Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Now, if you want to read something really clever and incisive about James Cameron's Avatar, then read this NYT piece by Adam Cohen about how the 3D medium helps the viewer to enter the world of, and thus sympathize with, the Na'vi. Otherwise...

I was completely oblivious to the hype surrounding Avatar. I've managed, somehow, to avoid seeing any sort of movie previews ever, since the only thing I watch on TV now is basketball and the news (traffic) -- for whatever reason, they don't play movie previews on TSN, TSN2, The Score, NBA TV or CP24.

So, without any sort of bias or expectation going in, I was a blank slate. I didn't really know what to expect, though, given that it was a James Cameron movie, I probably should've expected something epic, or at least something trying to be epic. Cameron, as you may have heard over the past few weeks, was responsible for Aliens, Terminator, Titanic (and also, Aquaman). Of course, as you may have heard via the media, or some type of social media, Avatar definitely managed to be an epic experience and then some.

My impression is that most people viewed Avatar (3D) as an experience, one that should not be missed, and one that you're going to tell your (real, or hypothetical future) kids about. If you haven't seen it, go see it, but don't be an idiot see the regular 2D version 'cause it's cheaper (though I should talk since my Dad paid).

If I have a problem with the film it's all the unrealized thematic material that was left unexplored. There was a vague attempt to cultivate a sort of imperialist vs. natives storyline, but that was never fully actualized, and in the end the movie didn't really say anything. Cameron's take seems to be: nature and people in touch w/ nature = good, and people out of touch w/ nature = bad. But there's nothing more complex than that, no attempt to justify the human's conquest to unearth the super-valuable rock underneath 'HomeTree', and the human/military/mining characters are all two dimensional to have any reason for doing what they're doing.

I guess it's just that there's so much potential ground for them to cover in the movie: the avatar in/out body experience, the idea of (human)being vs. nature, "othering" as a justification for genocide, and so on. That said, I feel like there are two very strong mitigating factors for the film missing out on any real deep sort of thematic exploration of, really, anything: 1) much of the unrealized thematic material is only possible b/c the visual elements of the movie were so well done, i.e. the film is so strong in that area it allows for alot of really interesting possibilities; and 2) complaining about a lack of thematic depth in a James Cameron movie kind of feels like complaining that LeBron James hasn't kicked many field goals lately. So, for all the people who were upset that this wasn't Remains of the Day or something, you probably walked in the wrong theatre.

In sum, if you haven't seen Avatar in 3D yet, go, it's cool to look at.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Best Canadian Albums (excluding Toronto) of 2009

9. Dan Mangan (Vancouver, BC) Nice, Nice, Very Nice
[mp3] Dan Mangan - Robots
Pick of the Week #42
A couple of months ago you couldn't go anywhere, and when I say "anywhere" I mean a Canadian based or Canadian music blog, without hearing about Dan Mangan. Now that his album has been out for a while, the very clever video for "Robots" has been released, he's done touring for a bit (I think), I've begun to appreciate his song-writing more. I'm not sure exactly how to describe his sound to those who don't know him, but suffice to say he may have become my favourite hobo singer-songwriter (I'm sure someone plays the spoons somewhere on this album).

8. The Liptonians (Winnipeg, MN) s/t
[mp3] The Liptonians - Charlie's Back!
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #18
I haven't listened to the full s/ted album by the Liptonians in a good while, but I can say that "Charlie's Back!" is one of my favourite songs of the year. As I mentioned when I wrote about their album, the melody, the story, the instrumentation all remind me of Ben Folds (before he got neutered and started writing children's songs) and the quirky characters that he used to write about. If you ever enjoyed Ben Folds or piano driven poppy sort of tunes, these guys are well worth checking out.

7. Dog Day (Halifax, NS) Concentration
[mp3] Dog Day - Happiness
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #26
If Stars wore black, and exclusively black, they would be Dog Day. These songs are every bit as good as Set Yourself on Fire, though they're certainly not as burned into the memory of 'indie' loving hipsters as SYoF.

6. That's the Spirit (Ottawa, On) Staying Places
[mp3] That's the Spirit - Orienteering
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #40, Exchanging emails with...
If you ever read (or saw the movie) The Phantom Tollbooth when you were a kid you should have an idea of what Staying Places sounds like. Of course there's no auditory component to the actual book (unless it's an audiobook), but it (Staying Places) has this whimsical element to it that makes you feel like you're going off to some sort of fantasy land (even if you're not on drugs). This all makes me wonder what listening to this album on mushrooms would be like... if anyone has any answers there's a guest blog post in it for you...

