And to think I woke up with no opinion on this song whatsoever

I was thinking about “The Girl from Ipanema” this morning. It’s basically just an unremarkable dude writing a song about feeling entitled to a gal he was oogling.

Thing is, he must have a bunch of albums. ‘Cause the kind of dude who gets so bent out of shape by a woman ignoring him probably gets ignored by a ton of women.

I expressed the above on Facebook today and one of my friends chimed in. He said, rightfully so, that there’s a lot of problematic stuff in past pop music, but as far as he’s concerned this song gets a pass. Who hasn’t felt the pangs of unrequited infatuation? Of wanting to talk to someone you take a fancy to, but being too afraid to say a word. This is undeniably true.

That said, the song still kinda felt a bit iffy to me and I started to think why. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with checking someone out in public. We all do it and anyone who says otherwise is probably lying. Checking someone out, in my mind, is a cursory glance or two. It’s not quite staring so intently at them you look through them and into the void. It’s not lingering unnecessarily enough that you gauge how similar the rhythm of their walk is to a musical genre. If you’re glowering at them day by day and you never make eye contact, maybe there’s a reason. People have a decent amount of peripheral cataloguing. I have no doubt that this girl- nay, woman- knows that dudes are watching her. It even says in the song that when she passes by, they go “ah!” The fact that they’re making actual exultations does not sit well with me. She knows where she’s sashaying (to the sea) and she’s pointedly staring straight ahead. This further underscores that she understands she’s being watched. She sounds single-mindedly focused, which may imply she’s had bad experiences in the past and just wants to get where she’s going. Then there’s this dude pining in the background studying her every movement thinking “how can I tell her I love her?” Love her? You’ve never met her, let alone loved her. You don’t know a thing about her, but you’re in love with her? You’re not in love with her, you’re attracted to her or infatuated by her. You’re not in love.

To be entirely honest, I have a ton of issues with the way love is represented in a wider sense. In so many movies (and not just romcoms, but especially romcoms), people “fall in love” for the sake of a plot. What they term as “love” I feel is closer to just infatuation. Maybe I have commitment issues, but love means a lot more to me than being attracted to someone pretty. I can like being around someone, be attracted to them and enjoy the chemistry, but that’s not love. Your mileage may vary, but love to me feels earned. Love is something that kind of takes hold when you realise that person is a large part of your life. Love is knowingly embracing the fact that your significant other has shortcomings. It’s not seeing the rosy ideal of how that person fulfils your needs. Love is when you want to go out of your way to take care of someone because them feeling better makes you happy. Love is picking ingrown hairs or shitting with the door open. Love is having the hard conversations without taking shots or one-upping each other. It’s understanding that there’s the option to cut and run, but there’s something larger worth preserving and working on that as a team. That seems like love to me.

Shoehorning romance into a plot or song as a way to make it easily palatable feels lazy and uninspiring. Stop using romance as a seasoning when it’s a veritable meal on its own.

ALSO after doing a bit of research and math, the “girl” in question was 17 at the time. The songwriters were 35 and 49.

Fuck this song. That girl dodged a bullet.

Advertisements

A highway is a flat circle

I was in the bathroom at work listening to the radio. I know this sentence seems incredibly superfluous, but I swear it’s all part of the tapestry. Hell, it’s not even the part that I’m looking to talk about, but at the same time I think it begs mentioning that the radio plays in our work bathrooms. I guess my wording made it sounds like I was protectively hunched over a static buzzing boombox coveting its redirecting of radio waves into audible tones. We have speakers in the ceiling for that. I work at a media company, it’s our station that’s over the airwaves. It’s not that weird. That being said, I’ve been at this building for nigh on two years and I do still kinda think it’s weird.

Anyway. Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” was playing and I listened to the chorus, but sorta heard it for the first time. It goes…

“Life is a Highway. I wanna ride it all night long.”

Thank you, I’ll be here all night long. It struck me for the first time, is there a read of this that has Cochrane considering suicide? Surely if life is a highway, you want to ride it for the rest of your days? Why put a time limit on that? If he’s not saying that then he’s kinda put himself in a pickle. Writing “Life is a Highway. I’m gonna ride it all night long. And every day after that too” isn’t super catchy and doesn’t say much. Why mention the length of time at all if it’s irrelevant to the overall metaphor?

