Blitzen Trapper covers Ryan Adams To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)

This beauty version by Eric Earley et al (aka Blitzen Trapper) comes at a nice time reminding listeners of the enduring significance of the Trapper who embody in many ways the Portland and the new Sub Pop sound.  Apart from 2011's American Goldwing, which was a musical disappointment and a rare loss of momentum for a band who has churned out phenomenal releases in fairly short order (including their Rolling Stone attention grabbing Wild Mountain Nation (2007), Furr (2008) and Destroyer of the Void (2010).  Notably Goldwing, which sounded more like an Earley solo record than a full on Trapper record, was the bands last on Sub Pop with them moving to Vagrant for 2013's VII.   In any case here's a lovely rendition of our milllenial bard Mr. Ryan Adams as only Earley and the Trapper could.


THE 天国畑 JAPON​/​The Tengoku Batake Japon - かろみのすてっぷ​/​Karomi No Step

Guruguru is a record label started by Kikagaku Moyo intended as his contribution to the broader psychedelic Asian music.  Gururu Brain Wash is a 150 minute compilation of artists who have appeared at the Tokyo Psych fest  and it's one of the more exciting musical things to come out of Japan in some time.  Reflecting vaguely - through a Shinto lens - other contemporary trends in Western Music including the almost J PsyPop fun of  Karomi No Step by The Tengoku Batake Japon ranging to the psychedelic noisecore like Astro by Dhidalah (17:20)


Black Milk - Boiler Room DJ Set 08.20.14

An Evening With... Black Milk is an exhilirating live run through of Cross' more synth-based material present of late including the quick follow-up to the No Poison No Paradise LP (2013) - this year's Glitches In The Break EP (influenced and informed by guests such as Robert Glasper). The set includes his hotcake new joint Detroit's New Dance Show.  Also showcased is unreleased material such as cuts from Melanie Rutherford's mysterious Searching For Sanity album.  Who knows what Milk's source material is most of the time.  He is such a prodigious crate digger and one of a few living legends on the MPC that his source material is often times wholly indistinguishable.  Busta Rhymes and Danny Brown's distinctive patter may be more easy to recognize.

Black Milk - Detroit's New Dance Show, What It's Worth, Gold Piece (Latest Tracks)


Black Milk w. Bun B - Gold Piece

We need not mention here at Northern Heads that Black Milk (born Curtis Cross) - the foremost of many proteges of the immortal J Dilla- is one of the most important artists in Hip Hop today.  Where much of contemporary hip hop has become a laughingstock, and admittedly Milk has had a number of career missteps, still there is hope.  His last full length No Poison No Paradise (2013) followed shortly thereafter by Glitches In The Break (2014) restored faith in his deep production talent.  Cross sees himself as a producer/ rapper and his work suffered in recent years due to his focus on his lyricism.  Poison represented a through point where Milk again brought his production into the forefront while stepping up his lyrical game.  Glitches focused more basically on his production strengths.   Cross constantly baits his core audience - ourselves included- with a 'vault' of material he's constantly producing and moving beyond.

This new collaboration with self-determining Hip Hop legend Bun B only further raises the stakes on what listeners should anticipate from this determined artist.


War On Drugs kick off tour with strong Toronto show (Califone opener) 09.15.14

The War On Drugs - Phoenix Concert Theatre (09.15.14)

The presumption is probably safe that when a musical layman hears the name of a band they assume a sort of democracy.  Who of us has been in a band?  How do they operate from the inside?   Do most bands operate similarly or differently?  Oddly enough the former is probably more true than the latter.  Which is to say that most bands are probably more similar than they are different.  Inevitably even the most democratic-seeming of groups has a musical and business leader and invariably they're one in the same.  Some groups are more group groups but the groups on the band this evening were decidedly of the songwriter/ sideman tradition.  Not that any of that would be evident at eye level.  And even saying it is a little uncomfortable and feels like it might take away from the music which it should not.

The fact remains that Califone really means Tim Rutili and a revolving ensemble of musical collaborators.  Just as his musical cohort Eric D. Johnson is a pseudonym for Fruit Bats and their pal Andy Cabic for Vetiver.  You wouldn't think it from the live show but the same could be said of Adam Granduciel and The War On Drugs although that's no big secret.

