December 24, 2008
Christmas came a little early for us here at b(oot)log when some friendly elves sent us a copy of The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide to The Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present (see also the book’s site). Not everyone is a fan of P4K, but I must admit I still think they are one of the best sources for news & reviews online, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their point of view or style all the time. Now that Pitchfork is a venerable online institution, the editors undertook the ambitious task of compiling the greatest songs from 1977 to 2006 (with a nod to possible great songs from 2007).
Let’s face it. We all love list. Just look around at this time of year we are inundated with “best ofs” and “worst ofs” and favourites from the past 12 months (just take a quick peek at Largehearted Boy’s ever growing list of Best of 2008 lists for music and books. Craziness!). They are inherently subjective – endless arguments can ensue about why something was left off a list or why one entry was ranked higher than another – but I find them fascinating. The purpose of reading lists is twofold for me: first, they let me know what someone with some self-proclaimed knowledge on a subject thinks are the most important and secondly they can shine light on things that I’ve possibly undervalued or overlooked. Ultimately lists, or at least the best of them, challenge assumptions and make you re-evaluate your preferences.
This is what makes The Pitchfork 500 such a fascinating read. When only choosing 500 songs (not even albums!) for a 30 year period with no genre limitations where do you start? What are the criteria? The editors don’t spell out what their definition of ‘greatness’ is, as they seem to recognize that there is no simple mathematical formula but rather that it has to do more with a feeling. That “man this song is sooooo GREAT!” reaction. Sales are easy to measure but don’t often signal a mark of greatness. Impact can be hard to quantify but is certainly more important. Mostly, however, I think the 500 worthy songs were something that the 30-odd contributors decided were the best after what I imagine was a passionate, heated debate. Sure there are going to be some worthy songs left off or, particularly with the songs from the 2000s, some might turn out to not be so great after the passage of a little more time, but ultimately the book is extremely successful as it has made me think hard about their choices and there are certainly enough songs that I’d never heard of to keep me going for quite some time.
The songs included range from chart toppers to ultra obscure arranged chronologically in chapters that span 3 year periods with informative introductory essays at the start of chapter which set the scene. As you might expect, each of the 500 songs are given concise but informative entries. I scratched my head, for example, when I saw AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ on the list but it made more sense when I read the exegesis Tom Breihan, even if I still don’t fully agree. The entries provide the origin, context, and impact of the songs, along with trying to explain the more intangible elements of what makes them so damn great. Perhaps my favourite thing about the book are the sidebars that appear throughout giving you thematic detours. Want to know what they think the best Industrial, Slowcore, Alt-Rock, Italo-Disco, Twee, Regional Rap, Yacht Rock, etc, etc, etc, songs are? Then look no further (an index to the sidebars, would have been nice, though). These are fantastic tools to broach a genre or subgenre you might be interested in but weren’t sure where to start.
The book is something you are more likely to peck at over time than devour straight through but which ever way you approach it will lead you to a new way to think about your old favourites and lead you to something new.
You can pick yourself up a copy at fine retailers just about everywhere (check out the list of online shops at Simon & Schuster (Canada) and the one from the book’s site). If you are looking for a last minute Xmas gift for that music nerd in your life you have about 10hrs (on the east coast at least, more on the west, if you’re in the UK/Europe you better get moving) to get to your local bookstore – I know Chapters/Indigo is stocking it so get thee to the mall!
Happy holidays everyone.
December 21, 2008
photo by Janzen photography.
The Christmas season is upon us and that brings us to the annual tradition which is one of my favourite things about living in this town at this time of year: the Salvation Army Winter Relief Benefit concert. Held at different venues over the past thirteen years, this concert features some of the best musicians from the area and from afar raising money for a very worthy cause. The usual suspects will be at this year’s event being held at BarNone, TOMMOROW NIGHT, DECEMBER 22nd, including Luther Wright, Reuben de Groot, Krista LL Muir, and, b(oot)log fav Sarah Harmer. It is going to be one heck of a show.
