Tag Archives: 54-40

7 Points Of Interest For CMW 2017 Veteran Attendees



Say you’re the kind of person who can remember a time when there were eight major record labels operating in Canada. Back then, there was no YouTube, or Soundcloud, or Bandcamp. There was no Napster, no streaming, and there was certainly no Twitter or Facebook.

When you wanted to learn about new music you had three choices: listen to the radio (but that was always a Pyrrhic victory because you had to listen to the radio), you could find out about new bands by reading what your favourite music writers in daily, weekly or monthly publications were recommending, or, you could chase down these new sounds the truest way — by trudging in and out of the clubs to check things out.

By doing this you’ve seen soooo many great bands. Some that never broke (Flashing Lights, Copyright, Deadly Snakes, Tangiers, Royal City) and some that, relatively at least, did (Broken Social Scene, The Dears, Constantines, Joel Plaskett).

You’ve been doing this sort of thing for 19 straight years now. And you’re tired. The thought of jostling with college kids with unearned beards in over-capacity clubs to see the “next big thing” doesn’t sound pleasant in any way.

And yet, the spirit remains willing.

So you brace yourself. It is, once again, Canadian Music Week. And once again all of the Canadian music industry will descend upon Toronto to polish up and show off their latest pet projects while a whole separate underclass of patronless dreamers will also arrive in the hopes of “networking” and “making some valuable connections”… but mostly by trying to push unwanted flyers and stickers on you.

It can seem all too much. But you know there are still great bands and great songs out there, so you mutter, “I’m getting too old for this shit” and once again step into the breach…

This time it’s different, though.

Because you are getting too old for this, you know that many of these “new projects we’re working on” are bullshit false flags. You know that party with seafood will smell like seafood and that’s enough for you to skip it. And you also know that navigating the website will, as always, be a Sisyphussian lesson on why organizations should never let musicians and their representatives self-curate their profiles on your web real estate.

Your plan is to simply say “fuck it,” to not be moved by the hype, to not have to cool hunt. You’re going to see what you know, what you like, and what’s not going to irritate the shit out of you.

I’ve identified seven ways in which you can fulfill this quest. Read them below:

Wednesday, April 19 @ Phoenix Concert Theatre as part of the INDIE Awards

54-40 have always been a bit taken for granted all these years because they’ve always been good and they’ve always been with us. But the CanRock we’ve all known and loved for so many years is dying. Rush have retired, it’s been made clear it’s impolite to speculate on The Hip’s future, but y’know, the ’70s and ’80s acts like April Wine, David Wilcox and Loverboy are lumbering into their twilight years, and all those ’90s acts who went gold on every record have officially exhausted all their reunions. Against this, we still have 54-40. They’re getting some sort of lifetime achievement award and they deserve it.

Charlotte Day Wilson
Wednesday, April 19 @ Mod Club
Thursday, April 20 @ Mod Club

There’s a whole generation of young adults who’ve never heard Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and who wouldn’t know a Massive Attack record if Banksy spray-painted one in their ears. To these people, Charlotte Day Wilson is their fast-emerging new queen. That’s not meant to be dismissive. Wilson’s voice is chillingly good and if there is a legit “next big thing” performing at CMW this year, she is it. Seeing Wilson is your best bet to score easy cred points this week.

The Silver Dollar

If you haven’t heard, the Silver Dollar is basically dead. But on the way out, mercurial concert promoter Dan Burke has booked a number of righteous RIP shows up until the end of the month to honour the place. You owe it to yourself to make a stop by this week and pay your respects. And when Dan tries to pretend you’re not on the guest list, or that there’s no more room for wristband holders and badges and it’s paying customers only, just pay your $10 and enjoy the experience. You’ll be happy you did when the new Silver Dollar ground floor retail space/resto-lounge mood-boarded by some Charles Khabouth design protege opens in 2021 and ruins everything.

Danko Jones
Wednesday, April 19 @ Velvet Underground

I’ve got a strong suspicion that large pockets of the “the industry” in Canada hate Danko Jones. And I’ve got an equally strong suspicion Danko feels the same way about them. But the band are still here, playing a showcase-style gig anyway. Officially endorsed by Lemmy from Motorhead and Duff McKagan from Guns n’ Roses, they’re big enough in Europe that they get to negotiate the font size of their name on festival posters. This may very well be an act of defiance-as-rock concert for all those haters, which makes it kinda exciting.

Thursday, April 20 @ Costume House (165 Geary Avenue)
Saturday, April 22 @ A Common Sort (free Record Store Day show)

Gal singer + “soundscape” producer duos are second only to “sounds like Drake” for things the music world doesn’t need any more of in 2017. Except for She-Devils, that is. This Montreal pair are mighty compelling in a they-could-have-been-on-4AD-back-in-the-day way. Instead, their first album is going to be on Secretly Canadian, which in its way is almost the same thing, and they’ll be among peers like SUUNS, Anohni, Jens Lekman and Yoko Ono. With their ’60s pop grooves and Velvet Underground world weariness, this may be the actualization of what Andy Warhol wanted in Nico. If your old bones are going to take a chance on something, this is it.

