All Photographs by Jon Bergmann

Back in November, I caught up with José Gonzalez before his band Junip’s show at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. Coming in from Montreal that day, we sat down to chat while the band took a break from sound-checking and rehearsals to grab burritos in the Annex. During our conversation, we discussed working with Junip compared to solo work, the progressive politics of Sweden and their impact on the arts, how good the band is at air guitar, and a bevy of other topics.

The delicate and comfortable sensation of his music transferred to their live show, which I caught following our interview and featured an all-Junip setlist encompassing their Fields album as well as an assortment of unreleased material.

Junip – Always
Junip – Rope and Summit

Sal: Where are you coming into town from?

José Gonzalez: We just came from Montreal, started in Philadelphia and went up north. It was a smaller venue. We had troubles at the border, so we arrived late. But it all turned out alright.

Sal: Swedish bands are usually at the top of our suspicion list at borders. How long have you been on the road now with Junip?

José: We did a tour for a month in Europe and just started this 25-day Canada/US tour.

Sal: Have you been touring North America much in the past few years?

José: Solo, yes. I’ve been here many times. Since 2008 we’ve mostly been working on this new Junip album. I’ve been doing very few shows. I did have some shows lined up in Canada that we had to cancel.

Sal: What was the process like working on this record given that you’ve known Tobias and Elias for so long, and started playing together 11 years ago? I hear some of the material has been in the works for a while.

José: Well, it’s more like the band has been around for about 12 years, but the music is all new. We started setting up recording gear in a rehearsal place and recorded hours and hours of jamming.

Continue Reading ‘Junip’ Interview »

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— , February 11, 2011    5 Comments

Photograph by Johan Stolpe

Each year there is an artist that softly and gently creeps their way into my world in the middle of a season filled with hard-banging electro, power guitar riffs and boom bap drums, offering a little taste of what my Fall and Winter will sound like. In 2007 it was Bon Iver’s unorthodox melodies and haunting vocals; in 2008 it was the poetry of Kings of Convenience; in 2009 it was the intimacy of the debut album from The xx; and in 2010 it has been Kristian Matsson’s project The Tallest Man on Earth. From the moment I heard ‘King of Spain’ from Matsson’s second full-length The Wild Hunt, released earlier this year, I knew that Sweden had birthed yet another modern musical gem. Obvious Dylan comparisons aside, Matsson’s rasp and folksiness immediately give his music a texture which has been all but forgotten in the European music scene, and which has largely fallen out of vogue internationally.

To cap off his breakout year, Matsson will release the perhaps unfortunately-titled Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird EP, which is an emotionally dense, but empirically short, journey – a brief 17 minutes over 5 tracks. When I first put it on, I remember pulling out a magazine – as the album drew to a close, I was still staring at the same page. It had me fully captivated, supplanting any desire to cloud my mind with extra-sensory stimuli. The feeling was refreshing as it’s been months since I just sat down and listened to music without doing anything else. Hearing the first notes of ‘Little River’, I suppose I was completely blind-sided and found myself unexpectedly entrenched.

Matsson recalls the genre that he’s become most associated with on tracks like opener ‘Little River’ and the paysage-painting ‘Tangle in the Trampled Wheat’; then ventures into plugged in territory, flipping a bluesy pedal on ‘The Dreamer’, where his vocals make the track distinctly unpop. My favourite moment comes on what I believe to be his best track to date ‘Like the Wheel’. From the tender acoustic notes to the longing and elegiac lyrics, I can’t help but empathize with a mourning I haven’t felt before. “I said oh my Lord, why am I not strong? Like a branch that keeps, hangmen hanging on, like a branch that will take me home.” Let these 17 minutes spin on repeat through your Fall and Winter, but try not to listen to them while operating heavy machinery.

The Tallest Man on Earth – Little River
The Tallest Man on Earth – Like the Wheel

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— , October 4, 2010    4 Comments

Photograph by Sam Javanrouh

There’s a day in June that occupies a special place in Torontonians hearts every year. Originally known as the Olympic Island Festival, the recently re-named Toronto Island Concert, is what many of my friends call their “favourite day of the summer”. Curated by Broken Social Scene and their label Arts&Crafts, the day-long mini-fest takes place South of the city, just a few kilometres off-shore from Toronto’s modest and un-scenic harbourfront, on one of the city’s most heavily protected natural gems, Olympic Island. With only a community in the hundreds that inhabits the Toronto Islands, their parks are some of the city’s most beautiful, their few domiciles are some of the city’s most demanded and their concert is one of the city’s most memorable.

