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    Music Monday March 7th- A Safari Playlist

    Music Monday March &

     

    This week’s Music Monday playlist comes with several things: a view of a mother and baby elephant, a couple Jack Garratt songs (because his debut album FINALLY came out and no surprise, it’s incredible) some weird glitchy pop perfection by a few new discoveries of mine, Kilara & Tove Stryke and a bit of nostalgia from Bloc Party & Shakey Graves to round it out.

    I also threw some Paul Simon on there to bookend this playlist because I wrote it while on Safari and what else do you listen to other than Simon’s ‘Graceland’ while you’re on a safari?!

    Enjoy. 

    Music Monday January 12- Best of 2015

    Music Monday January 12

    Freeze those knees my chickadees, it’s a week late but here’s my best of 2015 list, coming to you from my paella class in Spain. It took forever because there was so much good music that came out last year and I really couldn’t decide.  A few words: the whole new Troye Sivan album is phenomenal, you must listen, the last 45 seconds of the 1975 song are worthy of some sort of pop award (and there was unexpectedly a lot of great pop this year) and the video for the Harriet song is the probably the best lyric video ever made.

    Furthermore, I demand that you do not take one more step into 2016 if you haven’t got The Dawes or Leon Bridges or Chris Stapleton albums. They really should all be permanent parts of your collections by now.

    Good luck on the year ahead kittens, may you all find music and joy in this ridiculous world.

    Music Monday December 21st- Harriet

    ‘American Appetite’ by Harriet is one of the best executed lyric videos I have ever seen. It’s simple and flawlessly done and I can’t get enough of this band this year. This song will definitely be on my year-end favorites list (which I’m currently pulling my hair out over because so much good music came out this year), but I thought I’d give you a little preview of the geniuses that comprise Harriet. If you dig, your next steps should be ‘Burbank’ (oh man Burbank is just SO GOOD!) and ‘Ten Steps’. I fell in love with the former late last year and I’ve been essentially stalking these guys since. I mean, that voice! Those meditative melodies! All of their songs are perfect for cruising through dark streets with your friends; they’re the type of songs you listen to in silence and zone out to before catching yourself and breaking out into a big goofy grin. They’re meaningful without being cheesy and I’m just so excited for their new album that my little butt shakes like an excited puppy when I think about it. 
     
    Enjoy, see y’all next week with my top 15 songs of 2015!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwNF1MT8Eis

    Music Monday December 14th- A Dominican Playlist

     

    The Dominican Republic is the Clifton hill of the Caribbean. The resort I stayed at for a wedding was massive and crazy busy so on my last morning there I got up at 6am to watch the sunrise and enjoy a few moments of peace and seclusion. My beautiful goddaughter even dragged herself out of bed to join me, here she is with this weeks ‪#‎MusicMonday‬ playlist, which includes the beautiful choice of Crimson & Clover that my friends used for their first dance and a Snakehips song featuring a genius verse from Chance the Rapper.

    Enjoy!

     

    Music Monday October 9th- An Irish playlist

    An irish playlist at Music Lives

    This past Monday I sweet talked my way into a tour of an important recording studio in Belfast that’s been used to record pretty much every important musician from Ireland, and it inspired this Irish tinged ‪#‎MusicMonday‬ playlist. It’s full of my favorite rainy day tunes and heavy on The National, because what better band is there to listen to in the constant rain?

    Like most of you, I was not emotionally prepared for the recent release of the Adele song. But after listening to it 600 times and spending 2 weeks in the dreary rain, I think I’m finally immune to it. A few of my favorite Irish men are sprinkled in here, but the standout tracks are the first two. The Jack Garratt song is being played at a rate of 30 times per day, and I recommend avoiding the BANKS & Grey Reverend songs if you’re going through a breakup of any kind. I don’t want to be responsible if you hurl yourself off a cliff.

    Music Monday October 19th- Florence & The Machine covers Diplo

    There are singers that are technical and always on their game, they hit every note and don’t attempt the ones they can’t. Then there are singers that just sing with their whole heart, they are raw & full of emotion and they may not always perfectly hit every note but no one really cares. You can tell when someone truly loves to sing, they reverberate a joy that can’t be faked.

    There are very few singers out there right now who have the emotional singing game down like Florence Welch. I don’t think that fact has ever been disputed, but I was reminded of it last week when I heard her cover of ‘Where are you now’ on Studio 1. Skrillex & Diplo aren’t exactly my most favorite hit makers, but Florence took this pop song and turned into something new and glittery and full of heart.

    Check it out below!

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEak-k2rrpM

     

     

    Music Monday October 12th- Miguel

    Here are some unbelievable facts that sound like they should be untrue:

    -One out of every 200 people alive today is a descendant of Genghis Khan

    -1 out of 10 photographs taken in human history were taken in the past 12 months

    – I have never written a Music Monday about Miguel

    That last fact is by far the most ridiculous one, considering that Miguel is one of my favorite artists in today’s musical landscape. He is sweet and provocative and my god, probably the sexiest singer out there right now. The main song I’ve chosen for today’s #MusicMonday is ‘Leaves’, which is off his most recent album ‘Wild Heart’. It’s the perfect fall song, it’s written from the point of view of a man who didn’t know his summer fling was over because the leaves don’t change in California. It’s the ideal song for long drives on crisp fall days and romping through all those pumpkin patches you people seem to be obsessed with.

    For those of you wanting to further your Miguel musical education, you should check out the follwing songs, ordered by importance: Adorn, Hollywood Dreams, Use Me, Damned, Sure Thing, Simple Things, Face The Sun, & Where’s the Fun in Forever.

    His trademark sexiness and unique vocal quips remind me of a late-eighties Michael Jackson; all of his songs are sung with the implication that this man wants to love and possess every inch of you and do you right, but tenderly.

    Check him out if you haven’t already, you won’t regret it.

     

    Music Monday October 5th- Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

    There’s thousands of pictures of my face in existence. Between family photo albums, tagged photos from friends and my own personal collection, there’s a photo of me doing just about everything. But out of all the photos out there in the world, there’s not one of the face that I make when I hear a song I love for the first time. Like really love it. It’s usually accompanied by a ‘Yo what is this?’ or ‘turn this up!’ and an awkward fumbling of my phone so I can shazam it immediately. It happened to me the other day, when I was alone in my car and I took a quick glance in the mirror to see my face and I laughed out loud. My upper lip was cocked in the corner like Elvis and I had this stupid, cheshire cat grin spread across my whole face.

    The song that made me make this face was ‘SOB’ by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats. It’s a perfect throwback to the hand clappin’, foot stoppin’ songs of my childhood and Mr. Rateliff sings the whole thing like a boisterous preacher delivering his Sunday sermon. Somehow he manages to communicate all the frustration and absurdity of life into each time he says ‘Sonofabitch!’ and sings it with such gusto that it makes me laugh every time. My second favorite track after this single is ‘Wasting Time’, a love song reminiscent of The Band’s endearing simplicity.

    Check out this album, I guarantee it’ll leave a big goofy smile on your face, too. And hey, if anyone happens to see me make the aforementioned face in the future, please snap a pic for me.

    Enjoy. 

    Music Monday September 21st- Ryan Adams

    Don’t you love waiting for an album to drop? I mean, yes, in theory it would cool if I never had to wait for new music, if all my favorite artists were just churning out songs at my request. But the anticipation of a new album, the countdown once a release date is publicized, it’s all so much fun. Last night I sat on my computer at 9pm and thought over and over: Only 3 more hours till the new Ryan Adams album comes out (miraculously it somehow ended up on iTunes almost 2 hours early). A few months ago he announced he was doing an album of Taylor Swift covers from her recent pop perfection album, 1989. I’ve been salivating for it since. I loved the Taylor album, it was reminiscent of old Blondie and I couldn’t wait to hear his take on it.

    The only better feeling than when you finally get your hands on an album is when you realize that the album is everything you wanted it to be and more. We’ve all been disappointed by an artist; it sucks when you love someone’s music and it just doesn’t live up to your hopes. Luckily, Mr. Adams did not do that, he far exceeded my expectations. He took that gold album and spun it into, um, something better than gold. I spent hours last night listening to it over and over, just geeking out by myself in my room.

    My favorite songs are the same on both albums: I wish you would, Out of the Woods, Wildest Dreams & This Love. Check em out, fall in love, praise Ryan Adams, for he could sing the phone book and we would all be better for it.

    Music Monday August 24th- St. Paul & The Broken Bones

    Whatchu know about that white boy soul?
     
    St. Paul & The Broken Bones is my choice for this week’s #MusicMonday. They’re so good that they’ll make you believe in reincarnation, cause I’m pretty sure the spirit of every blue-eyed soul singer of the 60’s is living in this jolly man. If you like what you hear (and you probably will if you have ears), check out their cover of Otis Redding’s ‘I’ve been loving you too long’, it’s been on repeat in my house for the past few weeks

    Music Monday July 13th- An Eaux Claires playlist

    I’m hitting the road tomorrow to start heading to @eauxclaireswi and I have not been this excited for a music festival in a long time. The National, The Staves & Sufjan all in one place, plus Bon Iver will be performing live for the first time in almost 3 years. This wk’s ‪#‎MusicMonday‬ is a road trip mix with a heavy influence from the bands that I’ll be checking out while I’m there.

    No road trip playlist would be complete with the standard all-stars, Fleetwood, Petty & Ryan Adams, but please pay special attention to the tracks from The Bros Landreth, Harriet, Chris Stapleton and David Ramirez. ‘Burbank’ is positively dreamy and ‘Harder to Lie’ is so obscenely good that the first time I heard it I had to stop myself from booking a ticket to Texas so I could listen to it while I drove down dusty back roads. 

    See you soon Wisconsin!

     

     

    Music Monday June 29th- A wedding playlist

    Wedding season is upon us and I just adore all that dressing up and eating steak and salmon every weekend and celebrating these milestones with y’all but GOOD LORD if I have to sit through one more first dance to Etta James’ classic ‘At Last’, I’m gonna lose it (if you live north of Temagami, your version of this song is ‘still the one’ by Shania). Your first song is HUGE, it should be a reflection of who you are as a couple and you can’t be 28 years old spinning around to a song whose chief lyric is ‘at last my love has come along’. If you’re 45 and getting married, then you can use that song but otherwise y’all gotta diversify cause right now you’re running a 8/10 ratio with that legendary ballad and frankly, you’re ruining it for the rest of us

    Anyhoo, here’s my list of more unconventional wedding songs to choose from, it includes all my favorites (except for one I’m saving for myself) to twirl around a rented dance floor to. Also, the Santo + Jonny song would be a positively DREAMY choice to walk down the aisle to, just sayin. Someone take me up on that, please.

    Music Monday June 22nd- Work it on out

    IMG_3868

     

    Athletic motivation has never been easy for me, I can’t push myself through that final mile or set without someone screaming angry words in my ear while telling myself over and over ‘you have to exercise regularly or you will age terribly & die’.  I ALWAYS warm up to Coheed and ALWAYS cool down to Florence or Incubus, but after a look at my most played workout tunes for this wk’s ‪#‎MusicMonday‬, I realized that my musical preferences for running apparently haven’t evolved much since 11th grade.

    So here they are, all my favorite tunes to motivate your butt down the track or in the weight room. Also, I know that Watsky is like the Michael Cera of rap but listen to the second verse in ‘Moral of the Story’ and if you don’t feel inspired to take on the world, then you are probably unable to be motivated by music and I just can’t help you.

    Music Monday June 1st – Ryn Weaver

    Sometimes I worry we’re going to run out of songs. There’s already a ton of evidence showing how we often recycle certain melodies and themes, but there’s really only so many ways something can be interpreted, right?

    Maybe not.

    I spent most of my computer time in high school on napster and kazaa, making custom mixes to show boys how I really felt about them. One of my most frequent searches was simply the word ‘acoustic’ because that word pretty much guaranteed I would like a song. There was always something very endearing about a musician with just a simple instrument. By the time I left my hometown I had amassed quite the collection and a reputation as the ‘sad song queen’.

    I’ve already written about my ‘songs are only as sad as the listener’ viewpoint, but I also want to point out that just because a song is stripped down to its barest, raw emotion doesn’t mean it has to be sad. This was recently proved to me after watching Ryn Weaver’s imaginative take on her song ‘Pierre’. Backed by an array of strings (used traditionally and being tapped on), she nails her brilliant lyrics with her truly impressive vocal range. Seriously, is she human?

    Her debut album, ‘The Fool’ will be out in a couple weeks. She’s released a couple songs off it and they’re all phenomenal. ‘Promises’ has reflective lyrics bouncing off a catchy and primal drum beat and her single ‘OctaHate’ is inventive and screaming to be remixed for dance floors. These 3 songs have made her June 16th release shoot up to the top of my most anticipated albums of 2015 list, I hope they do the same for you.

    Enjoy. 

     

     

    Music Monday May 18th- The Bros Landreth

    I have a confession to make: I rarely enjoy entire albums. Yeah, yeah I know that’s probably grounds for dismissal from the music industry. I do have favorite albums that I enjoy listening to from start to finish, they’re just a rare occurrence. There’s a ton of records in my collection that are 90% perfect, there’s just one or two songs on them that I skip past because they screw up the flow of the album or I just plain don’t care for them. As a result, my iTunes is a salad bar, a hodge-podge of songs and singles that struck my fancy.

    (Sidenote: This infuriated my ex, a man whose music collection was meticulously organized with only complete albums, labelled with artwork, genre, year and composer credits. We fought about it constantly until one day he admitted that he thought that The Beatles were ‘overrated’, which made me realize he was a crazyperson and I promptly ended things with him.)

    Here’s how I find music: Once every two weeks or so, I decide to wade through all the songs people have sent me, all the little notes in my phone, all the songs I’ve shazaam’d. During my most recent little ritual at 2am, there was a line scribbled in the margin of the tiny notebook I carry around that said ‘Check out The Bros Landreth album, Brian says so’. I should also let you know that when my friend Brian told me to check this album out, he placed his hand on his chest as he talked about it, the way you do when you just love something so much.

    So sometime last week on a hot and sticky night, I downloaded The Bros Landreth album around 3am and HOLY HELL GUYS. What a beautiful body of work. At first I was kind of tapping my toe to ‘Let it Lie’, and then I was dying to go on a backroad drive when I heard the incredible beat of ‘Tappin’ on the Glass’, then I wanted to head to Texas the second I heard ‘I am the fool’.  ‘Firecracker’ made me long for a small town summer love and ‘Greenhouse’ made me cry REAL TEARS,  like big fat, nostalgia tears. During the end verse when the narrator says ‘there’s new memories that you need to make, it’s time for me to fade away’, I immediately understood why Brian told me I had to listen to these dudes.  In the 42 minutes it took me to listen to the entire album, I cried, smiled really big and stupidly in my room, alone in the middle of the night, started planning a road trip and then changed some of my room around.  

    That’s what this album does, it makes you feel all kinds of shit: it makes you sad but it brings you right back up and energizes you and makes you want to run into the desert and fall in love.  All of these amazing songs and I still haven’t even mentioned the crown jewel of the album, ‘Our Love’. I don’t know how a bunch of boys from Manitoba managed to positively nail bluesey- Americana, but they did. They wrapped it up with some beautiful harmonies, sprinkle in some insanely honest and relatable lyrics about heartbreak, and voila!  The first complete album of this year that I’ve listened to from start to finish over and over.  Yeah, that’s right, they’re Canadian too. And they’re like 75% long haired and bearded! What else could you want from a band? Why are you still reading this? Go get your hands on what is sure to be one of my favorite albums this summer, and a long time after that. 

    Enjoy.

    Music Monday April 13- Chris Stapelton

    Rolling Stone Magazine recently called Chris Stapleton ‘The biggest, baddest country voice you’ve ever heard. No, really”. This dude has written for just about everyone: Adele, Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker & Sheryl Crow, just to name a few off the top of my head.

    The 36 year old former vocalist for the SteelDrivers is about to release his debut solo album on May 5, tentatively called ‘Traveller’. So far the two singles I’ve heard are phenomenal. ‘What are you listening to’ is deeply wistful without being mushy and the title track ‘Traveller’,  is a meditative tale of life on the road. Give this reflective and charming singer/songwriter a few moments of your time today, you won’t regret it.

    Enjoy. 

     

    Music Monday March 30th- Airport playlist

    Today’s Music Monday is comin’ atcha from 37,000 feet. The Misterwives song is perfect for running through airports and the Jack Garratt & Polyenso songs were about the only things keeping me calm after security took away my hummus AGAIN (seriously TSA can y’all sit down & collectively decide about hummus? You let me keep it like 60% of the time).

    I’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming next week my little music kittens, enjoy!

    Music Monday March 23rd- California Love Playlist

    Sometimes I’m all about diverse musical landscapes & embracing new artists and trends, and then sometimes I say screw it and listen to nothing but late 90s pop-punk for 3 days straight.

    Our strongest musical connection is usually to the music we grew up with and being in SoCal this past week made me pretty nostalgic for a time when all I wanted was a California childhood and a skateboarder boyfriend. This weeks‪ #‎MusicMonday‬  is comin’ to you from the Venice beach skate park, enjoy!

    Music Monday March 16th- Ruthie Foster

    What is it about New Orleans? There’s something in the air there, something that makes you feel hopeful. If you look past all that destruction and pain and years of fires and floods and see all those people living and laughing and making music, you feel like you can conquer anything too. And the music, oh the music. During my first visit to New Orleans, I spent almost the entire time just walking up and down Bourbon street, wandering in and out of all the blues and jazz bars, letting my ears guide me.

    There’s no shortage of good music in New Orleans and after spending the last week here, my music collection has grown a bit more. Today’s find, Ruthie Foster is a gospel and blues singer from Texas, she recently toured with the incredible Blind Boys of Alabama. She’s got the sass of Aretha Franklin and the sound of swampy bayous dripping from her every lyric; this song perfectly embodies the struggle and soul of the south.

    New Orleans can seem strange to some. Chris Rose said “We dance even if there’s no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we’re suspicious of others who don’t.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Music Monday February 16th- The Lone Bellow

    I’m actually so happy it’s Monday today. I’ve been sitting on this album for 10 days and couldn’t have possibly pushed back showing you last week’s Leon Bridges but now the day is finally here where you can lend your ears to the phenomenon that is The Lone Bellow.

    Let’s talk about this video, which is both a feast for the eyes and ears. This song is sublime. It swells and builds right from the beginning, dramatic dips and leaps that keep it both interesting and fresh. And all those instruments! The string section, the lap steel, the mandolin, the upright bass, the flautist, the french horn, those incredible harmonies, WHERE DO I LOOK GUYS?

    They’re all perfectly complemented by the beautiful lead vocals of Zach Williams, who rocks and rolls like an inspired preacher at the pulpit during a boisterous Sunday sermon. I’m so fortunate to be attending Eaux Claires this summer, a festival curated by Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon in Wisconsin. This incredible band will be playing and I can’t wait to check them out live for the first time. Take a listen and let me know if anyone wants to come along, there’s still a couple spots in the car and we’ll be stopping at (yet another) beef jerky outlet.

    Enjoy.

    Music Monday February 9th- Leon Bridges

    Analgesics, birth control, air travel and dentistry are all modern conveniences that I am very grateful for. I love being able to order whatever I want and have it arrive at my door in days. I love being able to power up this little machine of mine and connect with friends and strangers all over the world, peek into their lives and plan trips to corners of this planet I have never seen. But not all the modern amenities in this world can make me give up my love and affinity for a musically simpler time.

    We can’t deny that some of the best music ever created came well before we had auto-tune and fancy electronics and wild stagecraft to distract us. Even in this time of flash and show pony grandeur, there are still artists who come along and transport us to another decade, oftentimes one they haven’t even lived through.

    Leon Bridges is a 25 year old kid from Fort Worth Texas and he has released two songs that have propelled the former college dance major from coffeehouses to a major-label record deal in less than six months. Courted by 40 labels before his signing to Columbia, he has managed to encapsulate the sound of an entire decade in two songs. A sound that brings me back to a place filled with cardigans and lemonade and shiny shoes, where artists were welcomed by people who bought tickets and stood in line because they wanted nothing more than to slow dance in a hot crowd with their date.

    Recorded live at Niles City Sound studio, using only vintage equipment, these two songs are an absolute treat, a refreshing take on an old sound that still manages to sound dynamic and exciting.

    Enjoy.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0hXaQvwIgw

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLzr5xv36UI

    Music Monday January 19th- Mixtapes for Death

    Late last year I spent some time with my grandfather in hospice. They had a cart in each of the rooms filled with items that a family might find helpful- snacks and water, paper, slippers, books on grieving, a fan and an assortment of bibles. There was also a small stereo and a basket of CD’s, all labeled things like ‘rest and relaxation’ or ‘transitions’. I (inconspicuously) perused the selection, becoming more and more horrified at this one size fits all prescription for the last sounds that a person will hear. I picked one up and said aloud ‘Oh my god, these are mixtapes for death!’.

    ‘Teresa!’ my friend hissed at me, ‘they are not’. But ugh, they were. Someone had curated this well-meaning collection of harpsichords set to ocean waves and easy listening jazz garbage. I suspect it was the activities director, a loud woman who frequently wore necklaces made out of pasta shells.

    Music for death is a morbid topic, but this needs to be said. Let me tell you something right now: If I end up with a terminal disease and y’all make me go out listening to a babbling brook and a bunch of elevator music, I’m gonna haunt you in the afterlife.

    I don’t know, I guess I realize that some people don’t care about music the way that I do, but the idea of someone meeting the end of their earthly days by listening to something so impersonal is just very upsetting. Music is such an incredibly large part of our worlds, from what we seek out and play on our stereos to the background noise everywhere we go, to the music we make and find and love and use to keep us tethered to our memories. Before children are even born, we strap headphones to bellies and use music to introduce them to our world, that’s how much it matters. It’s some of the first information we give people. So if we do it for the beginning of our lives, why not the end?

    In the end, there was no music to usher my grandfather the out of this world. When he finally left, there was just my voice, layered over that babbling brook nonsense, saying over and over ‘you are so loved, you are so loved’. If you ever find yourself in this situation, privileged enough to be beside someone when they leave, please find some music to play them.

    Play them some Sigur Ros or Radiohead or some Explosions in the sky- something ethereal that sounds like going home and longing and journeys toward the unknown

    Play them some Slayer or Rage against the machine so they can remember all the times they were angry, gloriously alive with rage and passion

    Play them The Beatles so they can remember all the times they weren’t angry at all, all the times they were filled with love and compassion and learned what it meant to be human.

    Play them some Paul Simon  or Rush  so they can remember all the adventures they went on, all the places they journeyed to with excitement and wonder.

    Play them some Elvis or some Michael Jackson so they can know that one person can really challenge the norm around them and change a musical landscape, and as result, change the world, too. 

    Play them some Bob Dylan or Eric Clapton so they can remember how hard it is to change, to reinvent yourself, to pick yourself up off the ground and go forward.

    Play them some Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings or Patsy Cline so they can remember nights spent beneath stars and bonfires with friends and the woods and saying damn the man.

    Play them some Cold Specks, like Holland or The Mark because they are all subtly about death and there is no more haunting voice to guide you into the afterlife.

    Play them what they love. Play them the sounds of who they were, even if’s that’s country or techno or black metal or folk rock or even if that’s just the sound of your voice.

    And if it’s me, please play me The Wolves by Bon Iver and then The Trapeze Swinger by Iron & Wine, and sing along as I leave this world.

    “But please remember me, fondly, I heard from someone you’re still pretty. And then they went on to say that the pearly Gates had some eloquent graffiti. Like ‘We’ll meet again’ and ‘Fuck the man’ And ‘Tell my mother not to worry’. So please remember me, finally, And all my uphill clawing. My dear, but if I make the Pearly Gates, I’ll do my best to make a drawing, na na na, na na na……………….”


    A few of my favorite songs from 2014

     

     

     

    Love Ain’t Enough- The Barr Brothers

    I’m starting this list strong with the dreamiest song to grace my stereo this year. Between the simple, hopeful lyrics and the incredible kazoo-like tone on that solo that starts at 2:20, I can’t stop dancing in my car to this song.

     

     

    Mama-The Glorious Sons

    I had a hard time choosing between this song and my other favorite track from TGS, “White Noise”, but this won out in the end because it completely transports me to hot summers and cold lakes and sitting around a fire with friends.

     

    Somebody’s Talking- The Preatures

    We could talk about that zippy bass line that is just so much fun or the way this song makes me shimmy around my kitchen in the morning or the vocals that make me long for 1987 or we could just listen to this damn fine song.

     

    Poor Man’s Son- Noah Gundersen

    I had the pleasure of working for Noah a few times this past year and watching the crowd respond to him on stage from my little merch booth in the back was one of the highlights of  my musical year. This beautiful song is the opening track on his stellar album ‘Ledges’ and is easily one of my favorite vocal performances I’ve heard in a while. The gang vocals feature his multi talented siblings and the final stanza is truly chilling. I love how raw Noah’s voice gets and how strong his sister Abby’s has to be to compete with all those boys, she truly steps up to the plate and lets her clear song rise above everyone else’s.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtGPRLealIU

     

    Under Pressure- The War on Drugs

    This Don Henley/Paul Simon/Bryan Adams/Rod Stewart reminiscent song was my favorite crowd pleaser this year. I asked everyone who listened to it who it sounded like and they all came up with a different answer until I asked my friend Mike who chewed thoughtfully on it for a few verses and then said ‘Good. It just sounds good’.

    I forget where we were- Ben Howard

    I never thought I could get so emotional over the way someone said ‘green, green grass’, but Ben Howard always proves me wrong. I love the way it builds and how it makes me want to have a first kiss with someone. This haunting, sweet track hasn’t left my most played list since it came out.

     

    The First Time- Donovan Woods

    To me the pinnacle of success for a songwriter isn’t just fame or fortune or song plays, but rather trust and integrity.  There’s a handful of people in the world (Justin Vernon & Brandon Boyd are the first 2 that come to mind) that could put out an album of just about anything and I would buy it because I deeply love and truly trust them. No matter who they collaborate with or how experimental they get, I will give whatever they put out a whirl because over time they’ve proven to me that I’ll never put on their album and be met with anything trite or silly. Donovan is one of those people, he consistently puts out quality music that is touching and sweet without making me gag. ‘The First Time’ is my favorite thing he put out this year, a simple and relatable song that will make anyone nostalgic.

    Always- Panama

    I had to put a ‘cruising, hands out the window, driving down the highway to somewhere new’ song on the list and this was the clear winner. Put this on the next time you’re driving home late at night with a car full of people.

     

    Speakers (acoustic mixtape version)- Sam Hunt

    From the crackling fire in the opening seconds to way he says ‘where the wild things are’ in the last verse, this song makes me deeply reminiscent for my favorite high school hobby: Making out at gull lake. Anything that makes me nostalgic for being young is a good thing, but the gentle banjo in the background and the sweet lyrics really push this song into new territory. Seriously, my hips and shoulders start involuntarily moving as soon as he starts singing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cru1xSb6h9k

     

    The Ceiling- The Wild Feathers

    These were my favorite boys to come out of Tennessee this year, pay special attention to the way my boy Taylor belts it out at 4:30 and then check out their whole phenomenal debut album.

    Hot Dreams- Timber Timbre

    This here is the sexiest song on the list, actually the sexiest song of the year. Slow dance in your kitchen or in a bar or in the grocery store to this one and try to keep your legs from turning to jello at the incredible building sax solo at the end; it’s so hot it makes my knees press together.

     

    Rollercoaster- Bleachers

    This 80s pop synth track from Jack Antonoff’s side project Bleachers is perfection and makes me long deeply for a the halls of highschool. I’m still kind of ticked that I’m pushing 30 and no one has held a boombox outside my window yet, but this sweet song makes that reality a touch more bearable.

     

     

    All I want- Dawn Golden

    This here is the ‘heavy thoughts on the couch’ track of my year.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NdiD8r8ofw

    Stay High- Tove Lo (Habits Remix)

    This one is for all you kitty cats who prefer tech over traditional instruments. I’ve got such a soft spot for swedish pop tarts and Tove Lo was new on my list this year (my queen Robyn is still in the top spot, never to be dethroned). This sexy and kinda dancey remix of her single was the best thing she put out this year.

     

    Honourable mentions: I wish you would by Taylor Swift, Heavy Bells by J Roddy and The Business, How to dress well by Repeat Pleasure and Seasons by Future Islands (which was the hardest song to leave off this list, particularly the badbadnotgood remix)

     

    Enjoy, Happy New Year kittens, may you find joy and music in this ridiculous world!

    Music Monday October 20th- That Sexy Sexy Saxophone

    From the first time I heard Billy Ocean’s ‘Get Out of my Dreams’ to my infatuation with former president Bill Clinton, I’ve had a huge crush on the saxophone my whole life. I love the sheer exuberance it adds to any song, the way it invokes the spirit of old men in Louisiana swamps and Chicago jazz clubs. Lately there’s been an infusion of songs in my life containing this wonderful instrument and I thought they’d be perfect to share with you for the first long-form Music Monday in a month.

    The first is the title track off Timber Timbre’s latest album, Hot Dreams. They’re a Canadian band from Bobcaygeon that’s been burning up a lot of interest in the past couple years. A somber love letter that makes you think of smoky supper clubs and red lights, it also has a truly genius saxophone solo at the end. The drum and sax combo that builds in its repetition is incredible, a beat that makes you want to slow dance with a stranger in New York.

    The second is a much more upbeat track from Klingande,  a french deep house producer that frequently features classical instruments like piano and sax in his songs. ‘Jubel’, which literally means ‘jubilation’ in German is just that. A breezy dance song with a fantastic sax solo woven throughout it, this is the track that’s been warming me up this past week as the weather starts to turn.

    An honourable mention has to go to the current king of sax, Colin Stetson. He’s a multireedist and saxophonist that I’ve seen on tour with Bon Iver, Arcade Fire and play solo. He’s usually playing the contrabass sax, a huge upright instrument that’s usually over 6 feet tall, it requires an incredible amount of lung power. My asthmatic lungs hurt just from watching him play the first time I saw him. I’m including a small snippet of one of his shows. If you like it, his diverse body of work is worth seeking out.

    Enjoy!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vxn3dOwHukU

    Music Monday October 6th- New York Playlist #5

    This week’s New York playlist is chock full of excellent commuting music, the perfect songs to drown out the bad subway performances, the men who horribly freestyle rap to themselves and the people who don’t know anything about acceptable headphone volume. Use it the next time you need to cover up the unwanted noise of your surroundings. Enjoy.

    Music Monday September 29th- New York Playlist #4

    Todays New York playlist is coming to you from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, aka Little Russia. It’s an eclectic mix perfect for chilling on the beach and checking out all the old Russian dudes walking around in speedos and black tank tops. Enjoy!

    Music Monday September 22nd- New York Playlist #3

    New York can be overwhelming and draining, even on girls like me who love the city. So when the hustle and bustle starts to get to me, I strap on my headphones and let my favorite sleepier sounding tunes relax me. This weeks playlist is a collection of my best-loved calming music, enjoy.

    Music Monday September 15th- New York Playlist #2

    Hey y’all, here’s my second New York playlist. I was hanging out at strawberry fields today so I found myself listening to oldies all day. Here’s a few of my favorites. Enjoy.

     

     

     

    Music Monday September 8th- New York Playlist #1

    New Yorkers are noticeably less fat than the rest of their American counterparts. I’m here in NYC for the fall and I’ve noticed that tourists aside, they are considerably more slender and I know the exact reason why. They walk, everywhere. A few blocks to the subway and back 5 times a day, plus all the walking to a from their destinations add up to a ton of distance. According to my pedometer, I’m walking an average of 8 miles a day. Which is great, because I’m also eating everything in sight.

    My music consumption has gone through the roof since my headphones are now on during all of this commuting time. Since I’m swamped with homework for the first time in a decade and listening to many phenomenal artists right now, I’ve decided to do Music Monday a little different while I’m here in the big apple. Instead of telling you about one or two artists and how they pertain to my life right now, I’m going to show you a playlist every week of what I’ve been jammin’ to. This past week has been all about exploration, getting to know my new neighbourhood and surrounding area. I’ve needed good walking songs to help me stomp all over these streets when my feet are getting sore and used to the distance. According to my iTunes, these are most frequent songs that have been keeping me company all over this wonderful city since I arrived. Here’s a snapshot of them taken from the rooftop deck of my building which comes complete with a view of the empire state building. Set aside a few minutes to look up & listen to the songs on this eclectic mix and have a great week, see you cats next Monday.

