Sometimes, I worry that I’m not Canadian enough. I don’t like a lot of things that Canadians are supposed to like, like Rush, Hockey, or Paul Gross. So I hate to be judgemental about this sort of thing, but I’m going to do it anyway: If you don’t like Broken Social Scene, you are a Bad Canadian.
It’s not just that they’re Canadian. It’s not just that they make really good music. They also seem to be a genuinely nice group of people; while their shows are indisputably excellent, they still maintain the casual feel of a bunch of friends hanging out.
That quality was on display on Sunday when the band played a series of intimate gigs in record shops across Toronto. I snagged a ticket for their show at Soundscapes and got to see the acoustic debut of several songs from their latest album, Forgiveness Rock Record.
That “debut” thing proved to be a bit tricky, as the band prefaced many of the songs with a brief conference in which they figured out how to play it. The show also featured sing-alongs, clapping, and a killer melodica solo by Charles Spearin.
Broken Social Scene is good enough and popular enough to be headlining big shows, but they still feel perfectly comfortable playing in a record store for 75 people. That’s one of the reasons I love them so much.
(I also managed to see them playing at Q, which was a pretty good show as well.)
I first heard Land of Talk several years ago opening for The Dears. By the end of their half-hour set, I was a fan, and picked up a copy of their debut EP, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t as wowed as I was by their live set.
When their first proper album, Some Are Lakes, came out, I had a similar reaction: It was good, at times excellent, but it didn’t live up to the expectations generated by their performance.
So I was excited to see them live again at Lee’s Palace last month, headlining their own show. And true to my initial impressions, they kicked ass. Elizabeth Powell rocks out like no one’s business, even moreso once she remembered to turn her amp on. But the highlight of the show came during the encore when, after an hour of high-volume rock, the band geared down to a single acoustic guitar for a cover of Big Star’s Thirteen – a song I’d never heard, and I don’t think I was alone in the audience.
It was one of the most beautiful performances I’ve ever seen. It’s one thing to keep a crowd’s attention when you’re rocking out, but quieter songs often seem to invite chatter and disinterest. But Powell had everyone’s attention from almost the first note, playing to a still and silent room.
I’m not sure if Land of Talk will ever put out an album that rivals their live show, but I do know I’ll try to see them any time I can.
I discovered Mono a year or two ago, and they’ve quickly become one of my favourite bands. They pick up on the best qualities of Godspeed You Black Emperor, Mogwai, and Sigur Ros, crafting alternately beautiful and furious music. I saw them live last fall, and have a ticket to see them again later this month; in between, I got a copy of Holy Ground, a CD/DVD of a live performance in New York. It’s big, it’s beautiful, and it sounds great. I enjoyed Hymn to the Immortal Wind, but most of its songs sound even better here. The only disappointment is that the DVD – which contains the full 90-minute set – doesn’t really look that interesting, and doesn’t offer much in the way of superior sound. The music is a must-hear, though.
I talked about Lucky Soul a while ago, and guess what? I still love them. Their new album, A Coming Of Age, grows on me more and more every time I listen to it; I don’t like it as much as The Great Unwanted, but that album ranks among my all-time favourites, so it’s a bit of a high standard.
Whoa Billy is fun, poppy, and the video features marionettes. You can’t go wrong with that.
(Sadly, I haven’t seen Lucky Soul in concert yet. That will be remedied at the earliest opportunity.)