Photograph by Liam Maloney

Photograph by Liam Maloney

When I saw Arcade Fire at Massey Hall during their Neon Bible tour in 2007, I was rather irritated that I missed the opener, Handsome Furs. It was prior to the release of their debut album Plague Park, but I had a feeling anything to do with Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner would have been worth seeing. It wasn’t quite the disappointment of missing Wolf Parade play the Ford Plant, a small venue in Brantford, Ontario, but it was still a sore subject. When Handsome Furs announced they would be playing a one-off show at Lee’s Palace to close off their 2009 tour, I jumped on the opportunity to finally see them. My only previous experience with Lee’s Palace has been through the Scott Pilgrim books, so I was eager to add to the list of Toronto venues I’ve conquered.

Since the famed mural had been torn down ahead of renovations and a Big Fat Burrito franchise in the process of being put into the building, I was basically looking for a crowd of people on Bloor. Following a prior engagement, I arrived in time for the opening act’s final song. The website listing simply stated Handsome Furs was being supported by “Guests”, leading me to wonder whether that was the actual name of the band. After a rather fruitless and, in retrospect, ridiculous Google search, I decided that it couldn’t possibly be the band’s name. Either way, the unknown band impressed with a high energy synth-rock closing song. It wasn’t until Dan Boeckner thanked Germans for opening that their identity was revealed.

The crowd was clearly amped up and ready for the headliners. The mere sight of Dan Boeckner or Alexei Perry was enough to elicit cheers. Perhaps succumbing to the pressure of a full house, the show started ahead of schedule with ‘Legal Tender’, a song about “the current economic situation.” Amusing descriptions of songs’ subject matter continued throughout the night, with the best being ‘Evangeline’ being described by Boeckner as being about “Doin’ it.” This was quickly corrected by Perry, who insisted it was about “Fuckin’.” The chemistry between Perry and Boeckner added so much to the performance; being husband and wife, the “I love you” glances were frequent and adorable. I was worried the large stage would engulf them, but the duo had a presence that filled the entire room. Particularly amusing was Perry thrashing about behind her keyboard/drum machine set up, bouncing in tune in her shiny golden attire. Her backing vocals are somewhat lost in the mix on record, but they made ‘All We Want, Baby, Is Everything’ and its New Order referencing far more powerful in person. Boeckner, admittedly somewhat intoxicated, shredded like few guitarists I’ve seen before. I was amazed at how much sound came from two people.

Handsome Furs – All We Want Baby Is Everything
Handsome Furs – Dead + Rural
Handsome Furs – Evangeline

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— , December 17, 2009    Comments Off on Handsome Furs: Lee’s Palace

Handsome Furs

A couple of weeks ago, the Polaris Music Prize announced its  long list of nominees for 2009. Each year the prize is awarded to the best Canadian album chosen by a jury of a hundred-odd music writers, editors and bloggers from all over the country. Any album produced in Canada within the last year by a Canadian band is eligible for nomination. How it goes is that jury members select their five favourite albums, and the top forty make the Polaris long list. A few weeks later, after the albums on the long list have been played repeatedly and agonized over, the Jury selects their top ten for the Polaris short list. This year the short list will be announced on July 7 and the grand prize, an amazing $20,000, will be awarded on September 21.

The Polaris Music Prize was started a mere three years ago in 2006. The very first winner of the prize was Final Fantasy for his album He Poos Clouds. Since then the contest has served to assist numerous Canadian artists by promoting their albums and giving a massive boost to its winners. In 2007, Patrick Watson won for his album Close to Paradise and in 2009 Caribou won for Andorra. Other giants have been included in the Polaris short list for their remarkable releases, including Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Feist, Miracle Fortress, the New Pornographers, Sarah Harmer, the Weakerthans, and the list goes on and on.

This year’s long list features a ton of amazing Canadian talent. Many bands are fresh members of the music scene and many are well-established veterans. The Arkells, Beast, and Coeur de Pirate have all been nominated for debut albums, whereas Metric, The Stills, Martha Wainwright and Leonard Cohen are all recognized for their ongoing work. Patrick Watson is back with another album after his big win two years ago, as are Wolf Parade, Junior Boys, Joel Plaskett and Chad VanGaalen who also all made the short list in 2007. Finally, Ca Va Cool favourites Japandroids, Handsome Furs, and Pink Mountaintops made this year’s long list, much to Ca Va pride.

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— , July 1, 2009    27 Comments


I saw the Arcade Fire at Massey Hall during their Neon Bible tour a couple of years ago. Much to my dismay, I just missed Handsome Furs’ opening set. Several months later, I missed another chance to see them in a far more intimate setting. I feel as if I’m doomed to never see these people live. Yet another in a slew of Wolf Parade off-shoots and side-projects, Handsome Furs is made up of Dan Boeckner and his wife Alexei Perry. Their follow-up to the outstanding Plague Park is due this March, and first impressions indicate that Face Control is another solid album. The synthesizer and drum machine based rock of their debut remains, but I feel like this record is slightly more upbeat than the previous one. Let’s just see if I can catch them on the tour for this album.

Handsome Furs – Radio Kaliningrad

Since I did open with an Arcade Fire quip, I suppose it’s only fitting to mention what they’ve been up to. They recently released a concert film called Miroir Noir documenting the Neon Bible tour. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve heard good things. In promotion for the film, on Boxing Day the band released a free download of Burning Bridges, an instrumental version of the unreleased song Burning Bridges, Breaking Hearts.  I miss the vocals, but it serves as some decent background music.  It has since been taken down, but if you missed it, you can obtain it here. Since I’m in the sharing mood, I’ll throw in yet another unreleased tune.

Arcade Fire – Burning Bridges (ZSHARE)

Arcade Fire – Burning Bridges, Breaking Hearts

Arcade Fire – Cars and Telephones

Another previously unreleased track known as “Lenin” is set to be on the charity compilation Dark Was The Night. Hopefully this signifies that the band is gearing up for a busy 2009.

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— , January 10, 2009    6 Comments

The first ever Ca Va Cool mix includes some highlights from the writers’ favourite albums, EPs, and singles of 2007. Pretty representative of what was important this year in indie pop, rock, and dance (indie being a sound, attitude, and aesthetic, rather than commercial means). This was a team effort, and you know what they say about herd mentality: it’s never wrong.

01. Spoon – The Underdog
02. Shout Out Louds – Tonight I Have to Leave It
03. Tokyo Police Club – Box
04. The Teenagers – Homecoming
05. The Shins – Australia
06. Radiohead – House of Cards
07. Basia Bulat – I Was a Daughter
08. M.I.A. – Paper Planes
09. The New Pornographers – My Right Versus Yours
10. Panda Bear – Comfy in Nautica
11. The National – Slow Show
12. Miracle Fortress – Maybe Lately
13. Two Hours Traffic – Stuck for the Summer
14. LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends
15. Jens Lekman – The Opposite of Hallelujah
16. Handsome Furs – Handsome Furs Hate This City
17. Feist – Past in Present
18. Justice – D.A.N.C.E.
19. Stars – Window Bird
20. The Cribs – Moving Pictures
21. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Satan Said Dance
22. Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You
23. Band of Horses – Is There a Ghost
24. Arcade Fire – The Well and the Lighthouse
25. Au Revoir Simone – Sad Song

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— , December 25, 2007    4 Comments