Harmer’s, rich, warm voice is incredible. It never ceases to astound me as it fills the room. She has an amazing range, being equally comfortable singing rockers from her Weeping Tile days, country-folk from her latest release, the amazing I’m A Mountain, and more straightforward poprock – but always with extrodinary lyrics – from her first two solo records. Harmer is also comfortable behind the drum kit and the musicians are known to swap instruments and even throw in a Christmas tune or two during these very fun events (check out recordings from previous years here and here and here).
Tickets for this ALL AGES show can be found at Zap Records, Bar None (Division & Garrett St), or online (although it says “currently unavailable” at the moment) or can be purchased at the door. Be sure not to miss this night of great music in support of a great cause.
Here are a few tracks from a different night of great music in support of a different great cause. Harmer performed to excellent new songs which give me hope that a new record might be in the works.
Sarah Harmer, The Blue Revue, Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, 19 June 2008
From the Lake Ontario Waterkeepers Show, Grad Club, Kingston, 25 June 2008 (hear the radio show and more songs at LOW here)
Buy Sarah Harmer’s cds & shirts from her website.
December 12, 2008
Photo taken at the Blue Revue by Janzen Photography.
Hey. I intended to get this up much, much earlier, but better late than never. The last concert of 2008 at the Grad Club (but not in Kingston – be sure to hit up the Salvation Army Benefit, Dec. 22nd at Bar None!) is going to be one of its best. Serena Ryder is coming to town tomorrow (December 13th) and is going to absolutely blow you away with her huge, rich voice and powerful songs. She deals with her personal angst by belting it out, holding nothing at all back. Passionate and soulful, it is going to be a great night of music that you are not going to want to miss. It is an early show (doors at 8, show stars at 8:30 – no word of an opener but the GC site says “tbd”) and you can get your tickets at the door.
Serena Ryder will be touring Ontario (with a detour to Vancouver) through the end of the month and then will be all over the States in Jan & Feb. Full dates at her myspace, upcoming ones here:
3 Dec 2008 – Grad Club, Kingston
14 Dec 2008 – Meaford Town Hall, Meaford
15 Dec 2008 – Starlite, Waterloo
16 Dec 2008 – Gordon Best Theatre (SOLD OUT), Peterborough
18 Dec 2008 – Media Club (SOLD OUT), Vancouver
20 Dec 2008 – Nathan Philips Square, Toronto
I have a recording from the same concert as the Hawksley Workman show that I posted below but there was an error when transfering the mp3 files from my work cpu so I found myself without them. Thankfully the wonderful, amazing, astounding, dependable CBC came through for me. So, for your listening pleasure I have a couple of tracks from the show at the Mod Club from a few weeks back. The full show can be found here and be sure to check out all the other great concerts at their Concerts on Demand page.
Serena Ryder, The Mod Club, Toronto, 19 November 2008 (CBC)
Buy SR’s albums and shirts. They will fit nicely in stockings hung by fires and will put smiles on your loved ones faces.
December 1, 2008
photo by Janzen Photography.
Hawksley Workman is coming to town. Not my town, mind you, but one two towns over. Hawksley and the gang, joined by the Centennial Secondary School Choir & Horns, is hitting the lovely Empire Theatre stage in Belleville for a night of baroque pop.
Well, scratch that. I just popped over to the Empire theatre site to see if it was sold out or not and found out that the show has been postponed. Apparently HW is rather sick and they are looking to reschedule for March. More info will be passed on as I get it.
You were supposed to listen to the wonderful songs he performed with Mr. Lonely in Toronto in June as part of the Blue Revue fundraising show (support the Blue Marble Music Fund) to get yourself excited for the Bellevegas extravaganza tomorrow. Instead you will have to console yourself with them. March is a better time to drive to Belleville anyway, right?
Upcoming tour dates:
December 02, 2008 – The Empire Theatre, Belleville, ON (postponed)
December 05, 2008 – Joe’s Pub, New York City, NY (don’t know if this will be a go or not – consult your local listings)
December 27-30, 2008 – Woodford Folk Festival Queensland, Australia (and AUS tour continues through January 11th)
See the HW Site for full dates.
Hawksley Workman, The Blue Revue, Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, 19 June 2008
Get yourself Hawksley Workman’s cds (there’s a special on: buy Los Manilicious & Between the Beautifuls together and save!) and clothes and other goodies at the Store.