Sunday, July 29, 2007

MUSIC: The Saddest Music In The World

As my introduction to the blog, instead of telling you my favourite t-shirt or the last fast food meal I ate, I decided to take a cue from Guy Maddin's film The Saddest Music In The World.

What is truly the saddest music in the world?

Now there's a difference between sad and bitter. Sadness, in my eyes, is about loss. A sorrow that cannot be hidden or "forced". To a musician, such unhappiness is usually a blessing and a curse.

We have lost many a beloved depressing idol (Nick Drake, Jim Morrison, Elliott Smith) and have nearly lost many others such as Matthew Good, Cat Power and Trent Reznor.

The goal of this post is not to dwell on how much of a bummer Nine Inch Nails are at their best. Nor am I here to tell you my favourite Nirvana songs.

I have selected 25 essential depressing cuts that speak to me on some previously unheard of level. Now before I begin and people start to disagree with me, I want to state that these are cuts from my personal collection.

My selections tend to favour North American artists; however I've tried to keep my search as wide as I could given certain limitations.

I would love to hear about the picks of everyone who visits here, so simply email me or post here with any suggestions. Being an avid music fan, I will likely (as long as you put it nicely) listen to your recommendations.

And because I'm in an extra good mood I have available here a podcast which includes the Top 10 Saddest Songs on my list.

Enough said. Let the countdown begin.


25. I've Been Thinking (Handsome Boy Modeling School feat. Cat Power)

This collaboration between Cat Power and Dan The Automator (Gorillaz, Deltron 3030) proves one of the most fruitful ones on Handsome Boy Modeling School's latest LP White People. Chan Marshall contemplates the state of her relationship in such a sexy, suave way that it would make Feist jealous. The rainy-day vibe, a la Riders On The Storm, guarantees this song's inclusion on this countdown.

24. Non-Zero Possibility (At The Drive-In)

Being the last cut on At The Drive-In's last album Relationship Of Command, this song gets me every time. How I wish I had written this song. The punk attitude gets a literate treatment and as much as people knock Cedric Bixler Zavala's lyrics for being too nonsensical, the line "let's just paint you a pretty face" should be as well-known as Trent's "I hurt myself today". Even though the band was falling apart during the making of this album, that fact allowed them to reach ever greater heights.

23. Dead Meat (Sean Lennon)

I'll be the first to admit Lennon's latest album Friendly Fire was certainly not worth the 8 year wait. This being said, being the son of the ridiculously talented John Lennon and Yoko Ono, some talent's bound to rub off. "Dead Meat" is Lennon's send-off to his ex-girlfriend Bijou Philips, who weirdly enough, sings back-up vocals on the track. This is an expertly constructed song filled with passion and is one of the best songs of 2006.

22. Take You On A Cruise (Interpol)

I'm not exactly sure how Interpol can be completely engaging yet a tad bit disappointing at the same time. Much like Damon Albarn of Blur fame, I believe these guys still haven't written their best material. Their live shows often boast identical setlists for months on end, but they weather the criticism and Joy Division jokes to make incredible rock songs. "Take You On A Cruise" is a beautiful lullaby drowning in guitars and reverb that is better than any drug.

21. Parting Ways (Pearl Jam)

Here we go, I'll say it. Eddie Vedder is the emo artist of the 90's. And what happened to one of the 90's biggest icons when the decade came to an end? His relationship with his then-wife Beth Liebling came to a bitter halt. And although he's "too big a man to say" he knew they'd soon be parting ways.

20. Asleep (The Smiths)

I'm sure this song could bum even Andy Dick out. Mr. Self-Deprication (a.k.a. Morrissey) is the poster boy for these kinds of lists and it just wouldn't feel right without him. What was the B-side to "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side" turns out to be the real winner and one of The Smiths' best songs.

19. Afraid Not Scared (Ryan Adams)

Not being as big a Ryan Adams fan as many of my friends doesn't stop me from recognizing the genius in much of this man's work. I recently read his celebrity playlist for iTunes which was loaded with hip-hop. I first thought this was really weird, but after giving Love Is Hell another listen, I realize that Adams probably listens to agressive music to allow himself to write the many haunting ballads he is arguably best known for. The man sums it up best himself; it sounds "like someone possessed".

18. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles)

Forget all the Sgt. Pepper's hype for a minute. I believe The Beatles self-titled "white album" captures them at their best. After watching the film Concert For George that captures an all-star tribute to the songs of George Harrison, I was reminded of how much of a gem this song is. Paul McCartney on piano. Eric Clapton on lead guitar. Songs shouldn't be allowed to be this good. It depresses the rest of us.

17. Seule (Patton / Kaada)

This short-lived collaboration between Norwegian icon John Kaada and the schizophrenic musical mastermind Mike Patton (ex-Faith No More, Peeping Tom) produced a song so potent with death that it sounds like a 3-minute funeral. And I'm inclined to have this play on repeat for a while.

16. The End (The Doors)

Without even having seen Apocalypse Now, this song should still be able to resonate with all music fans. All it took to ensure The Door's legacy is a story that includes references to the oedipus complex. This song shows us why The Doors still matter today. Now if only I could shake the memories of Ian Astbury singing this.

15. The Slaughter (John Frusciante feat. Flea)

I just wanted start by saying if I were to ever pick a favourite song, this might be it. A depressive vibe isn't the only thing it has going for it. That explains its place here at number fifteen. This song represents what the Red Hot Chili Peppers would sound like without their weakest link (Anthony Kiedis). I take this song literally as John's explanation of his breakup with actress Milla Jovovich. But its greatness is not contained to the reality of John's situation at the time. John sounds more emotionally complicated than I've ever heard him. And he's certainly not one to shy away from sharing his feelings. Brian Wilson-esque harmonies, Depeche Mode synth parts and standup bass. Oh, and this song has both real drums courtesy of Chad Smith and a programmed beat. I could go on forever so I'll just stop now.

14. Concerto De Aranjuez (Francis Goya)

It's weird how I came upon this guy. It was mostly by accident. I was looking for music that sounded Mexican and this Belgian artist came up. I was blown away by the passion he plays with and the emotional highs he can reach given only a short time-frame. I dare you to find a song this sexy and sad.

13. Grapefruit Moon (Tom Waits)

"Everytime I hear that melody, something breaks inside
And the grapefruit moon, one star shining, is more than I can hide."

Along with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits has to be one of the greatest living poets. Here's the thing though, he's also a incredibly skilled musician. "Grapefruit Moon" appears on his debut album Closing Time, and even though I enjoy all things Waits, this song should have been way more popular. Maybe it's just best as a secret in the Waits community. If you haven't heard this, you don't know what you're missing. Even though you'll feel like a moping regular in the local piano bar, you'll be hearing some of the finest music there is to hear.

12. Avalanche (Matthew Good)

I don't know what it is about avalanches. They inspire the best of us. A total of three artists on this list have all written songs with Avalanche in the title (in case you're wondering, the other two are Ryan Adams and Sufjan Stevens). Matthew Good has recently shed some light on his emotional state during the making of his debut solo album Avalanche on his blog. It's a depressing read, but it's good. Matt has taken the time to shed light on bipolar disorder as it affects many people who don't even know about it. Back to the song "Avalanche"; this marked a new complexity in song-writing for Good. The song builds and then dissolves to come full circle back to the first line and melody. Based on a few listens, Good's new album Hospital Music (which is available everywhere July 31st) proves even more promising than this.

11. Battery In Your Leg (Blur)

The last song Blur's original lineup ever recorded together. Guitarist Graham Coxon (also an accomplished solo act) wrote a haunting riff that digs the band's grave. Since Think Tank, Blur have decided to record again (with Coxon), but the skeptics insist that Think Tank will never be lived up to. Lead singer Damon Albarn has said the lyrics to this song are written about the state of the band, a kind of ceremonial love song saying goodbye to Coxon after they grew apart.

10. Your Ex-Lover Is Dead (Stars as remixed by Final Fantasy)

This first Canadian entry on the countdown hits with twice the emotional punch. Final Fantasy (a.k.a. Owen Pallett of Arcade Fire fame) puts his subtle, melodic touch on a song that was already great. This song eliminates the grandiose feel of the original with sparse piano parts and carefully crafted violin harmonies. This is a remix that works, which is a rare occurance. Too bad Final Fantasy is the only one Stars should have trusted to remix their songs on their album Do You Trust Your Friends?.

