Top 10 Albums Of 2014: 5-1

December 16th, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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Yes, it took a bit more than a day for me to post the second part of this list. You can blame that on my studying for the civ pro exam I completed today. Four intense hours that basically ruined me for the rest of the day. Since I cannot bring myself to get to work studying for my contracts exam until tomorrow, here’s part two of my favorite albums of the last year.

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5. Julia Brown – An Abundance Of Strawberries

If I were the king of reality everyone would see mainstream pop artists as the vain, shallow posers they are and we’d all gawk at the brilliance of  Julia Brown, a crew of wonderful young music makers who put out this gorgeous album with no hype, no Pitchfork review; just a Dropbox link.

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4. A Sunny Day In Glasgow – Sea When Absent

I’ve been listening to A Sunny Day In Glasgow for years and thought they’d keep putting out cool, dreamy albums until everyone just got tired of them. Then they decided to let Jeff Zeigler produce one of their albums and he apparently decided, “you know, it’d be really cool to turn up the low end on this and give it some oomf.” The result was, as Pitchfork accurately pointed out, the band’s best album and one of the best albums of the year.

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3. Nothing – Guilty Of Everything

Philly’s Nothing came out of nowhere (as far as I was concerned) to deliver the best shoegaze album of the year. It also holds the distinction of being perhaps the only shoegaze album to mine Slowdive‘s pretty, cavernous eeriness rather than My Bloody Valentine‘s wall of romantic noise.

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2. Spoon – They Want My Soul

If Transference was the all-over-the-place White Album following Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga‘s focused Sergeant Peppery genius, They Want My Soul is the Abbey Road return to form: 10 songs, more hooks than you could ever keep track of, and everything in its right place.

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1. Sun Kil Moon – Benji

I take back what I said in the first half of this list about there not being any clear masterpieces this year.

I’m not really a fan of music that’s too ‘talky’ – and sometimes Sun Kil Moon walks that fine line pretty wobbly – but the purity and depth of feeling Mark Kozelek displays on Benji is so astounding and overpoweringly beautiful that I’m ready to forgive a lot. Being a big city Jewish kid from Toronto, Canada, I often can’t relate to the simplicity and earnestness of ‘real America’ and those who live there in my imagination: farmers, gas station attendants, waitresses, etc. But if one of those gas station workers created a work of art that encapsulates, from his perspective, the tragedy and wonder in ‘the life of man’ the way a Saul Bellow novel or Blood On The Tracks can, perhaps it would sound something like Benji. And it would touch my soul just as profoundly, regardless of our differences.

Top 10 Albums of 2014: 10-6

December 11th, 2014 | Features | 1 Comment

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2014 was easily one of the best years of my life: I finished my time in the IDF, travelled across the US for two months, went on an amazing little road trip to Sackville, New Brunswick (Canada) for the incredible festival Sappyfest, moved to New York and began law school. It was also a great year for music, with a lot of great albums, though admittedly no real indisputable masterpieces like in other recent years. In any case, here were my top ten picks, with 10-6 today, and the other 5-1 tomorrow.

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10. Ariel Pink – Pom Pom

The ‘most hated man in rock’ may have made some really stupid, dickish statements in the last year, but the fact is his music remains some of the most interesting, exciting, catchily-warped stuff anyone’s putting out anywhere. Pom Pom finds him getting even more comfortable recording hi-fi studio albums without losing what made his early tapes so intriguingly weird.

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9. Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE

It took me a while to get into Cymbals Eat Guitars and their blend of proggy-poppy-punkish indie-rock, but now I’m totally on board. LOSE might be their best album yet, with the band trying their hand at some foreign aesthetics – the harmonica on “XR”; the 80’s drum machine-esque beat grounding “Chambers” – to great effect, while delivering some of the strongest, hardest hitting tracks of their career.

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8. Frankie Cosmos – Zentropy

Frankie Cosmos‘ first attempt at a studio album after over 40 rough little bandcamp collections is a short but very sweet set of adorable, poppy twee songs. The musicianship isn’t quite Battles or whatever, but the songs are just so simple and wonderful. I was lucky enough to buy my LP in Brooklyn from the girl herself.

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7. Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks – Welcome To The Slasher House

Each time the Animals in the Collective go solo they put out some of the most inventive, interesting albums of the year – Welcome To The Slasher House joins  Person Pitch, Tomboy and Down There as another one of those. Admittedly, Avey Tare isn’t totally solo, as he’s joined by Dirty Projectors cutie Angel Deradoorian and former Ponytail drummer Jeremy Hyman. Together, the three of them pack enough punch to qualify WTTSH as the most visceral, propulsive album yet from a member of the AC crew.

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6. The New Pornographers – Brill Breakers

The New Pornographers never stopped writing great songs, but 2010’s Together had the least of them out of any New Pornos album, and I was afraid the band was starting to head downhill. Luckily they proved me wrong by releasing one of their best  albums yet – if not their best ever- with Brill Breakers. There’s a couple songs I’m not crazy about, like the title track and a boring version of Dan Bejar‘s “Spyder” (Swan Lake‘s on Spanish Gold is way better), but they’re more than made up for with pop euphoria fests like “Born With A Sound” and “Champions Of Red Wine”.

Check back in a day or two for 5-1!

Isa (Father)

December 6th, 2014 | Print | 0 Comments

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I was just looking for a coffee shop in Brooklyn where I could chill and do some of my law school reading. Of course, something cool is always going on in Brooklyn, so I ended up at the Comic Arts Brooklyn fair.

There were a lot of vendors with really interesting stuff, but I’m just a law student and only have so much cash to spare. Still, when I saw Hanneriina Moisseinen‘s beautiful, mysterious graphic novel Isa (Father) at a Finnish company’s table, I decided to shell out the $15 it cost. You don’t come across strange Finnish graphic novels every day.

Apparently autobiographic, Isa is the story of how Hanneriina’s father Seppo simply disappeared one day while on a company camping trip and how she and her family coped with his disappearance. Hanneriina was just a child. Her family, apparently, never discovered what happened to him, nor was his body ever found.

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What makes Isa particularly interesting, however, is that in telling her story, Hanneriina delves into childhood fantasies and quasi-mystical forest imagery. One of the most recurrent images, a shadowy bear figure – apparently the imaginary version of her teddybear Teddykins – is particularly haunting and touching. Images of illustrated towels separate chapters and manage a similar effect at times. They’re meant to connect with the idea that Hanneriina’s dad’s towels would now be used by others.

The imagery and format of the work make reading Isa feel like sinking into a dream, or swimming into memories too painful to explore without cloaking them in fantasy. I’m not sure where you’ll find it now, at least with English translation, but if you’re interested, this is the publisher’s website (which is in Finnish).

Bedroomer Mixtape

December 3rd, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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Bedroomer, one of my favourite little scenes in Toronto, put together this mixtape featuring the various acts and musical projects the community is comprised of. A lot of these acts, like LUM, First Rate People, and LoKo, are known for more poppy stuff, but the mixtape leans towards the DJ-y side of Bedroomer, and even the aforementioned’s contributions are pretty club-ready. The track I’m posting actually isn’t on it (doesn’t appear I can embed the thing), but the mix is basically more of this kind of thing, so if you like what you hear, you know what to do…

Michael Rault

December 2nd, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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For someone with some serious punk cred, Ben Cook‘s got one hell of a sweet tooth. You can hear it in his Young Guv and Marvelous Darlings stuff, even on David Comes To Life, and now another project bearing his sugary prints is this Burger Records cassingle he produced by fellow Torontonian and uber-melodic pop classicist, Micheal Rault.