Thursday, December 31, 2015

Epilogue: I Forgot One

A special, first time occurrence on IMU:

I'm writing this as an addendum to my year-end music list because I started heavily listening to Joy, Departed  by Sorority Noise after I put up the post and really do feel like it's one of the best albums put out in 2015. The band has all the best parts of Blue/Pinkerton/Songs/From the Black Hole Weezer, but doesn't make them sound tired and cliché the way most bands around right now do. Great fuzzy power-pop and good song writing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

They Tell Me That It's Good for Me, but I Don't Even Care

When I write a post for IMU, I put pressure on myself to have the post touch on at least one important idea or theme because that I what I think makes my "good" posts good. It is a pretty necessary thing in my mind. I mentioned this in that "ranking post" I wrote a few months ago. This doesn't always to be explicitly done in my writing, as even the three posts the precede this one, which are strictly documentary in nature serve a specific purpose of, in the future, illustrating where I was at, what I was doing, and what I was into at a specific time, which I think is a main theme of this blog.

This pressure for a bigger theme can sometimes deter me from writing though, because I tell myself that there is no use in writing something here if I don't have a bigger idea or plan in mind. I guess that is sort of good, in that it drives the quality of content here way up, but it is also bad because it drives the quantity way down. Do I write sparingly, but make the posts long and intelligent? Do I write all the time and end up putting up shitty posts frequently? This is something I struggle with.

I was turning this over in my head a bunch today because I feel like I have nothing of value to say lately. I got a big round of edits on my thesis back during recording and have been wrapped up in going through those edits. Reading through old writing and especially someone pointing out all of the inconsistencies and mistakes and dumb parts of that old writing can be not so fun, so editing has gone Rogue and sort of sucked out all of my creative writing power. Making something like a year-end list is easy because I have it all planned out and just need to write a blurb about something I like (not to mention that I wrote like half of it like a month ago and saved the draft). But tapping into my emotions and writing something that means something and says something? That's hard.

Nevertheless, I feel like I need to write something to keep me sane, so what you get is the ol' IMU special: Me writing a bullshit post about the writing process of this blog.



P.S. I just listened to Fuel for the Hate Game by Hot Water Music and Huey Lewis and the News' Greatest Hits back-to-back and can honestly say that I enjoy "The Power of Love" more than any track on the former. For real.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hit Your Head

I also thought I would introduce something new this year and include my favourite TV shows from this year. I watch a shitload of TV and have gotten a lot more on top of watching shows while they air instead of binging them in one huge session, which has led to me getting a lot more into TV, while also getting a little more critical of what I watch. Or maybe I am just becoming a junior cultural critic. All I know is that now I think a lot more about why I like a specific part of a TV show than I used to and I sort of think about TV the way I think about music now. I'm not very diverse in my tastes, but I think I'm starting to know my shit somewhat. That being said, I am committed to lowbrow and vernacular sensibilities and will always call it "TV" instead of "television", the same way I call them "movies" and not "film". Most of the time, at least.

Anyways, my favourite TV of 2015:

Silicon Valley, season 2

I am pretty sure that Silicon Valley is my favourite show on TV right now and if it's not, then it's my favourite comedy by a landslide. This show is a lot closer to Office Space than most Mike Judge stuff, which I guess explains why I like it so much. The writing manages to balance and blend high and lowbrow humour in the way that only Mike Judge can when he's at his best. I LOVED the first season, but the second one managed improve itself by fleshing out the side characters like Danesh, Gilfoyle, and OJ. Just like the "dick joke of all dick jokes" at the end of season 1, season 2 manages to get a lot of mileage out of simple ideas by taking them as far as they can go, both logically and illogically, if that makes any sense.


If Silicon Valley isn't my favourite show on right now, then it is certainly this one (ignoring Thrasher's "Skateline" weekly fake-news update series, which doesn't count, I guess). The skill that the Duplass brothers have at creating funny, interesting, and most important touching movies translated perfectly to this TV series. They absolutely nail being in a stale relationship, feeling overlooked and friendship. I feel as though Togetherness is a very realistic look into life as a 30 year-old, which is something I'm not quite at, but almost at. This whole season hit me square in the goddamn feelings.

