Archive for December, 2006
December 22nd, 2006
“Ice sailing, Toronto Harbour, 1912,” by John Boyd, Archives of Ontario.
In today’s final episode of the Slate Music Club, I go ultrapatriotic and try to introduce U.S. readers to Destroyer, Final Fantasy, Laura Barrett and Blocks Recording Club, while also making encomiums to Matmos and Howe Gelb, and sniping a bit at Nickleback, Dylan and Girl Talk. (Main regret: How did I get through that whole series without ever mocking the Decemberists?) I know it’s the start of the holiday weekend, but keep an eye peeled for Ann Powers’ final installment later today, in which she tries to respond to some of the rockist hateration we’ve received from Slate readers in “The Fray” - relevant for anyone who’s been following this thread in the Zoilus comments.
Aside from that,
later I’ll post use the player below to hear the 1998 Giant Sand Xmas song that Gelb played at the show here last week, Christmas Everyday (Maybe It’ll Help), and I’m on my way out to make sure my family doesn’t get stuck with, like, nectarines for Xmas. Have a happy one if you’re celebrating it (and if you’re not too), and we’ll catch you back here after Boxing Day.
December 20th, 2006
Okay, it’s official: The music blog world’s year-end rituals have burst the bounds of rational exchange and have become a full-on listmaking orgy. For that reason, I am going to do this with minimal fuss & exchew illustration and justification.
Zolius: Top 20 Albums of 2006
Not likely to surprise regular readers very much (with a few exceptions), what follows are the albums that captured my attention most strongly or longest in 2006. How they overlap with what is according to some cosmic metric “best” or “most important” is a matter of conjecture. Dozens of others bubble beneath the no. 20 mark (from Howe Gelb to Kode9 & the SpaceApe to Agalloch to Eric Chenaux to Bob Dylan to Charlotte Gainsbourg to Vijay Iyer & Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Raw Materials) and thousands of others I never got to hear.
1. Joanna Newsom, Ys
2. Matmos, The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast
3. Destroyer, Destroyer’s Rubies
4. Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar
5. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
6. The Clipse, Hell Hath No Fury
7. Xiu Xiu, The Air Force
8. Final Fantasy, He Poos Clouds
9. Ghostface Killah, Fishscale
10. Anthony Braxton/Wolf Eyes, Black Vomit
11. Junior Boys, So This is Goodbye
12. The Mountain Goats, Get Lonely
13. Richard Buckner, Meadow
14. Scott Walker, The Drift
15. Matthew Shipp, One
16. Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor
17. Beyonce, B’Day
18. Lily Allen, Alright, Still
19. Rosanne Cash, Black Cadillac
20. Tom Ze, Estudando o Pagode
Zoilus: Singles of ‘06
Using the old-fashioned definition of “single,” plus a few allowances for MySpace, iTunes and YouTube, here in no strict order are some of the tracks that I bobbed, strolled, danced, shouted, laughed, sighed and (in the case of the first, my genuine no. 1) cried to in 2006. As for favourites songs? That’s just beyond my ability to calibrate at this point. They shuffled a lot in this most changeable of changeable years.
The Mountain Goats, Woke Up New; Beyonce, Irreplaceable; Lupe Fiasco, Kick, Push; Prince, Black Sweat; Willie Nelson, Cowboys Are Secretly, Frequently (Fond of Each Other); Ne-Yo, So Sick; Clipse, Ride Around Shining; Lily Allen, Alfie; Simon Bookish, Terry Riley Disco; La Plage, Coupe de Boule (Zidane); Justin Timberlake feat. T.I., My Love; Lil Wayne, Georgia … Bush; Cansei de Ser Sexy, Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above; Christina Aguilera, Ain’t No Other Man; Cham, Ghetto Story; Ghostface Killah, Shakey Dog; Gary Allen, Life Ain’t Always Beautiful; The Raconteurs, Steady as She Goes; Nelly Furtado feat Timbaland, Promiscuous; Neil Young, Let’s Impeach the President.
Elsewhere, some online 2006 mixes you should hear: Sean’s always-indispensable best-songs list; Marathonpacks’ four-volume year-ender; and Paper Thin Walls’ collective mixes, which notably includes T-dotopian songstress Laura Barrett’s Robot Ponies (and a little interview between her & Douglas Wolk about the song). I feel like I have to count Laura’s EP as a 2005 release, but if I hadn’t, it would be on my list too. As it is, her 2007 release on Ta-Da! is atop my roster of anticipated records for 2007.
December 20th, 2006
My latest post in the Slate end-of-2006 Music Club is up now. Amusingly, in the selfsame moment that the group of critics is all raising a glass of bubbly and singing, “ding-dong, rockism’s dead,” the posters in Slate’s “The Fray” reader’s forum are doing their damndest to prove us wrong by attacking us for discussing pop: “This is the place where the reviewer tries to compensate for his lack of taste and failure to keep up with music culture by waxing poetic about the merits of Timberlake and Nelly, not where we talk about actual music (as in art rather than manufactured entertainment) or artists who write their own songs.”