5. Julie Doiron (Halifax, NS) I Could Wonder What You Did With Your Day
[mp3] Julie Doiron - Consolation Prize
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #38
I'm not sure how I'd never listened to Julie Doiron before this year, but I hadn't, though if there was one Canadian-folk music icon (stretch?) that I was going to miss it makes sense that it'd be Julie Doiron. Doiron, and her music, are understated to the point that she doesn't seem like she cares a whole lot whether people are listening or not. If you like folky sort of music, and you've heard Doiron, chances are you've been capitvated by her laid-back, conversational style. And this album, from what I understand, is one of her best.

4. Chad VanGaalen (Calgary, AB) Soft Airplane - B Sides EP
[mp3] Chad VanGaalen - Corvette
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #39
Sure, it's an EP full of B-Sides, but it's still really friggin' good. I'm not sure I read anyone complain about Soft Airplance (the A-sides), but all the talk about how 'accessible' read: not weird, probably peeved a few of his more devoted fans. Well, I imagine that the B-sides'd make those people happy. It's more experimental than the actual album, which may explain why they got relegated to the B-sides EP, but if you're a fan of Chad VanG fan the EP is not to be missed. And it may still be free at

3. Patrick Watson (Montreal, QC) Wooden Arms
[mp3] Patrick Watson - Wooden Arms
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #16
I've listened to this album a bunch of times over the past few weeks and I'm convinced that Wooden Arms is the most underrated album of the year. It doesn't have the standout Coldplay impersonations like "Lucious Life" and "the Great Escape", it's more cryptic, more reliant on found sounds (apparently crap found in the Watson household), but the songs and the songwriting are every bit as good as his Polaris winning Close to Paradise... and the more I hear the album the more I think it should move up... maybe this should actually be two... or one... too late now. Also, you should really watch these Blogotheque videos if you haven't...

2. Pink Mountaintops (Vancouver, BC) Outside Love
[mp3] Pink Mountaintops - Axis Thrones of Love
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #22
Given my distaste for Black Mountain, some other incarnation of this band, I was utterly shocked at how much I enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, Outside Love. The album sort of feels like a cross between the Mamas & the Papas and Led Zepplin, which is an unlikely combination that really seems to work.

1. Said the Whale (Vancouver, BC) Islands Disappear
[mp3] Said the Whale - Camilo (the Magician)
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #44
I find myself surprised that a pretty poppy album ended up at the top of this list. On Islands Disappear Said the Whale, while poppy, demonstrate that they are capable of writing more dramatic or introspective songs (like Band of Horses or the New Pornographers), and have put out an album that isn't getting nearly enough love. This was easily the second best Christmas gift I got this year (I got one of those sexy iPhones)... thanks Santa.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Toronto's Best Albums of 2009

When I started compiling my year end list and trying to rank everything, it became exceedingly clear to me that comparing local Toronto band X to Jay-Z just wasn't going to work. Not that I haven't done that in the past, my top three albums last year were Chad VanGaalen's Soft Airplane, Ketch Harbour Wolves' Dead Calm Horizon, and Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreaks, but it just seemed like this year, there was going to be such a weird grouping of albums that it didn't really make sense to do a single list. So, sadly (or not, I suppose) you're going to have to wade through a series of 4/5 lists... or not...

10. Sunparlour Players Wave North
[mp3] Sunparlour Players - Battle of '77
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #19, Live @ the Theatre Centre Aug. 14. 2009
One of my favourite bands in the city, one of the best groups to see live in the city, and, I think, one of the best albums to come out of the city as well. There's still the moments of unbridled energy on this album that we saw on Hymns for the Happy, but the story telling "Battle of '77" and "Point Pelee" is something new, and something that makes me really want to hear them put together some type of concept album - i.e. like Sufjan did w/ Michigan, Illinois... I smell an album about Tomato country!

9. Howie Beck How to Fall Down in Public
[mp3] Howie Beck - Flashover
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #21
If I were to be completely honest, after seeing Howie Beck open for Hayden once, possibly a couple of times, I would've bet very strongly against me endorsing one of his albums. At the time I think I probably felt like he was just another song-writer. This album shows a lot more depth and breadth than I was expecting, and is just a generally well put together singer-songwriter album.

