NXNE Review: Still Life Still, June 14, The Rivoli

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Still Life Still have come a long way from their debut album Girls Come Too. Playing mostly new material at the Arts & Crafts showcase on Thursday night, Still Life Still proved that they have become fully confident, experimenting with different samples, more complex guitar arrangements and always solid drumming and bass by Aaron Romaniuk and Derek Paulin. The result is something all their own. Each new track has its own unique arrangement, so when you hear the album, planned to be released early next year hopefully, it never feels repetitive. Some of the highlights included “Dear Holograms,” incredibly catchy with its intricate guitar work and a capella vocals in between. The last song of the night, “Amusement Parks,” is the perfect encore inducing performance. It hits the audience hard and when it’s over, hard and fast, it really is their drop the mic moment. Still Life Still have always inspired community among their listeners and fans, and have always really engaged the audience. In their early days around Toronto, they would invite all their friends to jump up on stage to sing, dance and play tambourine during their songs. Always a great experience, we’re looking forward to the new album and more dancing with Still Life Still.

NXNE Review: EXITMUSIC, June 14, Wrongbar

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EXITMUSIC are going to be big. There, I said it. Husband and wife duo Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church, along with drummer Dru Prentiss and Nicholas Shelestack taking care of the electronic section, offered up a hypnotizing, 30 minute, full on experience at Wrongbar Thursday night. Palladino, if you thought she looked familiar, is an actress. It took me about 10 minutes before the lightbulb came on “OH, Jimmy’s wife Angela from Boardwalk!” yep that’s her. Based out of Brooklyn, New York, Palladino comes from a largely artistic family and has been acting and playing guitar since her early teens (she’s 31 now). She met now husband Devon Church and began making beautifully dark, luscious music together, inspired by Radiohead, of course as their name comes from one of Radiohead’s songs. Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sigur Ros are also highly influential on their sound.

Everything was running a bit behind at Wrongbar, and Palladino took to the stage citing technical difficulties. She stated that her keyboard just wouldn’t work, and that she would feel awkward in those songs where she would be instrumentless. I don’t think anyone noticed if she felt awkward once she belted out that first line. Palladino’s voice is phenomenal, she can hit a low throaty growl to a high pitched melodic yell like no other (did I mention her mother’s an opera singer as well?). Barely moving on the stage, EXITMUSIC doesn’t need a fancy show with theatrics to captivate their audience. During “Passage,” the title track off their debut full length, everyone swayed and bobbed their heads, mesmerized by the guitar work from the two. The entire set made you feel like you were floating on a dark cloud, over a grey, calm sea. It’s a beautiful experience and feeling. The album deals with a lot of loss, and what feels like pain, desperation and sadness. The last line in Passage, “Once the dawn falls down upon us, I will let you go”, sums it up best. With a flawless live set, even among technical difficulties and a short time slot, and a beautiful album, expect to see a lot more of EXITMUSIC in the future.

NXNE Review: WE R DYING 2 KILL U, June 13, The Garrison

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Going into this show, I really didn’t know quite what to expect from Montreal’s WE R DYING 2 KILL U. I knew very little about the band beforehand – what I could glean was that they were some kind of art punk project, that they were political, and most significantly, that this show would be a collaboration with punk legend and Crass founder Penny Rimbaud. What I didn’t know was exactly what form said collaboration would take or what the band really sounded like in general as I couldn’t really find any audio or video online beforehand. But I was expecting something unique and hoping for something good. I was not disappointed.

WE R DYING 2 KILL U might be best described as art/jazz/noise/punk. Featuring saxophone, flute, and at one point a banjo, members switched instruments throughout their set while an animated Rimbaud, who came and went from the stage at different times, read from a handful of pages of his poetry, all of which dealt with various sociopolitical issues with a dose of religious imagery thrown in for good measure. The set ended with the band leaving the stage and Rimbaud delivering what appeared to be a love poem of sorts, accompanied by a flute. All in all, an impressive performance. I hope to see and hear more from these Montrealers in the future.

NXNE Review: Boxer The Horse, Elk, June 14, El Mocambo

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I know I’m not the first one to make this comparison(and I won’t be the last) but Charlottetown’s Boxer The Horse sound an awful lot like Pavement. ‘Wowee Zowee’, ‘Crooked Rain Crooked Rain’-era Pavement in both music and vocal-style. They’re the first to admit that they are fans though so at least there’s no denial and with Pavement being one of my favourite bands through my university days and beyond, it’s nice to see that young bands are still being inspired and taking something from ’90s indie heroes like Built to Spill, Yo La Tengo, and Pavement. Another east coast band, North of America, who recently did a reunion tour in 2010 and had numerous well received releases, did their own version of a similar sound more than ten years ago. Fuzzed out harmonies layered over lazy, effortlessly sung lyrics is the main commonality between these three bands. For an early 8pm showtime the upstairs at the El Mo was quite packed and despite having a bass issue early on BTH played on and acted like pros, even showing their range by doing a cover of Blondie’s “Hangingon the Telephone”. It was clear that they’ve already built a strong following as the new generation of slacker-rock continues to live on.

Down the stairs I was fortunate enough to catch local surfy power-pop band Elk play a tight set full of distorted powerchords. No pauses between songs, just straight ahead, full-on rock and roll. The four-piece band shared vocal duties, including their drummer (also in Beliefs)getting in on the action. Foot-tapping harmonies up the wazoo. Elk are back in Toronto playing the Horseshoe on July 7th.