Wednesday, 24 July 2013

secret: the wistfulness that comes with illness

For some reason, whenever I've been sick a few days I start thinking about doing all the things I want to do that I haven't done for ages. 

Today I really want to play some guitar and sing a little. But I have a whopping great head cold. And I haven't played for so long that my calluses are gone and my memory has rusted.

I'd like to learn some new songs, or maybe even write a few. Build up those calluses in time for summer, and travel the country with a guitar and a ukulele and some good company, a bottle of wine and a bottle of whiskey, in my little van and some sand in my shoes.

I'd be playing "Young Man in America" by Anais Mitchell.

Friday, 19 July 2013

July Challenge week 3, in which I discover several new artists

I'm wondering: is it a symptom of my generation (yep, still thinking within the framework of Gen Y) that the way I discover new music is through my various technological devices?

Last night, I sat up from 8:30 til 12am on YouTube, glued to the screen as I uncovered one song after the other, one artist after another. My little mind was somewhat blown last night, I don't mind admitting to you all. Between YouTube and Shazaam, I barely need to ask anyone which band it is or even leave the house to hear them play live.

Don't get me wrong for even a second: real life live music is always better, and a musical experience is so much more magical when you're seeing the real life live people, listening to them, feeling collective awe that hundreds or thousands of others are also feeling. Can't beat that. However, for everything else, there's YouTube.

New favourite lady act 1:

Nneka is a little bit amazing - Nigerian-German, with such a great hip-hip/reggae/soul mix going on. I like her a lot and hope to find some more of her music to enjoy.

New favourite lady act 2:
I've posted Anais Mitchell's NPR Tiny Desk Concert before, but have since gotten into her album material (so wonderful to discover a new favourite has multiple albums, for multiple listening pleasures). Her song "Coming Down" is quite lovely, and I realised I knew it already, as Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame covered it for triple j's Like A Version one time. That right there is reason enough to make her your new hero.

New favourite lady act 3:
Daughter. Holy crap. Daughter first came on my radar for a cover of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky", but I must admit I didn't give it too much attention as I was completely into San Cisco's more upbeat cover

But this song is probably my complete and total favourite at the moment. And Elena Tonra, vocalist and leading lady, just seems so lovely and like someone I'd be friends with. The kind of person who I'd take a while to get to know, and eventually we'd be thick as thieves, and she'd buy me things at the opshop that she knew I'd like. This is my fantasy, which makes me suspect I could love female frontwomen as much as lust after male frontmen.

We'd probably have crafternoons and bake together and lay in the park on the grass looking up at the sun through the leaves of trees, too.

I hope I don't accidentally find out she is an asshole.

New favourite lady act 4:
Technically, not 'new', as I have been enjoying Of Monsters and Men for a while now - but I hadn't watched any of their videos or live stuff until last night, for some reason. And now I have a girl crush on Nanna Brynd√≠s Hilmarsd√≥ttir, their lead female vocalist. 

I think she'd be more of the type of friend who I'd go out to do crazy stuff with, like parties and bonfires at the beach, and inpromptu dancing. So our friendship wouldn't have to encroach on my friendship with Elena (see above).

This is the clip that made me love Nanna (her name is Nanna! She's Icelandic!)

Their band looks like they have a lot of fun, and makes me want to live in Iceland. I might do that.

Besides these ladyfriends I've been having imaginary quality time with, I've also discovered this awesome thing that's happening in Melbourne which I'm sure the Melbournians already know about, but get this: tram sessions. Artists jump on a tram and play some tunes and it just seems wonderful. This session by Thelma Plum is particularly nice, and makes me wish I was on that tram that time.

That's it for right now. Next week I will be writing up local ladies and ladies I know, who are making music. And maybe just dipping into triple j's Unearthed pool and seeing what wonder I can discover there, and how many potential new imaginary best friends I can meet.

As always - share any lady music discoveries or suggestions with me, to your heart's content.  

update on July's challenge: week two, or, oldies but goodies

Having grown up on a steady diet of quality tunes (read my blog on mixtapes, or my blog on music) I was only too happy to go back and revisit some of the favourites this week. I lugged my clunky old laptop out to mum's last weekend to comandeer a whole bunch of her music, and now have a few gb of tuneage which I am still making my way through.

