Friday, February 01, 2008

45B Part 1 [the mass we left behind]

and so the mass comes to eat itself.

this is the end, my friends!

it's also episode 45-b (part 1, no less), and one step closer to closing this chapter

as this second side to the 2007 year end comes around (in time for 2008's second month), we listen to the first half of some of the best songs off the best albums to be released in 2007. Side A having been a canada/montreal episode; this one beginning with a song about the man we left behind.

So Jack Dylan and I present episode 45b of Pop Montreal's PopCast. Part 2, to come (as soon as I undo the damage done by Dylan through his insistence on helping 'produce'), rounds out this top ten (non-canada) 2007 countdown, and rounds out the whole chapter of this blog, I think. Maybe an no-talking side C will carry us through its afterlife to somewhere else...a silent and redemptive 2007 footnote that starts the whole mess over again.

Both podcasts and entries will continue, at a soon to be announced and refocused (and renamed?) location. In the meantime, check out JackDylan.ca (Jack who is off to Japan and Thailand for two months, in five hours, if these strange invisible sleet-pebbles let up enough).

PopMontreal rattles on as ever, with rumours of another pod-show bubbling and young prospects eyeing ice-time all over. (Did I mention I picked up Mike Komisarek in my pool today? Go Habs.)

SecretCityRecords.com is soon to be relaunched, and this band about to put out an album that has occupied my ears and life for the last 6 months.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

To live in a house that is haunted...

It's funny how meaningful meaningless moments can become. I suppose that's precisely what makes them so potent, kind of like how only something as small as an atom can possess the greatest of bombs. I saw Leonard Cohen yesterday, where one might expect to find him, and to no great dramatic end. He wasn't even dressed in particularly fancy clothes, or flanked by some equally elegant creature.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who's read this blog (and after four months absence does anyone still?), that Cohen is a hero of mine. And so what, big deal, get in line, right? I guess that's part of it, realizing the absurdity of thinking that one's admiration for anyone or anything in the world goes beyond anyone else's. Still, for a boy to grow up a stone's throw away from Murray Hill and to idolize the man and his work from an early age, hell to use his words to name your blog...it's hard not to possess a vague sense of entitlement, however misplaced. Mostly in recent years it was just how often friends of mine had come across him randomly on the street, and then seen him again, while I never did. Leonard Cohen: the twentieth century's greatest poet, or my own personal polkaroo?

In the end there wasn't even an encounter, just the most superficial of sightings...but how else? I sat, about to eat, looking through a window while he prepared to cross the street. Unmistakable of course. A young girl was jogging past him, and must have made some kind of gesture of recognition because he nodded casually before crossing. As he walked up the street after crossing and out of my view, another woman, came walking towards where I sat in the opposite direction. She saw me lean over to catch the last glimpse I could and we caught each other smiling in the moment, she obviously also aware of the little lovely nothing that had transpired, as if to say, 'there he went'.

I've wondered sometimes, what I would say if I ever came upon him in a context that called for words. But I think I like this version best. A relay of knowing silent nods with a couple women on the Main seems best. Much better that it be wordless, and as close to meaningless as possible.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Heaven is only in your head: The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

During the finale of their five night run in Montreal in the hundred candle-lit basement of the Ukrainian Federation and an all acoustic version of “the Well and the Lighthouse”, Win Butler walked into the crowd that had followed the band down the stairs after the first encore. The song was ending, the band yelling ‘the lambs and the sheep ain’t sleeping yet’ and a camera followed him into the mass of people parting. He emerged around the other side a minute or so later with the camera in his own hands, pointing it back at the audience before turning it on himself and disappearing backwards into the crowd.

It doesn’t get more grand or dramatic than the Arcade Fire’s sophomore release, Neon Bible, in terms of the ambition of imagery and the breadth of the gestures. Mirrors and bombs, casting of stones and soldiers and the Church, a golden calf, good Christian men, lambs, the flood, a key. If the Arcade Fire are vulnerable anywhere (though they seem a pretty sudden and stern institution around here) it’s in the question, ‘can they really pull that off?’ Are they really standing up there singing “Neon Bible”, and about the big and obvious but almost embarrassing touchstones of our recent age? You know, like war, religion, the public forum and its spotlight? Who do they think they are anyway?

If you took a picture of the band with a flash during one of their recent shows, you’d see bands of light where electrical tape had until then decorated their costuming more or less benignly. The colours and shapes were not accidentally analogous to the giant fluorescent neon bible that has hung behind them during shows. Carefully executed spectacle, right?

It’s just that right when you think it’s all a bit much, you realize you’re looking at yourself. Maybe you made that beam of light with your flash, with your own expectation of the moment. (And I mean, come on, let’s face it, if any record has had the burden of expectation, it’s this one.) Anyone who’s come to preface their take on Neon Bible with a banal defamation of ‘the hype’ (and I can think of a few, I woke up to one this morning on the radio) should take a long look at themselves in the mirror. We’re all implicated as accomplices to the current projected image of this band.

The entire spectacle of their shows mirrors the narrative arc of Neon Bible, which is as much a piece of literature as it is a record—not so much as poetry as storytelling, of mirroring a few basic rhythms that people go through, and how they translates to actions in the world, into belief in places like Heaven and Hell, and the experience of those states of mind and body in the world.

Of course the Arcade Fire came out with this kind of record. People forget sometimes that artists don’t live in a vacuum, and their output isn’t pre-determined. How could a band that was so quickly vaulted into such a bright spotlight not be singing about security cameras, about projected images on television, and salesmen? How could it not be almost absurdly bright in its spectacle? What’s more absurdly bright than a Neon Bible?

What’s really great about Neon Bible as a narrative arc, though, isn’t it’s reflection of the age—polticial or religious or otherwise. It’s how it’s able to stand up and still make it personal, about what you put into it; what you shine on it yourself.

