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My Epic Shuffle Playlist

Posted by MUSIC_Jake On April - 17 - 2009

By Jake Shenker

Last week I was talking to a friend of mine about his hatred of iPods. It’s not that he has a personal grudge against Steve Jobs — no, my friend has a problem with MP3 players in general. “Yes, they’re convenient,” he says, “but no one listens to albums anymore. People just skip through their thousands of songs until they find the one track in ten they want to hear.”

In a sense, my friend is right. The concept of an album is fairly young — some might argue it started with The Beatles’ Rubber Soul — and it’s frightening to think that the genre is going the way of the dodo, replaced by iTunes Top Tens and Singles of the Week. But I love my iPod — all 80 gigabytes of it — and it’s not just because I can store the last 100 years of recorded music on a slab of metal smaller than my wallet. My iPod lets me discover forgotten songs, those album closers and filler tracks that never quite made it past my ears and into my memory.

I routinely pop my iPod on shuffle and pray for the best, and I’m routinely disappointed. When I’m dancing while I shop for groceries, it gives me J.S. Bach; when I’ve got dinner guests, it gives me System of a Down. But one day last month, I hit the shuffle button and my iPod got it right. Perfect song after perfect song, I was treated to the kind of playlist they must have in heaven. I never skipped a single track.talking-heads

Here is my epic shuffle playlist.

1) Barenaked Ladies — “Brian Wilson” from Gordon (1992)
What self-respecting Canadian doesn’t love the Barenaked Ladies? What makes this song even more awesome is that apparently Brian Wilson himself has played it to open shows.

2) Talking Heads — “Don’t Worry About the Government” from 77 (1977)
The original song about buildings, from Talking Heads’ debut album 77. “Government” is the quintessential quirky, upbeat David Byrne composition, and never ceases to make me laugh (and dance).

3) Hey Rosetta! — “Red Heart” from Into Your Lungs… (2008)
These guys have been impressing critics since before their newest record won them the album of the year award at XM Radio’s Verge Music Awards (no lame statuettes here: they won a cash prize). “Red Heart” is a recent single and epitomizes the slick production, tight songwriting, and flawless instrumentation that make Hey Rosetta! great.

4) Jeff Buckley — “The Way Young Lovers Do” from Live at Sin-é: Legacy Edition (2003)
Jeff Buckley is of course best known for his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and his debut album Grace, but true fans cherish the triple-disc Live at Sin-é: Legacy Edition. This masterpiece features a pre-Grace Buckley alone with this guitar, singing mostly haunting covers of classic rock, soul, and folk. “The Way Young Lovers Do” is from Van Morrison’s seminal album, Astral Weeks.holloways

5) Kelly Joe Phelps — “Crow’s Nest” from Tunesmith Retrofit (2006)
Originally a world-class slide-guitar player, Kelly Joe Phelps has slowly morphed into a world-class songwriter. Phelps’ soft, blues-infused voice shines on this track – the opener from his 7th album, Tunesmith Retrofit – and the Irish-inspired violin solo after the bridge is exceptional.

6) The Holloways — “Fit For a Fortnight” from So This is Great Britain? (2006)
I’ve long described The Holloways as the bastard child of The Clash, The Jam, and The Specials — a kind of hybrid neo-brit-punk-ska-rock superband. This track features the group’s signature double lead vocal by singers Alfie Jackson and Rob Skipper, and opens with a fantastically catchy harmonica lick. It simply doesn’t get better than this.

7) Elvis Costello — “No Action” from This Year’s Model (1978)
The opening track of Elvis’ second album, This Year’s Model, is a frenetic track with painfully catchy vocal harmonies in the chorus. At just two minutes long, “No Action” breezes from verse to chorus to bridge, packing more melodies than I can count on one hand.

jonny8) Marcia Aitken — “I’m Still in Love” from Jonny Greenwood is the Controller (2007)
Jonny Greenwood is no reggae superstar — he’s just a guy with a lot of old reggae records. Of course Greenwood’s day job as the lead guitarist of Radiohead gave him the credibility — and funds — necessary to release this compilation of old reggae tunes. “I’m Still in Love” has all the features you’d expect of classic reggae, but also borrows some classic soul influence. For a modern equivalent, think James Hunter with more dub.

9) Michael Franti & Spearhead — “Food For the Masses” from Live at the Baobab (2000)
Although Michael Franti & Spearhead’s more recent music has lost the edge of their classic funk-infused hip-hop, their 2000 live album, Live at the Baobab, is as honest and powerful as hip-hop can possibly be. Franti’s charisma stands out in the tiny Baobab, and Spearhead’s stripped down, partly acoustic sound lends itself perfectly to the venue’s intimate size. The front half of this album is mostly solo-Franti spoken word, and “Food For the Masses” is nothing less than eloquent poetry delivered with passion.

cat-stevens 10) Cat Stevens — “On the Road to Find Out” from Tea For the Tillerman (1970)
To me, Cat Stevens has two styles: big, cheesy 70s arrangements and timeless acoustic folk. I love it all, but “On the Road to Find Out” is definitely of the folksier variety. This is the kind of tune I’d imagine singing to a child as a lullaby, and it’s the perfect follow-up to Michael Franti’s aggressive rapping on the previous track.

11) Frank Zappa — “Peaches en Regalia” from Hot Rats (1969)
“Peaches” is one of Frank Zappa’s most succinct instrumentals, and, potentially, his most beautiful. If you never got into Zappa because “he’s too weird,” give this track a listen. It might just change your mind.

