Find You're Here
When Never Comes

Song #65: Wolfsheim - FInd You’re Here (off Casting Shadows - 2003)

Having never been a particularly pretty, smart or likable child, it was a shock to everyone (most of all to her) that Ophelia had grown into a charismatic young woman. As hard as she tried to build her personality to accommodate her natural flaws (crooked teeth, laziness and Vulcan-level emotional awkwardness among others), her teenage years were spent burning bridges as each of her “friends” turned on her and declared her utterly unlikable. The more she heard it, the more she believed it to be true. 

For some reason she could never figure out, it all changed post-graduation. After high school, people liked Ophelia and came to her for advice. She read more, found her passion and kept herself out of trouble. In her youth, most of her energy had been spent trying to steal attention, and these days she didn’t have to try. Men and women approached her. She still felt like that thick-thighed, blind Vulcan, but she learned that as long as she was on - laughing at the right moment; letting the ignorance of others slide while being hyper-vigilant of her own; walking on eggshells lest she offend someone she didn’t really care about - they liked her. 

It was exhausting. 

She tried to surround herself with an inner circle of people who saw through that. They were the kind of friends to whom she could show her true, raw neuroses and would not only refrain from judgment, they also may even help. These people were equally fucked up, but with better reason. It became a competition in her mind, but she could never win. With Ophelia, there was no chemical imbalance, no history of abuse or heartbreak. She tried to apply logic to situations that called for compassion and vice-versa. There was always a lingering fear, though. Would these people turn on her as well? Was she still utterly unlikable? She still felt like the same person.

After a while, she couldn’t tell who she liked anymore. Did she enjoy Person X’s company? Who knows. He seemed nice. Person Y laughed at her joke even though it wasn’t funny. Was that a good sign?

If she had to explain why her friends were her friends, she wouldn’t be able to explain. She figured that she’d helped them through enough hard times that they couldn’t abandon her. It was impossible for her to express that kind of insecurity. 

There is one person who really knows her. She likes to think she knows him.

Knowing doesn’t equal understanding, though, and it’s a problem they’ve faced more times than either of them care to think about.

Ophelia still doesn’t know how to show it. She’s grown superficially into a real person, but she still doesn’t understand what it means to like and be liked in return. 

The Brakes
Give Blood

Song #64: The Brakes - Jackson (off Give Blood - 2005)

While this version of the classic June Carter and Johnny Cash duet isn’t perhaps the best cover ever recorded of Jackson, I think it’s my favourite.

I love the energy they give to it, but the best part is the gender switch. I’ve listened to this version so many times that I often forget that most covers have the dude desperate to leave the marriage. The Brakes version (featuring the lovely Leila Moss of The Duke Spirit) suddenly takes a different look entirely on the situation, and I think it’s interesting that it has a whole different feel to it with the genders reversed.

June seems to be almost amused by Johnny’s fantasy of running off to a new city - her attitude is practically one of, “Uh-huh. Good luck with that.” She thinks he’s a fool, but they agree that their marriage needs a little spice and she must think that maybe his humiliation will be good for a laugh at least. She thinks that she is much more suited to the lively Jackson night life, and the whole thing seems to be in good nature.

In this version, though? It almost feels like Eamon is warning her. I get the impression of mild concern and even a little patronization. Leila, to her credit, is having none of it. This version, more than others I’ve heard, offers an idea why their relationship is floundering. 

I’m supposed to do a duet of this song with Josh at karaoke sometime soon, and I want to bring this level of characterization to our performance somehow. I think about this kind of thing too much… 

Everyone's In Love
Justin Rutledge
Man Descending

Song #63: Justin Rutledge - Everyone’s In Love (off Man Descending - 2008)

Man Descending was the best album released in 2008, and I stand by that statement. It was odd to me at the time why I took to this song so quickly, despite not being at all able to relate to the subject matter. I think, for me, it was just a gorgeous, simple song about fading love. Justin Rutledge’s voice is hauntingly beautiful and full of emotion. Every syllable in “Everyone’s In Love” is so damn mournful.

Don't Get Your Back Up
Sarah Harmer
You Were Here

Song #62: Sarah Harmer - Don’t Get Your Back Up (off You Were Here - 2000)

I remember this song when it first came out. I felt so mature for loving Sarah Harmer and for playing this album until it wore out. Of course, like most non-Sloan albums, it fell out of rotation for a while, but I would always come back to it with more experience and wisdom and I could relate even more to it. (Please don’t get me started on Basement Apt - I could tell a hundred stories) 

Sometimes you can’t do anything right.

