Eye magazine has their year end issue on the streets, as does Now (both are the indie weekly newspapers in T.O.)
After absorbing these lists and the hundreds of others brought to my attention this year (most via Gary or Frank) I’ve realized a few things.
First: I’ve been pretty absent from movies this year. I can probably count the number of times I’ve been to the theatre this year on both hands, and I know my rented movie total equals approximately zero (0).
Second: American best of lists are sorely missing out on great Canadian music, but Can-con still cracked most of the lists I observed (the Constantines, Hot Hot Heat, Broken Social Scene, New Pornographers, Manitoba chief amongst them).
Third: I’ve now listened to samples from most of the top records that are getting acclaim, mostly by the hipster set, and, with a few exceptions, I find them quite overrated (Postal Service, the Stills, the Decemberists, Deerhoof) including, especially, many I’ve purchased (Pretty Girls Make Graves, The Rapture, Metric).
Fourth: This was a pretty shitty year for electronica, as the big albums of the year aren’t that good (Manitoba, M83, Colder, Four Tet, Prefuse 73)
Fifth: The last 4 albums I’ve purchased are hip-hop albums, and they’re pretty amazing (Outkast, Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf, DM & Jemini, Lyrics Born). Looks like there may be a hip hop trend away from bling bling.
Sixth: I really, really didn’t watch many movies this year. The big comic-book blockbusters weren’t that great (T3, the Matrix Revolutions, Daredevil, X2… but I did like the Hulk) but the biggest of big I havn’t seen yet (Pirates of the Carribean, LOTR: Return of the King, Finding Nemo)
Seven: Two of the best movies I saw this year were documentary films, thanks to Carla (Capturing the Friedmans, Spellbound)
Eight: I didn’t see any plays, and am not really sad about it. I did see the Lion King musical though, which was pretty cool.
Nine: I slacked off on my comic book buying this year and wouldn’t even dare a best of list (except to mention that Creature Tech was the best book I read this year).
Ten: I’ve read more books this year probably than in any other year. I’ve also learned to stop reading bad books (MASH, Oryx and Crake)
Eleven: Being an entertainment hobbyist is a tough recreation.
Eye magazine has their year end issue on the streets, as does Now (both are the indie weekly newspapers in T.O.)
Roger Ebert’s top ten films of ‘03 list, plus a selection of other great films from this past year and truly hot docs.
Gary’s Dirty Monkey top 20 songs of ‘03 list.
My Dirty Monkey top 20 songs of ‘03 list
(sounds for both lists coming real soon)
Frank has his top 13 albums list (with sounds!) up and atom.
Over on CBC Radio 3 they have their top 20 New Music Canada songs on-line (and linked up to the sounds)
here they are for posterity:
The cold sweats in the middle of the night were more than telling. I’m sick.
I was hacking up things that grossed even the cat out.
I woke up dizzy, but not from the previous night’s alcoholic escapade. I was thirsty, but my throat hurt way too much to drink. I forced some vitamin C (tripleing the threat with a glass of oj chased by a lime tesan) before having a bath with my sushi-bubble bath from Lush (an early christmas gift from Emma).
I relaxed in the fragrant tub with my new Sandman: Endless Nights hardcover, stimulating my mind while letting my body lilt.
Emerging from the tub I decided to plug away at my top 20 songs list over at Dirty Monkey Bugspray Fun, gathering together all the 2003 releases I own, along with compilations donated by friends, and slowly progressed through the pile crafting a list that, having listened to a Real Jukebox assembly of them repeatedly, I’m more than satisfied with.
I tore through three episodes of Lexx season 3, doubtless to Emma’s chagrin. It’s a goofy little show but it’s frankness and flagrant sexuality is really quite charming. Three cups of hot stuff and a number of glasses of water later it was off to bed, wherein Delerium took hold of my mind in Dream’s playground.
I dreamt a number of things, first of them that I was the key holder to the Lexx, and, as I learned from episode 3.8, it really enhances the sexual regions of the brain. I dreamt I was horny, but in reality I wasn’t, which is quite odd to say the least. This dream of being a Lexx crewmember interplayed with another ongoing dream all night long.
It started in bed with Emma. I awoke to the muffled smashing of glass. I sat up in bed and realized that our bedroom was in my parents house in Thunder Bay. We were housesitting. I wore my pyjamas to bed (which is a rarity) last night, so I had no reservations about getting out of bed to investigate the noise. But if it was a burglar, I’d need something to protect myself with.
There, beside the bed, was an empty Christmas wrap tube.
I stepped out of the bedroom, eked my way downstairs to find the kitchen in disarray and a racoon invading the cupboards. I confronted the little bastards with my tube, banging it on the ground, it’s hollow echo a dire threat to the poor creature. I thought that this creature was pretty bold to bust into my folk’s place and ransack it.
I took the tube to it.
It put it’s paws up on its head, and cried “Ow,ow,ow, stop.”
To which I replied, “No.”
TUNK. TUNK. TUNK.
I propped the tube on a dinged tin can on the floor and wedged the end of the tube under the rodent’s body. I gave a mighty shove down on the other end and the raccoon flew across the kitchen smacking unconscious into the corner of the wall. It was then that I saw a shadowy figure lurking in the dark.
I turned quickly to see who it was, my eyes fully adjusted to the moonlight, and only caught the leg of the invader fleeing.
“Bust into my parents’ house will ya, ” I said to myself, tearing off after them with my slightly dented cardboard tube. I realized that it was the burglar who busted in and the racoon entered only out of opportunity.
I chased the burglar down as we ran in circles around the house, until the burglar turned the tables and pulled out a gun… I in turn pulled out a flashlight to protect myself. The burglar chased me around until I noticed outside the movement of two flashlights in the backyard. My flashlight beam began toying with the two beams until the officer arrived, with the burglar in handcuffs. The officer put her in the car and talked with me a little about the damage and stolen items. As far as I could tell there were none.
The police left, just as the raccoon returned, visciously… I cornered it, forgetting that you don’t corner animals, for that’s when they get wild. As it lunged to attack me my flashlight belted it out through the garage door enterance which I closed behind it, then pressed the button and opened the exterior garage door.
All of a sudden it was 15 degrees below and frost crept inward. The racoon had a sad look on its face. But I was stern. I pointed my flashlight at it, and it said “well, if I must go…” and it slowly lumbered out.