12) Michael Jackson — “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” from Off the Wall (1979)
I don’t want to live in a world where shuffle playlists don’t contain at least one classic Michael Jackson track.

13) Tumi & the Volume — “Signs” from Tumi & the Volume (2005)
This organic hip-hop group hailstumi from South Africa and is comprised of emcee Tumi Molekane and members of dub outfit 340ml. While I’d love to write a nice long review of this track, I really need only say one thing: if you like hip-hop, check these guys out — you’ll be blown away.

14) Stillwater — “You Had to Be There” from the EP included in the Almost Famous: Untitled Bootleg Cut DVD set (2000)
Yes that’s right, Stillwater is the fictitious band from the movie Almost Famous. Make fun of me all you want, but this fake band had some fucking catchy songs. Of course, the songs were actually written by Peter Frampton, director Cameron Crowe, and former Heart vocalist/guitarist Nancy Wilson, but… well, a great song is great, fake or not.

15) Tim Armstrong — “Oh No” from A Poet’s Life (2007)
Tim Armstrong is the frontman of punk band Rancid, but don’t let that scare you — his debut solo album, A Poet’s Life, is all ska and dub. Remember the Rancid single “Time Bomb?” Yeah, this is like a whole album of that.

let-it-be 16) Nirvana — “About a Girl” from MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)
Forget Nevermind — I think MTV Unplugged is the best thing Nirvana ever did, and I’ve read enough interviews to believe that Kurt Cobain agreed with me. Take some simple grunge songs, slap on a string quartet, bring along the Meat Puppets, and you’ve got one hell of a post-grunge alt-rock acoustic extravaganza. It’s all kicked off by “About a Girl,” a once-forgotten track from Nirvana’s indie debut, Bleach.

17) The Beatles — “Two of Us”
from Let it Be… Naked (1970/2003)
If you subscribe to Beatles lore, you believe that Phil Spector ruined Let it Be. That notion is the basis for the recently released Let it Be… Naked, which has been re-mixed, re-mastered, re-sequenced, re-designed, and re-released free of Spector’s “damaging” influence. Whether you dig the original Let it Be or want Phil Spector burned at the stake is irrelevant — sonically, this re-release is far superior to the original 1970 album. It might be the best indication of what we’re in store for when the Beatles’ remastered catalogue is released this September.

The Golden Globes: Stars Gone Wild

Posted by film On January - 16 - 2009

By Rachel West

The foreign press is in the house!

The foreign press is in the house!

Do the Golden Globes really matter?

That was the question that bobbed in and out of my consciousness as I sat back and watched the live telecast on January 11th. There were the stars themselves, so busy drinking and chatting with one another that presenter Ricky Gervais, beer in hand, felt moved to chastise them from stage, ”How rude are you lot? Just because you’re film stars? Shusssh!” So, let’s take a cue from the boisterous stars of film and television, and treat Globes as a party leading up to the more serious Academy Awards in February.

The evening provided a blending of film and TV stars who knocked back glasses of Moet champagne (recession, anyone?) through the three-hour ceremony with smiles plastered on their faces. As proved by countless DUI mug shots, stars and booze don’t always mix, which can be the only explanation for some of the night’s biggest flops and rambling speeches. In the end, while the Golden Globes may not much affect the outcome of the Academy Awards or bring as much heft as the Emmys do in the realm of television, they certainly can be entertaining.

With some tough competition in most categories, there was a good mix of predictable winners and genuine surprises.

The evening’s top highlights:

Slumdog Millionaire’s Four Category Sweep

Director Danny Boyle wants to be a millionaire.

Director Danny Boyle wants to be a millionaire!

Going 4 for 4 for the little picture that could is a true Hollywood rags to riches story in the film that almost became a direct-to-DVD release. It proved that Toronto audiences know a good thing when they see it, having voted Slumdog the People’s Choice Award winner at TIFF. Outshining big name contenders like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for Best Picture-Drama, winning Best Score and Best Screenplay, and with Danny Boyle taking home the gold for directing, Slumdog is heading for the Oscars full speed ahead.

Tracey Morgan is “The Face of Post-Racial America”

30 Rock was the big winner when it comes to TV, with stars Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin picking up the acting trophies, and the show winning top honours in the Musical or Comedy categories. But it was Tracey Morgan’s hilarious acceptance speech as part of the series win that provided another of the evening’s highlights. ”Tina Fey and I had an agreement that if Barack Obama won, I would speak for the show from now on,” Morgan declared, ”I’m the face of post-racial America. Deal with it, Cate Blanchett!” Cate Blanchett and the rest of us can definitely deal with it if the show continues to be that funny.

Kate Winslet’s Double Win

Winslet quashes rumours she neglected to shave her armpits.

Winslet quashes rumours she neglected to shave her armpits.

Sure, she’s one of the greatest actresses of our time and has the award nominations to prove it, but she faced stiff competition in the Supporting Actress category. Penelope Cruz looked like the clear rival to Winslet, as she has won much acclaim for her role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Winslet’s win was a nice reward as she appeared genuinely surprised and honoured to take home the gold. Her win in the Supporting category almost seemed to instantly open the door for Anne Hathaway or the formidable Meryl Streep to best her in the lead Actress-Drama category. Lo and behold, at the end of the night, Winslet emerged triumphant again as she emotionally accepted her second award. Perhaps she’s finally through with being the Oscars’ perennial bridesmaid.

Ricky Gervais – Are You Havin’ a Quaff?

