The guitar's name is Frak (don't ask) and the cat is Yossarian (Yoyo).

The guitar’s name is Frak (don’t ask) and the cat is Yossarian (Yoyo).

Maybe it’s the heat, but I thought I’d fire up the ol’ dashboard and start working on some posts for MPV. Over the past couple years I’ve worked on some projects that I think would be interesting to write about. Expect something on my long-delayed reel-to-reel digitizing project (audiophiles may be interested in the difficulties of “tape baking,” plain old music-lovers will be urged to revisit their favourite ’70s classic rock albums).

I also recently built an analogue synthesizer, and will likely start in on another similar project (as soon as I can decide what I want to make…).

I should mention that I completed the audio engineering program at Trebas in 2012, and received an award at last year’s graduation ceremony for being the top audio production student for the year (no big deal, or anything). So that was nice.

There’s more, but I suppose I’ll save some that for full posts. If you’re at all interested in some of the audio work I’ve been doing you can check out my work website over at

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Oh, a “meuth,” but of course!

Elke Sommer and Peter Sellers in A Shot in the Dark.

This is just a quickie post intended to direct you towards this most excellent episode of the Love This Movie, Hate This Film podcast, co-hosted by Zalina Alvi and yours truly. This month’s episode dealt with some of our favourite farcicals. Peter Sellers gets naked in A Shot in the Dark, Tim Curry is the only one with a clue in Clue, Michael Caine does his best Michael Caine impression in Noises Off, and poor old Bernie’s corpse gets dragged around the Hamptons by a couple of idiots in Weekend at Bernie’s.

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The List

A couple of weeks ago, Radiohead announced that they are coming to Toronto in June, and, naturally, I panicked. You see, Radiohead are on my list. No, not the list of famous people I would totally do, the list of bands that absolutely must be seen if I ever get the chance. I have a feeling that a lot of people, fanatic music lovers or not, have their own list of musicians that they’d give their proverbial right arm to see if they could.

It’s important to note that the list doesn’t take into account current popular standings. Aren’t Radiohead not cool anymore? Have they fallen out of hipster favour? Some say so, but part of what got them on my list is their undeniably strong back catalogue of recordings, and that goes for anyone on my list. “It” bands or hip, mysterious mix-tape maestros have to prove themselves before getting on to my list, and that’s the whole point. These artists are supposed to say something to you regardless of popular opinion, age or whether or not they’ve started to wear over-sized Cordobés hats and speak-mumble their precious lyrics.

Why did I panic when I heard about Radiohead’s imminent visit? I’m just about to finish an intense year of schooling at Trebas Institute, and as someone who’s been living off of rice and coffee for the past year, $80 a ticket is not exactly in the budget. But thus is the nature of The List – for these acts, money is no object.

Here’s my list as it stands right now. Feel free to share your own in the comments below.

Bob Dylan

You wish you could look as odd as me and still be called a genius.

More of a standing command to see rather than an actual need, since I saw him a few years ago. His performances these days are generally not incredible, but he’s Bob Freaking Dylan, so who cares?

Sigur Ros

It was recently announced that this ambient experimental rock band will be playing Montreal’s Osheaga festival in August, so I’m hoping that means they will be touring some other spots soon as well. Maybe if I start visualizing them at Massey Hall now, the power of my desire will make it come true come this fall?

Sufjan Stevens

Stevens's show at Massey Hall in 2009 was out of this world! (You can call me names, but please don't throw things at me.) - Photo by Colleen Hale-Hodgson

Like Bob Dylan, I’ve also recently seen Stevens perform, but that’s only fueled my desire to see him again. There’s something exceptional to the way that Stevens’s mind works, and it’s a wonderful thing to behold the odd, magical sounds he conceives be performed by real living people.

