“I suck at math–that’s why I went into journalism” is a line I’ve heard for decades. And I’ve always hated it because journalism is no place for people who hate numbers and science to hide. After all, most good stories need numbers. So I wrote a little rant about it on the Ryerson Review of Journalism blog.
Needless to Say
By Tim on March 12, 2015
By Tim on December 31, 2014
I’ve been doing an annual “middle-aged teenager picks his best music of the year” post for a while now. It’s always been a list, though I haven’t ranked my choices and the number of albums I picked varied. It wasn’t that I like lists so much — I don’t — but because lists are easy. Not just easy for the writer, but also easy for readers, who can quickly scan a list looking for the albums (or movies or books or whatever) that match their picks–and the ones that don’t, but sound worth checking out. Now, though, there’s a backlash against lists, which is a good thing, especially for the people who have to work in what New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum calls “the journalistic list mines.” Here, then, are some thoughts on what I loved listening to in 2014. (The links will take you to a song from the album on YouTube.)
When I first heard Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs in March, I was convinced it would be my favourite album of the year. After all, it was the best album I’d heard in ages. And, sure enough, nothing else came close as month after month came and went. The album sounds fresh and inventive, yet owes so much to the past, to its many influences. Every time I talk to someone or read something about this album, I hear about different influences, mostly from the ’80s, from Roxy Music to Springsteen to Talk Talk and lots in between. I love listening to it.
So, yeah, I devoted a lot of time to that album and when I wasn’t listening to it, I listened to a lot of women, which is always a good thing. St. Vincent’s St. Vincent, Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There, Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness are three albums that a lot of people talked about. But I was surprised that Lucinda Williams’s Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone didn’t receive more year-end praise. I think it’s an impressive return to form and her best in at least a decade. Meanwhile, Alvvays made an delightful debut with the poppy Alvvays, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings gave the people what they want with Give the People What They Want and Mirah, who I discovered when she made an album with Thao a few years ago, put out a fine solo record, Changing Light. Three albums by women or bands with female leaders were initially a bit disappointing — perhaps because I didn’t think they were as strong as their previous offerings (though in each case that may have been an unfair standard). But the more I listened to Stay Gold by First Aid Kit, Too True by the Dum Dum Girls and We Come from the Same Place by Allo Darlin’, the more I discovered their charms. (I see that some people added Courtney Barnett’s The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas to their 2014 list and I’d add it to mine except that it made my 2013 list.)
As for the guys, I have to admit I hadn’t listened to much Beck in recent years but people I respect were raving about Morning Phase so I checked it out. Turns out I respect the people I respect for good reasons. Leonard Cohen kept chugging along with Popular Problems. Now an octogenarian, he’s still in his salad days. Speaking of which, Mac DeMarco’s Salad Days was also excellent. Half the City from St. Paul & The Broken Bones gave me great pleasure while Spoon ought to change its name to Consistency because the band did it again with They Want My Soul. And speaking of ought, Montreal’s Ought put out a really fun debut album called More than Any Other Day.
There were others, of course, but I hope you find something new in these ones.
Posted in music | Tagged 2014, Allo Darlin, Angel Olsen, Beck, Courtney Barnett, Dum Dum Girls, First Aid Kit, Lost in the Dream, Lucinda Williams, music, Ought, Sharon Jones, Sharon Van Etten, Spoon, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, St. Vincent, War on Drugs | Leave a response
By Tim on October 18, 2014
DNTO, or Definitely Not the Opera, the excellent CBC Radio show did an episode called “Raise your voice: why is singing so powerful?” on Thanksgiving weekend. I was part of it, talking about bad singing. The producer who did the pre-interview didn’t say anything about wanting me to sing, but once I was in the studio, host Sook-Yin Lee made me do it. Embarrassing, but good radio, I’m told. You can stream it or download the podcast on the DNTO site.
By Tim on May 6, 2014
As part of my Bad Singer book project, I helped make a radio doc called “The Ballad of Tin Ears” for CBC Radio Ideas. It airs Tuesday, May 6 at 9 pm on CBC 1. If that’s not a convenient time for you, the show is available for streaming anytime (also available as a podcast for a limited time).
