Tag Archive: Arcade Fire


Well, the big day has come. The 2011 Polaris Prize will be handed out later tonight. You can catch the broadcast streaming on the Much Music website (video) and CBC Radio 3 (audio only, but with a running commentary from hosts) starting at 5pm PST.

To me, The Suburbs by Arcade Fire is the standout album to win. Native Speaker by Braids, Feel It Break by Austra, Kaputt by Destroyer, and New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges by Colin Stetson are all close behind and any one of these four could take the prize if the jury opts for something other than The Suburbs.

And now, a quick recap on the 10 Short List albums along with my thoughts on each:

The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

In my books, front to back this is the best crafted album of all on the Short List. The musical and lyrical echos used throughout tie it all together. It’s hard to find artistic fault with this one (and being “too popular” and having won the Grammy for Album of the Year totally doesn’t count).

Feel It Break by Austra

I might not have given this a second listen had it not made the Short List, but it has grown on me. The critics seem to love this album. I think it has some great singles but it’s a bit rough around the edges as a complete collection of work.

Native Speaker by Braids

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this album reminds me of something. I think it’s that I hear a bit in the drumming that makes me draw comparisons to the Acorn. Hailing from Calgary, Braids has put together an album that sounds more like it has roots in the scene of Montreal or Toronto. While I wasn’t blown away by the album, I wasn’t disappointed in it either; overall I rather enjoyed it. Native Speaker (or Austra’s Feel It Break) might just be the happy compromise that the jury will settle on this year.

Kaputt by Destroyer

People seem to be divided by Destroyer; either you love it or hate it. I think Kaputt sounds like a cruise boat stuck in the 80s while simultaneously floating through space, and I love it. (Truth be told, I’m a longtime fan of the eccentric Dan Bejar.) The album’s closing track, “Bay Of Pigs”, is an 11 minute album unto itself. Since the divide on this album seems to be so great, it may be difficult to sway enough jurors to vote for this one.

Tigre et Diesel by Galaxie

This album is the reason the Polaris Prize is so great. Being situated on the west coast, I find it extremely difficult to discover the albums coming out of Quebec each year. Even specifically hunting down this album (or even Karkwa’s album Les Chemins De Verre, even after it won the 2010 Polaris Prize) was a next to impossible task. Without Polaris, artists like Galaxie, Karkwa, and Malajube might otherwise fall through the cracks and go unnoticed to a large portion of this country.

I find the rest of the 2011 Short List t0 be sonically “dark” and Galaxie’s bright poppy Tigre et Diesel is a a real standout from that. (The same can be said for Hey Rosetta’s nominated album Seeds). Unfortunately I don’t see the jury voting for this one, but it was a great listen.

Seeds by Hey Rosetta!

As much as I love the album Seeds, I don’t think it’s going to take home the Polaris Prize this year. While the album shows some steps ahead for the band, I think it still sounds like the album you’d expect from Hey Rosetta! and there’s nothing really groundbreaking here. The track “Yer Spring” is amazing though, and “Bricks” is greatly under appreciated. Got take a listen to these.

Long Player Late Bloomer by Ron Sexsmith

Long Player Late Bloomer is a pretty harmless album, and it sounds like something my mom might like. I have a great respect for Ron Sexsmith, and it would be nice to see someone as hardworking as him have a major success like winning the Polaris Prize, but there’s nothing here that grabs me musically.

New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges by Colin Stetson

This is another polarizing album on the Short List (har har, see what I did there?) with reviews ranging from heralding it as a masterpiece of technical genius to saying that it’s hard to “get” what people like about the sound of “mechanical whales humping”. (Yes, someone actually said that.) This is another album I wouldn’t have discovered had it not been nominated for the Polaris Prize, and I think it’s just spectacular. I can see that there is a bit of a learning curve the average listener might have to scale in order to fully appreciate this album though, and this might sway the jury to vote for something a bit more accessible.

Creep On Creepin’ On by Timber Timbre

Most seem to have brushed this album off as not having any chance to win the prize, which is too bad. I suggest that everyone goes and takes a few more listens to this one; the opening track “Bad Ritual” is kind of amazing.