Regular Show, seasons 6 & 7

Regular Show elevated itself to "Favourite Cartoon Ever?" status pretty quickly, so I may be a bit of an RS apologist. I don't expect the level of consistently great episodes that was present until the end of the 3rd season, so I find it easier to swallow when the show puts out a fairly by-the-numbers episode involving a zany plot that resolves in a giant event. However, for every episode like that, the show has at least two great ones that do either of the following: 

1. Touch on Mordecai or Rigby romantic life with Margaret, MY GIRL C.J., and Eileen. This is secretly the show's greatest strength and when they use this as an episode's central plot it speaks to many things I've experienced myself.

2. Take the zaniness to a much higher level. The crazy episodes work best when the writers and artists wear the show's influences on their sleeves and don't shy away from corny 80's action movies, stoner comedies and anime.

Though the show is not the most even its ever been, there are many episodes which expand the show's mythology and make it even more of a joy to watch. There is not bigger parallel for me in media than reading me as Jekyll/Hyde type as Mordo and Rigby.

Man Seeking Woman

No show impressed me more in 2015 than Man Seeking Woman. After seeing the pilot I immediately became a huge fan of Simon Rich and I love reading the stuff he writes now. This show takes every insecurity that young men have while dating and blows them up into this huge surreal, silly and ridiculous monstrosity that you have to laugh at because of how stupid and silly they are, while also laughing at yourself because you can think of like five times you did the exact thing that is happening. For example worrying about your new significant other hanging out with their old one (in this case a Japanese penis monster, illustrated above) or your mom asking you about who are dating (by tying you up in a chair and torturing you for the information). I guess a big part of why I enjoy is because I am the exact demographic they are targeting (20-something straight white male), but holy shit did this show hit all the right spots for me.

Master of None

I watched the first episode and thought "Yeah, that was pretty good," but realized part way through the second how in love with this show I was. Aziz's writing on the show is amazing and balances the millenial references/criticism he's known for with a new romantic softness that works SO WELL. I would never imagined that he would be this good at writing romantic repartee. The overall arc of the two main characters is great and very relatable for anyone who's been in a long-term relationship. Not to mention that only white guy in the main cast is Eric Wareheim playing the weirdo. A wonderful debut series.

The Last Man on Earth

Will Forte is a god. Though a lot of people gave the show flack for having a protagonist that is a dick and difficult to relate to, I thought it was great that in a time of most network comedies being full of fun, great people (Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), TLMoE took the opposite approach and tried to tap into the worst parts of your personality. If you think that you wouldn't react the same as these people to situations, then dog, you lyin' to yourself. The first season was a clinic in cringe humour and didn't really ever lose steam, in my opinion.

The constant building of the initial, obvious, Cast Away joke in the first episode was one of my favourite things on TV this year. I may or may not have my own power ranking of all the balls.

(Antawn just edges out Gary for the top spot)

The Jinx

When discussing this show, I've described it as "killing the true crime documentary genre" and I stand by. The revelation at the end of the series, in which Durst unknowingly confesses, is the best and craziest and most interesting thing that a documentarian  could possibly hope to achieve in making a project like this. You start with an interesting and high-profile murder case, deconstruct all of the evidence, follow the fucked up subject through his life while he keeps somehow escaping from charges, keep building and building and then bam.

Documentary Now!

A lot of great comedy is on TV right now and a lot of it is getting a lot of attention, but I think this series deserves a lot more than it gets. Fred Armisen is predictably great, but for me this was a Bill Hader tour-de-force. I really don't understand why someone hasn't taken him and made them their leading man and then laughed at how great it turned out. Each episode is a perfect send-up of its source material and though I could maybe pick a favourite one if I sat down and really thought about it, it would be really tough. The show's funny enough if you don't get all the references, but if you're picking up what they're putting down, it is phenomenal.