I closed the door again, and woke Emma up to tell her my story. She was half impressed and kissed me passionately, falling asleep again just as it ended. The next morning I went outside to check the damage, but boats and trucks were okay, just the den window was broken. Looking in I couldn’t figure out why they broke in. Just then my folks arrived, and my Dad was proud of what I did, my mom was concerned about my safety, which I shrugged off.
My dad made mention that my grandmother’s christmas gift, a computer, was missing. I turned him around and said “that computer there” and he laughed. “Oh, good,” he said.
My cousin Adam pulled into the drive in his sister’s jeep. He was wearing no shoes, but had vibrant white socks pulled over his long feet. He congratulated me on my big burglar bust-up, and we went inside to talk. We sat down on a bed and he began to cry, telling me about a remote earthquake or volcano eruption he had caused, and I rubbed his socked feet kindly, saying that earthquakes and volcano eruptions were natural occurrances and that he had no part in it all. He seemed to be content with that and then asked me for shaving tips. But I didn’t have any.
Then Kyan from Queer Eye For the Straight Guy showed up and began to deride us both for our heteroness, before I returned to the Lexx and began to tell Xev that her hair was trashy and she needed to straighten it out or something… right before she put my hands on her boobs… all 8 of them… 8 hands and boobs. Then it got weird…
I had wished to get up early, as early as I normally do, but a little mix-up with the alarm kept me wrapped and strapped in bed until close to 11am. Cartoons were a bust, as was my morning, however, Emma and I decided that bruch was what was on the menu for the day so we busted our guts on down to Mitzi’s Sister (where I had french toast with cranberry jelly and a decadent mint chocolate sauce… breakfast, meet dessert)
I jetted on down to work with approximately 500 pieces of special paper in tow where I would spend the next 4 hours printing and sorting the limited edition “A Queenwest Dinner” cookbook which some shall receive as (now belated) Christmas presents (mainly because my lazy arse waited too long to put the 48 page booklet into production).
After this jaunt at work I took a diversion to Accordian Guy’s place to drop off some promised loaners (books and dvds) but alas he was not home. To satiate my disappointment I went to Soundscapes for an infusion of hip-hop into my 2003 repetoire. The streetcar/bus transferral was ungodly slow so I wound up walking a chunk of distance home, which I think would bode unfortunate for reasons to appear later)
I prepped for Saturday evening’s “white party”, deskmate Fab’s Winter solstice celebration. As I left, I could feel the after effects of the walk earlier in the day, as there was a distinguished tickle in my throat… one that forecasted soreness and flegm. Off transit, I realized, as I hunted and pecked in the night for Fab’s apartment, I was dangerously close to Lala’s (and it was then I wished for maybe the 12th time in my entire life I had a cel phone so I could have called her and invited her over to the party)…
The party was small-ish, but big with booze and food, which never makes for the bad. I chatted up people about work, music, Thunder Bay, movies, Halifax, and after three rather peaking glasses of wine settled rapidly into bottled water and food.
A crazy story was related of drugs, driving, crashing and blowjobs, channelling the spirits of Cronenberg and Bret Easton Ellis the whole way. That tale will come this way soon enough.
I left the tee before 1:30, making the subway across to Lansdowne station… my bladder was tossing knives internally as I waited impatiently for the Lansdowne bus to take me safely, swiftly down to Queen. But it wasn’t coming, and I had to find me a cozy out of the way ambiguous corner of a seafood storage yard to release the demons that plagued me (namely 3 glasses of wine and three bottles of water). I was mildly embarrased at having to evict myself in public, but my lower intestinal region, distended and tired, thanked me.
It must have been about two am when the TTC subway guy began locking up doors and kicking people out of the stairwell shelter. The rejected travellers came over to the bus stop and observed the sign carefully. I asked if the TTC guy had said anything, and the portly asian fellow said “he said that the last bus came at one thirty”. The earphone-wearing lass said “oh shoot” and I said “well, best start walking”… but the wine was wearing off (and pissed out) and my sore throat was returning, as were the needles in my bladder. I decided to run… despite the fact that running in this neighbourhood usually means a stop by the police (or it should).
The jog lasted about two minutes before my legs fatigued and my lungs chapped with the raw cold air, and my pace slowed though my heart raced. I did two more spurts along the way home, before making it in the warm comfort of a shower-then-bed, full in my awareness that I definitely was going to be sick the next day (but not because of the booze).
Friday was an official “sad day” in the legal departmen of my company, as our close-knit team of 6 lost a good man to a better job. In celebration we took off from work at 1pm for our official “sad day” lunch at Rodney’s Oyster House.
The pre-meal festivities of “sad day” involved the dispensing of gifts for the departing as well as gifts for the holiday season and some gawking at Mayor David Miller who was on his way out. Belly laughs and near-tears were cracked as we awaited the arrival of an appetizerial tray of 24 large oysters.
I had had oysters once before and really wasn’t to keen, but my belly was empty and the accompanying condoments were quite appetizing. I lobbed four down the gulley, realizing that the slink down the throat of this shelled muscle is actually quite interesting, if not outright appealing, in a revolting sort of way.
Just don’t chew. Ew.
Did you know that oysters are alive until they hit the gastric juices of your stomach (that is unless you chew them first)?
The oysters were followed by the dispensing of crab and lobster. This is the year of lobster for me, as I’d never had it before until this past summer, but I’ve had it a half dozen times since. And I’m still not overly impressed by it.
Rodney’s serves the Lobsters warm (as opposed to on ice, East-coast style) and has a candle warmed dipping cup of butter for those that will.
We learned that you can indeed eat the meat from the small legs of the lobster. You sort of have to chew on the end of it a bit, kind of a seafood-pixie-stix… or you can break of a section of said leg, suck until the meat flies into the back of your throat, leaving you with a meat straw between your lips and a mild headache.
Two more crabs and another 24 oysters followed in this 4 hour sad day (which we all agreed should be repeated at least once during the year), capped off by light dessert of chocolate or lemon mousse or rice pudding. The odd thing about seafood is you can gorge and still feel like there’s room for a burger or something.
The bill, well, let’s just say it was sizeable and leave it up to the imagination. I left work for some final minutes holiday shopping with gift certificates in tow. Stuff was purchased for a fraction of its original cost, although not nearly as much stuff as one would hope.
