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.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Folks, the Happy Ray is back. Sincere thanks to the snacking raccoons for filling in while he was on the DL, but I am so pumped to have this dude back.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

I, Musical Genius: On Baseball

Almost three years ago, I had the idea that I was going to make a print version of I, Musical Genius because after having the idea it seemed like it made too much sense to not follow through on it. I absolutely LOVE zines and thought that some of my longer entries on here would make great content to fill the pages with. I picked a few entries that I thought I had done a good job on and narrowed in on the vague theme of betterment through self-reflection that permeates my writing on here and started to comb through them for errors and syntax.

I dreamed big on the print version of I, Musical Genius right away. I was going to fill each page of the zine with hand-drawn stuff. I would have one issue on nostalgia, one on sports, one on music stories, etc. If I was finally going to turn this long-term project into a real, tangible thing, then I wanted to put in a lot of effort and make it really good. However, because of those lofty goals, the project really got away from me. I got caught up in small tasks with it and lost interest and never ended up finishing the thing.

When I decided that I was going devote my free time to writing last December (lol), I made finishing that zine part of the goal. Even though I hadn't touched it in ages, the idea definitely still thrilled me and I wanted to do it. While I kept working on songs consistently and short stories intermittently, the zine, again, went untouched for the entire year because I felt like the other goals were more important than printing out stuff that I had already written on the internet.

BUT, a couple of weeks ago, I was approached by a friend to help organize a punk/baseball trivia night at D-Beatstro in Toronto. While I was house-sitting for my parents, with Roy Halladay's death still fresh in my mind, it struck me that I had a lot of baseball writing sitting on here that I hadn't really done anything with and would make for a great zine. What pushed me over the edge was looking at my dad's drafting board and thinking about cutting the paper up. Finishing the zine in time to "launch" it at the trivia night seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up.

I started planning it right away and made the initial versions of it that afternoon and then kept tweaking and tweaking until it looked the way I wanted.

I got a friend of mine, Octavio Contreras to draw the cover for me. He did better than I could have hoped.



The end result is this: I, Musical Genius: On Baseball, the first thing I've made of my creative writing. While three autobiographical short stories ain't much, I am very proud of what I've made.

So I guess the only thing left to do now is distribute this damn thing. If you are reading this and would like a copy of this, I would be more than happy to mail one to you. I guess I'm charging $5 for it, but you are welcome to pay whatever you would like. Get in touch with me on here, or on Twitter, and we can sort it out.

Thanks.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Disaster Artist

Something that I've been grappling with the entire year is the progression of "The Project", which is the name I gave to my goals that I set out for the 12-month period from December 1st, 2016 and December 1st 2017. The goals are as follows:
  • 5 original short stories
  • 5 songs, with lyrics and guitar and bass parts written
  • My planned I, Musical Genius zine finished.
It feels shitty to admit it, but this is not and will not be finished. I realized about halfway through the year that this project was not going to get finished, but I held out hope that I would have a burst of creative energy near the deadline and get everything done. Being at the end of November now, I can say with absolute certainty that this goal is not possible, but that's okay. 

Let's take stock of what I have accomplished:
  • 5 short stories begun. 1 finished. 1 half-done. 3 planned out, but unwritten.
  • 5 guitar and bass parts written. Two sets of lyrics finished. Others in various states of disarray.
  • I, Musical Genius zine untouched.
This is not as bad as it looks though. I do wish I had done more work on the short stories, but I also put a lot posts up on here that I'm proud of and certainly drew upon the same thoughts and energy that a short story does. Guess what? Writing fiction is much harder than you think. So much harder.

I found writing the guitar parts easy, but I fiddle with my acoustic so much. I actually ended up spitting out the initial versions of more than 8 songs. Bass is easy for me because I played bass in bands already. The lyrics have been very slow coming and I find it hard to say what I want to say.

In both cases, I know that the way to navigate the issues I'm having is to just write more and work through them that way. I just need to force myself to do that. 