Califone - Phoenix Concert Theatre 09.15.14
Califone (and later on this tour The Barr Brothers) are inspired choices as each opener accents aspects of a whimsical, cinematic and Americana-based sound all the groups share at times.  To a half full and attentive throng Rutili took his group through the paces of a small sampling of the music he's recorded as Califone over the years.  Set opener Vampiring Again (from 2003's Quicksand/ Cradlesnakes) took us back to the earliest beginnings of Califone which grew out of the Perishable Records family and a handful of musicians including Johnson, his bandmate/ engineer/notable Canadian Graeme Gibson and Rutili's frequent collaborator Jim Becker.  Members of Califone have featured prominently on Fruit Bats various releases such as the forthright Ruminant Band.   The second song out of the gate brought the catalogue more fully up to the present with a song from the same period 2012's Electric Fence from Good Weather Sometimes Follows Bad People.  While Califone is known for their often sweeping and cinematic sound the music is always drapery to frame Rutili's words.  The lyrics for instance to Electric Fence alone deserve to be printed in their entirety and might easily be confused for quite a good prose poem:

Lit a blue tip match off the white in your eye
It's apples and cigarettes on cold water drive
Give your belly to the lions and your throat to all their babies
The power washer screams like a panther
Your rope and scar and rabbit hearts
Jesus drains electric fences to fill you again
Sailor's mouth and falling brail
Don't fall away, don't fall away
You sleep like an angel with sparrows beneath your eyelids
Wash it down in a fountain, lean into the kill
The mayflies all explode when they come to the coil at the driving range under blocks of fake light
A broken feel, electric fence
Don't fall away, don't fall away

The rest of Califone's set, their first with The War On Drugs this tour as Rutili noted, ran through 2013's Stitches almost in its entirety. Califone is known for albums that are often individually thematic and based on a dream (Heron King Blues) or a silent film (Deceleration 1 and 2) a quality reflected in the title Movie Music Kills A Kiss.  This was followed by a really confident number Moses, the title track Stitches, Bells Breaks Arms, Magdalene and Frosted Tips.  Califone albums have also been based on stories (All My Friends Are Funeral Singers) and Rutili et. al. fit in a jubilant rendition of Funeral Singers just before the end of their set.

New York, Califone's hometown of Chicago and The War On Drugs own Philadelphia get the big bands on the weekends.  Due to the subline vaguaries of tour logistics and accounting Toronto tends to get more than its fair share of midweek or in this case Monday night shows.  Which is not to say that work, rain or anything else kept the working stiffs and rock and roll kids away.  Tickets which had sold out instantly were no doubt going for cocaine prices outdoors.  When the band hit the stage the audience had neatly packed in like a very polite tin of sardines.

Opener Burning brought the wash of sound, the debt to Spaceman 3 more evident in the live show then Bruce Springsteen or Dire Straits, that we've come to know as The War On Drugs over the crowd.  Nodding to the back catalogue front man Adam Granduciel took the group through Arms Like Boulders from 2008's Wagonwheel Blues and Comin' Through from 2010's Future Weather EP.  The group's sound is so distinctive on this album that even these songs were painted with its patina and seemed slightly out of place if only because the audience would have likely been quite fine with a straight run through of Lost In The Dream.  Which is what they got moving forward.

By the mid-set mark the obligatory Under the Pressure released the soul valve's deep below. Alternating peals of tears or laughter both came with welcome.  In Reverse and An Ocean In Between The Waves both got epic treatments building momentum, gravity and volume that few bands shy of My Morning Jacket can pull off with any semblance of melody.  Buenos Aires Beach, again from Wagonwheel Blues, then came as a welcome respite from the dionysian vibe that kept churning.   Closing out the set the beautiful Red Eyes and one of- if not the- hallmark song on the album Eyes To The Wind.