Sometimes you compromise too much.

Sometimes you feel the need to compensate for things that aren’t your fault.

Sometimes things feel one-sided.

Sometimes you just want to move on from a problem.

And sometimes you can’t yet.

That’s what this song is about.

Elin Lanto
Love Made Me Do It

Song #61: Elin Lanto - Tickles (off Love Made Me Stupid - 2010)

Scandinavia has really mastered two musical genres: metal and pop. Power metal (for which I have previously expressed a love) combines the two, and though I have a metal side that reveals itself every so often, I have an obvious and incurable pop preference.

Elin Lanto is a Swedish pop vocalist whose record “Love Made Me Stupid” has been the soundtrack to a thousand White Girl Dance Parties. Her English isn’t amazing (see “Funeral" for a blatant abuse of prepositions) and she’s not exactly redefining the girlpop genre, but her songs are probably the catchiest of 2010. In my mind, she beats out the Gagas, the Katy Perrys and POSSIBLY the Ke$has ("Stephen" is stiff competition).

There’s a purity to music that says absolutely nothing new and still manages to convey something universal. In “Tickles,” Elin could be talking about Limerence or self-pleasure. Maybe both? I believe that ticklishness is heightened if there’s unresolved sexual tension. If you keep that in mind when you hear the first verse, it goes from a masturbatory anthem to a song of sexual longing. 

Addendum: I was going to bite my tongue, but part of Elin’s appeal is that she looks like my ex-boyfriend in drag. Just add a beard - it will never NOT be amusing.

Let It Happen
Jimmy Eat World
Chase This Light

Song #60:  Jimmy Eat World - Let It Happen (off Chase This Light - 2007)

I sometimes feel like I should just post a song without any kind of explanation; just let the song speak for itself and let my few readers guess why I posted it. If ever I were to do that, it would be today with this song. That’s not the point of this tumblog, though. 

Instead of trying to describe the weird headspace I’m in right now (I’m choosing to blame hormones), I’m going to go off on a semi-related tangent.

I had a habit in high school of collecting friends who were academically inclined, emotionally immature (and/or borderline crazy), and nontraditionally gorgeous. I’ve never really grown out of this, despite being burned again and again. I have, however, gotten better at handling situations in which I’ve messed it all up and knowing when a friendship is worth fighting for.

Jimmy Eat World will always remind me of the friends I don’t talk to anymore; the ones who’ve deleted me from facebook or won’t acknowledge me if we’re in the same bar. Jimmy Eat World’s music also reminds me not to let it happen again. 

Ha ha haha ha ha ha ha ha…

Charlotte Martin
On Your Shore

Song #59:  Charlotte Martin - Steel (off On Your Shore - 2004)

Emily Chen gasped as she opened her eyes, her whole body shivering as though a single droplet of water had run from her cranium down her spine to the waistband of her cotton panties, the only clothes she wore. She continued to lie prostrate in an attempt to appear still asleep. Her eyes were wide in shock and sadness, and though she knew her bedmate hadn’t been disturbed she would not turn to face him. She faced the wall with her back to Malachi, the way she always did when she spent the night. Mal always started the night with his arm around her (commenting that she was just tiny enough to fit perfectly) but consistently woke up on the other side of the bed with all the blankets. Emily never said anything, opting instead to tug softly on a corner of the sheets until she had enough to warm herself.

She stared at the wall, trying to recall the details of the dream that had literally taken her breath away. Mal’s wall was cheap taupe-painted stucco and the whole room reeked of potting dirt and marshmallows and sex, though the pair could only account for that last one. She closed her eyes and scenes from her nightmare flooded back…  coldness and nothingness and that sinister prediction… She shook her short black hair (a new look to which she hadn’t yet become accustomed) and reached over to Malachi’s side, grabbing her share of the covers and pulling them over her shoulder. She didn’t dare turn her body over, though it would have made covering it with the blanket much easier. She hated looking at Malachi while he slept – so serene and nonchalant, as if to taunt insomniac Emily. She had never slept for more than an hour at a time at Mal’s apartment.

