1. Best reads of 2012

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    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.

     

  2. Photo Credit: Noah Love

    Beastie Boys - “An Open Letter To NYC”

    R.I.P. Adam “MCA” Yauch. I haven’t met many people who liked the trio’s 2004 album To The 5 Boroughs (well, except for Rolling Stone's David Fricke, who gave it five stars), but it was my first real introduction to the music of Ad-Rock, Mike D, and Yauch. I was in high school and don’t remember much about buying this album, other than the cool artwork (showing a New York skyline with the World Trade Center still standing) and hilarious liner notes. I would later work through the rest of their discography―Paul’s Boutique is unquestionably one of the best hip-hop albums of all-time―but I’ll always have a soft spot for “An Open Letter To NYC”. I don’t think there are many songs that can top this one in terms of expressing city pride (the “two towers down but we’re still in the game” line is poignant even today). Can’t go wrong with the "Sonic Reducer" sample either. 

    In my first year of university, myself and some friends in my program all chipped in and bought a copy of Rock Band and every Thursday got together for a few beers and played. We kept it in my friend Matt's residence room and every week would annoy the heck out of everybody else on our floor (and probably the floors directly above and below us). While my go-to songs when I had the plastic microphone were Yeah Yeah Yeahs' “Maps” and Radiohead's “Creep”, we always counted on Matt to wow us with his lyrically spot-on rendition of the Beasties' classic "Sabotage" performed at the top off his lungs (no easy feat when you’re inebriated). In fact, I only have good memories associated with listening to the Beastie Boys, memories of good times, better friends, late nights, and maybe a little bit too much booze. That Rock Band kit was left at the curb when I moved out of my house the year afterwards, but it had a good run. 

    I’m not sure why I decided to write this post. There’s definitely plenty of more poetic eulogies for MCA out there from people that knew him personally and by no means am I the biggest Beastie Boys fan. I guess I just felt like sharing. Two things that I found remarkable about the observation of Yauch’s passing is that a) almost everyone I know can name at least one song by the trio and b) there was virtually no jokes in poor taste about his death on Twitter or Facebook (unlike Whitney Houston, Kim Jong-il, etc.). And while I’m bummed out that this means I’ll never get to see the Beastie Boys perform, we’ll always have MCA’s rhymes to remember him by.

    "Now my name is MCA, I got a license to kill/I think you know what time it is, it’s time to get ill." 

    All flags in New York should be flying at half-mast today.