I Don’t Feel If You Don’t: Emotion in Art and the Sincerity of the Cure

Art has always been, for myself and so many others, an outlet for so many deeply personal emotions. It has not only been a way of working through the trials and tribulations of human experience, but also a means of communicating these feelings to others without explicitly recounting details. Art gives us a way to articulate emotion while circumventing circumstance: a painting or poem is often a short-cut to the heart, a way of saying, “this is how it feels,” regardless of whether the audience can sympathize with the situation that prompted it. Because human emotion is a complex and varied thing, I may not feel the sadness you experience by falling out with a friend, or the frustration you have at a romantic rejection, but I have no doubt experienced them myself under other circumstances and can recognize their presence in artistic works.

That said, when it comes to light that a piece was not, in fact, composed out of its “proper” emotion, it feels like a sort of betrayal. I recall a number of times when I found out a song I deeply identified with was written from a totally different viewpoint, or exclusively pandered to radio production and popularity. My entire existence seemed to crumble when, at sixteen, I found out Robert Smith had written “Let’s Go to Bed” simply based on what got radio airplay—the song that had defined my first ‘adult’ relationship suddenly felt like a lie. I had been convinced that Smith had written from the same insecure, fugue-like daze of affection that I had experienced. I couldn’t believe those words that had actually moved me to tears had been complete fabrication.

Let's Go to Bed

However, I was also so thoroughly touched by works of fiction in literature—I wept for the doomed loves in so many Gothic novels, and thrilled at the triumph of good over evil in works so obviously fantasy. When I read urban legends (my generation’s fairytales), I found myself jumpy and unsettled for days. Never for a second did I believe these accounts were true, but I still allowed them to move me and spark very real emotions. Whether or not the authors had experienced unrequited love, or ridden dragons triumphantly into battle, or escaped the horrors of Satanic cults firsthand was irrelevant. Whether or not I had any emotional basis of comparison was also irrelevant—the work felt authentic enough to create those for me. Years later, with more of life behind me, those feelings hold true. Now, instead of reading Leroux and thinking, “that must be what love feels like,” I can examine the dynamic between Christine and Raoul and say, “that is love” and feel just as strongly with the bonus of recognition.

We can watch Leonardo DiCaprio fight bears and struggle against a historical wildness without questioning the emotional credentials he or director Alejandro González Iñárritu have behind them. We can even give them both awards of global artistic recognition. So why did I feel so betrayed by Robert Smith for his lyrical fiction?

Perhaps it’s because it caused me to question the authenticity of his other songs, songs I aspired to experience myself. If “Let’s Go to Bed” was a total fabrication, what did that mean for songs like “Just Like Heaven,” or “Icing Sugar,” songs that summed up everything I wanted out of love? Maybe, if the emotion I felt came from lyrics confessed to be fictional, the feelings I got from other songs were just as fictional, and described experiences I couldn’t possibly have. For years, I thought that may have been painfully true—real relationships, at least as far as my experience extended, did not include the dizzy euphoria or frenetic excitement of love that Smith had promised me. It pained me that the emotions they described would exist only in these musical fantasies, and my initial feelings were replaced with resentment.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized the sincerity of Smith’s lyrics were irrelevant: my emotional reaction was no less real, those feelings no less authentic, than they would be born from my own experience. Listening to those words produced in me a reaction—that alone was totally valid. And later on, they proved an invaluable base of comparison for my own feelings in response to other life experiences. Like Aristotle’s poets, Smith’s songs had taught me to recognize love in its playful, creative, joyful form, which I had no previous concept of through my own experience. Whether or not Smith had written them out of like experience made no difference: the emotions I felt listening to those songs were real, and prepared me to identify those same emotions when they came into my life organically.

Let's Go to Bed

There are aesthetic theories that deny we, as viewers, can experience any real feelings from art. With no personal stake in the creator’s experience or the plot at hand, we go through the motions of reacting—while sitting in the dark of a theatre, watching the latest James Wan flick unfold before us, we experience what feels like a genuine stress response. Our heart may beat erratically, we may have difficulty breathing, we might even scream, but according to theorists, this isn’t really fear: at the end of the movie, we know the lights will come up and we’ll all shuffle out of the theatre safely. But those feelings stay with you. Days, weeks, months later, when you find yourself alone in the dark, that same sense of dread may creep back in and you find yourself re-living the fear you experienced in the theatre. My sister still won’t use public restrooms alone thanks to a certain Japanese horror film, and loathe as I am to admit it, I kept all my coats out of sight for days after watching the Babadook so I wouldn’t see them out of the corner of my eye as something else.

The same extends to other works of art, poetry, and music. “Let’s Go to Bed” remains an emotional song for me, whether or not it was emotional for Robert Smith. I had a genuine experience, one that I relive each time I hear that song. I believe that my emotional experiences with other pieces are authentic as well—each time I’m moved to tears or imbued with excitement, I trust the feelings that evoked the response are relatable and repeatable, whether they are insights for future experiences or recall specific emotional occurrences. Those emotions aren’t packed into a box and stored on the shelf at the end of the experience, like the record that provoked them—they’re carried with me, recalled over and over again.

