A Year Of Music 2018: One Concert A Month

What a year 2018 has been. I rode a roller coaster of hope and despair, as I kept my eyes on ears on the world. It would have been so easy to fall heavily into despair, and sometimes I did. But I’ve done my best to stay upright and focussed on the horizon. Music has always been such a comfort and a way to ease tension and release my emotions.

Our one-concert-a-month mission (in year five now!) became a lifeline for me in so many ways this past year. Being in a room filled with strangers that are drawn to the same songs as me, always helps to remedy any feelings I might have that we’re becoming too disconnected. I always come away feeling renewed and flush with optimism that there is a collective good—even when we have to go looking for it.


Each year, when I put together my annual playlist of the artists we were so fortunate to see, I imagine my overseas and American friends (who tell me they look forward to this round-up each year). They are seeking new Canadian talent to explore, and I’m happy to share our abundance with them. To make things easier, I’ve highlighted the Canadian artists in my playlist.

My favourite shows this year were: First Aid Kit, Glen Hansard, Whitehorse, Massey Hall 125th Celebration (Whitehorse, Joel Plaskett, Jim Cuddy, Sam Roberts, Sarah Harmer, Buffy Sainte-Marie, July Talk), and Rufus Wainwright. My husband’s favourites were: Interpol and the Massey Hall show.

I also saw some amazing shows with friends, including Glen Hansard, Justin Timberlake, Pentatonix, and Mumford and Sons. Those are experiences that bring their own form of magic, and I’m so glad I have friends with whom I can dance and sing to music that falls outside the scope of what my monthly concert companion is keen to see. I hope this music moves you as much as it does me.

1) First Aid Kit * Nothing Has To Be True; 2) Whitehorse * Die Alone; 3) Nathaniel Rateliff * You Worry Me; 4) Yeah Yeah Yeahs * Maps; 5) Alvvays * Dreams Tonite; 6) Joel Plaskett * I Love This Town; 7) Jim Cuddy * Skyscraper Soul; 8) Sarah Harmer * Goin’ Out; 9) Buffy Sainte-Marie * The War Racket; 10) Sam Roberts * Hard Road; 11) July Talk * Beck + Call; 12) Beck * Lost Cause; 13) Interpol * NYC; 14) Ray Lamontagne * Let’s Make It Last; 15) Bahamas * No Wrong; 16) Andy Shauf * My Dear Helen; 17) Rufus Wainwright * The Tower Of Learning; 18) Hawksley Workman * Ice Age

A Year Of Music 2017: One Concert A Month

Mac Demarco at Danforth Music Hall (photo credit: Louise Gleeson) 

Mac Demarco at Danforth Music Hall (photo credit: Louise Gleeson) 

As we head into a new year of music, I'm so happy to share my personal playlist of favouirte tracks from last year's one-concert-a-month artists. 2017 brought a lot of nostalgia and reflection about our <ahem> age, even though we do our best to ignore rules about what music we should be listening to...but more about that later.

Like I was saying, 2017 was a fantastic throwback year for us. We kicked it off with Matthew Good's Beautiful Midnight album from 1999. The show was a run through of the album and we enjoyed his soaring vocals and witty candour about taking his kids to Disneyworld — because oh-my-god-you-guys he's doing that kind of thing now, too. 

Feist (FINALLY!) returned to the stage with a show at Massey Hall and it was incredible: goosebumps, tears and laughter. Her newest album has been playing on repeat here, and the song I included on my playlist is my new personal anthem (the video I snuck because we had amazing front row balcony seats is below). Actually, all of the songs on her new album, Pleasureare relatable (seriously, if we're of a similar age grouping, go listen to Any Party right now and just try to keep yourself from nodding in agreement). 

Feist, Baby Be Simple, at Massey Hall, Toronto, 2017

Massey Hall was the venue of the year (which is what will make 2017 one of our most memorable). We saw Alt-J (from amazing seats in the gallery), Grizzly Bear (my ears were ringing for two days afterwards), Jenn Grant (another Canadian songbird), Joan Baez & The Indigo Girls (please let me be half that amazing when I'm in my 70s), Wilco (so many guitars), and glorious, glorious PJ Harvey (another gobsmackingly nostalgic show for us). 

