Tuesday, December 4, 2012

10 Awesome Albums of 2012

As another calendar year nears its end, it’s that time once again to reflect back on an endless heaping of new music that blessed us with its presence in 2012.

In today’s modern era, music comes across so fast and furious that it’s practically a full time job keeping up with everything that passes by giving a fair assessment before we’re already on to the next. Oh, the major stresses of a music nerd. With that being said, here’s a short list of a few albums in no particular order that stood out this year.

Father John MistyFear Fun
Folk singer/songwriter Joshua Tillman having already released a slew of recordings since 2005 under the name J. Tillman, and most recently having departed the drum stool of the already critically successful Fleet Foxes, to record for the first time under the moniker of Father John Misty. The perfect blend of infectious melody and melancholy arrangements at its best. Key tracks: Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings; Only Son of the Ladiesman 

SoundgardenKing Animal
When a band breaks up and decides to record an album of brand new material after a 15 year hiatus, generally expectations of anything decent to appear are usually beyond low. But somehow, Soundgarden has beaten those odds with King Animal with this collection of songs that has seamlessly picked up from where 1996’s Down On The Upside left off. The year’s biggest pleasant surprise, bar none. Key tracks: Non-State Actor; Eyelids Mouth

Alabama ShakesBoys & Girls
Debut album from this southern rockabilly quartet lead by the already distinguishable big-voiced talent of Brittany Howard and co. - it offers a bluesy blend of roots rock and soul that has already drawn comparisons to the Black Keys and Sharon Jones. Having accomplished both critical and commercial success in such a short amount of time and arenas getting larger with each continuing tour, only one can imagine bigger things are yet to come. Key tracks: Hold On, I Ain’t The Same

Richard HawleyStanding At The Sky’s Edge
Having mostly a strong UK following, Hawley’s highly textured seventh studio album is distinctively guitar heavy opposed to his rather known softer overtones on recent albums. Hawley’s trademark melodic baritone accompanied by prominent soaring arrangements, not to mention his 1950’s greaser guise, can only leave one wondering why this one-time Pulp and Longpigs band member hasn’t really caught on State side. A diamond in the rough to say the least.
Key Tracks: Leave Your Body Behind You; Don’t Stare At The Sun

Band Of HorsesMirage Rock
Fourth album from this very bearded tandem, produced by legendary UK producer Glyn Johns (Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Clash), doesn’t stray too far off the familiar harmonic path that BOH are mostly known for, but a definite and more polished vintage CSNY and early Eagles influence is noticeable opposed to the band’s trademark indie overtone. Fans of the band’s first two albums may have jumped ship due to the departure and slight tweak in BOH’s familiar sound this time out, but credit should undoubtedly be given for a fine effort here. Key Tracks: Slow Cruel Hands Of Time; Dumpster World

Bat For Lashes The Haunted Man
Natasha Khan, AKA, Bat For Lashes, not only got naked for the album cover, she definitely sets the tone right from the get-go of opening track, Lilies, straight thru to the end. For this dark third full length, Khan’s moody charisma and powerful vocals once again heavily draws on Kate Bush shivery comparisons. A definite haunting, yet captivating collection of songs here. Plus, I defy anyone to find a more mesmerizing and spellbinding track than Laura this year. Anyone? 
Key tracks: Laura; Rest Your Head

Jack WhiteBlunderbuss
Jack’s debut solo album came with huge expectations after it was announced this would be his first official release without having one of his many band names attached to it (White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather). For some, this album just never really caught on right away, even after multiple listens. But if you had the opportunity to actually see White perform these songs live with one or both of his two backing bands, The Peacocks and The Buzzards respectively, it brought an entire new life to the album. Jack White is one of the most prolific musicians in recent history. Really – is there anything he can’t do at this point? Key tracks: Sixteen Saltines; Freedom At 21

