Wednesday, August 20, 2014 Monday, August 18, 2014

Anonymous said: Will you be posting your full Best of the '10s So Far list once Pitchfork has finished running their communal one?

A few people asked this, and I’ve seen a few of my colleagues do it so the answer is yes. I’m going to put up my top 50 songs and top 50 albums here at the end of the week, I think, so stay tuned for that. I have no idea whether or not the site’s going to run smaller versions of those lists, but either way I’ll post expanded versions here.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

dalatu said: Have you been following the madness of the Post-NBA Finals? / How are your raptors looking for this upcoming season?

David asked me this two or three months ago and I just never got to it, totally awful of me, but I guess it’s not too late. The NBA is a year-round sport! This has been an insane summer. I followed the madness, and it has only continued since the immediate aftermath of the Finals, of course. 

Focusing on the Raptors, I think they’re in a good place, though who the hell even knows what’s going to happen in the East this year — everything in Cleveland, the Bulls adding a resurgent Rose and Gasol and Mirotic, the Pacers going into a death spiral, LANCE on your beloved nü-Hornets, Miami taking another crack at it, the Nets starting to fall apart, etc. I do think there’s some value in continuity and keeping a young core that seems to really like each other together. Lowry is hopefully going to sustain his performance from last season, a year where he could’ve made an All-NBA if one or two things broke differently, DeRozan and Valanciunas and Ross are going to keep growing and improving (I think this World Cup training camp run is really going to help DeRozan), Amir and Double Pat are going to keep holding the middle and the wing down, Vasquez will be fine, everything’s trending positively in my eyes. Playoff seed is a total crapshoot, but I think they’ll finish in the top half of the conference again, below Cleveland and Chicago and roughly even with the Wizards. If we’re being totally honest, the Raptors are content looking competitive for the new few years until Durant — and, failing that, Wiggins — become available. And then who knows? They think they have a shot. 

Of course, we already have the Brazilian Durant, so we’ll be fine either way. CABOCLOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said: What's your opinion on Lester Bangs?

Can’t say I really have one, I know he’s very important and influential and in the Pantheon of people who wrote about music, but he hasn’t influenced me at all and I can’t say his style is one I’ve ever sought to emulate. I think I have some friends, writers and non-writers, who really cared about and loved his work at one point in their lives, but that’s not me. 

terminalave said: What is your favourite sound?

Non-musical: the way my running shoes sound when they slap the ground, my coffee maker sputtering and fizzing to a halt, my bike tires buzzing down asphalt when there aren’t any cars around and it’s early morning and I’m on my way to work

Musical, off the top of my head and fairly recent: the synths on “Inspector Norse” (a boring answer! but so good), “Can’t Do Without You” by Caribou blooming to life, Mariah saying, “I know you are, dahling!” at the end of “Supernatural”

I care about the non-musical sounds a lot more, I think.

Anonymous said: how did you know to choose to study science rather than music?

I’m sure I’ve written about this before at length but it mostly sprung from pragmatism rather than passion — I had always been told that engineering was the sort of thing “smart people” did, I considered myself one such “smart person,” I got into the best engineering school in Canada, it felt like the path that made the most long-term sense and led to the most respect from my peers. I also had great high school chemistry and calculus teachers, and they made me enjoy the subjects in a way that quickly evaporated once I got to university. 

It ended up not really mattering — I work in educational management now, it’s pretty far from the tar sands or the floor of a pharmaceutical facility, and freelancing is basically a steady part-time job — but hey, I’ve got the degree, it’s on my résumé and I don’t regret it one bit. It taught me a lot, even if it’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Edit: And I guess it’s worth noting that studying music was never really on my radar — if I hadn’t entered engineering, I would’ve studied urban planning or straight-up journalism instead.

Anonymous said: did you ever go through a classical music stage?

I spent a year or two of my teenhood listening to an exhaustive list of everything Chopin wrote, played by an all-star team of professional pianists, while playing SimCity 4 (the greatest video game ever made). I think this was probably inspired by the beloved, highly underrated Xbox 360/later PS3 RPG Eternal Sonata, which is set within a dream Chopin is having on his deathbed. It’s a lovely game, with a hokey but touching story and incredible art direction married to an active, constantly shifting combat system — definitely worth checking out if you have an old-generation console kicking around.

I’m also relatively well versed in the work of a few canon-level modern classical dudes like Philip Glass and Steve Reich, but I recognize that’s totally novice stuff. It’s a genre I’d like to explore a little more — as I get older I find I’m becoming a little more comfortable with stuff that’s atonal, or devoid of melody, or really focused on space and pace — but it’s just a matter of finding the time. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I’m at the point now with freelancing where it’s rare to have a week where I’m not listening to something up for review or doing research for said review. Someday!

Anonymous said: how often do you read criticism of other mediums? film or books or video games etc

I read non-music criticism on a daily basis, I’d say — certainly true for TV and movie criticism, less so for books and video games, though I do have my favourite sites and writers working in those fields. I read it for multiple reasons: I’m interested in those cultural mediums as a fan, of course, and I want to understand them better, but I also think I can better myself as a critic by reading the work of non-music writers and seeing how their strategies differ, how they approach the technical sides of their chosen mediums, etc. I’ve learned a lot and found plenty of inspiration in the work of people like Wesley Morris — not exactly a surprising pick, I suppose, he’s a Pulitzer Prize winner writing for one of the cultural Internet’s most visible and popular sites, but he’s just so graceful and brave and structurally sound. Every single sentence is like a poem in miniature. It’s a zone I would love to reach someday, even on occasion. 

I also read a lot of sportswriting and sports journalism, I’ve been reading that even longer than I’ve been reading music criticism. I probably wouldn’t be writing now if it weren’t for the formative influence of my dad’s Sports Illustrated subscription, great writing sitting on end tables in the bathroom and drawers in the kitchen as far back as I can remember.