Jenn Grant at Massey hall (PHoto credit: louise gleeson)

Jenn Grant at Massey hall (PHoto credit: louise gleeson)

Shows like Charlotte Day Wilson, Alvvays, and Mac DeMarco were great for people watching, since we're pretty close to being old enough to parent most of the kids that were in the crowd (kids! put those lighters away! fire is dangerous!). Sidebar: I'm so lucky to be on this concert tour with a partner who treats music with so much care and reverence. He's always looking for and reading about new bands. And neither of us worry about being too old to be at these shows. Maybe the kids think we're important music journalists, who knows

Another highlight moment for me was being invited, as one of her long-time fans, into Canadian songbird and über-talent Sarah Slean's home for her new album launch (read about my other-worldly experience here). I was so nervous, I had to call three friends from my car for pep talks before I could muster the courage to go into the party. Her album Metaphysics makes me cry (just like all the albums before) and it was lovely to be able to end 2017 with another full scale concert in December. Sarah's talent is extraordinary, and we are so lucky to call her ours. 

Canadian songbird Sarah Slean (+ me!)

Canadian songbird Sarah Slean (+ me!)

We also had tickets to see The Cranberries in September, but the show was cancelled due to Dolores O'Riordan's health problems at the time. It was devastating to learn of her death earlier this month. The music she created is such a part of my history and coming of age — I've included one of my favourite tracks in this playlist to express my deep respect for her talent. 

This past year also gifted us with a lot of time spent with our siblings at various shows. All of them were memorable, but Wolf Parade and my first listen of I'll Believe in Anything were a highlight for me. I was going through a stressful time and the band's poetic lyrics and beautiful harmonies surprised me. Make sure to give that track your ear.

Here it is: 2017 in a personalized playlist. There were big venues and small bars; full bands and string quartets, old bands and new ones, and so much incredible Canadian talent (k d Lang left us speechless).

I hope you find a song that speaks to your heart, too. 

1) Matthew Good + Strange Days; 2) Wilco + Misunderstood; 3) Sarah Slean + Book Smart, Street Stupid; 4) Constantines + Young Lions; 5) Weaves + Scream (feat. Tanya Tagaq); 6) PJ Harvey + To Bring You My Love; 7) Charlotte Day Wilson + Work; 8) Mac DeMarco + Watching Him Fade Away; 9) Timber Timbre +  Hot Dreams; 10) Hannah Georgas + Don't Go; 11) Joan Baez + Carry It On; 12) Indigo Girls + Everything In Its Own Time; 13) The Cranberries + No Need To Argue; 14) Jenn Grant + Lion With Me; 15) The National + Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks; 16) Grizzly Bear + Knife; 17) Angus and Julia Stone + A Heartbreak; 18) Alvvays + Forget About Life; 19) Alt-J + Every Other Freckle; 20) Wolf Parade + I'll Believe In Anything; 21) Feist + Baby, Be Simple; 22) k d Lang + Wash Me Clean; 23) Skydiggers + Pull Me Down


Back To The Beginning

Our first glimpse of our firstborn

Our first glimpse of our firstborn

I counted down to the moment of our 20-week ultrasound with so much trepidation and excitement. I wanted nothing more than to see our baby and know that everything was okay. But I also wanted my husband to be able to see him/her, too. I knew it would help him feel like he was more a part of what was to come. 

The road to that grainy snapshot of our firstborn was not an easy one to travel. Or at least it didn't look the way we thought it would. It was much longer than we had imagined, and it was scary with all its unexpected interventions. Still, we knew we were among the lucky ones. 

Each symptom and change to my physical body took me on a wild ride from elation (that I was having symptoms) to terror (that something might be wrong). I had to use a lot of self-restraint to avoid calling my midwife every time I felt a twinge, and many times I called her anyway. I peppered her with questions when I did see her, and I scoured the internet between appointments — I don't know what I would have done without the pregnancy boards I found online. 