These are some soulful women, I must say - Joan Baez, Joan Armadtrading, Tracey Chapman, Joni Mitchell, the Eurythmics... It's actually perfect for the sort of mood I've been dipping in and out of this week. I have to say, there's something about these women that really resonates, and I've been doing a little thinking about it to figure out exactly what it is.

I never studied music in any form so I probably don't know the right wordses to give this idea some life, but I think it's something about the simplicity of the music and the honesty of the lyrics. Have a listen to "Love and Affection" by Joan Armatrading, or my particular favourite, Joni Mitchell's "All I Want". I listen to this song and think of sunny summer weekends when Mum would blast this album through the stereo while cooking up an storm in the kitchen for whoever was coming out for a dinner party.

I think it's one of my favourite almost-love songs, still. There are some truly beautiful voices out there in the world today, but Joni Mitchell has such an amazing range, which you can't miss from her songwriting style. Tavi at Rookie writes about her love of Joni- couldn't have said it better myself.

It's been nice to simplify for a week - I've gone for what I already know and grew up with, so there's that wonderful sense of reuniting with old friends. I'm very grateful that my mum listened to so many female musicians growing up; the strength of their voices and their honest songwriting have left a legacy for everyone that has followed.

I had a lovely trip down memory lane with Stu and Hugh at Christmas time last year - we were driving out to Grandma's place for Christmas Eve drinks and Hugh cranked Tracy Chapman's "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution". There is actually probably nothing I love more than going somewhere in a car with my little brothers, howling along to an old favourite, a shared experience of before, when we were little, and knowing all the words.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

treasure: sleepover at Kate and Phill's house

Bunkbeds: so much more room for activities.

treasure: the young people, or, musings on what a hipster might be & wondering if I am one

I'm writing my first essay for my Advertising unit on Gen Y (and possibly more specifially, hipsters; that's if I can manage to find an academic text to reference... hipsters are too cool to have academics reduce them to their signifying parts I guess) and advertising, and it's got me thinking about the kids these days.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Gen Y are those born between 1983 and 2000. So the last of the generation with whom I am grouped is turning 13 this year. It's hard to know how to separate this out, given that I am turning 28 this year and unfortunately am not quite sure what I might talk to a 13 year old about. I'd have a red-hot crack though; I seem to be able to converse with my step-sister Holly, although I do suspect I'm only just skating by on cool points by being an older female person who she doesn't live with. Not that it's all about cool points, but you know, I like them to accrue when at all possible.

Teenagers are a law unto themselves in any case. The section of the population that I rest slightly uneasy with is the people in their early twenties, filled with idealism and a very overt sense of self (to mask the crippling doubt, I know this from experience), all wearing skinny leg jeans and having heard of bands I will not hear of for another 2 or 3 years, and who seem to be able to pull off wearing hats in a way I only dream of. Yes, I know exactly how this makes me sound:

It might be because I don't look good in skinny jeans. It might be because trying to keep up with trends and the whatnot is too anxiety-inducing for me to make a commitment to it. I'm somewhat on board; I have many devices (it sounds suspect when I just come out and say it), I have like, some really cool apps on my iPad and iPhone, I use the Facebook, I instagram pictures of my dinner/drinks/self/social events often. I like all the technological treats available to me in 2013, and treat them with the appropriate amount of respect and panic. 

I made this with at least 3 different iPhone photo apps. I have the skills!

The thing is, I'm not sure a hipster is so easily defined, especially in our little town where trends from the big city get a bit bastardised on their way to our wardrobes. It's probably not accurate to say that all people wearing skinny jeans are hipsters; it's probably not fair to put folk in a category (or 'subculture', a term I shall bandy about in this darned essay) based on the fact they're just a little more up to date with music than me.

I have two friends called Ellie and they have both offered up (unknowingly, but very helpfully) their own definitions: Ellie S refers to the general population of Melbourne as 'mods', which I love, and Ellie P admits feeling a certain disdain for those who have good accessories. These seem a little vague, but really, I suspect that's how the hipsters sneak by us; their undefinable qualities. It's fair to admit that I'm jealous of their accessories, and this includes boots and hats. It's fair to say that I feel left behind in a way that is too difficult to put the effort in to 'catch up', whatever that might mean. Sometimes I wear accessories, but mostly I forget about them because I'm busy. Accessories are a weekend thing, when I have the time.

