Tag Archives: Music

Julia Jacklin’s ‘Crushing’ Is Aaron’s Top Album Of 2019

Julia Jacklin Crushing

Julia Jacklin Crushing

Doing an annual top albums list for as long as I have one starts to see the true value in the exercise. It’s not the ranking, codifying or picking the “best” things so much as it’s about stitching together a tapestry of one’s year and seeing the patterns that emerged.

Much like in 2018, a lot of my personal music listening energy was devoted to my Before They Die list — a meticulously curated list of musical acts I need to see before, well, y’know — and I ended up catching 12 on-the-list and 17 list-adjacent acts on top of whatever other concert-going I did.

That meant a little less energy spent on discovery. It also meant if one pattern emerged it was that there was lots of leaning on the past. I don’t mean that in the Rolling Stone Magazine-will-always-give-Dylan/Springsteen/Stones-perfect-reviews leaning on the past kinda way. What it did mean, though, was there were a lot of albums that could be argued represent new forms of things I’ve enjoyed in the past.

Read below to see the patterns that emerged.

Bubbling under for 2019: Abjects, Geoff Berner, Sondra Sun-Odeon, Mimico, Jacques Greene, King Gizzard, De la Noche, PUP, Wargirl. (Also, Thus Owls’ The Mountain That We Live Upon probably would have been my #3 but it came out in Sept. 2018 and that was just too 2018.)

10) Mercury Rev — Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited

The best part of an album isn’t always the album itself, so much as the sense of discovery around the album. Mercury Rev redoing Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete with a cast of guest vocalists not only serves as a wonderful intro to Gentry, but also makes a wonderful entry point for contributors like Margo Price, Carice van Houten (Melisandre from Game of Thrones can sing?) and Phoebe Bridgers.

Hear “Sermon” ft Margo Price

9) Angel Olsen — All Mirrors

Sometimes when I play Fantasy A&R Man the best idea I can come up with is “a new Connie Francis… but goth.” There are points on Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors where she comes this close.

Watch “All Mirrors”

8) Murray Lightburn — Hear Me Out

I’m a firm Dears loyalist and might consider them my favourite Canadian band. However, my acceptance of their transition from an early days chaotic bombast machine to something with more dignity and refinement has been hard won. So it was a touch surprising that Lightburn lead singer Murray Lightburn’s bombast-free second solo album would strike so deep. What Lightburn gives us — “I Give Up” is a soul ballad from another time, “I’m Not Broken” has knowing gospel touches — paints with just enough different colours to enthrall.

Watch “Changed My Ways”

7) Rustin Man — Drift Code

This record is quite literally the output of a wobbly old weirdo who spent two decades building a science project in his back shed. Read my full review here.

Watch “Judgement Train”

6) Tallies — Tallies

It’s been a slow and not absolute process, but I’m on my way to divesting from Morrissey because of his terrible politics and worldview and middling late-period music. Having an act like Tallies and songs like the jangle gem “Midnight” help soften this transition.

Watch “Midnight”

5) Deadbeat Beat — How Far

If you like Sloan’s Jay songs you’ll love Deadbeat Beat’s How Far. I’m particularly partial to “Dim Bulbs.”

Watch “You Lift Me Up”

4) Michael Kiwanuka — Kiwanuka

This new Kiwanuka album is exquisite — a majestic, soaring, hands-held-high sermon from Mt. Soul. The brilliance of the individual bits of this record are only half the story, though. The other half comes from basking in the glow of the brilliant craftsmanship. Kiwanuka is a master of his domain and to be able to witness such excellence is its own type of reward.

Watch “You Ain’t The Problem”

3) Moonface — This One’s for the Dancer & This One’s for the Dancer’s Bouquet

Technically, this was a late 2018 release, but I didn’t really tweak to it until well into 2019. And yes, I realize that it’s near hypocritical to endorse Moonface while disqualifying Thus Owls, but it’s my list and my rules, so suck it.

This One’s for the Dancer & This One’s for the Dancer’s Bouquet is a fascinator. It’s two separate projects — half a delayed keyboard treatment audio experiment, and half songs sung from the perspective of the Minotaur of Greek mythology — woven together to create something otherworldly and unique. The Minotaur songs strike particularly deeply. For a giant, blood-thirsty, bull-headed beast, the Minotaur’s journey forgiving all those who’ve hurt it is one of the most genuine, better and human set of stories I’ve heard put to song.

Watch “Minotaur Forgiving Knossos”

2) Hawksley Workman — Median Age Wasteland

In the year 2019 I was not expecting to a) rate a Hawksley Workman album so highly, and b) to feel it so deeply. And yet here we are.