The one-hour show features culture, ethnomusicology, neuroscience, psychology and singing — some of it, admittedly, mine (let’s just say the shower scene is the scariest since Psycho).
I hope you will find it entertaining and that it will give you a better sense of what will be in Bad Singer, which will be out from House of Anansi Press in 2015.
Posted in Bad Singer, books, music | Tagged amusia, bad singer, cbc ideas, ethnomusicology, music, music and the brain, nueroscience, psychology, singing, the ballad of tin ears, tone deafness | Leave a response
By Tim on April 26, 2014
I’m writing a book called Bad Singer. It won’t be out until 2015, but I guess it’s never too early to start the publicity. So I’m speaking at the Farmhouse Pottery Gallery and Cafe near Orangeville, Ontario, on May 1.
Despite what this promotional material says, I won’t be singing. But if for some perverse reason you do want to hear me sing, listen to “The Ballad of Tin Ears,” the episode of CBC Radio Ideas that I worked on. It airs May 6 at 9 pm.
By Tim on March 26, 2014
Because the publishing industry is weird, Drop the Worry Ball, the parenting book I helped psychologist Alex Russell write, is out again. With a new cover. From a new publisher. At a new lower price.
Here’s what happened: Wiley, our original publisher, decided to get out of trade books and sold its list — including Drop the Worry Ball — to Collins. Unfortunately, that meant that the popular book wasn’t available in bookstores for several months. But now it is.
By Tim on March 26, 2014
I said I wouldn’t do it again. In fact, in December, 2011, I wrote “A Fond Farewell,” a post saying goodbye to the Ryerson Review of Journalism after being the instructor on the award-winning magazine five times. But last September, I took the job again. And I’m glad I did: it was lots of fun and my fabulous students produced another outstanding issue of the venerable publication.
Buy it on newsstands now or follow @RyersonReview because we’re going to start posting one story a day at rrj.ca.
By Tim on January 20, 2014
What’s the Klondike really like today, more than a century after the Gold Rush? Well, according to one filmmaker who lives in Dawson City, it’s like Leonard Cohen’s Greece. Here’s “Klondike Creative Class,” my story about the coolest town in Canada and how it created a thriving arts community.
And here’s an interview Maisonneuve editor Haley Cullingham did with me about writing what you love and capturing Canada’s North.
By Tim on December 30, 2013
Here are my favourite albums of 2013:
• The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas
Ever listen to NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast? It’s a great way to discover new music. Exhibit A is this album from an Australian singer-songwriter
• The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Flight, the More I Love You
She never disappoints, does she?
• Push the Sky Away
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
More mood and texture than rock ‘n’ roll, but still great
• We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
Such good fun
I did this list alphabetically, but if I’d ranked my top 10, this might have been number one
• Pushin’ Against a Stone
Discovered this one on a Billy Bragg recommendation (and speaking of Billy Bragg, he also put out a fine album this year)
• Perils from the Sea
Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle
“Baby in Death Can I Rest Next to Your Grave” is such a compelling song—and one of the best of the year
• Trouble Will Find Me
I didn’t know what to make of this album when it first came out, but I couldn’t stop playing it. So that’s a good sign, right? Not as great as some of this band’s earlier work, but oddly compelling
• We the Common
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
My love affair with this singer grows with every album
• Cerulean Salt
A fabulous follow-up to American Weekend
Just missed the cut: Phosphorescent’s Muchacho and Charles Bradley’s Victim of Love
Posted in music | Tagged Courtney Barnett, Foxygen, Jason Isbell, Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle, music, Neko Case, Nick Cave, Thao, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, The National, top 10, Valerie June, Waxahatchee | Leave a response
By Tim on December 23, 2012
I couldn’t do it. There was so much fabulous music this year that I just couldn’t narrow it down to a Top 10. So here—alphabetically because there was no way I could rank them—are the twenty-five albums I listened to, and enjoyed, the most this year. Yeah, twenty-five (and it was hard enough getting it down to that).
