Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Squeaking in to the first year of the decade would be two songs that I liked and also topped the charts or close enough plus another Prince tune that wears better than Doves Cry.

1) Ashes to Ashes - David Bowie
2) Games without Frontiers - Peter Gabriel
3) Kiss - Prince

As for Kyle's question about highs and lows if you're expecting a Siouxsie song as the zenith you might want to set your sights a little bit lower. There will be beaucoup de fromage mon amis mais bien sur les chansons que tout le monde peut s'amuser.
Three eh? How about

- Here Comes the Rain Again - Eurythmics
- In a Big Country - (Big Country)
- Luka - Suzanne Vega

Maybe a bit obvious....though there are dozens of others. I would probably have chosen the Prince song as well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

aha, you WERE paying attention, mr. mercer and caught the fact that my keyboard sometimes substitutes 'h's for 'm's and vice versa. mappy that you picked up on that.

stuart, the top 3 top 40 radio songs that got decent radio play in the 1980s are:
-billie jean by michael jackson (awaiting verbal daggers for this choice but i'm standing firm)
-with or without you by u2
-when doves cry by prince

also, when you say 80s party, am i assume that there will be a mix of 'high' and 'low' 80s pop moments? that is, am i likely to hear Siouxsie and the Banshees in the same set as Reo Speedwagon? just wondering.
well to change the topic and to get us in the spirit of the 80s dinner party, how about the best 3 songs of the 80s that got serious radio play..... ie those commercial tunes that everyone knows , but that were pretty dam good like someone somewhere in the summertime -simple minds. or small town boy by whoever the hell those guys were.....

Monday, July 25, 2005

Ok -one themed pop music beyond 50 minutes. Hmmmmmmmmm. Well it depends of course on what you define as pop, and though I dont have the current Sufjan disc (yet) I do have the previous release and his stuff is a little homogenous ,(here comes the but), but, it makes me think of the double disc releases of the seventies (excluding live ones), and Goodby yellow brick road (very loosely -theme of loss of innocence, childhood )or pink floyd -the wall (semi-autobiographical) , Wilco (sorry 90's)-being there (theme anyone), to run now but I think some of these counter the point.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Kyle can I assume you meant Mum and not the short lived 90's rockers of "Stars" fame Hum? Or did you just throw that in there to see if we're paying attention and not skimming through the blog.
Agree that we have been conditioned to an increasingly shorter (decreasingly longer?) attention span over the past half century, but I'm still not convinced that an album of one-themed pop music is sustainable beyond 50 minutes.

The exception I think is instrumental (Tortoise, Do Make Say Think) or largely instrumental (Sigur Ros, Hum) rock so one's assessment of the last 20 minutes of 'Illinois' is shaped by whether you see it as a collection of songs a la the Shins 'Chutes Too Narrow' or as more of an epic 'Svefn-G-Englar'-like sonic arc. Even though it's not chock full of snappy little ditties, to me it falls into a collection of more distinct songs which tend to repeat a little and with the Godspell-ish female backup vocals starting to grate somewhat after the 2/3 mark of the disc.

I think we know where Derek and Brian stand on this issue but Stuart and Marc seem a little quiet. Surely the Tour de France is a fait accompli at this point, M. VanGinkel. Care to comment. And Stuart, all this correct spelling is getting me down. Give me something garbled to send me into the weekend.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I couldn't possibly let you have the final word where Sufjan's concerned Brian.

With respect to my earlier comment about track 15 being my cut-off point I realized on the way to work this morning why precisely at this track the album should really have ended. Track 15 "The Predatory Wasp..." is for my money the best track on the album. Track 16 "They are Night Zombies..." on the other hand is rubbish. That clipped female(?) chorus in the background would do Ace of Base proud.

Obviously on any record there will be highs and lows but for me the rather jarring juxtaposition of these two tracks said to me that Sufjan had run out of steam and was just milking the extra space provided by digital (how ironic) technology.

And I don't think for a minute that any one of us has a short attention span where good music, art and literature are concerned.
I tend to agree re TFC....generally very good, but never ascending to great (Bandwagonesque was overhyped in my opinion). Still, a band I enjoy immensely, and "Man-Made" after a couple of listens seems as good as any of them - the production by the Tortoise dude (name escapes me) suits them surprisingly well.

