Wednesday, July 27, 2011 



Thursday, June 30, 2011 

And you'll never see me go

Between work being ridiculous and attending this (even more awesome than you'd expect, which is pretty awesome; yes the Q&As were both pretty much like this), I've had an email full of links to post for far too long now. Many of which contain my own work; the biggest example would be my Playing Favourites interview with Mountains over at Resident Advisor, which I am immensely proud of. There are also reviews of Junior Boys and Jesu over at PopMatters, and a few contributions to their best of summer lists: The Crying of Lot 49, Slowdive, and Teenage Fanclub (you have to scroll down for those three).

In less personal news, here are two riveting stories about the limits of the human body that I've read about three times apiece: one on The Barkley Marathons and one on the training for Seal Team Six. Both are relatively insane things to do to yourself; is it weird that I kind of want to try the Barkley one day (if I can ever manage to get into good enough shape)?

Speaking of getting in shape, which is partly an issue of willpower, Reason had a really good essay on the idea of precommitment. It's an idea that's as old as Odysseus lashing himself to the mast, and it's surprisingly powerful. Don't get me wrong, Reason largely publishes bullshit ("free minds and free markets," lol), but this particular essay is worth reading.

This essay on Roger Federer and the inevitable passing of great athletes was already great, but recent events have given it a bit of extra poignancy. Although (awkward segue alert!) not as much poignancy as this note from Iggy Pop to a young fan (courtesy of the always great Clem Bastow).

Finally, if you can read all of this article and not think that Paul Bridges is a fucking hero, you either don't know shit about illegal immigration in the United States, or you lack basic human empathy. I want to give the guy a hug, myself. And if that story is a bit too depressing to end on, well, there's always this (and the next strip too)...

Friday, June 17, 2011 

My self esteem is heatin' up the room

Feel good hits of the 17th of June, 2011, special "I'm in one of these videos" edition:

01. Jessica Lea Mayfield - Our Hearts Are Wrong
02. The Delgados - Witness
03. Red House Painters - Wop-A-Din-Din
04. Radiohead - Give Up the Ghost
05. Memoryhouse - Lately
06. Tindersticks - Travelling Light
07. The National - Available
08. Low - Something's Turning Over
09. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Albanian
10. The Mendoza Line - Sleep of the Just

1: I had such a hard time trying to decide which track from Tell Me to post; I am completely obsessed with that record. Her voice! The arrangements! The lyrics! Her voice! The pervasively doom-laden atmosphere! Her freakin' voice!
3: About a cat, which is not normally a type of song that I'm fond of. This is a great one, though.
5: These guys live. Jesus. Hurry up with the album, already!
7: I know this is an old song, but it's a recent performance; these guys get mislabelled as just being about fashionable ennui (or something) too often by people who aren't really listening to the band. "How can you blame yourself, when I did everything I wanted to?" is one of the more horrifying lyrics I've ever heard in an otherwise normal rock song.
8: Yep, that's me. I'm pretty sure you can see my housemate as well, but the person in question never turns enough for me to be sure. It was a great show; the same guy has a bunch of the songs up on YouTube, which is awesome.
9: Does not even come close to accurately representing them live.
10: Believe me, I am more upset than you that this is the only video version of this cover that I could find.

Monday, June 06, 2011 

All of my fragile kingdoms

This song can be found here, and is awesome. I am shamefully remiss when it comes to answering emails from musicians who want me to listen to stuff, and honestly a lot of what is sent at me essentially randomly isn't very good. Clara Engel (real name or Scott Walker homage?), however, is clearly on to something, even if I don't like anything else I've heard quite as much as I love "I Wear Your Coat."

So yes, it's been about a month, and I've had stuff I want to write about piling up. Maybe I should start one of those tumblrs or something. First of all, my review of EMA's astounding, essential Past Life Martyred Saints went up, and I honestly think it's the best review I've written in, let's just say a while. Comic book/video game/music writing genius and occasional correspondant (because I wrote him a fan email about Phonogram) Kieron Gillen even liked it enough to mention it, which is flattering considering his own words on the subject (found at the link).

Also, as people might have seen on Facebook, I interviewed Nick Offerman. That was pretty awesome. Hopefully I wasn't too much of a goof.

And actually, the rest has to wait... I'm going to Detroit for a soccer game tomorrow, and I still have to pack for that. More soon, I hope.

Monday, May 30, 2011 

A kind of mortal nerve

It's been a busy month, and I have a larger post full of all the things I've been wanting to write about that's half done, but sometimes you read something and feel that it's imperative to share it with people.

So: one of those things I wanted to share was Joan Didion's amazing essay "On Self Respect," which an enterprising blogger has shared in full (with an interesting introductory note concerning what it's like to type out an essay). I think I may have quoted Didion's essay with approval before, and it is a fantastic piece of writing, but I'd like to draw your attention to two parts of it:

Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.


If we do not respect ourselves, we are the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out – since our self-image is untenable – their false notion of us [...] At the mercy of those we cannot but hold in contempt, we play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meeting the next demand made upon us.

Strong, true stuff. Jonathan Franzen's current NYT op ed (adapted from a commencement speech I haven't had time to hear in full yet) is not specifically about self-respect; it is about technology, and love, and the distinction between love and like. Although I have never read Franzen's fiction (and still have no real intention to do so), it is an amazing piece of work. And more than anything, it made me think of Didion's essay. To follow up on my two quotations from Didion, consider these two:

[I]f you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they’ve fallen for your shtick. (emphasis mine)


The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life.

Strong, true stuff there too. And while this might all seem obvious, the way that reading these two essays in succession sets out a view of the world in which real love and true self respect are not just related but inextricable is a little breathtaking. If you've got twenty minutes or so to spare, I highly recommend reading both of these and then just thinking about it for a minute. I can't imagine it will make your day any worse.

And of course, continued praise goes to Clem Bastow for bringing the Franzen to my attention. You should be reading her Tumblr.

