Monday, March 31, 2008 


It's good to know that Alan and Mimi have enough of a sense of humour to write that they "are beginning to wonder if maybe THEY are the problem" when they lose another bassist, but I'm also kind of worried about the band now. Well, they've got someone for the tour...


Free and legal

Pictures For Sad Children is generally pretty odd in a kind of awesome way, but this particular strip is so true to life I want to make a poster out of it and hang it in my office the next time I have a office job.

Friday, March 28, 2008 


Today also sees my first try at one of PopMatters' short takes up, on Canasta's free (and quite good) remix album We Were Mixed Up.


And then he really laid into me

I'm following up on an essay from Travis Morrison of the Dismemberment Plan, so I feel a bit overshadowed, but I'm still pretty happy with this essay at What Was It Anyway? about Strangeways, Here We Come. I wrote it late at night, and it shows, but there's some good stuff there.


2007: Strategy - Future Rock

(A friend asked me what my top ten albums of 2007 were. I don't have an answer in list form. I decided to do ten entries, on ten albums I really loved from 2007, which will certainly have a lot of overlap with my Pazz & Jop and Idolator ballots, although I'm not holding myself to either of those. They will be in no particular order. This is the third.)

looking over your shoulder

Blurs of colour and texture, art as Dionysian (drunken) nightmare; who ever said intoxication was fun, anyway? They weren't doing it right. A thick veil of dub technique hovers over Future Rock (neither futuristic nor particularly rock, of course) like a heat haze. It's kind of like dance music. Kind of like ambient music. Kind of like Slint with all the narrative and explosions drained out, played by half competent DJs, plunged into a lake of formaldehyde. Kind of like the moment of the night when you can't drink any more because suddenly your stomach turns on you, and the rest of the night is spent delicately negotiating with it for peace. Kind of like Excepter feeling their shoegazer oats, being guided by a recognizably human intelligence (not that John Fell Ryan et al aren't human; it's the 'recognizable' that's the problem). Kind of like riding a bus into America with a hangover, listening to Can leaking from the headphones of the guy next to you. Kind of like trying to breathe mud and dance at the same time. Kind of like hearing a dance remix of Stars of the Lid while you're falling asleep.

"Stops Spinning" is its most accessible track, just because Paul Dickow keeps intoning the same couplet for most of its length. It's still likely to make you feel like you should have stayed sober tonight. I don't honestly listen to Future Rock that often, but that's only because it's so rich. It sounds like nothing else and it's very good at doing one specific thing that nobody else in music is doing right now. Given its strangeness and its density of affect, it's ridiculously varied; the Scannerfunk build of "Red Screen," the Pan.American-on-bad-acid bounce of "Phantom Power," the weird drum interludes and semi-pop of "Can't Roll Back," the closing fade and fall of "I Have To Do This Thing (Planete Sauvage Mix)" - how are these all on the same record? And how do they all make me feel the same thing?


Thursday, March 27, 2008 

What the hell, Frank?

Few things are as 'fun' as waking up to find that your brother's cat has discovered the joy of sitting in front of the toilet paper roll and unspooling the whole thing using his claws.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 


My Village Voice review of Excepter's Debt Dept. hit the internet today.

Sunday, March 23, 2008 

"I want my money back!"

To say that I never expected to like a Saul Williams song this much is a bit of an understatement. Heard about it from a friend, who heard about it from... a Nike ad? Really?

Saturday, March 22, 2008 

"I'm gonna fucking kill you! You'll see me around!"

...said by the gentleman who showed up to the store I work at tonight, at 9:02 (door locked, open sign off, business day ended on our computers, and also, it's the end of shift on a holiday weekend, eh?). We had a discussion through the closed and locked door and when I indicated that I was sorry he had taken a taxi to the store but that I couldn't help in (in, yes, about that language), he whipped out the brilliant rebuttal above.

No matter how credible the person yelling the death threat at you is, getting one always adds a little zest to the night. I didn't hit the summon-police button, although I was tempted; upon calling Dan I was informed that that's absolutely what I should do, which oughta make the next time this guy shows up just a little more fun. Once he buggered off, I got the cops to do a drive by and waited until Ben and Kristine showed up to leave (I had more work to do in the back in any case). Next time someone starts that shit, I'm hitting that button.

Monday, March 17, 2008 

2007: The New Pornographers - Challengers

(A friend asked me what my top ten albums of 2007 were. I don't have an answer in list form. I decided to do ten entries, on ten albums I really loved from 2007, which will certainly have a lot of overlap with my Pazz & Jop and Idolator ballots, although I'm not holding myself to either of those. They will be in no particular order. This is the second.)

