Tuesday, October 02, 2007

late night Can-Con and other Southern Ontario Gothic dreams

Last night I fell asleep with the TV on (the TV being an adorable, 4-inch little black and white number that requires a less-adorable amount of effort to receive a signal).
On a good day, I get two channels. Last night it was just me and the CBC.
Sometime between three and four a.m., I woke up with a start. A fuzzy orchestral version of "Oh Canada" was blaring, sounding rough and embarrassingly grandiose through the tiny speakers and a bit of static. It took me a minute to figure out its origin; the bathroom was my first thought.
The camera was wildly swooping over boldy "Canadian" scenes. I think I saw a moose, but definitely water. Maybe a Group of Seven/Georgian Bay tree? I leaned over and turned it off.
This morning, I complained to a friend. "What's with the CBC?"
I was reassured in the only way Canadians know how. You're not the only one, and someone's already written about it. Better yet, you've probably heard it on the CBC (that glorious factory: source of our greatest disdain, our greatest consolation).

See the chorus of Joel Plaskett's "True Patriot Love."

We all go out
Then we all come home
But I fall asleep with the TV on
At 3 AM they play "O Canada"
True patriot love and lalalalala

When I woke this morning, I swore there was a scene from Expo (you know the one) or maybe the Montreal Olympics. There's not. (See Mama Sheff's comment below). I'm just crazy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

close to paradise

Uber late on this whole Polaris thing. Read excellent re-caps here, here and most lovingly, my witty and affable date, the Helenic beauty / willing futon provider Meghan Harrison's take here.


  • Patrick Watson's win seemed to be a bit of a coup, and certainly the reaction of the audience (largely made up of jury members) was uncomfortable shock for about 3.2 seconds, but in the minutes, hours and days since, there seems to be a general consensus that it was a safe bet, which could be agreed upon by Grand Jury in the allotted 2 hours. Which leads to a discussion of whether the best album of the year based on "artistic merit alone" should be a "safe bet." My thoughts: Watson's album is a bit of a sleeper, but he was one of the more interesting live performers.

  • Last year's prize winner and generous boyfriend Owen Pallett's sleeveless, orange shirt was the second biggest shock of the evening. He accepted the nomination on behalf of the Arcade Fire, and also announced the winner.

  • Julie Doiron with Eric's Trip. For a music-loving cub like myself, this was a pretty big deal. While there's been some conversation about this performance, including how it will translate to television, I was fairly awed. It was raw, and rough, and fun. Doiron was visibly excited to be there, backed by her former band. It made me almost wish I could trade in my Weeping Tile lifestyle for a little bit of Moncton. (There was some breakfast discussion comparing the Doiron/Trip esthetic with Sarah Harmer backed by the Hip. Attention Rick White and Rob Baker: your hair is gross.)

  • Each shortlist nominee was introduced by a presenter from the Jury, providing an argument for their album. There were serious mic issues all night long, which sort of hampered things, but this quote from Carl Wilson's Junior Boys speech made it to the peon gallery (aka the balcony): "This is the land of the silver birch, but also Marshall McLuhan." Double-you teee eff, C-Dubs?

  • A sweating, shining Jian Ghomeshi did a longwinded presentation for my favourites, the Besnard Lakes. A "casual back and forth" between the Q-list celeb and Jace Lasek took place. Something about Jace swearing on The Hour at SXSW a few years ago, and being reprimanded by his grandmother. Ghomeshi's argument for the album: "They play some eclectic fucked-up shit."

  • Mid after-party, I went to the convenience store down the block from the Drake. Looked at Basia Bulat on the cover of Now magazine, returned to the rooftop of the Drake and there was Basia. There are some things that would rarely happen in the States, or really anywhere else in the world to a wide-eyed wannabe like myself. Ohhh Canada. You're tiny and you give jobs to pompous, talentless jerks, but we love you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

making waves

Photo property of the Queen's Journal. By Heather Mosher

This weekend was Tidal Mass, a 24-hour arts event, featuring sculpture, silent film and live music. Don Maynard's sculpture, from which the event took its name, was a visual stunner-2300 fluorescent light bulbs arranged into waves, and lit from below, making "pools and puddles" of light.
Almost 15 musicians (Greg Tilson, Nich Worby, Jason Erb, Jeff Barbeau, Jenni O'Neil, Benjamin Nelson, etc) had been practicing in the space for 6 weeks and had arranged five hours of music which cycled through seasonal themes, from winter to fall.

Photo property of the Queen's Journal. By Harrison Smith

The show drew a bigger crowd than I've seen at any kind of arts event in a long time (this town gets a bit lonely in the summer). I'm so happy something like this is happening in little ol' Kingston.

