Monthly Archives: May 2011

Spanish Romance

To be honest, I’d never heard of Spanish Romance until this year. Once I found out it was a classical standard, I started seeing it on all these CDs by respected guitarists and compilation albums of “classical greats”. It seems like anyone learning classical guitar will try to tackle it at some point, seduced by such an elegant melody. I have no classical aspirations, and even I fell for it.

I figure I’d record this before I cut off my nails cause I’ve been growing them for about two months1 and I’m completely sick of them. They clack on my keyboard and iPad, and I always have to be annoyingly careful about not breaking them. Unfortunately, this song also sounds way better with some brightness to it when it’s not played with actual nylon strings; I’m still using a set of Silk and Steel, and there’s a certain fatness to the sound when you really dig into them.

I’ve only had Larissa for six months now, but it feels more like six years. There’s so much familiarity in the wood and glossy curves. Even when I’m trying out a guitar several times the price of what she would cost, it never feels as nice.

  1. Although halfway through I cut them down to 1/4 length and lost a lot of growth cause I thought they were interfering with my rest-stroke. Turns out the problem was actually in my technique. Oops. []

Dear Lisa

It was this succinct wit. She could say so much in a line or two, and anything left unsaid would only serve to feed your curiosity. You’d be given the punchline, this blow that would knock the wind out of you, then wonder what circumstances could have led up to that. I’ve always been after that style, that ability to move people with words the way hers used to move me.

Dolly and Lisa

Of course Dolly has to sleep on anything new in the house, regardless of whether it’s your sweater or not. It’s part of the sass, and yet one can’t help but reward her with cuddles and love.

For a few years, I lost her to the happiness (where I hope to lose myself one day) until we spent a rainy day together, blissed out and hopefully obvious only to the check-out lady who scanned all our varieties of chocolate.

Dear Lisa believes in me, and that’s the only reason I believe in myself too.

Humble & Brilliant

Jesse’s Dangerously’s latest knockout album, Humble & Brilliant1, has been released as a digital download only with no physical media. However, you can also purchase a chapbook for those of us who enjoy the tactile feeling of liner notes, lyrics, and kick-ass illustrations. Included in the digital download is this topless picture of Jesse I took to promote the album.

Jesse Dangerously — shirtless


I have so many amazing memories of these songs, back before the album was released and I was doing backup ukulele parts for a few of his acoustic sets. That was when I was just starting to get into playing an instrument again, except this time it was in my adulthood and it was for reals. He gave me a draft of the album last year when all the ideas were there but he had yet to decide on how some of them were going to be executed, so it’s very satisfying to hear how polished and complete it is now.

There were a bunch of shots we did but didn’t end using, and they were all really fun to do.

Pictures more brilliant than humble

  1. Proper pronunciation has the emphasis on the last syllable of “Brilliant”. []

short exile on a long weekend

When you no longer work in an office, sometimes you don’t find out it’s a long weekend until the Friday of. My friends have also replaced their ritual barbecues with babies and play dates, so no invitations were sent out that may have notified me of the holiday.

Toronto Lake Shore

A quiet moment among volleyball tournaments and beach goers in a calm area of the Lake Shore.

I wanted to get away cause I’ve been dreading any time alone. Loneliness hits me hardest when I’m sitting at home wondering what everyone else is doing. A road trip to Toronto was the best way I could avoid that. Unfortunately, the only people I can drop in on with such short notice happen to be five hundred kilometres away.

The truth is I never watch sunsets anymore. I’m usually too caught up in my projects cause I’m worried about being left with nothing but the thoughts I’ve trying to put in the back of my head. That’s why I don’t mind the five-hour drive at this time of year; it gives me an excuse to see what I never make time to do. When I leave at a quarter to seven, I hit the richest1 part of the sunset halfway through the 401. For a glorious stretch, there’s nothing concrete curves and crimson colours bleeding through the trees.

CN Tower sushi

The “CN Tower” sushi platter, with tempura observation deck.

All I wanted was a quite time with the right company, no heavy plans or personalities. I’d be kicking myself for all the shots I missed cause I was too comfortable to pull out my camera, but I know that’s what those moments are about.

To lose yourself in the haze and summer heat finally upon us is to live like a child again without a worry or thought of anything beyond the next five minutes. Regression is embracing the itchy sweat breaking out on your face, as your fingertips mash the ice into slush in a white cream soda freezie.

grocery store

Feeling lit, feeling light,
2 a.m., summer night.

I’m always fighting exhaustion on these trips cause I don’t get enough sleep. There’s too much to do. It’s a test of constitution to be driving in the darkness and city lights, wondering if I’m too tired to be driving, let alone navigating the infuriating construction and traffic of downtown Toronto. When I survive another day, it’s a reminder that not everything has to be perfect, that the world still turns no matter the state of my heart or mind.

Over a particularly heavy blend, I was asked what it would take for me to go all out, to say fuck it and lose control. It made me realize I’m already there, siding with indulgence over moderation, trying to break myself down so I can rebuild myself again. That’s why I always lose myself on those warm summer nights, when I tell myself I’ll be in bed by 10 every night, but the company keeps me up till 3.

cat and human

Dexter is now too fat and lazy to fight off my cuddly advances.

I have such a mixed past with Toronto. It was such a chaotic time in my life when I lived there. I was cripplingly undeveloped, but that also meant I still had the innocence none of us ever return to once we hit adulthood. Much like those memories, this city will always be a part of me.

Now I’m back in Ottawa, returned to the little things that make it home like a familiar pillow and a cat’s particular purr. In my case, the exile is always self-imposed, a controlled escape, and I always wonder if anyone would care or miss me if I never came back.

  1. The time when it just starts to get dark, a balance between the rich colours and brilliance of light, since they both compose. []

a sketch of Shaded By Your Shadow

So the iPad 2 is something I bought last week, solely for the purpose of GarageBand. It’s powerful enough to be a sketchpad where you can create musical ideas, and because the instruments are touch-sensitive, it’s really fun to doodle and experiment. I don’t actually have a bass or piano or drums, so the extra instrumentation is pretty handy too.

Over the weekend I made this sketch of Shaded By Your Shadow as I was figuring my way around the software. It’s always been one of my favourite songs by Shane; the title alone evokes this image of lying in the grass on a warm day, with someone’s hair drifting in the haze of their outline above you.

I haven’t lost myself this much in a project (small as it was) in a long time. I had to figure out the roles of instruments I’ve never played before, percussion being a particularly weak point of mine cause I rarely pay attention to it when I’m listening to music. There are a lot of synth instruments included with GarageBand, so I tried to give it an 80s synth-pop sound. Everything was done right on the iPad, including vocals which were recorded using the built-in microphone.

I still have to learn about mixing and production and whatnot (and since I don’t have any monitors, I’m completely blind when setting the various levels), but I was happy as punch just to be able to figure out the software and process. It really is it’s own creative process when making a full band arrangement for a song, a puzzle in it’s own right, because you can start with an idea or motif on any instrument and there are so many directions you can go from there.