by carl wilson

August 29, 2008

Stick a Pitchfork In It, PTW's Done

I'm not sure why, but I could never remember to check Paper Thin Walls, even though I intended to read it every day. I guess I wasn't the only one, as the site is shutting down. Today they provide a retrospective on their two-years-plus of existence that offers a lot of fun reading, such as the "tell us a story" feature (Chad Van Gaalen does Stupid Human Tricks; Dan Deacon, in Hamburglar suit, feeds frat boys rancid ant-infested burgers), some nifty making-the-video stories etc., and PTW's own ridiculous effort to cover a Deerhoof song. They present Part 2 (less gossip more tuneage, I think) on Tuesday, before they fold up their tent. What I liked best about PTW though was actually their reviews, which whiffed of that old-Creem-smell and then would get all adorably bro-on-bro snark-vs-sympathy in the comments threads. They'll be missed.

Also memorable: In July of ought-seven, Ryan Catbird depicts PTW's place in online music journalism and somehow the platonic form of said field's soul or lack thereof, in diagram form:


General | Posted by zoilus on Friday, August 29 at 1:33 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)


August 28, 2008

Tin Pan Idol:
Echo's Songs Rock and SOCAN You

Vedahille2.jpg sandro.jpg

I've got an idea for a reality show: Tin Pan Idol. It would be like the cultural-work-honouring Project Runway but with songwriting instead of fashion design - show us how the material is chosen, how it is cut to fit the frame, when someone is just chasing a trend or when they are just bucking it and when they are doing something beyond either. Tell the contestants that they need a bridge. Tell 'em they've got too many bridges. Show us what it's like to craft an arrangement and make a demo. At each stage narrow down the field, until at the end some bright spark of a compulsive hook-throwing tunesmith emerges glistening into the light of a publishing contract and a handful o' guesting real-life stars agree to cut a few of his or her songs. (I'm making that an idea an exception from the Creative Commons license at the foot of this site: All rights reserved!)

weakerthans2.jpg wintersleep2.jpg

Until then the closest thing we've got is the SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) Echo Songwriting Prize, which annually since 2006 offers $5,000 to the writer(s) of a song released in the past year as voted on by the point-and-click public, "to identify what's next and what's best in current Canadian independent music." (Eligibility is determined by being below gold-record status, which in Canada is 50,000 copies sold.)

For the third year running, I've been part of the 10-person panel that selects the nominees - last year the winner was Toronto rapper Abdominal for his urban-cyclist anthem "Pedal Pusher"; in year one, it was Winnipeg's Propagandhi ("the soundtrack for the voluntary human extinction movement") for their song "A Speculative Fiction."

This year it's an extremely strong field, if a little lacking in cultural diversity (except for the final pick, a Jewish-cowboy-hip-hop blend) but robust in geographical diversity. In the order of artists pictured (left to right and top to bottom) in this post:

"Lucklucky", written and performed by Veda Hille (Vancouver)

"Double Suicide", written and performed by Sandro Perri (Toronto)

"Night Windows", written by Stephen Carroll, John Samson, Greg Smith & Jason Tait, performed by The Weakerthans (Winnipeg)

"Weighty Ghost", written by Loel Campbell, Tim D'eon, Paul Murphy and Jud Haynes, performed by Wintersleep (Halifax)

"You Are Never Alone", written by Josh Dolgin, Doris Glaspie, Katie Moore and Waleed Shabazz, performed by Socalled (Montreal)


You'll be able to vote here (one vote per ISP address daily) starting on Sept. 1 and through Sept. 29 to determine who emerges as the Echo Songwriting Idol. Get your clicking finger warmed up.

I will make no secret of it here and now that I'm'a'gonna do my part to see that this is Veda Hille's year: After her recent masterfuckingpiece album This Riot Life was woefully neglected in the Polaris Prize nominations, this is the least we can do. That said, I'd be nearly as pleased to see Sandro Perri or Socalled take the prize (two more should-have-been Polaris nominees), and not at all sad to see the Weakerthans or Wintersleep have a few grand rained down upon their nappy heads.

I'll make a fuller case for the merits of "Lucklucky" next week when voting is open. There'll also be a video online for "Lucklucky" soon, I hear. Meanwhile, here is a charming live, lo-fi rendition of a track from This Riot that's just as deserving. "Ace of the Nazarene" on the record flirts with heavy metal, but in the version shown below, shot by Playgrrround in a courtyard in Vienna, it's more like a cultish campfire ritual. (VH sez on her site: "i love how we finish the song and all sit up straight like we are in kindergarten.")


Quick full-disclosure: Over the years, as often occurs between writer and their subjects, Veda and I have developed some personal connections; but it's the kind of relationship in which I had no trouble airing my misgivings about her last disc, Return of the Kildeer, and I'm confident I'd feel just as blown away by This Riot Life without ever having shared a sip of bourbon with Ms. Hille. (Go back)

General | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, August 28 at 4:26 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (6)


August 26, 2008

Horsetail Feathers!
Final Fantasy meets Alex Lukashevsky
(and Nico Muhly and many others)


At the request of longtime Zoilus favourite Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett), I'm very happy to offer you this preview of the opening track from Owen's new EP, Final Fantasy Plays to Please, which is a set of covers of songs by Alex Lukashevsky, a fellow Torontonian singer-songwriter and also of course leader of Deep Dark United, played with as many as 35 other musicians, dubbed the St. Kitts Orchestra (an expansion, then, on the St. Kitts String Quartet, who played on the last FF album He Poos Clouds), featuring members of the Hidden Cameras, Drumheller, Andrew Bird and others. The results are a jangling candybox of sound spilling from Pallett to aural palette, presenting Alex's songs in more accessible surrounds than usual, and perhaps introducing him to a host of other musicians who might begin to draw on his rich catalogue. Here then is a taste: Horsetail Feathers.

(This is the first time Zoilus has hosted an MP3 file, and it required a lot of tricky tech I've never used before, so if there's any trouble downloading the file, please drop me a note. Update: I think the problems people had should be fixed now.)

The EP is one of a pair being released at tomorrow's show at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto (the CD gods willing), the other being Spectrum, which features the members of Beirut and is the first installment of Owen's long-threatened imaginary-world conceptual suite, which will continue on the upcoming album, Heartland. (Exclaim! explains in detail.) A song from Spectrum and another from P2P were posted on Stereogum this morning.

Owen's show tomorrow is together with NYC compositional prodigy Nico Muhly, who in his mid-20s has collaborated with the likes of Bjork and Philip Glass and Bonnie Prince Billy but more importantly, as documented in this well-circulated New Yorker profile by Rebecca Mead, has a sensibility all his own, a classical version of the mashup and YouTube mind, and also a fresh-feeling kind of amodernism - neither post- nor anti-modernist, he seems unusually capable of bypassing not only the old 20th-C debates but also the conventional bypasses of said 20th-C debates. His new album Mothertongue blends the babble of digital information overload with the brouhaha of history, via his love of 16th-century English church music. (He's also a ridiculously entertaining blogger. If he weren't so charming I might want to kill him.)

Besides some evident sonic sympathies (the violin music, the use of looping figures, the unabashed embrace of prettiness, the knife-edge-thin layer of camp), Muhly shares with Owen a concern for communication and affinity and collectivity: Just as Owen has been stalwart to his compatriots in the Blocks Recording Club of Toronto, Muhly has made common cause with labelmates in a project called Bedroom Community, an Iceland-based label (not so local-aurist, then) that gathers "like-minded, yet diverse individuals from different corners of the globe who all creatively orbit around an inconspicuous building and its inhabitants on the outskirts of Reykjavik Iceland- Greenhouse Studios where the music is mostly created." (Another Bedroom Communitarian is Sam Avidon, a frequent Muhly cohort [/boyfriend?] who also appears in Toronto on Wednesday.)

