by carl wilson

'Crowned Myself the Prince of Buzz...'

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As forecast, my piece on Final Fantasy in today's Times is here.

In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, December 11 at 4:04 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (36)

 

COMMENTS

away as possible but at the same time he knew he couldnt leave Eileen big money Not now.

Posted by Kanye Jarod on January 5, 2006 11:32 PM

 

 

away as possible but at the same time he knew he couldnt leave Eileen big money Not now.

Posted by Kanye Jarod on January 5, 2006 11:31 PM

 

 

Well .... while Ed's piece - which satirically uses Richard Florida's formula for a "creative city" to nominate Milwaukee as the next "it" city and, thus, a hair-metal-revival as the next big sound - is clever, I'm not convinced that there's nothing to Florida's basic idea that a concentration of artists and queers makes a big difference to the vibrancy of the city. He notes that Florida, who is after all a slimy consultant, basically just outright lies about Milwaukee's place on the Bohemian Index. But then Ed just abandons that idea and uses a bunch of much less useful correlatives. I think the 'ideal' population estimate he makes is too small, but more important is that it kind of has to be a regional capital - the place to which, if you live in an oppressive smaller town, you flee. In the Milwaukee region, that's gonna be Chicago.

Obvs. the idea of an "it" city is dumb and reductionist and, particularly, ignores the dispersal of these energies by current mobility and communications - see C. Carr's classic early-1990s Village Voice article "The Bohemian Diaspora": There's not going to be a contemporary equiv. of Paris in the 1930s, New York in the 1940s and 1950s, London and San Francisco in the sixties. But cities are different and those differences count, and people do cross-fertilize and scenes (whether geographic or stylistic) do matter. The way they're covered in the media, and the "game of tag" idea of "It," are less interesting to me than the question of how we can build our utopian dreams wherever we happen to live.

Posted by zoilus on December 16, 2005 1:51 PM

 

 

On the topic of "scenes"

Check out the latest

http://www.maisonneuve.org/index.php?&page;_id=12&article;_id=1901

Posted by guy tanentzapf on December 15, 2005 2:56 PM

 

 

As a Montrealer enamoured with Canadian music from everywhere these days, I don't think there's anything wrong with asserting that 1) Canada in general is producing amazing music, 2) the various communities that sustain or are nourished by this music are increasingly linked (think of Owen and Arcade Fire, or Frog Eyes and Wolf Parade, or any Arts & Crafts act ...), and that 3) each geographical center nevertheless has its own, and yes, specific, charming idiosyncratic traits and neuroses. I love catching SS Cardiacs in Montreal, for example, and getting a dose of that 'celebratory' Toronto vibe, which 'guarded' Montreal sometimes lacks.

I think it's important to remember that it wasn't Montreal that asked to be reduced to a couple glossy pages in foreign publications. A handful of mainstream media in this country are notoriously bad for getting excited about Canadian artists only after they've been acknowledged south of the border. When filtered through sources like that, the stories inevitably end up being reductionist and a bit superficial.

That's one of the reasons I was so hard on the recent Portland-Montreal pieces in the Globe & Mail.

Better to communicate the vibrancy of a scene or community through a story about someone like Owen than to list a bunch of bands that happen to reside in a certain postal code ...

Next time they do a 'city profile' in the Globe, Carl, I hope it's you writing it.

Posted by Andrew Rose on December 13, 2005 12:58 PM

 

 

Jennifer - Surprisingly enough, Destroyer, too bad for me, was already the subject of a (short) Times piece, around the time This Night came out. It can't be had online but for this brief taste:

MUSIC: SPINS; Chasing After Songs He Hears in His Head
October 13, 2002, Sunday
By NEIL STRAUSS (NYT); Arts and Leisure Desk
Section 2, Page 28, Column 4, 377 words

DISPLAYING FIRST 50 OF 377 WORDS -Daniel Bejar has led a revolving line-up of musicians through five albums under the name Destroyer, and with each he has gotten closer to achieving the sound he hears in his head. Yet as his popularity has grown, he has retreated farther from the limelight, choosing change over consistency....

Andrew: La da da da, da da da die, die da da da ... In other words, coming up.

