Top 10 lists are problematic for anyone writing them because it’s like they require us to imagine there’s some kind of objective criterion by which we can measure pieces of music. That’s really not true, despite the stock we often place in them – the works themselves and the lists we quantify them in. Certainly, I – like any other music listener – have my own reasons for critiquing pieces: aesthetic value, texture, production, and lyricism all play a part. But also the artist’s validity as an “artist” in terms of the part they play in the music industry machine. I’m comfortable situating a piece of music within the context of political economy and critiquing it on those grounds. Others are not, and that’s fine. Continue reading
What exactly is the “Best Student Experience” we’ve all heard so much about since we first set foot on Western’s campus?
Perhaps there’s no need to bother with the question, since the university’s administration has defined it for us in a document titled “Institutional Vision, Proposed Mandate Statement and Priority Objectives” – a paper that formally kicked off the process of creating a Strategic Mandate Agreement for the future. Moreover, Western administration took it upon itself to do this with very little student input. The little input they sought amounted to a few meetings with the USC president and vice-president (whose recommendations didn’t come from direct Western student involvement but rather the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance’s discussion paper), and limited interaction with higher-ups in Western’s Senate and Board of Governors. A group of us, Western students all, have decided this doesn’t sit well with us and so we’re doing something about it. Continue reading
The idea of calling a set of songs the soundtrack to a certain time of your life is pretty interesting to me because of the sense of mediation it implies. I don’t think anyone really thinks of this when they say it. I know I haven’t for the most part, because it really just means you listened to a bunch of songs a whole lot for a summer. Still, I can’t resist filtering an innocuous figure of speech through my overly-analytical bullshit. Because when you think of a soundtrack, it’s hard not to think of film. When film is invoked, so are a million other things: the director’s keen eye, the editor’s deft hands, actors puzzling over the best way to convey an emotion through pre-written lines, the lens of the camera. All these things require a position of reflection and retrospect, and tied up in these is memory and certainly an amount of manipulation. Perhaps music and how it affects our sense of self is largely the same. Continue reading
Shortly before 8 pm yesterday, an anonymous person or group hacked the USC Elections site. Voters were redirected to a page that welcomed them to the “Justin Bieber Hairstyle vote 2012” and informed them that “a vote for Bieber is a vote for world peace.” As of now, the motivations behind the defacement of the site are unknown. Still, the act raises an important question: was it just an example of wanton e-vandalism perpetrated by ne’er-do-wells or something more – something political? In the often superficial and super-sensational world of USC presidential elections, a vote for the Biebs’ luscious locks may not be so different than a vote for any of the candidates. Continue reading
Clashes and debate surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not new to Western’s campus. Whether centered around a former Israeli Defense Forces member speaking at Western or Israeli Apartheid Week’s presence on campus, public protests have become commonplace whenever the specter of the conflict is raised. The Israel On Campus-organized Israel Day display in the UCC on February 1st continued that tradition. At 2 pm, protestors with tape over their mouths and carrying signs condemning Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip moved in front of the display. After a hectic twenty minutes involving photos and impromptu interviews with the press, the protest was over as soon as it began and the demonstrators left peacefully. After the dust had settled, questions about the nature of cultural politics and protest itself hung in the air. Continue reading
John K. Samson
January 24, 2012
John K. Samson is a man obsessed with the minutiae of everyday life in small-town Manitoba. His debut solo record, comprised of tracks from his previous EPs as well as new songs, paints a beautifully detailed portrait of life in Western Canada, and specifically, Winnipeg.
To anyone familiar with Samson’s work in his critically acclaimed and revered indie band, The Weakerthans, much of the album’s musical and lyrical content won’t come as a surprise. If anything, Provincial follows Samson’s trend of moving farther away from the punk influences of The Weakerthans’ earlier material and into full-on alt country and indie Can-Rock territory. There’s songs about snowplows, legendary hockey players, lonely master’s students, and the feeling of being stuck in a town you hate. As with all of Samson’s writing, Provincial captures otherwise ephemeral moments and feelings in surprising ways. His affecting lyrics take the listener on a journey of loss, isolation, love, and hope through the snowy landscape of the province he calls home.
Top 10 lists are hard, especially with something as open to personal preference as music. Should one include their personal favourites, or the albums one sees as innovative and daring, even if they weren’t on the iPod rotation as often? 2011 was a great year for musical experimentation – concept albums abounded and the noble saxophone experienced somewhat of a renaissance. In light of this, I decided to go with route #2. Even though there were other albums that contained one single I had on repeat for a week, these records were the products of the true visionaries of 2011. Their scope, vision, and innovation were unmatched, in my opinion. And that’s all it really is, isn’t it? And I know you have one, too, so read my picks for the top 10 albums of 2011 after the jump and leave your opinions in the comments! Continue reading
Last night, citizens from all over the United States took to the streets. They brought tents and sleeping bags, and their message was clear: they weren’t going anywhere. These patriots camped out in front of Best Buy and other large chain stores, taking up entire sidewalks with their fearless demonstration. In light of the recent police crackdown and eviction of Occupy Wall Street protestors in Zuccotti Park, Occupy Best Buy was already on tenuous footing at best. Still, Black Friday’s demonstrators were not be intimidated, and stood fast in their fight for cheap televisions and gaming systems. Continue reading
Last night at 1 a.m., NYPD officers dressed in riot gear moved in to Zuccotti park, the first and largest location for the Occupy movement, and evicted protestors. There were many causes for concern during last night’s raid, one of which was the use of a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) on protestors, as reported by the New Yorkist’s twitter account. An LRAD is a device designed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan and can damage the hearing of entire crowds. Of course, the clearing of Zuccotti park was all in the name of “public safety,” according to an official statement by Mayor Bloomberg, but perhaps most telling is his statement that it was “at Brookfield’s request” that the NYPD cleared the park. Brookfield Properties, the corporation that owns the park, is one of the nation’s largest commercial real estate companies. Perhaps most concerning, however, is the deliberate and nearly total media blackout that the raid was carried out under. Continue reading
Tuesday night marked a sad moment for many Canadians, including myself, and people from around the world as one of Canada’s largest musical exports and arguably one of the most important Canadian bands of the last decade called it quits. Broken Social Scene’s concert in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on November 8th turned out to be their very last as they announced it both at the show and via twitter. Broken Social Scene’s impact has been monumental musically, but they will be forever remembered for the work they put in to fostering an amazing community of Canadian artists including the likes of Feist and Metric. But is it really goodbye forever? Perhaps, but the spirit of Broken Social Scene may be harder to kill than that. Continue reading