Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Greyscale Memories

While writing last week, I was possessed to listen to Beat Noir's only album, Ecotone for the first time in forever.

Hey, since I mentioned it, I guess here you go:


Like I said, it had been a minute since I had actually listened to the album in full, which I guess means I hadn't experienced the songs from a listener's perspective in a little while. The main way I interact with the songs is through playing them at shows, or more recently since we haven't played a show in two months, at practice. And we barely play them at practice because we're getting ready to record!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not as familiar with the songs as I once was. But I also think that an album is a work of art itself. Bands put a lot of effort into the track order, artwork, overarching themes, etc., so it's been forever since I had experienced Ecotone as a whole. I still know the songs we play live, "Nicky Driscoll", "Ancienne Gloire", "The Wars", inside out, but that's not the same for other songs. There was even songs I forgot were on the album! Somehow I forgot that "Sheltered Town / Bitter Sea" which, frankly, I think is our best song, is on the album. The Six Feet Under clip in between "Nicky Driscoll" and "Deathwish" completely slipped my mind, which is funny, considering that Ecotone is basically Six Feet Under: The Album! and we watched the entire show while writing it.

It's also much different listening to the 10 songs now, about two years later (I think?!) then it was hearing them all the time while making the album. There's a lot of things going through your mind while creating an album that seem like a good idea at the time. Making an album is a really hard and long process, so you end up having a million fucking ideas about what you want to do with your art to make it stand out, to make it good, to make each part of it distinctive and different. "Hey, we all like Sloan and Thrush a lot, so let's make this song an alt-punk song." "Hey, we like C.C.R., so let's put 70's rock riffs in this song." Some of those work out and some of them don't, but it's kind of impossible to tell what will at the time.

I think it's been long enough now that I can see the warts on the album, which I assume were evident to listeners when it came out. "Collages" is a bad song. I should never, EVER, write a bassline as dumb as the one I wrote for the verse of "Nom de Guerre". "Song for Movement" might be a better song if we just took out the intro.

But for all the miscues I saw while re-visiting the record, I was also very refreshed by the fact that I'm still very proud of all of the songs. I also re-listened to Permanently and was really ashamed of how bad it is. That did not happen with Ecotone. As soon as the first track (not the intro) was about half-way through I said to myself, "You know what? This is a good song." and found myself repeating that a lot through the listen. Even the songs I don't necessarily like so much have good parts. I think the lyrics and ending of "Collages" are still good. Really, all of the lyrics are good, in my opinion and Duff doesn't get his due. The ending of "Nom de Guerre" is really fun. Maybe we're just good at writing the outros of songs? Who knows.

I've always wanted to be in a band and I guess I should count myself lucky that I've been in one that's enjoyable to be in with friends that I really like for the past 3 1/2 years. For a long time while I was in high school and university, my dream/goal/whatever was to be in a band and have a full-length record so that I could point to it or show it to people and say "This is my album." And I can do that and be proud of it.

Something funny to me is thinking about how each member of Beat Noir would react to this situation. I know that Duff would hate every song, maybe admitting that one or two had miniscule redeeming qualities. Mark would probably love every one. Colin is the wild card, though if I had to guess, his opinion would probably be close to mine.

This is also interesting to me because Beat Noir is going to Niagara on the Lake to record our second album soon. Is that breaking news?! IS THIS AN IMU EXCLUSIVE? Anyways we are and we are a much different band now. We don't practice very much. We haven't played a show in forever. We aren't nearly as active as we were when making Ecotone. In Mark's words, we sort or morphed into a "studio-only" band by accident. That sounds silly, so please know that I was joking. Though that was also due to us playing a bunch of dumb, bad shows this summer.

I don't even know it there's a central point that I'm trying to get to in this post besides "Beat Noir is different now." Maybe also that I still like our record? These seem like dumb and trite points, but I do know that I felt something while listening to the record again. It's a lot like going back and looking at an old part of your facebook timeline. These songs represent a very specific time in my life. I have great memories of writing the album in Colin's basement, Echo Base, and the Breithaup jam hall. I still remember when the album went got "released" (I was at a dinner with several art history profs and smile at my phone. Such a 21st century digital boy I am.).

I think in general though, this is a weird side of the excitement I'm feeling about recording our new songs in two weeks.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Illegitimate Blues

I haven't written a for-real blog post since November 2nd and that is because I have been extremely busy writing my thesis, which has sucked up all my writing power Shang Tsung style.

I guess that previous sentence implies that I'm only able to write about one thing at a time, which sucks but is sort of true. I find the more I write about a topic or write in one style, the easier it comes to me. If I've been active on IMU, then long form posts come easier than if I have force my way through my first post in month. If I've putting in shifts at the library all week, it's way easier to sit down and hammer out some good chunks of a chapter. I, like most people, wish I could just sit down and be prolific, but that just ain't true.

I like using word ain't. I guess that's weird for a kid from Scarborough? Who's not from Alabama?

I was thinking about a post on the way to my parents' house in Scarborough the other day and one of the main ideas kicking around in my head was that this blog is a distraction. This is 100% true. I use the internet to distract myself ALL THE TIME and this is definitely part of that. I'm a real big procrastinator, so if I have an assignment to do and the need isn't absolutely pressing, then I fire up the blogger tab and start tapping away here.

What I was thinking about though, is that you can definitely classify this blog as a "good distraction". Using the above example, I think there's something to be said for one of my impulses being to write on here because writing is an expression of your creativity and it involves you using your brain and thinking about new ideas and then trying to express those ideas. It sure beats the hell out of browsing pro wrestling news, which I am also guilty of, in terms of your mind actually doing something. So even if some of the posts look a lot like this, it's better than mindlessly scrolling through facebook or instagram or whatever (fangraphs, in my case). In this way, I use that as ammo for my procrastination. It's like "Well, I'm not writing that, but I am writing this". In the moment, it makes perfect sense to me.

I suppose this ties into a lot of thoughts I've had on technology over the last few years. This all started when I read the book Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, which I recommend to people my age and younger more than pretty much any book. I kind of hate that smart phones are just a major part of everyone's life now. I completely understand why they are and I understand that many people are kind of forced to use them because everyone else does, but fuck if it sucks man. Every time I'm going somewhere and look around, every person is face down looking at their phone. I don't want to come off as too high up on my already high horse, but you know what I do on commutes since I only have a flip phone? I read. I listen to music. I write.

