Friday, December 31, 2010

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2010 - Winners

Here they are: the ten albums I listened to most this year, according to my charts. This is an objective way of determining my favourite albums, whether I agree with the numbers or not. Let me know your own favourite music of the year, if you're into this whole music thing. Oh, and happy new year! Maybe this is the year your resolutions will actually happen.

10. of Montreal - False Priest

The bands that occupy the most space in my mind (and on my iPod) are the ones that constantly reinvent themselves while maintaining a core musical identity. of Montreal has managed to evolve significantly with each of their many albums; it's hard to even identify their first albums as the same musical creature that they are today. Yet each step is small and logical. False Priest continues where Skeletal Lamping left off, going in a slightly more funky but mature direction. It took me a bit longer to get into than other albums, but it definitely belongs on this list.

9. Katy Perry - Teenage Dream

I'm over being ashamed of loving shitty pop music. Singing about partying and relationships in the simplest of terms over the simplest of music may not be high art, but it's damn fun to listen to. If that first chorus of Firework doesn't make you want to go "oh oh oh", you're dead inside.

(see also)

8. Sia - We Are Born

More pop music done right comes courtesy of Sia. She's gone full-on dancy disco from her downtempo roots, and it suits her well. If Clap Your Hands doesn't make you want to clap your hands, you are dead inside.

Oookay, never seen that video before. WTF.

7. Sleigh Bells - Treats

Sleigh Bells' squeaky-clean-cheerleader-contrasted-with-dirty-noise musical aesthetic sounds like nothing else out there. I don't know if the gimmick can be maintained beyond one short album, but what an album it is.

6. Yeasayer - Odd Blood

I don't even know what the fuck to call this. Yeasayer's music is a "world music" tinged mess of genres, and overall I'd say Odd Blood is inconsistent at best. But while it may not be album of the year, it probably made this list largely due to the song O.N.E. being listened to on repeat. I rarely listen to a song more than once in the same day, but this one I couldn't resist. Let's go ahead and call it song of the year.

5. Broken Bells - Broken Bells

This union of Danger Mouse with the Shins' James Mercer has resulted in one of the most never-get-sick-of-it albums of the year. I don't know what the hell they're singing about most of the time, but it's such sweet music that it doesn't really matter.

Can we take a break to talk about Christina Hendricks for a minute? She is one of those people who I can acknowledge is objectively beautiful in many different ways, but deep down, she just doesn't do it for me. Those giant boobs and weird proportions throw something off; it's all interesting to look at  though. Maybe this is why so many straight women are drawn to her. And Mad Men! What's with that show? I gave it two chances and just couldn't get into it. The glimpse into another time with all its messed up values and exotic fashion is cool and all, but I'd like it more as backdrop to a show in which stuff actually happens.

Moving on:

4. Ke$ha - Animal

Shit. Ok I said I was through being ashamed of liking shitty pop, but this is as bad as it gets. I listened to this more than Broken Bells? Really? She doesn't even sing!

3. Massive Attack - Heligoland

At the height of their career, Massive Attack's Mezzanine brought on immediate depression with its pure dreariness. Over a decade later, that dreariness is largely gone, replaced with a more subtly dark collection. I probably wouldn't consciously put this in my top three, but it must have been enough of a fitting soundtrack to my life to occupy my ears for a large proportion of it.

[WARNING: the video below is completely totally NSFW. Don't click it at work. Seriously.]

Massive Attack Paradise Circus (HD) uncensored

2. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

Sometimes the albums I listen to most are the ones I'm most ambivalent about. I wasn't sure what to think about Plastic Beach when I first heard it, but it intrigued me enough to keep listening, and eventually it grew on me enough that I'm happy with its placement here at number two. Stylo is another of those rare songs I can listen to over and over again.

Also check out the second album Gorillaz released this year, The Fall. It was made on an iPad while on the road. Jesus you guys, we live in a world where you can create an album on a slab of glass. Stream it here.

