YSP New Music: “Safe” – These Ghosts (Accidental Records)

‘Safe’ is the third single from These Ghost’s Matthew Herbert co-produced sophomore album Still The Waves.

The track picks right up where previous single ‘Where Two Lines Meet’ left off with immediately blistering drums driving along an infectious bass and guitar sparring riff all sitting beneath vocalist Calum Duncan’s ethereal and unique voice.

Having completed a sell out UK tour in Support of Tall Ships following the release of the album, the band are now back on the road with an 11 date headline UK tour culminating in the release of this single, ‘Safe’ on 16th Feb.

These Ghosts is a joyous cacophony born of friendship and a desire to forge new sounds akin to a British Animal Collective with influences also coming from the likes of Modeselektor to Sigur Ros, The Invisible and Mew.

Tracklisting:

1. Safe (Radio Edit)

2. Footsteps On A Frozen Lake

3. Safe (Album Version)

Praise for These Ghosts

These Ghosts make the sort of feverish, shadow-chasing music that’d keep Thom Yorke fretting at night.’ – Q Magazine

‘Enigmatically gorgeous and unsettling’ – The Line of Best Fit

‘These Ghosts serve it up on a platter of melancholic guitars akin to early Radiohead’ – NME

‘A mix of reverb-drenched vocals and forward-leaning production, it becomes pensive before developing into a saw-toothed monster by its clattering conclusion’ – DIY Magazine

‘These Ghosts construct meditative, introspective guitar music, delivered in a forward thinking immediate fashion. There’s a velvet lustre to their songwriting, a quiet patient intensity which recalls Radiohead’s fusion of splintered guitars and electronics.’ Clash

You can hear “Safe” on Soundcloud via the embedded link above and purchase the single when it drops on February 16th, 2015, via Accidental Records.

YSP New Music: Mann Friday #GettingtoGlasto Campaign “Say Yeah! (Emily Eavis)

If you’re a music fan perusing YSP, you’ve no doubt heard of Glastonbury Music Festival. The Somerset music festival attracts over 130, 000 music-lovers yearly to camp out, rock out, make out, and have a good time over 5 days of jamming spanning a broad spectrum of music. Last year Arcade Fire, the Black Keys, Jack White, and Metallica all graced the same stage.

We recently received a submission from a band of hopefuls looking to join their idols and inspirations at this year’s festival. The remarkably protean Mann Friday, with members hailing from South Africa, Italy, and Zimbabwe have put together a stylistically rich and varied appeal to Festival Organizer Emily Eavis to hopefully book the band a spot on the bill.

If you’d like to help the band achieve their dream, check out the video and visit their Twitter and Facebook pages (below).

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YSP New Music | Muta Mouraine Cold Mornings 

Cold Mornings

One of this generation’s purest voices, Muta Mouraine is an Edmonton/Virginia-based artist who wears his honesty on his shoulder. The Sudan-born, Canadian-raised MC arrived in Canada with his family with hope for a better life. Within months of his migration, Muta Mouraine found himself learning how to speak English through rap songs. 

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YSP Print | Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Review)

Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s heavily lauded book Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a triumphant novel—though it hardly adheres to classification as such. Like the inexorable binary tensions that churn and bubble within Ari’s gut, propelling him like a visceral steam engine, Sáenz book oscillates between prose and verse, often melding the two into not-quite-prose-poetry, not-quite-poetic-prose. In a recent interview with Contemporary Verse 2, American-Canadian poet Molly Peacock notes that “poetry exist[s] largely in space and prose in time” (8). Likewise, Aristotle and Dante’s 359 pages constitute both poetry and prose—spatiality and temporality—simultaneously, melting through singular moments of intense poignancy that ultimately coagulate and manifest as a heartbreaking and uplifting story of astounding emotional veracity.

Consequently, the brief, but careful narrative events cut to the quick of life—at, on, and in the borders between childhood and teenagedom, Americanness and Mexicanness, love and friendship. Aristotle and Dante is a liminal text, scratching and carving slowly the cave walls searching for light, but finding only ulterior dark spaces that weave and wind together Ari’s intrinsic binaries with his investigation of sexuality and familial bonds. That is to say, his coming of age, his national ties, his needs for both platonic and romantic love (and the divergences and convergences between them) hinder and are hindered by a Pandora’s box of internal and external malignancies at which House of Leaves’ Will Navidson[1] would shudder.

While the novel’s end quickly overrides the other tensions in the book, the central struggle for Ari seems to be his relationship with his father. In fact, Sáenz tightly knots Ari’s own self-discovery with his father’s, and links both with the difficult necessity of mutually guiding one another on divergent, yet strikingly similar journeys. In effect, Ari’s struggle to come out to his father remains nefariously latent in each of their conversations. The novel is not so much concerned with Ari’s struggle to tell his parents the truth (or perhaps to tell himself), but rather the struggle to know each other at all. In fact, Ari’s character compared to Dante’s is markedly less concerned with his homosexuality. Rather, Ari is concerned with who he loves and how to love them. While Dante is one of those people, his father and his brother also contribute to Ari’s emotional seasickness, as his solipsistic ship floats without a compass. Thus Ari’s journey is not so much about the tough conversation as the toughness of having a conversation with his father—and about his brother.

Ari’s combination of narrative and epistolary writing solidifies the indefinite poetry-prose status of Alire Sáenz book, which gives Aristotle and Dante its emotional weight. Ari’s renderings of his journal figure themselves as a kind of poetry, interwoven with the larger narrative that Ari tells (though it, too, contains multitudes of poetry). His journal entries always consist of short bursts: lines of succinct and strictly spatial thoughts with no consideration for temporality. Rather, Ari uses his diary to continually carve out and define singular instances of himself. He consistently writes, implicitly and explicitly, this is me—here and now. While Ari’s narrative voice, through Saenz, is poetic, his more direct, intranarrative voice holds onto the spatiality of poetry as Ari deconstructs his feelings in tangential, isolated moments in time (which he does not, in fact, ever formally date).

Still Ari’s narrative voice also contains flashes of poetry. These poetic moments make Aristotle and Dante move; they give the book its action.

“Maybe you’ll be a writer,” she said. “A poet.”

It sounded like such a beautiful thing when she said it. Too beautiful for me. (Sáenz 100)

The most poetic moments are also the most poignant; Sáenz’s beautiful prose captures Ari’s cynicism in a way that thwarts dismissive voices that cannot empathize with the young boy. He is not the archetypal angst-ridden teen: this is not a boy who hates the world; this is not a boy who hates everyone or everything; this is a boy who hates that the world and everyone in it are beautiful and yet so distant. He hates that he and beauty exchange furtive glances across multiple, layered borderlines, always oscillating sides, but never meeting—never seeing. As we trace these boundaries Sáenz invites us to feel Ari’s development, to watch his poetry—to blend prose and verse—and somewhere along the way, to find the beauty in that labyrinthine darkness.

Footnotes

[1] “The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story – of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams” (Back cover).

 

Canadian Conversations and National News: What to Keep in Mind as the Ghomeshi Case Unfolds

The moment that I heard the news about the attack at the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill—itself preceded by a targeted hit-and-run in Québec—my heart began to race and I became incredibly anxious. Part of this was, of course, my concern for those parties involved and my fervent hope that no one would be harmed. But I’m not ashamed to say that my anxiety had more to do with what would happen next: the fearmongering in the news, the attempts to find the “root cause” of the issue, the likelihood that Canada’s security laws would be ramped up in response to the attacks, and the certainty that while the general response across Canada would be a message of hope and a reminder of strength (as Bob McDiarmid has already demonstrated) there would be targeted aggression against Canadian Muslims, people of colour, and their places of worship and businesses because of the perceived links between ISIL and the perpetrators of the attacks.

My certainty was not misplaced, as events unfolded precisely as I’d predicted they might. Canadians tried to remind each other to respond to this incident with kindness, care, and support for one another and for the families of the victims (including the families of the perpetrators). On behalf of the CBC, Peter Mansbridge reported events with acuity and a level head, relaying details without speculation while reassuring Canadians that they were receiving up-to-date information as it was confirmed and made available. Meanwhile, American news sites were quick to get a head start on the fearmongering and misinformation, doing whatever they could to establish connections between the attacks in Canada and America’s ongoing geopolitical and military involvement abroad. Obama expressed his support by reminding Canada of the need to be vigilant and synchronized with the United States’ counterterrorism responses. The Harper government has already moved to reduce the cause for preventative arrest on suspicion of terrorist activity. And a mosque in my home province of Alberta was vandalized, and then cleaned up by volunteers from the Cold Lake community. In the weeks ahead, every citizen who engages in conversations about the hit-and-run and the Parliament Hill attack will attempt to sort out how they feel about these attacks and what they mean, for themselves and for Canada. For my part, I am still anxious. I am anxious about the fear-mongering and Harper’s vow to increase national security, its effect on the upcoming federal election, and how easy it is for fear to turn into race-based hatred and violence against others. I am anxious about how easy it is for misinformation to spread when it concerns mental health issues in Canada, Canadian gun laws, religious extremism, and Canada’s own military involvement abroad.

More generally, I am anxious about the kind of ideas that are born of conversations between those who have opinions without facts, arguments without justification, and belief without empathy. I am anxious about being between a rock and a hard place, trying to explain the simultaneity of my beliefs: the dire need to improve support services for those who struggle with mental illness, that Canadian soldiers’ well-being and safety are crucial, that Canada’s presence on the global stage no longer looks like peacekeeping, that the Harper government represents an extremism that terrifies me more than ISIL ever could, that Canadian Muslims are not dangerous, and that I am grateful to have been born and raised a Canadian.

Today I have been watching another serious situation unfold: Jian Ghomeshi’s forced departure from the CBC, Ghomeshi’s subsequent suing of the CBC for the sum of fifty million dollars in general and punitive damages, his grievance for reinstatement under his collective agreement, and the rape allegations that are said to be the source of his termination. I wish to make it very clear that by discussing these two situations in the same post, I am in no way comparing the tragic loss of two innocent lives in Ottawa and Québec with the canning of a Canadian broadcaster, nor do I believe that such a comparison is even remotely appropriate.

But I am anxious again. I am anxious because in the coming days and weeks, I will witness victim-blaming, accusations that anyone who participates in the kink community is mentally ill or a rapist or both, a resurgence in animosity between men’s rights activists and feminists of all affiliations and inclinations, and misinformation spreading with a vengeance. Victim-blaming harms. False accusations harm. Stereotypes harm. Racism and xenophobia harm. Extremism harms. Opinions without facts harm. Arguments without justification harm. Belief without empathy harms.

This week, you may find yourself in a conversation about Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Ottawa, or Jian Ghomeshi and the CBC, or another breaking news story in which innumerable intersections begin to emerge: violence, politics, sexism, racism, extremism, ableism, and nationalism, to name but a few. When you have these conversations, reflect upon those intersections. Ask yourself what they are, who has been harmed and who may yet be harmed, what facts are available to you, who is being silenced and who is speaking, and from which sources your information is coming. Debate, discuss, search for more information, but do so with care and a healthy dose of self-awareness and understanding. And above all, try to remember that there is no shame or weakness in reserving judgement until you have the facts you need, or in altering your view as your receive new information.

By the Fireside: Thoughts on Ottawa

Picture from the Garden of the Provinces and T...

Picture from the Garden of the Provinces and Territories in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada during the 2006 Tulip Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past May, I was in Ottawa for the annual Tulip Festival. The endless gardens of tulips were magnificent, but what’s even more remarkable is the story behind them. The festival was inspired by a gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs from the Dutch Royal Family, given as thanks to Canadians for providing them with shelter during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. In many ways, I like to think that this story epitomizes the Canada we are supposed to know: open, safe, trustworthy, and free.

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Age Before Beauty: Leonard Cohen Still Wrestles Age, Women, and Life In “Popular Problems”

Age before beauty, the idiom goes, and Leonard Cohen knows this full well. Beginning his career well into his late adolescence (Songs of Leonard Cohen was released 1967)  near-octagenarian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen is back at it once again with “Popular Problems.” On this record more than ever, his husky vocal serves him well, coating songs such as “Almost Like The Blues” and “Slow” with the kind of Tom Waits-esque sonic rumble that displays both his age and experience. For the casual Cohen listener, Popular Problems functions much as its predecessor Old Ideas–as a comfortable and representative entry way into his discography. Where “Samson In New Orleans” is blissfully reminiscent of “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” and “Almost Like The Blues” carries the lyrical cadence of “A Thousand Kisses Deep,” the tunes that make up Popular Problems show Cohen at his most refined.

Cover of "Field Commander Cohen: Tour of ...

Cover of Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979

The album’s production, with its seasoned session musicians (typical of Cohen’s career-spanning carousel of players) deftly highlight the sonic palate of the songs, allowing Cohen’s sing-speak (and precise lyrics) to shine centre stage. Although at times it sounds as if certain production choices (namely the questionable Mumford and Sons-esque chorus of “Did I Ever Love You”–a tacky bluegrass tablecloth on a sheet of pure marble) are flawed experiments at making contemporary Cohen’s sound, one has to remark that Cohen is open to experimentation this late in the game at all. The absolutely heartbreaking delivery in the verses of “Did I Ever Love You” remains more than enough to save the album from it’s own chimerical structure.

If Old ideas was to be Cohen’s last record, Popular Problems feels like an appropriate coda, that is, Cohen’s victory lap. However whereas Old Ideas felt like a succinct summation of his life’s work in songs, Popular Problems benefits from the opportunity for Cohen to further expand into this new, more confident era of songwriting. As critics have often noted, Cohen’s saving grace as a singer was that in the early days his songs were so masterfully written that his voice was almost an afterthought. Now, however, it seems that his vocal chords have caught up to his songwriting and suit him hand in glove. The mystic, dirge-like, monk-esque rumblings of “Slow” give way to the tantric, sexual morning voice of “Nevermind”. Cohen’s wry humour hasn’t aged a day, however. He takes self-deprecating to an art-form as he quips on “Almost Like The Blues”, “There’s torture and there’s killing / and there’s my bad reviews”. It’s nothing short of refreshing to see a legend of his kind still caught in the same anxious traps as artists half (or a quarter) his age; and at the end of “Popular Problems”, punning on the record’s title, Field Commander Cohen remains with us, to combat the problems, whether trite or deified, that plague us all.

YSP Sound: Alt-J – This Is All Yours Review (EDIT)

Artist: Ajt-J               Title:  This is All Yours Label: Infectious Music Ltd. 8/10

When Alt-J blessed the music world with (eventual Mercury Prize Winner) An Awesome Wave in 2012, they were lauded by most as experimentalists and musical revolutionaries; by others they were lampooned and lambasted for being “overstuffed and messy, and so overworked that what life there may once have been now exists as a kind of primordial paste.” (Any guess who said that?) The Pitchfork talking heads–those that still pride themselves on being arrogant contrarians who get to not-hear, read about, and then hate good music before everyone else–will tell you that the lyrics on “Taro” make no sense and “Fitzpleasure” is goofy netherspeak. If you happen to be one of those people, two things: (1) “Taro” is one of the most heartbreaking love songs ever written, about two photojournalists blown to pieces in the line of duty; and (2) steer clear of this record.

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Wondering How Long It’ll Take to Finish Your Next Book? Check Out this Handy Chart

Are you a reader who, like me, hordes hoards of books without any time to actually read them all? If you plan on picking up some classic literature from that forsaken pile of treasured and untested texts, you can use this nifty chart (below) from PersonalCreations to pick the right text for your busy life.

The chart takes into account page count at average reading speed (300 words per minute). Of course intangibles like difficulty are not taken into account, but regardless, you may want to save War and Peace for the winter holidays–or never, I’m not a cop.

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