Rhett: I’ve got a real one this month, folks! I am very excited to get Dillon to write a piece for me this month. He is a guy who most certainly has his finger on the pulse of the music world. A front man in a rock band, a singer/songwriter, a family man, and the owner of one BEAUTIFUL head of hair. He’s a creator of great songs himself but also just a lover of music at the core.
I’ve known Dillon for many years now, both being from small town, southwest Sask. We were even dorm mates at a hockey school in our younger years. While we don’t see each other often anymore, I always admire that when we do he takes the time to say hello, have a chat, and often remembers some little details about what I’ve been up to. For a guy who could easily have his head in the sky, he’s as grounded and kind as they come. Salt of the earth.
I wanted him to lead us through the current changing of the seasons and I’m thrilled with what he came up with! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
Dillon: This last winter lingered longer than most. I don’t know or particularly care if that’s true in terms of seasonal norms in the region, but I do know that, to me, it felt DAMN long. I’ve grown up having busy winters—travelling and competing in years and years worth of frigid prairie hockey games; touring and performing across the mountains and through the Canadian shield regardless of the road conditions; skipping from one family Christmas in the southwest to the next in the southeast. Traditionally speaking, winter is a busy time of year for someone like myself. Of course, this last year was (and I know this is a colossal understatement) different—in so very many ways. In many ways, it felt like we had less—less time with friends and family, less opportunity to travel, and certainly less toilet paper in the aisles of our local grocery stores; however, one thing I do know that I had MORE of was free time, and a lot more time with myself. So Rhett, go ahead and play Time by Hootie!—just kidding. Hang with me here.
So, you know that feeling near the end of a scheduled pause, maybe it’s a holiday or a school break or a destination vacation (remember those?!…swoon), where you’ve overindulged in almost EVERYTHING that’s bad for you, you’ve had little to no responsibilities for the majority of that time, you’ve devolved into a whisper of the parent you were at the start of the break (effectively rendering your children feral), and you’ve just had enough of doing ‘nothing’?
OK…maybe that got a touch specific for most, but I think you likely know what I’m TRYING to say here: WINTER WAS LONG AND SOUL SUCKING. So much so that, after a considerable spell spent deliberating with myself on whether spring was even real anymore and yearning for sunshine, I realized that due to the circumstances we find ourselves in, it may just be the first time I’ve really had the down time to see Spring clearly—in its entirety and for what it really is.
I was born in April and so, as a kid, I always connected with spring simply because of that—I liked that it was the pretty and hopeful season, but now I see it’s a lot more complex than that, and it’s really more like me than I thought it was. What I mean is, despite the convincing pitch, spring does not always come as advertised (and if you live in Canada, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s actually pretty filthy at first until the street sweepers get out).
Like myself, and if you humour me and we imagine spring as a person for a moment, I think it’s fair to say that Spring is not always a morning ‘person’. It can be a groggy, miserable wreck of a thing—one that hits snooze a few too many times before it finally rolls out of bed. One that does so knowing full well that it’s off to a late start and may need to skip the shower, but gets up and out the door anyways, and (eventually) gets back to work—extra-large coffee in hand. If that’s not admirable, I don’t know what is.
Spring is really just like all of us. It’s ugly and it’s beautiful. It’s tired and it’s hopeful. It’s…well…before I start reciting Alanis Morissette lyrics, let’s just agree to celebrate that inherent dichotomy, and enjoy a few dandy tunes while we’re at it.
Half Moon Run – How Come My Body
Half Moon Run was one of the last live ticketed events I was fortunate enough to attend before the live music business, and the rest of the world, effectively shut down—and what a show it was. I had regrettably missed them a few times throughout previous tours due to bad excuses, but the last time was an unexpected cancellation on their behalf. They had played Regina the night prior, and then proceeded to cancel the remaining dates of the tour, leaving the Saskatoon show to be rescheduled (thanks a lot, Regina). Sorry, I just had to get that jab in there. Anyways, when they returned the following year to Saskatoon, I was finally able to catch them live, and the show was unbelievable—the energy, the musicianship, the sound was all basically perfect. I would seriously not recommend missing them if you ever have a chance to attend a show. Since that show, they have been busy and have released several EPs, as well as one to be released later this year. The first single is ‘How Come My Body’—a succinct, vulnerable, gorgeous teaser of what’s to come. I chose to share it not only because its been on repeat for me the last few weeks, but also because it highlights those awkward, uncomfortable stages of growing up, much like the turmoil we see from spring so often. In a recent interview with Exclaim!, Half Moon Run’s frontman Devon Portielje described that difficult metamorphosis we as people endure as we transition from adolescence to adulthood to be at the heart of this beautiful little song, and that’s a sentiment I imagine Spring could empathize with if, you know, it had a body.
My Morning Jacket – Spinning My Wheels
MMJ is an all-time favourite of mine. I love EVERYTHING they do, and so I was thrilled when they released The Waterfall II last Summer and I had some fantastic music to help me cope with the limitations of our newly-adapted lifestyle. A year later, this heart-wrenching song certainly resonates with me now more than ever. Back in late November of 2020, much to my surprise, I wrote a Christmas song (see ‘Staying Home This Christmas’) and like a lunatic, I decided to write, record, and release it in a matter of a few weeks—so December WAS busy. After Christmas, however, with the ensuing lockdowns and the heightened risks of travelling, it became clear that I wouldn’t be finishing the full album, which I’d been working on writing since last spring, anytime soon. Making an album always takes more time than one would expect, but in a world where so many things are currently at a stand still, I must admit that I had hoped to be able to put more time into recording these songs at this point. Alas, it just hasn’t been in the cards, and reaching that one-year point since I began writing has certainly been a wake-up call. These lyrics really do speak to my feelings, and perhaps the feelings many of us are having as our plans and goals continue to reside in limbo for the time being:
“I held white snow in the palm of my hand And watched it turn back into water again.
Just spinning my wheels, just spinning my wheels, just spinning my wheels
Gotta find a way out—A way out of here.”
Perhaps the most impactful part of this song, however, is its idyllic resolution. In the end, the narrator chooses a path of hope rather than defeat by vowing to look towards a new day instead of dwelling on his troubled past. May we all go forward with such grace this spring! Have a listen:
Plants and Animals – Flowers
I like to think I’ve chosen to share this little gem not only because it’s called ‘Flowers’ (although, I must admit that’s probably what brought it to mind), but primarily for the undeniable spring feel the song has. Again, this song is equal parts lovely and melancholy. Somehow, the constant refrain “Oh, we’ll all be together, or we’ll never be together again” has the power to provide hope and despair in the same breathe, and it seems to me to be a mantra that is all too real for today and the world we presently find ourselves in.
Foxwarren – Sunset Canyon
It’s no secret: I am a massive Andy Shauf fan. I think he’s one of the best songwriters in music—period. The fact that he is also a small-town Saskatchewan boy is really just icing on the cake. Much like his solo catalogue, his work with the band Foxwarren is brilliant. Their self-titled 2018 record is a staple in my personal record collection, and one I strongly encourage you to have a full listen through if you haven’t yet. Paired with a serene, nature-themed music video featuring Busy Philipps, ‘Sunset Canyon’ is a laid-back, introspective tune which pairs nicely with a nice spring walk or jog.
Hannah Cohen – This Is Your Life
Speaking of Andy Shauf, I had the pleasure of seeing Hannah Cohen support him at Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon a few years back, and I became an instant fan. Accompanied by her band and the exceptional Sam Evian, who also produced her wonderful album ‘Welcome Home’, she has an absolutely pure voice and is not only an entrancing performer, but a gifted songwriter as well. Her song “This Is Your Life” is the first track on the aforementioned record and was an easy choice for this list. In keeping with the theme of waking up and going for it, this track is about taking action, taking risks, and creating your own destiny in the face of adversity—an apt message for those who are looking for some extra motivation this spring!
Said The Whale – Wake Up
This song is about—you guessed it—waking up! With chants of ‘Wake Up’ and the persistent refrain, ‘Time makes all things fall together. Time brings all things together’, it’s a perfect anthem for springtime and for waking up my boy every morning for school (I don’t do this, but I may start). There is a slow-growing energy and drive to this one which takes you on an interesting sonic adventure, to which I say, what a way to start the day! Check out the video below to see Said The Whale’s very own Ben Worcester making what looks to be a delicious pot of coffee in a French press, not unlike the one I use most mornings…when I wake up early enough, that is.
My Morning Jacket – Spring (Among The Living)
These guys clearly were meant for this blog, and I clearly couldn’t help but include another atmospheric banger like this from them. This one is a slow burn but worth the ride and an obvious choice. Check out these tailor-made lyrics:
“Boy, I was ready. Boy, I was ready for spring. Its beauty changes—changes everything. Done hibernating. We animals roam out of our holes. Then we spend all spring looking for the next one to go down.”
“Among the living. Among the living again. Out in the light of day’s warm embrace. What a gift!”