I returned home with the spoils of shopping and roti’s from Baccus (although, honestly, hunger wasn’t really a going concern). Food was eaten, Emma’s week long broken laptop fan was repaired and happiness abounded. I spent the eve ingesting some Kids in the Hall on dvd which is one of life’s newest and greatest pleasures I must say.
The eve faded as morning gave way to an overabundant amount of sleeping… but ah, that is our next tale.
After work I joined some friends from work at the newly renovated ultra lounge called… well, I don’t know what it’s called… it’s at 312 Queen West, “formerly-Bamboo” which will be its official name.
They sunk a fortune into renovating the place, and it shows. From the $12 drinks to the $3000 cleavage, there was money spent baby! Seriously it looks quite nice, but yeah, actually, drinks are outlandishly priced, meals start around $35 per person, but the schwank factor completely overwhelms.
Some were thinking it was a tad ritzy for Queen Street (with it’s black velvet ropes blocking the gateway, it’s doormen-clad door men and it’s washrooms where the stalls disappear within the walls.. it’s way out of my socio-economic class range. But, sadly, I was impressed with the sheer fabric tents that surround each of the dinner tables and the private lounge out back. Wow.
I left with a belly full of ten-dolla drinks and not much else, and a quick bladder bursting journey up Spadina to Bloor directed me to Sarah’s falafel joint (where if you want your dinner quick and cheap and not full of McTransFats, they can hook you up).
Later that evening, I met up with friend Sara at Lee’s Palace for the Parka’s gig (where I was put on the guest list because, damnit, the Parkas like the fact that I hustle their gigs like a trey-penny hoo-er.)…. the show wasn’t as solid as normal, mainly because they went on at an unprecedented 9:30 sharp (with the crowd not even arrived, nevermind settled in yet). The sound levels were way out of whack and never really aligned right, but still the quattro wowed the ever growing crowd (latecomers were heard to say, “damn, I’m sorry I missed that”) and hopefully bassist Mark Rhyno will get that money to make his short documentary “When Muppets Eat”… the title of which was sported in fuzzy red letters on a ringer t-shirt.
I didn’t bother to hang around for the Postage Stamps and unfortunately didn’t get to see the peppy Meligrove Band’s new video (had some stuff to do at home, see). Maybe another time.
It’s only natural that come the holiday season you wind up purchasing as much for yourself as you would for others… yes, natural… for me at least.
I managed to pick up (or was given):
The Unicorns - who will cut our hair when we’re dead?
Lyrics Born - Later That Day
Peanut Butter Wolf and Charizma -
DM & Jemini - Ghetto Pop Life
TV on the Radio - Young Liars ep
Kids in the Hall season 1 dvd set
The Sandbaggers volume 3
Plastic Man #1 by Kyle Baker
Caper #2 by Winick and Dalrymple
Formerly Known as the Justice League #1 by Giffen, DeMattis, Maguire and Ruebenstein
Malinky Robot: Stinky Fish Blues by Sonny Liew
The Sandman - Endless Nights hardcover by Gaiman and Various
MASH by Richard Hooker
Mcsweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales edited by Michael Chabon
Angry Candy by Harlan Ellison
2003 was an awesome year for songs, singles or otherwise. as part of the full realization of the online music scene, the ability to now pick and choose which songs to buy without needing the entire album has returned in a big way. it’s almost like the time of the 45’s or the cassingle again. it may have affected the best 2003 albums somewhat, but i think things are working out all right with this level of music selection.
this list of 20 was tough to pare down. originally, it was in the forty-plus range, so i had to make some tough edits. there are 3 caveats at the end since they’re songs from 2002 the missed the cut on last year’s list but became big this year, including one biggie. pitchfork has made their top 50 singles for 2003 available, which covers a lot of what i had to drop from this list, and it’s worth a read to see beyoncé junior senior, manitoba and punjabi mc.
in alphabetical order:
!!!: me and giuliani down by the school yard (a true story).
this epic song goes for nine minutes, over four distinct sections, and it’s a rhapsody for getting down. heavy dub funk with shimmering disco guitars cutting in, this is crack cocaine for your ears. you’ll be doo do doo do doooooooing for days. a highlight.
somewhere in an underground laboratory, an angel is taking notes as a lumbering rocket prepares to carry a satellite into the stars. it’s murky 1960s experimentalism/futurism placed onto a velvet cushion and cooing doves as it hovers. a pop gem of magnitude, so much close to you.
johnny cash: hurt.
i can’t listen to the nine inch nails original anymore as mr. cash’s cover provides the song with an emotional depth not found elsewhere. it’s eerie how it fits in with cash’s entire life on how he became who he was as well as making a fitting obituary for not only he but his wife june carter cash, who died shortly after its release.
the chemical brothers featuring the flaming lips: the golden path.
this is a strange ditty where the flaky earnestness the lips have is placed into the chemical’s smooth machine. as a result, this song about fighting through doubt is given a stately manor to properly preach how faith is fought, wrought, forgiven and thus properly fed, rumbling and whimsical.
clearlake: almost the same.
don’t know much about the band, but the song is a modernday shoegazer revival with menace. over a constant guitar strum, there’s a brooding tension as the vocals realize how different two people are, or how frighteningly similar they’ve become.
The toughest part about choosing the top 20 songs I’ve heard over the past year (that were on 2003 releases) is some cds have so many great songs on them they could take up half the list themselves. But for the sake of fairness and exposure I’ve limited myself to one song from any one album.
Some songs have had the benefit of time, able to further endear themselves to me, while time for others has been cruel. Some songs have had the benefit of preselection, extracted from their homes and put onto one of a dozen mixed cds received from friends this year (and if my friends make their compilations like I do, they select standout tracks from recent cd acquisitions).
My main methodology for selection stems from two factors - catchiness and evokation. If I find myself singing a song after just hearing it, or I just want to listen to it over and over again… well, that’s a good song. On the flipside, if a song can capture a feeling (whether inteded or not) in the listener (ie. me) that’s the power of music. So, without further haste, in somewhat alphabetical order:
!!! - Me And Giuliani Down By The School Yard (A True Story)
This is the epitome of what a single is, 9 minutes of trance-inducing joy. A sliding Fat Albert bassline makes way for a cowbell as !!! (pronouced, generally, asCHKCHKCHK) come in with “uh” and “ah” before making use of their namesake “chkchk” their way until the inconsequential vocals find their way into the song, accompanied by horns before busting into a faux-U2 gutar riff, and spiralling their way back into a “Doo Doo” sing-a-long. So fluid and yet so all over the map. So punk and yet so dancefloor. This is truly the song of the year… the song that trancends genres.
