Julia Brown

August 18th, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

Baltimore’s Sam Ray-led project, Julia Brown, sort-of released a new album the other day called An Abundance Of Strawberries. It’s been quietly making the rounds on the internets, finally reaching me via my beloved Portals. They posted a link to download it off dropbox and I figured, ‘sure, why not?’ After listening to it, I can say there is no reason not to download this album. It is a beautiful pastiche of intimate lo-fi sounds and songs. Of joy. Of sadness. Of innocence and experience.

Nymphomaniac: Volume II

August 17th, 2014 | Film | 0 Comments

Nymphomaniac-Volume-2

Since I saw Lars Von Trier‘s excellent Nymphomaniac: Volume I, I’ve been anxious to see Volume II, but for one reason or another, simply didn’t. Until it finally appeared on Netflicks here in America.

Though the film’s score on Rotten Tomatoes is lower than that of its predecessor, there was no drop in quality or audacity across the halves. If anything, in a number of ways, Volume II is the more interesting film, following Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) through an odyssey-like journey, as she moves through different jobs, sexual partners and experimentations, and phases of life.

At the end of Volume I, Joe had finally found some measure of happiness when she hooked up with Jerome (Shia LaBeouf), with whom she has fallen in love. And just then, while having sex with him, she suddenly loses her ability to feel sexual pleasure. As we find her at the beginning of Volume II, this is a problem she is trying to deal with, but in the meantime, she marries Jerome, has a child with him, and is more or less happy, putting aside her lack of sexual pleasure. However, this happiness is not to last, and she begins cheating on Jerome with other men in an attempt to regain her feelings of sexual pleasure. She also begins visiting a man who runs something of a service for women who want to be violently abused in a sexual way. As a result of all this, her marriage with Jerome falls apart completely and she ends up leaving him and their child.

She gets fired from her job because it becomes apparent to those she’s working with that she is a nymphomaniac and her co-workers don’t feel comfortable with her around – and especially with her around their husbands. Joe, at the insistence of one of the higher ups at her job, joins a counselling group for women like herself, but comes to reject it and the notion that something is wrong with her because of her nymphomania. She finds work with a loan shark crew run by L (Willem Dafoe), and ends up recruiting and co-habitating with a 15-year-old girl she refers to as P (Mia Goth). Eventually her present and her past come to a head, and she winds up beaten on the ground, where she was first found at the beginning of Volume I.

As in Volume I, Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) will often break up her story to reflect upon it, and try and intellectually comprehend Joe’s life, decisions, and those she encounters along in her story.

There are points in the movie that seem a little ridiculous or far-fetched (and at the same time, totally predictable), but they make sense in the context of Lars Von Trier‘s audacious and unrestrained vision of the film. They are delivered with unacknowledged but apparent glee, as if this is Von Trier’s intellectual, European version of a grindhouse sexploitation film. Maybe even his answer to Tarantino’s Kill Bill - in fact, there are a considerable number of parallels between the two two-part films, both of which are stories told in non-linear, chapter-base fashion, of women living highly unconventional lives who embark on personal odysseys. Both also feature Uma Thurman.

I haven’t seen many Lars Von Trier films, but after watching volumes I & II of Nymphomaniac, I plan on exploring his filmography further. Nymphomaniac is a rare kind of cinematic masterpiece that only directors of incredible singular vision and skill can pull off, managing to be both deeply intellectual and yet consistently and pulpily entertaining; it’s shot with bold style, and features remarkable performances by a stellar cast of both established and lesser-known actors. Nymphomaniac, even by virtue of its title alone, no doubt, is not a movie for everyone, but those who appreciate a talented, experienced, and intelligent director fulling indulging himself and bringing the audience along with him, they might want to look into it.

Roadtrip To Sappyfest Video

August 16th, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

This is a little video I made of my roadtrip to Sappyfest. Enjoy :)

Operators

August 8th, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

operators

One of my favourite musicians of all time, Dan Boekner, put together a new band recently called Operators, and they’ve got a new EP out now on Last Gang Records. I’m listening to it right now. It’s cleaner and more electronic than his stuff with Handsome Furs, Divine Fits or Wolf Parade, but it’s got that darkness, seriousness we’ve come to expect from him. Not hearing the politics yet, but it might be there, might just need to keep listening.

The EP feels like just a taster, not so much a fully conceived first product. I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes with the project – hopefully he’ll explore some interesting other culture stuff like his did with Handsome Furs and Eastern-European culture. Unfortunately I can’t post the streams of the other songs on the EP, just the single, “True”, but I think it’s the worst one on there, the others are a bit rawer and with more guitar. You can buy the EP though and listen to all of it.

Sappyfest 9: Day 3

August 4th, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

universaldawn

Day 3 began with the event Universal Dawn in the Sackville community garden. This mostly consisted of prose and poetry readings, but it also featured Rose Melberg (Softies, Tiger Trap, million other bands). Admittedly, I didn’t pay too much attention to the readings, I was writing while they were going on and was more interested in Rose Melberg‘s set. She played solo electric and it was pretty much exactly what you’d expect from Rose Melberg: simple, sweet, charming.

I missed the Asphalt Watches screening, but grabbed a coffee (which I never drink, but I needed something to keep me energized for the last day of the fest) and sat down to watch Banded Stilts‘ set. The East coast band played a solid set of very ‘clean’ Canadian indie-folk. I don’t find the genre the most interesting of all genres, but I don’t have anything against it, and Banded Stilts ably performed a well-written setfull of songs. I would say the exact same thing about the not-dissimilar music and performances of Olympic Symphonium and Baby Eagle, who both played later that day.

raespoon

Rae Spoon – now based in Montreal – followed them and, as with Banded Stilts, I also find Spoon’s music a little too clean, too ‘Indie 88‘, but, even taking this into consideration, clearly Spoon is a songwriter of incredible skill and craft, both lyrically and musically. Her performance was likewise very tight.

feuerstack

Skipping forward a couple hours, Mike Feuerstack (Snailhouse, The Wooden Stars) performed the best set I’ve ever seen him play. I think it was the fourth time I’ve seen him, but only the second time with a full band. And this band had their shit down. Though Feuerstack’s songs work just fine when played solo, a great backing band blows them up into epic widescreen. They also picked picked a phenomenal bunch of Feuerstack’s songs to play, not that he’s lacking in great songs from numerous albums.

Following him, Basia Bulat was another performer of the fest who just seemed too ‘clean’-sounding to me, so I didn’t pay much attention to her set. Sorry… :/

shotgunandjaybird

Sackville locals Shotgun and Jaybird followed her. I’d never heard any of their stuff before their set, but I loved their lazy East coast indie-rock tunes, and their performance was great. Contrasting with Spoon and Feuerstack’s sets they kept things very loose, taking turns alternating between guitar and drums. I had heard a lot of talk of love for the underdog band and I’m beginning to see why – looking forward to checking out their albums.

conssappyfest3

And then… it was the Constantines turn. Shit got crazy. The Cons are an amazing live band to begin with, and they met a hugely enthusiastic audience at Sappyfest. People were moshing hard at the front from start to finish and the crowdsurfing got so out of control that surfers were getting stacked on top of eachother because there were so many. The end of their set didn’t feature as hugely classic songs as the first two thirds, but that’s the most minor complaint on Earth. Not every song can be “Shine A Light” and “I Will Not Sing A Hateful Song” (way, way, way better live, btw).

I saw a bit of Halifax rapper XXX CLVR‘s set but wasn’t feeling it, so I left the Legion to go grab a beer at the bar Duckie’s.

quakers

Sometime around 2:00 am Halifax’s Quaker Parents played a set at The Shed (literally that) that I caught the end of and that was cool too. Annnnd then I had to sleep.

But wow. Sappyfest was one of the best music festivals I’ve ever been to, if not the best, period. The whole experience was utopian – beautiful people, great music, an amazing and gorgeous location, and with outdoor markets and cool coffee shops and a zine fair…I wish we could’ve just stayed there and decided we were going to live our lives like that forever. If I can come back next year (and the years after and after) I will. Because I get it now. It’s just a magical festival that attracts, for the most part, people who really care not about the bro-ing out and getting drunk and big name bands, but the real stuff: music, good times and a lot of new friendships :)

 

Sappyfest 9: Day 2

August 3rd, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

sappy

Waking up in Sackville during Sappyfest is like waking up in paradise. This is what you see…

sack

So after that I went down to the main downtown intersection. There’s been an outdoor market here throughout the fest, but yesterday morning they also had farmers selling vegetables. I bought some baby carrots. I ate them with hummus. They were delightful.

