Friday, December 31, 2004 

The Floating World: Love And Attraction

And so the year ends, with me procrastinating a little before finishing off cleaning the apartment in preperation for K getting back tonight.

Only I don't think it's really procrastinating. I sat down at the computer to read all the regulars for the day and decided to listen to an album, specifically my version of Darren Hayes' quite astonishing The Tension And The Spark, and one of the songs grabbed me so that I knew I needed to write about it now before I forget too much. I wrote a bit about the album here (number 13), but I'm still amazed at how much I like it, and how it's one of those albums that makes me sympathize strongly with its creator. Hayes sounds much more miserable than I am, maybe than I've ever been, but that of course is no deterrent to empathy.

"Love And Attraction" isn't even close to my favorite track on the album (that'd be "Dublin Sky", or maybe "Void" or just possibly "Hero"), but I think it highlights some of the reasons I like The Tension And The Spark so much. I think I'll get the lyrical content out of the way right here:

Love and attraction
It's like sex and passion
It's two ends of a spectrum
Are you a friend or a lover?
Now pick one or the other


Love and attraction
You can chase them forever
Are they ever together?

Which is what I think The Tension And The Spark is really wrestling with. In "I Like The Way" Hayes also refers to a lot of this stuff, explicitly contrasting the times he's been attracted to the physicality or someone versus the times he's been attracted to the person - attraction versus love, in his parlance.

Plenty of people, of course, are lucky enough (or what have you) to experience both at once, but not Hayes. That's what he so desperately seeks throughout the album (and The Tension And The Spark is pretty thick with need, especially say on "Sense Of Humour", but I believe this is as much purgative as normative for Hayes).

And I think, actually, the issue is much broader than that. I do think this is something most of us will wrestle with at some time. Especially if we contrast the comfort of a long-established love to the fireworks of new attraction, that elusive quasi-mythical "chemistry" that people seem to think is necessary for everything. I'm not knocking chemistry, or butterflies in the stomach, grand passion, and so on and so forth - but the ideas that, firstly, every relationship must be accompanied by truly whopping amounts of it all immediately, and secondly that this frenzied pace must be kept up ad infinitum, I think both can be rather harmful.

But again, go broader. He's talking about romantic relationships and friendships, about the bonds we form with other people. And he's confused (rightly so) about what we each might need as human beings. We all need contact, but what type? How much? And so on, etc. As life in the Western World shifts and alters for some of its inhabitents into increasingly bizarre forms, the traditional structures of human relationships have also been called into question. Which in some ways have been good (feminism and other civil rights issues both drive some parts of this and have benefitted from others), but in other ways are downright scary. Especially for people who grew up in a world where those social roles were more nailed down.

Are you a friend or a lover?
Now pick one or the other

Well, that's the thing; for someone existing the mileau that Darren Hayes is, you don't necessarily have to. And that can mess things up pretty badly (the distinction between the two might normally be so sharp because it's easier for humans to handle, for example - there's little way to tell), can confuse all parties concerned and cause a lot of hurt. Or not. And even worse, it's not going to be the same for all of us.

We all need human contact, but the people who at one point would have been in the same village with you all your life now wind up leaving for another city in a few years. Nobody my age really dates anymore, there are just these weird nebulous relationships. We all know there are people we care about, but everything past that (how do you care? why? the tension between should and is and etc). I'm exaggerating in some ways (and not going far enough in some, I'm sure), and I'm not arguing modern life is horrible, but it does bring new challenges. And as that continues and advances and expands, I'm sure we'll see more reactions like The Tension And The Spark, walking the knifeedge between certainty and doubt, tradition and freedom, love and attraction. We all know we want both of the latter dichotomy, and in the same person, but how many of us will get it? How many of us will figure it out, how many will get lucky? And what happens to everyone else?

Thursday, December 30, 2004 

I am the best 17-year-old ever

I was up until 4 am this morning but then woke up at 9:30 and have been unable to get back to sleep. Stupid brain. I felt like feeling sorry for myself, so I put on The Meadowlands loud and sung along at the top of my lungs (sorry neighbours). This of course necessitated pulling up the lyrics so I wasn't just singing choruses, and I was struck again that the Wrens' lyrics, moreso than most rock bands, actually work pretty decently as text poetry. I'll curb my enthusiasm and just give you one example. I do think it works, even wihout the song.

13 Months In 6 Minutes

not yet 21
with introductions done
a first slow dance just ends.
I was at my best
we ignored the rest
(my band and your friends).
But as better night became best day we left the party while last records played.
What started as dessert back at your house
ended on the couch... hours at your mouth... sunday's on our hands.
We followed where it led.
I followed you to bed.
We started secret plans.

Forward 7 months:
I've only seen you once... I never call on time.
Trying to seem tough, I said one visit's enough
enough to keep you mine
(of course it wasn't...)
We were done by june.
You'd graduate and leave for london soon.
Your layover at newark's near my house.
We met for dinner there... just one hour to spare
your 20's all mapped out.
I'm in my driest drought
feeling old and shot and how.

And this is what I thought: I seem to still be caught... I'm a footnote at best... I envy who comes next... wish we could just make out.

'The hour's almost up', you said into your cup.
And it makes no difference now
(as I help lift your bags out)
that I'm lost and out of rope
while on my wrist you wrote
your newest number down.

I kind of said your name but you'd turned to your plane so I backed my car out.

I knew we'd never write (somehow that seemed all right) but this counts as calling three years out.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004 

How does he do it?

I've been reading John Scalzi's blog for quite a while now, and he's pulled off an incredible feat: He keeps writing things I agree with totally; that is, things I already believe but put into much better form than I usually use. And not about things like music or literature either; we're talking about politics, religion, and various philosophical issues (Scalzi got his degree in philosophy, it's worth noting). A case in point has just been posted; his seven maxims for non-believers is another in a long line of things he's written thatis exactly what I would say if I were more eloquent.

There are plenty of other writers on this sort of thing that I agree with generally and enjoy reading, but only with Scalzi can I say that everything he's written so far I feel comfortable standing behind 100%, with saying "actually, that's my opinion too". How our personal biases came to line up so precisely I don't know, but it's nice to know at least one writer that can articulate the things you believe so wonderfully.

(NB. I am aware that having said this, Scalzi will no doubt write something, not bad, but not so in line with my own beliefs; I actually wouldn't mind, as each time he says something that just feels right his winning streak gets a bit harder to believe)


Nobody puts Baby in the corner - except him

If it weren't for the whole tsunami disaster (deathtoll now approaching 77,000 and expected to pass 100,000 easily) I'd be much more upset about the fact that Jerry Orbach is no more, but give the man some thought. His work was all over the place and consistently, reliably good, and Lenny Briscoe is easily the best TV cop outside of Homicide.


The world as sophistry

Schopenhauer was a brilliant man in many ways, but he can be a bit hard to read. Not so with this volume, which correctly points out that the goal of an argument is not to be right, but merely to win, and then goes on to show you how to do it. Pick it up and then watch a debate on TV or something and you'll see he was way ahead of his time.



Still making my way slowly through Anacrusis, and truly most of it is worthy of comment, but I'm a sucker for this sort of thing. And Brendan is damn good at it. This too.


More important things

I hadn't linked to the tsunami thing yet because everyone has heard of it, and there didn't seem to be any information to pass on. There still isn't. But the confirmed death count midway down this page is too horrifying to let pass without comment, as is this:

"The known toll stands above 50,000 but estimates suggest thousands more are dead, many of them children."

If you've got a spare $20, please put it to good use. I know there's a warning system for this sort of thing established in the Pacific that experts say could have saved thousands of lives - why wasn't there one in the Indian Ocean?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004 

The Floating World: 2004 (Part 4)

In case you haven't noticed, I've been procrastinating. No journal entry this week, until K gets back on Friday there's not much to write about. And I'm going to wrap up the end of year list in one big post here, rather than splitting it into two. I've got to get on with cleaning the apartment, etc.

10. Six By Seven – 04
This one hurts. Specifically the fact that it's not higher. I realise it's silly and even insulting to claim that nine of the twelve tracks present here are the "real" album - especially considering the band is now on their own label and thus face no pressure from those higher up to do things a certain way and so this is arguably the way they wanted things to be, but my instincts keep leading me that way.

As long as Six By Seven continue to never catch a break, I'll continue to be a staunch defender, and the vast majority of 04 makes vividly clear why I'd bother. It's the sort of record that actually makes me go back and re-evaluate their back catalog and decide that maybe it was The Things We Make I liked best after all. Part of my reaction to the music here is predicated on the unspoken quasi-narrative I've constructed out of what they've done so far, but during "Ready For You Now" and "Bochum (Light Up My Life)" especially I feel this weird upsurge in pride towards the band. Which is ridiculous. I imagine it's kind of similar (although smaller in scale, given issues of time, severity etc) to how Nick Southall reacted to the new Embrace record. Not only have they perservered, they've made the best record of their career.

But as much as I'll continue to skip "Lude I", "Lude 2" and "Hours", they'll still be there. Without them, this would be at least top five, probably top three. No, definitely number three. The smallest gaps from us to perfection are also the hardest to tolerate. So for now I'll await the trio's next album with more than a little hope that they'll finally have made the perfect album they've always threatened to, and until then I've got the sheer hellish grind of "Sometimes I Feel Like...", the weird uplift of "Say That You Want Me" (as in "it's easy to") and "Catch The Rain", and the sheer impacability of "Leave Me Alone".

I just hope their next album comes out in North America - I can't afford to visit the UK every time Six By Seven puts out a new album.

9. Raising The Fawn - The North Sea
In one of those little moments where you discover odd connections amongst the stuff of your life, "The News" from The North Sea invariably puts me in mind of Simon from Firefly (my favorite character, incidentially). There's no logical connection, but there's some sort of parity of feeling there, and every time John Crossingham begins the song and the album with "Get down off your fence / And let me have this dance" I feel quietly devastated.

The song also brings to mind Spiritualized from the very first wordless female vocals, and again I couldn't say why (the two bands have very different sounds). The North Sea is my favorite rock album this year of the type that I once listened to almost exclusively in my adolescence, and if I can't quite give that not-quite-genre a name, Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, OK Computer and Cast Of Thousands are all examples of the form.