The title track is one of its strongest moments, with ‘take the poison of your age / don’t lick your fingers when you turn the page’ conjuring up images of Eco’s In the Name of the Rose, and great hopeful books being poisoned (and poisoning others) by men of fear, doubt and desire. It’s definitely a dark world you enter into on this record; slightly haunting, but it also has an inviting element. It may have both classically dark and light moments, but where Funeral had a sense of joy in the wake of pain, Neon Bible has a sense of moral trauma in the wake of the world of choice or its illusion. Definitely a more subtle piece of work, but densely rewarding on different levels.

It’s hard not to think of “the Well and the Lighthouse” as the album’s centerpiece, (quite literally when you visit the lyrics page on neonbible.com) given the young girl who has joined the band on stage to recite the fable on which it is based, Jean de Lafontaine’s the Wolf and the Fox, in French. When they played that first show at the end of January in a church basement in Montreal, Win Butler explained the song’s inspiration and qualified Lafontaine’s work by saying, ‘it’s nice ‘cause at the end he always tells you the moral, and the moral is: that you fucked everything up’.

“Black Mirror” gets things rolling, but I’d suggest the album’s ultimate entry point is the moral crisis of its middle section, and thinking of the record as a cycle that needs to be heard a few times and can then be approached from any point. Take the greyness of a song like “(AntiChrist Television Blues)”. On the surface and in its musical incarnation it’s a grand Springsteen homage epic, as earnest and true as any good Christian man could be. But if the hero of this song who sees his daughters as lanterns and the Lord as the light is a misguided Anti Christ, we’re all implicated in his plight by the way Win Butler sings in the first person with desperation. You don’t know whether to condemn him or feel for him.

“The Well and the Lighthouse” and Lafontaine’s fable both possess this imagery of going down a well, of levers and reflections above. Whether it’s a trapped fox or a fallen angel or a man who’s made a choice and felt very real consequences of it, the crux of Neon Bible is in that image of being able to go either way after the fact. To be trapped in a cage or to lift yourself up out of it becomes a matter of how well you absorb the reflection of your own decisions, and project something positive back.

One of the album’s most haunting (and beautiful) sequences comes during “Ocean of Noise” and the line ‘who here among us, still believes in choice…not I’. That moment of crisis is an important point on the record, and permeates much of that early sense of expansive oceans of darkness, the black waves and bad vibrations of an existential abyss…but it’s not the final moment.

On the surface, Neon Bible’s finale, “My Body is a Cage”, almost comes off as its darkest moment. Trapped in the shackles of choice or tricked by mirrors, an age that calls darkness light, a dead language, isolation from the one you love. In some ways the album returns to the point from which is came, keeping with the cyclical motif. But where Lafontaine’s fable ends with the moral that you’ll always fall for what you desire or what you fear, Neon Bible ends with this:

My body is a cage that
keeps me from dancing
with the one I love,
but my mind holds the key.

Your standing next to me,
my mind holds the key.

When the Arcade Fire sing ‘Heaven is only in my head,’ I don’t think it’s something anyone should take negatively. It’s not so bad, to go to ‘the same place animals go when they die’, if you’re able to conjur Heaven in your head. That might mean that Hell lives there too, but at least we have the keys to live with our choices.

The Gospel of Thomas isn’t part of what people conventionally think of as the Bible these days, but it was just a legitimate an account of some things Jesus said during his time on the planet, dug up much later than the rest of the New Testament. It ends with a great moral of its own that I think is fitting here:

“His disciples said to him: On what day will the kingdom come? Jesus said, the kingdom of the Father will not come by expectation. They will not say: Lo, here! or: Lo, there! But the kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it.”

After their acoustic version of the Well and the Lighthouse in the basement of the Ukranian Federation, the band made their way back upstairs to do one of their mid-crowd versions of “Wake Up”. Most of the people that had made it down to the basement were now trapped somewhere in the middle of the staircase on the way back up. It was hard in that moment, not to identify with Lafontaine’s fox lured down by the cheese, or the hero of “the Well and the Lighthouse”….and it was that realization that made missing the final encore one of the most enjoyable and poignant moments of their shows, for me.

Of course this is all a projection of my own. But ‘I chose my crime, and now it’s mine all mine.’ I imagine anyone looking for some kind egoless journalistic impartiality here stopped reading long ago. But the real joke is on anyone who thinks they can say something about this record, about the expectation and hype and attention around this band, and not realize that we’re all implicated as soon as we open our mouths, or put letters to a page. That’s just it. We’re in this together, you know? You know, if you want to be.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Pop My Cast - Lickety Split meets the PopCast (for adults...and a launch party)


Pop My Cast: Lickety Split Zine #4 (aural companion) with Andrew Rose, Amber Goodwyn, and boys and girls of all kinds. (m4a)

Naked in a bubble over the city with Trancelvania, Lil Pip, party plans, Flames!, Begging the Question with Love in Ruins, Annie Sprinkle, a new love song by Miracle Fortress, and tons of orgasms.

Though I'm sure Ghostface has technically rendered podcasts I have done in the past explicit, this is the first that should probably carry the explicit tag explicitly. That said, it's about time the PopCast/the Mass... presented something properly profane and holy. Pansexual sex-positive Montreal smut zine Lickety Split sets the agenda here (for the first proper collaborative crossover episode of any kind), as editor Amber Goodwyn and I discuss sex, music, the launch party for number 4 of Lickety Split (tonight, Friday the 23rd at Club Lambi!), and play some music from said accompanying party. It also features numerous contributors via Amber, her radio show, and Lickety Split, and is a pretty funny, sexy, and honest document. Ultimately, for all of-age constitutions, should you wish to join us. And why not?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Resurrected, Living in a Lighthouse. Five Nights of the Arcade Fire in Montreal



Whatever the Neon Bible is, the Arcade Fire certainly did their best to give us a sense of their sophomore album of this week, with a five-night stand in their home-town. With the exception of an intimate secret warm-up gig at the end of January prior to their London shows, these were first official appearances the band had made since opening for U2 in 2005, and their first headlining shows since their three-night run at the Corona theatre in April of that year .