The Cure – Let's go to Bed by bebepanda


If That’s What You Wanna Do: Makeup Inspired by the 1975’s Love Me

“Another post about the 1975?” you’re probably groaning. I know, it’s been weeks since their album came out and I’ve all ready mentioned them so many times…but the moment I saw the video for Love Me back in October, I knew I needed to play with their look.

Just Keep Lookin'

The video, directed by Diane Martel, featured the band partying with a horde of cardboard celebrities, but let’s face it: the real star of the show was Matty Healy’s makeup, as done by the incredibly artistic Jeffrey Baum. Powder blue and neon pink is a very particular colour combo, and definitely serves as a throwback to the kind of retro 80’s glamour the band is channeling, but Baum keeps it from looking dated by keeping lips clean and natural, tying it all together with dashes of dayglo liner.

Bright Liner in Love Me

Considering that “Serendipity” blue is one of Pantone‘s dual Colours of the Year, I decided to bust out my new Sephora Pantone Universe lipstick and do some role reversal. You’ve seen the blue eye pink lip combo a thousand times, but I’m always interested in paths less traveled. And considering the song’s New Wave influences, I thought it was appropriate to play with some heavy contouring and bright blush.

"Love Me" Spinoff Look

I used Sugarpill‘s Dollipop, Urban Decay‘s Savage, Bones, Alien, Truth, and Too Faced‘s Your Love is King to create a bold pink eye and blend it out into my contour, a la some of my New Romantic image idols. Then, using Dior‘s Dior Addict Fluid Shadow in Magnetic, I traced a silver line under my waterline before creating a second line in black liquid liner–everyone has their favourites, but mine is Urban Decay‘s Perversion. Extending the line beyond my natural eye on both sides, I let the inside corner fall downwards while the outside corner continued up.

"Love Me" Spinoff Look

Rather than creating a full line along my upper lash line, I joined the lower line with a wing on top and piled on the black mascara. Leaving a slight gap between the upper and lower lines creates an even larger-looking eye–something between a doll and a wild animal, two things everyone aspires to of course.

"Love Me" Spinoff Look

I filled in my brows as usual, and finished the look off with the fabulously blue Serendipity lipstick from Sephora’s Pantone Universe collection. For such a light colour, Serendipity goes on opaque with the first stroke, so application was painstaking–moreso because the bullet itself is a rather strange shape and doesn’t lend itself well to drawing lines or creating shapes. If you’re a dedicated brush-user or have a magic supply of blue lipliner, this probably won’t bother you. Personally, I think this shade is worth a little time and effort–it’s the perfect counterpart to the classic (cliché?) powder blue shadow.

"Love Me" Spinoff Look

While I love the clean neon liner seen on the video’s models, I felt like taking it back–Love Me via ’81 if it was done by Boy George. Naturally, this isn’t a look for some light afternoon shopping or a family dinner. Luckily for me, there’s never a lack of good dance parties in town, and with a New Order show the same night, I was in good company.

The next time you see an artist or model in a video you like, take a look at their makeup. I challenge you to create something from it, to turn it into something you identify with or feel strongly for. Not only does it inspire you to break out of your daily beauty routine, it also creates a unique place for you within the music. You strengthen your relationship not only with the song itself, but also with yourself–it really is amazing how far a little makeup can push the boundaries of our identities.


Neon Pink Cynicism: the 1975’s I Like It When You Sleep… Review

It was a frigid February morning and I was huddled with my sister on Orchard Street trying to soak in sunlight to combat the unforgiving wind. I had only been standing there for about 20 minutes, but she and her friends had been on the street since 2AM counting down the moments. We barely noticed when the car pulled up at the curb and the 1975 rolled out, all retro fringe and rockstar shades. Screams erupted as Matty Healy pulled off his sunglasses and sniffed the frozen air, “Oi, it’s blazin’ out here!”

Pop-Up Line-Up


Some 15 minutes later we were inside the LES gallery space rented for their one-day pop-up, a well-kept secret to promote their brand new album: I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. My sister had hunted down the address only hours before she arrived on the scene, and now some two hundred fans were lining the adjacent blocks waiting for their turn to buy the new music and meet their idols. The bare brick walls were hung with neon signs spelling out new album tracks, and brightly-colored photographs in stark white frames played on lyrical themes. Nothing could stop me now: I was going to buy the boxed set. I had almost preordered it originally, instantly attracted by the neon-pink lucite casing and the idea of exclusive 7” singles, but the price tag seemed steep—now that I had a chance at an autographed copy of the LP, it seemed well worth it.
Bubble-wrap trailed out of my pockets as I ascended the back stairway, barely registering the photographs hung along the hall. My eyes had barely adjusted to life in neon pink when I realized this was no formal record signing meet-and-greet. The minimal loft space had been converted into a sort of listening lounge, with a well-worn black leather sofa totally abandoned as the band wandered free, chatting with fans, taking selfies, sharpie-ready for autographs. Each wall held massive prints of album artwork, including the neon sign spelling out the impossibly long album title, coating everything with a candy-colored glow. I barely registered the upbeat Haim song piped in as I embarked on my signature-collecting mission, LP clutched tightly and phone camera-ready in pocket. At one point, I found myself nervously chatting to Ross MacDonald about the album, admitting I had listened to it on loop since it had leaked a couple days earlier. “It’s a bit all-over-the-place, don’t you think?” He asked with a certain degree of concern in his voice.
I Like It When You Sleep...
At first listen, it is. The band’s now-signature, self-titled opener is given a brighter, chorus-driven vocal, turning it from sort of sleepy to deliberately dreamy before launching straight into the retro-funky Love Me. The transition from swelling synth and slow vocal to Bowie-Chic guitar is a little jarring, but maybe intentional considering the dialog proposed by the leading single’s lyrics. That said, Love Me remains among my favorite tracks on the album: aside from the obvious musical similarities, the lyrics read like a Millenial Fame, equally cynical in a new age language. It’s the same cynicism that pervades songs like Change of Heart, which feels like the disillusioned follow-up to their self-titled LP’s the City. It’s the falling-out-of-love story after the romance of Robbers dies–
“You used to have a face straight out of a magazine
Now you just look like anyone

I just had a change of heart
I feel as though I was deceived
I never found love in the city
I just sat in self-pity and cried in the car”
But it’s not all twenty-something bitterness and upset. One of the album’s standouts is the ethereal, choral-driven This Must Be My Dream,  an upbeat, synth-pop plea of adolescent optimism that simply sticks with you. Like She’s American and the Sound, it’s got a catchy, danceable beat that distracts you from the admittedly garbled, Manchesterese lyrics long enough that you might be surprised by the actual words:
“You got excited and now you find out that your ‘girl’
won’t even get you undressed or care about your beating chest”
Personally, I think the album might have been better ending on the following track, Paris. The relaxed, nostalgic vibe is a pleasant wind-down from some of the album’s quicker-paced tracks without bringing down the mood or inducing sleep–but the band continues with two additional tunes. Nana and She Lays Down are both absolutely heartbreaking, tragic songs backed by a simple acoustic guitar, bringing the album to a strange, unsettling end. If they had been anywhere else, I might be able to overlook the general air of melancholy peppered through the record’s more electronic tracks. Concentrated at the end, however, it’s an unavoidable fact: this is kind of a really sad album. It tells stories about lost identities, painful breakups, faith questioned, and deaths faced. But when wrapped in a package of synthesizers and pop guitar riffs, they seem almost idyllic. There’s a romance to the kind of jaded cynicism the 1975 is peddling—a kind of absurdist idealism.
While the musical style does jump from chill out groove to new generation funk to acoustic heartbreak ballad, the mood of I Like It When You Sleep… makes it a logical follow-up to the band’s 2013 EP. If the 1975 was about sex and drugs and making memories with friends, I Like It When You Sleep… is about facing the world after teenage dreams begin to melt away. You might not know who you are, you might not recognize your relationships, you might even lose the people closest to you, but you can be damned stylish and look good doing it.
A Morning Well Spent

