Thursday, 1 December 2016

Let the Revolution Begin

For the last few weeks I (like the rest of the world) have been attempting to come to terms with the events that occurred on November 8th south of the border. Putting my disappointment and disbelief into cohesive words hasn’t really been possible (further than shaking my head at the world in incredulation), but I was at a concert the other week and the MC summed it up more perfectly than I ever could. He said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “in the next four years we’re going to see more punk rock music than we’ve ever seen - and personally I can’t wait!” The system might be totally fucked up and the potential for individual lives to become equally as fucked up is even greater (and that’s a scary thing), but out of adversity comes the words of change, songs of protest, and hopefully actions that drive social justice. Oddly enough, this year saw the return of a lot of classic punk acts and some of the best new punk tracks I’ve heard in a long time, so without further ado: here’s my top 5 albums of 2016 (in no particular order, since choosing an actual favourite is just not possible)!

Green Day: Revolution Radio

They had me at the opening riffs of “Bang Bang.” If there was ever a shoe-in for the top 5 list, this triumphant return of classic punk-rockers Green Day is it. Unlike their previous multi-concept-album release in 2012, Revolution Radio returns to their roots, giving us the rock-out-inducing riffs, social commentary-heavy lyricism, and wild antics that we expect from a band that’s going on 30 years of action and expertise in their genre. The first singles and title track are expectedly catchy, but I think that as with the off-single tracks of American Idiot the entire album is packed full of auditory and lyric gems waiting to be discovered. Do I even have to mention how timely the album is, considering American political events? I didn’t think so, but I fully expect Green Day to be riding the same anti-Republican wave back to the top of the punk-arena for the next four years. 

Against Me!: Shape Shift With Me

I’ve never been a huge fan of Against Me! over the years; they have some excellent tracks, but the albums as a whole just didn’t seem to add up. But this one stuck in my head and refused to leave, so it makes the list this year! The opening track’s chords and vocals left me initially sceptical (too repetitive and too potentially screamy-metal sound which isn’t my thing), but by the time I finished listening to the full album I was willing to give it time to grow. And grow on me it did. The looping melody from “Crash” is nothing if not aurally addictive and the lyrics from “Boyfriend” strike a perfect balance between harsh and beautiful (both effecting a surprisingly charm, coming from a harder-leaning punk band). It helps that the driving themes and concept behind the album seemed to reflect the specific atmosphere of the world when I was listening to it (late September and the Halloween season), so it’s not really surprising that it’s becoming a staple in my October Country collection. 

Tegan & Sara: Love You To Death

The latest from Tegan & Sara is a latecomer to the list, but I figured that I should throw some synth-heavy pop onto it just to mix it up. And also because it’s full of strangely beautiful melodies, deeper-than-you-think lyrics, underlaid with a definite must-dance feeling in most of the tracks! You wouldn’t think that duplicating the oddly weird (but absolutely addicting) stylings of Heartthrob would work a second time (it’s been three years, do you think we’d forget), but the girls seem to have settled into a style that works for them and I for one am happy that they’re continuing in this direction. Ironically, I’m not really fond of the first single for the album (“Boyfriend”), but the totally dance-able beats of “Stop Desire” had me hooked. The best track of the album though has to be a tie between “U-Turn” and “Faint of Heart;” catchy beats aside, the world needs more songs that celebrate love in this troubled time. And not just simple love songs (there’s only about a million of those), but these songs embody the complexity that real love is - “It's dangerous to take this path/Everyone will tell us,” but we soldier on because love has the power to change the world. 

Almost Alien: Crash Landing EP

Local bands are normally so far off my radar that they have a chance in hell of getting onto the top 5 list (I’m seriously bad at going to shows, so many bands are flatout terrible, and many of them don’t release actual albums even if they are great…), but I couldn’t not include the debut EP from Almost Alien! Sure, it’s a touch underproduced and only has a handful of tracks, but for a first effort EP it’s actually pretty damned good! Of course, the real catch is their live performances (which I’ve been able to see a handful of times this year - yay), but having an album to listen to in-between live shows means that I can relive their antics in memory. But back to the album: even though I’m quite a few years older than these young dudes (not by a lot, but enough that I feel it some days), the album is really reminiscent of being young and being wild and experiencing the hardships of life for the first time. They cover high school in the wonderfully sarcastic “Frankencharlie,” hit a bittersweet note about love and/or friendship in “I Was Wrong,” and party hard like the punk-rockers they are in the rest of the tracks. I shouldn’t even have to mention how hilarious “Hole in the Wall” is, since it always a crowd-pleaser at their shows and makes for some amusing thematic merchandise - just don’t listen to it at work (haha)! Can’t wait to see what’s next up for these guys - now where’s my signed copy Colton!