If they were a newly minted household name then, even Heaven and Hades know them by now. They probably could have sold out the Bell Centre without U2 this time around, and these five shows at the 600-capacity Ukrainian Federation were about as sold out as you can get.

But that’s what makes this band great. It’s not just that they’ve managed to keep their feet on the ground in the wake of Funeral. It’s that they’ve managed to roll out an album and a spectacle that’s grounded but still grand. Where most bands would explode or dissolve under the pressure of this kind of spotlight, the Arcade Fire manage to reflect it back. (In some cases literally thanks to rather ingenious costuming...)




Sure, the band played from more or less the same setlist each night, running through most of the Neon Bible material and sprinkling it with versions of Haiti, Power Out, Rebellion, and the occasional Tunnels or Laika, but there was plenty of rewarding variety to be found in details of other kinds. And this is true of both their performances and the Neon Bible itself.

Take (Anti-Christ Television Blues), a song about a “good Christian man” ready to essentially sell his daughter to the masses. Forget for a moment that this may or may not be inspired by a real person, whose name I’ll omit. There’s a kind of honest sadness to it, as it’s sung in the first person, and the man ends by saying ‘Lord, am I the Anti-Christ?’ It comes off as if he really does believe himself to be a good Christian man, really does want the best for his children, and doesn’t want them working downtown for minimum wage. You can see all of America in it; a kind of otherwise honest faith gone awry. And if you paid attention, you could hear Win Butler introducing the song with a different lyrical prologue each time, even going so far as to write it out on the setlist in place of the song’s name.
IMG_0472

And maybe that’s the moral that Neon Bible brings to the table. (And don’t tell me it doesn’t have one, when one of it’s centerpieces, The Well and the Lighthouse, is inspired by “Le Loup et Le Renard” by Jean de La Fontaine’s, whose touchstone was a moral at the end of each fable.) Dig after “the Devil is in the details” and you’ll find that it probably originates with “Le bon Dieu est dans le detail”. Little things can make a difference.

The Arcade Fire put a little girl of their own “up on that stage”, but I don’t think Win Butler is the Anti-Christ. On Wednesday night she began the show by reading La Fontaine’s fable, in French, aloud to the crowd. Last night she read it on the stage in the venue’s basement (candles and all), where the band had snuck to finish their encore for those lucky or cunning enough to make it down behind them. (You can also find her in the lyrics section of neonbible.com ). It was details like this—like the acoustic Wake Up opener on Friday night, in the middle of the crowd—that made the shows special. And if the biggest band in the world can turn the spectacle of their performance on its head…hey, maybe America can lift its faith up out that well of desire and fear…

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Neon Bible is opened in a church basement

IMG_0086

Or plugged in, I guess. Friday night the Arcade Fire debuted a chunk of material from the forthcoming Neon Bible at Canterbury High School in Ottawa, (the alma mater of band member Richard Parry). But it wasn't until Saturday that the big fluorescent bible itself hung above the band as they belted out new songs--this time in the basement of the big Polish Catholic church that hovers over Mile End in Montreal.

Originally planned for Thursday night, the Montreal show was packed with about 400 friends and folks from the neighbourhood (including the perogie guy!), with the band running through 12 songs. They were:

Black Mirror, Keep the Car Running, No Cars Go, Black Wave/Bad Vibrations, My Body Is a Cage, Ocean of Noise->Rebellion, Intervention, Joe Simpson, The Well & the Lighthouse, encore: Haiti, Power Out.

The room felt surreal at times, it having been so long since the band had graced any nearby stages (save of course Thursday's high-school only affair), with no one quite knowing how to react, wondering if it was real. It seemed almost like Funeral could have never happened; that they were another local band hoping that this might be the show to take them to that next level. It's not easy to come back from the dead...from Hades (one would assume that's where they've been, right?) Everyone expects you to have brought something back with you. Isn't that the question on everyone's lips? Just how will this band follow-up one of the most well-received debuts, um, ever?

Well yes and no. In some ways, it just seemed nice to have them back. Old live staples in the set were sparse but of course welcome, and "No Cars Go" (which I'm asuming was entirely re-recorded for Neon Bible) definitely had a handful of interesting tweaks. No one would have complained had they come out and played a short set of crowd-pleasers and one or two new songs, but there's nothing I like more than seeing a band stick its neck out for new songs and new ideas (and there were plenty of both).

I'm sure there are a thousand people who can't wait to compare Neon Bible to Funeral, but I won't be one of them. Funeral was a perfect storm and everyone knows it's story by now. Tonight marks the first time I've heard any of the new songs save "Intervention" and "Black Mirror", but I can say this: Neon Bible will definitely make for lots of good reading.

"My Body is a Cage" was a beautiful slowly building piece with smart subtle lyrics and maybe my highlight of the set. The sound in the room wasn't perfect, but both "Keep the Car Running" and "The Well & the Lighthouse" (a waltz-like epic apparently based the Fontaine's fable "the Wolf and the Fox") showed plenty of potential, both as studio gems and big room triumphs. My other peak of the night was a song more than one person suggested was a Bruce Springsteen cover, but which I can't for the life of me place in his ouevre (anyone?). The band seemed to refer to it as "Joe Simpson" (Win muttered a barely audible line about 'Joseph Simpson' as it began), and while it certainly echoed the Boss in its rambling-man grandeur and lines about working 'in a building downtown', it also had lines about planes coming two by two and a little girl being a bird in a cage, singing to get her daddy a diamond ring. Maybe Bruce Springsteen wrote a song about Joe Simpson the famous mountaineer and I've never heard it, but I kind of suspect Win Butler wrote a song about Jessica Simpson's uber-creepy father Joe. And maybe this is your "(AntiChrist Television Blues)". Maybe I'm wrong. Either way, it was as big and beautiful and sad as any song I've heard. A working American man's anthem, in the basement of Polish catholic church in Montreal, with a big neon bible at the back of the stage...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

PopCast #31: Town Finishes Painting / These Are the Soul (post-Pop pt.4) m4a version

Episode 31 of the PopCast would have been here yesterday, but the planet decided to smack my block with a layer of dripping ice, like God frosting a cake. But all the more fitting it arrives on a Sunday, the last of the PopMontreal 06 wrap-up episodes, 40 minutes of stuff recorded during the festival itself (save the home-made prologue, and salute to the season).