8. Hayden The Place Where We Lived
[mp3] Hayden - Let's Break Up
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #24
I'm not sure whether I'm more surprised that Hayden turned around and put out two albums in two years or that neither album featured some type of grizzly murder scene, but either way another Hayden record is always a good thing. He's never going to put out anything that'll bowl you over (though "Trees Lounge", the lead song to the Steve Bushemi movie of the same name, was one of my favourite songs ever), but you can always count on him to write songs that mean something. There's never any waste, never anything half-hearted, and I'm just about worked up enough right now to proclaim him the greatest Canadian song-writer ever (I'm not that far off, am I?).
Q1: Can anyone confirm deny that Hayden leaves his house more/less than once per week? I have this vision of him being like the Sean Connery character in Finding Forrester.

7. Timber Timbre Timber Timbre
[mp3] Timber Timbre - Demon Host
Elsewhere: n/a
After Taylor Kirk was good enough to send me Medicinals, his debut album recorded under the pseudonym Timber Timbre, I was good enough to take about 11 months to write about it. It was nothing personal, it was just a record that, while incredibly good (review here), requires that the listener is in a certain frame of mind to listen to. It's just like, you don't flip on a movie like, Schindler's List, when you want something to watch. Similarly, I haven't written anything about Taylor's new(ish) s/t record since I just haven't been in the right frame of mind to write about it. That said, if you can get yourself to that place, wherever that is, it's a great, haunting, record.

6. Ohbijou Beacons
[mp3] Ohbijou - Black Ice
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #27
Ohbijou has been one of the most blogged bands here since the BM's inception in 2007, so I'm not going to beat a dead horse, but this album is beautiful. And beautiful in a sort of Grace Kelly, Mrs. Don Draper, you're worried if you touch it you might break it, sort of way.

5. Bruce Peninsula A Mountain is a Mouth
[mp3] Bruce Peninsula - Inside/Outside
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #4, Live @ the Horseshoe Jan. 31. 2009
Initially, I had this album pegged as one of the best of the year, but with no slight directed toward the band, there were a few others (below) that were just that much better. That, and BP fell prey to the dreaded Liz effect, whereby the band doesn't get played in my house b/c Liz is not a fan -- oh, if you could see her face everytime BP comes up on iTunes shuffle. Still, a great, almost movement of an album.

4. The Wooden Sky If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone
[mp3] The Wooden Sky - Something Hiding For Us in the Night
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #30
This album, more than any other this year, really surprised me. I didn't really know the Wooden Sky prior to this album, and I listened to the album a few times and it gradually dawned on me that IIDCHYKIG is a really great album. I'm not sure why it took so long, but I think I started to really become more affected after seeing the video for "The Late King Henry". The video, resembling something of a religious revival ("save me/take me to the river and bathe me"), had enough soul(?) to make me think about getting baptized... or something... it's early... forgive me...

1(T). Black Hat Brigade Fathers
[mp3] Black Hat Brigade - Zombie City Shake (Basement Sessions)
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #20, Exchanging emails with... the Black Hat Brigade
The BHB have been one of my favourite bands, not just in Toronto but anywhere, since they release of their first s/t EP last year. Given that the band has, you know, jobs, we haven't exactly seen albums at a Ryan Adamseque clip, but what they have released (the Fathers EP) and a video for "Zombie City Shake" has been extraodinary. Here's to hoping that we get a full length next year...

1(T). Evening Hymns Spirit Guides
[mp3] Evening Hymns - Broken Rifle
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #48, Live @ the Tranzac Dec. 4. 2009
I've talked about E.H. and the album S.G. alot in the past weeks, so, suffice to say I'm definitely not sick of it! I bought the vinyl last week and that's pretty awesome too.

1(T). The Wilderness of Manitoba Hymns of Love & Spirits
[mp3] The Wilderness of Manitoba - Evening
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #36, Live @ the Garrison Oct. 29. 2009
So, I guess this is a lesson to bands who are interested in getting written up on the BM, write an album about spirits. I'll be sure to enjoy it. But seriously, Hymns of Love and Spirits is probably my most listened to album of the year, and an album that not enough people have heard, yet. This is a band to expect big things from in 2010.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Let's Book Club!: Race in Play by Carl James

I suspect that this book is probably not going to be for everyone. It's a very academic look at race, and the student-athlete, or, in many cases athlete-student. So, rather than me getting into my thoughts on students' construction of their athletic identity and so forth, I'm going to very highly recommend that you read The Last Shot by Darcy Frey (cited a number of times in this book), which is like a literary version of Hoop Dreams, but shorter and better.