Of course, they're all from the UK and Crossingham and the rest of Raising The Fawn are Canadian, but I want to emphasize that at no point does this little nautical adventure sound like it's trying to be British. There is, as with many albums of the type, the sense (especially during the elongated second half) that there's a story being told in here, but only part of it; the whole is tauntingly elusive but evocative. As long as "Drownded" and "ETA" remain compelling enough for me to sit through all twenty-some minutes I'm not complaining. That Crossingham manages to sneak in a bouncy love song ("Gwendolyn"), a touching tribute to Richie Lee of Acetone (similarly memorialized by Jason Pierce after his suicide on "The Ballad Of Richie Lee", which is even more devastating than Crossingham's "July 23rd") and the best death chant rock music has seen in a while ("Top To Bottom") is mere gravy, though exceptionally tasty.

Interestingly enough the program I use to listen to CDs on my computer cuts off the extended outro/intros at the end of "July 23rd" (about a minute and a half) and "The North Sea" (a whopping three and a half minutes, nearly half the track). I actually think the album is improved by the editing; the sudden, dramatic shift from "The North Sea" to the drum of "Top To Bottom" works much better than the originally planned slow rise.

Look at me, I'm just all over this second-guessing bands thing today. In any case, I suspect one of the reasons for my relative lack of interest in albums like Funeral by the Arcade Fire and Blueberry Boat by the Fiery Furnaces is that The North Sea already plays the role in my life that those albums do in others. Although I still plan on taking a closer look at Blueberry Boat, just to be sure.

8. My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge
Man, do I wish this record had come out when I was, say, seventeen. I love it now, but I would have immediately declared My Chemical Romance my favorite band back then. This is one of those records where every single song goes through a period where it's not only your favorite from the album but the Best Song Ever, the one that makes you want to build a giant stereo and blast for all the world, because if they could just hear it, they'd surely fall in love.

Gerard Way is easily vaulted into the ranks of my favorite frontmen of all time with this record, managing to work within a fairly small topical and emotional palette (the undead, hate, love, guns, high school (metaphorically at least), suicide pacts, lust, sarcasm, fate, black leather, among other things) without ever exhausting it, in fact leaving you wanting more. Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge kicks more ass than all but a very few records in the past decade, and every single song is both a sugar high and the bitter, stomach churning comedown from same. Plus, My Chemical Romance have the best song titles in the business:

"You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison"
"I'm Not Okay (I Promise)"
"The Jetset Life Is Gonna Kill You"
"Thank You For The Venom"
"It's Not A Fashion Statement, It's A Deathwish"
"I Never Told You What I Do For A Living"

The black humour and no-kidding romanticism of their song titles sums up the band pretty well, actually; Way is probably so painfully self aware that I don't envy him his life, but it makes for fucking good rock and roll. And the video for "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" is the best video of the year. Not the original version, that's just (relatively) boring concert footage. You want the one below it that's structured like a trailer. I'd buy tickets for that movie in a heartbeat. If you've got a young relative or friend who loves crappy emo, this is the record to get them onto.

7. The Futureheads - The Futureheads
While there's plenty of non-overlap, William B. Swygart and I agree about bands more often than not. And although I think the primary aspect of our kinship when it comes to music is the Delgados (of which more later), I'm forever grateful to him for introducing me to the Futureheads.

I think this might be the most brilliant record of the year, the one that most set me back on my heels thinking "wow, I've never quite heard that before". And yet at the same time it's as juicy a record to sink your ears into (sorry) as Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. The two are comparable length as well, but possess entirely distinct senses of humour and misanthropy, which is kind of interesting.

I'm fond of saying that if I hadn't known otherwise I could have easily been convinced that The Futureheads was an unearthed artifact from the first wave of British punk - these guys don't sound like studious disciples of Wire, they sound like contemporaries, brothers in (to possibly plagiarize myself again) spiky, restless intelligence. And yet they sound utterly modern, to tout a cliche that's a cliche for a reason.

And the songs are fan-fucking-tastic. "Carnival Kids" is already an unheard modern classic, yes, and obvious highlights like "Decent Days And Nights", "A To B" and "Stupid And Shallow" zing along mightily, but who expected the genius Kate Bush cover ("Hounds Of Love", as good as the original but in a totally different way, which is rare genius) or that even tracks like "Alms", "He Knows" and "Man Ray" are as crucial as the poppy ones. The first time I heard this album (on a train to Swindon, incidentially) my mind whirled as I tried to follow where the songs were going and never quite succeeded. But unlike so many records that offer similarly giddy thrills it only gets better once you're used to the songs. It's more, not less exciting to listen to those vocals veering and intersecting all over the place with other voices and guitar, drum and bass. God only knows if they can do as well (or, touch wood, do better) in the future, but this is the very model of a classic debut.

6. Headphone Science - We Remain Faded
My review's a bit shit, but like the Woven album from Part 3 of this list, I've found myself popping Headphone Science in far more often than I would have expected. It's a hard album to describe; Mike Paradinas circa "Burst Your Arm" and "The Motorbike Track" (Pete knows what I mean, knock that shit off for real, know what I'm sayin'? Keep on fakin' the funk) after listening to too much Prefuse 73, only not nearly as fragmented as the latter nor as classically IDM as the former. "Games" and "Larcenous" are menacing and sound maybe like dark comments on the current state of hip hop, while "To Dine In Distance" is effectively mournful and "Life Struggles Constant" manages to have an uplifting, "we made it after all" type feel with its sad little beep.

Only the whole thing is just perfectly stuttered beats and vocal samples, impeccably chosen keyboards, and lots of space. The ingrediants are simple, Dustin Craig is just better at putting them together than most. And how did a guy from California get onto a tiny Montreal label? Technically this came out in 2003, but it's not as if everyone was raving about this then. But they should have been.

5. Clinic – Winchester Cathedral
Fuck the haters, quite frankly. Not being able to tell this from Walking With Thee or that one from Internal Wrangler means that you haven't really listened to any of Clinic's albums; preferring the older stuff is infinitely more defensible, but less understandable. To me, at least. If you want to dismiss Winchester Cathedral after a few listens, fine, but don't go on to complain about it; Clinic made one of the best albums of the year, it's up to you to put the time in (I'm not talking about dozens of listens here, mind you). If they used guitar/guitar/bass/drums instead of guitar/melodica/clarinet/drums/organ/bass, do you really think this level of "repetition" would be noticed, let alone questioned? I suspect a good number of the people who say "yes" also complained my Antics review gave too low a mark. Which kind of proves my point.

The fact that nobody else sounds like Clinic doesn't mean they have to radically overhaul their sound each time out, but it seems like most want them too. If all the songs sound the same to you, then either you need to listen again, or you just don't like Clinic. Which is fine, but quit ruining it for the rest of us.

4. Zeebee – Chemistry
Seeing as how my review of this one consisted most of fragments that popped into my mind as I listened to Chemistry near obsessively for a few weeks, I don't have too much to add here. This is one of many very short albums that I liked this year, which I don't think is conincidental; sixteen, eleven, and eight to three inclusive (six in a row!) of this list are all less than forty minutes, and plenty of others are just over forty.

I was really worried the charm of Chemistry would wear away over the course of the year, but as you can see it hasn't; the best stuff here ("Race" and "Tender" especially, but it's all good) still rank among my favorite songs of the year, and this really deserves to be heard on headphones, Zeebee crooning softly in your ear while the flawlessly arranged backgrounds provide just the right support. Any record that makes me want to give its maker a big bear hug is doing something right.

3. The Hives - Tyrannosaurus Hives
Bad! Baaaaaaad! They tried to stick a dead body inside of me! So now you understand why I'm a wanted man. Best keep quiet - You don't listen to me anyway. You're gonna lose and it's gonna show. Its far to late to avoid so. See the idiot walk. See the idiot talk. They say it's new but I had to doubt it. So you look for authenticity - Only to find what you wanted in me.

But it's all the same: You don't get the picture you're getting framed. You took the bait and now it's too late. You didn't turn out right, just look at you. You had the biggest plans but no way to carry through. It was all an act and now you can't stick to the facts. Oh no! It ain't myyyyyyyyyy HollyWOOD!

But if you do it, do it good, Brutus: REAL GOOD. Like a little man SHOULD. Rewind and look at what you got: Had ambition but you lost the plot. Judas/Brutus, quisling time has come
to do

I know what you're thinking. You got a mind and it's stinking. You know why? You got a transparent cranium, a see through head.

Said it's just a diabolic - Diabolic scheme! (Diabolic scheme!) Ooooooo-oooooh! Alive! Dead! I was inside your head! And now you get a lot of work done but you don't get a cent you wake up in the morning and do it all again your landlord's coming down on you and you can't pay the rent and then

I thought this time what we had you and I... said I'm LOSING MY MIND, yeah I got bit all the time, and I'm BETTER OFF DEAD, cause it was all in my head. This time you've really got something, it's such a clever idea. But it doesn't mean it's good 'cause you found it at the library.

Yes they were smart but they are dead

And you're repeating all that they said. You know it don't make you clever like you thought it would
It's on!
You won!
I'm done!

You want antidote I got the poison.

(best rock album by a punk band strangely infatuated by Kraftwerk's rhythms, ever - “You can tell if [a track] is good if a 3-year-old nods his head to it”, says drummer Chris Dangerous, and if that isn't the smartest thing said about rock this year, you're wrong)

2. The Delgados – Universal Audio
Interestingly enough Alun and Emma appear to have flipped songwriting roles entirely from Hate (the Delgados' second-best album, now that this is around): There Alun was all "If This Is A Plan" ("then I'm dead where I stand", remember), "Child Killers" and "The Drowning Years", with Emma kind of injecting some hope into the proceedings via "The Light Before We Land" and others.

But Alun's life must be going better (or at least I hope so; he's a nice guy), the songs here are not only the best things he's ever written (I mean, the combination of "Is This All That I Came For?" and "Get Action!" alone puts everything else in the shade, and I like his old stuff), but they are songs of resilience and hope. From songs about living through shitty jobs ("Is This All That I Came For?") and finally writing that symphony ("Get Action!") to the incredibly uplifting closer "Now And Forever" (I think "if we fail we won't fall" might be my new motto), everything he does here with the exception of little oddity "Bits Of Bone" (which I love fiercely) seems designed to buck up the listener.

