The New Decay

for those who love myusik

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Year in the Rear-view

September 25th - the last time I posted on here.  Who knew grad studies would take away so much blogging time.

Nevertheless, on Friday my good friend Julia and myself will be celebrating the glory that was music in 2008.  We will be playing some of our favorite tracks of the year (except for the fact that Julia will probably play some M.J. as well as the Dirty Projectors, neither of whom released anything in 2008).  I've decided to put together a top 12 for the year.  Why 12?  Two reasons: it's Biblical, and I'm just too lazy to keep it to 10.  

Without further ado, the top 12 (in descending order)

12. Jay Reatard - Matador Singles 08 (Matador)
He may be short-tempered, but this man can sure write one hell of a pop hook.   From the first notes of "See-Saw" through to the closing moments of "I'm Watching You" Jay Retard has proven that he is indeed one of the more prolific power-pop writers of our time.

11. Zomby - Where Were You in 92? (Werk)
Where was I in 92?  I was in grade 5 trying to decide if I preferred "End of the Road" or "Under the Bridge".  Where should I have been in 92?  In England dancing to 808 State and watching the final scene of Bladerunner over and over again.  I only first heard this album a month ago.  Had I heard it sooner, with its catchy melodies pushed forward by spastic and at times unpredictable beats, it would have ended up much higher than it did.

10. Invincible - Shapeshifters (Emergence)
This is what an overtly political album ought to look like.  Clearly Invincible is concerned with the current state of affairs in Detroit (almost every song on the album surrounds issues of urban decay).  However, at no point does this album move into that Ani Difranco-like realm of propaganda.  Here the art itself is the message (yeah, overused I know), as Invincible invites you to contemplate the issues she sings about, obscuring them with fascinating metaphors and clever rhyme schemes.  This album is so good in fact, it almost (emphasize almost) got me listening to Peter Gabriel.

9. Eric Chenaux - Sloppy Ground (Constellation)
A stunning song-cycle about that 'in-between' stage in romance, Sloppy Ground is as precarious an album as there is.  Chenaux has a wonderful ability to allow a melody to maintain its beauty in midst of or at times in spite of all the messiness surrounding it. 

8. Chad VanGaalen - Softairplane (Sub Pop)
VanGaalen's first album that was actually meant to be an album, and the results are more than satisfactory.  Even though the guy stood me up 3 times for an interview, if he keeps writing songs like "TMNT Mask" and "Molten Light" I won't be able to hold any grudges against him.

7.  Xiu Xiu - Women as Lovers (Kill Rock Stars)
Surprise!  Another Xiu Xiu album on my top 10.  I've said so much about this guy already that I've run out of witty metaphors.  Just go and listen to "No Friend Oh" and enjoy.

6. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Lie Down in the Light (Drag City)
An album that many overlooked simply because of the fact that it seems Oldham is releasing something new every week.  Those who took the time to take this one in were treated to a beautiful album, that almost lulls you to sleep only to wake you up with a resounding chorus full of captivating harmonies.  My personal favorite disc of his since I See A Darkness.

5. Azeda Booth - In Flesh Tones (Absolutely Kosher)
It kills me to have two Calgary acts on this list, but In Flesh Tones is just too damn good to ignore.  Falsettos,  disruptive drum beats, soothing keyboard sounds, reverb-drenched guitars all make for a truly remarkable debut album.

4. Cadence Weapon - Afterparty Babies (Epitaph)

3. Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair (DFA)
This album single handily convinced me that I have always been wrong about disco.  I've often enjoyed watching old Ashford and Simpson videos, but until hearing HaLA and their full-out love affair with disco, I always considered that joy to be more ironic than anything else.  Not anymore!!  In fact, with the release of this album I had envisioned legions of skinny white indie rock fans joining together to burn their Judas Priest shirts while dancing to Donna Summer's Love to Love You Baby.
And now a word on "Blind".  Pitchfork recently chose this song as its number one track of the year.  Really, I can't think of a song that deserves that recognition more.  "Blind" is 6 minutes of pure bliss, built around solid bass octaves, a steady syncopated drum beat, and a vocal performance by Antony that is next to none.  I've listened to this song more than any other this year, and I still get shivers hearing Antony shout "BECAUSE I FEEL BLIND!"