Monday, May 02, 2011 

"I don't believe that equal rights for same-sex couples, or anyone, is a partisan issue"

Yes, there's an incredibly important election in Canada today. Yes, they killed Bin Laden. But this is important too; a young, straight, Republican woman who did not have a gay family member or close friend to spur her on, unequivocally rejecting the idea of discriminating against same-sex couples. This is the future.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 


(normally this is where I'd post a video, but you know what? no)

So the reformed-at-least-as-far-as-live-music-in-2011 Godspeed You! Black Emperor (oh, I wish they'd never moved that exclamation point) played four shows in three days in Toronto last weekend. I attended the first two of them, and while some part of me was glad for the respite on Sunday, a larger part of me wishes I'd gone to them as well. Both nights Godspeed began around 11:30 and ended about 2 am, and in both cases I would have happily watched for another couple of hours. They played largely the same sets (the lists are here and here), and it didn't really matter. The redoubtable Frank Yang of Chromewaves has it right when he writes,

There was something unbelievably primal and elemental about what Godspeed You! Black Emperor create; like a force of nature if nature were sentient and pissed off. They moved slowly and inexorably, with massive weight and delicate grace and meant to be simultaneously marvelled at, feared and celebrated. The sound was deafening while perfectly clear, brutally beautiful and hitting with the impact of unchecked emotion made sound. I don’t doubt that the marathon-length shows are intended to add a dimension of actual physical exhaustion to the experience – are your knees buckling because you’re tired or because the existential momentousness of it all is too much to bear? Probably the former, but you can’t be sure.

I go to plenty of concerts, many of them excellent (tonight, in fact, I will be seeing Mogwai live, and they're one of my favourite live bands in the world). But Godspeed, both this past weekend and eight years ago at the Palace Royale, are something different. I plan to write elsewhere about the shows, at greater length, so I don't want to say too much now. But if you have any chance at all to see Godspeed play live, you should seize it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 

Also, penguins are great

So I wound up being busy all weekend and not posting my listening from the Music Diary project... but you know what? Other than reading a particularly egregious review of the new Wire album in Mojo and listening to Object 47 at 1:30 AM late Friday/early Saturday to confirm that it's still as good as I remember it being (it is), my listening was pretty much monopolized by the Low review I wrote that weekend. So there you have it.

And now, some links that I've been sitting on:

This might be my favourite weird photography thing I've seen in a while, and was even before I read the explanation.

I've recently been corresponding with Dan Zapruder Phillips, and he happens to have written an excellent post that happens to have been at least partially engendered by something that I wrote. I think the key thing that Dan seizes on, although I'm not sure he ever phrases it this way, is the circumstantial nature of our early listening. When I was growing up (in a town with a Radio Shack as the closest thing to a record store, and the owner would order stuff in for you even if you offered to prepay for it), I listened to certain albums over and over because there was nothing else to listen to. I'm not trying to lionize that experience (and frankly, I suspect that even with increased options there's something in the teenage mind that lends itself to monomania), but there's something to be said for the strength of our affections for those works that we let wear a groove into us.

My friend Hans semi-recently linked to this science fiction short story, called "Understand." You should read it. Yes, you.

A little while back I linked to the online version of my friend Theon's wonderful EMP paper. Now the mighty Tal Rosenberg and Jeff Weiss have both posted their joint paper at their respective internet homes. Even more than Theon's, though, what you're missing here is the delivery; Stylus alums accounted for most of the really well delivered papers at the conference (although not all), and it's shame we can't duplicate that experience here.

I don't normally link to a blog here just because I start reading it, but Slaughterhouse 90210 is a special case. I am a little obsessed with it right now.

Lastly, but far from leastly, you should probably take this test.


Friday, April 15, 2011 

Music Diary #5 (last Friday)

Thursday, April 7

This is going to a lot shorter than the rest of the week so far. I had a bunch of work to do, so I listened to music sporadically throughout the day at the office, and then in the evening I went out to dinner with friends and spent the rest of the night watching Dollhouse. A fun evening, but not very exciting from a musical perspective.

Timber Timbre - Timber Timbre (11:50 AM)

After the show the night before, I wanted to hear these songs again (yes, the way I am used to them). Because I saw Timber Timbre live before I heard the record, at first it was a bit of a disappointment (not as loud, wild, spooky, stark as what I'd seen), but I find that often happens with recorded work when you know the material live beforehand. Since then, my affection for Timber Timbre has grown by leaps and bounds - I think I underrated it in 2009, and I'd say it's just about perfect, an opinion that this listen only confirms.

Clinic - Clinic (2:50 PM)

This brief (25 minutes!) EP compilation was the first time I'd heard of Clinic, via the NME at the time. I found downloads of "I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth" and "Porno" (still one of my favourite Clinic songs, maybe my favourite one if not for "Distortions"), and while I liked them, I'd never heard or seen this until I got it in the same order as Bombscare. I'm wary of overromanticizing Clinic's garage-y roots (I hate it when people claim that Internal Wrangler is their only good album, and still think that Walking With Thee/Winchester Cathedral is their best work), but this is very good. I'm glad I finally rounded out my collection.

Low & Spring Heel Jack - Bombscare EP (3:15 PM)

Trying not to overplay this one, but given that I'd already gotten familiar with even C'mon by the time it arrived, I'm loving having more Low to absorb.

Low - One More Reason to Forget (3:25)

We got in early, so we're leaving early, and I'm trying to finish one more document before I go, so I just grab something that's close to Bombscare on my iPod. This live album is stellar, and not just because of the gorgeous version of the 17-minute "Do You Know How to Waltz?" The opening combination of "Be There" and "Venus" might be the best versions of those two songs I've ever heard, and the juxtaposition of the two is just perfect.

Next: I might do the weekend all in on go, both because I'm busy this weekend, and because I didn't do much listening, or at least not much interesting listening.



Two interviews

Both worth your time.

Norm MacDonald: I’m not original, but I strive toward it as much as possible. I tried really hard on Weekend Update to do something that I considered original, which was, I tried to cut all cleverness out of the joke. I’ve always been very averse to innuendo, especially sexual. I find it cowardly or something. Like on Will & Grace, my mother will laugh at it, then I’m like, "You know what that joke’s about, right? Like, that one guy fucked that guy in the ass." And then she’s aghast, and I’m like, "That’s what he just said when he talked about the tunnel! So why didn’t he just say it?" It always maddens me that people can laugh at sexual innuendo, then you say what it really means, and they’re like "Ah! I can’t hear that!" So on Update, the only real original thing was trying to take away the cleverness of the punchline and make it as blunt as possible. And then I tried to make the punchline as close to the setup as I could. And I thought that was the perfect thing. If I could make the setup and the punchline identical to each other, I would create a different kind of joke.

David Simon: You start talking about a social compact between the people at the bottom of the pyramid and the people at the top, and people look at you and say, "Are you talking about sharing wealth?" Listen, capitalism is the only engine credible enough to generate mass wealth. I think it’s imperfect, but we’re stuck with it. And thank God we have that in the toolbox. But if you don’t manage it in some way that incorporates all of society, if everybody’s not benefiting on some level and you don’t have a sense of shared purpose, national purpose, then it’s just a pyramid scheme. Who’s standing on top of whose throat?

Thursday, April 14, 2011 

Music Diary #4 (last Thursday)

Thursday, April 7

Toro y Moi - Underneath the Pine (6:40 AM)

I'd never heard Toro y Moi before this album, and previously I had listened to it once and deleted it (I think it was the one that sounded like a limp Elliott Smith parody that decided me). But I got to talking with a friend, and she told me that it was one of her favourite records of the year so far, and that it reminded her of the Beach Boys. (My official Beach boys opinion, by the way: "Good Vibrations" = one of the best songs ever, "Kokomo" = one of the worst songs ever, most of the rest is pretty good to decent) That sort of orthogonal opinion is enough to get any record at least one more listen. This one started in the bus on the way to the gym.

Phoenix - "1901"/Triangulo de Amor Bizarro - "El Culto al Cargo o Como Hacer Llegar el Objeto Maravilloso"/Butthole Surfers - "Ulcer Breakout"/Whipping Boy - "Blinded"/Six By Seven - "So Close"/The New Pornographers - "The Body Says No"/Idlewild - "A Modern Way of Letting Go"/Rival Schools - "Shot After Shot"/The National - "Mistaken for Strangers"/Primal Scream - "Rise"/Kitchens of Distinction - "Quick As Rainbows"/R.E.M. - "So Fast, So Numb" (7:00 AM)

Another exciting morning at the gym, another good batch of songs. Generally the ones I put on the exercise playlist I know and love, and I know them a lot better after hearing the playlist on shuffle hundreds of times. A couple of these are just live versions, but hey, at least one of them is a version of one of my favourite songs that's about 8x fiercer than the version I know (with altered lyrics, to boot; that would be Whipping Boy). In case you're wondering, the Triangulo de Amor Bizarro song title translates rather wonderfully as "The Cult of the Charge, or, As Wonderful to Get the Object" (according to my friend Andrew Casillas, who introduced me to the band; I thought it was going to be about cargo cults). Also, whatever you think of Primal Scream and/or Bobby Gillespie, you have to admit that when "Rise" came out, the line "Are you collateral damage or a legitimate target?" summed up the Western political landscape pretty pithily.

Toro y Moi - Underneath the Pine (8:40 AM)

The rest of the album, at work. It did sound better (a few tracks even sounded a bit like Twin Shadow), but I think I'll have to listen to this again before deciding.

The Delgados - Hate (12:00 PM)

Today I happened to wear my old Delgados baseball shirt to work. I got it on the tour for Hate (I think I saw them three times before they broke up, at least once with a small string section and a flautist, which was AWESOME); it says "Hate the Delgados" in flowing illuminated-style script, with a fake bible verse, some doves, and a cross. I love it, even if I get sick of explaining what it 'means.' Anyway, seeing it in the bathroom mirror reminds me I should listen to this again. God, I miss the Delgados.

The Lemon Pipers - "Green Tambourine"/The Association - "The Time It Is Today" (12:50 PM)

The AV Club had a primer on sunshine pop (incredibly smooth/well produced hippy music, basically; not something I'd normally like, but...) that I read while eating my sandwich, and when I get back to work I play a couple of the videos that go with the article. I was pleasantly surprised to hear "Green Tambourine" again, it turns out that it was included on one of a series of old compilation cassettes we got from a gas station in the 80s. I'd never heard the Association before, but this song was fine, if not really my thing. But I still love "Green Tambourine," and more importantly, when you watch the video it quickly becomes apparent just how much those kids hated what they were doing, which makes them weirdly lovable as far as I'm concerned.

The Low Anthem - "A Shot in the Arm" (1:00 PM)

The AV Club also had the newest installment of their Undercover series up, and so I leave that in my second monitor as well. I love "A Shot in the Arm" and had never heard the Low Anthem, and to be honest I wasn't that enthused about the match at first. I'm still not very interested in the Low Anthem, but by the middle of the cover I've begun appreciating the ragged, faltering beauty of this version of the song. Maybe it's that organ, or the clarinet, or the initially offputting vocals.

New Order - "Bizarre Love Triangle" (8:15 PM)

So myself, my housemate Julia, and our friend Peter are in the car on the way to Hamilton for a Timber Timbre concert, and nothing much that was on the radio really struck me (we skip back and forth between an old-fashioned oldies station and an 80s station), except for this. I adore this song. As a kid growing up in Kincardine, it was actually the first New Order/Joy Division song I ever heard, albeit in the Frente! cover version. The radio didn't quite play the full 12" version, but that's what you get here.

Fujiya & Miyagi - Transparent Things (8:35 PM)

Julia doesn't really like driving at night, so she pretty much controls what we listen to (and that's fine, she's driving after all). We have this album in the car and play it a lot, although in this case we skip a couple of the slower songs. As much as I like Fujiya & Miyagi's other work (and I do like the new one a lot), nothing really stands up to this one, at least not yet. A very nearly perfect album.

