The best comic of 2008…

… should not be judged until we hit February, at least. (Although, seriously? Scalped #13 is el grando awesome.)

Nonetheless, I think I’ve got my Most Anticipated Comic of 2008, courtesy of Kieron Gillen, talking about the next volume of Phonogram:

In fact, issue 5 of series 2 is based around an obsessive Long Blondes fan. It’s called “Lust, etcetera”.

Now, I liked the first volume of Phonogram a lot. And I love the Long Blondes. So this practically a match made in heaven.

In celebration, let’s all look at Kate Jackson for a bit:

Top Albums of 2007

And here we go with the “Best Of” lists. Music is first up, with Movies soon to follow – I just need to see There Will Be Blood before I can make any final cinematic judgments. And the Best of Comics list should be more substantial, since this is a 75%-or-so comics-focused blog. First, a caveat on Music: I’m not attempting to put stuff in order, since specific ranking will change a lot depending on my mood. And another caveat: I don’t really claim to have any sort of musical expertise, so this is far more of a “stuff I liked” list than a definitive “best.”

Liars (Self Titled): In which the band proves the last few years of messing around with weird shit was building to something. It’s a surprisingly accessible, mainstream album (“mainstream” being a relative term for a band who produced a highly artsy concept album about the Salem witch trials), and it boasts the best opening of any album, ever: The bombast and fury of Plaster Casts of Everything, followed by the funky, better-than-Beck Houseclouds; these are by the same band? There’s some creepy electronics on Sailing to Byzantium, a few Jesus & Mary Chain fuzz-outs in the middle, and a surprisingly sentimental Protection at the end. All this is by the same band? And it’s all good, if not great? Awesome.

The Besnard Lakes: Are the Dark Horse. The Beach Boys channeled by a Montreal space-rock outfit. (In case I need to clarify: Not Surfin’ USA; more Little Surfer Girl or Warmth of the Sun) Lots of sweet, moody tunes, with occasional outbursts of sonic weirdness. If nothing else, you must hear Because Tonight, maybe the most gorgeous song of the year.

Radiohead: In Rainbows. Let us not kid ourselves: I am a huge Radiohead fan. They’re one of my very favourite bands. So while I shall admit to some fanboyisms here, I’ll qualify it by pointing out that Hail to the Thief didn’t make my best-of when it came out. In Rainbows marks a nice return to form, but still feels like progress. With the more serious electronic noodling relegated to Thom Yorke’s solo material, this feels more like a band playing. What’s more, the emotion is back: All I Need is the most emotionally honest and straightforward song since How to Disappear Completely, and Reckoner is just gorgeous.

Jens Lekman: Night Falls Over Kortedala. One of these days, Morrissey will die, and the battle for Greatest Lyricist will be fought by Jarvis Cocker and Jens Lekman. Jarvis will win, of course, because he’s old and wiley, but Jens Lekman will bide his time in Sweden or something until Jarv lets his guard down, or also dies of more-or-less natural causes. Until then, we shall simply admire the wonderful songs of Lekman, like Postcard to Nina, the story of a guy who meets a girl who introduces him to her parents and pretends he’s her boyfriend even though she’s actually a lesbian. Or the surprise emergency room visit chronicled in Your Arms Around Me. Or Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo, which is about… well, that one’s pretty self-explanatory. They’re nice enough songs musically, but it’s only when you really start paying attention to them that you’re struck by how totally awesome they are.

The Long Blondes: Someone to Drive You Home. Technically, this is cheating – the album came out originally in 2006. But it got its official North American release this year, so that’s what I’m talking about here, and it’s almost certainly my favourite album I bought all year – I got my copy back around February, and I’m still loving it. Lots of pop and rock, lots of clever lyrics, lots of happy sounding songs with a great beat that are actually about people cheating on one another. Lead singer Kate Jackson deserves to be a superstar, and everyone else is pretty awesome, too. Like Pulp if Jarvis Cocker were a terribly attractive woman, and possibly a little more cynical.

Mondays Rock

All right: As a rule, Mondays certainly do not rock. But yesterday did.

  • First, and this likely isn’t news to anyone at this point, I had one of the most beautiful emails ever yesterday morning: “This is just a quick note to let you know first that Radiohead have made an album. It is called In Rainbows, and it is now available to pre-order exclusively from”. Aside from the massive, huge, world-ending ramifications of digital, non-label distribution – hey, it’s a new fucking Radiohead album. They’re most likely my favourite band in the world, so this is seriously awesome.
  • Not quite as awesome, but still pretty darn cool, is the announcement of a new British Sea Power album, with the utterly brilliant title of “Do You Like Rock Music?” As luck would have it, I do like Rock Music, so this is happymaking. (As an aside: If you ever have the chance, go to see this band live. They’re pretty crazy.)
  • Moving back up on the Awesome Chart: Scott Pilgrim 4 is finished! Possibly released by the end of October!

So you see, friends, Mondays shouldn’t always be feared. Sometimes they bring much glee and warm fuzzy feelings.

(And hopefully October brings more productive and insightful blogging, because, man, I’ve sucked lately.)

The Long Blondes @ Lee’s Palace

One of my new favourite bands, The Long Blondes, at Lee’s Palace in Toronto, June 11, 2007. They’re very good, and lead singer Kate Jackson is really quite lovely.
Kate Jackson: Superstar
Long Blondes @ Lee's Palace
Opener Nicole Atkins & The Sea was excellent as well. It’s always nice to see an opener you’ve never heard of but who convinces you to buy their CD after a 30-minute set.
Nicole Atkins, opening for The Long Blondes
More photos at my Flickr account.

I am Happy

So it’s not even 10 AM yet, and I’m already in a good mood. Why? Thanks for asking.

Good News Item #1 came to my attention courtesy of the concert listings in Eye: The Long Blondes are coming to Toronto in June! This makes me very happy.

However, there is the very real danger that I will become deleriously obsessed with Kate Jackson if I actually see her in person. I am willing to take that risk.

Good News Item #2 came courtesy of my friend and yours, The Internet. Dark Horse has revealed the cover to Buffy Season 8, #6:

Frankly, that’s not one of Jo Chen’s best covers. But it’s got Faith on it, and that makes me happy; the fact that Faith’s arc is being written by Brian K. Vaughan makes it super-duper happy. To be honest, I’d been looking forward to Vaughan’s arc moreso than Joss Whedon’s opening, but then Joss had to go and knock #2 out of the park, setting a pretty high standard. (Review forthcoming, perhaps? We shall see, I suppose.)

So yeah, good day.

I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen

The Bends is a fucking awesome album.

This, of course, is obvious. But I haven’t listened to it for a while, and as I’m sitting here at work with it cranked up on my iPod, I just can’t help thinking this is a fucking awesome album. As much as I love Radiohead’s later works, there’s something special about The Bends: I remember buying it, largely on the strength of the video for Just, either at the end of high school or first-year university, and, like many things you experience at that age, it had a huge impact. Just is a masterpiece, I’ve always loved the title track, and Fake Plastic Trees makes me want lay in the dark and cry. (in a good way)

When I saw them play at Molson Park in Barrie a few years ago, Thom Yorke had a bit of fun with the lyrics, singing “I wish it were the sixties, I wish we were Oasis,” complete with Gallagher-esque nasal whine. For a rock star with a penchant for being depressed and miserable, he’s quite a fun guy.

Haven’t posted much this week, as you may have noticed; I’ve been fairly busy at work, which seems to be where I do some of my more productive blogging. And I’m going away for the weekend (my mother’s birthday was this week), so the drought may continue. Regular posting shall resume shortly.

In the meantime, go and listen to The Bends. Go out and buy it, if you must. It’s a fucking awesome album.

Best Albums of 2006

There were no real great albums in 2006. There were plenty of albums that had a few great songs and a few okay ones, but nothing that kept me hypnotized from start to finish. So this is a fairly difficult Top Five list – ask me again next week and it could all change. The best actual album I bought this year was probably Wire’s Chairs Missing, which was originally released in 1978; even though it was reissued this year, I shan’t count it.

Knives Don’t Have Your Back – Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton: I’ve hard most of these songs at Haines’ solo gigs over the past couple years, but they’re still excellent here. Very simple, slow, and often gloomy piano pieces elevated into hypnotic beauty by Haines’ restrained but emotional vocals. “Crowd Surf Off a Cliff” is the sort of song to put on repeat while laying in the dark, and “The Maid Needs a Maid” and “Reading in Bed” feel like heartfelt personal diaries. Haines brings her sharp lyrics over from Metric; while this is certainly a well-defined solo effort, it’s also clear that Haines is the star of any stage she’s on, whether she’s joined by a rock band or a solitary piano.

The Crane Wife – The Decemberists: I don’t love the whole album, but there are enough songs on here with catchy tunes and genuine emotion to make the list. The three-part title track, an adaptation of a Japanese myth, is lovely, and the civil war duet of Yankee Bayonet is nice and sweet. Closer “Sons & Daughters” is ridiculously catchy. I’ve stayed away from the Decemberists for a while, as they’ve always seemed like a stereotypically indie band that people adore for being lo-fi. But hey, they really are pretty darn good.

You Can’t Break the Strings in Our Olympic Hearts – The Diableros: Back in the Spring, my girlfriend wanted to go and see Camera Obscura play at the Horseshoe. I was fairly indifferent – I like the band, but I just can’t help the feeling that they were all kicked out of Belle & Sebastian for being sissies. Suffice it to say that I cared even less about seeing the opening band, who, judging by the name, was some kind of Mexican pop band. It turned out the Diableros were not a Mexican pop band after all; after a few shaky songs, they revealed themselves to be a fun, shoegazey rock band with a great, dynamic rhythm. I picked up their debut album and was even more impressed: Olympic Hearts isn’t a perfect album, but it’s a consistently fun and well-executed one. Moral of the Story: Always watch the opening act.

Samme Stof Som Stof – Under Byen: A couple months ago, there was an ad and a brief interview about the Danish band, both of which drawing general comparisons to Sigur Ros and a generally Scandanavian aesthetic of dark, depressing, haunting music. Naturally, this was quite enough for me, and I went out to pick up the album a day or two later. There are bits of Sigur Ros here, singer Henriette Sennenvaldt sounds a bit like Bjork at times, and it’s a dark, brooding album. It’s also quite a good one, mixing in louder, harsher tracks like opener “Pilot” and “Film Og Omvendt” with lighter, delicate pieces. Guitars are fairly limited, usually forming a backdrop for synths, strings, piano, and Sennenvaldt’s vocals. It’ll certainly remind you of other albums, but it manages to maintain its own identity. It’d be nice if I could understand any of the lyrics, but they certainly sound cool.

Gang of Losers – The Dears: I have to admit – this was something of a disappointment. I’d heard a few of the songs at some of the band’s incredible live shows, and they didn’t quite measure up on CD. Gang of Losers feels consciously restrained after the grandiosity of No Cities Left, and I’m not sure the change is for the best: The Dears are best when dealing in great big emotion. Still, plenty of discs would look weak when compared to the band’s exceptional shows, so perhaps I shouldn’t hold that against the album. The title track is still wonderful, Ticket to Immortality is surprisingly raw and sentimental for Murray Lightburn, and Death or Life We Want You is a great rocker. A few songs have to grow on you, like the excellent I Fell Deep, but there’s not a bad track on the disc. Even if there’s disappointingly few great ones, it’s still a very good CD.