Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mike Mix 2016

2016 has been a disappointing year for us here at MiKenzie Inc. simply for the fact that the "It only rhymes once every ten years" slogan we're fond of doesn't really apply this year.  Maybe if we called it "Mike Mix One Six," but who would ever say that?  So we'll skip this decades rhyming Mike Mix title and call the stupid thing Mike Mix Twenty Sixteen.  (Never Two Thousand Sixteen!)

So anyway, it's been a musically interesting year for me, so this particular mix of music might seem a little off-focus.  And here it is:

1) "In a World Possessed by the Human Mind" - The Tragically Hip

Besides not rhyming with "Mix," 2016 has been a bad year for many other things (*cough*Trump*cough), including a slew of celebrity deaths.  Although he has not died, Tragically Hip lead singer Gordon Downie announced that he has a form of brain cancer that has a very high mortality rate.  I have been a fan of the Hip since I was 18, so this news was quite upsetting.  The band also released a new album in 2016 (Man Machine Poem), so they decided that they would tour to promote the album and to say good-bye to their fans with one final Canadian tour.  My cousins and I were able to go to the show they played in Calgary.  It was my second time seeing them live, and I'm glad I was able to be there in person to say good-bye to a Canadian musical icon.

2) "Afraid of Heights (Reprise)" - Billy Talent

Another Canadian band, Billy Talent is no stranger to Mike Mix, having made their first contribution in 2003.  They still haven't been able to match that first album, but Afraid of Heights is pretty good, and the title track was their lead-off single.  I enjoy the "Afraid of Heights" reprise from the end of the album, so that's what I included.  I'm just a sucker for piano in rock songs.

3) "Heathens" - Twenty-One Pilots

My favourite musical act of 2015, Twenty-One Pilots returned in 2016 with a single for the Suicide Squad soundtrack.  While not as good as the songs from their first two albums, "Heathens" is still a very enjoyable song, even if the movie it's from was a huge disappointment.

4) "Don't Let This Feeling Fade" - Lindsey Stirling ft. Rivers Cuomo & Lecrae

When I was reading the track list on the back of Lindsey Stirling's latest album (Brave Enough), and I saw Rivers Cuomo's name I just about lost my mind.  I posted on Facebook that it was like finding out that Stephen King co-authored a chapter of my sister Jennifer Quist's latest novel.  For those who don't know, Rivers is the lead singer of Weezer, which has been my favourite band since I was 15 years old.  This really seems to hit home that Lindsey Stirling, the Mormon dancing violinist/electronic pop star has really made it.

5) "First Light" - Lindsey Stirling

I don't normally allow two songs from the same album on Mike Mix, but I'm making an exception here.  There was no way I wasn't including a song that features both Lindsey Stirling and Rivers Cuomo, but "First Light" is actually a much better song than "Don't Let This Feeling Fade," so I'm including it, too.  It's much more representative of the album, which is about Lindsey learning to deal with emotional pain.  In her own words: "I've learned that you can't selectively numb feelings.  If you numb the bad, you will numb the good and life is most meaningful when we allow ourselves to experience the full spectrum of emotions.  But before I learned that truth, I had already constructed many barriers to deaden the pain.  It didn't take long to discover that the walls I'd built around my heart went up much easier than they came down.  As I was attempting to dismantle them, I lost my best friend Gavi to cancer.  I never knew my heart could ache with such indescribable anguish and I wanted more than ever to rebuild and reinforce my protective walls to numb the new heartache.  I didn't care about feeling the good in life as long as I could numb the bad.  However, rather than crawl into a hole, I chose to feel the pain.  So I worked and wrote my way through it.  Each song represents a step - a step that has taken me from being a heartbroken lost girl, wishing for bravery, to a woman who is ready to answer the call of something wild."

"First Light" is one of the later tracks on the album, and despite having no lyrics, it brings to my mind imagery of spiritual and emotional awakening and arriving at a good place to be in life.

6) "Escape" - Kongos

I've known of the Kongos for a few years now but never really paid a lot of attention to them until Noah said he wanted to go to their concert in Calgary because The Joy Formidable was opening for them.  The concert was very enjoyable.  The highlight was a cover of New Order's "Blue Monday," but aside from that I really enjoyed the song "Escape" from their first album, which I bought soon after seeing them in concert.

7) "Fall Together" - The Temper Trap

It's been years since The Temper Trap appeared on a Mike Mix.  I think it was 2010, with the song "Soldier On" from their debut album.  I never really followed them after that first album, but I decided that I want them on this mix with this song from their latest album, Thick As Thieves.

8) "Glory" - Bastille

If I had to pick a favourite band for this decade so far, it would probably be Bastille.  Their first full-length album, All This Bad Blood, was a work of art.  Every track is good and I have never grown tired of listening to it.  They released another EP after it, and a track from it appeared on last year's Mike Mix, but it didn't live up to the greatness of All This Bad Blood.  This autumn, they released their second full-length album, Wild World.  While not as great as Bad Blood, it is still a great album from start to finish.  "Glory" is one of the softer songs from it, and it's quite beautiful.

9) "Still Breathing" - Green Day

I have an on again/off again relationship with Green Day.  Some of their albums I love (Dookie, American Idiot), but some I don't (Insomniac, 21st Century Breakdown).  Revolution Radio is a good one.  I included "Still Breathing" because I have a soft side for Green Day's soft side.

10) "Radio of Lips" - The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable are my favourite Welsh band.  Like I mentioned earlier, Noah and I went to Calgary to see them open for Kongos in October.  They're an awesome band live, and they had the most cheerful foul mouths.  I didn't know this until recently, but I could listen to Welsh people curse all day.

11) "Jacked Up" - Weezer

So we're getting Rivers Cuomo twice on this Mike Mix, but this one is completely within my self-imposed rules.  Two completely different albums.  Weezer released their latest self-titled album this year, which is being called The White Album, which might be considered sacrilegious, but most hardcore Beatles fans are too old to do anything about it these days anyway.  The White Album isn't as strong as their 2014 return-to-form Everything Will Be Alright In The End, but it's a solid album.

12) "Medieval Warfare" - Grimes

This song is much different than the Grimes song I included on Mike Mix 2015.  "Flesh Without Blood" was a catchy electronic pop song.  "Medieval Warfare" is a heavy, grungy song.  Still cool, though.  This is another song from the Suicide Squad soundtrack, a movie whose soundtrack is more successful.

13) "Bury It" - CHVRCHES ft. Hayley Williams

CHVRCHES has been on Mike Mix before, and Hayley Williams (Paramore) has, too.  Now they're on it together in the same song.  It's a fun, catchy indie electronic song with an equally fun video.  Enjoy it.

14) "LA Devotee" - Panic! At the Disco

After buying their first two albums, for some reasons I stopped paying attention to Panic! At the Disco years ago.  Apparently, they've still been out there this whole time making quality music.  I especially enjoyed this song.  The video features one of the kids from Stranger Things.  You know, the one who went missing in the first episode.  You guys like Stranger Things, right?

15) "Bored to Death" - Blink 182

Blink 182 hasn't been on a Mike Mix in a while.  Tom Delonge was too busy being crazy with his UFO conspiracy theories that the rest of the band decided to make an album without him.  Apparently, they didn't really need him.  Mark was always my preferred singer, anyway.  Enjoy watching how old he's gotten in this video.

16) "Dark Necessities" - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Speaking of aging rock stars who haven't been on Mike Mix in a while, here's a Red Hot Chili Peppers song.

17) "Bohemian Rhapsody" - Panic! At the Disco

Yeah, I put two Panic! songs on, too.  Again, two different albums.  It's also the third song from Suicide Squad.  As for the song itself, it's obviously a cover of the famous Queen song.  I was a teenager in the early '90s, so my first exposure to Bohemian Rhapsody was Wayne's World.  I bought the Classic Queen album and listened to it quite a bit before discovering Weezer, which forever changed my taste in music.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Mike Mix 2015

I wasn't going to blog about Mike Mix this year, but people on Facebook were clamoring for this year's entry by MiKenzie Inc.'s music department.  So, here we go.

First, a reminder of the rules.  Each song must be newly acquired by me since the making of the previous Mike Mix, and only one song per album.  This means that there could be (and there are) multiple songs by the same artist, but I acquired two or more of their albums since last year.

The songs:

1) "Holding On To You" by Twenty-One Pilots

I discovered this band through the radio station I listen to, 98.1 The Bridge.  The song "Tear In My Heart" was a big hit, and was on my sister Emily's list of her favourite songs from 2015.  I liked the song enough to buy the album (Blurry Face), but I didn't expect to like Twenty-One Pilots as much as I do.  A week or two after buying Blurry Face, I went out and bought their first album, Vessel, which I like better than Blurry Face.  This song, "Holding On To You," is my favourite song from that first album, and Twenty-One Pilots is my favourite musical act of 2015.

2) "The Shade" by Metric

Metric are no strangers to Mike Mixes and other Mike Mix productions.  When they released a new album in 2015, it was a foregone conclusion that they would be on Mike Mix 2015.  The only question was which song.  I decided on the first single, which is nicely upbeat and catchy.

3) "Make You Better" by The Decemberists

The Decemberists make their Mike Mix debut with this song, which is from the first Decemberists album that I've ever purchased.  I like the mood of this song, and hey, the video has Nick Offerman playing a snooty German '70s TV show host.

4) "Flesh Without Blood" by Grimes

Grimes only very recently made it on my radar in the last few weeks.  "Flesh Without Blood" has recently started to get radio play in Lethbridge, and then Emily included "Kill V. Maim" on her favourite songs of 2015 list.  I bought the album today.  It's a nice change from the music I normally listen to, and a breath of fresh air on Lethbridge radio.

5) "Tompkins Square Park" by Mumford & Sons

I've known about Mumford & Sons for a while now, and one of their songs has actually made it onto a Mike Mix before, but I never bought one of their albums until this year.  It's funny, because I'm usually a sucker for music with banjos in it, and that's what Mumford & Sons is known for, but their latest album - the one I bought - has no banjo on it.  Still good, though.

6) "All You Sons and Daughters" by Matthew Good

Ah, Matt Good.  My favourite solo artist.  He's getting old, and his music reflects that, but I'm getting old, too, so I like the direction his music has gone in since Matthew Good Band disbanded after Audio of Being.  His latest album gives me a little added nerd joy because it's called Chaotic Neutral, a reference to the alignment system in tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder.

7) "Bright" by Echosmith

How Echosmith came to be on Mike Mix is kind of interesting.  They had a hit in 2015 ("Cool Kids"), which was good but didn't catch my attention enough to find out who sang it.  But then Lindsey Stirling did a cover of this song with the lead singer of Echosmith doing vocals, and I really liked that.  I looked up the original version of the song, and was pleased with it as well.  Both versions of the song have different feels to them.  This one is faster and happier than the Lindsey Stirling version, which will show up later on this list.