Rick and Morty

I only got hip to Rick and Morty this summer and powered through the first season before diving into the second right after. Funny sci-fi is hard to do well and even harder to keep funny, but this show excels at it. Jokes circle around many times in the series and keep getting better. Whereas a lot of Adult Swim shows go all-in on ridiculous and eschew continuity in favour of fucked up plots and zaniness (Aqua Teen, Sealab, Tim and Eric), whereas as this one stays just as dark and twisted while somehow maintaining a mythology. When Dan Harmon is on top of his game, there isn't really anyone who can touch him in smart, self-referential and somehow touching comedy and that is evidenced in Rick and Morty. The second season is even somehow better than the first!

I sure do watch a lot of comedies, don't I?

Monday, December 14, 2015

It Sounds Stock!

Three post in one day?! We are a content machine here at IMU. Beat Noir, in various forms, was in Niagara on the Lake from the 5th to the 13th to record our second album. Here are some pictures I took during this week, which was one of the most fun I've ever had.

2015 Jams

I used to love writing about all the new music that came out each year. Then for a few years I got down on myself and thought "Who really cares about what I liked?" Last year I thought about it and came to the conclusion that I do really like writing this stuff up and writing a really long post about all of my favourite music from the last calendar year is honestly more for me than you and serves as a sort of marker for different points in my life. I can go back and look through old lists and, through looking at the music and what I had to say about it, see where I was at at the time. There was time where I tried to include a whole ton of stuff and give my opinion on every single relevant release that year as a way to validate my taste, but I'm past that now. This is a much more free-flowing exercise for me now and I find it pretty enjoyable. Once again, I've ditched numbers because who really cares? I guess you can decide what I liked best by reading what I write and making your decision that way.

I've linked a place to stream, download, or buy each album in its name if there was one available.

Mac McCaughan- Non-Believers

All the early press I saw for this album described it as the singer from Superchunk making the soundtrack to a John Hughes movie and I guess that's an okay description, but I think a better one would be a midway point between Superchunk and New Order. Obviously homie is going to retain influences from his band when he's been in it for like 25 years, so it ends up being Majesty Shredding, except with much less distortion and much more synth. I was a little let down by the last Superchunk record, so I wonder if Mac was saving all of his good songs for this one, as it's incredibly strong front-to-back. This is something that I came back to constantly this year and haven't stopped listening to since its release. I don't really bother deciding which album is my hard #1 anymore, but this one would be in contention for sure.

The Mountain Goats- Beat the Champ

One of the nerdiest things about me is that I absolutely adore pro wrestling. I know that it's not for everyone and it's one of those things where those who "get it" get it and those who don't don't. When this release was announced, it seemed pretty out of nowhere for The Mountain Goats to release a pro wrestling-themed album, but I was instantly excited because I already loved the band and this would combine two things I already liked. What makes this good though is that rather than the album's theme being 80's or 90's WWF and WCW, which are already in the public consciousness, John Darnielle instead channels his love old old territorial wrestling which makes it a lot more endearing and gives the songs a very strong emotional core. It's not the best album of the year, but it does such a good job of building a world with the songs and that is so special.

Adventures- Supersonic Home

A lot of fuzzy, shoegazy emo came out this year. A LOT. I guess emo kids all started smoking weed? Since the genre is getting watered down so much, most of it was pretty uninspiring, but Adventures hit a sweet spot for me. I like the vocal melodies a lot and there's a bunch of good riffs and grooves and the album is really enjoyable front-to-back. "Tension" is one of my favourite songs from this year.

Jeff Rosenstock- We Cool?

Jeff Rosenstock's music has gotten so much more popular among punk kids my age in the last few years and I'm really happy for the guy. Because I am a musical elitist, I tried to use that as ammo for me starting to drift away from the new music it makes, somehow thinking that more people liking it would make me like it less. That's lame. Like what you like because you like. This is not my favourite thing he's ever done, but there are many good songs and the lyrics are ace. Jeff forever.

