Friday, October 31, 2008

Hottest Canadian Bands 2008 ... For Reals...

Matthew has the Hottest Canadian Bands oh-eight up...

well worth checking out (w/ mp3s for every band) which is good for me since I haven't heard albums from a few 'listmakers'...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

1 Down, 81 to Go...

So the first six minutes of the season really couldn't have gone much worse: zero team rebounds, a half dozen bad shots for JO, and CB4 hitting the ground about 4 times while looking for calls that were not going to come. After that... things really couldn't have gone any better.

A whole pile of positives from the first game:
  • Bosh put up a first/second team All NBA stat line: 42 mins, 27 pts (9-16 fgs, 9-10 fts), 11 reb, 4 Assts.
  • After starting terribly, JO hit some open jump shots, played pretty solid D, blocked 1 but altered a bunch of shots, and freed up Bosh to do what he does best. So far, the trade has worked out!
  • Jason Kapono - after being really professional about not getting enough minutes last year - SHOT the F--Kin' LIGHTS OUT. Shortening Sam Mitchell's bench because he was too stupid to do it himself, check.
  • Roko Ukic, despite an unimpressive stat line, managed the game as well as could be expected and then some. This may have something to do with the fact that he is 24, and not 18 or 19 (I'm not sure how it is that I went all summer telling people he was 18 and no one called me on this all summer/fall). He had an outstanding second quarter and he looked extremely poised when he had to come back in the 4th.

  • Bargnani... somebody might have to help me out with a silver lining there... I guess he only missed 4 shots... ?
All in all, things are looking up for the Raps this year, and, I think I'd be willing to bet on a franchise season (which, sadly, may be losing in 6 or 7 games in the second round of the playoffs).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rogers Sucks, Opening Day, and Some Music...

So, its opening night of the NBA season and there are, wait for it, zero games on TV. I mean, maybe I'm retarded, but I get the NBA TV and there are no games on. Instead, we have Amhad Rashad, who should've gone off the air with NBA Inside Stuff, Chris Webber, and Gary Payton all night. This is pretty ridiculous. If you're reading this and you work at Rogers (and chances are you don't) I await your apology...

But, on the bright side, the Raptors opener is tomorrow and, really, all I'm hoping for is that (knock on wood) Jose Calderon doesn't get injured; since, let's be honest, if he goes down the season is over. And that's not even really a bright side is it...

A couple of other notes:
  • I complained a while ago about not liking any hip-hop that's come out recently, and, thankfully, my friend Cam sent me a bunch of stuff. The Cool Kids, which I never really gave a chance, were good; the Kidz in the Hall, whose album The In Crowd is somewhere just below excellent - with a lot of solid guest appearances; and the Knux, whose album I'm waiting on, but their myspace tracks are great and I'm really looking forward to it.
  • History Jen has posted her 10 hottest bands of '08, and there are a couple there that I have been meaning to check out, but haven't, and will now on her recommendation... namely: The Bruce Peninsula and $100. B-T-W she has a great site, particularly if you're in Toronto and don't want to break the bank going to see good bands. I think the i(heart)music list is up... Friday?
  • Lastly, my buddy Kyle, who I can't say enough good things about has been ranking the Presidents (American, obviously) and its been great. Part 4, of 10.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

808s & Heartbreaks

You all may have heard of this chap: "Kane West"... or is it KanYe... hmph...

At any rate, the new disc 808s & Heartbreaks is due out in about a month - Nov. 25th according to Amazon - which, I'll be honest, is the most exciting thing I've heard since I moved to Toronto.

Other than a couple of listening parties, I'm not sure anyone has heard the album in its entirety, but there have been some comments about how 'people are reporting that' it's different, weird, and how he premiered 'Love Lockdown' on Ellen, etc.. however, I haven't actually heard anyone actually say anything negative. And, I've got to say, after hearing the first two singles 'Love Lockdown' and 'Heartless' I think Kanyeezy might have a shot at back to back album of the year titles here at LOBM, which, would be an extraordinary accomplishment for a budding young artist....

