Wednesday, December 31, 2008

thanks for all the posts, kids. thought i'd end on a tasteful note.

see you all in 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

My post won't allow me to do any formatting...apologies for its annoying look.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

To echo Kyle's sentiment, thanks to all for your blogs this year, however infrequent or distracted they may have been on occasion.

My 2008 was a middling year musically. While I found an ample supply of appealing pop music - as much or more than any year in the past few - I didn't find the one or two records that I had a strong connection to, over-listened to, was inspired by (thought I'd max out the dangling prepositions there...). In terms of Other-than-Pop, perhaps even less of a good year, despite a few gems. Most of favourite jazz of the year was 60's and 70's (70's which is still pretty new terrirtory for me). No doubt this is at least partially a reflection of the pace of my life, reliance on on-line sources for music, not being "out there" in any meaningful way. Didn't find an Illinoise, Van Occupanther, an Is This it, or Man Made.
So having lulled you into a state of torpor with all of that nonsense, my top ten favourite pop songs this year (and they may very well be from 2007, and hell, yes 2006...these things sometimes take time to percolate) are:
10. Flume - Bon Iver. I hate the term "soulful", but....this is beautifully soulful music. Much loved and commented on so I will keep it short.
9. For Science Fiction - Maritime. An outstanding mix of clean power and melody, great singer in the former Promise Ring's Davey Von Bohlen, anthemic like GBV could be. Best driving song of the year for me. From 2007.
8. Chinatown Bus - Bishop Allen. I love the elliptical story-telling lyric of this song, a window into a life from one moment's perspective. And there's a nice soft rhythmic acoustic feel here that is quite unique. These guys can get a bit too cute for my liking, but the best few songs on this 2008 record are really good.
7. You Can Stay There - The Capitol Years. Apparently this is from 2006. Who knew? Ear-pleasing shimmery power pop; great production and a few memorable songs ("Long Time"); really very good, and entirely unheralded. I would imagine they're due for a new record next year so will be looking out for it.
6. Chicago - The Uglysuit. In the absence of a new Sufjan record I managed to find a song about the midwest to curb my appetite. Ha! Actually these dudes are from Oklahoma, and "Chicago", which (again) is a gorgeous piece of lush pop, is at 4 minutes by far the shortest track on their record - from '08 this time (don't mention it). One of the better albums of the year.
5. Regret - Wye Oak. This is a quiet finger-picking acoustic number from a debut release. Boy girl sounds abound, and lots of range sonically on the album (also one of my faves), though often not all that far removed from the Yo Le Tengo archetype. I love the hushed Paul Simon-esque quality of this number.
4. Walk Away from a Good Thing - The Bicycles. I'm really fond of these slightly goofy Toronto-based popsters, and their second album, which came out in late '08, is more of the same witty, uber-melodic backward looking pop. Check 'em out. And let's plan to see them live sometime.
3. Summer Special - Land of Talk. These Guelph-based rockers had an '08 release that I haven't caught up with yet, but I spent a lot of time this year with their '06 record (Applause Cheer Boo Hiss), where this number is pulled from, and I think it's really strong - edgy but still frail, great guitar-driven songs with a memorable female vocalist.
2. Young Sensualists - Throw Me the Statue. I love this song, the story of two guys who meet at an airport, party together for a couple of days, until our protaganist steals the other guy's girl. Told in a detached but poignant way, feels like a short film. Nice mix of synthetic and real instruments to create the bittersweet musical backdrop. I saw the band at the El Mo in the spring and it is my favourite musical moment of 08.
1. Market Girl - Headlights. Just a fantastic song, a mix of driving rhythms, acoustic strumming, and layer upon layer of guitars, bells, and vocals. I love the bass in this song. More than any other this year, Market Girl is the song I wish I had written. Lyrically, a bit of melancholia, describing in turn a (current) leaky apartment, childhood memories of 4th of July fireworks, and a first love. And off one of the better albums of the year.
I won't bother with honourable mentions, though the rest of the songs on my "best of" CDs are all ones I enjoyed. I've ignored Plants and Animals and The Walkmen on this list, and like Derek, I'm not sure why. They are both very good and could easily be right in there. Mike, I have copies of my best of 08 disks for you (one pop and one not) for the CD club on Jan 31 if you make it (and how is that looking?).
My other favourite song of the year is actually from 2004 - Grizzly Bear's "Don't Ask" - which I eliminated given its vintage (even I have principles). This is a beautiful, simple song, which if you haven't heard, go grab from emusic soon. Incidentally, all of the music above is available on emusic.
In terms of albums, earlier woes aside, my favourites would be Headlights, Bicycles, Liam Finn, The Breeders, Earlimart, Wye Oak, The Bound Stems, The Uglysuit, James McMurtry, and Suzanne Vega (though this is 07 too).
From a jazz and other perspective, I loved Guillermo Klein's record this year, plus Avishai Cohen, Vijay Ayer, Gilfema, Dave Newman, Enrico Pieranunzi's jazz record (he also made an album of Scarlatti), Steve Kuhn (whom we saw playing piano for Joe Lovano you may recall), and Anne Mette Iversen's double CD, one of which has her jazz quartet playing with a string quartet. All on emusic.
Happy New Year to y'all! Keep the blog alive.
Kyle, I think you should invite Jeff to join. It aligns well with his midlife crisis.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thanks for sharing these lists - I'm going to use them to drive my next few emusic months. I want to reciprocate, but it isn't easy for me to come up with a "Best of 2008" list. I spent a lot of 2008 digitizing my existing music collection rather than looking for new music. And I am generally not on top of new releases, so the albums I latch onto in a given year are not usually new. I'll probably stumble across some great 2008 albums over the next 2-3 years! However, I do have all my songs tagged with years, so I can fairly easily look at my collection and identify the 2008 discs. Having done that, here are the ones that I'd list as favorites (in no particular order):

REM - Accelerate
The Stills - Oceans Will Rise
Headlights - Some Racing, Some Stopping
Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers
The Rosebuds - Life Like
Skydiggers - City of Sirens
Todd Snider - Peace Queer
Over the Rhine - Snow Angels

I wasn't going to include "Snow Angels" because it is a Christmas album, but after I got into this, I realized that I didn't actually have 10 favorite new albums of 2008, so I decided to include it to help fill up the list (and I really do like the album a lot).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

OK my turn to sum up 2008 in my musical world.

Best tunes:

The Dodos - Fools
Frightened Rabbit - The Modern Leper
Justin Townes Earle - Ain't Glad I'm Leaving
Department of Eagles - Teenagers
Jose James - Park Bench People
The New Year - The Company I Can Get
Odd Nosdam - Fat Hooks
Sigur Ros - Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur (track #2)
Walkmen - The New Year
Deerhunter - Never Stops
Vampire Weekend - Campus
Benga - Zero M2
Two Hours Traffic - Backseat Sweetheart
Last Shadow Puppets - Calm Like You
City and Colour - The Girl
Cut Copy - Out There on the Ice
Wolf Parade - The Soldier's Grin
TV on the Radio - Family Tree
Jay Reatard - Painted Shut
Fuck Buttons - Sweet Love for Planet Earth

Favourite Albums: Walkmen, Deerhunter, Frightened Rabbit, TV on the Radio, Department of Eagles, Sigur Ros, City and Colour, Cut Copy, David Torn - "Prezens", Marcin Wasilewski - "Trio"

Albums that got all sorts of hype that came no where close to their billing: Lindstrom, Santogold, Portishead (are they paying music critics under the table?), Vampire Weekend, and Fucked Up.

And in case anyone is wondering what happened to Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and Plants and Animals on my list something about the overlap, at least in my mind, on these 3 records prevented any one of them from really standing out as one of my favourites of last year as much as I enjoyed each of them.

Hope you all have a great xmas and all the best for 2009.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Probably my last post of 2008 so let me say: I very much appreciate all the divergent thoughts, rants, complaints, praise of all things musical that have been posted here in the last year. Even though my own contributions have been sporadic, and occassionally cruel or mocking (sorry, Stu), I have always enjoyed coming here and reading about what you’ve loved, loathed, or reflected upon this year. Please keep posting!

Okay, albums. I estimate with the number of downloads I get from emusic (90/month), buy from itunes (another half dozen), get from the odd torrent (another handful), and buy in cd form (again another handful), I've probably listened to 80-90 albums this year. Some of these are jazz and classical issues and the odd pop album from previous years but I would guess that around 3/4 or 60-70 of these were 2008 releases. Why do I mention this at the outset?

Well, mostly to put this whole list-making exercise in perspective. I haven't come anywhere close experiencing even a fraction of all the music released this year, certainly when compared to what the average music critic experiences each week. But I still think it’s a good enough sample size to allow me to truly separate ‘Best’ from the ‘Rest’.

