It's been a long time coming but finally I have a cool blog that I can call my own. Most people reading will already know who I am. Discussions of hip hop and life will usually take place here when I have things to talk about.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Some Music to enjoy.

It's a Shame was one of a few hit's that Motown group the Detroit Spinners had in the 60's and early 70's. Probably their biggest hit and also an early indication of the songwriting talent of Stevie Wonder who wrote the song for the group with then-fiance Syreeta Wright. Some more info on the song can be found here.

Moving into Sports, it is interested to look at the attendance figures for NHL and compare them across the board with NBA games. In Vancouver we hear no end of talk about how bad the NHL is doing against the other big sports in the U.S.A. Well if you look at the numbers between the NHL and NBA (the closest thing to compare to) the NHL looks pretty good. In the NBA the Bulls are averaging 21,500 fans a game through the first 30 games or so. At the bottom we have the Nets averaging around 13,000. In the NHL we have the Canadiens averaging 21,200 with the NYI (who are wose than dirt) at 10,000. In the NHL we have 12 teams operating at 100% (or over) for Capacity with another 7 teams at 95% or higher. In the NBA only 7 teams reach the magic 100% with 7 teams hitting in and around the 95% mark. Now this doesn't go into the Television ratings or ticket prices and such, but it's a encouraging sign to see, particularly in a lot of U.S. markets like Chicago, Philly, and Minnesota that the NHL is beating it's NBA cousins. Keep up the good work. This article appeared about a month ago on the yahoo blog.

Looking Back on 2010

As a Canadian and especially as a Vancouverite, 2010 was memorable for the obvious little function that happened in February. The 2010 Winter Olympics were here in Vancouver and Canada proceeded to do what they never could do before....Win! That's right, Canadian athletes not only won gold on home soil for the first time ever (a long time embarassment for us) but proceeded to win a record 14 Gold medals for a single Winter Olympics. That's pretty good. Now I know Canada didn't win the most medals overall, but the debate starts with how do you judge a victor? I think the benchmark is total Gold not medals, not to mention the Americans have 10 times as many people as us.

Canada brought it in music too. You may not like these artists or you may love em, the fact is Canada tore it up on a lot of levels. Call it the Candian invasion.....we had some critically aclaimed acts make international inroads this year like Broken Social Scene, Wolf Parade, Shad, and Caribou. K-Os and K'Naan were pretty large this year, with K'Naan's Wavin Flag becoming the official song for the Fifa World Cup. Drake was one of the biggest mainstream artists in any genre to drop all year. The Arcarde Fire hit #1 on the Billboard Charts and continued to cement their critical legacy with the Suburbs hitting most of the best of lists for the year. Michael Buble is still holding it down for the wet coast. Deadmaus, was the year's electronic sensation. It's not hard to say that in just about every genre of music Canada held it's own and more on the international stage. And of course there is Justin him or hate him he was everywhere for teen girls to oggle over. Definitely not my steez but little girls need there cute sex symbols just like guys need their Playboy magazines....or something like that. Either way Canada rocked in whatever you wanted....we provided. Your Welcome.

Which brings me to my little rant and it's about a month too late. The Grey Cup in this country had BTO perform at the halftime show. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't they play there a few years ago, and didn't the Guess Who also play not too long ago. With all the talent Canada is serving up do we really have to drag out these old fossils for the official party. Some variety would be nice....heck even Rush would be a welcome change. It seems that if we decide to do anything offical its BTO, Spirit of the West, Blue Rodeo (whom I quite like) and Loverboy. Give us K-Os, give us the Arcade Fire, give us the Tragically Hip, give us K'Naan, Rush, and Shad.....let's give the old horses a rest. and no we don't want Simple Plan or Hedley either....I'd rather take 48 hours in an isolation chamber with Nickelback cranked to 11 than have them represent my country at one of these events. Peace...til next time. Happy 2011.......long life for all and the end of the 15 minutes for Kesha and Gaga.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz

Is out for the general public in all good record shops and Itunes on October 12th but that doesn't mean that you have to wait to hear exactly what Mr. Stevens has been doing for the past 5 odd year since the release of his last "proper" album Illinoise. You can listen to the album here.

