Category Archives: Music

Best Music of 2012

I’m realizing that I haven’t done this for a few years now. Although I love music, I find that it takes longer to absorb a new “release” than my perma-shuffling iPod habits can provide, and so I always find myself scrambling during the month of December to attempt some kind of catching up. Ludicrous, of course, when there are thousands of new bands releasing music each year. So the usual disclaimer applies: this is stuff I just happened to buy/download/hear and is in no way meant to be comprehensive.

Beach House - Bloom
DIIV - OshinWild Nothing - Nocturne
Jim Guthrie - Indie Game: The Movie (Soundtrack)Grimes - VisionsDivine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits
Now, Now - ThreadsEternal Summers - Correct BehaviorLower Dens - NootropicsJapandroids - Celebration Rock

In list form, if you’re not visually inclined:

  1. Beach House – Bloom
  2. DIIV – Oshin
  3. Wild Nothing – Nocturne
  4. Jim Guthrie – Indie Game: The Movie (Soundtrack)
  5. Grimes – Visions
  6. Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits
  7. Now, Now – Threads
  8. Eternal Summers – Correct Behavior
  9. Lower Dens – Nootropics
  10. Japandroids – Celebration Rock

Honourable Mentions:

  • Bill Fay – Life is People
  • Borko – Born to Be Free
  • Bloc Party – Four
  • Four Tet – Pink

Just for fun, here are some of my previous lists:

How about you? What were some of your favourites?

SXSW 2011: Compilation Champs

Last year, I finally figured out how to use Garage Band to put together a sort of digital mix and I think it worked out pretty well. I think my CD-burning days are behind me, but I’m still excited to be revealing my 11th annual South by Southwest mix. You don’t need to be attending SXSW to download and enjoy this edition of Compilation Champs. But if you are, make sure you say hello if you see me. In any case, please let me know what you think about the songs. I love putting this together each year and writing a little bit about music, which I don’t do often enough.

You can stream the whole thing by hitting the play button, but it works best as a download, so go ahead and click that link (or the image). By the way, the lovely image is of my dear late friend Brad Graham, whom I met at my very first SXSW in 2001. That’s him trying on a jacket at Austin secondhand shop Uncommon Objects that very year. The amused-looking Dinah Sanders is in the background. We lost Brad in January of 2010 but it just wouldn’t be SXSW without him.


SXSW 2011 Compilation Champs

[audio:http://www.consolationchamps.com/cd/media/SXSW_2011_Compilation_Champs.mp3]
Duration: 55:11
Download .m4a file (81.4 MB)

  1. Lisztomania – Phoenix (2009, from the album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix): How 2009, the hipsters are sneering. But who am I kidding, the hipsters don’t come here. Sure, I may be late to the party with French veterans Phoenix, but how much more I’m enjoying them after waiting out the hype. This whole album just feels like a refreshing breeze and a taste of summer. Sort of like Austin in March, non?
  2. Pure – Lightning Seeds (1989, from the album Cloud Cuckoo Land): Believe it or not, I rediscovered this song in Carlos Assayas’ masterful 5.5 hour film Carlos (review). I really loved the way he used music, from the jagged postpunk of Wire and Another Sunny Day to the, well, pure pop of this song. “Just lying smiling in the dark” – ah yes, I remember.
  3. The Last Time – Gnarls Barkley (2006, from the album St. Elsewhere): Here’s a great overlooked track sung by the great Cee-Lo Green from his collaboration with DJ Danger Mouse. I really like the combination of his silky voice and the jittery keyboard riff.
  4. Pages – Starlight Mints (2003, from the album Built on Squares): I think Starlight Mints should be more well-known. They have a really unique sound and some lyrical tricks, like on this off-kilter love song.
  5. I Want the World to Stop – Belle and Sebastian (2010, from the album Write About Love): From perhaps the finest pop songwriters of the past 15 years. I saw the band this year and was knocked out by their showmanship and musicianship, but most of all by the sheer number of incredible songs they’ve written. Plus, Stuart Murdoch is one of the coolest gents ever.
  6. Love Without Lies – Comet Gain (2008, from the album Broken Record Prayers): I discovered this band literally the day before putting this compilation together. I was watching a UK indie film called 1234 (review) about, yes, being in an indie band, and found veterans Comet Gain, together since 1993, for the first time.
  7. Whirring – The Joy Formidable (2010, from the EP A Balloon Called Moaning): Welsh three-piece fronted by a kick-ass blonde guitarist named Ritzi. What is not to love? Plus, they are playing SXSW, although I won’t be around for music this year. Make sure to catch them live.
  8. Off Your Face – My Bloody Valentine (1989, from the EP Glider): Upside Down is a documentary about Creation Records that is playing SXSW this year. My Bloody Valentine are one of my favourite bands from that label and era. I used to think that Bilinda Butcher was singing “James” in this song, and since my crush on her remains undimmed for the past twenty plus years, I refuse to change my opinion.
  9. Hummer – Foals (2008, from the album Antidotes): Late to the party with these guys, too, but really love the dancefloor-friendly precision of the guitars. I found out about them through my support on IndieGogo for Anyone Can Play Guitar, a documentary about bands from Oxford. Go and help Jon finish his film!
  10. Royal Gregory – Holy Fuck (2007, from the album LP): I saw this Toronto band at SXSW in 2010 and loved their live knob-twiddling performance. Catch them live this year if you can.
  11. Steady Shock – Girl Talk (2010, from the album All Day): I’m not a huge Girl Talk fan but some of the samples in this particular track were inspired. Not a day goes by recently when the line “all the girls standing in a line for the bathroom” doesn’t run through my head about a hundred times.
  12. Zebra – Beach House (2010, from the album Teen Dream): Beach House really don’t sound like any other band I’ve ever heard and I’ve enjoyed listening to their moody music this year.
  13. Down in the Park – Gary Numan and Tubeway Army (1979, from the album Replicas): When I was 14, I wore out the grooves on this record. This predates Blade Runner but shares the same vision of a grimy and slightly seedy future.
  14. Dream Job – The Dears (2008, from the album Missiles): Montreal natives The Dears just released a new album that was critically savaged by hipster favourite Pitchfork. This is from their previous record, which wasn’t reviewed all that strongly either. It just goes to show you that some bands march to their own, er, drummer. I’m glad to say that The Dears’ music is the sort that grows on you, and I hope you’ll come to love this underappreciated band as much as I do. Also, I have a Dears story.

