Archives: “this is pop”

Summer amongst sad stars and tall pines


I think it’s time for another BeatnikPad Radio set. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

1MemphisThe Second Summer
2Gotan ProjectArrabal
3PhoenixOne Time Too Many
4CalexicoCrooked Road and the Briar
5MorrisseyThe Youngest Was the Most Loved
6Prefuse 73Pagina Dos (features The Books)
7Teenage FanclubI Don’t Want Control of You
8The ClienteleGeometry of Lawns
9Twilight SingersCandy Cane Crawl
10Neko CaseHold On, Hold On
11Roger MillerEngine Engine 9
12Howling WolfMr. Highway Man
13Carlinhos BrownVitamin Ser
14David BaptisteFunky Soul
15Band of HorsesThe Great Salt Lake
16Rainer MariaBottle
17ChampaleMotel California
18Belle & SebastianFor the Price of a Cup of Tea
19The CureFriday I’m In Love
20Yo La TemgoAlmost True
21The Russian FuturistsIncandescent Hearts
22Built To SpillLiar
23The CardigansFor What It’s Worth (Live @ KRCW)
24Josh RitterOne More Mouth



I just launched the first stage of a site redesign for a friend’s band that I wanted to quickly pimp. Novillero (spanish for “novice bullfighter”) hail from my hometown of Winnipeg, and I think they’re just super. They’ve got this interesting mix of pop, rock, and soul, mixed with a healthy does of energy and melodies that quickly become pleasantly embedded in one’s cerebral cortex.

If you believe that the company one keeps is an indication of worthiness, you should know that they’re signed to the same label that is home to The New Pornographers and Neko Case - Mint Records.

At any rate, I took on their site initially as a favour because I thought (and still think) that designers need to use their superskills to spread the word on interesting or cool things. In my book Novillero passes that test with flying colours. Do yourself a favour and check them out.

Favourites of 2005, Part 2

This is a track-by-track overview of the songs that I picked as some of my favourites of 2005. For the full track list see beautiful moments, not to be forgotten. Check out previous parts of this overview: Part One.

5. The National - All The Wine

The National - Alligator

There’s something about Matt Berninger’s voice and The National’s music that invokes scenes of smoky bars, nearly deserted parkways, and their lonely inhabitants, desperate for connection but too proud to seek it out. The National remind me a bit of The Tindersticks but with a much more dynamic, expansive sound; both bands tap into a vein of emotions that is as complex as it is raw.

All the Wine is a song I listened to a lot this year, and its swaggering, confident protagonist (“I’m a perfect piece of ass”) was the perfect counterpoint to many nights spent working into the wee hours.

6. Rogue Wave - California

Descended Like Vultures

This is one of those songs that immediately appealed to me. It has all of the building blocks for a song I might like: it’s based mostly around an acoustic guitar, with bittersweet lyrics, a beautiful melody, and beguiling simplicity. Add in a tinge of melancholy to keep everything coloured a weaker shade of blue and chances are I’ll like it.

This album (Descended From Vultures) received generally mixed reviews. While I think it’s terrific, I can see where some people could find fault with it. There’s something about the enjoyment of this record that seems fleeting to me. Though great, there isn’t a sense of timelessness to most of the songs; they seem rooted to the time and place that they were released.

Still, this particular track has a resonance with me that I think will endure. When Zach Rogue sings, “so screw California / and friends that are never there” it’s a moment that seems as memorable to me as any.

7. Sufjan Stevens - Casimir Pulaski Day


Speaking of timelessness, this is one for the ages. I’m not sure if there’s much I can add to the volume of accolades Sufjan Stevens received in 2005, so I’ll leave it at this: listen to this entire record in a quiet room with your headphones on. If I had to choose one album as the best of the year, Illinois would be it.

Choosing a single track off of this record was difficult, so I relied on iTunes to tell me which track was played the most this year, and Casimir Pulaski Day was the winner. But the entire album is stunning.

