Wednesday, November 19, 2014

So I hear you like Taylor Swift's 1989

I preface this with full disclosure that I have a significant fondness for Taylor Swift albums from Speak Now onwards. Her trajectory into pop music is a welcome change, because it's musical growth—even it looks lateral.

The thing to understand about country music, as a narrative genre, is that it's one inch deep at best. Also, it's tropes have become hyper-defensive of being ignorant. (I grew up listening to a lot of country music. It used to be more about narrative and less about Shut Up, Ladies, And Get Me A Beer.)

The best country music has got at troupe push-back is Girl In A Country Song. But that's about as far as the conversation has gotten.

This is context, so we understand where Taylor Swift is coming from. It's not a complex story-place. But what you can hear in Taylor Swift songs is her musical arrangements over the years have become increasingly varied. Why would she stay in a genre that isn't interested in trying new things?

She's trying things. She's growing. And her listeners are growing with her. Also, I dare you to watch the video for Blank Space and claim Taylor Swift isn't self-aware. Not only self-aware but speaking back to what is being said about her. (I love Blank Space because it can be a song about something being exactly what it is and not asking it to be something else.)

When I heard Shake It Off, her first single from 1989, my heart did a little leap in my chest. Taylor Swift was going to do synthpop. Taylor Swift was going to introduce 5000000000000 people to the glories of synthpop. Also, I proceeded to listen to Shake It Off 80 billion times because of that bass saxophone that's dancing along in the background of the song.

1989 is a gateway drug an accessible introduction to what I call synthpop and other people probably call something else. This is a blog post about whom to listen to next after your friends stage an intervention because you are tweeting about going through withdrawals if you don't listen to 1989 each day.

If you can't explain why you love 1989 other than it put joy in your heart. There's just something about it. You want something similar, something that will also feel familiar quickly and make you want to dance and sing along.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Little Daylight. BEHOLD.

Little Daylight are from Brooklyn, and they draw their narrative influences from fairy tales which gives their album a great balance of sweet, synth and bass goodness with some darkness lurking beneath the surface. I've loved them since I saw them open for Bastille last year at the Phoenix. Any band that can get a Toronto crowd moving is working magic.

Their EP Tunnel Vision was about as perfect a thing for you as could exist until earlier this year when they put out their album. Go get Hello Memory. You can thank me later.

You have Bastille's Bad Blood, right? SO DO I. WE SHOULD BE FRIENDS. (ahem) Bad Blood is harder to love than 1989 on first listen because Bad Blood is an album that wants you to listen more than once and think about it and have conversations with it. For example, the first time I heard Things We Lost In the Fire, I didn't love it. And now I do. Because it's GREAT.

I already have Bad Blood. I MEAN WHO DOESN'T? So congratulations for being a person who has an ability to like lots of things, and please allow me to introduce you to Haerts. The album I waited a year for and love from first to last song no skips all good. It shimmers, it soars, and it does that thing where it gets better the more you listen to it. On a loop. For always.

1989 has a narrative structure. Yes, and it's the same as the one for RED. That's probably why we all like it so much. It's familiar; it just sounds different. This is great. It's comforting. But maybe you'd like the 201 course offering instead of the 101?

This is Wolf Gang. They have an album called Alveron, and I can map its character arc. Get me a pen. I'll do it. Also, listen to this song.

Is there sadness left in you? No. There isn't. And you haven't heard Black River, Last Bayou or Alveron yet. Your life is about to get so very, very good.

Wait is this secretly a Top Albums of the Year Post that you snuck Bastille back into?

Shh. Listen to this Lights song from her album Little Machines.

That Bastille album is the one you chose last year.

Have you heard Noosa? I love Noosa's Wonderland EP, too. (She cries glitter in this video.)

No, seriously, this was meant to be about Taylor Swift and and somehow become about your top albums this year.

Huh. Yeah it did. In that case, you should also get the Zella Day EP.

And if it really was a best of the year, then I'd be remiss not to mention this Bastille song.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


So here we are; the first week of the rest of my life passed into twilight. I imagine it's going to stop feeling weird soon. It may hit that this isn't a vacation, and I'm not going back to work next Monday. Because that hasn't hit, not yet, not really.

I've spent a week opening and closing a blank screen to post about leaving my job. I did quit. I wasn't let go or asked to step down; I wasn't fired. It's unfortunate to feel it necessary to clarify that, but Canadian Publishing is in an unfortunate state of letting a lot of people go.

I understand I held a position of enviable privilege. Or at least some perceived privilege. And I'm not going to say that wasn't an enviable thing. So why did I leave? Because I've been living in crisis-mode for the past sixteen months.

Here's the thing about crisis-mode. When you are in it, you are hyper-focused and hyper-aware. It's an adernaline-flooded state of Getting Shit Done. But when that's allowed to normalize, you cease being aware and become always under-fire. Everything is a threat. Everyone wants to fight. You are angry all the goddamn time. It makes one sharp-edged and brittle and toothy.

I've been baring my teeth at people a lot this year. A lot more than I ever wanted.

A couple months ago, I realized that I was still operating in crisis-mode a year after the supposed inciting crisis had passed. I had been so focused on keeping my feet one in front of the other that I'd neglected to look up and notice the path didn't lead to anywhere I wanted to be.

So I tried the easy way, and I applied to other jobs. I even got an interview at a place that I'd always wanted to work, but when I got there... I found out they didn't intend to hire me for that position. During our conversation it came up that they didn't understand why I'd leave Indigo Teen, and I couldn't understand why anyone would think I'd want to keep doing it forever. It'd be like expecting an author to write a series that never ended.

I realized sometime around then that I couldn't depend on another job to provide me with an exit strategy. I was going to have to do it the hard way—the way other people hadn't—and just leave. Fortunately, I had moved in with three other people and had the emotional support at home to do what needed doing. I'd spent a year tucking away money to be able to get by for a few months between jobs if it was necessary. And it became absolutely necessary.

Not sure what this looked like from the outside, but it wasn't impulsive. It had been coming for a long time. And yet... and yet, after leaving I'm still a head full of publishing knowledge and not quite sure where that takes me next.

I didn't quit to write full-time, because I've already learned that lesson. I quit so that I had time to write again and enough of a brain again to reorient myself on the path. But that's thing about endings and beginning; it depends on how you tilt your head as to which one they look like.