Thursday, February 15, 2018

Something Special Will Recede as Something Boring Swells

The upcoming season of Toronto Blue Jays baseball feels like one of transition, more so than any one in recent memory. While the team's corporate office tries to constantly remind the fanbase of the landmark years that team is passing, by placing a 40th anniversary patch on an arm or by playing highlights celebrating the 25th birthday of Joe Carter's home run, this period of flux instead came through the natural ebb and flow that all professional sports teams experience. There's several events that had led me to believe that the 2018 Blue Jays season will be very unlike those that preceded it. Here's why, I guess.

The seeds of this shift start last June when Jose Bautista's hot month of batting in May faded into a mediocre June that lasted until September. The strong and mighty Jose, who threw a shitty team designed to secure good prospects over his shoulder and marched towards contention, was now older and not nearly the same player. I was still happy to applaud his accomplishments and he deserves his fanfare until the day he dies, but I will admit that it was much more fun to watch him hit timely, towering revenge home runs than set the team's single-season strikeout record.

Now, the Jays have reported to Dunedin in February without Jose Bautista for the first time since 2009. We've been fortunate to welcome many great players to the team over the last 4 years or so, but none of them usurped Jose as the "face" of the team. To American fans who don't consume all of their sports media through Sportsnet, Jose was the only player they heard about from Toronto. From my perspective as a fan, there certainly seemed to be a "Jose Bautista Era" for the Jays from 2010-2017. That's done now, so a new identity for the team will have to emerge, no matter what it looks like.

Also of note is that the team's all-time greatest player died in a plane crash this past November. Rather than try to write something else about Roy Halladay, I will instead link to something I've already written.

The team recently announced that they will retire his number, 32, on Opening Day and the team will wear a memorial black "32" patch on the sleeve of their uniforms for all of the 2018 season. If Doc is to become just the second player to have his number retired, then it follows that his name will also be added to the "Level of Excellence" which is enshrined on the facing of the 4th deck at the Dome. A new version of the team, with few returning faces from the 2015 AL East Champions, will seem all the more different with a dark spectre of the team's past looking down on the field from above.

If these circumstances were not enough, yet another thread in the history of the Blue Jays was cut this week as the team's long-time radio play-by-play announcer Jerry Howarth announced that he would be retiring from his duties. As with Halladay, it feels silly to try and write a post describing what Jerry has meant to me as a fan when I've already touched on that in the past.

Jerry is closer to the identity of Blue Jays baseball than anyone else on the team. He has been calling games longer than I've been alive, so me hearing a season of the team without him telling me that "Blue Jays are in flight" after they've scored their first run of the game or him proclaiming "There she goes!" after a player turns on a fastball is daunting. Hearing his soft voice through the speakers in my dad's car is perhaps the most comforting sound I know, so I am sad that he has decided to retire.

With advances in analytics and an influx of new fans in recent years, Jerry got a bit of a raw deal with fans who thought he was too much of an old man and weren't cognisant of how much his history means to the team. While some others started to turn on him because of his enthusiasm for back-up shortstops, I thought that this was a step too far. I liked that even though I was part of a new generation of WAR-obsessed baseball fans, I had something which tied me to baseball fans past.

But regardless of what these three giants of Toronto baseball meant to me, the machine that is the team powers ahead without them. A new, different identity for the Blue Jays is already beginning to form, even though it may take me a couple of months to recognize it.

Friday, February 9, 2018

I'll Put It in a Place We Can Both Forget

A collection of random thoughts for you on a Friday afternoon.


I cannot tell you why, but today I started thinking a lot about the movie Donnie Darko. Rebecca and I were discussing it recently and we both agreed that it falls into the category of "Movies That People in Your First Year Dorm Like to Prove That They Are 'Deep'". I still stand by that, I guess. I was introduced to the movie by my brother, who fell in love with it while he was in university and it was released, so much so that his email at the time was "mikeydarko". I was only about 12 or 13 at the time and hadn't been exposed to "thriller" or "philosophical", or even "indie", movies yet, so  Donnie Darko seemed like this crazy distinctive thing to me. Upon revisiting it years later, I was a little bummed to find that the movie didn't quite live up the version that I had kept in my mind all those years. But still, while it's not a perfect movie by any means, it will still always live in a nice, little nostalgic corner of my mind for what it meant to me at one time. Plus, the imagery of Donnie with Frank the Rabbit is great and the soundtrack bangs.

