Friday, December 30, 2016

Cheap Girls Records, Instant Netflix

I love watching TV. Here is a list of my favourite shows that I watched this year.


I realize that as a white Gen Y-er, the following statement has no legitimacy or authority, but Atlanta felt very authentically Black to me. Always funny, smart, and, even when it's a surreal BET spoof, true. My favourite thing on TV in a landslide victory. God, what a great show.

Documentary Now!

Documentary Now! was one of my favourite shows last year and it's sophomore season was just as good. A little bit bigger in scope, but equally as zany and on-point.

Regular Show

Following a 7th season that, while still good, showed significant signs of slowing down, Regular Show went all-in and put the park staff in space for the last season. A big gamble, but it paid off. Still fun and funny, but always underpinning that with great emotional moments. 


Rebecca and I watched all of Love in about 3 days, which is fast for me. Gillian Jacobs was wonderful and the above scene was no doubt one of my favourite moments of TV this year.

Master of None

After watching the first episode of this show, I wasn't sure if I would like it or not. Then I finished it two days later. I really enjoyed the way that Aziz Ansari writes romantic comedy and I feel like the show is a great reflection of Aziz's personality and skill. Eric Wareheim!


Given how much I love the "M word" and everything I've seen from Joe Swanberg, I was surprised how long it took me to find Easy. Some of the episodes were better than others, but it hit much more than it missed and always found a way to be intensely real.


Hey! Speaking of excellent mumblecore TV shows, Togetherness had another great season this year. The show obviously ended too soon and I feel that the second season's happy and neatly wrapped up ending, the only thing close to a smudge on its reputation, was a result of that. DUPLASS BROTHERS, NEVER STOP MAKING THINGS.

Man Seeking Woman

It would be hard for Man Seeking Woman to top its monumental first season, which I thought was perfect in pretty much every way, but the second season does an admirable job and can certainly stand side by side with it. They dabble in more long term storylines with Rosa and it works great! Simon Rich is cool!

Silicon Valley

Season 3 of Silicon Valley suffered from the same expectations as Man Seeking Woman; I enjoyed the two earlier so much that it created an unrealistic expectation for quality. The show is still great though. Super smart and super funny, but what's most impressive is that the best jokes often hide in the smallest details.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Regardless, Thanks A Lot

Last night, on the last night of my Christmas break, I got to see Jeff Rosenstock play an intimate solo show at D-Beatstro. It was wonderful and I feel confident saying it was one of the best nights of my life.

The night before, Jeff took to Twitter asking if there was anywhere in Toronto that he could play a house show while he was passing through the city. Though I'll always associate Jeff with his early ultra-DIY Bomb the Music Industry! days, where playing a small house show was the norm for him, his star has grown considerably since then, so playing a show this small was unexpected and exciting.

I also felt weird when I saw him tweet that. In my younger days, I would have jumped all over the chance to have Jeff play at either Fuck Mountain, The Dude Hole, The P'Zone, or The Fortress of Solid Dudes (my friends and I are so creative), so my immediate reaction was "Should I put on the show?" Music scenes are exactly what you make them. The prospect of a Jeff Rosenstock house show is amazing, but for it to be amazing, someone needs to put on the show. I salivated at the thought of Jeff playing my apartment. But I quickly realized that having the amount of people Jeff would draw in that small of space that also has a cat and a dog in it is not a good idea. It sort of felt like a chapter in my life had closed and it was the first time that I had acknowledged that the house I was living in is not a punk house.

But the show got put together without me, which I knew would happen anyways. And at an actual venue, no less! I used to live across the street from the venue, know D-Beatstro's owner Jess, have seen a ton of great shows there, and have played there myself, so I was happy to see the spot get such a big pull. D-Beatstro puts on at least two shows a week. Places for all ages shows in Toronto are scarce, so a venue like D-Beatstro existing, regardless of if I like every show that happens, is important.