Which might even be of relief to Emma, since she's always been best at the darkly gorgeous, and incongruous but lovely single "Everybody Come Down" aside (like Swygart, I'd gladly pay money just to hear her sing "Mafia") that's what she does here. "The City Consumes Us" is gobsmackingly affecting, at least if (like me) you have ambivalent feelings about the city/town/whatever you come from, and while on first listen I thought "Come Undone" and "Sink Or Swim" were the weak spots here they've grown on me, and after I heard them live I can't imagine the album without them. But her key song is "Keep On Breathing"; After posing the question "Are you gonna sink or swim?" midway through the album, with each singer clearly taking the role of advocate for each choice, she finally weighs in with this:

"Life is just a list of consequences of things that we do
Just another hit of happiness that we have to live through
In and out of all the reasons and the whys and wherefores
We just want to keep on breathing"

Now, the first few repetitions of the chorus have "happenings" instead of "happiness", but the most appropriate version is this one. Why? Well, you can parse the second line in one of two ways: Either she's saying that happiness is a burden, something to put up with, or else she's saying that when happiness happens, as with all happenings, we have to live through it; we have no choice. We keep going forward, whether we like it or not.

So in other words, you can view "Keep On Breathing", and Universal Audio, and the Delgados as small-minded and depressing, or as liberating and positive. I'm sure you can guess which side of the fence I'm on.

And of course the glory of Universal Audio is that the stuff I've left out could fill a whole separate entry of this sort (how wonderful it is seeing Stewart Henderson doing the backing vocal bits live is, for example). You owe it to yourself to hear this album.

1. Jens Lekman – When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog
This one too. This one moreso, maybe. The top few records are always agonized over, of course, but this year #s 1 and 2 switched places more times than I'd like to count. I think I made the right decision, but I couldn't justify it if I had to.

I also can't find much more to write about this album; go read the review, read my blurb for the Stylus list at #13 (or hear it, if you'd like to hear Todd Burns read out my blurb and get my name slightly wrong, and if you read this before the MP3 is taken down), go to his record label website and download everything you can get your hands on.

Even more so than Zeebee, this was a record I fell in love with in a way I haven't since my highschool days, and it was a wonder to rediscover that feeling of wanting to hear just one album for the rest of your days. I've been careful not to overdo it, as I don't want to burn myself out, but I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll still love this one as much in a few decades. Moreso than with the other great debuts this year, I'm more than a little scared for the sophmore album, as I simply don't see how it'll measure up.

Still, I can see the point of the anti-blurb from our little snarkfest (I wrote the blurbs for Joanna Newsom and Xiu Xiu, incidentially; feel free to start hating), though: "I see: so he’s a singer/songwriter whose—no, really—lyrics and arrangements have that special something? Next." They do have that special something for me, but this is music; your mileage may very well vary.

Which may as well be my real motto, I suppose.

Anyway, happy 2004 everyone, and may you all have gotten as much out of music as I did this year. Now if only I had more spare time...

Monday, December 27, 2004 

You win again

Websnark (linked on the right, I'm being lazy today) introduced me to Anacrusis a little while back, which is great (think I less deliberately crude Girls Are Pretty, although of course that does a disservice to both writers). I'm slowly going through the archives (and it'll no doubt join the links on the side once I'm done), but I felt the need to bring this one to your attention. Why are these guys so darn good at depicting love?


Fire sale

Rollie Pemberton is offering his top 100 songs of the year for download for a limited time only. And they're pretty awesome songs, so you could do a lot worse than just grabbing them all.


I still love winter

On the way back to Guelph it was actually snowing and the wind was up. Instead of silver calm, the trees in the distance appeared to be lightly dusted with snow. There was just enough of the stuff blowing around in the air to turn the sky grey and give you a sense of it, but visibility was fine. It was kind of like being trapped in a non-glittery snowglobe. A starker and less obvious kind of beauty, but I still stared out of the van window for a solid three hours.

Friday, December 24, 2004 

I love winter

So on the five-hour drive up to Lindsay today, every single tree and plant and fence was covered in a thin coating of ice. When the sun hits it just right, the whole thing glows with a silvery white light. Just breathtaking. If I'd had a camera with me, I would have asked Dad to stop long enough for me to get some pictures.



So K. made it back over the Atlantic just fine, but heavy snow in and around Cleveland means she's stuck in Newark until 8 pm Christmas Day.

A hearty "fuck you" to the weather, then.


And the bells were ringin' out

My Seconds piece on the greatest festive song ever is up. Merry Christmas, insert other holidays as appropriate.


The Floating World: 2004 (Part 3)

Is there really much to say in the way of preamble at this point? Part 1 is here, 2 is found here. I have to get up early tomorrow to go to where we're having Christmas, so again this is only five of my top twenty.

15. Nellie McKay - Get Away From Me
Well, she got top 3 in our list, and I can't say I disagree (check out Dom Passantino's brilliant work on the blurb); but to quote Justin Cober-Lake, it's an "[album] I should like more than I do". Of the two 30-odd minute long discs, the first is by far superior, and "Waiter" is I think the best thing she's done yet.

Still can't stand "It's A Pose" (yeah, because I'm a male, I'm sure) and a few others, but the rest - classic. This cries out for a Playing God on it, though. But the best moments, hell, most of it, is just great. I'm really looking forward to whatever she does next, and honestly if she keeps pissing me off in the process, that's a good thing.

14. Woven - 8 Bit Monk
I ended the review of this album as follows: "8 Bit Monk [is] a promising, intriguing debut, but until we can both see whether the soundscapes here have lasting power and in what direction Woven go next, we’ll have to leave the plaudits at that."

Well, I've had it since January, and those soundscapes do have lasting power. I've listened to this a hell of a lot more than I expected to, and enjoyed it in a similar fashion. The lyrics are still a little off, but the sound of the album still holds me. Truthfully, the fact that this technically came out in 2003 is one of the reasons it's down so far. But I didn't get it until early 2004, so by our rules it's eligible. Eh, nobody else was going to vote for it anyway, so it doesn't matter.

But still, if the idea of the Deftones mellowing a little and exploring electronic textures whilst doing lots of, not "ballads", but softer songs appeals to you at all, get this record.

13. Darren Hayes – The Tension And The Spark
Didn't I say that this was the year I finally let go of all reservations about pop? If you'd told me even a few years ago that my 2004 end of year albums list would include the second solo album of the singer from fucking Savage Garden, fer chrissakes (and I still hate their stuff - just because I like pop doesn't give the crap stuff a free pass), I'd have been aghast.

And yes, I suppose the depressive, self-deprecating ballads and harsh electro pop found here are a little cooler than S----e G----n, but that doesn't explain my love for "Dublin Sky", an absolute killer of a track. In his thank yous Hayes thanks the listener at the end, for "taking a risk". I know what he means. He knows many of us have little reason to trust him, and what does he do? Make the most openly self-loathing, and one of the most open, pop albums since Pinkerton (I invite anyone disputing that Weezer were pop to re-evaluate their position on the musical landscape post-Blue Album). If we're just looking at albums period, this certainly isn't The Holy Bible, but you can see it from here.

He's trusting us, in other words. But he repays the trust marvellously, giving music that most importantly digs its hooks deep into your brain but also a story that stays with you. The latter is not a prerequisite of a good album; but it doesn't hurt. In some ways, because of when I discovered both (and thanks to Todd Burns and Edward Oculicz for the help with this one), this one is the anti-Per Second, Per Second, Per Second... Every Second for me. And you know how seriously I take that one.

12. Green Day – American Idiot
I think my review of American Idiot is a bit overly defensive, but I'd probably just read something snide about it. So there you go: Green Day is the kind of band that makes me be nasty to its detractors. Oh, I don't care if you don't like them; just try not to be a jerk about it. American Idiot is to my ears the finest album the band has ever put together, and that's despite the fact I like all of the others. Like the Streets' latest, you really do need to hear it all at once.

Preferably while driving really fast down wet night empty city streets with friends, singing along, but you know; your mileage may vary.

11. Oneida - Secret Wars
I still stand by the contention that this is vastly better than the new Sonic Youth, but I've never really been into Sonic Youth, so take that as you will. I apparantly hold heretical opinions on Mission Of Burma and Interpol's latest to boot, although heretical to what I'm not sure.

My enjoyment for this one has levelled off a little, but "The Last Act, Every Time", "Wild Horses" and "The Winter Shaker" still put the parts of my brain responsible for recognizing sonic pleasure into overload, and "Changes In The City" is just perfect. Along with British Sea Power's "Lately", one of the few extra-long album enders I actually listen to all the way through, every time.

Next, due whenever I get time, is the first half of the top ten. A few usual suspects, but maybe a few unusual ones too.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004 

The Floating World: 2004 (Part 2)

Continuing, then, the no-frills recounting of my personal end-of-year lists and the thought behind them. Stylus has our album list up and going strong, with my contribution coming in at #13 (although #1 in my heart). Pitchfork has theirs up as well, and I don't think I'll tread on anyone's toes if I say I like ours better and I think I would even if I didn't write for Stylus. They've got a few more of the usual suspects (let's say their #1 wasn't exactly a shocker, although ours really isn't one either), but you shouldn't hold that against the suspects. Or Pitchfork, for that matter.

Anyway, without further nonsense here's the first quarter of my albums list, with one important change from what will go up at Stylus on Friday. Each title links to the Stylus review of that album (many of them by me, which is kind of a problem).

20. Interpol – Antics
The fact that Antics snuck onto my list at the very end should be taken as a testament both to the fact that even a merely "good" album from Interpol is still pretty worth your time (although I haven't bought it nor would I) and to the number of albums I heard this year that were good, rather than any sort of about-face on my previously linked Stylus review. Yes, reviews are always the products of a given moment in time and I reserve the right to reserve my opinion, but in this case I feel comfortable standing by and even reaffirming everything I wrote about Antics. I want to look back decades from now and be able to say that this was a transitional effort, not the beginning of Interpol's boring period. And as I said, except for "Not Even Jail" what I enjoy most about Antics is the fact that it finally solidifies my feelings for Turn On The Bright Lights.

I didn't get to hear nearly as many of the talked-about records this year as I would have liked, although any ones that really interested me or seemed important have generally at least been downloaded and listened to a few times. Some of them will probably never be revisited (sorry, Arcade Fire) and some of them I still need to hear (like The Necks). If I hadn't been doing writing and school and a job, I probably would be happier with my list and Antics probably wouldn't have made it (although I can't conceive of it not being somewhere in a theoretical top 40 at least). When I say above that the fact that many of the records on my top 20 were reviewed by me is a problem, what I mean is that I had so little time this year that the list of albums I reviewed (which is not small, admittedly) for Stylus and the Ontarion comprises a pretty hefty chunk of my total listening.