The lights and the sounds, they made me believe.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

spinning and also spiraling

I'm still coming down from a weekend in the hills. The Shelter Valley Folk Festival was this end-of-summer weekend, and it was great. I probably saw less music this year than ever before, between volunteering and a mid-festival break for a friend's wedding, but anything that includes good food, tie-dyed everything, tent mornings, moonsongs, campfires and small children has got to be good. And on top of all that, sunshine!

Also, something that commands this kind of commitment is obviously made of love:

I'm a believer.

P.S. Find of the weekend? James Hill. He plays the ukulele! (And was the most gracious vegetarian in the face of a near-meat experience.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

taking turns

after a year spent developing a love of illustration and poster-art, i got to take a turn.
my friend benjamin nelson is a poster artist of the highest calibre, and for this project he asked for a little help from his friends. we met at the sleepless goat, he passed out the pens and paper, and we all got our creative on. i'm clearly not the next seripop (my contribution is the car & delivery truck on the bottom left. how embarassing), but for a moment, i was there.

edit (jan/08): this poster is now hanging in all it's full-size glory in the hall in my apartment. come over and use my washroom (though there's no door, only a curtain--you've been warned) and look at it. it's great.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

run to catch up.

The past few weeks have been a blur of rapid typing and making up questions on the spot, but they've also been full of sweet summer times and some really good tunes to sip ice water to.

Immaculate Machine, Gus' Pub, Halifax, NS (pronounced enn-ess).

This show was heaps of fun. Heaps.

It was opened by two of Halifax's finest: Laura Peek of Laura Peek and the Winning Hearts and Journalists, Wolf (formerly known as Stephen Cooke and the Respected Halifax Journalists, Wolf - please someone correct me if I'm wrong). Laura did her cute-girl-singer-with-a-keyboard thing, and it was about as adorable as expected. Journalists, Wolf did their crazy-9-piece-drunken-shirtless-screamy-rock-out- with-2-harmonica-players -and-a-guitar-played-with-broom-handle thing and that was about as hilarious as expected. Any show that includes the words "That last song was about Oprah Winfrey and this song is for Keanu Reeves," is where it's at.

Laura Peek being adorable.

Immaculate Machine have been getting press since keyboard/vocalist Kathryn Calder joined her Uncle Carl's little project, but they have been working hard & making good music for five years. Their music is like the funnest road trip you've ever been on, like Rainbow Brite, like standing on big rocks in a yellow dress. They were alive and connected on stage, and they really love playing their music.

Immaculate Machine - Dear Confessor
In the middle of two 20 hour drives, this song was perfect: "maps won't show us where we're going, all they are is just the boring facts..."

Immaculate Machine - Northeastern Wind
This one's sort of the song that's not like the others on the Fables album, which makes it extra-special beautiful.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

get folked up, stay folked up.

kyle, me, katesheff, miss bess, SVFF 2006 - "it rained at woodstock!"

Here's the thing about the Shelter Valley Folk Festival: it's the perfect end to every summer.

On the ideal Labour Day weekend, the sun is shining, but there is a nice breeze. At night, the sky turns purple and the view from the hill is of the lake and the sun and some of Canada's best. Last year, every single rained-out, wet socks, water-pooling-in-the-tent, "where are our all our towels?", hurricaned moment of last year's was great.

Three reasons to go to the Festival:

1. Artistic director Aengus Finnan has this gift for picking artists who are always on the edge of something. If you see a performer at SVFF, chances are they'll win an award from the Canadian Folk Music Association in December or show up on the cover of Penguin Eggs.

2. Even if you don't think folk music is your thing, there will be something at the festival that is your thing, whether it's a singer-songwriter or the wellness tents or the children's parade or the really good Carribbean food.

3. Performers really really love SVFF. If they love it, you'll love it.

Three reasons to volunteer at the Festival:

1. The food. Among musicians I've talked to, Shelter Valley is known for having the best hospitality area among summer festivals in Canada. Who woulda thought that putting out some corn chowder on a cold Sunday morning would get such rave reviews?

2. Camping on the top of the hill. See above for why this is good.

3. The late-night bonfires. This is sort of a see-for-yourself kinda thing.

Also, I'm pretty sure Shelter Valley has the cutest kids in the world.

Get on it.
2007's line-up
Volunteer application

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

dave eggers is uncalled for

First of all:

I am tired.
I am true of heart!

And also:

You are tired.
You are true of heart!

