Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pow, Suck On That. You Know?

I do not think it would be stretch for me to say that almost all of my friends think of me as the biggest Toronto Blue Jays fan that they know. The issue of my Jays fandom has been explored previously on this blog*, but it's been a little different this year and I haven't written about it in awhile.

This season has been different because it is the first season that I can remember when the Jays have been in contention. The Jays were at the top of the American League heap when I was born and I was only 5 during their historic 1994 collapse. I have very vague memories of them being great and in fact, the excitement of Joe Carter hitting his home run is one of my earliest memories (Did I just watch that entire video? You know I did. "Touch 'em all Joe! You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!" is bar-none, the greatest game call ever.). Since then it has been a very long history of disappointing seasons. A winning campaign here and there, but never coming within sniffing distance of the playoffs.

However, this season was entirely different. The club posted the best record in all of baseball during the month of May, due in large part to Edwin Encarnacion's month for the ages. They sat atop the American League East for a large chunk of the season and though they've since relinquished that spot to the Baltimore Orioles, they've still been within striking distance of the second wild card playoff spot. So if you were to measure a season's success in terms of the playoffs, this is by far the most successful Blue Jays season since 1993 when they last won the World Series.

Even you were to measure it in other regards, it's still the most fun I've had being a fan that I can remember. Both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have had incredibly successful campaigns and have proved that they are arguably the best 3-4 power combination in the league when healthy. The starting rotation, previously the team's main weakness, has been surprisingly consistent and effective. Two of the club's marquee prospects, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, were both called up mid-season and have been nothing short of spectacular and just the most fun to watch.



Look at that shit! He catches it a few inches off the ground!

Even just this past week the Blue Jays overcame a huge obstacle by sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays at home. They hadn't won a road series in Tampa Bay since 2007, which is especially saddening because both teams play in the same division and as a result play significantly more games against each other than other opponents. That losing streak was bad that I didn't even have to look up any of the specifics just now! They're burned into my brain!

Despite all of this, it can still be difficult to be a Blue Jays fan in Toronto^. Toronto is a hockey town, always has been and always will be and as a result, the Blue Jays have to play second fiddle to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Growing up in Toronto made it really difficult for me to be a Leafs fan, because most of the ones in the city are absolutely insufferable and the worst type of sports fan. They all turned me off caring about the team forever and I don't think I'll ever really be able to care about them.

All of that is inconsequential to the Blue Jays, but the Leafs do affect them in a variety of ways. \

A big one is that Toronto is major market but is forced to operate like a small one. It is the fourth biggest city in North America, making it the third largest market in Major League Baseball, behind New York and Los Angeles and just ahead of Chicago. Those other three cities all have two baseball teams. Their market can support 6 successful teams!* And yet Toronto still struggles to support one.

Earlier this year I was running school tours for CAFKA and a child started talking to me about baseball. I was excited, as the Jays were well in first place in their division and were easily the hottest team in baseball at the time. I asked if he had watched the game the night before and his response was "No, I stopped paying attention once they lost their winning streak." This was in reference to a 10 game winning streak the Jays went on during May. But there is 162 games in a baseball season! Do they have to go on a 130 game winning streak to end the season then? It's long! This kid has it hammered into his mind that he can only pay attention to the Jays when they are winning because of hockey and that kills me. It's not just that he isn't fan, because let's face it, baseball isn't for everyone, but it's that he, and tons of kids like him, are never going to be fans. And that's all because of the sports environment they're raised in.

Another aspect of the Jays having to compete with the Leafs is the way that fans behave at games. It's going to be hard to not sound pretentious and self-righteous here, but I really don't care. The majority of people who come to watch the Blue Jays at the 'Dome are fucking clowns. They're all hockey fans who pretend to care about the Jays because it's the summer and there's no other sports on. Nobody pays attention to what is going on on the field because they're used to the non-stop nature of hockey and they can't be bother to pay attention to something slower paced and more nuanced. Everyone gets way too drunk and does the wave and it creates an absolutely terrible atmosphere at the park. The rest of the league thinks that Toronto fans are a joke and it's really disheartening to go the park to watch something you care deeply about and have the experience be ruined by a bunch of fucking morons.