Amon Tobin & Kid Koala - Untitled
The first track of Tobin’s “Verbal ep” (Verbal was one of the best 2002 tracks), here he teams with Kid Koala to produce a a song that I can only think to describe as breakbeat gramophone. Lush and soothing, clicks and glitches give way to samples and scratches, but with none of the usual harshness. A sonic blizzard heard best with the headphones on.
Atom and His Package - Moustache T.V.
Absurdism at its best, Atom on guitar, his sequencer on everything else, we are told that drawing a moustache on the t.v. screen will make you feel better. I havn’t tried it, but this snot-rawk song makes me feel better each time I hear it.
Cex - Earth Shaking Event
From the album “Being Ridden”, this was the first of the difficult choices as the album has so many grab-you-by-the-ears tracks, but I decided for Earth Shaking Event as it’s the first of the songs I learned the lyrics to… you can’t help but sing along as Rjyan Kidwell blasts Ryan Adams, emo and the sort.
The Dears - We Can Have It
The first time I heard this song I melted into it. I continue to do so every time I hear it. The first track on the cinematic “No Cities Left”, Murry Lightburn’s voice takes you on a tense, frustrating, tear-inducing journey, a journey not to find love or companionship, but to lose loneliness. It’s a rock-operatic restructuring of an untold fairy tale, more on the Bros. Grimm side than Walt Disney.
the bulk of this year’s musical output came to me in individual songs, rather than in the album format. some of the factors contributing to this change in emphasis were the absence of the bulk of my cd collection, various hardware failures with cd players, both computer and stereo-related and a stronger dependence on individual tracks. usually mp3s, the songs were found online through websites official, fannish or otherwise and eventually culled together for patterns. eventually, what i liked was investigated further and then purchased outright, for that is the beauty of the music and the internet. how else would i find out about this music? mainstrem radio and tv rarely give much guidance these days, and words don’t have much sound when they’re printed.
but anyways. in order of importance, my essential albums from 2003 are:
- tv on the radio: young liars ep.
point blank, the best release this year. sure, you could consider this part of my currrent fragmentary listening style, but no. i’ve always preferred shorter albums over longer ones, mostly due to mystery. over the span of five songs, this brooklyn trio present a sinister digital tone that suggests modern day decay. their production work with other new yorks bands such as the liars and the yeah yeah yeahs (more later) never suggested the mournful soul shown here. four originals and an a capella pixies cover. brilliant.
- ugly duckling: taste the secret.
one night, brave new waves opened the radio show with a bizarre commercial jingle promoting a carnivorous fastfood franchise, which later turned into a nasally monotone rap covering the ingredients. after a quick identification of the band, a californian trio, the album was located and i was pulled into one of the strangest yet hilarious concept rap albums of all time. sure, it feels like 1991 all over again, but that was a golden time and the fact that ugly duckling’s able to recall that time of promise, optimism and humour with today’s production skills marks a massive contrast with the current game.
- yeah yeah yeahs: fever to tell.
the two EP’s released prior to their debut album highlighted this trio’s commitment to spunky raw balls-out rock, but nothing prepared me for three things: 1) the sinister polish that makes the sound more angular and provides sheen to the point your eyes squint from the glare, 2) the full range of karen o’s flexible voice, from coy yelping to moaning temptress, and most importantly, 3) their heart on full display as the album starts from raging punk-blues and fully forms into a wistful melancholy. imagine the jon spencer blues explosion with an estrogen imbalance and buckle your seatbelt as you’re launched into the darkened sky. you’ve just ended up on a date with the night.
- goldfrapp: black cherry.
this one sorta snuck up on me. i had heard the main single and seen the video a few times, but without any idenitification of who or what it was. all i know was that there was a german cabaret overrun by a grinding disco beat and it was narcotic. by some fluke, i managed to catch reference to goldfrapp, a british duo known earlier for their understated chanteuse pop. this time around, the chanteuse has turned into a sex kitten and we’re out of the smoky clubs and into the dirty discotheques. when my ipod’s on shuffle and any of this album’s tracks sneaks in, it feels like the door to my head’s getting kicked in and everyone’s blushing.
- massive attack: 100th window.
even though this album is probably the least publicized of massive attack’s career, it doesn’t mean that this is the shoddiest. however, the dubby bass and heavy percussion have alleviated into a highly crystalline and sparse sound. with one member leaving for good and another on hiatus, everything is left in 3D’s capable hands along with the assembled cast of guest vocals. it’s still sinister and moody, but the sound shimmers and sparkles brighter.
- the rapture: echoes.
prior to house of jealous lovers, the rapture was a loose punk-funk band that kept the groove but often drowned in loose production. thanks to the production duo death from above, because of that single, they’ve since turned into the mutant disco template every copycat steals from. after a long delay, their first album was released and managed to codify the underground sound further, mixing no wave and early house to their original concoction. it’s a strange dichotomy: they manage to fill the dance floor by attempting to clear it, and then they go trying to break your heart. unreal.
- the high dials: a new devotion.
this was a late-breaker for me since i acquired the cd only last week. however, i had up to 5 mp3’s of theirs already and was impressed by their retrofresh feel. the whole album feels like it leapt out from 1967, the year when the world expo visited the quartet’s hometown of montréal and made it feel cutting edge. a new devotion is a mod revival with spy guitars, rolling tympanis and groovy cool vibrations.
it is true, 2004 is indeed the year of the monkey (or so say the GTABlogger people, because that’s where I heard it).
As some if you may know, I contribute to a little entertainment journal called Dirty Monkey Bugspray Fun, where we review concets, cds, dvds, movies, books, television and anything else that catches our fancy (the we/our in question concerns my two best of buds Ryan and Gary).
We have made the first step towards the year of the monkey, as, as a present to “the lads” my lovely other half Emma gave us dirtymonkey.nu as a present. (you can update your links if you want to, however www.sauna.org/monkey still works fine, thanks.