House Of Balloons by The Weeknd

There’s something I don’t quite get about Abel Tesfaye, the 21 year old behind the album House Of Balloons. This album was only released online, only as a free download, and seems to have made it on the Polaris Short list largely due to influential buzz from blogs. Prior to this (Tesfaye’s debut album), he had never performed a live show. House Of Balloons actually even made it to the Short List still without seeing anything live out of Tesfaye. When he did announce his debut concert (he has performed only once more since then) it was asked that no press be in attendance and that concert goers not bring any sort of cameras or recording devices. (Clearly, people didn’t listen.) On top of that Tesfaye has declined to perform at the Polaris Prize Gala tonight. I have two theories: either this is all a childish game of playing hard to get to build hype around the release, or Tesfaye has absolutely no interest in being involved in the music scene.  Either way, the Weeknd has pretty much lost me as a potential fan. Oh, and I did (surprisingly) enjoy the album after I forced myself to listen to it, particularly the tracks “What You Need” and “Wicked Games”.

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It’s been a few days since the Polaris Long List was announced, and I’ve had a chance to let it all sink in. I’ve been asked by a few friends to give an opinion on the Long List, so I thought I’d weigh in here too.

First, let’s take a look at geography. Here’s how the Long List breaks down:

  • Vancouver – 4
  • Rest of the West (Calgary and Winnipeg) – 3
  • Toronto – 14
  • Rest of Ontario – 3
  • Montreal – 11
  • Eastern Provinces – 4
  • International – 1

Nothing should surprise you about this, it’s pretty typical of past Polaris Long Lists. Maybe the International inclusion comes as a surprise, but that’s Neil Young. Exceptions can be made for Neil Young. Perhaps it’s because I’m so close to the Victoria and Vancouver music scenes that I’m personally disappointed in the low turnout from BC. I’m also disappointed that coming off the heels of Karkwa’s win in 2010, only one album on the entire Long List this year is in French.

Geography and language aside, what about the music? I hate to admit it, but aside from maybe The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, there’s no one album on the Long List that really grabbed me. When I look back on this past year, my musical obsessions (the Hold Steady – not Canadian, Japandroids – didn’t release an album in the eligibility period, Explosions In The Sky – not Canadian, Versa – who’s that?) all were not going to make it anywhere near being nominated. Oh there are lots of albums on the Long List that I love and they all deserve to be there, but I didn’t listen to any of them over and over ad nauseum like I did with some of the nominees in 2010. This makes picking my front runners for the Short List really, really difficult.

CBC Radio 3 is once again holding its Polaris Prize Pool, where listeners are asked to name the 10 albums they think will make the Polaris Short List. The entry with the most correct picks from the actual Polaris Short List wins a CBC Radio 3 prize pack. The winner will be announced on July 6th (the day of the Short List announcement), but unfortunately for you it’s now too late to enter. I managed to get in an entry just under the wire; here’s the list I submitted. It’s based largely on what I personally like on the Long List, mixed with picks that have been popular with friends, and albums that have received buzz.

  • Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  • Braids – Native Speaker
  • Buck 65 – 20 Odd Years
  • The Dears – Degeneration Street
  • Destroyer – Kaputt
  • Diamond Rings – Special Affections
  • Hey Rosetta! – Seeds
  • Hooded Fang – Album
  • Malajube – La Caverne
  • PS I Love You – Meet Me At The Muster Station

This took me forever to put together. I changed it at least 40 times over the couple hours it took me to finalize. I think I’m content with the list though: I managed to include picks from the West, the East, Toronto, and Montreal; I included big names like Arcade Fire and Hey Rosetta! and lesser known names like Braids and Hooded Fang; there’s even a decent representation of genres there with straight up rock, pop rock, 80s inspired dance, and hip hop. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual Short List doesn’t resemble this at all. (With the exception of Arcade Fire that is – I will be absolutely shocked if they are left off the Short List.)

Hopefully my thoughts on the Long List didn’t sound too negative, that was not my intention. To counteract that, let me list some other Long List artists whose releases I really enjoyed:  Women, Shotgun Jimmie, the Rural Alberta Advantage, Black Mountain, Timber Timbre, Stars, Land Of Talk, Luke Doucet and the White Falcon, Imaginary Cities, Sloan, and Young Galaxy. I highly recommend checking out all these albums. (Full disclosure: the albums I didn’t list here are the ones I haven’t listened to yet. I doubt there’s anything on the Long List I’d totally detest.)

