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.

The Friday Five – September 23, 2016

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I’m pulling out some old favorites for this week’s Friday Five. Some of these bands might be familiar to you, others might be new. Hopefully you’ll all find something to appreciate in the mix below.

1.  El May – “Don’t You”

2.  The Diaries – “Read My Mind”

3.  Stars – “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”

4.  Missy Higgins – “The Special Two”

5.  Marketa Irglova – “Go Back”

The Friday Five – September 16, 2016

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I’ll be honest — most of my week has been devoted to July Talk, whose excellent second album arrived at my house last weekend, and Mitski, because, well, it’s Mitski and “Puberty 2” is a phenomenal album.  But I’ve also given a listen to the new Wilco album, and I’ve been listening to one-off songs as they come up in playlists or my memory.  And those are mostly what I’m featuring today.  It’s a mostly quiet collection of songs, good for the fast-approaching fall and those cold, cold nights.

1.  Wilco – “Cry All Day”

I really like this new Wilco album.  It’s quiet, low-fi, cohesive.  I prefer it to last year’s “Star Wars” release.  This is probably my favorite track off “Schmilco” after one listen.

2.  Venus and the Moon – “Marry Me”

I love these guys.  I’ve been a fan of Frally Hynes since her first solo release, and this project with Rain Phoenix is just as exquisite.

3.  Laura Gibson – “Empire Builder”

I’m new to Laura, but I like her sound, and I love this quiet beauty of a song.

4.  Rose Cousins – “What I See”

Whenever I’m in the mood for some Rose, I always go to this live recording of “What I See” first.  I actually prefer it to the studio version, though both are lovely.  Damn fine Canadian music.

5.  Kathleen Edwards – “Soft Place to Land”

My favorite song off her 2012 release, “Voyageur.”  And I love this live version with the ever-lovely Hannah Georgas on backing vocals.  Kathleen’s busy these days running a coffee shop in Stittsville, Ontario, but I do hope she’ll eventually return to the music, especially when I listen to songs like this one.  Oh, Kitty, I miss you.

The Friday Five – September 9, 2016

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I’ve been slacking.  No Friday Five for two weeks now.  But I was sick with a bad cold and just didn’t feel up for making any selections.  I’m all mended now, though, so I’ve pulled a bunch of tunes from my work playlists to share with you all.  It’s really a mixed bag of music, but there should be something in this group for everyone.  As usual, if you hear something you like, buy it!  I don’t get anything from it other than the satisfaction of having influenced a listener out there, but in this day and age when so much music is simply streamed for free or illegally downloaded, I feel I need to nudge everyone towards supporting the artists with a purchase.

1.  Alvvays – “Adult Diversion”

2.  The Both – “Milwaukee”

3.  Jennifer Castle – “Nature”

4.  PJ Harvey – “Good Fortune”

5.  Wild Flag – “Romance”

 

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”

The Friday Five – July 29, 2016

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So many new albums and tracks have been released from excellent Canadian bands over the past couple of months. A good portion of my record collection is devoted to Canadian artists, and it makes me happy when I can introduce my fellow Americans to my favorite performers. Check out the tunes below and let me know what you think. Any Canadian artists you like? Tell me some of your faves.

1.  Billy Talent – “Afraid of Heights”

Billy Talent’s new album drops today, so I thought I’d share my favorite track off the record. Actually, it might be one of my favorite BT songs in general, coming in at a close second to “Surrender.” I love the energy, and can’t wait to grab a copy of the album (hopefully this weekend).

2.  July Talk – “Strange Habit”

July Talk released another track off their upcoming sophomore album the other day. It’s a bit softer than their usual fare, but I dig it. I’m so excited for this album to come out. Now if only I could get them to play somewhat near me on a Saturday night…

3.  DIANA – “Slipping Away”

I feel like I’ve been waiting years to hear some new DIANA. Oh, wait, I have. I’ve been into these guys since seeing them at the Wolfe Island Music Fest a few years back, and it’s great to see them releasing some new tunes. This one definitely doesn’t disappoint.

 

4.  Veda Hille – “Lover/Hater”

Veda’s new album, Love Waves, was long-listed for the Polaris Prize this year, and if you ask me, it should have been short-listed as well. The album is a bit more synth-heavy than her previous work, but it’s as lovely as ever. The chorus of this particular song is perfection.

 

5.  Hannah Georgas – “Loveseat”

I’ve had Hannah’s new album on repeat all week. Love it. Can’t get enough. My favorite track is “Don’t Go,” but I already featured that one on another Friday Five, so I picked out another good tune.

The Vacation Friday Five

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It’s Friday once again, and guess what?!  I’m on vacation as of 5:00 PM today.  I’ll be on my way to the Pacific Northwest shortly, and I can’t wait to make my way through all the record stores from Seattle to Olympia to Portland.  I’m armed with an extensive list of shops, recommendations from Ben at Kill Rock Stars, and a 32-page list of albums I’m seeking.

So yes, this Friday Five will feature more bands from the PNW.  Enjoy the tunes, and keep up with my travels via Twitter and Instagram.

1.  Tacocat – “Dana Katherine Scully”

2.  Bangs – “S.O.S.”

3.  Bratmobile – “Cool Schmool”

4.  Cadallaca – “Fake Karaoke Machine”

5.  Courtney Love – “Uncrushworthy”

 

The Friday Five – June 10, 2016

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My Pacific Northwest vacation is so close now. I can’t wait to dig into all the record stores out there and come home with loads of vinyl. Until then, I’ve been listening to a lot of my favorite PNW bands, past and present. You all know that I have huge love for Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, and Wimps, so I figured I’d highlight some other bands this week.

Without further ado, here are some PNW bands and tunes I dig.

1. The Gossip – “Don’t (Make Waves)”

2. Beat Happening – “Indian Summer”

3. Heavens to Betsy – “Complicated”

4. Team Dresch – “She’s Amazing”

5. Excuse 17 – “Nervousness Never Fades”

The Friday Five – June 3, 2016

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To be perfectly honest, all I’ve been listening to this week is the Tragically Hip. I was one of the few lucky bastards to snag tickets to their final tour (technically I’ll be at their final show), so I’ve been listening to Now For Plan A most days, along with some of my other favorite Hip tracks. But as the excitement grows around my upcoming vacation to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve had some travel tunes stuck in my head too. Songs about the West Coast, songs about the places I’ll be visiting. Songs about quitting my job, because you know the last few weeks before vacation are always the most difficult at work. So I thought I’d assemble a list of some of those songs for the Friday Five.

1.  Wimps – “Quit Your Job”

I’m counting down the seconds until I can ditch my place of employment for 10 days of freedom. You know how it is — they know that you’re getting some time off, so they do their best to work you to death before you leave. You know, just so you start your vacation stressed and exhausted. It happens every time. And as I grind my teeth through the frustration, I always have this song in my head.

Staring down the clock / Oh no, they don’t pay you enough

2.  Sleater-Kinney – “Light Rail Coyote”

Portland is where we’ll be spending the majority of our time, though our travels will also take us to Seattle, Olympia, Astoria and beyond. And I can’t think of Portland without getting Sleater-Kinney’s homage to their city in my head. It has some of my favorite Brownstein riffs, and is one of the best S-K tracks, in my opinion.

Burnside will be our street / where the kids and the hookers meet / diners and strip club junk / bookstores and punk rock clubs

3.  Angus & Julia Stone – “Big Jet Plane”

I have no beef with John Denver, but I like this as an alternative to “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

Gonna hold ya, gonna kiss ya in my arms / Gonna take ya away from harm / Gonna take her for a ride on a big jet plane

4.  Bright Eyes – “June on the West Coast”

I’m always drawn to songs about traveling from place to place, seeking out a space that feels like home, asking a city to claim us. I suppose I’m a bit of a wanderer, still unclaimed, trying to find a place to permanently call home. Until then, I’ll keep traveling with my love, and someday we’ll finally land. [Technically I have found that place, but it requires moving to another country, and that’s not as easy as they make it seem in the movies.]

I visited my brother on the outskirts of Olympia / where the forest and the water become one

5.  Indigo Girls – “Hey Kind Friend”

This one’s a bit of a sad tune, but beautiful and simple. I’ve always loved the geographical references and the images they conjure when I listen to the song. Makes me feel like I’m right there too, watching that sunset in Washington.

I was too late for Spokane, so I caught a ride through the Cascade range / I saw the sun die in Olympia, running down on Capitol Lake