We’re gonna chase the demons out of town, Singing when you feel alone

Ten years ago today, the Stars released Set Yourself on Fireand life as I knew it changed forever.

I had recently moved back to the West Coast after spending a year living in the Interior, and had no plans.  I suffered from horrifically vivid night terrors.  I was grumpy and gross and disconnected from everything I had once held so dear.  I was in limbo: unsure of what I was doing; where I was going; who I was.

 

I wanted to disappear.  Fast-forward  or rewind life to a time when I was a part of something at school, or work or in a relationship.  It was a terribly, dark and depressing time.

I spent a lot of time in my childhood bedroom next to my old Beavis and Butthead poster, reading my old diaries and  listening to the Stars.  Their music is so visual that I couldn’t help but get transported to another time, another place, another life.  First love bullshit, emotional tirades, juvenile fights and the recklessness of youth seen through the hazy alcohol-induced lens of regret, over-thinking things, and knowing better.  That’s what Set Yourself on Fire reminds me of.

What I love most about the Stars is their lyrics.  Each song is a story, a memory or a vision depending on how you’re feeling when you hear it.

Your Ex-Lover is Dead, is one of my favourite Stars songs ever.  Growing up in a small town, I know all too well how hard it is to escape your past.  You are destined to run into your ex-boyfriend, old friends, family friends or former co-workers anywhere you go.   That fear can be paralyzing.  But over the years, I’ve developed a thick, impenetrable bubble that is hard to crack unless you basically hit me over the head and say “We slept together!”  See, I don’t wear my glasses so even if I do run into someone, I don’t know it unless we are five feet away from each other.  I always think about how many people I’ve put off blindly walking by them without a second glance, a knowing smile or a nod.  It always makes me think of this lyric:

Captured a taxi despite all the rain
We drove in silence across Pont Champlain
And all of the time you thought I was sad
I was trying to remember your name…

I’ve always wished that once you ended a relationship the other person would just fall off the earth.  It’s not that I hate everyone I don’t see anymore.  It’s just that the curiosity of what they are doing, how they are living, how and if they think about me can become all-consuming. It’s pathetic, I know, but I care too much.  Spending too much time thinking about who could be thinking about you is ridiculous and over-indulgent.  But sometimes a song or a piece of clothing or a face in a crowd can feel like deja vu and the next thing you know, you’re half remembering and half daydreaming about something that happened or could happen.

I chose to feel it and you couldn’t choose
I’ll write you a postcard
I’ll send you the news
From a house down the road from real love.

The Stars are one of the most skilled bands out there.  They put out a lot of records and tour often.  Amy Millan’s voice is so soft but strong.  Her voice is delicate and honest and fierce while Torquil Campbell’s voice is heartwrenching and sad.  The instrumentation  and melodies are always sweepingly lush and original.  But it’s their lyrics that always stick in my head.

This scar is a fleck on my porcelain skin
Tried to reach deep but you couldn’t get in. 

Hindsight is always 20/20.  It’s easy to pinpoint what what wrong in a relationship once you are outside of it.  But when you’re in the eye of the hurricane, every move feels topsy turvy.

 All our ex-lovers are dead, really.  We’re not the same people we were in our previous relationships and neither are our previous partners.  It’s not particularly sad.  It’s not happy, of course, but it just is what it is.

I’m not sorry I met you
I’m not sorry it’s over
I’m not sorry there’s nothing to say.  

If you don’t have Set Yourself on Fire, I wholeheartedly recommend you get it and In Our Bedroom After the War which are two of my favourite albums of all time and definitely in the top 10 CDs I would take with me if I was stranded on a desert island.

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Worship like a Dog at the Shrine of Your Lies

I can not get enough of this song.  It’s kind of old, from 2013, but they started playing on the radio in my home town this summer and I was instantly mesmerized.  The singer, is Hozier, an Irish blues singer whose debut studio release comes out later this month.

You know how sometimes you can hear a song a hundred times before you really register what they are talking about or what the song means to you?  That was not the case when I heard this song.  The minute I heard the lyric:

I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife

I was mesmerized.  It is one of the most beautifully and painfully accurate descriptions of that all-encompassing, needy, obsessive love that can make you feel like you’re walking in God’s deified light and jonesing for another lethal fix right before you come down from your high simultaneously.