Re SS, I'll add one final note....I tend to think the constant commoditization of pop (using the now-loaded term very generally) lends us to stop wanting to hear the same artist after a certain amount of time, almost regardless of the artist. Pop is such a packaged form that our attention naturally shifts after 30 - 45 minutes maximum...and in today's digital age, sometimes more like 30 seconds. It's completely natural at this point, but still ultimately our loss if the music in question sustains itself beyond that window, and if the artist is trying to break through existing form. Those who've grown up listening to longer forms of music (e.g., symphonies, operas) probably have an advantage over us pop-lovers in terms of attention span.

I'm into seeing Sufjan in September. I'll let you know (got a couple of other things on the go for the next few days) - Stu, you going?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I'm not sure that I would rank TFC as one of the great bands. To me they are much like the Charlatans a band that has put out consistently interesting and worthwhile records that go largely ignored by the general public as both bands tend to forego the prevailing trends and simply make good music. The mere fact of the continued existence of both bands is something that in its own way is worth celebrating.

For the record the critic in Eye didn't like the Teenie's record at all and the Exclaim dude was quite pleased with the whole affair. Apparently Tim Burgess, lead vocalist of the Charlatans also has a record out though damned if I've seen either of these discs in the downtown stores.
btw, i'm also digging the new Teenage Fanclub disc. They may be one of the most consistently great, if least appreciated bands of the past 15 years. (Or maybe you disagree? Discuss!)
Sufjan show should be a good one and all should join us at this glorious event.

I thoroughly enjoy "Illinois", particularly 'Casimir Pulaski Day', which has a very Iron & Wine feel to it; perhaps Sam Beam could be considered one of Sufjan's peers, and Belle and Sebastian’s ‘Legal Man’ seems like a recent touchstone. Also digging 'Chicago', 'Come on! Feel the Illinoise!' and many others. In adding my two cents to the ongoing 'is the album too long?' debate, I'll try to avoid the fence-straddling, namby-pamby 'you both have a point' line that inevitably follows the articulation of opposing perspectives.

With my often hectic travel schedule, I tend to listen to a lot of my music on my ipod, the features of which allow for some interesting playback options. I have a 'smart' playlist, which is an ongoing compilation of all the songs I have added to the player in 2005, ordered by that which was most recently added. This means that I can quickly find and hear some of the new music I've downloaded/ripped and it also means that I listen to a lot of albums in reverse. While this can definitely disrupt the 'flow' of a lot of albums, it does shine a brighter light on tracks that appear at the end of a disc. Consequently, a song like ‘Out of Egypt…’, the last piece on the album, which is a pretty, xylophone progression paired with what sounds like a choral exercise or the background vocals from a particularly long Stereolab track, is far more impressive when heard before the rest of the album.

When I listen to ‘Illinoise’ from start to finish on my stereo at home, I do find that I’m starting to crave a different sound after the 45-50 minute mark. It’s not that the last 4-5 tracks aren’t quite good, it’s that I feel I’ve already heard several more interesting variations on the album earlier on. To riff on Derek’s Pot of Gold metaphor, it’s like, I’ve enjoyed the 15 chocolate caramels but I don’t feel I need another 5 right not (but get back to me in say, an hour).

As for losing posts, I've found that opening up a Word document and then copying and pasting (Control-C, Control-V) is a great way of avoiding blog-text loss, which has happened to me in the past, though I've never lost two days worth of writing. There, nice to end a long post on a glib note.

Hope you've picked out some good music for this coming Monday, Bri. I found that pumping thrash metal through the house really increased the speed of the movers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The recycle bin. Why didn't I think of that. Very astute, Mr. Bond.

As for our pal double S, I picked up some tickets a few weeks back at Soundscapes and have no fears about good seats all being gone as its general admission. Kyle, Sarah and I will be attending so feel free to come on board. I just checked the Ticketmaster site and there are still tickets available. Should be a good one.
I just opened a new posting for the blogsite and holy fuck, Brians 2 page opus on the metaphisical contortions of pop melodramas poped up in front of me. Needless to say I recycle binned it.... Anyway about going to see Sufjan and all his popness on sat 10 of september at trinity st pauls. ( A damn good venue , except for it not being licenced) Good tickets are probably gone by now....
I spent two days writing about pop songs and albums, Sufjan in/out that context, blah blah blah, only to have the whole fucking blog vanish as I tried to publish it. FUCK. (Although, who am I guys are thrilled).

