Saturday, June 30, 2007

Guitar Hero II

David Cross v. J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wendy and the art of minimal yet effective contribution

It is usually a sure bet that any indie track featuring well-arranged backing vocals and nifty harmonies (usually female) is going to grab my attention. Belle and Sebastian use this. As do The Beautiful South and even The Shins on parts of their new album. Duets are cool too - especially guy v. girl romps like the Ballad of Tom Jones or Ciao! Also nice are lofty numbers with the “I’d-like-to-buy-the-world-a-coke” type choral harmonies as performed by hugely populated bands like the Polyphonic Spree and I’m from Barcelona or even just your regular-sized band, but with a gospel choir in the background, such as Blur circa Tender

For me, one of the best examples of a band utilizing backing vocal tracks to perfection is Prefab Sprout. Specifically, former member Wendy Smith whose minimal on-paper contributions should not be scoffed at (and she did a lot of hair tossing and some dancing during live performances as well). As a backing vocalist whose style blends intricately with Paddy’s McAloon’s lead (and Paddy's own backing falsettos), Wendy sings harmonies during choruses but often also sings parts without accompaniment and can play off the lead vox with some expertly timed “ah, ah, aahs”, “sha-doobie-doobies”, and “la,la,las” (that’s official music-speak; the FiL would be proud!).

I appreciate Wendy Smith, the female Art Garfunkel (minus the critically dismissed solo career… or the curly, receding hairdo) and I imagine her restfully puttering about with her babies in rural England, living off the royalties of a brilliant career (ha! I don't think PS made any money) and occasionally pining for the day when she was in one of the most essential bands of its time.

Here is Wendy Smith in all her subtle, wispy, ethereal “ah-ah-aah”edness:

VIDEO: Prefab Sprout - We let the stars go


This Scandinavian nation, more commonly known for producing ABBA and death-metal bands, has had this strange influence on me lately that I can't seem to shake. I guess this place is in the midst of an indie music boom - or else the rest of the world is just now catching on the way it happened for influencial spots like Seattle, Iceland, Montreal, etc in the past. Groups that I've discovered this year include the Teddybears, I'm From Barcelona, Peter Bjorn and John, Loney Dear, The Field and The Knife. And now here come the Moonbabies with this poppy piece of sugary sunshine:

MP3 Sun A.M. by Moonbabies
DiY VIDEO Sun A.M. by Moonbabies

Further conspiracy proof: yesterday I got home to find that our local Swede-up-the-street (everyone should have one) has lent us her 4 DVD set of Pippi Longstocking in true stereotypical fashion not unlike a Canadian lending a Swede a pound of back-bacon. But I’m sorry, I have little good to say about this. We’re big Astrid Lindgren fans around here but really, is there any more punishing form of entertainment that those early 70’s Pippi movies with the half-assed English dub track? But everyone else around here likes it so perhaps its just me?!?

A little Joy

Here's a dedication to Zenmomma Mary... Joy! by Gay Dad, It's Gillian's all-time favorite power-pop tune (first enjoyed on the motorway through Devon and Cornwall). Go to Gay Dad's Myspace page and click on "Joy" for a blast of upbeat euro-pop at its finest.

White Stripes

This is a pic of the White Stripes performing three days ago at a youth centre here in BC!?! How sureal is that? It has given me new-found appreciation for this band. Their recent icky thump effort is not my favorite and I'm still a little surprised Jack hasn't ditched Meg for solo stardom - but hearing that they continue to get their kicks out of playing to a handful of juiced up teenagers does my heart some good. And today they're playing in Iqaluit, Nunavut of all places:

Here's a master-stroke of Michael Gondry's directorial genius from a few years back:

And here's the Simpsons version.

And... Michael Gondry's unique style of repetitive images timed precisely to the musical beat can also be found in the Chemical Brothers' train video for Star Guitar.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Quite possibly the COOLEST band ever

Echo and the Bunnymen playing "crocodiles" live in their prime. With that mesmerizing rhythm there's a reason why the camera follows bassist Les more than guitarist Will. Either that or his commando gear made for better video.

"Me I'm all smiles, i got (Effie's) crocodiles..."

(yes, there's one of those "not as tenuous as you might think" links between family and music video!)