What a gift, indeed! With all the figurative examples I’ve used today to exemplify spring and what it means to me, I think this is a nice tone to end on: literal AND positive. Despite all the work I’ve put into making the case that spring is not all rainbows and flowers, when it comes down to it, it’s undeniable: spring really IS beautiful, growing pains and all. It just is–and I wish you all the very best one yet!
How’s everybody doing? It took me a little time to get my list compiled this month but hopefully you can still find something you like here! I’ve had a few crazy weeks at work so it was nice to sit down and try and put another post together! Throw on some headphones, brew your favourite coffee, and take a stroll!
CHET FAKER – “GET HIGH”
Last month I said I wanted to join a horn section. Scratch that. I think I will now dedicate my life to learning piano so I can play this intro. I’ve already put in some serious work on the air piano version and am close to mastery. My early candidate for anthem of the spring/summer this is just pure catchy goodness. Put it on early in the morning, late in the afternoon, or well into the evening. It plays well no matter the mood.
CHET FAKER – “LET GO”
Another top play right now from Nick Murphy, AKA “Chet Faker”. I love the simple bass line that leads the way from the start. This is an earworm that occupies my mind long after I turn it off. “Just because I feel low right now / It doesn’t mean all that I’ve got has run out” seems like advice we could all use these days. A little daily affirmation for your week ahead.
SLOW LEAVES – “FEEL IT TOO”
I mentioned my emotional tie to Slow Leaves in my yearly review, but bias aside, I think his two new singles are just great tunes. Grant Davidson is a great songwriter. I’m someone who listens to full albums rather than playlists of handpicked songs from various artists. The uniqueness of each song keeps me interested when I listen to his. I like “Feel It Too” because it is a little moody (there is a baseline moodiness to his music) and more set up for a full band, which strays a bit from his more acoustic work. The guitar chords have a somewhat Spanish sound to them which I like and that little reverb thing in the intro makes me happy too.
SLOW LEAVES – “STICK AROUND”
And just like that we are back to a softer acoustic track from Mr. Davidson. If you like dad humour you should also check out his instagram. It is filled with self-deprecation and awkward selfies. The video for “Feel It Too” will give you a good sample of what to expect. It makes me laugh quite often. Just that alone makes me want to support this guy.
PARKER MILLSAP – BE HERE INSTEAD
I’ve got a story for this one. When I was living in Swift Current in 2017 I got invited by some friends from home to go out to Shann and Ray Gowan’s farm for a BYOB concert. They have a beautiful little spot right on the creek and set up a big fair tent, which they also used at the Long Day’s Night Music Festival in town. Parker Millsap was the entertainment. It was a wonderful, warm, summer evening and the whole thing had an amazing intimacy to it. There might have been 60 people there total, which made it feel like a private concert. We had our cooler and chairs set up at the back so if you needed a refill it was only a quick reach away. The picture above is from that night looking at the back of the tent. I will always remember Fossum and I stepping outside the tent at the midpoint break for a leak and we see the violin player violently puking at the other end of the canvas. For a guy that was either extremely drunk or quite ill I wouldn’t have guessed based on his on stage performance.
His newest offering was just released this week and I am already a big fan. It’s a good mix of all the things I like. “Rolling” is a perfect song to get you into it but my current favourite is “Vulnerable”, which makes me think of old orange carpet and people smoking inside. I love the line, “Sometimes your meekness / isn’t a weakness / sometimes a whisper says it all”. Go listen to his album The Very Last Day as well. I always play “Hands Up” when I’m hitting the road on a trip somewhere. Makes me feel like I’m a man on the run. START THE CAR!
Rhett: He’s back folks. I’ve mentioned before what a talented, creative guy Nathan is and it would be a disservice to you all to not have him contribute on here regularly. His art, which I wanted to showcase here, is the main reason I came up with this idea of pairing a song and a picture in the first place.
I don’t know anything about photography, but there is something about the style of picture that he takes that I love. It is the type of photography that I want to put on the walls of my home and in the book on my coffee table. Pair this talent with his witty comments and you have one hell of an instagram follow. Just copying his pictures into this post got me excited for you all. My favourite thing is his ability to turn the simple and mundane into something beautiful. There is a real knack to that.
In another edition of Like PB & J, I’ve asked Jones to pair a picture he’s taken with a song he likes. The rest was open to interpretation. Enjoy.
PS. – there are links throughout the post, so don’t forget to click on those if you want to explore some more!
Rain dogs by Tom waits
Nathan: A while back I was listening to Rain Dogs by Tom Waits, which I usually do when I feel the need to connect emotionally to a deranged sewer rat who is crawling out of the gutter with his boxing gloves on, ready to take on the world and win (which also brings up Ready to Win by Tokyo Police Club vibes). Waits’ music to me inspires a gritty confidence, not tied up in an effortless and perfect delivery, but a tenacity and willingness to endure. I’ve pondered whether one can capture that same kind of emotion in photography and what it might look like.
With modern cameras it is easy to shoot a photograph that is technically on point, but I find emotion often to be wrapped up in the mistakes, out of focus, double exposures, pan focus, gritty subjects. It’s an ongoing practice to eschew easy beauty in search for gritty truth, but I would argue that Bruce Gilden’s photography embodies this ethos to an extreme degree, as do Danny Clinch and Mary Ellen Mark. This photo often reminds me of that energy.
American wedding by gogol bordello
This photo may just be an excuse to push Golgol Bordello on people, because I think they are a blast and high on my list of bands to see. I shot this portrait in Georgia, as this guys offered us vodka out of his cut off bottle cap after a ski run. He didn’t speak any English, but he seems like the kind of guy who would be annoyed at the lack of vodka at an American Wedding. Dig more into GB’s catalogue if their phrase “gypsy punk” gets you going.
Buckaroo Man by dave stamey / The Yellow Stud by Chris LeDoux
The Wood Mountain Stampede was the first rodeo I shot (thanks to my buddy Ashton Lehman), and has a significant impact on what I’ve been interested in shooting the following years. The speakers crackled the same rotation of songs over the weekend, with Buckaroo Man and The Yellow Stud sticking out, distilling the essence of the rodeo into song. Dave Stamey has a catalogue of really fun cowboy songs if that happens to be your flavour, and worth kicking your boots up to. Through both song and poetry, cowboy culture has a long history of storytelling. Its seeming suspension in time also lends itself to photography in many ways. Check out Kurt Markus or Joseph Haberle for some great western lifestyle photography.
What keeps me up now by benjamin tod / Somedays (I don’t feel like trying) by the raconteurs
I shot this photo during a pretty low period of my life and to me it sums up how I felt at the time. The ability to recognize that there was a world out there, but the inability to see it or process it correctly.
A couple of tunes that remind me of that period are What Keeps Me Up Now and Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying). I think both touch on processing and trying to deal with your demons and the days where you don’t really feel like keeping on. On the plus side, science says that listening to sad music makes you happier.
bald butte by colter wall
A large chunk of my inspiration for shooting photos comes from rural landscapes and finding ways to look at the prairie landscape with a new lens. A little known Saskatchewan singer, Colter Wall, has a few tunes that pay homage to the prairie landscape in a way that makes me nostalgic for the place I still live. Bald Butte specifically paints a beautiful picture of the south, with its rolling grass hills and expansive skies.
This is my prairie by corb lund / Edna by ellen froese
There are few songs that sum up growing up on a farm to me as much as This is my Prairie and Edna. My introduction to photography was getting a little Olympus point and shoot and wandering around the farm and snapping shots of everything that seemed interesting. That upbringing has continued to influence my work, as shooting my grandparents while they are still on the farm has been an ongoing project. “This is My Prairie” touches on stewardship to the land and reminds me of the frustration that my Grandpa had watching trees that had been across the road since he was a kid get brushed. Edna is the heartbreaking tale of a couple that move off the farm and wrestle with the end of certain family farms.
Everything Adriene Lenker does seems to have an ephemeral and ineffable quality about them, seeming to wisp around your eardrums and tease emotion out of you. I have too many photos of clouds, flowers and grass collecting digital dust somewhere, shot because the moment seemed right and never revisited. Here are a few. Would recommend listening to the song while lying in the tall grass, letting it dance around your head as the clouds slowly march past. Photography, I think, in its simplest form is the act of noticing. Adriene makes me want to slow down and breathe in what’s around me.
Like PB & J – Nathan jones
RAIN DOGS – TOM WAITS
AMERICAN WEDDING – GOGOL BORDELLO
BUCKAROO MAN – DAVE STAMEY
THE YELLOW STUD – CHRIS LEDOUX
WHAT KEEPS ME UP NOW – BENJAMIN TOD
SOMEDAYS (I DON”T FEEL LIKE TRYING) – THE RACONTEURS
While it seems awfully premature to say this out loud, I think we may have made it to the early days of warmer weather and BBQ’d steaks. Longer days and the sight of sidewalks emerging from the snow has been a real mood booster for me. The changing of the seasons also has me thinking of brighter music. Get outside and feel that fresh air in your lungs people!