I've realised I've grown out of wondering if I'm right, of liberally believing that everyone's opinions are equally valid (because I'm sorry, but they're not), of caring what people think besides myself (after all, it's my opinions I have to live with, and me I have to impress). And maybe that's why I'm never going to quite be a hipster, no matter how hard I try. Maybe it's only a very small part of me left over from those early, heady years of faux certainty as a young adult, a very small part that wishes I'd heard of a band before everyone else liked them.

Anyhow, the real point is, writing this essay is going to be tricky. I wonder, what do you guys think makes a hipster? Can people older than 30 (Gen X and beyond) be hipsters? Is it an attitude, or is it accessory choices?

Monday, 15 July 2013

secret: top ten reasons to attend your upcoming highschool reunion

Recently, I've bumped into a few people around town who I know from highschool days. Each time, I bring up the reunion and sadly there is very little in the way of enthusiasm as a response.

So I thought I'd break it down into 10 simple reasons in the hope that a few more of us will show for what might potentially be an awesome night!

1. Sure, you've kept in touch with your friends from highschool, but what about everyone else? Aren't you curious to know who's become a movie star, a real estate mogul, a corporate high-flyer? There are people I barely knew in highschool who I'd be very interested to hear about.

2. See who got fat, who got fit, who had kids, who got married, who got together, who split up. This one is basic human nature; there's bound to be a few surprises. Find them out first-hand if you attend the reunion!

3. Victory. Did you get bullied in highschool? Firstly, take a minute to be glad we didn't have Facebook yet (I hear that shit's nasty as far as bullying goes), then think about how good it is going to feel to march in there as a successful adult and most likely have your childhood bully be perfectly civil and adult to you. 10 years is enough time for the assholes to grow up, learn their lesson (I believe in karma, most definitely) and probably hold down a polite conversation. It'll feel great! Personal development!

4. Check in on your random highschool crush. There's always one person you thought was cute who didn't move in your social circles. What if they got more attractive and are single and you're now just their type? We're having a reunion at a pub; social lubrication plus attraction plus novelty value may potentially equal love, marriage, and something to show off at the 20 year reunion.

5. People are still doing awesome things. At 27-28, some of us have settled down, but some people are still travelling, studying, partying and who knows what else. Maybe a conversation with that guy who sat next to you in rolecall will inspire you to visit Mongolia, South America, Scotland. Maybe it will reassure you that you haven't missed anything. Maybe it will help you feel less anxious about the fact you haven't actually got it figured out yet.

6. We're all in this together. Everyone I've spoken to about the reunion, whether attending or no, has expressed their doubts and nerves about the event. We all find the idea of hanging out with people who saw us at our daggiest, most clueless and puberty-fueled to be anxiety-inducing. We all find it a bit weird- there's no-one marching into this who thinks they're the boss of everything.

7. There will be alcohol. You don't have to face these people completely sober if you don't want to.

8. Maybe you'll actually make a new friend. Personally, I hope to make contact with a few folk currently living in town. I live here at the moment, and have gradually caught up with a few of the Class of 2003 who are also living in our hometown. Unless you make a habit of hanging out at the supermarket or going out every weekend (neither of which I can afford to do), it's hard to run into people you know. Best to get them all in a confined space and demand their friendship. Every person I have run into from the mystical past of highschool has been friendly, even though they weren't in my immediate circle of friends. We've all had our different adventures but it's nice to compare notes. I think, from the small sampling I've enjoyed, that we're all pretty cool, really.

9. You get to hang out with your friends. Even though I keep in touch with highschool friends through various social media and also sometimes via text message, they all live in other places and I don't get to see them that often. You're all spread between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and it would be nice if you came back to town for the weekend to catch up! I'm hoping to see these people outside of the organised events too, and not stand about in little groups of people who you know well and possibly also live or work with once we're at the pub. Still, it will be nice to know you're there as a safety net.

10. Who doesn't like parties? If thinking about who will be there and what they'll think of you is too much, just consider it as another night out at the pub. That's a whole lot of strangers; these people have braved their nerves too and want to have a good time. So they're friendly and approachable strangers, which are my personal favourite kind.

