Music vs. Misery

"What came first — the music or the misery?"
Oct 25
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it’s coming faster now / and i never thought i’d be here

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I’ve found myself humming “Everything Hits At Once” by Spoon to myself more days than not lately, a funny little habit to have suddenly formed considering that I can’t even remember the last time I listened to Girls Can Tell. But that particular line has always resonated with me, and it seems to sneak its way back into my subconscious whenever I’m feeling exceptionally overwhelmed by things. I have never been a person who deals with change well, and the last few months have involved more than enough of it. Trying to put your life back together while simultaneously starting a new school program is no easy feat, especially with a few curve balls thrown in for good measure—and while I’ve had days that I felt like I would never come back from, I’m nearly halfway through the first semester and somehow, miraculously, I’m still standing.

Sometimes I question whether it is necessary for me to share these things here, but then I remember that the music I post on this blog has always directly tied in with where I’m at in my life and what I’m going through, and I want to continue on with that transparency, even if it means spilling my stupid guts out sometimes. I know that I haven’t been around these parts much in the last year or more, and at this point I honestly don’t know if that is going to change or stay the same. The need for this outlet comes and goes. But tonight I found myself sitting at home alone with a beer in my hand for the first time in such a long time, listening to an album that has brought me peace in many moments during the last month or so of absolute chaos, and I suddenly felt compelled to share it. So here we are.

Dublin’s Bell X1 is a band whose albums I consistently devour upon their release. Their latest, Chop Chop, is tamer than its predecessors, but holds up well against them (all exceptionally underrated). “Careful What You Wish For” features infectious piano and synth lines and is surely one of the album’s standout tracks, also thanks to lead singer Paul Noonan’s angelic-like vocals. His words always cut right through me, but particularly in this song. Passages like:

Is there is a time for us?
Or will we just hold on quietly,
White knuckles and dry tears?
And play our part in this
No spoiler, no reveal

Careful what you wish for
Careful what you wish for
‘Cause these bulbs are the fluorescent kind
And no one looks good in this light

mp3: Bell X1 - Careful What You Wish For from Chop Chop (2013)

Also worth sharing is the simple, stunning video for the album’s opening track, “Starlings Over Brighton Pier”.

mp3: Bell X1 - Starlings Over Brighton Pier from Chop Chop (2013)

The title refers to one of my favourite places in the world, the pier in England’s seaside town of Brighton that I visited in May this year. I spent one night completely alone sitting on the rocky beach, watching the pink sun set behind the old abandoned pier as birds (perhaps even starlings) circled above it. I remember feeling so perfectly content in that moment. I trust that I’ll be back there again soon enough.

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Oct 08
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lost, but in my place :: an october mix

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the emotional effect that music has on us, or at least on me personally. Sometimes it makes me feel more than I want to feel, or even more than I know I am feeling—and while that can be an incredibly tough pill to swallow, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s healthier to simply face the music, even if it breaks us down into tiny little fragments of ourselves. Without certain songs, I’m not sure that I would know how to understand or articulate many of my emotions, and it’s just interesting to think about how we might be entirely different human beings if not for these emotional outlets given to us by the songwriters who so graciously let us think of their words as our own for a few precious minutes.

With that said, here’s a new mix to take with you on your next walk through the falling autumn leaves. Go feel some damn feelings.

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  1. Born Ruffians - Needle
  2. Nick Mulvey - Nitrous
  3. Bear’s Den - Writing on the Wall
  4. The Darcys - The River
  5. Radical Face - Holy Branches
  6. Fallbrigade - Remember You
  7. The Veils - A Falling Star
  8. The Eastern Sea - The Match
  9. Califone - Frosted Tips
  10. Fort Frances - How to Turn Back Again
  11. Bastille - Haunt (Demo)
  12. J Roddy Walston and the Business - Take It As It Comes
  13. Vance Joy - Play With Fire
  14. Haim - Running If You Call My Name
  15. Frightened Rabbit - The Oil Slick
  16. Augustines - Cruel City
  17. Neko Case - Night Still Comes
  18. Jordan Klassen - The Horses Are Stuck
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Apr 19
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the great escape 2013 :: a mix

In just a couple of weeks, I’m flying over to Europe to visit friends and see the sights in both London and Paris. I probably couldn’t have timed things better since Europe’s version of SXSW, The Great Escape, is taking place in the seaside city of Brighton mid-month. A slew of emerging new artists will be performing at the festival, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see a bunch of live music and the chance to see another part of England all at once.