Relationships are all about balance. I struggle for equal footing in everything I do: at work, with friends, with family, with my partner.  Heaven forbid you’re too needy.  Forget about it if you come off to aloof.  There’s something so refreshing about just admitting it.  “I thought about you all day and checked my Snapchats every 10 minutes waiting for a message.”   Or conversely,  “I spent the whole day reading Lena Dunham articles and pinning SJP shoes  that I forgot to text you back until I got home.”  It’s way more sexy to be honest even if it’s fleeting.  Today you’re my giggle at the funeral but tomorrow you could be the deadweight of 20 years of broken promises.  That kind of ebb and flow can be manic but it’s also beautiful and passionate and free.  That’s what I love about this song. It’s needy and obsessive but it’s also sexy and so, so pretty.

My church offers no absolution
She tells me, ‘Worship in the bedroom’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to
Is when I’m alone with you. 

Hozier’s voice is so haunting and the beat in this song is so hypnotic. It feels like a drug: starting slow under your skin and then growing until it overtakes every part of your body and mind.

I was born sick,
But I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen

When I first heard this song I thought it was about sex: great, mind-altering, makes you see God, makes you forget everything else in the world- sex.

But the video turns that all on it’s head.  It takes a very sexual and anthemic song and uses its power to provoke a discussion about something much more political and socially aware – the persecution of Gays in Russia.

This video makes me cry.  I don’t know much about what all that gay cleansing was really like in Russia before the Olympics, and to be totally honest, I don’t want to know the details.  I know it’s horrible.  I know it’s real.  I read the statistics.  I know I want them to stop.  But the details are just too depressing and horrific to comprehend.

I know what it is to be judged. I’m brown. I’m a woman.  But to be judged and then persecuted for following your heart, for loving someone? I don’t get it. I can’t get it.  To me,  it’s so backwards and foreign and sad.  For someone to hide a part of themselves or worse still, kill themselves because they are scared to share who they love? That’s one of the most common tragedies in our world today.

No masters or kings
When the ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin

Someone once asked me what was the difference between a gay person choosing to be straight and a couple having an arranged marriage.  I remember his face so clearly when he asked me that.  His face was so smug like he was going to finally trap be in some sort of gay rights loophole that he had just discovered. I’ll admit it, I’d never really thought about it.  In fact, I was kind of annoyed that he assumed I was some sort of savant on arranged marriages just because my parents had one.  I’m sure lots of people have different opinions on this but here’s mine in a nutshell.  A gay person who lives life as a straight person isn’t choosing to be straight.  He is hiding a part of himself most likely because he is afraid of what will happen if he is honest about who he is.  An arranged marriage is, ideally, mutually beneficially for the husband and the wife and their respective families and something that they have grown up understanding will be a part of their lives.

Every Sunday’s getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week
‘We were born sick,’ you heard them say it.  

If you like Hozier, be sure to check out his Tiny Desk Concert on NPR and his London Sessions on Spotify.

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The Other F-word: Feminism in Pop Culture

 

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Is it weird to feel bad for feminism? It has been getting a bad rap in pop culture these days which makes me a bit worried about the future. While young stars like Shailene Woodley and Lana Del Ray have publicly declined accepting the capital-F Feminist label for their original, lauded and uniquely feminine work, stars like Lena Dunham and Taylor Swift are trying their best to re-educate the public on what is it to be a modern-day feminist and it has nothing to do with bra-burning, guy-bashing or lacking sexuality or femininity.

Being a feminist is not a uniquely female experience. In fact, I see more and more men coming forward as feminists, as more men are growing up raised by single-mothers and seeing first-hand in their formative years the inequalities that woman can often face.  At its root, feminism is about equality. Equal wages for equal work is a pretty simplistic concept but in 2014, women still earn on average 20 per cent less than men in similar positions across the board.  I feel like that is a very boring and exhaustive conversation that inevitably ends up devolving into some archaic argument about how women’s biological clocks interfere with their ability to get ahead in the corporate world or how since girls are raised to be sugar and spice and everything nice while boys are encouraged to ask for  and do what they want; they inevitably have an easier time climbing the corporate ladder since they are not encumbered by worrying about what others might want or being perceived as polite.

