Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sedated and Shameless

Today I found out, through a Facebook post, that the Pity Sex has decided to call it day. Given that vocalist/guitarist Britty Drake decided to leave the band earlier this year, and her voice was so integral to the band's sound, I figured it was a matter of time before Pity Sex was toast.

This is normal. The first I recall hearing about Pity Sex was when their demo came out in 2011, so it's totally normal for a band who's been active that long to expire. Putting out two full-lengths, an EP, and two splits is a great career of music to hang your hat on and nothing to be ashamed of.

I'm usually pretty hesitant to put up eulogies for bands up on here because bands come and go so easily. If I wanted to give praise to every band that I thought was great a break up, it would dominate the whole friggin' site. This case seemed important though, as Pity Sex's music dominated a brief, but notable period of my life.

As I said, I caught wind of the band in 2011, because a girl I followed on tumblr posted about them a few times, but that was not when I started listening to them at all. I actually remember the moment I did quite well.

At the time, I was living in a basement apartment in Waterloo with Mark. I was working the worst job I've ever had and the only things I found myself enjoying were plodding along on Beat Noir's absolutely awful EP Permanently and volunteering with kids at the city's art gallery. This was a time when Mark was also going through some shit, starting a similarly awful job and a long-term relationship ending, and that served to unite us, along with Duff, in the way that only a shared experience like that can.

One night, Duff picked me up and we then went to go grab Mark from his auto rental sales job. It was deep winter and we were driving through what must have been the snowiest part of the year. If you looked out the window, it seemed like all you saw was white and black. Duff put on Pity Sex's album Feast of Love and I asked who they were. When I found out, I said I had tried to get into them, but hadn't succeeded. Duff said he liked it because they had trimmed down the songs and made everything faster. Though Feast of Love is a 10-song full-length and Dark World is a 6-song EP, they're almost the same length. I said I liked it. Mark go in the car and immediately said he liked it too.

When summer came around, Feast of Love became my go-to album when leaving the house. I started each day by skateboarding downhill down King St in Waterloo and Pity Sex, combined with hot, sunny weather, seemed like the perfect companion to this. Feast of Love became an integral part of my day and, apologies for the cliché, the soundtrack to my day-to-day activities. Well, it and Self-Titled by Tigers Jaw, which has its own story as well. The quick and dreamy shoegaze of the band was exceptionally suited to my lifestyle and influenced a lot of stuff I did. It's also an album that Mark, Duff, and I can all agree on, which is special and rare.

When I started university that fall I kept listening to Pity Sex and also started dating Rebecca. While we do overlap in our musical tastes, we also differ a fair amount. Pity Sex was an early thing that we both shared our enthusiasm for and exists in the centre of the Venn diagram that illustrates our tastes.

Pity Sex toured with Ceremony in the summer of 2015 and Rebecca and I went to the show together. This was the only time that I saw the band. They played great and though the show wasn't exceptionally noteworthy, the entire experience of watching them play for 30 minutes with Rebecca was special.

White Hot Moon didn't do much for me and Dark World doesn't either, to be honest, but Feast of Love and the split with Adventures is just wonderful. The degree to which Pity Sex influenced the current shoegaze leanings of emo is also something that, though not objective, is also not talked about.

Kudos to Pity Sex for all they accomplished with their music.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Can We Just Lie Here and Find a Way to Kill Some Time Here

This Friday marks the opening of the new fall exhibitions at my work and that means an influx of work to go along with it. That means longer hours and less time to write. I'm sort of short on ideas right now, but do have a backlog of topics in my drafts, so my current plan is to knock one of those out to get myself back on track and resume my life as a content mule.

In the meantime, I thought I would talk about some music I've been into lately because that is easy for me to do and it's also something I used to do a lot and I kind of wish I did more.

Oso Oso played Toronto last night and I made a point to go. I find it's easy to let shows fall by the wayside while I'm busy with work and I hate that that has become a habit. The last time I saw Oso Oso, they were opening for The Hotelier and they blew me away. They sit at a halfway point between current "emo revival" bands like The World is a Beautiful Place and The Hotelier et al. and Third Eye Blind's Self-Titled, which happens to be one of my favourite albums. They pull off this mixture perfectly and are big-time on melody, guitar riffs, and vocal harmonies. This time they were on a smaller headlining tour and were just as good. The band is tight as hell and great at what they do. I was ready to sing along to my favourite bangers from the most excellent Real Stories of True People, Who Kind of Looked Like Monsters... (DISCLAIMER: LISTEN TO THAT RECORD), but was instead greeted by a set that was like half new songs that were just as good, if not better, than what I had already heard.

I can't say enough great things about that band. They're going to be big shit soon and if they aren't, they deserve to be. Support them.