Today, also in preparation of saying hello to the new year, I’ve placed the old year into a musical retrospective. Yes, I have posted my 7 Essential Albums - the 2003 edition… this is the second year we’ve done this at the Dirty Monkey, the first year was a blast which also included the Top 20 Songs for 2002. This too will be repeated, as so as I finish contemplating my selections and as soon as Gary gets his lists up.
Also, you will notice if you’re over there at the monkey that Gary has also done a review of the brand spankin’ new Kids in the Hall Season 1 on DVD which you should order now or get your head crushed (mine is on its way, and I await in giddy glee). If you don’t order now directly from the production site, you will be waiting until at least April for it to hit the retail shops (although you won’t be paying in American money at that point, but really, who wants to wait any longer???)
You just blew my mind.
Our minds have been blown.
The following cds may not indeed be essential for everyone, but having had much time to digest the music purchase, donated and downloaded over the past 11 1/2 months (and I’m really not expecting much from any December releases) these are the albums I cannot live without.
1) The New Pornographers - Electric Version
It seems to be the only album on everyone’s list… an album that all parties can agree on. Because it’s brilliantine. There’s absolutely no reason for anyone on this planet to not own this album.
2) The Parkas - Now This Is Fighting
The Parkas remind me a little of the fictitional band from Cameron Crowe’s film “Almost Famous”, the only difference, time will indeed tell, is the “almost” part. These guys are taking melody, harmony, chord changes and rhythm structures to a whole new level. The Allman Brothers meet Sloan is a start but still not enough to describe the pop-rock-blues sound infections that these lads produce.
3) Cex - Being Ridden
Former electronica wonderkid Ryan Kidwell has strayed from the footsteps of Richard D. James (his early releases had critics hailing him as the next Aphex Twin) tossing into his act some hip-hop flow. Unlike, say, a Prefuse 73, Kidwell writes his own lyrics and dishes his own rhymes, backed with beats and clicks of his own styling, plus instrumentation from friends including Shudder To Think’s Craig Wedren. It’s not a complicated album but it’s totally something different on both the rap and electronica spectrums. (An instrumental version of the album is also available but not quite as good.)
4) The Planet Smashers - Mighty
It seems like the Planet Smashers have been around forever, now almost godfathers of the ska genre. This, their 5th album, brings together what they’ve been trying to do for over a decade, bridge the divide between ska and pop. And it’s completely successful. This album is tight, catchy, entertaining and fun. It’s a shake-your-ass-and-move-your-feet summer party album that will last you through the winter and back to summer again.
5) Lifesavas - Spirit In Stone
The Quannum label is returning hip-hop to the New School way of things, looking fondly back to the days of Tribe and De La but also sensing the movement forward in bridging turntables and harmony. Lifesavas are definitely feeling that vibe and they put together a solid debut that really puts back out there the true sensibilities of rap: introspection and storytelling. Members of the band are community leaders and gospel singers, so there’s not a bling or a thug (barring the “thug” parody skit in the middle of the album) to be heard.
6) The Dears - No Cities Left
The Dears are mere centimeters away from crafting a modern-day rock opera. There is a drama in their songs that you can’t find anywhere else, and accompanied by a near-orchestra sized band, singer Murray Lightburn’s evocative voice carries more emotion than the cast of Les Miserables.
It’s 66 minutes of pain, heartache and redemption, yet it’s never overwhelming (well, not in a bad way, at least).
7)Stars - Heart
Stars are like the antidote to the Dears. Light and sensual melodies lend way to romanticism and a no-denying-it sense of falling in love. It’s not about sex, there’s nothing dirty involved, it’s very warm and pure, full of charm and sweetness. So close to fey, but with such a strong pop sensibility it never sinks into a lullaby.
warning: it’s hard for me to be objective about this review, because i have been waiting for a desperate amount of time for something like this to be released, so forgive any freakouts this review may have. that said….
1989: the year i entered high school, with the drama of going to a different high school than the rest of my elementary school classmates. coming from a smaller school and expecting to go to a smaller high school, i ended up going to one of the largest secondary schools in town. there were a lot more people around than i was used to, i had to take a school bus for the first time and the only people i knew there were loose acquaintances at best and ended up in a different stream. effectively, i was alone and i felt like a misfit in a world that had various strange codes of its own.
fortunately, this was the same year when the kids in the hall first aired and i somehow discovering the show on the dial (back when tv’s had dials) during one of the futile attempts of channel surfing through the only four non-cable channels available to me (one of which was purely french and one which was part-time french). the kids in the hall introduced me into the world of sketch-based comedy, which i was completely unfamiliar with. the kids were five guys who were definitely canadian, mostly suburban with a mix of urban and rural, exploring the real world as though it were an alien planet. they were trying to point out how life seemed to work and what was funny about it. and they played whatever roles they could, donning wigs and dresses to act out as women. to me, it was a beacon of hope; it confirmed that the world doesn’t make sense most of the time and bad things happen, but if you look at it a certain way, it could be hilarious even at life’s worst.
and i was hooked. over the span of five seasons, i went out of my way to battle the channel’s tendency to hop when the show would air and catch up on dave, bruce, kevin, mark and scott. i was introduced to the music of shadowy men on a shadowy planet, which in turn guided me into the world of non-top 40 radio (i.e. real alternative music) and parts of the canadian underground. their questions against the social boundaries by tackling then-taboo topics such as AIDS, homosexuality, death, the macabre, drugs and deviant behaviour felt risky to someone who had no idea about such things and forced me to evaluate what my thoughts would be on those topics. the characters became a virtual family to me, the writing made me think how to tell a story and the timing the troupe had in front of the camera soaked into my awkward skin and made me realize how people interacted and talked with each other. and oddly enough, i became comfortable in that skin and managed to be a part of the world i couldn’t understand before (not that i still do, but that’s the biggest lesson of all).
after the show was over after five seasons (i took that news pretty bad), i became dependent upon repeats of the show, which didn’t quite materialize until one of the big cable channel booms in the late 1990s. the only episodes you could purchase were best-of compilations from the later seasons. as a stubborn fan, the only way i could be placated was by a complete season set, like i had started to see for shows like monty python. especially the early seasons, which appeared to have fallen into a memory hole.
so when word came in that the kids in the hall would finally be released to the home market, i was ecstatic. one of the producers set up a forum to discuss a possible DVD release and i offered my two cents on what i wanted to see. i had no idea that in a few short months, the complete season one set could be purchased online in a single DVD set.
and even with my mixed modest/wildest expectations, the season one set is gold. it’s justified my entire DVD life.
or “My casual attraction to small ‘c’ celebrity look-a-likes”
or “I left my brain in the basement”
Before our intrepid hero (i.e. me, circa fall 2001) met a girl at a city transit stop just before a different girl got schmacked by a car in front of us.
