Things that go bump in the night

A playlist for wandering bodies

Things that go bump in the night

While sex is often dramatized as something similar to the glorious union of two silkily muscular dolphins, reality isn’t usually as kind. I, for one, am not a grey tube with flippers. Though I am extremely intelligent for my kind — blonde woman — so go figure.

Our bodies make sounds and produce fluids. Smushing them together often gets a little messy and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, especially if you have roommates with particularly sonic voyeuristic tendencies, a bit of ambient sound can be useful. As I’m sure you know, this is where music comes in handy.

But in the heat of the moment, making a musical selection can be stressful. Music can make or break a mood! So here I am with this generic and universally applicable playlist for you, embedded in an article that will pop up whenever anyone googles my name.

Please, enjoy. Embrace pleasure with an open fist and a tight glove.

1.  “Pink Beetle” by Rejjie Snow, 2016

As a recovering Catholic, I can assure you that all good things follow a resounding chorus of “Our Father.”

2. “Couch” by Triathalon, 2018

Okay, so we started out with some heavy religious motifs. Am I the only one who finds that hot? Surely not on this campus — cough, cough, St. Mike’s. Now let’s move into some lo-fi innuendos.

3. “Got Friends feat. Miguel” by Goldlink, 2018

Is this song about an orgy? I don’t know, I’m not Ilan Zechory. But it could be. In conclusion, mystery is hot and so is this song.

4. “Move Slow feat. Olukara” by Maxwell Young, 2016

Whew, okay, things started to heat up with that orgy-no-orgy debate, so let’s smooth things out a little bit. Here’s another skinny European.

5. “Yeah, I Said It” by Rihanna, 2016

Do I need to explain this? Nope.

6. “Why” by Roy Woods, 2016

Let’s get some Canadian nationalism in this strange line-up, shall we? Roy Woods is a trifecta of sexual energy: his name is gorgeous, he says “thighssss” with about a million s’, and he mumbles enough for me to project whatever I need to hear onto his vocal sounds.

7. “Redbone” by Childish Gambino, 2016

It has the word bone in the title! Hahahah.

Also, all the scenes in Atlanta of Donald Glover in tightie-whities has ensured that I will never not be attracted to him. So yeah, it’s a hot song. Aren’t you glad I dodged the obvious stay woke joke here? Comedy gold!

8. “Carmen” by Jay Squared, 2017

Honestly, this popped up on my explore feed last year and I got super into it. Could this be because I was alone at the time, and the singer — whoops — crooned “you ain’t alone no more!” in the first line? Who knows, psychology is a nerd’s game.

9. “Call Me Up” by Homeshake, 2017

Alright, we’re winding down. Soft trumpets. Yes. Lovely. Ooh, a soft voice talking about the future. Lovely. Don’t tense up, don’t tense up. The future. Pass the rash cream, please.

10. “Glory Box” by Portishead, 1994

Conclusion! Bing, bang, boom. “Just want to be a woman.” Or whatever you wanna be. It’s a post-orgasm world, “A thousand flowers could bloom. Move over, and give us some room.”


Years of sexual misconduct allegations from underage women hasn’t affected his success — but is time finally up for R. Kelly?

2019 is the year that we finally hold R. Kelly accountable

Years of sexual misconduct allegations from underage women hasn’t affected his success — but is time finally up for R. Kelly?

Content warning: discussions of sexual violence.

Robert Sylvester Kelly, or R. Kelly, is one of the most well-known R&B artists in the music industry. He has sold up to 100 million records globally, including singles such as “Ignition (Remix)” and “I Believe I Can Fly.” He wrote Michael Jackson’s hit “You Are Not Alone,” and has collaborated with various artists such as Chris Brown, Lady Gaga, and Celine Dion.

R. Kelly’s success, however, has been clouded by dozens of sexual abuse claims involving girls as young as 14. Lifetime’s highly anticipated, six-part docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, provides commentary from journalists, activists, and celebrities on the decades of sexual misconduct allegations against R. Kelly.

Initial reports concerning R. Kelly were brought to media attention through his controversial relationship with his teenage protégée, Aaliyah. The release of her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, which Kelly produced, gave rise to speculations of a romance that led to a secret marriage. This marriage, although denied by R. Kelly, was supported with the release of an alleged marriage certificate that declared Aaliyah’s age as 18 — even though records show that she was 15 and Kelly was 27 at the time.

In 2002, the artist was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography after a sex tape showing him urinating into the mouth of a 14-year-old girl was released. Although he was eventually acquitted on the remaining charges in 2008, the fact that he continued to be a prominent figure in the music industry — even after the wide distribution of bootleg copies of his tape — is upsetting. Television shows such as Boondocks and Chappelle’s Show undermined the severity of his charges by adding a comic spin to the incident. Additionally, R. Kelly’s album release in 2003 justified support for him despite these revelations about his predatory behaviour.

In 2012, R. Kelly released his memoir, Soulacoaster, that revealed that he was molested as a child growing up in the South Side of Chicago. In a 2016 interview with GQ magazine, the artist recounted being abused by a female relative for six to eight years. Shockingly enough, when asked about his thoughts on the experience, Kelly referred to the abuse as a “generational curse,” in which members of his family, who were victimized as children, became abusers when they grew up. Although this is an attempt to come to terms with the trauma of his sexual abuse, this claim is unusual considering that R. Kelly has denied all allegations of sexual assault made against him over the years.

