On High Rotation


And now, another report on what’s been playing often on my music-emitting gadgets.

I was twelve in 1980 and twenty-two when 1990 rolled around, and much of that time was spent hanging around on Accordion City’s Queen Street West, where Mike Myers got the inspiration for the Saturday Night Live character “Dieter” and his show, Sprockets (the real-life Dieter was a waiter at The Rivoli, which is still there today). For the early part of that decade, the Toronto radio station now known as “102.1 The Edge” still went by its call letters, CFNY, and was still edgy enough to have an eclectic set of shows, from the alt-rock that made the bulk of its programming to “Masters and Moderns”, featuring classical and contemporary orchestral music, to a show featuring local bands to Christian rock — a lot of stuff you wouldn’t otherwise hear on the radio.

You always come back to the music when you came of age, and sometimes that music comes back to you.

Exploding Head by A Place to Bury Strangers

I spent the first day of my recent trip to Vancouver at my the home of my friends Adam and Nancy, whom I know from way back through the strangest of coincidences. Nancy had come to Toronto in 1994 to study med school at U of T, where she ended up as my sister’s classmate; Adam, her boyfriend, came along and ended up at Mackerel Interactive Multimedia, which was my first job after graduating from Crazy Go Nuts University. Adam and I would leave Mackerel to work together at different places, which includes OpenCola, where much of our time was spent finding different ways to drive co-founder Cory Doctorow crazy.

Adam was already awake when I emerged from the guest room and working away on some photos. Like me, he likes to work in a giant desk rigged for sound. Something sounding vaguely like The Jesus and Mary Chain was playing. I had a deja vu moment: the feeling that I’d been transported to the past, and I was a teenager trying on blazers at Courage My Love, a secondhand store in Kensington Market that’s still in business today.

I thought I was hearing something from the ’80s, but it turned out to be something from only a couple of years ago: the band was A Place to Bury Strangers, a noise-rock back from New York. The video above features Keep Slipping Away, one of the tracks off their most recent album, 2009’s Exploding Head.

As both point of reference and a bonus, here’s one of my favourite Jesus and Mary Chain tracks from later on in their career: Snakedriver, which was featured in the 1994 film The Crow:

Skying by The Horrors

Later that day, Adam took me to Red Cat Records, a record store on Main Street, not far from King Edward. It’s my favourite kind of record store: the small indie kind, packed with gems and begging to be explored.

“Here, buy it,” Adam said, putting a copy of Exploding Head in my hand. At the same time, I saw an album I’d been meaning to get on iTunes or Amazon: Skying by The Horrors. Figuring I’d support the record shop, I bought both. They’ve got a mid-career Cure/late career Joy Division/Bauhaus analog-synths-meet-echo-guitars sound, which takes me back to when there was a lot more black in my wardrobe, I had spiky hair and did a lot of late-evening, fake-ID-assisted dance sessions at the Silver Crown in Toronto or the Thunderdome in Montreal.

About a week after I got back from Vancouver, I joined a bunch of coworkers from Shopify for dinner. My coworker Julie, who used to do vocals in an industrial band, said that she’d love to do a cover of The Spoons’ 1982 synthpop gem, Nova Heart, which I’ve posted below. Note that Gordon Deppe is singing with an English accent that he picked up in his native Burlington, Ontario (you couldn’t be new wave unless you sang in a fake English accent; even early Ministry did).

Within and Without by Washed Out

And finally on our new-bands-sounding-like-old-bands tour, we have Washed Out and their latest album Within and Without. Call it chillwave, glo-fi, electropop or dreampop: it’s mellow, lush and dreamy, suitable for either writing code, flaking out or making out, all of which I like to think I’m pretty good at.