*Stolen with very little shame from Dave Eggers. This is my grace before meals and my prayer before bed.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"you can pick me up if you want"

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
tick not tich

Friday, July 20, 2007

open letters to people or entities who are unlikely to respond

Clearly ripped off from the McSweeney's gods.

An open letter to the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous 2007.

Dear Sir or Madam,
Some of us have to live here. Also, you are a fire hazard.
Wellington St. resident,
Meghan Sheffield

An open letter to the parents of the 10-year-old wearing a t-shirt that reads "Surrender the Booty."

Dear Sir(s) and/or Madam(s),
I'm assuming that you are unaware of the double entrendre implied on your son's "Surrender the Booty" t-shirt, and therefore thought it was a fine thing for your son to wear in public. After all, pirates are very big this year, your son is no where near sexual maturity and no one suspects children's clothing of supporting violence against women. It's an easy enough mistake to make, and no one blames.
Allow me to explain. Besides being 18th century slang for the goods stolen by waterborne criminals of the past, the word "booty" can also refer to "sexual intercourse; a person (especially a woman) regarded as an object of sexual ambition or desire. Also (occasionally): the female genitals," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which also recommends cross-referencing the term with "ass."
Again, no one blames you or your parenting skills. After all, the OED itself states that the term is used "originally and chiefly among African-Americans," and you live in Kingston. That said, let it be understood that even though you may not be able to tell what all those fast-talking rappers on the television are saying, your 10 year old son certainly does.
Get that shirt off of your child, you sick, sick people.
Meghan Sheffield

An open letter to the Quizno's Subs manager who fired me saying "You're just one of those people who can write a fine essay but you can't make a sandwich fast enough," circa 2003.

Dear Sir,
Here's hoping.
Meghan Sheffield

the blood of a younger man

Polaris contenders (cont'd)

Tim Hecker - Harmony in Ultraviolet

I was warned that it's not possible to multi-task while listening to this album, but I'm a learn-it-the-hard-way kinda gal. It's true. It's physically impossible to do anything but be still and really listen to this album. The wash of noise never seems random, with sounds at times reminiscent of the natural world (waves on the beach, crackling fire and open spaces) and at others, reminiscent of a lived emotion. The album is a cyclical journey through sadness and hope, testing the boundaries of each, managing somehow to blur the two together. Hecker doesn't try to find solution, but solution finds itself in a less moralistic sort of "the journey is the destination." Though an instrumental mix of metal, ambient, noise and electronica influences might sound off-putting, Hecker's greatest talent lies in his ability to communicate experience and emotion, making this album warm, human and strangely familiar.

Tim Hecker - Radio Spirocon

Tim Hecker - Blood Rainbow

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

i really shouldn't be doing this but...

My love of illustration has been growing over the past year or so, thanks in large part to an interest in the work of Lukas Geronimas and all of the projects that he is connected to (see Fecal Face, see lifetime collective, see Fighting).

Now, my travels have lead me to a new love. Zach Johnsen's work is a sort of fantastic world of monsters that are half-scary, half-cute, of sad girls with big eyes, of blue Buddhas, of casual Fridays, of bent old women, of skulls and goggles and rainbows. He works mostly with pen and watercolour, drawing hyper-real cartoons. I love it. You should too.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

who doesn't love that llama?

Miracle Fortress - Five Roses

Miracle Fortress is the love whisper of Montreal's Graham Van Pelt (of Think About Life semi-fame). It's already been designated (by a number of sources) 2007's summer album. While I have beef with seasonally-designated albums, there's no denying that in the same way that no one throws on Pet Sounds in January, this album is built to fit the big skies and long days of summertime. The muted guitar rumbles like dark clouds on a hot afternoon and synth sounds sweeten the mix with layered cicada-like tones. Adorable (and, okay, super twee) lyrics like "lately lately, I've been thinking it could be forever just us two" are half-hidden in the instrumental wash, giving intelligible moments a gem-like appeal. An album so built of dreamscapes risks dizziness and my favourite thing about this album is its restriction; while Van Pelt paints the sky, he keeps the horizon in view.

Miracle Fortress - This Thing About You
Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson were transported fifty years into the future, and they arrived on Queen West in a skinny tie (for Danny), American Apparel tights and some plastic sunglass frames, "This Thing About You" would be their "song."

Miracle Fortress - Maybe Lately

Miracle Fortress - Next Train

*Miracle Fortress made the Polaris shortlist
*On the Miracle Fortress myspace site, there is a picture of Van Pelt's touring band feeding the llama at the Big Apple in Colborne, ON.

Friday, July 13, 2007

what colour is this horse?

Rock Plaza Central - Are We Not Horses?

