Mellon Collie and the Infinite Dadness: Rating Various Winter Wonderland Activities – Part One

I’m not sure whether or not this has been explicitly mentioned on this blog, but at some point over the last few years, my wife and I got extremely loaded one night and decided that it would be a good idea to relocate to North Bay, Ontario.

All joking aside, though, we moved to North Bay in order to be in closer proximity to family, to avoid the increasing costs of living in Toronto, and to pursue a new career opportunity that was presented to me. It has been great in many ways and not so great in other ways, but I’m not going to dive too deeply into the subject here. Perhaps in a future non-dad-related post, I will break down what it is like to move from a big smelly city to a small smelly town. (Spoiler: No matter what you choose to do, you will find a smell to complain about)

One of the benefits and drawbacks of living in North Bay? More snow than I have ever seen in my life. There’s, like, a lot of snow here. If snow were decent Japanese restaurants, we would be all set.

Snow is not a decent Japanese restaurant, though. It is a bunch of cold puffy water. Which sucks for getting around and leads to a lot of shoveling and shivering. But also kids love the stuff and it is apparently very good for children to go run around outside and fill the world with their laughter and all of that stuff.

So, when it is not -30C (which is not a typo, but a real thing that happens here), we have enjoyed taking my daughter outdoors and exposing her to some of winter’s great bounty of fun activities. Here are my thoughts on a few of them.

Building a Snowperson

This is the act of creating a snow being in three segmented parts like some kind of big freaky white ant with facial features that approximate those of a human. It is a classic winter activity that holds up pretty well. You have to have the right kind of snow to make this work, but when it works, it can keep everybody busy for like a half hour.

For the kids, there’s the chance to get a little artistic and a chance to dictate just what kind of a person the snowperson gets to be. It gives them the chance to play God, which I’m sure has some kind of a developmental benefit. I don’t know. This isn’t a psychology blog. This isn’t really even a parenting blog, what do you want from me?

For the adults, there’s the chance to get a little artistic, as you will have to interpret your child’s wishes and translate them into something that makes a single lick of sense. There’s also the chance to push something around until it gets heavy and your back hurts.

Pros:

  • Fun lawn ornaments!
  • You can make a bunch of them and create little stories for yourself about what those people are doing in your yard.
  • You can make a sad one and look at them whenever life gets you down in a “Hey, at least I’m not that guy” way.
  • If you build them just right and the weather cooperates, you’ll get to watch them slowly and painfully melt away like that guy from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Looooolololol

Cons:

  • Sore arms and back if you’re building a whole family of them.
  • Getting asked to make one when the snow is powdery is like getting asked to eat soup out of a spaghetti strainer.
  • Finding sticks that make good arms: Surprisingly difficult.
  • You won’t be able to use the hat/scarf/gloves that the snowperson is wearing until it naturally falls to the ground at the weather’s behest.
  • There is a chance that your child will temporarily consider the snowpeople to be their actual parents. (This could also be a pro, maybe)

Verdict: In my opinion, building snowpeople is a pretty good idea. It gets everybody doing something and you’re left with a reminder in your yard that you went outside at some point, which gives you an excuse to try to get out of going outside again later. 7/10 Flake Points

Creating a Snow-Based Play Structure

This one requires some work off the top, there’s no two ways about it. If you do it right and your kid cooperates, though, you’ll soon be laughing all the way to the snowbank. Given that last joke, it is totally cool if you want to navigate away from this blog and never return. I would!

So, you can use an existing snowbank for this or create your own pile/structure out of sticky snow, whatever’s easy and readily available. You’ll want to use this (preferably pretty big) pile of snow to create a slide or a tunnel or a house or a castle or anything that inspires you, I guess. People might want to steer clear of the tunnel idea if they’re going to leave their kids alone to play, as cave-ins are not fun.

We have tended to build slides because they have the most favourable work-to-fun ratio. It doesn’t take very long to build a pretty great slide out of a pile of snow. Kids go bonkers for it. You can just build it and then get them sliding on it, and you don’t have to lift a finger. You can just stand there and watch them slide again and again and then you’re on a one-way trip to that great zone-out state that tired parents can call up whenever they have a free minute.

This can keep a kid busy for a really long time. It rules.

Pros:

  • It seems like most kids don’t really get sick of sliding down a thing. Like, you might have to drag your kid away from it.
  • Once the upfront work is done, there’s a little maintenance, but really this activity mostly takes care of itself.
  • Fun lessons about gravity?

Cons:

  • If you’re building the pile yourself, this can take a long time to get going.
  • Requires the good kind of snow.
  • Dragging your kid away from the slide kicking and screaming can be painful and embarrassing.
  • You can make the slide big enough to slide on yourself, which you’ll do once and then get snow all up your back and be forced to confront the fact that the joy and whimsy of childhood no longer exists within your desiccated parental husk.

Verdict: This is a really great thing to go for if you’ve got big snowbanks around your place. Kid enjoyment levels can reach extreme heights, and it’s free as hell. You don’t even have to spring for a carrot or anything. Great times! 9/10 Flake Points

Riding in a Little Sled

Although the above sled looks like some kind of space age tongue monster, this activity is a real classic. A bit of a qualifier here, though: I am specifically writing about getting pulled around on a sled, not about sledding or tobogganing down a hill under the influence of gravity. For the purposes of these rankings, those are separate activities.

Pulling a kid around a snowy area by a string attached to some kind of a sled is about as winter wonderland as a winter wonderland gets. It’s a little bit thrilling for kids, and completely exhausting and painful for parents. The kid gets a pretty fun ride. The parent gets to drag dead weight while also trudging through knee-deep snow and throwing their gaze backward every thirty seconds to make sure that the kid hasn’t fallen out again.

The weight distribution is never quite right and you need to pull the thing with the string held really low, or else the whole front of the sled just flies up and dumps the kid off the back of the sled. Speaking of backs, your back is in for a treat if you spend an afternoon pulling a kid around on one of these. Occasionally you might come to a little hill that will give you a break and give the kid a little thrill. It can’t be too steep of a hill, though, because then the kid will just bail and you’ll have to pick them up.

I should mention that I’m writing this from experiences with this activity involving a toddler. If you’re still doing this with an older kid, I don’t even know what to tell you.

Pros:

  • Your child will have the time of their goddamned life.
  • Your lifelong dreams of feeling like a pack mule have borne fruit. (note: this may not be a universal pro)

Cons:

  • This one is like getting kicked down a flight of stairs.
  • You actually have to own a piece of equipment for this one.

Verdict: Given the level of glee experienced by the child, I must recommend this activity. Every aching chamber of my weary body wishes to warn you against it, but my addled parental brain wants me to tell you that it is very fun and that you will love it. 8/10 Flake Points

In Closing

Playing out in the snow with your kid hurts like hell, but it gets them active out in the open air, and they go absolutely bonkers for it. There are many more activities that I would love to tell you about, and I’m open for suggestions. Can a 2 1/2 year old skate? I’m terrified to find out!

As much as they all hurt, they’re all way better than my typical winter pass time of digging my car out from under about a foot of snow and then white-knuckle driving to work in terrible conditions. Adult activities are the absolute pits and do not deserve a blog series.

Not even on a blog as terrible as this one.

Enjoying Your Life by Being the Recipient of a Beer Advent Calendar: Parts 22 – 24 (The Final Chapter)

And just like that, the dream is over.