Then said hero decides it would be a good idea to go to the un-hit-by-a-car girl’s place of work (a tucked away little shop called HMV) - as he was invited to do so - but really he wasn’t ready to see the girl and was looking forward to getting out without having an encounter. But as he climbed the stairs from the hip-hop section, there she was…
I think I’ve just recomposed myself, I think that I’m okay, I think I’m calm, I think I’m breathing correctly, I think I’m doing the right thing, I think it’s all going to be cool, I think that it’s all going to be perfection here on in and her and I are going to be making babies and washing our Jaguars in front of our mansion on our island near Hawaii because life can’t be nothing but perfection -okay maybe I’m not thinking that last bit, but I am thinking I’m actually capable of asking this girl out.
I’ve had trouble like this before, and really, I know how it goes, and it never goes well. I’m always tongue tied, I’m always awkward, I’m always rambling, and I’m always revealing a side of my character that I like to keep tucked way way way way down… that giddy school girl in a blouse, thigh highs socks and a tartan skirt, giggling away, and jumping up and down with the flappy hands. I have one of those inside of me and I keep her buried like an Aspenite after a avalanche. Alas she’s got moxie, and she does work her way out sometimes.
But, I was trying, thinking myself at least composed - if not entirely in my right mind - as I ascended the stairs for a second time, The Gina (Geena?) growing in my view the closer I get to her (it’s called perspective, small vs. far away) standing there, at the top of the steps, chatting away to a working chum. But also as I get closer my heart felt like it was about to burst out of my chest. It’s not that it was moving rapidly, no. My heart was making deliberate, intensly swelling lub-dubs, each thud twice as loud as my footstep.
I started focussing on what the hell was going on with in my ribcage, instead of more important things like talking, and as I approached her, she didn’t see me. I came up behind her. Oh my god, she was wearing a black velvet ballgown. Not an actual ballgown perhaps, but shit, she looked like a celebrity (Michele Hicks, to be specific, from Twin Falls Idaho and Mulholland Drive… fine not an “A” list celeb but still one I absolutely adore). Her dress revealed her freckled shoulders and I nearly feinted. Seriously.
The guy she was talking to had motioned her attention towards me and she turned around.
“Um hi,” I said, my voice nervously cracking. I forced a smile (which, if you’ve seen me do this, I really shouldn’t do… it’s more scary than relaxing). It seemed like her reaction took forever, and I was hoping, at that moment, that she didn’t recognize me and I could feign that I made a mistake. But nope.
“Hi,” she said back, with a confident half-smile that told me she knew exactly what the hell she was doing, where as I didn’t know whether my shoelaces were tied or not.
I stuttered and stammered, then washed, rinsed and repeated. Think, brain, think.
Today I can hardly recall exactly what was said beyond that point, but were I to reconstruct it in dialogue form it would go something like this: (and shit is it painful)
me: So, uhh, how are you?
her: Um, okay.
me: … good… uh, hey, ummm, listen, like, umm, I dunno (pause) It’s alright that I came here, I mean, to say hi.
her: Uh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
me: Good, um, well, hi, heh. Well, I also… like… umm, hey… hi, heh. Umm, would you like to er, go for… a coffee or something… like, sometime?
her: Oh, uh… yeah? Well, no. I mean, I can’t. My parents are in town tonight so I have to…
me: (massively dejected) Oh… (then the brain kicks in) well, maybe, er, another night, when … you’re free…er. Freeer. Heh, yeah.
her: Yeah, I’d, yeah, like that.
me: Umm (it’s at this point I remember that I had, in preparation of this moment, prepared business cards with my name and number and email on them… but I decide that it’s really cheesy because, a) it’s pompous b) the business cards aren’t printed but written, so it’s even worse… faux pomp) can I, uh, give you my, uh, number? (I know my eyebrows must have raised hopefully here).
her: Uh, sure. (it sounded positive, and relief immediately washed all away from me… everything washed away… I didn’t even make motion to check if I had a pen or paper on me)
She began to move and I followed her to one of those corner employee stations that HMV has. She stepped behind and grabbed the pen and I just happened to not be able to shut my mouth. I don’t know what the hell I said, but it couldn’t have been good… it’s never good when my gob flaps uncontrollably, especially when nerves are involved. I’m not charming when I’m nervous, not like Hugh Grant. Maybe more like Bobcat Goldthwait. I do remember that she passed me the pen and my hands were violently shaking, I could barely grip it.
I started giggling uncontrollably (the plaid-skirted jezebel was trying her damndest to get out) and I apologized, spouting how I’d gotten myself so worked up over coming. Gina (Geena?) seemed to be getting a little more tentaive about the whole thing, especially as I tried writing down my number I began mouthing aloud “calm, calm, calm” then I paused, took a deep breath, looked up at her and said “I’m not normally like this, I’m… well, not. It’s just that, you know… well… it’s well… you know? Umm. Yeah. You know? (pause)
I’m sorry, I left my brain in the basement”
thus I crafted one of my now well honed mantras.. I’m not actually sure I said it aloud though, but I definitely thought it. I wish I had said it aloud. It’s pretty funny, really.
I tried to write my number down on the paper, and it wasn’t happening. The shaking hands, the brain in the basement, plus the fact that I’d only had the number for about 3 months, and still didn’t know it off by heart, especially under such intense pressure.
I eventually got it down… gave it to her, forced her to read it back to me, making sure she could understand my scrawl … it was a pretty unsightly sight, really. I think I was even quite rude, and snapped it back out of her hands to double check it.
Did I freak her out, or endear myself to her? Who knows, my brain was down in the basement and really there wasn’t much going on in there. In my head I closed the deal by getting her to say yes, she’d go out for coffee with me. Little did I realize that I’d be needing my faculties beyond that. Damn you hindsight.