My filter:

1) I keep going back to the album and playing it over and over
2) When I’m listening to the album in the background, I frequently stop what I’m doing in the foreground just to listen and admire
3) I start creating playlists in itunes that includes these songs for year-end compilation cds because I feel I have to share them with my friends
4) I will, or at least attempt to, sing this song in the shower

Here then are the discs of 2008 that satisfied 3 or more of the above conditions:

The next five:·

  • TV on the Radio – Dear Science
  • The French Kicks – Swimming
  • Au – Verbs (perhaps a good accompaniment to No Age’s Nouns)
  • Ida – Lovers Prayers
  • Adele – 19

Worst of 2008

  • Steve Malkmus – Real Emotional Trash (subtract the first two words and the title sums it up)·
  • Portishead – Third (and yet it appears on most of the best of lists I’ve seen….why???)
  • Mercury Rev - maybe one or two salvagable tracks off of 2 discs (one instrumental)?
  • Coldplay -Vida La ...even the title goes on forever and annoys me
  • Catpower – Jukebox – really really really bad covers of songs that don't need to be covered again by anyone ever (New York?)

Released in previous years but only discovered in 2008:

  • The Microphones – The Glow Part 2 (hat tip to Brian for the suggestion)
  • Odd Nosdam – Level Live Wires (hat tip to Derek for the suggestion)
  • The Acorn – The Pink Ghosts
  • Jason Palmer – Songbook
  • Etudes - Geri Allen w/ Charlie Haden, Paul Motian

Artist of the Year:

Bradford Cox, of Deerhunter and Atlas Sound. Deerhunter released 2 albums this year, Microcastles and a second album of more electronic stuff

Hope Santa brings you some nice music this week and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Beautiful tracks and great finds, Mike. Good for those with downloads left on emusic.
I'm not sure that I'd put this on a best of 2008 list, because it is a Christmas album, but if you're tired of the same old Christmas songs, you might want to download "Snow Angels" by Over the Rhine. It is an album full of original new Christmas songs, some of which are excellent. My favorite is "White Horse", which I couldn't find on You Tube, so here are a couple of other examples from the album instead.

All I Ever Get for Christmas is Blue

Darlin' (Christmas is Coming)
You think it's hard putting together a year-end list. Try working on this.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sarah was listening to Q the other day when she heard about The Blogotheque, a site which films and posts videos of indie artists (Fleet Foxes, Animal Collective, Bon Iver, other bands which will appear prominently in my best of 2008 list) playing acoustic versions of songs in public spaces. I particularly like Bloc Party's rendition of This Modern Love.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Albums to come shortly, but for now, I thought I'd post my favourite songs of the year. Where possible, I have embedded YouTube clips. I'll save the deconstruction/explanations for the albums.

It goes without saying that many of these will be making an appearance on your christmas discs. Mike, since I won't see you in time for the holidays, I'll make you a special groundhog's day disc.

10. Fat Hooks - Odd Nosdam

9. Her Morning Elegance - Oren Lavie

8. Creeper - Islands

7. Dead Sound - The Raveonettes

6. In the New Year - The Walkmen

5. Creature Fear - Bon Iver

4. Never Stops - Deerhunter

3. Fairie Dance - Plants & Animals

2. White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes

1. Cape Canaveral - Conor Oberst

Honourable Mentions: Everybody Here is a Cloud - The Cloud Cult, Gila - Beach House, Sex Tourists - The French Kicks, Travel in Time - Marching Band, River Card - Atlas Sound

Monday, December 15, 2008

agree mike. the stripped down acoustic version of 'hamster' was easily superior.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I preferred the original version.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Early front-runner for song of the year, with a very timely and urgent message for us all to consider:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I didn't even know there was a Luna documentary. Will have to scour the local indie video store.

I am working on my year end list. Am trying not to read other year end lists, other than Exclaim's, which I recently mentioned here, so that my own list isn't just a rehash of what everybody else is picking. I don't expect I'll be able to avoid inclusion of a lot of the usual suspects but will try to craft my list accordingly. Time to hold your breath.... now!
All of which leads us to the inevitable, but still fun, process of choosing our best of 08. I've been giving it some thought but am not ready. Anybody prepared to throw together a list of music discovered / loved / hated / surprised by / indifferent to / disappointed by this year?

I saw the Luna documentary Tell Me Do You Miss Me this week (it's a couple of years old now) and really loved it. Has anyone seen it? Reminded me what how hard it is to be a musician, perhaps especially in a rock band, for a living, and was a really good portrait of the people in the band, particularly Dean and Sean, who couldn't be more different people. Really hard to believe they survived 10 years (maybe because Sean is a fantastic guitar player). Also, what great simple songs.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sorry that the link did not work. I was referencing Mike's very moving tribute to his recently deceased friend. But you're right, Stuart's ode to Paradise Radio, which has appeared as a link on the right side of the blog for the past year or two, was also touching.

With regards to criticism, I've just found that so much of what has been highly recommended or rated this past year has been, for the most part, pretty damn mediocre. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that 2008 has been, imo, mostly a pretty mediocre year for pop music in general. The reason I linked to this article and posed the question is because I felt that too many mediocre or just not very good albums were being given a pass or graded on a curve.

Two relatively popular cases in point:

Example 1: Coldplay's Vida La Vida, a collection of shallow, overproduced songs trying to out-epic each other, received mostly glowing reviews upon its release this spring, most of which were based on the fact that the album wasn't as bad as its predecessor.

Example 2: Kanye West's latest 808s & Heartbreak, listless vocoder-enhanced whining that NOW magazine just gave a glowing 4 stars, similar to accolades received elsewhere.

Are either albums terrible? No. But the reviews either suggest brilliance or gloss over the shortcomings. I think I'd like to read more balanced assessments.

UPDATE: Lest you think I'm picking on some bigger names, easier targets, here are some examples of over-hyped new bands/releases see, "Ra Ra Riot", "Ladyhawke" and "Santogold".

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Interesting query, Kyle. Before I get into a response, I'm curious to know which post you were citing in your first couple of lines, as the link didn't work. Probably one of Stuart's.

So....from my perspective, criticism is meant to highlight the extra layers in the art, the artist's influences and intentions, put it in the context in which it was created, and consider the context in which it might be reviewed in the future. And good critics find words to illuminate the beauty and power of art, and potentially the truth or falseness.

All of this is obvious, I know. But I truly don't veer far from that perspective when I read criticism, even something as puny as local-rag critiques of pop music. So I tend to think, not about whether the critics are using a negative or positive lens, which I'm sure happens, but whether their critiques ring true, inspire me to listen, look at, watch, make the art mean more to me.

Good/great critics can be generally scathing (think of Jay Scott) but have to convince you of their love for the medium to be compelling - if you like movies, you won't want to read a guy (not every day anyway) who always says they're crap. They can also be cheerleaders, like say Roger Ebert, as long as their knowledge of the art form works for me.

All of which is to say that, no I hadn't noticed a trend towards pollyanna-ism in reviews. And Malkmus for me is dead dead dead (incl, the latest). Too bad re Malkmus, possibly as much a function of me not wanting him to change that beautiful thing that was Pavement as him getting "worse" at writing and performing songs (but more likely just that). So any paper that touts his latest as one of the best of the year is describing a rough year in pop, and/or isn't listening to the good stuff. 

Friday, November 28, 2008

What to do when I haven't posted in awhile, and when others are frequently contributing poignant reflections? Link to (and thus leverage) another person's thesis in an attempt to drum up an interesting discussion? You bet!

The question: Are there too many positive music reviews? (As interesting as the initial post is, the comments below offer some thoughtful responses).

Several of us in the past have expressed our distaste for the manner in which some local music wags seem to delight in criticizing music, either to deliberately provoke or to project their indie credibility/sophistication/cultural know-it-all-ness. But has the pendulum swung too much in the opposite direction? Are we all too willing to embrace the mediocre?

In recent conversations with some of you, I've itemized some of my biggest disappointments of the year (to be posted here in coming weeks as part of year-end list making exercises, to which i look forward annually), like the Portishead and Stephen Malkmus discs, both of which appear--inexplicably to me--on Exclaim's Top 20 of 2008. I'm not sure the last time I read a negative review that wasn't also apologetic in tone, as if the author was embarassed by his/her reactions. I'm thinking some reviewers are becoming more sympathetic to their subject matter because 1) they know how little contemporary musicians are likely to make and 2) the reviewers probably have their own band as well and don't want to put themselves into a bad karmic position.


Friday, November 21, 2008

I'm not sure why or how I never bothered listening to the Internet Radio despite the multiple lauds, but I finally did this week, and am pretty impressed. I found a pretty great jazz station called "DMT - Coltrane, Monk, etc" or something like that which I would also recommend. Great simple programming for an evening.

Also, not sure how many of you guys are using ITunes as your major source of music at home (connected to your stereo etc) but if you are, the relatively new Genius is pretty cool - makes great playlists automatically, lots of good info about the music etc.