Timber Timbre concert (9:00 PM)

The show is a slight disappointment for me, but quite frankly I have unrealistic expectations for Taylor Kirk live. I first heard of him/saw him playing a solo set opening for "Stars Like Fleas," all gulping Screaming Jay Hawkins voice and stark guitar, lights off except for some red ones; then I saw him at Hillside with his band, face covered in mud, kick drum pumping. This show is good, but the first two were both great and singular, which is a hard act to follow. He also messes around with the songs from the first album in a way I don't find compelling, but I like the stuff from the new album quite a bit. I kind of wish he'd played "Magic Arrow," but that's offset by the fact that I think they may have used Asva as intro music. I'm not complaining, it was a good show and we all enjoyed it, but I guess I had oversold the concert in my head. Aside from some random radio on the way home (which I believe included "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," which sounds awesome on a staticky oldies station driving in the middle of the night), that was it for the day.

Tomorrow: I don't listen to very much music.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011 

Music Diary #3 (last Wednesday)

Wednesday, April 6

I didn't manage to make it to the gym today (I usually go for 3-4 week days and then once on the weekend as well), and for whatever reason (the very long document I'm working on, all the non-album listening I did on Tuesday, the phase of the moon), everything I listened to during the day was on my iPod, at work, head down.

Subrosa - No Help for the Mighty Ones (8:30 AM)

I've mentioned this record on Facebook, but not here. So here's the relevent information; suffice it to say that this female-fronted, electric violin-using doom metal band made the strongest positive first-listen impression of any record I've heard in years, and so far it's still standing strong (it's also on Profound Lore, easily my favourite metal label, who happen to be based out of my province). I needed something to help me get up and go on the work I have for the day, which is (mostly) finishing off a really long document, so I turned to Subrosa's soaring, crushing sound. It worked really well.

Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts of the Great Highway (9:50 AM)

I don't know if I'm the only one to do this, but I listened to this record next because I did not have a particular album in mind, hadn't heard this one for a while, and it was next in my iPod. As great as this one is, I'm not that familiar with it. I love Mark Kozelek's work (Red House Painters, here, solo, whatever), but I have so many albums by him that I haven't dug deep enough into many of the more recent additions to my collection (partly because I wind up just opting for Music for a Blue Guitar or the first self-titled Red House Painters record when I want to hear him). But this really is lovely, especially "Carry Me Ohio," "Duk Koo Kim," and "Si, Paloma." I make a renewed vow to actually give more time to Kozelek as I finish listening to this (not that the vow will be reflected in the rest of the week's listening).

Talk Talk - It's My Life (1:30 PM)

Spirit of Eden has been one of my favourite records of all time ever since Nick Southall (the guy who started the whole Music Diary thing) introduced me to it when we both wrote for Stylus. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it on this particular blog, but Nick is not only a great writer but also a great encourager of writers; if not for him I would not have written for Stylus, which is functionally identical to saying that I would not be a music critic.

That has nothing to do with why I love Spirit of Eden, of course, although Nick's gorgeous essay on the album is what made me finally pull the trigger on tracking a copy down. That happened when I worked at the Beat Goes On, which led to me putting in reservations for all of Talk Talk's albums as well as Mark Hollis' solo record, and now I own all of their records except the first (which I don't think I really need). "Such a Shame" and "It's My Life" were the only Talk Talk songs I knew before I heard Spirit of Eden and they're both on this one, so I listened to it a lot after being temporarily stymied by my relative lack of reaciton to Laughing Stock (I'll get there, I'm sure). I've been a little obsessed with this record recently; when you get to the point where you even love "Call in the Night Boy" you know you're a committed fan of pop-era Talk Talk.

Talk Talk - The Colour of Spring (2:20 PM)

By contrast, I haven't really gotten into The Colour of Spring yet, and as much as this record reconfirms that, yes, it's gorgeous, it still don't leave much impression. It's definitely a blend of two records that I adore, and I imagine at some point it'll make more sense to me, but it's still a little fuzzy for now.

Twin Shadow - Forget (3:05 PM)

Hmm, it turns out I do more talking about music I'm listening to on Facebook than I thought (probable reason: more immediate response from people I know). When watching some other video I saw the clip for "Slow" tagged as NSFW, and I was at home, so I watched it out of curiosity. It's not actually NSFW (although it did make me feel a little filthy), but the tag did the trick; I'm still a little gaga over that song. I mentioned it to Stylus friends including the esteemable John Cunningham when I was in LA, and he told me that Forget was one of his favourite records of the year (I didn't even know it existed); he uploaded it for me when I got back, and sure enough, I am kicking myself for not knowing about it last year. This is just a really great record; I think this listen was prompted by hearing about the rather hilarious official video for "At My Heels."

The Radio Dept. - Why Won't You Talk About It? EP (3:50 PM)

At this point I've been at work since 8 AM and my ride is making noises about leaving, but he's not ready to go yet and I've got a good rhythm going on my document so I play something short to keep things going. I don't have a lot of EPs and the like on my iPod, so this one is one of my go-tos. It's not quite the single, although it has the same cover art. It's some sort of promo with the two songs from the single (the title track and "I Don't Need Love, I've Got My Band") plus "Liebling" and "We Would Fall Against the Tide." I got it from the student newspaper years ago on the basis that I'd heard of the band and it's small and perfect. It's kind of ridiculous that I've never investigated these guys further, although I do have "The Worst Taste in Music" on my computer (also good). I should at least get this.

Radar Brothers - The Singing Hatchet (4:00 PM)

My ride is running a little late and I'm suffering delusions that I can finish the document before he arrives (I don't), so I don't take long selecting my next play; this one is directly before the Radio Dept. in my iPod. I love love love this record and it's successor, as you can tell from my review of the next album they made (they mostly go by Radar Bros., it appears, and only used Radar Brothers for And the Surrounding Mountains, but I prefer the look of it and so that's how all my MP3s are tagged). But this might be my favourite album, maybe partly because a free download of "Open Ocean Sailing" was the first time I heard/heard of them. I kind of stopped keeping track of them after The Fallen Leaf Pages (and the album art for the new album is so ugh I just don't think I can bring myself to bother), but The Singing Hatchet and And the Surrounding Mountains will forever attest to Jim Putnam's genius in my books.

After all that, Wednesday night had my customary pub trivia night, which includes a music round. But I completely forgot to think of that in those terms, and I can't remember the answers (we got at least nearly all of them right, I don't think we had a perfect round this week), or even what the theme was. Apparently when I only hear less than 15 seconds from a song and I'm trying to remember which Led Zeppelin track it is (or whatever), I don't think of it as music.