Protips:

DON'T DO THE WAVE. PAY ATTENTION TO THE PLAYERS PLAYING BASEBALL. THAT'S WHAT YOU CAME TO SEE.

DON'T RUN ONTO THE FIELD. YOU ARE DISRUPTING THE GAME WHICH YOU APPARENTLY CAME TO SEE. YOU ARE NOT FUNNY. RELEVANT.

DON'T BOO WHEN THE OTHER TEAM THROWS OVER TO FIRST BASE. THAT IS NOT BAD. WHO GAVE YOU THAT IDEA?

JUST WATCH THE GAME. CLAP AND CHEER FOR THE TEAM WHEN THEY DO THINGS THAT WILL HELP THEM WIN.

Y'know I've read books like The Summer Game by Roger Angell and the way he describes how intimate the atmosphere of the ballpark was and how tuned into the ebb and flow of the game the fans were before they were force-fed everything by a giant flashing TV. I feel like the old idea of going to take in a baseball game on an afternoon is really starting to die. Hell, it's been dead in Toronto for as long as I can remember.

Anyways, the season is now drawing to a close with a still slight chance at the playoffs. Even if they aren't in the hunt over the last two weeks, they will still be playing teams who are and will serve an important role in how the American League plays out.

*And hell, I barely post anymore so you could probably just go back a page or two and find one of those.

^Or Kitchener/Guelph in my case. But fuck that shit, I'll always be a Toronto boy.

*Well, the Cubs, White Sox and Mets suck, BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hit The Streets

The art gallery I work at, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds.

CHECK IT OUT HERE PLEASE!


It's hard to compete with other institutions who receive a lot more funding than us. We try to run great programs and we try to allow as much access as we can to our permanent collection, which is pretty dynamite. Help us out if you can. I hate to beg, but we need it.

Lok Bild

As part of my job at KW|AG this summer, I've been researching a ton of stuff about Kitchener architecture and the history behind specific sites and the town itself. This is really right up my alley, as one of my favourite parts about living in Toronto was* living in a city that I had a lot of history. I love walking through old neighborhoods in the central core and seeing old houses, recognizing their distinctive features and thinking about how many things happened in those areas and how many lives were lived. Not just major events that everyone has heard of, but just thinking about much stuff has happened to people in the city over time. There's actually very few things I enjoy more than being able to stroll through the sidestreets of Toronto with music on. I'm lucky because Toronto is pretty rich with history and I try to take advantage and learn the history of my favourite parts of the city as much as I can.

Can you tell my mom was a history teacher?

This is one of the things I love most about my (sentimental) second hometown, Guelph. The downtown of the city is very old and has very distinctive Victorian architecture. They also have a giant, remarkable Neo-Gothic cathedral that towers over the town. The city has legislature in place that doesn't allow for the alteration of the Victorian buildings and also prevents any building being built to stand higher than the cathedral. THAT IS HOW YOU PRESERVE A CITY. It looks amazing and you really feel the history of the city while you walk through it. At least I do.

So because of all that, me liking the history of my area and whathaveyou, researching the history of Kitchener buildings has been a cool learning experience. I'm still feeling out my place in this town, so learning interesting things that nobody seems to acknowledge about it has helped me with that. Before living here, I spent pretty significant amounts of time in Guelph and Toronto and grew really comfortable in Guelph. I've lived in Kitchener-Waterloo for about a year and a half and still haven't gotten comfortable here, but being able to walk by a building on the street and then thinking about all of this history I know about it makes me feel a little more comfortable.

