Year End Reviews

Best of 2011: Top Classic Albums I Listened To (and will continue to listen to in 2012)

Posted on by Allison in Article Series, Classic Albums, Year End Reviews | Leave a comment

Everything old is new again

It’s pointless to pretend that I listened to 10 albums that were released in 2011, so I’m going to write about 10 classic albums that got a lot of airtime in my waxy ears this past year.

10. Peter Murphy – DEEP (1989)

Deep

The reunion cash-grab tour seems to be here to stay and let’s face it… it’s hard for me to fight my curiosity. Last month, I saw Peter Murphy for the first time in 13 years–it wasn’t a reunion or comeback tour by any sense of it, but was one of many 2011 examples of acts that had not toured extensively for 8-10 years.  The show was a good reminder of how important rebellion against siloes is for an artist’s growth. Deep was Peter Murphy’s biggest breakout album in terms of massive recognition. Written and released in 1989, the album has a slower overall feel and spawned two of Murphy’s highest performing songs to date: Cuts You Up and its B-Side, A Strange Kind of Love. It’s a great album though, with or without the chart-topping single.

9. R.E.M. – Document (1987)

R.E.M.

When R.E.M. hit it big with Out of Time, I was sort of confused. Those of you who watched the original Beverly Hills 90210 series will recall that that was the first season they were being aired in the summer as opposed to the fall. It was the “beach club” season where Brandon was making ends meet as a cabana boy. You may also recall that “Losing My Religion” had suddenly become the anthem of the series, with brooding Dylan choosing to listen to little else while throwing back the whiskey shots, and my generation was suddenly crazy about R.E.M. For me, Document is the best R.E.M. album, both in terms of listenability and composition. There aren’t a lot of sissy love songs on here, and the pessimism of “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” seals it as the harbinger of things to come in terms of the band’s activism (and increasing preachiness).

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Best Conspiracy Theories of 2009

Posted on by Paul in Everything, Year End Reviews | Leave a comment

want-to-believe

Toronto – I’ve long been a fan of conspiracy theories, both the plausible ones and the totally whacked out ones, in fact the more whacked out ones are the best.  With the spread of the internet as a means of disseminating information, these theories have grown in popularity.  With that in mind, I’d like to go over some of the ones that made the most headlines (or didn’t make the headlines, ‘cause y’know … “they” control what we see … and by “they,” I mean the evil lizard visitors from that TV show V)  So pop in the new Muse album or the new Megadeth, shut your blinds, put your tinfoil hat on and enjoy.

1.  Those crazy-ass lights over Norway

So somebody took a picture of these crazy spiral lights that appeared over Norway.  They’re kind of pretty actually, but nobody has a clue what the hell they are.  Some theories:  obviously aliens are the easiest answer, followed by the Russians (seriously, somebody blamed it on Russians testing … something, weapons or whatever.  Look it up). Next there is the possibility that it was the time tunnel or perhaps some other kind of weird science experiment , but the best theory is this – maybe the best thing I’ve read in a long time, probably because it incorporates theories from awesome TV shows like Fringe and V and Flashforward.

 2.  The H1N1 vaccine is gonna kill you!

Ok, so here’s the basic premise of this theory: the evil overlords in charge of all stuff everywhere think there are too many of us.  Therefore they want to wipe us out but in a way that’s not so noticeable as to be seen as a crazy massacre.  ‘Cause we’d kind of notice that happening.  Hence the vaccines.  And if it doesn’t kill you, it’s at the very least gonna make you walk backwards or something.

 3.  Obama is actually evil … and he’s gonna kill you!

The basic premise here is that Barack Obama’s just a puppet for our evil overlords (ie. he’s actually Gaius Baltar) and that everything he does is done for the explicit purpose of destroying America.  Oh, and he wasn’t born in the U.S.  And his name’s not actually Obama.  My take on it:  Obama’s probably not actually evil … but he’s still a politician and therefore probably shouldn’t totally be trusted.  Actually, nobody should be trusted.  Not even me.  Not even your mom.  Not even you!

