Monday, December 31, 2007

Great Songs 2007 #1: The Hangin' Judge

I spent a lot of time and effort trying to decide what the final song would be in this end-of-the-year tally of songs I really like a lot. Even though I generally lost interest in the process shortly after I posted the third installment, I have yet to lose interest in songs in general, and these songs specifically.
Some of the things I thought about while compiling this list:
-does the world really need another blog entry about Spoon's "The Underdog"?
-I've already posted one R. Kelly cover (by Shivaree). Am I ready for another (by Bonnie "Prince" Billy)?
-wouldn't I rather just listen to "Remember the Good Times" by Cuff the Duke, with its fantastically treblesome 12-string opening, fifty times in a row than write another meandering blog post?
-Andre Ethier's 2007 album, On Blue Fog, wasn't nearly as good as I'd hoped it would be, especially considering the wondrousness of his 2006 effort, Secondathallam. But the album's closing track, "Pride of Egypt" is one of Ethier's best songs ever. Maybe I shouldn't save that for early 2008?
-what's for supper?

So I've settled on Howe Gelb's "The Hangin' Judge" from his Upside Down Home 2007: Return to San Pedro. This is a bit of a tricky pick, since I only finally got 2006's 'Sno Angel Like You in 2007, and have more or less been using it as a blueprint by which to build my life ever since. Along with Thank You for Arguing by Jay Heinrichs, This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley, and the discovery of baking, Gelb's music is part of the Great Transformative Works in My Life 2007 Edition. Upside Down Home 2007 isn't quite on the transcendental level of 'Sno Angel--it's solo-er, unfinished-er, all around rougher--but it's still hitting me where I'm soft and malleable.

"The Hangin' Judge" especially taps into some of the themes from 'Sno Angel that I responded to so strongly. On the surface it's a bit of an existential quiz, but put in context with SALY songs like "Hey Man" and "That's How Things Get Done" it's something a little more earthy, a little more here and now graspable.

Thanks for all your comments and questions and Happy New Year! See you in the FUTURE!

mp3: "The Hangin' Judge" by Howe Gelb

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ten Great Songs #2: Black Water

Roger Dean Young & the Tin Cup is yet another group of musicians I've blogged a lot about this year. I know I've already posted this song, but I don't want to give away the whole Threshold album here when I know that a lot of work went into making it.
Hear the song, get the album, live a happier life.
The song "Black Water" is about Regina, or at least RDY's impression of such. And aside from being a great song, it's got me thinking about R-Town and what I've left behind. I really miss good old CJTR and X-Ray Records. And I already missed Buzzword Books before I left. I miss my parents, and I miss my youngest brother, even though he's not there anymore either. I miss my old apartment and its working fireplace. The Christmas night snowfall here in Vancouver made me miss the Saskatchewan winter. Give me -30 plus windchill over day in and day out of rain. At least for a week.

If you dig on Roger Dean Young, you should also check out guitarist Chris Rippen's solo stuff on his MySpace page. It's similarly quiet and sublime.

mp3: "Black Water" by Roger Dean Young & the Tin Cup

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ten Great Songs 2007 #3: Faster Than Them

It's not every day that I see Cam Dilworth of the Neins Circa, but just about. Somehow, this has done nothing to diminish my respect and admiration for his music.
It's been a bit of weird year for the Neins Circa, since they basically re-released the same album from last year with a new name and a few different mixes. Then Cam told everyone he was leaving. Then he left. Then he came back.
In the end, the Neins Circa remain a challenging band with big ideas and fun melodies. What more could you ask for?
"Faster Than Them" is the first track on Sleeves & Wigs (originally released as Please Feel Free to Enter the Tipi), and it's got a lot going on. It talks about balls and it talks about records. It's got a lot of swoops and fine arrangement and excellent production. If you like Elephant 6 bands, you'll like the Neins Circa.

