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Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

The Past That Suits You Best

It’s been over four months since Scotland’s Delgados decided to split after bassist Stewart Henderson announced he was leaving the band. Both principal songwriters Alun Woodward and Emma Pollock decided to carry on with solo projects, but it’s Pollock who is the first back in the public eye. She signed with legendary label 4AD not three weeks after the Delgados called it a day, and has recently begun gigging material from her forthcoming solo debut (due in 2006, still untitled). She muses on her solo career and the legacy of The Delgados to The Scotsman and you can hear some of her new material performed on a BBC radio session here. Her website is up but is still pretty vacant.

As for the rest of the band, they may not be making music together but they continue to run Chemikal Underground records, which was the subject of a BBC radio documentary last week. No archives that I can find, though. The label also has its own MySpace page.

I missed it but Thrasher’s Wheat has a very nice recap of Neil Young’s appearance on Saturday Night Live this past Saturday.

It’s probably far too much to hope that that open date on February 15th is earmarked for a Toronto show, but the “Undertow Orchestra” tour, featuring Mark Eitzel, Will Johnson, Vic Chesnutt and Dave Bazan looks pretty damn impressive. Don’t miss it if your burg is on this schedule.

Death Cab have commissioned videos for each of the twelve tracks on Plans and will debut the results on their website in the near future. Billboard has more info on the project and SPIN talks to Aaron Stewart-Ahn, the director who is heading up the project.

Prefix is stretching their best of 2005 list out over the entire week while radio station WOXY has also compiled a list. And the one everyone has been waiting for (but won’t admit it), Pitchfork’s top albums of 2005. Most of my picks ended up ranked fairly low, and somewhat surprisingly, The National didn’t make the cut at all…

And speaking of Pitchfork, The Toronto Star examines the tastemaking power of The ‘Fork. A lot of people loathe their reviews (and lists – just wait for the fallout from this one), but don’t seem to be able to stop reading them. I’m a daily reader but don’t put that much stock in their (or anyone else’s) reviews, preferring to read aggregate review sites like Metacritic. I mean, one reviewer can be wrong, but ten or twenty? They’re probably on to something, like it or not.

Metacritic has also tallied up their best books of 2005 – fiction AND non-fiction! And Salon is also running off their best books of ’05. I need to read more.

Yesterday I linked the trailer for V For Vendetta – today, there’s news from Alan Moore’s other landmark work which he is disgusted to be associated with (the film version, anyway). Comic Book Resources reports that the film adaptation Watchmen, which has already died (at least) twice, will be given another shot by Warner Bros. Neither principals associated with the last attempt at Paramount, writer David Hayer or director Paul Greengrass, will follow the property to the new studio, though. Greengrass talked to CHUD about what happened to his project – basically, the studio decided they didn’t want to make the film anymore. Fin.

So I’m in the market for new portable headphones. My beloved Sonys have developed a nasty buzz in one ‘phone, and that model has been discontinued so I’m looking at other options. Currently considering the Koss Porta Pros and the Sennheiser PX100s – both kinda dorky over-the-head jobbies, but I can do kinda dorky. I’m also thinking about waiting till Grado releases their promised street-style headphones… Any suggestions? I am not crazy about the idea of the ear canal-phones, blocking out the outside world seems like a good recipe for missing a streetcar stop or getting hit by a streetcar.

np – My Morning Jacket / At Dawn

By : Frank Yang at 8:56 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Gary Campbell says:

    Those Koss Porta Pros look pretty nerdy. You get those and I see you on the subway… I’ll totally make fun. Still you won’t know it because you won’t be able to hear me.

    I have a set of Sony ear-canal phones (Fontopia MDR-EX51LP), and while I’ve been very happy with them, my main beef is that the rubber housing that protects the cord wears really easily, and I’ve had to patch it with some tape. The sound quality is excellent, and I like the way they cut out a ton of external noise so I can listen at a lower volume, have longer iPod battery life, and still occassionally hear the streetcar stops.

  2. mark says:

    i have koss headphones and they’re great. they also do a lifetime warranty which you won’t get anywhere else.

  3. punky! says:

    I have the same Fontopia headphones mentioned above – I agree that the sound quality is excellent. The wire inside the rubber cable is completely exposed in 1" chunks along the length of the cable, and is hanging by one wire at the moment. I’ve only had them for 2 months.

  4. punky! says:

    PS: Regarding the Porta Pros you’re looking at – I had those two. In five years, they broke twice (the earpiece wires came apart the first time, and the second time, the ear covering snapped off). Both times I was able to send them back to Koss for a complete replacement at no charge, sans receipt. So yeah, their warranty and customer service are both great.

  5. sean says:

    Wtf, my comment went poof?

    The PortaPros are -great- headphones, and sound better than anything else in the ballpark (unless you prefer the much more laid-back Senns). Both are good choices, but seriously A and B the PortaPro vs similar-priced Sonys and the Sonys will be in the gutter.

    re Lists, I am not as enthusiastic as you are about averaged-out lists. It can make for some very whitebread picks, don’t you think?