WAXAHATCHEE – SAINT CLOUD
My current “sunny days ahead” soundtrack. Waxahatchee, named after a creek in Alabama, lays down some light and catchy tunes perfect for this time of year. I like that it is upbeat and bright but still a little restrained. Like a volcano waiting to erupt, you can feel it building but not to the point of explosion. It mimics my cautious optimism towards spring weather. I can hear Katie Crutchfield pushing her voice to the edge of her range in songs like “Fire”, but she always keeps it just within her limit. This constant testing of her boundary is entertaining for me. I have cycled through the songs “Oxbow”, “Can’t Do Much”, “Fire” and “Lilacs” a lot this last week. Does anything scream spring like the smell of lilacs? This is also another beautiful album cover for leaning up against your record player.
MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA – THE MILLION MASKS OF GOD
When I first started learning guitar I loved the song “Colly Strings” by Manchester Orchestra. I used to play the intro over and over again because it was simple, which let me sing over top without focusing on the guitar. From there I was always interested in their albums. Simple Math in 2011, Cope in 2013, and A Black Mile To The Surface in 2017 were all top plays for me. I never really know what basket to throw them in genre-wise. Each album sounds so different to me. Some have heavier rock, some have haunting vocal tunes, and the first song released on this upcoming album has an electronic rock feel to it. I’m excited for more of these songs to be released.
MIDDLE KIDS – TODAY WE’RE THE GREATEST
It’s 9am, I’m having my first coffee of the day and am looking out towards the river watching the ice slowly melt. I throw on Middle Kids’ “Cellophane (Brain)” to give me a little spark and get me moving for the rest of the day. It’s feel good music that goes down easy. I also really love the little horn parts in the song “Questions” (Note to self: learn a horn instrument and join a horn section). It’s gonna be a good day folks!
WALLOWS – REMOTE EP
Is anyone still listening to the band Matt and Kim? When I first heard this band it instantly reminded me of them. Pretty eclectic and lots of pop. It reminds me of my early high school days. It’s music that I don’t spend too much time thinking about, I just put it on for something happy, energetic and different. You know the Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why” that sparked some suicide awareness talk? Dylan Minnette, the male lead, is one of the founding members of this band.
MARCUS KING – EL DORADO
When I heard the first song on this album,”Young Man’s Dream”, I couldn’t stop thinking about how similar his voice was to James Vincent McMorrow’s (Go listen to “We Don’t Eat” and let me know if you agree!). Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys produced this album and you can certainly hear that influence in songs like “The Well”. If I had one word to describe this collection of songs, it would be: soul. I just love the sound he has found here. “Wildflowers & Wine” makes me want to join a gospel choir, throw my hands up in the air, and do that back and forth choir shuffle that you see in the movies. Also, this cat can really play the guitar! If nothing else, just focus in on his guitar for a while and get mesmerized. Eat your heart out, this guy can do it all.
Rhett: My friendship with Eric started out different than most. He moved to the southwest in my grade 10 year and became my high school English teacher. While I likely can’t give you a full synopsis of The Chrysalids or Julius Caesar (Beware the Ides of March, am I right?), I did learn some things with Eric at the helm. Most importantly, I learned that listening to music could be a hobby all on its own. Up to that point, music was either something you learned to make yourself (ie. learn an instrument or take singing lessons) or a background soundtrack to other things I was doing. But Eric treated it as something more than that. He was going to live shows, travelling to watch bands he liked and to check out different venues. He had a sound system set up in the classroom and he always had an “Album of the Week” written on the board that we were able to put on while we did work. Band posters from the likes of Wilco, Broken Social Scene, and Neko Case covered the classroom walls. He knew about the bands, he had their vinyl at home, and he likely had a beer stained t-shirt in his closet from their most recent concert.
Since moving on from teaching a year later Eric and I became good friends. From Mr. Anderson to Andy. He is one of the first people I text when a band I like is coming to town and we often (before COVID) meet up at the record store to do some perusing before heading to a pub for a beer. Almost every time we go Eric buys an extra record and then gives it to me once we get outside. He is a wonderful, cheerful, generous person and I can’t wait for you to give his piece a read! I’ve asked him to focus on the theme of “Winter Music” as we start to wind down on another season. (PS. Check out Eric’s podcast “YXE Underground” wherever you listen to podcasts!)
Eric: I think winter lends itself to getting to know an album better because we are in our homes for weeks and months on end. What else are you going to do when it’s minus 40 outside? I mean, you could watch Netflix or read a book or assemble a puzzle I suppose, but isn’t taking a record out of its sleeve, dropping the needle on your turntable and getting cozy with the liner notes sound way more enjoyable? Awkward silence…
Ok, maybe it’s just me, but I have been listening to a lot more albums this winter and so I feel adequately prepared to suggest a few songs that I think lend themselves to Saskatchewan winters.
Just a quick note before we dive in. I’m a big believer/dork when it comes to the sequence of songs so I hope you’re able to enjoy these songs in this order!
The Weakerthans – “Sun in an Empty Room” from the album, ‘Reunion Tour.’
Winnipeg bands understand the importance of a cold winter. It’s a time to write, rehearse and record music and The Weakerthans are one of that city’s best exports. This is one of my wife’s favourite songs and she especially loves the line, “Know the things we need to say – Been said already anyway – By parallelograms of light – On walls that we repainted white.” At our old house, we would open the front door on chilly days to let in streams of light through the screen door that would instantly warm up the kitchen and provide perfect napping spots for our dog, Fred. John K. Samson sure knows how to write a memorable line.
The Constantines – “Soon Enough” from the album, ‘Tournament of Hearts.’
When the NHL season was cancelled in 2004/2005, curling was thrust into the Canadian sporting spotlight and served as the inspiration for The Constantines’ third album. Tournament of Hearts is a fantastic album by one of our country’s most amazing live bands, and this song makes me think of winter as Bry Webb sings about a gentleman hoping his future daughter will one day win Canada’s national women’s curling championship. It’s a great song about a great sport performed by an incredible band.
Gord Downie – “Retrace” from the album, ‘The Grand Bounce.’
There’s a great line in this song from Gord Downie’s third solo album where he mentions a snowy basketball court and it always reminds me of the basketball court behind my childhood house in Swift Current. It was full of snow and yet the rims were just waiting for kids to come and shoot layups. You could also see the footprints of every neighbourhood kid walking across the court on their way to school. Downie sings about retracing his steps, which I think lends itself to winter as it offers us time to reflect. This song is gorgeous and comes near the end of a really adventurous album from a gifted artist.
Leif Vollebekk – “Big Sky Country” from the album, ‘Twin Solitude.’
One of the last concerts I saw before the pandemic was Vollebekk at Saskatoon’s Broadway Theatre as part of the Winterruption Festival and he put on an amazing show. This song from his 2017 album paints a stunning photo of wide-open prairie skies wrapped in the warm, mellow sound of keys and drums. It begs to be enjoyed with a glass of brandy beside a fireplace.
Radiohead – “Give Up The Ghost” from the album, ‘The King of Limbs.’
Since you’re already by the fireplace, enjoy this stunner by Radiohead. Full disclosure, Rhett could have asked me for a list of songs relating to pretty much everything and I would find a way to incorporate a Radiohead song. Songs about cats? Myxomatosis. Songs about existential dread? Climbing Up the Walls.
In this case, Give Up The Ghost sees lead singer Thom Yorke tapping into his love of Neil Young for an acoustic slow burner that shows off his incredible voice. Bonus marks for the birds singing at the beginning and end of the song. I may have become a backyard birder this winter. My wife is thrilled.
Also, this song comes from an album that I think is criminally underrated within Radiohead’s discography. I love The King of Limbs and after four or five listens I think you will too.
Interpol – “Hands Away” from the album ‘Turn On The Bright Lights.’
This song sounds cold in the best possible way. The way the band’s guitars sound so steely and distant makes me think of a vast winter landscape and when the synthesizers fade in…it’s just perfect. It’s frigid, desolate and over in just under three minutes. If only our winters were that short.
Also, this is one of my Desert Island Albums. Please listen to it on headphones.
Sarah Harmer – “Washington” from the album, ‘Oh Little Fire.’
This is one of my favourite songs from Sarah Harmer (who I had the pleasure of interviewing once when I worked for CBC Radio and she is delightful. I also once took a bus from Prague to Amsterdam to see her live and still have the photo of the two of us in my office. Yeah…I love Sarah Harmer).
The back story is a group of Harmer’s friends drove from Ontario to Washington for President Obama’s inauguration in 2008 but she decided to stay behind. Harmer has this gift of placing listeners right in the middle of a story and this is no exception. She lists the reasons why she chooses to stay home while her friend braves the winter weather on his way to America’s capitol.