Of course, she had never mentioned to Mal that those nights spent in his big double bed were restless and resentful. When his alarm clock blared its fuzzy between-station din each morning at 5:20, she exhaustedly praised it and would slump out of his bed and into the shower. Malachi slept through the first half hour almost invariably, mumbling to Emily if she wanted him to walk her to work or not. The correct answer was always no, and both acted satisfied with this routine. Mal would continue his peaceful sleep until 8:30, when he’d wake up for class. By the time he arrived to his lecture, Emily had already been working for two hours, functioning on insecurity and high doses of caffeine. 

Porcupine Tree
Lightbulb Sun

Song #58:  Porcupine Tree - Shesmovedon (off Lightbulb Sun - 2000)

She needed to take something derelict and near-uninhabitable and return it to its former splendour. What was once bright and cozy was now cold, lonely and dank. Years of improper care and laziness couldn’t be masked by a new coat of paint - damage had been done. It wasn’t just the cobwebs in forgotten corners that were now too big to ignore. It was more than the scorch marks on the floor from an unextinguished flame. It was more than the water damage from the burst pipe or the unmistakeable smell of something that hasn’t seen natural light in a long time. This space was supposed to be great - there’d always been so much potential in the high ceilings and convenient location. This space could have been anything, but it was easier to just let it decay at the first hint of adversity. Her dreams had always been just slightly bigger than the space could accommodate. This could never be what she needed, so she decided to tear it down on her own.

She stripped herself down to girders and panels, a bare foundation she couldn’t change. She tore down the unstable walls, ripped up uneven carpet and broke down doors whose keys she’d lost years ago. She was finally able to see the damage inflicted by termites who had been gnawing away at the few supports she had left. She jumped on the cracked concrete floor and sat down, observing the ruins of a once-great architectural masterpiece. The gravity of what she’d done hit her immediately, and she found herself overwhelmed at the thought of rebuilding.

She gave herself a year. She made a list of everything she would never allow herself to experience again and another of skills she’d have to develop. She didn’t mind having an entire reconstruction project to herself, but a little voice kept asking, “What if new project turns out to be difficult to maintain?” She would not be discouraged.

She started slowly, planning only a few steps in advance. She fixed the cracks in the floor and built a stronger support system. She accepted help from onlookers, but she acknowledged that the brunt of the construction was entirely on her. Bit by bit she worked to give herself the secure, spacious and adaptable environment she’d always craved.

Though her progress was unimaginable (‘when had she ever accomplished anything?’ onlookers would ask), she occasionally would shock the crowd by revealing a beautiful new room. The improvements became more cosmetic, and the muttering grew louder: “This looks a lot like the old place, doesn’t it?” They thought she couldn’t hear them.

"There were many wonderful things about that old space. I have not, however, recreated it. That’s nonsense! I tore it down for a reason." She could see their reticence in their faces; superficially, her finished project was similar to the one she demolished. 

"It’s not about the building, it’s about me." She announced. "If I think it’s worth it to put so much of myself into these improvements, it’s worth maintaining afterwards. This is my project; it’s an extension of me now. I deserve what I have built."

The focus was now entirely on her. She was once inconsequential, and these renovations had given her the confidence to make something of herself. 

It’s been a year since she razed it all, and everyone agrees - She’s moved on.

Going All The Way
Matthew Good Band
Beautiful Midnight

Song #57:  Matthew Good Band - Going All The Way (off Beautiful Midnight - 1999)

I’m still technically in the middle of my “15 Albums that Changed my Life” meme thing, despite my month-long hiatus. I think I intended to post every day, and then just… didn’t?

Anyway, here’s a recap of the albums I’ve listed so far:

  1. Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill
  2. Suzanne Vega - Suzanne Vega
  3. Marie-Mai - Dangereuse Attraction
  4. Plumtree - Predicts The Future
  5. Matthew Barber - Means & Ends
  6. Two Hours Traffic - Little Jabs
  7. Sloan - Between the Bridges
  8. Melissa Etheridge - Yes I Am

I wasn’t even sure I was going to post today, but inspiration (and desire to procrastinate) can come from the most unlikely places…

I go to karaoke every week with BK and a few others (who vary from week to week). As sometimes happens in this wonderful city, I run into people from my past. I don’t have a great relationship with Past Allegra (see almost every entry for details), but she had some wonderful friends. One of them is Andrea (who celebrated her birthday yesterday), a beautiful, intelligent girl whom I knew from middle and high school. I ran into her and another former acquaintance at karaoke and I’m so glad I did. 

