A Very Short List…

Graphic of a digital sound on black bottom… of my favourite albums of 2014, in no particular order.

It’s a short list because I realise I have been lazy on the discovery side of things. I shall try to do better in 2015. Aaaaannnnddd… GO!

InterpolEl Pintor

Interpol is back with their solid hooks and sometimes cryptic lyrics. A solid album from beginning to end, but is well worth the price for “My Desire” alone. Also, if I’m being completely honest, 2014 is strongly linked to Interpol for me because of the huge Buffalo snowstorm of November, which left the band stranded on the side of the road, trapped in a tour bus for days, and forced them to cancel several shows including a stop in Montréal, my city. Looking forward to catching them sometime in 2015.

Manic Street PreachersFuturology

As my Manics fangirl ways are known wide and far, what a shock to find Futurology on my list, uh? But even a fangirl will admit that some albums are stronger than others, and Futurology is a freaking heavy weight. Influenced by the band’s relentless touring of Europe, it’s kind of optimistic (who knew the Manics could do that?), especially in the aftermath of 2013’s Rewind The Film–an ode to nostalgia from a middle-age standpoint.

CommonNobody’s Smiling

I’m not what you would call a hardcore hip-hop fan, but I do have a few favourites, among which is Common. Common grabbed me back in the 90’s with Like Water for Chocolate, and he hasn’t let me down ever since (though Be was a little on the short side, Common: what was up with that?). Nobody’s Smiling delivers classic hip-hop with nice funk and r&b influences. It’s delicious.

Damien RiceMy Favourite Faded Fantasy

The wait has been loooooong; many fans wondered if it was actually it for Mr. Rice. The infamous and distressing breakup with his fellow musician and muse Lisa Hannigan seemed to have kill the spark. Not surprisingly, My Favourite Faded Fantasy indeed feels like a love letter to a former lover. It’s beautiful, sad, melancholic, but also tinged with hope. You may not be hooked straight away, but give it a few listens.

So. Because my list is very short, I hope some of you can recommend your favs and your discoveries of the past year. I am all ears!

Dear (?) December…

hello-decemberWell, hello there, December. You’re back, are you? How are you? It seems I’ve just seen you not so long ago, but hey! You’re here now so I’ll make an effort; I’ll try not to be rude. I’ve said hello, haven’t I? I’ve asked how you are. What more do you want from me?

It’s not your fault, really. You didn’t choose to have that Holiday associated with you. Hell, by all accounts, that dude was probably not even born during you, and yet, you have to shoulder that burden. So I shouldn’t be so cross with you. I should feel sorry for you. To be honest, some people I like very much have their birthdays associated with you (Hey Rob! Hey Amy!) but unfortunately, that holiday (I’ve stopped using the Capital on purpose now. I’m getting rude. I wish I could apologize.) screws it all up.

The trouble is I like that holiday… in theory. I love getting a tree and decorating it. I love to have an excuse to bake (and eat) tons of cookies. I love watching cheesy movies. I love having a little bit of a break in the middle of the week*. It’s not something that happens frequently in my freelancer world, so it’s lovely.

But I hate, hate, hate the obligations. Spending time with people I don’t see during the rest of the year and pretending that I have something to say to them (I’ve covered the topic of social anxiety in this blog earlier, December, if you want to browse down and read about that). December: on that fucking holiday (shit, I’m getting nasty now), I wish that I could just bake cookies, prepare myself a nice hot cocoa, sit next to my beautiful tree and watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy by myself. Just me, cookies, hot cocoa, tree and Aragorn.

But I dream…

*Five times out of seven, not a bad average.

Cheers to…

kindness

I was about to write on women and violence against women and how difficult it is to speak up about the mundane abuse suffered by many women on a daily basis, but others have done so already, in light of the Ghomeshi debacle, and have done it much better than I could.

I was about to write about body image and how women are often–most unfortunately–the first to judge other women on their appearance, the clothes they wear, the shape of their bodies, but that’s also been done to death, and I’m not sure how to get us to be nicer to one another. I am guilty of preconceived judgement myself, though I try to analyze my initial reactions as much as I can. Pobody’s Nerfect. (Now I’ll have the Wolf Parade’s song in my head all day. Meh, could be worse.)

So what should I write about then? Maybe about how kindness is underrated? Maybe about how we should all celebrate simple acts of goodness when we see them? That’d be a start. Learn to say “thanks” to the stranger who holds the door for us, to the driver who gives us the right of way even if the right of way was his/hers, to the friend who calls just to see how we are.

Maybe.

So… Cheers to kindness?

There are no blues that cannot be cured by Keeping Up Appearances

hyacinth-bucket-in-keeping-up-appearances

Monday rears its head again.

Poor Monday: You get such a bad rap, except when it’s a Holiday Monday, then everybody suddenly loves you… cautiously. Because a Holiday Monday is like a Sunday, and Sunday is half good (the morning), half preparation for Monday. But I digress.