“Cause the fire needed tending and the windows are so wide. Sometimes I feel I’m in the world when I’m looking from inside. I will pack down the snow, make a path to the road and thing of the long ride. I hope you don’t need snow tires through the Pennsylvania night.”
Sarah Harmer…A national treasure.
The Deep Dark Woods – “The Winter Has Passed” from the album, ‘Yarrow.’
This song may be a little on point but it’s really gorgeous. Ryan Boldt’s deep baritone makes you grateful for making it through another winter and the hope that comes with spring. There’s something hypnotic about The Winter Has Passed, which is found at the end of a fantastic album. The chorus has great harmonies and listening to it now reminds me that it has been four years since this Saskatoon band has released new music. I hope that changes soon.
Thanks again to Rhett for asking me to choose some of my favourite winter songs!
THE WEAKERTHANS – “SUN IN AN EMPTY ROOM” FROM THE ALBUM, ‘REUNION TOUR.’
THE CONSTANTINES – “SOON ENOUGH” FROM THE ALBUM, ‘TOURNAMENT OF HEARTS.’
GORD DOWNIE – “RETRACE” FROM THE ALBUM, ‘THE GRAND BOUNCE.’
LEIF VOLLEBEKK – “BIG SKY COUNTRY” FROM THE ALBUM, ‘TWIN SOLITUDE.’
RADIOHEAD – “GIVE UP THE GHOST” FROM THE ALBUM, ‘THE KING OF LIMBS.’
INTERPOL – “HANDS AWAY” FROM THE ALBUM ‘TURN ON THE BRIGHT LIGHTS.’
SARAH HARMER – “WASHINGTON” FROM THE ALBUM, ‘OH LITTLE FIRE.’
THE DEEP DARK WOODS – “THE WINTER HAS PASSED” FROM THE ALBUM, ‘YARROW.’
Rhett: When I started planning this blog in the beginning I didn’t think I would be able to sustain the writing for very long on my own. I also recognize that I have a bias toward certain genres and styles. I hoped that people would be able to read this and not just hear my voice and opinion, but get some different points of view. I didn’t want to exclude the people that don’t exactly like my taste either. Music is such a subjective thing and that’s what makes it great. So I devised a plan to task some friends with a job that I could supplement my posts with. I liked the idea of making the posts more visual than the ones I contribute as well. So this lead to the idea of pairing songs with pictures. I have a few gifted photography friends and I thought it would be interesting to showcase their photos but also let them think of their own work in a different way as well. Like PB & J will be a collection of photos taken by the writer and paired with a song that they think of when they see it, or vice versa.
My first thought for a friend to start this was Kelby. One of my oldest friends and right at the top in terms of creative minds in my circle. Always willing to step outside the box and never afraid to like something that makes him happy even if others don’t. His musical tastes are as wide as the Sahara and it is something we have always bonded over. In recent years, his passion for photography has also become evident. I’m excited for you all to see these two passions meld together – like PB & J.
Kelby: When Rhett first approached me with his idea I thought it was a brilliant one! When he asked me to write my own section of the blog, I panicked and said yes. I had no fucking clue what to write about or how to start. After several weeks of procrastination, here I am writing.
As some of the readers might know, this past year I have jumped deep into photography. I remember sitting at my computer desk last year around December. I looked over at my shelf and saw my dusty camera sitting there lonely. It is the same camera I used in the past for my lifting vlogs. I just looked at it for a bit, staring at it, waiting for an answer. I thought to myself, “I could attempt to start vlogging again, but no, that shit is too much work for something that doesn’t fill a gap in my life.” Vlogging is fun and all but it never really filled the creative hole I’ve been yearning to fill since I finished high school. So I picked up my camera, snapped a photo of myself and uploaded it to my computer. Once the photo was on my computer, I remember thinking, “I wonder how to edit this the proper way?” You know, like actually edit each component of a photo and not just click a couple buttons on my phone. So what do I do whenever I want to learn something? YOUTUBE UNIVERSITY!
Since that day, I have continued trying to improve my photography and taking it one day at a time.
So! Now that you have the cliff notes on my photography, I figured it’s time to get to the point. Why you’re all here, reading this blog (ps, first time writing a blog, so any feedback is great feedback!). MUSIC! Rhett challenged me to write about the photos I have taken and how they correlate with songs that I love. I spent a fair amount of time on this and tried to figure out how to best pair songs and photos together. But to be honest, I couldn’t figure anything out because I don’t really have any songs that inspire my photos or any photos that remind me of a song up to this point.
What I am going to do for you guys is a little different and yet, the same. For about the last 18 months, I have tasked myself to make a new Spotify playlist for each month. I add any new song that tingles my ears and along side that, I’m also pushing myself to do something similar with photography. I make new folders for each month and keep all of my favourite photos in them which I think is the same way my brain folders are organized!
I am going to choose a song from each of these playlists and folders of 2020 and take a little trip down memory lane! Join me if you’d like!
Side note: If you would like to listen along to the songs as you read through this, it will enhance your blog reading experience!
Butterscotch by Robotaki ft. Jamie Fine and Falcxne
Ok, to start, my musical tastes are all over the fucking place. I love everything from rap to metal, folk to EDM, Golden 50s to Hollywood scores. I heard a quote from Donald Glover that resinated with me, “The weirder the song, the more I like it”. TOO TRUE!
I remember snapping this shot of an old school that is still in great condition. I had just spent New Years in Saskatoon with a bunch of my good friends and on my trek back home, I wanted to get some cool pictures around Saskatchewan Landing.
I hadn’t ever spotted this school before while driving on highway #4. I immediately pulled over, whipped down the back road and got the shot.
I know photography seems as simple as pointing the camera at a subject and pulling the trigger but there is so much more to it. Emotion is a huge factor that plays into a good photo. What you are feeling and how to project that feeling through your work only comes with time. Which is where music comes into play as well.
Great Tune = Great Mood = Great Photo.
I think that math works out? I only failed math every year in high school. Where is Ms. Calcutt when you need her?
Circles by Mac Miller
The month I went on one of the most amazing trips I have ever been on, followed by the world shutting down a week after we got home. My Father, Grandfather and I decided to trek from Sask all the way to Arizona. Along the way, we attempted to see as much scenery as we possibly could. We saw what Montana, Idaho, Utah and Arizona had to offer. I will never forget this trip. Not only did I get to spend all of that quality time with my Father and Grandfather, but the experience to see all of those new scenic areas was amazing. Experiencing different cultures and seeing how people live in completely different circumstances as myself peaks my interests.
By far the best place out of the whole trip was Page, Arizona. We spent about 2 days there and we got to see Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, Marble Canyon, Etc. Page has more than enough scenery to offer, which means I am definitely heading back there one day.
I think being able to see all of this and experience all the different cultures really opened my eyes and mind. Which is something I feel like I have been lacking ever since Covid-19 has taken over the world. But more on that to come….
Sunny’s Time by Caribou
My birthday month! AKA the best month out of them all! Until 2020 showed up.
All while the rest of the world was going crazy over Covid, my little world really didn’t change much. Where I live, I keep to myself a lot of the time anyway and I spend my “spare” time learning more about photography and shooting photos. I watch hours of youtube videos trying to learn as much as I possibly can. That is how I operate. When I become interested in something, I am obsessed with it. I put 100% of my focus into it and surround myself with what I am interested in.
With all the knowledge I had recently gained, I ended up printing my first photo and it was such a satisfying feeling I might add. Seeing a printed photo that I worked towards capturing will always be one of my favourite feelings. It’s just funny that my first print was a complete fluke; right place, right time!
It was sunset and I decided to head out to get some photos. I drove north to the Frenchmen valley, hopped out by the river, walked down to the water and set up my tripod. After I got everything set up, I looked up and saw a flock of geese flying overhead. “Oh cool, geese”, I remember thinking. I reached down and snapped the shot not thinking it was going to be much but when I got home and looked at it on my computer, I completely fell in love!
Marijuana by Chrome Sparks
In April I must have learned about how to utilize reflections in my photography because I captured A LOT of reflection shots. I’m certainly not mad about it either because a reflection can up the ‘banger’ factor by a boat load!
In conjunction with my song choice, one thing I wanted to touch on with this write up is Marijuana. I have never really come out about my cannabis use in a public forum before and this blog seems to be a good place to do so! Prior to the Covid pandemic, I smoked a lot of weed.
I love weed for a million different reasons but most of all, it sparks creativity. Marijuana paired with with a lot of alone time can be the perfect storm for a wasted day. If you know going in that you are using it to help spark some creative work, it can be wonderful.
To be completely honest, I’m high as I write this. I find my brain trying to find different avenues to navigate on how to express things. I feel like living where I live and how I was brought up, my brain was set to “default” if that makes any sense. Weed helps me clear my default settings and create my own settings.
Just wanted to get that off of my chest!
Lattice by Minnesota
Not really at all but did I get your attention?