Animal Collective

I’m sure that when I finally do see these electronic music pioneers I’ll be standing still, trying to burn every movement on stage into my memory. The rest of that audience can just dance around me, and judge me for not participating. (Digression: can I just say that people need to stop doing that. If you tap me on the shoulder at a show and tell me I should be dancing, it should be legal for me to punch you in the face. This is weird music and we are weird people, so we should be left alone to enjoy said weird music in the weird ways we are most comfortable with.)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

A gearhead's wet dream. - Photo by Paul Galipeau

This is a heartbreaking one because the Montreal-based experimental rock band played a whole whack of shows last summer in Toronto and I didn’t go to any of them. I was even in town and not doing anything those days (it had a lot to do with me thinking that they were all sold out and not having the cash to buy a scalped ticket). They’re also broken up, so those shows were supposed to be a one-time deal – I’m not holding my breath for a second wave of reunion shows.

Grizzly Bear

2009’s Veckatimest is one of the most inspired records I’ve ever heard. I’m just twiddling my thumbs waiting for this group to finish their next album, release it and tour so that I can finally see them in action.


Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein (of Portlandia infamy) is also on my other list. - Photo by FullyFunctnlPhil

Dreaming of a reunion never sounded so badass. I know that the pseudo-replacement Wild Flag are now kicking about, but by most accounts it is just not the same as this late ’90s and early aughts riot grrrl act.

Daft Punk

They could play at my house any day.

Bands I’ve checked off this list:

Portishead – Seen twice! Once in New Jersey during All Tomorrows Parties I’ll Be Your Mirror event, and once at The Sound Academy.

Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) – Also seen twice. Once at one of the sweltering Trinity-St. Paul’s shows in Toronto, and again at the same ATP event as Portishead.

The National – Also seen twice (Massey Hall and the ACC), although I would see them again in a heartbeat.

Arcade Fire – Seen only once at the Toronto Islands show, but it was one hell of a show.

Death From Above 1979 – Seen once at one of their reunion shows at The Sound Academy; spent most of the show trying not to be crushed by the sweaty masses.

Jens LekmanThis.

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Jens Lekman releases new music. I used to have these jobs. These things are unrelated.

Jens Lekman.

My pal Jens Lekman has an EP coming out September 20 (next Tuesday). An Argument With Myself will precede a planned full-length early next year, which will be Lekman’s first since 2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedala. He’s also currently on tour in Europe and the US (no Canadian dates, sadly). If you can’t wait for the 20th you are in luck! The album is already streaming on Soundcloud! Give the title track a listen below and let me know what you think:

*(ed. Mar 28/12: Welp, it looks like the track has been taken down. I suppose you’ll just have to buy the whole thing.)

After the jump, a seemingly random recap of some of the surprisingly non-shitty jobs I have held in my long years as a working girl: Continue reading

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Neon Indian got high and created a synth

And there’s nothing wrong with that, because the result was this video:

If you want a more technical exploration into what this the PAL 198X actually does, I recommend checking out Create Digital Music‘s blog post, but the gist is that Neon Indian (who I saw last year and thought was a lot better live than recorded) partnered with Bleep Labs out of Austin, Texas to create this mini analog synth. The video is a pretty well done promo for an item that is, at best, an interesting curiosity for the gotta-have-it-all gear enthusiast set.

“Use lava lamps for slow moving modulation at your next ambient family gathering.”
– Neon Indian: helping families stick together,
one oscillation at a time.

[As an aside, I totally dig that blog Create Digital Music. I’m just getting into this type of audio technology and their posts never fail to get me excited about exploring the possibilities of sound. Please check them out.]

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Exciting times call for exciting posts

Be prepared for some serious linkage today.

The Murder Plans are one of three bands whose track I worked on for LiVE 88.5 FM's "Big Money Shot" contest. Photo by Sarai Strikefoot.

As followers should know, for the past few months I have been busily pursuing an audio engineering diploma from Trebas Institute in Toronto. I’m well into my second term and have been doing well scholastically, but in this business grades matter less than experience, so I’ve been working on gathering some of that as well.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Kitchener to assist producer Ian Smith (who’s worked with Feist and City and Colour, among other prominent artists) in his home studio. He was recording material for three of the bands participating in this year’s LiVE 88.5 “Big Money Shot” contest out of Ottawa. I did various things for each of the recordings, from editing in Pro Tools to setting up microphones to singing in a group response part on one of the tracks. It was my first time in a recording environment like that and I really enjoyed myself.