That is all consuming or making art in somewhere. It's doing something that is adding to my life in a positive way.

I just think that scrolling through various social media as the way you pass your time is fucking awful. It's just useless information that is interesting enough to interest you for the time you are reading it and then you forget it the second you aren't.

Now, I know this isn't a new phenomenon. Before smartphones kids my age would spend an entire night on MSN (though that was at least talking to someone) and I'm sure that there were tons of pre-2000 kids who spend an entire day in front of a TV watching shows just because they were on and not because they liked them at all. Maybe people are going to fill their mind with useless information no matter what and it's just a matter of where it comes from? That's dark.

Also, it's unfair that I act and write like I'm not a slave to technology as well. I spend a lot of time on my computer and am on it right now, publishing this post to what is consider a "social media" site, I guess. Blogs are social media right?

But like I said, if writing stuff here is my distraction, then I am cool with that.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Once upon a time, I tried to explain why I thought Harvey Danger were an underrated band and very culturally significant.

This article does a much better job of that than I did.

Monday, November 2, 2015


There seems to be an inevitable lifecycle as a punk where you go from curious to nervous to invested to jaded to bitter. We all try to avoid this as much as possible, but it is apparently failsafe. If you've been interested music and ever involved in a particular scene, there is always a certain time period or group of bands that evoke the most nostalgia. You start to think "Back then, it was different. It mattered", but in reality everybody thinks that about something. The punk kids older than you thought that about what came before you and the kids younger than you think about right now. Life, of which punk is of course a part, is always changing

It's really easy to look back on a certain time period as the "Golden Age" of a scene simply because you were there to experience it. Maybe just being there is what really matters.

For me, that time was about 2005-2012 or so (or maybe now? I guess?) in Ontario. I went to a lot of shows, though more importantly I went to a lot of shows that featured local bands from Ontario. I have vivid memories of the first times I saw Junior Battles, !Attention!, and The Decay and when I think about that now, it's more or less like there's a rose-coloured lens over the whole thing. I couldn't believe how good the music and bands around me were. I made unforgettable memories in weird and awesome places. It mattered more than anything to me.

With that, I give you this collection of music made by my peers that affected me in a major way. I have strong memories tied to all of these releases and the people who made them. I tried to limit it to one release per band for the sake of it not being overwhelming and tried to go for 7"s or EPs when I could. It can sometimes be a little daunting to jump into a giant collection of music, or at least thats the way I find it, so I tried my best to curb that as much as possible. I hope you like these songs, because they were a big deal for me.

The Essential Ontario 2008-2012.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Smoke 'Em if You Got 'Em, 'Cause We're Never Gonna Learn

Following the federal election on Monday, I got into a pretty heavy Dillinger Four kick, specifically their 2002 album Situationist Comedy, which is my personal favourite.

The reason being, Dillinger Four is one of the more leftist bands I could think of off the top of my head at the time. They also are a particular type of band for me. I don't listen to them often enough and each time I put them on, especially this album, I'm immediately pissed off at myself for not remembering how much I love the band. They write really great pop-punk, but have so much going on beneath the surface that it really elevates the band from good to great if you're paying close enough attention.

Granted, I came up with the idea for this post about 4 days ago and only got around to writing it now, so I'm sure some of the ideas will be diminished.

Dillinger Four have long been the darlings of your average and Fest frequenter and a lot of that is due to the band's image as four burly guys who like to play fast, sing loud and drink lots. Especially the last part. This image mainly comes from the band's live show, which is a whole lot of the last three things. However, I think that this is way too sweeping of a generalization and really undermines the sharpness of the thought that is put into the band's lyrics. 

The song "Gainesville", which is about the Fest, is what the band is most well-known for among your average punk fan and while that is a really good song, I think it's unfair. Fest has gotten to be very, very popular and most goers adopt the song as a sort of anthem for the festival, for obvious reasons, but Dillnger Four released the album in 2008, meaning they must have wrote the song even earlier than that. To me, that means that the song represents the band during the very earlier stages of the festival, like the 4th or 5th edition, rather than the larger punk circus it's become now. I'm not trying to deny that the festival is still fun, but I'm definitely sure that it's not the same as it used to be at all. The song is about feeling good and drinking in the sun in Florida when you're used to cold weather where you come from. Again, while a good song, to me that doesn't even come close to summing up Dillinger Four and it seems lame that that is what most punk fans have distilled their existence into.

For me, Situationist Comedy, is what defines the band. The opening song, "NOBLE STABBINGS!!", was my introduction to the band as it was including on a Fat Wreck Chords compilation I had bought, which is what caused me to pick up this album over their earlier releases. At first the band seems like a pretty rough ride because of how fast they play (very fast!) and their guitar tones and vocal style. 

Bruh, the bass tone. Holy fuck.

And this is correct, I think this is a very conscious throwback to early 80's hardcore by the band. Given that the members are older (I would assume they're close to or over 40), this comes off as the member experiencing that music first hand and playing their punk music that way because that's how they learned it. This is rather than an appropriation of an earlier generation's style of playing, which is more and more the case with punk and especially hardcore these days.

But underneath this fast roughness is a band who is absolutely phenomenal at writing melodies and especially vocal harmonies. They are so good at that you don't even really notice it until you realize that you are humming along to a song that's like over 200 bpm. Every single chorus is huge. There's these great, unconventional but catchy guitar riffs everywhere you turn. The pop sensibility is astounding.

Case in point, one of my favourite cuts from the album, "folk song.":

I guess that I also really like this release because it in particular really fits with my personal politics. The album was released at a time when being a "political" punk band meant yelling about about George W. Bush and the military and not much else. Dillinger Four instead took a more subtle approach, describing their experiences living in a post-9/11 United States and how it affected them. This works out really well, because rather than being introduced to their ideas, you are introduced to their experiences and you can then relate to them. The result is basically you thinking "I can understand why you think that." instead of just "You think that."