mp3: "Faster Than Them" by the Neins Circa

10 Great Songs 2007 #4: Failure to Some

It feels like it wasn't that long ago that I was posting another song from Cuff the Duke's new album (their third, I think), Sidelines of the City. I remember seeing them open for the Sadies about a million years ago, right after their first album had come out on the sorely-missed Three Gut record label. I had walked in late and CtD was already mid-way through their set. While I heard their album Life Stories from Minimum Wage at that point and was impressed, I wasn't prepared for what I saw. A bunch of kids, a bunch of peach-fuzzed, wide-eyed kids, just pouring out, overflowing soulful country-rock. I was floored and have been a fan ever since. In the time in between then and now, Cuff the Duke have only gotten better and this epic tune from their new album showcases everything that they do well. It's got a solid grounding in that The Band-esque Can-Rock I was talking about earlier, but manages to simultaneously reach for both pop and experimental impulses. It's adventurous and satisfying, like a peanut butter sandwich in a sharktank.

mp3: "Failure to Some" by Cuff the Duke

and hey, check out Minneapolis Fucking Rocks for a jazzed-out Sabbath cover from the Bad Plus that will blow your freaking mind.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ten Great Songs 2007: #5: Day

Bill Callahan's first album under his own name was all kinds of brilliant (he's got about ten previous albs as Smog). Produced by fan-favourite Neil Michael Hagerty, Woke On A Whaleheart is nine songs that have a lot to say about living on planet earth. This song, "Day", has some things to say about family. Today being today (for another half hour or so, Pacific Standard), family is a theme worth thinking about. This song also talks about pigs and monkeys. But no mention of Toffifee or who ate the last one.

mp3: "Day" by Bill Callahan

Monday, December 24, 2007

Ten Great Songs 2007: #6: Don't Stop Til You Get Enough

Shivaree, a band I've been boosting since their debut back in 1999 with I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump, released a wicked covers album this year of love songs made famous by folks with something less than authority on L-U-V. They don't all work as well as this one, but this one is pretty effin' ace.

mp3: "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" by Shivaree

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ten Great Songs 2007: #7: What Your Baby's Been Doing

Not much to say, except that I discovered this song on someone else's blog, and I can't remember which. Probably one of the cooler ones. Without a doubt this is one of the best songs you'll hear today. It has so much going for it that I don't even want to give you any expectations. Small Sins are from Toronto, which is where my youngest brother lives, though he's at home today. I don't know if he knows them, but Ben did once see Kenny of Kenny vs Spenny walking a goat (and then last week, Nicole saw an episode where they were tied to goats, so everything came full circle) through his neighbourhood.

mp3: "What Your Baby's Been Doing" by Small Sins

Friday, December 21, 2007

Another post for no good reason other than to share a 2-year-old or older song

I just accidentally stumbled across the White Whale records website, and discovered they've got a very fine selection of free mp3's. Here's one by my favourite White Whale band, the Precious Fathers. The song's title qualifies this post for Saskploitation.

mp3: "Prairie Train" by the Precious Fathers

Ten Great Songs 2007 #8: Fifth Dimensional Johnny B. Goode and bonus last minute christmas guide

I've already said a ton about the Howling Hex and their new album XI, so I'm gonna shut up now. Except to say that if you like the riff from "American Woman", or hate it, you'll dig "FDJBG".

mp3: "Fifth Dimensional Johnny B. Goode" by the Howling Hex

If you're still trying to get your holiday shopping done, and I--or someone who thinks like I--happen to be on your list, here's some ideas.

Out of the Ordinary: Tales of Everyday Craziness by Jon Ronson - The first collection of Ronson's Guardian columns, this seems to be only available in the UK. Same story for the second collection, What I Do: More Tales of Everyday Craziness. Jon Ronson is my hero, and I am heartbroken that I don't have these books.

Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 3 - I haven't finished Vol. 2, and I haven't finished my second post about the series either, but sooner or later I'm going to have to have this. Might as well get it for free.

