I Measure My Life In Music

Music reminds me how cyclical everything is. Putting on a certain song or artist can bring you back to an exact moment – me on a bus in Nicaragua listening to “Teenage Icon” by The Vaccines on full blast because I was spending two weeks with twenty other people and my introverted self just needed time alone, or Abby and I running errands and singing Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” at the top of our lungs after one of the worst nights of my life. Music draws parallels to who you are now, things that connect you to your past self and your future self, threads that pull time into cycles. It always makes me feel like I belong to the whole world and the whole world belongs to me.

Last night I bought a ticket to see Patti Smith play with Nick Cave in London. To be quite honest, my heart acted before my mind could and I clicked “Buy” before I had even registered what I was doing, but those impulse decisions are often the best ones. I discovered Patti when I was sixteen and in a place where I didn’t really understand who I was or who I was supposed to be. She spoke to the parts of me that I didn’t like, the parts that felt unworthy and untalented and unimportant. I look at her and how much she’s done and how she gives herself over to the world and I think that one day, maybe I’ll be able to do that too.

I’ll be seeing Patti at the tail end of my time in England. Moving to the UK has been my dream since I was nine years old, and it feels good that Patti, who believes in her dreams and who makes me believe in mine, will be the one to see me off. I’ll be accomplishing something I always imagined but never really thought I’d reach, and she’ll be there, watching me come out of it. That’s what alignment feels like.

I’m going to so many shows when I’m in England that it kind of feels like I’m not even going there for school, but for fun. Spector just dropped a new song and are expected to announce a bunch of tour dates, so hopefully I’ll be able to stand in a club and sing “Chevy Thunder” and “All the Sad Young Men” back to the band. Charlotte and I are seeing Rostam on my very last day in London, and I can’t wait to be enveloped in his calm and brought to life in front of him. In April, you’ll catch Abby and I in the last row of the floor at a Harry Styles concert, having the time of our lives. I’m also seeing The Vaccines, which I’ve already talked about, but now I have tickets and it’s really actually happening. The only time I’ve ever seen them play live was as Mumford & Sons’ opening act in 2013, and almost five years later, I’ll be seeing them play to ten thousand people in their hometown, and I’ll be there marvelling at how good life feels in that moment.

The girl who discovered Patti Smith was a different girl than the one who will be seeing her on June third. Some things have remained the same – I’m often still scared to share my work, but at least I’m creating it and believing that I have something valuable to give to the world. I’ve gotten rid of the awful black eyeliner I spent a summer smudging onto my lids, but I still put on a white button-down every time I want to feel like Patti’s with me. Spector became one of my favourite bands when Moth Boys became the soundtrack to a pivotal moment in my life, a time of letting go of all the old and stepping hesitantly into the new. And I’ll be seeing them when everything is new all over again.

Harry was my teenage crush, and I will admit that he is still my crush as a twenty-year-old. When One Direction first took over the world, I bought blazers because he wore them and I picked up things he said in interviews and tried to use them in daily conversation. Six or seven years later and I’ve grown as he’s grown, and when I see him in April, we’ll both be different than we were when I saw him in 2012 and different even than when I saw him in October. Rostam was an integral part of Vampire Weekend, and I am so interested to see how he’s flourished on his own, just as I’ve learned to flourish on my own. The Vaccines have defined me since I was fifteen. They’ve been next to me during all the high highs and all the low lows. They’ve been there for the awkward in between parts and the figuring it out and the making it up as I go. When I’m standing in Alexandra Palace five months from now, I’ll probably be feeling the same things, and they’ll still be there. And, quite frankly, that feels magical.

I don’t one hundred percent know where I’m trying to go with this post. I guess as I’m about to leave Toronto and move to Leeds, I feel like I’m getting somewhere. I’ve spent years wishing for something big to happen, and now that big thing is happening. I’ve also spent years dying to see all these bands, and they’re coming back to life just as I’m entering the most exciting time I’ve ever felt. It feels good to have them right beside me, like all of us are reinventing ourselves at the same time and trying to see where life will go next. We’re all making art and sharing it with the people who will listen and supporting the people around us who are doing the same thing. It doesn’t matter that all of them will be on a stage and I’ll be in the crowd. It matters that I feel a magnetic pull to every single one of them, and they’ve all marked important moments in my life and will continue to be there as life keeps getting better.

All these musicians have been with me at pivotal moments in my life. Often they were the catalysts for those moments, the ones who made me strive for better or pick myself up or gave me the courage to freaking go for it. I haven’t even left for my semester abroad yet, and I already feel like it’s the best thing I’ve done, the climax of the believing in myself and the working hard and the chasing of my crazy dreams. I’m glad all my favourite bands get to be part of it in a physical way. I think it would feel wrong if they weren’t.