Essentially to sum up the record it is an egcentric mix of electronic sounds, skittering drum loops, and casio lines with the classic layered instrumentation that defined his classic work on Michigan and Illinoise. It's a bit hard to chew and will definitely divide fans over it's merits. For some it'll be a little too straighforward (I heard a few people compare the single "I Walked" to Owl City), and yet for others too eclectic (If you can even use that term in comparison to his past work). A lot of people would be happy to see Illionoise Pt 2 (or was that Avalanche). Sorry, but Illinoise it ain't, but it's still a very good record. I heard one person call this Sufjans Kid A if Illinoise was his Ok Computer. Lastly 11 songs ranging from 2 to 25 minutes might make this an daunting task.

Futile Devices
Might be the prettiest thing on here. A simple guitar loop is augmented by a piano and nice vocals. The only knock against it is that it is too short at 2:13. I would of be nice to see him build this up a little more. 8/10

Too Much
The electronic production begins here with watery blips and casio synths layered over the loop. It's a nice song but with a melody similar to fireflies by Owl City isn't gonna help to prevent unfair comparisons. There is just too much (forgive the pun) here to dismiss as teeno (teen/emo) pop, particularly at the end when he launches the whole arrangement into outer space (perhaps literally). 7/10

The Age of Adz
An epic journey through the career of Sufjan. The drum loops and synth blips are here, but this is secondary to the horns, epic angelic vocals, and whatever else Sufjan throws into 8 minutes of epic chamber pop. Can't really describe it more than that, you gotta listen. 10/10

I Walked
The lead single that was released a month ago. It's a fine song....catchy enough. It's pretty straightforward for a Sufjan song with a basic electronic loop and Sufjan vocalizing over top. 6/10

Now That I'm Older
I think classic Disney cartoons like Bambi when I here this....especially with the vocals floating over the top of the arrangement. Then Sufjan warps it into a lament so perhaps Bambi and Thumper just met their maker. 8/10

Get Real, GetRight
Another electronic track with nice flourishes over the top. Let's face it, if you don't like what you've heard so far there isn't gonna be too much here to convince you otherwise. I'm looking for a hook on this and can't really find just kind of meanders on. The scenesters will eat it up. 5/10

Bad Communication
Not much happens here really and I'm kind of glad it's only 2:24. A skip track for me. Think "I Walked" slowed down and no drum loop with freaky vocals around it. 3/10

A nice acoustic number that builds the electronic elements in later to compliment it. Helps to restore the album after the past two weaker songs. 8/10

All For Myself
I really like this song, so much that I may sample the opening choral. Still very electronic but a great hook, melody, and wonderful acoustic elements make this memorable. 10/10

I Want to be Well
The drums although heavily distorted drive the song forward which makes this a nice and lively number. It would be nice if a hook was here. I really don't understand what is wrong with having nice hooks in a song....are we afraid of selling out or something. The build at the end is very good. 8/10

Impossible Soul
At 25 minutes this is more of a mini-suite rather than a song. It meanders through electric pop, to lush synth melodies, to balladry, to a full blown scenester rave up, before settling into a nice acoustic ending. Hard to rate it on first listen because it's a mammoth of a thing. I will say it held my interest for most of it, which is a plus. 7/10

So in whole "The Age of Adz" is an interesting listen. One that might not totally come together on one, two, or even a dozen listens....if at all. I like the album from a first listen overall, but I'm not in love with it. Credit to Sufjan for trying to do different things with this album and such and when it works....more often than not it's a great ride. 7/10

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's been a summer!

......and summer mainstay T.V show Entourage wrapped up it's final episode of season 7 last night and was it a doozy. For those of you that have yet to see it, or are still working on the series ***warning spoilers***.

Anyway, with season 7 down and one shortened season 8 to go I'm not sure how we are gonna pull out of the behemoth of a gutter that Vincent Chase and his entourage are in at the moment. Between Vincent, Eric, and Ari there are some serious questions left unresolved, but lets at least focus on the positives for the season.