The fruits of my (admittedly small) labours has finally come out and you can listen to them on Facebook via the LiVE 88.5 page. Click on the title to get to the song, the band’s name to get to their website:

The Murder Plans – “Never Go Home
Wise, Young & King – “B Side Man
Orchid Thieves – “Your Wish Is My Command

If you are so inclined (which, why wouldn’t you be?) you can vote for one or all of these three tracks on LiVE 88.5’s facebook page. All you have to do is “like” their page, then go into the video’s I’ve posted above and “like” them too. Naturally, you can like any of the others on the page, but it would be cool to have a track I worked on advance to the next round. Many thanks for your support!


In other news, have you been following my podcast, Love this Movie, Hate this Film, as religiously as you should be? No worries, I’ve got you covered. Here’s a link to our latest installment, complete with Freudian slips (of the supercock variety) and arguments over the difference between “immoral” and “amoral”.

The Good, The Bad and the Annoying – Podcast #16

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Here’s What I Missed: Wye Oak

I’m listening to Wye Oak’s 2009 release The Knot and thinking about how awesome and dangerous and melodic it sounds, and I realize that I should write a “Here’s What I Missed” about them, so here it is:

Wye Oak – The Knot

Wye Oak

Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack of Wye Oak.

It doesn’t all work together, but it certainly all works. Slow-jam opener “Milk and Honey” is at times transcendent, although it really doesn’t sound much like the rest of the album. Maybe it’s the fact that drummer and keyboardist Andy Stack provides the lead vocals, while guitarist Jenn Wasner’s sleepy wail distinguishes the rest of the album’s sound. The track is just under two minutes long, so it plays more like a subtle intro into the dreamy, downcast mood that plays out through the rest of the album.

There’s hints of country twang in tracks like “For Prayer,” “I Want For Nothing” and “Slight, Fright,” adding brightness to a record that can sometimes be overwhelmingly dark. Flashes of Beatles-esque psychedelia in tracks like “Siamese” make a case for Wye Oak’s ability to handle their schizophrenic blend of musical styles.

For the most part, the lyrics are pretty obscured (which is a trait they share with many of my favourite artists – the sound of the words are more important than the actual words themselves). However, this is a bit of a missed opportunity as some solid lyrical insights could give better context to the pungent mood their sound sets up.

What Wye Oak do best is mix pretty, folky elements like the swoony violin on “Siamese” and “I Want For Nothing” with dirty, psychedelic guitar effects. This is one thing that gets me every time with bands like this one. The dynamic growl of Wasner’s guitar on “Take It In” adds a thick layer of dirt to what could have come out more akin to a dreamy lullaby if left in other hands. There’s nothing I like more in modern boy/girl groups than a woman who can shred, which Wasner proves she’s a master of throughout The Knot.

Another thing that gets me is the sheer gravity produced from sparsely arranged tracks like “Mary Is Mary”. With a loosely strummed guitar and rolling crescendos, “Mary Is Mary” has the sort of heavily saturated melancholy that a lot of similar bands have trouble pulling off without sounding too melodramatic.


Lots of people have been raving about Wye Oak’s follow-up to The Knot, Civilian, released earlier this year. I’ve listened to it a few times now and may follow up this post with another review.

Wye Oak are currently on tour, opening for other great bands like The National and Okkervil River, and will be appearing at Toronto’s The Sound Academy on October 7, opening for Explosions in the Sky. 

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NXNE Damage Report

Nothing is broken, not even my heart.

This year I saw about 30 different bands/musicians play in Toronto this past week at various North By Northeast (NXNE) events. Here are five acts that really impressed me, in no particular order:

1. Rich Aucoin @ The Garrison Friday, June 17, 1AM

Rich Aucoin. Courtesy of Killbeat music.