8) "Flesh and Bone" by The Killers

I have an on again/off again thing going with The Killers.  For a few years, I wasn't crazy about them, and during that time, they released the album Battle Born, which features this song.  Then one day I was in HMV, and they were playing a Brandon Flowers song, and it made me smile, so I picked up Battle Born.  Flesh and Bone is my favourite song from that album.  (Fun fact: another song from this album, "Here With Me," was featured on an older Mike Mix, but I only bought the single back then, so I'm allowed to feature another song from the album now that I own the whole thing.)

9) "Lights" by Ellie Goulding

Another song I heard on 98.1 the Bridge.  I don't have a lot to say about this one.  Just a nice, catchy tune with a nice beat sung by a pretty voice.

10) "Ansel" by Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse released their first album since 2007, and I was sure to pick it up.  My wife hates Modest Mouse, but that doesn't stop me from listening to them.  It was a good album with some interesting vocals at times.  This is one of the songs that is song in a normal voice.  And it's apparently a true story, which, if you listen to the lyrics, is really sad.

11) "Infinitesimal" by Mother Mother

Mike Mix 2014 featured a song from Mother Mother's most recent album, so I had to work backwards and choose a song from one of their older albums.  Something about him singing about physics while saying "bro" makes me chuckle.

12) "Hometown" by Twenty-One Pilots

Look, I explained the rules, and I already explained that I bought two Twenty-One Pilots albums this year, so don't be so surprised that they're showing up again.  I took quite a while deciding which song to use from Blurry Face.  The obvious choice was "Tear In My Heart," but it has been played to death.  I almost went with "Judge," or "Stressed Out," but ultimately went with this because, in my opinion, it's more representative of the duo.

13) "Molecules" by Atlas Genius

The Bridge really came through for me this year.  Another good radio find.  (By the way, one of the main DJs from the Bridge comes to my gas bar, and I was once on air because I phoned the station after he left his lotto ticket.)  I really like this song, and the rest of the album is good, too.

14) "Damini" by USS

So Mike Mix 2009 had two USS songs from their first two albums.  Mike Mix 2014 had a song from their fourth album.  And now Mike Mix 2015 has a song from their third album.  We don't necessarily do things in order here at MiKenzie Inc.

15) "Firefly" by Hollerado

Another Bridge find.  I just really like that guitar riff.  This is another song based on a true story, this time about when the house the lead singer shared with his wife burned down.

16) "Safe and Sound" by Capital Cities

I don't know a lot about this band.  I just know that I like this song, I like the video, and I love that beard.

17) "Bright" by Lindsey Stirling and Sydney from Echosmith

I told you it was coming.  And I told you it had a different mood than the Echosmith version.  This one seems more melancholy.  And those legs are really distracting.

18) "Remains" by Bastille featuring Rag'N Bone Man and Skunk Anansie

I don't know who Rag'N Bone Man and Skunk Anansie are, but I sure as hell know Bastille.  They are my favourite band of the decade so far.  This song is from their recent EP, and it's actually a remake of one of their earlier songs, "Skulls."  This new version is better, I just wish that Dan Smith was singing the whole thing.

And that's Mike Mix 2015.  Hope it makes you happy, EMILY!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mike Mix 2014

It's the last day of 2014, so I decided to compile Mike Mix 2014.  It's an interesting mixture this year.  Hope you enjoy.

1) "Freakquency" by USS
Five years ago, Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker were a dominant presence on Mike Mix 2009, with songs from two albums making an appearance.  Now, with their release of a new EP, the have the honor of kicking off this year's Mike Mix.

2) "Come to Light"  by Arkells

Lethbridge finally has a good radio station, and one of the bands that get good airplay on this station is the Arkells.  I don't like every song of theirs, but "Come to Light" is definitely one of the ones that I like.

3) "Pittsburgh" by The Amity Affliction
Every now and then, you need to indulge the depressed  18-year-old that lives inside of us all.  36-year-old Mike chuckles at music like this, but the angsty teenager who just stumbled into adulthood at the end of high school listens to this  guy screaming out the lyrics and thinks, "Yes.  This music speaks to me.  This music gets me."  Then I hear the track on the album (yes, I bought the entire album) that is a depressed guy leaving a depressed voicemail on his buddies phone with depressing music playing in the background, and even 18-year-old Mike says, "Whoa, that's a bit much."

4) "Now That's What I Call a Polka!" by Weird Al Yankovic
Weird Al was the soundtrack of my childhood.  I stopped listening to him much as the '90s ended, but this latest album (which I already blogged about) was quite good.  I won't say much more about this song, since the previous post on this blog was a review of Mandatory Fun.  I'll just say that it's been a while since I recognize so many songs in a Weird Al polka.

5) "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk (featuring Pharrell Williams)
Astute listeners might have noticed that the last song in the polka medley was this very song.  It's actually Weird Al who convinced me to finally by Random Access Memory.  I'm glad I did.  It's one of my favourite CD purchases of the year.  Very funky '70s  vibe.

6) "Dangerous" by Big Data (featuring Joywave)
That video will disturb young children, so be careful who's around when you watch it.  Noah showed me this video a few months ago, and all I remembered about it was the video.  Later, I heard the song on that new radio station I mentioned, and then Emily helped me realize that the song and the video go together, and now here we are.

7) "Monkey Tree" by Mother Mother
I've been vaguely aware of Mother Mother for a while now, enough that I knew they seemed like a band that I would like, but I never did anything about it until I started listening to The Bridge (that radio station I keep referring to), and I was exposed to this song and to "Get Out The Way".  I bought this album, "Very Good Bad Things", yesterday.

