Ontario’s Beer Stores Now Even Worse

Categories: Beer and Food.

If you’re not from Ontario, you may be surprised to learn that The Beer Store, the Ontario chain licensed to sell beer, is not actually a good place to go for beer. Rather, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario is. That may seem a little weird, but it’s true. If you are from here, and you are a beer snob, then you are well aware that, for some time, The Beer Store has been failing the beer snobs of Ontario. That is mostly due to the fact that The Beer Store is owned by three giant macro breweries. And they Read More

Kill the NHL Divisions

Categories: Hockey, Playoffs, and Sports.

Zach Lowe recently argued that the NBA’s division system – including playoff seeding – is irrelevant and should be ended. I would like to echo his comments but for the NHL. Division-based playoff seeding has always been stupid, and both the size of the NHL itself and inter-conference play – not to mention modern travel – as rendered “divisional rivalries” obsolete. Let’s get rid of divisions. And while we’re at it: let’s add the CFL’s crossover rule to the NHL so only good teams make the playoffs. Read More

Gravity (2013, Alfonso Cuaron)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

Every so often, a film comes along that redefines what is possible in cinema. At one point in the history of film, it was thought that the camera must always stay on one side of the actors in a given scene; it could move laterally or it could zoom out or in, or it could even change it’s angle, but it couldn’t cross the imaginary line between the actors and the camera itself, for two reasons: First, most movies were shot on sound-stages and the sets didn’t extend all the way around; Second, it was thought that such camera movement Read More

Hanna (2011, Joe Wright)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

I think like there is something here that merits attention; it’s not just the cast, though the cast as way better than it should be for a movie like this. I’m not really sure what it is exactly; it may have something to do with the script which is definitely significantly better than your average action / spy movie. But there are a couple of really annoying things about this movie that won’t let me think more about whatever the positives might be: specifically the soundtrack, which is intrusive and ridiculous, and a few odd directorial decisions including a bizarre Read More

Skyfall (2012, Sam Mendes)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is, on the whole, a decent Bond film in line with the other Craig-entries, which are all at least slightly more realistic than the Moore and Brosnan versions. It does get a little carried way with the “technology” angle, where computers – and especially computer code – are made to look like things they are not. The other odd aspect of the film is how referential it is; is this the most referential bond movie ever? I’m not sure that’s a drawback in this film, because it’s secondary, but it’s a little odd nonetheless. The climax is, for the Read More

Scratch My Back (2010) by Peter Gabriel

Categories: 2010 and Music.

When I was young, I had a problem with interpretive music; for my idealistic self it suggested a lack of creativity, a lack of artistic will, or something like that. (I definitely had a bit of an obsession with the idea of The Artist as a True Individual or some shit.) Over the years my position has markedly changed, but I do know why I felt that way: too many covers in pop rock are ‘straight-up’, i.e. the songs are clearly recognizable as as the originals and the artist has re-used the original arrangement, tempo, production etc. One of the Read More

So (1986) by Peter Gabriel

Categories: 1986 and Music.

I haven’t gotten into solo Gabriel yet really, this is only the third album of his that I’ve heard. But back when I was a Gabriel-era Genesis obsessive I listened to a lot of Gabriel-fronted music. I have always been a little wary of his solo music in part because it is so clearly different from his music with Genesis, even the earlier albums. That being said, I don’t mind his late ’70s stuff, at least that which I’ve heard. But I have some real qualms about this album: it is a very clear attempt to sell more records. That Read More

New Blood (2011) by Peter Gabriel

Categories: 2011 and Music.

I have always struggled with getting into post-Genesis Gabriel because his music has often struck me as over-produced. I finally feel like his songwriting has received the the proper, appropriate arranging and production here. This is a great way at looking back at one’s career. Some of the new versions are really radical – some of them not so much – and almost all are interesting, many improving greatly on the originals (“Solsbury Hill” is probably the only one I’m ‘meh’ on at the moment.) It’s a shame more of the artists who insist on reviving old music don’t do Read More

Dredd (2012, Pete Travis)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

I liked this movie the first time I saw it when it was called The Raid. In all seriousness, this is like a mixture of that film and a video game ‘plot’. Having never read the comics, I can’t say whether they actually stole it from The Raid or not. This is an improvement on the Stallone version, which isn’t saying much. The whole thing is reasonably entertaining but I can’t help but think I’ve seen it before. Meh. 4/10 Read More

Lemmy (2010, Greg Oliver, Wes Orshoski)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

This is an engaging, entertaining and warm-hearted documentary about one of rock and roll’s most notorious survivors. It’s got all sorts of entertaining anecdotes from all over the music industry – and from outside the industry as well. Some of the people in the film seem odd choices for interviews, but I guess that’s where we are now. Some of the claims about Motorhead are downright ridiculous – multiple people claim Motorhead were, along with Black Sabbath, the first heavy metal band of all time (Motorhead’s debut was when exactly? 1969? What? 1977? Really? That’s odd.) – but musicians can’t Read More