May of 2020 was a special month for me because it was the first time I ever tried Mushrooms. Now I know what some of you are probably thinking. “All this fucking guys wants to talk about is his drug use???”. I wouldn’t talk about it if it wasn’t beneficial to me in some way.
I have always been intrigued by mushrooms and what the experience is really like. I have asked people I know who have tried them before, “So, explain to me what its like?” Most of the answers I got were that its hard to explain or that its something you need to experience for yourself. I never understood why someone couldn’t explain it to me, until I tried for myself….
I have never experienced anything like it in my life. I ate some with a few friends of mine that I really trust (which is very important if you’re thinking about trying them). Long story short, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. While we were high, we were all sitting together listening to music and I remember feeling pure bliss. I was so happy with the sounds that were coming into my head and how I felt at the time, but most importantly, I felt so happy that I got to experience it with my friends that I love dearly. I ended up crying because I felt such pure bliss and didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world except right in that moment.
Now I feel like that experience was important to me because I have never felt like that way before. I have never felt so happy to just BE. To be in the moment and enjoy what is happening exactly right now.
Ok, I’m done with the hippy mushroom talk now. The last thing I will say is don’t be scared to experience new things in your life. Be open to everything and do your research before you form a strong opinion. At the end of the day, memories and experiences are all we have and this, by far, is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had.
Goodie Bag by Still Woozy
June 17th, 2020 will go down in Climax history as one of the craziest lightning shows ever witnessed.
I have absolutely no experience with lightning photography and still pulled this banger out of my ass! I remember this night like it was yesterday. I was sitting out in the rain with my camera on a tripod. I had a blanket draped over my head and camera while I was googling how to properly get lightning shots. Probably research that could have been completed before heading out into the rain but I digress. After spending 2 hours screwing around trying to get a good shot, I finally got this gem.
When we were kids, we used to go outside during thunderstorms and just watch the light show. Just sitting, not saying anything to each other and enjoying the weather and the company. Another one of those, ‘enjoy the moment’ moments. Every time I look at this photo, I feel a sense of those moments in time. Nostalgia. My favourite feeling!
Retrace by Lusine
The year without baseball…
With Covid-19, our hometown baseball league had to be put on hold. Which sucks big time because that was my main source of exercise.
In 2015, I decided it was time for the Cardinals to come back to Climax! With an absence from league play since 2004, we gathered a group of local boys from Climax and neighbouring towns. When I first started talking to people around town about trying to get a baseball team back together and enter the league again, most people told me it was a waste of time. “Nobody wants to play. Nobody will take care of the field. Nobody will come watch. Nobody will support the team”. These are all things I heard through out those years and guess what? IT DID FUCKING WORK! THE FIELD LOOKS BETTER THEN IT EVER HAS! WE HAVE RAISED MORE MONEY FROM FANS THAN THE CLUB EVER HAS! AND IT HAS COMPLETELY REVIVED THE LOVE FOR BASEBALL IN OUR COMMUNITY!!
Sorry about that, I just like shoving it back in the haters faces sometimes.
With the lack of baseball this past year, our community has taken a hit. Our community takes pride in our togetherness. The Cardinals are a hub for everyone to come together, have a good time and participate in their community. These things are important to our small towns and we haven’t been able to experience this for quite some time now.
By the way, this photo is one of my favourite photos I have ever taken.
Life by Cherub
A sense of pride I’ve never felt before
In August 2020, I got to stand beside my brother as his best man. We spent the weekend in Cypress Park with as many family members as were allowed at the time. I think in total there might have been 30 people there, which was absolutely perfect! The entire weekend had such a strong intimate vibe that carried smiles day in and day out. I have never been so happy for my brother. I see how happy Des makes him and how she pushes him to be a better person. She challenges him, all while being right by his side throughout the whole process.
Nick and I have been through a lot of rough “relationships” in our life. Witnessing our parents split up at a young age put a lot of questions into a young boy’s head.
On top of that, we have helped each other navigate our own troubled relationships as well. Watching your own family member go through hard times is a big weight on your shoulders because all you want to do is fix it but sometimes time is the only cure.
So why do I say “A sense of pride I’ve never felt before”?
Watching Nick stand up there and marry the love of his life made me feel the most pride I’ve ever felt. I have been there to see him through all the hard times and to now see him on such a high note, makes me feel very happy for him.
This song had a fun little tie in to this section. The song is all about trying to stay positive and not sweating the small things. Shit may get hard but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Bon Voyage by DROELOE
September was the start of some fairly dark days for me. Things in my life were kinda getting scrambled and the whole “pandemic effect” was starting to kick in hard. Having to stay home and not interact other people always seemed like a breeze before the pandemic, but being forced to do it starts to twist your brain up. Sitting at home alone with nothing but your thoughts for days on end can be rough for someone dealing with life issues. My relationship was in the dumps and work had been weighing on my shoulders for multiple months. It was almost the perfect storm.
I have dealt with depression in the past but this was the first time I could really see it coming. This may sound very strange to someone who hasn’t dealt with it before. Why don’t you just try to avoid it? Easier said then done. It is so hard to explain how depression develops in a person’s head and it can definitely vary from person to person. You start thinking negative thoughts and it just grows and evolves day after day and then you start to think it’s all because of you. It is a very toxic mindset to be in and talking to someone about it has been the only thing to help me.
I took a bit of a break from photography around this period. I don’t think I touched my camera for 3-4 weeks, which was very unlike me. I remember one random day I picked up my camera and took this picture of myself in the mirror. It was almost like a cry for help in a way as I wanted to show myself but still so scared that I hid behind my camera.
All I can say is that I am very happy to not be in those dark days any more. Things still aren’t quite 100% yet but really, what is 100%?
Entropy by Ark Patrol
While still being in the depths of my depression and covid isolation, I finally got back into grabbing my camera more. I found myself trying to take more artistic photos in the moments of my life. I don’t know if it correlates with the state of mind I was in or not but I like to think that expressing myself in an artistic way while I’m feeling down helps. I feel like turning my murky thoughts into photos helps me understand myself more, if that makes any sense!
I think being able to relate a feeling to a photo or a song is definitely how my brain is wired.
Take this photo for instance. I remember wanting to get photos of the new yellow leaves that were developing in fall. I wanted to get them falling in action to stop that moment in time. Catch a moment of falling, just like how I was feeling. I felt like I was always falling.
Expressing myself like this makes me feel really good and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
Wait a Minute by WILLOW
Every year when hunting season comes around, my father, brother and I get to spend a lot of bonding time together. We all love getting together around this time, scouting deer in hopes of harvesting a trophy buck each year. I value these days more than most because I love driving around with them, saying the dumbest shit I can think of trying to get them both to laugh. It’s times like these I will always look back on and cherish. The hunting is fun, but the company is forever.
One morning we headed out to scout and as we drove further west a thick fog dropped in on us and created this eerie look everywhere. We were driving down a dirt road when we popped over a hill and saw this beast standing up top. I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped this photo but after much deliberation, we decided to leave him for next year as he has a lot of potential for more growth.
I love how cool this photo looks. I named it “The Monster in the Mist”! And I’m so glad I will always have this picture to look at and remember this day.
Star by Machinedrum ft A$AP FERG
Well it’s December! Christmas is here and 2020 is almost over. Something we have all been waiting for during the longest year ever.
2020 was a huge year of reflection for me. I spent a lot of time with my thoughts and I found things out about myself I never knew before. I dealt with a lot of hard times and a few good. The year was filled with negativity wherever I went; work was negative, my relationship was negative and the world was negative. I found very little joy as the year went on but sometimes the bad can be a good thing to go through.
Throughout 2020, I felt like I was waiting for things to get better. Waiting for something to happen. Waiting for my life to improve. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that I’m sick of waiting. I am sick of waiting for things to get better, so I’m going to fucking make them better. I am going to focus on what I am in control of and attempt to improve my own life any way that I can.
Well, I hope you all enjoy my little trip down memory lane. It was very enjoyable for me to go through all these memories and reflect on how they have made me today. Before I go, I’m going to leave you with a little Kelby Coburn knowledge:
Life is a giant mystery. Everyone is trying to figure their own things out and navigate the best way they know how. Our society has built a strong ‘this against that’ mentality with everything now a days. It seems like you’re only allowed to be on on side of an argument or the other. But understanding the other side of the argument might be the secret to success.
Life is too short for us to be against one another. Working together will never harm progress. Ever.
Like PB & J – Kelby Coburn
JANUARY 2020: Butterscotch by Robotaki ft. Jamie Fine and Falcxne
Hello from the icebox that is Saskatoon! Hope everyone is staying warm wherever you are. I’ve got another monthly piece for you to enjoy while you are keeping the fire place full of logs!