However, one thing I have also learned through this research is that the city of Kitchener treats its buildings like dogshit. The most obvious example of this is the destruction of the second iteration of City Hall. It was a giant Neo-Renaissance building that existed on one of the city's most prominent blocks and is certainly what most people would think of when they think of a "city centre". In 1973 that building was voted to be torn down by city council so that a mall could be built in its place. It wasn't that the city was planning to build a new building in another location or anything, they just seemingly randomly decided to tear down the building. Market Square, the building that replaced City Hall, is currently a glorified food court that has about a half dozen fast food places while the bottom has only several failing businesses and many vacant store spaces. As soon as I read about that decision, I had to scratch my head. I'm sure that there is a lot more to it, but none of that information is available. But why would you tear down this for this? Everybody that I've mentioned this too is equally as confused and pissed about it as I am.

Another example is the Former TD Bank Headquarters, which happens to be across the street from Market Square. It's a picture perfect example of mid-century Modern architectural styles, especially in regards to how banks were designed. The solid looking walls! The scalloped roof! Fuck, is that ever a solid, nice looking building! On top of that, it was designed by Bruce Etherington, who was TD's in-house architect during the middle of the 20th century. After that, he taught architecture at the University of Hawai'i for almost 40 years and was a huge part of them establishing an architecture school. ADDITIONALLY, while on a trip to the Philippines, he saw the awful state of villages destroyed by weather and poverty and then invented the "Lok Bild" system, which is a brick system that is incredibly easy to put together and requires minimal training, is cheap and is also very strong and withstand the intense tropical storms of the region. ON TOP OF THAT, he didn't even patent his system so that everyone in developing countries steal it and not have to pay him. WHAT AN INTERESTING AND GREAT PERSON!

The tricky thing about bank buildings is that the technology and demands inside of them is constantly changing and the buildings have to keep up with that. You know what that TD Bank is now? A fucking bar and grill restaurant chain. That's what.

The way that the "face" of a city changes over time is pretty interesting and a neat evolution, but for some reason Kitchener is hell-bent on just destroying the whole city and starting it over every 50 years^. I think that that is fucking stupid.

*It pains me to say was, but I've been living in Kitchener a year and a half. I will always be a Toronto boy and my parents still live there. No matter where I go, Toronto will always be home.

^They also tore down and tried to re-invent the city in 1916 because of anti-German sentiment during the First World War. Kitchener was originally called Berlin. They are currently in the process of "re-inventing" downtown Kitchener by commissioning tons of huge buildings. While their hearts are in the right place and the downtown is desperately in need of renovations, it seems like it's more of what I've just described.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Main Branch

There was a little Japanese boy walking in front of me when I left the library today. It was early evening and the sun had just set. He quickened his pace as soon as my footsteps opened the automatic door behind him. I feel bad for scaring him, but I also remember that age, when 25 year-olds were so intimidating. Because of that guilt, I crossed the street so as not to force him to look over his shoulder at me and worry him. He can't be older than 10 and he's all by himself, which I find offsetting. Though I grew up in the city and was fairly independent, my parents never let me walk through an area this busy by myself. Is he neglected, or just well-adjusted? I honestly can't tell.

Seeing him walk down Queen Street instantly reminds me of walking east on Kingston in my own youth and how fondly I look back on my childhood. On one hand, I miss being that young and carefree dearly, but on the other I have still maintained some of that outlook today, I think.

I look both ways at Duke Street and begin to cross, having seen that there is no traffic. The little boy looks at me anxiously. I can see that he understands he will be able to cross safely and wants to show me that he is cool enough to jay-walk, but I can also see his mother's voice in the back of his head reminding him "Wait until the light changes to walk!" The look kind of breaks my heart because I can still remember the time of being young and wanting to impress the older kids.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Jody Husky Sandals

Because I write so rarely in this blog anymore, whenever I do I feel like I have to write some huge entry that I put a ton of thought into and spend a lot of time on. This is some type of penance, where I have to do a whole lot of work on something to make up for the fact that I neglect it so much. This can be counterproductive though, because I end up putting off writing just because I don't feel like spending 2 hours on something*.