She mentioned that she’d be getting off in about ten minutes, and I asked if she wouldn’t mind an escort to the streetcar, that is, if she wouldn’t mind. She said that’d be good, if I didn’t mind making a stop at the drug store first. Like hell I’d mind! Right.
So I told her I’d putter around upstairs (whether I actually said “putter” or not, I can’t be sure) but those were ten long damn minutes. I came back downstairs an eternity later (it was probably about 3 minutes), made mention that I was indeed calmed down, and she introed me to her boss and friend… the lad who she was talking with earlier. He seemed a cheerful guy and he seemed to have a glimmer of recognition in his eye towards me.
We picked up her jacket from the employees only room, and made our way across the street into the Eaton’s Center where she had to go to Shopper’s Drug Mart for a prescription pick up. We talked about our personalities - I came outright and told her I was addicted to comics and music and dvds and toys… (aka. a geek) but tried to temper it with stories of my writing aspirations. She told me about her passion for clothing design and some more background on her parents. In the Shopper’s we began talking about Halloween and I told her about my Hugh Jackman garb from Hallowe’en 2000 thinking somehow that would impress her. What? It’s a fun story (for a later date).
But I realized as I told her how the glue from the claws ripped the hair off the back of my hands and it took months to grow back that I wasn’t being very enthusiastic. In fact, I was crashing from my earlier high… you know that point where you’ve been so worked up for so long that you could just curl up and hibernate once you’ve reached catharsis? I had some of that going on. I was being boring… and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
But we kept moving and kept talking, until we got to the streetcar stop.. the.very.same.one. I didn’t make the obvious joke, but it was really, really, really awkward. As we sat down in the car, conversation was sporadic (not a good sign) and I realized that I wasn’t making eye contact because I was a) too nervous and b) I tend not to make eye contact because staring eyes wig me out. So there I was ever conscious of what I was doing and I was fidgeting myself to bits to the point of distraction.
We talked about her passion for clothing design, specifically fetish clothing and she told me about fetish shows and I was intrigued. Today I’m not really intrigued, and before I met her I wasn’t intrigued, but she made me intrigued… and, well, she scared the shit out of me a little as well. We talked about concerts… she Ozzy Osbourne and me Orbital. I had realized before, but this hammered it home. We were on different planes, and yet, I thought the attraction would overcome it (it’s since worked with me and Emma, so, it’s not that it doesn’t happen).
Anyway, she got off again at Dufferin and I said bye… and the streetcar stopped, and she stood on the steps to open the door, but they didn’t open, and she looked back, and I forced a smile and shrugged. The doors hissed open she gave a little wave and got off. I looked out the window into the darkness, little droplets of water left over from a quick shower refracting street and headlights. As the streetcar moved again I watch to see if she looked back… and today, I cannot recall if she did.
coming in part 4: the outcome
A few weeks ago my deskmate (we share a desk) Fab was telling me about an accident he had witnessed. He was walking home when a Beck cab (you know the nasty orange ones) came tearing down the street, horn blaring, smashing into car after car before coming to a complete stop, all before Fab’s eyes. Fab could even hear the girl in the back seat of the cab screaming that she wanted out at the top of her lungs.
When police and emergency crews arrived a short while later, Fab stuck around to leave a statement, observing the post-accident scene. Apparently the - in Fabs words a “balding, tall, East Indian cab driver” - stated that he couldn’t find the brakes, and that his brakes weren’t working.
It was an intriguing story, but it only gets better.
A little over a week later Fab’s down in the Cafe, and one of the lads there starts telling him a story how, at a family gathering over the weekend, three of their cars parked on the street out front of the house were nailed by a cab… a Beck cab, driven by a balding, tall, East Indian cabbie. Fab was like, “Oh my God, that must be the same guy.” And apparently he said the same thing, that his brakes weren’t working. The guy, apparently, was also using a different name the second time around.
The lad’s cousin posted high quality jpegs of the second accident on his website (fair warning, takes a while to load, even with high-speed).
Though it wasn’t his intent to take a picture of the driver, merely the accident scene, he did manage to capture the mysterious cabbie in the background of one of the images. He took the photo and blew it up. Fab freaked out when he saw it: “That is the guy!”
So if you hail a cab, and see this guy sitting behind the wheel, for the love of Pete, get out.
I’ve gotten two mixed cds with the Rapture’s House of Jealous Lovers and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Maps them.
I bought my own copy of !!!’s Me & Giuliani down by the schoolyard (a true story) but I also got a copy on a mixed cd as well. You can nod sing and clap along with this song. You can’t.
And I have to say the Seven Nation Army by White Stripes has the best bass line since MJ’s Billy Jean.
I don’t know if you can count remixes of songs from last year that were released this year, but there’s a few awesome mixes of “Verbal” by Amon Tobin.
Well, it’s a start.
(^–originally posted Sept 16 @ 3:35pm)
Lifesavas - Hellohihey –> This has to be the greatest anti-ego trip song in a long time. If Blackalicious is Quannum’s De La, and Latyrx is Tribe, then Lifesavas are Q’s Black Sheep. I’m eager for a follow up now.
(^–orignally posted Sept 19 @ 3:35pm)
Atom and his Package - Mustache T.V. –> Right, you’ve got it. Atom’s one guy, he writes quirky songs, plays guitar, programmes synths to accompany him. He’s a one trick pony. BUT, the guy writes fucking amazing, funny, fun and catchy as hell songs. Mustache T.V. from “Attention! Blah, Blah, Blah” is an easy standout. And it’s true, if you do draw a mustache on your tv, it will make you feel better.
Dears - We Can Have It–> this spiralling operatic rock song is the perfect way to kick off any mixed compilation. It literally gives me shivers listening to it.
lots and lots and lots and lots of them
click the link
(thanks to garytheemailman for giving me so many blog topics because he can’t be bothered himself… i can feel my quality quotient going up and beyond)
or Freaking out done naturally
or Tranquility hip-hop bass
When we left off, our interminabley verbose hero (I.E. me, circa Fall 2001) had met a girl at a streetcar stop, and the power of attraction literally turned into a car crash (well, more like a hit-n-run). The boy and the girl got to chit-chat after the accident and there was the enticement of future encounters:
So she got off the streetcar and took a little chunk of my affection with her, stating before she left that I should come on by her work (a predesignated HMV location). Guess what I couldn’t stop thinking about for hours and hours on end… no, not cheese. Bad blog reader! Bad! Now, pay attention.