market

At around eleven I went to the Legion hall to set up for the zine fair, in which I was participating. (In order to make a couple bucks for the festival, I turned the first chapter of my in-progress book, about my trip across America after finishing the IDF, into a little zine.) I ended up meeting and sort of befriending some of the other vendors, including Jonathan Rotsztain, who traded zines with me (his was more a comic, actually) and interviewed me for an article he’s writing about the zine fair for Broken Pencil Magazine.

zinefair

I felt like a total amateur. Everyone else had a bunch of zines or prints or comics or whatever, of different colours and sizes and they looked really nice…and I had just the one black and white zine.  I actually ended up selling most of them and trading almost all the rest, probably because Israel’s been in the news so much lately. I made a little bit of money, nothing amazing, but I was glad to have it to spend on records and stuff.

cool

I missed most of the afternoon’s shows because of the zine fair and then I worked out on the plateau of an unfinished or demolished bridge by the lake. Around eight I went back to the mainstage to see Cool, from Vancouver. I wasn’t that crazy about them. They seemed kind of jokey to me, playing this high energy white funk kind of thing. Everyone else seemed to love them though, I guess I’m just a pretentious curmudgeon or something.

ought

Montreal’s sort of Talking Heads-esque post-punk band Ought followed them. These guys have been blog/Pitchfork favourites of late, and I like them on record, but I wasn’t that crazy about them live. The frontman was doing this high-energy David Byrne-esque frontman shtick that reminded me of quirky 80s art-punk bands, but I didn’t buy it, it felt too put on.

juliedoiron

Julie Doiron followed them. She was introduced as ‘the mayor of Sackville’ and it was easy to see why. Doiron is something of an indie legend in Canada, and especially the East Coast, and the fact that she lives in this tiny town of 5000 is kind of amazing. Here she’s sort of accorded royalty status, but she’s also just ‘Julie from the block’ or whatever.

Her set was very cordial. It was just her and a drummer. They played a couple songs from her enormous repertoire (she’s been putting out incredible music since the early 90s) and also did a shaky cover of “Love Hurts”. It felt like she knew she didn’t really have to impress anyone; she was playing for friends, which made it a fun set, but not the most technically mindblowing.

cousins

By the time Cousins came on I was just ‘rocked out’. I sat outside the main area and watched, and they played a great set like every other time I’ve seen the Halifax duo, but I was just out of energy by that point. I had enough left for two songs by local indie rockers (sorry for the unspecific description, I was getting too tired to listen too closely) Weird Lines at the Legion hall, but then I was done for. But another great day/night of Sappyfest all the same.

Sappyfest 9: Day 1

August 2nd, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

sappyfest

Sackville is a tiny little town in New Brunswick. The only thing that separates it from a million other little towns across Canada is that it is also home to Mount Allison University, which gives the town a bit of a youthful and interesting character. And during Sappyfest weekend, that character is exploded as the underground but up-and-coming indie-rockigentsia of Canada descend upon it for three days of music, beer, zines, outdoor markets, and general good times for all. It’s kind of like a house party that’s not too big or crazy and everyone there is either your friend or potentially your friend. Except instead of a house it’s a remote town in Eastern Canada.

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The first band I saw was The Grubbies, a sort of garage pop band from Halifax. Apparently they’re big fans of The Who, since they covered a bit of “The Kids Are Alright” during their soundcheck and then ended their set with “Heatwave”. They were good.

 freelove

Following them was Montreal prog-poppers Freelove Fenner, who I’ve been feeling for a little while. They were very ‘sturdy’ and precise live – their records would lead you to imagine they would be – but not super energetic. I spent the whole set watching the guitarist perform the chorus-drenched figures that give the band a lot of its unique sound.

dusted

Dusted Holy Fuck‘s Brian Borcherdt and RitualsLeon Taheny (both based in Toronto) - mixes electronic elements with sort of old school Canadian indie. They took on the task of getting the energy of the night going. Before their set I’d only known of them by reputation but I’m a fan now. They were phenomenal.

ps

Finishing off the night at the mainstage was Kitchener’s drums-guitar powerhouse PS I Love You. They took the energy that Dusted had built up with the crowd and blew it up, people were jumping around and dancing and one guy even got a crowdsurf in. Guitarist Paul Saulnier might not look like a Peter Frampton guitar god or something, but he owned the stage – fingertapping, playing guitar behind his head, and just generally proving himself a serious presence. Drummer Benjamin Nelson also held up his end of things heroically.