To me, the more interesting conversation is about sexuality and feminism.  Can you still be sexy and be a feminist? Where does femininity fit into this chasm?  I don’t really know the answers.  But I like the questions.

There is no bigger advertisement for feminism right now than Queen Bey. She is sexy.  She is in control. She is feminine.  She is on top.  She is girl power. Whenever she does anything, of course it’s calculated and meticulously well-thought out but that’s why people listen.  I had no idea who Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi was before I heard Flawless, but I sure do now, in fact I can recite lines from her TED Talk on command.  She wants us to think about feminism and femininity and sexuality: so let’s do it.  That’s a scary thing to do for many people.  When do you feel the most feminine or sexual? Just how deeply are your feelings about femininity and sexuality rooted in patriarchy?  I feel feminine when I wear a pretty dress and heels but not so much when I’m wearing pants.  Will that every change?  Probably not. Even though some shirts guys wear look like dresses and some pants girls wear look like dresses?

And what about sexuality? Are you the bad-ass bitch or the pure princess? The angel or the whore?  Women, like men, are much more complicated than that.

If Beyonce wants us to think about feminism, Nicki Minaj wants us to think about sex, specifically sex with her.  I have been oddly hypnotized by the Anacoda video.  Obviously, I think it’s great to have different body images out there for women and men of all shapes and sizes to appreciate and identify with.  It’s awesome that she’s sampling Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back.  Everyone needs to know and appreciate that song.  I also love that she spits that line about not skipping meals:

He can tell I ain’t missing no meals
Come through and fuck him in my automobile. 

I mean the song is dope as fuck.  She’s powerful and she’s hot and she knows what she wants which is great.  But if I’m being honest, it kind of gives me agita – which is a Yiddish word that means general anxiety and agitation that can’t be fully expressed or articulated.  Which is kind of perfect because this video makes me feel like a prudish Jewish grandma. I wish I was cool enough to be so down with all the dance moves and imagery in this video but I’m not. I seriously have had at least five conversations this week speculating where and when girls dance with their asses touching in da club.  I started wondering and worrying about what the preteens in my hip hop dance class would think of this video.

Obviously the video is sexual, and rightly so because the song is about sex.  But is it sexy? I thought it was tongue-in-cheek and cartoonish at first.  I mean Nicki is nothing if not flamboyant.   But the more I talked to people and read the reactions on Twitter the more I realized that Nicki Minaj had tapped into some kind of extremely overt counter-culture sexuality where little is left to the imagination. It’s like her ass and her vagina are her lures and she’s showing what they can do throughout the video but never relinquishing control to anyone.  She’s teasing you with her assets.  It’s very powerful imagery.  But is it sexy? I’m not sure. If I say no does that automatically mean my views on sexuality are clouded by patriarchy?  Is she is too confident to be sexy?

You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful. 

My gut reaction to this video is so perplexing.  I like it and I don’t.  It feels both powerful and degrading somehow.  Would the song be as big a hit if she was spitting her sexually-charged lyrics wearing long pants and a hoodie, Da Brat style?   Sadly, I don’t think so.

But the more I watch it the more and more I feel like an old  stick in the mud.  And the more I realize that the Pussy Cat Dolls pole dancing classes my friends and I took a few years back were like the lukewarm tea equivalent to Nicki Minaj’s scorching, extra hot quadruple shot americano version.

All and all, I’m glad the video is out there along with the other thought-provoking songs, imagery and articles about feminism in the modern world.  If nothing else, it has people thinking about feminism, sexuality and femininity and how they can all co-exist within each of us in the modern world.

 

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It’s hot, this is boring & I miss you

I’ve always thought the term dog days of summer was so weird.  I always thought it meant when it was too hot to do anything but daydream and be lazy but it actually refers to the brightest star in the heavens, Sirius also know as the Dog Star ( and no, I’m not referring to Keanu Reeves’ band). It actually doesn’t make sense, really if any species gets especially lazy in the heat it’s cats.