Since last Friday I've also been going hard on the new Joyce Manor album, Cody. Every time Joyce Manor puts out something new, it also causes to revisit everything else they've put out. This time was no different and I've been in full Joyce Manor Mode since Cody came out. I really appreciate and love when band's try to do something new for each record and Joyce Manor is a great example of that. They started with a wonderful debut album that was equal parts emo, hardcore, and pop-punk, but in a way that was completely different from the awful, whiney, breakdown-heavy version that most losers were into. Instead of building on that sound and cashing in on hype, they put out an abrasive 9-song, 14-minute follow up that weirded a ton of people out. Of the 9 songs, two are short acoustic songs, one's a (phenomenal) cover of "Video Killed the Radio Star", and one uses a lo-fi synth as its base. While I initially wasn't huge on the record, but loved the idea, I now find myself coming back to it a lot. THEN, they hit everyone with a polished 3rd album of pop-punk hits that remain short, to-the-point, and idiosyncratic.

I lovelovelovelove bands who aren't afraid to write short songs and albums. "Keep it simple stupid."

With all of this said, I've been thinking that Cody may be my favourite of their's yet and also probably my favourite thing released this year. The band has started to show a huge power-pop influence (a direct path to my heart) and Cody sees the band taking healthy doses of Blue and #1 Record, in addition to their usual influences. It's mature and a great take on a sound that I daydream about using myself a lot. A link to the album is at the start of the preceding paragraph.

Joyce Manor is a band whose sound and influences have grown along with me, which has really endeared them to me. Their music has stuck around with me and now, like 7 years later, they are all of a sudden near the top of my favourite bands and definitely one of the current bands that matters the most, IMO. An odd reason that I feel really attached to them is that if I were still really serious about writing songs, and I had continued writing and working them after I just sort of stopped a few years ago, then I think Barry and I would have very similar writing styles. It's cool to see the style I sort of worked within be taken and done extremely well and much better than I ever came close to doing.

Good record. You should listen!

Another record that has been in regular rotation during my work hours is the most recent full-length by LVL UP, Return to Love. I love me some poppy, fuzzy indie rock and this album delivers that in spades. The songs kind of sound like In the Aeroplane Over the Sea to me, albeit without the acoustic instruments and the distinctive lyrics. Does that make sense? Listen, and you'll get it. Good. A good record that will no doubt be on my end of the year list of favs.

Lastly, I've been hanging out a lot with Thin Lizzy's Fighting, which is the record before the one that everyone knows. I love Thin Lizzy and feel like they are unjustly overlooked in the revered pantheon of 70's rock band. They got riffs. Fuck do they ever have riffs. This record probably deserves as much attention as anything from the decade.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Words that I'll Read and Re-Write

From yesterday:

"I certainly feel like I need to eulogize Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but maybe I'll wait until the team's playoff fate is decided before I do that."

I think that one of them, uhhhhh, did something yesterday?

An incredibly exciting game. One of the very best in Blue Jays history.

After playing what then could have been his last home game as a Blue Jay against Baltimore last week, Edwin said something to the effect of "That's not the way I want to go out." He did much more than that, providing me, and all Jays fans, with a moment that will live forever. I jumped up and yelled "Oh my god!" immediately running back and forth across my apartment. The raised arms with the bat falling. Taking the parrot for a walk in the most dramatic fashion possible. These are the moments that you wait and hope for as a baseball fan and Toronto Blue Jays fans have been lucky enough to experience many of them over the last two years because of the high number of special players on the team.

In Eddie's words, from his post-game, champagne-soaked interview:

"Yeah, that's why I want to come back here. And I did it. Yeaaaaahhhhhh!"

Before I go on to give my thoughts about Edwin Encarnacion, I feel that I should link to an excellent article by John Lott on Edwin from last week:

Lott: Edwin Encarnacion can see the end of his Blue Jay career coming, but isn't ready for it yet

I feel a fierce sense of pride and ownership towards Edwin Encarnacion. He's been on the Jays for a long time (came in a trade for SCOTT ROLEN in 2009!) and the early days of that was markedly different from the huge success he has achieved with the team over the last few years. He hit for a bit of power, hitting 5 home runs in four-game series twice in 2010, but was abysmal playing 3rd base and ultimately a mixed bag. He was thrown into the trade because the Jays needed someone to replace Rolen at third and that made me a little antagonistic towards him at first. The joy of watching Scotty fuckin' Rolen play third base for the Jays had been taken away from me, so naturally the guy who replaced him seemed like just the worst.

Eddie's nickname at this time was "E5", the scoring note for an error by a third baseman, and boy, was it ever apt. Throws kind of went everywhere. But he had his moments. I remember going to a game early on in the 2012 season with my brother while talking with him about which player t-shirt he would like to get, him jokingly suggesting "E5" because he had piled up a decent amount of home runs early in the season. The thing is, though, that Edwin never stopped hitting them that year and ended up with 42 at year's end to go along with a move to first base. After Jose Bautista had his coming out party in 2010, Edwin followed and the Jays all of a sudden had as potent of a 3-4 combination that existed in major league baseball.

