For over 10 years now, music blogging has been my personal comfort zone. Listening to music has always been my preferred leisure activity but in the last decade blogging about music has become an active, creative outlet that I can’t live without. For me, blogging is just as much about self-preservation as it is self-expression. Though I know and understand the role blogging plays in my life, its importance has never been clearer to me than it has in the last month.
Partner understand the need for self-care, too. The humour and enthusiasm they bring to “Comfort Zone” doesn’t take the edge of such meaningful subject matter; it sharpens the blade. Like all of Josée Caron and Lucy Niles’ rollicking post-punk anthems, “Comfort Zone” carves out time and space for peace (the personal variety) and gives everyone permission to close the door on the outside world for however long it takes to recharge and re-energize. Though I’d rather be earning my livelihood for doing my duties as legislated, I’ll make the most of every minute I get to spend in my personal comfort zone.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Propagandhi. No other Canadian artists, lyrically, have been able to match my anxiety and anger over last week’s historic turbulence and the terror of knowing that time will keep rushing forward. The future seems to hold more anxiety and anger for me, and more real life-or-death scenarios for many Americans and those in the crosshairs of its seemingly dwindling, but make no mistake about it, awesome and apocalyptic power.
“Note To Self”, the lead track off of their most recent album, Failed States has felt particularly prescient given this brutal week.
So much for your hopes and your dreams and your children.
You just sat there believing in this bullshit system.
Just wishing the mob would magically come to its senses.
How does it make you feel to know you just stood by and watched it?
How does it feel? To me, someone who doesn’t live in the states, goddamn it feels sickening. But this world, the system under which we live our lives has an amazing way of making individuals feel utterly powerless.
I marched in the Toronto Women’s March. It felt good, but I still feel bad. “Get involved in politics”, they say, “run for office.” Get out there, do your best, inevitably fold to the disgusting and demoralizing capitalist system that grips our reality and allows us to see the world through blood stained, but rose-coloured glasses.
“Optimism” is a word that has been thrown around a lot over the past few months. I suppose it’s necessary to keep your chin up during times like these. But it’s hard knowing, or at least feeling, like it’s going to take decades (and a ton of horrible shit that will affect the entire world) for the supposed sunny ways of yesteryear to break through the darkest clouds I’ve ever experienced as a citizen of the world.
Music is magic – please be ensured this is not a ‘Trump will be great for art argument’ – and its most enduring and important quality is its ability to capture true human emotion. Specifically the emotions of what it feels like to exist at a certain period of time. What is not magic, is the reality of process, production time and how long it takes for art to catch up with the world around it. A satirical tirade regarding a day’s events can be written in hours. A gut wrenching, soul turning song or album can not. Modernization and connectivity can be a real bummer.
I haven’t been able to write about music over the past month because nothing has a really captured how I feel. I’m writing this on Sunday, after the most shameful day in American history during my lifetime and a thankfully a beautiful gift arrived in my earholes. Jon Mckiel’s “Conduit” is political but hopeful. It sounds like a dystopian Constantines song. It will appear on Memorial Ten Count appropriately being released by Steve Lambke’s You’ve Changed Records, and offers best wishes to America. “Please police a system of love” cries Mckiel, his words collapsing over themselves in a disorienting rock n roll assault.
As a Canadian, it feels as though that’s all I can offer, a peace sign, best wishes, hopeful thought that you, everyone, all of us, will make it out of this intact. Maybe I’m over reacting. Maybe my worry is unfounded. But as art catches up with the times I am comforted by the knowledge that I’m not alone. “Conduit” is the first of many anthems that will come to define this weird and unsettling period in history. Four minutes of hope, peace, and love is far better than unending dread. Wherever you’re located in the world, a break from the chaos is necessary, let Jon Mckiel’s “Conduit” be that hopeful break you need to keep your peace sign high in the sky.
What would it take to make you give it all up? And by ‘it,’ I mean everything. All of it. All you hold dear and precious in your life. Would it be a person? A feeling? A moment in time?
Halifax-based / Fredericton-born Kurtis Eugene makes me want to know what that ‘it’ is for him when he wails “For what it’s worth/ I’d give it all away / To be with you / Someday,” at the close of the achingly poignant “For What It’s Worth”. I would give everything away to experience the level of intense emotion and connection Eugene invests in song. His muse must be great to elicit such heartfelt, plain-spoken poetry.
Eugene opens “For What It’s Worth” with the lines “Mama always told me / Use what you got for good”. I’m profoundly grateful he heeded her advice. The song (and all of his 2016 release Old Rooms New Light) employs his musical and storytelling gifts for the greater good.
Drowning on dry land is possible. I see it every day, the glazed eyes of innocent souls overtaken by the information undertow. Disorientated, panic-stricken, in those last seconds before succumbing to the inevitable, they’ll flail about in a desperate plea for rescue. It’s usually too late; helpless bystanders aren’t equipped with the right tools to pull them to safety.
When technology and information threaten to take you under for the third time, you need massive hooks, the kind Fredericton’s Everything Is Geometry wield on “Screens and Me #2”, to keep you afloat. Buoyant and bubbly, the Vancouver ex-pats waste no time and energy; they say their piece and make their case in less than two minutes. An abrupt ending drops you with a thud on solid ground, a little dizzy and maybe sweaty. Another successful search and rescue mission notch on Everything Is Geometry’s belt.
Ever felt had? JE Sheehy has, by none other than James “LCD Soundsystem” Murphy.