Mike, sorry to hear about Randy. I liked the music, really soulful acoustic tunes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


My email address is

I completely agree about Radio Paradise. I discovered that station years ago and have listened to regularly since then. The owner/DJ programs sets of music that are generally cohesive in some way - the songs are connected musically, lyrically, thematicly or in some other way. He covers a broad range of styles (not all of which I enjoy) and there is very little talking. The web site has lots of nice features including discussion boards about the playlist, a database of songs and artists, a gift shop and lots of help for those who have difficulty listening because of firewalls or whatnot. I have often used Radio Paradise as an example of the huge potential of Internet Radio.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mike can i have your email as I will need to email you my address should you wish to join us in january at the next cdclub session....some interesting selections in the tribute , I will check them out further tonight...
apologies, my blogg comment was being written, while you were putting the tribute on the site...
I meant no disrespect in disregarding the tribute....
My condolences.....
I dont know if I raved about this on metabeats before but I have to reopeat myself if I did...
You should check out paradise radio.....its on itunes radio under eclectic ...we play it all day at the office somedays and it is most incredible...They do what good radio should , which is mix music from many, rock , folk, alt rock, electronic and from the 60's to today. They also dont play just the hits, they pick the good but obscure album tracks that you never hear on commercial radio , mixed it with more well known tracks. For example last hour they played tracks off U2 unforgettable fire, Bob Dylan, blood on the tracks, Neil young , after the goldrush, the new , new pornographers, Elliott smith, some Beck off sea changes , ray charles , patsy cline, etc.....and a bunch of new bands I didnt know...generally they dont rock out hard, which makes it good for the office....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

OK – I’ve got something for the blog. Late last week my friend Randy passed away. He’s been battling cancer for 9 years – 2 years ago, he was told he had 2 months left. I met Randy when our sons played on the same soccer team, and initially it was soccer and hockey that formed the basis of our relationship. Eventually, though, we discovered that we had some common ground musically. Randy came from Newfoundland, and he had a strong love of Celtic, folk and bluegrass music, but he also was into blues, jazz and world music. He was a pretty accomplished guitar player, but he shied away from performing, so I only heard him play when the two of us were playing alone. Whenever it was a larger group, he’d just listen. I had heard that he had taken a turn for the worse a few weeks ago, and I went to visit him. He looked much older and weaker, but after we talked about this and that, he said that he wanted to do some recording, and he asked me to come back with my guitar to help him. I did that a few days later, and we spent a couple of hours going over the material that he wanted to record. We were supposed to get together to do the actual recording a couple of days later, but he died before we could do that.

Over the years, Randy sent me a bunch of links to You Tube videos of performers that he liked. I had never heard of most of them, but most of it was very good. I believe I’ve mentioned him in a past entry in this blog, and included at least one of the links that he had sent me. I thought a fitting tribute to Randy would be to share a few more of them with you today. Enjoy!

The Subdudes - Standing Tall

HEM - Redwing

Martin Tallstrom - Freight Train

Griffin House – The Guy that Says Goodbye to You

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good God! What is up Metabeats? It's crazy quiet out there.

As the most recent blogger, I felt immune from the (dare I admit it) pressure to blog. Plus, I naturally assumed that, to a degree, the quietness stemmed from the reverence due such a bitching blog as my last one (and thanks).

But ignoring for a moment my crystalline brilliance in analyzing the music of the mid-90's, there is a genuine fear on my part that I won't be able to make it through another work week without a blog thread to amuse me. So I would ask that we each offer up what we are listening to on our IPods these days. Pop/rock? Jazz? Classical?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Derek, I haven't seen an actual CD, but do have downloads Nazz and Nazz Nazz.   Both are great...I see (from allmusic) there is a good looking anthology out there as well.   I think you have a shot at finding it (or others) at Soundscapes or some such, given the Todd Rundgren connection.   

And yes, it's definitely time for a CD club.    I've got some new music to play.    And could use a beer.

So my much anticipated 1994 list.  Really, anyone who knows me (and I think you all qualify) will recognize a huge number of my standard (I've heard I can be a bit repetitive) gotta haves on this list.  

Pavement - Crooked Rain 
Sebadoh - Bakesale
Sloan - Twice Removed       
Hole - Live Through This
Guided by Voices - Bee Thousand
Weezer - self titled (blue)
Toad the Wet Sprocket - Dulcinea
Superchunk - Foolish
Blur - Parklife
Live - Throwing Copper
Luna - Bewitched
Beck - Mellow Gold
Nirvana - Unplugged
Green Day - Dookie
Sonic Youth - Experimental Jet Set
Sunny Day Real Estate - Diary 
Treble Charger - NC17
American Music Club - San Francisco
Len - Superstar
Tortoise (self titled)

Awesome list eh?  Really, undeniably one of the great years in rock and pop.

Problem is, 1993 is almost as good.   Maybe better.  

Nirvana - In Utero
Belly - Star
Dino Jr. - Where You Been  
Radiohead - Pablo Honey
Flaming Lips - Transmissions from the Satellite Heart (still my favourite record of theirs)
Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville
Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dreams
The Breeders - Last Splash
The Posies - Frosting on the Beater
Superchunk - On the Mouth
Uncle Tupelo - Anodyne
Eleventh Dream Day - El Moodio
Cracker - Kerosene Hat
Counting Crows - August and Everything After
Bad Religion - Recipe for Hate
Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen

Bloody amazing year too.   Really.   But I would tend to choose 94 based on the inclusion of Crooked Rain and Bakesale, maybe for me the two records most emblematic of the greatness of the 90's alternative rock scene.   As I write out all of these great records I still get a bit of a chill.  I remember the feeling I had at the time of being connected to the music viscerally, and yet also intellectually and profoundly.    Perhaps I knew in my heart that feeling this much of a thrill about music (one brilliant release after another) for a two year period was unlikely to last.   And to experience at the age of thirty or so was a little unexpected.   And it was probably sometime on 1997 before I realized that the magic period was over, and in a way, had been for a while.  



Monday, October 27, 2008

As we await the still to be posted definitive 1994 album list may I suggest that we are fast approaching the time for another CD club. Perhaps Mike you can participate by suggesting some records that are currently seeing air time in your world. And good luck with that October "winter" storm coming your way.

Thanks to Brian once again for that 60s comp that he handed out at the last CD club. I've been listening to the "Nazz Nazz" album by the Nazz tonight and it's a beauty. I might even have to go out and find myself a legitimate CD copy. Anyone seen this on disc?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Well admittedly, I might have been playing the role of disingenue there. If such a word exists. But it's not like me to turn the other cheek. However methinks we're getting away from the original point, which is, 1967 was a bitching year of music. As was....wait for it.....1994 (post forthcoming).

Another good blog question concerns the nexus of pop charts and good music. When (like, which year) were they most closely aligned? And why are they generally so far apart? Would top-selling albums provide a better barometer?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Picking, at random, the Billboard Top 20 from pretty much any year in the last 30 is like shooting fish in a barrel if you're looking for complete dreck. The Billboard charts have been a bellweather for nothing at all where timeless music is concerned. Take a look at 1987, 1995 or 2002 if you don't believe me. I think you're being rather disingenuous if you're trying to pump up the case for 1967 by citing "Reunited" and "The Pina Colada Song" as proof that it was a better year than 1979.

For purposes of full disclosure Le Freak, Good Times and Pop Music were some of my favourite tunes of that year. As for Heartache Tonight I think you all know how I feel about the Eagles.
A solid argument as always Mike. While I can't and won't attempt to deflect attention from the puerile qualities of our National and Provincial "songs", it's worth reminding all that 1979, with its undoubted high points, was a year when disco (Phase 1) was in its death throes - though clearly not fast enough. In fact, perhaps better to move off of this line of argument altogether, when you look at the Billboard Top 20 below, which despite the inclusion of The Knack (and I mean, c'mon, it's the Knack!) and Blondie, may be one of the worst annual top 20's in the pantheon of modern pop.

(And this is where Stuart jumps in and says "le Freak" and "I Will Survive" are great songs that he had a lot of early-teen romantic success with.)

01.My Sharona » Knack
02. Bad Girls » Donna Summer
03. Le Freak » Chic
04. Da Ya Think I'm Sexy » Rod Stewart
05. Reunited » Peaches & Herb
06. I Will Survive » Gloria Gaynor
07. Hot Stuff » Donna Summer
08. Y.M.C.A. » Village People
09. Ring My Bell » Anita Ward
10. Sad Eyes » Robert John
11. Too Much Heaven » Bee Gees
12. MacArthur Park » Donna Summer
13. When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman » Dr. Hook
14. Makin' It » David Naughton
15. Fire » Pointer Sisters
16. Tragedy » Bee Gees
17. A Little More Love » Olivia Newton-John
18. Heart Of Glass » Blondie
19. What A Fool Believes » Doobie Brothers
20. Good Times » Chic

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Great points Brian. However, if you're going to truly compare years, you have to look at the bad as well as the good. Remember that '67 was the centennial year here in Canada, which gave us two of the worst national theme songs ever penned. Both the Ca-na-da (1 little, 2 little, 3 Canadians) song AND the equally timeless Ontari-ari-ario theme were created during that year, and between them they provide a substantial but hard to quantify offset to all of the gems that you listed.
For me (and, I suppose, countless others) the 60's was in all measurable ways the most remarkable period for pop music. Such an explosion and progression over such a short period, and coming from nowhere and nothing only a few years previously. It's the end of the war twenty years later, the demographic bubble, the new order of Europe and America, all of these things and more. And like Stuart, I delved so deeply into the music in my teens that I felt like I lived it (though I do get your point Derek). It was a big part of my youth, and still some of the most important music to me on all levels.