Up next: I'm just about to order "Miracle at St. Anthony's" (about Bob Hurley and his high school basketball dynasty in Jersey City) -- see the movie trailer (excellent) here -- though, after reading Race in Play I'm much more critical of Hurley's reputation; a couple of books on sport philosophy/sociology; "Season on the Brink" about Bobby Knight and the '85/'86 Indiana Basketball team; and the "Jordan Rules" about MJ. We'll see which one of these emerges out of the pack... or, if I can finish any of them before the end of the year...

1. The Inner Game of Tennis | Timothy Gallwey (134 pages) | A
2. The Last Shot | Darcy Frey (240 pages) | A+
3. The Road | Cormac McCarthy (287 pages) | A+
4. Outliers | Malcolm Gladwell (299 pages) | C+
5. The Last Season | Phil Jackson (304 pages) | B-
The Sunset Limited | Cormac McCarthy (160 pages)| B-
7. The Education of a Coach | David Halberstam (288 pages)| B+
8. Downtown Owl | Chuck Klosterman | (288 pages)| B

9. Can I Keep My Jersey?| Paul Shirley| (336 pages)|C-
10. Then We Came to The End| Joshua Ferris| (416 pages)|B+
11. Friday Night Lights| H.G. Bissinger|(400 pages)|A++
12. Strokes of Genius| L. Jon Wertheim|(208 pages)|B
Who's Your City| Richard Florida|( 345 pages)|C
14. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men| (336 pages)|A
15. The Book of Basketball| Bill Simmons|(736 pages)|C-
16. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again|David Foster Wallace| (368 pages)|A-
17. Race in Play| Carl James|(258) pages|n/a

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best Songs of 2009: "Corvette" by Chad VanGaalen

Chad VanGaalen, by all accounts, is a pretty weird dude. Not weird because I'm sure the two of us have different hobbies (I think it's unlikely he's a big NBA/Raptors guy), but more because he writes really strange songs that typically surround the topic of death. "Corvette" from the Soft Airplane B-Sides EP, of course, is not really a whole lot different. I mean, the song isn't entirely about death, but the song does start out with the premise that "he" got reincarnated as a corvette, meaning, of course, that he died -- unless I'm way off base with my understanding of the basic tenants of reincarnation.

Despite dealing with blood/guts/death and other such subject matter, the tone of CVG's music, like in "Corvette", is always is more of a imaginative curiosity about death rather than, say, dealing with the subject in an I want to die sort of way. He kind of reminds me of, and I'm sure I've said this before, Tim Burton. Of course, the two generally find themselves operating in two different mediums (though CVG has animated a couple of his own videos), but I'm not sure things like Beetle Juice and The Corpse Bride are too far off Infiniheart and Soft Airplane.

The CVG/TB connection, for me, runs beyond even the obvious thematic connections of their work into their ability to create these backwards, bizzare dream worlds of life and death and whatever exists inbetween. So, while I'm not sure I'd want to permanently reside in alternate universes that CVG/TB create, it's a fun visit every once in a while.

[mp3] Chad VanGaalen - Corvette

PS - I'm pretty sure he's still giving away the entire B-Sides EP at

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pick of the Week #49: The XX

The XX are of one the biggest, if not the biggest, acts to emerge from the blog-o-sphere this year. Last year we had Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, and this year we have The XX. And while the three acts sound very different, the common thread between them, as I see it, is that they have all carved out their own very unique sound.

For B.I. that sound was sort of an encompassing, straining, falsetto; for F.F. it was the big, choral harmonies; for the XX it almost seems like their trademark is the empty space, the silence between notes, the cryptic electric guitar, and the drum claps that subtly guide the pace of their songs.

I think the thing that is the most impressive about the debut album from The XX, XX, is just how simple the album is. The guitar riffs sound like I could've written them (note: I played the guitar for approximately 1 month in eighth grade before I quit), the vocals are more laid back - they don't ever really jump out at you, and the beats certainly aren't anything that's going to make Kanye, Dre, or 9th Wonder worry, but the whole, in this case, is certainly greater than the sum of it's parts.

