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.


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.

Bands You Need to Know Now: FLIIIS

Two-piece Manchester-based band FLIIIS (pronounced ‘flies’) is dead-set on staying genuine to their creativity and making art that they’re proud of – and that’s exactly what they seem to be doing. Their self-declared genre of ‘art-pop’ suits not only their sound but their image as well, and each crazy element comes together to create a unique, real form of music that’s often hard to come by in an age when the charts are full of songs that all sound the same. FLIIIS forgoes the ordinary, instead choosing musical romanticism and dreamy vocals and trance-inducing melodies, and it’s all kinds of wonderful.

The duo was a natural progression for best friends Daniel and Jazz, both of whom “have an uncontrollable urge to create,” says Daniel. That sense of artistry truly comes across in their work – it all sounds natural and organic, and that’s because it is. As Daniel puts it, “the band was never really started because it was always there, it just had to be manifested and let loose.” Isn’t that the best way to go about making music?

The band is inspired by just about everything, and they speak passionately about all that influences them. Daniel says they “love everything that breaks a boundary, be it the writings of Harold Pinter, the shots of Miles Aldridge, the beautiful monotony of Philip Glass’ scores.” Those seemingly-unrelated inspirations have left a clear mark on the duo’s work, each track reflecting something different or experimenting with a new feeling. There’s emotion and brilliance behind the music, and that makes all the difference.

FLIIIS has built up a solid collection of songs over their time as a band, and one listen to their Soundcloud account shows you just how strong they are as a duo. Each track is remarkably put together, crafted to perfection, and released into the wild only once it’s the best it can be. The songs differ from one to the next, but they all stay true to the duo’s overall creative ideas. ‘Feel It’ is a definite standout, a song that’s energetic and sparkly, the kind of thing you can’t help but dance around to. Their newest track ‘Conversations’ is also incredible, a wonderful proclamation of lust and adoration. Everything blends smoothly together, each track linked by an inexplicable thread of similarity, and that thread creates something absolutely magical.

With things working out so well for them, Daniel and Jazz show no signs of stopping. They’re “happy if [they] can genuinely create art that inspires thought or evokes a connection with people whilst staying true to [themselves].” At this point I’m so engrossed in their work that I can’t really bear the thought of being without it, and I’m sure once you give them a listen, you’ll feel the same. FLIIIS makes music that sounds fresh and current, and they’re a duo that I want to see on the music scene for a long, long time.

Monthly Music Favourites – August 2016

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I listen to an awful lot of music. I work at a record store that plays albums for nine hours a day, I spend a ton of my free time digging through Spotify, and of course I have my own favourite vinyl that I drop a needle onto when I need the comforting warmth that only comes from records. I read once that in order to be an artist, you have to consume as much art as you possibly can, and that has stuck with me ever since. The queue of things I take in – especially music – is essentially endless, but that’s how I like it.

Because my intake of songs and albums and the like is so constant, I’m left with a lot to mull over. I write about as much as I can, but there are often things left that don’t necessarily fit into a category or have a good place on this blog, so I’ve somehow ended up here, writing a post about all the music and music-related things that I’ve been loving this month. In the end, I want Babbleogue to be an amalgamation of most of the music that I’ve ever adored, so why not document my monthly fixations.

1. Gabriel Bruce

I fell in love with Gabriel Bruce on a plane home from London at the end of May. I had saved his debut effort, Love in Arms, onto my Spotify, and it was the first thing I decided to listen to as we soared through the sky and away from the city I had fallen head over heels for. Love in Arms is something incredible. Bruce’s music is intimate and consuming, it draws you in as if it’s a deep and dark vortex of intensity. The entire album is hills and valleys of exuberant triumphs and profound lows. It’s honest and real, and his words tell vivid tales and weave beautiful imagery into your mind – images of heartbreak and love and the messy stuff in between. Listening to Gabriel Bruce is almost an out of body experience, his songs hit you straight in the chest and cause shifts in your mind that feel as big as the movement of the tectonic plates. Love in Arms, as well as his newly released sophomore record Come All Sufferers are two albums that came to me at the perfect time, almost as if I had manifested them out of need. And I’m so infatuated with them and with the man who created them that if I could climb Mount Kilimanjaro or Machu Picchu and yell and scream about the beauty of these records to the whole world, I would. I adore these songs, and if you listen to anything today, it should be Gabriel Bruce.

