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.

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EP Review: ‘The Search for Everything – Wave One’ by John Mayer

My dad took me to see a documentary called California Typewriter a couple weeks ago. It’s a portrait of a business struggling to remain relevant as the world continues to become digitized, but it’s also a look at well-known creatives who have recently discovered or continue to fight for the importance of analog. It was spectacular, and aside from leaving the theatre feeling fulfilled by the fact that all of these people are fighting so passionately for what they love, even though what they love is really just typewriters, I also left with a newfound respect for John Mayer. I’ll elaborate.

The film sees a number of people talking about their love for typewriters. Tom Hanks shows off his drool-worthy collection and pushes for handwritten thank-you notes over email (so down for this to become a thing again). An artist by the name of Jeremy Mayer shows off his incredible sculptures and explains why taking apart the typewriter is still an appreciation of the beauty. And then John Mayer comes along and talks about why he writes songs on a typewriter instead of a computer, and I agreed with every single thing he said.

Mayer speaks candidly – that’s the first thing that drew me in. But he’s also highly intelligent in a way I didn’t expect. His points are well thought-out and everything makes perfect sense. In his words, computers interrupt the natural creative process. When you’re using some form of software to write, spellcheck comes on and red dots appear under words that are wrong and it interrupts your flow, and that subsequently messes up anything you create after that. Typewriters take away the interruption and the anxiety that comes from knowing you spelled something wrong or used the wrong noun. Being able to block out anything that will distract you from being creative is the ultimate way to go, and analog lets you do that. On a typewriter you can mess up a thousand times, you can cross things out, and you can see your ideas form organically. There’s no erasing or backspacing – you see the entirety of your work right in front of you. John Mayer is apparently a big fan of this, and I have to agree.

The movie made my want to listen to Mayer’s music over and over again, and, coincidentally, he released a new EP called The Search for Everything – Wave One soon after my addiction began. I love it. It feels like the stuff I used to hear on the radio when the radio was actually half-decent, and it’s light and airy and free. It’s road trip music in a way only John Mayer can make road trip music.

The EP starts off with ‘Moving On and Getting Over,’ a groovy break-up track that doesn’t feel like a break-up track. It’s smooth and intricate, and, like always, Mayer’s voice is like velvet. Out of all four songs, this is the one I find myself constantly going back to, and I do feel like it’s nestled itself into my heart a little bit. I love how personal and nostalgic it is, and I can’t wait to listen to it all summer – because it’s definitely a summer track.

I love the second track. ‘Changing’ is about exactly what the title says it’s about. Last year was a lot about change for me, and it’s comforting knowing other people at every stage in their lives are going through the same thing. The song is an ode to evolution and growth, and rather than discussing how hard or uncomfortable it is, it’s really about the beauty that can be found in it. And I like that a lot.

‘Love on the Weekend’ is mellow and comforting. I’m pretty sure I relax into nothingness the instant I hear its opening chords – the thing is like instant happiness. The third track on the EP, it’s an obvious love song, but it plays out like a story. It’s vivid. It’s well-rounded. You can almost feel the sun pouring out of it. And that’s enough to make me adore it.

The Search for Everything finishes off with ‘You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me.’ And it’s tear-jerking, and it sounds like it could be on the soundtrack to a Winnie the Pooh movie. I find it to be the most poetic song on the EP, but it’s cinematic as well. The words he speaks form worlds around you, almost blanketing your being in whimsy. It’s spectacular.

At this point, I’m a little annoyed at myself for ignoring the beauty of John Mayer music for so long. With so many albums under his belt, he’s still captivating audiences and hearts all over the place, and that’s a really special quality that comes across remarkably easily in his music. He’s honest and vulnerable and I think that’s something we could all use a little more of in ourselves. Needless to say, I’m a fan.

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.

Track Review: ‘Make Me Cry’ by FLIIIS

I first introduced you all to FLIIIS a few months ago, and the duo is kicking off the new year by releasing a trio of glossy, glittery pop songs. The collection is polished and varied, and it truly shows off the immense potential of the group. With this release, FLIIIS pulls the listener completely into their world and shows us all what they have to offer – and their offerings are vast.

Title track ‘Make Me Cry’ is impressive. The lyrics fall effortlessly from the mouth of the lead singer and the backing beat envelopes you in a harsh wall of sound. It’s heavy at times, but it also shines like a beacon out of the dark. Its contrasts are what make it interesting and worthwhile, and it’s definitely something you should be listening to. With the nostalgia of eighties new wave and pop but the modern draw of a track by The 1975, it would be hard to stay away from this song.

‘Fuga’ is the bridge between worlds. A field recording of New York City bustles in the foreground while a spoken word poem hums subtly in the back. You can hardly make out all the words, but the times when you can hear something clearly feel like finding a treasure trove that was thought to be long lost. It’s reminiscent of the sixties beat poets of Greenwich Village or the fearless performances of Patti Smith, and it’s spectacular to hear a group going back to something that feels like its pushing boundaries.

