Music

Hurdles

The last month has been an absolute whirlwind. More press articles than I could’ve ever imagined being featured in. (I was in my home town’s local newspaper once, as a five-year-old, for donating a giant chocolate Easter egg to the children’s hospital, and that probably would’ve done me for life.) Being interviewed on national radio and having my song played on it, too. Letters, words of encouragement, people spilling their secrets to me and finding inspiration in some lyrics I wrote. New friends. TV interviews. Coming top by popular vote in Manitoba. And everyone I know pulling together in a huge pile of love to help me get there. I made a quick little video to sum up the experience as semi-finals were drawing to a close in which you can see the highs, lows, cries, love, where the song began, and what it became – thanks to an incredible group of kind, generous, and impossibly talented friends/musicians who’ve helped this journey become something magical.

About twenty minutes ago, I found out I didn’t make the final cut.

It was one of those moments where you feel a little bit like a science beaker into which somebody’s just poured two dozen different chemicals, and had a naturally surprising reaction. Except instead of chemicals, they’re emotions, and they’re all tangled up together fighting for the chance to be the sole one that can describe what I’m feeling, and instead of an explosion, there’s an implosion, an internalizing of all the feelings I’ve felt during the course of this contest. And that’s what it is – a contest. A stop on my journey – not the destination. But I can’t help but feel above all, that I’ve let everybody down.

#Searchlight

I submitted this song to CBC’s national contest with no hopes or expectations of actually getting in. I’m new to making proper music, I’m new to being in the public eye, and I’m new to even seeing myself as a musician. I give all credit to anything on my tracks to the wonderful souls that see a seed of potential and help transform them into real things, and for that I am, and always will be, eternally grateful. I still have an EP coming out next month, I’m still writing, and I’m still hopefully releasing a full album in the new year.

But right now – especially after kind and unexpected blogs like this, or this morning’s Metro article telling the entire city that I’ve “fought” my anxiety to “achieve” my dream – old thought patterns are emerging again, telling me that I haven’t achieved anything. That I haven’t fought anything – the fact that I’m sitting here after seeing the news, questioning why I didn’t make it and inventing reasons that surely went through the judges’ heads in deciding (“We can’t put her through because she used to struggle with bad anxiety – she’s too much of a risk.”) – means, clearly, to my old self, I haven’t overcome anything. I don’t mean that. I know full well that the person I was a couple of years ago would never have had the guts to put such a personal creation out there into the world because I wouldn’t have had skin thick enough to handle the potential criticism.

Now I am able to see that I have achieved something. I allowed myself to be proud of doing something I’d always dreamed of. I set out with a goal of writing and recording some songs. I’m still doing that, with the added bonus of having had a month of exposure, of having reached people who’ve told me I’ve inspired them, and of having my first song not only on national radio but on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify, just like a real artist! I’ve connected with other contenders in the competition, those of whom made it to the final 25 I wish nothing but the best for, and even to those who fell at the last hurdle – we all made it this far. We made something and put it out into the world that wasn’t there before, and people took notice. History is doused with dreamers and doers whose work never saw the light of day, who never stopped anyway. I never set out to be a star. I set out to tell stories through songs that might bring people together or make them think, and I have every intention of fulfilling that goal.

Triad video

This week, we began filming the second music video. The rest of this month will be filled with adding the finishing touches to the EP, and as of about a month from now, I’ll be able to share the rest of these songs with the world. And gosh darn it, I’m still going to go to my niece’s (well, almost-first cousin once removed, but who needs extra words when it’s me writing) Show and Tell at her school in a couple of weeks. “You’re a star in her eyes,” my cousin told me. “I’m going to face this fear because of you,” said others. And that’s more than I ever could have wished for.

p5

No words could ever describe the gratitude I feel for everyone who took the time to listen, to vote, to share their stories, to share mine, and to support me along this journey. I don’t take a second of it for granted, and I feel so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such kind and generous souls. I’m free tonight, if anyone wants to grab a glass of wine, haha, but for the rest of the day, I’m going to remind myself of the message I tried to send to the world. This contest was temporary, and life goes on! And to the faint echoes of anxiety I’m feeling right now: When you speak, can you hear yourself? The hourglass is upside down. Will you remember any of this, when life is on its way out? I’ll remember the kindness, the journey, and the amazing people I’ve shared it with. Not falling at the last hurdle. Because the thing with a hurdle race is that you can pick yourself up, and just shoot for the next one.

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When you wish upon a star…

… or perhaps the Moon, magical things can start to happen.

