Christine and the Friday Five

I’m such a Johnny-come-lately. Story of my life, really. I’m forever falling in love with bands who are no longer together or putting out music, or artists who have been active for a while and now have a large enough fanbase to make those smaller, more intimate concerts out of the question.

Many years ago, I listened to the album “Cloak and Cipher” by Land of Talk and was instantly transfixed, but then discovered that they’d stopped making music and were on some sort of unconfirmed indefinite hiatus. I was devastated. Thankfully they started making music again, and I was able to see them in Brooklyn this past spring, so all is well in the Land of Talk realm.

But I wasn’t so lucky with Wild Flag. Oh, Wild Flag. My biggest music regret is that I didn’t discover you until it was too late. By the time that single record release hooked its way into my heart, the dust had already settled on the band, and from what I hear, there is no possibility of a reunion. Not by a long shot. I console myself by purchasing every Wild Flag item I can get my grubby little hands on, whether it’s vinyl or buttons or posters or whatever. I have a ton of Wild Flag gig posters, though I never had the privilege of seeing them perform live. [Insert heavy sigh here.]

Over the past year, I’ve tried to immerse myself in all things music so that I don’t miss out again. I cruise around Bandcamp listening to anything and everything, trying on bands and artists like an armload of discounted clothes at Kohl’s. I’ve found some truly amazing artists this way. And I’m following all the necessary music news sources like Pitchfork, CoS, and a million others. I’ll admit that I don’t always check everything out that they recommend, but I do my best to give featured tracks and artists a listen. Of course, by the time they get to Pitchfork, chances are they’ve been around for a bit, or people have been following their careers for some time, even if they aren’t a household name. And it drives me kinda nuts when I’ve already missed out on all the cool limited edition vinyl releases, or tiny shows at basement clubs in New York. Those handmade Eskimeaux cassettes? Augh, I’m so bummed that I have to wait until one shows up on my preferred vinyl marketplace and then fight with other rabid fans to be the first to pay the outrageous mark-up fee. And that applies to so many artists for me.

And now that’s me with Christine and the Queens. Not that I can’t purchase a lot of the vinyl and such fairly easily, but I’m just here, scratching my head, wondering how I hadn’t heard of Heloise Letissier before a clip surfaced in my Twitter feed of her performance on Jimmy Fallon. I was captivated. Who was this dimpled, pint-sized firecracker of androgyny with mega Michael Jackson moves and a killer voice? She wasn’t simply a singer with backup dancers. There was something so different and refreshing and compelling about her routine. So of course I pulled up a Rolling Stone article on Heloise and her stage persona of Christine and the Queens, and I read about her struggles, her search for identity that challenged preconceived notions of gender and sexuality, the story behind her stage name and the events that led up to it. I loved the way she looked at the world, and what she was trying to achieve with this music, this persona. She’s awkward, she’s different, she’s outspoken, she’s tilted. And it’s not like she’s the first artist to come along and bring that energy, but somehow this resonates with me far more than other efforts. She’s David Bowie and Michael Jackson and Price rolled into one. She’s Hedwig. And Hedwig, for me, was transcendental. Transformative. When I first heard John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s brilliant story and music for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” I felt like everything just clicked. To paraphrase a quote from a favorite movie (“Little Children”), it was as if I had been listening to a radio, and someone turned the dial just a hair and everything suddenly came through crystal clear. The static of life as a bit of an outsider, as someone tilted, faded a little, even if just for the time when the music was in my ears. That’s what music should do, right? It should transport you. It should elevate you. It should draw emotions and ideas out of you that you didn’t know existed.

The static was gone last Friday as I watched YouTube video after YouTube video. I was so impressed by the entire package of Christine and the Queens — the singing, the dancing, the OUTFITS, the expression and individuality. And once again, I felt something click. I felt uplifted. And I haven’t stopped listening all week, despite my crushing disappointment that I was such a Johnny-come-lately to Christine, I discovered her two days after she performed in Boston (the one shot I would have had at seeing her live). Curses. And I’m also still perplexed that I hadn’t heard of her before last week when she’s been so popular in France for years. And I like music out of France.

