This song came on my iPod today as I was wandering around Victoria – I saw Shakey Graves play this at the Banff Centre a few weeks ago. I’m here for a week for a music festival and then onto Vancouver next week for a business vacation. This is my first venture in search of work and it’s long overdue. I’ve felt that Calgary isn’t the right place for me and I’m in the process of finding my next home. Everyone I’ve talked to has said that they got their job by being in the right place at the right time, and I figure this is putting myself in the right place.
For the time being, Victoria is little vacation and visiting and planning before the big stop of Vancouver. It’s quite weird being back here. Much like every time I return to a place I’ve lived a significant portion of my life, I have an existential crisis about my sense of place. I spent four years here and made a lot of memories with a lot of people. And finally coming back to that – every time I visit or pass these places, I revisit those memories. Some of them I look back on very fondly, some are painful to remember.
This song kinda stuck with me because of the title/chorus “Built to Roam.” As I spent a month and a half earlier this summer wandering through Europe, and now this trip – I wonder if I’m one of those people who is built to roam. And my immediate reaction was that I’m not. I enjoy stability and routine. I do enjoy the idea of travelling and visiting new places and exploring – so when I get to Vancouver where everything is new – maybe I’ll feel better about this all. But for now – I haven’t really enjoyed roaming Victoria.
Victoria is probably going to be the city that I remember most for giving my heart and growing up. I think I learnt a lot about myself and about others while I was here. I look back on my friendships and relationships and know that the people I met were crucial in forming who I am today.
For instance, there’s the CrackDonald’s here that I spent many a drunk night getting french fries. Or the square where I spent last years festival. The bus stop in front of the RBC where I probably spent a good 12 hours cumulatively waiting. Even going to the basement of the music building is weird when you don’t see your old friends sitting at their computers frantically trying to do a theory assignment or write some code. You could probably point to a different building on just about every street and I’d have a memory associated with it and a person.
As always, it’s weird coming back to where you were previously. At the university it feels like everything’s the same except for the cast – everyone else is younger and better looking, and I’ve gotten older and hopefully wiser. But I can tell I’ve moved on from here too – coming back doesn’t feel like the home it used to be. So that just means time for bigger and better things!
Nicole Byblow Plays All the White Keys by Nicole Byblow (Shiny Nickle Music 2011)
Manitoba born, British Columbia educated, and now calling Ontario home, Nicole Byblow brings a sound that all of Canada can love. The young singer/songwriter who is finding her footing in the national music scene has embarked on a tour to promote her latest CD, entitled “Nicole Byblow Plays All the White Keys.” She made a stop in Victoria where I saw her play and met with her to discuss music, school, life and even a little fashion. Nicole and her piano are packed and ready to go back east with a few more stops in the prairies before heading home.
Over the years, we have seen enough examples of “boys playing guitar”, and Nicole falls into the female opposition of “girls playing pianos” which seems to be a common theme in recent musical trends. Starting with Alicia Keys and Vanessa Carlton, this movement led the way for the likes of Sara Bareilles, Sarah Slean and more.
Slean is one of Byblow’s biggest influences for the career path she chose. The Canadian Juno-Nominated singer was one of the reasons Nicole started playing piano and writing songs when she was just 16. Luckily, Nicole was able to meet her other idol at the 2011 Juno Awards Dinner and Gala in Toronto in March of this year. The spontaneous introduction initiated by her sister and singer Matt Dusk left Byblow both wide-eyed and starstruck. It’s nice to know that even people who make CD’s and tour get a little speechless every once in a while.
When listening to Nicole’s music, you can immediately hear the impact of her influences in her vocal and piano stylings. Citing Ben Folds as one of her biggest inspirations, Nicole told me of how she spent many hours trying to learn his songs. When things weren’t going well, she would write to Ben via email. She assumed that her angry rants about the difficult of Folds’ songs went unheard, until she received a reply from an artist who has sold over 3 million records in his career spanning almost 2 decades. The two pianists continued emailing and eventually Nicole was invited to meet Ben at his show in Seattle. Fully expecting to be turned away at the door, Nicole was shocked when two tickets had been left under her name. The evening concluded with a conversation at the hotel bar where Folds was staying.
