Friday, June 9, 2017

Video Of The Week: Ice Cube

If you were to categorize the best rappers of all time, chances are Tupac Shakur's in your top-3; he's in mine as well. Eminem has taken himself out of contention because his most recent material doesn't match the quality of his previous output - say, anything until the 8 Mile soundtrack; it seems he's been trying to re-do Lose Yourself all the time since then, except perhaps for Berzerk. Ice Cube, the king of squared, 4/4 rap, also makes my cut, and the third spot is a toss-up between Busta Rhymes, Mos Def and a few members of the Wu-Tang Clan, particularly Raekwon and Ghostface Killah.

In terms of rap lyricists, my #1 pick would be Public Enemy's Chuck D, who's always stayed on point regardless of how long he's been in the game, his words always current, carrying the political weight of truth. I'd probably go with Everlast (House Of Pain, Warpon Industries) in second place and, again, Ice Cube in third. KRS-One misses by just a bit, as does Tupac.

My favourite current-day rapper just might be Donald Glover, though - a.k.a. Childish Gambino: smart, incisive, good flow, diverse subject mater, equally at ease  rapping about toys from the 1980s as he is politics.

Which makes Cube the rapper I find to be most important. And, as I've mentioned here before, he's kept his output quality at a high level throughout the decades - ok, maybe his records aren't all killer and there are fillers, but his records' high points are always consistent.

For Good Cop Bad Cop, which will appear on the 25th Anniversary Edition of his seminal Death Certificate album, he tackles the subject of racism and police brutality in a post-Black Lives Mater world, and his conclusion is fairly simple: we are no better off today than in 1988 when his group N.W.A. sang "Fuck The Police".
Good Cop Bad Cop (Official Video, Explicit) by Ice Cube on VEVO.
The video was directed by Gabriel Hart.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Video Of The Week: Tonnes

Sure, these are disturbing times, and as we sacrifice Liberty for Security and Bureaucracy, we are losing our Humanity. Franz Kafka wrote about this in Der Process (The Trial) in 1915, and published it in 1925, between the (first) two World Wars.

History has, of course, proven him correct time and time again. As bureaucracies get bigger and bigger, the "Big Picture" and "Greater Good" start constantly getting cited as the reason for doing and acting in certain conventional ways, except most people are at best only 90-95% conventional, meaning we're all exceptions in certain cases, and as soon as a government, State or otherwise leadership group looks into one of our behaviours, we are all likely to fall in some of the system's cracks at some point and be judged unfairly. Because at the end of the day, The System is unfair, rigidity is unrealistic, and we are all outsiders to some exent.

And so, Montréal indie rock "supergroup" Tonnes have enlisted director Giuliano Bossa (also the band's bassist) to set this reality into our own timeline, in this military-police-led present day - and the results don't even shock anymore, as we've seen these kinds of scenes happen on TV - and not just in fiction - and in film so often in the past two decades. The song is called In Trouble and, yes, we are.

TONNES - In Trouble from Giuliano Bossa on Vimeo.

Monday, May 29, 2017

NHL Predictions 2016-17: Stanley Cup Final

Will I learn anything from not picking the Pittsburgh Penguins in any round thus far this year? Of course not!

On the other hand, for some reason, I thought I had predicted the Nashville Predators would win it all this year at the beginning of the season, but I'd chosen the Washington Capitals instead. Oh well.

Time for a correction, of course, as I see the Preds winning this.

What we have at play here is one team without its best (and lone high-level) defenseman (Kris Letang) but two of the best centers in the game in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, and the other with the best defensive top-4 in the game featuring two Norris-caliber defenders (P.K. Subban and Roman Josi) and two of the five best shut-down guys in the league in Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis.

Nashville has torn through everybody, including the Anaheim Ducks who also have a decent 1-2 punch at center with Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler...

The Ottawa Senators took the Pens to Game 7, and the Preds are just slightly less balanced on offense and tremendously better on D than Ottawa.

Subban made Captain Serious lose his cool, I can just see Temper 87 do something insane like (Marty) McSorley-stick him on the head twice (because he won’t get called for it the first time).

They say defense wins championships, it's time to put that saying to the test in hockey.

Preds in 6.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Video Of The Week: Audioslave

Well, mentioning this song in last week's post about Soundgarden and Chris Cornell kind of put me in a bind, in terms of having to showcase Audioslave's best song - the one that doesn't fall into the Pearl Jam-imitation tropes so much as just tries to give a good rock show.

In theory, Audioslave was the perfect mix: musicians who had been in the game-changing band Rage Against The Machine, a mix of rap and hard rock that tackled issues of race and politics, whose riffs were reminiscent of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, with some N.W.A. attitude thrown in to add fuel to the fire; and the frontman from Soundgarden, a hard rock machine whose riffs were inspired by those of Sabbath and Zeppelin, with some Beatles sensibility thrown in for good rock measure.

In practice, though, the Rage musicians may have wanted to kick back and make "normal rock albums" for a while, but since becoming friends with Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder and witnessing his rise to stardom, Cornell's traded away his wailing high-pitched classic rocker's voice for a Vedder-like smoother baritone that seems more like copycat than homage for the slower numbers, which really drags Audioslave's otherwise-decent output from the best it could have been (say, a Stone Temple Pilots level) to something barely more palatable than Candlebox, Creed, Bush and the like.

