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 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.

Monday, March 23, 2015


I feel like this blog is going to come off as jaded and negative, but rest assured that I don't intend that at all.

Sometimes being in a band can be hard. When you are recording new songs or playing good shows and things are going reasonably well, being in a band is great. But to get to a point where those things happen requires a lot of work. A lot of work which doesn't immediately pay off and can seem like a waste. Sometimes being in a band seems like a completely Sisyphean task. Shows start to dry up. Shows are played to the same people. Money is paid to keep the and going and never comes back. Though the feeling you get from playing a good show never really fades and the benefits of putting your creative energy into something are innumerable, it can sometimes be hard to focus on those things instead of the negatives.

I say this because last night I saw my friends Shopping Cart and while they were playing, they reminded of how much fun being in a band really is. All I could think of while watching them was the feelings fun and youth that initially inspired me to want to start a band. Most people would agree that the most fun part of being in a band is hanging with your friends and creating something you're proud of and having fun in the process. Sometimes it's easy to forget that, but Shopping Cart was good at reminding me of it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Title in which I would write out all of Mike McGill's "I wonked this, I twerked that" dialogue from Animal Chin if I could remember it

Sean Bonnette- Skateboarding's Greatest Hits

I came across this album while finding the link for Jeff Rosenstock's new album for my last post. Sean Bonnette is the singer/songwriter of Andrew Jackson Jihad. My only experience with that band is seeing them at Bomb the Music Industry!'s last show and then listening to various songs of theirs on the drive back from said show. This is nothing against them at all, it's not like I dislike them or anything, but I find that I listen to and have so much music that there are just some bands I never get around to. Maybe I will someday! But for now, I am more or less completely ignorant to Andrew Jackson Jihad.

But this album intrigued me a lot, mainly because of its title. On this release, Sean covers songs from his favourite skate videos, which I think is amazing. As much as the skating obviously makes a part, sometimes a skater is paired with a song and the two inform each others styles and it creates this perfect synergy. I know some people don't "get" skate videos because it's just guys skating, but when one is done well it just becomes hypnotizing and draws you in. It inspires you, sure to go out and skate, but in reality that feeling is "I can do this if I work hard enough. I can push myself to learn this." It can be this amazing ethereal feeling that puts you on a high for the rest of the day. And the songs are instrumental to that.

That's why I think this EP (I guess?) is so awesome. I'm seeing somebody else's ties to skate parts through the songs and I love that. To me, skateboarding has always been a social activity that ties me to others. No matter who they are or what they like or what we have in common, we both skateboard and that is all that matters while we are both on skateboards.

The album was made to raise money for Skate After School, which is an organization to help teach kids skateboarding and get them involved with what can be a great social and physical activity. Skateboarding was absolutely crucial to my development as a person. It exposed me to new music, new art and always gave me something positive to do with my friends. The fact that I could return to Toronto at any time (barring this damn snow) and ask Paul, Damien or Pat "Hey, do you want to go skate?" and that they would most likely respond "Yes." gives me a ton of comfort.

I really like his choice of songs and think they turn out exceptionally well. Personal favourites are the Guided by Voices and Modern English covers, though the Slayer cover is particularly weird and awesome. I also like the songs because I love the videos they come from. Welcome to Hell and Sorry? Yes. Instantly, I can pull up Maldonado and Saari's parts and each video's aesthetic. His choice of skaters is also fucking primo.

If I had to pick 6 Skateboarding Greatest Hits?

1. Sweet Apple- "Do You Remember" (C1RCA, Thrasher King of the Road 2010)
2. Iron Maiden- "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (Jamie Thomas, Toy Machine Welcome to Hell)
3. AFI- "The Boy Who Destroyed the World" (Rodney Mullen, 411 I Love Skateboarding)
4. Lemmy- "Stand by Me" (Geoff Rowley, Flip Extremely Sorry)
5. The Jackson 5- "I Want You Back" (Guy Mariano, Blind Video Days)
6. Husker Du- "The Real World" (Jason Lee, Blind Video Days)

Monday, March 2, 2015

You are Wonderful

You are reading the preface to this blog post

Jeff Rosenstock put out a new album last week. In keeping with IMU tradition, I will write about that album here. As per usual, the album is available as a donation-download on his "record label"'s website here. I would recommend that you download it because I think it is good music.