Now, I think this is enough background for you, what you’re really here for is to know what her CD is like and whether or not Nicole Byblow is worth a listen. But before I give you that answer, I’ll do my best to break it down for you.
Nicole Byblow Plays All the White Keys actually comes with one of the “Parental Advisory” stickers commonly found on albums from Eminem, NWA and 50 Cent. This is rather unexpected from the girl on the cover with a white background and staring at a red balloon. Nicole’s been described as “hyper-feminine” and “delicate” and for me; this is one of the first things that grabbed me about this music: Nicole’s unabashed attitude towards profanity is rather striking. When hearing her drop an “F Bomb” for the first time in a small coffee house on a rainy night in Victoria, I instantly looked up from whatever it was I was doing and started paying attention. Not many singer/pianists of this genre have the guts to swear on their records. You’ll never hear Sara Bareilles say “I don’t give a shit” about her former job in a hospital, but Nicole is unafraid to tell it as it is. She speaks the way in her songs the way she does in her normal life and that translates to her songs. She’s not trying to beat around the bush or use a clever metaphor to say she doesn’t care; she just doesn’t give a shit.
(Things That I Learned When I Worked in the Hospital)
My favourite track from the album is “Things I Learned When I Worked in the Hospital.” Starting with the toy piano, and the rolling drums chugging along, Nicole’s witty lyrics bring you a real insight to the life of a hospital. Lyrics like, “Patient confidentiality is of the utmost importance, but you’d be surprised how accessible that information is when you have to sweep the room it’s in”, are the kind of sarcastic backhanded lines that riddle this song. The chorus reminds us “who cares what we do in the mean time, it builds character doing the things we hate all our lives,” which, in out of context is rather quite depressing. But in the nature of the song, it’s understood that this is a sarcastic inflection of the songwriter and just an excuse for her to get through her shitty job. The bridge of this song builds follows the typical pattern of most pop songs, with one slight deviation. We have all come to expect the key change going into the last chorus of songs (think “You Raise Me Up”, “My Heart Will Go On”, etc.), and thankfully, Byblow doesn’t go this route with this song.
Once you get past the occasional expletive, the music itself is simplistic in its nature. All the songs only feature piano, drums and bass guitar, with the occasional splashes of violin and the toy piano from the CD cover. It’s Nicole’s song writing and melodies that stand out musically. Some of her lyrics are complex and compact, not unlike the rap counterparts who share her “Parental Advisory” sticker, which is juxtaposed by simple melodies and hooks that make the CD a treat to listen to. The track “February” has a particularly catchy “Ooh ah” section, that later features the range of Nicole’s vocal in the bridge.
Aside from the first single “They Didn’t Think So”, which Nicole describes as a song about what would happen if Jesus came and let every person on earth ask him a question about life, the lyrical content of the album is mostly what you would expect from the genre of girls playing piano. “A Song About A Lover” and “If I’m Lucky” may not have different thematic content, but are striking and beautiful in their own right. The production quality of the entire CD is superb. Ben Nixon, who was the bass player, recording engineer and co-producer of the album, did a fantastic job in a “garage turned studio” to produce The White Keys. I can only hear one minor slight throughout the whole album, but overall I have been impressed throughout.
You will be happy to know that Nicole does play in keys other than C major and A minor, utilizing more of the piano than the album title implies. I hate to use the buzz-word “up-and-coming” to describe Nicole and this album, as I think it gets thrown around too liberally these days, but I feel that you hipsters out there need to latch onto this girl so you can say that you liked her “before she was mainstream.” Byblow’s album is a melting pot of the fairy tale wonder of Cinderella, the epic storytelling of the Princess Bride, with just a sprinkle of Tarantino-esque profanity. If you love “girls with pianos” but are missing something with a little bit of an edge, Nicole Byblow Plays All the White Keys will be able to fill that void for you. No matter what kind of music you enjoy listening to, I would highly recommend this album for anyone (even if there is a Parental Advisory on it).