When I have a case of the blues (Monday’s or otherwise), a sure cure is to pop in a few episodes of Keeping Up Appearances. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bou-kay) is my spirit animal. I wish I had half the energy she devotes to social climbing and proving she is above watching Channel 4 like some common middle-class bore for my own goals in life. I wish I was as oblivious to critics as she is. And, let’s be honest, I wish I had such a devoted and obedient husband—to drive me around, of course!

Hyacinth, you are a star!

Manics, Manics – Strike 2

There are musicians and bands I have loved forever (or so it seems) and whose career I keep following even if the quality is not always there.
Depeche Mode is on that list—when was the last time that DM put out a solid album, from beginning to end? My guess is Songs of Faith and Devotion. 1993. Tori Amos is also on that list. I love Tori, but someone, somewhere needs to tell her to wrap it up and leave the fillers out.
Yet, I buy everything they produce. I just do. Good or bad, there are a part of me.

There are musicians and bands who used to have me obsessed (I’m looking at you, Radiohead) and lost me completely along the way. I know In Rainbows is supposed to be brilliant, but man did it leave me completely cold. Oh, I tried. I tried so damn hard. Remembering how I kept track of all of the band’s live interviews and new videos. I have 2 VHS tapes filled with those. Excerpts cut just at the right moment. That takes skills, man. Not to mention the pile of b-sides and that Japanese Itch album that cost a bundle, especially on my minimum wage salary at the time. Now, ask me what Radiohead is up to, I don’t have the faintest idea. It’s almost a shameful secret, but there it is.

There are musicians and bands with whom I have had a brief flirtation: Colin James, James, Talib Kweli, and many more—too many to name, really. It lasted a short while, it was intense, and it left me with lovely memories. I wish them well, but I’ve moved on. Sorry. No hard feelings.

And then, there are the musicians and bands I will love eternally, not because I’ve loved them for so long, but because they still deliver. Every time. The Roots, DJ Shadow, Conor Oberst, Mike Patton (in all the projects I can follow—solo, Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, Tomahawk—I am convinced that man does not sleep), and the Manics.

The Manics deliver every time. Even on weaker albums (Lifeblood will come to mind if you’re a fan), there are still enough gems to leave you satisfied. There are so many things to love about the Manics. The fantastic lyrics. Case in point:

I know I believe in nothing, but it is my nothing.

Or:

Don’t be evil, just be corporate

And fool the world with your own importance

Portray your tedium for the world to see

Your own movie star and it’s for free

I have yet to study Futurology‘s lyrics in full, but already spotted these killer lines:

Look up to the skies—avoid the casual litter
Running from the pitiful nihilism
The misguided tweets, the sad facebooking
Cheapness surrounds me, but I’m not looking

The catchy hooks—I love that the Manics just go with the inspiration. Sometimes, it’s pure rock and roll, other times, it’s unapologetic pop. The Manics are made up of nostalgia and longing, but always fascinated/scared by the future.

Kind of like me.

On friendship (or a broken one in particular)

ImageI think I am a good friend. I mean, I never took one of those online or girly/trashy magazine tests to find out. I never carried out a survey amongst my friends (hmm…). I never flat out asked around, “Hey! So am I a good friend or what?” But I have kept friends for many years, over great and small distances. I keep in touch. I know what’s going on with my friends. I share their happiness when something good happens to them, and I feel their pain or sorrow when life is not treating them so kindly. And I care. Genuinely. When a friend is not doing well, I worry. I think about them. I even seek advice from other friends to figure out the best way to help.

That being said, I still don’t know what to do when a friendship is broken. A broken friendship is not the same as a friendship that has waned. Friendships wane for all sorts of reasons, but usually, there are no hurt feelings, no anger or resentment. You actually keep fond memories and wish them well. Life just has a way of making some people slip in and out of your path.

A broken friendship happens for a bad reason. There is hurt. Some anger. Some sadness. A mix of other emotions.

Of course, arguments are a part of any relationships. We cannot always agree on everything. When a friend sheds a very different light on a situation, it might be hard to swallow on the spot, but if the comments were made in the true spirit of friendship, you will think back on it later on and see some truth to it, even if it might hurt a little to stomach it.

I will admit a big flaw of mine, I am not very good at confronting people. I have trouble putting my emotions into words. With most of my friends, I can do it, but it takes time (on my part) and patience and understanding (on theirs). So when I am faced with a broken frienship (as is the case now, as you probably already guessed) with someone who is very stubborn and not prone to listen to others, I am at a loss as to what I should do. With most of my friends, after a little bit of time, I can find the courage to tell them my feelings were hurt because I know they will take the time to listen before they jump in and explain their point of view. With this particular friend, I cannot seem to find that courage because I’m not sure that person would listen to me.

And so now I am left with the feeling that perhaps this person was never a true friend at all.

Music, music or how Conor Oberst captured my heart this week

ImageDo you ever get lost in a new album? I do. It doesn’t happen all the time. It’s not an automatic reaction to a new record.

