Photograph by Riei Nakagawara

Written and recorded by core members Loel Campbell, Tim D’Eon, and Paul Murphy, Wintersleep’s fifth album, Hello Hum, was co-produced by Dave Fridmann, known primarily for his work with the Flaming Lips. From what I can tell, his key contribution is making the vocals sound a little spacier than usual, as this is very much a Wintersleep album. It proves to be the lightest sounding Wintersleep album to date; however, unlike the latter half of New Inheritors, this doesn’t come with sounding wildly out of character, nor does it contain a distracting string section.

I was introduced to much of the album at the band’s performance at Canadian Music Week earlier this year. Now having titles to pair with the songs, Hello Hum lives up to my expectations.  Songs like ‘Resuscitate’ and first single ‘In Came the Flood’ seem sure to become live staples, while ‘Nothing Is Anything (Without You)’ seems to be chasing the radio success of ‘Weighty Ghost’.

I distinctly remember ‘Saving Song’ during the live performance. Much as it did then, the slow acoustic song serves to bring the album’s momentum to a halt. It might work as a closer, but smack dab in the middle of the album seems to be the wrong place for it. As it’s mostly Murphy solo, it would probably be more appropriate as a Postdata song. The album perks up with ‘Rapture’, one of the album’s highlights.

If there is a criticism I can lay against Hello Hum, it’s that it seems to be missing any extended jams in the vein of ‘Miasmal Smoke’ or ‘Nerves Normal’.  The songs are solid, but somewhat straightforward. Despite that gripe, Hello Hum is another strong release from an excellent band.

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— , June 15, 2012    Comments Off on Wintersleep: Hello Hum

Photograph by Gemma Harris

Canadian Music Week isn’t quite as big as NXNE, but this year’s edition boasted a few must-see shows each night, even with notable cancellations like Childish Gambino. Though my initial intent was to just see Wintersleep for the first time in a couple years, winning a wristband made me decide to get to Toronto a day early to get some use out of it.

The prime event for Friday night was, of course, the Arts&Crafts showcase at the Horseshoe Tavern, featuring the new ex-Stills/Broken Social Scene project Eight and a Half, The Darcys, Zeus, and others. As good as that line-up looked, it also meant the wristband line-up stretched out to Spadina, so unless you were there early or had a ticket, you were out of luck.

So instead, it was off to Lee’s Palace to catch Cloud Nothings. Attack on Memory is one of the more hyped releases this year, and the band performed it in its entirety. Opening with ‘Stay Useless’, ‘Fall In’, and ‘Cut You’, they quickly got my three favourite songs out of the way, and I was left to absorb the rest of the set. Little to no banter occurred between songs, and the riffs started to blend together towards the end. I was hoping for something more, but the crowd seemed to approve.

Saturday began with catching a bit of Little Foot Long Foot’s in-store set at Sonic Boom’s new location in Honest Ed’s. Not having been in the city since the Dollarama announcement, I was impressed with the new space, as well as the vinyl specialty store in Kensington Market. Sadly, I realized too late that Zeus was doing an in-store performance later in the day, and will have to settle for seeing them in London in a few weeks.

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— , March 30, 2012    Comments Off on Canadian Music Week 2012

Photograph by Scott Munn

Growing up in rural Ontario didn’t afford me many opportunities for live music. What little options there were amounted to mostly terrible punk rock or screamo, though occasionally a band would roll into town to make the night out worth it. Wintersleep made their name touring relentlessly across the country, including my podunk little town, building a devoted fanbase. Going from that to opening for Sir Paul McCartney is surely a sign that they’ve “made it.”

New Inheritors marks some changes for the band. It’s their first album without founding bassist Jud Haynes, and their first with Mike Bigelow, former utility player and member of Holy Fuck. Previous albums were known for their darkness and cryptic subject matter, but as the comparatively light ‘Weighty Ghost’ has been their biggest hit so far, a shift toward a more optimistic direction wasn’t unexpected. I initially found this newfound optimism a bit disconcerting, particularly when I heard the words “Happiness: it’s all around you” repeated in ‘Mirror Matter’. For the most part, subject matter hasn’t changed, after all, how cheery can a song called ‘Blood Collection’ be? But this noticeably lighter tone, along with the unexpected horn and string sections, was rather jarring on first listen. Where was the Wintersleep I knew and loved?