9. Poke A Pal (Mugison)

Icelandic singer/songwriter Mugison is part of a dying breed. Pop musicians that make albums, not just filler noise. Mugison's story is engaging in its own right (he was considered "handicapped" because he couldn't write things down logically) but his music stands above any image that could be created. Thanks to Mike Patton's recommendation on a French radio show, I checked out this man's catalogue. If anyone is interested, most of his stuff is available as a free download on his website. I don't know how he makes money, but I don't think he cares. For Mugison, it's all about the songs, and "Poke A Pal" is outstanding.

8. The Needle And The Damage Done (Neil Young)

Harvest to this day remains a folk gem. "The Needle And The Damage Done" makes me proud to be Canadian. Neil Young can do more with a guitar and a microphone than most current bands today. A song that touches on the abuse of drugs, as is fairly obvious, it hurts to hear Neil Young hurt.

7. Already Dead (Beck)

Look only at the title and you'll know that Beck is a mess in this song. The end of a tumultuous 9-year relationship must be a bummer. I can picture a bed-ridden Beck calling Nigel Godrich (Radiohead) and asking him to come over. The "bendy" guitar solo in this is also haunting as hell. Sea Change is Beck's singer/songwriter album and while I don't wish a breakup upon anyone, I wonder if Beck will ever be this good again.

6. Twilight (Elliott Smith)

In case you didn't know, Elliott Smith took his own life. Perhaps the 90's answer to Nick Drake, it was apparent Smith felt really out of place. You can't argue with the appeal of this song, released posthumously on his album From A Basement On The Hill. I have a friend who, according to his iTunes count, has listen to this song the equivalent of over two days. That's impressive longevity.

5. Crowd Surf Off A Cliff (Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton)

The Metric front-woman's side project seems to matter so much more than her day job it's weird. Critics like the Toronto Star's Ben Rayner will probably disagree with me, but this is Haines at her best. She doesn't need loud alt-rock riffs to feel at home. The daughter of the acclaimed poet Paul Haines, Emily's literate side really rears its head here.

4. John Wayne Gacy, Jr. (Sufjan Stevens)

Ambitious is a word often associated with Sufjan Stevens. But writing a pretty song about a child-rapist that makes us feel his guilt? That's damn near unheard of. This ballad off Sufjan's award winning Illinois album is so creepy but brilliantly arranged and written most will love it, but won't want to listen again. The thought is just too scary.

3. One Hundred Years (The Cure)

What would a list like this be without The Cure, one of the most influential bands of the planet? It's a shame they mostly influence shit like Fallout Boy, but they are truly Gods at what they do. A song that includes the lyrics "waiting for the death blow", "it doesn't matter if we all die" sung over a bass-heavy hypnotic riff is a winner in my books. And don't think The Cure have gotten sick of this song. This first track off Pornography has been played on every tour since its release.

2. Street Spirit (Radiohead)

Thom Yorke says to "immerse yourself in love" at the end of this song. What's the point, Thom? I can't even think about love when listening to this song. Yorke has said "Street Spirit", unlike their other depressing material, "has no resolve". Maybe it's good I don't listen to this too intensely. They lost me at "cracked eggs, dead birds".

1. Fire And Rain (James Taylor)

What could be more depressing than Radiohead? James Taylor? Before your write me an angry email, consider this. James Taylor tells the story of his friend Suzanne's sudden death. Unlike the other songs on this list, this song actually has a twist of optimism looking back on its meaning. Taylor was so distraught by losing a close friend that this taught him to appreciate every day even more. He never wanted such an unfortunate circumstance to get the best of him again. In the end, James Taylor's best song has shed some light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Friday, July 27, 2007

MUSIC: Silver Bell

Okay, as promised, here's Patty Griffin's unreleased "Silver Bell" album. Despite the label's insistence that this wouldn't sell, it contains a few songs that were made hits by other country artists in the last few years. Enjoy!

01 - Little God
02 - Boston
03 - Perfect White Girls
04 - Truth #2
05 - What You Are
06 - Silver Bell
07 - Driving
08 - Sooner or Later
09 - Top of the World
10 - Sorry and Sad
11 - Making Pies
12 - Mother of God
13 - One More Girl
14 - Standing

Friday, July 20, 2007

MUSIC: Taking a Look at What's Around

What's going around the web these days, you ask?

-Aquarium Drunkard does an excellent post about Gregg Allman, with a bit of a subpost of one of my favourite Jackson Browne songs, These Days. "Do not confront me with my failures, I have not forgotten."