Amid the controversy surrounding Surviving R. Kelly, celebrities such as Chance the Rapper and Lady Gaga have taken to social media to condemn the R&B singer, even removing their collaborations with him from streaming platforms. Furthermore, RCA Records dropped R. Kelly from its record label and prosecutors in Chicago and Atlanta have reportedly launched investigations into the sexual misconduct claims against him. But while these actions are much needed, they are long overdue.

Despite the amount of attention that Surviving R. Kelly has brought to the artist’s history of sexual abuse, it is important to note that it simply restates allegations that have been disclosed to the public in the past. It is no secret that R. Kelly preys on Black girls; a simple Google search reveals a plethora of disturbing evidence that dates back as far as 1994.

Historically, Black women and girls have been cast in society as essentially ‘unrapeable.’ Common stereotypes that portray them as loud, angry, barbaric, and whorish have contributed to the idea that they are incapable of being victims of sexual assault and are undeserving of the same responses afforded to white women in the same circumstances.

What would have happened if R. Kelly’s accusers were white?

If society would be willing to hold R. Kelly accountable for alleged actions against white women, why has it taken so long to respond to his exploitations of Black women? Why has it taken until 2019 for the voices of R. Kelly’s survivors to finally be heard?

However, this is not just a problem that can be blamed on the shortcomings of society at large. The Black community has also played a role in perpetuating decades of R. Kelly’s sexual offences. This is part of a larger dilemma that has seen this community ignore to his abuses for “the sake of racial solidarity,” as suggested by journalist Sesali Bowen. On separate occasions, both Chance the Rapper and Ohio State University professor Treva Lindsey have elaborated on this, explaining how the Black community has become “hypersensitized to [Black] male oppression.”

The most prominent view of the Black community centres on the struggles of Black men living in the racist climate of the United States, where they are criminalized because of the colour of their skin. This creates the perception that the negative actions of one Black man are representative of the entire Black population. As a result, there’s a sense of protectionism around the image of the ‘Black man’ that overlooks his treatment of Black women — especially, in the case of R. Kelly, where the allegations of sexual misconduct against him have taken a back seat to his prominence in the entertainment industry.

In the age of Time’s Up and #MeToo, a number of male celebrities have faced consequences for their inappropriate actions against women. However, R. Kelly has not faced the same reality as these men. Movements such as #MuteRKelly have been successful in cancelling his concerts and limiting his radio play, yet this progress continues to be offset by his fans who have taken to social media to discredit survivors and by individuals who continue to stream his music.

By continuing to listen to R. Kelly’s music, we are fostering the belief that R. Kelly is untouchable, and undeserving of the same punishments that we have given to other male celebrities who have used their status to exploit women. There are too many allegations against R. Kelly for us to continue to ignore them.

It is time for us to stand in solidarity with the survivors of his sexual misconduct.

R. Kelly has not been indicted on any counts of sexual misconduct, and as of press time, continues to deny all allegations against him.

The Varsity’s 25 best albums of 2018

2018 showed that musical poetry is truly for the listener

<i>The Varsity</i>’s 25 best albums of 2018

2018 saw a fairly radical remodeling of the music industry. Promising talents solidified their names while countless established artists offered career-lows. This was a year defined by innovative ambient music, hypnotic art pop, and experimentations in hip hop album structures. Ultimately, 2018 provided representation to important voices, offering complex and profound commentaries on our ever-changing world.


Essential tracks: “Ponyboy” / “Faceshopping” / “Pretending”

24. TA13OO by Denzel Curry

Essential tracks: “SIRENS|Z1RENZ (feat. J.I.D)” / “VENGEANCE|VENGEANCE (feat. JPEGMAFIA & ZillaKami)”

23. Heaven and Earth by Kamasi Washington

Essential tracks: “Fists of Fury” / “Can You Hear Him” / “Street Fighter Mas”

22. Ordinary Corrupt Human Love by Deafheaven

Essential tracks: “You Without End” / “Night People”

21. Persona by Rival Consoles

Essential tracks: “Unfolding” / “Dreamer’s Wake”

20. 2012 – 2017 by Against All Logic

Essential tracks: “Some Kind of Game” / “Now U Got Me Hooked”

19. Sweetener by Ariana Grande

Essential tracks: “R.E.M.” / “Successful” / “breathin”

18. Room 25 by Noname

Essential tracks:Self” / “Blaxploitation” / “Don’t Forget About Me”

17. Twin Fantasy by Car Seat Headrest

Essential tracks: “Beach Life-In-Death” / “Sober to Death”

16. Power by Lotic

Essential tracks: “Hunted” / “Power” / “Solace”

15. Isolation by Kali Uchis

Like some sort of pop goddess, Kali Uchis burst into headlines this year with her show-stopping studio debut Isolation. Alternating between love songs and breakup songs, Uchis draws inspiration from jazz legends like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Her voice is the centrepiece, but the elegant funk sounds are equally absorbing. Uchis sings of past conflicts and joys with sentimentality, blending memories of pleasure and pain. Isolation is an R&B/soul extravaganza rarely paralleled today. (RAB)

Essential tracks: “Miami (feat. BIA)” / “Your Teeth in My Neck” / “Dead to Me”