So I thought originally that I would choose my fave 60's year based on a sort of top five approach (since there's so much music), so was thinking 1968 based on The Stones Beggar's Banquet, The Beatles White, The Zombies Oddysey, The Kinks' Village Green, and Love's Forever Changes. Wow, I thought, what a Big Five. Plus I think of 1967 as primarily the year that psychedelia peaked (just listen to the Hollies playing sitar on their release from that hiss), which while in many cases is magnificent ear candy, in my gut I know hasn't aged as well as music before and after. So I felt good about 1968.

Stupidly, I suppose, while in the afterglow of my smug I've-nailed-the-right-year state, I glanced at the release date for Forever Changes, only to find that it was actually November 1967. I was surprised. OK, I figured, that's an important record, so let's make sure that if I lob it back into 1967 it doesn't tip the scales. And a bit of research (and just giving my head a shake becase I own all these records) more than convinced me that, really, 1967 wasn't all just hype. It was an unbelievable year, and yes, quite possibly the best single year of pop and rock records.

I'll throw a few out, and if you don't have all of these records, well, for Christ's Sake go get them.

Buffalo Springfield - Again
The Doors - self-titled
The Velevet Underground and Nico
Beatles - Sgt Pepper's
Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow
The Monkees - Headquarters (I kid you not this is a great record)
The Byrds - Younger than Yesterday
The Stones - Between the Buttons (plus, Satanic Majesties' Request)
J Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced
Moby Grape - self titled debut
Cream - Disraeli Gears
Pink Floyd - Piper at the Gaets of Dawn
Love - Forever Changes
Moody Blues - Days of Future Passed
The Kinks - Something Else
Traffic - Mr. Fantasy
Dylan -John Wesley Harding

Those are kind of the obvious ones, the A list if you will. There's great B List of slightly lesser knowns as well:

Ten Years After (debut)
Donovan - Mellow Yellow
Nico - Chelsea Girl (one of my very favourite records)
Mamas and Papas - Deliver
Procol Harum - self titled debut
Arlo Guthrie - Alices' Restaurant
Absolutely Free - Mothers of Invention
The Turtles - Happy Together (amazing summer pop)
Big Brother and the Holding Company (self titled debut)
Yardbirds - Little Games
The Rascals - Groovin'

Lots more too. So, there you have it, my first choice for best single year, is, predictably (but not without justification) 1967.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I will have to look back at that year (1979) as it had already led to the Buzzcocks who have been getting lots of play on my ipod lately (thanks Derek)...I seemed to have been spending the last half of the seventies getting into 60's music so i missed the sharp change from disco to punk and only caught on in the early eighties, (which meant I missed it completely as the heart of it was so brief)....thanks for some of those more obscure late 70's tips....
I did look at 71 but without a beatles album....I couldnt quite justify it....68 is great too (wherefore art thou list Brian)....I thought you would pick 67 though....
actually 1989-91 is a very similar transition.(granted that is 3 years not 1) ..from oldies like the cure(disintegration, ) Lou reed new york, morrisey (viva hate) and newcomers stone roses pearl jam 10 nirvanna (nevermind) pixies (doolittle) again it is the changing of the guard...what about 1999-2001??
In terms of 1979, great, after all, that started this whole blog trail in the first place. Hard to argue with its importance to all of us guys in our forties (Kyle may not get it though). And such great music. I would add a couple of small-ish bur great release - The Records' Shades in Bed (which I loved then); Gang of Four's Entertainment (which I learned to love later), and Rolling Stones Some Girls, which although it came out in 1978 was the record I lived with most in 1979, and which started my life long romance with British pop/rock (Romancing the Stones?). So I think 1979 works equally well as both a personal and academic take on the best year in pop.
Well, I think to a degree it's about the way the human brain tends to organize itself, compounded by media, historians etc. Nobody's talking about 1989 or 1999 as breakthroughs, though arguably the early 1990's with Nirvana etc was truly revelatory.

I thought we might get some picks for 1971, with, off the top of my head, Led Zep IV, Who's Next, Sticky Fingers, Pearl, multiple others, or 1970, with All Things Must Pass, Derek and the Dominoes, Cosmos Factory, etc.
I find it very strange that the end of each decade seemed to be a turning point for musical styles and thus was very potent because you get the older and the newer styles fighting and producing great music... its strange how all stlistic periods in fashion, auto design, interior design well as music seem to match the datelines of the decade which are such arbitrary chronilogical markers...its almost as if the style makers have one eye on the calander and so with the turning of the new decade new shit starts to happen..

Monday, October 13, 2008

Looks like you've beaten me to the punch there Mike. And you've almost stolen the very words from my mouth where 1979 is concerned. This was indeed the pivotal year in my lifelong love of music. For me this year meant so much because at the age of 16 and actually living through this transitional period in music my hunger for the new was insatiable.

I'm sure that many of you, and some already have, could make a case for a year in the 60s but I'd find it difficult to pick a year where the music, the radio play, the live scene all pre-dated my enjoyment of the records. As much as I adore the Zombies "Odyssey and Oracle" there's no personal connection with any of the tracks on the record. I'll never remember where I was or how I felt when I first heard "This Could be Our Year". I distinctly remember how I felt upon first hearing "Making Plans for Nigel" and understanding that my parents would never ever get this song.

To add to Mike's already very complete list:

Squeeze - Cool for Cats
Joe Jackson - Look Sharp
The Police - Regatta de Blanc
Blondie - Parallel Lines
The Cars - Candy-O (not as great as their debut but pretty great, the sort of reverse Strokes)
Buzzcocks - A Different Kind of Tension (the band along with the Jam that, more than the Sex Pistols, defined the late 70's UK music scene)
Cheap Trick - Dream Police
B52s - B52s
Stranglers - The Raven
Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
Gary Numan - Pleasure Principle
Pretenders - the album came out in 1980 but Stop Your Sobbing and Brass in Pocket were both singles in 1979
Flash and the Pan - Flash and the Pan

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I've just reviewed my own collection by year, and it seems to me that 1979 produced a nice crop of music. It was a transition time for rock as the 70's hard rock and disco bands were being supplanted by punk and new wave. But really, I'm looking at this more from the perspective of music that I enjoyed, and it probably has something to do with the fact that I was personally awakening to the world of rock in 1979. Albums from that year include:

- Breakfast in America by Supertramp
- Daman the Torpedos by Tom Petty
- In through the Outdoor (Led Zeppelin's final studio album)
- London Calling, by the Clash
- Rust Never Sleeps AND Live Rust by Neil Young
- The Fine Art of Surfacing by The Boomtown Rats
- The Wall by Pink Floyd
- Caroline Mas (not a widely acclaimed record, but one that I've always liked a lot)
- Cheap Trick at Budokan (an early favorite of mine, and the band I saw at my first concert)
- Crusader by Chris de Burgh (again, more of a personal favorite than an industry milestone)
- Rickie Lee Jones
- Queen Live Killers
- Tusk by Fleetwood Mac
- Low Budget by the Kinks
- Communique by Dire Straits

And moving beyond my personal collection of music, we have:

- Armed Forces by Elvis Costello
- Setting Sons by The Jam
- Fear of Music by The Talking Heads
- The Undertones
- Drums and Wires by XTC
- The Great Rock 'n Roll Swindle by The Sex Pistols
- Labour of Lust by Nick Lowe

It doesn't compete with '69 from a rock history perspective, I don't think. But it's one of my favorite years.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Good choice Stuart.  1969 has got to be considered one of the greatest years of all time.     Despite being two years after the release of Da Capo.    Another good record in there was The Kinks' Arthur, and Love's actual 1969 release, Four Sail.   

Interesting how it is mostly the Brits though eh?  

Though the Airplane's Volunteers, the Dead's Aoxomoxo, and Santana's great first record (Santana) were all from 69 too.    Great year of music.

I'm going to nominate 1968, 198? (let's keep that one a mystery) and yes, 1993.   Though strangely I don't remember the scene from Juno.    I'll fill in the details in a separate note.
ok so its CSN , not CSY...
a few more....from 69
Rod Stewarts first album self titled
The bands second album...The band
The allman brothers first self titled album
Blind Faith
Love da capo ( ok so its a shit album ....Brian likes it}
ok ill take this on.....1969...because it still had very good albums and or songs from previous generations and had definative albums from all the top bands that would consolidate and then define the sound for generations to come.. ()ok I knoe that sounds like an old timer on a classics radio station but you take my point...its hard to pick 80's or later bands because they are so derivative of what came before, but I am sure i will get challenged on that front )
so ;
Beatles - abbey road and arguably let it be also..
Stones let it bleed
the who - tommy
led zepillin - I and II !!!
dylan- nashville skyline ( granted not his best but highly underrated)
Neil Young- everyone knows this is nowhere
velvet underground - self titled
fairport convention- 1st 2 albums!!!!
creedence clearwater --3 fucking albums!!!!..bayou, green river and willy
nick drake- 5 leaves
presley- suspicious minds , in the ghetto....
Neil diamond- sweet caroline
Johhny cash- a boy named sue

probably more if i think about it

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I don't want to steal Derek's, um, thunder, since he's apparently dying to post on this.   But neither 1967 nor 1977 were mentioned.   Though they were both great years.   