Live there is no doubt that The War On Drugs are a phenomenal force to be reckoned with.  Much of the dynamic seems to come out of the interplay between Granduciel on lead guitar and David Hartley on bass whose laid back vibe provides the perfect counterpoint to Granduciel's rock star chicanery.   The same is true of the dynamic between the phenomenal drummer Patrick Berkery and Hartley.  Robbie Bennett on a huge array of keyboards and synths clearly makes much of the sound happen live.  What the four of them can't pull off gets added by another two sidemen on keys/guitar and saxes/synths the sound is as full as one could possibly make it.  For the listener there is a constant exultant feeling that the dam just might burst but knowing that it won't. 

But its Adam that sits alone by a window in his home in a craven posture that suggests the angst, loneliness and paranoia that inform much of the album's lyrics.  Bands even the most bombastic and democratic ones take heavier tolls on some members than others.  In the wake of the success of 2011's Slave Ambient Granduciel struggled to adapt back to everyday life.  In grappling with the demons that came out of that period he had the lyrical core of Lost In The Dream.  Clearly too much of the strength he would need for the next chapter.  Despite the appearance of solidarity he was a man alone, stating: " "This wasn’t a band record. This was a solo record. I knew that. They’ve [War on Drugs' albums] all been solo records."

As your heart reaches up into your throat, and your soul ache takes five (as the entire security detail seemed to do periodically as if to promote a partially decriminalized environment for marijuana) one is not thinking about notion's of agency, collaboration, causation and chance in the songwriting process.  Hopefully one is dancing their blues away, or at least swaying.  Encores Best Night from Slave Ambient and the inevitable Suffering gave the audience one last chance to get their yaya's out.  And they did.

War On Drugs - Phoenix, Toronto setlist (09.15.14)

War On Drugs - Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON 

The War On Drugs 
w. Califone
Phoenix Concert Theatre
Toronto, ON

Arms Like Boulders#
Comin' Through*
Under the  Pressure
In Reverse
An Ocean In Between The Waves
Come To The City^
Buenos Aires Beach#
Red Eyes
Lost In The Dream
Eyes To The Wind

Best Night^

# Wagonwheel Blues (2008)
* Future Weather EP (2010)
^ Slave Ambient (2011)


Neil Quin of Zeus interview part 1 (home towns, biography, influences)

Neil Quin of Zeus - NXNE Cameron House outdoor stage 06.21.14

LB: Congratulations again on the NXNE show and the show the other night.  And it must be nice after such arduous touring to be back before a hometown crowd?

NQ: Absolutely we loved playing in Toronto the last couple of times. It was a great feeling and a great sort of lettin' everybody know we're back in business people are happy to see it so it's and it's just a happy time.

LB:  I think we're happy for you.  Can we just start as a preliminary talk about your own biography, about your hometown and where you were born and raised

NQ: Sure, I was born in Toronto at Toronto East General Hospital and then the family moved to Orillia in 1988.  And yeah ya know, small town, the rest of the boys they came from Barrie and Oro so we were all sort of from the same region but we met each other later in life.

LB: When abouts did you meet each other?

NQ:  I met those guys probably 2006.  I met Carlin one time and I played with him very shortly after I joined The Golden Dogs he used to be in the band as well we did some shows together had some fun, I met Mike later on, and Carlin's brother (Liam) and everyone else that was involved and sure enough we spent more and more time together which was cool.

LB: You're anticipating my next question which is you're going out on a Family Affair tour in support of this record with The Golden Dogs, and your dear friend Taylor Knox and band mate in Major Grange.  I guess what I really wanted to know is what years were you in The Golden Dogs during the same period as Carlin?

NQ: We just sort of crossed over each other I just stepped in as he left.

LB:  What years would that have been?

NQ: That would've been 2005 whenever year I joined the band.

LB: It just seems to me, and its just worth noting besides the play on words- is that one thing that's really Classic about this record is you've returned to the 'classic' line-up of players that were on the original recordings; Taylor Knox, Dave Azzolini, Jessica Grassia and I guess you added Peter Elkas to the mix.  Was that a conscious decision or was that just sort of hanging out in the Ill Eagle clubhouse?