I hope I've been somewhat convincing - I was on the fence about this idea at first, but really, it just has so much potential, and don't forget the novelty value. These only come up once every ten years!

I really hope I get to see as many of you as possible there, I'm looking forward to meeting you all again as an adult, remembering that Facebook is not representative of a whole life, and sometimes it's good to hang out with humans. So I'll see you soon- make sure you say hello!

treasure: artist: amy ross

I found Amy Ross on Pinterest the other day and am really enjoying her collage-style artwork. You can check out her full portfolio at her website. I find the combination of animals and nature very comforting and inspiring, for some lovely unknown reason.


Thursday, 11 July 2013

secret: an update on my july challenge: rediscovered lady tunes (and some pretty awesome covers, too)

So my July challenge is to dedicate a month of my music-listening time to women. I'm thankful I've already had some great suggestions and have already put a few of them onto my (hopefully one day) infamous Maude's Mix CDs (for the van).

Week One was wonderful (hah, that just reminded me of that move, That Thing You Do, where the band wants to call themselves the One-ders and they have to be convinced to instead settle on the Wonders). I spent some quality youtube time at the start of the week, I made a girls-only gym mix for my iPod and a girls-only driving mix for Maude-travel-times. The hit of youtube was this cover by the lovely Sarah Blackwood who is also know as the lovely blonde part of Walk off the Earth.

I think it's just lovely, especially since I love Weezer so. I made it track one on the CD, which means unless I skip it (and why on earth would I do that?) I hear it every time I start the van. Well, once I eject and re-insert the CD into the CD player. High tech all up in here.

Some thoughts and queries so far:
Can women rock out? Like really, lose-their-minds, rockstar cool styles? There's some incredible strength in the women I've been listening to in Week One; the range and emotion in Florence Welch's voice, the soul and mystery (with goosebumps) of Lana Del Ray; the heart-on-the-sleeve of Tegan and Sara. Haim are pretty good listening too. But I'm yet to be quite sure. Still on my list are PJ Harvey, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (I saw them live and now love Karen O a little bit, without knowing a lot about her), Sleater Kinney (because I have a growing admiration of Carrie Brownstein after reading this interview), Patti Smith, The Donnas and Neko Case. Just to name a few.

Week Two is about the golden oldies. They'll get a write-up on the weekend.

Also: I think I need to buy a stereo.

Friday, 5 July 2013

treasure: my granny, Patricia Taylor

One of my favourite bloggers, Pip from Meet me at Mike's, has suggested a blog-along about grandmothers today. You can read hers and be inspired maybe to write something of your own, as I am today.

I think often about my Granny, who it turns out has been a huge influence on many of us Taylor folk, one way or the other. The only thing I ever occasionally let myself feel sad about in relation to Granny is that I'd just love to sit down with her now, at 27, and have a good old chat about things. Now I understand a little more. Now I'm an adult. Now I've met more of the whole wide world, and consequently realised just how wonderful she was, not just as my Granny (for she was given instant 'wonderful' status ever since I can remember) but as a woman.

Of course, I never knew Granny as a mum, but from what I gather she managed 5 kids and a husband on a NSW sheep farm quite adequately, not to mention the governesses, the jackaroos, and the rest of the surrounding family. As a Granny, she was kind and strong, and somehow managed to make each of her 14 grandkids feel special to her. Until I was 10 or so, she lived just down the hill from us, so close that Mum was able to stand at the top of the hill and watch me toddle down to see me arrive safely in Granny's waiting arms. From there, she took me inside and I was fed shortbreads and hardbiscuits (a family recipe, an oat & golden syrup combination that are infamous), as well as allowed to help out with baking and making butter. I got sat on the edge of the kitchen bench while she went about this business, and was occasionally granted my very own little ball of new butter to put on toast, or eat then and there, delicious and creamy, popped straight into my little mouth.

It sounds a bit odd as a treat for a child, but I must say it was my absolute favourite thing. What I wonder about now is what her and I talked about, for I'm certain I would have chatted away happily with her for hours (genetic trait, the chatting- Granny was the best chatter I know) about all my secrets and thoughts. I imagine I may even have bored her with my chat, having since discovered that once kids figure out how to make themselves understood, they Do. Not. Shut. Up.