When I heard that Catfish & the Bottlemen were releasing a second album a mere year a half after the Balcony (and the time was even shorter for us Canadians who had to wait an extra four months for the Balcony to get to us) I was ecstatic. The fact that I found the album in HMV in Regina on the actual day it was released made me even happier, since I was scheduled to go to the UK a few short weeks later and wasn’t sure I could resist the temptation of buying it there and then having to deal with the annoying UK copyright laws that deny making a digital personal use copy. Skip the internal screaming upon purchasing the album to a few hours later - instant obsession, as fully expected. The singles for the album are great (the opening bassline of “7” is perfection, “Soundcheck” is sonically glorious, etc, etc), but the surprise hit for me was the ballad “Red.” For a song that lilts along and has such a chill mood, it doesn’t really try to hide the underlying anger, frustration, and abject sarcasm of the lyrics. It is absolutely one of those songs that arranged differently would make a killer punk rock anthem, but the dissonance between the lyrics and the melody makes the song even more powerful. It’s punk for logical grown-ups, if you will - the anger and rage is still there, but the delivery is highly controlled. If this is what the band can produce on only their second full-length release, it’s really no wonder that they’re selling out massive stadiums all over the world and are poised to keep doing so. So here’s to The Ride - may it never end!

**album artwork from Wikipedia and Almost Alien's BandCamp page

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Could It Be Anybody

Anytime anyone says “friends” my mind immediately pictures the guys from the Inbetweeners mocking Jay  - “Ooh friends” paired with a sarcastic thumbs up - to the point where he turns the tables on them and starts jumping on the guy’s car (screaming “friends” again) just to prove that he’s not friends with the guy. Now, this kind of behaviour has less to do with obvious friendship than overt jealousy, but it completely sums up how weird relationships with friends are. And how territorial we can sometimes get when someone tries to steal our place as bestie!

Think about it for a minute. We meet someone, and somehow we decide that we want to be friends with them. Sometimes this happens by random happenstance (you get paired up to do a project together and find out you like each other), sometimes mutual friends introduce you (Liz this is Jaimie, Jaimie this is Liz, you’re friends now), sometimes they’re holdovers from our childhood (Star Wars club 4eva), or you meet over the internet because of mutual interests (Tumblr is a weird place, full of weird and awesome people). Whatever the cause, you keep talking to each other, you keep hanging out together, and even when they’re annoying you keep coming back for more. 

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about how as we get older it becomes more difficult to make new friends, and while I won’t disagree with that, I find the fact that we self-select more and are less willing to put up with poor behaviour to be an interesting phenomenon. I don’t mean becoming more bitter and jaded (we’re already that), but that we’re more able to recognize when people are genuinely good friends, even past their inevitable foibles. 

For me, this comes down to simple behavioural patterns. 

The friend who consistently makes plans, but cancels them equally as consistently; the friend who complains about their partner to your face, and then sends you the “you look hot” text after leaving your company; the friend who ditches you when they start dating someone; the friend who only stays in contact when you live in the same place, even with the advantages of social media - those aren’t particularly good friends. Sometimes they’re downright bad friends, when the behaviour becomes systematic.

The friend who remembers your best friend’s name (and asks how it’s pronounced) even though they’ve never met; the friend who plots world domination with you, even though you’re both too lazy to follow through; the weird friend, who owns their weirdness and encourages yours; the friend who you don’t talk to often, but who makes a point of being supportive when you do; the friend who tells you all their horror stories, knowing that you won’t judge them - those are the best kind of friends. They’re the kind of friends who make you more than the person you think you are, and who will inevitably be the ones who play important roles in your life. 

Of course, there are all kinds of mitigating circumstances. People have lives and they get busy, but when we’re adults it becomes stunningly obvious who’s willing to make time (even if it’s just an emoji-filled text message) in their lives and who’s there only when it’s convenient for them. We’re no longer thrown together by circumstance, so actions speak louder than words. I’m lucky I guess, in that the silence of many of my friendships reads well - it acts as the calm before the storm, and once it breaks we become the thunder and lightening that shakes the world. We might look like manic children (or teenaged Valley Girls) to some, but I guess that's just our version of jumping on cars!

images from Tumblr; video from YouTube

Monday, 1 August 2016

In Defence of Pokémon Go

The other day I was treated to a lunch hour filled with one of my esteemed (no longer) coworkers waxing eloquent about the absurdity of the latest video game trend. Obviously she was harshing on Pokémon Go. Now, I’m not a very adept player of video game in general, but it was all I could do not to reach across the table and slap her. Not so much because she was being critical of a game which I find rather enjoyable, but because she was doing what so many others are also doing in relation to this specific game - criticizing it and its players ceaselessly and without due cause. 

This seems to be such a trend - the dismissal and criticism of Pokémon trainers - that even the 7-ring circus of the coming American election has fallen in popularity as a ridicule-filled conversation topic. But why are so many so quick to put down this specific game and its players? It’s just a game, so why are the opposition taking it as so much more than that?

