Tuesday, December 21, 2010

022: Year-End Wrap-Up Blog-Post

Not that anyone reads this, or even posts on it anymore, but what the heck, I've been anticipating this post for a good month or so now. Without Further Ado... Manley's Music Best of the Year:

Best concerts:

1) Titus Andronicus + Free Energy @ Il Motore, August 22
2) Vampire Weekend + Beach House @ Metropolis, September 8
3) The Sainte Catherines @ L'Esco, December 4 (Secret Show!)
4) Shad @ Jazz Fest, June 25 (Bilingual Freestylin'!)
5) Titus Andronicus @ Green Room, April 10

Only went to nine shows this year. These were all the bomb diggity though. That August Titus Andronicus show especially; that was their second pass through Montreal of the year, the first one being somewhat hampered by frontman Patrick Stickles being on the verge of death due to having the flu. Free Energy was also totally surprisingly amazing that night! And I got to chat with T.A. afterwards and got a setlist and errything. Prospective future concert-of-the-year-winners take note: going the extra mile for the fans is always worth it. Chuuuch.

Best Singles:

1) Japandroids - Art Czars
2) Japandroids - Younger Us
3) No Trigger - Be Honest

Japandroids had an interesting year, putting out a compilation of old EPs called No Singles, which was quite good if not as impressive as their 2009 debut, Post-Nothing. They also put out three singles, each containing an original and a cover. Two of those were fantastic and appear here. The other one was Heavenward Grand Prix, which is an awesome title, but it kinda sucked.

Best EPs:

1) Girls - Broken Dreams Club
2) United Nations - Never Mind the Bombings, Here's Your Six Figures
3) Propagandhi - The Recovered EP

I got into fewer new bands this year (Not sure whether listening to less new music generally stemmed from this, or caused this. Will report back later.) but Girls was one of them, right near the end of the year when Broken Dreams Club started showing up on Best Of lists everywhere. Well, I slept! I admit it. It's good shit. As for United Nations... three tracks of tight, powerful brutality, followed by possibly the title track of the year. (Also: album art of the year for sure).

1-Hour Mixtape:

Against Me! - "Because of the Shame"
Beach House - "Norway"
Crime in Stereo - "Drugwolf"
The Gaslight Anthem - "The Diamond Church Street Choir"
Japandroids - "Art Czars"
Joanna Newsom - "Go Long"
Kanye West - "Gorgeous" (feat. Raekwon & Kid Cudi)
Sage Francis - "The Best of Times"
The Sainte Catherines - "Chub-E & Hank III / Vimont Stories, Pt. II"
Shad - "Yaa I Get It"
Titus Andronicus - "Four Score and Seven"
Vampire Weekend - "I Think Ur a Contra"

After a brief intermission, on with the show.

Best Albums of 2010, according to my ears:

1) Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
2) Vampire Weekend - Contra
3) Crime in Stereo - I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone
4) The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang
5) Girl Talk - All Day

6) Shad - TSOL
7) Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
8) Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
9) CEO - White Magic
10) Beach House - Teen Dream

11) Red Sparowes - The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer
12) Fake Problems - Real Ghosts Caught on Tape
13) The Sainte Catherines - Fire Works
14) Japandroids - No Singles
15) Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me

I think these pretty much speak for themselves. Also, neither you nor I want me to talk about them, because that would just take way too long. Trust me when I say these are all awesome albums that you should check out, though.

Runners-Up: Woods - At Echo Lake, Dessa - A Badly Broken Code, Gord Downie & The Country of Miracles - The Grand Bounce

That's all, folks! See you again in 2011!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

021: On the Meaninglessness of Lyrics

I had a little revelation recently. I don't know if you've been on this tip for a while, or what, but it's shaken me a little bit. It goes like this:

Lyrics don't mean anything.

I don't mean that you can't convey meaning through song lyrics. What I mean is that, by and large, no one cares what people say in a song. What they care about is how they say it. McLuhan was right—the medium is the message. Or, in this case, the tone is the message.

I've been listening to the new Kanye and Girl Talk albums a lot and it has made all that extremely clear. There's a sense of pure power that comes from rapping along with these artists— Raekwon, Missy Elliott, M.O.P. come to mind—whose rhymes embody little to nothing of my own personal ethos.

