Archive for August, 2004

Thursday, August 26th, 2004

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

I’ve just finished Greg Kot’s Wilco biography Learning How To Die, and it’s making me reconsider how I experience music. I’ll be the first to confess I have a pretty lousy attention span and while I’ll become intensely interested in something for a while, I’ll just as easily drop it and seek out something new. I’m a lot the same way with music – Always looking for something new, perhaps not making the necessary effort the extract the full experience from a work. When I read some reviews that go on at length about why something is a triumph or a failure, I sometimes wonder if I’ve been listening to the same record. I tend to listen to the big picture, the song, the feelings evoked, et cetera. Getting into the minutae of the instrumentation, arrangement, lyrics and so forth, doesn’t happen much with me anymore – generally because I’ve got too much other music I want to listen to. So in a way, it’s like my musical addiction is diminishing my overall enjoyment of music. Weird. And also sad because as a musician, I’m not taking advantage of the potential wealth of inspiration at my disposal to the extent that I really should be. But back to the original point.

Learning How To Die was a real eye-opener for me in relating to the music it chronicles. In reading Kot’s descriptions of how the music on the Uncle Tupelo and Wilco records came to be – the emotions, the artistic intent, the success and failures – it dawned on me that for all the countless times I’ve listened to all these records, I may not have ever really listened. Am I getting all I can from these records? Is it enough to see the forest and appreciate the forest, or do I owe it to myself and the artist to go in and inspect each tree, each leaf? When Kot describes Glenn Kotche’s contribution to “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” as, “a percussion tour de force, devising two separate but complimentary rhythm lines on a tap kit and a set of hubcaps, and then embellishing them by running handheld electric fans across piano strings, tapping away on floor tiles, and pounding crotales”, did I even notice all that effort? Should I have? If put on the spot, I think the best answer I could come up with is, “It sounds cool and Kotche is a helluva drummer”. Yeah, that’s insightful.

It’s interesting because my approach to music is so different from my approach to, say, film. When I’m watching a movie, I’ll consider my initial gut reaction to the film, whether it’s positive or negative, and use that as a starting point to try and understand WHY I responded that way. What did I like about it, what did I not. Very rational and intellectual-like. With music, however, I tend to stop at the visceral – either I like it or I don’t. The whys and wherefores, I tend not to get into. I keep it on an emotional level – this has worked out fine for me thus far, though I’ve gotten into discussions about music with people and feel a little stupid when the only justification for why I this something is good is, “I like it”. On the other hand, I guess that’s all that really matters. It just makes for lousy conversation.

Neurotic much? Yeah, just a touch.

Anyway, again – back to the original point. I enjoyed the book quite a bit as it’s (obviously) given me food for thought and provided a different angle for listening to these records. Some have found it dry and uninteresting, and yeah, it’s not much of a VH1 Behind The Music (though it did make a decent documentary film). I was glad for the further insight into the utter dysfunction of Uncle Tupelo, the nature of the difficulties working with Billy Bragg on the Mermaid Avenue albums and some explanation for the constant revolving door of personnel in Wilco (I always wondered what happened to Max Johnston). It’s a pretty quick read and as a fan I can recommend it. For other fans.

Also sure to be interesting reading are Bob Dylan’s memoirs. The first set, entitled Chronicles: Volume One hits the shelves October 12 and offers a first-person accounting of his early days. Dylan is a notoriously reticent character, so I’m curious to see how much he puts forth for public consumption and how much he doesn’t.

And if you’re looking for something a little lighter to read, check out Green Arrow’s blog. Things must be mighty quiet in Star City lately. From The Beat.

To backtrack a bit to the Wilco book, someone has finally put up a decent Uncle Tupelo fansite. About damn time. There’s an extensive gigography, lyrics, some never-before-seen (by me, anyway) live photos and old interviews/articles, including this one – Uncle Tupelo rates the beers.

NOW documents the rise and fall(?) of Broken Social Scene, who claim that the Social Scene may quite literally be broken and that tomorrow night’s free show at Harbourfront for the Gobsmacked festival will be their last. Truth? I don’t know, but I’ll be there anyway. BSS are on at 9, Jim Guthrie at 8. Get there early. Waaaay early.

And in BSS-related news, BSS guitarist Andrew Whiteman’s alter-ego as Apostle Of Hustle will be doing a free in-store at Soundscapes on August 29 (I forget the time, probably 6 or 7) to promote his new album Folkloric Feel, while Metric will be at the Docks on October 8 supporting radio crap-stars Billy Talent. Death From Above 1979 round out that bill. Tickets on sale Saturday. Finally, in response to yesterday’s question, Pop (All Love) and his commenters inform us that Amy Millan’s solo record is finished, but on the shelf till Spring at least while she focuses on promoting the new Stars record. So there you go. Funny how that won’t stop Stars singer Torquil Campbell from releasing an album from his side-project Memphis on August 31.