There’s always excitement. Always. I get giddy when a new album from a fave band or artist of mine is about to get released. It doesn’t matter if the last album was excellent, good, lukewarm or passable: I get excited. Depeche Mode hasn’t put out a solid album in years, and yet I welcome a new release with high anticipation, even if I know very well that there’s a good chance the record won’t deliver the goods. At least, there’s usually one or two gems. Delta Machine has “Soft Touch/Raw Nerve”. It makes the album worthwhile. Plus… well, it’s Depeche Mode. I’ve been a fan since the age of ten. Some traditions, you just can’t shake off.

This past Monday, the lovely folks at NPR streamed Conor Oberst’s new album, Upside Down Mountain, in full. This past Monday, I hit play and I got lost. I played it over and over and over (hang on: there’s five more of those to come) and over and over and over and over and over. Eight times. I only stopped when the clock read 7:30 pm. There was a Habs game on. #BecauseItsTheCup

I don’t remember what else I’ve done on Monday. There was some work, some emails. I must’ve eaten at one point. I don’t know. It’s a blur. It was just me and Upside Down Mountain (X 8). Now, well now, I cannot wait to hold the physical album in my hands.

The unavoidable post about work

ImageI think I have mentioned this before (let’s see if you were paying attention…): I am a translator. Worse still, I am a freelance translator. The word “freelance” includes the word “free”, and while the association of freedom and freelance is not entirely untrue, it is also not completely true. Yes, I am free to choose for whom I work, when I work, how much I work. However, as you might have learned from other freelancers, I am also free to wait for contracts, to accept whatever comes in because I have these pesky things called bills to pay and because you never know when the flow of projects will slow down, and to work long hours and weekends because, often enough, all the contracts come tumbling it at once.

Now, don’t think that freelancing is seldom great. All in all, I have found there are more checks in the pro column than in the cons. I am a solitary person—i.e. a polite word for hermit—and I enjoy doing my work alone while listening to the music I like or with a Frasier or Keeping Up Appearances marathon in the background. I enjoy having the liberty to take a break in the middle of the day to go out for a run or a bike ride or hit the pool where my mantra repeats over and over in my head: “I am Michael Phelps” (I am not).

What I despise—and the word is not an exaggeration here—is the cold calling aspect. After more than five years of freelancing, most of the time, work flows in on its own, which is great. But every once in a while, you are forced to put yourself out there and send out your resume to companies you admire (best case scenario), like (comfortable scenario) or would not hate working for (bingo). And then, you wait. You try not to hyperventilate when you see the bills pile up on the corner of your desk. You try not to tell yourself “I suck” (yeah, I never succeed at avoiding that). You try to stay positive. And you end up more exhausted than if you had worked a 80-hour week while thinking you could swim faster than Michael Phelps.

Portray your tedium for the world to see*

ImageWe live in an interesting age, don’t we? Narcissism seems rampant. But is it, really? Did technology and the advent of social media bring about this new age of narcissism or has it simply helped to express something that was already there; that has been there forever? One needs only to read about some of the historical figures of the past to realise that narcissism is nothing new.

I’ve just recently finished reading a history book; The Tudors by G.J. Meyer. As I was reading about Henry VIII, his multiple wives and his endless battle against Rome and Christianity—a battle purely fueled by lust and ego—I could not help but wonder at what kind of havok Henry VIII would wreck with a Twitter account. But hey! At least, good old Henry would have something interesting to say.

I cannot judge my fellow social media users and abusers as I am one of them. You may find me on Twitter, posting frivolous comments about TV shows or raging against the latest dumb move from the government. You’ll also catch me on Facebook, posting what I think are hilarious comments mostly followed by the sound of crickets. Heck, I even post here on this blog (though I am the only one reading it).

The one thing that worries me about social media is not its narcissistic nature. Those posts are easy enough to ignore. We can read between the lines or Facebook statuses and see the loneliness. No, what worries me is the rise of cynism. There is this growing sense of doubting everything and everyone. It’s hip to be bored. It’s cool to think everyone is out to get you. I can be cynical like nobody’s business, but I don’t think it’s awesome to believe no-one is capable of good; that we are not capable of good. Getting entrenched in cynism means to stop trying. And giving up is not cool.


* Manic Street Preachers – Don’t Be Evil (album: Postcards from a Young Man)

Johnny and me

ImageI have mad love for Johnny Cash. There was always a part of me that appreciated country music but wouldn’t admit it out loud, not even to myself. But if we’re all honest, we’ll concede that it doesn’t get much better than Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler.

There’s something raw and real about country music. When I listen to Johnny Cash, I can almost smell the desert, the whisky and the stale cigars. I can imagine a world where your horse is your best friend and you sleep with one eye open and a rifle tucked under your pillow. Just in case. A world where you “shot a man in Reno just to watch him die”. There is no better companion than Johnny Cash for a road trip. It’ll make you feel like you’re heading for an exciting destination instead of just visiting mom.

Johnny Cash sang a lot about faith and redemption, and though I do not share his faith, I appreciate the idea of redemption. There’s a strong sense of humility in his songs, especially the ones recorded towards the end of his career, and that theme resonates with me. I suspect that when confronted with the end, Mr. Cash realized that it doesn’t matter what you believe; what matters is how you act.