Thursday, July 2, 2015

*Audio Title* The bassline to "White Riot" by The Clash

This is going to be a simple one. I've had a lot of time to myself this summer and as a result, a lot of time to consume. Here are my favourite things I've been consuming:

Pet Symmetry- Pet Hounds
Catchy emoish pop-punk with tons of hooks and riffs.



Jeff Rosenstock- We Cool?
Obligatory.


Mac McCaughan- Non-Believers
Great songs, great guitar, great vibe.


The Cars- Heartbeat City
The Cars at their poppiest, corniest and 80'sest. Perfect for weather above 22 degrees.


We Are the Best!
A coming of age story about three girls in Sweden. If you play in a band (specifically a punk band) and don't think "Playing is the best thing in the entire world." after watching this, I do not know what is wrong with you. It hit me square in the chest and is one of my favourite things I've seen in a while.


About Alex
One of my mom's favourite movies is The Big Chill. When I watched it I thought it was good, but definitely felt a generational disconnect that I felt prevented me from truly loving it. This movie is basically The Big Chill, so much so that you pretty much have to mention that, but it presents problems and relationships that are at once specific to Generation Y and also timeless. Absolutely loved it.


The Jinx
Want to see a deranged serial killer accidentally confess and get caught during the filming of a documentary. You're in luck.


Rick and Morty- Season 1
Sometime I'm late to this shit, okay? This is so wonderfully funny and smart and dark and crass.


Mordecai Richler- Barney's Version
The last year and a half or so I've been working through a giant pile of classic Can-Lit. This has been one of my favourites. It's simultaneously tragic and hilarious while also managing to pin down a corner of Canadian culture perfectly.



It Seems so Simple, You and Me

Something that I seem to talk about when I remember to write in this blog is how I change over time and how I seem to stay the same in the midst of all that change, if that makes any sense.

You ever notice that "change" and "stay the same" are used in tandem WAY TOO OFTEN? I apologize for my use of them above.

But it's true, for every day I spend discover a new artist or new type of music or new thing about myself, I probably spend two reveling in past interests that had slipped my mind until recently or an old forum I used to post. But even though I would like to convince myself that I am the same shy ska fan I was in 10th grade, the truth is I'm not and I am becoming a new person all the time. Of course I'm always going to retain some (most) of my interests but in reality I'm a lot like my skin in that small dead parts of it are falling off and being replaced by new parts constantly, but when I look at it, it's still the same old epidermis, for all intents and purposes.

What triggered these thoughts for me is the band Rehasher releasing a 7" this year called Clock Smasher. For a few years, Rehasher was one of the bands I listened to most, and not just because they're a Less Than Jake side project. They put out two albums that were in high rotation for me and I pretty much thought they were flawless. In fact, when High Speed Access to my Brain, their second full-length, came out I named it my favourite album of that year. If you would like to read a completely misinformed account of 2009's music, you can read that here (to be honest, I would just swap Rehasher and Shook Ones and remove NoFX). I'll still throw them on every once in a while and I'll still stand by my appreciation for those two albums, but I'm a little older and the tiniest possible amount wiser now and realize that they're just a catchy, fast, melodic punk band.

And hey, that's alright! I like all those things.

Anyways, like I said, they put out a 7" this year and in times past I probably would have said something along the lines of "WATCH OUT WORLD, REHASHER'S GOT SOME NEW FUCKIN' TUNES OUT!" into the faceless void that is Twitter.com, but now I meet it with indifference. Part of that is that the two songs are undeniably worse than the rest of the songs they've put out, but part of that is also that I'm now 26 years old and stressed about my thesis and as a result don't really give a shit about two skate punk songs by a band who only exist when Less Than Jake isn't touring or recording.

I would quote the most famous line from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but I think if I included that AND the opening line of this post I would be on the fast track to this:


Clock Smasher (God, that's a dumb title) kind of serves as a barometer for my personal change. It's something I can take a look at think "Okay, this is different now." and I like that. I'm clearly still the same dude, because my number one album will most likely be a pop-punk release, but at the same time a synthy pop album is right behind it.