Lately, I've been trying to reach a goal of organizing all the photos and other sentimental scraps I've been collecting since the beginning of our story. There are bins of loose photos and papers tucked into different hiding spots in our home. These beautiful reminders have followed us to five different houses, and I want them to be carefully preserved.

Last week, I found this photo of the guy who held me up through all my worries (never getting frustrated with any of them), and I cried. I felt all those emotions again, and it reminded me about something he wrote to our baby-to-be. I had been writing in a journal once a week throughout the pregnancy, and sometimes he would surprise me by leaving a note there. 

It has been a few days since we saw you for the first time. It has taken some time for me to fully take in those beautiful, grainy black-and-white images. The first thing I saw were your tiny little legs kicking and then your fingers dancing and reaching across your perfect, little face. My eyes couldn't leave the screen, as the technician scanned quickly back and forth taking her measurements of your petite frame. It was such a relief and such a wonder. I still can't believe you're in there. Part of me thinks you're just going to show up at our front door; a package brought by the stork! Now that I have seen you, I can't wait to hold you. I love you, baby. 

We didn't know we were having a daughter. We wanted to be surprised. But so much about what he wrote that day is a perfect description of who she is, and I must have read it at least 10 times while I cried some more. Those days were magical and they changed us in so many ways. We often joke with each other about the ageing and worrying that comes with parenting, but there is nothing we would change about the gifts we've been given. We are always grateful. 

When I was asked to contribute to a pregnancy by the week feature for Today's Parent magazine, it was such a wonderful chance to experience those early days again. I contributed weeks four to 10, which are often the ones that bring a lot of worry. But, parents-to-be, those days bring a lot of wonder, too.

You can explore the newly launched feature here: Pregnancy By Week


I Knew I Loved You Then

Young kids in love

Young kids in love

He's in the driver seat, and I turn my head just in time to see his shoulders lift and his face shift to annoyance — but I'm not fooled. Even though I'm breaking the driver-gets-to-choose rule, he doesn't touch the dial. 

My sentimental attachment to things is something he accepts about me. It's everything he dislikes about pop music, but he lets the song play itself out and keeps the groaning to a minimum, while I belt out the words.

It's the words in the uber-saccharine song that have captured my heart, after all. And I remind him every time it comes on. The story of two young people caught off guard by a meeting and dancing the night away. It's simple and predictable and the kind of song a very young version of me would have played on repeat. I know better than to be wooed by a cliché, but I feel an affection for its lyrics anyway. It reminds me of a memorable night at the beginning of our own story. 

At our wedding, my sister told that story. It was about a huge party we all attended the night she met him for the first time. For our group of friends, it was the party of the year and I was nervous about how our new relationship would play itself out in front of everyone. I was also young, inexperienced and had too much to drink before we even arrived. She told our wedding guests that it was a funny story, but also a special one. She said watching how he cared for me that night showed her that nothing mattered more to him than making sure I was okay. 

We had only known each other a month or so by then. He led me out of the party, got me home safely, made sure there was someone there to stay with me, and told me he'd see me the next day when I was feeling better. I cried as I said goodnight and apologized for ruining his night, before it had even begun. I was still learning about love then and was sure I'd shown him a side of myself that would make it easy for him to walk away. He leaned into me and whispered, "When you love someone, you have to take care of them." I already knew I loved him, but I hadn't known he felt the same.

It's been decades since that night and he has never wavered in the words he shared with me — even though years of marriage and all the challenges that come with sharing a life have given us both ample reasons to forget

We're like any other family; there's no such thing as perfect. We've each had heartaches and disappointments. And we've also been through experiences together that we dealt with in our own and often differing ways. All of it has changed who we are, because that's what life does.

But I believe the heart of our relationship is still as simple as the song. We are older and wiser, but have never let the picture of who we were at the beginning get too blurry: two kids with a pure and simple understanding of what it means to take care of someone you love. It's not grandiose; it's not complicated; it's not too much to ask. 

The song is coming to a merciful end, and I watch his hand move towards the dial before another syrupy song has a chance to assault his ears. He'll probably put on some shouty rock song that will make me want to cover mine. 

"Thank you," I tell him. And I know he understands — it's for so much more than the song.