PopCast #31: Town Finishes Painting/These Are the Soul (post-Pop pt. 4) (m4a )

Appearing in this episode: Patrick Watson, Jesse Jackson, Gary Lucas, Jace Lasek, Joe Grass, Mishka Stein, Robbie Kuster, Simon Angell, 'I'm Peter Tosh' and other random guy outside the Casa del Popolo, and friends and statesmen. Montreal Oct 6th-7th, 2006.

If you like this episode, you'll want to come to Pop's holiday season shows on the 15th and 16th at the Ukranian Federation. Patrick Watson and Plants & Animals play December 15th, and a growing group of local artists will be doing a 'Save Frosty the Snowman' benefit on the 16th. More will follow about the latter, it's shaping up to be quite a lineup.

This is assuming the neighbourhood doesn't get frosted itself, again. I don't know who all these people are who think symbolically renaming streets (or provinces) is a good use of time, but I'm glad this Dion guy's central message seems to revolve around the words 'environment' and 'sustainable'. Whatever they mean.

Now that the four-part post-festival episodes are done, we'll be moving swiftly back into festival application/upcoming shows content for the Podcast. I'll also being doing some kind of year-end wrap up much like last year. The podcast is starting to tale a bit more shape seasonally (and content wise), and in the coming week the whole back catalog of episodes will be archived here and available on iTunes. So get in your applications and mp3s, and send us your show listings. We're also looking for a couple unique contributors for the website, now that the next season is underway, so get in touch if you have ideas for the future. Or the past...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

PopCast #30: Three Meteors (post-Pop pt. 3) - m4a version

In this episode: Joanna Newsom & Sunset Rubdown.
Part three of the post-Pop episodes.

PopCast #30: Three Meteors (post-Pop pt. 3) - m4a version


A couple epics for Episode 30. Two of this year's big highlights from Pop Montreal are featured, including Joanna Newsom, whose Ys is out today.

For the textually inclined, I've also got a new piece at Rightround about religion, America, and Ms. Newsom (among others)...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Alden Penner Reborn

Don't quote me on this. For all I know this could have been a one-off event, but Alden Penner was definitely rock n' roll reborn at the Friendship Cove on Saturday. I've always been a fan of Alden's, from his days in the Unicorns to his (until now) softer intrumental solo material. And I've always made an attempt to catch him play whenever the opportunity arose, but I hadn't seen him actually sing since I last saw him with the Unicorns.

Actually, that's not true. I vaguely remember him singing the first time I saw him perform solo material post-Unicorns in April 2005. But I hadn't seen him sing the way he did on Saturday since his days in the Unicorns. And more importantly, I hadn't seen him play songs like these since, either. It was a three piece band that consisted of Brendan Reed (on drums and occasionally bass), and a girl with an accordian who also aided Alden (who played electric guitar mostly) with the various marimba/glockenspiel/vibraphone setup on stage.

It was basically everything you'd expect Alden to contribute to a second Unicorns album, had the band stayed together; pop-y rock n roll with brilliant song-structure, sometimes soft and sometimes crunchy. Vocals delivered with both sweetness and deseperation. And I swear they played 'the Clap' for about 30 seconds.

I've got no idea whether this band will be playing more shows, or whether Alden plans to record and release any of this material, but it was definitely fun to see him in that role again. Here's hoping there's more to come.

Friday, November 10, 2006

PopCast #29: LilDishPipWasher Pieta for the Apocalypse (post-Pop pt. 2) - m4a


In this episode: Moments from Pop Montreal 2006. Jack Dylan's "Anti-Depressants for the Coming Apocalypse" exhibit featuring Dishwasher, the PopCast showcase featuring Lil 'Pip.

Both of these acts were supposed to be at the 'Cove tonight (see Wednesday's PopPicks ) though last I heard there was possibility of a Dishwasher cancellation. Jack Dylan is also taking his show to Toronto next week, though minus the (now purchased) Pieta.

Regardless, here's a mini episode with just a tiny offering of all the month-old tales still waiting to be told. Episode 30 should arrive by Monday, too.

PopCast #29: LilDishPipWasher Pieta for the Apocalypse (post-Pop pt. 2) - m4a


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rumsfeld resigns; the PopPicks resume!

The PopPicks are a weekly offering meant to highlight some of the potentially better shows happening in Montreal from each Wednesday to Tuesday following. They're syndicated here from PopMontreal.com.

Can you hear that? That's a sea change. Shit's going down! America might yet survive! Yeah, it started sometime around Oct 5th, I'd say, around the same time Joanna Newsom was blowing everyone's minds here in Montreal with her festival highlight performance. Her own little Leaves of Grass, Ys, will be out next week, and it couldn't be better timed. Time to get behind those grandiose epics and believe again, people! The PopPicks are back!

We needed a bit of time to recover from Pop 06, but rest assured the wheels of 06-07 are comfortably in motion. Some final wrap-up episodes of the PopCast are on the way (as well as a very special IcePopCast all the way from the Iceland Airwaves Festival), but being that Bob Dylan is in town at the Bell Centre tonight, I figured what better time that to get back on the wagon. I already saw Ramblin' Jack Elliott perform Don't Think Twice this year, but I have to say, all those creepy 1986 interviews with Dylan I've been watching on YouTube lately make the Bell Centre a strangely tempting destination. But there's also a great Ontario-offering at La Sala Rossa tonight, with the Hidden Cameras headlining a bill that includes Spiral Beach and the inimitable Laura Barrett.

My pick of the week, though, goes to the loaded Friday Friendship Cove lineup. Bookend-ing the show are a couple artists that put on what I think were two of Pop Montreal's more underrated performances, namely Dishwasher, and the latest local hip hop phenom, Lil Pip. That's enough on its own, but you've also got Parenthetical Girls, Alden Penner performing with Noh Cars Go, and Mixalodian in there. So go early. It's apparently a benefit for planet earth.

There's lots of Canadian hip hop of all kinds to be had on Saturday night, from Cadence Weapon opening for the legendary Jurassic 5 at the Spectrum, to Ninja High School and Giselle # 1 at the Main Hall (along with the World Provider).

And you've got no excuse missing the Bell Orchestre and Final Fantasy show at Le National on Tuesday the 14th next week. This one's indoors, so rain or snow or shine your shivers should be of the desirable variety.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

He Poos Premature Polls: I Heart Music's Hottest Bands In Canada, um, drops. (It's actually not bad)

So it's basically November, which means it's ... time to get those end of year lists going? Yeah, yeah, every year we get dangerously closer to what Frank Zappa called "Death by Nostalgia", but I still think global warming is going to get us first (especially with Rona Ambrose in charge in Canada; has anyone actually heard this woman speak, she's like the worst of those obnoxious high school debaters!). Right, so, yeah, time for I Heart Music's Hottest Bands in Canada v.2006.

I weighed in this time around. It's not a bad final list, by any means. Anyone clueless about Canadian music (if they're still out there) probably has a good chance of hearing something good should they close they eyes and pick at random. It's somewhat predictable, and modestly frustrating at times (how Broken Social Scene made #6 this year is beyond me...), but it's nice to see what everyone else is thinking. Ohbijou seems to me the most glaring omission, but I'm sure they'll be on it next year (where was Helen Spitzer?). As much as I love Final Fantasy, I'll state for the record that Sunset Rubdown had my number 1 vote, and by a mile. But it's a dubious poll at best; Matt let some guy who works with Patrick Watson's record label vote...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Before You Wake Up: Iceland Airwaves with Patrick Watson and more...

Back to reality. This past month hasn't felt very real. It's hard to believe that in the span of 30 days we released the Patrick Watson album, plunged into Pop Montreal, and then took off for Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavik, from whence I've just returned. Iceland in particular felt like something out of a dream, in part because it has been one for a long time.
I've known Patrick Watson since early years in high school together. I knew then he'd be doing something interesting at some point down the line (my yearbook note to him says something like "tuck in your shirt when you're famous"), but if you had told me about Airwaves even 3 years ago I probably would have wet myself. I reconnected with him sometime in 2002, right around the time he was working on Just Another Ordinary Day. A show at Cafe Sarajevo which featured the full band lineup as it stands today sold me on the band's potential and I didn't really miss many shows after that. What's funny is that I associate this period with a turning point of my own in terms of a love for music and a sense of what was possible. While I was obssessed with Radiohead like everyone else through the turn of the century, Sigur Ros's ( ) was the first post-millenial album that really resonated with me a in big way. I've always loved music, but it really blossomed into a centerpiece in my life around then. Watson's music at that time was hugely influenced by the Icelandic sound, and I was obsessed with Iceland, having met Sigur Ros and the Amina girls after a show of theirs in Boston on a tour. We spent a couple days with them and I resolved then and there to get to Iceland at some point. And I swear I fantasized about working with Patrick and the band and getting them to Iceland, as well.
Do you ever have dreams that resonate in some kind of visionary way and then find yourself in a situation weeks later that evoke the imagery? Whether or not this the result of us projecting our dreams onto reality (maybe with the help of a coincidence here and there), it's hard to not feel floored when it actually happens.

Iceland Airwaves was an incredible experience. Not only did we get the band there, but between their instore at 12 Tonar, their official showcase at the National Theatre Basement, and their surprise gig on the Sunday to close the fest (even bringing up some guests from Islands), they were the toast of the event. I did a write up on the first two days of Airwaves for Rightround from Reykjavik, which is worth reading for a musical sense of the early goings of the festival. There's also a ton of pictures from the event on my Flickr. Islands and Wolf Parade were also on board for the event, which made it that much more exciting. Watson an co. have always been on the periphery on Montreal's indie scene, for better or worse, and to get to share my love of the band with two other Montreal acts I've loved for a long time was pretty special. And they both kicked ass, too, as usual.

There were signs from our first few hours in the country that things were going to get nuts. Picture this: we've just arrived after an over-night flight. The previous days was spent driving to New York and flying out, and little sleep was had on the plane. We're cracked out enough as it is, and the place feels like a different planet. So we wander into the dining room for our free breakfast, and Harrison Ford is sitting next to us. Han Solo on a stop-over to ice planet Hoth? Crazy. Apparently he flies his plane in once and while. Wouldn't you?
On no sleep we rented a car and drove out into the country side, taking advantage of one of our only opportunities to see the supposedly desolate and treeless landscape. I don't think I've ever been more astounded by a place's geography. There's a stillness to Iceland that impossible to ignore, and it's an inspiring one. But there's also these amazingly violent elements to it, the tectonic plates and the giant waterfall in particular. Calling it majestic doesn't really do it justice.

