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SOUNDTRACK: THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS-Live at Massey Hall (October 1, 2017).

I’ve been a fan of the The New Pornographers for years.  Their first single, “Letter from an Occupant” was one of my favorite songs of 2000.  For nearly twenty years, they’ve been releasing super catchy fun poppy alt rock.

I was really excited to see them last week.  And then almost equally excited to see that they had a show on Live at Massey Hall.

This show did not have Neko Case singing and while she is not the crux of the band, I’m glad she was at my show, because her voice is great and having three women singing was more fun than having just two.

Before the set, singer and songwriter AC Newman says, “I’m nervous because I realize this is what I do … people paid to come see you.”  His niece, keyboardist Kathryn Calder is with him.  She says she loves having the momentum of 7 people on stage.  It’s a very in the moment feeling shared by all of them.

The show starts with an older song “The Jenny Numbers.”  There’s a wild ripping guitar solo from Todd Fancey in the middle of this otherwise poppy song.  Calder and violinist Simi Stone sound great with their backing vocals–so full and complete.  And excellent compliment to the songs.

Up next is “Whiteout Conditions” which starts with a ripping violin melody from Stone.  I happen to know their newer songs a lot better than their middle period songs and I really like this song a lot.

The full setlist for this show is available online.  They played 22 songs at he show, so it’s a shame to truncate it to 35 minutes.  How did they decide what to cut?  They cut “Dancehall Domine.”

Up next is one of the great songs from the Together album, “Moves.”  The opening riff and persistent use of violin is perfect.

Between songs, Newman says to the audience, “you’ve got to promise not to sit down because it’ll be like a dagger in my heart.”

In the interview clip he says he always love the compartmentalized songs of Pixies.  They influenced the way he wrote music.  So did The Beach Boys for harmonies.  He says it’s hard to know what seeps through, but there’s a ton of it.  Sometimes I’ll hear an old song I used to love and realize I totally stole a part from that song and I didn’t know it.

The show skips “Colosseums” and moves on to “The Laws Have Changed.”  I loved seeing this live because of the amazing high notes that AC Newman hits in the end of the song.  This is also a chance for Kathryn to shine a bit.  “High Ticket Attractions” comes next in the show and here.  It’s such an insanely catchy song.  From the call and response vocals to the overall melody.  It’s one of my favorites of theirs.

The show skips three songs, “Champions of Red Wine,” “Adventures in Solitude,” and “All the Old Showstoppers.”  So up next is “This is the World of the Theater.”  I’m glad they chose this because Kathryn Calder sings lead vocals and she sounds fantastic.  The middle section of the song also includes some hocketing where Newman, Calder, Stone and maybe some others sing individual notes alternately to create a lovely melody.

I noticed that drummer Joe Seiders sings quite a bit as well.  And a shout out to bassist John Collins because he gets some great sounds out of that instrument.

Newman tells the audience that Massey Hall is an intimidating venue, but one you get here it feel welcoming and warm.  The crowd applauds and he says, “soooo, I’m not sweating it.”

Up next comes the poppy and wonderful “Sing Me Spanish Techno.”  It has a constant simple harmonica part played by Blaine Thurier who also plays keyboards.   It’s such a wonderfully fun song.

They skip pretty much the rest of the show to play the big encore song, “Brill Bruisers.”  [Skipped: “Backstairs,” “Play Money,” “Testament to Youth in Verse,” “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk,” “Avalanche Alley,” “Use It,” “Mass Romantic” )that’s a surprise!) and “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”].

“Brill Bruisers” is from the then-new album.  The first time I heard it I was blown away.  Those “boh bah boh bah bah bohs” in the beginning are so arresting.  The harmonies that run through the song are sensational and the “ooh” part in the verses just knocks me out.  Its a great great song.

“The Bleeding Heart Show” closed the show and it is played over the closing credits.

This is a terrific example of how good this band is live, but nothing compares to actually seeing them.

[READ: August 1, 2019] Bit Rot

A few years ago I had caught up with Douglas Coupland’s publications.  I guess it’s no surprise to see that he has published more since then.  But I am always surprised when I don’t hear about a book at all.  I just happened to stumble upon this collection of essays.

