Tag Archives: song of the week
Well, by now you should know that Tanya Tagaq took home the Polaris Prize this year.
She wasn’t who I wanted to win, but that’s only because – to put it mildly – I didn’t get it. I didn’t give myself time to get it.
Her music is the kind that needs to be witnessed. Experienced. Just listening to the tracks at home didn’t appeal to me. It was too feral. Too scary. Too dark. I thought to myself, “I don’t really enjoy listening to someone howl and grunt their way through a song.”
But of course, that’s the point. The album is called Animism after all.
I’ve never been shy to admit I get stuck in lyric driven music far too often, which can sometimes lead to closing myself off to other genres.
And that is why the Polaris Prize is such a great thing. Not because it gives awards to music – as last years winners Godspeed felt the need to point out isn’t that amazing of a thing to do – but because it shines a light on music you might not otherwise take a chance on.
The fact that an aboriginal artist finally took home the prize is a big deal. As many pointed out, with this being the 9th Polaris, it is long overdue. And I’m glad it went to an artist whose music is so visceral, so honest, so unapologetic and in your face about her roots and her culture.
If you watched her stunning performance before she took home the award, you’ll know it went to the right artist. With names of all the missing aboriginal women currently out there scrolling behind her, and a choir backing up her throat singing, you’d be inhuman not to feel something – too many things – watching it. This is music from the gut. It is all emotion. Overwhelming emotion. Try not to tear up.
This is music that skips right past your head (where lyrics live) and goes to the root of how it feels to be alive. There’s no filter. No need to overanalyze as humans so often do. It is raw and angry and passionate. It is sound in its purest form.
Her vocal abilities capture all the sounds of life, from birth to death and everything in between. I’ve never seen anything like it, and that is why it so deservedly won. Being truly original is such a rare thing in music these days.
If you are new to the unique music she makes as I was, start with her cover of the Pixies “Caribou” below or here if the stream stops working. It’ll ease you into the brilliance of what she does, without scaring you away if you’re unfamiliar with the raw nature of throat singing.
I’ve recently (finally!) started watching the brilliant FX show Louie, which happens to be written, directed by and starring one of my favourite people in the world, Louis CK. I marathoned season 1 and at the end of the final episode, this great song came on that I just had to share.
Apparently everyone was asking Louie what it was since the credits don’t list it and it doesn’t register on Shazaam, so he was kind enough to post it. Turns out Louie wrote the lyrics himself, and got local NYC musician James Maddock to perform it in the recording. It’s basically the perfect encapsulation of how it feels to have a really shitty night.
James Maddock has a beautiful raspy voice that allows for the requisite empathy the track requires.
How great is this vid? For those of you more tuned into the pop culture zeitgeist, you’ve probably already seen it. It came on my radar this week because my girl Lena Dunham performed with her on Seth Meyers, because she doesn’t like to face the camera when she performs. This is something I haven’t read much about, but I like to think it’s a decision to keep the focus on the music instead of the objectification female pop musicians (such as the ones she writes hits for – Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyonce etc) usually endure and/or play into.
Of course, it could just be a gimmick, or she could genuinely be camera shy. I’m sure I will be swiftly informed of her said reasoning, but it’s more fun to be left to make up our own mind about why it is.
Anyhow, when I heard the song I was blown away. It is so incredibly catchy, dramatic and freeing. I instantly put it on repeat and danced my ass off in my living room to it for at least an hour (I’d just downed a Grande from Starbucks, I had a lot of energy to expend).
Then I watched the actual video. And wow. When you’re dancing around and not really paying attention to the lyrics, it can come off like a song about living every day like it’s your last, in that James Dean, ‘enjoy every day because it’s a gift’ way.
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
But when you watch this video, the immediacy of the tragedy in its freedom becomes very clear.
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
While the song focuses on the destructive tendencies and emptiness of the party girl life (which the lyric video they also made captures fairly accurately), the official video showcases an incredibly talented kid from that show Dance Moms, doing a stunning routine in a basic, dilapidated room that screams out the private insanity of the person living out such a song’s words. The feeling of going crazy and “holding on for dear life” has never been portrayed so well before in a pop music video. It’s spectacular on every level.
This might be my favourite music video I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely in my top 10.
I know I’ve been sharing a lot of covers lately, but I truly, madly, deeply love this man. Seeing him perform this song at the Shoe last year was one of the most beautiful live music experiences I’ve ever had. I could easily share a whole bunch of his own songs, as he is insanely talented – but this cover just does something else for me.
He transforms Randy Newman’s jarring piano ballad into the sweetest, most comforting song you’d ever need to hear on a bad day.
His voice also might be my favourite musical instrument in play these days.
If you’ve got music in your heart
You have made a real good start
The love of music never will desert you
Last night I had the true pleasure of seeing this lovely lady live for the first time. Sad to admit she’s one of those names I had always heard but never paid attention to, placing her in the ‘probably too CanRock for me’ category just by way of associated acts. The Rootstock show I was reviewing last night only reaffirmed that unfair categorization, placing her in between Steven Page, formerly of Barenaked Ladies fame, and Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea (someone I would normally avoid ever seeing).
Of course, as soon as she opened her mouth to start singing, I realized how far off I was. I was immediately blown away by the sheer tone and beauty of her voice. The most famous pop stars of today only wish they had a vocal as captivating and original as hers.
Making the night even better was how she described her songwriting process, and how she came to write the beautiful songs she sang. This one particularly struck a chord with me as I tried to hold back tears, making it the perfect choice for song of the week.
Give it a listen: