One of our new shows is called Generation Gap. In the show, my colleague Andrew Gunn and I talk about movies, books, and music that we like. Here is the twist: Andrew is 39, and I’m 16! So, we try to bridge the generation gap a bit by discussing works of art and explaining why they matter to us.
In our first episode, we focus on the Prism Prize, which is being awarded on Sunday, May 13th during an event at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. The prize recognizes the best Canadian music videos from the past year. There are lots of cool videos nominated featuring songs by artists like Feist, Pup, Daniel Caesar, Jessie Reyez, and Grimes with Janelle Monáe.
One video that I really like is ‘Dreams Tonite’ by Alvvays. The video is set in Expo ’67 in Montreal and gives off a vintage and memorable feel. Members of the band are superimposed into old footage from the event. Young couples can be glimpsed throughout the video, making the viewer feel young and in love again. The lyrics have a nostalgic vibe, as singer Molly Rankin looks back at a short-lived romance. She wonders if she saw her ex-lover in the streets, would he be memorable enough to make her dream of him?
Andrew picked the video for the song ‘Leaving the Table’ by Leonard Cohen. The Montreal-born poet and songwriter died in November 2016. The song is off his final album, You Want It Darker. Andrew thinks that the song focusses on the idea that, in life, everyone has to recognize when to take part in the action – whatever that might be – and when to withdraw. The video is a bit surreal, almost hallucinogenic, flickering through images of Cohen over the years, often wearing a mask for the viewer. Think of a René Magritte painting in moving picture-frames.
So, we picked two videos that connect to Montreal …
Lights has been building up to something special in her career, and that something special is her fourth album, Skin & Earth, released in September 2017. Personally, I have only recently started listening to her songs, but I am already a big fan.
In 2009 Lights took home the Juno Award for Best New Artist, and in 2015 she won Pop Album of the Year for her third offering, Little Machines. This year she has been nominated for two Junos: Pop Album of the Year and Artist of the Year, plus she was asked to perform at the awards ceremony on March 25th! With Skin & Earth, the talented electro-pop singer-songwriter has built a wide aesthetic landscape around the songs, a total environment in which her music, artwork, persona and alter-ego all seem to exist as parts of one complete vision.
Along with the fourteen tracks on Skin & Earth, Lights has added a series of original comic books to the mix. The stories revolve around a character named Enaia Jin, who is kind of a reflection of Lights but one who pushes into some darker corners, exploring anger and conflict and sex. With this twist, Lights seems to have found all the formats required to express herself, effectively building an art-world of her own to inhabit. Add to this the fact that she is a powerful live performer, and everything is really clicking. The underlying theme is, perhaps, the need to fight through personal struggles and find beauty in those quiet, everyday battles.
There are some obvious stand-out numbers on Skin & Earth. ‘We Were Here’ is a trippy piece of pop in which the protagonist makes her mark on a night out in a bleak city. Here is a snapshot: ‘Photobooth, kissing you, midnight bulletproof / Night so hazy, lay back lazy / Slow burn, fighting words, show them how the fire works / Make an impression, teach ‘em all a lesson.’
‘Giants’ is upbeat and promises to be huge in concert. Listeners will immediately get hooked by the anthem, in which Lights pushes back at defeatism, driving forward with the idea that everyone can find a space to stand tall. ‘Oh this city towers over us / All our problems make us powerless / Let’s get somewhere where the both of us / Come rising up, come rising up.’
Lots of other tracks on Skin & Earth deserve close attention.
‘New Fears’ and ‘Morphine’ chart interesting psychological territory. ‘Skydiving’ digs a bit deeper than one might think at first, keying in on the idea that fear can hold all of us back from so much. ‘Get a little unruly’, Lights sings, ‘No guts, no glory.’ One of my personal favourites is ‘Almost Had Me’, which is a perfect mixture of heartbreak, relief, and happiness. ‘Moonshine’ has a summery vibe and a free feeling, making it seem like you can do anything.
Traces of the vast conceptual sweep of Skin & Earth – the songs and the comics – can be found in some of the earliest work from Lights. On her first album, The Listening, she introduced a comic book character, Captain Lights. Looking back, this seems a bit tentative, but the idea of expanding beyond songs into cross-over media was there. Fantasy art inspired some of the album artwork and overall direction of her second album, Siberia. This may be seen as a transition point, where the artist recognized the significance of blending life and art. As Lights explained to Andrew Gunn in a January 2012 interview, she changed her name originally to make sure that she could draw material from both parts of her life. “You don’t want your music life and your personal life to be too separate because one draws so much from the other, and vice versa,” she observed at the time. “You would be doing yourself a disservice to feel like you’re living two different lives. So everything is pretty seamless, and everything is one thing.”