The magical mystery box has been depleted. It has been collapsed and bundled up with the other many holiday-related boxes that had piled up in our basement. The gifts have been opened. The house is a disaster. Truly, the Christmas ritual has been completed.

This has been a very strange holiday season. I don’t really think that I am going out on a limb to call this holiday season probably the biggest bummer Christmas that I’ve ever had, given our shared circumstance of being unable to celebrate together. We have really been missing our families during this time.

There have been things keeping our spirits bright, though. We have been making the best of things, putting in more effort for our daughter and for ourselves to make our situation feel more special. I really have to hand it to my wife, who has been a creative dynamo through it all, and has ensured that this will be a Christmas season that we will remember for reasons other than just marked by the isolation that results from a global crisis. Her great planning and my daughter’s excitement have given me things to look forward to and have made up for the unavoidable darkness that abounds. In a moment of sincerity that is rare for this blog, I must acknowledge my great fortune and my gratitude to my wife and our lil’ stinker.

Also, the beer really helps to keep the mood light. Here are some beers!

December 22: Strongbow Original Dry Apple Cider

Lol. Alright. You got me again, you wiseass.

The second cider in a row had me worrying that the tail end of this mystery box was going to be all troll gags and non-beers.

Strongbow is fine. A lot better than the flavoured monstrosity from Pommies that preceded it. I’ve had a bunch of this in my day and you probably have too. It’s a sweet, but not too sweet and kind of nice on a hot day kind of beverage. I’m not a regular cider drinker, but this went down without complaints.

Jollymeter score: 6/10
Chantal sip-rating: I didn’t give her any.

December 23: Railway City Black Coal Stout

I was happy to receive another stout. Not just because it wasn’t a cider, but also because I’ve recently been pretty into drinking stouts and I believe there had only been one other proper stout in the box.

This is a solid entry from Railway City. Very rich bitter flavour, leaning more to the black coffee end of things than the dark chocolate end of things. Looks great poured, as it is absolutely pitch black and opaque.

I enjoyed my time with this beer, gang.

Jollymeter score: 8/10
Chantal sip-rating: Three-sipper

December 24: Refined Fool Brewing Co. Pinky Brewster Raspberry Wheat Ale

Here it is. The final beer. And it’s a flavoured wheat beer. Ah well.

I have had this beer before and I am familiar with Refined Fool, a brewery out of Sarnia, Ontario. I’ve had the pleasure of drinking the stuff while executing my duties at the South Western International Film Festival, which is great and you should check it out if you’re ever in Sarnia in November (lol?).

This raspberry wheat ale is not the best raspberry wheat beer that I have had, nor is it the best beer from Refined Fool that I have had. Both their Troll Toll Cream Ale and Pouch Envy IPA are better beers than this. They are both quite good. Perusing their website now, I’m seeing lots of beer that I would be excited to try.

Pinky Brewster has a bit of a pinkish hue when poured, but not to the extent that it seems as though it has been artificially coloured. The strange thing is that something about the raspberry flavour tastes slightly artificial to me, although the can indicates that they’ve used actual raspberry puree to make it. It must be something about the way that the fruit flavours are playing with the wheat ale flavours that has it landing in a place that I’m not totally stoked about.

It is still quite drinkable and would be better suited to a summer’s day. There are other raspberry beers that I would seek out before heading back to this one. It is okay, though.

Jollymeter rating: 6/10
Chantal sip-rating: Two-sipper.

Final Thoughts

Writing this series (and drinking the beer) has been a very rewarding and enjoyable experience. I must again thank Chantal for her very thoughtful gift. I also have been very happy to chat beer with a few of you through the course of the series. It’s no “getting a beer in person”, but it has still been appreciated.

I hope that you have all had an enjoyable and safe holiday season. With any luck, I will be gifted another one of these next year and also I will have shut down this blog so that I don’t have the ability to clog up your feeds all month with these posts.

To start reading this series from the beginning, go ahead and click here!

Enjoying Your Life by Being the Recipient of a Beer Advent Calendar: Parts 19 – 21

We have reached the penultimate entry in this series and I’m starting to feel a little bit anxious about this ending. It has truly been a joyful experience.

The box itself is looking rough now, all ragged cardboard and full of holes. Godspeed, little buddy. Your work is almost done.

Here are some beers.

December 19: Kozel Premium Lager

Before I got super into Ontario Craft stuff and IPAs, I went through a phase where I would only buy Euro pilsners. I couldn’t get enough of them. I still love them! They are typically pretty cheap and usually at least decently tasty brews.

This beer from Kozel is billed as a lager, but everything from the Czech Republic tastes like a pilsner to me. I don’t know if it’s got to do with the water in that part of the world or what, but the beers from over there just have a certain character that tastes only like the beers from over there. I really like it.

Kozel is a good, affordable can of beer that scratches that European beer itch. No complaints.

Jollymeter score: 7/10
Chantal sip-rating: One-sipper

December 20: Sawdust City Lone Pine IPA

Another stone cold classic. I was very happy to pull this one out of the

I have written about the wonderful beer from Sawdust City Brewery more than I have written about any other brewery. They’ve released so many great beers and I just love them. I feel pretty good to write about Lone Pine IPA, which has been a perennial favourite of mine for a number of years.

Lone Pine IPA is the “strong beer” entry in Sawdust City’s flagship lineup. It’s kind of a similar idea to Boneshaker, but it is a more successful stab at a big, hoppy IPA in my opinion. Like Boneshaker, the hop flavour here is enormous, and the beer similarly feels very rich and filling. It just winds up being a little bit more refreshing and pleasant and a little less punishing. To my taste buds, anyway.

Your mileage may vary, but I love this beer. Pair it with a gorgeous new can design and this is a highly recommended experience for IPA fans. Hooray!

Jollymeter score: 9/10
Chantal sip-rating: Abstain.

December 21: Pommies Cider Mimosa

Truly a jackass move to include a flavoured cider in a beer advent calendar. An absolute masterstroke of troll-dickery. I drank it anyway, as I do enjoy a nice dry cider occasionally.

This was bad. It was really sweet and a straight-up cider would have been preferable. Chantal astutely noted that it tastes like what happens to orange juice when you’ve left it in the fridge for too long and it’s started to turn a bit. Just a sickly sweet, kind of off flavour.

I drank the whole can, but I mostly hated the experience. Not recommended.

Jollymeter rating: 2/10
Chantal sip-rating: Two-sipper.

The next entry will be our last! My liver is swelling up with holiday cheer!

Happy Holidays, you filthy animals!

To start reading this series from the beginning, go ahead and click here!

Re-evaluating Pearl Jam – Part Twelve: Gigaton

Well, as a bad band that probably wouldn’t have existed without Pearl Jam once said… it’s been awhile.

I’ve been blogging along at a pace so steady over the last few weeks, this website may actually be more active than it’s ever been (this coming after a couple of years of basically no activity). It seems appropriate to me that we revisit one of the series that arguably kicked the whole thing off in the first place, and that means that we’re going to talk about some Pearl Jam.

We were actually graced with a new Pearl Jam record at around the same time that everything was shutting down in North America (for the first time) in March. COVID-19 conditions actually wound up preventing the North American tour that the band were planning to coincide with the new albums release.

