Monday, February 16, 2015

In Our Bedroom After the War

It's that time of year again. Love is in the (face buckling) air, adoration is shared, people's hearts are exposed, and an appreciation for relationship is shown. So I want to share my love with you all! And I'll do so through a special cover. Ever since 2008, I've played "In Our Bedroom After the War" by the Canadian indie pop group Stars in my family's living room, on our out of tune, upright piano. It is a tune that grasps my love for piano driven, soothing anthemic songs; packed plentifully with crescendos and legato from strings and brass (a narrow category, I know). It took me seven years to get around to covering it, but I feel the wait was well worth it. Stars quickly began to influence and shape my musical tastes after I first discovered them (around the time when In Our Bedroom After the War came out) so I hope that this cover would make them proud.

Here it is, "In Our Bedroom After the War"...
Let me know what you think! Cheers.


p.s. they'll be in Winnipeg this coming Saturday (Feb. 21st) with Hey Rosetta! at the Burt.
Two amazing bands worth checking out.

ciao for now

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Top Albums of 2014

This year was a fantastic year for music. I had many travels and much time within them to enjoy a handful of solid albums. My travels included road trips to the 2014 NHL Winter Classic in Detroit and Chicago's Lollapalooza summer festival (seeing many of the groups/artists below live). I also loved the long train rides in Europe, where listening was essential for relaxation, time consumption, and of course for doubly appreciating the scenery. With the Olympic and World Cup video montages too, music was alive and well in 2014!

However, let's get right to my TOP ALBUMS OF THE YEAR...

OH BABY, it's a TOP 15 this year! So HERE WE GO:

15. Future of Forestry // The Piano & Strings Sessions

Just like the title says, a refreshing and soothing take on some of our favourites.

14. Switchfoot // Fading West

They've been together for a long time and they keep making great music... and they're amazing people, you can't go wrong.

13. Phantogram // Voices

You feel like an invincible, electro-energized badass listening to this album.

12. alt-J // This Is All Yours

You don't know what they're singing half the time, but their instrumentation and intonation trumps the lyrics anyway.

11. Ben Howard // I Forget Where We Were

I'll never forget where I was when I listened to this album over and over:
Tuscany, Italy, working in a family's vineyard looking over rolling hills... sorry I brought that up.

10. Ásgeir // In the Silence

Icelanders are music writing GURUS. Enough said.
An original and acoustic version of one of the best songs on the album.

9. Kye Kye // Fantasize

A family band consisting of 3 Estonian-born siblings based in Portland,
and the frontwoman's name is Olga!
Indietronica at its finest. What else do you want?

8. Hey Rosetta! // Second Sight

A thoroughly engaging, endearing, and musically jam-packed album. One where you headbang very noticeably while singing along loudly in the car... solo.

7. Sam Roberts Band // Lo-Fantasy (Deluxe Version)

Again, Sam Roberts Band is as tight as a band can be. Riffs and groove galore.

6. Jars of Clay // 20

A silky smooth 20th anniversary re-recording of fan voted favourites from their two decades as a phenomenal band. Includes two great new songs as well.

5. Sleeping at Last // Atlas: Year One

One of those albums you listen to while admiringly looking down onto the world from your window seat, high in the sky.

4. Vance Joy // Dream Your Life Away

Vance will melt your heart. I witnessed this, standing beside several love-struck/fainting women during his Lollapalooza set this summer.

3. Bahamas // Bahamas Is Afie

This guy can shred a guitar, yet he does so in the most effortless, nonchalant manner. This album will make your head swim with pleasing goodness.

2. James Vincent McMorrow // Post Tropical

Talk about mind-blowing falsettos, which even blow the minds of the preceding songs' falsettos.
This album is epic beyond measure.




1. Manchester Orchestra // COPE & HOPE

The album that became two. COPE came out as a genuine rock album; Manchester Orchestra felt that they needed to buck the electronic trend so many of their peers were following. A hard-hitting, electric guitar smashing album of piercing vocal melodies and blasting distortion was brought to life as a result. Then came HOPEHOPE was the kicker for me as it was surprisingly released 5 months later. It uncovered the complementing, heartfelt side of the same lyrics and composition. Overall, Manchester Orchestra intricately exposed the beautiful acoustic faces of their core songs from COPE.