There are a ton of great lines about being working class, which is why the album was on my mind during and following the election. It's a great soundtrack to being critical, but also thinking about why you should be critical.

I'm not really one for giving political statements to people, but I would like to leave with the following, that I think is helpful for people to keep in mind in today's world:

Try to be aware of the greater system that you are a part of and think of why you are a part of it. Be aware of your relationship with money and commodities and do not let them govern what and how you do things. Always think "Why?" and do not let people force you to do things you do not want to do.

And crank this fucking album while you do that, I guess.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

October 14th, 2015

On October 8th, I resolved that I had to buy a ticket to see the Blue Jays play a playoff game at home. My mom has told me that I had been to a playoff game, but given that the last four times the Jays before 2015 were 1989, 91, 92 and 93, and I was 0, 2, 3, and 4 in those years, my memories of those playoff drives are hazy recollections of Toronto freaking out about Joe's home run at best. They were about to play their first that afternoon and I figured that buying a ticket for the second game would be a good bet, in case the series ended before it came back to Toronto for the 5th game. I paid a 70% mark-up on a 500-level ticket and watched the Jays lose in 14 innings on October 9th, to fall within one game of a series loss. That was an absolute heart-breaker of a game to be at, but the experience of being at a playoff game in a hot crowd was just wonderful.

I never lost faith in the idea that the Jays would come back and win the series, despite being down 0-2 and going to Texas, but I had resigned to the fact that the October 9th game would be my only playoff experience for 2015 and I was happy with that.

The Jays then won both games in Texas, like I knew they would.

I came home on Tuesday morning to find a note from my mom saying that her and my mom had gotten seats for the 5th game of the series and that my dad had to work and couldn't go. In terms of surprises, this was pretty far up there. Not only was I going to a playoff game and not only was it in good seats, but I was going to see this series be decided.

By now, most of the world is passably familiar with how the game went. Really what you need is this:

I have been to a lot of Blue Jays games in my life. Probably more than 95% of people. This was the best and craziest and most emotional, but most importantly, most emotional from a fan standpoint that I've ever been to. You could not ask for more from a baseball game. This game was up and down and up and that final up was just about the highest one you could get. Being a Jays fan, I experienced pretty much everything thing that you able to feel while watching a baseball game during it.

I've said this many times, but my family is a Blue Jays family. My mom found it was a great and affordable way to do things with my brother while she was a single parent. Hearing her describe the first game they went to, in 1983 is heart-warming. While they were at The Ex, the Jays were giving away free tickets to that afternoon's game, the Jays of course still playing at Exhibition Stadium at that time. Upon entering the gate, they found that the team was giving away free hats as well. My mom was supporting herself and my brother on just her salary as a new high school teacher, so to have something so affordable to do with him was absolutely great. From there, she started to buy more tickets, before eventually getting season's tickets in left field behind her favourite player, George Bell.

Before Wednesday's game, to our surprise, George Bell threw out the ceremonial first pitch. My mom immediately jumped up, in her George Bell jersey, and started screaming "GEEE-OOOORR-GGYYYYY!" and it put a smile on my face a mile wide. The two fans in front of us turned around to give us a thumbs up and we struck up a conversation with them. It turned out that they were from Long Island and had grown up with the game's starter Marcus Stroman. They showed a bunch of pictures of them with him and they cheered with us all game, giving high fives and hugs whenever the Jays got a hit or made a play. Given that Stro is my favourite Jay, it was a great and positive section of fans to be in.

As much as baseball is fun to watch, for me it also has a much deeper emotional resonance. It is a physical manifestation of my family's strength and bond. We've joked that main reason my dad, a life-long fan of the sport well before there was an MLB team in Toronto (He traveled to see a World Series game in New York in the 70's! He can remember his teacher putting playoff games on the radio during the 50's!), married my mom was the season's tickets. They are truly in love and are a picture of a successful and loving marriage and while it would be stupid to suggest that they got married because they were both ballfans, it would also be stupid to suggest that the Jays and baseball don't play at least some type of role in our family's relationship.

I always wondered why other kids went on vacations while my family didn't when I was younger. It seemed like every kid in my class got to go somewhere, while I stayed in Toronto. IT was only later that I realized that we got our Jays tickets every year instead. Maybe I was jealous when I was younger, but I'm certainly not now. Going to games for my whole life with my tried and true ballfan parents is how I learned to truly appreciate the game and all it's subtleties; realize the importance of a lead-off walk, appreciate the pitcher throwing a 0-2 pitch in the dirt, runners taking an extra base. There's a lot that goes on in the game's quieter moments and when you become aware of this ebb and flow and the minor mindgames that accompany these miniature battles, it's when you become aware of the true beauty of baseball. It's through these that you realize what makes a great player great.

I hate to player the superiority card and talk about how I'm a good or a true baseball and Jays fan and most people at the game aren't, but following the shitshow at yesterday's game I kind of have to. There were two very drunk and very bro fans behind at the game who were indicative of many of the fans there who clearly have no idea how to act at a baseball game. This has long been a condition that you have to deal with as a Jays fan, because Toronto is not a "baseball" city. Or maybe no city is a "baseball" city and most fans have no idea how to act at sporting events, but I know that when I went to a Mets game in New York, that they sure knew how to act. But Toronto does seem especially bad sometimes. The two bros behind us incessantly yelled "HAAAAMM-ELLLLLS!" all game and yelled that every Rangers batter was "A JOKE". I can understand being a vocal fan and cheering loudly, but if you are here to only heckle the other team and not cheer for your own, then fuck off and give your ticket to someone who actually cares. If you are calling Adrian Beltre, ye of 413 career home runs and 74.9 career WAR, objectively one of the best 3rd basemen of all-time and one of the finest ballplayers of the last 20 years, a joke, then all you are doing is calling attention to how much of a joke you are and how little you know about the game.

Of course the biggest embarrassment in the game was when the fans started to throw beer cans onto the field following an odd play. For the record, the umps absolutely made the correct call and double checked with the office in New York to make sure. They did absolutely nothing wrong and went out of their way to make sure that they didn't. The imagined slights that fanbase keeps yelling about are starting to get tiresome. NEVER THROW SOMETHING ONTO THE FIELD. If you do, you deserve to get kicked out and I hope you do. There are few things that say "I don't know shit about baseballs and am knee-jerk reaction garbage" than what happened last night. As soon as the downpour from the 500's started, I said "Embarrassing." and our new friends from New York agreed with me.