Now, there's my love for that bullshit rap music like P. Diddy on "All About the Benjamins," Rick Ross on "Hello Good Morning," and then there's my love for basically all of MF DOOM's oeuvre, with its constant multisyllabic rhymes that make no sense unless you study them scholarly. Which is more pleasing? The sound or the message sent? And Jay-Z, too. I love Jay's lyrics, but to be honest, I think I love his voice more. I love the sound of swagger, and frankly, I have to spend a lot of time convincing myself it's okay to like stuff like that when I feel like, lyrically speaking, I shouldn't. But, fuck, do they sound good. And Nicki Minaj... who can say that they'd still listen to her if she didn't break into pure ferocious snarling once a song? It's not the same. Why do I love "You Ain't Got Nothin' On Me" from Tha Carter III when I give so little of a fuck about Fabolous and Juelz Santana, and when their hyperviolent misogyny ought to disgust me? They just sound so fucking good!

It's more than rap music, though. Have you ever read Bon Iver lyrics? All I'm saying is, Rick Ross isn't the first person Justin Vernon's smoked up with. His lyrics are completely stupid, and yet, wow, his voice—you can't say no. It's so emotional. Conor Oberst is my indie Jay-Z—sure, he's a great songwriter. But fuck it, I love his voice; no surprise that I fell in love with Patrick Stickles' Turbo-Oberst snarl so easily. On the other end of the spectrum, Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes—wow, beautiful voice. Lyrics? Enh. So-so. But jeez, do I worship that guy.

Or how about all of Rage Against The Machine? How many of their fans got into them purely because of Zack de la Rocha's unbridled angry spitting? Has anyone ever made "ugh" sound so poetic and sexual before? I don't think it would have mattered what he was yelling about; all of white teenage male America would have been on his junk regardless. The labels knew that; they knew that RATM's sound was more important than their message, or you never would have heard of the band in the first place.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is... no wonder nobody listens to backpack rap and Soulja Boy is huge. No fucking wonder. If even university-educated overly-analytical left-wing pinko eggheads like me would rather listen to a singer who sounds good than one who can put together intelligent lyrics... No wonder.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

020: Can't Stop the Waltz

Brian says: (12:56:52 AM)
Brian says: (12:56:52 AM)
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (12:57:14 AM)
brain asplode
Brian says: (12:57:31 AM)
Brian says: (12:57:32 AM)
Brian says: (12:57:33 AM)
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (12:57:56 AM)
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (12:58:06 AM)
listening to girl talk au moment
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (12:58:10 AM)
give it a few minutes
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:10:10 AM)
so how was your eve
Brian says: (1:10:17 AM)
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:10:18 AM)
he says
Brian says: (1:10:21 AM)
I ended up cohosting Lachlan's show
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:10:24 AM)
finally getting to the acoustic bats
Brian says: (1:10:29 AM)
Evan liked it
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:10:58 AM)
Brian says: (1:11:07 AM)
So take that
Brian says: (1:11:10 AM)
As an indicator.
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:11:27 AM)
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:11:56 AM)
acoustic bats = pretty sweet
Brian says: (1:12:04 AM)
It's really surprisingly good
Brian says: (1:12:09 AM)
Evan says: (1:34:49 AM)
awesome banjo is awesome

Brian says: (1:12:14 AM)
Brian says: (1:38:21 AM)
Mind-blowing, bro.
Evan says: (1:38:27 AM)
no kidding
Evan says: (1:38:29 AM)
Evan says: (1:38:34 AM)
Evan says: (1:38:35 AM)

where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:12:38 AM)
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:12:43 AM)
man fuck that dude
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:12:54 AM)
he wouldn't know talented if it was in a long-distance relationship with him
Brian says: (1:12:59 AM)
Brian says: (1:12:59 AM)
Brian says: (1:13:00 AM)
Brian says: (1:13:02 AM)
Brian says: (1:13:07 AM)
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:13:10 AM)
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:13:34 AM)
this could totally sell to the like
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:13:41 AM)
crowd that was left with too much money in their pockets
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:13:52 AM)
when the johnny cash that covered nine inch nails and danzig passed away
Brian says: (1:13:54 AM)
Brian says: (1:14:03 AM)
You shameless marketer
where the hills are sand-coloured, and bones lie unburied. says: (1:14:09 AM)
can't stop won't stop

Sunday, December 27, 2009

019: Of Popes And Dopes On IM Ropes

brian: Okay, question for you... One you'll like. If you can start a rap beef with anyone in the world – Who do you go after, and how far do you go in?

alex: hm. I start a rap beef with the pope - it ends when he's succeeded. Note: that bitch who tackled him? Let's just say we've had knowledge. And by we, I mean I, and by knowledge, I mean her pussy.

brian: What happens when he starts shooting lightning at the children because he's pissed off at you, though?

alex: fuck the children
they were my rap beef plan b

brian: Bammm
I think I'd take on Soulja Boy because it would give Evan a chance to converse with his hero, Soulja Boy...That's right, I typed "hero" and "Soulja Boy" (and hero was in the affirmative) and the only thing dividing those two is a comma.

alex: jesumaria

brian: You already starting in on the Pope rap? I don't know if using the sentence "I hurrd your pussy was pissy" directed towards the Pope gets you canonized faster, though.

alex: man
in the new netherworld...log... when the brotherhood of machines has risen they will proclaim me their pope
before assassinating me.

