Saturday, June 28, 2014

Top 10 Songs This Week

Top 10 Songs:

10. LOVE DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, Rose Royce (1978)
9. INSTANT CRUSH, Daft Punk (feat. Julian Casablancas) (2013)
8. PLAYIN' WITH FIRE, Katie Armiger (2013)
7. HIGGS BOSON BLUES, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (2013)
6. SHARP, Red Mass (2014)
5. WE EXIST, Arcade Fire (2014)
4. SMOOTH SAILING, Queens Of The Stone Age (2014)
3. SWEATPANTS, Childish Gambino (feat. Problem) (2014)
2. NOT UP TO ME, Kandle (2014)
1. RIGHT TIME, Nikki Lane (2014)

Video Of The Week: Kandle

With her new video directed by Natalie Rae Robison, Kandle tackles the hard subject of violence against women and hardcore depression, and released it in collaboration with - a community-based organization that looks to help balance the bad on this planet with a bit of good.

Not Up To Me is a terrific song, and I hope she doesn't tire of singing it any time soon, but because its message is so powerful and it's so well-crafted, it could have the Jeremy (Pearl Jam) or Creep (Radiohead) effect, where the artists just can't bring themselves to perform their signature song because it stirs up too many conflicting emotions in them.

In any event, I'll be attending her show next week as she performs in this year's Jazz Festival - she probably would have fit better playing at Pop Montréal, but I'm happy I'm seeing her in July rather than September. If anything, the walk home will be less painful (mentally) in the summer heat than it would have been in the chill of autumn (and possible rainfall).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Frankie MacDonald Wants Montrealers To Have A Safe St-Jean

Sometimes you tune in to your favourite singer or band for new, rare stuff; sometimes you just want the hits.In this video, for today, Frankie MacDonald (from Nova Scotia) does both: it's a new day, for one, and it's summer, so no snowstorms. But severe thunderstorms? Oh yeah.

Montréal be prepared: have your rubber boots ready, have your rain coats and rain suits ready, order your pizzas and Chinese food, buy cases of Pepsi and Coke
And most important as far as hits go:
have your iPads charged, have your iPods charged, have your cell phones charged, have your laptops charged and have your tablets charged
Seriously, I don't know the extent to which he's laughing at us while we're amazed by him, but I do really think it goes both ways. He has ingrained himself into my psyche to the point where every time the weather's just a tad unpleasant, his voice rings in my head telling screaming at me to have all my shit charged and he decides what grocery items I should buy and what to order out for.

''Don't get wet!''

''Be safe'' - you too, my friend.


I mean, sure, I appreciate the effort, kind of. But, uh, maybe it lacks decorum and gravitas:

FYI: bridges are of federal capacity, meaning Canada, which owns Québec, manages these signs. Great Britain, which owns Canada, couldn't care less.

Kudos for the ''accent aigü'', thumbs down for calling the population a ''nagtioon''. Though, semi-funny. Like Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider asking if you ''like-uh the juice, eh, the juice is good, uhn?'' in classic episodes of Saturday Night Live.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Chris Burns Fire Story

In the Montréal indie scene, few stories compare to the time where Chris Burns' place went up in flames. It had everything all of our daily lives consisted of: shitty building ran by a slumlord, not being able to afford insurance, a whole scene banding together to (temporarily) help cope with a crappy situation, from indie newspapers like The Mirror promoting a benefit show, to all the bands that wanted to take part in it, to everyone who showed up, and to everyone who gave perhaps not money but time and/or goods to help Chris and his girlfriend Isabelle get back on their feet.

Chris' story resonated deeply with me, because I lost all of my shit myself once, in a flood after the thawing of the 1998 Ice Storm - I had pretty much the last remaining pictures of deceased family members, hundreds of rare arts books and first editions of classics, four guitars (I managed to save one) and two amps (ditto), and the usual stuff like furniture and electronics.

It took me years to get back to the level of comfort I'd been accustomed to - though on the bright side probably enabled me to rely less on my possessions and afforded me the emptiness I required to spend a bit longer than a year going back and forth between Montréal and NYC.

But back to ''Crispy'' Burns. Here's the video from the benefit show that was held on his behalf, complete with his recounting the fire saga in the middle of a rendition of The Talking Heads' Burning Down The House...