Neil Young Psychedelic Pill
Easily the most prolific aging rocker from his generation, Neil Young consistently releases some sort of new material on average every year and a half, releasing two separate albums this year alone (Americana earlier this year) with his (sometimes) band, Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse is a notoriously sloppy outfit, and by far from a tight ensemble by any means, but show me a more beloved garage rock band that just released their best album in over two decades. Key tracks: Walk Like A Giant; Born In Ontario

Japandroids Celebration Rock
This Vancouver, BC duo’s sophomore album is an explosion of fist-pumping hyper-activity that caught on to the masses this year in droves. The albums has been described as the perfect mix of punk and classic rock, and has even drawn comparisons to the likes of The Replacements, The Who, and The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. If ever in need of a pick-me-up, get your team jacked before a big game, or to even get a party riled – look no further than right here.
Key tracks: The House That Heaven Built; The Nights of Wine and Roses

Sigur Rós Valtari
After a long hiatus and singer Jonsi having done the solo thing for a while, Sigur Rós returned this year with their six studio album, Valtari. Nothing strays too far off the path of what fans would expect of the Icelandic quartet, but to find a more soothing – more graceful and atmospheric set of songs accompanied by such gorgeous melodies and Jonsi’s angelic croon - it's beyond comprehensible.
Key tracks: Ég anda; Ekki Múkk

Bonus Guilty Pleasure 
Lana Del ReyBorn To Die
Sure she’s easy on the eyes, has femme fatal sex appeal, and has appeared on more than enough magazine covers to last a life time, but this smoky voiced beauty queen has taken her fair share of flack regarding her questionable talent as a singer outside of a four-walled studio (just search out her Saturday Night Live appearance without cringing) and the sometimes unflattering banter that comes out of her mouth.
But at the end of the day, if anything is undeniable - Lana Del Rey released a very good album this year front to back. Besides, who doesn’t like Video Games? Whether you’re actually willing to admit it - that's another thing.

Other honourable mentions:
Spiritualized Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Tame Impala Lonerism
Nada Surf The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy
Best Coast The Only Place
Beach House - Bloom

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

10 Awesome Albums of 2011

December is guaranteed for at least three things: cold weather, endless holiday cheer, and the inevitable sea of best of lists. Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! So allow this Press+1 critic to chip in and recommend some the best albums of 2011 that are obvious choices, or a few that may have possibly flown under the radar.

10. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
Dave Grohl and co. turned back the clock in more ways than one for this seventh studio effort. Not only did they bring in producer Butch Vig who had worked on Nirvana’s Nevermind with Grohl 20 years prior, but the band recorded the album the old fashioned way with analog tape instead of modernized pro-tools. The end result wound up with arguably the Foo’s best album in over a decade.
9. City and Colour - Little Hell
After what was once a side project for singer Dallas Green, it is now officially a full-time gig. Since handing in his resignation to Alexisonfire earlier this year, this third full length effort from City and Colour simply solidifies Green’s choice to solely concentrate on showcasing his swooning vocals and sweet melodies opposed to playing second fiddle to scream rock.
8. White Lies - Ritual
Another fine effort of doom and gloom set to infectious euphoric overtones from this young London three-piece. Produced by seasoned producer Alan Moulder, Ritual doesn’t stray too far off the path from the band’s debut, To Lose My Life, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Another huge sounding album definitely worth a look if originally passed by.

7. Florence + the Machine - Ceremonials
No such thing as a sophomore slump for the fiery red Florence Welsh and her cast of Machines on Ceremonials. At just 25 years old, Welsh’s compositions are way beyond her years and rightfully rank her in a class with the likes of Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks. Key tracks such as Shake it Out and Never Let Me Go are just keys examples of just how strong of an album this is.

6. Noel Gallagher - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Team Liam vs. Team Noel. The singer vs. the songwriter. After endless media pot-shots since the split of Oasis in 2009, this was the year for Liam and Noel Gallagher to put their money where their mouth is and show who could make the better album without the other. The end result? Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is on this list and Beady Eye is not. Enough said.