The place was so full that I couldn't see the performers from my vantage point (no stages, no managers), but it didn't really matter. Junior Battles could play "Basements" on a fucking accordion and it would still fill me with equal measures of pride, happiness, and nostalgia.

Something that I'm constantly trying to fight against is my tendency to feel a sense of ownership of "Jeff Rosenstock". I was the first person I knew to listen to him and for long time he was "my thing" that I enjoyed and not many around me did. Now it seems strange to see so much press about him and see him play bigger venues and bills. But fuck that. That's stupid. I know it's stupid. but the feeling also comes out without my thinking of it. I suppose it's up to me to consciously try to not be a pompous dick about it.

It's also weird to me that so many fans of his music seem so into his SideOneDummy output, while seeming to ignore all of the early stuff that had such a huge impact on me. I was thinking this yesterday when cuts from Worry, which is a wonderful record, don't get me wrong, were getting really big pops while I was thinking to myself "Imagine if he played 'RSTLNE'!" But then he played "Saddr Weidr", the only Bomb the Music Industry! cut of the night and it got the biggest pop of the night. Everybody is there for the same reason and stupid jaded attitudes like mine aren't helping anything.

And even if there were a bunch of people who aren't familiar with Jeff's music there, isn't that a good thing? I bet there's a few who had never heard Bomb the Music Industry! and are checking them out now because he played a song from Scrambles and I bet there's even more who had never been to D-Beatstro before and will now come back for stuff. That's important. That's how you build a scene.

The show was amazing and I'll remember it forever and it was the type of event that reminds exactly why DIY and punk matters in the first place. The show reminded me of three things that Jeff taught me while I was in high school listening to a constant rotation of Three Cheers for Disappointment, Album Minus Band, To Leave or Die in Long Island, and Goodbye Cool World that I have carried with me since then and try to apply to everything I do:

1. Don't be so jaded. It can be hard not to be and sometimes it feels natural, but fight against it. Resisting that tendency leads to immediate good.

2. What you are doing is important. It doesn't matter what it is or on what scale. If you are putting yourself into, it is important and you can let other people convince you that it's not. Don't stop!


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Swing and a Drive

Earlier this year, I wrote a post in which I tried to sum my feelings about Edwin Encarnacion's time as a Blue Jay because I assumed that his then-impending free agency meant that his time on the team was coming to a close. It turns out I was correct, because Edwin just signed a contract with Cleveland.


Edwin played on the Blue Jays for eight years. That is a big chunk of my life. Eddie played on the Blue Jays for 29% of my life. I was a very different person when Edwin came to the Jays. That was one band, two degrees, and many relationships ago.

As I said in the post I linked above, he wasn't an immediate hit, but was a big project, which in turn made me love him even more and gave me a sense of ownership about him. His time in Toronto ran the whole gamut of emotions: disappointment, frustration, hope, awe, and, mostly, just pure fucking joy. He was amazing to watch. I have said it many times while watching games that Eddie is my favourite player to watch hit home runs.

But I don't want to just re-type my previous post. If you know me, you know that I love Eddie and if you don't, you'll get a good idea from that blog.

I'm pretty sad about Edwin leaving. It sucks. As much as things about baseball can be great, there is always an inverse part that pulls you back down. We got the best of Eddie, but now we have to watch him go before his time in the league is done. It sucks. I more or less knew that he was going to leave, but it still feels crummy. Crummier than I thought it would.

Here's my official eulogy for Edwin Encarnacion as a Blue Jay:

It's fitting that Edwin's last game as a Blue Jay was a home game during the 2016 ALCS, because watching him mash home runs was the only fun part of watching the Blue Jays in 2012 and the Jays being in the playoffs seemed so impossible that I never even considered it.