Tomorrow: Another gym playlist, shirt-related listening, and a concert.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011 

Music Diary #2 (last Tuesday)

Tuesday, April 5

Sloan - "Losing California"/Mull Historical Society - "Animal Cannabus"/Rival Schools - "Travel By Telephone"/Fugazi - "Full Disclosure"/Plumtree - "The Phone, the Phone"/Spoon - "Quincy Punk Episode"/Ted Leo - "Me and Mia"/Local H - "Nothing Special"/The Stooges - "T.V. Eye"/Prolapse - "Tunguska"/Guided By Voices - "My Kind of Soldier"/Six By Seven - "Slab Square"/The Cooper Temple Clause - "Blind Pilots"/Delays - "Valentine"/The Wrens - "Hats Off to Marriage, Baby" (7:20 AM)

Gym music again; this time I was lifting weights, which both tends to take more time than cardio and also means I'm out of the pool for longer. A pretty good mix - I feel lucky that some of these are on YouTube, really (and with the ones that I realize might have been tough - Prolapse, Six By Seven, Plumtree - it didn't occur to me until I went and looked that they wouldn't be all over YouTube, because those bands are big deals to me). Yes, I am aware of the rather unsavoury conflict of listening to "Me and Mia" while attempting to be healthy, thanks. And who knew that Michael Fassbender starred in a Cooper Temple Clause video?

Oh Land - "Son of a Gun"/Gorilla Zoe - "Twisted"/Jamie Foxx - "Fall for Your Type"/Friendly Fires - "Live Those Days Tonight"/Young the Giant - "My Body"/Battles- "Ice Cream" (11:15 AM)

Tuesday is my normal work from home day, so I often try and get a little productive listening or even writing done in the background. In this case, I got through most of the week's work at the Singles Jukebox; my opinions can be found at the links. Except for Battles. I don't like Battles, but I never have anything to say about them.

Low & Spring Heel Jack - Bombscare EP (2:00 PM)

This has been a bit of a holy grail for me ever since I got into Low, read up on them on Allmusic and the like, and discovered the existence of this out-of-print EP on a tiny label. I figured it wouldn't be Low do drum-and-bass, but I also figured it might sound something like "Code," Alan and Mimi's gorgeous collaboration with Pan*American. I've heard a little of Spring Heel Jack's more abstract/jazzy stuff, and it seems like it'd be a good match for Low's vocals.

I've idly searched for a copy of Bombscare for years, either to buy or just to download, and I've never found anything. And then one day I look it up on discogs and this other Ian over in the UK is selling it for £4. I wound up picking up a few other things from him, and today my package finally arrived. I can't remember the last time I've been this exited to hear anything for the first time, and thankfully the EP (which I listened to twice in a row) lives up to my expectations. I love Low's current work (I still don't think they've ever made a bad album, or even just one that I don't love), but undiscovered stuff from the past? Manna from heaven, as far as I'm concerned.

Eluvium - An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death (3:00 PM)

After rhapsodizing over the Low/Spring Heel Jack EP while editing, I need to listen to something else before I wind up just looping Bombscare ad nauseum. I quick trawl through the shelves turns up Matthew Cooper's brief (26 minutes!), lovely solo piano record, which does the trick. I'm into the meat of an edit, so I'm not paying 100% attention to the music at this point.

Neil Young - "Cinnamon Girl" (10:50 PM)

After the Eluvium, I'm distracted enough by work that I don't listen to any more music at my computer. Tonight my dad, my twin brother, and I went to a beer seminar in Toronto that Dad got for us as a Christmas present. It winds up being part of a bartending course, and at first we're all a little skeptical, but it's run by one of these guys and we all wind up enjoying it thoroughly (and yeah, learning a little too). The radio was probably on in the car on the way to Toronto but we haven't seen Dad in a while so the radio is turned down and we all talk. The same for the way home, although near the end this Neil Young (an artist beloved by my family) track has us cranking the volume briefly. It was a good night, if relatively music light.

Tomorrow: A long day at work, then music trivia.


Monday, April 11, 2011 

Music Diary #1 (last Monday)

So, the esteemable Nick Southall came up with this Music Diary project, and last week I participated. By which I mean I kept track of every bit of music I consciously experienced during one full week, and promised I'd write about it. Due to both the rather hectic pace of my week and the recursive spiral I would enter while writing about each day at the time, I decided to wait and post each day a week after it occurred. Times listed refer to the time I started listening to that album/group of songs/whatever, even if I didn't finish listening for a few hours. You're getting the same sort of write up everyone else who participated did, only a week later. Think of it as an after-dinner mint, if you've been following the project.

Monday, April 4

Matt & Kim - "Yea Yeah"/Los Campesinos - "Ways to Make It Through the Wall"/Johnny Boy - "Johnny Boy Theme"/Oneida - "$50 Tea"/And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - "Days of Being Wild" (9:30 AM)

These days, one of my primary music listening times is at the gym in the morning. And I have an ever-expanding exercise playlist that I listen to on random; this morning, this is the selection I got. (I will skip past a song I don't feel like listening to at the time, but I generally don't pick specific tracks.) Today was a cardio day, so these songs accompanied me on the treadmill; I actually listen to less music on cardio days, because I'm in the pool for longer. This was a pretty good selection, although a bit slower than I normally like it. That Oneida song is a burner, though.

The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck (10:30 AM)

This Monday was an atypical one; I knew that I had a ridiculous weekend lined up, so I booked off Monday morning and worked from home in the afternoon. But before that, I went and got breakfast with my housemate; this is what she was playing in the car, and I wound up hearing the rest of the thing while we did errands after work. I really love the Mountain Goats, and this was just my first listen, but I was mostly (disappointingly) underwhelmed. I've heard the album a few times since and I'm warming to it a little, but so far it's the only Darnielle album I've heard that I didn't fall for immediately, excepting Heretic Pride (which I just never managed to like, for the most part). I love Get Lonely and The Life of the World to Come, but this one just wasn't gelling for me. Listening to it in the arm in pieces, driving around and talk, may not have helped.

