2014, Music

Uncovered (2014) by Maya Beiser

I heard part of her cover of “Lithium” courtesy of Cover Me and thought “Wow” and so I decided I had to get this record without another thought. I had never heard of Beiser and had no idea what I was in for. I had high expectations because the part of “Lithium” I heard was …

2018, Podcasts

Bear Brook (2018)

I listen to a lot of “true crime” podcasts. Way, way too many. But most of them are what you might call “criminal justice” podcasts; i.e. they focus on wrongful imprisonment stories rather than mysteries. I generally prefer these types of podcasts because they fuel my outrage at injustice, something I generally don’t indulge in …

Movies

Cabin in the Sky (1943, Vincente Minelli, Busby Berkeley)

This film may have been the first “major” Hollywood film to feature an entirely African American cast. By major, I think we mean “prestige” – made by a major studio and featuring actual, prominent performers. If that’s true – and my source for that is an encyclopedia other than Wikipedia – then this is a …

2016, Movies

Warcraft (2016, Duncan Jones)

I’ve seen lots of video game adaptations but most of them have been action and horror games, not fantasy games. This fantasy game, which I played at some point in the distant past, has the added disadvantage that at least some of its basic species types have been stolen from Tolkien, giving it even less …

1973, Music

Sweet Revenge (1973) by John Prine

Many years ago – 15? – I was watching Austin City Limits as usual and John Prine came on. I had never heard of him before but I was blown away. ‘Who was this songwriter I’ve never heard of?’ I thought. I was blown away by his stage demeanour as much as his songs, probably, …

1973, Music

Imagination (1973) by Gladys Knight and the Pips

I basically only know Gladys Knight & the Pips from “Midnight Train to Georgia.” I assume it was their biggest hit. But it turns out I’ve also heard the second track, “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination.” Hence the first two tracks make this album almost feel like a Best Of, because it contains the …

1973, Music

Marjory Razorblade (1973)

Reading about someone before you listen to them is always problematic. I had never heard of this guy but then I read a lot about him on Wikipedia before listening to this record and so much of it was about how much of an “outsider” he was. Well, he may well have been an outsider …

1973, Music

For Everyman (1973) by Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne is one of those artists I’ve heard so much about but never really heard (that I know of). He’s always been on the periphery of music I’ve listened to – guesting on many albums I’ve heard, or co-writing songs, or both – but I’ve never sat down and listened to anything of his …

1973, Music

Burnin’ (1973) by The Wailers

If I had to put money on it without listening to their entire catalogue, I would probably wager than Burnin‘ is the best original Wailers album; it has two of their most iconic songs on it, and the quality of the rest of them feels higher than some of the other albums I’ve heard. Regardless …

1973, Music

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

The double album (LP edition) is such a fraught proposition for the artist: on the one hand, for serious fans, it’s the opportunity to hear even more of one of their favourites and so its a treat to cherish – and it should come as no surprise the number of bands whose dedicated fans regard …

1973, Music

These Foolish Things (1973) by Bryan Ferry

A friend of mine told me this album was pretty great. I can’t remember whether or not he said it was one of the great cover albums of all time, but I feel like it was implied if not explicit. And I’ve read elsewhere that it is among them. So my expectations were pretty high, …

1968, Music

Bradley’s Barn (1968) by The Beau Brummels

The usual history of country rock goes something like this: The Byrds invented it with Sweetheart of the Radio. A more sophisticated version of that story is that the International Submarine Band invented country rock, but nobody heard their record, so the Byrds popularized the genre when they hired ISB singer-songwriter Gram Parsons and he …

1954, Books, Fiction

The Fellowship of the Ring (1954) by JRR Tolkien

Full disclosure: I am not a fantasy fan. I don’t know that I can tell you how many fantasy novels I’ve read in my life. Off the top of my head, I know The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was read to me when I was young, but I’m not sure I’ve read anything …