Anyways, what I was getting at is that there used to be a ton of posts on here where I would just throw up a bunch of stuff because that's what I was doing or listening to at that moment. Like seriously, if you go back and read all of that, there's so many posts about nothing. YOU SEEN THIS SHIT? I think I kind of need to do that still sometimes, because it keeps me in the habit of putting up stuff and staying involved.

Aight:

My friend Jay started a new podcast. I fuxxxx with it. I recommend it if you enjoy rap music and hangin' with your homies:


A hip-hop album I have been waiting for for a long time leaked. It is very good.


This June I'm working with the Contemporary Art Forum,  Kitchener and Area (abbreviated and referred to as CAFKA). They put up a ton of public artworks in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. It's SIQ.

CAFKA

YO, BEAT NOIR STILL HAS OUR ALBUM UP FOR FREE DOWNLOAD. LOOK INTO THAT YOU JABRONI.

We played the worst show ever in Hamilton last week. It was truly awful!

Lastly, here's 90's skate footy of a dude in Timberlands. Hell yeah.


*Spending two hours on something productive and creative is not a bad thing. I should suck it up.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lying Awake Intent On Tuning In On You

You know what I really hate? "Ironic" pop song covers by punk/metal/hardcore/whatever bands. Hell, I am going to expand that to include "ironic" covers of any kind.

Whenever a band covers song for any reason other than "I like this song and would like to play it myself because I like it so much" that performer places themselves above the original performer, even if they're doing it subconsciously. I think that is outrageously pretentious and also incredibly disrespectful. Even if it is just the most simple, dumb pop song ever released, it still involved a very long and arduous process in its production. Making music and then releasing it is REALLY HARD and REALLY STRESSFUL. Demeaning another person's effort in that process seems like a real shitty thing to do, in my opinion.

On that note, that also implies that your own music taste is so superior to other peoples that you'll just be condescending about it. If you do that, FUCK YOU.

Like any capable writer I should give examples to illustrate my point.

One of the worst offenders in the "ironic" pop cover category is Fearless Records and their "Punk Goes..." series of cover compilations. The first iteration was a bit of a mixed bag because it seems like some of the covers were completely genuine and featured bands cover metal bands who you could tell influenced them in some way, such as Bigwig's Slayer cover and the RX Bandits Megadeth cover. On the other hand, there were completely awful contributions by Less Than Jake and New Found Glory (See! I'm not biased, I'm being critical about bands I like too!), so who knows. "...Goes Acoustic" which was acoustic versions of songs, so again not that bad.

After these though, everything went to shit. "...Goes Pop", "...Goes 80's" and the worst offender of all "...Goes Crunk" followed and were filled with the type of covers that I started this post putting down.

For example:



At the time, Katy Perry was figured by most to be on the fast track to becoming a one-hit wonder because of "I Kissed A Girl", so I'm sure Attack Attack! was looking to capitalize on her moment of popularity to benefit themselves. Jokes on you shitheads, she followed that with an amazing single and then put out one of the best pop albums ever, while all you're known for is this and being the soup du jour on Warped Tour one year.

These types of covers are also really popular with local bands because they can be a really easy way to gain cheap popularity for a bit, which is something else that really bugs about these. People should like you because of the art you make, not because they recognize a popular song at your shows.

Now, this is not all to suggest that there is something wrong with covering pop songs, just in the fashion that most bands approach it. In fact, I downright love me some pop covers. When the band Joyce Manor (who are very good, this is one of my favourite songs) announced that they would include a cover of The Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star" on their second album, most people rolled their eyes because it seemed exactly like the kind of music bullshit that I have been describing so far. However, Barry Johnson was quick to point out that he's always wanted to cover the song and was a genuine fan of it. What a novel idea! Being a genuine fan? Who even does that anymore?! The first time I listened to Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired I didn't even notice the song was a cover the first time it came on. A funny thing happens when you actually like the song you are playing: Quality increases!



Now compare that to:



Another great example is the power-pop band First Base's cover of Abba's "Mamma Mia"



First Base covered this song because it is a GOOD POP SONG AND THEY LIKE IT. NOTHING IS WRONG WITH THAT.