Everyone knows the Jules and Andrews version of "Mad World" from the movie. Have you heard the Makeshift Heroes version? It's wonderful.

I am a huge fan of Pete Holmes' podcast You Made It Weird. Pete's empathetic and a gifted conversationalist who's adept at being as silly as possible and asking the most personal and deep questions possible at the same time. It's an interesting mix, but I like it. Holmes has an autobiographical show Crashing on HBO that is currently airing its second season. I'm a fan of the show and heartily recommend it, if only for the subtle Christian jokes.

I haven't run into a 2018 record that's turned my world upside down yet. I did listen to Teenage Fanclub Bandwagonesque for the first time today though, and that was just wonderful.

I'm inching towards starting demos for songs I've been working on. They make a lot of sense in my head, but I haven't translated that into any sort of physical form yet. To tide my legions of devoted fans, I've made a playlist on Spotify that is inspiring my approach to them. I love Spotify now, apparently. Check it.

Another key influence: Gated reverb and the drumfill on "Calling in the Air Tonight".



Editor's note: While titling post, I started listening to the above playlist and ended up writing and re-writing three different lines from "Deeper". What a song!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Asked for Nothing and I Got It in Spades

I've felt unmotivated in my personal pursuits lately and have found any writing to be a huge chore to get through. I feel like it's in part due to me having finished my zine and printed it; my subconscious response to that is been to relax and not do anything because I've accomplished something. It's one of my worst tendencies. I was also so caught up in grant and PhD applications that they were the only thing I thought about when I was outside of work (or at work, for that matter). Since I'm done those now, I feel weird and unfocused. Instead of having a big, tangible goal to work towards, I have vaguer ones like "work on this story" or "work on songs". They're less urgent, so I feel less inclined to work on them and then my interest and skill in writing starts to nosedive.

Even though I got a few things out this month, I'm still feeling guilty about not devoting more time to writing in my spare time. That's good, because that nervousness is often the first step towards getting goals done. Today I was hoping to knock out a self-reflective post in which I could dig into some feelings I've been having, but nothing was coming to me, so instead I'm digging up a draft I have saved to see where an old idea gets me.

One such draft was me reminding myself to reflect on my love of the baseball player Vladimir Guerrero on the occasion that he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This happened last week, so I suppose I should indulge myself.

Fuckin' Vladdy


As a child, I felt significantly more pride about being Canadian than I do now. This Canadian Pride was enough for me to place an emotional interest in the Montréal Expos, simply because they were one of two Canadian teams in Major League Baseball, and the only team in the National League. Sadly though, my ascent as a ballfan coincided with the demise of Montréal's franchise. While it's debatable if the Expos ever truly experienced "good times", the last breathe of the team was especially sad.

In hindsight, the minor differences between being a baseball fan and a hockey fan in Toronto were funny. To Leafs fans, the Montréal Canadiens were and still are anathema, due to the long rivalry between the two teams. Blue Jays fans, at least more of them, instead felt a kinship with Montréal's oft-ignored baseball team. They were perpetual underdogs constantly fighting against the league and their own ownership. Of all the teams in the league, they were dealt the worst hand. You have to appreciate resilience and the later-year Montréal Expos displayed a tremendous amount of resilience in small batches.

Former Expos and then Marlins owner Jeff Loria is well-known among baseball fans for being a piece of shit. The Expos produced a seemingly endless parade of exciting players (Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Randy Johnson, Tim Raines, Pedro Martinez, and now Vlad in the Hall of Fame, Larry Walker maybe on his way) and the only thing that kept up with that was the rate at which they sold them to other teams. The one year it looked like Montréal would finally put it all together and maybe win a World Series was also the last time baseball experienced a work stoppage, 1994.

Of all the Expos, the most exciting was by far their right fielder Vladimir Guerrero. He is a Dominican player who at the time was tall and thin, but still muscular, while having impossibly long legs. People like to apply labels like "unconventional" to athletes all the time, but Vlad really was unlike anyone else. He was a giant presence in the batter's box and never wore batting gloves. He hit a shitload of home runs and was one of the most fearsome power hitters of the era, but also swung at everything he saw. People love the image of him hitting a single after the pitch bounced, but I think more impressive is him being able to hit a pitch a foot off the plate in two directions out of the park. Early in his career he was speedy and stole 40 bases in a season, while also having a fucking hose.