It’s been a busy few months since I last wrote, but busy with all sorts of adventures! J. and I are well into our first six months of home ownership, and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster – every day I am in awe that I find myself in the most beautiful home I could’ve wished to spend my days in, but along with snow melting, we’re finding some interesting things to deal with, too. Like the fact that the previous owners poured a bunch of concrete over the sewage output, leaving absolutely no access to it (and definitely no X marking the spot under our lovely new carpets), so after several days of no water, jack hammering up the basement, striking gold (and by gold I mean what looked like miles of tangled dead animals), and covering it all up again… we can now wash our pants and flush toilets again. Huzzah!

Photography over winter has been slower, but this month wedding season kicks off again, and I’m also dying to show you some images I did for a big national commercial campaign! I’ve been trying all sorts of different shoots lately, learning lighting, and doing fun projects involving hopping into baths full of milk with my subjects – you can see some of my new images on my Facebook page.

But the BIG news lately has all been about music. I think last time I wrote, I was trying to raise funds to produce a little EP of a  handful of songs I’d written over the last couple of years. As of now, the EP is almost fully DONE, I was featured in a local paper, I have a music video, got local radio play, national play the very next day, and am somehow in CBC Music’s Searchlight contest 2016!

I need to take a step back for a moment. I need to reflect on the whirlwind that has been not just the last six months, but the last week. I need to let this sink in. Because when you wish upon a star, sometimes your dreams really do come true.

Exciting times! Had my first press interview for a local paper recently, had my first local radio airplay (reaction of which was filmed and kind of went all over Twitter…), and ended up being interviewed on CBC Radio the very next day. We finally recorded the video for Polaris, which was originally scheduled to be launched into the world a little closer to EP release this June, but it seems a chance submission I took into a national music contest liked it enough to include me in the first round, so it’s now live!

Originally we’d planned a wonderfully wintery outdoor shoot, but Winnipeg (being Winnipeg) had other plans – recording day arrived, and so did a giant weather warning of extreme cold and imminent blizzard-like conditions. (I can just about handle my minus tens, but minus forties in a dress… perhaps not so much!) Nobody wanted to give up, so we headed to Dave’s trusty all-purpose studio, where I stood in front of a white background, swayed around a bit… and lo and behold, we have a video!

I wanted to share a little about this song, too – my father recently asked me to sing at his upcoming wedding, and asked if the track would be appropriate. I couldn’t think of anything less appropriate for a wedding – though it may sound a bit power-ballad-y, the sentiment of the song isn’t about love at all. In the lead-up to the EP release (and during the course of this competition), I’ll be breaking down the lyrics to some of these tracks, and hope you enjoy learning a bit about the stories behind them.

I have the lyrics up to all the songs here, but if you wanted to read along, Polaris is:

The north star isn’t real unless aligning with my feelings
And life sometimes bleeds into the dreamworld

There’s thieves in my head and there’s a fire in my chest
And a madness that rides along the star-wind

When you speak, can you hear yourself?
The hourglass is upside down
Will you remember any of this when life is on its way out?

The compass is a lie, leaves you washed up in turbulent tides
And what’s true is fighting for survival

But there are whispers instead, a rush of light soaring straight to your head
And you’ll find this is where the real adventure lies

When you speak, can you hear yourself?
The hourglass is upside down
Will you remember any of this when life is on its way out?

You know it’s easy to fall into the mould
They’ll think you crazy, but you’ve got a hand to hold
And a wild heart, and a head that’s full of dreams
Don’t coast through when your spirit’s meant to gleam

When you speak, can you hear yourself?
The hourglass is upside down
Will you remember any of this when life is on its way out?

The north star isn’t real unless aligning with my feelings
And life sometimes bleeds into the dreamworld

In all honesty, this song was written after I quit a job I’d been at for a grand total of five months. It took a number of hoops to jump through in order to land the position, and I was so excited to begin… but things aren’t always as they seem behind closed doors. An organization that appeared to exist with a vibrant culture of enthusiasm and creativity was filled on the inside with reports, numbers, and a group of people that I just didn’t fit in with. In all my adult life, I’ve never really had trouble fitting in – when I visited Vancouver for the first time, I was quickly dubbed “professional friend maker” – so working in an environment where I felt deliberately excluded was… difficult. I don’t know the reason for it. Although I have a sneaking suspicion it has something to do with MBTI.