Somehow a lot of this impression translated to the music. I've seen Patrick Watson play a hundred times, and while I'm never bored at one of their shows, they really turned a corner on this trip. I really don't think there's a band in Canada right now that rivals them in a live setting, in terms of a sense of play and improvisation built around solid songs and tight execution. Sure there are amazing bands that will come out and floor you if you've never seen them before. But if you have to pick any band to see three nights running, I'd pick this one in a heartbeat.
There were only two sets of music I saw at Airwaves that rivaled Watson and co. The first was an afternoon gig on Saturday at a church, where Johann Johannsson performed material from his new album IBM 1401, A User's Manual (get it), complete with string quartet. It was an off festival event, and a little out of the way (as much as anything in Reykjavik could possibly be out of the way; 'it's around the corner' became a punchline pretty quickly on this trip), but as soon as I wandered in it was apparent I was in the right place. I starting recognizing a lot of faces after this show; the festival's real music lovers tended to end up in the same place night after night. The show was all the more impressive considered Johannsson had led-up the blistering Apparat Organ Quartet set the night previous, and would go on to play a role in the experimental noise of Evil Madness later that night at the Kitchen Motors showcase.
But if it wasn't this godfather of the Icelandic music scene that rivaled Watson's performance at Airwaves, it was a group a teenaged Icelandic kids (really, they were all between 16 and 19) that seemed ready to take on the whole fucking planet. Ultra Mega Technobandið Stefán might be the best party band in the world right now. I don't think anyone else could followed up the last set that Watson played on Sunday night. They brought up Islands' Patrick Gregoire and Patrice Agbokou for their Erik Satie cover, and new Islands drummer Aaron Harris on a blistering version of "Luscious Life", and quite literally brought the house down.
It was apparently this venue's last night in existence, and the venue manager proceeded to inform everyone that was the best show he had ever seen there. We were consequently all invited to help finish off the booze in the bar, but not before Ultra Mega ... ripped the place apart with their heart-pumping Sex Pistolized electro. Rumour has it that their drummer is the brains behind the music (which in a year or two could be carrying the Daft Punk torch), but it's their front man that puts them over the top. A 16 year old Icelandic Iggy Pop. Watch out for these guys. They had Patrick Watson tecnho-moshing.
Now I never could have dreamt I see that.

Monday, October 16, 2006

PopCast #28: Anything Can Happen When You're Walking Down the Street (post-Pop pt.1, m4a version)

Well here we are again. It's only been a week since Pop Montreal wrapped-up in terms of the actual physical geographical event, but the seeds it planted have only just begun to sprout. If haven't already done so, make sure you investigate some of the great coverage of the festival that was done this year. Prefix Mag, Chromewaves, Zoilus and Midnight Poutine all have great coverage. Even David Byrne has a few things to say about his trip up...

PopCast #28: Anything Can Happen When You're Walking Down the Street (post-Pop pt. 1) (m4a version)


What I'll be doing starting with this episode is a series of enhances podcasts meant to captures bits and pieces of the festival as I experienced it. There was no better place to start than with Jesse Jackson and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. I ran into Jesse on the steps outside the big church on Rachel where the big Gonzales organ show was going on. I had already been down to the Jack Dylan vernissage by this point and seen great sets by Miracle Fortress and Dishwasher, and heard about the warm and heartening presence of Ramblin' Jack Elliott, whom we'd meet up with...later in the evening. (Elliott, incidently, was a good friend of Jesse's father, a painter named Harry Jackson who you can probably look up in the liner notes to Freewheelin'...).

A special thanks to Emily Gan for all the amazing pictures she took of Jesse during that ride he took with us in the trunk of a packed car on the way to see Ramblin' Jack. If you're not getting the enhanced version of the podcast here, you're missing out....And yes, most of this episode was recorded via the small trunk of a car.

There's just way too much of this kind of material here to blast through it in one urgent news-of-the-moment go, so I'll be rolling them out as regularly as I can until all of a sudden Pop Montreal 07 is upon us (accepting submissions November 1st!).

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Some Pop Montreal advice. Make like plants and animals...

So Pop Montreal is about to begin. I'm going to try and document as much of the festival as possible, whether via podcast or blogging or whathaveyou. We'll see how that goes; I've got a ton of things I'm working on for it that will tax my time (the Meet the Mini-Me-dia panel on Thursday and PopCast showcase on Friday for one). But here's a bit of advice and the first in what I hope will a series of festival darkhorse Pop Picks. I'll syndicate these from Pop Montreal.com (which is over taxed with traffic anyway...podcast listners will be sad to hear that due to crazy bandwidth all but the most recent episodes will be taken down for a bit. Unless someone wants to host them...? Also, out-of-towners might want to check out the big Montreal profile I recently did on RightRound (just make sure you read my disclaimer column about profiling places first, if you do). Have a great Pop!

So the festival is about to start, and i'm definitely not prepared. There's no way to be prepared, of course; there's no right way or wrong way to go about anything, but still, it's hard to not feel overwhelmed by all there is to do and see. And not do and see because it's the thing you're SUPPOSED to see. But ACTUALLY do and see and experience. If there's one thing I've come to learn and love about Pop Montreal it's that it really is a playground for you to choose your own adventure and craft some amazing experiences. The centerpiece is music, yes, but the bigger ineffable picture extends into whichever creative or debacherous or educational avenue you want to pursue. if I have any advice to festival goers it's to take chances, forget about expectations and just go and have fun. I promise you'll come out the other end richer.

It's in this spirit (and the spirit of hockey pool season; go Habs...) that I'm going to try and pull out a few dark horse Pop Picks (remember those?) as the festival unfolds. It's an impossible task to complete, (and if anyone has similar picks they want to make, by all means send them), but also a fun way to convey just how much magic is going to happen in tiny (and some not so tiny) rooms all over this awesome city in the next five days. I'm actually guessing the awesomeness has already begun somewhere. At any rate, here's the first of some of my under the radar picks for squeezing goodness out of Pop 06'.

PLANTS and ANIMALS

@ Les Minots on Thursday, October 5th
starting around 12:30
(just after the Joanna Newsom show)

w/ Seattle's Yo Yo Contingency
and Pennsylvania's Peasant.