“I told all my friends that I’m doing fine, but we know, and you know, it’s just a lie”, he sings on “Bored at the ECMAs”, a song from Beard Springsteen’s EP, Some Kind of Lobster that a recent press release notes is about “…the realization that history simply failed to deliver the promises of LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’.” That song, recognized by some as being the best song of the millennium so far, is wide open for interpretation. Is it happy or sad? Burned out and passionless or the spark of a new fire? Is it about being young or getting old? Getting drunk or drying out?
In the end it doesn’t really matter how you read it. As “Bored at the ECMAs” soberly points out, the final outcome is the same: in a world increasingly ‘connected’, humans are more isolated and disenchanted than at any other point in history. The idea of ‘friends’ is a construct and label that’s lost its meaning.
How many of us have struggled and stumbled over how to describe a virtual stranger who’s social media feed and circle we’ve fallen into. Are they a ‘friend’ when we’ve never sat down face to face and actually exchanged words? And what would this ‘friend’ refer to us if they found themselves in a similar predicament? And what if the whole ‘friendship’ is one-sided, because they don’t see your feed as often as you see theirs? What if, like the protagonist of “Bored at the ECMAs”, we can’t stand these friend’s faces? What’s the point of even having ‘friends’ if nothing about that relationship is friendly?
Where are your friends? They’re bored out of their brains, sitting at the ECMAs because “That’s what you’re supposed to do, right?” But everyone knows that everyone else is just waiting for the chance to hit the bar to summon up the liquid courage needed to play the “My Life’s Great” game and hoping they come out ahead by the time they go home alone. “Bored at the ECMAs” may have nothing at all to do with the annual Maritimes music awards, but that title couldn’t be any better at nailing the malaise and melancholy Millennials and the Middle Aged alike are both feeling in 2016: What the hell happened to my ‘friends’? What happened to my future?
There’s a room where Paul Goguen makes his music as Paranerd. I’ve never been in it, never seen it, but I’ve heard it. The décor is black light-lit basement crossed with Radio Shack circa 1982 crossed with 808 State’s Ninety. The password to get is an incomprehensible series of bleeps and squeals, the kind you find at the beginning of commercial cassettes, before the music starts. You’ll walk right by the main entrance if you’re not paying attention.
The place is not a clubhouse, but it smells like a club. The lights are on, but they’re actually strobes and lasers, making it hard to see. Oh, and there’s smoke–no, not smoke, fog–the kind that tastes like cotton candy and moves like clouds. I’m feeling claustrophobic, but it’s spacious, with one room flowing into the next without a clearly delineated boundary.
Writ EP is just that, an extended play of moody melodies, reluctant to show their faces, set to the staccato rhythms of drum and bass, wearing the most brilliant of jackets. Calling tracks “Weqcs,” “Wockx,” “Wakcz,” and “Walxc” makes saying their names just about as hard as describing them, which is just as well, because the best way to get into Paranerd’s head is to put on a pair of headphones and let him into yours first.
Summer knows how to sting. Not like Winter, that drives its icy needles right through your skin until it hits bone, seizing your joints. No, Summer is more subtle, but no less effective. Summer blurs, sending ripples through the atmosphere. It blinds with a white, hot, disorientating light coming at you from all sides, so no matter where you turn it’s right there in your eyes. Summer breathes a slow, slightly laboured breath, heavy with the scent of heat and humidity. In a word, Summer rocks.
The sting of this marvelous season comes from how it’s over too soon, just like Weird Lines’ debut self-titled LP. Weird Lines is the sound of my summer, guitar buzzing like pissed off cicadas, bass as heavy as the days are long, harmonies bright and effervescent the way I imagine sunshine would bubble and sparkle if you liquified it and sold it in bottles.
Soaked in the swampy charms of New Brunswick and ignited by nights around campfires, “Fade In My Heart” blazes Weird Lines to life, sticky with Chris Meany’s sax licks. “Between the Lamppost (You and I)”, raw like an excessively scratched mosquito bite, bristles with abrasiveness and big guitars. “Summer Can” takes a kick at updating that unmistakable 90s Maritime monster rock sound. Julie Doiron and C.L. McLaughlin’s swooning harmonies kiss your ears with bitter lips, while James Anderson and Jon McKiel incite the happiest of dances.
Seduced by the seaside sway of a song like “Malibu”, it’s easy to convince yourself summer’s gonna last forever. Time moves on, though, and seasons will change, but Weird Lines will always be on the shelf, ready for a quick spin around the turntable to rock and warm the coldest of winter nights.
This weekend, Monday is my Sunday, Sunday is my Fun Day, Saturday is like Friday Pt. 2, and Tuesday is a storm cloud waaaaaay off in the distance. Canada’s unofficial summer kick-off is here, and so is the season’s first unofficial anthem, Partner‘s “Personal Weekend”.
When life is nothing but a crate of lemons, the ladies of Partner know what to do with them: stomp them with your Docs, spike the juice with vodka and, and double fist it until you’re seeing everything in triplicate. While the rest of the world clocks in with the typical Monday to Friday, 9-5 grind, there’s a growing segment of the population that’s working for the weekend (actual) and kicking back mid-week. “Everything is gonna turn out just fine / I got a six-pack and a bottle of wine,” they sing, determined to make the most of a shitty situation. If only we all had that couldn’t-give-two-fucks outlook, we wouldn’t have to wait until the establishment says it’s time for fun.