The inside of my head is an absolute crap place for productivity. I tend to fixate on old horrors, recent regrets and small shames that swirl around the inside of my brain like greasy water bound down a drain. It makes for a lot of noise while I'm trying to write or focus on my day job--listening to music with lyrics or, on bad days, even a melody, can lead me to distraction. When I'm set up in a coffee shop or another noisy locale and need to churn out some words, I wind up getting nowhere.
Last year, a friend turned me on to Lustmord: it's the working name of Welsh musician, sound engineer and, as near as I can tell, dark wizard, Brian Williams. Wikipedia notes that Williams is often credited with inventing Dark Ambient Music. I credit him with giving me the space I need in my skull to get work done.
In turns, Lustmord's music has overwhelmed me with feelings of calm, dread and and well-being. Played late in the evening in concert with medicinal amounts of Jameson, it helps to distract me from the pain in my body and the dogs barking in my head.
Image via Wikipedia Commons Read the rest
DeVotchKa's latest album, This Night Falls Forever, has been on near constant rotation in our home since I picked it up a few weeks ago. As usual, the band's music is heartrendingly beautiful. Straight Shot is the first track on the album and the one that, for me at least, has been the band's biggest ear worm this time around. Read the rest
It's been a while since I took the time to listen to Robert Plant's outstanding Band of Joy. Given everything that's happened over the past two years or even the past few days in North America, the album's second track, House of Cards, feels a little bit too real for Sunday afternoon listening. Read the rest
This was not a good week.
I visited Montreal as it was kissed by the ass end of a major Atlantic storm system and attended my first industry-related function where, because of my diet, I was unable to drink. Upon returning home, I went under the knife for a vasectomy – I've been icing my bits for days. Fortunately, I don't have to go far for ice: the area of Alberta that we're currently living in has been experiencing freakishly cold weather for the past few days. It's not even fall yet and there's snow falling outside my window.
The ONLY thing that I took delight in was catching Lady Rouge live while I was in Quebec. While they typically play weddings, corporate events and the like, their sound and the friendly energy they project while they're on stage would be well suited to a venue of any size. Taking in their set made what was otherwise an absolute shit week feel like it was almost salvageable. Read the rest
You won't find Nick Burbridge's music charting on any Top 20 lists and, to the best of my knowledge, he's never toured extensively, by himself or with his band McDermott's 2 Hours. But his music, once you hear it, is hard to stop listening to. Burbridge sings of the disenfranchised, the marginalized, and those working underground to subvert the status quo. These are protest songs and songs for the working class from the depths of a poet's heart, and its on constant rotation in my home. Read the rest
Joe Strummer would have turned 66 years old this week, had he not passed away.
I still think about his music and miss him, every single day. Read the rest
Sometimes, the most delightful musical discoveries happen completely by accident: a song you hear at a party or catch the tail end of on the radio without the DJ bothering to tell you what it's called can wind up being one of the tunes that's always lurking on the cusp of your mind. This was the case for me with Salsa Celtica.
I was listening to Eliza Carthy sing The Grey Cockerel, and happened to glance at my phone's display while the music was playing. Salsa Celtica was credited as Carthy's collaborator on the track. Digging their sound, I googled the name. Boom: they'd a ton of albums to their credit. The title of one of their records, El Agua De La Vida, made me laugh. The translation: The water of life. In Gaeilge (Irish,) the translation of this is uisce beatha (uisge beatha in Gaelic.) It means 'whiskey.' It's one of the phrases that many tourists returning Ireland or Scotland is likely to have picked up during their time on holiday.
This, it seemed to me, was a band that could teach a master class in taking the piss.
Salsa Celtica has been spinning out dancable Celtic-infused Cuban music since the 1990s. I've yet to fall out of love with any of their albums. Read the rest
I was lucky enough to see Oysterband on this tour, back in 2009. With the shitstorm of lies, greed and hate that we've been enduring these past few years, Here Comes the Flood, from Oysterband's 2007 album Meet You There, has been on constant rotation in my home. Read the rest
We're all becoming redundant. I'll be replaced by an algorithm that mimics an embittered hobo that moonlights as a journalist, one day. Your gig? They're trying to sort out ways to have a robot do that, too. It's happened to thatchers, coopers and fletchers. It's the way of things.