For my personal convenience and for your personal enjoyment, I have created a playlist of some the sets that I plan to check out at TGE. Tons of great stuff for your ears here. I could have picked a Phosphorescent song other than “Song For Zula,” — but really, who would I be kidding? It’s still the best song of the year so far.

The Great Escape 2013

  1. The Griswolds - Mississippi
  2. Royal Canoe - Caught in a Loop
  3. Eliza and the Bear - Brother’s Boat
  4. Kodaline - All I Want
  5. To Kill A King - Bloody Shirt
  6. Tom Odell - Another Love
  7. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - So Good At Being in Trouble
  8. London Grammar - Hey Now
  9. How to Dress Well - & It Was U
  10. Dan Croll - Home
  11. Bastille - Flaws
  12. Houndmouth - Houston Train
  13. Del Barber - Running On A Wire
  14. Charlie Straight (feat. Marketa Irglova) - I Sleep Alone 
  15. Wolf Alice - Bros
  16. The Elwins - Forgetful Assistance
  17. Andy Shauf - Tap My Toes
  18. The 1975 - You
  19. Blaudzun - Solar
  20. Wall - Left to Wonder
  21. Little Green Cars - Harper Lee
  22. Luke Sital-Singh - Fail For you
  23. Phosphorescent - Song For Zula
  24. Nick Mulvey - Venus
  25. Dancing Years - I’m Here
  26. On An On - Panic
  27. Ewert and the Two Dragons - Sailor Man
  28. Hounds Below - You Light Me Up in the Dark
  29. Chloe Howl - I Wish I Could Tell You
  30. Deep Sea Arcade - Steam
  31. The Black Atlantic - Darkling, I Listen
  32. Balthazar - Do Not Claim Them Anymore
  33. Caitlin Park - Baby Teeth
  34. We Were Evergreen - Leeway
  35. Lord Huron - She Lit A Fire
  36. Cloud Boat - Drean
  37. Bear’s Den - Fickle Love (demo)
  38. Story Books - Simple Kids
  39. The Veils - Train With No Name
  40. Joe Banfi - Guts and Bones
  41. Cub Scouts - Hands
  42. Thumpers - Dancing’s Done

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This place looks alright, no?

Any readers I may have who are planning to be at The Great Escape should definitely get in touch — would love to catch a show with you!

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Mar 27
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a long way back to the light :: a march mix

It feels as though there has been an overwhelming amount of good music finding its way into my headphones already this year — so much so that I’m struggling to keep up and post on a regular basis (or ever, honestly). Here are some of the songs that I found myself returning to time and time again over the past month.

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  1. Little Green Cars - The John Wayne
  2. Mychal Cohen - Sentimental Guy
  3. Donovan Woods - Sask
  4. Pickwick - Letterbox
  5. Les Enfants - Celeste
  6. Frank Turner - Recovery
  7. Lauren Mann & the Fairly Odd Folks - Lost Myself
  8. Phosphorescent - The Quotidian Beasts
  9. Hey Marseilles - Tides
  10. Laura Marling - Where Can I Go
  11. To Kill A King - Funeral
  12. Derrival - Victoria Day
  13. The Zolas - Ancient Mars
  14. Josh Ritter - Hopeful
  15. Patrick James - Brighter Lights
  16. Leif Vollebekk - When the Subway Comes Above the Ground
  17. Small Houses - Oh, Hiding Out
  18. Bastille - Oblivion
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Mar 01
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eyes are open, finally.