I’m seeing Wolf Alice tomorrow. They’ve had a permanent place in my heart for a long time, and they played in Toronto a couple years ago around this time, but I was too young to go. I get to step into the Danforth tomorrow, Charlotte by my side, and waltz up to the stage that Ellie and Joel and Theo and Joff will stand on. Compared to who I was two years ago, I’m unrecognizable. The people who are around me are different, the way I think about myself is different, my mindset is different, and my goals are different. But I like that my favourite songs are still the same, and I’m so happy that I get to sing some of them with Wolf Alice tomorrow night. Change is inevitable, but it’s the best feeling to be able to hang onto something that reminds you of how connected everything is.

I’m going to leave you with Wolf Alice’s “Don’t Delete the Kisses.” It’s about romantic love, but it also kind of celebrates loving something so much that it makes you feel on top of the world, and that’s how these artists make me feel. (Also, the music video might just rip your heart out.)

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Consume Like an Artist

A while ago I read a quote about how a prerequisite to being an artist is the ability to consume. Artists collect things. Fragments of movies, the way the lighting looks in a specific shot, how the sun falls on an actors’ jawline. Corners of paintings or a specific line of graphite in a sketch. The soaring bridge of a song, the bass beat in the melody, the way the singer changes notes. We fall in love with how poets describe city streets and winter mornings, with the aesthetic our heroes project, with intelligent advertising campaigns and album artwork and book covers. All of it is important.

I keep notes of things that really interest me, always carrying around a notebook where I can jot down snippets of overheard conversation or a really good line in a movie. It’s something I refer back to often, and the things that can’t really be held in there are kept in my mind or on my heart. When we come in contact with things that affect us, there really isn’t a choice whether or not you keep it with you. Some of them find ways of burrowing themselves under your skin, stuck to you forever. It’s a nice feeling. All of that collecting means something, and a lot of the best art is made when people combine what they know and what they love and what they can do.

I had a moment at the beginning of the year when I saw La La Land three times in theatres and maybe downloaded it so that I could watch it on a daily basis. I read interviews with the cast, I bought the soundtrack on vinyl, I memorized the lines and tried – and then failed – to insert them into everyday conversation. (For the record, replying “It’s wool” to a comment about your outfit isn’t actually funny and most people don’t get that you’re trying to imitate Ryan Gosling. I wouldn’t recommend it.)

La La Land infiltrated everything I was doing at the time, influencing the art I was making and the things I was writing and the discussions I was having. I hadn’t been so inspired by something in a long time, and it was a nice change to feel so consumed by a form of art that I don’t always connect with so deeply. I eventually settled myself and went on to find inspiration in other forms, but I still like the idea of what we consume in turn being influential to what we make for others to consume. I thought I’d compile a list of things I’ve been loving lately, partly because I think I should share their glory, but also because it’s just nice to talk about what you’re excited by. It’s something I think we should all do more of.

Music

Rostam’s debut album Half-Light is a TRIUMPH. Charlotte and I were driving back from seeing Patti Smith on the day it was released, and I put it on Spotify and we sat listening to it in silence as she drove us home. I remember rock formations and quiet highways and wearing my concert t-shirt from the night before, exhausted but still in disbelief. The album mirrored my own joy, but it also mirrored the bittersweet feeling that came with the fact that the show, the road trip, the forgetting of daily life was over.  When I listen to it I still think about that day and the freedom I felt and the way the songs washed over my skin. I adore every single track, but standouts are “Bike Dream,” “Don’t Let It Get To You,” and “Gwan.” The third one opens with the lyric “Don’t listen to me I only believe in myself,” and the first listen felt life changing.

I’ve also been listening to a lot of solo Beatles albums, which I think came out of a desire to attempt to educate myself. The Plastic Ono Band’s Live Peace in Toronto 1969 is a bit of a hot mess, but I like how chaotic it is. Also, one listen to “Give Peace a Chance” makes me feel like a revolution, and sometimes music should inspire you to do important things like use your voice. RAM is the only Paul McCartney album that’s also attributed to Linda McCartney, and I started listening to this one after I bought a massive book of her photography and became enamored by their relationship. My favourites include “Ram On” and “Heart of the Country.” Last but not least, George Harrison’s All Things Must Past is really required listening at this point. “My Sweet Lord” has been one of my favourite tracks for a long time, but I also love “Wah-Wah” and “What is Life” – and the whole thing, really.