Anything by Raymond Sokolov - A fantastic writer, who writes mainly about food. He even wrote a biog on A.J. Liebling!

Honestly, that's really all I want. I've got lots of stuff. What I really need is more time to enjoy the stuff I already have. And maybe a generous and forgiving publisher.

If you're shopping for someone who is a bit like me, but not me, here's some other ideas:

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life - The first chapter in an amazingly rewarding graphic novel series by Canadian Bryan Lee O'Malley. At first it reads like yet another Toronto-based relationship comic (see also excellent works by: Jeff Lemire, Chester Brown, Hope Larson, Michael Noonan, Paul Rivoche, Maurice Vellekoop, and many, many other cartoonists who gravitate around Toronto, which might be the world capital of awesome comics in the 21st Century), but rather quickly reveals itself to be something quite extraordinary.

Threshold, the new album by Roger Dean Young & the Tin Cup. Fan-freaking-tastic. Any roots/americana lover in your life should have their own copy of this record/cd to cherish in private and public moments.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ten Great Songs 2007 #9: Lenin and McCarthy

"We used to have such an organized party," sings Michael Brown at the opening of this track from the Parkas' second full-length album Put Your Head in the Lion's Mouth. It's a pretty frenetic song that sometimes seems like it's been put together of scraps from other songs. There are several times where Brown shouts out what you'd think would be a recurring chorus, but great lines like "Now this is fighting!" (which happens to be the name of the Parkas' first album) only happen once and then they're gone. There's a weird intro that has nothing to do with the rest of the song. It's a Frankenstein song, a lumbering whole of unconnected slogans and riffs and it's awesome.

The Parkas haven't played outside of Ontario in nearly three years and I think that's a big pile of bullshit.

mp3: "Lenin and McCarthy" by the Parkas

2008 will be awesome at the movies

EDIT: I thought I had posted the Hellboy 2 trailer, but I don't know what went wrong. Check out the official site or this Guillermo Del Toro fansite for the goods.

Yeah, so 2008 is gonna be rad for movies. Of course, you already know about The Dark Knight (if you can find it, the leaked "prologue" heist scene they're showing with some Will Smith movie is pretty intense and sets a gnarly 70s cop flick tone that I am really hoping they sustain throughout the movie). Here's the trailer for Hellboy II. Other movies I'm desperately looking forward to (though, admittedly, my heart beats mainly for Batman) include: Drillbit Taylor, Run Fatboy Run, Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Little Piece of My Childhood Still Intact After Three Mediocre Star Wars Prequels, Kung Fu Panda, Incredible Hulk, Get Smart, did I mention Batman Begins 2?, Pineapple Express, and Where the Wild Things Are.
Aside from The Dark Knight, though, what I'm mostly looking forward to are the movies I haven't even heard about yet that will surprise and dazzle me.

Lakota Nation: You Are Awesome

The Lakota nation ceded from the United States yesterday. How cool is that? I guess we're gonna need a new map.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Credit where credit is due

Saskatchewan's population has jumped by over 6,000 since the beginning of July. What's the reason? Probably this blog. It must have been around July that I started my series of Saskploitation posts (actually it was August, ed.), and brought the idea of Saskatchewan to the masses (or the five or six people who read this blog for something other than Howling Hex mp3s).
Or maybe word had simply spread since August of 2006 that I was no longer there. Either way, I'd like a lapel pin or something.
In other Saskploitation related news, the Sask Party dropped their plan to drop the wheat sheaf logo. Probably because Brad Wall and his dubious hairline read my blog and changed his party's policies to reflect my knee-jerk reaction.

mp3: "Ride the Funky Mule" by King Kong

Ten Great Songs 2007 #10: Bad Kids

There's a little over ten days left in 2007, so let's do a year-end countdown. I've definitely listened to less music in 2007 than I have in any other year since I was, I dunno, 15 or so. So I'm not going to pretend I know what the BEST tracks or albums of the year are. But until the end of the year (or into the new one, if I get behind schedule--a distinct possibility), I'm going to post some songs that I was very glad to hear this year.