Throughout the series it seems that Johnny Drama has had opportunity, only to through it away on stupid decisions. The guy that should know better has been, at times, the most unfocused, immature, and self centered. Well in season 7 Drama had a lot of growing up to do and did so admirably. So much so that I actually like the guy, which was hard for me to do during seasons 1-6. He's been cast in a potential hit cartoon show and, where it seems responsibility is totally lacking in Vincent's situation, is actually the guy who shows the most genuine concern over his brother's personal problems. He's the one that organizes the intervention and the one to come to his defence at the eminem party. I see him continuing to be his own man in season 8 with possibly a relationship in the works (courtesy of Eric's secretary Jennie). With season 1 having him as a broke out of work actor living off of Vince's charity, these two characters are in strong position to switch roles when the show wraps after season 8.

Although, I wondered about the storyline Turtle has had room to flex his business savvy and it seems for the time being all is well, with his Tequila business prospects being saved and in a relationship with hottie Alex. Of course in the interest of drama he will find some way to screw it up in season 8, but for now all is good.

You thought all was well for Eric come season 6, but all is not right with E after the events of season 7. Vince's troubles not-withstanding, the guy has been pulled into a turf war at his place of employment. His storyline ends with him agreeing to participate in a company coup, something that I have a feeling will backfire come season 8. Not to mention his relationship with Sloan is on some rocky ground after she let slip about Vince's problems to her father (Ari's former boss Terrance).

Ari has taken blow after blow this year as we see him on top of the world episode 1, and a complete wreck of a man come the finale. Through mostly no fault of his own forces have conspired to strike at what Ari prizes the most, his family. Last night we see Ari and Mrs. Ari on the verge of splitting, with Mrs. Ari needing some time away. I see reconciliation in the future but it looks like he gonna have to choose between his empire of an agency and his family. Not to mention Vince's problems that overshadow the entire story arc.

Unlike Ari whose unfortunate turn of events was largely outside of his control, Vince's problems have been entirely self-inflicted and is a question of how fast can you throw your career away. Unlike the previous Vince career crisis in season 5, in which he was dealing with professional insecurities, this season has focused more on the personal. Vince has always had his issues mind you, he parties a little too hard and sleeps with just about any girl he meets but this is different. Vince was always the cool one able to be calm and relaxed through any circumstance. This year we saw him slowly go unhinged to the point of very serious issues now affect his personal and professional career.

On the personal side, we see Vince's drug habit spiralling out of control through the season. Again he's smoked his weed and done shrooms in the past, but this is different. It clearly seems that he's got a problem with Cocaine and also a serious drinking problem to. I do feel that on a personal side that his issue may well be an odd play out of the empty nest syndrome. Vince was always the guy to his friends (entourage), the provider, the de-facto leader (even though E was his manager). During the past few season we've seen Eric become a player in Hollywood management outside of Vince's career (not to mention he is getting married), Johnny star on a hit T.V. show, Turtle open his own business, and even Ari becoming a huge star in the agent game. When he has his pissy fit "screaming you guys need me more than I need you" in last night's episode, it is really the exact opposite. He really is asking "were are you guys when I need you". Of course Vince is too much the man to admit it, and all his abandonment issues he soaks up with Tequila and Coke to the point where he realises in his warped moving star sense that all is not right. The question is whether or not it's too late.

On the professional side we see Vince covered in blood after getting his ass handed to him by Eminem in a fight hence seriously putting his film project Airwalker (a movie that would have been Vince's biggest payday) in jeopardy. The cocaine issue has now involved the law as Vince is busted for coke. With the mess of things to clear up he has just blacklisted himself in Hollywood for a very long time, not to mention possible jail time. This story could play itself out on many different levels. Best outcome is that Vince rises up from the ashes and becomes an A list actor/movie star again. Worst outcome is we find Vince dead in a hotel room Ala Heath Ledger. I tend to think that it will end up somewhere in the middle in that Vince loses his star appeal and becomes an ordinary guy again, but realizes that his friends are all there for them because they are friends and not hangers on.