19. Liars - They Were Wrong, So We Drowned
To be honest, I don't listen to this one all that often. But I do think it's great. I'm not often in the mood for the arty, post-hardcore witch tales here, but Liars were considerate enough to start the record off with "Broken Witch", which makes it very easy for me to tell if I'm in the mood for They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. I think an awful lot of the disapproving reviews of this one disliked it for the wrong reasons (which some would say only means I disagree, but what can you do?). "Hold Hands And It Will Happen Anyway" is still supreme craziness, "They Don’t Want Your Corn They Want Your Kids" is pretty fucking awesome, and so on.

If I can get past "Broken Witch", by which I mean if it sounds incantory and menacing and sad rather than senseless, I'm guaranteed to enjoy the hell out of the rest of it. The fact that I usually just find it senseless counts against Liars, but I'd rather have them be interesting and flawed than make, err, their version of Antics.

18. At Dusk – Heights
There a few bands that I've corresponded with as a result of my work in Stylus, and I always feel oddly protective towards them. The few that have then put out more records and sent them to me even more so, of course, but also a little more conflicted. So far, both of the bands in this category (the other one is Hinterlandt, whose great third album will probably be my first review in the new year) have made me feel better by continuing to improve, but I assure you had Heights sucked I would have done my unpleasant duty and pointed out that fact on Stylus.

I don't feel quite as strongly about it now as I did in September, which proves at least some of my fervor then was as a result of delighted surprise at how much better the band has gotten, but when I actually get the urge to listen to some indie rock, Heights is never far from the top of the list. The first half is good (and I don't mean to downplay it - "Come Too Far" and "We Could Do Anything" are like previous-album highlight "The Image" with added muscle and fire), but I still maintain "Act Of Violence" and "Tired Eyes" are the nicest musical surprises of the year. You can go here and download the entire album. That's how nice those guys are. And unlike a lot of cases where this happens, you should go do that, then buy the album and throw them some cash.

17. The Unintended - The Unintended
Another one I don't play terribly often; this is a "mood" record, and you really have to like echo to like it. I still maintain that "So Long Goodbye" and "The Collapse" are two of the most amazing songs I've heard all year, and in fact it was hearing this in a record shop that convinced me to buy it. Yeah, yeah, it's the Sadies (who I don't care for) backing up Rick White from Eric's Trip with a little help from Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo, but who cares?

Thirty-five minutes of peerless atmosphere, pea-soup thick psychedelia, and though I'm glad they kept it short and sweet there's nothing bad here, even when it gets folksy ("Stay Calm") or abstract ("The Truth"). Small and perfectly formed and I honestly hope this is the only thing they ever do together.

16. The Streets - A Grand Don’t Come For Free
I maintain that only two tracks here (the opening, scene-setting "It Was Supposed To Be So Easy" and "What Is He Thinking?") that don't work as individual songs, but the fact remains that complaining that much of the material here doesn't work out of context of the story misses the point. You should be listening to the whole album and getting the story. Because that narrative thread is what makes this, although arguably not as good on musical terms as Original Pirate Material, one hell of an accomplishment. I still tear up a little at "Empty Cans" when he switches perspective, and so forth. I hope he doesn't try to replicate this sort of thing next time out, because it will almost certainly fail, but this is wonderful. Skinner would have deserved praise just for making the attempt, but he's almost totally succeeded.

Next up: 15-11, including Oneida and the record that isn't on the Stylus list.



My dad's shower is, at least in terms of water pressure and heat, the best one I've ever used. And I don't get to use it nearly often enough.


Oh my lord

Grant Morrison on Superman. Who he'll be writing.

Words fail me. Go down near the bottom and read Morrison's actual plans, at least - so exciting.


Fucking teenagers

Dude, you don't mug Santa.


The slow dawning of comprehension

So I'm watching a little mini-profile on OutKast tonight, and near the end they're talking to Andre 3000, and asking him about his new uberfame. And he talks about how he kows from now on he can't really go anywhere without people always looking at him in a certain way, in a way that makes him less and more than he really is; that he's going to be objectified, in other words. And then he stops, visibly working the thought through and says it in a tone of mild bemusement, "I guess that's what it's like for girls".

I don't know whether that is genius or stupidity, but I think it's worth noting.

Oh, and the video for "Roses" is fucking awesome, complete with Kevin McDonald from The Kids In The Hall losing it and taking some guy down.



This story is just incredibly good on so many levels. My favorite Onion story in quite some time.


Away from keyboard (sort of)

I'm back in the ol' hometown, but there's a new journal entry up.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004 

Should be interesting, at the very least

Homework was brilliant (I think - I mean you can't fuck with "Rollin' & Scratchin'" or "Rock'n Roll" or "Da Funk" or "Around The World" or or or - but I need to go back and check on the filler situation), Discovery had moments of brilliance (but I can't sit through the whole damned thing, but "One More Time" and "Veridis Quo" and a few others are flat out gorgeous), so the prospect of a new Daft Punk album is intriguing, even if it does turn out to be false.


Like dominos

And Newfoundland officially legalizes gay marriage, with the provincial government saying it won't fight the decision. So far we've got: Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and the Yukon on board. Time for Alberta, the North West Territories, Nunavut, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to get on board.


Ain't a damn thing changed

News flash: Abu Ghraib didn't stop when the story broke.


Rolling back wages and passing the savings on to you, the consumer

Since Guelph has long debated allowing a Wal-Mart in the city (I think we're getting one now), I've been following the class action discrimination suits against the company in America pretty avidly. This article is both a good summation of what's been going on so far and a pretty probing look in the actual issues surrounding it all. It's pretty damning but never hysterical nor does it lapse into ad hominem attacks like a lot of talk about Wal-Mart (on either side).

You could say the title of this post is an example of that, but I'm just being snarky.


Get a life

Pillows are not a replacement for human beings. Even if you're Japanese. That's called avoiding the issue, and if you're that lonely there are things you can do that are far more productive than buying a pillow shaped like a woman's legs.

(not to mention this is yet another example of the objectification and therefore dehumanization of the female gender, and so on - I notice they're not yet selling a similar product with "male" legs)

Monday, December 20, 2004 


I have all sorts of problems with the New Criterion, but this review does raise a few good point (although it kind of loses me at the end, I think it goes from a focused argument to a more general one that isn't warrented). It sucks when you agree with people who normally piss the hell out of you, believe me.

Sunday, December 19, 2004 

I am Canadian. And freezing.

When you walk outside and the inside of your nose immediately freezes, Canadian Winter has started.

Addendum: The Weather Network website says it is currently -19 degrees out, but feels like -28. February is going to be rough if this keeps up.

Saturday, December 18, 2004 

I've got my twelve-sided die

Heh. Jer posted his result, and I'm more than a little surprised by mine - not so much the actual result, but #2. Lawful Good? The True Neutral makes much more sense.

You scored as Chaotic Good. A Chaotic Good person is someone who has little intrinsic respect for laws or authority, seeing them as insufficient to sustain what's right. These people work according to their own moral compass which, while good, is not necessarily always aligned with that of society. Despite their chaotic tendancies, these people are good at heart.

Chaotic Good
Lawful Good
True Neutral
Neutral Good
Lawful Neutral
Lawful Evil
Neutral Evil
Chaotic Neutral
Chaotic Evil

What is your Alignment?
created with


The Floating World: 2004 (Part 1)

We used a pretty interesting methodology to make this year's singles list (at least to me, since I'd never used it before). We each sent in a list of twenty singles, first of all; then Todd compiled the top forty from all of those lists, sent that out, and we each picked our twenty favorite and ranked them, which determined the eventual order of those forty. I like it; it introduced me to a few great new songs and produced a pretty awesome list.

This was also the year I officially became a fan and follower of pop, after uneasily coexisting with it for four or five years now and feeling as if I had to repudiate it for years before. The singles roundtable for Stylus (every friday, called Singles Going Steady) was the big part of this, and as a result this was the first year I felt confident putting together a list. I'm sure some of it is just my prejudices now and then, but I'd swear the listless crap I hated as a kid has nothing on some of the great stuff I heard this year. Of course, there was probably stuff at least as great (like, say, Thieves' "Unworthy" in previous years, I just didn't know about it.

Anyway, here was my original list, with commentary:

01. Six By Seven – "Ready For You Now"
Still the most uplifting thing I've heard, probably ever, but I accept that this may be more a product of my relationship with this band, and the role they used to fill for me. I don't think I would have found anyone but Chris Olley singing "I'm ready for you now", opening himself up to love and life, quite so redemptive.

02. The Walkmen – "The Rat"
As I said, I have no real desire to get into the Walkmen, but I did go ahead and download a few more tracks. Still, this is frankly incredible; part of me wishes they hadn't returned to the opening refrain after the central part, instead letting the track die out with a cry of When I used to go out, I knew everyone I saw / Now I go out alone if I go out at all (sadly appropriate for me this year, to boot). Instead "The Rat" surges back to anger, but also back to demanding something from the world. How I imagined it would be more striking, but I'm thinking the actual version is more appropriate, or at least healthier.

03. Ciara feat. Petey Pablo – "Goodies"
This totally snuck up on me. I think I gave it an 8 for Singles Going Steady, but over a couple of weeks I found that it was running through my head more and more and then, while back in Kincardine for whatever reason, I saw the video, and the song just made sense (not because of the video, which is pretty meh). I could probably listen to this for hours on end. I love Petey Pablo's two verses, particularly

You think you bad, but you ain't bad
I'll show you what bad is
Bad is when you capable of beatin' the baddest
I been workin' at it ever since I came to this planet
And I ain't quite there yet, but I'm gettin' better at it

Which is actually pretty emblematic of why I've been liking his stuff now that I've downloaded some. He's not humble, not exactly, but there's a wryness there I find very appealing, even when he's boasting about his prowess. And then, of course, there's the whistle; if you don't love it, fine, but I can't understand you.

04. Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell – "Drop It Like It’s Hot"
Well, I wrote about it for the singles list (here is closest); not much to add here, other than that due to "Can You Control Ya Hoe?" and others I definitely will not be purchasing any Snoop Dogg albums anytime soon. This is killer, though, even if I feel a little guilty for liking it.

05. The Killers – "Mr. Brightside"
This moved up one since I wrote this, but that'a a pretty minor shift. The self-mocking bitterness in Brandon Flowers' voice as he sings Destiny is calling me / Open up my eager eyes / 'Cause I'm Mr. Brightside, especially when coupled with his strangely perfect theatricality in the video (which is kind of a twisted cousin to the schlocky one for Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved") strikes a major chord with me. But also, and more importantly, it's unbelievably catchy and forceful, plowing ahead at full speed for the duration. The album was a bust, but this alone makes me hope they'll improve. Flowers is too interesting to have him fade back into obscurity.

06. Lloyd feat. Ashanti & Scarface– "Southside (Remix)"
I wrote a bit about the appeal of this one to me before in this space, so I don't want to repeat that, but I will say that "Southside" remains as perfectly, terrifyingly blank as ever. Right when Lloyd starts he keep interrupting himself, and when (the relatively unprocessed) Ashanti does it it sounds like a vocal technique; on him, it sounds like an argument between robot clones. Are his vocals always like this? If so, they should have called the album Digital Thug or something.

07. Snow Patrol – "Run"
I've said it before, and I'll say it again here: My love for "Run" is utterly unironic. I know it's over the top and sincere in a way some people don't want to deal with. I don't care. One of the few songs I would get a lighter out for, if I ever saw Snow Patrol in concert. Also the only Snow Patrol I've ever heard, but as with the Walkmen I have no problem with that. Although I hear the album is good, so maybe I will check it out. Someday.

08. The Hives - "Walk Idiot Walk"
From my third-favorite record of the year. Honestly, this pales in comparison to most of Tyrannosaurus Hives (like, say, "B Is For Brutus" or "A Little More For Little You" or "Diabolic Scheme" or "Antidote", or or or), but it's still wonderful. I remember wondering how apparant the Kraftwerk influence they talked about would be, and I think it's there. Buried beneath the Who, but there. Also, at 3:31, this is a good twenty seconds longer than anything else on the album, which is great.

09. Destiny’s Child – "Lose My Breath"
I remember first hearing about this through NYPLM, who reported about the firestorm of controversy on ILM (aka I Love Music, part of ILX where X equals "everything", a massive set of message boards where all the cognoscenti in the online music writing scene go, and I don't, because I have no spare time) where "Lose My Breath" had just leaked and half of them there hated it and half of them thought it was awesome. I think it's obvious which camp I fall into, but I'm kind of surprised there was a debate - this doesn't seem like a very difficult single to me. I think the bone of contention was that it's not "melodic" enough, which is fair enough - instead it pummels, cajoles and pushes inexorably forward. Plus the other two are (shock! horror!) better than Beyonce. Everything else on the album sounds nothing like this, and thus isn't nearly as good. More marching bands in pop, please.

10. Big & Rich – "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)"
Look, either you think it's a stupid novelty (I think you're wrong, but we can both live with that), or you hate fun, or else you love this song as much as I do. All of it. The "bling blingin'" bit, the Lone Ranger bit at the beginning, all the cheesy injokes that aren't really in, and especially AND WE MADE LOVE!. What happens, unsurprisingly, when you leave musicians alone and they create music separate from consideration of market forces.

11. Basement Jaxx - "Good Luck"
Magnigicently angry, with an ending that drags on way, way too long. If it had been three minutes long, keeping the intensity and the Jaxx's inmpossibly vivid sound, this would have been top ten for sure.

12. Franz Ferdinand – "Take Me Out"
It's about snipers, which is still my favorite thing about it. Still the only thing by Franz Ferdinand I've really loved, but what a single! The kind of perfect moment most bands get once, if they're lucky.

13. N.O.R.E. feat. Tego Calderon, Nina Sky, Gemstar & Big Mato – "Oye Mi Canto"
My first, and still favorite exposure to some form of reggaeton. I haven't heard much from Nina Sky, but it's all been gold, and they're twins too so I've got to like them (it's like a secret society). N.O.R.E. is just ridiculous, in the best way (rhyming cream cheese and bagel on it with remix with Tego on it is genius, pure and simple), and the Spanish bits still rock, even though (especially because?) I don't know what they're saying.

14. Belle & Sebastian - "I'm A Cuckoo"
I played this so often before K and I saw Belle & Sebastian last year she got sick of it. The luster has worn off a little, but still the best Thin Lizzy Homage/heartsick post-break up lament ever.

15. Kanye West - "Jesus Walks"
I'm not all about Kanye like some (the amount of end-of-year ink he's getting is ridiculous), but this was the first thing I heard from him that justified the hype. It took maybe twenty listens before something stopped surprising every time.

16. Death From Above 1979 – "Romantic Rights"
No offense to the rest of the song, but this is here because of the intro, which sounds very much like some sort of machine made of barbed wire and glass getting caught on something and trying to work itself loose. The rest is gravy, although very good gravy.

17. Blink 182 - "I Miss You"
I feel like this should be higher, but then I look up and everything above is even better. Just about the last thing I expected from Blink 182, but easily the best thing they've done since "Adam's Song", and possibly even better than that. I still don't like Tom Delonge's voice (although those Boxcar Racer songs I kept are still pretty decent - "Letters To God" especially, and their influence shows here), but I also still like Mark Hoppus'.

18. Von Bondies - "C’mon C’mon"
Pure adrenaline, pure smash n' grab, I don't care what he's singing about, I stand by my "War-era Bono fronting a garage band" comment, it's over so quick.

19. Scissor Sisters – "Take Your Mama Out"
Much sweeter than I would have expected, and would fit nicely on, say, Screamadelica. Pity about the "Comfortably Numb" cover, though.

20. Green Day – "American Idiot"
Green Day and I go back, man. And the album's great. This is still good out of context, but it lacks a little something.

Now, if I'd heard the forty Stylus wound up going with, you can bet the list would have been a little different; at least the following would have made it somewhere:
Girls Aloud – "The Show" (top five, maybe top three)
The Knife – "Heartbeats" (top ten)
Ghostface – "Run" (that hat!)
Rachel Stevens – "Some Girls" (weird subtext alert)
Jim Jones – "Crunk Muzik" (those synths!)

Just don't ask me what I would have taken out, though.

There will at least be a part 2, for albums, but it might take more than one part. We'll see. And next year, I think I might take Dom's approach, doing one album and song a day. But as he tells us, "Shark niggas been biting my steez for years".

Friday, December 17, 2004 

In other news

Everyone who knows her hopefully reads her blog, but K. had a really good day today. There's a little surprise at the end. I told her so, though.


Warning: possibly gross

More thoughts on the whole "insects in rice" thing, since I just finished doing the dishes and so disposing of the contents of those containers and scrubbing them very avidly and thoroughly.

I can put my mind at rest about a few things: There is no chance that when I ate some of this rice half a month or so ago there were living, squirming bugs in it then. As soon as I opened the container the movement caught my eye. There is no way I could have missed it. Maggots - well, I don't know if they technically were, but I saw them and my mind immediately thought "maggots" - looking like little grains of white rice only moving, twisting back and forth. Not that many, maybe one every square inch of surface. But that raises the horror of more beneath. The discarded eggs clung to the lid - they looked, horror of horrors, like a discarded bit of wild rice. For a brief second the thought (irrational as it is) that I've been eating nothing less than boiled maggot eggs arises, the thought of a cupful of them, hatched now, thrashing obscenely in my belly.

Well, that's just stupid. But disturbing. This was when I was still cooking, and in a hurry, so I quickly sealed it back up. Reassuring thought number two: It's almost definitely not anything to do with me that they're in there. The white rice I wound up using was right next to the other rice, in a plastic bag with a goddamn twist tie holding it shut. No maggots. No eggs. So I don't think they're invading my kitchen.

But still... now that I'm done with them, bits of me keep feeling itchy. Like one of them escaped and got on me. Psychosomatic, I know, but that doesn't stop the itch. When I went to go clean them out I noticed a thin (I can't think of a more appropriate word, sorry) skin clinging to the inside of the plastic container. The eggs attach to it. As I try to get it to come off it feels biological in a disturbing way, clingy and possibly with the faintest smell of rot. My mind reels. What the hell is this? What the fuck were they doing in my plastic containers? Vague echoes of terraforming suggest themselves, little disease armies slowly converting grains into fat little worm babies, slowly turning the inside of something I used to carry sandwiches in into a hive/womb. I can't get the shit off my possessions, or my fingers, fast enough.

I know the wriggling when I opened the container was just blind twitch response (brief memory of taking out the garbage when much younger - I'd left it too long, and maggots had formed (remember, the ancient Greeks thought they generated spontaneously - more horror) underneath. In desperate revulsion I stomped them into paste, then spent an hour cleaning the gook off the garage floor and especially off my shoe. When I lifted that bag, they went wild, new data all of a sudden flooding whatever passed for senses), but doesn't that make the idea worse? Blind little armies, brainless, slowly putrefying more of my apartment, my living space. These things have been nesting about a foot below where I prepare most of the food I eat. Sealed off by a thin wall of plastic. My first reaction to the skin was that they'd weakened the plastic somehow, that this was bits of it peeling off. More paranoia.

Of course, pace Nussbaum, often what we are disgusted by are merely by-products of our irrational, hateful desire to forget our mortality, our essential biology; but here I am disgusted by something in the traditional sense, my mind reels as I see the maggots so that in addition to intellectually knowing the food has spoiled, I am not even slightly tempted to eat it. My disgust is purely a matter of health. But given how little the emotion normally enters my life, it's cause for thought nonetheless. Hopefully it stops disturbing me so much soon.

Thursday, December 16, 2004 

Adventures in cooking

So here I am cooking up some tasty chicken/mushroom/pea curry for the Ontarion Christmas party I'm going to tonight. And what does curry go with? Rice. So I haul out the rice cooker and set it up, and then go get the rice. Now, we've had this stuff for a while, yes, but first it was in a sealed plastic bag and then (when the cats took an interest) I tranferred it into a few of my plastic containers. I figured it'd be safe there.

