Monday, May 24, 2010

Beyond Belief: Musical Mysteries on Main Street

Three weeks ago I was on Main Street browsing through independent clothing boutique Eugene Choo when my ears picked up this deliciously sly tune coming from the speakers.

You know she has no sins
For all your jealousy
In a sense she still smiles very sweetly

I immediately lost focus of the clothes and began a quest to identify the mystery song. The voice? So smooth, so familiar. I should know this, but I've never heard this before. I know I should know it, but I honestly can't place it.

Charged with insults and flattery
Her body moves with malice
Do you have to be so cruel to be callous

Okay, I really, really like this. What is this?

And now you find you fit this identikit completely
You say you have no secrets
And then leave discreetly

Who is this?!!

I shuffled around self-consciously, pretending to be interested in the clothing (and it was genuinely beautiful clothing, don't get me wrong) but I was so distracted by trying to figure out what the song was, I simply became lost in the song and mentally drifted into my own world of music geekdom.

Being Shazam-less, and well, iPhone-less in general, once I gave in to the fact that I probably wouldn't be able to solve this mystery on my own, I did what I should pretty much always do in these situations: I went up to an available employee and simply asked them.

He walked over to the cash, ducked under the table and grabbed the iPod. By that time a new song had started to play, which was a catchy little number, much more atmospheric and indie rock by nature.

"This is Sound Team", he said.

I had never heard of them.

"The song is called 'You've Never Lived A Day'."

I thanked him and made a mental note of Sound Team seeing how I was liking what I was hearing, but then said that I was actually curious about the previous song. He then interrupted the Sound Team song and switched back to play the song that was driving me crazy. The familiar tune returned to the store's speakers.

History repeats the old conceits
The glib replies, the same defeats
Keep your finger on important issues
With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues

"This is Elvis Costello", he said.

Elvis Costello?!

You're kidding me.

Really? Wow...

In a million years I would have never pegged that song to be Elvis Costello. It was too suave, too smooth, and too understated. It was even sexy.

Being only slightly familiar with Elvis Costello's older, more-established, more-jangly tunes, this was a side to Elvis Costello that was completely new to me. And I was very intrigued.

Happily satisfied, I ran into the change room and tried on a slinky shirt that I was eyeing while trying to solve the former mystery. I guess I wasn't entirely distracted from the merchandise. And despite being beyond my budget, I bought it. I mean, hey... you never know when you'll need a fancy, haute-coutureish top to wear. I digress.

Driving home, I realized I didn't get the name of the song. "That no matter!" I foolishly thought.

I spent the rest of the night listening to every 30 second clip of Elvis Costello's discography on I must have spent two or three hours. No luck.

Defeated, I typed up an e-mail to Eugene Choo, explaining that it was a silly request, but that I was in the store earlier, and I was the person asking the staff about the music, and that I knew it was Elvis Costello, but I didn't recognize the song, so surely it must be a new track, and that it was driving me crazy, etc. etc. etc.

I received a lovely reply the following morning from owner Kildare Curtis:

not a silly request at all. Being a big music fan, I know how trying to track down a song can make one feel a little crazy. I believe it was "Beyond Belief" and is originally from the album Imperial Bedroom but can also be found on the The Best of Elvis Costello and The Attractions. Here's a link so you can confirm that this is it:

And here we are 3 weeks later and Beyond Belief (an old song, by the way) is one of my most played tracks. A musical obsession if there ever was one. I still can't get enough of it, and I don't know when this infatuation will end. I'm still surprised that I had never encountered the track before. But for a music geek, it does give me hope that there's still a whole lot of really fantastic undiscovered music out there by well-established musicians - songs that I really ought to know by now, but for mysterious reasons, I haven't.

Finally, to throw another Vancouver-related Elvis Costello anecdote out there... everyone knows Elvis Costello is married to BC born-and-raised jazz chanteuse Diana Krall. Everybody knows he's in and around Vancouver, schmoozing as rock stars do. But did you know that Elvis Costello's Vancouver connections go back much further than that?

The proof is in this video, where in 1979, Elvis Costello & the Attractions flaunt around Vancouver's beaches and Stanley Park while singing "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding".

It's not on YouTube, but it's online here:

When it comes to inane musical trivia connected to Vancouver, I am easily amused.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Are Vancouver summers cold?"

An odd question to post on my blog, no doubt, but strangely it's one of the top Google search inquiries that leads people to my blog. So why not devote a whole post to it? There's obviously enough demand for the answer!

Are Vancouver summers cold?

In a word, no.

In more words, it depends.

It depends on your definition of cold. It's all relative, isn't it? A summer in Vancouver is going to be colder than spending a summer in Tahiti, Cuba, Sri Lanka or Colombia... but that doesn't make Vancouver's summer cold. Or does it? Vancouver's summer is rarely scorching, but it's typically not defined as being "cold".

Here are the more common terms used to describe a Vancouver summer:


Vancouver's summers (and summer is tradionally thought of as June, July, August, and September here, by the way) are for the most part in the low to mid 20's Celsius range (which is 68 to 77 Fahrenheit, apparently). Occasionally there will be a day or two where it can reach in the low 30's Celsius range (which is low 90's Fahrenheit), but those are rare, but do occur in July and August.

Sure, those temperatures are going to be colder than some place like Death Valley where there's a constant 40 Celsius/100 Fahrenheit range throughout the summer. Or they're going to be colder than some place like Toronto which might get more humidity and heat in the summer months. But that doesn't make it cold. What it does mean is that you're not suffering through the summer in Vancouver. You're not dependent upon air conditioning. You're not cooping yourself indoors to avoid heatstroke or humidity. You can actually be outside and enjoy it.

"But what about all that Vancouver rain?", you ask.

We don't get much rain in the summer. Sunshine is not as elusive in the summer as it would be in the winter months. In fact, there's so much sunshine in Vancouver in the summer, that it often causes droughts, where water restrictions come into play.

"And in a rainforest zone?" you ask.

It's true.

Vancouver's summers are beautiful. It's when the city truly shines. It's when people break out into summer dresses and t-shirts and shorts and sandals and go swimming in outdoor pools and hang out all day and night at the beach and get sunburns if not protected...

That's a Vancouver summer.

So are Vancouver summers cold?

In a word, no...

... and man, am I ever looking forward to summer!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lazy days in Kitsilano...

My sister moved into one of those old creaky houses off of Waterloo and Broadway in Kits, perhaps one of my favourite neighbourhoods for just lazying around on a summer-like evening. The lush gardens, the chirping of the birds, the cool breeze, and the smell of freshly-brewed coffee is sometimes all it takes to make a picture perfect evening.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gray whale in False Creek?

What is this news I read?

What is this picture* I see?

There's a gray whale swimming in False Creek?

False Creek?!!

The former industrial ocean inlet on the south shore of the downtown Vancouver peninsula?

This can only mean two things:

False Creek's getting healthier, or the rest of the Georgia Strait's getting worse.

Post Edit Babble: The fact that there are even gray whales in the Georgia Strait is newsworthy enough. But False Creek? That takes it to a whole new realm of weirdness. Reports yesterday claimed that gray whales were swimming in Howe Sound. Normally you only get orcas in the Georgia Strait, not gray whales. Gray whales are otherwise found on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the open Pacific Ocean. I wonder what it means?

*For real photos, check out this great story from VancouverIsAwesome!