Rise of the Zombies (2012, Nick Lyon) aka 2013: Rise of the Zombies

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

So this movie starts off in the middle of a zombie plague which is confusing. Apparently this is somewhat of a non-sequel to the totally awesome Zombie Apocalypse. We didn’t know this. But it doesn’t matter. This film has a ton of famous people in it, some of whom do a terrible job and some of whom are way better than the material. The CGI is, of course, totally awful. The movie really doesn’t try very hard to explain how the zombies are everywhere, including places they shouldn’t be, or how things that should clearly prevent zombie intrusion fail. And Read More

Steen’s Hot Start

Categories: Hockey, Sports, and The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke.

I know Steen’s hot start this year is unsustainable and likely going to end very soon – his GPG is currently .93 on the season! But I can’t help regretting that the Leafs let him go and, moreover, that I supported the move at the time. I supported the move at the time because I was a frustrated Leafs fan, sick of where the team was at and desperately hoping the new GM would rebuild (oops). And for some reason I thought the idea of trading the Leafs’ top forward prospect and an oft-injured young D for a guy who Read More

The Chemistry of Common Life (2008) by Fucked Up

Categories: 2008 and Music.

I really have to start coming to these hyped albums when they are first out, certainly before I have had a chance a read / hear how great an album or band is a million times (or perhaps before the record wins the Polaris). On first listen I was extremely underwhelmed – maybe not David Comes to Life underwhelmed, but close. And it really has nothing to do with whether or not this is “punk”. That seems to me to me a really stupid question. Rather, the issues I have with this record stem most likely from being told how Read More

In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores (2013) by Hilary Hahn

Categories: 2013 and Music.

It’s a wonderful thing that there are “classical” musicians in the world who don’t want to be stuck in a tradition that elevates the past over the present. I have always been intrigued by “classical” musicians who want music to live, who don’t just want to stick with how things have been done by their parents’ or grandparents’ generation. It was once a great thing for soloists to commission music (or to have it dedicated to the soloist); it was once an integral part of how an important part of the great music of western history was written. But somewhere Read More

All We Are Saying: the Music of John Lennon (2011) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2011 and Music.

As Thom Jurek says, this is an exploration of Lennon the composer, not Lennon the performer, and not Lennon’s songs as launchpads for new things. With a few notable exceptions, these performances are pretty straight up. Yes, the musicianship is of a high quality, keeping this album from a total disappointment, but these are some very capable musicians; this is the best thing they could come up with? Certainly when something is presented to me as jazz – by one of th foremost guitarists in jazz – I expect – I want – to be wowed. I feel like a Read More

Songs We Know (1998) by Fred Hersch and Bill Frisell

Categories: 1998 and Music.

It’s hard to know what to make of this. I am not familiar with Hersch, but I am now very familiar with Frisell and I am sort of awed at how conventional this all is. Pretty much every song in this set has been done to death by various jazz bands throughout the last half-century or so. And the question for me is, why record them again? I know the answer, it’s because they wanted to. But that’s not enough for me. For the most part these don’t really go anywhere you wouldn’t expect, and though there are moments of Read More

The Sound of Summer Running (1998) by Marc Johnson

Categories: 1998 and Music.

So this is about as conventional, straight-head Metheny-esque jazz fusion as I could possibly imagine. And that’s just a little surprising given the presence of both Metheny and Frisell, who one would assume would push each other. Johnson does not in any way stand out to my ears as a composer, and the band, which should be awesome, never makes me sit back in wonder. I also feel like I have heard this way too much on Toronto’s jazz radio station Jazz 91, which plays jazz. Jazz! And I feel this way even though I’m quite sure I’ve never heard Read More

Time and Time Again (2007) by Paul Motian

Categories: 2007 and Music.

I’m not sure I really have words to say how much more I like this second Motian-Frisell-Lovano collaboration than the first time out (this century). That felt to me like a re-hash of some cool cliches (for the first half anyway) and the whole thing just felt like it was dwelling in another decade. This is a lot fresher, a lot freer, a lot more interesting (to my ears). I still find Motian to be an impossibly busy drummer and I suspect that, were it not for Frisell and Lovano, that might drive me crazy. Frisell almost seems to inhabit Read More

The Gnostic Preludes (2012) by John Zorn, performed by Carol Emmanuel, Brill Frisell and Kenny Wollesen

Categories: 2012 and Music.