NQ: It was really just the way it goes it was all about who was around at that time.  Carlin and Mike when they were making the first Zeus record they really didn't know what they were doing they were  just recording songs with each other so it was really just celebration- whoever was around happened to be a part of the recording process.  We just hung around.  This time it was just like Dave Azzolini was there a lot of the time because they live upstairs from the studio, so he was with us hangin' out, makin' tea and he and Jess they were off on Fridays and they'd come down and hang out.  They were featured on some singing and clapping and stuff but I think it was just the kind of energy that it was our record to make and we were totally game time on it.

LB:  You're talking about the first one right now? 

NQ: No I'm talking about the third one now I'm talking about that"s what the difference is- the people are still around but its not as often and it was kind of like it was our project it was how it felt- it happened naturally.

LB:  And what about having this ensemble of players together with you on this Classic Zeus outing is that just an outgrowth of the sort of family relationship that you all have?

NQ:  I wouldn't call it that its just kind of each band kind of hunkers down and gets down to their bottom line and it just happened to be what suited the music was just the four of us working together. A lot of me, Carlin and Mike in the studio together making decisions and producing together.  It was very much us getting to know ourselves and each other better and not having friends around all the time, we're all obviously buddies, but we can just get down to work and work and focus and be more tedious about things.  And I think that we spent a lot more time on this record, and for good reason you know, it needed to sound a certain way. 

LB: I hear what you're saying.  I guess one thing that interests me is that a really strong song from your last outing Strong Mind started as Major Grange song as I understand?

NQ: Yeah

LB:  Are there other songs like on this record or others that started elsewhere and have become parts of the Zeus canon or Classic Zeus?

NQ: Let me see here.  Yeah another song of mine called Where Is My Love? the first song on the record I used to play in a band called Bad Yoga...

LB: (laughs)

NQ: ...With Jay McCarrol (Brave Shores), my friend Matt Miller and our buddy Dave Dalrymple who's in a band called Wax Atlantic, he's the other half of Major Grange to tie it into Taylor Knox. And we've also got the Taylor Knox Band now going- and we also have Wax Atlantic joining us on a few dates.

LB:  So you're touching on what I wanted to ask you which is the current bands or projects you're currently involved in are?

NQ: All of those.

LB: (laughs)... the ones we just mentioned.

NQ:  Yeah, exactly.  Taylor and I did a lot of playing on the Wax Atlantic record.  You know, there's a lot of moments on that where it felt like Major Grange reunited.  You know, in the studio with the three of us, the original line up.  Where I would do drums, Taylor on bass and Dave on guitar and we had some really fun nights together.  It was like band therapy, you know.

LB:  Was Major Grange more of band therapy thing or was that a side project?

NQ: It was just because the band had broken up that's why I called it band therapy. We hadn't played together in a few years because we had replaced...like, I used to play the drums in the band.  We got our friend Rob Gordon involved to play the drums and that was the final days of Major Grange and that was great and everything.

LB: In what years was the band active in?

NQ:  2008, 2009 I guess.  The course of that year we played some shows and made a crack at some recordings and stuff.  It didn't pan out and we didn't release anything in that lineup.  After that, a couple of years had gone by and Dave was writing.  So, yeah, that's what I was trying to say.  We were buddies the whole time it was just kind of hadn't got together and played like that.

LB: I want to get into the record itself because it really deserves some attention but I want to talk for a second about influences. I realize that you and Zeus are a lot more than the sum of your influences. The ones that get tossed around a lot are The Beatles, The Band, Big Star, I know you guys love the Superfriendz and Matt Murphy.  I think you admire Dr. Dog. Are there other contemporary bands that you feel are like contemporaries of yours?

NQ: We have a wide range of influences it's kind of funny. Those bands that kind of resemble our sound seem to be the most obvious. Carlin, for instance, is a huge Michael Jackson fan.We're all big Michael Jackson fans, we all listen to a lot of soul music...

LB: Name some of the soul music you listen to.

NQ: Ah man, like, the whole Motown arrangement. We all really love Stevie. You know, the Funk Brothers and every record they touched. Just you know there was something magic in that Motown sound. We love Robert Palmer- Simply Irresistible. I really like The Eagles, the other guys don't so much but they're coming around. I see a lot of comparisons between The Eagles and Zeus and the hooks and how some of the songs are written.

