Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love (revisited): The Decemberists “Picaresque”

(I started my Vinyl Love posts pretty much right after the launch of this blog to share photos of my growing vinyl collection. Over time, the photos have improved and the explanations have grown. And looking back at a handful of the original posts in this series, I found myself wanting to re-do some of them so that the posts are more worthy of those great albums. So that’s what I’ll be doing every once in a while, including today…)

Artist: The Decemberists
Album Title: Picaresque
Year released: 2005
Year reissued: 2015
Details: Gatefold sleeve, 2 x 180 gram, Red translucent vinyl, 10th anniversary, Limited edition, side ‘D’ includes “Picaresqueties EP”, Record Store Day 2015 exclusive, coloured booklet, postcards

The skinny: On Saturday April 18, 2015, I ventured downtown early in the morning and lined up in front of Vertigo Records at their old location on Rideau Street. It was probably the first and last time I ever got myself out of bed early for Record Store Day and incidentally, it was (I think) the last time that Vertigo participated in the RSD festivities. I met my friend Jennifer in line and we passed the time in conversation, waiting for the store to open, for our turn to enter, and to locate the RSD exclusives on our respective wish lists. As luck would have it, the store still had enough copies of this special edition, 10th anniversary pressing of The Decemberists’ third album, “Picaresque”, for both of us, so we both went home happy. This album is not only my favourite by the band but also perhaps one of my favourites of all time. Why? A title taken from a style of fiction writing. Fun hummable songs with diverse sounds. The same literate songwriting we’d come to expect from their first two albums. Stories ranging from failed high school sports careers, romantic trysts with spies, star-crossed lovers, and of course, a vengeance that is finally taken within the belly of a whale. And this reissue is an example of how they all should be done, coloured 180 gram vinyl, including a bonus EP filled with rarities, a full colour booklet, and really, just plenty of extra stuff. This is a treasure.

Standout track: “The mariner’s revenge song”

Categories
Live music galleries

Live music galleries: Blonde Redhead [2015]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

Blonde Redhead live at Glowfair 2015

Artist: Blonde Redhead
When: June 19th, 2015
Where: Glowfair Festival, Bank Street, Ottawa
Context: The Glowfair festival in Ottawa was launched by the Bank Street BIA in 2013, as means to bring some post-business hour life to the one of the city’s downtown strips. Admission to the festival was free and boasted ten city blocks of entertainment, including DJs, yoga, buskers, games and of course, live music. I didn’t attend any of the festivities until its third year and I finally did so mostly because I saw an unexpected name listed among the performers. New York City’s art rock trio, Blonde Redhead performing a live set for free in my hometown? How could I refuse? The deal was sweetened further when I was able to combine taking in the show with my annual visit to the city’s beloved Sparks Street Rib festival. So with a tummy full of pork and a good measure of craft beer imbibed, I wandered to the main stage to be blown away frontwoman Kazu Makino and the wizardry of Pace twins, Simone and Amedeo. I had gotten into the group eight years earlier with their shoegaze influenced masterpiece “23” and was neck deep into the two albums that had been released since. It was monster show, all droning noise and feedback on a Friday night under the stars. It was lovely.
Point of reference song: Dripping

Amedeo Pace of Blonde Redhead
Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead
Simone Pace of Blonde Redhead
The Pace twins
Kazu Makino rocking out
Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #14 Dum Dum Girls “Season in hell”

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I got into Dum Dum Girls, the sadly now defunct project led by Kristin “Dee Dee” Gundred, with their very excellent sophomore record, 2011’s “Only in dreams”. Though it wasn’t issued as a proper single from the album, “Bedroom eyes”, and the video made for it, became a personal favourite of mine, landing at number five on my Best tunes of 2011 list. And with the repeat listens of that album, I was super excited to see them at the Osheaga festival in Montreal in August 2012. I remember rushing over to their stage right after Of Monsters and Men finished up their eye-opening early afternoon set and though Dum Dum Girls’ performance was shortened due to sound problems, they were fantastic, all attitude and noise.

The following month the group released an EP called “End of daze”, featuring three songs held out from the “Only in dreams” sessions, and I loved it. It was one of my favourite releases of 2012 and it’s one of the very few examples of where I agree with Pitchfork media’s reviewers when they said it was the best thing Dum Dum Girls released up to that point. My only problem with it was that, at a five song EP, it was way too short. I was left wanting more, more, and more. It is still such a favourite of mine that it is one of only a small handful of EPs that I purchased for my vinyl collection and it regularly gets pulled down for a 45 rpm spin.

The final track on the EP is this humdinger called “Season in hell”. It is Sandra Vu crashing away at the drums, soaring guitars all around, that familiar reverb-drenched production by Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner, and Dee Dee’s vocals uplifting and floating in space, way up above the heavens, hinting at a change in direction and a hope for better days.

“Doesn’t dawn look divine”

Taken in hindsight you can read a lot into this track. The ‘season in hell’ could be referring to the period before Gundred’s split with Crocodiles’ Brandon Welchez, or it could be that she was starting to feel constrained by the image, aesthetic, and sound that she had created for Dum Dum Girls. That hat certainly feels tipped at in the couplet that ends the song and gives the EP its name: “Lift your gaze, it’s the end of daze.” And it’s a theory that feels more concrete when taken in context with her next album, Dum Dum Girls’ swan song, “Too true”, where the haze and gaze is all but dispensed with in favour of a glam and britpop influenced sound.

Again, though, that’s only in hindsight and if you’re in a mood to read into things. I typically avoid such heady topics when this particular song comes on and I just give in to the excitement and joy. The bliss and the hope.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.