Wednesday, February 28, 2007 

Double play

Today on Stylus my review of the fine radicalfashion album is up along with a Soulseeking piece on the perils of grad school.


He's the guy that sucks (plus he has got depression)

Today's Achewood is just flat out awesome. And you can get it with your name in there instead, should you desire.


Music for marking

I'm not in a bad mood or anything, but you'd never be able to guess it from my listening while attempting to wade through a pile of Philosophy of Art papers (some of them quite good) tonight:

José González - Veneer
COIL - ...and the ambulance died in his arms
Burial - Burial
Loop - A Gilded Eternity

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 

The Presence

Yeah, this may all be marketing, but it's easily the coolest marketing for an album I've ever heard of. It helps that I eat stories like this up with a spoon.


While your head is clear

Feel good hits of the 27th of February, 2007:

Belle & Sebastian - "I Could Be Dreaming"
Kid606 - "Temptation"
Rusty - "Misogyny"
Spiritualized - "Rated X"
Saturday Looks Good To Me - "Lift Me Up"
Maximo Park - "Our Velocity"
Hot Chip - "Colours"
Crowded House - "Private Universe"
Camera Obscura - "Country Mile"
Belle & Sebastian - "Johnathan David"


"May I add my own small congratulations to the roar of the world's approval?"

Stephen Fry waking you up? I need this.



So I gave my two weeks notice at work tonight. A variety of reasons, but mostly I don't have the time and effort to give right now to do both my job and my thesis properly, and the thesis easily comes out on top. Those of you who talk to me regularly know the rest of the story. I had a good conversation with the owner of the Beat Goes On down the street from me when I dropped off my resume (they're hiring).

So, yeah. It's kind of terrifying, even though I'm sure it's the right thing to do - I've never quit a job before. We'll see how it goes.

(title joke stolen from Monkey Fluids)

Sunday, February 25, 2007 


Over at the Art of Noise I've participated in the latest In the Dock feature; I'm defending the practice of playing your music too loud in the car. That may sound dubious, but I'd like to think I've made a fairly good case... we'll see what the jury says.


Origami and the Bug Wars

Susan Orleans (of The Orchid Thief, and thus of Adaptation) has a fascinating article in the New Yorker on a physicist who now folds paper full time:

In 2004, [Robert Lang] was an artist-in-residence at M.I.T., and gave a now famous lecture about origami and its relationship to mathematical notions, like circle packing and tree theory. Brian Chan, a Ph.D. candidate in fluid dynamics at M.I.T., told me recently, “That was a huge lecture. It got everyone talking.” It inspired Chan to put his hobby of blacksmithing on hold and take up origami; he and Lang are now regular participants in an annual competition that is a friendly continuation of the Bug Wars. Last year’s theme was a sailing ship. Lang wasn’t happy with his entry—a sailboat with its sails down, revealing its skeletal masts—but talks enthusiastically about Chan’s. From a single sheet, Chan created a brig under full sail being attacked by a giant squid.

Friday, February 23, 2007 


At Alfred's request, here are my blurbs for the recent Singles Jukebox extravaganza, mostly because I somehow sent Will the wrong copy of the file (I have no idea how this is even possible), and partly because we had just a ridiculous level of response - up to 12 blurbs for some songs.

ABC – When Smokey Sings: Okay, it's partly nostalgia (this is one of the few non-shit songs the local FM station would play when I was a kid) and partly a more recent appreciation for the work of ABC circa “Poison Arrow,” “The Look of Love” et al, but still: “When Smokey Sings” is unfuckwithable. When Martin Fry and his plethora of backing vocalists sing you may not hear violins but you do hear the very rare tribute song that is utterly compelling on its own grounds as well as a fitting tribute to its subject. [10]

Blow Monkeys – Digging Your Scene: The word “louche” (“Of questionable taste or morality; disreputable or indecent; dubious; shady.”) could apply in varying degrees to many of these vocalists, but Dr. Robert really takes the prize. He sounds kind of like Mick Hucknall if Hucknall hadn't gone so horribly, horribly wrong. He's also aided by an ably lush production, and surprisingly entertaining call-and-response backing vocalists. This is music for slowly getting very, very smashed in a fancy dinner club. [7]

Johnny Hates Jazz – Shattered Dreams: You guys just blew my mind, because it's been literally about ten years since I've heard this song, and I never had any idea what it was called or who did it. This used to play at the dentist's office all the time when I was a kid! I guess some would consider that pretty damning, but with this genre of music if that's going to be your objection you might as well write the whole thing off now. As it is, “Shattered Dreams” has a nice percussive backing, slightly anodyne lead vocals, and one hell of a chorus. [7]