I'd been planning to say more about Muhly but as the technical challenges of this post (yes, I'm a digi-wimp) have taken up too much time, I'll reserve further thoughts till after tomorrow's show. Meanwhile as a warmup, here's a video of Muhly's "It Goes Without Saying," from his previous album:

General | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, August 26 at 6:26 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (14)


Teenager Hamlet 2006-2008:
Something Un-Rotten in the State of Toronto

I'm giddily happy and/or terribly frightened to tell you that the long-awaited movie Teenager Hamlet 2006 - created by Zoilusian friend and occasional collaborator Margaux Williamson and including deeply humiliating cameo appearances by, um, me - will be making its premiere next week in the Toronto International Film Festival, and screening daily throughout the week at the Katherine Mullherin gallery.

Musically, the soundtrack of the film was supervised by Steve Kado (aka The Blankket, former head of the Blocks Recording Club and member of the Barcelona Pavilion, Ninja High School, etc.) and it includes music by Kado as well as Toronto artists such as Tomboyfriend, Traditionm, Nifty (Matt Smith), Permafrown, Pony Da Look and Republic of Safety, plus some Diamanda Galas, Lesbians on Ecstasy, Beethoven and Shostakovich.

Above is the trailer, if you're the sort who likes to get sneak peeks, or (blatant solicitation) the sort who might program movies for exhibition in other cities or countries. Zoilus-skin-flick aspect aside, the film is truly beautiful and unassumingly smart. As it says in the synopsis: "A startling hybrid of make-believe and documentary, art and politics, Teenager Hamlet 2006 is an insightful and off-beat look at what it means to live and make art in the 21st century."

Don't miss out: Put it on your calendar if you're coming to the festival.

General | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, August 26 at 5:22 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)


August 22, 2008

Radio Silence

Hey all, it's been a busy week but we'll back in gear soon. If you're in Toronto this weekend (I'm not), don't miss Vancouver cellist Peggy Lee in the AIMToronto Interface Series. Like her classic singing namesake, Ms. Lee's playing will give you fever. This quote sums up well: "With her deeply sonorous instrument in hand, Lee has more-than-shared the stage with creative improvisors from all over the world: Joelle Leandre, Dave Douglas, Mark Dresser, Susie Ibarra, and Barre Phillips to name but a few. Her playing blends grace and precision, yet when the music demands it she can be equally challenging and vibrant." - Jon Morgan, Signal to Noise.

I've disabled comments again for the weekend while we continue to plug the spam leak in our hull. Meanwhile, watch this sad short doc about the ultimate (and ultimately deluded) record collector.

General | Posted by zoilus on Friday, August 22 at 3:12 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)


August 20, 2008

'Do You Suffer from Post-Mortem Depression?'

The gold-medal record-release announcement of the month, reproduced below, including persistent misuse of semi-colon as colon.

"Wintage Records & Tapes proudly present; Disguises' highly anticipated debut lp, Post-Mortem Depression, launch party!!

??????? 9/11/08 ??????? 9/11/08 ??????? 9/11/08 ??????? 9/11/08 ?????

"Taking place @ 5 non-traditional venues all in secret locations ??? Incorporating a night of live musical performances,very unique non-traditional venues, guided walking tours, DJ set by King Greyskullz, live visuals, and interactive theatre/performance art that will culminate in attendees being "kidnapped" and driven off to the final secret location for the Disguises performance.

"Included with ticket purchase you get a map, w/times & locations (in case a ticket holder has to play catch up) & instructions. Guaranteed to be a once in a lifetime concert going experience!

"Making fans through the suggestive power of "Stockholm Syndrome" DISGUISES are proud to release their debut lp; Post-Mortem Depression featuring hit songs such as; Meathead, What Happened to Your Face, T.H.R.E.A.D.S., Dead Patterns, Flesh Bodies ... and more.

"With very special performances by; Lambsbread (Delaware, OH) Ecstatic Peace recording superstars are a three-peese mixed gender spazz/jazz punk aktion unit. There bio reads, Sabbath meets Coltrane. They have had nothing but ++ reviews, strong word of mouth, and in the words of Paris Hilton are "Hot" right now! WHERE:?????