I'm guessing this was a pissing match between 1977 and 1967, yes? Or did 1993 get into the mix, a la that scene from the movie Juno?

Elaborate, s'il vous plait.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

I'm well behind on my posts, boys, just too busy these days.  Wanted to respond to Kyle's eighties post, but perhaps there has been too much water under the bridge.  Briefly though, I'll say that the eighties were a period, like the zeroes, when commercial radio was pretty weak, but in my view anyway, the various alternatives to commercial radio were very strong, and almost, though not quite, defined it as a "good" versus "bad" era in music.     I could list examples but I suspect we all know most of them.   From where we stand now, I tend to agree that the eighties doesn't stand up well versus the decades before or after.   But history re-invents these things regularly.  I distinctly felt in the eighties, that the seventies was a grim decade, other than the salvation of punk and new wave at its end.   Prog rock, disco, soft southern cali rock, and the genesis of metal in a plethora of bad "hard" rock, these were all things that the punks rebelled against, and rightfully so.  And yet, strangely, now, the seventies feel like a fertile decade of pop and rock.  

Which brings me to my next point.   Derek and I had a few the other night, and began a classic blog discussion on eras in rock music.  Ultimately we boiled it down to this: Which single year should be considered the greatest rock and pop year of all time, and which releases from that year support your argument?   

Derek had a strong opinion (a year, I mean) Friday night, and since this was his idea for a post, I'll leave it to him to expand on it, assuming Saturday morning didn't change his thinking.  I will chime in later in the week after giving the whole thing a little more thought.  

Friday, October 03, 2008

Read your post too quickly the first time, Derek. Seeing the words Ciaran and Elmo, I thought you were complaining that your only concert of the year thus far would involve an orange muppet. I was all ready with a snide comment too! (If you wanted simple song structure and childish lyrics why didn't you just get tickets to a Kimya Dawson concert? Rimshot! Your witty rejoinder: I wanted something more sophisticated. ba da dum. cymbol).

But now I realize you're talking about...Dr. Dog show. Enjoy!

And thanks for pointing the way to the gratis Mercury Rev instrumental stuff, which for some reason I suspect I'm going to enjoy more than the with-vocals new album.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Just as a follow up to the Mercury Rev posts most of you are probably aware that their new record is now available on e-music but they also have a second full-length (completely instrumental) that is available as a free download from their website.

And in the how do you know you're 45 department. This Friday night (yes October 3rd) I will be attending my first rock show of the soon to be departed 2008 at the Elmo. Shouldn't be too much longer before Ciaran has me beat in the live music department.

Has anyone seen anything live that's blown them away this year?

Monday, September 29, 2008

no it was just a whim a few weeks back... I am always digging back through my older stuff.... I did however see the Perlich review recently...thanks for the alternate guardian point of view... i think i have to start buying everything that perlich hates in t pop music.... His jazz advice is much better...

Friday, September 26, 2008

I have the follow-up album "All Is Dream" which is pretty good but not the memorable listen that "Deserter Songs" is.

Did you bring up Mercury Rev purely on a whim or did they come to your attention via the ever moronic Tim Perlich's review in yesterday's Now magazine of their new album? Contrast and compare with the Guardian's review.
I pulled out mercury revs' deserter songs a week ago and I am amazed at how great a cd that it has aged very well and damn almost every song is great... i had completely forgotten about this record....if any of you missed this when it cam out , it comes highly recommended...did anyone buy any other of their cds ???

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wondering if anyone else here has listened to 'The 1980s: Were They Really That Bad' podcast?

Listened to it yesterday on a long drive and burst out laughing quite a few times, so I recommend downloading it and giving it a listen.

Apart from the just skewering of ripe targets (hair metal bands, Hall & Oates), I think they kind of missed the boat on a lot of really great English pop bands (The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen) that I guess weren't as popular many places stateside. The urban/rural divide seems to inspire either a wary regard for, or slavish devotion to, Guns n Roses, depending on where you lived as a teenager. Will be interested in hearing other comments.

Consider this an assignment, which of course you can, and likely will ignore.

Friday, September 19, 2008

the posts of dear stu
(spelling and grammar aside )
evoke smiles, haiku

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My lake of appearance buoys.

Such rich poetry, surely this blog site doesn't deserve. Stu, you're a gem.

And "Berlin" is a great choice for an underrated record.
brian you are right , that was damn good poetry.....
sorry for my lake of appearance bouys but work has been mental coincidence i was just listening to an album last week that really struct me as unbelievably under least according to rolling stone who typically love this guy....Lou Reed Berlin.....It has always been my favorite album of his solo career by a long shot and some critics tend to just tear it apart.... I dont get it... I cant say I know the records you guys mention , i will check them out...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Underated? One that comes to mind immediately are the Trash Can Sinatras in general and their second album, "I've Seen Everything", specifically. Here's one of the tracks from this disc.

Will try to come up with some more.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sure I'm in.  I guess my first thought is, when we say underrated, by whom?    These things change over time of course.    But pedantry aside, how about Sebadoh's Harmacy (the one after Bakesale), Malkmus' first solo record, or The Rolling Stones Between the Buttons?    All considered relative disappointments but outside of the context of their other releases, are great records.   I will throw out some others with a bit more thought.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

We are in need of a new topic, and I propose "under-rated albums". I was listening yesterday to "The Vegetarians of Love" by Bob Geldof. I really love that album. It's got a folkier feel than the Boomtown Rats material, with accordians and violins. The songwriting is strong from start to finish, with songs ranging from wistful to exuberent. It's one of those albums that seems to have been overlooked, but it deserves to be heard. Based on the strength of this album, I later bought "Sex, Age and Death" (which is coincidently the only Geldof album on emusic), but it is much darker and less appealing to my ears.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Realize this is way old but I just thought of an instrumental song from the previous list exercise that I enjoyed in the 80s. Love and Rockets' "Saudade".


Friday, August 29, 2008

Not to be cynical, but it seems to me that Pandora has been foretelling its own demise for a year or more, to maintain its indy cred, its "fight da man" persona.   

Maybe this time it's real, but I'm not holding my breath, just continuing to enjoy "stations" like Bud Shank Quintet Radio, Duke Pearson radio, or Benny Golson Radio.  Truly its a remarkable on-line site. 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Too bad about Muxtape....discovered a few tracks while listening to their playlists, which I eventually downloaded from emusic and itunes. But I guess protecting royalties is more important than promoting music. My take is that the RIAA will likely win this battle and other battleswhile continuing to badly lose the war. Not sure that the financial return outweighs the stunningly bad optics of an organization trying to reverse a seemingly irreversible trend towards a more open exchange of new music by forcing the closure of an entity named Pandora. Insert pithy statement that includes the word 'box' here.

Brian, your BMO-backed, US-based IP address, online music gravy train days are numbered!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

As one of you (I forget who) predicted... Muxtape is having problems.

Accordng to the article, Pandora is also at death's doorstep. On-line royalty battles are heating up, and it doesn't seem to be going in a good direction.

Monday, August 25, 2008

And one final, far more satisfactory sixties' classic, is the Jefferson Airplane's "Embryonic Journey", written/played by the amazing Jorma Kaukonen.  Peace Out.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ah, I do love the concert footage of da Boss when he was still adopting the curly haired NY artiste persona, before he started wearing jeans and plaid shirts.  He was bona fide cool back then.  That's a pretty unambitious little number mind you.

In terms of other instrumentals by non-instrumental bands (I like the question, good little mind bender), I can think of a few more or less of the top of my head, particularly from the 60's, and carrying on the tradition of finding youtube clips:  Simon and Garfunkel's Anji, from their Sounds of Silence record, nice little latin-jazzy number; Quicksilver Messenger Service's Gold and Silver, a 5/4 minor key from one of my fave Frisco bands of the sixties (pretty lo-fi live performance in that extremely lame clip); and finally Captain Soul , which might be the worst song The Byrds ever recorded, particularly from their peak 1965-67 period.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What about Paradise by the C, by Bruce Springsteen? It's not on any of his studio albums, but he did release a live version of it. There's no singing, but it is a classic Springsteen sound.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Interesting list there Brian. I had hoped to play the Vijay Iyer disc at the last CD club but it really doesn't work as a record from which to play a few snippets. Works better as a whole listening experience. If anyone is interested he's in town (not with the trio from this CD) on Saturday August 9th playing for free.

I've had the Duke Ellington for a few years and it is a really great disc with the possible exception of the opening track "Chinoiserie" which I find overdone and rather annoying.