Your own players were telling you to stop. Fuck all of you.

But this does not detract from what followed that inning. Elvis Andrus forgetting how to field, a bases-loaded RBI by Josh and then, of course, Joseeeee, Jose, Jose, Jose.

I commonly tell a story, mostly about how you should never give up hope on your team, about how my Dad ceded going to game 6 of the 1993 World Series in favour of a possible game 7. This meant that my mom got to see Joe Carter's walk-off home run to win the World Series in person. In terms of Jays moments, you can't get better than that. That is her personal "Jays Moment". 

It has been different for me, because I have watched mostly out-of-contention teams throughout my life and each of my favourite moments have been singular player accomplishments. I was at the Halladay-Burnett game, which was a big one, Jose's 2010/11 seasons were also up there, watching Carlos Delgado mash for 12 years, everything that was Roy Halladay, I couldn't say that I had my own moment in Jays history until yesterday.

In my last post I mentioned that the beauty of the playoffs is that you can't expect what comes next and you never know what type of things can go right. Of course this also goes the other way, as for 15 minutes or so many people that the Jays could possibly lose the series on a momentary defensive lapse by Mr. Defense, Russ Martin. To have gone 22 years without playoffs, go down 0-2 and then battle back at the away park to tie the series, only to lose it on a mind-boggling, albeit correctly-called, play would have been the ultimate injustice. To go all-in trading for the biggest names in baseball only to lose in the first round. In my mind, I knew it wouldn't end like that, it couldn't. My mom and I immediately stood up to sing "OK Blue Jays" as loud as we could.

Jose Bautista has gotten a little bit of a rotten deal in Toronto. For some reason, until yesterday, the city has been very hesitant to embrace him as the home run-on-base-arm strength machine that he is. First it was because he was too good, too fast. Then because he yelled at the umpires too much. Maybe all the white Torontonians thought he was too Hispanic, I wouldn't be surprised. Everyone refused to accept that he was "the guy" despite the fact that he could not more obviously be "the guy". He is a generational talent who excels in many aspects of the game and seems to be a strong presence among his teammates. He is the best right fielder of this decade. He magically turned around his career out of nowhere with the Blu Jays, and still Toronto was hesitant to embrace him as our baseball overlord.

It had to be Jose. All along, it had to be Jose. After the high tensions of the seventh inning and the fans going crazy and the high pressure situation he got himself in, it had to be Jose.

This will forever be my Jays moment. I was there and nothing can ever erase that. It really does feel that the last 26 years of my existence as a Jays fan, all the games I went to, crying when my Dad and I left early during a blowout as a child, all the games watched at home bemoaning the lack of getting the runner at third home, re-watching plays from '92 and '93, it was all just a build up to the release of this specific moment. Jose's home run was perfect in every way and even though I was in a building filled with 54,000 people and we were packed into tight seats in section 125, it felt like my mom and I had our own little space there in seats 6 and 7. I could not imagine a more perfect way to celebrate the home run than I did, hugging my mom beside me.

Go Jays.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I Was on Top of the World, Livin' High

Last night the Blue Jays clinched the American League East for the first time since 1993. Considering I was 4 years old when they did that, and eventually won the World Series, I have only vague memories of this period of my life. I was born into a Blue Jays family that have been season ticket holders since 1984, so being fan wasn't even a choice, it was just something that I grew up with and has always been a part of me. I eagerly awaited going to Saturday day games with my mom and sister so that we could all sing the "Woo-Hoo!" refrain of Shawn Green's walk-up music, "Song 2" by Blur. I would look through binoculars at Pat Hentgen to get a better look from our 500 level seats. When my sister started diving competitively, my dad and I went to almost all of our family's night games. I saw Chris Woodward hit three home runs in a game. I remember watching Carlos hit 4 on TV and thinking his batflip on the final one was just the coolest. I always liked going to baseball games and playing baseball, but baseball, and specifically the Toronto Blue Jays, becoming one of my favourite things in the world, something I devoted a significant portion of my time to and something that I had a very large amount of emotion invested in crept up on me.

This was because it wasn't an interest that I shared with the kids at school. They only cared about the Leafs. Baseball players were all fat. They were all on steroids. A kid in my class getting Leaf tickets was treated was treated like VE day, whereas if I came in and said "I went to the Blue Jays game last night." nobody would care in the slightest. It really didn't bother me all that much, it's just the way it was. Because I didn't have anyone to talk about baseball with at school, it internalized all of my feelings about baseball and the Jays, I just learned that nobody seemed to care about it and for that reason, didn't really talk about it.

And this is because the Jays were bad for a long time. Not "no World Series in 106 years" Chicago Cubs bad. Close to "no finishes above 3rd place for 30 years" Cleveland Indians bad. But just bad enough that they wouldn't even sniff the playoffs for the next 22 years. It was frustrating. They were good enough to show promise and make you wonder if maybe, just maybe, this would be the year if this would work out or that would work out. But it never did, not even in the slightest. There was rebuild upon rebuild and they never worked out.

But all of a sudden 22 years of frustrated watching consistently sub-par teams doesn't seem like it matters at all, because the Blue Jays just won the American League East. No Wild Card games for the Jays. Whenever there is a narrative of failure (my specialty), the hero always has to conquer that which has kept him down in order to be victorious. Mario must slay Bowser before getting to Peach. Luke must beat Vader. Harry must kill Voldemort.

The Toronto Blue Jays had to slay the New York Yankees. The Yankees, the winningest team in history, has long been the schoolyard bully to the Blue Jays' meek nerd due to the fact that they both played in the AL East. 19 games every against each other every year and every year the Yankees took them to task. If the Blue Jays wanted to get into the playoffs to have a chance at the World Series, they would have to get through the Yankees first. And they did. They won 13 games and the Yankees won 6.

And now the Blue Jays are on their way to the playoffs.

