December 24, 2008

The Q on U2's New Album

"Q", the world's finest music magazine, was recently granted an exclusive preview of U2's upcoming album No Line on the Horizon. Described as a bolder, more testing collection more in keeping with Achtung Baby (1991), Brian Eno and The Edge say this could be U2's greatest album. Q previews many of the new songs as follows:

Classic U2-isms, echoes The Unforgettable Fire (1984) opening track "A Sort Of Homecoming" in its atmospheric sweep. 

"Crazy Tonight"
Straight-up pop.

"Stand Up"
Swaggering, wherein U2 get in touch with their, hitherto unheard, funky selves - albeit propelled by some coruscating Edge guitar work, a signature feature of a number of the tracks.  

"Get Your Boots On"
Instantly striking, a heaving electro-rocker that may mark the destination point the band had been seeking on Pop (1997)

Featuring a fine Bono lyric about a soldier in an unspecified war zone, surrounded by a deceptively simple rhythm track and an evocative string arrangement courtesy of Eno

"Unknown Caller"
Stately, recorded in Fez and opens with the sounds of birdsong taped by Eno during a Moroccan dawn. 

"Moment Of Surrender" 
A strident seven-minute epic recorded in a single take, sounds like a Great U2 Moment in the spirit of "One".

Eno suggests it is potentially both the best song the band had written and that he had worked on. 


December 21, 2008

Fa La La La La

We hosted our annual holidays party last night. This year's theme was "Fa La La La La" and we had a wonderful turn out of friends and colleagues that made for new frendships and great conversations. Here are some photos...

December 18, 2008

U2 on the Horizon

U2 announced today that their forthcoming 12th album will be called "No Line on the Horizon" and it will be released on March 2, 2009. 

Finally! It's been 5 long years since the Dublin lads released an album and I have been going slightly mad...The fans are expecting an imminent release of the first single from the album, rumoured to be called "Get on your Boots". In the meantime enjoy U2's just-released cover of "I Believe in Father Christmas".

Kickin' It Old School

I'm now on holidays and have been enjoying mindless hours justrelaxing and hanging out at home. I've been flipping through MuchMusic more often than I really should reveal, and I have noticed the considerable drop in quality of rap & hip hop music.  Makes me yearn for the days when the music video was born and a new identity and politic was created by blacks through the following essential "old school" tracks:

"Fight the Power" (Public Enemy)
Not only one of the best but one of the most important rap songs ever written. Simply outstanding.

"Push It" (Salt N Pepa)
Noticeable first for being a female duo in a notoriously male-dominated genre, Salt N Pepa delivered this gem and launched a thousand girls' dreams of rap stardom.

"It Takes Two" (Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock)
Surely one of the few rap songs that will last the ages. This one will be included in the box set for the best of 20th century music.

What can I say...Great beat, phrasing, and lyrics. A veritable gem.

You can hear the beginnings of electronica in this track, a sort of hybrid song on the fence between rap and early hip hop. It's more pop than political.

"My Philosophy" (KRS One)
A great subversive lyric matched to a funky backbeat. 

"Let Your Backbone Slide" (Maestro Fresh Wes) 
A solid Canadian hip hop contribution. A massive hit that made an impact on the dance floor.


December 15, 2008

Unhappy Homeowners

A new report from a Wharton professor entilted "The American Dream? The Private and External Benefits of Homeownership" dismantles the prevailing myth of the happy home owner. The author writes, "I find little evidence that homeowners are happier [than renters] by any of the following definitions: life satisfaction, overall mood, overall feeling, general moment-to-moment emotions (i.e., affect) and affect at home… They are also more likely to be 12 pounds heavier, report a lower health status and poorer sleep quality. They tend to spend less time on active leisure or with friends. The average homeowner reports less joy from love and relationships… Contrary to popular belief, I do not find significant differences in family-related time use patterns, family-related affect, number of normal work hours, indicators of stress or measures of self-esteem and perceived control of life by homeownership … Homeowners are happier on average only on an unadjusted basis. Once household income, housing quality and health are controlled for, they are no happier than renters. What’s more, they report to derive more pain from both the neighborhood and their house and home. This positive pain gap remains stable and robust when health, neighborhood characteristics and financial stress are controlled for. As for the most frequently cited channels of a positive impact by homeownership, namely self-esteem, stress, health and family life, again there is very little supporting evidence in my data… [H]omeowners spend less time on active leisure activities or with friends, which have been documented as some of the most enjoyable affective experiences."

This is a most interesting read, as I find that a subtle but palpable peer pressure exists around the topic of home ownership, supported so effectively by wall-to-wall programming such as HGTV and similar decor porn media outlets, "big box" home decor and improvement stores, and countless home magazines. The message we receive is that you only arrive once you've purchased a home, that you are somehow less responsible or that you are living carefree if you are a renter. I think home ownership is one of the most significant decisions any of us will ever make and it should be made for all the right reasons at the best possible time for the individual(s) involved. The subprime mortgage crisis reveals the dangers of selling the dream to those who should never have taken the keys in the first place.    

December 11, 2008

A Very U2 Christmas

I am shaking my head at the realization it was 24 years ago that a bunch of socially-conscious pop stars got together to record "Do They Know Its Christmas?". Bono's contribution was the accusatory line "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you". I thought he delivered it so very well. He would contribute the same vocal again when a new generation gathered to re-record the song on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. The song-for-a-cause movement was born and U2 made a few more Christmas songs.

In 1987 U2 contributed a song to the charity album "A Very Special Christmas". I remember rushing out to by my copy of the cassette tape (yes, you read that correctly). It's been a favourite of mine for all that time, and the Christmas season always makes me want to hear it again for all reasons nostaglic. Thanks to the gift that is YouTube you can enjoy the playful video U2 made for the song "It's Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)". The song begins at 0:38 after an intro by a VJ with great '80s hair.

This past week, U2 recorded another Christmas song for (Red)Wire, an online music magazine that purchases aids drugs in Africa. The songs is a remake of a 1970s beauty called "I Believe in Father Christmas"

Bonus: Have a look at U2 circa 1987 covering "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)".

December 5, 2008

Oh, Won't You Stay Just a Bit Longer?

The results of a study led by the Monieson Centre at Queen's School of Business entitled "Creative Economy Challenges: Retention of Queen’s Graduates in the Greater Kingston Area" were released yesterday. Among the findings:

• Employment prospects are critical to retaining students locally.
• Students are more likely to stay in Kingston for summer jobs and post graduate employment if they feel they are part of the community.
• Students and alumni both indicated that employment prospects were the most important factor in deciding where to live post graduation.
• Students and alumni both expressed strong dissatisfaction with Kingston’s employment opportunities.
• Students and alumni both indicated “sales & service” was their least desired type of employment and they perceived sales & service to be the largest type of employment in Kingston.

As for possible solutions, the report recommended that Kingston should implement policies that generate new economic opportunities in several key areas including health, research, social sciences (education, government, religion), natural and applied sciences, art, culture, recreation, sports, business and finance. The City should also work to foster integration of students into the Kingston community. You can read highlights of the report starting on page 40 here.

December 2, 2008

Clash of the Coalitions

Here's what I awoke to on CBC news this morning:

Country 1

The country's top court has dissolved the government. The decision, which effectively dissolves the Prime Minister's government, follows months of opposition protests that have driven government officials from their offices. The Consitutional Court also banned at least one of the ruling coalition partners, effectively dismantling the government over allegations of vote-rigging. Adeputy prime minister from one of the remaining coalition parties will take over until the parliament could approve a new government.

Country 2

The head of state is cutting short a state visit to Europe and returning to the country in the face of a political crisis that could bring down the government next week. The head of state will be called upon to decide who should govern if the minority government falls in a confidence vote. Opposition leader announced Monday that he had informed the head of state of a formal entente between the opposition parties, and called on her to let him govern. The Prime Minister's minority government could fall Monday when the House of Commons votes on last week's economic update - unless the Prime Minister prorogues Parliament.

Fascinating times indeed. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. By the way, the first country is Thailand and the second country is Canada.

December 1, 2008

Madame Secretary

Hilary Clinton has been named as America's next Secretary of State, the most powerful cabinet position in Obama's administration and fourth in line to the Presidency according to the Succession Act. In many ways, this will be a much better use of Mrs Clinton's talents than would have been the case had she been selected as the Vice President. Assuming she can corral her erratic husband she should be an indomitable force for diplomacy.