8) "Punching In a Dream" by The Naked and Famous
Noah introduced me to The Naked and Famous.  They have two albums, and I bought them both this year.  "Punching In a Dream" is from the older of the two.

9) "Go Away" by Weezer
2014 was the year that Weezer's first album (my all-time favourite album) turned 20 years old.  They celebrated by releasing an album that was much better than their previous four.  I chose this song because I'm a sucker for male/female duets.  I want to learn how to play this on guitar and then perform it somewhere with Avril.

10) "Lampshades On Fire" by Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse hasn't released a full album since 2007, but we'll be getting one in early 2015.  "Lampshades On Fire" is the first single off of it.

11) "On Top of The World" by Imagine Dragons

I was originally going to use "Radioactive" for the mix, but I decided that it was overplayed, so I went with a lesser known song, which is also a much happier song.  Mind you, "Radioactive" has an awesome video.  It was suggested to me that I go with their current single, but I decided that I'll wait for the album to come out in February and pick my favourite from it for Mike Mix 2015.

12) "Lovely Cup" by Grouplove
Grouplove made their debut on Mike Mix 2013 with "Ways To Go", so I almost didn't include another one of their songs until I realized that "Lovely Cup" and "Ways To Go" were from different albums, so I'm not breaking any of my self-imposed rules.

13) "Take Me to Church" by Hozier
This video features a gay couple kissing, so if you're offended by such things, don't watch it.  This is another song I learned about from The Bridge.

14) "Waltz" by The Naked and Famous
The second Naked and Famous song, this one from their newest album.  Good song, but not much of a waltz.

15) "Weight of Living Pt. I" by Bastille
I found out about Bastille last year when I was looking for filler for Mike Mix 2013.  I went out and bought the deluxe double album of "Bad Blood", and it turned out to be my favourite album of 2014.  Go buy it.  This song is from the bonus content album, which I actually like a little bit more than the actual album.

16) "We Are Giants" by Lindsey Stirling (featuring Dia Frampton)

And that brings us to Avril's favourite album of 2014, Lindsey Stirling's sophomore album "Shatter Me."  There were a lot of good tracks to choose from, but I decided to go with one of the two that had lyrics.

17) "Stolen Dance" by Milky Chance
Another one I heard on The Bridge, and which was also recommended to me when I put out a request for song ideas on Facebook.  A little different than what I usually listen to, but I like it.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mandatory Fun

I've been a fan of "Weird Al" Yankovic since the song "Eat It" back in 1984.  He was my favourite musician for most of the '80s and '90s.  My interest in him waned as I got older and my interests expanded into more serious music, but he's always had a special place in my heart.  I follow him on Twitter, and when he started marketing his latest album, "Mandatory Fun," I found myself getting excited for one of his albums for the first time in a long time.  The last album of his that I bought was "Poodle Hat" in 2003, and I planned on buying this one when it came out.  That proved easier said than done.  You see, Al did such a good job marketing this album that, combined with his huge Twitter following that he's built up in recent years, "Mandatory Fun" is his first ever #1 album.  The stores in Lethbridge sold out within hours of getting the album in stock, and I had to get them to special order one in for me.  It arrived yesterday, and now I have it, and I'm going to talk about it track-by-track now.

As some of you may already know, he released eight new music videos in eight days when the album came out.  I'll either embed or link these videos.

1) Handy

Of the five parodies on the album, this is the only one that is for a song that I've never heard before by an artist that I've never heard of.  The song it parodies is "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea.  Musically, I'm not a big fan of this song, but that's Iggy's fault, not Al's.  Lyrically, there's nothing really special.  The humor comes in the contrast between the original song - a girl singing about how fashionable she is - and the parody - a middle-aged man singing about what a good craftsman he is.

Lyric of choice: 

Let me be your stripper.
Takin' off lacquer?
No one does it quicker.

2) Lame Claim To Fame

The low point of the album happens pretty early on with this song, and it's all up hill from here.  This original song is a blue-collar schmuck bragging about uninspiring brushes with celebrities.

Lyric of choice:

Once at a party, my dentist accidentally sneezed on Russell Crowe.

3) Foil

Bonus points for having Patton Oswalt guest star in the video.  This song is a parody of "Royals" by Lorde, who is a musician that I kind of like, albeit more for her songs that aren't "Royals."  I like this song because of the swift descent from a song about using aluminium foil to wrap your food to a song about the Illuminati.

Lyric of choice:

Stick it in your cooler
Eat it when you're ready
Then maybe you'll choose
A refreshing herbal tea.
Oh, by the way, I've cracked the code
I figured out these shadow organizations
And the Illuminati know
That they're finally primed for world domination.

4) Sports Song

This is what happens when you get a nerd to write a sports anthem: non-poetic, to the point lyrics, inappropriately large words, and the constant reminder that the metaphors are to be taken in a figurative sense  The marching song about a nameless, generic sports team is a nice send-up of school spirit, reducing the chorus to an overly-simplistic mindless repetition of "We're great and you suck!"

Lyric of choice:

We're really, really great
In contrast, you really suck.
Okay, full disclosure, we're not that great
But suck!

5) Word Crimes

I love this song.  This song makes me so happy.  I used to have an online persona named Captain Grammer (ironic misspelling was on purpose) who went around thoroughly correcting what other people posted and thoroughly ignoring all requests to f*** off.  It's a parody of "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke, and it successfully takes the catchy tune and removes all Thicke's rapey lyrics and replaces them with chastisements over grammar, spelling, and word usage.  And yet still has some sexual innuendo (ie. cunning linguist).

Lyric of choice:

You should never
Write words using numbers
Unless you're seven, or your name is Prince.

