Friday, November 02, 2007

Hot Hot Bleat

This admittedly insular site doesn’t normally delve into matters of the blogosphere, but this week I participated in a poll for the “hottest bands in Canada” as tallied by Matthew Pollesel of Ottawa’s I Heart Music site. The results are here.

While I can’t really argue with at least half of the top ten—including the top four (Feist, Arcade Fire, Miracle Fortress, Sunset Rubdown)—the rest of the rockist list explains the homogeneity of the Canadian blogosphere, who appear to like nothing better than two-guitars-bass-drums. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that, like this year’s Polaris crop, I think we’re capable of much more.

Other curiosities: Neil Young? Seriously? The Top 100 Canadian Albums book is one thing, but what does he have to do with 2007?

Speaking of which, does Wolf Parade deserve to be here when they were on hiatus all year—and Handsome Furs and Sunset Rubdown take up two spots in the top ten already?

Finally, does Vancouver really suck so hard that the New Pornographers are the only band here from Canada’s third largest city? For that matter, Calgarian expat Chad Van Gaalen and one half of the Weakerthans are the only other Western Canadians here.

While it’s nice to see obscure acts like Woodhands, The Luyas and The Great Bloomers make the list, only three of my own final ten picks made the list.

Here’s the ballot I submitted.

1. Bruce Peninsula. Interview here.
2. Mark Davis. Review here.
3. Miracle Fortress. Interview here by Helen Spitzer. Blurb here.
4. The Acorn. Exclaim cover story here. Interviews here.
5. Ghislain Poirier. Older article here.
6. Arcade Fire. Review here. Interviews are here. I recently fell in love with Neon Bible—for the first time, really, as I was wrapped up in high expectations and an interview whirlwind at the time of its release. I feel like I finally have the distance to appreciate it now.
7. Secret Mommy. Interview forthcoming.
8. Thunderheist. A live review is somewhere in here. Denise Benson explains it all for you here.
9. Apostle of Hustle. Review here and here. Hopefully an interview is forthcoming.
10. Holy Fuck. Cover story (not by me) in Exclaim here.

I don’t think these are very obscure to anyone who follows Canadian music closely, except my #1 choice: Toronto’s most promising band but a local phenomenon only, which was placed strategically, to no avail. But then again, as this exercise and others continue to prove, maybe no one really follows Canadian music closely unless sunny pop songs are involved.

I mean, seriously: don’t these rockists have the time of day for the tower of power that is Holy Fuck? Haven’t the preponderance of Toronto and Montreal bloggers on this jury had a chance to see Thunderheist live yet? Am I the only person in (eastern) Canada who thinks those two Mark Davis albums are overflowing with songs that Johnny Cash wishes he was alive to record? Has anyone out there even heard Secret Mommy? Does Ghislain Poirier’s absence mean that no one on the jury can dance?

For what it’s worth, here are the other 10 acts that made my long list. This time, a whopping four of them made the Top 33.

Buck 65. Review here.
Julie Doiron. Interview here.
Great Lake Swimmers. Interview here.
Immaculate Machine. Most improved players.
Les Amis au Pakistan. Out-of-nowhere surprise.
Lightning Dust. Reviewed here.
Paul Macleod. Waiting to review this—Paul, are you ever going to play Toronto??!!
Joel Plaskett. Interview here.
Shad. Helen Spitzer writes about him here.
Weakerthans. Interview forthcoming.
You Say Party We Say Die.

I could have easily dropped another 10 or 20 names of people I love dearly, but for whatever entirely arbitrary reason I decided they were “hotter” last year. I don’t know, I mean WTF—who are we here, Paris Hilton?

Finally, what does it mean when this 36-year-old grumpy old blogger—I’m guessing I’m the most aged on the jury—feels that my younger peers are too conservative?

More on lists very shortly…

But in the meantime, congrats to Dave Bidini on his new book Around the World in 57 1/2 Gigs, which was launched last night at the Paddock. We spoke a bit about it--as well as the process of retiring the Rheostatics--about a year ago here. Based on the excerpt he read last night--about playing with a Azerbaijani Chernobyl survivor on piano and a Zambian heckler in a Finnish bar--it's a very juicy read.

I'm sad, however, that he didn't decide to go with one of his initial promo ideas, which was to read the book in its entirety in the storefront window of Pages on Queen Street.

[Sunday morning update, from Mr. Bidini:

MB: The reading gig is on.Next Saturday, Pages, 12-6 pm. In the window. I'm going to sweat, grow hoarse and melt.]


Anonymous said...

My numerous thoughts, in no particular order:

1) Bruce Peninsula will be much bigger next year, when they actually have an album...or, who knows, maybe they'll be a Toronto version of The Choir Practice, a Vancouver band that's totally (and unjustly) ignored.
2) I waited about three or four months after Neon Bible's release to give it a listen, and I still didn't get what it was...I've tried going back to it once or twice, but all that's done is make me appreciate "Intervention" more and more, while liking the rest of the album less and less.
3) Secret Mommy: very good, but their album seemed to vanish off the face of the earth immediately following its release. It didn't help that it wasn't exactly immediately accessible, but that only speaks to the rock-centric leanings of most jurors.
4) Neil Young was probably helped greatly by the fact he was getting a publicity blitz for all of October, which probably directly lead to him getting votes.
5) I was a little torn about counting up the Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown/Handsome Furs votes...I'd have to double-check, but no one who voted for Wolf Parade voted for Sunset Rubdown/Handsome Furs, and the opposite was also true. Clearly, people were voting for Wolf Parade as a stand-in for those other two solo projects (as well as, I'd like to think, Johnny and the Moon, but at the same time, I think I'm the only person in the country who heard that album)...but combining Wolf Parade with Spencer and Dan's solo projects would've put them at #1 by a huge margin, and peoplewould've been pissed off at that, and rightfully so.
6) My problem with Mark Davis stemmed from the Polaris message board, and the way people turned it into a him vs. Jim Bryson kind of thing...while the records may have been fine on their own, I was listening to them in terms of their relation to Where The Bungalows Roam, and on that score, it just wasn't as good. Solid, for sure, but it just came up short compared to Bryson.
7) Holy Fuck are totally hurt by the fact they're on a UK label, and by their name. I think they're amazing, and I really like the new album, but the new Exclaim! cover shows heir biggest mainstream outlet is going to give them coverage, up to and including Radio 3. It's hard to build a profile exclusively on the backs of media that allow an uncensored "Fuck"...

And I need to check out Les Amis au Pakistan...someone else included them on their list, and they seem to be pretty interesting.

mmmbarclay said...

fair enough.

i don't begrudge wolf parade/ handsome furs/ sunset rubdown all being on the list. i like them all--but precisely because of the success of the latter two, wolf parade was MIA this year (the acronym, not the artist, obviously) and therefore should be persona non grata as far as any 2007 list should be concerned. it's certainly not your fault that many jurors were clinging to 2005 (the same year the new pornographers put out a good album).

re: holy fuck and mainstream coverage. here lies my precise problem with the cdn blogosphere: judging by how familiar and predictable much of it is, the vast majority of this list may well have been compiled by the globe and mail. because after all, isn't this form of alternative media supposed to be exactly that--an alternative to what we read everywhere else?

while i'm glad that the jurors aren't blinded by mainstream acceptance of the likes of arcade fire and feist (it's nice to know that indie snobbery is not what it once was), i really wanted to be challenged by new faces on this list. i expected to be the most conservative voice in the room.

maybe i expect too much!

Anonymous said...

I second the comment about westerners not being on the list. It's a perpetual situation with bloggers out east. Which is fine in the end I guess, it'll only allow the scene here to develop on its own and have its own identity, and a few years down the road (or maybe even 2008) there'll be a music scene here (already in the making) that'll wow some socks off folks, and you'll think it came out of nowhere.

Anonymous said...

As someone who put Wolf Parade on their list, I feel the problem is the inherent ambigious nature of the word "hottest." I took it to mean what everyone's (or what critical mass I pay attention to) talking about or excited about, not what awesome bands I'm currently listening to. I put Wolf Parade higher up due to the fact of the crazy frenzy of praise/hysteria that accompanied their August spate of concerts. Just because they have no new recorded content doesn't mean they ain't "hot." Which you so ably demonstrate putting the absolutely fantastic Bruce Peninsula high up on your own list. Once the word "hottest" is defined better, the list has potential for some kind of accuracy. Although everyone agreed about Feist and Arcade Fire. Who knows?

Anonymous said...

i took "hottest" to mean a group/person who really did something great & exciting in 2007 (in my opinion, of course), and who had potential for bigger things in 2008.

i knew nobody else was going to vote for the improvising collective AIMToronto, but hey--i tried. my list also included jay crocker from calgary and hip hop group grand analog from winnipeg. not to pat myself on the pat for diversity, but just to say that some of us made some pretty obscure choices that were unlikely to come out in the wash. a list like this is about popularity, after all. i think as individuals we're less conservative than we are as a collective.