When they went rocking, though, such as on Cochise, seen here, they showed they could be a fine guitar-driven unit:

The video, featuring a shit-ton of fireworks, was directed by Mark Romanek, a leader in the art form, the director with the most Grammys to his name (3), as well as over 20 MTV Video Awards. He's directed clips for the likes of The The (Sweet Bird Of Truth), En Vogue (You Don't Have To Worry, Free Your Mind), De La Soul (Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)), Keith Richards (Wicked As It Seems), Teenage Fanclub (What You Do To Me), K.D. Lang (Constant Craving), Lenny Kravitz (Are You Gonna Go My Way, Is There Any Love In Your Heart), Madonna (Rain, Bedtime Story), David Bowie (Jump They Say, Black Tie White Noise), Iggy Pop (Beside You), Nine Inch Nails (Closer, The Perfect Drug), R.E.M. (Strange Currencies), Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson (Scream), Sonic Youth (Little Trouble Girl), Eels (Novocaine For The Soul), Weezer (El Scorcho), Beck (Devil's Haircut), Fiona Apple (Criminal), Macy Gray (I Try), Mick Jagger (God Gave Me Everything), No Doubt (Hella Good), Red Hot Chili Peppers (Can't Stop), Jay-Z (99 Problems, Picasso Baby), U2 (Invisible), Taylor Swift (Shake It Off), Beyoncé (Sandcastles), and Justin Timberlake (Can't Stop The Feeling), but his biggest contribution to the art form will forever remain his sober ad somber direction for Johnny Cash's cover of NIN's heart-wrenching Hurt.

He also directed the terrific features One Hour Photo (2002, starring Robin Williams) and 2010's Never Let Me Go, starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Video Of The Week: Soundgarden

Well, folks, the third of grunge's Holy Quadrinity has passed away. After Nirvana's Kurt Cobain (suicide or murder) and Alice In Chains' Layne Staley (drug overdose) , Soundgarden's Chris Cornell has killed himself as well. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder remains, alone in sadness.

In the Greater Scheme of Seattle Rock, they themselves all joined James Marshall Hendrix (drug overdose), Mother Love Bone and Malfunkshun's Andrew Wood (drug overdose), The Gits' Mia Zapata (rape and murder) and Hole's Kristen Pfaff (drug overdose), Hendrix, Pfaff and Cobain even making it on the infamous 27 Club list of celebrities who died before their 28th birthday. Cornell was 52.

Much has been and will be said about this, and there will be much over-analyzing. I cut ties with them as favourites after two awful days in 1994 culminating in an awful show at the Verdun Auditorium (a venue where both Pearl Jam and Nirvana had wowed me the year before, among other great shows I've seen there), but they have created fine pieces of music in their careers and were good musicians. And despite Nirvana and Pearl Jam getting the credit for putting grunge on the map, Soundgarden (with Green River, which featured future members of PJ, Mother Love Bone and Mudhoney) was the oldest of its generation, having formed in 1984, with its "classic" incarnation dating back to 1990.

You definitely saw a change in the band's music and Cornell's singing style when Pearl Jam made it big, moving away from their metal roots and high-pitched vocals into more angst-riddled, bass-heavy territory, brooding melodies and a growling baritone. The evolution is extremely clear from the Screaming Life (1987) and Fopp (1988) EPs to Ultramega OK (1988) to Louder Than Love (1989) to the apex of their metal years, Badmotorfinger (1991), to the super-grungy Superunknown (1994) to its rehash/copy Down On The Upside (1996, which did have more Alice In Chains-y tones in the music), but Cornell's PJ-lite-ness really came through on all three Audioslave records. I'm surprised they didn't catch more flak than they did, because it would have been easy to categorize Audioslave alongside Better Than Ezra, Candlebox, Creed, Stone Temple Pilots and so many others as just Pearl Jam wanna-bes.

Still, on this day, I thought perhaps I could rank my favourite Cornell songs. It's hard, because all of his projects except Temple Of The Dog (created in memory of former roommate Wood) - even the solo albums - involved other songwriters, so it's difficult to pinpoint his actual involvement in many tracks, but I will omit songs such as Fresh Tendrils (a Matt Cameron number) and Head Down (written by Ben Shepard), for example, off Superunknown.

10B. BIG DUMB SEX (Soundgarden, Louder Than Love, 1989)
10A. SPOONMAN (Soundgarden, Superunknown, 1994)
9. BLOW UP THE OUTSIDE WORLD (Soundgarden, Down On The Upside, 1996)
8. COCHISE (Audioslave, Audioslave, 2002)
7. THE DAY I TRIED TO LIVE (Soundgarden, Superunknown, 1994)
6. JESUS CHRIST POSE (Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger, 1991)
5. PRETTY NOOSE (Soundgarden, Down On The Upside, 1996)
4. RUSTY CAGE (Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger, 1991)
3. OUTSHINED (Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger, 1991)
2. HUNGER STRIKE (Temple Of The Dog, Temple Of The Dog, 1991)
1. 4TH OF JULY (Soundgarden, Superunknown, 1994)

I'm not too fond of Spoonman's lyrics, but the guitar riff ranks as one of the best in rock history. I'd say the rest are all solid rock songs in their own right, and perhaps TOTD's Say Hello 2 Heaven would have warranted inclusion somewhere in there as well; I'm also surprised two songs from Down On The Upside made it here, seeing as I've always been critical of it in the past 20 years.

And maybe I could have included Black Hole Sun as #10B instead of Big Dumb Sex, as it is their biggest hit, and I still listen to it at times, but I tried to look at it objectively, which ones ring truest to my heart and have done so since they came out, and those are the eleven that came to mind right away.

Here's Black Hole Sun anyway, with the famous video directed by Howard Greenhalgh, featuring a critical view at suburban life in the same vein as David Lynch's Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet:

In any event, R.I.P.

Friday, May 12, 2017

NHL Predictions 2016-17: Round Three

I did even better in Round 2 than in Round One, especially if you factor in the fact that on both instances where I was wrong, I was right that it went to a seventh and final game...

And so we have reached the Conference Finals...