Posted by zoilus on December 13, 2005 2:13 AM

 

 

0. Congratulations on the Owen Pallett piece!
1. "Next stop: New Yorker" would be the greatest (although I've never seen anyone but sasha fj write a pop piece there).
2. "desperate times call for desperate measure/ I wanted you I wanted these treasures". i.e., bring on the Destroyer's Rubies post!

Posted by andrew on December 13, 2005 12:39 AM

 

 

I was half hoping that the NYT piece would be on Destroyer, half not. Because I still wish Destroyer and Dan Bejar would remain in the realm of the unknown, the secret of a few -- mostly for my sake, but maybe partially for DB's? Anyway: Next stop, _New_Yorker_!

Posted by jennifer on December 12, 2005 10:27 PM

 

 

The Torontopianism is second nature by now, but also deliberate - there was a little more of it in the piece before it had to be cut for space. (Good point about the locator - I dunno if the NYT uses placelines for this sort of piece, and didn't think to ask.)

I made my first reference to the CANADIAN scene, because I think that a lot of these qualities and energies are in fact true across urban Canada - which is the BIG point that a lot of the Montreal hype mistook, that this wasn't an It City story but in fact a story about the cultural sophistication of Canada. No surprise, though, since Canadians mostly don't appreciate this fact either. (In fact I regret the use of the modifier "central" in the story, which is unfair to Vancouver and elsewhere; I felt a sort of 'professional' obligation to be more specific and less grand. Bah.)

However I think Toronto also has something specific going for it, a much more celebratory and less guarded attitude than Mtl. or, from what I can tell, Vancouver. Maybe Winnipeg has it. Thus far I have no sociological explanation, but I think it's terrific. So I resist all symptoms of resurgent backbiting - even when they come couched in decent political-economic-aesthetic points, you can pick up the whiff of resentment, which is pure toxin.

Posted by zoilus on December 12, 2005 5:18 PM

 

 

As I was rifling through the NYT Arts section during my Sunday morning ritual, I was so proud to see Carl's byline. Of course seeing Owen's fetching picture is what first drew my attention. Is it me, or does he look a little like Nick Rhodes in the second shot? Yes, it was a great piece with the expected stellar writing I've come to expect from our zealously championed Canuck hero. No, I won't entertain arcane comments on "the scene" as I've learned my lesson from previous unguarded comments(I'm still pulling out the splinters). The most enjoyable aspect of this piece, I must say, was the casual way in which it celebrated what makes Toronto the great...however neutral the intention, it was an obvious bias throughout the story. It also played nicely into the ongoing New York envy that can permeate artistic living in Hogtown: the envy that dare not speak its name. I noticed that NYT missed putting a locator on the story which makes the chip on my shoulder itch a little.

Posted by Phil on December 12, 2005 3:06 PM

 

 

Marco - I agree, the huge play of the sailor-suit picture and the jokey headline were an unfortunate combination. One or the other woulda been okay. I don't think the piece itself is cutesy. Owen's work has humour, and he's funny in a very Canadian, deflecting way in interviews. But the 'nerd' element of FF is totally in earnest and romantic and (in that, to me) brilliant; the treatment subtracted from that point. Which is often what happens when you try to present avant-gardeish people in mainstream venues, right? (Not that Final Fantasy is avant-garde, except in a sublimated sort of way, but that's where Owen's coming from - you might better say that the sensibility is *contemporary*, which means more than it looks.)

Posted by zoilus on December 12, 2005 2:05 PM

 

 

That is pretty cool, I have to admit.

Posted by ICanReadYourMind on December 12, 2005 1:45 PM

 

 

P.S. My favorite detail in Carl's piece: "He plans to put some songs out purely as sheet music - 'an album you have to perform yourself.'" That's some seriously old school shit. (Carl: tell him to not to skimp on the sheet music cover art!)

Posted by Jody on December 12, 2005 1:33 PM

 

 

Just speaking as one New Yorker who is in love with his hometown and "will happily go around telling anyone who will listen...how much better it is than anywhere else": I spent three days in Toronto once and was quite blown away at how cosmopolitan the place is and, especially, how much great ethnic food there is up there. Yum!

Nice article, Carl.

