Welcome back, Colleen

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 http://splendidcitysounds.com/.

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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

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.

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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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