Wow. It’s funny how time flies, isn’t it. Oh no, wait — that’s not actually true at all.
That’s usually how I start these posts. In the eight (!) years I’ve been publishing this web site I’ve penned this post at least a dozen times: the site goes silent for what seems to be to be a potentially injurious amount of time (funny also how those gaps have grown longer and longer as time passes and all my fellow contributors have either lost interest or been alienated), I realize I’ve become derelict in my duties, and I hastily write a brief post to assure our “readers” that we haven’t died or quit (I’m pretty sure I’m the only one reading at this point, but I’ve always been too lazy/stupid to learn how to look at our traffic numbers unless I had to seek validation for accreditation requests).
Now I’m sort of back after our longest gap ever, a solid 10-month span in which I, quite frankly, listened to very little music of any kind. There are flimsy justifications for that, including:
- My kid: she’s my carpool companion, and she’s not really into music. Frankly, I think we have more fun when we just talk back and forth about what the day will be/was like or make faces at each other. When she does want to listen to music it has been, in turns, songs from Yo Gabba Gabba, The Wizard of Oz, Beetlejuice, and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.
- Books: The first year of my daughter’s life I started reading like I used to when I was younger. My wife and I started a friendly challenge: who could read the most books during the year. We were voracious, reading our monthly book club selections out loud each night to our little girl between bath and bedtime (depending on the length of her feedings, sometimes for an hour or two at a stretch), deferring to catching up on our unread book collection during our quieter hours, and continuing the process of reading aloud to my wife before bed that we began when separated by a provincial boundary in our relationship’s earliest stages. I read just under 50 books that year, and in 2014 that ballooned to more than 80. This year I’m on track to go above 100. That takes a lot of free time.
- Talking: I’ve relished being able to talk a lot less in my post-radio career. Strangely though, that has turned into a much-larger appetite for podcasts and audiobooks during my daily commutes. I probably went a full six months listening to nothing but podcasts alone. That cuts into music time.
- Live shows: I have very little appetite for live music these days, which is sort of the biggest tragedy of all. I could blame my kid — and routine is important, both for the child and for me, because I really enjoy what little time I get to see her before she goes to sleep — but it rests on me; I have real trouble motivating myself to leave the house after we put her to bed. How am I going to read all these books if I leave the house at night?
How bad has it gotten? It took me a month and a half to even notice that my hosting bill was overdue, during which time the site was down. It was just gone. When I realized no one, least of all myself, had noticed I had a long moment of quiet reflection: maybe this was the time to Feist that shit and let it die. What was the point of coughing up the money for hosting services for another year if it had been almost that long since I’d even bothered to write a goddamn thing? Surely my young family has a lot of vastly-more important expenses those dollars would’ve been better used for.
I stared at the screen for probably 30 minutes weighing the pros and cons before I decided to get my credit card out. Ultimately, what swayed me was the fact that my one attempt to actually back up all those years of content only went about a tenth of the way into the site’s history. Initially I told myself I was only bringing it back so I could back it up, so that I would have something to show for the thousands of hours of listening, pondering, and writing that I had put into an endeavour that has now lasted longer than any of my romantic relationships ever has.
But then The Weakerthans broke up, and I found I had thoughts I wanted to articulate. It started as it always does — listening to the songs that meant so much to me, letting my brain surprise me by coming up with connections, thoughts, and phrasings that would form the base of a post.
I don’t know if that’s going to happen again. I’ve started car pooling with my sister lately, which has inspired me to put actual music on in the car again. We keep it low so we can still talk to my daughter while we drive, but I’m finding myself more inclined to leave it on when I’m driving by myself instead of putting a podcast or an audio book on. For my recent birthday, my beautiful wife got me a pair of very high-quality headphones, which are literally wasted on spoken word recordings.
So I’m listening more. If that’s going to be enough to sustain this half-baked venture for another year…I guess we’ll see. I finished backing up the written content, so that leaves nothing but possibilities with zero obligations ahead. I have a sneaking suspicion that any notion I had of presenting “different” music and artists or being a tastemaker of any degree has been lost; I could see myself continuing to consume the same artists moving forward and not casting my net out as far as in the past. I like what I like, and I’m pretty okay with that.
For the time being, here are some of the few songs I’ve made a point of listening to in the last lost year. Without exception, I love them, enough to pay the increasingly-ridiculous cost of buying imported vinyl. Whether or not I write more about them any time soon, I don’t know…but I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.
01. Harry Belafonte – Jump In The Line
My daughter LOVES Beetlejuice. It’s my wife’s fault. She was obsessed with it for a few months, to the point where we would listen to this song on hard repeat whenever we were in the car for probably a good twelve weeks. Luckily, this song is completely perfect and I was happy to do it.
02. These Estates – Put The Poison In My Body
This band has officially taken the title of Regina’s best band in the post-GOMM era (I’m a little old). They followed up the wonderful The Dignity of Man with easily their best album yet, Triumph, Reign. It appears to be a bit of a swan song, potentially, but that’s okay; it is back-to-front virtually flawless. This is one of my favourite album openers in a long, long time.
03/04. Hop Along – The Kids On The Boardwalk/No Good Al Joad
When I reviewed this album I loved it, but I didn’t realize how all-encompassing that love would become. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to Get Disowned in the last three years, but it’s a daunting amount. I love the furiously-diverse vocal performances, the dizzyingly-schizophrenic arrangements, and the simple lyrical truths that hit like a sledgehammer when you actually stop to consider them. It’s a staggering record.
05. Franz Nicolay – Talk To Him In Shallow Water
There’s something noble in Franz Nicolay’s continued insistence on making his own music. Anything he ever does will instantly be eclipsed by The Hold Steady’s most perfect albums, but he couldn’t care less; he’s a rock and roll lifer who just wants to be able to keep doing what he does. You can always count on his solo efforts having at least a handful of totally perfect songs, and I’ll continue to pre-order them as long as I have a chance.
06. Hayden – Hey Love
Oh man. One of the few times my wife and I have been able to see live music was Hayden, opening for Dan Mangan + Blacksmith at Darke Hall in Regina. While Darke Hall is an overrated venue (beautiful, but aged and those seats need to go) the show was amazing — but while Mangan is on top of his game, both of us have a much deeper connection with Hayden and his music. That was reinforced to an absurd degree by his brand-new material, which was absolutely heart-stompingly gorgeous in that setting. That goes double for the title track of his new album.