When I was hired, I took one of my favourite things – a psychometric test! I really believed that a company that would even invest in something like this as part of an onboarding process was one I’d really do well in – but alas. I received my scores, and quickly got involved in making a “corporate culture book” in which I got to interview all members of staff, get to know them personally, and include their results as well as a write-up on what they did, what they were passionate about, and who they were as people. I love stuff like this. When I’d finished, we had an all-staff meeting to discuss our results. Staff were broken down into their respective results groups – leaders, strategists, planners, competitors, etc. I was the only member of staff who scored empathy. This should have been my first clue. #INFJproblems

Four months into the job, my grandmother passed away. It had been a gradual decline, one that was made worse by living halfway across the world. I was in the middle of an evening assignment for work taking part in a tour I had to do a writeup on when I saw my phone ringing. I knew – I don’t know how I knew, but I knew this was going to be the call with the dreaded news. I had no choice – I couldn’t answer it, but as soon as the tour was over, I called back. My world froze. She’d gone. My beautiful nan who’d pretty much raised me as a child, who taught me all sorts of life lessons, who made me feel like her pride and joy right up until the end – had passed. I spent the evening with my father, holding each other, crying, telling stories… and informed my work that I might be off for a couple of days.

I returned to two things later that week: 1. Another member of staff had also had a family member pass in the same week. There were e-mails upon e-mails in my inbox talking of gathering donations, delivering flowers, signing cards for her. I felt awful someone else was going through similar pain. But I also felt… perhaps wrongly so, but a slight tinge of anger. There was nothing acknowledging my grandma’s passing. There was nobody asking if I was doing okay; quite the opposite – people were upset I was now two days behind on work and quickly put me straight back to it. My CEO was out of the country at this point on work business, but e-mailed to see how I was doing. I appreciated this immensely – despite being thousands of miles away, she took the time to make sure I was holding up okay. I let her know what had happened upon my return and that I was a little upset about it on top of the grief – it’s not like I’d wanted any recognition or bouquets or anything, but for not a single soul to ask if I was okay, while someone else was showered in sympathy? It stung a little bit. Forgive me if that makes me sound like a terrible person.

Long story short, CEO calls supervisor. Supervisor becomes irate that I spoke to someone above her, calls me into the office for a highly unpleasant and insulting conversation, where I decided that I could not work in a place that had so little heart, so little regard for human beings as humans and not just worker bees. I left that day, and amidst job searching, decided to write this song.

Verse one:

The north star isn’t real unless aligning with my feelings
And life sometimes bleeds into the dreamworld
There’s thieves in my head and there’s a fire in my chest
And a madness that rides along the star-wind

I’ve always been sensitive. A favourite quote by one of my favourite writers (an action figure of whom sits atop my desk): “Beauty, of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.” Another: “She said she usually cried at least once each day, not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful and life was so short.” This is what got me about that situation. Our life on this earth is finite. My first verse reflects the north star, Polaris, as the direction to aim for in a journey – and that if it doesn’t feel right, if you have a gut feeling that’s slightly off, then it’s not the right path for your journey. Life bleeding into the dreamworld was the frustration I felt at my everyday invading my dreams, thieves in my head telling me it’s simply what I had to do to make a living, stealing my time away from what felt right – from the fire in my chest – and thinking that this mode of living is like some form of madness. We are born into the world where creativity is encouraged, and as we become adults it is squashed out of us in favour of the mundane, bill-paying things. It’s sad, and it’s mad.

Chorus:

When you speak, can you hear yourself?
The hourglass is upside down
Will you remember any of this when life is on its way out?

This is what I want people to remember. I want people to remember that current occupations, chores, reports, fallings out – should never eclipse what’s most important in life. I’ve always tried my best to live life with the knowledge of life’s ephemerality in the back of my mind – not to be morbid, always thinking that one day the hourglass will run out – but to always remember that each waking moment is a gift, and at the end of this life, it’s not the things we place such weight on in the immediate moment that we’ll look back on and think of time well spent. It’s the moments we made a difference, the moments we explored the world, or the moments we were there for a friend, the moments others were there for us, the moments we loved and the moments we saw each other as real human beings. It’s easy to get caught up in the temporary, but it must never eclipse the eternal. The next verse echoes this theme, into another (more punchy) chorus.

The compass is a lie, leaves you washed up in turbulent tides
And what’s true is fighting for survival
But there are whispers instead, a rush of light soaring straight to your head
And you’ll find this is where the real adventure lies

The bridge talks about my desire to always be there for others, and harkens back to my anxiety-ridden days when all I wished for was to be able to unleash everything on the inside out into the world, but feeling so trapped – like nobody would notice, that I wouldn’t be good enough, that I was in the grips of fear and I had no way out of my shackles. I desperately want people to know that if they have a dream, they can make it happen – and I’ll be there cheerleading the whole way.