When it comes to the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators vs the Anaheim Ducks, I'm fine:
Pekka Rinne is this year's Conn Smythe winner, and the Preds' defense is just amazing - they even score half their team's goals. Not that the attack is awful, it's well-balanced and all, but I did expect more from the likes of proven scorers like James Neal. The Ducks will be assholes, they'll play rough, they'll be dirty and mean, and they'll get away with most of it without getting suspended because the Predators' powerplay will make them pay.

Preds in 6.

I'm more tormented by the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Ottawa Senators...

I want the Sens to win. I love Craig Anderson and Erik Karlsson, and it'd be great to see them match up against Rinne and P.K. Subban.  However, I've dismissed the Pens twice already, and they've proven me wrong both times, against two teams with better records than they had. But can Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby and the rest defeat Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 super-trap? Can Marc-André Fleury and Matt Murray withstand the Sens' depth, with their three lines that can score equally? Again, we're talking about a banged-up group that is without Kris Letang, that employs 39-year-old Mark Streit and whose big trade deadline acquisition was Ron Hainsey, a 36-year-old who had never suited up in an NHL playoff game before.

I might be thinking with my heart more than my head here.

Sens in 7.

Video Of The Week: Sagat

1994 was a weird and formative year for me. It encompassed Grades 10 and 11, which were my best years of high school. It was the year where I had sex for the first time. It was the first time I played in a touring band, comprised of guys who were adults - six, seven years older than I was.

It was when I first started doing "adult things" like going to clubs, and started realizing I wanted to do something creative for a living, perhaps as much as or even more so than play hockey, a decision that would be made for me by my rights being traded away in 1996.

One club anthem that year was Sagat's Fuk Dat, which got some radio and video play in an edited version called Funk Dat, which you can see below, in the video directed by fashion designers Kurt & Bart (Bart Mueller and Kurt Swanson, who designed the costumes for such films as 2010's Howl, 2013's Stoker and Dallas Buyers Club, this year's Ghost In The Shell and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 and Part 2):

By 1994, I was already buying not only a ton of CDs, but was especially fond of CD singles, which usually either had terrific rare b-sides (Pearl Jam) or amazing and/or hugely different remixes (Nine Inch Nails). Sagat's single of this song - which preceded the album release by nearly a full year - had four or five remixes that gave you the satisfaction of hearing the song without the annoyance of always hearing the same version over and over again. It's one way of not tiring the audience out.

And, like early-to-mid-1990s gangsta rap, this song deals with matters pertaining to racism-related issues the Black Lives Matter movement would put at the forefront some twenty years later.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Video Of The Week: WARPORN Industries

Twice in a row?

Yep, I can do this.

I'm really into WARPORN Industries these days... Again, Everlast, Sick Jacken and Divine Styler make the music, Chad A. Marshall films it (in colour this time, featuring a tag-filled abandoned bus and one-room shelter as well as green hills and terrific landscape), and second-school hip-hop dominates...

This is the World's End:

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Video Of The Week: WARPORN Industries

Everlast can basically do no wrong (apart from his cheesy first album). His solo records are among the best music released in the 00s, House Of Pain's three albums are classics, and he helped launch La Coka Nostra into a solid career through terrific beginnings.

Now, he returns to his old-time friends (all of them save for Ice-T and the guys from Funkdoobiest) on a brand-new supergroup mixtape, launching WARPORN Industries (with Divine Styler and Sick Jacken), with strong features over the eleven tracks, including Cypress Hill's B-Real, Big Daddy Kane, Vinnie Paz, Gravity Christ, Termanology, and Rakaa.

This latest single and video, released today, is Warporn Industry, featuring B-Real and directed by Chad A. Marshall, like all of the group's clips:

Everlast's delivery is classic, and he looks like the coolest grandpa in the entire world.

Monday, April 24, 2017

NHL Predictions 2016-17: Round Two

So, how did I fare in Round One?

I was better predicting the West, accurately predicting 3 of the 4 winners, usually within a game of the series' actual length, save for the Preds, whom I had winning in seven games while they swept the Chicago Blackhawks in four straight games instead.

I had a tad more trouble in the East, accurately predicting the Caps and Sens winning, but the Rangers and Pens made their way through, with Pittsburgh appearing particularly strong.

So, for Round Two, I thought I'd start out with the West:

Nashville Predators vs St. Louis Blues:

Jake Allen performed miracles for the Blues in the first round. It's entirely possible for elite goaltenders to elevate their game in the postseason (Patrick Roy, Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas, Curtis Joseph, Nikolai Khabibulin), and it also happens at times that okay goalies enter a sate of grace they can never replicate in future seasons but actually sustain it for an entire two months one time (Cam Ward, Ron Hextall, Dwayne Roloson). Obviously, I feel like if Allen remains that brick wall, he will be part of the latter bunch. I also think it'll be extremely difficult to do that against this Preds team. I mean, yes, there's Alex Pietrangelo  Colton Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester on defense, but it gets thin past those three. And sure, the offense features super-sniper Vladimir Tarasenko, and Paul Stastny came back from his injury and scored, but Nashville's P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm just shut down the entire Chicago offense by themselves, with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews limited to two points apiece - the same amount as the Predators' goalie, Pekka Rinne, who also happened to have two shutouts in four games.

Preds in 6

Edmonton Oilers vs Anaheim Ducks:

Connor McDavid was the best player in the NHL this season, and although his speed confused the heck out of the San Jose Sharks, he has yet to produce at the same clip that saw him be the lone 100-point player in the league. The Oilers also showed some depth in beating the Sharks, with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins raising their level of play, Oscar Klefbom playing like a #1 defenseman and Cam Talbot looking like he should have been a Vezina Trophy finalist. But the Ducks are bigger, faster, meaner, better and deeper than the Sharks at every position; I wouldn't be surprised if they won the Cup. However, I still see the Oilers prevailing here on talent alone, but too banged up to pose a threat against the Preds in the Conference Final.

Oilers in 7

And, in the East:

New York Rangers vs Ottawa Senators:

Henrik Lundqvist was Royal against the Habs, but the Sens have a much more balanced offense - and elite talent that Montréal just cannot match, starting with Erik Karlsson, perhaps the best defenseman in the league. Their offense includes high-scoring wingers such as Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman, as well as power forward Clarke MacArthur to complete centers Kyle Turris and Derick Brassard, meaning the Sens also have the manpower up front to rival the Rags' Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Jimmy Vesey, and Michael Grabner (the only wild-card being rookie Pavel Buchnevich, who could explode at any time); New York, however, has a suspect defense past Brady Skjei and captain Ryan McDonagh. Also, as I said for round one: never sleep on Craig Anderson in the playoffs.

Sens in 6

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals:

"The Caps have the best goalie in the world in Braden Holtby, the best goal-scorer of his generation in Alex Ovechkin, the deepest core of forwards in the East and a coach, Barry Trotz, who knows what he's doing and has instilled a system good enough for two straight Presidents Trophies, i.e. "tops in the regular season"." All of this still holds true two weeks later. But the Caps are now facing last season's champions, not a bunch of rookies. The Pens were all over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round, making likely Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky look like an AHLer in their five-game series. Evgeni Malkin has 11 points (again, in five fucking games), Phil Kessel has 8 and Sidney Crosby has 7, among others. Crosby will lose his cool at least once, possibly costing his team a game in overtime, and Kris Letang's absence will be too much to bear against a team like the Caps. Justin Williams will prevail, scoring the Game 7 winner.

Caps in 7

Friday, April 21, 2017

Video Of The Week: Athena Andreadis

Here's what happens when songwriters use songwriting software and a rhyme dictionary:

 The songs is Stronger, and the video was directed by Monika Lightstone.

If you don't know Athena Andreadis, she is an Anglo-Greek singer-songwriter who has collaborated with a ton of people in the past decade, including singing background vocals on the late Leonard Cohen's Traveling Light, off his final album, 2016's You Want It Darker. Cohen had a thing for thin, classically beautiful blondes, after all...

Now, I don't want to rag on Andreadis, as she has won writing awards in College, and the BBC's Morag Reavley called her first album, 2007's Breathe With Me, "Intimate, thoughtful, (and) original". However, you have to agree that Stronger is none of those. It's too arranged and studio-soulless to be intimate, it's too cliché'd to be thoughtful, and nothing about it is original, from the music to the chord progression to the arrangements to the insipid lyrics. Even the title is ridiculously unoriginal, what with the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Ai, Sugababes, Kanye West, Mary J. Blige and Jennette McCurdy having released songs with that title in recent years - and a shitload more that I don't know about, and a ton more before all of these.

I had looked her up when I bought Cohen's album, and it seemed at the time - six months ago - that she had registered as "alright", not "wholly unoriginal" in my mind, so it's possible this song doesn't reflect her latest album, Ready For The Sun - or it's also possible that producer Ethan Allen (Ben Harper, Sheryl Crow) assassinated her style and asepticized and dumbed it down for her to better connect to an American audience.

Either way, I had expected a much better product from her. From anyone, really, but someone who wins awards shouldn't dive this low, ever.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Bombs Versus Policy Versus Truth

So, Donald Trump told his military chiefs they could do what they wanted, and of course they used their biggest toy (non-nuclear anyway) for the first time. It's as if he's never seen a single fucking movie with enough budget to have a consultant on-set to help tell the truest version of a tale within a fictitious setting, where those guys are usually depicted as "quick on the draw".

Health care is more complex than he thought, foreign diplomacy is harder than he thought, and now he's about to learn that Generals may not be the best people to handle foreign diplomacy - all while he spends every fucking weekend playing golf in his private Florida club.

For fuck's sake.

And that's saying nothing of the Russia connection...

Here's a clip from MSNBC, and this is how their YouTube page describes the video: "The Trump administration dropped a bomb that the Obama and Bush administrations refrained from using as new ties between Trump associates and Russian agents are reported. Malcolm Nance, David Corn, and David Frum join Lawrence O'Donnell."

Read that twice if you need to, particularly the first sentence. Remember how the bombs on Syria a few days ago seemed to just be a decoy for hiding all the shit currently going on on the home front, to say nothing of the fact that they may have been a deception that was acted upon too swiftly by a President who needs to prove his toughness to the world at the beginning of his first mandate.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

NHL Predictions 2016-17: Round One

Every year, I go through this exercise in futility, putting my vast hockey knowledge to the test just to prove I'm as worthless at predicting the outcome of the NHL playoffs as the pundits on TV. For the record, I usually predict at a 60-70% clip, which makes me better than they are...

Here's what the playoff picture actually looks like this year:

Eastern Conference:

Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs:

I thought the Leafs, being the Leafs, would not even make the playoffs, but it seems as though Auston Matthews is "the real thing". However, the Caps have the best goalie in the world in Braden Holtby, the best goal-scorer of his generation in Alex Ovechkin, the deepest core of forwards in the East and a coach, Barry Trotz, who knows what he's doing and has instilled a system good enough for two straight Presidents Trophies, i.e. "tops in the regular season". The Caps being the best, plus "fuck the Leafs" make for a short series in my mind.

Caps in 5

Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins:

I didn't think the Pens would make the playoffs last year, let alone win the Cup. They may be balanced enough to repeat, but they first need to get out of their division, and that includes getting past the Jackets, who are making a case to become their fiercest rivals, to the displeasure of the Philadelphia Flyers. Look for this one to go all the way to seven games, and look for Brandon Dubinsky to get Sidney Crosby off his game at least twice.