"Bottom Feeder(Hamilton) Ex-Fossils duo consisting of minds eye
splintering Horn headwallop and Scum/Sic/Surge electrifiried pedal slomp! WHERE:?????

"R.O.M.I.N.S. Random jet blasts of confusion and wrestling
the dada bird are this duo's thrash palace. Molding mind matter into conscious thought, the tools they will be using for this night a is left up to our own psychic prowess to decipher the mysteries ... WHERE:??????


"Tickets available in very limited quantities (hand ##) 08/22/08 !!! @ Hits & Misses (on Bloor), Rotate This (on Queen), & Soundscapes (on College). Tix are $7 (only in advance!!!). Doors 8pm."

General | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, August 20 at 1:50 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)


August 15, 2008

I'm Out Like Flout
(plus a plug for Tramp Hall)

Away for the weekend and due to our little Spamalot problem, I've turned off comments. My apologies. We'll fix 'er up next week.

Speaking of, a reminder to Torontofunions that yers truly curated this Monday's Trampoline Hall (my maiden voyage!), with these lecturers, every one a headliner: Zoilus team member Erella Ganon speaking on "Friendship 202," friend-of-Zoilus (and Slate music critic) Jody Rosen on "The Jody Grind" and man-about-town Jesse Huisken on "The Curta Calculator: Its Construction, History & Aura." Tix now on sale at Soundscapes on College St, last-minute rush seats at 6:30 pm Monday at Sneaky Dee's, doors at 7:40, show at 8 sharp.

General | Posted by zoilus on Friday, August 15 at 3:17 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)


August 14, 2008

Thursday Reading:
HolyP-Orridge BonnieTyrannaLove

Holy Fuck responds to Eye's Marc Weisblott on being dragged into the Tory arts-cuts controversy. To paraphrase, "Oh, shit, here we go again."

This feature about Genesis P-Orridge (ex-Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Temple ov Psychick Youth, etc) from the latest Radar magazine is the saddest, strangest, most stirring piece of music journalism I've read in a long moment. Further thoughts later if there's time. Caution: May produce tears.

I review the latest Bonnie Prince Billy joint, belatedly, this week in the Globe and Mail.

Vintage '78 Toronto punk band Tyranna (get it?) opens vaults, reunites for one-off Friday night at the Silva Dolla.

Audio interview with Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love (of The Thing with Ken Vandermark and other nord-meets-midwest projex). Nilssen-Love appears with saxophonist Frode Gjerstad on Thurs Aug 21 at the Imperial Pub (54 Dundas St East), 8 pm, $12. As promoter Ron Gaskin (Rough Idea) puts it: "In the vicinity of former jazz HQ the Senator, the oldest becomes the newest jazz room, within the neon shadows of Yonge-Dundas carnage." Stu Broomer of Cadence magazine says of the saxophonist: "Gjerstad has a voice of his own: he is a singer and a storyteller with his horn, with a talent for extended improvisations in which motifs are developed incrementally."

The New Yorker's Ben Greenman gives a holler to Ontario country-rock firebrand Fred Eaglesmith, whose new gospel-themed album Tinderbox is, incidentally, his best in a few, which is saying loads.

General | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, August 14 at 4:51 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)


August 11, 2008

Long Long Overdue

I am updating this site's links page for the first time in, oh, two years or so. If you have a site (especially a Toronto/Canadian music blog or site) you think belongs, let me know. If a listed site is defunct let me know that too. (I've cleared away the deadwood in the first Toronto-music section only so far.)

General | Posted by zoilus on Monday, August 11 at 5:21 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)


'Anyone Caught Doing Culture, It Was a Career Killer'
And Other Just-So Stories

Toronto band and federal whipping post Holy Fuck.

1. The Globe has a news story, an editorial and at fine column by Simon Houpt about the Harper govt's attempt at a stealth attack on the cultural sector. I'm often critical of the effect of arts grants in Canada - the sense that Canada Council dependency results in a blander, more "worthy," "healthy," good-citizen kind of art culture here that breeds mediocrity - but these two programs are the kind of pragmatic aid that I think is pretty free of such effects: they promote "soft power" for Canada internationally while broadening artists' horizons and career potential.

