Haunting ‘Secret Path’ Tells Tragic Indigenous History Through Art and Music

Secret Path by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire

In 1966, an indigenous Canadian boy named Chanie Wenjack ran away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School. He attempted a 400-mile walk home along the railroad through freezing weather, without knowing if he was even going the right way.

Through Chanie’s journey, Secret Path — an innovative combination of music and graphic novel available on Amazon as a paperback/MP3 download —  illuminates a darker part of North American twentieth-century history. Gord Downie of Ontario band The Tragically Hip wrote the words and music, while fellow Canadian and breakout comic book star Jeff Lemire drew the sequential art.

The first time I experienced Secret Path, I read the graphic novel with the music on in the background. The book is short enough to read within the album’s 41-minute running time, and is split into sections by song, so it’s easy enough to take this approach. Taken together, the music and art flow together well, with the images enhancing the words sung by Downie and the mostly acoustic folk rock bringing out the emotions in Lemire’s expressive character-work.

Since then, I have listened to the album quite a few times on its own. The music definitely can stand on its own. With the additional talent of Dave Hamelin from The Stills (another Canadian favorite of mine), Downie’s album carries the listener through the emotional highs and lows of Chanie’s walk, effortlessly evoking images of the boy’s tragic walk.

And as I listened, I found myself flashing back to the beautiful artwork by Lemire. I’ve been a fan of Jeff for some time — especially his more indie work like The Underwater Welder and Essex County, but also some of his writing credits for DC Comics including Animal Man. Lemire has a unique art style that I recall actually put me off the first time I laid eyes on it. But when I pushed ahead anyway, Lemire’s haunting compositions transported me to another world. From the first page of Secret Path, Lemire makes readers feel instantly sympathetic to Chanie’s plight. And he leaves us angry with the country that let such tragedies occur.

Angry, perhaps. But also glad that these fine creators have exposed this hidden history through such accessible storytelling. It’s beyond cool to see a project with such important purpose come together into an artistic masterpiece. What’s more, proceeds from the project will be donated to The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

So don’t wait — take the Secret Path. It’s a road worth traveling.

Time keeps pushing me on now

So here’s an end-of-summer jam you may not have heard. It’s “El Matador” by the band Semisonic. Yeah, those guys who did “Closing Time” and “Secret Smile.” This one is off their severely underrated follow-up, which was their final LP as a group.

It’s hard to believe summer is coming to an end. Also hard to believe this was my first full American summer since 2011. My wife and I moved to Australia at the start of summer 2012, which meant that it was winter there. We came back at the end of (American) summer 2015, got a lick of the sun, then dove straight into the autumn leaves.

I’ve had a productive year since returning to Philadelphia. After regaining my bearings (I can order a “coffee,” and no one asks what kind!), I spent the first few months doing freelance work for Technical.ly Philly and a few other places. I made a brief sojourn to India (and wrote a tech story about it). In March, I got a full-time gig at Communications Daily as their Philly-based states reporter.

On the creative side, I finished writing my third novel, had it analyzed by a Bat-editor and started pitching it to agents. I’m really excited to have you read it and hope to have a better idea of the release date by the end of this year. In the meantime, I wrapped up a screenplay of We, The Watched and a few new short stories. Speaking of my debut novel, you may have seen that I received an excellent review from Kirkus. And then an even better review of the sequel, Divided We Fall. That was pretty cool.

Lately, I’ve been looking with anxiety at my long-sleeve shirts. Soon I will get/have to wear them. We’re racing toward winter and the year 2017. I don’t know exactly what the new year will hold, but my aim is to make it a big one. As Semisonic sings in their end-of-summer classic: “Time keeps pushing me on now, and I’ll ride this wave to the end.”

P.S. If you like my novels, check out the show Mr. Robot. It’s a tech-fueled dystopian rush.

Listen to debut album by multi-instrumentalist Sandy Bender

Album art for Terrain by Sandy Bender

You might not have known this, but my dad is a fantastic musician! While professionally he is an architect, he’s been playing guitar, banjo and other instruments my whole life (and most of his). Over the years, he has recorded many tunes for himself, family and friends, but has never released his music to a wider market.

