A Christmas Letter from Gillian
Here we are at the end of 2014. Where does the time go? Seems just yesterday I was writing my 2013 Christmas letter. I’ve got Miss Pumpkin curled up at my feet, Santa hat askew whilst visions of catnip-stuffed mice dance in her head, as I write this year’s edition to you.
First of all, let me say it’s been a whirlwind of a year! Between scrounging for part-time work and wondering if I was going to get food on the table, I was a busy little bee! But hey, any day you’re above ground is a good one. Am I right? So I really can’t complain.
The end of the year brings a time of reflection for us all, and in my looking back, I’ve discovered a few little tidbits that I’d love to share with you.
January sure got off to a busy start! I had decided to start documenting all the concerts I went to. That plan went up in smoke as soon as I forgot to do it. So I don’t really remember what I saw this year, with a couple of notable exceptions: for one, Tin and the Toad was my favourite new live discovery. The five-piece (four-part harmony) group nearly blew me outta the venue when I heard them for the first time. And the number one live show this year was one of the reunion concerts of Jr. Gone Wild at the Horseshoe Tavern for this year’s CMW festival.
It was a good year for roots music, and Alberta artists in particular produced some fine albums. I was quite pleased with releases from Emily Triggs, Mariel Buckley, Dave McCann, Scott MacLeod, and Petunia. Not to be unfaithful to my all-time faves, NQ Arbuckle, I was sure to put them at the top of my 2014 list for their album, The Future Happens Anyway.
Not to be outdone by tunes, the books I read in 2014 are hoping for some attention here. The year saw me downsize into a smaller apartment, so I got rid of everything except my books. I was totally digging The Orenda, and got into a long stretch of reading Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners. If you’re into a harrowing story that makes you want to protect your little brothers, read Claire Cameron’s The Bear. I’m looking forward to my Christmas gift pile: the new Miriam Toews, the new Sarah Waters, and the new Emma Donaghue.
Travel highlights from 2014 include –
Okay, screw this Christmas letter. Here’s what I really want to say:
Finally, country music is getting gayer.
Took long enough. I spent the year watching Will Lexington on Nashville, my heart breaking a little more with every episode. Are we really still here? The coming out of Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman within moments of each other, songs like Kacey Musgraves’s “Follow Your Arrow”, and articles that sum up the trend nicely tell us that maybe country, the last musical bastion of homophobia and conservatism, might not be able to fight against the bigger force of change happening across our continent.
While this is all well and good, can we imagine changing the discourse a little for 2015? Our tendency to categorize and bracket in our fumbling towards understanding means that sexual identity, gender identity are taking precedence over discussion of people as artists making music. Look at my paragraph above: I called the gayification of country music a trend, when in fact there should be a line at which this is the norm and not a trend. And actually, the norm should be neutrality (since blindness is probably not an option) to an artist’s personal life. I understand that we are obsessed with the circumstances that inspire artistic creation. As listeners, commentators, critics, and performers, let’s make every one of those circumstances as “normal” as the rest as we continue to talk about music and the people who make it. That way, the next Will Lexington won’t have to worry about being a gay cowboy singer, he’s just going to be a singer and we won’t even think about it.
In that vein, let’s talk about Kathleen Hanna for a minute. I watched The Punk Singer a couple weeks ago, and then I forced my partner to watch it with me again last night (luckily he doesn’t take much convincing). I love this woman.
And it occurred to me in watching, both times, that we are overdue for a new wave of feminism. Aren’t we? It’s been over 20 years since the Riot Grrrl movement started, and I think it’s time to for the new generation to take it up, seriously. I’m not talking about Beyonce projecting “Feminist” behind her while she dances (though that is a start), or girl bands taking Bro Country by the throat in funny parodic songs (though that is a better start), I’m talking do it, really, seriously. Let the flourishing discussion on sexual assault and rape expand. Believe women when they tell their truths. Don’t let men get all the new self-expressive opportunities like lumbersexual, while women have to stay limited to cute, angry, sexy, or wholesome. Speak up. Be weird. Take advantage of every tool at your disposal – whether artistic, communicative, whatever – and use it. Express your views and stop worrying what people think, or whether you’ll get to keep your job.
Start a revolution. I want this generation to do it. And I’ll be there helping you out.
Happy 2015, everyone. May you have fewer headaches and more cats in your lives.