Saturday, December 31, 2016

Farewell 2016


2016 was a pretty great year - not in the world at large (that's another post) - but in my own life, and I'm very grateful. I don't think I've ever been more excited for what a new year will bring.

For no real reason, I'm going to post a list I made last year of my Top 14 Favourite Songs Of 2015. After my last post, I realized how nice it is to have all my favourite songs from one time period together (and not just the songs, but the videos, too). So, I'm really just posting this for my own sake, but maybe someone else will enjoy it?

~

Alabama Shakes - Future People
Baroness - Shock Me
Chelsea Wolfe - Grey Days
Christine And The Queens - Tilted
Deafheaven - Come Back
Joy Williams - What A Good Woman Does
Marina And The Diamonds - Forget
Panopticon - Into The North Woods
Tame Impala - Let It Happen
Wolf Alice - Moaning Lisa Smile

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Anyway, I hope anyone reading this is doing well and I hope your 2017 is genuinely awesome and fulfilling. I'll see ya on the other side.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Favourite songs of 2016


Clearly, I like writing about music (which really just means I like organizing my favourite music), so I've made a list of my Top 14 Favourite Songs Of 2016. I tried to narrow it down to 10 or 12, but couldn't eliminate any of these 14. Also, I simply listed them in alphabetical order and put a star next to my top 4. Here it goes ...

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Formation, from Beyonce's newest opus Lemonade, is undoubtedly one of the most, if not *the* most, important song this year. It will surely be remembered as one of the great political works of art this era (the entire album and all of its accompanying videos will be). Formation, in particular, though, is an incredibly powerful song. We all know Beyonce can sing (really sing), but it's nice to hear her tap into her grittier side, especially given the song's celebration of her heritage and southern roots. The song's trap beat is hypnotic and the lyrics are as unapologetic as they come ("I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros / I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils"). The video for it, as you already know, is stunning - both a subversive middle finger to racists in power and a love letter to black culture.

Blackstar, the opening track on David Bowie's final album, is a gorgeous and haunting ride through Bowie's psyche during what he knew were the last months of his life. It's a romantic concept - spending every last ounce of energy and time you have on this planet channeling how you feel about your impending death into a brilliant work of art, but I can only imagine it's far, far harder than any of us realize, which makes this album such an astonishing feat and a testament to Bowie's love for the craft. Blackstar is as beautiful, complex and mysterious as the man himself.

Garbage returned this year with a single sounding so much like classic Garbage, it feels (for exactly 4 minutes) like nothing has changed since 1995. Sometimes I sense that people have forgotten how great Garbage was and maybe it's because Shirley Manson never burned out or made a solo pop album. Who knows? Regardless, their self-titled album is one of my all time favourites and their new album Strange Little Birds is a solid return to form. It's full of dramatic and heartfelt electronic rock, like only Garbage can make. Empty is a standout and one of the best rock songs this year.

Ghost have nailed it once again. Square Hammer, the single from their recent EP Popestar, is my second favourite song this year and easily the most addictive. I can't think of another artist (who writes all of their own material) currently releasing as many insanely catchy and well crafted songs, and at such a steady pace, as Ghost. Con Clavi Con Dio, Ritual, Year Zero, From The Pinnacle To The Pit, He Is and now Square Hammer are all among my favourite songs released this decade by any artist. And those are only slightly better than most every other song in their discography. Seriously, I can't recommend Ghost enough, as long as you a) don't mind dark imagery/lyrics and b) don't believe metal can't be melodic and even poppy while still being heavy and kicking ass.


(I wore this outfit a little while ago, but never posted it. It's a sweater from Nordstrom over a little cropped hoodie from Bob's over a dress from a fancy boutique. I wore the dress to my senior prom.)

