January 29, 2009

Radio Scars 2008 (the best bits)

Transcribed and edited by Aaron Epp with Jonathan Dyck
For "Radio Scars '08" in full visit the Uniter.

FLO RIDA featuring T-PAIN
Les Friesen: (singing lyrics) “She hit the floor, next thing you know/Shorty got low, low, low...”
Bucky Driedger: This song’s very instructional: if you see a girl entering the club, wearing fur, smack that booty!
Jonathan Dyck: Getting ‘low’ is kinda the only cryptic part in this song. Like, what does getting ‘low’ mean? Let’s brainstorm.
Thomas Epp: Getting low on the dance floor, or maybe in the bedroom.
Aaron Epp: Are you having a bad day and emotionally low?
Theo Wiebe: Did you slip ‘cause someone spilled Smirnoff Ice in the club?
BD: Are your stocks low because of the economic crisis?

I Kissed a Girl
AE: I thought there would be more ironic acoustic covers of this flooding the Internet than there was.
LF: This was produced by Max Martin, the same guy who produced So What by Pink.
TW: I think it’s appealing to dudes who think two girls making out is hot.
LF: This song wouldn’t have been as popular if it had been a guy singing, ‘I kissed a boy and I liked it.’
TE: The question is: where else are the topics of pop music going to go? This is different lyrically, because she’s talking about kissing a girl.
TW: But really, how different is it? She’s still talking about the same stuff as every other pop song, it’s just with the same gender.
BD: If she really wanted to be different, she would have to sing, ‘I humped a cow and I liked it.’

Viva la Vida
BD: To me this record feels really safe.
JD: But how could Coldplay not be safe?
LF: Yeah. They’re not gonna put out a Kid A or something.
JD: I think that’s the thing—you have to love Coldplay for their immediacy and the fact that they’re always going to give you what you want at that moment.
LF: This song made me like Coldplay again.
JD: Viva la Vida is definitely an improvement over their X&Y material. Better songs, better production.

LF: It was definitely time for them to do something new—
AE: And rip off Joe Satriani.

featuring STATIC MAJOR
JD: Yet another song, like 50 Cent’s 2005 hit Candy Shop, to exploit the metaphor of candy for fellatio.
TW: I look forward to the day when pop singers don’t use metaphors for fellatio—they just sing about it.
BD: I don’t know. I like pop singles that focus on inanimate objects, like umbrellas and lollipops.
JD: Yeah—I think the umbrella stood for something else, too
LF: I don’t think there was any connotation
JD: Do you think Lil Wayne listened to a lot of Fiddy Cent?
BD: I don’t know. All I know is that I still think robotic voices suck.
LF: I have Cher on my iPod. We can listen to when the whole robot trend started.
AE: Robots are taking over.
BD: Terminator 6: Robots Take Over Pop Music.
AE: It could happen.

Gotta Be Somebody
AE: I don’t mind this. I’ll just throw that out there.
TW: Wow Aaron, you’ve got some big cojones for admitting that.
BD: Who thought a Nickelback chord progression could get any more predictable? More proof that Nickelback will do whatever it takes to get a hit.
LF: Such a positive, uplifting message in this song—’Nobody wants to be alone.’
BD: I’d rather listen to a song about somebody sucking my lollipop than—
LF: Than a song telling you to embrace your life?

Chinese Democracy
TW: I think it’s too easy to make fun of this album and song.
JD: But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.
LF: Why do you think Axl Rose is so enthralled with the concept of Chinese democracy?
TE: I think his cornrows were a little too tight when he thought of that title.
BD: Guns N’ Roses started making this album in 1993, and I don’t know how anyone can still care all these years later.
TW: Do you think this song sums us up? Would you give this to someone from a different culture and say, ‘This is North America’?
LF: It’s North America, but it’s not 2008.
TW: It’s 2008, circa 1994.
JD: This sounds like it was produced in 2008, though.
LF: It’s a 1994 album, produced in 2008.