5. Wilco - The Whole Love
With Wilco often dubbed as the “American Radiohead,” and singer Jeff Tweedy heralded as one of the best American songwriters of our time, it’s always a treat whenever Wilco releases a new album. On studio effort number eight, The Whole Love undoubtedly lives up to the consistent and interesting standards the band have always been known for. Tracks Art of Almost and lead single I Might are just a few examples of Wilco brilliance at its best.

4. M83 - Hurry Up, We're DreamingLA based French musician, Anthony Gonzalez, under the moniker of M83, has followed up 2008 breakthrough Saturdays = Youth with yet another synth-pop, dreamy shoegaze offering with Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.Gonzalez has described this ambitious 22-song double album as a brother and sister companion piece, each with having a sibling on the other disc. As most double albums generally sound bloated, there’s not many areas on this album where it could actually be trimmed down.
3. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness BluesEarthy, harmony-rich and heavily bearded pretty much sums up Seattle’s Fleet Foxes who have showed anything but a sophomore slump on Helplessness Blues. This album showcases the band’s maturity of beautifully well-crafted folk songs, and contain such pin-point harmonies that would even make the Beach Boys envious. Sheer excellence.
2. Adele - 21What can be said about Adele that hasn’t been already said? And what a year it's been for the English singer-songwriter. An absolutely massive album inspired by heartbreak, 21 truly speaks for itself. These songs are heard everywhere and completely overplayed, but an album undeniably filled with so much emotion and passion, it’s near impossible to become tiredsome. She’s one incredibly grounded and down-to-earth individual despite all that fame which makes it impossible not to appreciate her all that much more. 
1. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
If there’s a more alluring, a more soothing, and a more moving arrangement of songs that’s been released in recent memory, please come forward and show yourself. Until then, Wisconsinite woodsman and falsetto crooning Justin Vernon, who records under the handle of Bon Iver, easily holds that title. Having gained critical acclaim since 2008 debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, this self-titled second effort has not only upped Bon Iver’s notoriety amongst hipsters and music enthusiasts alike, but has even earned the band four well-deserved Grammy nominations next year, including Best New Artist and Song of the Year for Holocene.  Bar none, a must have album for anyone who’s a fan of music of any genre, period.

Other honourable mentions:
The Black Keys - El Camino
Tom Waits - Bad As Me
Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
Zola Jesus - Conatus
Sloan - The Double Cross

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Post Corus, Alan Cross is very much
Alive and Kicking

After a quarter of a century as arguably one of the best on-air personalities this country has ever seen, Alan Cross and Corus Radio have parted ways.

A restructuring and reorganization of the company’s online radio division is the basis for the Senior Program Director’s departure, best known for his Ongoing History of New Music program, and in recent years, the head honcho for Exploremusic.

What exactly does this mean for the guru of all things new music? Other than Corus no longer being his platform, not a heck of a lot. Since the apparent amicable separation, Cross has pretty much hit the ground running ever since. Not only are his Twitter and Facebook feeds constantly abuzz with current trending topics and facts, he also has a regular Friday column in the Metro News along with many contributions in publications nationwide just to name a few. He has also set up shop at the newly launched www.alancross.ca providing the usual music fix of everything you'd ever want or came to expect of the man is there.

There have been mutterings that Cross may work with Corus in the future on a freelance basis only, but will not longer be in the building. What that entails is anyone’s guess, but if presumptions are in order, the freelance involvement would be for Cross to remain submitting new episodes of the forever and wildly popular Ongoing History of New Music to air in its regular rotation. But like I said, this is just an educated guess.

On the flipside, what does this mean for Corus? That would all depend on who you ask of course. Speaking as a child of the 70s and 80s, the Spirit of the Edge began airing out of a tiny little house in Brampton all those years ago. It was second to none and unlike anything else heard across the airwaves . It was the only stop along the dial where it wasn’t uncommon to hear bands like The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, Stone Roses, The Cure, etc. It was the station that identified with everyone from the geeks to the jocks and anyone in-between who wanted something innovative and different and outside of the typical top 40.

It wasn’t until the mid-90s and into the early 00s that we began to see CFNY’s music format slowly sway from the beloved Spirit of the Edge foundation making room for the new “New Rock” based content slowing leaving the station’s glory years to a fading memory. Along with the departure of many cherished on-air talent (leaving or being shown the door) making way for on-air personnel that correlate with today’s kids, the link connecting the Spirit generation to what the station had become gradually broke down. Other than Dave Bookman as the lone graybeard left from yesteryear who still broadcasts evenings on the station, and the dearly departed Martin Streek, Alan Cross was the last remaining thread that tied myself and whatever Spirit generation there was left to the station. But hey, that’s life. Time moves forward and the torch inevitably always gets passed, but for this listener who favored the earlier format to that of the later, the identity is just no longer there. It was a good 22 year run.

Cross personally told me in a conversation years ago that he enjoyed doing the Ongoing History of New Music so much so that he’ll do it until the day he dies. With the gift of being able to tell such captivating stories, holding the listener to every word, we’re going to hold him to his word. Hell, the man could read the dictionary and make it compelling.

As a true inspiration to thousands and a legend to most, only time will tell what the future holds and exactly where Alan Cross will turn up. But whatever and wherever that may be, as long as Alan Cross still breathes and has a pulse, a music world without his spellbinding wisdom and encyclopedia of a brain, is practically and unquestionably unfathomable.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Live Review: Fleet Foxes
Massey Hall, Toronto, July 14, 2011

Photo by Sarah Rix

Sometimes you can’t fully appreciate a band’s talent until you’ve actually witnessed them live. Let’s face it, anyone can make an album with the help of a studio – just ask Smashing Pumpkins. But if there’s one thing Seattle’s Fleet Foxes have already perfected in their young career, it’s translating what they’ve cut to tape to the stage in an absolute flawless fashion. And what better platform to do so than Massey Hall?

Opening with “The Cascades” from this year’s critically acclaimed album, Helplessness Blues, this very bearded ensemble took the stage to a packed house in a very undramatic fashion looking as if they just finished a shift at a logging mill. When I say “undramatic”, band members doing their own sound check prior to curtain call doesn’t exactly make for the most climactic stage entrance come show time.

Amongst a barebones stage set and just a curtain for a backdrop, once the six-piece did kick-start the evening’s festivities, the mesmerizing tone was set from the get-go. In just the first song alone, four of the band’s six members played a minimum of two instruments each before the song concluded.

Other than front man Robin Pecknold’s soaring vocals, complemented by pitch perfect harmonies from drummer Josh Tillman and bassist Christian Wargo, the most fascinating member of the Fleets easily has to be the newly recruited multi-instrumentalist Morgan Henderson. Not only could he have passed for a street person panhandling outside the venue prior to the show, he had a revolving door of instruments in his hands the entire night. Starting with an upright bass and moving to guitar to flute to sax to maracas, needless to say Henderson is the jack of all musical trades.

Next to a near flawless start to a recent North American string of dates, the only drawback of the night was the 2-3 minute gaps between songs it took to tune the guitars that hindered the flow of the evening’s set. Whether an extra roadie or two had border issues getting into the country is anyone’s guess. With that being said, in recent memory, there isn’t a band that has had the capability of captivating an audience with such an array of talent and sound - a rarity far and few between.

Spanning their entire catalogue, evening highlights included, “Drops in the River”, “Battery Kinzie”, “Montezuma”, and the Robin Pecknold encore-solo delivered “Oliver James” with hand-clap help from the audience.

Thursday night’s performance was an absolute treat and an experience appreciating true talent at its purest. Massey Hall was built for bands like Fleet Foxes – plain and simple. Already compared to harmony-rich groups such as The Zombies and Beach Boys, just two full length albums into their career so far, is an incredible feat in itself. One can only hope the best is yet to come.