    Music Monday August 18th- LP

    I love this point in August when everyone finally gets into their summer groove. For Canadians, this usually happens just before summer is over. The novelty of warm days has worn off and you’ve attended all the jam packed bbq’s of July and other summery engagements that seem crammed into the first 6 weeks of the season. Nowadays, I have a lot of impromptu leisurely dinners in the park or in the backyards of friends until the sun goes down. I rarely turn on my oven. My feet seem to always be dirty and I obnoxiously say ‘corn salsa’ in conversation at least once a day.

    I also spend an inordinate amount of time in two places: in my hammock or in my car. My car is a bit of an acquired taste. I call it ‘Wolverine’ because it’s self- healing. Frequently small things break, a light will go out, the stereo will stop working, etc. But within an hour or two, it will work again. It’s remarkable and has happened a good 10 times. Every superhero has its achilles heel, and my magical little car is no exception. The AC has never worked. On mild days it’s not so bad. On hot days, it’s like driving a windy oven. My usual tactic to combat this sweltering apparatus on wheels is to just drive really fast. All four windows down, the right song and a bit of a heavy foot are the recipe to enduring the heat.

    This week I’ve been listening to a lot of LP as a means of cooling down. LP, born Laura Pergolizzi is a singer-songwriter from NYC that’s written for pretty much everyone on the pop scene today, including the legendary Cher. She’s the first female martin guitar ambassador ever, and for very good reason. This woman seriously makes love to all stringed instruments; I have never seen anyone play the ukelele with such baddasery. This single ‘Into the Wild’ is perfect. It’s sunshine and summertime and full of roar and makes you feel powerful when you’re singing it. Whether you’re driving a beat up car like my little wolverine or your ride is luxurious and smells like new car, I know this song will make your drive a little better.

    Enjoy.

    Music Monday July 28th- Tycho

    Some people do their best work sitting at a desk, crumbling under the pressure of a deadline. Others do it best in the early morning, bright eyed and bushy-tailed after a cup of french press coffee. I’ve met people who prefer to work in the middle of the night, in the afternoon or only whenever inspiration strikes them. Some people are comforted by the familiar, they prefer to work in their home office or at their local starbucks, surrounded by beards, $6 dollar coffees and baristas with neck tattoos.

    As for me, I do my best work when I’m in motion. I mean , I do good work late at night when I’m anywhere, but the very best things I’ve ever created have always been when I’m moving: When I’m sitting on a plane headed somewhere new or looking out the window on a train headed home. The perpetual movement strikes something open inside me that makes me want to pull all the magic out of this moment I’m in and create something new with it. Predictably, I also have music that goes along with being creative. Whether I’m writing, painting or just making some sort of DIY craft at home, there is always music playing. I guess I should say there is a very specific type of music playing, because I have music on about 80% of the time I’m home (the other 20% I’m watching Seinfeld). The songs I’m usually playing when I’m writing on an airport shuttle or in the passenger seat of a car are ambient, often wordless pieces of music. Simple, clean beats that I can get lost in without getting distracted by lyrics.

    Recently I’ve been obsessed with Tycho, an artist that makes just this type of unique sound. He’s equally well-known for his design endeavours and I can’t really decide which I like better, they’re both incredible. He’s released a beautiful body of work over the last decade but all of his songs share one common thread: gorgeously constructed instrumentals that invoke a sense of wonder and movement. These songs just sound like sitting in a train car while a new world whizzes past you. The first song is the title track off his album ‘Awake’ and it’s tinged with a U2-esque opening that builds up to the perfect tune for traveling down back roads with the windows down. The second ‘Dye’ is like a laid-back journey through time, one that makes my thoughts relax and slow down every time I listen to it. I’m in motion right now, zig-zagging all over the southwest in planes and trains and automobiles. For me, songs like this are the same sense of familiarity that some people get from their house or hometown; I use them like a security blanket that I drag everywhere. It brings me a lot of comfort to know that no matter where I am in the world, I can just put on these songs and feel inspired to create.

    Enjoy. 

    Music Monday July 21st- Stretching & Sigur Ros

    Last week I turned another year older, getting precariously close to my third decade. There was no monumental shift in my world, no immediate wrinkles cropped up on my face and the white hair I’ve had in my hairline for the last 4 years didn’t seem to multiply. My body did not seem to get the memo that another year of aging has taken place, with one exception. The biggest sign of aging that seems to be rapidly advancing is my joint and muscle mobility. Y’all know what I’m talking about, my back hurts a lot and I don’t recover from things like cramped airline seats as quickly. Every day when I wake up, my whole body is stiff and in need of a good cracking. So on the morning of my birthday I added something new to my morning routine; I crawl directly from my bed onto my yoga mat on the floor and streeeeetttttttch.

    I roll out my legs and back with a hard foam roller, I do a few simple poses and I lay on the floor and think about my day. I’m pretty limber and excel at most aspects of yoga and pilates, but I have a really hard time with the breathing and meditation part of it. I just can’t get into it. My mind has always went a mile a minute and I hate the ‘yoga tone’ that most teachers have, that breathy, condescending way they talk to their students and the shangri-la elevator music playing in the background. I remember my first yoga class, the teacher said ‘now we are opening the left ventricle of our heart’ and I thought to myself  ‘uh, it’s always open you dummy. We would be dead if it was closed’. I’m too skeptical, too sarcastic, too something to fully get into it.

    Then one day in the Arizona desert, I went to a drop in class in Sedona that changed everything for me. There was no department store melody lulling me into a false sense of flexibility and the teacher talked to me like a normal person. She also played amazing music, an eclectic mix of icelandic bands that truly made my mind shut off and relax. I took her playlist home with me and now the first song I hear every day is from the Iceland powerhouse that managed to make it mainstream: Sigur Ros. This incredible song is the first song I play every morning. It’s ethereal sound paired with Sigur Ros’ trademark falsetto vocals that lightly wakes me up and I have time to flex each one of my toes and fingers before it’s finished. The second is ‘King & Cross’ by the amazing Asgier and it’s a bit more energizing. This song makes me move a bit quicker and get ready for the day ahead of me.

    I’m not going to say anything silly like ‘setting my intention for the day has changed my life’, but I do notice a huge improvement in how much my hips don’t hurt every day and the amount of clarity I have to get through the day. Just that simple few minutes of laying there and thinking of what needs to get done while these beautiful songs play has made a little difference in my life. I hope that by passing them onto you, they will maybe inspire you to improve your own morning routine. Get up, think of me and stretch, stretch, stretch. Think of me when you’re in your fifties and running marathons on your flexible and ageless knees.

    Enjoy.

     

     

    Music Monday July 7th- Anger, it’s a gift

    I should have known today was not going to be the greatest day. On my to-list was dealing with 3 separate government call centres, getting my sticker renewed for my car and booking a few flights. It was a bit of a recipe for disaster;  I just got home late last night, had to deal with a rowdy neighbour in the middle of the night and spent the night tossing and turning to a thunderstorm. I wasn’t prepared for today. Fast forward to 3pm:  I’d spent a collective 67 minutes on hold, my car won’t pass its e-test for the dumbest reason (on a redundant test to begin with) and the only flight available to get me to my destination on time includes a 17 hour layover in OHIO. I started the day exhausted, and now I was livid. It was quickly shaping up to be one of those days where it seems everything is against you, where no one is returning your calls and you’re certain there was a memo to everyone around you that it was ‘Piss off Teresa Day’. I’m all for believing in the power of positive thoughts, but sometimes you just have a brutal day. At 4pm, I realized I had to do something, if I saw one more garbage inspirational quote on facebook or poster of kittens telling me to ‘hang in there’, I was going to snap.

    I was hot and sweaty and hungry and mad. I needed a release. I needed to channel Fred Durst and break stuff. I needed the right song. Angry songs have a long and varied history; there are artists who make their entire careers off being angry and that’s exactly what I needed today. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been listening to some pretty easy rock lately but today I wanted nothing but pure, unadulterated hatred. I started out with the classics : I played ‘Walk’ by Pantera for a solid 3 repetitions before I felt a bit calmer. I then immediately switched to the anger ridden boys of my youth: Rage Against the Machine. I started off with ‘Killing the Name of’, played loud enough to irritate my neighbours if they were home. I finished it off with a full play through of the Battle of Los Angeles, easily one of the most defining albums of my adolescence. I spent a large portion of my fourteenth year making out on the couch while the RATM’s tour video played in the background.

    When the final riff of ‘No shelter’ finished, I felt better. All music is designed for the listener to relate to it, to be able to listen to it and know that someone else is going through the same thing, even for an emotion as simple as anger. RATM’s frontman Zach De la Rocha famously said ‘Your anger, it’s a gift’ and today those words and all his others were the ones that got me through it all. I know in the grand scope of things, all my problems are miniscule. I’ll figure out the car stuff, probably go on a grand adventure in Ohio and unfollow all those annoying people on facebook. If you too find yourself in a similar angry position, come on back here, press play and just rage out. Anger is a gift, but it luckily doesn’t last forever. Tomorrow is another day. 

    Music Monday June 23rd- You sound like a song I used to know

    There comes a point in every hardcore music fans life where they find themselves wide awake at 2am, unable to sleep because they can’t remember the name of a song or artist. They were out at some arbitrary party and heard a new song playing in the background and thought to themselves ‘This really sounds like…….’ But sometimes they can’t think of who this sounds like and they begin agonizing over it immediately, much to the dismay of anyone around them. They’ll say to the person next to him ‘Hey, who does this sound like to you?’ and their friend will shrug and answer ‘I don’t know’. It will become evident almost immediately that most people don’t care or pay that much attention to the musical details of life until this poor person is walking around asking anyone who will listen ‘Hey guys, who does this song remind you of, does it make you think of anyone particular?’. They will all shrug and walk away, obviously not caring or willing to lose sleep over it. This happens to me every once in a while. Luckily my musical knowledge is vast enough that I usually know the answer to my own questions, but I still occasionally find myself being tortured by the sound of a band that I know is on the tip of my tongue. Recently, a song that did this to me is ‘Under Pressure’ by The War on Drugs. I loved it from the first moment I heard it; the synth pop opening, vague lyrics and the way it sort of hummed all the way to its climax made me put it on frequent rotation this past week. But I couldn’t get past who I thought they sounded like. I lamented to my boyfriend several times that I just couldn’t finally put my finger on it until I had a eureka moment in the middle of the night. ‘It’s Don Henley!’ I thought. Raspy, Boys of Summer era Don Henley. So pleased to have solved the conundrum, I started asking other people who they thought it would sound like, certain they would agree with me. My boyfriend was not in agreeance when I shared my findings, he guessed Paul Simon. His father was certain it was Bryan Adams or Bob Dylan. My friend Zach said Kim Carnes and yet another friend guessed Rod Stewart. While I concede that these artists all share the occasional common thread (Stewart and Henley are throaty, gruff singers, Dylan and Simon can be a bit rambling in their delivery and Adams and Carnes were huge parts of the synth revival in the eighties) they are widely different. That’s probably why I love this song so much now, it takes all the best parts of so many legends, added a splash of their own brand and made us a new and wonderful cocktail. So I’m passing it on to you, maybe you’ll agree with one of the aforementioned guesses or think of a new one. Either way, if you’re one of those rare folk that gets into the musical details and you find yourself up at 2am, stuck on something you can’t think of, feel free to send me a message or tweet at me and I’ll try my best to help you out. Maybe the little things in music don’t matter to most people, but it will always matter to me. Enjoy. 

    Music Monday June 9th, The girls are back in town

    Mondays are always my writing days. In the winter, this means that I procrastinate for a couple hours, cook and do meal prep for the week and then buckle down and do several hours of writing. In the summer, this means that I go lay on a blanket in exhibition park or in my hammock for a few hours, read some really bad/really good trashy chick lit, have a 2 hour nap and then wake up in a panic and try and get my writing down while I call my boyfriend and ask if he’ll bring me dinner cause I can’t write if I’m hungry. I can’t help it, I try and remind myself that Mondays are supposed to be a priority for writing, but when the weather is nice I can’t make myself relish the idea of sitting at a computer. But today I dragged myself inside because I know you’re in need of some new summer songs and it’s my job to find them for you.

    If you’ve ever read Music Monday before, you know I am very unimpressed by anything flashy. I’m down for performing others songs and I even like a certain percentage of pop divas in my summer playlists. But there are so many things that can’t be faked and this always leaves me with a really small pool to pick from. Luckily, today I’ve got not just one, but two lovely ladies that have already improved my summer : Meghan Trainor and Chloe Howl.

    Meghan Trainor is a 20 year old singer from Massachusetts with a pretty eclectic roster of producers and performers attached to her name. Her first major single that I’ve heard: ‘All about that bass’ is incredible. It’s the perfect summer walking song for putting a little more pep in your step. It’s tinged with a retro vibe and a clap beat behind it, which is one of the easiest ways to my heart. Reminiscent of the sassy and smart vocals of Kimbra on ‘Settle Down’, this song will likely not get retired from my collection even when the weather cools off.

    Chloe Howl is a 19 year old British singer that reminded me that age has absolutely nothing to do with talent. So often I hear artists that make me think ‘they’ll be great in 5 years’. Some people need to grow into their voice, learn to control it and some people just know what they’re doing from day one. Chloe Howl is one of the latter. The first time I heard her smash single ‘No strings’ I said out loud ‘Yes, yes, yes’. It’s a killer anthem about the futility of one night stands with a great synth beat behind it, one that has been played for the past few weeks at my place at a near constant rate.

    Both of these wonderful girls have something to say, they’re not the dead-eyed pre-packaged garbage we’ve all come to expect from popular summer songs. Give them both a listen and think of me when you’re walking down the street with your shades on, looking real cool and shaking your butt a little bit or when you’re driving in your car with all your windows down or getting ready to drink beers on the patio. I’ll make sure I keep thinking of you guys when I’m trying to force myself out of a hammock or a pretty park and get my butt inside to write about music.

    Enjoy. 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om7zg-M0rZM

    Music Monday May 24th, Let me make you a mixtape

    In an age when everyone has their whole musical collection at their fingertips, the mixtape is a lost art, one that I greatly mourn. I come from the era of kids who would hold a tape deck up to the radio after waiting for 3 hours for that perfect song to come on to complete my mix. While the quality of musical gifts has so greatly improved that I guarantee that there is no kid shushing 5 of her friends in the background of a song, there is no gift more personal than a mixtape. 

    A mixtape can send several messages: They can just be a grouping of songs that someone thinks you’ll like, or a look into a new genre of music. They can be a glimpse into how someone really feels about you or they can tell a story, they can have narrative, tonal and emotional arcs. No matter what the message of a mixtape is, they all have one common, simple message, which is that someone cares enough to craft and lovingly curate a personal selection just for you. By carefully selecting and ordering their choices, often times something is created that is greater than the sum of its individual songs.

    I personally miss the mixtape culture all the time and still frequently make mixes for friends. I still remember some of my best mixes. Every time I hear ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman I’m always waiting for ‘Here’s to the Night’ by Eve 6 to immediately follow it because that was its order on one of my most favorite CD’s, a silver maxell disc with white-out writing on the front, declaring that this was ‘Teresa’s Ultimate Summer Mix’. That’s just one example, so many mixes are burned into my brain that they have permanently altered the order of my songs. I always found it so much easier to use mixtapes to express my feelings, I embarrassingly gave away so many custom CD’s to guys in high school that I had a crush on. Recently I found a cassette mix from high school that a guy made me and was immediately flooded with so much love for every song on it (once I found a cassette deck to play it in, that is).

    Today, I’m making mixtapes for a few friends. I make them for my best friends truck, he has a long commute to work and isn’t online much so he’s not exposed to a lot of new music. I’m making one called ‘Baby Making Music’ for a friend and her husband who have decided they’re ready for kids (Are y’all crazy?) and another for a friend going through some rough changes. I’ll probably never give up this dying art. The first song I’ll be putting on several of these mixes today is Airwaves by Ray LaMontagne, from his latest album ‘Supernova’. It’s the perfect sexy, breezy summer song that’s complete with Ray’s smoky voice, it makes me want to lay on a beach, have a nap with my boyfriend and drive down a hot highway, all at the same time. Here’s your homework, dear readers: Thank your lucky stars that you get to have millions of songs at your fingertips (without having to wait for some annoying DJ to play the one you want), put together a great selection of songs that tell your story and make somebody a mixtape today.

     

    Music Monday May 12th- I like that old time Rock and Roll

    On the morning I was born, my father was sitting in a hospital waiting room, listening to the Allman Brothers Band on a yellow maxell tape deck. I don’t know what song, but I like to think it was ‘Ramblin Man’ and that song playing in the next room somehow made it through his headphones, through the walls of the surgical suite and shaped the restless person I am today. For every birthday party I had, he would make playlists of music to be played in the background and as a result my friends and I danced around my pool to ‘Moni moni’ by Billy Idol, ‘Shout’ by the Beatles and there’s video evidence that I opened my presents to Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Who. There was nary a current song to be found in my childhood, my father believed the best music was made before 1980 and he fed me a strict diet of Rock and Roll, with the occasional Motown song for dessert.

    Obviously my tastes have evolved beyond one genre and while my current collection is much more eclectic that his, plain old rock will always hold the deepest part of my musical heart. Motown, metal, indie, folk and pop all have had an important part in shaping me, but they’re all just silly mistresses that pale in comparison to my true life partner: Gritty, unadorned rock banged out on some instruments by ordinary people. I want to feel like 4 dudes just walked into a garage one day, played some songs and discovered they could make magic. No glossy hairstyles, no slick websites, just music that speaks for itself. 

    Two recent bands that I’ve come across recently that perfectly embody this definition are J Roddy Walston & The Business and The Glorious Sons. Glorious Sons are somewhat local boys, this 5 piece came out of Kingston recently and their releases so far have been nothing short of magnetic. ‘White Noise’ is energetic and full of heart, it’s reminiscent of early Soul Asylum and how raw Dave Pirner was when he sang to groups of thrashing 90s kids. Their other single ‘Mama’ is also worth checking out, it makes me think of catching crawfish and willow trees and eating juicy pieces of fruit on a river dock somewhere, which is pretty impressive imagery for a Southern Ontario band to conjure up in this gypsy girls mind. I can’t say enough good things about what I’ve heard so far. They’ve only released a few songs that I’ve found, but from the production to their video execution, I love everything they’ve done so much that I’d probably work for them  and run their merch table just so I could hear them play every night.

    J Roddy Walston & The Business is a 4 piece from Tennessee that put out a great single last year: ‘Heavy Bells’. It’s coarse and sung with unapologetic intent; at times the vocals sound a tiny bit like Caleb from KOL, if Caleb smoked his whole life and somehow all those cigarettes gave him energy. My other favorite song from their most recent album ‘Tremors’ is ‘Take it as it comes’, a song I’ve been using for stress management when I find myself worrying about anything that hasn’t happened yet. The piano in it is fantastic, it mellows the song out perfectly and melts with the background vocals. They’re known for their manic live shows and Walstons ‘pounding’ style of playing the piano, so I highly recommend checking out a live show if you can (They’re in Toronto tomorrow, and ladies I really suggest finding a way there, there is just so much awesome long hair going on in that band)

    No matter which band you prefer, I hope these guys give you the same comfort that I have in knowing that good, gritty, soulful rock and roll isn’t dead at all. It’s alive and well and no matter how far this ramblin’ girl goes, you can always count on me to find it for you.

    Enjoy.

     

     

    Music Monday May 5th- The aging blues and Weezer

    There are a few signs I’ve noticed lately that signal that I’m aging at an alarming rate:

    1. I watched Pacific Rim with my friend Claude a little while ago. It’s a meathead action movie about these large transformer looking aliens that come along and destroy entire cities effortlessly and the machines we as humans build to fight them. After watching a scene where one of these things obliterates a large major city, I turned to my friend and said ‘What do you think it’s like to get property insurance in a world like that?’. He didn’t miss a beat, just replied ‘Ugh, I would not want to see their premiums’.

    2. Last week I bought a high-waisted pair of jeans and I LOVE THEM. Y’all can keep wearing your low-riding, half up the butt jeans all summer long, ladies. I’m happy being the old lady thats comfortable.

    3. I realized that  Weezer’s Blue Album is TWENTY YEARS OLD this month.

     

    Jesus. That last one was a clear indication that I was rapidly on the way to a cardigan twinset and a nice pair of slacks. I never thought I would even live long enough to say that an album that essentially defined an entire generation (one that I was alive for) is 20 years old. Because there’s ‘classic albums’ and then there’s the Blue Album. It still to this day operates on a totally different plane. From the way that the opening riff on ‘Holiday’ bursts with excitement to the unashamed insecurity of all the lyrics, The Blue Album is a body of work that can guarantee a sing along with an entire two decades of people, no matter where you are in the world.

    I could write forever about the Blue Album and how it changed my life and my hometown. About how it seemingly played in the background of every house party I ever attended. About how it gave guys I grew up with so much inspiration in their own music that it set the tone for all their musical projects for the rest of their life. About how much hope it gave everyone that a bunch of nerdy kids could be themselves and still get the girl and the record deal. About how it dealt with topics so ahead of its time, like the misogyny in ‘No One Else’ or social isolation of being in a room filled with people you don’t like in the ‘Sweater Song’. About how I drove through Rome in the middle of the night once and to stay awake we put on the Blue Album and sang the whole thing at the top of our lungs. About how the lyrics to ‘Jamie’ pretty much influenced every relationship I’ve ever had.

    I listened to the whole album today again, hoping to pick out a song that was my clear favorite for you, but I couldn’t. That album is such a collective piece of work to me, so I’m posting the whole thing. I realized though today that I seem to gravitate more to the lonely songs, which is quite statement considering the whole album is incredibly lonely. ‘The world has turned and left me here’ is about a breakup, ‘Say it ain’t so’ is self explanatory and ‘In the garage’ is about hiding out. Many rock albums allude to scars and insecurities, but most also hide behind ‘look at me now’ choruses. I think a huge part of The Blue Albums success was its authenticity; we could tell that the struggle was genuine for them, that their words came from a place that was real and we all wanted to step forward with them. There was no shiny glossy website to distract us from who they were as people: Just lonely, vulnerable flawed humans, just like the rest of us. The Blue Album might be incredibly lonely at first glance but when you look back at it and dig a little deeper, it’s actually about shedding your old skin and stepping forward. It’s a coming out of the closet of nervousness, with a guitar strapped around your chest sort of album and it has, and will always be, amazing.

    Music Monday April 21st, Panama

    A few of my lesser known ‘talents’:

    1. Speed reading (about 1500 words a minute)

    2. Making homemade ravioli (they never leak or burst)

    3. I can dislocate my right hip, which I used to do to freak out/impress boys in grade school.

    4. Unintentionally staying awake until 4am, staring at the ceiling, playing and re-playing a movie in my head that I like to call ‘All the moments I have ever screwed up‘ over and over or its fantastic sequel ‘What the hell am I doing with my life?’

    Recently, I have become quite spectacular at that last one, it’s been weeks since I’ve drifted off peacefully. I usually achieve the most clarity when I’m in motion, so today I hopped in the car and took myself on a date. I frequently forget what great little culture packed towns are all over Southwest Ontario. Today I drove for 45 minutes down two lane highways through pretty farms that are beginning to come alive until I crossed into Brant County and eventually came to Paris, On. I walked around its cute vintage shops, browsed antique door knockers I will never buy, marvelled at its grand cobblestone homes and finally treated myself to lunch in a gorgeous little cafe overlooking the grand river where I drank mint tea in peace with a damn good book.

    Afterwards I hopped back in my car, put on the latest album by Panama and drove home with the windows down, through golden fields and blue skies. I arrived feeling about 10 pounds lighter. Sometimes all you need is the right song, a bit of open road and an afternoon with your own company to clear your head. Today I’d like to introduce you to the band that came along for my ride today. Panama, a 5 piece outfit from Sydney, Australia recently released their sophomore album ‘Always’. The title track is stunning, it’s filled with nostalgia and summer and all the things that make me want to put my hands out a sunroof and feel the wind slide like jello through my fingers. The perfect cruising song, this incandescent gem will be on all my playlists this summer, make sure it’s on yours, too.

    Enjoy. 

    Music Monday April 14th- Betty Who

    “Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. And when they fly away, the  part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone.”  – S. King

    I wrote that quote in a card last weekend that I gave to my dear friend Francisco. He leaves tomorrow morning for his new life in Los Angeles and I couldn’t be more proud of him. It’s hard sometimes to be happy for a friend when their opportunities take them so far away from you. I’m so jealous already of all the people he’ll meet out there that will get to enjoy him every day. Those people that will get the privilege of listening to his hilarious thoughts & stories, laughing with him until they cry and dancing around with him everywhere: in grocery stores, walking down the street and in smoky clubs. When you’re friends with Francisco, the whole world is a dance floor.

    On Sunday we had our ‘goodbye brunch’ and ended with a small dance party/photo shoot in his bare apartment while he tried to figure out how to condense 64 pairs of shoes into a suitcase and I showed him my latest pop obsession, Betty Who. An Australian singer that’s been described as ‘the emotional dance floor wallop of Robyn at her finest, the ’80′s synth-pop sheen of Empire Of The Sun at their New Wave-iest and a bit of the euphoria of Madonna at her earliest, stuck all in an industrial-sized blender’.

    As you know, I rarely need any convincing beyond the word ‘Robyn’ to hit play on a song, but when I heard that her infectious hit single ‘Somebody loves you’ was penned in tribute to Whitney Houston’s definitive ‘I wanna dance with somebody’, I knew this girl would be someone I could get behind. Normally I don’t post official videos in this column; I want you to hear songs for the first time without being distracted by the visuals. This time I’m going to make an exception because I fell in love with Betty’s music and look at the same time. She’s so refreshing in her 80s dance studio and house party, there’s not a packaged, glazed-eyed, stick figure teen diva to be found in this video. You can tell when an artist believes in her song and is having fun singing it to you; there’s a joy that can’t be faked with fancy lighting, acting or makeup, and Betty has this in spades. 

    Other honorable mentions on her album that you should check out if you dig her sound are ‘You’re in Love‘, a song that makes me immediately feel like I’m walking on a California beach and ‘Right Here‘, a slowed-down synth ballad that showcases a wonderfully sensual side of her. So hit play and get your hands on some fantastic new pop for your summer (Even though it’s a monsoon out there today, I swear it’s coming). As for my dear friend Fran, this song is for you. No matter where you go or who you meet, no matter how lonely or scared you get out there: don’t ever forget that you’re doing the right thing and that somebody loves you. 

    Music Monday March 31st, The Great Debates

    When you live, work and play around opinionated, music-minded people, there are conversations that will eventually come out at the bar table around 12:30 every friday night. There’s the classic arguments, The Beatles vs The Stones, The best Zeppelin album, The Do We Hate Kanye or Do We Worship Kanye talk,  and the inevitable Biggie vs Tupac debate. Twice over the past weekend I found myself in the middle of old Eminem vs new Eminem debates, and it reminded me that it’s been a really long time since I’ve shared any new hip-hop with you guys. It’s not my strongest suit, I can wax poetic all day about memphis rock and motown soul and write sonnets about songwriters, but I find it harder to get my hands on good quality hip-hop these days.

    My boyfriend is a huge hip-hop kid, on any given day he can be found bopping around his kitchen to some obscure beat I’ve never heard of, and I rely on him heavily to introduce me to new music in that vein that I wouldn’t otherwise come across.  It’s not that I don’t love and appreciate it, it’s just more difficult for me to access without effort; I don’t usually go to/work hip hop shows or festivals and most of the people around me are pure rock and roll. Coupled with the fact that a large portion of popular hip hop centers around topics I don’t care for, like jacuzzis and portraying women in unflattering ways, my music collection sadly contains very little good-quality hip hop outside of the aforementioned artists.

    Every once in a while though, a few songs will come along from lesser-known artists that jump right into my collection and settle into a permanent place and today you’re getting to hear two of them. The first is ‘Alan’s Alright’ by Terence Ryan. This song has been on my playlists since I found it 2 years ago after falling down a YouTube rabbit hole one night. It opens with a snippet of one of the best Alan Watts speeches out there. He could have easily won my heart just by including something from one of my favorite philosophers, but then he blows it out of the park even further by layering his thoughtful words over a hypnotic beat that’s so multi-purpose; I bring this song on the road with me, as background music when I write and even work out to it. His whole EP is self written, produced and performed and certainly worth checking out.

    The second is ‘Till we fall’ by Doley Bernays, a young new talent from the Bronx. A tale of being robbed and seeking advice, his story flows with such lyrical promise over a gorgeous piano piece and simple drums. His ‘Just in Case’ mixtape has been released and I’m really excited to see what he comes up with in the future. So hit play, add these songs to your collection and as always, feel free to send your favorite new songs my way.

    Enjoy. 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXCJgJxItis

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsOHhrtF4To

    Music Monday March 24th, Break ups and break downs

    “Man, I was thinking about unrequited love. I figure it’s best to just walk that shit off. Find someone else to be excited about. It’s like if you love ice cream but your ice cream man friend won’t give you any. Maybe he’s got a good reason. It cuts into profits. Who knows? So don’t hang out with him. What, you ONLY like ice cream? It’s ice cream or nothing? Don’t be an asshole. Learn to love donuts”

    Every time I have a friend going through a breakup, I remind them of these words. A few years ago as everyone around me inevitably began to get married, I felt old. Now I’m at the age where people around me are beginning to get divorced, and that makes me feel really old. A divorce is like a breakup x10, with a bunch of extra garbage thrown in; three weeks ago I quietly backed out a room while watching a friend and his soon-to-be-ex fight over a kitchen strainer. My usual form of advice comes in the form of music, so I’m taking this weeks Music Monday as an opportunity to share with you my most favorite breakup songs.

    These tunes are not for the faint of heart, these aren’t salve for the deep cuts. These are for the rough seas, the time when you need to know that someone else made it out the other side. Songs are only as sad as the listener, but consider yourself warned if you’re currently going through a separation. Everyone knows the classic breakup songs, the ‘With or Without you by U2 or ‘I’ll never get over you’ by The Smiths, but these here are the lesser-known songs to put on when you’re going through that terrible heartbreak we’ve all had a taste of. Breaking up is hard to do, but I hope that these songs make it a little easier on you. Without further adieu:

    Your Winter- Sister Hazel

    I once put this song on a breakup mix for a friend and he called me and said ‘This CD is amazing, but after hearing track 10 I changed the title to ‘Songs to slit your wrists in a motel bathroom to’. (Disclaimer, don’t do that)

    Won’t come back- Donovan Woods

    I love Donovans music for so many reasons, but his raw honesty is the main one. He says things that people just don’t ever say, like my favorite line in this song ‘F*ck you too, I deserved you more‘.

    Lovin’s for Fools-Sarah Siskind

    No explanation needed on this one. There’s a million covers of this song, but I’m gonna hit you with the original. Go forth and seek others when you realize the lyrics are perfect.

    Day is Gone- Noah Gundersen

    Easily the saddest song on the list, this one is best for the ‘I’m going to be mean to myself and blame this entire situation on me cause I am the ugliest, smelliest, stupidest person in the world‘ day of a breakup.

    Fail for you- Luke Sital-Singh

    The lullaby of breakup songs, it has one of the simplest, prettiest videos to accompany its sad song.

    Song for Zula- Phosphorescent

    “I will not open myself up this way again………” Such a beautiful, haunting tune for aimlessly cruising around while you’re out driving past your former lovers house. (Disclaimer, don’t do that either)

    I can’t make you love me (cover)- Justin Vernon

    I just love the idea of JV jammin’ out in his house to Bonnie Riatt and deciding to cover these songs. This is my favorite cover of this classic breakup song, the title itself is such a simple truth we’ve all grappled with. He ends this incredible performance with a snippet of ‘Nick of Time’, another Riatt classic that is more uplifting, and that’s how I’m going to end this list. Enjoy it, use it when you need it and for my dear friend M, if you’re reading this: Hold on, darling, brighter days will be here in the nick of time. 

    Music Monday March 17th, Kongos

    A few years ago I was awakened in the middle of the night by the sounds of loud partying in the street. I was currently living in Guelph in a part of the south end that at the time had a low student population; I was actually pretty sure that the homeowners association was going to kick me out soon if I didn’t get 2.3 kids and a golden retriever. When I finally made my way to the window I was surprised to find a large group of naked, drinking men, festooned with green accessories. They were having a fine time streaking for St Patricks Day and had stopped for a quick party on my lawn. After waiting for a bit for them to clear out, they began to seat themselves on my vehicle and explore the property. As I didn’t think it wise for a single female to confront a huge group of intoxicated men, I called the cops to corral them off my driveway.  When the dispatcher asked what they were wearing, I said ‘uh, a few of them have green hats and ties, but as I said, they are naked‘. The dispatcher asked if there was anymore identifying features to help the officers she was sending find them, I tried to stifle my laughter and replied  ‘No, they are the sadly the only group of naked men on my lawn at the address I gave you’.

