Saturday, November 26, 2011


 I was inspired to write this post after sitting through one song on the new reality competition show Cover Me Canada. Skillfully utilizing an instrument is truthfully a talent, but If we're being honest American Idol and similar programs are simply glorified karaoke.

 I'm not saying cover songs can't be musical marvels in their own right. Yet I don't think you'll hear many awe inspiring parallel performances from someone who stood in line for five days in an attempt to impress Steven Tyler.

 In some cases covers can eclipse the original version, as Jimi Hendrix's take on Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower did. Hendrix, who closes out this post with a different cover, interpreted Dylan's song to such amazing effect that it reached the Top 10 in 1968 and ranked at #48 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, making it perhaps the most successful replicated rendition.

 Here are fifteen of my favourite cover songs, which you probably will never hear celebrity judges critique different versions of; well maybe Lovesong or Use Somebody.

 As a side note, I really wanted to start this post with Alkaline Trio's cover of The Muppets' Movin' Right Along as Henson's puppets are currently relevant once more with the new movie and all. Sadly the YouTube video of this fuzzy, feel good song was recently removed.

About a Girl
Cibo Matto
Originally recorded by Nirvana 

Crazy in Love
Snow Patrol

The Cure

Use Somebody
Kings of Leon

Tighten Up
The Watson Twins
The Black Keys

Wide River
Sahara Hotnights
Steve Miller

Everybody Wants To Rule the World 
Patti Smith
Tears For Fears

Head On 
The Jesus & Mary Chain

Beat My Guest
Adam & The Ants

Candy Says 
Blind Melon
Velvet Underground

Knock Loud 
Neko Case
Sook Yin Lee

Kick Out The Jams
Rage Against the Machine

Crimson & Clover
Joan Jett
Tommy James & The Shondells

Johnny Cash
Nine Inch Nails

Hey Joe
Jimi Hendrix
The Leaves

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


 All Ears has been nominated in the pop culture and music categories for the 2011 Canadian Blog Awards.

Click here to vote and be sure to check out all in the blogs in each category. Thanks to all who nominated and voted already.

 Handed out since 2004, the CBAs are an annual event where Canadian bloggers and blog readers vote on blogs overall or within a category.

 The first round of voting ends December 24th.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


 With the news that both Grimm and Once Upon A Time have been picked up for full 22 episode seasons, it seems that fairy tales are now riding back into popularity on the heels of the vampire and supernatural trend. Personally, I thought Once was a poisoned apple and couldn't sit through the first episode. I have yet to take in Grimm, although I'm looking forward to giving it a chance.

 This resurgence of fairy tale popularity got me thinking about the most impressive adaptation of Alice In Wonderland I've seen, Czech director Jan Švankmajer's 1988 surreal live action and stop animation film, Něco z Alenky.

 From the 1903 silent film to Tim Burton's disappointing take to Syfy's futuristic Alice mini-series, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has been reworked for the screen over a dozen times. This classic has been re-envisioned many more times if you include fare like The Matrix, the Silent Hill video game series or CBC's underrated This Is Wonderland into the mix.

 Švankmajer has said that he interpreted Carroll's work as if it were a dream; not a fairy tale as many other adapters have.

 "While a fairy tale has got an educational aspect – it works with the moral of the lifted forefinger, good overcomes evil; dreams, as an expression of our unconscious, uncompromisingly pursue the realisation of our most secret wishes without considering rational and moral inhibitions. [Dreams are] ...driven by the principle of pleasure. My Alice is a realised dream."

 The finished product may be closer to a nightmare than a dream. The creatures Alice encounters on her strange journey are not cuddly and are rather combative, making for a truly gripping and visually vital film. If only Burton's version were this authentically dark.

Below is the first part of Něco z Alenky. For more of Švankmajer's hypnagogic work see Food or Dimensions of Dialogue.

Part 1

Saturday, November 12, 2011


 I had originally started a comprehensive new music preview but many of the albums I planned on profiling didn't exactly electrify my ears. In its place, here are five recent or upcoming albums I can confidently say offer solidly stimulating sounds.

Endless Now
Male Bonding
  English band Male Bonding have been labeled as a punk rock band, although I'd say they are closer to pop punk. Endless Now is the follow up to their well received debut, last year's Nothing Hurts, and finds John Arthur Webb, Kevin Hendrick and  Robin Silas serving up carefully crafted '90s-ish rock. Unsurprisingly the album was produced by '90s mix master John Agnello, who has worked with The Kills and Sonic Youth. Male Bonding have consistently drawn comparisons to Dinosaur Jr., who Agnelo has also produced. I can definitely understand this observation, especially on tracks like What's That Scene? and Dig You Out. Male Bonding's sound may call back to a different ear but it's their energetic execution that makes Endless Now a must listen in the present day.


