It’s the last night to do this. To make a year-end list. I’ve avoided it because I’ve been busy devouring everyone else’s lists. Media is full of them at this time of year—when fresh content is limited, looking back at the most popular people and moments of the year that was makes good editorial sense. And so with my journalist hat on, I’ve done it (here’s my list of Top Canadian Albums of 2014 for Huffington Post Music). But sitting here tonight, with less than 24 hours to go in this calendar, I think that I’m still not ready. To decide what is The Best. Even just to me. But I do want to document what moved me, what stuck with me. If there’s a theme, it is one of surprises, and of dreams.
For as long as I’ve been going to concerts, they have been as important to me as records. In fact, I think a key reason I’m not so into bands that peaked before my time is that I never got to see them play, which is a huge factor in falling in love with artists and their songs. This was the year I got to see Kate Bush perform live. Something I never, ever, believed would happen. I wrote about it at length here. It remains the absolutely highlight of 2014 while at the same time being impossible to compare to anything else. But wait, there was also Nick Cave. At the Sony Centre. On fire. And me, pushing me way up to the front, where he spent a great deal of the show singing from within the crowd, buoyed by hands. When he came close to where we stood I reached out my left hand and placed it over his heart, while he looked over my head and sang to someone out of my view. I placed my right hand around his thigh, holding him up as he leaned forward, grabbing at those around me. I remember every moment of “Push the Sky Away,” title track from his most recent album, one of the best things he’s ever written, and how it hushed the room. I listen to that song on headphones in bed all the time. It’s my lullaby. A totally different trip was seeing Kraftwerk, in “3D”. Which means they give you silly cardboard glasses to watch their high-tech digital video backdrops. But man, what fun. The loudest show I saw was surprisingly not Swans at NXNE (outdoors, so probably not their fault) or even DFA’s very loud pop up show (again, outdoors) but Ben Frost at the Garrison. Punishing, minimal electronic music in the dark with strobes and fog is one of my favourite spaces and states to be in. I also love dancing, and discovery, and I got both at the debut gig for Operators at the Silver Dollar during NXNE. Literally from the very first notes my colleagues and I knew this was going to be our new favourite band. It’s what we chase all the time, that feeling, that you are witnessing something special unfold before you. So many feelings also watching Tanya Tagaq blow all of the minds at the Polaris Music Prize Gala and the return of The Constantines at Field Trip. Canadians have always made, and continue to make, some of the best fucking music in the world.
Pretty simple here. The songs I kept playing on repeat, and repeat, and repeat…
It wasn’t one of those years full of cinema I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about. With two exceptions: 20,000 Days on Earth, a documentary about Nick Cave which is nothing like what you expect a documentary about Nick Cave to be and exactly like what you should expect a documentary about Nick Cave to be. Absolutely inspiring. And What We Do in the Shadows, hands-down the funniest film I’ve seen in a long time and the first to get the vampire comedy right in a very long time.
I want to put books here, and poems, and lectures and all kinds of cultural thing that made this year interesting. But most seemed to drift in and out of my view and my consciousness. Which is why I’ve started to write a new project all about memories, and how we preserve them. For when there are no more lists.