I know that irony can be funny, by hell is it ever a slippery slope.

Also, a few years ago, Blogger totally revamped its platform. I've said it a few times, but to reiterate, I am completely committed to this site as a writing platform over Tumblr or other options because it is much more of a word processor and less of a "here's something to read for 1 singular minute before you scroll down and then forget it". One of the features they changed was that when you were embedding a video, for example from Youtube, instead of just throwing the whole code into the raw text of your post, you click a button that says "HTML" and put it there. I like this because it reminds me of my days on MySpace when I had to learn rudimentary coding to spruce up my amazing page. Because of that experience I have a kind of nostalgia for HTML. I thought of this wild-ass tangent because of how many videos I just had to put into this post.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014



"When we look out the cottage window at say, a sunset smouldering over the sparkling waves, exactly what are we seeing? Is it nature redolent with raw primordial power? Or are we seeing a scene so subtly colonized by our experience of landscape painting, that we can't tell the difference any more? Is it really a glorious sunset? Or did we learn the meaning of 'glorious' from a painting by some member of the Group of Seven."

God, Please Save These Troubled States

As I get older, I find that it is a lot harder to keep up with music than it used to be. Whereas I used to be on top of everything that came out and listen intently and instantly be able to form an opinion on it, I just don't have the energy or time to do that anymore. It could be that as a person, when you get older you just start to settle into the things you like or it could be that I don't have those commutes on the bus to school anymore, where I used to listen to music constantly and accordingly needed an always refreshing supply. Then again, I'm only 24, so making those types of statements seems pretty silly.

Another thing is that I constantly forget about releases and always find myself listening to something and thinking "Holy fuck! How did I forget how good this album is!" This is certainly a result of that period of finding and listening to everything I could find, as only so many things can stick you, y'know. It's weird, I almost feel guilty because I've been ignoring it.

There's a select few artists who this happens to more often than not: Jawbreaker, The Makeshift Heroes, Bayside, The Impossibles, among others.

Recently somebody this happened with is Crime In Stereo. I was fucking all about this band for a few years, but they gradually fell out of rotation for no reason that I can think of. Their last show in Toronto before they broke up (before reforming last year) was one of my favourite shows I've ever been to. They had a great career and each album was sufficiently different from the preceding one that it was distinct, but also still sounded like it was natural for the band.

This song is probably their best one. Everything about it is fucking perfect. Huge sing-a-long chorus, bridge/guitar solo, giant ending breakdown. Fuckin' great.


Go Out With A Bang, Or Until They All Know Your Name

Something that will surprise absolutely no one at all is that I am super into the new Antartigo Vespucci EP. It's the brainchild of Jeff Rosenstock (My fav since I heard "Nowhere"*, also Bomb The Music Industry!) and Chris Farren (Fake Problems, who I haven't listened to nearly enough lately and put out a shitload of great music), so it's pretty much right up my alley. In terms of the actual music, it's in the same vein as the poppier numbers from the end of BtMI!, like "Vocal Coach" or "Can't Complain". Chris Farren does essentially all of the singing, save for one brief appearance by Jeff on lead. Both of them wrote the stuff, though it does seem to lean more towards Jeff's style. Hey, Benny Horowitz from the Gaslight Anthem played drums too!

The whole thing is pretty ace, is perfect for summer and will certainly be one of my favourite things released this year. Poppy bangers like "I'm Giving Up On U2" are what will draw you in (dat chorus doe), but the ending line of "All I wanna do is fade out with you" on "Bang!" is what sealed the deal for me.

This is my favourite song off of it, I think:



As per usual YOU DOWNLOAD THE WHOLE FO' PHREE. DO IT.

*Hey Matt, since I know you're one of two people actually read this, look for John Ryan in that video. I assure you that he is there. My Long Island ska knowledge runs deep.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sell Both Our Tickets And Sit On The Lawn

Initially, I planned to include this entry as part of that "Under The Radar" series I started writing and then promptly forgot about*, but then it dawned on me that it would be a little silly to have an entry on one of the most successful rock bands in Canadian history be titled "Under The Radar".