To be fair, I’ve always been casually fond of Workman’s dandy woodsman idiosyncrasy, but with Median Age Wasteland he seems optimized. Having the above-mentioned Murray Lightburn on production probably helped. Certainly Workman’s vocals are both torqued up and focused in ways they may not have been in the past. Where Median Age Wasteland truly stands out, though, is in the storytelling. Whether it’s the mythologizing of a snowmobile (“Snowmobile”), the joyful BMX bike gang journeying (“Battlefords”), the tributes to forgotten figure skaters (“Oksana”) or even the outwardly ludicrous (“Stoners Never Dream”), Workman takes us to fantastical places with each and every song.

Watch “Italy”

1) Julia Jacklin — Crushing

At the 4:27 mark of Jacklin’s “Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You” she delivers a series of repeated “don’t. know. how. to. keep. loving. you” lines so charged, so gut-wrenching you can’t help but worry if Jacklin will ever find her way. The entire Crushing album is filled with these emotion-charged bombs as Jacklin explores unraveling relationships, personal agency, hurt and self-healing in an unflinchingly beautiful way.

Watch “Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You”

Other album lists…

2018 Top Ten — Idles’ Joy As An Act Of Resistance. is #1
2017 Top Ten — Land Of Talk’s Life After Youth is #1
2016 Top Ten — Daniel Romano‘s Mosey is #1
2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart’s 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

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Filed under Concerts, Music, Recollections

Death Of An iPod And The Comfort In Specific Objects

Recently Sarah’s beloved sixth-generation black 80GB iPod Classic died.

This wasn’t just a loss because of the difficulty in trying to find some new surrogate device, it was a loss because the iPod represented a specific type of comfort object for her.

Sarah explained why in a piece for Vox’s The Goods section.

To read it go here.

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Filed under Culture, Music, Recollections, Shameless Promotion

Awesome Music Project Uses Feel-Good Stories To Fund Music Therapy

The Awesome Music Project

When the Awesome Music Project Canada: Songs Of Hope And Happiness book was released this fall it had two goals:

a) Share the 111 stories from people across Canada (including famous types like Sarah McLachlan and Theo Fleury) who explained how music deeply affected them.
b) Use money from sales of said book to support music therapy research.

The Awesome Music Project is fast expanding, though, with live events and books in the works.

I spoke to co-creator Terry Stuart about it for Samaritanmag.

To read the interview go here.

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Filed under Books, Music, Shameless Promotion

Behind The Music At Toronto Maple Leafs Games

If you’ve been watching the Toronto Maple Leafs this year you’ll know that every time they score a goal a Hall & Oates song blasts through the home rink in celebration.

Getting to be the official goal song for a pro hockey team is a real honour. But just getting on the in-game playlist in any capacity is just as big.

I spoke to the Arkells, The Sheepdogs, USS and the staff at MLSE about what’s involved in having a successful jock jam.

Read the story at SOCAN Words and Music by clicking here.

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Filed under Jock Stuff, Music

FKA Twigs And Martial Arts

FKA Twigs

FKA Twigs may be a darling of the music critic set, but she’s also a badass. In the literal sense.

The musician has recently taken up the martial art of wushu.

Sarah wrote about it for Asian World Of Martial Arts.

To read her piece go here.

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Filed under Jock Stuff, Music, Shameless Promotion

Samaritan News 19 Pack: Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Ellen, More

David Gilmour, ex-Pink Floyd

Here are 19 pieces I contributed to the charitably-minded entertainment site Samaritanmag:

Lana Del Rey Releases New Anti-Gun Song, Proceeds Will Support Three Mass Shooter Victim Funds

Sonic Unyon, Jillard Guitars Creating 25 Custom Guitars To Support An Instrument For Every Child Charity

WATCH: Roger Hodgson and Young Musicians on Autism Spectrum Perform Give A Little Bit

Gilroy Garlic Festival Has Donated Millions of Dollars Over 40 Years

Tenille Townes’ New Single Supports Homeless Girl Scouts

The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund Report Reveals Organization Has Supported Reconciliation Efforts In 561 Schools

Grammy Museum Gives $200,000 To Music Science, Archive Projects

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sells 120 Guitars, Raises $21.5 Million To Fight Climate Crisis

Eagles Rising Billboard Campaign About Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women

Taylor Swift Releases Video For Pro-LGBTQ Song “You Need To Calm Down”