Not only did he tell everyone to be quiet, he also did it with a half-consumed glass of beer in hand. It must have been some good beer since he helped himself to another gulp in the midst of his presentation for Best Film- Musical or Comedy nominee Happy-Go-Lucky. After cracking a few of the night’s funnier quips, he proved why it’s best to leave the jokes to the professionals.

Of course, you can’t have highlights without a few low points.

Unfunny Funny Guys

Both Seth Rogen and Sasha Baron Cohen took the stage as awards presenters and instead of delivering what could have been some top comedy, they both delivered cringe-worthy one-liners. Rogen’s attempt to make a joke at the expense of the night’s Best Actor- Drama winner Mickey Rourke received a forced smile from Rourke’s Wrestler co-star Marisa Tomei who looked like she’d rather be anywhere else. As for Cohen, an outdated Madonna joke pretty much fell flat, receiving only a few polite laughs from the crowd…with the exception of Drew Barrymore who could be seen laughing hysterically in the background.

Colin Farrell Fairly Incoherent

Either he's bored or he's nuts.

Either he's bored or he's nuts.

From his strange award presentation to his rambling acceptance speech for Best Actor- Musical or Comedy, Farrell made many bewildering comments. After sniffling through the presentation for Best Foreign Film, Farrell had the urge to share, “I still have a cold…It’s not the other thing it used to be…” Talk about too much information. Farrell was back onstage later to accept his acting trophy and was visibly shocked to have won for his role in the darkly comic In Bruges. Obviously unprepared for the win, he rambled aimlessly as the audience was left to follow him through his stream-of-conscious thought process where he mentioned everything from irregular vote counting in Florida to his Bono-inspired words of wisdom “‘Curiosity is love; it’s ignorance’s nemesis.” Next time a heartfelt “Thank You” will suffice.

David Duchovny Makes it a Little Awkward

It hasn’t been a good year for David Duchovny. After going through a much publicized stint in rehab for sex addiction and rumours of his and wife Tea Leoni’s infidelity running rampant in the tabloids, he then loses the Golden Globe for Best Actor- Musical or Comedy to Alec Baldwin. But he’s not mad. And he wants you to know that. He also wants you to know that he has a very happy and normal family life with his wife and children. Thoroughly making co-presenter Jane Krakowski uncomfortable with his awkward small talk, he pointedly informed viewers of a text message he received from his wife. With lame jokes this lame, it’s no wonder he lost the award.

Steven Spielberg Drones on With Joy

The guy may have built a critically and commercially successful career for himself as a director, writer, and producer, but man, is he boring. Spielberg’s acceptance speech was like watching paint dry. Friend and fellow director Martin Scorsese presented the award to Spielberg, and you’d think that two cinematic geniuses could come up with something a little more interesting. At least they didn’t have E.T. present the award.

List of Winners:

Penelope Cruz glancing (sexy) back.

Penelope Cruz glancing (sexy) back.

MOTION PICTURES:

-Picture, Drama: Slumdog Millionaire
-Picture, Musical or Comedy: Vicky Christina Barcelona
-Actor, Drama: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
-Actress, Drama: Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
-Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
-Actor, Musical or Comedy: Colin Farrell, In Bruges
-Actress, Musical or Comedy: Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
-Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
-Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
-Foreign Language Film: Waltz With Bashir
-Animated Film: Wall-E
-Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
-Original Score: A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
-Original Song: “The Wrestler” (performed by Bruce Springsteen, written by Bruce Springsteen), The Wrestler

TELEVISION:

-Series, Drama: Mad Men
-Actor, Drama: Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
-Actress, Drama: Anna Paquin, True Blood
-Series, Musical or Comedy: 30 Rock

Fey accepts the Everyone's Favourite Person award.

Fey accepts the Everyone's Favourite Person award.

-Actor, Musical or Comedy: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
-Actress, Musical or Comedy: Tina Fey, 30 Rock
-Miniseries or Movie: John Adams
-Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Laura Linney, John Adams
-Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Paul Giammatti, John Adams
-Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Laura Dern, Recount
-Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Tom Wilkinson, John Adams
-Cecil B. DeMille Award: Steven Spielberg.

Short ‘n’ Sweet: The Musical Leftovers of ‘08

Posted by music On January - 13 - 2009

There just isn’t enough time in the year, is there?  After twelve months of some ridiculously good and bad releases, even the most comprehensive music site (which MONDO is not!) can have trouble keeping up — especially with the excitement of a new year’s releases looming over our heads.

Luckily, with the best-of lists done once and for all, we can throw all convention out the window and go for quantity over quality.  Your fearless Music editors slaved over a hot laptop to bring you quick, snappy summaries of twenty albums we didn’t get to in 2008.

By Allana Mayer (AM) and Jake Shenker (JS)

13GhostsThe Strangest Coloured Lights (Skybucket)
From the band name, I assumed this was either an Anticon release or some horrible tribute to that stupid Matthew Lillard movie; instead, it’s really enjoyable banjo/piano/acoustic indie-folk that makes you want to climb trees. (AM)

Ariane Moffatt - Tous Les Sens (Phantom Sound & Vision)
Don’t fear French music: Tous Les Sens is the third album from Québécois singer Ariane Moffatt, and blends trip-hop and breakbeats with gentle piano-driven singer/songwriter tunes. (JS)

Béla Fleck and the Flecktones - Jingle All the Way (Rounder / UMGD)
The title track may sound like voodoo music, but virtuoso banjoist Béla Fleck and his band of ridiculously talented musicians have made Christmas music a) interesting and b) insanely complex. (JS)

