UTSG: Hart House Review: Centennial Issue Launch
Music Review: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue
The jazz album that shaped popular culture
What does one get when seven musical geniuses assemble and record an album at the wrong speed? You get a cornerstone of modern music: Kind of Blue.
In 1959, seven jazz giants gathered in a New York studio with only a philosophical jazz sketch in mind. Trumpet master Miles Davis captained the musical dream team, with Cannonball Adderley on alto sax, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly playing piano, Paul Chambers providing the bass lines, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. The soon-to-be deified John Coltrane provided a tenor sax thread which, for many, put the finishing strokes on this quadruple platinum masterpiece Kind of Blue. Yes, quadruple platinum — it’s one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time.
The brilliance of the album is enhanced by the backstory of just how it was concieved. Davis only came up with the concept hours before the recording session. The group sketched some musical modes, with no obvious chord progressions, and then took turns leading the melodies in directions that resulted in sheer brilliance. What’s even more interesting is the fact that the first three tracks “So What,” “Freddie Freeloader,” and “Blue in Green” were accidentally recorded slower than they were played, resulting in a slightly faster playback. This error was fixed in the 90s, but it sheds light on what an anomaly the album is: a freak occurrence that contributed to an enigmatic work of artistry.
When you relax with your favourite mood-altering substance — I’d suggest a glass of red paired with a clean hybrid — to Davis’ cool trumpet lines, Coltrane’s seraphic tenor solo, and Evans’ finesse on “Blue in Green,” you will simply melt into the music.
Davis’ modal approach to composition is exercised in “Blue in Green,” where his trumpet and Evans’ piano sketch a string of ethereal scales and beautiful interpretations. No strict chord progressions here.
While listening, I have never ceased to be amazed by the fact that these geniuses were not playing from sheets. The result is — all at once — visionary, smooth, sad, and historically influential. It’s why the album’s title fits so perfectly; the music is kind of “blue.” It evokes smoldering sensuality, foot-tapping to the R&B bass lines, overarching melancholy, and an unrestricted joy. How is that possible? Listen carefully and your soul will agree.
For both music aficionados and jazz lovers, this album is a prolific touch point. But the contemporary music lover often overlooks this timeless work of genius. Yet if one listens to traditional hip hop, rap, R&B, and rock, they are sure to be listening to an artist that on one level or another has been influenced by Kind of Blue. This album is a true masterpiece and has revolutionized music since the first sound of Paul Chambers’ eerie baseline partnered with Evans’ virtuoso that preluded Davis’ trumpet on the introductory and most popular track “So What.”
Kind of Blue is touted as the greatest work of jazz, hands down. People of younger generations should never overlook the influence of this album. Don’t let the word “jazz” scare you. It is not elevator music; I’ll gladly pass on that cacophony style of “jazz” too.
Kind of Blue is timeless and relevant. The list of artists that openly shout their gratitude for its influence is as long as it is varied. Mos Def, Blonde Redhead, John Mayer, David Banner, Miho Hatori, the Allman Brothers Band, and Quincy Jones all cite the album as a major influence on their musical journey.
Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright notes that the chord progressions on Kind of Blue can be heard throughout the band’s greatest selling album, Dark Side of the Moon. John Legend religiously played the album throughout college, and celebrates its incredible impact on his music.
With Kanye West, a frequent collaborator with John Legend, Kind of Blue is “Bound 2” appear. Even as you watch your favourite films, don’t be surprised if Kind of Blue echoes throughout the score. Robert De Niro’s A Bronx Tale, Clint Eastwood’s In the Line of Fire, and even the television series The Wire all borrowed from Kind of Blue.
Kind of Blue is as historic as it is sensational and timeless. It should not be overlooked by any generation that considers itself musically savvy. Listen to this album and it will open up a whole new language of music you may never have knowingly experienced. To immerse oneself in Kind of Blue is to be enlightened.
Overlooked: Lee Daniels’ Star
Star acts as a convenient distraction from the first week of classes
Star is the new-and-improved version of the musical drama Empire. It’s more thrilling and has a killer soundtrack and a flawless cast.
