Saturday, October 25, 2014

sounds of the underground

i've always faced a conundrum as a music journalist: i don't really listen to contemporary music. i'm not up to date on what the kids are listening to. i'm usually hard-pressed to name a "current" band i like - as in, a band that's not from the 80's or 90's - much less one of the ones deemed universally cool (or just obscure enough to be so) by critics. in the last few years, though, i've found that i've been unintentionally curing this dilemma by listening to indie 103.1 every day. a largely indie station broadcast out of los angeles, i've been tuning in since probably 2007 - i recall listening to a lot of indie 103.1 when i was living in vancouver - and have been unwittingly absorbing a lot of good under-the-radar bands from all over the world.

i used to almost never listen to radio stations that would mostly be made up of music new to my ears. i wanted familiarity -- stuff i already knew i liked. here's a dirty secret: if you send me a link to a song or post a link to something that you think is, like, the best song ever, i will probably not listen to it. i burned myself out on terrible music years ago when i was doing reviews 24/7. i used to be of the rather dumb opinion that since i spent so much of my time listening to crappy stuff (with some hidden gems), i'd rather spend my free time listening to stuff i knew i liked. kind of a narrow-minded view there, young self.

anyway, i got out of that rut thanks to the wonder of internet streaming radio stations. indie 103.1 has been my gateway to many new and awesome bands, and i wanted to highlight some of the ones on my current playlist (already, advance apologies if any of these bands are not, in fact, up-and-comers -- they're all new to my ears). if you've got spotify, i have an ongoing playlist being built, so listen and follow along if you feel the inclination (and the noiiiiiiiiize).

here's a few of the songs from that playlist by bands you might not have heard of:

rüfüs du sol - "desert night"

this australian group just played wrongbar here in toronto, and i'm kind of regretting missing it because tickets were probably cheap, but oh well. this here's a really chill single, with delicate vocals and pretty hushed instrumentation coming together to make a ridiculously catchy track. i blame the synth beats. turn the lights down low.

poliça - "smug"

really cool, haunting track with some fantastic female vocals and a solid rhythm. this one tends to get in my head and stay there until i listen to the actual song a couple times, which isn't a bad thing at all. reminds me quite a bit of portishead, if you dig their type of trip-hop (and i definitely do).

gauntlet hair - "bad apple"

i guess i really like fake drumbeats and odd synth sounds (though okay, i'm a depeche mode fan so that makes sense), because this song gets me nodding along every time i listen to it. super cool when it drops down at 1:44. kind of weird and dark but definitely original and deftly made.

the deloreans - "as long as it's you"

cute, slow and sentimental. i probably have a real soft spot for this one because i was listening to it a lot when i was first dating the import boy, but whatever, it's just a nice song. dude's got a neat, resonant singing voice, too. (in case you hadn't noticed, interesting vocals go a long way with me. i love our lady peace, for god's sake.)

last lynx - "curtains"

kind of weird, kind of echo-y, and 100% atmospheric. actually rather relaxing and makes for really nice mood music, or something to play in the background as you're chilling out. my boyfriend likes this one a whole lot.

walk the moon - "anna sun"

this one might be more popular than i think it is - i know i've heard "anna sun" on the radio a bunch of times, not to mention my spin class - but i had to include its raucous upbeat awesomeness here because it's been my #1 feel-good song of the year. they remind me of capital cities, but less annoying.

volcano choir - "byegone"

i'm not a huge fan of stuff off jagjaguwar, but this one's got a neat rolling tune that perfectly uses the crash of drums with ringing guitar tones. great build-up on the chorus to a perfect crescendo of melody and vocals.

magic man - "texas"

i feel like magic man are going to blow up pretty big, if they aren't on the way to doing so already. (tumblr seems to be pretty obsessed with them, on the strength of what looks like a recent opening slot for panic at the disco) very summery and uplifting, like an ideal road-trip soundtrack song. "paris" is also a great tune.

st. lucia - "closer than this"

oh right, "summery and uplifting" -- here's another one! i blasted this tune a whole lot throughout the year's sunny days, because it's a real happy one. st. lucia is playing here at the danforth music hall next month, i think, but tickets there are crazy money so i likely won't get to see them.

death from above 1979 - "trainwreck 1979"

i know i'm cheating with this one - because dfa79 are far from a little-known indie - but i have to give it up for the triumphant return of our finest drum-and-bass rock n' roll duo. this lead single off their new album has got all the heaviness, scronky noise and howling vocals that their legacy has dictated, and i'm absolutely thrilled. (also, once upon a time, jesse gave me some of the best advice i've ever received as a music journo: "you gotta be fucking ruthless.") extra plug for nick, who did the above video and has his own wicked rad band biblical.