This last week has dragged on for an eternity.  Maybe it’s because I’m finally finished with all my summer trips. Maybe it’s because I’m working an office job that takes up almost 2/3 of my day.  Maybe it’s because I’m not sleeping and my cat’s ignoring me.  But really it’s because he’s still out of town, and has been for 8 weeks now.  I’ve been to visit him.  We FaceTime; SnapChat and Skype often.  But it’s all lost its lustre.  Skype dates are not as fun as real dates. Snap Chats can only take you so far.  There’s nothing as depressing as leaving another fake singsongy voicemail about how you’re sorry you didn’t connect today but maybe tomorrow while your cat just stares at you silently judging your pathetic ruse.

There’s lightbulbs that need to be changed that are too high for me to reach.  Nobody has put any air in my tires or washed my windshield for over two months.  Nobody has yelled at my mom for me.

Missed connections are just part of the ebb and flow of trying to make it work.  But the more that are missed, the bigger the ball of annoyance in my stomach become and the louder the catty and insecure voices in my head become.  Until the ball becomes a crater and the voices become my own and I don’t know what I’m doing or saying or why anyone would put up with a raging psycho-bitch like me.

So in an effort to curb my impeding psychosis, I’ve created this playlist. For when you’re feeling lazy and tired and can’t sleep but can’t move so all you can do is listen and daydream and count the days until it’s finally time for the next chapter to begin.

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The Precarious Dance of A Sister Sister Roadtrip

“Older sisters never quite get past the slight they felt on the day you were born.” 

-Anon

There’s no relationship as riddled with hidden grudges; passive aggressive tendencies; arguments; tears; slaps and out right animosity as that of sisters.  But there’s also no relationship as full of stupid jokes; giggle fits; fierce loyalty and utter devotion as sisters.

My sister and I have fallen into a pretty good routine together these days.  There are topics we can discuss: clothes, hockey, our pets, musicals, murder shows.  There are topics we can’t discuss without inevitably getting irritated or into fights: our parents, the future, what we think each other should do with her life.  However these safe and unsafe topics get thrown out the window this weekend as emotions will be all over the place as we celebrate my sister’s Birthday.

Many people have contentious relationships with their birthdays and my sister is no different.  It’s a weird time.  You are forced to reflect whether you want to or not.  You’re often forced to make idle chit chat with people who only come out of the woodwork once a year to wish you a happy birthday.  So we’re getting away.  We’re off to buy clothes and eat good food and see the Book of Mormon in Seattle.

But I need to take some precautions.  Nobody likes being stuck in a car ride with a Grumpy Gus or even worse a Passive-Aggressive Passenger or worse still, a Sad Shopper.

So I’ve created a mix. A mix that will (hopefully) have my sister singing loudly (off-key);  learning some cool new music and remembering just how fun life can be when you leave your hang-ups back in Canada.

Fingers crossed!

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Dream Job Alert: Sexy Socialite -Chromeo Style

There is nothing better than this song right now.  It’s spending four hours getting ready; planning your upcoming weekend from your first coffee break on Monday morning; talking in a baby voice when you’re drunk; 80s aerobics classes; jazz hands; short skirts/leather jacket combos; wearing cute shoes that hurt your feet and false bravado all rolled up into a perfect 5 minute 33 second ball of fun.

Funny songs are so underrated.  I’m not talking about Weird Al. He is basically his own genre of which he is the King (If you haven’t seen his parody of Blurred Lines, Word Crimes, do yourself a favour and watch it now and pay attention). I’m talking about being funny without making fun of someone else (Sorry Eminem), without being gross (I still love you Too Short)  and without being too cutesy (That means you Carly Rae and Taylor Swift).  Chromeo are so funny but still manage to convey some real feelings and some killer beats at the same time.

 I could be your boyfriend and your counsellor
Cause the night might damage ya

I think this lyric is so hilarious because I don’t think I’ve ever had a really drunk night where I didn’t someone to sub in as my counsellor for a bit.  Honestly, I don’t think I know a girl who doesn’t spend at least 15 minutes of every drunken night holed up in the corner sighing repeatedly and over-explaining things to some asshole.