But it’s okay. I’ve got her in my wheelhouse now, and that’s what matters. Until I can procure all the Christine and the Queens vinyl, I’ll make do with the YouTube videos. Which leads me to the Friday Five portion of this post…

It’s all Christine and the Queens. Listen to it. Love it.

1.  “Tilted”

This song has gone through a few iterations. First it was “Cripple,” I think. And then “Christine” for the French release. And then it was rewritten again as “Tilted” for us non-French-speaking folk. I dare you not to dance.

2.  “Saint Claude”

She’s Michael Jackson. Seriously. I love the way they twist and stretch her body in this video, too. But those moves, man.

3.  “Jonathan” feat. Perfume Genius

This song. This video. After watching it twice, I proclaimed that I wanted it to be played at my funeral, and I was only half joking. I mean, come on. What a perfect marriage.

4.  “Half Ladies” (live in Boston)

So, the sound quality is pretty shaky, but the energy in this performance is unreal. Those moves!! I want to learn that dance. I want to dance it in my living room every morning so my day will be awesome.

5.  “Do Not Despair”

This video creeps me the fuck out, but it’s also mesmerizing.

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The Friday Five – October 14, 2016

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It seems like a lot of great albums are coming out on October 28th.  I know I have some records coming in the mail that are being released that day, and there are others too.  I’ve been tripping over fantastic, new-to-me music all week, and each time I research the artist, bam — new album coming out on October 28th.  Maybe the music planets are aligning that day or something.

I had an extensive list of songs I’ve been accumulating since last Friday, but I’ve narrowed it down to the five that have stuck with me the most.  Some are new, some are new-to-me, but all are introspective, haunting, beautiful songs.

1.  Emily Reo – “Spell”

This track is gorgeous.  It’s Imogen Heap’s “Hide & Seek” v2, though to simply relegate it to a comparison is really doing it an injustice.  It stands firmly on its own.

2.  Julianna Barwick – “Crystal Lake”

I can’t even remember where I stumbled across this song, but it captured my attention immediately, and then I proceeded to listen to all the Julianna Barwick tracks I could find.

3.  Salvia Palth – “I Was All Over Her”

Lo-fi, shoegaze, bedroom pop at its finest.  I always seem to come across these little musical projects long after they’ve disbanded.  It’s my curse.

4.  Foxes in Fiction – “Ontario Gothic”

I’m just a super fan of everything Orchid Tapes is putting out.  Seriously good.  Why don’t I own anything by this band??

5.  Gord Downie – “The Stranger”

This is the new song and video for the reconciliation project Gord Downie’s been working on.  It’s part of an album/graphic novel/film release based on the tragic story of Chanie Wenjack, who died after escaping a residential school and attempting to make the trek home to his family.  Gord’s doing some amazing work during his last years on this earth, and this project is not only haunting and stunning, but so very necessary for Canada.

The Friday Five – October 7, 2016

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I missed the Friday Five last week. I had planned to pre-write the post and then publish it from the road since I knew I’d be traveling, but I didn’t remember until it was too late. Last Friday I was in Canada at the Kingston Writers Festival, attending a talk/performance by Anna and Jane McGarrigle, moderated by Sarah Harmer. What a great event.

But I’m back this week with some tunes to share. Some of these are recent releases, and some are a little older, but most of them are from new-to-me artists. Check ’em out and let me know what’s been on your playlist this week.

1.  Flock of Dimes – “Semaphore”

2.  Yohuna – “Golden Foil”

3.  From Indian Lakes – “Blank Tapes”

4.  Hazel English – “It’s Not Real”

5.  Forty Seven Teeth – “All the Feels”

The Friday Five – August 19, 2016

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Tomorrow is the final stop on the Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem tour.  The band will play one final show in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario, and then it’s radio silence as the world waits to see if Gord will be strong enough to make more music.  As much as the band is preferring not to say this is the final show for them, it likely will be.  I was one of the lucky ones to get tickets to the event, so we’ll be there to celebrate and cry with everyone in Kingston.  It’s going to be an evening so full of joy and so full of emotion, too.  It seems weird to think that this is my very first time seeing the Hip, and it’ll also be the last.

I’ve had their catalog playing non-stop for a few weeks now, so it seems appropriate to devote this Friday Five once again to the Tragically Hip.  I shared my favorite songs last time, but there are so many gorgeous tunes.  Here are a few of them.