6) My Own Eyes

There's no official video for this one, but you can at least hear the song in that video I embedded.  This song, one of Al's originals, is the heaviest song on the album.  It's in my top three for favourite songs on the album.  It's about the things he's seen in his life that he wishes he could forget.  These things are, of course, quite absurd.

Lyric of Choice:

My neighbor's kids sold weapons-grade plutonium
And frosty, ice-cold lemonade.
They took MasterCard and sometimes human organs in trade
That's how we paid.
I have to say that it was really darn good lemonade.

7) Now That's What I Call Polka!

Every "Weird Al" album, with the exception of his first one, has a polka on it, which is a medley of pop songs that he never got around to making a parody of set to goofy polka music.  These polkas are always one of the highlights of the album.  This polka includes the following songs:

"Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus
"Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People
"Best Song Ever" by One Direction
"Gangnam Style" by PSY
"Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen
"Scream & Shout" by & Britney Spears
"Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye
"Timber" by Pitbull featuring Ke$ha
"Sexy And I Know It" by LMFAO
"Thrift Shop" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
"Get Lucky" by Daft Punk

8) Mission Statement

This song, with an extremely catchy melody, is made up of nothing but corporate jargon, and brilliantly illustrates how meaningless all of that lingo is.  As someone who studied management and briefly worked in that world, this song amuses me to no end.

Lyric of Choice:

We must all efficiently
Operationalize  our strategies
Invest in world-class technology
And leverage our core competencies
In order to holistically adminstrate
Exceptional synergy.

9) Inactive

This might be my favourite song on the album, largely because it's a parody of a song that I like quite a bit.  In fact, both this song and the original ("Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons) will be on Mike Mix 2014.  "Inactive" is simply about a guy who just sits in his basement all day watching TV and eating Cheetos.  By the way, watch the video for "Radioactive" that I linked to.

Lyric of Choice:

I'm waking up in Cheeto dust
My belly's covered with pizza crust
I'm using my inhaler now..*wheezing*

10) First World Problems

This song isn't a parody, but it's done in the style of The Pixies.  The lyrics are inspired by the first world problems Internet meme, which makes fun of privileged people complaining about their soft, cushy lifestyles.

Lyric of Choice:

I bought too many groceries for my refrigerator.

11) Tacky

"Tacky" is a parody of Pharell Williams' infectiously upbeat song "Happy".  This song is about all things tacky.  Tacky in fashion, and tacky in social situations.

Lyric of Choice:

I'll get drunk at the bank and take off my shirt at least
Because I'm tacky
I would live tweet a funeral, take selfies with the deceased
Because I'm tacky

12) Jackson Park Express

This marathon of a song is about love on the bus.  The POV character of the song sees a girl he's attracted to on the bus, and most of the song is him making up detailed, often bizarre dialogue based on reading way too much into innocent body language.  It's quite absurd, and had me laughing out loud at times.

Lyric of Choice:

I gave her a penetrating stare, which could only mean
"You are the answer, my answer to everything
Which is why I'll probably do very poorly
On the written part of my driver's test"

And that's the album, which I am, overall, very pleased with.  Now, I'm going to end this without saying much more because I've been trying to write this while at work on a busy night, and it has taken me the entire shift to make it to the end.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sinister 7

Sometime around this past Christmas, I got a text from my sister Mary asking me to do her a huge favor.  I asked her what the favor was, and her only response was "Are you in?"  By this point, I was pretty sure what she was asking me to do.  She and her husband Greg are pretty hardcore runners, and they will sometimes enter long distance relay races and ask family members to join them.  This wasn't the first time she had asked me, but I had never agreed.  This time, she was trying to get me to commit before I knew exactly what I was committing to, and even though I saw through her ruse, I agreed.  She e-mailed me a link to this website, and informed me that I'd be running the seventh and final leg of a 100-mile race through the Rocky Mountains in the Crowsnest Pass area of southern Alberta.  So after half a year of getting my fat butt out running, and after shedding 20 pounds (my goal is 50 pounds, but I sure do love fattening food), we met in Coleman, AB this weekend and ran the race.  The team breakdown was this:

Leg 1: Noah Heninger (my cousin)
Leg 2: Curtis Woolf (my brother-in-law)
Leg 3: Mary Bourne (my sister)
Leg 4 & 5: Sara MacKenzie (my sister and team captain)
Leg 6: Greg Bourne (my brother-in-law)
Leg 7: Mike MacKenzie (my self)

Along as support were my sister Amy (Curtis' wife) and Mike Lush (Sara's boyfriend).  Avril and my kids showed up Saturday afternoon.  This was the first race for three of us (me, Noah, and Curtis), and a lot of people were shocked to find out that we chose the Sinister 7 to be our first.  It isn't called "sinister" for nothing.

Noah and I stayed where, until recently, my in-laws had a cabin, but they had just torn it down, so we slept in a tent trailer.
Me and Noah at Lee Lake
Noah started in Blairmore (just down the road from Coleman) at 7:00 Saturday morning.  Leg 1 (the Frank Slide) was 16.5 km.
The Ramblers at the start line in Blairmore.
The road to the transition area between leg 1 and leg 2 was treacherous, so we weren't allowed to drive up there to meet Noah at the end of his leg.  Curtis was bused up since he had to run leg 2, so it was up to him to greet Noah after Noah finished leg 1 in the impressive time of 1 hour and 50 minutes.  Then Noah got on the bus and met us down at the base of ski hill in Blairmore where we waited for Curtis to arrive at the end of his leg.