Looking forward to downloading the Bags and Wes and the Woody Shaw discs. The only Woody Shaw I own is a fairly recent compilation. I'm sure there are original discs I should be picking up but they seem to be very scarce anytime I check the jazz section at the local stores. Not even sure he has his own slot these days as the jazz and classical sections continue to be trimmed down to the lowest common denominator. More Mozart or Diana Krall anyone?
Hey boys, used most of my monthly emusic download on jazz this month, so thought I'd pass some of it on if you're looking for inspiration:

(1) Vijay Iyer - Tragicomic; new release, piano player working in a quartet / quintet setting, composition based, lots of variety, though generally mood-based. Really high quality.
(2) Anne Mette Iversen - Best of the West + Many Places ; Interesting combination of two recordings; one incorporates a string quartet in a third-streamish way (Iversen is Danish, a bassist), and the second is lively and creative writing/performances in a traditional quartet setting
(3) The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse - Duke Ellington ; Fantastic late-period Ellington (1971) with lots of modern elements mixed into his big band arrangements, with an overriding exotic theme of Africa Eurasia. I'm really loving this.
(4) Flora Purim - Butterfly Dreams ; some really nice early-seventies Brazilian jazz from one of the better performers in the genre. Lots of South American stylings mixed with "real" jazz arrangements and playing.
(5) Sun Ra - Lanquidity ; really cool groove-based late-seventies record from Sun Ra. For those of you who like their music a little less conventional, Sun Ra never disappoints...this one is fairly easy listening bu his standards, with lots of fat grooves, and soulful bigger band arrangements.
(6) Milt Jackson and Wes Montgomery - Bags Meets Wes; great session between vibes and guitar heroes from the early 60's. Not sure how I missed this when I was collecting everything from that period a few years ago.
(7) Woody Shaw - Blackstone Legacy ; The first session as a leader for the trumpet legend from 1970, also the only bona fide WS record on emusic, but a great one (Ron Carter, Gary Bartz, other greats). If you don't know him, check it out.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I played:

Headlights - Some Racing, Some Stopping
Atlas Sound - Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
The Come Ons - Hip Check
The Raveonettes - Lust, Lust, Lust
Pete and the Pirates - Little Death
The French Kicks - Swimming

But it all sounded like Lily Allen to me.

And by me, I mean Stuart.
my picks were;
Messiaen -Quartet for the end of time
Heartworn nighways..(early steve earle etc...
Wintersleep -Welcome to the night sky
Fleet foxes
William parker Dancing on the moon
Plants & Animals

Monday, July 21, 2008

I also read both articles.    And y'all have hit on a number of the thoughts I had as I read 'em.

While I think Queenan is being admirably honest in his criticism - it takes balls to stand up and say "I think this stuff is shite" - his article does little to convince me that he knows very much about the music, other than that he apparently owns a lot of it.    But enough about his point of view.  For me, mid/late twentieth century music (and in fact Queenan included Webern and Berg among other early practitioners of atonalism in his wide-sweeping damnation) has every bit as much a place in the spectrum of classical music as the periods prior to it.  Much of it that I own I enjoy, as much for the musical challenge it presents, and the world it so appropriately reflects.   Certain pieces completely elude me....but more often than not I find myself fascinated by their elusiveness, not disgusted.    

The comparison to jazz is made in the article, and I think at its most cerebral, jazz does cross over into similar intellectual territory as "modern classical".  However I do agree with Derek that even the most challenging jazz tends to inhabit a more emotional, and therefore more accessible, space than modern compositional music.     

So onto other things.

Marc hosted a great CD Club last weekend.  I won't go on about the extraordinary food, given Mike's non-attendance (what with the 450km commute), but safe to say I always enjoy a warm summer evening on Marc and ME's top story deck.  Great company, delicious wine, all in all quite stellar.  As a bonus, the music that everyone brought along seemed to me to be of a high quality, and so well worth recording for posterity on the blog.

To kick things off then, I played: 
(1) Wye Oak - 3 tracks from "If Children" (2008).  Baltimore-based band 
(2) Phoenix Foundation (from New Zealand) - 3 tracks from "Horsepower" (2006)
(3) Maritime (former members of Promise Ring and Dismemberment Plan) - 3 from "Heresy and the Hotel Choir" (2007)
(4) Bishop Allen -  1 track from "The Broken String" (2007)...a worthwhile record only briefly touched on.

I didn't get to Foundry Field Recordings' "Prompts/Miscues" (2007), though I think its melancholy guitar pop would have been well received.

All of the above are on emusic.

Until the next, hopefully more frequent, CD outing.
I've listened to a few of the composers listed in the original Guardian article but still don't feel I've had enough exposure to (rises to the level of 'jumbo shrimp' on the oxymoronic scale) "new classical" to either applaud or deride Queenan's thesis. It's one of those 'shot across the bow' type of articles that's interesting for the back and forth it generates. While I doubt that a recording about water dripping, becoming gas, or freezing will ever thrill me, I'm also pretty tired of stations like Classical 96 in Toronto whose playlists skew heavily to the 'familiar', and at times consist solely of Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, the dreaded Pachabel or a soundtrack to every existing production of Masterpiece Theatre (when they're not slipping in a little Josh Groban).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I read the article about modern classical music, as well as one of the lengthy rebuttals. After I read Derek and Kyle's comments, I started thinking about the question of the level of knowledge of classical music fans, and when it gets right down to it, my sample size is too small. I just don't know very many classical music fans - especially in my generation. Both my father and my father-in-law are fans, and both are quite knowledgeable. I know a few others of that generation who are or were regular symphony-goers, but I can only think of one friend (outside of this blog) who regularly listens to classical music, and he is extraordinarily knowledgeable - he will actually buy the score to his favorite works and follow along while he listens. I have lots of friends who are into jazz, some who are into blues but most of my friends listen almost exclusively to pop/classic rock and/or country. And only a few of them are knowledgable music fans. I'm not sure if this can be extrapolated into a meaningful comment on society as a whole, or if it is simply a comment on the sophistication of my immediate circle of friends.

What struck me primarily about the article is the fundamental truth that musical appreciation is, above all, subjective. And I think the term "new classical" is part of the problem. Classical music is historical by definition. Perhaps a better term would be "modern orchestrial", but the fact is that the orchestra is no longer the most popular (or the most sensible) configuration. One no longer needs to assemble 100 musicians to enable a full range of sounds. Larger groups are harder to organize logistically, harder to conduct musically, and more expensive. I don't know how one would determine who are the best living composers, but it would not surprise me to learn that they were focused on electronic or other, smaller configurations as a rule.

But the other phenomenon that surfaces in this article is the fact that audiences prefer familiar things. I believe this is true across all disciplines - until the Internet created greater accessibility, it was very difficult for today's bands to get radio airtime because the airwaves are clogged with classic rock. Modern playwrights have a hard time getting their plays staged because every serious drama company is busy putting on productions of Shakespeare's plays (or at least the dozen or so that are very popular). Those of us who play in bands know that nothing clears the dance floor faster than an original song. Most of the movies coming out these days are either sequels or prequels or based on a pre-existing popular work (a comic book, as often as not). I think it is always challenging for new creations to find their audience and establish a lasting connection.
To be honest the Stone Roses disc was also more of a 90's album for me also. Visiting the UK in the summer of 1990 I picked up the Stone Roses "One Love" single on CD which was a big hit there that year and at was really only at that point that I started to give the Stone Roses LP a big listen.

As I mentioned to Brian the other night there is a also a bit of a cheat on my list with two compilations. The Orange Juice and Siouxsie and the Banshees records are both comps but for me these are the two discs by bands that I dearly love that got the most spins and, if you know neither band, are definitely a good starting point.

Bill Pritchard, who I believe is English, was actually biggest of all in France. I'm not sure he was ever CFNY material and I might have first heard him on CBC's Brave New Waves, back when I could stay up past 10 o'clock in the evening. As a big fan of Lloyd Cole it was pretty easy to fall in step with Pritchard's soft-toned story telling music.

As for classical music and it's fans knowledge or lack thereof let me be the first to admit that I am somewhat intimidated by the depth and breadth of the music that this all encompassing term covers. I never studied music in school beyond the pissing about in primary school years and as such always feel at a big disadvantage in truly understanding what is going on in the great works. I can enjoy it at an emotional level but feel I will always be left on the sidelines in really getting what is being conveyed by the composer. This is something I've never felt with jazz as it operates for me primarily on an emotional basis and I can leave it at that and not feel that I'm missing out somehow.

Having said that I don't feel that classical music fans are necessarily less knowledgeable just because a few pompous gits like to feel they can lord it over the rest of us with the sheer magnitude of their insight and connection to the classical world.

Reading an article in BBC music magazine the other day by a young Russian conductor made me want to pull what remains of my hair out. He had a valid point in that too many orchestras rely on the old war horses to make their money (Dvorak's 9th, Rachmaninoff's 2nd piano concerto etc). He also stated that too concert goers tend to scurry like rats whenever the program contains something new or less well known. The sentence that had me cringing was that this 28 year old felt that it was up to him and his ilk to "educate the concert going public".

I'd be quite happy to hear something like Dvorak's tone poem "The Golden Spinning Wheel", a Norgaard symphony or a clarinet concerto by Kalevi Aho. If the TSO is any indication too many orchestras fall back on the tried and true knowing that this will pull in the same old crowd. Why not throw in regular new or lesser known works instead of ghettoizing them like the TSO does when they shovel them all together in one week every spring. I think they might be surprised by the interest us plebs would show. I don't think educating us Soviet style has anything to do with it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

re: Derek's 80s list....

I always forget that the Stone Roses album is 1989....didn't really listen to it until 'Fools Gold' was played on the radio in 1990 so I always associate it with the 1990s. Perhaps I could include this in a 90s list, the same way that Brian was able to sneak London Calling into the 80s?