The video for 'Love Lockdown', if you haven't seen it or still can't figure out how google works, is here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Shut-Ins Guide to the Hottest Canadian Bands, 2008

So, Matthew at I(heart)music asked me to participate in his yearly ‘Hottest Canadian Bands’ poll which was… well, flattering. After getting over the initial flattery, I had a little trouble dealing with the idea of determining how ‘hot’ bands were. I mean, it was kind of hard for me to wrap my head around Chad VanGaalen, for example, being considered ‘hot’. Because really, for me, a middle aged dude singing about death and playing a banjo doesn’t really embody hotness. There was a little bit of an impass, some pacing, and basically what I decided was to take ‘Hottest Canadian Bands’ and replace it with ‘Bands I like a lot more this year’. And, because I really haven’t made it out to all that many shows – something I’m hoping will change in the next month or so – I’m really just basing my list on what I’ve read and heard. So, you might say this is a Shut-In’s Guide to the best bands of 2008 (with minimal commentary).

Honorable Mentions:

Jon McKiel - As I mentioned previously, I haven't heard the full album, but I really like a couple of the singles.

Entire Cities - I thought Deep River was excellent, but haven't really heard anything about them since the album came out.

Plants and Animals - Honestly, I just didn't like Parc Avenue as much as a lot of people. Its good, as far as psych-hippie-jam-band rock goes, but its just not really my bag.

.......... drum roll please .............

10. The Rural Alberta Advantage (Toronto, On)
They were new to me this year, enjoyed seeing them in London earlier this spring. The only thing they've got going against them is that Liz really doesn't like them - I think she finds the vocals a little whiny - and so they don't get much play at home...

9. The Acorn (Ottawa, On)
No new albums, but for some reason I've went back and listened to one of their first EPs Tin Fist about 7 Thousand times this year. It was the CD my dad and I listened to the most while up in Northern Michigan at the end of the summer. Oh, and there's also a live album as of Sept. that I've yet to hear, but, if its anything like their live show (which it should be since its a collection of live songs) it'll be great.

8. Tokyo Police Club (Toronto, On)

I think I said everything I needed to say in my last post...

7. Woodhands (Toronto, On)

Best song of the year: 'Dancer'. And, if either the Star Wars or Chocolate Rain kid still need a date for their prom they have approximately 6 months to lock this down...

6. Hayden (Toronto?, On)

Not exactly a spring chicken, but he's still my favourite. Also, I haven't forgot about In Field & Town, which I think is his best album since ... I can't really choose among his albums. Suffice to say if he had a little more of an exuberant personality he'd probably be a little higher, but for Hayden it seems like its been a pretty standard year.

5. Born Ruffians (Toronto, On)

I thought Red, Yellow & Blue was a fun, energetic album and they've been playing a lot of shows. Plus, they just seem like a band that should be on a list like this...

4. The Black Hat Brigade (Brampton, On)

I said when I first posted about the BHB's first EP that I thought it was better than anything by Wolf Parade (the band they are most compared to), and after WP's At Mount Zoomer I think I feel that way even more. Given that the dudes in BHB are young (I'm pretty sure) I think this makes them more exciting, and more - dare I say - hotter? They are a band that, given their proximity to Toronto, I'm determined and likely to see them sometime before Christmas.

3. The Golden Hands Before God (Montreal, QC via Windsor, On)

To me, the problem with rock music is typically bands end up falling into the generic 'garage rock' - where they end up sounding like Nickleback - or 'classic rock' where they end up trying to sound like (the Stones, AC/DC, Guess Who, etc.), and they fail miserably. Its really hard to say which is worse, and in either event, things don't really work out well for anyone. Somehow, and I say this because the Besnard Lakes are the only other 'classic' sounding new rock group that I enjoy, the GHBG have put out an EP that evokes the classics, but sounds unique and, also, awesome. For anyone who is even kind of into any rock their EP Here is the one to hear this year (really sorry about both the pun and the rhyming... believe me when I say it was completely unintentional).

2. Shad K (London, On)

Because, even though The Old Prince was last year it has become one of my most listened to, and favourite, rap records. And, I feel like, even though Canadian MCs don't ever seem to 'last very long' (i.e. I've heard nothing from K-Os, K'naan, etc. in ages) I've got a sense that Shad could stick around and really become the corner stone of a 'conscious' Canadian hip-hop movement.

1. Chad VanGaalen (Calgary, USA)

Unless someone else comes out with something completely mind blowing, he has, in my opinion, the album of the year (not just Canadian) hands down. My comments on his album here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Singer-Songwriters and Selebrity Sightings

First, and just so we get this out of the way, I saw Spenny on the subway on the way home from school on Thursday. Very exciting. I almost challenged him to see who could stay on the subway longer, but, well, I've got stuff to do ya' know?

Okay, now for the good stuff. Some good singer-songwriter stuff that has crossed my proverbial desk (I actually work on the couch - for the inquiring minds that want to know) in the last little while...

1. Jon McKiel

Earlier this year Jon released an album The Nature of Things, which I heard a few tracks from and was interested in hearing more. Then the summer happened, I was busy, I didn't get a copy of his CD, and yadda-yadda-yadda... anyways. A bunch of the singles were really catchy "War on You" and "123 My Friends" particularly - I've now got a copy of the CD coming - and I expect it to end up on my year end list...

[mp3] Jon McKiel - 123 My Friends

2. Brett 'Slim' Shady

I'd be completely lying if I said to you I don't think these demos from Brett Shady could pass for un-released Paul Simon tracks. That said, I like them; if he was ever playing in the area, I'd go; so, I guess that's all that really counts, right? I mean, the Graduate was on TV the other night I downloaded the sound track and listened to it once, whereas I've been through Shady's demo a half dozen times...

[mp3] Brett Shady - I'll Try

3. LittleBear

I'm finding it pretty hard to make a judgement on LittleBear (aka Nick Principe)'s Army of Trees EP since it clocks in under 15 minutes. But, the first track 'The Beaverkill' has a kind of Sufjan(during Michigan)esque quality to it, which, I think, boads well for his full length - tentatively titled - The Old Capital.

[mp3] Little Bear - The Beaverkill

Also, the Army of Trees EP is available for free via his myspace here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tales of Interest: Rod Stuart Loves the Hamptons Edition

I've been computerless for about a week now... so that's my excuse for a lack of activity (also, I'm working on enlisting some help, so hopefully B won't continue to chicken out on me). But, on the bright side, I'm going to be coming into a fair bit more free time (I think) and I almost guarantee that I'll eventually see a show in Toronto. For now, a couple of links until I polish up my 'Hottest Bands of '08 post'...
  • Malcolm Gladwell on 'Late Bloomers', which examines the difference between the genius that just happens (when artist, writers, etc. are young) and those works of genius that take time and happen later in life.
  • From the Onion: "Breast Cancer Launches WNBA Awareness month"... which reminded me of the episode of the Family Guy where Stewie knocks down the girl in Kindergarten, she starts crying, and Stewie says "... and that's why people don't have any respect for the WNBA". Ahhhhhh, good times.
  • A post from Allan's blog asking is 'Hip Hop Dead?'. This isn't something I'd normally comment on, but since I'm making my way through a book on the development and evolution of Hip-Hop, I thought I'd weigh in.
1. Hip-Hop came out of Jamaica, and was nurtured and developed in the Bronx by guys like Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaata in basements, parks, and then in the clubs.

2. Both the good and the bad that we see in Hip-Hop is Hip-Hop. Nelson George, I think, once wrote that Hip-Hop is a reflection of America, which is to say that everything we see in Hip-Hop we see (or should see if we're looking) in ourselves. Yes, there is a lot of gang-banging, misogyny, materialism, and other things that we don't like in Hip-Hop, but these things don't just exist in music. So, like in every other aspect of our lives, we have to make choices, and sometimes by seeing and understanding these phenomenon we can change them.