8. Josh Rouse - Streetlights


I’ve been a big fan of Josh Rouse ever since I first heard his first album Dressed up Like Nebraska back in 1998, and this year’s release of Nashville didn’t disappoint. In my opinion this is his most consistently solid release yet.

Rouse is one of the rare performers that manages to skirt the edge of the dreaded mainstream AOR sound without falling prey to its banality (*cough*JohnMayer*cough*), and Nashville is another affirmation of his agile songwriting skills.

So it was with much anticipation that I went to see him play at Lee’s Palace this year. Unfortunately, I found his live show to be solid but uninspired. There’s something about seeing an live show that basically serves up the recorded material with no surprises that kind of annoys me.

This was complicated further by Rouse’s stage presence, which was relegated to mostly closed eye crooning while swaying ever-so-slightly in one spot. I don’t expect bands to deviate wildly from their recorded material, but I do expect live shows to be more than just human jukeboxes replaying songs as perfect note-for-note renditions.

All of this said, it doesn’t take away from the greatness that is Nashville. This is one of those records that’s perfect for almost any mood, and as such I found myself playing it a lot this year.

Favourites of 2005, Part 1

This is a track-by-track overview of the songs that I picked as some of my favourites of 2005. For the full track list see beautiful moments, not to be forgotten.

1. John Cale - A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Paris 1919

Every music fan has these gaps in their musical knowledge that they keep meaning to fill in but never get around to. John Cale is one of these gaps for me. This is a bit strange, especially because I used to be a huge Velvet Underground fan, and also because I’ve lived with a number of people who were big Cale fans. But besides owning a few Yo La Tengo covers of his work (like their cover of Hanky Panky Nohow) I’ve never been that familiar with his work.

A couple of months ago my friend Dan loaned me a couple of his albums (1973’s Paris 1919 and the ‘74 follow-up Fear) and that got my interest piqued. A few weeks later, as luck would have it, Cale played a three night stand at a small latin club near my place, and I got a chance to see one of the shows.

Besides being a fitting track for the time of year, this song also represents how 2005 was the year that I was finally exposed to Cale’s work. I liked what I’ve heard a lot.

2. Broken Social Scene - 7/4 (Shoreline)

Broken Social Scene

They’re Canadian, it’s in 7/4 but still grooves like butter, it has a drum beat that injects a serious case of ants in my pants, and it has a glorious fist-raised-to-the-heavens vibe that makes me want to roll around, break shit, and kiss and make up after it’s all over and done with.

3. Novillero - The Hypothesist

Aim Right for the Holes in Their Lives

Novillero hail from my home town of Winnipeg. This fact alone would normally put their latest record (Aim Right for the Holes In Their Lives) on my radar, but this is a bit more special than that. What makes the success of this album all the more cooler for me is just before I moved to Toronto I played in a band for over three years (and lived with) Novillero’s drummer, Dave. So it’s very cool and even a little bit heart-warming to see some acquaintances and friends finally get their long overdue props.

As far as props go, Novillero got a lot of attention this year, including big hosannas from The Globe and Mail as well a groundswell of international acclaim.

This track is a good overview of their sound: driving rhythms, percussive keyboards and horns, a Paul Weller-tinged lead vocalist chock full of passion accompanied by well-placed dollops of ooo-ooo background vocals, and hooks a-plenty. A worthy addition to the Parthenon of great Canadian bands that have achieved success in the past year or so.

4. A Girl Called Eddy - The Long Goodbye

Girl Called Eddy

Erin Moran has one of those torch song voices that makes me want to walk around in the rain in a strange city by myself, with her voice whispering in my ears and an ache in my heart. I discovered this album while doing a cursory glance at the highest rated albums at Metacritic and I’m ironically happier for finding it.