I'd never even heard of Bill Pritchard...was he bigger in the UK, played here on the radio (CFNY)?

Still working my way through 20th century classical and the Alex Ross book so I'm not sure that I'm comfortable in assessing whether these composers connect with audiences as effectively as did their coherts from previous centuries. I did find it interesting that the author can, “no longer believe that fans of classical music are especially knowledgeable - certainly not in the way jazz fans are". I tend to others?

Monday, July 14, 2008

A lot to contemplate, Derek, from your list to the posted guardian article and I plan to post some comments shortly. In an attempt to find some digital copies of the composers included in your exerpt, I came across an interesting 'free' music site: SpiralFrog.

I use single quotes because music downloaded from this site is essentially borrowed, not owned, meaning you can't burn cds with it or transfer it to an ipod. Thus, unless you're into listening to music on your computer, it's kind of useless. But if you're into listening to music on your computer--say during business hours--it can be quite useful. I've downloaded both the new Beck and Coldplay albums, as well as an older Sonic Youth disc. It tends to showcase more popular, or at least established, artists, which makes it more of a complement than a competitor to emusic. And of course, you don't get to 'own' it. But as a means of previewing new music before buying, it beats the hell out of a 30-second samples.

Btw...the Beck is interesting if not mind-blowing on the first listen. The Coldplay is kind of lame. But then, you knew this.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I'm going to go way over the requested top 10 80's albums here as there is simply no way I could whittle this down. 16 at the beginning of the decade and 26 by the end this was when for me the formula became music=life. Any spare money I could scrounge up went on purchasing primarily vinyl and much of it imported from Europe. Probably drove my parents round the bend with some of the stuff I listened to (ie Big Black, Einsturzende Neubaten, Test Department) but that's what teenagers are for. Sorry for posting 40 picks but feel free to stop scrolling at any time.

Adam & the Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier
The English Beat - Just Can't Stop It
Billy Bragg - Talking with the Taxman
Kate Bush - The Dreaming
The Chameleons - Strange Times
Cocteau Twins - Treasure
Lloyd Cole & the Commotions - Rattlesnakes
The Cult - Love
Depeche Mode - Some Great Reward
Echo & the Bunnymen - Ocean Rain
Eric B & Rakim - Paid in Full
Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (3)
The Housemartins - London 0, Hull 4
Human League - Dare
The Jam - The Gift
Jazz Butcher - Bloody Nonsense
The Jesus & Mary Chain - Psychocandy
New Order - Power, Corruption & Lies
Orange Juice - In a Nutshell
OMD - Architecture & Morality
Pixies - Doolittle
Prince - 1999
Bill Pritchard - Three Months, Three Weeks & 2 Days
Public Enemy - A Nation of Millions
The Ramones - End of the Century
REM - Murmur
Roxy Music - Flesh and Blood
Simple Minds - New Gold Dream
Siouxsie & the Banshees - Once Upon a Time
The Smiths - The Smiths
The Stone Roses - Stone Roses
Teardrop Explodes - Kilimanjaro
Tears for Fears - The Hurting
That Petrol Emotion - Manic Pop Thrill
The The - Soul Mining
U2 - War
The Undertones - Hypnotised
The Waterboys - A Pagan Place
Woodentops - Giant
XTC - Black Sea

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thanks for the laugh Mike. Pachelbel's Canon is one classical piece that I have pretty much detested since I first heard it. Not sure why exactly as it's not as if I'm not a sucker for a "simple" classical hook like Barber's Adagio for strings for example.

For classical music with no hooks to speak of check out this column from the Guardian. Joe Queenan, the article's author, has more than 20 years of classical music listening over me and has seen 1500 concerts to my paltry 30 or 40 but he gets it right on the money with respect to new classical music. The key paragraph for me is the following:

I have tried to come to terms with the demands of modern music. I am no lover of Renaissance Muzak, and own tons of records by Berg, Varèse, Webern, Rihm, Schnittke, Adès, Wuorinen, Crumb, Carter, and Babbitt: I consider myself to be the kind of listener contemporary composers would need to reach if they had any hope of achieving a breakthrough. So far, this has not happened, and I doubt that it will.

I've never heard of Wuorinen and I've never listened to Crumb but I own discs or have listened to the rest of this crew and with the exception of Berg, who can hardly be considered new since he died in 1935, there's really not a whole lot to write home about. Like the author I should be the target market for modern composers but they're failing miserably. I'd like to hear how others have fared coming to terms with mid-late 20th and 21st century classical music.

I have some Holliger and Kurtag for anyone who'd like to give this sort of thing a listen.

I'll get around to posting my top discs of the 80's shortly.
As an aside, completely unrelated to any of the topics at hand, I stubmled across this clever, funny video rant that demonstrates how all of modern music derives from Pachelbel's Cannon.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My list, I realized almost immediately, is a complete travesty. Lacking Sonic Youth's Evol, The Chills Submarine Bells, Bill Bragg's Talking to the Taxman, Waterboys' This is the Sea, Steve Earle's Exit Zero / Copperhead Road. Many more. I'll post a top twenty shortly.
Kyle, thanks, that's very helpful. The tutorial was a little goofy, but the verbiage attached to the site should get me started.

I've been prevaricating on the 80's list, but have finally come up with a top 11. I based it on what I honestly listened to and loved at the time, not so much what now seems cool. No doubt missed some obvious ones.

I liked your list a lot, mostly because it's music I don't know intimately in some cases. You were, I guess, 9 - 18 years old in the eighties, so a very different thing from 16 - 25, plus you just have different musical tastes, and of course you grew up in Scarborough I think? (versus Kanata). All in all a good list to navigate through for me.

REM - Murmur / Reckoning (I'm cheating already)
Clash - London Calling (Dec 79 - more cheating, but this was really the first record of the 80's)
The Pretenders - Learning to Crawl
Tom Petty - Damn the Torpedoes (Nov 79)
Springsteen - Born in the USA (yes it's true)
Big Dipper - Heavens
That Petrol Emotion - Babble
Jazz Butcher - Fishcoteque
Midnight Oil - Diesel and Dust
The Church - Starfish
Paul Kelly - Gossip

New York in retrospect was mostly a 90's record for me

Monday, July 07, 2008

Making mp3s from vinyl...this site has a 3 minute video tutorial.

For those of you with time on your hands and the thirst for more new music, Wired magazine just did a feature on their '10 Hottest Digital Music Sites'.

Also, a little late to the game (hectic travel week late June + needed down time last week) but here is my contribution to the 80s album discussion:

The Queen is Dead – The Smiths
Music for the Masses – Depeche Mode
Disintegration – The Cure
The Unforgettable Fire – U2
Murmur - REM
Power, Corruption, Lies – New Order
Surfer Rosa – The Pixies
Love – The Cult
Closer – Joy Division
It’ll Take a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Public Enemy

Though 'Thriller' was great at the time (I was 11 when it was released) , I don't really look back on it with much fondness, and don't presently own a copy. I'd probably say 'Purple Rain' is important and I'm sure I'd enjoy listening to the soundtrack again but don't think I could play it more than once every few years. All of the albums listed above are ones I could still listen to at least a few times a year, and were important and interesting when they were released/became popular.

Anyhow, enjoy the links.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Oh right. Bittorrent.

I thought you were saying that you were creating mp3 files from albums, something I'm interested in doing....anyone know anything about that?
I've been downloading using Bit Torrent, primarily based on the advice and guidance of this fine group of bloggers. After a shaky start, it's been going pretty well, overall. At this point, I have attempted to find and download 164 albums. I have been successful with all but 18 of them. The ones I couldn't find are generally a little obscure or regional - like Andrew Cash, Scott Merritt and the Washington Squares.

I've got one more '80s song to add to my list of overlooked top ten candidates - Lou Reed's "New York". Pretty great album. You've gotta love the wailing feedback.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Yes, that was a great record (the WPA one). In a similar vein, Paul Kelly's first record "Gossip" was really strong...though I mentioned that before. Feel free to revise your list daily. 

How are you downloading albums?
I've been steadily moving through my cassette tapes and downloading albums, and since posting that list I've realized that I missed a couple of favorites that deserved consideration for my top 10 - Scott Merritt's "Gravity is Mutual" and Weddings Parties Anything's "Roaring Days". I'll probably continue to stumble across more as I move through my collection - it's very hard to compile a definitive list of anything!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hey Mike, great list. We were obviously spending a lot of time together in the 80's; lots of common ground for me in there. Although some of them I'll admit didn't (and don;t) do much for me - Dire Straits, for example; Brothers in Arms felt like the end of a band I had once liked.

There were a few others that I was listening to a ton at that time that I'd forgotten about, and something about your post reminded me; World Party's Private Revolution; Guadalcanal Diary's Jamboree, Let's Active's Cypress.