So when I opened it up today and saw maggots, I was a little shocked. Not to mention more skeeved out than I've been in a while. From the remnants of their eggs I'm guessing they'd acidentially been put in the bag at the time it went to the store (this was bulk rice, I'm not sure where from), because the non-bulk white rice right next to this stuff, which was in it's original open packaging with a twist tie closing it, was fine.

And believe me, I checked that very carefully.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004 

Continue being excellent to each other

The Freaky Trigger film countdown picks the best #2 movie ever, and one of the best sequels, too.

No, I'm not joking - watch it again and tell me they shouldn't make a movie just about Death.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004 

Slow reaction time

Dom Passantino is back!

Actually, he's been back for a couple of days, but I didn't notice. Nice to see him updating again, in any case.



The strip is consistently awesome, but if you find misanthropy funny (I know I do!), today's Something Positive is for you.

Monday, December 13, 2004 

Slow life

New journal entry up, same bat-station and everything.

Sunday, December 12, 2004 


Anthony Miccio just linked to a couple video sites, of which this one is the best (in my opinion, of course). If you're at all interested in music videos as art and not just band performances you owe it to yourself to check it out. Right now the page I linked to feature two of my favorite videos ever, both by Johnathan Glazer; Massive Attack's extremely cryptic "Karmacoma" and U.N.K.L.E. featuring Thom Yorke's "Rabbit In Your Headlights". The latter is either bleakly comic or extremely disturbing for most of it's length (depending on your disposition), and then becomes... something else at the end.



I can't remember if K is still going to go to the V&A Museum again before leaving London, but if she is, she should take a look at this in the gift shop. We saw some of them in the Cleveland Art Museum (I think) and they're pretty cool.


It burns! It burrrrrrns!

There are no words. Except, maybe to note that the drummer is wearing a Darkness t-shirt (so either he has a good sense of humour, or none at all). And is that Billy Bob Thornton, holding an egg?

Saturday, December 11, 2004 

Here we go...

So the opposition guy in the Ukraine was poisoned after all, his doctors say. CBC's version is here.

Oh boy. Start the endless rounds of blame and denial now, I guess.

Friday, December 10, 2004 

Fuck censorship

So, on the advice of Josh Love (#4, near the bottom) I went to go find the video for Ghostface's "Run" (you can get it here). The song is indeed genius (both for THAT HAT and the fact that I defy you to give me a better example of sweaty desperation in pop music all year), but the stuff that got bleeped out was fucking stupid.

Okay, when Ghostface says "if you're selling drugs in the school zone", I guess I can see the rationale, but the key line in the chorus is the shouted out "Cops got - Guns!". They took out the word "guns".

I mean, what the fuck? Cops do have guns, it's not like he's fucking lying or something. And not only is the word inoffensive, it neuters the song entirely to yank it out. Pity.



If you really want to get depressed about human nature, turn off images for your browser and go to Something Awful today. I agree, making a website with pictures of your miscarried dead baby is a pretty fucked up thing to do (and, uh, buying the baby's corpse presents isn't helping anything), but when Zach Parsons points out how awful and probably psychologically damaging this is, what's the response of the people behind these sites?

Well, they wish that he have a baby drop dead, of course.

It gets pretty fucking funny near the end, but then again, I'm a horrible human being. Trust me on the images thing, though, unless you like seeing dead babies. I don't.


Train wreck?

So now I've seen the trailer for Burton's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory adaption. Looks interesting, like it'll either be really good or really, really bad.

And it kind of sucks to see Danny Elfman's doing the music - I guess the Aphex Twin thing was just a rumour after all.


The horrible, burning shame

All of you who have ever played D&D should get a kick out of this.



I'm pretty sure this is the first time I'm going in to write an exam on three hours of sleep. Not to worry - my performance should not be fatigue-based at the least. It's multiple choice.

Still, I'm gonna sleep well tonight.

Thursday, December 09, 2004 

Curse you, Scalzi!

John Scalzi has another challenge up I can't resist. So here's a list of all the songs in my playlist exactly 3:00 long, complete with arguments why or why not they might be perfect pop (which says more about my conception of what "perfect pop" is, etc).

The Apples In Stereo - "Glowworm": A bit too lysergic and drifty to really be perfect pop, although the Apples managed this elsewhere ("Questions & Answers", "Seems So"). No.

Belle & Sebastian - "Johnathan David": Yes. Sprightly piano pop is a hallowed traditon, as are romantic themes, even if (especially?) you're on the losing end.

Black Box Recorder - "French Rock And Roll": No, no matter how much BBR would like it to be. They managed it on "The Facts Of Life", and that's about it.

David Bowie - "Repetition": Hells no. It's about spousal abuse; the end repetition of it shows through may be the most chilling thing Bowie's ever done. And I don't say that lightly. All of Lodger was pop-ish, but definitely not perfect pop.

Johnny Cash - "Cocaine Blues (Live)": From Folsom Prison; I actually prefer this to "Folsom Prison Blues". I don't know if Cash ever managed perfect pop, and if so this isn't it. But that just reinforces the fact that just 'cause something's not "perfect pop", that doesn't mean it ain't great. No.

Clinic - "IPC Subeditors Dictate Our Youth": In a perfect world, yes. This is not a perfect world. DJ / Kill boy / The son of son and the Ronettes' drum intro should be enough, but... No.

Dead Kennedys - "California Uber Alles": Of couse not. But definitely Jello Biafra's finest hour. That chorus still has a wavery power, all these years later. Whatever happened to Jerry Brown? No.

Freelance Hellraiser - "Smells Like Teen Booty": Crappy sound quality (hence genius) mashup of "Bootylicious" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit". In all its weirdness, the very mongrel spirit of perfect pop. Yes.

Guided By Voices - "Bulldog Skin": Perfect rock, maybe. I played the part / I played the start / I made a table out of clay... I can't tell you why it's genius, but it is. No.

The Hives - "Diabolic Scheme": Pelle's deranged loverman crooning over a backing that blends cheesy strings and the most relentless guitar note ever is definitely perfect pop. Props for the zombie backing vocals. Like Buster Poindexter on something. Yes.

Isotropy - "Wonderful Life (Gould Or God?)": Nice enough homemade instrumental techno pop I downloaded from, back in the day. A little obvious, but still nice. Not perfect pop, though. No.

Ben E. King - "Stand By Me": I'm not going to argue with you about this. Of course it is. Yes.

Stephen Malkmus - "Discretion Grove": Sorry, indie boy. There's a nice kick to the chorus, but it's not really pop. And indie rock is very rarely perfect pop. No.

Mclusky - "That Man Will Not Hang": Screams of The maitre d' is not your special friend aside, not even close. Trebly, harsh, shouty... it's great, but it's not perfect pop. No.

The Moldy Peaches - "Anyone Else But You": Sweet, vaguely co-dependant "anti-folk" lovesong. Too twee for words. They were better when they were sincere. Not even vaguely pop. No.

Muslimgauze - "Turkish Sword Swallower": ha ha ha no.

Nine Inch Nails - "A Warm Place": Probably my favorite Nine Inch Nails track ever (and yes, I do like their other stuff), but way too ambient, floaty and gentle to be pop. No.

Olivia Tremor Control - "No Growing (Exegesis)": I only have two OTC MP3s on my computer, but they keep coming up for these. Not bad, but way, way too druggily psychedelic (most original psychedelia wasn't pop either, of course). Maybe with better production and more of a pulse. No.

The Police - "Can't Stand Losing You": I love the Police's whole reggae-inflected quasi-ska thing, but it's not particularly pop. This one is close, though. No.

Radiohead - "Killer Cars": Huh. I'd forgotten about this one. It's not, of course, but it's about as close as Radiohead ever got. No.

Radiohead - "Transatlantic Drawl": Oh, I wish. Deranged off-kilter post-techno rock track, complete with what would be squalling horns if it wasn't just digital. Utterly crucial b-side, but most definitely imperfect pop. No.

The Rolling Stones - "Time Is On My Side": My only crossover with Scalzi's list, and I agree with him. Pop songs can be creepy, of course, but for me perfect pop shouldn't be talking about abuse. Well, maybe selfabuse (neither "Hello Kitten" nor "Turning Japanese" are 3:00, though). No.

Sparklehorse - "It's A Wonderful Life": This song is barely there. A thing of gossamer beauty, yes, but far too self-effacing (and scared) to be pop. No.

Spoon - "Advance Cassette": Every fiber of my being screams yes. Acoustic songs from rock bands are occasionally perfect pop... That brief backwards sound during the chorus is just perfect, and this is about the type of romantic ache that so often characterizes pop. The ending drags a little too much, though. Ruled out on a technicality. No.

Spoon - "Small Stakes": Can perfect pop be constructed out of an organ, a tambourine, a little bit of piano and vocals? Maybe I'm just showing my background, but I'm going to say yes. Weirder things have been hits.

Supergrass - "Alright": God, yes. Almost too classicist to make it, but just barely squeaks in.



Yeah... that's really all I got on this.



Of course, there's a little weirdness in that last CBC story; Paul Martin referring to Canada as "world's most post-modern country" is kind of odd, though not necessarily bad. But Stephen Harper trying to spin it as if the Supreme Court is on his side, like so:

Harper said the Supreme Court supports his party's policy because it also declined to express an opinion on whether the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional.

No. If they supported your party's policy, they'd have found a legalistic way to tell Martin to fuck off and keep marriage as between a man and a woman. They didn't do that.



The Supreme Court of Canada okays gay marriage as constitutional, Paul Martin to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in January. And New Zealand has just officially adopted similar measures.

It's a good day.


Just fucking stop

Memo to overprotective parents: stop coddling your goddamned kids. Scrapes, bruises, dirt, minor illness, disappointment and failure all have their places in childhood.


Be excellent to each other

I love the methodology and writing of Freaky Trigger's top 100 Movie Countdown thingy, although the former is buried so far back in the archives I can't be arsed to find it. But go read #3 anyway, it's quite good. They should pop all 100 on a separate page when they're done.



It's not quite as bad as, say, the Tuskagee syphilis experiment, but if this is true it might be right up there. Link foudn via Jer, who has an excellent post up discussing the issues around this story (mainly, that we can't seem to find it elswhere). I will note two things about the possible veracity of this one, though:

1. BBC tends to have better coverage of AIDS-related issues, period. Whether in North America or Asia or Africa or Europe, etc.
2. At the bottom of the news story, there's a blurb saying "Guinea Pig Kids was broadcast on Tuesday, 30 November, 2004, at 1930 GMT on BBC Two (UK)". So they feel confident enough in the truth of this to make a special report on it. That proves nothing, but is certainly good circumstantial evidence (assuming you trust the BBC, which I mostly do).