2. Anderson .Paak

I’ve never really listened to hip hop. In my mind it all kind of gets lumped together into a mess of misogynistic, vulgar lyrics layered over samples and beats, but over the past year or so I’ve come to realize that that’s not always the case and that there is actually hip hop music that I really enjoy. Anderson .Paak is included in that category, and he’s occupied a lot of my music-listening time over the past month. He’s a musician who has crafted a beautiful space for himself, one that he uses to stand tall and tell incredible stories and testimonies. His songs aren’t all explicitly hip-hop toned – in fact, they’re often soft and smooth, the kind of track that invites you to settle into it, to close your eyes and let it seep into your skin. I love how honest and real and idealistic his lyrics are, how easily he colours his world and paints a picture of a specific moment for his audience to step into. I’m quite enamored by his art form and by the musician himself, and I’m happy that he’s helped me open myself up to music that I never thought I’d enjoy.

3. Roadies

 I just started watching Roadies last week and I’m halfway through the series. I’m interested by anything to do with the music industry and anything created by Cameron Crowe, so this show seemed right up my alley – and it totally is. The show is pretty self-explanatory and it follows a group of roadies throughout their time touring with a band. It documents the highs and lows, the problems that arise and seem as though they’ll end everything, but also the triumphant moments of putting on an incredible show in a different city each night. That alone would be enough for me to love the show, but the creators have also added small touches to the series that only a true music fan could appreciate. They feature a specific song each episode, and there are guest appearances by real life bands and musicians like The Head and The Heart and Lindsey Buckingham, just to name a couple standouts. Roadies excites me, it’s cheesy in just the right way and it pulls at my heartstrings without making me overly emotional. When I watch it I can feel the excitement of being at a concert, it draws up the perfect feelings and stirs my spirit in the best way. So far it’s only solidified the fact that I want to work in the music industry and be part of something that big and that powerful and that moving, and that’s all I can really ask of a TV show.

4. Spector

It’s safe to say that I’ve been slightly obsessed with Spector for the past three years. I think their lyrics are absolutely genius, their songs are catchy as hell, and they can put me in the best mood or let me wallow beyond belief when that’s what I need out of life. I’ve spent the last two months (or three or four, really) listening to them on repeat, and I think at this point I can confirm that they’re one of my favourite bands. Their debut album, Enjoy it While it Lasts, is full of hit after hit about adolescence and young-adulthood – the awkwardness of it, the moments that you want to capture in a snow globe and keep on your shelf, and the naïve beauty of what it is to be young. It’s about the weird limbo-like state that can sometimes happen in relationships, the nights that make all the hard stuff worth it, and the things you wish you could change. The band’s sophomore effort, Moth Boys, is almost a follow-up to that storyline. It’s sullen and often heartbreaking, it’s about coming down after the highest of highs. There are bursts of joy and triumph within it, but a lot of it is about the beauty of life’s lows. Both of these albums have come to be companions to me, and I genuinely cherish them. One of the best feelings in the world is rediscovering your intense, overwhelming love for a band, and I spent all of August in that dreamlike state. And I adored it.

I feel like I got a lot out of my system after writing all that. Hopefully you’ve found someone new to listen to or a cool show to watch, but if not, we’ve always got next month. Let me know what you think about the things I mentioned and feel free to tell me what you loved in August!

My Music Festival Bucket List

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Music festivals are a beautiful thing. In a nutshell, a music festival is a weekend full to the brim with all sorts of magic. Amazing bands play each stage, you run around with your friends all day, you eat food truck food and drink that freshly-squeezed lemonade that only shows up at big events. You spend so much time listening to good music and singing along to your favourite songs and dancing around in a crowd of people that you feel as if your heart is about to explode with happiness. Music festivals are something special.

I’ve attended a few different festivals over the past few years –TURF and Field Trip and Osheaga and, most magically, WayHome’s inaugural year. Each one has its own pros and cons and each one does different things to stand out from the rest. TURF’s stage that sits under the Gardiner feels cool and urban, Field Trip is chill and relaxing, Osheaga is spread out and has lots to discover, and WayHome is absolutely full of incredible visual art and wide open spaces. I’ve loved every music festival I’ve attended, and I know I’ll be returning to at least one each summer for the foreseeable future.

For most of my life I’ve been especially intrigued by international music festivals. Aside from Woodstock, the UK seems to have invented the very idea of a festival, of a weekend spent camping in a field, wearing rubber boots and trekking through mud puddles, and listening to great bands amidst tens of thousands of other people. They all seem so huge and important, and although Canadian festivals are definitely growing, they aren’t quite there yet. As a result of my fascination with these events, I’ve come to create a mental list of all the festivals I’d attend if I had the chance. The list is long, but there are definitely a few standouts, and I thought I’d share them with you.

1. Glastonbury – Glastonbury, UK

Glastonbury just seems like the festival to end all festivals, doesn’t it? I’ve lusted after it for years and years, and I am just about dying to go and experience such an intense (but surely magical) weekend. Glasto always draws massive acts and massive crowds, and I’m sure it would be an overwhelming and unforgettable experience. Also, the fact that it’s still cold enough to wear jeans and leather jackets while at the festival is a definite draw.

2. Reading and Leeds – Reading and Leeds, UK

Reading and Leeds always looks cool. The fact that it’s in two different locations on the same weekend is pretty awesome, and it would be interesting to experience each one. It’s also always in late August, and I can’t think of a better way to send off summer than a giant music festival.

3. T in the Park – Strathallan, UK

T in the Park has definitely grown in size over the years, resulting in me being even more drawn to it. Festivals in the UK just seem like a different breed, and I’d love to go to this one in Scotland. Scottish accents, beer brewed just 36 hours before the festival, and great UK and international acts – what more could you ask for?

4. Hangout Fest – Gulf Shores, Alabama, USA

I hadn’t heard of Hangout Fest until this year, and it quickly found a spot on my festival bucket list. Held in Alabama, the festival is situated on the beaches of Gulf Shores. Great music, sandy beaches, and water as far as the eye can see sounds like a winning combination to me, and I can only begin to imagine how beautiful the sunsets at the end of each day would be.

5. Governor’s Ball, New York City, New York, USA

It honestly pains me to say that I’ve missed Governor’s Ball all these years, especially when The Strokes have played the festival not once, but twice. The event seems just as eclectic as New York City itself, and the organizers are doing a great job with the lineup as well as the vibe of the festival – from what I can tell from social media, at least. At this point I’ve made a vow that I’ll be there the next time The Strokes are, I’m just waiting for my time to shine.

6. Pemberton – Pemberton, British Columbia, Canada

Straight up, Pemberton looks like something out of a dream. Waking up each morning to be surrounded by mountains and watching the sun set over them each night sounds absolutely perfect to me. One day I’ll surely be making my way out to this festival.

7. Bonnaroo – Manchester, Tennessee

Often Bonnaroo seems like one of the most fun music festivals you could ever attend. Aside from the music itself, Bonnaroo is full of other attractions. From craft markets and a silent auction, to a cinema and comedy theatre, to parades, games, workouts, DIYs, and a splash pad, there’s no way you could ever get bored there. I can’t wait to experience it for myself one day.

