Monday, August 29, 2016

Don't Give Yourself Away

At some point around 2002, the internet, for me, became mainly a vehicle for consuming music. When my brother showed me how Napster worked, I was astounded and immediately started looking into to getting some stuff on there. That's not to say that file-sharing programs were an illuminating, game-changing resource I was waiting for to listen to music, because I never stopped going to the record store, but it did profoundly change the way that I thought about the internet and its use to me (that being songs and boobies).

I feel that this was common for many other people as it was for me, as now the proliferation of music on the internet is higher than it's ever been and it's just kind of always there. Another interesting thing that happened with this was the democratisation of genres. Musical genres were no longer decided by critics or writers, but instead by whoever was filling in the genre tag on Napster. As a result, genre became way more fluid and a lot of pretty different things were called the same thing. Also, a lot of bad punk covers were labelled as NOFX songs. Maybe this all spoke to parallels that artists already shared, or maybe that was forced by listeners. I'm not sure about that.

Now there's a lot of genres of music that a very amorphous. While "Black Metal" might mean one specific thing, "Hardcore" means a million things. Damaged by Black Flag, Suicide Season by Bring Me the Horizon, and I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone by Crime in Stereo all sound completely different, but are, for better or for worse, all described mainly as hardcore.

An instance of this that makes me smile is the genre "Power Pop", because I love almost all iterations of the genre and because it seems to be as many-sided as "Hardcore". It seems to mean rock/pop music played with guitars, which is an apt descriptor for all of the bands I'm about to go through, but can also mean a lot of different things

My introduction to power-pop was through poppy rock bands from the late 70's and early 80's. They were playing pop music in the then-general understanding of the word, just with more distortion, bigger amps, and fancier guitar solos. Whenever I think of the genre power-pop, I always think of one band first: Cheap Trick



Though Cheap Trick are my personal favourites in this genre, I feel like my placing of them at the top of the heap is by no means a popular opinion (people love to hate Cheap Trick, I've found!). So allow me to flex my critical knowledge and give you two other examples of what I feel is classic 70's power-pop:



I think it's really a shame that this band is only known for "My Sharona", because I think the rest of their album is way better than that song:



God, that is a fucking great song.

A big reason why I love this type of music is that I attach it to a very distinct aesthetic. I believe I have spoken about this before on IMU, but to me these are the songs of rebellion for a specific generation in the 70's and 80's. In teen sex comedies set in the 70's and 80's, the guys who are the wacky or "cool" minor characters listen to these bands. These bands are the soundtrack to Steven Hyde, Styles, and Kevin Pickford. Because the nostalgia of these characters and stories is so attractive to me, the music that is attached to them is equally attractive.

I'm going to pull back the curtain on my brain for a second and let you in on the fact that I try to evoke these types of characters in my "persona". They influences the way I dress and the way I act. I'm still "me", but part of "me" is that these characters dramatically influence my outer shell.

The tie between this music and that character type was solidified when "Gonna Raise Hell" by Cheap Trick, from Dream Police, played during an episode of Freaks and Geeks.

I fell face-first into this type of music and started to try and get as much as I could afterwards. One of the first things I wondered about was where "power-pop" went into the 80's and beyond.

My first answer was The Outfield. Despite having way, way less edge, the still presented the same idea. It was still very poppy guitar-based music, just with way shinier production and corny reverb on everything:



The Cars are interesting because they really count as an example of the stuff I was previously talking about, and their excellent Self-Titled came out in 1978, but they certainly morphed into something much poppier and "more studio" (please know what I mean by that) into the 80's. This is still a wonderful pop song, but not nearly as "rock" as the music on their first album.



I just came across a description of The Cars by the music critic Robert Palmer and it sums up the band better than I ever could:

"they have taken some important disparate contemporary trends- punk minimalism, the labyrinthine synthesizer and guitar textures of art rock, the 50's rockabilly revival and the melodious terseness of power pop- and mixed them into a personal and appealing blend."

That is why he is a professional music writer and I am writing for free on blogspot. It touches on everything I'm trying to say.

Another band who I came across while trying to find the direction of this rock music after 1982 was Fountains of Wayne, who to me are a cross between The Cars and Cheap Trick, just with their songs tied down to a different period, the late 90's and early 2000's, because of its production. Everyone is familiar with Fountains of Wayne because of the massive hit "Stacy's Mom", but most don't realize that the rest of that album is perfect power pop:



I guess relevant to me is also where this type of music crosses with my first love, punk music. This one was easy, because I was already way deep into ALL before getting anywhere near Cheap Trick. ALL is a weird band who wear a lot of different faces, but to not associate a song like this with power pop would be silly:



I'm not sure if everyone thinks of None More Black as a power pop (in the sense I have described)/punk band, but I do:



I find that now, when most people think of power pop, they think of a mostly-Ramones knock-off band and that seems weird to me because it is so far from my own personal definition of the genre. That's exactly what I was talking about at the start of this post though, that now the same word means a hell of a lot of different things in regards to music. I don't think I have a point beyond just saying "Look at all the different power pop things!", but I guess that's okay too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Love You More Than I Did When You Were Mine

Lord, I don't even know where to start writing right now. I've taken such a hiatus from it since finishing my thesis and starting work again, that it feels like a huge chore to get back on the horse.