The Kills - Blood Pressures/The Kills - Midnight Boom (11:10 AM)

I had a half-written review to finish before work, and I tend to find it impossible to write about something without listening to it or something related to the review at the time. It's a kind of fact-checking - yes, the guitar sounds like this, not that. Yes, they use that beat twice. Oh, I just heard a lyric I want to mention. That sort of thing. Neither of these listens were straight through, but I did hear all of both records.

Low - C'mon (4:10 PM)

By this point I've been working for a few hours, and maybe because I was writing earlier I didn't listen to music when I started. Usually working from home is an excuse to listen to MORE music, because it's a little more private (and I don't have to wear headphones), but before I notice it I've let a good chunk of the afternoon slip away. Low's new record is phenomenal, and I've got to review it before the end of the week, so I make sure to listen to it again. I don't know how typical this is (same with the practice I mention in the entry for today about the Kills), but I only start actually writing very late in the review process; most of the 'work' gets done through repeated listening and lots of thinking. Usually at some point that thinking generates a beginning or an ending, and then I start the actual writing. But if I work on a review for (say) two weeks, the business of turning my reactions into sentences and paragraphs might occupy two or three hours over the course of a day or two, and total time sitting in front of my computer trying to write (writing/researching/procrastinating, rinse and repeat) probably no more than four or five. Like I said, I have no idea if this is an odd way to work, but it's evolved over years.

The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck (7:00 PM)

The aforementioned errands and further listening. Boy, I really do not like the choir on "High Hawk Season." Then again, I didn't like Darnielle's voice the first time I heard it. We'll see.

Low - C'mon (8:10 PM)

Finishing off the last couple of tracks and going back and listening to a few specific ones to figure out more stuff for the review. Nothing too exciting.

The Mountain Goats - "Moon Over Goldsboro"/The Mountain Goats - "Isiah 45:23" (9:05 PM)

After another gap, I recall that driving around listening to All Eternals Deck brought these two to mind; the former, my favourite from the underrated Get Lonely and one of my favourite Mountain Goats songs period, partly because a friend recently casually dismissed the album in the midst of writing about AED, the latter for no appreciable reason. Having them brought to my mind while I'm sitting at my computer finally answering long-overdue emails (I haven't really gone through my person account since, oh, a year ago) means that I find them on YouTube and listen to them again. They fit together surprisingly well.

Mountains - Air Museum (9:15 PM)

The new album from a band that is, quite frankly, just perfect. Their genre and method (ambient music, basically) means that their work isn't for everyone, but I have yet to hear or see them put a foot wrong. This is more research; I'm working on something with/about them that won't be published for a bit, but in any case I'm quite enjoying this so more background research is as good an excuse as any.

TV on the Radio - Nine Kinds of Light (10:05 PM)

As I'm going through my emails, I'm also dipping in and out of message board conversation, much of it about this album. I love, love, love Dear Science (and "Wolf Like Me," and a few other things the band has done), but strangely I don't feel that warm towards TVotR. And this is a disappointment, or maybe it would be if my expectations were higher. I've since been informed by some of the same friends whose naysaying made me intrigued enough to check it out now that it gets better, but I just don't know if I care.

Radiohead - "How to Disappear Completely (Live)" (10:40 PM)

A little while back I wrote a brief piece for PopMatters about this song, and while going through my email (an enterprise rife with guilt for me, because 90% of the stuff I hadn't responded to is lovely, some even borderline fan mail, and that makes it much worse that I haven't gotten my shit together enough to write back) I see that someone had sent me the live version I wrote about having many years ago. Of course I listen to the MP3 right away. Of course it's gorgeous and just what I was looking for. Of course I feel like a jackass.

Zapruder Point - "The O.M." (10:55 PM)

And last but certainly not least, I find that the nicest email of all is from Dan from Zapruder Point, and not only should I have answered his email long, long ago, but I finally realize where I recognize his name from; long ago, via glenn mcdonald (still and always a personal patron saint in the field of writing about music) I downloaded and loved "The O.M." This fact, of course, makes me feel even worse that the writer and singer of that song wrote me a really nice and actually quite flattering email and I let it sit there for months. Thankfully, Dan will wind up accepting my profuse apologies.

Tomorrow: A longer day at the gym, Singles Jukebox work, and I get something in the mail.


Sunday, April 10, 2011 

I am a city of habits

Feel good hits of the 10th of April, 2011 (special not related at all to the Music Diary thing edition):

Robert Ashley - The Park
Radiohead - Fog
The Mountain Goats - Moon Over Goldsboro
Mississippi John Hurt - Goodnight Irene
Joe Henry – Your Side of My World
Metric - Gimme Sympathy
Jesu - Sun Day
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Dull Life
Twin Shadow - Castles in the Snow
The Delgados - Coming in From the Cold

(For generational and other reasons, I never have and never will make a music video on YouTube for a movie or show I love. Instead, I always get a song stuck in my head right after watching something that really hit me hard. For the first season of Party Down, consumed in one big gulp tonight/this morning, it was "Coming in From the Cold.")

Wednesday, April 06, 2011 

Recent work

I am, in fact, participating in Nick Southall's wonderful Music Diary project this week, and I even plan to post my listening notes on this here blog. However, work is EXTREMELY busy this week, so I don't have time to do much more than keep track of what's going in my earholes for now. On the weekend or during next week I'll be posting stuff.

For now, I've at least got some recent fruits of my labours over at PopMatters for you; record reviews of the solid new album by the Kills and the really wonderful, long-awaited (by me) return from Rival Schools (you need to listen to this record). But I'm most proud of my contribution to the month-plus-long spotlight on Joss Whedon, a rather significant introduction to the ridiculously underrated Dollhouse. I've recently rewatched the first season with a friend, and it holds up very well indeed; I can't wait to get to the second season.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 

How could they leave us so soon?

After a, err, lengthy hiatus, I've finally made another entry on my Low blog. I'm aiming for one a week (most weeks, at least), and we'll see how it works out, but I am determined to finish the damn thing.