-The Jefitoblog re-posts the unreleased "Silver Bell" album by Patty Griffin, and rips apart some 90's Top 40 hits in their latest Chartburn. A hilarious read.

-Heather at I AM FUEL, YOU ARE FRIENDS posts some interesting alternate versions to everyone's favourite new Ryan Adams album, Easy Tiger, as well as musings on classic Springsteen (avec bootleg, yay!).

-An interesting article on the Hardest PC Games ever. Come to think of it, I never did finish AVP...

-PopMatters has an absolutely spectacular article on the 65 Greatest Protest Songs Ever, that I recommend to any music fan. One thing that I can commend this article for is that it isn't a Rolling Stone article where the word "GREATEST EVER" means "1960-1975 and maybe some stuff from the last five years."

-Some clips from the new Dylan biopic I'm Not There have recently leaked online. Not being a level 18-Dylanite I wasn't entirely psyched about this until now. The clip features a spectacular Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan, and the inimitable David Cross as Alan Ginsberg.

EDIT: Dammit... Jefito took down the Patty Griffin link. I'll re-post this in a few hours.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

MUSIC: My intro to this blog

I decided this would be a good introduction to me as a blogger on here so I filled out this little questionaire that I also stole off of travis. I hope to do some Film and/or music reviews this week.

Of all the bands and artists in your collection, of which one do you own the most albums?

My top five would be The Beastie Boys, Nine Incah Nails, Bjork, Tom Waits and The Jam.

What was the last song you listened to?

Litigation Mania by Clock Strikes Music

What are your favorite instruments?

It's a tie between my 8 piece Pacific LX drum set with a royal blue fade and my Ovation mob acoustic guitar.

Who’s your favorite local artist/band?

Clock Stirkes Music (although technically they live in Ottawa now they are from Owen sound originally) or Richard Laviolette

What was the last show you attended?

Tool in Hamilton, mind blowing.

What was the greatest show you’ve ever been to?
Tom Waits in Akron, Ohio. The single greatest moment of my life, when he played Chistmas Card from a hooker in minneapolis I was in tears.

What’s the worst band you’ve ever seen in concert?

Hot Hot Heat, I actually didn't mind them until I saw them in concert. What a terrible live band.

What band do you love musically but hate the members of?


What is the most musically involved you have ever been?

I'm a band Slut, at one point I was the drummer in 4 active bands.

What show are you looking forward to?

The Roots July 29th and Bjork in september at V-fest.

What is your favorite band shirt?

My "kind of like spitting" shirt.

What musician would you like to hang out with for a day?

Ben Barnett he is the singer/guitarist of Kind of like Spitting.

What musician would you like to be in love with you for a day?


What was your last musical “phase” before you wised up?

Slipknot in grade ten (shut up)

Sabbath or solo Ozzy?

Sabbath for the most part but solo Ozzy is good sometimes too.

What was the greatest decade for music?

I can't narrow it down at all.

What is your favorite movie soundtrack?

If we are talking about a score the score for Taxi Driver or The Fountain. If we are talking about a mix of songs by different artists then it would be The Big Lebowski or Clerks.

Who is your favorite artist who is much better live than on a recording?

Tom Waits or The Roots.

Do you have a hidden desire to be a popular musician?

I'd like to be in a popular band however only if I was making music I enjoyed and I'd probably like to be the drummer so I can still hide out behind the kit and not get noticed as often.

Have you ever used drugs to enhance the music experience?

I haven't done drugs for that reason however some music is just more awesome while on drugs. I remember the first time I did mushrooms I listened to The Suicide Machines and it blew me away.

Friday, July 13, 2007

FILM: Die Hard with a Sidekick

Possible spoilers follow.

Summer is really isn't the place for films that challenge you. It's a place where explosions and action heroes and bright costumes can make their appearance, where transforming robots and boy wizards can strut their stuff without the viewer having to think about possible dystopian futures or international economic and social disparities (I hear that David Lynch just stays indoors all summer.).

That being said, ass kicking doesn't take a summer holiday.

This year seems to be churning out sequels to films that ended their original franchise runs many years ago, as well as some announcements that this trend will continue.

(Speaking of which, it's Harrison Ford's birthday today.)

Die Hard is one such example where you really don't need to know what happened in John McClane's life before the opening credits. Although I haven't watched the original series for a few years now, I seem to recall this being the case with the other three. You can just assume that a long time ago, he kicked some ass.