#10: "Bad Kids" by Black Lips

This is almost a novelty tune from Atlanta's garage-rocky Black Lips, with it's fake 50s sounds (and jingly bells=seasonal!) and doo-wop pretenses. It's quick, bratty, catchy as hell, and in a perfect world teenagers would be singing along to it at pit parties somewhere in the great suburban night. It's not the BEST song on Good Bad Not Evil (that would be the hellacious strut "Veni Vidi Vici"), but it's built around a terrific gimmick: sassy, unapologetic, juvenile deliquency. Works for me.

mp3: "Bad Kids" by Black Lips

Monday, December 17, 2007

This Bread is Bananas: B-A-N-A-N-A-S

In my life, in my entire life, I have made three banana loaves. Therefore, I am an expert, and have devised a recipe of my very own that I'm sharing with you now. I'm no Raymond Sokolov, but I'm pretty handy with a spatula, if you know what I mean.
The key to cooking is confidence. Strut while you stir. Don't let a recipe push you around. You know what you like, and you're the one who's gotta eat it. Cooking isn't rocket science, and it's not alchemy, either. You put stuff together, you mix 'em up, and then you (sometimes) heat it. You gotta eat anyway, you might as well eat well.
I created this banana bread (which is, like the best cooking, my favourite parts of different recipes) because I bought a bunch of bananas and then forgot to eat them. You know how it is. So Nicole was kinda on my case about these blackening baneeners, and I wasn't saying a thing. I was doing my homework, putting together clues, buying a loafpan. You can get a decent 5x9 loafpan for about $10. You can get a crappy one for $1, or a supersonic deLuxe loafpan that will mock your beginner cooking skills for about $30. I recommend the $10 version. If you only make three banana loaves in a year, you'll get your money's worth.

Okay, so here's what you're going to need, aka
4 to 6 bananas, the blacker the better - here's the deal, not only are black bananas sweeter, but they're also softer and easier to work with.
1 tsp of vanilla extract - treat yourself right and use the real thing rather than that cheap synthetic vanilla. You're not saving that much money, and you get to feel like a big shot.
1/3 cup of sugar - I know that seems like a lot of sugar, and it is. But it's actually less than most recipes call for. Most call for a full cup, but I think you're better off using the following ingredient to reduce the sugar in your banana bread.
1 tbsp of vanilla yogurt or unsweetened applesauce - don't use any more than this or else your banana loaf will be soggy rather than moist.
2 cups of flour - I use wholewheat, but it's really up to you.
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda - and don't just take a scoop out of the box in the fridge. That's gross.


a tsp to a tbsp of cinnamon - highly recommended, feel free to add even more
a large handful of walnuts - also highly recommended, but not if you're allergic to nuts. It's a good idea to crush the walnuts
some amount of ginger - some people like ginger, I don't so I don't bother

Turn your oven on and set it to 325 F.
Lightly butter your loafpan.
Take your bananas, peel them, remove the hard nubby thing at the bottom and slice them up into a bowl. If your bananas are nice and soft, the edge of a spoon will work for slicing. Add the sugar, vanilla, and yogurt or applesauce (fun fact: if you use applesauce, this is a vegan banana bread, but you don't have tell anyone, least of all your vegan friends). Mix it up good until it's all gooey.
Next, in a separate bowl, "sift" the flour, baking powder and baking soda. I don't really know what "sifting" entails since I don't have a sifter, so I just lightly stir them all together with a fork.
Now toss in the banana mash, as well as any other customizations you want to add, and mix, mix, mix until the whole thing is of one smooth consistency.
Pour that into your loafpan, stick the loafpan in the oven, and find something to do for 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes. Do your laundry, watch a couple of episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, wash the dishes. I don't really care what you do, and I don't want to know about it.
Soon, your kitchen will smell awesome and basically that's half the battle won. If anyone comes home or comes over while your banana loaf is in the over, their opinion of you will rise. Once an hour or so has passed, check on your loaf. Stick a fork or toothpick into the middle. If it comes out clean, your loaf is done. If it comes out with doughy stuff all over it, you've ruined the whole thing. Just kidding. It just needs a few more minutes. Check in every five to ten minutes. Pretty soon, you will be the proud owner of your very own banana bread. Eat it.

MP3: "Black Bananas" by RTX

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's not Bertrand Russell, but what do you want?

my very own lime tree

I work the nightshift. Four nights a week, every week, since May of this year. I'm part Travis Bickle, part Bodhisattva. I see the worst and quite often the best this city has to offer about 350 times a night. And I listen to a lot of classic rock.
Things I've learned from listening to classic rock in a room full of constantly changing people:
  • Everybody loves CCR. It's totally foolproof.
  • Joni Mitchell, not so much, surprisingly.
  • If you're desperate to hear the words "Turn it up, man!", lay a little Back in Black on a brother.
  • AC/DC, reportedly, has a better song than "Who Made Who".
  • That song might be "You Shook Me All Night Long".
  • Sometimes Jonathan Richman does sound like Neil Diamond.
  • "Coney Island Baby" from the album of the same name just might be Lou Reed's best song ever.
  • When AC/DC gets overplayed, reach for the Nazareth (but avoid the ballads).
  • People like the Band almost as unanimously as they like CCR.
  • If you turn off Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On" and turn on Jay-Z's new album, you will get your ass beat.
  • Even the toughest thug (of a certain age) will soften a little for the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love".

mp3: "Sunset to Dawn" by the Sadies

You have got to be kidding me

Just as it's come back into fashion, the wheat sheaf emblem of my dear home province is getting kicked to the curb. While I'm not that a big fan of the yellow on green logo, I'm a giant fan of the yellow on brown motif. It's simple, it's clean, it's cool. It represents something real.

Hopefully, the Sask Party task force assigned to finding a new logo will come up with something more credible than Brad Wall's hairline.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

RIP: Ike Turner

So, yeah, not much bloggering lately. That might be a sign of the times, or it may not. I'm not saying. I'm not saying nothing. But Ike Turner is dead, and that's kinda sad.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Minor Thirds to become even more minor

got this note from Chris of Portland, OR's the Minor Thirds:

THURS, DECEMBER 6: The Minor Thirds (along with, uh, some other bands, not listed on the McMenamins website) at the WHITE EAGLE 836 N Russell St (suspiciously near a yellow MAX stop). Show starts at 8:30, costs $4, and we go on last (11ish?). Some of you have heard the rumors, and sadly they are all true: Barring the unforeseen and miraculous, this will be our final show as an ongoing full band. There will be more tM3 shows -- most just me, some with some subset of the tM3 line-up you've grown to become fanatically devoted to, some perhaps with me and new people (possibly you). But our current levels of awesomeness are unsustainable and wreaking havoc on our musicological ecosystem.
For the good of the community, and bypersonal request of Al Gore, we are playing one last show as a five-piece. If you don't come see us next Thursday, then you will not see the likes of us again. See you there.
Yrs,Chris,and Charlotte and Jake and Casey and Martin.

So there you have it. The band that pretty much invented Saskploitation (though I was the one who named the concept, and have since become the number one Saskploiter) is calling it half-quits. Here's their video for their chart-busting hit from the Saskatchewan EP, and if you follow the "Aquaman" tag at the bottom of this post, you'll find an mp3 of a song from their latest and last album, Nebraska From Afar. If you find yourself in Portland on Thursday, go bid adieu.

mp3: "The Thieves' Guild" by the Minor Thirds, from their album Dishwasher Thief