This guy is incredible live. Normally when an artist’s live show is hyped up as much as Aucoin’s is, you should prepare yourself to be a little disappointed. You do not need to do that with Aucoin. It’s as good as everyone says. Even if you are not particularly interested in the music (I’m not sure how much I’d listen to his recorded material – I may get back to you on that), you will have so much fun watching him perform that it won’t even matter. He has a very natural command of the audience, getting almost the entire crowd to kneel at one point, and then having everyone enjoy a dance party under a parachute. However, this audience obviously knew what they were in for and were completely prepared to go anywhere/do anything Aucoin asked them to – I’m not sure how this would work in a smaller venue, or one where he is not as well-known. Anyway, this show was a sweaty, fantastic blast, and I will definitely be checking out his show the next time he is in town.

2. Grimes @ The Great Hall Saturday, June 18, 1AM

Grimes. Photo by John Londono.

I didn’t actually catch her whole set (due to an ill-conceived bid to catch Ty Segall’s mystery guest spot at The Bovine at 2AM), but what I did see was pretty convincing stuff. I think she may have been a little drunk, so there was the occasional off-time synth line, but her vocals were what really struck me. She was actually experimenting with her range rather than relying on her prettier upper tones (kind of like the singer from Cults does, who were fine, but a little too safe for my tastes). I also really liked her sort of spastic dancing. Grimes is just great electro-dance/dream-pop tunes. I’ll try to check her out again when she comes back to town.

3. METZ @ Sneaky Dee’s Thursday, June 16, 12AM

METZ. Photo by David Waldman.

Heavy, heavy, heavy shit, ya’ll. This local grunge/punk/noise explorers are not my usual thing, but there’s no denying the solid wall of energy they put into their performance and got out of the audience. Feeling the Sneaky Dee’s floor underneath me wobble with every foot stomp was a little disconcerting (I feel bad for the poor suckers underneath eating some ‘chos, who will one day be crushed by a mob of excitable hardcore fans) but it was pretty cool watching some crowd surfer actually walk on the ceiling and then almost break his neck when he was dropped. Also, the music was tight.

4. Matt King (from DD/MM/YYYY) @ Trinity Bellwoods Park Sunday, June 19, 3PM

Matt King of DD/MM/YYYY. Photo by Colleen Hale-Hodgson

The most experimental thing I saw all festival was in a park in the middle of a beautiful sunny day. It was billed as a DD/MM/YYYY set but it was really just King, some glass cups and an old tape deck. It was a bit hard to hear, but was really interesting and evocative. In fact, all of the performances I saw at the Live in Bellwoods showcase Friday and Sunday were really impressive. It really shows the character of a group when you can strip off all the modern electronics and they can still kill an acoustic set. The more creative the better, and King really proved that when he stood up and boldly placed a reel of tape in his mouth, letting it unspool through the tape deck and play what sounded like an old ’50s/’60s pop rock song in its entirety. The subtle dance moves were what really sold it for me.

5. Cunter @ The Bovine Sex Club Friday, June 17, 12AM


I’m as surprised by this pick as you are! I admit, I was grumbling a bit when a friend told me to come see this band with him. The band name is terrible, but appropriate for this type of music, so I guess I shouldn’t hold it against them. Also they used to be named Hunter, which is even less interesting, but the story behind the name change is funny, so there ya go. Anyway, their music is loud, explosive punk. Someone was describing it to me as two minutes of music so intense that you think your hearts going to stop beating and you can’t breathe, and then they stop and give your heart and lungs a chance to recover before diving back into it (he said something like that, I can’t remember, I’m tired). It’s a pretty accurate description. I think I mostly loved the lead vocalist’s (singer’s???) facial expressions, as well as his climbing on the bar so everyone could see him. I also like how the bassist (I think it was the bassist, I couldn’t really see) was jumping around from one side of the stage to the other. If you’re looking for a band with a lot of energy, you really can’t go wrong with a punk band like Cunter.


Here are three acts that need a little work in the area of impressing me:

1. Chad VanGaalen @ The Great Hall Saturday, June 18, 12AM

I was really hoping that VanGaalen would be able to redeem himself in my eyes. I recently wrote this review for of his latest record, Diaper Island (I know, right??). I was disappointed by that album, and even more so by his live show. He started on time, but had to stop several times throughout the set because either his wacky homemade guitar was out of tune or his band-mates didn’t know how to play the song. He ended up playing for way longer than he should have. Things that I normally really enjoy (like a wacky homemade guitar and a down-played ukulele-led closing tune) were wrecked by his inability to pull them off (the uke was not miced properly and was, thus, barely audible). He also caused Grimes’s set to be pushed back so I had even less time to check her out.

2. Ty Segall @ The Bovine Sex Club Saturday, June 18, 2AM

Several factors went into making this a non-highlight of the festival. 1: It was 2AM on the fourth night I was out for NXNE and I was so very sleepy. 2: I don’t really know any Ty Segall songs, which leads me to… 3: I spent his entire set not realizing that it was Ty Segall and was actually just watching the weird Justice League cartoons that The Bovine was playing on the TVs they have above the bar, waiting for Ty Segall to get on stage. Other people seemed to enjoy their sets during NXNE, but I was not really feeling it. I was expecting something a little more adventurous and bombastic by the way people were talking about their performances. Another reason to ignore the hype, kids!

3. The Lower Dens @ Lee’s Palace Thursday, June 16, 1AM

This mostly comes down to them not playing that one song I know (“I Get Nervous“) and maybe me being a little too sleepy, and maybe their music being a little too sleepy as well. I left early, so maybe they did play that one song I know…


Aaand here’s a picture of the poutine from Poutini’s on Queen West that I ate Friday night. It was probably the best thing to happen throughout the entire festival.

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Song Review: “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys

I’ve been busy and a little negligent, I confess, but no worries, I am still around. Here is a little something, something I wrote for a class I’m taking. It’s a dissection/review of the song “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys. I’ve always found this song to be somewhat subversive, and my assignment was to choose a popular song and dissect it – figure out what makes it tick, so to speak. Pitchfork Media named “God Only Knows” as the greatest song to come out of the ’60s, and that’s a pretty high ranking for a song that suggest the singer will kill himself if his lover doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. Of course, that’s all hyperbole – a product of young, naïve love – but the song is still darker than it appears, which I think is worth exploring a little bit.


Pet Sounds is often cited as one of the best albums ever recorded, with “God Only Knows” often pointed to as the best song on the album (or, according to Pitchfork Media, the entire ’60s decade). On the surface, it’s a pretty simple love song with some great harmonies and a typically lush score from producer Brian Wilson. However, like many nursery rhymes before it, the truth is not as rosy as those sunny piano chords would suggest.


intro | verse 1 | chorus | verse 2 | chorus | instrumental/vocal break | chorus |
repeat verse 2 | repeat chorus until fade


“God Only Knows” is heavily layered with everything from French horns to a three part string arrangement to an accordion. However, every instrument is used sparingly, and, for the most part, they serve only as accents to Carl Wilson’s lead vocal performance.

The French horn opens the piece playing a short melody (also used for an upper vocal harmony line near the end of the song) over a two chord piano line, sleigh bells and a bass, with a short flute line leading into the first verse. Carl’s vocals are doubled to sound fuller, giving them a sort of dream-like, other-worldly quality, the cause of which isn’t immediately identifiable. Percussive elements and orchestral elements are added and taken away to give the impression of both movement and space in the piece, showing clearly where each section of the song begins and ends.

The hook lies pretty squarely in the chorus. It’s only one line, but the sort of sad but sweet melody, mixed with a powerful, striking sentiment leaves a lasting impression.

The complex harmonies – a Beach Boys staple – come in after the second chorus, with Brian Wilson and Bruce Johnston singing some “ah,” “bah’s” and “do’s,” before moving into the third chorus and last verse. The chorus is repeated until the end of the piece with high, mid and low harmonies mixed with Carl’s original melody line.

Although the orchestration certainly adds to the allure of “God Only Knows,” the song can remain just as effective with a much more spare arrangement (even a capella) because the melody and lyrics are so effective.


I may not always love you,
But long as there are stars above you,
You never need to doubt it.
I’ll make you so sure about it.

God only knows what I’d be without you.

If you should ever leave me,
Though life would still go on, believe me,
The world could show nothing to me,
So what good would living do me?

God only knows what I’d be without you.

(Instrumental break)

God only knows what I’d be without you.