This is what Canadian music is all about and I look forward to everything else Nicole Byblow has to offer.
I suppose I should update this with something. My brother has asked me to write more so he has something to read on the bus home. So while I sit with nothing to do waiting for my next class I guess I will write.
This is going to the be the typical “update-what-i-have-been-doing-because-i-don’t-write-often-enough.” I may try and do a few more posts later about more interesting stuff, so I just gotta get this out of the way.
Christmas came and went. Girlfriend and I stayed in Victoria and it was my first Christmas away from home. It was nice and quiet and we had the whole house to ourselves which was amazing. She got me a PS3 which is awesome and the best present ever, and I got her the entire series of the X Files. Something like 61 discs over 9 seasons. So we’ve been watching that, and I’ve been playing a lot of playstation.
Then I went home for a few days post christmas. I did the family thing and saw my friends. And I’ve realized I only do three things when I come home:
- Go take pictures
- Go to the mall
- Go to the bar
Each activity has a certain set of people who are associated with it. But really that’s all Calgary is anymore. Just a stop along the way in order to appease my parents.
Then I came home for a few days, had two days of school and left back for Alberta with Girlfriend. Her cousin was getting married so we attended the wedding. It was a good weekend on the whole, hanging out with her family and what have you, but the wedding itself was pretty boring. But we both did look really good! Pictures will follow shortly.
Now I’m back in school, 5 classes again. Had to quit work at the Gap because I couldn’t work it with my schedule this semester. I’d only be able to work weekends, and that just wouldn’t fly with homework. I’m still going to do the recording job so I will still have some income.
Other than that, I can’t think of anything else that interesting to talk about. So I shall sign off. Have a good one.
- Strathmore treats stranded motorists like family (calgaryherald.com)
Everyone knows what I refer to when I say “That Guy”. You can spot him from a mile away – douchey, cocky, whatever other adjectives you want to include.
But what I’m going to talk about is a whole new breed of That Guy, and he pisses me off more than any other guy out there. He’s that guy on the bus who takes up more than one seat and knows he’s doing it. The usual acceptable standard is that you can take up two seats when the bus is less full. This generally leaves one seat between you and the person next to you, and in the unfortunate case that the bus gets more full, then you are willing to move and create a space for a person desperate for a seat.
But That Guy, will make it perfectly clear that he’s not moving for anyone. He’s claimed his two seats and he’s going to enjoy his space. Like today, there was a guy on the bus, reading the school newspaper, sitting in the MIDDLE OF TWO FUCKING SEATS, with his murse on the side of him. His legs crossed, perfectly content with what he was doing and totally unaware to his surroundings. He made no acknowledgment to the three guys standing in the doorway wondering if he was going to give up the seat next to him. The smug look on his face made me want to get up and make it awkward for him as I tried to sit in the spot next to him.
Really that’s the only solution to defeat That Guy on the Bus, is to force him to give up his seat. Then he will be miserable and you will gain the satisfaction of stopping a douche from ruining someone else’s day.
There’s a variation of That Guy – and I guess we can call it Those Girls, they generally sit at the back of the bus (here in Victoria, there are 5 seats at the back going perpendicular to the road, and then another 5 seats which are parallel to the road. (See Image below) In the picture if you turn seats 22 and 8 (on the left hand side of the picture) 90 degrees, you will get the layout of the buses here.So moving on, Those Girls generally like to sit at the back, and have as much space to themselves, putting their feet up and such. I have been in a situation where 3 of these aforementioned girls were taking up a total of 7 seats. Which is only one above the given 2 seat per person, but it was their formation that made the entire back of the bus uncomfortable for any other riders. With a girl in each back corners and then one on one of the sides, it makes sitting somewhere in that region a death sentence.
I spend a lot of my time on buses and do my best to be as nice as possible to other people. But there’s always going to be That Guy somewhere. Maybe one day I’ll have to take some kind of action…
So school is in full swing again, and unfortunately this blog has taken a toll because of it. I have a few extra minutes tonight, so I feel like writing something. I’ve got a whole bunch of other random stuff and thoughts I’m gonna write down sometime, it’s just a matter of laziness.