It was hard to not like him and as a young boy he quickly became one of my favourite players in the league, Jays included. Every amazing play felt like a slap to Bud Selig's face. The bullshit announce team on the below video exemplifies that.


Forever etched into my mind, but for some reason impossible to find on the internet, is call of a Vladdy home run by the home town Montréal announcers in which one yells "VLADIMIIIIIR! VLADIMIIIIIR!" in a Québécois accent while he circled the bases in his typical gangly style. I thought it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. 

Towards the end, things for the Expos got especially bad, with the cherry being them playing "home games" in Puerto Rico as an experiment. There were always whispers about how much longer the team would last and Montréal tried its best to support and save the team behind decent 2002 and 2003 teams. Most exciting to me was when they traded for a svelte, in-his-prime Bartolo Colon and made brief noise in the Wild Card race. I think that I wanted Montréal to get a revenge World Series more than a Blue Jays one.

When Major League Baseball announced that Montréal would be moving to Washington DC after the 2004 season, my family made a trip to the city that summer to catch a game at Olympic Stadium before that would be impossible. We spent a couple of days in the city and went to the game on the middle night of our stay. I believe this is the boxscore from that game. Somehow, we had chosen the one game that Vlad had an off-day. I was crushed that I wouldn't get to see him play. I eventually saw him many times as a member of the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, and Baltimore Orioles (sadly never as a Blue Jay, though I BADLY wanted them to call him up from the minors), but it never scratched the Expo itch that I had while younger. The game was exciting, our seats were close, and the small, but devoted, Montréal crowd was loud and engaged. By the end of the game, the city had won me over, and the memory of fans around me yelling at the field in heavy, throaty French will forever be my memory of what Expos baseball was. I'm fortunate to have that.

Something I like to do is look back on the things I liked a child and draw connections between them and myself now. As a preteen boy I only understood Vlad and the last stand of the Expos as "cool", but now as an adult I like to think that my fascination in them was part of a larger pattern of fighting against power and hating authority. The reason that everyone loves an underdog is because the overdog fucking sucks. Now the Expos are the Nationals now and that team is in the midst of a run of success, but I don't think any ballfans in Montréal take solace in that. I also don't think it will be the same as it was if a baseball team ever does come back to Montréal.

This all being said, the Expos are forever. I'll always hold a place in my heart for the team stuck around as long as they could against seemingly impossible odds and how inspiring I found that. A hearty congratulations to one of my very favourite players ever, Vladimir Guerrero, for making the Hall of Fame. I don't care what cap is on your plaque Vlad, you're an Expo for life.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The 10 Baseball Players I Hate

At some point last year, one of the baseball sites that I frequent, The Hardball Times, published a story called "The 10 Players I Hate" in which the author listed the players who had tormented his favourite team during his time as a fan. I thought that is was a great idea for an article and provided a funny look at the things that you obsess over as a fan and the minutiae and petty differences that can consume you when you devote a significant amount of your time to something as silly as sports.

I'm deep in the "Lost & Directionless" part of baseball's off-season, where the action of the previous year seems so far away that I can barely remember it and pitchers and catchers reporting, let Spring Training games, are still on another calendar page, so I need something to hold me over and remind me of the weird passion that takes over my brain from April to October.

With that being said, here are the 10 Baseball Players I Hate:

Derek Jeter


If you lived in Toronto, Boston, Baltimore, or St. Petersburg between 1995 and 2015 you could set your watch to Derek Jeter dashing your hopes and dreams as a baseball fan. The only thing worse than the unending parade of sportswriters who were eager to feed Jeter peeled grapes was the fact that he kind of deserved it. Growing up, I despised him and thought it was obvious how much of a dick he was, but it wasn't until I got older that I realized that perspective came from me being sour about Jeter leading the Yankees to elite levels of success and a decent chunk of it coming at the expense of my Blue Jays. I'm now mature enough to admit that Derek Jeter is one baseball's all-time shortstops, but I don't think I'll ever get to a place where I don't hate the fuckin' New York Yankees.

Dustin Pedroia


Much like Jeter, much of my hate for Dustin Pedroia derives from the fact that he played an integral part in the Boston Red Sox dominating the Blue Jays. He still plays a part in that. To truly hate a player, they must be good, and Pedroia has been steadily good for a long time. He was the face of the "hustle" Red Sox teams of the 00's, where a new white guy with a beard seemed to turn up every week. He runs to 1st base after walks and was probably his coach's favourite player on every team he's been on. He has a stupid face and I love when he fails at the sport of baseball. Red Sox fans love believing that their team is still a lovable underdog and Pedroia's dumb-ass playing style is a big part of that. Fuck the Red Sox.