The readers' digest version is this:

Point 1 - great pop is often short, sweet, melodic, even light (Rubber Soul etc), but sometimes can be long, bedraggled, unfocused (White Album) and every bit as rewarding, if not more so.

However, I don't think Sufjan's record is a big rambly affair like Dusk at the Cubist Castle or Being There. See pt. 2

Point 2 - Pure pop, almost by definition, doesn't allow for much scope - it's songic, self-contained in nature. The Sufjan record is all about scope; trying to create a landscape of music for the state of Illinois, as he did (or tried to) for Michigan. It is a grand mood piece, with a lot of really great songs. I don't think he should be compared to the Shins, GBV, or Teenage Fanclub (their latest one is very good on first listen, by the way)....though I'm not entirely sure who his peers are. The arrangements and the songs exhibit a lot of craft, and benefit from a more deliberate exposition. I've listened to the new record a lot over the last two weeks, and would be disappointed to lose any of these songs/musical moments.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Thanks Kyle for giving me much more indie cred than I really deserve. I believe I only have one CD single of theirs and I thought that some of their videos were very cool but I'm afraid that's all the credit I can take where His Name is Alive is concerned. As for their Englishness it's probably due to the fact they were on 4AD the lable of all things precious and very "druidesque". I can only assume that Livonia is much prettier in name than in reality. Apparently the name came from one of the 19th century Baltic states.

Something that Brian, Kyle and I touched on briefly in conversation was the new Sufjan Stevens disc. I picked it up last week and have only given it a once through at this stage. I don't know how critics can dole out their stars or N's when they've just received the record. I need to listen to any album intermittently over a couple of months before I know where I stand with any work of music. Listening to it 5-10 times in a week is not the same thing at all and I'm quite sure the critics don't give any record that many spins.

Anyhoo I digress. My comment on the album was that at 22 tracks and almost 75 minutes that it is possibly too long. Good album but for my money it could have stopped quite nicely at track 15 and the 60 minute mark. Brian's comment was as follows: ...not sure about the concept of the album that's "too long". Doesn't it all depend on whether the songs are good? Doesn't a song justify its own existence in the pop milieu?

I suppose that for me the number of tracks is more of a concern than the actual running time. The last Godspeed album which chimes in at almost 75 minutes as well only has 5 tracks and I have no problem sitting through the whole thing (I get tired standing). As most of you know with any Godspeed or even Sigur Ros to some extent it's all about building a mood and a headspace where the music engulfs you and the delimitation of the tracks becomes entirely irrelevant as one piece segues into another.

With pure pop like the Shins, Pernice Brothers, Sufjan etc I think it's an entirely different matter. I complained somewhat that the last Shins record was too short but in retrospect that can only be a good thing as it leaves you hankering for more. And 10 distinctive pop tracks might be just enough. It's like a box of Cadbury's chocolates. You open it and see 20 different choccy goodies and you think you can take them all on but after 2 or 3 you know you'd be happy with just 10 or 12 choices as the other 8 are duff anyway and you'll leave them for your guests to eat.

I'm not saying that there are necessarily weak tracks on Sufjan's disc, I just don't need to hear them all in one session. As Kyle said if he leaves off 5 or 6 tracks he can release a few singles from the record and put these "extra" tracks on the B-side, leaving the Sufjan completists with something to spend their money on.

I guess I just don't subscribe to the Guided by Voices school of rock that says everything I write down is worth recording.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I know you were a big fan of His Name is Alive, Derek, so you may want to download their latest ep for free from their website , which apparently is only offering it for free for a limited time. I always thought they were from England but it turns out they are from Livonia, Michigan, a place I have been countless times; if you've been to Livonia, you know I'm not exactly bragging.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

That's a great site. I listen to 'All Things Considered' all the time when I'm in the U.S. and I've often heard their musical profiles and mention of this site but I've never remembered to visit it.

