Live Review: Dirty Projectors & Purity Ring at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall, Friday, July 6

by Matt Juniper

A pair of critically acclaimed artists at very different points in their respective careers made their way to Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall last Friday night to kick off an eight-leg joint tour. Both Dirty Projectors and Purity Ring have had strong interest surrounding them in 2012, with the buzz approaching a fever pitch in early July as both bands prepare to release albums. For Montreal’s Purity Ring, it will be their highly anticipated debut album following on the heels of a string of singles beginning in 2011 that seemed to grow in quality and appeal with each release. For Brooklyn’s Dirty Projectors, the art pop veterans are on the verge of a breakthrough into mass appeal. Their unique brand of disjointed rhythms and aggressive vocal harmonies has been divisive in the music community but has converted a cult of followers large enough to ensure that no Dirty Projectors release goes unnoticed.

With doors opening at 9 p.m. and Purity Ring not set to take the stage until 10 p.m., a sizeable crowd showed up early to enjoy a beverage in the spacious venue while Purity Ring’s simple-but-bizarre stage setup awaited. At 10 p.m. sharp Megan James and Corin Roddick took the stage to a venue over three quarters full with energetic fans. It was a nice surprise for an opening act and likely a result of both proper promotion of the double bill by Embrace (concert promoter) and Purity Ring’s fast rising star.

A timid and unsure crowd seemed puzzled as Purity Ring sauntered through slow-building opener Cartographist. By the time the band transitioned in 2011 hit single Belispeak, progress had been made – feet tapping, heads bobbing and a growing sense of energy in the room. The duo played almost exclusively in the shadows, illuminated only by glowing lights pulsating around Roddick with each transition in tempo.

After six songs, Megan James decided the seating in the Danforth Music Hall didn’t lend well to her band’s hypnotic brand of synth pop and invited the crowd to leave their seats. Launching into Obedear with the crowd at arm’s reach, the band seemed infinitely more at home and closed their set triumphantly with Crawlersout and Ungirthed. Up close it was impossible not to notice the grin creeping across James’ face at the prospect of yet another crowd won over on their rise to prominence. See the full setlist below.


Dirty Projectors hit the stage just past 11 p.m. to the expected wild applause. With four days to go before the much-anticipated release of the band’s latest album Swing Lo Magellan, I had expectations of a balanced blend of new and old material. Instead, the band launched into new album opener Offspring Are Blank right off the bat and didn’t look back, rattling off five new tracks in a row to an enthusiastic if not mildly perplexed crowd. It was an interesting decision and one that perhaps demonstrated lead singer David Longstreth’s willingness to hedge his bets on the power of the internet: “Swing Lo Magellan” had leaked online nearly two weeks before, which was followed shortly by an official stream.

The new material is played confidently and lends itself well to the live atmosphere: the album is without a doubt the band’s most accessible effort to date. Still, it appeared not everyone had downloaded the leak or spent time streaming it. “This next one should be a little more familiar”, Longstreth says before finally playing Cannibal Resource (the opener off of 2009’s acclaimed album “Bitte Orca”) and we get a surge of energy in the room. Taking a cue from Purity Ring before them, Longstreth takes advantage of the growing buzz and invites the crowd to leave their seats and move up to the front. With the crowd on their feet, even the new material seems to leave a stronger impression. The highlight of the evening is wisely saved for the encore with crowd favourites Stillness is the Move and No Intention leading off and the bombastic new track ‘Unto Caesar’ closing out the evening. As expected, Caesar lends itself extremely well to the live show and will no doubt be closing out Dirty Projectors shows for some time to come.

Overall, the night was a tremendous success. Rarely do a pair of bands from such distinct genres blend so well together. While Dirty Projectors’ choice to lean heavily on new material (10 of the night’s 15 tracks) may have alienated and disappointed fans not yet familiar with the songs, as someone who has spent the last two weeks with the album I can say with confidence that the live renditions will leave fans extremely pleased on future tour dates.


Purity Ring setlist:
Cartographist
Belispeak
Loficries
Amenamy
Fineshrine
Saltkin
Obedear
Crawlersout
Ungirthed

Dirty Projectors setlist:
Offspring Are Blank
See What She Seeing
About to Die
Gun Has No Trigger
The Socialites
Cannibal Resource
Beautiful Mother
Maybe That Was It
Dance for You
Just From Chevron
Useful Chamber
Impregnable Question

Encore:
Stillness is the Move
No Intention
Unto Caeser

NXNE 2012: Doldrums @ Wrongbar June 16

It’s been a while since I saw Doldrums play live in their warehouse space, but they have really developed their sound since that show. They are a 3 piece in the current configuration of the band, made up synths, effects, sampler, and electronic / acoustic drums. Brothers Airick and Daniel work together to create a really unique vocal sound.

Doldrums are doing something completely different than what is out there in electronic music with the spacey atmospheric vocals and very bass heavy tribal / rave drum beats (in the live setting at least). Airick acts as a new age conductor leading his bandmates and the audience through a highly danceable, propulsive set.

MP3: Doldrums – Egypt

Even though there is a lot of buzz around Doldrums, they definitely deliver on the hype. I would go to see them in heartbeat when their next show pops up on the calendar. During their Wrongbar set, they played a new track that fit very nicely in with the rest of the set which came in just under 30 mins.

For more information on Doldrums, visit www.endlessdoldrums.com.

NXNE 2012: MPG (My Pet Genius) @ The Great Hall June 16

MPG (My Pet Genius) made their live return last night for NXNE 2012 at the Great Hall after 13 years and it was a triumphant gig for the band.

They kicked off there set with Anjelika In Jhericurl from “Might Strike Satellite” – watch the video for the track below which was directed by Christopher Mills.