The zine, I am not so worried about, because I ditched my original idea of assembling my "best" piece of writing on here and instead shifted to the idea of making a zine of my favourite baseball things I'm written. Keep an eye out for that.

It was hard to write this year because it felt like every time that I built myself up to do something, work got in the way. I was incredibly busy from the beginning of September to end of October and that was definitely the nail in my writing coffin. I would get home from work really tired and burnt out and it felt like even watching TV took too much energy and free time.

At this moment though, I'm back in the University of Guelph's library for the first time in ages, I have a week off of work and have time to actually do things I like. We'll see how much I can finish by next Tuesday and I will do my damnedest to make something that matters.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

For Roy

The following night never actually happened, but also happened many times.

At 3:30 PM, I finished high school for the day. I left my classroom and walked down to my locker to change for track practice. I went to an all-boys school, so we all just changed in the hallways instead of the changeroom. I was much smaller and skinnier than the other boys my age and felt awkward about how different my body looked. I knew there was a 50% chance that someone would make fun of the way I looked. On this day, luckily, nobody did.

After track practice, I returned to my locker and changed back into my uniform to go home. The subway ride from my high school to my parents’ house in Scarborough was a little more than an hour. The ride was always taken by myself because nobody else at my high school lived in Scarborough. I listened to whatever CD I had chosen for the day in my Walkman two or three times, depending on the length of the trip. On this day, the CD was Three Cheers for Disappointment by the Arrogant Sons of Bitches. I was lonely and pensive on the subway.

I got home just as my mom and sister were preparing to leave the house. I was tired and felt a little defeated, which was common at the end of every day in high school. My sister was a high-level competitive diver and to maintain her fitness and skill, went to practice on the other side of the city every weeknight. Being an athlete of that caliber requires significant contributions from those around you in addition to your own efforts, so my mom was the one to drive my sister to practice each day. As a result, my dad and I were left together at the house for almost every weeknight during my time in high school.

On this night, my dad and I were going to see the Blue Jays play a night game against the New York Yankees. My family had split Season Tickets for the Blue Jays for close to two decades at this point. While in the past the games had been divvied up somewhat evenly between the members of the family (In our youth, my sister and I each got to stay up and go to one night game per season. It was our most coveted and exotic night of the summer.), my dad and I were now left with the lion’s share of the tickets. The Blue Jays were awful at this point, so going to games was not a high-demand night out. What had once seemed like a rare treat was now an almost bi-weekly affair for my dad and me.

Though I wouldn’t say that I was bored of going to see baseball, by this point it had become a sort of routine for me. The current team did not seem as exciting as the one I had grown up watching. I used to get a thrill out of Shawn Green walking up to the plate just because it was happening and I was there. Now I kept wondering why the team was always so close to mattering, but still far enough away to remove any doubt of that happening. This was a new experience in sports. It wasn’t the bewilderment and exhilaration that overtook me when I was child. It was anxiety and anger and annoyance, with brief flashes of pure love, that was in many ways a lot like my adolescent life.

After a hastily eaten meal, the two of us drove downtown via Kingston Road and the Gardiner. We pulled into an alley near Front and Simcoe and were greeted by the same parking attendant we had seen each time here for more than a decade. He’s an thin elderly man in a worn out 2000’s-era Blue Jays cap. My dad hands him a 10-dollar bill. He knows us and tells us to enjoy the night.

On this night, Roy Halladay was pitching for the Blue Jays and that was exciting. Even though he had already won the American League’s Cy Young award and been an all-star multiple times, he felt like he was Toronto’s secret baseball treat. He was so good and somehow didn’t receive much attention in the American sports media. He quietly went about his dominance and Canadians liked that. My dad and I both mentioned multiple times how special we think Roy Halladay is.

