.

“Psycho Killer” (Live Acoustic, 1975)

Best of 2011

30. Jamie WoonMirrorwriting (Polydor)

29. !Attention!Another Year (Square Up)

28. Shimmering StarsViolent Hearts (Hardly Art)

27. IceageNew Brigade (What’s Your Rupture?)

26. Gang Gang DanceEye Contact (4AD)

25. James BlakeJames Blake (Polydor)

24. Shabazz PalacesBlack Up (Sub Pop)

23. Hudson MohawkeSatin Panthers EP (Warp)

22. Fucked UpDavid Comes to Life (Matador)

21. Junior BattlesIdle Ages (Paper + Plastik)

20. Grimes/D’EonDarkbloom (Hippos in Tanks)

19. Huddle  – All These Fires (Independent)

18. BattlesGloss Drop (Warp)

17. LemuriaPebbles (Bridge 9)

16. HeartsoundsDrifter (Epitaph)

15. Trash TalkAwake EP (True Panther Sounds

14. Babe RainbowEndless Path EP (Warp)

13. The Wonder YearsSuburbia, I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing (Hopeless Records)

12. YuckYuck (Fat Possum)

11. JEFF the BrotherhoodWe Are the Champions (Infinity Cat)

10. KidstreetFuh Yeah (Nettwerk)

9.   The WeekndHouse of Balloons (Independent)

8.   Elite GymnasticsRuin (Acephale)

7.   Bon Iver Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)

6.   Cloud NothingsCloud Nothings (Car Park

5.   EMAPast Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain Transmissions)

4.   SBTRKTSBTRKT (Young Turks)

3.   M83Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Naive)

2.   Pains of Being Pure at HeartBelong (Slumberland)

1.   Rich Aucoin  – We’re All Dying to Live (Sonic)

 

 

 

 

Live Review: Ryan Adams @ Wintergarden Theatre, Toronto ON 12/10/2011

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca

Since going solo, Ryan Adams has been accused of many things — a lack of quality control, erratic live performances and general assholishness. But the Jacksonville, NC musician has written more great songs and played more good shows than bad ones. As for his famed temperamental nature, recent interviews and live performances suggest he’s finally ready to bury that part of his life for good.

Tourmate Jessica Lea Mayfield wandered on stage and delivered a demure “hey” before working through a handful of tracks with her acoustic guitar. On Mayfield’s records, a band usually backs the songwriter, bringing her country-soul tunes to life. But on their own, they become somewhat indistinguishable; coupled with a frustrating clicking sound that plagued the venue’s PA system throughout the night, the odds seemed stacked against the Ohio native. Still, Mayfield has a haunting voice, which saved the performance from being a complete washout.

After a long delay due to the buggy soundsystem — the headliner assured us it was not his fault “for once” — Adams took the sparse stage wearing a black Bathory tee (further evidence that last year’sOrion wasn’t meant as an ironic joke) and opened the night with “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” from his solo debut Heartbreaker, then delivered the title track from new album Ashes & Fire. Like that new, intimate record, which served as a much-needed reminder of why we all fell in love with Adams music in the first place, the night remained a quiet, solo-acoustic affair, with Adams cherry-picking tracks from throughout his long career, including a performance of Whiskeytown’s “16 Days.”

With two acoustic guitars, a piano and several mics as his only company on stage, Adams was extremely chatty, engaging the audience and weaving funny, longwinded non-sequiturs between each song. He even wrote one on the spot about how much Dracula likes to cook. Despite some ass-hat heckling from balcony, Adams remained in a light-hearted mood throughout the night, and more importantly self-deprecating, frequently mocking his own image and even making up a song about his Motörhead sweater (it’s not a T-shirt) in which he jokingly referred to himself as the “Glenn Danzig of alt-country.”

Beyond the between-song hijinks, Adams also delivered a stellar set of tunes, showcasing both the power and fragility of his voice and songs. Along with highlights from Ashes & Fire (“Dirty Rain,” “Lucky Now”) the audience was treated to turns at “Desire,” “Dear Chicago” and a beautiful piano-led version of “New York, New York.” He also further distanced his solo material from the work he did with the Cardinals by mostly ignoring their catalogue.

Adams finished his set with favourite “Come Pick Me Up” then returned for a three-song encore that began with a cover of Ratt’s “Round and Round,” describing the hair-metal anthem as “what Dracula’s ringtone would be if he had a cellphone.” Finally ending the two-hour set with “Why Do They Leave?” Adams slayed the public perception of himself as a temperamental jerk while refocusing everyone on his brilliant music.

“Lucky Now”

DVD Review: An Island

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca

Vincent Moon built his name off his unique take on filming bands for French site La Blogotheque. Capturing them stripped down, in unusual locations, the director was able to cut through much of the artifice usually associated with filming live music. The number of imitators that sprang up as a result of his Take Away Shows only cemented his reputation.

This makes An Island, a 45-minute doc following Danish group Efterklang, a rare case where the director is far better known than the band. In August of 2010, the group and film crew decamped to an island off the Danish mainland, where Moon captured the eight-piece act performing in unusual spaces — abandoned buildings, the back of a moving truck — often complementing their sound with found instruments and even musicians, namely 200 local residents who were brought into the band’s fluid line-up.

An Island has plenty of Moon’s trademark found-footage style and features some pretty stellar performances from Efterklang — those unfamiliar with the group will certainly want to track down their Magic Chairs full-length after watching this film. Bonus features include extra performances, a 2009 sound check and short film Temporary Copenhagen, featuring Take Away Show-style performances by Copenhagen acts like Choir of Young Believers, Chimes & Bells and the Sad Lovers.

Beautifully packaged in a limited edition, custom-made case, the DVD includes production stills, liner notes from the band and a downloadable EP from Efterklang’s 2010 Roskilde performance. Conceived as a full-length to the Take Away Show’s singles, An Island misses the mark slightly — like The Simpsons Movie, this feels like a really good, extended version of Moon’s work. But it’s still heads and shoulders above most music docs, thanks to Moon’s restless need to create something different from the norm.

Video: Kathryn Calder – “Turn a Light On”

Kathryn Calder turned a lot of heads with her own change of direction on sophomore outing Bright and Vivid. Second single “Turn  a Light On” gets a rustic video treatment courtesy of Vancouver filmmakers Leif Parker and Geoffrey Tomlin-Hood, who helped bring to life the video for “C’Mon Sea Legs” by Calder’s old band Immaculate Machine. Check the scenery below.

 

Record Review: Korallreven – “An Album”

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca

Tracks from this duo have been filtering out of Sweden for well over a year now, building buzz for this, the debut from Marcus Joon and the Radio Dept.’s Daniel Tjäder as Korallreven. Like an increasingly long line of their countrymen, the pair create easy-breezy Balearic soundscapes with voices that float in and out of the foreground. But Korallreven have more pronounced pop ambitions than, say, Air France or jj.

An Album turns out to be a rather cheeky title for a collection of individual songs, rather than a cohesive sound or idea. Like so many great producers, Tjäder and Joon recruited some all-star guests to voice their creations, in this case Julianna Barwick and Victoria Bergsman (ex-the Concretes). Unsurprisingly, their contributions are among the album’s standouts.

An Album doesn’t break new sonic ground, but Korallreven borrow from their artier contemporaries and turn it into pure pop bliss, a feat that’s far more difficult to pull off than it sounds.

“The Truest Faith”