I'm trying to find a silver lining to all of this and this is what I've come up with so far:

The fact that I feel so sad about a baseball player leaving a team after 8 years is, if anything, proof of the substantial positive emotional impact that sports can have on your life. Sports can be simple reactions like muttering "fuck" at a call or they can be over the top reactions like when I ran into my kitchen after Edwin walked off the Orioles this year. Underlying all of that is the reaction I am currently having, which is informed by a very emotional connection that many people are a part of. My personal connection to baseball can never be replicated by anyone else. Thank you so very much Edwin Encarnación for playing such a big role in that.

I'll never forget your time in Toronto as long a I live.

The 2016 I, Musical Genius Musical Revue

Once more, we are about to embark on an engaging journey through my year in music. As usual, I'm not going to number the releases, because I feel like the degree to which I enjoy my 7th-ranked album over my 8th-ranked is pretty negligible. If you really need a #1 pick, let's give it to Joyce Manor, with Crying as a close second.

Every time Joyce Manor puts out a new record, I remember how much I love everything that Joyce Manor has put out. Cody continues the trend towards a polished sound started with Never Hungover Again and is certainly their most poppy material yet. The band leans huge on Weezer, Big Star, and Cheap Trick sound-wise and I fucking adore it. This is a record I wish I had written. I've come back to it many times and love love love it. Easily my favourite release of theirs.

I started listening to Crying last year and found their emo/shoegaze/chiptune hybrid really fun and catchy. While I was excited for new music, I wasn't expecting this huge of jump in quality at all. Crying has catapulted themselves up list of favourite current bands. The emo parts of their sound has been layered with more spacey indie influences and the chiptune side with more synth-pop. A phenomenal and impressive in songwriting ability and a fucking great record. 

I was pretty late to the party on Nothing and only started listening to Guilty of Everything shortly before Tired of Tomorrow came out, so this album has really been my main introduction to the band. The emo/shoegaze/vaguely-grunge thing is everywhere right now and if every band did it as well as Nothing, I probably wouldn't roll my eyes at it the way I do. Perfectly heavy, spacey, and dark. A tight and accessible album that will surely be a great time capsule of punk in 2016.

I seem to be much higher on this album than all of my friends, kind of like how they were all way higher on Home, Like No Place is There. Goodness and HLNPIT are way more alike sonically than any other two albums in their catalogue, so I guess the reason that I like this one more is the songwriting. Imagine that. The last song on this album kills me.

Childish Gambino- Awaken, My Love!

I'll be honest, Childish Gambino's music up to this point has done nothing for me. I've tried to get into it because of how much I appreciate everything else that Donald Glover has done, but I just couldn't. The short film that he made hinted at a direction that I would enjoy and that change happened this year with the combination of his TV show Atlanta, which is 100% my favourite thing I watched this year, and this album. I love seeing artists take gambles like Glover has this year. He's making things that are unexpected, biting, and important and I couldn't happier about it.

Daniel Romano- Mosey

Easily his best solo effort since Sleep Beneath the Willow. This is a huge change in sound, dabbling in some of 60's more obscure musical styles like, big band pop, and further showcases that DR can basically work in any genre he chooses to.

Diarrhea Planet- Turn to Gold

I only started listening to Diarrhea Planet this year. They have the best band name of all-time. A band that's equal parts Van Halen and punk with four guitar players? Bud, it sounds like drew it out of my skull.

Har Mar Superstar- Best Summer Ever

I only discovered who Har Mar Superstar is this year. Apparently that was a trend in my listening this year? I didn't notice. He also came up in the book Army of Lovers, which I was reading shortly after finding out who he is. This album is a fun cross-section of R&B and dance music since the 60's. "Anybody's Game" is especially great.

John K Samson- Winter Wheat

I have accepted that I will not like John K Samson's current output as much I love the Weakerthans. Now I listen for the stories, as his songs have turned much more into fiction set to song. This album provides that in spades. Also, all of his songs about the mundaneity and frustrations of post-grad studies KILL ME.

Young Thug- Slime Season 3

2016 was pretty light on rap for. Young Thug continues to be the most interesting and innovative person in trap.