also, i saw dfa79 at riot fest last month (first time i'd seen them since 2004!) and they were fucking amazing.

i was pretty sure someone was going to die in the pit during their set. bangin' and vicious. i love it.

lastly, one old favourite that i've been blasting a lot lately:

i'd been having a pretty wretched few days last week - my raging pms was conspiring with the universe to make everything go wrong, and to make it seem approximately one billion times more devastating - but then i remembered that andrew wk exists, and he always wants us to party hard (party hard!). so, i took his wise advice, and felt so much better about life, the universe, and everything. party hard.

anything i've missed? is there anything else i should actually give a listen to? let me know in the comments, friends (or go yell at me on twitter or on tumblr).

[ music | the chain gang of 1974, "sleepwalking" ]

Friday, October 24, 2014

the bee's knees

so i'm kind of hobbled right now. i got attacked by a fence.

fuck you.

here's a thing: i bruise easily. and two days ago, when i tripped over the above piece of construction fence that was jutting out onto the sidewalk and went down heavy on both knees (and one hand), i knew it wasn't going to be good. sure enough, within the hour both my kneecaps were swollen and turning purple, as though i'd been hit with a baseball bat rather than the concrete. big ups at least to the two girls who stopped to make sure i was okay after i wiped out, as well as to the driver of the car that slowed down to see if i needed help. it was a nice gesture that made me feel good about humanity and got me to smile even though i'd spend the next couple days swinging my stiffened right leg around like frankenstein.

my boyfriend's feel-better gift. he knows the way to my heart.

so aside from the aforementioned injuries, torn holes in my fairly-new jeans (grrrr), scuffs in my brand-new boots (argh) and some lingering humiliation, i'm alright. and hey, it could have been worse, really -- i could have broken something, or faceplanted, or smashed the ipad that was in my purse. noooooo, not the ipad!

it's weird, though -- i'm not sure if it's a reflection on my youth or what, but i'm terrified of falling in public because it will embarrass me and i'm convinced people will laugh at me. this was something that was an ever-present danger when i was a kid in school; if you were clumsy and fell anywhere in view of other kids, they would immediately mock you and laugh for at least the rest of recess. when i was a teenager, i walked to school from my house in the 'burbs, which involved walking past the super-intimidating smoking section full of super-intimidating asshole teens. this entire pathway was covered by an giant sheen of ice in wintertime, making this an especially cautious exercise for 3-4 months out of the year. i clearly remember one time when i failed at traversing the goddamn ice alleyway and wiped out in front of all those jerks, who promptly began howling with laughter. sure, it probably looks funny, but how about you go fuck yourself?

i guess it was a pleasant surprise for me to realize that, as an adult, other people will help you when you're injured rather than point and laugh. the good ones will, anyway.

but what i was meaning to write about before i blew up my knees was the ever-present fact that i'm not sure what i'm doing with my life.

the subway tunnel is a metaphor for something, i guess.

yeah, sure, a lot of us are in this position - and some tell me it never changes, not even as you grow older, the thought of which gives me terror hives - but i'm at a spot where i need to figure it out, and soon. no more procrastinating. no more excuses.

i'm good at both of those things, though. i'm good at being complacent and just letting it ride, because sometimes it just feels like too much effort to really try to change things. i'm pretty sure this is an inherent piece of human nature, so i'm not too concerned about my latent laziness, but it does start to bother me if i'm lying in bed and trying to figure out what to do with myself. there've been quite a few sleepless nights lately, let me tell you.

i've always envied those who've gone through life knowing exactly what they want to do with it. i never did. i kind of always figured that i'd sort it out as i went along; in the meantime, i could just wander through and do things and try things and hopefully eventually stumble upon a purpose. no such luck -- and i'm starting to realize that time isn't infinite for this sort of thing. because, sadly, the world doesn't operate on hope and good will and ephemeral ideals. it works on money, and hard work, and ambition, and also money. these are all things i need to utilize, or else i'm just going to fail, and i've gotten to the point where i have too much to lose now. it's a terrifying prospect, but it's also part of being a goddamn grown-up, and as much as i can nostalgically moan about the old days of being a carefree, reckless twentysomething, i have to understand that i can't go back. that's just not the way it is anymore. yet for everything i've lost and all the things i can't return to, i do have so many more awesome and wonderful things in my life, and i have to start being fired up to keep them.

