By Jonathon Gatehouse - Friday, January 25, 2013 - 0 Comments
For sale: 160-year-old converted church used to record The Suburbs
For sale: one crumbling piece of Canadian music history. Montreal indie rockers Arcade Fire have put their recording studio, a converted 160-year-old church in Farnham, Que., up on the block. The listing, posted via the band’s Twitter account last week, asks $325,000 for the red brick structure located on a quiet village side street, “walking distance to main road, shops and schools.” The group has sunk considerable money into the building since acquiring it in 2005, upgrading plumbing and wiring, renovating bedrooms and a kitchen, and adding a full recording studio in the basement. And the cozy set-up is where they laid down the bulk of their acclaimed 2007 offering Neon Bible and its hit 2010 follow-up, The Suburbs, winner of a Grammy as best album of the year.
But potential buyers should beware. The listing notes a couple of problems: minor water infiltration after heavy rain, and a roof that needs to be replaced at an estimated cost of between $23,000 and $44,000.
According to reports in the music press last fall, structural issues with the church became so bad that the group was forced to stop working on its next disc—due later this year—and find new recording space. “The roof is collapsing. It’s completely falling apart,” Jeremy Gara, the band’s drummer, told an Ottawa radio station.
For all its critical success—appearances on Saturday Night Live, opening for U2 and jamming on stage with Bruce Springsteen—it seems the seven-member band remains something less than rock-star rich. So faced with a repair bill that outstrips the $30,000 they received as winners of the 2011 Polaris Prize for best Canadian album, they’re moving on. Maybe Rush or Carly Rae Jepsen are in the market.
By Elio Iannacci - Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 5:50 PM - 0 Comments
The B.C.-born talent is creating a new vocabulary of movement
When choreographer Dana Gingras was six years old, she started dreaming of ways to escape ballet lessons. Unlike many of her friends, most of whom aspired to be prima ballerinas, Gingras was drawn to a dance style that was far less dainty. “One of my earliest memories is waiting for a class to start and watching a bunch of beautiful flamenco dancers finish their practice and exit the studio,” recalls Gingras in an interview from her home in Montreal. “I remember being very envious. These flamenco girls had better shoes, better costumes and better moves. I swore that at some point I would find a way to ditch the tutu and run off with them.”
Instead of devoting herself to Cinderella and Swan Lake, the B.C.-born talent learned modern dance through intensive summer courses at Simon Fraser University and École de danse contemporaine de Montréal. In 1993, she co-founded the Holy Body Tattoo, one of the most avant-garde dance companies in Canadian history. And in 2006, she founded her current troupe, Animals of Distinction, which often works with artists outside the field of dance. Gingras has built her reputation on projects that flirt with pop culture. Her CV includes a cinematic fan letter to Winnipeg artist Marcel Dzama—a short film called Dances for Dzama—and Smash Up, a tribute, through gesture, to musical remixes and mashups. When Montreal’s Arcade Fire asked her to choreograph the video for their song Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), Gingras created a zombie-like dance that suited the online version, where viewers can change the characters’ moves via webcam or mouse.
By Anne Kingston - Monday, December 5, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
From Arcade Fire, through Mark Carney to the Palestinians–whatever they did, this year they played by their own rules
The once-fringe Montreal band was handed a scad of mainstream music hardware for their third studio recording, The Suburbs, which was praised for expressing familiar big themes with greater bounce and lightness. The multi-talented ensemble was rewarded with Album of the Year at the Junos and the Grammys and International Album and Best International Group at the Brit Awards.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane—it’s Solvency Man, a.k.a Mark Carney, newly named chairman of the Financial Stability Board, the international body that oversees the global economy. The 46-year-old Bank of Canada governor is an ideal fiscal superhero—a Ph.D. economist and former investment banker, he’s also a disciplined, fit marathon runner. Who knows better that slow and steady wins the race?
By Philippe Gohier - Friday, September 23, 2011 at 9:15 AM - 2 Comments
The Polaris Prize isn’t a popularity contest, and Arcade Fire are very popular
Going into the gala for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize, two things were clear. First, Arcade Fire, who were nominated for The Suburbs, were the overwhelming favourite to take home the award. Gala host Grant Lawrence made it clear early in the evening when he suggested the Montreal band was facing off against “nine dark horses.” As a fellow scribe put it, Monday night’s contest was “Arcade Fire versus the world”—or at least, indie Canada.