ByetoneDeath Of A Typographer (Raster-Norton)
Thank God people are still releasing dark, threadbare electronica without calling it dubstep (God, that shit sucks). (AM)

Cloud Cult - Feel Good Ghost / Teapartying Through Tornadoes (Rebel Group)
Every once in a while, it’s nice to be told that everything’s going to be okay. (AM)

Cloudland CanyonLie In Light (Kranky)
I have listened to “You & I” more times than I can count and still think it is perfectly suited for both fucking and fighting – maybe both simultaneously. (AM)

The FiremanElectric Arguments (ATO / RED)
While previous albums from The Fireman (Paul McCartney’s collaboration with producer Martin Glover a.k.a. Youth) were experiments in electronic music, Electric Arguments is an almost entirely organic effort.  Nobody would’ve guessed that when Paul passed 64, he’d still be writing kickass songs. (JS)

GrouperDragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill (Type), and Gregor Samsa - Rest (Kora)
I think that I’d like these two albums played as the soundtrack of the day of my death. (AM)

HelvetiaThe Acrobats (The Static Cult Label)
This album is like an oversized mug filled with piping hot chicken soup, and a really great lap blanket, and someone massaging your feet all at once; in other words, it’s Yo La Tengo. (AM)

The Holloways - Sinners & Winners EP (The Orchard)
The Holloways are a cross between The Jam and The Clash, and this 4-track EP is a delicious teaser for their upcoming full-length (supposed release date March 2009). (JS)

Howlin’ RainMagnificent Fiend (Birdman / American)
This is a Comets On Fire side project that drops the ’90s-era psych/stoner influences and finds a home in ’70s classic rock instead, plus pulls off a great Queen/gospel revival medley in “Lord Have Mercy.” (AM)

Kaki King - Dreaming of Revenge (Velour)
Stop singing; get back to rocking. (AM)

Karkwa - Le Volume du Vent (Audiogram)
Another reason to embrace the French: Karkwa’s third album is full of great rock songs, shows strong minimalist influences, and brings them one step closer to sounding like Radiohead. (JS)

Koushik - Out My Window (Stones Throw)
My booty, when I listen to this album, must inevitably shake; it has made for some awkward streetcar rides. (AM)

The Lost Fingers - Lost in the ’80s (Tandem)
Big stars at this summer’s Montreal Jazz Festival, The Lost Fingers are a gypsy jazz trio whose repertoire consists entirely of really awesome ’80s music (first single? “Pump Up the Jam.”  ‘Nuff said). (JS)

Mouth Of The ArchitectQuietly (Translation Loss)
At some point over the past few years, I’ve developed the ability to ignore stupid metal growls-as-vocals; thus, this album is actually pretty enjoyable. (AM)

National BankCome On Over To The Other Side (Universal Norway)
This gets more enjoyable every time I hear it, and isn’t nearly as creepy as their self-titled debut (which featured the ode to stalker fantasies, “Hello My Name Is Fred.” Shudder). (AM)

Quiet VillageSilent Movie (!K7)
“I wanna be Crockett!”
“No, I wanna be Crockett!”
“No, it’s my turn!”
“Why do you guys want to be Crockett, anyway?”
“Shut up, Robbie.”
“Yeah, the alligator can’t talk.”
“I hate this game.” (AM)

SND4, 5, 6 (Line / Mille Plateaux)
This is the musical equivalent of a kid getting himself a Spirograph and calling it physics. (See the E if you don’t believe me.) (AM)

Sun Kil MoonApril (Calo Verde)
This album made my mom sad over the holidays, and for that it can never be forgiven. (AM)

Year End Thank-Yous

Posted by lifestyle On January - 9 - 2009

Wi-Fi for the win!

By Jenny Bundock

It is the end of 2008, which was a fantastic year for me. As I think it is customary to do, I’d like to reflect positively on some things that were important to me this past year, and thank those individuals, groups, and organizations that made these things possible. Coinciding with those thank-yous, I would also like to say to those of you who have yet to be touched by some of these things: “Hey, what are you waiting for — 2009 could so be your year to get on the gravy train and start enjoying the world around you, like I did in 2008.”

1. The anonymous, but oh-so-important person, who wherever I seem to go, leaves their Wi-Fi signal open
I needed to thank you first, because when I’ve been totally high and dry this year, with my laptop or iPod touch, in Italy, China, London, coffee shops on Queen Street that charge for the internet, restaurants, new apartments, red lights at not-so-major intersections… there you’ve been — giving away internet that you no doubt pay for. I don’t care if you are just some weirdo who wants to spend money on internet only to have others use it free of charge, and eat your bandwidth; or if you are some community-level philanthropist. Read the rest of this entry »

The Obligatory End-Of-Year Music Lists, Part Two

Posted by music On January - 6 - 2009

Confusion continues to reign in MONDOmusic as we present to you Part Two of kind-of-maybe-something-like-the-best-of-2008.

Cameron Kowalchuk’s Top Eight, Plus (Unordered)

Borko – Celebrating Life (Morr)
An act after my heart, Borko seamlessly layers acoustic guitars, dreamy synths, and vocal flourishes to fabricate the best indie-shoegaze-electronic-folk album of the year. The smatterings of instruments such as harmonicas, trumpets, and bells give it a true organic feel that’s strangely intimate in nature.

Chequerboard – Penny Black (Lazybird)
Setting the dank synths aside for his acoustic guitar, every strum and pluck captivates as Chequerboard lays down some of the most heartbreaking music I’ve ever heard. There’s still an unsettling electronic presence, but the glitch is there to set the tone and pace rather than take away the acoustic focus.