Also appearing at Gobsmacked, albeit on Saturday, are The Hidden Cameras, whom eye profiles in this week’s issue. There’s a lot of good stuff at this festival – check out the schedule for full details.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (it’s fun to write the whole thing out every once in a while) have postponed their new record till 2005 but that’s not stopping them from touring this Fall. They’re at the Opera House on October 23. Tickets on sale now, $15.

Jonathan Richman has rescheduled his three cancelled June shows. He’ll now be at the Lula Lounge November 8 through 10 doing his charming and quirky troubadour thing. There is no halfway-decent Jonathan Richman site on the internet to link to. At all. Weird.

np – Uncle Tupelo / Still Feel Gone

Wednesday, August 25th, 2004

I Am An Internet Pre-Sale Ninja

Update: Oh yeah – happy birthday to Jeff Tweedy. This is the best present I could have asked for.

np – Wilco / Summerteeth

Wednesday, August 25th, 2004

Black Postcards

If this is legitimately Luna’s official bio for Rendezvous… well it’s pretty damn clever. And if not, and it’s actually an interview request, well then it’s just weird – though if they’re willing to answer questions from any old schlub with a website, I should probably get cracking on questions for my own exclusive Luna interview! (Dean – how much time do you spend in the morning perfecting your bedhead?) Rendezvous is out October 26. The lovely new promo pic is by Stefano Giovannini. Check out his work – there’s some real nice stuff there. Sonic Youth and Cat Power are favoured subjects.

And speaking of Ms Chan Marshall, Matador is trumpeting something called Speaking For Trees: A Film By Mark Borthwick, out October 26, on the Cat Power section of their message boards. There doesn’t seem to be any further information available, but my awesome powers of deduction lead me to believe that it’s a documentary of some sort about Cat Power, maybe trees, certainly directed by one Mark Borthwick, and it’ll be in stores on the 26th of October.

The new Stars album Set Yourself On Fire is coming out October 12. According to the press release, “Set Yourself On Fire sees Stars build upon their already acclaimed catalogue of songs about life, love, death, heartbreak. and the need to set yourself on fire when there’s nothing left to burn”. Sounds grandiose. Curiously, there’s been no word about Amy Millan’s solo record in a long time. What gives? Tidbits from Pop (All Love).

The excessively long list of nominees for the 2004 Shortlist of Music prize is out. I’m looking over this list, and honestly I’m having trouble coming up with a short list of my own – not even a top 10. There’s records on there I like but don’t think are necessarily the artistic achievements that winning the Shortlist prize would imply as well as records that I expect WILL make the short list simply by virtue of their popularity. I mean, I like the Franz Ferdinand album alright, but it’s really not much more than a dance/party record, y’know? Not really one for the ages. The Shortlist mission statement says the prize seeks to honour the “most adventurous and creative albums of the year across all genres of music, focusing on emerging artists rather than established hitmakers”, but that should mean more than just an indie/new artist whose managed to find some commercial success. If we’re going to give weight to artistic ambition/pretention, then I’d have to give the nod to The Wrens’ The Meadowlands, Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born, Nellie McKay’s Get Away From Me and maybe The Sleepy Jackson’s Lovers, though that’s a dark horse on account of the fact that very few people have heard it (a damn shame, it’s a brilliant record). Granted, there’s lots of nominees I haven’t heard, either because I haven’t gotten around to it or I simply have no interest, so I’m hardly laying odds on a winner. Just talking. Y’know.

Introducing DualDisc, coming October 2004. So let me get this straight – the Big Four (Three? Two?) record companies are actually doing something technologically-forward thinking that’s NOT going to screw over existing technology and make us buy the same albums for the umpteenth time in a different format? What’s the catch? Oh, I see – it’ll be years before they come out with anything besides Don Henley and Celine Dion discs and they’ll cost over $30 a piece. Nice. However, it has the Five For Fighting seal of approval, so it must be good. But here’s a question – if there’s redbook data on one side and DVD data on the other, just how careful are we going to have to be in handling these things?!?

As I mentioned yesterday, the film list (if not schedule or descriptions) for the 2004 TIFF came out yesterday. I believe I can submit my choices for the ticket lottery next week, so that gives me a little time to figure out what I want to see. Of course, short of Googling every title/director on the list, I don’t have much idea of what any of these films are save for a few of the high profile ones. Film buffs – care to offer some guidance? I’m going to do as suggested and avoid the bigger films that will be coming out theatrically in the next couple months anyway and try to target the stuff that’s a little further off the beaten path. At first glance, though, the list is just overwhelming. I may just throw caution to the wind, pick some flicks at random and hope for the best… Nah. Someone plan my festival itinerary for me.

np – Rilo Kiley / More Adventurous

Tuesday, August 24th, 2004


So I went out and got myself a Palm. A Zire 21, the cheapest one out there, sure, but I now have myself one of these fancy-shmantzy personal digital assistants. Here’s why: I got a camera last week, remember? And it’s not small. And I want to keep it with me at all times for spontaneous picture-taking. But my bag is only so big, and I’d rather not get a new bag (not that I can find a suitable one, I’ve looked). I had been using a Day-Timer (note use of caps denoting a proper name – it was a full-on zip-up binder-clasp personal organizer) which was kinda big and kinda heavy and kinda underutilized and cost over $20 a year to refill with pages. So why not ditch the Day Timer and get a nice little Palm for under $100?

