I am beginning a new series called â€œInspired by Dreams.â€ All of these poems, essays, brief scenes and snapshots are inspired by actual dreams I’ve had. Dreams are powerful. Your dreams are a window into your subconscious. They may even be premonitions. Ignore them at your peril!
In the first single from her new album, Anna Atkinson takes us on a trip down memory lane. Wistful nostalgia never sounded so good, with her angelic voice and sparse, old-timey strings. It’s a quiet story, beautifully told, of being a descendant of family members who were craftspeople and creators, whether it was a pair of shoes, wood carvings, visual art, quilts or a family feast. Through the ages, they survived war, poverty and suffering. As we watch her revisit her family home, now boarded up and derelict, we see a quilt being sewn. It’s sad and hopeful at the same time, filled with sweet remembrance, admiration and a lot of love. It seems to be a celebration of humankind’s enduring spirit, to continue to create through hardship, and especially the idea of creating a vibrant and meaningful life together as a family.
“When we weave our sad stories together
Maybe we could knit a sweater
Gather silk scraps and cashmere
Morsels of blankets all tattered, in shreds
And the quilts that our mothers unfurled on our beds
When we were young”
– When We Were Young
As Atkinson explains,
“When I was a child, my mother had a subscription to ARTnews, and one edition had an article about a Canadian artist — Janet Morton — who knit a sweater for a house on Ward’s Island. I thought it was the most amazing concept and it was the initial inspiration for the song — its working title (Sweater For A House) came from that.”
Her new album is called Sky Stacked Full, and it features David Occhipinti. She wrote the songs over a 10-year span and spent five months recording at CBC Studio 211 in Toronto.
It’s a confusing exercise, trying to find one’s place in the world and a sense a purpose. All the distractions that take us farther from ourselves, to the point where we have to fight our way back. Jono Josh understands this type of yearning, and it’s what inspired his song “Birds” from his Outside EP, being released this month.
“Birds do not need the world to be explained. But I do.”– Birds
As sung by a cast of friends, “Birds” becomes everyone’s story — a shared experience of one’s search for identity and meaning in a world that can often feel overwhelming and incomprehensible. This yearning is beautifully expressed — when not with raw honesty, with a searing guitar solo.
Musically and emotionally influenced by the time spent with his mother in Canada’s Juno award winning Toronto Mass Choir, Juno Josh sings with an old soul gravitas, infusing his soulful, gospel tinged music with pain, joy and a lot of heart. His musical heroes include Nina Simone, Lauryn Hill, Son Lux, James Blake and Amy Winehouse, and his mission is to “paint a picture of truth for people to connect to.” In addition to his personal songwriting and heart-tugging vocals, he is also a choreographer and dancer.
As a choreographer, Jono Josh has worked with artists such as Jesse Labelle, manifest and Kirk Franklin, and he choreographed a piece to raise awareness for the problems in Haiti, which aired on Canada’s CBC in 2015. He has performed with a diverse collection of artists including Aleesia, Sean Desmond, Toronto Mass choir, Marianas Trench, Psy and many more. It’s now time for him to step into his own spotlight.
He describes his musical upbringing and explains the meaning of “Birds” —
“I grew up in a family where everything seemed easy. I didn’t know otherwise. It wasn’t until I grew up that my realized how hard my parents worked to put food on the table when I was little. We were always singing and dancing, no matter what happened that’s just what we did. My brothers and I would break dance and my mom would sing to us. Music was our way of pushing through the storm… my song ‘Birds’ is about that —
“When I wrote ‘Birds’ I was looking for answers to questions that I felt most people ask. Looking for an identity, purpose, self-reliance. At times when I asked these tough questions it felt overwhelming but I realized that the only way I would find the answers was if I kept asking and looking. I hope that ‘Birds’ at the very least opens a dialogue about finding resonance in a world of dissonance.” — Jono Josh
The thing about nostalgia is: it belongs firmly in the past. If it’s a wistful regret, this means that either we’re romanticizing the past or we haven’t put sufficient energy and attention toward creating a satisfying present. If it’s a shuddering remembrance of mistakes made years ago, then it’s time to learn from those mistakes and move beyond them into a wiser tomorrow. In the case of Jackson Reed’s “Generation Vietnam,” it’s a little of both.
He describes the song as being “about U.S.A’s military conscription in the 1960’s and imaging men my age being chosen randomly for the Vietnam War. Living in the music and drug culture of the 60â€™s would be fun, but on the other hand, incredibly scary if you were forced to go to war.” Sadly, it seems that our world’s history is built upon the wars fought and as such, a reality where young men (and women) are sent off to fight someone else’s battles is just one dangerous leader and one bad decision away. This simple fact gives a song like this a contemporary dark undertone.
With his solo album The November Gales EP, Reed returns to music after a three-year hiatus. The album was engineered by Jonas Bonnetta at Port William Sound, mastered by Gavin Gardiner at Lacquer Channel and artwork is drawn by Kyle Field of Little Wings. It comes out on October 14 on Deadplant Records.