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Category: Music

The Big Short plays the underdog while betting on The House

The Big ShortThe Big Short is the story of greed and opportunism.

It starts with the story of the banker who had the idea of mortgage-backed securities. It then jumps forward to the early 21st century, when a few savvy traders spot the warning signs of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Against conventional wisdom, they bet that the mortgage lending industry will fall apart, and take major financial institutions – and huge chunks of the US economy -with them.

And these are the good guys of the story.

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Friday Music: EMA, Boris, Nothing, Mogwai

Erika M Andersons’ previous album, Past Life Martyred Saints, was one of those albums I liked & admired, but didn’t love. It was dark, moody, and emotional, and something I should have adored, but it just didn’t click for reasons I can’t fully explain.

There are no such problems with Future Void*, which is one of the best things I’ve listened to in 2014. It’s noisy (opener Satellites) fun (grungey pop So Blonde), and emotional (3jane, which is almost certainly going to appear on some soundtracks.)

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Spooky Songs for Ghouls & Ghosts: A Hallowe’en Playlist

It’s almost Hallowe’en. Truthfully, I listen to weird and spooky music for most of the year, but only occasionally does this become socially acceptable.

  • Yes, there are two Nick Cave songs. Normally, I would consider this to be cheating, but he has an entire album about murder, so I think it’s fair game.
  • Many of these, particularly in the back half, are quite long. This Dust Makes That Mud goes on for about 30 minutes, and is menacingly hypnotic at a certain point. Turn it up properly loud, then be scared when it stops.
  • Too long for the list was Boris’ Absolutego, which is an hour of brooding, terrifying drone. Etna is a nice substitute, I think.
  • Monster Mash was the first dance song at my wedding. I am terribly sentimental.
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The Corin Tucker Band: Neskowin

At the risk of being melodramatic, the breakup of Sleater-Kinney was the worst event in the history of the human race. On the one hand, The Woods was probably the high point of their excellent career, and an perfect note to go out on. But on the other hand, what if they’d gotten even better? Or just stayed awesome?

My pain was soothed by Wild Flag, starring Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, whose debut album was rocktastically outstanding, but what I really wanted – nay, needed – was the return of The Voice.

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Stars: Through the Mines

I’ve been a fan of Stars for a long time, ever since I saw them opening for St. Etienne. I wasn’t a huge fan of their last couple albums, but so far I’m loving The North. In particular, Through The Mines, which is a lovely, poppy Amy song.

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February Music: Not Radiohead

I’m not going to write about Radiohead.

I like Radiohead, you might like Radiohead. So far, I really like King of Limbs; there’s some good stuff there.

But everyone’s talking about Radiohead. And, truth be told, I was excited about some recent music before I even knew there was a new Radiohead album.

If we’re talking about my favourites from the 1990s, Radiohead would be there. But so would PJ Harvey. And if you think Radiohead has made some challenging artistic choices since their altpop heyday, god knows what you’d think of Polly Jean. She made a fairly mainstream rock album with Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea – on which she got Thom Yorke to sing a straightforward love song – but also released White Chalk, a spooky ghost album.

Let England Shake is about war, and the death and horror that comes with it. It’s more upbeat than White Chalk, but still dark and haunting.

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Singing Other People’s Songs

As a general rule, I don’t like covers. Too often, it’s just lazy musicians trying to get attention by playing songs people already know. But sometimes, it’s just really great to hear a familiar song played by someone who was pretty awesome anyway.

St. Vincent is generally pretty awesome. Her albums are very good, and her live show is superb. And while she’s great at big, loud, artsy numbers, she’s also pretty darn fantastic when playing a single guitar. This cover earns bonus points because the original, by Nico, was used prominently in The Royal Tenenbaums, one of my favourite movies.

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May Music: BSS, Land of Talk, Mono, Lucky Soul

Sometimes, I worry that I’m not Canadian enough. I don’t like a lot of things that Canadians are supposed to like, like Rush, Hockey, or Paul Gross. So I hate to be judgemental about this sort of thing, but I’m going to do it anyway: If you don’t like Broken Social Scene, you are a Bad Canadian.

It’s not just that they’re Canadian. It’s not just that they make really good music. They also seem to be a genuinely nice group of people; while their shows are indisputably excellent, they still maintain the casual feel of a bunch of friends hanging out.

That quality was on display on Sunday when the band played a series of intimate gigs in record shops across Toronto. I snagged a ticket for their show at Soundscapes and got to see the acoustic debut of several songs from their latest album, Forgiveness Rock Record.

That “debut” thing proved to be a bit tricky, as the band prefaced many of the songs with a brief conference in which they figured out how to play it. The show also featured sing-alongs, clapping, and a killer melodica solo by Charles Spearin.

Broken Social Scene is good enough and popular enough to be headlining big shows, but they still feel perfectly comfortable playing in a record store for 75 people. That’s one of the reasons I love them so much.

(I also managed to see them playing at Q, which was a pretty good show as well.)

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