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.

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Weekly Playlist – First Days of Spring

The third weekend in February has somehow turned out to be spectacularly spring-like. The sun shines warm and bright, trickling into windows and lighting your face from the inside out. Snow melts slowly, clear water running in small streams down every available crevice. It feels a little bit like the world is transforming, hearts burning brighter and smiles spreading easily across faces. I love these days, the soft glimmers of hope they bring and the promise of warmth that they leave behind. Even more, I love the music that evokes the refreshed feeling of spring, and that’s what this week’s playlist is full of.

These tracks are light and airy, sunny and care-free. Some are soft and slow, like every Sunday morning in early spring should be. Others have a bit more vitality to them, the kind of energy that gets injected into your soul when the weather gets warmer and the days get longer and the sunsets start looking bright and water coloured again. A lot of them are nostalgic, dredging up past feelings and moments and spring experiences. It’s a mix, and it shows my ever-changing taste in music, and I like that a lot.

Even as the warm weather inevitably disappears back into a few more cold weeks, these songs offer a familiar warmth, a sunny disposition, and maybe a dance or two. I love how easily music affects your mood, and I hope all these songs inject a bit of springtime happiness into the last days of winter.

Weekly Playlist – Short and Sweet

There’s some kind of magic in songs that fall under the three-minute mark. It takes a lot to pack enough into a song that barely makes it into the territory of a decent length, but a lot of bands have proven over the years that they can do it quite well. The Beatles are known for their two-minute tunes, and punk bands like The Clash and The Ramones have solid collections of tracks that are short but still incredible. It mystifies me, but that doesn’t stop me from loving them anyway.

This playlist is quite a collection. It ranges in genre and mood, it encompasses my widely varying and honestly kind of weird music taste, and I do think it’s pretty great. These songs are gifts. They communicate so much in so little time. They break the walls on emotion and let it flood through fast and hard. They’re songs about love, songs about lust, songs about nights out and lessons needing to be learned. Music allows artists to explore anything they want, and although this playlist is unified by the length of each track, it really does exhibit a realm of human emotion and thought.

I adore every track on this playlist. ‘Norgaard’ was one of the first songs that made me fall head over heels in love with The Vaccines, and we all know how that turned out. ‘Babelogue’ by Patti Smith inspired the name for this site, but the power she exudes through the track is also beyond words. ’12:51’ by The Strokes and ‘You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me’ by Arctic Monkeys were two songs that I spent years listening to on repeat, and that I still find myself singing along to. I don’t post things that I don’t love or feel passionate about, but this playlist in particular really showcases everything I love about music, and I hope it makes you feel something too.

Weekly Playlist – People Have the Power

I think a lot of us, myself included, are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer demonstration of hatred that’s permeating our world as we speak. It’s heartbreaking to wake up each day and to spend the hours ahead of me reading more and more and more horrific news. It’s heartbreaking to see no end to the upset. It’s heartbreaking to watch people be thrown out of their own country, to stop feeling safe, to fear for their lives and their futures. I don’t know how it feels to be in that position, and I don’t want to make it sound like I’m a voice for those individuals, because I’m not. Like most people, I’m just appalled at the fact that we’re at this point, and that this is the real world we’re living in. My writing and my voice and music and art are the best tools I have to speak out and to stand up for what I believe is just. And I’m going to use those tools as well as I can.

I am a privileged person. I’m white. I’m straight. I’m able-bodied. I am only oppressed by the fact that I am a woman. For most of the world’s population, though, oppression comes at them in a thousand different ways, and it sits heavy on their shoulders. I don’t know what it’s like to feel that. But I do know what it’s like to fear for what’s next, and I’m ready to do as much as I can in the face of adversity. At a time when the entire world feels like it’s crumbling, we need to demonstrate our unity more than ever. We need to cast aside the things that divide us and recognize our power as human beings and stand up against the misogynistic, racist, fascist, greedy individual who has somehow been put into the ultimate position of power. This doesn’t mean we can to erase the past. This doesn’t mean we can forget previous and current injustices. But it does mean we can push forward and fight for a better future.

I made a different iteration of this playlist a few years ago, when Donald Trump wasn’t even running for President (let alone elected), when things seemed simpler, and when I never thought a world like this would become reality. It was created out of a distaste for anti-feminism and racism and homophobia and corporate wealth and power and so much more that I thought I knew a lot about. I didn’t really understand how bad it could get, and now that we’re at this point, I think we could really use these tracks.

The people who wrote and sang these songs did so for the same reason I’m writing this post: to use their voice. They did it a thousand times more eloquently than I am, and the songs have stuck with me over the past few years as I learned more about injustice and activism. As much as I would like to believe that music fixes everything, it doesn’t. Music can’t fix bigotry, it can’t fix racism and homophobia and misogyny and discrimination. It can’t make the whole thing better, it can’t make Trump disappear, and it can’t stop ridiculous policies. At the very least, though, it provides comfort. It provides inspiration and motivation. It provides hope. And that lessens the weight a tiny bit. We still need to rise up. We still need to educate ourselves. We still need to use our voices. And these tracks can accompany us while we do it.

Weekly Playlist: Thank You For the Music

I got to thinking this week about everything that I’m thankful for. The list is pretty much endless, and it encompasses a lot of things, but I noticed that there are a lot of songs and albums and bands that I’m unendingly grateful for. My obvious next step, then, was to write new post (finally) about all the tracks that I hold dear to my heart and that deserve a bit of a shout out for that. Tis the season.

This is definitely not a conclusive list, mostly because I’m constantly consuming music or rediscovering songs that I was once obsessed with. This is an amalgamation of tracks that I’ve loved for years, songs that I’ve only recently discovered, and melodies that have been around for decades and adored by thousands of people. Not only does this list span years of music, it also spans lots of pivotal moments in my life and times when I desperately needed to call on the powers of these tracks. I cringe just thinking about how cheesy it is to say that I’m thankful for music, but I am. I suppose spending my childhood listening to ‘Thank You for the Music’ by ABBA had a profound effect on me.

1.‘Dog Days Are Over’ by Florence + The Machine

This song means the world to me. Just listening to the first bars brings me back to the times I’ve seen the band live, the collectiveness of the concert and the passion with which Florence directs the crowd, instructing us all to jump simultaneously, to clap our hands with abandon, and to lose ourselves in the joy. It reminds me of picking my sister up from school and driving down quiet roads singing (yelling, more like) the lyrics at the top of our lungs and feeling absolute freedom, nothing more or less. It reminds me of family sing-alongs, of dancing and clapping our hands and laughing incessantly.  I’m thankful for the song, but I’m even more thankful for all of those moments and the sheer happiness they’ve brought me.

2.‘Come All Sufferers’ by Gabriel Bruce

Although this one’s a recent addition to my list of songs I could never live without, it’s also a powerful one. Gabriel Bruce legitimately makes magic in each and every track he puts out, and this one hits me hard. I love the build-up and the message and the lyrics, especially the line “Been taught to want/But never how to create.” The climax of the track, the call to action of it all, is powerful beyond belief, and I do feel like I heal a little every time I listen to it. This song is a proclamation of pain, but it’s also a reminder of the good that comes out of the bad and the collectiveness of human emotion. I’m so thankful that there are people on this earth who make art that reminds us that we can rise up out of the dark.

3.‘I Always Knew’ by The Vaccines

This is my favourite song in the entire world, hands down. I’ve never been in love with anything except a few cities and some bands – The Vaccines included – so I can’t really relate to the content, but this track, the emotion that drips off of it and the honesty that it’s filled with have always stood out to me. I think I adore it so much because of how vulnerable it is, and listening to it five hundred times over (this is not an exaggeration, if anything it’s an understatement) has drilled into me this idea that being vulnerable isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve only ever seen The Vaccines perform live once, but I’ll never forget the instant I heard the first chords of this track and the way in which my heart began to fill up with love and my soul started soaring with happiness. Songs can teach lessons and bring joy to the listener and can inspire a multitude actions and emotions, and I’m thankful that human beings have the ability create things with so much power.

4.‘Babelogue’ by Patti Smith

In all honesty I feel like I could write an entire post about this song alone. It has shaped me in ways that words can’t describe, and it has been a companion throughout the past few years of my artistic journey. The first time I ever heard this track, I was floored by the power that could exist within a woman, and by the sense you get when you listen to it that Patti is bearing everything and not letting an ounce of emotion goes to waste. The woman plows everything she has into her artistic ventures, and the track inspired me to do the exact same – to throw myself off the deep end, to write as if my life depended on it, to paint or draw just because I felt like I needed to. I’m thankful that I’ve found a sweet spot with my creativity, and that I found the push I needed to do it in this track and in Patti herself.

5.‘Hunting’ by The Darcys

I remember hearing this song for the first time and feeling like it was the only time I’d ever actually listened to art. I was used to admiring paintings and sculpture, taking in theatre productions and films, but this was something else. It sounded like art, but more than that, I could nearly feel the artistry that the song is so full of. It has a physicality to it, and that was something new to me and I loved how it felt – so much so that I can vividly remember countless high school bus rides spent listening to the track on repeat. The Darcys create incredibly masterful tracks, and this one is my absolute favourite. I’m so thankful that sonic works of art exist, and that some of them can be as beautiful as this one.

6.‘Father Electricity’ by Julian Casablanas + the Voidz

Tyranny was a huge album for me, and this track has always been one of my favourites – it’s overt political themes and lyrics that allude to the fractures in the system were everything that I wanted to hear as a teenager who was just starting to figure out what I thought about politics and how the world works. Listening to this track, I felt like Julian was rallying us all together, enlightening us a little bit and using his platform to speak out about what felt wrong to him. I hold Julian himself in high esteem, and to hear someone you look up to sing about things that you agree with and relate to was a big deal. I’m thankful that politics have become something that’s no longer out of place in works of art.

7.‘Ones Who Love You’ by Alvvays

This song is straight up magic. I’ve seen Alvvays live four times, and every time they play this I just let myself have a moment. I stand there in the middle of the crowd with my eyes closed and my body swaying back and forth awkwardly and I take it all in. It’s soft and airy but there’s so much meaning and feeling in it, and it’s another one of those tracks that reminds me how powerful honesty and emotion can be. I am beyond thankful for bands who can make the dead of winter feel like the height of summer.

8.‘Blank Generation’ by Richard Hell and the Voidoids

This has been my song for the past couple of years, and I can’t imagine a life where I am not obsessed with it. In my mind Richard Hell is Patti Smith’s male counterpart – he has the same unabashed creativity, the same dreams that can’t be crushed, the same effortless means of existence. All of those traits have been wildly inspirational for me, something to live by and aspire to. This song expresses dissatisfaction and boredom, which is something nobody can help but experience, but it also serves as a reminder that we can create incredible things out of even the worst feelings, and I’m forever thankful for that message.

9.‘I Can’t Win’ by The Strokes

I had my moment with The Strokes six or seven years ago, and the band has been with me ever since. The discovery of the group is almost a rite of passage for any music lover, and I remember spending days and days listening to Is This It and Room on Fire on repeat. ‘I Can’t Win’ has always been a standout for me, and, although it’s pretty pessimistic, I adore it. It’s simple and to the point and I like how truthful and candid the track is. I’m really thankful for my search to find my most authentic self and for the songs that are guiding me while I do it.

10.‘All The Sad Young Men’ by Spector

I heard this song in the spring of last year and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. To say I love it would be in understatement – I think it’s an undeniably incredible piece of music. In all honesty I think I’m just thankful for this song because I adore it so much. There’s no special story or memory attached to it, but it has become a companion and a song I go back to over and over again in the middle of the night when I’m up late because of an overactive imagination or an idea that came to me and that I had to get out before it disappeared. And really, that’s enough. So I’m thankful for songs that feel like best friends, and this one is definitely one of them.

And that’s a wrap. I could add about a thousand more tracks to this list, but these are the ones I hold close to my heart, that serve as reminders or inspiration or lessons. I love them all dearly, and I’m so glad that music is so eternal – I can’t imagine living in a world where songs as good as these ones didn’t exist.

Weekly Playlist – In The Golden Hour

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The inspiration for this playlist came to me last Saturday at seven o’clock at night as I was riding the bus from Toronto back to my hometown. The vehicle sped down the Don Valley Parkway and I sat tucked into a window seat with my headphones placed snugly over my ears, trying desperately to choose the perfect songs to accompany me on my journey. The sky was burning bright orange and deep red, luscious paint strokes of watercolour blending seamlessly with the rich blue-black of the night and the dark grey of the clouds at dusk. It’s hard not to be inspired by something so strikingly beautiful, and in a rush of recollection I remembered how much I adore the track “Golden Hour” by Sam Roberts Band, and how perfect it would be for such a glorious time of night. Just like that, the idea of this playlist was born, and I had a great track to listen to for the rest of my commute.

Looking back, those golden hour moments are some of the best things I can remember. Just a few months ago I was lying alone in the grass on the south bank of the Thames on my last night in London, scribbling out my thoughts and snapping film photos of the sun setting on the water. Before that, I can transport myself to the first ever WayHome, the air turning cool around me as the sky darkened and Alt-J stalked onto the stage, beginning to play a dozen tracks that I’d been longing to hear live for three years. Heading years back, I remember summers spent at my grandparent’s cottage – bonfires on the beach, the cool sand between my toes, the enveloping warmth of the lake as we waded into its depths, the sun melting into the horizon like butter. Worlds exist in those quiet, dazzling moments as the lights go out and the world hushes and the sun fades into nothingness for another day, and these are a few of my favourite songs that capture that magic perfectly.

Weekly Playlist: Best of CBGB

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At this point I’m fairly certain that anyone who has ever read my blog knows just how much I adore the mid-seventies New York City music scene, especially CBGB. I’ve read dozens of novels about the era, the bands who graced the stage of the club, the magazines who reviewed the shows, and the famously disgusting bathroom. I’ve watched countless performances by musicians who made CBGB into a destination for punk and new wave music, and I’ve spent hours and hours imagining how it would have felt to have been part of that. The images I have of that world are so vivid that I can almost feel myself trying desperately to get a word in with Patti Smith – probably something about Arthur Rimbaud or Sylvia Plath – or standing front row at a Voidoids show fawning over Richard Hell. Without being cliché and moaning about being born in the wrong era, I’m just going to say that I wish I could have lived through such a pivotal point in music history.

Music that came out of CBGB probably makes up at least fifty percent of what I listen to. Talking Heads are an obvious go-to, I listen to one Blondie song or another at least once a day, Patti Smith means the world to me, and Richard Hell & The Voidoids are the masterminds behind “Blank Generation,” which is arguably one of the best tracks ever created. The list of seventies New York bands that I love with my whole heart is bottomless, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I could go on forever about all the weird, kind of messed-up magic and badass-ness of CBGB, and I often feel like I know more about the musicians who played there than I know about myself.  Rather than spend ages (and ages and ages) talking about the history that was made at a little club on the Bowery or the bands who crafted the very first ideologies of punk, I figured it was easier to just make a playlist. So here we are. Most of the time it’s easier to let the music itself do the talking, am I right?