And if that holds no interest for you (heathen!), go read this, which confirms what I've long suspected. It's not that women are less interested in casual sex than men because of some sort of inherent difference, it's because most men are really bad at it... the vital bit (emphasis mine):

In a newly published paper describing a series of studies, University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley asserts that "when women are presented with proposers who are equivalent in terms of safety and sexual prowess, they will be equally likely as men to engage in casual sex."

Her research suggests women, like men, are motivated by pleasure-seeking when they enter the sexual arena. It’s just that women are less likely to be satisfied by a short-term encounter, and they know it.

Friday, March 18, 2011 

I don't like booking time off for St. Patrick's Day, but luckily I also don't like going crazy for it either, so while I may have slumped into work today with a mild hangover, I can't say I felt much worse than sleep deprivation normally makes me feel. For whatever reason, this particularly magesterial song started humming through my head shortly after waking, and it's been there ever since.

My dad sent my brother and I the link to this interview, which is laudable in a couple of different ways, although none more so than this exchange:

A: What makes an interesting woman?
J: Same qualities. Same thing. No difference.

The mere fact that the subtitle to this article is "The Invisibles and Hauntology" ought to clue you in that it's right up my alley, but even then Amy Poodle does an impressive job. Basically, if you've read The Invisibles (you should read The Invisibles), Poodle skillfully articulates some really important stuff that I don't think anyone else has. Essential reading.

Anybody who's talked to me about personal stuff knows how often I refer to the work of Dan Savage, so it was more than a little gratifying to find this fine article (by a Lutheran pastor, no less!) that points out that Savage is actually quite a skillful ethicist, in a field that needs them. Even the area where Dueholm has the biggest problem with Savage is one that I would say is a question of emphasis (he's a sex advice columnist, of course he is going to treat sex as the most important factor!), and overall it's an excellent explication of Savage's ethical criteria for romantic relationships (1. full disclosure 2. autonomy 3. reciprocity 4. GGG - "Think 'good in bed,' 'giving equal time and equal pleasure,' and 'game for anything' - within reason.") and the reasons why it might be valuable to listen to his show or read his column.

Lastly, and in some way paired in my head (I read one of these two links before the other, then encountered both linked in the same place, which might account for it), there are this account of a mother's death and this entry from my new favourite advice column. Both are beautiful, and both hurt a little. As I continue to get older (every day!), I find that both qualities are what I am looking for in the things I read, or watch, or hear. And on the latter note, if you've got a little money to spare (AFTER you've given some to relief efforts in Japan), I've got another worthy project for you...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011 

And I closed my eyes like Marvin Gaye

Feel good hits of the 8th of March, 2011:

Low - In the Drugs
Spiritualized - Lay Back in the Sun
My Bloody Valentine - I Believe
Pavement - Zurich Is Stained
Radiohead - Sulk
Ikara Colt - Rudd
Hot Chip - Made in the Dark
Twin Shadow - Slow
Crystal Castles - Celestica
Populous/Short Stories - The Holy See

Friday, March 04, 2011 

Conference (and other) notes

So, one of the many things that's made this post a bit overdue was the 2011 EMP Pop Conference; the tenth year of the conference, the first one in LA, and my first trip to California. The normal logistical difficulties in getting around LA (especially while drinking) notwithstanding, it was an incredible time. On top of being a chance to catch up with some Stylus people, I got more heavily drawn into the actual conference than I'd expected to be; the papers were generally great, and the people I didn't already know were fantastic. Probably my favourite paper of the weekend was by my friend Theon, which he's posted here; even if you don't know him, though, it's a great paper (Jeff Weiss and Tal Rosenberg were the other friends of mine who presented, and their Wu-Tang paper was great as well, although as far as I know not posted online right now).

There's even photographic proof of my presence; I'm directly behind a guy in a light grey hoodie, talking to Theon who's in a red shirt and brown jacket. One doesn't want to drop names, both because it's gauche and because it's not like anyone not already a music criticism wonk is going to care, but I got to meet and hang out with a couple of heroes of mine, and it was lovely. Ridiculously good food, too, especially here and here (the latter might be the single best place I've ever eaten in my life, and I will be forever greatful to my friend John Cunningham for taking me there).

And that of course leads nicely into this post, which I found fascinating. The gist? "When music writers grow up, they become food writers." God knows I'm almost more interested in dropping a significant amount of money into a really sublime meal than a collector's edition CD these days (a big part of the shift, which Tewksbury doesn't really cover, is that collecting physical things wears on most of us as our collection swells; the memory of a great meal doesn't take up any space, though, except maybe a bit of waistline).

I can't be the only one who finds these movie barcodes fascinating, can I? I mean, it's no Sheen and Swanson, but what is?

Futility Closet is, if not quite my new favourite blog, my favourite new blog; and I was introduced to it via this post, which is pretty much amazing. Especially when you go here for more context. Tell me you don't find telegraphs and the word "hooray" a little creepy now...

I'm sure you've all read it already, so this link is more for discussion: Wasn't that marathon New Yorker article about Paul Haggis and Scientology awesome? It's almost enough for me to forgive him for Crash.

Lastly, a while back I called Emily Carroll's His Face All Red "one of the absolute best web comics I've seen recently." So you can imagine that I was enthused to stumble on her blog, especially when she posts stuff like this.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 

Show your work

Last week saw my review of the very fine indeed new Fujiya & Miyagi record go up at PopMatters.

Also, I finally got off my ass and wrote up something for my beloved International Mixtape Project. The results are here.


"You can't look on that as a lost sale."

Neil Gaiman is a pretty wonderful writer, but this short video might be my favourite thing he's done. The model he talks about applies slightly more directly to books than to music, but I think it holds. Look at a band like Across Tundras and ask them whether they think offering up their albums has reduced sales.

Yes, there are kids who will download every album that comes out in a year, and yes there is a small minority who will never buy anything ever again (because they're assholes), but in general humans want to support the things they love. I am firmly, 100% in favour of artists getting paid for what they do (and as Warren Ellis says, you don't go and steal a house a builder bought), but I have never understood how passing things around before you buy them threatens that.

Friday, February 18, 2011 

I went insane

I haven't had anything harder than spicy chicken vindaloo tonight, but this video makes me feel like I've tripped a couple of balls. Like I said in the last post, this is a very strong contender for my favourite albums of 2011, even in February.