Top 10s Of The Week

Top 10 Songs:

10. STRAIGHT OUT OF THE GATES, Tech N9ne (feat. Serj Tankian) (2013)
9. HIGGS BOSON BLUES, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (2013)
8. FERAL LOVE, Chelsea Wolfe (2014)
7. SHARP, Red Mass (2014)
6. INSTANT CRUSH, Daft Punk (feat. Julian Casablancas) (2013)
5. WE EXIST, Arcade Fire (2014)
4. PLAYIN' WITH FIRE, Katie Armiger (2013)
3. SWEATPANTS, Childish Gambino (feat. Problem) (2014)
2. SMOOTH SAILING, Queens Of The Stone Age (2014)
1. RIGHT TIME, Nikki Lane (2014)

Top 10 Shows At The Montréal FrancoFolies This Year:



7. ZAZ

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fathers Day

On Fathers Day, I texted my dad. I'd spoken to him for over a half hour the previous day, and I knew he was working and wouldn't have slept the night before, so I didn't want to impose another conversation that wouldn't be as ''deep'' as the one we'd just have.

Funny that I didn't have a dad for the first 20 years of my life - or not a permanent one, and certainly not the biological one - and now that I do, I treat him as if he'd always been there.

But the best Fathers Day thing I've read this year was from Enid-Raye Adams' blog, which quoted another one, and can be found here. I'll just quote her conclusion:
To all the Moms out there doing both jobs, Happy Father's Day.
And to the Dads that stay and do the work, you are a treasure beyond description.
Good stuff.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Video Of The Week: Katie Armiger

Yep, for the second straight week, I'm featuring a young, strong country singer - though this time her style fits completely with what you might have in mind when it comes to modern country music.

But like last week's bad-girl Nikki Lane, good-girl Katie Armiger has the confidence and swagger to party around flames, though in Armiger's case, it wasn't from burning a bad boyfriend's Harley, just ''regular'' pyrotechnics:

I mean, sure, she's pretty, but what hits me first and foremost is exactly the opposite: with 4 professional records in 4 years, hundreds of live shows and tons of people met who were as impressed with her talent as they were her looks - and all that at just 22 years of age - Katie Armiger has lived, in such a short time, what most people don't experience in a whole lifetime. And when a stunning woman has to deal with saying ''no'' more often than she does ''hello'', that builds character the likes of which men twice her age will never even come close to.

In the Playin' With Fire video shown above, she has that Leelee Sobieski / Jennifer Lawrence look going for her, but mixed with a dirty, working-girl attire, saying lines like ''I'm already crazy and I feel fine / as I cross this line between wrong and right'', ''I'm already lit and this ain't done yet'' and ''I like the burn''. And there's the look in her eyes in every close-up. And the totally sexual way she cranks up and uses that flame-thrower (in high heels, no less).

She's in control, and not much can stop her. I'd say the sky's the limit, but she can even shatter that if she wants to.

I first came to realize she existed when recording songs at Studio Loco in Montréal, where her Confessions Of A Nice Girl CD laid on a table. I put it on out of sheer curiosity and had expected ballads and cutesy, wholesome songs from the cover, but instead found well-written, beat-driven songs that I instantly connected with. I've been a fan ever since. Here's the cover art in question:

Post-Party Years Depression

Last Friday, a lady was telling me about a two-year depression she'd gone through, where she wouldn't get out of her room, or see her friends - who were only really trying to help. Time took its toll and she lost track of most of them, only staying close to her family, pretty much.

And so I went home to my smallish apartment, alone, and wrote. And cleaned house, or at least tried to while envisioning myself doing it. And Saturday was much of the same, as was Sunday.

Sunny days, all of them, and I didn't even set foot on either one of my balconies.

My skin is whiter than Casper's - take your pick between the Friendly Ghost or the underhanded-rapist from the movie Kids, both are pretty fucking white, and I'm whiter than either of them. As a matter of fact, my skin colour this year is somewhere at the crossroads of transparent, translucent, green and yellow.

But, yeah. Maybe it's depression, or maybe just a dry spell. I'm always exhausted and have to over-amp myself on caffeine just to stay awake for a couple of hours at a time during the day - and yet I'm still pretty much an insomniac at night.

But I'm thinking about getting creative again. Writing music, blog posts, short stories. I always plow through, and I have no doubt I shall again. It's just that I have to dig so deep to find the motivation that many times it takes up all my energy just to get the will part.