You know it’s easy to fall into the mould
They’ll think you crazy, but you’ve got a hand to hold
And a wild heart, and a head that’s full of dreams
Don’t coast through when your spirit’s meant to gleam

That last line is a bit of a dedication to a friend of mine back in the UK, who told me once when I first joined a singing class, that we don’t have these burning passions and dreams inside us for no reason – if we feel so strongly about creating or doing something meaningful with our lives, then we have every obligation to do so. We don’t feel this way for nothing. We feel this way because this is what we are supposed to be doing.

The response to this song, even though it hasn’t got too far out of the harbour yet, has been overwhelming. I received a message last night from someone in another part of the country I’ve never met that moved me to tears. She’d experienced a horrible loss of a spouse, and had been feeling terrified of living alone in the aftermath, also dealing with all sorts of fear and anxiety. She heard my radio interview where I opened up about the journey from there to here (an ongoing journey I’m sure will never be complete, but one that will be full of growth and adventure!), and reached out to me.

“We are the only ones holding ourselves back, I am proof of that and so are you. You might be able to sing and create while living in sheltered security, but your song is much more beautiful if you open the door and sing it as a free bird, not a caged one. K. I’m going to do it. Your lyrics in Polaris, as I am interpreting them for my circumstance, has given me the kick I needed… Thank you for inspiring me. Since his passing I’ve been asking myself “what now?”, what is expected of a grown woman with adult children, right? What do I do with my time left? Where do I go from here? My answer is to love, it’s as simple as that and to be there for my children, and to experience joy, but I’m a simple person without a bucket list as every day is a gift, but I feel that now is my time to create. Since I was a young child I always wanted to be a famous writer and I’ve been writing since then, literally. Thank you. Take care. And good luck. I have a sticky note in my daybook that reads “vote for Emily” so I don’t forget.”

I couldn’t be more humbled, or more honoured. This contest isn’t about winning. This is just a song I hope reaches and touches people, that asks them what’s important in life, and lets them know they’re not alone.

That said, if you DO want to take two seconds and vote for me, just click here. 🙂 Soon I’ll share a clip of when I first wrote it in its rawest form, with just little old me in my living room and a cheap ukulele!

 

5 Songs That Changed My Life

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 10.08.41 AMToday the lovely Melissa over at Press Play is featuring this post as part of her 5 Songs That Changed My Life feature. Melissa’s life is FULL of music, and she shares the same passion for it I do, except she gets to work in the industry and do things like meeting Ed Sheeran too!!

I had to sign up for it the moment I heard about it. Nothing has had a big an impact on my life as music. I’m a pretty emotional person, and it’s something I’ve struggled with most of my life – I always liked to imagine a sort of emotional spectrum, and where I think it’d probably be easier to lay close to the centre, in the neutral zone far away from the depths of feeling (because things can get pretty dark sometimes), I don’t think I ever could, because you can’t have the soul-igniting, heart-exploding highs in life without also experiencing the lows. And I wouldn’t trade those for anything. I am going somewhere with this – and it really does tie in to music. For every experience I’ve ever had in life, every feeling, every hope or dream or period of exhilaration or loneliness… for every emotion this heart is capable of feeling, there’s a song that can speak straight to it. Music isn’t just the language of love, it’s the language that penetrates your very soul if you let it, and I cannot convey the amount of enthusiasm and respect I have for those who’ve written words and put them to music in such a way that it’s like a direct channel to my soul. (I swear I’m not this weird in real life… just incredibly passionate about the magic of what us humans can create and express in this form of art.)

1. Frank Turner – If Ever I Stray

It was really hard for me to narrow it down to just one Frank Turner song, because he’s one of those modern day songwriters that just gets it. Just gets exactly how it is, exactly what’s wrong with the world, exactly what’s worth singing about, exactly what’s important in life, and there’s no overproduction or forced melodies – it’s a simple English bloke singing songs about what really matters, and he has a way of doing it that just makes me want to ingest every lyric and with them wallpaper the insides of my head. A couple of favourite lines from other Frank songs include “it doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you go; no-one gets remembered for the things they didn’t do”, along with “I face the horizon, the horizon is my home”, and “It won’t last, so be bold, choose your path, show soul, live fast and die old,” but I find this track a great reminder for when things may get difficult in life, or you’re feeling low or questioning choices you’ve made… this song always helps me really re-focus on the good things to be thankful for that exist every minute of every day.

“If ever I stray from the path I follow
Take me down to the English Channel
Throw me in where the water is shallow
And then drag me on back to shore!