Cool, I guess?

Time to go give the new Self Defense Family a few more spins because I am "deep" and "emotional" and I "think about things and themes and ideas".

Sunday, May 31, 2015

If That's What They Call Normal, Then I'd Rather be Insane

The thing that I am ripped on for most, by an extremely wide margin, is my love for ska music.

I've accepted that pretty much nobody that I meet in my every day has the same level of appreciation or understanding of what ska truly is. It bugs me, because I like to think that I have a lot of knowledge on the subject and the music has proved to be something hugely influential in my life. It made me a better musician. It instilled anti-racist and anti-sexist ideas in me at a pretty young age. It showed me what a class war is and what it means to be a part of it.

I don't want to act like I like I had some atypical introduction to ska music for a white kid and was listening to Jackie Mittoo as a 13 year-old. I discovered through the usual avenue of 90's punk bands and third wave ska. But when I started taking bass lessons in 9th grade, I found out that my teacher, a friend of dad's, had been in one of Toronto's first reggae bands in the 60's and had a level of ska and reggae cred that I could never even dream of reaching. So while I was bringing in Catch-22 and Big D records to learn from, he would also supplement each lesson by teaching the deepest reggae and first wave ska cuts that you can imagine.

This was huge because it expanded by understanding of the genre extremely rapidly. You have a much deeper appreciation for ska music when you understand the nearly 40 year history that preceded kids from California wearing Hawaiian shirts and fedoras.

Hell, I even played in a first wave band while I was in high school.

So something that angers me is when people poke fun at me about ska music with their basic understanding of it being kids in high school covering "Beer" and "The Impression That I Get". That is not what ska is. That is not what ska means to me.

On that note, I offer up this mini documentary narrated by Tim Armstrong. which I think does a good job of hitting the important parts of the second wave of ska and how it influenced later music (though I would cut out the Aquabats and Sublime parts):


You think I don't know that Reel Big Fish ruined this shit? I don't need to hear about it every time my musical preference comes up.

Friday, May 29, 2015

You're Too Loud!

It seems like every summer I get into a "corny" or "bad" pop-rock band from the 80's. Like in 2012 when I got heavy into The Outfield. I wish I could think of more recent examples, but rest assured that I really love a whole bunch of power-pop from the 80's and am often judged for it.

This summer, that band is Huey Lewis and the News.

I've had a copy of Fore! for(e) a while, but it was mainly just something that I would throw on while playing MLB The Show, because I don't like to cry while playing video games, which nulls all of my other records. I wasn't really into it, but I will admit that the vocal hooks are pretty huge.

Then the other day, The AV Club posted an article about "The Power of Love" 's place in Back to the Future. I really got what the article was saying and it made me think "Hey, that song is pretty catchy, is it good?" I followed that by looking up a video I had just remembered, coincidentally also from the AV Club, which was The Hold Steady (a band I really like) covering "The Power of Love" for the AV Undercover series.



The cover isn't anything spectacular, but I really like the way that they discuss Huey Lewis before it, specifically everyone wondering "Is he secretly cool?"

They give some interesting proof that he might be, which I will paraphrase and augment with my own points below:

1. Huey Lewis legitimately learned how to play harmonica while hitchhiking across the United States. This sounds like the type of thing that a 20-something douchebag would do now, but he did it in the early 60's and also...

2. He played harmonica with the Rolling Stones. I couldn't find anything about this anywhere, but The Hold Steady mention in the above video and I assume they have some inside industry knowledge that I am not privy to, playing only in an unsuccessful Canadian punk band.

3. Cooler than that, in my opinion, is that his first band, Clover, was the backing band for Elvis Costello on his debut album My Aim is True, which happens to be my favourite. Did you know that? I did not.