Play hearts, kid, they work well

I don't try to be perverse about Canadian indie rock, but I've had people accuse me of it; that the Arcade Fire/Wolf Parade/many other popular Canadian indie bands don't do much for me isn't deliberate, I swear, although if I really tried (maybe with some help from Erik) I might be able to start mapping out what stylistic aspects of the scene I can't stand.

I kind of feel perverse about the way I love the New Pornographers, though. Aside from some highlights, the first two records might as well not exist for me (or could be compressed down to an EP or two), Twin Cinema I liked enough to pick up, and the mostly neglected (in that lukewarm, "yeah, I guess they're good like they're always good" was that is deadly to a working band) Challengers I've fallen hard for; to me it's their most emotional resonant, best (those two qualities often coincide for me but not always) record.

It's got nothing as purely ebullient as "Use It," sure (although even that one had its problems) but in terms of a whole album rather than one shining moment I think I'd prefer the steady thrum of "My Rights Versus Yours" and "All the Old Showstoppers" (and note how the latter pre-empts some of those fan complaints, as well). In the Seconds I just linked I called the New Pornographer's name apt because they skipped right to the climax, the musical money shot, in their songs, and while that's crude it certainly sums up the sugary rush of their early material. Here, and I'm on treacherous ground now, they've forsaken that kind of constant bliss for something that works better as an album. It's got themes (new places, adultery, a certain feeling of being lost, a certain way of singing to the person who makes you not feel lost any more), it's got the best Dan Bejar New Pornographers songs yet (and not just "Myriad Harbour" with its indelible moment of "ALL I EVER NEEDED HELP WITH WAS YOU"), and it's got a hell of a back end.

Seriously, from "Unguided" on we've got pretty much a perfect album. I first heard Challengers at the store without looking at the song titles, and I could have sworn Newman was singing with some fear "something's ungodded in the sky tonight," and the song still sounds to me like he's recoiling from the appearance of Cthulhu or something. This is how this band was going to be able to tackle six and a half minute songs, with wonder and terror and perfect drum punctuation. Note, too, how good Kathryn Calder is here and elsewhere on Challengers. I love Neko too, but we can have both, people.

"Entering White Cecilia" is worth it just for the way the chorus goes "What's eating you tonight? / WHO CARES?" with more joy than malice, and "Go Places" feels like the bittersweet companion to the title track, both about loving someone you probably shouldn't love ("And you live with someone / I live with somebody too / Leave it there"). Sometimes the heart wants terrible things, but at least we can be beautiful about it. "Whatever the mess you are, you're mine, okay?"

"Mutiny, I Promise You" sounded like it might have been pirate themed, but really it's just the best thing Carl Newman has written in ages (and that's high praise indeed), with a completely awesome Newman/Calder chorus before we even get to the bridge that inverts the sense of the title, "here's the mutiny I promised you / And here's the party it turned into." Above all else, this band's songs have been emotionally generous, even to a fault. You'd think "Adventures in Solitude" would be the flipside of "Mutiny, I Promise You," but really it's just more sympathy:

We thought we lost you
We thought we lost you
We thought we lost you
Welcome back

It's pretty and delicate and forgiving enough to begin with, but then it surges into the most breathtaking round, voices slipping in and out of each other,

I know you want to
Run far away from one more
And that's comin' at a bad time
Some cold race
Heartless ways
For all we know

I know you want to
Breathe through
Come back
Come too
But it's comin' at a bad time
Old scarred face
Survivor's guilt
For all we know

Unless my ears are fooling me, this is again mostly Calder. I've never heard her other band, Immaculate Machine, having missed them barely at the last Hillside Festival, but clearly I need to rectify that.

They give the last track to Bejar, though, and this title, "The Spirit of Giving," isn't misleading (even though in the lyrics it briefly turns into "the spirit of giving in"). Bejar sounds like he's grinning as he sings "hey, that picture really captures your mouth," but as with the last song you've got to wait until it all changes, because nothing as generous and humane and heartfelt as Challengers coud end any other way but handclaps, everyone else singing "glad prayer Mary come on," and Bejar eventually, gently urging you: "Your mother was poor your father was poor, whatcha gonna do / About it?" They don't try to answer for you, but god, if there was ever an album that gives you the strength to find your own, this is it.