‘Cos love is free and life is cheap
As long as I’ve got me a place to sleep
Clothes on my back and some food to eat
I can’t ask for anything more”

2. Kate Bush – This Woman’s Work

I knew I’d have to pick a Kate song, and though this isn’t my favourite of all, it is the one that without fail always leaves me absolutely sobbing. As you listen to her remarkable voice sing a chorus that absolutely penetrates your heart, you can’t help but feel a sense of urgency in life, to not let it go to waste… to tell those you love how much they mean to you, to live these moments we’re given and build a life you can look back on without regret… to always express. Always, always express.

“I should be crying, but I just can’t let it show
I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking
Of all the things I should’ve said that I never said
All the things we should’ve done that we never did
All the things I should’ve given but I didn’t
Oh, darling, make it go,
Make it go away”

3. The Cinematic Orchestra – To Build a Home

This song just stirs something within me that transcends the lyrics themselves, which I wouldn’t go so far as to say have “changed my life”, but every time I hear this song I feel drenched with a cold awe. Every once in a while a song will come along, stop you in your tracks and burrow its way into your ears, then your heart, then every fibre of your skin, making every hair stand up straight on the end of a thoroughly haunted and mesmerized goosebump. This is raw and beautiful, and something about this voice, and the soaring beauty at the chorus end as it fades into the softest of next few words… it’s beautiful. I don’t think there’s an official video, so I wouldn’t read too much into this one, but just close your eyes and turn this up and lie down somewhere comfortable and enjoy something magical for the next six minutes.

4. Mumford and Sons – Roll Away Your Stone

Again, it was far more difficult than it should be to narrow it down to just ONE Mumford song… this is my all-time favourite band. I remember when I first got Sigh No More… it was  the perfect balance of heart-wrenching, goosebump-inducing, earnest longing with a heavy dose of bluegrass and roots, dominated by thumping kick drums and a killer banjo (yes, really) that had me cranking my speakers and jumping around the living room. It was an extraordinary debut; a stunning combination of the expertly crafted upbeats and raw, emotionally ripping passion, each song fully able to stand alone as a fabulously crafted masterpiece… I went to see them before the first album was released in North America at an intimate little venue in Toronto back in what must have been 2009? It was one of the most magical experiences of my life. I remember writing at the time: There was an excited, energetic buzz filling the room; they commanded the crowd dressed in vintage waistcoats, rotating instruments, and had the crowd jumping up and down pumping fists while on the edge of their seats two tracks later in awe at the raw passion, soul and mastery of lyricism in front of them.  It was nothing short of stunning, and I hope they get the worldwide recognition they deserve. I’m SO glad they exploded.

This song is one of my favourites not just because of the build up that leaves you breathless, but because of the artfully constructed words, the melody, the combination of everything all in one song that hit really close to home. To me, it’s about being afraid… the fear of being isolated with only your own heart for company. In the past, that’s been a daunting, dark, prospect, and I think the verses capture the fear incredibly. And then the song just builds up into a “fuck it, there’s a whole world out there and it’s brilliant and I’m going to fill my soul with that instead” crescendo of awesomeness that just makes you want to shout YES right along with it.

“Stars hide your fires, for these here are my desires
And I won’t give them up to you this time around
And so I’ll be found with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul
And you, you’ve gone too far this time
You have neither reason nor rhyme
With which to take this soul that is so rightfully mine”

5. The toughest one! There are at least another twenty songs I could probably list; but I’m trying really hard to focus on ones that have had impact rather than ones I’d just love to broadcast to the world because they’re damn good songs. The honour of the last spot I think has to go to Laura Marling, because her words, especially from such a young girl, are so incredibly wise and beautifully poetic. Hope in the Air was a close second, and is a brilliantly written tale that’s a story in itself (and contains one of my favourite lyrics and haunting melodies ever):

“Our hearts are small and ever thinning,
There is no hope ever of winning,
Oh, why fear death, be scared of living”

But I ended up choosing Rambling Man – it speaks to me on so many levels, from the opening verse to the defiant chorus all the way through (excerpts below).

“Oh, naive little me
Asking what things you have seen
You’re vulnerable in your head
Where you’ll scream and you’ll wail till you’re dead”

But give me to a rambling man
Let it always be known that I was who I am

Beaten, battered and cold
My children will live just to grow old
But if I sit here and weep
I’ll be blown over by the slightest of breeze

And the weak need to be led
And the tender I’ll carry to their bed
And it’s a pale and cold affair
I’ll be damned if I’ll be found there

But give me to a rambling man
Let it always be known that I was who I am

It’s funny how the first chords you come to
Are the minor notes that come to serenade you
It’s hard to accept yourself as someone
You don’t desire

As someone you don’t want to be

Transformation is an incredible process, and I adore her determination in this song to become more than those negative voices in our own heads that tell us our limits, not our capacities. To get to the other side, and above all, to be known.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

My Ukulele Decemberists Cover

So… remember about a month ago when I wanted to finally man up and sing in front of an audience? And went into it shaking harder than a cheap hotel bed and came out the other side throwing up? Yep. Fun times. But amidst the terror and the vomit was a tiny sliver of accomplishment – and an enormous desire to be able to learn an instrument (if only to give me something to do with those damn arms), lose the nerves, and be able to Perform Properly. I’ve never been able to play the guitar, so I decided on a ukulele. Less strings, and a way better fit for my hobbit hands. And only $25!