All Summer Long
JD: It’s like Kid Rock swallowed Sweet Home Alabama and shit it out.
TE: I just wish I was 14-years-old again before I knew Sweet Home Alabama existed.
AE: Why?
TE: Because that song sucks ass.
JD: This is why I hate America—because of songs like All Summer Long.
TW: I predict that this is the last pre-Obama hit of its nature.
BD: Yeah. In the era of Obama, this shit’s not gonna fly.
TW: Look out for a lot more Rihanna.
JD: And a lot more M.I.A. There’s a global movement comin’.
TW: Now that’s change I can believe in.
AE: But I don’t know. It’s like, you go to a social, and this is probably a fun song to hear.
BD: Why are you at a fucking social in the first place?!? Only if your close friend is getting married can you ever go to a social.

January 25, 2009

Antony's Crying Light

Milhouse: "So this is what it sounds like when doves cry."

The Crying Light's centrepiece, "Another World," which was released last fall as part of an EP is a predictibly subdued ballad that finds Antony's persona caught between worlds. Part of what makes it work thematically is it's (almost) Pauline in its apocalypticism: "I need another world/this one's nearly gone." Pondering his escape, Antony mournfully recollects sites of natural wonder that he'll be leaving behind. The song's beautiful (you might even say, theological) irony is that it's really about this world. Accompanied by the shrill sound of Japanese flutes, Antony cannot resist looking back, hanging on each line until his voice becomes uneasy. Such uneasiness underwrites most of The Crying Light, even when it verges on the sentimental. Compare the official video above with Butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno, whose haunting portrait spans the album cover. In fact, play them at the same time, but watch the bottom video.

Any misstep at this stage in Antony's career would indeed be a surprise. Antony's warbling presence is so vulnerable, so personal that it has an almost alien quality, not unlike Ohno's own staggered movements. “Let's take our power back,” Antony belts on “Aeon ,” one of a handful of deceptively up-beat, almost celebratory tracks scattered throughout this haunting collection. I'll admit, I had my doubts. More pastoral navel-gazing: that was my first impression after perusing the Another World EP. But despite it's infusion of pastoral imagery, The Crying Light, is a significant and complex step forward. It's undoubtedly challenging, but it's even more absorbing because of its otherworldliness. And that's where it's power lies.

January 23, 2009

precursor to Radio Scars

To honour the tradition of Radio Scars (an annual drunken discussion in which I'm taking part tonight with my brothers in angst): three videos from the past year that privilege adolescence and blast social perceptions of any kind, because no one understands and they never will because the gravity of every situation is just too much to handle and so on and so forth.

Feel the catharsis, exorcise that alienation!

"The Devil's Crayon" by Wild Beasts from Limbo, Panto

"Kim and Jessie" by M83 from Saturdays=Youth

"Our Age" by Constantines from Kensington Heights

January 22, 2009

A new issue of the Uniter is out today and there are a couple articles to which I can't help but draw attention.

Justifying our love of top tens by Aaron Epp

A pinch of this and a dash of that by Curran Faris

I'm quoted in the first article, so it goes without saying that I'm going to show it off.

The second is about Flying Fox and the Hunter/Gatherers, a local band that I have pretty strong connections with. I've lost count of how many times I've seen them perform live, and I have yet leave one of their shows disappointed.

January 21, 2009

paradise regained

My first real encounter with reader response theory comes by way of John Milton. The 1970s seem forever ago, don't they? They right well should. My parents hadn't even met each other yet. Still, every text on Milton in our library seems to predate 1976. Luckily, Stanley Fish's Surprised by Sin was first published years before the cut-off date and I have a copy sitting beside me as I type this. The choice quotation from Lamentations gracing the title page ("Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord") leads me to believe that I will enjoy rummaging through this batch of dated essays.

What have I been doing lately? Why, reading Paradise Lost, of course! All 12 books of it in a mere 12 hours last weekend. Grueling? Yes. Boring? Certainly. Worthwhile? Uhhh...probably. There's even a press release. Yes, I've been growing fond of Satan, the cheeky little bugger. After I reflected on Satan's seeming childishness in class today, my professor carried my comment through a nice analogy. He's like an adolescent who, after being sent to their room, spitefully resolves to rebel against his parents as the ruler of his bedroom (a solitary space all his own, to do with as he pleases). So deluded is the boy that he fails to realize that the entire house belongs to his parents. The room is not and will never be his alone. Thus Satan is bound, though his speeches weave together threads from great mythical spools; from the epic poets and all their labours, for everything is written as though "the mind is its own place."

The song he'd be singing, sporting short-shorts like Stuart Copeland (or something even more revealing):

I think Sting would make a good Satan. He's certainly got the hair for it.