Dokkemand – HONS! (Other Electricities)
Taking the “quirky” crown on this list, it’s great to see artists successfully meshing familiar noises with the musical equivalent of brain farts, unafraid of sounding like a smorgasbord of anything and everything. A bizarre, cute, scary, ADD-inspired pop record.

Dom Mino’ – Time Lapse (Schole)
This record makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It’s perfect curl-up-with-a-book-on-a-rainy-day music, all pretty bells and whistles and chirps and smiles. It’s sort of post-rocky, ambient, folky, and minimalist in spots, but it’s consistently gorgeous and inspires introspection.

Lineland – Logos For Lovers (Audio Dregs) While explicitly electronic, this album draws from a painstakingly wide selection of styles, as if it’s an attempt to emulate music history in its entirety. Imagine an African rain dance, a 1960s bubblegum pop record, and an obscure jazz pioneer in a vintage Easy-Bake oven and you’re halfway there.

Rumpistol – Dynamo (Rump)
Rumpistol’s previous work has been easily definable: based in funk, but edgy enough to be IDM. Dynamo is a risky and impressive evolution for the Dane, delving into darker, loop-based grooves and teetering close to *gasp* dubstep, while maintaining his trademark warm, curious melodies.

Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)
I have massive respect for Why?’s storytelling skills. This wordy, oddball pop piece, like a sex addict’s loosely adapted memoirs, paints a picture as vivid as anything but is oh-so-sparse musically, which makes me want to say it’s mathematically efficient.

Winter Gloves – About A Girl (Paper Bag)
A trying-too-hard, faux-passionate Julian Casablancas stand-in for a lead singer? Check. On a label repping enough local indie darlings to keep CanCon happy for months? Check. More plaid threads and stray facial hairs than a Value Village shopping spree? Check. Why do I love this generic scenester dreck? Because it’s catchy as fuck and completely self-aware.

Honourable Mentions:
Gouseion’s Anhedonia EP (RunRiot): Pure, unapologetic “me too” electro, with an dirty 8-bit slant. Sweaty nostalgia all over the dancefloor.
Four Tet’s Ringer EP (Domino): After a disappointing fourth full-length and a string of lacklustre cash-ins, it only took four songs to rekindle my man-crush on everyone’s favorite fro-wearing Folktronicist.

Brent Wilson’s Top Five

1. Johnny Dowd – A Drunkard’s Masterpiece (Munich Records)
It’s easiest to think of this as a slightly twisted sequel to the soundtrack Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle made for One from the Heart, Francis Ford Coppola’s attempt at a small personal movie. It’s about a couple’s marriage falling apart in Las Vegas, to which Waits and Gayle provide a bit of a Greek chorus. Of course the couple reconcile at the end of the movie, but imagine them now: they’ve left Vegas for some bumfuck Southern town, they’ve started cheating on each other again, and, rather than make up, they’ve decided to get as far away from each other as they can. Dowd and his usual vocal partner, Kim Sherwood-Caso, take on the Waits and Gayle roles, filling us in on the thought processes during the dismantling of the relationship. This “sequel” will never get made, but the quasi-soundtrack is good enough to fill that void. It’s the most ambitious album Dowd’s made to date, throwing meditations on family (“Easy Money”), his high self-opinion (“Johnny’s Got the Mic”), and his lady’s fine rear end (“Caboose”) into a trio of Southern Gothic opuses all peppered with Dowd’s surreal, dry wit.

2. James Blackshaw – Litany of Echoes (Tompkins Square)
3. Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)
4. Matt Elliott – Howling Songs (Ici D’Ailleurs)
5. volcano! – Paperwork (Leaf)

Miles Baker’s Top Five

I used to be with “it.” But then they changed what “it” was. Now what I’m with isn’t “it,” and what’s “it” seems weird and scary to me. — Abe Simpson

1. David Bowie - Hunky Dory (Virgin, 1971)
Look out you rock and rollers, this album is awesome. It’s naked and intimate, and it features amazing songs like “Changes,” “Oh! You Pretty Things,” and “Life on Mars?”

2. Tom Waits – Blood Money (Anti, 2002)
Waits’ record about the shittiness of humanity is addictive. I routinely hurt my throat trying to sound like him.

3. Aimee Mann – @#%&*! Smilers (Superego, 2008)
I heart Aimee Mann hard. Her newest record continues the tradition of intelligent lyrics with strong songwriting.

4. David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (Virgin, 1973)
Two years later, the moxie from Hunky Dory is harnessed to be sexier and better produced.

5. Mother Mother – O My Heart (Last Gang, 2008)
Vancouver’s Mother Mother improved their already polished and unique sound on this record. They remind me of The Pixies in every good way possible, god bless them.

Allana Mayer’s Top One, Plus

1. Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)
I won’t lie: I feel less of an authority than ever right now. It’s pretty tempting to put Bowerbirds’ Hymns For A Dark Horse as my number one again, on the technicality of it being a re-release and all. But I wouldn’t do that to you. The truth of the matter is that I was so bowled over by the brilliance of Alopecia, and so totally underwhelmed by everything else that came out this year, that I can’t help but leave the rest vacant. Take that.

How I felt when I reviewed Alopecia back in the spring hasn’t changed, which is the surprising part. Usually albums take their time to grow on me (which is, I hope, the case with most 2008 releases that haven’t won me over yet) and then lose their places in my heart as other stuff comes out. Not this time. I still know all the words.

Honourable Mentions:
Yann Tiersen – Tabarly (EMI France); National Bank – Come On Over To The Other Side (Universal Norway); Helvetia – The Acrobats (The Static Cult); Black Angels – Directions To See A Ghost (Light In The Attic)

The Other Things I Listened To A Lot This Year:
1. Supersilent – “6.1″ (from 6, 2004)
2. Couch – Figur 5 (2006) and Profane (2001)
3. Sybarite – “Identity #2″(from Placement Issues, 2001)
4. The Dirty Projectors – The Getty Address (2005)
5. Field Music – Tones Of Town (2007)
6. King Cobb Steelie – Junior Relaxer (1997)

The Obligatory End-Of-Year Music Lists, Part One

Posted by music On January - 6 - 2009

I know we all spent the year RickRolling each other and reliving A-Ha nostalgia. Believe it or not, some people released some albums this year, too. But most of us found ourselves reliving past interests, researching long-gone releases, and feeling positively old. Thus, Part One of the semi-sort-of-not-really-best-of-2008, as disagreed upon by your friends at MONDOmusic.

Jake Shenker’s Top Five

1. David Byrne & Brian Eno – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Todo Mundo)

In 1981, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and acclaimed producer Brian Eno teamed up to produce the electroacoustic, tape-loop-driven My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. The record was a complete departure from Byrne’s Talking Heads style, lacking conventional vocals and built upon samples of voices and loops. In 2006, while working on the re-release of that record, Byrne and Eno decided to collaborate again, producing this year’s Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. This time, the duo took a more conventional approach, producing catchy pop songs with just a tinge of eclecticism. Byrne’s recognizable voice soars as dexterously as it did 25 years ago, and his songs are still top-notch; Eno’s production adds an electronic vibe to Byrne’s organic style, accenting acoustic folk songs with strange percussive hits and often unrecognizable instrumentation. The result is a record that is immediately digestible and appealing, but with enough bizarre nuance to produce something unique.

2. 340ml – Sorry For the Delay (Sheer Sound)
3. Hey Rosetta! – Into Your Lungs (Sonic)
4. Hawksley Workman – Los Manlicious (Universal)
5. Zaki Ibrahim – Eclectica (Sony)

Natalie Sylvie Plourde’s Top Five, Plus

1. Fleet Foxes -Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

I found this year to be quite slow compared to years past; in the rough, however, there were a few gleaming diamonds. New indie darlings Fleet Foxes have received much love from the music elite: Pitchfork and Mojo both recently named Fleet Foxes the best album of 2008. This lovely record will soothe your soul with its enchanting melodies and soft but sometimes complex acoustic guitar. The warm four-part harmonies used in many tracks contrast with the haunting vocals of Robin Pecknold, disputably the lead singer. Though it needs a bit of patience for the first listen, it grows on its listener with every play. It isn’t an album that will grab anyone by the face and shout “We rule!” but, really, it’s damn beautiful.

2. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (Sony/Columbia)
3. Vampire Weekend -Vampire Weekend (XL)
4. Girl Talk- Feed the Animals (Illegal Art)
5. Portishead – Third (Island)

Honourable Mentions:
TI – Paper Trail (Atlantic); Lil Wayne – The Carter III (Universal); Kings of Leon – Only by the Night (RCA)

Leo Moncel’s Top Five

1. CBC Radio 1
From the friendly, quick-witted Matt Galloway of Here and Now to the hard-edged, focused manner of The Current’s Anna-Maria Tremonti, you know CBC Radio kept it engaging, entertaining, and educational. In the kitchen or the car, I know they got you hooked on the daily.

2. Teach Yourself Korean recordings
From Berlitz’s practically-oriented series of handy phrases and short dialogues, to the more comprehensive Mastering Korean, I was bumpin’ the elementary Hangukmal this fall. Hottest track from M.K. has to be “Dialogue A” where Mr. James meets Ms. Kim and they introduce themselves formally! But I won’t front like Berlitz didn’t put it down with their dialogue on reserving a table at a restaurant.

3. Old Leonard Cohen MP3s I borrowed from York University’s library
This shit had my speakers blazin’! From the sombre, condemnatory growl of “Avalanche” to the frustrated, self-loathing cries of “Dress Rehearsal Rag,” Cohen had it locked. If it’s dark and profound you’re after, Leonard Cohen’s your man.

4. Q-Tip – The Renaissance (Universal Motown), if I’d heard it
Yeah, Q-Tip emerging at long last with another release! If you’re a Tribe fan (that is, anyone with a pulse who can hear), then I know you were psyched about this one. I was, too. I heard from Facebook that it was excellent. I almost went and bought it. Then I kinda waffled and forgot about it. If I had heard this album, I probably would have loved it enough to give it my number four slot.

5. Nas – Untitled (Def Jam/Columbia)
Nas is, to my mind, the greatest rapper there is, period. I know why others don’t share my opinion when he keeps dropping albums that are just “fairly good.” Like this one. It is good. It even has something to say. It didn’t put my jaw on the floor, but it has the distinction of being the only real album on this list.

Jan Streekstra’s Top Five

1. Larkin Grimm – Parplar (Young God)
2. The Dodos – Visiter (French Kiss)
I’ve been mocked a lot in my life. And I’ve mocked a lot. A lot of writers — a lot of people — feel out their poignancies using the arts. I look at mockery and wonder how I can be so hypocritical as to tolerate this situation: like every childhood, mine was stained with taunts that caused me to cry almost before I knew what had happened. Yet I cannot abandon it — I would not feel safe abandoning it. While I have no pretensions that mockery serves as my first psychological guard, I do it and enjoy it.