Radiohead Use Ransom Threat To Support Climate Crisis Group Extinction Rebellion

Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” Reimagined For 25th Anniversary To Help Find Missing Children

Ellen DeGeneres Backs Virtual Reality Game Used To Protect Gorillas In Rwanda

National Music Centre Unveils Indigenous Music Week Programming and Permanent Exhibit on Musician Activists

Sufjan Stevens Releases Two Songs For Pride Month

Apple Expands Number Of Locations To Recycle Old Devices

Prince Harry and Meghan Do Instagram Purge Then Support 16 Mental Health Causes

Royal Conservatory’s Signature Fundraiser To Honour Rock Legends Lighthouse

Hardcore Punk Vets D.O.A. Declare Time To Fight Back With New Video

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Filed under Culture, Environment, Health, Music, Politics, Shameless Promotion

Carmen Electra Talks Prince, Wants to Work With Skrillex in Musical Return

Carmen Electra

Carmen Electra

It’s been almost 20 years since Prince first discovered Carmen Electra, but the actress, dancer and TV personality still thinks of her time as the Purple One’s protege fondly.

“It was the most unreal, amazing experience of my life,” Electra said about being in the studio and on the road with him. “Just to be around someone that’s so brilliant. I mean, obviously he’s a genius, and just seeing his work ethic and what he does and how creative he is. It’s so inspiring.”

It’s even become something of a personal self-affirmation for her.

“To this day, if I’m not feeling inspired, I think of those moments. Or if I’m feeling insecure sometimes, I’ll think to myself, ‘Well, Prince believed in me! I can do this!'” she giggles.

In a way, though, Prince was also responsible for her two decade-long disappearance from the music scene. Although she’s often thought of returning over the years, she admits that it was pretty hard to follow up on recording her debut album with Prince as a producer. “I kind of felt like, working with Prince, what do you do after that?”

Besides, so many other things were falling into Electra’s lap that her music career got pushed to the side.

“When I officially moved to Los Angeles, I started auditioning for different things and different opportunities came my way and I kind of felt like, even though music was what I originally set out to do. I couldn’t pass by some of the opportunities to be on MTV, to be part of the cast of Baywatch. It was so cool, but something that I had no idea was going to happen.”

Electra never really gave up on her first artistic love, though, and when the opportunity to record a track called “I Like it Loud” with famed producer Bill Hammel (Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, U2), she knew that it was time to get back in the studio.

“I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing,” she says of her tentative return. “I just kind of thought, ‘Let me go into the studio and record this song and get my feet wet. We’ll see where it goes from there.'”

The result of that little experiment is a banging club track in which Electra playfully lays down Ke$ha-like likes about partying, Instragramming and attempting “that Lana Dey Rey pout.”

“We love her! We love her!” she enthuses about the “Video Games” singer. “She’s gorgeous and she has that pout and she’s amazing.”

And while it may have started out as a bit of a lark, “I Like it Loud” has garnered enough attention to convince the potential pop star to record a full album.

“I’ve already recorded another song with [underground hip-hop producer] Vasi, who I respect so much,” she says. She also recently took a working vacation to Austin to check out some new tracks and enjoy the Formula 1 race.

The album, Electra promises, is going to be “hardcore electric dance music,” which is what she’s listening and moving to these days. And she’s started drawing up an ultimate wish list of her favorite DJs.

“My absolute dream collaboration would be Skrillex,” she says. “I also love Kaskade.”

She’s been listening to a lot of both Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks lately, as well, and admits that their feud bummed her out.

“Even though I know that they have beef with each other, I love them both. I completely support them both and I feel like, as women, we have to stick together and I don’t feel that the competition thing… I feel that there’s room for everyone.”

Even though her own tastes and her own music have strayed into clubbier and harder territory since her Prince days, Electra does confess to wondering what her old mentor might thing about “I LIke it Loud” and the forthcoming album.

“I am kind of curious,” she says. “Overall, it may not be his cup of tea, but I think that he would be proud of me.”

She’s a little more concerned about how her good friend and rumored boyfriend Simon Cowell (“We’re very close,” is all she’ll say about that) might eventually respond to the track. Scared enough that she hasn’t really gotten around to bringing it up with him.

“If he’s read about it somewhere, he hasn’t mentioned it to me. But yeah. I felt nervous. I didn’t want to tell him!”

They still haven’t talked about the musical direction that her career is currently taking, either, but that’s not too weird, given the fact that the pair prefer to keep things personal when they get together.

“We don’t talk business. We’re friends so, you know, we talk about… other things.”

This story was originally published November 27, 2012 via Spinner AOL.

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