4. While Clover relocated to the United Kingdom in the late 70's, they become part of the "pub rock" scene, which was popular at the time. As a result of this, Huey Lewis played harmonica on Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous. This is becoming less of a gray area, because Elvis Costello and Thin Lizzy are both undeniably good and cool.

After reading about him and watching the above videos, everything about Huey Lewis and the News just seemed to click for me. I got a hold of their best-selling album Sports and a greatest hits collection and really found myself enjoying the songs. I guess something that I really appreciate about the band is that they came right at the beginning of image starting to dominate music, a time when a band full of mid-thirties quasi-dad-rockers playing pop-rock-funk-new wave could still be cool. Combine a blues pub rock band, a new wave band and the guitar/saxophone player from Sly and the Family Stone, and apparently you get the News. They just seem fun. As The Hold Steady say in the video, it seems like when Huey Lewis and the News get onstage, everybody is ready to party and have a good time

Huey, to me, seems like that friend of your parents who, rather than settling down and starting a family, kept playing in a band. He is under-dressed when your parents have parties, starts drinking earlier and is the only one who swears in front of you.

I guess it just happens to be that his band put out two of the biggest albums of the 80's.

I'm also a sucker for big bands. I fucking love that every Motown track has a huge band on it, which in turn makes the songs sound big. Or Bruce Springsteen, how much does the E-Street Band add over a traditional two guitars, bass and drums outfit? Come to think of it, Huey Lewis and the News is almost a corny 80's version of 70's Bruce, just with less good lyrics. I don't mean to say that his lyrics are bad, because they are actually better than you would think, but c'mon, it's The Boss.

What I was trying to get at in the last paragraph is that I appreciate that everyone in the News plays their instrument. I know that sounds dumb, but bear with me. The News was assembled by combining Clover and another San Francisco band Soundhole. They're almost like a collection of session musicians, but not quite. I guess that I've just grown accustomed to the punk ethos of starting a band no matter if you play an instrument or not, but the fact that everyone in The News is good at their instrument and plays one instrument in particular adds a lot to the music. The basslines are good (dude, I fucking love the bass playing in Huey Lewis and the News) are good because he's only concerned with writing bass, not with anything else in the band.

I hope that this video will maybe illustrate some of what I'm trying to say:


First of all, can everyone please note how good of a live singer Huey Lewis is? Also, how tight the band is.

And man, what a fucking good song.

That video, being from 1987, represents Huey Lewis and the News when they were at the height of their popularity as it probably comes the Fore! world tour. Look how big the set up and band is. Fucking 11 members. They also clearly know exactly how to market themselves. They make themselves seem like everyman, working, lifer musicians by having Huey come out in a plaid shirt, but they're anything but. They are huge pop stars touring on an album that went to number 1 in four countries and sold 5 million copies. That images works for them though and I fucking love it.

The inverse is that they actually are like that and titled their biggest album Sports because they love sports, which would be just tremendous.

Like The Hold Steady, I have a sneaking suspicion that Huey Lewis might actually be a cool guy and lifer musician, which I always appreciate. Look at this article, again from the AV Club, sorry for going overboard on links from them, where he speaks about the importance of live music versus recorded music at sporting events. Not only do wholeheartedly agree with what he's saying and get funny feelings in my chest at him describing the organic sounds of a baseball game, but "live bands are culturally valuable in that they connect a team to a local music community in a real way"? That's just a great statement.

He just seems to come off as really humble most of the time, which I suppose is something that is always attractive in pop starts.

I can't believe how much I have come to like Huey Lewis and the News in the lasts three days. Who would have thought?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

I Get Your Words Stuck In My Head

I am currently living on my own in Guelph. This is not the first time that I've lived on my own, but it's the first time that I've lived on my own in almost four years, so it's not that I'm completely new to it, but I do have to shake off the rust a little bit. Something else that I've had to become used to is the amount of anxiety that I experience while I'm living on my own. I can't go hang out upstairs to forget about what I'm supposed to be doing for a little bit. I have to remember to feed myself and take care of myself. These aren't life-altering problems, but they are things that haven't exactly been at the front of my mind for awhile.

