Walking Far From Home

I was walking far from home
Where the names were not burned along the wall
Saw a building high as heaven
But the door was so small, door was so small
I saw rainclouds, little babies
And a bridge that had tumbled to the ground
I saw sinners making music
I’ve dreamt of that sound, dreamt of that sound

– Iron & Wine, Walking Far From Home”, 2011

Now that we’re over 100 posts into this blog, it should be pretty obvious that music is a huge part of my life.  As mentioned very early on, your trusty Craven Hermit is also an admirer of the great outdoors.  In particular, I love to experience nature from ground level, on foot.  My shadow has been cast across virtually every walking trail in my home town, while my iPod has provided an ever-evolving soundtrack.

From time to time, I get the itch to reacquaint myself with nature by doing some proper wilderness hikes.  Each summer I cram my tent, some bedding, some cooking implements, a duffel bag of clothes, a couple of good books and a picnic cooler into the car and head for the mountains. The glorious Canadian Rockies are only a four-and-a-half hour drive away, which makes those glaciated peaks and forested valleys an ideal destination for an extended weekend sojourn.

I just got back from four days at Lake Louise.  The campsites in the Lake Louise tent campground, while a little on the pricey side, are still as amenable as ever.  They provide a nice balance of privacy with convenience, shelter with natural light.  You can even take a hot shower after a long day on the trail, which might be one of life’s greatest simple pleasures.

A typical day in the mountains begins with a hot al fresco breakfast, followed by a hike to the verge of exhaustion, a shower and a change of clothes, a delicious barbeque dinner, and some drinks around the campfire.  Plugging in your iPod, settling into a comfortable chair with a mug of rye & coke (okay, okay, I can hear my friends snickering… make that several mugs of rye & coke), and watching some flickering flames burn down into glowing embers is a perfect way to unwind.  Campfires give you some well-earned downtime to take stock of your life – a chance to reflect on the previous year and make plans for the next.  There’s something very hypnotic, very alluring, and very Zen about watching wood slowly combust before your eyes.

I managed to squeeze four hikes of various lengths and complexities into this past four-day weekend.  Over the next few days, check back here for new posts with photos and reflections on what I observed while walking far from home.

Hold your fire
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame till the dream ignites
A spirit with a vision is a dream with a mission

– Rush, “Mission”, 1987

Upcoming Music Releases – June 2012

Here’s a selection of upcoming music releases for your summer listening pleasure:

5-Jun-2012:

Rhett Miller – The Dreamer

The Old 97’s front man steps away to release a new solo album.  Miller’s side projects tend to be a little quieter and poppier than his day job’s raucous alt-country records.  Early word on The Dreamer is that it’s still relatively low-key but more folk-infused than usual.

The Hives – Lex Hives

The sharply-dressed gents from Fagersta, Sweden return with their fifth album of glorious noise.  Lex Hives promises to administer another healthy dose of punked-out Stooges energy to cure whatever ails you.  After a five year hiatus, expect twelve new sonic salvos that sound like the Ramones accidentally plugged into 240-volt power instead of 120-volt.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Americana

Neil Young lives and dies by the magic of the first take.  He is notoriously unwilling to develop songs in the studio, preferring to bash them out in one pass instead.  From time to time, he captures lightning in a bottle, especially when the erratic Crazy Horse is involved.  That said, early reports suggest that these 11 new recordings of American folk standards (including, inexplicably, “God Save The Queen”) might have benefitted from a bit of rehearsal and some editing.

12-Jun-2012:

Metric – Synthetica

The Canadian modern-synth-rock ensemble releases Synthetica, the follow-up to 2009’s well-received Fantasies.  Like The Hives, it seems that Metric have decided to hoe their own row by self-releasing their new album.  I haven’t been too enamoured of lead-off single “Youth Without Youth”, but maybe the album will reveal itself over time.

Rush – Clockwork Angels

The Canadian power trio (finally) releases some truly new studio material, five years on from the surprisingly decent Snakes & Arrows.  Some of the new songs, like “BU2B” and “Caravan”, have actually been in the live set for awhile now, which is a little unusual for Rush.  Exclaim.ca reported that Clockwork Angels “chronicles a young man’s quest across a lavish and colourful world of steampunk and alchemy as he attempts to follow his dreams”.  So, Neil Peart’s still reading a lot of fiction, then.

Wintersleep – Hello Hum

Completing the trio of Canadian rock releases on this day is a new album from Nova Scotia’s Wintersleep.  Check them out if you think you’d like to revisit the highlights of R.E.M.’s back catalogue by way of Halifax and Montreal.

19-Jun-2012:

Smashing Pumpkins* – Oceania

Billy Corgan Inc. gets set to unleash Oceania upon the world.  Since giving the boot to Jimmy Chamberlin in 2009, the Smashing Pumpkins* (2012 edition) features all-new guys, including the seemingly-mandatory lady bass player.  If the band’s somewhat random trajectory since 1998’s Adore album hasn’t already driven you away, then consider that Oceania was designed to be an album-within-an-album.  It reportedly features a number of songs intended to sit within Corgan’s sprawling 44-track Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project.  Artistically brave, and likely to be peppered with moments of gothic synth-rock beauty, but probably not for the casual Pumpkins fan (you have been warned).

26-Jun-2012:

Beachwood Sparks – The Tarnished Gold

Eleven years removed from their previous album, the classic line-up of these California cosmic-rock revivalists make a triumphant return with a set of all-new songs.  In this era of multi-part harmony vocals and sunny baroque pop on the indie-rock charts (see also: Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear) the Sparks may finally be primed to make a long-overdue breakthrough.

The Flaming Lips – The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends

If you missed picking up a double-LP vinyl copy of this collection on Record Store Day 2012, here’s your chance to make up for lost time.  The Flaming Lips have been keeping busy since their 2009 record Embryonic by recording EPs with other artists.  Check out the Heady Fwends if you’re keen to hear their collaborations with Ke$ha, Bon Iver, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, Jim James, Nick Cave, Neon Indian, and a host of others.  Pretty much guaranteed to be the weirdest album you buy this month, if not the best.

Rush Honoured in Ottawa

Over the weekend, seminal Canadian rock trio Rush were honoured for their lifetime contributions to music at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

Yesterday evening the Governor General of Canada – David Johnston – presented the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award (GGPAA) for Lifetime Artistic Achievement to Rush during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. All three members of the band were in attendance.

South Park co-creator Matt Stone was even on hand to induct the band, calling them the first band he ever loved.

So, you know… screw the Hall of Fame!