It is inspiring to see everything become truly seamless on Skin & Earth. Lights is currently on tour in Canada promoting the album. Our STEAM City Media crew will be at the concert at the London Music Hall on Saturday, April 7th. We are looking forward to the show!
How do you improve your Instagram account and make it appealing to the public eye? This is the subject of the book Read this if You Want to be Instagram Famous edited by photographer Henry Carroll. The book is short (128 pages) and fun to scan. Here is some valuable advice from the book: don’t use more than a few hashtags, post pictures that no one else will find, and obviously don’t copy other people. The book is meant for more of a business profile, but there are some aspects that you can apply to a personal account. The book features a lot of popular Instagrammers, mainly those whose accounts have become official. Each offers their own personalized advice and a short story about how they got started, as well as a couple of their posts and account information. One of my favourite sections is by @Thomas_K whose article is titled ‘See the light.’ He focuses on the lighting in all of his pictures. He takes a normal setting and pays attention to light sources and captures some amazing shots. Some are taken at night while others are taken during the day. Different weather conditions also contribute to his page and add a fun yet mysterious look.
Another great section is by @TASTEOFSTREEP whose account is different to say the least. Account creator Samantha Raye photo-shops pictures of Meryl Streep onto random items of food! She says she tried it once and then was hooked. She dedicated an entire account to similar pictures. The most surprising fact is that people from various food companies contacted her and wanted to sponsor her. Needless to say she went viral and gained a lot of followers. She currently has 115K followers. Some can only aspire to reach such levels. So when you create your own business Instagram account, keep a few things in mind. Only post things that you want associated with your account. You want people to see a picture and say “Hey, I know what that’s from!” You want it to look fresh and have a theme. If you want to post a selfie and then post a scenery picture, that’s ok but keep the captions related and have a common item in the pictures. You also want to keep it all unique. Post stuff that people will enjoy and find interesting, but don’t post pictures they can find elsewhere online. Lastly, do the world a favour and use as few hashtags as possible.
The Railway City Arts Crawl has become one of the signature events for the St. Thomas area. Introduced in 2014 by the team at Railway City Tourism, the annual event quickly started to attract a diverse group of artists from the community and beyond. Local residents and tourists have embraced the concept as a welcome antidote to February weariness.
For 2018, there are sixteen participating venues. Guests are encouraged to wander from site to site with passports, checking off stops along the way. This gives everyone the opportunity to get to know the city intimately by visiting traditional arts and culture sites like the St. Thomas Public Art Centre and St. Thomas Public Library, while also venturing into spaces like Railway City Brewery, Joy Yoga, Limitless Tattoo, and Streamliners Espresso Bar.
Recently, artist Sandra Poczobut stopped by STEAM City Media headquarters inside the STEAM Centre in St. Thomas to discuss the evolution of the Railway City Arts Crawl. Based in Port Stanley, Poczobut moved to the area from Toronto in 2013, and has participated in the Arts Crawl previously. In the past, she has installed her work in industrial spaces like the Elgin County Railway Museum, where historic locomotives and railway artifacts are displayed, as well as on the production floor at Impressions Printing, a local printing and binding company. In each instance, Poczobut imagined innovative ways for the public to interact with her work.
Sandra Poczobut stands inside the STEAM Centre in St. Thomas. Poczobut, who lives nearby in Port Stanley, is curating a show at the STEAM Centre called ‘Art/Tech@STEAM 2018’ featuring installations by multiple artists.
This effort is part of the city-wide ‘Railway City Arts Crawl’ coming up February 23-24.
This year, Pocozbut has assembled a group of artists who will set up installation pieces inside the STEAM Centre. As an educational facility where educators and learners focus on how science and art intersect in technology and in communities, the STEAM Centre offers an intriguing opportunity. Poczobut notes that she has enjoyed connecting the participating artists with the venue. “It’s been really neat talking to some of these artists, who are pretty established – they’ve shown their work in a lot of spaces – saying how much they could use a resource like this in their communities to be able to access laser cutters, 3D printers, help with Arduinos, to further their artwork as well. … It’s neat to expose those who are from the outside to the Centre and what’s happening here, because it really is very special and unique.”
On February 24th, the Railway City Arts Crawl wraps up with an after-party from 6-11pm at the STEAM Centre (50 Wellington Street in St. Thomas) featuring food from Salt & Pepper Meals, plus drinks from local winery Quai Du Vin and hometown favourite Railway City Brewery.