Archive for the ‘Sarah McLachlan’ Category


This is one of my favorite Christmas discs.  There’s not a lot of traditional Christmas music on it, but the originals are all either spot-on Christmas songs or at least work nicely for this time of year.  The only song that doesn’t fit is Ben Folds’ which is funny and vulgar.  It is not safe for Christmas and should be skipped in a family setting and saved for the drunken debauchery part of the night.

PHANTOM PLANET-“Winter Wonderland” Back in 2010, Phantom Planet was a kind of buzzy, talked about band (you’ll have to look up why).  But this is a great version of the song, I especially love that it’s kind of rocky and slightly dissonant but still really pretty.

RON SEXSMITH-Maybe This Christmas.
It’s a shame that this series of records is named after this song, which is so forgettable.  I usually like Sexsmith’s stuff, but I can’t keep this song in my head at all.

COLDPLAY-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Unlike Phantom Planet which was all buzzy when this was recorded, Coldplay had yet to take off and had a small hit with “Yellow.”  It’s interesting to hear this spare version (just Chris Martin singing and playing piano) and how he modifies the words in small ways.

VANESSA CARLTON-“Greensleeves”  This is a lovely version of this song, even if Carlton’s voice is a bit affected (and its technically not a Christmas song in this lyrical version).

BRIGHT EYES-Blue Christmas
This is a nice version of this song, mellow and catchy.

SENSE FIELD-“Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” The more I listen to this song, the more I think it’s really weird.  “The yellow and red ones” (?).

JIMMY EAT WORLD-“12/23/95”
This is a very catchy Jimmy Eat World song (once again, before they got huge for a time).  It’s hard to realize its Christmas-related until late in the song when they mention the holiday.

I love this version of “Rudolph” so much because Johnson tacks on an ending where the other reindeer feel bad of making fun of Rudolph.  And Johnson’s vibe is just always so mellow and chill.

This recording is quite old–from 1996.  The artists work very well together and Sarah’s voice sounds great.

BEN FOLDS-“Bizarre Christmas Incident” [NSFC]
Ben played all of the parts himself on this song.  I love Ben and I love when he is funny and vulgar.  But this song which is very vulgar and mildly funny is so out of place on this disc.  You can’t play this for the kids, whereas everything else is totally fine. I might like it on a vulgar CD collection bu I dislike it a lot here.

DAN WILSON-“What a Year for a New Year”
Dan Wilson always writes pretty, catchy songs.  This is a lovely song that seems (possibly) even more appropriate in 2017 than it did in 2002 when he wrote it.

NEIL FINN-“Sweet Secret Peace”
This is a very pretty, delicate song with a wonderful chorus.  It’s not necessarily a Christmas song, but it works at this time of year.

McKennit’s voice is amazing, and this song is hauntingly beautiful.  It’s a stark and lovely ending to this disc.

[READ: December 14, 2017] “Lady with Invisible Dog”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This story was pretty bizarre and really wonderful.

There’s so much going on.  And much of it is pretty weird.  The story is set in 1995.  The narrator, Edwin, has had a run-in with a man called “The Narrator.”  And that has set all of the action of the story in motion. (more…)


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[ATTENDED: December 4, 2016] Jason Anderson

2016-12-04-21-58-48I thought that this show started at 8, but parking wasn’t very friendly near the Boot & Saddle so I wound up getting in the place at 8:15.  I didn’t know who Jason Anderson was, but I always try to see the opening act.  Well, I was pleasantly surprised to discover he wasn’t going on until 8:30.

So I was standing there waiting for him to come up on stage, when the stage lights went out and a light above me turned on.  I thought they were just putzing with the lights, but then a guy with a guitar grabbed a chair and stood on it right behind me up against the side wall.

This was Jason Anderson.  He had opened for Strand of Oaks all three nights at the sold out shows at Boot & Saddle.  He said that he had told the crowd the last night that he would play an electric set, but it felt right to do this acoustic set right there.

The room was dim (so dim that I couldn’t even get a picture of him–this one is of him playing with Strand of Oaks (I didn’t realize he was going to do that)).  He had someone holding up a lyric book as he told us he was going to sing a couple of songs that he had just written.

And what came next was an incredible half an hour.

From the start, Anderson was passionate and personable and won everyone over as he described what each song was about. He was honest and emotive and was really earnest about how pleased he was that we were all there and how we needed to really appreciate where we were at the moment.

And it sounds kind of cheesy to write it, and it felt a little cheesy at first, but Anderson was able to break through the hard exterior of everyone in the place and allows us all to give into the moment.

The first song was called something like “Sometimes Windows, Sometimes Walls.”  He said it was about those times when we scroll through Facebook over and over in case you missed something.  After he sang the chorus, he asked us to sing along with it.  And we did.  And we sang louder when he asked and quieter when he asked.  The Boot & Saddle is so small (the show was sold out at 150 tickets) that it sounded amazing.  And we all fed off the energy.

Each of his six songs had a story (usually funny, but not always).  He often interrupted the song to comment or fill us in on something else.  And then he continued, talking about how great the vibe was in the room.  And it really was.

His second song was a bout a toll booth worker in New Hampshire (he’s from New Hampshire).  The song was full of wonderful details. He told us that his friend loved the song and that his chorus “I remember you.  You remember me” was totally Sarah McLachlan-and he sang a line of her song too.