Jackets in 7

Montréal Canadiens vs New York Rangers:

The Habs finished first in the Atlantic - as was expected - but still had fewer points than the Rags, who finished in the first Wild Card position and, thus, avoided playing the Caps. I want to say good things about the Rangers, how they have the most consistent goalie of the past decade in Henrik Lundqvist, how well-balanced their offense is, but their defense is laughable and they never seem to be able to beat the Habs when Carey Price is playing. Honestly, I'm not Price's biggest fan, but if he only played the Rangers and Boston Bruins, he'd set the league record for shutouts and be the best goalie of all time.

Habs in 5

Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins:

The Sens may have won the season series 4-0 and the Bruins may be decimated by injuries on defense, but this will be a close one. Skill versus Grit always makes for a tight showdown, particularly in postseason play, when the referees stop making penalty calls and players like Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara can punish their opponents without mercy. Tuukka Rask had a redemption season, but never sleep on Craig Anderson in the playoffs. The difference will be health and coaching, and Guy Boucher has Bruce Cassidy beat.

Sens in 6

Western Conference:

Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues:

This could be the year the Blues finally make it... but realistically, no. The Wild are perhaps the deepest team in the league, without a true superstar at any position but with players who can play at that level for a while, starting with Devan Dubnyk in net, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon on defense and an offense that includes names like Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Charlie Coyle, Eric Staal, Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker, Eric Haula and Chris Stewart. The Blues counter that with Jake Allen in net, Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester on defense, and pretty much Vladimir Tarasenko up front, seeing as Paul Stastny seems to be injured. Oh, and the guy behind the Blues' bench is Mike Yeo, whom the Wild fired just last year.

Wild in 6

Chicago Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators:

This could be the one where we see a major upset. The Hawks finished first in the Western Conference after a late-season collapse by the Wild, and the Preds have been looking for their game pretty much all year, trying to fit in new arrival and star defenseman P.K. Subban in their system. Well, they have, and the only question mark they have left is whether Pekka Rinne can get back to the days when he was a Vezina Trophy runner-up instead of an overpaid underachiever. Now, I don't know if he can sustain it for two month, but two weeks? Absolutely. They're a bit of a long-shot, but they're worth the gamble.

Preds in 7

Edmonton Oilers vs San Jose Sharks:

They may have gone to the Stanley Cup Final last year, but the Sharks are old, injured (notably Joe Thornton and Logan Couture), and head coach Peter DeBoer usually has trouble repeating after some team success. And now they're all tasked with stopping Connor McDavid in seven straight games over two weeks? Not a chance.

Oilers in 7

Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames:

If you'd asked me which Western Conference team was the deepest at the beginning of the year, chances are I would have said the Ducks. And I did. I love the Flames to no end, but they don't stand a chance, particularly with having not won a single game in Anaheim in something like 11 years. I would have loved a Battle Of Alberta to close off the Pacific Division series, but it just won't happen. The Ducks are bound for the Conference Finals, at least.

Ducks in 6

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Video Of The Week: Joey Bada$$

Some young fellas get into rap dreaming of jewels, cars and being surrounded by promiscuous women, and those are usually the type who get airplay and have the bumping songs that play in clubs and cars with their windows open; once in a while, though, one of them has a message that needs to be heard, and early this year, that rapper is Joey Bada$$, a 22-year-old from Brooklyn.

He's still young and impulsive, still "reps his crew" Pro Era and claims to be signed to an independent label - which may have been true at the time of his signing, but now fails to acknowledge that Cinematic Records is now distributed by Sony...

Still, his All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ record, which (finally) came out on Thursday after having been announced for last August, seems to be an impactful record, and the current single, Land Of The Free, packs a nice punch in the heart of one of the two issues currently affecting the United States, racial tension.

The video, co-directed by Nathan R. Smith and Bada$$ himself, keeps the focus on the message instead of the packaging, showing him teaching history to children and facing police extremism (we're way past "brutality" when murder's involved):

He still has to perfect his skills (the introductory pre-song statement says "You know" twice in less than ten words), but his mind is clear and delivery is extremely efficient.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Video Of The Week: Cake


With Soul Coughing, they're my favourite band that I always forget exists.

I wanted to add a few of their songs to my phone playlist this week - namely Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, Never There, Sheep Go To Heaven, Cool Blue Reason, their cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs, Satan Is My Motor, She'll Come Back To Me, Open Book and, of course, The Distance:

The 1990s were great about introducing us to acts that didn't all resemble each other, what with the boom in indie labels and the traveling festivals. All bands didn't have to be big at the same level, either; Cake had one extremely successful album - 1996's Fashion Nugget, with their cover of I Will Survive - but also enjoyed moderate success with 1994's Motorcade Of Generosity and 1998's Prolonging The Magic, building a fanbase that would remain loyal to them to this day. Like Pearl Jam, but on a much smaller scale.

In many ways, Cake was similar to Soul Coughing, both containing elements of deadpan-delivery spoken word, rock, humour, poetry, irony, sarcasm; the main difference was the flavouring: Cake was based on country (particularly clearer after the departure of guitarist Greg Brown and his distinctive tone) whereas Soul Coughing's love of jazz was the underlying essence behind the composition.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Luka Sabbat Doesn't Actually Explain Teen Talk

I'll classify this as "comedy" even though I'm fairly certain model and fashionista Luka Sabbat was dead-serious in this piece:

Now's a good time to wrap your face around in your palm. Death to us all.

Added bonus, an actual comedy bit on the subject by Late Night with Seth Meyers:

Video Of A Generation: Pearl Jam

To celebrate the band's upcoming induction in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Pearl Jam's official videographer, Kevin Shuss, compiled 25 years' worth of video material set to the tune of their first single, Alive:

There are tons of special guests in there, from Neil Young to members of The Ramones to every drummer in the band's history to Chris Cornell to Ben Harper to the band appearing with or opening for the likes of The Rolling Stones and The Who... it's a neat little compilation/celebration.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Video Of The Week: 2Pac & James Brown

The only song I've listened to more often than Outkast's Spottieottiedopaliscious this past week (including the hour-long loop of the horn section, which I've listened to at least twice a day, yay unemployment!) is this gem from the Django Unchained soundtrack:

That's a remix that goes by the name of Unchained, which combines the James Brown classic The Payback and 2Pac's Untouchable; the official video is just scenes from the Quentin Tarantino movie (expertly) spliced together to fit the narrative. Officially, Tarantino is listed as the director.

Should you not know who Tarantino is, he's a groundbreaking film director and the best screenwriter of the 1990s. The three films he wrote but didn't direct are True Romance (1993, Tony Scott), Natural Born Killers (1994, Oliver Stone) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1995, Robert Rodriguez).

Perhaps I could rank the films he directed in order of preference:

11. Four Rooms (1994, segment: The Man From Hollywood)
10. Death Proof (2007)
9. The Hateful Eight (2015)
8. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
7. Django Unchained (2012)
6. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
5. Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)
4. Jackie Brown (1997)
3. Sin City (2005, segment with Bruce Willis)
2. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

I used to have a lot less love for Jackie Brown, but since it's the last of his more, uh, classic period, it has definitely grown on me. I was always high on Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster Michael Keaton, and Chris Tucker's performances, but even Robert De Niro's and Bridget Fonda's have grown on me since.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Why Writers Write

Oftentimes when I'm temping as a proof-writer or copy-writer, I'll be asked why I choose such an unstable job instead of a career where I can be guaranteed hours and a wage, such as the times I've spent as a market research analyst / marketing consultant (2006-2011, and 2016, give or take), and I guess the best answer is the last line in this piece by The late Show with Stephen Colbert:

I basically live to write words that resonate, even when they're obvious like here. And I am far from alone.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Video Of The Week: Ice Cube

It's a laid-back Sunday morning, drinking an orange-flavoured Rockstar Recovery drink along with my breakfast - a slit bagel with cretons (pork spread) and mustard on each side - on a relatively warm winter day.

Things are looking up, as I'm chilling and writing on a comfortable leather couch. Life's good.

Which brings me back to Ice Cube's 1994 chilling classic You Know How We Do It, from the seminal album Lethal Injection (my favourite of his until 2008's Raw Footage came out). All in all, the record is more "gangsta rap" than "political commentary", but this song, despite some trademark Cube boasting, is so laid-back in its essence that when I'm not listening to it, I actually remember it as slower than it actually is, more like Evelyne "Champagne" King's The Show Is Over, which it samples.

The video, directed by Marcus Raboy (director of Friday After Next as well as Naughty By Nature's O.P.P., Mary J. Blige's Real Love, Reminisce, and Deep Inside, Rancid's Time Bomb, Luscious Jackson's Naked Eye, Santana's Maria Maria and Put Your Lights On, Wyclef Jean and Mary J. Blige's 911, Sean Kingston's Beautiful Girls, Shakira's Waka Waka (This Time For Africa) and Avril Lavigne's What The Hell, among others), shows Ice Cube riding shotgun on the old Las Vegas strip and gambling, because having him smoke weed on a beach might not have been as entertaining and camera-friendly:

Friday, March 10, 2017

Video Of The Week: Toto


E.T. and Das Boot.

The year I turned 4.

Toto. Goddamn motherfucking Toto.

To this day, Toto are still one of the biggest bands to draw in France; they're basically to France what The Offspring is to Québec or what U2 is to the U.S., without the negative press.

You can barely get a sporting event or family gathering or sugar shack outing without hearing 1978's Hold The Line, but these guys have also brought you Rosanna and Africa...

I mean, sure, it's cheesy, but it also gets stuck in your head line nothing else. Africa and Rosanna are the brain cancer of prog rock...

This video was directed by Steve Barron, who was at the helm of many popular films and TV miniseries (1984's Electric Dreams, 1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1993's Coneheads, 1998's Merlin) and many groundbreaking music videos, and a few cheesy ones as well: Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, A-Ha's Take On Me, Dire Straits' Money For Nothing and Calling Elvis, Bryan Adams' Cuts Like A Knife, Run To You and Summer Of '69, Eddie Grant's Electric Avenue, the Natalie Cole and Nat "King" Cole duet Unforgettable, Dolly Parton's Potential New Boyfriend, The Human League's two hits (Keep Feeling) Fascination and Don't You Want Me, The Jam's Strangetown, Sheena Easton's For Your Eyes Only and Telephone, Def Leppard's awful Let's Get Rocked, Madonna's Burning Up and a slew of others by the likes of Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark, Paul McCartney and Tears For Fears.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Video Of The Week: Hadley Kennary

Hadley Kennary straddles the line between heartfelt ballads, folk and "new country", that quasi-orchestral-pop music sung with an accent that wins awards that we wouldn't want Toby Keith to get anyway.

Personally, I'd do away with a lot of the instrumentation on her Momentum EP, particularly the bass, which does nothing for me and is just too conventional and too present. The last song on it, 24 Hours, is more along the lines of what I'd like to hear her do more in the future. I'd be up for a solo/acoustic tour with her.

That being said, today I wanted to show her video for Painkiller, a black-and-white clip directed by Joe Barnard:

It's standard, 80s-tinged fare (complete with one-shot-stop up-motion strumming to add punch to a chord switch as if it were light ska), with the darkness-infused lyrics more prevalent in pop since the grunge era. But it ain't half bad.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Video Of The Week: Rage Against The Machine

It may have been too long since I last featured Rage Against The Machine, so I thought I could show them from yet another single from their 1999 masterpiece The Battle Of Los Angeles, this time with Guerilla Radio, directed by Honey (the husband-and-wife directing duo of Laura Kelly and Nicholas Brooks:

It's a parody of the early-to-mid 1990s Gap ads directed by Pedro Romhanyi where people would dance around in the brand's clothing in a white backdrop while the "hip" music of the day (among which punk band Rancid) ran in the background. Instead, RATM use the video to criticize the garment industry.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Tales Of Minor-League Hockey Quaintness

The ECHL is North America's Tier 3 echelon of pro hockey, after the NHL and its development league, the AHL. Minor-league pro hockey is often seen as quaint and folkloric, with a hint of tackiness and a long list of failures to exude professionalism.

It's, essentially, the small-town charm of Big Dreams mixed with the reality of very low budgets.

That being said, there is no excuse for botching a jersey number retirement ceremony the way the Fort Wayne Komets did for Colin Chaulk, by acknowledging the banner was put upside down, yet still going away with raising it to the rafters:
Hopefully, everyone has learned from this experience and will have incorporated having a checklist when they are tasked with doing something important... in their next job. Most people involved should not put this event on their resumes...

Friday, February 17, 2017

Video Of The Week: Dead Messenger

There's this erroneous idea that tense, rigid and far-right-leaning political times makes for better arts in general - and music and film in particular. People point to the presidencies of Richard Nixon (1969-1974) and Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) as proof of this, and I want to make a counter-point.

It's harder for the Nixon years because the utter crap that existed back then didn't make it all the way until my time, but I vividly recall the 1980s, and such bands as Squeeze, Hall & Oates, Flock Of Seagulls, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, and so forth - thousands of acts that saw Miami Vice as a way of life.

For every U2 there were dozens of Duran Duran; for every R.E.M., there were a hundred boy bands like Color Me Badd; for every Guns N' Roses, there were thousands of Poison, Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Great White and W.A.S.P.-like shitty hair metal bands. And Bon Jovi existed pre- and post-New Jersey, which seems more and more like an accident every time they release anything, including Greatest Hits packages.

Which is to say that, yeah, Rage Against The Machine and Public Enemy are great vessels of thoughts of equality. But Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen would exist under any administration. And sure, some already-recognized acts are spurting out some nice art in opposition to what is happening right now in the U.S., but that art would likely have been great even without the added political message.

Take Dead Messenger, for instance. I've been telling the whole world that they're Montréal's best live band for years (nearly a decade, actually), and they likely still are even though the competition is stiffening. Their new single absolutely rocks, and it's the best, most condensed riff they've put out in perhaps five years, but they likely still would have come up with it without the election of Donald Trump and, let's face it, the U.S. has done enough damage internationally that the track may still very well have been called Hyper USA with a similar video directed by lead singer Roger White, shock-full of news footage of rights being trampled, flags and stock footage of go-go dancing, and 1950s fun times:

My point being that chaos does not just breed talent. Talent exists, and sometimes chaos focuses it for a bit, but it always surfaces by itself. Keep in mind all three of RATM's albums came out during the Bill Clinton era, as did Radiohead's OK Computer - a British piece, sure, but one nonetheless marked by a general feeling of unease, with a song called Electioneering smack-dab in the middle of it.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Video Of The Week: The Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins' 1998 release, Adore, was the band's ode to dark New Wave music, where electronic beats (and Joey Waronker) took over for departed drummer Jimmy Chamberlin; it was also the last to feature any member of the classic line-up save for leader Billy Corgan, as guitarist James Iha left for A Perfect Circle and bassist D'Arcy Wretzky had just had enough (of everything, Corgan in particular).

A lot of people loved the song Perfect - I didn't, feeling that it was an easier-to-listen-to rehash of 1979 - and almost no one understood the The Cure reference of 17; Ava Adore, however, was liked by almost all fans, in the same vein as Eye from the Lost Highway soundtrack, but more radio-friendly and with its own themes and structure. Its video, directed by Dom & Nic (a.k.a. Nic Goffey and Dominic Hawley), was heavy on the "heroin chic" visual theme, one the Pumpkins had been flirting with since 1995 (Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Zero) but hadn't fully embraced yet:

With Adore considered a flop, Corgan followed it with the extremely hard rocking two-part release Machina: The Machines Of God and Machina II: The Friends And Enemies Of Modern Music, thought at the time to be the band's curtain call.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Video Of The Week: Paul Cargnello

Sometimes it pays to keep an eye on an artist for a while. I wrote a semi-mean/brutally honest post on Paul Cargnello a year and a half ago and with the political unrest that culminated in Donald Trump's election and inauguration, he may have written his best song yet:

The video was directed by Blue Hour Endeavours, who are mostly known for their parodies and twisting of celebrities' words using real audio. They're also behind the video for Cargnello's rehash and revisiting of the Rock Et Belles Oreilles classic Bonjour La Police, taking a satirical track and rendering it menacingly real with the help of Charlie Foxtrot and Webster.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let's Talk (About Mental Illness)

In the mid-to-end 1990s, following the telecom boom and as the World Wide Web was just beginning to be used as a means for self-promotion, companies were trying to present a more humane side by publicly showcasing the benefits their employees could take advantage of, such as an in-house daycare services (Patagonia, SAS) and gyms, multiple team-building retreats per year (Philip Morris, Distributech), State of the Union-type gatherings in exotic locations where spouses were welcome (Industrial Alliance, Toyota), etc.