Monday, December 21, 2009

018: Another Year, Another Number

Towards a blinding numbness

Ah, the List. As every year draws to a close, any number of niche-orientated nerds feel the need to reflexively puff out their chests, take in a deep breath and express their innermost feelings to the world at large, spewing out words with attached numbers to them, while borrowing one of the myriad number of soapboxes thrown out by those who've given up on the pop/pulp culture/machine. They argue endlessly, draw up lists, numerating systems, stipends and regulations meant to box in their peers and try to keep this strange playing field they're created level. These people feel a desire to share the fire burning inside of them.

The proliferation of lists popping up on almost every single website I visit now, given that it's the end of the first decade of the millennium, is disconcerting a bit. The self-reflexive need to objectively numerate, index and share preferred albums/songs/movies/television shows/actors/comics/books/trends/websites/bowel movement/favourite (insert occupation) is one that continues to grow and grow as more people take to being better digital citizens. Where these conversations once took place socially, in real-time and in 3d, they now take place in a self-constructed web of interwoven words whose loosely-corroborated nature gives birth to newly-presented personas, this creation coined the blogosphere artbitrarily by a bunch of users. This new millenium brings new facades to obsessiveness and connecting to like-minded individuals, and year-end lists are usually a re-affirmation of stated shared values amongst community members.

With this giant technological machine lumbering around, assimilating all it can while shitting out outdated bits of information makes it a venerable beast that must be constantly fed. Nixon, during his first stint as president, called the political machine the "beast", its workings unstoppable by even the most well-executed series of plans devised by the higher echelons of power. I've paused and reflected upon these words a lot, considering the unstoppable nature of the cultural zeitgeist now that information can be concretely amassed in an orderly, quick fashion. The teeth of the beast glisten in the dark as it continues to devour, to eat away. The collective tastes of a culture can be studied and speculated upon, if this beast isn't somehow slayed by the arrows of time. We are offering up potential data mines for future generations with our misguided attempts at being the most comprehensive, though how often we realize this is unknown.

Also, one has to remember that lists are neat and can be easily read, so those are always advantages to this ADHD-riddled generation.

In defense of helplessness

I will be the first to admit that I willfully feed the machine; that I serve it the information that it desires and that I have no qualms about it. I've picked my battles in the past and I feel like this one is not one I can win. The Beast will eat up my List and life will continue. The main difference, though, is that unlike a lot of people who use the soapbox to demonstrate their aptitude/oneupmanship, I'm going to use this list more as a reminder of a mindset at a certain time in my life. To pause and reflect and perhaps one day, with the zeitgeist willing, be able to look back and relive a certain part of my past. I've made my peace with knowing how hypocritical this can seem, but the acknowledgement of the defeat, I feel, is grounds enough for forgiveness.

The list below isn't drawn up based on play counts, a numbering system or any other close scientific method. It's simply based upon how the record has affected me emotionally throughout the listening experience. In a certain sense, measuring records in that manner is a lot more difficult than being able to simply say that x had more plays than y, therefore I enjoyed it more since I must've listened to it more for a reason. It is not repetition that matters to me, it's how any number of sonic choices affect how my head and my heart react. It's a list created mostly from primal instincts rather than the pandering and consessions that my brain encounters. The numbering system is relative and not absolute... The difference in-between a record taking spots 3 and 4, for example, could be oceans away mentally, but yet they stand side-to-side uneasily.

Note: The albums below have been listened to at least 3 times all the way through. Anything else wasn't considered.

