February 23, 2010

grad school bound (cont.)

Over the next couple weeks I'll have to make some tough decisions. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've applied to number of graduate programs. So far I've heard back from two out of three schools (for the record, they are University of Alberta, University of Victoria, and University of Ottawa). Those that have responded have asked that I give them an answer by the second week of March. This is all to say that grad school has been on my mind a lot lately - which is why I was so happy to find this clip from the Simpsons (recently posted on F&T).

It's nice to see what I'm setting myself up for.

February 13, 2010

love is just a four letter word

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music? (from High Fidelity)
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, another stupid holiday that, like Halloween, made more sense when I was seven than it does now: handing out my cheap, superhero-themed Valentine's cards at school and carefully preparing my own special Valentine's card receptacle like the rest my classmates. I could get behind that.

These days, the obvious thing to do is make a list of my favourite break-up songs. Some are laughable, others are frightening, but all of them share the same heaping spoonful of self-pity.

Here - Pavement
"And I'm the only one who laughs / at your jokes when they are so bad / and your jokes are always bad / but they're not as bad as this."

2. Divorce Song - Liz Phair
"I would have stayed in your bed / For the rest of my life / Just to prove I was right / That it's harder to be friends than lovers / And you shouldn't try to mix the two / Cause if you do it and you're still unhappy / Then you know that the problem is you / And its true that I stole your lighter / And its also true that I lost the map / But when you said that I wasn't worth talking to / I had to take your word on that."

3. Nobody's Fault But My Own - Beck
"And on the day you said it's true / Some love holds, some gets used / Tried to tell you I never knew / It could be so sweet / Who could ever be so cruel, / Blame the devil for the things you do / It's such a selfish way to lose / The way you lose these wasted blues / These wasted blues."

I Don't Want To Get Over You - Magnetic Fields
"I could listen to my therapist, pretend you don't exist / and not have to dream of what I dream of; I could listen / to all my friends and go out again and pretend it's enough, / or I could make a career of being blue."

5. Rid of Me - PJ Harvey
"You're not rid of me . . . . Till you say don't you wish you never never met her."

6. Pink Triangle -
"When I think I've found a good old-fashioned girl / Then she put me in my place / If everyone's / a little queer / Can't she be a little straight?"

7. Damage - Yo La Tengo
"The damage is done."

8. Cato As A Pun - Of Montreal
"I can't even pretend that you are my friend / What has happened to you and I / And don't say that I have changed / 'Cause man, of course I have"

9. Get Gone - Fiona Apple
"You got your game, made your shot, and you got away / With a lot, but I'm not turned-on / So put away that meat you're selling."

10. Forever For Her (Is Over For Me) - White Stripes
"I blew it / And if I knew what to do, then I'd do it / But the point that I have, I'll get to it / And forever for her is over for me / Forever, just the word that she said that means never / To be with / another together / And with the weight of a feather it tore into me"

(Honourary Mention) An Ode To No One - Smashing Pumpkins
"I took a virgin mary axe to his sweet baby jane, / lost my innocence to a no good girl, scratch my / face with anvil hands, and coil my tongue around a bumblebee mouth /And I give it all back to you." Alright Billy. I'm sure it all makes sense in your head.

February 8, 2010

Below: A new video from my favourite album of 2009 (Two Dancers by Wild Beasts) for one of its best tracks, "We Still Got The Taste Dancin' On Our Tongues." This video instantly brings to mind the movie Gladiator - remember Russel Crowe floating over those wheat fields? - and the music video for one of my least favourite gen-x anthems, "Disarm" - remember seeing Billy, James, D'arcy and Jimmy floating over suburbia whist playing their instruments and channeling the angst of a thousand broken teenagers? Of course you do!

February 7, 2010

New album reviews in Stylus Magazine (links below)

Molina and Johnson - Molina and Johnson (Secretly Canadian)
The cover is shown above. Probably my favourite album cover of last year - shame the content was such a let down.

Tara Jane O'Neil - A Ways Away (K Records)

On Fillmore - Extended Vacation (Dead Oceans)

Half-Handed Cloud - Cut Me Down and Count My Rings (Asthmatic Kitty)

February 4, 2010

Why "Everybody Hurts" Is The Last Thing Haiti Needs
by Jude Rogers , February 4th, 2010 07:45,

taken from the Quietus

Once upon a time, there was a slip of a song, a soft statement of directness, tucked into the first side of a strange, swampy album. Sitting between a single about snakes and a mournful instrumental, it was written for misty-eyed, miserable teenagers, teaching them a few lessons about the way the world was. It said this: listen, kids. Everybody hurts. Everybody cries. The sentiments were unusually saccharine for REM back then, but Michael Stipe’s reedy voice gave them a peculiar, quiet power. You may feel like a weirdo, he seemed to be saying, but don’t worry about it, brother. I’m a weirdo too.

Now jump forward seventeen years. How did we get from there to here?

The world has whined on, and 'Everybody Hurts' has become a very different creature. Post- Diana boo-hooey, in a world in which pop songs are wrung dry on TV to suggest emotional Everests and oceanic depths of despair, it has become musical shorthand for stadium-sized sorrow – a far cry from the slight, awkward ballad that soothed off-kilter kids, like the 15-year-old me.

And now it is the song for Haiti. This is not a spur-of-the-moment choice by Simon Cowell, plucked from the air in a spirit of altruism and tenderness. He has been mastering the makeover of this song for years, slathering over its subtlety with key changes, powder and paint. X Factor opera death-squad G4 did it first, giving it the constipated walrus treatment in 2004. Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts came next, singing it on his album in ponderous Italian, presumably to give him the tang of an Aldi Pavarotti. Latterly, Diana Vickers, now being repackaged very nicely as a bubblegum pop star, honked it into a vegetative state in 2008.

But this time, the odds are different. A humanitarian disaster of unimaginable proportions has hit a country long buckling from centuries of corruption and poverty. And what is pop’s response? Everybody hurts. It’s not just you, poor, things. We poor creatures hurt too. “When the day is long” – hey, we sympathise, those aftershocks must be a right bitch, especially when you don’t know when they’re going to bury your family home deeper in debris – and “the night is yours alone” – especially when your wife and children are dead, and you haven’t got any food or water, that must be a right bummer – well, “hang on”. That’s what pop says: “hang on”. The temerity of that lyrical twist, its jaw-dropping tastelessness, telling people that have had to hang on already, forever, to just bolster their spirits in the face of devastation – a state unknown to pop stars who wouldn’t piss in a bottle for less than ten grand – makes it pop’s grimmest moment of all time. Not only does it rip the soul out of a song that had something to say, but in the warbly throats of Cowell’s Cabal, it turns 'Everybody Hurts' into a surreal, empty ode to positive thinking, performed by people who’d have a tantrum if their tea wasn’t served in bone china.

It gets worse. The message of 'Everybody Hurts' is now being placed on the same plain as the lyrics to 'Do They Know It’s Christmas?', effectively demoting Bill Berry and Michael Stipe’s subtle skills to the school of Midge Ure – a man who didn’t notice the “clanging chimes of doom” in Bono’s sickening line, “Tonight, thank God it’s them instead of you” . The media have also been happy to comply in this process, asking Rod Stewart and James Morrison if “Simon” had asked them do this personally, as if Cowell was God, deigning to descend from his heavenly Mr Topper’s barber chair. At least Band Aid had Geldof banging the table like a deranged beggar, trying to get across the gravitas of what he was trying to do, and reporters willing to question pop stars about their real motives (with only a few people, like Bowie, addressing the real issues). Now, all that is left is a reporter basking in the light of these stars, telling us to listen to their vocals, and “take comfort in your friends”.

There are many other grim things about Everybody Hurts being the song for Haiti, There’s the idea that it doesn’t matter what the song is, that people should just shut up and buy it, as if that’s the only way we can help. Why not just donate here as many people like I have? Then comes the relentless parade of melismatic vocals, bereft of humility or subtlety or any true soul, that show how the sport of singing has nothing to do with its art. But the worst thing is this: 'Everybody Hurts' is a song that doesn’t offer any answers. It offers sympathy and empathy in the tiniest doses, delivered in this case by musicians that will retire to their manors, and carry on, without blinking, with their extravagant lives. It is a song that used to say, this is the way the world is, deal with it, move on, and it worked because it understood both its audience and its oddness. It stills says this, but now it understands nothing. Now all it says to the people of Haiti, to whom everything is wrong, is that “it’s time to sing along”.

February 2, 2010

For anyone who still has a stake in "indie" music, the newly web-exclusive Paste magazine has published an article called, "Is Indie Dead?" As you may be able to guess from the title, the article is fundamentally misguided, lofty, long and boring. It's a question that sounds important but gets us nowhere. In its repeated attempts to define what "indie" is, the argument collapses into a debate about semantics that repeats every counter-culture cliche you can think of. What's more, the writer, Rachael Maddux, grandiosely begins by referencing Time article from 1966 that posed the same question about God; she gives a brief account of punk, alternative and indie as more or less the same thing; then she throws in a clumsy summary of Nietzsche's infamous proclamation from The Gay Science and rephrases it in the most painful way:
Indie is an artistic ideal, not a world religion, so while it faces the same dilemma—as a word that once meant so much, and still does to some, but has virtually lost all meaning and may now be doing more harm than good—there’s no need to be so careful. We can tear down this idol with reckless abandon because, to our question, there is a concrete answer: Indie is dead. It has killed itself.
I had to stop reading here. Indie and God? Really? That's a connection I've never made before. Clearly, she knows as little about popular music as she does about philosophy. And she is no poet.

Instead of wasting your time with this article, I suggest looking at the various critics who've been asked by Flavourwire to give a response to Maddux's article. I'm pretty merciful in comparison.