Riot Fest Toronto, August 2012.
I know I use this Tumblr mostly to dump links to my writing, but seeing as the year is
almost over, I wanted to throw up a post with links to some of my favourite reads of 2012. As with last year’s roundup, this is a highly incomplete and unscientific list (with the majority of them being music-related stories for obvious reasons), but here are some stories that made me gasp, made me think, and most importantly, made me want to be a better writer. Hopefully there’s something here that makes you feel the same way.
Bruce Arthur - “The apology Lance Armstrong will never give” (National Post, Oct. 23, 2012)
I was talking to a former classmate at the Grey Cup a few weeks ago, and I told him that I rarely (if ever) read sports journalism, with the exception of Bruce Arthur. No one is better than him at going beyond the final score, statistics, etc., and writing about the human emotions experienced by athletes, coaches, fans, their families, etc. I really liked his Olympics coverage (and post-Olympics coverage - see this), but this piece on Lance Armstrong after the cyclist was stripped of his Tour de France titles, was my favourite.
Richard Beck - “5.4: Pitchfork, 1995-present” (n+1, January 2012)
Love them or hate them, Beck’s essay looks at how Pitchfork went from just another music website to a tastemaking force that can knock bands down as easily as they can set them up.
Josh Eells - “Jack White Is the Coolest, Weirdest, Savviest Rock Star of Our Time” (The New York Times, April 5, 2012)
Disclaimer: I’m pretty biased when it comes to anything Jack White-related. Still, I thought this profile was illuminating, especially when it came to White’s relationship with his children.
Sean Flynn - “Madman Across The Water” (GQ, August 2012)
A heartbreaking piece about the July 2011 shooting that resulted in 77 people dead at a summer camp in Norway. When professors teach students about reconstructive journalism, they should use this story as an example.
Charles Graeber - “Inside the Mansion—and Mind—of Kim Dotcom, the Most Wanted Man on the Net” (Wired, November 2012)
There were plenty of stories written about the shutdown of Megaupload and the larger-than-life founder (see above for visual proof) behind the company, but none of them got access to Dotcom like Graeber did.
Brian Hiatt - “The Many Lives of Adam Yauch” (Rolling Stone, June 7, 2012)
I can’t remember the last time I was so bummed out over the passing of a celebrity that I’ve never met (I even wrote my five cents on what the Beasties’ music has meant to me), or read a Rolling Stone cover story more than once, but MCA wasn’t your average celebrity. Also recommended: Hua Hsu’s piece on Yauch for Grantland.
Steve Hyden - “Extraordinary Machines” (Grantland, Sept. 11, 2012)
It doesn’t matter whether he’s writing about Tay Swift or Titus Andronicus, Steve Hyden is consistently one of my favourite music writers. I’ve yet to see The Master and I was pretty lukewarm about Fiona Apple’s comeback album (save “Every Single Night” and the excellent LOL Boys edit), but after reading this piece, I can completely understand why Paul Thomas Anderson and Apple were once a couple.
Patrick McGuire - “Cowards Are Blackmailing Young Women to Death on the Internet” (VICE, December 2012)
Certainly not a pleasant subject to read about, but something that was woefully ignored by many Canadian mainstream media outlets, until McGuire started investigating these pedophiles and their disgusting corner of the internet.
Alex Molotkow - “Why the Old-School Music Snob Is the Least Cool Kid on Twitter” (The New York Times, April 6, 2012)
Alex is one of my favourite Toronto writers and I’m not just saying that because she’s let me write for her on several occasions.
Karen Russell - “The Blind Faith of the One-Eyed Matador” (GQ, October 2012)
Not recommended if you’re a member of PETA, but an interesting look at Hemmingway’s favourite sport from a Western observer.
Julianne Escobedo Sheppard - “Frank Ocean Has a Cold” (SPIN, March/April 2012)
Frank Ocean interviews are more rare than four-leaf clovers, but this one (pre-Channel Orange and before the Tumblr letter read all around the world) was the best.
Natasha Vargas-Cooper - “Bath Salts: Deep in the Heart of America’s New Drug Nightmare” (SPIN, June 14, 2012)
Articles like this one are why losing the print edition of SPIN sucks.
Amy Wallace - “Amen! (D’Angelo’s Back)” (GQ, June 2012)
I never listened to D’Angelo’s music before, but after reading Wallace’s profile, I immediately downloaded Voodoo and joined The Roots’ Questlove and the masses hoping for new music from the singer in 2013.
Other websites that I spent a lot of time on in 2013: Bullett (their magazine and site are both incredibly well-designed), Elite Gymnastics’ Tumblr (especially his post on EDM), The FADER (not new, but it definitely became a regular place for me to find new music in 2012), Hazlitt (I predict more than 50% of the articles that make up this list next year will be from these folks), Live For The Funk (Best New Music Website That I Don’t Write For), Noisey (Best New Music Website That I Do Write For), Shane McCauley’s Tumblr, and many more that I can’t think of right now.