Whenever an incredible run, like the one that the Blue Jays have been on since the end of July, happens, it requires pretty much everything to go right. When the Jays failed in the past, one or more things went wrong. Often it was good hitting, but bad starting pitching. One year the Jays had 5 great looking young starters, but an awful bullpen and no hitting. This year everything has gone right. They have an amazing offense, a very good starting rotation, and a very good bullpen. But I don't just mean that the greater parts of the team need to perform well, I mean that even on a smaller level, everybody has to do what they are supposed to.

This always creates a lot of interesting stories about unlikely candidates. A great example would be Dave Roberts, who had an up-and-down career as a low-power base stealer for about 10 years, but will live FOREVER in Boston as the guy who stole 2nd base off of Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the 9th while facing elimination. He was a pinch runner and that was all he did in that game and he wasn't on the World Series roster for Boston. But none of that matters in the slightest. What matters in the World Series victory that Boston fans commonly trace back to this steal.

There have been tonnes of feel-good stories on the Blue Jays this year. I already talked about Kevin Pillar. Another example would be Chris Colabello, who toiled in independent baseball seemingly forever before making his MLB debut as a 29 year-old (that's late) two years ago. He put together two short and garbage seasons before the Jays grabbed him for nothing this year. He came up to the Jays while the roster was suffering due to injuries and played the worst fucking left field I've ever seen. But he did hit. He didn't walk and he struck out a lot, but somehow he kept defying the BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) gods and seemingly went 2-4 with a double or home run every night and had an 18-game hitting streak. I kept expecting him to crash and his batting average to plummet, but it just never did! He kept fucking hitting! Chris fucking Colabello became an anchor in the goddamn lineup somehow! He looked like his body was disproportional at the plate and his swing made no sense and he kept not really walking that much, but he just kept hitting.

I don't expect Colabello to reproduce his 2015 season ever again. I would not be surprised in the slightest if he just bounces around the major leagues for the rest of his career, not really ever nailing down a roster spot. But I will always remember him fondly and always praise his name to the highest for how he lead the Blue Jays to a goddamn AL East title this season.


Sidenotte: Reyes celebrating in that video :')/:'(

Even smaller things just keep going the Blue Jays way. When stud/all-star/is he even human? shortstop Troy Tulowitzki got hurt, the team traded for light-hitting infielder Darwin Barney to shore up the roster for the end of the season. Barney is a defense-first player, but has proven to be more than adequate in the role requested of him. He's made a ton of great plays in the field, as was expected, but I think what I'm going to remember most is this play from last night. For reference, when the Blue Jays clinched the division, it was in the first game of a double-header, so though they wanted t celebrate, they had to wait through an entire other game. Ultimately that home hum meant nothing, as the Jays st 8-1, but after a Darwin Barney home run that followed a 15-2 win to clinch, I found myself thinking "What else could go right this season?"

I suppose that the beauty of playoff baseball, especially when you've waited this long and are so unfamiliar with it, is just that: You don't know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Had Power, I Was Respected

Today Rebecca texted me saying that she was watching Frozen for the first time at work and that she was really enjoying it and was surprised by the emotional gravity that sneaks into the movie. This entire post is about how somebody actually didn't see Frozen in the last two years.

But actually, the film does seem to resonate with this generations children, specifically young girls. That's because it touches on the matter of sisterhood, which is relatively rare in film, but also because both Elsa and Anna are positive female role models. Rather than conforming to what society wants from her, Elsa does her own thing and that works out for her. You could read this a variety of ways, for example as a metaphor for being queer, but really it applies to almost anything. That type of character arc doesn't happen to female characters nearly as much as it should in popular media.

The main way that Frozen communicates the emotions tied to the film's events is through song, a Disney staple. In case you lead a life similar to Patrick Star, you know that "Let It Go" was the "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", or "A Whole New World" or "Under the Sea", etc. of the film. My favourite, personally, was "Love Is an Open Door", which Rebecca echoed. Look at us, too cool to pick the one that everyone likes.

What this did was remind me of one of my all-time favourite movies, Toy Story, and not only how good that movie is, but also how good its soundtrack is. Hearing the three original songs from the Toy Story soundtrack by Randy Newman just destroys me. The first time I saw the movie I was six and since then it has come to mean a lot of different things to me and represented different feelings. I could probably write a dissertation on how the movie has stayed with me through the years, but I can barely finish the one I'm already working on, so I'll stick to just the music.

When I was young I loved the songs, but that was mainly because they were the songs in a movie I enjoyed. I didn't think about the content in the songs or what the words meant, I just knew them as the sounds that complimented parts of a movie I really liked. But the songs do have a very strong emotional core to them and when paired with the visual elements of the movie, they come across as emotionally devastating. I subconsciously knew the emotions tied to the songs because of the movie, but I couldn't articulate those thoughts yet because I was a six year-old boy.

I always liked the movie, but I sort of re-discovered its appeal in high school. When I was younger I liked it because I played with toys all the time and the thought of my toys being sentient seemed like the coolest thing in the world. In high school I understood the greater themes of the movie and seeing Andy's attachment to his toys triggered very strong nostalgia in me towards the bond that I used to have with my toys. I think I even got out my Lego and played with it again.

I went through another re-discovery of the movie during university when my friends and I went through a phase of watching Disney movies at our house. I constantly said how Toy Story was one of my favourite movies and probably annoyed the hell out of everyone around me. This time, the main thing that stuck out to me was how well-crafted the songs were. Now when I listened to "You've Got a Friend in Me" I thought about my friendship with Brian and how I felt what the lyrics in the song said. This wasn't a "Oh yeah, it's that song from my childhood." it was "Holy fuck, this song."

My dad is a huge Randy Newman fan and when I was talking about the movie one day, he got out all of his old Randy Newman records. He's a really cool guy (you get to choose who I'm referring to) and his records are all very satirical and cynical, which isn't exactly what you would expect from him if you, like me, were introduced to him via the Toy Story soundtrack.

For example, from "Money (Is What I Love)"

"I don't love the mountains
And I don't love the sea
And I don't love Jesus
He never done a thing for me
I ain't pretty like my sister
Or smart like my dad
Or good like my mama
It's money that I love"

I think he's trying to say something!

