Noted and Notable: New GY!BE and More

Alright, let’s get bloggy.

First of all, the extraordinary, audacious, and deeply intense Godspeed You! Black Emperor are back after a lengthy hiatus. And they sound amazing. Does the new record — comprised of four tracks, two of which clock in at about 20 minutes — improve on the post-rock formula that animated the now-classic Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (2000)? Maybe. It is usually the case with such grand, sweeping cinematic music (short on melody, long on atmosphere) that one’s first impressions are shallow. And yet, my first impressions (on my second spin through the record now) suggest that GY!BE have reformed to release upon a mostly unsuspecting public what might amount to their best work yet. Like some harrowing fun house ride through a dark, slippery tunnel, toward a darkness that looms ever larger, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is a strange and unsettling journey. But it is a mesmerizing, thrilling, unforgettable journey nonetheless. Stream the album here.

* * *

The Toronto Independent Music Awards, now in its eighth year (and sixth year of award ceremonies), held their 2011-2012 gala last weekend at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto. Showcasing the diversity of the Toronto scene, the awards this year went to a range of artists. With over 20 separate categories, most of which divide along fairly traditional genre lines (Best Punk, Best Rap, Best Pop, Best Indie Rock, Best Alternative Rock, Best Metal, etc), there was much to hear and to see at the gala. I, sadly, couldn’t make the show (it was Canadian Thanksgiving and so I was supine on my parents’ couch with a belly full of glory), but since much of the winning music has been made available for download here (at the bottom of the page), we can all see what my friends on the Grand Jury were working with while making their decisions. The full list of winners is posted here. Congratulations, all.

* * *

Last week I headed down to a Kensington Market mainstay, the Supermarket, to check out the book launch for Stuart Berman’s new book about Danko Jones. This was weird for a couple reasons, but primarily because I don’t much care for Danko Jones, even after 15 years of listening to their work. It isn’t that I dislike their music, but more that it has never moved me much. And so, when Pitchfork staff writer Berman was said to be bringing out this book — he had previously penned the excellent This Book Is Broken about Broken Social Scene — it intrigued me. Why would you write a book about these guys? What was it about the story of this band that I had come to consider “also rans” in the scene that caused Berman to want to tell it in longform?

Turns out my ignorance of the whole Danko Jones thing knows no bounds. A fascinating story about an independent punk band that blew up briefly in Canada before being pushed aside by a new generation of Indie Rock, Too Much Trouble: A Very Oral History of Danko Jones is a terrific and insightful read. Filled with fun stories of the road, of internecine squabbles, of run-ins with other musicians, and of efforts to remain solvent in a post-Napster climate, the book is also a powerful chronicle of the ways tastes, fickle and yet crucial, can shift and leave artists in their dust. Danko Jones is huge in Europe, but at this free book launch in their hometown (which was advertised to feature a long onstage Q and A with the band and even some live music), fewer than 40 people showed up.