2. Deerhunter - Microcastle/Wierd Era Cont (Kranky).
In spite of my new love affair with disco, it's still the guitar that was my first love, and 
Deerhunter have most definitely given us an album worthy of praise from any guitar nerd.  
Microcastle is one mess of an album, taking the loose nature of Cryptograms and cramming it together with the pop sensibilities expressed in Fluorescent Grey to make their most fully-realized disc yet.  

1. Veda Hille - This Riot Life (Ape House)
This one is a no brainer really.  There is not an album that came out this year that surprised me more than This Riot Life.  It is a near-perfect song cycle blending issues around religion, human nature, pop culture and psychology with ease.  It truly is my favorite record of the year and I can't recommend it enough.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Some quick links to check out.

First of, before you continue reading please go first to zoilus, and then to Radio Free Canuckistan, where Carl Wilson and Michael Barclay show some love for Veda Hille's This Riot Life which is one of, if not the finest albums of the year.  Wilson's piece is particularly well written (as per usual) focusing completely on the opening track "Lucklucky".  Seriously if you haven't listened to this album do so ASAP.

The rest of the stuff on RFC is also worth reading as Barclay continues his analysis both of those artists nominated, and those whom he thought should have been.  Take particular notice of his comments on the lack of Jazz-oriented music writers in Canada.

T.V. On The Radio's Dear Science has officially landed, and has been getting consistently good reviews.  While I haven't spent enough time to hear if the claim that it's there best effort yet is true, I can say that on first listen, the band officially is now 3 for 3 with their albums.

The wonderful and talented Michael Elves is now blogging.  Go check out his site Ear to the Sounds, where you will find everything from a fabulous Bart Davenport video to a insightful article of Calgary's Azeda Booth.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Getting Back to Things

Summer is almost over, and I'm starting to get back into a more predictable routine.  This of course means more time for music musings!!

So to catch up - What am I listening to right now?

1.) Deerhunter - Microcastle
A near-perfect continuation from the Cryptograms - Fluorescent Grey - Atlas Sound - Jay Reatard releases, Microcastle is the first great guitar-based album of the year.  To quote a friend of mine from Calgary on Bradford Cox -  'I've never seen someone so interested in the sounds his guitar makes".  On Cryptograms this interest came out through extended jams that would at times try the interest of the listener.  On Mircrocastle, this infatuation is relocated to the cracks and undercurrents of more clearly structured pop songs.  The result is an album that is catchy, yet without undermining the exploratory nature of the band, and thus lives up to all the hype surrounding it.  I can't recommend this one enough, so if you haven't downloaded it from iTunes yet (before you also buy a hard copy in November) do so NOW!

2.) Chad VanGaalen - Soft Airplane
Don't have much to say about this one yet, as I've only listened to it a few times.  However, the first listens have been a success, as those songs on previous VanGaalen releases that seemed out of place are gone on this one.  Soft Airplane could turn out to be my favorite record of his yet (although I reserve the right to retract this statement at a later time).

3.) Joe Henderson - Power to the People/In Pursuit of Blackness/Joe Henderson in Japan
I owe Michael Elves a big thank you on this, as he tipped me off on these releases.  Part of Henderson's Milestone period (1969-1976), this trilogy is yet another reminder that those people who think good Jazz ended with Bitches Brew (1969) clearly don't like Jazz.

4.) David Byrne and Brian Eno - Everything that Happens will Happen Today
Easily the biggest disappointment of the year so far.  I mean really!  Is this what has happened to one of the greatest musical collaborations of the last 35 years?  I understand that the Byrne and Eno of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts are long gone, but when you decide to collaborate with someone you haven't done so for 27 years, knowing full well that people (ie. ME!) have been waiting eagerly for you to do so, at least try to make some references to your previous efforts together.  Probably for the first time in his career, Byrne has made an album that I just can't get behind.  The fact that he's done so with his best producer/collaborator makes this even harder to take.  All is not well in the land of The New Decay!