Naturally this first proved a lesson in patience. I wanted it to be in tune, I wanted to know the fingerings of all the chords, and I wanted to be able to read music and play every song I knew immediately. I’m learning these days that one of the things I need to work on most in pretty much everything is learning to be patient. (But “carpe diem” has such a good ring to it…)  But after a week or two of perfecting playing the basic chords in my best carpal tunnel-inducing claw and almost giving up, I figured out the proper way, and managed to bugger my way through a whole song! So here’s my first attempt at playing the ukulele for people. The cat doesn’t count. PLEASE bear in mind that a) I’m a total n00b and have a LOT of work to do, b) I look crap in glasses, c) I’m still terrified of singing in front of people, but d) I really, really want to keep taking these steps – even if they’re scary and even though I’ll probably look back in total mortification – because I love music. I love singing, even if I’m not the greatest singer. And I really, really want to stop being afraid of doing it.

Here goes. (God I wish they’d let you actually choose the thumbnail!)

80s Time Traps, McCartney & Gaga, and Weapon-Wielding Monarchs: April = AWESOME

Sweet and I aren’t big TV watchers. For the longest time, we didn’t even have cable (only signing up for the “3 months free” promotions, and promptly cancelling at the end of each trial, resulting in a strangely large collection of remote controls, and much to the chagrin of the installation guy). We watch our favourites online, mostly, or on DVD box set – sometimes there’s nothing better on a dreary Saturday than curling up with back to back episodes of Star Trek and a cup of tea! But this month, we had no choice but to succumb. Three of the best programmes on TV are all starting new seasons, and I’m BEYOND excited.

#1: Doctor Who

It’s no secret I’m a huge Whovian and, after a 2-year hiatus and much anticipation for the latest incarnation of the Doctor, it FINALLY returned to our screens last week.  For those of you who’ve never seen it, Doctor Who started back in the 1960s in black and white, and rather low budget, and has continued to this day, remaining the longest running science fiction show in the WORLD. It follows the story of the Doctor, the last of his race, travelling through space and time with various companions, battling evil and saving the Earth. He has the ability to regenerate into a new body near death – and the current series marks the eleventh actor to play the role. I hope it goes on forever!! Generations have grown up “hiding behind the sofa“, and this series’ new writer definitely has a taste for the darker stories – last season had episodes which literally made me afraid to turn off the lights, and this week showed one of the most chilling, and best episodes I’ve ever seen. Humanity fleeing to space after a major catastrophe on the Starship UK, led by a gun-wielding, cape-donning Queen Elizabeth X, going undercover to find out what her government is up to while voters are given the option to “protest” or “forget” – and the Doctor left with a choice between killing the last of a race or saving humanity – this episode was to DIE for.  And next week? Winston Churchill building an army of “English Daleks” to win the war? COUNT ME IN.

#2: Ashes to Ashes

This may VERY well be the new highlight of my week. It’s in its final season and was a spinoff of the amazing Life on Mars (the UK version – please, America, never try and remake anything again…), which, if you didn’t catch, was a sci-fi police drama (I know, brilliant), telling the story of a present-day police officer who is hit by a car, and wakes from consciousness in 1973.  We don’t know if he’s gone back in time, in a coma in the present, or if anything is real – the story is full of wonderfully creepy “signs” he might be in a coma, like hearing present-day voices on the radio, or ’70s television characters stepping out of the TV into his apartment and talking to him about his “real” life…

Ashes to Ashes followed the incredible finale, telling the story of a female police officer (played by Keeley Hawes, of MI-5 and Death at a Funeral fame) who is shot, and inexplicably regains consciousness in 1981.  When she wakes up, she is shocked to meet the head of the same police department she’s read about (in researching what happened in Life on Mars).  Throughout the series, we don’t know whether she is dead or alive in the present day. Gene Hunt, the DCI, is one of the most brilliantly written characters I’ve ever seen. He’s hilariously politically incorrect (“This case is going as fast as a bunch of spastics in a magnet factory“), unnecessarily brutal, and has lines that’ll have you splitting your sides one minute (“I”m not a religious man, Mr Warren – but isn’t there something in the Bible that says, thou shalt not suck off rent boys?”), and full of hope and absolute fear the next. The season 2 finale remains hands-down the best finale of any TV show I have ever seen in my life, and this series is proving to be simultaneously full of wit and spine-tingling chills, leaving me HANGING off the edge of my seat with a blanket half over my eyes.

