Thursday, July 29, 2010

The record-buying public shouldn't be voting.

Kathryn Calder's debut album shares a name with my second favourite P.D. Eastman book. You can read my review of Are You My Mother? here.
And because I know that most of you reading this blog are completists when it comes to record reviews written by yours truly, here's one I did a few issues back on the Mohawk Lodge's new album Crimes.

mp3: "Arrow" by Kathryn Calder
mp3: "Bad News" by the Mohawk Lodge

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Awwww crap!, part two in a series

I heard the news today, oh boy (yesterday actually).
Regina's Polymaths are calling it quits for quite legitimate, life-goes-on reasons. I haven't even heard their only album, Home Again, so I'm not, y'know, heartbroken. That doesn't mean it's not a loss for music fans and for a Regina pop scene that has surely matured in my absence.
Their 2008 EP, So Long, Castle Road, pleased me in so many ways: It's smart, catchy pop full of local references.
I'm pretty sure I first learned of their existence by reading Pat's Sound Salvation Army blog, so props to him, and props to Polymaths. If you're in Regina on Thursday night, go pay your respects at O'Hanlon's.

mp3: "Wrecking Ball's Kiss" by Polymaths
mp3: "Strike" by Polymaths

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Awwww, crap!

Here's how things were supposed to go:
I show up with my moderately wonderful second draft tucked under my arm. Perhaps I am wearing a tweed coat with suede patches, perhaps I am not. It is mid-October, the weather could go either way.
I am cordial with Joseph Boyden, perhaps even a bit shy, as I often am with people I admire. But I make an quiet mention of how his Moosenee characters in Through Black Spruce have similar speech patterns to some of the characters (especially Antoine Batiste) in Treme, which is set in the place where Boyden mostly lives now, New Orleans. He realizes I am a perceptive reader, and he begins to form a genuine interest in reading my manuscript. He tells me stories about the people he knows who inspired characters on Treme, and I dazzle him with my arcane knowledge of Clark Johnson, who hasn't been on Treme, but was on the final season of The Wire, which Boyden still hasn't watched at this point, and his interest in my novel grows as my eyes widen when I talk about the scene in Homicide: Life On The Street where Johnson's character, Detective Meldrick Lewis, allows his strained marriage to finally collapse under the weight of a black-velvet painting of Teddy Pendergrass.
"So what's your novel about, anyway?" he asks.
I explain to him that it started out as your typical vaguely-autobiographical, grudge-settling first novel, but grew into something else. Inspired in equal parts by Jonathan Ames's first novel I Pass Like Night (as well its direct influence, The Catcher in the Rye), Walter Mosley's first Socrates Fortlow book Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and Jack Kirby's 18 issues of Mister Miracle comics.
Boyden doesn't quite get all the references, but his wife, Amanda, who is co-presenting the retreat, says, "You watch a lot of HBO, don't you, Emmet?"
So they read the damn thing, the beast I've been working on not-quite-as-steadily-as-I'd-like since January, when I registered for the retreat. They like, it shows promise. "There are some really great ideas in here," Joseph Boyden says.
"I agree," Amanda agrees. "But we have some notes."
The next four days are an ecstatic blur, as we workshop through the novel's problems--and there are problems. After the day's writing and rewriting is done, we go for a long walks in the cool night and I tell them all about my wonderful, supportive wife and my ridiculous daughter, who is, by October, speaking in sentences and, oh, the things she says!
At last, the retreat has run its course, and Nicole and Lill have come over to meet me in Campbell River for a little family holiday before the drag of everyday life resumes. Joseph and Amanda, my new best friends, invite the three of us to New Orleans "sometime after Mardi Gras" and Joseph tells me he wants to show my next draft to some important people.
The next spring, in Louisiana, a chance encounter in Louis Armstrong Park leads to a meeting with David Simon, who immediately buys the rights to my novel and offers me a job, forever changing my fortunes.
Here's how things went:
"Hello, Mr. Matherson? I'm sorry to inform you that the Art of Fiction writing intensive with Joseph and Amanda Boyden has been cancelled."
Awwww, crap!
Here's Big Tree, a New York band who play what I call Hippie Jazz, performing a terrif version of "Little Brother" live. The song is also on their self-titled 2008 album, but this live version just kills it. If you're in the Canadian Maritimes, they'll be playing Julie Doiron's Sappyfest on July 31.