Instead of laboring through some forced ideas, I'm going to post two video that I have been obsessed with over the last little while:









The first thing I love about these is that they come from The AV Club's Undercover series, which has been a favourite of mine for a while now. While the novelty of the idea has lost a bit of its lustre since the first version, it still produces tons of amazing performances that we wouldn't see anywhere else and we are all the better for it.

Secondly is that the sound of the performances in each of the videos, dirty full-band R 'n B rock, is one that I've fantasized forming a band around for a long time in my head. Har Mar Superstar seems to be a band that I have day-dreamed about forming. I also lovelovelove when people have big bands as their backing band. Keyboards and a horn section? Yes.

Thirdly is that the singer is a short bald man who looks like Jay Sherman from The Critic:


I can't believe how well the whole package works and I have mesmerized and in love with both of the performances. It also says something that he can destroy both a Built to Spill and Prince song. Two very different things!

Sidenote: The fact that Prince is such a "thing" for people from Minnesota makes me so happy. Regional love is always a soft spot for me and I've often thought about what Toronto's would be. The Tragically Hip certainly brought up that feeling for me recently, as I can wave my Ontario card high for that, but I wonder if there is a better example from my hometown.

I also find it hard to believe that it's taken me so long to come across him. He's been on noteworthy labels and producing for a long time and yet here I am discovering Har Mar Superstar in 2016.

I've been working on two posts in the meantime. One is not that good. The other might be good. I trust your faith in IMU content and am sure you will stick with yer boi through this tough time of rediscovering how to string sentences together.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I'm Groovin' On

There are quite few bands who the general populous has filed in their mind as "one-hit wonders", but I love dearly as a niche hidden gem that everyone missed out on. Whenever one of these bands is given a little bit of a rub, it makes me feel good to know that I'm not alone in realizing that there's more to a band than one song.

The AV Club writes a lot better than I do, so I'll direct you to a nice, short summation of what makes one of my favourite Fountains of Wayne songs so good:

Fountains of Wayne's power-pop gem "Radiation Vibe" found the silver lining in adversity

Friday, July 22, 2016

When I Said That I Love You, I Meant That I'd Love You Forever

My internet has finally returned, but I am actually writing this post from a computer a work. Don't worry, I'm not killing time on a Friday by typing this instead of finishing a project, I have a fair amount of downtime and most of it coincides with being near a computer. I decided that a good use of my time at work would be to start writing in my notebook and that has started to pay off a little bit. I now have a few skeletons of blog posts that I'll transcribe and add to whenever I feel like putting something up here. It's kind of funny that a lot of my IMU writing is now being done in Microsoft Word when I have no internet or in a small portable notebook when I'm away from a computer, as opposed to being fully created in the Blogger "New Post" application. It kind of makes you think about where imusicalgenius really exists. Is the website just simulacra of the real, pure version of ideas that exist in my mind? Perhaps, but what better represents the notion of "imusicalgenius" as the public understands it? Can imusicalgenius be concretely tied to one specific place?

Anyways, here's something that's been stewing in my mind this week:

Something that seems so stupid to me is the way that many people now justify certain things they like by prefacing it with "I know it's lame, but..." You don't really think it's lame. You enjoy it. If you really thought it was lame, you would leave it alone.

Our society is now so deeply steeped in irony that some people don't even know they are being ironic, which is ironic. It could be that I am being too critical, and maybe society's current trend of maintaining a safe distance from subjects, so that they can both enjoy and not be associated with them, is really just "society". The prospect of being associated with something has all of a sudden become every person's worst fear because it might mean that they get made fun of on the internet or somebody will talk shit about them on the internet.

This is all pretty grim, in my opinion, so lately I've been trying to pump the brakes on ironic enjoyment and do a lot more "accepting the things that I like". Crazy concept, I know.

Case in point, professional wrestling. I used to try to hide my love of it, or if it came up in conversation, I would say "I know it's dumb" or "I only watch it when I'm high", but fuck that. Maybe it is a little (re: very) dumb and maybe I am usually high when I watch it, but I do really love it. And if somebody thinks that something as tiny as the enjoyment of professional wrestling is debilitating to your personality, then you can bet that they are hiding something they are way more embarrassed of from everyone else.