Mandolin Orange – My Brother, My Keeper
I’ve always got something a little folky in my repertoire. The North Carolina duo blends their voices perfectly and are so easy to listen to. This single pairs a deep bass line with bright mandolin notes and it works so well. The song kind of bobs along and reminds me of something that would be playing in the background of a whisky bootleg movie. If you want another good/sad song from them check out “Golden Embers”. It’s a song written about the loss of Andrew Marlin’s mother when he was 18. Again, just amazing blending of voices and harmonizing here.
Half Moon Run – The Covideo Sessions
This is a cool take on music during COVID. This whole album is a collection of their songs recorded all from separate locations where each band member is isolating. All of it is recorded in video too, so you can watch them all on Youtube as well. It’s funny to watch them relaxing in their homes but still finding a way to make music with their friends. It also gives you some of that live feeling of watching them play their respective instruments. They are actually one of the last bands I saw in concert pre-pandemic so listening to these songs makes me remember that time fondly.
Slow Pulp – Moveys
This one might be a little too indie for some people. I will admit that it has a bit of that “hipster music” feel to it. But if you give it a chance there might be a couple songs that you like. There is something very 90’s about this but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. The song “Idaho” makes me think of The Cranberries a little bit, maybe? I would start with this song and then branch out from there if you are hesitant based on the start of my description.
Kings Of Leon – When You See Yourself
Kings of Leon is a pretty safe pick every time. Before even hearing a song off of the new album you can pretty much count on it being enjoyable. The first songs that have been released are terrific. I love Kings of Leon, you love Kings of Leon, your dog loves Kings of Leon. It’s pretty simple.
The War on Drugs – Live Drugs
I am admittedly not a huge fan of live albums. Do I think seeing a band live has something more than listening at home? Absolutely. Live music is something I am really passionate about. You get the imperfections and changes that you can only hear in the moment and I love the collective experience you get with others. But I’ve always found it odd when I fall in love with a song’s studio version and then hear it played slightly different on a live recording and think, “This just isn’t the EXACT same song!” or “They didn’t play that one part EXACTLY how I like it!”. I’ve said it before, I think The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding is one of my favourite albums of all time. It just seems like it is going to stand up to the test of time. Whenever I go back to it I realize how much I love it again and it continues to sound current. This clouded my view on the live album even more. So when I saw The War on Drugs – Live Drugs come up on my phone I didn’t even think to tune in.
A couple weeks ago, I was talking to someone about missing concerts and live music. I suddenly found myself thinking about live albums as a fix. Remember Metallica – S&M, where they play with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra? My oldest brother, Jori, had that on DVD and I remember thinking it was the coolest thing since Stretch Armstrong. Seriously, go check that out if you haven’t or if its been a while. So back to Live Drugs I go. Boy, am I happy I gave it a second thought! It has all the things I like about my old favourite songs but it adds that element of something extra. The onstage improvisation has added value this time for me. I love listening to the crowd and I feel like you can really hear the way the instruments are being played individually not just as a sum of parts. Put on the song “Pain” and enjoy those guitar solos towards the end. They friggan slap. The War on Drugs is #1 on my list of bands to see in concert post COVID. Fitting for a pharmacist.
I’ve had lots of conversations about my first post over the last few weeks and I’m happy that it sparked some joy for a few people. Thank you to everyone for checking it out and hopefully we can keep it rolling! It’s funny, while I feel that I have always thought about music in this way, having to write about it makes you really pay attention to what you are listening to and why. I’m enjoying that and it has definitely kept my mind occupied the last little while. So thank you for listening along.
In what I am planning on being a monthly post to go along with some other segments, “What am I listening to?” is going to be a collection of songs or albums that I am currently enjoying. It doesn’t mean I think these are the best things ever written, but more of a time stamp on what I am presently into. From old to new to not fully released. I hope this can be something monthly you can turn to for finding a new song you like.
Let’s give it a go!
PINEGROVE – MARIGOLD
I alluded to this band in my first post when talking about “winter albums”. They play perfect music for the time of year when the sun is down when you get up and down again when you come home from work. When I got my very first vehicle (I hope that little car is still on the road somewhere living a good life…), I remember buying Jack Johnson’s album Sleep Through the Static. I listened to it the entire drive home from Swift Current to Climax. Every time I hear one of those songs I think of my little silver Civic. When I upgraded to my new vehicle, Pinegrove’s Skylight was that same thing for me.
This year they released Marigold, which has a very similar feel to it. Evan Stephens Hall’s voice comes at you with some angst and emotion but also has charm and warmth. To reiterate my comment in my last post, I like the raw feeling to their music. It doesn’t seem too refined or perfect which makes it more relatable. They also just released a raw studio recording album which features many of the same songs called Amperland, NY. If you like the rough around the edges feel check that out too.
ARLO PARKS – COLLAPSED IN SUNBEAMS
I don’t know much about this girl but have been listening to the first few songs on her soon to be released album quite a bit this month. The songs are catchy and I find myself putting them on whenever I need a little pick me up. There is some soul here that I enjoy. This is already her second full album and Google tells me that she is only 20 years old. I imagine we will be hearing a lot more from her in the coming years.
JULIEN BAKER – LITTLE OBLIVIONS
Another yet to be released album that I am excited to hear more from. This is also one of those put your headphones on and get into bed kind of artist. There is always some expansive, almost floating on air feeling to her songs which puts me at ease. Another awesome album is a collaboration of Julien Baker with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus called boygenious if you are looking for something similar. “Faith Healer” is the first song released from the album and it is a good start for me. I am hoping the rest will be similar.
WESLEY SCHULTZ – VIGNETTES
The lead singer from The Lumineers puts out a solo album full of cover songs. Don’t think I need to say much else here. You know what you are going to get.
CUT WORMS – NOBODY LIVES HERE ANYMORE
If you are looking for someone to take you back a few decades, Max Clarke the singer/songwriter based in Brooklyn, NY can get you there. I’ve seen some compare him to Buddy Holly or George Harrison as a guide for what you are going to get. I’m no expert on those two, but it definitely sounds like it is from a distant past. It reminds me of an old book that has been sitting on your shelf in the sun for a few years. Its worn, a little bent and yellow, but familiar even though you haven’t looked inside in a while. This is easy listening all the way through.
BAHAMAS – EARTHTONES
Although not the most recent album from this Canadian mainstay, it is certainly my favourite. I go back to these songs all the time. There are some catchy little guitar riffs in a lot of the songs that I really enjoy. The very first song “Alone” has this sliding guitar part that always has me doing an air guitar imitation. I have a pair of over the ear headphones and this song is great for turning on and turning up. “No Expectations” and “Way with Words” are my top songs for grooving in the kitchen while I am doing dishes.
Welcome to my new music blog! I’m Rhett and this is my first attempt at doing something a little creative. Do I have any special musical or journalism background that gives me the credentials to create a blog like this? Absolutely not. I am just a guy who loves music. And not just the music itself, but the people behind the music, how songs and albums are written, the evolution of a songwriter, and the stories behind a song. I like to think this is the small town Saskatchewan in me where it is just as important to know about the people and where they are coming from as it is about the product that they produce. It adds value to the end result for me. I’ve also always been someone who ties memories to music. I can recall exact feelings of a trip or be transported to a specific moment in time the second I hear a certain song. I love this about music.
A few years ago, Jay Onrait and Dave Hodge from TSN started putting out an “Annually Tolerated List of Top Albums” around Christmas time each year. I always loved this list. I found that I had a very similar taste in music to these two and I loved the way they talked about the albums. There were always a couple albums on the list that I knew and loved, but also a bunch that I didn’t know. Some of my favourite albums of the last 5 years I found on that list (ex: The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding). In recent years, they have stopped compiling their list. And while I hold out hope every winter that they will rekindle that fire, I thought this maybe gives me something to think about myself. What are some of my favourite albums this year? What songs are the ones I find myself singing in the shower or playing on my morning commute the most? And what is on everyone else list? What are other people listening to that I am missing out on?
All this has spawned an idea to create a blog. While I don’t have everything fully thought out, I do have some ideas on content that I can create to keep this going for a while and hopefully entertain some friends and spread the joy of finding new-to-you music. And this brings me to Nathan Jones. The guy is one of the most creative people I know. A master photographer with a great appetite for music. When I was thinking about this idea I knew Nathan would be game to help me get the ball rolling.
Nathan: I am always keen for a creative collab, and this seemed like a great way to reflect on some great albums from 2020, a year in which I spent a lot of time sitting at home listening to music. I love hearing what people are listening to and getting introduced to new artists. My one complaint with this list is that I allowed Rhett to go first, as Colter Wall, Jason Isbell and Kacey & Clayton all likely would have made my list. I’m looking forward to finding more music and hopefully getting to check out some shows with y’all in the near future.