VIDEO crocodiles by Echo and the Bunnymen

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Quiet Music

Music for those quiet moments at 2 in the morning right after the kids go to bed.

VIDEO mysteries by Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man (moving)

VIDEO sprout and the bean by Joanna Newsom (quirky beauty)

VIDEO you are my sister - live by Antony and the Johnsons (chilling)

What a Beautiful Life

Every family needs some good quality dance music now and again - for bopping around the room or driving down the road. Here's two excellent new videos from a couple of knob twiddlers - Brazilian Gui Boratto and the increasingly popular French duo Justice...

Ever had one of those days when the most awful thing that happens to you is dropping a lime on the floor? The best darn video about family life since Postal Service's incredible We Will Become Silhouettes, its a...

Beautiful Life

And here's loads of cool t-shirt design ideas! D.A.N.C.E by Justice:

Friday, June 22, 2007

It's ALL about ME

I'm not a big fan of the chain letter but I can’t ignore the power of the Crystal, so for the sake of self-deprication here's my 8 Things About Me...

1. I used to be in a gang. We wore North Star sneakers and rode bikes with ape-hanger handle bars and oversized banana seats. Actually, that’s not true. I was a wanna-be gang member, a pledge for my brother’s crew. I was either too small or too young (seven) or my seat was too gold and shiny, I’m not sure.
2. I tell people that music started for me with The Smiths, but really it was Rush. YYZ baby!
3. I’m pretty boring (other than the gang thing) - no tattoos, no piercings, never tried any drugs. Though I did once get my hair died blonde (or rather “duck-fluff yellow”) and I got a perm (twice) in my early teens. Sweet.
4. I’m lame and pathetic. Not only did I spout Morrissey lyrics to my future wife during our otherwise successful courting days, I once tried - miserably and unsuccessfully - to get a date with someone over the phone by talking like the immortal Lloyd Dobler in “Say Anything”. Also, Fergus answers to the name “Goose” because in-utero he was Gergus which evolved from Gurgi as in "Gurgi needs crunchings and munchings" (yeah I don't know either - apparently you have to read books to understand this). Anyway, that turned into "Fergus" upon birth which then morphed into Fergoosian which ultimately, in my small, lame, pathetic mind, blossomed into famed former Yankee hurler Rich “Goose” Gossage. Fergus/Goose's proper first name is none of the above.
5. I’m not a SciFi junkie, metal-head or blues lover and I’ve never really played video games (and when I do I suck: hello Xbox car racing; hello “Guitar Hero”) and I despise, though have never seen, American Idol. I am however a RomCom and teen-movie fanatic and my all-time favourite flick is “Some Kind Of Wonderful”.
6. I think I’m a pretty laid back, quiet, kind, unassuming fellow who is working to reduce the competitive fibres in my being, however I lead my soccer team in career “timeouts” where I have to leave the field for 10 minute spans due to either verbally abusing the referee or yelling at/ shoving opponents and usually this is right after someone mumbles “its just for fun” which really riles me and, like, makes me upset and stuff. I play in a co-ed beer league.
7. I, yikes, turn 40 in less than 6 months and I guess I better come to grips with the reality that I may never achieve my life-long goal of becoming a professional soccer player. I also concede that I may never fully understand and appreciate the appeal of NASCAR.
8. I like every kind of food except hazlenuts and can’t figure out why everyone else likes the wretched things. Filberts I like – so don’t tell me they’re the same thing. My wife has trouble sleeping when she’s stressed about money and suchlike but this nut dilemma is exactly the sort of stuff that keeps me up at night.


Here's a new one from the Spree. Most bands would no longer exist after losing 4 members but the Polyphonic Spree had 28 to begin with. And here's a self-indulgent shout-out to ex-Pixie keyboard player, and more importantly brother-in-law to up the road buddies Margaretha and Murray, Eric Drew Feldman, who just so happened to have produced the Spree's previous album.
Running Away Video

I float like a butterfly, bumble like a bee

Play: I find myself increasingly embracing, and becoming more confident in, my many inabilities, failings and near-complete lack of skills. This statement in Slate's "the paradox of play" article frames what I'm talking about nicely: the modern father's ineptitude when it comes to building a treehouse or a go-kart, not to mention playing marbles, could prove a godsend. Instead of a fussy facilitator, he can be a fellow bumbler, feeling his way and having fun.

