Monday, February 15, 2010

Music You Should be Listening To...

My buddy Browner, the resident music expert, is finally here to weigh in with his picks for the albums of the year. And yes, I know the year in question ended more than 6 weeks ago. But I guess having me complain about the tardiness of his picks (in light of how horrificly inactive this blog has been of late) is a little bit like when the guys in my beer league complain about the quality of the officiating in our 10:30 Wednesday night games: the quality of the officiating is usually equal to the quality of the hockey being played.

In any event, here are Browner's picks. As always, they are beyond solid.

So here's my very belated and half-assed attempt at a best of '09 list.

I should start with a disclaimer. 2009 was a year in which I completely retreated into my own little bubble. I probably listened to a grand total of less then 5 hours of commercial radio this year and I can't think of a single artist that I discovered that way. As a result my favourite albums of the year are heavily skewed towards the sources that I surround myself with... which is to say most of them aren't on the Billboard charts and you'll find almost as much cancon here as you will on the CBC. Having said that, I still don't feel like I missed much. Even reviewing other best of lists there did not seem to be any consensus picks this year (eg. Radiohead- In Rainbows '07, Kings of Leon- Only By The Night '08). The hip blogs seemed to coalesce around Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear, but those didn't do it for me. And the more mainstream publications played it very safe with well established artists (Really? One of Springsteen's weakest albums coming in at #2? And U2 at #1? Is it possible they just mislabeled Achtung Baby on their ipods?)

Anyway, without further ado, here's what I did come up with:

10. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson- Summer of Fear

Warbling vocals layed over loose, quiet rock that plods along and builds intensity.

Check Out: Summer of Fear pt. 2

9. Still Life Still- Girls Come Too

This is the type of music that should have come after the grunge era- the same vitality and urgency, but more complex and subtle musically.

Check out: Pastel

8. Silversun Pickups- Swoon

A bit of a throwback to the early '90's, but still manages to sound fresh.

Check out: There's No Secrets This Year

7. The Wooden Sky- If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone

Atmospheric and contemplative folk rock.

Check out: (Bit Part)

6. Dan Mangan- Nice, Nice, Very Nice

Charismatic Vancouver singer/songwriter walks a line between folk and pop.

Check out: Road Regrets

5. The Antlers- Hospice

This record reminds me of Bon Iver. Intensely personal, beautiful, and intricate.

Check Out: Two

4. Timber Timbre- Timber Timbre

Haunting and completely captivating bluesy folk songs.

Check out: Demon Host

3. Tegan and Sara- Sainthood

Is Sainthood as good as The Con? No. Were the '07 Patriots as good as the '72 Dolphins? No. Were they worth watching? See what I'm getting at here?

Check out: Hell

2. The Rural Alberta Advantage- Hometowns

Heartfelt, energetic acoustic folk rock by a band named for Alberta that had the good sense to move to Toronto.

Check out: Frank, AB

1. Metric- Fantasies

I wasn't even a Metric fan before this album. This is the definition of taking it to a new level.

Check out: Gimme Sympathy

Honourable mention: Bahamas- Pink Strat, Wilco- Wilco (The Album), Monsters of Folk- Monsters of Folk, Gaslight Anthem- The '59 Sound, Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, Brandi Carlile- Give Up The Ghost

Bonus Tracks:

Here are a few of's favourites from the past 365 days:

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - "Up From Below"

Check out: Home, Janglin

Harlem - "Free Drugs" (Album title of the Year?)

Check out: South of France

King Khan and the Shrines - "The Supreme Genius of King Khan and The Shrines"

Check out: Welfare Bread, Land of the Freak (from "What Is?"), Torture,

The Almighty Defenders - "The Almighty Defenders"

I think their Wikipedia bio pretty well speaks for itself:

The Almighty Defenders is a postmodern gospel rock supergroup consisting of members from the Black Lips and The King Khan & BBQ Show. The band was formed in February 2009 in Berlin, Germany.


On the Black Lips' 2009 tour of India, following an incident at a rowdy show in which Cole Alexander kissed fellow bandmember Ian St. Pe and exposed his private parts on-stage, the Lips fled the country while rumors of their arrests circulated the internet. The tour was canceled and the group members fled to the residence of King Khan (musician), who was living in Berlin at the time. Over the course of eight days, in a typically booze-sloppy Black Lips fashion, they laid down 11 tracks with Khan and his King Khan & BBQ Show bandmate Mark Sultan. On June 17, the full group made its live debut, performing a set in choir robes at the North by Northeast festival, and Vice Records made plans to release the Almighty Defenders' self-titled debut on September 22, 2009.