I've thought about this subject a lot over the past few years and have started to find people's undying love of niche and un-hip things absolutely beautiful. There are still plenty of things that I hate and am petty about, and there are people who are headfirst into those things whom I judge. But who gives a shit? I'll make my point, argue as well as I can, probably with a sense of superiority, and that's it. Let's revel in the subjectivity.

Whenever I think about this subject, I think about a specific episode in my life. Before I was old enough to work , I used to watch a lot of muchmoremusic at home during the summer. One day there was a bad VH1 (muchmoremusic used to re-broadcast a ton of VH1 stuff) show on where contestants would pick a song, karaoke it and then in order to win, when the song cut out at a certain point, finish the line with no music or lyrics to help them. On this occasion, a middle-aged Rod Stewart look-a-like was killing REO Speedwagon's "Keep on Lovin' You".

Hr finished the pre-chorus and the host, who I'm pretty sure was Wayne Brady, said something like "Do you want to lock in your answer?!" (this being a post-Who Wants to be a Millionaire? television landscape and all). The guy responded, extremely enthusiastically:

"If those lyrics are wrong Wayne, then your machine is broken!"

REO Speedwagon is extremely lame (Their inclusion in Billy Madison is not). The song in question has a sort of campy charm to it and is the type of song that would work so well in a comedy movie, but the stadium soft rock of the late 70's and early 80's that REO is part of is some of the worst pop music ever made. But still, the fact that this guy was so gung-ho about REO Speedwagon was fucking awesome. It was heart-warming. Everyone should be that into the things they like. Let's do away with passive interest and indifference and be a little more active with the things we love.

Monday, July 18, 2016

I Don't Know What I Want, What I Want's Where I've Been

I'm sure that, following my last post, the last thing anybody needs more is more self-reflection from Timothy Chandler on his band's second album, but you come here for my thoughts, so that's what you're going to get.

I actually wrote the majority of those notes a long time ago as a way to procrastinate while I was writing my thesis. In hindsight, that was a very productive thing to do. But since it had been three or four months since I had written these things, re-reading them and checking for grammar and spelling errors brought up some emotions in me. I have a strong bond with these songs, since I carried them around in my head for about two years. Always thinking about them. What we should add. What we should remove. What they mean. How people will hear them and what they'll get out of them.

But when we put out the record, those feelings just fell out of my head. I was also busy with a new job and finding a new apartment and the album took the back seat for a while. Didn't really think about it for a few weeks. The post preceding this one re-discovered those bonds though.

Brief aside: Was trying to invoke a sort of archaeological imagery with that last sentence. Funny that bonds and bones are one letter apart. In my younger days I might have linked to a gif of Dr. Grant dusting off the raptor skeleton in Jurassic Park, but I guess I've gotten to a point in my writing where I try to do a lot more alluding and be less on-the-nose. This sentence kind of negates that though.

The post preceding this one re-discovered those bones though.

The new job will be over in two years and though I will try my damndest to make a lasting impact at it, it may be a bit of a translucent filter over the final picture of what The Power Plant does from 2016-18. Sovereignties will still exist. Sovereignties is permanent. Should I be prouder of it? Absolutely yes. This is my fucking art. It may get lost in the shuffle. People may forget about it. People might remember Beat Noir as the band who put out Ecotone. People might remember Beat Noir as the guys from the message board. People will probably forget about Beat Noir entirely. But that can't make Sovereignties disappear. It will always exist. I'm going to carry my pride in it for the rest of my life. Even if people don't care about it, I know it was important. The feeling I get in my heart when I listen to the songs is the important thing.

How Am I Supposed to Make Them Survive in Me?

I love reading the liner notes to albums. I think of them as a special dialogue between the artist and me. Even though everybody who owns the album gets to read them, my copy is my copy and nobody's relationship with them is exactly the same as mine. Liner notes are kind of getting lost in our current digital age, but I would like to throw my appreciation for them out into the ether.

In fact, I like them so much that I wrote my own version for Beat Noir's first album, Ecotone. Beat Noir put out our second album, Sovereignties, just under a month ago. I am very proud of what we did as a band and feel fucking great having my name on this album.