motherhood

After PS I Love You‘s set ended, festivities moved over to the Royal Canadian Legion venue. Fredericton band Motherhood started playing around 12:15. I was already so tired from barely sleeping the night before and driving all day that at this point I needed some serious persuasion to keep going. And although Motherhood put on a very solid performance, they were so Nick Cave-inspired that it was more like I was watching a Nick Cave cover band than an original crew from Fredericton. Maybe if I’d sat through their entire set or got into their music more I would see more originality, but at the point in the night I didn’t have the patience and decided to call it in, despite my desire to see Halifax’s Moon, who were playing after them.

LVL UP

July 29th, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

lvlup

There’s a lot to love about this. The band’s name is LVL UP (video game reference, awesome), they’re on the same label as Frankie Cosmos, Double Double Whammy, and they play Weezer-esque 90′s indie rock with a raw lofi sensibility. And they’re from New York, which is where I’ll be living in two weeks(!). (via Pitchfork)

Shlock Appeal // Things

July 27th, 2014 | Film | 0 Comments

things2

Recently I’ve been kind of interested in canuxploitation movies, which, for those who don’t know, are Canadian horror/sci-fi/WTF movies, usually from the 70s and 80s when the Canadian government was investing heavily trying to develop an internationally respected Canadian film industry. A lot of film-makers – including sometimes young, creative type likes David Cronenberg, perhaps the most succesful of all directors to come out of canuxploitation – were able to get money from the government and investors looking for tax havens and just make weird, crazy movies.

In my internet explorations of the genre, I came across people talking and writing about Things, a cheap 1989 horror film made in Toronto (or Scarborough, to be exact) by some crazy film students. Actually, to say this movie was made cheaply is an understatement, even though the internet says they had a budget of over 35,000. I would guess most of that budget went towards buying drugs.

Luckily, I knew that living in Toronto next to a video rental place like Eyesore Cinema and not far from Suspect Video, I would almost definitely be able to find this film, and I was right. Eyesore had a copy of the recent Intervision DVD of it. So I rented it and brought it over to my buddy Kevin’s place to watch. And despite my absolute bewilderment, I fell in love with this movie. However, to call Things a ‘movie’ might be misleading; it’s more like if two weird dudes on acid decided to actually film a feature length movie using 80s camcorders, and then somehow convinced someone to actually release it as if it were a ‘real’ straight-to-VHS movie.

The essential ‘plot’ of Things is that this guy can’t get his wife pregnant, so they go to a doctor who performs experiments on her that impregnate her with bug-like ‘things’ that then come out and kill people. What actually ends up happening is that this happens, and then the guy and his friend end up just hanging around their house on the lookout for the things, eating cheese sandwiches, talking about whatever. Then I don’t even know. Somebody screwed up with the footage or something because things just stop making sense completely as far as I can tell. And yet the movie keeps going.

Things is, by any standard appreciation of film, a terrible movie. But it’s the kind of terrible movie that has a sort of artfulness too it. Watching it, I felt like it was kind of the film equivalent of the weird music a lot of Canadians make in their bedrooms and you then hear on Weird Canada. It has a homey, innocent, almost childish charm. Hobo With A Shotgun director Jason Eisener said that the scenes where the guys are just chilling in the house eating cheese sandwiches remind him of young guys drinking beers and hanging out in houses in Nova Scotia, where both Eisener and Things actor/writer/producer Barry J. Gillis spent their formative years. Having spent my first year of university in Halifax, I know what he means and it’s true. Things has that kind of ‘Canadian bros chilling and having fun’ vibe.

If your tolerance for ‘weird’ is low, you will have no interest in sitting through one second of Things. However, if you love the weird, the homey, the WTF – this is a Holy Grail of a movie. Grab some friends, drink some beers, make some (vegan) cheese sandwiches, and watch Things at 3 AM. Your mind will be blown wide open.

STEVE JR

July 27th, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

stevejr

As if tonight’s bill at Comfort Zone with Doldrums, TONSTARTSSBANDHT and Cellphone wasn’t already ballin’ enough, Montreal’s sludgy STEVE JR is opening and they sound pretty badass too.