Though Fergus thinks I'm a pretty good mechanic since I usually am able to change the batteries in his Thomas trains, really I'm not all that handy. And this lends itself well to the fact that our best moments as a family at play are when we discover things together and learn from each other. The member of our family who did not inherit poor DiY genes (ie: not me) may have researched how to build a treehouse exhaustively and purchased the necessary power tools, but still our treehouse, that we all contributed to "building", remains a nail-free pile of specially selected branches carefully leaned up against a wind blown tree. That seems to work fine.

Also... its really cool to have your daughter unconsciously teach you some trampoline maneuvers (maneuvers that would have given a certain grade 9 student with a once intense fear of heights a passing mark in gymnastics). I'm oh-so-thankful that we can discover all this together. Bumble, bumble, bumble...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mad World Dance

Ok. Never mind Conrad Birdie and his hep gold lame jumpsuit or Jarvis Cocker's gyrations - here's what I'm going to be practicing over the next few months. I'm not sure how I lost Roland Orzabal's little tai chi meets new wave number in my 80's rehash repertoire but I'm keen to get it back. Now that's stylin!

or perhaps he's signing that he's about to paddle a canoe?

Click here: Tears for Fears' Mad World

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Come on mood shift, shift back to good again

Bands used to have simple names: The Beatles, The Clash, Johnny and the whoevers... now we have the clumsy, yet cool, "Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah", the impossible "!!!" (pronounced "chk, chk, chk") and the beautiful "I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness". Song titles, too, once evoked their intended purpose: "Turn, turn, turn" actually had "turn, turn, turn" in the chorus - shocking! And even New Order, who attached their song titles, it would appear, to their music and not their lyrics, had fairly muted and zippy titles for their tracks.
Then along comes Sufjan and his "The Black Hawk War, Or, How To Demolish An Entire Civilization And Still Feel Good About Yourself In The Morning, Or, We Apologize For The Inconvenience But You're Going To Have To Leave Now, Or, 'I Have Fought The Big Knives And Will Continue To Fight". This tune lasts only two minutes but takes at least a good 60 seconds for the name to scroll through the iPod's screen.
Of course every action has a reaction and people are going for the more refined, straight forward approach nowadays too - ie: Matt & Kim and their "yea yeah" song. Pretty simple (but somehow calculated no doubt).

Quirky, Georgia based Of Montreal have bulky song titles and I can’t say as I understand them or the band that much. But "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games", a favorite video around our house (and featuring a guillotine), is sure a catchy song and I used "So begins our Alabee" in our family's 2006 recap movie. And then there's the mythically titled "Heimdalsgate like a promethean curse". The fine, helpful people at had to help me out with this one (I only read newspapers and magazines). It has taken me a while to get into this song but now I can't shake "Come on chemicals. Come ON chem-i-cal-a-o-a-o-a-o-als" out of my head (as Mr. Montreal says in the song: "my own inner cosmology has become too dense to navigate"!?!). But what really grabs me is the way he pleads with himself: "I'm in a crisis. I need help. Come on mood shift, shift back to good again. Come on mood shift, shift back to good again. Come on be a friend".

Below is the video for Heimdalsgate like a promethean curse - not in any way bizarre:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"thou shalt not buy Nestle products"

funky new tune (electro-poem?) from across the pond...
"Thou Shalt Always Kill" by Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Outdoor Sports

The art of leap frogging - and you thought there was only one way!?!


Cool old school skateboarding (barefeet, no helmet, downhill).
"Heartbeats" by The Knife (yet another Swedish band!)...

Matt & Kim

Okay, these guys are infectious! Synth player and lead vocalist Matt appears to play with only one hand, the other pumping in the air half the time, and drummer Kim smiles CONSTANTLY. And she's obviously an excellent musician... in one home-made video for an acoustic performance of Yea Yeah, she bangs away at a cardboard box, a plastic dish and some sort of metallic object and never misses a beat - and the beats are fast.

Here's a video to make you SMILE - a food fight that takes an interesting twist near the end! Good stuff for a rainy day.
Yea Yeah Video

If you like (and how could you not like) then you can download Yea Yeah free here.