14. All Melody by Nils Frahm

In All Melody, Nils Frahm immerses the listener in a mesmerizing mosaic of piano, beats, synthesizers, marimba, and various woodwinds. Frahm rarely deviates from a warm consonance that permeates the entire album. Within this framework, he is able to capture both surreal feels and complex interplays of rhythm and notes. While most of the tracks are marked by insistent, percussive arpeggios that contribute a sense of unwavering energy, Frahm also excels at pulling back into more introspective territory. (KS)

Essential tracks: “Sunson” / “My Friend the Forest” / “All Melody”

13. Historian by Lucy Dacus

It all begins with “Night Shift.” It’s the kind of indie rock showstopper that grips you with its first words and hurls you through the sky as the climax hits. Though the rest of the album never reclaims this peak, it offers a tender exploration of relationships and time. Lucy Dacus’ observant and witty songwriting is exceeded only by the sincerity of her voice. Between Historian and her work in boygenius (EP), Dacus has established herself as a vital presence in the indie world. (RAB)

Essential tracks: “Night Shift” / “Timefighter” / “Nonbeliever”


Kanye West’s contributions to the world this year have been, at best, cringy and, at worst, intensely distressing. The sole exception to this standard is KIDS SEE GHOSTS: a 24-minute collaborative project with Kid Cudi. It serves as a reminder to the musical ingenuity that spawned his success. In the album opener “Feel the Love (feat. Pusha.T),” Kanye mimics a machine gun, his voice ricocheting across the song. Cudi is also in top form, with his emotional and haunting vocals contrasting Kanye’s hyperactive energy. KIDS SEE GHOSTS shows two of hiphop’s most gifted innovators embarking on a journey for inner peace. The result is unforgettable. (RAB)

Essential tracks: “Feel The Love (feat. Pusha T)” / “4th Dimension (feat. Louis Prima)” / “Cudi Montage”

11. Lush by Snail Mail

Though only 18 years old at the time of Lush’s release, Snail Mail demonstrates the songwriting abilities of an experienced industry pro. On Lush, she effectively carries heart-wrenching and beautifully crafted melodies with her crystal clear voice. “Heat Wave” showcases the delightfully charming inflections in her voice while highlights like “Golden Dream” reveal Snail Mail’s affinity for building to triumphant, soaring endings tinged with melancholy. Snail Mail has solidly established herself as an artist to watch in the years to come. (KS)

Essential tracks:Pristine” / “Heat Wave” / “Stick”

10. Now Only by Mount Eerie

With his signature bleakness, Mount Eerie, also known as Phil Elverum, follows up last year’s A Crow Looked At Me with another album driven by fearless songwriting. Now Only broadens his thematic investigation, offering a sweeping probe into the nature of death. Naturally, he finds no answers. In “Distortion,” Elverum’s poetic stream of consciousness connect Jack Kerouac, a sexual encounter from his 20s, and his wife’s death into a grand tapestry. Drenched in morbidity and existential dread, Now Only is not an easy listen, but undeniably an essential one. (RAB)

Essential tracks: “Tintin in Tibet” / “Distortion”

9. Konoyo by Tim Hecker

Even as a veteran ambient artist, Tim Hecker continues to find new ways to reinvent his sound. His ninth studio album release, Konoyo sets its gaze on the otherworldly. Konoyo is made up of synth-based soundscapes, marked by seering dissonance, and interspersed with slow-developing melodies that feel disconcerting yet bold. Inspired by his work with a gagaku ensemble in Tokyo, the album blends the artificial with the acoustic. In Konoyo, Hecker reaffirms his place as one of the most innovative electronic artists of the moment. (KS)

Essential tracks:This Life” / “Is a Rose Petal of the Dying Crimson Light”

8. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys have evolved from greasy Sheffield teens shredding gritty garage rock to international celebrities, producing suave lounge pop. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, the successor to the mostly vapid AM, shows frontman Alex Turner flexing unexpectedly toned songwriting muscles. Set on a luxury hotel built on the moon’s surface, their latest album blends science fiction tropes with cultural critiques. In a year where indie rock was plagued by the insufferable pretensions of The 1975 and Father John Misty, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino was a delightful alternative. (RAB)

Essential tracks: “Star Treatment” / “Four Out of Five” / “Batphone”

7. 7 by Beach House

A new album by Beach House, dream pop’s finest sorcerers, is a musical milestone in any year. The duo offers some of their bravest work yet with 7, a spellbinding collection of psychedelic homeruns. Known for synth and guitar arrangements that sound plucked from alien planets, their latest album demonstrates a subtle shift in their signature sound. Tracks like “Lemon Glow” boom with pounding drum beats as Victoria Legrand’s magnetic vocals dominate the listeners’ ears. 7 superbly captures the catharsis of dream pop; “Last Ride” plays out like a passionate, tear-stained farewell. Few musicians can naturally cast magic with the ease of Beach House. 7 is another unbreakable incantation. (RAB)

Essential tracks: “Drunk In LA” / “Black Car” / “Last Ride”

6. Your Queen is a Reptile by Sons of Kemet

With Your Queen is a Reptile, Sons of Kemet reject the British monarchy and, instead, proclaim nine black female leaders as the true monarchs. Led by saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, the jazz album is also inspired by sources across the African diaspora. The brass instruments weave in and out of urgent polyrhythmic beats, which imbue the album with persistent energy. Your Queen Is a Reptile calls for resistance and a reclamation of power in the UK, proving jazz is not a genre of the past, but of the future. (KS)
Essential tracks: “My Queen is Mamie Phipps Clark” / “My Queen is Harriet Tubman” / “My Queen is Doreen Lawrence”