Posted by Jody on December 12, 2005 1:24 PM

 

 

The last time i was in toronto and saw owen he was wearing half a melon on a string as a necklace. So the chance of him moving to LA and wearing gold chains is not large.

(for the record i did ask him why he decided to go to wavelength with a melon tied with a string around his neck and managed not to get a straight answer. Which says a lot about Owen, his desire for attention (a common trait with many artists) and the fact that he truely is a strange person. This explains to me some of his less appealing behaviour in the past)

But this really shouldnt be about him it should be about the music. The FF stuff ive heard is not my cup of tea but that doesnt mean i dont hope that he makes it as big as he can or think he is doing interesting work (he is a very gifted musician thats a fact). Anyone who spends their time wishing other musicians fail truely is a "dick".

I know its obvious to say but life isnt fair. Maybe there are people just as desrving or more deserving than owen of the attention but no one asked carl to write about them. Heck i think the AF are just ok but great lake swimmers are the best thing ever but that doesnt mean I am not very happy the arcade fire are doing well. Basically im telling y'all if you cant be happy for owen to just ignore him.

This is an interesting example how the "scene" idea works, owen did well, now carl did well. owen will tour and take some of his friends and get them to do well, the cycle of joy goes on.

Posted by guy tanentzapf on December 12, 2005 12:44 PM

 

 

Just to clarify, I don't think I was really "taking it personally", it was just something that I noticed that annoyed me. However I hadn't given it a thought until I saw your article.
It is kind of hard to determine peoples tone on the internet though, so who knows, maybe I'm wrong, but that is the impression I get.

Posted by ICanReadYourMind on December 12, 2005 12:19 PM

 

 

Although it seemed to me that the sailor getup and the absent-minded harpsichorditry made for a slightly "cutesy" profile of "Mr." Pallett, I nevertheless must congratulate you on a well-written and engaging article. I hope he gets many headlining Bowery gigs as a result. However, if he gets rich and moves to Los Angeles and starts wearing huge gold chains and hanging out with Paul Simon, some might consider it your fault.


Posted by marco on December 12, 2005 11:54 AM

 

 

I am not sure I see any clear comparison between what Owen is doing and MNL or Polmo Polpo (having seen all three). One guy on stage with his violin and a loop pedal is far different from a guy on stage with his laptop, an array of effects, digital and analogue synths, and - in the case of MNL - a guitar. Owen's live show involves no digital augmentation, and - at times - a live percussionist. He is also working on some interesting concepts that revolve around directional sound. He is infinitely more engaging on stage than either MNL or Polmo.

Posted by Greg on December 12, 2005 11:44 AM

 

 

Would the article on Owen exist without the Arcade Fire? I'm not sure - maybe the editors wouldn't have gone for it, but also the story would be so different that it's hard to imagine, since Owen would very likely have toured less and probably have had multiple projects going in Toronto, without the exposure brought to Final Fantasy by opening for the AF. So if it had happened, it might have happened much later. On the other hand, I profiled Owen for the Globe before the AF record came out (and I hadn't even heard the AF until then), in a piece that concentrated on Les Mouches, so that's certainly not the source of *my* interest. I like the AF fine, but I like Owen's work a lot better.

And ICanRead..., Owen used to be a quite active participant in 20hz, so the way he was treated there was with the proprietariness of any Internet community, plus personal affection and respect from a sizable number of the members. You're taking the whole "special entity" jazz way too personally. And your take on the Guthrie album is legitimate, but it's certainly a minority opinion - at the time people couldn't stop talking about the strings, and Jim certainly loved them. In fact Owen himself might come the closest to agreeing with you, as he's always self-deprecating about that.

Posted by Zoilus on December 12, 2005 11:21 AM

 

 

Why, did he ruin a Superchunk record too?

Posted by ICanReadYourMind on December 12, 2005 11:08 AM

 

 

there are Superchunk jokes begging to be made here.