I won't lie and say that I'm all that familiar with Newman's music, or that I'm even familiar enough to approach it critically, but he means something to me through my relationship with my dad and I think it's pretty lame that everybody my age only knows him through that fucking stupid Family Guy sketch.

Anyways, back to the songs he made for the Toy Story soundtrack. "You've Got a Friend in Me" was the biggest song, and deservedly so, as it's the catchiest one and has a very family-friendly sentiment, but the one I really want to talk about is "Strange Things", which plays in the movie when Buzz Lightyear is starting to occupy more of Andy's time and Woody is becoming jealous.

There's a panning shot of Woody's astonished expression while the "Straaaaange things are happenin' ta me" plays and that kills me every time.

I think that this is the best song on the soundtrack. It seems like whenever I get back into a "Toy Story is the best" frame of mind, I'm at a point of change or transition in my life and I suppose that this songs really resonates for that reason. But I think that the case is really that your life is always in transition and always changing, so this song really just applies all the time.

I high school it was about me packing and moving to university, in university it was about me learning how to grow up and move on from a break-up, during the summer at Ontario Place it was about me entering the last year of my undergrad and not being sure about what I would do and now, as I'm sitting in a bachelor kitchen, it's about me looking the end of my thesis in the face.

This means that the song can apply to me at more or less any point in my life and it's probably that way for a lot of other people to. In reality, strange things are always happening to you, so this song has nailed down transcendental truth of human existence, which is the mark of a truly great song.

I'm not really sure how to end this, as typing it out has brought up some pretty strong emotions in me, so I guess just next time you feel weird about shit put on this jammer.

And then after that put on "You've Got a Friend in Me" and think about your best friend.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Rolling Like a Cel-eh-bri-tay!

Early last Friday evening I found out that I won tickets to Riot Fest in Toronto. The lineup featured some things that I really wanted to see and some that I just didn't care at all about. Since I got the tickets for free I figured it would be worth to head down for the Sunday of the festival, since I was already committed to watching the Blue Jays play the Red Sox at 4 PM on Saturday (A disappointing game featuring a rare blow-up from Roberto Osuna resulting in a 7-6 loss).

I've become pretty disenfranchised with large music festivals. Before things like Riot Fest and Osheaga and Wayhome and Veld were things, artists used to tour a lot more. A band who were signed would tour Canada in the summer, bringing maybe a smaller labelmate along for the ride to go with a few local acts to fill out the bill. This kind of set up was great because it let me see my favourite bands in a more intimate atmosphere (I mean, even the Kool Haus was more intimate than Downsview Park), but also because it gave smaller bands crucial exposure and allowed them to grow. Nowadays many bands just run a circuit of festivals, Riot Fest ->The Fest->Groezrock->Soundwave->etc, and playing large tours has pretty much become a thing of the past. Though I'm sure that most bands, especially the older ones, love this because it lets them have more down time, for me it sucks and has taken away one of my favourite parts of the summer.

With the influx of large music festivals, a weird (at least to me) culture of people who go to these festivals has popped up. It seems like there are people who buy a ticket to most, if not all, big festivals and make being a "festival-goer" a part of their identity. I've noticed people on facebook who seem to have a new picture of themselves in front of a large banner for each new music fest. Google "Music Festival Guide" if you don't believe me. For every girl in a flower crown or bro in a tank top, there are 5 BuzzFeed lists telling what to wear/eat/drink/do wherever they are.

And whatever, people are going to do what they want/like and I have no control over that, so I shouldn't let it get to me, but something I've noticed is that they people who go to these things don't seem to give much of a shit about who they're seeing. They don't even care about the artists there and that really rubs me the wrong way. They are just there to be at the festival, not to see anybody, if that makes any sense.

Case in point, on the Sunday at Riot Fest was headlined by 6/9 (RIP ODB) of Wu Tang Clan. There were a ton of die-hard Wu fans to see the set. For example, my friend Erik, the drummer of my first two bands, is a huge Wu fan, so seeing the set was of paramount importance to him. But for every one of those, there were two people there who didn't really know anything about Wu Tang Clan. Sure they have the "W" shirt and know that "Wu Tang Clan ain't nothin' ta fuck with" or that "Cash Rules Everything Around Me", but I bet they couldn't name a single album. I bet they couldn't name a single member. They love the brand of Wu Tang Clan and they like the idea of being a person who likes Wu Tang Clan, but they don't really do. Logically, a Wu Tang fan probably would have also been interested in seeing Atmosphere's set earlier in the day, yet his crowd was 1/5 the size. With how much people seemingly have to advertise their interests and themselves over social media now, it seems like having a visual signifier is now more important than the signified, and that's just fucked to me.

Instead of watching Wu Tang, I decided to watch Weezer, who were playing all of Blue (Do I italicize "Blue Album"? I mean, it's really self-titled and wasn't called "Blue" until "Green" came out. Hard to say.). Their crowd was also huge. I expected this and tried to not worry so much about how shitty they crowd was around me, though it was monumentally shitty. I will limit myself to one complaint: A large number of extremely drunk bros doing a "Rosanne singing the national anthem at Wrigley"-level rendition of the falsetto "Hoo-ooh"s during the pre-chorus in "Buddy Holly". Fuck off guys, you actually completely ruined it for me. 

Some assholes aside, everyone seemed to actually be pretty into the set. But the dumb part came in the second half. The singles that Blue is known for, "Buddy Holly", "Undone - The Sweater Song" and "Say It Ain't So", all come early, so as soon as "Say It Ain't So" ended, THOUSANDS of people left the crowd. Guys, the three best songs on the album are left! A first I was annoyed, but I was coming down from a few red wines and uh..., which, combined with the really nice sunset made me really relaxed. The fact that all of the bros and drunks were leaving during the nerdiest song on an already nerdy album made me feel kind of good too. Rivers singing "I've got Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler too, waiting there for me" during an exodus of assholes made me sort of realize that I was who this song was meant for and that made me feel really good.

That didn't last long though, as some dick started yelling "'Beverley Hills'! Play 'Beverley Hills'!" behind me while Weezer played "Susanne". THEY PLAYED FUCKING "SUSANNE"!