"Eeet eeez McClane! Keel him!"

The story starts with a very typical "computer hacker terrorist guys are fucking up the world" scenario. Of course, the young computer hacker (the kid from Jeepers Creepers) that McClane is escorting has some inside information on all this new age techno-babble. Whatever.

Explosions, chases and peril are not in short supply throughout the movie. As ridiculous as many of the scenes were, I found my palms to be a bit sweaty during a particular sequence involving an elevator shaft. I can't handle heights, and wouldn't survive three minutes in this movie.

As much as a few people whined and bitched at the film's PG-13 rating, the intensity is no less than the original films (from what I can recall). The only time that it becomes glaringly obvious that they have lowered the rating is when he spouts the inevitable catch phrase, "Yipee Ki-Yay Motherfucker."At the end of the day, the lesson learned is that John McClane can kill, drive or fight anything, and win. You don't stand a chance, and certainly neither do these terrorists.

McClane's badassness is such that I felt like he was going to come through the screen and kick my ass for looking at his smoking hot daughter (who bears a strange resemblance to Jenny Lewis.).

If you're of the appropriate age, go see this movie with your Dad. I'm almost certain he'll love it as much as mine did.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

MUSIC: Covers are Fun

Especially when it's Whiskeytown.

Whiskeytown - Dreams (From Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album)

Apologies for lack of posting. This should increase in September, as I'll be writing these entries directly from my home music library.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

FILM: Transformers

I've said this a few times now, but this was the biggest damn movie I have ever seen. Like, huge. Bigger than your house and mine put together.

That being said, this review may contain spoilers. Any huge ones I will try and black out, and you can highlight the screen to see them, but I think you get the gist of things. For example: Giant Robots FIGHT!

This is Michael Bay at his finest. It's like if you distilled the plot of Michael Bay's Armageddon, and upped the action about 300%.

However, there have been many negative reviews of this, from people that either thought there wasn't enough of the human story, or from people that thought the human story was contrived and unnecessary. Honestly, it's just a Michael Bay template being put onto a franchise. There's nothing unique here, and even Sam's quest for a car doesn't seem like it's trying to fool me into thinking otherwise. A friend and I were joking that John Voight probably just wandered onto the set.

"Oh shit, it's John Voight!"
"The guy actually thinks he's in charge here! Just start rolling!"

There are plenty of signals so that you can start paying attention for when the action starts. Slow motion shots of pilots getting into jets is a surefire bet that you're going to see some robots fighting something or other soon. And honestly, unless you're one of the uber-fans who spat hellfire at Bay for putting flames on optimus, who gives a rat's (I'll be kicking myself for that when Batman comes out, I'm sure of it.)? This quote pretty much sums up those people:

"There’s a chance that the film could grow on me, but this isn’t elegant, classic storytelling… and ordinarily I wouldn’t hold that against Bay… but goddamn it – this is classic iconography that he’s playing with."

My opinion: BumbleBee isn't fucking Superman. (Then again, Bumblebee never cut off some poor kid's feet.)

The only issue that I really had with this is that the military seem to flip-flop on their stance on the robots. In the third act, John Turturro's character seems to know everything about the robots. I mean, they've been studying Megatron for about a hundred years, right? I mean, if the audience has already bought into that (since suspension of disbelief is very important for something like this), and he's captured BumbleBee, then we believe that the government (or at least Sector 7) has cast a blanket condemnation over these transforming robots from space. Right? WRONG!

The minute shit starts to go wrong (ie: something they seemingly have been planning for for untold years), Turturro loses his shit. Like, it's the end of the world. He's willing to compromise with anyone over anything. At that same time, the government planes (who now has almost zero communications capability) seem to somehow know which of the transformers are evil, and which ones are helping.

I suppose they just shot at the ones with more pointy edges and sharp corners. It's a logical conclusion.

The other thing was that the ending seemed to reek of something from a cartoon. Not that that's a bad thing, it just seemed a little strange to have a conclusion ripped from a kid's cartoon after two hours of robot intensity that the MPAA almost deemed R-Rated worthy. It seems to leave room for the inevitable sequel, which I'm sure will be announced in the coming days/weeks.

For all the tripe that's in this movie, I can't say I expected anything more. Overall my opinion is thus: THEY FIGHT AND IT IS FUCKING AWESOME! GO SEE IT!