METZ Is Going to Be Huge! Jill Barber Saves Gilligan!

Neither of the statements in the headline is true, not really. But both have the air of truth about them, which, in rock ’n’ roll, is often enough.

It's time to talk about METZ. This Toronto-based noise-rock band has spent the past five years playing semi-legendary 30-minute ear-breaking shows around their hometown, building up a considerable fanbase but, apparently, refusing to record anything substantial. They’ve teased everyone who asked them (fans, press) with hints (lies, really) that their debut record was just around the corner, coming soon, for years. A couple 7”-ers were released, but nothing that adequately sated a growing audience that was now fairly loudly proclaiming METZ to be Toronto’s best band you’ve never heard. Perhaps themselves aware of just how good they were and of the potential their record might have to blow up, the trio held back and let the anticipation grow while they woodshedded. But, now, all of that waiting is over. Late last week we finally got to hear their debut (released on stalwart indie label Sub Pop, no less). And there was much rejoicing.

The result is what is already being hailed (by the astute Pitchfork critic Stuart Berman, among others) as one of the albums of the year. I had a chance to catch their record release show last Friday at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, a revelatory, quite extraordinary concert that fairly ravaged the sold out room. I stayed far from the tumult at the front -- holding up the bar at the back with some industry heavyweights and fellow critics, all of us too timid or too old (it was my 35th birthday, let’s face it) to move up front for the melee -- but I did manage an amazing view as all those bodies were tossed around, fists were pumped, and that hot, white noise washed over it all. A hell of a thing, a hell of a band.

* * *

Vancouver’s Jill Barber, a honey-voiced indie-pop chanteuse, is one of those people everyone wants to see come out on top. A terrific singer, but also a genuine and remarkably insightful songwriter, Barber’s last two records (her fourth and fifth in under a decade) have vaunted her to the forefront of the Canadian music world. If you haven’t heard her haunting Sunday-morning-coffee-soundtrack of a record Chances (2008), you need to start thinking about the choices you’re making.

But anyway. Barber is in the news this week, but not for any of the reasons I mentioned above. Rather, she’s in the news because she was on a transpacific flight on her way to tour Australia when her plane was tasked with finding and saving some people marooned on an overturned yacht. Weird, right? I asked her to fill us in on the details.

“It was an uneventful flight until about the final hour of the 15-hour leg”, says Barber. “We were all pretty surprised by the Captain's announcement. It was definitely out of the ordinary.”

How out of the ordinary? How about: folks, we'll be dipping down to 6,000 feet (from 35,000 or so) and we'd like you all to look out the windows for a sinking boat.

“The plane [. . .] was tipping its wings side to side to give all passengers and crew the best vantage point to spot the yacht. They asked over the loud speaker for passengers to hit the call button if they spotted anything. A number of passengers spotted the boat, and from that info the captain was able to pinpoint the exact location, and we circled it a few times. Using [binoculars] they identified three people floating on the capsized boat.There was a big round of applause on the airplane once the Captain announced that rescue helicopters were on their way to rescue them.”

I know: signifying nothing. But, hell of a story. Now take a listen to this. (And go buy her albums.)

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