September 19, 2011

Polaris Prize Gala Tonight: Who Should Win?




The 2011 Polaris Prize winner will be announced at the tonight’s Gala in Toronto. Over the past ten weeks, I’ve reviewed every Short List nominee, but haven’t played favorites until now. Here, without commentary, but links to reviews of all 10 albums, is my ranking of the ten contenders.

1. Colin Stetson, New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges 2. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs 3. The Weeknd, House of Balloons 4. Timber Timbre, Creep On Creepin’ On 5. Austra, Feel It Break 6. Braids, Native Speaker 7. Galaxie, Tigre et diesel 8. Destroyer, Kaputt 9. Hey Rosetta!, Seeds 10. Ron Sexsmith, Long Player Late Bloomer

The Gala will be broadcast live on CBC Radio 3 and Much at 5pm PST

September 2, 2011

North of Northwest: Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin’ On [Revisited]




I’d like to thank Timber Timbre for teaching me something important about myself: that I am not just fickle and persnickety. When I spun up Creep On Creepin’ On for the second of my Polaris Prize re-visitations, I was afraid that it, like Braids’ Native Speaker, would seem dulled by time, less impressive and maybe a little stale. In turn, my neurotic mind worried what this would say about me: that I have no real taste or consistent opinions? That my thoughts are blown on the wind like a thousand grains of pollen? That I’m nothing more than a giant pile of impressionable mush, shaped day by day by whatever hand idly pokes at me? (That I constantly overthink things and draw personal conclusions where there are none to truly be drawn? That I ramble like mad?)

Fortunately, I found with relief and delight that I actually enjoy Creep On Creepin’ On more now than the first time around. The languid, gothic feel is perfect for the closing days of summer, for the last lingering golden afternoons, for Faulknerian daydreams (and Faulknerian stream-of-consciousness music columns). I want to traipse around in something drapey and drink mint juleps in a graveyard, to experience that particular emotional dissonance of blinding brightness and icy chill.

It’s no subtle path that leads me here: spirits haunt Timber Timbre’s songs like an old Southern family’s dark secrets, a familiar feeling in the Pacific Northwest, where even sunny days have cold shadows and every small town could be Twin Peaks. “I could not smother out that fire in my head / And saw your levitating chair / I found your long blond hairs / I felt your poltergeist presence in the frame of the bed.” Appropriately, Creep On turns summer imagery sinister: sparrows and starlings haunt doorsteps like dark-winged harbingers, and the innocuous phrase “a lavender scent” is followed by the far creepier “bone-orchard of hearts.” (One of these things I have in my front yard every summer. One I do not.)

When I wrote of Creep On in April, I said that “the keyboards sound like whistling winds, and the hypnotic chorus of ‘black water black water black water’ echoes the monotony of the long grey march through the Northwest spring.” So maybe, with these summertime feelings, I am a fickle beast after all. But I’d say instead that Timber Timbre’s latest mood piece is an unqualified success, something that absorbs and transports universally, always lifting you up to a more magical version of exactly where you are.


July 6, 2011

2011 Polaris Prize Short List





The 2011 Polaris Prize Short List was announced this morning.

Ten albums remain in the hunt for the $30,000 prize:

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs Austra – Feel It Break Braids – Native Speaker Destroyer – Kaputt Galaxie – Tigre et Diesel Hey Rosetta! – Seeds Ron Sexsmith – Long Player Late Bloomer Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges Timber Timbre – Creep on Creepin’ On The Weeknd – House of Balloons

You may note that none of my top five made the Short List. This means that I have lots of new music to consider (and old music to reconsider) in the time until the grand prize winner is named. Over the next ten weeks, I’ll be covering each contender in depth and eventually naming my favorite to take home the big check.

Please feel free to share your own thoughts on the Short List in the comments below. ______

The 2011 Polaris Prize winner will be announced September 19 in Toronto.

