Inspired by Maclean’s list of the Top 10 Canadian albums of the decade, I decided to bang out an all-Canuck version of my top 25 albums of the decade. This has been a fantastic decade for Canadian music, which benefited from the fracturing of pop culture that allowed small acts from Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and points in between to gain a foothold in the popular consciousness throughout the world, without having to overcome the traditional barrier in spreading Canadian art: we don’t have a big enough population to warrant attention. This was a problem back when bands had to sell millions of records and dominate the charts to get buzz. Now you just need to get the attention of the proper taste-makers, sell a few units, do the right festivals, and let the internet do the rest. Oh yeah, and have the talent to back it up.
Sure, we still had some artists getting attention the traditional way, like Nickelback and Avril Lavigne, and for that… I apologize. But judging our music by its most popular acts would be just as big a mistake as dismissing American music because of the work of the Black Eyed Peas and American Idol or the UK because of James Blunt and The X Factor. Instead, let’s celebrate the best.
The following is just a short list, with no write-ups, designed to just give an idea of what kind of decade it’s been for the True North Strong and Free (although, if you want to read write-ups for the top 8, see my Best Albums of the Decade list). I didn’t take too much time putting this list together, so don’t get too focused on the order. As always, this list is for entertainment purposes only, and should not be used for wagering of any kind. Continue reading →
Given that my lists on the ugliest hockey jerseys and ugliest baseball jerseys are my two most read posts, continuing the series was a no-brainer. Coinciding it with the end of the NBA Finals is decent timing on my part, but the truth is, I started working on this list months ago and gave up. The history of the NBA simply doesn’t get much attention, so the resources for finding some of these ugly jerseys was getting too difficult. It’s a league very much focused on the now, paying little attention to anything that happened before Magic and Larry, other than the obligatory nod to Dr. J, Russell’s Celtics, and Wilt. But I persevered, using the knowledge that people everywhere will click over to this blog, get pissed because I’m insulting their favourite team, and then never visit again.
To tell the truth, I could easily do ten butt-ugly jerseys from the mid-to-late 90s alone, and it would look pretty convincing. A basketball jersey should be a simple thing: choose a two-colour scheme (with maybe a third shade for accents), put a word mark across the chest, number on the stomach, number on the back, done. Sure, you could mess it up by choosing ugly colours, but more often (and especially throughout the mid-to-late 90s) what makes an ugly jersey is messing with this formula. There’s not a lot of real estate on a basketball jersey, so when teams try to push the limits, the results are usually gaudy monstrosities.
One note: given that there’s some repeat offenders, I’ve limited this list to one jersey per team. That way this whole list wouldn’t be all Detroit, Philadelphia, and Cleveland. Also, given the spotty info available out there on NBA history, some of my dates might be wrong. Feel free to point them out, just try not to think of me as stupid for making them (instead, rely on my opinions and prose to make your judgements on my intelligence). Continue reading →
I’m going to see The Weakerthans in concert this weekend for the third time. It will be the first concert I’ve been to in awhile, and probably will be the last I’ll go to for awhile, so to get the full experience, I decided to pick my top five songs from their four album catalogue. The group’s greatest strength is easily John K. Samson’s poet laureate-level lyrics, which strike a perfect balance between playful cleverness and emotional connection. But another thing I really appreciate about The Weakerthans’ music is how overwhelmingly Canadian it is.
A problem we Canadians often have is defining what is unique about our culture, and what is mere adaptation of either our neighbours to the South or our old colonial masters. One of the reasons this is a problem is that those that should be our cultural arbiters and touchstones — our artists, musicians, and writers — often relinquish their role in culture-building for the understandably pragmatic reasons of wanting to reach a larger audience than our population can support. So Douglas Coupland sets his early novels in American cities, and Neil Young becomes an icon of American Southern rock. But not The Weakerthans, who litter their songs with references to Canadian subjects like curling, loonies, the GST, hockey, and of course, their hometown of Winnipeg. They’re like sort of like a less famous version of The Tragically Hip in that way, only they don’t suck (yeah, I said it).