The bust on the not-very-expensive programs is not just yokel philistinism: The fact that they're being justified by invoking the naughty-sounding name of Toronto band Holy Fuck (who despite their name are a danceable, creative and hardly threatening electronix-meets-rock band, who coincidentally are on an international tour right now and may not even be that aware of their ideological exploitation) and grants to authors to read abroad who might sometimes have a different political agenda than the Conservatives (because, y'know, milquetoasty neo-con-ism has given the world so much great art), all recalls the Gingrich-era cultural attacks of the Republicans in the U.S. If it were an isolated case, that'd be one thing but in combination with this spring's film-funding-censorship bill C-10, we're seeing a consistent pattern. And this while the Cons remain in a minority position: If they gained a majority in this fall's likely election, it could (like a lot of their agenda) shift into warp drive.

If you're Canadian, please write your MP as well as trade minister David Emerson and Heritage (ugh) minister Joseé Verner. If you're not but you can attest at all to the fact that international cultural outreach for Canada or any other country matters, drop them a note too. I'm proud of The Globe for applying fire to Harperite tootsies on this.

2. Elsewhere: T'cha Dunleavy of the Montreal Gazette had an interview with me this weekend about my book, taste and of course La Diva Dion. I always feel like I come off much more equivocal than I mean to when I'm asked about my final feeling about Céline in interviews. It's partly a reluctance to give away "spoilers" but maybe I should just say Céline Dion is amazing. Other recent reviews/coverage of the book from Bricolage and Nigel Beale as well as a wonderfully reflective LiveJournal post and subsequent discussion from someone I don't think I know named Christopher Pratt. It's the kind of reaction that's truly a pleasure to read. The book also comes up in the comments section of this post on "Eclecticism and Class", a Bourdieu-oriented discussion of cultural omnivorism on the new-to-me-blog The American Scene that could have come straight out of the middle chapters of my tome. If I have a spare mo' the next few days I may respond at length.

3. Also note that Vespa is continuing its Scooter Head campaign by moving into yet another relatively fresh medium - first paste-up graffiti, now wall projection - one of the themes of my Toronto Life piece this month on street artist Dan Bergeron aka Fauxreel, which I don't think I've linked here before.

4. And finally I've been remiss in not mentioning to Torontonians that the current edition of the Summerworks theatre festival has added a very well-curated nightly musical component featuring a roster that should be quite familiar to Zoilus readers. It takes a break tonight (Monday) but picks up again tomorrow through Saturday, 10:30 pm each night at the Theatre Centre.

General | Posted by zoilus on Monday, August 11 at 1:35 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)


August 6, 2008

They Say Everyone's a Critic...


... but in this case, the critic is everyone: Today in Slate, F.O.Z. Jody Rosen uncovers what just might be "in purely statistical terms ... the greatest plagiarism scandal in the annals of American journalism".

Update, Friday: The tale ends badly. It's worth reading the plagiarist Mark Williams' incredible aria of self-pity, quoted at the end of the blog post - it's very vulnerable underneath all the vituperation it aims at Jody. It's a case study in a pattern I've seen before, of people who end up kicking around writing/ publishing/ media jobs without the talent and/or energy to get anywhere, and end up extremely embittered at the more successful. And, in this instance, resorting to extreme measures to cover up their problems. There but for the grace of fortune... I do feel truly sorry for him, and hope he can bounce up after hitting bottom - into another field of endeavour.

General | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, August 06 at 3:54 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (17)


August 2, 2008


I found out today that the ALL CAPS Dufferin Grove Park show I had listed for today is, in fact, next Saturday. I apologize if I led anyone astray. If it is any comfort, I led myself astray too. Sorry, then, also to me.

Via Toronto | Posted by zoilus on Saturday, August 02 at 5:30 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)


Zoilus by Carl Wilson