This is both The and A List.

With the year coming to a close, year end lists are all the rage. Without further ado, with no additional commentary, here are some things I enjoyed in 2017. I’ll at least sort them into sections. Note, they may not even all be from 2017. Maybe I just discovered them this year. No doubt I’ll forget a bunch. I’m not paying that much attention:

Movies

  • The Big Sick
  • Logan
  • Spider Man: Homecoming
  • Killing of a Sacred Deer
  • Baby Driver
  • I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
  • The Florida Project
  • Okja
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Get Out
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • It

Television

  • Legion
  • Trial and Error
  • Dear White People
  • Crazy Ex Girlfriend Season 3
  • Master of None Season 2
  • You’re The Worst Season 3
  • American Gods
  • Catastrophe Season 3
  • Better Things Season 2
  • The Good Place Season 2
  • GLOW
  • American Vandal
  • BoJack Horseman Season 3
  • Big Mouth
  • The Katering Show
  • Rick & Morty Season 3
  • Please Like Me
  • Crashing

Music

  • Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me
  • The National – Sleep Well Beast
  • LCD Soundsystem – Self Titled
  • Father John Misty – Fear Fun
  • Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
  • SZA – Ctrl
  • Kelela – Take Me Apart
  • Jlin – Black Origami
  • Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
  • Sylvan Esso – What Now
  • Fever Ray – Plunge
  • Zola Jesus – Okovi
  • LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
  • St Vincent – Masseduction
  • Fleet Foxes – Crack Up
  • Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
  • Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3
  • Lorde – Melodrama
  • Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
  • Neil Cicierega – Mouth Moods

Comedy Specials

  • Vir Das – Abroad Understanding
  • Rory Scovel Tries Stand-Up For The First Time
  • Patton Oswalt – Annihilation
  • Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King
  • Chris Gethard – Career Suicide

Comedians I saw

  • Chris Gethard
  • Chris Locke
  • Chris Robinson
  • Gina Yashere
  • Hari Kondabolu
  • Kyle Kinane
  • Liza Treyger
  • Max Silvestri
  • Morgan Murphy
  • Rory Scovel
  • Roy Wood Jr.
  • Sara Hennessey
  • Sasheer Zamata
  • W. Kamau Bell
  • John Mulaney

Video Games

  • Cuphead

I guess now you know what I did with my time.

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After all those puns, who wouldn’t consider me a lunatic?

First review in a while. As always once it goes up on the mothership, I’ll change this entry to a link.

Get yourself a band that can send you to the moon. Failing that, get yourself a band that can bring the moon to you. July Talk, in a stellar Massey Hall show, did just that. Their debut performance at the beloved Toronto venue managed to be both special and spatial. Flanked by a planetary backdrop and massive floating moon balloon, they brought an otherworldly spectacle to an adoring crowd.

Did that come off as too cute? Blame the band, whose charismatic leads bring a sultry energy to their live sets. The vocal interplay between Peter Dreimanis’ gravelly bourbon and Leah Fay’s smoky punch forms their iconic sound, which shines on the stage. The two bring together Nick Cave swagger and bratty spunk, complemented by a talented band. There’s a stylish anachronism to the nine piece ensemble, which features Motown style backup singers, two full drum kits, dirty rock guitar and an abundance of keys. In short, it’s one hell of a show.

There was a dynamic energy throughout. The stage was a constant blur of movement and crowd engagement. Peter and Leah would sink down and sing directly to the front row or grasp their hands tightly. Whether it was a rollicking rock number or a somber ballad, the band’s intensity never wavered. They gave themselves to the sound and the audience lapped it up.

So often performances will be defined by one memorable moment. July Talk kept those moments coming. There was Dreimanis thanking his 92 year old grandmother for coming to see him perform (prompting crowd chants of “grandma, grandma, grandma”), or Fay walking through the crowd to serenade a concertgoer face to face. A surprise guest performance by Toronto singer-songwriter Jason Collett (of Broken Social Scene fame), or the tender Leonard Cohen cover “If It Be Your Will” with (five month pregnant) guest vocalist Elisapie.