Rihanna - “Diamonds (Jerome LOL Remix)”
Favourite albums of 2012
Anybody that knows me reasonably well, and what I listen to, shouldn’t be too surprised by this list. While I gave the edge to Japandroids, I have a feeling that I’ll be listening to Celebration Rock and Channel Orange for years to come. Until October, I had Oblivion in the Top 3, but Cat Power made a slightly more cohesive album. Most indie rock and pop bored me to tears this year (albums that will be on many year-end lists that I hated or disliked strongly: The xx, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear), hence the inclusion of so much R&B, hip-hop, and electronic music. I’m also probably the only music journalist that will put Schoolboy Q ahead of Kendrick Lamar, but I’ve listened to the former significantly more this year. Looking at my picks, I’d say the majority of these albums came out in the first half of 2012, but there’s still some that I completely missed that I’ll be checking out the next few weeks and into 2013 (Cloud Nothings and Swans, I see you). The two most underrated albums in my opinion here are Sorry and Tender Opposites, so definitely check those out if you haven’t.
1. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
Top track: “The House That Heaven Built”
2. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
Top track: “Pyramids”
3. Cat Power - Sun
Top track: “Cherokee”
4. Grimes - Visions
Top track: “Oblivion”
5. DIIV - Oshin
Top track: “Sometime”
6. Chromatics - Kill For Love
Top track: “Kill For Love”
7. Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes
Top track: “Putty Boy Strut”
8. Schoolboy Q - Habits & Contradictions
Top track: “Hands On The Wheel” (feat. A$AP Rocky)
9. White Lung - Sorry
Top track: “Bag”
10. TNGHT - TNGHT
Top track: “Bugg’n”
Cadence Weapon - Hope In Dirt City
Evian Christ - Kings And Them
Frankie Rose - Interstellar
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
How To Dress Well - Total Loss
Jeremih - Late Nights With Jeremih
Joey Bada$$ - 1999
Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d. city
Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream
The Men - Open Your Heart
METZ - METZ
Titus Andronicus - Local Business
TOPS - Tender Opposites
Ty Segall & White Fence - Hair
Favourite songs of 2012
Here’s 15 songs that got serious plays on my iTunes that weren’t on any of the previously listed albums. Probably going to make a mix of my favourite rap and R&B songs of the year at some point, since there were many that just missed the cut (“Beez In The Trap”). For what it’s worth, “Orion’s Belt” was my personal “Call Me Maybe”.
Angel Haze - “New York”
Beach House - “Myth”
Blood Diamonds feat. Grimes - “Phone Sex”
CFCF - “Exercise 3”
Dirty Beaches - “Funeral Gods & Neon Strippers”
Dirty Projectors - “Gun Has No Trigger”
Fiona Apple - “Every Single Night”
Jack White - “Freedom At 21”
Kanye West feat. Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz - “Mercy (RL Grime & Salva Remix)”
Le1f - “Wut”
Mac DeMarco - “Cooking Up Something Good”
Mykki Blanco - “Wavvy”
Purity Ring - “Obedear”
Riff Raff feat. Kitty Pryde - “Orion’s Belt”
Ryan Hemsworth - “Charly Wingate”
Favourite shows of 2012
I was pretty spoiled this year to see a lot of shows this year in a bunch of cool places. Coachella was definitely an experience I’ll never forget (R.I.P. WU LYF) and I also managed get to Montreal twice and New York for the first time in six years (#humblebrag). On my festival wish list for 2013: SXSW, Sasquatch!, Primavera Sound, and CMJ.
1. Jack White - Sony Centre, Toronto
2. Radiohead - Empire Polo Club, Indio, California (Coachella)
3. Frank Ocean - Empire Polo Club, Indio, California (Coachella)
4. WU LYF - Empire Polo Club, Indio, California (Coachella)
5. Flying Lotus - Danforth Music Hall, Toronto
Beck - Randall’s Island, NYC (Governors Ball Music Festival)
Bleached - Silver Dollar, Toronto (NXNE)
Grimes - Club Soda, Montreal (Pop Montreal)
Modest Mouse - Randall’s Island, NYC (Governors Ball Music Festival)
Riff Raff - Wrongbar, Toronto
Ten acts to watch in 2013
I reserve the right to take back saying any of these if they fizzle.
Absolutely Free (Toronto)
Black Atlass (London, ON)
Cyril Hahn (Vancouver)
Evy Jane (Vancouver)
Holograms (Stockholm, Sweden)
Mikky Ekko (Nashville, Tennessee)
Savages (London, U.K.)
Jerome LOL (Los Angeles)
If you live in Canada, you should pick up the newest issue of Exclaim! this week, which includes my first short feature for them. I’ve been reading this magazine for as long as I can remember being interested in music journalism, so to see my name on the masthead as a contributor is pretty cool. The piece is about electronic music’s renewed love affair with hip-hop and R&B, and mentions some of my favourite artists from 2012, like Ryan Hemsworth, Grimes, How To Dress Well, Purity Ring, TNGHT, and Flying Lotus. Once it’s online, I’ll update this post with the link.
Photo Credit: Petra Collins
My friend recently put me on to Toronto-based photographer Petra Collins. Check out her work here.
Hot Sugar feat. Big Baby Ghandi, Nasty Nigel, YG the Cynic & SMG - “Rat City”
Not really sure who New York producer Hot Sugar is — possibly Kitty Pryde’s boyfriend? — but his new EP MiDi Murder (download it for free here) has some hot beats on it and a bunch of rappers that you probably haven’t heard of (the only names I recognized was Haleek Maul and Das Heem’s Kool AD and Heems).
† HALLOWEEN MIX 2012 † by RL Grime
Alright last mix of the day I swear, there’s just so many good ones going around!
I was worried about over posting but then Max was all…
@katekillet It’s worth posting that one just for the R.L. Stine intro drop alone.— Max Mertens (@Max_Mertens) October 31, 2012
So true. Enjoy as you costume it up and get ready to go out. Or just shake your booty at home and keep it chill. Either or! Just have fun!
Tracklist after the jump…
This is true and you should download this because it’s way better than listening to “Monster Mash” and “Werewolves Of London” for the millionth time on the radio. Between this and his “Mercy” remix, RL Grime is running shit this year.
Made a quick 40 minute mix of some songs I’ve been listening to lately now that the leaves are turning colour and it’s starting to get colder. Besides, it’s decorative gourd season, motherfuckers. Track list below, hope you enjoy!
1. Chilly Gonzales - Marvin’s Room (Piano Cover)
2. Zodiac - Come (feat. Jesse Boykins III)
3. Miguel - Do You…
4. Kanye West - White Dress
5. How To Dress Well - & It Was U
6. Mariah Carey - Touch My Body (Cyril Hahn Remix)
7. Kelis - Brave (Dark Sky Remix)
8. Aaliyah feat. Drake - Enough Said (Shlohmo Remix)
9. Lianne La Havas - Age (Ryan Hemsworth Remix)
10. Sky Ferreira - Everything Is Embarrassing
11. Solange - Losing You
12. Kuhrye-oo - Give In (For The Fame) (Boody & Le1f Remix)
13. Captain Murphy - The Killing Joke
Purity Ring feat. Danny Brown - “Belispeak II”
As I’ve said to anybody who would listen, Canadian duo Purity Ring are basically a hip-hop band with Megan James’ indie pop vocals. Through the magic of Twitter, James and Corrin Roddick hooked up with the never-not-entertaining Danny Brown, who added a few verses to “Belispeak”. More of this please.
The monthly mix series has been on a hiatus since this summer.
But don’t worry, a new monthly mix is on the way this month, marking the end of the hiatus.
It’s been a minute, but I’m very excited to bring you my favorite tracks of the month once again.
Until then, Diamond Atlas has teamed…
My friend Max made a really good autumn-themed mix for Aritzia, which features music from DIIV, Mac Demarco, Cold Showers, Jessie Ware, AlunaGeorge, and more. Click on the link to download it.
The-Dream, Pusha T & Mase - “Higher”
So Cruel Summer leaked yesterday, and despite having already heard the bulk of the album (“Clique”, “Mercy”, “I Don’t Like (Remix)”, “Cold”, etc.), there’s a few more big tunes. The-Dream and Pusha T already linked up earlier this year for “Dope Bitch” and this sees them go 2 for 2. Other random observations from the G.O.O.D. Music compilation: 1) Why does Kanye shout out Ottawa in “The Morning”? 2) Just when we thought we could get away from her music, “Sin City” samples Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans”. It works though. 3) “Love it or not, we the Mark Zuckerbergs of the block.” — Raekwon. That’s a hot line. 4) This album needs more Common and way less Big Sean.
TOPS - “Diamond Look”
As much as I hate to use the phrase “killing it”, it’s pretty apt summary of what Arbutus Records is doing right now. Besides championing the meteoric rise of Canada’s indie darling Grimes, the Montreal-based “artistic community” as they refer to themselves, they’ve also been responsible for releases by artists including Braids, Doldrums, and Sean Nicolas Savage. The latest band on their roster getting some serious national and international attention is TOPS, a four-piece who put out their excellent debut album earlier this year, which is full of dreamy psych-pop tunes like “Diamond Look”. Lead singer Jane Penny’s voice reminds me of someone else but I can’t quite put my finger on who. They also just so happen to be playing Pop Montreal this year.
Evian Christ - “Fuck It None Of Y’all Don’t Rap”
Did a DJ night a few nights ago with my friend Jess and she turned me on to this tune by semi-mysterious U.K. producer Evian Christ. I don’t know how to describe this song, but if you’re a fan of SALEM or anybody else on Tri Angle Records, than you’ll like this. By complete coincidence, this guy is opening for Purity Ring at Pop Montreal (which has one of the best lineups of any music festival this year) in a few weeks, which is a pretty great bill.