Keep On Spinning: the Edit Review

As an early Millennial, I’ve watched a lot of technology rise and fall. My first computer was a simple DOS system, I can recite every Windows update in chronological order from 1990, and the sound of dial-up still haunts my dreams. As a life-long audiophile, I remember the thrill of finally owning my own portable CD player, realizing I was no longer limited to the narrow selection of bulky cassettes my parents kept in the car, even if the disc did skip every time we hit a bump. Stalking out the new CD singles was a weekend ritual, and finding a Sam Goody gift card tucked into a birthday card was like winning the lottery. Mp3s offered relief from the clutter of all those jewel cases, but I’ve always liked to keep physical copies of my favorite albums: like precious art objects, there’s something sacred to the physical record of a song. The grooves and pits of the recording are like a fingerprint of the artist.
That said, while I’d always been intrigued by the stack of Stones’ and Beatles’ albums my parents left to collect dust and the massive stack of 7” disco singles my grandmother had acquired through the years, I’d never really experienced vinyl. I collected a couple of my favorite albums as I found them in thrift stores or garage sales—ChangesOneBowie, Rebel Yell, Bloodflowers—but as my technologically gung-ho family tossed whatever they deemed dated, I had no way to really listen to them. And in a gesture that seems all too popular in my generation, I eschewed modern convenience for nostalgia by purchasing only a portable turntable to set the musical mood of my apartment. Little did I realize when I bought myself a used copy of First and Last and Always for just pennies more than my morning latte that I was about to have something like a Religious Experience of the Ears. It was an album I’d heard literally hundreds of times in various formats—CD, mp3, even recorded off someone else’s stereo on a cassette—but I’d never heard the depth of tone or richness that I was getting from this piece of carved-up plastic that was older than me. I was moved by nuances I’d never even noticed before, all channeled out of barely-there speakers in a device that looked like a briefcase. Clearly, this piece of plastic was something magical, and I fully intended to root out more.
turn, baby, turn
Luckily, vinyl is coming back. Like film photography and Super-8 video, there’s been a such a surge in interest that companies are starting to press records again. Hell, even Barnes and Noble has a section devoted to vinyl LPs. But what if you’re not looking for the new Adele album or an overpriced Elvis reissue? Where do you get your fix?
Enter the Edit. One part subscription service, one part personal shopper, the Edit is a daily text service that brings you a new, handpicked album or set with every message. How do they know what to suggest? Well, when you sign up, you’re asked to rate popular albums after providing your mobile number–the more albums you rate, the better the suggestions. Don’t worry, the rating process is more like Tinder than Consumer Report, and a simple swipe left or right tells the Edit all it needs to know. But don’t be discouraged if you still get some unpalatable choices–you can respond back to any text with a simple “LIKE” or “DISLIKE,” and the Edit logs that info. And if you don’t like something, you’re given the opportunity to request something else. I’ve snagged releases from Depeche Mode, remastered double LPs from the Cure, and a boxed collection of Floodland-era releases from the Sisters of Mercy.
Collection, Part I
Recently, the Edit offered up a double LP recording from Peter Murphy’s Wild Birds tour—needless to say, I jumped on it. I texted “yes” and got my confirmation, but hours later received another text saying my order was cancelled due to inventory issues. Disappointing, but I figured it just wasn’t meant to be. The next day, I woke up to a text saying they had gotten in a new shipment if I was still interested in ordering. This time, I my order was cancelled less than an hour after it was placed. Honestly, I was a little put off—why offer me something twice only to tell me I couldn’t have it? When my phone chimed the next day, I was surprised to see an apology and a credit for my troubles with the service. They explained that there had been an issue with their shipment and they didn’t want to sell defective product. Returns are free, but who wants the heartbreak of a broken record? Within the week, however, I received another offer for the elusive Wild Birds Live album, and my order was processed and shipped without cancellation. The marble-white double LP set was well worth the wait, and the Edit more than made up for the frustration of their back-end issues.
Whether you’re a newly-initiated vinyl enthusiast looking to expand your library or a seasoned collector seeking out the newest releases, the Edit is a fun, easy service with plenty to offer. There’s no obligation to purchase, though I can’t promise you won’t be incredibly tempted at least twice a week. The Edit’s texts have become a highlight of my day—with seemingly endless resources for inventory and intelligence, there’s always something interesting to offer. Go ahead–ask the Edit to track down that album you’ve been stalking out, or let them help you find your new favourite record. It’s quickly become my favourite subscription service, and with no membership fees or recurring charges, it’s one of my wallet’s favourites too!
Full disclosure: I have not been compensated to promote the Edit in any way, but if you like what you hear and sign up using one of the links above, I receive referral credit which helps me bring you more music- and vinyl-related content on the regular!

Love Songs Don’t Lie: the Death of Romance, and a Valentine’s Day Playlist

Romance is dead. It was a devastating realization for someone who grew up on stories like the Phantom of the Opera and Wuthering Heights. I spent my childhood swishing around with stars in my eyes, writing my own love story in my head–my soulmate would see me in the opposite box at the opera, across a ballroom crowded with waltzing couples, drinking espresso at a sidewalk cafe, and instantly fall in love with my tumbling waves of raven hair, my fiery russet eyes, my almond-creme skin. He would find me irresistibly charming, witty, talented, and whisk me off to Paris, or New York, or Carpathia to love me til death and beyond. Every year, I waited for it to happen. It wasn’t an if, it was a when…

But ten years later with a string of volatile, unstable relationships behind me, I had lost faith. Romance was just another fairy tale, something reserved for novels and cinema, not something that happened to real people in everyday life and anyone who said otherwise was delusional. Those who had magical stories about meeting their partners were embellishing for presentation. There was no Heathcliff, there was no Erik, and my youthful ideas about true love were an embarrassing blip that time would eventually strike from the record. The stories I once loved now seemed pathetic. I told myself that it was all in the spirit of childhood fantasy, that I had simply grown up. So I swapped sighs for cynicism and swept it all behind me.
And then, one day, I found myself crying on 1st Avenue. It had suddenly occurred to me that I had resigned myself to a life of dull mediocrity, where things were convenient and accessible. Love songs and sonnets aren’t created from ambivalence. I had been moved to tears by a love song, one I had heard hundreds of times before—I realized that the romantic had never died, I had simply hidden her away. Romance is delicate, fragile. It can be wounded easily, and takes time and care to recover. I’ve always advocated self-invention, creating art out of life, yet I had completely ignored that particular plot point, leaving it all to chance in an often-hostile setting. But I also don’t believe in coincidences—standing that morning on the sidewalk, blinking back tears as I listened to lyrics, I knew something had been set in motion. I had opened up to the Universe, and the Universe never misses an opportunity to set things right.
If we’re being completely honest, part of me never stopped believing in love: I’ve always thrilled at vampire stories, paranormal romances—hell, I even stalked out wedding blogs. And despite a lifetime of truly disastrous events, Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. But since that fateful morning, I can fully count myself among the faithful. I love hearing about how couples met, I emotionally invest in relationships between fictional characters, and there have been many, many repeat performances of my sidewalk waterworks. It may sound sappy, naive, or radically uncool, but I believe my life is richer for it. It can be scary to open yourself up to something that might feel like nothing more than a pretty idea, but if you don’t take the risk, you’ll never see the reward. Believe me, I know what it’s like to be hurt, disillusioned, let down—it’s been worth every second of sadness to appreciate the happiness that can come from putting your trust into another human being, and watching the magic that happens when two people believe in a feeling.
the Lovers
This Valentine’s weekend, whether you find yourself banding together with friends, painting the town with a lover, or comfortably at home with family, consider your emotions. Where do they come from? Are they from the heart, from the core of your soul? Have you dredged whatever deep, labyrinthine recesses you hide under the surface? Or are you sitting safely in the shallows, feeling from the surface? Open up. The Universe is listening.
If you need some inspiration, I put together a Spotify playlist to serenade you. Inside, you’ll find some heartbreaking love songs, some smoldering seductions, songs for soulmates, and just-for-the-moment lovers. No matter where you are, there’s magic to be found: it turns out, love songs don’t lie.