The craziest thing? I was excitedly looking into tickets for the tour. I thought that it would be really funny to go see a Pearl Jam show and write a blog about it. That didn’t happen, but I think that I need to admit that my series of blogposts intended to make fun of Pearl Jam has led to me actually becoming kind of a fan of Pearl Jam. I’ll never stop making fun of them, but now I do so lovingly.

It is in this spirit that I will finally listen to Gigaton, which was released to moderate fanfare in March 2020.

Who Ever Said

PJ opens up their seven-hundredth studio album with some of their distinctive fuckin’ around noise, before opening up to a steadily bopping but rote garage rock riff. The kings of modern dad-rock have shuffled off of the couch, gang. Get ready to cross your arms and nod your head.

This song is totally fine. There are some pretty neat chord progressions in the pre-chorus and chorus proper. I prefer my PJ opening tracks to rage and roil, but this is more just… competent rocking. The bridge is a little long and feels kind of directionless, which winds up making the song feel a lot longer than it needs to be.

Vedley sounds great, though!

Superblood Wolfmoon

When this track opens, I’m instantly struck by the contrast of a pretty fun garage-pop guitar strut and Eddie Vedder stumbling through a lyrical hook that is too moronic to have been an ad-lib. It’s really dumb. I actually enjoy it, that’s how dumb it is.

This song seems a little confused on whether it’s playful and poppy or full-throttle rock stuff. It never really successfully nails the latter, but it’s a fun enough slice of rock ‘n roll. Some of the gang vocals are hooky and satisfying, and there’s a very daffy but great guitar solo bit.

It is absolute nonsense, though. Yow! Very dumb.

Dance of the Clairvoyants

I remember when this song got released as a teaser for the album and I got very, very excited. To be clear, I got excited because I thought that it was a very embarrassing direction for the band to take and I couldn’t wait to make lots and lots of fun of them.

I like it a little more now, but the overall vibe of the verses is still… pretty hilarious. The toot-toot synths are ridiculous and Edward is just barking like crazy over what can only be described as an old man’s interpretation of danceable music. Eddie also just sounds like he’s just spitting off the dome, throwing out lines about knowing that girls want to dance and boys want to grow.

A classic Pearl Jam experimental misfire! I’m secretly thrilled by it!

Quick Escape

The band wrote this song after listening to Led Zepplin’s “When the Levee Breaks”, I think. The drum opening is practically lifted. That being said, the bass groove fucking rocks and sounds like it is very fun to play.

“Quick Escape” is from a pretty standard rock mold, but I kinda dig it. The vocal yelps in the chorus are peak unhinged Edwin Veddleston. The bridge/guitar solo is also extremely great. More of that, please.

This is maybe my favourite track so far.

Alright

…alright. It’s ballad time.

“Alright” has some experimental tones and textures at play, but they work a little better than the goofy shit in “Dance of the Clairvoyants”. It does just kind of sound like a standard Eddie acoustic song with unique production flourishes pasted in. Later on it sounds like they grabbed the 12-string guitar that Alice In Chains used on “I Stay Away”, which seems like a brave choice, considering the fact that it’s been over 25 years since anyone has dared pick up a 12-string guitar.

Overall, this song’s title is very appropriate. Meh.

Seven O’Clock

You can sing “Hunger Strike” over this track, so it’s got that going for it. It is nowhere near as good as “Hunger Strike”.

The chorus underwhelms. There’s a lot of kinda subpar keyboard work on this album so far. Wonky tones that don’t work and boring/clumsy lines. It’s kinda weird.

The song has a big outro, but it doesn’t add up to much. Totally would hit skip on this track if I were to spin this record again.

Never Destination

I was going to say that this was another standard dad-rocker, but then Eddo starts singing and it sounds like when the Spin Doctors sang “liddlemissliddlemiss can’t be wrong” and I laughed, so there’s that.

Very straightforward rock song. You could hear this song 100 times and not remember a thing about it. It sounds like they’re having fun, though, so it would probably be fun to go hang in the garage with these dads and crack a Carlsberg or something.

Is growing up and becoming like their own fathers the “Never Destination”? Because mission accomplished, dudes! You’re probably all the “cool dads”!

Take The Long Way

This rocks a little harder and features some off-kilter change ups that have been mostly absent from the other songs. I like songs like this because there’s a bit of a nervous energy happening, whereas so many of the modern PJ songs sound like a band that could just write a sluggish garage rock song in their sleep.

Some nice background vocals bolster the chorus and bridge, and the bridge switches up the rhythm nicely. This tune is decent enough! Guitar solo is a bit shit, though.

Buckle Up

Buckle Up… for a piece of shit!

“Buckle Up” is a No Code level bummer of a craptrack. I hate it, guys!

Comes Then Goes

This one sounds like it’s an Eddie joint and it carries the preferred presentation of being just an acoustic guitar and that rich, deep baritone that we all hear as we fall asleep each night. We all hear that, right? Eddie Vedder crooning us to sleep?

This song is a nice enough slab of folky balladry. I do not mind it. It does not, however, justify its over six-minute length. Eddie Vedder? More like Edit-me Better!

Have I already used that one? If not, I’ve still got it. That’s one of the best ones I’ve ever come up with.

Retrograde

Oh shit, the 12-string is back!

This song makes virtually no impression on me beyond that. A five-plus minute mid-tempo slog. Not a single memorable hook or riff. I dunno, this one is a bummer. The production on the big “epic” outro does sound appropriately big, but it’s in service of a pretty flat tune.

Nah, dudes.

River Cross

Pretty glad that they chose this as the album closer over “Retrograde”, as I find this to be a more effective and meditative track. It isn’t tremendous, but it is a decent vibe track with an interesting central chord progression performed on organ and an emphasis on the lead vocal.

On a record with a few more gems, this could have been a nice capper. It’s still nice, but it’s low energy following about three or four low-energy tracks, so I’m already feeling a little bored.

The song builds to yet another “big outro”, but I think that this one manages to work by feeling a little more stripped-down to a central idea than just a dog’s breakfast of ideas.

The Verdict

I’ll have to update my ULTIMATE PEARL JAM ALBUM RANKING POST with this new album.

Gigaton is a decidedly middle-of-the-road rock album with a few mildly amusing gems and lots of duds. Attempts at experimentation are largely more humorous than successful. A few quite good rockers (“Who Ever Said”, “Quick Escape”) can’t elevate this release beyond the lower-middle of the pack. 

It’s a good thing that they’ve already sort of won me over, because this record isn’t going to net them any new fans, I don’t think. Mega-fans will probably like it fine.

For me, it’s not even that hilarious. Luckily, though, so many things are bad right now, a mediocre PJ record coming out actually feels pretty comforting!

I have missed these rock daddies and I still hope that live events happen again one day so that I can go laugh at them in person.

Reviewing 31 Versions of Silent Night

Typical studio Diva.

Our kiddo has started to get really into Christmas music. It is wonderful to hear her hilarious renditions of all of the classics and I hope so, so deeply that she will lose all interest at 11:59pm on December 25th. But for the time being, there are a lot of holiday tunes happening at our house.

Recently, she’s been all about “Silent Night”. She calls it “Silent at Night”. In fact, for her, the lyrics go “Silent at night, Holy at night”, which is actually a lot cooler than the real lyrics because it sounds like a tagline from a movie poster or something. We were putting on different versions of this song and it got me wondering. How many version of “Silent Night” are there, even?

Turns out there’s… uh… a lot. More than we need! More than anyone needs!