 4.  Climate Change is Hooey

OK, so this one’s not really new at all, but has gained a lot of prominence with the whole Copenhagen thing going on plus Climategate.  Basically, climate change deniers will tell you that global warming stopped years ago and that the world’s actually cooling a bit (I imagine that’s why the people in the know changed the name to climate change – it encapsulates both warming and cooling) This is of special interest to Canadians since our Prime Minister has come out of Copenhagen as the rebel bad boy who’s not really doing all that he can to deal with climate change (or anything at all really).  Is Harper a closeted climate change denier?  Or is he just in the back pocket of oil companies?  And what does the sinister Daniel Plainview have to do with all of this?  Stay tuned for the answer, faithful readers … and for goodness sake, keep an eye on your milkshakes.

5.  Balloon Boy’s dad is actually right

We all heard the story of balloon boy Falcon Heene.  We all know it was a hoax perpetrated by his crazy, fame hungry, conspiracy happy dad, Richard.  What you may not have heard if you weren’t paying that much attention (and kudos to you if you weren’t, you obviously have some semblance of a life, unlike me) is that Richard Heene believes in the idea that our evil overlords are actually part of a secret cabal of evil lizard people secretly posing as posh humans in order to keep us under control.  Again, this is not a new theory, but Heene brought it up again.  This theory was first revealed by former British footballer David Icke, who postulated that important people such as Queen Elizabeth, George Bush, Hillary Clinton – and for some strange reason, Boxcar Willie –  are all secret reptilians who are out to get us.  This is why I can never fully get behind this theory.  Boxcar Willie only brings the good times, he loves humanity.  He would never want to enslave us.  Seriously, watch this video and try and tell me that Willie wishes us any harm.  You can’t.  Because he’s Boxcar Willie.  And he’s awesome.

 6.  Tiger Woods Y’all

Tiger and about 15 other women were able to keep his wife (and perhaps each other) in the dark about his various affairs.  If that’s not the textbook definition of conspiracy, I don’t know what is.  Tigergate,  people. Tigergate.

And of course, the true conspiracy buffs will tell you that Tigergate is just a distraction from the real story …

 7.  Soilent Green is real!  It’s real!!!

I’ve decided to start this theory all by myself.  Some scientists recently genetically engineered some freaky kind of pseudo-pork that’s sort of cloned from pig cells.  So we get something that approximates meat that can be made without killing animals.  It could be used to help feed the world and stuff and can also help reduce animal flatulence emissions, which are apparently bad for the environment.  But here’s the thing – this “meat” sounds really gross.  Like worse that Taco Bell gross (mmm … Taco Bell)  Who’s to say what they’ll be putting in there.  Maybe even people?

 8.  Adolf Hitler was secretly a lady!

At least that’s how I interpreted this article

 9.  My apartment is totally haunted

Ok , this one is only relevant to me, but still, I’m pretty sure it’s true.  Or maybe I just got freaked out after watching Paranormal Activity.  Either way, I’m just about ready to get one of those EMF readers to scan the apartment with.

 10.  Archie Comics Is Owned By Mormons!

This is a total lie.  Or maybe it’s not.  Ok, yes … yes it is a lie.  But think about it … one of the biggest entertainment news items of the past year was that Archie married Veronica.  Then in a later story, he married Betty.  Archie is a bigamist!  And you know he’d be going after Midge too if Big Moose weren’t around to kick his ass.  There you have it, Archie Comics may or may not endorse bigamy.  You heard it here first.

 Keep watching the skies …

2009: Jupiter and Beyond! (aka Paul’s faves)

Posted on by Paul in Everything, Year End Reviews | Leave a comment

norway-spiral

Toronto – So 2009 was kind of a weird year for me.  While a lot of great music came out this year, it was also the year I became more apathetic about music for some reason.  It’s because of this that I actually had a bit of a hard time remembering what I heard and actually liked this year.  That said, here’s the stuff I liked the most this year, organized in the most arbitrary and illogical manner possible.

 SONGS:

Grizzly Bear featuring Michael McDonald – “While You Wait For The Others”

 Veckatimest as a whole was a really great album that I dug a whole lot, but it was this version, released as a single, that really blew me away.  Grizzly Bear’s tune is made even more sublime with the addition of the king of smooth and yacht rock legend McDonald on vocals.  Maybe you think the original version with Ed Droste singing lead is the better song.  That’s what a fool believes, my friends … that’s what a fool believes.

