September 26, 2011

Dub, Black Dub

Legendary Canadian record  producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, Neil Young) has formed a band called Black Dub

Featuring a wicked lead vocalist named Trixie Whitley and the most brilliant drummer named Brian Blade, Black Dub is a great musical foursome.

One of my favourite songs is called "Ring the Alarm" as it showcases each person's great talents so well.  Fans of Lanois will quickly recognize his signature guitar sound and production, recently so well crafted on Neil Young's album Le Noise (check out stand out song "Walk With Me".)

Part soul, part rock, part reggae, part magic, Black Dub create a wonderful noise together. 

September 24, 2011

Maple Cheese

By complete accident, I caught a great documentary on CBC called "Rise Up: Canadian Pop Music in the 1980s". What a wonderful trip down nostalgia lane!

The early 80s saw the origin of music video television, first in the US with MTV and then here in Canada with MuchMusic. But since there were so few music videos, Canadian acts who managed to produce videos ended up getting copious amounts of playtime on both sides of the border. I am sure many folks assumed many of the pop hits of the decade were American or European bands as a result.

The documentary shows how MuchMusic really broke new music outside of album-oriented classic rock that had dominated the radio stations. The Vee-Jay was born (I had a massive crush on Erica Ehm) and the MuchMusic open studio, wobbly camera style became a signature style. The other thing the doc effectively illustrates is how incredibly influential Toronto's Queen St West was on the Canadian pop music scene.

Although not quite chronologically ordered, the documentary plays like a checklist of essential Canadian 1980's pop hits.  And it's an impressive list indeed. Bands such as Chilliwack, Glass Tiger,  Red Rider, The Pursuit of Happiness, Slow, 54-40, Blue Rodeo, Parachute Club, Triumph, Cowboy Junkies, Men Without Hats, The Box, and The Grapes of Wrath.

The decade also gave us some huge solo acts, such as Maestro Fresh-Wes, Daniel Lavoie, Gowan, Bruce Cockburn, Corey Hart, Jane Siberry, Robbie Robertson, Daniel Lanois, Tom Cochrane, k.d. lang, Kim Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan and, the biggest of them all, Bryan Adams.

Ah, what terrible fun.

September 22, 2011

REM Goes to Sleep

REM announced yesterday on their web site that they are disbanding.

For those of us in high school in the '80s and university in the '90s REM was the quintessential alternative rock band. They pretty much owned the college radio crown during that period.

In 1990 there was a guy named Vasilio who lived on the same floor as me in Leonard Hall residence at Queen's. He would blast REM's "Superman" over and over and over. I think there were threats of bodily harm shouted around the hall quite a few times.
Ah, what good memories.

I have always loved and respected REM. Their catalogue is incredible and they have given us a collection of lasting and influential songs. Thank you, REM, for your passion and for your heart breaking  and beautiful music.

As a tribute, here is one ardent's fan guide to the 20 best REM songs. Enjoy!! 

September 12, 2011

OCAD University celebrates 135 years

This year marks the 135th anniversary of my new workplace, Ontario College of Art & Design University.

To mark this significant milestone, OCAD U has launched a 135 Website, to provide a one-stop resource for the series of events and campus initiatives.

As part of my duties I will be attending an alumni social next week at Toronto's famed art hotel,  Gladstone Hotel.

What an exciting new adventure! 

September 8, 2011

From the Sky Down

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of U2's groundbreaking album Achtung Baby. I'll give you a moment to let that one sink in...

I vividly remember going to the now-closed brilliant Kingston music store called House of Sounds to purchase the album in cassette form on release day in November of 1991. I was in third year at Queen's and living in Victoria Hall residence. I recall sitting in my rez room with my best buddy Pravin, unwrapping the cassette and popping it in. The look on our faces when the opening distortion of "Zoo Station" was classic WTF?!

This was U2? We were hardcore second-generation U2 fans, raised on The Unforgettable Fire (1984), The Joshua Tree (1987), and especially Rattle and Hum (1988). We did not recognize our beloved band.  Where were the open landscapes, the poetry, the sound of rockabilly and desert hymns? 

It is forever to U2's credit that they released Achtung Baby. Considering the trio of albums that preceded it, it is almost hard to believe the same band created the sound that Bono famously referred to as "four men chopping down the Joshua tree". 

And yet Bono's quip is so very insightful. Achtung Baby was the album that U2 had to make in order to survive as a band and, ultimately, as friends. There was a great possibility of U2 imploding, and the crisis bore what many consider to be one of the finest and most influential rock albums of the past 25 years.

To mark the occasion, U2 allowed esteemed Academy Award winning documentarian David Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) to film the story of the making of Achtung Baby. The documentary, From the Sky Down, just opened the 2011 TIFF. You can catch a cool preview of the film here.

September 4, 2011

Our New 'Hood

We drove up to Toronto for the day on Friday to officially sign off on our new condo apartment. We arrived early enough so we could explore our new neighbouhood, Liberty Village.

According to Toronto Life, "with sexy new storefronts, high-gloss condos and plans to build a canopied walkway modelled after a Milanese arcade, the former factory blocks are poised to become the next Chelsea Market". Interestingly, this is exactly what Mark said as we were walking around the narrow streets between the repurposed 19th-century red brick buildings.

The area began as an industrial area, and was home to a prison and then a reformatory. The CNE began in the neighbourhood too. Today, Liberty Village is home to film companies, arts and design companies and dozens of cafes, restaurants, and quirky stores, such as For the Love of Cake, the Village Cheesemonger, and Beer Boutique, the newsest retail experience from the stodgy The Beer Store. The neighbourhood pub is called Brazen Head and there is a wicked lounge bar called Locus 144.

We also took a tour of King West Fitness, an awesome 18,000 sq ft gym club inside a warehouse. Mark is likely going to join for a few months, until our condo's gym and indoor pool are completed.

Suffice it to say, we are getting pretty darn excited! More to come...