LVL Up- Return to Love

I saw LVL Up in 2014 and, to be honest, they didn't do tons for me, but this LP is wonderful. I get a big Neutral Milk Hotel vibe from their arrangements and melodies, except they're done with fuzzy guitars instead of acoustic instruments. Great catchy indie rock.

The Frightnrs- Nothing More to Say

I find it frustrating that there is so little contemporary ska music that I connect to, because there is nothing I would love more than to keep supporting good bands who work in the genre. This is the only ska record from this year that I really connected to. It's refreshing to see a band who isn't the Slackers or Deals Gone Bad work in older 1st Wave styles and even more refreshing to see them use old-style production. A great rocksteady release, it's the small stuff in the songs that makes them great.


I saw TUNS play a short 3-song debut set earlier in the year and wondered what their recorded output would be like, given the members' pedigree. This release is exactly what I wanted: Tight, to-the-point power pop that is heavy on jangle and melodies.

Japanese Breakfast- Psychopomp

To be honest, I forgot this came out this year, but I did listen to it a lot in the front half of the year. Great spacey and synthy shoegaze.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Such a Guarded Guy

A definitive ranking of all albums where Jeff Rosenstock is the primary vocalist and songwriter, written by a true connoisseur and 12-year listener of his music:

1. Bomb the Music Industry!- Vacation

2. The Arrogant Sons of Bitches- Three Cheers for Disappointment 

3. Bomb the Music Industry!- To Leave or Die in Long Island

4. Jeff Rosenstock- I Look Like Shit

5. Bomb the Music Industry!- Goodbye Cool World

6. The Arrogant Sons of Bitches- All the Little Ones Are Rotting

7. Bomb the Music Industry!- Album Minus Band

8. Bomb the Music Industry!- Get Warmer

9. Bomb the Music Industry!- Others! Others!

10. Bomb the Music Industry!- Scrambles

11. Jeff Rosenstock- We Cool?

12. Bomb the Music Industry!- Adults!!!...Smart!!! Shithammered!!! And Excited by Nothing!!!

13. Jeff Rosenstock- Worry

14. Bomb the Music Industry!/Laura Stevenson- Split

15. Kudrow- Lando

16. The Arrogant Sons of Bitches- Pornocracy

17. Bomb the Music Industry/O Pioneers!!!- Split

Because how else would you follow up a call to arms than with a list?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

There's Only So Many Days You Can Spend Waiting until You Don't Love Anything Anymore

I have let IMU slide a lot since I started my new position at the gallery. I started the year producing at a clip that I was happy with, but that has really fallen off since September. I'm only writing something once a week or so and I don't think that that is an acceptable rate for me to continue at. I must put more effort in.

The big reason that IMU has kind of taken a backseat is that I come home from work fairly tired and in lieu of doing something productive, I immediately drive myself to the couch and melt into it until it's time to go to bed. I still love TV and movies, but giving them priority over something which I find fulfilling is definitely wrong.

During the summer and into the fall, a way that I tried to deal with my guilt about not writing enough was that I vowed that I would write while I was at work. That worked okay during the summer because I had much more downtime on the job and it allowed for me to sort of do that. My change of position in the fall definitely changed this. I tried to write at work sometimes, but it wasn't a good wa to go about this. I think I only wrote one post. I still have periods in my new position where there is nothing pressing for me to do, but realistically, if I am to write an IMU post while at work, it is taking time away from something else I technically should be doing. This strategy was not good. I don't really care about writing while I'm on the clock that much, it's more that I shouldn't be relegating my creative writing to blocks of time where I might be able to squeeze it in.

This is important to me. It should take precedence over a lot of things. I need to make a bigger effort.