So for future predictions to where the cast will be come the final episode of season 8.

Drama - Will be the buzz of the television world as his new cartoon "Johnny's Bananas" becomes a huge success leading to a lucrative career in voice work, and he will also get his own late night show. Not to mention he will sell part of his stake in "Johnny Drama's Pub" in Queen's to Turtle.

Turtle - Will lose his investment in Avion Tequila though some shady business dealings with Mark Cuban and eventually take the money and become partners with Drama in the Pub business.

Eric - I just sense that Eric will be the best off. He will continue to be Drama's manager through all of his success and will marry Sloan. The business coup will be partially unsuccessful but Eric and new business partner Scott Lavin will form a new management group that will be successful.

Ari - Will sell out his stake in Millar-Gold for a large sum of money realizing that power does not match a loving family. He will reconcile with his wife and kids and go into semi-retirement...while working as a consultant for Eric on the side.

Vince - Will sober up and realize who his friends are. He will also go into retirement and find a nice girl and settle down. Possibly he finds religion in the process too. With that he ends up working as a bartender in "Dramas" and living off whatever money he has left from his acting career....biding his time until he can make his comeback (that will be for the movie).

as for the bit players

Lloyd will be at Millar Gold and eventually become the new head of the TV department thanks to Johnny's success.

Billy Walsh will become a very successful film director again and will at some point be instrumental in orchestrating Vince's comeback with a juicy role in a successful film.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Vancouver 2010 DVD set review

So here it is. A Chance to relive memories of february when the world came to my hometown. For a slick 60CAD you can purchase this 5 DVD set and keep this memento of perhaps the most exciting event to come to this part of the world since Expo 86.

I have yet to watch a lot of it, but it is nice to see Charles Hamlin winning double gold, or Jasey Jay Anderson. I will point out some caution before you decide whether or not to buy.

1.) Performances are heavily edited involving generally Canadians in contention and immediate competition. I actually didn't mind this too much because really do we want to see some Joe Somebodyvich from Latvia skiing moguls (prolly not). However they could have given the Canadians a little more screen time in the process. Whole races/events are explained in a matter of seconds with the pivotal gold medal matchup the only thing shown in full a lot of the time (and sometimes not even that). With all the focus they seem to give on the medal ceremony, can they maybe edit a minute or two out of that and show us a few more minutes of the actual event?

2.) If your buying it for opening and closing ceremonies BE WARNED. Again the opening ceremonies are heavily edited. I haven't seen the closing ceremonies yet, btu I'm sure it is heavily edited as well. Again can we forego the pomp and circumstance of speeches and Canada "Blah" this and "Blah" that and actually show more of the actual performance. The only place where the edits actually worked in favour of the viewer was during the always tedious Parade of Nations. Also no commentary (not even an option).

3.) No skips or chapter split on the events. This is especially true during the opening and closing ceremonies. Edited as they are, they still each come in at around an hour, a long time for no chapter breaks, particularly if West Coast First Nations dancing really is not your thing.

4.) The opening theme song. You know the one by that nice teenage girl with the killer voice. Love or hate the song, you'll have it played to death both in fanfare format, and in pop version. I understand it's your network song, but can we not have it beaten to death on every menu option or in every highlights package.

With the nostalgia factor pretty high for Canadians and especially Vancouverites, this DVD set will bring back warm memories either way and sell loads of copies. It's too bad however that CTV took the scissors to the tape and edited a lot of the life out of it. If they were so concered with time constrants on each disc they should of added an extra disc. The opening and closing ceremonies are the most disapointing of the proceedings and if your buying for that purpose along I would say pass and see if you can find a nice torrent to download the full broadast. Here is hoping that an unedited version is around the corner.

Nostalgia Factor A+
DVD Package D

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Random Bits and Pieces of Information

Taking summer off has been a little interesting. Actually I've been busy working and really haven't had the time to collect my thoughts together for the blog. Short posts would be good I know but I get these grandiose Ideas about what I want to post but can't really seem to get them together. Anyways, a few things about what has been on my radar for the summer so far and what is to come.