The everything theme this year is horses. Somehow, these insightful Toronto country-rockers figured that out ahead of time (I missed the memo) and made an entire concept album about horses (I can hear the buzz from here). So, point for being ahead of the crowd. Besides mad horse cred, this album also has: sweet brass riffs, unpolished vocals (I'm sorry Chris Eaton, was that a caterwaul?), and intricate, intelligent lyrics. For some reason, this album also makes me very emotional. So, a second point for cutting through the steely indifference that is Meghan Sheffield. After putting in some serious time with the Mountain Goats this fall, Are We Not Horses? is fitting perfectly into the Sunset Tree-shaped hole in my heart.

Rock Plaza Central - My Children, Be Joyful
This song is what I was wishing church was like when I was 7 years old and flipping through upside-down hymn books and reading Song of Solomon while ignoring dirty looks from my mother.

Rock Plaza Central - When We Go, How We Go, Pt 2.

who is the dark horse?

The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse

I have this thing for paradox. I'm strangely attracted to things that are "both at the same time." Sometime I'll blog about Patty Hearst. What I love about this album is that it is both intimate and ambitious. The songs are big, dark, even orchestral at times, but they never fall into the trap of messy sound or lost lyric. Everything is intentional. The Beach Boys style harmonies on "Disaster" somehow fit beside the reverb and walky-talky sound effects on "And You Lied to Me." This album is telescopic--there is this distance that can't be travelled, but they're trying to look closely anyway.

The Besnard Lakes - Because Tonight
The Besnard Lakes - Disaster

*This album did make the Polaris Prize's Shortlist.
*Besnard Lake in real-life is in northern Saskatchewan, FYI.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

selling out large

The short list for the Polaris Music Prize (a $20 000 prize for the best album of 2006, based on artistic merit alone) was announced this week. As one of the 150ish members of the Jury, I participated in two rounds of voting, eventually submitting a rated list of five albums from which the top 10 were selected. Here are my picks, in order.

1. The Besnard Lakes - TBL Are The Dark Horse
2. Rock Plaza Central - Are We Not Horses?
3. Miracle Fortress - Five Roses
4. Tim Hecker - Harmony in Ultraviolet
5. Jim Bryson - Where the Bungalows Roam

I'll write some interesting and witty arguments for these albums later. Maybe. Or just listen to them yourself.

Also, The Besnard Lakes and Miracle Fortress made the top 10.

Friday, July 06, 2007

life according to my inbox

The other day Que Sera Sera had a pretty sweet post - a list of text messages that Sarah, the blog writer*, had found her cellphone inbox. After feeling some mad (and not uncommon) NYC-blogger jealousy, I scrolled through my own inbox. My friends are funny too.

He will make you that bread and you will try to break my mother’s heart.

Don’t fear your feelings.

I know you know everything already, but in case you forgot, today is Steph’s birthday.

Dominated in 06 and now I’m back.

I can’t seem to access Facebook. Tell Rachel to cut it out.

No one can. That’s how it’s ruining lives. I’ll call in your request to the radio station. Also, I am a wild party.

Well, la dee dah!

I have a lesbian crush on you.

Haven't written a damn word all day.

Our song is playing!

He did that voice trailing off thing again.

How embarassing for both of us.

Either he's a boyfriend or a diner waitress.

The abortion girl is loud-talking to R, J, et al about how I think she's a bitch and I puked at SK's while Mike and I sit 12 feet away.

I'm basically in grade 7. Come here and kill me now.

*With whom I feel a strange kinship. See her about me:

"I am happiest in life picking part cold rotisserie chicken with my bare hands, preferably after 3-4 drinks, while standing in my underwear in front of a television playing the "Devil Went Down to Georgia" part of Urban Cowboy."

in/out summer 2007

2007 is being officially the summer of the hot/not or in/out or likes/dislikes list.
Here's my contribution:

making hot/not, likes/dislikes lists about the summer
weekends off
music festivals
Shitt Hottt
Volume 135
plastic aviators
afternoons in the park
the Journal House
dirty jeans
Kim Mitchell
contemporary fiction
Facebook updates
free wine
Sinnott's Cove
the Blow
anticipating Waterfront
long breaks
4 a.m.
the courthouse fountain
confederation basin
petting big dogs in public
being banned
the Copper Penny
sarcasm and follow-up apologies
Soiree Au Revoir

being rich
interesting interviews
trips to Toronto
seeing people
doing laundry
headphones that work
the East - far and near
Kingston's lack of beach
selling the family home
the Goat
flat tires
Meghan Harrison's onward and upward
Wolfe Island Bakery's coffee
buying groceries
Traditional Breakfasts
The Brothers Karamatzov