I'm studying chemical engineering and management science at the University of Waterloo. I'm also a regular contributor to Pitchfork and an occasional presence on sites like Myspace, Noisey, and BuzzFeed, among others.
Hey, hope everyone’s doing well out there — I haven’t had a lot of time to spend on Tumblr over the last few months. Between my senior design project, a standard load of classes, and a freelancing schedule that gets more and more packed (I haven’t yet learned to say “no”) it’s been a struggle just to find time to sleep, never mind to write new stuff for here. I feel bad about it, and not out of some sense of obligation to the people who are reading this, but simply because I think writing in this space helps me to get better and cool down in a way that writing for money can’t. I only have four weeks of class left and a handful of exams, and then I’ll be finished, at which point I should be simply swimming in free time. We’ll see. Anyway, here are some things I’ve written over the last few weeks.
- I reviewed Danish producer Tomas Barfod’s decent new EP Pulsing for Pitchfork.
- I reviewed Pharrell’s fun new record G I R Lfor TIME. I have some really exciting news about this review coming in a few days — probably just after the weekend — so stay tuned for that, you’ll definitely understand my excitement when you see it.
- Moving outside of the world of music criticism for a second, I’ve accepted an offer to work here at the University of Waterloo for a year starting in May. (I know, I’m counting down the days until I wrap up a degree here and then I’m coming right back, it’s ridiculous.) I’ll be returning to the department I’ve been working at in both full-time and part-time capacities for the last 16 months in a slightly upgraded role, and I’m so glad that they had a slot for me to come back as a Real Adult, at least for a while. I’m not sure what’s in store after the contract runs its course, but I’d happily continue moving up in the institutional sector if the work’s there.
- I’m going to see a real apartment tomorrow, and meeting with a financial planner next week. Adulthood: a little bit terrifying, but mostly totally thrilling!
- We bought a heater a few weeks ago and it sits by our patio doors. We sleep in the basement in this place, it’s our only source of outside light. I keep looking towards the doors as I’m writing this: the sun is out and it’s bright, and if I look at the window with the right focus I can see the waves of heat rising from the heater, shimmering and slightly warping the image of the glass. There’s magic in being able to see heat; we take it for granted because it typically moves unseen. I wanted to get that image down on paper in case I forget about it.
- I’ve been listening to the Clientele a lot over the next 24 hours, so before saying goodbye for now, here’s "I Hope I Know You." How does this band make it look so easy? See you in a few days/weeks.
This was a spur-of-the-moment purchase that turned into one of my most satisfying concert experiences ever. In terms of creative ambition, musicality, and sheer gutsiness, the Justin Timberlake show I saw three days before this one belongs on some other, lesser planet. A lot of other writers have taken their crack at the Kanye West live experience over the past few months, so it was rewarding and challenging to try my own hand at it. I hope I brought something new to the tour’s universe of coverage — and if not, I just hope it’s a satisfying read.
The 23-year-old Ottawa singer-songwriter Kalle Mattson’s third album, Someday, the Moon Will Be Gold, is a document of personal growth set against the backdrop of his mother’s death. His sound’s never been this fully realized, and he has never drawn himself in such clear, unflinching light.
This album landed in my inbox one day and was such a pleasant surprise: warm, ambitious, familiar. If you’re into indie rock — esp. the sort that came out of the Canadian indie golden age of the ’00s — I think you’ll find a lot to love in this record.
1) A programming announcement: I’ve been curious for a while about using Medium as a writing platform. Speaking personally, I think it has potential in the short-term as a complement for Tumblr: there are some things that will be better suited to the form, and some that should remain on the latter. I wrote something there about how the changing nature of my readership has gradually made me a better writer, and you can read that here. I’m going to split it like this for the foreseeable future: short posts about songs and albums and personal items (so maybe like ~80% of things) will remain on Tumblr, and broader thoughts on writing/media/trendy issues (the other ~20%) will find a new home on Medium. We’ll see how it goes.
2) Next week is our school’s Reading Week, which means a week off to catch up on all the assignments, projects, and readings I’ve been avoiding since the term started. (I will spend most of it worrying about my senior design project, a.k.a. the project that haunts my waking and dreaming hours, a.k.a. the item without which my life would be pretty much ***flawless.) My boyfriend and I are heading to Toronto tomorrow night to see Justin Timberlake, staying the night, and then leaving for Montreal Saturday afternoon. We’ll be there until next Wednesday morning.
This is going to be my first trip to a province other than Ontario, which is pretty strange and very exciting for me. Neither of us has ever been to Montreal, and I don’t have much idea about what to do there except search for bagels and smoked meat sandwiches. So if you live in Montreal or have been to the city and have any recommendations for stuff to do/eat, I would really, really appreciate them. (Leave a reply to this post, askbox it, email, whatever.) Here’s hoping my weeks of sporadic French practice using Duolingo will prove even 1% helpful.
3) I just updated this blog’s “other writing" section — a collection of major clips that serves as a decently comprehensive introduction to my freelancing over the last few years — so feel free to check that out.