Coupland’s general outlook hasn’t changed much over the years.  He is still fascinated by “the future,” but he looks at technology and future ideas in a somewhat different way.  He tends to mourn the loss of some things while often embracing what has replaced it.

As my son is now a teenager, I wondered what his take on some of these essays would be–if he would think that Coupland is an old fuddy duddy, or if he was right on.  Or, more likely, that he had never looked at some of these ideas that way at all.  Coupland is quite cognizant that young people are growing up in a very different world than ours.  And that they don’t have any problem with that.  They don’t “miss cursive” because it never meant anything to them in the first place.  They can’t imagine not having Google and hence all of the world’s information at their fingertips.  Of course they assume that technology will continue to get smaller and faster. We older folks may not be prepared for that (or maybe we are), but that’s what younger people expect and can’t wait for

This was a very long, rather thick book that was just full of interesting, funny, thoughtful essays and short stories. I really enjoyed it from start to finish, even if I’d read some of the pieces before. (more…)

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shoppingSOUNDTRACK: MATT MAYS-Live at Massey Hall (May 4, 2018).

I had never heard of Matt Mays.  He was once a part of the Canadian country band The Guthries (who I also don’t know).  Perhaps the most surprising (and disappointing) thing to me about this show is when I saw an ad for this concert and saw that Kathleen Edwards was opening for him (!).  And that so far they haven’t released the Kathleen Edwards show.

Before the show he says he wants all feelings present–happy, sad–he praises the expression “all the feels” because that’s what he wants to happen tonight.  He wants the night to be “like a Nova Scotia kitchen party.”  You laugh you cry you dance and you fight all in one kitchen.

He starts with “Indio.”  Like most of these songs, it is a rocking guitar song with a definite country-rock feel.  It’s also interesting that a Nova Scotia guy is singing about “old fashioned California sin.”  There’s a ton of lead guitar work from Adam Baldwin.  Mays also plays guitar and there’s an acoustic guitar as well from Aaron Goldstein  The song breaks midway through to a piano melody from Leith Fleming-Smith.  Mays asks “You feel like singing Toronto? It’s real easy.”  And it is: “Run run run you are free now.  run run run you are free.”

For “Station Out of Range,” he invites his dear friend Kate Dyke from St Johns, Newfoundland.  She sings backing vocals.  It opens with some big crushing drums from Loel Campbell.  It has a slower tempo, but it grows really big with some really massive drum fills.

“Building a Boat” opens with a repeating keyboard pattern before a real rocking riff kicks in.  Ryan Stanley also plays guitars.  The song rocks on with a lot of little guitar solos.  Mays takes one and then Baldwin follows.  They jam this pretty long.

“Take It on Faith” starts with a simple piano before the guitars come roaring in with two searing solos.  The melody is really catchy, too.

“Terminal Romance” is a slower number.  Mays puts his guitar down and its mostly piano and bass
(Serge Samson).  Eventually a guitar with a slide is added.  It builds as more guitars come in.  They jam this song for about 8 minutes.

He ends the show with “Cocaine Cowgirl,” an oldie that still means a lot to him.   He says he’s been playing Toronto since he was 19 years-old in font of tow people.  He’s thrilled to be at Massey Hall.  His band is his best buds from Nova Scotia.   It’s an absolutely wailing set ender with Mays throwing in some wicked solos.  The song seems like its over but Mays plays some really fast guitar chords and aftee a few bars everyone joins in and rips the place part with intensity.  It runs to nearly ten minutes and it’s a  really satisfying ending.

[READ: August 3, 2019] “Shopping in Jail”

When an author releases a lot of books and essays in various formats, it’s pretty inevitable that you’ll wind up re-reading one or two.  Especially if some of those essays are reprinted in other books.

So it turns out that I read this small book five years ago (it’s understandable that I didn’t remember that after five years).  Here’s what I said about it five years ago:

Just when I thought I had caught up with everything that Douglas Coupland had published, I came across this book, a collection of his recent essays.  I enjoy the very unartistic cover that Sternberg Press has put on this.  It looks extremely slapdash–look at the size of the print and that the contents are on the inside front cover.  But the essays contained within are pure Coupland and are really enjoyable.

I have read a number of his older essays in recent years.  And here’s the thing: reading old Coupland essays just makes you think, ho hum, he knew some things.  But you don’t really think that he was on the forefront of whatever he was thinking.  So to read these essays almost concurrently is really fascinating.