The people in the know are just people in the know

This week I had CSSLP training all week, which I meant I was at a computer listening to music much, much less than normal. Today's feel good hits, then, is every single song that popped unbidden into my head during this week's training.

Clinic - Mr. Moonlight1
Barenaked Ladies - Brian Wilson2
Noxagt - Mek It Burn3
Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Engineers - What Pushed Us Together4
Triángulo de Amor Bizarro - De la Monarquía a la Criptocracia5
Guided By Voices - Little Whirl
The Magnetic Fields - From a Sinking Boat
Oasis - Little By Little6
Bloc Party - Waiting for the 7.18
The Gritty MIDI Gang - Valentine's Day7
Jens Lekman - Rocky Dennis' Farewell Song8
Death Cab for Cutie - I Will Possess Your Heart9
The Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice
Tommy James and the Shondells - Crimson & Clover10
Mogwai - How to be a Werewolf11
Sleater-Kinney - Hollywood Ending
The Shins - Mine's Not a High Horse12

1 Prompted by, of all things, Grant Morrison's old Doom Patrol run.
2 Yes, this, but also I grew up listening to these guys and still like a surprising number of their songs.
3 Oh thank god this was on YouTube.
4 This is just such a perfect fucking album.
5 I would like to issue a public, full, and embarrassed apology to my friend Andrew Casillas for not listening to this album earlier. Not only would it have made my 2010 list easily (in the right mood, it might have been #1!), but this song in particular is my favourite new song is a really long time. Video is briefly NSFW.
6 There's a lot that's risible about this song, and Oasis in general, but I still have a soft spot for a surprising amount of their work. Blame my age when "Wonderwall" was released, I guess.
7 I am AMAZED that this is on YouTube. Amazing song, little-known band, already broken up. So if anyone wants the MP3, email me, I guess. I was really looking forward to an album, but this is the only song I ever heard. Also, this popped into my head completely separate from any thoughts about Monday.
8 Jens Lekman gets tagged as folk a lot, but listen to the production on this song; I think he's a secret influence on a whole ton of this chillwave/hypnogogic pop/whatever stuff that's been around recently (anything from Twin Shadow to Memoryhouse, really)
9 I don't think much of Death Cab in general, but that bassline is what I hear when I'm not thinking of anything. I think the decision to go creepy might have been a good one for them.
10 Legitimately one of the greatest songs ever, the full five-minute "drowning in acid" version.
11 I haven't listened to the new Radiohead yet, and Low have a new one in April, but this is a really strong album of the year candidate for me.
12 I don't listen to Chutes Too Narrow that often, but when I do I pretty much just sit back and marvel at the craftsmanship of the songs. That's not something I do very often.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 

Most days you're lazy

Feel good hits of the 15th of February, 2011:

U2 - Some Days Are Better Than Others
Phoenix - Consolation Prizes
Spacemen 3 - Amen
Engineers - Clean Coloured Wire
Blue Rodeo - What Am I Doing Here
Radiohead - A Wolf at the Door
Iron & Wine - Radio War
The Mountain Goats - Southwood Plantation Road
Thom Yorke - Black Swan
Mogwai - Burn Girl Prom Queen

Thursday, February 03, 2011 

Your speech is so free of life

PopMatters has my review of the new Engineers album up today. For the first time I wasn't that impressed, although hopefully the review lays out what I think the mitigating factors are. If anything, you should all check out their previous record, Three Fact Fader, which I gave 8/10 at the time and now suspect I underrated. Easily one of the best shoegaze (or whatever) records of the last decade or so.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011 

The fourth Yardbird

Oh, so the White Stripes broke up. The only person I've seen with the same reaction as me to the news is the ever-wonderful Tal Rosenberg. I like "Seven Nation Army" and a few others just fine, thanks, but my prime concern is that this gives Jack White more free time to continue distracting Alison Mossheart from the Kills (whose Midnight Boom is better than any album White's ever put out).

Monday, January 31, 2011 

The treasure deep inside us

I'm more than a little late, I know, but this essay on Joan of Arc is easily the best thing I've read that was written in response (in some sense, at least) to the shooting in Tucson (although if you want something more direct...).

I am unabashedly a cat person (not that I mind dogs or dog people, that would be stupid), so I definitely wish that this, as excellent as it is, had a more general form.

I think I probably blogged it when someone posted a Justin Bieber song slowed down 800% or whatever it was, but clearly that had nothing on the same trick done to the Jurassic Park theme.

Sunday, January 16, 2011 

And you used to love me that way

Feel good hits of, uh, jeeze, it's been a while...

01. The Magnetic Fields - Grand Canyon
02. The Thermals - An Ear for Baby
03. Perfume Genius - Lookout, Lookout
04. Belle & Sebastian - The Loneliness of a Middle Distance Runner
05. Liars - Broken Witch
06. R.E.M. - Walk Unafraid
07. The Tragically Hip - So Hard Done By
08. Guided By Voices - The Best of Jill Hives
09. David Bowie - Modern Love
10. Two Lone Swordsmen - Get Out of My Kingdom

02: I want to karaoke this song so bad.
05: There's a little tiny bit of nudity in this one, so NSFW I guess.
06: Coupled, in this video, with maybe my favourite R.E.M. song.
10: You have no idea how glad I am that this is on YouTube. From the best vinyl-only album of the last decade or so.

Friday, January 14, 2011 

None of us have anything

I don't necessarily talk about them much (then again, these days do I talk about anything much?), but Broadcast are one of those bands, you know, the ones that are secretly your favourites and you listen to all the time but never tell people about. They made a few really excellent albums, and inspired in my opinion one of the best pieces I ever wrote at Stylus. Today I hear that the wonderful Trish Keenan, the band's frontwoman, has died of pneumonia-related complications after contracting H1N1. As Ellis says, I'm shocked and more than a little horrified to hear the news. My condolences go to her family and friends, and also to everyone else out there who's realizing that they'll never hear her voice on a new song again.

Years ago I was going to go to Toronto and see Broadcast open for Ladytron; for some reason I either couldn't or didn't go. Even at the time I knew I'd regret it.

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About me

Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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imathers at gmail dot com

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