MP3: "The Concurrence of All Things" by Big Tree from their brand new EP, Home (Here)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Google Me

So, um, the number one search term leading to this blog over the last week was "Bon Jovi Emmet Matheson". Also, a lot of visits have been coming in from Iran. I don't want to jump to any, I mean, I don't think the two are, well, that's one heck of a coincidence.
I wrote some words about Bon Jovi for the prairie dog, and also about Das Racist. The Bon Jovi thing is a follow-up to something I wrote last fall. I don't know why I've written more about Bon Jovi in the last year than any other band, and I don't know why they care so much in Iran. But I'm glad they do.
Meanwhile, remember Bigg Jigg? I featured him here a few months ago. Just like the Rural Alberta Advantage, the Deep Dark Woods, Women and the Parkas, great things have happened for Bigg Jigg aka The Breadwinner since appearing on ABWAWBA. He's just signed to Universal Music Group, who will release his debut longplayer I Am The Go 2 Man on August 20.

mp3: "Google Me (Dirty Version)" by Bigg Jigg

now is better than before

Wednesday on the swings, a girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old, yells to be pushed higher, harder, faster.
"You're boring, Dad," she says to the man behind her.
He looks at me and smiles with pride, "She has no idea how hard I work at being boring."

mp3: "My Daughter" by Lucky Fonz III

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The city was my teacher, I left an apple on her desk

Nicole asked me the other night, "When people ask you where you're from, what do you say?"
I usually say I'm from Regina.
"But you're not from Regina, you grew up in Saskatoon."
I started to get into "Well, okay, I had my childhood in Saskatoon, but I was a teenager in Regina, and that's really what it is to grow up, that's the crucible of youth..."
But Nicole was just asking what I say when people ask.
And people do ask. Nobody's from Vancouver. Somebody must be, my daughter is, but even the most Vancouverish of people I know come from elsewhere: Marrakech, Burnaby, Saskatoon.
I left Saskatoon for Regina three months after my 15th birthday. My adolescence to that point had been relatively smooth and uncomplicated. I never thought about leaving Saskatoon, never thought of Saskatoon as a place to escape or, worse, as a place impossible to escape. I don't doubt that I would have eventually found Saskatoon to be a set of shackles around my ankles when I'm trying to jump a train. Nearly all my friends from Saskatoon have left (most of them are here in Vancouver), most them as soon as they could.
But the fact remains that I didn't stay in Saskatoon long enough to resent it. When I left, Saskatoon was still big enough to hold my dreams. Saskatoon teemed with adults I admired. Important people walked among us. Though we never saw him, we had heard that a famous and respected novelist lived on the same crescent as Dan and John, not far from Market Mall. Our Eighth Grade teacher had put out a record! All around us there were poets, visual artists, musicians, upholsterers, sewage engineers, whatever. Maybe I was just too young and naive to think otherwise, or maybe I was just lucky, but the people I knew--peers and adults alike--were really engaged with the community. Those people seemed harder to find in Regina.
Of course, I never really had to negotiate Saskatoon as anything other than a child, a teenaged child, okay. Even at my most independent, I could always count on certain securities. I always knew that my parents, teachers (with a few horrible exceptions), or other responsible adults would take care of me. Even when I stayed out all night or showed up at school with tiny dots of red paint on my glasses the Monday after someone spray-painted a pentagram and surrounded by the words Mötley Crüe on the portable classroom, I always felt like a part of something.

I don't mean to suggest that Regina is a shit place and that all the people I met there were shit people and that the writers, artists and musicians I got to know there as a teenager were shit writers, artists and musicians. Far from it. The truth is that Regina never had a chance. I became a sulky teenager almost from the moment I arrived and it was through those eyes that I saw Regina. Saskatoon, meanwhile, remained the city of my childhood. For years, I only saw Regina for what it wasn't.
I still dream about Saskatoon sometimes, but I don't pretend to know what it's become. Regina, I'm less angry at all the time.
I still don't have a good or wholly accurate answer to "Where are you from?" But I'm working on it.

mp3: "This Affair" by Soft Reeds