Turnstile- Nonstop Feeling

I've gotten to a point where I know what I want from hardcore and that is just riffs and breakdowns and yelling. This album gives me those things. I like dumb hardcore and I like breakdowns and this band throws back to a lot of stuff I like from the late 80's and early 90's both in their sound and aesthetic. To me, it's equal parts Anthrax and Sick of It All and that is right up my alley. Of course I love this album.

Sean Bonnette- Skateboarding's Greatest Hits

I do not listen to Sean Bonnette's band Andrew Jackson Jihad. I can totally see the appeal, but it's just not for me, but this release made me rethink that. He picked his favourite songs from skate videos and then recorded his own weird versions of them. This release really resonates with me because it hits me in so many different emotional and nostalgic places, as I can think of my favourite songs from videos too. A song dovetailing with a skate part is always a multi-layered intersection of the counter-culture of skateboarding, the culture of the video's team, the tastes and personality of the rider of the specific part and also something that suits the skater's style. When it works out it adds such an intense ethereal feeling to a skate part that makes you want to immediately go outside and try a handrail for the first time. This release makes me think of all of this and how it has been present in my life and all the great feelings it has given me. I fucking love how he included clips from each video part before songs as well.

Skate or die.

Shopping Cart- Weird Year

Despite all the members of Shopping Cart being good friends of mine, I only managed to see them one time. At that show, I had so much fun watching them play that it reminded me exactly why being in a band is fun. I think that this feeling comes through in these songs. Shopping Cart broke up. Long live Shopping Cart.

Deafheaven- New Bermuda

The hair on the top of my head is longer than the hair on the sides, so I guess I'm obliged to like Deafheaven. This album rips.

Pet Symmetry- Pet Hounds

Pet Symmetry put out a really good EP and a really good demo, but both left me wanting a lot more from the band. The songs were really strong and well put together and I kept snooping around to see if more music from the band that I hadn't heard existed somewhere, but that was for naught. I was really looking forward to this album, which was helped by the early release of "Give Thanks (Get Lost)". The band totally delivered and the album is a tight 25 minutes of wonderful emo-y power-pop. I love when band's don't try to do too much and trim the fat off of songs, not shying away from short songs. If you've got enough hooks, who gives a fuck? Good lyrics, great guitar work and heavenly melodies. Hasn't gotten old since it came out either. This would be another one I would put up near the top of an ordered version of this list.

Self Defense Family- Heaven is Earth

I am pretty late to the End of A Year/Self Defense Family party. I dabbled here and there, but never really gave the releases any attention. That changed this year though, as they were one of the bands I listened to the most this year. I think that I prefer the older You Are Beneath Me material more, but that's not to say that I don't appreciate the intellectual slant of this new material and just how much this band tries to do. Writing essentially all parts in the studio? Four different producers and studios doing two songs each to make up the album? Very, very cool. As artists, it is truly impressive what Self Defense Family is constantly doing.

Nai Harvest- Hairball

I hate to draw comparisons to Brit-Pop with this release because I think I'm mostly doing that because of the band's accents and haircuts, but that is the first thing I think of. This band, like Adventures, play a style of shoegazey, fuzzy emo that seems to be all the rage these days but I get the sense that their music is also informed by growing up around bands like Blur and Pulp in their rockier moments. There's a lot more classic guitar-pop tricks on this album than their contemporaries (dat ride cymbal on the opening track) that flesh the songs out nicely. "Buttercups" is one of the best songs of the year.

Antartico Vespucci- Leavin' La Vida Loca

I love this band. A lot. The goodness of their first EP expanded, but not stretched, over 10 songs. Hell yeah.

Dogs on Acid- Self-Titled

Early in 2015, my ipod broke and for about 3 months I only had 7 or 8 "A" bands synced on it, which led to me leaning heavily on the Algernon Cadwallader discography for a long time. When I heard the bass player had a new band, I was excited but thought that Dogs on Acid was one of the worst band names I'd ever heard. Their first demo didn't do much, but this full length is absolutely wonderful. It's alty-punk played about the best you can play it and it has dominated my listening habits since it came out. I don't even think the band name sucks anymore either.

