Remembering the ’90s

You guys. I did something very exciting recently. I went to a ’90s themed dinner party, and it was awesome. The couple who hosted the party are celebrating their 20-YEAR* anniversary this year, so decided on a ’90s throwback theme. Everyone had to prepare a dish that was inspired by that decade, and we rocked out to ’90s tunes and reminisced over old pictures in which people were decked out in baggy jeans, plaid shirts, and Chuck Taylors (some things haven’t changed all that much in 20 years).

*Can we talk about this? Because this seems crazy to me! I mean, crazy in a super awesome way! These two have been dating since George Bush Sr. was president. WTF!!!

Anyway, I threw together a playlist for the event, which was probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time as it gave me a chance to revisit some old classics, including this gem:

Seriously, is this video not THE CHEESIEST THING YOU HAVE EVER SEEN? I remember when this tune was popular — it was always one of the slow songs at our school dances. I really can’t tell you the insane joy that this song brings to my life – it is the ultimate in guilty pleasures, and so much fun to sing along to. The early ’90s were really great for producing this type of song – essentially a continuation of the ’80s power ballad genre.

In fact, I think more young artists today should be producing power ballads. I’d like to start a ‘Bring Back the Power Ballad’ movement, as I feel that there is a considerable dearth of songs these days that allow you to close your eyes and earnestly belt out lines such as “I don’t wanna touch you too much baby/ ‘Cos making love to you might drive me crazy/ I know you think that love is the way you make it/ So I don’t wanna be there when you decide to break it” (Def Leppard, ‘Love Bites’, 1987).

Let’s make this happen, you guys. Who’s with me?

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I’m Wide Awake

For today’s Song of the Day I’m going back to a classic. This has always been one of my favourite U2 songs, but I never really paid a lot of attention to the lyrics.

Have you ever had insomnia? It’s amazing how quickly the human body starts to break down when deprived of sleep. Concentration, motivation, aspiration — they all suffer. Insomnia basically attacks on all fronts, with both mental and physical repercussions — and sometimes it seems like the more one tries to fight it, the worse it gets. You can’t will yourself to sleep, so what are you left with? Hour upon hour of relentless consciousness.

I paint a bleak picture. Forgive me. That is not my intention. For here is a song that, when I was listening to it today, made me think of the turbulence of sleeplessness, but also of the peace that sometimes comes in the early morning hours. This is song that, to me, explores the beautiful dark corners of a sleepless mind with gentleness and compassion. I picture this song soothing a restless brow, stroking a mind fevered with lack of sleep, whispering “it’s okay…it’s going to be okay”. Let’s not fight this. Let’s celebrate being awake, and conscious, and alive.

I don’t know what U2’s Bad was written about. But this is how it speaks to me.

To let it go
And so fade away
I’m wide awake
I’m wide awake
Wide awake
I’m not sleeping, oh no, no, no


Spotlight on Style: Military Jackets

When I watch TV shows or movies that are period dramas, I always feel slightly lukewarm about the women’s clothing. Sure, some of those empire-waisted dresses were pretty (Marie Antoinette, with its kaleidoscope of dazzling candy-colored silk frocks, showcased some striking fashion), but in general I far prefer the outfits that the men wore, specifically the military uniforms. I mean, being in the army back then was like one giant fashion show! Seriously, everyone looked totally amazing, with their formal jackets and waistcoats and tall boots. If enlisting meant getting to wear a jacket like this one, I would have signed up in a heartbeat:

marie antoinette

Really, wouldn’t you rather be wearing this fab coat than that boring black dress? *

*Actually, the dress is pretty cool. But the coat is still better.

Rock stars have long recognized the appeal of military garb. Artists such as Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, and Coldplay have all donned military inspired gear.

jimi hendrix

Possibly the best dressed dude ever.

beatles

Juuuust a little bit of LSD involved here.

chris martin

You’re no Jimi, Chris Martin, but this is still a valiant effort.

And then there was the King of Military Jackets (and Pop), Michael Jackson:

MJ

Here is a man who was not afraid to make a fashion statement.

michael jackson

The glitter, the glove, the glasses...this is all 100% gold. Bravo, MJ. Hats off to you, sir.

Luckily, the military look is a fashion trend that will never die, with styles being reimagined every season or two by the industry’s top designers (less luxe versions of which eventually filter down to us plebes who can only afford to shop at the mall):

marc jacobs

Marc Jacobs

balmain

Balmain

dolce & gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana


Sidenote: Almost every single piece in D&G’s Fall 2006 runway show was so insanely amazing that the whole thing makes me want to sob with joy. They basically had their models dressed up as Napoleon and Josephine, and the attention to detail is stellar, from the high collars to the crested buttons to the braided gold rope trim. If you’re ever feeling down, check out the slideshow on Style.com – even if you can’t afford them (who can?), it’ll make you feel better just knowing that such beautiful clothes exist.


Toronto Gets High

High Highs

Ages ago, I told you all about about an amazing band called the High Highs and how much I loooooove their gorgeous, dreamy, ambient pop grooves. Well, since I wrote that post, these guys have gone on to do great things, including:

Aaaaaaand, in exciting news, they are playing TONIGHT in Toronto, here.

So what are you waiting for? Check ’em out!


Song of the Day: When I’m With You

Today’s Song of the Day comes by way of my cousin Trev, one of our go-to sources for new music.

I am totally digging Best Coast’s distortion infused surf rock.

Check ’em out!


Girl Crush: Solange Knowles?

Solange

I know, you guys. I’m as surprised about this as you are. I have to be honest with you…I had always sort of dismissed Solange as a low-rent version of Beyonce. And considering that I’m not even all that into Beyonce*, I never really gave Solange the time of day. Until now.

*Although I must say that Beyonce does have quite a few gems in her repetoire, such as this most excellent song, and this one. And her recent HBO documentary certainly proves that she is an amazing live performer with an enviable work ethic.

I was recently introduced to Solange’s EP, True, which was released in November of last year. The first single, Losing You, might be one of the best songs I have heard of late. See for yourselves:

Amazing, right? Super poppy with a fun ’80s-ish vibe. And the clothing! So, so, so great. I love pretty much all of Solange’s outfits here, especially this amazing suit, which I am kind of obsessed with:

Solange

*LOVE* *LOVE* *LOVE* *WANT* *WANT* *WANT*

Here is a girl who is not afraid to mix and match patterns, and I deeply respect that.

Solange

EXHIBIT A

Solange

EXHIBIT B

Solange

EXHIBIT C

Solange

EXHIBIT D

Because honestly, patterns are meant to clash! Why else would they exist? In fact, I would argue that our inherent ability to throw together mismatched fabrics in a jaunty and debonair fashion is what ultimately separates us humans from the animals. Well — that, and opposable thumbs. And oh yeah, the whole sentient thoughts thing. But, you know, other than all that.

Now, you may be wondering about those epic looking dudes in the video sporting awesome suits and posing around Solange with Union Jack umbrellas. As well you should, and not only because they look insanely super rad. The back story of these dandified Congolese gents, known as Sapeurs, is an incredibly fascinating read. You can also see more pics of their sartorial splendor here at photographer Daniele Tamagni’s site.


God vs The Devil: U2 and Led Zeppelin

U2 vs Zep

My two favourite bands couldn’t be more of a study in contrasts. Led Zeppelin was a hard-rocking, drug-taking, groupie-banging maelstrom of bombastic sound. U2’s music, on the other hand, is infused with spirituality, soaring melodies, and the quest for a connection with a higher power.

And yet I love them both. Which is why I think it’s important to celebrate many different styles of music, from the highly spiritual to the down-and-dirty. And how better to do so than by comparing and contrasting one band of self-professed Christian rockers with another band that was plagued throughout their career by lurid tales of dark arts and devil worship.

Now, I’m not trying to turn this into an epic battle between the forces of Good and Evil…but just for the hell of it, I wonder who would win? Clearly the only way to judge is by employing the objective powers of Science to sort it out.

Therefore, I will be examining each band based on a variety of categories, and totally choosing my favourites utilizing a highly scientifical method that is not at all biased in order to establish the winner in each category. Points from all of the categories will be tabulated at the conclusion of our study to determine the ultimate victor. So without further ado, I present to you our first category:

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Team Steff vs Team Hardy

steff v hardy

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am a pretty huge fan of ’80s movies in general, and John Hughes flicks in particular. 1986’s ‘Pretty in Pink’ is one of my all-time favourites — I previously wrote about it here and here.

So you can imagine my excitement when my good pal Laird Sapir told me that she was planning a post about a face-off between teen movie uber-villains Hardy Jenns (‘Some Kind of Wonderful’) and Steff McKee (‘Pretty in Pink’) and asked me to argue on Steff’s behalf.

You can read my treatise on Steff’s sleazy awesomeness, and Laird’s excellent rebuttal in favour of Hardy, here: Blazers & Bad Attitudes. Be sure to vote for your favourite rich preppie douchebag!


Señores y Señoras…Juana’s Adicción

jane's addiction

When I heard that Jane’s Addiction was touring again, and playing Toronto’s Massey Hall (one of my all-time favorite venues), I was totally into it. But then I kind of dropped the ball on getting tickets, so I had resigned myself to the fact that I would miss the chance yet again to see Perry Farrell in action, which was a shame because I have heard many accounts of what an excellent front man he is. Plus I love the band. I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard them. It was the summer after grade 9 and I was in San Francisco visiting family. I met up with a bunch of my high school buddies who were also in town. We were hanging out down at Pier 39 doing the touristy thing, and it was one of those perfect San Fran days where it’s sunny and kind of cool but the air is crisp and the sky is unbelievably blue. My friend Matt turned to me and said “Spencer, check this out,” shoving a pair of earphones into my ears. ‘Been Caught Stealing’. That was my first taste of Jane’s Addiction.

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What are the Kids Listening to These Days?

T-Rev

A humbling question for any self-avowed music fetishist to ask, but there was no denying it – I had lost touch with today’s music. Foster the People? All over it – but so is anyone who watches Conan O’Brien. I have an opinion not only on Lana Del Ray, but her SNL appearance too (positive, thank you). And while I can sing Party Rock Anthem from memory, find me a housewife in Kansas who can’t.

Every music fan knows there is no sweeter joy than being ‘the first’ to direct their friends towards an awesome new album, song or artist, and I can claim ‘Slanted and Enchanted’, ‘Since I Left You’ and ‘The Soft Bulletin’ as my ‘discoveries’. Problem is, none of these are from the last 10 years. Hard swallow.

At one time, knee-deep in Spin magazine and hosting my own campus Radio Show at Western (‘The Fever’) I could go toe-to-toe with anyone on music and emerge relatively unscathed. These days, however, I have to admit I have exhausted nearly all of my avenues into new music – the stuff just below the surface – stuff you probably won’t hear on radio, see on TV, or maybe even read about in magazines.

So, cue the cuz. Trevor Burns, aka T-Rev, music freak, accomplished pianist, and host of his own show at Cornell called Throwdown Thursdays. I asked him to assemble a playlist of the furthest-forward music he knew. Not weird shit nobody likes that’s purposefully obtuse, but good shit. Stuff that — sigh — the kids are listening to.

Cornell is not South Central, so there’s an economic, cultural and sociological bias to the selections – as there would be if I were to ask someone from South Central. And I’m fine with that because frankly, after 20 miserable years of rap dominating popular music, I can go the rest of my life without needing to be told to ‘throw my hands in the air, and wave them like I just don’t care’.

If you can hear Van Morrison’s ‘Blue Money’ in the Sesame Street theme song, and can hear the Sesame Street theme song in Wilco’s ‘Outta Mind/Outta Sight’, we might have something in common. So herewith, forthwith, the best of ‘What the Kids are Listening to Today’, + 2 stinkers for the curmudgeons and misanthropes out there.
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