Procrastination is the greatest nation

Go over to Launch or whatever and find the video for "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" by My Chemical Romance. It's awesome.


The uses of quiet

In much the same way as I did with the Talking Heads, I've been listening to a lot of Low recently; the box set has been the perfect accompaniment to studying, and K and I are going to go see them in Cleveland in February. So I put together something, mostly out of boredom and kind-of procrastination (I've gotten done what I told myself I had to and no more), I put together a little something. Unlike the Talking Heads one, it's not really a best of, more of a primer. A good introduction to them, but there's volumes more you could put on this.

01. Violence (5:54)
02. Sunflower (4:39)
03. Weight Of Water (4:21)
04. The Plan (Demo) (2:50)
05. In The Drugs (4:25)
06. Medicine Magazines (4:33)
07. Venus (3:44)
08. Over The Ocean (3:50)
09. Two-Step (5:44)
10. Will The Night (2:33)
11. (That’s How You Sing) Amazing Grace (7:13)

Total: 49:36

The same offer I made last time applies here.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004 

Ha ha!

Want to know why I'm left-handed? So I can whup your ass, that's why.

(the article reveals it's more complex than that, of course, but let me have my joke)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004 

William James on mysticism

Easily the best thing I've ever stumbled upon while studying:

"This sense of deeper significance is not confined to rational propositions. Single words, and conjunctions of words, effects of light on land and sea, odors and musical sounds, all bring it when the mind is tuned aright. Most of us can remember the strangely moving power of passages in certain poems read when we were young, irrational doorways as they were through which the mystery of fact, the wildness and the pang of life, stole into our hearts and thrilled them. The words have not perhaps become mere polished surfaces for us; but lyric poetry and music are alive and significant only in proportion as they fetch these vague vistas of a life continuous with our own, beckoning and inviting, yet ever eluding our pursuit. We are alive or dead to the eternal inner message of the arts according as we have kept or lost this mystical susceptability."


God damn

It's a day late, but Girls Are Pretty astounds again. I hate that guy. He's too good.



Dom Passantino's piece on Warning is outright awesome, and our singles count-down continues to be awesome.

...and my piece on Young Team is pretty decent too, if I may flatter myself to say.


Test drive

So I just went grocery shopping and took the MP3 player (I'm just going to call it the Lyra from now on). Good fun. A few observations:

- Standing in the rain waiting for the bus is made positively cinematic by "Unworthy".

- Those cellos in "The Town Halo" really do make any bus ride more propulsive and thus more fun by an order of magnitude.

- I've discovered that what I love most about "Heartbeats" is that cheery little trill that plays under the lines during the chorus. They put me in mind of a steel drum, and make the whole song seem much happier at the same time as it's being sad.

- I'm pretty sure those two homophobes on the bus back home were checking me out during "Eurodisco" and "The Show".



Moved back to facilitate further linking (don't worry about it).


Nice to know

I've been of the opinion that Scientology is a dangerous cult (and that particular link is the best way to figure out if something is a cult I've ever encountered) for quite some time (and if you'd like to read for yourself, Operation Clambake is a good start), so running into this list makes me feel better.

Monday, December 06, 2004 


First of all, and I've been remiss about pointing this out, the first part of our year-end single extravaganza is up at Stylus. It's good stuff; go and read. Other parts will go up each day of the week.

Now, I thought to mention this finally because while listening to MP3s I noticed something odd; what I thought was J-Five's "Modern Times" (great song, incidentially) came up, but then the singing started and I realised it was, in fact, Kelis' "Trick Me". It's a pretty common quasi-piano sound, but those two are particularly close.


Revised opinion III: Not really revised

The Postal Service record got played an awful lot in the office last year (maybe part of the reason why I had such a visceral dislike for it?), and most of it either made no impression or really annoyed me. There was one exception: "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight", which was last year's "Birthday" (in more than one way!).

Upon relistening now, I still don't hear the genius so many credit the album with, but I find I can tolerate, and maybe even like a little, "Such Great Heights". Although it's not a patch on "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight", of course. Everything else...

Let's just say the next time someone refers to a band as "the new New Order" (which is the new "the new Strokes", which was the new "the new Nirvana", which was the new "the new My Bloody Valentine", give or take a few), I'm going to hit them.


Permit me my Serpentor moments...

I downloaded it back in September when it first went up, but I'm extremely pleased to see it's still up: "Unworthy" by Thieves, which is absolutely gorgeous. Kudos to the always-excellent Tom Ewing for making this long out-of-print track available, as I'd never have heard it otherwise. Go and download it now - this I command!


Revised opinion II: Son of revised opinion

I downloaded a whole bunch of Le Tigre when the new album came out, and while I hate most of it ("New Kicks" and the cover of "I'm So Excited" are outright turgid), I have to say "This Island" is pretty fucking keen.

It's funny, you know, political music is like religious music; when the ideology comes before the art, the end product sucks.


Revised opinion

I really, really wanted to love the Junior Boys, but the stuff I was able to get my hands on didn't grab me. I've been listening to it again, and I've come around to "Birthday" (a more gorgeous expression of ache and longing was not made last year), but "High Come Down" and "Last Exit" still bore me.

Well... "bore" is too harsh. "Don't do much for me" is probably more accurate.


Time for a change in tactics

News flash: The RIAA and similar bodies in other countries don't really represent musicians. Downloading a musician's work against their will is illegal, yep, but an awful lot of musicians seem to be interesting in reacting to it in some way other than just suing anyone they can get their hands on.


Behind the times

This week's journal entry went up about three hours ago. Oops.


Here's to originality

Hell, I'd give him a dollar.

Friday, December 03, 2004 

The Floating World: Per Second, Per Second, Per Second... Every Second

"I'm glad I'm not as unhappy as I once thought I was"
Scott Levesque

(read this first)

It all started with A Life Less Ordinary.

Well. That's not true, really, but it might as well have, and you have to pick somewhere to start from.

Like everyone else I knew in high school, when the movie came out in the wake of Trainspotting and (to a lesser degree) There's Something About Mary we all kind of wanted to see it. I never got around to it, although not because I was dissuaded by the reviews or negative feedback from people I know who saw it.

For years, it remained one of those "yeah, I should see it eventually" movies. And then one of the very first things Joy mentioned after she got back to Canada was that she was desperate to find a copy. Which was weird - I hadn't heard anyone so much as mention the film in a couple of years and then all of a sudden here it turns out one of my friends loved it so hard.

A few weeks later (I think) she managed to find a copy, and a few weeks after that I watched when when I was over at her place.

And I loved it. Don't get me wrong, I can understand the criticisms I've heard levelled at it, but they just don't matter to me. My love for the film has little to do with this essay/article/column/whatever you'd like to call it, so I'm not going to elaborate on it too much, but warts and all it's now one of my favorite films ever.

When he was in town recently, Jeromy at one point brought up the subject of sincerity (my word - I think he used "cheeziness", but I reserve that word for the pejorative sense, or in other words, fake sincerity). It's not terribly popular, both I think because of the kinds of thought or ideology that are perceived (fairly or not) as being presented as "more" sincere and because it's harder to react to for my generation. We were raised obsessed with cool, and being cool means not caring about things. That pernicious mindset has stuck with most of us, and even though people I know are pretty comfortable with it, the culture doesn't seem to be.

Anyway, both A Life Less Ordinary and Per Second, Per Second, Per Second... Every Second are unfashionably sincere, I think. That's not the only connection, of course, but first let me go back to the beginning again.

I've had three MP3s by Wheat on my computer since first year ("Death Car", "Flat Black" and "Off The Pedestal", fact fans!); I downloaded them off of Epitonic when I first discovered the site, and although I love at least the first two of them (especially "Flat Black", "Wish You Were Here" homage and all), but I'd never been able to find Hope And Adams, possibly because it was released on an American indie label.

And then something like five copies of Per Second... (as I'm going to abbreviate it) showed up in my local record store. Now, having heard the album and having noticed the backlash I can see why they got there, but I was originally a little taken aback. And reluctant to purchase one.

I mean, all those people had to know something, right? And I'll admit to hating the album cover at first (hey, out of such shallow things are the courses of mighty rivers changed, etc, etc). But I remembered what one of my favorite music writers ever (and I'm not just saying this because he'll probably read this - hi Glenn!) had to say about it, and I knew I had to risk the measly $8 that it would take to find out if I agreed with him.

Well, there's another similarity with A Life Less Ordinary that I hadn't thought of before now - both were long-delayed experience that made me a rapturous convert.

But the similarity that kicked off my desire to do one of these one the whole album, not just a song, is that I listened to Per Second... recently, and it was one of those perfect listens. Not when you put on a record for the first time and it blows you away, and not even when you find an old favorite and put it on and it's just as good as it ever was. No, I'm talking about a phenomenon that really only happens once with every album, where you've heard it enough to know all the songs, but not enough for it to be really familiar, and you put it on and for the duration, it is temporarily The Greatest Album Ever Made By Mankind Ever. Not all records do it, and those that do have you allegiance forever, even if you don't actually listen to them all that often any more (hello, Radiohead!).

And it was during this listen that it occurred to me that, at least on tonal or thematic or emotional ground, Per Second... would make an excellent alternate soundtrack to A Life Less Ordinary. It's already got a perfectly good set of songs attached to it, no disrespect intended, but something about the two just seemed akin to me.

So I'm doing the whole album. And since I love structure, I'm doing it song-by-song.

I Met A Girl
I said I met a girl I'd like to know better
But I'm already with someone

Boy, that opening acoustic guitar strum is deceptive. This is maybe the least intuitively catchy song on the album, and even then it's pretty poptastic. But the whole thing stops and starts at odd angles, especially during the chorus, even as Scott Levesque's vocal soars over top. Like most of the record, it's got a clean, slightly busy production by Dave Fridmann, but the little touches are always endearing (check out the way someone says "Okay" in the background every time Levesque finishes the refrain). And yet it still has a middle eight with back and forth vocals and piano that wraps the whole thing in the kind of low-key epic quality that's present here in spades.