So immediately I went home and wrote (no, not a blog entry, I wasn’t blogging at this point, foo’) an email, detailing the situation to anyone and everyone who would care enough to read and comment. In all my longwindedness I wound up staying up pretty late composing to as many people as I could before I passed out (likely two people). (Today I can’t seem to find said emails in my outbox… maybe it’s all in my head. Well, it’s also written in a journal somewhere… perhaps I should dig that out… *not so frantic searching later*… voila!)
Anyway, it WAS mid October (as I had speculated previously… yeah yeah, get on with it) and I had met the girl and I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and about how she said to come say hi some time and it was bugging me so much I couldn’t sleep and really I had a tough time focussing on much else (this is pretty typical with me and the girls I have fancied, up to and including the last one… being Emma… of course *sweat*). So I was taking advice from everyone and anyone, all the people I emailed including best friends and ex-girlfriends, and hell some people I hardly knew. They all pretty much said the same thing:
“Don’t wait, moron, go for it”.
I was having all the typical (stereotypical… cliche even) thoughts of “If I go today will I seem to desperate” and “what are girls really looking for” and “gosh, I’m not attractive enough” and “hey, what’s that smell”. But after 24 hours of stewing in my own man beef (don’t even ask what that means because I can’t tell you… I think it has something to do with bathing, because I took a lot of baths when I was living alone… sooo relaxing) I had kind-of come to a decision that I was indeed going to go to HMV and visit the woman-called-Gina (or Geena).
Of course, I couldn’t sleep again. I was likely on MSN all night chatting someone stupid about it, or talking with Gary on the phone about it, or beating myself in the head towards unconsciousness so I’d be at least somewhat refreshed… come morning I wasn’t. But my resolve was, which gave me a natural high which really drove me full bore through the day. I was telling everyone at work about what I was going to do (all of them familiar with the background story at least twice over by this point) and they were all supportive with comments like: “go get her Graiggy”, “you can do it” and “what’s that smell?”
The work day was a blur. Normally in situations like this time would be grinding to the halt with me biting my hangnails waiting for the end of the workday, but it was surprisingly quick. I guess my endorphins were running so high that I probably didn’t even know what the fuck was going on. When the work day finally came to an end I took the walk of anticipation, and aggrivation, and exaltation as I was mentally preparing myself for going to see her.
I was freaking out of my bloody skull.
I could barely walk straight.
Plus I had this stupid-ass grin on my face which scared the homeless.
The closer I came to HMV the more nervous I got… butterflies in the stomach, ants in the breadbox, you know, the whole deal of feeling so excited you could puke. It was intense.
I kind of lollygagged around the shopping district first, not wanting to seem to eager, but Jesus, I swear I was ready to cry I had myself so worked up. Yeah, I’m a freak. This actually happens every time I go to do something with a girl I like at the beginning stages. There’s a reason I never dated much, couldn’t handle the stress.
So I get to the HMV, and I enter into the DVD department first, mainly because I know she doesn’t work there… and if she happened to be there I could pretend like I was just shopping and bump into her and be all chill like “Oh, hey”. Yeah, that’s it. I had it all worked out. I would actually “shop” and you know, like, bump into her.
So I looked at DVDs, being the avid DVD buyer I was, it shouldn’t be hard to pretend to shop for DVDs… but I couldn’t focus, nope, I was scaring myself. So I went up to the second floor, scanning the soundtracks (having earlier in the year taken up a silent boycott on soundtracks, this was a useless place for me to pretend to be shopping)… moving on over into the alternative section I couldn’t remember the name of one damn thing I listened to. Hold up a disk, do I own this? IDON’TKNOW!
I was having a nervous breakdown. Seriously. In retelling this story, at this point, I pity that poor girl. She didn’t even have a chance of living up to the expectations I had about the whole thing.
I made my way to the basement hip-hop section, staring around, lost in a maze of Larry, his brother bling, and his other brother, bling. But, wait! I’d been through the entire store. She wasn’t there.
She. Wasn’t. There.
And I relaxed. I calmed down. Got my wits about me and I decided hey, did that rerelease of De La Soul come out? No. I asked the sales guy (I was capable of talking with someone else… phew… getting back to normal, social interaction… good, good. Calm.). He knows nothing. Good. I’m not the only dumb one. Yes. Let’s just go up the stairs, out the door, and get that ass home and eat some chicken. Yes, I have chicken at home. I’m starting to remember things. It’s all coming back.
So I start up the stairs, lost in the flood of normal, everyday thoughts that are returning to me (”where should I catch the streetcar?”, “wonder what time it is”, “what’s that smell?” etc) when I lift my head up and there, at the top of the stairwell, she’s just stopped walking and is chatting with… some guy… and my heart rated doubles instantly and I think I dropped a brick along the way.
I froze mid stride up the step as all my motor functions and every other thought in my head escaped me. I went on my old fight or flight instinct, and flight won by a landslide. I nearly fell down the stairs and went around the corner to try and recompose… but it wasn’t happening.
I realized that I couldn’t reasonably hide down in the hip-hop section all night. If I was going to get out of this building, I would have to go through her first. So I buttoned up my jacket, mussed my hair and began up the stairs…
So I get an email at work from Emma:
subject: something’s leaking/leaked upstairs
the art is damaged and the wall has bubbled up
and I don’t feel like dealing with it right now
So I called the landlady and she came over a short while later to check it out. She then went upstairs and talked to the neighbours. They said that nothing had leaked and that there wasn’t any problems… BUT, directly above where the water damage was in our room they have a fair sized fish tank, which they say they’ve had no problems with. Mmm hmm.
This is up at the corner of the ceiling and the wall, and you can see where the paint basically stretched and pooled the water before it escaped dow the wall (which you can see just to the left there)
The water leaked down the whole wall, we had art pieces on the wall pooled it and destroyed some of the pieces. You can see down in the lower right-hand the back off one of the pieces is now stuck to the wall.
Down below there was a hamper full of clothing and the clothes within had soaked up a lot of water, as you can see here.
More buckling in the wall, you can actually see the seams of the drywall (well, maybe not here, but in person, sure)
The aforementioned damage d’art
Los Straitjackets and the Tijuana Bibles - together at last.
I’m in complete awe of Time Bomb.