Best Of
by Emma
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


The Weakerthans - "(Manifest)"

It's the end of the year. Let's talk about signs!

I grew up in a family that's as superstitious as it is skeptical, which means that a lot of my internal life is characterized by this weird tug-of-war between wanting to see everything that happens to you as incredibly significant and feeling pretty sure that all the world is just pure, churning chaos. It's a fun combination!

Around this time of the year, when things feel like they're being forced to gather to a point, I always find myself doing an inventory of my own cynicism - trying to see if the slow creep toward true adulthood has managed to shift me further towards or away from a belief in verifiable fact above all, if there's any more of a logic to the omens I choose to read as omens vs. the ones I decide to throw away, the rules I choose to follow. But things always stay pretty much the same, as determinedly lopsided as they always were: I feel a weird shiver when I see a broken mirror but step toward black cats on purpose; I'll walk underneath a ladder without even noticing because I'm too busy thinking about the ghosts swirling around me.

But that's all pretty site-specific. Aside from muttering "white rabbit" to myself every first of the month, the witchiest regular practice I've ever been able to feel comfortable believing in is tarot cards. Astrology's too loose and removed for my mean thresher of a mind, and to that end I cannot bring myself to fuck with actual psychics; religion itself is way off the table, as are the shakier cults. But a few years ago a friend invited me over to her place for a tarot reading, and I was like hey, you know what? It seemed to me like a more self-centered, simmered-down version of what art often gives - a gathered line of images, symbols and concepts that mean what they mean on their own, but leave room for you to project upon and mess around in too. Fixed points to bounce your thoughts off, like bumpers in a pinball machine. The fact that there's no claim to determination or infallibility makes the whole enterprise a little easier to sink into without cynicism - plus, let's be honest, I already write poetry on purpose, in public, so there's not really much left for me to be precious about, flakiness-wise.

At first I just used my friends' cards and poked around on a lot of angelfire-looking websites for their meanings, but one of the many "fuck-this"-based turns I did in 2015 was in getting fed up with that and buying my own deck. When I started, I thought I'd be doing those elaborate, table-sized card spreads you see cool goth ladies doing in the movies, but soon I realized that one of the simplest and most effective kinds of readings you can do is just three cards long. Ask a question and draw one for the past, one for the present, one for the future, and there you have it - new light against an old arrangement. Simple.

With the obvious exception of Sean's (and now Jeff's too), I've always kind of rolled my eyes at other people's year-end lists - the same way I have, in the past, rolled my eyes at horoscopes and crushes and poems and songs and anything else that tries to dwell in the low-lit liminal space between objective fact and swooning personal particular. But I think buying tarot cards means I can't really do that anymore, can I? Lately, I'm thinking that maybe the point of going over all the things that mattered most to you in the past 12 months is just to throw some different light on the big tangled mess of your care and attention, giving yourself a new way to move through all the stuff you've already moved through, a new orientation from which to point yourself at the endless unknown up ahead. Signs and symbols, structure. A foundation for your understanding to climb across and over, like vines on a trellis.

I've tried for the past week to sit down and make a more straightforward list, but my thoughts kept drifting three-card-ward - past/present/future. A lot of the music that I ended up leaning on the most this year was not new to the world, even if it was to me. All these past-albums shared a sensibility no matter what they sounded like or when they were from: they were strong enough to sweep you up, but full enough of open spaces that you could still hear yourself thinking in their midst. Those were the ones I listened to most on my record player, which is in my bedroom. The present-tense songs I liked most were all blazing pop - beats that kicked like fireworks and guitar riffs that rang through you like electrical current, songs that said go. These I listened to on my ipod; they pushed me forward through the city.

All the other stuff about this year that stuck with me the most - books, art, conversations, whatever - was in some way about what it means to create an understanding of yourself that's strong enough to be both fixed and changing, about being honest enough to admit that you're always and never the same way you were. Allowing yourself an open future, maybe, full of shifting selves and changing light. New arrangements. Variations on a theme.

So. 2015, in very very miniature. My favourite new albums were by Vince Staples, Grimes, Hop Along, Dej Loaf, Girlpool, Courtney Barnett, Drake, Magical Cloudz, Young Thug, Miguel, Justin Bieber, Sheer Mag, Carly Rae Jepsen and Kendrick Lamar. The pre-2015 things I listened to most were by Bill Callahan, Times New Viking, Nap Eyes, Joni Mitchell and Sylvan Esso. The best shows I saw were Girlpool, St. Vincent, Sheer Mag in a basement bunker, Dorothea Paas in someone's apartment, Nap Eyes in a church, and Yo La Tengo, very quietly, in a theatre in a haunted neighbourhood next to Lake Ontario. The best festivals I went to were Sappyfest and Halifax Pop Explosion, the best book I read was The Argonauts, and the best thing I swam in was the ocean. And the best thing I started doing was writing for this website. It's given me new ways to look at everything, and without it - without Sean and Jeff and Mitz and you, reading this - I would have been lost, adrift, worse-off, a lot. I owe you.

Posted by Emma at December 27, 2015 3:19 PM

Thank you for this reminder of things I like: tarot and skepticism, Joni Mitchell and the Weakerthans, thinking about end-of-year lists and finding shortcuts around them.

I'm really glad you're writing for saidthegramophone.

Posted by Lindsey at December 28, 2015 8:24 PM

I always really look forward to reading your posts emma!

Posted by jesse at January 7, 2016 6:13 PM

A belated thank you for this & so many of your other posts on StG. You willingness to go beyond the obvious and show us the magic and groove in both old (Escape!) and new (Miguel!) music keeps me reading and listening...

Posted by Michelle at January 23, 2016 5:29 PM

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about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

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All songs are removed within a few weeks of posting.

Said the Gramophone launched in March 2003, and added songs in November of that year. It was one of the world's first mp3blogs.

If you would like to say hello, find out our mailing addresses or invite us to shows, please get in touch:
Montreal, Canada: Sean
Toronto, Canada: Emma
Montreal, Canada: Jeff
Montreal, Canada: Mitz

Please don't send us emails with tons of huge attachments; if emailing a bunch of mp3s etc, send us a link to download them. We are not interested in streaming widgets like soundcloud: Said the Gramophone posts are always accompanied by MP3s.

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"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
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