Oscar & Felix made friends
with a Growlith!
So what if some avid trainers are taking the games’ mantra a bit too seriously (it’s “Gotta catch ‘em all!” for those of you not in the know)? Is that any more addicting than any one else’s collection? Be it shoes, cars, or rare bottles of Scotch, we all spend our time and money on things that others deem to be a waste. 

So what if there’s packs of teenagers (or millennial grown-ups haha) roaming the neighbourhoods? They’re actually getting outside and exploring their city - which is more than many people would do voluntarily these days. 

So what if they’re busy discussing how many 10km eggs they hatched this weekend? Is that really any different than the people who obsess about cross-fit, marathons, or how many steps their pedometer has logged? That 10km egg hatch means they got their asses off the couch and walked 10km - and that 10km leads to another 10km, and another, and another once people get into the swing of it. 

Really people, it’s just a hobby, so maybe it’s time to take off your judge-y pants and take a long hard think about why your criticizing something that makes someone else happy and isn’t causing them any harm* (*though certain people need to learn to look both ways before crossing the street before they go galavanting across the city in search of their next catch). Let people enjoy themselves - especially in this case, since Winter is coming and I doubt that many are still going to want to cruise the parks for that elusive Pikachu in -40°C. And if you can’t take my advice and shut up, then expect those of us who don’t put up with people criticizing the things we like to take you down a peg - my inner-bitch was a Master long before I became a Pokémon Trainer! 

Go Team Instinct! 
(Not that I really know what that means haha)

Some apt advice from a trash bin in the neighbourhood

Sunday, 17 July 2016


Let me tell you a story. A story of long ago, and a tale as old as time. A story of girl meets boy. 

Just kidding - though there is a girl and there is a boy, and surely do they meet. 

So. Once upon a time a girl met a boy. A boy who her best friend said was waaaaay too much of a punk for her (sorry for the Avril Lavigne reference, but it’s true high school trope). So the girl told her best friend that she would become a punk rock girl, so that the boy would notice her. 

If you haven't figured it out already, the girl in the story was me, circa age 15. Now, me at age 15 was kind of a loner and definitely a weird kid, and as with most high school kids I generally tried to fit in. The trend in my high school was very influenced by the early 2000s emergence of gangster rap, led in large part by Eminem, Swollen Members, and pot, and I will absolutely admit to liking Swollen Members and buying their album (they had some catchy beats, so sue me), but besides hearing it on the radio I never bought into this white-kid adoption of black culture. On the surface I mostly conformed to the remnants of 90s pop culture - it may not have been popular with the "cool kids," but it was socially acceptable within my small group of friends. Little did they know that the alternative lifestyle was already deeply embedded into my soul. 

I'll never forget seeing the music video for Green Day's “Basket Case” for the first time; I laughed so hard I cried at their shenanigans, and promptly went in search of their music at our local library. I couldn't have been more than 11 or 12 at the time, so I can't believe that my parents let me come home with (and subsequently make a bootleg copy of) Nimrod, what with songs like “Hitchin’ a Ride” and lyrics like “Nice guys finish last… your sympathy will get you left behind”… I subsequently spent the next few years covertly watching Much Music's Friday punk show, searching out obscure metal albums like Closet Monster on trips to Vancouver’s Virgin Records store, and being immediately obsessed with Yellowcard's breakout single “Ocean Avenue” when it hit the Internet radio airwaves. 

So it really wasn’t much of an intellectual leap for me to want to translate what I had been listening to and feeling inside to my external appearance. The cute punk rock guy in my class was just a handy excuse that my boy-obsessed best friend could get behind (she of the ever-changing personality  to suit the needs of whatever current boy she was crushing on). So a plan was hatched, band shirts & a pink plaid skirt were bought, and I debuted the new look at the first school dance of the year. 

The whole stunt was totally lame in retrospect (except for the shock factor, since that never ceases to amuse), since I didn’t get the guy, but the change in out style was more symbolic for the shy high school girl I was. From that point on I felt like I had more of a voice, a voice which could be one of dissent within a very controlled social situation and one which gave me my own individuality outside of the herd mentality that dominates any group of friends when we’re young. 

My dressing like a rebel phase lasted for the majority of high school, and since then it’s come and gone depending on my mood. The look is one of my favourites, but I’m not really the kind of person who can be defined by a single “style” (which is awesome for expanding my wardrobe exponentially, but terrible when it comes to choosing how to dress) - which over time has led a lot of people questioning exactly who I am. The smart ones figure out that I’m not definable, but the rest of the population that only perceives a narrow part of my personality throws out the accusation “fake” faster than you can say “punk’s not dead.” 