I will take this opportunity to tell you that Sovereignties is available for free and it would mean a lot to me if you gave it a listen and/or download. You can find it here:


I decided to write a liner notes/history of the songs, similar to what I did with Ecotone. Check it out:


St. John the Baptist

The writing of Sovereignties formally began with Duff, Mark, and I show each other riffs on acoustic guitars in Mark’s old bedroom. The three songs that were started that night were “St. John the Baptist”, “Monkey Paw”, and “Alexandria”. Duff came up with the intro riff and then we worked out a rough idea of what the verse would sound like. We started to jam the songs not long after that. I remember trying to write basslines for this song that sounded like the ones on Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, which was one of the main influences sonically, at least for Duff and myself, on this album. As I usually do, I tried to put far too many riffs into this song and had to scale back what was going on. My original version of what I play in the verse was just awful.

This album was more directed by Duff than what we did previously. He took upon himself to work through the songs and change the parts that he didn’t think worked. This was for the better and made a much better final product. At one practice while we writing the album, Duff said “This part doesn’t sound right. There’s too much going on.” It turned out that I was just playing something not even close to what the part was and had a dramatically different idea of what was happening. Whoops.

This is the longest song we’ve ever written and while we were putting it together I had no idea that it would end up being the theme that is returned to throughout Sovereignties. We all agreed that it would be really cool if we brought back some parts throughout the album and I’m happy that we did it with the parts we did. I feel like the lyrics of this song kind of encapsulate the themes of the album.
Bold move opening with the longest song, right? Sure feels that way.

Owen McCourt

While writing this album, one thing we kept in mind was trying to write simpler songs. This may seem weird, but it can be hard to just leave a part and not put an extra riff or extra chords into something. The first time we played through this song, with almost the whole thing being just a C to an Am, it felt super weird and too cutesy. Too simple. It’s kind of like colourfield painting. Jack Bush said one time, about his abstract colourfield stuff “The first time I painted like that, just the thin colours, it scared the shit out of me!” I think that that is the best way to sum up what it was like writing this song. Having a song just move between two chords makes you feel lazy as a musician, but you have to fight that feeling, because it works out better in the end.

This song changed a lot from when we began writing it, but most of that comes with putting on the guitar and synth layers that we knew were going to be there, but could do with just the four of us at practice. The bass intro used to be on guitar too. There used to be a bunch of different bass stuff in here and though it was little bit of a kick in the stomach getting all of it taken out, it was for the better.

It’s funny that this song seemed simple at the beginning because it wound up being what I think is one of the bigger departures for us on this album. We ain’t never had a lead synth before.
In the words of Davis, who recorded the album, “That’s the fuckin’ single bud.”

Monkey Paw

I think that this is my favourite song on the album. It probably changed the most drastically from beginning to end. It began as a fast punk song that probably sounded the closest to Ecotone out of everything that we were working on at the time. I know that I talk about the bass playing a lot here, but it’s me writing, so what the fuck did you think would happen? This song used to have a fucking god-awful basslines that was once again me trying to do way too much. Just playing all over the fretboard and making the song sound messy as hell. As with “Muscle Memory” on the last album, we completely turned the song on it’s head, making it something completely different, and just like last time, it benefited a lot from that. Duff tabled the idea of playing it double-time, but slow and that was cool because we had never done that before. Mark said “Hey man, I have another idea that’s going to do that!” feigning outrage. That idea became “Itchicoo”. This was another song that seemed really simple while we writing, with most of it just going back and forth two simple chord progression. I scaled back what I was doing, but still got some riffs in there, because, y’know, you don’t hold back a primo fuckin’ talent like this.

The lyrics are très sad. I’ll leave it at that.

I had never heard the “final” version of this song the way that Duff planned it, with all of the extra guitars, but I love it. Can’t wait to play this one live because it’s a big-time jammer.

Leslie Bush

If you want to quibble, this is technically the first song we worked on for the album. Duff moved into the lower floor of the house that Mark, Colin, and I lived in on Canada Day 2013. We were really excited about the band all living together in the same house, with Big Dawg O’Neill, no less, because we knew that it would be fun and we could also do a lot of band stuff.

That night we thought we take a cue from Attack in Black and record a 5-song acoustic EP of songs we hadn’t written yet all in one night. Mark had an 8-track recorder and we set up shop in my room. We quickly scaled the idea back to just a 2-song EP and still only got through ½ of one song. We said that we would get right back to working on the songs and do one per night for the rest of the week, but uh……

Man, that was even before we recorded Ecotone!

I guess what we turned out that night was sweet though, as it stuck with Duff. He said that he wrote a vocal melody for the song that was really good, but it didn’t surface again until we brought the song back to work through it for the second album. 

I think this song came together pretty easily. It flows well, has bangin’ lyrics and might be my finest hour on bass. The riff is big time and the first time we decided to reprise it after the second verse all of us were like “Uh, yeah.” I think the outro is low-key a big deal for us too. Lot’s of stuff happening there.

Corriveau

Is this weirdest song on the album? Yes. “Corriveau” is for sure the most out-of-character thing that Beat Noir has tried to do.

The song started with us thinking “hey, we still need a few more songs for the album” one day at practice and Duff saying “okay, here is a riff I’ve been working on”, which turned out to be the main riff of the song. 

One the perpetually interesting things about being in a band is that member sees the song as something different. When I first heard the riff, I envisioned it as an emo song in the revival/shoegazey style that Run for Cover Records has popularized lately. The riff fit so snugly within that context to me. I guess that when we jammed the song at practice, it sorted of sounded that way too. I brought this up to Duff while we were recording and he thought it was funny, because the way the song ended up on Sovereignties, a slow, dirgey post-punk song, was exactly how he had envisioned it.

With certain songs, we left a few parts to finish and create in the studio. We would know we were going to put synth parts on songs and what we basically wanted out of them, but really it would all depend on what Carl played in the studio. We did this on Ecotone, leaving Carl to just write all of his stuff, but did this even more so on this album. We would jam the song at practice and then say “And then we’ll put synth and fake drums on it.” Wrote that shit in the studio. There are some sweet pictures of Duff, Colin, and Davis lying down and working through the drum pattern that we were going to use for the song. I also think there’s a lot of good instrumentation on this song. If one were to say that “Corriveau” is the “Collages” of Sovereignties, which I don’t think is too far off-base, then that comparison would show how much we’ve grown as a band since the last album. “Collages” sucks, “Corriveau” is a banger.

*Davis mimes the bass fill at the end and then throws up the horns*

Jubilee

All of the interlude songs on this album, those being “Jubilee”, “Gethsemane”, and “St. Michael the Archangel”, were completely Duff’s doing. He came up with the idea of revisiting the themes and this is the first time it comes up on the album.

Part way through the writing process for this album the way we were putting together the songs changed. Duff took initiative and started to demo and work on the songs by himself a lot. With the interlude songs, he basically just said “Don’t worry, I got this.” We knew that this song would use the chord progression from the chorus of “St. John”, but not much else.

In the studio the song was originally just guitar, with Duff saying that Carl would come in to play glockenspiel afterwards. While we were recording vocals, I forwarded the idea of me playing simple bassline on it and we used a break in recording to do that. Bud, a P Bass with the tone turned down, palm-muted into an acoustic head? Ya. The bass line led to a 60’s-style drum pattern and now the song is this short throwback pop song stuck in the middle of the album and I love it.

We wrote a significant part of this song in the studio, which is something that we hadn’t done as a band before. This is the result of us thinking on our feet and drawing from influences we hadn’t used in a song before. Real proud of this one.

Itchicoo

Itchicoo was one of the later songs we worked on in this process. Like I said above, Mark brought it in as a half-time rock song that had a Nada Surf vibe to it. It used to be a little busier, with minor stuff on bass and a longer outro, but, once again, Duff convinced everyone to cut it back and that worked for the better. I wish there was a cooler song behind this song’s composition but really all we did was take out an outro and trim some parts down.

The song sounds a lot heavier than it originally was and is the first time we’ve used drop D tuning. Even though I like to play a lot on songs and am always thinking about some dumb riff I can put in, sometimes it feels really good to just groove as a rhythm section and that’s what Colin and I do here. Mark plays a big-time guitar solo at the end of this. Is it his best ever lead on a Beat Noir song? 

Fuckin’ probably, man.

When you’re a kid, you hear a lot of stories that, in retrospect, are larger than life, but seem so prescient that they have to be true at the time. I’m sure anybody can think of tons of stories like this from their childhood and, for me, this song brings up that feeling.

Gethsemane

While Duff was re-working the demos of songs we recorded, he said that he working on turning two of the songs into a “suite” with a connective interlude in between them. He sent us a 7ish minute song that was a re-worked Itchicoo, this song, and a re-worked Mount Hope. This thing is all Duffer. We never really jammed this song at practice, leaving it up to all of us just learning the demo, adding a ton of synth stuff, and working on electronic drums in the studio.

Sometimes a simple chord progression is all you need. Root, 5th, 4th and 6th. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. On the day I was recording bass, I was feeling pretty sick, having caught a cold from Mark in the studio. It came and left in one day, which was conveniently the day that I was recording bass. This song was the height of it and I felt so bad that I just handed the bass to Duff and told him to do this song, so the “rhythm bass” part is actually played by Duff.

I say “rhythm bass” because, like “Jubliee”, I thought of another part I wanted to add while Duff and Mark were working on vocals. That part is the chimey lead part that comes in at the end of the song. Since this song was heavy on synth and has a big post-punk vibe, I wanted to do some Peter Hook-style stuff to accentuate that even more. This one is a big departure for us too.

Mount Hope

This one started with the opening guitar riff, which Mark wrote. Then we added a few parts and I wrote a bassline that I thought was hot fire on an acoustic guitar during that jam. Then that bassline got cut! Sometimes you write something you think is sweet because it kind of goes all over the place, but then you look at it a few months later and don’t really care for it. The same thing happened with the bassline on “Nom de guerre” on Ecotone, which I now despise. This one wasn’t quite as bad, but it definitely did need to go. Everyone in the band was listening to a lot of Tigers Jaw when we started writing it, so I think that originally the song sounded a lot like Tigers Jaw.

We were deciding what to do with the outro of the song and throwing a bunch of lackluster ideas around. We agreed that we wanted some sort of guitar lead thing, but also knew that we had waded into that water a bunch of times already and didn’t want to just swim in the same damn place as a band. Personally, I was feeling like I had fallen into a shitty rut as a bass player and wanted to make more of a groove than just playing fills that showed I practiced scales. Duff suggested playing chords on the bass, which to me is akin to saying “Would you like to go to a Blue Jays game?” Colin and I worked on the structure of the outro pretty thoroughly and, if we’re being real, that is a musical composition that I look at and say “Damn Timmy, that is interesting.” 

More so than any other song we had, Duff thought we had to totally rework this one, which Mark echoed. Duff took off by himself and totally reworked to whole song so that the only parts that stayed were the beginning and end. And now it works! I guess!

I do really like this song a lot and I think I’m the only member of the band who considers it one of his favourite jams. It came together well and everybody gets to riff a lot in it and it doesn’t even sound like Tigers Jaw anymore. The intro is heavy, there’s tons of bass riffs, cool chords and a spacey outro with a zany keyboard sound. Cool. Fucking. Beans.

Alexandria

If you were to approach me and ask “Timmy, name me a song off of your second album, Sovereignties.” I would reply “Why, how about the song ‘Alexandria’!” This is because “Alexandria” was the first song we finished for the record. It was started with “St. John the Baptist” and “Monkey Paw” when Mark, Duff, and I jammed ideas for new songs in Mark’s bedroom and flew out of us at practice. We wrote one version, decided it needed some fixing and then bam! Song done. And man it felt like we had done something way better and interesting than anything on Ecotone. The parts we came up with just flowed pretty naturally into the next thing and it wound up being a really fun jam to jam. It was written so long ago that we jammed it in Colin’s parents’ basement!
In Duff’s words, “I wish we could just keep writing songs like that.”

And we did!

The song is titled “Alexandria”, which references the old Greek city in Egypt, and Duff, who often second guesses his decisions song-wise, almost wanted to change the title. Fortunately, we did not, because I think it’s a great title.

You think that when you finish a song and then keep playing it at practice for like two fucking years that you would get tired of it, but I really haven’t. I still bang my head a little every time we start to intro because I love playing this damn song. This was also the first song that we started mixing into live shows as well, so it feels way more familiar than anything else on Sovereignties. For a while I kind of separated “Alexandria” from the rest of the Sovereignties songs because it was done while the others were still being tinkered with. But then when we recorded them it instantly fit so perfectly with all the others in their order. Honestly, I don’t think it is a stretch to say that this is the definitive Beat Noir song.

St. Michael the Archangel

I really appreciate it when a band puts recurring musical themes on an album that return to remind the listener that they are listening to a work of art. That might sound pompous, but I do believe it. Every album is created by the artist to be consumed as a body of work. They work on the track order, the album art, the cohesion of the lyrics, and many other factors to ensure that each track fortifies that other ones. I find that most people are very track-oriented in their listening today, and favour just listening to singles on Youtube, which I find incredibly stupid. More and more, people are just trying glean the bare bones content from things, whether it be listening to songs on Youtube or just scrolling though a long article to get the gist of it. Embrace length and depth. Enjoy the ride. Realize that “St. Michael the Archangel” completes the album and ties it back to Ecotone.

-Timmy

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Little Off the Top, Sir!

I haven't had internet in the apartment for more than two weeks now, which explains why posts have halted. Though it has been annoying when I need to take advantage of conveniences I've gotten used to like internet banking and email, it has also been good because it has made me read a lot more and watch a lot of Cheers. I've also written a decent amount while I've been stuck without the internet. Not a ton, but probably more than I would have if I had it.

Last week was a pretty shitty one for the world. Here's something I wrote reflecting on that:

I have now read three novels by Timothy Findley.

First, I read The Wars. It made me think about the first World War in a different way, which in turn made me think about wars in a different way. It made me very sad. It was dark, but also realistic. The ending of the novel is at the same time empowering and disheartening, depending on how you look at it. “Not yet.” can mean believing in yourself and sticking to your beliefs in the face of insurmountable odds, but it can also mean that those odds will never be beaten and you succumbing to greater powers is inevitable. I guess I try to keep both of those things in mind.

The second of his novels which I read was Not Wanted on the Voyage, which also made me very sad. It made me mad at the way that world works. It made me mad at myself for being a part of that world. I think that if straight, white men are having a difficult time understanding their privilege and how it affects the world, they should read Not Wanted on the Voyage.

I have now just finished The Last of the Crazy People and once more, I am very sad. This book, as well as the last two, has had an undercurrent saying that the world is a fucked-up, flawed, and stupid place and that we are even more fucked-up, flawed, and stupid for trying to work and exist within it.

The sadness that is evoked in me from these novels is not the type of sadness that you experience while listening to a Smiths song. This is physical sadness. I can feel it in my chest and it affects my demeanor. I carry it around with me all day. I have felt pretty bad since I started reading this book.

But this is not a bad thing, because the ideas that Findley explores in his writing are truths of the human existence. All of the ideas and themes in The Wars, Not Wanted on the Voyage, and The Last of the Crazy People are the result of experiences and reactions to those experiences. This is not a guy writing sad stories because he’s sad, this is a guy writing real stories because the world is a fucked-up place and can be supremely terrible. Though we may not always experience it as such and shouldn’t always think about it in those terms, we should remember that sometimes.

I think that this is all the more prescient now, after two more young, black men were murdered by police this week. Common sense would dictate that after the many prominent cases of similar incidents within the last few years, police forces would, at bare minimum, at least instruct their officers to try to act with more restraint, but systematic racism is, of course, systematic and all cops are, of course, bastards.

To wit, from The Last of the Crazy People, which was part of what brought these ideas to mind, “Policemen were funny. They tried so hard to be nice, and yet they were so terribly stiff and cold and embarrassed that Hooker wanted to laugh at them.”

This is not an especially violent indictment of police officers and I certainly could have chosen a more powerful passage from any number of authors, especially by people of colour, but the fact that it came up in the book I was currently reading was a perfect coincidence.

Cops aren’t your fucking friend. You shouldn’t feel comfortable around them. Don’t trust them. They are here to enforce rules that you had no hand in creating or consenting to. They are scared of you being aware of the limits of their unduly gained power. It can feel like you are powerless to resist them, but being aware of what they can and can’t do is the best to start your fight against this powerlessness.

Fuck this world.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Sovereignties

Shortly after we put out Ecotone, Beat Noir started to kick around ideas for new songs. We started with three acoustic skeletons and then gradually added more and more until we had 11 full songs. Then we went to Niagara-on-the-Lake and started recording them with Davis. Considering that I didn't know Davis before, it was amazing that he turned out to be a great friend and amazing adviser on what we were making. In my mind, Davis is a member of the band and I'm sure that Mark, Duff, and Colin would agree. Once we started recording, we added even more to each of the songs. We took our time and wanted to make sure it came out sounding the way we wanted it to.

We spent about a week and a half and during that time crashed with Davis. We'd wake up, start making a record and then go to sleep. If you weren't recording, you were sitting with Davis and giving input and hanging out. We ate cereal out of the same bowl for breakfast every day and then ate breakfast for dinner at Silk's Diner down the street every day. Then we would fall asleep on couches and start the same process the next day. It was probably the most fun I've ever had in my life.

We wanted to take a long time mixing and we did. The idea wasn't to put down each track and then level it and put it out, the idea was to make the mix sound like we imagined being while we were writing the songs. I think we got there.

When we put out Ecotone, we got it out pretty quickly and then it just sort of disappeared after a little bit. I got tired of some of the songs pretty quickly. With Sovereignties, we waited and sat on it until we knew it should come out. We wanted to see how much we could do with it. I guess I don't what we ended up doing with it or what we were thinking, but I do know that waiting on it was the right decision. Absolutely the right decision.

So now, Sovereignties is out. Actually, if you were hip to the links that I add to words on this blog, you could have gotten it months ago. It pays to read this blog.

I am very proud of this record. I think we made a big progression from the last record and I think it is a much better showcase of what we are able to do as musicians, the influences each of us want to bring to the band, and, really, Duffer's strength as a songwriter.

I've got a sort of liner notes that I've been writing to exapnd on the songs that I'll put up here once I finish them, so keep an eye for that, but in the mean time I guess that all I can say is listen to the fruit of our labour and enjoy.



Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rocketman's Above All that Shit, Emil

Every year, I set a personal reading goal for myself, to encourage myself to keep reading and finding new novels and authors to enjoy. Because reading is good. For the last two years, my goal has been to finish 20 books in one year. There were periods in university where I would fall out of the practice of reading before bed, which is when I usually read. It was sometimes hard to stay committed to reading for pleasure when a big part of my program involved reading dense articles for classes.