1998, Music

El Oso (1998) by Soul Coughing

Members of Soul Coughing are quoted in The Secret History of Rock, the pre-internet guide to weird and rarely heard rock music which was my bible for a long time. I made it my mission to listen to all the bands that were featured in that book, but I also made it my mission to …

1998, Music

Aquemini (1998) by OutKast

When I was in first year university Stankonia was everywhere. I would walk down the hall and hear it. It was blaring so loud in my neighbour’s room that first semester I couldn’t escape it. Worse, it wasn’t really Stankonia, it was just the hits: “So Fresh, So Clean,” “Ms. Jackson” and “B.O.B.” just playing …

1998, Music

Is This Desire? (1998) by PJ Harvey

If you spend too much time reading music magazines – do people still do that? – or you spend too much time on the internet, it’s tempting to see Is This Desire? as the flip side of The Boatman’s Call, or a direct response to it or some combination of the two. The easiest thing …

1998, Music

Sewn Mouth Secrets (1998) by Soilent Green

The metal world is a weird place, where people seem obsessed by (or at least devoted to) the adherence to genre tropes, so that the goal of some metal bands appears to be “how close can we get to perfectly encapsulating the sound of our sub subgenre?” I’m not sure anyone says that aloud, or …

Philosophy, Politics, Society

What is the Point of Government?

The question “What is the point of government?” likely strikes you either as an obvious question or an absurd and pointless question, depending upon your philosophical beliefs. I assume either you think it’s a question always worth asking or a question never worth asking. Count me in the former camp. I believe asking “what is …

1998, Music

How It Feels to Be Something On (1998) by Sunny Day Real Estate

Apparently these guys were one of the original Midwest Emo bands. I did not know that; really I knew nothing at all about them before listening to this record.

1998, Music

Whitey Ford Sings the Blues (1998) by Everlast

As you might imagine, I heard “What It’s Like” a ton in High School, pretty much completely unaware that this guy was in House of Pain until someone told me. But having not heard that song since it was in heavy rotation, I had no idea what I was getting into.

1998, Music

The Boy With the Arab Strap (1998) by Belle and Sebastian

I have heard a lot about Belle & Sebastian over the years but I guess I never read anything that made me think that I needed to listen to them. Any time I read the word “twee” I certainly get the idea that I won’t like the music being described, whether or not that’s actually …

1998, Music

Electro-Shock Blues (1998) by Eels

I had long heard of Eels but was actually completely unaware I had heard him, as I had never made the connection between “Last Stop: This Town,” which I vaguely remember from High School, and Eels the band name. So all this time I thought Eels was something else but I had actually heard what …

2018, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Mexico City Day 5 October 29, 2018

We packed a bit the night before, but finished packing this morning. I was up early so I was ready to go pretty early. So I finished Sophie’s Choice. I also tried to read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which my dad lent me ages ago, but I just couldn’t do it. Anyone who …

2018, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Mexico City Day 4 October 28, 2018

For breakfast we once again had Pan de Muerto. We took the subway downtown and it was the basically the emptiest we’ve seen, as it was Sunday morning. (There might have been a car to the track that was this empty too.)  We walked up from the subway to the Templo Mayor. This it the …

2018, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Mexico Day 3 Saturday October 27, 2018

For breakfast we had carteras. At least I think that’s what they were called. A quick google produces cakes, and it was not a cake. It was doughy and contained dulce de leche. It was delicious.

2018, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Mexico City Day 2 Friday October 26, 2018

This morning we woke up and headed down to the bakery a few doors down. (There was one right below us too, but they were undergoing renovations into a more conventional restaurant while we were staying there.) We both ordered Pan de Muerto in honour of the upcoming Day of the Dead and because we …

2018, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Mexico City Day 1: Thursday October 25, 2018

We got up at 5AM because of an early flight. We did our usual thing, and took the TTC to Dundas West, and took the UP train to Pearson. If you don’t take this train yet, it’s the best way to get to the airport if you live in downtown. It’s so much faster than …