For those whose poptimistic patience is limited, though, my post today actually does talk a lot about non-pop - it gets into country, metal, the Mountain Goats, jazz, breakcore and noise. And my final post, out tomorrow or Friday, will probably talk mostly about Canada.
December 19th, 2006
Today in The Globe and Mail, I have a review of Sunday night’s show by Howe Gelb (Giant Sand) and his Ottawa-based ‘Sno Angel project, which features the Voices of Praise gospel choir. Here’s a video of the group performing in Manchester earlier this year:
December 18th, 2006
The Clipse: Consensus picks of the Slate ‘06 crew.
As forecast, the Slate Music Club - feat. Jody Rosen, Jon Caramanica, Ann Powers and me - begins its annual general meeting today. So far Jody’s discussed the “slow-motion collapse of the record business” in 2006, as well as country music and “Morrissey-goes-mall-rat” bands like Panic! at the Disco, while Jon’s lauded the Clipse and My Chemical Romance. We’ve all tacitly agreed not to discuss Gnarls Barkley (will our defences hold?). My first post is up next.
(4 pm: Ah. There it is.)
December 16th, 2006
There’s a nice piece in The Globe today about my friends Emily Schultz and Brian Joseph Davis’s apartment gallery (where I gave my “Make Your Own Bad Band” talk-shop) and other examples of in-home art spaces created in Toronto, private spaces turned into hybrid public ones. I like the way that Brian and Emily talk about their year-long experiment - that it’s not as much for its own sake as to help provide a model that other people might take up.
As a toast to them, I offer the following celebration of domesticity, a 1960s Scopitone of an answer song to Roger Miller’s hit King of the Road, by Jody Miller (no relation so far as I know). I’ve been in a video-posting mood lately (is it the holidays?) and this is, as my friend Matt said when he pointed it out, the best video ever.
December 14th, 2006
A quick but fervent reminder that tonight is the one-and-only performance of The December Show: Big in Afghanistan, the sequel to 2004’s fondly recollected The November Show choreographed by Margaux Williamson with music by Ryan Kamstra, now reincarnated by Margaux Williamson with Ryan Kamstra’s band Tomboyfriend, whose Wavelength debut last month was much discussed on this here blog. It’s described as “a fun, poetic, ghoulish, plotless little rock show that flies like the Bob Hope Show in reverse.”
A rough video preview of one of the numbers, in unplugged form, below. (Patience - it takes 30 seconds or so to get going.) It’s at Buddies in Bad Times at 9 pm, $8; Ulysses Castellanos, whom you might know from his heavy-metal “ghost of Yorkville” street performance during Nuit Blanche, opens.
December 14th, 2006
December 12th, 2006
Stephen Merritt on an Atlanta morning show last month, promoting the Lemony Snicket tie-in album, and not exactly happy to be there:
December 12th, 2006
When I talk about participatory musical culture, the easiest example to bring up is the church or community choir. At the State of the Arts launch a few weeks ago, it came up that one of the fanciest high-end instrument stores in Toronto was originally founded to supply equipment to ethnic church-basement bands and choirs downtown, of which there were hundreds in the much-smaller city at the time. An amateur choir looks like one of the most pleasurable hobbies you could have, but there aren’t many comfortable choices for a younger music lover. There are serious-as-hell classical choirs which require a level of skill and work to achieve results beyond what many hobbyists can muster. And then there are church choirs, which leave out the seculars, and cornpone nostalgia choirs. Given those options, no wonder more people are likely to start just-for-fun garage bands - but those are usually just clumps of friends, not anything big enough to connect you to a wider circle. One of my favourite things about The Hidden Cameras early on was their deliberate evocation of church folk choirs, though they’ve now moved away from that source in sound and concept. From time to time some other artist will use elements, such as Howe Gelb’s recent collaboration with a gospel choir (with whom he’ll be in Toronto this Sunday) on his excellent 2006 disc ‘Sno Angel Like You. But the amateur-society choir still could use a makeover for the 21st century.
Here are two twists on choral cliches that I’ve run across in the past week. One is an unusual seniors’ choir called the Young @ Heart Chorus in which you’ll see oldsters taking on unexpected repertoire such as Radiohead or, in the below clip, Sonic Youth - which must be comforting to the aging members of SY, that rest homes across the land are being made ready for their eventual arrival. The style reminds me a bit of its opposite, the Langley-style elementary-school pop-music choir. Except rather less energetic. Or polished.
Another has been circulating on the ‘net for a while and was covered in this recent Guardian story: The phenom of “complaints choirs,” which began as an art project in Helsinki and has been emulated (or is in the works) in other cities around the world. Hearing mundane kvetching about civic inconveniences (”the employment agency only needs Java programmers … tramline three smells of pee”) in four-part harmony is amusing, as witness the Finnish original below, but it also immediately suggests potential variations: A choir could substitute for the community newspaper and sing about local bylaws and zoning variances; academics could found a Critical Choir that would harmonize on genealogies of micropolitics and close readings of Mary Shelley; fans of Lost could get together and set their FAQs about confusing plot twists to music; indie-rock kids could chorus about how they disliked the Shins back before disliking the Shins was cool…