The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die- Harmlessness

One time, Babs and Sierra and I were getting nachos on the Sneaky Dee's patio. TWIABP and Dads were playing the venue that night and a bartender was writing the bill on a sandwich board outside. He asked us if we had heard of the bands "The World is a Beautiful Place" and "I am No Longer Afraid to Die" were. We told him it was one band's name and he said it was the dumbest thing he'd ever heard. Jokes about the length of this band's name are pretty hackneyed, but that story was too good to not share. This album is good and poppy and is the first thing I've gotten into from them. The long songs don't even feel that long, you guys.

Oso Oso- Real Stories of True People who Kind of Looked like Monsters

I hadn't heard of Oso Oso before I saw them open for The Hotelier this year. They blew me away and nailed a emo/pop-punk/pop-rock bulls-eye that I didn't know I needed. At the show, Mitch described them as very Third Eye Blind-like and upon hearing that, I agree. This album is absolutely great and catchy and full of good riffs and I think good stuff will be coming from them for sure. Super into this one and can't wait to see what they do next.

I also took the liberty of compiling a mix with one song from each of these albums. If you would like a taste of what I've been into this year, you can download that RIGHT HERE.

This is What I Want

Apparently the band Ma Jolie is breaking up and that sucks, because it pretty much always sucks when people stop making music. To be honest, I haven't listened to them very much recently at all, but there was a time when I was very into ...Compared to Giants and had a really great night while seeing them at a show on a trip to Cleveland in 2012. It's not even as though that is one of my favourite albums or anything, but upon seeing that the band is breaking up, the news brought up my few memories of that band and also of that particular time in my life.

Because of that, I feel the need to post the album here:

Ma Jolie- ...Compared to Giants

Friday, December 4, 2015

Healthy Body, Sick Mind

I'm person who looks back on their past a lot. I would say that I do this in a healthy way, in that sometimes I remind myself of friends I used to have and things I used to do that I wish I could bring back, but also think about things I did or ways I acted that were wrong. I think it's important to learn from your mistakes, but also that it's important that you don't forget who you are.

Since I've always been very involved in music, whether it be playing in a band, or going to shows, or buying records, looking back on musical taste is one of the main ways that I do what I was talking about in the last paragraph. Everyone's tastes evolve over time and if they don't, you are way too boring. There's nothing wrong with still loving stuff you discovered as a pre-teen, but if you don't grow in your interests that sucks.

Everyone has some bad music they used to listen to, but I try to look back on shitty bands I used to love within the context of where I was at the time. Sure, Pennywise really sucks and I can't believe I loved them at one time (let alone had the cover of Self-Titled as my MSN display picture), but me listening to Pennywise is directly tied to Punk-o-Rama 8, which was huge in introducing me to a lot of bands who I still love and are undeniably good. They also were a band that Damien and I used to play together on guitar and bass, so they are also tied to my friendship with my best friend and to me learning how to play bass.

In looking back on bands, I always find very empowering when I think about I still love a band as much as I did when I first heard them. I was listening to the Operation Ivy compilation yesterday and that is what inspired this blog post, because I still absolutely love those songs and they all still sound as fresh as the first time I heard them. If I've been listening to a band for like 15 years, then there has to be something about the band that draws me to it more than others. And that means that that particular idea has to be more important to me than other things. If that idea is more important to me and is something that draws me back to things regularly throughout my life, than it must be an integral part of my personality.



In the case of Operation Ivy this would the social awareness and criticism contained in their lyrics, and if that is an integral part of my personality, from the above logic, then that is a good thing.

It doesn't hurt that they play fast as hell too.

I don't know. This is a shitty blog. Operation Ivy rules and I still feel as powerful and positive as I did the first time I heard them in 8th grade. That's all I'm trying to say.