So without further adieu, here are our lists:
KURT VILE – SPEED, SOUND, LONELY KV – EP
This guy cracks me up. The most, “jean jacket pharmacist” looking guy with a calm, cool, laidback personality. And while I also find his songs to be laid back, they are complex and show the genius of his guitar playing and song writing. One of my favourite things about his songs is the irregularity. He throws riffs and notes in that feel out of place at times, but in a way that surprises you with how well it fits. Ever since I first heard his song “Pretty Pimpin’” I have been following along closely. This new EP is written with a lot of influence from John Prine. He covers some of his songs and also copilots “How Lucky” with him. An absolutely amazing feel good song.
Best Enjoyed: Sitting on your porch looking out at the morning sun and thinking, “it’s good to have land.”
MUSIC BAND – CELEBRATION
A new discovery this year for me was Music Band. The songs rock and are catchy as hell. I love that it is rock and roll but that at times it also feels a little surfer-rock too. Something you can listen to at anytime and isn’t going to piss of your neighbours too much either. My favourite song is “Superstition” which starts out in this sort of rock trance but then transitions into something completely different. I don’t have much else to say about this one other than that I have listened to it a lot this year.
Best Enjoyed: While driving out to a sandbar on a nice hot summer day
10. SARAH HARMER – ARE YOU GONE
I’ve got to be honest, I had never heard of Sarah Harmer before my friend Eric asked me if I had listened to her new album. After a quick Google search upon returning home, I found out that she has been making music for almost as long as I have been alive and has played in or along side many of Canada’s biggest bands over the last 30 years. 10 years removed from her last album she comes in with a solid return. Her voice is unbelievably easy to enjoy and the songs are wonderful top to bottom. Throw “Squeaking Voices” on your headphones and float away from whatever had you in a funk that day.
Best Enjoyed: When you’re washing the dishes after a week of letting them pile up to a point where they don’t all fit in the dishwasher.
9. SLOW LEAVES – SHELF LIFE
I have a bit of a personal attachment to Slow Leaves. Another smaller Canadian songwriter who you can still find playing shows at your local bar or church (ie. The Bethany in Hazlet, SK.). My girlfriend, who at the time was still living in Germany, was visiting me and we stumbled by accident into the Legion in Jasper, AB and got to see him play. It was one of those very Canadian moments I was so happy to experience with Jessi. Drinking rye & ginger’s at the Legion with some Jasper locals, listening to a guy from Winnipeg on stage. Kinda funny that one of his songs that night was “How Do I Say?” which is about falling in love with a foreign woman and then learning that it won’t work and trying to figure out how to communicate that in a different language to each other. Luckily, we don’t believe in bad omens. This new album took me a while to get into because I have such an attachment to his older songs, but I’ve grown to love it. If you are needing a good song to cry to, try out “Sentimental Teardrops”. That should do the trick.
Best Enjoyed: After a long day of work as you slide out of your work clothes and into a nice pair of slippers.
8. KEVIN MORBY – SUNDOWNER
Right in my wheelhouse as far as music style goes. A little indie folk with some fun guitar riffs to keep you whistling along the whole way. It feels like the perfect soundtrack for laying under the big blue Saskatchewan sky and watching the world go by. There is something about the album that makes me feel like I’m caught in a lucid dream of sorts. He has a comfort in his voice that makes you feel like you know him as well as the people and places he sings about. This also might be my favourite album cover of the year as well. It’s a perfect one to lean up next to your record player to show that you are a hipster.
Best Enjoyed: While you head out on an afternoon stroll through the neighbourhood.
7. JACK GARRATT – LOVE, DEATH & DANCING
The most pop heavy album in my list. This guy just blows my mind. He is one of those people you just marvel at. I went to ACL in Austin, TX with my friend Jaelee a few years ago and we saw this guy perform by accident. Just happened to walk up to a stage and he was the next guy up. He stood up there by himself surrounded by gear. Very Neil Pert esque. He played and looped guitar, piano, and a drum pad kit and then sang over top of it all as he was going. It was such an amazing thing to watch. He was doing so much and his songs were so god damn catchy and creative. I instantly thought of my friend Kelby watching him because I knew he would appreciate the creativity of it all. I remember some people standing near us that had one of those big signs so the group can find each other in the crowd that said “If you are lost, dance with us”. I loved that. Love, Death & Dancing is another album that took me a while to get into because I had such an attachment to the old album. But let me tell you this, I’ve probably listened to “Time” and “Mara” more than any songs this year. They just have something about that them that is a little different than my usual. I want you to listen to this album but also please Youtube “Jack Garratt – A Cardinal Sessions Performance”. I’ve watched that 100 times in the last few years.
Best Enjoyed: As a pick-me-up on your morning drive to work.
6. KACY & CLAYTON & MARLON WILLIAMS – PLASTIC BOUQUET
The Wood Mountain duo join forces with a Kiwi troubadour for this one. If you can find it, I used to watch this old video of Marlon Williams playing a song called “The Ballad of Minnie Dean” on a show called BalconyTV. It’s a murder ballad about a New Zealand lady in 1895 who was found guilty of infanticide. Super dark stuff but the song is so beautifully sang and performed on that video. Kacy & Clayton, on the other hand, have become one of my favourites in more recent years. They definitely have a bit of a throw back style to some older generations of country/americana, but it reminds me of home in that way. Kacy’s voice isn’t everyones cup of tea, but I just can’t get enough of these songs. I love Clayton’s guitar playing as well. The guitar riffs in “Isn’t It” are incredible. The addition of Marlon Williams couldn’t have fit in any better. Their voices and style are a match made in heaven. You can still see these guys play at some smaller venues like the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon, but I don’t know how long that will last. It’s only a matter of time before these guys really take off.
Best Enjoyed: At your hometown minor sports fundraiser
5. COLTER WALL – WESTERN SWINGS & WALTZES and OTHER PUNCHY SONGS
I don’t know how much explaining I need to do here. If you’ve already clicked on this blog then you likely already have listed to this album as much as I have. Another album from our favourite Saskatchewan cowboy that absolutely hits the mark. It does make me laugh to think about a 90’s kid from Speedy Creek singing about life like he was out on the plains 100 years ago, but christ, he sure paints the picture for me. I’ll be the first to admit that my SW Sask pride shines bright every time I hear his voice.
Best Enjoyed: Listening in the car while driving from Climax to Cypress Hills via the cut across
4. FLEET FOXES – SHORE
This is one of those bands that has had a career running perfectly parallel to my taste but never really crossing into my tracks. Back in high school when I was watching The O.C. and starting to branch out into bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Band of Horses, and LCD Sound System I had come across Fleet Foxes self titled album. That album was big and if you look up the album cover you have probably seen it in passing at some point in your life. At the time I didn’t love it and since then I have looked away anytime I saw their albums come across my screen. Flash forward to 2020 and I’m willing to give anything a shot, old or new, just to occupy my time. With a refreshed set of ears I gave them another chance and I’m glad I did. This album is good anytime music and I played it a lot this summer. “Can I Believe You” was my most played song of the season.
Best Enjoyed: On your long weekend camping trip
3. IAN WAYNE – RISKING ILLNESS
Every year I try and find a “Winter Album”. One of those ones where you can stay in all day when it’s freezing cold out, drink coffee and just enjoy some tunes. I’ve got a couple favourites for this, like John K. Samson – Winter Wheat, but was looking to add to the repertoire this year. While perusing a music website at my lunch break one day, I came across Ian Wayne. I had no idea who he was or what kind of music he played but I wrote his name down on a sticky note and threw it in my pocket. It turned into the exact album I was looking for. It is calm and relaxing but has some songs that pick it up a bit like, “Gimme Something”. Much like another favourite of mine, Pinegrove, it has a raw sound to it that I find endearing. As if it was recorded in your basement. This was one of my favourite discoveries of the year.
Best Enjoyed: Put your headphones on, turn it up loud, and crawl into bed.
2. JASON ISBELL AND THE 400 UNIT – REUNIONS
I am 100% a Jason Isbell fanboy and I have no shame in admitting it. If there was a Church of Isbell, I would get ordained. I really hope someone reading this will get to discover him for the first time. Personally, I started with the album “Southeastern” in 2013 and since then he has continued to put out my favourite songs and albums, time and time again. I was lucky enough to catch him at Regina Folk Fest last year and he lived up to every expectation I had. His songwriting is next level, his guitar playing ability is out of this world, and he also just seems like a small town stand up guy. This new album has it all and is as good as ever, top to bottom. His wife Amanda Shires, who plays fiddle in his band to compliment her own solo career, can be heard singing harmony with him throughout which I love. That was one of my favourite things about watching live was to see the way those two interact and play to each other. I love “Only Children” and “Be Afraid” the most, but if you’re looking for your next father/daughter dance song “Letting You Go” might be your jam.
Best Enjoyed: Anytime, anywhere. GO LISTEN TO JASON ISBELL!