Noah getting off the bus after his run
Leg 2 (Hastings Ridge) saw Curtis running 16 km, but with higher climbs than leg 1.  He had an elevation gain of 937 meters and then an elevation loss of 1100 meters.  He powered through it and we cheered him in to the transition area.
Curtis finishes his leg.  (Those are folded-up hiking poles he's holding. A lot of people used them.)
Mary was the first of the experienced runners to head out.
Mary heads out
Leg 3 (Willoughby Ridge) was 35 km with an elevation gain (and then loss) of 1327 meters, and it had a difficulty rating of 6 out of 7.  It took a few hours, and a close encounter with a grizzly bear (nobody was hurt, thankfully), but Mary headed into the transition area at the end with a big smile on her face.
Mary finishes.  (Sorry about my finger)
Sara's reaction when told about the bear
There were seven legs, but we only had six runners, so Sara volunteered to run two legs, starting with leg 4 (Saddle Mountain), which was 17 km.  We drove out to the transition area between legs 4 and 5 to cheer her on, where she changed into a new pair of shoes and socks (the first pairs were wet and muddy) and to have her blisters tended by Mike Lush.  After the change of shoes, she set out on leg 5 (Mount Tecumseh), which was 29.6 km.  A good deal of this leg was run at night.  She finished at 1:00 in the morning while I was sound asleep resting up for my turn.
Sara after she was done.
Once Sara was finished, Greg set out on the hardest single leg of the course.  Leg 6 (Crowsnest & Seven Sisters) was 36.2 km, and had Greg running around the Seven Sisters and Crowsnest Mountains.
Greg and the mountains he ran around.
Five hours after he started, shortly after sunrise, we met Greg at the final transition area.  He had a great run and was all smiles as he finished.

So with everyone else finished, it was my turn to head out on the final leg.  Leg 7 (Wedge Mountain) was the shortest leg (10.7 km), but not the easiest.  It was rated 2 out of 7, and it started with a steep 390 meter climb.  It was rough.  I huffed and puffed all the way up, and my legs burned, but I knew that if I stopped to rest, I wouldn't be able to start moving again, so I kept hiking up the trail (one thing I learned about trail running is that there's a lot of walking involved).
There's a lot of mouth breathing involved, too
After a little while on that wide path, I veered off onto a narrow path that just kept going up and up.  I've been out of breath on runs a lot since I started training for this, but I had never heard my heart pounding in my ears the way I could on the way up.  Eventually, I reached the highest point of leg 7, where I had been instructed by Sara to take a selfie.
"Gotta hurry up and take this before I die."
That's the town of Coleman in the distance, which is where the finish line was.
Then it was time to start down, which turned out to be almost as hard as going up.  The ascent was hard on my lungs; the descent was hard on my legs.  It took a lot of strength to keep my control and not just fall all the way down the mountain.
The downward path
I don't have any pictures of it, but the steepest downhill section was a narrow path through the trees, and I slid most of the way down this stretch on my butt, using my hands slow myself by grabbing trees as they went by.  I got to the bottom and looked back up only to see three more people coming down the same way I did.  "Beats coming down on your face" one woman said to me.

The rest of the run took me through beautiful mountain forests, through a creek, down more hills, and eventually into Coleman.  The majority of the running I was actually able to achieve was in town, but the running in town was easier than the walking I did on the mountain.  Finally, I rounded a corner and saw the finish line.  I finished my leg in 2 hours and 10 minutes, and celebrated with my team and my family.
Nearing the finish line

The Ramblers with our Sinister 7 medals
Going in for a hug from Avril

Hugging my kids
I had a great time, and I plan on doing more runs in the future.  I want to drop those other 30 pounds I planned on losing, and the feeling I had when finishing the run is one I want to experience again.  Thanks, Mary, for making me do this.

And here are a few more random photos of the weekend:

Noah and I came across a turtle near our campsite

Waiting for the race to start

Another view of the Seven Sister and Crowsnest Mountains

Dad waiting for Sara to finish leg 4

Sara (in blue) finishing leg 4

Me and Mary waiting for Greg

An actual flat section (it's blurry because I was moving when I took the photo)

Another open-mouth selfie. This section of the trail reminded me of Skyrim.

Me with my medal and horrible hat hair

Noah and I taking our phones for a hike

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mike Mix 2013

Well, it's a few weeks late, but Mike Mix 2013 is finally compiled.  I usually link to videos of each song, but I'm feeling fancy today, and I'll actually embed them in the article.

1. "Don't Count on the Wicked" by Billy Talent

Billy Talent are no strangers to Mike Mixes.  (That isn't a subject/verb grammatical mistake; Billy Talent is the name of the band, not a single person.)  In fact, 2013 marks the ten-year anniversary of Billy Talent's debut album and subsequent debut in Mike Mix 2003.  I still like their first album the best.  Dead Silence is their fourth album (and first with an actual title, breaking tradition of Billy Talent, Billy Talent II, and Billy Talent III), and I think it's their strongest since that first album.  It scratches my itch for heavy alternative music that doesn't manifest itself as often as it did in my teens and twenties.

2. "Crystallize" by Lindsey Stirling

This is technically breaking the MiKenzie Inc. rules for Mike Mix compilations, as Mike Mix 2012 included "Transcendence", which is from the same album as "Crystallize."  Here's the thing, though.  Last year, I just bought "Transcendence" on its own.  Later, in 2013, Avril bought a bunch of other Lindsey Stirling songs, so I count them separately.  Lindsey has had a pretty big year, too, so kudos to her.  Yay for Mormons!  (She's not the only one to make it this year.)