I have updated the list of links on the right to include it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

You might want to check out this NPR website as well.
Very surprised that people listen to that many hours of radio in a day. As Brian noted on Saturday, conventional radio seems to exist mostly for people who commute to work or drive around all day in their cars. There are specific radio programs on different channels--CKLN, CIUT, CBC, that I find interesting but eventually, with each station, I soon find I've got to move on.

One my company's business partners in Michigan has a satellite XM receiver in his office and I think it's awesome. He pays $10 a month and can choose from about 100 different channels, . Unlike the 100 cable universe, where the same news story, reality show, decorating challenge, or syndicated sitcom from years gone by replays on a 24-hour monotonous loop of crap, satellite radio at least offers some interesting choices. When I was working at his office one afternoon, I heard artists like the Decemberists, Public Image Ltd., Devendra Banhart, Interpol and others, on one of the stations and John Scofield, Medeski Martin and Wood on another. The song title, artist, album title, and release date all appeared on a small screen attached to the receiver, and there were no commercial breaks, bombastic station identifiers, or what passes for witty repartee between disc jockeys.

Though I now own most of the above artists' discs, there was something refreshingly about hearing these songs in a random order. Like you, I enjoyed listening to cfny in my bedroom as a teenager, and felt that thrill of excitement whenever a song came on that I liked, even though I may have already owned the song. Maybe there's some validation in hearing something I've purchased on my own or a feeling of being linked to a community of like-minded music fans, outside of a web-trolling experience. I like listening to the radio and can only hope that my local options for doing so get better.

So I welcome the entry of satellite service providers to the Canadian market and to those arts groups and broadcasters whose self-serving lobbying to the CRTC for more protection and regulation of an already arcande system, I give a giant raspberry (I'll keep my middle finger in check for now).

The two links on the right, for KEXP in Seattle, and KCRW in LA, two listener-supported (National Public Radio affiliate) stations that play an interesting mix of hand-picked music, stream their music online and are similar to what you get on satellite. You can't listen to these stations on the go (unless you happen to be in either of those cities) but at least you have a better option for home or the office.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Killers?? Yeah right Stuart. Now I know for sure you're taking the piss.

Here's an article from the CBC that states the average Canuck listens to 19.5 hours a week and that's down from a decade ago.

Don't know about you but I'd be hard pressed to say I listen to more than 2-3 hours a week. I was discussing this issue with someone at work this week basically being rather confused with the buzz about satellite radio. Isn't radio dying? Hasn't it been dying a slow death for almost 30 years? I know when I was say 13-18 the radio was on in my bedroom pretty much constantly. I'm not so sure today's teen could say the same, even if they are music lovers.
On another note I have been loving to death the Killers cd. I think one of you may have brought it to a cdclub event. It has really grown on me, and may be my favorite "rock" cd thus far this year. I think they would be great live. Has a bit of a cure feel but not overly so. Also a bit like arcade fire in its 80sness and maybe a bit of strokes thrown in.....check it out
To all;
Im never entirely sure if sarcasm humour comes across as funny or malicious when on emails , so as a rule of thumb consider anything I say here to be completely sarcastic and also tremendously humourus ( gut wrenching laughter should follow anything you read). And also nothing I wright should be considered to have any truth to it whatsoever....
Just pleased I could help Stu.
Thanks for the correction Brian, I was very very interested to find out that lyrical error. I spent last night listening to the greatest hits record to be sure that wouldnt happen again......
Okay, I don't like the Eagles and I don't like live albums which is why I'm here including a link to a free, downloadable version of a new Flaming Lips live album . I haven't heard any of these tracks and they may very much confirm my firmly entrenched beliefs. So why the link and this post?

Well, partly because I still feel somewhat cheated out of a live Flaming Lips experience, after they had to shut down their set four songs into their concert I attended a few years back; they did join Beck as accompaniment later but it wasn't quite the same.

But also I think it's important to support bands who have embraced the potential of the internet to reach new and existing fans. 'Supporting' by clicks may seem slight compared to the more traditional support by cash, but I imagine the more hits they get, the more interest and buzz their live project and related documentary will receive across the traditional and electronic mediasphere. So good on them.

