Archive for December, 2004

Friday, December 31st, 2004

The End's Not Near, It's Here

Okay, just who is Bright Eyes’ PR guy? Cause he’s certainly earning his gruel this month. Conor Oberst’s watery eyes are inescapable on the newsstands now – check out cover stories in Harp, Filter, Under The Radar, Seventeen, Tiger Beat, Non-Threatening Boys… and now I’ve put him as the lead item in my final post of the year! Very crafty Mr PR Man, very crafty. You win this round, you magnificent bastard. Well, since ’05 is looking like it’s going to be the year of Bright Eyes, I may as well get on the bandwagon now.

You know, when I look at the sort of dreck that Rolling Stone has been covering all year, and then look at their writers’ year-end lists, I almost feel sorry for them. I don’t doubt that these guys have good to great musical taste, but are stuck reporting on Lindsay Lohan’s nip slips and Paris Hilton’s abortion of a singing career (take THAT Google spiders!).

Metacritic presents their top-scoring albums of 2004 along with a bit of a site facelift.

So another year has come and gone… I shrugged off doing any sort of wrap-up last year, but am feeling in the mood this time around – you know, like those form letters you get from relatives around the holidays talking about how little Bobby had his first tooth, Amanda got the lead in the school play and Uncle Leroy might make bail this time? Let’s do it categorically, shall we?

Musically (and that’s relative to me, musically, not music in general), it was a bit of a disappointment. My band kind of staggered from the start of the year and finally crashed and burned in October. Okay, that’s a bit melodramatic, but it was still sad to see it all end after almost three years. It’s not quite over yet, as the album we recorded is still due out next year sometime, but for me it’s a final document. Ironically, being band-less has been the most creatively liberating thing to happen to me in a long time – it’s now just a matter of finding a proper outlet. Finding a new band has been a mildly frustrating experience but things are looking up for 2005. More on that as it develops. And music in general? In numbers – 167 CDs purchased this year, 52 concerts attended. Madness.

Personally – a bit of an up and down year. I had a wonderful flood in January, turning my apartment into a serene reflecting pool. Amazingly, there was no permenant damage to anything – just an unbelievably stressful day. That whole mortality thing also smacked me right in the face when barely a week after that, one of my close friends from home was in an auto accident and left in a coma for almost two months. He’s doing really well now – just went out with him on Wednesday – but it was touch and go for a while and truly one of the scariest things I’ve ever been through. After years of being teased for never leaving the downtown Toronto core let alone the 416, I finally got some travelling done venturing to Las Vegas, Vancouver/Victoria/Seattle and Chicago in three separate trips. Hardly world travel, but still quite an achievement for me. What else… not too much. Work is good. My brother got engaged. I grow weary of basement life but will be addressing that in the Spring one way or another. I’m turning 30 next year and planning a good old fashioned freak-out of biblical proportions. It’ll be grand.

Oh, and I got my wisdom teeth out. Ouchie.

And the blog. Up until about mid-January, I just plugged along, doing my thing, when all of a sudden my traffic spiked on January 19 when I was nominated for two Bloggie awards. As I said at the time, that was the first time it really dawned on me that people actually read this thing and while I won’t necessarily changed the way I went about this thing, I will admit that I appreciated the attention and began taking it that much more seriously. Since then, my average traffic has more than tripled, the amount of time I spend on this blasted thing has also gone up not insignificantly, and it’s really now a second full-time job. But you know what? I don’t mind one bit – this thing has introduced me to all sorts of great music and people and the days that it seems more like work than fun are few and far between. I think I missed posting all of two days this year, which really speaks more to my obsessive-compulsive disorder rather than any sense of dedication. Regardless, I trundle on and fully expect to do so through 2005 unless I, like, get a life or a girlfriend or a puppy or something. But until that day, my pathos is your gain! Dig in!

But seriously, I love you guys. Thanks for making this fun and worthwhile and I’ll see you in 2005. Cheers.

np – Spiritualized / The Complete Works Volume Two

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

Tiny Spark

Detroit pop-meister Brendan Benson’s new one, The Alternative To Love, is out March 22. Everyone seems to be more focused on the fact that Jack White produced it than the merit of the artist himself. Brendan Benson is the new Loretta Lynn. I saw BB play a couple years ago and think I enjoyed it alright – honestly, I probably dozed off a couple times, not so much because he was boring but because I had biked something like 65 km that morning and had grossly overestimated the amount of energy I had. I do remember him being an ungodly skinny man, though. I mean, God, look at those cheekbones? The boy is GAUNT. No small bit of irony in naming his band The Well-Fed Boys, I guess.