Mark Texeira


Though I have following the Jays for my whole life and going to games for just as long, my high school year were particularly formative in my experience as a baseball because that is when I started to carve out my own place as a Jays fan and establish an identity separate from my parents in following the team. For that reason, the Jays teams of 2003-2010 are especially dear to me because they coincided with that time. They were the teams that Timmy fell in love with, not that the Chandlers fell in love with. Those teams also fucking sucked. You know who are great at beating down shitty Jays teams? The New Yankees. A potent force for them during that time was switch-hitting first baseman and noted jabroni Mark Texeira. New York is apparently allergic to players who don't hit 30 dingers and OBP in the upper 300's. During the 00's, Tex was the latest in a never-ending parade of expensive free agents that led to division titles and for that reason I will always despise him.

Note: On May 12th, 2009, I watched Roy Halladay shutout the Yankees by himself. Texeira went 0-4 with two strikeouts and I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Eric Hosmer


Unsurprisingly, most of the players on this, the pettiest of all lists, come from the Blue Jays' rivals.  The Jays played a heated regular season and then playoff series against the shittiest and dumbest of all loser-ass teams, the Kansas City Royals. In their prime, the Royals were led by first baseman Eric Hosmer who sucks for the following reasons: 

-bad at hitting home runs 
-thinks he's better than he is 
-dumb beard, haircut, and douchey face
-leads dumb team that got the luckiest of any team ever at the right time

He talked a lot of shit and came up with clutch, piddly singles with maddening frequency. Thanks for ruining our playoff run you piece of trash.

Kevin Youkilis


Take a deep breathe and reflect for a moment. You're right. It's true. A Major League Baseball player actually used that stupid fucking batting stance you see above. I hate Kevin Youkilis for many of the same reasons that I hate Dustin Pedroia. They played on the same teams that won a lot (including a World Series in 2007) and were the nexus of the Boston "gritty, white baseball players with beards" criclejerk that was the bane of my existence. What a bunch of grinders! Putting in professional at-bats! More like casual racism coated in pinetar. Bud, your name is fuckin' stupid.

Rougned Odor


As a sports fan, I try to act like I am above the typical lowbrow, macho brandishing that the rest of the world associates with professional athletics. I read the things that the New Yorker publishes about baseball. I applaud when teams do things to make their environment more inclusive. I distance myself from the intoxication culture imbued in the crowd. I focus on the small subtle things in the game instead of falling prey to gossip-y narratives given to the public by media corporations. That being said, it's also important to recognize that I am part of that world and sometimes you need to lean into it. Roughned Odor is a rat-faced fuck who was a catalyst in the Texas Rangers taking the ALDS to 5 games and got in a fight with my savior, José Bautista and for that I will curse his name until the day I die.

Darren O'Day


The hateful part of my brain has an expressway attached to it which can only be accessed by players who have wronged José Bautista, Josh Donaldson, or Marcus Stroman. It doesn't matter what they have done, I must stand by my boys and support them. Darren O'Day and Jose Bautista have a, admittedly, petty rivalry that started over the former skipping towards the dugout after a strikeout. Since then, José has owned O'Day and the rest of the Orioles, giving me a huge supply of revenge home runs to watch while I laugh and clap my hands. The best rivalries are the ones where your side relentlessly beats down the other side and never loses.

Chipper Jones


The differences between being an American sports fan and a Canadian sports fan are small. The typical American sports outlets, like ESPN and FoxSports, weren't broadcasted in Canada while I was growing up, but we did get TBS, which has traditionally been the home of Atlanta Braves baseball. As a result, the Braves were more or less the only team other than the Blue Jays who I saw on TV. I hated their announcers, I hated their hats, and I hated how good they were in the 90's. At the centre of the team was their Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones who I hated for being good, for being constantly brought up by the TBS team, and for having a good nickname.

Roger Clemens


I only vaguely remember the time when Roger Clemens pitched for the Blue Jays. He was very good! Then he requested a trade and left to play for our bitterest enemies, the New York Yankees. Not only that, but he won two World Series titles right after leaving. He was the perfect storm of being a jerk, being an amazing player, being associated with steroids when I was vehemently against them, and playing for the Yankees. It was impossible not to hate him and I revelled in his defeats.