Film

I am fascinated by creative process. It’s intimate to look in on how someone gets from Point A to Point B, how they write a song or take a photo or make it through a months-long retrospective of their work. I’m nosy and I like getting under the surface of things and that means music and art documentaries are right up my street. I’ve watched an awful lot of them, but these are some I keep coming back to.

1. Harry Styles: Behind the Album

I realize I waffle on about him a bit too much, but I watch this at least twice a month and it doesn’t get old. Watching Harry create his first solo album is enthralling, and it was smart to juxtapose the creative process of each track with a performance of the finished song. I tear up watching him happily lip sync the words to “Sign of the Times,” and I get serious outfit envy every time he shows up in another vintage t-shirt or a billowy blouse. It’s also reassuring to hear him talk about the fear he felt when releasing the record, which makes me feel a lot better about my own hesitation when it comes to sharing my work while also motivating me to do it anyway.

2. Marina Abramovic : The Artist is Present

This follows Abramovic as she goes through the steps of her own retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. It’s poignant and emotionally charged and I love watching a female artist in a position of power. The woman is impressive as heck, and this documentary is and incredibly meaningful way to document such a monumental occasion.

3. The Vaccines – I Don’t Even Know You

This is only twenty-four minutes long so I’m not entirely sure whether or not it counts as a film, but they’re my favourite band and I had to include it. The video documents the highs and lows of the band, cutting together short clips of life on the road with past footage of early shows and recording sessions. I think part of me likes it so much because The Vaccines feel so close to me, but I forced Charlotte to watch it and she seemed to enjoy it, too, so it can’t be all bad. If you like scruffy indie band members and a healthy dose of angst interspersed with some nostalgia and milestone-reaching, this one’s for you.

Visual Art

I first set foot into Sandra Meigs’ Room for Mystics a few weeks ago, and I’ve returned twice since then to immerse myself in the environment she’s created on the top floor of the AGO. It is a celebration of joy and of pushing through pain to get to the brighter side of things. The pieces are striking, the accompanying score is trance-inducing and vibration-raising, and the entire thing leaves me in good spirits every time I visit.

Amalia Pica’s ears to speak of is currently being presented at The Power Plant, and it’s another notable exhibit. Touching on the failures of technology and communication, the exhibit raises questions and almost forces visitors to think about what we choose to listen to and how well we communicate with the people who matter to us. It also brings up the acts of listening and communicating as a privilege rather than a birthright, and I think that’s an important topic to consider. We can all be doing better.

Aside from the physical exhibits, I’ve also become completely enamored by Henri Matisse and Egon Schiele. Matisse’s cut-outs and nudes are vibrant and colourful, the kind of thing that confronts your senses in a good way. Schiele’s forms are spidery and romantic, and I like how they feel almost gothic. I can’t get enough.

Words

I’ve plowed through a couple Bukowski anthologies over the past few months, mostly because what he wrote is the complete opposite of what I write. I often find it challenging to wrap my head around his poems, and I like how gritty and ordinary his subjects are. I finished Love Is a Dog From Hell a little while ago, and I’m currently working through Last Night of the Earth Poems. I’d recommend both of them.

I nearly cried when I bought a signed copy of Patti Smith’s newest book, Devotion, at her concert in Central Park. I spend a lot of time pressing my thumb to the indentations left by her pen, and I have definitely considered getting the signature tattooed near my heart. The book itself is a masterpiece, like everything Patti creates, and it sits on my bedside table, reminding me of the allegiance I have to Patti herself and the devotion I have to my own writing.

A bit of an odd one is Jean Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles, which like many French novels, is kind of weird and off-putting. I enjoyed it nonetheless, soaking up its quirks and relishing in the fast pace and the short amount of time it took me to finish it. Another quick read is Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, which made me ask a lot of questions and consider a lot of aspects of my life and ultimately changed the way I view the path I’m on and the person I am.

I could definitely talk about more, but I feel like I’m pouring my lifeblood out onto the Internet and I’m scared that my veins might shrivel up. It’s also probably a good idea to save some of my favourite things for another blogpost in a couple months’ time. I hope you enjoy the things I love as much as I do – or at least pretend you do. (Just kidding. If you don’t, tell me about all the things that are better than the stuff I mentioned. I’d love to hear about them.)

Let’s Get Vulnerable

A couple months ago I started an Instagram account to post my poetry on. My words are something I hold incredibly close to my chest, and I spent days and weeks and months afraid of ever sharing anything. My mind raced with thoughts of not being good enough, of nobody liking it, of the world not needing it. I didn’t want to take up space that doesn’t belong to me and I didn’t want to let go of something so personal and revealing and telling. But I felt like I had to do it, so I did it anyway. I still feel scared every single time I upload a new piece, but posting also feels like freedom, and I’m going to run with that feeling for as long as I can.