Illustration from the Shadowscapes Tarot, by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

A Solitary Candle: the mystery of symbolism in Bowie’s Blackstar

From the moment I saw the strange, beautiful, baffling video for “Blackstar,” I knew there was much more to David Bowie’s new release than we initially see. Even beyond the avant-garde sound and experimental influences, there was something going on behind the music and lyrics that left my mind buzzing. By the time “Lazarus” was released, I was positive there were some deeply esoteric forces at work behind the scenes.
It’s no secret that Bowie steeped himself in the occult–he obsessively studied the work of master magician Aleister Crowley during his years in Berlin, but references to the Wickedest Man in the World begin as early as Hunky Dory. It’s a common phenomenon that people return to religion at the end of their lives, but Bowie was never one to take well-traveled roads. I shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw the visual references littered throughout the “Blackstar” video. “Uniform of imagery,” indeed…
Major Tom, Catacomb Saint
It began with the astronaut’s corpse. We last saw Major Tom somewhere in space, significantly less human than his previous incarnations. We bid him farewell and buried him in moon dust. But “Blackstar” sees him ressurrected, his skeleton bejeweled, made precious again in death. In this sense, the album itself is something of a catacomb saint: while many would have heard the chant-like harmonies and avant-garde progressions and dismissed them as the inaccessible musings of an artist who had officially done it all before, Bowie’s death turned the release into something magical. It becomes a relic, one final token to remind us of the miraculous career he had as an artist. It’s impossible to look at a Van Gogh or Rothko without thinking of the painters’ untimely ends: Blackstar will likely become a work inseparable from its author’s death. But I don’t necessarily think Bowie meant it to be anything else. It was timed and released specifically to coincide with his passing. This was a sign off.
Excavated from the ruins, Saint Tom is taken by a young girl with a tail—video director Johan Renck said Bowie had specifically requested the tail, but wasn’t quite sure why. Bowie himself dismissed it as something merely sexy, but nothing in this video is merely anything. The tail only made sense to me when I put it in the context of the setting, presumably the Villa of Ormen, as referenced in the lyrics. Ormen, it turns out, is not only the name of a town in Norway, it also translates in English as “serpent.” So that Villa of Ormen becomes the Town of the Serpent, and the girl with the tail could be seen as a sort of uncoiled Ouroboros. In retrieving the skull and bringing it back to the people of Ormen, she repurposes it as an object of worship, beginning a new cycle in Tom’s story. The feverish, vibrating dance performed by the worshippers immediately reminded me of voodoo—the possessed devotees in ecstasy before Ghede Tom, now an icon of death and life, sex and oblivion.
Ghede Tom
And this isn’t even where things get strange. In researching some of the symbolism in this post, I fell down an internet rabbit hole of weird. In addition to theories about terrorism, Robert Chambers, and everything in between, I came across a peculiar tumblr account filled with hypnotically creepy images directly corresponding to lyrics and themes not only in “Blackstar” and its music video, but also to the album’s second single, “Lazarus.” But the Villa of Ormen tumblr was created within hours of “Blackstar’s” release, and a full month and change before any hint of “Lazarus.” Needless to say, it’s created a stir
So what do we make of this beautiful, brain-rattling mess of symbols left for us to ponder? Maybe it alludes to Bowie’s ultimate spiritual leanings, or his return to the Gnostic fold; maybe it’s the wrap-up for a character Bowie felt had outlived his purpose again. Maybe Bowie was warning us about his own death and we all missed the message—or maybe it was just a great story, period. There may not be any connection with Chambers after all, but I think it’s safe to say that like the King in Yellow, the brilliance of “Blackstar” and its timing, its mystery, and its relation to its author’s death will drive us all mad in admiration.

Look Up Here, I’m in Heaven: Mourning David Bowie, the New York Vigil

The chorus of Manson’s “Heart-Shaped Glasses” jarred me awake just after 3AM. My phone was ringing for the second time that night–it was my sister. With one eye open, I flicked the silencer and put it back on the nightstand. I hadn’t seen the flood of text messages that was coming in, nor the countless Facebook messages and tags I had gotten. I went back to sleep like nothing had happened.