  6. Chris says:

    I can’t believe how AWFUL Pitchforks Top 50 are. Broken Social Scene doesn’t make it, yet Cam’ron makes the Top 10, and The Game is in the Top 50 as well? Those weren’t even close to being in the Top 50 Hip Hop Albums of the Year in my books. Terrible.

  7. angryrobot says:

    Those Koss phones may be clunky looking (or retro cool?), but they are classic and well regarded. They have superb bass for a pair of portable headphones.

    Funny, I’m also in the market for headphones. I htink i’ll be getting some Sure’s for my ipod, but I’m not sure what I want for home yet. I know the Senns are good, but I’m worried they’re not right for the type of music I listen to. Luckily, I’m going to CES in Vegas next month, so I’ll be able to try out all the brands.

  8. Satisfied -75 says:

    "Undertow Orchestra" looks fantastic. What an ensemble.

  9. Jeremy K says:

    Hey Frank. There was a headphones debate already raging on stillepost. Here is the link http://stillepost.ca/boards

    Jeremy

  10. thrasher says:

    Hi Frank – Neil on SNL was great — despite a lot of comments circulating to the contrary.

    Hey, the guy had brain surgery a few months ago and is still better than a lot of artists 1/4 his age on SNL.

    thanks for the link!

    Keep on Rockin!
    Thrasher

  11. Scott says:

    I’ve heard a lot of the same criticisms of the Fontopia’s, but I’ve had 2 pairs over the last 2 years (I lost one) and neither has worn in the way others seem to describe. What’re you guys doing to them?!

  12. cwilson@globeandmail.ca says:

    Wow. That Torstar piece is the most uncritical, credulous thing about Pfork I’ve ever read.

  13. distopian_dreamer says:

    I bought those dorky looking Sennheiser PX 100’s, and they feel and sound great. I think you get a two year warranty with those. But they do leak quite a bit, so if you’re playing that Kelly Clarkson song, we’ll know…

  14. John says:

    Regards to the headphones….. I personally think that Koss makes a really INFERIOR set of cannons. Anytime you give me an option of a company that only makes audio equipment and one that makes alarm clocks and other related junk, I always go with the former not the later. BTW go Senheiser if you’ve got the cake.

  15. Daniel, Esq. says:

    Frank:

    I was really disappointed with Pitchfork’s Top 50 Album List. The list omits great albums, by Richard Hawley, Low, Amadou & Mariam, and both EPs by Iron & Wine. The Broken Social Scene album isn’t on the list, which is extremely surprising. Several great albums — praised by Pitchfork throughout the year — by Spoon, Okkervil River, and others — are stuck in the 40s. POPMATTER’s No. 1 album of the year, The New Pornographer’s "Twin Cinema," languishes at No. 12 on Pitchfork’s list.

    There are some interesting choices on Pitchfork’s list, but still, it’s odd.

    — Daniel

  16. Frank says:

    okay, I actually had the chance to try out some cans today, and I can’t say I was overwhelmed by the Koss’. Or actually I was – by the bass. It’s purely subjective, but neither my home system nor my current headphones are really bassy – I like a balanced sound, and the Koss just sounded unnatural to what I’m accustomed to. I didn’t get to try the Sennheisers as Bay-Bloor didn’t have any, but I DID sample the Grado SR-60s… and I am absolutely waiting for their street-style cans. The 60s sounded amazing. So clear and balanced, even the $600 Sennheisers sounded muddy (and looked DUMB) beside em. A shame they’re really not made for portability, ’cause they sound awesome. I hope the new ones sound as good (and are out soon).

  17. Neil says:

    Yeah, the Portapro’s definitely add some bass in there. I’m a bass player so I like more bass. :) That said, for $50 I think they’re a good deal – I don’t think at that price point it’s easy to find perfectly balanced headphones, though I’d love to be proven wrong.

  18. Chris says:

    I’ve got the KOSS Porta Pros and I do get plenty of strange looks (and honest criticism from outspoken people who think they’re being nice) when I wear them, but fortunately I don’t care. They sound really, really nice, and if they break ever, you do have an awesome warranty.

    I haven’t tried the other headphones but I’d recommend these highly.

  19. Neil says:

    The National may not have made the cut on the Pitchfork list but they seem pretty popular in town. There was a run on the Alligator disc at Rotate on Saturday that cleared out all the remaining copies.

  20. Brad says:

    Have to agree with you about how bad Pitchfork’s list was. Then again, they had R. Kelly’s "In the Closet" listed as one of the ten best singles of the year. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they used the word "genious" to describe him. Man, I miss the days when Pitchfork was actually credible.

  21. Brad O. says:

    I’m jonesing for some new headphones. My Sony MDRV-300 have been with me for 5 years, have two layers of duck tape holding them together and computer slot covers as splints. They were dog chewed as well. (walking mouth scotty dog – Wallace) The cusions are all soft…and the seal well. Used them as studio headphones too. Nice sounding a little heavy on bass but nice.

    Good luck in your search.