Top 50 of 2009

1. Gallows - Grey Britain
2. Converge - Axe To Fall
3. P.O.S. - Never Better
4. Drake - So Far Gone mixtape
5. He Is Legend - It Hates You
6. Slayer - World-Painted Blood
7. Mastodon - Crack The Skye
8. Slaughterhouse - Slaughterhouse
9. Propagandhi - Supporting Caste
10. Megadeth - Endgame
11. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II
12. The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die
13. Barn Burner - Bangers
14. Timber Timbre - Untitled
15. Agoraphobic Nosebleed - Agorapocalypse
16. Derelict - Unspoken Words
17. Method Man and Redman - Blackout II
18. Pac Div - Church League Champions mixtape
19. Ghosface Killah - Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City
20. Baroness - Blue Record
21. Brand New - Daisy
22. Bike For Three! - More Heart Than Brains
23. Felt - Vol 3: A Tribute To Rosie Perez
24. Royce Da 5'9 - Street Hop
25. Coalesce - Ox
26. CKY - Carver City
27. El Michels Affair - 37th Chamber
28. Poison The Well - The Tropic Rot
29. Revocation - Existence Is Futile
30. Thursday - Common Existence
31. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
32. Busdriver - Jhelli Beam
33. Brother Ali - US
34. Cannibal Corpse - Evisceration Plague
35. Wale - Back To The Feature mixtape
36. Dethklok - Dethalbum II
37. Think About Life - Family
38. Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster - III
39. Hatebreed - Hatebreed
40. Buried Inside - Spoils Of Failure
41. Augury - Fragmented Evidence
42. Kid Cudi - Man On The Moon
43. Brutal Truth - Evolution Through Revolution
44. 16 - Bridges To Burn
45. Jay-Z - Blueprint 3
46. The Mountain Goats - The Life Of The World To Come
47. Tombs - Winter Hours
48. Thrice - Beggars
49. Isis - Wavering Radiant
50. Moby - Wait For Me

5 disappointments

1. Between the Buried And Me - The Great Misdirect
Too long... Too long. Too bad, too, because Colors was great.

2. 50 Cent - Before I Self Destruct
Fitty promised Get Rich Or Die Trying 2, what we got was a sad grab bag of disconnected, boring tracks.

3. Eminem - Relapse
Drop the voice, Mathers. Seriously. No one cares for it. The saddest part about Eminem's year is that his two best verses were guest verses on other records. (Drake's "Forever" and Lil Wayne's "Drop The World").

4. Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures
So much hype surrounding the meeting of three of rock's greatest musicians is bound to be anticlimatic. The record's good, but there's a lot of sameness.

5. Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen
I don't understand how this once-great band can degenerate to being so utterly boring.

017: Numerology

I know it's particularly en vogue among this generation's pseudo-intellectual elites to claim oh-so-bashfully, "Oh, I'm the worst at math," but we are a species obsessed with numbers and mathematical operations no matter which way you cut it. So, with that in mind, I'm sure my time-consuming habit of checking play-counts, average plays per record, number of 5-star songs, and so on, with regards to determining a year-end list, devised and divined from the sum total of everything I've bought or downloaded (or both) this year, you will find above and beyond reproach. Likewise, my subtracting of outriggers like Polar Bear Club's EP The Summer of George and its 1 song not included on their later full-length Chasing Hamburg, or Patton Oswalt's wonderful My Weakness Is Strong, which for all its replay value, contained no music, or my addition of a "Mixtape List" of particularly good songs that were either not on albums that made the Top 25 or stood out particularly from the albums they were on. So, without further numerical ado, here it is:


25. Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - What It Takes to Move Forward
24. Hostage Life - Centre of the Universe
23. Gallows - Grey Britain
22. Shook Ones - The Unquotable A.M.H.
21. Barn Burner - Bangers
20. Tegan & Sara - Sainthood
19. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - Outer South
18. Dear Landlord - Dream Homes
17. Banner Pilot - Collapser
16. Dead to Me - African Elephants
15. Blakroc - Blakroc
14. P.O.S. - Never Better
13. Polar Bear Club - Chasing Hamburg
12. Gray Ghost - Deep in the Shallow End
11. Cobra Skulls - American Rubicon
10. Bedouin Soundclash - Where Have the Songs Played Gone To?
9. Brand New - Daisy
8. Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3
7. Dave House - Intersections
6. Metric - Fantasies
5. Nine Eleven - City of Quartz
4. Fake Problems - It's Great to Be Alive
3. A Wilhelm Scream - A Wilhelm Scream
2. Paint It Black - Amnesia
1. Propagandhi - Supporting Caste