Roses for Bowie

“I’m so sorry.” It was 8AM, and my boyfriend woke me up. “It’s really bad news.” I ran down a mental list of what could have happened, bracing myself for the worst–cancelled plans, a sold-out tour, a family emergency. The death of a lifelong idol and role model never even crossed my mind. Even when I heard the news that David Bowie had passed away, it seemed unreal–his 69th birthday was days ago, he had released a brand new album and two music videos. He had never felt more alive to me than he had just days before, while I listened to Blackstar, pulling apart lyrics to analyze the occult themes and esoteric influences. It was all impossible.

Altar of Bowie

I have never been one for idol worship. I’ve never imagined myself weeping at news of a celebrity death, but there I was, laying in bed, tearing up about the passing of a man I had never met. David Bowie and I had never shared more than New York airspace, but he had touched so much in my life. If ever there had been a model for the phoenician cycle of rebirth and reinvention that I live by, it was David Bowie. From humble beginnings as a soulful saxophone player, Bowie reimagined himself as a junky astronaut, an alien messiah, a decadent schizophrenic, and a hard-edged romantic. So many identities came and went over his career, heralding new musical styles, total image overhauls, and driving philosophies, that it’s sometimes difficult to think of Bowie as a singular entity. That doesn’t even account for his film characters–the Man Who Fell to Earth recently experienced new life in the off-Broadway Lazarus, and his infamous Goblin King set my nearly-unreachable standards for romance in Labyrinth. In fact, the news of Bowie’s death felt like the final nail in the coffin for my childhood.

Thanks for making my childhood...

Staring at my ceiling this morning, it seemed ironic that Bowie’s last single was “Lazarus” (“Look up here, I’m in Heaven!/I’ve got scars that can’t be seen/I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen/Everybody knows me now/Look up here, man, I’m in danger”). In fact, Blackstar as a whole is laced with references to mortality and resurrection, spoken both plainly in vernacular and in the language of master magicians and occultists. It’s a common phenomenon to turn to religion at the end of life, and it seems Bowie was no exception in his own way–the esoteric album was specifically planned to coincide with the end of his life. The release of “Lazarus” was a very particular choice.

Idol Worship

While the a world without Bowie is difficult for my millennial brain to comprehend, the post-Bowie world is richer for the legacy he leaves. From glam to goth, David Bowie had his hands in everything. I can’t think of a single musical artist I admire who would not count him among their top influences. His finger was perpetually on the pulse of popular culture–the drug-addled space man of the 60’s, the bisexual, androgynous alien saviour of the 70’s, the global superpower of the 80’s, and now, the catacomb saint resurrected.


This evening, my sister and I stood on Lafayette Street waiting to pay tribute to our fallen idol, clutching cameras with frozen fingers and shivering as much with emotion as cold. Strangers were crowded around the block, and I was struck by the variety of people around me–a young couple in front of us touched hands as they snapped pictures of the line on their phones, while a man behind us rubbed tearing eyes while he stared at the glitter-strewn sidewalk. A middle-aged woman in a puffy purple coat held a massive bouquet of magenta roses, and her friend carried a moon-shaped sign to lay on the pile. This afternoon, I saw newscasters and photographers buzz about to capture tourists in parkas and soccer-moms with their stacked bobs laying bouquets of pastel flowers against the wall. Flamboyant, lite-brite expressionists and conservative, steel-faced professionals alike contemplated the sprawl of prayer candles and memorial portraits with a shared sense of gravity while I snapped photos on black and white film on an antique camera. Now, somewhere down the block, “Space Oddity” played out and the crowd sang in unison, clapping together to punctuate the music: nothing unified these people except Bowie–he had touched their lives, changed their personal histories, and here they gathered to mourn their rock and roll saviour.



It seems impossible that Bowie is gone–he is undoubtedly one of the most revolutionary musical minds of our time. But I can’t bring myself to join in the chorus of “rest in peace,” not because I don’t want the best for his soul, his family, his legacy, but because he was so prolific, so varied and far-reaching that I can’t help but pray for perpetual, prolonged exposure. Blackstar is fresh in the public eye, its singles still running the circuits. They’ve still got a ways to go. They still have work to do. Surely, such a driven, ambitious spirit won’t retire simply because the body that contained it for 69 years has expired. It will find a way to endure.


–and so I leave you with that spirit’s latest expression, David Bowie’s final video, the truly genius, utterly heartbreaking, remarkably profound “Lazarus.” Godspeed, Bowie–you really are free.


Where Are We Now? The Musical Milestones of 2015 in Review

2016 comes with promises of big new releases from so many artists–David Bowie drops an album later this week, and that’s just the second week of January. I, for one, am on the edge of my seat for what’s to come. New albums can set the entire soundtrack for your life, and new releases serve as milestones to measure against–I know I’m looking back at where I was when Bowie’s last album reached my ears, looking at how far I’ve come since I drove around memorizing the lyrics to “Where Are We Now?” –and I know 2015 will be measured against some seriously killer albums in memory. I’ve rounded up some of the most memorable releases of 2015, albums that will forever live in my mind as markers of where I was and where I’ll go.