The rest of the set saw them power through a number of new tracks from their upcoming double album, “Empire Of Light”. The three core members Dean Mannella, Evan Sue-Ping and Zach Kourous were joined on bass for the latter half of the show by a member of Bronx Cheerleader. From the live set they ran through last night, Empire Of Light will definitely be an epic album and we are looking forward to hearing it.

Listen to the latest track lifted from the album.

MP3: My Pet Genius – Black Mesa Rally Cry

Album Review: Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness

Hello Sadness, the follow-up to 2009’s Romance Is Boring, is the fourth record by Los Campesinos!. Hello Sadness is another step in the evolution of the band after some line-up changes; currently a 7-piece. Hello Sadness covers everything that is important to Los Campesinos! – love, loss, heartbreak, and football.

“It feels like we’ve done all our growing up while in this band,” says vocalist Gareth Campesinos! “Not like we’re Hanson, or anything. But we’ve been Los Campesinos! since finishing university, and in that time we’ve all changed as people massively. That’s something we want to put across in the music.”

“We’ve learned what there’s room for, sonically,” adds guitarist/songwriter Tom Campesinos! “You start off quite idealistic about what you can actually fit into a song, everything fighting against everything else, and that’s fine, it suited those songs. But now it’s like everything is pulling towards the same goal. The idea was to make the most coherent, direct record we can.”

Hello Sadness is one of those albums that you want to listen to the whole way through to properly digest what Gareth is telling us with every word. Los Campesinos! have created their own unique sound and deliver their songs in a catchy, yet off-kilter way in the vein of Pavement, Superchunk, and Dinosaur Jr.; this is definitely a good thing. Hello Sadness rides the perfect line between dark and gloomy, and melodic pop creating something truly special.

Tracklist
1. By Your Hand Songs
2. About Your Girlfriend
3. Hello Sadness
4. Life Is A Long Time
5. Every Defeat A Divorce (Three Lions)
6. Hate For The Island
7. The Black Bird, The Dark Slope
8. To Tundra
9. Baby I Got The Death Rattle
10. Light Leaves, Dark Sees Pt. II

Stand out tracks  on the album are the ultra catchy, sing-a-longable ‘By Your Hand’, the faster paced, lyrically twisted ‘Songs About Your Girlfriend’ and the darkly beautiful ‘Every Defeat A Divorce (Three Lions)’. Hello Sadness is available through Arts & Crafts on November 15 on CD, Album and digital download.

Watch the video for ‘By Your Hand’ below.

For more information about Los Campesinos!, visit www.loscampesinos.com.

Review: An Horse – Walls

An Horse’s latest album Walls, the follow-up to 2009’s Rearrange Beds, is out now on Mom + Pop Music. If you aren’t familiar with An Horse, they are the Australian indie-rock duo of Kate Cooper (singer/guitarist) and Damon Cox (drummer/singer) who met while working in a record store in Brisbane.

Cooper spoke about the previous record as well as the new album, Walls. “With Rearrange Beds, we made a record of two people learning how to play together. I don’t think you can hear that on the album per se, but that’s what it was.” This time, the pair decided to make a record that reflected their bond not just as music aficionados, but as musical collaborators. “Walls was really deliberate,” Kate explains. “We had hundreds of shows under our belt and we had figured out how to play off each other.”

An Horse set out to record Walls in Vancouver after taking a break in their home cities (Cooper lives in Montreal and Cox in Melbourne). They chose Howard Redekopp, who has previously worked with The New Pornographers and Tegan and Sara as well as An Horse (Redekopp mixed Rearrange Beds), to produce the album. You can definitely hear similarities to both of these acts on Walls, more so to Tegan and Sara (in a good way).

The album still has a distinct, consistent style and sound throughout. Walls has catchy written all over it and runs the spectrum from minimalist pop songs to full-on blazing indie rock (still with a Cooper’s pop vocals). The album is a very solid sophomore offering and definitely a must have for anyone into Tegan and Sara or Sleater-Kinney / Wild Flag. Standout tracks include the razor sharp guitar indie rock of ‘Sharply Dressed’ and ‘Trains and Tracks’, and the pop hooks of ‘Airport Death’. Listen below.

Sharply Dressed

Trains and Tracks

For more information about An Horse, visit:
www.anhorse.com
www.myspace.com/anhorse

Review: Little Girls – Cults EP

I first saw Little Girls play live at Sneaky Dee’s in Toronto for the NXNE Festival 2009 and was totally blown away by their very cool, lo-fi style with obvious My Bloody Valentine and Jesus & Mary Chain influences. Fast forward two years and we see a definite progression in Josh McIntyre’s songwriting (he’s the brainchild behind the band) since their previous release ‘Concepts’; tracks like ‘Concepts’ and ‘Thrills’ were fuzzed out and raw. Josh recorded this new EP on his own, but brings in a band to perform live.

Their latest release, Cults EP, is not as lo-fi as earlier recordings and adds more electronic and synth based elements which definitely embellish Little Girls’ sound. ‘Cults’ is a distinct progression from previous recordings, drawing on the strengths of ‘Concepts’ and filling out the sound further with a subtle new wave direction. The Cults EP is more ‘polished’ (in a positive way) and sounds in the vein of a modern day Joy Division with its dark, eerie, multi-dimensional sound. Standout tracks on ‘Cults EP’ are ‘Delaware’ and ‘Nights Out’.

Listen to ‘Nights Out’ here

Tracklisting:
1. White Night
2. Cults
3. Ex
4. Daydream
5. Delaware
6. Nights Out

Cults EP is out on Toronto’s brilliant record label Hand Drawn Dracula on Sept 6th, 2011 on limited red vinyl and digital download. For more information about either Little Girls and Hand Drawn Dracula, visit www.myspace.com/littlelittlegirls or handdrawndracula.com.