There were so many other amazing albums that didn’t make the cut for the 2011 Polaris Long List. Here’s some great albums that didn’t make it:

  • Tokyo Police Club – Champ
  • Mohawk Lodge – Crimes
  • Wolf Parade – Expo 86
  • Treelines – Summer Song EP (This technically wouldn’t have qualified. Why didn’t you boys add two more songs to that release?!)
  • Royal Canoe – Co-Op Mode
  • The Mountains and the Trees – I Made This For You (Long List miss #4 – I was rooting for you Jon!)
  • Kathryn Calder – Are You My Mother?
  • Gonzales – Ivory Tower
  • Chromeo – Business Casual
  • The Meligrove Band – Shimmering Lights
  • Suuns – Zeroes QC
  • Jason Collett – Pony Tricks
  • Hot Panda – How Come I’m Dead?
  • The Gertrudes – Dawn Time Riot
  • Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans – The Falcon Lake Incident (Long List miss #1. This by far is the biggest omission from the Long List. You were robbed Jim!)
  • Jeremy Fisher – Flood (Long List miss #7.)
  • David Vertesi – Cardiography (Long List miss #2.)
  • Henry and the Nightcrawlers – 100 Blows (Long List miss #5.)
  • The Liptonians – Let’s All March Back to the Sea (Long List miss #3.)
  • Memphis – Here Comes A City
  • Mother Mother – Eureka (Long List miss #6. I’m surprised more people aren’t up in arms about this one not making the cut.)
  • Slow Down, Molasses – Walk Into The Sea
  • We Are The City – High School (Another EP that’s technically not qualified, but it’s still great!)
  • Chad VanGaalen – Diaper Island

So what are your picks for the Short List? Any albums from the past year I didn’t mention and should check out? Feel free to post your comments below!

And for more Polaris speculation fun, be sure to check out NxEW’s Shadow Polaris.

Barenaked Ladies and Joel Plaskett with Peter Elkas at the Save On Foods Memorial Arena, April 6th 2010

Gordon was probably the first cassette tape I owned as a kid and I’m sad I wasn’t able to see BNL before Steven Page left the band. Admittedly I haven’t listened to a BNL album in years, and Gordon is probably their only album I own, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the band perform some of their greatest hits. Throw in the opener of Joel Plaskett accompanied by Peter Elkas, and I was sold. I’m impressed how Joel always manages to keep his show fresh. I’ve seen him live a few times now and he always brings something a little different to the mix. This time it was a stripped down set, just him on guitar and keyboard and Peter Elkas on guitar. He played a lot of material from his most recent release Three. It seemed that most of the people around me weren’t too familiar with his work (was I the only one singing along there?), but the crowd perked up when he started into his hit Nowhere With You. As for BNL, they are nothing short of seasoned pros. Like I kind of mentioned above, I’m not a big fan of the new material, but I was thoroughly entertained by their set. It’s pretty obvious that they have a lot of fun doing what they do.

View the entire photo set here.

 

Sam Roberts with Matt Mays at the Save On Foods Memorial Arena, June 12th 2010

This was a night of pure rock and roll. Going to this concert was a bit of a last minute decision for me. The next morning I had to get on an early flight to Texas to make it to a conference, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go out the night before I had to fly. I sucked it up and went out anyways, but I was unorganized and was still packing my bags when Matt Mays took the stage. I’m still kicking myself for missing his set. The Canadian icons 54-40 played the second slot (which I was totally surprised at – how were they not the headliners?!).  Unfortunately none of my photos of them turned out, but their set was basically a soundtrack of what I grew up listening to. Thank you dad for educating me so well in Canadian rock. Sam Roberts closed the night. He played a good mix of new and old songs. I particularly enjoyed the songs that Matt Mays joined in on. (And what a photogenic guy Matt Mays is! I’m so happy how well those shots turned out.)

View the entire photo set here.

 

Owen Pallett with Snowblink at the Alix Goolden Hall, May 10th 2010

Owen Pallett (who at the time had recently changed his stage name from Final Fantasy) hit town in support of his new album Heartland. He cancelled his last scheduled show in Victoria (his Rifflandia 2009 set) due to a bad case of the flu, and the audience seemed glad that he was able to return so soon. Heartland is a beautiful album with some gorgeous arrangements. This new album was recorded with an orchestra so I was curious to see how he would approach performing these pieces, as his stage show is normally just him on his own. He brought support, but it was only one other musician who played some guitar and some drums. It was just enough to add that extra oompf to the new work.

View the entire photo set here.

 

Sasquatch 2010!!

How can I accurately sum up one of the best weekends I’ve ever had? It turns out that I had to miss the first day and a half of Sasquatch to attend a good friend’s wedding. Even though I wish I hadn’t missed the National, Vampire Weekend, Caribou, and the Hold Steady (to name a few), I still had an amazing time. Can I pick one highlight? No. Here’s a few though: It seemed that everyone at the festival came to the main stage to see LCD Soundsystem. It was one epic, massive dance party. If I have to live with only seeing LCD Soundsystem just once before they called it quits, this wasn’t a bad show to go with. Japandroids put on an most excellent set. While waiting for Japandroids to take the stage, we met the Dan Mangan t-shirt guy (who I originally mentioned here). In the middle of MGMT’s set a bunch of large balloons were released on the hill, it was one of those great festival moments. The Seattle Rock Orchestra probably had one of the most underrated sets of the festival. I had a hard time convincing my friends to join me for this one, but I don’t regret going solo. Their entire set consisted of them covering songs from Arcade Fire’s album Funeral. Checking out the internets soon after Sasquatch last year I discovered that they have also covered David Bowie. Doing another quick internet check while writing the last bit of this post, I find that in the last year they have tackled both Queen and Radiohead. (Friends: SRO is playing Sasquatch again this year and they’re doing Radiohead covers! You’re being told now that you’re coming to see this with me.) At Sasquatch last year the band had about 20 musicians on stage ranging from strings to brass to singers to the more traditional rock band setup; they’re not called a rock orchestra for nothing. (By the way, does anyone want to start a band like this? I would totally get behind a project like that. It looked like it would be a lot of fun.) I absolutely CANNOT wait for Sasquatch 2011!

View the entire photo set here.

 

I have lots more photos still to upload, so you can expect a Flickr Pics Round Three… well… eventually.

Wow. Arcade Fire. Wow.

In case you didn’t manage to sit through the 3 1/2 hour long telecast and on top of that you’ve managed to avoid all other media outlets up to now, I should tell you: the Arcade Fire’s release The Suburbs won the Grammy for Album of the Year!!!

Here’s my highlights of the announcement of the award and the acceptance speech:

  • Barbara Streisand sounded so confused when she announced that the Suburbs won.
  • The first thing Win Butler said in the acceptance speech was “What the hell?”.
  • Win and Régine said “merci Montreal”. (Was this maybe the first time French was spoken in a major Grammy award acceptance speech? Does anyone remember what Celine Dion said in hers back in the 90s?)
  • Win announced “We’re gonna go play another song, because we like music. So thank you, we’re so happy.” The band then spontaneously launched into Ready to Start without anyone stopping them and without having the audio or video cut off.
  • Win Butler smiled the whole way through the performance of Ready to Start.
  • Via Twitter: “@arcadefire: OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD. Thank you EVERYONE.”

I’m normally pretty uninterested the Grammys, but this was a big, big win for the Arcade Fire. They beat out Eminem, Lady Antebellum, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry for this award. In a couple quick minutes of searching I couldn’t find any exact sales numbers, but I’m willing to bet that the Suburbs was far outsold by all of the other albums in the running. I’m willing to go so far as to guess that if you picked any other nominated album there, it would have sold more than twice that of the sales number of the Suburbs. Now don’t take this the wrong way. The Suburbs is an amazing album and the win is very well deserved, but it was up against albums created by some real American powerhouses.

It will be interesting to see the fallout of winning the award. Already the group has seen some attention. Here’s social media in action folks: The first screenshot was taken around 8:45pm PST, about 20 minutes after the award was announced live. The second screenshot was taken around 12:30am PST, about an hour after the west coast feed of the Grammys had finished. In the course of that time, the Arcade Fire twitter feed managed to attract more than 6,000 new Twitter followers. As of 12:45pm PST today (the day after the Grammys) the follower count is up to 108,512. That’s more than 11,000 new followers in less than 24 hours.

Taken around 8:45pm PST.

 

Taken around 12:45am PST.