Until now!

For quite a long time, I had been pushing him to release an album, and now it is finally available in CD from CreateSpace and Amazon, and MP3 download from CDBaby.com.

His first album, Terrain, is a bittersweet collection of original instrumental music that draws from baroque, ethnic folk, jazz and blues, featuring finger-picked guitar, as well as banjo, mandolin, ukulele, clarinet and harmonica.

By the way, he also drew all of the album art, which was expertly designed by Joe Tantillo.

Sample and/or purchase the entire album below! The digital version should also soon be available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Music and other popular retailers.

Adam’s top five rock and indie albums of 2015

Sufjan Stevens

It’s hard to write a great song, and it’s even harder to write a great album. The artist must pull together a collection of solid tunes that work together as one cohesive unit, holding the listener from beginning to end for 30-60 minutes.

Whenever we draw near the end of the year, I like to reflect on my favorite music from the past 12 months. Check out my picks for 2015 and listen to them via Spotify below!

Above photo: Sufjan Stevens by Jules Minus via Flickr

Sufjan Stevens
Carrie & Lowell

Quietly brilliant, this album will hypnotize with acoustics and whispered vocals. Not a good one to play at parties, but if you’re looking for an escape from the hectic and want some reflection time, this is your album of the year. It’s mine, anyway.

Foals
What Went Down

I’ve been following Foals for quite some time–loved some of their songs, felt ambivalent about others. On What Went Down, the band finds their best balance yet of booming arena rock, intricate guitar pieces and sing-along anthems. Beyond the excellent singles, my favorites are “Night Swimmers,” which harks back to the tight guitar interplay from their debut LP, and “London Thunder,” a slow-building anthem that shows off a new power to tugs at the heart.

Wavves
V

And now for something completely different. is the perfect vitamin when you’re looking for an energy boost. Combining the upbeat shimmer of Blink-182 with the substance and sneering attitude of Green Day, Wavves is producing some of the best pop-punk since those golden 90’s. Turn it on and rock the f*** out!

The Libertines
Anthems for Doomed Youth

The boys in the band are back! After a decade hiatus, I wasn’t sure Pete Doherty and Carl Barât would ever reunite. Doherty is a brilliant artist who seems to effortlessly write hooks but has a tendency to get distracted by drugs. Barât is a master of tight, no-nonsense tunes who brings out his partner’s strengths while reining in his nonsense. On Anthems for Doomed Youth, we see that dynamic working just like it did in the early 2000s, only now with the addition of road-worn maturity.

Happyness
Weird Little Birthday

Fans of Pavement, Yuck and Earlimart, take note–this is your new jam. Happyness effortlessly gets your head nodding with a blend of mellow guitar rock and fast-and-loud alternative. They’ve also really got a knack for singing catchy lyrics about the sad and disturbing. Take “Naked Patients,” which opens with: “There’s something so funny about a sick body and the things that it does that it shouldn’t do.” Yes, it’s nice to see the alt-rock spirit of the 90’s still alive and well.

What are your favorite albums this year? Sound off in the comments below!

My favorite music from Australia

While living in Australia for the last three years, I’ve looked for cool local music–the best young songwriters who sound poised for an international breakout (if they haven’t done it already). In recent weeks, I’ve highlighted a few of my top picks–mostly in my favorite genre, rock ‘n roll.

In case you missed any of them, here’s a quick video roundup! Click the names of the musicians to read my full post.

Tame Impala

Read more about Tame Impala!

The Delta Riggs

Read more about The Delta Riggs!

Seth Sentry

Read more about Seth Sentry!

Cloud Control

Read more about Cloud Control!

Wolf & Cub

Read more about Wolf & Cub!

That’s it for now! There’s a lot of other great bands in Australia, but I didn’t have time to name them all. Sound off in the comments with your favorites! I’ll be sure to check ’em out.