Posted by spitz on December 12, 2005 11:05 AM

 

 

True enough, I've never met the man, so maybe he is really nice. I just have always got this feeling that people in Toronto view him as this "special entity" who is somehow untouchable, which I've always found irritating. People seemed to sort of be scared of him or something. Then watching on 20hz as he started banging on Esthero (whom I have no opinion on whatsoever) and then watching everyone else pile on, just because it was him (much like Greg did above), irritated me even further. I'm sure there are all sorts of other issues related to this that I don't know about, but I can only form my opinions based on what I know, what I've seen, read and heard. But I will retract calling him a dick, since I don't know him. But I think that there are far more deserving and far more long suffering "Loopers" out there who deserve some attention as well (MNL, Beef Terminal, Polmo Polpo to name 3 off the top of my head). Despite the fact that people have tried to pre-empt any criticism of him and his AF connections by pointing out that others might mention it first, it happens to be true. This guy would NOT have an article in the Times without being in the Arcade Fire. Am I right Carl? And also to clarify: I love that Jim Guthrie record. I just hate the strings. I wish an alt version would be released!

Posted by ICanReadYourMind on December 12, 2005 10:51 AM

 

 

Whether or not you think Owen's music is as spectacular as it is (and I count myself among those that do), I still think it's hard to deny that he's a fascinating musician, and worth writing about. As for the New York Times, I would have thought a bunch of bloggers would be increasingly ambivalent about where such a piece might appear, bu we're not quite there yet, though, are we?

I still wish we could get beyond thinking about city-limits as the borders for 'scenes', though. It's happening all over this country.

Either way, great article. Owen has been on my lists from the beginning of the year, and we'll be featuring him on Pop Montreal's end-of-year extravaganza as well.

Posted by Andrew Rose on December 12, 2005 10:31 AM

 

 

The ladies think Jim is terribly handsome.

Posted by spitz on December 12, 2005 8:18 AM

 

 

Not to be all "I like A better than B" -- which is exactly what I'm about to be -- but goodness, isn't the Arcade Fire record terribly dull? Godawful singers, musically kind of a generic redux of Pulp circa This is Hardcore, minus the great lyrics.
On the other hand, I've been playing the Jim Guthrie record without tiring of it for years. You may want Owen not to be "Toronto's Little Secret", but Jim (who's less interesting-looking, older, less handsome) really deserves tha break.


Posted by Steve on December 12, 2005 7:27 AM

 

 

Yes, I should qualify something here. As Carl says, Owen is a really nice guy, and I can say this through personal experience. I've had nothing but good times hanging out with him, which speaks volumes more than an opinion derived from a 20hz/Stillepost argument.

Posted by Greg on December 12, 2005 2:45 AM

 

 

ICanRead..., thanks for balancing your dislike of my choice of subject with friendly kudos. I expected to see a lot more of this "Final Fantasy sucks" stuff today, actually. But while you're totally justified in disliking the music if you want, I really wish you hadn't taken a business dispute that unfortunately exposed itself in public (in which, as best I can tell, both sides deserved some blame) and used it to judge Pallett's whole character, deciding he's a "dick." This is one of the things I hate about media-internet-celebrity culture - that we're all constantly making judgments of people we actually know nothing about. If you'd said "it left a bad taste in my mouth" or something like that, fair enough, but these sweeping generalizations are really unjustified.

While Greg's defense of opinionated people was good and true, I feel obliged to point out that Owen is also quite shy and sweet. He just gets overexcitable sometimes.

Posted by zoilus on December 12, 2005 2:36 AM

 

 

Esthero deserves to be savaged. Eesh. Good on Owen for that one.

It's funny, because there was a thread on Stillepost a while ago that mentioned the *potential* upcoming influx of "if it weren't for Arcade Fire" quips that might be leveraged at Final Fantasy. I think that's a fairly cheap way to write him off (albeit effective, if you aren't a fan).

Owen sure has a mouth -- I see that as a positive thing. If you don't like to listen to people with opinions; people who aren't afraid to speak their minds on other artists, on life, and on anything else they happen to have a knowledge of, Final Fantasy is one to stay well away from.

Posted by Greg on December 12, 2005 2:11 AM

 

 

Oh yeah, I should add that I think it's awesome that I'm reading a Carl Wilson article in the NY Times, its just the subject I disagreed with. Nice work though, Carl.