• Europe – Allo Darlin’
All Music Guide calls this “twee pop,” which doesn’t sound like something I would want to listen to. But I love this album. Why it isn’t on more lists is beyond me. Here’s “The Letter”
• The Carpenter – The Avett Brothers
True, there’s nothing as infectious as “I and Love and You” on it, but this is another great album from these guys. Here’s “Winter in My Heart”
• Barchords – Bahamas
Laid back and lovely. Here’s “Lost in the Light”
• Break It Yourself – Andrew Bird
If I had to pick one album as the best of the year, this gorgeous one might just be it. Here’s “Orpheo Looks Back”
• The Marble Downs – Bonnie “Prince” Billy
Another gem from Will Oldham, this one a collaboration with Trembling Bells. Here’s “Love is a Velvet Noose”
• Sun – Cat Power
Almost left this one off the list because I made the mistake of going to see Cat Power instead of The Mountain Goats, but then I listened to “Nothin But Time” again
• Old Ideas – Leonard Cohen
When I saw Cohen a few weeks ago, he played all his old classics and the songs from this album were still among my favourites of the night (though I was bummed he played “Show Me the Place” his second night in Toronto, not his first)
• Swing Lo Magellan – Dirty Projectors
Thought this might take me several listens so I was surprised I liked it so much so quickly. Here’s “Impregnable Question”
• End of Daze – Dum Dum Girls
Good thing this is only an EP because if a whole album was this great, my head might explode from joy. Proud to say I am a Dum Dum boy. Here’s “I Got Nothing”
• Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now – Justin Townes Earle
How many brilliant albums does this guy have to put out before we forget he has a famous father? (And I ask that even though I love his father.) Can’t find the album version of “Am I that Lonely Tonight?” so here’s “Memphis in the Rain”
• Fear Fun – Father John Misty
Lots of fun live, too (especially when he did a Canned Heat cover to end the show). Here’s “Only Son of a Ladiesman”
• The Lion’s Roar – First Aid Kit
Two Swedish sisters put out the best folk album of the year? Works for me. Here’s “In the Hearts of Men”
• Celebration Rock – Japandroids
One of the few albums on my list that is on most of the year-end lists I’ve seen. And deservedly so. Great fun. Here’s “The House that Heaven Built”
• Blues Funeral – Mark Lanegan
“If tears were liquor, I’d have drunk myself sick.” Here’s “St. Louis Elegy”
• I Can See the Future – Eleni Mandell
Another lovely album from Eleni. And while I am not really a fan of videos, I can watch “Magic Summertime” again and again and again
• Transcendental Youth – The Mountain Goats
Why did I go to Cat Power instead of seeing John Darnielle again? Here’s “Transcendental Youth”
• My Head is an Animal – Of Monsters and Men
I really need to get to Iceland. Here’s “Little Talks”
• Strange Weekend – Porcelain Raft
I listened to this a lot during my three months in Dawson City and it brought me a lot of joy. Here’s “Put Me to Sleep”
• Between the Times and the Tides – Lee Ranaldo
Why didn’t more of you people listen to this fabulous solo album from the Sonic Youth guitarist? Here’s the album version of “Xtina as I Knew Her” and a great live version of it
• Interstellar – Frankie Rose
Synth pop done right. Dreamy. Here’s “Know Me”
• Provincial – John K. Samson
Maybe not as consistent as the work he’s done with the Weakerthans, but some great stuff here, including “When I Write My Master’s Thesis”
• Sweet Heart Sweet Light – Spiritualized
“Hey Jane” is one of the best songs of the year
• Tramp – Sharon Van Etten
Talented singer-songwriter. Here’s “I’m Wrong”
• The Something Rain – Tindersticks
Haunting. Here’s “Frozen”
• Local Business – Titus Andronicus
It’s not The Monitor, but I got over that and just enjoyed it. Here’s “In a Big City”
Beach House, Best Coast, David Byrne & Saint Vincent, DIIV, Kathleen Edwards, Grizzly Bear, The Heavy, the list goes on…
Posted in music | Tagged 2012, Allo Darlin, Andrew Bird, Avett Brothers, Bahamas, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Cat Power, Dirty Projectors, Dum Dum Girls, Eleni Mandell, Father John Misty, First Aid Kit, Frankie Rose, Japandroids, John K. Samson, Justin Townes Earle, Lee Ranaldo, Leonard Cohen, Mark Lanegan, Mountain Goats, music, Of Monsters and Men, Porcelain Raft, Sharon Van Etten, Spiritualized, Tindersticks, Titus Andronicus | Leave a response