Given that this was always a favourite of mine growing up, and it really felt like the Christmas Eve song when we were going to Christmas Eve night mass, I thought that it would be nice to take today to do my best to find the greatest version of “Silent Night” that I could possibly find. On YouTube.

A quick search yielded way too many hits to cover, so I picked the first 31 of them that I thought might be worth taking a look at.

Happy Holidays!

Kelly Clarkson ft. Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire

Kelly Clarkson has a great and great-big voice and it is put to pretty good use here. The performance is a little showy, but I guess that’s the kind of the style of this kind of thing. Then Trisha Yearwood comes out and they start to kind of duet, and it doesn’t really work for me. Yearwood is fine, but we just heard Clarkson nail the exact same melody with way more balls, so… yeah. But then Reba McEntire comes out and watching her swagger her way through her verse is kind of fucking thrilling. Partially because it seems like she’s not going to hit the notes every time, but then she guides her voice to the notes using her head as a joystick somehow, and partially because Reba was in Tremors and that movie fucking owns.

The three of them do a final verse in full harmony and it is truthfully very solid work. The audience applauds them and I probably would have clapped too.

Version Verdict: A heavenly piece that you don’t want to sleep on.

Michael Bubbles

I want to tap out on this immediately. I can’t believe a word this guy is singing. His shtick is laid on so thick, all I can think about while listening how much it sounds like he’s trying to make everybody hear that he’s had singing lessons. Then a choir comes in and they only sound so-so. I think this track has both harp and bells in it, which is like… uh… pick a lane, Bubbles.

There are at least three key changes in this version, which… Okay, I guess if you’re trying to stretch out a song where every verse is basically the same and there’s no chorus, you’ve gotta do something, but… I’m not into it.

Version Verdict: Jesus lord, it’s the wooooOOOOOooorst. Jesus lord, it’s the worst.

Ramin Karimloo

Probably the only banjo and voice version of this song that I’ll cover, so points awarded here for original arrangement. This is also pretty clearly a live and relatively unvarnished performance, which I find refreshing. Both vocalists are a little off here and there and it actually works to the piece’s benefit overall.

The band is nice. I feel like you could see this at a small club or something and be reasonably happy about it. But then you’d be like “Oh wait, it’s Christmas Eve and I’m out at this Christmas Coffee House with these banjo people instead of at home wrapping gifts very badly at the last minute” and you’d try to leave and the music is so quiet and delicate that everybody hears you trying to leave and they all look at you with angry expressions and it ruins your whole Christmas. So… I don’t know, you’ve gotta take your chances with this one.

Version Verdict: Tender… AND mild.

Bing Crosby

Jesus Christ, this is a sleepy song. Why did I do this to myself?

I’m not sure that I can slag Der Bingle’s version of Silent Night. I’ll bet he nailed this in one take. While getting fitted for a suit.

It’s classic and it sounds classic. The arrangement is very nice. The background vocals are spectacular. The would be on the shortlist for my “Desert Island ‘Silent Night’s”, if there were such a thing.

Version Verdict: Radiant beams from Bing’s holy face.

Mariah Carey

Each one of these seems to be starting at a slower tempo than the last and I am fucking cursing myself right now.

Mariah Carey is amazing, so this should be good. She’s got a full choir and this choir doesn’t just sound like a bunch of lame kids. There’s also an organ player taking a fucking walk on the thing throughout, which is fun as hell. This version also goes refreshingly off-book in its back half, which is most appreciated by me at this point.

This one is the current winner for “most sway-inducing version”. It’s pretty great!

Version Verdict: Makes me sing “Hallelujah”.

Winchester Cathedral Choir

I… do not want to look at these kids for three minutes.

The thing I like about this one is that it’s the version that would get used in a movie over a montage of a bunch of gangsters getting revenge-killed over the holidays in slow motion for three minutes (ten in a Scorsese movie). It’s got that church creepiness going for it. Some of the harmonies going on here are downright terrifying.

I just keep thinking that these kids probably all think that they’re a pretty big deal right now, but the gravy train screeches to a halt when you grow some armpit hair and your voices start to crack, dudes.

Version Verdict: Shepherd’s… uh… I’m running out of lyric puns, guys.

Super Simple Songs

I’m not sure that this is a “super simple song”. There’s a lot to unpack here, especially if you don’t know the whole Jesus backstory. Also, this is the churchiest church song you can find and 100% of the animated activities here feature non-denominational non-religious pro-Santa activities. What are these people trying to pull?

The animation is hilarious and the song version is pretty boring and mediocre. This is probably just more evidence that kids shouldn’t be allowed to watch YouTube.

Version Verdict: No redeeming grace here.

Coffin Fuck

Strong contender for best version.

From the forward-thinking lyrical changes (“Silent night, gory night”) to the evocative art work, this is a winner. I also like that Coffin Fuck seem to be just competent enough to be the funniest death metal band I have ever heard. Honestly, this is just terrific.

Version Verdict: This one deserves its own grading scheme, so I’m actually disqualifying it altogether.

Andrea Bocelli

This video contains helpful lyrics, in case you were in need of those. Maybe I should have led off with it.

Bocelli has a remarkable voice, which is news to nobody. This version also has some really interesting piano work. You could do a lot worse than this. It’s… it’s no Coffin Fuck, but it’ll do.

Version Verdict: This has only one key change, so it is pretty good.

Tom Waits

Very satisfying to hear Tom Waits slur his way though this tune. And then he seamlessly blends it into a song about a letter-writing prostitutes. It feels pretty festive. Drunk folks playing the piano might feel the most like Christmas to some.

I enjoyed this, but it is barely a version of “Silent Night”.

Version Verdict: The crowd laughing at all of the gags makes this clip 10x better.

Guitar Zoom

This is a very nice, if fairly simple solo guitar version of “Silent Night”. This is probably the most educational video that we will cover. I will be honest, I’m not going to watch this whole thing. It is very long and I already play this song differently than this guy.

Wait, maybe this guy sucks.

Wait.. maybe I suck? This is worrisome.

Version Verdict: You could impress your friends and family with this, but not this year because there’s a pandemic and you shouldn’t see anybody. 0 stars.

Stevie Nicks

This sounds cynical, but this version delivers exactly what I was expecting. This is Stevie Nicks singing “Silent Night”. She really, really sounds like Stevie Nicks. Which makes sense, I guess.

They do a very off-book little change-up after each verse that doesn’t work for me at all. I think that I am reaching my threshold for listening to versions of “Silent Night” in a row and actually giving them a fair shake, because I’m just not digging this.

If you like any two of the following things, you may like it: Stevie Nicks, baby Jesus, very slow songs.

Version Verdict: Christ our savior, I’m boooooooored.

Teddy Swims

This excited me because it said “Claymation video”, but I see now that it is the same 15 second clip of claymation looped and I just wanna punch something.

I am not willing to give further thought to Teddy Swims.

Version Verdict: This video technically is a claymation video, but it still seems like a sneaky lie to me. This sucks.

The Petersens

Just a wholesome gang of Pertersens dressing up like they’re going to go to farmprom and belting out the classics. I wasn’t into this until it panned over to the Mom slappin’ away on the stand-up bass. Then I was all in. Get it, Mom!

Version Verdict: The best version of this song recorded in front of a fireplace that I have seen so far today.

