Zoilus by Carl Wilson

Archive for June, 2010

Introducing: Back to the World

June 29th, 2010

Zoilus readers, friends and passersby, I’ve been mentioning for a while that there is a new website coming. It’s here. Or, rather, it’s there. Happy blogday to us.

Back to the World is a group blog about arts and culture, written by me along with two of the most talented culture writers I know: Chris Randle, just coming out of university, who’s been helping out on Zoilus for several years and has written frequently for Eye Weekly and other publications on music, comics and other subjects; and Margaux Williamson, a visual artist and filmmaker who ventured out into criticism for the first time earlier this year with her blog Movie Is My Favourite Word (where her Back to the World posts will be cross-posted).

B2tW will differ from Zoilus on a lot of levels: First, obviously, there are two other writers. And music is only one of the things we’ll write about, while on Zoilus non-musical stuff has been an anomaly. As well, though, Zoilus pieces generally have a conversational voice - one writer, me, addressing the reader - and are usually motivated by outside events: A new release, an article I’ve read, a controversy that’s in circulation, a conversation going on in Internet-music circles. B2tW pieces are comparatively “unpegged” - making no effort to be first or even 100th on a subject, paying scant attention to timeliness in general, as a kind of “slow food”-style reaction to the instantaneousness of the Internet, which I’m now happier to participate in as a Facebook and Twitter user. It addresses itself to a particular style of thought (broadly speaking the essayistic) more deliberately than Zoilus has. Unlike this site, too, it’s not particularly tied to its base in Toronto, though the fact that we all live here will no doubt be reflected in its content as it evolves.

This site meanwhile will live on as a place for me to make announcements, link you to published work, mention records and shows I’m excited about, provide more music-criticism-specific commentary and, if the urge strikes, talk about the sorts of subjects and issues this site’s always talked about. But yeah, I think the main action will be over at the group site.

(By the way, it is not a statement of any kind that the show calendar over in the left margin has gone out-of-date - just busy-stressy reasons. Will fix, possibly today.)

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Voyage to the Polaris (Long List Leg)

June 17th, 2010

The fifth-annual Polaris Prize Long List was announced this afternoon. First, the selfish celebration: Hurray for Frog Eyes, South Rakkas Crew and Owen Pallett, the three of my five votes that found a place among the 40 nominees, all but Owen by no means shoo-ins. And a moment of regret and gnashing of teeth for Mantler and Drumheller, my two also-rans. Later: I should add that I fully expected Sunset Rubdown and Do Make Say Think to make the list without my vote. I bet wrong. And though I wouldn’t have put them on my ballot of five, I thought Thee Silver Mt. Zion had a good chance, with one of the better records ever to come out of the Godspeed You Black Emperor camp (at least without involving Carla Bozulich or Vic Chesnutt). Too bad.

Otherwise, the list is not too surprising, but there are a couple of notable features: First, though I haven’t done the math, it looks like a record showing for francophone artists (the result I think of some behind-the-scenes consensus-building among the Quebec critics on the jury). Second, there’s a shutout for jazz/improv/avant-garde music - the only jazz-based lister is a very song-and-groove-based record by Elizabeth Shepherd. The only instrumental music comes from usual-Polaris-suspects Holy Fuck and Caribou, with the welcome addition of Kid Koala’s project The Slew (which, with South Rakkas, also marks the debut of free-download albums to the Polarisverse).

Also, it’s nice to see age hasn’t counted against Blue Rodeo, and mainstream appeal hasn’t counted against Tegan and Sara. And the gods of volume seem to be revenging themselves against the Prize for picking Fucked Up last year, by excluding the hardcore/metal/noise side of the continuum, too. I’ll resist constructing any grand field theories. Generally, some progress on the dancey side of diversity, not much in any other direction.

Of the long list, I’d guess that shortlist odds smile on The Besnard Lakes, Broken Social Scene, Caribou, Owen Pallett, maybe Radio Radio, Shad, Tegan And Sara and You Say Party! We Say Die!, leaving a couple of mystery slots (one for Frog Eyes, I hope). But really, once jury members focus in and start discussing and listening more intently to the 40, anything could happen. Commence wailing about regional biases now!

McGarrigle, Radiohead & Me
in the Dead Trees

June 8th, 2010

Essays from me in a couple of print outlets imminently hitting the stands/stoops:

Maisonneuve quarterly from Montreal is doing a special reverse-desert-island-disc, “critics and their discontents” exercise called “The Music We Hate,” and while that’s not the tagline I’d use (more like, “music whose appeal escapes us”), it includes me writing about, gasp, Radiohead. Along with a passel of cronies: Michael Barclay on Animal Collective, Chandler Levack on Broken Social Scene, Sarah Liss on Neon Indian, Sean Michaels on Sufjan Stevens and Dave Morris on Sonic Youth. (Also Ryan McNutt on Joanna Newsom, but Ryan and I don’t know each other.) Congratulations are in order to Dave, I think, who has picked the hardest target here. I think I come in 2nd. Not that it’s a contest. Wait! It’s a contest! Suggest your least-liked, hardest-to-criticize band! You will win, um, Zoilus points, redeemable everywhere zoiluses are sold.

In quite another register, I also have a piece in the new issue of Canada’s greatest magazine, Brick, an elegy for Kate McGarrigle (which originally appeared in briefer form here on Zoilus). I’m thrilled by that, despite the sad occasion, and pleased Sean Michaels, again, also graces its pages - in the company of Zadie Smith, Javier Marías, Julio Cortázar, Robert Hass, Michael Helm, Pico Iyer, Jim Harrison and many others. Whoa.

These journals aren’t online. So there.

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