Visions by Devon Welsh - 2018 Playlist


Visions - Devon Welsh

★★★★★

September 19th, 2018

When I arrived at Longboat hall I thought I saw my friend Jess waiting for me at the door in pink tear-away Adidas pants. I motioned up toward her, and just before I went to embrace her I realized it was not my friend at all, but indeed some other hype-beast Toronto youth. Although I do think I recognized her friend. Maybe her name was Claire, or maybe I just had Claire on the mind because I was here to see Mister Welsh, (“neé” Boucher). I should emphasize that I would never reduce Devon Welsh solely to Grimes’ ex. In fact their relationship is something I’ve come to learn of only recently; a fact that I had adored until Boucher muddied her social circles with the likes of Elon Musk. She’s an intriguing entry on an impressive resume. But Devon Welsh has so much under his belt.

Security didn’t ask for my ID but I presented it anyway. Awkward. The doorman assumed I would present my ticket to him and I didn’t. Awkward. I dropped my ID while fumbling with my broken phone to find the ticket. I’m used to behaving so clumsily in public now that I don’t even get embarrassed anymore. Moreso I just feel awful for the people that have to deal with me, who probably feel embarrassed for me. Sorry y’all, I’m just the fumbling gal who likes very out-of-my-league music, as per usual. (Yeah, I don’t know who let me in either.)

Once inside, I headed at once for a glass of whiskey (despite always claiming that “I’m not drinking tonight”). I recognized Welsh’s parents at the bar immediately. They were the only people at Devon’s recent show at the Baby G over the age of 40. At Baby G, I joked with my partner that maybe they were his parents; a quick Google search from my bar stool determined that it was true. I always love when parents come out to their kid’s shows, and I always have the tendency to speculate that older patrons might just be them. Ageism aside, not only was I right, but also his father is indeed Google-able. I got the feeling from their white hair and their funky clothes that they were not your average parents. I guess maybe I’m late to this news, but Kenneth Welsh is a Canadian actor who is well known for his role in Twin Peaks. Artistic father breeds artistic son. This time at Longboat, I found the moment appropriate to approach them. I tipped the bartender and leaned over to them.

“Excuse me, have you been here very long?” I asked.

“No, not very long,” Kenneth replied. 

“I was wondering if you caught the opener. I heard he’s supposed to be very good.” (Flimsy excuse.)

Kenneth went on to explain it an artful way (of which I wish not to paraphrase for fear of bastardizing the dialogue) how Nick Shofield was incredible and imaginative and how he played his synth in a dreamful fashion (I later learned that Shofield also plays synth in the Devon Welsh line-up).

“The headliner is pretty good too,” he said with a wink. 

I laughed while making my exit, and found a spot with the rest of the patrons (who had inexplicably chosen to sit cross-legged on the floor) next to tear-away pants girl. I was okay with it (I’m old and my back aches, she whines).

I hadn’t had a drink in a while and the whiskey was hitting the spot. When I go to shows, I like to put myself in just enough of a state of vulnerability that I am comfortable crying in public, but not enough that I need to use the washroom incessantly. It helps me ~feel the music, man!~ Whiskey is sweet in that way because the amount of liquid you ingest doesn’t amount to much in your bladder, but just enough in your heart :’).

We stayed seated as Devon and his band made the stage. As usual, his unusual presence made for awkward laughs among the audience. Devon has a way of stating the obvious in a way so earnest it comes off as comedy. Tear-away pants girl let out a few hearty laughs brought on by the tension in the room, and Devon mentioned that he’d heard her laughing in the back of the venue earlier. To which she replied with even more laughter. 

Everyone seemed relaxed. We were weirdos alike. It was quiet enough to hear any amount of movement from anyone. Sound was being magnified, and I hoped me fidgeting with the contents of my bag wasn’t being noticed. 

Without much introduction, they opened with Comedian. “Lord, let me live another life.” is the immediate takeaway lyric from this song. I can appreciate the sentiment. Devon’s hands shake when he holds a microphone, I noticed. When I attempt to sing (badly, at karaoke) with the same sincerity, my hands shake too. The way Devon sings is one of the most intensely emotional experiences I’ve ever witnessed. Even when I was listening to Majical Cloudz, I felt this way. I would cry, biking home alone from 1251 or the Junction while listening to him sing Silver Car Crash and Downtown on my headphones. I know this intensity can fall into Cringe category for some, but for me, I never feel more deeply about sung lyrics than I do with these projects.