Living in a Box – Living in a Box: Okay, this is really fantastically odd. What sounds like a fancier/more spangled late eighties New Order track with a gruff vocalist who keeps asking us “Am I living in a box? / Am I living in a cardboard box?” and we never find out the answer. I want to know, dammit. [6]

Sade – Smooth Operator: Say what you will about her productivity, but at her best Sade offers exactly the kind of rarefied, unnaturally smooth pleasure that dandies the world over covet. This isn't a bad thing – as nice as it is for (some music) to have grit and muss and tangible, earthy roots, it's just as nice to have the occasional example of sleekly gleaming, untouchable artifice, and few songs hit those heights as strongly as “Smooth Operator.” [9]

The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods: I certainly couldn't have told you that's Weller singing if I didn't already know. But like Aztec Camera it feels like he's still adjusting to this new style of music; unlike Roddy Frame, though, Weller is much more successful at it, and although honestly I'd like to see what the Jam would have done with this the Style Council version is pretty compelling too. [7]

In retrospect, the Blow Monkeys probably deserve an 8. And that Bryan Ferry song ("Don't Stop the Dance") is incredible, despite what everyone else thinks.


Conservative = hardcore

Excellent, wide-ranging post at, on Sarah Silverman, hardcore, the new "Conservative Daily Show," various punk subgenres, and a bunch of other stuff. Mike is as incisive as always, although my favourite point is on Christian rock, and is an excellent clarification of what I've been trying to say about the damn genre every time it comes up:

Nowhere is it more so, though, than Fox News' new Daily Show rip-off. It's called The Half Hour News Hour, and, to continue with the musical metaphors, it is undoubtedly Christian rock. Both seek to appeal to a particular segment of the population by taking something popular and making it accessible to that population, while missing the point that their sources weren't seeking to appeal to a particular segment of the population, they were seeking to be good. And naturally, it's not.

Thursday, February 22, 2007 

Practically comatose

Today on the Singles Jukebox, we ruthlessly evaluate a bunch of Sophisti-Pop from today's Bluffer's Guide to same. Lots of fun, although half of my blurbs got lost in the wash (for real).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 

They're not all jokes

I've always liked Craig Ferguson on the Late, Late Show, although I'm busy enough I basically just catch snippets on YouTube these days. Kudos to CBS for putting up the full 12 minutes of him talking about why he won't make fun of Britney Spears right now and AA. Among many great things about the clip, I do really like the way he continually insists he's not speaking for anyone else or trying to correct or judge anyone else's behaviour. Like any good Stoic (and what is AA if not a focused and successful application of Aurelius and Epictetus?), Ferguson knows that the only person's shit he can look after is his own, and if he takes care of that others will follow, or they won't.


A vast psychological experiment

Recently Iain Forrester and I have been corresponding about, among other things, the shift in the type of social skills that young people today (including the two of us, kind of?) have. So I'm pretty interested in this fantastic article on "Kids, the Internet and the End of Privacy," especially as someone who has a Blogger account, a Livejournal and a Facebook page:

And after all, there is another way to look at this shift. Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

My rule has always, always, always been to only put stuff on the internet if I don't care that everyone and their grandma knows about it. Hopefully that's the way you've been operating too.


"After much deliberation, Achewood has come out in favor of fat titties."

Hey, it can't be highbrow all of the time.

Monday, February 19, 2007 

So, of course, almost no one knew

I expect to be kind of incommunicado from now until, say, March; not that I won't post at all, just that things may be a little light. Sorry about that - normality should resume eventually. For now, the feel good hits of the 18th of February, 2007:

AC Newman - "The Cloud Prayer"
Bloc Party - "So Here We Are"
Slowdive - "Blue Skied An' Clear"
The Pipettes - "Judy"
Sweet Billy Pilgrim - "Stars Spill Out of Cups"
Shawn Colvin - "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)"
Animal Collective - "The Purple Bottle"
Bluebottle Kiss - "Scrub the Mist"
The New Pornographers - "Falling Through Your Clothes"
Diefenbach - "Circular Motions"

Thursday, February 15, 2007 

Power suit

Via Warren Ellis: A four-pound, inflatable exoskeleton. Awesome.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 


- It does make sense that the days the bus is delayed so I get to stand there for 20 minutes would also be the days that are the worst to be out in, but still... fuck you, Guelph Transit. My big toes were beginning to succumb to frostbite, and I even wore winter boots today. Also, thank you to the University for not closing.

- The Cure's Mixed Up is really good (I ordered it, as you should, after reading my man Mallory O'Donnell's take on it, one of my favourite pieces by him and one of my favourite Stylus articles in general); I kind of wish it was an actual album, so there was a band who worked like this normally, all elongated moments of bliss, the place where Slowdive's Pygmalion meets, well, the Cure.

