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April 2005 Archives

April 1, 2005

Random Musical Ramblings Prompted by Live Shows...

Some things that have been burbling around in my brain for awhile, trying very hard to make it into words in a meaningful form, but failing miserably, are thus spilled out here in electronic randomness, because if I don't write some of these things down, even in a half-assed sort of way, my brain will simply explode from the pressure of thinking about them all the damned time.

Random thought the first, on Justin, Jeremy and cute Canadian indie boy singers...

In the span of a week, I saw both Justin Rutledge and Jeremy Fisher as the openers of shows I was going to see. That, in and of itself, is a minor, modern miracle, because generally speaking, I just don't see opening acts, at least not deliberately.

But I'd heard Justin's brilliantly melancholy CD No Never Alone, and knew that seeing his set was worth it; in fact, given that I've heard more about Buddy Miller than I've actually heard from Buddy Miller, I'd have to say that I decided to go to that show more because of Justin than of Buddy. No slight on Buddy, mind you, it was one hell of a show and he's an amazing performer, but I didn't own any of his CDs prior to this, so I just wasn't all that familiar with his stuff. Most specifically, though, I went to see Justin's set because if I didn't, I feel certain that Richard Flohil would have kicked my ass, and deservedly so.

In Jeremy's case, there's a not insignificant amount of buzz about him. His album was released by Sony, he's got a video that's getting some play and all the indie girls are gushing about how kyutttte he is - but only in that ironic detached sort of way that indie girls gush: irreverently and with plenty of sarcasm. I figured it was worth showing up early to see what the buzz was about.

Comparisons between the two are pretty obvious - young, cute, songwriters, guitar players, Canadians, alty folky rocky, gospel sensibilities, names that begin with J, etc. There are differences in there, though, and they go beyond the fact that Jeremy has opted to base his Indie-cred look around poofy hair, while Justin has retro-sideburns. Musically, they're certainly playing with the same genre, whatever that is, but coming at it from different places.

Justin's take is more straightforward, emotional, and filled with melancholy. Make no mistake about it, No Never Alone is not a rawking disc. You will not get up and dance. You will not hum along. It is entirely possible that you will cry. In my case, I first listened to it casually in the car, but then I *really* listened to it, repeatedly, from the late hours of the night before into the early hours of the morning. I'd just been robbed in my home at knife point and I was alternating between contemplating a bottle of windex, and whether I had the strength to clean up the fingerprint dust the police had left on the class, and contemplating a bottle of vodka, and whether it would help. Too sober to sleep and too drunk to cry, indeed. I'd let the disc play through, then put that song on repeat for 5 or 10 cycles, then start the cycle over again.

Jeremy's new disc is definitely lighter. The approach is almost whimsical in spots - certainly lemon meringue pie is one of the more whimsy-filled metaphors for sex that you're likely to run across. High School, the single, is a deadly accurate take on the mind of a teenage boy (and more than a few teenage girls, as well). Back Porch Spirituals, his earlier disc is a little deeper, a little darker, but still with a sense of playfulness built in. It's funny that his earlier work seems a little more mature, even, while Let It Shine occasionally seems to lapse into the high school mindset even outside of the track High School.

Ultimately, I can't help taking the two artists side by side and head to head. They're just too much alike for my mind not to wander in that direction. My preference ends up being entirely situational. Justin's aching melancholy packs a stronger emotional punch, but Jeremy's lighter touch makes for an easier, more entertaining listen.

Random thought the second, on nostalgia and bubblegum country...

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see Lisa Brokop at, of all places, the Hard Rock cafe. Lisa Brokop, for those of you unfamiliar with mainstream country music's lesser known artists, does not Rock in any way, never mind Hard. Then again, I suppose that's not untrue of the watered down chain of restaurants themselves.

When I listened to, and bought, a lot of mainstream country music, I'd picked up all of Lisa's album. They are enthusiastic and happy. She's like a Canadian Martina McBride, where even songs about bad things are imbued with an optimistic tone.

If I'd never heard of Lisa Brokop before, and was just hearing her albums for the first time now, I probably wouldn't be slightly interested. I'd write it off as more diluted Nashville product and move on. But my history with Lisa Brokop goes back a lot longer than that. Since before she even had albums for me to wave off dismissively, Lisa Brokop was one of my childhood heroes.

Where I grew up, in a small town in Northern BC, there wasn't a lot in the way of culture or art or even entertainment. We had 4 TV channels: one of them was in French, and another was educational, which was worse, because at least the French channel had hockey on Saturday nights. A third of the channels was the local TV Station of the town an hour up the road, and every year, they had a 2 day telethon to raise money for local charity projects. It was staged in the auditorium of one of the high schools, and brought new meaning to the term low budget, but to me it was something special, and most special of all was Lisa Brokop.