Check out: Cone of Light

Deer Tick - "Born on Flag Day"

Check out: Easy, Smith Hill

Bad Veins - "Bad Veins"

Check out: The Lie, Go Home (my favourite song in the world this month)

Tiny Vipers - "Life on Earth"

Check out: Dreamer (runaway favourite for "breakup song of the year")

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brett Favre

Unabashed homerism generally results in terrible play-by-play... except when it goes horribly wrong.

This is one of the best calls I've ever heard.

Thanks to Flats for the clip.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Long May You Run...

This might have been the single greatest latenight musical performance in history.

Coupled with the giant ground sloth's skeleton spraying Beluga caviar on an original Picasso, and Conan's class at handling an impossible situation, this was one of the finest hours of television I have ever seen.

Long may you run, Conan. Long may you run...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cliff Clavin on Jeopardy

So there I was, spending some quality time with my Grandma tonight. We'd just finished dinner and were sitting by the fire, taking in an entertaining and intellectually stimulating half-hour of America's Favourite Quiz Show, when I somehow experienced a 'Nam-like flashback to the single greatest moment in gameshow history: Cliff Clavin's answer on Final Jeopardy.

For those who are too young to remember, here it is in all of it's splendour.

By the way, is it possible that I somehow forgot how glorious Alex Trebek's moustache was? Shame on me...

In a related story, here's a link to an article about TV's Greatest Moustaches. Oh November, how I long for you...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Alomar Snubbed in HOF Voting

NEW YORK -- Andre Dawson was elected to the Hall of Fame, while Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar fell just short of earning baseball's highest honor.

Dawson, nicknamed "The Hawk," received 420 of 539 votes in voting announced Wednesday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, 15 more than the 75 percent necessary to gain election.

The eight-time All-Star, appearing on the ballot for the ninth time, had fallen 44 votes short last year.

Blyleven had 400 votes, up from 338 last year, and likely will get in, what with two more tries on the BBWAA ballot.

Alomar received 397 votes in his first appearance, and was followed by Jack Morris with 282.

This is a travesty. Roberto Alomar was a 12-time all-star, the best middle infielder of his era, and the best player on 2 World Series winning teams. He should have been a no-brainer first ballot guy.

A complete joke.

Jeff Blair's take is solid. Check it out HERE.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Avatar + 3-D = Ayahuasca Experience

OK. Full disclosure.

When I saw the trailer for Avatar last month, I said to my wife: "That looks like the single worst movie ever made. You couldn't pay me to go see that."

(In fact, after watching this trailer again, I stick by those words. That trailer makes this look like the worst movie of all-time)

But when you spend prolonged stretches of time in Peru, your choices of movies playing in the theatre are somewhat limited (most are either gruesome terror movies or dubbed-over cartoons). And one of my guilty pleasures in life is going to the movies and scarfing down popcorn and slugging back a gallon of Inca Kola. And also... I've never seen a movie in 3-D, and I've always secretly longed to put on a pair of those funky glasses.

And so it was. I went to see Avatar last night. And I loved it.

Yes, it was highly entertaining. Yes, it had a wonderful message. Yes, it was a convincing critique of latter-day imperialism. And yes, it was a stunning visual accomplishment, particularly in 3-D.

But above everything else, the reason I loved Avatar was because for stretches of the movie, I felt like I was under the influence of Ayahuasca.

For real.

There were so many aspects of this movie that drew upon the ayahuasca experience that upon immediately leaving the theatre, I first hugged a tree (literally), and then proclaimed that I'd be willing to bet anything that the person who wrote that script (James Cameron, apparently) has worked with ayahuasca.

From the way the lead character enters the mind and body of his avatar (laying down and fading into a trance-like state), to the flourescent trippy night-time colours enveloping everything, to the indecipherability between the two worlds, how the Na'vi people connect with nature, the healing powers of nature, and how the Na'vi people are able to communicate with the spirits of all things living past and present... Everything points to the types of things you see, feel, and experience while working with ayahuasca. Hell, even the giant tree that the Na'vi people live in resembles a gigantic ayahuasca vine.

So if you have ever wondered what it was like to experience the effects of ayahuasca, but, you know... you didn't want to travel to the Amazon for 9 days and drink a vile liquid that would ultimately make you feel like you were dying... Checking out Avatar in 3-D might be your best bet for a poor man's rendition.