5. Dead Magic by Anna von Hausswolff

On Dead Magic, Anna von Hausswolff invites listeners into a simultaneously beautiful and disturbing world. Her voice shows versatility, with its Kate Bush-esque tone. Though von Hausswolff has a gorgeous voice, she isn’t afraid to sound hideous, crying out in desperation. Von Hausswolff shows incredible depth, building up to almost apocalyptic moments only to draw back to sparser, minimalistic tracks. She adeptly straddles genres to create a sound that is uniquely hers. (KS)

Essential tracks: “The Truth, The Glow, The Fall” / The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra”

4. In a Poem Unlimited by U.S. Girls

In a Poem Unlimited, the latest release of U.S. Girls, the solo project by Meghan Remy, presents a distinctly female perspective on the current political climate. Remy sounds angry and defiant as she rejects the male domination pervasive in our society. Her focus turns both toward male-led violence in the home — singing about domestic violence in “Incidental Boogie” — or abroad, criticizing Obama for his expansion of the drone strike program in “M.A.H.” Drawing influences from funk, pop, psychedelic rock, and jazz, the album makes a statement both politically and musically as Remy’s distinct voice blends seamlessly into the fabric of distorted guitars and varied percussion. (KS)

Essential tracks: “Rosebud” / “M.A.H.” / “Rage of Plastics”

3. CARE FOR ME by Saba

Saba’s CARE FOR ME centres around the murder of Walter, his cousin, friend, and mentor. The album cover depicts Saba slumped forward, despondent and vulnerable; this is, more or less, the tone of the album. Irate and overcome by senseless violence, Saba navigates the terrain of his 24-year memory. With songwriting akin to Kendrick Lamar, Saba fashions himself as an Earl Sweatshirt-esque wordsmith, cleverly rhyming around morbid themes. CARE FOR ME is both a beautiful eulogy and a sincere celebration of life. (RAB)

Essential tracks: “LIFE” / “LOGOUT” / “PROM / KING”

2. Be the Cowboy by Mitski

Be the Cowboy is a work that defies expectations. Constantly oscillating between desperation and defiance, Mitski delivers an impeccably crafted indie rock album. Comprised of 14 short tracks evocative of fleeting moments, Be the Cowboy is an album about misleading appearances. On the surface, it offers catchy, seemingly impersonal vignettes cloaked in lightly distorted guitars and bouncy synthesizer riffs. Underneath, the work is exploding with emotion. For women — and especially racialized women — Mitski’s lyrics resonate in a deeply personal way. She finds power in singing out loud her insecurities and unbearable isolation. In this vulnerable yet dauntless work, Mitski lets listeners know that you can thrive in taking up the space you deserve in this world. (KS)

Essential tracks: “Geyser” / “Nobody” / “A Pearl”

1. I’m All Ears by Let’s Eat Grandma

I’m All Ears is an all-consuming art pop spectacle brought to you by two teenage girls from Norwich. With production from SOPHIE, David Wench, and Faris Badwon, I’m All Ears shakes with psychedelic euphoria. The album is a kaleidoscopic fusion of textures — all easily intoxicating. Early tracks like “Hot Pink” explode with experimental subversions of pop conventions. Later songs, like “Cool & Collected” or “Donnie Darko,” develop over the course of ambitious, quasi-epic structures. Innovation collides with technical prowess in a work that flirts with both minimalism and maximalism. This album is everything. Grand and concise. Danceable and heartbreaking. Yet despite its many variations and self-reinventions, there remains a love for music. Its undiluted and uncompromising passion makes I’m All Ears the album we needed for the year. (RAB)

Essential tracks: “Hot Pink” / “Falling Into Me” / “I Will Be Waiting” / “Donnie Darko”

Winterfest 2019: Battle of the Bands

A tale of two bands, a whole lot of beer, and one winner

Winterfest 2019: Battle of the Bands

I am seated on a beige bench in Lee’s Palace at 9:20 pm on January 9. Having just narrowly escaped death by a patch of ice on my way here, I note that the bench is one of those benches that you sat on in elementary school for recess. Above me, a disco ball reflects the purple lighting that engulfs the venue. There are four dangling lights surrounding the disco ball but only one of them is blue. It bothers me.

Four well-dressed guys with white shirts come on and play “Someday” by The Strokes. They are Paint Dept., one of the two finalists. They sound like an indie rock band straight from the early 2000s — you know the type. They formed in a band member’s garage with sentimental lyricism that makes you subtly miss your ex.

The most standout member of the band is Kyle, the bassist. His hair is seriously gorgeous. Kyle described his hair as “blinding and buoyant.” It looks like expensive spaghetti that drops down to his shoulders.

His dad later told me that Kyle used to be bald. Kyle confirms this, looking into the distance as he reminiscences about how he used to wear a hat when his hair was in the liminal state between baldness and the gorgeous spaghetti longness that it is today.

By now about 70 people are in the venue. Most of the crowd sit on the beige benches while the few bravely standing hold their drinks and stare at the band. I look intently at one stander who is touching his right arm with his left hand like John Wayne at the end of The Searchers. Paint Dept. gestures for the crowd to come closer before playing an Interpol cover.