If you should ever leave me,
Though life would still go on, believe me,
The world could show nothing to me,
So what good would living do me?

(Chorus repeats until end)

I’ve always found this song to be sort of dark. The sentiment is from a man so in love with someone that he can’t see the point in living if that person leaves him. Invoking God in the title only adds to the gravity of this man’s love, and speaks to a sort of devotional state of mind, making him seem perhaps dangerously obsessed (but maybe I am projecting?).

The opening line, “I may not always love you,” is a fake out, as the rest of the verse reveals that he’ll only love the subject until the universe ends (which is to say, forever). It’s a great, unconventional way to hook the listener in, making them unsure about the subject matter from the very beginning.

It isn’t until the second verse that the lyrics start to seem dark to me. “. . . The world could show nothing to me / So what good would living do me?” brings to mind thoughts of suicide, which is only romantic if you are trapped in a Shakespearean tragedy. However, this is a pretty common romantic trope, and it’s the type of hyperbole that people can easily grasp. Everyone has felt that obsessive love at some point – whether it’s directed at a romantic partner or a movie star or even a work of art, people can understand and relate to something all-encompassing.

It’s also interesting to note that the entire piece only takes into consideration the singer’s point of view. This isn’t unusual for a love song, of course, but it does lend itself to being an anthem for stalkers (see the movie Enduring Love for a creepy example of this) and other undesirable obsessives. In fact, the object of the singer’s affections is almost trapped in this relationship because, if they were to ever leave, they might be inadvertently responsible for someone’s death.

At the time that this single came out, the choice of putting the word “God” in the title was controversial. Writers Tony Asher and Brian Wilson were worried that it would be too non-commercial. The word “God” has an inherent gravity to it, bringing with it social, religious and personal meanings. If the line went, “Nobody knows what I’d be without you,” it simply would not carry the same weight – it’s too unspecific. The invocation of God implies a deeper connection between these two people, suggesting that their love is both earthly and divine. Ultimately, the risk paid off for The Beach Boys, giving them both a hit and a song with some theological weight to it.

So this may not be the sweet love song it appears to be upon first, fifth or even tenth listen, but it’s probably this strong devotional tenor that makes it as well-loved as it is. It doesn’t hold back, and it makes no apologies for its expression of love. Also, it’s extremely well put together, with some soaring harmonies and fun orchestration. “God Only Knows” is certainly worth the praise it’s given, but I still don’t think I’d play it at my wedding reception.

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Podcast, other writing and new website!

Three things:

1. Love This Movie, Hate This Film, the podcast that I and my friend Zalina Alvi put out every month, released its latest edition last weekend. We covered the unfortunate win of The King’s Speech over The Social Network at the Oscars in February (and talk about the 8 other films on the ballot too). Special guest podcaster Sarah Miller joined us, tackling the difficult job of arguing for The King’s Speech (we appreciate the effort, Sarah, you crazy person, you!). You should really subscribe to LTMHTF via iTunes so that you never miss a new podcast.

2. I have been remiss in my blogging duties of late. This is mostly due to the fact that I have been working on several other projects that are both exciting and time consuming. Some of the exciting projects I have been working on include these two articles written for Toronto-based websites:
– “Toronto’s One Stop Occult Shop” – profile on The Occult Shop, one of the only (if not the only) stores in Toronto that serves a wide variety of spiritual faiths.
– “The Juno Awards Allow Artists to Shine” – feature story that includes and interview with Nick Boyd, guitarist for Canadian band Hollerado.

3. Notice anything different? Like, say, you’re on WordPress instead of Blogger? I decided to switch over to WordPress for a variety of reasons, and hope to be shining up the look of the site in the coming months. What do you think of the new digs?

Extra Bonus Point 4. I will be starting a degree program for Audio Engineering and Production/DJ Arts in April at Toronto’s Trebas Institute. This is simultaneously exciting and terrifying, but mostly exciting. I’m not going to say that I’ll be the next Kanye or anything, I’m just going to say that Kanye should probably update his resume because pretty soon I will be making sweet beats with Bon Iver instead of him and he’ll be crying into his piles of MBDTF money.

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