Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Rick Mercer’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JANN ARDEN-“Leave the Light On” (2018).

Jann Arden is a Canadian singer-songwriter who I know pretty much exclusively from her 1994 song “Insensitive.”  Arden has also made numerous media appearances over the years, including showing up on Corner Gas, Robson Arms and other shows that I haven’t seen.  She also appeared extensively on Rick Mercer Report (I found out by reading the book).

“Insensitive” is a slow song with a bit of mid-90s production.  The melody is catchy and the lyrics are great:

Oh, I really should have known
By the time you drove me home
By the vagueness in your eyes, your casual goodbyes
By the chill in your embrace
The expression on your face, told me
Maybe, you might have some advice to give
On how to be insensitive, insensitive, ooh, insensitive

Now, nearly 25 years later, Arden has other things on her mind.  I don’t know much about Arden, but evidently both of her parents suffered significant health problems in the last decade.  Her father passed and shortly after that her mother began a battle with Alzheimer’s as well.

“Leave the Light On” is a beautiful song about her mother.

A slow piano opens before Arden starts singing–her voice sounds wonderful–powerful and exposed.

I never pictured life
Alone in a house
Surrounded by trees
That you’d forget yourself
Lose track of time
Not recognize me

The bridge comes in with a harmony voice that shows even more pain.

Then the chorus kicks in and a song that could be maudlin or easily schmaltzy goes in exactly the right place to prevent that.  It shouts a sense of optimism that’s the only way people can keep going sometimes

A four note melody picks up the pace and uses a perfect parenthetical voice (the first voice is quieter, almost internal)

(Out of the dark)
I leave the light on
(In through the cold)
I leave the light on now
(Safe from the night)
I keep my eye on the road
(Good for the soul)
For when you come home to me

What is so compelling about the song is how musically understated it is.  While it could go big and heartbreaky with strings and over the tops effects, it stays quiet with the piano and a quiet electric guitar playing a melody deep in the background.  And really once the drums kick in, it’s almost like the drums are the only instrument–like Arden’s voice is the melody and the piano and guitar are there purely as support.

There’s a short bit near the end of the song that is a real gut punch though.  After a short guitar solo, she sings following the guitar, “do you know my name, do you know my name?”

Dang.  It’s a starkly beautiful song.

It also showcases what a great songwriter she is because she is apparently a truly fun person to hang out (according to Rick Mercer).

[READ: December 2019] Rick Mercer Final Report

I read The Mercer Report: The Book over ten years ago.  I had been a fan of Rick Mercer Report on Canadian TV (we used to be able to get Canadian satellite down here).  As an introduction to that book I wrote

Rick Mercer is a great political comedian.  He puts all American political commentators to shame. I’m sure that much of this difference is the way Canada is structured. There seems to be so much more access to politicians there than in our system.  While politicians do appear on our TV shows, on the Mercer Report, Rick goes white-water rafting with the head of the Liberal party. Rick has a sleepover at the Prime Minister’s house.  For reasons I can’t fathom, all of these politicians agree to hang out with Rick even though in the next segment he will rant about their incompetence.

It’s these rants that were a highlight of his show.  Every episode, he would stand in an alley and go off for 90 some seconds about the issue of the week.  His rants are astute, funny, and right on the mark.  He takes aim at all sides by ranting against incompetence and hypocrisy.  The only disappointing thing is that since this book covers the lifetime of the show and some of the topics have appeared multiple times, I guess it shows that his rants didn’t accomplish their goals.  But they made us feel better, anyhow.

The book is organized in reverse chronological order, with the final rants (April 3, 2018) coming first.

Topics in the final year included how run down the Prime Minister’s residence is.  Justin Trudeau said “The place is filled with mould and lead–I’m not raising my children there.  Typical Liberal.”  Also payday loan sharks; the Paralympics (Mercer was a huge supporter) and technology. (more…)

Read Full Post »

in hereSOUNDTRACK: THE TRAGICALLY HIP-We Are the Same (2009).

Itragically hip first heard of The Hip when I saw their video for “Nautical Disaster.” This is back in the day when I first got Canada’s MuchMusic on my Brighton, MA cable system, and when I actually watched Music channels. Anyhow, the song was intense and very cool and it built to a great climax, and I was totally hooked.

I got their back catalog and continued to get their new releases.  Since then they’ve released some really good songs, and some pretty good discs.  It almost feels like since their live disc they decided to switch from intense songwriting to more simple, straightforward rock. This is a little disappointing to fans of their intense stuff, and yet if you accept the change in style, the music is quite solid.