If you've heard Plants and Animals you probably already like them. Their first record from a couple years ago is one of my favourite instrumental offerings of recent years. Slick folkified... post-rock in the 90s Chicago vein, organic epic songs, but also modest and smart. Divine earth rock, if you will. Whether or not you know them you're going to like them a lot more once you hear what they've turned into. Warren Spicer is one of the best guitarists in Montreal (and if you like guitarists, make sure you see Joe Grass and Mike O'Brien as well), if not for his shredding skill (which is ample), then for his flat out soul. Plants and Animals have always had a ton of beautiful drunken soul and that's as on diplay as ever in their current incarnation. But between Spicer, the Woodman on drums, and Nicolas Basque carrying the other guitar, the trio has turned into a songwriting machine that appears to crafting something big. Warren is now singing (and spectacularly well), and the rough mixes of a few tracks from an album long in waiting indicate that shit here has really gone next level. Anyone who digs the expansive takenoprisoners crunch of Akron/Family or the acoustic thunder of Tapes n' Tapes (both playing the fest...) will smile wide at the new Plants & Animals. There's still a touch of the great Sam Prekop-like sound, and a healthy dose of the drunken 70 rock ala Dire Straights, suspenders and all. Expect the organic electricity karma levels to be very high.

Monday, October 02, 2006

PopCast #27: Men That Aren't There (m4a version)

In this episode: flash and flame...new Miracle Fortress, Akron/Family, Miracle Weapon/Magic Fortress doing John Cale, Magic Weapon, Sunset Rubdown.

PopCast #27: Men That Aren't There (m4a version)

At Pop:

Miracle Fortess: Oct. 4th @ 7pm - L'Autre Gallerie & Oct. 6th @ 10pm - Les Saints
Akron/Family: Oct. 7th @ 11pm - Le National
Sunset Rubdown: Oct. 8th @ 11pm - Ukranian Federation

Missing voices, the man who wasn't there, music, music, music, thank god. Something had to give, something had to get done, and I'm glad it came out like this. Damned if I was going to sit around and not let new episodes roll out in heavy numbers with the festival basically underway in less than two days. So to quicken the pace of both the production and consumption of the PopCast (so that as many artists can make it onto episodes prior to the fest as possible) I DO NOT APPEAR on this episode. I also think it's one of the best PopCasts yet. There's still special stuff happening within, and the m4a format yields more extra goodies, so plug it into your iTunes/pod.

I'll probably pop back onto the next few episodes here and there, but they will continue to be these condensed bursts of music, either linked thematically or by event.

This one centers around Graham Van Pelt (Miracle Fortress) and Jordon Robson Cramer (of Magic Weapon and Sunset Rubdown) stuff, as promised last episode. Includes their collaborative cover of John Cale's Hanky Panky Nohow. Also features two of the most exciting acts appearing at Pop: Akron/Family and Sunset Rubdown.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

PopCast #26: Don't Make Choices Based on Lies (m4a version)

In this episode: Patrick Watson, Lil Pip, Vincat, Percy Farm, GVP Tupac Remix, a little Mandolin solo....

PopCast 26: Don't Make Choices Based on Lies

The festival begins in something like 4 days, there's not much time to say much of anything, but much trying to be said, all the same. Pop is happening very soon; I recommend curling up with with the program and some podcasts and getting some rest for a few days, because the only thing that will be lacking this year is sleep.....

The PopCasts keep rolling, stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Close to Pop Paradise and more. (I am, so far, still alive)

You're going to have to take the lack of content around here as an indication that there's tons going on, and not the opposite.

Secret City Records is officially launched tonight with the release party for Patrick's Watson's Close to Paradise, which dropped today in Canada. We'll be at the Lion D'Or tonight celebrating along along with Pop Montreal, who are co-presenting the show as a kind of pre-festival party. We're in Toronton at the Drake tomorrow night. Patrick Watson's official artist site is also finally up as of today. It's pretty amazing.

Pop itself is going to be as insane as ever. I'm really excited to be presenting a double-venue PopCast showcase (the first annual!) at the Main Hall and Green Room. It innocently enough with my wanting to present a handful of some of Montreal's best up-and-coming and under-exposed talent, but will the application process to Pop Montreal and the PopCast's success (and range) quickly turned into a bigger project. I'll be posting a more thorough account of the spirit behind the PopCast showcase at the revamped PopMontreal.com soon. In the meantime, mark your calendars (it's on Friday October 6th) and check out the snazzy poster by famous artist, Jack Dylan:

As if that weren't enough, I'm also hosting a panel during the Future of Music Coalition's Policy Summit (taking place in association with Pop Montreal). It's called "Meet the Mini-Me-dia", and is going to be focusing on how independent music journalism (via DIY media) is shifting the balance of power. Joining me will be an all-star cast of panelists, all of whom I'm really excited to have on board: Zoilus's Carl Wilson, cleverLazy's Helen Spitzer, Daniel Beirne from Said the Gramophone, Matt Perpetua of Fluxblog, and Vu D'Ici's Marie-Chantale Turgeon.

I expect the conversation to get interesting, and will definitely be prodding Mr. Wilson and Ms. Spitzer about the recently awarded Polaris Prize, and how it was that the Sunset Rubdown album (not even on the list of finalists) didn't win. (Or at least the Wolf Parade one...). That's on October 5th from 4:30-6pm (after the special talk by David Byrne.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

PopCast #25 (Side B): Acts of God (Help Me Somebody) (m4a version)

In this episode: Brian Eno & David Byrne remixed, David Byrne and the FMC, the Museum Pieces and the PopCast showcase, the Christa Min, Beirut, Special Events, Pop Levi, hi di hi di hi dee ho...

PopCast #25 (Side B): Acts of God (Help Me Somebody) (Enhanced m4a version)

Pheew, ok, it's September 16th, Side B took a little longer to come around than first expected, but episode 26 should only be a couple days away. That wraps up the two part (or three if you count the other one year anniversary episode I did at the beginning of the month) 25th episode. We're still adding content to the website, but you'll notice the schedule is up, and downloadable in pdf. If you're in Montreal you should see the paper manual lying around sometime next week.