But I'm getting there. Be patient with me, I won't be on this for two years - though funny folks might argue I've been there since 2005.

On the bright side, a homeless man told me ''Jesus loves you'' the other day, but he doesn't know any better. Jesus may or may not love me, but only he knows that; no, Jesus respects me as the improved version of what people thought he was, 2000 years down the evolutionary chain from an imaginary book character.

*for the record, while I may show some signs, I personally think I'm more just ''in a rut'' mixed with an unhealthy dose of procrastination.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Top 10s This Week

Top 10 Songs:

10. FERAL LOVE, Chelsea Wolfe (2014)
9. HIGGS BOSON BLUES, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (2013)
8. SHARP, Red Mass (2014)
7. BIG SHOT, The Pack A.D. (2013)
6. WE EXIST, Arcade Fire (2014)
5. RIGHT TIME, Nikki Lane (2014)
4. INSTANT CRUSH, Daft Punk (feat. Julian Casablancas) (2013)
3. STRAIGHT OUT OF THE GATES, Tech N9ne (feat. Serj Tankian) (2013)
2. SWEATPANTS, Childish Gambino (feat. Problem) (2014)
1. SMOOTH SAILING, Queens Of The Stone Age (2014)

Top 10 Montréal Canadiens Captains:

8. HECTOR 'TOE' BLAKE (1940-1948)
7. SYLVIO MANTHA (1926-1936*)
6. GUY CARBONNEAU (1989-1994)
5. HENRI RICHARD (1971-1975)
3. ÉMILE 'BUTCH' BOUCHARD (1948-1956)
BOB GAINEY (1981-1989)
JEAN BÉLIVEAU (1961-1971)

* not consecutively captain for all those years

Honorable mentions: Serge Savard (1979-1981), Doug Harvey (1960-1961) and Jack Laviolette (1909-1912*).

 In the same way that I didn't let Bob Gainey's term as GM hinder on his tremendous captaincy, I didn't let Toe Blake's stint as perhaps the greatest NHL coach of all time push him through the top-5.

Guy Carbonneau remains perhaps the greatest defensive centerman and face-off specialist the NHL has ever known, and as captain, was the only opponent to ever shut down Wayne Gretzky in a Stanley Cup Final. And while Serge Savard and Doug Harvey stand as two of perhaps the 5 greatest defensemen the NHL has ever known, their short stints as captains didn't define their respective careers.

The Richard brothers were a no-brainer, as was putting Jean Béliveau first, and Butch Bouchard makes his way into the top-3 because he was, after all, the one who made the Rocket who he became, by convincing him of following his conscience and showing him how to behave at the NHL level with the hard head he had.

Saku Koivu could have passed Newsy Lalonde, but having not won Stanley Cups in Montréal is a deterrent, though he was often the only player of his caliber on the team, so he was in no way to blame.

And Sylvio Mantha deserves to be on this list, although he rarely makes these, because he played so long ago; however, as a kid from NDG, I am well-versed in the historic nature of what my neighbourhood represents to hockey history.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Video Of The Week: Nikki Lane

I can totally relate to Nikki Lane, who moved to NYC only to be forced out by its high cost of living that is not artist-friendly; I came back home to Montréal, she moved to Nashville - big enough to qualify as a ''city'', but not so much down in the Red States as her native South Carolina.

Director Andrew Hines captured the essence of her energy in this video, for the song Right Time, giving it country's requisite amount of white trash-ness (couples fighting, day-time beer drinking, a poor neighbourhood that could pass as a trailer park), but also the power, control, strength, coolness and hard-headedness Lane naturally exhudes. She is like Johnny Ramone (or Joan Jett) walking amongst a bunch of decrepit nobodies.

Also, this is a nice way to use Dan Auerbach's trademark Black Keys sound (he produced the record), without relying on it as the basis of your own art. Well played.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

This Week's Top 10s

Top 10 Songs:

10. LIAR, Rollind Band (1994)
9. FERAL LOVE, Chelsea Wolfe (2014)
8. INSTANT CRUSH, Daft Punk (feat. Julian Casablancas) (2013)
7. SHARP, Red Mass (2014)
6. STRAIGHT OUT OF THE GATES, Tech N9ne (feat. Serj Tankian) (2013)
5. PARTITION, Beyoncé (2013)
4. HIGGS BOSON BLUES, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (2013)
3. BLACK ME OUT, Against Me! (2014)
2. SWEATPANTS, Childish Gambino (feat. Problem) (2014)
1. SMOOTH SAILING, Queens Of The Stone Age (2014)

