Saturday, December 27, 2014

Things I Listened To In 2014

I'm too out of it to make a normal ''best of'' list with rankings and stuff. Also, there weren't that many records I purchased that made me want to listen to them all the way through repeatedly. Perhaps it's because Radiohead didn't release anything, or I've become jaded. Or music sucks now. Wait, no, that's not true: Against Me!'s record, from start to finish, made my summer and fall. That, my friends, is how you make music with a message.

What I know for sure is that the song I listened to the most in the first six months - by a fair margin - was totally outside of my usual comfort zone: Lady Gaga's Do What U Want (both the version with R. Kelly and the one with Christina Aguilera, which ended up being my favourite).

But in the past month, The Osmonds' Crazy Horses, from their 1972 record of the same name, has been spinning on YouTube, in my mp3 player and as a ring tone nearly non-stop. I have listened to it more than any other songs - not only combined, but times three. If I end up killing myself, that song may be to blame (you're welcome to put Donny Osmond on trial, though he barely played wheezing keyboard on the track).

2014 also saw me listen to a lot of music from years past, namely Nine Inch Nails' fantastic 2013 opus Hesitation Marks (as well as a lot of their 1994 tour de force The Downward Spiral), a lot of Ice Cube, six or seven Jay Z songs over and over, some Beyoncé from last year, Nirvana's In Utero, Pearl Jam's entire discography up to Binaural, with maybe three songs each off their last four records, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Mother's Milk and Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Megadeth's Countdown To Extinction, some Suicidal Tendencies, and a ton of Montréal bands.

But 2014?

As far as albums go, these hit a nerve a little:

Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues
USA Out Of Vietnam's Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes (re-release)
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra's Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything
Jack White, Lazaretto (though it's my least favourite of his discography so far)
Caribou, Our Love
Aphex Twin, Syro
Elephant Stone's The Three Poisons
Sacral Nerves's self titled release
Robert Plant, Lullaby... And The Ceaseless Roar
Beck, Morning Phase
Jenny Lewis, The Voyager
Guillaume Beauregard, D'Étoiles, De Pluie Et De Cendres
Jésuslesfilles, Le Grain D'Or
Philémon Cimon, L'Été
Monogrenade, Composite
Kandle, In Flames
Common, Nobody's Smiling

And I don't think the fact that I know people in nine of those acts has anything to do with me liking their music. If anything, it might be the other way around.

I didn't go head-over-heels like many of my friends over Sun Kil Moon, Swans, Run the Jewels and The War On Drugs, though they had their moments.

As for songs, I'm going with these, in addition the the aforementioned Gaga mega-hit, in what is close to a preference order:

Nikki Lane, Right Time
Meghan Trainor, All About The Bass
Kandle, Not Up To Me
Joseph Arthur, Walk On The Wild Side (Lou Reed cover)
Childish Gambino (feat. Problem), Sweatpants
Arctic Monkeys, Arabella
Interpol, All The Rage Back Home
The Pack A.D., Big Shot
Nicki Minaj, Anaconda
Red Mass, Sharp
Queens Of The Stone Age, Smooth Sailing

I have yet to pay attention to the D'Angelo record. Same for J Mascis. I hear great things, though, but I need to get that Osmonds song (and All About The Bass) out of my system first. My cousin had the Hozier CD playing on repeat on the drive home from visiting my dad and grandma last night; I didn't mind it too much.

Marijuana As A Gateway Drug

When I was a kid, you couldn't watch The Transformers or G.I. Joe after school or on a Saturday morning without seeing one of those Ronald Reagan-inspired ''Just Say No'' ads, telling kids weed was a gateway drug to harder stuff, like cocaine, heroin and communism.

They forgot to mention performing fellatio on horses. You're welcome, Nation.