And then there's the lyrical conceit; you can change the details as much as you wish, but the central core is the same: There's someone you're interested in and something stopping you. In this particular instance it's something that should be holding you back, but still the volumes of different inflection Levesque manages to give those two lines is marvellous. It starts out joyous, a shout to the heavens, but then you get to the second verse, and it's all

And you've got permission to see other men while you sleep
And we wage perpetual war for perpetual peace

And the sentiment gets a bit darker. Is "someone" an albatross? Levesque passes through defiance, rueful regret, cheeky defiance and a bunch of other delicately shaded emotions, and he's just shout/singing the refrain. Whether this individual instantiation of the problem has happened to you or not, we've all been there, in some fashion.

I was standing outside too long
Coming on way too strong
You needed an alibi
But I was inside and high

There's a strong streak of humility all through Per Second..., epistemological, emotional, and otherwise. Levesque's voice really has the most amazing sense of texture - it's been really well recorded and although he sings every song here but one, there's something in the performance of each song to focus on and love. "Breathe" introduces some of the running themes that really have nothing to do with the movie this makes me think of, namely that there is real history between the narrator and the person he's singing to, and not always a happy one. Relationships we know nothing about crash through the underbrush like the ghosts of dinosaurs; all we hear about are the aftereffects and tangents. But something new is starting:

You better stand right next to me, for now

The chorus' directive to breath for me now / 'cause I can't find the air actually reminds me of the physicality of my favorite song about making out ever (#9, lyrics are found here), but there's an undercurrent of disconnection to "Breathe" too (it's like I wasn't there). But what's really important about that chorus is the way the backing vocals really seal the deal, the falsetto "la" after the first two lines is just perfect.

These Are Things
And life sure passes you by
When you're living in living rooms
Maybe you should find a place of your own

This one starts out kind of like it's going to be a ballad, but quickly kicks into high gear; it reminds me of Creeper Lagoon, who had one album I absolutely adored for about six months, but this is less blustery. Less nonsense "rawk" lyrics, more oblique ones about real life. I think I might have sold that album; I can't find it, in any case.

As with "I Met A Girl", this has an incredible late-song part that kicks in overdrive and elevates an otherwise good song to greatness. By the time Levesque really puts his metaphorical back into declaring these are things I did for my love he's fully overruled the pragmatic bent (for now I've got to look out for me) of much of the song. The tension inherent in the opening Leave, but come home soon is there for most of the album, and that's one of the things I love about Per Second...: It's as much about the day in day out of being with someone as it is about picking up the pieces and starting again. Personal history swirls thickly around, but it's all mingled up (the at times abstract lyrics help).

He never lists the things. That's sort of the point.

Life Still Applies
I remember my heroes that way
I remember them fine

I actually really didn't like this on the first time I heard the album. It was the chorus, just a high pitched repetition of the title. And as much as I love the sentiment (how much trouble, emotional and otherwise, do we get into when we forget it?), I couldn't stand it. It's grown on me, but I can't say I have much to add about it. I still think it's one of the weaker tracks, although that's not saying much.

Go Get The Cops
Before you go out
In Saturday's best
I want the house
The house is a mess

Sad (or bittersweet?), slow, quiet and pretty, "Go Get The Cops" is really the first time Per Second... downshifts. This actually would have fitted in perfectly with A Life Less Ordinary, with either party telling the other

Go get the cops
Why don't you stop
Thinking it over

It's a push/pull again, of course. Levesque says why don't you stay? but also come back inside when you're ready to fight, and again history (even if we don't know what it is) weighs heavy. It's a plea for action, any action, directed at the other party. At the end Levesque just repeats thinking it over, and it's no longer something to stop doing, it's a prayer. Should I stay or should I go? Should you? One of the central tensions in all human relationships is a desire to know how the other feels without tipping your own hand, to be secure in others' affections without putting yourself out there. It's impossible, of course, and Wheat know that. They can't stop it, for any of us (I will write about Aimee Mann's "Wise Up" and "Save Me" at some point), but they can make it beautiful.

Some Days
And most days we don't regret
And most words we say are true
And we force each little step
When something anything would do

And now, the rebound. "Some Days" is ambivalent but optimistic, gloriously surging, opening with guitar fuzz and some "ooh ooh"s and things go a bit syncopated again. And then:

Some days, love takes its time
And I don't know a thing about it
And some days you change your mind
Because I sure change my mind a lot about you

How can this be a love song? But it is, Levesque again sounding rueful as he admits the depths of his ignorance and his indecision. But, listen: We change our minds about our loved ones constantly (anyone with siblings can confirm this). Note the emphasis on "some", "most", "a lot" and so on in the lyrics. This may be the least absolutist (and thus most human) album I've heard in years. He doesn't know a thing about love, he can't make up his mind, and it's okay. Listen to the joy in the music and the peformance and tell me otherwise.

I don't just want music that acknowledges the complexities of human life, I want music that affirms that those paradoxes are a vital part of us and we can stop worrying about them. Just embrace them and get on with our lives.

World United Already
So take
All that you've learned
And all that you've lived
To understand
That it takes
All that I have
And all that I know
Just to hold on

More wryness, from the title on down. Yes, life is difficult (there are also difficult lives, which all of us should be greatful we don't have), but beyond that there is the bare fact that existence is not a cakewalk, no matter how blessed we are in our individual circumstances. But again, as Wheat keep telling us, this is not cause for pissing and moaning and whining. So your life is tough. So are they all.

This is the one not sung by Levesque, although I'm not sure if it's Ricky Brennan or Brendan Harney. I do know having a little keyboard voice constantly going yeah was genius, though. The key line here is I finally feel I'm on to you now, and again it could apply just fine to a new relationship, a healthy one, or a dead one. It would fit nicely with some of the more trying parts of A Life Less Ordinary, too.

Hey, So Long (Ohio)
Sat right close for a year and a half
You were getting pretty close to the people in the back
And I was there when your guard had dropped
I was too tired to bend, too tired to stop

This is the one throwback to Wheat's older, murkier style, and it's one of my favorites on the album, but particularly at the end, as the distant strings get closer and the guitar roars in and as they sing "ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh" the fog lifts. The backing vocals, as always on this album, are crucial. It's a song of goodbye, but one about falling in love and how ambivalent that can make you feel towards the person you want to be with.

I see guys make this mistake all the time, made it a few times myself (hopefully never again); as soon as you treat the other person like a problem to be solved, like something adversarial, you've lost. We all start speculating about motives, trying to plan out what to do and what to say, and no matter how pure your intentions, it comes down to the same thing: You wind up trying to manipulate that person, on some level. Even if you get what you want you won't get what you want.

As a wise man once said, all advice is just ways of saying "let it go".

The Beginner
And I'm not falling apart at the
Priceless points of the problems and
Crumble only when prompted to now

The next quiet one. Starts off with just the guitar and Levesque and it sounds like he's singing late at night, and it slowly builds as he admits a little frailty but shows resolve and then he concludes with

Everyone gets what they want
Everyone gets what they want, all the time

But that's not why I love this song so much. It's the slowly dawning wonder in his voice as he softly adds even me, he mournful keyboard part as he repeats it like he's savoring the new reality of the idea. It's the sound of someone allowing something good to happen to him, something he probably didn't ever think he deseved before, and it's beautiful.

Of course, becoming open to the possibilities doesn't solve everything, but it helps.

Can't Wash It Off
And I was falling all around
You held my hand so tightly
But you had to stop

Again the rebound (and again the crucial backing vocals!). "Can't Wash It Off" is the rare song to fully slip away from that fundamental problem so many of us (myself included) have, of putting yourself out there without worrying if you'll be hurt. It goes like this:

Do you really want me?
Do you really want me?
Because I really really want you

We usually, to our detriment, omit the last because we're afraid of getting hurt. But this song isn't timid, it's full of happiness and love. This might be the first album of Stoic love songs I've ever heard. Stoicism isn't about supressing your emotions; it's about realising that certain things are out of our control. He sings it like it doesn't matter to him what her response it, and that's not quite true; it's just that he's not worrying about it, because he can't do anything to change how she feels. Harder than it sounds, usually, but this is a great example of how life-affirming it can be. Would that we were all so brave.

Closer To Mercury
Because I'm a fan
From way back when you faltered
Waiting for your man
If you can remember
I was standing there with you

The full on release of all the good feeling flowing throughout Per Second..., and accompanied by a sentiment I usually hate. More good people (of both genders) have had their months and years ruined by pining for someone who was unavailable. But he wasn't pining - he was waiting. I can't explain the difference.

And besides, wouldn't you say / I've been an idiot for you?

But as always, this is all about the delivery. The stomp of the verses, the glide of the chorus, it's funny how I adore you. And then, at the end, the heart of the whole album, sung by Levesque from afar:

I'm getting along
Now that I've found salvation
Not that I've found salvation I
Open your eyes salvations now

It's always now. That's the whole point. What are you waiting for?

This Rough Magic
And carrying counts for something
When you can give it all away

It start off slow, with great drumming. It meanders around gorgeously for a few minutes, gives the album its epitaph, or motto or whatever, and then kicks in a jazzy trumpet and gently plays the album out. It's a wonderful pentultimate song. It's technically the last track, but Per Second... has one of the few bonus tracks worth listening to every time.

Don't I Hold You (Alternate Version)
Don't I hold you like you want to be held
And don't I treat you like you want
And don't I love you like you want to be loved
And you're running away

This song, like Teenage Fanclub's "Ain't That Enough", is not a reproach. Neither question is cruel rhetoric. Neither wants the other to feel bad. Both admit (again, the humility) that sometimes the answer is no. And both are nevertheless hopeful and loving. This is an old song of Wheat's, but it's better here. The old song didn't have the bit at the end where Levesque croons sometimes I hold you right (again, the "sometimes" where few bands would put it), or the background bits that sound like hearts fluttering.


As always, I've fallen disasterously short of my goal, the put into words the way I love this album, but I've long reconciled myself with the impossibility of that task. Per Second, Per Second, Per Second... Every Second is wonderful pop music in the best sense and of the highest order; it should have sold millions. As it is, there are still probably used copies left in my local shop, if you'd like me to grab one for you. And if you don't listen to this, I hope for your sake you have something in your life as powerful and as humane and as full of love and humour and wisdom as this.

And I hope God will mend
The little things I break and bend
And equal it to the love I made

Wheat, "This Rough Magic"

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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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