I have no way of determining how many people download the compilation this year, so if you’ve read this far, would you mind just dropping a comment to say Hi after clicking the download link? Of course, it would be great if you came back to tell me what you thought of the music, too.

A Prayer for the G20 Summit

Unprecedented disruption to our city, and more than a billion dollars spent on security. A billion that is sorely needed elsewhere. Tension and exasperation in equal measure. This weekend’s G20 and G8 Summit meetings here in Toronto (and Huntsville) have been hogging the headlines for weeks. As “Fortress Toronto” gets set to “welcome” both world leaders and protestors this weekend, I offer the following to everyone as a sort of prayer and plea:

 

Here we are in a special place
what are you gonna do here?
now we stand in a special place
what will you do here?
What show of soul
are we gonna get from you?
It could be Deliverance
or History
under these skies so blue,
but if I know you, you’ll
bang the drum
like monkeys do.

Here we are in a fabulous place
what are you gonna dream here?
We are standin’ in this fabulous place
what are you gonna play here?
I know you love the high life,
you love to leap around,
you love to beat your chest
and make your sound,
but not here man!
– this is sacred ground
with a power flowing through,
and if I know you, you’ll
bang the drum like monkeys do.

Now we stand on a rocky shore
your father stood here before you.
I can see his ghost explore you.
I can feel the sea implore you
not to pass on by,
not to walk on by and not to try
– just to let it come
don’t bang the drum
just let it come
don’t bang the drum
do you know how to let it come now?
don’t bang the drum now
just let it come now
don’t bang the drum now
don’t bang the drum

“Don’t Bang the Drum” by The Waterboys. Words and lyrics by Mike Scott and Karl Wallinger, 1985

SXSW 2010: Compilation Champs

It’s hard to believe that this year will mark a decade for me of attending the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. I started in 2001 by attending just the Interactive festival, and that’s still the core of what interests me, but over the years, I’ve extended my stay and now take in film screenings and panels and as much free music (along with beer and food) as I can squeeze in. One of my traditions has been to make a mix CD each year of songs that have meant something to me in the previous 12 months. I used to make about 20-30 copies on CD and then give them out in person each year. It was a nice way of reinforcing the connections I’d made and giving a small token of friendship to some of my new pals. But each year, it got more onerous to create something that most people would end up ripping to their hard drives anyway. The only place most people play CDs these days is in their cars, and I expect that’s changing, too.

So, this year, behold the mighty .m4a compilation! It has album artwork and everything. All that’s missing are the liner notes, which I’m going to provide for you right here. You don’t need to be attending SXSW to download and enjoy this 10th annual SXSW edition of Compilation Champs. But if you are, make sure you say hello if you see me. In any case, please let me know what you think about the songs. I love putting this together each year and writing a little bit about music, which I don’t do often enough.

You can stream the whole thing by hitting the play button, but it works best as a download, so go ahead and click that link (or the image).


