Saturday, August 29, 2009 


Do you know what's really awesome when you're healing from getting some wisdom teeth out (no matter how smoothly and rapidly said healing is otherwise going)? Waking up with a cold that means you're coughing a lot. Unlike yesterday, I've resorted to a T3 (and some cough syrup), but so far nothing seems to have been dislodged, thank goodness.

Thursday, August 27, 2009 

I knew I needed you so

Very sad to read that amazing songwriter Ellie Greenwich has died; anyone who can write both "Be My Baby" AND "Leader of the Pack" deserves all the veneration she can get.

I'm getting two wisdom teeth out tomorrow morning, who knows when I'll feel well enough to write again. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 

How will I know what I think 'til I see what I say?

Feel good hits of the 25th of August, 2009:

Luna - Romantica
Leonard Cohen - I Tried to Leave You
Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy
The Mountain Goats - Quito
Plumtree - My My
Sit Still - Orion's Belt
The Mountain Goats - Moon Over Goldsboro
Wheat - Half of the Time
The Rolling Stones - Wild Horses
Arrandale - Foggy Dew


What are you talking about?

My review of the not-great new Apostle of Hustle album is up today at PopMatters.

Monday, August 24, 2009 

Baby you've got to be more discerning

I have yet to really get into of Owen Pallett's recorded work, but I think that's mostly because I saw him live first, and his live show is just so astounding. I'd buy a live album from him in a second, especially one that includes many of his amazing covers (I've got an MP3 of him doing Celine Dion's "The Power of Love" that is just incredible) and although the nature of his violin + loop pedals approach means that structually he's forced to be fairly single-minded in his approach, he always constructs such gorgeous edifices it's hard to mind. Maybe I just need to sit down with He Poos Clouds and give it some serious listening, but I feel like that sense of construction and achievement isn't as palpable when he's in the studio and he doesn't have to do it all himself in real time (although for all I know he does anyway). So basically Final Fantasy is that rare act I can genuinely say I love (and if you can listen to this Bloc Party cover and not get why that is, I'll be shocked) where I have as yet little to no desire to hear/buy the records.


A busy weekend

So this weekend I returned home for my mom's wedding. It really was a nice time, and I don't just mean the ceremony; it was one of those visits home that is deeply and obscurely satisfying. I went for a walk downtown and in our small town's surprisingly great used bookstore found a copy of this, which almost deserves a post of it's own; the range of artists, from ones I've heard of (Motorhead! Glenn Branca! Madonna! Simple Minds! Bush Tetras!) to ones I've never heard of (Telephone! Fashion! Leisure Process! ) is quite interesting, and the photo-and-quotation format means it almost functions like a yearbook or something. It makes you wish Noble (or someone) had been able to do one of these every year, because the book's main worth is in giving a slice of what was happening in 1983 - not just who was popular or well-regarded, but what all concerned were thinking at the time.

The rest of the visit was rather more bucolic; I played fetch with my dog, finished the (excellent) book I was borrowing from a friend, spent a lazy Saturday afternoon doing crosswords before heading back, and thoroughly enjoyed the wedding. My mom and Wayne are in Paris right now, hopefully enjoying themselves to the fullest; the ceremony itself was short and sweet, the food was delicious, the venue gorgeous, my spur-of-the-moment speech/toast well received (I can't exactly remember what I said, but I was fairly deep into the draught Tuborg and properly made Tom Collins at that point, and very nervous when I stood up), and I had the oddly pleasurable and adult sensation of having my relatives on my mom's side ask me what I'm up to these days. I don't know them as well as aunts and uncles on my dad's side, so it's always nice to catch up. I forgot my iPod which at first irked me (and I do wish I'd had it for the car ride, without music I wound up basically passing out on the way there and the way back) but forced me not to do any work while I was home, and that was nice.

Sunday I spent with my brother and a few friends at the movie theatre; we saw District 9, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Inglourious Basterds. All three were just a little bit better than I expected, which makes District 9 very good indeed, G.I. Joe more enjoyable than Transformers was and Inglourious Basterds riveting. It was surprisingly painless to watch three movies on the big screen in one day, although little things helped - having a break between two and three to get some supper, no repeated trailers and few bad ones, and so on. If we get three movies coming out at the same time we want to see again, I think we'll have to repeat the experience.

Thursday, August 20, 2009 


Today my review of the surprisingly compelling new Phantom/Ghost record is up at Resident Advisor. Given that I was expecting microhouse, the prepared piano and vocals arrangements on Thrown Out of Drama School were a bit of a shock, but it's a great record, especially "The Process (After Brion Gysin)," which is one of my favourite songs of the year.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 

Our supply is finite

First of all, I read this post on John Darnielle's Last Plane to Jakarta last night, and while I don't know if I'd like Tiny Vipers, Darnielle's point about the importance of attention, of your attention, is both very well put and very widely applicable:

"Too busy with other things to really properly describe what I've been listening to, not ready yet - never! never ready for that! - to just link to the artists or songs in question without saying something, anything, about why I think they're worth your attention. Because: your attention is more valuable than the present age would have you believe. It's the one thing you brought to this world that it didn't have before, and it's the only thing of consequence that you'll permanently remove from this world when you leave. You know? So when somebody sort of cavalierly directs your attention someplace without so much as a tossed-off phrase indicating why you should bother, then you ought, in my opinion, to regard such people/sources/tweets as emissaries of the dark Lord."

(emphasis his)

I hope, I think, I don't do that; it's true that many posts about albums I really like are fairly short, but that's because when I have an album I like as much as Mark Kozelek's masterful acoustic concert recording Lost Verses Live or Jack PeƱate's unexpectedly wonderful Everything Is New (which justly gets a slightly lower rating but might still make my year end list), the post about them includes a link to a review where I try and make the case for your attention. Which is a fancy way of saying I wanted to write about Darnielle's post anyway, but I noticed I had two reviews up today and though I'd fold it all into one post.


Epigraphs on (watching) the last episode of Six Feet Under

And when somebody asks if I'm ok
I don't know what to say

The Mountain Goats - "Wild Sage"

And everyone gets what they want
Everyone gets what they want, all the time
Everyone gets what they want
Even me
Even me
Even me

Wheat - "The Beginner"

Shadows crawled across the living room's length
I held onto you with a desperate strength
With everything
With everything in me

The Mountain Goats - "Game Shows Touch Our Lives"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 

I can't deny that I'm weak, sometimes

Feel good hits of the 18th of August, 2009:

Red House Painters - Moments
David Gray - This Year's Love
Phantom/Ghost - The Process (After Brion Gysin)
The Cooper Temple Clause - A.I.M.
The Long Blondes - The Couples
David Bowie - Sound and Vision
Belle & Sebastian - The Loneliness of a Middle Distance Runner
Eszter Balint & Smokey Hormel - The Color of Your Eyes
R.E.M. - Departure
Hot Chip - A Family in Here

(there were three or four of these songs I wanted to use for the title; the Balint & Hormel track especially I've just been obsessed with recently)

Monday, August 17, 2009 

But love, I couldn't hold it

My show review of Camera Obscura's show in Toronto this June is up today at PopMatters. Of course, it's half show review and half "excuse me while I work out my feelings for the last album," but except for a couple of awkward sentences (can't remember if they're the product of me or of the editing process) I think it turned out alright.


Yip yip yipyipyipyipyipyip

I wish children's television was still this surreal. And this funny.

Friday, August 14, 2009 

Prepare your coffin

Today sees my review of the surprisingly great new Tortoise album up at Resident Advisor. It's very nice to have Todd Burns editing some of my stuff again - no disrespect to any other editors I have/do/will work with, but most of my growth as a writer in my early 20s came under him at Stylus, and he still has a handle on my prose I don't think anyone else can match.

(This may be one of those things that normal people, by which I mean readers, won't be able to discern, but it makes a difference to me.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009 

I've said too much; I haven't said enough

I've said it before, here on this blog and elsewhere and to friends and in bars: R.E.M. were my favourite band before I was old enough to do any choosing. As such I don't actually spend that much of my listening time on them these days - I know the records I love by heart to the extent that actually putting them on a little redundant. But if you asked me why I loved R.E.M. so much, I'd normally be at a bit of a loss for words. It turns out that it takes a semi-inebriated detour to the convenience store to grab bagels for breakfast tomorrow to remind me.

"Losing My Religion" was released as a single when I was nine years old, although I might have been ten when I first heard it. These days I could give you ten, twenty, thirty R.E.M. songs I think are better, ones I enjoy and listen to more often. But when drunkenly mulling over varieties of bagel (plain? sesame seed? everything w/onion?), to suddenly realize that you're hearing that mandolin riff and those lyrics in the otherwise empty convenience store is a surprisingly powerful moment. Or it is if you're me.

Walking home I thought about "Losing My Religion" and had a sudden flash of insight about the song and my relation to it. It's fun as a music fan to talk about or banter with or mock (depending on your disposition and the company) Hornby's question in High Fidelity about whether being sad makes the songs or the songs make you sad, but when I have thought idly about it I've considered recent songs, ones I love now. I don't know if I'd say "Losing My Religion" is sad, exactly, but: the first song I ever loved, the first one I ever seized upon despite hearing dozens or hundreds before it, is a song about something that's unrequited. However you choose to interpret the lyrics, you can't in good faith move past the way Stipe is singing to someone that (rightly or wrongly) he feels owes him something, something he's not getting. It's not a stretch to say that most of the music I really love has an element of that feeling to it (anything from "If I Had a Heart" to "Rock and Roll Friend" to "Have to Explode"), and it's not as if I stop loving these songs when (say) I'm in a relationship. And for the first time, I feel and understand the real terror in Hornby's question: did this thing that I love fuck me up? or is this thing that I love an expression of something already gone wrong inside of me?*

And of course, one of the reasons the mind rebels at that kind of thinking is that you can't just stop loving the song. And you don't want to. Above and beyond (or below and within) the language used and the feeling expressed by the vocals in "Losing My Religion" there is plenty else that I love, as you do with any song you've heard so often that every second, every nuance and moment seems as inevitable as gravity. And after quelling the panic I felt at the initial thought connecting "Losing My Religion" to so much of what I seem to either love or gravitate to in art and life, after reassuring myself that the song I happened to start loving when I was ten hasn't warped my life out of what it would or could have been, the question still lingers a bit. Sure, it hasn't ruined anything, but what has it changed? What does it mean to be a person who seems to be mostly interested in songs about "the lengths that I will go to / the distance in your eyes"? Why can't I seem to get over my lifelong love affair with yearning? Do I even want to?

*(There are other options, of course, but that's not the point. Also, If there are any armchair psychologists who'd like to tease out a connection between my taste in music and my current unemployed, single, rather aimless state, I'd like to point out that a. I liked the same stuff when I had a good job and a stable, happy relationship and b. I'm already well aware, thanks.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 

There is no way this is not going to be awesome.

Andrew W.K. is putting out a solo piano album. About CARS. It's improvised. I have have have to hear this.

Also so far the birthday stuff has been great (and we've got at least a few more days of festivities to go, on the weekend). Thanks to everyone involved especially (of course) family, especially (of course) my brother and co-birthday haver.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009 

Yellow grid paper

Whatever you think of the man's movies (better than the haters would have you believe, probably not as great as those who grew up with them would tell you, but valuable for th most part), it's hard not to read this and feel freshly sad at John Hughes' sudden death.

Sunday, August 09, 2009 

Black and white / Fading on

After a mostly cold week, today it's an almost unbelievable forty-one degrees celsius if you include the humidex. I'm still sore from helping my mom move (because 1. I'm woefully out of shape 2. she owns more furniture than anyone I've helped move before 3. her new house, while beautiful and one I wouldn't mind living in myself, is the worst place to move into I've ever experienced) and on top of that I came down with a sore throat last night, the kind of sore throat that presages full-bore illness for me.

So today I went to Marketfresh to replenish our supplies of fruits and vegetables, and was reminded that the easy, direct, normal route to the store is blocked by construction. My chest, throat and nostrils all seemed to be backing up with debris as I wheezed up the stairs. I felt like a consumptive. Low's pitiless Drums and Guns proved to be a fitting soundtrack for the walk. It's always nice to revisit something you praised a few years ago and discover your feelings haven't changed at all, except perhaps for growing a little more intense.

Similarly, in the car back from Mom's after moving the furniture on Friday, I put MONO & world's end girlfriend Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain on, looking out the window at the black countryside interrupted only by the occasional, fleeting glimpse of a light. It was perfect. I'll still argue that the twenty-minute concluding fifth part of it is the equal, as a composition, of anything Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed You Black Emperor! or hell, Mogwai have done; but the genius of it is that that fifth part is even more moving, triumphant, terrifying, incantatory, everything after the music that precedes it. As an album, I think it may be the best thing this wing of the nebulous "post-rock" genre has ever done.

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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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