I grew up in the small town of Barry’s Bay, Ontario, Canada—basically the last major pit stop for those heading west along Highway 60 into the wilds of the internationally renowned and enormous Algonquin Park to camp, canoe, and generally get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. When you live in such a small town, it’s a rarity that you get a gem of a band that essentially eschews playing mostly covers. But what amounts to being my home town band growing up, the Fireweed Company (formerly known as just Fireweed), really took the road less travelled: while they could turn in a blistering version of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” at shows at the local hockey rink, they were – and are – the rare small town band unafraid to wade into the waters of playing mostly original material. And strong original material at that. The band, revolving around the core nucleus of singer/acoustic guitarist Jayson Bradshaw and lead guitarist Steve Gutoskie, has turned in just two albums in nearly 20 years of performing together: 1994’s criminally now out-of-print Drinking Man, and the somewhat more easier to find (in the Ottawa Valley, at least) As Long As You Know ... from 2007. They can performs to crowds to up to 800 people in my old stomping grounds, which is a pretty big feat considering only a few thousand folk live in the area, but they remain hereto unknown by the rest of the world.
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“I saw my own writing when I was investigating these cases,” says Judge Juan Guzmán, “Now, 30 years later, some of my witnesses filed those petitions.” He’s talking about the “more than 10,000 habeas corpus petitions” rejected during Augustus Pinochet’s regime, petitions filed in search of answers, or at least some rudimentary legal assistance, in learning the fates of over 3,000 Chilean citizens who had disappeared. Three decades later, Guzmán is appointed to investigate Pinochet, to bring to light the system of imprisonment, torture, and execution that was for so hidden. “It’s a denial of justice of the judiciary didn’t do anything, ” he says of the petitions he and other judges signed. Guzmán‘s sense of tragedy and culpability is laced through Patricio Lanfranco and Elizabeth Farnsworth’s moving documentary, The Judge and the General. Cutting between then and now, the film makes clear how hard Guzmán works to dig up the past, and also how hard people three decades ago had to work to deny what Pinochet was doing. As an object lesson concerning the abuse and expansion of government powers and secrecy, the film is uncomfortably germane for many viewers today, including viewers in the U.S. As focused as they may be on the difficulties and details of their daily lives, all citizens are ultimately responsible.
See PopMatters’ review.
New Zealand’s the Phoenix Foundation continues on the path of the smart, crisp and shining pop set by their Kiwi forbearers, artists like the Clean and the Chills. The British press has been all over this group with The Times calling them “New Zealand’s finest purveyors of psychedelic pop” and The Guardian tagging their latest record, Buffalo, as “an album that already seems destined to be among the best of 2011”. Sadly they have gone fairly under the radar in the US up to this point, even as Buffalo got a US release back on 14 June. Look for that to finally change with the deluxe edition release of Buffalo here in the States on 18 October. This latest edition will be an iTunes exclusive. The tune we are premiering today, “Bright Grey”, is a bonus track off the new deluxe edition, but it just as easuly sounds like the A-side of a hit single, which shows just how deep this band’s catalogue of tunes is.
Vermont’s very own it-band Chamberlin released their debut, Bitter Blood, last winter and have now stepped up to offer help with relief for Vermont’s flood victims. Next week the band presents Chamberlin Cabin Covers EP, which directs all proceeds to Vermont’s United Way. The EP features cover versions of tunes from the likes of Cults, Vampire Weekend, Foster the People and mega-star Kanye West. Today, we present the online premiere of that Kanye West cover, “Lost in the World”, and hope that you’ll step up to purchase the EP when it drops on 20 September.
Hurricane Irene was pretty much the worst natural disaster to ever hit Vermont and the people there could use your help. Guitarist Ethan West says, “Growing up in a land locked, mountainous state like Vermont, we never really had to worry about natural disasters, so when Irene hit, no one was prepared for storm and subsequent flooding. Entire farms, roads, bridges and buildings were destroyed all over the state. Our new EP was recorded at our cabin in the heart of the damage—in the town closest to us, entire houses were washed away and they were cut off from the rest of the world for almost a week.”
Check out the new EP next week and catch the band on one of their upcoming tour dates (listed below).
It always seems that just as you’re trying to get in some final seasonal fun during the last weekends of summer, the weather turns in sheer mockery of such a plan. Add in a rare earthquake plus a nasty hurricane here on the East Coast in the same week, and you can’t blame me for wanting to call this playlist “Late Summer 2011”. After all, the official start of autumn isn’t until September 23rd this year. With thoughts of calmer skies and more warm days ahead, I offer another compilation of new music to enjoy. From German electro to laid back bands from the Northwest and some new chill wave, recent releases are featured in a streamlined listening session with notes below.