In a way, it's almost hypnotizing, which may sound like a little bit of a back-handed complement, but I mean it in a good way. As Liz pointed out, the beats on everyone of the songs sound roughly the same, there's some sort of variation on the guitar riff, but it's not super different, and the vocals sort of hover in the empty spaces kind of like two people trying to make small talk at a party. The further you get in to XX the more it feels like you just sort of get in to some sort of drug induced rhythm, and by the time you think of doing something else the album is over. And when it's over, like any good drug induced trance, you want more...

[mp3] The XX - Crystalized

Oh, and congratulastions to Ryan O. for winning the passes to the Ketch Harbour Wolves show tonight at El Mocambo in T.O..

Pick of the Week #1: Ketch Harbour Wolves
Pick of the Week #2: Rah Rah
Pick of the Week #3: Glasvegas/Animal Collective
Pick of the Week #4: Bruce Peninsula
Pick of the Week #5: The Antlers
Pick of the Week #6: The Darcys
Pick of the Week #7: Ohbijou (Swift Feet for Troubling Times)
Pick of the Week #8:
Gentlemen Husbands
Pick of the Week #9: Chris Whitley
Pick of the Week #10: Alela Diane
Pick of the Week #11: K'naan
Pick of the Week #12: TOR/Sufjan Stevens
Pick of the Week #13: Timber Timbre
Pick of the Week #14: Justis
Pick of the Week #15: Hibiscus & Rosehips Compilation
Pick of the Week #16: Patrick Watson
Pick of the Week #17: Olenka and the Autumn Lovers
Pick of the Week #18: The Liptonians
Pick of the Week #19: Sunparlour Players
Pick of the Week #20: Black Hat Brigade
Pick of the Week #21: Howie Beck
Pick of the Week #22: Pink Mountaintops
Pick of the Week #23: Still Life Still
Pick of the Week #24: Hayden
Pick of the Week #25: Snailhouse
Pick of the Week #26: Dog Day
Pick of the Week #27: Ohbijou (Beacons)
Pick of the Week #28: Dog is Blue
Pick of the Week #29: Parkas
Pick of the Week #30: The Wooden Sky
Pick of the Week #31: Bowerbirds
Pick of the Week #32: Miss Maya
Pick of the Week #33: Ben Folds Presents ...
Pick of the Week #34: Mantis
Pick of the Week #35: Diamond Rings
Pick of the Week #36: The Wilderness of Manitoba
Pick of the Week #37: Asher Roth
Pick of the Week #38: Julie Doiron
Pick of the Week #39: Chad VanGaalen
Pick of the Week #40: That's the Spirit
Pick of the Week #41: The Ghost is Dancing
Pick of the Week #42: Dan Mangan
Pick of the Week #43: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
Pick of the Week #44: Said the Whale
Pick of the Week #45: Noah and the Whale
Pick of the Week #46: Mos Def
Pick of the Week #47: The Acorn
Pick of the Week #48: Evening Hymns

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Best Songs of 2009: Ketch Harbour Wolves "Letters"

I'd like to dedicate this post to the commenter the other day who pointed out that Glasvegas' "Geraldine" was put out in '08. It was... probably, but it ended up on my computer in 2009, so, whatever. And with that, I'll point out one of my other favourite songs of 2009 released in 2008, "Letters" by the Ketch Harbour Wolves. Seems like an appropriate tie-in with the contest for KHW tickets for this coming Friday, December 11th in Toronto.

I've fluctuated on KHW's album Dead Calm Horizon. Not on whether I like it or not (it was 1c on my Best of 2008 list), but on which song was/is my favourite. Over the course of the last year I've changed my mind a few times, but I've gradually come to a point where, when listening to DCH I'll skip to "Letters" at the end of the album, then play the album from front to back so I can hear it (the song) twice.

I think it might be because Dead Calm Horizon is generally pretty dark, but "Letters" sort of feels like the light at the end of the tunnel. The gentle banjo picking (I think), and the more down-tempo nature of the song, the band has created the feeling that it (whatever it is) is over. In the case of the band, it, apparently, is the loss of loved one (to another location, not, it seems, to death). But the underlying message that I take away from the song is one of acceptance -- it reminds you that sometimes you ought to relax and let go of things you can't change... good advice (if that's what they're saying)... and either way, it's a great song.

