Archive for April, 2014

Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste

April 23rd, 2014 | Print | 0 Comments

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I’d heard that Toronto-based writer Carl Wilson‘s 33 1/3 book on Celine Dion‘s 1997 album Let’s Talk About Love wasn’t – like other 33 1/3 books – actually about the album itself. But I didn’t know much more than that. I also knew it was supposed to be good. I knew these two things.

The other week I was on Facebook checking out what events were going on that might get me out of my lonely apartment for the night, and was lucky to find a Facebook suggestion for the book launch of a new and expanded edition of Wilson’s book at a nearby bar. It sounded cool, so I went over, and being the sucker for books that I am, I bought it there so I could get Wilson – who was present – to sign it for me. I would probably have bought it at some point anyways.

The book addresses an issue that I’ve struggled to understand for a long time: why is it that some people like mainstream music and art, entertainment, while others can’t stand it and only enjoy weirder, more ‘underground’, respectable music and art, entertainment (which ‘mainstreamers’ likewise have no interest in)? And more specifically, how can so many millions of people absolutely adore Celine Dion‘s music while others can’t stand the site of the Quebecois songstress? Wilson’s book performs an incredibly intricate exploration of these question, examining everything academically from the angles of class, race, education, etc. and with reference to various articles, essays, and even some hardcore old-skool philosophy. Perhaps most incredibly, he comes up with a number of excellent theories to answer the questions of the book. Reading them, I felt they absolutely applied to my life, tastes, and those of my friends and family, especially the section about ‘cultural capital’.

The new expanded edition of the book also includes a number of essays kind of vibing off the thoughts and issues of Wilson’s book. I didn’t find any all that particularly incredible – and many, I thought, were stretching unnaturally to connect themselves back to Wilson’s book – but at least James Franco‘s was awesomely James Franco-y in the sense that he makes reference to a bunch of famous artist friends of his and their crazy avant garde projects. (His essay itself isn’t all that amazing.) Other famous essayists in the book include Nick Hornby, Krist Novoselic (um, of Nirvana), and Owen Pallett.

If you have the original 33 1/3 version of Wilson’s book, I don’t know if it’s really worth your time and money to get the new one for the essays, although Wilson’s afterward is pretty interesting (let’s talk about Rebecca Black…). But – if you have yet to read any version of Wilson’s book and you spend time thinking about music, or people, or Celine Dion (and why she sucks/doesn’t), it is wonderfully written and tremendously interesting and entertaining. One of the best books about music I’ve ever read.

Black Baron

April 22nd, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

blackbaron

Weird Canada posted about Hamilton post-punks Black Baron a while ago and since then I’ve had a chance to listen to their Divine Chains EP in full. And it’s great. Perfect lo-fi production, chorus-washed guitar, unibomber hut vocals…These are a few of my favourite things…

Re-Evaluated // Laced With Romance

April 22nd, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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The musical maturation of myself and my friends came during a period hailed as the ‘garage rock revival’. It was the early 2000s. There was no war, the American economy was in good shape, and bunch of badass new rock bands like The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines, and many more were bringing rock back from the dead. The music wasn’t ‘alt’ or what was then known as ‘modern rock’, but rather, these bands looked towards the great rockers of the past like The Velvet Underground, Television, The Stooges, and The MC5, and they made something modern and interesting of their influences. You probably remember it, unless you’re in your teens now or younger.

At the time, all these bands seemed so cool and cutting edge – in retrospect, much of it was a lot more polished and accessible than most of today’s more ‘far out’, experimental indie rock. In any case, they clearly ushered in a new interest in rock music that would then morph into the indie rock of today through the changes brought about with the popularity of bands like Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Bon Iver, and, of course, many more.

In the course of indie rock’s relentless forward drive, some bands managed to keep pace, while others either got left behind or just lost in the shuffle. The Ponys were a great band from Chicago that attracted some attention back during the garage rock revival and apparently hit their popular peak as late as 2007 with the release of their third album on Matador before taking an ill-advised two years off. While their sound and the production of their albums sounds very much from that time, they were always a lot more interesting than many of their peers. Their sound had some great distinguishing features, like the booming voice of Jered Gummere and their spiked, almost-shoegazey guitar sound. Unfortunately, they fell into the category of bands that seemingly got lost in the shuffle. Today, I’m not sure how many of my friends and music-oriented acquaintances would even recognize their name. No one ever seems to write or talk about them. And today they no longer exist, with frontman Gummere now leading Bare Mutants, and guitarist Brian Case a member of Dissapears. I don’t know what the other members are up to.

So since nobody’s talking about them anymore, I’m going to talk (or write) about them, because they made some really cool music, most notably their first album, Laced With Romance. While all their albums are pretty good, Laced With Romance, produced by Jim Diamond (best known for his work on The White Stripes‘ first two albums), is the one that packs the most punch (and reverb). On later albums they sound less interesting, less assured, and their songs less urgent, exciting. Laced With Romance burst out the gate with the tongue in cheek “Let’s Kill Ourselves” and kills it all the way through the Phil Spector put-on “Fall Inn”, the red light “Chemical Imbalance”, and the snarky “I Only Love You Because You Look Like Me”. These songs are kind of classics, or at least feel like it.

Admittedly the album doesn’t have that bareness that’s kept their peers’ albums like Get Behind Me Satan and Room On Fire from aging badly. And, if released today, it would sound just not quite right. But it’s still a great album, especially if like me, you look back on that time and place in rock music fondly.

Jobnik!

April 22nd, 2014 | Print | 0 Comments

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I found this graphic novel, Jobnik!, at a comic book shop in Guelph, of all places, and decided I had to pick it up. For those of you who may be reading this and don’t know me or this blog, I was a volunteer soldier in the Israel Defence Forces (or ‘chayal boded’/lone soldier) for most of the last two years and I actually plan on writing my own account of my experience, so I was interested to read Miriam Libicki‘s when I saw it.

Unlike Libicki, I’m a secular Canadian who joined at the age of 22 (after graduating from University of Toronto) and served for a year and a half in the infantry combat unit Nachal. Libicki is an American girl who grew up in a religious family and joined the IDF in the early 2000s, seemingly at 18, serving as what is known as a ‘jobnik’ – a somewhat derogatory slang term for someone who does a desk job or something of the sort in the IDF. She worked in a medical office on one of the bases.

The graphic novel captures some of the experience of serving in the army, though Libicki’s experience differed from mine a lot in that her service takes place during the second intifada and involves a lot more sex. In fact, these two aspects are the major focuses of the graphic novel, as drawings and news blurbs about the intifada cover a number of pages that are then weaved into the next couple covering Libicki’s sexual experiences – and often frustrations – with guys both in the army and out. The pages regarding the intifada and the “situation” in Israel are formatted in interesting ways that make it seem as though the news is ‘closing in’ on her life – it’s claustrophobic and helps give the sense of being surrounded and consumed by the conflict and the politics of the situation. And that is how life there often feels, especially when one is in the army: every day there’s talk of war, murder, terrorists, etc. It’s exhausting. And yet, really, this is a graphic novel more about a girl’s unlucky love life: she hooks up with this guy, this one’s being an ass to her, she has a crush on this one, and so on and on. The mixture of the two elements actually gives a good overview of what being in the Israeli army is like: you try not to get killed, and otherwise you try as best you can to be a teenager, have a social life. It’s not like in North America where you’re shipped off to Afghanistan or Iraq and it’s ‘so long life’ – in the IDF you go home every two, three weekends (or every day or weekend if you’re a jobnik) and without school or money to worry about, you pretty much just want to do the stuff young adults do…

As for the art, it’s all black and white pencil work that makes everybody look kind of plump and roundish. I’m not an art critic so I can’t say too much about it: I didn’t find it amazing, but I didn’t dislike it either.

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Libicki’s story doesn’t really go anywhere in particular but that’s ok, not everything has to have a tidy conclusion and ‘moral of the story’. She does a decent enough job of just kind of giving the reader a peak into what her life then was like.

Wizard Oz

April 17th, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

wizardoz

Homespun psych/chillwavers Wizard Oz hail from Melbourne, Australia. Or Mars. Whatever.