It sounds like he’s trying to say I’m gonna go hog wild tonight. If that were the case, why not something like “Life is a Highway. I’m in the fast lane all night long”? The way he’s put it, the driving seems more like the thing keeping him alive. Like, life is a long stretch and you can change lanes. Why would leaving the highway stop you from living? There are all kinds of adventures you can have on backroads and in residential areas. If being in motion is what he implies is living, then he’s still alive if he takes an exit to a side road.

Then again, surely he needs to stop for gas at times? Would motion be the agent of living? Or is he trying to draw a deliniation between what he terms are worthwhile pursuits in life? In that way is he trying to say that it’s more about following a long and meandering path rather than staying put? Is he saying he can’t be held down, he just wants to keep riding towards the sunrise? If you’re going his way, he’ll take you with him. Just for the night though, dude can’t be tied down.

Maybe I’m going about this this whole way and he’s deliberately saying that he lives only for the night. Like, he rides the highway all night long, but during the day he gets his fourty winks. Tucks himself into a snug cot in the back of his truck with a stuffy and his favourite blankie? Or is Tom Cochrane a vampire? Emerging only by the light of the moon to embark on his arduous journey. Is “life” in this context an implication of his curse? A cruel mockery of his undeath? Doomed to forsake the light in favour of the passions of the night? Without blood flowing beneath his skin, the delights of the day seem wan and lifeless as his own complexion?

Is any of this weirder than having the radio play in the work bathrooms?

It’s not the length of the wave…

I used to spend my summers mainlining music festivals.

It’s been a while, for no reason I can fathom. When I first got to Canada I started scoping out the festival lineups. For most of my time in NZ we just had one big festival. The Big Day Out. I went every year (since it was usually a day or two outside my birthday, it became a de facto gift), but always wanted more chances to catch an array of music in one day. I went to Lollapalooza with a friend in Chicago once and that kind of changed the scope. This was something larger with more potential than I’d dreamed of. Once I moved to Canada, I realised the density of large international acts was so much heavier. It was all I could’ve wanted. Then, strangely, I stopped going. It makes no sense.

My second day into Toronto I went to Grove Music Festival at Fort York Garrison. Sweet lineup. Girl Talk, Hot Chip, Phoenix and more. $30 tickets because Icona Pop cancelled last minute and some girl on roller blades no longer wanted to go. It was fantastic. The setting was an old historical garrison (hence the name), lush fields and some old brick buildings. Lots of colourful tents and food trucks set up, a couple of stages. The kind of place where people would bring kids and dogs. I saw some terrific music, crowdsurfed for the first time and met a good friend. Years later when I was writing for a food blog, I reviewed the food at Field Trip music festival, also at Fort York. Another stellar gig with a lot of Arts and Crafts label acts. Had an amazing time working with an ex who did the photography to my writing.

All of this was preamble to say that when my friend offered up guestlist spots to a festival he was shooting, I nigh offered up my hypothetical firstborn. It’d been too long and the opportunity cost was so low. Wavelength is a collective of artists that curate concerts throughout the year. They’ll have showcases and whatnot that give space for up and coming talent to be seen. In the case of Camp Wavelength (usually on the Toronto Islands), some names were less up and coming than established. Suuns, TOPS and Yamantaka // Sonic Titan are all reasonably well known by now.

The gig had an awesome flow to it. Incredibly relaxed, nothing was in your face. You could flow between the stage and all the interactive art projects volunteers had set up. There were the aforementioned food trucks and tents, there was even a comedy campfire with Chanty Marostica, Aisha Brown and a few acts I didn’t manage to catch. At the music stage, Zaki Ibrahim and Maylee Todd both really stood out to me. Zaki had this kind of smooth and funky R&B, with talented backing singers. Maylee used a harp and a bunch of loop pedals. I’m a sucker for anything loop pedal-ly. It was fucking swell.

