“Entire Cities taught the kids how to feel again…Entire Cities makes you feel raw and a little broken, a bit shaken and trembling with gratitude.” – Soundproof Magazine
“Toronto’s Entire Cities crammed onto the stage and brought some people to tears with their emotive, rowdy anthems.” – Exclaim! Magazine
To the uninitiated, Entire Cities might seem to have a personality disorder. To their fans, it’s madness with a power method and message. From deceptively simple hooks to gratuitously confusing time signatures, from meticulous choral and instrumental arrangements to their gloriously unpredictable live show, the Toronto-based collective (cannily anchored by songwriter and band leader Simon Borer) have been refusing to be pigeon-holed since 2006, garnering critical praise and a devout fan following along the way.
Their 2007 EP Centralia first brought them into the spotlight as “one of Toronto’s most promising indie acts” (New Pollution Magazine). Their debut full-length Deep River was hailed as one of the 2008's best. It became one of college radio’s highest-charting independent releases of the year, appearing regularly on critics’ ‘Best Of’ lists. Recorded with Dale Morningstar (Gord Downie, Great Lake Swimmers, Godspeed) over only a few days in the summer of 2007, the album features a collection of revivalist barn-burners, soulful ballads and psychedelic cow-punk. Their latest release, I Hope You Never Come Home on Easy Tiger Records, not only expands their range but sheds new light on the artistry of their catalogue.
Entire Cities, led by Simon Borer, is as much about their message as their sound. Critics have quickly picked up on his deeply poetic lyrics amidst the raucously ragged music. Borer’s songwriting is “meticulous and raw” (The Coast Magazine), at turns plain-spoken and hallucinatory. Whether he is crafting a clever dialogue on the negotiations of love, an ode to the limits of language, or plainly recounting the madnesses of rural poverty, Borer manages to marry the delicate craft of his words with his unique musical sensibilities. While it might be difficult to categorize at first listen, Borer traces his approach to a generation of songwriters like The Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground, for whom genres and conventions were stops on the roadside: places to be frequented, gleefully explored, and pissed on when necessary.
At its core, Entire Cities is Borer (guitar, vocals), Ruhee Dewji (flute, sax, vocals), Jimmy Rose (guitar, lap steel), Paul Sorenson (bass) and Andrew Bartle (drums), but a steady stream of collaborators in the form of artists, musicians and filmmakers have consistently spurred the band’s ever-evolving approach. Entire Cities have toured extensively throughout Ontario, Quebec and all along the East Coast with the likes of the Rural Alberta Advantage and Rock Plaza Central, and have shared stages with The Mahones, the Retribution Gospel Choir, We Are Scientists, The Bicycles, Anathallo and Laura Barrett. Along the way, they’ve been featured in Exclaim!, NOW Magazine, eye weekly, the National Post, the Toronto Star, Torontoist, ChartAttack, the New Pollution and countless blogs.
Entire Cities are busy promoting their new full-length album in venues around the province. Recently named one of ChartAttack’s top ten NXNE live acts, and hailed as a highlight of Halifax Pop Explosion by Exclaim! Magazine, this spring will see them burning through festival dates, an extensive tour, and even the wedding of two long-time fans.
Simon Borer - Vocals, Guitar
Ruhee Dewji - Vocals, keys, Sax, flute
Jimmy Lee - Guitar
Andrew Bartle - Drums
Paul Sorensen - Bass, Sitar, Upright
I Hope You Never Come Home (2011)
Produced by Heather Kirby (Ohbijou)
Deep River (2008)
Produced by Dale Morningstar (Julie Doiron, Gord Downie, Godspeed You! Black Emperor)
Centralia (EP 2007)
Their real beauty lies in their diversity
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The group is known as Entire Cities and they’re going places. Their real beauty lies in their divers...The group is known as Entire Cities and they’re going places. Their real beauty lies in their diversity. They play with a full-time steel guitarist, saxophone and the finest flute-playing I’ve heard in a rock band since Ian Anderson’s work with Jethro Tull. The sound is infectious, and has the entire audience—seated or otherwise—moving. The sound patrons and staff is something of a warm hug and smiles abound.
One moment the staccato blast of the saxophone has me thrust into the midst of the bustling nightlife of downtown New York, the next has me floating along a quiet avenue in Paris on the trills of the flute. The effect is profound.
The evening leaves me with a grin on my face, the truly satisfying feeling of night well spent. The music is exultant, and one can’t help but be drawn into the pure joy of it when watching the bass player do his thing with a noticeable sway, and the drummer do his with the manic grin of a man completely at home at his stool.
Queen’s Journal (Kingston), 18.05.2010
Entire Cities makes you feel raw and a little broken, a bit shaken and trembling with gratitude.
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Sparkling blue streamers and shaker eggs were passed around and thrown back at the band. At one poin...Sparkling blue streamers and shaker eggs were passed around and thrown back at the band. At one point, lead singer Simon Borer had strings and strings of blue dangling from his guitar neck. Borer is sort of a revelation in general, actually; his voice is raspy and rowdy, he has a big mustache and wore a nice grey jacket. He reminded me of a favorite uncle I have who always drinks lots of beer and tells good stories. Flanked by the always-lovely Tamara Lindeman (who was also in town with The Weather Station and singing with Bruce Peninsula) and the room swelled with honesty and soul and who-gives-a-fuck spiralling jams. As I weaved through the bar, everyone was stomping and hollering fit to beat the band, voices loud and entwined. A few of the members later said a woman approached them after the set, thanking them for their lovely music—and she couldn't stop crying. It's pretty indicative of how Entire Cities makes you feel—raw and a little broken, a bit shaken and trembling with gratitude.
The most full I've seen (Gus' Pub)...always a party.
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I first saw Entire Cities open for some friends from high school's now-defunct band, a couple years ...I first saw Entire Cities open for some friends from high school's now-defunct band, a couple years back, and one of my friends asked if I'd come to the show to see Entire Cities, which I might as well have (Not that my friends' band was bad. But they're broken up, and I can't remember what their new band is called to check them out). The chronically late high school friend who I was supposed to meet up with before the show came in between sets and I kept waxing poetic about the great band she'd just missed.
They decked themselves out in streamers and tinsel for the show and created a great party atmosphere to a completely packed Gus's. I think this might actually take the prize for being the most full I've seen the place. Entire Cities' shows are always a party, like a kitchen party or square dance.
Brought to people to tears
Entire Cities crammed onto the stage and brought people to tears with their emotive, rowdy anthems.
Deep River makes a strong bid to be one of my favourite albums of all time.
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As anyone reading this blog can probably tell, I loved Entire Cities' debut EP, Centralia -- and I m...As anyone reading this blog can probably tell, I loved Entire Cities' debut EP, Centralia -- and I mean really, really loved it. But there's no way I'd ever argue that it's a perfect album, no matter how many times I've listened to it over the last year. After all, the production was a bit shabby in places, and the album's overall flow was inhibited by the placement of African field recordings at the end of each track. On top of that, the band's ever-shifting line-up meant that it was often difficult for the EP's moments of brilliance to translate to a live setting (though this isn't really a problem with the recording of Centralia, and it should also be noted that it wasn't a problem that manifested itself too frequently in the countless times I've seen them over the last year).
I say all this because I want to make it perfectly clear that I'm not blind to any faults Entire Cities may possess. However, when it comes to their newest release, Deep River...let's just say that I'd really, really have to stretch to find a single thing wrong with it. I mean, in light of the fact that Deep River has a couple of songs that were also on Centralia, it's too bad that they didn't include the magnificent "Marshall's Five Lost Years", but as complaints go, that one falls into the realm of just complaining for the sake of it. And, quite honestly, Deep River is far too amazing for me to do something like that.
Seriously, there's not a single thing wrong with Entire Cities' sophomore outing. The production is outstanding, as getting into a studio with Dale (Great Lake Swimmers, Gord Downie) Morningstar did wonders for the band's sound; he seems to have drawn out every last bit of accordion and banjo and saxophone that goes into making the band's brand of country-folk-pop so much fun. Moreover, without the myriad instruments competing for space, not only is frontman Simon Borer able to give his lyrics the kind of gusto they deserve, the backing vocals are able to shine through and accent what he's doing. Of course, this, in turn, highlights another area of improvement: Lindeman and bassist Brendan Howlett both seem to have played a much bigger role in Deep River's production than they did with Centralia (in Howlett's case because he wasn't yet in the band at that time), and you can hear a tangible difference. Lindeman's whispery vocals are the perfect counterpoint to Borer's gruff baritone, while Howlett's scream in "Accountant's Dream" perfectly punctuates the song's shift from slowly-building folk tune to full-on cacophony of noisy fun.
Most importantly, the eight songs here are simply great, and as engaging and catchy and near-perfect as anything I've ever heard. "Talkers", for example, Borer captures the essence of joy about as perfectly as anyone I've heard outside of a religious context, when he sings "Talkers keep on saying things like, 'You'll be alright' / Talkers keep on saying things like, 'Praise nature'/ And I've been shouting out, "I have new words" (though he comes pretty close to religion when he sings "In the bowels of the hall of records north of the city / Lie signs and symbols waiting to be assigned / There are names I thought of long ago, before I learned to crawl / Names I want to call you by, and names for God"). He's able to perfectly weave prose and poetry on "Cop Song" and "Coffee", he picks up the religious theme without being too overt with it on "waiting", and when he (and the rest of the band) shout out "I'm my brother's snakeskin motherfucker / And we are blood" on "Dancing With My Brother", it's equal parts old-tyme revival and rowdiest juke joint in the Old South, and it's as exhilarating as it was on Centralia (but with the added benefit of sounding about ten times as clear and crisp).
Now, I know that music writing often has a pretty strong (and well-deserved) reputation for hyperbole, and that goes at least quadruple for blogs. But I can state without an ounce of exaggeration or hyperbole or any kind of negative connotations that my big question for Deep River is whether I'll still be listening to it in ten years, rather than ten months. I certainly hope so, because albums this amazing/wonderful/superb/whatever-other-positive-adjective-you'd-ever-want-to-affix-to-an-album don't come around very often, and I sincerely hope that in a decade I'll still be able to appreciate something that strikes me as deeply as this one does.
Most bands don't know how to build a real emotional connection like Entire Cities do.
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(Top 5 NXNE Live Act) Frontman Simon Borer has an easy, excited charisma that can't be faked. As a v...(Top 5 NXNE Live Act) Frontman Simon Borer has an easy, excited charisma that can't be faked. As a vocalist, he has to take second place next to Tamara Lindeman. Her singing voice can range from soft elegance to dirty twang as needed. She brings out a hidden sensitivity in even the rougher songs. I've noticed a rash of what I call "enthusigasm" bands in Toronto lately. These are groups who rush to induce sweaty, ecstasy reactions with their incessant swaying choruses and hyper attitudes. Most of them don't know how to build a real emotional connection like Entire Cities do. Entire Cities understand the climax is only as good as the foreplay.
They're known for their explosive live shows, but I wasn’t prepared for the confetti, streamers, and general mayhem that ensued.
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Around midnight, Entire Cities clambered onstage and showed how an eight-man band (give or take a fe...Around midnight, Entire Cities clambered onstage and showed how an eight-man band (give or take a few) that plays “experimental country” can tear down an entire venue. It’s known for their explosive live shows, but I wasn’t prepared for the confetti, streamers, and general mayhem that ensued. Singer Simon Borer looks a bit like a band teacher gone wild, leading his motley crew of kids as far astray as they’ll let him. Guitars, drums, banjo, flute, saxophone, bass, singing saw… yep, they used just about every instrument you can think of, and some you can’t, to craft a raucous good time.
It's amazing to think this energy was transferred to the studio.
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People often say that bands make a splash when they appear out of nowhere and release a debut that i...People often say that bands make a splash when they appear out of nowhere and release a debut that is as promising as it is engaging. If that metaphor holds true, Entire Cities last EP would be one of those fat guys doing a huge belly flop off the high dive in a bad Animal House style teen comedy.
I don't know how any fan of Canadian music could listen to the diverse elements the super-band used over the course of seven songs and not be won over, but the mix of ballads and barn dancing foot stompers were just the type of songs that should have been all over the blogs. Instead, the band simply kept progressing in relative obscurity, playing shows and getting even better.
Did it motivate them or did they even care? I don't think that question has a real answer, but with the upcoming release of Deep River, it doesn't matter. In a few weeks Entire Cities should become well known throughout the blog world, but also has the potential to start grabbing some heavy college radio play. The band has evolved and matured, building on the solid foundation of the EP and flushing out some of the tracks.
You don't have to look any farther than Dancing With My Brother. The original version of this song was a tight, melodic meander that spiked quickly and showcased violin, drums, knee slaps and Simon Borer's rough farmhand testifying vocals. The track (aside from featuring the best chorus in forever - "I'm my brother's snakeskin motherfucker"), it really seemed to be a bar room dance floor stomper that was written to get the crowd dancing.
Now, with the help of Dale Morningstar, the song cranks up the jangle on the electric guitar and feels more flushed out and cohesive. The energy is still there, which makes sense as the band recorded the tracks live on the floor, but Tamara/Ruhee's (I've never seen them live and can't confirm who sings on each track) voice comes through much clearer as does each note the supporting players offer up. The song still moves along at a feverish pace, it just sounds more like a complete chapter instead of a great introductory paragraph. The booming horns act as a riveting conclusion to the emotion, and instead of being open ended, the songs ends nicely.
It's easy to see how playing together over the last year or so has help the band find their comfort zone. Some of the tracks on their EP have been reworked and are much stronger, but the new originals show the growth in song writing. Talkers finds a nice groove from the first strum. Simon's insightful vocals are complimented with a rotating cast of sounds and flourishes. The band adds fuzzy, fragmented horns and a ambitious bass line to balance the guitar work.
Accountant's Dream is another heavy, cymbal crashing track that matches Borer's growl. After a slow intro, the band jumps into the track headlong and when you hear Tamara/Ruhee's angelic voice finish, I'm calling… "to get money wired" the song just clicks. As the fuzzed out cacophony of sounds pushes the limits of structure, it's amazing to think this energy was transferred to the studio. You feel like you should be pushing forward with a pint in the air, covered in sweat as you sing along.
The record shifts tempo nicely, as numbers like Cop Song and Turbines show a softer side of the band. Simon's narrative is engaging (as you picture the uncomfortable awkwardness of a girl forced to hope her touchy uncle keeps his "god damned hands to himself"), and the quick bursts and singing saw really make this song more accessible than you'd think. The band keeps it interesting with a drum solo, but really it’s the vocals that really win you over on this track.
Really, I can't find anything wrong with this record, and more importantly, I don't want to. It's a great showcase of a lesser known Canadian band doing all the right things. They are trying new things, without ever drifting too far into the experimental sounds that often bog down these type of records. The graceful piano and strings of The Woods are fantastic, but somehow fit well when you compare it to the more energetic bar room tracks that start the record. Almost anyone will be able to find a track that speaks to them.
The songs are beyond infectious, the production is sublime and Simon Borer's gruff voice is unmistakably unique.
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When I last saw Entire Cities at one of TWM's Rancho Relaxo showcases last year, I was totally blown...When I last saw Entire Cities at one of TWM's Rancho Relaxo showcases last year, I was totally blown away by their passion and zeal for putting on a lively performance. I haven't been able to seize the opportunity to see them again (yet) but I was anxiously looking forward to seeing if they could interpret that live energy onto a recorded CD. Well, having just picked up their latest Deep River EP, I can certainly answer with an exuberant Yes! I can't think of the last time I heard a band so successfully accomplish such. Even some of my favorite live acts (Broken Social Scene and The Sadies, for example) have not been able to harness that sound that they so successfully create live, and simulate it to disc the way that Entire Cities have been able to do on this little 8 song release.
The songs are beyond infectious, the production is sublime and Simon Borer's gruff voice is unmistakably unique. Entire Cities is another band that falls under the great Canadian collective category, boasting more members than track titles, and the songs range from hootenanny hoedowns to full blown grandiose epics. Most importantly though, the band sounds like they're having the time of their life, and that is something that is hard to accomplish in a studio setting. But when it works, like it clearly does here, there is nothing more contagious. I hope that there are more great things in store for this psychedelic cowpunk collective.
One of Toronto's most promising indie acts.
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"While some bands have difficulty bringing together disparate influences, Entire Cities seem to thri..."While some bands have difficulty bringing together disparate influences, Entire Cities seem to thrive on it."
Typically, we play a 45-minute set of our own material, occasionally throwing a cover into the mix for fun. Artists we have covered in the past include Low, Tom Waits, Laura Barrett, John Prine, Johnny Cash, the Boss, and Gordon Lightfoot.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.