The start of my third year has kind of come in as a whimper versus a bang. My schedule is very forgiving this semester, I only really have class on Monday and Thursday. Tuesdays has one class @ 7pm, and Fridays are off. So it’s pretty good. Again due to the program, I’m taking a mismash of courses, including the Art and Architecture of Ancient Greece. So hopefully things will be good as the year progresses.
Luckily, Girlfriend and I have still managed to maintain seeing each other fairly often. You’d think more often than we do, given we live in the same house. I am surprised how well the living situation is going. Being roommates is great, we usually have breakfast together and then do something in the night together, so it’s nice. The owners of the house are great and the cat loves me. Which is nice. Unfortunately my parents are under the assumption that Girlfriend and I share everything (food wise) and thus they have stopped pitching in for my food bill. I suppose this is fair, but hopefully when they come at the end of September, they will see how little we actually share, and have a change of heart. (Doubtful – but here’s to wishful thinking)
In other news, I’m spending too much money lately! I’m in the process of purchasing an Mbox Pro2 (pictured below) for $500. Which is a steal of a deal considering you generally pay $1200+ for it. It’s great because I can use it to record, I can plug in my other box into it, and I get access to the most used software in the business.
You see! Digidesign, the company who makes the Mbox, has also produced a program called ProTools which has become the industry standard. Well, Digi has also made it so that you can’t use ProTools unless you’re hooked up to an Mbox. So this is not cool. Thus I am buying one.
Secondly, I just bought VIP tickets to the Alexisonfire show that will be happening here in November. This means I get: a ticket &
- meet & greet
- tour poster
- exclusive laminate
- 7″ (DEMOS from OC/YC….super limited)
- early entry into venue
Most importantly on this list is the meet & greet. Alexisonfire has grown to be one of my favourite bands, and having the opportunity to talk to them is going to be awesome. I’m already thinking up questions to ask and all this other loser stuff. Victoria is the first stop on the tour, so I’m gonna be one of the first people they meet! Aweeeesum.
In other nerdy music news involving me, there’s a guy coming to our school to talk to us about working in a well known studio. This guy has worked with K-Os, R.E.M., The Tragically Hip and Rise Against to name a few. These are a lot of big names, and a lot of bands that I listen to. I’m super pumped to talk to him and see what he says about the industry. So I’ve got another list of questions going for him too.
That kinda runs injunction with some other news of mine. I’ve taken over the Facebook group for my program, so I’m being a big n00b and posting all the time in the group to keep it relevant.
Umm…other than that, I’m not really sure what else is going on with me. Trying my best to stay active. Girlfriend and I have started playing tennis, and I’ve joined a ball hockey team as well. So I’ve got lots on the go.
Oh! I suppose I can talk about what happened in the last bit of the summer. I’ve been working at the Gap most of the time, and still am continuing into the fall (5 classes, and 2 jobs – great). The Gap is great, and I love working there, right now it’s mostly weekends and Friday’s so the hours aren’t fantastic.
Also – this summer was probably the first summer where I actually read more than 2 books that weren’t comics. I read:
- The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
- The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
- The Producer as the Composer by Virgil Moorefield
- Think of a Number by John Verdon
All of them were really good, but I have to pick two out of the mix. Think of a Number was fantastic, probably the best book I’ve read in a long time. It’s a great serial killer/mystery/crime/psychological/fuck-with-your-brain type of book. Which I really enjoy. So I’d definitely recommend that one.
The second, The Producer as the Composer, I would recommend for anyone with any interest in music. It talks about the producers role in making music all the way from Motown to DJ’s of today. It was the first book that got me to listen to an entire Beatles album (Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) and it made the music actually interesting to me. I went out and bought Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, just so I could hear for myself what Brian Wilson did in terms of mixing and arrangements. So for me this book had a significant impact on my musical life and how I want to pursue my career.
I think that’s enough for tonight. Ima go to bed now. More specifically…girlfriend’s bed!
If there’s any books you think I should be reading, please let me know!