For many of these companies (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Industrial Light & Magic), the ethical treatment of their employees translated into additional sales; for others, however, additional expenses meant nearing the brink of bankruptcy.

And, thus, because every major action brings forth an equal reaction, the 00s brought with them budget tightening, with organizations looking mainly to reduce what they saw as expenditures: wages, customer service, free coffee, lowering their standards from “excellence” to “satisfying” or “good enough”, extending their client base’s patience to its limit. Some cut on the big expenditures such as rent, travel or daycare. Others, such as American Apparel, saw their managers take on a more hands-on approach that was not appreciated by their employees.

What we are left with in the wake of a noble idea like #BellLetsTalk is to bring attention to such things as employee comfort and peace of mind, as work-related exhaustion and depression now accounts for 90% of mental illness in North America, among other overwhelming statistics such as:
19 Frightening Workplace Mental Health Statistics(This infographic was crafted by Officevibe. )
So when Patagonia (and Goldman Sachs, for what it’s worth) claims it has a 25% lower turnover rate, that 100% of moms return to work after maternity leave and that morale is always high, when, in Canada, a dozen of the Top 100 Employers (according to the Globe & Mail) offer family-related perks and benefits, when ten of the Top 100 Employers (according to Fortune Magazine) in the U.S. offer daycare - including five insurance companies (Aflac, Atlantic Health, Meridian Health, Baptist Health South Florida and Bright Horizons Family Solutions) - it may be time for some employers to think about certain expenses, particularly those related to employee morale, as investments in current and future productivity instead of just money thrown away.

Which brings me back to #BellLetsTalk, a smart initiative and tool in de-stigmatizing mental illness in Canada, in getting people to talk about it and trying to find solutions to the problem. Marketing-wise, it’s also pure genius, as social media was saturated with Bell’s brand name for an entire day in support of a great cause.

If only they didn’t have a couple of public-relations disasters on their hands involving their firing of medium-profile employees over their asking for help in dealing with… mental illness.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Video Of The Week: Cage The Elephant

The difference between imitation and inspiration is that imitation always pales in comparison.

Inspiration doesn't guarantee quality either; not all ideas are good, and not all good ideas turn out great in practice. But once in a while, things pan out for the best.

In Cold Cold Cold, Cage The Elephant hit such a moment; in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with listening to The Animals and The Rolling Stones a lot - and there is no way to listen to too much of them either. And when listening to Eric Burdon, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards enough leads to the best 60s song to come out of the 2010s, something has gone right.

Singer Matt Shultz directed the video, which harkens back to Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange in theme and Eyes Wide Shut in visual style:

The video comes on the heels of a memorable performance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and a Grammy nomination for best album, for 2015's Tell Me I'm Pretty, produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Keith Olbermann And The Meaning Of The Second Amendment

Has Keith Olbermann lost it? Maybe a little. By losing his job at MSNBC for donations made to Democratic Party candidates after appearances on his show (Countdown), he has taken a turn for the more opinionated, sometimes stepping over the line in terms of fact-reporting to get his political point across. At times, that has meant he sounds as nutty as Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannitty (albeit with a totally different worldview and civil perspective), despite looking poised.

On the other hand, there were too few dissident voices in the news during George W. Bush's turn in the White House - with the consequences that we have seen (the largest foreign attack on U.S. soil, two wars, at least one of them fully unwarranted). The media had been way too lax and the entire planet suffered. I see how he would feel he needs to teach Americans the Right Way and, failing that, wanting to knock some sense into them.

All told, I think we're better off with him having some sort of wide and official platform.

Nowadays, Olbermann has a webseries called The Resistance (formerly The Closer, it was changed following Donald Trump's victory), hosted by GQ Magazine. Today's video brings home a point many scholars try to teach about but that people are too thick to open their eyes to regarding the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Video Of The Week: The Smashing Pumpkins

"Tomorrow's just an excuse away / So I pull my collar up and face the cold, on my own".
- Billy Corgan, 1995.

Winter's upon us, ice covers the streets and sidewalks - and perhaps even our hearts. The warmth is so far away, a few of us may not even get to experience it again. And in this cold, all I hear are the words to The Smashing Pumpkins' Thirty-Three, the first song Corgan wrote after the seminal 1993 album Siamese Dream which ended up as the final single released from the two-disc epic and so-aptly-titled Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness.

Mellon Collie sounded tragic, and in many ways it was. It was the last record the "classic" Pumpkins line-up ever recorded, although said line-up was usually just used sparsely in the studio, with Corgan performing all instruments except drums himself, save for a piano or guitar solo here and there, courtesy of James Iha. It was also one of the harshest tours in rock history, as one 17-year-old fan was crushed to death at the Dublin show, and with touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin overdosing on heroin in New York, resulting in Melvoin's death and Chamberlin's expulsion of the group.

The band didn't stop the tour, however, recruiting studio drummer extraordinaire Matt Walker (who also appeared on later studio singles and 1998's Adore) and keyboardist Dennis Flemion; the band played the Molson Centre on September 11th, 1996 (I won tickets to the show by calling in at CHOM, the local rock station), and released the following single and video (co-directed by Corgan and then-partner Yelena Yemchuk), filmed in stop-motion and leading up to a re-enactment of the Mellon Collie album cover at the end:

Monday, January 2, 2017

Bread Face

Via The New York Times (via BuzzFeed, Vice and Instagram...) comes Bread Face, a woman who, well, uh, likes to smash her face into bread.
Is it art? Is it comedy? Is it just a weird fucking fetish? Is it just that it feels good?

If you can, look up the one where she does it over a super-salty pretzel from Brookly hipster spot Black Forest, over Jennifer Paige's 1998 pop hit Crush... as much as I love pretzels, I'm just worried she'll get salt in her eye(s).