As Leah brought down the floating moon in their final song, “The Garden”, there was a sense that we’d arrived. Equal parts ascension and send off, it was a charming way to say farewell to a good night.

Admit it, you were Let Down by those Thom Yorke jokes.

Today’s gonna be one of them mad dash to get this finished pieces. Don’t expect insight, salient views or scrumptious mental titillation. I wouldn’t ever expect that, but today will be devoid of any valid content. Bullet point time.

  • First up, Crabcore. Crabcore isn’t something that springs to mind often, but every once in a while I remember it and giggle a bunch. Then I’ll watch “Stick Stickly” a few times. If you’ve never seen Crabcore before, it’ll become apparent pretty quickly in the video. My favourite move is the Crabhammer. I might try a couple of crab moves, but invariably my pants are too tight.
  • It’s rare that I don’t flirt with memories of Crabcore without going back to check in with Crunkcore. It also was a thing. The music is twice as terrible and the imagery is silly as hell. I’m not gonna lie though, I’m kind of a fan of saturated colours. Maybe I have residual goodwill because one of the guys reminds me of Kevin Nealon, but much shorter.
  • When I think of saturated colours, I can’t help (falling in love) thinking of Hobo with a Shotgun. Brutal cartoon violence and a deeply uncomfortable colour palette. It was not a great movie, but with a couple of friends and a few drinks, it was pretty damn enjoyable.
  • A film that was great? Turbo Kid was great. I’ve raved about it here before. Set in the post apocalyptic future of 1997, it’s a glorious mishmash of Mad Max imagery with the spirit of BMX Bandits. Like Hobo with a Shotgun there was gratuitous cartoon violence, but it was a considerably more light-hearted affair. Great 80s throwback soundtrack and iconography. A joint Canadian/NZ film production, it’s one I need to see again.
  • Would Thom Yorke be considered idiosyncrateque?
  • Would Thom Yorke date on OKCompupid?
  • Is Thom Yorke’s first child named Kid A?
  • Was “Honey” Thom Yorke’s nickname for Pablo Escobar?
  • Does Thom Yorke remember Amnesiac?
  • Does Thom Yorke poo out moon shapes?
  • Does Thom Yorke call yoga “The Bends”?
  • Does Thom Yorke consider Lamb Shank the King of L(i/a)mbs?

I’ve done enough damage here. I’m out.

At precisely 3:06, I danced myself clean.

This is and isn’t a review for LCD Soundsystem at Air Canada Centre. If it is, it’s a sloppy one, lacking in objective perspective and proper cohesive structure. Primarily because there was nothing cohesive about my experience. It was weird and nostalgic and present and emotional. I was there in one sense and ten years back in another. TL;DR: I experienced liminal time.

Having never gone to the ACC for a gig before (I went to a Raptors game once) I didn’t quite know what to expect. As I said yesterday, I’ve shied away from stadium concerts for a while now. They’re so often this overblown experience where showboating is a matter of course. It’s less the artists’ fault and more in tune with societal expectations. If they’ve shelled out $100+ for a ticket, there’s the assumption that there’ll be a commensurate level of panache. I think. I dunno. I want to be close enough to the stage that I can see artists spit (Salive music?). Sure that’s doable at a gig with a few hundred others. Air Canada Centre fits over 19,000 people. I didn’t know what time I’d need to be there to have my desired spitting image.

