Archive for June, 2015

Advance Base

June 29th, 2015 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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I saw the Chicago-based Advance Base (Owen Ashworth, formerly Casiotone For The Painfully Alone) play Silent Barn in Brooklyn a couple months ago. He hooked up some synths and a drum machine and it was so cool and intimate and Silent Barn was just beyond perfect for it. That’s when I first heard some of the new songs on his latest album Nephew In The Wild. They were pretty solid. Unsurprisingly, they weren’t all that unlike what he’s done before, but I guess if it’s not broken and it’s kind of your thing, don’t change it.

The album comes out August 21st on Ashworth’s label Orindal.

March

June 25th, 2015 | Print | 0 Comments

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Working a legal internship in Washington, D.C. is an interesting experience. Every day you meet congressmen and senators and people that you read about or see on Bill Maher. You watch democracy in action, bureaucratic as it may be. Sometimes it’s frustrating, and sometimes it’s inspiring.

My first week here, I was invited (sort of in relation to my internship) to attend a book signing. I was told the man signing books was John Lewis, but I didn’t know who that was. As I soon learned, not only is he a congressman, he was also one of the big six leaders of the American civil rights movement, and the only one of the six still alive. The book being signed was a graphic novel, or really, two volumes of a graphic novel trilogy called March. So far I’ve only read the first book which came out last year, and the third book hasn’t been released yet, but basically March is a graphic novel about John Lewis‘s life and his involvement in the American civil rights movement.

Lewis grew up on a farm in a rural little corner of Alabama, preaching to his family’s chickens and running to catch the bus to school against his dad’s wishes (he was needed for farm work). As a young man he went to Fisk University in Nashville and got involved with a rabble rouser there named Martin Luther King, Jr. Lewis, King, and the other young idealists they were involved with tried to emulate the non-violent protest methods of Gandhi to further their goal of breaking down the racial barriers then in-place in America. March allows one an insider perspective on their activities, as they organize sit-ins and other interesting protests to push against segregation’s limitations, making slow but steady progress over time, with the movement continuously gaining in strength and numbers.

March One

Thankfully, the authors and illustrator of March do justice to the importance of the subject matter. The book is beautifully written, especially in the intimate chapters detailing Lewis’s humble beginnings. Later in time (though early on in the story), a female visitor’s awe at being able to meet Lewis and introduce her two young sons to him ably illustrates the gravity of his and the civil rights movement’s accomplishments. Self-aggrandizing? Maybe a little. But with a story like Lewis’, to avoid self-aggrandizing would require significant effort and even be kind of disingenuous.

At the book signing, someone said that most American kids know nine words about the civil rights movement: Martin Luther King, “I have a dream”, Rosa Parks. Something like that. I can’t speak for Americans, but as a Canadian, I know my education didn’t consist of much more than that (and the underground railroad). When I saw Selma I was blown away by how much those activists went through. Seriously. Those guys were hardcore.

March can be thought of as a companion piece to Selma. It tells the film’s story from a different perspective, starting earlier and ending well after the events portrayed in the film. And really, I always thought I knew enough about all this American civil rights movement stuff, but the fact that what I’m learning now blows my mind so much says otherwise. This is an important story for everyone to learn, study, know. The story of the American civil rights movement is not just about Americans or black people, but about humanity. It’s about how we can sometimes be so stupid and ridiculous and horrible, but also about how a small number of people with a little hope and a lot of determination can make a huge difference.

Records From Canada // Crimes

June 20th, 2015 | Features | 0 Comments

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One of the weird things about New York is that because it’s so insanely urban (especially Manhattan), a lot of people there develop a crazy craving for the outdoors. I definitely felt it and, as a result, I spent a lot of time in my apartment dreaming of moving to British Columbia. Even as I type this, the wallpaper on my phone and my laptop are pictures my friend Breanna took while travelling across B.C. So now at least when I go to check my email I can see that magical place…

My craving for B.C. led me back to the province’s awesome music scene (mostly bands from Vancouver and sometimes Victoria). Especially the ragged stuff. Bands like Black Mountain. Japandroids. Ladyhawk. And then from there I started trying to find out about other cool bands from Vancouver that I might’ve missed. Eventually my searches turned up The Mohawk Lodge.

I think the first thing I heard was their most recent album, 2012’s Damaged Goods. I wasn’t really into it, but I decided to check out some tracks from one other album, 2007’s Wildfires, just in case their older stuff was better. Well, it was and is. But even better than Wildfires is their 2010 album Crimes. To be fair, frontman Ryder Havdale ditched Vancouver for Toronto in 2008 and recorded Crimes there, but it still feels more like a Vancouver album than a Toronto one.