‘Echolocation’ played a big part in settling me down. The combination of bat imagery and winding guitars brings me to a familiar place. Songs like ‘Blood Collection’, ‘Mausoleum’, and ‘Baltic’ allow the band to cut loose and play to their strengths, while ‘Terrible Man’, ‘Preservation’, and ‘Mirror Matter’, a trio of songs at the end of the album, seem like something from a completely different band. At times I’m not sure what New Inheritors wants to be. Welcome to the Night Sky felt unified; a relentlessly upbeat song like ‘Archaeologists’ could lead into something like ‘Dead Letter and the Infinite Yes’ and not skip a beat. Here, the poppy, upbeat tracks clash with instead of complement the darker, more extended rockers. It’s an album I desperately want to love, but right now New Inheritors feels disjointed and a little off.

Wintersleep – Echolocation
Wintersleep – Black Camera

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— , June 1, 2010    1 Comment

Postdata

2007’s Welcome to the Night Sky was a breakthrough for Wintersleep, a band near and dear to my heart. I never would have imagined that ‘Weighty Ghost’ would be the song to bring them widespread recognition, but it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving group. Members of the band have taken part in numerous side projects, including Holy Fuck and Contrived, but lead singer Paul Murphy has largely remained quiet. With its roots in a gift for his mother and helped along with a bottle of scotch, Postdata is performed and written by Paul, while mixed and recorded by his brother Michael.

While Contrived is an extension of the louder aspects of Wintersleep, Postdata is a sombre collection of sparse home recordings, echoing the simple production of Wintersleep’s self-titled album, particularly songs like ‘Butterfly’ and ‘Ambulance’. The focus here is almost entirely on Murphy’s voice and an acoustic guitar. Familiar themes of mental illness and death surface throughout the album. Highlights include the haunting character study of ‘Tobias Grey’ and opening track ‘Lazarus’. Murphy’s lyrics are as strong as ever, shifting from conversational to stream of consciousness, remaining cryptic but with a passion that is all too clear.

Much like Julian Plenti did last year for Interpol, Postdata provides us with some much needed new material as we await the new Wintersleep album, set for release in May. The better side projects produce music that would not be possible in the main band. Wintersleep’s harder edge precludes the possibility of many quiet acoustic songs, but Postdata provides a loving sanctuary for songs that might have otherwise gone unheard.

Postdata – Tobias Grey
Postdata – Lazarus
Postdata – Eclipse

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— , January 31, 2010    3 Comments

When I saw the V-Fest line-up for Day 1, I was pretty pleased, these were all bands that I’ve seen before and I knew rocked. So I figured why not, it rocked the first time, why wouldn’t it rock the second? So instead of checking out more novel bands throughout the day, I stuck with the tried and true.

After waiting to get on the ferry for who knows how long, I was fortunate to get to the Virgin Mobile stage just as the Constantines were opening with Nighttime/Anytime. They played a solid, but short set. To be honest I’m not that familiar with most of the Cons’ material, but I enjoyed them headlining LOLAfest last year, and enjoyed them again this time.

After they finished up, I pushed my way up before MGMT‘s set, since I hadn’t seen them yet. I’ve heard contrasting opinions of their live show. While they weren’t particularly outstanding, there was a palpable energy that hit the crowd when the band played the three best songs from Oracular Spectacular: Time to Pretend, Electric Feel, and ending with Kids. The performance of Kids struck me as particularly odd, as it played out as bad karaoke with the duo singing while dancing around the stage, but it somehow worked. Perhaps the hokey passing of the water bottle in tune with the lyrics got me. But hey, the kids were dancing so I guess they did their job.

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— , September 7, 2008    Comments Off on Toronto Virgin Festival 2008