There are a few things that I love unconditionally: folk songs, sing-alongs, strings, horns, and guys with British accents. This spectacular video has all of the aforementioned things. Watch London-based band To Kill A King perform a joyous rendition of their song “Choices” with help from Bastille, Emily Wood, We Were Evergreen, Title Sequence, Professor Penguin, and a few others. I dare you to try watching this without smiling as big as Dan Smith from Bastille (the guy with the fantastic hair in the striped shirt and jean jacket) when things really get going about four minutes in.

So. Much. Happy.

mp3: To Kill A King and Friends - Choices (Ralph’s Balcony version)

A studio version of “Choices” appears on To Kill A King's brand new album, Cannibals With Cutlery which you can buy here.

mp3: To Kill A King - Choices from Cannibals With Cutlery (2013)

Also from the same video series by To Kill A King, here they are performing “Pirate” with Professor Penguin (a song which you may recognize from the latest mix). 

mp3: Professor Penguin feat. To Kill A King - Pirate (Ralph’s Balcony version)

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Feb 19
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clutching at straws :: a february mix

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In an attempt to apologize for the lack of posting lately, here is a collection of some songs that I’ve been helplessly stuck on this month. Who knows — perhaps this could become a regular thing. You will surely recognize some names, while other names will likely be new. Happy listening.

  1. Bear’s Den - Agape
  2. Sleepy Tea - Make Believe
  3. Tim Noyes - Saturday
  4. Kate Earl - One Woman Army
  5. Wild Cub - Thunder Clatter
  6. Night Beds - Lost Springs
  7. Foals - Milk & Black Spiders
  8. On An On - Every Song
  9. Local Natives - Mt. Washington
  10. Professor Penguin - Pirate
  11. Josh Weller - Lose You
  12. Shout Out Louds - Illusions
  13. The Veils - Through the Deep, Dark Wood
  14. Indians - I Am Haunted
  15. Frightened Rabbit - The Woodpile
  16. Hey Marseilles - Heart Beats
  17. Tyler Lyle - Medusa
  18. Dave Gerard and the Watchmen - 16 Stables (live acoustic)
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Jan 24
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they played our favourite songs / and we danced on and on and on

There are certain songs that you can go long stretches of time without listening to, and yet when you do eventually return to them, whether it be many months or many years later, it is almost as if you spent no time apart.

The recording “1983” by The Incredible Moses Leroy (former California teacher Ron Fountenberry) falls into this category for me. A favourite go-to-tune circa 2006, I probably hadn’t listened to it in a couple of years until it suddenly came to mind the other day when searching for a pick-me-up song for a friend. It still sounded just as irresistible as I remembered it being — one of those songs that makes it absolutely impossible not to bop your head and smile as it plays. It is also entirely impossible not to hit repeat at the end of the four minutes.

This nostalgic moment led me to revisiting Fountenberry’s equally enjoyable other project, Softlightes, a band that released one adorable album in 2006 and then seemed to suddenly disappear. A quick Google search revealed that Softlightes quietly self-released a sophomore album entitled Captain Brokenheart Fights the Infinite Summer back in 2011. After a promising deal with a record label fell through, the band was left feeling discouraged and ready to part ways. As a final farewell to their fans, they made the entire record and its b-sides available for free for download.

Much to my surprise, these recordings included a new version of “1983,” (a ten-year-old song at that point) featuring New Order-esque guitar riffs and bass lines, something that I can almost never resist. It’s one thing to fall in love with a song all over again, but it’s another thing to discover an entirely new version that you can fall in love with, almost as if it is for the very first time. 

mp3: Softlightes - 1983 from Captain Brokenheart Fights the Infinite Summer (2011)
mp3: Incredible Moses Leroy - 1983 from Electric Pocket Radio (2001)

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Jan 21
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dreaming wide awake :: a january mix

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For your listening pleasure, here is collection of songs that I’ve had on repeat of late. With promising new albums on the way from Donovan Woods, Night Beds, Phosphorescent, Josh Ritter, Local Natives, and Junip (amongst many others), 2013 is already shaping up to be a pretty stellar year for music. Get ready to feel some feels.