I hadn’t realised one of my friends was setting up a Mystic Dream Tent. Tarot readings, massage, etc. It was a cute cushioned tent and a great space to relax. I got to catch up with her and get my first ever tarot reading. In doing so, I realised something I’d never cottoned onto before. Tarot is just therapy. There’s this whole thing in therapy about how you’re not supposed to tell people their problems, rather you lead them to finding their own answers. The idea being that telling someone what’s wrong is nowhere near as effective as them coming to their own revelations. If they feel like they’ve figured it out on their own, they’ll take greater ownership over effecting a solution. In tarot, the symbols are used to put down broadly relatable metaphors. The reader gives a loose explanation of what they could be, then the subject scans their past and finds their own causal links. Having those metaphors helps the subject to infer what issues are within their lives and consider how to resolve them. It’s brilliant. It’s all basically a big madlibs where the subject fills in the gaps to make the story relevant to their life. In doing so, they work through internal conflict and find resolve. I can totally see how in cultures past, tarot would have taken therapy’s place in easing emotional trauma.

Now the question is, with summer dawning, what festivals are still left for me?

The real deal or no deal

I saw St Vincent last night.

It was one hell of an experience. Then again, it always is. I think it was the third or fourth time. Given that I’ve been tracking her career for years, it was also somewhat surreal. When I saw her at The Kings Arms back in 2012, she almost kicked me in the head. The Kings Arms (R.I.P.) was a legendary venue back in Auckland, New Zealand. I saw an absurd amount of now huge indie bands there in my burgeoning concert-going years. I think it was around a 500 capacity venue. It was always tightly packed, sweaty and a riot in the making. There was a great beer garden and they’d always have earplugs on hand if you needed them. I fucking miss that place.

I next saw her at Yonge and Dundas Square touring her self titled album. It was her mainstream breakthrough and the scale had changed. Like zooming out on Google Maps. Big stage persona and sets. Her image was tweaked. Her sound had morphed from unsettling indie rock to something resembling art pop. Evolution in an artist is a healthy thing and her music still kicked ass. Still, the stage at Yonge and Dundas was quite a departure from the lil’ ol’ Kings Arms. Still, amazing show.

Last night’s Sony Centre performance was another couple of Google Maps zoom outs again. The Sony Centre is a big deal venue. The lighting and sound are fantastic. It’s all seated and, unlike shitboxes like Rebel, they’ve actually considered acoustics. The way that Annie Clark tours now is a world away from The Kings Arms. There’s no judgement, simply observation. She’s a big fucking deal now. She’s not an indie artist. I don’t know if it’s possible to be an indie artist with billboards in Times Square. The scope of what she presents onstage is entirely different. I feel like she’s at the stage where now, she has people. Like Donald Glover or Beyonce or something. It’s not that she doesn’t have creative input, but that she’s likely presented with ideas and she gets to say yay or nay. Her costumes are involved and creative. The lighting is enormous and complex. She changes to a new coloured guitar in every song. There’s actual choreography. I can’t imagine old Annie doing stadium style fists in the air to encourage crowd clapping. It just wasn’t her style. Economies of scale, right?

Let’s get something out of the way: I think Annie Clark is the coolest fucking person in the world. She’s an immensely creative, talented artist. She writes these songs that drip with menace and humanity. Her music strings along this kind of existential madness that no doubt scares me on some level. I find that unbelievably exciting. In interviews she’s so quick, clever and funny. She seems like a very genuine person who appreciates where she is. She can shred a guitar solo to bits. I don’t know how many bands feature their lead singer as their lead guitarist, but I feel like those duties are usually divided between multiple people. Not when it comes to St Vincent. She looked me dead in the eyes back at Yonge and Dundas Square and I literally swooned. I’m entirely taken with her. There was this moment right before the chorus in “Cheerleader” where she reared her head up and spat before singing. As a distilled moment, it sticks in my brain as one of the coolest, most rebellious, sexiest things I’ve ever seen. I say all of this not because I objectify her, but because I adore her. I don’t know if it would’ve even been possible to have not enjoy the gig.

My seats weren’t perfect. I was pretty far back, enough so that I had trouble making out her facial features. Still, she sounded fucking awesome. The lighting looked amazing and was totally captivating. Everything worked in concert (pun obviously intended) to distill a certain mood. Her setlist was great, showcasing her more recent material but still with at least four songs from Strange Mercy (and “Marrow” from Actor, which was a delight). I’ll never hear “Huey Newton” the same way again. Despite a weird internal disconnect with the scale, I had a goddamn riot of a time.