- Today saw the delightful appearance in my mail of Kepler's Fuck Fight Fail (endorsed by none other than Todd Burns - #6 on that list). I'm at work and so haven't listened yet, but "Light House" has been a constant companion this week, and any disc that has both that and a song called "Upper Canada Fight Song" is going to be awesome. Most importantly, I ordered the thing through Amazon less than a week ago, and it only cost me $15 Canadian. Thank you K. Szabo.

- Do you feel as if there's something wrong today? As if some small part of your soul has died? Warren Ellis knows why.


The brain is a muscle

Kids do better when they think their performance in school tasks is related to effort (something they can control) rather than natural intelligence (something they can't). There's a fascinating article on it here.


I know you'll be fine

Feel good hits of the 14th of February, 2007 (special "at the gym, with no reference to Horny Werewolves Day" edition):

Maximo Park - "Now I'm All Over the Shop"
Green Day - "Haushinka"
The Futureheads - "Le Garage"
Neutral Milk Hotel - "Holland, 1945"
The Arcade Fire - "Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)"
Local H - "Bryn-Mawr Stomp"
The Walkmen - "The Rat"
Spoon - "June's Foreign Spell"
Primal Scream - "Accelerator"
The Wrens - "Yellow Number Three"


Subverting the hetero-normative paradigm

Yeah, pretty much.

Also, remember: Horny Werewolves.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 

You greet me with night laughter

My review of the modestly excellent My Majestic Star album is up today; the first time I've reviewed a record from a digital-only label. Cam from Hidden Shoal is a really nice guy, but luckily for my journalistic integrity the only record I've heard from his label so far is quite good.

Monday, February 12, 2007 

Public service

This the kind of science reporting we need right now. Or, well, all the time.

(thanks to Ben for the link)


"to ward off decades of bad luck"

Small town in Serbia erects statue of Rocky in mystical effort to improve lot. Film at eleven.


Busy doing nothing

The weird thing is, the busier you are, the less you blog... though you may have more to talk about. For now, let's just point out that the Plame case continues to grind on. (and as far as Libby goes, can you say patsy?)

Saturday, February 10, 2007 

Feel my breath on your neck

Feel good hits of the 9th of February, 2007:

Bjork - "An Echo, A Stain"
Kim-Lian - "In Vain"
Omarion - "Ice Box"
Stina Nordenstam - "Crime"
Nadiya - "Amies Ennemies"
Bluebottle Kiss - "Dream Audit"
The Wrens - "Girls, You Won't"
Miles Davis - "Move"
Phoenix - "North"
Nelly Furtado - "Say It Right"

Friday, February 09, 2007 

Don't panic dept.

So it turns out that you absorb more nutrients from food you actually enjoy. And a host of other, similar revelations, sketched out here by Michael Shermer. Glassner's book sounds pretty interesting.

Thursday, February 08, 2007 

Intestinal tug-of-war

Reason Online has an interesting article up on zombie movies and some recent books about them.

Something else works against reducing the zombie flick to schematic politics: the film’s physical weight, its fascination with eviscerations, rotting skin, simple fleshy mortality. Russell’s Book of the Dead is the kind of horror movie book you don’t see much anymore, in which high-minded text fleshes out a gallery of incredibly gory color stills from ghastly films. With dripping viscera and mutilated sex kittens on virtually every page, it’s something I hadn’t thought possible in this post-shame age—a book I was actually embarrassed to read in public. In other words, it’s an apt, brilliant look at a medium whose saving grace is that it can never become respectable.


Damn near broke my heart

So today in the Philosophy of Art course I TA, we were talking about emotions, and the prof asked (half seriously) whether any of the students had emotions. Knowing this was going to lead to further questions asking them to justify their contention, most kept their hands down, but one girl just in front of me volunteered.

"What kind of emotion did you have," he asked her, and without being able to record her tone of voice you'll just have to trust me that her answer was an unexpectedly touching moment in the middle of another boring class:

"Well, I fell in love once."


20 Albums of 2007: #15

Horse Feathers - Words Are Dead

In my review I compared Justin Ringle to the Walkmen's Hamilton Leithauser, and the more I listen to both records, the more right I think I was. Not about the actual sonic qualities of their voices, of course; whereas Leithauser sounds like a young, herniated Dylan fearlessly bawling at an audience of noisy drunks, Ringle's tremulous lilt sounds as easily frightened off as a colt. He and Peter Broadrick have managed maybe the most stunningly alchemical record on my list,* one that always sounds like two guys playing but that manages to make the whole orders of magnitude greater than its parts. There are obvious stunners here - the violin refrain on "Finch on Saturday," the swooping saw/violin duet in the middle of "Hardwood Pews," "Walking & Running"'s chorus ("I want out / I want to curse and shout / Get me / Get me out your mouth" - transcription does it no favours, of course, but that repeated "Get me" might be my favourite vocal moment of 2006), the whole of the closing "Mother's Sick." But what makes Words Are Dead such a great album is that the album tracks are easily of comparable quality, and all twelve tracks blur together in a rich, late summer haze.