 The Dirty Projectors – “Stillness Is The Move”

 One of the catchiest songs I heard all year, the folks at Breakfast At Sulimay’s describe it best.  Probably totally inaccurate, but it’s the best review I’ve seen.  Also, it’s fun to say singer Angel Deradoorian’s name out loud.

Franz Nicolay – “Jeff Penalty”

The Hold Steady keyboardist (and king of moustaches) tells us the story of Jello Biafra’s replacement in The Dead Kennedys, who depite just being “that one guy from Philly” or “Jeff Whatsisname”  manages to get the punks singing along anyways.  It’s a song about the power of songs and the underdog getting his moment to shine. 

 ALBUMS:

Jason Lytle – Yours Truly, The Commuter

Despite having really dodgy and questionable cover artwork, this is a really solid album. I’ve been a big fan of Lytle’s ever since the release of Grandaddy’s The Sophtware Slump … which I still can’t believe came out in 2000.  Man, I’m getting old.  Anyways, Lytle doesn’t break any real new ground here, sticking to his familiar bag of tricks (Neil Young-ian vocals, ELO-ish synths, lyrics about enjoying the weekend) but it works.  It’s more or less a Grandaddy album released under his own name, but I’m OK with that.

Converge – Axe To Fall

 Back in my younger days, I used to listen to lot of metal and hardcore.  I don’t listen to nearly as much as I used to, but I occasionally like the heavy stuff still, and hardcore legends Converge certainly bring the heavy on this, their seventh full length album.  A blend of blistering riffs (probably the catchiest Kurt Ballou has ever written), slower, sludgier tunes, the slow burning Tom Waits homage “Cruel Bloom,” and more guest musicians than you can shake a stick at (including members of Cave In, Neurosis and Genghis Tron), this is Converge’s most accessible album (relatively speaking … ’cause, y’know, it’s still full of screaming and really heavy guitars) and definitely one of their best.  Also, unlike Jason Lytle, Converge always has excellent album covers.

 Pink Mountaintops – Outside Love

The softer yin to Black Mountain’s heavy yang, Stephen McBean’s Pink Mountaintops project kick out the hazy psych/shoegaze/folk/pop jams.  On “Axis: Thrones of Love,” they swipe the Bee Gees line, “how deep is your love” and recontextualize it, making it seem a bit more like a challenge than a question. 

 Steve Earle – Townes

One of the best songwriters around pays tribute to his late friend and mentor Townes Van Zant and ends up making one of his best records.

 Joel Plaskett – Three

Another great songwriter, Plaskett was shortlisted for the Polaris prize this year but lost out to the more au courant (yet also really good) Fucked Up.  I think part of why he got passed over is because Plaskett has been consistently good over his last several albums.  But his new triple (!) album is excellent, full of his usual clever, rootsy songs.  He even incorporates some Celtic influence, which actually works well here.  I guess growing up on the east coast, all those flutes and stuff are part of your DNA or something.

Art Brut – Art Brut vs. Satan

Eddie Argos is a brilliant songwriter.  There, I’ve said it.  Like a British version of Craig Finn, Argos talks his way through his songs, filling in all sorts of details that I can really relate to – DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake could have been written about me.  Alcoholics Unanimous not so much about me (at least I hope not), but I think many of us have been in the state Argos describes there too (“I’ve been up all night/I’ve been making mistakes/I’m hiding it well/But I don’t feel great”)

The Thermals – Now We Can See

Hutch Harris and his bandmates have brought another collection of brilliant, punky power pop.  While not quite as good as The Body, The Blood, The Machine, Now We Can See is full of instantly catchy tunes (try not to sing along with the “oh way oh ohs” in the title track)  Plus they always look like they’re having a lot of fun in their videos.

Wilco – Wilco(The Album)

Jeff Tweedy’s songs.  Nels Cline’s guitar.  The other guys’ general greatness.  ‘Nuff said.  Wilco are one of the greatest bands around.  Wilco will love you, baby.  They will love you long time.