Sharing my poetry is a daily act of vulnerability, which is something I’ve been working on. The world makes us hard in places we should be soft, and I gave into that for a long time. I put walls up and kept my mouth shut and wore armour around like it didn’t add an extra hundred pounds of weight to my back. Despite all those bricks, everything ended up crumbling, and I gave up neutrality and blank faces and unshared emotion. I learned that being vulnerable means being brave and being vulnerable equates to strength and being vulnerable opens my heart up to the world in ways I still can’t quite fathom. Vulnerability feels good.

Art is inherently vulnerable. It has to be. Artists reach deep into their souls and pull out their lives and put their secrets on display for the whole world. Artists tell stories of pain and sometimes of triumph, of mistakes and sometimes of success. Artists peel back layers of themselves and reveal their flesh and bones without anything to protect them. And if we want to have any hope of turning our lives into art, we have to learn how to be vulnerable too.

Vulnerability shows up in painting and literature and film. Sometimes I find it in all of those things, but mostly I find it in music. I find it in the strained voice of a lead singer, in the way faces contort during performances, in the way words hang in the air and take shape and tell an unspoken story. It’s a beautiful thing to listen to your favourite bands and hear them sing about things that you understand, that you’ve gone through, that you know deeply. Musicians lay themselves out to the world for the sake of connection, for the sake of being honest, for the sake of letting go and finding a bit of the freedom that they once lost. And that’s really powerful.

So many of my favourite songs are vulnerable. Maybe that’s not on purpose, but I like that it shows up anyway. MUNA’s breathtaking debut album, About U, is the first thing that made me stop and think about it. Every track is raw and honest and open in a way that I hadn’t really heard before. They sing about what’s important and real and they make me feel less alone.

Out of all of MUNA’s tracks, I chose “I Know A Place” for this playlist, mostly because I bawled my eyes out the first time I heard it before proceeded to send a link to everyone I love. Months later, I saw them perform it live, and I cried again. Standing near the back of Massey Hall, Abby and I singing at the top of our lungs, flailing our arms around and feeling every word. The track fits into my heart like it doesn’t belong anywhere else. It reminds me to keep showing up. It reminds me that my past is not my present or my future. It reminds me that there are people in my life who love me better than I’ve ever been loved and that I don’t have to be afraid that they’ll leave, because they won’t. The track is a gift, and I carry it around proudly.

After MUNA, it became easier to notice how sincere music is as an art form.  The tracks on this playlist are some of my favourite examples of an artist putting trust in their audience, knowing their fans will keep their secrets safe under their skin. There’s Lorde’s “Writer in the Dark,” which sends chills up my spine with each listen. Melodrama is steeped in vulnerability, but this song has always stood out – the vocals that make my heart ache, the lyrics that express anger and sadness and everything in between all at once. From Patti Smith I added “Pissing in a River” because of the way it expresses putting everything you have into a relationship and never getting the same thing back. Patti is always honest, sometimes almost alarmingly so, but I love the power and heartache here. It begs and pleads and maybe it comes up empty, but at least she got her feelings out there.

It was difficult to narrow it down when it came to Florence + the Machine, but “Too Much is Never Enough” starts quietly and builds in strength and it comes across like an audible representation of how it feels to be vulnerable. It’s difficult at first, words nothing but whispers, but you do it often enough and eventually you feel as if you have the power to scream your innermost thoughts from New York City rooftops. After Florence is “Terrible Love” by The National, a song that makes my heart clench each time I play it. The entire thing is tender, but I especially adore the pleading repetition of “it takes an ocean not to break.” If I could choose to be swallowed up by those words, I probably would.

One of my favourite tracks of all time is “All The Sad Young Men” by Spector. It has been the soundtrack to a lot of my most candid moments – friendships falling apart and friendships beginning, driving down Bathurst at night in the rain feeling every word soak into my soul. It exposes truths and it speaks to things that a lot of us are hiding and it feels like real life. Following that, Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” is there mostly because I remember hearing it for the first time and being captivated by the integrity of the lyrics. It’s the kind of song that puts weight in your heart, and I really like that.

It wouldn’t really be one of my playlists if I didn’t include The Vaccines, and I love how frank they are in their tracks. I spent a lot of high school scrawling the lyrics to “A Lack of Understanding” into the margins of my politics notebook, repeating “is this everything you always hoped that it would be?” over and over again in my mind. Sometimes being vulnerable just means having the courage to ask that question. The penultimate track is HAIM’s “Night So Long.” It’s lonely and it hurts and the emotions are palpable, and that’s why I love it so much.

