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).
Before I get into this review, I’ll admit straight out that I’m not an unbiased reviewer. Aimee Mann is one of my favourite artists, owing both to the fact that her melancholy songs are right up my alley (even though I’m a pretty happy guy, I’m drawn to sad music) and the fact that she’s always been the first act on my iPod, so when I’m feeling indecisive about what to listen to, I simply press play, “How Am I Different?” starts from Bachelor No. 2, and I’m good. 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 →