Top 10 Disney (Not Pixar) Films:

Clyde Geronimi & Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske (1951)
Chris Buck & Kevin Lima (1999)
8. MULAN, Tony Bancroft & Barry Cook (1998)
7. THE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE, Mark Dindal (2000)
6. ALADDIN, Ron Clements & John Musker (1992)
5. PINOCCHIO, Ben Sharpsteen & Hamilton Luske (1940)
4. FROZEN, Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (2013)
3. PETER PAN, Clyde Geronimi & Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske (1953)
ROBIN HOOD, Wolfgang Reitherman (1973)
THE LION KING, Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff (1994)

'Not Pixar' was both to separate the studios and animation styles, and because putting all three Toy Story films was a bit unfair to the rest of the bunch. I also didn't include films from Skellington/Tim Burton.

Apologies to most of the princess movies (Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella), who barely missed the cut. Positions 2 to 7 might be interchangeable.

Chickenshit Fil-A

There's a petition making the rounds in Canada these days about/against Chick-Fil-A opening its first Canadian branch inside the Calgary airport, and people want to stop them.

A letter is not going to stop them.

A letter shows how fucking weak their opposition is. A petition shows them how hundreds of thousands of anonymous nobodies may or may not (but would prefer not to have the option to) frequent their establishments.

We're talking about a company whose owner donated two million dollars to anti-gay groups in the U.S. to try to stop homosexuals from having the right to marry, something that doesn't sit well with a majority of Canadians (though you could argue the best place to start a franchise is in Calgary).

What the petition does is give Chick-Fil-A free publicity. I had no idea they were coming - and probably neither did most Canadians.

What should have happened is people physically going there and protesting the store, warning its patrons as to where their food money might be going (again, perhaps not as efficient in Alberta as anywhere else in Canada); the only petition worth writing is one demanding for a competing chain right in front of Chick-Fil-A's, to have the option to spend our money where our allegiances lie - and to show them right in their face that we do have money to spend, and are choosing to spend it elsewhere.

If you don't agree with someone who is as powerful and determined as their CEO Dan T. Cathy, who is aggressive in taking action, the only way to fight him is to bring him down, and stop him from having money in the first place - make him go bankrupt, buy elsewhere. Don't send him letters and petitions that he can frame and masturbate to when he's tired of fucking human rights in the ass.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Video Of The Week: Guns N' Roses

Epic storytelling worthy of a Michael Jackson video? Check.
Beautiful images of nature, including an ocean-born guitar solo? Check.
Coolest guitar player of the 1980s and 1990s (Slash)? Check.
Live footage of the greatest live band of their era (provided they made it to the show)? Check.
Charles Manson t-shirt? Check.
Supermodels? Check.
A storyline that continues that of the two previous epics (Don't Cry and November Rain)? Check.
Dictionary definitions of key words? Check.

Yes, Del James' rendering of Axl Rose's vision is both one of the best and the most bloated piece of cinematic musicianship of its time, but to everyone involved's credit, it makes for a fine short film, and revolves around a pretty good song, a chorus pattern with evolving lyrics, multiple verses and solos, all well-crated and polished tom the extreme. Plus, it's almost 10 minutes long.

Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum, Dizzy Reed, and Gilby Clarke all find a place in the storyline, too, which is cool.

Estranged features some of the best GN'R lyrics, such as these (despite the flurry and rhyming of the word 'baby' in the bridge):
Old at heart, but I'm only 28
And I'm much too young to let love break my heart
Young at heart, but it's getting much too late
To find ourselves so far apart (...)
Young at heart, and it gets so hard to wait
When no one I know can seem to help me now
Old at heart, but I musn't hesitate
If I'm to find my own way out (...)