You’re a sexy socialite
All you do is socialize
And you’re always so polite
And your outfits tantalize

My parents and my BF like to tease that I am a wannabe socialite.  I can see what they mean.  I mean I didn’t have a full-time job for almost a year.  I spend a lot of time volunteering, writing, reading, spending time with my favourite people; doing my favourite things.  One of my favourite indulgences is spending a few hours listening to music, maybe having a few cocktails, cuddling my cat and getting ready for a night now.  I mean isn’t that what everyone would do if they could?  I  don’t mind the term socialite, really.  I mean obviously I’m not interested in following that early 2000s socialite stereotype of DUIs, Juicy Couture Track Suits; oversized shades; bad dye jobs and sex tapes. I mean more like Suzanne Rogers.  In fact, I think the term socialite has kind of lost its meaning these days. I mean, Suzanne Rogers is a Philantrophist, but I guess sexy philanthropist is a bit of a mouthful.  I think it would be great to be like Suzanne Rogers.  Do a lot of charity work; have a world renowned wardrobe; make plans with lots of creative, artistic people and be valued for your opinions, taste and work as well as your looks.   Spend your time on yourself and with the people you love.  That sounds amazing!

 It’s hard to pick my favourite part of this song. But I think it would have to be when a girl, who I guess is named Ozzie, starts singing as the socialite:

So why you coming at me, homie
With so much acrimony?
Your testimony’s phony
And the truth is you don’t know me

Truth is I always love it when a girl and a guy sing back and forth.  Maybe it goes back to my love of musicals or my secret early 2000s obsession with SClub7 (Ain’t No Party Like an SClub Party!) But I love it.

My other favourite part of Sexy Socialite is the lyric:

Watch out for girls that push
Guys that grab your tush
At any moment they’ll make you flip

I just can’t with this song.  It’s so earnest and funny and cute  that it actually is pretty sauve and sexy.  There’s nothing sexier than honest, funny guys unless it’s honest, funny guys that make you shake your ass.

The whole CD, White Women is very groovy, tongue in cheek and sexy.  Dave1 and P-Thugg have been best friends for like 20 years or something and you can tell that they want to have fun and want everyone around them to have fun too.  I can’t wait to see this Montreal-based duo when they come out West this Fall.  Do yourself a favour, become a Sexy Socialite and get into Chromeo if you haven’t already.  You’ll thank me later!

 

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Pemby Fest Playlist

Music festival season is in full swing and luckily, out here on the West Coast the options continue to grow.  Within three months we have: Rock the Shores, Sasquatch, Rifflandia, Bumbershoot, Squamish and Pemberton, which for my money is the best one out there.

I, for one am not interested in seeing 90s bands headline summer festivals.  My poor teenage heart broken into a million pieces when I saw Hole at Rifflandia last year.  I’m not fussy about sound quality but even my 6-ciders buzz could not hide the fact that they sounded so bad. I couldn’t stop flinching and even began to wonder if they sounded that horrible at Lollapalooza 1995.  So seeing Our Lady Peace and Tom Cochrane at Rock the Shores was not really high on my priority list, no matter how hot Rain Maida is.  Sasquatch on the other hand has a pretty good line up.  But after Eminem’s SNL debacle, I’m not super interested in hearing him fake rap about all his regrets while I try to get my buzz on.  Arcade Fire is my favourite band.  I’ve send them live once during their Rebellion tour and I had a near -religious experience and cried at the concert.  So I’m not sure I feel like doing that again in the middle of a hot, sweaty crowd.  Sasquatch always has an interesting line up but it’s so early and way before I ever have time to start thinking about summer plans.  Bumbershoot is a bit more mainstream I think and is always around Labour Day so it’s too late for me.

Pemberton is perfect: smack-dab in the middle of the summer, with headliners like Outkast and Kendrick Lamar as well as some throwback artists like Soundgarden, the Violent Femmes and the Flaming Lips and some very cool new artists like Grimes, St. Vincent, Chance the Rapper and Girl Talk.   And for good measure they added the Canadian staples like Metric, the Stars and Matt Mays.  I can’t wait to get there!

Here’s a playlist I made to get hyped for the weekend. It includes Chance the Rapper, School Boy Q, Snoop Dog, Above & Beyond, Grimes, Metric, Hayden and the  Stars.

I can’t wait!

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