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Queens Of The Stone Age are my favourite band, so it's no surprise that I love Iggy Pop's new album Post Pop Depression, on which Iggy enlisted Queens' lead guitarist and singer/songwriter Josh Homme not only to play guitar, but to produce as well. (Josh then enlisted Queens' keyboardist and sometimes-guitarist Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys' drummer Matt Helders to join.) Iggy, of course, is a legend and sounds fantastic. Every song on this album is inspiring. I could've chosen the eerie and pretty Gardenia for this list, but Sunday wins out. It's classic-sounding and driving. I love the video for it, too, with its juxtaposition between the lush, swampy land of Florida where Iggy resides and the sun-baked desert of Joshua Tree where Josh is from. It's breathtaking.

John Paul White, formerly of The Civil Wars, released his second solo album, Beulah, this year, which he introduced with the excellent What's So. This song has the old school, outlaw country vibe that Barton Hollow has, which made me fall in love with The Civil Wars in the first place. Also, John Paul's voice is like the smoothest wine to me - one word and I'm hooked. Like many songs on this list, the video for it is great as well. What I love most about country music is that it finds beauty in the everyday routine, in small town life and in tradition. It finds joy cruising down country roads and curing hangovers with an omelet at Waffle House (which pretty much sums up the 3 road trips I took this year). John Paul, of course, delivers this ethos with a slightly ominous, Southern Gothic tone, as per usual.

This is my favourite song of 2016, hands down. This song, off Mantar's second album Ode To The Flame, is what my heavy metal dreams are made of. This song is what I search every corner of the Internet for, hoping and waiting ever so patiently to find. I may have listened to this song 20+ times in the 24 hours after I first heard it. (It's possible that I'm listening to it right now.) Seriously, though, this song is just so heavy and catchy at the same time. The riffs are pummeling and the chorus slays me. Also, it's worth noting that this band consists of only 2 people, which makes their sound even more impressive. (Interesting tidbit as well: in the video for their song Cross The Cross, which is another standout, you can spot an old school Ghost poster on the singer's wall.)

Metallica was absolutely my gateway to metal. My 2 oldest brothers listened to them religiously when I was little and I was drawn to their music even then. While I agree with the popular opinion that everything after the Black Album has been hit or miss at best (I like most of the Black Album, though it's no Master Of Puppets), I'm always interested in hearing what Metallica makes. There are more of their songs on my list of Favourite Songs Of All Time than any other artist (3: Welcome Home (Sanitarium), One and The Unforgiven II). Their new album Hardwired ... To Self Destruct is a double album and can feel like too much at once, but there are some excellent songs on the tracklist. My favourites are Moth Into Flame and Spit Out The Bone, both of which possess the ferocity and relentlessness I love from Metallica.


PJ Harvey has always danced to the beat of her own drum and I love her for it. I especially enjoy when she taps into her slightly more rock n' roll side, like on all of Dry or This Is Love. The Wheel, from this year's The Hope Six Demolition Project, is a return to that and, in my opinion, one of the best songs of her career. Its handclap rhythm and use of saxophone are fantastic and the chorus is melancholic perfection. The video for it, shot in Kosovo and Washington DC, is beautiful as well. I'm realizing right now how the videos I love most on this list are all similar, in that they focus on everyday life, ordinary people and run-down buildings. That's always been more interesting to me than images of glamour and luxury.

This is probably the most left field choice on this list, not because it's pop/R&B, but because I've never been a huge fan of Rihanna's music. I like Rihanna and think she's an important figure in pop culture - her lasting popularity is a testament to her talent and how much she means to so many - but I've never liked overly auto-tuned, Max Martin-approved Top 40 pop. I just don't enjoy it. Rihanna, however, does seem to be exploring new paths. I'm especially into the trap influence on Bitch Better Have My Money and the sexy slow burner Kiss It Better. The vibe of this song, and Rihanna's vocal performance, so perfectly encapsulate sexual tension, I physically feel it.

I'm a huge fan of Run The Jewels. Their last album was brilliant and so far, RTJ3 is shaping up to be incredible as well. Legend Has It is as ferocious and funny as previous standouts Oh My Darling, Don't Cry and Blockbuster Night (Part 1). I also love their darker, more somber songs like Crown and Angel Duster. I really hope this new album has a couple songs in that vein as well. Much like Ghost (who I talk about above), it honestly feels like every song Killer Mike and El-P make is on another level. They simply don't make bad songs.

