Thursday, July 23, 2015

Part 3 - M is for Metric, Mangan and Manning.

     It was Christmas time, 2008, and I was up late channel surfing. I came across a music show hosted by Damian Abraham of F*cked Up.  I was just in time to see him introduce a new video called, Help, I'm Alive. That's how I was introduced to the band, Metric.

    Metric mainly consists of singer Emily Haines and keyboardist, James Shaw.  They have actually been performing together since 1998 when they formed a band called, Mainstream.  Mainstream morphed into Metric and Metric, in turn, proved, initially, to be a very malleable outfit, as Haines and Shaw collaborated with members of many other up-and-coming alternative bands such as Broken Social Scene, Stars, The Dears, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio.   As with all things, time helped all of the members of all those bands became more skilled as musicians and as songwriters. Being involved with such a supportive, collective community helped each band move forward, in ways that best suited them.
    For their part, Metric toured relentlessly in Canada and abroad. They opened for such diverse talents as Muse and Tricky. They have played many important festivals such as Coachella and the Reading Festival.  They have approached videos as short films and, as such, their work has received much critical praise, including being nominated for a Palme D'Or prize at The Cannes Film Festival in 2004.   As the band has matured, Metric has produced increasingly more creative music. Their third album, Fantasies, produced several alternative radio hits such as Help, I'm AliveDead DiscoGimme Sympathy and Sick Muse. Metric won the Juno Awards for Group of the Year and Album of the Year for this work.  For their next album, Synthetica, the band won Junos for Producer of the Year (Shaw), Alternative Album of the Year and for Record packaging of the Year (for their album's art work which they designed).

     Metric have become stars in the Alternative music scene and are poised to make the leap, ironically enough, to mainstream success.  In my opinion, that would be awesome because, the Mainstream airwaves could use an injection of artistic creativity that still manages to rock hard.

     Sometimes, when you teach for awhile in a small school, you may end up teaching the same student more than once. This happened to me when I taught a young lady in Grade 2, Grade 3 and then, again, in Grade 5.  Needless to say, by the time Grade 5 concluded, there wasn't much left to discover about each other. The one thing I really liked about this student was that she was incredibly artistic when it came to drawing.  She could draw just about anything but, her passion was for Manga.   As our grade 5 year rolled along, I introduced the kids to blogging. Among the things I taught them was how to place a video within their blog so that they could produce multi-media type work.  We began by choosing music videos to watch and then, to talk about on the blog.  As often happens, inspiration strikes at unexpected times. The night before I was planning to teach my lesson to the class, I happened to catch the Polaris Music Prize broadcast on TV.  As I tuned in, there was a man performing on stage that I had never heard of called Dan Mangan, from British Columbia.  He was performing a song called, Robots, which, I came to learn, has a great sing-along chorus at the end.  I loved the song and immediately wondered if there was a video. There was.

      The funky visuals reminded me of my young artsy friend at school so, on our class blog, I created a short post for her about this video. I encouraged her to follow her dreams and be fearlessly creative.  She and the rest of the kids liked the video and had a great time blogging in the months that followed.

      Now, as for Dan Mangan, being shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize was just the beginning for him, too.   He is a singer/songwriter of great talent.  He crafts his songs to play in our imaginations like movies.  Songs like The Indie Queens Are Waiting, Rows of Houses, Post War Blues and About as Helpful as You Can Be Without Being Any Help at all, are all richly layered, character-driven sagas of longing and triumph, of loneliness and of Life. Manga has been nominated for the Polaris Music Prize twice.  He has won iTunes Album of the Year for Nice, Nice, Very Nice *(from which, Robots was recorded.)  Dan Mangan has won two Juno Awards, three Western Canadian Music Awards, as well as, winning Best Song and Video of the Year Awards for Rows of Houses.

     When our Grade five year ended, this was the video that my young friend shared with me.

     As for that young lady, she is still drawing away, as far as I am aware. Dan Mangan is still writing award-winning songs that make us look at ourselves and at Life, differently.  In both cases, talent is as talent does, I suppose.   In either case, I am the better because of it.

     Finally, I give you, Dayna Manning.  Dayna is a folk singer who was born in Stratford, Ontario but, who has toiled in relative obscurity behind Stratford's other singing star, Justin Bieber.  In one of the comments on her YouTube video for A Walk on the Moon, it is lamented that such a beautiful voice could end up lost in the noise of celebrity. This, sadly, is all too true.  Manning has been singing for almost two decades now and was once nominated for a Juno Award for most Promising New Artist after the release of her debut album.  She performed in the line-up of the inaugural Lilith Fair concert. Recently, she teamed up with singers Emm Gryner and Laura Bates to form a folk supergroup called Trent Severn. Trent Severn had the distinction of being involved in the first inter-stellar song recording as they assisted International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield to record David Bowie's song, Space Oddity.   He, in turn, played with them after he returned to earth.
     The Trent Severn Waterway flows all throughout my part of the world. Manning is currently married to local musician and one of the driving forces behind the wonderful Shelter Valley Folk Festival, Aengus Finnan.  So, if the spotlight cannot find her in the place of her birth, may it shine forth from this blog because Dayna Manning is definitely a voice worth hearing.

      We will say good-bye and farewell to the letter "M" by acknowledging the talented performers below:
     Bluesman, Dutch Mason, Sean McCann (of Great Big Sea), Richard Manual (of The Band), Rising pop stars, Mother Mother, Technopop Remix Gods, MSTRKRFT, Rap/Hiphop innovator, Maestro Fresh Wes, Folk singer, Catherine MacLellan, Singer/songwriter, Gene McLellan, Creative pop group from Toronto, Moxy Fruvous (can you spot the member who rose to stardom and ended in infamy?),  Alt-pop group, Most Serene Republic, Modern day rockers, Monster Truck, 70s hard rockers, Mahogany Rush, Halifax alt-rockers, Mir and, finally, British Columbian singer/songwriter (and, one time crush before I met my wife, Keri), Mae Moore.  

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