Fatty Says Dance

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The 2015 PFG Playlist

*pulls tarp off of website, shakes out the cobwebs*

Hey. How was your year?

I meeeeeaaaan, look. I’m not going to defend the lack of activity here. I work nights, I’m not perpetually tired, but I’m pretty tired a lot of the time. I wrote some stuff for some people, but a lot of where my non-day job hours of consciousness ended up was on the retooled RadioPFG. What was once a semiregular directionless podcast has now become, on the strength of the two years I’ve spent as a junior-intermediate crate digger, a weekly hourlong show I produce myself live every Saturday at 2:00 pm. I broadcast it on Mixlr every week, then toss the newest episode on Soundcloud for the following seven days. I’ve really enjoyed doing it, and the feedback from the friends who are listening regularly has encouraged me enough to keep  working on it from week to week.

If there’s one thing working on the show has done, is that it’s allowed me to re-engage with music on a deeper level than I have in a few years. After years of writing these preambles and lamenting that music was boring me or that I couldn’t find 20 songs that I loved in any given year, I had more music than I could handle in 2015, and what’s more, I was actively seeking it out, which is new. Record collecting and programming a show has made my tastes weirder and (no surprise here) more global. Let’s take a stroll through the songs that blessed my ears the most this year, not the objectively superior, not necessarily the most innovative, just the ones I liked the best, in no order.

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The 2014 PFG Playlist

Let’s ignore for the moment that you could count on both hands the number of posts between the 2013 and 2014 editions of this list. I wrote a book, people!

The last time I drafted my annual list of favourite songs, I was surprised to find that there were actually tracks that I had to leave off to keep it at ten, the first time in recent memory that had happened.

Yeeeeeaaaah. Didn’t really have that problem this year.

While I still ended up with more than ten songs (opting to scrap my self-imposed limit this year), my sense of disconnect and indifference with the current musical landscape returned more ferociously than before, for a few reasons, chief among them my two-footed jump into record collecting.

Devoting so much of my extracurricular efforts to educating myself on what vinyl’s worth my time turned my musical attentions backwards. I refocused on the things I always loved and started self-directed studies in the jazz and soul records that formed the foundations that built hip-hop; it’s an endeavour that’s proven rather labour-intensive. Turns out there’s a shit load of music that’s been produced in the last sixty years, who knew? But I still try to stay out here.

If there’s any thematic unity among 2014’s selections, it would be a sudden surge of female artists onto the list in the year’s latter half and the abrupt end of my brief flirtation with guitars, following Deafheaven’s surprising appearance last year.

I was saying to a friend last weekend, and I’m aware of how arrogant this sounds, but I really feel like after a certain point, you just start to get bored with the sounds that things like six strings through distortion pedals can produce. The kids at my job are getting their lives over Ty Segall and King Tuff, and I just caaaaan’tBecause all that music makes me want to do is listen to Dinosaur Jr or like, I don’t know, The Cave-In. Or Hot Water Music. Or Quicksand. Or any of the dozens of rock bands I was into at their age that they would undoubtedly find wack as hell.

Look at  it this way: back when I was playing in the band, our mandate always seemed to be that we were trying to play as loudly as possible to punch through to some sort of transcendent emotion, and personally, I don’t feel like we ever fully pulled it off because we were limited not only by our skill set but by the instruments we were using. I find that synthesizers and software are twanging that note in my soul more lately, and 2014 was the year I fully accepted them into my life.

Not that anyone cares nearly two weeks into the year, but I’ve already come this far, so let’s get this over with, in no particular order.

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On Bob James

In what’s been a monumental development for me but standard operating procedure for most of you, I am now finally, legitimately on Spotify.

You’re confused. You would be. I will explain.

Despite being available to our Southern neighbours for over three years, the online streaming music service only launched in Canada last week (making it the site’s 58th market. Oh yeah, Lithuania had Spotify before we did).

