Max Gowan

May 24th, 2015 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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18-year-old Max Gowan is like the Raleigh, North Carolina equivalent of Australia’s Bored Nothing; both make intimate, Elliott Smith-esque bedroom guitar pop, but less depressing. I almost deleted Gowan’s email asking me to check out his latest album, Big People, before even reading it, let alone checking out his stuff. But I’m glad I decided to give the kid a chance. As soon as I heard those clocking guitars that open “Snow”, I thought, “yeah, this is legit.”

Grounders

May 21st, 2015 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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I used to do shows with Grounders back in Toronto when I lived there. They were good. They had that sparkly psych sound then too, but it sounds like it’s really gotten the big widescreen treatment on their self-titled new album. Enlisting Dave Newfeld (the mad genius best known for producing Broken Social Scene‘s You Forgot It In People and Broken Social Scene) to touch up the songs probably played a part in that.

Washington, D.C. Is Our City Mix

May 20th, 2015 | The Mix | 0 Comments

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Admittedly, Washington, D.C. is not my city. I will, however, be living there for the summer while performing a legal internship at a non-profit, so I’ll be doing my best to make it my city for that period of time.

Obviously D.C. has a legendary music scene – perhaps not as legendary these days as it once was, but whatever – and I’m really excited to dive right into it.  I made a little mix of some of my favourite bands from the D.C. scene. Yes, half of it is comprised of Ian MacKaye bands. Because #IanMacKayeIsMyHero

Laters, NYC (on May 31st…but just until August…).

Cometbus #56: A Bestiary Of Booksellers

May 18th, 2015 | Print | 0 Comments

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I found out about Aaron Cometbus and his zine a while ago from Jenn Pelly‘s great The Pitch column “Down Is Up” (which she apparently isn’t writing anymore…). Interested in his work, I soon went onto Amazon and ordered Add Toner, a collection of some Cometbus zines from his Bay Area days. Now he lives in New York, and I live in New York, and his latest zine, A Bestiary Of Booksellers, can be found in most cool book stores around the city. I picked it up one day to see how it compared with his older work.

As a writer, Cometbus has improved with time and maturity, though his main subject of interest remains the same: community. Since Cometbus is co-running a small used book store  in Williamsburg these days (the wonderful Book Thug Nation), it makes sense that A Bestiary Of Booksellers is Cometbus’s thorough portrayal of the NYC used bookseller community, composed of detailed, sympathetic depictions of all its odd, eclectic characters. Its chapters are titled alphabetically, like “A is for Adam” and “B is for Byron”. This perhaps helped Cometbus organize the book, but the thread connecting all the character histories and contemplative tangents is the narrator’s search for a woman known by all as “The Racoon”. Described as being clad in black leather, sporting distinctively dark eyeshadow, it’s less her physical beauty and more the fact that she’s a voracious used book reader that really captivates the narrator.

But The Racoon flits in and out through the chapters like a ghost disappearing and reappearing through walls. A Bestiary Of Booksellers isn’t about her, it’s about the ugly people: the weirdos, the old, the obsessive, the obnoxious ones behind the counter. They’re the people who interest Cometbus, and he tries to bring each to life for the reader: to tell their story, capture their essence, and print it. What’s impressive is that Cometbus does so with such humanity, never writing anyone off, but rather, trying to make even the most unattractive characters endearing, and show how each has his or her place in the community.

Records From Canada // Hello Hum

May 12th, 2015 | Features | 0 Comments

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When I was 18, I lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for a year while attending the University of King’s College.

Back when I was deciding where to go for school, I knew I wasn’t going to leave Toronto for a city with a lame music scene. But Halifax’s scene was legit. I’d be alright there. Not only did the city have a history of producing greats like Eric’s Trip and Sloan, but it was still impressing the rest of Canada with Joel Plaskett, Dog Day, and especially Wintersleep. The latter had just released 2007’s Welcome To The Night Sky, their third release but first to really break them out. Some of the album’s songs, like “Archeologist” and “Weighty Ghosts”, have since become minor Canada indie classics.

Wintersleep followed …Night Sky with 2010’s New Inheritors. Apparently it was a critical and commercial success, but I don’t remember hearing about it at the time, and still haven’t really gotten into it. In 2012 they released Hello Hum. I was still in Toronto when it came out but I can’t remember hearing about its release then either. One day this year though, after listening to …Night Sky again, I realized that the band no doubt had other albums that I hadn’t heard, so I searched them up on Spotify and saw the newer two (though their first two weren’t there).

I was drawn to Hello Hum from the get go because of its glacial cover. And then when I pressed play on opener “Hum”, rising out of the silence I heard the eerie, phasing sound of a synth, followed by cavernous, ramshackle drums and cold maritime guitars. Musically, it sounded like the album’s cover: glacial. You could find elements of “Weight Ghost”‘s charming campfire sing-along vibe in “Unzipper”, “Nothing Is Anything (Without You)”, and the chorus of “Resuscitate”. “Archeologist”‘s pin-point ambient attack had lived on in “Rapture”‘s stuttering beat. And then there were the beautiful comes downs: the lonely last call of “Saving Song”; the floating “Someone Somewhere”. “In Came The Flood” is also a great song.

“Hello Hum” may not feel as classic and emblematic of its time and place as “Welcome To The Night Sky”, but overall it’s probably the better album. It’s more interesting and in some way more consistent. But whatever, they’re both great. Listening to it, I remember when I was 18 and my mom and I went to visit Halifax to check the city out before I decided to move there. I remember loving its cold, pleasant seaside feel. The celtic bars with wooden floors. The sloping roads around its antiquated harbour, seemingly unchanged since the time of the great Halifax Explosion. And the city’s odd, sometimes desolate small-town feel, despite being the biggest population hub in the maritime.

After a couple months, I couldn’t stand that desolate feeling anymore and longed to return to the bustle of Toronto. But in the beginning, the cold quiet of the city felt like a promise to me of new beginning, as I left my home to begin the next phase of my life. For that, I’ll always have a soft-spot for Halifax and its bands.