I had to end the playlist with Harry Styles. “From the Dining Table” is a song that I stop what I’m doing to absorb, a track so simple and stripped back that nothing can be hidden. I’m struggling to say more than just “this song makes me feel things,” but it does. It feels like everything all at once – the happiness that once consumed a relationship, the pain of the unravelling, the loneliness of loss. I like that Harry’s solo career means we get to hear more of him. More emotion, more experience, more life. More vulnerability.

Being vulnerable is difficult. It always will be. As hard as it is, though, it’s equally important. Nothing feels quite as rewarding as pulling the skin away from your chest and pushing your lungs aside and revealing your heart to the people who matter. It breaks down walls and brings us closer and builds up our power, and I think it’s something we should all tap into more often. Here’s to vulnerability and it being one of the best weapons we have.

 

The One Where I Remembered Why I Love Music So Much in the First Place

Somewhere over the past year or so, I’ve gotten pretty bad at running a music blog, or at least trying to run a music blog. I didn’t just suddenly stop loving music, but I had a bit of a crisis and realized that I wasn’t sure whether or not I could fathom the idea of dedicating my life to it. That led to a weird phase of not listening to my favourite bands and not putting any effort into discovering new music and feeling all kinds of stuck, and it’s something I’ve only just figured out how to get out of.

Losing your grip on something you love is a weird feeling. Music has occupied so much space in my life for so long, and then things shifted a bit and I wasn’t sure how to move music aside to make room for other things I love. I didn’t know how to not be the girl who runs a music blog and won’t stop talking about bands, even though I didn’t really feel like that girl anymore. I wanted to be the girl who won’t stop talking about bands, but who also won’t stop talking about art and poetry and people who inspire me.

After a while away from the intensity of loving something with my whole heart, I feel like I’ve found my footing again. I’ve bought tickets to a dozen shows and seen bands I love and bands I just kind of like, and I found something good in every one of them. I’ve gone to a lot of art galleries and I’ve read a lot of books and I’ve written a lot of poetry. I’m learning not to push myself into a box and close myself off from all the things that make me feel alive just because I can’t figure out what the world wants me to be. And that’s the thing – I don’t have to be what the world wants me to be. I get to be who I want to be.

I have to admit that I’m kind of scared about changing this blog and making it about more than just music. But my life is about more than just music. It’s about standing in the AGO staring at Monet’s Charing Cross Bridge, Fog and feeling like the entire world is confined to the millions of dots painted by Claude’s hand. It’s seeing a book on the top shelf in the music section in Indigo and buying it because of the faces on the front, not knowing that those faces belonged to Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe and that they would change my life forever. It’s sitting in the grass on the south bank of the Thames writing everything that filled my heart in that moment. It will also always be about music, but I need to define myself by more than that.

After all that going on about getting out of the box of music, I’m going to write about music. Because over the past two months, some pretty insane music-related things have happened, and all of them reminded me why I fell in love with the way humans arrange sounds and words and emotion into art. So here they are.

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Most importantly, I saw Patti Smith. Even just typing that sentence seems surreal, despite the fact that it’s been nearly two months since it happened. The entire thing is crazy, mostly because tickets were bought on a whim and Charlotte and I drove a sixteen-hour roundtrip to New York City just to be in Manhattan for twenty-two hours, but we saw Patti Freaking Smith. We stood in line in Central Park, Charlotte bought me fries from the concession stand while I laughed a little to myself at her tipsiness despite the fact that she was only a couple drinks in, I picked out a shirt and got my hands on a signed copy of Devotion. Patti walked on stage and I started crying right away, unable to wrap my head around the fact that the woman who had a hand in making me who I am today was standing twenty feet away from my person.

She started off reading “People Have the Power” as if it were a poem, and she went on to sing it twice more. She told us the story of Fred coming into the kitchen while she was peeling potatoes, turning to her and saying, “Tricia. People Have the Power. Write it.” She sang “Land” and she forgot the words to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” and she danced to “Looking for You (I Was).” She looked at her kids as if the whole world existed inside the two of them, she yelled about Trump and war and tearing down walls and uniting instead.