After this I walked over to catch my friends Like Pacific and upon realizing that their set had been moved up and I had unknowingly missed it, watched the last two songs of Wu Tang. The crowd was maybe 1/5 of what it had been earlier which I can only imagine was a result of all the poseurs leaving once they realized that they don't even know the songs they thought they did. The being said, everyone who was still there was super into it and there was a giant crowd of people worshipping the stage with the "Wu" gesture.

I hate being right sometimes.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I'm So Sorry I'm So Paranoid

When I was writing my post about The Ataris "Boys of Summer" cover (jeeze, mention it again why don't you!), I mentioned three music videos and how I would sort of like to write a post on just those three.


The three music videos are by three of the biggest pop-punk bands and made during pop-punk's biggest boom. "All the Small Things" by blink-182, "Makes No Difference" by Sum 41 and "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World. At this time, a song succeeded more or less solely on the performance of its video, which was not the case at all 20 years prior and not really the case now, 15 years later. If you wanted to be a successful pop musician, you had to have a video that performed well on TRL or Muchondemand or whatever. Your video had to reflect the tone of the song, reflect the image of your band/artist, and also reflect popular ideas in society at the time. Now that stations playing exclusively music videos have gone by the wayside, that logic doesn't apply anymore. It's a system of music production that was short-lived in the grand scheme of things, but while it was the system it was the ONLY SYSTEM.

All three of these songs had a huge impact on me and also occupy a different place within the world of early 2000's pop-punk. It was a time in my life when I hadn't yet carved out a niche for myself musically, so these three songs really represent me starting to like my "own" music that wasn't stuff that my brother listened to or what my parents played in the car. The stuff that I listened to in 5th/6th grade then greatly informed what I got into after that, so in many ways these three songs were the catalyst in me becoming who I am right now. This is why I like punk. This why punk is "my thing".

Let's get to it.

I don't think I need to mention that blink-182 is one of my all-time favourite bands. This sounds like a pretty cliché thing to say, given how popular the whole "defend pop-punk" thing is right now, but it's absolutely true. They were one of the first bands I listened to and have stayed in pretty constant rotation since then. This was the first blink song that I heard. I know that "What's My Age Again?" was the first single, but this is the first one that I remember. Given that I was an 11 year-old boy when this single was released, the video appealed to me for obvious reasons.

Like I said in the introduction, I hadn't yet discovered the music that I liked yet. My parents dissuaded me in watched MuchMusic, which meant that I was a little sheltered musically, though I was only 11, so I wouldn't say I was sheltered. But around this age I started to notice that girls looked nice and I wanted them to think that I looked nice. I also noticed that they were into music, so maybe I should be into music too. Other big singles from this time were "What a Girl Wants" by Christina Aguilera and "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child, neither of which appealed to me at all at the time. In hindsight, "Say My Name" is a pretty big jam.

But when I saw three guys spoofing all the other videos around at the time? That I could get behind. I'm not really sure why, but back then I knew that all of the boy bands and teen starlets were lame, but I didn't know why. They didn't play guitars? There was too much sex appeal in the videos for my pre-pubescent brain to deal with? I won't know for sure, but I know for sure that that was how I felt.

Before getting into the video, I want to talk about the song. I think this jam is pretty high on my list of "Best blink-182 Jams" and boy is that ever a long list. This song is good because the instrumentation is simple and the melodies are huge. That's it!

Think about the verse and chorus vocal melodies.

See! Both of them can be called up on demand and are instantly burned into your mind because they are so catchy. That is how you write a successful pop song.

Now think about the lyrics. How fucking stupid are they? So fucking stupid! I would say that never before has a song so expertly crafted musically ('cause brother, let me tell you, writing a song this catchy ain't easy) had such dumb lyrics, but that would be a gross exaggeration and is definitely not the case. If you are a blink aficionado such as myself, then you would agree that this song has Tom DeLonge all over it. Tom (using the more formal "DeLonge" would seem way too weird) always tended to be the weaker songwriter in blink and while Mark Hoppus injected a fair amount juvenile stuff in his songs, it always seemed like it was coy as opposed to the "wow-he-might-actually-be-that-stupid-hahaha-oh-well-look-at-me-laughing-at-it-anyways" nature of Tom's songs. Think about the singles that Tom wrote/sings. This song, "First Date", "Dick Lips", "Anthem pt.II", "I Miss You", "Always". All of those songs have dumb lyrics. They're all good songs (save for "I Miss You", which is hot garbage), but they all have super dumb lyrics.

The video is clearly a Tom creation too. The earlier singles "Dammit", "Josie", and "What's My Age" are all super goofy videos, but are more self-effacing in their humour, with the protagonist Mark poking fun at himself, as opposed to the straight-up "ripping on you" nature of "All the Small Things". When you watch the video, it mostly focuses on Tom, though Mark's belly gyrations will get burned into your mind as soon as you see them, and Travis clearly does not give a fuck about doing anything at all. This video is also weird because blink is really the same thing as all of the artists they're making fun of. Sure they play guitars and "write their own songs", but they're given the same budgets and the same sheen on their production as the others. They might be marketed as edgier or different but when it comes down to it, they're really just New Coke.

But man, the whole "fuck these pop stars" attitude really spoke to me as an 11 year-old and became a rallying battle cry for Paul, Damien, Pat and I in 5th grade.

Let's now move on to the next video, "Makes No Difference" by Sum 41.

blink was pretty easy to come across because they had their feet firmly planted in the mainstream. They were all over the radio and all over MuchMusic, so they were naturally the first band I discovered. The second one was Sum 41. Man, did I ever fucking love Sum 41. Sum 41 was my whole fucking world. They were my first "favourite band".

A big part of that was because they were Canadian. Thanks to Can-Con laws, they received even more airplay in Canada than blink, which meant that I was exposed to them just that much more. When I was a child I also had a much larger sense of national pride as well, so the band's passports definitely played a huge role in my love for them. I knew that Canadians played better hockey, I knew that Canadians were smarter and I knew that we made better pop-punk bands (in hindsight, the last point is debatable).