Second, the Polaris Prize isn’t meant to be a popularity contest. The award’s only criterion is “artistic merit.” This was repeated like a mantra throughout the evening, lest anyone be under the impression that mainstream recognition, clever videos, or album sales might be in play at an awards show featuring bands most Canadians have never heard of. And therein lay the tension—how would the Polaris Prize jury reconcile the fact that Canada’s bestselling band might also be its best band? Can a band that sells out arenas and whose last album hit No. 1 in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. still be credible with the indie crowd?
By Aaron Brophy - Monday, September 12, 2011 at 3:23 PM - 1 Comment
Just because Arcade Fire has won every prize in the known universe doesn’t mean it’ll be a cakewalk
The Suburbs, Arcade Fire’s concept album about tract housing ennui, has already netted the Montreal-based band an Album of the Year Grammy, the Best International Album award at the 2011 Brit Awards and the Juno Award for Album Of The Year. All that’s left now is planning the parade for its inevitable win at the prestigious Polaris Music Prize gala on Sept. 19 in Toronto, right?
Not quite. Arcade Fire’s victory won’t be so easy or clear-cut.
The Polaris Prize, which honours “the best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label,” has frequently been awarded to unlikely outsiders (see: Karkwa’s victory in 2010, F–ked Up’s in 2009, or Patrick Watson’s in 2007). Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 10:22 AM - 5 Comments
Neil Young was the designated patriarch at this year’s Juno love-in between elders and upstarts
It’s a sub-zero Sunday evening in Toronto. Under an unheated canopy, a gang of fledgling rock stars wait their turn on the red carpet, shivering in T-shirts and black leather. They’re Down With Webster, a Toronto rock-rap band of twentysomething sensations whose album, Time To Win, has scored a string of platinum hits. The occasion is the 40th anniversary of the Juno Awards at the Air Canada Centre. The band will get to kick off the show, which is a big deal for them. Earlier in their dressing room, these amiable pop idols had been finessing last-minute details, planning a run from the stage into the crowd and voting down a plea from the drummer to shoot video during the performance for the band’s Facebook page. Then, after correcting their hair, rummaging about for their sunglasses, and freshening their breath with gum from a bowl on the buffet table, they head outside, so they can re-enter via the red carpet.
Huddled in the cold beside the Barenaked Ladies, the boys wait for their cue, as Drake, the show’s emcee, is whisked through with his entourage. “Twenty-two years for this s–t!” yells Ed Robertson of the Ladies. “My Junos are getting cold!” He’s joking. But there is something so forlornly Canadian about frozen rock stars queuing up for their turn on a red carpet. When Down With Webster finally gets the nod, pandemonium erupts. Throngs of young teenage girls, pressed against the barricades with outstretched arms, scream their names at an ear-splitting pitch: the sound of Beatlemania, or Biebermania, on a smaller scale.
Later, a grizzled old dude in a long black coat, black hat and red scarf enters to a decidedly less hysterical response. Many of the kids don’t even recognize Neil Young.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 11:48 AM - 0 Comments
Ottawa appeals Europe’s seal ban, while the U.S. fails to tackle a record deficit
The good hunt
As East Coast fishermen prepare for another seal hunting season—and the annual clash with animal rights activists—the Harper government is bracing for its own fight. Ottawa announced it will file a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization, challenging the European Union’s ban on Canadian seal products. It is the right decision. Despite the spin of celebrities like Paul McCartney, the hunt is neither barbaric nor disgraceful. What happens on those ice floes is no more gruesome than a typical abattoir, and it injects millions into the East Coast economy. It is an industry worth defending.
Welcome back, Khadr?
Four months after pleading guilty to “murdering” an American soldier, Omar Khadr is asking the U.S. government for clemency—a tactic that could see him back in Canada sooner than expected. Let’s hope the Pentagon approves the application. Like it or not, Khadr’s return is a foregone conclusion, whether it happens in six months or six weeks. And the sooner he comes home, the sooner his fellow citizens can find out who he really is: a peaceful 24-year-old, as his lawyers insist, or a hardened radical bent on re, venge.
The municipality of Clarington, Ont., has backed down on its attempt to suppress an annual countryside get-together for libertarian scholars and students. Marta and Lech Jaworski have held the Liberty Summer Seminar for 10 years on their eight-hectare estate, cooking for participants and collecting modest fees to cover their costs. But last year, the pair was accused of running a “commercial conference centre” and threatened with fines. A Charter challenge convinced the city to respect the Jaworskis’ rights to “peaceful assembly.”