And thank you, Jared Kreft, 30, of Wasau Wisconsin, for sacrificing all future employment opportunities to bring this scourge to light.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Video Of The Week: Donny Osmond

Watch it, go, just remember you're suffering because something amazing will follow:

Let's get this straight, I'm not featuring Donny Osmond's Soldier Of Love video this week because it's any good. It's the most awful thing I've seen in December, and I've watched news footage of murders. Ironically, it's not just bad because it was directed by Michael Bay, it's also terrible because it's late-80s dance pop à la New Kids On The Block (Osmond looks a lot like Jordan Knight here), complete with pretend-tough-guy leather jacket, beautiful models (considering the era) and lyrics that imply Osmond is exactly the opposite of what he is (''You've heard I'm a rebel with a heart of stone / I'm a restless spirit that nobody can own'') and has some measure of what sex is (''Deep in the night / can't get enough'').

Oh, and the keyboard-led ''band'' dressed and combed like The Clash kills me, too. But back to the sex: Osmond has said time and time again that he married a virgin and never cheated on his wife, with whom he is still married. He's only been with one woman, and has never had oral nor anal sex, as per this Howard Stern interview:

Find out more about his youth, his fame, his fall from grace and semi-redemption in this interesting, loaded-yet-complacent hour-long interview with Piers Morgan:

It's actually an interesting story, one that I never would have had the patience to look into had it not been for this 1972 track, Crazy Horses:

This track is fucking heavy, so much so that I never thought a boy band sang and wrote it, but rather pictured tall, bearded men from Sweden (or Tennessee) with guitars shaped like axes, lightning and/or dildos wearing fur with blood still on it from not having washed it after removing the skin off of dead reindeer and foxes. Real fucking Vikings.

Imagine my reaction when I realized The Osmonds were the band who sang it, with Donny at the keyboard making the pre-noize high-pitched whirring signature sound of the almost-heavy metal track about... car pollution. Yeah, that was also a bummer, as I'd originally thought it was about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding from the mountains come to teach humanity a hard lesson. Oh, well, you win some, you lose some, but with Crazy Horses in tow, this one is still all-win.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Video Of The Week: I Am Snow Angel

Winter's got us in its grasp, and will have us for four more months. Might as well get used to the cold.

And so I Am Snow Angel (Julie Kathryn's musical project fusing ballads with electronica) releases a video for a song that fits perfectly with the mood I'm in: trying to find a party in the midst of a season where even trees look dead and your limbs can freeze and fall off.

Directed and filmed by Alexander Cherney with nothing but time-lapsed landscapes (none of them of a frozen tundra, I might add), they bring a sense of warmth and analog to the distant voice and digital instruments used, to produce a nice mixture that blends well together:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Video Of The (Past) Week: Jeffrey Lewis

It's pretty hard to fathom that I haven't featured this one yet, as I watch it at least a few times per week and listen to it daily, as I have for the better part of the last decade, since 2005's City & Eastern Songs, which this track is from.

Director Mark Locke does a fine job of just sticking to the lyrics - an innocent Jeffrey Lewis annoying his idol Will Oldham on the NYC subway to the point where the ''master'' ends up raping the ''apprentice'' on empty train tracks, akin to Oldham's own song A Sucker's Evening (off of the Palace record Arise Therefore).

Sure, 2014 isn't the ideal place in which to view a rape metaphor, particularly one in which the victim then has the revelation that in the end, the music industry ''fucks'' all artists who dare share their thoughts and ideas, as a system.

Many have seen Lewis ''feminizing'' himself by being on the receiving end of the rape, and therefore associating ''womendom'' with ''weakness'', and it's fair to say that in 1500 years of Anglo-Saxon arts history, literature and politics, there is a bit of a systemic bias towards giving men more authority than women - at times, even more rights. Religion is good at that, too. But I do feel that Lewis had no such designs, even subconsciously - he's pretty good and consistent on keeping his ''penis-having'' in check.

I'll write later this week (I hope) about where I see our society heading in terms of equality and power struggles (ask me today and I'll say I think we're fucked, and provided we don't start everything over from scratch, will remain so forever), but for now, I thought I could just throw this superb low-budget time bomb out there:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Video Of The Week: Babes In Toyland

It was hard to find a video this week. I hesitated a lot. Today was the 25th ''anniversary'' of the Polytechnique killing, where one man murdered 14 women in a higher-education school in Montréal, in 1989. Because they were women, because he couldn't stand Equality.