    I’m not a huge St. Patricks Day fan. I used to be, I went to St. Pats elementary here in Guelph and we were a fiercely patriotic school. My love of the irish has been well documented, but alas the day all their western counterparts vomit green beer on my sidewalk is not something I have much appreciation for. Besides, I don’t look very good in green. One of my very favorite qualities of music will always be its transportive qualities. I’m not just talking about being brought back to a moment associated with the previous listening of a song. No matter where you are, you can put on a particular band or song and be right where they are, especially if you know where they wrote or recorded the music. You can hear the sounds of their location and influences and be right there with them.

    Today, I spent the day in South Africa. I spent it with 4 brothers, Dylan, Daniel, Jesse and Johnny, who make up the band Kongos. The sons of popular 70s south african singer, John Kongos, they have been making music together under their moniker since 2007, but somehow I only managed to find them a few weeks ago. They’ve made huge waves in their native Johannesburg, the UK and in their adopted home of Arizona. Their eclectic, unusual sound blends African beats, Eastern European influences, and pure unbridled driving rock.

    The first song I’ll be sharing with you is their popular single “Come with me now”. Half frat-party anthem, half perfect summer song, it alternates addictive, repetitive lyrics with a storytelling voice, all laced over a strangely played accordion. It’s sounds a little weird, and it is, but done really well. The second is ‘Escape’ is certainly my favorite of their songs, it’s full of airy drums and lyrics that make me want to run away tomorrow. The third is ‘Hey, I don’t know’ and while the song is great, it’s the video that makes it truly stand out from the pack. Filmed entirely on GoPro cameras attached to instruments, it might make you a little a dizzy to watch, but gives a really unique view of their on stage show and a look into their huge fanbase. So go pour that leftover green beer down the drain (it’s gross, guys), hit play and leave that St. Patricks Day hangover behind, come away to South Africa with me.

    Enjoy. 

    Music Monday March 10th, Can we talk about auto-tune?

    Someone once wrote that the creator of Auto-tune must ‘hate music’. In reality,  Dr. Andy Hildebrand, AKA Dr. Andy, is a classically trained flautist who spent most of his youth playing professionally in orchestras. When he’s asked in interviews if auto-tune is evil, he replies “I make the car, I don’t drive it down the wrong side of the road.” Auto-tune, if you don’t know, is an audio processor designed to measure and correct pitch, giving just about anybody singing off-key a way to fix it without actually ever singing it. It’s most easily recognized in current pop hits; it frequently gives todays pop tarts that synthesized, robotic sound. On one end of the spectrum are people who dial up Auto-Tune to the max, like Cher or T-Pain. On the other end are people who use it occasionally and sparingly. You can use Auto-Tune not only to pitch correct vocals, but other instruments too, and light users can inconspicuously tweak a note here and there.

    So where’s the line? How does an artist take advantage of an advancement in technology without relying on it to create something that isn’t there? Personally, some of my favorite recordings contain huge recording ‘blunders’. There’s the live version I have of ‘Get Me’ by Everything but the Girl where the lead singer gets so emotional on the last chorus that her voice cracks as she begins to cry. Or the studio version of an old acoustic song lurking on my hard drive where a singer gives it just a bit too hard and you can hear the strain in his voice. These are all incredibly human elements that are lost when we begin to strive for processed perfection.

    We can all admit that auto-tune has essentially conquered popular music. Do we really need it? I think we can all agree that the art of music has significantly declined in the past 40 years, do we really need to buy into something that the great musicians of our time never had available to them? The auto-tune revolution is almost as big as it’s backlash. There are ‘F*uck AutoTune’ shirts available everywhere, artists will frequently and publicly shame people who use it and even Jay-Z wrote ‘D.O.A, Death of Autotune’ to shed his opinion on the issue. When I went looking for more info and opinions of the prevalent abuse of auto-tune, I came across this interesting blurb:

    “Another way you could answer the question: recorded music is, by definition, artificial. The band is not singing live in your living room. Microphones project sound. Mixing, overdubbing, and multi-tracking allow instruments and voices to be recorded, edited, and manipulated separately. There are multitudes of effects, like compression, which brings down loud sounds and amplifies quiet ones, so you can hear an artist taking a breath in between words. Reverb and delay create echo effects, which can make vocals sound fuller and rounder. When recording went from tape to digital, there were even more opportunities for effects and manipulation, and Auto-Tune is just one of many of the new tools available.”

    I don’t know if I fully buy that. There is an obvious difference between mixing, enhancing and altering. Maybe it’s one of those ‘too much of anything is never a good thing’ sort of instances; I’m sure it’s helpful when used rarely to help carry over a near perfect take that the artist loves. However, there are a couple songs in my collection that are Auto-tuned and don’t suck. I do think there is a way to occasionally use it as a way to bring something new to your sound. Everyones favorite musical genius to hate, Kanye West, did almost an entire album of auto-tuned songs. Same goes for Daft Punk, Snoop and Sufjan Stevens; they all are well known, respected artists that decided to radically alter their vocals to create something new and compelling. And my main man, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver has a well-documented, multi-faceted vocal range. But in his song ‘Woods’, he chooses a very unconventional sound for himself that curiously and perfectly captures the ambiance of his setting.

    That song, along with a new tune I’ve been rocking all week is your Music Monday this week. ‘Your new beloved’ by LoveLife. An english quartet with an unabashed affection for vocal processing, they recently released this catchy song with a simple, strong stomping drum in the back that has had me tapping my fingers. So hit play, give these songs a listen and feel free to let me know your thoughts on Auto-tune (just don’t bash Justin Vernon, I don’t tolerate that sort of blasphemous sass in my house).

    Enjoy. 

    Music Monday March 3rd, Jordan Catalano Forever

    Do you ever watch an episode of a TV show from the 90s, see a cameo by a now-famous musician or actor and instantly feel very, very old? This happens to me frequently, I’ll see a fresh prince rerun and feel 100 years old. Thanks to the inception of Netflix and TvLinks in my life, I’m able to revisit any old show my little heart desires. Recently I watched the whole first and only season of the cult-classic ‘My So-Called Life’. It starred the ‘Homeland’ famous Claire Danes as the protagonist, an angst-filled teenager trying to find her way through life and the object of her affection, Jordan Catalano. He was played by Jared Leto, the recent oscar winner of ‘Fight Club’ fame and front man of the rock band 30 Seconds to Mars.

    He was a perfect long-haired mystery man of the nineties: He wore plaid almost exclusively, listened to good music and said very little. Seriously, I read an article once that compiled every single word he said in the show and it was comprised of like 17 lines total. He was an enigma and most teenaged girls fell promptly in love with him the minute that the title character uttered ‘I don’t know, I like the way he leans against stuff‘. Not exactly a man of substance to lust after, and you probably have to watch the show, but I swear the way he changed the tapes in his car and looked into the camera would give me chills.

    Fast forward twenty years (!!) and Jared Leto is everywhere. He played several strange, critically acclaimed roles and then dropped out of Hollywood to make music with his brother. They started 30 Seconds to Mars and built an impressive following: They’ve sold over 10 million albums worldwide and have a obscenely enthusiastic fan base (I know this from the first hand experience of having bruises on my chest for a week after being in the front row of their Toronto stadium show).

    As is evident by his recent return to acting (And an incredible job in the role that won him an oscar the other night, go watch the Dallas Buyers Club, right now), he’s managed to somehow excel within both roles. So few people out there are able to act and make music well, but he has managed to do it in spades. He chooses interesting, challenging roles and plays personal, well-written music, all without compromising his integrity. As someone who struggles to be creative in just one way, I can’t even comprehend it.

    As incredible as his acting is, and how beautiful he is to look at (Did you guys see that man bun?! Just when I thought he couldn’t get any more attractive), I’ve always thought his voice was his best asset. From the way he used to softly talk to Angela in My So-Called Life to the way I first heard him belt it out on his debut album, his voice has always been an absolute powerhouse capable of making you feel whatever it is he’s thinking.

    My favorite most recent performance by him is a cover of ‘Stay’, a song made famous by a silly pop tart that I personally can’t stand. Just like everything he touches though, he transforms it. He takes it from the anthem of desperation and turns it into a proper, aching ballad. I remember the first time I heard him belt out the opening line I felt the hair on my arm stand up and whispered ‘yikes’ to myself. The second song I’d like to share with you today is one of my favorites from his band, ‘From Yesterday’ off of their sophomore album. It too, showcases his voice and the creativity they put into every detail of their music and videos. And finally, their huge single with an accompanying huge video that displays their worldwide fan base and several teenagers talking about how music has changed them. I would never put myself into a sweaty mosh pit with a bunch of rambunctious kids nowadays, but  I can relate to the last girl when she says ‘Some people believe in God, I believe in music. Some people pray, I turn up the radio’. I was at the show the Toronto crowd segment was filmed at, right up front, though I haven’t managed to spot myself in the video just yet.

    So please find those 3 performances below, just in case you haven’t seen enough of Jared’s handsome mug all over the TV and interweb the past few days. It’s strange, seeing him act on a TV show from that long ago does make me feel old, but there is something comforting in the fact that 20 years later, the same man can still  give me the chills.

    Enjoy.

    Music Monday February 24th, What’s in a name?

    I recently read a book about the power of names, specifically the ones we give our children. It explained all the ways your name can give away your socio-economic background and upbringing before you walk into a room and the trends that follow certain geographic regions and how they can partially predict the level of success someone would have.  It got me thinking a lot about band names and how much the success of a band can be predicted by a name. You ever hear a band name and think ‘Oooo, that’s a good one. That’s a name people want to talk about and wear on a shirt’? I have. I’ve been witness to the creation of several bands and one of the worst parts always seems to be naming the band. It’s this complicated process of finding something unique that isn’t too weird or unpronounceable, something that’s personal and representative of the band without seeming like an inside joke that no one gets.  Then of course there’s the legalities of it: It can’t be anyone else’s band name either. I’ve heard many a horror story of a google search gone wrong that leads to a lawsuit over who gets to keep a name that someone has been building on for years.

    I’ve seen some weird names born out of this process, names that are so strange that they can even turn me off of listening to a band. There’s some sounds that just don’t feel good coming out of my mouth, I avoid talking about them just so I don’t have to say them or think of the imagery the word invokes (You hear me, Hoobastank & Butthole Surfers? I’ve never wanted to talk about you) One band that I used to think was a bit oddly named was a 5 piece indie rock outfit out of Selkirk, Scotland called Frightened Rabbit. I’ve been having quite the love affair with them this past week, so I went digging a little deeper to find out more about the origin of their name. I was pleasantly surprised to read a most adorable story about the lead singer:

    “Scott Hutchison was a shy boy. Left in a room with other kids, he would go quiet, and for this, the story goes, his mother called him “her frightened rabbit.” Years later, less shy, he began to write songs and sing them live, then along the way he added friends to the act– two guitarists, a bassist, his brother on the drums– and with them made albums on which he howled and drank and f*cked and fought, every chord seeming to push the memory of his skittish namesake further and further away”

    After reading it and thinking of the above listed criteria, I realized that their name isn’t strange, it’s actually kind of perfect. Which is fitting, because so is their last album, Pedestrian Verse.  Full of meaningful lyrics that anyone can interpret as their own in front of full, bright rock that immediately makes me think of a really good party where the drinks are plentiful and free, no one is too drunk and everyone just wants to dance and hug each other. In every interview I’ve seen, they seem like genuinely down to earth guys that I would actually want to hang out with (or at minimum we could shop in each others closets, there is just so much plaid going on) and that really translates to the music.

    My favorite song of theirs can be found below, it’s titled ‘The Woodpile’. I suggest checking out ‘Nitrous gas’ and ‘Swim until you can’t see land’ if you’re looking to dive in a little deeper (and I’m quite confident you’ll want to). Shakespeare said that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, and even though I clearly have a lot of thoughts on how to name something,  I’m quite certain that even if Frightened Rabbit had a different name, they would still sound amazing. Enjoy.

    “Come find me now, where I hide and we will speak in our secret tongues……..”

    Music Monday February 17th, Fever Dreamer, Friends & Family

    Every couple months a few friends and I have one of our ‘movie marathon’ days. We pick out a series, get a little bombed, make gourmet food and attempt to watch them all in one day. We’ve done all the Lord of the Rings (featuring exclusively ring-shaped food such as bagels, donuts, onion rings and the crowning achievement: A circular bacon wrapped meatloaf and pineapple ring cake), Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars and even achieved watching all 18.5 hours of the Harry Potter series. Today is one of those such days, I’m currently curled up on a huge sectional couch with some of my very favorite people, I’ve been eating for 5 out of the 6 hours I’ve been awake. It’s an excellent way to spend Family Day.

    I don’t have a ton of family and what I do have are currently on the other side of the world or 8 hours north of here. It’s nice to belong to a group of people that I know I can always call no matter what, who are loyal and always have my back. A lot of people think it must be the worst feeling in the world to not have a lot of family in your corner, but it’s not. For me the worst feeling will always be seeing a friend in need and not being able to help them. I struggle a lot with being a good listener to my friends; I’m a problem solver and I sometimes get so caught up in finding the best solution that I forget that not everyone is looking for a way to fix their life. I heard a great song yesterday that reminded me of a some friends in my life right now that are going through a rough time and the helplessness that I grapple with when it comes to helping them.

    The song was ‘A month of sunshine’ by Fever Dreamer, a relatively new 5-piece band out of Dallas, TX. It’s got all the best parts of my favorite genres: Catchy alternative guitar hooks, new-school punk rock influences and meaningful, personal lyrics. I could do without the vocal processing on the opening verse, but the lead singer delivers his message with real passion and sincerity. When he sings “The consequence of broken promises, an endless list, Filled with all your problems with no intent to solve them at all. I believe that what you seek is all but what you really need, If I could bring you anything I swear to God I’d bring you peace”, I thought of a couple of my dear friends. I want to help them so much, because these people are close to me in a way that can’t be quantified by kinship.

    I guess saying that I don’t have a lot of family is kind of a lie. I do, they are scattered all over the place and sometimes there is so much time and space between seeing each other that I forget that they are my family even though they don’t have they same blood running through their veins. It doesn’t really matter what I call them: Friends or family, they’re all just as important.  I’ve got loyal ones, the ones I’ve known since childhood. There’s the ones that I call when I need to go out and party and be social with. Some of them I’ve only met once: those people I’ve met while traveling when I was alone and really needed someone, they might have been there for me for only one day but that’s what family really means: being there for people. And then there’s the people next to me right now: My only friends that are bananas enough to watch 18 hours of movies with me at one time. Right now they’re shovelling taco dip into their mouths, razzing each other incessantly and being the absolute crazy horses that they are. I love them all. There’s an old saying that says ‘You can’t choose your family’. I don’t believe that. You can choose your family, and I’m so glad that all these meatheads are mine. Happy Family Day y’all,  from my ridiculous little family to yours.

    “I believe that what you seek is all but what you really need,  If I could bring you anything I swear to God I’d bring you peace…..”

    Music Monday February 10th, The Joy Formidable

    Here’s a fun fact about me: I am missing a small piece of the top of my right ear. I didn’t have a run in with Mike Tyson, it happened due to frost bite. During one particularly raucous house party in the dead of winter in my hometown, the cops showed up. They kicked everyone out of the house without letting us call rides or cabs (this was in the days before widespread cell phone use), so all of us had to walk back to town in -43 weather. I was wearing a very trendy full-length jean skirt with a kangaroo pocket, my winter jacket, some mittens and no hat. After an almost 2k walk in the freezing cold, I had terrible frostbite on the tops of my ears and the backs of my knees. A few days later, a small piece of my ear turned black and fell off, leaving me with a permanent reminder of two things: 1) Don’t forget your hat or wear full length denim skirts to parties (or at any point in life) and 2) Don’t live places that make parts of your body fall off. 

    I’m very far away from the town that took a tiny part of my ear as a seasonal sacrifice, but I still get deep into a winter funk when this time of year rolls around. It’s that time when it seems like winter has been around forever, 85% of conversations are based around people bitching about the weather and you can really start to feel like a vampire cause you never properly see the sun. Other than the gym or groceries, I haven’t really been leaving the house. ‘It’s too cold’ becomes a catch-all excuse for everything. And the sleep! Oh man I could easily sleep 11 hours a day and still be pleased to add in a 2 hour afternoon nap. Wintertime makes me so damn tired, so much so that even after a full nights rest I’m still hitting my snooze button several times.

    The idea of getting out of a warm, cozy bed and getting ready to go outside into this arctic tundra, brush off my cold car and shiver while I wait for it to warm up is so unappealing. In the past little while, I’ve needed a little something extra to get me up and at ’em so I went looking for the musical equivalent of coffee to get me moving in the morning and put a little extra pep in my step. Which brings me to the 2-song playlist that I’ve been getting ready to every morning this past week. The first is ‘Whirring’ by The Joy Formidable, a fantastic welsh rock band. This song is the perfect ‘get up and go’ beat, my feet instantly start tapping along with the drums as soon as they hit the floor. The second is one by my favorite boys, The 1975. I know, I’ve mentioned them so much this past year and maybe one day I’ll stop, but today is not that day. The track ‘Girls’ is one of the best ones off their most recent album, it’s got great funky guitar work and a really fun 80s tinged vibe that has me dancing around my kitchen every day.

    I once read this collection of letters sent from a pioneer woman in the midwest back home to Europe. The funniest one was where she wrote to her sister about her first impressions about Americans and said ‘Can you believe there are actually people here who expect all the parts of their body to be warm at the same time!’. I always think of that when I’m particularly sick of this climate, I guess we’ve got it pretty good up here at the north pole. I’ve got a fridge full of snacks, a hot bath, netflix and some good music to get me out of bed when I can’t seem to do it myself. So next time you don’t want to get going, make yourself some hot tea, thank the stars that you have heat in your house, hit play and let these songs warm you up and wake you up. 

    Enjoy.

     

    Music Monday February 3rd, Almost Famous

    Whenever someone in the public eye dies, people always post quotes attributed to them that they likely never said. When Phillip Seymour Hoffman died yesterday (I find the automatic inclusion of his middle name so obnoxious for some reason), there were quotes and photos on every social media stream with his name attached. The best one that I saw was part of the very honest and human speech he gave to William Miller in one of my favorite movies of all -time, Almost Famous.

    He said “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.”

    I love that line. It’s so true, and makes me think of the group of male friends that I grew up with. I was such an uncool kid. So obvious, so transparent. I wanted to be liked so badly, and for some reason these boys tolerated my painfully awkward ramblings. We spent most of our time together laying outside or getting buzzed in scuzzy apartments, having really deep, philosophical conversations like ‘I see a blade of green grass, and you see a blade of green grass, but do we both see the exact same blade of green grass?’. Mind-blowing stuff. But we helped each other too, through regular teenage stuff, like breakups and parents, and the hard stuff like death and growing up and eventually, apart.

    That line also got me thinking about how annoying I find it that those words will be attributed to Phillip Hoffman (yeah, I’m not doing it) forever, when in reality they’re not his words. He didn’t write them. The line was likely written by Cameron Crowe, and his role was inspired by the real-life Lester Bangs, who was an incredible music journalist (get your hands on a copy of ‘Let it Blurt, the Life and times of Lester Bangs, seriously) that had a pretty hilarious work ethic when it came to meeting and interviewing musicians. He’s been quoted as saying  ‘I just started out to lead [an interview] with the most insulting question I could think of. Because it seemed to me that the whole thing of interviewing as far as rock stars was just such a suck-up. It was grovelling obedience to people who weren’t that special, really. It’s just a guy, just another person, so what?’.

    If someone performs a line or sings a song well, but didn’t write it, how much of it is theirs? I don’t want to take anything away from the Hoffman’s portrayal of the role with incredible vulnerability. But if Bangs inspired it, Crowe wrote it, and Hoffman delivered it, who really said it? Where does intellectual property begin and making something your own through performance or inspiration end? I used to think that songwriters had it the worst. They slave over a song, put their heart and soul into their work and they end up with their name in the liner notes. Maybe a thank you on stage if it wins some awards and the artist remembers it. While the singer-songwriter genre is my preferred one, there are some people out there in the world who can write, but not sing. There’s others who can sing but can’t write. There’s room for all of them in our diverse musical landscape, they all deserve to be heard. But there’s no denying that you likely don’t know the names of the people who wrote a lot of your favorite songs.

    I’d like to introduce you to Mozella. She’s a songwriter from Detroit, and while you probably don’t know her name, you know her work. She’s written for so many popular musicians: Portishead, B.O.B, OneRepublic and recently wrote that Miley Cyrus song that everyone and their mother has covered ‘Wrecking Ball’. She has licensing deals with Mercedes, Verizon, Amazon Kindle, Nissan, JC Penney and many more. She’s released her own albums as well, but sadly none to the recognition of the songs she’s penned for others.

    As a writer I’ve always grappled with the idea of intellectual property, of what you can truly own when it comes to your thoughts and words. I don’t think I’m the sort of person that can go through life letting someone else take even partial credit for their work. But last night I got to thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be a songwriter after all. You get to creatively flourish, have your words go out into the world for everyone to hear and you don’t have to deal with any of the celebrity fame and give up your life in order to make it happen. This weeks song is ‘Amazed’ written by and performed by Mozella. I’ve loved this song since I first heard it in a commercial years ago. When she sings ‘Your picture is on my wall, It helps me remember you and I recall, how I’m amazed I still love you the same‘ in her smoky, sandpaper-y voice I still get nostalgic for all the people still in my heart. I’d like to take this weeks Music Monday to thank those boys that let me be their weird little friend all those years ago. If Cameron Crowe, Phillip Hoffman and Lester Bangs were right and that what we share with others while we’re uncool is the only true currency in this world, then I’m glad I spent it all on you boys before I became the super-cool chick that I am today.

    No matter where we all go in life, I still love you guys the same.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpdBEYSjiKM

     

     

     

     

     

    Music Monday January 27th, Drinking, Dancing & Robyn

    On January 27th, 2005, I quit drinking. I decided to take 6 months off,  poured the liquor I had in the house down the kitchen sink and told myself I would learn to go out and have fun socially without the aid of alcohol. That was 7 years ago, and I haven’t picked it up since. This fact about me is pretty baffling to most people I meet, especially if I meet them out at a show or on a dance floor.  I get a lot of terrible reactions, they look at me like I’m an alien, and I can’t even tell you how many men have become immediately uninterested in me when they realize I likely won’t be making any drunken decisions in the near future. I get that being a non-drinker in my late twenties usually spells out a recovering alcoholic, a muslim or a buzzkill, none of which are true. It must look strange to some people that a girl can bounce around a bar, dance for hours and interact with anyone and everyone without the aid of booze, but I promise you that it’s not only possible, but damn right enjoyable. Make no mistake, I may not drink, but I likely party harder than YOU. I travel the world, meet exotic strangers, do wild and crazy things and dance all night long, all without a drop of alcohol. My entire life is one big party, and I’m happier being present for every moment of it. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling to wake up after a night of dancing and not feel like death, but it did take me a while to learn how to do it without being loaded again. We all get pretty used to the obligatory glass of liquid courage in our hands when we go out looking for a good time. In order to re-learn how to go out, I tried to emulate the girl I used to be, moving around those terrible teen dances with nothing but pure curiosity and silliness running through her veins (and maybe a bit of pot). It got me thinking of the first artist of the late 90s that really got me into dancing before I was every introduced to being drunk, Robyn.

    I first fell in love with my favorite little swedish pop tart in grade 8. You probably remember her from her ‘Show me Love’ days, her over-processed, ‘americanized’ album that had her reigning the summer charts for most of 1997. I spent a good part of that year choreographing elaborate dances to her songs with my friends that we would use to make boys notice us at dances at the Moose hall. Right after her explosion into north american culture, Robyn disappeared from my life. She didn’t put out anything I heard for almost a decade, until ‘Be Mine’ in 2005. It was catchy, but not in the bubble-gum pop way her earlier stuff was. It sounded a little more like her, like she was finally singing the lines she wrote instead of what someone put in front of her. 

    Over the years she slowly released more and more material. Every song was full of  quirky, strange beats with clever, fun lyrics laced over them, produced by people with Swedish names so long and full of vowels that I couldn’t pronounce them. I loved them all. Finally, in 2010, she released a 3 part album, ‘Body Talk’ that blew everyone out of the water and finally everyone understood why I had been slipping her songs into dance mixes for the last 5 years.

    When she hit the road and toured,  I showed up at ticketmaster 10 minutes before they went on sale, and luckily secured a ticket to the show that I knew would sell out quickly. The night of the show my roommate and I strapped on our dancing shoes and walked into one of the best concerts of my life. I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of an audience as genuinely thrilled and transported as the crowd at that show. I’ve rarely seen a singer with no expensive set or wild stagecraft connect everyone and bring down the house so hard, dance around like a scene in flashdance all while somehow managing to nail every note in her set. I took a short video of several moments in the show that I’ve added to the end of this post; it shows only a small fraction of the ambience of everyone dancing together, so in love with this woman and her music. When she finally broke into her single, and my favorite song on the album ‘Dancing on my own’, the only word to describe what happened in that room would be ‘frenzy.’ 

    For a long time now I’ve thought Robyn is the most underrated woman on the pop scene today. There’s something so great about watching someone be totally authentic to themselves in their performance, and to move along with her and everyone in that room who loved her was easily the the most memorable place I have ever danced. There are so many bigger, richer, shinier pop stars out there today and I’ve never seen any of them almost cave in a dance floor like she did that night. She’s going on tour again in the near future (I stalk her website every day for dates), and I highly recommend getting yourself a ticket to a show that I can promise will be amazing. It doesn’t matter if you go completely bombed, completely sober or somewhere in between, she will bring you a place that can’t be replicated with a substance. As for me, you know where I’ll be when she comes to town:  right there on that dance floor, sober and loving it,  just dancing on my own. 

    Music Monday January 20th- Banks & Exposure

    In the days before Twitter, People magazine and the other mediums of our constant consumption of celebrity culture, there were very few ways to find out about an musicians life. You could be a huge fan of someone and know very little about their personal life. I think my least favorite thing about the advancement of social media is the entitlement people now feel they have to know the intimate details about someones life, they want to interact with their favorite artist on such a personal level. My childhood subscription to Bop magazine let me know that Andrew Keegans favorite color was blue and he had a lizard named Blizzard (so clever), but beyond that I didn’t know and didn’t care where he did his grocery shopping or whether his father got a DUI.

    I’m usually hard pressed to find a new rising artist that isn’t totally over-exposed. I’ll hear a great song, type their name into google and within 15 minutes I can tell you where they are in the world and what they had for breakfast. The actual ‘music’ tab of their website is hidden between the links to their various social media press kit. It’s so revealing that I often find myself turned off by this over-sharing. Just like a girl showing all her skin can over saturate your eyes, I still like when people keep a little something for themselves and do things in their life just for their own enjoyment, not just for the facebook photo.

    So it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to someone today who is dare I say, underexposed. Jillian Banks, who goes by the plain moniker BANKS is a twenty something from LA that has been gaining some great momentum this past year . She’s managed to make all recent ‘ones to watch this year’ lists, toured as the opener for The Weeknd and had her music featured in several commercials without showing us 30 photos of herself lounging on a beach. I went searching for her bio online, I laughed out loud to find her actual phone number listed with a message stating she’s not into social media, so give her a call or text if you want to chat. All of her songs are filled with tense, haunting vocals over almost industrial sounding beats. Her lyrics are sung with incredible sexiness, whenever I listen to her songs I feel like she’s slinking across the room to me.

    It’s probably in poor form to start you off with a cover, but whatever, I do what I want. Her cover of ‘In your eyes’ by Peter Gabriel is wonderful and sultry; she makes it totally her own. ‘Before I Met You’ and ‘Change’ are my favorite new breakup songs, she perfectly captures the back and forth of a relationship you’re fighting for even though you know you should go your separate ways. ‘Warm Water’ is sung sensually over the simplest tiny beat that lets her voice really shine through. My boyfriend is in San Francisco right now and I can’t wait for him to get home so we can dance in the kitchen together to this one. ‘Waiting game’ is a visceral experience for anyone that has ever dated someone who tours for a living. When she croons ‘I never even see you cause we’re both on a stage, don’t tell me to listen to your song, cause it isn’t the same’, I can remember the exact frustration of a long-distance relationship on the road.

    I set out to write about 2 or 3 of her songs today, but I of course didn’t heed my own advice and have probably over saturated you. I’m not going to be sorry about that though, because if there’s anyone out there right now that deserves a little extra exposure of the right kind, it’s her.

    Enjoy. 

    Music Monday January 6th Donovan Woods & Why I’m a Jerk

    Alright readers, I got a bit of a bone to pick with you today: Ya’ll need to calm down. My social media stream is the most boring thing ever; it seems everyone and their mother have discovered that they live in Canada and it gets cold. Todays weather forecast: Heavy snow and 100% chance of everyone whining like a b*itch and forgetting to drive cautiously. Seriously, the grocery store today looks like there was a bulletin this morning announcing the apocalypse. Calm down.

    The truth is that while I’m not really a winter girl, this weather gives me an excuse to do what I really want to do anyways: Complain about things, make elaborate/weird soups, read books and binge watch british tv on netflix. This recent dump of snow that has rendered my little car purely decorative on my street got me thinking about the first big snowfall of this year. It was towards the end of November and I had plans to go review the Dan Griffin show at the eBar here in Guelph. I looked outside and thought really hard about cancelling and staying inside with a blanket and maybe a little Stevie Nicks. I didn’t though, not because I was dying to go (I’d seen Griffin play before) but because every person in my life knows I’m from Kirkland Lake and therefore assumes I am of hardy, northern stock, (guys, please stop thinking this. I didn’t live there on purpose and I have bird bones; I only like skidooing when there’s heated handgrips) so I had to go to keep up my reputation.

    I had done a little preemptive googling and was also excited to see the opener, someone I had never seen before, a Toronto musician named Donovan Woods. I spoke with him briefly when I got there and was expecting a nice run-of-the-mill ‘dude with his guitar’ set, nothing too groundbreaking. Well, as my boyfriend will be happy to sometimes tell you, I am (very, very rarely) wrong. He played an outstanding set, and peppered it with pretty amusing anecdotes about each song. By the time he got to the second song, I caught myself thinking ‘What a surprisingly charming dude’ and instantly hated myself.

    What a jerk thing to think. Why would it be surprising? Because this guy looks like everyone I grew up with I don’t think he’s got anything intelligent to say? Should he should get off the stage and go cut down a tree for me like a good little lumberjack? Is it because he’s not trotting around and dressing up like he’s a show pony for me? It was as if for two seconds I thought that burly Canadian dudes wearing plaid couldn’t possibly be introspective and witty, like they only have opinions about beer and hockey and acceptable sideburn length. Ugh, I hate even admitting these jackass thoughts, but I’m only telling you about them because I think I’m becoming so saturated with performance and everyone saying ‘LOOK AT ME ON THE INTERNET, I AM SPECIAL AND CLEVER’.

    Maybe we’re all getting a bit like this, you know? There’s so much ego out there in the musical world that sometimes it’s hard to notice someone just being genuine and relatable cause there’s so much garbage in the way. It’s so easy to get taken in entirely by looks and appearance, but we all know that when it comes down to a song that hits you in the right spot, it’s never about how they look or what silver platter they serve it to you on. Even I’m guilty of this, when I profiled Foy Vance I touched on a lot of these subjects, on the presenting of a song being more important than the song itself. So today I’ll be sharing my favorite no-frills songs of his for you to hibernate with. The first is his single ‘Put on Cologne’ and it’s just infectious. During the show, a friend said to me ‘what’s he saying in the chorus there?’ and I yelled ‘I don’t care!’ cause the alliteration of the words just sounded so good. The second is ‘Won’t come back’ and it’s a little darker, but so damn perfect and honest. I love when an artist says something so transparent, plainly honest things we’re not ‘supposed’ to say like ‘I deserved you more’. The third is ‘Let go Lightly’. We all know I’m a huge sucker for the harmonica and this song incorporates it in spades. Other honorable mentions I recommend if you like what you hear: My cousin has a grey cup ring, Petrolia and Sask.

    So hit play, check this guy out and join me in extending a big thank you to Mr. Woods for keeping us company in our little forts today. Thanks for the music and for startling me on a snowy night almost two months ago. I love being surprised by a musician, I love being taken aback by someones candid use of language, and most importantly, I love being reminded when I am a being a huge jerk. 

    Music Monday December 30th, One of those lists

    The end of the year always brings so many ‘Best of the year’ lists to my daily internet experience, and I usually hate them. So I of course, decided to make my own so there would at least be one out there in the world that I agreed with. One of my main problems with these lists is that they’re often much too long. I understand why, it’s hard to condense an entire year of musical experiences into one post. Even before I began to write today I made a list of the songs I’d like to include and I got to 27 before I stopped myself. In an effort to share my favorites of this past calendar year with you while also preventing you from glazing over with boredom, I’ve decided to share my 13 favorite songs that I’ve been listening to. Some of them were released in 2012, or maybe I didn’t find them until now, but whatever, I’m not about to start following the rules now. In no particular order, here are 13 songs from 2013 that I’ve really loved:

    The 1975- Sex

    I really can’t say enough good things about this band, but they were by far my biggest new musical obsession this year. They’re all the best parts of catchy old Jimmy Eat World with the ambiance of Explosions in the sky, all wrapped up in one adorable british bow. It took me an hour to even choose which song to share with you today, but I’m going with the popular single, Sex. It’ll have you bopping around singing ‘she’s got a boyfriend anyways..‘ all day long.  After you’re done with that, I want you to check out ‘Girls’ and ‘Me’. And maybe a couple acoustic versions of ‘Chocolate’. Look, I could (and have) write you an entire post on why you should be listening to these guys, but the bottom line is that every time you choose to not listen to The 1975, a kitten dies. 

     

    Haim-Forever

    If you’re regular reader of MM, then you’re aware that I like any song that makes me feel like I could be walking through west hollywood in 1987. This years breakout sister band did just that and in the process became one of the best selling albums of the year, thus proving that sometimes we can have nice things. 

     

    The Coppertone- Young Blood

    This song  was such an amazing find for me this year. Y’all know I’m big into driving songs and I took this song all over the pacific northwest, through tiny one lane roads in Italy and France and down highways in England, Iceland and Canada. Just listening to this song makes me feel strong and hopeful and also a little proud of her for reaching her crowd-funding goal and successfully reinventing herself.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xoPxC3TRoA

     

    Foy Vance- Regarding your lover

    Foy Vance was by far the most powerful performer I stumbled upon this year and his discography has taken up a permanent place in my collection. When you’re done being blown away by what happens at 2:12, make sure you go find yourself ‘You and I’, ‘Feel for me’ and ‘Guiding Light’.

     

    Miguel ft Mariah Carey- Beautiful

    I am such a sucker for a good summer song, one of those light breezy tunes that isn’t too deep. While Mariah Carey probably isn’t everyones cup of tea (and she unnecessarily over-sings at 1:37 in a way that makes me cringe for a second) this song is on this list for the memory it made for me. Remember how winter wouldn’t go away this year? I went out west at the end of May and it was still wet and slushy and gross. I flew into Seattle and picked up my rental car and headed out on my 4 hour drive to my destination. It was so damn hot there compared to here and I was just peeling off layers as I drove until I was finally in a tank top, with all 4 windows down. This song came on the radio and I cranked it up and for the first time it felt like summer was here and everything was going to be okay. Every time I’ve heard it since it takes me back to that moment, and that’s what music is about, right? Also, Miguel is hands down one of the best things to happen to my iPod in a while. If you’re not regularly jamming to ‘Adore’ and ‘Use Me’, then you need to take a day off work and become acquainted.

     

    I will, I swear- Long Days

    Speaking of moments, this song also is indelible in my 2013 memories. In august of this year I was waiting for my boyfriend in a ghetto train station in southern italy. His train was late and I hadn’t seen him for a while. I was just sitting there listening to music, waiting and waiting for someone I missed so much. This song was on when the train finally flew into the station and a million people seemed to come onto the platform. I’m short, so I immediately became engulfed in the din. My eyes searched around frantically for this person I wanted to see so much and I had just about become convinced that he didn’t make it when I finally saw him. I ran and we had a lovely little movie reunion moment and this beautiful, simple song was the perfect backdrop.

     

    Kings of Leon- Wait for me

    This album blew me away. I feel like everything KOL releases gets compared to their monster success of ‘Only by the Night’, but this album was just such a more complete body of work. They’ve matured so well yet let their rough Tennessee roots show through and it resulted in one of my favorite albums this year. Honorable mentions worth checking out: Beautiful War, Comeback story and Temple.

     

    The Wild Feathers- The Ceiling

    Some women dream of a ‘Man Ikea’ where they can build a perfect dude that’s strong and sensitive, one who reads poetry and fixes your truck and kills bears and then makes you a stew out of it. I dream of songs that will satisfy so many of my needs at once, and the Wild Feathers were my best find this year that managed to do that. Americana rock, country twang, gang vocals, thoughtful lyrics, on stage chemistry, pretty much every need I threw out there was met by these adorable boys. Get your hands on their album if you’re into it, and focus your energy on Backwoods Company, How, If you don’t love me, and Left my woman.

    Willy Moon- I wanna be your man

    I gave Mr. Moon a full Music Monday earlier this year, and since then this is still one of my favorite songs to bop around my apartment to, it also works wonders when cleaning the floor. ‘Shakin’ and ‘Yeah yeah’ are two other cuts worth checking out.

     

    Nneka- The uncomfortable truth

    Thought-provoking, inspiring lyrics combined with one of my favorite voice of this year made Nneka an easy choice for this list. Her Music Monday is here and contains my other choice songs by this snappy performer.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmwXaPW6wG4

     

    CHVRCHES- The mother we share

    I love when music transcends between kids and adults. Remember when a Vampire Weekend song was featured in a popular pixar movie and suddenly kids everywhere were requesting ‘A-punk’? I have a lot of friends with children, many of whom I regularly babysit. I am so not down with listening to 3 hours of ‘Dora sings with friends’ or whatever kids are into these days. CHVRCHES were my savior this year on that front, provided you got your hands on the clean versions. Every kid I had over seemed to love the beat of this album and my goddaughter has even begun singing  the lyrics of ‘the mother we share’ to her sister.

     

    Rhye- Open

    Whoo, this song is by far the sexiest thing I found this year. If you’re looking for something sensual to get you hot under the collar, this is it.

     

    Lianne La Havas- Is your love big enough

    I first saw Lianne when she opened for Bon Iver a couple years ago, she graced the stage with a single electric guitar and blew the crowd away with her huge voice. She only had a 4 song EP out at the time and I was so pleased to find her debut album this year. ‘No room for doubt’ and ‘Forget’ are the other tracks you want to get your paws on.

     

    The only other mention that I struggled to not include in this list is Beyonce’s new album that secretly dropped this month. Leave it to the reigning Queen B to jump in at the last minute and steal 2013’s thunder. Most people who read my columns aren’t hugely into power pop, but if you’re into dancing and performance art, her ‘visual album’ is perfection. There are very few performers out there who operate on that scale, who are adored the world over and mark my words, that album is her ‘Thriller’. But as I promised, I’m keeping it to 13. So that’s all, folks. Happy New Years and thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your musical lives this year.

    Music Monday Decemeber 23rd, A Very DMX Christmas

    Trip home log, 3:38 pm. My grandmother sees my nap on the couch as an opportunity to de-fuzz my favorite sweater. Earlier, she told me very subtly that she didn’t care for its appearance when she asked if I stole it from a homeless person. She has a little buzzing machine that apparently cures this hobo look by eating the fuzzballs and decided to use it while I slept off the 13 cookies she fed me for breakfast cause I’m too skinny. While endless cookies and a skilled laundress at my disposal are an absolute treat, I would like to point out that I was also wearing the sweater when she decided to run this vibrating mass along my spine, causing me to awaken in a panic.

    Ah the holidays, full of so much cheer and wonder and alcoholism and lectures about your life choices. When I was a kid I won a radio contest by writing an essay on all the things I loved about Christmas. I don’t love any of those things anymore. Christmas for adults can really suck, all the running around and trying to be cheery when the weather just makes you want to lay on the couch and bingewatch The Inbetweeners on Netflix all day long. So you get in your car 5 times a day and head towards places you don’t want to go to see people you don’t really like and what do you have to hear everywhere you go? Really crappy christmas carols. Whether on the radio in the car, on the overhead in the grocery stores or in the elevator at work, they are everywhere. 

    The first time you hear them they’re actually not terrible. You might tap your toe a little and sing a long and maybe even get the teensiest bit excited because you know their existence means that Christmas is coming. But if you’re like me, by the time December 10th rolls around, I am ready to snap if I hear another cheesy rendition of frosty the snowman. I adore Mariah Carey, and I especially like her ‘All I want for Christmas is you’ cover, but I friggin hate that song after I’ve heard it for the 43rd time this week. I really do love Christmas, I love volunteering around that time and seeing something as simple as a date on a calendar remind people to be kinder to one another. But holy hell do I hate the over saturation of christmas music during the holidays.

    So today I’m going to share with you my two favorite non-traditional Christmas carols. These are usually the only 2 I can stand by the time Christmas actually rolls around. The first is a cover of ‘Fairytale of New York’ by No Use for A Name and it’s my favorite because who doesn’t love a carol that has lyrics like ‘you’re an old slut on junk’ in them? The second is only a short youtube video, but one that makes me laugh out loud whenever I watch it. It’s a beautiful performance of ‘Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer’ by the very classical singer/rapper known by small children everywhere as DMX. Please make sure you’re not drinking any hot beverages when viewing this, the hilarity in his ‘Unnnnnn!’ will make you spit whatever you’re drinking out.

    Tonight I came downstairs before I went out, having carefully selected my most inoffensive outfit to wear. I had inspected it for threads, missing buttons, tears and swear words written anywhere on it and was confident it would be well received. My grandmother sat in her chair, eyed me like a cat and said ‘You still look like a scrup’. She has a thick Italian accent, so I said ‘Are you trying to call me a scrub or a screwup?’ She eyed me up again for another 10 seconds, grabbed my face, kissed me on the cheek and loudly declared ‘Both!’

    Haha,Merry Christmas, y’all, from my family to yours.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPXWZxtDooY

    Music Monday December 16th, For the Brits

    After spending the last 10 days in the UK, I have learned some things about the british. My maiden voyage to the head of our commonwealth has taught me the following things:

    1. They have some weird ass rules about driving. Like you’re not allowed to pass someone in the middle or slow lane if they’re driving slow in the fast lane. Can you imagine that being illegal on the 401 during morning rush?

    2. Englanders are way reserved with their emotions. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always think the north american egotistical way of living is the best thing, but I do wish the great people of the UK would show affection to something other than dogs and horses.

    3. The men. Oh god, the men. Women of London: How do y’all get a damn thing done in that city? There are so many good looking men, all walking around in these three piece suits and being so charming with their adorable british slang. And who the hell started this stereotype that the brits have bad teeth? Maybe they took it to heart or something, but every dude I saw had a gleaming mouth of white chiclets, I half expected to hear a little toothpaste commercial ‘ping’ when they smiled at me.

    4. The food is so incredible that I took on the hobbit way of eating 11 times a day. The scones! The (grossly named, but delicious) clotted cream! The fish! I had a religious experience with a falafel in Camden market and I made some pretty inappropriate sexual noises when I ate mexican street food at Jamie Oliver’s.

    5. I had heard that british rock was dead, but I assure you the music scene is alive and well in the UK. Everywhere I went, people were deeply into their musical choices. I think London gets a bad rep for being self absorbed: everyone always has their headphones in and it seems people don’t interact with others in places like on the subway or in stores. But if you look closely, they’re all tapping their feet and drumming on the side of their legs.  

    If you really sit back and think about it, the amount of outstanding music that tiny little country has contributed to our world is nothing short of incredible. The big ones are obvious: The Beatles, The Stones, Zeppelin, The Who, Oasis, Queen, Floyd. But the British invasion isn’t quite over yet. There is a host of lesser-known bands coming out of this small country that has captured my heart and my ears and I’d like to share two of them with you today.

    The first is a song by the band Theme Park. They’re a trio from London and this great tune is called ‘Wax’ and it reminds me of those perfect nights out. The ones where you’re in a bar and everyone knows the words to the song  playing and you’re all dancing and singing and laughing and your heart feels so full and you love everyone. Everything just slows down and you’re so happy that you’re right there. I had one of those serendipitous nights on my last night  in the UK and the only thing missing was this song. The vocals are so haunting and stretched out and full of love that it makes me feel fortunate about where I am every time I listen to it. The second is from the little more well-known Gomez, a well established 5 piece from Southport. It’s a lovely introspective piece, with a unique stop-and-start throughout the song that I really adore. It’s one for rainy days with thick books and hot tea.

    Whatever your british fancy is, I hope you’ll find something new in one of these songs. As for the UK, this here is my love letter to you, dear Brits. I’ve been so many places in this world that I dreamt of and so many of them didn’t live up to my fantasy. Your fine country lived up to every idea I had in mind, and exceeded them. Thank you so much for wonderful time, I’ll be back soon darlings.

    Music Monday December 9th, Advice from The Beatles

    When I was 8 years old, I asked my father what a condom was. I heard the word on the playground and wanted some clarification. Rather than try to explain it with minimal embarrassment, he pretended I asked something else and said  ‘it’s an apartment that you buy’ and I spent the next few years thinking that a condo was what you bought to have sex in, which lead to some very distorted, albeit temporary, views on who exactly could afford to have sex.

    He wasn’t so good at the speech and advice thing. In all honesty, he kind of sucked. There is only one piece of advice I can recall that stuck with me. I had come home from school very upset because a kid named Tyrone told me the poem I had written for class was dumb and he didn’t like me. I was distraught as I had stayed up late to write it, and you know that sh*t rhymed like nobodies business. He listened to me carry on for about 10 minutes and finally cut off my hysterical tears with a sigh of exasperation. He rubbed his eyes and said the words that I remind myself of all the time:

    ‘For God’s sakes Teresa, don’t worry if there are people who don’t like you or what you’re doing. There are people who don’t even like THE BEATLES

    Leave it to him to make his only good life lesson into a musical metaphor. There were 3 deities we prayed to in my house : God, Elvis and The Beatles. Right about where most people fame their wedding picture, there was a framed LP of his favorite Beatles album walking across the famed Abbey Road. I saw that picture every day when I left the house and my father once told me that we would walk across it one day to feel the magic of that place and as a result I spent my whole life dreaming of strutting across that little crosswalk.

    My father never got his wish, he only left Canada a couple of times and none of them were to the UK, but the other day I got to make that dream come true for myself. I’d like to tell you that I did it with the same grace and style as those 4 boys, but that would be a lie. I of course got super emotional and kept up my bad habit of crying in memorable music spots. I all but danced across the road, my yellow scarf flying behind me and waltzed up to the gates of the studio like I was a believer returning to church. It’s as magical as I thought it would be, from the original sign that still hangs over the door, to the hoards of signatures scrawled all over the walls surrounding it. Thousands of people still come every day to leave their mark to show how much of an impact those four british boys had on the world.

    Today I’d like to share one of my favorite Beatles songs with you, in hopes that it reminds you of the legendary power they still hold over the music scene today. It’s the song I most often turn to when I need clarity and advice; this song has fathered me my whole life with simple wisdom.  In one of the best speeches ever, Mary Schmich said ‘Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than its worth’. The Beatles gave a lot of great advice: “There’s nothing you can do that can’t be undone”, or ‘don’t be afraid, you were made to go out and get her’ or the iconic simplicity of ‘All you need is love’.  Words that told us to hope and love and make a better world, words to draw strength from in hard times. My father never gave me any of that, but  it turns out that it’s okay cause he gave me the Beatles and the only life lesson that I’ve ever really needed.

     

    Music Monday December 2nd, Always Love

    When I was 5 I told my mother I hated two things: My babysitter and eggplants. I hated eggplant because apparently no one had informed my taste buds that they were italian and therefore supposed to love eggplant parm. I hated my babysitter because she once chased me with a tennis racket into my room so she could make out with her boyfriend on the couch. My mother fired the babysitter and didn’t make me eat eggplant anymore, but she cautioned me about using that word, telling me ‘You don’t hate people’. 

    Fast forward 23 years later and I am still learning the meaning of that simple lesson. I openly hate a lot of things : black socks, hair on soap, GMOs, parking in my boyfriends neighbourhood, the word ‘schnitzel’, clamshell packaging, the list could go on and on. I try and try to be mindful of not feeling hate towards people, but I fail really miserably sometimes. Every time I end up strongly disliking someone I always hear an old Nada Surf song in my head and sometimes I sing it to myself :

    “To make a mountain of your life is just a choice
    But I never learned enough to listen to the voice that told me
    Always love, hate will get you every time
    Always love, don’t wait til the finish line…..”

    Last week I found myself in a room with a person that would likely be near the top of my list of people I disliked the most. He had made my professional and personal life very difficult in the past and we harboured a lot of resentment towards each other that we didn’t exactly hide. I was with mutual friends and our interaction was inevitable. He opened with ‘Look, I know you hate me, but……’ I let him finish, but didn’t feel good about it. No matter what went on, no matter how much I disliked what this person had done, I wasn’t okay with anyone thinking I hated them. Eventually I told him I didn’t hate him, explained my frustration with him and treated him like a human being instead of writing him off as a jerk. You know, the stuff I should have done in the first place. And when I accepted that this guy wasn’t some monster and had an honest conversation with him, something very good and very predictable happened. I saw him for what he was: Just a screwed up dude that was just trying to get by. Someone who deserved things like compassion and understanding from me, the opposite of hate.

    I didn’t fully heed my mothers lesson when she first said it, and I didn’t understand the full weight of lyrics of this song the first time I heard it 8 years ago. Hate in your heart towards anyone is still hate in YOUR heart. I’m not gonna get all chakra balancing wishy washy on you here, but I think we all know that hate is some toxic sh*t. It still poisons you in some way and eventually finds its way into everything you do. It’s the hardest thing in the world, but you gotta forgive people who have hurt you. Forgive them, even if they are not sorry. In a letter written shortly before his death, one that still makes me tear up when I read it, Jack Layton wrote “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world”.

    I’m not suggesting you go out in the world today and personify an inspirational facebook quote and make a date to cook dinner for the person who slept with your ex-boyfriend. I probably didn’t change the world because I had a difficult conversation and forgave one person. But I changed my own world in doing so, and that’s really all any of us can do. All I’m asking of you today is to listen to this song. The song that reminds me to be a bigger person, a better person than I was yesterday.  Maybe this extraordinary song will  have the same effect on you, maybe it will remind you to approach your life with benevolence, with empathy and with love, always. 

    Music Monday November 25th Dead bodies and Dancing

    True story: My best friend Amber and I once found a dead body in the middle of the desert in New Mexico. We had driven to a dusty little town to finally see the awe-inspiring rock formation called Shiprock. It’s got a ton of cultural and religious legends surrounding it; the souls of the dead are said to live at the top of the rock. Armed with letters for lost loved ones to burn at the base of the rock and some fancy cameras we set out down a dirt road that appeared to run right into it. We stopped the car when we got close and as I was getting my camera out of the bag at my feet my best friend slammed her car door shut and started screaming ‘lock your doors!!’. I looked all around frantically while hitting my door lock until my eyes finally found a pair of legs sticking out onto the road behind us. ‘Is that a dead guy?’ I asked her? She yelled ‘I think so!!’ at me and turned the car around. I peered out the window as we passed him, holding a pillow in front of her face so she could concentrate on driving, and saw the poor guy in full view. I’ve worked in hospitals for a long time and seen plenty of corpses, but nothing prepared me for the sight of a young man so obviously murdered.

    It’s a crazy story to tell now, and we’ve managed to re-tell it with a humorous spin, but at the time it was pretty traumatic. Amber had dropped her CD case out of the car in panic when she saw him and we had seen too many episodes of CSI to be leaving something of ours next to a murder scene, so we drove straight to the police station. The reporting process was awful, the police were awful, the whole damn thing was awful. We left as soon as we could, stopping only on the side of the highway to light the candle we had brought with us for the man we found, with Shiprock looming in the distance.

    As selfish as it sounds, we were both really devastated at the effect it had on our trip. We felt cheated out of the experience of this place we had dreamt of visiting for so long. For the first time in our travels, we felt unsafe. After an uneasy night in a sketchy motel where we rechecked the locks about 50 times, we hopped back in the car and headed for the next bucket list item on our trip: The Grand Canyon. We were still excited to see it, but the tension in the car was palpable. We were both upset and a little sad and not any of the emotions you want to be experiencing as you finally go somewhere thrilling for the first time. After an hour or two of us staring out our respective windows, I pulled the car over. When she asked me what I was doing I ordered her out of the car. I opened all the doors, put on ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ by Whitney Houston and cranked it. I got out and said ‘Listen, I know this sh*tty thing happened to us, but we’re about to do something we’ve always dreamed of, we gotta shake it off. So we’re gonna dance it out’. So there on the side of an Arizona highway, two girls danced around like maniacs while passing motorists honked and stared at us.

    I won’t say that we never thought about that awful experience again after that, but we both got back into that car feeling a little better. Dancing is cathartic and sometimes it’s exactly what you need to get through something. I’m in need of a little dancing lately. I had a bit of a telltale sign that I was stressed and due for a dance came when I cried in my dentists office the other day (and not from pain). So today I’ll be sharing my favorite songs to have a purifying dance with. The first is my new obsession, a song called ‘Dance a little closer’ by synthpop duo Holy Ghost. The bass line is so damn catchy that my shoulders and hips involuntarily start moving the second it starts. The second is a given in the theme of cleansing songs, Florence + The Machines ‘Shake it off’. I listen to that song all the time, but especially when I need reminding that things are only as big as I make them.

    The third is the aforementioned ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ by Whitney. I love hearing it now and thinking of those two brave girls dancing on the side of a desert highway, not letting anything ruin their trip. Not just because of its legendary singer or great beat, but because it reminds me of the power of music. That dancing to the right song can fix just about anything. Next time you’re having a bad day, I want you to come back right here and press play. Grab your best dancing partner, or a broom or nothing at all and dance it on out. 

    Music Monday November 18th, Lullabies for Insomniacs

    When I was a kid I used to stuff books in between my mattress and boxspring. Thin books that I could read by the glow of my virgin mary nightlight (hello catholic upbringing) after I was tucked in, because even as a child I could never seem to get to sleep at a structured bedtime. It just didn’t feel natural to go to bed that early. As I got older I began to hate morning classes and early shifts, never feeling quite like I was supposed to be alert at that hour. Eventually I just accepted that I was a natural night owl. I took jobs that allowed me to sleep in and if I somehow got stuck with an early shift I would just stay up all night and go to it, it seemed to work better for me that way. I do my best work in the middle of the night, when most of word is asleep is when my favorite writing usually happens. Somewhere between 2 and 4 am there is that magical witching hour that I love.

    Occasionally my 2-10am usual sleeping schedule goes completely off the rails when my jerkface friend insomnia drops by. Since I was about 8, every once in a while I will not be able to sleep for a few days. I’ll lay there looking at my ceiling and and toss & turn and eventually think of every awful conversation I’ve ever had. This will go on for a couple days where I’ll get 2 hours of sleep every night and then I’ll go back to normal. It’s just my rhythm, but it’s still annoying. I’ve tried most home remedies : Melatonin, hot tea, lavender baths, the home shopping channel, but none of them seem to work as well as my trusty sleep playlist.

    I made it years ago before a long road trip. In addition to my wonky sleep schedule I also like to be totally high maintenance about sounds when I sleep and prefer to have a fan blowing white noise at all times. I draw the line at lugging a fan in and out of a hotel every night though, so I made a playlist for myself to have something to fall asleep to. I called it ‘Shhhhhhhh’ and I’ve listened to it so many times that my brain associates it with sleep now. Sometimes when I’m going through a rough few days with sleeping (i.e. right now), I’ll put it on and 9 times out of 10 will be asleep in a few songs, they’re my grown up lullabies.

    The first song I’d like to share from my playlist is called ‘We move lightly’ by Dustin O’Halloran. He is an incredible pianist and composer that has written the score for several ballets and movies, plus released several highly acclaimed studio albums. All of his work is light and airy and winds me right down. I highly recommend checking out his immense and beautiful body of work if you like what you hear.  The second is called ‘Last night I heard everything in slow motion’ by Oliver Tank and it’s moody and full of harmonious strings. The third is by the often underrated Explosions in the sky. Yes yes, I know instrumental music is not everyones cup of tea, but let me assure you that you won’t miss lyrics at all. While this sounds totally clichéd, they make what feelings sound like. I listen to them often when writing or reading and they comprise a large part of my sleep playlist. They’re currently on tour with Nine Inch Nails and they manage to produce an incredible ambience at live shows; get your butt to their show if you have the chance.

    It sadly gets dark outside at 5pm now and you’d think that this perpetual darkness would make it easier to sleep, but it doesn’t seem to be the case for me. Just in case you’re in the same boat as me, I hope my sharing of a few songs from my best-loved playlist helps you catch a few z’s. So hit play and if you like what you hear, get your hands on a few of these albums to help you along the next time there’s a pea under your mattress keeping you awake. As for me, I’m off to have a bath filled with lavender and then hopefully catching up on some sleep.

    Goodnight y’all, enjoy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wth05NWtbZU

    Music Monday November 11th, Rudimental and Choices

    When you’re somebody who likes to show people music, there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to choose the version of a song that you like best. Sometimes I really like the acoustic, original and remix version of a song, but I’m probably not going to be able to hold an audience in my car for 3 separate songs while I annoyingly point out small difference between them all. There are songs among my collection that have 8 different versions: the B-side, the cover by 3 other artists, the ‘in studio’ sneak peek, the ‘unreleased’ cut. I love them all for different reasons and sometimes when I’m picking my Music Monday song it takes me an entire day of playing them all before I can make my choice.

    Choice.

    That’s a word we use all the time without really thinking of the meaning behind it. We make hundreds of them every day. What to wear, what route to drive to work, what to eat for lunch, what show to binge watch on netflix this week, what time to go to bed, what music to listen to. So many tiny little decisions that make up our days are made without ever stopping to think of how lucky we are to get to make them. It’s Remembrance Day today, and it got me thinking that when my grandfather was my age, he was in a post-war Europe after spending 4 years as a gunner for the army artillery. He had 4 pieces of buckshot permanently lodged in his butt from someone being shot in the head next to him and was spending the last few years of his service driving around Europe from country to country, returning stolen goods like cars, art and jewelry to their owners that had been taken by the germans. In contrast, today I spent a few hours playing with cute 4 year old kids, made some killer mexican food, went to the gym and then lamented for 30 minutes over which version of a song to write about for a blog.

    I’m not trying to sound obtuse by pointing out the huge gap in the parallel between the life of my grandfather and myself. My point today is that he did all that stuff because he wanted to make the world a better place. Because even though he never agreed with war, he saw some way he thought he could help with and make a difference. He did this so that maybe one day people wouldn’t have to think about war in their daily life, and people like his own granddaughter could spend her Monday eating and writing whatever she wanted to instead of trying to not get killed.

    It’s easy to forget how incredible fortunate we are every day to be able to go about our days in whatever way we want to. I’m so lucky to do what I love every day, and to be able to share it with others. This week I want to share 3 versions of a song that fit perfectly with this theme. The song is called ‘Free’ and it’s by a group called Rudimental. They’re a british quartet that usually produce music in the electronic dance category, but they particularly shine with this song. The first version is the original and its vocals are performed by the lovely Emeli Sande featured in an incredible video to go along with it that seriously reminded me what an amazing place we live in. The second version is the in-studio stripped down version and it features a singer called Anna Marie performing alongside. While the original is powerful and danceable, this version showcases the raw message of the song. And finally, the 3rd version is also a live version that features something pretty special, and her name is Becky Hill. She’s got a crazy sandpaper voice that really makes the song her own, which I love.

    In todays complaint-driven society it’s easy to fall victim to constantly bitching about your life, your friends, your country. But today is a fine day to step back from that and be thankful that you’re alive and you live in a place where your friends aren’t getting their heads blown off everyday. So hit play and listen to this song tell you remind you how lucky you are too when they sing ‘trying to find my way someway, but at least I am free, oh I am free’. Give all 3 a listen. But no matter which one you decide you like best, I hope you feel lucky today to have that choice at all. 

     “Maybe something’s wrong with me, but whoa, at least I am free, oh, oh, I am free…….”

     

     

    Music Monday November 4th, Foy Vance

    Ernest Hemmingway said ‘Writing is easy. All you have to do is sit at a typewriter and bleed’. My creative process isn’t hard enough to invoke such heavy imagery, but there are days (like today) where I sit at a blank screen for an hour trying to figure out the best way to present a new artist to you. I always wished I could be one of those writers that seems to churn out a book every year, the ones sitting at coffee shops with their fingers flying over the keys with so many thoughts they barely have the time to get them all down. In hopes that it would stir up an introduction, I thought of a bunch of words that can describe Mr. Foy Vance and why you should check him out today, but I’ve already written this year about being a passionate performer, about sexy songs, about not having the words to describe someone and even about my love of the Irish.

    Then I realized that the reason I love writing Music Monday for a company as great as Music Lives is because they let me write the exact same way I would talk to you in a bar. I’m never gonna say sh*t to you like ‘the syncopated fizz of the second verse really dramatically shifts the aesthetic of the chorus’. Ack, I hate that sort of music writing, the kind that makes me think someone just sat around with a thesaurus so they could write a snotty article where they call a band ‘somber’ in 7 different words, no less. When it comes to writing and music I have a real appreciation for people who just keep it simple. I always want my recommendations to you to feel like I just slipped a CD into your purse when you weren’t looking with a post-it on it that says ‘I think you’ll like this’ or a random YouTube video in your inbox in the middle of the night.

    So in an effort to keep it uncomplicated, I’d like to introduce you to someone that has keeping things simple in spades. Foy Vance is an incredible performer from Bangor, Ireland that I found last week. In a world where everyone seems to be bringing their most complex show pony game to the table, he’s still practising the gold standard of musicianship: Playing his instrument beautifully, real lyrics and passionate performing. I’m not kidding about that last part, the first time I heard him sing the line ‘That’s the way I held you’ around 2:12 in his song ‘Regarding your Lover’, so much emotion flooded the room I was in that I said ‘Jesus H Christ’ under my breath. It affected me so strongly because he sang that line in such a way that it makes you think of someone you’ve held. That’s what real music is about. You don’t have to play anything intricate, you don’t have to take off your clothes or try and be controversial. You just need to write real lyrics about things that matter to you and perform them vibrantly and intimately. That’s what people connect to. 

    I’ve went over his entire discography in the past few days to pick out the best songs to show you his range today and found nothing to complain about (Okay, maybe one complaint today: I just discovered he’s playing in Toronto on Wednesday and it’s been sold out for weeks. Are you reading this, Mr. Vance? Release more tickets!).  Through and through, every song is special, well-written and wonderfully performed. The first song is the aforementioned ‘Regarding your Lover’ and it’s raw and powerful. The second song is called ‘Feel for me’ and it’s tinged with a folk-soul sound like old Ray LaMontagne but with a sexy twist that has been making me wish for a slow dance all weekend. If you like what you hear (and I’m pretty sure you will), I recommend checking out ‘You and I’, ‘Janey’ and ‘Closed Hands, Full of Friends’ as well. So hit play, take a listen and let Mr. Vance show you why it’s always best to keep it real and keep it simple. 

    Music Monday October 28th, I put a spell on you

    I haven’t been trick or treating in at least 15 years and I can still remember all the ‘best’ houses that were in my neighbourhood. There was the house 5 doors down that had the full on sound effects, the shrieking back track that terrified you all the way up to the door where a zombie would jump up from the hedges and scare the beejesus out of me. I remember walking out of the way so that we could hit the townhouses on Victoria & Woodlawn because less walking in between houses meant maximizing the amount of candy we could get in our limited time. When I spent a Halloween up north I recall being irritated that I had to wear a snowsuit under my costume but quickly got over my anger when I reached the top of Hillcrest drive. The owner of the house owned the magazine distribution company in town and he would fill his entrance with stacks of Archie comics and a note that said ‘help yourself’. For this voracious reader, it was a eye-widening heaven that I have never forgotten. As a true testament to my geekdom, I even dumped out a quantity of candy so I would have room for more books. 

    Out of all the houses I remember, there is always one that stands out in my mind. It had no elaborate decor, no gravestones or even carved pumpkins. Just a light on, some halloween music playing from inside the door and a suburban family on the other side of the glass. But they will always be the greatest house of all in my mind because they gave out FULL SIZE CANDY BARS. Not weird off-brand stuff either. Legit, brand name whole packs of smarties, butterfingers galore and entire coffee crisps that I swear were as big as my arm. It was the coolest house ever and they became legendary in my neighbourhood as the house you just had to get to. 