When I find out all the reasons
Maybe I'll find another way, find another day
With all the changing seasons of my life
Maybe I'll get it right next time
And now that you've been broken down
Got your head out of the clouds
You're back down on the ground
And you don't talk so loud,
And you don't walk so proud
Any more, and what for

Well, I jumped into the river too many times to make it home
I'm out here on my own, and drifting all alone
If it doesn't show, give it time
To read between the lines
'Cause I see the storm's getting closer
And the waves they get so high
Seems everything we've ever known's here
Why must it drift away and die

I'll never find anyone to replace you
Guess I'll have to make it throuugh
This time - all this time
Without you
I knew the storm was getting closer
And all my friends said I was high
But everything we've ever known's here
I never wanted it to die
It's not just how you describe the end of a relationship, it's actually more like the very definition of the end of a dream. When Stephanie Seymour broke up with Axl Rose (thus explaining why she isn't in the third part of the trilogy, ironically the one depicting the end of a romance), she didn't just put an end to their relationship, she tore down the dream world he had worked years at constructing for them, complete with fairy tale castles, an unbeatable group of friends who would stick together through the harshest battles, an army of followers and supporters, and them on top of their world, the king and queen of the wedding cake. They weren't just ''a couple'', they were the only couple the protagonist had envisioned in his perfect fantasy, a modern-day Disney/Camelot story.

Sometimes Axl knows exactly how to put his finger on something, and this is just one example.

And, yes, that really was Axl's house.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

NHL Stanley Cup Finals Predictions

Well, I got both wrong in the Conference Finals (Round 3), which brings me closer to the average Joe's average... so I figured I wouldn't stop there.

New York Rangers versus Los Angeles Kings:

Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan McDonagh look like the MVP candidates on the Rangers' side, but the Kings - believe it or not - have the best offense in the whole post-season, and the most-clutch goalie in the world in Jonathan Quick, though he hasn't exactly been consistent this year. However, he has staved off countless elimination games (4 against the San Jose Sharks alone), so never count him out as a factor in a win. Even after letting in 3 goals in the first period, you will remember all of his later saves as ''big ones'' when his team wins 4-3.

Then remember the Kings also have Drew Doughty - the best defenseman in the sport? - for half the game playing in front of him, and that they have a line with both Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar. And another one with Playoff Hero (Clutchin') Justin Williams and captain Dustin Brown. And Jeff Carter, and the luxury of having Mike Richards on the third line.

And Darryl Sutter to coach - no offense to Alain Vigneault, who has now reached the Finals for the second time in 4 years (both times with teams in blue and white), but Sutter won in his first try, with a team full of character players, most of whom are still around from two seasons ago. Meaning they have matured, but not necessarily aged.

Kings in 5.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

About Jack White...

Jack White has been talking a lot of shit about a lot of subjects lately, from how he felt Meg White wasn't exactly an encouraging teammate in The White Stripes (and was a recluse) to how The Black Keys are a watered-down version of his old band.

The thing is... he's not wrong.

The White Stripes were essentially an experiment in making music within a certain set of rules, performed within a certain aesthetic - two band members, few overdubs, based on the blues, in a three-colour peppermint scheme dress code, trying to bring out the best songs possible and the most emotion within this context, as a two-piece. Easy to tour, easy to record. Easy to write.

From one record to the next, they pushed the envelope further, and eventually veered away from the guitar-oriented songwriting to piano and old keyboards, but set to blues progressions.

The Black Keys didn't instill a rule book when they set out to make their tunes, but they made pop based on blues, too. And when WS became really big, BK made their guitar sound fatter to match. When they lacked inspiration, they brought in outside musicians and producers to help with the songwriting process, more often than not making their sound poppier, but they rarely went out of the 4/4 beat with three-or-four chord progressions in fifths or thirds.

Same formula? Check. More pop than rock? Check. Therefore: watered-down version. Absolutely.

And Meg had dated and married Jack before starting the band; by the time they made it big with White Blood Cells, they'd divorced and she was unimpressed with both his bullshit and his genius. That's just normal stuff. So when he came up with one of rock's best riffs of all time for Seven Nation Army (an improved version of something similar to what Soundgarden had come up with for Spoonman, with much better lyrics to boot), well, hourray.

He was proud to have come up with amazing shit, but just may have turned to the wrong person for approval and ''high fives''.

At this point, there is no use for (Jack) White to pretend to be humble. He is the pre-eminent rock songwriter of his generation, and the lone guitar hero ''made'' past 1991. The 1960s and 1970s gave us a slew of real ones, the 1980s tried to sell us a ton more (Slash stayed, just like the instrumental virtuosos à la Joe Satriani and the dead guys, like Dimebag Darrell), but when the grunge/anti-hero thing came along, talent was something to hide, not be proud of. And the 2000s just sucked, so here we are.

He's good, he knows it. Everything he touches turns to gold. He wants the world to acknowledge it. Fine by me.