Best tunes of 2000: #4 Belle And Sebastian “Legal man”

At some point in the early 2000s, the full season box sets of Gilmore Girls began being released on DVD and my wife, Victoria and I bought them and watched them all, as they were released, one season at a time. I’m not going to go into the wherefores of why I enjoyed and got hooked on the show right now but let’s just say that I did. The reason I mention this idiosyncrasy of mine this morning has to do with one of my favourite scenes that occurred at the end of episode 14, season 2 (no, I don’t have them memorized, I had to look it up).

Lane, the best friend of Rory (the younger of the Gilmore girls), is the Korean-American daughter of first generation immigrants, who is a music fanatic and snob. During the episode in question, she is grounded by her strict, traditional mother, something that happens frequently during the show for several reasons but in this case, it is problematic because the new Belle And Sebastian single is due to be released and she simply must be one of the first to hear it. Rory, being the friend that she is, procures a copy for her and orchestrates a drop off as Lane and her mother are walking through town, an intricate plot involving the town weirdo Kirk running interference while Rory’s mother’s employee, Michel, posing as a jogger, drops the disc in lane’s bag (watch the scene here). It’s hilariously like something out of Mission Impossible and all the while, the first part of “Legal man”, the single in question, is playing as soundtrack, lending the scene a 60s spy movie feeling.

Belle And Sebastian, as you are hopefully aware, are an indie pop collective out of Glasgow, Scotland that formed in 1996 and that were so prolific, they released two full-length albums in their first year of existence. The following year, they released three EPs of songs that never appeared on their LPs, something they would become known for doing. They also became known for twee-inspired chamber pop, whose witty and biting lyrics acted as counterbalance to the light tone of the music. Numerous releases and personnel changes later, B&S are still a going concern.

“Legal man” is the title track off another one of those standalone singles/EPs that I mentioned above, only being available on that release until the song and its two B-sides were included on the “Push barman to open old wounds” compilation. It is two and half minutes of frenzied bongo drumming (by Snow Patrol’s Jonny Quinn), snarling sitars, whirling hammond, and fun backing vocals by Rosanne Suarez and The Maisonettes. As you can imagine, with all those ingredients swirling in the lava lamp, “Legal man” is a retro and mod revivalist romp that spells magic on the dance floor. So get out your beach blanket and let’s boogie!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.

Vinyl love: Blur “Parklife”

(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: Blur
Album Title: Parklife
Year released: 1994
Year reissued: 2012
Details: 3 of 5 in Blur 21, anniversary box set, black vinyl, 180 gram, 2 x LP, Gatefold sleeve

The skinny: A thematic and sonic continuation, Blur’s third record almost sounds like its material was recorded during the same sessions as ‘Modern life’. In my opinion, this Blur at their best, Britpop in full bloom, and likely my favourite of their albums, from beginning to end.

Standout track: “This is a low”

Best tunes of 2000: #5 Richard Ashcroft “A song for the lovers”

For the first two thirds of 2000, I shared a two-bedroom apartment in the St. Clair and Bathurst area of Toronto with my good friend Ryan and my cat Lucy. Ryan and I met while at York University and whiled away many an evening over beers, discussing music. After I graduated, I moved to the apartment and he moved in after my previous roommate moved out with her boyfriend after one year. Ryan and I got along pretty well as roommates. When we weren’t working or spending time with our respective significant others, we’d hang out, going out to catch films, catching a concert or a quick streetcar down to the Dance Cave on a Saturday night, or just staying in and spinning tunes.

I remember when Richard Ashcroft’s first solo record, “Alone with everybody”, was released because Ryan and I both came home with a CD copy of it the day it came out. We had both been fans of The Verve’s final record, “Urban hymns”, and though were sad at the band’s passing, had reason to be optimistic for his solo work, given the debut’s advance single, “A song for the lovers”. I may be completely reinventing the evening in my mind now but I feel like we ordered takeout (probably Pizza Gigi), grabbed some beers, and gave the album a listen or two. There was likely a sense of disappointment after the first spin that it wasn’t a masterpiece. On the second, we began to identify the obvious high points and after the third, realized that though Ashcroft is a mad genius, he needs a sounding board. There are some incredible tunes on Ashcroft’s debut, lush and beautiful, yes, but he also had a tendency to get bloated and over-extravagant without Nick McCabe reining him in.

“A song for the lovers” is one the great tracks on “Alone with everybody” and telling that it was one of a handful of tracks on the album that he originally wrote for “Urban hymns”. It is not a pure love song like “Lucky man” but a love song nonetheless, very likely inspired by his muse wife Kate Radley. It starts with the riff of a string orchestra and a plaintive horn response and then instantly deepens with layers and layers of sound. The song is pure Ashcroft in its construction. There’s almost too much going on with the different guitar effects, the aforementioned horns and strings, and bongos but everything is okay once he starts singing. That voice of his is inimitable.

“I spend the night
Yeah looking for my inside in a hotel room
Waiting for you”

It sounds he must’ve found his insides somewhere and poured them all into this tune, not just the lyrics but every facet of the song. And that’s what is great about Richard Ashcroft. You may not like every tune but you really have to be impressed by his passion.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.