I’ve realized that true mockery, spontaneous and free-reined, is fed in part by malice. Malice breeds in the wake of revealingly powerful apprehensions about your place in the state of the world. Mocking uses conviction, and conviction is the seat of conscious identity: mockery brings us a flavour of truth, an addictively direct, effective, and precise way to be clear about what we’re thinking.

Parplar and Visiter cap off the list and get nods because they mocked me directly, lyrically; I was lucky enough that their self-critical dementias spoke to mine. They pointed me out, and laughed at me, and in turn I learned from them. The rest are brilliant works, and relentlessly mocked me with their images of my history, teaching me that my tastes are predictable even when I’m firm in my belief that I have found something new. I don’t think this is the same as eternal recurrence, but it is equally discomforting.

3. Small Sur – We Live In Houses Made Of Wood (Tender Loving Empire)
4. Menahan Street Band – Make The Road By Walking (Dunham)
5. Why? – Alopecia (Anticon)

MONDOmusic’s Best Articles of the Year

Posted by music On January - 6 - 2009

Holiday! Celebrate! Commence the self-congratulatory back-patting as soon as the hangover dries up — you’ve made it through another year, and so have we. Not only did we survive, we thrived, and we threw down some pretty badass music criticism, too. We gushed. We sniped. We got ecstatic. We got mean. We waxed nostalgic. We abstracted philosophically. And we actually left our bedrooms to do it.

So, with no ado whatsoever, here are our eight favourite music articles of ‘08:

An Interview with Hawksley Workman by Jake Shenker

An Open Letter to the B-52’s by Bryan Hopton

Nick Cave and Black Mountain in Concert by Peter Gorman

Rasputina’s Oh Perilous World by Kayleigh Girard

Sleepercar’s West Texas by Nathan Hoffman

Sons & Daughters – This Gift by Jess Skinner

Times New Viking Rip It Off by Beej

Why I Hate Liz Phair by Allana Mayer

MONDOcomics’ Best Articles of 2008

Posted by Comics On January - 6 - 2009

Believe me when I say this was a hard list to put together.

The Comics section had something like a 100 articles this year, and so many of them filled be with laughter, joy, and geek-gasms. Thank you to everyone who wrote for the section this year. Your dedication to the cause is astounding.

Here are just some of the best articles of the year, listed in reverse chronological order. Note that I didn’t include any “Random Comics of the Week” because it would be too hard to — there were 52 of them this year!

Top Ten Lamest Supervillains by Caesar Martini

Dinosaur Comic’s Ryan North in Interview by Eva Bowering

Scott Pilgrim, Give Me a Reason by Miles Baker

Paul’s Controversial Calls: Darkseid Vs. Molly Hayes by Paul Lacey

MONDOcomics’ Top 10 Marvel Characters by Rachelle “living between Wednesdays” Goguen

MONDOcomics’ Top 10 Marvel Characters by J. Bone’s List

F is for Fables: The Mean Seasons by Andrew Uys

Heroine Chic: What’s Spunk Got to do With It? by Meghan O’Keefe

Thanks for reading, everyone.

Hidden Gem: The Black Angels

Posted by music On December - 30 - 2008

Black Angels
Directions To See A Ghost
Light In The Attic Records, 2008

By Allana Mayer

Released in April, the appeal of Directions To See A Ghost snuck up on me after a few months of dismissal; I was looking for substance over style, and the Black Angels have tons of the latter but not so much of the former. Not that that’s a bad thing: the sound has an upturned-nose attitude, a gritty, too-cool-for-school style, healthily defiant rather than moodily introspective. The Black Angels are all leather jackets and greased hair and smoking in the boys’ bathroom.

In this world of uncertainty and confusion, when meaning is subjective and fluid, I feel that Directions To See A Ghost most concretely sums up the term “indie-rock” for me. It’s solid rock, dark and brooding yet urgent and passionate. The heavy, prominent basslines scream Stone Roses while the fuzzy lyrics and the deliciously crunchy distortion says Pixies grunge. Psychedelic pedal effects, a tinge of Oriental flavour, and a little bit of 13th Floor Elevators guitar-riffery (and I even hear something like their trademark electric jug noises) round out the sound, but don’t make it psych-rock.

The funny thing about all this attitude is that it actually comes pretension-free — rather than trump up their influences and background, they seem totally childish and naive about the way they sound. I can just see them, in their grotty motel room, ashing on the carpet and slurring out things like “NME can go suck ‘emselves, innit.” (They’re from Texas, but don’t let that fool you.) They sound like they listen to metal but would never admit to it, like Directions To See A Ghost is the sound that should come naturally of teenagers jamming in the garage. Given the sad state of affairs in angry music these days, I can’t help but (belatedly) endorse the notion.

Mark Kozelek’s The Finally LP Reviewed

Posted by music On December - 30 - 2008

Mark Kozelek
The Finally LP
Caldo Verde, 2008

By Allana Mayer

The Finally LP actually angers me: nothing should ever sound so good while being so seemingly effortless. It’s as though Mr. Kozelek rolled right out of his plush, lacy, pink canopy bed, slipped on his Hello Kitty slippers, and tossed off these ten songs in a single take, in between sips of tea. Bastard.