Why not indeed – so that’s what I did. All I really need it for is a calendar, address book and notepad – the games are just gravy (anyone know where I can get stuff like chess and euchre, gratis?). I’ve also got a couple eBooks (Last Of The Mohicans and Wizard Of Oz) installed which I’ll probably never read. The thing arrived in the mail yesterday and now I’ve begun the not-so-exciting process of typing all my addresses and phone numbers into the Windows app before syncing it up with the Palm. I think now is a good time to decide who I wish the keep in contact with in the future and who should just be conveniently lost in the data move… You’re dead to me. And you. You… you can stay. But you are definitely gone.

What, you thought from the entry title there’d be some Interpol content? Well they do have a fancy new website, rejigged to match the album art for Antics, out September 28. Go play with that.

Doug Martsch of Built To Spill mentioned at a recent live show that their new album would be coming out in September. That might be a little optimistic since last I checked they were still on Warner Bros and their release schedule was finalized a while ago, and BTS ain’t on it. However, it at least augers well that we’ll see a new BTS record in Fall of this year. At least they’re doing something.

Gawker has a five-question interview with Ted Leo that’s fairly pithy until Ted gets started on file sharing – then it gets interesting. And for the record, I’m completely onside with Ted’s thoughts on the subject…

…But not so much that I wouldn’t post more than a half-dozen unauthorized mp3s for the week, which have netted me over 1000 hits in a day for the first time ever thanks to Largehearted Boy linking to my GBV post yesterday. Whoo. I’m a-waiting for my webhosting provider to come a-knocking.

Guess it’ll be a shorter one today, not finding much of note to talk about (if the mailman hadn’t brought my Palm it would have been even shorter!). Tomorrow should be good though, as the schedule for the Toronto International Film Festival is supposed to come out this afternoon at 12:30 PM. I’ll need help picking out the films I’m going to try and get tickets to, so I’m going to open it up to you, the reader, to offer suggestions! It’ll be just like that time in Batman when DC allowed the readers to vote whether to kill off Robin II or not. Except you’re picking films and not playing God over a fictional comic book character whom no one liked anyway (Jason Todd was a twerp). But besides that, it’s exactly the same thing.

np – The Replacements / Pleased To Meet Me

Monday, August 23rd, 2004

Made To Be Broken

Nintendo hot pants. Push up- up- down- down- left- right- left- right- A- B- start and you can go all night.

Mother Jones hung out with Steve Earle during the recording of his new record and have a feature-length piece to show for it. The Revolution Starts tomorrow. From Thrasher’s Blog.

The Decemberists have almost finished work on their new album and were so excited, they had to call up Pitchfork and tell them all about it. With a working title of The Infanta and scheduled to come out next March, they say, “this record may be the closest we have come to making the record we really have always wanted to make”. And no band has ever said that about a forthcoming record. Not ever. To celebrate the end of the recording sessions, they’ll be hitting the road again in September for what is at least their third major tour of the year. But they’re not coming to Toronto so it’s of little interest to me.

Mogwai are putting out a sorta-kinda live-album-but-not-really this Fall featuring BBC sessions from the band inception through last year. Pitchfork has more details on Government Commisions: BBC Session 1996-2003. According to the band’s website, “All songs are studio versions apart from the first and last songs which were broadcast live from Maida Vale”. So there you go.

Take a look at the characters from the upcoming The Batman animated series (yes, another one, but this one has the definite article so it’s different). They have some decent voice talent lined up for this one. And by “decent”, I mean “I’ve heard of them”. I don’t know how Adam West does it – mayor of Gotham City AND Quahog, Rhode Island? The man is a workaholic. Some more shots from the show here

And speaking of Seth McFarlane (we were, indirectly), the man looks to be all over Fox next year with both the resurrected Family Guy and his other animated show, American Dad, which looks to be almost exactly the same as, um, Family Guy. But with more gunplay.

You know what’s nice? When large glass bottles of extra-virgin olive oil are on sale at the grocery store. Know what’s not so nice? When the strap on the knapsack in which you carry your groceries home in gives out. Know what’s really not nice? The aforementioned glass bottle shattering and depositing extra-virgin olive-oil all over the inside of the aforementioned knapsack (to say nothing of depositing glass shards in my hand when I reached in there). And you know what’s least nice of all? When the ice weasel that was hiding in the shrubbery, driven mad by the scent of blood, leapt out and bit off my hand. THAT was the worst part.

Okay, that last bit didn’t actually happen, but it could have and I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised.

np – The Wedding Present / Seamonsters