This is my second post for TIME’s Entertainment section — I wrote about Miguel’s new song for Girls yesterday — and this song is great, up there with some of my favourite singles from the likes of Chvrches, Charli XCX, etc. (who are all operating in similar pop spheres)
I’ve expressed similar sentiments before, but here it is again, for old time’s sake: never in a million, billion years did I think starting a Tumblr (because I was lonely, depressed, in the closet, and desperate for a creative outlet) would lead to a TIME byline, or a byline anywhere for that matter. What a weird, dumb, cool life.
I wrote about growing up on Apple earbuds, and learning to leave them behind, for Pitchfork’s staff blog. I’ve been thinking about this for a while — and have written about it before here, a bit — and it felt good to finally put fingers to keys and explore my personal history as a listener.
I recommend reading Mark Richardson’s piece for the staff blog from last July about vinyl sound quality if you’re interested in this topic — it’s not directly related to what I wrote, but he articulates a few things that ended up sparking what I wrote about, and it’s a good read re: the subjectivity of sound and the role our personal preference plays in our listening experience.
I love the way this song starts, with Callahan playing that core riff again and again while muttering to himself, “No… no… no… no.” And then a spark catches on the riff and it gallops higher, just for a second or so, and again, and Callahan knows he can’t hold it in any longer and that now’s as good a time to start as any other time. “I did not become someone different…” It’s the way words jump and burn inside me when I have something important to say and I’m trying to fit the right words to it, holding on until my opening statement is as perfect and clear as possible. I’ll surely slip up sooner rather than late, but I’ll always have that one true first sentence, or so I tell myself.
I like to think of the second verse (“Met a woman in a bar…”) as if it’s being spoken by the mysterious, roguish playboy figure that populates a few other Callahan songs, e.g. "I Was a Stranger": he swaggers up to these women and tells them he’s “hard to get to know / and near impossible to forget,” and then leaves town silently cursing himself after he’s scorched the earth and left them bruised, poisoned by emotional fuckery. But he can’t stop himself, so he goes somewhere else and does it again, and now he’s here looking back on it all, sitting on the porch with a cigarette. Maybe it’ll be different next time. “No matter how far wrong you’ve gone / you can always turn around.”
I woke up Monday morning with a lump in my throat. I felt it every time I swallowed — and since then I’ve been acutely aware of just how weird and complicated that process is, swallowing things; it’s not something I take for granted anymore — and when I leaned down beneath my desk to scan some files, like someone had cut a ping-pong ball’s shell in half and taped it to the inside of my throat. It was tender to the touch, like a secret bruise. I went to sleep two nights straight hoping I’d wake up fine, and woke up two mornings straight touching my neck to find that my lump had, in fact, grown. I went to our campus clinic this morning.
Thyroid problems run down the paternal side of my family like an artery, carrying issues from father to son to son. My grandfather’s thyroid tried to melt him away in a burst of hyperactivity before he got it under control; my dad’s invites assault from his own body, unprovoked, unless he takes medication. I fed these pieces of information to the clinic doctor as she applied pressure to my throat, remarking on the swelling. She signed me up for blood work, an ultrasound, and a follow-up visit next week. I made an appointment with the ultrasound clinic this afternoon; it’s deep in the Mennonite township north of where I live, and I had to take two buses and walk a mile into a biting wind to make it there.
It was my first ultrasound. It was kind of beautiful, and surprisingly tender. The technician laid me down on a papered table, tucked a towel into the neck of my sweater, and darkened the room; I could see light leaking out of the edges between the ceiling panels, light that couldn’t be contained. I squinted hard and it started to look like starlight, a night sky I could enjoy while the technician smeared cool gel onto my throat and took grainy pictures of my insides. The room was surprisingly warm, and the ultrasound machine hummed and spat as she worked. I nearly fell asleep.
I walked back into the wind sweeping off the snow-covered fields and thought about the song I wanted to post today: something by Stars of the Lid, maybe, or by a guy named Ben Warfield who put out an ambient record this year I really love. I wanted something I typically use to accompany quiet contemplation, though the topic at hand was a little more serious than my usual pre-sleep subjects: the weight of the day had me staring down mortality with a nearly unprecedented seriousness. What if the lump is more than a consequence of a recent viral infection, or even a hand-me down disease I can control with a pill every morning? What if I have to brace myself for a struggle every time I need to scan a document? (Shit, what if I need to move my printer out from under my desk?)
But then my day got better, bit by bit. I bought a heater for our bedroom at Wal-Mart, and it wasn’t even that expensive; I have a job interview tomorrow with a really cool company that’s based a few stone’s throws away from where I’m sitting right now; I’m getting to write a piece I’ve been thinking about for a while; I’m leaving my place in a few minutes to buy a naked burrito and play poker with my friends. I’m soaring on this series of little things. So I’m posting “Kid Charlemagne,” by Steely Dan, because I listen to this song when I’m feeling like royalty. It only takes one listen to understand why Kanye was attracted to this song, and it’s deeper than that one line — “did you realize / that you were a champion in their eyes?” — it moves with supreme confidence and style, an outlaw spirit. I will be fine, at least for today.