She was from Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, and Vancouver was the most exciting place imaginable in the world. And she was young, just a teenager then, so not much older than me. Just watching her, this big city girl, come to visit our small town was an exhilirating experience for me. No matter how unfamous she might have been, to me she was a celebrity. When I rolled up my loose change and took it to the school to make a donation to the telethon and got to meet Lisa herself, well,
that was almost too much for a fat awkward child to handle.

As I sat through Lisa's show the other night, I was captivated again by her smile and her enthusiasm, even as I was thinking that it lacked the depth and emotion that I look for in music these days. Sometimes, though, it doesn't matter if it's superficial, sometimes what matters is that even with the make-over and the major label releases and the CMT camera crew at the ready, it's still the same woman who thrilled me as a child up there on stage, thrilling me all over again.

Random thought the third, on rocking songs about death and choices...

I posted about this show over on Fearnwhiskey, but wanted to write something more concrete about it here, as well. As with all these other thoughts, that's not coming together very well, so here's a slightly improved version of what I wrote on FNW.

Greg Keelor, of Blue Rodeo fame, has released a new album, Seven Songs for Jim, a song cycle about his father, and his recent death. He's doing a short solo tour with Travis Good of Sadies, plus a horn player, whose name I simply don't remember. The show was divided, as Greg explained it, between a 'funeral' and a 'wake'.

The funeral was the material from Seven Songs, followed by a wake of more upbeat material - some covers, some instrumentals, some Blue Rodeo stuff, lots of Travis sawing on his fiddle and the two of them trading licks.

There are some really vivid moments in the songs on Seven Songs, and Greg Keelor is the kind of songwriter who can bring life even to stories of death.

He told a story, and then sang about cleaning out his father's apartment after his death, describing the white squares left behind by removing paintings, when the rest of the wall was stained green and brown with cigarette smoke and grime and life. It reminded me of high school drama class, oddly enough. Every year, the classes would do 8 different shows on the same small stage in 16 weeks. Paint a set, paint it black, paint a set, paint it black. Layers and layers of laughter and life on those walls, and on all our walls. Mine now are stained with the smoke of a hundred candles burnt down in moments of stress and the ash of a thousand culinary experiments that didn't go quite how I'd planned.

Another of the songs talked about how he would wait for his father to arrive at the cottage for the weekend when he was a child. He was only allowed to go so far up the road along, and that was the extent of his world for the summer. Every year that world would grow a little bigger as the boundary was extended. You could almost feel the world growing larger, and see the childhood Greg, pushing his borders by edging one foot just a little past the line.

I think I'm done for awhile, and maybe my brain will get some rest, now.

Relevent Links:
Justin Rutledge
Lisa Brokop
Greg Keelor

April 3, 2005

Recipe: Chocolate muffings

My mother gave me a recipe for chocolate muffins a long time ago. She even made them for me while she was visiting once, but I'd never quite bothered to make them myself so they were this week's recipe of the week.

The recipe itself is pretty simple:

Soak 3 cups of all-bran cereal in 2 1/2 cups to 3 cups of water for 10 minutes
Mix in 1 tsp of baking powder and one box of low-fat chocolate brownie mix.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

This makes 12 2 point muffins.

The problem I've always had with her muffins is that they don't really appear to rise. They're kind of cakey and solid, which you'd expect from brownies, but not muffins.

So I decided to try using carbonated water instead of regular water, to give them a little more airiness, and that worked quite well. They rose beautifully. Well, 10 of them rose beautifully and two of them were peaky, but that's not bad odds. I was hoping the fact that it was cherry flavoured carbonated water might add some flavour, but it's only a slight aftertaste, not much to speak of.

April 4, 2005

Only in Canada...

I'm watching a repeat of the Canada / Sweden game from this afternoon at the Ford World Curling Championships. That's an only in Canada moment in and of itself, I imagine, but one of the Canadian team members just asked their vice to bring their broom, and a moment that I can only imagine happening in Canada followed.

'Grab my broom, Dave.' one of the players yelled.

'Grab my broom, Dave, please.' the commentator corrected his lack of good manners.

Only in Canada are we quite that polite.

April 7, 2005

Random Question #3: You've Got Buddy Lists

You've got buddy lists for AIM and MSN and Y!M and ICQ and Skype and probably several other services, as well, and there are user names on the list that you can no longer associate with actual people. Their user profiles offer no clues. Do you:

A) Keep them there, because it might come to you eventually when you need to talk to them.
B) Keep them there, because it makes you look like you have a lot more friends that way.
C) Take them off, because you probably won't want to talk to them again anyway.
D) Message them and ask them who they are.
E) Something else entirely, because there's always some smartass who has to come up with an option I didn't think of in these polls.