Russian Circles is an instrumental post-rock band I discovered through Chelsea Wolfe, who sang on their 2013 song Memorial. Their new album Guidance is one of my favourites this year and is solid from start to finish. This album is a ride, with each song bleeding into the next, like a sunset bleeding into the mountains, only to be replaced by a sea of stars. It's full of twists and turns, but always flows effortlessly - building walls of noise and then stripping it back to peaceful ambience. Vorel is a glorious peak.


I've been a fan of Sturgill Simpson ever since I stumbled across the phenomenal It Ain't All Flowers in 2014, which stopped me dead in my tracks. I enjoyed most of the rest of his last album (which Flowers was on), but his new album A Sailor's Guide To Earth steps it up in every way. His music has always combined traditional country with elements of 70's psychedelia and rock (psychedelic country, if you will), but A Sailor's Guide To Earth carries even more influences and sounds, including a cover of Nirvana's In Bloom. The standout for me, though, is Brace For Impact (Live A Little). This bluesy, psychedelic country-rock song is easily one of my favourites this year. (Also: congrats to Sturgill for his AOTY nod at next year's Grammys. I'm excited to see what this recognition leads to.)

Tobacco is an electronic musician, who's also a member of Black Moth Super Rainbow. Home Invasionaries is my favourite song off his new album Sweatbox Dynasty, but I really think his music can only be fully understood in album format. It's heavily distorted, off kilter and psychedelic. When I listen to it, I feel as though I'm trapped inside a video game from the 80s and am suddenly a neon blob of pixels bleeping and blooping around without a care in the world (which is a much cooler sensation than I would've imagined). Tobacco's videos are equally trippy, too, featuring things like clips of 80's workout videos and bizarre masks blinking and twitching in front of images of Pert shampoo being squirted into sinks. If you watch one video, though, I suggest watching this live performance. I saw him/them live this year while driving through Columbus, Ohio and it was awesome.

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That, my friends, is it for this list. I hope you had a wonderful 2016.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Top 5 recent albums

There's been a great number of albums I've fallen in love with over the last few years, so I thought I'd make a list of my top 5. These are the albums I've not only enjoyed blasting in my car and dancing like a freak to, but the ones that have meant the most to me during a difficult time.

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Brody Dalle - Diploid Love (2014)


Confession: I have a major girl crush on Brody Dalle. Mostly, I love her songs and her voice, but she's also just an all around badass. As I mentioned in a previous post, I adore all of her music, whether it's with The Distillers, Spinnerette or as a solo artist, but for now, I'm going to focus on her recent solo album Diploid Love. This album is an electro-punk rock manifesto that's catchy as hell and full of heart. Aesthetically, it feels both futuristic and like it was pulled from a time capsule planted in 1996. Lyrically, it moves from defiant to joyful to reflective and back and is always empowering. Also, it's the album I've listened to most over the last 2 years (according to my iTunes play count).

Favourite songs: I can honestly say every song has been my favourite at some point, but the singles (Rat Race, Don't Mess With Me, Meet The Foetus / Oh The Joy) are as good a place to start as any. Nothing makes me wanna get up and dance like the second half of Meet The Foetus / Oh The Joy. I could listen to those 2 minutes over and over all day and not get sick of it.

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Ghost - Meliora (2015)


Ghost is a Swedish metal band I discovered quite randomly in 2013, right before they released their major label debut Infestissumam. I was intrigued not only by their sound, but by their overall mystique, their sense of humour and their unholy ability to combine darkness with pop sensibilities. I've long been obsessed with this particular juxtaposition in music and Ghost are masters at it. They've managed to create a world all their own and it's one I thoroughly enjoy inhabiting (I've seen them live 5 times now). While I love all 3 of their albums, Meliora is my favourite thus far. It's the perfect combination of the 2 that came before it and is near flawless in its execution.

FS: Once again, every song has been my favourite at some point, but From The Pinnacle To The Pit hits me the hardest (more specifically, the second half of From The Pinnacle To The Pit, when the song shifts and a new chorus comes out of nowhere and takes my breath away - I enjoy this moment now as much as when I first heard it.) Also, what other modern metal band has released a song like He Is? That's why Ghost is Ghost and not just another flash in the pan or gimmick.

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Marina And The Diamonds - Froot (2015)


So, this is my favourite pop album this decade. No big deal.

Honestly, I've always enjoyed pop for what it is, but it's rare that a pop album becomes one of my Favourite Albums. To be fair, though, this isn't strictly pop music. It's alternative, electronic, pop, rock and singer-songwriter all in one, illuminated by Marina's gorgeous voice. The songs here are well written and chock full of catchy hooks, so much so that it feels effortless. Every song is single-worthy and every song's melody is distinct, but still undeniably Marina-esque (a sign to me of a truly talented songwriter). Lyrically, she covers a wide range of topics, from depression to love to murder and war, all without sacrificing her charm, sincerity or wit. Basically, I love this album and can't wait to see what she does next.

FS - If I had to choose, Blue is probably my favourite to sing along to and Forget is my favourite overall.

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Queens Of The Stone Age - ... Like Clockwork (2013)


I'm not sure where to begin with this one. This album has meant more to me than just about any other work of art, ever. If anyone reading this has never listened to Queens Of The Stone Age, I command you to. Stop reading this blog and go listen to Queens. All of their albums are phenomenal, but ... Like Clockwork holds a special place in my heart. It was written after Josh Homme died briefly on an operating room table during surgery and the depression he experienced afterwards. In his words, this album is about coming out of a black hole. In my words, it's powerful as fuck. Having discovered it during what happened to be the worst period in my own life, this album was nothing less than an epiphany to me. The way in which Josh was able to take so much darkness and transform it into something beautiful and hopeful is as good a testament as any as to what art has the potential to do (both for the artist and the listener). It may seem cheesy to love an album this much, but I don't care. I'm forever grateful for this masterpiece. (Also, everyone in Queens is amazing.)

FS - Every single song. Just go listen to it.

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Tribulation - The Children Of The Night (2015)


Tribulation is another Swedish metal band I discovered quite randomly, this time in 2015. I've seen them live twice now (once as an opener for Ghost and once as a headliner) and they put on an amazing show. The Children Of The Night is a wonderfully dark, intricate album that takes me to another place completely - some Gothic cathedral in the middle of the night lit up only by candles. The music is as primal as it is romantic and feels almost primordial, like it's haunted by some long forgotten spirit chained to the ancient world. (Also, guitarist Jonathan Hulten, who drew their album cover, is a very talented artist. You can view some of his work here.)

FS - This album is like a painting in that, when I think about the album, I think of every song at once, because they all embody the same aesthetic and overall image so well. That being said, Strange Gateways Beckon is absolutely stunning, The Motherhood Of God haunts me and Cauda Pavonis is the best horror film theme song yet to be used in a horror film.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Don't let anyone else tell you who you are


Hey, here's a quick post for now. I'm leaving tomorrow for Ohio and then travelling to North Carolina and New York, all as I'm in the middle of moving once again (this time to Brookline, by Boston). Suffice it to say, I have a busy few weeks ahead, but hopefully they'll be awesome and memorable as well.


A Betsey Johnson sweater (one of my favourite pieces) over thrifted dress (The Pink House) over jeans from Gap. I hope anyone who happens to be reading this is doing well. I'll be back here soon. :)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Gardenia


I found this cape at my favourite thrift shop The Pink House. I swear, at least half my wardrobe is from this one thrift shop. The pink sweater from the post below (which is easily one of my favourite pieces), and the black dress from this earlier post, are both from there as well. I've been gravitating a lot towards statement pieces lately, rather than outfits with multiple prints and points of focus. I still love a great combination of prints (as well as layers), but when I get dressed now, I find myself building each outfit around one particular garment, rather than a few different ones.


This shirt is from there as well. I'm kinda realizing right now how much I've been into this black/green/pink colour combo. I almost never go shopping with an exact colour or garment in mind, so it's fun to see how everything I've purchased recently goes together naturally.

Now that I've written the serious post I was inevitably going to write at some point (see below), I can say that 2016 has actually been an awesome year so far. It's been a year of change and movement. I've experienced a confidence and happiness I forgot I could feel. I've made new friends, reconnected with old ones, gone to a bunch of incredible shows (most notably Eagles Of Death Metal, Ghost and Tribulation) and moved to a new place (among other things). All in all, I'm grateful for the last year and am proud of myself for turning the lead I was given into gold (again, see post below).

The title of this post, btw, is a reference to both a song by Iggy Pop and Josh Homme (off Post Pop Depression) and a song by Josh Homme's former band Kyuss (off Welcome To Sky Valley) - 2 very different songs that I love immensely.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

26


I was 20 when I started this blog in 2010. If I had tried then to imagine my life at 26, it wouldn't have been anything like it is. Thankfully, though, this isn't a bad thing. Ideally, I would've moved away in 2013 and escaped the events of the last 3 years, and I would've had my dream design business up and running, but life threw me an intense curveball, and the lessons I've learned as a result, through reclaiming my life, are far more powerful than anything I could've wrapped my head around 6 years ago.

To rewind a little, late 2013 through late 2015 was Hell for me. Not just a nightmare, but absolute Hell. I used to think how nice it would be if I could write about the experience here or elsewhere (just to get it out), but I no longer feel the need to explain it in detail. I also don't believe I could ever truly describe how painful and paralyzing those 2 years were. Without exaggeration, everything I ever built my life/identity/beliefs on for the first 22 years of my life crumbled completely during those 24 months. Living with someone who put me through Hell, watching those I love most get sick and lose their footing, experiencing anxiety on a level I never dreamed possible (constant full blown panic attacks) and realizing the spiritual beliefs I built my confidence and self worth on were a lie, ate away every last fiber of who I thought I was. If all this sounds dramatic, that's because it was.

I was even suicidal. How do I begin to describe what that actually feels like? It's as though some impossibly large, unbeatably strong shadow figure, comprised of every negative thought/feeling/experience you've ever had and every horrible thing anyone's ever done to you, is compounded into one purely dark energetic force, grabbing you by the throat from behind and screaming at you to kill yourself. It's Hell. I've never romanticized suicide in my mind and never thought I'd be suicidal, but for at least 2 weeks, I reached that lowest of points.


Things did get better (obviously), but the process was slow. Climbing my way out of Hell (which someone else dragged me into), and doing so entirely on my own, did not restore me to who I was circa 2012 before this all went down. It stripped away everything until I was left with only the essence of who I am. It broke the shell completely and peeled back each layer of conditioning I had built my identity on. I realized how much of my true self I had compromised over the years in the name of pleasing people. I never thought of myself as a people pleaser, but I was. I always tried to appeal, simultaneously, to the various groups I was a part of (my Christian family, the friends I smoked weed with in high school, those I traveled to Haiti and Tanzania with as missionaries, the friends I made in fashion school, etc.). It's not that I ever pretended to be something I wasn't, it's that I was all of these things and that's not easy for people to put neatly in a box. I always felt like there was something about myself I had to hide, depending on who I was with, but now I just don't care.

In rebuilding my life, I didn't rebuild who I was in 2012, I remembered who I was long before that, and what has always been there, deep beneath the delicate facade - a version of myself far stronger, more confident, less apologetic, more primal and no less friendly or empathetic. I have zero tolerance for Bullshit. And by that, I mostly mean people. I will never, ever, under any circumstance, let someone treat me the way this person did, ever again. People who hurt me, use me or just want to feed off my energy vampirically, have no place in my life, period.

What I feel now is something akin to waking up after a long sleep to find myself in a vast landscape, stretching as far as the eye can see, and looking up at the most breathtaking sunrise I've ever seen. It's not a warm, fuzzy feeling, like curling up on the couch in your small suburban home, or some fantastical feeling, like a dream that's always just out of reach. It's something bigger, wilder and more dangerous, like that feeling that maybe, just maybe, anything is possible.