Summer means a new season of Entourage, which I think is brilliant for several reasons. One, the guest cameos it has from everybody in the business and the stereotypes it allows them to work with. For instance the recurring guest spots that Seth Green pulls on the show playing an asshole incarnation of himself are great (I don't know, maybe he really is an asshole in real life). Last weeks episode with John Stamos and Johnny Drama going at it in Ping Pong was awesome because I used to love Full House as a kid and will always love Ping Pong.

The other reason why I love the show is that the wide variety of music that they use is great. I have discovered some great music just by watching the show. Clearly the guys responsible for clearing the music have a clue. Even if it is poppy music, the music seems to fit the mood at all times.

The only thing that has never happened yet is the fact that a Vincet Chase sex tape has never leaked. You figure that with the amount of ass thing guy gets that a sex tape episode dealing with the PR fallout would be a must. Well, wait no more because apparently an upcoming episode in season 7 will deal with a encounter of an explicit nature involving Mr. Chase and porn star Sasha Gray.

Slum Village's latest album has just been release and in sparing listens so far it is good. Slum Village has been the group that just couldn't cut a break. Flashback 12 or so year when I first started hearing about this dude Jay Dee who had produced the Pharcyde and Tribe Called Quest. Then Fantastic Volume 2 drops and I am hooked. Jay Dee (now going by Dilla) bails shortly after and the tumultuous history of Slum Village descends further into chaos. Original members freak out and go crazy, Dilla and Baatin both pass away within a matter of years of each other. It might be on of the saddest tales in Hip Hop, but they endured to leave us a legacy of 6 great albums with Villa Manifesto (with contribution from all the members past and present, living and desceased here) just dropped. Gonna peep it this weekend.

Anyways, that's all I got. Peace til next time.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Drake Dilemma

Is there room in this world to appreciate Drake for what he is? Is he good, ok, terrible...etc. I've heard many things to describe him from those attacking his street cred to his singing style to his rapping style, but I have also heard begrudged respect coming from all corners of the underground.

So is liking Drake a question of selling out or did something happening to the mainstream to move it closer to the underground. I don't know, all I know is that Drake released a pretty good album....or at the very least an interesting listen.

So what about this mainstream vs. underground mentality. Well the two exist on opposite ends of the spectrum. If a certain style of hip hop is common that generally means that another style is being marginalized and therefore "underground". The fact that the underground is a response to what is happening in the mainstream seals the deal. If singing/moody hip hop is mainstream then lyrically focused old school beats hip hop will be underground. If mainstream is about money and hoes, then the underground is about broke/no girls. I know this sounds pretty dumbed down and it is to a certain extent, but you get the idea i'm saying.

So does Drake suck because he is mainstream and as someone in the underground we are programmed to hate the mainstream, or does Drake suck simply because he sucks. One thing I know for sure....he's got a few underground heads thinking.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ranking the U2 albums

Hard for me because I think all of them are great so don't get mad if your favourite is not ranked highly or whatever. It doesn't mean it sucks or anything.


Achtung Baby: Spin ranked this album #1 for best albums of the last 25 years over Nevermind and Ok Computer. At the time U2 was washed up, your older sibling's group. Then this drops with it's industrial edge and electronic tendancies and still holds up today. It has perhaps the greatest U2 anthem "One", grooviest single "Mysterious Ways", plus some killer album cuts "Acrobat" and "Ultraviolet".

The Unforgettable Fire: Like with Achtung Baby, U2 were looking for a new sound. Enter Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois who pushed U2 into making the moody ambient record that they had been trying for a while. It is for some the rough blueprint of what they would accomplish with Joshua Tree, but Unforgettable Fire has a more interesting feel and subdued. U2 after dark so to speak.

Boy: What a debut! For a band that could barely play their instruments at the time this album wails like the best punk rock records do, but there is definitely something more than 3 chords and the truth on here. U2 had this innate sense of the lound/quiet dynamic even at this early stage. "Out of Control" is an early highlight with "Twilight" dark and brooding. With all the hits of the following years to choose from, the fact that U2 still make a point of regularly playing stuff off this album is a testament to it's greatness.