Doors opened at 6pm. I was there at 5.50pm. I’m no stranger to being prompt and since this was the first gig I’d paid for in far too long, I resolved that I’d get my money’s worth. Whatever that odd concept of “value” means anyway. At worst I’d play on my phone and see the opener. Doors at 6pm would mean an opener at 7pm. I could wait an hour. I did. I wasn’t right up against the bar in front of the stage, but I was behind the guy who was. There was a rubber pad running along the floor at the front. It was flat, then sloped off. I stood firmly on the slope. My view of the stage was uninterrupted. I was stoked. I waited my hour, messed around on the internet and learned all about Cicada 3301 and weird hacker subcultures. It was creepy and fascinating. It was a good use of my time by any stretch of the imagination. At 7pm a DJ started playing to zero fanfare. She didn’t give a shit, she kept doing her thing and doing it well. I realised that in character for my withering physical detritus of a body, I was getting a little achy. I’d been staring down at my phone and my feet had been flexed on an angle for an hour. I shifted a bunch, but primarily ached more. Ageing is as ageing does.

8.30pm ticked by and the band finally took the stage. Any physical pain subsided due to pure ecstasy. I wasn’t drugged, but I may well have been. A smile crept across my face and refused to leave for the next two or so hours. By the end, I ached from grinning too. The stage looked like a cross between a disco and a submarine. Weird old electrical boards flanked the back, with wires patched in all over the show. A disco ball hung from the ceiling and lights were everywhere. Three drum kits, numerous keyboards and synths plus massive speakers. An impressive haul for any band.

James Murphy was like a large child starved for attention. The few times he wasn’t singing (and half the time he was), he’d get distracted and go play. Whether it was disassembling other people’s drum kits, hitting things or prodding himself with his own sticks or using the mic cord as a whip, he was rarely bored. Sometimes he mounted the speakers and turned his back on the crowd, like some kind of crazed conductor. He was glib and sarcastic, but there was no denying that the band were having a great time.

They weren’t the only ones. Everyone in my radius (who were, I guess, people that bothered showing up two hours early) were losing their minds. A constant series of gyrations, jumping, twisting and, I dunno, flicking, spinning and anything else Bop It does. We were all singing along and celebrating anything they threw our way. The setlist was a fantastic spread of their career, with a couple of great early pulls and a hugely crowd friendly assortment all around. I couldn’t have been more in my element.

Here’s the interesting thing about being right up the front at the ACC. You have no idea of scale. It was impossible to see much of the stands, or far behind me. My scope was no different than being at The Horseshoe Tavern. Because of this limited vantage, it changed my perspective entirely. These songs were broadly popular, sure, but they’d always been personal to me. LCD Soundsystem was the music of my 20s. “All My Friends” is nostalgic for too many reasons to count. From where I was standing, it was like I was seeing a band play with complete abandon in their garage. Despite the mammoth gig, it felt intensely intimate and special. At more than one occasion I teared up at how overwhelming it all was. In those moments I was there, but I was also travelling in an RV late at night after getting lost for ten hours. I was partying in the basement of my friend’s house with rainbow lights everywhere. I was running in the streets where I grew up. I was on a plane heading to Canada for my brother’s wedding. I was dancing with friends at a packed out warehouse party. I was living and re-living so many simultaneous moments that it didn’t matter where I was, I was happy.

If that ain’t value, I don’t know what is.

Don’t get old, get even?

The time has come. The time has come. The time has come today. For the first time in four and a half years of consistent concert-going I’m having to head to the Air Canada Centre for a gig. It had to happen eventually. I couldn’t just keep skirting the small, intimate venues forever. Eventually an band/artist of a certain magnitude would tour and that would be it. I’d have to face the music literally and metaphorically. I thought maybe St Vincent would break my stadium vir-gig-nity, but this evening’s entertainment is LCD Soundsystem. Not too shabby.