Geneviève Bergeron (born in 1968), student in civil engineering.
Hélène Colgan (born in 1966), student in mechanical engineering.
Nathalie Croteau (born in 1966), student in mechanical engineering.
Barbara Daigneault (
born in 1967), student in mechanical engineering.
Anne-Marie Edward (
born in 1968), student in chemical engineering.
Maud Haviernick (
born in 1960), student in materials engineering.
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (
born in 1958), student nurse.
Maryse Laganière (
born in 1964), school financial employee.
Maryse Leclair (
born in 1966), student in materials engineering.
Anne-Marie Lemay (
born in 1967), student in mechanical engineering.
Sonia Pelletier (
born in 1961), student in mechanical engineering.
Michèle Richard (
born in 1968), student in materials engineering.
Annie St-Arneault (
born in 1966), student in mechanical engineering.
Annie Turcotte (born in 1969),
student in materials engineering.

Fourteen women, most of which were to become engineers. Probably a lot of them would have been mothers. All with lives, families. In their 20s or early 30s. With some amount of time left to impact our society.

I tried to go with a soft song, something soothing. I thought of something political, with a direct message, clear.

But here's the thing, the way I look at it: 1989 in Montréal wasn't so bad in terms of equality, and it got better for a decade to include just about everyone by the turn of the millennium. BY LAW, and by obligation, on all fronts. In terms of rights and equality, not many had actual complaints, apart that things were slow at times (same-sex marriage eventually passed, and though pay equality was passed as law in the early-to-mid-90s, it still hasn't been made into effect completely even in government).

But it's been downhill for the last decade, so much so that 2014 feels like 1944, and it's like our parents' social gains from the 1960s and 1970s were for naught. And it didn't take a step back in more comfort to compensate for the loss of rights; equality was just stolen and wiped away.

And instead of looking at the bigger picture, everyone is just fighting their own little fight, looking at their own situation, trying to stop it from regressing too much (''I don't wanna pay fare on a bridge'' / ''the SAQ - i.e. voluntary tax on alcohol - is too expensive'') - but our whole social net is being taken away every day. Women's rights are under attack every day at the Federal level, with ''private bills'' regulating women's own bodies introduced my MPs narrowly defeated thus far but gaining support and traction, particularly in the places with the hundreds of missing and possibly murdered women, aboriginal and otherwise. (And every time I write or read a single sentence about these women, I think of the violence I witnessed in Winnipeg, and the bodies alongside the highways from Manitoba to Alberta, with vomit in my mouth and chills in my spine).

The government should be there to provide or at least help with 4 things when they take half our money from our pay cheques and 15% more on each purchase we make: health, education, infrastructure, and protecting (ALL) individuals' rights. If they can't, we don't need them and should be able to do what we see fit with that 65% of our money given back to us.

As usual, I digress.

The point is women's rights have stepped the fuck back way too much in the past decade, with the redneck-ification of North America. Anti-feminism and racism are back to levels I once thought would never be seen again - particularly the under-handed attempt at making women feel like lesser beings.

Granted, I see a lot of self-pity and victimization coming from their side, stuff I don't see or hear about when researching or talking to folks from the 1960s and 1970s - but a lot of it is warranted, and some of it seems like a crouch before delivering an uppercut. Or so I hope.

There is no reason in this day and age, on this continent - heck, on this side of both oceans - to not have human beings be equal in every single aspect of life. It goes for gender, it goes for lifestyle, it goes for race, it goes for tastes. As long as you're not impeding on someone else's rights, a human being shouldn't be bothered, attacked, or denied anything they have the right to have (food, shelter, respect, well-being, defining their relationship - or not - health care).

And so I went with Babes In Toyland, the punk band from Minnesota who fused feminism, punk rock and selling records the best, in my opinion, and with Bruise Violet in particular because it's from their superb 1992 record Fontanelle, co-produced by Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, and mixed by Skinny Puppy's Dave Ogilvie:

The song itself is less punk and grungier than some of their other stuff, but that's 1992 for you.