100 best covers: #65 Asobi Seksu “Then he kissed me”

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Asobi Seksu. The name may not ring any bells for you, which is a big shame. In a perfect world, it would have done. However, it was not to be.

Asobi Seksu was a New York-based band that had a rather fluid membership over the years, the only constants being the glue that held everything together: vocalist Yuki Chikudate and guitarist James Hanna. For me, this band was among the best and brightest that started the new shoegaze revival in the early 2000s, a revival that feels like it has gone on much longer than the original scene. I got into these guys back in 2006 with their wonderful sophomore release “Citrus”, falling in love with their Lush and MBV vibes, and voraciously consumed everything they produced thereafter. Unfortunately, they announced an indefinite hiatus back in 2013, a word they’ve kept, except for a one-off appearance opening for Slowdive in Boston in 2014 at that iconic band’s request. But who could say no to Slowdive, really?

Asobi Seksu released this apt cover of The Crystals’ 1963 hit song as a B-side for their non-album single “Stay awake” in 2007. Given my relatively limited exposure to the original, I think the cover is at least faithful to the spirit of Phil Spector’s production, albeit with perhaps thicker and fuzzier walls of sound and of course, Chikudate’s chiming vocals replacing the original R&B harmonies.

At a mere two minutes, though, this cover is like that oft-elusive and all-too-brief first kiss. Strange, timid, and awkward, but fully imbued with passion and sexual energy, and yes, questions of love. You’ve all been there. You know what I mean. The taste is more-ish, fleeting, just whetting the appetite for a bigger feast.

I’m not even going to ask the question because I don’t care about the answer. I’m going with the cover here. Repeat after me: Asobi Seksu. You’re welcome.

Cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

Vinyl love: Lush “Split”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Lush
Album Title: Split
Year released: 1994
Year reissued: 2016
Details: red vinyl, disc three in limited Origami box set, Record Store Day 2016 release, limited to 2000

The skinny: I’m posting this, the third disc and third part of a series featuring the pieces of previous Record Store Day purchase, just as I am preparing to wade out into the madness for more this morning. In my opinion and it’s likely an unpopular one, Lush’s second album “Split” was their best. The album served as a transition piece in their too short, three studio album recording career, bridging the gap between the dream pop influence of Robin Guthrie in “Spooky” (and their early EPs collected on “Gala”) and the Britpop exuberance of their final album, “Lovelife” (which we’ll see next weekend). It’s also very possible that the slightly edgier tendencies found here could have been rooted in their touring with the who’s who of American alternative as part of the Lollapalooza festival two years earlier. All this and the top notch work by Alan Moulder add up to an excellent album. 4AD pressed this third piece of the Origami box set to brilliant red, oft the colour of frontwoman Miki Berenyi’s hair. Yup.

Standout track: “Desire lines”

Best tunes of 2012: #22 Family Of The Year “Hero”

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Family of the Year was formed in California in 2009 by brothers Joe and Sebastian Keefe, as well as James Buckey, who were all veterans of the Boston alt-rock music scene in the late 90s. California native Christina Schroeter joined the group not long after, solidifying the indie folk band’s roster and adding her female vocals to give the group its trademark harmonies. A debut album called “Our songbook” appeared almost immediately after their formation, suggesting that material had been percolating for a while, and then, their major label debut was launched three years later. “Loma Vista” was actually my introduction to them (and still the only album by them in my collection) and this meeting came a year after its release, in 2013, because they were slated to play the local summer music festival (remember those?) and they piqued my interest.

Family of the Year’s set was quite amazing and the album got a lot more play after I saw them than it did beforehand. I especially fell in love with the single “Hero”, a track that had been released earlier, albeit as a shorter and not nearly as finely realized version. This song was then used for the trailer and as de facto theme song for Richard Linklater film, “Boyhood”, in 2014 and became a hit of sorts for Family of the Year. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the film but it’s a long one, following the protagonist throughout his formative years. What makes this coming of age flick different from the rest, though, is that it was filmed real-time as the actor (and his co-stars) aged through those same formative years, making the pay off at the end all the more worthwhile. The film also imbued the song with more meaning for me, burnishing the protagonist of the song’s reluctance to stand out, and dancing all emotional and heroic in spite of himself.

“So let me go
I don’t wanna be your hero
I don’t wanna be a big man
Just wanna fight with everyone else”

“Hero” pulls into you tightly with its jangly arpeggiating plucking on the acoustic guitar, the light brushing on the snares, and the way each eases their way out of the ether. Synth washes are just there, like the flickering shadows just beyond the reach of the campfire, and then, just at the song’s apex, comes a touch of electric guitar, but more as support than overpowering force. The rest of the band joins Joe Keefe here, singing as a crowd, cheerful and uplifting. And then, the song ends as it began, quiet and acoustic, leaving a slight but definite smile on your face as the last note fades.

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