Update: Torr correctly points out that Alernative To Love is NOT the album that Jack White produced. He even has a link to a track from the new album. My excuse for the inaccurate information is, uh, I’m drunk.

NOW rounds up some anticipated releases from local artists in 2005, including controller.controller’s first full-length (March) and a new The Fembots record (April). Myself, I’m looking forward to the new Broken Social Scene record, natch, (April), and the Amy Millan solo record Honey From The Tombs which has been delayed almost a full year now. It’s supposedly coming out in the Spring, but will more realistically have to wait until they’re done supporting Set Yourself On Fire.

Oh, and of interest probably to only me, that damn Lake Holiday record should be out sometime in 2005 on Bi-Fi. Maybe. Hopefully. I haven’t heard any of it since I finished tracking my parts back in, uh, March? June? August? I have no idea.

eye waits until pretty much the last minute to roll out their year-end lists. Check out their best (and worst) albums and singles, and the best of John Sakamoto’s always worthy anti-hit list.

Toronto Star music critics Ben Rayner and Vit Wagner compile their respective looks back at 2004 (bugmenot: No unanimous choice as last year when they both hailed 2003 as the year of Metric, but instead a couple of refreshingly disparate lists. Boo to concensus!

The Fourth Rail submits their picks for best comic book covers of 2004.

So my SXSW is booked. I’ve chosen a slightly further but still SXSW-approved hotel – the La Quinta – Oltorff. No, it’s not right on the strip but 2.5 miles ain’t bad and I got a pretty damn good deal through March 17 to 20, I be kicking back Austin-style. Yee-haw.

Alas, Jerry Orbach. You may be gone but Lenny Briscoe lives on in a million syndicated episodes a day. Rest in peace.

Because of a veritable deluge of comment spam in the past day, I’ve had to go into my source code and hack it to block the specific spammers who’ve been bugging me. It shouldn’t stop anyone else, unless your name is “mortgage”, but if you do have a problem please let me know. Thanks.

np – Bob Dylan / Love And Theft

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004

Breadcrumb Trail

There will be no Slint reunion dates in Toronto. David Pajo hates us, or more accurately, hates our border security. In a comment on this message board, he says:

“There are no canadian dates because of uptight border officials. I swore off going to canada until they lighten up (I’ve been all over the world and never been denied access to a country before – and yet, last year Papa M was turned away because our drummer had a DUI on his record… we had to cancel dates in montreal, vancouver, toronto, etc. this is just one of many stories I’ve experienced or fellow musicians have experienced). it’s a pity that border abuse should affect the Slint schedule. but bands who are legitimately wanted by the canadian people shouldn’t have to be treated like criminals. I think it’s a real problem and something should be done about it. until then, canadians will have to make that long scary journey into the land of barbarians if they want to see Slint.”

Now I get as annoyed by hassles at the border as the next guy, but I can’t help but bristle a little when people from other countries presume to tell us who we should and should not let into the country. I don’t think it should necessarily be an inflexible policy, but you know what? If the dude has a criminal record, I think I want the border security to take a cloesr look at him. Call me crazy.

Presumably our border guards will have no problem with Japan’s Guitar Wolf, however – they’re scheduled to be at Lee’s Palace on March 3. Hide the children.

Wilco has their November 15 show at the Fillmore in San Francisco streaming on their website now. Hit the roadcase to listen.

..And yesterday I did essentially nothing. It’s true that lethargy begats lethargy – I barely left the house yesterday, and yet I was utterly pooped by 11. Sad sad sad. However, it wasn’t completely wasted – I did get a number of things on my ‘to-do’ list done. Namely, cleaned the bathroom and replaced the electronics on my guitars (which involved huffing solder for a couple hours. Whoo!). I also went out for dinner for Five Seventeen’s birthday, as he’s back in town for the holidays. But besides that… total write-off. Today looks more promising – I have no more food, so if I don’t go out for groceries, I die. Simple.

np – Matt Pond PA / Emblems

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

Don't Cry No Tears

A late Christmas present to you courtesy of Torr – a recording of the first ever Tears gig from the Zodiac in Oxford on December 12 of this year. The download page Torr links to has a horribly annoying download interface and transfer restrictions, so I’ve taken the liberty of uploading the show to my own server here. The recording is a little rough, but the material sounds pretty good – not as arch and dramatic as old Suede, but solid. And it’s always good to hear Bernard Butler on the gee-tar.