In the 1st inning, Roy retired the side, striking out two. He only threw nine pitches. My dad ordered a draught of Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale, as he always did. I did not get to drink beer because I was still underage. In the bottom half of the inning, the Blue Jays loaded the bases with two out. There was a couple behind us talking loudly and one of them asked if it would be “6 points” if the Blue Jays were to hit a home run. My dad and I chuckled to each other.

The SkyDome was mostly empty that night and my dad and I estimated how many people are in attendance. Maybe 5 or 6000? I told my dad about an article I read in Sports Illustrated that week. He told me a story about going to see the Yankees in New York in the 70’s. I was captivated.

In the 4th inning, Doc Halladay faced his toughest challenge of the night. Having thrown only 45 pitches, he gave up an opposite field single to Derek Jeter. The next batter, an overpaid free agent power hitter, who I resented for being rich and playing for the Yankees, hit the only mistake pitch that Roy threw all night into the right field 100-level seats. The Yankees now led the game 2-0. While the player rounded the bases, my gaze was fixed on Roy Halladay, who gestured to the catcher for a new ball and re-took his place on the mound. Stone-faced, he got the next batter to roll over on a cutter to end the inning. After the first basemen received the throw, my dad did a small fist pump in combination with a nod that he did any time a player does something “right”. Roy Halladay seemed to do things “right” almost always.

On that night, the roof of the SkyDome was open, so a cold breeze was coming in off Lake Ontario. Once the sun went down, I started to shiver because I had only worn a t-shirt. My dad gave me his sweater to wear, which I felt awkward putting on because it was much too big for me. Now being warm again, I was free to once again focus on Roy Halladay, who after one hiccup, had continued his dominance for the rest of the game. While the Blue Jays leave much to be desired while they hit, Roy Halladay demands my attention while he is on the mound. He occupied all my focus while he is pitching, and I didn’t pay much attention to how sad I felt earlier in the day.

In the top of the 9th inning, Roy came out once more, having thrown 96 pitches for the night. The Yankees hitters are still helplessly swinging at his masterfully placed corner sinkers and they are retired in order. Even though the Yankees were winning this game, I still felt like it was all about Roy Halladay. He had thrown yet another complete game, which was becoming more and more rare as a feat, but seemed like an everyday accomplishment for him. My dad and I both make comments about how “nobody does that anymore” and note that Halladay’s ability to completely take over baseball games is yet another symbol of him being a special player and the best pitcher in the game.

In the bottom of the inning, the Blue Jays put two runners on, but ultimately come up with nothing. They lose the game, despite Roy Halladay pitching all nine innings. We are used to defeat, so we weren’t so upset about the outcome. We walked out onto the bridge and down Front Street to where we parked the truck.

On the drive home, we listened to JaysTalk on the Fan590 radio station. Many callers phoned in to give their advice about how to improve the team, like trading for Adam Dunn. Nobody mentioned Roy Halladay, because everyone was used to him being the very best.

When we got home, I went to bed. I had to wake up at 6:30 AM the next day to get ready for another day of school, but instead of thinking about that, or how I was lonely, or how I felt isolated from my actual friends at school, or how mad I was at myself for being stupid and awkward, I just thought about Roy Halladay.

Thanks for everything Doc, you were one in a million,

Timmy

Author’s note: This was written while wearing a faded, black Roy Halladay t-shirt.

Sorry, That Was Out of the Blue

Sometimes, I find that a low-effort post is the first step towards more output. Working lots of overtime and being preoccupied with writing PhD grants for next year has neutered my drive to write, so I offer this post as a step towards something with a little more substance.

As part of The Project, I've been working on a couple of songs throughout the year, with the hope that they will eventually turn into a demo. This part has actually going reasonably well, as I've found that writing guitar parts takes much less mental labour than writing short stories and lyrics. Here is a collection of songs that I think define the type of sound that I am going for with these songs:

Algernon Cadwallader "Spit Fountain"



Big Star "In the Street"



Dead to Me "Ran That Scam"



Van Halen "Dance the Night Away"



Oso Oso "Out of the Blue"