SXSW 2010 Compilation Champs

[audio:http://www.consolationchamps.com/cd/media/SXSW_2010_Compilation_Champs.mp3]
Duration: 48:00
Download .m4a file (67.8 MB)

  1. Intro – The XX (2009, from the album XX): I named this my Album of the Year for 2009 and this song does indeed make for a perfect “intro” to the rest. The XX sound to me a bit like what would have happened if Young Marble Giants had listened to more James Brown growing up. Minimalistic dance music that’s both cool and hot at the same time.
  2. Shadow – Delta 5 (c. 1979-1981, from the album Delta 5: Singles and Sessions 1979-1981): I only recently discovered the amazing Delta 5 after watching a documentary about the history of Rough Trade Records in the UK. This unique band had two bass players and were at the forefront of the feminist and anti-racist movements. Plus they’re from Leeds, home of one of my all-time favourite bands, The Wedding Present.
  3. Blessed Brambles – Múm (2007, from the album Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy): My fascination with Icelandic music continues, and with Múm’s in particular. There’s a mechanical sound to their music that reminds me of sewing machines: industrial and yet homey at the same time.
  4. My Love Life – Morrissey (1991, from the EP Morrissey at KROQ): An old favourite from the tail end of my college days. A plaintive plea for sympathy, and who couldn’t use “a little something” for our love lives?
  5. Overground – Siouxsie and the Banshees (1978, from the album The Scream): Stark and cool, this song is from the band’s very first record. Despite being criticized at the time for their lack of musicianship, I find the stripped down sound energizing and kind of epic, actually.
  6. I’m Confused – Handsome Furs (2009, from the album Face Control): In a lucky accident, I stumbled into a show by this husband-and-wife duo at last year’s SXSW. I couldn’t believe how energetic they could be with just a guitar and a keyboard. It pleased me that they’re Canadian, from Montreal, but it’s strange that I haven’t really listened all that much to Dan Boeckner’s other band, Wolf Parade.
  7. Time for Heroes – The Libertines (2002, from the album Up the Bracket): Another discovery from the Rough Trade Records documentary. I’d only ever heard of Pete Doherty as the drug-addled boyfriend of Kate Moss. His most recent band, Babyshambles, never crossed my radar at all, but listening to The Libertines makes his subsequent troubles all the more sad.
  8. Hell Yeah (Pimp the System) – Dead Prez (2004, from the album RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta): Dead Prez impressed the hell out of me in the film Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, and so I went looking for more from them. This song is powerful enough to both frighten me and make me see things from the other side. Muggings and fraud are survival tactics, but there’s also a thrill, that of “pimping the system” that tries to keep you down.
  9. The Major Lift – Years (2009, from the album Years): Years is a side project from the impossibly-named Ohad Benchetrit, multi-instrumentalist for Do Make Say Think. It was the horn section in this particular song that grabbed me, especially the tuba, which is a bird seldom-heard in most of my music.
  10. A Prophecy – Close Lobsters (1987, from the album Foxheads Stalk This Land): Scottish band Close Lobsters were part of the C-86 “movement” spawned by a compilation put out by the NME. Though they weren’t prolific, this entire album is a treasure chest of jangly goodness. I have no idea why the song speeds up at the end, but I sort of like that it does.
  11. Footsteps – Bricolage (2009, from the album Bricolage): This Glasgow band seem to be mining the same territory as Postcard Records acts like Orange Juice and Josef K, which is just fine by me. If I had actually heard this album last year, it might have been my album of the year. Also, what is it about Scottish bands that compels them to make electric guitars sound like something else? First it was Big Country making guitars sound like bagpipes, and now on this song, Bricolage give the guitars a steel drum feeling. Or am I crazy?
  12. Broken Rifle – Evening Hymns (2009, from the album Spirit Guides): Closer to home this time. Evening Hymns is essentially Jonas Bonetta, from tiny Orono, Ontario. Over the years I’ve introduced a few people to some great Canadian music, and I hope this year it might be this lovely song that reaches you.
  13. Peach, Plum, Pear – Joanna Newsom (2004, from the album The Milk-Eyed Mender): I had heard OF Joanna Newsom for quite a while but had never heard her music until the closing credits of a short film called City Paradise, which featured “Peach, Plum, Pear.” It worked so well there that I’m stealing the idea here for my own “closing credits.”

I have no way of determining how many people download the compilation this year, so if you’ve read this far, would you mind just dropping a comment to say Hi after clicking the download link? Of course, it would be great if you came back to tell me what you thought of the music, too.

Best Music of 2009


The xx - xx
My album of 2009

This was a tough year for me to compile a list. Although, as always, there was great music released this year, I found myself mostly buying older stuff. In fact, my discovery of the year was probably Delta 5, who made music from 1979-1981. That being said, I’ll rank every complete album and EP I bought this year (a few physically, most through eMusic. Entries marked with asterisks were downloaded either free or at a significant discount (ie. the Fanfarlo album was given away for $1)

  1. The xx – xx
  2. Handsome Furs – Face Control
  3. múm – Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know
  4. Years – Years
  5. The Raveonettes – In and Out of Control
  6. Fanfarlo – Reservoir*
  7. Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications
  8. Wilco – Wilco (the album)
  9. Metric – Fantasies

Not ranked because I haven’t listened to them enough:

  • Timber Timbre – Timber Timbre*
  • Do Make Say Think – Other Truths
  • The Joy Formidable – A Balloon Called Moaning*

I thought I’d rank EPs separately:

  1. Ume – Sunshower
  2. Suburban Kids with Biblical Names – #4

Here are some of the “pro’s” lists:

How about you? What were some of your favourites?