8. Secret Solstice – Reykjavik, Iceland

Held in Reykjavik, Iceland each year, Secret Solstice sounds too good to be true. Occurring over the course of the summer solstice during the period of midnight sun, the festival never sleeps, and the sun never sets. Often showcasing new and emerging talent, Secret Solstice is said to have a unique vibe and great entertainment.

9. SXSW – Austin, Texas, USA

What kind of music fan would I be if I didn’t want to go to SXSW at some point in my life? Held in many different venues across Austin, South by Southwest showcases new talent, screens great movies, hosts informative talks and networking events, and much more. It’s an event all about discovery, as well as the intersections of various forms of media, and it sounds like a beautifully overwhelming week.

10. Outside Lands – San Francisco, California, USA

San Francisco is one of the best cities I’ve visited, and a festival held in Golden Gate Park is something incredible. Listening to great bands while surrounded by all sorts of wildlife as well as the most breathtaking views seems like a perfect weekend to me.

I realize that ten festivals is a lot – and to be honest, this isn’t even all the ones I have on my list. I’d love to attend each one at some point in my life, and I can’t wait to check them all off as I do so.

All-Time Favourites: Patti Smith


“In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.”

I’ve spent a lot of my life being defined by musical obsessions. As a pre-teen my walls were papered with Jonas Brothers posters, and that slowly transformed into Justin Bieber, and One Direction after that. Somewhere along the way I ditched the part of my heart that loved groups made up of hormonal boys and discovered that bands existed who wrote their own lyrics and played their own instruments and even loaded their own gear into white tour vans. I fell deeply in love with The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys and Florence + the Machine and The Vaccines. I devoured novels about the beatnik folk scenes of Greenwich Village in the sixties. I read pages and pages about London in 1963 and imagined my favourite city in the middle of an era defined by its youth and their loves. I inserted myself into the narrative of New York City in the seventies, and I mentally reserved a space for my leather jacket clad frame in the crowd at CBGBs. While I’ll be the first to admit that I know all the lyrics to Zayn’s ‘Pillowtalk,’ and I often dance around to Carly Rae Jepsen, I’ve found my niche in a different brand of music, and I haven’t really turned back.

And then I found out who Patti Smith is. And she became the ultimate icon for me, and for about a million others. I wondered how I had never known about the incredible woman, or why I hadn’t made an effort to get to know her sooner. I was quickly enamoured by her music, by her photography, by the very essence of her being. By the way she lives and her dedication to her craft and her loyalty to those she loved. I read Just Kids in twenty-four hours, struggling to put it down in order to eat and sleep and breathe. I felt instantly connected to her in about a thousand different ways. Every word she wrote, every lyric she sang felt like magic, like divine inspiration or even just rules for how I was supposed to live. I’d never been so captivated, so instantly influenced by someone, and that influence hasn’t stopped or slowed down since then.

Patti Smith is an icon in every aspect of her being. She writes like she was put on earth to do just that, and every sentence and every paragraph is raw and honest and emotional. Her music is different and unique and fresh even forty years after her debut album Horses was released. She holds nothing back. She’s rough and raw and unapologetic, but understated and quite simple at the same time. She spent years inventing herself, and just happened to invent the core values of punk at the same time. She lives for her art, and that’s an astonishingly beautiful thing. I couldn’t think of a better role model or a better companion than her and her work.

What strikes me most about Patti Smith is her fierce dedication and overwhelming loyalty. In reading M Train, you quickly learn that she spends every morning writing. Sitting in the same coffee shop and just writing as if her life depends on it, because that’s what she’s been called to do. And she’s loyal beyond belief, loyal to her late husband Fred Smith and to her artistic companion and muse Robert Mapplethorpe.  She’s loyal to her craft, to her writing and her music and her photography. She’s responded to every single one of her callings, every inkling of passion that she ever felt. Her entire existence is astounding. There’s no better way to live.