Posted by ICanReadYourMind on December 12, 2005 12:37 AM

 

 

I'm sure I will be the one voice of dissent here, but I don't really think Mr. Pallett has done anything to really deserve a 2 page piece in the New York Times. Firstly, I think he ruined that Jim Guthrie album that he played on. Secondly, I don't think he would be getting near the press he is getting without the success of the Arcade Fire. People have been doing looping stuff with far more interesting results in Toronto alone, for much longer. And thirdly, this is a person who completely savaged Esthero on 20hz last spring, so much so that she was forced to come online and defend herself, after which he backed down in one of the most cowardly displays I've ever seen online. And this is online, the home of cowards! I'm not hatin', I like to see Torontonians make good, but this guy is a. not good, and b. a dick.

Posted by ICanReadYourMind on December 12, 2005 12:16 AM

 

 

I love the way they've 'shopped out the naked bathing old dude in that sailor picture. bit too racy for the Times one imagines. great piece though.

Posted by Merek on December 11, 2005 8:17 PM

 

 

The nice thing about Toronto - at least the Toronto I know - is that we know it's a great place, and we don't care what other people think. I mean, what difference does it make anyway? Our music scene is amazing right now, and I actually like the low-key vibe we have here. Here's to never having Toronto be an it-city.

Posted by Greg on December 11, 2005 7:49 PM

 

 

Congrats Carl -- very nice piece, made me want to read to the end (key to success) and made me want to hear the music. The descrip reminded me of my experience of Sufjan Stevens -- sweet, soft melodic singer in a very sophisticated classical-influenced context.

Guy Tanetzapf's paean to Toronto reminded me of living in Chicago 15 years ago. A truly exciting place bursting with creativity & a wild overlapping music/theater scene, and a deep civic humility. I heard 2nd hand that the chief rock critic of the Chicago Reader when I worked there (Bill Wyman is his name; he's still writing rockcrit for a daily in the American south somewhere; he was proud of being one of the first critics to write about Liz Phair, back when I knew him) left to move back to the Bay Area, where he was originally from. I heard that his take on Chicago after leaving it was something to the effect of, "people in Chicago are smarter than people in San Francisco, but people in San Francisco are more pretentious. The only thing Chicago is pretentious about is its lack of pretention." Moving from there to Seattle was depressing in that regard. I like it here too, but there's constant civic angst about whether we're a "great city." "Are we a great city? I think we are! Maybe if we say it often enough, we will be!"

Toronto sounds great in the Chicago sense of great, and that's very cool.

Posted by John on December 11, 2005 6:55 PM

 

 

Carl,

You did something important in the article which is to big up Toronto.

In london if you have 2 bands which know each other the NME calls it a scene. WHy then does Toronto where everyone is on each others records not get credited for the vibrent happening scene it is in the UK press?

The unpleasent truth is that bascially outside of Toronto no one thinks Toronto is cool. Every non toronotonian canuck i met in the UK dumped on Toronto freely in public thats one reason. Secondly torontonians are too humble. New yorkers will happily go around telling anyone who will listen how friggin cool new york is and how much better it is than anywhere else. But torontonians get that sheepish look and apologize and mumble something about how while, yes, it is true that Montreal is much better, Toronto is ok too. Well thats bullshit. We need some Toronto pride. I have to tell you carl no one ever believes me here when i tell them toronto is an interesting place to live an i mean no one. So ive stopped being humble i tell anyone who wants to listen that Toronto rules and is by far the best place to live in Canada.

I wouldnt say it if i didnt think it.

Now is this important? yes it is. If there is the deserving buzz it makes it easier for fledgling Toronto artists to get exposure. So what you did by pushing the toronto angle is very important and you should keep at it.

G.

Posted by guy Tanentzapf on December 11, 2005 6:31 PM

 

 

A great article, both celebratory & humble. When I read about Owen, I'm torn between being thrilled for him & his success, and afraid of it too - almost like I want to keep him "our (Toronto') little secret". But I fear the secret's long been out!

Posted by Beth Hamill on December 11, 2005 6:23 PM

 

 

the old grey lady! very impressive.

when should we be on the lookout for you sharing pitchers with art sulzberger at sneaky dees?

Posted by optimus on December 11, 2005 5:08 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson