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Tunes

Best tunes of 2020: #24 5 Billion In Diamonds “Weight of the world”

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Back last month, I was standing in a crowd at Ottawa Bluesfest, watching 90s alt-rockers, Garbage, take the stage and smiling in spite of myself. And just as they were kicking into their first track, my friend Josh leaned in towards me and yelled over the ensuing ruckus, “That’s Butch Vig on drums, right? The guy that produced “Nevermind” and a bunch of other classic alternative albums?” I nodded, and yelled back, “That’s him.” Then, still smiling, I eased myself into the nostalgia and sang along with Shirley Manson for the next hour or so.

Vig has always been a busy guy in the music biz. He started off in a parade of bands, local to where he went to university in Madison, Wisconsin. He shifted gears and went into music production full time in the early nineties, working on seminal albums by Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, L7, Crash Vegas, and of course, Nirvana. Then, he decided to get back into making music again, forming the aforementioned Garbage in the mid-90s and with them, released a number of hit singles on three massive records. Between this band* and continuing to produce other artists throughout the new century, you’d think that’d be enough for Vig. But not so.

He formed 5 Billion In Diamonds in 2017 with another producer in Andy Jenks, UK DJ James Grillo, and a host of other friends and collaborators. The idea was to create music as soundtracks to films that didn’t exist. The self-titled debut was a nod to the psych-rock of the 60s and 70s and they returned in 2020 with a sophomore album called “Divine accidents” that mined the indie rock of the 1980s. It doesn’t feel at all like anything Vig has had his fingers in thus far.

“Weight of the world” features The Soundtrack of our Lives’ Ebbot Lundberg on lead vocals. The heavy and pounding synths early on give way to jangly pop and a mid-eighties paisley underground aesthetic and the way Lundberg plays it on the mike, this almost could be a Bernard Sumner led side project. It is vibrations and ripples, concentric circles spreading out into the vastness of the open air and expansive water. It is cool and breezy and feels great all around.

*And another one-off album band back in the early 2010s.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2020 list, click here.

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Live music galleries

Live music galleries: The New Pornographers [2022]

(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.)

The New Pornographers live at Ottawa Bluesfest 2022

Artist: The New Pornographers
When: July 8th, 2022
Where: River stage, Ottawa Bluesfest, Lebreton Flats Park
Context: The second night of Ottawa Bluesfest 2022 offered me a second opportunity to see Canadian indie rock collective, The New Pornographers. I had previously seen them in October 2017 at the Bronson Music Theatre on their Ottawa stop in support of their seventh album, “Whiteout conditions”. What with the nature of the group and the various members’ busy schedules, you never know which version of the band* you’ll get to see on any given night. As it turned out, the lineup this time was very much similar to the previous show, except of course, with the subtraction of founding member/keyboard player Blaine Thurier, who had departed the band the previous year, and the addition of touring vocalist/percussionist, Nora O’Connor. They started off with “Falling down the stairs of your smile” (below) off their most recent record and roared through the rest of the one-hour set touching all of their eight albums at least once. Crowd pleasing and fun, this group really does do their shows right. I would never hesitate to the see them again given the chance.
Point of reference song: Falling down the stairs of your smile

Cool Kathryn Calder
Joe Seiders on the drums
John Collins, full of smiles
Todd Fancey
Nora O’Connor, current touring member
Carl Newman in the bright lights
Nora O’Connor and Todd Fancey
Carl, Joe, and John in duplicate
Joe Seiders
Carl, John, and Kathryn
Kathryn Calder close up
Carl Newman at the mike

*I still have yet to see a show by them with Neko Case or Dan Bejar performing… maybe someday…

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2003: #22 The Dears “Lost in the plot”

<< #23    |    #21 >>

…And we’re back.*

“Our love, don’t mess with our love
Our love is so much stronger”

The Dears are a Montreal-based indie rock outfit that formed way back in 1995. Their membership has been in constant shuffle and flux over the years, the only real constants being frontman, Murray Lightburn, and his partner in everything, Natalia Yanchak, though even she came to the party a little late. The group released their debut album, “End of a Hollywood bedtime story” in 2000 but it wasn’t until their sophomore release, 2003’s “No cities left”, that the indie rock world really started to take notice. In fact, this album is now considered one of the great albums of the early 2000s Canadian indie rock renaissance, right up there with “Funeral”, “Set yourself on fire”, “You forgot it in people”, and “Old world underground, where are you?”.

I remember first listening to the album, perhaps a year after its release, picking up on all the Britpop references and glorifications, thinking that it might require a deeper dive, and then, promptly putting it down again for lower hanging fruit. And then, near the end of 2005, I caught wind that Ottawa was getting a new alternative rock radio station** and that their soft launch involved playing great alternative rock without commercials or DJ interruptions. I listened to it as much as I could for the month or so that it lasted. And one day in the car, I remember hearing a familiar song one day, remember thinking that the vocalist sounded a lot like Morrissey but that the music sounded awfully like Radiohead, circa “OK Computer”. Upon later research, I realized that said track was “Lost in the plot” from the aforementioned Dears sophomore record, which then begged immediate and repeat listens. I finally became a fan of The Dears and my attentions have yet to wane through the six albums that followed over the next fifteen years.

“And I promise not to cry anymore
All the reasons beat the crap out of me
Everyday when I wake up they are waiting”

“Lost in the plot” was the second single to be released from “No cities lost”. It is a sonically sinister and intergalactic five minutes of beauty. The guitars jangle like Marr and Lightburn warbles like Morrissey but there’s a ton more layers here and at the bridge, things change tack to a hip-shaking swagger that might make Brett Anderson blush. Yeah, there’s more than a bit of Britpop pastiche going on but it’s also forward, rather than retro thinking. Indeed, it’s an explosion of passion and love and hope and that’s a plot I don’t mind losing myself in on the regular.

*I took an unscheduled blogging holiday over the past couple weeks, in part to rest these old bones from attending five nights of concerts in the span of two weeks and in part to just recharge.

**To fill the void created when XFM went adult contemporary and was rebranded as CISS FM in 2004

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2003 list, click here.