    I miss that childlike wonder of Halloween. Last week I was in the Boston area and went up to Salem for the day to check out the scene there and was pleasantly surprised at how much even adults still embraced the Halloween spirit. It’s always such a bummer to grow out of childhood activities; I still remember the awkward year when you know you’re too old to go out trick or treating but go anyways because even though you’re emotionally immature you know that this is what people call growing up and you can’t bear to say goodbye to all this fun. So in an attempt to get myself into the Halloween frame of mind, I’ve been listening to my favorite Halloween-appropriate music. The first song I’ll be sharing with you today is the best version of the classic ‘I put a spell on you’. Joss Stone puts a sultry, sexy spin on the ballad and her sandpaper voice gives it a fresh sound that makes it seem applicable for a Halloween party or even a striptease. The second is the timeless ‘Ballroom Blitz’ by Sweet that will probably make you think of Wayne’s World a little, but should also make you realize that now that we’re adults Halloween can actually be better because we’re old enough to party in our costumes. If you  lost the Halloween spirit a little this year too, let me offer you some advice. Don’t worry about your decorations or even your costume. Put these songs on your stereo, get off your wallet, spend a couple extra bucks and buy the king-size candy bars this year and kids will remember it for the rest of their lives. 

    Happy Halloween!

    Music Monday October 21st, Alt-J and What I miss

    If you ask anyone who travels a lot what they miss the most when they’re away you will likely get an answer about food or their bed. The gypsy life can be a great thing, but there is something to be said about coming home to your own space. The things I miss the very most when I’m away are my bed, my VitaMix, my neti pot and my computer, not always in that order. My bed for obvious reasons, my vitamix for my daily smoothies and hippy creations and my neti pot because when you suffer from allergies the most glorious feeling in the world is shooting salty water up your nose. My computer comes along with me sometimes, but that’s not without its struggles of finding reliable internet, being constantly paranoid about theft, ect. The main reason I miss my little mac is not for the social media or access to top british tabloids but because I miss its connection to my music collection and all those songs I know are out there in the world just waiting for me to find them.

    Whether I’m standing in line for the bathroom in Armadillo, TX or getting gas in the middle of Iowa, I’m the sort of person who is always listening to the background music. Some of my favorite songs have come from holding up my phone to record a clip of a song playing in an elevator or on a college radio station. Whenever I hear a new band and finally get in front of a computer, I obsessively google and find entire discographies until I come up for air an hour or two later like a frenzied addict. I hate the feeling of being away and not having access to a song that I really love. I once went to 6 different record stores in Louisiana trying to find an album that was apparently too obscure to be carried and desperately missed the quick access I have at home to easily find and download any album that I want.

    Whenever I’m away without steady computer access I always return home with a little list and can spend an entire evening working my way through it. The quartet I’m going to introduce you to today came from one of those very evenings. I first heard a snippet of their song on a trip through California, their dynamic and experimental sounds were playing at a funky cafe that overlooked huge cliffs in Big Sur and perfectly set the ambiance for our lunch. I’ve been following them since, and their popularity has grown exponentially with their debut full length album; in the past year alone they’ve played Coachella, Lollapalooza, Glastonbury and Osheaga.

    Whether you’re in the mood for something smooth, sexy or just downright weird, Alt-J has something for you. Today I drove home from Boston and arrived absolutely exhausted. It’s dreary out, I have to unpack, get ready for a busy week and I’m pretty sure I’m actually allergic to the entire state of Massachusetts. I’ve got a song for everything so I put this album on and let the sleepy sounds of ‘Tesselate’ help me wind down and the primal sounds of ‘Taro’ help me get things done. The video for Taro is especially wonderful, and whether or not you like the song I think you’ll appreciate its beauty. No matter what you need right now to help you finish your Monday, I hope one of these songs can help and I hope that no matter where you are when you find something you like, that you always have a way to find it again.

    Enjoy. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw7SViv3uP8

    Music Monday October 7th, The Wild Feathers

    Between interviews, online submissions and press packages, this tour manager has filled out a couple band biographies in her day. They usually consist of the same stagnant questions asking you to sum up the entire band on a line that has room for about 11 words. Somewhere towards the bottom there is always, always the dreaded question ‘Who are your musical influences?’. It’s  a tough question to answer because whatever  you put down will automatically be compared to your current sound and categorize you. Saying you’re influenced by a certain someone can be a tough thing. You want to the world to know that this person made something that helped you be who you are today, but never that you’re trying to emulate them.

    So how do you allow yourself to recognize your influence?  Where does paying homage to a group or genre stop and how do you emerge from it and bring something new to the game? It’s a tough balance, one that I’m sure you could recognize if someone is doing it wrong. It’s probably not fully on purpose, sometimes people just love a band so much that they end up sounding a little like them. But anyone who frequents live shows can tell you about a time when they caught a new act and found themselves asking ‘these guys sound a lot like_______. Wait, is this a cover band?’. It happens all the time, and I think learning the balance between influence and tribute is an true art, especially since most of my favorite music comes from the eras of long ago.

    So today I’d like to introduce you to my favorite new da vincis of this difficult art form, The Wild Feathers. In every piece of press I have read about these guys they seem to be compared to someone else. Petty, The Band, The Eagles, Neil Young, basically any great american rocker of the 60s or 70s has been listed on every article they’ve been mentioned in, or the fact that they’ve opened for Bob Dylan. It’s like one big name-dropping party out there when it comes to writing about these guys. They are certainly part of this great revival of Americana spirit rock that I am just in love with, but there’s so much that sets them apart from their predecessors.

    I got their album late last week and was so happily surprised to love the whole thing. Full-bodied, rich harmonies are the star of it, each of its 4 vocalists have a different variance of raw, powerful voices. From start to finish, I have no complaints (Okay, the writer in me has one complaint regarding the lack of biography info available on the interweb about these guys. If TWF are reading this, call me, I’ll write it for you, I know the important questions to answer. For instance, who is that darling blond bearded fellow that comes in at 4:30, aka the best part of the song, on ‘The Ceiling’? What’s his name? More importantly, can he come sing to me at my house?). The Ceiling is the first song I’ll be giving you today, it’s their single and for good reason. It’s the song I’ve been getting ready with in the morning, it’s just enough to pep me up without feeling like a bad alarm clock. The second is ‘Hard Wind’ and it’s the type of song that makes me want to put on my beat up cowboy boots and go kick some ass. The third is only a trailer for their album, but features my other favorite song from the album ‘How’, which is a perfect showcase for the softer, soulful side of these boys.

    We all owe a debt and gratitude to the people who came before us, the ones who took the road less traveled and paved the roads we stand on. It’s important to not forget that. But it’s more important to realize that the best way to say thank you is to go out in the world and create something new, to take that road even farther. I think that’s what these boys have done perfectly and I’m betting that one day in the not-so-distant future, some new band is going to get asked ‘Who are your musical influences?’ and they will answer ‘The Wild Feathers’.

    Enjoy.

    Music Monday September 30th My Very Favorite Song

    Most people who are heavily into music would be aghast if you ever asked them what their favorite song is. They get all Shakespearean on you and say something ridiculous like ‘I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens!‘ or  ‘you cannot possibly love the intricacies music if you have an absolute favorite song’. I’ve been asked if I had a number one song before, and people are always surprised when I answer yes. I have almost 50,000 songs in my collection, and within that anthology is the song that I would take with me if I could only take one to a deserted island : Crash into me by The Dave Matthews Band.

    Dave Matthews is not my favorite band;  I don’t think I own enough pairs of Birkenstocks to even be considered a true follower of DMB. But no matter how many new bands and songs I fall in love with as the years go on, that’s the song that remains the most magical thing I’ve ever heard. I first heard it at a school dance when I was 14, I remember being frozen in place with a stupid cheshire cat grin on my face. I knew then that I would love it, but not the impact it would have on my life. I loved its simple drums, its whimsical chimes and its gorgeous lyrics about falling into someone.

    It was used a couple years later in an pivotal scene in one of my best-loved tv shows, it was actually one of the songs the show paid big bucks for in licensing to keep in the DVD sets years later. It has played at the grocery store when I was having a bad day, while walking by a cafe on the way home from a breakup, and it was playing in the background at a party the first time I met one of my best friends. It has followed me through life, playing in all my pivotal scenes. Just like a good friend that always knows what to say, it always shows up somehow when I need it the most. I love it so much that the photo above is a pillow that friend a friend had made for me, it sits atop my couch and makes me smile all the time.

    I fell in love with this song when I really believed in the magic of life. I still consider myself a very positive person, but its so much easier to be hopeful when you’re young. To this day, no matter what is going on in my life, I can put this song on and the first three notes will easily take a little weight off my chest. This past week I feel like I’ve been moving in molasses. I hate this interim period of the seasons, it’s too damn hot for a sweater and too cold for a tshirt, and all that means is that winter is coming and I have got some big decisions coming up that I need to make soon. As a result I’ve had one of those weeks where you’re going through the motions of life, but not really enjoying it. Like I’m in a play and all my character has to get up and make food and do dishes and pay bills. So today in an attempt to snap myself back into participation, I found myself listening to this song. It instantly made me feel better, almost cleansing, and that my friends, is something special. Something so special that it led to my decision to share my very favorite song with you today. I hope you love it, and I hope that you too have a special song that always makes you believe again.

    Music Monday September 23rd, Let’s talk about sex, baby

    I remember being fascinated by the transition of taboo in music when I was growing up. I remember the first time hearing ‘sh*t’ on the radio. I remember the subtle, gradual descent of so called ‘naughty’ language in lyrics. I remember how rocked the world was when Madonna got up on stage and sang and danced about sex in an explicit manner; it was so unheard of at the time that the whole world talked about it for weeks (we still do!).  When I was young, talking about sex in a song was usually implied, but never implicitly stated.

    Back then, if you wanted to tell a story about something sexy, you might say something vague like ‘I wanna lay you down’ or ‘Can I get next to you’. Now, people just write songs about being in backseats with lyrics like ‘her body got that ass that a ruler couldn’t measure’. I’m not hating on Kendrick or anyone who has subscribed to the in-your-face style of writing songs about something we all relate to and experience. But I will say that I miss the ambiguous nature of talking about this subject in music. In a world where very few things are private and taboo anymore, a world where shock value can have more merit than a sacred art form; leaving something to be desired can be a good thing. It’s the difference between a girl dressed provocatively for all to see and a girl in well dressed clothes that compliment and cover her curves; one is immediately gratifying to look at, but the other leaves you wanting more and wondering what’s under there.

    So below, please find a collection of my very favorite so called ‘sexy songs’. I don’t call them that because you have to ahem, be sexy while listening to them (though they all would be more adequate for that), but because they’re all so sensuous . Sometimes I listen to this playlist when getting ready for date night, or my boyfriend and I will throw it on when we’re cooking dinner together. All these songs are suggestive and intimate, but not in a straight forward ‘this is baby-making music‘ sort of way.

    The first song ‘Open’ by a duo called Rhye is one of my favorite songs by 2013. It’s light and inviting and full of lyrics I adore like ‘I’m a fool for that sound in your sighs, stay open, stay open’. Song 2 is one that may have graced your ears already, Miguel has been tearing up charts and winning awards all year long. Written on a plane ride home to see his wife after a long trip, ‘Adorn’ is one of my favorite new sexy beats, it’s perfect for flirting and dancing and I love the little Michael Jackson-esque ‘Wah’ sounds throughout. Song 3 is by Fink, the acoustic maven I gave a Music Monday to a while back. It’s called ‘Perfect Darkness’ and it’s dark and rich and intense. I can’t make a list like this without a mention of  Al Green. ‘I can’t get next to you’ is one of my favorite songs of his and a true example of why he is one of the original kings of sexual subtlety. And my final treat for you is from local Toronto boy, The Weeknd. His voice could make anything sound sensual, but this one here is my favorite to have playing in the background. So hit play, go find yourself someone to listen to these songs with, and have yourself a sexy day. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTqUaeDL0pk

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuqXvIoxpQc

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptwoTiWk38Y

    Music Monday September 16th, 2013, Brothers & Sisters

    As an only child, I spent a lot of time wanting siblings for 2 main reasons : One, so I had someone to blame when I broke something (I had no animals either), and two, so I could start a band with them and travel around like The Partridge Family. From the Jackson 5 to The Everly brothers, The Allman brothers band, Van Halen, AC/DC and my childhood favorite, The Beach Boys,  a lot of my favorite bands were all siblings that worked and played together. Even in the last decade or so, pop & rock bands like The Moffats, Hanson, Oasis and Kings of Leon have kept the brotherly love alive in the music world.

    But other than the two Canadian sisters (identical twins no less!) that make up Tegan and Sarah and Wilson Phillips, I can’t think of as many groups comprised of sisters. Until now, anyways. Enter Haim. Pronounced ‘Hyme’, which is also their last name, it’s made up of 3 sisters from Los Angeles : Danielle, Este and Alana. They used to play in a band they formed with their parents (!) but have recently been playing solo with a drummer named Dash that they call their ‘Mister’. They’ve steadily been releasing singles in the past year, building an audience and a lot of hype for their upcoming first full length album, Days are Gone, which is coming out September 30.

    All 3 sisters are multi-instrumentalists, they all play the drums and guitar and a host of other instruments, as well as all three contributing to vocals on the album. As a result, these sisters have managed to create a sound that’s reminiscent of late 70s rock, with 80s tinged roots, like Stevie Nicks with a leather jacket instead of a tambourine. It’s a glossier, sassier rock than that of its predecessors, but one that feels organic, like it was created in a basement or garage instead of in a recording studio.

    In today landscape of over-produced pre-packaged music, the ladies of Haim (and their mister) are a breath of fresh air. Three rocking girls banging on real instruments, emulating rock gods instead of the latest celebrity craze is refreshing, and should be acknowledged and celebrated. So please find below my 3 favorite songs from my new favorite sisters, and if you were lucky enough to be born with a sibling or two, give them a call today and say hello, maybe see if they are interested in starting a band with you.

    Enjoy.

    Music Monday September 9th, I love you, Guelph

    When I was 16 years old, I left home and moved to Guelph, Ontario with first and last months rent and an extra $200 bucks in my pocket. I convinced a landlord I was 20, rented an apartment and settled down in the city that had stolen my heart years prior. I lived in Guelph when I was a kid for 10 years and loved it fiercely; I was always a very active kid, and Guelph provided a rich array of activities for me to partake in. I took 2 kinds of dance, was in reading groups, piano lessons, a yearly drive for the food bank, and like every good Italian-Guelphite kid, I took Italian lessons at Sacred Heart on Saturday mornings.

    I knew then that Guelph was a special city, and its diversity and acceptance were the sole reason that I plotted and eventually carried out my return. I’ve never regretted my decision since, and every time I step off an airplane or see the ‘Welcome to Wellington County’ sign when I come back from a trip I’m glad I chose this place to make my home. My feelings of love stem beyond its availability of community activities for children, it’s much deeper than that.

    Yes, I love that Guelph loves the arts as much as I do, but also that it values them. Being a creative person in Guelph is something that is welcomed, revered and celebrated, and that is so very rare in a city this size. I love that live music is a priority for this city, that steps are taken to make sure that musicians come to our humble little abode and enjoy their time here. A response I hear so frequently from people when I mention a show in Guelph is ‘Really, they’re playing Guelph?!’ and I know that the answer is yes, yes they are playing here because we will come out and see you and buy your merch and tell you that Pierre’s is the best place to get a poutine after your show. We may even join you for it. I love the abundance of organic food, of people who care about what they put in their bodies and what impact we have as a city, as people and as humans have on our planet. I love that this city is big enough to be able to go out and not run into any one you know if you feel like being anonymous, but not so big that you run into every ex you’ve ever had.

    But most of all, I love the people that care about this city as much as I do. I have lots of friends who have lived here all their lives and are always complaining about Guelph and wanting to leave. I get the desire to leave and find something new, I totally do, but I don’t think people realize how truly great this our little town is sometimes. This is a city that always wants to share what we’re passionate about. This is a city of people that care, whether it’s about food or the environment, or music, we care. Even right now, you’re reading this on a website that was started because two people cared about our music scene so much that they wanted to make it more accessible for people like you and me to get involved with.

    This past weekend was (with the exception of its coinciding with frosh week) one of my favorite weekends in Guelph. The Jazz festival and Nuite Blanche are usually around this time and they always promise an amazing time. No, it’s not anywhere near the scale of Toronto’s massive art installations, but I still love it. This year we hit an incredible burlesque show, an intimate violin show, a jazz band and a performance from Birds of Paradox that included a tabla, alto saxophone, flute, bansuri, erhu and bass guitar. All for free, all night long, brought to you by a city that just wants you to experience it. 

    Guelph occasionally gets a bad rap for things like its refusal of big-box companies, the noise and destruction that can come with being a university town and our occasionally stagnant attitude towards change. But I think sometimes we seem so reluctant to take a cue from other cities because we know we have a good thing going. Today I was going to choose a song for you from one of the many bands that have formed here, but I had such a hard time choosing a second best after my favorite Guelph choice for Music Monday back in July. So instead you’re getting a song that sums up how I feel about my city. It’s hard to lose sight of how great you’ve got it sometimes, and if you live here, I hope I’ve reminded you of how wonderful the place you call home is. If you don’t live in the confines of the royal city, then I hope you plan to visit us. Keep your eye on the event listings here on Music Lives, come eat a poutine with me and check out a show, we’d love to have you. 

     

    Music Monday September 2, 2013, First Albums

    I started working at my first ‘real’ job when I was 13; I delivered meal trays and did dishes at the local hospital. I still remember getting my first paycheque, it was $112.00 and I remember feeling like I could buy the whole world if I wanted to, I had never had so much money that was completely mine to spend on whatever I chose without any parental or peer input. After spending $7 on some candy (Hey, I was 13) I headed straight for the place that spawned my reason for getting a job in the first place: the local music store.

    I remember spending a lot of time in musty music stores growing up. My father was forever looking for a rare LP, or a box set or something else obscure that would have me wandering around these places, having been given the monumental task of being allowed to select just one thing for myself. I had a yellow maxell tape deck that I lugged around and while he leafed through hundreds of vintage vinyls, I was always in the corner trying to decide between a Janet Jackson or TLC tape (hard decision, but TLC ultimately won out). I miss that tactile connection with music. I miss the search, the release date of a new album, the hours spent using your fingertips to find something you didn’t even know you wanted until you saw it. The first tape I ever purchased, Michael Jacksons ‘Bad’ was $2, my father gave me $1.50 to wash his car and I took the other fifty cents from my piggy bank. He was always generous with the purchase of music for me, evident by a rather well stocked tape collection that even had its own special carrying case.

    That is, until I grew up and inevitably began to grow into my own person and select my own music. There were just some things we could not agree on, and my affection of several genres was not reciprocated . Thus, I got a job so I could buy my own damn music. So armed with approximately 700 pieces of penny candy, I walked into the store and purchased my very first album, Blink 182′s ‘Dude Ranch’. I was in love with its infectious ‘Damnit’ and already two feet deep into the pop-punk scene, as small as it was during the time.

    Blink 182 were real pioneers in that scene, they made california punk hyper-relevant again. What is it about listening to an old Blink 182 song that seems to make an entire generation of  people feel young again? If your first album was purchased in any other decade than the 90s, you’re probably not going to relate very well to that sentiment, but on behalf of my generation I think I can safely speak for most of my peers and say that Dude Ranch was an absolute modern punk classic album. That album, and the subsequent ones that follow can invoke a level of nostalgia that is very rarely paralleled by any other band. There are so few bands out there that I listened to when I was young that are still churning out quality material that I still seek out and  buy now that I’m older.

    I am feeling a little old today, the summer feels like it’s fading and instead of laying out my flyest fall outfit for the first day of school, I’m now doing adult things, like cleaning my closet and making soup stock. So I’ve been listening to Blink all day, and I don’t really know why. I’ve got tons of music that makes me yearn for the past, but Blink is different. I suppose bopping around my apartment singing along to ‘What’s my age again?’ or songs with ‘I guess this is growing up’ as the chorus might have something to do with it, and I’ve always thought that if you can listen to ‘Adam’s song’ in its entirety without getting emotional about getting older than you probably have no soul, but I think it’s just that I don’t ever want to get so old that I don’t allow myself to be moved by a Blink 182 song. Who knows, maybe it’s my aging, or the change of seasons, or nostalgia, or maybe it’s just cause a lady never forgets her first. 

     

    Below, please find my very favorite Blink songs, in chronological order of when I first fell in love with them.

    Music Monday August 26th, Bowling for Soup and Best friends

    In his book ‘Killing yourself to Live’, one of my very favorite music writers of all time, Chuck Klosterman wrote:

    “Whenever I find myself in an argument about the greatest rock bands of all time, I always place Zeppelin third, behind the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. This sentiment is incredibly common; if we polled everyone in North America who likes rock music, those three bands would almost certainly be the consensus selections (and in that order). But Zeppelin is far and away the most popular rock band of all time, and they’re popular in a way the Beatles and Stones cannot possibly compete with; this is because every straight man born after the year 1958 has at least one transitionary period in his life when he believes Led Zeppelin is the only good band that ever existed. And there is no other rock group that generates that experience. You simply think, ‘Wow. I just realized something: This sh*t is perfect. In fact, this record is vastly superior to all other forms of music on the entire planet, so this is all I will ever listen to, all the time.’ And you do for six days or six weeks or six years. This is your Zeppelin phase, and it has as much to do with your own personal psychology as it does with the way John Paul Jones played the organ on ‘Trampled Under Foot.”

    We all go through phases, musically and otherwise. There are years we define ourselves by a particular set of friends, by the clothes we wear and the music we listen to. I had a brief two-week phase into the gothic realm (quite unintentionally, I dyed my hair black and then got freakishly pale from mono the following week) and countless other genres that had specific sounds, looks and peers. But through all my experimentation of different realms, there are a few things that have remained constant. My love of old melancholy punk lyrics, my preference for ripped jeans and one of my very dear friends, he loved me no matter what colour my hair was or what I listened to.

    I grew up an only child and therefore spent my childhood wishing for a boisterous family full of siblings. I fantasized about a big brother that would protect me from men with grabby hands and commitment problems, one that would swoop in and keep me safe. When I was 14, life gave me the brother I asked for, in the form of a gangly kid with a big heart that gave the best bear hugs in the world. We spent my formative years driving around our hometown in a beat up white pickup truck, chain-smoking cigarettes, talking about life and singing pop punk songs. And since that time, he has been that person I needed.  He has rescued me and watched me cry and yell and babble on and on about the same things year after year. And in my greatest time of need, he always knows what song to play me to make me feel okay again.

    I think that when it comes to music and to friendship, things only end if you want them to. If you don’t want to forget about a song, or about who you were when you listened to it, then you gotta keep those songs in rotation. If you want to remember a band, you play their music. If you want someone in your life, then you stay in theirs. People DO grow apart, but it’s because they let it happen. They make plans and then one cancels and the other one doesn’t reschedule and then one forgets the others birthday and the other is too busy with their new significant other to come their party or some crap like that and then they never talk again. That’s usually how friendships end in my experience. I think people in their twenties and thirties have such a hard time with this because when you’re young friendships are so effortless. They’re decided by geography and interests and who someone is dating or what they’re wearing or listening to. They don’t usually require a lot of effort to maintain until you get older and have all these time-eaters in your life you have to work into the equation.

    So I’d like to take this weeks Music Monday to thank the man who has always made the effort to remain a constant in my life for the last 15 years. Someone who is the most decent, big-hearted person I know, who always blows me away with his complex and kind thoughts. Someone who will call me on my bullshit and who always has my back. Someone who is an incredible father, son and friend. He’s the toughest dude I know; by day he’s a rough miner and by night a doting father that keeps extra backups of his daughters favorite toy so she never has to be without it if she loses one. This song right here was one of our favorite songs to sing when we were younger. We would rush down back country roads and sing to each other ‘You’re a bitch, but I love you anyway. You make me sick, but don’t ever go away‘ and laugh at how clever and funny we were. I’m so lucky, it’s such a comfort to know that I can always jump in a truck with my friend, put this song on, and sing to my hearts content with the knowledge that no matter how many phases I go through or who I become, I’ll always have him in my life to sing along with me.

    Happy Birthday C, I love you. (Even when you’re a bitch)

     

    Music Monday August 19th, The Roots ft Cody Chesnutt

    It takes a certain kind of person to love the road. I’m one of them. I love truck stop food and the occasional shower in a sink. I love the clarity that can only come from chasing the moon over your dashboard. I love the road lifestyle, every single part of it, which explains why I’ve driven over 100,000kms between life and work in the past 4 years. It also explains why you’re getting an itty bitty Music Monday, as I am currently on the road right now and at the mercy of agendas and foreign wifi signals.

    I’m currently driving through Italy and France, with part of the drive being a daunting 16 hr drive from the bottom to the top of Italy in one day. I’ve done many a 16hr day before, but driving here is a little different. While the speed limits are an amazing 130, everyone moves slower here once you’re off the road. Getting gas, food, accommodations, everything isn’t as user friendly as I’m used to. As a result, it became apparent around midnight that my 16hr drive was going to actually take 20. So I had to reach deep into my arsenal of road trip tricks. A cold frappucino, chewy snacks and a few certain songs that I could sing loudly to get us through the next few hours.

    You know the songs I’m talking about. The ones that you put on when you need instant energy, the ones you know all the words to. So below, please find one of my very favorite road trip songs. I hope you think it’s as catchy and fun as I do, and I sincerely hope that you too, have a song that makes the road you’re on a little easier.

    Music Monday August 12th, Nneka

    There are some albums that become so popular and well-accepted that they define entire time periods. I’m not talking about the over-played songs on the radio that dominate entire summers, leaving us wishing that certain songs would be shot into space so that we never hear them again. I’m talking about the albums that transcend genres: the rock album that ends up being played on the hip-hop lovers car stereo, the rap disc that somehow finds its way onto top 40 charts and the country song that gets played at frat parties. There’s a collective sigh every time one of these game-changers comes along, like everyone is relieved there is still something out there that we can all agree on.

    One of my very favorite albums that defines the above is ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill‘. Do you remember how much everyone loved that album when it came out? It was on every TV show, in everyones CD player, on every airwave, and nobody was wishing for it to get shot into space.  I don’t think I can know one person who didn’t like some aspect of that album, it was one of those rare gems that was both critically acclaimed and adored by the public. But the public and Lauryn didn’t live in harmony for long. Soon after she dropped out of the music scene and public eye, save for a few sporadic & erratic songs and appearances.

    The way that album popped into my life and settled into a permanent spot in my collection and then abruptly departed left a hole in my musical life for smart, well produced, soulful female hip hop. Not that there haven’t been the occasional good song and artist out there whose lyrics transcend beyond gratuitous drug use and being called someones ‘main girl’, but I haven’t found one that can pull out all the stops consistently like Lauryn did.

    Until now.

    Enter Nneka. She’s a Nigerian/German hip-hop and R&B singer and she is masterful in a way that reminds me of a young Lauryn. Her lyrics are empowering, not degrading and just listening to her sandpaper voice wax poetic over snappy beats makes me feel stronger. A great mix between soulful singing and speaking a message of truth about tough subjects like poverty and morality, this girl right here has quenched all my cravings for a smart and sassy girl. I don’t know if you’ve had the same void in your musical collection as I have, but I promise that no matter what you’re looking for today, Nneka will make you feel better about it.

    Enjoy.

    Music Monday August 5th, Music videos and Roadtrips

    Do you remember how music videos used to dominate television? A huge part of my adolescent television activity was spent flipping between the 2 music channels; I regularly got ready to go out on Friday nights while watching the top 20 countdown on Much Music. I remember staying up late to watch the premiere of a music video, or recording a series of them onto a VHS tape to play over and over without those dreaded commercials.  It’s strange to think of now with the constant exposure an artist has over social media, magazines and press, but those 3 minute snippets were often the only peek into an artists life that a fan had. Those mini-movies have the power to completely transform the impression of a song. While music videos are still made and virally shared and watched on You Tube, it’s becoming increasingly rare for people to say ‘Yeah, it’s a good song, but did you see that video!’. It’s an art form that seems to be on the decline since the inception of the mass-sharing of mp3s.

    One music video that changed my life was the Aerosmith video for the song ‘Crazy’. My best friend and I, a blond and brunette, sang that song at the top of our lungs and fantasized about escaping from the clutches of our small town just like Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler did in the movie. While getting stuck in a small town and having to strip for money to get home wasn’t a part of our fantasy, we did eventually get our music video moment. Four years ago we hopped in a car and headed to the Grand Canyon, Thelma & Louise/Alicia & Liv style. We cruised through red mountain terrain, finally living our young dream and singing loudly to the desert skies ‘Say you’re leaving on a 7:30 train and that you’re heading out to hollywoooooooooood’. 

    Our dream of course, wasn’t just to head out down dirt roads, dress cheaply and stay in fleabag motels. It was to be best friends and have adventures just like the girls in the video. I find people are often disappointed by how their life compares to their fantasy because of their ideas of what the people around them should be like. I personally am the luckiest person in the world when it comes to friends. You know that friend that everyone fantasizes about, the one that is always behind you and would stick up for you even if you’re wrong? Well, I’ve got her. I’ve had my share of fair-weather friends, but their indifference to staying in my life doesn’t bother me very much because I’ve got quality over quantity. She’s the most admirable, bravest person in my life and the only girl who is crazy enough to jump into a car with me with only an atlas and an idea planted in our heads by an Aerosmith song. 

    So this here timeless video is for you and your enjoyment today, but it’s also for my best girl Amber. You’re the Meredith to my Cristina, the Maria to my Liz, the Alicia to my Liv and you’ll always be my very favourite person to have adventures with. 

    Music Monday July 29th, Everything but country

    No other musical genre is more socially acceptable to hate than country. How many times have you asked someone what type of music they prefer, only to be met with the response “everything but country”. A lot of people treat country like their dorky little brother that has to tag along, and it’s sadly become acceptable to ridicule this entire genre. I’m guilty of ‘music shame’; in the past I’ve concealed music that I like because I knew it wouldn’t be enjoyed by others. In those instances, I’ve chosen to privately enjoy music instead of doing what I love the most: sharing music with others.

    What is it about country music that makes it the least-favourable genre among the general population? Personally, I grew up a fan of a lot of country greats like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard; I thought Patsy Cline was a bit dreary but loved Dolly Parton. When I began to select my own music, I never got into modern country. I thought it all was sad twang, sung by hillbilly men about their wives leaving them for their lawyers and stealing their truck and best fishing poles. But then 5 years ago I visited Nashville and I started to really appreciate the new generation of country artists out there. While a lot of modern country is better suited to the pop charts, there are some amazing musicians out there telling beautiful stories with their guitars and an eclectic array of instruments. But banjos, harmonicas and fiddles aside, I think my very favorite thing about modern country is that it has managed to stick to a simplistic set of values. Country songs tackle a wide variety of issues and feelings, but they all manage to invoke imagery of small utopian towns, chasing dreams, strong & proud families drinking together on back porches and little kids running through a muddy creek. Places where things are easy and any problem can be fixed by flying down a dirt road in a old pickup truck with the person you love the most. 

    A year ago, on a balmy night in southern california,  a dear friend of mine that I greatly admire named Pouyan, turned and said  to me ‘You know, country music used to be such a guilty pleasure of mine, and now that I’m older, it’s just a pleasure’.  I loved that, and try to remember that every time I feel like hiding away a song that I like. Whether or not you like country music, I hope that you too find a way to make the term ‘guilty pleasure’ an oxymoron in your life. Be unapologetic in your musical choices, and remember that you don’t ever need to feel guilty about something that brings you pleasure. Play those songs loudly and proudly, and if anyone gives you grief about it, I got your back. 

    And here are a few of my very favorite country songs:

    Amazing four-part harmonies and finger-picking, the end of this song is especially good.

    I’m a sucker for any song with a small town theme, and this Canadian artist nails it.

    A great song with rock elements, the solo and lyrics during the last 2 minutes give me chills.

    Jennifer Nettles, one of the best female voice in country stars in this simple and powerful video that really showcases her pipes.

    Music Monday July 8th, Iron & Wine

    My hometown is a small mining community in northern Ontario. Long before my careers in the nutrition and music world, my main job description was ‘Hating My Hometown’. I spent a good deal of my youth being angry at its small town short-sightedness and bitching about its oppressive values to anyone who would listen that there was a bigger and better world out there. I rarely paint such a derogatory picture of it now, my hometown has the same problems every small place does: annoying gossip, substance abuse frequently stemming from boredom and rampant xenophobia. For someone like me who craved anonymity and vibrant diversity, it was just not a good fit.  I spent years planning my escape route, when I could finally leave for some magical city that valued art, music and progression, somewhere where I could have conversations with interesting people that didn’t revolve around who was dating who or who recently shot a good sized moose. 