I find it pretty easy to get wrapped up in useless stuff while I live on my own. I definitely go off into my own little world and focus on my own specific interests, rather than the sort of communal ones that you kind of adopt while living with the same people for a long period of time. I know that there is nothing wrong with this.

But a side effect of this is that since I'm on my own, I also start to second guess my interests. Why do I like the things I like? Should I like the things I like? Is what I like COOL?!?!?!

I know that these are thoughts that I lot of people have. I've been pretty good at sticking to my guns and liking what I like, rather than trying to force other shit that people think is cool, but self-doubt can be infectious.

I was listening to Wide Awake Bored by Treble Charger. I know that this is not a "cool" album. Hell, I know that this isn't even really a "good" album. But three summers ago, I kind of had a moment with it and as a result, I've got a sentimental spot for it. I'm also about to watch a wrestling pay-per-view. Yes, I am well aware how uncool professional wrestling is.

You know what? I really don't give a fuck. I'm going to blare Treble Charger and I'm going to watch wrestling and I'm going to enjoy the hell out of it.

It's hard to remember and even harder to put into practice, but liking what YOU like, instead of what other people expect you to like is fucking crucial. Even if you like lame stuff, what actually matters is whether you think it is lame or not. Fuck it dawg, life's a risk.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Not Like This

Today I took a GoTrain from Toronto to Guelph, as I had been visiting my girlfriend over the last three days and had also gotten the chance to see Iron Chic and Spraynard. Once I got off the train I started walking toward Planet Bean to get some coffee, since it was already 7:30 pm and I hadn't had one all day. My crippling caffeine addiction gives me headaches and makes me groggy when  I don't have it. This has been a poor endorsement for the effects of coffee.

Along the way, a couple who looked like they're in their mid-thirties passed me and one of them, a blonde woman, stopped me.

She said "Hi, I'm Sarah. You don't know me. I have a relationship with God and sometimes he tells me things. He is telling me that you feel lost. Do you feel that way?"

When she stopped me to introduce herself, I assumed that she was involved with Guelph's art community and knew of me through the university, whether that be through profs or events, or something I had organized with KW|AG. I also recently gotten emails from indeed.ca about jobs, since they fished my resume off of linkedin or something similar. Maybe she was stopping me to talk about where she works or art or something? Nope.

The "I have a relationship with God" bomb was pretty funny and I hope that I didn't smirk or give her too much of a look when she said it. I guess I did kind of look like shit, having just gotten off a train ride, having no coffee, greasy, not-washed-in-a-few-days hair and a ratty Jays hat, so she was obviously just assuming that my less than ideal hair situation meant I needed Yahweh in my life in a bad way.

"I do not feel lost whatsoever." I responded.

I think it was funny that she got me at that moment. I looked tired (re: like shit), but felt amazing. I just spent the most time with my girlfriend I had in awhile! Long distanceish relationships can be tough, have I said that before? I got to bands I really like! I had all-you-can-eat sushi today! I was My Neighbor Totoro for the first time on Tuesday! I straightened out my thesis in a big way on Monday! All things considered, everything was pretty on track.

She walked away after my response and to top it all off, I got a goddamn free coffee from Planet Bean for going there so much.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Don't Even Say It

I first found out about Superchunk when the band Hi-Fi Handgrenades (who had the rhythm section of the Suicide Machines!) included a cover of "Detroit Has a Skyline" on their album Carry On. I thought it was a great closing song and was pretty surprised to find out that it was a cover. I was even more surprised to find out I had eight albums-worth of an indie rock band who right up my alley to digest.