Channelling Your Fears

Heartbeats & Brainwaves
Electric Six
  The recently released Heartbeats and Brainwaves is Detroit sextet Electric Six's eighth studio album in eight years. Their frantic output may lead listeners to expect a decline in quality; yet when your musical style crosses so many genres it's easy to mix it up. I'd wager most of you have heard the band's most popular song Danger! High Voltage in a commercial or otherwise. Most of the tracks found on Heartbeats and Brainwaves aren't too far off from Danger! or their other mega hit Gay Bar. Yet there are some divergences, most notably the '80s-infused We Use the Same Products. Whether you're in the mood for disco-punk or shiny synths, Electric Six are here for you. LED codpiece not included.


Divine Providence
Deer Tick
 On Deer Tick's fourth album, John McCauley & company continue to deliver their signature alt-rock, country-tinged tunes. There's nothing as sweet as Friday XIII or These Old Shoes. Instead Divine Providence contains party anthems (Let's All Go to the Bar), folk ballads (Mr. Cigarette) and familiar angry rants (The Bump.) Deer Tick's music sounds as if it were recorded in a dive bar, surrounded by spilled beer and clouds of cigarette smoke. According to McCauley that's not far from the truth.
“I can’t even guesstimate how many beers we drank,” McCauley told 77 Square of the Divine Providence recording sessions. “We were definitely ourselves.”

Miss K

Tarot Classics EP
Surfer Blood
 My inclusion of Tarot Classics is a bit of a cheat as it's not a full length release. However the handful of tracks on this EP are substantial enough to warrant a listen. Only their second release, after last year's Astro Coast, Tarot Classics demonstrates Surfer Blood's continued confidence at pairing competent pop rock with punk riffs and frenzied feedback. The four tracks are a billowy pop piece (Drinking Problem), a rocky kiss off (Miranda), instrumental done right (Voyager Reprise) and a toe tapping, beach ready single (I'm Not Ready, listen below.) Looking ahead to Surfer Blood's next release, here's hoping this Florida five piece will continue to pair sunny themes with the chilly disposition they've crafted for themselves.

I'm Not Ready

Exits & All the Rest
Girl In a Coma
 Much like Male Bonding, the first single (Smart, watch the video below) off of Girl In a Coma's Exits and All the Rest is reminiscent of the '90s. However instead of Dinosaur Jr., Girl In a Coma are more aptly compared to Magnapop or The Breeders. This indie Mexican-American trio, made up of sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz along with Jenn Alva, signed with Joan Jett's Blackheart Records in 2006. If Smart is any indication, Exits and All the Rest will be softer than their previous efforts. I adored their '07 debut Both Before I'm Gone, which was more in line with the Joan Jett, hard rock aesthetic. They may have mellowed out a bit but what Girl In a Coma are presenting is still robust enough to rouse a comatose music fan out of a mainstream induced slumber.  


Wednesday, November 9, 2011


 Many regard The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes as the highlight of each season. With 22 spooky entries to date, most critics feel the more recent efforts have declined in quality; much like the show itself.

 For this year's edition they took a beautiful film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and made it about farting. Then they took a stab at Dexter which failed to hemorrhage hilarity. As a newly found fan of Dexter, there were several plot points the Simpsons' writers could have spattered all over the screen. The end result, while mildly amusing, came off as defeated as the Ice Truck killer.
 The Avatar-esque anchor story was more successful. Blending the Na'vi template with ToH staples Kang and Kodos was a masterful touch.

 It's amalgamations like this year's spin on Avatar where ToH shines (or shins.) ToH entries which pay homage to classic horror, Halloween or sci-fi tales injected with Simpsons style are usually the best. It's when they try to do something completely different or diverge from the horror genre that lands those chapters in the worst pile.
 I took a look at IGN's picks for the top 10 best ToH entries after I had compiled my own list. Not surprisingly the most recent pick on their list aired in 1998, from ToH IX.


 I almost included Homer3 on my best list, simply for it's 'ahead of its time' animation. Homer3, from 1995's ToH VI, was awarded the the grand prize at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Although it won deservedly, there are ToH entries which caused me much more heart-fright.

The Shinning
ToH V ('94) 

Dail Z for Zombies 
ToH III ('92)

Attack of the 50-foot Eyesores
ToH VI ('95)

The HΩmega Man
ToH VIII ('97)

Homega Man from Scott Livesay on Vimeo.

It's the Grand Pumpkin Millhouse 
ToH XIX ('08)


 As mentioned the ToH entries I regard as the worst are when they diverge from classic tales (Night of the Dolphin, You Gotta Know When to Golem) or the established genre (Mr. & Mrs. Simpson, There's No Business Like Moe Business.) There are countless horror-themed tales The Simpsons still haven't exhumed. Instead of a Friday the 13th-tinged entry where a bulky Bart and a mad Marge take on camp counsellors or a torture porn ride in the vein of Saw, we've recently been offered musical fare like There's No Business Like Moe Business. There's always next year, when hopefully we'll be offered more treats than tricks.

Night of the Dolphin
ToH XI ('00)

Mr. & Mrs. Simpson
ToH XVIII ('07)

You Gotta Know When to Golem
ToH XVII ('06)

How to Get Ahead in Dead-vertising
ToH XIX ('08)

There's No Business Like Moe Business
ToH XX ('09)