Edwin hasn't let up since and has turned into one of the true offensive forces in the game. A once-in-a-generation player for this team. Edwin and Jose Bautista are Toronto's "Bash Brothers" or "Manny and Papi". An offensive force that is as fun to watch as they are talented and something that the rest of the league wishes they could have. During Spring Training in 2014 my dad and I were talking about the team and he described Edwin at-bats as "just a joy to watch". There is no better way to describe them.

While Edwin was still struggling through his 2009-2011 seasons with the Jays, Jose Bautista was at the peak of his career. Jose was everything. Maybe the best position player in the league and a peerless power hitter. Couple this with a fiery temper, and we (Jays fans) all thought he was the best thing to happen to the team in a long time. The prospect hugging that I had gotten used to with the Jays suddenly turned into "We can't waste this version of Jose Bautista." Something I thought was weird though, was that out of all the players on the team, Jose seemed to be best friends with Edwin Encarnacion.

The first time I noted this was when the two of them went on a fishing trip together on a day off. Why wasn't Jose friends with the better players on the team? It didn't make a lot of sense to me at the time, but is really funny to think of in hindsight. The two of them started to do a "flex" celebration after one of them hit a home run, which is absolutely the precursor to the popular wild and complicated handshakes that the Jays have with each other now.

Only after a few seasons did I start to get a sense of Edwin's personality and how he is the most care-free, joyous, and funny guy on the team. A big part of this is that he rarely does interviews in English, so Torontonians who receive most of their information on players through English media outlets aren't as privy to his character as his teammates are. His teammates all seem to love him, so it's been a neat ride over the 8 years of discovering the type of guy he is through small snapshots of clubhouse life through twitter and instagram.

Once I saw what Edwin was actually like, it was hard to believe I ever disliked him and thought he was bad at baseball. I hate that I ever thought he was bad at baseball, because he brings a great joie de vivre to the Jays is absolutely integral to the team's identity and also its success.

Case in point is the interview he did after hitting a colossal moonshot in the 11th inning yesterday that also sent the team to the ALDS.

First he gives a fairly standard answer, through a translator, to the fairly standard question of "What were you thinking in that at-bat?" The reporter then asks about his apparent goodbye salute to the 'Dome and Edwin responds, in heavily-accented English:

"Thass why, thass why I wanna come back here because that happened tonight! Yeaaaahhhh!"

This sounded like it was little league player talking about a walk-off home run he had just hit to give his friends the victory and I think that that type of boyhood astonishment and "Man, that thing I just did? That was awesome!" tone is so endearing and amazing. It makes me happy to see him succeed after he endured early in his career here and it certainly contributes to the "older brother" feeling I have towards him, despite him being a Dominican man who is 6 years my senior.

I never want him to leave because there is no doubt in my mind that if he stayed he would become a David Ortiz-type figure for Toronto. And I just love watching him play so much. But he might. He probably will.

But that's also a conversation for December. For now the conversations should all be about the home run he hit last night and how we've seen him do it so many times before and we're going to see him do it a few more times this October.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Luck Be a Lady Tonight

After the Toronto Blue Jays lost back-to-back series against the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, dropping 2 out of 3 games to each, most Jays fans had resigned themselves to the fact that the team would probably be participating in the Wild Card play-in game. I tried to convince myself that they would go on a big winning streak and jump over Boston one last time to win the division, but I think that was mostly a deliberately optimistic response to the deluge of overly-negative haters in Toronto (a problem that plagues the city's sports teams), and I think deep, deep down, I mostly knew they were going to the Wild Card game.

This will be a significant episode in my life as a Blue Jays fan because it's something that's never happened before. The stupid, ridiculous, engaging, and exciting one-game Wild Card game was brought in in 2012 with the purpose of keeping more teams in the playoff hunt later into the season and, in the process, keeping more fanbases interested for longer. Despite how silly I might think a one-game playoff is, it has, without a doubt, done what it was intended to. I personally don't think that the game of baseball is well-suited to the "win and you're in" style of the game the way that American Football is. But it is must-watch. I don't want the Jays to participate in it, because any team can be great for just one game and no matter how you slice it, the Jays' chances are 50%. I would love if they had won the division and guaranteed a best-of-5 series. But that chance, the darker 50% chance, is what makes it crazy. You don't know what's going to happen.

Like I said, nothing like this has happened to the Blue Jays before. The Wild Card game is new and this is the first time that the Jays have participated in it, so I'll remember it forever. It'll either be an addition to last year's story of winning and playoff participation led by Jose, Eddie, Tulo, Russ, Josh, or it will be another addition to the much longer story of the team falling just short of contention.

But at least they're playing at home. It will be crazy and it will be loud.

I've really felt the need to write about the end of this baseball season and the myriad feelings it has wrought, but it's hard to do so and make it relevant always and not just tied to one specific weekend in the 2016 season. A sportswriter I am not. I certainly feel like I need to eulogize Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but maybe I'll wait until the team's playoff fate is decided before I do that.

Beat the fucking Orioles guys. Let's go.