After the banner year in music that was 2007, I suppose it was inevitable that 2008 would be a let down. And it was. It’s not that there wasn’t any good music released this year; after all, I was able to come up with a full list of 20 (unlike with 2006, where I wimped out at ten). But there was a lack of greatness this year, with albums that rank very highly this year that would have ranked much lower the year previous. In fact, until I seriously started to think about how this list would shape up, many of the albums on it had failed to grab me throughout the year. In part, this has more to do with the fact that I spent the year listening to older music, but still, if I loved these albums like I loved the ones that topped last year’s list, I would’ve taken notice much earlier. The result is a list where I’m more comfortable with the bottom half (20-11) than I am with the top half. Not because the albums at the bottom are better (if they were, they’d be higher on the list), but because those albums feel like 20-11-type albums, whereas the albums that place highly on this album don’t really feel like high placing albums, but this year they are.
That said, these are all good to very good albums, and to prove it, I’ve included playable songs from each album. If that’s not enough to convince you click on the (more…) link, then there’s a good chance you don’t like my writing. And who needs you?!? Continue reading →
I actually don’t believe that title at all, I just realized that I do a piss-poor job at writing catchy titles that might make people actually click on my long-winded tracts. “Critically Speaking Gets Political“? Yawn. You’d think someone who’s been blogging as long as I have would’ve figured this all out by now, but what can I say? I’m just not edgy enough. (If it helps, read the title in the most sarcastic inner voice you can muster, and that would more accurately reflect my opinion).
Anyway, I’ll continue interrupting the usual raison d’être of this blog of writing reviews of movies that barely anyone reads, because I just can’t stop reading crap about our political mess. I really should stop, it isn’t healthy. But damned if it isn’t entertaining (another unfortunate circumstance of all this political reading? Constantly seeing terms like raison d’être and putsch… which I just had to look up now to find out what it means). Continue reading →
The NHL season is now upon us and as mandated by my Canadian passport, I’m obligated to make some sort of hockey-related post. In a former life, I used to work at a store that sold jerseys, with NHL jerseys being our most popular sellers, so this is a subject near and dear to my heart. Of the four major North American sports leagues (we here in Canada still like to think of the NHL as being part of the four major North American sports leagues, and in fact aren’t so sure if the other three measure up), I’d say that hockey lends itself best to providing really ugly jerseys. Most of this has to do with the simple fact that hockey jerseys (or sweaters as traditionalists like to call them, even though they stopped being sweaters sometime around the advent of colour TVs) are the biggest jerseys, and thus provide a bigger canvass for people with no taste to mess with. It doesn’t help that NHL teams aren’t exactly run by the savviest of marketers (when much of the talent and front office personal in a sport come from backwater Saskatchewan and the like, fashion sense isn’t an overly valued commodity).
So while baseball has its basic button up shirt designs, football has its basic colours and big numbers design, and basketball has the smallest canvass to work with, hockey jerseys are neck to thigh, full sleeved chances to throw in far too much colour, piping, or horrible logo choices. The flip side to this is that when a jersey is done right, it can be amongst the best looking jerseys in all of sport. But that’s not the case with these abominations. Continue reading →
Today is the day that TIFF kicked my ass. Coming off possibly our best day of the fest, this might be our worst. It started with a 12:45 screening, before which we only had a couple pocket pitas that I made to eat. We then had to boot it over to another screening a ways away, without anytime to get anything more than gummi bears to eat. So I’ve been undernourished today, leading to a general lethargy. The movies haven’t helped either.
After that screening, we did have dinner, but it wasn’t that hot. We had time after that to go back to the hotel for a nap, but that might have done more harm than good. I seriously considered skipping the final screening of the night, but pushed through it and now here we are, waiting outside the Ryerson for the 9:00 pm screening of Good. Here’s hoping it is. And to top it all off, we left our last free Red Bull in the fridge.
