2013: A few of my favourite things

Ah, exhale. The end of another year. It feels that way tonight, surrounded by snow and twinkling lights and bits of shiny paper on the floor, with only a few squares remaining on the 2013 calendar. Time to plot the future. But first, a look back at the music, books, films that inspired me, excited me, provoked me, made me think, laugh, dance, rock out, dream, scream.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I find conflicts between my passion for all things tagged “goth” and “horror” and the reality of what I enjoyed and thought was good quality. I have never been a super fan of blind faith in terms of genre. Tell me a good story. If there be monsters, all the better. Sing me a song. If it’s sad and romantic and melodramatic, I shall sigh and swoon all the more. But I still get excited by many, many other genres of music, from folk to disco and beyond, as well as poetry and documentaries and all kinds of things. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Like what you like.

In 2013, I put out my own book, which impacted how much other stuff I could seek out, and really absorb, to recommend. But for the sake of posterity, and in the interest of spreading the word about what I find worthy and wonderful…. a few of my favourite things…

Listen.

Live shows were more exciting to me than records this year. Probably because I saw Nick Cave perform two nights, back to back, and it was a much more satisfying experience than listening to his latest release Push the Sky Away on its own. First in Montreal, at the always amazing Metropolis club, than at the even more amazing Massey Hall, where I managed to push myself up to the front of the stage. There were strings and children’s choirs making the new songs sound great, and St. Nick doing “Stagger Lee” and “The Mercy Seat” with as much vigor as ever and my friend and I giving he and Warren flowers like lovesick teenagers and all I really remember is thinking how if I could see only one act in concert ever again for the rest of my life, it would be him. Hands down. Have I purchased tickets for his summer 2014 tour already? Hell, yes.

There were other live shows for the books, many of them verging on nostalgia trips — Rocket from the Crypt rocking my Riotfest, two intimate sets of triumphant, glorious Patti Smith at the AGO, Nine Inch Nails proving they can add funk and back-up singers and still blast out the industrial hits. But also some new favourites: The XX beautiful in the rain at Echo Beach, Iceland’s Legend at a basement bar, Majical Cloudz making my NXNE with his intense solo performance.

As for the records, I made a Top 10 Canadian Albums list for Huffington Post Music with my critic hat on; those that I personally adored were Basia Bulat’s Tall, Tall Shadow (heartbreaking folk), Majical Cloudz’ Impersonator (very minimal, very dark), Young Galaxy’s Ultramarine (fresh, feel-good synthpop), and Daniel Romano’s Come Cry with Me (hurtin’ traditional country).

Beyond our borders, I got and will give love to Neko Case’s The Worse Things Get the Harder I Fight, was all over the Siouxsie-like post-punk of Savages’ Silence Yourself,  realized I actually do like Alkaline Trio  with My Shame is True, and finally discovered Agnes Obel thanks to Avetine — she’s my Goth Who Isn’t Goth alert for 2013.

Like everyone with a pulse, I also gleefully danced to “Get Lucky” way too many times.

Watch.

Only Lovers Left Alive! Jim Jarmusch’s arthouse vampire movie, starring Tilda Swinton, is exquisite, and was a highlight of my TIFF 2013. Sadly, no actual release date in sight. Ditto Horns, the most excellent adaptation of the Joe Hill novel, transformed into a superior dark comedy/horror/fantasy. Watch out for those next year. I join the chorus celebrating American Mary the indie Canadian horror flick about body modification, for being smart, sexy, nasty and driven by kinky, crazy, outrageous female characters. Thanks Soska Sisters for bringing back Katherine “Ginger Snaps” Isabelle to the big screen. And I really dug the sweetness of Warm Bodies. A zombie who plays vinyl records for a girl is my kind of zombie.  As for documentaries, I had much to ponder about violence and appropriation of voice after watching The Exhibition, about an artist painting women killed by Robert Pickton; and I couldn’t be happier to see BlackFish changing perceptions and policies about whales and dolphins in captivity.

Or, this is what I was doing alone in the dark when not obsessing over Klaus in The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.


Read.

It was a great year for me to see some of my favourite writers in the flesh, and hear them read aloud. After many years of adoring Anne Carson from afar, she came to town for the International Festival of Authors. My favourite living poet, she claimed in her humble introduction to lack charisma. Hardly. Her words make other worlds possible, and when she brings them to life in her own voice, even the most obtuse things became completely clear. (This particular event provided me the opportunity to experience a woman shhhhhushing a man for taking notes because she found the sound of his pencil on paper too loud. Seriously. ) Carson is a strange woman. The very best kind. I cannot recommend her books more highly.  Also, did I wait several hours to talk to Neil Gaiman at the Toronto stop for his Last Tour Ever for Ocean at the End of the Lane? Indeed I did. His reading was marvellous, the Q&A hilarious, the long queue well worth it to chat with him after about my own new book. He continues to say very kind things to me about Gothica and it’s such a blessing to have these interactions with someone so beloved, and so generous.

(For a list of the books I enjoyed reading this year, visit my Good Reads page.)

Neil signed my copy of Ocean that night with “Dream dangerous.” And so I shall. In fact, it’s my resolution for 2014. See you then/there.

Gaiman

My Top 5 picks for Pope

Today the Cardinals go into enclave and vote on a new Pope. They literally lock themselves in a room with no communication devices except a chimney. Yes, the way they let the world know a decision has been made is by burning the ballots and letting the smoke rise out of the chimney into the air over the Vatican, using chemicals to control the colour.  White smoke = new pope.

Hello, Vatican! Horns up!

While the world speculates on who will be elected, I ponder who I would vote for if asked. I do, after all, have experience in sequestered voting, having managed the Polaris Music Prize Grand Jury for a number of years. And I was baptized Catholic and taught partly by nuns before becoming Born Again Heathen so I know a few things about the Church. (Mostly fun things to do with the communion Host if you don’t want to swallow it.) But my religion has always been music. And so if I was allowed into the secret chamber to place a ballot, I’d be inclined to write in a musician candidate. Why not? The only official criteria for Pope is “Catholic” and “male.” There’s no law that says a rocker can’t also be the Pope.

And so I present my Top 5 Papal Candidates.

5. MARILYN MANSON
Age: 44
Cred: Attended Christian elementary school
Potential Pope Name: “God of Fuck”; “Antichrist Superstar”
Pros: Looks good in skirt
Cons: Card-carrying member, Church of Satan

4. TOBIAS FORGE of GHOST
Age:32
Cred: May be an actual Cardinal. Or a Bishop. Or just a Swedish metal dude in a cool costume.
Potential Pope Name: “Papa Emeritus” “Mary Goore”
Pros: Multilingual; good at keeping secrets
Cons: Um, that whole Swedish pagan thing.

3. DAVE GAHAN of DEPECHE MODE
Age: 50
Cred: Proponent of resurrection — died and came back to life after overdose
Potential Pope Name: “Personal Jesus”
Pros: Someone to hear your prayers, someone who cares
Cons: Divorced (twice)

2. BONO
Age: 52
Cred: Half-Catholic
Potential Pope Name: “Bono Vox”
Pros: Already acts like he has the job
Cons: An Irish Pope? Hahahhahahahaha.

1. CAROL POPE of ROUGH TRADE
Age: 62
Potential Pope Name: Ms. Pope the 1st
Pros: For God’s sake look at her name—she was literally born for this job!  Also, 60s is considered prime age for starting your career in the papal arts.
Cons: Her band’s biggest hit is about same-sex crush on hot teenager, probably not the theme song the Church is looking for. Oh, and there’s that whole woman thing. Well, maybe next century….