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Vertigo was probably the best single they've put out in years and the whole album is finely crafted anthemic rock. Bono is definitely in save the world mode here, and the group proves that U2 isn't ready for the scrap heap yet.


Zooropa: Perhaps the most misunderstood U2 record, and not really pop material. Let's see, we have an almost 7 minute electro funk ode to a lemon, another electronic gospel hymn sung by the late Johnny Cash, and a lead single that doesn't feature Bono but rather the Edge in some weird hypnotic rap. It was so weird that when I first heard it I couldn't believe that it was U2 that had done it. U2 were really free to do as they pleased at the time and took Achtung Baby further and debunked the U2 myth. It seems like each one of the songs do a little bit at tearing down what U2 had done to date and in the end a subdued masterpice is born.

War: U2 really needed to come up big for this record. The first couple albums had done ok but there was crisis along the way. This was a band on the verge of breakup and in the end they were able to channel that energy into their first mainstream success. Many of the songs you know such as "New Years Day" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" but the album's strength in in the fact that there is very little filler. U2 would follow this with the live at Red Rocks concert video where Bono really steps into his own as a frontman.

The Joshua Tree: It's been called many things but it is still their mainstream high point. Lot's of great songs on here and some that have been played so much you may never want to hear them again. Side A is the hits starting with "Street Have No Name" still U2's finest moment. "Bullet the Blue Sky" may be U2's heaviest number predating something that Rage Against the Machine would do years later. Side B has some nice songs and a few clunkers, not a perfect album, but you can't deny its legacy.

No Line on the Horizon: Their most recent album is a more expiremental affair similar to The Unforgettable Fire. It has great anthemic moments but in the end quiets down and becomes very inward looking. Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois are brought in a full time songwriters on this one and you can hear the results in something like Fez/New Born that had Eno stamped all over it.

For the Fans

Pop: U2 have admitted that they didn't have enough time with this record and went to the trouble of recording a number of the songs for the Best of the 90's compilation. That is the difference with Zooropa. Zooropa was a no pressure exercise in trying to create something...where as Pop had a booked tour waiting for them. Some great moments on this record but it is usually when U2 stray away from the electronic sounds and get back to just creating good songs.

October: Another hasty situation with a religious dynamic brought into the mix. Bono and company where heavily into evangelic christianity at the time which alienated non-christian bassist Adam Clayton and Manager Paul McGuiness. Add to it the old notion that you have all life to write your first record and two weeks for your second and this album falls a little short. Even the good songs are lacking something here. In the end it is U2's least accepted album and virtually hitless.

All That You Can't Leave Behind: A little bit of a mess of a record. I don't know, a lot of people like it I guess. Songs like "Walk On", "Elevation", and "New York" are strong. Heck I even like "Beautiful Day" but songs like "Grace", "Peace on Earth", and "Wild Honey" may be some of the worst songs they have ever done. The skip track quotient is high on this one.

Rattle and Hum: U2 got a little corny with this one, not intending to. It turns out everyone was laughing at them instead of with them because we all know the 80's U2 members never ever laughed. A hodgpodge of live tracks and studio recordings that total over 70 minutes leave a lot for the listener to get into, but not a lot really sticks. Most of the new studio songs are hit and miss, and the live songs have been done better. Two exceptions with the studio songs, the song Heartland which is lovely, and "All I Want is You" that closes the album on a high note. Of the live tracks "Silver and Gold" was a nice live rendering on a Joshua Tree B-side that prolly should have deserved better justice.

Other U2

Under a Blood Red Sky: A strong live mini-album that highlights the early material. Worth Checking out in the special edition pack with the "Live and Red Rocks" DVD.

Passengers: U2 and Eno and several others work together on several ambient instrumentals along with a few interesting songs. The best known track from here is Miss Sarajevo. Other songs are the wonderfully seductive "Your Blue Room" and the interesting Bono rap "Elvis ate America". When this album came out it wasn't advertised as U2 and hence has become their worst selling affiliated album. Definitely not for the average fan, but for the completist it is worth tracking down, though you can probably find a few in second hand record shops.