Liner Notes with J.F. Robitaille

August 25, 2016

It’s been said of singer-songwriter J.F. Robitaille to “imagine docile singer-songwriter Jack Johnson, except with a book of Leonard Cohen poems in his hands, not a surfboard.” We couldn’t think of anyone more perfect to revitalize our Liner Notes column, with J.F.’s selection of literary-leaning songs perfect to psych up for publishing season. Listen to one at a time, or access our full Spotify playlist here.

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It’s been said of singer-songwriter J.F. Robitaille to “imagine docile singer-songwriter Jack Johnson, except with a book of Leonard Cohen poems in his hands, not a surfboard.” We couldn’t think of anyone more perfect to revitalize our Liner Notes column, with J.F.’s selection of literary-leaning songs perfect to psych up for publishing season. Listen to one at a time, or access our full Spotify playlist  here.

1. Up The Junction – Squeeze

J.F.: British kitchen-sink drama in song form with one of the greatest opening lines in rock and roll.

Us: Michel Hellman’s Mile End (Pow Pow Press) has the same episodic quality that this Squeeze song does, from getting an apartment to finding love to having a baby.

 

2. The Traitor - Leonard Cohen

J.F.: These lyrics remain a complete mystery to me so maybe someone reading this can let me know why I love them so much.

Us: As with all Leonard Cohen tunes, there’s a lot of ways you could go in interpreting it. We went for his repeating “Ah the dreamers ride against the men of action/Oh see the men of action falling back” and picked Men of Action (Coach House Books), which is about consciousness, which – full circle – is about Leonard Cohen, really.

 

3. A Very Cellular Song - The Incredible String Band

J.F.: 14 minutes of the most beautiful nonsense you've ever heard.

Us: All of the biblical references in AVCS made us think of the same in Reading the Bible Backwards (ECW Press), a poetry collection that interrogates familiar subjects and renders them anew.

 

4. Me And My Friend - Julie Doiron

J.F.: A deceptively simple and possibly perfect song by my favourite Canadian singer/writer.  (She also happens to appear on my new album!)

Us: Julie Doiron’s sweet voice betrays the sadness of this song, about a relationship’s end. Giving Up (BookThug), a comedic novel about the bitter end of a relationship, is same-same.

 

5.  That's Entertainment - The Jam

J.F: Paul Weller describing everything he sees, sort of like that South Park parody of Randy Newman...if Randy Newman was walking around London in 1980.  

"A police car and a screaming siren
A pneumatic drill and ripped up concrete
A baby wailing and stray dog howling
The screech of brakes and a lamp light blinking"

Us: The observational poems in Mockingbird (Vehicule Press) echo “That’s Entertainment” perfectly.

 

6. I Think It's Going To Rain Today - Nina Simone

J.F.: Stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard it and it still does.

Us: We found no book more arresting last year than Meadowlark (NeWest Press), heart-stoppingly sad and worthy of Simone.

 

7. Lake Marie - John Prine

J.F.: I think if Raymond Chandler and Raymond Carver wrote a song together it might sound something like this.

Us: Arleen Paré’s GG award-winning Lake of Two Mountains (Brick Books) similarly chronicles a lake and one’s experiences with it.

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Many thanks to J.F. for refreshing our Spotify playlists, and to Courtney at Sparks Music for connecting us! You can get J.F.’s new album and book of poetry right here.


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