I think it's telling that this has wound up longer, more emotional and full of more lyric quotations than I'd planned (to the extent that I plan these things at all); the whole point of my love of Challengers is that it keeps surprising me, slipping into my emotional life in unexpected ways and with unexpected power. There's something very Canadian to the warmth at its center, to my mind at least; something worth a million more obviously catchy songs.


Saturday, March 15, 2008 

Beyond your comfort level

I wish I had the time before going to work this morning to post something more substantial about yesterday, but that'll have to wait; for now I'll just note that the most cogent thing I've read on the whole Spitzer affair comes from Carl Wilson.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 

You get the weirdest ads in gmail sometimes

Especially when you're using it to ferry your thesis, and notes on that thesis, to yourself between home and school. I almost want to read this, just to experience how epically shit it almost* certainly is.

*I say almost because, you know, I'm a philosopher; we're trained not to utter certainties about unknowns, no matter how probable they are.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 

Write infinite

My second review at PopMatters - which happens to be my second review of my favourite record of 2008 so far, Samamidon's All Is Well - is up today.


Amusement is overrated

A while back I was arguing with a friend about boredom; I said it could be quite enjoyable, and he said it couldn't be (the problem may indeed be definitional: think about the difference between pain defined as "something unpleasent," in which case the masochist may not experience pain, versus pain defined in terms of certain nerve sensations or even defined by what most people would consider painful; I am speaking of boredom in the latter sense, he may have meant in the former). This is what I was talking about:

We are most human when we feel dull. Lolling around in a state of restlessness is one of life's greatest luxuries -- one not available to creatures that spend all their time pursuing mere survival. To be bored is to stop reacting to the external world, and to explore the internal one. It is in these times of reflection that people often discover something new, whether it is an epiphany about a relationship or a new theory about the way the universe works. Granted, many people emerge from boredom feeling that they have accomplished nothing. But is accomplishment really the point of life? There is a strong argument that boredom -- so often parodied as a glassy-eyed drooling state of nothingness -- is an essential human emotion that underlies art, literature, philosophy, science, and even love.

"If you think of boredom as the prelude to creativity, and loneliness as the prelude to engagement of the imagination, then they are good things," said Dr. Edward Hallowell, a Sudbury psychiatrist and author of the book "CrazyBusy." "They are doorways to something better, as opposed to something to be abhorred and eradicated immediately."

(I happen to be listening to the song "Get Lonely," by the Mountain Goats, and while it's really about the phantom-limb pain of losing a loved one (one way or another), it strikes me that it's also kind of about this kind of thing)

Sunday, March 09, 2008 

2007: Phosphorescent - Pride

(A friend asked me what my top ten albums of 2007 were. I don't have an answer in list form. I decided to do ten entries, on ten albums I really loved from 2007, which will certainly have a lot of overlap with my Pazz & Jop and Idolator ballots, although I'm not holding myself to either of those. They will be in no particular order. This is the first.)

lord, truly I am awake

We've had a hell of snow storm here today; the store closed early, for the first time all winter, and I sat at home trying to get through the revisions to my thesis. My brother and his girlfriend had gone to the bar; after a few hours, I said fuck it, grabbed the iPod and went to join them. It was ridiculous; from our building to the Albion is normally a two-minute trip, but it took me ten, struggling uphill in snow that would have been waist deep if I'd ever stopped moving long enough to start sinking.

I think the movie soundtrack is grotesquely overprivileged as metaphor, imagery, framing device, but the fact remains that my choice of Pride to listen to on the way out the building and up that hill, fighting for every step, felt fitting in a cinematic way. I can't really explain why; "A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise" and "Be Dark Night" are certainly struggling and ground-clearing songs, the necessary prelude to the rest of the album, but in that crisp black night forging through the snowbanks that had settled on the sidewalks I was struck by the album again.

I mean, those two songs aren't even close to the best material on Matthew Houck's third(?) album as Phosphorescent, one which except for a few voices (and not on the tracks where you might guess they are) and some "clacks" on one song, Houck is wholly responsible for. Of the eight songs, three ("Wolves," "My Dove, My Lamb," and "Cocaine Lights") are towering achievements; the other five are merely great, but part of their greatness is the way they knit together the album and give those three songs the space they need.