This is what they look like live - go see them and get sweaty (upcoming: Denver 6.10; Kansas City 6.11; Des Moines 6.12; Chicago 6.14; Oslo 8.8; Kiewet 8.17)!!!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Hetchie Hutchie Footchie

Suitably strange/ ultra-cool video from Mancino...

Sing along with the common people

I'm extremely envious of all the talented people who share their joy at RU conference talent shows with their pogo-sticking, hula-hooping, somersaulting, ballad crooning, interpretive dancing, fire-ball juggling, knife throwing, lion taming...! All my whining about having no demonstrable talent of my own seems to have spawned a demented desire in the other members of my family to come up with something presentable for me. Currently they're on a Conrad Birdie kick and are, this very second, taking my measurements for the gold lame jumpsuit they plan to whip up (refer to photo)! However, there's a lack of agreement as to which song and dance routine I am to perform from Bye Bye Birdie and how many background singers/ swooning sycophantic slags are required. While they struggle to work it all out, I'm secretly planning to pip them at the post and commence practicing a pointy-limbed dance and lip synch number as immortalized by the angular Jarvis Cocker in Pulp's "Common People". I may first have to shed some pounds.

Common People Video

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

My 9 Easy Rules For Flying

1. Just because your seat reclines doesn't mean you need to use it thereby decreasing the legroom of the 6 foot tall handsome fellow behind you from 6 inches to -6 inches.

2. Avoid sneering, scowling and yelling at screaming children - we've all been there... even you Mr. argyle sock wearing, massive umbrella toting pompous pensioner.

3. Yes, I know it sucks that most airlines have discontinued food service but please make yourself something other than egg-salad and tuna-fish sandwiches. Thank you.

4. When flying across the country (like, say, from Victoria to St. John's) the morning after you've made some yummy homemade bocconcini pizza, remember to eat the leftovers prior to about 11 a.m. otherwise it starts to smell a bit.

5. Avoid eye contact with the already-seated upper-crust folk as you pass by their executive class seats. No need to give them the satisfaction of gloating, they already have their complimentary newspaper.

6. Avoid eye contact with the lowly plebs if you happen to get upgraded to executive class. Try to act like its no big deal - eschew the complimentary newspaper.

7. Keep your shoes on (refer to the odoriferous references in rules 3 and 4).

8. Don't put all your weight on someone else's headrest as you, you weak bladdered inconsiderate window-seat occupier, scootch your way to the aisle. Might as well just pull an Oliver Stone! Yes, that's right, I have a celebrity based anecdote... we were flying to LA 10 years ago and sitting in front of us was a very grumpy Oliver Stone. Not only had he somehow not gotten first class seats for himself and his assistant (he did get to use the first class potty however), he was also reading some really horrible reviews of his just released "u-turn" movie. AND he actually had a flight attendant tell him "I'm your biggest fan". So, on one trip back from the can, Olly (I WAS sitting DIRECTLY behind him) puts his hand on his in-the-doghouse-for-not-getting-first-class-seats assistant's FOREHEAD to support his whole entire body weight. The kicker was that the assistant didn't blink - par for the course I suppose. Anyway, keep your body weight to yourself. Unless your a big time Hollywood director or someone super famous like Tommy Lee or something.

9. Talk to our buddy Chuck, amateur aviation enthusiast (like a trainspotter but with wings!), before you book your flights. He can tell you not only the number of bolts used on any particular aircraft but the number of bolts used on the little truck thingy that services that particular aircraft. I fail to make use of his knowledge and get myself stuck in the bulkhead's emergency seat - the one with all the big red pokey levers on the door that you're not really suppose to touch but you do anyway. Cause you're curious.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Cranial Hemorrhage

Oh how I've always longed to be English - the music, the rolling green pastures, the neighbourhood pubs, the pebble-dash houses, the wee little refrigerators, the chip-butty's (check out that yummy looking photo!). But I especially covet Englishdom because of the way they are able to express themselves, such as when a shot on goal in soccer from a long ways out becomes... "ambitious!". Well here's another fine example - the public reaction to the unveiling of the horrendous London 2012 Olympics logo: "a multicoloured swastika?"; "a puerile mess, an artistic flop and a commercial scandal. It is feeble."; "looks like a chav running for an exit"; "I don't understand what it is ... oh I see ... it makes a rather pathetic 2012. Well that's rubbish isn't it?"

