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There’s never been a better time to be a music fan. We’ve got it all: digital access to a near-limitless variety of artists and songs from all over the world, a steady stream of fresh aural gold every “New Release Friday,” affordable high-fidelity audio equipment, and perhaps the most important thing of all—a dazzling selection of weed to enjoy it with. But matching the precise strain to the right music is critical to the experience, and I’m here to help.
Outside of rolling down the windows and blasting full-blown guitar rage from my car speakers on summertime road trips, I’ll share that my favourite way to listen to music is over headphones. And I do. All day long. Personally, I prefer over-the-ear cans versus earbuds, mostly because they make me feel acoustically insulated from the outside world, allowing me to focus on the music in a more intimate way, while gaining a true sense of the album that would otherwise be lost in a more open space.
Already this year, and especially in the past few months, we’ve seen the release of many high-profile new albums, timed not co-incidentally with announcements for summer and fall tours, many of which are making stops in Vancouver. For your consideration, here’s a handful of headphone-worthy new releases paired with strains that will complement your next audio adventure:
Courtney Barnett (headlining the Vogue Theatre October 10) is an Australian singer-songwriter-guitarist whose lilting deadpan vocals can’t mask the depth and lyrical intelligence on display throughout Tell Me How You Really Feel (Mom + Pop Music), her sophomore album. Over a compact 38 minutes and ten tightly-penned tracks, she chugs along effortlessly from bouncy power pop to sun-drenched ballads and fuzzed-out barnstormers. Experientially speaking, a few pulls from a SourCritical Lemon joint was the perfect partner for this headphone session. The citrus and caramel flavours flowed seamlessly from nose to palate, leading to an effect that was focused and head-noddingly upbeat. This Sativa-dominant Hybrid boasted five percent CBD alongside 20 percent THC, providing a beautifully-balanced listening party for one.
Experientially speaking, a few pulls from a Sour Critical Lemon joint was the perfect partner for this headphone session.
I would have believed you if you’d told me that singer and guitarist Stephen Malkmus, leader of 90s indie-rock champions, Pavement, had used Strawberry Diesel as his creative canna-muse during the making of his seventh solo album, Sparkle Hard (Matador Records). The clear-headed and creative energy provided by this sweet n’ sour-flavoured hybrid strain could have very easily inspired many of the progressive guitar heroics, pastoral string sections, lush harmonies and (surprise) auto-tuned treatments on the record. A welcome return to form. Catch the band this summer when they play the Rickshaw Theatre on August 3.
The tirelessly prolific Ty Segall leads a psych-garage revival from his home base in California, but he’s never far away from Vancouver for too long. After sonically razing the Vogue to the ground in 2016 and 2017 respectively, Ty will play in Vancouver twice in short succession this fall—sharing the stage with lo-fi troubadour White Fence on October 7 (Rickshaw Theatre), and solo on October 25 (Biltmore Cabaret). Ty’s latest album is this year’s Freedom’s Goblin (Drag City). With studied and stylish nods to ’70s arena rock, disco, country, funk, acoustic folk and punk, his soaring sonic squeals leap like a crazed circus ringleader from one earphone to the other. This sprawling 19-track salvo is impeccably paired with Blue Haze, an energizing Hybrid that similarly delivers a massive creative buzz from the first draw. Pungent and powerful, with rich flavours of blueberry, wet earth and white pepper, its impact is as swift as it is chameleonic, moving in quick succession from rapid elation to mellow submission, just like Freedom’s Goblin itself. Don’t miss him in October. I’ll be front and centre for both shows.
An uplifting Sativa simply won’t work with more introspective pieces of headphone art, including Jay-Z’s latest opus, 4:44 (Roc Nation). In preparation for seeing him in Vancouver with Queen Bey on October 2 (BC Place), I sat down with the album and a fresh bud of Nuken, a BC-bred Indica that offered the contemplative mood I was seeking. Sitting at night, alone on the couch with a solitary lamp, I was struck by the dense emotional weight of the album, as rap’s mightiest warrior fell (lyrically) on his own sword. The man born Shawn Corey Carter laid his soul bare over thick beats and deftly-chosen samples, his voice emanating shame and strength, regret and hope, while the vanilla and mint-flavoured Nuken gave me just what I wanted: the rare chance to sit still, close my eyes and just listen.
The breakdown: Sweet Critical Lemon, Sativa-dominant Hybrid / Strawberry Diesel, Hybrid / Blue Haze, Sativa-dominant Hybrid / Nuken, Indica. Each selection is $10/gram and available at Medi Canna, 3673 East Hastings St.