Tuesday, January 28, 2014

lady-cold




choking razor blades
line my throat, while in my head
cement mixers churn
 

Friday, January 24, 2014

about to drop

After an unseemly long hiatus, spent primarily watching the looming snowbanks transform to icebanks, I am inching back into writing mode. The muse disappears disturbingly quickly and luring her back is harder than it looks. Perhaps I need to plan a trip to the nearest Writers R Us outlet, to buy one of those humane muse traps.

I am going to need her. I have been given an amazing long-term writing opportunity, about which I am very excited, although at this point I can't divulge any more than that. Stay tuned.

But I don't want to leave you on a teaser note, so here's a good solid link to my recent review on the National Music Centre blog, of a fine solid debut album. What a voice on this lady! Have a read, take a listen.

And if venues are more your style, you may want to check out my latest BC Musician Magazine article, in which I tell you all about a funky little music cafe, in a strip-mall just down the hill from my house.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

discomfort and joy

Hellgoing - Lynn Coady

Lynn Coady can take a concept that I would be tempted to base an entire story around and toss it off as a throw-away line uttered by one of her characters. I guess that's why she is Lynn Coady and I am not. She does this several times in her Giller Prize winning collection of short stories, Hellgoing, and I am jealous each and every time. 

The characters in Hellgoing have an unfailing way of getting under your skin. They are not always the nicest people, but neither are they a super-villain variety of evil. Rather, the characters in Lynn Coady's stories are oddly flawed, often in a disturbingly public and unapologetic way.

Hellgoing has no shortage of people who flaunt, either through choice or situation, their slightly shocking foibles. There is the writer who carefully follows her own code of conduct for being an alcoholic, to the extent of coaching a hook-up on drunkard etiquette. There is the woman who uses her uncomfortable visit with her estranged family as fodder for supremacy during girls' night out. There are, among others, the reluctant landlord struggling with discomfort over his tenant's plight, the teacher and pupil whose strange relationship continues over the years, and the masochistic bride whose quest for pain spills out of the basement dungeon into daily life.

The stories in Hellgoing do not necessarily wrap up tidily by the end, but then neither does life. The stories in Hellgoing may not end neatly, but they are gloriously complete. And they will haunt you.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

dominoes fall

Now that we are into week two of computerlessness, my games craving is subsiding, and the house is cleaner than it has ever been. There may even have been one or two drawers cleaned out.

My actual work continues to pile up, which is becoming a trifle worrisome, but not enough for me to attempt to do any research and writing on this tablet. Instead, I am tackling the Great Office Clean Out Project.

In light of the fact that I did not receive a shredder for Christmas, I instead hand-shredded the giant bag of documents that has been mouldering in the office for the past half year, a task that was nowhere near as onerous as I feared. Today, the giant sorting/shuffling begins.

I am far more excited about this than I should be, and should probably take this as an indicator that I need to get out more, but the prospect of a streamlined, uncluttered office with a filing system that is accessible, makes sense and actually works is pretty heady to an OCD minimalist like myself. Even more exciting to me is the fact that this undertaking will improve not only the office itself, but also a bedroom closet, the exercise room and my urban assault vehicle. The domino effect of this project is huge. I don't know why I didn't figure this out years ago.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

picture this

Me, pecking away at a borrowed iPad, grudgingly admitting that the touchscreen keyboard is not that bad and that the scrollability is actually pretty handy, marvelling at the lightness of the gadget and that it can be used when my lap is already occupied by a feline. Such is my screen time for the next week or so while my real computer is at the hospital.

But oh how I miss my games. Newspaper sudoku is a good substitute, but sometimes you just need a little Minesweeper or Free Cell or Spider Solitaire.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

10 of 13

2013 was not a particularly musical year for me - a few less concerts, a few less must-haves scratched onto my album shopping list. However despite my slowdown in music listening, I did find that there was no shortage of albums to populate my top ten list. The following favourites are not ranked in any particular order. Rather, they are those ten albums that I found myself returning to again and again.

SAVK - Love Letters and Hate Mail
I bought this album upon hearing one song played on CBC, and fell immediately in love with the record. Hopefully it is not the kiss of death to call an album pretty, because that's the best word to describe this release from Calgarian and former Beija Flor member Stephen van Kampen. Soulful, lilting, and a touch gritty, with lots of folksy backup chorus. Very satisfying.

Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse
Damn, the Frabbits just keep getting better and better! Dour Scottish angst laid bare in an insanely rhythmic upbeat fashion that I cannot resist howling along with (in my best fake Scottish brogue), is so good for my soul. And since many of the tracks from this album also featured prominently on the workout mixes I made this year, good for the rest of me too. 

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan - Uzu
Gorgeous, soaring, shape-shifting, theatrical, rock opera that calls upon the ancients and cries out to the future of rock. 

Rae Spoon - My Prairie Home
After delving in electronica on two previous releases, Rae Spoon made a brave return to country folk roots in 2013. My Prairie Home, which is the soundtrack for the NFB film of the same name, features starkly beautiful and surprisingly catchy songs interspersed with brief choral interludes. Spoon's perpetually sweet voice is the perfect foil to these songs of quiet rebellion. (fun fact: this album and SAVK's were both produced by local wunder-kind Lorrie Matheson - go Calgary music!)

Matthew Good - Arrows of Desire
Feels like a throwback to the MGB that tore up the college radio charts in the late 1990's and the early part of this century - straight-up politically charged alt-rock delivered with a sneer and driving beat. Good shit.

The Sadies - Internal Sounds
I became a Sadies fan far later than I should have. They were always on the periphery of my consciousness, as the premier purveyors of Canadian alt-country, but it wasn't until I really sat down with their considerable back catalogue that I came to appreciate just how majestic they are. Internal Sounds is a satisfying melange of that signature dark twangy guitar and experimental forays into the underworld. 

The National - Trouble Will Find Me
It took me a while to get into this album, but I think that was more a lack of time and opportunity. The National does what they do very very well, and I am happy they didn't mess about with things too much.

Josh Ritter - The Beast In Its Tracks
I have just about worn this CD down to the nub. Heartfelt and often joyous, this album is Ritter's most personal. Here he moves away from the literary songs peopled with characters from his fertile imagination and sings instead about getting through to the other side of heartache, in a very real way. Lovely personal stuff.

Abramson Singers - Late Riser
This album resonated with me immediately. At times playful and lilting, at other times full of heartbreak, it is a delicious blend of layered chorals, ethereal voices soaring above rounds of notes. Leah Abramson has a wonderfully effortless voice - light and playful but at the same time filled with quiet strength. Highly imaginative.

Basia Bulat - Tall Tall Shadow
Same honeyed husky tones, same plucky autoharp, but the songs on Tall Tall Shadow feel more mature, with a melancholy that was absent from Bulat's previous joyous romps. This album is all growed up.  
*

I just realized that seven of my ten favourite albums from 2013 are Canadian, proof positive that, in the zombie household at least, Canadian music is powerful and thriving.