Acclaimed Montreal indie-rock horde Arcade Fire pulled off a Grammy upset, winning Album of the Year for their third studio effort, The Suburbs. Other nominees included Eminem, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry. Front man Win Butler’s first words upon hearing of the win were, “What the hell?”, and many U.S. compatriots felt the same: Twitter erupted with cries of “Who?” from not-yet-clued-in Americans.
Land of the free (spenders)
Barack Obama talked about making tough choices this week to cut America’s spending. But the budget that landed in Congress didn’t walk the talk. It will reduce but not nearly eliminate annual deficits over the next decade (the projected 2011 deficit is US$1.6 trillion) and it fails to tackle the biggest source of red ink: bloated Social Security and Medicare programs that are under growing pressure from an aging population. America is fast digging itself into a hole from which it may never escape.
In the nick of time
Thank goodness those Chilean miners were rescued when they were; another few days and they would have swallowed each other. According to a new book, the 33 men trapped deep underground for 69 agonizing days were on the verge of cannibalism, agreeing to eat the first man who died of starvation. “They had a pot and a saw ready,” the author says. Sadly, life above ground has been equally hellish. Despite their historic rescue and new-found celebrity, most of the miners are coping with severe psychological problems—including Edison Peña, who famously sang on David Letterman’s show. He is now hospitalized, battling anxiety and depression.
A good idea—not
Bev Oda may “not” be in cabinet much longer. In a stunning about-face, the international co-operation minister admitted that she ordered the word “not” be penned into a document to change it from approving to rejecting $7 million for the church-based aid group Kairos. CIDA officials signed the document thinking they were renewing the group’s funding, only to find out that Oda ordered the insertion of “not” before the word “approve.” Although she originally testified that she didn’t know who added the mysterious “not,” Oda eventually confessed in the House of Commons that it was done at her direction.
Big waistline, small brain
A sugary, fatty diet isn’t just bad for your child’s waistline. It’s bad for the brain. A new study says a three-year-old who eats predominantly processed foods will have a noticeably lower IQ by the age of 8½, compared to kids who eat lots of fruits and veggies. The “good” news? The world’s chocolate supply will reportedly run out by 2014.
By macleans.ca - Monday, February 14, 2011 at 10:47 AM - 0 Comments
Montreal band takes Album of the Year award for “The Suburbs”
Arcade Fire, the Montreal-based indie band, won the top award, Album of the Year, at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards. The group’s 2010 release was its most successful to date, landing it on many best-of lists and getting three separate Grammy nominations. The band’s success was so widely celebrated that even Kanye West, usually seen interrupting award shows to say who should have won, Tweeted that Arcade Fire’s victory gave him “hope” and that “I feel like we all won when something like this happens.” Arcade Fire’s own Twitter reaction on its collective Twitter account was simply: “OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD. Thank you EVERYONE.”
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Monday, February 14, 2011 at 9:51 AM - 6 Comments
In an exclusive interview, the Montreal band talks about doing things their own way
People in tuxedos fighting over hot dogs. That’s the indelible image Win Butler and Régine Chassagne took home from their first trip to the Grammy Awards back in 2006. Their group, Arcade Fire, had received two nominations. One was for Best Alternative Album for their debut disc Funeral—a big-deal award handed out during the televised, evening portion of the ceremony. The other was a nod for a song that had shown up on HBO’s Six Feet Under, in the decidedly less-prestigious Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media category, parcelled out hours before the real show begins. Not knowing any better, all seven members of the Montreal band dutifully took their seats inside an L.A. convention hall at 11 a.m., and spent the day politely applauding the winners of the best Hawaiian, polka and metal recordings. It was hot. It was boring. They didn’t win. And there was no alcohol, food, or even water available.
Late in the afternoon, the famished crowd was finally herded across the street to the Staples Center, site of the evening festivities. Inside the rink, a huge lineup formed at the one open concession stand. Soon things turned ugly. “People were screaming,” says Butler. “Women in prom dresses were crying,” Chassagne chimes in. Organizers told them they had to take their seats, and that no food would be allowed inside. Total chaos. “By the end there were people offering $50 for a hot dog,” Butler says with a grin.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 10:25 PM - 32 Comments
(UPDATED with a few visual aids — pw)
Says who? Only me. Here are the albums, in a few different genres, that seem likely to last past the end of the year. No particular order:
Charles Lloyd, Mirror (ECM): The California peace-and-love Coltrane-disciple tenor saxophonist of the 1960s kept growing and deepening until, by the end of the ’90s, he was one of the most compelling voices in jazz. By now he’s become one of its last legends. I’d call this his best work yet, but I feel that way about every Charles Lloyd session these days. With a mighty band featuring pianist Jason Moran, Lloyd is pensive, mournful, incisive. The highlight comes when he revisits the spiritual The Water Is Wide, a decade after he last recorded it: funnier this time, more relaxed, still heartbreakingly pretty.
Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (Merge): It’s a canny album, one recorded, it seems to me, with some thought to keeping Arcade Fire interesting over the long run. So The Suburbs tones down the epic gestures of Funeral and, especially, Neon Bible to avoid sinking into grandiose self-parody: this one’s cooler, more intimate, almost conspiratorial. It’s a summer-evening sound that wears well. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
Plus, the world’s most stolen artwork, the top Canadian songs ever, Myla Goldberg’s mean girl, Oka behind the scenes and the inspiring pigheadedness of Roald Dahl
The title refers less to actual combat than to closed-door battles in Washington as Barack Obama spent months wrestling over questions left unanswered by his predecessor: what are we trying to do in Afghanistan? And how the heck do we get out? Obama, who campaigned on the promise of a swift withdrawal from Iraq, quickly runs into a brick wall of Pentagon brass committed to a long war in Afghanistan. Obama asks for three options, but his generals keep bringing him one: 40,000 troops for a “counter-insurgency” effort aimed at “defeating” the Taliban. Woodward’s Obama—cool and cerebral, but constrained by finances and political realities—eventually downgrades to a more modest aspiration of “degrading” the Taliban enough that the whole mess can be handed over to Afghan security forces. Distrustful of his top generals, and beset by doubts, Obama personally dictates a plan for a surge of 30,000 troops followed by a drawdown to start in July 2011.
By Mike Doherty - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 3:40 PM - 0 Comments
‘Super-paranoid’ Taylor Kirk is the antithesis of the soul-baring introspective Drake
It was a banner summer for Canadian musicians: Arcade Fire, Justin Bieber, Drake and K’naan planted our flag proudly atop global charts. But if purveyors of anthems to arenas overwhelm you, may we suggest Timber Timbre. Their self-titled third album is a stark, eerie collection of off-centre blues and folk that sneaks up on listeners like a “night crawler crawlin’ out in the yard”—a typical image from one of singer Taylor Kirk’s songs. With European festivals ahead and a new album in the works, Timber Timbre are ready to bring their music to the world—in as self-effacing a way as possible.
“I’ve always been really shy,” says Kirk, over brunch at a quirky Montreal diner. “That’s amplified by doing something so revealing.” Having learned to play guitar as a child in a church basement in the hamlet of Myrtle, Ont., Kirk made his first recordings alone, while living in a timber-framed cabin in Bobcaygeon, in 2005. In the “scary” isolation, with crickets and the ghostly noises of rural Ontario bleeding into the microphones, he says he felt “uninhibited—totally at liberty to try whatever comes to mind.”
He overdubbed himself on guitar, piano, harmonica and hand-clap percussion, and packaged the crackly, lo-fi results as Timber Timbre’s debut, Cedar Shakes, selling the homemade CDs at Toronto’s indie oasis Soundscapes—the only store that would take them. In Toronto, where he’d found a job delivering kegs of beer, Kirk began to play shows and slowly attracted a cult following.
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 10, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The unsinkable Jan Brewer, the smoking toddler kicks the habit, Pamela Anderson and you
News flash: Carla has a past!
To the surprise of, well, no one, a tell-all book is set for release on the colourful life that model and singer Carla Bruni embraced before settling down as the third wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. It’s the tale of “a fast-living adventuress with an obsession with wealth and fame,” a source at Paris publisher Flammarion told the Telegraph. The source promises “explosive revelations” about secret lovers and plastic surgery, and the paper suggests the first couple tremble in anticipation of what author Besma Lahouri has uncovered. Well, maybe. Meanwhile, Bruni’s support for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman whose sentence to death by stoning may be upgraded to hanging, won criticism from an Iranian newspaper—and Catherine Deneuve, who called it “counterproductive,” given her past.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
Feel-good music: In the U.S., Arcade Fire sold 156,000 copies of its new album in one week
How do you score the top-selling new album in America? Montreal’s the Arcade Fire did it with a little help from one of the world’s largest online retailers. Amazon sold digital downloads of the album, The Suburbs, for US$3.99, compared to US$9.99 on Apple’s iTunes, dramatically boosting sales. Amazon still pays the band’s label the requisite US$7, but then offers the album to fans at a loss. Executives at music labels say that Amazon will occasionally promote an album like this in a gambit to attract new consumers and build its brand, reports the New York Times.
