Wednesday, January 28, 2015

{friend music library}

I've been in a huge musical ditch lately.

Part of the reason could be that my life pre-2014 was so over-saturated with it that I stopped even having to put any effort in outside of the various "jobs" I had. 24/7, I was researching and interviewing bands, reviewing CDs and spending multiple evenings a week at shows. I was discovering new music daily and I loved it. Then the heavy pendulum that is time and life circumstances swung definitively from one stage of life to another and suddenly, I'm here. And it's a drastic, high-contrast difference.

It should be noted that I'm not at all unhappy with this change. Those were fun years, but so are these ones. And this past year, especially, had to be different, for a billion reasons. I wouldn't trade it for anything. But this year coming up? I'm very much looking forward to sticking a toe back into the water - all things in moderation and all that. Not three shows a week, but not no shows a week. Not hours a day spent researching new bands, but not no hours a day spent in the living room entirely focused only on enjoying a new album.

All that to say that yesterday I found myself wanting to put on some music to soundtrack a quiet day at home and came up completely blank.

Thank goodness for friends.

Not all of my friends like the same kind of music as me or as each other. I have friends who like top 40s and friends who like indie and friends who like nu folk and friends who like 70s rock and country and bluegrass and so on. I like this about my friends. They're like a library.

So yesterday morning, I headed to the back corner of this proverbial library, where it's quietest and where the windows are all full of stained glass and suncatchers. This is where I imagine my friends Jannaya and Robyn would be, if they were books in a musical friend library. They're into music that is sometimes quirky, often softer, usually chill. They can be counted on to recommend artists from Iceland but also to know a few good local acts. They like smart music, because they're smart. And I like that about them.

So, anyway, they are who I texted yesterday when I needed something to listen to. And I got such good suggestions that I thought I'd share them with you in case you are in a similar slump. (Click on the links to hear the music.)

Jannaya recommends:

Low Roar, especially Nobody Loves Me Like You (whose EP you can download for free {legally and with the band's permission} here on Noisetrade)
Cat Power's Werewolf
Arum Ray's Warrented Queen
Milky Chance's Fairytale
Shapeshifter by Elephant (who also has a free EP on Noisetrade: download it here)
Hybrid by Elsiane
To A Poet by First Aid Kit

Robyn recommends:

John Mark McMillan ("His album The Medicine was the first one I heard, but Economy is really good and Borderland (newest) is awesome!")
the Oh Hellos (Through the Deep, Dark Valleywhich is also on Noisetrade)
Asgeir's In the Silence

I built myself a playlist based on these recommendations and have found quite a few gems. The favourites at first listen are Asgeir, Low Roar, and Elsiane, but I need to spend some more time with the list as a whole. Give a listen! Thanks, friends!

Friday, January 23, 2015


A crazy thing happened on Wednesday, January 21: Sullivan turned one.

This is not a crazy thing to anyone other than me, I think. If I were to take a poll of the lunch crowd on Scarth Street, I would probably find that 100% of people know that after a child has been out of the womb for 365 days, they technically "turn one". It's not crazy.

But it's crazy.

The night before his birthday, I did a little DIY 'spa night'. "Because," I reasoned, "one year ago, I was doing exactly the opposite of relaxing and pampering myself. I was in labour. So now: facials."

I gave myself two facials right in a row. I don't think you're supposed to do that, but my skin was so happy about it. It was much nicer than labour.

I was going to lay on the couch with my second face mask on and eat stuff and watch Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube, but when I opened my computer I couldn't help but click on my January 2014 folder first. I spent the rest of the night flipping through pictures and seriously choking up. Where did that year and that tiny little wrinkly baby go? How did he grow up so fast? What if the rest of his life goes this fast? And did I soak this year up enough? Did I take anything for granted?

I watched a whole year go by. I even looked back at the awkward belly selfies that never found their way to any kind of social media (in retrospect, my maternity style could maybe be described as 'too cheap to buy real maternity clothes, thank goodness for rubber bands and thrift store t-shirts'):

Then I came to the crazy-eyed "this baby is coming tonight!" hospital shot, followed by tearful us-meeting-him pictures. I flipped back and forth between these pictures again and again, glad to have such a perfect physical representation of how terrified but excited we were before he came, and how at peace and in love we were after.

It brought back all the fears and feelings and weird, Twilight-Zone fog that hung over that first week of his little life. The thankfulness that flooded my whole entire self when they put him on my chest and I saw that he was fine and that he was real and that he was perfect and that he was mine. The realization that this moment had finally come, and that it was nothing at all like I'd imagined it because I had no real point of reference here other than what I'd seen in sitcoms and what I'd heard from other moms - neither of which could actually even come close to preparing me for this kind of love or this kind of pain or this kind of responsibility.

And now it's a year later. It still feels very new, but also like he's always been here. He knows me now, can run across the room and give me a hug when I call him. He likes blueberries and mixing bowls and watching cars out the window and going for walks and bath time. Every evening he excitedly greets Barclay at the door as he gets home from work, which is something that I'd always pictured when I thought of having kids. He has two front teeth with an adorable gap and huge brown eyes. He still hates sleep, but he's getting better at it. And I'm not ready for him to get even one day older.

