The Big Picture

The Big Picture

I don't want perfect or curated photos anymore. I want to look at these photos and remember who we were in that moment. I want to see what someone else saw when we tumbled and stumbled in front of their camera, like our family always does. I want to feel love and pride for the many ways we came through another year of struggles and triumphs together.  

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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


Sarah Slean: And What Her Music Means To Me


I'm supposed to be making dinner so I can rush out the door and get my tiny pianist to his lesson. But I've made the mistake of putting a Sarah Slean vinyl on the turntable in our front room. 

There's always music playing as a background soundtrack to the activity vibrating through our home. Tonight, I wander away from my bubbling pot and closer to the sound of Sarah's voice and the gorgeous strings that rise and fall like a tide that can't decide whether to come in for the night or run away from the sun. 

The curtains are still open in the front window and the light is starting to fade outside. I know my neighbours can see me, but I close my eyes, raise my arms and move them with the music anyway — as though I'm the one conducting the musicians. I'm not graceful, but it doesn't matter. I am only moving for myself and because of what I feel when I hear those sounds. 

I brought my youngest child to the symphony for the first time when she was four. During a particularly moving piece, I glanced over to see her head tilted back on the seat, eyes blinking rapidly, and lower lip quivering. There were tears sliding from her eyes. I reached for her hand and she whispered, Mama, I'm starting to feel a little bit sad, because the music is so beautiful.

I understood what she meant. It's what I've always appreciated about Sarah's music — every song is an invitation to step into the emotions and thoughts too easily lost in our busyness. And each time I listen to her songs, they call me back again: to learn something new, to reflect on something past, to forgive, to let go, to love. 

It's been a 15 year journey for me and in honour of the value she places on generosity, when it comes to creating and sharing her music, Sarah chose some of her long-time supporters to attend an intimate performance for the launch her of her ninth studio album, Metaphysics. You have to choose those who choose you, she told us. I am without the right words to describe what it was like to sit inches from the beautiful string instruments and to watch Sarah perform on her beloved childhood piano. 

Sarah released her first EP, Universe, at age nineteen. If that doesn't hint at her extraordinary talent, then let me share that she is not only an accomplished poet, artist, songwriter and pianist but also an accomplished string composer, who has written four original scores for 21-piece string orchestras as well as two string quartets. The strings on her double album, Land & Sea are absolutely exquisite and it seems we will be treated to more of the same on the newest album

Sarah Slean is, in the words of TIME magazine, one of the most compelling acts Canada has to offer and you shouldn't wait another minute to hear for yourself. 

I've created a playlist of my favourite songs to date. This list will grow in a matter of days when the album is released on April 7th (I'm already drawn to Loved Well). You can pre-order the album on PledgeMusic until the 1st.

Canada needs to celebrate its artists and you won't go wrong with Sarah.

A Year Of Music 2015: One Concert A Month

 Glen Hansard - Beacon Theatre, NYC, 2015

Glen Hansard - Beacon Theatre, NYC, 2015

End of year celebrations always mean music for me. Whether it was the smoke-filled rec rooms of the '70s, where my parents played records and clinked glasses with the neighbours, or the teeny-bopper top 40 countdowns with friends and bottomless bowls of chips in the '90s—music has always been a way to highlight a year.

And what a year it has been. Another soul-filling and heart-lifting one-concert-a-month bonanza that saw us doing something very different with a three-day outdoor musical festival that took me back in time, while also reminding me how firmly planted I am in my 40s (and that's okay). One of my photos from that weekend was featured on blogTO

I also got on a plane and travelled to New York City to see a musician I adore and revel in being a reckless groupie. It was one of the most moving shows I saw this year, especially because I shared it with a good friend. We also had front rows seats to a historic filming of the Bahamas with our siblings at my favourite venue, Massey Hall. 

Speaking of planes, I travelled all the way to the ocean for a weekend retreat that included a creek-side, under-the-stars performance by three talented east coast musicians. I'll never forget the feeling of the music, the night sky and new friends squishing me on every side with joy and gratitude—at a time when I needed it most. 

Finally, but not least of all, I was gifted a once-in-a-lifetime experience with an up-close-and-personal sit down and intimate performance with The Indigo Girls (who absolutely define my coming of age) and was able to write about it and see it shared with a bigger audience in the Huffington Post.  Their performance with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra the following night, touched me deeply, and it was perfect that I shared it with my sister, while sitting beside good friends. 

Thank you to each of you who have delighted in my musical adventures. I hope I've brought new songs to your ears and filled your hearts with inspiration for getting back to something you love.

Here is my Spotify playlist for some of the artists we had the privilege of seeing in 2015. I can't wait to fill another one in 2016.