I pursued them with varying degrees of interest until Majesty Shredding came out in 2010, which really sold me on the band and served as the catalyst to me diving into the deep end of their discography. They're poppy as hell, they have tons of riffs and great lyrics, which is basically my ideal rock band. And to boot, their singer has a high, nasally voice, which I am always a sucker for.

Also, isn't this just the best thing?




I bring this up because Mac McCaughan, the frontman of Superchunk, put out his debut solo album earlier this week and I am all in on it. It's a lot less "rock" and more "pop" than Superchunk. There are tons of synths on every song and it really reminds me of the type of rock/pop/new wave crossover that happened a lot in the 80's. Like how Don Henley used them for "Boys of Summer" or how they're all over "Don't You (Forget About Me)" too. This ties right into my (almost problematic) nostalgia for 80's coming-of-age movies, as it seems like these songs could fit into any of those.

The Merge Records site does a way better job of describing all of this than I do. Also, you can listen to the record there!

I know that this is going to be a big time summer album for me this year. It just fits, y'know?

Monday, May 4, 2015

The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical

My curly hair has been on of my main identifiers for as long as I've been alive.

It's funny, because when I had curls I hated them. I thought they were a pain to deal with and I hated how long it would take for me to grow my hair long. Having really curly hair would cause my hair to tangle really easily, so it would dread really fast and I would also comb out dozens of knots every day, which didn't do wonders for my paranoia about going bald.

Maybe not "hated them", but I really did hate how difficult they would make dealing with styling my hair. I knew that I needed long hair, but the process of combing out knots and trying various ways to ensure less knots seemed like an endless struggle. I would bemoan having curls and would generally get the same response every time: You're so lucky to have curly hair. This was always from people with straight hair.

But this is just another example of people wanting what they can't have. People with straight hair want curls because it's more distinctive. People with curls want straight hair because it's easier to deal with. All of this adds up to the least significant argument in history, because it's just hair.

Since I cut off my long, quasi-crust hair last summer (I preferred thinking of it as "trash hair"), I started styling it with pomade and I guess that putting a ton of thick styling product into my hair every day for the better part of a year straightened out all of my curls, because I don't have them anymore.

It's funny because I do miss them. I don't really miss how they looked though, it's more this weird feeling of missing something that used to be a big part of you. Like I said, my curls were a pretty distinctive characteristic of mine, so having lost them, I lost something distinctive about me. I'm not about to start putting hot curlers into my hair every morning, so it is a little weird to look into the mirror every morning and see straight hair draping off of my scalp.

I guess what I'm saying is that things change and you have no control over them. I guess I'm also saying that you can find broad statements about existence like that in even inconsequential little things like a twenty-something's hair going straight. Lastly, I'm also saying that it feels dumb to type all of this shit about hair out, but I was driven to do it at some point and it's important to follow through on things like that, because you never know when one small idea will snowball into a huge great one.

Also, my curls sure did cover up my receding hairline a lot better. Goddamn.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

, Which Makes Them Poetic




Yesterday Duff and I were returning from a party that turned out to be pretty boring. Most of the people there, in fact all of the ones we didn't know beforehand, were the weird kind of twnety-something hippyish/hipster/activist that seems to have become the new lifestyle du jour for people my age who interested in counter-culture ideas in any way.

These people kind of rubbed me the wrong way and seemed like they really sucked right off the bat, but it was more a result of me getting a general vibe from them than anything one thing they did in particular. Something that I pride myself on is my judge of character; I am very rarely wrong about the type of person someone is. I can give you loads of examples of me immediately disliking a person, but keeping it to myself until later being proven right.

Anyways, the people we were at this party with were the worst kind of "activists" in that they were trying to just accommodate everybody in the world, took the softest possible view on everything and reserved most of their ranting for when they were in a group such as the night before. I forget how, but the topic of recycling came up and everybody extolled the virtues of recycling. Nothing wrong with that! Nothing at all! Most people recycle and it is something that is generally good. Duff and our friend Dan made a "Recycling is dumb." joke is "bro-voice" and almost everyone in the room took it to be a real sentiment. Immediately everybody there was trying to come up with different ways that recycling is flawed and bad, despite saying how much they did it not a second before.

