Archive for July, 2009

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Off-topic: Cross-Canada road trip #6

July 30, 2009

1369 bldg

Day 6 of the road trip: Toronto, ON to Cambridge, MA!

Okay, so now it’s your turn. What songs remind you of Boston? I wrote about several when I was in town last December, but I’m sure that, if you’re reading this, you have some great suggestions to make. Please respond in the comments!

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Off-topic: Cross-Canada road trip #5

July 29, 2009

Day 5: Sault Ste Marie, ON to Toronto, ON

Okay, after the fourteen-hour  Kenora-Sault Ste Marie drive, I’m a bit too braindead to say anything clever about my hometown of Toronto. The video is for “Songtario,” by Henry & Clare (thanks, @kimblem!). And Broken Social Scene is a pretty good representation of the Toronto indie music scene, since the collective contains practically everyone anyway, and I imagine my choice of BSS song is pretty self-explanatory.

MP3: Broken Social Scene – Canada vs. America [buy]

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Off-topic: Cross-Canada road trip #4

July 28, 2009

Lake of the Woods

Day 4 of the road trip: Kenora, ON to Sault Ste Marie, ON

Going even further afield than is usual for z=z for a brief lesson in physical geography, try this: Go to Google Maps and centre the map around the eastern half of Canada (Hudson Bay should be in the middle). Notice that Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, the northern half of Saskatchewan and Nunavut are all liberally laced with blue? Now switch to ‘terrain’ view – see how all of this is a darker green than the south? This is the Canadian Shield, created during the Pleistocene when glaciation scraped it down to the 4.5 billion year old bedrock. Pockets in the newly-exposed granite filled up with rainwater to create hundreds of thousands of lakes; so many that when you fly over it, you can’t tell whether you are looking at lakes or islands. Today’s drive, along the north shore of Lake Superior, is in the heart of this geological region.

All of this is really by way of preamble to introduce Montreal’s Besnard Lakes, which is named after one of these glacial bodies of water.

MP3: The Besnard Lakes – Devastation [buy]

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Off-topic: Cross-Canada road trip #3

July 27, 2009

the hip

Day 3 of the road trip: Swift Current, SK to Kenora, ON

…which means crossing the Hundredth Meridian and heading through Winnipeg, the hometown of z=z fave The Weakerthans, who played a great set at Neumos in Seattle last Saturday night. The MP3 below is their backhanded paean to that city, from 2003’s Reconstruction Site. The picture above is of The Tragically Hip; if you click through it, you’ll get to the video of their classic track “At the Hundredth Meridian.”

MP3:The Weakerthans – One Great City! [buy]

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Read: Goodbye 20th Century, David Browne

July 27, 2009

I learned two important things from David Browne‘s excellent biography of Sonic Youth, Goodbye 20th Century.

The first  is exactly how much ass Kim Gordon kicks. Seriously. What an incredible trailblazer, and by all accounts, she still radiates cool. Not bad for someone who has five years on Madonna.

The second thing I learned is a little less obvious. The first half of the book is a detailed exploration of the early years of Sonic Youth, and by extension the whole 1980s New York art/music scene. It’s clear that Browne put an enormous amount of research into creating this portrait. But I thought that one of  the most striking aspects of the Sonic Youth story was the unremarked-upon juxtaposition of two threads. One is that Sonic Youth collaborated with everyone. They reached out to all the artists they knew (of whatever medium) for artwork, videos, and more, and the book is liberally salted with now-familiar names. For example, for their 1990 album Goo, has a Raymond Pettibon illustration for the cover, and official and unofficial videos were made by or with photographer Richard Kern, artist Tony Oursler, actor Sofia Coppola and director Todd Haynes. The second thread is  how, in several places, Browne comments on ‘unlikely coincidences,’ usually in the context of the band having a useful personal connection through friends or collaborators. It seems highly likely that these two threads are related. An enormous amount has changed in the music world in the three decades since Sonic Youth got their start. But in a world where all music and art is only a click away, I suspect that the importance of developing relationships by contributing to your community has, if anything, only increased.

You can read some reviews of the book here and here. I highly recommend it if you’re interested in music or other creative endeavours, even if you don’t consider yourself a committed Sonic Youth fan (I’m not, and I really enjoyed the book). Goodbye 20th Century is at Amazon, and I also have one free copy of the trade paperback to give away. Just e-mail or message me before 12 noon Eastern on Wednesday, July 29th if you’re interested, and I’ll pick someone at random from the responses and put the book in the post for you.

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Off-topic: Cross-Canada road trip #2

July 26, 2009

Day 2 of the road trip: Revelstoke, BC to Swift Current, SK

Today’s Canadian indie song is “Your Rocky Spine” by Toronto’s Great Lake Swimmers, featuring the quintessentially Canadian metaphor of geography, from their 2007 album Ongiara. It’s my song du jour as I cross over the Canadian Rockies and enter the Prairies. Great Lake Swimmers have a Polaris-Prize-nominated new album out, Lost Channels, and the video above is for the new single, “Pulling on a Line.”

MP3: Great Lake Swimmers – Your Rocky Spine [buy]

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Off-topic: Cross-Canada road trip #1

July 25, 2009

Day 1 of the road trip: Seattle, WA to Revelstoke, BC

Despite heading inland and therefore bypassing Vancouver, I thought I would share this track from Lotusland’s The Awkward Stage. Frontman Shane Nelken is part of the extended New Pornographers collective, having played piano on AC Newman’s The Slow Wonder and collaborated on Dan Bejar and Blaine Thurier side project. The Awkward Stage has a brand-new album out, Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights, but this is the title (and my favourite) track from their 2006 debut. But the video above is for a new track, “Mini Skirt of Xmas Lights.”

MP3: The Awkward Stage – Heaven Is For Easy Girls [buy]

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