Enjoy "Girl Harbor" and "Top Notch", two songs that clearly illustrate the difference between the yin-yang albums:

And then there's "Every Stone", one of the best.


Local Albums

Saint Kris // 329

It is an honour to have contributed to Saint's album with "Flow". It is also NOW UP ON SoundCloud as a FREE DOWNLOAD. Enjoy!

The Bros. Landreth // Let It Lie

Honourable Mentions of 2014

Coldplay // Ghost Stories
Stars // No One Is Lost
Broken Bells // After the Disco
Wild Cat! Wild Cat! // No Moon At All
John Butler Trio // Flesh & Blood

The Ones That Got Away (2013)

Half Moon Run // Dark Eyes
London Grammar // If You Wait (Deluxe Version)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. // The Speed of Things


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Maintenance and Memories // Revisiting Holsby

Okay, back to regularly scheduled posting... I hope to continue and finish my 'European Travels' series over the Christmas holiday. I've been back in Winnipeg now for over a month, but I still have plenty to share about the Fall adventures I had all those kilometres away.

I left Hamburg early Monday morning in mid October. Stepping onto the train, it chugged North to Stockholm via Copenhagen. One of the best things about this route is that the train literally rolls to the end of the track straight into a ferry; crossing a section of the Baltic Sea (a nice hour break to get some fresh salty air). My next stop was not Stockholm however... I made a connection in Nässjö and beelined SE toward Vetlanda. John Poysti, the director of Holsby Bible School, was waiting as I stepped off into the chilly Swedish air. I was indeed going back to visit the school I went to in the Spring of '08. In Berlin, I emailed John to check and see if they needed any help over the course of the next couple months. It just so happened that they were happy to have me come for a week and work with their maintenance team. I gladly accepted, and there I was, ready for a week of maintenance and memories.

The school's student body was small, about fifty in number this school year. A welcoming and kind group, in which I was delighted to meet and get to know over the week. For the work day, it was a blast with the three German full timers—Tobi, Philipp, Jan—and myself on maintenance. Below, I'll give you an overview with some notes of what my busy week looked like, and the sort of jobs I was handed. I also had the evenings off to enjoy staff and student-life alike and get a taste of this year's experience there.

Day 1
Maintenance work
My first day on the job we gathered metal scraps from the dump shed and took a trailer full to the dump in Vetlanda. I went with Philipp and we had a good time tossing the different shapes and sizes of junk from the trailer into the designated stall. After this we went to a hardware store to look for a certain tool bit. With no luck on the tool bit, we headed home. The way home proved to be difficult... In a construction bottleneck, our van broke down on the one-lane reduced highway. Having to push it to the side, we held up traffic causing an inevitable jam. Thankfully, the long line may have blindly been accepting due to the construction zone cover! We ended up pushing the van and trailer 200m to the next available emergency shoulder area. Though, two semi trucks squeezed by first in the tiny space between us and the median. There were literally only a few millimetres of separation. Tobi came about 30 minutes later and towed us with a rubber rope back to Holsby. It was quite the icebreaker on my first work day!

There was a staff surprise birthday party. All of the staff and all fifteen or so of their toddlers shockingly waited quietly to surprise the birthday girl! She amazingly didn't know of nor see the celebration coming either (it's hard to keep something quiet on such a small campus). We ate plenty of cake and watched the kids run around the house, chasing one another in a gleeful parading fashion. The husband even had this game of how well we knew his wife—shockingly I guessed 3 out of the 10 questions... Not too shabby for meeting them the previous day.

Day 2 
Maintenance work
That morning after breakfast I gave my testimony to the German maintenance guys. It was fascinating to be able to speak to a few Germans and have them understand in their second language. Having them relate to and able to discuss everything I was talking about in regards to my life's journey and faith was very encouraging as well.

The work day began afterward, and Jan and I were tasked with the important job of fixing the boy's dorm's old lounge couch. Its back rest was completely separated (probably from a few too many flying male bodies). This couch was a wooden tank. It had four layers of upholstery, so we sawed through it all and drilled 3 large bolts into each side, stapling the upholstery back when we finished. The rescue mission for this mammoth of a couch took way longer than we thought. Going back and forth from the workshop—trying to find the right equipment for the job—it ended up taking us the morning and most of the afternoon to complete the fix! It was well worth it though as it felt sturdier than ever.