After a two-year break from any performances on the island, one because of an unfortunate scheduling conflict last year, and the other unexplained the year previous, the memories of the day are starting to get fuzzy. Remember the year when Feist opened and played all of ‘The Reminder’ before anyone knew that ‘1,2,3,4’ would be a Sesame Street jam? Or how about that year when Canada’s music scene was finally en vogue internationally, after over a decade of indie rock triumphs domestically? Remember how this celebration was marked by Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene being on the same bill, collectively shouting back at the world “the kings are taking back their throne,” a phrase which packed so much punch, years before it found its home on Neon Bible’s ‘Intervention’? Oh, and then there was the time that J. Mascis joined a stage ramshackled-full of 8 electric guitarists and three drummers, spilling out into the audience, and played a song to close the night called ‘Guitar Symphony’ which has never seen the light of day, but was perhaps the strongest reminder of the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll the city has ever seen.

Indeed, the day-long festival has been home to some of the most memorable and important moments in Toronto’s music history. It’s also been home to some of the most memorable and important moments for this writer, personally. One way or another, the Island Concert marks a moment in the Summer around which old friends plan trips back to the city and everyone finds each other, ready to celebrate anything they can. The reunions start early in the day over beers and hugs, and end with the back-drop of a lit-up city, slow-dancing as long as you can before running to make the last ferry back to mainland.

Pavement – Cut Your Hair
Broken Social Scene – Cause = Time
Band of Horses – Our Swords
Beach House – Zebra

Continue Reading ‘Forgiveness Rock Weekend’ Article »

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— , June 18, 2010    5 Comments

It should be quite clear to anyone who has been following my mixtapes over the last year that I suffer dearly from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). While I’ve tried many a remedy, the only medication that seems to work is a carefully constructed playlist which bridges the transition from one season to the next. So what you’ll find in this installment of my seasonal mixtape series is a trip through the denial of the season’s change to a few songs that sound like the early Winter months, some that echo the deepest doldrums of January, and a few sweet tunes to welcome Spring along. Thank you for allowing me to spread my med-cin with you all once again.

Download | The Soul’s on Ice Mixtape

1. Jonathan Boulet – A Community Service Annoucement

Jonathan Boulet came onto my radar a few months ago when Kanye West took a break from blogging about uncomfortable but aesthetically immaculate lounge chairs and scantily clad video ho-fessionals, long enough to plug Boulet’s video for ‘A Community Service Announcement’. The video is justifiably sick, playing like a game of capture the flag gone horribly wrong, though I have no idea how it, or the song’s lyrics and title, relate. Boulet’s first album is making its rounds in Australia, and will likely see the light of day sometime up-over, this year.

2. Empire of the Sun – Without You

Staying in Australia, and propelling the denial of Winter along, is ‘Without You’, my favorite track from Empire of the Sun’s – now old – debut. Drawing comparisons to MGMT, Empire of the Sun have been everywhere as of late, showing up on Jay-Z’s Blueprint III last year and getting a shout-out on HBO’s Entourage as being Jamie-Lynn Siegler’s favorite band, which really begs the question “is Entourage the new ‘OC’?” in terms of it’s music referring power – and is Jamie-Lynn the new Marissa Cooper, in that leaving the show may find her as an actor out of work (via St. Vincent). Think about it.

3. Gorillaz – On Melancholy Hill

The ever-secretive and animated Gorillaz have a new album out this Spring, and this is my favourite track on it. The track is mellow synthpop that can be read as a commentary on over-consumption and materiality leading to doldrums, or simply as a jam that can be jived to no matter what you’re feeling. I prefer the latter. Dance now, deal later.

Continue Reading ‘Souls on Ice’ Mixtape »

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— , March 30, 2010    10 Comments
Photograph by Fred Loek

Photographs by Fred Loek

A little over a year ago, I was sitting in my room listening to Fleet Foxes’ full-length debut when I discovered something in the LP’s sleeve for the first time. Printed on a large piece of parchment was an anecdote which captured the essence of why I love music like nothing I had read before. In it, the writer cautions us of photographs, which he claims are almost like fake representations of what we think to be memories. Do you really remember your third birthday, or has a picture that you’ve seen repeatedly, mixed with accounts of the day from people who were there, created a false sense of memory, now almost indistinguishable from the real thing? The authenticity of a memory is definitely questionable when it has been cognitively inserted into your thoughts through photos and their accompanying captions.  Music, on the other hand, claimed the writer, has the ability to evoke much more genuine memories, taking you to the time when you heard a song, what you felt then and what was around you:

“Ask anyone who loves music and they’ll tell you that certain albums and songs remind them of particular places and people; loved ones who may now be gone, good and bad times, or particular evenings spent driving for the sake of wanderlust all somehow take sustenance from the songs that accompanied them. The trick is that the memories enhanced by the music come to life more readily and with more force than memories triggered in any other way.”

Music can take you to places. Now I know I haven’t shed any new light on this special but well-known dimension of music, but I will say that there are few albums and bands which can evoke this journey for me – especially in this era of music over-consumption that we’re in. Fleet Foxes are definitely one of them and I discovered another this past Fall when I was invited to go see a new band called Make Your Exit play an album release event in Toronto.

Make Your Exit – Leave This Town
Make Your Exit – Kids
Make Your Exit – Smokes and Lint

Continue Reading ‘Make Your Exit’ Spotlight »

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— , December 7, 2009    5 Comments