Monday, December 30, 2013

albums of the year, 2013.

Honestly, I feel like putting together this list somehow deceives people into thinking I listened to anything other than The National this year. At any rate, I don't get too many opportunities to deceive others, so let's just go with it.

In no particular order, here are the new records I was obsessed with this year. This isn't a Top Ten, because I don't think I even listened to ten new records this year. Lying on the floor listening to Matt Berninger mirror your soul back to you in song takes up a LOT of time.

(Please note, this is an Arcade Fire Free Zone.)

Neko Case--The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, the More I Love You
(I want to be her when I grow up.)

Laura Marling--Once I was an Eagle

David Bowie--The Next Day

Vampire Weekend--Modern Vampires of the City
(My mother called these guys Zombie Weekend last week, that was pretty great.)

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs--Mosquito

Haim--Days Are Gone

The National--Trouble Will Find Me

This album is perfect.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Interesting things always seem to happen on the darkest day of the year.

Four years ago, it was my first Christmas in Kingston. The weekend of the winter solstice, my best friends were having a holiday party. It was a Friday night, and I had to work the next day. This solemn fact didn't really propel me toward anything resembling responsible decision making. The signature cocktail of the party was Moose Milk, which is, to the best of my recollection, equal parts ice cream, Baileys, vodka, and sin. On my well-past-tipsy stumble home (oh, the joy of living stumbling distance from best friends), I phoned up the man in my life. I hadn't had a cell phone for very long at that point, and the novelty of being able to call people (not to mention the novelty of having someone to call) hadn't worn off.

"I'm gonna keep you on the phone," I told him, "in case anything happens to me on my way home. I might need a witness of some kind."

"Jesus Christ," he replied, probably not of much sounder mind than I. "Get the hell off the streets."

"Oh, I'm fine," I assured him, sidling into a snowbank. "I have to work in the morning, anyway."

"Jesus Christ," he repeated. "Call in sick, you idiot."

I probably should have heeded his advice, but some semblance of professionalism won out instead, and I struggled through a busy, crazy Saturday at the library, half-asleep and probably still off-gassing vodka from the previous evening. He picked me up that night outside the library, in not much better shape than I, and we drove out to Brockville to visit his parents for Christmas.

The thing about him and me was, we spent a long time pretending we weren't as attached as we actually were. We danced around one another for a ridiculous span of months and years before we admitted to one another what we actually felt. Once we did, we kind of went into Full Steam Ahead mode, zero to sixty in ten seconds, that kind of thing. From flat out denial that we were in love to barreling down the highway toward Brock Vegas for Christmas dinner. It had been a long time since I'd had anyone in my life for whom I cared enough to spend a hungover Saturday night with family, eating a chicken casserole that was his mother's version of vegetarian cooking. His mom had gifts for both of us, a Trivial Pursuit game and a bag of chocolate and toothpaste and new slippers and stocking stuffers. He was embarrassed by it, but not so much that he apologized for it. The novelty hadn't worn off here either.

That night we slept in separate single beds, him in his brother's room, me in his. In the morning I woke up to him jumping on top of me and telling me to get ready to get the fuck out of there. He was a big fan of the Irish Goodbye, leaving unannounced and then calling from the road. (Those apologetic phone conversations comprised about forty percent of our communication during the first year of our relationship.) This was a hard feat to pull off in your own parents' house, though, so we toughed it out through breakfast before burning rubber.

We took the long way home, down past Smith's Falls, coming into Kingston over the bridge from the east side of town. Everything was snow-quiet and still. That afternoon, my best friend was playing a solstice concert at the Mansion. He hated going out, but I convinced him to come with me without much prodding. We sat on bar stools, drinking pints of Guinness, listening to some of the best musicians in town play the best kind of folk music. The sun was setting on the darkest day of the year, the dimming-down outside making the Christmas lights twinkling around us in the bar seem brighter by the moment. We walked home shivering, fell asleep curled up together to keep warm. It was so cold that he let the dog jump up on the bed, which he never did, as a rule. "It's my bed, not his," he'd say. But that night that he begrudgingly allowed an exception. Sometimes you have to do that, go against your own code for the sake of someone else. Sometimes the most important thing is just to stay warm. Sometimes you do what you can to find light in the darkness.