By the time the Pale Emperor was released in January, I had all ready been stalking critical reviews and sneak peaks for a while. In fact, I had tickets for Marilyn Manson‘s corresponding tour before the CD I pre-ordered ever hit my mailbox. Despite the fact that Born Villain wasn’t everything I had hoped it to be, I had high hopes for his 9th studio album–I recognized the more classic goth-rock influences he had drawn on for Villain (that very Bauhaus verse in “the Gardener,” tho) and I was hoping for more. I could tell by the third track (and “the Third Day…”) that what Manson brought was less Bauhaus and more blues–this was the soulful, sophisticated Manson, the Mephistopheles of Los Angeles in bespoke suits and Italian leather so far removed from the Antichrist Superstar who shocked us with bondage and blood. “Cupid”‘s witch drums might have pounded for the television series Salem, but the magic of this album was more hoodoo than witchcraft–the murky throb of “the Birds of Hell Awaiting” transported me straight to the banks of the Mississippi River. While I walked around New York with my headphones on, I dreamed of New Orleans for months. –Sure, Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals are classics, but the Pale Emperor, arguably his most mature offering to date, sits very steadily at the top of my favourite Manson albums.

The Maine doesn’t fit my usual musical profile–they’ve gone from pop-punk to classic rock and roll, and their Arizona roots give them a certain down-home flare that normally wouldn’t appeal to me. But since my sister played Pioneer ad nauseam over so many family car trips, I’ve developed a soft spot for them. When “English Girls” went live in February, I could tell something was different. The hint of 90’s Rock I had heard in Pioneer and Forever Halloween was back with a totally new energy behind it, turning it playful and nostalgic rather than brooding and edgy. That’s not to say that edge was gone–American Candy dropped in March, and along with it came some seriously moody tracks. Listen to “24 Floors,” really hear the words, and try not to cry. Go ahead, I dare you. “Am I Pretty?” undoubtedly strikes a chord for their longtime teenage fans, but anyone who’s ever been insecure about their social footing can identify–the same is true for most tracks on this strikingly self-aware album. Despite that, it’s one of my go-to feel-good albums, mellow without sedating, fun but reflective.
I was raised on the complexities of Baroque music and I found a familiar thrill in the classically-touched art rock of Muse. I spent so many summers rocking out to Origin of Symmetry and passed chilly winters with AbsolutionBlack Holes and Revelations had its own place in my car for years. When the Resistance tour came to town, I nabbed tickets without a second thought. So when the 2nd Law happened…well…let’s just say it was a tough break. Their last four albums were practically perfect–it sounds a little irrational that I’d let one lackluster release break my heart, but as far as I was concerned, Muse were all but disbanded. Which is why Drones almost escaped my notice. When Spotify told me it dropped in June, my reaction was basically “may as well.” Talk about underestimation. From the opening strains of “Dead Inside,” I could tell my Muse was back. Although they sport some heavily political lyrics, the new tracks are full of the aggressive energy I enjoyed from Absolution and Resistance. “Mercy,” with its oddly predictable stadium-rock vibe and the second single off the album, seemed a strange follow up considering the strength of other tracks like “Reapers” or “the Handler” (though the first was used as a promotional single on YouTube)–but it charted fairly high in the US, so I guess I’m in the minority. “Revolt,” November’s third single offering, was much more my speed (though only Belgium seemed to agree).
Say what you want, Duran Duran is still one of my all-time favourite bands, and 2010’s All You Need Is Now remains one of my favourite albums period. I didn’t question their summer tour before I had tickets in hand, but when I heard they were releasing a new album I properly flipped. The single was released that same week, an upbeat, super-poppy collaboration with Janelle Monáe and Nile Rodgers (of disco heavyweights Chic, and former producer for Duran) called “Pressure Off,” followed quickly on by promotional releases of a handful of other tracks–including the title track, Paper Gods. The album officially dropped in September, and with it a deluxe version featuring three bonus tracks (seen above between my teeth)–it’s a great collection of dance tracks, and the upbeat pop tunes were a fantastic soundtrack for stress-free, (dare I say?) cheerful commuting, but I felt like the album lacked the meat of some of its predecessors. –that is, until I saw some of the new tracks performed live. “Last Night in the City,” and “Danceaphobia” come alive on stage (and without Lindsay Lohan’s deadpan narration), and the band’s energy added an entirely new layer of emotion to more lyrical tracks like “What Are the Chances?” (In fact, the new stuff is so good live, I saw them three times during their promotional tour–they’ll be back this summer with the official production!) That said, “Face for Today” feels like what I loved most about their 2010 release–a driving beat, infectious tune, and a chorus that sticks in your head for hours, and “the Universe Alone,” with its soaring melody and throbbing beat, is a beautiful song with some seriously provocative lyrics.
I liked the 1975‘s self-titled release as much as the next girl (which is to say a lot), but “Robbers” can only get me so far. When my sister texted me that a new single was live online, I was on Spotify in record time–“Love Me” was the first release since their rosy rebrand, and I was dying to see whether the colour had creeped into their shoegazey sound. The answer was an instant and resounding yes, it had–with a funky baseline and soaring synth, the new track is disarmingly fun, fantastically retro, and actually downright danceable. Don’t worry, ladies: it’s still got the heat of their previous singles–you might not want to watch the corresponding video in polite company. Though released digitally as a single, their next full album (with its title totally chock-full of words) won’t drop until the end of February. To tide us over, they leaked another track, “Ugh,” in charmingly vintage style on the radio. If you’re hungry for more, it’s worth listening to the band’s interview on what’s to come–I’ve all ready got it on order (and on pink vinyl!) to devour as soon as possible.

(Un)lost: the magic of New Years and an open letter to 2016

Change happens. Time marches on and we’re all left to put together the pieces left behind. Every year, at 11:59 on 31st December, we hold our breath and wait for change to wash over us. It comes in effervescent waves of champagne, noisy blows of party horns and the drunken cries of elated strangers. For one beautiful instant, we’re all united in our desire for change, looking with fresh eyes at the first moments of the new year, dripping with possibility and sparkling confetti. Wishes hang in the air like raindrops, washing away the negativity of the expired year.

Somewhere beneath 53rd St, the last few seconds of 2015 drowned in the strains of an upbeat 80’s pop song. I turned to my boyfriend and closed my eyes as we greeted 2016 together in a kiss, mentally listing my goals for the new year in a ritual older than I can remember. Familiar strangers patted shoulders and shook hands, united in the experience of watching the resurrection of the year. Some ten blocks downtown, Times Square was still a tangle of bodies, littered with coloured paper inscribed with the wishes of tens thousands. Despite the frenetic energy all around me, there was something so natural about the fresh new year. I all ready felt at home in its round, even digits mere moments in.

2015 was a year of adjustments: I spent the first half of the year adjusting to a new city, a new apartment, a new school. I adjusted my courses, my major, my career. I adjusted to new rolls within my family, my friendships, and my personal life. Some of it was incredibly trying, painful, intimidating. Some of it brought more happiness than I knew was possible. 2015 brought with it moments I will undoubtedly recall forever among the best and the worst, and for all of them, I am grateful. But 2016 is here, and with it come new lessons.

For years, I’ve sat on the floor with my cards some time after midnight and drawn for the coming year: one initial card for each month with an additional card or two for additional insight, creating a twelve-spot circle before me, laying a single card in the middle for the general theme of the year as a whole. In 2016, amongst an assortment of ambitious wands and root-laying pentacles, that central card spoke of letting go, moving forward, and looking to the future. While this reading was a personal one, meant for my own meditative purposes, I can’t think of a better message to move into the new year.

from the Thoth deck

from the Thoth deck

Whether 2015 was a dream come true or a waking nightmare, it’s time to put it to bed. It’s time to process the past, take an inventory of lessons learned, and suit up for the journey ahead. 2016 can take you to fantastic new places as long as you’re ready to make the trip. Even if the past is full of heartbreak and hardship, it can be hard to leave. The past is familiar, and familiar is comfortable. We know where we’ve been, and it’s so easy to stay there. 2016 challenges you to look beyond the horizon, to trust that the wild unknown is better than the beaten path, that your destination is still ahead. There will be thorns to dodge, storms to weather, bridges to cross, but where there’s a will there’s a way, and fortune favours the bold. 2016 begs you to be bold. I can’t help but hear John O’Callaghan in my head, singing words I never knew would be so relevant when I first heard them in March–

Unaware of where I’m going
Or if I’m going anywhere at all
But I know I’ll take the leap
If it is worth the fall
So long as the blood keeps flowing
I’ll set a sail and swim across
I’m not looking to be found
Just want to feel (un) lost

So, 2016, take it slow, control what you can, confront what you can’t, and always remember how lucky you are to have yourself. Whether 2016 is “our” year remains to be seen, but I can pretty much guarantee it’s a step down the right path.

Metamorphosis, Music

One Small Part of Forever: Radio Omens and the Wisdom of Stevie Nicks


Sometimes, things don’t quite go as planned. When I set my intentions for 2014, I cast out my nets for opportunity, travel, and good times with friends and family. But like any road we travel, we sometimes hit some bumps along the way–and just weeks into the year, I’ve been faced with some particularly impressive potholes. It’s frustrating: just when you resign to put all the bad behind you and achieve better in the future, that negativity places itself directly in your path again. But that doesn’t mean the Universe isn’t listening.

In December, I came across my old copy of Belladonna–once inside my car, it kept a firm hold on my CD player for the better part of the month. The songs were familiar, the music all part of distant memories of my adolescent years–but it was as if I was hearing the lyrics for the first time. Perhaps now, as an adult, I connected with them on a different level, but it was as if everything I was thinking about life was reflected back at me. Although the CD player in my car has spun a few albums since, I’ve been hearing Stevie’s words everywhere–I can’t seem to turn on a radio or be near a sound system without hearing one of her classics. I’ve even heard a few Fleetwood Mac gems. Some people would probably tell me it’s a coincidence, or that her involvement with a certain smash hit television series has renewed some of her public interest, but I can’t help but feel that the Universe might be trying to tell me something.

Listen carefully to the lyrics–think of them as an incantation for peace of mind. No matter what life throws at you, you are infinite. Within you are all the tools you will ever need to overcome any situation. The Universe has not given you anything you cannot handle because you can handle anything. Just reach inside yourself and draw out your power. You are a magical creature, “one small part of forever”…