Next time the Fleets roll through town, especially in a theatre type setting, do yourself the favour and take in such an unforgettable experience. Guaranteed to thank yourself after.


The Cascades
Grown Ocean
Drops In The River
Battery Kinzie
Bedouin Dress
Sim Sala Bim
Your Protector
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
White Winter Hymnal
Ragged Wood
He Doesn't Know Why
The Shrine/An Argument
Blue Spotted Tail
Blue Ridge Mountains


Oliver James
Helplessness Blues

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Live Review: Soundgarden
Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto
July 2, 2011

One of the year's most anticipated shows made the Canada Day long weekend that much better, as Soundgarden launched their 2011 reunion tour right here in Toronto.

It had been exactly 14 years, 7 months, and 19 days since the grunge forefathers last saw these parts as a foursome, so needless to say their long awaited return was received with open arms packing a near capacity Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. For a show with as much hoopla as it had, surprisingly scalpers were cutting their losses by half, in desperation, trying to unload their extras at the door.

The last time Soundgarden played Toronto was back on November 13, 1996 at the dreadful tin-can of a venue, Varsity Arena. With very little stage chatter, fans could feel the tension ricocheting from the stage the entire night. Most notably, the severe temper tantrums bassist Ben Sheppard displayed while playing with his back to the crowd, eventually smashing his instrument and kicking over amps. The writing was on the wall as it was just a few short months later that the band inevitably self imploded.

Fast forward to 2011 and the difference between this and the '96 show were like night and day. Chris Cornell had even been quoted in recent years that a Soundgarden reunion "just didn't make sense". Maybe it was the money or Cornell's failed attempt at hip-hop to get the wheels in motion. Regardless, clearly all differences have been put aside leaving room for a group out to have fun. Smiles could be seen beaming from all four members faces the entire night. Cornell was not shy giving guitarist Kim Thayill a hug on stage during band introductions setting the tone for an all out lovefest.

Taking the stage right on cue, fog lights would have come in handy to cut the thick cloud of sweet leaf that began to rise even before Cornell had started the first verse of set opener, "Black Rain".

Cornell even had family in tow as he introduced his young son side-stage who was air drumming along all night to the decorated stickwork of the ageless time keeper and full time Pearl Jam drummer, Matt Cameron.

With a front loaded set list, the hits and fan favourites (along with a few obscurities) came one after another all night. A new album is apparently in the works for a release sometime next year, but nothing new or unfamiliar was represented giving the faithful everything they could have possibly asked for. The only questionable part of the evening might have came when the band left the stage before returning for the obligatory encore. Other than possibly "Pretty Noose" (which was surprisingly left off the set list), they left the audience in suspense of what could possibly be the nights send-off during the encore. In the end, not much was missed if you cut out early to beat the crowd.

Sounding completely polished and tight a band as ever, evening highlights began with "Spoonman", third song in, followed by "Rusty Cage", "Blow Up The Outside World" with Cornell letting the audience sing ending chorus honours, "Fell On Black Days", "Black Hole Sun", and hands-down, evening highlight, "Outshined".

With a mesmerizing video and light show from the stage, the audience was also treated to nature's lightshow as the rain came down with forks of lightning about half way through the night. Not an ideal situation if you had a lawn seat.

So now you know, Toronto went home mystified, looking California and feeling Minnesota.

Set List:

Black Rain
Searching With My Good Eye Closed
Rusty Cage
Blow Up the Outside World
Let Me Drown
Jesus Christ Pose
My Wave
The Day I Tried To Live
Beyond The Wheel
Fell on Black Days
Ugly Truth
Burden in My Hand
Black Hole Sun
4th of July

Face Pollution
Like Suicide
Slaves & Bulldozers

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Live Review: Beady Eye
Sound Academy, Toronto
June 20, 2011

If the story isn’t old enough already, Beady Eye is Oasis, minus leader and chief songwriter, Noel Gallagher, and it’s been almost three years since the Beady Eye members were last seen around these parts. To be exact, it was September 7, 2008 at the Virgin Festival in Toronto when a crazed fan somehow snuck backstage and interrupted Oasis’ set by blindsiding Noel Gallagher mid-song turning him into a human bowling pin right on stage.