as for the time being, i can coast for a little while and hope that the answer comes to me, but the rational grown-up side of me says that that's a childish thing to do and i need to be proactive and i have to start planning and i need to explore my options. i guess we'll see. it's not like i haven't gone over this personal dilemma, oh, some hundred goddamn times on this blog.

that's all.

p.s. hey ladies - any time you read advice saying that exercise helps cramps, don't believe it. it's a bunch of filthy lies. signed, the girl who intended on going to both crossfit and spin class today but is instead curled up in a sweaty, shivering pretzel of pain. (also, this. all of it.)

[ music | earlimart, "god loves you the best" ]

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

these things

here's what else has been going on:

- moist put out their first album in 12 years two weeks ago.

did i buy a digital copy in advance? yep. did i get choked up when listening to the whole thing for the first time? you bet.

because i've gone over it so many times - i even wrote a piece earlier this year alluding to the impact that band's had on my life - but here it is again: moist are my favourite band, and will be my favourite band forever. and man, hearing new music from them - music that is unequivocally them, even 12 years removed - was something so unexpected, and something i never thought i'd hear in my lifetime. i don't cry at happy-sentimental things easily, if ever, so it's a big deal to me if listening to an album can get me to tear up. (usually it's a new album from one of my few beloved bands; actually, thinking on it, the last time an album made me cry was kill hannah's until there's nothing left of us)

still, it's always an interesting reflection for me to think about how much my love for a band or a band's music is based in its time and place in my life. there are songs that are so tied up with who i was in my teens and my twenties that i'll love them forever -- but, y'know, i won't care so much for the rest of the band's canon. that situation leaves me wondering how much i actually love the band versus how much you love that time and place. when it's become something bigger, like a soundtrack to a time in weird years gone by. and there are some things you just unconditionally love forever.

anyway, i'm rambling. it's a great album. buy that shit.

- last weekend, i went back to kingston for the first time since, uh, last christmas.

this was an exceptionally long time for me to have gone without a visit to the ol' hometown. 2014 has mostly been a whirlwind of too many activities and too little money, so it's not a surprise that i didn't make it back during the summer, but it was a bit disorienting to see how the year had passed without me being there to see it at least once. anyway, i went to k-town for the annual triple threat of my birthday / my father's birthday / thanksgiving, all within the space of a few days. nothing out of the ordinary happened -- it was the usual array of long walks, good food, belated birthday presents, making small talk with distant relatives i only see a couple times a year, too much wine all the time, ridiculous caloric intake, late nights and too-early mornings. then, before i knew it, i was on the train back to toronto.

and that's the last trip i'll be making to kingston for the foreseeable future -- i'd already made the decision to spend this christmas here in toronto, away from my family for the first time in my life. this is a pretty big deal; even when i lived in vancouver, i still flew back for the holidays. but i think it's time for me to start making my own traditions, especially when my boyfriend is effectively hamstrung by having to work both christmas eve and boxing day. i want him to have a fun christmas here for once, and i want him to have it with me.

so! nerdy orphan christmas it is. my parents were disheartened by the news, but they're okay with it now. i'm just trying something different this year, for once. it's been slightly weird for me to be carrying on the same christmas tradition that's been held since i was a teenager.

a couple more shots from kingston last weekend:

the marina where my stepbrother's boat is docked (he currently lives on it)

wolfe islander iii!

my birthday pie. my mother's pecan pie -- the best.

- at 31 years old, here are my current looks:

music-festival flower child hipster

smug goth cheerleader

faux intellectual in boyfriend's glasses

it's no small wonder that i still spend a lot of money - even without much money to spend - on anti-aging creams and serums and masks for my face. i think they're probably working okay. i'm basically terrified of my face collapsing. (that's why i stopped smoking, remember?)

- i miss america.

- my boobs hurt from stupid pms.

- blogger has changed its wysiwyg interface and it's really messing with me.

that's all i've got for now.