The first CD I went out and bought with my own money was All Killer, No Filler, but I remember this video before then. My brother told me it was cool because DMX rides an ATV in it.

The thing I find interesting about this video is that it introduces a trope that is hugely popular in both pop-punk videos from this time and the teen movies they were the soundtrack for: The house party. The teen comedy movie could not exist without the house party. American Pie begins and ends with one. So does American Pie II. SuperbadCan't Hardly Wait? This isn't unique to the early aughts, Dazed and Confused is centered on teens trying to find a spot for their party after the original locale falls through. You cannot have a teen-centric comedy without a house party and if it's going on while someone's parents are out of town, all the better.

It wasn't uncommon at all for pop-punk videos to have them. Hell, the next video I'm going to talk about is at a house party too. The video for "Make No Difference" could easily stand in as the last scene of any of the movies I mentioned in the last paragraph and no one would be the wiser. This is not a mistake, by having "Makes No Difference" take place at a wild house party, the record executives at Island Records were saying "You do this on your own time. You see this in the movies. Buy this because it is the accompaniment to this." and that worked amazingly. Though we weren't drinking yet, when my friends and I had parties, we would play Sum 41 and blink-182. I was on the lower end of their target demographic, but I just assumed that being a teenager basically entailed doing the things in Sum 41 videos. And I wasn't entirely wrong.

The characters that the band are are interesting to me too because that's who the record label was selling to me. As much as I liked the band's music, I would be lying if I said that the goofy cool-guy personas the band presented wasn't the main reason I was drawn to them. In "Makes No Difference" the band are pranksters, but they're also the coolest guys at the party. This evidenced by the video cutting from them being wild and crazy pranksters climbing around the house with watermelons, but then cutting right back to them playing music and the entire watching them with interest. That is who I wanted to be. I wanted to be funny and dumb enough to do something crazy, but cool enough to hopefully makeout with a girl afterwards. Hell, that's still who I want to be.

Paul, Damien and I, having decided to form a band in elementary school, used to think out loud about which member of Sum 41 each of us would correspond to in our band. Those label execs sure did their job.

Last one, "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World:

This one is interesting because it is a great foil to "Makes No Difference". Both videos take place is the exact same place, but have a way different tone and message to them.

I mentioned in the last section that Sum 41 were my first "favourite band" (quickly replaced by NoFX), but "The Middle" was my first favourite song. The first time I heard the song was in the trailer for the, again, teen comedy The New Guy. Upon further inspection, the song doesn't appear in the film or on its official soundtrack, but I swear, cross my heart and hope to die, that it was in this trailer. When I heard the chorus of the song, it was the first time I had ever heard a song and thought "Yes. That is what I like." I knew that I liked that song and I knew I wanted to listen to more songs that sounded like it and that is exactly what I did. The song occupies a really special place in my life and still whenever I hear the intro I get wistful and get a little ping in my chest. Have I told you about how this song has the best guitar solo of all-time? I have probably told you about how this song has the best guitar solo of all-time.

Jimmy Eat World is a much different band than blink and Sum 41 though. Both of those bands were still fairly new. Dude Ranch was a big breakthrough for blink, but Enema of the State was certainly their first "big album" and Half Hour of Power, where "Makes No Difference" comes from, was Sum 41's first album (Or EP? I think if it's 10 songs or longer and more than 30 minutes it doesn't count as an EP guys). Jimmy Eat World had a significant amount of underground support and cred before hitting it huge with "The Middle". Clarity, the album that preceded Bleed American, was a landmark in 90's emo music and, while we're being subjective here, is a fucking masterpiece. Bleed American was the band's fourth album. While blink and Sum 41 were both trying to be pop-punk bands, Jimmy Eat World were instead a band who just happened to write a pop-punk song.

It's obvious when watching the video that the band isn't trying to be jokey like blink or Sum. They're still at a house party, but the band aren't the focus at all. Instead, we get a teenaged male protagonist who wanders around the party feeling out of place. The band is just in the background playing and don't interact with the partygoers at all. Since it's Jimmy Eat World, frontman Jim Adkins is covered in sweat. I read this as Jimmy Eat World trying to show that they are a "serious band". This is what we do. We play music. I'm sure that the label/director tried to get them to play in their underwear or something, but the band refused. That would be cool. Or hell, maybe the label is just trying to market them as a serious band. I will never know.

In "All the Small Things", nudity is used to comedic effect, with Tom and Mark trying to show as much skin as possible to get as many laughs as possible. Here, the nudity seems normal to me. Even though a party where everyone stripped down to their underwear would probably be fun, it would be pretty awkward. In the video for "The Middle" I find that the nudity draws me into the world of the video. It sets up the premise of the video and the short journey that our protagonist is about to go. Surprise, surprise, a Jimmy Eat World video is most tasteful than a blink-182 video.*

One can easily imagine how this video would have gone if it was made by blink. Jimmy Eat World separates themselves by including a love story in this one. In "Makes No Difference", Sum 41 are out of control pranksters who cause a ton of chaos at the party and when the protagonists of that video interacts with them, he drives a car through the front of his house. God that was a stupid sentence to type out. The protagonist of "The Middle" is instead more of a loner, which we know because he feels awkward about taking off his clothes at this party. Once, Jimmy Eat World is done playing their song, he discovers a girl going through the same predicament as him and they leave the party holding hands, feeling comfortable in themselves. It's almost like Jimmy Eat World was saying "Hey, we know we made a pop-punk song, but we're still emo. We Promise!" Also, the band is clothed, so that must mean they sympathize with him, right? I mean, "The Middle" has to have been a request for a pop-punk song by their label right? A sort of "Sure, we'll put out your emo record, but you gotta do us this solid" type of deal?

Because the more I think and write about this video, the more that I think it was supposed to be a "Makes No Difference" type of video for the label to profit off of, but Jimmy Eat World being a "serious band" threw a wrench in that plan.

Anyways, this is also one of my favourite music videos. Everything in it just seems to complement everything else so well. Granted, a bunch of that is tied up in my huge feelings of nostalgia for it, but still it just rules.

*Fun fact: Tom Delonge loves Jimmy Eat World and got them to play at his wedding.