January 16, 2009

arts notes

John Mortimer, RIP

Best known for his courtroom satire, Rumpole of the Bailey, the British author, playwright and lawyer John Mortimer died Friday of a prolonged illness. As a lawyer, Mortimer acted at many notable trials. He represented Penguin Books in the Lady Chatterly's Lover obscenity trial and later defended the Sex Pistols when their album Never Mind the Bollocks brought them a lawsuit. His famous barrister, Horace Rumpole, who referred to his wife as "she who must be obeyed" achieved further attention in a successful television series, starring the perfectly casted Leo McKern. His wit was the perfect instrument for the courtroom. Later in life, Mortimor penned a trilogy of political novels that charted the rise of a Tory MP and in 1988 was knighted for his service to the arts. Mortimer was an unstoppable writer, producing an average of one book a year up to his death. With massive spectacles covering his tiny squint, and a noticeable underbite, Mortimer was an easy caricature but I took pleasure in looking like character from the Lord of the Rings.

Beyonce, Prophet for Our Times, Keeps Things Regular

As if we need more omens to warn us of the West's descending economy. Recently, Phil Maymin, a professor of finance and risk engineering at NYU noted that "some of history's steadiest pop songs were released before a market crash." Of course, we all turn to the comfort of a popular song when times are tough, but Maymin has observed that "the more regular the beat on Billboard's top singles, the more volatile the American markets." Songs with a higher beat variance (i.e. an irregular beat), on the other hand, find a greater following when we experience economic stability. The song currently in question is Beyonce's mega-hit "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," which is firmly lodged into the top of the charts and doesn't look like it will be making any sudden jumps. I suppose in times of financial tumult America finds ways to stay regular. I wonder what sales of bran and prune juice are like these days. It's an interesting theory, though I don't know how well it holds. Some other thoughts emerged over at blissblog.

January 12, 2009

my new employer


Mission Statement

"CMU Press is an academic publisher of scholarly, reference, and general interest books at Canadian Mennonite University. Books from CMU Press address and inform interests and issues vital to the university, its constituency, and society. Areas of specialization include Mennonite studies, and works that are church-oriented or theologically engaged."

First day on the job over and done with. I've been shoved into an office I'll be sharing with three sessional professors, not that I'm complaining or anything. I met Simon, who teaches advanced calculus to a class of six. Another fellow strolled in later that afternoon and his cellphone would not keep quiet. Coffee in the staff and faculty lounge may rival the Blaurock's. CMU personal, I'm told, take their coffee culture very seriously - much talk is wasted on who will be making coffee, whether they'll make it strong enough, when to start the new pot, etc. Quite the fixation, but a welcome one. The lounge is also host to a variety of reading material - so anytime I'm tired of "Mennonite studies" I can snag the latest TLS, London Review of Books or any other pretentious academic rag I lay eyes on. 

Did you know the New York Review of Books has a section for personal ads, suited, of course, to the single bibliophile? See example below:

"VERY ATTRACTIVE, slender professor of English, DJF, loves foreign films and classical music, seeks her soulmate, a genuine and successful mensch (55–67) for friendship, love, and whatever follows. NYC. Call (212) 300-3767." Titillating indeed
Over the holidays, I saw a romantic comedy starring Ricky Gervais. Shmaltzy, yes, but Gervais is, as always, a charming slimeball. Here's an audio sample of an amusing interview between Gervais and Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, that I stumbled across recently. It's from the Simon Mayo Radio Show on BBC Radio 5 Live. I love it when Williams does this sort of thing. 

January 11, 2009

destination winnipeg

The concerts are coming. Yes, indeed, things are shaping up for the spring.  Fall was quite dry, save another visit by Women, and shows by two heroes of mine (Neil Young and Stephen Malkmus). 

Bonny "Prince" Billy will be at the Pyramid on March 21st supporting a recent live album and last year's delicate Lie Down in the Light. The New Yorker recently published an article about this American folk icon entitled "The Pretender," which gives Oldham some overdue recognition for his fascinating, consistent career and dress-up mystique.   

We'll soon be hearing new sounds from the Junior Boys, who are at the Pyramid on April 4th. 

And there's the Weakerthans/Constantines in April, which might give me an opportunity to talk to Bryan Webb on behalf of Stylus or the Uniter. I've got my fingers crossed. 