His thoughts are science fiction, but just on the cusp of being very possible, even probable.  He also looks at things in ways that the average person does not–he notices that on 9/11 people didn’t have picture phones–imagine how more highly documented it would have been.  These essays are largely about technology, but they’re also about the maturation and development of people and how they relate to things.  Coupland can often seem very ponderous, and yet with these essays he seems prescient without actually trying to predict anything.  I enjoyed this collection very much.

I’m going to include what I said last time (in italics), but I felt the need to add some five-years later thoughts on each essay. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RAMONES-“Pet Sematary” (1977).

A lot of the music I listen to is weird and probably creepy to other people, but I don’t necessarily think of songs as appropriate for Halloween or not.  So for this year’s Ghost Box stories, I consulted an “expert”: The Esquire list of Halloween songs you’ll play all year long.  The list has 45 songs–most of which I do not like.  So I picked 11 of them to post about.

Ramones are the least punk punk band ever.  Sure they are essential to the history of American punk, but they were basically playing fast rock n roll songs. They were awesome sure, but compared to the viciousness of British punk, Ramones were just guys in leather jackets singing harmonies.

By the time they released “Pet Sematary” in 1989 they were more of a pop metal band.  This song is stupidly catchy.

It’s got a complex (for them) opening guitar riff and quickly moves into power chords.

The chorus (with all kinds of backing vocals) is one of the poppiest things around.  If it weren’t for the lyrics

I don’t want to be buried in a pet cemetery
I don’t want to live my life again

it could easily be a radio friendly pop hit (and I think it was anyhow).

This song actually works very well for Halloween, even if it isn’t particularly scary, because of the lyrics.

Under the arc of a weather stain boards
Ancient goblins, and warlords
Come out the ground, not making a sound
The smell of death is all around

The moon is full, the air is still
All of the sudden I feel a chill.

I never realized that the song was literally about the book/movie.  I knew it was for the movie but the lyrics reference Victor the main character, which I never knew).

I suppose if you were a fan of the first four Ramones album and then never heard another song until this one, you might find it frightening how far they’d traveled from their origins.

[READ: October 22, 2019] “A Defense of Werewolves”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. and Ghost Box II. comes Ghost Box III.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

Oh god, it’s right behind me, isn’t it? There’s no use trying to run from Ghost Box III, the terrifying conclusion to our series of limited-edition horror box sets edited and introduced by Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, I’m going to read in the order they were stacked.

This story was first published in 1948 and wow, did I dislike this.   The first time I read it.

It’s pretty short so I read it twice.  This story is written like a treatise.  It is high language and rousing, I guess.  But honestly it really has nothing to do with werewolves and is actually more about the fantasy genre and keeping it safe from “the querulous, muttering voices of the plain.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BILLIE EILISH-“Bury a Friend” (2019).

A lot of the music I listen to is weird and probably creepy to other people, but I don’t necessarily think of songs as appropriate for Halloween or not.  So for this year’s Ghost Box stories, I consulted an “expert”: The Esquire list of Halloween songs you’ll play all year long.  The list has 45 songs–most of which I do not like.  So I picked 11 of them to post about.

There’s a ton of reasons why Billie is an unlikely pop sensation.  I won’t bother going through the myriad reasons, I’ll just talk about the music of this song–a suitably creepy song to kick off a series of Spooky Stories.

The song starts with a muted, almost musical drumbeat and clicks.  Then Billie’s processed voice sings with what I assumed is a slowed down version of her voice singing parallel with her.

After a muttered “come here,” and a screech, the verse starts.  It’s no less creepy and possibly more hypnotic.  It leads to a bridge in which at the end of each features a voice that cries quietly (and then reverses n the next line).

The repeated refrain of “I wanna end me” is probably the least creepy section of the song.

There’s one more part, a quickly spoken line ending with three thumps that lead to the next line.

Then it all repeats.

There’s no prettiness, no poppiness. It’s like a slightly more dancey version of Portishead.  It’s pretty darn cool.

I have no idea why it/she is so popular.  But good for her.

And the video is really freaking creepy too.