Anderson continually asked everyone to step closer, making it ever more intimate as more people came in.  He said that he doesn’t go to church but his spirituality comes from music and events like this where all different people–friends and lovers and relatives ans strangers–all gather together and live in one moment as it happens.

For one of the songs he asked us to echo the first line of the chorus, which we did.  And when we echoed the second line, he stopped us and said that he didn’t think it worked.  he confirmed it with us and then said we should only do that first line.  We laughed and agreed and continued.

He thanked Tim Showalter (the heart of Strand of Oaks) for letting him play like this and then he said “This song is for Tim, it’s “For Mike.”” And we laughed and he said he didn’t realize how strange that would sound.  This was a touching song written for a friend whose wife had recently died.

The final song was “All My Love For You.”  He had the lights turned down even further (almost dark) and taught us the chorus.  As the song was moving along he jumped off of the chair and walked to the middle of the room and told everyone to take two steps closer.  He was surrounded as he sang.  And he encouraged us to close our eyes as we sang along.  As we sang, he told a story between our lines.  Eventually we opened out eyes and ended the song and it was over.

I have never been in an environment quite like that.  It was really amazing–warm and comfortable and strangely powerful.

The only bummer thing about it was how quickly the vibe dissipated after his set was over.

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serafinaSOUNDTRACK: JACKIE EVANCHO-Tiny Desk Concert #130 (May 23, 2011).

jackieI’d never heard of Jackie Evancho, even though she apparently was viral for a while.  Jackie was (at the time of this taping) 11 years old.  And she has an amazing operatic voice.  Not like, oooh, the 11 year old can sing, but like holy cow, that voice comes out of an 11 year old?

Her voice is beautiful in the audio format, but you really have to watch that voice come out of this adorable little girl (while she sings Handel’s “Ombra Mai Fu”) for it to really blow your mind.  Especially when she giggles at the end.

For what I am sure are licensing reasons, there is only one video available, but there are three songs available to download.  “Lovers” comes from The House of Flying Daggers (one of her favorite movies).  If you have watched her sing, it is staggering to imagine her singing this song (which is intensely grown up).

The third song is Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” and she sounds so much more “mature” than McLachlan’s more passionate version.  It is uncanny to watch this girl sing.

[READ: December 6, 2015] Serafina and the Black Cloak

I saw this book reviewed and it was talked about as being the next big franchise for Disney.  Since our library had it in I thought I’d read it before it took off.

To my knowledge it hasn’t taken off yet, but I’m glad I’m ahead of the curve.

This book has many dark elements including a very violent, scary opening that I feel makes this an unlikely children’s book series.  Maybe tweens, but certainly not for young readers.

I brought the book for Sarah because it is set in Biltmore Estate (Sarah’s mom had just visited there and Sarah would like to go).  I think she was intrigued until I read the next paragraph which talked about a lot of supernatural elements (she was intrigued for different reasons then).

So Serafina is the daughter of the man who works on the “Edison machine” in the basement of Biltmore.  He doesn’t want the Vabnderbilts’ to know he lives there and doesn’t want them to know about Serafina at all.  All Serafina knows is that her mother is dead and her pa is all she has left.  So he hides her and tells her she is the CRC, the house’s chief rat catcher.  Despite her living conditions, she doesn’t feel any ill will towards the Vanderbilts.  She has never really interacted with them so she has no opinion of them.  She just thinks they are fascinating.

Serafina has very keen senses, especially in the dark–she can catch mice an rats like no ones business and she thinks that everyone else is loud and clumsy.  She also has amber eyes and only four toes and she is able to move her body into uncannily small spaces.

Her father, protective of her and of his livelihood, tells her to never go out except at night.  And she must also never go into the forest which is magical and dangerous. But Serafina is constantly drawn to the forest,

Then one night she hears someone walking around and a little girl scream.  The man is in a black cloak and she watches as he grabs the girl, says she won’t be hurt and then proceeds try to…do something to her.  Serafina tries to help, but she is thwarted and soon the little girl  screams and is gone.

She tries to tell her pa but he doesn’t believe her–he doesn’t want to hear anything about supernatural nonsense.  He even gets mad that she was out and about.  Finally when word gets out that the girl is missing, the house organizes a search party and Serafina runs into a boy, Braeden (a terribly unlikely name for the time, I must say).  Braeden is the nephew of the Vanderbilts.  Braden is an orphan , and his aunt and uncle have taken him in.  But he is a loner and spends more time with his horses and dog.  He is intrigued by Serafina because she is obviously a loner too.

They wind up going on a coach ride together only to get trapped in the woods.  That’s when Braeden believes what Serafina has seen (because he has seen it too).  And they know they have to capture this man in the black cloak.

But how can the two people who aren’t even supposed to talk to each other work together on such a thing.  And who can the evil person be?  An outsider or one of his uncle’s friends?

The mystery wasn’t set up as a mystery–we learn who we think is the bad guy about half way through the book.  But there’s still the matter of catching him.  And then learning the secret of the cloak.  And the secret of the forest.

I also enjoyed the part about the catamount.  I have a personal funny story about catamounts and have never seen them in a story before.  I’ve also never heard of them as having mystical powers (or that the name was derives from Cat-a-mountains) either.  Which was cool.

Although there were elements of this story that were kind of samey to other stories like this, there was much originality.  And by the end of the story I was totally hooked.

And best of all, the ending feels like an ending, not a set up for a part 2.  I can’t quite imagine how they will make a series out of it, but I’ll certainly read book two if it comes out.

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