Sunday, January 17, 2010

My favourite things, 2009.

This past year wasn't overly exciting or glamorous for me, but not bad all-in-all. Here are some of my favourite things from 2009:


I spent a lot of time at the Horseshoe, Sneaky Dee's, and Lee's Palace in 2009, but toward the end of the year it was Lee's and the Garrison that had me going back relatively often. Between Wavelength's move to the latter spot from Sneaks and a changing of the guard at their former home, there were fewer reasons for me to hit up what used to be my favourite spot. Come the fall, there were shows at Lee's nearly every week that interested me.

I'm sorry I didn't spend more time at Delaware House (RIP), a spot that hosted some lovely events, including sets by Kat Burns, Diamond Rings (acoustic), the Wilderness of Manitoba, the Weather Station, Snowblink, and more.


Speaking of WL, this event series deserves a category of its own. I missed a lot, including most of the special events, but still managed to go to 25 WL shows. Not a bad showing. An important part of my social life, I will miss it terribly. There's really nothing else like it.


There are 5 bands and solo artists that made a bigger impression on me than any others in 2009. They are, in alphabetical order, Bahamas, Diamond Rings (acoustic and then electric), Gentleman Reg, Green Go, and the Wilderness of Manitoba.

But, of course, Woodhands remains my favourite live band (to wit), and I listened to Great Lake Swimmers more than I do any other band.

The RAA wins the prize for the band I spent the most time reading about. Their success---enough to make them the "hottest" Canadian band in 2009---was, well, awesome. Although I had nothing to do with it, following their rise to indie fame and stardom, and seeing them play sold-out hometown shows in July and November, was exciting for me.

An honourable mention needs to go to Think About Life. This Montreal band's album, Family, is one of my favourites of the year, and their Toronto shows were crazysweatyfun. I missed their more recent performance here, but I have it on good authority that they blew the headliners out of the water. I believe it. I wish this band---as I do all of them---many successes and hope they reach many, many more people with their fantastic album and explosive live show.

Blog and Bloggers

My favourite online discovery of 2009 was Joe Strutt's blog, Mechanical Forest Sound. Almost entirely focussed on Toronto acts, and committed to attending a diverse set of events, Joe reviews all the shows he goes to, and captures some audio to share with us all. His reviews are better than almost anyone else's, always thoughtful, witty, well-researched, and honest. (I admire Bob Battams' excellent local blog for similar reasons.) Once I've read a review on one of their site's, I know I've got the full story, written from the heart.

Just about a year ago, the Singing Lamb had its launch party. Since then this collective music blog, run by the inspiring and tireless Melody Lau, has been an important breath of fresh air. The site offers up unique content, and covers bands hailing from here and everywhere, equally excited about both as appropriate.

Props to Justin Beach and, created in 2009 and already an important source for Canadian music news and reviews from across the country. I'd like to see more and better unique content on this site in 2010. Although I don't have cable, and therefore can't see it, AUX.TV really impressed me last year with their seeming dedication to Canadian music. At one point I realized that there had been AUX cameras at the last five shows I'd been to. Well done.

This here blog, Narratives, continues to thrive (as far as I'm concerned). I wasn't able to spend as much time at shows or blogging about shows as I would have liked to in 2009, especially during the winter and fall months when I was busy teaching. The Zygiella podcast, once a regular weekly happening, started to appear in fits and starts, and is now on hiatus. (We're busy, that's all.) Still, Tyler Wade and I put together 34 episodes this year, playing the music of about 200 bands and solo artists. This year I'd like to concentrate more on providing good written content on this site. I'd like to become a better writer, and a much better writer about music.

The Polaris Prize Gala

Yes, I know this is lame, but really the gala was so fun. So so fun. Free Steam Whistle and vodka helped, I suppose. But seeing ten bands perform a song or two each, hanging with the fancy people, being feet away from Patrick Watson, Chad Van Gaalen, etc., and being hit by something (vodka?) in that "food fight" was all very excellent. Even getting stuck in the you're-a-nobody afterparty at the Drake Hotel was entertaining. A night to remember, for sure.


Excellent. I took five days off, braved the rain (and sun), and went to see a whole bunch of bands. I brought a tape recorder with me, played journalist, and was able---with Tyler's help---to put together some special podcasts (ep. 1, ep. 2). There's more material to share. Fingers crossed we'll find the time to get it edited and posted.

More best of 2009:
My favourite shows and performances.
My favourite albums & EPs.


Bobby B said...

Your favourite things are awesome! I agree with you about Joe's blog. His writing style is so good. Articulate, without being arrogant. That's tough to do (*ahem Pitchfork cough cough)

historyjen said...

Thanks! :-)

Mechanical Forest Sound said...

I'm blushing!

Seriously — thanks folks, it's good to have sharp-eyed, open-eared counterparts to keep me workin' at it. I'm sure y'all'll make me put a quarter in the jar when I use the word "angular" and so on. (2009 count, I'll proudly note = 0, tho there's a list of words that I have to keep a private eye on to keep myself from trotting out too much).

Meanwhile, if the mark of success for writing about this stuff is to make a body think, "drat – I shoulda been at that show", or "I really should check out that album", then kudos to Jen for evoking that pretty regularly. Infectious optimism in the sea of grunting indifference makes this tiny corner of the world a more good place.

historyjen said...

Aw shucks. But you still win, Joe.