That said, this track is imbued with sadness, but it also has a strength and anger that wells up and pushes back with a ferocity that’s almost unexpected. This song sounds like it was recording in a deep, dark cavern and the sound is absolutely huge. It’s as if the song’s protagonist is rising up against her ex-lover and spitting her tears in his face. Brilliant.

beautiful moments, not to be forgotten


It’s that time of year again where every magazine, newspaper, weblogger, and opinionated man-about-town weighs in with their best of 2005 lists. I don’t have anything against such retrospection, but once you’ve read one, you’ve probably read them all. I mean unless it’s something incredibly unusual like Top Ten Songs Playing While My Neighbour Had Furtive, Ultimately Unsatisfying Sex With His Girlfriend or Top Six Actors Who Make Me Think Of Tapioca chances are it’s all stuff you’ve seem already.

My favourite songs of 2005 aren’t relegated to just albums that were released this year (though most of them were). These are just songs that struck a nerve, got stuck in my ear, had me quaking in my dancing shoes, or stabbed me in my wimpy little heart and made me bleed a little.

Here’s the list:

  1. John Cale - A Child’s Christmas in Wales (1919)
  2. Broken Social Scene - 7/4 (Shoreline) (Broken Social Scene)
  3. Novillero - The Hypothesist (Aim Right for the Holes in Their Lives)
  4. A Girl Called Eddy - The Long Goodbye (A Girl Called Eddy)
  5. The National - All the Wine (Alligator)
  6. Rogue Wave - California (Descended Like Vultures)
  7. Sufjan Stevens - Casimir Pulaski Day (Illinois)
  8. Josh Rouse - Streetlights (Nashville)
  9. Sigur Rós - Hoppípolla (Takk)
  10. The Decemberists - We Both Go Down Together (Picaresque)
  11. Spoon - The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentin (Gimme Fiction)
  12. Pernice Brothers - Amazing Glow (Discover A Lovelier You)
  13. Calexico / Iron & Wine - He Lays in the Reins (In The Reins)
  14. Howie Beck - Alice (Howie Beck)
  15. The Cardigans - I Need Some Fine Wine (and You Need to be Nicer) (Super Extra Gravity)
  16. The Go! Team - Junior Kickstart (Thunder Lightning Strike)
  17. The Quantic Soul Orchestra - Pushin’ On (Featuring Alice Russell) (Pushin On)
  18. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Nature Boy (Abbatoir Blues)
  19. Stars - Ageless Beauty (Set Yourself on Fire)
  20. Archer Prewitt - O, Ky (Wilderness)
  21. Max Richter - Organum (The Blue Notebooks)

And as a special gift to you all, here’s my first BeatnikPad radio mix featuring these songs. It’s 80 minutes of pure love and it’s my thanks to you for visiting, commenting, emailing, and generally being swell human beings. I’ll probably leave this up for a few weeks as the bandwidth usage might get a bit nutty (it’s 110mbs, after all), but please download it, enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Over the next week I’m going to start going into more detail on why I chose each of these songs. Hopefully it’ll be interesting enough for you to come back, visit, and add your own favourite tracks of 2005.

(Update: Part one is now up.)

Happy holidays to everyone!

Cool musicians who blog

I thought it would be cool to start compiling links to musicians I enjoy who run their own weblogs, so let’s at ‘er. When I talk about cool, I guess I’m talking about cool as it pertains to me (who else?), and when I talk about weblog, I’m talking something fairly frequently updated by the artist themselves. If you know of a musician I’ve missed, please let me know.

Clarification: If I can find the artist listed on (which uses the All Music Guide data in a site that doesn’t suck ass), Metacritic, or Pitchfork, it gets added to the list. Not a very good (or fair) definition of “cool”, but I gotta have some kind of criterion.

Follow the jump for a rather massive list.

» Cool musicians who blog continues...

Ich bin ein Music Asshole

Normally anything that seems even vaguely “meme-like” or quizzy — such as the incredibly tired “what kind of fungus are you?”-esque questionnaires (holy crap, I’m a north-facing fuzzy purple lichen!) — earns a wide berth from this beatnik, but for music, I make an exception. Señor Hicks heaved the musical baton my way, and who am I to resist?