    The irony of course, is that whenever I need to talk to someone, I mean really talk, I usually call one of my friends from home. Small town claustrophobia and perspective aside, some of my greatest, wisest friends are still there. In an article by Mary Smitch that was later turned into the infamous ‘Everybody’s Free’ song by Baz Lurhmann, she said ‘The older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young’. I never realized how true that line was until I found myself in my hometown last week, listening to one of my favorite songs called The Trapeze Swinger.

    It’s a song by a great folk artist that goes by the moniker Iron & Wine, and it’s so elegant and lovely that it hasn’t left my top 25 most played on my iTunes for at least  5 years. Lyrically, it has no traditional verse/chorus/break layout, but instead starts every stanza with ‘Please, remember me’, and goes on to use ‘happily, fondly, at halloween, mistakenly, as in the dream, my misery, seldomly and finally’ to finish the sentence in its many gorgeous verses.

    Just off the highway, about 5 minutes from my old house, there’s a place called Gull Lake. It’s a pull-off picnic spot popular with families in the day and teenagers looking for a place to make out at night. A few years ago I found myself parked there in the middle of the night with one of those old hometown friends. I was going through a rough time and he had found out that night that the girl he was with was not who he thought she was and was beyond devastated. We laid out by that lake and I held his head in my lap and stroked his hair as we told each other how unhappy we were with the current state of our lives. When this song came on my stereo, I put my lips near his ear and whispered the entire song to him, eventually singing along with ‘please, remember me, my misery, and how it lost me all I wanted….’ Neither of us said it out loud, but I remember us exhaling audibly when I sang that part; we both knew those foreboding lyrics were our heed to not be miserable for long.

    The sun was starting to wake up by the time the album had finished, and we left that lake a little healed by that song. And when I drove by that exact spot last week I put that song on and was brought back to that night. A night where two small-town kids that used to be close helped each other through a rough time. Beyond making an indelible mark on a specific place or time, one of the very best things about music is that it knows no prejudice. Music doesn’t care where you’re from. It doesn’t give a sh*t if you live in a small town or a big city or what you look like or who you love. Brave people put it out into the world and then it finds you when you need it the most, sometimes on radio airwaves or in movie soundtracks and sometimes on the stereo in the back of a beat-up SUV parked in front of a lake.

    So please find below my magical song, and another by the same great artist if you like what you hear. I hope you love them, and I hope that no matter how far you are from where you started, that you too have a song that will always help you, heal you and bring you back home.

    Music Monday July 1st, 2013

    When I was a kid, I used to dream about different countries. I would dream about running through the desert, swimming in exotic oceans, and falling in love with new cities. I’ve managed to do all these things, most often with our neighbour, the good ol USA. I’ve been to 45 states, driven over 100,000 miles of their highways and could probably write a guidebook about American road travel. I’m known among my group of friends as ‘the traveler’. But I do have a confession to make: With all the galavanting around the globe I’ve done, I’ve never managed to really include my home country.

    Sometimes I feel like a terrible Canadian. I’ve barely left Ontario, and I spent my childhood dreaming of going places that seemed so much more exciting than Canada. But every time I leave, I discover one universal truth: Everyone I meet is in envy of my birthplace. They all tell me how lucky I should feel to be from this fine land, and it’s high time I was as vocal about it as they are.

    Canada, I’m so sorry I’ve treated you like the ex-boyfriend I know will always take me back when I decide to settle down, you deserve better. I’m so sorry I keep trying to leave you, because I know deep down you will always be my home. I’m so proud to be from a place that is synonymous with peace and cleanliness, where my manners enter the room before I do. I’m so proud to be from a country whose flag I can proudly display on my backpack when I go away, one that tries to take care of its citizens. I’m so sorry I’ve neglected you in the past. I’m so sorry I’ve had the dreaded ‘Canadian Music Shame Syndrome’, because you have spawned some great sounds that I fill my life with.

    So today, along with my love letter to my home, I’m sharing one of my favorite songs by a Canadian band. The Constantines are not only canucks, they’re also from my city, Guelph.  This is one of my favorite road trip songs, it sounds best on a windy day with your arm out of the window. So hit play, listen to a great Canadian song, and remember to thank your country today.

    Happy Birthday Canada, I love you. No matter how far I stray from you, I will always come home.

    “Soon enough, work and love will make a man out of you……..”

    Music Monday June 24th, 2013

    In the never ending search for new music, I often become drained at the thought of all the new songs out there that are waiting for me to hear them. I’m one of those people who routinely loses 3 hours to the ‘listeners also bought’ feature on iTunes. Just yesterday I went to find a particular song on youtube and found myself looking up from my screen an hour or so later. I have total fear of missing out when it comes to music; I know my next favorite song is just around the corner if I can only find it.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr said’ “What refuge is there for the victim who is oppressed with the feeling that there are a thousand new books he ought to read, while life is only long enough for him to attempt to read a hundred?”. I feel like that about music sometimes (books too, as evidenced by my overflowing nightstand), like I’ll never get enough time to hear all the songs I want to hear. It’s an exhausting way to think!

    Luckily, there’s a reserve of music that I always come back to when I’m feeling overwhelmed. The songs that never leave my ‘top 100 most played’ in iTunes. These songs are like old friends that you can call when you need and pick up where you left off, seamlessly and without effort or explanation. Today I’m going to be sharing a song that’s consistently played in my life, whether I’m getting ready to go out or longue on the couch with a good book. It’s one of my very favorite versatile beats, it’s sexy and sweaty and perfect for todays sweltering heat. I’m not going to pepper you with a long paragraph about Queens of The Stone Age, you probably already know who they are and I’m in the middle of kitchen renos with no time to spare if I want to eat dinner tonight. So just trust me here: grab your coldest beverage and hit play. I hope that this one of my favorites becomes one of your favorites. Enjoy.

     

    Music Monday June 17th, 2013

    “I play songs in endless loops. When a song is new to me, and there’s something about it that kills me, I’ll listen to it in an auto-repeat delirium for days on end. When they invented the repeat button on the CD player, my life was changed irrevocably (as were the lives of every roommate I’ve had since).” -Dave Eggers

    While I’m no longer activating the repeat button on my panasonic discman (with anti-shock!), this quote sums up my listening experience when I get ahold of a new song that I adore. I can listen to it 20 times a day and not get sick of it, I play it over and over until I know all the words and it’s finally a part of me; I don’t stop until I feel like it’s fully imprinted in my brain forever. Usually when I try and tell someone about the new sound I’m into, my writing articulation never translates to real life. I’m so excited that I end up sounding like a valley girl and say something very eloquent like ‘OH MY GOD GUYS, HAVE YOU HEARD THIS NEW SONG?! IT’S LIKE, SO GOOD’

    It’s kind of embarrassing, but that’s what a new band does to me. It’s nothing short of magical that someone I’ve never heard of can come out along and start making sounds that I will deem necessary to my life in a short time. My general rule is that I usually have a full week with an album before I write about it for music monday, and during this honeymoon phase only those closest to me will be privy to my mania and have to listen to me gush on and on before I share my new find with everyone.

    With all that being said, I’d like you to finally meet the newest band I’ve worked myself into a fever about, the 1975. A british 4 piece that’s been making waves opening a tour for the Neighbourhood, they have been working their way up to headline status very quickly. They’ve released 4 EPs :Facedown, Sex, Music for Cars and IV. 75% of their sound seems to be derived from the pop-rock vein, but it’s the other 25% that I’m enthralled with. On every album, they have an airy song or two that feels like being in a dream. 

    ‘Me’ is the track I first fell in love with, it’s clean and light and makes me want to watch a sleepy sunrise. ‘You’ is the next track on your playlist today, I’m hard pressed to tell you whether I like the original or remix of it better. One is more stripped down, and the other is percussively interesting, but both of them start with the line ‘You’re a liar’ that’s delivered so raw and honestly that I had to include both of them for you today. I’ve also included their number one single for you at the bottom, it’s a catchy driving song called ‘chocolate’ that has brought them a long way. So check em out, maybe you too will join me in my frenzy. But no matter which side of their diverse sound you prefer, I hope you’ll find something you’ll like in the 1975. Because guys, they are just LIKE, SO GOOD. 

     

     

    Music Monday June 10th, 2013

    One of my very favorite recent shifts in the music industry is the use of crowd-funding projects. If you don’t know what that is: Anyone can use a website like kickstarter.com or indiegogo.com to ask for financial support for an upcoming project. Their fans can collectively pool their money together to fund the project, and they can receive perks and prizes based on their contribution amount. In the music world, this takes power away from big time record labels (who are not exactly always known for their integrity) and puts into the hands of the artist, and ultimately, the fans. If your favorite band leaves their label and can’t afford to tour or make a new album, you can help them in a way that makes sure your money and support directly goes to them.

    It sounds perfect, but there has been a lot of controversy surrounding them. Many popular celebrities and artists have had successful crowd funding campaigns, which a lot of people aren’t okay with. Crowd funding was started in a grass-roots way, to help the little guy and there’s been a lot of backlash over mega-popular people using crowd funding instead of their own money, or using their connections to gain support. I’ve seen the Zach Braff and Amanda Palmer campaigns get debated to death, and even though I researched both thoroughly, I still don’t really know how I feel about it.

    Enter The Coppertone. She’s a Toronto artist that is currently asking for 20k to buy out her record contract and the rights to her music. Long story short, she left her record company and until she pays them this money they own her songs and she can’t put out any new material. When I first read her story, a part of me became instantly judgemental. Because it’s easy to think that someone in her position should be lucky to have any contract, and part of me wanted to spout some platitude about finishing what you started. Its always easy to criticize people before thinking of what it would be like to be in their shoes. So instead, I tried to do just that. As a writer, I know that the most direct extension of who I am is the work I do. I know I would feel incredibly helpless if someone told me that I didn’t own what I made with my heart and soul. I’ve dealt twice now with work of mine being published under someone elses name, and it was such a violation of who I am and what I stand for, so I can imagine how horrible what she is going through must feel.

    All of this thought process occurred before I hit the play button to hear her songs, which I should have done in the first place. Listen here, this girl is great, and she deserves another shot. She’s got a sexy, smoky voice that makes me long for an old Dusty Springfield LP and the open road. This song is begging to be played at top volume down some back road, and that’s exactly what I did with it this weekend. I haven’t loved a song like this in a while. The lyrics point to someone starting over, and beyond this song, she has created a whole movement called ‘Claim Yourself‘ that hopes to inspire people to live authentically within their own lives.

    That is something I can get behind, and it’s why The Coppertone is getting this weeks column, my support, and my money.  It’s easy to sugarcoat and take the lazy way out, but it takes guts to admit you made a mistake, to stand up for your music and yourself.  May Sarton said “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”  The Coppertone’s campaign and song personifies that and that’s something we should try and emulate in our own livesnot judge. So here’s what I want you to do: Throw a couple bucks her way and get your copy of this amazing single  called ‘Young Blood’. Take that song to your car, roll those windows down, sing your heart out and remember to always, always live authentic. 

     

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xoPxC3TRoA

    Music Monday May 27th, 2013

    Nostalgia is defined as “a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life”. I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty sentimental girl; I keep old love letters, movie stubs and journals from my high school days stowed away under my bed. But I find that most of my nostalgic feelings don’t pertain to wanting to revisit the past of my own life. Rather, I’ve always been the sort of person who longs for a time or place I’ve never been to. I’m homesick all the time for places I’ve never been.

    I wish I had went to high school in the 80s so I could have had shoulder pads in my sweaters when I went to all those hair metal concerts I just know I would’ve been at. I wish I grew up in the 70s so I could have followed the Allman Brothers Band on tour and worn Eagles t-shirts to dance the night away. I wish I was around in the 60s so I could have been part of the british invasion of pop rock. I would have been at protests with flowers in my hair and I’m certain I would have been one of those girls who made signs and fainted when they saw John Lennon.

    I’ve heard these sentiments expressed by others before, too. When people are nostalgic for musical times of the past, it seems to me that the majority are longing for the sounds of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. But they always seem to leave out one of my favorite decades of sound: The fifties. Ahhh, the 50s. Let me just say that I am absolutely certain I would have fit in just fine during the 50s. I look great in those pedal pushers and pencil skirts, I can make a mean ice-box cake and I still get light headed when I listen to Elvis. I long for that simpler time quite often, when Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin dominated the airwaves. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that people were happier then, they weren’t so disconnected. They relished quality time together not spent staring at screens. They sat on porches instead, talked to one another and went dancing. I dream of spinning around with man in a vintage kitchen to Frankie Valli and then having him take me out to for shakes.

    Enter Willy Moon. He’s my favorite new artist and he’s solely responsible for killing all of my cravings for the 1950s lately. A New Zealander transplanted to London, he caught the eyes and ears of Jack White, who released his debut single.  He’s a throwback performer with skinny ties and bright eyes, and I have a feeling that he longs for a simpler time, too. Instead of his style feeling like a cheap gimmick, it just brings you closer to his natural sound. His songs and videos speak for themselves: they’re not over processed and full of distractions. They’re all focused on unembellished lyrics and dance numbers that make me want to strut down the street on my way to a sock hop. And beyond his unique style, Willy Moon is unmistakably talented; it’s easy to see why he’s been called ‘The One to Watch’ by several music media outlets. He somehow puts a fresh spin on an old pop sound and does it with style and grace without it seeming artificial.

    With most of the songs on his album clocking in at under 3 minutes, Willy Moon seems to have found a new way to re-work formula that we may have lost sight of. Focusing on quality rather than quantity is always a good thing when it comes to music, and he seems to have it in spades. So hit play, and let me apologize in advance if you get as obsessed with these songs as I’ve been for the past week. Maybe do a little dance in the kitchen, put on your skinniest tie and remember that when it comes to life and to music, it’s usually best to keep it simple.

     

     

    Music Monday May 21st, 2013

    True story: I once broke up with a guy because he made fun of me for listening to a Salt N Pepa song. I also broke up with a different guy for making fun of Michael Jackson, but that’s a different story all together. Granted,  ‘Shoop‘ was probably not the most critically acclaimed song of it’s time, but I was in a 90s mood and more importantly: I really like Salt N Pepa. This man could not quite accept this fact. He laid into me immediately about my choices in music, scrolled through my iPod with judgement and disdain and told me he did not understand how someone who had such great taste in music could also have such bad taste at the same time. He berated me for a solid half hour, and I found myself defending something that didn’t need defending. 

    What was so perplexing to me at the time was that this man was a musician. I thought this meant that he understood the sacred bond of music, that people have different tastes. This was not the case. This musician frequently went to shows so he could say things to me  like ‘What an unoriginal time signature that last song had‘ or ‘I mean, I guess you could like the song if you like 4-4 timing, which is what all terrible songs have in common, besides the fact that you have them all on your iPod’. I didn’t really know what a lot of his comments meant, as my only musical training is a few errant piano and violin lessons. But as soon as the Salt N Pepa debacle happened, I realized I couldn’t possibly spend  time with that gentleman anymore and promptly broke up with him right there in my car and promised myself that I would never spend time defending my musical choices again.

    The issue of course, was not Salt N Pepa or my love for any other so-called ’embarrassing decade’ of music. The issue was that I knew I could never be date or be friends with anyone who didn’t respect one of the biggest aspects of my life. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying : I can be very critical of music, I think there are terrible songs and awful bands and brutal albums. But no matter my opinion, I still respect that someone out there might think it’s the best thing they’ve ever heard. I think that’s a very important distinction to make, given how personal a choice music is. Very few things say more about a person than what they listen to. Even if I’m not into something, I understand that what makes music so magical is that we can’t always understand why it appeals to us. I’ve always been a member of the church of  ‘if the beats alright, I’ll dance all night‘ and that means that the Black Keyes, Black Lungs and Black Sabbath all have a place in my eclectic and diverse collection.

    Last week, I mentioned that I was never a huge Nirvana fan. That’s not just my opinion of them, I kind of missed the grunge rock boat at that time.When Nirvana became hugely popular in the 90s I was just branching out into my own away from my family’s preferred rock and Motown and I was such a happy go lucky kid it just never occurred to me to check out grunge rock at that time. Other than a brief foray into Soul Asylum, I never understood the full appeal of it. Even so, I always respected it. I always respected that it changed some of my friends lives and I remember knowing what it meant for people when Kurt Cobain died. I recall watching the mourners on tv and knowing they had lost the person who sang the most important music of their life.

    But it wasn’t until I found myself in Seattle this past week that I fully understood the weight of what Nirvana did for entire generation and location. I went to the EMP museum where I saw instruments, original set lists and artifacts of their rise to fame. Handwritten notes about what kind of band they wanted be, original demos and even clothing they wore. But the thing that made the most impact for me was a huge map of all the bands in the Pacific Northwest that eventually found their way into formation after Nirvana paved the way for them. They really did change an entire landscape of music and built bridges in places that were stranded before.

    Before we left, we visited the house where Cobain died and the small park beside it. There’s a memorial bench where fans still come from all over the world every day and scrawl messages of love, leave bracelets and light candles. That’s me sitting on it in the photo above. It takes a special kind of legend to become the voice of an entire group of people, and the love that his city and fans still show him was very sad and touching. The museum and that bench made me realize how much gratitude I have for this man and his band that I never really listened to. Because it was through them that other musicians in that area and the years following found the courage to come forward and give their gifts, and for that I will always be thankful.

    So today I’m sharing with you one of my favorite songs from the Seattle grunge period, from a band that may or may not have risen to their fame without the success of Nirvana. Alice in Chains needs no introduction here, but this song does. Nutshell has been one of my favorite songs for as long as I can remember, it reminds me of a dear friend I used to have. I love the grunge-y solo, the haunting vocals and the lyrics about wanting to be yourself. So here’s my songs and my lesson for you today, readers. Don’t ever feel the need to defend what you listen to. Love what you love, but don’t forget to respect what you don’t. 

    “Yet I find repeating in my head, If I can’t be my own, I’d feel better dead…………”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_GPxe91hWE

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pb8iLS18wo

     

     

    Music Monday May 6th, 2013

    The internet can be a tricky thing to navigate when it comes to determining the credibility of quotes or lyrics or anything of artistic merit these days. I’m always skeptical whenever I see a viral quote; I think it’s ridiculous that someone expects me to believe that every profound statement can be attributed to Morgan Freeman or someone like that. That being said, I do hope the noted speaker of the following quote I saw the other day is correct:

    “When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, ‘Oh, OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight f*ing hours with 800 people at a convention center and then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not f*in’ good enough.’ Can you imagine?” he implores. “It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy and old effin drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll start playing and they’ll have the best f*ing time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some shitty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass shit, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need a damn computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.” – Dave Grohl

    While I was never a huge Nirvana fan, I fully appreciate what he was trying to say in that interview. Musicianship is such a hard thing to come by nowadays. While a lot of bands remember to update their various social media once a day, a lot seem to lose sight of what makes a band truly great: Playing your instrument and wanting to be a good musician. If you don’t have that combination of talent and drive to always get better and to just play because you love it, then it doesn’t matter how many followers you have on twitter.

    Which brings me to todays sharing of a few songs by one of the hardest working bands out there today. I’ve been on a huge kick of their discography lately, thanks to a conversation with my friend Matt a few weeks ago when he said to me ‘When I take a step back and look at my life, I have become a Lucero song’.  I laughed, but I knew exactly what he meant when he said it. Isn’t it crazy how we internalize what we love the most and make it a part of us? I could title entire years and decades of my life by the bands I was heavily into during that time and see how they influenced everything I did: What I wore, where I went and even how I felt about things.

    Lucero is a perfect blend of Memphis rock, punk and country and in the past few years they’ve been on tour more days per year than not. 250 tour dates a year is rough, I give them major kudos for that. They’re the only band I know that has managed to charm me with a horn section, love ballad lyrics, a gospel chorus and steel guitars, all in the same song. They will make you want to run away and drink whiskey from hickory barrels, sip sweet tea on porches and drive west down an empty desert highway with the windows down. Every song really makes me want to slow dance with a scruffy man wearing a plaid shirt in a dusty dive bar.

    But even as great as they are now, I’m sure that at some point, they sucked too. They’ve released 8 full lengths at this point, and if you go back to the begininning and compare what you hear to their most recent release, you’ll hear the difference that time and dedication makes.  The heart of their songs is still there, but the rest of their magic came later. You know why? Because they kept playing. They kept recording and doing what they loved over and over and over until it worked for them. They didn’t wait for someone to tell them that they were good enough or that they had permission to do it, they just kept playing every show they could and got their fans the old fashioned way.

    Whether you’re into their particular sound or not, these boys stand for everything that’s still good in rock and roll. That unknown kids can become rock stars in garages. That if you refuse to take no for an answer, and if you work really hard and do what you want, you might just become what you love. 

    Enjoy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sG_N3bTeuWc

    Music Monday April 29th, 2013

    When I first started being paid to write, someone told me ‘Writers block is self-indulgent, don’t buy into it, it’s a luxury. Having to put food on the table is the cure for writers block’. I’ve always lived by this code and tried my best to write through any impasse, through illness and spotty internet connections and broken computers and plain ol ‘I don’t wanna write today‘. So the fact that I haven’t written Music Monday for almost 2 months does deserve some sort of an explanation.

    5 weeks ago one of the most important people in my life died. He helped raise me into the brutally honest woman you all know. He lived his life the way he wanted, and only that way. This was a man so badass that if he wanted something from the table, he didn’t even ask. He just looked at you, and then looked at the potatoes or whatever and you got up and got it. I mean, check out that pinky ring for chrissakes. He is single handedly responsible for bringing my family to Canadian soil and taught me everything I know about staying true to who you are. Musically, this was the very first man to ask me to dance; it was his feet I danced on to old Dean Martin and Sinatra around kitchens. It is his fault that I automatically like any song with a harmonica, as I spent most childhood summers on his lap eating fruit from the garden while he played his twangy instrument in my ear all day under the sun. To this day, whenever someone of the opposite sex asks my advice on fail-proof ways to get girls, I always respond with ‘Dude, just learn to play the harmonica’. 

    When he died, something happened that has temporarily taken away my ability to pleasurably write. I heavily debated even writing about this, but it’s just the truth: I have a bit of a broken heart right now. Charles Bukowski said ‘Writing about writers block is better than not writing at all‘, and that’s what I’m trying to do I guess. I don’t have it in me right now to happily describe a song a new song I’ve found to share with you; I don’t even have any, I’ve been hiding in my apartment for a month watching very bad tv. Next week I promise to do better at getting rid of the melancholy, after all this is a music blog, not a damn diary. 

    But today, today you’re heading down the harmonica trail with me. My grandfathers love of the harmonica was strictly old-school European, but it was through his adoration of this little instrument that I came to appreciate it in every genre. From classic rock to folk songs, I’ve followed that tiny twang from old Italian men to arrive at todays sharing of a Black Sabbath song with you (and a little wop treat right below that). Growing up, ‘Wizard’ was the first rock song I heard that renewed my love for such a dated instrument. Maybe most people don’t think of grandfathers when they hear Black Sabbath, but I do when I think of mine. If you had the pleasure of knowing my grandfather Vincenzo, then the lyrics of this song are especially poignant and fitting to who he was. That’s the beauty of music, right? It brings you to places you never thought it would. Like a brain making new pathways, it makes bridges over time and space and the people in your life. It can bring you away from where you are, or bring you home, and sometimes, if you’re really lucky, it can bring you back to the best memories of your life, and make sure that you never forget them. 

    “He has passed by, giving his sign, left all the people feeling so fine. Never talking, just keeps walking, spreading his magic……….”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCjspyo-_aI

     

     

     

     

    Music Monday February 25th, 2013

    I have a confession to make: I cry somewhere very embarrassing. No, not any place it’s even mildly acceptable to cry. I don’t cry in movie theaters or at the dog pound. But without fail, I cry at every music museum I attend. That’s right, this girls tears have been wept all over the rock and roll hall of fame in Ohio, in the piano room at the Motown museum in Detroit and I sputtered my way through Graceland in Memphis.  I was taken aback by the grandeur of Elvis’ home, the way that people still made their pilgrimage to see the residence of this legend. Yet when I got in front of his grave I cried for a solid 5 minutes, realizing that the legend was just a regular man. When I left, I signed my name on the famous wall that enclosed his estate, scrawling ‘Jack J’s daughter was here’ in permanent marker.

    Jack J was my fathers radio name. He did the oldies Sunday when I was growing up on the air and made my childhood full of music I never would have otherwise been exposed to. My birthday parties were filled with old classics and Motown hits instead of current pop top 40. He practised music like it was his religion and was positively obsessed with good ol rock and roll. I’m the only kid I know who has seen just about every Roy Orbison impersonator on the eastern seaboard. It was through him that I learned to love Memphis Rock. Roy, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cal Perkins, Elvis and my favorite, Johnny Cash.

    So given my crying history, when I found myself in front of Sun Studios in Memphis, I thought I would hyperventilate. There I was about to tour the building where all those legends had recorded, had all got their start. Rock legends were still recording in the humble one room recording studio today, convinced there was still some good luck in its walls. I didn’t feel worthy to be in it. We sang into Elvis’ mic, played Jerry’s piano and even got on the ground and kissed the very spot where Elvis stood when he came to ask to record a song for his mothers birthday. I began sweating when we got the opportunity to touch Johnny’s guitar, and almost fainted when I got to strum it.

    You see, to me, Johnny Cash has always been the epitome of timeless music. From his dark, mysterious personality to his drawl on certain words, I’ve always been fascinated with him and his life. His gloomy take on all his songs always made me feel the opposite of morose. He always gave me hope. Growing up, Johnny was who I listened to during the rough times. His insistence on singing without sugarcoating always made me feel that if Johnny could get through whatever he was going through, that I could too.

    I don’t fully know why I cry at music museums. I think I just get caught up in the nostalgia of a time long gone, of my childhood, of my father. Of the impermanence of it all, I guess. All of these legends were as much a part of my growing up as extended family, and they’re not here anymore. Chuck Palahniuk said ‘We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will’. I guess that’s true for these men, who are more timeless in a way that no one has been since. It’s Johnny’s birthday today. He would have been 81 and this is my favorite song he ever recorded. He succeed in making himself into the best reincarnation I can think of. What he created will carry on forever, on radio airwaves, on car stereos, and in fathers showing their favorite music to their little girls.

    Happy Birthday, Johnny.

     

    Music Monday February 18th, 2013

    Tad Williams said ‘Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself within your own head. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.’  I’ve been trying to keep this quote in mind for the past few weeks as I moved and felt very uprooted by it. The building I lived in was sold in the fall and I was promptly kicked out for the new owners to move in. It is with minimal shame that I admit I accepted this change of location with a healthy amount of kicking and screaming.

    I hate moving in general, but this one in particular was much harder to cope with. I had, what I considered to be, the perfect apartment. It was in my favorite neighborhood, had fruit tress and fire pit in the backyard and was right on the river. I will miss its stainless steel kitchen, its wide baseboards and hardwood floors and its huge soaker tub. I will miss the way music sounded and echoed in its expansive living room.

    My new apartment is slowly coming along, though. I decided to downgrade a little to make more financial room for travel, so my new place is cozier. It’s in an old victorian house on a quiet tree lined street and has a little more character than the previous. It’s also in the largest building I’ve ever been in, there are 4 other units in this house so there will be no loud music while I mop the floors here. As of today, it’s been almost 3 weeks since I brought the first box in here. I was crying and mad and paranoid my new place would have ants or something (it doesn’t). That first box contained my ipod dock and speakers and I put on some familiar music to ease my transition. And since that song, my new place has gradually been opening itself up to me and showing its personality.

    While my old apartment could handle agressive beats and screaming vocals, my new space demands sleepier tunes to fill its walls, some simple arrangements to bounce off the fairy lights I’ve strung around the biggest window. So today you’re getting the song I used that day to make myself feel at home. Fink is a great british singer-songwriter that’s been dj-ing and producing for a while now; he collaborated with Amy Winehouse a few times before her untimely demise. He’s a fantastic guitarist that switches it up a bit from the traditional 3 chord folk singer and has some very sweet lyrics to compliment it all perfectly.

    Maybe good old Tad was right. Maybe something physical like a pile of bricks and drywall shouldn’t be what I associate the most with feeling at home. It should always be something I can take with me, and as long as my music collection can come along with me I think I will be okay. Music will always be what I escape and turn to, and the album this particular song features on has been instrumental in this change in my life. So take a moment to relax today on this holiday Monday, hit play and hopefully this song will make you feel right at home. 

    “And the things that keep us apart keep me alive, And the things that keep me alive, keep me alone. This is the thing……….”

     

     

     

     

    Music Monday February 11th, 2013

    Ah, the day of commercial love is upon us. This Thursday, people of the western world will run themselves ragged buying flowers that cost twice their normal price. They will try and find the perfect gift for their significant other and then sit through an assembly line dinner at a packed restaurant, all in the name of love.

    That is all fine and dandy for those people. In fact, if you’re one of those people who fully immerse themselves in the participation of Valentines Day, I’m still cool with you.  I’m not gonna hop up on my soapbox and proclaim you insane if you’re one of those people who like to deck out their houses and open their wallets this week for something pink and fluffy. I’m just not one of them. These aren’t the bitter ramblings of a single, bitter lady trying to wade through the public display of affection either: I have a wonderful boyfriend. We will probably have dinner together as usual, and I’ve already requested he get me some chocolates this week; right after valentines day when they’re deeply discounted and therefore can get me twice as many for the same price, cause I’m cheap and just love chocolate. But that’s about it.

    All these crimson displays in the grocery store today did get me thinking about love. Specifically, love songs. Most songs have some element of love in them. We can all relate to its common themes: happiness, longing, wanting, heartbreak and first loves.We’ve all been through it, we’ve all tasted it in some way, and days like this Thursday seem to bring it to the forefront for some people. Don’t feel bad for yourself if you’re one of those people or if you’re lonely this week. Don’t feel bad for single people on Valentines Day. Feel bad for that couple sitting at a restaurant not saying anything to each other. You know, the ones that you know are just hanging on by a thread & it’s so obvious they’ll drag this on forever just have someone, anyone.

    As for me, I will be with my greatest love. The one who has been with me since I was a little girl. I’ll be with the one that always calls, always says what I need to hear. The one that has been there in my deepest, darkest times, the one whose hand is always there when I reach for it.  The one that always knows just the right words to dry up all my tears.  The one who is always along when I need a quiet drive, when I need to get something done, or I need someone to sing at the top of my lungs with. The one who is always there in strange cities, on late night drives and random adventures, the one that brings me back home no matter how far away I am.  The one who has been with me in every happy, glittering moment, during first kisses and reunions, and in quiet corners with cups of tea. The only one will hold my heart till the day I die, the one that will always endure. Music, you will always be my first love, I will never have enough words to thank you for always being there for me and I wouldn’t want to spend the day with anyone else.

    So below, please find 3 of my very favorite love songs. The first two are both light and soft, full of the sweetest lyrics I’ve ever heard and ones I never seem to get sick of. The third is a huge ballad we all know, but one I can never leave off my ‘top love songs’ list when I’m asked. I’ve been wishing that I magically wake up tomorrow with the female vocalists voice for the past 20 years. Hasn’t happened yet. No matter what kind of love song you’re into, I think you’ll find something here you’ll like. Either way, according to all these ads for overpriced chocolate, Valentines Day is supposed to be spent with ‘the one you love’. I hope you all do, and whether you’re in a relationship or not, I hope the person you always love the most is yourself.

    “Cause when your here there’s nothing wrong, you’re as far as i can see. I would make this whole world spin around, just to see you again…….”

    “And when the wind does blow against the grain, You must follow your heart……..”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVwijXeLwLA

    “Will you cater to every fantasy I got? Will you hose me down with holy water, if I get too hot, hot? Will you take me places I’ve never known?………..

    Music Monday January 28th, 2013

    Most people who show me new music are quite close to me, physically. They’re showing me songs in their cars when we’re driving around, they’re handing me a CD at a concert, they’re playing their favorite new song on repeat at their party while I’m sitting on the couch. But there’s also a couple people in my life who are physically very far away, but who remain close to me through sharing music.

    One of my very favorite people in the world is on the other side of it, in dreary Dublin, Ireland. I love the Irish. I love their greenery, I love their filthy curse words, I love their humor and I love my friend. He is crass and lovely and has absolutely amazing taste in music. So many of my beloved songs have come from him, and I am so grateful that he shares his music with me.