Anyone else download some of those summer playlists at Salon? I enjoyed the winning 'Too Much Light' set but found the quieter, intimate vocals on some of the tracks and lush, electronic haze of others ill-suited to my early morning workout (quickly switched to Dizzee Rascal). I'm looking forward to listening again tomorrow afternoon, when I plan to do little more than pack a few boxes and nap on the couch. Have a lovely weekend all.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Not to burst your bubble there Stu, but you're mixing verse one and verse two. Allow me to help "four that wanna own me, two that wanna stone me, one says she's a friend of mine". Now re-commence your humming....

I'm pleased, of course, that such an erudite conversation on the nature of music ended with all of us singing Eagles songs we dislike.
Alright, alright, Stuart. Take it e...I mean, relax (don't do it, when you want to go to it...)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

well Im running down the road trying to losen my load, got seven women on my mind, Im lookin for a lover who wont blow my cover shes so hard to find , come on ba-be dont say may-be I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me..----Thats whats been going thru my head for the last 3 days thanks to you bastards.....s
re: the Eagles, Amen! 'Take it Easy' sounds like they were trying to pay homage to 'Ventura Highway' but couldn't be bothered getting off the fucking couch. My disdain for all things Eagles does taint my assessment of these and several of their other summertime 'classics'.

I don't know that I'd agree that sunnier climes inevitably produce lazier or weaker music. Here maybe I'm confusing genres by thinking of Latin American and African music that seems far livelier and potent than that of its northern brethren. If you’re talking pop music only, I’m more inclined to agree, leaning on laid back 90s slacker rock of California as examples (Pavement, Weezer, early Beck) though I’d probably go with ‘indolent’ over ‘effete’.

Having thus critiqued a generalization, I now make my own sweeping declarations:

Jazz only works in an urban setting, and should be pumped out of speakers along city streets 365 days a year, kind of what you get at a theme park, sans the egregiously shite adult contempo power ballads. Country music works only in...wait for it...wait for it...the country, particularly in towns not largely populated, but populated largely by suspicious, toothless, xenophobes clad in denim overalls. Chamber music works in a lot of places, but is best enjoyed on a rainy day, while indoors lounging on the couch or sitting behind the wheel of a luxury car with all leather tan interior. Orchestral pieces work only on Saturday morning, as an accompaniment to weekly cleaning or particularly vigorous lovemaking. House music only works in small, dark clubs inhabited by the scantily yet tastefully decked out, after enjoying at least one joint and preferably other recreational substances. Hip hop is the ultimate work out music, for either during weight training or cardio. With apologies to Oshawa, heavy metal never works.

As we continue to suss this important topic, I think it’s worth linking to Salon’s Summer Sountrack contest, which I discovered only yesterday or I would have submitted a playlist. The tracks listed are all free so you can download, listen, and then we can maybe discuss our favourites, what we thought of the winner, etc. Sound like fun? Good. [Note: you must watch an ad to get a day pass to Salon].

Also, because I love lists and because I’m moving next week and because Brian and Victoria just moved and I’ve got moving on the brain, I present:

The Top 5 ‘Moving’ Songs (word in title or theme of relocation, not poignancy)

Keep on Movin’ – Soul II Soul
Movin’ on up – Primal Scream
Moving – Supergrass
Goodbye Stranger – Supertramp
Leaving on Jet Plane – John Denver

Honourable Mention:
Moving on up (Jeffersons Theme Song) by ?

Worst Moving Song:
Moving Out – Billie Joel
(if only for that irritating ‘heart attack ack ack ack ack’ bit in the middle)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

I've always thought that the powers that be who organize jazz festivals in the mid-summer have got it all wrong - ideally they're meant for the short dark days of November, or hell, even February. Having said that, some jazz definitely works in the summer milieu....the west coast stuff for example. Chet of course, or Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Shelly Manne (and his men), numerous others. I also think Brubeck, with the amazing dulcet tones of Paul Desmond on alto, makes excellent summer listening.

As for pop music, for me summer/long weekends etc tend to create an oft-missing appetite for songs about, or made in, sunny climates, and the effete lifestyle that naturally exists in these places. Not exactly revelatory I realize. But, as I've always said, there's a reason that northern cultures run the world. The list of summer songs is bloody endless, but to Kyle's point, there are many embarrassing inclusions among them - the Eagles are a prime example. How about "New Kid in Town"? Or "Take it to the Limit"? Yuckity yuck, right? And yet.....? Ah, the intoxicating power of sunshine.