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  • Indie Rock Christmas Cry-Fest

    Tired of Happy Holiday Songs? Tune In and Sob With This Playlist.

    “Hey Parker, It’s Christmas”
    Ryan Adams
    Written before the tragic break-up of alt-rock dream team Parker Posey and Ryan Adams, this song is sweet and just the right amount of sad—the precise recipe for a perfect holiday song.

    “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
    Death Cab For Cutie
    Weirdly sad Christmas song + eternally sad Ben Gibbard = One of the best covers of all time. No, seriously.

    “Blue Christmas”
    Bright Eyes
    Arguably the best cover of the Elvis classic, making it number two in the “depressing bands covering equally depressing holiday songs” list. Also, it’s the very best song on all of Bright Eyes’ A Christmas Album.

    “Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas”
    Okkervil River
    Sure, Otis Redding sings his fair share of Christmas songs, but why listen to those when you could hear Will Sheff sing a super sad ditty about returning to your childhood home, wondering what it might have been like if you’d stayed there forever?
    And hey, if you’re heading back to your parents’ place this weekend, it may start to hit a little too close to home.

    “This Christmas Mix”
    Louis XIV
    Hailed by NME as “music to fail rehab to,” Louis XIV pulls a surprisingly jaunty move in this live Christmas song, where they don’t even swear once!

    “It’s Christmas Time”
    Yo La Tengo
    In case you didn’t notice the overwhelming glee around you, Yo La Tengo will remind you, probably around 60 times, that it is, in fact, Christmas Time.

    “Little Drummer Boy”
    The Dandy Warhols
    The only people that could ever make the word “drum” sound like some sort of vague drug reference.

    “Christmas Party”
    The Walkmen
    Half spoken-word, half harmonic chorus of the drunken recounts of a Christmas party, this song is one you could probably convince even the Scroogiest of family members to sing along to.

    “Xmas Cake”
    Rilo Kiley
    Beware: this is probably a bad song for students to listen to during the holiday season considering it talks about graduation, credit cards and loan debt, which could turn any Christmas party into an instant cry-fest. Thanks a lot, Jenny Lewis.

    “Christmas Time Is Here Again”
    My Morning Jacket
    Almost comically similar to what one would imagine a My Morning Jacket holiday song would sound like—that being exactly like every other MMJ song ever recorded.

    “Annunciation Day / Born on Christmas Day”
    Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
    For the love of God, don’t play this around your religious grandparents. Ted Leo is punk rock.

    “Joy to the World”
    Sufjan Stevens
    In case you didn’t know, Sufjan Stevens has released, like, a million Christmas songs for some reason. Here’s one of them.

  • Concert Review: Titus Andronicus

    • Titus Andronicus performs at SXSW in March 16. Photo Jason Persse

    A few hours before Titus Andronicus took to the modest, two-foot-high wooden stage at Il Motore Wednesday night, my friend Nat asked me if I was excited for the show.

    “Not really, to be honest,” I told her. “I hate concerts, by and large.”

    For me, most concerts are exercises in doing things you dislike because the alternative is worse. I don’t feel comfortable around large groups of strangers, but a life of repeatedly not seeing your favourite acts simply because you’re a coward/introvert is hardly a life at all.

    So, like anyone with a well-developed sense of Protestant work ethic, I was preparing to make my third trip in four years to the sparsely populated Mile-End block that houses Il Motore to see the best punk band in America, Titus Andronicus.

    Marrying nihilism with optimism, turning lines about loserdom, madness and the full breadth of the Western literary canon into crowd-friendly chant-alongs, lead singer Patrick Stickles has a lyrical voice all his own, and his actual voice sounds like Conor Oberst filtered through a severe smoking habit and a host of anger-management issues.

    Given the lineup changes the band’s gone through—the band is 3/5 members who weren’t around last time I saw them—it’s fair to assume that Titus is Stickles’ project, through and through, and there is something about his on-stage demeanor—the sardonic tone, the penchant for making sure all the moshers are feeling safe, the demonization of a “shirtless goon” who had been terrorizing the pit during supporting act Ceremony’s set—that is calming to those audience members who may have been feeling reticent to get in on the action.

    The band opened with a one-two punch from Local Business, Titus’s acclaimed third album, but by the beginning of the third song—the brief, wonderful, kick-stomping “Joset of Nazareth’s Blues”—I was rushing to the pit, mad with a desire to commingle with the enthusiasm, vitality and sweat of other people, my earlier worries forgotten.

    Titus has this kind of effect on the psyche—everything is exciting and everything is okay. We’re all in this together.

    Roaring through an 80-minute set that featured slightly more from 2010’s The Monitor than it did from this fall’s Local Business, the band nevertheless managed to cram in crowd-pleasing favourites from all three albums, pulling emotional catharsis from even the slowest song, “To Old Friends and New,” which Stickles sang with all the intensity of a man still feeling the words and the “you” they were written about as if she was still in the room.

    It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. Near the end, the band shifted straight from a roaring, silly rendition of “(I am the) Electric Man”—a cut from the latest album dedicated to an electrocution Stickles suffered in 2011 from a microphone, which he sang while wearing an audience member’s glasses—into a rousing cover of the Contours’ Motown hit “Do You Love Me.”

    I don’t know what the “Mashed Potato” dance consists of, but who cares, really. In the moment, everyone loved everyone.

    Rather than play an encore, Stickles announced the end of the concert three or four songs in advance, noting in the interlude that this show probably set the record for stage-dives and crowd-surfing for this tour.

    He was right, there was an incredible amount of crowd-surfing. “You could probably stop now,” he said, as if we’d already won the race. But the pit was irrepressible. We kept on crowd-surfing. That’s the kind of band Titus Andronicus is.

  • Camera Ephemera: From Petite-Patrie Gems to Pseudo-Protest Pastels

    The little picture is the big picture.

    From creepy storefront windows on St. Hubert street to pastel posters near Guy-Concordia, I find myself continuously drawn from the obvious to the obscure by strange little details I can’t ignore.

    This is my tribute to those strange little moments that make living in a sometimes humourless world a bit more bearable.

    —Rebecca Ugolini, Writer and Photographer

  • Camera Ephemera: St. Hubert Street

    Welcome to Camera Ephemera, where the little picture is the big picture. From creepy storefront windows on St. Hubert street to pastel posters near Guy-Concordia, I find myself continuously drawn from the obvious to the obscure by strange little details I can’t ignore.

    This is my tribute to those strange little moments that make living in a sometimes humourless world a bit more bearable.

    Take a look at this first set, read the captions, and next time you go out, take the time to look up, down, and in a couple of strange places.

    —Rebecca Ugolini, Writer and Photographer

  • Hip Hop Karaoke Montreal

    Karaoke can be tricky. Especially when the people on stage are performing Run D.M.C.

    Hip Hop Karaoke Montreal got people to take the stage at Le Belmont on Nov. 15 to perform from a catalogue of hundreds of songs.

    The event invited anyone who wanted to pay homage to the art form, or who just wanted a good laugh to join them.

    Photos by Leslie Schachter.