Olympic officials have embraced the logo as "a powerful brand taking its place in a brand-savvy world… this includes a palette of colours, lines and shapes that create energy, inspiration and interest."

The following logo is available in the finest 80's-era leg-warmer palatte of colours: magenta, pink, orange and green. Judge for yourself. I'm Canadian, and unfortunately not English, so I can only manage to utter: "yuck!". One of these cost £400,000, the other was produced by a 7 year old... can you tell the difference?

Monday, June 4, 2007

I gotta Rolls Royce cause its good for my voice

My most watched video ever (for some weird reason): Children of the Revolution by the Violent Femmes (1986). Features kilts, mullets, the famous Gordan Gano howl and lots of extras who look like they are in no way acting. This was my ideal vision of rural Wisconsin, the whole Fish on Fridays scene... until I realized they do the same thing in rural, francophone New Brunswick and that kinda ruined it for me. I would have liked to have tied this song into a movie of the kids but I've come to realize my kids are more "children of the evolution". Actually, if a band were to come up with a song titled "screaming naked children of the forest" - I'd be set.

Children of the Revolution Video

Saturday, June 2, 2007


There is no artist out there right now more talented than this guy. Here is Sufjan Stevens, the boy-genius, playing his banjo and singing while straddling a rooftop recently in Cincinnati: Video.
Grab a whole pile of Sufjan songs for free (and legally) here - or at very least scoop up "The Henney Buggy Band".

Speaking of 1992...

All Morrissey-ed up and full of potty humour.

Friday, June 1, 2007


Shoegazing music fit my life perfectly during its brief lifespan in the early 1990's. The predecessors to Britpop's confident, in-your-face groups, shoegazing bands were quite literally made up of people who played their instruments while gazing at their shoes - disaffected types playing music with droning, noisey, repetitive guitar lines matched by distorted, ethereal vocals. For some reason it didn't really last. However, shoegazing pioneers My Bloody Valentine are supposed to be working on their first new album in 15-odd years and some electronic groups like M83 continue in this vein. "I only said" (stream below) drove my roomates nutty with its repetitive pattern - i still think its really cool!

The video for my all-time favorite song of the early 90's: Lush's Nothing Natural
Download a free, legal mp3 of My Bloody Valentine's "Lose My Breath"
Download a free, legal mp3 of Ride's Vapour Trail
The video for M83's "America"

From Success to Sarcasm

Recently I clued in that the boy Fergus, aged 3 and 2/3's, is now what people might call a "pre-schooler". As an "unschooler" this has little meaning - he'll always be a "pre-schooler". At his age, Fergus - according to the powers that be - needs to get "ready for success". Early Learning for the pre-kindergarten set is becoming a big thing here and somehow somebody concluded that over 9,000 kindergarten students in BC are not developmentally ready to start school! So these early learning centers are popping up all over the place to offer parents a place to help their children develop the means to succeed in school. Apparently, parents can expect to participate in story time and in play activities as well as serving their children a healthy snack!

I was going to go on about the definition of "success" and greater society's viewpoint that story time and play time are best served in institutions and that soon 1 year olds will be loading up their backpacks and heading off to school… but instead I just have this to say: Fergus, giddyup, times-a-wasting*...

Archival photo (oldie but goodie):

Eating "cheese", as his grannie thought, for breakfast (reality: white chocolate):

*Sarcasm... Which reminds me, here's a quote from Alexei Sayle in The Best comedy program of the 80's, The Young Ones:

"Are you being sar-carstic or something, my son? That's one of my least favorite things, that happens to be. Sar-carsm. I was walking a dog, and this bloke, he comes to me and says, "Nice day, innit?" But it wasn't. It wasn't a nice day. It was a little bit cloudy. Which makes him very sar-carstic. So acting as if nothing would happen, I took his head, right, put it in me mouth, right, acting dead casual-like, clamped me teeth, and BIT HIS HEAD OFF!! Cause I hate people being sar-carstic."

Video clip available here (not for the faint of heart). Mr. Alexei's poetic diatribe starts around the 4:20 mark. But don't miss the start - Madness play "Our House" in all their lip-synching glory.