Talk of the Polaris Prize for the Suburbs has been circulating pretty much since the day the album was released. Heck, people were talking Polaris for the album even before the official release date, back when the first singles were put to the public. The thing is, the Polaris Prize has normally stayed away from recognizing the more commercially successful and/or internationally recognized albums. Will the jury opt to give their votes elsewhere and possibly keep the Suburbs off the Polaris long list or short list?

To relive some great Arcade Fire moments caught on video and archived on the internet, I’ll refer you to the following links:

The original photos in this post were all taken back in September when the Arcade Fire played the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. You can find the whole set of photos from that night here.

A huge hearty congratulations to the Arcade Fire for this very deserved win!

Hot off the heels of a massive live-streamed concert at Madison Square Garden (not to mention a #1 album in Canada, the US, and the UK), the Arcade Fire have announced a pile of North American tour dates which fall between two blocks of European dates. Looks like it’s time to get out that bucket list and cross off “see Arcade Fire live”! Calexico, who have been working the summer festival circuit for the past couple months, will be the opening act for all stops on the North American leg with the exception of the Los Angeles dates.

September 22nd 2010 – St. Paul, USA – Roy Wilkins Auditorium

September 23rd 2010 – Winnipeg, MB – MTS Centre

September 25th 2010 – Saskatoon, SK – Credit Union Centre

September 26th 2010 – Calgary, AB – Stampede Corral

September 28th 2010 – Vancouver, BC – Pacific Coliseum

September 29th 2010 – Seattle, WA – Key Arena

September 30th 2010 – Portland, OR – Memorial Coliseum

October 2nd 2010 – Berkley, CA – Greek Theatre

October 5th 2010 – Big Sur, CA – Henry Miller Library

October 7th 2010 – Los Angeles, CA – Shrine Auditorium

October 8th 2010 – Los Angeles, CA – Shrine Auditorium

October 10th 2010 – Mexico City, Mexico – Palacio De Los Deportes

October 12th 2010 – Monterrey, Mexico – Banamex Theatre

Though ticket information is not listed on the band’s webpage, some information is available through Ticketmaster. Tickets for the Vancouver show go on sale Friday August 20th 2010 at 10am with presales starting Wednesday August 18th 2010 at 10am.

The music event that Victorians look forward to all year is nigh! Though an initial line-up has been public for a few months now, this past Sunday Rifflandia 3 announced their full line-up and schedule. With 157 bands playing at 11 different venues over 4 days, it looks like there is some tough decisions to be made on who to check out the weekend of September 23rd-26th. The best part? Wristbands for the entire weekend are only $65! I’m sure that I’ll be making many more posts about Rifflandia in the coming weeks, but in the meantime catch all the festival details at the Rifflandia website.

The Rock of the Woods Festival is relocating to the city and is now being dubbed the Rock of the Hood Festival. The acts initially booked to fill one day of music in the wilderness near Mill Bay, are being spread amongst three nights in Victoria.

From the festival’s website: “Due to a lack of support from the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) and Mill Bay RCMP, the Rock of the Woods festival is not able to take place in Mill Bay this year. Local authorities deliberated the event application for several weeks, and in the end decided to reject it, due to fears about potential safety risks. The Mill Bay region has never hosted a comparable event before and was uncomfortable with it going ahead. The ROTW organizers made several attempts to adjust the event plan to mitigate the municipalities concerns… When this still did not convince the RCMP and municipality that the merits of the festival outweighed the potential risks, Surge Ahead & the Oswego Arts & Cultural Society ( the event organizers), regretfully submitted to the CVRD’s wishes. The show will go on, but in an in-town location.”

Tickets purchased for the initial festival near Mill Bay will be honored for the new incarnation in Victoria, or they can be refunded by contacting the organizers. Tickets for the Victoria shows are still available and go for $45 for the entire weekend, with tickets for individual nights available at the door. Purchase information can be found on the festival’s website.

The line-up and schedule for the festival:

Friday August 20th at Sugar
Brasstronaut, The British Columbians, Sunday Buckets, Acres of Lions, and Smith & Lyseng

Saturday August 21st at Sugar
Junior Boys, Mat the Alien, The Mohawk Lodge, Humans, and Celebrity Traffic

Sunday August 22nd at Lucky Bar
Wrap-up party with Run Chico Run, Espionage, Bloody Wilma, and JP Maurice