Apple is by far the dominant online music retailer, with an estimated 70 per cent of the market. Amazon, despite its considerable online presence, has just 12 per cent. But it appears that the stunt is worth the expense. While Apple’s share of digital music sales has flatlined, Amazon’s has grown four per cent over the last year, according to Soundscan, an official music-sales tracking system.
By macleans.ca - Friday, July 23, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Clintons are pleased to announce almost nothing, Arcade Fire’s class act, and Rowan Atkinson’s cunning plan
If they had a million dollars
Montreal rockers Arcade Fire will match donations up to $1 million to Kanpe, a charity rebuilding family life after the Haitian earthquake. “We’re all family in times like this,” said Régine Chassagne, whose parents were born in Haiti. “Please,” her husband Win Butler urged fans, “take our money.”
For better and worse, check
In 1984, Steve Fonyo ran across Canada, raising $13 million for cancer research, an epic achievement for a 19-year-old with a prosthetic leg. His life since, always in the shadow of the late Terry Fox who attempted a similar feat in 1981, has been a train wreck. He was stripped of the Order of Canada last year after a long battle with addictions and multiple criminal convictions. He’d hoped a planned Aug. 28 wedding would signal a turnaround, but that, too, went off the rails when it was revealed last week that his fiancée, Lisa Greenwood, is serving a jail sentence for theft and assault. Victoria-area business people, who had planned to underwrite the ceremony at the city’s Fonyo Beach, where he’d ended his run, rescinded their offer. John Vickers, executive director of the Victoria Truth Centre, who helped arrange the event, said the couple’s “lives are too complicated at this time for a supported wedding to occur.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, February 12, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
It takes a village to raise an idiot
Jacques Rogge and the rest of the executive board of the International Olympic Committee have relented and will allow the Australian International Olympic Committee to fly its iconic “boxing kangaroo” flag from a balcony of the Vancouver Olympic Village. The flag was ordered removed because the IOC bans unauthorized commercial symbols, and the cartoon ’roo is trademarked, albeit only to the Australian Olympic Committee. The dispute ﬁred up Aussies everywhere. Deputy PM Julia Gillard called it a “scandal.” Vancouver radio phone-in callers raged at the IOC’s bully tactics. IOC spokesman Mark Adams called the issue “a storm in a teacup.” Meantime, athletes are streaming to the Oz sector of the village for a photo with the giant ’roo.
He did it for the kids
It was death in the afternoon for any bull that Jairo Miguel Sànchez Alonso faced Saturday at an arena in southwest Spain. The 16-year-old killed six bulls without mussing his sparkly white suit of lights. He returned to Spain after several years apprenticing in Mexico, where there is no minimum age for fighters. He almost died there in 2007 when a bull gored him. Alonso holds no grudges. “I feel quite bad when the bull has been good and you see the expression on his face, the innocence,” he says. “He has given you his bravery.” The event, while bloody, had a softer side. It was a fundraiser for children with autism.
Bad times for burkas
French Prime Minister François Fillon announced this week he’ll deny citizenship to a Moroccan national who forces his French-born wife to wear a burka. “If this man does not want to change his attitude, he has no place in our country,” he said. Meantime, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call for a law banning full burkas is gaining steam. He has declared the full veil and body covering “not welcome” in France, and inconsistent with the country’s values. It’s certainly not welcome in Paris post offices. Two burka-clad robbers walked into a post office in the Paris suburb of Athis Mons, an area with a large immigrant Muslim population. They pulled out handguns and stole the equivalent of $6,000.
Blades of glory
Germany’s Katarina Witt and Canada’s Elizabeth Manley met on the ice in Vancouver Sunday, 22 years after the Teutonic bombshell and Canada’s sweetheart squared off in Calgary during the 1988 Olympics. Witt won gold but Manley, under enormous home-country pressure, pulled off the skate of her life to finish second. Both women are doing television colour commentary in Vancouver, but they took a turn on the Robson Square ice rink with young members of the Coquitlam Skating Club. “We’re not here for a rematch,” joked Manley, 44. “Not at our age, I’m 20—plus tax.” Replied a razor-sharp Witt: “Oh, my God! How much are taxes here?”