[mp3] Ketch Harbour Wolves - Letters

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Let's Book Club!: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (prt. 2) by David Foster Wallace

Part 1, the first three essays.

David Lynch Keeps His Head
Not really sure what to say, since, you know, I've never seen anything that David Lynch -- a filmmaker -- has ever produced/directed/acted in/been involved with, I think. Having said that, DFW's descriptions of everything outside of detailed comparisons of his (Lynch's) different films is insanely entertaining.

Tennis Player Michael Joyce's Professional... (cont'd)
If you don't have any idea of what goes on behind the scenes at a professional tennis tournament, or don't know what tennis' minor leagues are like (but you care), this is a really interesting read. The essay, for me at least, is significantly more interesting because it's set in MTL during the (now named) Roger's Cup (somewhere I've been!).

The part of the essay that leads me to believe that DFW may have been the modern incarnation of Nostradamus:
he describes Agassi's groundstrokes as "like Borg if he were on both steroids and methamphetamines".

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
... is the best essay of the bunch, but is also the most tragic (though the writing itself is hilarious), which, as I mentioned when discussing "Suicide as a Sort of Present" in Brief Interviews, is how down on life he sounds (in ASFTINDA), or how a vividly he talks about wanting to die (SAASOP). Sad.

Sad, yes, but at least he's given us something to smile about -- I mean, his whole interpretation of what a Cruise is, a Cruiseline's attempt to aggressively ensure that you relax and pamper yourself. The way he describes people moving in/on/around the Cruise Ship, "bovine", his interaction with his tablemates and his intense dislike for one of the women at his table as well as his feud with the ship's captain is indescribably funny.

Mostly, the essay works so well because going on a Cruise is generally something that people think they want to do; it is, supposedly, fun -- much like, say, going to a concert or sometype of sporting event. But DFW, as is his way, finds and uncovers all that is truly strange, when you really think about it, or, when you spend 50-60 pages analyzing it.

1. The Inner Game of Tennis | Timothy Gallwey (134 pages) | A
2. The Last Shot | Darcy Frey (240 pages) | A+
3. The Road | Cormac McCarthy (287 pages) | A+
4. Outliers | Malcolm Gladwell (299 pages) | C+
5. The Last Season | Phil Jackson (304 pages) | B-
The Sunset Limited | Cormac McCarthy (160 pages)| B-
7. The Education of a Coach | David Halberstam (288 pages)| B+
8. Downtown Owl | Chuck Klosterman | (288 pages)| B

9. Can I Keep My Jersey?| Paul Shirley| (336 pages)|C-
10. Then We Came to The End| Joshua Ferris| (416 pages)|B+
11. Friday Night Lights| H.G. Bissinger|(400 pages)|A++
12. Strokes of Genius| L. Jon Wertheim|(208 pages)|B
Who's Your City| Richard Florida|( 345 pages)|C
14. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men| (336 pages)|A
15. The Book of Basketball| Bill Simmons|(736 pages)|C-
16. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again|(368 pages)|A-

Monday, December 7, 2009

Contest! Ketch Harbour Wolves, Chinese Food & The Rest @ El Mocambo, Fri. Dec. 11th

Ketch Harbour Wolves are a really great band. They put out an outstanding (and still free!) record last year, Dead Calm Horizon, and they put on an excellent live show. They are playing this coming Friday, and will be joined by Hamilton's The Rest, who has been discussed on the Burgeoning Metropolis before, as well as Chinese Food (who I know nothing about).

At any rate, it sounds like it should be a great show, and you can win a pair of guest list spots for the show this Friday, December 11th @ El Mocambo in Toronto. If you're 19+ and in the GTA e-mail me at londononburgeoningmetropolisATgmailDOTcom and I'll select a winner at random.

And if you win, hopefully I'll see you there... the KHW have informed me that there's a new album that is pretty close to being done, so, I'm pretty curious to hear the new material. If you don't win, you can pick up advanced tickets at: for $8. Or, Jen Polk has a contest running too.