I have it on good authority that Chicago's post-rock luminaries, The Sea and Cake, will be one of the many fine acts to grace the Winnipeg Jazz Festival in '09. 

Another seemingly too-good-to-be-true rumour about the jazz festival revolves around the Rev. Al Green. Headliner? That would be massive.


 "blog blog blog...bloggity blog"

I have joined the legion of Mac owners, so expect to see me in cafes and other various wireless areas with a white plastic block on my lap. Good bye to Microsoft, Windows and that old black clunker I used for word processing. My roommate is concerned that this new acquisition compromises my loyalty to our cause (Luddites for Christ), but I remind him time and again that this computer is over two years old and highly used. And given the condensed rate at which technology progresses in this information age of ours, this computer must be nearly obsolete. 

January 5, 2009

One more can't hurt

I loved White Chalk, was a little disappointed with Uh Huh Her, but my expectations are fairly high for this follow up. Four days after my birthday, no less. I've been listening to Dance Hall at Louse Point a fair bit lately. Oddly underrated, it's the Harvey disc I go to instinctively. But it be as sombre? Maybe she'll spend less time sitting down.

More bite, less banter

Scrolling through other stuff, I found this decent send-off of 2008. If anything, it's worth reading for the Lester Bangs quote, and I'm not sure whether I can disagree about Deerhunter because, well, I am a "completist," I guess and well, see for yourself.

The greatest problem posed by the nanosecond hype-cycle of online crit isn't bloody-minded trailblazing as an end unto itself. It's the cliquish fractalisation of subcultures so that the context for enjoyment of a given band or music is so narrow that it's damn near inaccessible. What am I talking about? Okay, Deerhunter are a band that I kinda like. I think their production is half-assed, their melodies predictable, and I can almost see Bradford's bullshit hippy swimmy arm movements when I listen to his self-conscious delivery. But the obvious points of reference are all bands that I really dig, so I can't categorically dislike Deerhunter. Ergo I often ask myself what I'm missing about the band that sends so many listeners over the moon. Well, according to Matthew Perpetua...

It helps to have the context of other Deerhunter records, and probably also Atlas Sound and seeing them live, to get the bigger picture of who Bradford Cox is and what he’s doing, and why it’s special and good, especially in the current context of indie rock circa ‘08.

In other words, only completists need apply to the fanclub. What the fuck good does that do anyone not immediately enthralled with their music? A band needn't be popular to be "special and good," but for them to be important, something needs to resonate beyond a certain navel-gazing blogipelago.

Sure Microcastle has a slow arc and it's uber self-conscious and you have to spend time with it to appreciate it, etc. But why not try last year's Flourescent Grey EP for some immediate enthrallment? And there I go again: way in over my head. I should have worked today.

Let the sycophancy begin!

First day back and already the web is ringing with the praises of Animal Collective and their Merriweather Post Pavilion LP. Pitchfork gives AC their usual heap of (deserved) adoration. In Mark Richardson's review he demonstrates critical skill he must have developed in his undergrad degree in English: "The lyrics focus on the body, basic human connection, the need to take care of oneself, the puzzle of existence." So far, it sounds like this could be the flipside of a TV on the Radio review. "It's of the moment and feels new, but it's also striking in its immediacy and comes across as friendly and welcoming." That about does it. Next to TV on the Radio, AC has claimed the pristine pedistal of unreserved critical adoration and an enigmatic "nowness." Tinymixtapes seems to agree. And stereogum is already begging the question: the best album of 2009? All this fanfare was to be expected, but the last time I checked, AC were worth a shit because they refused to take themselves too seriously. So I guess I'm slightly put off by all the over-the-top praise. They've drummed up high expectations before, but this has surely been one of the most anticipated albums by anyone in years, not least for the "magic-eye" album cover.

Well, I'm saving myself for the official release (tomorrow, on vinyl), even though there's been a leak available for weeks now. Until then, the jury is out because I say it's out. My prediction is that in six months everyone will be afraid to say how much they love the new Animal Collective album; whereas now everyone will be afraid to disagree with the statement that Merriweather Post Pavilion is the "running commentary on the essential mystery of being alive."

In other exciting news, cokemachineglow has posted their annual "fantasy covers podcast" which I have yet to download.

Now I'm off to an important confidential meeting.