She walked off the stage and took a piece of me with her, but I also felt like she left a piece of herself with me. Charlotte and I spent the next morning drinking bad 7/11 coffee because that’s what she drinks, eating pretty good 7/11 glazed donuts because that’s what she eats, and shuffling around Chelsea and Greenwich Village and the Bowery. We stood in CBGB, looking in awe at the walls smothered inches thick with gig flyers. We went to The Strand and I bought a Sam Shepard book. We drank a disgusting egg cream in Tompkins Square Park and visited Robert’s studio at 24 Bond Street and peered in the windows of what used to be the café that Patti sat in to write M Train. I wanted to die in the eight hours it took us to drive back to Toronto, but I felt changed and brand new and my heartbeat felt steadier and more powerful. Patti is everything.

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It’s hard to follow on from seeing Patti Smith in concert, but less than three weeks later, I was graced by the presence of none other than Harry Styles. I still haven’t fully processed it, mostly because I get a little pain in my heart at the absence of him and I can’t bear to think about it for longer than a few seconds. But it happened and it was glorious and he wore a jaquard-patterned suit that for some reason had tiny Donald Ducks all over it and his ringed fingers clasping a microphone are one of the best things I’ve seen in my entire life. He pranced around the stage like he owned the place – which honestly, he did – and he danced terribly and stood back often to stare at the crowd in awe, a massive smile plastered across his face that mirrored the ones on the faces staring back at him.

In my mind, Harry’s show is made up of dozens of singular moments. Harry standing in the middle of the stage, telling us all that in that room, we could be anyone we wanted to be. Harry mouthing the sincerest I love you’s to the crowd. Harry counting down the minutes we had left with each other, as if he was just as sad as we were that we’d eventually have to part ways. During the encore, while he belted out the bridge of “Sign of the Times,” I had to stop and stand still and look at him doing the thing he was made to do. I clutched my hands to my chest and watched his eyelids flutter closed and his passion for his craft course through his veins. His light is blinding, and while he glowed, I felt like I started glowing too. That light didn’t fade when he walked off the stage, and I still find flickers of it hidden under my skin. Harry is special and magnetic and he occupies a substantial space in my heart, and I feel so lucky that I was fortunate enough to see him live. I can’t wait to do it all over again a couple times next spring.

vaccines

Last, but certainly not least, is the band that has defined me for nearly six years and the ones who are responsible for reigniting my boldest, deepest love for music. The Vaccines have returned, and I could not be happier. On Friday morning, while I was sitting in a lecture hall of nearly two hundred students, the band posted a comeback video and announced a show at Alexandra Palace. I (somewhat) contained myself for the remainder of class but proceeded to pre-order the biggest possible merch bundle for an album that doesn’t yet have a name or a release date. In the days since, I’ve watched the promo video countless times, memorizing the lilt of their words and the snippet of a new song at the end and the posters plastering the bedroom walls of a teenage girl sitting on her bed embroidering a top. I see myself in that girl, past me and future me and present me all wrapped up in one, each facet completely enamored by a band who dug its way into the cavity of her chest and have yet to make their way out.

The Vaccines have a permanent position in my life. Their faces are printed on shirts I wear often, their records are on constant rotation on my turntable, and I stay up late at night watching old interviews and performances as if somehow I’ll notice something I haven’t noticed before. The Vaccines make me feel like me – all the lust of What Did You Expect from The Vaccines?, all the angst of Come of Age, and all the heartbreak and distrust of English Graffiti. They remind me that emotions are valid and that art can be sad and angry and ugly and it’ll still be art. I don’t know who I’d be without them.

The best part about The Vaccines’ comeback is that their show at Alexandra Palace is at the tail end of my month-long Easter break, one of the many benefits of spending a semester studying in England. In a fantastic series of events, I’ve managed to become lucky enough to see my favourite band in my favourite city at a venue that I’ve only ever dreamed of. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, aching for it, and often complaining about it. And it has worked out exactly as it was meant to. I’m a much different person than I was when I first discovered the band, but they still make me feel the same. I’m better and brighter and more alive, and so are they. In a little over five months, we’ll be occupying the same space. I’ll be singing my favourite songs at the top of my lungs, and they’ll be on stage in front of me, playing the chords I know so well. It all feels surreal and serendipitous, but I’m relishing in it, partly out of fear that the feeling will leave or end, and partly out of intense happiness. Words don’t really do it all justice. Patti happened and Harry happened and The Vaccs are back and so am I. And I won’t promise anything, but I think I’m back for real. If you send all the good writing vibes to me, I’ll send good vibes back to all of you. Let’s be the best we can be together.

Gig Review: Little Boxer at The Rivoli

I haven’t been to a concert in what feels like forever. I went to Field Trip at the beginning of June, but even that was nearly two months ago and the festival high is long gone. The constant cycle of recording and releasing and touring mean that a lot of my favourite bands end up playing shows at the same time, but that also means that there are long, long dry spells that seem to stretch on forever. Needless to say, I think I breathed an audible sigh of relief a few weeks ago when I stepped into the light-strung backroom of the Rivoli to see Little Boxer perform.