David Archuleta and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

This one wins major points for the introduction, which sounds like something you might put on to get in the mood for a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. It’s pretty standard after that. The orchestral arrangement is pretty gorgeous, though. These fuckin’ Mormons can jam.

I don’t know who David Archuleta, but he has an adequate “pretty boy voice” to handle this rendition of “Silent Night”. They’re all laying it on pretty thick by the end, but let’s face it – it’s a super melodramatic story in the first place. Sure, kid. You were born in a barn. We get it.

The Dickies

This is more like it! The Dickies fart out a punk version of “Silent Night” that sounds delightfully snotty, just like a punk version of “Silent Night” should. Subverting the song’s title and making an awful racket instead might seem like an obvious joke, but it lands for me.

I may be a sucker, but this does it for me.

Thomas Gabriel

I selected this one because I wanted to see what a “raw and uncut” version of “Silent Night” would sound like. It’s really no more sloppy than any of the other versions. Gabriel’s voice is pretty rough and hasn’t been pitch corrected or anything, but that strikes me as his vibe. It’s a feature, not a bug.

Apparently this is Johnny Cash’s eldest grandchild? Makes sense. He seems really bummed out in this video. Again, that might just be his vibe.

I don’t hate this, but this might be the version of “Silent Night” I would put on after getting fired from my job just before Christmas and telling my family that things are going to be tight but we’ll make it through somehow.

All Good Things

Uhh… this isn’t “Silent Night”. This is some shlubs playing terrible four-chord buttrock in a barn-shaped garage with bad lighting. The singer looks like Chris D’Elia, so while I’m listening to this I’m just imagining the singer’s shocked face when he realizes that Snapchats can be saved.

This song is really bad and this band’s name is hysterically ironic. Boooooooo!

NEEDTOBREATHE

Beware of any band name that doesn’t have time for the spacebar. I was actually expecting this to be emo or pop punk, but it’s really more straightforward vocal pop. Instrumentation is pretty tame.

Actually a competent version of the tune, but at this point you don’t really need another okay version of “Silent Night”. You need either a great or a hilariously awful version. Pass.

Oh, there’s a harmonica solo. If that’s your thing.

Sinead O’Connor

Fifteen seconds in and this is already the best video that I’ve seen. These costumes rule.

I like the whispery version that she’s doing. This is the version that gets used in a horror movie trailer for sure. Just this version over silent shots of people screaming and aerial shots of the forest. Great stuff.

Creepiest version. Only accompaniment seems to be one bass synth pad. I love this one.

Silent Night Deadly Night 2 Best Lines

This isn’t actually the song at all, but it is by far the most entertaining video in this entire post. This guy is the greatest actor of all time. Ricky is the best.

Bon Jovi

Yes! This rocks.

It’s the wrong song. But all hail the Jov’! Honestly, I’m just sick of the real song, this might not actually be any good.

It sounds like they borrowed Paul McCartney’s “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time” synth, which is somehow simultaneously a miracle and a crime against humanity. Double-necked guitars for us all! Merry Xmas!

Christopher Lee

Oh, this one is going to be hard to beat. You’ve got GODKING Christopher Lee crooning over a massively detuned double-time chunk-metal version of “Silent Night”? Everything about this just screams winner to me. The fact that it kind of sounds like they recorded the music AFTER the vocals makes it even funnier/more fun.

Rest in peace, Mr. Lee. You probably got a very good room in Heaven for recording this piece of glorious art.

LeBaron Family

Ahhh, no. Another family.

These people are dressed like regular people and there are kids yelling in the background, so I feel like the gang is more “normal” than that last family. As normal as a bunch of people who record themselves singing “Silent Night” can be, I guess.

The soloist isn’t amazing, but the harmonies when the whole gang comes in are pretty solid! And Dad can really shred the piano. Actually, ditch the lead singer (seriously, take away her mic) and this isn’t bad at all.

I would have a beer with this family. Not those uptight Petersens.

Puddles The Clown

…I don’t know what to say about this one. It’s confusing and vaguely terrifying, but Puddles can really wail. This might be as close we ever get to a Clown Core Xmas song, and I’ll take it.

This is a totally respectable version of “Silent Night” in its own right!

The Wiggles

Not only do you guy a version of “Silent Night” done by everyone’s favourite creepy dead-eyed Australian Children’s performers, it’s also a version in German. Also the video keeps cutting to some kids posing as The Wiggles.

This is like a video that they show people trapped in a reprogramming facility every morning.

Chilling.

Boyz II Men

What am I going to do? Make fun of Boyz II Men? Fat chance.

This is impeccable.

Jim Reeves

This somehow really sounds like going to Christmas dinner at one’s grandparents’ house. There’s something very comforting about it. It definitely sounds like something that was made in a simpler time when people just repressed and ignored all of mankind’s ills.

This makes me wanna sit on a red shag carpet in front of a fireplace, waiting for my turn to open a present that turns out to be socks.

I’m very tired of this song.

Manowar

More like Man-o-BORE. This only turns metal-ish at the very last minute and it isn’t very heavy. The vocalist is kind of a low-rent Bruce Dickinson. Iron Maiden would have done a better job with this for sure.

Yawn, dudes.

Erlosung

This is billed as “Black Metal Silent Night” and it delivers on what it sells itself to be. The imagery leads me to believe that this is just a couple of skinny young guys hanging out in the forest wearing t-shirts and corpse paint and swinging an axe around. Very entertaining material and very much in the spirit of the season, as perhaps they are trying to find a Christmas tree.

Bad Religion

This live bootleg recording of Bad Religion covering “Silent Night” seems like as good a place to call it a day as any. The band sounds loose and sloppy and this recording is a lot of fun. The group is clearly having fun, throwing in a little “My Sharona” interlude to mix things up.

This makes me really miss live music, guys. Maybe next Christmas we can all get together and play sloppy covers of all of our favourite Christmas songs.

…Not “Silent Night”, though. I’m good on “Silent Night” for awhile.

Happy Holidays, you filthy animals!

Things We Liked and Things We Hated in 2020

I remember back in 2016 when David Bowie died and some other bad stuff happened and then Trump got elected, we all looked to the sky and shouted a collective “CURSE YOUUU, 2016!!!” That seems hilarious and adorable now that we’ve got 2020 nearly under our belts. What an absolute nightmare slog of a year.

Even speaking as a person of relative privilege, living in a smaller area and as of yet untouched by the worst of things, it has been a difficult year of isolation and anxiety. The worst of it won’t be over when this year officially ends, but the hope exists that next year will be a more positive one in the end.

The restrictions of the year allowed some of us to consume a lot of music and media (toddler time notwithstanding), and there were definitely some bright spots on this front in 2020. Also some not-so-great spots, but that’s the kind of bad that you almost want to have in your life, because it gives you something to harmlessly craft lame jokes about.

Given that we didn’t actually write anything all year (until about two weeks ago), here is a brief wrap up of things that we liked and things that we loathed in this year that was the 2020-est.

Mark

I listened to too many podcasts this year, due to the constant barrage of bad news and I cannot recommend the practice of listening to them. They served as the audio version of doomscrolling while I was driving and could not doomscroll safely. I suppose if I had to give any props to podcasts, they would be the always-reliable New York Times podcast The Daily and any of NPR’s host of news podcasts. I realize that I primarily listened to American news, which is lame and sad, but the election was a huge attention-suck this year and I could not look away.