The whole performance was acutely self-affirming. With Welsh’s vocals always the focal point, the captive audience can only help but to fully immerse themselves within the lyrics. As a pin dropped, Welsh softly counted, 1-2-3-4, into Vampires. My take: it’s a song about growing older in a city in which you were once young. It’s feeling like your time has come and past and that it’s time you finally leave. Now, it could just be my environmental forces making it feel that way, but it’s a sort of cathartic idea, no? Knowing you’re not the dominant generation anymore; feeling your time ending and then moving to the next chapter (the country?). Is this the feeling that incited everyone’s mass-exodus to Hamilton?

My friend Jess eventually arrived. She was nervous to enter the sea of cross-legged bodies littering the hall’s floor. I waved her in. There was nothing to be nervous about. I wish I hadn’t acted so awkwardly when I arrived. It wasn’t necessary. The room was safe. Everyone belonged and we were all comfortable. Toronto’s music scene can be staunch. Sometimes in spaces like this we are compelled to exist less, to be a fly on the wall. I’m trying not to be that anymore. I was sitting front row that evening and I didn’t regret it.

The night went on. At some point, Welsh played couple of older songs, one I was not familiar with called I Will Love You Forever. A quick search revealed to me an album of his from 2016 that I’d never heard before. Sadly, no such album exists on Spotify, so I downloaded the album from his Bandcamp account. I Will Love You Forever is a crucial entry for aspiring Devon Welsh fans, if you’ve just been introduced to his work. I highly recommend downloading this song for yourself. And if you’re lucky enough to catch Welsh live maybe he’ll play it for you, too.





Hair Cutter by Animal Collective - 2018 Playlist

Hair Cutter - Animal Collective

★★☆☆

Anyone in here an ODDSAC fan? Back in 2010 I paid 20 USD to have a copy of the Animal Collective visual album on DVD, and subsequently paid another 50 USD in customs and FedEx fees. Was it worth it? Yes, obviously. It came with a poster! As a mid-2000s nineteen-year-old it was also just about as monumental as seeing the release of 2001: A Space 2001 back in ’68. Dare I say, for millennial indie-heads of the early oughts, it might’ve the single most important visual piece of our young lives. To say my best friend and I watched it a lot is an understatement.

So when Tangerine Reef dropped I was, needless to say, hyped. A few weeks prior, AnCo had released the single Hair Cutter (which is supposedly a tune about developing a directionless crush on your hairdresser). I immediately threw it onto my rotation on Spotify and headed on an Algonquin trip with a few friends for the weekend. 

But when it came time on the road trip to contribute my music to the car, I anticipated this song and made sure to skip it. Why? Animal Collective at their best make catchy weirdo pop; at their normal make near-senseless, droning soundscapes; and at their worst make ears bleed (Thanks Avey). But don’t get me wrong, all of the above are literally music to my ears, just maybe not to the general public. 

The thing everyone* needs to know about Animal Collective is that they are not a band who are fundamentally listenable. As an AnCo fan, you are generally subject to years of neglect, only to be rewarded with albums like 2012’s Centipede Hz *eye-roll*. But every now and again, you get a Sung Tongs, a Fall Be Kind, or a Strawberry Jam. Heck, even 2017’s Meeting of the Waters was fairly palatable. And I’ll be (not) the first to point out that core member Panda Bear is a crucial element to the listenability of popular AnCo records. And who is Tangerine Reef missing? You guessed it. I can’t speak exactly to what Panda is doing instead, probably out touring a great album that he refuses to release on any streaming services…ahem.

But I digress, in truth I believe that Tangerine Reef *is* good. And to give Avey (and Deakin and Geo) some credit, it seems with Tangerine Reef he came back down to earth from his Slasher Flicks days (so hard that it appears he crash-landed in the ocean). 

Jokes aside, it is important to note in the case of this very complicated band, that one will surely be led astray by the having-of-expectations from the four-or-three-or-sometimes-two-piece. Nonetheless, this song Hair Cutter, is one of the only truly palatable songs on the album, which is why I chose it for the playlist. 

However you spin it, Tangerine Reef’s audio functions primarily as the soundtrack for the video collaboration between Animal Collective and Coral Morphologic (the groups previously met at an ODDSAC screening). Watch the film if you have an hour. It’s visually stunning, and nothing like anything AnCo have participated in before. At some points it’s disturbingly grotesque, and at others its some form of uncanny-valley-esque sea creature choreography. There are several points in the film that drew marked parallels to the human choreography performed by the Brooklyn dance crew, FLEX in Summertime Clothes, and even hints of the animation in My Girls! All this neon under the 1080p Planet Earth documentary-style veil? Looks like David Attenborough went a little too hard in the paint on this one (sorry I’ll stop).