I’m getting to that stage in my life where I seem to be seeing most artists for the second or third time around. It happens. In my early 20s I was going out to a gig most weeks. I saw a shit ton of live music. Many of the artists I was into circa 2008-2010 are still putting out new albums. My appetite for seeing these folks live hasn’t really abated and financially, I’m in a much better spot to do it. Win win, right? LCD Soundsystem were one of the many bands I got to experience as part of The Big Day Out, New Zealand’s largest annual music festival. It always lay on or within a day or two of my birthday, so naturally my birthday gift was sorted each year. Over the nine simultaneous years I went, I saw so many bands that were integral to my music identity. Tool, Metallica, Muse, System of a Down, Bjork, Rage Against the Machine, Arcade Fire, Hot Chip, Foo Fighters, Girl Talk, TV on the Radio, etc etc and so on. It was a big highlight each year.

LCD Soundsystem’s set was outstanding. They were in The Boiler Room, which was essentially a big sweaty tent for ravers. As a veteran of the festival, I knew if I wanted a shot at seeing their whole set with a great view, I had to start waiting halfway through the set of the preceding artist. I can’t remember who they were, but it was worth the effort. Throughout their set I gradually wormed my way further ahead and by the time LCD Soundsystem started, I was in prime position. This was 2011, so I’d totally thrashed “This is Happening”. From the top to tail of their set, I was gripped. James Murphy was a bizarre, eccentric but profoundly gifted showman. Dressed in a bold white suit, he was a constant ball of energy. There was a looseness to the live performance that fit the band so well. A nice break in a time where it felt like everything in music was so calculated and tight.

It’s been years and LCD Soundsystem have remained in fairly constant rotation. If anything, the music has resounded with me a little more as I’ve aged. I don’t know that I really understood the concepts of fading relevance, losing potential and gripping fiercely to youth as I do now. I get the feeling that they’re the kind of band who’ll become more profound to me over the next ten years. A band I adore without really understanding how they become such a monstrous commercial force. Maybe these are evergreen topics and we all feel a little bit tired sometimes. Perhaps putting a record on and shaking it all out is the best we can do sometimes.

Or, y’know, buying an absurdly priced ticket and heading to the ACC.

In other words… “This is a safe place. Now never sleep again.”

I used to be a planner. My weekends were sorted well in advance. I had an active social life and was rarely without company. Since moving to Toronto, it’s rarer that I’ve sorted plans more than 24 hours beforehand. Social media is so pervasive that it’s often easy enough to just rely on event invites, then picking and choosing the cream of the crop. FOMO has become the body’s sixth sense and committing to something too early can feel backbreaking when a newer, better option comes along. Which is to say that I went into this weekend with only barebones plans. The weekend delivered.

On Friday night I won a Saturday day pass to Blood in the Snow, the Canadian horror film festival. After a lazy day, I didn’t make it there until 4.30pm, just in time to catch the fantastic Fake Blood. A neat combination of fact and fictional narrative, it followed two filmmakers who received a disturbing fan video. They then set out to make a documentary about whether filmmakers are responsible for their depictions of violence and the social effect they can have. Excellently paced, funny and intense at times. The film did an immense job of blurring real life events (the fan video was a very real thing) with fake interviews and characters. If it gets a wide release, it’s well worth seeing.

Next up was a compilation of short films. I thought the idea of seeing 14 different narratives in one session was a little overwhelming, but it mostly passed quite quickly. Quality varied. Some stories re-tread well worn territory in a way that made me question why they’d been made at all. Others showcased novel twists on common conventions. Others did amazing things on a low budget, using obfuscation as an effective tool of suspense. It was outstanding to see a couple of narratives that expanded from First Nations cultural myths, reinterpreting them for a modern context. There’s a bunch of creativity flowing through the Horror medium and I often forget how eager to push boundaries the genre is.

Later on I headed out dancing for a friend’s event. I have a bunch of experience dancing to electronic music of all genres. I go out to silly pop dance nights regularly enough. There’s a regular disco night in Toronto that’s fucking great. I’m not sure that I’ve ever gone out to a Dancehall/Reggaeton/Afrobeat gig before. It was a fucking blast. In a weird hideaway event venue underneath a bank, the speakers were cranked high enough that anything unsecured rattled. In my infinite wisdom (and infinite age), I brought earplugs. Thanks past me. The mix was tight and featured a bunch of tracks from one of A Tribe Called Red’s founding members. The dancing was insane. So many talented folks out there strutting their stuff.