Jose Cruz Jr.


For the sake of fairness, I thought that I should also include a Blue Jays player who I hate and the first one I thought of was Jose Cruz (Jr.). Cruz was part of the Jays teams that were thoroughly dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox in the late 90's/early 00's and was, in hindsight, a pretty key contributor. For the life of me, I can't explain why I disliked him so much. His numbers were pretty decent and he was a good player on bad teams. Then he got bad as soon as he left Toronto. That wasn't enough for me though, and I hated him purely for his whole time in the city. One game I went to, they gave out free player t-shirts to all kids under 13 in the ballpark. Once I saw they were Cruz t-shirts, I was dismayed and never wore it once.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

We Can Just Lay Here

We're going to partake in a little bit of a Throwback Thursday here and revisit a post style that I haven't used in a while: A link dump with short paragraphs around them to make the post look longer and more thought out than it actually is.

First off, sincere congratulations to the band Oso Oso for signing to Triple Crown Records. The Yunahon Mixtape is one of my favourite records ever and makes me feel a lot of things. They're opening a tour in Toronto next week, but I slept on getting tickets and will be missing them for the first time in a couple of years. What a great band! Happy that they are moving on up! Triple Crown Records put out All I Have to Offer is My Own Confusion by Fireworks, so for that alone they are in my good books.

To go with this news, the band also just released a video for the second track off of Yunahon, "Reindeer Games". It's a great song and I think the video does a good job of capturing the album's vibe. There's a lot of nice tummies in this video.


Also, my friends Nick, James, Scott, and Ben play in a band called Dog Cops. They've been playing shows around the GTA and working on songs for the last year or two and they just put out a single. Great stuff and free to download!



I'm working on the text for a second zine right now, hoping that I can have it finished by the end of February. It's about ska. Have any ideas for the cover art? I would love them.

Lastly, I deeply love independent pro wrestling. Though I started out watching the WWF like most people, I'm happy that my interest in it led me to this much better, more interesting, and weird in the best way subculture. It's strange, but perfect.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

No One Likes a Dropout

Something that I've been thinking a lot about the last couple of days is the importance of having a major goal that you are working on for yourself. This can range from having a small personal project you work on around your job or school to trying to conquer a bad habit to something bigger, like pursuing your "dream".

This was spurred by a recent episode of a favourite podcast of mine, in which two independent pro wrestlers and a lifelong musician (who also wrestles) were discussing how awkward it can be to broach the topic of their careers to a random acquaintance. Surprisingly, whenever the person gets around to asking "So, are you still doing the wrestling thing?" and they affirm that they are, the response is almost always positive. The three then speculate that it's because the person who is asking has usually given up on the dream that they were pursuing when they were younger. The example that one of them gave was the guy asking being a hockey player with NHL aspirations in high school.

This story made me think of a memory from high school. I went to St. Michael's College School in Toronto, which is known for, among other things, having a big and prosperous hockey program. As such, almost everyone at my high school played hockey at a higher-than-normal level and many had aspirations to one day play at a professional level.

One day, while I was changing at my locker for cross-country practice I overheard two of my classmates talking about another contemporary of ours and his NHL aspirations and how he wasn't that good. The line I remember is "One day Luke is going to have to come to terms with the fact that it just isn't going to happen." It struck me as so petty and shitty that these two would speak so meanly of the guy behind his back like that. His hockey playing doesn't affect them in any way, so why shit all over it? Also, it was funny to realize that all of the bros who were patronizing and shitty to me were also that way to each other.

The most telling thing to me is that I can't remember the names of those two boys for the life of me, whereas Luke Gazdic's name is easy to recall, for an easy reason:



That type of thing has to make you smile.

As embarrassing as it can be to hold on to dreams you started in your teens, more embarrassing is forgetting them and having nothing to define yourself later in your life. Really, being embarrassed about your dreams and goals is a result of how personal they are and how dear they are to the part of you that you rarely show to others.

I guess this is sort of a call to all my friends to keep working on what fulfills them and drives them. There is nothing embarrassing or shameful about that, despite what turkeys would have you believe. Making things and making things happen is fucking sick. In the spirit of this, I will share all of my dreams and goals, big and small.

  • Write a novel.
  • Land a kickflip.
  • Finish two more zines.
  • Write and put out an EP of my own music, all on my own.
  • Play a show in which I am the singer of a band.
  • Teach a university course.