Alexisonfire - "Young Cardinals" from Old Crows/Young Cardinals
Banner Pilot - "Skeleton Key" from Collapser
Barn Burner - "Holy Smokes" from Bangers
Bon Iver - "Blood Bank" from Blood Bank
Dead to Me - "Modern Muse" from African Elephants
Discovery - "So Insane" from LP
DOOM - "Ballskin" from Born Like This
Fever Ray - "If I Had a Heart" from Fever Ray
Gallows - "The Riverbank" from Grey Britain
Grizzly Bear - "Two Weeks" from Veckatimest
The Lawrence Arms - "The Slowest Drink at the Saddest Bar on the Snowiest Day in the Greatest City" from Buttsweat & Tears
Metric - "Gimme Sympathy" from Fantasies
P.O.S. - "Goodbye" from Never Better
Polar Bear Club - "Dead Man" from The Summer of George
Shook Ones - "For Flannel" from The Unquotable A.M.H.
Thursday - "Love Has Led Us Astray" from Common Existence
The Tragically Hip - "Love Is a First" from We Are the Same
The xx - "Crystalised" from The xx

So, talk amongst yourself, you faceless masses. (Ha, ha.) If I'm feeling particularly generous with my time I may make links out of all the text I just typed at some point so you can experience some of the delights therein for yourself without needing to forage in the great everlasting wastes of the int0r wabz.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

016: The Dense, Dark Woods (A Review)

(Firstly, apologies for the absence. It's been a while, kids, but I'm back and ready to throw down once again in 2k10.)

I wrote this article a while back and I kinda like the original version, so I decided to throw it up. The edited version is located at the bottom of the post if you wish to peruse it, and I do suggest that you do.

Timber Timbre mastermind a true reflection of his work

r. Brian hastie

Timber Timbre mainbrain Taylor Kirk is not a man used to being in the spotlight. Case in point: whenever I finish a question and offer him a chance to respond, the answer is usually prefaced by pauses and a number of single-voweled noises that sound like his brain is gearing up to properly formulate answers, unsure about his word choice. He'll often ask me if the answer he served up fits the question I asked (it always does), and he'll digress a few times during the course of the conversation. An unwitting musical entity would be an apt description of Kirk's phone mannerisms.

Though he is cordial and genuinely nice during our chat, Kirk has, according to many, accumulated a cult of mystery around him, a propensity to leave things unsaid in a certain manner that invites discussion among others. His music is a reflection of this personality trait: dark and recorded largely off-the-cuff, the reverb-rich, atmospheric brand of organ-friendly folk rock that he parades around while on tour is best suited for those coming down from a long night of drinking, preferably while sitting in the dark. He states that his music aims for an “interesting” edge, trying to balance the sonic aspect of the music as much as the song structure and melodies themselves. “I come from a recordist [sic] background, and so the properties of the recording themselves are just as important to me as the songs.”

This cult of mystery also extends itself into the digital world: though Kirk has a presence on the web, he largely stays off of it, preferring to remain as off-the-grid as possible. “I like to remain as detached as possible a lot, I guess, but I use the web to promote myself” Kirk explains, haltingly.

At a lot of my shows, I'll see kids pull out cellphones and take pictures or whatever, you know, to put up on their websites.” Kirk sounds genuinely confounded by this notion, the concept that this narcissistically-centered generation needs to feed on itself in order to survive.

His third (and newest) album, officially untitled (though dubbed Timber Timbre by others) is his first true studio project. Where his first album was recorded “up in a log cabin on a 4 track”, and his second was “recording all alone with a 4-track, wandering through [his] Toronto apartment with headphones dangling, going back and forth in-between takes”, he now had actually entered a proper recording space to start sessions, with an actual engineer “sitting there, watching [him] as he recorded take after take.”

The decision to record in an actual studio with people was a practical one: Kirk's move to Toronto and subsequent befriending of people in the TO music scene allowed him to make proper connections. Kirk acknowledges the fact that having many hands involved in the process has been beneficial, stating that “it was actually a joy to have people around.” Kirk also singles out producer Chris Stringer for being able to “differentiate between a good take and a bad take, to be another voice” in the process.

These songs weren't originally designed to be played live,” Kirk said. “The nature of their recordings was much more interesting to me. I'm still uneasy about playing live, and thankfully I don't count on being on the road continually.” He also states that this new record was untitled due to the fact that he didn't feel like the songs included weren't a cohesive set, a notion that he's since reversed course on since playing a large bulk of the tracks live.

Playing these songs live is a real challenge,” Kirk asserts, with the prerequisite pause, noting that transcribing the experience into a live setting is a tad more difficult than traditional songwriters.

Taylor Kirk continues to remain a mystery, perhaps even to himself.


You can find the edited version of this article over at The Link's website