This is all the more true after Beat Noir broke up. What do I have left in my life now that is creative? I have this blog. I have half-finished songs I play on the guitar sometimes. I have a collection of half-finished prose on my hard drive that I do not know what to do with. Not to say that I ever used Beat Noir as a crutch, but that is no longer an option. I need to create my own expressions of my creativity. If I don't I'll crazy and fucking die inside so slowly that I'll barely notice until I'm forty and looking back on a collection of stuff that seemed like it could have been interesting when I thought of it, but never followed through on.

I think that these feelings have been fermenting inside me for a while now and the end of Beat Noir is what made the pressure big enough to pop the lid off. As such, I have devised the following plan to express myself in ways I know I can and ensure that I can stave off becoming an art-punk has-been who talks a big game, but doesn't back it up.

The plan consists of the following tasks which all must be completed before December 1st, 2017:

1. Complete five (5) short stories, all at least 3000 words in length. They all must be new ideas.

2. Complete the rudimentary arrangements (guitar, bass, lyrics) for five (5) power pop songs. You may use existing riff ideas.

3. Complete the I, Musical Genius zine. This will involve drawing the cover by hand. Print 20 copies.

4. Draw more.

I feel like these are all doable tasks, which is why I chose them. I often think too much about what I might want to do, instead of doing it. I think about six bands I might want to start and write half a song for each. I think of ten story ideas and never follow through on any of them. Though directing myself in this way surely isn't a magical motivation cure. I'm sure it has to help. Maybe I just need to keep reading Hemingway books because they apparently motivate me to write more than anything else.

Plus I've already told Rebecca about it and now I'm putting it here, so if I let everyone down, wouldn't I have an egg on my face?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Beat Noir Forever

As a child, rock music took hold on me early on. This quickly turned into me getting into your typical gateway punk bands, which quickly led to Paul, Damien, and I discussing how we needed to start a band. It was decided that I would play bass, because both Paul and Damien already played guitar. I got a Squier P-Bass for my birthday in grade 8 and after that, being in a band became the #1 priority in my mind.

I immediately latched on to the cliché adolescent dream of playing in band. I played in a few bands in high school, but none ever lasted very long. Also, they were all ska bands. I saw these bands as first steps in the following process, which dominated my thoughts all day through high school and university:

Start band > Write good songs with band > Play shows with band > Put out a “record”!

The last item on that timeline seemed like the most important thing I could do. Having a tangible, real record, which I could hold up and say “This is my record! I wrote this and made it! It is a product of me, and you can listen to it and consume it!” Putting out a full-length record seemed like an extremely noble thing to do. Part of that is suburban, male adolescent naivety, but part of it is also extremely true. Making art is hard. Putting your art out for people to hear, see, experience, and criticize is also hard. Beat Noir was my art.

I say this because Beat Noir decided to stop being a band last Friday.

It sucks, but it’s also something I’ve kind of seen coming for a little while, which lessened the blow a little bit. Being in Beat Noir has been one of the longer relationships in my life, so I feel like I need to say something about it and eulogize what has been one of the best and most fulfilling parts of my life.

After thinking non-stop about how badly I needed to be in a band through university (to the point that I romanticized my 12th grade trad band ska constantly), I joined Beat Noir right around the time I finished my Bachelor’s at Guelph in 2012. I had known Mark, Scott, and Duff for a few years, but had gotten especially close to Mark after he and I went to a music festival in North Carolina together. Mark had floated the idea out to me a few times, but I remember the moment I joined the band well:

I was in Hamilton to see Snake Charmer play a basement show there. My phone vibrated and I found a text message from Mark waiting for me asking if I would like to join Beat Noir. I, of course, gave an enthusiastic yes and then said to everyone around me “I think I just joined a band?!”

That summer I was living in Guelph and Beat Noir got busy fast working on new songs. We hashed our way through the skeletons of 14 songs, with the thought that four would be for an EP and ten for an album. Those became Permanently and Ecotone.