Friday, January 5, 2018

I Don't Mind, I Don't Care

As is tradition, now that the calendar has turned over and my "Best Music" list has been etched into whatever the IMU equivalent of stone is, I have started to immediately discover a couple of releases from last year that I missed out on and really enjoy. I swear that I spend more of the year catching up on what I missed than checking out new releases.

First: Precious Art by Rozwell Kid

I tried to get into Rozwell Kid's first album The Rozwell Kid LP, but just couldn't do it. The band started to gain a lot more traction and my jaded ass wanted to listen to them less and less because so many people were talking about them. Turns out that good bands get popular because they're good. Who knew?




Second: Dumb Dads by Peace Be Still

I will never, for the life of me, understand why Peace Be Still is name-checked as an upper-crust Toronto band. They perfectly toe the line of abrasive, earnest emo and poppy punk trip right the fuck over. The intro riff to "Bozo"? BUD. They were amazing live too! It turns out that they broke up this year and I didn't even know, but if that's the case, then Dumb Dads is hell of a high note to go out on. Sincere applause for being a wonderful band.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The I, Musical Genius Guide to Self-Betterment in 2018 and Beyond

WRITE MORE
DRINK MORE COFFEE
WEAR MORE HAWAIIAN SHIRTS
TWO MORE ZINES
TRY HARD TO BE LESS NEGATIVE
MAKE GOOD FOOD
WATCH LESS TV
PLAY GUITAR
NEVER STOP READING
NEVER STOP LOVING

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Don't Think I Ever Mean Goodbye

As I said in my "Best of 2017" post that I put up earlier this week, I've had the idea of a writing a post explaining why I think The Yunahon Mixtape by Oso Oso is so great for a while now. Actually, I've been kicking it around for almost a year, because said album came out on January 13th, 2017.

God, what a bad intro. But we're movin' on!

I discovered Oso Oso through seeing them open for The Hotelier in 2014. I wasn't familiar with them, but from a friend's description of "emo Third Eye Blind", I was pretty sure I would be into it. They put on an amazing set that night and I was instantly sold. After that I dug deep roots into their first full-length Real Stories of True People Who Kind of Looked Like Monsters (I truly hate typing out that title) and Oso Oso quickly established themselves as one of my favourite active bands.

They toured through the south of Canada in the fall of 2016 and I somehow found out about their Toronto date a day or two before, as it was at a small DIY venue with no bigger bands. An acoustic act opened, whose friends seemed to make up most of the audience, and a bad, albeit very new, American band was providing support. After that second band, there was a huge exodus of the crowd, as they weren't interested in sticking around for the only act on the bill with any sort of serious recorded output. The crowd for Oso Oso ended up being a couple, the promoter, and me.

The band, of course, put on an amazing set featuring an even mix of RSTPWKLLM's biggest jams and a few new songs that I would later come to recognize as being on The Yunahon Mixtape. Playing well as a unit live is so hard and competency is basically only established through touring a lot. One of the best parts of being a music fan is seeing a band when they are at the top of their game live. Even better is when you are watching a band you're all in on kill it and their set is the way you're introduced to a new song.

I was eager to hear what Oso Oso would do next and during the set they slipped in "the cool". I was over the moon because the new stuff sounded just as good, if not better than the old stuff, but also a little bummed because I had no idea when the album was coming out and would have to wait to hear it.

Then the band released it out of the blue on Saturday morning. Being a Bomb the Music Indsutry! stan, I've come to love surprise releases. I think there's something to be said for foregoing the hype machine and letting the songs speak for themselves. Very quickly I realized that I like the album just as much as the old one and found it growing on me more and more each listen, with it far surpassing their first one after not too long.

There are a couple of reasons that I think this album is so special, so I'll try my best to explain them now.

The first thing that jumps out at you is the title and its inclusion of the word "mixtape". While the album isn't a mixtape in the hip-hop sense of the word, it is one in the coming-of-age sense of the word. Yunahon is a concept album about a courtship and the life of the ensuing relationship, with each song representing a different stage and major event in the narrative. At the same time, the album is also supposed to be the mixtape that the protagonist gives to his romantic interest. I haven't run into many meta-albums like this in my life, but I love it.

The lyrics of each song set a specific scene, which makes the story feel lived-in. Especially songs like "shoes (the sneaker song)" and "the slope"; they put me right in the story and also make me immediately associate them with scenes from my own life.