I don't even know how to describe this music; the closing title track is six minutes of massed Houcks providing a coda to "Cocaine Lights" and the album as a whole, droning, yipping, howling, sighing. It's gorgeous. "At Death, a Proclamation" is set to a tape recording of a school marching band Houck found/made (can't remember which). "Be Dark Night" is Low's "Whitetail" with the balance between voice and instrumentation flipped. There's a track called "The Waves at Night," which conjures up the exact right image for you. The only Phosphorescent track I'd heard before this, "I Am a Full Grown Man (I Will Lay in the Grass All Day)," is a great song. But it feels like a junk shop full of instruments next to the sustained mood and simplicity of Pride.

I put my headphones back on walking home alone after splitting from my last friend walking the other way; "Wolves" came on. Sometimes this album just hits me the wrong (the right?) way, and I want to drop to my knees and start sobbing. I can't say that about many albums, and the fact that I can't really explain it in Pride's case doesn't make it less powerful. My favourite records of the year are usually just that - favourite records - but every so often one comes along that my world is definably better for its presence. Pride is one of those.


Saturday, March 08, 2008 

New venue

I'm going to be writing music reviews for the mighty PopMatters (the bigger-than-Stylus site we didn't think was overrated), and my inaugural effort is the new album by the always mighty Goslings. I think the review reads a bit rusty - it's my first long form review in a long time - but hopefully it's still worth your attention.

Friday, March 07, 2008 

Jury nullification

I'm Canadian, so it doesn't effect me as much as it does Americans (although it does still effect me, let's not forget). But I'm still intrigued and generally supported by this editorial by the writing staff of The Wire, calling for an end to the incredibly flawed and pointless (in its current incarnation) War on Drugs. Particularly insightful and troubling is this observation: "Lost in an unwinnable drug war, a new generation of law officers is no longer capable of investigating crime properly, having learned only to make court pay by grabbing cheap, meaningless drug arrests off the nearest corner."

The analogy between that and newspaper reporters who are lost in an unending blizzard of press report and so are no long capable of investigating the news properly, having learned only to advance their careers by grabbing cheap, meaningless copy off of the nearest PR flack is pathetically strong; both are deeply dangerous, although in different ways.

Thursday, March 06, 2008 

Trying to catch up

I am feeling a bit under the weather, so no intellectual heavy lifting for me today, but I feel compelled (out of guilt) to mention two belatedly discovered responses to things I've written that I wish I had the energy to respond to fully (and hope/plan to at some point, in the former case).

My friend Erik responded quite cogently to my post on rockism a while back; I read his response a while ago but haven't yet mustered up the will to reply (which isn't his fault; I'm just lazy/busy). I will say now that his point that he wants "less reviews and more thought" is exactly the sort of thing I think we should be aiming for, but I owe him a fuller response than that.

On a completely different note, a gentleman I don't know at all has a very lengthy and interesting response to my article in Perforations ("I Exist On the Best Terms I Can": Joy Division and Hauntology). It's mostly not about my paper, and I don't have much to say in direct response to it, but it is extremely well done, and a more than worthy counterpart to what I wrote and the k-punk posts that were the genesis for my own thinking. And I'm not just saying that because he writes about "the extraordinary power of the two Hannett LPs – which I must admit Mathers evoked with real vividness and nail-on-the-head accuracy," although I did of course love reading that. So much so I'm quoting it for you.


Give it back

Feel good hits of the 6th of March, 2008:

D1 - "Mind + Soul"
Fleetwood Mac - "Thrown Down"
Excepter - "If I Were You (Live)"
Clinic - "Free Not Free"
Animal Collective - "Spirit They've Vanished"
Rocky & The Riddlers - "Flash & Crash"
Rachel Kiel - "Whatever Else You Do"
Phosphorescent - "Cocaine Lights"
Neko Case - "Tightly"
Port-Royal - "Spetsnaz/Paul Leni"

Wednesday, March 05, 2008 


The graffiti in the bathroom at the bullring is lot funnier than it used to be.

Saturday, March 01, 2008 

"I want to protect the people I've put in harm's way"

This trailer for Iron Man makes me want to watch a Marvel movie for the first time since... which came out first, the first Spider-Man or X-Men movies? Only this one has an actual actor playing the main character (and with the possible exception of Paltrow depending on how you feel about her, a solid supporting cast - Jeff fuckin' Bridges as Obadiah Stane, for fuck's sake!), actually amazing special effects and it looks like it's written keeping in mind the interesting character/thematic fodder provided by having our 'hero' be a rapacious, callous industrialist who makes weapons. I don't get pumped like this for action movies, normally, but damn that is a well put together trailer. And it's even co-written by two of the guys behind Children of Men!

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.

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.

Contact Me:
imathers at gmail dot com

My profile
Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates