Thursday, September 30, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Echotone

There's something about watching music from behind the scenes. The voyeurism appeals. First off, what it takes to get a song from the writing process to my headphones is impressive. The hard work, the promotion, the touring, and the hundreds of people behind the band that you never really think about. Fascinating.

Secondly, musicians are some of the the most insufferable people on the planet. So watching the total self-indulgence and narcissism that borders on insanity? Beyond fantastic. And it's fun to feel like you're hanging out with the band for awhile. Like a groupie. Or a drummer.

I love rock documentaries (Rockumentaries? Rock docs?). All of them. Even if I don't like the band, even if I don't like the genre, there's still a good chance I'll watch it.  Don't Look Back is amazing. Dig! is a fantastic mess. And Gimme Shelter? Required viewing, really. 
 So I have a massive hard on for the upcoming Echotone, a documentary  on "live music capital of the world" Austin, Texas.

With its focus on the energy of a single happening city, it looks a bit like Hype!, the (awesome) 1996 doc about the Seattle grunge scene. But whereas that movie was more of a lesson in...uh...hype, it seems unlikely we'll be looking back on Echotone in fifteen years with awkward laughter. Of course that's what I said about my own mid-90's decision to wear shorts with longjohns. And my late 90's decision to attend raves. And then there's that guy I was with who played competitive handball.

So I know shit, basically.

Still, you need to look forward to it:

The First Echotone Teaser Trailer 1280x720 HD from echotonefilm on Vimeo.

And if you are anywhare near these places, take a peek

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Because We All Have Limited Gigbytes: "Odd Blood"

These days if you're in a band it's impossible not to create a genre. Or claim to create one, anyway. YOUR BAND is not just "rock"; you're "post-metal-neo-new-wave". Or the first to deem your sound "pseudo-Lauper-low-fi-punk". Maybe you alone have mastered the potential of "new millennium-Broadway/porno soundtrack/chill hybrid".  And while I do get the wanting to be distinct thing you need to know that, while avoiding pigeonholing, it also places your image somewhere between awesomely descriptive and totally useless. For example, I am the leading writer of random-music themed-Moscow based-Canadian expatriate-snark-blogger commentary. Set up a niche small enough and you're bound to rule it. But it's also like being president of the club you set up in your mum's closet--kinda fucking sad.

Unless this is your club. No wait--I meant especially. Especially if this is your club.

When their last album came out, Yeasayer dubbed their sound "Middle-eastern-psych-snap-gospel", placing them squarely in the "Muliticoloured Kangarabbit Kids Club" camp. This year's Odd Blood has a slightly different sound from their last album but they're still in the club. It's a little less psych, a little more pop, and a dash of synth. (I wouldn't go so far as to say synthpop but, y'know, it's there.) There's something very 1984 about it. The year and the novel. 

Not following? Okay, imagine you take a shitload of acid and go to an 80's party. Tripping balls and surrounded by electric guitars, synthesizers and Simon le Bon haircuts you are asked to compose an album on the spot. That album is probably going to come out sounding like the bastard child of a back alley condomless one night stand between Pink Floyd and Tears For Fears.

Simply put, it's going to come out sounding like Odd Blood.

And that's not a bad thing. The album is bold, experimental, and pretty much kicks ass. Trouble is, the band doesn't seem to know where the strengths are. Their first single was "Ambling Alp". I'll give them musically catchy, but the lyrics put my ears into a diabetic coma. This song sounds like something a youth group leader plays to show how hip he is. It's, like, totally the best song at church camp. And I am not big on church camp.

Then there's "Love Me Girl," which sounds direct from the synth no-man's-land of the late 90's. Heading back to that time for this genre is like one of Moses' Jews heading back into the desert for a walk down memory lane. Dude you're lucky anything survived; don't go picking through the bones.

So the album has its weaknesses. And since iPod space doesn't grow on trees, here (in my opinion and open to debate) are the songs to make room for on Odd Blood:

Third Best: "Madder Red" (released as a single Sept 13th) --for it's wordless chorus that everyone will sing along to, and for the fact that I can now use "experimental-psych-Celtic-anthem" in a sentence. 03 Madder Red by Mr. Shuffleupagus

Second Best: "I Remember"-- Because as you read this, some Hollywood asshole is pitching a remake of Say Anything. And if that should come to pass,  this is the song that John Cusack 2.0 will have playing from his boombox 04 I Remember by Mr. Shuffleupagus

Best on the Album: "Mondegreen"-- Because it's the musical equivalent of doing a line of coke: euphoric surge of adrenaline, the world picks up pace, and you feel way cooler than you actually are. 09 Mondegreen by Mr. Shuffleupagus

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Score One for the Frogs

Karkwa is officially the first francophone winner of the Polaris Music Prize, Canada's annual prize for best album of the year. It's  selected by critics on "artistic merit" regardless of sales, label, or genre. You can tell it's Canadian because of the pseudo-hippie, thoroughly unoriginal, nature-based title. (If you are going to name something after anything in Canada it must be northern nature, aboriginal words that mean nothing to most people, or Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Even we can't think beyond our own stereotypes.)