July 1, 2011

North of Northwest: Polaris Prize Bingo





The 2011 Polaris Prize Long List was announced last week, a list of forty Canadian albums collated from five-album lists submitted by the hundred-plus jurors several weeks ago. From this list, jurors vote again, and the ten-album Short List will be revealed July 6. Short list artists will receive $2,000 each, will perform at September’s prize gala, and are eligible for the grand prize of $30,000.

This year’s Long List:

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs Austra – Feel It Break Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart Braids – Native Speaker Buck 65 – 20 Odd Years Louise Burns – Mellow Drama D-Sisive – Jonestown 2: Jimmy Go Bye Bye The Dears – Degeneration Street Destroyer – Kaputt Diamond Rings – Special Affections Dirty Beaches – Badlands Luke Doucet and The White Falcon – Steel City Trawler Eternia & MoSS – At Last Galaxie – Tigre et Diesel Jenn Grant – Honeymoon Punch Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972 Hey Rosetta! – Seeds Hooded Fang – Album Imaginary Cities – Temporary Resident Land Of Talk – Cloak and Cipher Little Scream – The Golden Record The Luyas – Too Beautiful To Work Malajube – La Caverne Miracle Fortress – Was I The Wave? One Hundred Dollars – Songs Of Man Doug Paisley – Constant Companion PS I Love You – Meet Me At The Muster Station Daniel Romano – Sleep Beneath the Willow The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing Ron Sexsmith – Long Player Late Bloomer Shotgun Jimmie – Transistor Sister Sloan – The Double Cross Frederick Squire – March 12 Stars – The Five Ghosts Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin’ On The Weeknd – House Of Balloons Women – Public Strain Neil Young – Le Noise Young Galaxy – Shapeshifting

Which ten will make the final cut? You can find out when the list is revealed live on CBC Radio 3 and SIRIUS channel 152 on July 6.

If you want to play along at home in a literal sense, I present to you: Polaris Prize Bingo! Long list artists are arranged on the four printable cards below; break out your lucky trolls and your paint dotters and make a friendly wager with your friends as to whose card will win.* I can’t offer you $2,000 – in fact, I can’t offer you anything except the smug satisfaction of victory – but what else do you have to do on a Wednesday morning?










*Note: I have absolutely no inside information on the Long List and cannot guarantee that any of these cards is a winner. Feel free to credit me as a genius and a visionary if one is, but please don’t write me angry letters if they’re all a bust.

April 1, 2011

North of Northwest: Timber Timbre – Creep on Creepin’ On



Timber Timbre



With “Black Water,” Timber Timbre has written my spirit anthem for this time of year. “All I need is some sunshine,” vocalist Taylor Kirk repeats in an imploring drawl, his voice occasionally rising to the fever pitch of desperation. “All I ne-ee-eeed.” Behind him the bass plods and horns drone thick and viscous. The keyboards sound like whistling winds, and the hypnotic chorus of “black water black water black water” echoes the monotony of the long grey march through the Northwest spring.

It’s easier than ever, you see, to get lost in Timber Timbre’s music.

Creep On Creepin’ On is the fourth album from the masters of gothic folk, and with it they take their Grimm’s Fairy Tale aesthetic to a new, richer level. The space between Kirk’s voice and the beat is inhabited by drifting spectres of echo, muted drum crashes, distant shrieks, and ambient noise. Kirk’s voice itself reverberates gently, organs ring off invisible cathedral ceilings, and a pixyish chorus of background vocals even lends its mass to “Too Old To Die Young.”

Rather than bulking the songs up, though, the additions are gossamer enough to only accentuate the spacious quality of Timber Timbre’s sound, like echoing voices in an empty house. The band might be playing in the next room of an old Victorian, or the room after that, and you must chase the drifting tendrils of their music down halls and around corners to find them.

The lyrical content hasn’t changed, but if you like the band, you wouldn’t want it to. Timber Timbre’s dark tales of ghosts and voodoo are their signature appeal. On Creep On they’ve merely taken a turn further towards the trippy and enigmatic: “The siren called beyond the treelike / With another one for the caves / And in the dawn beyond those birches / There is a spirit that I crave.” An unexpected delight are three cinematic instrumentals: “Obelisk,” “Swamp Magic,” and “Souvenir.”

With Creep On Creepin’ On, Timber Timbre explore and elevate their singular vision, and keep on creepin’ on through the darkness, the close woods and dark caves, the moonlit nights and the foggy dawns, the empty houses of our minds towards summer.


Creep On Creepin’ On will be released April 5 on Arts & Crafts. You can stream the entire album in advance already.

Timber Timbre plays the Sunset Tavern June 7 and Mississippi Studios in Portland June 8.

March 23, 2011

Brittney’s Occasional Choice: Timber Timbre – Woman




On the first single from their April release Creep on Creepin’ On, Timber Timbre maintains and even heightens the woodsy-noir haunt of 2009′s self-titled release while adding an intriguing twist: a thick swirl of sun-drenched California psychedelia. The video, too, has a Golden State feel, with the cryptic imagery and flickering frames of an old Hollywood mystery movie. The swinging lightbulb, twitching focus, and swirling guitars will make your head spin — but spin the right way round. How does Timber Timbre make this dose of disorientation such a joy? It’s a mystery.

February 14, 2011

North of Northwest: Valentine’s Day Mix-Tape



Though most famous for being my lovely husband’s birthday, the fourteenth of February is also the day we celebrate / vilify romantic love and all its glories / unfortunate consequences. As every good makeout session / sob fest needs a good soundtrack, I’ve created a 14-track* Canadian** mixtape for all Valentine occasions. Simply choose your side and go / stay. You can download the mix here.

Side 1: I’M NOT TRYING TO BE ROMANTIC Julie Doiron – Consolation Prize Joel Plaskett Emergency – All The Pretty Faces Bahamas – You’re Bored, I’m Old Elliott Brood – Miss You Now Timber Timbre – No Bold Villain Zeus – The River By The Garden Japandroids – I Quit Girls


Constantines – Shower of Stones Bahamas – Hockey Teeth Weakerthans – My Favorite Chords Diamond Rings – All Yr Songs PS I Love You – Subtle and Majestic Japandroids – Crazy / Forever Forest City Lovers – Don’t Go Please

*Of course. **Of course.

June 25, 2010

North of Northwest: Timber Timbre




It was a hot June afternoon in Toronto when some friends and I ventured to Centre Island for the Toronto Island Concert. Sitting in an open field just past noon, the bright sun wasn’t helping my hangover one bit. The line for water was half an hour long and the line for beer twice that. My only choice turned out to be my best choice: to lie back, close my eyes, and lose myself in Timber Timbre’s haunting gothic fever dream.

Timber Timbre is Ontario’s Taylor Kirk, sometimes with the company of Simon Trottier and Mika Posen. With just a guitar, kick drum, and his ghosts-and-honey voice, Kirk creates a Grimm’s Fairy Tale type of folk rock, sepulchral and eerie.

Spirits live in the spaces between the notes, and speak from their cavernous depths. Taylor sings of them in his low, echoing voice – “Death she must have been your will, a bone beneath the reaper’s veil… I have seen the demon host” – and at times they seem to chime in. Perhaps Kirk’s body is merely a conduit for a host of supernatural musicians with stories to tell; perhaps he himself is a spirit made solid.

On a hot day, Timber Timbre was a refreshing icy breeze, chills and shivers on a sunburned neck. At the same time, the gloomy, atmospheric feel would be a perfect choice for a Seattle winter. I turned my inclined head to one of my friends. “I can see many cloudy days of this band in my future,” I told her.

The friend was also gleefully adrift in the sea of discovery, but over her waters sailed sunny skies. “I think this is excellent for summer, actually.” On that perfect June moment, I couldn’t help but agree.

Timber Timbre, a band for all seasons.


Timber Timbre – Demon Host from Scott Cudmore on Vimeo.

Timber Timbre plays the Vancouver Folk Music Festival July 17 and 18.