But then again, Sloan have a weird type of reception and are sort simultaneously liked and ignored for similar reasons. At least by my perception, that is. On one hand, they are indie rock darlings that encompassed everything about Canadian alternative rock in the 90's, while on the other they are Can-Rock giants, whose singles have dominated radio for about 20 years.

 On that first note, they came from our then-indie Mecca Halifax (it could be argued they created it), they had the angst and they had the sound. Their first two records, Smeared and Twice Removed, are absolute classics and should really be considered the stuff put out by their concurrent American coutnerparts like Sonic Youth and Archers of Loaf. This is all referenced in the video below (Sidenote: Huge Eric's Trip sweater and a Jaguar! Remember the 90's?! This is who all the emo kids want to be right now, but they don't even realize it and that makes me laugh.)



Did I watch that entire video before posting it? Yes, I did.

The weird thing about Sloan is what happens to them after their first two albums. Though there is a definite progression in sound between Smeared  and Twice Removed, they are both firmly within the realm of indie-rock. Those two albums were also very successful and released on the band's own label, Murderrecords. After some courting by a major, Sloan put out One Chord To Another, again on their own label, but there was a far greater progression in sound this time around. The hooks were still there, but there was a strong move towards more mature pop-rock that had it's foot much more in the mainstream than the band's previous output.

This is where the other side of the band's identity comes in. Though One Chord To Another is considered by many to be a classic, it does mark the beginning of the band's radio success and identity as a "singles band". Whereas before people praised Sloan's ability to put out classic after classic^, the band now started to be defined by songs like "Money City Maniacs", "If It Feels Good, Do It" and "The Rest Of My Life". That's not to say that those songs are bad, I love them, it's just that they became that band whose song you heard on The Edge or MuchMusic, not the band whose album you listened to in your room because you just got broken up with.

And hell, I guess that's just a result of those damn Can-Con laws, ain't it?

The problem with this entry is that I thought of it last week when I was in the middle of a giant, week-long Sloan binge, and have kind of forgotten what I wanted to get at. Duality or identity or some shit, I guess?* What I want to say is that you should probably go back and visit all the Sloan albums you forgot about, like Navy Blues, Never Hear the End of It or The Double-Cross, because they are filled with interesting forays into pop music on the deep cuts and gigantic pop hooks on the bangers.

For example, "HFXNSHC" is off of Never Hear the End of It and is the band trying to make a silly punk, but it doesn't work because THEY ARE WAY TOO GOOD AT HARMONIZING.



"Who Taught You To Live Like That" is off of the same album and is a picture-perfect example of Canadian roots-rock. SERIOUSLY, HOW IS THIS BAND SO GOOD AT HARMONIZING. CHRIST.




And hell, even after all these years, Sloan can still whip out an absolute gem of an indie-rock song, like this one (the song I'm referring to starts at 2:56, but all three are pretty fucking amazing together):


Really, I just wanted to write out a post as an excuse to include that last song. Hey Rebecca, I think about you when I listen to it. I AM THE KING OF THE SAPS.

*Sometimes when I have an idea for a blog, but not the time to write it, I start an entry by just writing out the title and maybe a short point-form description of my ideas and then leaving it. These typically turn into nothing, though on occasion I have actually gone back and written it out. I swear that when I came up with the idea of that "Under The Radar" thing, I immediately wrote down like six or seven bands I would want to do one on. Nope.

Also, I often come up with ideas that I think would work really well as a series, but also necessitate me writing and making entries in this blog often enough to have a series. That don't happen no mo'.

^Seriously though, their first three albums were Smeared, Twice Removed and One Chord To Another. That is a FUCKED amount of amazing output to start your career.

*Look at me go, I write like I don't care and am blasé, but I'm the one putting the effort into writing it! This is what you call "voice" or, more accurately, "being a poseur".