Although Ringle is singing in English, and reading over the included lyrics is illuminating, the real truth here is the sound; partly because you can inject your own meaning while you're still puzzling out the mystery of Ringle's phrasing, partly because the surface impression is one of humane wisdom, partly because this record might be the best example from the last couple of years how music can take words and elevate their meaning - there's a world of significance in the above-quoted chorus, for example, but it's not discursive. I can't write it at you, I can only play you the song and wait for you to recognize it. It's a difficult trick, and one that makes Horse Feathers a bitch to write about, but also makes Words Are Dead worth coming back to again and again, in relentless pursuit of the ineffable.

*(possible contenders: Damien Jurado and Monkey Swallows the Universe)


Fill your hands

I devoutly hope someone directs John Edwards to John Rogers' latest post.

Hey, John? If you can't nut up and fend off a piddly practice-run swiftboating like this, then your campaign is sunk. Say you're proud of your two workers. Like every other boss in the world you don't agree with all the positions of your employees, but that you're not going to fire them based on the arguments of a fringe scandal-mongerer. And say "fringe scandal-mongerer". 2008 is going to be a fucking knife fight, Johnny, and we cannot afford any more "Yes sir, may I have another" Democrats in elections. No one who listens to Bill Donahue is ever, ever going to vote for you, no matter what you do. And those of us Catholics who don't listen to Bill Donahue, the other 99.5% of American Catholics, are a little more concerned with health care and the Iraq War and will forget the name and literary proclivities of one of your many low level staffers before Friday. So you might as well do the right thing.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007 

The way that we talk, the way that we walk, so easily caught

Feel good hits of the 6th of February, 2007:

Girls Aloud - "Biology"
My Majestic Star - "Half Measures"
Linda Sundblad - "Lose You"
The Shins - "Saint Simon (Live)"
The Dismemberment Plan - "The City"
Ed Harcourt - "Rain On the Pretty Ones"*
Hot Chip - "Disguise"
Shivaree - "Idiot Waltz"
Richard Hawley - "Coles Corner"
Peter, Bjorn & John - "Up Against the Wall"

*(the album wasn't terribly good, and if you're in the wrong mood this is melodramatic, but otherwise... utterly devastating)

Monday, February 05, 2007 

20 Albums of 2007: #16

The Goslings - Grandeur of Hair

Apologies for the delay, but this is definitely the right time to talk about the Goslings; my head is clogged up by the tail end of a cold, and my working life is swiftly becoming a nightmare. In my review (too late, as is customary these days) I compare them to blood bruises, dull metal scraped on stone, and Aristotle's notion of catharsis. And a man who knows a lot more about this stuff than I do, Bryan Berge, was "pleasantly surprised by just how heavy and harsh it is. Usually when people talk about finding beauty through the noise, they don't REALLY mean noise. Here it seems like a legit description." That's the problem/greatness of a record like Grandeur of Hair; it's so far off from what most people consider music that it can be hard to talk about without seeming pretentious, but this really is the real deal.

Like scrubbing yourself with sand, it's almost unpleasant but also cleansing; while plenty of music should be listened to loud the Goslings make sounds that demand the needle be edged over into the red. When you do, the noise is like a physical, prowling thing, and you're never sure if it's going to hug you or kill you. "Croatan," "Overnight" and "Dinah" alone deserve to inspire legions of imitators, but instead you can barely find Goslings material unless you take to the internet. At least they have a label now.


Gotta get out of the way

Today on Stylus, I try to do some justice to Alfie's unfairly overlooked debut. It's been six years, and I play it a lot more than most records from that year.

Sunday, February 04, 2007 

Your new favourite pundit

I've loved Andrew Unterberger's genius for years, but now he has a (really) regular outlet. Kid is sharp and entertaining as hell, and a really great guy to boot (thanks for letting me sleep on your floor, man). The best new blog I've read in a while - when I get around to updating my template, this is going in.

Saturday, February 03, 2007 

"Teodor, what does it mean that Roast Beef has depression?"

I'm sick. Go read this.

Thursday, February 01, 2007 


Today I typed 4638 numbers into my keyboard here at work, not counting the ones in this entry.


I like the word "uvula"

So my throat has been getting progressively sorer each morning this week, and the fact that I was up late talking last night doesn't help. So that's bad. But the annoying thing is that I kind of like the way my voice sounds right now, and I wish that when the throat infection (or whatever the hell it is) my voice would stay the same.

Of course, I have no idea how it sounds to everyone else.

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About me

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

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imathers at gmail dot com

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