When not listening to podcasts in the car, I turned to a lot of great music instead. The mighty Metz returned with Atlas Vending, one of the strongest albums of their career. They’ve managed to expand their sound in both directions, infusing more hooky melodies while also somehow ratcheting up the overall intensity. Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud wound up being one of my favourite non-noisy albums of the year, featuring songwriting so stunning and affecting that it made me wonder why I hadn’t paid more attention to this artist in the past. My honorable mention artists for this year’s albums include new work from Katie Dey, Protomartyr and my beloved Deftones, whose Ohms album wound up being solid enough overall to almost make up for the uneven Gore.

Deftones managed to disappoint me this year too, don’t worry. The much-hyped White Pony 20th anniversary remix album, Black Stallion, turned out to be inconsequential and forgettable at its best, laughable at its worst. Outside of the Purity Ring remix of “Knife Prty”, I’m not sure that any of the mixes are worth repeat listens. The new IDLES record, Ultra Mono, felt like a disappointment as well, lacking its predecessor’s effortless blend of wit and hooky rage. Ultra Mono felt like a band trying very concertedly to accentuate the elements of their sound that everybody talks about loving, and missing the mark. It’s okay, but the political statements sometimes feel cringe-worthy and clumsy, and the jokes never seem to land. Some fun riffing to be found, but overall a letdown.

I realize that I saw very few of 2020’s films, primarily due to the evening fatigue that comes with parenting. A three hour movie? When I could be sleeping? Fuck that. I did see some films from this year and last that I enjoyed, though. Loved Parasite, like most people did. Enjoyed that last Tarantino film and had fun with Midsommer (which is no Hereditary, but then again, what is?). More often than not, movies have been falling into the in-one-ear and out-the-other category, where I enjoy them in the moment but very few are making an impact on me. Remake of The Invisible Man? Sure, I’ll have fun with that. But don’t ask me about anything that happened in that movie, other than a couple of funny character deaths. The last movie that I actually saw in theatre? The las Star Wars movie. A bad movie, btw.

After it won its boatload of Emmys, we returned to Schitt’s Creek to see what all of the fuss was about. We had watched the first season, but had fallen off of it for some reason. It’s as good as everyone says it is. A true achievement. They are the kind of characters that any other show would have rendered unbearable, but in the hands of this gentle CBC comedy, they become quite strikingly loveable. A show so well written and well performed feels rare even outside of Canada. It’s really something and I’m happy to have taken in a series that winds up being so unabashedly touching and positive in a year that has otherwise been so dismal.

But you know what isn’t unabashedly touching and positive? Video games. I played a lot of video games this year, and that means that I spent a lot of time shooting things and blowing things up. My life got fairly completely devoured by Destiny 2 for a good chunk of 2020, after I found out that it was (largely) free-to-play (which it still is, but less so… if that makes any sense…) and downloaded it to see what it was all about. It’s more like a drug habit than a video game, and I advise you to steer clear of it and its admittedly often thrilling mix of FPS gunplay and… uh… costume collecting. Go for something more straightforward like DOOM Eternal, which is a follow up to 2016’s DOOM sequel/reboot. It’s just as dumb and violent as the last one, but it adds an extra layer of strategy to the gameplay that I initially hated and now truly enjoy. It’s gross and stupid, though, and I’m stupid for liking it so much.

And finally, to bring things back to something not stupid, I truly loved Jamie Loftus’ short-run Podcast series My Year In Mensa. It is a smart, funny, sad, and infuriating glimpse into both self-anointed geniuses and toxic online culture. To be honest, it made me kind of re-examine some of my own online behaviour circa around 15 years ago and feel lousy for having also once been a part of a hive of bitches. Things were a little different then, but it was still a lame way to be.

Jay

2020 is a year where I constantly found myself saying, “I don’t have time for this.” That sentiment continues right into this very blog post but, hey, when your friend asks you to contribute, you just say yes. In the interests of efficiency and not boring you to death, let’s get straight to it.

Things I liked:

1. “Watching” a series by watching the first episode and then reading on Wikipedia what happened in all the subsequent episodes. Or better yet, don’t watch at all, and just read the whole thing on Wikipedia! It’s an enormous time-saver, and you don’t feel that pit of despair when you get to the end of a series and realize you’ve wasted so many hours of your life on garbage. Case in point: I didn’t even know there was a new Invisible Man until I read Mark’s contribution above. I just “watched” it on Wiki. Took me two or three minutes!

2. Wikipedia. While we’re talking about it, and while we’re on the topic of things we like, I will once again attest that Wikipedia is one of the only truly worthwhile reasons for the internet to exist. Wikipedia is the largest repository of easily understandable knowledge ever conceived of by humans, and is far more encompassing and unbiased than the old Encyclopedia Brittanica I used to read for fun (yes, I did that, and yes, it was fun). I donate money to Wikipedia multiple times a year, which is probably the highest praise you can give in a terminally capitalist world.

3. Synthesizers. They make beautiful sounds, they reward exploration, they are music without ego or the cult of personality, and they make me forget about how fundamentally easy it is for humans to manipulate other humans. Analogue synthesizers are relatively “pure” by human standards, just electricity running through a few circuits and out to the diaphragms in my headphones. Time to make music is the best reward you could give me, and synthesizers make that time blissful and uncomplicated.

4. Kind people. Being cynical or exploitative or solipsistic is the easiest thing in the world. Selfishness is the most boring thing in the world. Those few who are generous and honest in spite of our massive societal inertia in the other direction are rare and more valuable than anything else. I love you.

Things I hated:

1. Brands. There was a time that pop culture was uniformly ridiculed by all my friends. Sometime between Adele and Drake, things really reversed. Pop culture is cool again. I hate it. Artists that don’t make their own music aren’t artists. People who are more image than artist don’t deserve your attention. Treating yourself like a brand is profoundly stupid. Manufactured authenticity is inauthentic. I hate it all. The best meme of the year was Doomer Zoomers making fun of Milennials. They’re right. You should be made fun of.

2. Overwork. Work is the best. I have the best job in the world. But doing that job seven days a week from 9:30am to midnight is horrible and destroys any sense of meaningfulness, fun, edification, or pride I have in the job. I’m grateful to be employed, and grateful for the hard work of all the others in my institutions, but things aren’t OK. Our current circumstances have revealed that things were broken before, and have become intolerable now. It’s time to re-read Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness.

3. That we’re not living in William Gibson’s world, specifically the world of the “present” that he crafts in Agency. If you didn’t know, William Gibson’s last two books have been prescient, fascinating, depressing, insightful, and strangely uplifting. These new books, which are being adapted into a TV show by a company that paid 1.2% in tax this year, owned by a billionaire who will pay $0 in income tax this year, are worth your time in their book form. The newest one, Agency, imagines a world where Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and an AI emerges to save us dipshits from our own humanity. It’s a salve, especially when viewed from the perspective of the other timeline in the book, a farther-future Earth that has been ravaged by the mistakes in our real present. Like those survivors of the “Jackpot”, I also long for things to have gone differently. You should read The Peripheral and Agency, and lament our species’ current trajectory.

Enjoying Your Life by Being the Recipient of a Beer Advent Calendar: Parts 16 – 18

This series has basically devolved into a vessel that I’m using to shamelessly trojan horse family photos onto the internet. I finished my holiday shopping today, which is the earliest that has ever happened. I’m going to celebrate by enjoying beer #18 a little bit more than I otherwise would have (which was probably already going to be a lot).

