Tag Archives: Slate

Ep. #98: Owen Pallett

Owen Pallett is a tremendously gifted multi-instrumentalist, composer, and singer who currently lives in Montreal. Pallett was initially acclaimed for his string arrangements for artists like Jim Guthrie, Arcade Fire, Fucked Up, and many others and, particularly when he lived there, he was viewed as a true leader and champion of Toronto’s underground arts community. Since releasing his own music, Pallett’s profile has risen considerably; he was recently nominated for an Academy Award for his work with Arcade Fire on the score for the Spike Jonze film Her and he has also touched a nerve with his critical essays of contemporary pop songs for Slate. Pallett’s fourth album is a stirring and complex one called In Conflict, which is available in Canada on May 27 via Secret City and  his current tour includes stops at La Sala Rossa in Montreal on Friday May 9 and at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on Saturday May 10. Here, Owen and I talk about Columbus Ohio, great Szechuan food, and Dan Boeckner’s band Operators, the idea of parenthood and the truth, how kids are the darndest things, disassociation and themes within In Conflict, liminal spaces, sanity, change, and not feeling at home at home, going to Montreal, treating illness like a kind of gift, ‘musicians’ and ‘white people’ and music critic Ted Gioia and what prompted Pallett to write his pieces on pop music for Slate, music theory and populism, elevating social media posts and watching them turn into clickbait, his upcoming review of the new Tori Amos record for The Talkhouse, Owen’s opinionated streak and where it comes from, what Owen’s night at the Oscars was like, Joe Trapanese not Richard Trapunski, eating dinner with Randy Newman, Burt Bacharach, and John Williams, how meeting celebrities you’re not working with might be overrated, trying to write music while on the road, future plans, the song “In Conflict,” and then boom goes the dynamite.

Related links: owenpalletteternal.com vishkhanna.com

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Ep. #85: Carl Wilson + Sean Michaels

Carl Wilson and Sean Michaels are two of Canada’s most esteemed music writers. Based in Toronto, Carl Wilson is the music critic at Slate and has contributed to the Globe and Mail, the New York Times, and many other publications. His 2007 book Let’s Talk About Love has just been published in a new and expanded edition and continues the provocative conversation Wilson initiated about cultural consumption, taste, and why some things are considered cool and some things aren’t. Things like Celine Dion albums for instance. Sean Michaels lives in Montreal, is an award-winning writer and founder of the music blog Said the Gramophone, and he has written for the Guardian and McSweeney’s among others. Random House has just published his first novel; it’s called Us Conductors and it’s a touching, compelling, distorted memoir of Leon Termen, the brilliant scientist but rather heartbroken human who is best known for inventing the mysterious musical instrument known as the theremin. On Tuesday April 8, Wilson and Michaels engage in a tandem book launch at the Monarch Tavern in Toronto, featuring many special guests. Here, Carl and Sean and I discuss our Skype date, why they’re launching their books together, the ways in which music galvanizes and separates us as well, sound as an invisible, intangible force, Sean’s interest in the theremin as both a musical and literary device, investigative music writing, asking questions about loneliness and joy, how Carl’s work resonates with Sean and vice versa and how their station as writers impacts their approach to music journalism, the current state of music journalism as a “post-apocalyptic wasteland,” breaking news versus breaking criticism, the podcast as the last vestige of long-form conversation, whether popularity or the lack thereof should impact cultural production, why the field of music writing is thinning out, how fulfilling our passions is what life is for, why Let’s Talk About Love has been republished in this expanded edition with fresh essays and analysis, how Carl’s book impacted Sean as a music fan, writer, and critic, Sean’s feelings about Us Conductors and its characters now that he’s left them behind so to speak, how the story reflects his own life, the parallels between Lev Terman and Celine Dion, why Sean’s book resonates with Carl, the structure of the launch party in Toronto, which includes performances by Snowblink, thereminist Jeff Bird, RaP BattLez battle by Daniel Beirne (a Thereminist) vs Roger Bainbridge (a Celine Dion fan), DJ Sandro Perri, and host Liisa Ladouceur, what’s next for Carl and Sean, which includes more writing and book tours, possibly a novel about me, and that’s pretty much it.

Related links: bloomsbury.com saidthegramophone.com vishkhanna.com

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