Marfan Indie Darling Bradford Cox and co. are back less than 8 months after their 2008 double-LP magnum opus (Microcastle / Weird Era) with the Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP (available as of Monday in MP3 format; June 8 on CD and Vinyl). I ask you, is the cliché of the lazy musician a thing of the past? Deerhunter has barely paused to catch a breath before jetting off for their European / Japanese / South-Pacific tour but somehow managed to record one helluva cute EP sometime between March and April.
Other reviewers are already comparing Rainwater Cassette Exchange to their 2007 Flourescent Grey EP and as long as you think of it within this context, it does play well as 5 standalone singles. In otherwords, do not take this as a harbinger of things to come on their next LP. Crying about how this sounds nothing like Cryptograms or Microcastle would be ill-advised. Whinging on about how they were your favourite band but things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse with this release would be ill-advised. I think that this is a band with two distinct sides: an EP side where they can record short, standalone singles; an LP side where they can go on a cohesive audio joyride with mirroring, experimentation, and whacky seamless continuity.
1. Rainwater Cassette Exchange – I think this is my favourite track off the entire EP. It reminds me of being underwater in a Spongebob Squarepants romance sequence. Give it a listen and you’ll easily envision lobsters falling in love walking claw-in-claw, mating for life.
2. Disappearing Ink – Call me crazy but I hear subtle tinges of former Sarah Records’ group Action Painting! (These Things Happen) in the guitars and vocals. What is up with Deerhunter and ink anyway? I think this is the third ink-related tune they’ve released. Good, but not great.
3. Famous Last Words – This sounds like a spacey take on RCE. A happy little gay march off to the indie space battlefields.
4. Game of Diamonds – I want to call this the “conventional bongo song”, but the piano and vocals are quite beautiful nonetheless.
5. Circulation – Psychedelic guitars, uptempo drumming, their standard garage song. Perhaps my least-favourite on the EP.
Unfortunately all this has done is whet my Deerhunter-ravenous appetite which I will not complain about because this band is recording and touring at an unprecedented breakneck pace. I expect great things towards the end of this year if they don’t collapse under the exhaustion first.
Out today from crooner Iron & Wine is a two disc B-sides and rarities album, “Around the Well”. Iron & Wine is probably my favorite artist that I have yet to see live; for some reason it just hasn’t happened even though I adore Sam Beam’s calming voice and lovely melodies. As a fairly casual fan (in that I don’t collect all the singles) I am pleased to see the release of these songs. It’s a well put together mix of tracks you may not have heard before as well as a couple of covers that have become familiar to most indie music fans, such as “Such Great Heights”, the hit originally done by The Postal Service back in 2004. The highlight of this comp for me is the cover of New Order’s “Love Vigilantes” – it sounds exactly how you’d expect it to, a slowed down, meandering version with Sam’s personal touch that still has great respect for the original.
I’d also like to note that this album closes out with the epic nine-minute fan favorite, “The Trapeze Swinger”. This song made me a fan of Iron & Wine; it can also be found on the soundtrack to the movie In Good Company, starring Topher Grace and Scarlett Johansson. I happened to catch the film on TV awhile after it was released, having taken a sick day from work, and I remember the song playing during the credits and sitting there listening intently and falling in love with it. It’s a beautiful song and even with its length, you’ll find yourself sad when it finally ends.
Iron & Wine have played a few dates this month and are hitting some festivals to support the release of this album, in the US and Canada.
Jul 9 – Ottawa Blues Fest, Ottawa, Ontario
Jul 10 – Winnipeg Folk Festival, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Jul 23 – Calgary Folk Festival, Calgary, Alberta
Aug 1 – George Wein’s Folk Festival 50, Newport, Rhode Island
Aug 7 – Regina Folk Festival, Regina, Saskatchewan
Aug 8 – Edmonton Folk Festival, Edmonton, Alberta
Aug 15 – Philadelphia Folk Festival, Schwenksville, Pennsylvania
Toronto – Last Wednesday and Thursday the Toronto Symphony Orchestra hosted Xian Zhang, the Associate Conductor for the New York Philharmonic. She conducted two main efforts. The first was Rachmaninov’s piano concerto No. 2 featuring the young pianist Natasha Paremski. The second effort was a collection of pieces composed by Leonard Bernstein: Three Dance Episodes from On The Town, followed by Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Altogether it was a great show. Miss Zhang is a very energetic and vibrant conductor.
If not for tsoundcheck, I’m afraid the symphony would be sorely lacking in 20-something young things sporting their jeans, blazers, and cool hipster glasses.
So I’m a sucker for cheap live music. And it just doesn’t get much cheaper than the Toronto Symphony’s Tsoundcheck program. Tsoundcheck is an organization dedicated to promoting classical music to the “youth” of the city. In symphonic terms, a “youth” is anyone under the age of 30. Thanks to this program, said youth can make a night of seeing some fantastic live classical music for a very reasonable entrance fee of $12. If not for tsoundcheck, I’m afraid the symphony would be sorely lacking in 20-something young things sporting their jeans, blazers, and cool hipster glasses.
Through tsoundcheck, you can buy 2 (sometimes 4) tickets for a show. It’s important to know that your date doesn’t have to be under 30, but you do. And yes, they do card you. If you’re in your early 30’s, the TSO understands that you have more money than the 20-something riff raff, but aren’t yet willing to pay full-price. This is where tsoundcheckplus [sic] comes in. It’s not quite as flexible, but you can buy tickets in packs. Best of all, unlike other similar programs, just because you’re paying a pittance for a ticket doesn’t mean you’re relegated to sit in the balcony with the unwashed masses. I’ve been 5th row centre with $12 tickets before. You simply couldn’t wipe the grin off my face knowning what my white-haired brethren to the left and right of me were paying for their seats.
Rachmaninov’s piano concerto #2 was excellent. Young (and may add, nubile?) pianist Natasha Paremski really lost herself in her music; which is always great to see. Rachmaninov’s pieces are known for their dynamics and expressiveness. Sadly I couldn’t feel the full force of Natasha’s playing because I was sitting behind the symphony in the choir section for this show. This was interesting as it was the first time I was at a classical show and looking directly at the conductor instead of inspecting their back. But the piano was on the other side of the symphony and less prominent from this vantage.
The conductor, Xian Zhang is one classy lady. One of the criticisms of the classical music scene is that it can be, well, rigid, stuffy, and unable to contemporarize. Classical music doesn’t have to be this inaccessible; and programs like tsoundcheck have gone a long way to introduce the youth to classical music, and teach the older generation that music doesn’t have to be enjoyed the way their parents enjoyed it. True, the nature of hearing a live un-amplified symphony requires silence (concert douchebags need not apply!), but that doesn’t mean you can’t let some exuberation spill out in between pieces. At the end of every piece, Xian would playfully point out the musicians who did a great job and make them stand up during applause. You stand up, yes you, the timpani player (then she’d pretend to play the timpani), yes you, stand up, you did a good job. It’s gestures like these that remind me that classical music doesn’t have to be treated with that stoic “stiff upper lip” attitude that tends to prevail.
[Leonard Bernstein’s] music evokes a simpler time in the 50’s when we built things really really quickly. During most of the West Side Story stuff, I had the distinct urge to build a house.
Rachmanivov was followed by some modern classical music scored for the musical theatre. I have to admit that I often shy away from the term “modern classical” music. Not because it’s an oxymoron, but rather because “modern classical” is a genre I just can’t seem to get. The traditional stuff I love: Baroque (Bach), Classical (Mozart), Romantic (Rachmaninov), but the modern stuff is inaccessible to me in a way that I imagine bepop is to people who hate jazz anyway. Thankfully, Leonard Bernstein’s stuff is not that type of modern classical, but more theatrical pop-classical. It’s playful, inventive, and easy to listen to. Much of it reminds me of the Bugs Bunny comics when they were building things like highways and sky-scrapers in fast motion. This music evokes a simpler time in the 50’s when we built things really really quickly. During most of the West Side Story stuff, I had the distinct urge to build a house.
The Toronto Symphony’s season ends this June. Until then, you can catch music from Beethoven, Mahler, Brahms, not to mention The Godfather, Rocky, and Superman (TSO Goes to the Movies!).