1.  “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken”

2.  “My Music at Work”

3.  “Ahead by a Century”

4.  “Scared”

5.  “Wheat Kings”

Introducing…The Friday Five!

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Remember Carrie Brownstein’s NPR gig, Monitor Mix?  If you followed the blog during her three-year stint, then you know about Five For Friday.  At the end of every week, Carrie would post five videos for everyone to check out.  It was a great way to introduce her readers to music they might not know, and to highlight excellent live performances as well.

While I’m not entirely copying her idea, I wanted to start sharing music with you guys, and I thought sharing my five songs of the week every Friday would be something fun to do.  Sorry, Carrie.  I am sort of shamelessly stealing your Friday theme.  But hey, I changed the name (a little)!  Starting today, I’ll be posting my favorite tunes of the week every Friday.  It’ll be a mix of YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and links to the artists’ sites.  Let me know what you think about the songs I post, and fill me in on what you’ve got spinning on your turntable or blasting in your headphones.  And hey, if you like something you find here, support the artist and buy an mp3 — or heck, a whole album!

Also, if you never followed Carrie’s thoughts on music and culture, head on over to Monitor Mix and check it out before NPR does something silly like take it down.  Trust me.

1.  July Talk – “Push + Pull”

I love July Talk.  I discovered them about six months after they put out their debut album, and saw them live at the Wolfe Island Music Festival outside Kingston, Ontario back in 2013.  They have unbelievable energy on stage, and their songs are top-notch.  There’s such a wonderful vintage quality to their music, but it’s ferocious too, and it’s guaranteed to get you on your feet.  Last week, they released the first track from their forthcoming second album, and it’s just as badass as I expected it to be.

2.  Hannah Georgas – “Don’t Go”

I discovered Hannah Georgas the same day I found July Talk, and I also saw her perform at the 2013 Wolfe Island Music Fest.  How appropriate, then, that they both released a new track from their upcoming albums on the same exact day last week.  Her slower tunes are dreamy, synthy, lush, and haunting.  And I can’t sit still when the faster songs are on.  Her new release, “Don’t Go,” is one of those slower jams that makes you want to curl into a ball and post ten crying emojis (sans context) on Twitter.

3.  Eskimeaux – “Drunk”

Oh, Eskimeaux.  I fall more and more in love with this band all the time.  I got my hands on a copy of their new EP a few weeks before it was released, and it’s been in daily rotation ever since.  Gabby Smith and her Epoch buds are phenomenally talented.  I saw them open for Frankie Cosmos this past weekend in Philly, and man, what a show.  It’s impossible for me to pick just one standout track from their EP, “Year of the Rabbit,” but this song has a video to accompany it.  Go over to their Bandcamp page to hear the rest, and then buy the damn album.  Seriously.

4.  Land of Talk – “Color Me Badd”

If you haven’t heard the news, Land of Talk is back.  And they’re touring.  And I’m going next weekend.  I got deep into Land of Talk very shortly after they disappeared and left everyone wondering if and when they’d ever be a thing again.  Trusting the exquisite musical tastes of Canadian Music Goddess™ Sarah Harmer, I gave Land of Talk’s 2010 album “Cloak and Cipher” a try, and wow.  It’s so freaking good.  I was devastated when I found out that they were pretty much on indefinite hiatus, and I feared I’d never see them perform live.  I consoled myself with YouTube videos of live performances, but I wanted to be there in person.  And now I get my chance.  After four long years of waiting, I get my chance.

5.  Cate Le Bon – “Wonderful”

Someone forget to send me the memo on Cate Le Bon, so I’m a very, very new fan.  New as in two weeks new.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not already a devoted follower, crying at the thought that two of my friends are seeing her live this very evening in Philly.  Curses.  I’ve been dabbling since my discovery, listening to songs on YouTube and getting a feel for her past work.  The new record, though, is weird and (oh, God, I almost used the word quirky) interesting and so different, and I love that.  I like to hear something that almost makes me a little uncomfortable or unsure at first, because it forces me to be open to music outside my usual tastes.  I’ve been digging this new tune, “Wonderful,” and the video is a trip, mostly because it’s basically me working out.

What’s everyone else listening to?