When I first moved to Toronto I moved to a west-end neighborhood called Etobicoke. Not because I necessarily wanted to – the school I was attending was there in this slightly charming and slightly dilapidated part of the ‘hood called the Lakeshore (aptly titled).
South of Lakeshore Blvd. was the school, an old refurbished mental institution that, when reprocessed as a college made it feel more like an Ivy League school than a technical college. There was a collection of older single-family homes that had been invaded by young families and college students when the dominant Polish population moved elsewhere. All along winding parks and walk ways that led finally to the lake where these yuppies would run with their strollers during the day and the college students would burn driftwood and drink away their student loans.
North of Lakeshore, especially past Birmingham Ave. was a completely different story. The 5th street Co-Op became senominous with gang activity, the toxic wasteland surrounding the highway and commuter train yard was a no-go for anybody yet always a hub of noisy activity, the ghosts of industry that had fled for the suburbs, the US, or China decades ago left their skeletons behind by the major thoroughfares, and it was nothing but wide avenues of 8 lanes of traffic and Wendy’s Classic Hamburger shops until you reached the subway which could ultimately take you downtown.
There was the good part of Lakeshore…aaaand the not-so-good part.
This was my experience with Etobicoke, and I left. For good reason. I found a nice place downtown with a few friends and started making a living writing blogs and telling people what music they should listen to.
Honestly, I would never go back – but I eventually found myself in a similar situation where life on one side of the tracks is completely different than life on the other.
This is the environment that our Artist Spotlight for this month emerged from – Al Spx, aka Cold Specks, released her second full length album yesterday to amazing critical acclaim. Blending a massive mix of soul, R&B, Jazz, rock, Indie rock, among many other genres (a mix she calls “doom-soul”) she weaves a web of musicality that transcends all of the genres put together.
Anytime you think you’ve got a handle on what is going on in her music she moves away from it while keeping the same motif.
She left school at a young age to work in a call center and sell things door to door while still maintaining the illusion of going to classes and taking exams.
She left Etobicoke to launch in the UK as a solo artist, but never stayed too long, becoming sort of an exotic fruit to both Europe and North America. Even yesterday when I, personally, wrote about her new record I claimed she was from Montreal. This is what my research had told me at the time – it was incorrect.
She’s traveled the world – seemingly picking up little pieces of whatever culture is around at the the time and forced it through this filter that is her own voice.
…but she left.
She’s in Brooklyn now. I can’t imagine she’ll be there for long, but having a deal with Arts & Crafts certainly lets all of us who expect great things know that great things are certainly on their way.