Total volume of music files on my computer (thus validating the title of this post in a big way):

51.67 gigabytes. 9305 individual tracks. 27.1 days of music. I have a serious problem.

The last CD I bought was:

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals’ Cold Roses. Not bad, but suffers from a bit of “let’s make a double album!” musical padding.

Song playing right now:

Jah Jah Bless the Dreadlocks by The Mighty Diamonds, off of the Trojan Roots Box Set, CD 1.

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that means a lot to me:

Following the former (songs I listen to a lot), this is the five that seem to be getting a lot of iTunes time:

  1. Iron & Wine - Jezebel
  2. Calexico - Not Even Stevie Nicks
  3. Kathleen Edwards - Back to Me
  4. Femi Kuti - 97
  5. The Futureheads - Decent Days and Nights

Though I’ve been listening to Supergrass’ Supergrass is 10 quite a bit these days, too.

More statistical music nonsense is available on my Audioscrobbler page.

Five people to whom I’m passing the baton:

Apologies for spreading the meme. I feel so venereal.

Doing the Shuffle

Here’s the results of my shuffle (not that you don’t already see my musical tastes, warts and all):

  1. Wait Until Tomorrow - Caetano Veloso
  2. Deer Spirit Song - African Head Charge
  3. Saturday - Yo La Tengo
  4. Lebanese Blonde - Thievery Corporation
  5. Riot - Joe Bataan
  6. Se Formó El Bochinche - Arsenio Rodriguez
  7. Learning to Fly - Foo Fighters
  8. Cool in the Pool - Holger Czukay
  9. The Best of Jill Hives - Guided by Voices
  10. Bring it On - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  11. Martha’s Mantra (For the Pain) - Neil Halstead
  12. The Warnings - David Axelrod
  13. Hard Life - Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
  14. Ice - Sarah McLachlan
  15. Suzanne - Hope Sandoval

It’s in our hands

bjork.jpgAfter feeling incredibly "dirty" with the huge surge of T&A as branding cum promotional material, It's In Our Hands makes me believe in music videos all over again. Thank you, thank you, thank you Spike Jonze and Björk.

Patagonia, Afro-beat, and Extraterrestials

This week's roundup contains one from all three categories, just to everyone started:

Book: In Patagonia

Written by: Bruce Chatwin

inPatagonia.jpgThis is no mere travel book, but a poetic exploration of a land sequestered from the bulk of civilization; a land at the end of the world. Bruce Chatiwn's travels in Patagonia are deeply anecdotal and laconic, following an arc of experience so concise many said there was no way he could have actual been to Patagonia; that he had made it all up. Whether this is the case or not, In Patagonia is filled with a sense of detail like a laser beam. It conjures up wistful travel yearnings and delicious imagery.

Music: Talkatif

Performed by: Antibalas

talkatif.jpgAfro-beat music has always been associated closely with the man that invented it, the late Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti. More recently, the efforts of his son Femi Kuti has expanding on the original's heady mix of horns, funk, and polyrhythmic energy, but it's Brooklyn's Antibalas which has brought a North American flavour to the genre. A 14-member collective, Antibalas seemlessly incorporates a broad variety of New York sounds (jazz, latin, funk, soul) into the Afro-beat basics of horns, driving backbeats, and infectious rhythms. Dance your ass off, and never look back.

Movie: Man Facing Southeast

(Hombre mirando al sudeste)
Directed by: Eliseo Subiela

manSE.jpgA man appears seemingly out of nowhere in an insane asylum, claiming to be from another planet. Every day he stands, facing southeast to, as he says, receive messages from his home planet. While his psychiatrist doesn't believe a word he says, the man slowly begins to have an effect on him, raising the question: is he telling the truth, or is he truly insane? This is the movie that the Kevin Spacey "let's get Kevin a best-actor Oscar" K-Pax wanted to be (and ripped off remade, to boot). Quietly intelligent, moving, emotional, and thought-provoking entertainment.