#3: Glee

I’ll admit I was a bit of a new kid on the Glee block, but since starting the season in February (and subsequently buying both soundtracks, converting officemates on lunch breaks, and watching the whole thing through about three times since), I’m officially hooked. Another hilariously politically incorrect antagonist (“I empower my cheerleaders to be champions. Do they go to college? I don’t know. I don’t care. Should they learn Spanish? Sure, if they wanna become dishwashers and gardeners”), an ongoing theme of  losers and nerds coming out on top, half the cast of Heroes, and amazing numbers – this one has it all.

Do watch the videos! What’s keeping you glued to your seats these days??

Current Inspiration: Marina Diamandis

A little while ago, I wrote my first OMG life wouldn’t be worth living if it weren’t for music like this post, and I mentioned one of the artists I was most looking forward to in 2010.  Her name is Marina Diamandis, currently going by Marina and the Diamonds, and I can unreservedly say she’s the freshest, most imaginative, intelligent female musician to hit the airwaves in a long time.  In today’s music scene, artists like the Fergie and Lady Gaga ascend to ridiculous levels of power through radio-friendly pop packages that talk of fashion and promiscuity (I love Gaga’s music videos and “stand up for the geeks” style, don’t get me wrong, but there’s only so much credit I can give someone whose hits include lines like ‘let’s have some fun, this beat is sick, I wanna take a ride on your disco stick’).  Marina stands out in a sea of scantily-clad, generic pop princesses with her smart lyrics, atypical style, creativity, and an enormous sense of who she is.  Her album isn’t out until the 22nd, but I’ve already pre-ordered a copy from the UK, and there are 3 tracks that make this one of my most anticipated albums in a very long time.

Her first single, Hollywood, is somewhat of a shocker; an infectious reflection on “the mess that is America” that’s hands-down the best single of 2010 so far.  On her blog, she states:

“I crave America. I always have, always will. I’m embarrassed to say it as it’s strange but I think about it every single day. It is equally fascinating as it is vile and alive as it is dead.  My first trip was in 2005 and really felt like I’d entered a bubble – nothing feels real.  It’s exhilarating and confusing. As much as it completes me, it empties me. Does anyone else feel like this? Americans reading this blog – how do you feel? What is it like living in America? Why am I so obsessed.. Why do I remain addicted..?”

The lyrics make me wonder how she’ll go down stateside, and evoke memories of perhaps one of the most misinterpreted songs to date – Born in the USA was writtten to cast a shameful eye on how America treated its Vietnam veterans, yet to this day, Springsteen fans chant it as a patriotic song about American pride.  Take a look: Marina’s lyrics in her debut single are about as ballsy as they come.

American queen is the American dream
American queen is the American dream

She is a Polish girl in America
Tall, tanned hot blonde called Anya
I asked her “Why would you want to be a Hollywood wife?”
“Because I don’t wanna end up living in a dive on Vine”
Air hostesses doing gossip magazine crosswords on a flight to old LA
39 years old with a mile-high sheen
Trying to stimulate a mind that is slowly starting to decay

Hollywood infected your brain
You wanted kissing in the rain
Living in a movie scene
Puking American dreams
I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America
I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America

She continues to promote anti-conformity with a second track, I Am Not A Robot.

You’ve been acting awful tough lately
Smoking a lot of cigarettes lately
But inside, you’re just a little baby
It’s okay to say you’ve got a weak spot
You don’t always have to be on top

Better to be hated than loved, loved, loved for what you’re not

Guess what? I’m not a robot, a robot
Guess what? I’m not a robot, a robot

But my favourite track so far has to be the primal Mowgli’s Road, an eccentric number whose tribal beats and Kate Bush-esque vocals combine to reflect the lyrics perfectly.  It’s quirky and indie, yet catchy enough to hit mainstream radio, and unlike anything else in the charts today.

Ten silver spoons coming after me
One life with one dream on repeat
I’ll escape if I try hard enough
‘Til King of the Jungle calls my bluff

Oh Lord
I have been sold
I must take the unforsaken road
There’s a fork in the road
I’ll do as as I am told
And I don’t know, don’t know, don’t know, don’t know
Who I want to be

The lyrics may say otherwise, but I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone quite so sure of who she is, and what she wants to stand up for.  Crank this one up and try not to be sucked in.