    So today you’re getting a song from an Irish band, dedicated to my dear Irish friend. Two Door Cinema Club are certainly not new on his side of the pond, they’ve been around for years and have only recently been getting the attention they deserve. I even spied their name on the coachella line-up this year. They’re an adorable trio; they look a bit more like coffee baristas than rockstars. Their unique blend of jumpy pop is restless, awkward and totally danceable.  So hit play, Put some whiskey in your afternoon coffee, dance around to this song if you want. Either way, enjoy it, and put a little Irish in your day. 

    Music Monday January 21st, 2013

    If people who read a lot of good books are considered ‘well-read‘, then I consider myself to be ‘well-listened’ (I also consider myself to be well-read, but let’s leave it to just the one compliment for myself today). Regardless, I consider myself to usually be quite up-to-date on most music, both popular and on the smaller scale.

    So whenever a band or popular song manages to completely bypass me, I’m always shocked. People will show me/send me/tell me about a song and I’ll go look up the song on youtube, and most of the time they’re in the low counts, a couple thousand or so. But whenever I hear a great song like this and it has just under 14 million views, I wonder where the hell I’ve been.

    It happens rarely, but it did happen to me recently. On my way to a Christmas party, my friend Alexey decided to show me some music he had been listening to lately.  My ears didn’t fully perk up until he got to this song, and it’s not because he prefaced it by telling me he liked to get ready to this song, preferably while drinking a beer in the shower before going out. It was catchy and full of light, and made me want to drink a beer in the shower too, and I don’t drink. 

    The band, Empire of the Sun, has been around since 2008. They’re an Australian electronic duo whose debut album went platinum in their homeland and gold over here on colder grounds. I have no idea how they managed to pass me by, but I’m quite glad they’re finally on my radar.  They’re quite eclectic, and this song will certainly make you want to go to a strange party immediately. So hit play, put this song on the next time you’re getting ready to go out, maybe grab a beer and get in the shower. Lather up, dance around a little (carefully) and rest assured that if something great passes you by, you can always just go on back and find it. 

    Music Monday January 14th, 2013

    Do you ever have one of those days when you look around and feel like you’re playing house? Like you can’t seem to figure out how you grew up into this supposed adult with this job and bills and dentist appointments. I can’t be the only person who sometimes feels like a big kid playing dress up, can I?

    I hope not, but either way, today I don’t want to be a grown-up. I have this column to write, I have to confirm a flight reservation, I have a ton of packing and sorting to do before I move at the end of this month and I really should eat something green and leafy today. I don’t want to do any of it. I want to stay in my pajamas on the couch, eat things with no inherent nutritional value and watch some bad made for tv movies.

    So when I came upon this adorable video today that seemed to show exactly how I was feeling, I knew I had to share it with you. You’ve probably heard of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes, they had a huge hit a few years ago with ‘Home’. This song has a lot of the same elements: twangy instruments and quirky duet vocals with sweet lyrics about love. But I prefer this song to their smash hit; I like the end hand clap sequence, and I had a smile on my face for the entire video.

    I miss being a kid. I miss not having the capacity to worry, I miss good weather being the only criteria to be met for it to be a ‘good day’. Today when I stumbled on this video I became a kid again for just a second. I was smiling and clapping along, and when you smile when no one is around, you know you really mean it. So check it out, clap along if you like. But no matter what you listen to today, remember that at some level there’s still a kid in all of us. Enjoy.

    “You be the book, I’ll be the binding; Come with me, you’ve got my love to lean on darlin, that’s what’s up………..”

    Music Monday January 7th, 2013

    There’s nothing more annoying to me than when someone I don’t like does something great. You know, that moment when you have to put your personal feelings aside and say ‘yeah, that was a pretty cool thing you did there‘. Nothing worse. And I feel the exact same way when a band I don’t care for suddenly comes out with a song that I adore. It’s like I’m mad that I have all this time invested in openly disliking them, and now I have to be the hypocrite and love just one song, or worse, privately enjoy it.

    But I’m supposed to be this person that thrives off of sharing music with others, so it would be mighty terrible of me to keep it myself. Music is an incredibly personal choice, and while I’ve always been very respectful of others choices, there is just some bands that I cannot get into. No matter how hard I try, something between my ears and brain rejects what I hear. It’s strange, I can even appreciate the theory component of a song ( ie, that is some excellent drum playing, they have great melodies, ect) but I still won’t like it. It’s a mystery to me, that something magic tangled into music that is beyond technical understanding; there’s no telling what I will or won’t like based on some formula. The heart wants what the heart wants and same goes for the ears I guess.

    But I can tell you who I have not liked up until this very moment. Muse. Yes, yes, I know they’ve been around forever,  loads of people do adore them. I’m just not one of them, I’ve listened to all their albums, endured them at every trendy party and given the occasional video that litters my newsfeed another try. Just doesn’t happen for me. The vocals sound tired to me, and something about their songs make me feel like I have the flu.

    But then, out of nowhere, comes this great song. ‘Madness’, the single off their latest album is masterful. It’s one of those beats that come along once or twice a year; it smacks of Nine Inch Nails ‘Closer’, that slow, creepy stop-and-start.  Add in a fantastic guitar solo at the end, give that lead singer an energy drink and you’ve got yourself a song you can listen to anywhere.

    The reason why music is so versatile and can apply to everyone is because it’s always evolving. Just like life and all those people who write your favorite songs, it changes. Sometimes for the worse, but in this case, to me, it changed for the better. And the best thing about music, hell, the best thing about all things related to matters of the heart, to your life and to your music is this: If you suddenly find yourself down a road you don’t like, or liking something you didn’t expect to, you can always just change your mind.

    Enjoy.

     

    Music Monday December 10th, 2012

    Everyone always complains when things go wrong, but no one ever acknowledges when things work out well. When serendipity is finally on your side and by some happy accident your night gets a little better than planned. That’s what happened to me last night. I had tickets to see Cold Specks play in Hamilton, and tried to time my arrival to purposely miss the openers; it was a Sunday night and I thought I had better things to do. I was displeased when I showed up almost 2 hours after door to find that there was still another act to go on before the headliner I was there to see.

    May I just acknowledge that as being a terrible state of mind? Openers have it rough. I mean, they know that you’re not here to see them. They know you’re getting antsy and want them to hurry up and finish so you can see who you came here for. And yet, they get up there, knowing full well that they’ll at best be in second place tonight, and play their little hearts out for you. The openers are like that kind of like that person who flirts with you knowing full well that you have a boyfriend. But they do it anyways. They’re all out there looking for that right person to hear them, to love them.

    So there I was, in a cramped Hamilton bar and I’m kind of grumpy and my feet are not happy at the thought of standing through some band I’ve never heard. But by some great coincidence, the opener ends up being Dan Griffin, whose album I’d been listening to for the last week on repeat. He’s formerly of the band The Arkells, but in my opinion he’s doing much better on a stage solo. Dan is a great folk artist, a kind of brilliant lyricist that rarely comes along.  His simple finger picking gives way to display truly great, melancholy lyrics. A kind of young Nick Drake, he was charming and soothing all at once. It goes without saying that suddenly my feet didn’t care and I didn’t have to pretend to like him.

    The weather is getting a little darker, it’s looking a little grey out there. I think it’s the perfect time of year for a light, uncluttered album like this one and I’m so happy I got to see it in its entirety last night. I guess it was high time to remind myself that all my favorite bands were at one time someone elses opener, right? Everyone has got to start somewhere. A good place for you to start would be to head on over to iTunes, where my favorite song on his album ‘Stars and Satellites’ is the free single of the week. So curl on up, go get your free song and the next time you’re at a show, please remember to give that opener a chance. 

    “It won’t be long before I’m gone, it’s true, but i’m hoping that the stars and the satellites will bring me home to you…..”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mvj14vmifCg

    Music Monday December 3rd, 2012

    We all have a few special people in our lives that shape our tastes with music. I had two major ones that are mainly responsible for it: My father and my aunt. Most people who know me would probably say my father would be the obvious choice; he had an oldies show on our local radio station, but that’s a whole other post. Today, I want to tell you about the more subtle, but just as important influence on my musical upbringing.

    When I was growing up, my aunt Marianna was the epitome of cool. She was single, she drove a red little sports car with a sunroof and sent me letters on whimsical stationary detailing her exciting life. Her life always seemed full of adventure, and I wanted to be just like like her. She always had the good treats in her purse, always went where she wanted and laughed with her whole heart.

    I lived in a house where oldies rock and motown was the religion, and new music was sometimes blasphemy. My father had great, eclectic taste, but like a wine connoisseur, he preferred his music to be of a certain age before he could really enjoy it. Being a very nostalgic man, it was like a band had to withstand the test of time before he could give it an honest listen. My aunt Marianna was hip, she knew what the good party music was and she introduced me to some of the grungiest and greatest music of my life. She would take me on road trips, blaring Soul Asylum and Concrete Blonde, and I would sing along to lyrics about men I hadn’t yet begun to dream about. 

    Years ago, we were driving along my hometown and this song came on. She said nostalgically ‘Oh, I love this song, does anyone have a joint?’ I laughed and said ‘you smoke pot now?’, to which she joked ‘Only to this song’.  This version of the  song is raw, you can hear the anguish in her voice. And as my aunt explained to me when she first showed me it ‘Everyone has got a Joey’. It’s one of my favorite songs for that reason: It’s full of passion and truth.  And that’s who my aunt is, even if she doesn’t always see it. My aunt has taken care of me in ways that go above and beyond the aunt status, she has taken care of everyone. And throughout all that, she can still make me laugh like no one else. She still smiles with her whole heart.

    Aunts are special, and mine has a birthday this week. Sometimes I’m not  good with showing emotion, so I’m gonna use this weeks blog to say : Anna, without you there were many occassions I would have missed, things I could not have achieved and I don’t think I would have grown into the person I am without your influence; musically and otherwise. Thank you so much for introducing me to these songs and helping me along into the person I’m becoming. I still want to be just like you.

    So readers, this week you have homework.  Press play on this song, light a joint if you’ve got one and think of all the people who had a hand in influencing your musical upbringing. If you have an awesome aunt or uncle, I want you to call them and say thank you; they seem to get left behind in the thanks department. Sometimes it’s not the greatest hit that ends up helping you along, sometimes it’s the second-to-last song on an obscure album. And because sometimes it’s the people who are seemingly on the outskirts of your life that end up having the biggest impact.

    Happy Birthday to my sweet Aunt, I love you.

     

    Music Monday November 26th, 2012

    A few months ago I was at a friends house after the bar. I was, as usual, playing dj with youtube for the background music. Since we were in an upbeat atmosphere, I put on my current favorite at the time: Macklemore, the hip hop artist I introduced you to a few months ago. One of the the fellow partygoers began immediately laying into me when he saw the video. ‘What is this garbage? Who is this Eminem-wannabe?’ he said. I, of course, laughed and gave him a well-deserved lecture about how I was pretty sure that the world was allowed more than one white rapper, and that race has about zero percent impact on why I would like a song. He was unmoved though, and said ‘Whatever. Dude will never amount to anything’.

    Fast forward 6 months later. Macklemore is everywhere. He’s on Ellen, he’s on the radio and miraculously at the top of the iTunes charts. He’s did this being a completely independent artist; this album had no label, no distribution, nothing. And he somehow made it to the top of the charts for a week. Can I just draw your attention to how rare that is? To be an independent touring artist and sell that many copies of your first full length album is nothing short of extraordinary. He sold out his national tour and is finally getting the credit I think he’s always deserved.

    One song off his album that has been getting a lot of attention is called ‘Same Love’ which is a song about being pro gay marriage. It details how the hip hop industry has always largely been homophobic and encourages people to make choices for others based on love. It’s remarkable because it’s rare for an adult male rapper to be so frank about this topic, and also because of the posistive response it’s garnered from his community.  I’m so happy to have been right about him and to have been a witness to his success. And I’m even more happy to continue to follow his career, because in this success he’s managed to showcase a number of great artists.

    Macklemore’s latest album, titled ‘The Heist’  features quite a number of other musicians. And while they all are great in their own way, I’m going to go ahead and give the gold star of the album to the amazing Ray Dalton. He features on the song I posted last time, ‘Can’t hold us down’, and his superb job on that track led me to check out his solo work, where he really shines. Ray is a classically trained gospel singer and this turned him into one of the most soulful male voices I’ve heard this year. His voice comes in on every track smooth as caramel; it reverberates joy in a way that can only come from someone who truly loves to sing.

    There’s so much I miss about old soul music: The love, the richness, the simplicity of that sound that let emotion really shine through. Ray manages to do all of that in style. I’m so excited to keep my eye on him too and see what he does next. Who knows? Maybe someday Ray will feature someone on his album that I’ll be writing about right here. I can almost bet on it. Because that’s the gift of music, it just keeps on giving…..

    Enjoy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBItbPi-ZU8

    Music Monday November 19th, 2012

    Some people say an album is like a sentence, and if you don’t listen to the whole thing you’re not going to hear the intended message. People are usually purists about this issue one way or the other: they usually either exclusively listen to and purchase albums or they pick and choose singles that appeal to them. As a writer, I would probably prefer people read an entire book I wrote as opposed to just a chapter, yet I’m totally guilty of just purchasing singles. I usually have to have a bit of history with a band;  they have to prove to me that they’re totally album worthy before I’ll go blindly getting their entire new album. I know, I know, it’s terrible thing for a self-proclaimed music lover to state. I’ve had friends look through my iTunes in disgust. My laptop has around 80 gigs of well labeled songs on it, but probably only about 20% are albums. Some even have (gasp!) no album art.

    The problem with this school of thought is that you end up missing out on a lot of great songs. Some of my favorite songs in the world are the obscure, second last tracks that no one really talks about; they never end up making it onto the charts. So it’s quite contradictory of me to not give all albums their proper chance to shine.

    So today, you’re getting one of my favorite recent finds off a popular album. If you weren’t living under a rock, I’m sure you heard the superb band Of Monsters and Men come exploding onto the airwaves earlier this year. They’re a quirky, sentimental band with great gang vocals and a young, layered sound. You probably heard their track ‘Little Talks’ at some point this year; the success of this single led to their first North American tour being sold out across the board. Not bad for a small, unknown band from Iceland, right?

    But hiding among the main single and the subsequent 3 that were quite popular was this little gem. ‘Love love love’ is easily one of the sweetest songs I’ve ever heard. It’s nostalgic, simple and emotional. It’s perfect for this odd fall weather, so take it with you. Whether it’s on a walk, to a windowsill or while you drive around this seemingly misplaced season. This song is a perfect silent friend, the kind that listens instead of waiting for their turn to talk. It’s an incredibly soothing song, and I never would have found it if I didn’t give the whole album a chance. So hit play, and maybe take a deeper look into an album you may have overlooked recently; you may just find your new favorite song. 

    “Cause you love, love, love when you know I can’t love. You love, love, love”

    Music Monday November 12th, 2012

    The breakup of a band can be one of the most devastating things in a music lovers life. I’ve seen so many people talk with such a sparkle in their eye about a group and then scratch their head awkwardly and sadly say ‘man, they broke up and it broke my heart, I wish so much they’d make another album’. It’s like they’re telling me their parents got divorced.

    I’m a writer, so I’m quite solitary in my creative process. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to collaborate as a group in such a sensitive, intimate way with multiple other people, and throw the possible clash of personalities into it as well. Being in a band seems to be such a precarious balancing act that has led so many stellar groups to disband from one another.

    My most recent band broken heart comes from a duet I’ve been obsessed with all year. I can’t really confirm they’ve broken up, but they did release a statement recently that stated they had to cancel their tour right in the middle of it ‘due to internal discord and irreconcilable differences in ambition’. I’m still crossing my fingers over here that they’ll be fine, but that doesn’t sound good to me.

    The Civil Wars are comprised of two singer songwriters who met at a songwriting session in Nashville, Joy Williams and John Paul White. They’re not a couple, but watching them sing will make you question it; I was shocked to find out they were both married, to other people. They remind me of new-age Johnny and June Carter Cash. Seeing them perform for the first time was a voyeuristic experience, they’re very intimate performers and I felt like I walked in on a couple singing to each other at home.

    They exploded onto the singer-songwriter scene last year,  and it’s not hard to see why. Their album is masterful: every song has a different flavor to it, but they all have bare-bones arrangements with gorgeous back-and-forth vocals. And speaking of beauty, try not to get too lost in the stunning beauty of these two; I know I did. When I told my boyfriend I had chosen The Civil Wars for music monday, he said ‘don’t go writing a whole column about how good looking you think that dude is’ (doesn’t he look like a sexy Jonny Depp, the kind that writes songs about fireflies on back porches?!?!)

    Physical beauty aside , these two are natural together in a way that doesn’t happen often. Anyone who has ever been single can tell you: Chemistry is tough. It’s hard to find someone you click with, and I imagine it’s the same with playing music. So this column is doubling as a public prayer that these two will be fine. Sometimes it’s not worth making a relationship work that just isn’t; No matter how much you want it to, you can’t force it. But I hope after hearing the magic of these two play, you’ll join me in wishing these two work it on out. 

    Enjoy.

    Music Monday October 29th, 2012

    There’s always been a huge divide among music fans about what the digital age of music has done. But whether you’re buying vinyl or downloading mp3s, you can’t deny that the last 10 years have monumentally changed how people interact with music. The internet and platforms like iTunes and Youtube have done something legendary: they’ve given artists a chance to self promote. They’re able to get out there without a label or PR person, able to put their art into the world and truly allow the fans to decide to keep listening or not.

    As someone who scours the world every day for new music, I take advantage of many outlets. I have friends who e-mail me songs they think I’d like, I use iTunes suggestions, read great music blogs and sometimes just surf around Youtube looking for a gem. Occasionally, the internet gods conspire together to make my sidebar suggest something truly great; this week you’re getting my most recent shiny needle in a haystack. 

    I found Mree a few weeks ago, and have been selfishly keeping her to myself for a bit. She’s a girl out of New Jersey who got her start by amassing a great online following. Her covers and original songs have garnered attention of grammy winning artists and fans alike. Her voice is ethereal; light and meditative. I fell in love with her covers first, but after listening to her whole album, I’m even more impressed. Her lyrics and arrangements are well beyond her young years and I’m so excited to see what she does next. The single off her second self produced album, Monsters, is available on iTunes and Amazon now, and trust me: it’s worth the dollar. 

    I normally would link you a video of something original, but today you’re going to fall in love with her the same way I did: through this song. It’s a perfect cover for the upcoming rainy week. But I urge you to check out her album and keep your eye on her. Sometimes the greatest songs come into my life by pure chance like this, and they’re in my playlists forever. It’s what I hope I bring to some of you every once in a while, something new that you maybe wouldn’t have found on your own. So hit play, and give this girl a shot at your playlist, too.

    Music Monday October 22nd, 2012

    I realized today that in my tenure here at Music Lives I’ve discussed how music relates to movies, to time periods, to seasons and to feelings. But I left out one very important facet in popular culture that we all seem to have a very personal opinion about: television shows. Winter is coming, and for me, that means staying home to save money for summer travels and finding new shows to curl up on the couch with.

    I’ve always said that my dream job would be a music director for television or movies; I love the power that music has to take a scene to another level. It can influence the way a show feels in a way that pure dialogue can’t. As someone who has always been able to get lost in music and film, I think the mergence of the two is an art form. Most people have a television show they swear allegiance to. My teenaged self would pledge her heart to an old sci-fi show called Roswell that my best friend and I devoured; we even road tripped to New Mexico together to see the town our beloved show was based on and attend the legendary UFO parade. But if Roswell was my first love , Sons of Anarchy is my husband. 

    Some people are passionate about their favorite tv show. Hell, I’m passionate about everything. So bear with me here if SOA isn’t your cup of tea, let me try and sway you a little to my side as to why I think Sons of Anarchy is the best show on television today. A show about a motorcycle gang isn’t something new, nor is a show about relatively good looking men doing bad things, but SOA is different in that it makes you root for the anti-hero. Kurt Sutter, the creator and writer of the show is damn genius. He makes you somehow feel bad for the man you would normally want to feel punished. The show explores extreme themes of family, loyalty and legacy, all while absolutely challenging your capacity for gruesome violence. It has made me cry, made me mad, and made me laugh till my cheeks hurt, all in one episode. But more than anything else, it makes me feel and think about things that I never would on my own, and that is a remarkable feat. 

    Outside of it’s fantastic writing and acting, it has a killer soundtrack. Filled with blues-y, gritty american rock, I usually spend the 10 minutes following an episode googling my way around the internet trying to find the song they just played.  The two songs you’re getting today will give you a taste of theme I’m talking about here. The first is a blindingly good cover of John the Revelator. As you may know, that song is a traditional gospel call and response song thats based on the book of revelations and has been performed since the 1930s. But Curtis Stigers & The Forest Rangers tinge it with a perfect sound for these outlaws. I’m also adding in another cover by the same band of ‘House of the Rising Sun’, which is haunting and has a video montage of my favorite boys in it for you.

    So if you’re not a fan already, check the show out if you want something to become enthralled with this winter. Try not to watch all 4 seasons inside of 2 weeks (which I may or may not have done last winter). Either way, hit play and let these songs make you feel like maybe you’re a bit of a pariah. Cause let’s be honest here: Whether it’s our personality, in our daily lives or vicariously through a something like a tv show, there’s a little bit of an outlaw in all of us. 

    Music Monday October 15th, 2012

    One of my favorite authors gave a TED talk where she spoke about the pressure to deliver on expectations after her freakish success of a best seller. She said ‘So check it out, I’m reasonably young, I have another 30 or 40 years of work in me, and it’s possible that I’ve already written my greatest work. Everything I write now will be judged as the work that came after the huge success. It’s increasingly likely that my best work is already behind me, and that kind of thought is the  sort of thing that can lead to a person drinking gin at 9 o’clock in the morning’ 

    It’s a funny statement, but brings up a very relevant point that is constantly on my mind in relation to the music industry. There’s bands that come out every once in a while that blow everyone away. They often have a different sound to what’s currently being overplayed, or they may just re-inventing something that people want to hear. But somehow, they fill a niche, some void everyone seems to have had that maybe we weren’t aware of. They usually seem to come out of nowhere, branding a new scene all on their own and paving the way for a thousand other bands in the same vein to come bursting onto the airwaves.

    You know who I’m talking about. A few years ago it was Kings of Leon, then The Black Keys. After that wave, Mumford and Sons picked it up, and hundreds of amazing folk-rock bands like Of Monsters and Men and The Lumineers followed. I loved all these bands, loved their simple yet poignant lyrics and rich acoustics; loved their use of fiddles and suspenders. I personally favored Mumford and Sons, and didn’t even mind when everyone and their mother was overplaying their freak success of an album ‘Sigh No More’.

    I did however, feel instantly bad for them when their last album skyrocketed up the charts. I mean, how do you live up to that? How do you write a new album or book knowing that it may not be as well received as your last? I’ve written before about staying true to a sound and growing as an artist, but that second album that directly follows a huge accomplishment has to be the worst. The pressure to please everyone is astronomical even in my daily life sometimes, I can’t even imagine commercial success that left thousands judging my work. So I was kind of holding my breath for their next album, I was worried. Could it live up to my hopes for it?

    I got it the day it came out, of course. Picked a stretch of highway through New Mexico to preview it. Listened to it all the way through and finally let out that breath. It was good. Really good. It wasn’t as lyrically pleasing to me as the last one, but it didn’t stray from their sound, from their honesty. My favorite song, the one you’re getting today, is probably the simplest on the album. It’s something we can all relate to: wondering about someone we don’t talk to anymore. Do you have someone like that? Don’t you lie to me, you do. I know I do. Someone who I know would appreciate this song, even though I can’t show it to them. So hit play, have yourself a second helping of Mumford and Sons today. Maybe think of someone you wish you maybe still had around in your life. Who knows? Maybe, just maybe they’re somewhere, listening to this song and thinking of you, too.

     

    “I hear of your coming and your going in the town, I hear stories of your smile, I hear stories of your frown…Where are you now? Do you ever think of me, in the quiet, in a crowd?”

    Music Monday October 8th, 2012

    Hey y’all, I’m back, and I’d like to start this Music Monday by apologizing for three things:

    1)For leaving you all alone on Monday for the past 5 weeks

    2)For the annoying amount of times I will say ‘y’all’ in the near future. I just spent a month in the southwest US, but I’m told this side effect will eventually wear off.

    3)For keeping this gem of a band all to myself for the past month.

    Yeah, sorry about that last one. I found these boys the night before I left on this tour, but didn’t have stable enough wi-fi anywhere to sit down and tell you about them. So consider this the first of many trip souvenirs I smuggled back in my suitcase across the border.

    I love bands who have a sound that encompasses an entire time period. While we all personally have albums that can take us back to a specific point in our lives, having a distinct sound of an entire decade is something else entirely. Without making comparisons to other bands, I think it’s pretty cool when you can hear a band full of young kids and say ‘they sound like the 70s’. Certain instruments, arrangements and vocal style are completely intertwined with entire sections of the past. In the 60s, psychedelic and folk rock arrived , the 70s had a huge amount of experimental and r&b suddenly flood the market, and you’d be hard pressed to find an 80s pop song without a synthesizer somewhere in the background.

    I’ve written about my love of the 80s before, but it isn’t just the music that keeps a part of my heart in my birth decade. The culture, the styles, and the movies were all pretty amazing to me growing up. Maybe it’s because so much of that culture was made for the coming-of-age target audience, but either way they always were the things that hit closest to home. I know I’m not alone here, I have many a female friend that can quote most John Hughes movies and likes a little acid wash jean in her life now and again. And I know (I hope) I’m not the only girl who still dreams of John Cusak (anyone) holding a boom box playing some Peter Gabriel (any song) outside my window at night. 

    These boys sound like those movies to me. PK is a band out of San Luis Obispo. They’ve opened for Aerosmith and they definitely aren’t old enough to have grown up in the 80s. But they must have been watching some movies and taking some notes, because they got it down to a science. A little punk, a little rock and a whole lot of fun equals some of the catchiest songs I’ve seen come out of this vein in a while. If you’re a Robert Smith or Killers fan, these boys are for you. Even their videos perfectly encompass being young; if you dig this, please check out their video for ‘London’ as well, that song almost got them on the cover of Rolling Stone last year.

    So turn it on up, readers. Gel that hair, put on your favorite jeans (acid wash optional), and get transported back to a time when seeing your crush or you next night out was the only thing that mattered. Put a little strut in your step while you’re at it, and rest assured that I will not let you face another Monday alone, music-less. I’m back, ya’ll (sorry). I will not leave you again. Unless I’m dead or in jail. Which unfortunately for someone like me is a real possibility. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-dJlpYrUY4

    Music Monday August 27th, 2012

    My job is usually to bring you the best up and coming bands and music that I’ve found in a week, but sometimes I think it’s important to look back before looking ahead. This will be my last Music Monday for a month, as this time next week I will be headed out for a month long tour around the US. This trip is the culmination of a lot of adjustments in my life and dealing with something a lot of people and bands don’t like: Change. I always seem to figure my life out and get clarity on the road in a way that I can’t at home, so needless to say, I can’t wait to go back. 

    I think change, uncertainty and fear are the compasses toward growth. Most people rebel against the simplest of shifts within their lives. These are usually the same people who criticize bands when they try a new sound or style in the slightest way. I’ve always felt fortunate I wasn’t a musician, trying to deal with the delicate balance of creative freedom and remaining the same to keep your fans. Cause what is life without some growth? Can you imagine trying to write a new album, a head full of fresh material and being concerned that all the people who love you might not as much after this? That’s kind of what we’re all trying to do, isn’t it? Change and grow for the better and still keep the things and people we like best, still hoping they will love us just as much if we change or not.

    It’s a precarious balance, and one of the only bands in my life that has been a constant no matter how far from their original sound they strayed is Incubus. Whether I loved them originally for their metal-tinged roots, or for the laid back vibe of the monster success of their Morning View album doesn’t really matter. Their albums were one of the first that I fell truly and fully in love with, and in a lot of ways, their albums are my compass. They’re the ones I always go back to.

    Brandon Boyd , the lead singer, once said in an interview that the only way to really change is to throw caution to the wind and do what you need to, that the people and fans who truly love you will stay with you. And I think that’s an important message, and speaks just as much about the type of band they are as their record sales.  I could avail you with facts about them all day long, about their difficult to classify sound, to their change and growth, the usage of unconventional instruments or their live show, but I won’t. Not today. You probably already know a lot about these boys, and if you don’t, you’re just a click away from experiencing 2 of my favorite songs by them. 2 of my favorite songs of all time, actually. Jim Rohn said “Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change”. So today, I’m going to try and take a page from Incubus’ book. Go forward,  have some faith that my next journey will take me where I’m supposed to go. I’ll be hitting over 20 states this time around, so I’ll have my ears and eyes peeled to come home with the best new music I can find you. Don’t worry, loyal readers. I may change, but I’ll be back. 

    “Whatever tomorrow brings I’ll be there, with open arms and open eyes…..”

    Music Monday August 20th, 2012

    After a 2 week hiatus, I’m back to avail your ears with something particularly grungy today. There’s one genre of 80s music out there that has some die-hard fans that won’t ever give up their love.  The admittance of love of this genre is often met with a groan when trying to explain it to someone who isn’t, and was never a fan. You know what I’m talking about. 80’s hair metal. 

    My love affair with hair metal began with a chance purchase from columbia house mail order CD’s, a package that contained  Bon Jovi, Poison, Motley Crue and Whitesnake albums. My friends older sister had been blaring these artists all summer long, and I was salivating to hear them again.  I loved their acid washed denim, I loved all their broken hearts, I loved the word ‘bitchin’. I played those albums on my maxell deck for months straight, bought a crimping iron and never looked back. I may have been an eighties baby by birth, but I was a eighties rocker at heart now.

    As a result of that fateful purchase, I spent a good part of my formative years wishing I was Tawny Kitaen, sexily posing on a camaro in a sheer white shirt, backcombing my hair and putting a hole in the ozone layer from my hairspray youth. I became obsessed with the band Tesla. To me, they were the perfect blend of metal and pop, the entire decade just emanated from them. I was probably the only person under 40 at their reunion concert 6 years ago in Toronto (and definitely the only one screaming in the front row).  To some, they probably looked a little washed up and rough, but to me, they were still rock gods. I swear, you could hear every backstage, every venue, and every line of coke ever done in that decade coming from his voice.

    You probably know of all these bands I’m mentioning, they were quite popular. You may however, not know of Steel Panther. I only say this because I DIDN’T. Imagine my shock when I was in San Diego last month, discussing live music and hair metal with someone fantastic, and he completely scooped this music maven with his mention of these guys. How I had never heard of a current, touring hair metal/almost parody band? 

    Steel Panther has been around for a while apparently, and I’ve heard that they put on a live show like no other. Their lyrics are laughable, yes. They don’t have the sustenance of the aforementioned bands, no. I had a hard time finding you a video that wasn’t completely and almost solely comprised of profanity. But they’re fun in a way that doesn’t happen as often in music anymore. So hit play, maybe make yourself a nice brush microphone and let your hair down today. 

    *Note: The 2nd video contains some language that may not be appropriate for children, depending on how you parent. Watch the volume levels, FYI*

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnZM1CzQF8Y

    Music Monday July 30th, 2012

    Does anyone else have ‘music friends’? You know, those friends that live and breathe music the same way you do. The ones that send you that song that ends up being your favorite one. The ones that understand what you love and love to understand you.

    I have a few of these. We may not even be particularly close, maybe I even know their musical taste based solely on their facebook posts, but sometimes I will hear a song and think ‘Oh, so and so will love this‘ and I always want to send it to them. I usually do. I’ve written about sharing music before, but there is no better feeling that knowing someone absolutely loved some piece of music that you showed them.

    Earlier last week, I showed a song to a friend that had recently posted about the band I’m about to show you. I pointed them in the direction of my favorite song on the album and after a few hours they sent me a message that said ‘Thank you so much for that song, that seriously exploded my heart listening to that, I’m obsessed’. What a compliment, right? And I know exactly how he’s feeling. I know that moment of thinking a song was written just for you, that moment of clarity.

    Enter the Lumineers. They’re pretty fresh off the presses, their debut album isn’t even a year old yet, but they are showing up all over the place. They’re part of this great vein of instrumental folk rock like Mumford and Sons and Of Monsters and Men that’s been putting a lot of eclectic instruments back on the mainstream scene;  I’ve never seen so much love for banjos and harmonicas!