More more more to come ... don't be scared.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

PopCast #25 (Side A): What the Future Tapes Might Be (m4a)

IN THIS EPISODE: Pop Montreal.com relaunched, Think About Life, Professor Murder, Plants & Animals, Krapp, Tapes n' Tapes

PopCast #25 (Side A): What the Future Tapes Might Be (enhanced)

PopMontreal.com has mostly emerged from its facelift, there's exactly one month until the festival, and episode 25 (a two parter) kicks things off for Pop 06 in earnest.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Everything at once

It's Saturday afternoon and I haven't slept since Thursday night. The new Pop Montreal.com is just about ready to launch; Secret City is putting the finishing touches on some really special festival events; I'm knee deep into the special double 25th episode of the PopCast; the panel I'm organizing for the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit has come together and is shaping up to be really exciting; I've managed to clean things up a bit here and update sidebar access to recent podcasts, feeds, and music reviews; and the new Patrick Watson video for Drifters is ready. That's really what I'm posting about for the moment, enjoy.


Come by the Pop Montreal stage at Osheaga tomorrow if it's not pissing rain...

Friday, August 25, 2006

One Year Podcast Anniversary Special (enhanced m4a version)

A special one year anniversary, non-Pop, Andrew Rose companion-piece to episode 25.

In this episode, Outkast, TV on the Radio, Fujiya & Miyagi, Ghostface Killah, Sy Barrett.

Andrew Rose: Year One (m4a version)


So it's been about a year since I started podcasting, and an interesting road it's been...

I was all of one episode into Dig a Pony when the mandate changed and suddenly it made more sense to be creating and producing Pop Montreal's PopCast. I figure that given the anniversary and the coinciding 25th of episode of the PopCast, that I would do something a little different. So what you've got here is something non-Pop to tide you over until the 25th episode of the PopCast. It's just little a snapshot of some amazing songs to have come along this year. Good for road trips to Montreal in the fall....

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mainly Madness. State of this union and some picks for August 23rd-29th

Pop picks! Who knew?! Yeah, bear with me people, it's the crunchiest of crunch times at Pop HQ, a giant jigsaw puzzle that has everyone at various levels of eat your own hair stress.

Pop Montreal happenings for me this year will be extending further than ever. For one, the policy summit that the Future of Music Coalition is putting together should be really exciting. I'm working on a panel right now for it which should be pretty fun. I'm also pysched to go hear what David Byrne has to say. I'm going to celebrate the 25th episode of the PopCast 25 and it's one year anniversary (kinda) at the same time, starting as soon as Friday with another multi-episode thing (like I did at the end of 2005). You may have also already noticed that we've made some announcements at Pop Montreal concerning some of the lineup, which we're quite excited about. There are still finishing touches to be put on programming, and tons of logistics to sort.

For other reading I might also direct you to my column at RightRound, which is turning out to be quite fun. Externally imposed deadlines can do wonders for productivity sometimes.

We're also transferring a whole whack of shit to a brand new Pop Montreal website and database to make everything work a lot smoother and be that much more fun and interactive. Programmed bands will be given some logins, soon and all questions will be answered...eventually. Soon.

Until then go see some damn shows! Pop Picks!
Chinese Stars, Think About Life and Foreign Islands rock the party at La Sala Rossa tomorrow night, the 24th of this month of August. Thank goodness it's cooled off a bit lately...

Hopefully by now you've seen our post earlier this week about the Main Madness shows going on at the good ol' Parc Des Ameriques where have Fringe Pop. Well the Main is shutting down again for a weekend party as it always does (once at the beginning of the summer to celebrate, once at the end to mourn, is that the idea?) and we're programming a bunch of stages, starting with a party Thursday that will culminate with URockaoke! Make sure you catch the Slip Friday evening. Our friends at Unpop are doing Saturday's stage, and everything gets nice and kickass country for Sunday, with performances by Lil Andy, Katie Moore and Yonder Hill, and one of my new favourite folk song writers in the freakin world, Jesse Jackson. He and Katie will be sharing the opening slots on the Ramblin' Jack Elliot bill during Pop.

It doesn't stop there. The Junior Boys will be stopping in at Sala Rossa on Friday night and will be having the Unireverse join them. They Shoot Horses Don't They make a return to Montreal as well, and will doing a Saturday thing with Telefauna at Le Divan Orange.
If you're in a party mood after you might considering heading up to Zoobizarre for the fourth installment of Baile Funk. You know, so you can be sure you're ready for the Edu K show at Pop Montreal on October 7th...
Lots more announcements on the way.

Monday, August 14, 2006

PopCast #24: Pump In Someone Else's Blood (enhanced m4a version)

In this episode: Regina Spektor, The 1900s, Ok Jeff Ok, Davy Levkovich, Nethers.

Episode 24 (enhanced m4a version)

The sprint starts here, I think. While we're still finalizing programming, you can expect the PopCast to start focusing a little bit more on previewing artists that we'll be welcoming to the festival, and giving general updates in terms of special events, etc. Lots, lots more to come.

You'll also notice that our podcast feed is, um, feeding smoothly. Pure XMLers can use the good ol' orange button to subscribe, or you can always get us on iTunes, too, where all the back episodes are now available. Stay tuned for our September 1st site relaunch!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

fake news vs. fake comedy

Brian Williams has to be the smarmiest dude ever. He was on Jon Stewart last night and had mustered up the courage to say “fake news” to Jon, but slipped up the first time and said “fake comedy”, which was as beautiful a moment as you’ll find American television, at its last gasp. The irony being that the real news is only deliverable as satire of what parades and gloats as the big authority—as it's really the one feeding off scraps and exploiting them. Without any redemptive moment of vulnerability, that is storytelling, that is the root of comedy. There's nothing funnny about any of them. The major network news: fake comedy.

Fake news, on the other hand. “Single handling saving your democracy on a daily basis.”