The show follows an aspiring girl group, Take 3, as they navigate their way through the ins and outs of Atlanta’s music industry to achieve stardom. Take 3, however, is not your ordinary modern-day girl group. They do not benefit from the exposure that comes from participating in televised singing competitions like Fifth Harmony and Little Mix. Nor do they start off with a budget, or rely on ghost writers to produce their music.
Rather, the trio — comprised of two half-sisters who grew up in foster care and their new songwriting friend who is trying to escape her life as the offspring of musical royalty — come together with nothing but their ambition and love of music to become Atlanta’s hottest sound.
The group’s journey is far from easy. The girls deal with adversity that is all-too-common for any musical group, including jealousy, creative differences, romantic distractions, and their own individual demons that they must learn to conquer. Further, the girls must find a way to stick together in light of their individual musical achievements in the ruthless music industry that pits artists against each other. Yet, with an amazing support system to keep them in check and focused on their initial goals, the girls are able to overcome the hurdles thrown their way and stay true to themselves.
As a typical musical drama, Star exceeds the unexpected. With its unpredictable storylines that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat in disbelief, this show will have you constantly guessing. However, unlike the other dramas, Star aligns with reality by addressing a broad range of issues that have become increasingly relevant to society today.
The show’s predominantly Black cast features celebrities such as Queen Latifah, Brandy, and Quincy Brown. The series tackles issues such as police brutality, racial profiling, and the acceptance of LGBTQ+ members within the Black community. Star also sheds light on other important issues such as sexual abuse, immigration, human trafficking, drug abuse, gang violence, and the flaws of the foster care system.
Star is the show to watch on Netflix this fall. With a mixture of comedy, drama, crime, and romance — as well as a catchy soundtrack — this series will have you laughing, crying, singing, and dancing every episode. Additionally, with a jaw-dropping season three finale, you will be inspired to join the tens of thousands of fans who have already signed a petition to get the show renewed for a fourth season.
The Varsity’s summer send-off playlist
For the hour after golden hour… and every hour after that
Jumping into the new school year is exhausting. Between course selection, tying up loose ends, and trying to make the most of the weather — when it’s not so oppressive — we trudge into September with well-worn bags under our eyes.
Not to worry, though, because this summer The Varsity’s Arts & Culture section has handpicked 10 summer jams to cure your end-of-summer blues and give you an extra spring in your step. No, we are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and no, our research on this matter is not published — yet. But these songs are guaranteed to work wonders on a brain wracked with the exhaustion of doing nothing for four months!
Peruse our prescriptions below. Take them with a spoonful of sugar if you must, but, either way, relax to the beat of a summer well spent, starting with the exuberant chords of Sir Woman.
Sir Woman’s single, “Highroad,” matches bright, upbeat R&B motifs with a brass section fit for any open-air jazz bar. Her lyrics float in and out of sweeping melodies that build into a cheerfully sunny musical narrative bustling with self-love and gumption, matched only by Lizzo herself.
Complementing the gentlewoman is the effervescent Kaiit, performing “Miss Shiney,” an expository R&B perusal into her artistic process with beats reminiscent of ’90s hip hop, with an 808 drum to boot! Her consistent flow and ad libs add structure to an otherwise weightless song. Its minimalist production value, despite itself, manages to fill the room with gorgeous volume.
Look no further than “Seventeen” by Peach Pit for an accompanying aperitif: a cool beach rock serenade that will leave you bouncing your foot despite yourself. Its charming chord progression keeps the song simple enough to love on the first listen, while its vocals grant it a unique calling card that makes playing it again a pleasure.
Kevin Abstract of BROCKHAMPTON wields a syrupy-sweet rhythm guitar in “Peach,” bouncing along to a steady snare-kit beat that whips the whole ensemble into a warm summer daze. You can practically see this song lounging on a Muskoka chair.
Contrasting the rolled-back instrumentals of Abstract’s performance, Ocean Heights’ “Out the Way” leans into production and instrumentation to administer a dose of smooth, pop-R&B perfection. Ocean Heights’ vocals drape over the crisp melody like caramel, complementing its layered manufacture to produce one sweet earworm.