This example is small and petty, but I really wanted to show how quickly all of these people would flip-flop on an issue just to make sure they help the general opinion in a group of people they considered smart, to make sure they would be in the right.

Fuck that. Fuck saying things just to agree with people. Say things because you mean them, not because you know that other people will agree with you. Say things that you believe in, not things that others act like they do.

That last paragraph sounds so cliché and shitty it kills me, but it needs to be said, especially today.
Having just finished a semester of school that was entirely focused on critical theory, I've really come to realize how much a strong critical opinion matters.

This made me think of all the things I've written about music on this blog and strong or critical my opinion has been. I think not very, but I'm not going to go back through the entire thing to verify that. I plan to write a lot this summer, since I'll be by myself in Guelph and it will give me something to do that is not getting inside my own head while trying to finish my thesis, and strengthening and distinguishing my critical opinion musically will be my main goal during that time. I need to give myself a voice that will separate me from every other music blogger and something that will give the blog and an ethos.

While racking my mind for something I truly believe about music to base my opinion on, I, again, thought of a conversation I had with Duff yesterday (I guess we're the Shanley School, or something?) and how much I truly appreciate when a band has a central theme or idea and they stick to what they want to do and music they want to make and experiment just for the sake of making something new. This doesn't have to mean that every band should be a Brand New or a Ceremony, but that even if you're a dumb punk writing songs about doing cocaine and drinking beer, then take pride in that! Be the dumbest band you can!

Believe in your fucking band and believe in what you're fucking saying.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Nope, definitely not using a quote from Dead Poet's Society for this blog

I've always felt like I've been good at teaching.

I noticed in high school that I was really good at making and doing presentations. A humble brag here, but it just came naturally. I didn't work at it and I didn't think about it, it just sort of happened as soon as I got up to talk. This has been a skill that I've relied on heavily for my entire life.

When I had my first job, a swim instructor for the City of Toronto, I noticed that the kids I taught really took to me, because I'm a good teacher I guess? But when I really noticed that teaching was something I excelled at was when I started volunteering and work at Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. The kids went crazy for me the entire time I worked there.

I started TAing at the University of Guelph last year as part of my master's degree. I worried that the skills I developed while teaching 10-14 year-olds rudimentary art techniques wouldn't translate to smarter and sharper university, but that was all for naught, as I transitioned well and the kids really took me. I got to talk about things I loved and got to design my own class once a week and it was the best.

When you get really good at teaching you develop an interesting relationship with the students. As much as teaching them and giving them the tools to learn matters them, you start to develop an addiction to seeing them develop as students. The feeling of breaking through and helping a student work their way through something that they assumingly wouldn't have on their own gives you a tremendous amount of satisfaction because it lets you know that you are doing your job and doing it well.

I was really excited to teach tutorials for an art history survey class this year, but it turned out to be a little more difficult than I thought it would. Whereas in my last class the obstacle was teaching a group of people with no idea about contemporary art contemporary art.

You know how hard it is to teach people like that about Chris Burden? It's a little tough.

This time around, it was just the opposite. Instead of a room full of students who had no idea about contemporary art, I was teaching people that were totally tuned into it, but was stuck extolling the virtues of Renaissance painting to them. WOE IS ME, RIGHT?

Eventually, I think I started to get through to them, though it could be tough to see it in the class room sometimes.

I had my last tutorials of the year and for the foreseeable future yesterday and was completely taken aback by the reception I got from the kids in the last class. I don't want to post the quotes verbatim, because that would make this blog seem more masturbatory than it already is, but the stuff they said to me once the class ended really hit me right in the chest.

Experiences like this are why I know that I want to be a professor and nothing else. This is what I was meant to do.

To quote what I said to my classes yesterday, ":')". Good job this year guys.