  1. Beat Radio - Dreaming Wide Awake
  2. Donovan Woods - Put on, Cologne
  3. Waterdeep - Time and Time Again
  4. Ron Sexsmith - Nowhere to Go
  5. Bear’s Den - Pompeii
  6. The Lighthouse and the Whaler - Little Vessels
  7. Jim James - A New Life
  8. Night Beds - Ramona
  9. Phosphorescent - Song For Zula
  10. Josh Ritter - New Lover
  11. Matt Pond - Starlet
  12. Local Natives - Heavy Feet
  13. Among Savages - Start at the Beginning
  14. Junip - Line of Fire
  15. Dominique Fricot - Seashore
  16. Widower - Thoroughbred
  17. Tyler Heath - It Will Not Always Be Raining (Simple Version)
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Jan 14
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my love’s gone off all the rails

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When I started up this little blog more than three years ago, I never anticipated the unexpected places that it would take me or the irreplaceable friends that it would allow me to make. Last summer’s Doe Bay Fest was the perfect culmination of such things; I left that island feeling not only re-inspired about music and its place in my life, but also blessed to have made instantly strong connections with so many wonderful, like-minded folks. We created such perfect memories together that August weekend that we decided we needed to find each other again this winter, despite all the miles and borders between us. A mini reunion in Colorado the week of New Year’s Eve was what we agreed upon, and getting on that plane to land in the Mile-High City was easily one of the best things I’ve ever done.

After staying up until 4am listening to records on the first night, the following afternoon was spent sitting in the pews of an empty church watching Colorado Springs native (but now Nashville resident) Winston Yellen, better known as Night Beds, perform songs for an upcoming Fuel/Friends chapel session. That experience alone would have made the trip worthwhile (that voice reverberating off those old church walls—are you kidding me?), but then we ended up spending the next few days hanging out with Winston. One night, we drove up the side of a mountain with him in search of the haunted tunnels of Colorado Springs… and then this happened:

Night Beds’ full-length album, Country Sleep, is set for release on February 5 via Dead Oceans. It’s a stunning piece of work from start to finish, kicking off with yet another acapella track (“Faithful Heights”) which then segues into the one-two punch of “Ramona” and “Even If We Try”. These gutting songs are just a brief glimpse into a deeply personal album that is destined to resonate with a lot of people this year. Get ready to fall in love. You can pre-order the record here.

mp3: Night Beds - Ramona from Country Sleep (2013)
mp3: Night Beds - Even If We Try from Country Sleep (2013)

As absolutely heartbreaking as Country Sleep is, it will forever transport me back to that week in Colorado spent listening to records, dorking out about music, attending private concerts in chapels and houses, witnessing impromptu performances in eerie red rocks tunnels, dancing and stargazing until the wee hours of the morning, and constantly laughing until our entire bodies hurt. It was a dream world of sorts, and while that high has been incredibly difficult to come down from, just knowing that I have friends in far-off places to share those memories with is more than enough.

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Dec 13
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disappear into a cold wind :: a winter mix

With less than two weeks until Christmas, winter is nearly officially upon us. There are few things I love more than the brisk winter walks through this city, and such things just wouldn’t feel right without a customized mix for company. Here are some songs that I’ve been listening to of late that bring snow and snuggles beside a warm fire to mind. Stream the playlist above or download the whole thing at the bottom.

  1. Among Savages - Cold Wind
  2. Patrick James - All About to Change
  3. Mike Edel - Our Growing Past
  4. Reuben and the Dark - Broken Cheek
  5. Of Monsters and Men - Yellow Light (Cillo Remix)
  6. Wool on Wolves - Medicine Shows
  7. Portage - Columns
  8. Donovan Woods - Car Won’t Start
  9. The Oh Hellos - Cold Is the Night
  10. Fionn Regan - Snowy Atlas Mountains
  11. Sam Pinkerton ft. Chase Lawrence - I Will Never Fall in Love With You
  12. Josh Ritter - Joy to You Baby
  13. Lost Lander - Cold Feet
  14. Sera Cahoone - Deer Creek Canyon
  15. The Milkman’s Union - Little Bird
  16. Hey Rosetta - Carry Me Home
  17. Matt Sheehy - Go Missing
  18. Sunny Pompeii - Snowy

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