Because I don’t tend to stray far outside without headphones on, some form of music playlist is involved in most things that I do. When I’m at an event, I leave them in my pocket or at home just because I’ve decided to exist at the whims of the DJs for that span of time, and it’s not like I’m going to whip out my laptop and do any transcribing.
But what to stream through the falling-apart Skull Candy headset, with its band temporarily patched using Scotch tape? I survived a recent stint with a hostile client by listening to The Sisters of Mercy on the buses, from York Region all the way to Lakeshore; “Sometimes in the world as-is you’ve got to shake the hand that feeds you…” I was also briefly on an Autumn’s Grey Solace kick because that’s what was needed to chill out. I wear most everything thin with over-listening so it becomes necessary to grab something new, or at least new-to-me.
Here are a few recent pick-ups. I realized I had to subtract one in case it’s not supposed to be public knowledge that I have it; you know, advance review copies, privacy of the artist, all that.
Listen to the Scatman: The Jazz Vocal/Piano of John Larkin
I don’t have a lot of Jazz in my collection, because that’s just never a direction I went with music listening as a younger person. I do get snippets of it because it’s a known part of popular culture, and I hear jokes at the expense of the genre, most recently on the TV program Scorpion. But I do already have two albums from John Paul Larkin, who you may already know as Scatman John. This release is not meant to be much like Scatman’s World or Take Your Time; aside from the last track which is flavoured somewhat more like his other albums, the most this has in common is, that’s John Larkin and he’s scatting. You’ll get the big Jazz solos, the bouncing bass lines and piano going all over the place, but I get the impression this is where John Larkin pays homage to the kind of music he enjoys most, and dare I say it, he feels a bit more at home here. Even though Scatman’s World showed up with perfect timing, in just the right part of the 90s for that album to be right at home. If I don’t listen to this as much as I could, it’s because as a listener I find this rather distant from most of my collection; however, it’s quite accessible to this casual listener. Purchased on iTunes.
Sonic Foundation – Helalyn Flowers
Let’s just roam as far away from the previous entry in the list, right? You’d think. While John Larkin’s entry into this list was a spur-of-the-moment iTunes purchase inspired by a Tumblr post, I pre-ordered Sonic Foundation and listened to the Beware of Light single many times before the album arrived. So any version of “Beware of Light” and “Karmageddon” is pretty familiar to my ears, and I wanted to hear the rest of the album. I mostly listen to this on the elliptical (a handles-free stepper which, when paired with a simple musician’s stool, works like soft-core spinning), and when working the crossbar for an upper chest/biceps/triceps workout. This is an Alfa Matrix jam, boom boom boom. I know the label more from one of the other entries on this list, and also Junksista who follows my Twitter account for some reason (not complaining, just… I’m not cool am I?) The production and mixing are tight enough to my ears that nothing distracting happens, and I can listen to this thing end to end without being jarred out of whichever perpetual daydream I’m stuck in that day. Available on order from Bandcamp in a deluxe format, among others.
Paper Dolls – Ayria
I still remember my first Ayria show; should be at the Savage Garden. The prime example of awkwardly approaching a stranger for an awkward attempt at awkward conversation, and every show since I’ve been lining up outside the door just waiting for the newest opportunity to showcase my socially challenged nature all over again. Totally worth it, every time. That first meetup and show was about… three albums ago, now. Paper Dolls feels so far like the best put together Ayria album there has ever been, the best end-to-end cohesive collection of songs. I find where I want to stop is really somewhere on the list of remixes that came with the special edition–but that’s my fault for importing all the songs of both discs into one convenient folder, so that it’ll just keep playing through them all. As for the album proper, it’s what I will take out on walks, for distance or for planting. As with Sonic Foundation, I had the early single Feed Her To The Wolves already and was quite familiar with a couple of tracks, but the rest of the album works so well that I don’t even want to skip the songs I’ve already heard too many times. I can picture the next live shows where “Fading From Me” is the song you’d traditionally wave a lighter for. I guess these days, with indoor fire safety rules and also fewer lighters, we’ll hold up our smartphones. Available on Bandcamp.
My Dear Violet – Amy’s Arms
Close to the time I crowd-funded The Gift-Knight’s Quest… well, it was the Year of the Crowd Fund for me, because I was at it with Auxiliary Magazine, I was at it for myself, I was trying to support/spread the word about other projects (such as The Scarlet Fever), and then there’s the debut album from Amy’s Arms. If it seems like I’m too reticent about ever crowd funding again just from one campaign, it’s because even though I wasn’t working for any band I still felt like I was closely watching and exerting effort for four or five campaigns within a compressed time frame, only one of which I (dis)organized myself; if I did it again, I would refuse to do it alone, and follow a more Johnny-Hollow-like plan. But you’re here for the music in relation to my life, so I should get on with that. It’s been a pleasure watching this group grow and find itself, trying out different contributors, different ideas, different permutations of the core sound. I have this album for walking and planting, too, and do have a listen of the single they released after the album. From that single Bandcamp page you should easily find the link to the new album (if not, here you go).
And for me, four is a big number of new albums to have acquired at once. I expand my collection slowly, as the budget allows, between iTunes and the occasional autographed hard copy. And as you can see, it’s often a matter of pre-ordering or supporting the album’s creation, then waiting for the musicians to make sure the album’s properly finished before they let the world listen. I have the tendency to fall back on the same things that have worked for me before, to the point that they don’t work quite the same. Four, though, is a big number of full-length albums that should last me a good while.