If you're looking for more info on the bands see:
[mp3] Ketch Harbour Wolves - Letters
[mp3] Ketch Harbour Wolves - Words

[mp3] The Rest - Walk on Water (auspicious beginnings)
[mp3] The Rest - Sheep in Wolves Clothing

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Evening Hymns CD Release w/ The Harbour Coats @ the Tranzac, Dec. 4. 2009

My experiences Thursday and Friday night really couldn't've been a whole lot different. While Thursday night was primarily and friends and family sort of thing, Friday night was a real scenester sort of... scene. I don't go to a ton of shows, but I recognized at least two dozen or so people from other pretty awesome bands. This may have been because there were, according to the National Post, 16 or so of Jonas Bonnetta (Evening Hymns)'s closests friends (I assume) that appeared on his new, and excellent, album Spirit Guides.

When Paul found out that the Harbour Coats were opening for Evening Hymns, who I was really interested in seeing, he suggested/insisted that we get there early. After the first few bars of the first song I figured out why... and everyone else did too, I guess, because the packed main room at the Tranzac went from being a-buzz to library quiet (note: not the Weldon Library @ Western). So, after the first song I turn to Paul and say something like, "Wow, that guy sounds a lot like Springsteen"; to which Paul replies something like, "Yeah, he's the lead singer of the Constantines, people have been calling him an angry Springsteen for years". Me, "Oh" (if that exchange made Paul sound like a dick, he wasn't, he was very nice about my Constantines ignorance).

I thought the Harbour Coats set was outstanding, so I'm pretty anxious to start listening to some old Constantines records, while I anxiously await a release from the Harbour Coats.

As I mentioned on Friday morning Evening Hymns is the project of Jonas Bonnetta w/ a little help from his friends. On stage Friday night he brought out a pile of friends. I can remember seeing: Mike Dugay, a guy from Ohbijou, the guy from the Wooden Sky, a girl from the Magic, and others, I suspect. They weren't out there with him all the time, the Evening Hymns set fluxtuated between singer-songwriter and big orchestral band type music, but the highlights of the night for me all involved the full band. Especially live, from 5 feet away no less, songs like "Cedars" "Broken Rifle" and especially "Mountain Song" -- the ones with the choral parts -- sounded, for lack of a better word, awesome.

The only thing I wonder, given how busy all the parts of Evening Hymns are, is whether people outside the GTA are going to get to see this band. I won't speculate, because I have no idea what the plan with the band is, but it'd be a real shame if some form of this band didn't get across the country. In part, because they put together a helluva show, but also because Spirit Guides deserves to be in the discussion for next year's Polaris Prize, and I feel like bands without a strong national following (see: basically everyone I wanted to win the Polaris) aren't able to capture a broad enough spectrum of voters to end up being short listed.

[mp3] Evening Hymns - Cedars
[mp3] Evening Hymns - Broken Rifle

The Harbour Coats (or, Bryan Webb)

A video by Colin Medley

Evening Hymns

Another video, also by Colin Medley.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Don (is) Campbell @ the Hideout, Dec. 3rd, 2009

It's hard to know exactly what to say about the Don (is) Campbell (Experience). Mostly, that's because Don and I grew up together, are good friends, and there is no sense in which one can provide an objective opinion on the music of someone who is a grade school chum of theirs (and a member of the 1994 London Gus Macker - Toilet Bowl Winning 3 on 3 team!).

I can say that among my group of friends there was some sense of trepidation -- what if Donny's originals completely tanked? We've seen him play covers for the last decade, know that he is a tremendously talented guitarist, and we've heard snippets of his song-writing, but, as a parent, you worry. So, basically, Don had somewhere near 50? 100? or so parent, or parent-like figures in attendance on Thursday to see him perform his first set of originals w/ a backing band (which included one of his brothers, another brother as the emcee/hype man, and his sister selling merch). And the first few songs we all sort of sat around, nervously, trying to figure out how this whole Don-trying-to-be-a-musician thing was going to work out.

It turns out, it went great. Don's not going to be the next big blog act, that's just not the aesthetic of his music, but given his knack for writing accessible, catchy, hooks; his stage presence, and the fact that Don just has that... look (and you can have him in your bedroom for only $15! -- you had to be there).

I guess, to me, what Thursday night proved is that his success is going to be determined not by ability -- there's a market out there for his music -- but whether he's going to be able to get his music to the ears of the right people to distribute that music. So, if you know someone who knows someone, do me a favour and pass along Donny's myspace link. After all, this is the best chance I have of living out my Entourage fantasy...

The Don (is) Campbell (Experience)