Sidebar: Anything meta is my jam. I soak it up like sponge, baby. I started saying baby a lot. Is it ironic? Do I actually think it's cool? Who knows!

Making an album that is at once a story, the guide to that story, and an element of the story is a pretty big jump concept-wise for any band to make. Oso Oso also mirrored that by subtly changing their sound as well. I loved the lead-heavy emo rock riffing that made up True Stories, but I also must concede that the more nuanced approach the band took on Yunahon works a lot better. They manage to walk the tight rope of easing back and simplifying the chord progressions to make them catchier, while also layering in more guitar tracks to fill out the sound and doing more interesting bass and drum work to distinguish each song. If this was easy, every band would do it.

I saw a lot of reviews of this album that referred to it as a nostalgic throwback to the indie bands that were critical darlings in the early-to-mid 2000's, but I'm not much of an expert on that music, so any comments I could make would be moot. Still feel like I have to mention that though. I think Death Cab for Cutie was popular then? Fuck if I know, The OC sucked.

I generally have an album, podcast, or TV show on at all times while I'm doing things at home, so Rebecca is forced to put up with my tastes. This album got played (is still getting played) ad nauseum as soon as it came out and I kind of forced it upon them. The album quickly became the soundtrack to our home life and before long, every song was about different stages of my relationship with Becks and the feeling of falling in love and finding somebody who completely turns your heart upside down.The capper was seeing them this past fall together, when them ripping into "shoes (the sneaker song)" got me close to tears.

It's nice that The Yunahon Mixtape can remind me of nights in Guelph when Rebecca and I had just met and were going to see a friend's band play, but also remind me how in love I am at this moment. It's a big reason why this is one of my favourite records that I've ever heard.


Monday, December 18, 2017

The 2017 I, Musical Genius Music Revue Show

The yearly tradition continues. The order is un-numbered and doesn't really matter except for my #1 spot, which is obvious. Let's go:

Oso Oso - The Yunahon Mixtape


A no-doubt slam dunk #1 album of the year. I eagerly waited for Oso Oso's follow-up to Real Stories of True People Who Kind of Looked Like Monsters and they rewarded me with something that was unexpected in the best way possible. I've been planning a separate post that mentions everything I love about this record because putting everything here would be too much, so I'll write that next week sometime. Not only is this my favourite thing that came out this year by a wide margin, but it's up there as one of my favouirte albums I've ever heard.

Power Trip - Nightmare Logic


When your approach to music is making an even mix of Exodus and the Cro-Mags, you make it really easy for me to like your band. Their best stuff for sure.

Daniel Romano - Modern Pressure


As with last year's Mosey, I figured that Daniel Romano had already produced his best solo effort. Yet again I was floored by a distinctive, intelligent, and fully-realized exercise in making a "genre" album. A master-stroke in 60's pop. This was an early favourite this year and I can't wait for his next one.



A common trend this year was albums surpassing my humble expectations. I deeply loved Pet Hounds, so I tried to be measured in my first listens of this one, but found it to be fresh and different from their first album, but still with plenty of hooks and riffs. Great bass playing on this one too!

Incendiary - Thousand Mile Stare


I would love it if more bands would combine beatdown NYHC riffs with socially conscious lyrics. IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THE PRODUCT IS, THE PRODUCT IS YOU.

White Reaper - Greatest American Band



Between Sheer Mag's effort this year, Crying's album last year, and this album, I am more than here for the growing influence of arena rock in punk. Great riffs and great vocal melodies on this one.

Sheer Mag - Need to Feel Your Love


If you don't think a lo-fi punk band playing poppy Thin Lizzy songs is right up my alley, then you don't really know me at all.

Alvvays - Antisocialites


A fantastic follow-up to their celebrated self-titled debut. They try out some new styles on this one and I love it. Put out catchy, dreamy pop forever, please.

Vince Staples- Big Fish Theory



TELL THE GOVERNMENT TO SUCK A DICK BECAUSE WE ON NOW.

OTHER THINGS:

Some movies I enjoyed: The Big Sick, The Disaster Artist, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Get Out, Personal Shopper, The Fate of the Furious, Landline, and Ingrid Goes West.

Some TV I really enjoyed this year: Master of None, Fargo, Twin Peaks, Nirvanna the Band the Show, Love, Easy, Bojack Horseman, Vice Principals, Crashing, Rick and Morty, and Epicly Later'd.

See you soon folks.