But that doesn't mean you have to go quietly. Read the rest
No matter where you live, it's going to be too hot this weekend. You could head out to bomb the trails on a mountain bike, wander the canyons and valleys of a major city in search of new experiences or hit the open road. But honestly, this heat: you're best served by plunking down in front of an air conditioner or, lacking that, a breeze-filled porch. Invite a few friends, watch the sun set and down a few brews.
Colter Wall's music is made for this. Read the rest
It's wedding season, y'all. Time to get dressed up, drink too much and do something regrettable at what should be the best day of your best friend/sister/mother/father/hairdresser's life. Around since the 1990s, Chicago paddy punk band The Tossers are the perfect soundtrack to any special occasion you'd care to ruin. Read the rest
Stonehenge has been stuck in my head like an ice pick during every summer solstice for as far back as I can remember. I'm a day late with it, but now my pain/joy is yours. Read the rest
Sean Rowe travels under the radar of many a music aficionado. This is a damn shame.
Playing songs from an early age, Rowe cut his musical teeth playing bass in a local band before he was even 12 years old. A year before hitting his teenage years, he was gifted an acoustic guitar by his father – perhaps as a ploy to get a stack of amps out of his house. New axe in hand, Rowe started playing solo gigs, punctuated by appearances with a percussionist. He wrote his first song at the age of 18 and well, here we are.
If you're digging it, Old Black Dodge appears on Rowe's 2009 album Magic.
When he's not out hammering on his guitar, Rowe spends his time teaching wilderness survival and wild foraging skills. If you want to learn more about his music, book a private house concert or learn how to survive off of the land, hitting up his website is the best bet you have for fulfilling those needs. Read the rest
Be seeing you, Anthony. Read the rest
It's been 36 years since The Clash dropped Know Your Rights as the first single from their fifth studio album, Combat Rock. That it's just as relevant today as it was close to four decades ago leaves me unsure of whether I should laugh or cry.
If you're an American unsure of what your rights truly are, the ACLU has you covered. Canadian? Check out the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and this handy guide on dealing with the police.
If you're from another part of the world, help us out here: Add a link to your country's civic rights in the comments. Read the rest
Last week, I mentioned that listening to The Pogues turned me on to checking out The Levellers. This would be they.
The band takes its name from a political movement that rose up in the 1600s during the English Civil War. To be a Leveller, back then, was to believe in popular sovereignty, radical democracy, suffrage, religious tolerance and equality before the law. Civil rights, for all, was the name of their game. Levellers fought for many of the things that the left are still reaching for today. Resistance to power, egalitarianism, paganism and a call to action are the threads that have made the cloth of their music since the band first got together back in 1988. Read the rest
The Pogues were my entry point into punk. They caused a massive shift in my understanding of music: they made my growing up to play the mandolin, tenor banjo and bodhran feel cool. The music I played needn't be something from the past. As much as I loved and continue to adore traditional Irish tunes, The Pogues showed 15-year-old me that there was new life in the tunes I knew; new themes to explore. Discovering A Pair of Brown Eyes, Thousands are Sailing and The Broad Majestic Shannon kicked open other musical doors for me. It wasn't too long until my Discman was pushing The Waterboys, The Levellers, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span into my skull.
I've got fond memories of The Pogues Live at the Town and Country. When I was 18, I skipped my high school prom in favor of shipping off to Halifax. I'd fallen in love with a girl there, the summer previous. She was waiting for me. The relationship smouldered itself out, as flames that burn too hot, too fast, often do. Before we parted ways, she bought Live at the Town and Country on VHS for me as a birthday gift.
I watch it and listened to it until there was nothing left of that tape. Read the rest