Another day, another three movies. This one was tougher, as the early festival adrenaline was gone and I stayed up too late writing the last post. That, or possibly because the films weren’t as good to keep me from feeling drowsy. To get the celebrity stuff out of the way early: Ed Harris showed up for the early morning screening of Appaloosa to introduce it, which was a nice touch. My wife saw Sarah Polley in the restroom line after a screening (then made sure I stuck around to see her… after the restroom). Then at the big premiere for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the stars came out, including Michael Cera and Jay Baruchel. Kim was very excited for them, getting to see them enter the theatre (they sat pretty close to us). They stuck around for a short Q&A, so that was kinda fun. On the way home, we passed the Blindness premiere at the Elgin, catching glimpses of Danny Glover, Geoffrey Rush, and Eric Balfour (wait… does Eric Balfour count as a celebrity sighting?).
Read on for musings on Apaloosa, Edison & Leo, and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist… Continue reading →
If you’re wondering, no you did not miss my day one post. The Toronto International Film Festival started yesterday evening, but instead of going to movies, we saw the Blue Jays crush the Twins 8-0. So day 2 is my first day of TIFF. Follow along after the cut for musings on Passchendaele, RocknRolla, and JCVD. One note: these won’t be full-on reviews with my typical 5 star scale, as I’ll be seeing too many in too varied a frame of mind (i.e., outside factors like fatigue could come into play more significantly than they normally would). Instead, I’ll share my impressions with a pass/fail/adequate type verdict at the end. Continue reading →
Last year, I struggled to come up with more than 10 albums I was passionate enough about to write about, so I decided to stick to ten. No such problem this year, which was a rebound year for art in pop culture in general (as long as you kept paying attention after the summer), bringing me back to a top 20 list. As always, this is a list of how I feel right now, not an attempt to make a list for the ages, which is pointless. I’ve no doubt that this list would change over time were I to revisit it, and in fact hope there’s some great albums out there that I’ve missed, because that would mean there’s more great music for me to hear. I will say that I pretty much ignored any album released in December, so if there was a great album released then that I missed, that’s why. Continue reading →
Once again, it’s year end list time, and once again, I’m kicking things off with a list that no one can quibble with but me and my wife (who goes to all the same concerts I go to). We made it to 11 concerts this year, a personal best, and not bad considering that most bands I listen to don’t come to Calgary, choosing to view the Canadian portion of their tours as two or three cities (Toronto, Montreal, and maybe Vancouver). If I lived in those cities, I think I’d being going to shows every other week, as live music is probably the best thing there is in the world (other than puppies). Continue reading →
3. “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” by Arcade Fire from Funeral (2004)
Number three is a familiar spot for this song, as it occupied the same spot in my Top 5 Songs by Canadian Artists list. In truth, it’s tough to pick a favourite Arcade Fire song, as so many are excellent. In fact, it’s not easy picking out the best Arcade Fire song with “Neighborhood” in the title. So it’s entirely possible that I go with this one simply because it’s the first Arcade Fire song I ever heard (and yes, that is because it’s track one of Funeral). I get to see them live in September, which should change my world (not to get my hopes up too high or anything).
Sample lyric: “You change all the lead/
Sleepin’ in my head to gold/
As the day grows dim/
I hear you sing a golden hymn/
The song I’ve been trying to sing”
Happy Canada Day everyone! This post marks the third yearin a row where I’ve written about something Canadian on Canada Day. Sadly, since I just came up with the idea to do this list a few hours ago, it’s hardly the most complete, thought-out list ever. But, it’s kinda fun. Plus, how many of you non-Canuck readers are gonna know the difference anyway? You probably think Canadian music begins and ends with Celine Dion and Bryan Adams. Bastards. Continue reading →