Growing past this rosy-cheeked child stage, I know I missed having Granny and Grandfather so close by when they moved into town. Our family moved into the homestead, and all the mystical places that had hidden secrets inside when Granny and Grandfather lived there were opened up and brought to light. Furniture was moved out and empty space left for our family to move on in. The 'good' lounge room stopped being a closed space in the dark, and Grandfather's dressing room stopped smelling of mystery and was instead painted blue, becoming a bedroom for my little brother Stuart.

Their new house in town became the place for Christmases and family get togethers, and while those were always special, it was the one-on-one times with Granny that I remember that house for. I cannot remember ever watching television there, instead we'd drink countless cups of tea and I'd read my book, or tell Granny about highschool, or whatever else I felt like chatting about. I can't remember ever trying out teenage rebellion on her; while I was a well-behaved girl, I had a truly awful temper with which I would constantly tear strips off my parents, but I'm pretty sure I never tried that out on Granny. One wouldn't.

As always with the passing of time and the gaining of maturity, on reflection I feel truly amazed by the legacy and impact Granny had upon me, and I don't doubt, all of the other Taylors I know. I think of her now as my conscience; when I act well, true to myself, when I help others or resist making an easy choice in favour of a better choice, I feel quietly proud of myself in the same way that I imagine Granny might. When I make a mistake, or a knowingly act in a way that I regret later, I shake my head, try not to beat myself up too much and instead think "Next time, I'll do better". That's what Granny has given me. I expect a lot of myself, which I know is a 'Taylor' trait with which we all have been blessed/cursed.

In the end, I only have a few tangible objects which have come from Granny. One is a green glass bead necklace, another is her copy of "Alice in Wonderland" from back when she was a Fraser instead of a Taylor, and the last, a happy discovery of just this month, is that the curtains that hang in my beloved van Queen Maude are made from scraps of sailboat fabric that Mum was given by Granny. So I have a little piece of something of hers to travel about with every single day. That is truly lovely.

Another treasure is a rhyme that has stayed with me for many many years, and I'm sure all the Taylors are reciting it in their heads while reading this. This Mabel Lucie Attwell poem hung on a towel rail in Granny's bathroom from since way before I can remember, and it will always remind me of having baths at her place, having my little body rubbed dry with a towel by Granny in her more limber days on her knees by the bathtub; it will remind me of the countless times I read it when visiting the toilet, moving the hip-friendly toilet seat out of the way. In a way I guess it is Granny, through and through. Tidying up after yourself and thinking of others, meeting your responsibilities head on.

Sending all my love, not only to Granny, but to all of us who love and miss her - Patricia Taylor, you're one heck of a lady to live up to, but all of us, we're doing our best (which I'm sure is all you'd really expect of us anyway).

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

treasure: oh, Canada!

so listen: I'm just going to come right out and say it.

there are days when it rains a lot and you have a headache and generally, it turns out, you're failing a little bit at life. 90% of the time, I love my life. the other 10% i think, damn I wish I'd stayed in Canada.

today is Canada Day, and I'm too far away to be able to get my hands on some Clamato juice for Caesars, or $10 worth of wings at Crystal, or wedges with the infamous Butt-Rub mayo from Dusty's. No Eggs Benny from Wildwood for me (no side of Banana Bread french toast either).

there's no green grass by picturesque lakes to sit on today, either; no snow-capped peaks to surround me; no fresh pow to shred; no bears to thrill/scare the bejeezhus out of me.

oh Canada, I miss your face. the shitty bits of Canada have fallen away to the sands of time, and all I really remember now are the friends, the good times, the all-consuming sense of possibility and non-sensical lack of responsibility and need for decisive behaviours. floating through 3 years of living out amongst the seasons, knucking down for the freezing cold or the hard-to-come-by sunburn, adapting to the weeks on end of rain, the overnight 30cm messing up the bus route but answering your prayers when you awoke to the sound of avi bombs exploding.

I miss the downtimes in the village between seasons, where you get to spend time getting to know the long-termers who have made their lives in Whistler and are not just passing through. I miss the peak season for the parties and the nightclub dancefloor (but no, not the lift lines or the queue out the door of lift coffee co. for a hot beverage).