What makes Crimes and Wildfires so compelling is the same ragged heart-on-sleeve, B.C. dive bar beauty that you can hear in the music of bands like Ladyhawk and Japandroids. They sing about love and stuff, but it’s stoner love, hitch-hiker love, bearded, fleeting, irresponsible, immature, dirty and glorious. Half of what they miss is the girl, but the other half is the time, the place, the moment. Like in “Younger Us” when Japandroids sing “Give me the night you were already in bed/Said “fuck it”, got up to drink with me instead.” It’s that very B.C. feeling.

As great as both albums are, Crimes is a bit more consistent. The production on songs like “Let Go” – with its playful, layered vocals and the hand claps that come in halfway through – is also a cut above the band’s previous work.  Sometimes it’s a bit too clean actually, and the best songs on Wildfires actually strike a better balance between gritty and produced, but most of the songs on Crimes are still great.

I wanted to go to Vancouver again this summer. I was planning to take a road trip from Portland, OR to Dawson City in the Yukon Territories, but I’m not even sure if I’ll have a week to go back to Toronto and visit my family this summer, let alone take what would need to be at least a month-long road trip. Stupid law school-intern-work life. Yeah, I know, it’s the responsible path, but sometimes I just want to say screw it and live in that B.C. feeling forever. Until that day comes though, I guess I’ll just dream of the West Coast’s mountains and forests while listening to The Mohawk Lodge.

Bottoms // Goodbye EP

June 16th, 2015 | This Is New York | 0 Comments

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Last weekend I had to go back to NYC (from Washington, DC, where I’m performing a summer internship) to look at apartments for next year (I’m moving from Chelsea to Brooklyn – at last!). While I was back in the big city, how could I not go and check out some Northside Festival stuff? Some friends and I hit up the Xiu Xiu show at Palisades in Bushwick. Although I missed the opener – and forget who it was – I made it in time to see friendly, neighbourhood “gender​-probl​ematiz​ing goth dance band” Bottoms‘ set.  I’d never heard them before and it was just like, “whaaaaa?” There was this burly bearded dude on stage bouncing around with a mic plugged into a pitch-shifter or something that made him sound like a chipmunk. Behind him some dudes were apparently playing gnarly synths and drums (I couldn’t see them, I was too far back). It was pretty awesome.

Montage Of Heck

June 12th, 2015 | Film | 0 Comments

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The Kurt Cobain doc Montage of Heck may have been “90% bullshit“, but in any case, it wasn’t all bullshit. There was a Kurt Cobain. He was born in Aberdeen, Washington. He had a nice childhood, apparently. His parents divorced. His adolescence was difficult. He moved to Olympia with his girlfriend at the time. He made music. He started a band called Nirvana. They got famous. He met and married Courtney Love. They had a kid. He committed suicide in 1994 (or did he?). This much is true, it seems.

Montage of Heck works best when it acts like a straight documentary with talking heads, pictures, and home movies detailing Cobain’s childhood and adolescence. But Montage of Heck isn’t a straight doc, replete as it is with animated sequences often narrated by what at least seems to be Cobain’s own voice. If the episodes he details in these sequences are true, they offer some of the most interesting and shocking insight into Cobain’s world and personality. Even if they’re just fictional Cobain stories, they serve a similar function, and provide some fascinating insight about what went on inside Cobain’s mind when he wasn’t writing songs.

Sometimes the intermingling of this animated footage with the talking heads and home movies – all spliced together in spastic, 90’s MTV fashion – is pretty neat. But it gets a little tiring. And it perhaps doesn’t add up to the stylish, grand testament to Cobain’s life that the filmmakers and viewers want it to be. The doc feels a little odd-bodied, with the back-end dominated by home movies and Nirvana footage, lacking the talking heads commentary that provided such interesting context to the childhood and adolescent portion of the movie. As much as Montage focused on Cobain and Love’s love and marriage, it felt like there was still more to them left unexplored. Both were such odd, interesting characters – and the film’s home movies vividly display that – was there not more to say about their relationship? More analysis to be given? Outside perspectives, rather than just Love’s and Krist Novoselic‘s?

Strangely, I came away from the film liking Cobain less. Not even because of things like the ‘sex with the slow girl’ scene, but maybe because he seemed less interest, weighty than I wanted him to. I liked the Cobain I met in AJ Schnack‘s 2006 doc Kurt Cobain: About A Son, which featured no footage of Nirvana at all. I remember seeing it in Toronto at The Royal, with author Michael Azzerad (Come As You Are, Our Band Could Be Your Life) – who conducted the interviews that the film basically just provides visual accompaniment for – in the theatre, introducing the film and doing a Q&A after. I remember him saying something like, “When I started talking to Kurt, I thought, “I know this guy.” This wasn’t Kurt Cobain: rock star, drug addict, tortured artist. This was a real person.” Watching Montage Of Heck, I wanted that feeling again, of meeting the man behind the myth. But Montage Of Heck doesn’t quite manage to pin ‘Cobain: the man’ down to the extent I would have liked it to.