Tea time in Tennessee
Cranky country singer and musical comedian Ray Stevens’s flagging career was ready for a death panel. Then the 71-year-old singer of such novelty hits as Ahab the A-rab and Gitarzan wrote We the People, a lighthearted attack on President Barack Obama’s health care initiative. The video, which shows Stevens strumming a bathroom plunger and singing, “You vote Obamacare, we’re gonna vote you outta there,” is a YouTube hit and an unofficial anthem of the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement. Stevens sang at the group’s convention in Nashville on the weekend, where Sarah Palin raised eyebrows with her $100,000 fee for giving the keynote speech. “That’s a lot of damned tea,” grumbled one delegate.
Do as I say, not as I…ahh-choo!
As deputy health minister for the Czech Republic, Michael Vit has the job of deciding whether to impose mandatory swine flu vaccinations on “all people indispensable for the functioning of the country.” The day after receiving the assignment, Vit came down with H1N1 himself. “I have muscle problems, a headache, simply all symptoms of the flu,” he said. The deputy health minister admitted he had yet to receive the vaccination. “As you see, I’m a living example.”
‘Funeral’ for friends, and strangers
Canadian orchestral rockers Arcade Fire made it to the Super Bowl last weekend, when the group’s stirring anthem Wake Up, from their hit CD Funeral, was used in a series of NFL promo ads. While the group is protective of licensing its music, they had their reasons in this case. They turned over the fat licensing fee to Partners in Health, an agency with deep roots in Haiti. Band member Régine Chassagne’s family came from the island. She expressed her grief in an article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper: “I am mourning people I know. People I don’t know. People who are still trapped under rubble and won’t be rescued in time.”
Broom versus stick
Icy, obsessed with winning and not above the occasional cheap shot. Yes, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and hockey are a match made in heaven. Hockey is “deeply reflective of the character of the nation,” he explained in a pre-Olympic interview with Sports Illustrated. Harper, who has studied the origins of the sport, said it contributes to “a uniquely Canadian sense of belonging in a community across the country.” Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff waxes poetic about a different sport: curling. Naturally, he identifies with the skip. “It’s the leadership and the precision, and the quiet,” he told the Globe and Mail. Apparently he’s not the sort of skip who shouts unseemly commands like, “Hurry, hurry hard.”
Very, very teed off
A Kelowna, B.C., entrepreneur is cashing in on Tiger Woods’s extramarital mayhem. Mike Caldwell has produced the Mistress Collection, a boxed set of 12 golf balls, each bearing a portrait of one of Woods’s mistresses. “He likes to play a round with them…and now you can, too!” notes his website, tailofthetiger.com. Caldwell says he sold 1,500 sets at US$54.90 in the first six days. Less than impressed is Joslyn James, an adult film star and alleged Woods mistress. She called a news conference to denounce the balls as hurtful and in bad taste. “It bothered me to think that someone would be standing with a dangerous club in their hands hitting a ball with my photo on it,” she said. She then showed her sensitive side by releasing 100 tawdry text messages she said she received from Woods.
You don’t want a visit by Oscar
Oscar the cat has a near infallible ability to detect which of the patients in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I., is next to die, says Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician. When Oscar curls up with a patient, staff know to phone the next of kin. “It’s like he’s on a vigil,” says Dosa. Such insight would come as no surprise to cat owners, who are themselves terribly smart. Certainly smarter than dog owners, according to a study by Dr. Jane Murray at the University of Bristol. Winston Churchill was a cat lover. Paris Hilton loves dogs. Want more proof? Cat owners (if anyone really owns a cat) are 1.36 times more likely than dog owners to hold a university degree. They’re also 100 per cent less likely to have to follow behind their pet and scoop droppings off the sidewalk.
Gay but not cheerful
The headline in the Seattle Weekly says it all: “Gay, mentally challenged biracial male cheerleader claims discrimination.” All that high school student Benjamin Grundy wants is to shake his pom-poms like the girls on the squad at Garfield-Palouse High School in tiny Palouse, Wash. Instead, the cheer coach suggested he’d make a great mascot. He was eventually given a cheerleader’s top but denied the rest of the uniform, pom-poms, and the right to join the dance routine. “I was reduced to standing there and moving my arms,” he says. The school board denies discrimination, but Benjamin’s mother, Suzanne Grundy, is pressing the case with the ACLU and her congressman. “The combination of a biracial, mentally challenged gay male may be too much for them,” she told the local TV station.
L’état c’est moi
Quebec’s Lieutenant-Governor Pierre Duchesne has revived a tradition that ended 44 years ago—awarding medals, in gold, silver and bronze, and bearing his coat of arms, to those making contributions to their communities. The practice of awarding such medals ended in 1966 after Quebec nationalists condemned the symbolic tie with the monarchy. Duchesne has no such qualms: he also invoked royal privilege to avoid testifying before a national assembly committee on how he spends some $1 million annually in taxpayer money. His refusal to testify was condemned by all sides of the legislature.
Disharmony in the house of Wang
It was Hong Kong feng shui master Tony Chan’s skills in arranging buildings to create a positive life force that drew Chan to the eccentric, pigtailed property magnate Nina Wang. He began a 15-year affair with Wang, 23 years his senior. Now, he’s accused of arranging her $4-billion fortune in a manner auspicious to himself. When she died at 69 in 2007, he claimed to be her sole heir. Her family contested the will, and he’s charged with forgery.
She also has a Ph.D. in thankless tasks
Leila Ghannam, a former Palestinian intelligence officer, is the first woman governor of Ramallah, the unofficial capital of the West Bank. Her challenge is to quash a resurgence by hard-liners in Hamas. “My intelligence experience, like my degree in psychology, helps me carry out my job,” she says.
By Michael Barclay - Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 8:40 AM - 2 Comments
The violinist who toured with Arcade Fire has a ‘preposterous’ new album out this week
Owen Pallett enjoys tempting fate. It’s why he combines original classical music and pop songs, using only a solo violin, his voice and live electronics to painstakingly construct symphonies onstage. And it’s why he initially named his recording project Final Fantasy, after the role-playing video game—a contentious copyright issue that finally caught up to him last month, when the video game’s makers forced a name change; his new album, Heartland (released this week), is credited to Owen Pallett, and not Final Fantasy.
When he performed at the Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ont., last summer, Pallett stared down Mother Nature herself. While he was playing a then-unreleased new song, a torrential thunderstorm mirrored the growing intensity of the performance. While stagehands covered his equipment and signalled furiously for Pallett to cut his set short, the solo violinist pressed on. Watching the YouTube clip, you can hear the audience become more ecstatic with each defiant chorus of “I’m never going to give it to you!”—no doubt wondering if the song might just climax with Pallett being electrocuted.
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 9:26 AM - 4 Comments
Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry has written a piece based on each musician’s heartbeat
Madame Press Died Last Week at 90, by the 20th-century American composer Morton Feldman, is as gently obsessive as a piece of music can be. It’s a sweet, wistful tune that stops unfolding and repeats, dozens of times like a skipping record, on a G and an E flat. Edwin Outwater led the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in the piece at his first concert as the orchestra’s music director, in 2007. But he followed it with another piece about obsessive repetition: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, whose “duh-duh-duh-duuuuuh” opening is built on the same G and E flat.
That’s the sort of thing Outwater, an athletic and congenial 38-year-old Californian, likes to do. He programs a lot of 20th- and 21st-century music, perhaps more than any other conductor of a large mainstream Canadian orchestra. It’s never just filler, and he uses it to recast the older Germanic repertoire that is the heart of any orchestra’s programs, to make audiences think twice about what music is for. And if they resist, he doesn’t get too worked up about it. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 9:42 PM - 0 Comments
This popular Inkless feature is back after a long delay, thanks to no popular demand whatsoever. I’m mostly writing this post to test our new blogging software, but if you wind up reading it, there’s probably no harm done. As always, tune selection is entirely random, except I skip over tunes I don’t want to write about.
1. Eddie Henderson, “Dance Cadaverous” from Precious Moment: In the current issue of Down Beat, trumpeter Brian Lynch calls Eddie Henderson “the baddest trumpeter alive,” which made me think about it for a minute and decide it’s as true as any other such claim would be. A cross between Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard, the first trumpeter Herbie Hancock hired when he left Miles’s band in the early 1970s, Henderson is agile and smart but he never bothers to show off with facile fireworks. He prefers somber drama and melodic logic. He’s a charismatic player on an instrument that draws too many blowhards.
2. Arcade Fire, “Black Mirror” from Neon Bible: Not one of the very best tunes on Arcade Fire’s second album, but Win’s urgent voice and the tune’s simple structure — it’s a four-bar turnaround, like the last four bars of a Tin Pan Alley tune, endlessly repeated — make it beguiling. More broadly, was it only a year ago that so many of us were urgently trying to decide whether Neon Bible was a success? Sure it was. These songs hold up fine.
3. Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 13 “Quasi una fantasia,” 2nd Movement, by Alfred Brendel: I still don’t know overmuch about classical pianists but Brendel always satisfies, tidy and impeccable, never over-selling a tune’s dramatics. Here he doesn’t need to; in a short, simple but fiery movement, Beethoven is plenty dramatic enough.
4. James Hunter, “People Gonna Talk” from People Gonna Talk: British R&B singer reaches different conclusions than most of his countrymen and -women when he looks back to the ’60s in determinedly retro fashion: instead of histrionics (think Joss Stone, if you must) he prefers elegance and wit. A mid-tempo ballad with string quartet, suave tenor sax, and Hunter’s gorgeous, wistful vocals.
5. Suzanne Vega, “New York is a Woman” from Beauty & Crime: In case you were wondering what she’d been up to. Much the same, really: literate, mentholated folk-pop, here wrapped in subtle but lovely horn arrangements. This tune offers a simple metaphor for the casually heartless way a big city can break a well-meaning newcomer: “New York is a woman, she’ll make you cry/ And to her you’re just another guy.”
6. Kanye West, “Stronger (Andrew Dawson Remix):” The latest single, or at least the latest one an old guy like me has heard, in an up-tempo, less techno, more naturalistically rocking remix. Great for the gym, or it will be if I get to one.
7. Living Colour, “Type” from Pride: Vernon Reid and the guys opened with this one at the New Morning last summer, in one of the three or four finest musical moments of my year in Paris. A brilliant group, a true rock band but smarter than the next 10 bands put together, built on drummer Wil Calhoun’s big foot, Vernon’s mighty guitar and, in this case at least, lyrics that are evocative without being as leadenly didactic as on some other Living Colour tunes: “We are the children of concrete and steel/ This is the place where the truth is concealed/ This is the time when the lie is revealed/ Everything is possible but nothing is real.”
8. The Who, “I Can See For Miles”: I don’t even know whether that’s Keith Moon on drums or whether he was already history; I’m not really familiar with this band’s story. They were just in the air, growing up in Southwestern Ontario (or, one presumes, anywhere else on Earth) in the 1970s. What’s striking about this piece is how it’s barely there: the drummer’s relentless sixteenth-note crescendos, more reactive than planned by the sound of them, Townsend’s one-note riff on the chorus, and acres of open space where it’s clear nobody’s entirely sure how to keep the tune going. Other Who hits were more meticulously plotted; this one’s just a glorious mess.
9. Steps Ahead, “Self Portrait” from Modern Times: I had a band in high school that played this doleful ballad, lifted from a 1983 album by a pop-jazz super-group that started out with an all-acoustic ethos but was, by this point, already throwing some studio electronics into the mix. Here synthesized eighth-note arpeggios on a sequencer push the momentum forward; Peter Erskine on drums, Mike Mainieri on vibraphone and the great Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone provide the dignified eloquence of pros in an environment of mutual respect. I’ve been listening to this piece since high school, I can sing every note of Brecker’s solo (to myself, if you’re lucky), and I’m not done listening yet.
10. John Hiatt, “Stood Up” from Bring the Family: “I stood up for the first time when I was just 11 months old/ And ever since that day my mama said I never done what I was told/ I never stood for nothin’ too much, all through my schoolin’ years/ Well, I stood as much as I could stand, I guess that’s why I’m still standing here/ And I stood up when love called my name/ I stood up, even when that love was all in vain/ I got stood up once, and left out in the pourin’ rain/ But I stood up. And I’d do it again.”
By Jeff Harris - Tuesday, June 21, 2005 at 1:23 PM - 0 Comments
MuchMusic’s 2005 Video Awards brought out some of the biggest stars of the year,…
MuchMusic’s 2005 Video Awards brought out some of the biggest stars of the year, ok, and some not so huge stars, too (see: Rob and Amber of Survivor fame). Carmen Electra, Sum 41, and Ashlee Simpson are just some of the celebs that partied at the station’s famed headquarters. The night’s big winners included The Killers, Kalan Porter, and Billy Talent.