LB: Some of the eras of The Eagles more than others, maybe.

NQ: Yeah. Absolutely. You know, we dig Alan Parsons, some squiggy AM Gold. Stuff like that.  We've been digging some Chicago as of late. Geez, let's think of more contemporary stuff.  I love the Junior Boys.  I think they've had a big influence.

LB: Yeah, we talked about this the other night and I was kind of surprised, in a nice way, because the Junior Boys, as you mentioned, are Hamilton proud, that they're, you know, electronic musicians for the world and important Canadian musicians. It was a little surprising to hear you say that Heavy On Me, one of your songs with the most cross-over appeal, that you were really influenced by the Junior Boys on that one. 

NQ: Big Time.



The Barr Brothers (The Slip) - Love Ain't Enough stream

The Barr Brothers - Massey Hall during NXNE (06.20.14)

During The Barr Brothers devastating performance at Massey Hall during NXNE I turned to a dear friend who has seen this and many bands more times than I have or can fathom and during Love Ain't Enough said: "This is a Slip tune".  He sort of looked at me with his molly'd out googly eyes I've come to know and love as if to say I was the one off his rocker not him.  But I was right and he was wrong.

Love Ain't Enough it turns out did begin as a Slip tune and demo versions were produced around 2010-2011 when the Barr's third side project Surprise Me Mr. Davis was touring southern Ontario.  The demo at the time contained another nameless tune which had appeared in Slip setlists in 2010 as Powerful Joint.  It was during this period that a very select few fans also heard a recording of just half of a fully worked up version of Summer of My Fall (being held back for a full vinyl release) - the staple of the SMMD repertoire as it closely resembles it's live renditions from that period with a strong 50's backbeat style that brought this phenomenal Nathan Moore song to life.   Likewise England which appears on the forthcoming Sleeping Operator (on Secret City records) which aired at Massey Hall began as a Slip song.

Of the some 40 songs that The Barr Brothers worked up for Sleeping Operator then whittled down to 11 it will be interesting to see when these other projects (Surprise Me Mr. Davis and The Slip) inevitably tour and record together again which material will fall to which ensemble.  In all it gives a lot of hope to dedicated fans of The Slip's post-bop driving jazz foundations that a high tide will carry many boats. 

Brave Shores - Never Come Down

Brave Shores are brother and sister duo Jay and Stefanie McCarrol - members at large of the Ill Eagle Records family.  Stefanie is currently reinvigorating The Golden Dogs of which Jay is also an alumnus (as is the producer Carlin Nicholson).  Never Come Down captures many of the idyllic themes of Indian Summer present on Carlin's band Zeus' just released Classic Zeus, although with more of a balls out electro sound.  Brave Shores share common elements with The Golden Dogs and Zeus but as with each of those bands has a well carved out sound of their own.


Leonard Cohen releases 'Popular Problems' Sept. 23

Another Popular Problem
"There is a crack in Everything, that's how the Light gets in." - Leonard Cohen
 Two days after Canada's poet laureate turns 80 he will release an unexpected album of new material entitled Popular Problems.  Produced by Old Idea's (2012) producer Patrick Leonard the album features nine new songs which have had limited live debuts (Born In Chains appeared in 2010 setlists and My, Oh My was played in soundcheck).

Since having been heinously swindled for his life's earnings by his former manager Cohen toured extensively in support of his previous release playing epic three and a half hour shows.  Cohen has not indicated he will be touring in support of Popular Problems (which is available for pre-order on Itunes with a free download of Almost Like The Blues).


"Classic Zeus" album release secret show setlist (08.02.14)

'Classic Zeus' album release
Alley behind June Records, 08.02.14

Where Is My Love?
Love/ Pain
Miss My Friends
Bonnie View
One Line Written In
Come Home
Strong Mind
Daemons (Renegades Way)
27 Is The New 17
I Know
Marching Through Your Head
Heavy On Me
You Could Have A Lover
Are You Gonna Waste My Time

Anything You Want Dear
Hot Under The Collar