You are now reading the main body of this blog post

I have a long and interesting relationship with Jeff Rosenstock. His music that is. I've only met him one time, but he was very nice to me that one time. As a result of that relationship, his music is by far, in my mind, the most written-about thing on this blog.

I started listening to him fairly early in my own musical life, but also his, discovering the Arrogant Sons of Bitches a little after they released All the Little Ones are Rotting when I was in 10th grade. Originally, I liked them because I liked ska and would listen to more or less anything that remotely resembled ska. I also liked them because they were very, very fast and had cool basslines and I thought the chorus to "So Let's Go Nowhere!" was just about the coolest thing ever. A little after that, my tender high school heart was broken for the first time and then I noticed that most of their songs dealt with that and I was "OOHHHH!"Three Cheers for Disappointment then came out and it took me forever to find it and I listened to it almost exclusively because I was a very, very emotional 16 year-old who was bad at expressing and speaking, but very good at attaching myself to music.

When I first discovered the music of ASOB and Bomb the Music Industry!, it seemed like I was the only person in Ontario who listened to those bands. I wore my ordered-online ASOB shirt at shows and it seemed like nobody knew who they were and I wore that with pride. I had friends on MySpace from the North-East United States because they listened to ASOB and BTMI! and that seemed cool to me.

Gradually BTMI! became more and more popular with punk fans, starting, in my mind at least, with 2007's Get Warmer. I got more people into the band and more people in general got into the band, to the point that they became downright popular.

I noticed with the last BTMI! shows, and also with the pre-release of tracks from We Cool?, that the crowd at shows seemed a little different from the feelings and experience that I shared with Jeff's music. I started to get a little (look how) jaded (I can be, when I turn 16)* and I started to think that I had maybe grown up and grown past Jeff's music.

But then I listened to We Cool? when it was streaming last week and I read along with the lyrics during my first listen, which is my own little personal tradition, and I was instantly reminded of why I love him and his music and it hit me in the chest and I can already tell there are many songs which resonate with me.

Never act like you are above things you like, just because other people like them too. Don't get too cool for your own life. Figure out what you need and stay near those things. Find things that move you and use those things.

*C'mon son.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Don't Give Yourself Away

I, like many people I have met, feel a little bit like I was born in the wrong era. I feel as though I was mean to be a teenager in the 1980's. Maybe because it's I because I watched a lot of John Hughes movie. Maybe it's because that is my favourite era of skateboarding. Maybe it's because Fast Times at Ridgemont High has both the character of Jeff Spicoli, a bit of an idol of mine, and Phoebe Cates' pool-exiting scene. Romanticizing the past is a very common thing among people and I know people think it's awful, but I just really love the aesthetic of the decade and a lot of my favourite things happen to come from it.

So yes, I feel like I was meant to be Spicoli or Stiles type. Maybe I just like wearing short shorts and Hawaiian shorts? Who knows. A result of this mindset is that I really late 70's and 80's pop rock because I associate that music with these types of characters. It seems like the perfect music to accompany those characters, with just enough rebellion to give it an edge while still being poppy as hell. The Outfield, The Raspberries, The Knack, I eat them all up . Well, maybe not The Outfield. They're pretty corny, but I love them just the same. The biggest one by far though, is Cheap Trick.

This article is what got me thinking about all of this: The AV Club on Cheap Trick's "Surrender".

It's a great read and sums up a lot of my thoughts on Cheap Trick. And man, "Surrender" is a fucking jam, lordy. Of all the bands in today's revered pantheon of "classic rock" my favourite is Cheap Trick by a fucking mile. It all comes from one place: The use of "Gonna Raise Hell" in episode 3 of Freaks and Geeks, "Tricks and Treats" in the "Freaks" play it in their car and then the song plays while the "Geeks" get their costumes ready:

The band was something that just "existed" before this, but for some reason this song really struck a chord with me when I heard it in this context and suddenly the band became this symbol for teenage delinquency in the 70's and 80's and drinking beer underage and going to bush parties and smoking poorly-rolled, dirt weed joints and staying out late for the first time and trying to impress girls for the first time and it all made perfect sense to me. I love all things "coming-of-age" to death and to me Cheap Trick is a "coming-of-age" band.

Also, there's also all the guitar solos. That helps too.

Like I said, I tend to romanticize the past a lil' bit, so whenever I hear "Dream Police" I picture cruising around in something that resembles this with the radio turned up and it seems like a perfect situation.