Future Nostalgia, or Why I Hate Louis Walsh

I’m sure at some point in everyone’s online lives, they’ve been forwarded one of those “you know you’re __________ if…” emails, had a quick chuckle and felt pangs of nostalgia. I’m sitting here listening to the Wonder Years feature on my favourite radio station (an hour every Friday consisting entirely of songs from one year out of the past twenty), happily enjoying my Backstreet’s Back, remembering the days of watching Goosebumps after school, collecting POGs and taping songs off the radio, when I started thinking about what those emails are going to look like when they get sent to kids who’ve grown up in the 2000s (or noughties, as they’re calling it on the Beeb). What do we have today that people 20 years from now are going to reminisce about?

I started thinking about it, and then I started getting angry. Even today, we still have 80s themed clubs and nights out and parties, because everything was amazing and new and great back then (says the girl who only fell out of the womb halfway through). New Wave was so exciting; synthesizers so futuristic, style so bold (I dare you not to fall in love with any man wearing eyeliner, painting half his face in more makeup than me and singing about romance on the dark streets of London). It was so awesome, in recent years it’s made a bit of a comeback, with shops like American Apparel regularly stocking brightly coloured tights, legwarmers, baggy tops and oversized belts, and artists like Late of the Pier, White Rose Movement and the Mary Onettes , armed with keyboards, spiffy haircuts and guyliner, releasing killer indie electronica that could slip easily into any “Best of the 80s” compilation unnoticed. The future of music in recent years was looking pretty good; an off the radar revival of everything new wave with a modern indie twist.

But, let’s face it, these guys aren’t on your everyday radio. They’re not in your Billboard 100 or on the cover of the Rolling Stone. They’re definitely not coming to Winnipeg. So as much as they have my heart unreservedly – people aren’t going to remember them twenty years from now.

So let’s look at the mainstream – what’s crashing the radio waves, taking over the charts and touring all over the world these days? I grew up listening to the Chart Show on Sunday afternoons, eager to see who was in the top ten, and it’s something I’ve carried on doing since my move to Canada, thanks to the wonders of modern technology. I listen to the Official UK Top 40 every Sunday (yes, it’s full of a lot of chuff, a lot of the time, but it’s more for the homesickness/nostalgia factor) and to my horror, this past weekend, in at number two was Westlife, with yet another cover of a song from two years ago.

Westlife was one of those Uber Boy Bands formed by Louis Walsh (of recent X Factor fame) that, due to an unfortunate lack of H1N1 contraction and a lull in anvil production, are still going eleven years later. Still dominating the charts with rubbish covers of decent songs, this time they’ve taken on a Chris Daughtry track, done nothing but added a couple of lame oohs and aahs, and rocketed to the top riding the wave of somebody else’s hard work.

I didn’t mind them in the nineties – they were just like the Backstreet Boys, but Irish! Bonus! Then their manager became a judge on an international talent show, and I guess things got a little scary. What’s this? Real people with actual talent winning the nation’s hearts? I suppose there really wasn’t much else in the way of choice but to nick a bunch of songs everyone knew the words to, get the lads together for a night of karaoke, and release this uninspired bile on the masses.

I suppose my loathing began a couple of years ago when they got a number one with a cover of Michael Buble’s Home from a couple of years previous. When I heard the Daughtry cover this weekend, my curiosity was sufficiently peaked enough to look into just how far other people’s talent has pushed their career, and found 63 covers, tackling the masters (The Eagles, Sinatra, Josh Groban)… and, in I suppose the hope people wouldn’t notice, classics from Nick Carter, Brandy, and various obscure musical soundtracks. I can’t even hazard a guess as to how much money they’ve made sitting on their arses, adding the odd choir and singing other people’s songs. Tossers.

Yes, it makes me rather upset that so much of music today will be remembered for the work of decades past – success seems so easy when something so formulaic becomes the norm; random sample of a decent old track + random rapper + thumping dance beat = $, or do a cover of something that was successful before, add some pretty faces and synthesised strings and you’ve got yourself a number one. I know what I’m going to remember about this decade. Little indie bands who I heard on the radio’s “unsigned” hour and ordered their albums in from halfway round the world. The new new wave which took something nostalgic and creative and made it new and exciting. And bands who’d been together since they were thirteen, played real instruments, wrote great songs about science and love and government conspiracies, and went on to take over the world.

That’s going to be my nostalgia of the ‘noughties’. At least when it comes to music, anyway. What about you?

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