Here are some beers.

December 16: Trestle Brewing Company Golden Ale

This golden ale from Parry Sound is the most local (to me) beer that I’ve gotten from the box so far. Parry Sound isn’t exactly right around the corner, but it’s close enough that we’re a part of the same district in terms of COVID districts. That’s… about as much as I actually know about Parry Sound.

Tresle Brewing Company’s Golden Ale is not a bad brew, but it is far far too sweet and light to wind up on my list of favourites. It sort of reminds me of Mill Street’s Stock Ale, but don’t quote me on that because I haven’t had Mill Street’s Stock Ale in over a decade. There was a time when it seemed like the place (partyhouse) that I was living alternated between Mill Street Stock and our beloved Bohemian, which I also never drink but could probably write a book about.

Anyway, this beer wasn’t for me, but it was what my wife calls a “three-sipper”, meaning that when she asked for a sip she actually hung onto the can for three sips. Starting now, these beers are also going to get a Chantal Sip-rating.

Jollymeter score: 5/10
Chantal sip-rating: Three-sipper

December 17: Amsterdam Brewery Boneshaker American IPA

Ahh, the Boneshaker. I know it well.

Boneshaker is like Cruiser’s bigger, meaner cousin. It packs a punch in terms of ABV and it is pretty absurdly hopped. You don’t really need more than one of these. I always imagine that when people who hate IPAs talk about IPAs, this is the kind of beer that they think all IPAs taste like.

I’ll be honest, this beer has been around the block, but I can take it or leave it. I wouldn’t turn one down, but I don’t buy it all that often. It’s just a lot for my face to deal with. So much hop, but it’s also surprisingly malty. It’s a lot of everything. I always feel very full after one of these.

I guarantee I’ll have another one at some point. I’ll buy one, take a sip and think “Oh, yeah… this one.”

Jollymeter score: 6/10
Chantal sip-rating: Zero sips.

December 18: Naughty Otter Lager

This is a lager from Ganonaque, Ontario. The otter on the can does look naughty.

Poking around their website makes me think that these are some youngsters that decided to start a brewery and somehow have a lot of swag for sale and also sell their beer in California for some reason. I don’t know why the whole thing seems weird to me, but it does for some reason.

The beer is okay. Totally drinkable but nothing to write home about. Have already covered better lagers in this series.

Looks great next to cookies?

Jollymeter rating: 6/10
Chantal sip-rating: Two-sipper.

Getting a little depressed by how close we’re getting to the end of this box. I’m not sure that I can go back to getting up in the morning and not finding secret beers all over the place. Need to start a petition for one of the 365 day rip-away desk calendars, but instead of a Dilbert comic, you get a beer somehow.

This idea is terrific, especially if you have the calendar at work. Stop reading this idea is mine now, and you are going to jail if you steal it.

To start reading this series from the beginning, go ahead and click here!

Reviewing My Friend Mike’s 2020 Listens Playlist – Part 1

Allow me to begin by telling you that I take no pleasure in doing this. This series is in response to my friend Mike making a wiseass comment about me doing a six-post series reviewing his 2020 Listens playlist after I said something nice when he shared it like “I will listen soon!” (A lie)

Now I am obligated to listen to and review the whole thing, because he thinks he’s so smart and funny and I’m just sitting over here with cartoon steam shooting out of my ears or something.

I have known Mike for a very long time. He cares deeply about music and has very good taste in music. He also writes about music the way that someone would write about music if they had good taste in it and cared about it, which is to say that he writes about it very well. I, on the other hand, have pretty terrible taste in music and write about music as if I’m bombing at an open mic night for the thirtieth time in a row.

Am I going to like any of this stuff? Who knows! I probably won’t be able to use the word “angular” to describe any of the guitar parts, if there even are any guitar parts. Some people think that music can exist without those, and I don’t really want to dignify the notion by spending any real time pretending it might be true.

Alright, let’s see what’s on this thing

ALL THESE CHANGES – Nick Hakim

Oh, this is actually really interesting. Fuck you, Mike.

Hushed and tripped-out lo-fi soul music. Is this a bedroom record? I guess it doesn’t matter. The production is fascinating and the song has a great vibe. I like it!

Does it have guitars? Yes. There are some guitars to enjoy here.
Was Mike right? Yes. Mike was right. 😦

Tayla Parx – Sad

This song is a little bit more straightforward, but the production is still very fun. Honestly, the whole thing is a lot of fun. It made me laugh a couple of times and the performance is great. Definitely not in my wheelhouse in terms of style, but it’s got personality to spare and a great hook in the chorus.

I’m pretty annoyed to report that this is another good song.

Does it have guitars? I do not believe that this song has guitars. Typical Mike. Pshhhhh.
Was Mike right? Yes. I am afraid that Mike was right.

U.S. Girls – 4 American Dollars

Ah fuck, I already know this song and it’s great.

Ahhhh fuck.

Does it have guitars? Yes, there are guitars in this.
Was Mike right? I don’t wanna talk about it.

SAULT – Fearless

I was ready to just talk about how the most interesting thing going here was the most insane reverb I’ve ever heard on a hand clap, but then at around a minute and a half in the whole thing kind of erupts and I am forced to admit that this track is really beautiful. It’s got a certain swirling uplift to it that feels pretty remarkable.

Back to that handclap, though. Wow! That’s some wild reverb!

Does it have guitars? Yes, it sounds like there’s a whole band on this one.
Was Mike right? Yes, Mike was right.

Ian Isiah – Can’t Call It

It brings me only a slight amount of satisfaction to declare that I find this track to be merely okay. The production is super tight and the songwriting is good. I guess the performance is pretty good too, actually. Alright, it’s a good song. Maybe it’s slightly better than fine.

Okay, I can’t call it a total miss. This is a good throwback funk-pop song, but it didn’t set me on fire or anything. It’s probably just not my thing, as I didn’t hear even one section that I could classify as “the blast-beat part”.

Does it have guitars? These might actually be sampled guitars. Not sure.
Was Mike right? I can’t call him wrong.

Huw Marc Bennet – Tresilian Bay

This would be fine to put on and listen to if you were doing other things, but I can’t imagine throwing this kind of thing on for a dedicated listen. Is this the first real misfire? It is very difficult to call this bad, though. Because it ain’t. It jams along with a good vibe and lots of interesting texture. I guess I’m docking it point for being instrumental?

Ah, I can’t do it. This is objectively well made music. I could do work to this.

Sigh.

Does it have guitars? I don’t think so? The bass instrument might be an upright bass, but it could also just be a synth pad. I dunno.
Was Mike right? Look, at this point it depends on what your definition of right is.

Scrimshire, Stac – Where Are We

This isn’t on YouTube, so forgive the Spotify embed.

This is also a very enjoyable and well produced song that sounds like it was made by cool people who like to dance and be cool and probably also read books. It’s all very infuriating at this point. A lot of this stuff is in a similar mode, but I’m kidding myself if it hasn’t been all pretty good songs so far.

Interesting thing about this one: the harmonies in the chorus here sound slightly off, but it works. I like it when that happens.

Does it have guitars? Yes, there are guitars here.
Was Mike right? Pope Catholic?

Brandy – No Tomorrow

I remember Brandy as a pop artist that I didn’t care for in high school. Not much has changed, because I don’t really care for this.