Yann Tiersen: L’Absente

L'Absente CoverLike probably 99.9% of North America, I discovered Yann Tiersen through the movie Le Fabeleux Destin d'Amelié Poulain, which for me handily won the "most uplifting film of 2001" award. After discovering that most of the music on the Amelié soundtrack was from previous Tiersen releases, I purchased two copies of this album, one for me, and one for the friend that first played me the soundtrack.

Tiersen makes very ecclectic music, roaming stylistically all over the music map like a nomadic musical troubadour. Here he touches on such esoteric destinations as the Tindersticks-esque dirge of Bagatelle, the sublime loneliness of unaccompanied piano movements, and the strains of Tiersen seemingly channeling an entire circus in Le Jours d'Avant. Even with this wild mix, the music is consistently listenable, made more so by guest vocal spots by Lisa Germano, and The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon. Very interesting; I'm on the hunt for more.

Best albums I purchased in 2001

A little bit late, but here's the list of the best albums I purchased in 2001. Not in any particular order, mind you, and again, this list is open to albums released in years other than 2001. Just like my list of the best ten books I read in 2001.


  1. The Pernice Brothers: The World Won't End
  2. Mark Kozelek: What's Next to the Moon
  3. Ryan Adams: Heartbreaker (and yes, not the more recent Gold. which I think is kind of stinky and over-produced.)
  4. Sparklehorse: it's a wonderful life
  5. Femi Kuti: Fight to Win
  6. White Stripes: White Blood Cells
  7. Elvis Costello w/ Burt Bacharach: Painted from Memory
  8. Archer Prewitt: Gerroa Songs
  9. Björk: Vespertine
  10. Neko Case & Her Boyfriends: Furnace Room Lullaby
  11. The Olivia Tremor Control: Music from the unrealized film script Dusk at Cubist Castle
  12. The Strokes: Is This It

How about you? Please, share even a couple of the albums you bought last year that you liked, if only to give me another reason to spend some more money. As if I needed a reason.

Lambchop : Nixon

Nixon coverNixon is one of those records that I can't listen to enough. It's just (and I normally hate using this word) brilliant. Lead singer / songwriter Kurt Wagner can't seem to do wrong (even though you spend half the time trying to figure out just what the hell he's talking about). It's a lush, country-laced orchestration, infused with a touch of deadpan humour and schizophrenia; perfectly realized chameleon-music for the chronically ironic.

explosions in the sky

coverThose Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever

Bombast, melodrama, and spine-chilling beauty from Austin, Texas. Explosions in the Sky weave walls of sound, hoarfrost-fragile melodies, and heart-rending cacophany into something truly stunning. This is the soundtrack for moody days spent staring out dew-dusted windows - days that crash from melancholic sadness, to explosive anger, to redemptive comtemplation; it is music to accompany cathartic change. Perfect.

Chris Bell: I am the Cosmos

cover There's something intangible about this once-"lost" album by ex-Big Star troubadour Chris Bell that helps assuage the blues. Perhaps it's the tortured title track "I am the Cosmos", or the sweetly sad "You and Your Sister". Whatever the case may be, listening to it makes me think of far-flung friends, fragile-but-beautiful connections, and the hopeful glow of new paths to forge. It makes me feel good.

(Listen to the track Look Up: 4.9 MB)

[Song] Champale: ‘68 comeback

I've only heard two songs off of this band's debut, Simple Days (both of which are available on their label's Website as mp3s), but from what I've heard, it's gonna be a great album. Breezy, jazzy, sweetfully lazy pop to fill your summer days with goodness... in fact, I'm gonna go out and buy it tonight.