April 8, 2005

In which my fondest wish comes true, and I get to slag off on something...

Yesterday, I posted to P2 with the comment that I find it difficult to write about things that I don't like, and asking for advice. Much of the advice I got was to practice. Last night, I saw a show that I very much didn't like, thus giving me the opportunity to practice. I'm not sure if that implies a blessing or a curse. Comments on either subject or execution welcome, though the execution ones are obviously a bit off topic so you might want to take them off-list, lest I turn this place into a writers' workshop.

Kathleen Edwards at the Mod Club

This was a show that went from good to bad to worse, improved its way back up to bad and then ended with a resounding thud as it collapsed to worst.

I like the Mod Club. It's a nice venue, with good sound, great visuals, and a practice of starting shows early so they can still open up as a dance club later in the evening, which gives us boring people a chance to get home at a decent hour. If you were at the Kathleen Edwards show last night, though, you'd think the sound was terrible and early shows were a curse upon civilization. You'd probably still admire the visuals though, since they were the best part of the experience.

The set opened strong; for the first minute and a half or so, Kathleen was singing, the band was playing quietly in the background, I was impressed. Half way through the first song, however, they switched from quiet, almost accoustic sensibilities to a more rocking style. Unfortunately, the quality of the sound simply didn't hold up to the higher volumes.

The first five songs, which were sung without introduction or interlude were basically a blur of unheard lyrics and interchangeable guitar riffs. You know that moment of excitement that runs through an audience when they first recognize the song that's being played and send up a little shiver of applause? Didn't happen at all, because nobody could tell what they were. There was only one point where the band was quiet enough that you could hear the vocals, and at that point, the vocals consisted of Kathleen moaning like a woman faking the dullest orgasm ever.

I was optimistic when she started introducing the songs that things would get better. At least I'd know what I was listening to. Unfortunately, most of what I was listening to was Kathleen and her bandmates cursing at things. Someone got a Fuck You for not being an Expos fan. Someone else got threatened for saying something about Kathleen's husband (her guitar player, Colin Cripps). The fucking curfew was fucking mentioned several fucking times. The sound quality got cursed out, as well, but at least that was deserved. In recent interviews, Kathleen has suggested that she's all grown up from her days of being a potty mouthed bad girl, matured and wiser. Maybe she's not calling other artists fucking sluts in interviews, but her show is still high school material.

Throughout this, the sound continued to be a problem. Feedback on the mics, random thumping from the speakers, guitars too loud, vocals too low. This isn't a venue problem, there's nothing wrong with the sound at the Mod Club; I've seen other shows that were just as loud, but apparently better engineered, which had no problems.

The encore set was an improvement. Some quieter numbers that were actually intelligible, and a rocking 'Back to Me' that was loud but still listenable. Finally, with curfew looming, Kathleen suggested that she had reached the last song. As they had throughout the night, the crowd yelled for Hockey Skates, her one really high profile song. She started into the song and whatever it was, it wasn't Hockey Skates. After having cursed some random woman, curfew, the sound quality and a few other things, Kathleen had saved this more subtle fuck you to her fans for the end.

She looks back on the material from Failer as shaky and juvenile, and Hockey Skates as possibly the worst offender, but the fact remains, it was the song that the crowd most wanted to hear. It was the song they'd been screaming for all night long. It was the song that she didn't play. That's more juvenile than the song could ever be.

Relevent Links:
Kathleen Edwards
Mod Club

April 20, 2005

One new recipe: pan roasted potatoes

Last night, I roasted a chicken in the oven, and tried the pan roasted potatoes recipe from the new issue of Cook's Illustrated. I used a combination of peanut and sesame oils instead of olive oil and made up my own seasoning combination (garlic and basil, with parm cheese), but followed their instructions on the browning and cooking times, which was the part I never get right.

They turned out beautifully. I did find that I had to increase the browning time in the first step - which called for browining for 5-7 minutes' but that was because I was using a large pan on a small element and the ones on the edges were simply not getting browned. I just traded the middle ones for the edge ones and browned for another couple of minutes to get them all even. The rest of the steps worked very well, and the end result was golden brown, perfectly cooked potatoes. Truly a thing of beauty, they were.

Then, completely fucking over my diet, I ate them all.

I tried to eat only half of them (despite it really being four servings), but throughout the night, I just kept going back for more. They were even delicious cold.

All gone now, but I still have most of a five pound bag of potatoes left.

About April 2005

This page contains all entries posted to acho que não in April 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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