Said the Gramophone - image by Matthew Feyld
by Jeff

a photo of lego set up to look like the fellowship of the ring crossing a snowy mountain peak

Dog Day - "Get High"

Plaintive guitar sets us on the journey, a sunny day in the flatlands, when the drums come in we're already in the foothills. By the time things reach the rocking part our climb has reached precipitous heights. Doubt sets in, and the wind is laughing. We're in a mess, we're in a situation that seems impossible to get through. No one down on the ground can guess how hard it is to be all the way up here, battling the elements, where the weather can change in the blink of an eye. The keyboards begin to sound like wind to me, I get so involved in this little story every time. And here Seth drops one of his supreme bits of knowledge, the one thing you need to know to get through this: "There is no way to know what lies ahead / but if you remain frozen still / you will become the hill." Keep climbing, keep climbing, keep climbing.

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(image source)

by Sean

Timbaland ft Mila K - "Get No Betta". With this one you need to make it past the intro - 32 tiresome seconds but then finally the beat drops and "merry Christmas everybody", it's Timbaland at the close of 2015, a master who seems once again to have found the right tools. "Get No Betta" is a dance of glimmering synths and cascading backup vocals, Mila's supple verses, her voice phased just soft of solid. Certain songs seem capable of slipping through walls, between dimensions, folding from one state of being to another. You couldn't put "Get No Betta" in your pocket because it would slip out. You couldn't ever count on it to stay where it is. You can't trust a bird on a branch, steam in a kettle, light through clear glass. Don't fall too deep in love with this; or do. [grab the King Stays King mixtape for free / "Shakin'", Timbo's (long-preserved) song with Aaliyah, is great too.]

by Emma

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.

by Jeff

two paths diverging in the woods

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - "I See a Darkness" (2012 version)

To all the weary walkers, the ditch sleepers, the merry gamboleers, the mummers, the net-menders, the late starters, the rutted and stuck; to the tramp steamers, the bindle-stiffs, rascals, rapscallions, and rogues; to the tree-planters, bicycle couriers, booksellers, cinema ushers cleaning popcorn bags; to the rats, pigeons, ants, and mice; to the seine fishers, oyster shuckers, berry pickers, and mushroom hunters: A reminder. This is the time of year when the days get longer again, when fortunes change, when the shadows begin to shrink. If the short days can grow long (and if a sad song can be made into a sunny sing-along), then there just might be hope for all of us, bedraggled and burdened at the end of another year.

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(photo by Spike)