1. ANDY SHAUF – THE NEON SKYLINE
My earliest memory of Andy Shauf was hearing someone in Climax or Frontier talk about this guy who played Christian punk music in Caronport, SK. Christian punk wasn’t exactly a genre I was looking to explore at that time and so it passed by without a thought. Fast forward to 2015 and I discovered a video on Youtube for the song “Wendell Walker” from his album The Bearer of Bad News. I was hooked. I loved the simplicity. From there, I fell in love with the song “Hometown Hero”. It’s a classic small town story which I’ve heard he based on a guy from Bienfait, SK. His next album titled The Party which came out in 2016 is a concept album. The whole album is written as a fictional story about a house party with each song depicting a different scene throughout the night. What a creative way to write music! And that’s not even the most creative part about it. Andy recorded every instrument on the album himself except for the strings (ie. violin, etc.). Pardon?! I can barely play one instrument. This instantly became one of my top plays. One of my best memories about this album was while traveling a couple years ago, my girlfriend and I heard the song, “Quite Like You” while we were having breakfast in a hotel in Amsterdam and it completely made my day.
So how does someone follow up that last masterpiece? With another masterpiece. And another concept album. This one centered around a barfly drinking away his sorrows at his local bar The Neon Skyline. I love the way he writes about scenarios that everyone can relate to in some way. I feel like I’ve been in that bar and seen these people. I watched an interview where he was asked what song in history he wished he had written. His answer was “Paul Simon – 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”. Ever since then I can hear the Paul Simon influence in his writing. His story telling in a song and the way his lyrics are almost talked instead of sang in some parts. The whole album is amazing. It is absolutely my favourite album of 2020. Now, scroll out of this blog, put on “Things I Do” and try not to grove. I dare you.
Best enjoyed: In a dark smoky room with a drink in hand.
MASEGO – STUDY ABROAD
A funky mix of saxophone, rapping, scatting and R&B. One of the more unique artists I listened to this year.
KATHLEEN EDWARDS – TOTAL FREEDOM
I saw Kathleen play at the Regina Folk Fest last year and was beguiled. Another well written release from her that is fun, honest and relatable.
10. KIRBY – SIS
I stumbled across Kirby on an NPR Tiny Desk and was immediately infatuated. I have a bit of a thing for sultry R&B, and she hits all the notes. I don’t have much to say on this album beyond that, give it a listen
Best Listened To: Tucked in the corner of a speakeasy drinking pricey cocktails.
9. DAVID RAMIREZ – MY LOVE IS A HURRICANE
Ramirez is a hard man to pin down genre-wise. His earlier work offers a classic singer-songwriter sound, but this albums adds a pop-synth vibe that pairs well with his smooth voice. Listening to this album sounds like a bit of a daydream, staring out the window and pondering relationships gone awry and thinking of those to come. My favourite song on the album is “Hell”, which is a collaboration with Sir Woman (whose EP Bitch is also worth checking out). The songs in the album, in many ways, hit the different notes of relationships; excitement, lust, love, shame, frustration, all of which are relatable in different ways.
Best Listened To: Staring at the sunset reflecting on lovers come and gone.
8. EARLY JAMES – SINGING FOR MY SUPPER
Early James seems like someone threw Shel Silverstein, a telecaster, a lounge singer in a slow cooker, set it to high and left it to stew for a few years. James’ raspy croon pairs well with his appearance, giving the sense that he stepped out of an alternate reality where the 60’s were somehow mashed up with the future. While at times this album seems to drag on and can be a bit repetitive, it won me over with its unique sound. With playful songwriting and a standout voice, very excited to see what the future looks like for James. Things are still early.
Best Enjoyed: Crafting your alter-ego
7. CHARLEY CROCKETT – WELCOME TO HARD TIMES
Is there anything more outlaw country than being an actual descendant of Davey Crockett? Well, perhaps if said descendant was involved in a stock fraud scheme, spent years selling weed to make ends meet on the road and has proclaimed he doesn’t embellish his story in his song, but in fact has had to tone things down. All paired with some of the finest Nudie Suits in the game. Charley Crocket sings with a dated urgency that makes you want to sleep with the sheriffs wife, rob a bank and make like dodge out of town. His songs about the struggles of life come off with a wry sense of fun while welcoming you to the club. His latest offering is similar to past, a raucous tone that draws you and spits you out bewildered and grinning like a mad man.
Best Enjoyed: Trying to outrun the sun on some dirt road somewhere.
6. MAC MILLER – CIRCLES
I am admittedly rarely in the know with hip-hop and was never in tune with what Mac Miller was doing, outside of the Knock-Knock phase that took the world by storm. This post-humous release paired well with the early days of quarantine, a chill album that was easy to throw on and bop along to.
Best Listened To: Sitting on your front step watching the world go by with a smile on.
5. THE SCOUNDRELS – MUSIC FROM THE ARCH
I came across this album a few weeks ago and it has been on repeat. I have yet to purchase bellbottoms and take jive lessons, but goddamn if those are not both on my list of things to do in 2021. Throw this album on and wherever you are immediately is transformed into a hip warehouse with cheap beer, a hot dog stand and funky people smoking cigarettes and making it look cool. I know absolutely nothing about this band, but if you don’t get up and grove to this album there something seriously wrong with you.
Best Enjoyed: Dancing in your house, dancing on the streets, dancing at work, dancing anywhere really.
4. WILLIAM PRINCE – RELIEVER
The pride of Winnipeg, Manitoba, William Prince has secured his place on my list of favourite songwriters with his release Reliever. A man who undoubtably has overcome his fair share of obstacles in becoming a working musician, Prince writes with a sense of gratitude that wraps itself around his tales of divorce, love and pain. “ain’t bringing bout my vengeance anymore…take the blame and cut the righteous out” he sings in Always Have What We Had, discussing working through the bitterness of divorce and finding the silver linings in the children that came from that relationship. In may way’s this album acts as a harbinger of wisdom. The songs offering understanding in pain but suggesting transcendence through suffering. This album offers sage life advice, not through lecture, but empathy in suggesting you take the high road, but knowing why you might not.
Best Enjoyed: Sunday morning drinking coffee and noticing how good the sun feels on your face
3. STURGILL SIMPSON – CUTTING GRASS VOL 2
As certified Sturgill fanboy (we are both gemenis ya know), I was curious to see where he would go after his last release, which was a rock & roll departure, paired with corresponding anime film. Cutting Grass was a hard return to his roots, offering covers of his earlier work with a bluegrass spin. I’m partial to Vol 2, as the addition of the mandolin gives it more of a country twang, but both albums are worth a listen. I don’t think they will vault ahead of his previous work in my books, but add another unique offering to his catalogue. Whether he is plotting his next big fuck you to the CMA’s or travelling to Japan to produce another anime flick, I’m always amused and inspired by what Sturgill is up to.
Best Enjoyed: Researching your astrological signs to justify your behavior.
2. KHRUANGBIN (Everything they did this year)
I can’t recall whether I was in love in Austin (this band’s hometown) when I was introduced to Khruangbin, but I do know it was the focus of my affections who brought them into my life. Hard to pronounce, but easy to enjoy, Khruangbin offers blissed out synths and funky guitar that works both as a great background soundtrack to your work from home set up or a funky groove to set the mood while having fiends over and having a few bevy’s. It helps that the band looks like the cooler and more refined older cousins of the Black Eyed peas. Not to be outdone by an annoying virus, Khruanbin released a killer collab album with Leon Bridges (Texas Sun), a handful of groovy singles and Mordecai, a full release. All of them are worth exploring.
Best enjoyed: Drinking cocktails and swaying along to the beat while telling all your stressors kick rocks
1. NATHANIEL RATELIFF – AND IT’S STILL ALRIGHT
I first fell in love with the Sultan of Sad a few years ago when I stumbled across his album In Memory of Loss. It seemed a lot more honest and packed more of an emotional punch than his work with the Night Sweats. I listened on repeat and was excited when I saw he was releasing a new solo album. I was not disappointed. There is an angst in this album that is apparent, even more saw if you watched Nathaniel choke back tears singing at the Willie and Friends online festival in the early days of quarantine. The ammunition for his sorrow is well packed, with his wife divorcing him, in part due to his struggles with alcoholism, followed by the death of his friend and produce. His earnest attempt to process his emotions and struggle to find the positives are relatable and poignant. “The glass is clear, but all this fear starts leaving a mark” is a line in And It’s Still Alright that sticks out to me, acknowledging the residue that tough times leave even after they are gone. Benjamin Tod said once in an interview that it was the duty of people who had sunk to great depths and survived to tell about it. There are a few artists that have become trusty companions on my low days, and Nathaniel has secured his stake there.
Best Enjoyed: Laying on the floor with a glass of whisky staring at the ceiling
ANDY SHAUF – THE NEON SKYLINE
JASON ISBELL AND THE 400 UNIT – REUNIONS
IAN WAYNE – RISKING ILLNESS
FLEET FOXES – SHORE
COLTER WALL – WESTERN SWINGS & WALTZES and OTHER PUNCHY SONGS
KACY & CLAYTON & MARLON WILLIAMS – PLASTIC BOUQUET