Fast forward to Monday night and four fifths of that Oasis line-up were back in Toronto this time as Beady Eye to make one of only four North American stops to promote their debut album, Different Gear, Still Speeding.

Compared to other markets, Toronto has always been a huge Oasis supporter since the band’s inception, therefore, for Hog town to be included as part of the Beady Eye’s North American mini-tour certainly had to have been a no-brainer.

Even if Beady Eye is basically a sans-Noel Gallagher Oasis, it was a real treat to be able to see the group perform in just a 2,600 capacity club, even if it was the cavernous and inconvenient-to-get-to Sound Academy generally known for its narrow sightlines and poor sound, opposed to the massive and unfriendly stadiums Oasis were stature for.

Amongst a sea of Oasis t-shirts, the mostly 30+ crowd packed the club with more curiosity than anything to get a first time look at Liam Gallagher strutting his stuff without big brother in tow. Decked out in a dapper thigh length Union Jack coat and sporting a massive shaggy mop-top of hair, he was his usual charismatic self, sneering centre stage in his trademark hands-behind-the-back singing crouch, rounded out by guitarist Gem Archer, guitarist Andy Bell, drummer Chris Sharrock, plus touring bassist Jeff Wootton and keyboardist Matt Jones.

Near the end of their career, Oasis were renown for their motionless and statuesque type performances often looking like a disgruntled lot just punching a clock for another day at the office, but this clearly wasn’t the case for Beady Eye. Maybe a brand new start and scaling back to club scene again is all that was needed for igniting energy and getting the band moving. Dare I say it, Liam Gallagher and co. were actually having fun. I guess that’s what happens when you eventually become your own boss.

The electric vibe inside the Sound Academy and smiles all around when the house lights went up at nights end was proof enough a great night was had by all. Not a bad feat at all considering not a single Oasis lick was heard in a room packed full of Oasis faithful. Highlights included single “The Roller”, the raucous ode to heroes, “Beatles and Stones”, the charging bass driven “Man of Misery”, and the atmospheric “Wigwam”. The only thing that might have made the evening all the more better was if in-house screens could have actually displayed subtitles for every time Gallagher spoke in his thick Mancherterian accent.

The tunes were great so Liam gets a free pass.

Live Review: Foster The People
The Mod Club, Toronto
June 18, 2011

L.A. based indie pop trio Foster the People rolled into town for the second time in just over a two month span on Saturday night at the Mod Club Theatre.

Riding the wave of their newly released and well received album Torches, a faithful crowd consisting of everyone from college kids to 40+ musicphiles all packed the venue to capacity to get a look at what is arguably the year’s biggest buzz band.

Saturday’s show was definitely a series of challenges. Just getting your hands on a ticket for this highly anticipated show was a task in itself. Secondly, for those who had tickets, having to make like a herd of cattle just getting to the club, located smack dab in the middle of the Taste of Italy festival on College Street, was not only exhausting but quite trying. Being such a young band and presumably inexperienced, a tinge of skepticism was had going in, but all it took was just half of one song to throw that theory out the window. Right from the get-go, Foster the People are all business. Frontman Mark Foster’s stage banter and audience interaction was at its barest minimum and performance energy at its maximum. It was all completely clear the moment the fivesome took the stage launching into the track “Warrant” that it was all about hyper for the rest of the evening.

Other than drummer Mark Pontius, all members are multi-instrumentalists and took turns jumping from keyboards to guitar to each taking a turn at aggressively beating a stand-alone floor tom centre stage like it owed them money. For a band that’s only been together since 2009 and its members more than likely only a few years removed from high school, they’ve pretty much already mastered the art of perfect ear-worm pop songs. Torches is entirely full of them, and with that being said, live interpretations of these songs are just as tight live as they are on record. They had the roughly 600 capacity crowd in the palm of their hand — jumping and dancing while singing in unison and filling the room with an infectious vibe. Really, not bad for an ensemble that’s still relatively new at this game. The biggest highlight of the night had to have come with the light show and bubble shower from the rafters that accompanied the most anticipated song of the night and summer, “Pumped Up Kicks”. From that point on, the place was just a sea of grins from ear to ear.

It was at night’s end where FTP scored the highest points with the audience — they left the stage at set’s end, only to return just 30 seconds later for the obligatory encore. No long-drawn out build-up, no denying the inevitable — just getting it done. Bravo. Speaking of encores, can we abolish these things already? We know you’re coming back for at least one more.

If you’ve missed out on the two times Foster the People have been by already, they’re back for a third time this year on October 1st playing the much larger Sound Academy — a Saturday night to boot too. Don’t just think about it, just go. You won’t be disappointed and be humming these tunes for days.

Miss You
Call It What You Want
Life On The Nickel
I Would Do Anything For You
Broken Jaw
Pumped Up Kicks
Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)

Helena Beat

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Live Review: Death Cab For Cutie
Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto
May 18, 2011

Photograph: Sarah Rix
There are definitely both pros and cons to seeing a band at the very beginning of a long and gruelling tour. Pros: there’s likely next to no fatigue and the band is full of energy. Cons: many un-ironed kinks are apparent and need to be worked out before a groove is found. Both were clearly evident in Death Cab For Cutie’s gig on Wednesday night as they kicked off a series of small club warm-up shows to promote the forthcoming album Codes and Keys before hitting up amphitheatres and theatres this summer.

Having graduated from “indie darlings” to commercial success thanks to breakout albums Transatlanticism and Plans, seeing a band in a small setting that has progressed to larger venue status is always a special treat. With that being said, tickets for Wednesday’s show were snatched up quicker than one could say Zooey Deschanel.

The foursome hit the stage wasting no time kicking off the evening with a hits laden set starting with the raucous bass driven stalker single, “I Will Possess Your Heart”, followed by familiar favourites “The New Year”, and 2001’s The Photo Album’s “Why You’d Want To Live Here”. It wasn’t until five songs deep before we received a sampling of what’s to come from the forthcoming Codes and Keys, the dude bashing yet melody filled track, “Some Boys”.

With a scattered set list mostly concentrating on the last three albums, it was more than enough to please the faithful that came to hear vintage Death Cab, even if there were quite a few noticeable blips and hiccups along with a subpar soundboard mix. Regardless, no love lost – it was an opening night free pass.
Although some songs sounded tighter than others, evening highlights included the Narrow Stairs single “Cath”, the new and instantly catchy “Underneath The Sycamore” which is easily a forthcoming single, and the Ben Gibbard solo performed, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”. It was until the very end of the night that we received the massive crescendo building anthem, “Transatlanticism”, a track so huge you’d have to not have a pulse to not feel the electric vibe unison sing along of Come on! It was about as feel-good as it gets.

With a capacity of roughly 1,100, needless to say many were shut-out of the Phoenix on Wednesday night for a are up close and intimate setting. But before disappointment has enough time to set in, Death Cab will be back in just two short months on July 29 at the much larger Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. Surely by then they’ll be a well oiled machine in the fine live form they’re normally known for.

I Will Possess Your Heart
The New Year
Why You'd Want to Live Here
A Movie Script Ending
Some Boys
Doors Unlocked and Open
Company Calls Epilogue
Long Division
Grapevine Fires
Codes and Keys
What Sarah Said
I Will Follow You Into The Dark
You Are a Tourist
Soul Meets Body
Meet Me on the Equinox
Underneath The Sycamore
Crooked Teeth
The Sound of Settling

Your Bruise
Title and Registration