So this disc seems to be shooting for an even broader, more commercial appeal.  And, in the first half, at least, they emphasize a more folksy/country feel.  All of this should make me flee from the disc, and I think longtime fans are pretty disappointed by it.  And yet, I can’t get over how much I like it. There’s something slightly off about the Tragically Hip that keeps them from being overtly commercial.  So that even when they release a disc like this, which is quite mellow in places, it still sounds alternative.  Maybe it’s Gord Downie’s voice, maybe it’s something in the melodies; whatever it is, it keeps this disc from being blah.

The final track, Country Day” seems to sum up the overall feel of the disc: meandering country roads.  And “Queen of the Furrows” is about farming.  The opening few songs have a Neil Young folkish feel, since “Morning Moon” and “Honey Please” have big catchy choruses with folky verses

“Coffee Girl” actually reminds me of a serious Barenaked Ladies type song, which is disconcerting coming from the Hip, but could possibly become a hit (it’s probably their most overtly commercial song I can think of since “My Music at Work”).  Actually, I take that back, one of the final tracks on the disc, “Love is  a Curse” sounds like it’s their last ditch attempt to have a big hit in the States.  And if they were a more well known (or on a bigger label) it would be a huge hit.  It rocks pretty hard and screams radio friendly.

The Hip of old do surface on two songs though: “Now the Struggle Has a Name” is one of those great sounding Hip songs:  as you’re singing along to the swelling chorus you wonder why they aren’t huge down here, and then you realize the song is 6 minutes long and will never get on the radio.   There’s also a 9 minute song, and the good news is that it doesn’t get boring (no mean feat).

The second half of the disc has more loud guitars.  The cool riff of “The Exact Feeling” is pretty great.  While “Frozen in My Tracks” is probably the weirdest track on the disc, with a very cool, off-sounding chorus.

So yeah, the disc has horns and strings and is maybe a little too polished and produced.  But the songwriting is still stellar.  I’m sure that if I had heard these songs now without knowing the Hip, I wouldn’t be all that impressed.  Maybe as I get older I’m less critical, or maybe I’m just happy to mellow out a bit more.

[READ: Week of July 20] Infinite Jest (to page 367)

Even though last week I said I would keep to the Spoiler Line Page, I am breaking the promise already.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of leaving a passage unfinished, so I just continued to the section break of Gately’s A.A. meeting.

When I first read IJ way back in 1996 I, like most Americans, didn’t really think too much about Canada.  I liked a lot of Canadian music and The Kids in the Hall were awesome, but beyond that I was pretty oblivious to our neighbors to the north.  Since then, I have become something of a Canuckophile.  I did Curling for two years and have visited up North a number of times.  We even had a Canadian satellite dish where we watched most of our TV (like Corner Gas and The Rick Mercer Report) until that moderately legal company was sued out of business.  Now I subscribe to The Walrus which keeps me well informed. Anyhow, this is all to say that I have a greater understanding of Quebec separatists and the state of US border relations.  This makes this whole Marathe-Steeply section more interesting to me this time around.  I sort of went from Hal (apolitical) to a quarter of the way to Avril in my understanding.

But before we get to that, lets get into the book and learn about Orin. (more…)

Read Full Post »

rm.jpgSOUNDTRACK: NADJA-Truth Becomes Death (2005).

nadja.jpgSlow and low that is the tempo. Very few reviews of Nadja will quote the Beastie Boys, and that is probably wise. The only reason I do is because the quote is so apt. Nadja plays music that is very very very slow. And the notes are very very very low. Have you ever played a 45 RPM vinyl record (remember those) on 33 and laughed at how it sounded? Well, that’s what this record sounds like. On purpose. There are 3 songs. The first is 23 minutes, the second is 16 and the third is 11.

The sound is generally an ominous drone, punctuated occasionally by high hats. It’s weird to me that someone would have even thought to make music like this.

None of this is to say it’s bad, it is just such a unique sounding record that I’m at a loss when I think about it. Some relief from the oppressiveness comes at the end of the third song, where there are suddenly three minutes of fairly light almost acoustic sing-alongs (this is relative of course, as nothing is light with this band). But for the most part it’s a punishing listen.

I’m not sure when you would play this, but I think you wouldn’t want to be anywhere where this is the soundtrack.

I discovered this album because I was buying records from the mighty Alien 8 Records web site, and they were having a buy 2 get 1 free sale. So, I tried Nadja. It was a worthy experiment, although I’m not sure if I’ll be checking out their other records. You never know though!

[READ: January 2008] Rick Mercer Report The Book

Many years ago, when I belonged to the Plainfield (NJ) Curling Club, I discovered that I could get satellite TV beamed in from Canada. Since I was really into curling, and so many other things Canadian (Kids in the Hall, 1/2 of my favorite bands) I thought I’d see what I could discover with a satellite dish of my own. It was through this dish that I found out about Rick Mercer. (more…)

Read Full Post »