Some of the footwork was unreal. Every now and again the crowd would part for some manner of dance off. The hype gal kept repeating “this is a safe space. Get your free redbulls from the bar”. I guess it worked, people were hyped. Saw a bunch of daggering, even two dudes daggering, which felt pretty progressive. I made the mistake of going on my own to meet up with friends. The event started at 10pm, I arrived at 11pm. My friends arrived around 12.30pm, by which time I was a sweaty mess. I know this, because the venue was lined with mirrors. It’s bizarre and distracting to be able to see yourself dancing. Mostly I pointedly looked the other way.

Today with no plans I’ve got a low key day of shopping and making soup. With days like these, why plan?

Let’s call it PUP-y love.

It’s been a long workday and I’ve got very little gas left in my brain. Let’s find out what it wants to talk about today.

I’ve never been hugely into punk. Even in my teens I veered hard into metal territory and didn’t look back until I hit age 20. Emo surged into popularity during my time in high school and by association, punk lost its lustre. The closest I came to punk fandom would’ve been my appreciation for Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come and anything by At The Drive In. If there’s any point to my preamble it’s this; I’m no authority on punk music.

That being said, yesterday I finally listened to PUP’s The Dream is Over and it has to be the finest punk album I’ve heard in years. Toronto hometown heroes kicked the shit out of their sophomore slump. Discounting the fact that it’s the only punk album I’ve heard in years, I’m still of the opinion that it’s a remarkable showcase of what the genre embodies. It’s punchy and energetic. The riffs are explosive and the growls are backed by short sharp harmonies. The lyrics are wry and aggressive, cheekiness to the core. The whole album clocks in at 30 minutes and, in my experience prompts an instant replay. I’ve listened about 12 times since yesterday morning. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long and I’m gutted as shit that, seeing as they’re Toronto locals, I’ve missed so many live performances over the years.

Once again, I’m taking a weird unearned amount of glee at hearing that another DCEU film is an expensive, bloated, tedious poorly directed piece of shit. Justice League sounds like its tagline should be “Better than Suicide Squad at least.” I’ll call my reaction exactly what it is: A holdover from the 90s where fandom came with this bizarre sense of tribalism attached. I was always a Marvel kid and now as an adult, it feels like my faith was justified. I can’t speak for my ardent defence of the Sega Saturn though. Surely I should want everyone to get great superhero films that showcase all the wonderful facets of their favourite childhood characters. Really though, I’m a petty, snide asshole who’s still rooting for the downfall of DC comics. Boring heroes who’re for the most part too pious for my tastes.

It’s like dumping on the newest DCEU film has become a sport and the winners are the readers.

From The AV Club:
“Don’t let the slick, well-chosen production stills fool you: This is for the most part a cramped and cheaply ugly movie, with crappy special effects. The nicest thing that can be said is that the producers have made it impossible for viewers to tell what is and isn’t a reshoot; a significant part of the movie is set in cramped, windowless rooms or in front of obvious green screens.”

From Variety, on Whedon’s late game additions:
“Whedon’s humor is grafted on in too-obvious ways; it sticks out incongruously amid all the stilted mechanics of this alarmingly basic movie. All these Whedonisms have the opposite of the intended effect. They give off a strenuous hum, the desperate sound of a turd polished in vain.”

From The Hollywood Reporter:
“Fatigue, repetition and a laborious approach to exposition are the keynotes of this affair, which is also notable for how Ben Affleck, donning the bat suit for the second time, looks like he’d rather be almost anywhere else but here”

Metacritic has it at a 51%, which is actually remarkably respectable for DC’s hit rate. I was probably never gonna see it anyway, I’m really only here for the reviews.

Anyway, I’m out. See you tomorrow, same Bat Channel.