I’ve mentioned in the past my love-hate relationship with Douglas Coupland… Well, that’s actually overstating how much I like and dislike his work. I’ve always been mildly frustrated with his books – he wants to be wacky and he wants to be profound, and the end result always seems to suffer for it. Well he’s finally written a book that I genuinely enjoyed start to finish – Hey Nostradamus!. It starts with a Columbine-esque high school shooting and ripples outwards to see how it affects various people, both directly and indirectly. Maybe it’s because of the weightiness of the subject matter that he decided to tone down the humour aspects of this book, but it really works – instead of being caricatures, the characters are fully-realized and empathic. The opening section of the book detailing the actual shooting is particularly affecting.

My impression of the book is no doubt influenced by the event I saw with him at the International Festival of Authors back in Fall 2002, wherein he discussed the Columbine shootings and how it affected him. A lot of the topics and themes he talked about I see directly in Hey Nostradamus! and it really adds to the weight of his words. If you want to read about it, take a trip in the wayback machine. I actually started and finished the book yesterday afternoon, it was that engrossing. I’m excited that I seem to have finally gotten over a hump with Coupland’s work, and have reserved Eleanor Rigby at the library – here’s hoping Hey Nostradamus! wasn’t a fluke.

Next up on the holiday reading list – Richard Russo’s Empire Falls.

So the day after I discover Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Each Note Secure gives us this link to two live GYBE! shows. Coincidence? I think so.

I went to the optometrist yesterday morning to get my eyes checked out, and naturally they put in those dilating drops to get a good look around my peepers. Which was fine, except it also happened to be one of the sunniest days in weeks and the downtown is still largely sheathed in white, shiny, reflective ice and I didn’t bring my sunglasses… So if you were on Yonge St yesterday around noon and saw some guy running down the street screaming, “AAHH! MY EYES, MY EYES!”, that was me. How you doing.

np – M Ward / Transfiguration Of Vincent

Monday, December 27th, 2004

And Me I Am Her Dagger

It’s hard to discuss House Of Flying Daggers without making comparisons to the other Zhang Yimou film that came out in North America this year, Hero. It’s a less ambitious film than Hero in scope, symbolism and narrative style, but I found it a little more engaging – probably for those very reasons – and enjoyed the martial arts sequences even more. The battle in the bamboo forest, in particular, is spectacular. It’s not as visually arresting as Hero – with a few exceptions, there isn’t the same elaborate use of colour – but it’s still a treat for the eyes.

The story is fairly simple – soldiers attempting to break open a ring of rebels, the titular House of Flying Daggers, concocts a plan to trick a blind assassin of the house into leading them to their hideout. Kung fu fighting ensues. At around the 2/3-way point that the plot takes a large twist that could have taken the film to another level completely, but I felt that it squandered the opportunity by taking the more formulaic route. Okay, it made perfect sense in the spirit of the film to do what they did, but I would have preferred to go the other way. Either way, with House Of Flying Daggers and Hero, I’m pleased to see that there’s an audience for martial arts movies that actually have some plot and emotional content in addition to the chop-socky fighting.

Largehearted Boy got a site redesign for Christmas!

A quick round-up of my Boxing Day haul from yesterday:

Godspeed You Black Emperor! / Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven!

Manic Street Preachers / Lifeblood

Sigur Ros / Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do EP

Spiritualized / The Complete Works Volume Two

M Ward / Transfiguration Of Vincent

Rachael Yamagata / Happenstance

After about one listen each, here’s my impressions – Godspeed very good, Spiritualized not really necessary, Sigur Ros definitely not necessary but it only cost me $5, Yamagata better than I expected, M Ward very good. There’s still a few more things I’d like to get on sale, and hopefully Soundscapes will scratch that itch today.

It’s been a tough year in Blue Jay land. Besides a dismal season, the departure of franchise cornerstone Carlos Delgado and the health problems of long-time broadcaster Tom Cheek, there were the deaths of former pitcher and broadcaster John Cerutti, former manager Bobby Mattick and just this weekend, former player Doug Ault passed away. Ault is in the record books as the first Blue Jay to hit a home run for the franchise, launching two dingers past the outfield fence in Exhibition Stadium against the Chicago White Sox on a snowy April 7, 1977. Here’s hoping ’05 wears better for the Jays.