*referring to the general public, not strange people like me.


You can listen to my 2018 year-in-review playlist here.


Effervescent Island by Angelo de Augustine - 2018 Playlist

Effervescent Island - Angelo de Augustine 

★★★★☆

Effervescent Island follows the title track on the EP Carcassonne, which was released on June 29, 2018. Self-produced, the two track EP was released by Asthmatic Kitty Records AKA Sufjan Steven’s label, so you know it’s going to be good. Augustine has released two LPs since 2014, including Swim Inside the Moon, also with Asthmatic Kitty, which, TBH, I have yet to give an honest spin. Though I’ll be adding his earlier works to my ‘to listen’ list because, if you know me, this is the type of music I tend to lap right up: slow, stripped down, and with whispered, yet somehow annunciated vocals painting a cozy soundscape. 

As of this moment, I have missed his Toronto show at the Drake by about a week :(. Hopefully the EP is hinting at some upcoming new music and subsequent tour to bring him back again. Considering how quickly the tour commenced surrounding the summer release, my bet is that this Augustine is a veteran on the road. 

The song itself gives me ASMR-feelings. The production work on Augustine’s vocals is minimal and concise. The intimacy of the whispered layered vocals with guitar and piano on Carcassonne and E.I. respectively gives me both the warm fuzzies and shivers simultaneously. There’s a glottal quality to both tracks to which the title track owes its sentimentality, while E.I. owes its mysteriousness. Lyrically, E.I. reads like a search for pleasures in love and discovery, pronounced acutely by its careful cadence.


You can listen to my 2018 year-in-review playlist here.


Severed by Decemberists - 2018 Playlist

Decemberists – Severed

★★★★

Severed was the very first song to catch my attention this year. Apparently, it was also the first song of the year to garner a ticket sale from me as well. My Ticketmaster receipt for Decemberists’ May concert is dated the day after this single’s release! 

Colin Meloy has stated that their album I’ll Be Your Girl was in some ways a reaction to the 2016 US election; if the video for Severed wasn’t enough of a hint. If you haven’t seen it, you can *probably* guess that a certain orangey-hued demagogue plays a prominent role. The video itself reads like a mash-up between Young Folks (still slaps) and a Monty Python collage animation featuring the band’s decapitation by the aforementioned Cheeto.

I’m gonna be honest here, up until recently I had no idea what this song is about. And though my instincts would normally thrust me into the political discourse surrounding any content, this time I just wanna talk about the tune. There will be pleeenty more leftist shouting from me further down the list (forewarning). I was simply intrigued by the band’s transition from traditional folk instrumentation to their heavy experimental synth use (no doubt inspired by the album’s producer, John Congelton). 

While some purists may say nay to this creative side-step, I challenge any Decemberists’ concert-goer to NOT dance to this tune. Danceable indeed, all whilst the theatrical lyricism of Meloy takes on this uncharacteristically aggressive, and dare I say, punk tone. As we millennials may remember from the Bush presidency, the best art comes from political unrest. My hope in this small solace is that the art too has the power to disseminate anti-fascist rhetoric on new ears.

Sorry, I mean it’s dancey. Yeah, dancey. I was certainly satisfied with that element in May when I went down to the Sony Centre to see the band perform. This song’s danceability, as well as the rest of the album, hinges on an unusual but *iconic* element of repetition. Severed, as well as Once In My Life lack the general ambling characteristic of Meloy’s lyricism. I noticed this trend amplified in the release of Everything Now by indie cousins, Arcade Fire, half a year earlier. Now, at first, I’ll admit with both albums, the repetition felt lazy. But now—six months and a year later, respectively—these two albums have been effectively drilled into my mind. Good thing? Sure, if you’re on the side of indie-folk-rock-alternative success. Effective as propaganda? Had they fallen on more attentive ears: apparently/maybe. Either way I’m sure to remember these tunes for the rest of my life.


You can listen to my 2018 year-in-review playlist here.


2018 Playlist

If you happen to know me well (or have ever sat down with me for any length of time), you would likely know that I spend a lot of time thinking about great songs and the bands that make them. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been making playlists that help define a specific mood, time, or place. I was naming them after my boyfriends or ideas I was trying to trace; things like ‘pace’ and ‘wave’ and ‘Andrew’ (LOL).

Last year I made my very first year-in-review playlist on Spotify and wrote about it on Facebook. This year I’ve been doing the same, but I’ve made it into a year long project instead of a December-ditch-effort. I’m going to try to post regularly on this blog about the new releases I come across, and the ones that I’ve already had on heavy rotation. If you want to hear the playlist in its working stage you can listen to it here.

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