I’m extremely inspired not only by Patti herself, but by her music. It’s all magic, all perfect words, all philosophical and political and introspective. It all means more than you could ever put into sentences. Her songs tell vivid, impeccably woven, unedited stories. At first, I worked slowly through each album in her discography, listening carefully to everything she had to say. There’s something overwhelming and beautiful in each of her songs, traits that run deep within the words and the arrangement and the melodies. Now I know which tracks are my favourites and which ones mean the most to me, and they often feel like friends or confidantes. They’ve become comfortable for me, and switching on my favourite Patti Smith song is second nature at this point. And it happens often.

The albums I come back to the most are Horses, Radio Ethiopia, and Easter, but I do truly adore them all. I love ‘Redondo Beach’ and how she made something incredibly beautiful about a fear-filled situation when she thought she would lose her sister. I love ‘Break It Up’ and its slow start and its quick ascension into a powerful, chorus-like track. I love ‘Ain’t It Strange’ and its thumping, pulsating beat. I love that everyone knows – or should know – ‘Because the Night,’ and I love the connection I have to it, because I really do feel like the night belongs to me. I love the transition from ‘25th Floor’ to ‘High on Rebellion’ and how you can’t really tell the difference between the two, and I love that the title of the latter often makes me wish I had the guts to be more of a rebel.

Out of the hundreds of tracks that Patti Smith has penned, there are a few that I feel tied to, like their lyrics are stitched onto my heart or have wormed their way into my head forever. ‘Pissing in a River’ is one of them, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over how incredible the call-and-response that comes up throughout the track. It builds and builds into a rumbling, pleading mess of a song, and I think it’s incredible. Another one of my favourites is ‘Babelogue’ and how effortlessly she delivers such a complex piece. I love the rhythmic clapping of the live take, and I love that it feels like her words could fall from a cliff because she’s speaking them so quickly. ‘People Have the Power’ is the last of my ultimate favourites, and it may be the one I adore the most. It’s an incredible track, one that will remain relevant throughout decades and centuries. The message is powerful beyond belief, and the song itself has the ability to believe that you can change the world. The woman is a miracle-worker, I’m telling you.

At this point, I’m in so deep with my infatuation with Patti Smith and I don’t think it’s likely to dissipate any time soon. She’s the reason I write every single day, she might as well be the poster child for the importance of dedication and hard work, and remembering her commitment to her craft reminds me why I do what I do, from my blog to my journal to my half-full sketchbook. She makes me want to expand my horizons, to surround myself with like-minded creatives, to travel like it’s nobody’s business and to love life fiercely. She’s taught me a thousand and one lessons, and I think it’s pretty powerful that someone I’ve never met, someone who doesn’t know I even exist, can have such a profound and lasting influence on who I am, especially when I’m in the middle of trying to figure out who that is. I think it’s pretty likely that Patti’s influence will bleed into most of what I do, and I’m quite happy with that.

All-Time Favourites: Vampire Weekend

All-Time Favourites: Vampire Weekend
Photo Credit: Alex John Beck

I’ve gotten to a point where I’m just desperately waiting for a new Vampire Weekend album to come out. It’s been just over three years since the band released their third album Modern Vampires of the City, and I’m itching to hear new music. Since then, a band-member has left, one has released a solo album, one got married, and another one has featured on multiple songs, lending his vocal talents to other bands and musicians. A lot has changed for them, and I think the same goes for their fans. So, while I anxiously wait for new content to be released, I figured I’d round up a list of some of my absolute favourite Vampire Weekend tracks and break them down a little for you all. This might be difficult.