1. Stars - The Five Ghosts

Ah, good old Stars. Their emo melodrama is extremely cheesy, but sometimes cheesy is what you need, and I guess I was in the mood for dairy this year. This is kind of a concept album about the ghosts of dead kids or something. Whatever. If you can resist the catchiness of the "oooh oooh oooh"s in The Passenger, it is you, sir, who are dead inside.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2010 - Honourable Mentions

It's become a yearly December tradition to highlight the music I've been listening to in the previous year. I keep track of all my music listening through, and often find myself disappointed when some of my favourite albums weren't actually the ones I listened to most (after all, longer albums and albums released earlier in the year have an unfair advantage). I'll be back tomorrow with the ten albums that objectively vibrated my eardrums the most, but here are ten that vibrated my heartdrums even if I only listened to them on special occasions.

Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More

Yeah yeah, everyone's talking about this album. But it holds a special place in my heart, because it was playing the first time I got laid after a significant dry spell. Apart from that, it's a solid little indie-folk record with a certain special quality that managed to shoot it into the mainstream.

Hot Chip - One Life Stand

Just watch this:

And the actual album is pretty kickass too.

Rihanna - Loud

As the title promises, Rihanna's latest is an irresistible celebration of sex, violence, and that special place where the two meet. After seeing her in concert, I think we have a pretty strong bond, Rihanna and I, and I'm glad this new album didn't mess it up. Just check out this hotness with Drake:

The boy's come a long way from Degrassi. Speaking of which:

Jakalope - Things That Go Jump in the Night

Jakalope are a perplexing band, headed by a producer who's worked with Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, but sounding more like pop with only a slight industrial edge. Even more out of left-field was their opening theme for Degrassi: The Next Generation, which sounded nothing like their previous music. Add to that an all-new lead singer, and this new album could have been a disaster. Luckily, that wasn't the case. Things That Go Jump in the Night sounds like maple syrup - sugary but with a wintery edge and an ineffable Canadian vibe.

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

[Insert fishsticks joke].

Despite everything, Kanye puts out some damn impressive music to back up his cocky douchebaggery. There's some self-indulgence that gets in the way (what the fuck is this Chris Rock shit in Blame Game?), but I still can't stop listening to this.

Girl Talk - All Day

It's just more songs mashed up in semi-clever ways, but it's hard to not love what Girl Talk does. Plus he gives it away free and somehow evades being shut down for copyright infringement, so that's worth rooting for.

Zeus - Say Us and Land of Talk - Cloak and Cipher

Both of these bands rocked LOLA Fest 2010 here in London, and both released kickass albums in 2010. I think we'll be seeing more of them. Well, even more than this:

Warpaint - The Fool

This came out of nowhere to be one of my favourite albums of the year. Comparisons with The xx (who put out one of my favourite albums last year) are appropriate, with the lazy dreamy vocals, sparse instruments, and occasional electronic layers. I don't know how I even stumbled across these dudes, but I am so glad I did.

Robyn - Body Talk (Parts 1, 2, and 3)

Robyn would actually have taken #3 on my top ten most listened to albums if all of Body Talk was considered one album. Her comeback from being a 90s two-hit-wonder has resulted in some of my favourite pop music of the year. I also dig the way she's released this trilogy, with short albums released every few months, as they are completed. This may be the future—or a step towards the future—of music distribution in a world where real-time updates are the norm. Like a Twitter stream of album releases.


Here are some more albums I love that came out this year:

  • OK Go - Of the Blue Colour of the Sky
  • Coheed and Cambria - Year of the Black Rainbow
  • Spoon - Transference
  • The Love Language - Libraries
  • Hanson - Shout it Out
  • Diamond Rings - Special Affectations
  • She & Him - Volume Two
  • Belle and Sebastian - Write About Love
  • The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Here are some albums that were OK but I just couldn't get into for some reason:

  • The National - High Violet
  • Weezer - Hurley
  • Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks
  • Crystal Castles - II

I'll be back tomorrow (if I have time) with my most listened-to albums of the year.

See also:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Life Isn't Supposed to Not Be Confusing

Last night I opened up my drafts folder on Twitter, and found the following half-finished thought that I'd saved earlier: "life isn't supposed to not be confusing." *

At first I dismissed it as a drunken tweet gone wrong, but once I got over the perplexing double-negative (how meta, drunk self), I realized that maybe there's something to it.

