November Staff Picks: “Finding BatMan,” Agar Agar, and more!
Words By F(r)iction Staff
Spotify keeps sending me notifications to hype up the 2022 Wrapped playlist and has successfully incepted me into recommending music. Now that it’s winter, I need my walking music to be as fast paced as it is brooding, so I’ve been listening to a lot of Agar Agar. But let’s be honest, I always listen to a lot of Agar Agar. I don’t know how I haven’t recommended them before. Their 80’s-esque gritty synthpop sound is so addictive. The lyrics are usually narrative forward but absurd and stream-of-conscious and often related to the musicians wanting to be dogs, which I feel on a lot of levels. I think the EP Cardan is the way to ease into their music; “I Am That Guy” has so much build and movement that I can’t help but sing it every time I hear it, and “Prettiest Virgin” is like an entire 80’s high school romance in one catchy song. The Dog and the Future (2018) has a lot more range in both sound and lyrics, but it maintains the strong emotions throughout. I highly recommend it for anyone who also walks to work in the winter or wants to be a dog.
When I say that Taylor Swift’s Midnights took over my life after it released, I’m barely kidding. I literally listened to nothing else for at least a week (don’t @me Spotify Wrapped: I know I’m obsessed). It has been such a joy to rediscover Swift’s discography, especially over the past few years, and I swear she keeps getting better. The emotion she captures in each of her songs is unparalleled; her lyrics are pure poetry. I am hard-pressed to narrow down a favourite track from Midnights, as she takes us on a journey from gutting insecurity (“Anti-Hero”) to another self-love anthem (“Bejeweled”) to songs you just want to scream-sing in the car (“Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”) and back again, but I think “Midnight Rain” is certainly a top contender for my favourite. It snuck up on me; the opening threw me a bit with the voice distortion, but soon enough I was completely taken with it (I’ve listened to it on repeat more times than I care to admit). I still haven’t gotten tired of listening to this album, and I may or may not want to collect every special edition because I can’t decide which color I like best.
I am feeling all the emotions as I write this month’s Staff Pick. At this time, it is not yet 24 hrs since I heard the news of actor Kevin Conroy’s passing. For many of us, he was our BatMan on BatMan: The Animated Series and other DC Universe projects helmed by animator Bruce Timm. I can remember when the big screen Tim Burton movie came out and thought each frame was a cinematic wonder, but I didn’t walk out of the theater feeling I saw my BatMan on the screen. Also during the 90s, the comic books were so grim and gritty that I was reading other super heroes at the time.
BatMan: The Animated Series brought me back to BatMan. The stories and look were a tribute to the type of street noir and high adventure the BatMan comics had been from the 30s to the 70s. Grounding these stories were amazing vocal performances directed by Andrea Romano. And at the center of it all was Kevin Conroy as BatMan and Bruce Wayne.
DC Pride 2022 has Conroy’s very personal biographical story “Finding BatMan.” It is about the tools an actor uses in their utility belt to connect with a role. Conroy shares the hardships of growing up closeted, the early days of the AIDS crisis and the struggles and ridicule he faced finding work as a gay man in Hollywood. As an older man myself, I remember these times and how bigoted, contemptuous people could easily single you out shouting the “F-word” at you in public without anyone else batting an eye.
“Finding BatMan” is also about Conroy’s family life. The struggles of taking care of a brother with schizophrenia. As a teenager, he was the only family member to go to the hospital after his father’s suicide attempt. The story is about what Conroy needs to do in these situations to look after others but also look after himself. The art by J. Bone brings the emotions and compliments the story. There is also the amazing artistic choice to have a shadowing of blue through this black and white story which gives an undertone to the other main character of the stories who we don’t meet till the end.
The story ends with Conroy at a life-changing audition. He reads the script, pulls from his past and introduces us to the other main character of this story—BatMan.
Rest In Peace Kevin Conroy (1955-2022).
I’ve been listening to the new Alvvays album Blue Rev ever since it dropped in early October. It takes their excellent pop-rock formula and infuses it with a healthy dose of shoegaze. After two superb albums, the band seemed to have perfected their sound with 2017’s Antisocialites and they were in danger of stagnation if they repeated what already worked. But the songs on Blue Rev have so much more texture and nuance. The song “Very Online Guy” reminds me of something Deerhoof would put out. Overall, Blue Rev is a little less anthemic than its predecessors but every song still has its earworm moment or huge vocal delivery. I’m especially enjoying it on vinyl. It sounds like the vinyl got a separate master, which really lets Molly Rankin’s vocals shine. Her voice sounds a bit buried in the digital version.