‘Daze BLVD.’ closes the whole thing off, and I think it may be the most dazzling track out of the three. To be quite honest, I’m on a bit of a Ryan Gosling movie kick, and to hear a band draw from ‘Drive’ and create something beautiful and interesting out of a haunting, thrilling film is awesome. It would fit in seamlessly with the soundtrack, with the early hours of LA, with the flashy cars and silk jackets and neon lights. It samples scenes from the movie and you can hear conversations and cars peeling quickly away intermingled with slow, heart wrenching melodies and beautiful lyrics. The track feels masterful, and if this is what everything else by FLIIIS is going to sound like, I’d be all for it.

‘Make Me Cry’ is a near-perfect effort from a band that deserves a hell of a lot more recognition. The capsule of songs they’re about to release is nostalgic and yet still modern and current, it’s packed with emotion but it still lifts your spirits. I couldn’t recommend it more, and I can’t wait to hear what’s coming next from FLIIIS.

Track Review: ‘I Don’t’ by Eadie

With a new year comes great new music, and Toronto-based musician Eadie was ahead of the curve with that one. The soulful singer released her newest track, ‘I Don’t,’ just a week before ringing in twenty-seventeen, and it’s the perfect song for the first pages of the next three hundred and sixty-five days.

Eadie’s vocals are clean and effortless, dripping with heart and soul and bearing all sorts of emotion. That complexity works well for her here, complementing the impeccable production beautifully and immediately pulling in the listener. Despite its simplicity and bare bones, the track is far more than interesting while still being the kind of thing you’d willingly listen to a thousand times over. Eadie’s output sounds more like that of a veteran soul singer than something released by a young adult who’s just getting off her feet, and that definitely makes ‘I Don’t’ feel like a remarkable creative effort.

Produced by Canadian music producer TreyR., ‘I Don’t’ is a perfect display of some of Toronto’s most impressive up-and-coming talent. The track is spectacular, but more than that it shows off the incredible things that musicians and creatives in this city are getting up to, and that’s one of my favourite things about being so entrenched in the Toronto music scene. Every layer of the song, from the enticing beat to the incredibly well-written words to the intricate melody is wondrous, and as a result, the track is too.

In all honesty, I think Eadie is definitely one to watch. With vocals reminiscent of Amy Winehouse and a style that seamlessly blends pop and soul, the musician is remarkably easy to love. Her lyrics are relatable and beautifully crafted, her songs are catchy and addictive, and she sounds like the cool girl next door who you’d just about die to be friends with. All of those pieces fit together to form a wonderfully gifted pop star in-the-making, and I am dying to see what she does next.

Album Review – ‘A Strange Sense of Humour’ by Alex McCulloch

Toronto-based singer-songwriter Alex McCulloch has released her debut full-length album, A Strange Sense of Humour, and it’s something spectacular. The record is a well-rounded portrait of a life filled with bits of Canadiana and the modern world, and it’s a captivating entity that I often find hard to come by. It’s polished and well-done, something far better than you’d expect from a self-released debut – Alex sounds more like a musician with decades of experience than a young woman high off the release of her first LP.

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The album starts off with ‘Depression,’ a shiny, catchy tune that instantly alerts the listener, pulling them in and allowing them to warm up to the artist. I adore the contrast of stark honesty and impeccable production, and that thread of similarity runs through the entirety of the record. A song called ‘Empty House’ follows, and at times it’s nearly gritty, pulling at your heart strings and dripping with unfiltered emotion. It’s not often that such depth of feeling is showcased so plainly to the world.

McCulloch weaves worlds with her words, displaying her talents as an artist by painting pictures with her voice. It’s difficult to listen to A Strange Sense of Humour without crafting visions in your own mind, easily inserting yourself into the narrative of the record itself. One of my favourite tracks on the album, ‘Butterfly’, rouses brightly lit images of a relationship clouded by the haze of summer, while ‘A Light Goes Out’ contrasts it with dim bars and long nights.

Other album highlights include ‘Genesis’ and ‘One Time Show’. The former is rhythmic and engaging, a track that moves effortlessly through dynamic melodies and great lyrics. The latter is a slower, harmonica-backed ballad that shows off McCulloch’s vocal range beautifully, highlighting the ease with which she moves through each word. The album closes out with a trio of live tracks and demos, and the addition of the rawer, stripped-back songs makes the record feel more intimate and real. You can tell that McCulloch sings straight from real life, drawing experiences out of her heart and mind and soul and sharing them with her audience like some kind of self-led therapy. At times it can feel like she’s reading pages from your own journal, and although the tales she tells can be remarkably personal, they’re also believably universal.

It’s beyond inspiring to listen to a woman bare her every emotion, laying her thoughts out like puzzle pieces to be linked together by the audience. A Strange Sense of Humour is a phenomenal debut – it’s effortless, it’s complete, and it engages the listener from the very beginning. Already, Alex McCulloch seems to be in a league of spectacular singer-songwriters who wear their hearts on their sleeves in the best way.

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.