Seeing Andrea again reminded me of all the music she introduced to me over the ten years we’ve known each other. She was the guitarist in the first of my short-lived girl bands (and we wrote a song together!), was the first person to play The Who’s Tommy for me, show me Rocky Horror or jam Heart tunes with me. We were the middle school’s french horn players (which may have been when we really bonded) but possibly the most LASTING recommendation she made occurred when she lent me Beautiful Midnight by the Matthew Good Band. Of course I’d heard “Load Me Up” and “Hello Time Bomb” on the radio, but hearing them in the context of an ALBUM was completely new.

To steal a friend’s facebook quote, “Sometimes I hear a piece of music that makes me think, ‘Damn, I wish real life was like this,’ and then I remember that real life is like this because someone really made the music…” 

Matthew Good’s music has influenced my life a lot over the last ten years. There used to be a pretty good independent coffee shop across the street from my house, and I struck up a really good friendship(-and-kind-of-more-for-a-while?) with a dude who worked there. It all started when I recognized “Mercy Misses You” one morning in the summer of 2005. Free tea, decaf lattes, even brownies (!) followed. We’re still friends, though I don’t see him often enough. He and I ALSO have had a jam session, and he copied Matt Good’s guitar stylings when writing the chords to some of my lyrics.

For the past two hours, BK and I have been exchanging Matt Good stories. I remember our first date, which wasn’t really going so well. He knew very little of Sloan, I was over-neurotic about everything else… our first common ground was Matt Good. We saw different stops of the same tours and share a lot of the same favourite songs (including “Going All The Way”).

Every so often I revisit Beautiful Midnight, and it still hits me as hard as it did when Andrea first lent it to me. Christine, I think, wrote an excellent blurb on its greatness that appeared in a 2005 issue of a mercifully defunct Canadian music rag, “…I remember walking through downtown Toronto one night around 3 a.m., listening to “Suburbia” and “Running for Home” on my discman. And as the hustle and bustle of the 20th century quietly died in the night, I realized how small and precious we all are.”

If I Wanted To
Melissa Etheridge
Yes I Am

Song #56: Melissa Etheridge - If I Wanted To (off Yes I Am - 1993)

I was an angry, confused, intense little girl. One mistake I’ve made practically since birth is that I always assume I’m wiser and more experienced than I am. I relate on the surface to songs and characters that are entirely too deep for me to really understand. I love girlpop, I think, because the songs simplify universal experiences. I never consider myself the lowest common denominator when it comes to psychology or emotions, but who does? Most people are, though. That’s WHY popular music is popular.

For the longest time I considered myself a bit of a robot, emotionally. I figured I could use logic and feel the way I SHOULD feel about someone. I wanted to get over a breakup? Over it. A friend stabbed me in the back? No big deal. ~Logic~ tells me that he wasn’t trying as hard as I was, and that my friend had an irritating laugh. Good riddance. 

It doesn’t work that way, obviously.

I first heard Melissa Etheridge’s music on the radio one morning when waking up for school. I think the song was Come To My Window and I was enthralled. Everything was raw. Her voice was so raspy that I assumed it hurt her to sing. There was no google or anything, so I phoned the station and had to ask what the song was.

I asked my mom to buy the album for me and she gave me a puzzled look but a week later I owned an album that would change my early life. Yes I Am is a rock album with as much heart and vulnerability as it had sass and power. I loved Come To My Window but it was deemed “inappropriate” for me to sing it at Brownie talent show. It was then that I realized for the first time that there was something in this music worth censoring. I knew nothing about Etheridge’s sexuality or politics, but in my youthful naivety I thought I knew everything. Learning otherwise was a big blow to my well-developed ego.

If I Wanted To is a great mirror for my own Vulcan phase. Trying to convince yourself that you are entirely in charge of your emotions is both immature and doomed. You can’t convince yourself to love someone, and you can’t argue your heart into disregarding someone you do love. It’s akin to doing all these impossible things mentioned in the song - turning sparks to ice, reversing the aging process or controlling global politics as a leftist lesbian. I have tried to convince myself of many things this year, most of which just needed time anyway. Making lists of someone’s flaws is a bad way to stop yourself from falling for them. A few good memories and a certain comfort level are not reasons to stay with someone after you’ve emotionally checked out of a relationship. 

Things are always more difficult than logic or willpower dictate - I would know; it was a hard lesson to learn over and over again.