In honor of his birthday, we fed him his first cupcake (+blueberries) and then went and got take-out noodle boxes and ate them in the car by the lake while he slept in the back seat. We talked about that day, and this year, and the ones coming up. It felt like the right way to celebrate, even if the birthday boy was, you know, unconscious.

Because it wasn't just a birthday party, at least not the kind I've ever experienced. It was also the first anniversary of the day Barclay and I became parents. It was a celebration of survival, kind of. And it was a kick-off to another year. Another year full of change and goodness and hard things and sweet moments and learning and growing and figuring this kid out.

PS: Hey, Sullivan. In case future you reads this someday: You don't even know how much I love you. It's crazy. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

{oot and aboot}

Julia and Becky saved my life this week. They rescued me from my kitchen, which isn't exactly a dank, dark dungeon but which feels just the tiniest bit like one after a few months of winter, and took me out into the city - where there were people and real rays of sunlight! 

O my heart.

Julia took me to the Science Center. I don't know why I didn't see this before: the cure for the winter blahs is science, plain and simple. Also, seeing a place like that through the eyes of her two year old son was pretty cool. 

Julia even went on the gyro gym. Her son thought it was a medieval torture device or something and screamed at the guy running the thing until he let her go. I, the terrible aunt, just laughed at him and even went so far as to take his picture mid-meltdown. I got mad toddler skills.

The next day, Becky texted and asked if she could take me on a picnic at the Floral Conservatory, which is this sweet greenhouse that me and my friends escape to every once in a while to pretend like we don't live in Saskatchewan. You walk in, take off all your winter layers, and bask in the humidity and heat. You bring a book or a snack or a coffee or a picnic lunch. You don't look up; you pretend that you are not surrounded by glass. You pretend that the air outside the Glass That Does Not Exist couldn't give you frost bite in less that five minutes. It's a coping mechanism. 

Anyway. Long story that isn't really a story, or at least not a very fascinating story anyway, short, we went. And we ditched our coats and ate Brie and crackers and meat and Dunkaroos and juice and Sullivan ran around loving his life until he fell and skinned his forehead. Until that exact moment, it was the perfect afternoon. 

I'm back in my kitchen now, Sullivan is literally running around me in circles as I write this, but we're headed to the museum tomorrow, and maybe to the art gallery later this week? Winter: I'm going to win this round. Or at least I'm going down swinging. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

{the comments section of an imogen heap video}

I read the comments section of a YouTube video again. Judgy McJudge me all you want; I don't even care. (I'm so nonconformist right now.)

A friend posted this amazing video on my Facebook feed this morning, about Imogen Heap's Mi.Mu gloves. If you haven't seen it, here:

So basically, wow. Gesture-controled music. Fade, pitch, panning, everything that you can do on a computer, on your hands! I was watching this with my mouth open, imagining how cool it would be to see these in action in a concert setting. Especially controlled by Imogen, who is such a musical genius. Can't handle her.

So I went searching around YouTube for a more in-depth look at the gloves, maybe a demonstration, and I found this (a full-length song that she wrote using the gloves):

and this, too (a really thorough explanation of how the gloves work):

I highly, highly recommend watching all three (though the end of the third one is just a less polished version of the song she performs in the second).

You know when you find something that just blows your mind, and you want to turn to the person beside you and go, "Did you see that?!"

But then you're alone. So, so alone. Do you take your laptop across the street and knock on the neighbours' doors? Or do you scroll down and find community in the likeminded people of the Internet gracing the comments section with their classy presence?

Well. I scrolled down. I wanted to hear what others thought about this thing. I assumed the comment section would be fairly united. This is a pretty sweet invention, and so well executed. And how could anyone hate on Imogen Heap? How?

I will tell you how.

The earliest comments, posted shortly after the video itself, were generally the type I expected. They were like this:

Then, within the past year, there was a shift in the comments. Like, a very, very marked shift. From people with legitimate names like Peter and Reuben to people who called themselves things like ROCKGLAMGRRRL19. From people who commented on the music and the technology and how beautiful and genius the whole thing was to people who commented on...the way Imogen breathes.

I was confused, at first. (Imogen Heap? A Speech Therapist? Have you ever listened to Aha? That song is speech therapy.) So I conducted an investigation (Google) whereupon I discovered that the culprit here was none other than teen pop sensation Ariana Grande.

Because of course it was.

I found that Imogen Heap has been working on this project for ages, but very recently Ariana has decided to incorporate the gloves into her show. Hence, the legion of Grande fans coming over to see what all the fuss is about. And they? Are not so impressed with these silly little gloves.

A young man named Tyler Mix wasn't even looking at the gloves. He was looking at Heap's fingers, which he deemed 'ridiculously long'. Even if her harmonies are amazing, her fingers are still, like, Angelina long. (I, too, had always thought the two were incompatible traits in human beings.)

And then there were those who just didn't get it. At all. Like, not even a little.