This is gorgeous music that feels both modern and eternal. And though it is hardly Zorn at his most radical, I don’t think that’s bad in this case. Zorn has created a series of compositions that fit together as if they were eight parts of one thought and there is no need for obvious extremism or atonality when you’ve got such compelling melodies and compositional intricacy. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff, I must admit. Beautiful. 8/10 Read More

30 Rock (2006)

Categories: 2006 and TV.

When Seinfeld ended, I was done with the sit-com. I honestly didn’t see what it could possibly offer me any more. Television was getting smarter – and would get significantly smarter over the next decade – and I just couldn’t handle being told when to laugh or having to suspend my disbelief to laugh at a set-up that never appreciably changed. I think I spent the last years of high school watching Seinfeld and Simpsons re-runs (and I was still watching new Simpsons episodes back then). I honestly don’t remember what other comedy I was watching back then; maybe some SNL and MadTV, Read More

Gone, Just like a Train (1998) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 1998 and Music.

This is an entertaining and pleasant record that had some really great moments, but on the whole is just what I said was it was, entertaining and pleasant. It’s certainly not going to make you re-think jazz guitar, as Frisell’s best stuff will. But it is provocatively all-over-the-place and relatively unconventional, for what we thought of as jazz guitar prior to Frisell’s early ’90s work. There is a definite roots vibe that can be found in much of Frisell’s ’90s and later work, but he does remind us that he is a jazz musician here and there, despite the non-jazz Read More

Good Dog, Happy Man (1999) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 1999 and Music.

This feels like more of the same as Gone, Just like a Train. Only the band is bigger – which actually heightens the roots feel and diminishes the jazz feel – and so the palette is a little bigger too. This is perhaps the least jazz-sounding I think I have heard Frisell. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; I think it would be fine if the performances were a little less low-key, a little less jammy / “We’re just having a good time!” I sort of wish they would dig into this a little more; add a little more grit Read More

The Willies (2002) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2002 and Music.

This is the most traditional-sounding Frisell album I have heard. It’s still recognizable as a Bill Frisell album, but these are pretty conventional – if not necessarily common – takes on both oft-covered and rarely-covered Americana. (There’s also the odd new Frisell composition, that he manages to fit in convincingly as something older.) It’s all well and good, I guess. I mean, it’s better than competent; the musicianship is great. The vibe is nice and relaxed. But it’s just not moving me. 6/10 Read More

Unspeakable (2004) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2004 and Music.

I think there is a real tendency to look at a few of the moments on this disc – when Frisell really lets loose in the ways he can – and decide that this is some kind of return to form – for those people who do not enjoy his Americana obsession. My problem isn’t with his playing – though occasionally he does play it too straight – it’s more with the music surrounding his playing. I’m all for artists taking risks and this is a real curve ball given the kind of music he had mostly been making over Read More

Richter 858 (2005) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2005 and Music.

This is an excellent set of compositions – inspired by painting – that show off Frisell’s abilities as a composer who can handle all sorts of instrumental ensembles. His writing for string quartet here and elsewhere merits serious consideration, I think, not in the least because of the room the musicians are given to go off-script. This was so successful that he wrote another set of pieces for this same group, which I actually like even more than this. But in addition to this music being great, it is also nice to hear and experience the inspiration for one of Read More

Disfarmer (2009) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2009 and Music.

I am getting more and into this idea of a gallery exhibit score – I have heard some absolutely excellent ones where the music was so great it never mattered that I didn’t get a chance to go to the show. And I must say the concept really intrigues me, even when it’s not done right. I’m not sure whether or not this is done right. Maybe it works well for the show itself. As a listening experience on its own, however, it’s Frisell doing Frisell, at his least energetic and, though I hate to say it, at his safest. Read More

The Elephant Sleeps but Still Remembers (2006) by Jack DeJohnette with Bill Frisell

Categories: 2006 and Music.

I’m not really sure I understand this. It’s not that I’m opposed to the idea of using live tracks as the basis for studio tinkering – I’m not, some of my favourite prog rock was made this way. I just don’t always understand why it’s done. In this case, it feels like the “additional production” was added to give this set a greater unity, that it severely lacks. DeJohnette is clearly a talented guy, and I appreciate the attempt to do everything, but here he and Frisell are trying too much and not succeeding at enough. The studio touches feel Read More

Live (1991, 1995) by Bill Frisell, Kermit Driscoll, Joey Baron

Categories: 1991 and Music.

I think this live album embodies everything I think post-modern (or post-Hendrix) guitar playing should be: Frisell is all over the place within the same songs, throwing out all sorts of different techniques, tones, effects, styles totally arbitrarily. But he is just such a good player, and the band is so locked in behind him that it doesn’t matter that he does what he wants. This is what I want to hear: a talented guitarist doing whatever he wants, seemingly on whim. And when he returns to the song, the band play as if the song – rather than Frisell Read More