3. "How" by The Neighbourhood

Here's a first.  The Neighbourhood is in the R&B category of iTunes.  I didn't know that when I bought this album.  I'm not known for my fondness of R&B.  This isn't typical R&B, though.  This is one of the rare physical albums that I bought on CD in 2013.  I don't like it as much as I did that day I listened to it in HMV, but it's still pretty good, especially when I'm craving something different than my usual fare of alternative rock and mellow adult alternative.

4. "Holes" by Passenger

This is the single version of the song.  The album version, which is what made it to Mike Mix, is a little different.  This video sensors out the "motherf-__er," though, so you're welcome, I guess.  I bought this album at the same time that I bought The Neighbourhood, and it's much more in line with my usual taste in music.  As you can tell from his voice, I'm sure, he's not from North America.  He's British.

5. "Coffee Girl" by The Tragically Hip

The Tragically Hip used to be one of my favourite bands, especially in the early '00s.  I stopped following them as time went on.  This song is actually from 2009, but I never bought the album it comes from.  I heard it on the radio a few months ago and decided to buy it off of iTunes.  And now here it is on a Mike Mix.  It's been almost a decade since the Hip made an appearance on one of these things.

6. "Reflecktor" by Arcade Fire

Another Canadian band.  Arcade Fire came out with a new album in 2013, and I bought the physical (double) CD.  This is the best song off of the album, and probably the most commercially accessible one.  For reasons I won't go into detail over, this album will always remind me of hemorrhoids.

7. "Guns of Carolina" by Matthew Good

Despite being my favourite solo musician, Matt Good always seems to surprise me with his new albums.  As in, one day, I'll just stumble across his new album after it has already come out.  This is the fourth of the four physical CDs I bought this year.  I'm a huge Matt Good fan.  Weezer, my long-time favourite band,  exemplifies the music of my youth.  Matt Good exemplifies the music of my adulthood.  (This Mike Mix is nicely heavy on the Canadian content, I'm just noticing.)

8. "Ways To Go" by Grouplove

If you only watch one of the videos I'm posting here, watch this one.  It's a nice homage to Kim Jong-Un.  This song was introduced to me by Noah, who was a big influence on Mike Mixes when I was a single adult.  It's a good, catchy, alternative song with a bit of electronica in it for good measure.

9. "Wild Country" by Wake Owl

This is the mellowest song on this year's mix.  I don't know much about Wake Owl.  I discovered them listening to the indie station on Grooveshark.  It's a very pretty song.  Hauntingly beautiful, even.

10. "Wake Me Up" by Avicii

I just noticed that I have three songs in a row that start with W.  This song is quite different than what I usually listen to.  The story of how I found out about it is kind of funny in a "Mike's a nerd" sort of way.  This year, Avril and I started playing a D&D-esque tabletop RPG called Pathfinder with our friends, Jared and Susan Aldridge.  One of the other players (Susan's brother) used a character that he named Avicii, and he explained to me that it's the name of a DJ that he likes.  So I looked him up, and decided that this is a cool song.

11. "Sail" by AWOLNATION

I forget where I first heard this song.  I'm pretty sure it was in a YouTube video, but I forget which one.  Oh well.  I was reminded of it today when I was looking at iTune's top ten most popular alternative songs, so I bought it.  True story, I swear.

12. "Pompeii" by Bastille

I had no idea who Bastille was before an hour ago, but now I want their entire album.  Another discovery from iTune's top ten alternative songs.  I sampled the whole album, and it was all good, but I chose this one because it was the first one I heard.

13. "Only the Young" by Brandon Flowers

More Mormon music.  You may recognize Brandon Flowers as the lead singer of The Killers.  This is from his 2010 solo album, Flamingo.  Noah pointed this song out to me, so that's two for this mix.  Well, actually, he pointed it out to Jake, but I overheard it on Facebook.

14. "Recover" by CHVRCHES

This is another band I hadn't heard of before today.  I needed some more music, so I googled "best indie music 2013" and this was one of the results.  CHVRCHES kind of reminds me of Purity Ring, who appeared on either Mike Mix 2011 or 2012.  I can't be bothered to go back and check.  This one is a little more upbeat and catchy than Fineshrine.

15. "I've Got Your Fire" by Jenn Grant

For a while there I was driving my in-law's '98 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which didn't have a CD player or functional tape deck, so I could only listen to the radio.  Lethbridge radio sucks, so I only ever listened to CBC radio.  That's where I heard this song.  It's not the greatest song, but I like singing along to the "Oooo-oo-oooo"s.

16. "Say Something" by A Great Big World featuring Christina Aguilera

What?!?!  Christina Aguilera on a Mike Mix?!  What is this?!  What's happening?!  I know, I know.  I never thought it would happen, yet here we are.  To be fair to myself and my musical sensibilities, this isn't a Christina Aguilera song.  It's a Great Big World song, featuring Christina Aguilera.  I came close to buying the version of the song without Christina, but that harmony is just too pretty to pass up.  I'm a sucker for male/female harmony.  I know this is a popular song--it was number one on iTune's regular page, not the alternative page--but I had never heard of this song before today.

17. "Here With Me" by The Killers

Mormon song #3.  Haven't had enough Brandon Flowers yet?  Have a song by The Killers!  The Killers are no strangers to Mike Mix Productions, but it has been a while.  And that's all I have to say about that, I guess.  Next!

18. "Paris" by Magic Man

This is another song I found from my google search of 2013 indie music.  I don't really have all that much to say about it, because I know next to nothing about Magic Man.  Very catchy, upbeat song.

