Tag Archives: Lykke Li

Lykke Li Ain’t No Dance Party

Lykke Li

Lykke Li

February 6, 2009
Phoenix Concert Theatre
Toronto, ON

With all the gays and American Apparel leggings, it would have been easy to confuse the rammed Lykke Li show at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre with some hip West Queen West theme night, but the Swedish pop phenom’s show was often more (and less) than a primpin’ dance party.

The promise of dancing was there. Li started her set with a torqued-up version of “Dance, Dance, Dance” that immediately got the all-ages crowd bouncing. Li, who looked the part of a wood nymph let loose in the city, was all spastic dance moves while she furiously beat a lone cymbal at centre stage.

Li only fueled the dance fire further by asking the crowd early on, “How many people like to dance? Raise their hands.”

The problem with all this dance talk is that in the cold, hard truth of it, Li’s music isn’t all that danceable. It’s sort of like trying to make a mosh pit while listening to a Sugarcubes record. There are clearly danceable moments when one takes in Li’s Youth Novels breakthrough album, but it’s definitely not defined by the boogie as much as it flirts with it in the midst of a sonic adventure.

By the time Li got to “Hanging High” — complete with the rather thunderous double-drumming cameo from openers Wildbirds & Peacedrums — the Toronto audience had settled into a polite collective sway and most hopes of a real dance party were gone.

The Sugarcubes mention isn’t by accident either. Whether it was the strange boa/scarf thing that Li wore that made her boobs look like they threw up leaves, or her occasionally inhuman vocal bleats and wails, Bjork is about the only truly appropriate touchstone by which to compare Li.

It’s fitting, then, that the night’s most magical moment came when Li performed a massive take on “Complaint Department.” Li’s signature song punished in the same way that Bjork perfectly amalgamated pristine vocals and stomping industrial beats on “Army Of Me” almost 15 years ago. She began the song alone on stage and sang to backing programming while she threw herself about.

It appeared this was going to be a Peaches-like solo effort until the song broke down and her entire band reappeared to blast towards the conclusion. The much hoped-for dance party was finally here, but it seemed like the audience was paralyzed by the fact that the dance party they were getting was more Nitzer Ebb than Katy Perry.

The electric circus fizzled out only a short time later when Li entered into the stretch-the-set-out phase of the evening by covering Kings Of Leon’s “Knocked Up.” The song’s by no means a winner to begin with, and Li’s rendition did nothing to make it one.

At least that misstep was more than made up for by the closeout of the proper set with a vibrant take on the megaphone-enhanced “Breaking It Up.”

It was then on to the encore portion of the show, and with it came an intriguing glimpse of what might become of Li. She came on stage alone to do a couple of a capella verses of what I believe was Little Anthony And The Imperials’ “Tears On My Pillow” before she stopped and asked the crowd whether anyone knew what she was singing. Having decided that no one did, she launched into her best song, “Tonight.”

The ballad was what everyone was there to hear, but it definitely did nothing to end the night on a dance-y note, which may have been why Li decided to jar everyone out of slow song mode with what appeared to be a cover of A Tribe Called Quest’s Lou Reed-cribbing rap song, “Can I Kick It.”

That Li took the audience on an adventure that included Lou Reed, rapping, Kings Of Leon, industrial dance stomping, old-time crooning and copious Bjork-isms means she’s going to be capable of pretty much anything she puts her mind to in the future. It probably won’t be a dance party, though.

This review was originally published February 9, 2009 via Chart Communications.

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Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Are We There’ Is Aaron’s Top Album For 2014

Sharon Van Etten's Are We There

Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There

Looking at my Top 10 for the year is revealing both for what’s on it and what isn’t. This year there were easily 20-30 “really good” records which bubbled under my eventual picks, including offerings from The Hidden Cameras, My Brightest Diamond, Ariel Pink, Prince Rupert’s Drops, Thus Owls, Budos Band and, rather shockingly, Robert Plant. This was also the year where I rediscovered my heavy music roots and spent a substantial amount of time with bangers from Lost Society, Judas Priest, Comet Control, Orchid, The Prophecy 23, Exodus, Accept, The Skull, Incite, and the improbable rap-metal of Rise Of The Northstar. That said, when it came down to it I didn’t feel that deeper connection with any of these albums.

In the realm of reissues and the like, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for The Velvet Underground thanks to those ultra-thorough deluxe reissues and took quite a trip by going through the complete Bob Dylan discography. Better, though, was my time with the 27-disc Fela Kuti complete works box set. That quite literally consumed about two month of my music-listening time.

Here is my official Top 10 album list for 2014:

10) Common Nobody’s Smiling

Not sure why it was that after 20 years and 10 albums this particular Common record stuck with me. Certainly Nobody’s Smiling‘s reflective, unflinchingly honest look-back quality had something to it. It also helped that “Out On Bond” and “Hustle Harder” are full of tough truth.

9) The Horrors Luminous

I frequently purge ‘n’ rebuild my iPhone’s music library throughout the year, often using it as a tool to listen to new records while I’m commuting. With that in mind, it wasn’t until I realized Luminous had survived numerous digital cullings that I became fully aware of how much I dug this collection of lysergic, broody synth rock.

8) Lykke Li I Never Learn

There’s a scene in an early Mad Men episode where Arthur Case says to January Jones’ Betty Draper character, “You’re profoundly sad.” She then responds, “No. My people are just Nordic.” I’m still trying to figure out whether Lykke Li is profoundly sad or just Nordic.

7) Run The Jewels Run The Jewels 2

There’ve been at least a half-dozen instances where I second-guessed putting this album on the list as an inverse don’t-believe-the-hype reaction to all the praise it’s getting. Then I listen to it again and it’s BAM… like that song… BAM… dig that one, too… BAM… shit, that’s the best thing Zack De La Rocha’s ever done… and then I remember, “Yeah, this is pretty amazing.” Best of all, there’s actual rapping. Using words. And rhymes. And if we don’t support craftsmanship like this the world is just going to serve us up more Tyler, The Creator.

6) Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence

Ultraviolence may be prepackaged hipster lounge from a soulless coke zombie, but it’s also pretty much the platonic ideal of what prepackaged hipster lounge from a soulless coke zombie would sound like. When I listen to Ultraviolence I’m not sure if I should be sad for Lana Del Rey, if I should hate her, or if I’m supposed to be jealous of her. In fact, about the only thing I feel confident about when I listen to this album is the belief it’s secretly a concept album tribute to the movie version of Less Than Zero.

5) Paolo Nutini Caustic Love

Blue-eyed soul’s been taking a beating recently what with its Robin Thickes and Maroon 5s and the people who love them (and the need for them all to be set on fire). Thank Gaye, then, for Paolo Nutini’s Caustic Love. Things aren’t great when Nutini tries to funk below the belt (see “Numpty,” “Scream (Funk My Life Up)”), but the more earnest moments (“One Day,” “Better Man,” “Iron Sky,” “Let Me Down Easy”) are heart-sickeningly gorgeous.

4) Alvvays Alvvays

If you’re a human person and you don’t like at least three songs from this album there’s something wrong with you.

3) Guy Blakeslee Ophelia Slowly

Who knew that there were still musicians making records about heroin in 2014? But Guy Blakeslee, frontman for The Entrance Band, did just that with his Ophelia Slowly solo album. There’s less psychedelic sonic adventuring here than with Entrance and a greater focus on “songs,” the result of which is an incisive, uncomfortably bleak journey.

2) Lisa Leblanc Highways, Heartaches and Time Well Wasted

Full of compulsively listenable stories from the struggle, I seriously contemplated making Highways, Heartaches and Time Well Wasted the #1. Ultimately, what stopped me were the facts that it was an EP and I needed more, and the suspicion the instrumental title track exists mostly as padding.

1) Sharon Van Etten Are We There

I’m still not 100 per cent on this as my #1 pick and have no idea how I’ll feel about it in a few years. That said, the song “Your Love Is Killing Me” is perfect. As obvious as it sounds to most ears, the song’s a mystery to me, an inscrutable diary entry filled with an intense, poisoned passion my always-measured self can only ever look at through the lens of a curious outsider. Add songs like “I Love You But I’m Lost” and “Every Time The Sun Comes Up” and it’s clear Are We There ably speaks to the darkest parts of the soul.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

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Aaron’s Top Albums Of 2008

Portishead's Third

Portishead’s Third

This is my official Top 10 album list for 2008:

10. Sam Roberts Love At The End Of The World

I’ve long maintained that Sam Roberts doesn’t quite get the respect he deserves because of his adoption by the Kee To Bala set, but he does good work. Love At The End Of The World is a little bit more about “songs” than Chemical City‘s wicked cosmic jams, but “Them Kids” and “Detroit ’67” are where it’s at.

9. The Dears Missiles

This version of a radically reconstituted Dears painted with a far less bombastic brush than on previous albums, but there was still enough world-weariness to compliment the rest of their discography.

8. Lykke Li Youth Novels

Going to see Lykke Li live on this tour was an oddly awkward sociological experience. See, the audience for her show was a divided one. The front half, squished towards the stage and separated from the back by a very pronounced barrier was an all-ages crowd of teenage girls. On the opposite side of the barrier, in the licensed area, were me, a smattering of couples, and a bunch of solo old dudes. And, by virtue of my status as a no +1 reviewer, I too was a solo old dude. Which, by extension, meant I looked an old creeper leering after some Scandinavian pop star in a room full of teenage girls.

I wasn’t, though. Because I was — and am — much more interested in Lykke Li’s Bergman-ian worldview than what sort of hot pants she’s wearing. And songs like “The Trumpet In My Head” affect me in ways that have nothing to do with lurid intent.

At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

7. The Moondoggies Don’t Be A Stranger

The Moondoggies are a bit of a mystery to me. I don’t follow them, I don’t read about them and I don’t know much about them beyond the fact they’re from Washington and I think hippie types like them. This is probably for the best. Sometimes the more you know about a band, the less interesting they become.