But as they say, there's no substitute for the real thing.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

NFL Relegation


At some point during the Buffalo Bills - Cleveland Browns Week 5 matchup earlier this year (a 6-3 Browns win which was easily one of the worst professional sporting events I've ever witnessed), my buddy Dinner texted me with the following revelation: "These two teams belong in the CFL".

And though Cleveland and Buffalo have managed to "turn their seasons around"; meaning that they're no longer in the running for the worst team in the league; the idea of an NFL relegation system has stuck with me for the duration of this football season. (You see, these are the things that happen when you are a Bills fan. Any hope of a playoff berth is gone after the first month of the season, so you're forced to think about other things in order to keep your sanity. This sad reality is great for creative purposes; not so great for the well-being of your liver).

As we all know, Week 17 in the NFL can be a pretty uneventful day. Most of the playoff spots are locked up, most of the playoff teams are happy with their seeding and are consequently content to rest most of their starters, and most fantasy leagues have awarded their heavyweight championship belt by the end of Week 16. Furthermore, any team with a shot at landing the #1 pick in the NFL draft; particularly in a draft year which includes a legitimate no-brainer stud pick like Ndamukong Suh; is doing everything they can to ensure that they keep that pick.

So how do you make today's 49ers-Rams (1-14) and Bears-Lions (2-13) games more interesting?


Meaning that the team with the worst record in the NFL plays in the CFL next year.

Think about it: how much harder do these guys play if they know that a loss means they'll be playing half their games in places like Regina, Saskatchewan, and Edmonton, Alberta next year? (Today's gametime temperature in each city: -14 degrees)

And don't tell me that the idea of an NFL team playing in the CFL isn't feasible. Because if Major League Baseball can have interleague play with different rules based on where the game is being played (let alone a World Series in which the rules shift from game to game!), there's no reason that the Rams couldn't play in a league where their road games featured more real estate, 3 downs, and 12 men on the field... And if you don't think the CFL players would be chomping at the bit to try to prove themselves at the Edward Jones Dome, playing by NFL rules against guys making 10 times more money than them, then you're kidding yourself.

But perhaps what is most intriguing about this potential scenario is the thought of seeing the winner of the Grey Cup each year getting their shot to play with the big boys in the NFL. How great would it be to see Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals playing at Molson Stadium... in December! Or better yet, if the Rams were somehow able to beat the 49ers today, it would set up a potential 1-game relegation play-in game between the Rams and the Lions (don't kid yourself: the ratings for this game would be through the roof). And if the Rams were somehow able to beat the Lions in this play-in game, the 2009 Grey Cup Champion Montreal Alouettes would be slotted into the NFC North, meaning that the likes of the Vikings, Packers, and Bears would be paying a visit to Montreal next year.

There's literally nothing about a CFL-NFL relegation system that doesn't improve each of the respective leagues, and more importantly, the weekly on-field action.

Of course, the obvious argument is that a CFL team wouldn't stand a chance in an NFL stadium. But is a potentially putrid Alouettes team really going to by that much worse to watch than an already putrid Rams team? And furthermore, I'd argue that the homefield advantage of the CFL team, playing with 3 downs and 12 players, would be enough to make up for much of the discrepancy in talent.

As for that discrepancy in talent, you need look no further than the stats of Ricky Williams to determine that the gap probably isn't as great as you might think. In 2006 with the Argos, Williams rushed for 526 yards on 109 carries (4.8 avg.) with 2 TDs. This year with the Dolphins (through 15 games), Williams has rushed for 1090 yards on 229 carries (4.8 avg.) with 11 TDs.

Throw the CFL team a percentage of the relegated NFL team's TV revenue (in 2008, each NFL team received $77 million in National TV revenue alone - 25% of that money would make a world of difference to a CFL franchise, allowing them to sign some key NFL free agents for the upcoming year), and there's no reason that, financially speaking, a relegation system couldn't work. So is it time to revisit the NFL-CFL Co-Operative Agreement, and to put the EPL idea of NFL Relegation on the table? I say yes. Absolutely.

As for getting NFL teams to agree to playing a year (at least) north of the border? That would be another story.

But for the time being, it's a wonderful idea to ponder: a world in which the Grey Cup Champion earns a shot at the big boys in the NFL, and the Rams and Lions Week 17 games have more meaning and intensity than any game either franchise has played in the past 5 years.