Although, if anyone could crank out this album in an afternoon, it’d be him. He’s been playing these and other covers for years as part of his incessant touring schedule. His abundantly celebrated history in Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters means that not even “Send In The Clowns” is off-limits. You hate him for it, because that song should never have made it onto your playlist, yet there it is, and you hardly even notice the silly lyrics because the guitar part is so lovely. Betrayal! Betrayal, I say!

The cover of Low’s “Lazy” is generally agreed to be the standout track. It’s hard not to be — with so little to work with, it’s hard to go wrong. Two lines, one chord progression, and you’re set with instant perfection. And once again I feel tricked, swindled, hoodwinked! His perfectly world-weary voice takes the lines and imbues them with an emotional increase each time, making them so much more than a simple refrain. This ultimate craftsmanship, this sleight of hand and of voice, must be a trick somehow. Songwriting can’t be this easy to excel at; it just can’t be.

Gasp! And then hear what he does to “If You Want Blood”! AC/DC isn’t supposed to sound good, you know.

I just don’t know if I can go on like this. I have to stop liking this album so much. Whatever it takes. Tell me his raspy voice comes from eating babies; tell me the unending sadness in his voice is from wishing McCain had won. Anything.

Warm And Spreading: The ‘08 Winter Mix

Posted by music On December - 23 - 2008

Warm And Spreading, Like Wetting The Bed
Allana’s Winter Mix ‘08

As a semi-prelude to the best-of-2008 listmaking that’s to come, I introduce my winter mix of 2008 (not necessarily representative of the best-of, mind you). Usually it’s a lot less content from the year at hand, and more a random smattering of whatever suits my fancy, but this year I had a bit of a change of heart. Rather than try to encompass the frigid, frostbitten ways of our frozen North, somehow this mix ended up well on the warm, fuzzy, energetic electronic side. I might just be in denial (as such, this mix has been in progress for three weeks while I weighed my options). But as I write this, I can still see green grass, so let’s just check back in in a month, okay?

Here, have some music.

1. Studio – 2 Hearts (Version by Studio) (from Yearbook 2, 2008)
2. TV on the Radio – Crying (from Dear Science, 2008)
3. Cibelle – City People (from The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves, 2006)
4. No Kids – For Halloween (from Come Into My House, 2008)
5. Akufen – Tournee 1 (from Hawaiian Wodka Party, 2003)
6. Chequerboard – Penny Black (from Penny Black, 2008)
7. Skyphone – All Is Wood (from Avellaneda, 2008)
8. (Smog) – Let’s Move to the Country (from Knock Knock, 1999)
9. Jay-Jay Johanson – I Fantasize of You (from Poison, 2000)
10. Mark Kozelek – Lazy (from The Finally LP, 2008)
11. The Instruments – Ode To The Sea (from Dark Småland, 2008)
12. Bowery Electric – Without Stopping (from Beat, 1996)
13. Dosh – Hit and Pearls (from Wolves and Wishes, 2008)
14. Yann Tiersen – Au Dessous Du Volcan (from Tabarly, 2008)
15. Yann Tiersen – Atlantique Nord (from Tabarly, 2008)

Allana Mayer
Music Editor

(The cover image was gleefully stolen from the photography collection of our own EIC, Rachel Kahn.)

Castanets’ City of Refuge in review

Posted by music On December - 23 - 2008

Castanets
City of Refuge
Asthmatic Kitty, 2008

By Allana Mayer

The Castanets, a moniker for Raymond Raposa and a rotating cast of guests, has been pumping out albums almost yearly since ‘03 and touring consistently in between. I have no doubt that travelling across the barren southern states inspired the masterpiece that is City of Refuge. Recorded in a Nevada motel room, it sounds like the last recordings of a dying recluse, one going far before his time.

The music is stark and empty, lonely and fierce. It’s full of bleak landscapes: snow-covered hills, desolate wastelands, or arid deserts. It’s the snarl of Nick Cave and the bluesy howl of Entrance’s Guy Blakeslee. There are religious overtones, hymns, and lullabies, but at the same time a distinctly godless feel pervades the whole thing. I’m sick of referencing Cormac McCarthy when it comes to albums like these, but if this were a soundtrack, it would be for his latest bestseller The Road. And there ARE rumours of a movie in the  near future…

The growled refrain that flows through the album, “I’m gonna run to the city of refuge,” is determined and desperate all at once. It’s a poor, broken man, stooping on his last legs, swaying like a breeze might topple him. All he can see before him is dust, yet he’s certain that somewhere within is a great haven if only he can make it there.

What runs contrary to the type of album that usually pushes these images into my mind is that the many tracks on City of Refuge are short, mostly clocking in under the three-minute mark. Often I’d be describing something post-rocky that builds and swells through at least ten minutes. However, these are tiny little sonic experiments.  For example, the tracks, “High Plain 1,” “2,” and “3″ all have someone scratching a turntable around or looping a single sound. They’re snippets of form such as you would get by endlessly flipping a radio dial, complete with tracks of static, murky reception, and unfocused signals. The Castanets may not come through loud and clear, but their concept does, and their emotions do.

“I’ll Fly Away” is a short blast of defiant, spiritual power, but it seems tragic and withering even as it tries to give power and confidence. The City of Refuge sounds more like a city of refugees, ones who will stay disenfranchised even after they find a home, still wandering though they’ve settled down. This album as a whole is a brilliant accomplishment by someone who, in the past few years, has proven to be a brilliant artist.

(On a much lighter note, there’s a remix album, Dub Refuge, by the producer, Ero Gray. Yes, dub.)

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