That's all for now ...

Friday, July 18, 2008

At the Half-Point

For today's program I'm going to be doing my annual halfway eval of the year for music. If I were to put my opinion of the year thus far in rockist terms, I would say that 2008 deserves a good hearty fist pump. It hasn't been quite "rock-lock" yet, though it is most definitely been better than a wag of the finger. Basically 2008 has seen the solid return of the usual suspects (ie. excellent releases from the likes of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Destroyer, Xiu Xiu, Eric Chenaux, Beach House, Lil' Wayne, and Matmos), the emergence of some exciting new voices (ie. High Places, Fleet Foxes, Crystal Castles and to a certain extent Vampire Weekend), and the rediscovery of late 60s early 70s Afro-Beat with the awesome Nigeria Special and Africa Scream Contest releases. The only area that has been a complete disappointment thus far has been Jazz. Nothing really new of note, (besides the new Vijay Iyer, which is just as awesome as it should be) and the tragic demise of E.S.T. has given the genre a fairly rough start to the year. Here's hoping for some new Rat-Drifting stuff shortly!

Anyways if I were to choose five albums that have impacted me more than any others thus far this year they would be as follows:

5.) Vijay Iyer - Tragicomic
Seriously, if Iyer keeps this up we are going to have to come up with a new definition for the music he plays. Far removed from the likes of Diana Krall, The Mareslis', and George Benson, Iyer's style of Jazz penetrates your entire being, even if it's not necessarily that welcome.

4.) Souljazz Presents: An England Story
Kind of lame to put a compilation on this list, but I've probably listened to this more than anything else this year. Tracing the culture of the MC in UK since 1984 this comp helps put into context recent popular forms coming out of England (such as Grime, Dubstep, Bassline etc ...). Even though it does have its low points, when An England Story hits it, it doesn't get any better than that.

3.) Cadence Weapon - Afterparty Babies
Incorporating more house beats, and better use of irony, the sophomore disc from E-ville's Cadence Weapon makes me proud to call Edmonton my hometown. I've probably said enough about this disc in the past, so I'll leave it at that. Easily my favorite Canadian MC.

2.) Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair
Believe the hype people. This album is amazing from start to finish. It's probably the one album from this year that has changed how I listen to music, giving me a new found appreciation for all things Disco, (I caught myself listening to Ashford and Simpson earlier this year on MuchMore Retro and actually enoyed myself). "Blind" is hands down my pick for track of the year thus far.

1.) Veda Hille - This Riot Life
Some might say that choosing this as my favorite disc of the year so far, makes my love of Carl Wilson's writing a bit too obvious, but I just can't help myself. A slightly meaner Christine Fellows, Hille's latest consists of witty and poignant songwriting, astonishing arrangements, and the appropriate amount of Metal references (ie. "I am made of Iron, Iron Maiden bleeder" or "I never cared for metal hair, until the boy you were SLAYER!"etc...). Seriously, if you love music and you haven't heard this disc, you need to rectify that immediately.

So tune in to UMFM 101.5 in Winnipeg today at 2 pm and take a listen.

Until next time ...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Podcasts, Mehldau, Worship and Oh So Much More!!!


Yup his concert on Tuesday was THAT good.  I'll probably have more to say about his performance on my radio show tomorrow.  But I will say that I've never seen someone play with such simple motifs in such fascinating ways in a live setting before.  To quote Jeremy from 52nd Street Jazz - "I wasn't a fan before this show, but I most certainly am now.  That was absolutely brilliant".

Speaking of my show, tomorrow I will be interviewing Andrew Penner from Sun Parlour Players in anticipation of their show in the peg on the 1st.  I was supposed to also be interviewing Rock Plaza Central, but they are stuck somewhere in the middle of the Rockies and don't have access to their cell phone (SUCK).  Yes that 'Penner' is a Mennonite 'Penner' and yes I will be making reference to that tomorrow.