19. "Dubstep Solves Everything 3" by Jack Douglass

You should watch this video, too.  I've been a fan of Jack Douglass for a while, mostly because of his Your Grammar Sucks videos, but the first video I ever saw of his was the original Dubstep Solves Everything, which is hilarious.  Dubstep Solves Everything 2 was disappointing, but he hit it out of the park with Dubstep Solves Everything 3, thanks to a little help from Autotune Jesus.

So there you have it.  Mike Mix 2013.  19 tracks this year, so consider yourselves lucky.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Spoiler-tastic Man of Steel Review

Henry Cavill as Superman
A little background info on myself, just so you know where I'm coming from with this article.  I'm a life-long Superman fan.  I was born in the spring of 1978, and Superman: The Movie was released in the winter of the same year.  My introduction to the character of Superman was Christopher Reeve's portrayal, which is the same for most people of my generation.  I have idolized Superman for as long as I can remember.  In 1986, my grandmother bought me a comic book.  It was Man of Steel #1 by John Byrne, the first issue in a miniseries that relaunched the Superman mythos in the comic books after DC Comics' Crisis on Infinite Earths event, which was made to streamline the decades of convoluted storylines.  It was this version of Superman, created by Byrne and later led by Dan Jurgens, to which I became a loyal fan.  I love most incarnations of Superman, but the Byrne/Jurgens era is the one I followed the most closely throughout my teens and early 20s.

Why do I feel the need to fill in that background?  Man of Steel has been getting mixed reviews.  People either love it or hate it.  There aren't a lot of people with mediocre opinions on the film.  I'm in the camp of people who love it, and one of the reasons I love it is because of my background as a Superman fan.  As much as I loved the Donner Superman movies, I have never considered them canon.  I'm a lot more open to other interpretations of Superman.  People going into this movie expecting something like the Donner films or like the golden and silver age comic book Superman are going to be disappointed.  This is Zac Snyder's Superman, with some influence from producer Christopher Nolan of the Dark Knight fame.

Now, on with the review.  It's more of my thoughts on the film than a technical review.  I already said that I love the film.  On Facebook, right after watching it I said that it's the Superman movie I've been waiting for since I was a teenager.  To elaborate on that, I've wanted a Superman movie with a lot of action.  Like Death of Superman levels of action.  The special effects in the late '70s and early '80s weren't at a level that could handle an action-packed Superman.  Watching the action in Man of Steel was like seeing scenes I wrote in my Stormy Logan stories acted out the way I saw them in my head, and it was a very exhilarating moment for me.  Even the scene of Superman learning to fly for the first time reminded me of a Stormy Logan moment.


Some of my thoughts

1. Superman killed Zod.  Most of the major superheroes have a strict no-killing policy.  Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and the like.  And yet here is Superman snapping General Zods neck at the climax of Man of Steel.  What is this, a Wolverine movie?  Well, I have some news for you:
Superman #22 (October 1988)
That's Superman killing General Zod, Quex-Ul, and Zaora.  The three of of them had devasted the Earth of an alternate universe (which is why the kryptonite isn't affecting Superman), and Superman determined that the only way to stop them was to kill them.  The act almost broke him mentally and emotionally, and it haunted him for years.  I found it to be one of the more interesting aspects of Superman's character.  So when Superman snapped Zod's neck in this new movie, I was fine with it.  This was the Superman I was familiar with, and I hope the subsequent movies deal with the emotional pain of having taken a life.

2. Too much action.  Yeah, I didn't have a problem with this like some other people do.  Like I said, it's what I've been wanting for decades.

3. Flashbacks.  I've heard some people complain about young Clark's life in Smallville being shown in flashbacks.  Personally, I found it to be a very effective story-telling technique.  With the first Superman movie back in '78, Richard Donner masterfully told the origin story in chronological order, and it worked great for that film.  But Superman: The Movie wasn't an action film.  To have that much of a slow pace for so long at the beginning of Man of Steel, modern film audiences would have grown bored.  People weren't complaining when Christopher Nolan did this with Batman Begins, so I don't know why they're complaining about it with Man of Steel.  We didn't need a long drawn-out portion of the movie dedicated to Clark's childhood and adolescence.  We had ten seasons of Smallville on TV.

4. Act I on Krypton.  The opening segment of the movie taking place on Krpyton was awesome.  I could have watched an entire movie about that.  (There's actually a novel by Kevin J. Anderson called The Last Days of Krypton that I recommend to any hardcore Superman fans.)  Russell Crowe did a great job as Jor-El, and it was a refreshingly different take on the look of Krypton.  I appreciated the fact that Kryptonians didn't naturally give birth to their children.  This was a nice nod to John Byrne's version of Krypton.

5. Johnathon Kent.  I've heard some people mention how wooden Kevin Costner was as Clark's adopted father, but I'm pretty sure he did that on purpose.  He perfectly nailed the conservative, old-fashioned, quiet farmer.  I wasn't crazy about how he died, though.

6. Lois knows Superman is Clark from the beginning.  I like that Lois finds out who Superman is before Superman even goes public.  For one thing, she's a smart investigative reporter.  The fact that she took so long to figure out who he is in other incarnations isn't believable.  The playfulness of Clark's double life in relation to Lois has also been done to death.  We don't need to see more of it.  My Superman has been married to Lois since the '90s, so let's just go ahead and move that relationship along.  I just wish she didn't run around calling Superman "Clark" in front of the Smallville police.

And that's how I felt about Man of Steel.  Is it a Superman movie for everyone?  No.  Is it a Superman movie for me?  Yes.  I can't wait for a sequel.

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