I will put my thoughts together into a list this week. Kind of a fun exercise, because my impression of the eighties is that it hasn't aged well, and yet (a) it was a hugely defining period for all of us musically, and (b) it is (somewhat inevitably) coming back into vogue and so the only-recently kitschy sounding production / sensibilities are very popular again. Useful to go through ti, because I know it will warm me up to some music I once loved.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I find it's a bit pointless to attempt to compare the relative quality of albums from widely different genres. Including everything from bubblegum pop to grunge to country rock on a single list of "best tracks" only serves to offend everyone. So I'm responding instead to Brian's challenge to come up with my own personal top ten of the '80s. My list is:

This is the Sea, The Waterboys
The Joshua Tree, U2
Life’s Rich Pageant, R.E.M.
Graceland, Paul Simon
SwordfishTrombone, Tom Waits
Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits
Starfish, The Church
Live 1975-1985, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
Copperhead Road, Steve Earle
Amonia Avenue, Alan Parsons Project

This is based entirely on my own enjoyment of the music, rather than on my perception of its historical significance. I found it very hard to eliminate some of my other favorites, so for those who are interested in such things, I'll include the other albums that I originally listed before the painful sorting exercise began. These are partially sorted, but I gave up trying to complete that task.

Fisherman’s Blues, The Waterboys
Lyle Lovett, Lyle Lovett
Eastern Wind, Chris de Burgh
Reckoning, R.E.M.
Making Movies, Dire Straits
The River, Bruce Springsteen
Murmur, R.E.M.
Fleetwood Mac Live, Fleetwood Mac
Stop Making Sense, Talking Heads
Born in the USA, Bruce Springsteen
War, U2
In My Tribe, 10,000 Maniacs
The Unforgettable Fire, U2
If I Should Fall From Grace with God, The Pogues
Fables of the Reconstruction, R.E.M.
Diesel and Dust, Midnight Oil
Full Moon Fever, Tom Petty
The Game, Queen
The Lonesome Jubilee, John Mellencamp
The Rose of England, Nick Lowe
The Wishing Chair, 10,000 Maniacs
Crowded House, Crowded House
Suzanne Vega, Suzanne Vega
Rain Dogs, Tom Waits
Pontiac, Lyle Lovett
The Final Cut, Pink Floyd
Various Positions, Leonard Cohen
The Turn of a Friendly Card, Alan Parsons Project
Gossip, Paul Kelly & The Messengers
Eye in the Sky, Alan Parsons Project
Scarecrow, John Mellencamp
Exit 0, Steve Earle
Red Roses for Me, The Pogues
Love Over Gold, Dire Straits
Document, R.E.M.
Up to Here, The Tragically Hip
The Traveling Wilburys Vol. I, The Traveling Wilburys
Slow Turning, John Hiatt
So, Peter Gabriel
Ah lists. God love 'em. This one is fairly idiosyncratic in my view, with a number of esteemed records (pardon the old-fashioned expression) included but strangely out of place (Elliot Smith, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Pretenders, eg) and another big pile of great and important pop music (ie my personal favourites) not there at all. It's working on the extreeeeemely questionable assumption that top 40 albums deserve a place at the top. Not sure on what basis Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Christina Ag, and Kelly Clarkson got there (to name a few).....but at least, I suppose, it's discussion provoking.

Most of my favourite eighties music is nowhere to be seen here, which would include That Petrol Emotion's "Babble", Husker Du's "New Day Rising" (or Zen Arcade), Midnight Oil's "Diesel and Dust", REM's "Murmur" or "Reckoning" (I mean, c'mon!), The Feelies' "Only Life", Waterboys "This is the Sea" or "Fisherman's Blues", Billy Bragg's "Talking with the Taxman about Poetry", Camper Van Beethoven's "Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart", Smithereens "Especially for You", Paul Kelly's "Gossip", The Church's "Starfish" (or Heyday or Remote Luxury), or The Jazz Butcher's "Fishcotheque" or "Bloody Nonsense".

In terms of nineties and oughts, I won't go on at length, but a few oversights like Nevermind (ridiculous to exclude), but for me also Eleventh Dream Day's "El Moodio" Sufjan Stevens "Illinoise", Sebadoh's "Bakesale" and a ton of others.

Not to discourage further discussion of this list, but my rantings above prompt me to ask for input (given that I'm back to downloading via Azureus) on everyone's Favourite Records of the 1980's. A top ten, ideally.

Wondering if I can get some input from the likes of Derek and Stuart and (dare I hope) Marc, on this, as well, of course, as the new regular threesome of me, Mike and Kyle.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Now that we're on a bit of a roll here, a 100 best albums list to keep the discussion moving. This one is courtesy of Entertainment Weekly, a fairly mainstream magazine that's probably worth perusing if you're stuck on a long flight but not a publication worth reading on a regular basis.

This is their 'Best Albums of the Past 25 Years', which takes us back to 1983 (can you believe I failed Grade 11 and 12 Math?). While there are some odd choices and the rankings are ridiculous, it's not an altogether horrid list. Not sure how Amy Winehouse cracks the top 10 or Nirvana's Unplugged disc makes the list while Nevermind is nowhere to be guess is that they're being deliberately provocative.... I'm happy to see they've included 'Disintegration', 'Slanted & Enchanted', 'Surfer Rosa', 'Loveless', 'Low-life', 'Siamese Dream', 'The Queen is Dead', 'Play', 'Dummy', 'The Soft Bulletin', 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot', among others but it's a weird list overall. The Bjork choice is 'Homogenic'...really? Kind of luck saying you like the third Strokes album the best.

Billy Corgan is an interesting one....I'm mostly on the side of 'elevates' because I mostly like the way he alternates between an earnest falsetto and a more darker, more gravelly growl. I say mostly because sometimes it's great (the 'let me OUT' bit from "Cherub Rock", which ups the emotional ante and builds along with the revving guitar) and sometimes it's grating (the 'i used to be a little boy/what's a boy supposed to do' bit from "Disarm" which just sounds like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum). This commentary assumes you've excluded any release from Smashing Pumpkins and his side projects with release dates any later than 1995, all of which really really suck.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Admittedly, the Lightfoot thing was really just thrown out there to create a little controversy.  I've got no real problems with Gord-o, though certainly his singing was more full throated in his first few years than after the alcoholism took its toll.   

I've enjoyed this singer debate though.  Before I move off it, I'll toss out another for consideration - Billy Corgan; ruiner or elevator?  

I'm coming up with all of these older ref points because I'm working on the (very belated) 90's comps that we discussed bout a year and a half ago.   Will pass them on when we choose a date for the next CD club.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I have to add my voice to the crowd rejecting Brian’s (Victoria’s) preposterous inclusion of Gordon Lightfoot on the list of grating vocalists. His voice is distinctive and unique – instantly recognizable. He doesn’t have a problem with pitch, he sings with emotion and his voice suits his music. A criticism that I will lob at Lightfoot is that he is about the least dynamic performer I’ve ever seen. His band is good, but he just stands there and sings. He doesn’t interact with the audience well and he doesn’t look relaxed or comfortable. I’ve heard that he has terrible stage fright that he combats with booze. It’s probably all caused by insensitive people criticizing his voice.
Gordys voice? I grew up on it, so its part of me and I can't imagine Canada without him somehow....his voice just IS ......I cant distence myself enough to be critical one way or the other....for a great cover take on "If you could read my mind" go to Johnny Cashs last American series recordings (Five)....If rumours are correct the vocal was recorded 2 months before he died , prior to setting down any other instrument tracks for the song....
No love for Gordon Lightfoot?! Can't imagine his songs working with other vocalists. That godawful dance cover of 'You Could Read My Mind' from the equally poor 'Studio 54' film a decade ago is the first example that springs to mind but perhaps the duclet tones of Ray Coniff's version really shines.

Always thought Malkmus was a cross between Dave Lowry of Cracker and J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.. My evidence:

Total excuse to post youtube vids on a Friday. Happy weekend all.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More thoughts.....a couple of singers that can make a good song great (and sadly, more often, an average song very listenable) for me are Lou Barlow and Jeff Tweedy.

And Kyle, re Malkmus (from Pavement....Mike, I assume you know this but just in case) I think it is his voice that elevates the songs. It works so in tandem with the shambolic lo-fi-ness in their earlier records that it is hard to separate the two. But it's a remarkably expressive instrument in its own right.
And one more on behalf of Victoria, of voices that ruin songs (and I happen to agree, particularly on his mid 70's and later work) - Gordon Lightfoot.

Over to you Mike and Stu.
I've got to say that I am very pleased to see this sudden burst of activity at MetaBeats. It's been a pretty quiet place until recently. I've been thinking about Brian's challenge to list vocalists whose lack of technique somehow doesn't detract from their music. The first names that popped to mind for me were Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. Then I thought of Randy Newman, Mark Knopfler and Lou Reed. When you get right down to it, this is a very large group. Most of the really good songwriters aren't actually really good singers. The other challenge is tougher - singers so good that they can elevate the music. The first one that I thought of here was Roy Orbisson. Although he generally had very solid material to work with, his voice was unbelievable. I think that Thom Yorke of Radiohead belongs on this list. Although he seems to have deliberately deemphasized it, his voice has wonderful dymanic range and he sings with a lot of passion when he wants to. One of my personal favorite voices in rock is Tim Booth from James - his voice has a very warm tone, and I think that band owes a lot of its success to his vocals. And then there was Johnny Cash - his voice was so deep and resonant that he could make pretty ordinary country songs into hits.