While finishing my reading goal, there's also a few other goals I try to finish within my larger project. I might try to read a book from a famous author who I've never read before. Read more books by women. Read more books by people of colour. I don't just want to read more books, I want to broaden my perspective through this.

This year, I wanted to start the year off by reading a difficult book that was noted for its complexity. The one I chose was Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, because it, from what I had read about it, seemed like a book I would enjoy. It was long, it was dense, the narrative was extremely difficult to follow at times, and there were thousands of characters.

But I just finished it! It took me six goddamn months! I started this in January, when I was still commuting to EJ Pratt Library to finish my thesis, as it wasn't even close to finished. Now I've been done school for two months and have started a new job. I don't really know what else to say, so I'm just going to dump something I've been thinking about since I started Part 2 of the book.

Tyrone Slothrop's outfits ranked:

1. The Hawaiian shirt he wears while battling the octopus.
2. The Zoot Suit he wears while escaping France.
3. The "Rocketman" outfit he wears while stealing a huge supply of hash from the Potsdam Conference.
4. The Russian military uniform with the flags removed.
5. The pig costume.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

You're Invisible Now, You've Got No Secrets to Conceal

I am not normally one for the sentimental posts that my generation now uses to commemorate their loved ones on holidays or birthdays. Whenever Mother's or Father's Day rolls around, my Facebook and Instagram feeds are inevitably filled with people posting pictures of themselves as babies with their younger parents with a caption thanking them for their existence. I don't think this is a hokey trend or anything, far from it, please show affection to your loved ones as much as you can, but it's that my family has never really gone for public displays of affection like that. Even though I love my parents and would feel strongly enough to post something like that, it's just kind of not my style. That might seem like a flimsy excuse, but the truth is as simple as that.

To go with family's disinclination for PDA's, we also aren't the type of family to say "I love you" a lot. This is not to say that we don't love each other. Quite the opposite, as every member of my family is very close. We all know that we love each other and we show it often, but we just don't say it. Is there a need for us to say it after we've already shown it? Maybe for others, but not for us.

It also seems to me like everyone who publicly posts how much they love their families has way, way more familial conflicts than the Chandlers do. Just a quick observation there.

These feelings are probably most evident in my siblings', but more specifically my, relationships with our father. He never wanted to do anything special for Father's Day, and his birthday which usually falls on the following week, and eschews any sort of dinner or celebration for a day of gardening in the backyard with the Jays on the radio and a beer to follow. I guess that is the way he would prefer to celebrate. It feels odd because we always go out of our way to phone our mom on Mother's Day and her birthday, but our dad has never seemed to care too much about that sort of thing.

Last year my siblings planned a big birthday dinner for our mom. We got a nice dinner and big-ish present for her. Rebecca and I went out to my parents' for dinner for my dad's birthday about two weeks later and one of the first things he said to Rebecca was,

"I don't want you to get the wrong idea, we don't always celebrate birthdays like this."

Just immediately trying to strip away any sort of focus or spotlight on himself. I try my best to imitate him in this regard.

Today I received a Father's Day email from my dad, in which he described his father and his relationship with him. My grandfather died a long time before I was born, when my dad was 24. My grandfather's early death has been an omnipresent thing in my dad's personality and I know that it was instrumental in him becoming the person he became. Since he was gone so much earlier, I never got to meet him and know him, so this email was a makeshift introduction for the two of us.

Reading through Dad's relationship with his own dad, I immediately saw parallels between it and my relationship with my dad. Two narratives that were very similar and part of the same line, but also disconnected at the same time. This is reinforced by the fact that my grandfather's name, Melville, is my middle name. I carry him around with me always. He has now been dead for a long time and his body is gone. I live on as a physical symbol of the bond between Mel and Bill Chandler. I like that. Does my dad think about that when he looks at me? Maybe.

My dad is the biggest influence on my life. He's always supported me and said the right thing and guided me towards what I should be doing. He has always shown and taught me what the right thing to do is. I realized in my later teens that by watching him, I could learn what it means to be a man. Not in the macho sense of the word, not at all. But meaning how to be a mature adult. When to speak. When not to speak. How to treat your friends. How to treat your loved ones. What to value. What to reject. What is important in the world.

I hope that I am doing a good job of remembering the lessons I've learned.

I don't have many pictures of him and I on my computer and I should do a better job of collecting the ones that exist. In fact, I only have the one I've included below, from my undergrad graduation. I have a mohawk and look like a goof, but at least our mustaches match. He looks proud. I like it.