For a fifth year, the rotating panel of critics got together to drink Kokanee, argue about which region of empty land is the best, build a bonfire, and pick a genuinely good album out of a list of genuinely good albums to celebrate. Because Canadians might have little to nothing to get off on beyond waterfalls and maple syrup, but we do manage to churn out some pretty good fucking music now and then.

This year, Karkwa is walking away with the Polaris prize for Les chemins de verre. And if you speak French or don't care about understanding lyrics, you might be pretty excited about this. I think it's alright. Don't get me wrong--Chemins is a good album. A pretty great one, actually.  But to me it also sounds like what you'd come up with if you had the sensibilities of Arcade Fire but couldn't afford half the line up. The anglophone half, I guess.

I'd have liked to see Broken Social Scene walk away with it, but they were arguably the most popular band on the shortlist. And if the critics can't point out that they like more obscure tunes than the average man, how will we ever know we need them?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Boss Stuff on the Interwebs: The Wilderness Downtown

This summer I decided to vacation back in Canada and, for the most part, stayed with my mum.  During a gay rights discussion she turned to me and said: "You know they have this gay site on the internet now."


Mum, zombie+porn gets 595,000 google hits. Disco+popcorn+spider will get you over 2million. Pretty much everything is on the net these days.  And we're glad it is or we'd all have to work or talk to each other and other unpalatable stuff like that.

If you're looking for somewhere to waste valuable time and avoid friends and family, may I suggest the following from Arcade Fire:

That is some cool shit right there. Enjoy.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I hate my friend Tom.

Not conclusively or anything. In reality Tom's one of the best of the good people. But Tom did something that unintentionally and inevitably changed the course of my summer vacation: he taught me how to load album covers into my iPod.

Just like this, but without the words hovering midair.

This sounds harmless. Helpful, even. "That would be a great thing to learn!" you're thinking*And it is a nice thing to learn if you aren't as compulsive and lacking in priorities as I am.  Now in fairness, I rarely bother with anything at all, and if I do get obsessed even that rarely lasts more than 48 hours. But in this case, that little burst of productivity was all it took.

Because now I had gotten it into my head to to do the entire iPod.

I spent the next two days obsessively hunting and downloading album covers, uploading them to iTunes, redownloading albums I already had (iTunes won't change a file if the original has been deleted), then putting those back in and matching them with covers. And it all had to be done running between my mother's PC (with internet access) and my laptop (with none), flash drive in hand, over and over until everything had been relabled, restored, and reunited with its artwork.  All 32 GB. That is a shitload of music, for the record. That's around 5000 songs, more than 350 albums, nearly 300 artists and most of it needing artwork.

And it wasn't even that simple. As I worked (""), I thought of albums to add. So I'd search, download and add. But then I'd have too many, and I'd have to toss some. So I'd agonise, rate and toss. Hell I even filled the notes with a list of upcoming album drops to remember. 

Riding the high of my fresh if completely disproportionate enthusiasm, this seemed at the time like a reasonable way to spend vacation to the hometown and family I hadn't seen in nearly two years. I was propelled by the idea that this little sliver of metal and... computer bits was owed the lavish attention it had so long been deprived of. In my 4am internet and vodka haze, I reasoned it out: iPod keeps me company during hours of commuting every day-- He's is practically a friend! And thus this seemed the least I could do.

In sum, I spent two days almost in their entirety and late into the night weeding and preening and prettying up my iPod. I haven't worked so diligently at anything since the "No More Nukes" letter writing campaign I took up in '07 (Fun Facts: Belgium does not actually have nukes; a country can ban you for letter writing; the seemingly mild insult "waffle-eater" is offensive, lewd, and possibly racist when translated into Flemish). By Monday morning, I hated myself. I hated Apple. I hated the way my eyes felt as though they were about to roll out my face. And, like I said, I hated Tom.

Oh, but you should have seen my iPod. The shiny touchscreen flooded colour and personality with every song. Every album was one I knew I wanted. Bands I'd been meaning to test drive--there. Classics I'd been forgetting to add--there. Like in a teen movie about the "ugly" kid, I took down his ponytail, took off his iGlasses, lent him a dress and plain friend was hot. (He's a tranny for the purposes of this metaphor. Get 2010). And shallow as I am, it made me want to spend more time with him. 

And how to turn two days of misplaced effort and an obsessive vanity regarding an electronic device into something useful? Well I'm an asshole with a laptop and an opinion, so... blog. Because if blogs like Shopping and Poker, and Baller King exist, I might as well. I'm twice as opinionated and only half as sexist.  Boobies.

So now this space is about music and all things related. Old music, new music, commentary, suggestion, reviews, playlists, links, news, rock, pop, indie, oldies... whatever. The only theme here is "What I'm Feeling Into Today." I run this joint and you're at the mercy of my never-logical whims. And there's nothing you can do about it. Besides go somewhere else, I guess.

Welcome to my new blog and comment freely if you have an opinion or an uncontrollable urge to troll people on the internet. It all brings the lulz, so whatever. I may not be nice when commenting back but Hell,I'm not all that nice about anything.

And here's a classic in the name of... starting.

Fuck it--you want clever stick to Baller King:


*Or you're thinking "When you pay for your music it automatically comes with album covers. Bitch is a music thief." Way to go, you got me. You can go back to checking your pager and worrying about falling off the edge of this flat planet now, or whatever it is that people who still pay for music do.
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