I adore this band. I have to admit that I’m not really a night owl and I don’t often make it out to a lot of local shows, but when the stars finally aligned and Little Boxer invited me to their set, I jumped at the chance to see them live again. They don’t feel or sound or look like a band that plays in tiny clubs – they’re a group that should be playing fairly hefty venues, a band that wouldn’t look out of place at The Opera House or The Phoenix. The four-piece walks onstage and fills the extra space with a brass section and a keyboard player and some kind of magic thrums in the air before they even begin to play. When the first song starts, things get electric, and there’s no turning back.

Little Boxer create a rare feeling that allows for both intense intimacy and sweeping expansiveness. There’s a sense of grandeur to their set, a practiced way they have of interacting with the crowd, a sense of camaraderie between them all that makes the audience feel like they’re being let in on their lives. That extends to the way the tracks come across, too, and every song feels like an inside joke or a vulnerable conversation at midnight or a secret that you only share with the people who are closest to you. It’s all raw and real, but it’s also the most fun you’ll have on a Saturday night in a bar in Toronto.

The group’s set list was pretty damn perfect, a selection of songs that blended the slow and steady tracks with the big ones that fill the entire room to the brim. It’s nearly impossible for me to choose a favourite – I love “Problems” and I love “Dementia,” but I would be happy listening to any of them on repeat forever. With names like “Downtown Girls,” “Hungry Poets,” and “Shot in the Dark,” there’s something there for everyone, and I guarantee you’d hear one that sounds like it was meant for you. To top it all off, they finished off the set with a cover of Springsteen’s “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” and I sang and danced along like it was the last night I had on earth.

I don’t really think Little Boxer needs any more explanation, because their music is overflowing with personality and their shows are bursting at the seams with it. They play like they were born to do it, they put their heart and soul into everything I’ve seen or heard them do, and they’re the kind of band that you know is never going to back down. They’re a group that’s here to stay, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Weekly Playlist: Twenty Something

I’m going to see Judah + the Lion tonight. It’s been almost exactly two years since I saw them last, and in twenty-fifteen they were a tiny, virtually unknown band opening up for Mat Kearney. Fast forward to the present, and they just finished a tour with Twenty One Pilots and are being played in frequent rotation on mainstream radio. I feel like a proud mom.

The point of all this is that I’ve been listening to them on repeat. They have a really great song called ‘Twenty-Somethings,’ and now that I’ve actually turned twenty, I feel like I can relate to it a bit more. That song inspired this entire playlist – a playlist that encompasses the confusion of being a kind of adult but also kind of not an adult. A playlist full of songs about the fun of it, the worry of it, the joy of it, the lows of it, the wide range of emotion that a lot of us feel on a daily basis.

A lot of these songs are tracks I listened to all through high school. They’re angsty, they are incredibly full of feeling, they mean something, they feel nostalgic, and they take me back to certain moments. At the same time, though, they’re still songs that I relate to now, that I listen to when I get moody and feel like nobody could possibly understand what I’m going through, that are a comfort when I feel alone or when I just need to get happy or realize how ridiculous I’m being. Emotion is a funny and beautiful thing, and I love music for being an art form that communicates it so plainly and honestly.

These tracks may not all fit incredibly well together, but I do love them all. They bring me back to myself. They make me want to dance. They’re familiar not only because I’ve been listening to them for so many years, but because they often sound exactly like something I’ve been through, something I’m experiencing, or something I’m feeling. I’m convinced that’s the magic of music: it makes you feel less alone. It reminds you that you’re not the only one to feel shit or to be confused or to not know what the hell you’re doing. It tells you that all of that is valid and okay. It helps you push through. That deep connection and understanding is something I don’t think I could ever live without.

Gig Review: Local Natives at The Danforth Music Hall

There’s something refreshing about going to a concert on your own. The anonymity you feel being in the midst of a crowd of a thousand people who have no idea who you are. The fact that you can just let everything go because you’re not with anyone and you don’t care who’s watching. The ability you have to stand in the crowd and feel everything and not worry about anyone but you and the band on stage in front of you. It feels strange at first, and then you stop caring about the fact that you’re alone and the whole thing feels amazing instead. I’ve only done it a couple times, mostly because I often second-guess myself when it comes to doing big things alone. With Local Natives, though, I went anyway. I stood in that crowd and had one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time. And I can’t stop thinking about it.