Starting off with their self-titled debut album, there are a few songs on that record that I absolutely adore, the first one being ‘M79.’ The track is simple yet complex, with lyrics that don’t stray too far from one another and follow a single, linear narrative. The interest comes in the melody, with both a cello and a violin playing difficult arrangements of notes that create a soaring, free kind of effect. The result is beautiful, and I never find myself growing tired of it. ‘Walcott’ is another instant favourite, the kind of track that you turn up really loud as you drive along coastal highways with the windows rolled down and salty air blowing your hair in a million different directions. It’s for singing at the top of your lungs and dancing around with your friends. It’s really a quintessential summer song, but it’s one layered with magic and happiness. That’s the best kind, really. ‘The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance’ finishes off the album with a bang, slowing things down and really showcasing Ezra Koenig’s vocal range. I like how airy and effortless it feels, and it’s a nice change compared to the pop-tinged chaos that describes many of the bands’ other tracks.

Contra is a love-hate kind of album. I know a lot of people who adore it and would call it the best record the band has released and I know others who can’t stand it. I’m probably somewhere in between, but there are definitely songs on the album that I could listen to on repeat forever and ever. ‘White Sky’ is a song that embodies a tiny moment, and I like that it still feels important and expansive. It captures a little piece of someone’s life, but one that’s enough to write a song about. Sometimes the little things are the most significant ones. ‘Run’ is another one of my favourites, and it’s a little bit like wanderlust made into a song. And on the minimal occasions where I legitimately tried to take up running (ha), it was definitely on my playlist. I just really like it.

‘Giving Up The Gun’ is another track that Contra definitely has going for it. It’s catchy beyond belief and it gets stuck in your head extremely easily, but I don’t mind one bit. It’s an injection of happiness and positivity and it could lift your spirits in an instant. Vampire Weekend does a good job of shrouding their songs in metaphors, and this one is chock-full of them in the best way. It’s wonderful. My final favourite track from the bands’ sophomore release is ‘Diplomat’s Son,’ a six-minute song documenting a forbidden same-sex relationship. I love it. So much. First of all, it’s an important topic that isn’t often sung about, secondly it’s beautiful, and thirdly it’s soothing and soft. What more could you want? (Nothing. The answer’s nothing.)

Onto the last and most recent Vampire Weekend release: Modern Vampires of the City. This album is by far my favourite thing the band has done, and I’m really struggling to narrow down my favourite songs, because I absolutely love them all. ‘Unbelievers’ is an obvious choice. I like its mildly philosophical lyrics and questions, and the melody is dynamic and pure. It gets an A+ from me. ‘Don’t Lie’ is another one that just does me in every single time. It’s both innocent and mature at once, juxtaposing grown-up lessons with childish beliefs. It’s really just beautiful, and if I could pick one favourite Vampire Weekend song, this might be it. Right after ‘Don’t Lie’ comes ‘Hannah Hunt,’ which I can’t help but mention. Besides the fact that my name is in it and I felt immediately attached to it when I first heard it, it really is an incredible track. It’s full of love and adoration without being over the top, and I like how simply the love is declared. It builds and builds and there’s a moment two minutes and fifty-eight seconds in that many of the bands fans declare to be one of the best moments of their lives. And it might as well be. ‘Everlasting Arms’ follows right after, and that’s another slow burning kind of song that lights a bit of a fire in your eyes and fills you with warmth. It’s one hundred percent worth a listen. Or twelve.

Before I can list off every track on the album, I’m only going to mention two more. ‘Finger Back’ feels like it could be on the band’s first album, and it’s nice and upbeat in the midst of more sombre tracks. There’s a part near the end that feels like poetry or spoken word, and then it transitions to a few closing sentences before ending abruptly in that cool way that some songs just stop. The final track of the album (and of my list) is ‘Young Lion,’ and I can’t gush enough about this one. Beginning with a simple piano intro and consisting of Rostam repeating ‘You take your time/Young lion’ over and over again, it’s a track that feels like a mantra or an affirmation. It’s the perfect ending to a perfect album, and sometimes after I listen to it I feel like I carry it around on my soul. I guess it’s had a lasting impression on me.

Honestly, I would be really happy if Vampire Weekend pulled a Beyoncé and dropped an album tomorrow. I know that’s highly unlikely, but a girl can dream. For now, at least we’ve got three whole albums full of incredible tracks.