[Song] Winter

Gorgeous, soaring melancholy, courtesy of the Internet via Alan via

Pernice Brothers: The World won’t End

coverJoe Pernice makes the most beautiful statements out of sadness, and this followup to the Bros. uneven but fine debut Overcome by Happiness is proof of that. It's a more lush, fuller-sounding, and sonically ambitious effort than the debut, evoking comparisons to Pet Sounds, Nick Drake, and Jimmy Webb. Pernice's explorations into poetic pop closes the book on his previous country-tinged work with the Scud Mountain Boys. A soaring, blissful soundtrack for a lazy Sunday morning.

Jim O’Rourke: Eureka

coverOne of the few things you can definitely say about musical renaissance man Jim O'Rourke is that he can never be predicted. There seems to be no end to his prolific, fascinating output, and Eureka [Drag City] continues the enigma. It's a lush, tuneful album as surprising as it is enjoyable.

Novillero: the Brindleford Follies

coverNovillero hail from my hometown: Winnipeg. They are signed to Endearing Records. How do they sound? Magically delicious.


Something else that suck: Well, goddamn. Grand Royal, the record label launched by the Beastie Boys, is gone. I lost the thread with those goofballs after Ill Communication… but I’m still incredulous. Good luck, fellas.

Doomsday list

The question, courtesy of Heather: "If you were fleeing nuclear holocaust/a second term with G.W. Bush and could only take one mix tape with 12 songs on it and one book, which 12 songs and which book would they be?"

An impossible question. Here was my list at that moment (in no particular order, and has since endured a thousand revisions):

  1. My Funny Valentine - by Chet Baker
  2. The Girl from Ipanema - as performed by Joao Gilberto, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto
  3. I Wish - by Stevie Wonder
  4. Whiter Shade of Pale - by Procol Harum
  5. Papa was a Rollin' Stone - by The Temptations
  6. Time - by Tom Waits
  7. Way to Blue - by Nick Drake
  8. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning - by Frank Sinatra
  9. From a Motel 6 - by Yo La Tengo
  10. My Curse - by The Afghan Whigs
  11. Man out of Time - by Elvis Costello
  12. 3 Gymnopédics - by Erik Satie

Book: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Where's the James Brown? The Thelonious Monk? The Hüsker Dü? The Sonic Youth? The Bach? The female artists? The Blues? Anything from the last five years? And on, and on, and on... Well, these are songs that I could listen to over and over, and not get sick of. They're uplifting and somber, beautiful, serious and inconsequential. Most importantly, however, they mean something to me. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

As for J.D. Salinger's lofty place as the sole book: I couldn't pick a "favorite book", so after agonizing on it for a bit, I went with the one I've read (and enjoyed) the most times. That's gotta mean something, I suppose. For example, perhaps I may one day become overwhelmed by a flood of sociopathical tendencies and decide, "What the heck!" and try to assassinate the President with a potato gun.

Then again, considering that I'm a red-blooded Canuck, perhaps I'll just sit in a broken papasan chair and mutter to myself about how much I hate them goddamn Texans (kidding)... and feel guilty about it.

Curious as to Heather's list, or any of the other responses? Check 'em out, and them come on back and share your lists with me.

Red House Painters

Old Ramon: Just got back from seeing RHP at Lee's Palace here in Toronto. What a strange show; disappointing, but with a couple of truly beautiful moments. Mark Kozelek seemed distracted (he later claimed he was "getting too old for this touring thing), and at some points seemed intent on fucking up the endings of songs just to get them over with.

Still, there were good moments; a countrified version of "Find Me, Ruben Olivares", the now obligatory AC/DC covers (though he threatened to do a version of Stevie Nicks's "Leather and Lace" - uhhh), and a suprisingly hilarious exchange between him and a female fan: she wanted him to play a particular song, which he couldn't because it required a special guitar tuning.

"You're breaking my heart!" she wailed.

"Well, you're breaking my balls," he deadpanned, "so I think we're even."

Still, the song he did play was soaring, glorious, and managed the impossible: it shut up a notoriously chatty Toronto bar crowd. For three minutes, people just stood there and listened. There may be hope for them, yet.

ISSN 1499-7894
Contact Archives Web Love Writing Photos FAQs Home