I took the evening off to recuperate from my travelling time and the previous week in Berlin. I also blogged!

Day 3 
Maintenance work
Jan and I took the school's recycling to the bins in the town of Holsbybrunn down the street. Now, Jan is a funny character. He's not your typical straight-edged German, but rather one of those guys who could say anything, get away with it, and it would still be hilarious. I was basically his sidekick for the rest of the week as we tackled various jobs around the campus.
That afternoon I was up in one of the staff's attic distributing and spreading its sod insulation that was removed because of renovations. It was super dusty, dark and cramped up there. To get up, I had to climb a ladder and contort my body to fit through this small square entrance on the side of the house. Simultaneously the staff and students had their soccer intramurals, and the school's soccer pitch is right beside the attic I was working in... talk about torture. I wanted to play so badly, but I had a dusty job to do!

I took in the evening lecture from John Poysti, the director, that evening. He talked about discerning scripture and the mistakes people can make while trying to interpret and apply the word of God.

Day 4 
Maintenance work
Friday morning was a work morning for the whole student body. A handful of students and I took down over 15 tents that were hang dried from their camping trip the previous weekend. They needed to be matched with the corresponding rods, pegs, and bags as well to be packed up. So that was interesting trying to match up everything by looking at a drawing or picture of the tent. We also hung up 40 sleeping bags on hooks screwed into the ceiling, organizing their "outdoor trip" room.
After lunch, it was my final afternoon of volunteered work and I spent it cleaning up the woodcutting yard and cutting an old metal roof rack. Actually, Jan used the steel saw and I watched in awe as the orange sparks flew while the metal was sliced.

Friday night! A group of us (six Germans and I) drove to Vetlanda's public pool. We swam to our heart's content and sauna'd like a proud Scandinavian would. Later, back on campus, we had a staff movie night and watched the classic "Bulletproof Monk" with Sean William Scott.

Day 5

Saturday was a nice time to relax, walk/bike around the area, and enjoy the crisp Swedish Fall air. I also visited and caught up with the Poysti's over lunch, who were there at the school when I attended seven years ago. The newest addition to the campus was its Soccer-Golf course with strategically placed holes in the ground that soccer balls rolled and bounced into. It stretched from the soccer pitch around through the back forest and wrapped around, finishing on the other side of the school. The many trees provided the bend-it-like-Beckham obstacles, and if it wasn't for the deceiving slope of the 9th hole I would've beat the course record!

Saturday night was games night up in the Bik (beek), the name for the lounging loft above the chapel.  Intense UNO games and Foosball matches were had, as well as a Settlers of Catan game, where I was forced to display my deceptive, winning strategy in victory over a few of the students.

Day 6

My final day had come on Sunday, and I finally got the chance to play soccer with everybody! Philipp organized a Sunday afternoon scrimmage, full with an international flavour. The countries represented were Sweden, Canada, USA, Denmark, England, Germany, and Austria. Us actual soccer players had cleats and it just so happened that most of us were on the same team... Therefore, with us up 5-0, someone at half-time made the bold proposal for everyone to go barefoot! With the field pretty ripped up, wet, and muddy, the second half was quite the spectacle. I had two glorious chances to score but when I planted my left foot I went head-over-heels both times, smacking my butt on the grass. The other team ended up coming back and radically winning 10-9!

That evening we had a prayer and worship night in the chapel. The students organized it and grouped off sections with signs of countries in need of prayer. It was a sobering time, but it also was a humbling reminder of how blessed I am for living in the peace of Canada.

Monday morning I was driven to the train-station and just like that, my time there was over as quick as it began. It was a great experience to come in and meet such a good group of people in only a week's span. If you're looking for a Bible School abroad or a year off/gap year from studies or whatever really, check out the sites for Holsby and Bodenseehof (the other bible school I went to), I highly recommend the experience (no matter what age you are).

Here are a few pics from Sweden:

Fixing the wooden tank of a couch
Swedish Forest
In the town of Holsbybrunn
Up in the attic space with the sod
One of the best chocolate bars in the world
Ciao for now!

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