I debate whether I should stand up and engage in the crowdly escapades. I decide otherwise. My status as a note-taker who is jotting down everything with a near-empty pen prohibits me.

The band tries to make banter the same way one tries to banter with a friend of a friend that one just met. It’s only when they play their second The Strokes cover, “Last Nite,” that the crowd really gets into it.

It’s at this point ­— after a raffle in which I did not win anything — that Rocket Bomb comes on. Another five well-dressed guys start playing high-energy pop songs. Do you have to dress nicely to be part of a band? The bassist does not have long hair, but his bright red jacket combines with the purple lighting to accentuate the ’80s aesthetic the band is going for.

Rocket Bomb are an indie dance pop collective with rose-tinted glasses for ’80s disco and funk who integrate modern pop sensibilities to create hip dance songs. They cite DNCE, John Mayer, Shawn Mendez, and The Killers as influences. They are more confident with the crowd, commanding the power to significantly increase the standing to bench-sitting ratio.

While they go through their set, someone in the crowd shouts, “I love you Jacob!” and then the lead singer ­— whose name is not Jacob — takes off his black jacket and proceeds to cover Tiësto and Dzeko’s “Jackie Chan.” Bodies move. Rocket Bomb gets the crowd to do that thing where everybody claps in the air.

Rocket Bomb are definitely the larger entity: sporting over 350 Facebook likes, over 1,200 Instagram followers, and almost 5,000 monthly listeners on Spotify as of press time. Meanwhile, Paint Dept. has nine Facebook likes, about 100 Instagram followers, and no Spotify.

In this sense, 2019’s Battle of the Bands is a classic David versus Goliath tale. Rocket Bomb advertise themselves as a product that 20-somethings can dance their 20s away to, while Paint Dept. are a grassroots garageband for 20-somethings who pontificate about how modern society lacks any realness.

Suddenly, Rocket Bomb starts playing the Wii theme. This is a level of post-irony that requires more alcohol in my system to appreciate, so I try to go to the washroom. Unfortunately, I am stopped by security who tell me I can’t bring a drink out. I do what any reasonable human being would do and finish the drink there. By the time I get back, Rocket Bomb is finishing their set.

They tell the crowd to follow them on Instagram and that they have merchandise for sale at the back. Everybody gets closer for the last song. Or, more accurately, about 35 people get really close to the stage and about 28 people stay on the sidelines, either sitting on the beige benches or standing and staring intently from a distance.

At the end of the night, these two seemingly distinct bands, in both sound and style, are pitted against each other in a battle of the bands. You’re probably here for an answer to this question: who wins? Well, to answer, I quote Jacques Derrida, the post-structuralist French philosopher: “Every other is wholly other.” For Derrida and his postmodern funkies, we don’t make comparisons with one another in terms of an objective standard.

I can’t really compare Paint Dept.’s sound with Rocket Bomb’s, because any sort of objective standard by which I might compare the two wouldn’t capture the singularity of each individual band.

Derrida points out that to take otherness seriously, that is, for an other to be truly Other, there has to be something utterly irreducible about them. The other must always be outside oneself. As such, there must be something unfathomable and untranslatable between Paint Dept. and Rocket Bomb as musical acts. Yet that singularity — that thing which makes Paint Dept. ‘Paint Dept.’ and Rocket Bomb ‘Rocket Bomb’ is what makes each respective act meaningful in the first place.

Declaring a winner for the battle actually defeats the ethos of both bands. Fortunately, the judges don’t have this philosophical concern — it is a battle after all.

Rocket Bomb won.

Overlooked: Sleeping at Last

Composer Ryan O’Neal’s household recognition begins and ends in the credits

Overlooked: Sleeping at Last

Ryan O’Neal has found great success in his relatively short career by creating music for the concepts of other artists. However, his own musical side projects are undervalued by comparison.

His scores can be found in motion pictures, car commercials, and music videos alike. Each one is unique, yet unified stylistically with a fondness of narrative and an emo tinge.

He wields his musical tools masterfully, carefully curating his music and lyrics for each project. These tools never appear predictably within his albums; they are as diverse as the topics he chooses to muse upon.

Every note, chord, and rest is specifically written to elicit a particular emotion or experience from the listener.

Precise and careful, yet eloquent and efficient, the Sleeping at Last project exemplifies everything music should do for its audience. Through beauty, and the expert use of the mechanics of song, Sleeping at Last seeks only to provide fundamentally universal experiences that everybody can learn from. Though his goal seems lofty, O’Neal achieves it splendidly.

You find yourself so comfortable in the worlds he creates that sometimes you forget the one you’re actually in.

He is captivating in the simplest sense.

His albums, aptly dubbed ‘atlases,’ begin describing our entire universe at its most basic level — light and dark — and move through increasing levels of complexity. His current project seeks to tackle the human psyche through the Enneagram of Personality.

Even though he has spent the better part of the last three years serenading objects from throughout the solar system and beyond, beauty is the string that ties his separate works together into a cohesive whole. His music allows the audience to discover, and constantly rediscover, the beauty in all things.

O’Neal asks you to feel the joy that simple sunlight shining through curtains brings; to exonerate the regret that comes from the “reckless and honest words” leaving our mouths. And at his request, on clear nights, you should take the time to look at the moon as if you had never seen it before.

O’Neal writes only for others. His music exists simply to gift others the beauty of the unknown.

For what greater gift can there be than to allow us to feel wonder for wonder’s sake?

No longer just in the background or periphery, O’Neal deserves every last ounce of recognition for his tireless, incredible work. And you, dear reader, deserve to see the beauty in everything, and possibly even yourself.

At last.

UC Follies’ B-Side rocks the Stage at Hart House this November

The show’s creator discusses making a show about records in the digital age

UC Follies’ <i>B-Side</i> rocks the Stage at Hart House this November

From November 30 to December 1, the UC Follies will be at Hart House for a two-night performance of B-Side: A Rock Cabaret. The show is a grand musical experience that will take you back in time with classic rock records you love and lesser-known songs for you to discover and fall in love with.

The Varsity wrote to Jocelyn Kraynyk, the show’s creator, about her inspiration for the show, nostalgia for rock music, and listening to records in the world of online streaming.

TV: So many people listen to music digitally, on Spotify and Apple Music — why did you decide to create a show about records instead?

JK: The simple answer as to why I created a show inspired by records is that I find digital means of listening to music passive. Don’t get me wrong, I am in love with my iPod and I might actually die without my Apple Music, but I think it’s important to acknowledge how easy it is to become complacent about listening. Many a time, I have found myself in a playlist loop where I don’t realize I’m listening to music that I don’t really like or care about. With records, the act of listening becomes so active. You carefully choose what record you want to listen to. You engage with the music in the ceremony of putting the record on and the needle down. If your mind is focused on other things, the record waits for you to reengage at the halfway mark. I think that level of immersion lends itself well to a theatrical endeavour.

TV: Where did you get your inspiration for B-Side?

JK: I was so thrilled when the Follies asked me to create a show and I celebrated by going to my favourite record shop and picking up a heap of new music. When I got home, I put on my new Pat Benatar and rocked around my living room basking in the amazing vocals and bopping tracks. Two things happened while I listened to that record: 1. I found a couple songs that I had never heard before but fell totally and completely in love with, and 2. I heard songs that I forgot that I loved and it felt like coming home. That is how I found the concept for this show — thanks Pat. For me, B-Side is all about celebrating the songs of amazing artists that don’t get the same amount of play as other classic rock, as well as celebrating better known songs that were put on the B-Side of their record. Some of the songs in this show are ones few people will know — but everyone will love — some are songs everyone will know and can sing along to, and some are songs that people will hear, be flooded with memory, and fall in love [with] all over again. 

TV: How did you choose what songs to include in the show and why did you choose rock music?

JK: Listening to hundreds of classic rock songs to find the perfect setlist was torture — just kidding, I was in my glory. I love that shit. I ended up deciding to centre this show around songs that explore young love and relationships – the good, the bad, the ugly, the horny. It connects every song and performance and reined me in — if I didn’t have that connecter, the show would be hours long instead of the sleek 55 minutes it is now. B-Side has an unclockable flow and energy. It’s dynamic. It’s energetic. It’s magnetic and it demands to be seen!

As an artist and a consumer, I love the feeling of nostalgia. For me, it serves as escapism and when I perform or listen to music from or reminiscent of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The flow and intensity of it allows me to let go and live in its palpable energy. That feeling is what I want for my audiences and that is why I gravitate towards rock. 

TV: What is a song or performance in the show that stands out to you? 

JK: As far as what song or performance stands out, I’m going to give a pageant answer: every single song and performance stands out. When creating this show, we wanted to make sure that every performer got their moment to shine, and shine they do! We have been incredibly fortunate work with this incomparable group of people. Every single one of them owns the stage and I challenge anyone watching not to be warmed to the core by the joy and energy that radiates off of them when they sing. They are a beautiful unit. Hart House is an intimidating space. It is huge and can be daunting for performers — I say this from experience: that stage is scary — but we don’t fear the stage, we dominate that stage. The passion and excitement from our cast fills the theatre from the dressing rooms to the very last row. 


In conversation with Wild Rivers

The Toronto-based band's latest EP, Eighty-Eight, is a nostalgic, harmonic blend of genres

In conversation with Wild Rivers

Formed at Queen’s University, Toronto-based band Wild Rivers is on an upward trajectory. The indie four-piece, comprised of Khalid Yassein on guitar and vocals, Devan Glover on vocals, Andrew Oliver on guitar and bass, and Julien Laferriere on drums, recently released their EP Eighty-Eight, a mix of Americana and folk influences.

The record is a perfect soundtrack for when summer starts slipping into fall, one that pivots between tones of longing and nostalgia on tracks like A Week Ago and the beautiful harmonies of Howling, and resignation on the plaintive Call It a Night and kiss-off track I Won’t Be Back.

Wild Rivers are currently opening for Australian band The Paper Kites on the North American leg of the Where You Live tour. The Varsity spoke to Yassein about the production of Eighty-Eight, the band’s time in Nashville, and the upsides and downsides of touring.

The Varsity: You and Devan [Glover], the other vocalist in the band, were formerly a two-piece called Devan & Khalid, but you’ve since added two new members, Ben Labenski on drums and Andrew Oliver on bass and guitar. How has that affected Wild Rivers’ music making process?

Khalid Yassein: We’ve kind of become a whole band as opposed to the duo that we were before. We’re more jamming in a room instead of just doing acoustic stuff, and sounds are coming from different places. So it’s really enriched our creative process. That’s two, three years ago, and we haven’t looked back.

TV: You just put out an EP a few months ago, Eighty-Eight. What were some of the themes that you wanted to incorporate in the writing and production of that album?

KY: Musically, we wanted to do a pretty raw representation of who we are as a band. A lot of the sounds were tracked live in a room, without a lot of additional stuff. So it’s got a live feel, which we really wanted. We spent so much time touring our first album and playing on the road that we feel like we have become a real band. Then, thematically on the album, a lot of the songs explore relationships in some way or another. And a lot of them involve the element of time. “I Won’t Be Back” and “A Week Ago” are songs about getting out of town and having regret, and that became the theme accidentally to the EP, which is why we called it Eighty-Eight. There’s a lyric in the first song, “A Week Ago,” that goes, “If I could get this Chevy up to eighty-eight / I’d take it back in time,” from Back to the Future, obviously. That kind of theme just accidentally came across through all the songs on the record. 

TV: While you were listening back to all the songs that you had put together, was it then that you felt like there was a theme? It hadn’t been obvious to you all along?

KY: Totally, yeah. We have our tendencies when we write, to write about certain stuff — usually mention a car, or a movie reference, or some kind of accidental calling card. It’s cool that it makes the music feel a little more organic and not so contrived, that the songs just naturally have these ideas that we’re talking about based on where we’re at in our lives. So it was cool to notice that and lean into that after the fact.

TV: Would you say that while you were putting the songs together, you were thinking of how they would play live?

KY: I think it was actually a little bit of the opposite. Usually, before we record we do pre-production, which is us in a room rehearsing and talking about the arrangement of a song, and we definitely did that for the EP, but a big part of it too was that we played a bunch of the songs live this year before we recorded it and got the live feedback from the audience and figured out what hit, and what worked, and what felt good live. That more informs the record than us worrying about if we could play the songs on the record live. At its core, it’s just us, because we played the songs, and that’s what made it feel good and real. If we want to do something in the studio, we try not to worry about if we can do it live; we consider it a totally different medium. We find that it’s been good not to tie ourselves down to worrying about that too much.

TV: How do you know when to take feedback from the audience and when to disregard it because it’s something you feel really strongly about?

KY: It’s kind of intangible — when you go to a show and you can feel that moment that everyone’s in it and responding to it emotionally. Everyone in the room, us and the audience, can feel it when that kind of stuff happens. It’s more of an organic thing than someone coming up to us at the merch table and saying, “Ah, you should add a bridge after verse two.” It’s a feeling, and after the show we’ll talk about, “Oh, ‘Call It a Night’ felt really good tonight.” We feel like we were catching a groove and everyone was buying into it. So it’s that kind of thing that informs it on a human level, which is hard, because the magic about it isn’t obvious on paper and it’s rather a vibe, which is something we tried to chase for the EP. 

TV: How would you say that your sound has evolved over the years? Even from being a duo with Devan through to the album in 2016, and now with Eighty-Eight.

KY: In terms of genres, I think we started in the indie-folk world, and that was a product of the songs starting as a voice or two voices and acoustic guitar, and building a song around that. Every song on the first record had an acoustic guitar at the centre of it because that’s the origin. And on the second record, the EP, there were more band songs, more songs that originated from the four of us jamming in the room, and that’s allowed for a different sound — rock, some indie-rock, some country. It’s become a little more of a polished version of our sound, especially production-wise. We just recorded a song a week ago that doesn’t have an acoustic guitar at all and it’s a different feel. We’re all individually into all kinds of music and we’re lucky that the fact that the two voices and acoustic guitar makes it us, but at this point we can explore a little bit to do something cool and different and it still feels honest and like a Wild Rivers song. So it’s cool, we feel like we’re in a place where we can really do whatever we want and we’re always trying to get better at what we’re doing. 

TV: I read in an interview with the Queen’s Journal that you wrote Eighty-Eight between Toronto and Nashville. What do you think those two cities bring to the table, musically speaking, and do you think the EP has influences from both places?

KY: We’re all from the Toronto area, and that’s where the conception of the EP happened. We wrote a bunch of the songs in Toronto but we made them our own in a little studio that happened to be on 888 Dupont Street, a little basement recording studio, so that was another push for the namesake of the record. It started in Toronto and then we went to Nashville, which we’d been spending some time there this year, and wrote two other songs for the EP. We’re all crazy about the city and it’s so rich in talent; every time we go, we feel like we soak up a ton of energy and inspiration and get a lot done. We consciously decided to lean into that influence as a product of being on the road and being in Nashville that year. It was a cool part of where we were at. There’s definitely a little bit of that feel in the design, the album cover. It was an important part of the project practically and it comes out a little bit in the sound too, which is probably more country, Americana than we’ve ever done.

TV: Do you see Toronto as your home base for the foreseeable future?

KY: I think so. Right now we’re talking about spending a month or two here to start working on the next record, but we’re very easily enamoured by new cities. So, who knows, Toronto’s definitely our home base and I don’t ever see us leaving for good, but the great thing about this job is we don’t have a 9 to 5 and we can live and do whatever we want, whatever feels cool, and push ourselves. So, who knows, maybe the next record we do will be an LA concept record or we’ll move to a cabin in Montana. 

TV: Pivoting a little bit toward the tour, is this your first months-long experience on tour or have you done similar lengths in the past?

KY: This is basically on par with our longest tour. We just came back from our longest tour, which was a little over a month long. It was a couple weeks ago, we just came back. So we’ve been on the road a lot this fall. But I think this is the biggest scale tour we have. We’ve upgraded our van, we have a tour manager, we’re playing these amazing theatre venues all over Canada and the US, so it feels like we’re doing it bigger than we’ve done before. 

TV: What’s your favourite and least favourite aspect of touring?

KY: Favourite is eating good food and getting into shenanigans with my friends. My least favourite is probably that it’s tough to sleep and it’s tough to stay healthy. But you live so much and have so many experiences in such a short period of time that you don’t really think about how tired you are — you just kind of enjoy it. We’ve had a lot of fun touring and being on the road this year. I think we’ve set a good balance of being ambitious and serious, and also appreciating that what we’re doing is actually crazy and enjoying every moment. 

Wild Rivers will be opening for The Paper Kites on November 22 at The Opera House.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

BTS’ Love Yourself inspired me to love myself

I lost my voice singing along to my favourite boy band

BTS’ Love Yourself inspired me to love myself

Three weeks into my first year at U of T, I attended a concert for the first time. My friend invited me to the BTS Highlight Tour in Toronto with her when last-minute general admission tickets went on sale. Her enthusiasm, combined with my inability to say no to people, as well as my greed for not missing out on good deals, led me to agree. Though my knowledge of BTS’ music was limited to their title songs, I decided that it would be a highlight if I went to my first concert in my first month at university.

Seventy dollars, seven hours spent camping outside Phoenix Concert Theatre, and several screams at the seven men entering the building later, my friend and I entered the venue at around 7:00 pm.

We exited the venue an hour and half later with blistered feet, zero footage of the event — the company managing the tour had a zero-recording policy — and a shared wish that BTS would return to Canada with a proper concert soon. They had only performed four songs in this poorly managed tour, in front of a partly-broken screen, but to a fully enthralled audience.

Three years later — three weeks into my fourth year at U of T, and with $311 from my budget, I attended my second BTS concert, Love Yourself. It had taken BTS seven comebacks, three world tours, two Billboard Awards, and one American Music Award performance to finally return to Ontario.

BTS announced the world tour dates and venues on April 26. I bought the tickets the day they went on sale on May 7, with much difficulty, but it wasn’t until a security guard scanned my ticket and ushered me into the FirstOntario Centre on Sunday, September 23 that I realized that I was going to see BTS live.

I could finally smile back at the faces that had smiled at me from my phone and laptop screens for the past three years — except this time, I didn’t need to worry if people thought I was deranged!

I could finally sing along to the the melodies and harmonies that had soothed me during bad days and hyped me up on good ones — sans the fear of getting the lyrics wrong or sounding off-key.

I could finally return the confession of love to the group who had taught me what it was — even if I lost my voice in the crowd of 16,000 people.

And lose my voice I did.

The concert started at 6:00 pm. Doors opened at 3:30 pm, and I was in my seat by 4:00 pm. The two giant screens in the venue were playing BTS’ music videos in chronological order.

The concert hall had not even filled up completely and the audience’s singing had drowned out the speakers. When I sat down, I was met with BTS’ 2014 “Danger” music video, which was oddly fitting. “Danger” was the first BTS music video I had ever watched.

“Danger” faded into “War of Hormones,” which gave way to the music videos from BTS’ The Most Beautiful Moment in Life trilogy, followed by the “Wings” series, and finally their Love Yourself trilogy.

By the time “Fake Love” ended, the audience’s singing was deafening, my vocal cords were weakening, and the concert hadn’t even started yet. Unfortunately for my vocal cords, the moment the lights went out, the familiar beats of “Idol” reverberated through the venue, and BTS stepped onstage.

I screamed.

From that point onward, I alternated between gasping, chanting, screeching, shout-singing, and screaming, but I was never silent. I would later regret this, not because it hurt to swallow for a week after, but because it rendered all my videos of the concert unshareable. Though I tried to blame most of the shouted off-key singing in the background on my sister, I knew that I wasn’t without blame.

Despite having already performed the show twice in front of Canadian audiences, BTS gave us a perfect show. Every costume change was stunning — literally, because many of their costumes involved sequins. All the transitions between songs were smooth, and the choreography was splendidly synchronized.

With every strobing of stage-lights, every colour change of the Bluetooth-controlled ARMY bombs, and every moment of fanservice BTS bestowed on us, I fell deeper in love with them. Ironic, considering the name of the concert was “Love Yourself.”

BTS told us that we were their 10th show of this tour and made for a “perfect 10” concerts in North America. They gifted us with their logo reshaped into the Canadian flag. They said that they loved Canada and would love to come back. And I love them back.

‘Love.’ No other word could have expressed my adoration, adulation, and admiration for this group who have helped me — and many of my peers — love ourselves through these taxing, tumultuous, and tear-stained university years.

BTS’ success and growth both astonish me and delight me. The boys I saw three years ago performing in front of a broken screen have become superstars. Now, the only thing broken behind them is new ground. They are reaching heights that few foreign artists, Korean or otherwise, have reached before.

Their long list of accomplishments in three short years is evidence of their dedication, drive, and decision to love themselves — something I am determined to emulate.

I’m learning how to love myself thanks to BTS.