6. David Vandervelde Waiting For The Sunrise

There’s an unofficial micro genre that exists these days where acts like Midlake and Fleet Foxes try capturing that Laurel Canyon sound from the late ’60s. Vandervelde’s Waiting For The Sunrise might be the best contemporary articulation of that vibe. When you listen to it you just want to throw on a poncho, grab some wine and hang out.

5. Graveyard Graveyard

Being a sucker for doom metal and pretty much everything that sounds like Black Sabbath meant I was already predisposed towards Sweden’s Graveyard. Thing is, Graveyard aren’t just rote Sabbath imitators. Their sinister blues rock feels like its own thing, and Joakim Nilsson’s vocals are more intense than most of what Ozzy’s ever committed to.

4. Cancer Bats Hail Destroyer

What I like about the Cancer Bats is that their improbable posi-hardcore never wavers into dork territory. Instead, it’s more about well-directed rage, which is something I can respect. Also, “Lucifer’s Rocking Chair” rips.

3. D-Sisive The Book

This was D-Sisive’s back-from-the-dead album. Its intensely personal narrative, breadth of pop culture reference and sense of gravitas are things I now see getting bit hard by a legion of next gen graspers. I can see you, copycat bitches.

2. The Last Shadow Puppets The Age Of The Understatement

A grandiose, symphonic rock trip, The Age Of The Understatement felt like a series of lost Bond anthems come to life. I listened to this album endlessly when it came out and I haven’t really heard anything similar sounding since then.

1. Portishead Third

I’ve given out, max, a dozen 5/5 album reviews in all the years I’ve been writing about music and this is one of them. Intense, confounding, unique, sinister… Third is the articulation of some kind of sonic menace, a mad clanking machine that lumbers dangerously around your heels. It’s scary, dangerous and unquestioningly beautiful.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

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Timber Timbre Bests Aaron’s Top 10 Albums Of 2011

Timber Timbre

Timber Timbre

This is my official Top 10 album list for 2011:

1. Timber Timbre Creep On Creepin’ On

“Black Water” was my most listened to song this year. Not sure what that says about me.

2. PJ Harvey Let England Shake

It took me awhile to “get” Let England Shake. The song that did it was “In Dark Places.”

3. Chad VanGaalen Diaper Island

If you told me at the start of the year that CVG would create my third-most favourite album of 2011 I’d have eaten my shoe. It’s a good thing I don’t hang around with fortune tellers. This is “Blonde Hash”

4. Austra Feel It Break

Everybody’s all about Austra’s electro-dance-witch-goth vibe. I’m on it, too, but the song on this album that really got me was the spooky piano ballad “The Beast.”

5. Lykke Li Wounded Rhymes

“I Follow Rivers” is heavy.

6. Young Galaxy Shapeshifting

This album was a bold experiment and it completely worked. This is “Peripheral Visionairies”

7. Herpes Symptome und Beschwerden

This is the exact real world manifestation of what I believe the nihilists from The Big Lebowski would sound like. I understand absolutely none of what’s being said in “Das Karnickel im Hut.”

8. D-Sisive Run With The Creeps

The more caustic, outsider and marginalized D-Sisive gets, the more pointed his music becomes. P.S. I found that GG Allin doll, D!

9. Raphael Saadiq Stone Rollin’

There are at least three songs on this record that are genuinely magic. “Movin’ Down The Line (Don’t You Go Away)” is one of them.

10. Destroyer Kaputt

This one’s a personal shocker because I’ve always hated Dan Bejar until this album. I appreciated the audacity of a yacht rock almost-concept record, though. And “Chinatown” is pretty groovy.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

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My Women Of 2011 Mixtape Contains Zero Artists Who Performed At The Last Lilith Fair

PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey

I just made an awesome mixed CD which I’ll be leaning on during my Christmas Tour Around Ontario 2011™ over the next few days.

The theme for this disc was “Women Of 2011,” as in a compilation of songs from female-fronted artists I dug this year. Looking over the list, it dawned on me that although many of them are emerging as the voices of this generation, none of them played last year’s dismal Lilith Fair.

Now either these artists were too cool to do Lilith, or they weren’t asked. Either way, what I’m taking from it all is that by dodging that lameness bullet they’re all even more amazing.

Here’s my mix:

PJ Harvey “In The Dark Places”
Lana Del Rey “Blue Jeans”
Florence And The Machine “What The Water Gave Me”
Feist  “Undiscovered First”
Cat’s Eyes “Face In The Crowd”
Tasseomancy “Diana”
Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi “Season’s Trees”
Austra “The Beast”
Lykke Li “Jerome”
Tennis “Seafarer”
My Brightest Diamond “Feeling Good”
Lindi Ortega “Little Red Boots”
Neko Case “The Pharoahs”
Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea “The Tower”
Anna Calvi “The Devil”
Chelsea Wolfe “PALE ON PALE”

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