[ music | ms mr, "hurricane" ]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

sometimes they come back

oh, hello. hi.

you know what's weirdly difficult? writing personal blog stuff when you're happy. for me, words come infinitely easier when i'm miserable and depressed with life (hi there, majority of 2012-13), because i've always used them as a way to center myself and find myself. it doesn't flow quite so well when i'm happy and good with life -- because something inside me just goes, what's the point? a humblebrag? a look-at-me, look-at-me status update? we all get enough of those from facebook; one of the draws of this blog of mine, i think, has always been the fact that i'm honest, and i don't sugarcoat my life. i write about shitty stuff, angsty stuff. i guess this would be like if kurt cobain wrote a sunshine-y pop album. (maybe in another universe, he does.)

still, though, i miss personal writing when i don't do it often. it's still a good outlet, no matter where i am at whatever point in my life, and it always serves as a digital marker for me to come back and recall later. i know that whenever i don't blog about stuff, i get kind of sad later to see that i didn't. if that makes any sense. (for example, i really didn't blog much when i lived in vancouver, and looking back on those few posts now, i wish i had written more. i want to remember the mindset i was in and the things i was doing. good ol' rose-coloured nostalgia glasses.)

also, i've mentioned it before but writing is like a muscle -- you tend to lose it if you don't use it, and i've really missed just getting up in the morning, fetching some coffee and sitting down to write about whatever. i mean, i've found a lot of my old private and archived blog posts, and man, i used to write, like, five or six times a day. yet i don't have a niche blog here -- i don't write specifically about one topic of interest or specialization. (my two favourite examples are two of my friends' current works, both tv recap blogs -- jenn writing about dawson's creek, and neil writing about any number of awesome watercooler shows) nope, i have a personal blog, which relies on my own life as entertainment fodder. that can be kind of slim pickings if you're not out and about and doing stuff and having a crazy dynamic life. i am too old for fun. i like playing video games in my pajamas and going to bed at 10:30. whatever.

i doubted anyone would worry about my absence, though, since i was away on a good note -- and yes, it's still good. the new boy (not really new anymore, i suppose) and i are coming up on our eight-month anniversary, and we are by far the grossest mushy couple we know. again, though, that's had an impact on my writing, because doing a ton of personal writing when you're in a relationships can be hard, and weird. as i've tried to describe it before, i don't mind opening up my own life to the public -- but once i'm involved with someone else, then their life becomes mixed up with mine, and consequently, their life becomes my public fodder. that's how it goes when you're with a writer. so i never really know how to approach blogging on the outset of a new relationship (i went through this in 2008 as well -- i think i took maybe 2-3 months off from blogging at that point). add in the fact that the new boy does read this blog, and yeah, i needed some time to ponder how i'll approach it from here on. you all know that i've never been a fan of self-censoring; "selective truth-telling" is more my thing. so i suppose that's what i'll do (but who's to say i wasn't doing that all along? heh heh heh).

also, i want to keep my relationship mostly private, because i want something for me, you know? i've blogged for more than ten years of my life now, and i've put a lot of myself out there for public consumption. i want to keep my relationship for me. so now it's mostly a matter of pulling out the other bits of my life that are not centered around my relationship. i love this boy and he plays a huge part in my life now, but he has his own life and story, and i'm not equipped to tell anyone's story but my own. so i'll exercise caution in what i write about, as i always have and always do.

here he is, though. he is cute.

and here we are, and we are disgusting:

we have since been to london (ontario) for my cousin's wedding, niagara falls so import boy could attain his permanent residency for canada (he's from england and would've had to return there for good this summer otherwise), the cne, toronto island & centreville, mount pleasant ravine, the beaches, st. lawrence market, kensington, any number of favourite little coffee shops and restaurants around town, and who knows where else. he's gotten me hooked on game grumps, english breakfast tea, and hot crumpets soaked in butter (yes, i'm aware that two of those three things are classically british); i have introduced him to nikita (the best cat on the internet), homemade granola bars, and the joy that is watching truly terrible movies together. (so far it's a three-way tie between battleship, i frankenstein, and the american remake of 13 tzameti.) we're explorers and we're partners in crime and we eat all the sushi and we have such a damn good time together. anyway, that's enough. we are disgustingly cute and would totally gross out the entirety of my blog's audience. enough!

anyway, if you wanna go back and see what i've been up to, maybe take a browse through my tumblr -- it's more image-heavy than writing, but it's been a pretty decent archive of my 2014 so far. otherwise, i'm going to try to do more frequent writing in here, if only to get back on track when it comes to recording what banal shit i've been up to. and who knows, maybe this will force me to get out and do more awesome things with my life, if only so i have something to entertain you all with. so!

to close on a seasonally festive note, here is an unedited photo of casa loma looking extra spoopy a couple weeks ago:


[ music | arctic monkeys, "r u mine?" ]