[READ: October 17, 2019] “The Foghorn”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. and Ghost Box II. comes Ghost Box III.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

Oh god, it’s right behind me, isn’t it? There’s no use trying to run from Ghost Box III, the terrifying conclusion to our series of limited-edition horror box sets edited and introduced by Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, I’m going to read in the order they were stacked.

Gertrude Atherton had a story in the previous Ghost Box.  I was pretty impressed by it.

This story is also pretty twisted–fans of the macabre should really check her out.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK PUMAS-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

A couple of years ago I had a pass to NonComm, but ultimately I decided not to go.  I had never been to World Cafe Live and, while it sounded like a fun time, it was just so many mid-week nights and lots of leaving early, that it sounded more exhausting than fun.

I have now been to World Cafe Live and I can imagine that the (less divaish) bands are hanging around talking to people (and radio personalities) which is probably pretty cool.

I love the idea of these sorta personal concerts, too.  But I have since come to see that they are 20-45 minutes tops.  Hardly worth driving 90 minutes (one-way) for.

But since the shows are streaming you can watch them live.  Or you can listen to the recorded version online.

Black Pumas was the opening band on the opening night.  They play and exciting and fun psychedelic soul.

It is hard not to be moved by Eric Burton’s powerful voice. Joining Burton onstage was production partner and guitarist Adrian Quesada, as well as a bassist, keyboardist, and two backing vocalists. The whole band moved as a unit, but each member added their own unique talents, making Black Pumas’ sound undeniably theirs.

The set mostly comprised of songs from the band’s upcoming self titled debut, due June 21st.

“Next 2U” had some great keyboards and Burton’s impassioned vocals.  “Colors” showcased their ability to slow things down a bit and to lean into improvisation.  There was a grooving guitar solo and a cool keyboard solo.  There was even more grooving on “Black Moon Rising.”  I enjoyed Burton giving us the occasional falsetto “AH!” at the end of the verses.

I really couldn’t believe how young these guys turned out to be because their sound is really old-school, but with enough of a modern twist to keep it from being retro.

“Fire” opened with a cool guitar riff before backing away from the rock a bit to allow the big harmony vocals to really soar.

The final song “Etta James” was surprising because it was more like a Rock n’ Roll shuffle–a fast bass line running through the quick verses.   It’s when the soulful chorus comes in that Etta James surfaces both in the lyrics and in the soul of the song.   Although the scorching guitar solo brings the song back around to its rocking sensibility.

Black Pumas sound like a great live band that would be even more fun to see than to hear.

[READ: May 2, 2019] “Tax Niʔ Pik̓ak (A Long Time Ago)”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

This story was written by Troy Sebastian / Nupqu ʔa·kǂ am̓, a Ktunaxa writer living in Lekwungen territory based in Victoria.  It’s not often that I read a story with a glossary, but it was very helpful, because this story uses a number of Ktunaxa words.

  • tax niʔ pik̓ak—a long time ago
  • Ka titi—grandmother
  • suyupi—white people
  • ka·pi—coffee
  • Kupi—owl
  • Ktunaxa ʔamak̓is—Ktunaxa lands

The story starts fairly simply, a long time ago.  Uncle Pat says that the suyupi have built a statue of David Thompson.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HANNAH GEORGAS-Live at Massey Hall (March 5, 2018).

Hannah Georgas grew up outside of Toronto and always thought it was a treat to come to Massey Hall.  She says “My 18-year old self would be pretty psyched to play here.”

Georgas has two backing musicians Robbie Driscoll on bass/ableton and Dean Stone on drums/SPD.  She also plays keys but not for every song.

Most of her songs are quite spare–primarily featuring her voice.  The music is often slow washes and a drumbeat.

“Elephant” opens with warping synth sounds and Hannah singing.  The song builds nicely over four minutes with an interesting guitar accent and some powerful drumming.  Hannah also jumps  on the keys a bit for the end.

“Lost Cause” starts with Hannah playing keys and singing.  It’s spare with just the piano and drums and a nice melody.  Her voice is quite lovely.

“Rideback” has great interesting sounds from her keyboard–like horns or harmonicas or something.  I’m more intrigued by these sounds than the song itself.

“Naked Beaches” sounds like a slow dance song–a simple beat with a single note keyboard riff ringing through the song.  Her voice is echoed a lot on this song (both echos and harmonies) and it sounds really nice.