Beat Noir came around at a time in my life when I needed it most. Though I had just finished university, I didn’t have any real plans about what I was going to or could do. I was living in Guelph by myself for the summer. It was the first time I had lived on my own and I felt extremely isolated in the city. Then my lease ended and I moved back to Scarborough. I was going through a rough spot mentally where I didn’t know what I was doing, what I should be doing, or how I was going to stop feeling bad. Beat Noir was something that I was doing though.

At a time in my life when I was not doing much of anything, I could say “Beat Noir is doing ‘this’.” instead of “I moved back in with my parents and have no job.”

I moved to Kitchener-Waterloo not long after that, and lived in a very bad basement apartment with Mark. I was still going through a lot of shit and, to be honest, this was probably the worst my mental state has ever been, but Beat Noir was still a thing and it gave me something to work towards. It doesn’t matter that Permanently really sucks, because working on that EP certainly did something for me.

After that, Mark, Colin, and I moved into the upper apartment of a house, the lower apartment of which, Duff joined Erik from The Decay in shortly after. We had a “band house” and it was fun. When bands played in town, they would stay at our house. It was a fun way to live. This is also the time in my life when I started working at Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and applied to grad school. Shortly after that, I started dating Rebecca. A lot of new stuff happened to me and it was basically uniformly good.

During the summer of 2013, we jammed a lot and then wrote and recorded Ecotone, which came out in January of 2014. We played a lot of shows (for us) around that time and started to slowly work on new songs. That was, more or less, the cycle for the next few years as we got through writing the songs for Sovereignties.

As I said earlier, I saw the end of the band coming. Mark and I both moved away, Mark to Toronto and me to first Guelph, then back to Toronto, for school and that made keeping up the pace of being in a band hard. It also made being in the band a lot more expensive for the two of us. It was fine for when we were working out the different parts of new songs, but it was hard to get tight enough that we were comfortable playing live with this set-up.

It was hard because Beat Noir was still definitely “the thing” that all of us did, but none of us were still doing it. This briefly subsided when we stayed in Niagara on the Lake for a week and change while recording Sovereignties, but after that everything went back to the way it was before, aside from a few trips to help Davis mix the record.

We played a really bad show in September of 2014 and after that we didn’t play another for a very long time. We decided to stop accepting every offer we got because we were tired of slogging through awful nights, but it also hurt us because we weren’t being exposed very much and eventually people just sort of forgot about us and stopped asking if we wanted to play. This live hiatus was kind of good, because during it we focused strictly on making Sovereignties as good as possible, but also hurt us because, like I said, people forgot about us.

I’m really not sour, that’s just bound to happen when you don’t play a show for more than a year.

We put out Sovereignties in June 2016 and it seemed to us like it didn’t make much of an impact, which is, again, to be expected when our activity as a band grinds to a halt.

That summer was when it first started to hit me that the band was probably over, even if it hadn’t been expressly stated. Nobody was focusing on Beat Noir. On consecutive nights, I watched We Jam Econo: The Story of The Minutemen, which is without a doubt the best thing to convey what it’s like to be in a rock band and what it means to its members, and then after that Spinal Tap to wallow in my band-induced misery. I was so sad about the state of Beat Noir that at the end of Spinal Tap, when Nigel jumps on-stage to join the Tap in the middle of “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You”, a comedic moment that is really the punchline of the movie, I felt my insides twinge a little bit because I felt that, jokes aside, it still spoke to the bond that only long-time band members share and understand.

So there we go. I was in Beat Noir for a little under five years, while Mark and Duff kept it going for about eight. That is a long time to pursue something and a lot longer than most people keep at their interests. Something that should absolutely not be lost in the shuffle in the following:

Beat Noir allowed me to fulfill a childhood dream by writing and putting out a full-length record. Twice over, in fact. It may not have happened exactly the way I thought it would, I didn’t become a road warrior with a van tattoo, but it happened nonetheless. That is important and nobody can ever take that away from me.

Beat Noir made me a new group of best friends. In June, all of us were in Colin’s wedding party. I still see Mark regularly. I talk to Duff nearly constantly.

Beat Noir forever.