The Apostle of Hustle podcast is currently up on the Winnipeg Folk Fest website and can be downloaded here.  Definitely not the best interview in the world, but still an enjoyable listen.  Their sets at the Folk Fest are going to be off the hook!

Most people who read this blog know my good friend Julia Thiessen really well, and most people know she's fairly brilliant, loves music, and enjoys dancing at somewhat random moments.  Below is a copy of a response she wrote to Carl Wilson's recent book on Celine Dion, where she asks the question 'where have the places of worship gone in pop music?'  A really good read, from a great writer.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The New Decay is On Air!!!

Well I'm back.  After months of no writing at all (you could thank my new house, baseball, and a dose of laziness for that) I've decided it's probably time to start this whole thing up again.  And why not?  These next few weeks are going to be full of shows that will knock your socks off.

Some things to look out for:

1. The Winnipeg Jazz Festival kicks it into high gear tonight with The New Pornographers playing Pantages.  Uber-political hip-hop outfit The Coup is playing the Pyramid along with Pip Skid and Hot Dog and Sue Foley of Twilight Hotel plays a solo set at the Windsor Hotel.

My pick of the night (and possibly of the Festival) has to be pianist extraordinare Brad Mehldau who's playing with his trio at the MTC.  Seriously, if you're going to see one show at this years festival better make this one it.  With his relentless approach to the keys, and his stunning ability to take pop songs (like "Wonderwall", "Exit Music for a Film", "Paranoid Android" or "Pink Moon"), and turn them into dissonant Jazz epics, this concert will not disappoint.

If you are going to make it to two shows at this years fest, make the second one Alice Russell, who is bringing her UK-Based Funk/Electronic outfit to the Pyramid tomorrow night along with DJ Hunnicutt and CO-OP.  This women has got some serious pipes, and can apparently bust a move on stage as well.  If you enjoyed Sharon Jones at the fest in years past, you will love Alice Russell as well.

Other Jazz Fest-related shows worth checking out would be John Scofield, (playing at the MTC on Thursday minus E.S.T. due the tragic death of Esbjorn Svesson), and Shout Out Out Out at the Pyramid (a show that is being MC'd by yours truly).

2. Tune into my show this Friday as I will be interviewing the fine folks from both Rock Plaza Central, and Sun Parlour Players in anticipation of their Canada show at the Lo Pub.

3.  Last , but certainly not least, I am currently working on some podcasts for the Winnipeg Folk Fest profiling some of the artists who will be playing at this years fest.  So far I've completed one consisting of a conversation with Andrew Whiteman of Apostle of Hustle and Broken Social Scene, and will have one up soon with an interview with Rolf Klausener of The Acorn.  I'll provide some links once the podcasts get posted.

So as you can see, it's been a busy month for the Decay, but I'm determined to start writing again more frequently.

Until next time ... 

Friday, February 15, 2008

Chicago Tunes

I've finally done it, and made a playlist to go with the last two posts.  I've saved it as a zip file which you can download here.  Enjoy!

Tracks are as follows:

1. The Mountain Goats - Cubs in Five (from Nine Dead Poppies)
2. Uncle Tupelo - Moonshiner(from March 1992)
3. The Handsome Family - Down in the Valley of Hallow Log (from Through the Tress)
4. The Jesus Lizard - Mouth Breather (from Goat)
5. Shellac - Ideas of the North (from At Action Park)
6. The Sea and Cake - Parasol (from Nassau)
7. Tortoise - Corpone Brunch Watt Remix (from A Lazarus Taxon)
8. The Sea and Cake - The Transaction (from The Biz)
9. Isotope 217 - La Jetee (from The Unstable Molecule)
10. Tortoise - TNT (from TNT)
11. Jim O'Rourke - Ghost Ship in a Storm (from Eureka)
12. Sam Prekop - Showrooms (from Sam Prekop)