There's a lot of crap going on, out there in the world. So that we can navigate it without dying, Mother Nature shoves a whole bunch of competing subpeople into our brain. Hunger, thirst; long-term plans, conserving energy on the couch; love, lust—all of these desires squawk like baby birds crying for the momma bird of consciousness to barf up some attention.

Having a clear mind is the most unnatural thing in the world. A mess of swirling thoughts and emotions is the default state of a thinking person. Why? Because it works. The desire that needs attention the most is usually the one that gets it. If we are hungry enough, it won't stop the laziness and thoughts about chicks from squawking, but it'll be enough that we get off the couch and ward off starvation for one more day. If we didn't have to constantly be weighing options and desires, we wouldn't need brains. Confusion is the natural consequence of intelligence.

People act less confused than they are. Sometimes they even say perfectly coherent things. But with other people, we only see the final behavioural products of their internal turmoil. Like the tip of an iceberg, except underneath it's not all perfect crystalline structure, but a writhing mass of multicoloured tentacles. Basically, Cthulhu with an iceberg hat.

Confusion is a lot easier to deal with if we embrace it. Having a clear and linear mind is not something that most people will attain for any length of time, so why not just bask in a normal, healthy, jumbled mind? Plus, it makes those epiphanic moments when everything comes together and makes sense more recognizable as the rare and magical moments that they are.

1 Actually, it said "life isn't supposed to bot be confusing," but my sober self was able to get the idea.

See also: First Person Plural.

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
 -- H. P. Lovecraft, Call of Cthulhu

Monday, December 13, 2010


Previously on I laid out four things I wanted to get done in November: 1: Write a novel, 2: Grow a moustache, 3: Be alone forever, 4: Get a PhD.

I am sad to report that I only succeeded at #2 *. But you know what Meat Loaf says? He says to me, he says, don't be sad, because two out of three ain't bad. Two is only one more than one, and four is one more than three, so ... so uh ... I think Meat Loaf would agree that one out of four ain't bad either.

Am I right or am I right?

Besides, "PhDecember" has a nice ring to it, so I think I'll finish that up this month. Besides besides, writing a book in a month is a fun gimmick, but one I don't feel a strong need to have done more than once, and I've already done it twice (or thrice if you count this). The pressure of November did squeeze a little diamond of an idea into my head, so I'll polish that up over a more reasonable timescale.

There are my excuses for failing at life. December is another busy month, but I will find time to update you on its various happenings, blog. You know why? Because blog, baby, I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna ... leave you.

* And raised $135 as part of a team that raised $1854 for prostate cancer! Thanks everyone who supported Movember.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

How to Save London Ontario

First, I don't think London needs "saving." I love it here, and for what it is, it's a great place to live. There is always room for improving it, though, and there is a lot of talk lately about how to do that.

A fantastic project called Redraw London visually depicts solutions to some of London's problems (see also: Kevin Van Lierop's 100 Ways to Improve London project). One example is making Dundas Street car-free where it passes through downtown—a proposition that people have been talking about for years. Brian Frank addresses this in a a recent blog post. He sees Dundas as a sort of canary in a coalmine; if Dundas is healthy, London is (at least perceived to be) healthy. However, he has doubts that getting rid of cars will suddenly rejuvenate it.

So do I. I wouldn't complain about a quirky car-free street in London, but the problem I see is that it's a boring idea. Support for a pedestrian Dundas usually ends in "just like street [X] in [city Y]!" That is, it's been done before. Yawn. We're already named after another city, so let's try to do something else to stand out, eh? We can do better than imitation, because London is full of creative geniuses. I am a creative genius. Here is how to save London:

1. Screw a car-free Dundas; how about a bumper-car-only Dundas? It's transportation! It's an amusement park! It's both! Since crashing is part of the fun, this also solves that pesky drunk driving problem once and for all.

2. How about a street where graffiti is not only allowed, but encouraged? Think of that great new work on Clarence near Dundas, except times twenty, constantly changing and showcasing local talent.

3. How about being the best at something? The world's largest [awesome thing]. The best [awesome food] in the country. We probably already have something like this and just don't know it. It would be nice to have a feature that makes London unique in the world—a symbol other than trees that we can put on our posters and logos.

4. More seriously, how about a waterfront? We've got this beautiful river splashing straight through the heart of the city, and the only place we can see it from is Museum London and the restaurant in it. I like parks and all, but I'd be happy to see half of Harris Park transformed into another type of public waterfront space. Maybe even with a few businesses there. Like small stands that sell food you don't see everywhere else.


5. How about a permanent beaver tail stand?

6. How about the world's best beaver tails?

I've got like infinity more ideas, only half of which involve deep-fried dough, but the ones here already involve a lot of bulldozing so maybe I should stop. If you live in London (and sorry for the boring post if you don't), think of your own ideas. Put them out there. Even the crappy ones can inspire better ones, and the best ones may become reality.

P.S. I already wrote some of these ideas in a drunken comment over on London Fuse.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Food Review: The KFC Double Down

When the Double Down was announced on April 1st, many people thought it was either a prank or the downfall of human civilization. Consisting of two battered and deep-fried chicken breasts embracing cheese, bacon, and "the colonel's secret sauce" (stop hitting on me colonel), it's like everything unhealthy stuffed together in one big gob.

So when I got a car this morning1, the first thing I did with my newfound freedom was get myself to the nearest KFC. There aren't any near where I live, so the greasy monstrosity had been taunting me from afar for weeks.

You are probably wondering: how is it? Did I cry tears of shame upon its completion? How many heart attacks have I had since?

First, let me describe the chicken-bunned "sandwich" in less sensationalist terms: it is two small, breaded chicken breasts, two slices of cheese, and one slice of bacon, together. That is all it is. That is all it tastes like. It will not make you feel sick unless you mentally ready your gag reflex because the media told you to. And it will not make you fat.

At 540 calories, here are some things that will get you fat as quick or quicker than a Double Down will2:

  • Two KFC original recipe chicken breasts with nothing on them (640 Kcal).
  • A grilled cheese sandwich (550 Kcal).
  • Calamari (720 Kcal).
  • Eight chicken wings. Without sauce (950 Kcal).
  • Nachos. No, scratch that: one quarter of a plate of nachos (2160 Kcal).
  • A venti eggnog latte from Starbucks (610 Kcal).
  • A salad (chicken, bacon bits, guacamole, feta, croutons, and honey citrus dressing) (550 Kcal).

So if you're at the bar, downing a plate of nachos over a few beers, gabbing about how terrible the Double Down is, realize that you just stuffed 4 or 5 Double Downs' worth of calories down your pie hole. If you have a latte in the morning and a salad for lunch, you would have been better off with two mystery-sauce-covered meatwhiches jammed in your face. You're doing it wrong.

"Oooh, but it has way more sodium than anything else," I hear you saying. But no. It doesn't. Look it up. Also, why am I hearing your voice in my head? Could this be love?

Anyway, fast food paranoia is as dumb as any other media-fueled conspiracy theory, and falls apart under scrutiny. See also: the McDonalds burger that never rots because of magic chemicals they put in it (spoiler alert: no they don't). The Double Down is meat and cheese. It tastes like meat and cheese. Nothing more, nothing less. Nom up.

1 That is correct; I got a car and a Double Down and chose to write about the chicken.

2 These numbers are from the web sites of Kelsey's, KFC, and Starbucks.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Cock of the Walk

There's this cock carved in the sidewalk near Queens and Wellington; nothing fancy, just a half oval with two circles. My sense of humour includes the not-so-sophisticated, so I giggle every time I walk past.

It takes me about 45 minutes to walk to work (factoring in a stop for coffee, because the coffee at work tastes like poisoned piss). Both ways, that's an hour and a half out of my day, every day, that I spend walking. A perk of the job I'm walking to is that they give me money for doing it. Should I use that income to buy a car and save the time it takes to walk?

No, because if I was driving, I wouldn't get to giggle at that cock.

Beyond the obvious health benefits, there is a subtle value in taking the time to walk wherever I go. When I started this job, I'd pass this angry-looking man every day. With his unpleasant scowl and determined stare, I wondered what the problem was. But every day, his scowl softens just a bit when he sees me, and that glint of recognition flashes in his eyes. Further down the road I encounter the pretty girl with the nice eyebrows. We've progressed to a corner-mouth half-smile when we pass.

We're building something in slow motion, 10 seconds at a time. Not relationships, but maybe something approaching acquaintanceships. Even if it never goes past near-imperceptible nods, that's enough to foster a sense of community. A feeling that we share the space we live in with unique people, rather than anonymous silhouettes behind windshields.

I'll still buy a car for when I need it (read: beer runs), but as long as my legs will carry me, I'll rely on them as my main form of transportation. It's worth taking the extra time to smell the roses, get to know the people, and laugh at the dicks.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stephen King Contest: WINNERS

The results of the contest are in. I wish everyone could be winners, I really do, because most of your entries were just awesome. But I've only got two books, so by random draw (see the spreadsheet here), the winners are...

Sean!, with the following stupid story:
In Castle Rock Maine a county fair has just happened. People laughed. People rode the rides. People ate fires, cotton candy, chill cheese dogs, deep fried mars bars. They ate and Ate and Ate.

Now the town suffers heavily.

Into this plugged up place comes a wanderer with no past, no present, no future.

He eases the way....his name is Lax. And for a price....he brings relief.


Simon McNeil!, with this one:

I was going to say "This guy gets driven insane by a giant finger poking out of the bathtub drain" but King already did that one....

So instead:

A couple driving in rural Maine come across a town with a terrible secret.

All the people there are really actually moose in disguise and they transform outsiders into lush marshy grasses.

By the end the man has been transformed into a stand of horsetail and the woman looses her left hand which transforms partly into pond weed before she escapes the evil moose.

Then she crashes her car into an ordinary deer because she wasn't paying attention.

Congrats! Both of you get a perfectly okay copy of Full Dark, No Stars. However, only one person can get the slightly less bent copy. Chosen on literary merit, the winner of the non-shitty copy of the book is...

Envelope please...



It's Sean. He must read this blog a lot, because he obviously knows that I can't resist stories about poop.

I will try to contact the winners later (I'm running late for work you guys), but if you happen to read this before I do, please email me (alkfjdsa at phronk dot com) with your deets. By deets I mean address.

Thanks to everyone who entered and linked to this. And thanks Simon and Schuster for the free shit. You two are the best.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

CONTEST: Win Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars by Being Stupid

I've spent a lot of time with Stephen King's books. My respect for him is deeper than fandom. It feels more like having gone on a long road trip with someone, and even though you piss each other off a lot, you're so glad you spent the time together. 

I was delighted, then, when Simon and Schuster offered to send me some copies of King's upcoming book, Full Dark, No Stars (or at least I was delighted after I actually got the books, confirming that it wasn't just a scam to get my address and send me poisonous dust. Sometimes I'm paranoid about people mailing me poisonous dust). Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of novellas, kinda like Different Seasons. I have read the first paragraph of the first story, and can confirm that it is very good up to that point.

I got three copies, and I'm still reading Under the Dome so I won't have time to read one copy right away, let alone three. Therefore, I will give away the other two copies to you, Constant Blog Readers.

The book doesn't come out until November 9th, so you can enter this contest before it is even in stores (you won't actually get the book before it's in stores, but you can smugly say you saw a picture of your book [see above] before it was). Here is how to enter:

1. Promise to read my blog every day forever. And like it.
2. Leave a comment1 here with your idea for a Stephen King story if Stephen King was really stupid.

  • A meteor crashes into a small town in Maine, and it turns all boys into girls and all girls into turtle creatures.
  • An isolated writer discovers that his computer is evil. He struggles to finish his novel while his computer constantly tells him he sucks and tries to electrocute him. While he sleeps, the computer orders a package off of eBay. It contains poisonous dust.

Two winners will be chosen at random in one week (November 11th). But make your entry good, because hey, look at that picture above. See how one copy is kinda bent at the bottom? The random entry that is better / more hilarious / sexier will get the non-shitty copy.

Good luck! Feel free to forward this to anyone who may be interested.

P.S. Simon & Schuster also has their own contest to win a bunch of King books, so go enter that too. Click on this:

P.P.S. Shipping costs are brought to you by some company that makes fabric blinds. Seriously, I'm paid $30 for that link. I really don't care if you go and buy fabric blinds or not.

1 Or tweet it to me, or email if you're shy, or whatever. It'll be posted publicly if it's good, though. For all entries, please make sure there is a way I can contact you.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


November is also:
So I gotta write a novel, become a doctor, grow a moustache (poking those hairs up is hard work), and come to grips with being alone forever. Probably because I don't have time for other people.

All this on top of a full time job. Did I tell you I got a full time job, blog? Because yeah, I'm totally working for The Man now. But it's not exactly selling my soul; I just rent it out between the hours of 9 and 5. 

Plus I help make London awesome (HEY COME TO THE LONDON SHORT FILM SHOWCASE ON SATURDAY), and I even have a smidge of a social life sometimes. 

It's a lot on my plate. Luckily I'm always hungry.

But hey, blog, let me temper this rambling horn-tooting by telling you an uncomfortable truth about myself: I am profoundly lazy. The only reason I do anything is so I can enjoy doing nothing. When your mind has been active all day, there is nothing better than sitting down to watch terrible television that makes your mind not only inactive, but dumber (#snookie). Or just kinda zoning out; finding yourself staring at a closed fridge door for 5 minutes, maybe because you thought you were hungry, or maybe just because your mind shut off when you happened to be in the kitchen.

I like having done almost as much as I like doing. I need that down time. Which means, and this is what I've been trying to tell you, blog, is that if I'm going to get all these ___vember activities done, something else has to give if I'm to have that perfect work/laziness balance. If you are my friend and I don't see you all month, at least you know why. If you stop by because you didn't read this, and you figure someone's gotta collect the body, then you see that my computer desk is just a valley among mountains of unwashed coffee cups and empty pizza boxes, then, well, I'm sorry for the smell.

I'll be gone all November. Give a kiss to my mutha.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Joe No

When I was a kid—maybe grade 7 or 8—an unusual school assembly was held. We gathered in an auditorium and listened to a man talk about something that was ostensibly educational. I don't remember the topic; maybe it was about the political system or something. What I do remember is that this man talked more about himself than about anything substantially informative.

Even back then, I remember having the thought: dude, why are you campaigning to us? We're children.

I vowed never to vote for him.

So last night, in London's mayoral race, I voted against Joe Fontana.

This morning, I woke up and he was mayor.

It's not exactly terrible news. Change is always exciting, whether for better or worse. And nothing encourages artistic expression better than rallying against a leader that creative types tend to despise. I'm not opposed to lower taxes, though I'd rather see equal or higher taxes spent properly.

Plus, at least he's not Rob Ford. Ouch, Toronto. Just...ouch.

Still, it would have been nice to have a mayor who doesn't have a really crappy web site (really, I think you can tell a lot about someone by their web site). Can someone awesome please step up in the next 4 years? Thanx.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

London Ontario Zombie Walk 2010

The sun may have been out today, but it didn't keep some delightfully dark Londoners from hitting the streets for the annual zombie walk

This. This is what makes me proud to live in this city. 

Bwahahah. The foot. THE FOOT. Bwhahah.

Kevin probably took much better pictures.
Zombie Elvis + zombie Elvis fan.

Nothing in this photo makes sense.

A different Day of the Dead.




Wait what?

This girl has the crazy eyes down pat. I hope she doesn't always look like that.

Cutest cannibals ever!

You shouldn't crowd surf with zombies.

You know, even though it's all makeup, there is something actually-scary about having a crowd of hundreds of undead clawing and growling at you. The kid above, he might have a few nightmares. Forever. And I'm not sure if he got that shoe back.

I say this every year, but for real this time, next year I'm going as a zombie. Someone kill me for real if I don't.