I’d managed to finagle backdoor access to the site here and there and understood the appeal, but having the full experience via the app on my phone has been game changing. I’m using the service for free for the time being, so there are some limitations, of course, but who cares if I can only shuffle my playlists, I made them, so I like everything on them.

As an aspiring and inexperienced vinyl collector, Spotify’s already proven itself a godsend. I can search for songs I might have own on vinyl but not digitally, or albums I’ve been thinking about copping, add them to a playlist, and check them out while working overnight at the day job. It’s given me a chance to gain a deeper appreciation for songs I knew, but couldn’t really listen to closely because I’d only ever had them on vinyl.

Songs like “Nautilus.”

“Nautilus” is the last song on One,  the debut solo album by jazz keyboardist Bob James. Blending a stinky groove from bassist Gary King and drummer Idris Muhammad, the spacey pings and tones of James’s organ and cinematic string flourishes, the song immediately caught the ears of hip-hop producers rifling through their parents’ record collections.

In the subsequent years, flipping “Nautilus” became a compulsory part of a producer’s education: everyone has taken a pass at it. Which is amazing enough in itself, but what’s even crazier is, according to an intervew James gave to Noisey last year, the song was kind of a throwaway to begin with.

“It was almost completely ignored in 1974. Back then you put the best track on Side A at the beginning and outside of the record because it always sounds best because the groove is wider. “Nautilus” was towards the end of Side B, a filler track really,” said James. “It was the last track we recorded and it was recorded last minute. I had a little bass line and everything else we [improvised] in the studio. So it wasn’t the focus of the album whatsoever.”

I spent a morning this week exploring some of my favourite interpolations of the track, amazed at how a truly exceptional producer will find some kernel of the song that hasn’t really been explored yet, or slice and dice the track like a samurai and reassemble it into a speaker-blowing monster.

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The 2013 PFG Playlist

Every year since I started running down some of the songs I enjoyed most in the previous 12 months, I’ve lamented in the intro about what a chore selecting the songs had become, as I grew more and more distant from the popular tastes of our age.

To my surprise and delight, 2013 broke the streak. I have no idea if that’s due to an improved ability at finding things I would like or an overall increase in quality this year; I have no overarching ideas or unified theories on music in 2013, but the fact that I actually to cut my list down to ten selections was a welcome surprise. Even more surprising is how this year’s selection ran across more genres than in previous years. There are actual guitars, y’all! Enough preamble! Let’s dig into this, in no order.

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Christmastime is Here.

This may surprise you to learn about me, friends, but I can be a bit of a handful. Surly, seasonally depressed, emotionally volatile, all of that mess. Luckily, I’ve always been blessed with friends and associates [usually women] who are adept at negotiating the rolling waters of my emotional seas. The role is currently being filled by my friend Caitlin, who is acting as my Editorial Assistant throughout this book writing adventure, mostly because she wants me to write her a reference when it’s over. Previously the post was held by my friend Sarah, who can no longer meet the demands of the position as she is (a) a law professor and (b) has a life to live.

I met Sarah for coffee here in Toronto recently and asked her if she had any tips she wanted to pass along to Caitlin regarding what to expect in being my emotional handler for the next ten months to a year.

“It’s all very temporal,” she said. “From about mid-September up until your birthday, you’re miserable, because you’re thinking about your impending death. Late January until April is just as bad or worse, because it’s directionless, there’s nothing for you to focus it on. You just hate that it’s dark all the time. When the thaw comes, you shake out of it. Oh, and you have a minor uptick during the holidays.”

It’s true. I actually do really love the holidays. I love the way my Dad still won’t put some presents under the tree until the morning of the 25th, or the fact that he still signs them ‘From Santa’. I love my Mom’s baking and laughing about stupid shit with her. I love Christmas so much that by December 23, I’m already saddened that all the lights and decorations will come down, which probably says as much about my personality as you ever need to know [shouts to all those cities and neighbourhoods that treat Christmas lights as ‘Winter Lights’ and leave them up until March].

But what I really love about Christmas is the music. To me, the best Christmas songs are the ones that capture the joy you felt as a child, but add a sprinkle of melancholy to acknowledge the passage of time and change and loss of innocence. The popular knowledge likes to state that when you get older the season becomes something you do for your kids. As a childless, single for the first time in six years adult male, that’s not something I can do. So I find the meaning and peace and joy where I can. These are five songs that help.

1. The Pogues – ‘Fairytale of New York’

Just my opinion, the greatest Christmas song [with vocals] ever produced. Does everything I mentioned above, is beautifully melodic, Shane MacGowan’s whisky-scorched, near-tuneless voice suits the mood perfectly, and who hasn’t been longing for a Christmas song with lyrics like, ‘you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap, lousy faggot, Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it’s our last.” The coda to this one always leaves me misty, but bear in mind folks: “I built my dreams around you,” is a staggeringly gorgeous sentiment, but not an acceptable philosophy. Trust me.

2. The Vince Guaraldi Trio – ‘O Tannenbaum’

The soundtrack to ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ was a revelation to me, having only heard it for the first time maybe six or seven years ago. I remember I was at the local youth centre, where I volunteered. It was the last meeting we had with the kids before holiday break, so it was a blow-off, fun and games kind of night. Somebody brought a pile of holiday music and put this one on. And I was fucking floored. I don’t know why I never hear Guaraldi’s name mentioned more often in conversations about jazz pianists, possibly I don’t follow them closely enough, but the swing he gets going on this song just puts me at such peace. You know the spirit’s hit me when this album enters my rotation.

But the true moment of genius comes at the end of the song. Listen, I don’t know where this thing of adding the opening bars of ‘Jingle Bells’ at the end of a Christmas song came from [Nat King Cole may have been the first to do it] but it is so overdone anymore. It’s a lazy and manipulative way to accomplish what I stated above, because no grown person really likes ‘Jingle Bells’. Can you find me one? No. ‘Jingle Bells’ is a song for kids, which is fine, but all these shit-ass Christmas songs that put a few tinkles on the outro to make you go ‘D’awww…‘ are disgusting. You know what Guaraldi does? Jump to the 4:53 mark. He plays ‘Jingle Bells’, but he plays a totally deconstructed version of it, in 3/4 time signature. You can hear ‘Jingle Bells’ in it, but it’s not really ‘Jingle Bells.’ THAT‘S why this is the best Christmas song ever, just nudging out the Pogues. Gets me every time.

3. Vanessa Williams – ‘What Child is This?’

Never let it be said I wanted to take the “Christ’ out of ‘Christmas.’ The simple fact is, I was raised Catholic. Whatever my feelings toward the faith as an adult, that shit will stay with you.

This rendition comes from one of those ‘Very Special Christmas’ compilations from like…1992, I think. It’s a fairly straightahead jazz arrangement of ‘Greensleeves’ but might have extra resonance for me now, since I remember watching this video as a kid in the subterranean hidey-hole I’d carved out in my parents’ basement, looking at the black and white shots of New York and thinking, to borrow a phrase, ‘I want to go to there.’ Twenty years later, I made it to Toronto. It’ll do.

4. James Taylor – ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’

That rare Christmas song that acknowledges, without self-pity, that the holidays sometimes heighten the fact that the twelve months leading up to them might have been horrible.

In a year we all will be together, if the fates allow.
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow…

I’ve heard versions of this song that back away from that last line, changing it to ‘hang a shining star upon the highest bough…’ NO. That undercuts the entire meaning of the song, which is to provide comfort for those who might not be exceedingly happy during a time when the world demands that of them. It’s the depressive’s holiday carol, and who better than James Taylor to deliver it? Bonus points go to this version for pulling a Guaraldi and dropping half a lyric of ‘The Christmas Song’ on the outro.

5. Ella Fitzgerald – ‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?’

I first heard this song on a Gap commercial, of all things. Rufus Wainwright sang the chorus at about five times the speed he should have, but hey, thirty-second ad spot, what can you do? I thought there might actually be a better version of this somewhere, as Fitzgerald’s voice bugs me sometimes [BLASPHEMY!] but there really isn’t, except maybe for Lena Horne’s which does a weird pronoun flip I’m not a fan of, suggesting the woman should wait for the man to ask her. You stand up for equality, Ella.

Again, this is one of those songs that stares down the potential for loneliness in the season and finds the truth and beauty in it. The singer is well aware he or she is overreaching by asking the other person to spend New Year’s, but the potential embarrassment trumps the guaranteed solitude of not asking. Also interesting to note: the original lyric has the singer mustering a bit of confidence with, ‘Ah, but in case I stand one little chance…’ in Wainwright’s version from the commercial, he sings, ‘And though I know I’ll never stand a chance…’ So nineties.

So, that’s what I’ll be relaxing to in a couple of weeks as I catch up on reading and eat too many brownies at my parents’ place. Let me know if I glaringly missed one. And no, I didn’t forget this. Too obvious.

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The PFG Social Club: Refused @ The Sound Academy, 7.23.2012

I wouldn’t blame you if you had to double take at that title, friends. When have I ever given you the impression that anything other than the boom-bap has a place in my heart?  But it was not always that way friends.

To this day, there are only two albums I have ever purchased essentially “sound unheard.”  I just bought them because I read a good review in a magazine or heard something about them.

  1. DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing…
  2. Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come.

And both of those albums have never fully left my rotation in the fifteen-plus years I’ve owned them. Given the band’s unwavering…uh, refusal to reunite, I’d resolved myself to the fact that Refused were just one of those acts I’d have to mis out on and enjoy their music in retrospect.

However, as I continue to learn, friends, age changes a man, and the lads in Refused reached a point in their lives when maybe, perhaps, it was time to acknowledge that there continue to be thousands of people who adore and are inspired by that last album, and to just suck it up and accept that people love them and would kill to see them play live again.  As they said in the official statement announcing the reunion:

We never did “The shape of punk to come” justice back when it came out, too tangled up in petty internal bickering to really focus on the job. And suddenly there’s this possibility to do it like it was intended. We wanna do it over, do it right. For the people who’ve kept the music alive through the years, but also for our own sakes.

We feel that you deserve it and we hope the feeling is mutual. [via]

So there was never any doubt that I was going to be at one of their two dates here in Toronto.   The show itself was phenomenal, the band was whipcrack tight and played all of the songs from TSOPTC that I would have wanted to hear, and some I never thought I would [Tannhauer/Derive as a show closer?  Really?! Amazing] as well as earlier tracks that I admit I didn’t know but sounded awesome.  For me, my love of Refused starts and ends with that last album.

But I can still feel your confusion, friends.  How does a Swedish punk band work its way into the heart of a lifelong, dyed in the wool hip-hop fan?  Because The Shape of Punk to Come is a deliberate attempt to disseminate revolutionary ideas while putting back into the music all the things that decades of self-seriousness and mainstream co-opting took out of it:  Fun. Sex. Danceability.  I knew it the first time I heard album opener ‘Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull‘ and heard frontman Dennis Lyxzen yelp, ‘One mooore time, OW!‘ like the Godfather of Soul calling to the band for hits. The Shape of Punk to Come is, without question, the blackest punk record ever made.  If I ever doubted it, watching Lyxzen mash-potato his way across the stage, swing his microphone and do the old ‘Mic Stand Kick‘ move as his band bludgeoned the crowd with six-stringed ferocity, of course this would be one of my favourite albums.  The best moment I had during that entire show, one of those ‘this is something I will need to cross of my life list’ moments was being able to shout Woooo! during ‘New Noise.’ Rare and wonderful indeed is the punk song that demands that of you.

Check out a clip of the band ripping apart “Refused Are Fuckin’ Dead” below. Forgive the glass wall that cuts through the shot but well, Daddy doesn’t do general admission anymore.

Stay Shining.

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself

It’s Sunday, and more than that it’s Canada Day, which means I really should be out somewhere drinking instead of holed up in this café trying to give all y’all something to read [really, you could just read my recap of how I spent last Canada Day. It’s much more entertaining]. And while there will be a very nerdy post discussing my relationship with Joss Whedon and the similarities between Firefly and Cowboy Bebop, that’ll be a little more labour intensive, and I really should watch all of the former series before commenting.  It might surprise me in the end [spoiler alert –  Cowboy Bebop : Me :: Firefly : Whedonites].  So I thought it might be more appropriate to discuss moves and projects and things of that sort. It’s so rare when I have something worth telling.

I didn’t make mention of it at the time because I’m a superstitious sort, but my proposal to the 33 1/3 Series of record guides made the short list. Leading up to the announcement, I was telling people I only wanted to make the shortlist. I was pretty certain I’d stumbled into a good idea, and felt I deserved to make the shortlist. That was all the validation I really needed.  Then I made the shortlist and thought, ‘Well…this is nice, and I feel validated….but it would be really awesome to write the goddamn thing.’  Friends, I’ll tell y’all the same thing I told my therapist: if 33 1/3 doesn’t want it, I’ll try to find somewhere else for it.  It’s still a good idea, it’s still a story that needs telling, and since it appears I’m the only one here interested in telling it, it might as well be me.’  The Editors say the final slate will get announced late this month. You can check out my competition here. Wish me luck.

Had somebody ask me why the last mix I posted was labeled ‘Episode 9’. It would appear some people don’t pay attention, I’ve been fudging around with podcasting for over a year.  I only recently moved to Soundcloud [finding the WordPress integration a little easier], but previous to that I was using PodOmatic, which is still a great service, it’s just a little clunkier when it comes to sharing. But if anyone’s been curious in revisiting the archives, they can be found on the old PodOmatic feed. They’re far more blabbery than the recent ones are, on account of making them on my old laptop with GarageBand, making mixing impossible. But you may find something there to enjoy. Anything new will get cycled through the Soundclound account, with ample warning when something’s going down to make room for something else.

Speaking of finding things to enjoy, did you know I have a Tumblr?!  I’d forgive if you if you didn’t. I forget it a lot of the time, but I’ve recently rediscovered its usefulness for sharing quick hits of things I enjoy.  Chances are any song that ends up on a future podcast will get some shine on my Tumblr first [I see you, Knxwledge].  Additionally, I’ve been talking to my former bandmates about starting a sort of creative collective to share things we make ourselves and collaborate on.  I admit I’m a little skittish about putting my creative heart on the line like that since we’re all grown ass men with other things demanding our attention, but I remain optimistic. If it does start popping off, Tumblr will be playing a larger role in my day to day. So follow me now.

Finally, I took a new photo for the header. I’ll be trying to swap them out more regularly, since it gives me an excuse to take urban panoramas on my phone.

I think it’s time to go find a location where beef is being charred over some sort of flame. Happy Canada Day, y’all.

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DJ Wackness Rocking the Virtual Wheels of Steel

Okay, that’s not really my DJ name.  I don’t even have a DJ name, though Wackness would be pretty good, and likely already taken by someone.

So this one took a long time to do, actually. Longer than I was expecting. Maybe I wanted more than my skills and equipment could provide, I’m probably too much of a perfectionist. But it’s here for your enjoyment all the same, because after 26 takes, ‘good enough’ becomes a viable option.  For not having pre-cueing capabilities, I think it still manages to have some inspired moments. No theme this time, just some fun with some hip-hop. Tracklist below.


R. Kelly: Summer Bunnies
The Gap Band: Outstanding
Paris:  Thinka ‘Bout It
De La Soul: Buddy [12″ Version]
A Tribe Called Quest: Check the Rhyme
World Renown: How Nice I Am
J Dilla: Track 19 [From Another Batch]
Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician: How You Feel
Nujabes: Reflection Eternal
The Pharcyde: 4 Better or 4 Worse
Joey Bada$$: Don’t Front
Madlib: Pyramids
Quakers: Fitta Happier