Growing up with a band is a rare, weird thing. It makes you feel special, and entitled, and old. For the past 15 years Okkervil River have been providing the soundtrack to our lives, so when they hit the stage at the Phoenix in Toronto this Saturday, we at Ca Va Cool feel we’ve earned the right to shout out a few numbers. Short of demanding they shut up and play the hits, here’s what we want to hear:
In Pitchfork’s review of this month’s The Silver Gymnasium, Stephen M. Deusner bemoaned the fact that frontman Will Sheff seems to have abandoned his patented rock and roll hysteria. Let’s go back to Black Sheep Boy for our fix: on “For Real” Sheff is a tight coil of manic energy, and the band backs him up on each slammed riff, egging him further into madness.
Sheff’s lyrics can be long on wit and short on feeling, but here he nails both. The double conceit–a date to a rock show, or an additional number to timeless rock songs–plays out brilliantly: he sings of “a 100th luftballoon” and “the fourth time you were a lady” with a smirk on his face and a tear in his eye.
This swoony track is still the highlight of 2003’s Down the River of Golden Dreams. The violins are moaning, and Sheff’s words are strung so tightly together they seem to be spilling out of his mouth. The pros know that the song’s melodrama works well: Charles Bissell chose to cover this track several years ago in response to Sheff’s near-perfect version of the Wrens’ classic “Ex-Girl Collection.”
Tags: Okkervil River
There was something very exciting about The Weeknd’s ascent in 2011. R&B had finally outgrown its ’90s persona. It no longer had to be about tender love making, or cutesy courtship. Its performers no longer needed to be dancers first, and singers second, or spend the majority of their music videos displaying abdomen wet with sweat, rain or both. Its emotional pallet could be more broad than the template: triumph, love, heartbreak. Perhaps most importantly, it no longer had to play on radio. This was the new R&B, presented to the world by Abel Tesafaye, a shrouded 19 year old, whose first four songs hit the internet, and instantly caught the eyes of millions in months.
When I came across FKA twigs earlier this summer, it took me back to the same excitement I had when hearing “What You Need” two and a half years ago. Much like Tesafaye, Twigs’ music often feels like quiet inside a smut-filled storm. She’s an observer to the seedy scenes of London’s clubs, where she’s tended bar for the better part of a decade. Like Tesafaye, whose vocals have drawn comparisons to Michael Jackson (particularly after his “Dirty Diana” cover), Twigs has already been compared to Janet.
Framing Twigs’ music in the context of R&B, however, is limiting. With only one eclectic EP and an excellent lead single for a forthcoming full-length out, her choice in production veers from the tenants of current R&B, instead drawing more from London’s dub scene. And that might be what makes her sound most exciting.
The Polaris Music Prize was first awarded in 2006, serving as the Canadian equivalent of Britain’s Mercury Prize, or the United States’ short-lived Shortlist Music Prize. 40 eligible Canadian releases are chosen for the longlist by the Polaris Jury, who then pare the group down to a 10 album shortlist before the final vote. Previously, the award has been given to Final Fantasy, Patrick Watson, Caribou, Fucked Up, and Karkwa. The disparity between those winners suggests little rhyme-or-reason is involved with the eventual winner, so the list-making process remains entertaining as ever, as it’s usually anyone’s game.
The most recent winners have come with some stigma attached. Both Fucked Up and Karkwa came completely out of left-field as winners, making many question the final 10-person vote. However, having seen both acts live within the past few months, with Fucked Up making for one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve seen in a long time, and Karkwa completely stealing the show from Plants and Animals, I can no longer say their wins were completely undeserved. I will make no defence for Patrick Watson.
The 2011 shortlist was released yesterday, and despite boasting eight first-time shortlist nominees, it seems to be eliciting more grumbling than previous years. We’re not on the jury, but Ca Va Cool favourites PS I Love You, The Rural Alberta Advantage and Young Galaxy inexplicably did not make the jump from the longlist, and we’re scratching our heads at some of the inclusions. So, without further ado, the artists on the Polaris Music Prize 2011 shortlist:
Here at Ca Va Cool, we love PS I Love You. The eclectic, catchy, metal-reminiscent musical project of Paul Saulnier and Benjamin Nelson that is, not the silly romantic comedy. Since our interview with Saulnier back in September, a lot has changed for the duo. Their debut LP, Meet Me at the Muster Station, has been lauded since it’s October 5 release and they’ve been tearing up the Canadian and American legs of their tour, despite the minor hiccup of some temporarily stolen guitars in Toronto.
As an added bonus for fans, Paper Bag Records has been steadily releasing The Kingston Sessions, a collection of six live PS I Love You videos, shot by Mitch Fillion of Southern Souls in random locations around Kingston, Ontario. Today, we’re bursting with excitement to premiere part 5 of the series, ‘2012’. There’s something apt about Saulnier and Nelson belting out their apocalyptic anthem underneath an off-kilter statue at the Kingston waterfront, which, according to rumours, was designed to meet in the middle but ended up askew. Chaos under chaos. Check it and the previous Kingston Sessions out below.
The Kingston Sessions
Part 1 – ‘Butterflies & Boners’ at Pitchfork
Part 2 – ‘Scattered’ at Herohill
Part 3 – ‘Little Spoon’ at Quick Before It Melts
Part 4 – ‘Meet Me at the Muster Station’ at YouTube
Tags: PS I Love You
The albums were reduced from forty to ten, but there can be only one winner. We gave our opinions on the Shortlist, but the winner of the 2010 Polaris Music Prize is Karkwa, in what is likely the biggest surprise in the history of the award. Unleash your rage, lavish your praise, or express your bafflement in the comments below.