Local Natives stepped out onstage and I think I melted right away. The opening chords of ‘Past Lives’ began streaming through the speakers, a smile appeared on every face in the crowd, and the band went straight into the performance. That track in particular is one that I adore, one that soars straight into your soul to light you up from the inside out, and it was the perfect way to start the night. I was captivated from the very first second, I let go of everything outside myself, and I tuned in and didn’t tune out until I was on the streetcar home.

The band went on to play ‘Wide Eyes’ before moving into ‘Villainy,’ another personal favourite from their most recent album, Sunlit Youth. From his place on stage, lead singer Taylor Rice asked the crowd if we wanted to dance, only to be met with a resounding “Yes.” A “yes” that meant something. They dove into the song, the crowd began to dance while simultaneously screaming the lyrics back to the band, and I felt everything melt away. There’s something about that song that ushers in a new beginning, a fresh start, a shedding of your old skin to make way for a better, thicker one. And I felt all of that. And then Taylor jumped into the crowd to continue the dance party, and I fought to feel the moment while capturing as many seconds as possible. Three songs in and we were already off to an unforgettable start. I couldn’t believe my luck.

The set was a spectacular mix of songs from all three of Local Natives’ albums. From Gorilla Manor came ‘Sun Hands,’ ‘Who Knows, Who Cares,’ ‘Wide Eyes,’ and ‘Airplanes.’ From Hummingbird came ‘You & I,’ ‘Breakers,’ ‘Colombia,’ and a few more. The majority of the set list was from Sunlit Youth, but nothing felt out of place in relation to the older records. The nostalgic feelings brought on by songs I listened to throughout high school were balanced perfectly by the tracks off of an album that ushered in a new beginning for me. The show felt like a renewal – like I had to see the band who helped me through a tough time standing right in front of me in order for a new chapter of my life to actually feel real. I doubt I’ll ever stop being in awe of what the right music is capable of doing.

On ‘Dark Days,’ the band brought out Charlotte Day Wilson, a Toronto fan-favourite. The collaboration was dreamy and expansive and over far too quickly. ‘Jellyfish’ was another amazing performance, and one made more personal by Taylor’s explanation of the track. ‘Masters’ was incredible. ‘Colombia’ was stripped back, emotions laid out for the crowd. ‘Fountain of Youth’ was the rally call that we all needed to hear, a small beacon of hope in a Trump-era world that feels like it could crumble in a second. Nearly twenty songs went by in what felt like a millisecond, and I would give anything to be back in that crowd once again.

Sometimes, when a concert is really good, you start feeling everything at a heightened level. The songs sound ten times better when the band is only a few feet in front of you, the crowd around you is unified under the same feelings and reasons for being, and your heart pounds just a tiny bit faster as you tune into the excitement of what’s occurring in that very moment. You get to forget about everything else because the most important thing to you is the band on stage and the people you’re surrounded by and the songs that you feel deeply connected to. I felt that as soon as Local Natives graced the stage last night. It was evident in the goosebumps on my arms, in the smile that didn’t leave my face for an hour and a half, in the way my heart pressed against the skin of my chest as though it was trying to escape, and in the way my soul was being stitched back together with every word muttered into a microphone. It’s not every day that you get to feel like that, and I’ve learned to really savour the times when you do.

There are lots of tiny moments from last night that I wish I could share with enough detail to do them justice. There was a moment during the encore when Taylor stood on the barrier, begging everyone to come closer, to be more unified, and we all did. During ‘Who Knows, Who Cares,’ the crowd sang so passionately that it sounded like a well-rehearsed choir, and the band stepped back for a moment or two, wide smiles plastered almost permanently onto their faces. Kelcey and Taylor argued about whether or not to tell the audience about the beautiful weather in their home base of Los Angeles, and Taylor made a joke about the crowd giving the band a warm welcome to an otherwise cold climate. Those are the things I’ll carry with me for a long, long time.

What I got last night was a thousand times better than anything I could have ever imagined. I danced. I sang so loudly that my voice disappeared for a little while. I smiled so big and for so long that my cheeks still hurt. Almost twenty-four hours later and I’m still riding a concert high, still feeling the immense joy that Local Natives brought to The Danforth last night. When I think about it, the only words that really come up are “thank you.” Over and over again. For the music, for the happiness I still feel, for the free feeling that lingers. For the crowd of people that weren’t afraid to dance their hearts out. And for the fact that I live in a city that allows me to see my favourite bands easily and often. Local Natives restored something in me last night in a way that only the right band can, and I wish I could thank them a thousand times over. Hopefully my words do that sentiment justice.