“Don’t Go” is another spare track.  It’s almost all drums with washes of synth and Hannah’s voice.

I was surprised to see her play a cover.  It was the Eurhythmics’ “Love is a Stranger.”  Hannah doesn’t sound like Annie Lennox, but she doesn’t sound all that different from her–it’s a good pairing for her and her band.

“Waste” has a whole series of wonderfully weirdo noises in its melody.  It starts fairly quietly but after the first few vocal lines, a kind of distorted synth line starts the melody, but its the chorus that really adds the weirdness with horns that sound like horns but also like screams.  Its really fun and funky, and is my favorite song of her set.

“Waiting Game” is a pulsing song with some chugging guitar and synth stabs as accents.  The set ends with “Enemies,” a quiet song with pulsing synths and drums and lights to accompany them.  For the chorus, things smooth out with some nice synth washes.

This show was on the same night as Rhye, and I honestly can’t tell who was the headliner.

[READ: May 15, 2019] “Going Up the Mountain” 

I loved this short story which speculates how our lives might turn out in a few years.

The story begins “The mountain sits in the middle of town.”  The mountain has always been there and it will continue to always be there.  It’s right in the middle–a brief walk for everyone.  You can’t miss it.

When people see each other in town the ask if they have gone up the mountain that day.

A neighbor “grins a tight grin and gives the sort of shrug people always give when they haven’t gone up the mountain.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Memorial Stadium, St John’s, NL (December 04, 1996).

This is the 18th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. Only recording of “Record Body Count” from the tour.

The opening music for this show is “Good Times” by Chic.  And they jump right in with the opening of “Fan Letter.”  Dave says, “Nice to see you again, we’re the Rheostatics and we want to be your friend.”  It’s a terrific version and the end segues beautifully into Martin playing the intro to “California Dreamline.”  He gets lost in the lyrics for the first verse and then comes out of it just fine.

Washes of guitar end the song which segues in a wonderfully weird way into “Claire.”  It’s like a minute of whale songs before the guitar for “Claire” starts.   The solo is an almost synth chorus sound from martin before going into a more typically wild Martin solo.

While chatting, Martin says, “scruncheons.”  He continues: “they’re not small people, are they?  I mean the scruncheons.”  Whatever he’s talking about I have no idea.  Then he says, It’s great to be in St Johns.  This is a song about death.  “Feed Yourself” has some whispering in the middle but nothing too intense.   But the crashing chords near the end totally rock out.  The noisy feedback segues into “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”

Dave says “we played in a place called Boomers last time we were in St John’s–an Australian themed bar on Water Street.  Unusual place.  Some people wanted us to play there again and we’re not.  We’re sorry we’re not.   Those who emailed us… those people waving their arms, I’m guessing.  Good arm waving.  The best in Canada.”

A solid “Bad Time” is followed by that solitary “Record Body Count,” which the crowd loves.  It goes out to “our new friend Darren, good luck in PEI.”

After hearing this RBC, it sends home just how long most of the songs are that they are playing–many of them running six and seven minutes.  Not exactly pop radio friendly.  Like the set-ending “Fat,” which sound great and stretched out comfortably.  There’s some great bass lines at the end of this song, too.  Tim is n his heyday.

[READ: April 3, 2019] Idle Days

This story started really dark and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.  But the combination of the stunning art from Simon LeClerc and the fascinatingly intriguing story from Desaulniers-Brousseau proved to be fantastic.

World War II is crashing to its end.  This story is set in Canada and we hear about the final weeks on radio broadcasts.  Jerome Beauvais is a Quebecois deserter from the Canadian Forces.  It’s a strange setup.  Because his desertion doesn’t exactly have anything to do with the story of the plot.

He is back home but he is not living at home.  His mother has sent him to live with his moody grandfather in the woods to avoid any detection.  In fact, as the book opens, his mother is very unhappy to see him in town.  She knows (and he knows) that if he is spotted he will be arrested for desertion.  Signs say, “See someone hiding? Help your country.  Get Cash.”

His grandfather is rebuilding an old house that he bought.  The house has a history–rumored and real–of death (the woman commuted suicide) and a possible haunting.  So Jerome is there to help.  He’s kind of useless, but is becoming more practical and useful to his snarky grandfather. (more…)

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