3. I used to be really, really, into Hip-Hop - it was just about all I listened to. Personally, I got tired of gangster rap, and then guys re-acting to gangster rap - talking about how other rappers don't understand what rap is about. I still keep tabs on a few guys that I used to listen to a lot - The Roots, Brother Ali, Little Brother - but really I just find myself getting more and more into guys who make catchy songs with hot beats (see, West, Kanye; Wayne, Lil'). Maybe there's more stuff that I should be hearing, and if that's the case, as always, let me know....

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Final Thought on the Polaris Prize

There have been some luke warm reactions to Caribou winning the 2008 Polaris Prize (see: here, here, and here). And, really, I find its pretty tough to disagree with that pick particularly when the word 'artistic' as in "the albums of highest artistic integrity" is the criteria used to pick the prize. To me, what this 'artistic integrity' means is that the winning album should push some kind of boundaries... so with that in mind, albums by Basia Bulat, Two Hours Traffic, Stars, etc. should be struck from the group. Great albums? Yes (except for Stars). But, challenging, genre-stretching albums? Not exactly.

In my mind, given the criteria, there were three artists that are serious contenders: Plants and Animals, Holy F--k, and, well, Caribou. Plants and Animals gets bumped because Secret City Records can't win 3 prizes in a row, Holy F--k probably was a pick that was a little too political, and so Caribou wins by default, which, I think is kind of a shame. A shame if only because Caribou counts as artistic because he makes electronic music - which is outside the norm of mainstream radio - and not because he's made a real genre bending album.

I've said it before, and I realize I'm a huge homer, but it really would've been great to see Shad win. His album doesn't exactly blow everyone else away in the 'artistic' category... I mean, he's not the first guy to rap about social problems, but the more I listen to that album, the more I like it. And, the more I think I'm going to include it on my 2008 year end list despite the fact that it was released last year.

And one more reason to love Shad. The Fresh Prince themed video for:

Shad - The Old Prince Still Lives At Home

Friday, October 3, 2008

Tales of Interest: Lil' Wayne is a Better Writer than me Edition

  • Two 'big time' albums that I'm not really sold on at all: Jenny Lewis Acid Tongue and TV on the Radio Dear Science,. Let me start by saying the song 'Acid Tongue' is terrific. I remember after seeing Jenny w/ the Watson Twins a couple years ago at Thanksgiving having that song stuck in my head for months after the concert. The rest of the album I think is pretty bland. In fact, if I had one word to describe Acid Tongue it'd be: meh. On the other hand, if I were to believe all the reviews I've been seeing TVOTR may be jesus incarnate, in band form. Really, I just can't get into it. I suspect that it might just be me, but If someone could tell me what's wrong with me, and how come I can't get into it, that'd be great.
  • What I have been listening to a lot is this Daytrotter session with Frightened Rabbit. I will now begin looking back in their catalogue. Expect Midnight Organ Fight somewhere in the top 10 at the end of the year.
  • For Kurtis - to prove that I'm not, say, 'soft like cottage cheese' - I expect I'll be picking up Jake One's White Van Music when it comes out in a couple of days. If nothing else the new single with Brother Ali is, as the kids say, Fiya.
[mp3] Jake One - The Truth ft. Freeway and Brother Ali

PS: Oh, and in case you heard "Rod Stewart Loves the Hamptons". If you see any of these tags around TO - you can bet that I've got into graffiti.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tokyo Police Club on the Interface/Elephant Shell Reconsidered

Some of you may remember me being, perhaps a little over the top when I gave my initial impressions of Tokyo Police Club's Elephant Shell. It generated a little discussion, which was fun, and made me realize that 'best album of the last couple of years' might have been a little much.

Frankly, I think its still pretty darn good - although I haven't listened to it in a while - but seeing whats-his-name on Spinner's Interface made me realize that this is probably the last TPC album I'll listen to. Seeing that guy play solo reminded me of that point when, after really liking Dashboard Confessional and Death Cab for Cutie they got really annoying and kind of campy... what is it with white dudes getting whiny?