    I’m going to give you three good songs to wet your whistle with today, but you must promise if you like this that you will check out their entire stunning debut album. The first is called ‘Ho Hey’. It’s no frills folk, excellent gang vocals and sweet as a piece of pecan pie. A love song and a fun song. The second is called ‘Stubborn Love’ and it’s a violin-tinged, melancholy ballad, this here is the chest exploder. And the third is my personal favorite, Dead Sea. A haunting simple metaphor for being someone’s strength, I can’t seem to stop playing this haunting song.

    So, please hit play. Get ready to fall in love with a song. And do me a favor? When you do, please tell the person how much you loved their song. I live for that. I love the chest exploding moments, it’s the whole reason I do this job and many others. These songs are my thank you for that. For you, all my friends that I know will love this. But also, for someone a little trickier: all my readers that I don’t know. I hope you’ll love it too.

     

    “I don’t gamble, but if I did I would bet on us. You told me I was like the dead sea, the finest words you ever said to me. You’ll never sink when you’re with me, honey I was born to be your dead sea……….”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQlbUojz89U

    Music Monday July 23rd, 2012

    Music Monday is here, and you’re getting a raw video of one of the most soulful unsigned acts I know of. A lot of people think the best new artists are just sitting at the bottom of billboard charts waiting for the right video  that will catapult them into pepsi commercials and the lives of millions, but that’s not the case. They’re often the unknown ones sleeping in walmart parking lots, touring in crappy vans, and playing dive bars.

    Tour life is rough, especially for lower and mid-level bands. It’s often just sleeping and driving, trying your hardest to perform, interact with everyone and eat off of 5 dollars per day. And for bands who manage themselves, without a crew or air-conditioned bus, there’s a whole business side that has to be dealt with daily. Promoters, booking agents and bar managers differ from each venue and city and the whole process is exhausting. Most people don’t know the amount of work it takes into producing a single show. An excellent article on the challenges bands face while touring can be found hereAs someone who deals with the managerial side of touring, I can tell you it’s extremely accurate.

    Trixie Whitley spent years doing just that. She did grow up with some pretty good connections, but she has spent the last few years paying her dues as a self sufficient touring artist. She has an absolutely killer voice, and all her years of hard work are finally starting to pay off and get her noticed by some big producers.  Jump on this bandwagon before I say ‘I told you so’. For fans of Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, Feist and anyone who likes their girls a little raw with a dash of smokey blues. If you like it, check out ‘favorite stranger’ and ‘undress your name’, they both showcase her awesome vocals the best.

    The truth is, at some point in their career, your favorite band was probably playing to room with 2 people in some dive bar. Before they sold out stadiums, they were trying to get someone to buy a single $20 dollar tshirt so they could afford to drive to the next show. They were unknown before they blew up, and it was through simple fan interaction that got them to where they are today. So get off your couch, get out there and support some new talent. Take a chance on seeing a new band, maybe one you’ve never even heard of. Go have a cheap night out, buy a piece of merch if you like it, and who knows? You might even find your favorite new band. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e255MtrXG7g

    Music Monday July 16th, 2012

    Be honest: How many times have you drunkenly sang Queens ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ with your friends? I know I have several times. Maybe not so flawlessly as the drunk guy in this video that went viral earlier in the year, but definitely a couple times. Queen is one of those timeless bands, the groundbreakers that married drama and music together. To me, Freddie Mercury was always one of those larger than life characters, and I for one have been missing him since the day he left us. 

    So today I’m bringing you something to give you a little Queen-esque fix. I won’t fully compare these boys to Queen, because Queen is untouchable in so many ways. But if you too, have been missing yourself a little Freddy, this might ease your longing. I’m a total sucker for gang vocals, primal drums and high energy stage presence, and this group miraculously has all three.

    Fun. is composed of former members of one of my favorite now-defunct bands, The Format, and old members of Steel Train and Anathallo. Together, they’ve managed to make an extremely eclectic sound, full of perfect harmony and infectious enthusiasm. You’ve probably heard their breakout breakout somewhere, ‘We are Young‘, but if you dig this, be sure to check out the rest of the album. It’s well put together, each song is complementary and with the exception of some vocal processing in a few songs, it’s pretty flawless. My other two favorite songs on the album, ‘One Foot’ and ‘All alright’ are worth a listen (and below!) if you’re into this.

    The star of the album is song ‘Some nights’. It’s perfect and with one listen you’ll see why these boys are constantly being named on ‘breakout band’ lists this year.  This is the song you play at full volume while driving down a dark road with friends. Sing your heart out to this one. Make yourself a hairbrush microphone, take the broomstick for a spin around the dance floor, do whatever you gotta do. Just turn it up real loud, and put a little Fun in your day. 

    “But I still wake up, I still see your ghost,  I’m still not sure what I stand for. What do I stand for? Most nights, I don’t know anymore….”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KoU-cPl57Q

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efGMdKAX5kU

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9O1Vh61o-8

    Music Monday July 9th, 2012

    What’s with kids today? Maybe I’m getting too old, but they seem super crude. They dress in far too revealing clothing, seem to demand cell phones and almond milk around age 10 and after taking a quick look at that age demographics most purchased albums, I can only concede that they also don’t have great taste in music.

    I’m not going to rip on any particular musician here. I believe in the respect of music and so much of growing up is about fitting in and I know that a lot of certain artists popularity can be explained by trends and fads. That being said, I usually don’t pay too much attention to what my little cousins or other young teens in my life are listening to. I’ve written a lot before about not judging a genre by it’s people though, so it was high time I got off my hypocritical horse and learned this lesson again.

    Enter Ezra Furman and the Harpoons. I’d heard them briefly last year from a friend, but it wasn’t till a sweet 14 year old girl said ‘hey, you like this? I swear it’s not Beiber‘ to me last week and put on this song. A song so great I whirled right around in my chair. They’re a fantastic rock band from Chicago and this nostalgic song is perfect for your next summer adventure.

    It makes me want to head to the beach immediately, the catchy guitar beat, uptempo and lilting vocals complement each other perfectly. I’m a total sucker for the harmonica, and these boys have used it perfectly. So hit play, bounce around to this addictive song I’ve found you. Sometimes we find the greatest things in unexpected places, and sometimes, I guess those kids are alright.

     

    Music Monday July 2nd 2012

     

    As a writer, and an extremely talkative woman, I sometimes find it hard to get into music with no words. I have this theory that if you play say, the bass, you will probably always hear the bass parts of a song more predominantly than others. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate a lot of instrumental music, but I still identify the most with words; I’m still absolutely guilty of liking a song that was terrible yet had great lyrics.

    Cue Andhim. Now, I understand that their music does have words in it, but they’re in a language I don’t speak, so it’s kind of the same thing. The thing that stands out about this song is it’s absolutely incredible beat. Ever see someone walking effortlessly through a crowd with headphones on, looking untouchable?  I feel like this is the song they must be listening to. The backbone of this song is so catchy it makes me feel cooler just by listening to it, like I should be having brunch somewhere with some witty people.

    I wish I had more to tell you about these guys. I know they’re making waves all over Europe, but web content about this german duo is limited and indecipherable, and I’m in no mood for sitting behind a computer today during this gorgeous weather. So hit play, sit back and relax. I’m not gonna pepper you with another diary entry or spew a ton of facts about these guys at you. When it comes to how truly unique this video and song is, I just have no words.

     

    Music Monday, June 25th 2012

    A lot of artists have rituals both on stage and in their creative process. Some like to play barefoot. I’ve seen good luck charms, favorite t-shirts, beloved guitar picks and certain movements that people think will warrant them a good show or album. Hell, even I have to write this column sitting in one of two places. They aren’t necessarily about superstition or guarantees, A ritual is defined as a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value.

    We all have them in some way. Certain songs you always play at certain times, playlists for different places. Music is inherently linked to our patterns and moods so it naturally becomes a part of our regular actions. I have several music routines in my life, but one always sticks out when I’m about to embark on a certain stretch of highway. Going to my hometown always scares me. Along with birds pecking out my eyes, men with small hands and wind turbines, spending more than 3 days in the place is right up there on my list of irrational fears.

    But of course, I miss my family and friends, so twice a year I embark on the 8 hour journey north to my place of birth, somewhere I’ve always felt like a foreigner, even when I lived there. There’s a wind in the broken highway just before the road turns into town and for as long as I can remember, I have played this song as soon as I hit that bend. It’s as much of a  part of my coming home habit as putting gas in my truck; its necessary.

    I got this album, A boy named goo, from a friend in 1995. It was a pretty integral part of my transition to a small town, and this song always stuck out to me. It always perfectly embodied the feeling of nostalgia I associate with my hometown; that feeling of leaving something behind, even when you wanted to.

    Since their inception in 1985, the Goo Goo Dolls have transformed from their angsty rock sound to a little more commercial, but lyrically they have always been brilliant and melancholic. I’m headed home today. I know I’ll be nervous and excited, and I know I’ll be playing this song on the way.  Thomas Wolfe said ‘You can’t go home again’. Maybe you can’t. Maybe once you leave something behind it will never be as it was. But maybe home isn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. Maybe home is wherever the people who love you are and where you always know what song to play.

     

    “I think about you all the time, but I don’t need the same . If it’s lonely where you are, come back down. And I won’t tell ’em your name……….”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ice7NydF7RM

    Music Monday June 18th, 2012

    Some bands are larger than life. They tower over everyone with their seemingly freakish success, yet still make monstrous shows feel intimate. They transcend time and popularity and make those timeless albums, the ones you associate entire years of your life with.

    Radiohead is one of those bands. They have something for everyone, cause a lot of time, Radiohead sounds like being melancholy, and their brand of sadness is universal. They create a level of ambiance that’s very unique, I’ve seen a lot of people cry at their shows. Usually, I can tell a lot by a person by their favorite Radiohead album or song, and people are usually surprised to hear mine. ‘Really‘, they ask, ‘that one?’. I’ve wondered before how a band with as extensive of a catalogue as theirs chooses a setlist, how do they choose a handful out of hundreds to play for their allegiance of fans.

    Those fans do show up.  I was one of 40,000 who had a golden ticket to their sold out show in downsview park this past weekend. Take a minute to truly think of that number, forty thousand people paid 100 bucks of their hand earned cash to see these guys. I arrived just over an hour early to get a good place up front, and the energy in the air was palpable as we skipped from the parking lot to the lines. We got about 40 feet from the car and heard it: a loud crash, something that sounded like fireworks, and then saw the tumble of the metal stage in front of us, like some bad game of kerplunk gone wrong.

    The stage fell. We swore and were stunned, and I immediately started to worry about the people that were undoubtedly on the stage an hour prior to showtime. Sirens and screaming began, and in the end, someone did lose their life. The show was canceled and we were sent away from the wreckage. Radiohead’s drum technician, Scott Johnson was the crew member that died. How sad it is to be just doing your job, living the perceived dream and your life just ends. So many of my friends and family tour for a living, and beyond the perception of it being a rockstars life, there is sacrifice, there is risk, and there is danger.

    It can happen everywhere I guess. A friend of mine, the local Guelph fixture Martin Vryenhoek passed away last week as a result of a work related accident. I didn’t know Scott Johnson, but if he was half the man Martin was then I know how awful this situation is for his loved ones. They were both two men just doing their job, living the best life they could when this senseless act happened.

    The situation is sad, and this song is probably the one of the most depressing songs ever, but it will always be my favorite of theirs. Someone very wise once said ‘Songs are only as sad as the listener‘, and I agree. I’ve played it at every time in my life when things felt inconceivable, when I needed to know someone else did too, and there is beauty in that. I make sense of the senseless through music. I find it best listened to while laying on a floor, during a very heavy thinking conversation with yourself. Be warned: this song will cause you to be brutally honest with yourself and how you’re feeling today. So lay down, press play, let it all out, and be honest, be sad if you want, and be safe.

    Music Monday June 11th, 2012

    Last week, due to technical difficulties, and my geographical location in the land where summer never ends, on some beach in California, Music Monday didn’t go up as planned. I’ll be making up for it by giving you two songs to fall in love with today.

    Jim Jarmusch said “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to”

    Covers are usually a tricky subject for a lot of music minded people. It’s tough sometimes to strike that perfect balance between leaving your own mark on something and keeping enough of an original to recognize the talent and work of someone else. It’s tough: if I love the original, it can be hard to give anything else a fair chance, I’ve done my fair share of accusing a cover of butchering a beloved song. But if I hear a cover first, it can be hard for me to give the original the real listen it deserves, I may not hear the subtleties.

    So today, I’m going to give you two versions of a lovely song. I’d be hard pressed to tell you which one I preferred, both are extraordinary. The original is called ‘Endless Summer’ by an amazing band called the Jezabels. If you miss the 80s pop world a little, then you need to listen to this band. The lead singer is ethereal, her vocals lend a light and airy quality to their sound, every song sounds a little like driving down a back road while the sun goes down. If you’re into them, I highly suggest checking out their song ‘Long Highway‘ as well, or seeing them this year when they play at Guelph’s hillside festival.

    The cover of this song was sent to me by a dear friend, the kind that frequently sends me songs they think I would like (For all my friends who do that and are reading this, I love you).  It was a video of a man named Josh Pyke covering the aforementioned song and I was blown away. It was so pretty, and lent such a different quality to the version I was used to. It was a perfect cover: it kept everything I loved about the original, but sounded totally like him. He took a pop song, stripped it down to its bare bones, added an accordion and made it something to lay in a hammock to.

    Both songs sound like summer, which is appropriate for the title. Summer is here, and for this Canadian, those months have always been the time for creating, for adventures, for midnight swims and rambling conversations. So check out both these songs, let me know which is your favorite, and start putting yourself in the summer state of mind. Whatever you decide to do in the next few warm months, don’t forget to bring some music. And even if it’s just a few new memories, no matter what you decide to create, remember to always take something and make it yours.

    “Of my life, you were the deepest lover, stay with me, here in the endless summer, An endless summer in my mind….”

     

     

    Music Monday May 28th 2012

    It was Morrissey that said “Nothing else ever in your life will affect you like music did in your early teens, and it puts you on a certain course. It’s like a love affair. It widens your taste and it broadens your view on everything. It saves you.”

    My upbringing fed me a strict diet of rock and motown and my tastes today have evolved so far from my teenage years that I would never dream of pigeonholing myself into one category by saying ‘oh, I’m only into________ music’.

    But in highschool, the genre I most closely affiliated myself with was that of the pop-punk persuasion. I can still remember being front row for NOFX at my very first Warped Tour. It was the first time I went to a concert alone with friends, the first time I had immersed myself fully in a pit, and the first time I was so close to every one that I didn’t know whose sweat belonged to who. I had horizontal bruises on my chest from being pushed against barricade bars over a week later. All of the music from that era of my life is ingrained there in a way new music could never be. It was along for all my firsts. It was at all my favorite parties, playing in the cars of friends that learned to drive and in playing constantly in my room;  they made me long for a California childhood that I never had. It doesn’t matter if in hindsight it’s not terribly good, or complicated, or anything like your tastes today, the music of your youth is timeless in a way that no other music will be.

    Most so-cal punk bands like NOFX, Lagwagon, NFG, Pennywise, Rancid and my personal favorite, No Use For A Name are all an unmovable part of my adolescence. They embody that sound of rebellion, of stepping out on my own. No matter what opinion you have on punk music, or your preferred sub-genre or time period of it, punk has always had the same message no matter when it was made: Don’t care what anyone thinks. Be yourself, no matter the cost. 

    No Use For A Name was the perfect band to me. I think I played their CD ‘More Betterness‘ until it physically wouldn’t play anymore. Over the years they’ve become a little more melodic and been able to stay current through the integration of more pop into the genre, but they still have that perfect gritty backbone, those lyrics about frustration and fitting in.

    They’re playing a free show this June 14th at Dundas Square in Toronto for NXNE, and I’m so excited to dance to the music I’ve been in love with for so long. I still remember that girl, that 15 year old me dancing alone in her room. She was naive, and a little silly, but I liked her. Still do. Put on the songs you grew up with today. Take a look back, and remind yourself how far you’ve come. And no matter what kind of music you’re into now, or who you’ve become, remember what punk music taught us: Stay true. Stay you.

     

    Music Monday May 22nd, 2012

    I know, I know. It’s Tuesday. Music Monday was postponed till today because I was out enjoying the long weekend. It was the first May 2-4 that wasn’t plagued with rain, ruining everyone’s grand outdoorsy plans. So alas, you’re getting your fix today.

    Long weekends make your Sunday extend into Monday and skip all the yucky anxiety about the upcoming work week. I’ve always said that Tuesday was just a passive aggressive Monday, masquerading as a mid week day. But a Monday off turns Tuesday into the first day of your short week and all is forgotten. So in spite of the holiday weekend being over, I am still in the vacation mindset today. It’s still nice outside, and I don’t want to be cooped up with my laptop and work. I’m going to keep this short, cause I want to keep my Sunday state of mind.

    Sundays are my favorite day of the week.  Saturday is the great first day of the weekend, sure. You get things done on a Saturday. But Sundays are for lingering in bed. Sundays are for making love and eggs benedict. They’re for reading books in parks and bike rides. And for me, of course, they’re about music. Easy music, playing softly while I cook a long dinner. The kind of songs that make me want to sit lazily with, maybe meet up with a good book until I fall into an afternoon nap.

    This is one of my favorite Sunday songs. The Rascals (or Young Rascals, depending on when you heard of them) and soul music were a huge part of my growing up. The Rascals were part of a sector of soul/R&B called ‘Blue Eyed Soul‘, which was a term used to describe white groups that were performing music predominately made by young black men in the late sixties. Racial segregation had a huge influence on music in that time. When records were released in certain parts of the country, label execs made conscious decisions to not publish photos of the group depending on how well popular music was emerging in that state, and the identity of the Rascals were hidden for a long time. Personally, when it comes to race and music, I agree with founder of Motown records Berry Gordy, who said ‘I don’t see black or white, I only see green. If they were good and could make me money, I was in’

    So here’s your instructions for this song: It’s still hot out, so grab yourself something cold. A drink, a beer, a popsicle, whatever. Put it on the floor and press play. Lean your back against the wall and sliiiiiiiide down to the floor, slow as you can. Maybe even the word shimmy would work here. Can you shimmy? Do that. Relax, drink your drink and let the sounds of a simpler time fill the room. Don’t worry about tomorrow, or work or when you need to change the oil in your car. They can wait, the world will not fall apart if you take the next 5 minutes just for you. Just listen. Breathe. And put a little Sunday in your Tuesday.

     

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rkgozdtsh_g

     

    Music Monday, May 14th, 2012

    There are always certain songs we will forever associate with summer. Some of them are not particularly good, and I will always remember them only because they seemed to be incessantly played at top volume at every club or public place I enter. But some are the songs that I will always be able to play on a dreary rainy day and be instantly flying down a highway; singing loudly and letting my hair fly in the wind.

    For a long time, this was the song I associated with freedom and summer. This was a pivotal album of my life that year; Third Eye Blind was my favorite band in that vein of late 90s rock that seemed to embody every breakup and friendship I had. Early last summer, I got a call from Nik Wever of Gain Music, informing me that Third Eye Blind was playing a free show at Echo Beach in Toronto. We decided to head down together, even knowing we would only be able to catch half the set because of work schedules. I searched youtube videos and setlists to get an idea of what they were playing this tour, and sadly discovered they most likely weren’t playing my favorite song; it was on no recent setlist and there were no live videos in the past year of it.

    I usually listen to the band I’m seeing on the way to a concert. I talk about the songs with whoever I’m with, what we’re hoping they play, what each song means, everything about the night to come. I remember Nik and I talking about our favorite songs and when I showed him this one, I recall saying ‘they never play this song, and even if by some miracle they do, we’ll probably miss it’.  It was a free show, so it was a decent crowd, but somehow Nik and I secured a spot in the 4th row and waited through two lukewarm opening bands. Finally, the sun was setting and Third Eye Blind stepped onto the stage.

    I only had to hear the opening 3 notes of the song before I shrieked with glee.  They were playing my favorite song. No, they were opening with my favorite song. The one they never play. On the night I had to miss half their set. I couldn’t believe my luck. I grabbed Nik and shook him ‘DO YOU BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING?!’ I screamed at him, and he laughed at my elation. It was like being in time machine, and I whipped out my camera to start documenting this amazing moment. I recorded this video, in which you can totally hear me singing off key along to the song. The video is only 1:33 long though. I’ve shown it to people and had them ask ‘Uh, you didn’t record the best part of the song?’

    No, I didn’t.

    I didn’t because right around the 1:33 minute mark I realized that I was at a free show, listening to one of the great bands of my youth, while they played one of my favorite songs and what was I doing? Watching it through a 3 inch screen, fiddling with the zoom instead of taking part in the amazing moment that the universe had seemed to conspire to make just for me. So I turned it off. It was revolutionary for me.  I’m the sort of person who goes somewhere nice and says ‘I can’t wait to come back here’, instead of reveling in the moment before me.

    I’m not gonna get all Oprah on you here and start spouting off self help advice about the power of now, but that day changed a lot of how I live my life. As someone once eloquently pointed out to me, my life is extremely well documented. I’m the picture taker, the journal-er, the one who is constantly making sure I have all the tools to remember this moment. But in order to do that, I was missing everything. So I made myself a rule. Just like photographers get told when they get their press passes as shows, I have 2 songs to take pictures during and then I stop. Put the camera away. I’ll never be able to properly document it anyways. I can’t take a picture of the magic in the air, can’t recreate the smell, the excitement in the room.

    How many of you do that? Every time I go to a show now, there’s people who miss entire shows cause they’re busy recording the whole thing. It’s even replaced lighters, people now wave their cell phones in support. This year on Valentines Day, I went and saw Dallas Green of City and Color in Kitchener, and halfway through, he said ‘who here has a cell phone? Okay, can you put it in the air? Okay, now take it and stick it right in your pocket and leave it there’. And we all laughed for being called out on our technological umbilical cord. So everyone put it away for that song, and the whole room changed. We heard the music, and that moment was just ours.

    So next show you go to, try and focus more on the singing, the laughing, the people. You know, the stuff you’re supposed to do at a concert. Think of your favorite summer song (and tell me about it in the comments). Take that song and jump in a car, or crank it up at home. Sing loudly, let that sunshine run through you and dance around. Don’t worry about tomorrow, or even 10 minutes from now. Hear that song, and be here now.

     

    Music Monday- May 7th, 2012

     

    Last week I promised to find you a nice boy to listen to, but I’ve only kept half my promise: I found you a boy, but he’s anything but nice. He’s actually pretty spectacular. However, I would be completely unable to appreciate this, or any song within this genre as fully as possible if it wasn’t for my own nice boy.

    Sometime last year I met a guy that had sparkly eyes and was witty enough to hold my attention for more than 5 minutes. Whenever I meet someone new, I’m always terrified to ask the dreaded, very important question:  ‘What kind of music do you listen to?’ I don’t really care about what the answer is per se, as long as they have some band they’re passionate about. As someone who spends a large portion of their personal and professional life with music, it’s crucial that other people in my life get it’s importance. Music is one of the most personal choices someone can make, and I will always respect others and expect the same from everyone in my life.

    I’ve asked the aforementioned big question many times before; one time I got the absolute f*cking craziest answer I have heard to date. Some guy once said  ‘Actually, I’m not really into music’.

     (Silence)

    ‘Uh, are you into breathing’? I wanted to ask.

    I had no idea what to say to him. I wanted to poke him, make sure he wasn’t a cyborg. I prodded further, no favorite band, never been to a concert, what CDs are in your car? ‘Nope, nope, nothing’ he said.  ‘I mean, sometimes I’ll turn the radio on in my truck and listen to a song if it comes on that sounds okay, but I don’t like, own any CD’s or anything’.  Needless to say, it didn’t work out.

    Anyways, back to my sparkly eyed boy. He was lovely; well read, funny, smart, and a hip hop kid. I’m a bonafide rock/metal/punk chick through and through, and his genre was one I was familiar with, but not nearly as fully versed in. I was a little scared. But over time, he’s brought me over to his side a little. He’s introduced me to some amazing music that I wouldn’t have otherwise given a chance; and that’s a gift. If you love music, you share it, and the gift he has given me is one I can never fully thank him for.

    One of my favorite gifts the hip hop world has recently brought to my life is this man: Macklemore. He’s an Irish kid from Washington that is easily one of the filthiest rappers I have ever heard. He’s raw, and probably the only person I have ever heard rhyme the word ‘orange’. I originally heard his song ‘Wings‘, an ode/hate poem to his Nike Airs and what they stood for. Upon checking out his impressive discography, I was blown away, and it took me a solid 10 minutes to choose which of his songs to share with you today; there are so many good ones.

    At times, he can be dirty: His song ‘Can’t hold us down’ has one of the most epic beats I have ever heard and it doesn’t matter how bad of a mood I’m in: I put this song and my shoulders start to bounce and before I know it, I’m dancing around like a maniac. He’s sampled Red Hot Chilli Peppers ‘Otherside‘ for his song of the same name, and paints a picture of his own past addictions that are insightful, not self pitying, and that makes for an inspiring story. If you’re Irish in any way, or just really love St. Patty’s day, make sure you listen to ‘Irish Celebration‘, it’s an ode to his heritage that made me crave a green beer (and I don’t even drink)

    He can be lyrical without standard predictable rhyming: His song ‘My Oh My‘, is a must listen for any sports fan; it’s about his beloved team, but makes you think of how much you love yours. When I heard it, I instantly thought of Joe Carter winning the world series for the second time, running around the field with that ball screaming his head off while I freaked out at home.

    He can be pure poetry: His song ‘The End‘, is spine-tingling, and would win the award for ‘best use of horns’ if there was such a category. It made me nostalgic for every high school dance I ever went to, and when he says ‘you are perfect, forget that prom dress’, I get goosebumps every time.

    I suppose my whole point of this story and about Macklemore, is that I appreciate people that are passionate about something. Whether or not you dig him or this style, he always feels real. He tells a story he feels strongly about, and it translates. I had the privilege of seeing him at his first Toronto show on his last tour (sold out!) and you could just feel every word come from a very true place inside him. He wrote on his blog earlier last year ‘believe it or not, writing as a vulnerable, real person is still a commendable and endearing trait in 2011’, and I really applaud him on admitting that.

    He recently released the song and video for ‘Victory Lap’, which shows his journey from playing dive bars to stadiums. When you watch an artist grow over the years from his first album to major success, you can’t help but feel happy for them and to have been a part of it. It’s catchy, with an unpredictable beat and really shows how hardworking and deserving he is off all his accomplishments.

    In the song I mentioned earlier, ‘The End‘, he says whistfully “Don’t you love music, it’s such a gift and I’ll give it to ya; but you gotta use it‘. I love that line. So thank you, to my sweet hip hop boy who gives me the gift of music all the time. Thank you to Macklemore, who reminded me to be more open minded about my choices. And thank you to all my readers, who make me want to keep sharing my thoughts and words. Do me a favor? If you’re reading this, thank someone today too. Post a song that’s been killing you, been saving you, been making you dance, whatever. You never know what effect it might have. Be real, and Give someone the gift of music today. 

     

     

     

    Music Monday April 30th, 2012

    Okay, bear with me here. I swear, I know it’s been several weeks in a row that I’ve availed your ears with female vocalists, so here’s the deal: I will post about yet another female singer this week and then next week I will find you a nice boy to listen to.

     

    I stumbled across Cold Specks‘ video for ‘Holland‘ last week in a random blog and have quickly become a superfan. Born and bred in Etobicoke, she’s formerly a bored University of Toronto student who spent far too much time in her dorm room fingering a guitar; she later quit and moved to the UK where she adopted her current moniker, Al Spx (her real name is unknown, such a mystery!)

     

    The simplistic style and guitar of her songs could be argued in either direction, with some saying it undermines her potential, and others saying it showcases her vocals perfectly. I’m a believer in the latter. She once described her voice as ‘a dark beast I didn’t know what to do with‘. It’s husky, and reminiscent of old gospel singers and rainy days; it resonates through you.  This sandpaper voice, coupled with minimal accompaniment, make these the songs to sit alone with, the ones to play softly in the background and be reflective with. And magically,  instead of sounding like some lonely girl singing about death, she sings something universal that we can all connect with. I’ve only heard a handful of these sedating, stunning songs so far, but I will be the first in line to check out her new album ‘I predict a graceful expulsion’ when it comes out on May 22nd. If you’re like me and prefer your music live, she’ll be playing Guelph’s famed Hillside Festival this year as well.

     

    Tom Waits said ‘ Nobody ever says ‘that’s enough songs, don’t play me anymore. There’s always room for more songs.‘ I agree, I believe there is a place for all types of music in the world. Every bad day, every happy, glittering moment, every tear and every smile needs a song. Cold Specks is beautiful, gloomy and haunting, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its place in even the cheeriest persons life. Music is about connection, about feeling close to someone you barely know and about believing in something. The video for my other favorite track on the album, ‘Blank Maps’,  was just released, and while I had heard the song before, the video added a new dimension for me. As Cold Specks makes eye contact with you, she proudly declares ‘I am, I am, I am, I am, a goddamn believer‘. In that moment, she made one out of me.

     

    So press play, lay down and let her transport you somewhere as she plays an amazing version of ‘Lay me Down’ on the Jools Holland show earlier this year. I don’t know what this song will do for you; it may help you, or it may hurt you depending on how you’re doing today. But at minimum, I promise if you give this girl a listen she’ll  make a goddamn believer out of you too.

     

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iakh1pX7pxg

     

     

    Music Monday April 23, 2012

    Hey everyone!

    I know Aaron introduced me last week, but I thought I’d give a proper hello. I’m Teresa and I’ll be hosting my long-running column Music Monday here on Music Lives from now on.  Every Monday I’ll tell you what I’ve been listening to. Whether it’s introducing you to a new up and coming band, revisiting one of my old favorites or reminding you why you love a particular band, Ill be showing you what I think you should be listening to right now. I love suggestions and new music, so send me your comments and let me know what I should be checking out. Enjoy, and thank you all for my warm welcome into the Music Lives family!

    -Teresa

     

     

    Music Monday April 23, 2012

     

    If Otis Redding and Janis Joplin had an illegitimate child that was later adopted by Kings of Leon and frequently visited by their weird uncle Jack White, Alabama Shakes would be that kid.

     

    Alabama Shakes  released their first full-length album last week called ‘boys and girls’ that has been on constant rotation in my playlists. In a matter of months, they’ve went from virtually unknown to playing the Lettermen show this week and being added to MTV’s ’11 artists to watch list’, and for good reason. They sound like a proper southern rock band, but with a unexpected soul; a grittiness that makes me want to be in a bar with sawdust on the floor, dancing hip-to-hip with a stranger to this song. A bluesy sound that makes me nostalgic for 70s rock, I’m pretty sure everyone can find something they like on Alabama Shakes new album.

     

    If you like this song, check out my other favorite on the album ‘You ain’t alone’, it’s a little slower, but with a little more keys and just as much passion.  When you’re done, search for a live performance of them, I guarantee you’ll be absolutely blown away.

     

    So click play, close your eyes and turn up the speakers. Don’t fight it, let your fingers snap along (they will), toe tap that floor and get ready to get nostalgic for everything you miss about rock and roll.

    Music Monday April 16th

    (Editors Note: This post was written Monday. We realize it’s Wednesday but I had some technical difficulties. It’s my fault it’s just going up now. Also, since the original post the video has been taken down but I’m sure you saw it. I selected the photos for the post to replace the video. Anyways, Teresa (@thebandiswithme) is a great addition to our blogging team as she has a lot of knowledge on the inner-workings of the music scene. And she loves music. That’s kind of a prerequisite around these parts. Please welcome her with me. – Aaron)

    If you’re a music nerd I’m going to expect your opinion on this….

    When Aaron reads a sentence containing ‘music’ and ‘nerd’ this photo gets posted.

    Music Monday: I know I already posted this video today, and it’s all over the internet everywhere, but I’ve been thinking about it all day and I’d love to hear some other opinions. This past weekend at Coachella, after a killer set with Dre and Eminem, Snoop performed with a life size hologram of Tupac, and it was pretty damn good. As someone heavily involved personally and professionally with live music, I’m intrigued/worried about the ramifications of something like this, not to mention the amount of labels that are probably salivating over the acceptance of such an advance. No actual artist on stage means lower compensation, no crew, minimal tour overhead, and not to mention that very little actual musicianship is needed to make a hologram of someone who sounds and plays better than they do in real life. All that said, it doesn’t change the fact that the performance that stole the show at the renowned festival this weekend was from someone who isn’t even alive.

    I don’t think I need to tell you how much this changes fan interaction with someone after they die; will living on through just music be enough in the future, or will a physical connection always be important? All this has led to me to wonder: Would you go see a hologram concert of your favorite artist? What about ones that were deceased/no longer performing?

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