I miss my friends; my Whistler family. I miss you all so much, and am lucky to have a few of you who followed me back to Armidale (because I got here first). I miss all the food we ate and the ski days we smashed and the apres we soaked up. happiness, plain and simple.

next year I'm going to visit Whistler, Canada, and I'm going to love it all over.

until then - Happy Canada Day.

treasure: mike lowery, illustrator

today i am enjoying the pictures of mike lowery. they're what i might call 'whimsical' if i were to throw such words around. see his blog, shop and other things at his website.

Monday, 1 July 2013

secret: my july challenge: lady rock stars

i have started writing about the triple j hottest 100 that ran recently - hottest 100 in the past 20 years - and having scrawled pages of notes on the music that made it into the countdown, i will get around to sharing that writing with you at some point.

however, an article caught my eye last week which has spawned an idea which has given birth to a personal challenge: Eliza Sarlos wrote about the distinct lack of women in this latest hottest 100. read her full article about quotas on triple j and see what you think, if you like. it certainly made me think- i hadn't noticed how male-heavy the countdown was, merely recognising songs i loved and grew up with (and don't get me wrong, it's really more than ok to like what you like).

a fair point worth considering, though, is why there were not more women in the countdown. i love female artists. of course, i find myself identifying with their lyrics on a different level altogether. granted, i have truly embraced my need for loud hard rock&roll and the power it brings, and i'm the first one to believe in the amping power of hiphop when you're at the top of a mountain full of fresh powder and a board strapped to your feet. plus there's the sex appeal, as a heterosexual woman, of a sexy male frontman revealing all his feelings n shit by way of microphone and perhaps a bit of hip-wiggling. undeniably attractive. however, women are, in my experience, also exceptional musicians with exceptional talent (and yep, exceptional sex appeal). i want to recognise them, and figure out exactly what it is that female musicians do for me, as well as perhaps put a bit of brain-power into wondering why we (Australians voting in the triple j hottest 100) appear to prefer men to women. is it because triple j has male-fronted man bands on high rotation all year, meaning we simply get to like what we hear a lot of? is it because women are less likely to be given credibility as career-musicians? is it because women suck and should just stick to what they know and make me a sandwich?

karen pickering offered up a starter list of awesome bands and artists that are women- plus her readers piped up in the comments. some i'd forgotten about, some i'd always meant to check out and hadn't got to it yet, and some i'd never heard of.

so, my challenge for myself this month is to make it a "female musician appreciation month". girls only. qualifying statement: when i suggest girls only music, i do not mean the sexed-up female popstars of a top 40 countdown. they deserve a blog-post all of their own, in which i make clear that it's not their fault.

i listen to a lot of music, a lot of the time, and that includes the sexed-up popstars. it includes a lot of hiphop, although i'm still to find and get hooked on a female hiphop artist. that's the goal of the month, i guess.

i'm going to start this week with all the female artists i currently have access to/am listening to: adele, ellie goulding, emma louise, feist, first aid kid, florence + the machine, haim, kate martin, lana del ray, lisa mitchell, the naked and famous, san cisco, seeker lover keeper, tegan and sarah, thelma plum. next week i'm planning to revisit 'old favourites' including the bands and artists mum showed me growing up, such as tracy chapman, natalie merchant, the eurythmics, joan armatrading, joan baez, joni mitchell. more i'm sure, but can't think of them now - i'll raid her cd collection. the week after, hmm, maybe i'll try something i haven't tried before - this is where i open the forum up to you all. suggest your favourite kick-ass girl album for me, or i'll sample a few from karen's list that i've heard of but never heard. i think week four will be about making mix cds, and more new music; perhaps week four will be 'support a local' week and i can write up someone who i know and love.

i'm excited. it's going to be weird and also probably a little tricky to avoid male artists, but it's a month. help me out if you can - collective brain power is the best, i say.

for now, to officially open this month of woman noise, i'll leave you with a current favourite, the cranberries performing live at NPR's tiny desk concert series:

see how i've been doing with the challenge:
week one: spending more time with the ones i love/artists i already have accessible
week two: favourites from before i was born
week three: new lady loves & heroes
week 4: in conclusion

secret: rainy mondays plagued with headaches make me feel like this: