Rickys Random Articles

2014 in Review: Ricky’s Favorite albums

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This year, I lost the plot.

Mainly, I just worked way too much. As a result, my typical time spent with music reduced severely and is starting to induce a semi mid life crisis. Personal feeling asides, I did get to listen to a few albums this year and in no particular order, here are some of my favorites.

War on Drugs – Lost in the Dreams
I can’t even name one song off this album, but I listen to it all the time. It reminds me of a chiller time and also summer. I love albums that remind me of summer.

Lykki Li – That really sad record
Totally forgot what that album was called, but it was super sad and super awesome. I listened to it non-stop when it first came out and I still put it on regularly today. It really sucks that Lykke Li had to go through such heartbreak, but man does it make for phenomenal art.

Jessie Ware – Her second album
I remember when I first heard Jessie Ware and me and my friend Jessica were discussing her track and thought it was kinda meh. How wrong we were! Ware’s first album was great and she continues to build on it with her new album. Maybe it’s nostalgia but she has got that classic 90’s R&B sound that many singers try to imitate but few succeed. It’s just gorgeous pop music.

Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
Parquet Courts released two albums this year, the second one I have yet to really engage with but the first one was an album I was constantly listening to this summer. The album was exactly how I like meetings at work – short, to the point and sweet. The album reminded me a lot of late 90’s college rock, but Parquet Court combines that with good vocal hooks that ab adds just that much more to it.

Caribou – Our Love
First album in four years and Dan Snaith has not lost a step. The album’s first track Can’t Do Without You is one of the best tracks of the year and it should definitely be on the Polaris list for next year. It’s a complex electronic album that abandons a lot of conventional EDM tricks and will only grow with time.

It only took one album for Molly Rankin to surge to the top of the Rankin family power rankings. A great poppy debut record from the Canadian group had everyone’s panties in a bunch and for a great reason – great jangly beachy pop tracks like the ones that dominate this album are hard to find. Combine that with Rankin’s icy cool distant vocals and it makes the album that much cooler. A no brainer record that is probably on everyone’s best of.

Tennis – Ritual in Repeat
Sometimes the best summer albums get released in the fall. Tennis is a band who’s sound is pretty refined by now, but like a sushi chef who is dedicated to his craft, the band only seems to improve with each iteration.

Manic Street Preachers – Futurology
Manics seem to come up with a new record every year in recent times but Futurology took them in a drastically new direction from 2013’s Rewind the Film and the results were amazing. Inspired by Kraut rock and glam pop, Futurology has a freshness from the Welsh trio that would normally seem rare for a band with so many albums under their belt. I was kind of stunned when it wasn’t nominated for the Mercury Prize. I thought it was a good bet to win it when this record first came out. But then again, Talvin Singh won over Manics in 1999 so I guess a snub should not be all that surprising.

There were a few more I enjoyed, but I am too tired to write about them.
St. Vincent
New Pornos
TV on the Radio

Euro Trip 2014: Germany, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic

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My vacation is over. Here was my itinerary

Munich, Germany
Salzburg, Austria
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic
Vienna, Austria
Budapest, Hungary

Rather then go into play by play of all the minutiae of my trip, here are some thoughts:

How do these people eat so much meat, potato and bread and stay thin? It is a great mystery to me.

My guess is that these Europeans are very much like you and I, and eat a wide variety of food rather then what we think they eat. Andy, my Airbnb host in Munich was like ‘what do you want to eat? Vietnamese? Japanese? Kebab? Pizza?” when I asked him about eating suggestions. I was expecting him to point me towards the nearest German food restaurant.

Here are some things I enjoyed eating

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Look at the size of this crackling I got with this roast pork. Pork skin roasted is awesome regardless of country.

Once in a while, I’d like to remind myself that I have a full time job (well this trip, my email reminds me I have a job) which means I have income. Having income allows me to go to fancy restaurants with tasting menus and wine pairings. Went to this place in Munich that served us

Veal Brain
Beef tongue salad
Red Deer steak
Char with Charrd (nice play on words)

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But seriously, meat. Look at this pork knuckle for two in Vienna. TWO people to eat all this meat? serious?

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It was very tasty.

Food is cheap in eastern Europe. People at hostels will tell you that you can have a good meal for like 2 dollars. That is not where you derive the most value. The value lies in nice restaurants.

In Budapest, you can get amazing, gorgeous meals for roughly 30 dollars Canadian each. Now you might be thinking 30 dollars is a lot! However, if you had the same meal in Canada, that meal would cost you easily 50 or 60 dollars. We went to this place called Menza in Budapest and ordered the following:

Garlic cream soup with traditional Hungarian fried bread topped with sour cream and cheese
Roasted duck liver served with mashed potatoes and sour cherry sauce
Duck breast with gratin potato and chestnut sauce
Bottle of wine

came out to about 30 dollars a person. How cheap is that? I almost died eating this duck liver dish. It was so rich.

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Things to see:

Europe, as you can imagine, is kind of old. It is also kind of religious (not as much now, but still). Anyone who has been to Europe more then a few times will know that every city will have their fair share of these:

old towns
concentration camps

Okay, the last one might be reserved for a only a few countries. They are all very cool looking but after awhile, they kind of blend in together. It takes something spectacular to really blow me away.

Munich‘s history is rather interesting, because it was basically Nazi HQ and well, it’s still “too soon” for that city, if you know what I mean. Difficult to determine how the world would have been if Hitler had only got accepted into art school. He would have ended up a barista in Vienna somewhere.

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Ice Caves
Somewhere near Salzburg are ice caves. Basically, it’s a cave in the mountains that has a lot of ice in it. It’s kind of cool, and the trek up is very pretty and allowed for some nature time in the Alps which is a welcome change after visiting the cities. It’s also on the Unesco list. Unesco list is how I pretty much pick where to travel.

Tripadvisor complaint/idea:
I’m like most people, and use trip advisor to get a general consensus for how good something is. While I was researching the Ice caves, I came upon a lot of reviews saying the ice caves were difficult and that it is hard.

It is not.

It’s a 40 minute walk uphill on a paved trail, followed by some steps inside a cave. The elevation was only 1600 meters which isn’t that high at all. Now having gone back and read those reviews, I realized most of those people who reviewed were probably older or live in places where you have to drive everywhere. Now for them, yes, perhaps this was bit difficult and it’s not really trip advisor’s fault that they write the most reviews. I just wish I could filter out certain things by age/fitness/travel experience.

Cesky Krumlov is a very cute little old city tucked away in a river bend in the Czech Republic. If I had to use a modern word for it, I would say it’s “precious”. It’s a city the Czech would put on tumblr and get a bunch of shares. I think a whole lot of appeal for Cesky Krumlov is that all the roofs have the same colour, it makes it very picturesque. Look at this picture, it’s so pretty and I didn’t even frame it or anything (I never do)

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Prague is very pretty. Maybe it was off season, but people there seemed really chilled. No beggars or people trying to scam me all the time, which I liked. Even during low season, this place was overrun with tourists. I think it’s the Vegas of Europe or something. People come here to party.

The Americans have done an excellent job during the cold war in subliminally making us all scared of Eastern Europeans. They were always the enemies in action movies and let me just say, when I see a bunch of pale skin Czechs with thin buzz cuts and leather jackets walking the streets, I sometimes have to remind myself that they aren’t enemies and I’m not in an action movie.

I also don’t know how they drink so much light beer. As a fan of hopper, heavier stuff, I found myself at a bit of a disadvantage here in Central Europe. However, all the beers here have been good so I guess I can’t really complain. No bad beers here, and they really are dirt cheap.

I’ve also realized I have totally gotten used to not having people smoke in clubs and bars. They allow this in Prague and I really don’t like smelling like a cigarette after leaving the bar. Sadly, this is going to be the norm, and not the exception this trip.

Vienna is like that older brother in art school who is no longer cool. Hardly anyone talks about going to Vienna, yet there it is. Vienna has a fantastic, fantastic zoo. Any zoo that has Pandas is fantastic. They also have giant anteaters. Their exhibits showed a lot of trust in the people as some exhibits had no barriers between animal and people. They wouldn’t be able to do that in America. They have good dive bars in Vienna. It feels like a city that people live in, which I enjoyed.

Budapest was easily the best. It’s definitely the prettiest. It has the coolest bars, but sadly probably the shittiest beer out of the countries. Still, it does not detract from the vibe of the city. It also has baths. Baths are awesome places, especially after you figure out that going from cold water to extremely hot water and back is basically the best thing ever. I would do that every day if I could. Ruin bars for life.

Europe’s alright.

2014 Polaris Music Prize Preview: The Drinking Game

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The prestigious Polaris Music Prize is tonight. With previous winners such as Arcade Fire, GSYBE and Feist, you can guarantee that it’ll be a star studded event featuring the greatest Canadian celebrities known only to listeners of CBC Radio and indie 88. The event takes place at the Carlu, a venue known to not host concerts to smaller independent acts, but is gorgeous nevertheless and also, within walking distance of several strip clubs on Yonge for the eventual winner to blow all their money in a desperate attempt to recreate the most marginal of rap videos.

It’s still fun, and what is even funner is sitting at home in your pajamas, beer in hand, watching the event unfold online and making snarky comments on twitter. Inspired by this already happening, I have decided to post the 2014 Polaris Music Prize Drinking game.

Do a shot whenever

  • Someone mentions how pretty the Carlu is
  • Mac Demarco Grin shots (via @JillKrajewski)
  • If Jay Baruchel Mumbles (via @beets)
  • Rob Ford joke
  • Doug Ford joke
  • Streaming problems on Aux.TV
  • Someone mentions lack of diversity in the short list
  • Random shots of music industry people acting awkward
  • Artist presenter clumsily fumbling through their notes
  • Jian Gomeshi sighting
  • Camera pans to the chair where Drake would be
  • They mention the after party

Feel free to add this somewhat lazy post.

Here is a stream of one of the songs I have enjoyed from a Polaris nominated artist/

Karaoke Song Reviews (Part 2): Lana Del Rey, Nick Cave, Spice Girls, Sam Smith

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Once again we went to karaoke and once again here my elaborate reports on songs we tried to conquer. (Part 1 is here). We adopted a different format this time because we have no idea what consistency actually means.

Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness

While it’s easy to mock a Lana Del Rey selection at karaoke (or anything Lana Del Rey-ish), it’s hard to deny her strength as a karaoke artist. I think any Lana Del Rey song is good for karaoke, let’s look at the facts:

  • Slow. Lana del Rey songs are paced at a leisurely pace, perfect for reading the song and then figuring out how you want to sing it
  • Simple. No tricky words here. Lana sticks to the basics for her song writing. one to three syllables at best.
  • Gender Neutral: Ldr has a surprisingly deep voice for a lady and so the song kinda lends itself to both Guys and gals

Conclusion: This is a great karaoke song to start with. it’s easy and the. “sa sa summertime summertime sadness” part is fun to both sing and say. Say it right now. “sa sa summertime”. So fun.

Nick Cave/Kylie Minogue – Where the Wild Roses Grow

If you are going to pick a duet you better assess your crowd and make sure that someone else in the crowd knows this track. For future reference, don’t pick a semi obscure Nick Cave song from the 90s, no matter how much you like it. Singing both the nick and Kylie part doesn’t really make sense to your friends and I guess it’s also awkward to sing a song where basically the murders the women he’s dueting with. Still a great song though.

REM – The One I Love

Simple lyrics and a great chorus to scream out with your fellow friends.. why not?

Nicky Minaj – Anaconda

This is a song du jour that will sound dated in about a month but when you pick this song, all you really wanna do is yell out “OH my god. look at her butt” without feeling weird. You don’t even know how the rest of the “song” goes.

Sam Smith – Money on My Mind

Another one of the songs where you have no idea what the verse is but gives you an opportunity to yell out “I got money in my mind, money on my mind” in a falsetto over and over again. It’s pretty fun to yell out shit in your highest voice.

Spice girls – 2 become 1

Nostalgia’s a bitch. Probably everyone’s favorite song of the night and really, quite the dirty lyrics for supposed teeny bopper music. It’s funny because we picked this karaoke place cos they had a healthy dose of indie music and I swear every other song we sang was either 90s pop, Beyonc√© or Drake

Placebo – Pure morning

15 years later and I still don’t know what the hell this song is about. that’s the weird thing about karaoke, it forces you to really look at the song writing and Brian molkos songwriting is well, confusing:

A friend in needs a friend indeed,
A friend with weed is better,
A friend with breasts and all the rest,
A friend who’s dressed in leather,

A friend in needs a friend indeed,
A friend who’ll tease is better ,
Our thoughts compressed,
Which makes us blessed,
And makes for stormy weather,

A friend in needs a friend indeed,
My Japanese is better,
And when she’s pressed she will undress,
And then she’s boxing clever


Pulp – Babies

Speaking of lyrics, Babies is a great tune but my fiend who had never heard of Pulp was like “these lyrics are messed up yo”. I guess a song about an adolescent teen hiding in the closet of his crushes house watching her sister get it on can elicit such response. Still this song has some good yea yea yea yea parts and after singing some songs with outrageously weird lyrics, it’s nice to sing something that tells a narrative.

Lessons Learned

Just like we do at my workplace, we have come up with some lessons learned from this recent karaoke session They are

- Be aware of songs that repeat chorus over and over again (it’ll get boring)
– RAP is always, always more difficult then expected
– Make sure people know the song if you intend on duos
– 90’s songs = popular
– Don’t pocket dial your friend at midnight and leave a ten minute message consisting of you singing Whitney Houston and RHCP