“U Used To” by Charlie Burg embraces the cool tones of summer’s palette, propping itself up on pop-y notes and synth-shades to paint a fresh image of a summer fling. Don’t let its high production fool you — its acapella ad libs break through the chorus to give Burg’s foray into summer a sincere and palatable note.
Similarly sincere but with an added tender glean, the abstracted “Freakin’ Out on the Interstate” brandishes Briston Maroney’s distinctive voice alongside killer guitar and a meaty bassline to deliver an experience evocative of those erratic summer nights.
And what kind of mixtape would it be without songs to dance wildly to?
“Honestly” by The Bantams forms one edge of a rug-cutting triad completed by Hounds’ “Shake Me Up” and The Lost Boys’ “Sober (feat. Griff Clawson).” All three bank on their upbeat tempos and lyrics to get you on your feet and moving to summer’s final beats.
Strewn throughout the mixtape, these songs bring you back to basics to remind you what the best summer music’s all about.
With these songs you’re practically destined to make it through the first two weeks of school. Don’t worry if it’s a slow start to begin with — just think of it as a slow burn to a climax worth waiting for.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and soak up the summer! We at Arts & Culture will catch you on the flipside!
Summers are meant for The Beaches
Discussing the band’s past, present, and future
Traversing the roads of Toronto in an all-black SUV is one of Canada’s newest and most exciting rock bands. While they are not yet a household name, the group did spend an entire day going from one interview to another. It’s no surprise that people cannot get enough of The Beaches, and yes, they’re named after the Toronto neighbourhood — The Beaches — which they call home.
The band, which consists of Jordan Miller’s vocals and bass, Kylie Miller’s lead guitar, Eliza Enman McDaniel’s drums, and Leandra Earl’s keyboard and guitar, officially started in 2013 with their first studio album released in 2017. Since then, the band has continued to grow their success through hit music and captivating live shows.
For one of their many interviews that day, The Beaches sat down with The Varsity to discuss their newest EP, opening for some of the biggest bands in the world, and snacking on tour.
The Varsity: Firstly I’d like to congratulate you on your new EP, The Professional. Can you tell me a bit about it and how it came together?
Jordan Miller: The Professional is really exciting. It came together really fast. We’ve had a few crazy years where a lot of things have changed for us, so we’ve been really inspired. Our last album, Late Show, was sort of a collection of four years worth of material. The Professional — excluding “Lame” — was essentially written in the last six months. We’re really excited about it.
TV: Having known each other for many years at this point and finally getting the recognition and accolades that you deserve, can you speak on the challenges individually or as a group that you’ve faced in the last couple years?
Kylie Miller: I think right now rock music hasn’t been as prevalent, which is disappointing. So being an all-female rock band in this time has been a little bit challenging, but it’s also been exciting because we’re starting to see younger people become interested in rock music and coming to live shows and supporting this whole movement. It’s kind of like a rose and a thorn.
JM: We’re definitely a unique band in that we play everything live. We’re dedicated to making sure that our performances are unique each time we play the songs. We’re creating an experience, not just pressing a button on a computer.
TV: Do you think it’s an untraditional or traditional way of doing it?
JM: Well, it used to be the traditional way, but it’s sort of become weird, you know?
KM: Yeah, it’s a dying breed.
Eliza Enman-McDaniel: We’re trying to bring it back. Women are the most rock ‘n’ roll thing right now because there aren’t enough women in rock ‘n’ roll. So, that in itself, being a woman in rock ‘n’ roll, is just the coolest.
TV: Toronto in recent years has pushed out a high-level of musical talent. How has this city helped to shape you, apart from just your band name?
KM: I think we are so lucky to be able to live in this city and to be able to go and experience shows here. We have a really great community of Toronto musicians and friends in bands, and we all support each other. It’s really kind of helped us grow individually, as friends, and as a band.
JM: There’s a totally collaborative and supportive music scene here. People go to each other’s shows… share each other’s music and offer advice, and help when it comes to making choices within your own career or even with your own songs.
KM: And this doesn’t really happen in a lot of other places. For instance, in Los Angeles, New York, even Montréal, everything is really competitive, and yet in Toronto, everyone is really supportive.
TV: Last year you won the JUNO Award for Breakout Group of the Year. Tell me about that experience, going up and accepting your award. It seems almost like you were surprised that you won.
JM: It was such an honour to be recognized by our community and peers. I think it was especially an important moment for us because we’ve been sort of a band for about four years, and a lot of our friends have graduated from university and are coming back to their families with degrees. And so we got to come back and sort of give our parents this sort of symbol of all the work that we’ve done.
TV: 2018 was a big year for the band. Apart from the JUNO Award, you also released a couple of hits. I’m also interested in hearing about your experience opening for the Foo Fighters and playing at the Rogers Centre.
EM: That show was crazy for so many reasons. When I walked out by myself as we opened our show, I walked out to 55,000 people. I sit down and this massive full pint of beer comes hurtling through the air, knocks one of my sticks out of my hand — and I’m playing at the time. I have to find a way to get my second stick. So, it was a mess.
KM: It really kind of was crazy because that’s never happened to us as a band before. It was eye-opening, and it proved that we can be put into really shitty circumstances. But somehow we’re that close and that connected as a band that we can just pull through and not let that affect our performance.
TV: What do you hope to achieve, learn, or experience when you open for other big bands, for instance, when you opened for The Rolling Stones in June?
JM: Something that’s very interesting between The Rolling Stones and The Glorious Sons is that I’ve heard that they both have… an improv-ish type of show; it’s not a very formulaic set. They don’t really pick a setlist until like 20 minutes before their show. Sometimes they’ll do super long jams in-between songs even though they won’t plan for it, but they’re like such tight performers that they’ll just sort of be able to look at each other and do stuff that’s very spontaneous like that. So, it’s interesting to see how our sort of theatrical, sort of prepared, cohesive set works with their more jamming sets.
EM: I think just being able to play rock music in front of a crowd that’s there for rock music, and to expose our music to people who haven’t heard our music before. Just keep trying to keep rock music alive. I think that’s what’ll be the best outcome.
TV: Do you have a goal in mind for the end of 2019?
EM: We’re planning on releasing another body of work, hopefully by the end of the year. I’d love to just tour, travel to more places, and play for more audiences that haven’t seen us before and just keep touring.
Leandra Earl: Canada has been very nice to us, but moving toward the UK and the US are a goal.
KM: We have a lot of support here — it’s amazing — but it’s also important to establish yourself in other places. So, going to Europe, going to the UK, maybe going to Australia at some point early next year, and then hitting the US again for a headlining run.
LE: Take The Beaches worldwide — ‘International Beaches.’
TV: Before you go, I have one final question. Following your Twitter, I’ve noticed your go-to fast food is Taco Bell. What is your go-to Taco Bell order?
EM: Crunchwrap Supreme and a side of a Soft Beef Taco.
JM: Crunchwrap Supreme with Ghost Pepper Sauce.
EM: Oh, Fire Sauce, always!
LE: The whole tour I’ve been having two crunchy beef tacos, but on the last day, I tried a Crunchwrap Supreme — and woah! That hit me. So next time, it’s that.
EM: We’ve been telling her all along it’s the best thing, but she had to try it for herself.
KM: Crunchwrap Supreme, and always Dr. Pepper. Always. That’s the best thing.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Professional was released on May 16, 2019.
Attend it for the culture
Spice up yo’ student life with these fun and free events
It’s true — you can, in fact, have fun at U of T! The campus is home to much more than pre-exam dread and hallways filled with lecture handouts. Take your focus off of class by slipping these events into your calendar.
Street Festival and Clubs Carnival
Yes, it’s just as good as it looks in those cheesy college movies! Catch a glimpse of student life at U of T by stopping by the brochure-laden tables and booths of various student groups. The Clubs Carnival will take place at King’s College Circle from 3:00–7:00 pm on September 4, while the Street Festival will run along St. George Street 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on September 11. The size and location of these events make them impossible to miss and easy to swing by.
Learn about what the school’s electric car-racing team has been up to, realize your passion for contemporary films, or improve on your debating skills! This is your opportunity to find extracurriculars that will keep you motivated throughout the school year. Not to mention, there will be plenty of corporate tables that hand out free goodies like sunscreen samples and cup noodles. These events are not only for incoming students, but for anyone who wants to see what student life at U of T is all about.
This annual week-long festival includes cross-campus events and activities exclusively for U of T students. Celebrate the winter (even though it’s hosted during the post-holiday-season!) with free pancakes, drag shows, open mic events, and club nights! Events are often hosted by different colleges, so be sure to follow their Facebook pages to keep track of event details and updates. The shows hosted during this week are fantastic opportunities to show off your poetry and drag style. You can attend as a spectator or participant. Winterfest is the upsized spirit week your high school wished it had.
Annual book sales
Find the right book at the right price at these on-campus book sales. Taking place every fall, Victoria College, St. Michael’s College, University College, and Trinity College each host their own sale, with proceeds going to their respective libraries. Each year, these sales collectively offer hundreds of thousands of donated books, music, movies, and other items. Overwhelmed? Don’t be! The materials are sorted by volunteers to fit into an array of scholarly and general categories. The variety and arrangement also make these sales a popular place to spot signed first editions, unique art books, and curious tales. Donations for the sales are accepted on a year-round basis, so drop by to donate and buy for a good cause.
Your experience at U of T is a product of your agency. Events across three campuses are hosted for your enjoyment and your benefit, so take advantage of them! Though the school is known for its academic rigour, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo the fun in pursuit of a degree. Pick and choose your courses, events, and extracurriculars wisely to make your U of T experience the best it can be.
A guide to the arts, bars, cafés, and festivals of Toronto
Where to find good coffee, cheap drinks, and live shows across campus
The opportunity cost of “staying in” — watching Netflix, studying, sobbing — is higher in Toronto than any other city in Canada. From great bars to quiet cafés and leafy parks, there are tons of fun, cheeky opportunities hiding mere blocks from your pillow.
Even though the city is hot, big, and overwhelming, the best thing you can do is surrender to it, lean into its swaying, sweaty crowds, and follow the wave.
Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
Thanks to a new initiative by the AGO, one of Canada’s best art galleries is now free for under-25s. Head in for an hour or two and poke around the huge collection of Canadian and international art, including the absurdly expensive “The Massacre of the Innocents.” The piece was sold in 2002 for 109.2 million USD, adjusted to inflation, and then donated to the gallery.
The Royal Ontario Museum
A huge, informative museum that you should visit at least once. It’s right next to Victoria College and it’s free on the third Monday of every month from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, and every Tuesday with a valid postsecondary ID.
Nuit Blanche is a city-wide art festival that usually takes place around early October. There are some really cool exhibits to look at and take part in, unfortunately, the evening is often hijacked by brandy-sipping high-schoolers. With that in mind, plan out what you want to see beforehand, stay the hell away from Dundas Square — Toronto’s gritty, glitzy Times Square — and you should be fine.
Jimmy’s has a few locations across Toronto, but the best one is on McCaul Street, right on the university’s periphery. The drinks are cheap — around $2 for good, strong coffee — and it’s a great spot to study or bring a date.
A chill, hipstery outpost in uptown. Based next to the Summerhill subway stop, this cafe has a chic upstairs study space fitted with outlets, decent Wi-Fi, and great coffee. The pizza place next door is great too.
If you need a break from campus, take the Spadina streetcar down to King, hop off, and dive into this clean, pricey slice of Silicon Valley. Quantum’s coffee is fantastic and it’s the best study café in Toronto, hands-down. Get there early to beat the New Balance-wearing ‘influencers’ who slip in around noon.
Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
TIFF is taking place September 5–15, so you’ll be walking right into it. Lucky for you, TIFF is an amazing time, with the big, busy streets downtown blocked off for pedestrians, film screenings galore — some of them quite cheap — and celebrities descending on the city. Last year, Lady Gaga, Michael Moore, and Nicole Kidman showed up, with dozens more making cameos.
This bar is infamous on campus. It sells some of the cheapest pitchers of beer in the city and some decent bar food too. There are always fellow Varsity Blues — usually pale, tired engineers from the nearby Bahen building — lurking around, and the staff is no-nonsense, efficient, and accommodating.
A College Street staple serving up Toronto’s best nachos. Get the most expensive option and split it between five-plus people. Sneaky’s is also just a great place to meet up with friends, or to use as an outpost to start a Long Trek West.
St. Lawrence Market
This market is near the lake, and serves as a gateway into the up-and-coming Distillery District. Try the famous peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery and grab some fresh fruit and veggies at the produce stalls.
Kensington is Toronto’s most unique, dizzying neighbourhood. A carousel of art, people, fashion, and food, Kensington has been around for ages and its atmosphere is like no other. If you’re looking for a place to grab a drink, Cold Tea is lowkey and fun. Mare Pizzeria is the best — and cheapest — pizza in the area, and the market’s thrift shops are good and cheap.
A legendary music venue, The Rolling Stones, The Tragically Hip, and The Police have all graced the Tavern’s stage, with live shows still raging every week. The area around the venue is great too, with places like Little Nicky’s, Alo, and The Black Bull, forming a fun and diverse ring around the Tavern.
Bellwoods is fun in September, October, and April, and is popular with pretty much everyone. The cherry blossoms are one of the park’s biggest attractions, as are the baseball diamonds and soccer pitches. Keep an eye out for the volatile, swaying day-drinkers though.
One of the most underrated things you can do here is grab a book from Robarts and hit Bellwoods early. Reading some André Alexis under a big, old tree at Bellwoods was one of the highlights of my Frosh Week — and made me look super smart.
Summer’s nearly here — let’s look for love!
Let’s talk about sex for the last time this school year
People talk about getting to the various ‘bases’ of sexual interaction as if just anyone could waltz onto the field and pick up a bat. Chuck the ball, go the whole nine yards or so. But not everyone’s a star pitcher or batter — they may not even have tickets to the game. No — some of us need directions to even find the stadium.
If you’re like me, someone whose experience in the field begins and ends on the screen, at best you’ve watched a game or two in your free time. Maybe even watched a few plays before bed — or, let’s be honest, more than a few if you’re feeling festive.
Either way, there’s a solid chance, even from an outsider’s perspective, that despite lacking experience, you do know how the game works, whether you believe it or not.
See, everyone exists as a node in a network that connects each of our intricate relationships with one another. But certain relationships, because of pesky human society, become something beyond just another connection — they become a symbol, an image.
Virginity, marriage, and even the idea of being exclusively committed to another human being exist simultaneously for ourselves and for others. And as if we were chefs looking for seasoning in the pantry, the keen of us might look at this and say, “Ay, there’s the rub.”
That’s the crux of the issue with not getting into relationships: thinking you can’t play the game. Putting up walls, relying only on yourself, overly depending on a partner — they are all symptoms of attachment to a prescribed image.
I would wager that a significant part of feeling apprehensive about relationships is not your fault in the slightest. Because in most cases, a truly good, and dare I say, healthy relationship, romantic or not, begins with believing that you’re worthy of one. Not in fitting some image of what a relationship ‘should’ be.
And I’ve found that the moment you realize this, you start giving yourself opportunities to get in base and give it the ol’ college try. You play the game at your own pace, in your own league.
In the end, who cares what the professionals do?
It only matters what you do.
This new year, resolve yourself to get into a game or two. And if you’re scared, just know, dear reader, that I’m in the same boat, striking out more than I’d like to admit.
So come take a few practice shots with me. Slap on the equipment even if it doesn’t fit perfectly. Probably lose a few here and there, but eh, who’s counting? Play your cards right, and kid, you might just hit it out of the park without ever having touched a damn base.