If this is what “selling out” resembles for St Vincent, it puts paid to that notion even existing in the first place.

Were ’87 French youths “Mal” content?

Hot take, I think the Michael Jackson video “Black or White” holds up.

It’s silly and audacious. The Macaulay Culkin part is cute and takes the Twisted Sister motif in a 90s direction. The dancing to this day is still excellent. The special effects look dated, but that’s only natural. The message, while missing the nuance of modern discussions, has its heart profoundly in the right place. No matter who you are, the colour of your skin or where you were born, we’re all human. We’re all in this together. I don’t think Michael solved racism in 1991 by dancing, but it was a splashy, bold statement from someone who was undoubtedly a phenomenon. “I’m not going to spend my life being a colour” is a great line about dehumanisation. The song isn’t remarkable so much for the entirety of its content, but how it delivered that content in an undeniable massively digestible manner. I mean, he transformed from a literal black panther and performed acts of passionate protest.

I don’t think of Michael Jackson often, which is weird considering he singlehandedly sparked my interest in music. So much of his later years were plagued by rumours and hearsay. An individual obviously suffering from mental illness was grossly taken advantage of. It’s hard to imagine in the aftermath of his passing, but back in the early 90s there was nobody cooler. Thriller remains the top selling album of all time. He transcended pop star status to become an icon. No question. Consider it from the perspective of a sub ten year old. He transformed into robot and plane. He was a gangster, a bloody zombie. He told us all to love one another. He used his platform to bring issues of inequality and racism to the forefront. I may have thought that “Man in the Mirror” was a song about an evil doppelgänger, but that’s on me.

Michael Jackson’s History tour was my first ever concert. I lost my fucking child mind. It was such a spectacle, an affirming experience. He went though innumerable costume changes, there were massive props. Other kids got to go onstage for one of the numbers. I stood in those stands, with my tiny binoculars, and I marvelled that the evocation of cool was breathing the same air. I was inspired to think that if he could stand up there and bring joy to so many people, well that was something to be goddamn celebrated.

I don’t know if there’s been another Michael Jackson. I know for sure that nobody is gonna touch the 66 million album sales that Thriller reached. People don’t buy albums anymore. The nature of marketing has changes so much that we’re sold every big act as the biggest on Earth. For all I know, little kids look at Beyonce the way I looked at Michael. I mean, this is in every way a spectacle. I sure hope they do. I think we all deserve figures to look up to that teach us all to be better. For all the kvetching people do about pop music and how it’s shaping our children, there’s so much potential. I can only imagine the way the world reacted to Childish Gambino’s “This is America” was pretty damn similar to the reception of “Black or White” in ’91.

Go on, load up some MJ and see how you feel.

Remember keeping your shoes on at the airport?

I was bored and hungry 20 minutes ago, so I ate a stack of plain top crackers that were next to my keyboard.

It’s gonna be one of those entries. Random thoughts for the sake of filling space.

The ability to work remotely must be a godsend for parents. I can only imagine that back in the 90s, if your kid was sick, what an inconvenience that would’ve been. What would parents do aside from take a sick day themselves? If they had to shuffle you off for appointments, etc, what would they do? Was it just that there were, in general, more stay at home parents? Both of my parents worked (well, off and on. At some point my dad worked from home for a while and kind of stay at home dad-ed), so I’ve got no idea what a hassle it was for them. Lots, I imagine.

I had a dream last night that I was at the airport, boarding a plane with my niece. Some dude behind me kept trying to stab me and I was like “oi, dick. I’m carrying my niece. Wait until I put her down at least for fuck’s sake.” I have no idea whether or not he declared the knife at customs. I’m guessing that this dream was set in the 90s. When else could you freely carry a knife through an airport?

The new Dirty Projectors album is really great. Fun dynamics, excellent harmonies and some of the best songwriting they’ve had since Bitte Orca. It’s weird, ’cause I’d kind of given up on the band since the last album. Just when I thought I was out…

In an inexplicable burst of curiousity, I emailed my editor asking if I could cover the Insane Clown Posse gig in late August. Also could I maybe grab them for an interview? Don’t ask me why, because I don’t truly have an answer for you. I don’t like their music. The subculture weirds me out more than a little. Juggalos are some odd people. At the same time, I feel like maybe they’re odd people with big hearts? That despite the violent and graphic imagery in their songs, that they’re probably somewhat on the level? If you look behind their word choice, there’s a lot of body positivity and acceptance. The whole “Miracles” conundrum was inscrutable. Was it actually a feint for finding religion? Did they backtrack and cave to public perception? Who are they as individuals? Plus, my best friend had a juggalo phase that still probably lives somewhere in his heart. I’m sure it’d make his life to get a shout out from the band. Who knows? In any case, I’m willing to peel back the layers and see what lies behind the paint.

While I’m still wielding my Infirmary Gauntlet on my dominant hand (comes off Monday), I’m gonna try to go to the gym tonight. I’m testing the waters to see if I can at least work the left side of my upper body. I’m sure it’ll feel weird and imbalanced, but my body is anyway. Why not try and fix that as best I can? I have the feeling that once the cast comes off, I’m gonna be disappointed that I’ll still need to take it easy. Tough Mudder is two months off, I’m determined to do as much as I can to be ready. It’ll break my heart if I have to pull out, so I’m bulldozing forward as if there’s zero possibility of that ever happening. Maybe my feeble left arm will finally be able to do mundane tasks. A boy can dream, can’t he?

Maybe next time I’ll dream of something other than stabbing attempts at the airport.

To be fair, the song would be drastically improved by changing everything about it

Getting my skates on, because I need to roll out of here in like 35 minutes.

I went for a jog today. This was a fucking stupid idea because it’s 29°C and my flesh is now melting from my bones. I’m going out to a pool bar for friend based lounging this afternoon and I’m not sure if this is their target demo. To be entirely honest, I’m not sure that I’m their target demo. This is how they advertise, so I should rephrase. I’m entirely sure that I’m not their target demo. It looks like a Hot Chicks With Douchebags entry, a snarky page I used to frequent in my early 20s. I feel like my sense of humour has shifted. My distaste for triple popped collar outfits has not. In short, Cabana has always made my douche senses vibrate, turning me into some kind of Tickle Me Elmo. I guess If you rearrange the letters of “Elmo” you get “Leom” which is close enough. Still, it should be nice to hang around with friends, inwardly mock the vibe by making continuous snarky comments, and make use of my waterproof colourful arm cast.

Oh, I’ve decided to use the Oxford comma sometimes, by the way.

I’ve also told myself that this year is the year when I’ll finally work up the courage to almost use semicolons, then back down at the last minute and use full stops instead; I used one the other day and I’ve been feeling low key dread ever since. Oh fuck, that just slipped out. So now I’ve gotta spend the rest of my life wondering if I made a mistake. Were those two clauses independent? Did they buy the shoes on their feet? What if they were a present from a cherished friend? Does that invalidate their independence? Is the price relevant? Like, if they bought their shoes because they got them at a steal, is that also showing their financial independence? Or frugal smarts? That seems pretty independent. Is the purchase itself necessary? What if they literally stole them? That takes gumption, planning and/or quick thinking. Should I have used an Oxford comma there? Argh *throws his hands up*.

I’ve packed (lie, I haven’t packed yet. That’s what the spare five minutes after this entry is for) a towel, togs, sunscreen, and a hat. Am I gonna need anything else? Did I write that list just to practice the Oxford comma? Only time will tell. Because I’m kind of staring at the clock on this one. Five minutes to go. Time flies when you’re scanning the internet for apt hyperlinks. To be transparent, I originally wrote “appropriate”, then changed it to “apt”. Then I changed out the word “clear” for the word “transparent”. It’s called editing, folks. Look it up.

My girlfriend and I decided half an hour ago that it’d be funnier in the Santana/Rob Thomas monster hit “Smooth”, if the lyric “My muñequita, my Spanish Harlem, Mona Lisa” was instead “I own a keytar: My Spanish Harlem, Mona Lisa.” It’d be even better if he then started wailing on the keytar, jamming out one of those colossal keytar solos for which Santana gained his notoriety.

But instead Rob just said “barrio” for no good reason and the world was a darker place.

I’m going now.
Yours Sincerely
Leom