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Soundtrack of my Life: “The Village Green Preservation Society” by the Kinks

There are things that those who love me know about me:

1. The Kinks are my favourite band.

2. This is my favourite album of all time, and I often proclaim it the greatest album ever created.

3. My kids prefer Katy Perry to Ray Davies and I feel like a failure as a parent because of it.

The title track to The Village Green Preservation Society is a wonderful slice of nostalgia. A list of all that is classically British (Tudor houses, strawberry jam, Desperate Dan, Custard pie, Waterloo, little shops, the English vernacular, virginity…) and a smack down of all that is new and kind of foreign to the classic British stereotypes. Tall boxy buildings are the antithesis of ENGLISH, and Ray Davies in his infinite genius made no excuses in “The Village Green Preservation Society” about his preference in sentimental nostalgia.  The album itself is full of memories and legends, pulling from Dylan Thomas and George Orwell, and on “Wicked Annabella”, “Monica”, and “Johnny Thunder”, the hint of the darker underbelly of idealized English existence, but the straightforward list that form the lyrical base of “The Village Green Preservation Society” leaves no ambiguity, and is just a wonderful, sweet, pretty, and inspired album opener. It sets the tone both thematically and musically for the Kinks, and as great as other Kinks records are, I think that VGPS is their most cohesive and complete album.

God save the Village Green.

God save the Kinks.

Soundtrack of my Life: “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens

My devotion to the man now known as Yusuf Islam is absolute and unwavering, so very important his music was to me in my childhood. Without fail, a Cat Steven’s song would lift my spirits, bring me joy, and soothe my anxiety. To this very day, Tea For the Tillerman is one of my favourite albums.

“Peace Train” makes me smile. It’s idealism is wonderful, and it’s a song so hopeful and spiritually joyous that it takes me to a place I am actually quite uncomfortable with under normal circumstances. While there have been many covers of this song over the years, they all lack Cat’s soothing baritone, and his sweetness.

I know there are people out there who viciously denounce Yusuf Islam for various reasons, and I have not always agreed with some of his statements. But I have nothing but respect for a man who does live his life by what he deems necessary and best, even if unpopular word sometimes tumble passed his lips.  I don’t claim to understand his faith completely, but the many people I know who share his faith are all wonderful, generous people who judge me less for my mistakes than some of the people of my faith.  When I hear Yusuf Islam sing “Peace Train” now, forty plus years after it was first written, I still hear the same person, in his soul, asking for the same thing:

Peace for all, and goodwill toward man.

Now, if you want to comment, please read below the cut before doing so.

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The Best of 2014: My Top Twenty Favourite Albums

I am tremendously impressed with the music offerings in 2014. After years of being underwhelmed by rock and roll and inundated with candy coated pop songs and icky boy bands, there were some really incredible rock albums and some interesting soul and R&B available for your listening pleasure.  As for me- I kept it to twenty albums, though I could recommend another twenty easily. Enjoy the music below.

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The Best of 2014: My 25 Favourite Songs

I usually stick to the number twenty because I like the number twenty. Biblically, twenty is the perfect number for waiting, a complete waiting cycle. It’s the atomic number of calcium, which I have never gotten enough of, the jersey number of Luc Robitaille when he was on the Kings, and is a magic number in physics ( so Wikipedia tells me). Lincoln used it as a measuring device in the Gettysburg address, but to know that you need to know that a score is twenty years. Mostly, I picked twenty arbitrarily, because I can and usually I can only find twenty songs worth liking enough to write about.

2014 just said “Fuck that noise.”

I began with sixty-seven (!) songs on my year-end favourites list, which I eventually whittled down to 28. It has taken me six days to decide which three I was going to dump. I’m still not happy about it. But the thought of eliminating another five made me physically ill ( I swear I am not just hung over). So twenty-five this list shall be. As for the albums list, well, let us just say twenty is proving to be difficult as well. 2014 turned out to be a great year musically.

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Soundtrack of my Life: “Weightless Again” by the Handsome Family

I have tried to write about this song for a while now. I absolutely love it, but it spring from a darkness and it feeds my brain in its more painful and damaging days. The problem I have is that when my depression amps up, I favour songs that may make people question where I am and what I am thinking. I use these songs to try to understand myself.

I mean, this song has lyrics that openly state “This is why people OD on pills and jump from the Golden Gate Bridge”.  Brett and Rennie (the couple who are behind the criminally underrated gothic country folk of the Handsome Family) hold no punches on “Weightless Again”. It’s not a song you listen to lightly. The melody sounds like my brain trying to just get through the day, a slow echo of peaks and valleys, with ramblings of ideas and thoughts, punctured with moments of clarity and knowledge. My brain is not a fun place to be, and this song is somehow one of the things I can play for people to show them one aspect of being trapped in there.

The Handsome Family are currently experiencing an uptick in fame due to their “Far From Any Road” being used as the theme song of True Detective. Since the band trade on the tradition of murder ballads, I can’t think of a more apt theme song. I am just hoping that the rest of the band’s astonishing and lovely, if somewhat depressing and bloody, catalogue gets some love as well. I’d recommend this song as a starting point.



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Soundtrack of my Life: “Blake’s Jerusalem” by Billy Bragg

Here we are, on a Sunday morn, watching football instead of being in church. I don’t often go to church- being  single parent, i usually spend my Sunday doing various pieces of housework that need more than ten seconds of concentration. Saturdays often belong to various appointments and groceries.

I grew up with religious parents who eventually gave up on us kids as we reached our teenage years. My mother’s illness left me furious with God for years. Then I felt punished for my anger by my own increasingly bad choices. My childhood fear of hell was made real in my adult years. It really couldn’t be worse than the actual life I was leading.

The last few years I have drifted back. I feel comfort in the routine and customs of the Lutheran service. It makes me feel closer to my mother, a woman of deep faith and understanding with enormous patience. I am not a regular churchgoer- my life is so busy and my insomnia so consuming that Sundays are frequently the only day I sleep in.  But I try to hit the important days- and this year I went to Ash Wednesday services for the first time (that I can recall).

What des this have to do with Billy Bragg and a song called “Blake’s Jerusalem”. My mother was raised Anglican. The long and complicated history of religion in my mother’s family sometimes gives me good chuckle. “Jerusalem” is a poem by William Blake, everyone’s favourite British eccentric poet, that was largely ignored until Sir Hubert Parry added music in 1916. Apocryphal stories about Jesus visiting Glastonbury are told by many an English religious man, and Blake, inspired by the Felpham countryside and the encroaching Industrial Revolution mills, wrote a brief  piece. “And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountains green?” “And was Jerusalem builded here among these dark Satanic mills?” It was turned into an unoffical national anthem in the 20th century- Republican writers favour it as the song they would choose as an actual national anthem if the monarchy was abolished.

Billy Bragg, modern-day troubadour, on his 1990 album The Internationale, covered and rewrote several left-wing protest songs. In the middle is a straight cover of “Blake’s Jerusalem” (as he labelled it on the album sleeve). Amidst the overt politics of the rest of the record, he went sweet, quiet, and contemplative. A beautiful song is treated tenderly and respectfully by a rabble-rouser. How can one ignore that?

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But O heart! heart! heart!

The first love of my life was Mork from Ork.

I think it was because Robin Williams was furry like a teddy bear. Or it was the  rainbow suspenders.

Today’s news is sad and confusing, but Robin Williams was open about his demons. It’s distressing. Depression is a soul sucking phenomenon.

I hope he has found peace.

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