Interview: Ringo Deathstarr, January 18, 2011

Posted on by Allison in Albums, Everything, Music | 3 Comments

Ringo Deathstarr

Austin-based Ringo Deathstarr is one of the best things to come out of Austin since Ricky decided SXSW is the greatest event in the universe.

While touring the U.K. with David Gedge’s the Wedding Present, two of my friends on the tour could not stop raving about how fantastically legendary Ringo Deathstarr were, live. Given the number of opening acts they have seen, I took this to heart and checked out their debut EP, then moved onto Sparkler to find amazing collections of toe-tapping ambiance.

Frontman Elliott Frazier recently sat down with us to answer a few questions.

PM: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. I want to start things off by fully admitting that we didn’t know a whole lot about you prior to 2010. But after hearing so much buzz from the Wedding Present’s 2010 tour, we checked out your excellently noisy self-title debut, that I was surprised to learn was released back in 2007.

Why are we just hearing about you now?

RD: Who knows…we never really had proper labels or distribution in the United States of America*.
*(The band is on the U.K.’s SVC label now)

PM: Tell us a bit about your first full-length LP, Colour Trip,  that has already been generating a fair bit of talk. Maybe you can also let us know why you went with the British (which we in Canada are so fond of) spelling, the recording process and you know, if you ate anything particularly memorable during recording (I just had a nectarine).

RD: The British spelling is because the record label behind this whole thing is British and you know, that’s just how the Queen would spell it.

We recorded it a year ago, and we had never really been in the studio for a month straight before, so we took advantage of all the nice toys they have.  Some songs were written in the studio, some we had been working on off and on since the previous summer…A studio date here, a studio date there. But once Club AC30 got behind us they put us up for a month and we got busy.  The most memorable thing for me was just working with Jason “Computer Boy” Buntz, ‘cuz he was not too afraid to try crazy ideas, and let me tell you, we both had plenty.

PM: How do you feel about all of the Pitchfork publicity? Yay, nay, indifference because publicity is publicity?

RD: Pitchfork gave us a good review once a long time ago, and it did help. but one can’t be too concerned with Pitchfork….we do our thing, they do theirs.

PM: A lot of listeners have decided you channel  a lot of JAMC, MBV, and the other usual shoegaze suspects. But I’ve often found that when listeners peg all sorts of influences on a band, the band doesn’t even have them on the
mental list. Do you have a mental list, and if so who are they?

RD: Every time I hear a really shitty band, it inspires me to make something better. So there’s all that…plus you know, there’s plenty of music that influences us besides “shoegaze”: Black Flag, Fugazi, Ramones, Devo, Dance House Children, Descendents, Nirvana, Nirvana, Nirvana, Beat Happening, Guitar Wolf…

PM: For our SXSW attendees, where is the best place to get the best burger in Austin?

RD: P. Terry’s, ‘cuz they have vegetarian burgers, as well as a great meat burger (so I’m told). Hut’s is consistently kick ass.

PM: A lot of your recent tour dates have been in Europe, one of them with the legendary Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (what a bill..G500 fans must be peeing their pants, as I think those that don’t already like you will after the show). It must be weird to play with folks who have been doing this for decades, like David Gedge and Dean, in an intimidating way. Have you noticed a difference between the veterans and the newbies?

RD: Not really, just age I guess.  Some people are party animals, and some are not, no matter how long theyve been playing…So we just like meeting the living legends. So far they’ve all been cool to us.

PM: Finally, when are you coming to Toronto!?

RD: In the springtime, when the flowers are in bloom.

You can pick up Ringo Deathstarr’s Colour Trip that is set for release on March 8th.

Ringo Deathstarr – So High by johnout

Track by Track: Take That – The Progress [2010, Polydor]

Posted on by Ricky in Albums | Leave a comment

Toronto – Maybe it was because I was in England last month, but I felt compelled to do a track by track “review” of the new Take That album, which was everywhere in London the week we were there. The big news with Take That was that Robbie Williams was now back in the band. Having said that, even though they were the British equivalent of New Kids on the Block, I think the only song I’ve actually heard of theirs was Back For Good, which everyone growing up in the 90s has heard of.

Here is my track by track read on the new album, which well, has done really well sales wise.

The Flood – The lead single and track off the new Take That album, it’s what you would expect. Rousing chorus and quite a catchy pop tune.

SOS – Wasn’t there a Rihanna song called SOS? This one has a frenetic pace to it, but I think I’ve heard a few songs with the title SOS before, so this pop song sounds a bit tired. There’s some audio sample of some person talking about administration during the song, so maybe it’s a political song? I can’t quite tell. I can see this song making the rounds in the clubs though, it’s got quite the pulsating beat. I don’t know who the other dude singing in this song is, but he probably shouldn’t.

Wait – To start off this track, Robbie William does his semi rap thing to a dj beat that sounds a lot like the beats he used on Sing When You’re Winning album. He needs to stop doing the semi rap thing. I guess this track has a catchy chorus.

Kidz – I’m pretty sure Robbie Williams has a single out already with Kylie Minogue entitled Kids, so this is pretty unoriginal and lazy track naming. “There’ll be trouble when the Kids come out” Gary Barlow says, nice to know he’s one of those old geezers who shakes his fists at young people already. They borrow from the Brett Anderson ‘La La La La’ playbook to end the song, but this song seems to try a bit hard to sound like a hard electro-tinged cautionary pop song for my liking.

Pretty Things – I struggle to find one good thing to say about this song. It’s not catchy, the lyrics are stupid, and the singing isn’t the greatest. If I was a 14 year old girl attending a Take That concert, this is my bathroom break.

Happy Now – Pretty generic track with an electro dance beat. Doesn’t make me happy or sad.

Underground Machine – My mind drifted off while listening to this track, starting looking up flights online for some reason. Maybe I want to escape this album, maybe it’s inspiring me to do what I want, maybe I have ADD. I don’t know.

What Do You Want From Me – I just don’t like Mark Owens voice, even if this song has a nice epic buildup and sounds like a what a Black Eye Peas song would sound like if they weren’t complete douchebags.

Affirmation – meh

Eight Letters – I like the drums on this song, it’s a calm little ditty to end off a pretty listenable album.

Having no prior experience with any Take That album, I would say that the band has definitely progress from typical boy band material, especially lyric wise. I am glad they didn’t do the whole ‘lets party in the club thing’, because c’mon man, these guys are in their 40s and the only club they go to is a bridge club. I guess this is what a mature boy band should sound like but they really shouldn’t let the weaker singers contribute much, I mean, I’m pretty sure all the bsb/nysnc/nkotb bands had members that didn’t even sing any song.

Take That – The Flood by UniversalMusicPublishing

Best of 2010: Sarah F’n Wilbore’s Fave Albums and Shows

Posted on by sarahw in Albums, Concerts, Everything, Music | Leave a comment

2010 has been a pretty epic year musically.  It was difficult to narrow down my favourites.  But, without further ado, here are the top 5 albums and top 5 shows according to Sarah.

Top 5 Albums

Black Keys – Brothers

I was introduced to the Black Keys through this album, I subsequently acquired their entire substantial discography and have been in love ever since.  These guys have finally reached the proverbial pop culture tipping point with their tunes being featured in Gossip Girl, various commercials and even the theme song to Hung.  Go ahead, listen and try not to bop your head.  This album is infectious.

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare

There was so much hype behind this album I felt certain it would be a let-down.  To my surprise it is actually phenomenal.  This album is genre-bending, has superb musical guests (Jay-Z and Bon Iver) and samples music spanning multiple decades.  Kanye really knows how to please a crowd.

LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

James Murphy has done it again.  I love this whole album but two stand-out tracks for me were Dance Yrself Clean and You Wanted a Hit. Oh and these guys ROCK live.

Four Tet – There is Love in You

Experimental electronic perfection.  My biggest regret is not seeing the Toronto leg of his tour.  Love Cry has got to my one of my top tracks of the year, so beautiful.

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

I think I listened to this album from start to finish more than any other album this year.  That is all.

Top 5 Shows

Holy Fuck

These Canadians released their sophomore album Latin this year and followed up with amazing live show.  You have to see them live to experience all the unconventional ways these guys make music.


Apparently Yeasayer wrote their latest album in Australia high on LSD.  Well keep it up boys.  Not only is their sound original, but their live show is pretty hypnotizing.

Thom Yorke

Having never seen Radiohead live I was pretty stoked to see the frontman at Coachella.  Thom does not disappoint, playing The Eraser in full plus a few Radiohead tracks he was definitely my favourite of the festival.  One of the best live voices I’ve heard.

The Wilderness

One of the most entertaining, energetic live performances I’ve seen.  Sparkly, dancey, theatrical oh and great music.  I would highly recommend their new album .272 and catching these guys live.

Mayer Hawthorne

Swoon.  I saw this motown crooner twice this year but his Wrongbar performance was by far the best.  Mayer has bounds of energy with an amazing falsetto to match.  I cannot wait for his next album, oh and check him out on Twitter…very entertaining!

And finally, in case you were wondering.  The single worst show of the year was Tame Impala.  Awesome record, terrible live.

Album Review: Joy To The World, Pink Martini [Heinz Records, 2010]

Posted on by Mark in Albums, Music | 4 Comments

TorontoI love Christmas music and listen to it whenever fancy strikes. I’ve never let the socially acceptable but strict November to December timeframe straightjacket me into when it gets rotation through my playlist. I’m also a fan of Pink Martini. So when I discovered that the band was releasing a Christmas album entitled Joy To the World, I was excited to check it out.

Thankfully, Joy To The World represents a return to the cosmopolitan and worldly elegance of yore. The fuzzy dice in the BMW have been hidden in the glove compartment for this round, only to come out on Sundays for some reason.

Portland-based Pink Martini produces some easily digestible and eclectic international pop music. They are more or less a jazz band with strong classical and pop music influences. They also effortlessly blend themes from all around the world. You may start your journey with some tried and true Americana. Then, all of a sudden, you are transported to a music hall in France as lead singer China Forbes delivers an extremely endearing and anglo-tinged French accent with poise and gumption.

“Pink Martini is a rollicking around-the-world musical adventure … if the United Nations had a house band in 1962, hopefully we’d be that band.” – Thomas Lauderdale, bandleader/pianist

The breakout 1997 album Sympathique was an elegant and worldly coup d’état. Take some musical influences from the world over, stir in some competent and multi-cultural musicians, and then dial back on the foreign to make it just safe enough for the American palate. The result is tasty, inoffensive, but nevertheless classy music.

Unfortunately, as time has progressed and success has commercialized, the band kept dialling back on the elegant world-fusion knob and dialling up on the safe adult contemporary cheese-pop knob. Their last album, Splendor In The Grass is largely a disappointment when standing beside the work that preceded it. It’s hard to imagine that the same band that recorded the most amazing and grandiose of Italian tributes in Una Notte A Napoli could then turn around six years later and record the kitschiest of bubblegum in Bitty Boppy Betty. It’s like hanging huge fuzzy polka-dotted dice on the dash of your brand-new BMW 3-series. (Note: you can find the first song linked directly below, and the second one on Soundcloud. My personal ethics has prevented me from putting a direct link to such a horrible song from a band I so admire.)

Thankfully, Joy To The World represents a return to the cosmopolitan and worldly elegance of yore. The fuzzy dice in the BMW have been hidden in the glove compartment for this round, only to come out on Sundays for some reason. The album includes a rendition of White Christmas sung by Saori Yuki, a famous Japanese songstress described as the “Barbara Streisand of Japan.” Elohai N’Tzor is a tastefully done Hebrew prayer sung by, among others, NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro. This is exactly the kind of weird and eclectic stunts I expect from Pink Martini, and it works. This is fun music; it adds a dab of international eclectic to your traditional holiday rotation, and does so safely without a fuss.

Joy To The World releases in music stores tomorrow, November 16. Pink Martini play Toronto’s Massey Hall on Friday, November 19.