Probably more a matter of taste than quality, this just doesn’t have much going on in terms of instrumentation and the melodies don’t grab me. I would pass, but in the context of the 8th track on a 50-something song playlist, it may kind of work.

This is the first definitive thumbs down for me, though! Good times!

Does it have guitars? Not a single one.
Was Mike right? Haha! No!

Conclusion

Only 45 more songs to go, which I am 100% positive that I will get around to at some point. Today I have learned that I would probably enjoy broadening my horizons and allowing myself to heed the wisdom of my friends, who are all smart people who enjoy good things that I might not reflexively seek out. I have added several of these songs to my Spotify favourites, and that makes this exercise an overall win.

Thank you, Mike.

Thank you for your wiseass comment when I was just trying to say a nice thing.

Enjoying Your Life by Being the Recipient of a Beer Advent Calendar: Parts 13 – 15

According to Google Photos and its daily reminders that I’ve been alive for a long time, this time four years ago we were in fucking Mexico. Now we’re in North Bay and it is literally -20C today. If this isn’t reason enough to celebrate the fact that alcohol exists, I don’t know what ever could.

Here are some beers.

December 13: Royal City Brewing Co – Smoked Honey

Honey brown beer brings back memories of a certain budget beer of indeterminate origins from like 20 years ago, and also the Sleeman honey brown that would rather stick my face in blender than drink. So when I pulled this Royal City beer out of the box, I wasn’t feeling great about it.

Happily, my instincts were wrong! This is good!

The honey flavour is not overwhelming, which makes sense because it’s also competing with the rich smoky flavour of the smoked grain that they must have used. I’ve had some smoked beers in recent months that don’t balance the flavours nearly this well, tasting more like a charcuterie board than anything drinkable. This beer does it right, blending all of its different elements into a beer that has a lot of depth and is a pleasure to drink.

I enjoyed this very much!

Jollymeter score: 9/10

December 14: Nickel Brook Brewing Co – Cheeky Bastard Stout

Another dark beer, this one is a more traditional stout. It’s a good one, too.

It nails the rich coffee & chocolate flavours that make a good stout worth drinking. Super dark and thick, and completely opaque when poured. Pretty solid offering from Nickel Brook, who have a handful of other beers that I pick up from time to time. I might seek this one out again.

I know some folks that can enjoy more than one stout in a sitting (usually a pile of Guiness or something) and I just can’t imagine it. So rich and filling. I feel like I need to go have a nap after just typing about it.

Jollymeter score: 8/10

December 14: Whiskeyjack Cold Front Cream Ale

One of the first craft beers that I drank a fair amount of was a cream ale from Cameron’s Brewery, about fifteen (or more) years ago. I think that I may have gotten sick on it, because usually when I see a cream ale, I think “Ew! Cream Ale!”

This one is pretty nice, though. Slightly more bitter than a lager, but super light and drinkable. Suitable name and can for the deep freeze that just rolled in here in North Bay.

I think that I would opt for a straight-up lager if I wanted a beer on the lighter side, but one of these will do in a pinch.

Jollymeter rating: 6/10

I am finding that I write a lot of the same words in these posts. Maybe I should go to beer school… Kickstarter it is!

To start reading this series from the beginning, go ahead and click here!

Ranking Every Nu Metal Band – Part 2: Clawfinger vs Trust Company

Welcome to the second installment of my very bad idea.

I have rolled another two Nu Metal bands to evaluate, and I am more sure than ever that I will definitely not finish this project. Nonetheless, I soldier on.

Clawfinger

From what Wikipedia tells me, Clawfinger is a group of Swedes who decided to play against type and opt for Nu Metal instead of, like, melodic Viking death metal or something. I wonder how that’s currently working out for them.

I actually kind of remember this band, but I don’t remember them being so… well, you’ll see.

The highest-ranking Clawfinger song on Spotify is called “Biggest & The Best”. It is a really sterling example of of white guy rap rock, in that it could be served as evidence in a government hearing about a ban on white guys being allowed to rap. The laziest rhymes I have ever heard, all delivered like “My name is Joe and I’m here to say, I love to rap in a crazy way”. Some light sampling found here and some boilerplate dissonant guitar chugs. The chorus has something approaching a hook, and you’ll never guess what they use as a rhyme pairing with “the biggest & the best” in the chorus hook.

“Do What I Say” fares a little better, featuring a bending, grinding riff and some interesting off-kilter chugging, along with a pretty creepy child vocalist who does a much better job of things than this band’s actual vocalist. There are actually some cool moments on this song.

The third track on Clawfinger’s top-five is probably only worth mentioning in that I cannot begin to express how far they miss the mark with their intended message and because the song is literally named a slur that I can’t post here. Let’s just say that this is a group of white swedes explaining to black rappers that they shouldn’t be using a certain word, by using said word about 80 times in a row. While rapping in the way your high school math teacher would while teaching you rappin’ fractions. You can’t do that, guys. Wow.

“Out To Get Me” is pretty forgettable, but has the vocalist doing his best Jonathan Davis for the vocal hook in the chorus, which I suppose is an improvement on the rapping.

Nu Metal sounds pretty dated in general, but there’s something about the way this band serves up its “hip hop” element that makes it sound even older than most other bands. It is bad. It sounds like that part in that Blondie song where Debbie Harry raps, and I think that they even use a lot of the same rhymes that she used. These guys are Swedish, so maybe the language barrier is some excuse… but it doesn’t make it any more listenable.

Best Song: “Do What I Say” by a country mile. Everything else: complete trash.

Trust Company

This is some Nu Metal-ass Nu Metal. The drop-D riffing is elementary enough for a 13 year old to figure out in their bedroom and the wispy vocals are just sensitive-sounding enough to capture that “guys, I’m angry but I’m sad but I’M SO MAD” energy that self-obsessed youths adore. I don’t remember these guys at all, but this sounds like something that would have been huge in the wake of Linkin Park putting their nails in the coffin of Nu Metal ever being actually interesting and cool ever again (shots fired, Josh).

“Downfall” is peak mediocre Nu Metal single. “Falling Apart” is practically the same song again. But with a phaser pedal. Oh, these boys are hurting so bad. Who hurt these boys?

What I think this band is a good example of is where Nu Metal started to merge with some emo/screamo sounds that were becoming popular in the early 2000s to create a very teenager-friendly package. If you strip away the heavy riffs that almost sound pasted into these songs, you’re almost left with, like… Savage Garden. Or something.

I… am not going to write about all of these songs, because these are all kind of the same song. That being said, I have to say that this is definitely late-stage Nu Metal and it has definitely been produced with a great deal of thought and money.

It is shitty Linkin Park, basically. And I already hate those guys, so… this is the shitty version of that thing I hate.

Best Song: Let’s just say “Downfall” because it has so many views and listens?

The Ranking

Even though I hate their music, I think that Trust Company are actually better than Godhead on a purely Nu Metal level, and also better than Wicked Wisdom. I am tempted to rank Clawfinger higher than Trust Company based on the strength of “Do What I Say”, but then I remember the slur song and figure that they don’t deserve to feel encouraged, so I will rank them above Godhead but below Wicked Wisdom.

  1. Trust Company
  2. Wicked Wisdom
  3. Clawfinger
  4. Godhead

Trust Company is the greatest Nu Metal band of all time!

Click here to read the first installment of this ranking series!

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