Dear Bigstudwithaguitar (if that's your real name), yeah but no. Immi is no stranger to theremin. She owns at theremin. This is reminiscent of a theremin, sure, but were you listening at all during the 13 minutes that she was explaining the gloves? You can't just click on random YouTube videos, listen to three seconds of them and then throw out your judgements. And you thumbs-upped your own comment, didn't you?

But the person I really feel sorry for in all of this is Dylan Fleck, who has no dream to fallow. 

The YouTube comments are a great place to go when you're feeling disillusioned with life, I find. It's like going to a quiet spot along a lake, or talking to a trusted friend, except how it's not at all like either of those things. 

Dear Dylan: You need a quiet lake or a trusted friend. Everyone else is only here to critique Imogen's breathing.

And now for a comment from some creepy guy named Babe Stache:

Yeah we did Babe lol 

(I want to teach a seminar about how 'lol' is not the same thing as a question mark or exclamation point.)

Cue token comments section 'funny' guy:

The thing is, Imogen Heap would totally play a barbecue. And it would sound awesome. Remember Closing In? The percussion in that song is her 'playing' carpet tubes with CD cases. So yeah, Jim. She could play a barbecue, Jim. Bet you can't even cook a burger on one, Jim.

Good graish, I'm all worked up over this. I got 99 problems and Ariana Grande is one.

(That was a relevant joke, but if you don't get it I respect you for it.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

{in which i am super melodramatic about my kitchen}

I've never loved winter. I've tried to, and I've been able to find things about winter to enjoy somewhat. I figured: hey. I live in Saskatchewan. Canada. It's colder than Mars here some of the time. I need to figure this out or my soul will just shrivel up inside me like a prune. Prune soul.

So, for the past few years, I've worked at it, and my investigation has yielded fairly predictable results. I've found that it's a matter of just getting out and being busy and not hiding away inside my dark house. So I'd bundle up in a million layers in -30 weather and walk down the street to the shops, I'd hit up the Mackenzie Art Gallery, I'd go to shows and hang out at the greenhouse with a friend and a cup of coffee. I decided that winter and I did not need to be in a romantic relationship, it was good enough if we hung out in the same social circle and remembered each others' birthdays.

This year, though, we're kind of in a fight.

It's too cold to bundle up and go out for a walk - for Sullivan at least - and we had to sell our car this fall so that means no midday adventures or art gallery walking or greenhouse picnics without some pretty particular planning. Which is fine, and it's not a huge deal, it's just that I feel like a hibernating bear, minus the sleeping part (which is kind of the point, right?).

Sullivan feels the same way, I think. He walks around the kitchen in the hilariously unsteady figure-eight of a person who has just discovered what legs are for, finds himself yet again at my feet, and, upon discovering that he is nowhere new despite all of those drunkish steps, cries his little eyes out (no, wait, that's me). I pick him up, he is content for about two seconds, then squirms out of my arms. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. REPEAT. PEPEAT. PEREAT. TEPEART. PETHEILSRJETSZZZ


So we embark on extravagant archaeology expeditions through the kitchen cupboards, we play capture the flag with the dish towel, we read the first half of every board book in his library, we make faces at each other for literal hours on end. Then we sit on the couch and stare wistfully out the window. He points frantically at the cars that drive past as if to say, "WHY NOT US?"

I don't know, man, I say. I don't know. Want to play Scrabble? 

He never does.


So, I don't know. I've been feeling a little fragile lately. Like I'm in danger of temporarily losing my mind, flying out the front door and tackling a random passerby, grabbing them by their hood strings and yelling, "Come in for coffee and lefse! We can play scrabble and listen to CDs!" Don't get me wrong; I like my life (and my kitchen) and I'm crazy thankful for it. I just need a change of scenery every once in a while.

It's okay though. I've felt this way before, and I figured it out then. I figured out what I needed and how to make it happen. Now I just have to recalibrate. There are a few more variables (no vehicle, small child) but it's not impossible.

For starters, I've recently begun getting up early. It feels counterintuitive, considering I'm mostly a zombie at the best of times lately, but I've realized that I need to do this. So I get up just a half hour early every day and sweat my brains out on the broken old elliptical in the basement. It's golden time, with zero interruptions, zero responsibilities, lots of time to think or not think if that's what I want. How does exercise make your brain feel so good? I don't really get it, but I appreciate it. I do that every weekday except for Wednesdays. On Wednesdays, I get up at 6 am to go for coffee at the Naked Bean with Liz. It's early, sure, but Barclay's at home then so I have a car and someone to watch Sullivan. I come home at 8, feeling refreshed and human and like I'm in less danger of tackling my neighbours.

I'm sure I'll think of other things. Maybe I just need to get more creative with my time here at home. I'm open to suggestions. And  ultimately, winter, like everything else, will end someday. (That was meant to be a hopeful, happy sentiment, but it came off a little morose. Sorry.) It's even supposed to get up to 0 next Wednesday, which is extremely exciting. I've already got the stroller by the door ready for a good adventure. Hopefully something involving royalty or pirates. Or just, you know, leaving the kitchen.

A thrill ran through my fingers typing those words.