Which of course, brings me to the thesis of this entire expose: it’s not how you look, how you sound, or a single instance in your life that defines you. Like the punk movement itself, we are each a swirling vortex of contradictions that seeks to find freedom among the banal and incredible experiences that are life. We are the riptide and the tidepools, eyes lined in sooty black with a welcoming grin on our lips, being swayed by people that surround us as we stand still as a stone and alone in the crowd. We can be defined for a second, but then we change to suit ourselves in the next moment and become a new being entirely. Through rebellion we find the freedom and understanding to make our own way in this world.

So to all the haters (and that’s what you’ve always been) - bring it on. I know who I am, and while I may not wear the uniform of your suicide girls during my 9 to 5, I’m still a punk rock girl deep in my soul. And a million other selves as well. 

*image from Tumblr

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Summer of Wonder

Things I really need to get back on track with this year: blogging, writing in general, and being channelling my creativity. It’s just over halfway through the year, and I’ve blogged a  grand total of twice. Which is poor form considering that I used to blog 3 times a week (or every single day for a while). 

It’s become rather clear to me that to a certain extent that I’ve lost my writer’s voice. I never lost my creative eye, since I continue to enjoy the art of fashion in everyday life and I’ve been successfully channeling some photographic output into my Instagram feed, but somehow putting that all together with an exposé into a cohesive blogpost has fallen by the wayside. Some days I chalk up this lack of output to the fact that I have a full time job (that mentally exhausts me) or that I find the prairie landscape to be an uninspiring locale (I’m too tied up in the variety of being a BC girl at heart to really understand the monotony of the flatlands). But these are just excuses to a certain extent, since for a while I pulled through all these hold-ups and created some wonderful things and wrote some great pieces. 

As those of you who follow me on other social media outlets (or know me in real life) are well aware of, I recently spent a few weeks on my first trip across the Atlantic to the beautiful South of France and the ever-interesting streets of London. I found myself revelling in the new-ness of the entire situation, even when many of the places were familiar through my reading or I was exhausted from not enough sleep.

What they say about travel changing you is absolutely true. Not so much during (I was still awake at 6am and ready for bed by 9pm - old habits die hard or not at all), but when I returned to reality I found myself very much wanting. Wanting more from the life that I had settled into. Wanting more from the people around me. Wanting more from myself. And ultimately realizing that it’s time to find a new voice. 

I may not have achieved this goal yet, but what is abundantly clear is that I won’t find it by letting the status quo lie. So here’s to the beginning, based on the present & the past, the good & the bad, and on an end that I can’t even see yet. 

Let the new wild rumpus begin!

** image of Shakespeare's Globe interior, Southbank, London, UK; 2016-06-12

Sunday, 10 April 2016

On Turning 28

27 was an incredibly crazy year to say the least. A lot stayed the same, but there was so much kinetic movement centring around work that it felt like nothing ever really settled down. And just when I thought it did, another piece of kindling was added to the fire. Thankfully the dragon is a creature born of fire, so instead of burning up I channeled my inner wingéd beast and rose above the flames. Goddess help the poor knights who get in my way. 

It is abso-fucking-lutely possible to become more fabulous every year. 
Puppies make everything better (even if they can’t actually solve your problems for you).
Taking notice of those fleeting moments when the light hits the trees just right. 

Social anxiety is bullshit, but you learn to work through it if you ever want to get takeout.
When the guy you’re dating sums up his perfect vacation as “Salt Lake City, heavy-biking through the desert, and eating spaghetti and meatballs at the Old Spaghetti Factory” and your perfect vacation is a variation on “Paris, leisurely tours of the Louvre, and eating copious amounts of pain au chocolate at street side cafés” it’s never going to work out. 
My high-school punk-rock/bitch/do-what-I-want attitude wasn’t just a phase. 
Being the “bigger person” is really easy when you’re always right. (Letting others destroy themselves with their neuroses is also equally pleasurable to actively ruining people). 
People are part of your life (or not) for a reason. #squadgoals

I still really don’t like when people tell me what to do, and having someone treat me like I don’t have my own opinions, goals, and capabilities is the quickest way to make me cut you out of my life. i may still follow Peter Pan’s philosophy of refusing to grow up, but I am a goddamn independent adult and I expect to be treated like one. 
I didn’t believe him before, but Andy Warhol totally had it right when he said “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.” Though I still haven’t quite learned patience in all things…
All you need is cheese. #smokedgouda
Mold on cheese is negotiable, but not having chocolate in the house is unacceptable.
It’s all about the pillow count. 
I may be a girly girl, and I refuse be a basic bitch, but an explosion of pink flowers is what Spring is all about. 

You can still go home, but it won’t be quite the same, since everyone who counts has left town (including you).
Happiness is a cold Beck’s on a Friday night, a caramel frappucino on a hot Saturday afternoon, and a fresh batch of cookies on a Sunday afternoon. 

Guilt is still a useless emotion.