Worst Place To Score Seats

I’ve ranked a number of the key participating CMW venues on how unlikely it is you’ll be able to score a seat if you show up during non-peak, non-at capacity times. The lower the ranking, the lower your chances of avoiding crippling back spasms throughout the week:

15) Horseshoe Tavern
14) Lee’s Palace
13) Silver Dollar
12) Monarch Tavern
11) Cameron House
10) The Paddock
9) The Rivoli
8) Bovine Sex Club
7) Dakota Tavern
6) Mod Club
5) The Garrison
4) Adelaide Hall
3) Drake Underground
2) Velvet Underground
1) Great Hall

The Dandy Warhols and The Sadies
Friday, April 21 @ Lee’s Palace as part of the Dine Alone showcase

Finally, a bill you understand. A label you’ve heard of is putting on a stacked bill with bands you’ve actually heard of and it’s got a headliner whose one album you really liked and they were funny in that documentary and it’s a bit of an underplay for them. You just gotta figure out who you still know who can get you on the guest list…


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Aaron’s Top 10 Albums Of 1998

Baxter in 2010

Baxter in 2010

This was my official Top 10 album list for 1998:

1. Baxter Baxter
2. The Jesus And Mary Chain Munki
3. Lauryn Hill The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
4. Massive Attack Mezzanine
5. Mercury Rev Deserter’s Songs
6. Space Tin Planet
7. PJ Harvey Is This Desire?
8. 54-40 Since When
9. Godspeed You Black Emperor! F#A#∞
10. The Inbreds Winning Hearts

Not to be confused with the post-hardcore band Baxter featuring Tim McIlrath, later of Rise Against, the Baxter I’m talking about were a Swedish electronica trio signed to Madonna’s Maverick label. I still stand by their self-titled debut album and listen to it today. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was one of the best, most slept on records of the ’90s.

Singer Nina Ramsby cooed morbid Nordic spells over an elegant wash of drum ‘n’ bass in songs that were just a touch too jagged and heartbroken to rank as car commercial sellout techno. This was the stuff.

Here’s their song “Television,” 13 years before Lykke Li:

The Jesus And Mary Chain are one of my favourite bands. And when they put out Munki on Sub Pop I was pretty excited about it. Time has tempered my enthusiasm somewhat and I can admit now what I couldn’t admit then — Munki is definitely not a Top 10 album.

Remember that year when Lauryn Hill was the greatest? I do. Then she went cray-cray. In hindsight this album has a few mind-blowers, a personal fave being “Lost One,” but it maybe captures more of a time and a place. And Hill’s dropping off hasn’t helped its legacy.

“Doo Wop (That Thing)” remains classic:

I interviewed Massive Attack for the Mezzanine album on the same day that Avi Lewis from The New Music did. I remember being so bummed that I didn’t get a great interview out of them when I finished, but later, when I saw that they FELL ASLEEP during Avi’s interview I felt pretty awesome — at least I was able to keep them awake.

Mercury Rev Deserter’s Songs is still beautiful. It’s definitely their high-water mark as a band, and if you’re the sort that likes to map out family trees, I’d argue that Deserter’s Songs is one of the pillar records for the sprawling indie rock that would eventually be perfected by Arcade Fire. This still holds up.

The band Space are responsible for one of the best singles of the ’90s.


That song’s not on Tin Planet, though. So I think I was feeling a bit compensatory by trying to jam this one onto my Top 10.

It does at least have the song “The Ballad Of Tom Jones,” which is a particularly cheeky duet between Space’s Tommy Scott and Cerys Matthews of Catatonia. Sarah and I have contemplated learning it as a karaoke slayer.

“The Ballad Of Tom Jones”

PJ Harvey’s one of my foundation artists. I think she’s brilliant and fascinating, and Is This Desire? remains one of my favourite albums by her. I prefer her when she’s doing less howling, and more dark purring, which is what she does here. PJ believes it’s the best album she’s ever made and I just might agree. This should probably go higher in hindsight.

Check out “The Wind”:

54-40’s Since When? I really like this band. Always have. Not really sure why it made it on this list, though.

Yeah, I was just as swept up in Godspeed You Black Emperor! and their album F#A#∞ as every other young, enthusiastic music writer. Going back to it, this record’s still unique and interesting, it’s just not… special anymore. The best parts of their sound and technique ended up getting lifted by all the next generation Montreal bands who’d take what they heard here into more manageable/palatable territory. Which arguably makes F#A#∞ still relevant and awesome, but nobody in 2011 wants to do their computing on an Apple Classic II, right?

The Inbreds Winning Hearts? This one’s probably another sympathetic choice. The Inbreds were just about done as a band at this point and as someone who had spent his teen years romancing the Halifax scene and finally having the authority to write my very own fancy published Top 10 album list in a music magazine I was probably swept up in the drama of it all. I haven’t even ripped this album into iTunes all these years later. Still like the band, though.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1


Filed under Music, Recollections