Best tunes of 2000: #3 Doves “The man who told everything”

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At the number three spot is another fantastic track by Doves, the only band to make more than one appearance on this Best tunes of 2000 list, the other being at number #10 with “Catch the sun“. Both songs are from the band’s stunning debut album, “Lost souls”‘, an album I didn’t actually hear until two or three years after the fact but one that has since reached the upper echelons in my all-time favourites conversations.

“The man who told everything” is the third single to be released off the album and lyrically, though I can’t be absolutely sure, appears to follow the same sort of themes expounded in single number two, “Catch the sun”.

“Get out of bed, pick up the phone, time to tell the press
Say to myself, I can’t do no one else, there’s a whole world outside
I’m gonna tell it all, I’m gonna sell it all, I’m gonna sell
Get out of bed, come out and sing, blue skies ahead, the man who told everything.”

It’s almost like the band were writing about how they were feeling at the time of making the record. Being that it was a very long process and that they were drastically changing their approach to music, they couldn’t wait to unleash “Lost souls”. It all feels very transformative, like their cocoon had become way too small for all their grand ideas and they were bursting to get it all out into the big blue world and into the sunshine. They didn’t want to hold anything back and in this excitement, seemed to be pushing everyone else to do the same. Live big and bold.

And the music expounds all that. “The man who told everything” is big, bold, and beautiful. But don’t mistake my words for inferring that this tune is high energy frenzy. Instead, for all the excitement of the words, the music has a more muted pace. The guitar strumming matches the easy drumming at the outset but at each chorus, another layer of guitars and string effects is added that has an arduous quality, at once daunting and stubborn and unforgiving. I don’t how to else to describe it. It’s brilliant though. I like to listen to this one late at night, lights dimmed, earphones on, volume up, eyes closed, a pint not far from hand, and just let the waves of it all crash over me. So much awesome.

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

Best tunes of 1990: #13 The Sundays “Here’s where the story ends”

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The Sundays’ “Here’s where the story ends” epitomizes for me the dog days of summer, something we have yet to really experience here in Ottawa, Canada this year. The song is jangly and full of sunshine, yet you don’t have to make a lot of movements to be able to dance to it. Instead, the peppy yet subdued guitar strumming backbone of the song, warms you up, bringing to mind some of the more upbeat tunes from The Smiths’ repertoire, and yet Harriet Wheeler’s vocals are completely different than those of Morrissey. Less affected and more natural and yes, actually cheerful.

The Sundays were formed by Wheeler and David Gavurin in 1988. While they added members to become a four piece by the time they recorded any material, the original duo were the main creative force behind this British alternative rock band. They released their debut album, “Reading, writing, and arithmetic”, in 1990 and it was a creative and commercial success, reaching number 4 on the UK charts and 39 in the US, mostly on the back of “Here’s where the story ends”. They released two more albums in the nineties, with each selling about the same amount of units as the debut. After that, silence. They have never officially broken up but it’s been almost twenty years since their last release. Apparently, Wheeler and Gavurin, after taking time away to raise their two children, have been working on new material, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it will ever see the light of day. The couple are notorious for taking their time and are perfectionists when it comes to their own music.

Still, we have a pretty solid body of work from the band in the 1990s. “Here’s where the story ends” is a particularly lovely slice of joy. So bring on the sunshine.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2010: #19 The Like “Wishing he was dead”

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What happens when you’re a teenaged girl with aspirations of being in a rock band?

If your father is an established producer/musician, he puts together a band made up of other teenaged daughters of musicians and producers and sets you loose on the music world. Right?

Okay. So that doesn’t happen every day but it is an approximation of the beginnings of Z Berg’s now-defunct girl group, The Like. And this story could easily have ended up being a cautionary tale of satisfying your kids’ whims if she hadn’t been at all talented and proficient at writing pop songs. The Like’s first album, 2005’s “Are you thinking what I’m thinking”, mined the poppier side of 90s grrl rock, sounding a bit like Elastica or a more upbeat Garbage. Then, things were quiet for five years before Berg returned with a slightly different lineup and an overhauled sound.

It’s very likely to me that it was producer Mick Ronson that inspired in the now twenty-something ladies a taste for sixties girl groups and mod culture. You can hear this old school essence in some of his other work but with The Like and their second album, “Release me”, everything clicked. Z Berg, along with Tennesse Thomas, and newcomers Reni Lane and Laena Geronimo, dressed the part, made videos that looked from the 60s (see the one below) and put together some really fun tunes. And the critics took notice, many of them calling the new album a marked improvement on the debut. Unfortunately, the band in this form didn’t last much more than a year, going on hiatus in 2011 and performing a one-off show in Japan in 2013, before disappearing again for good.

“Wishing he was dead” is the lead off track on “Release me” and instantly transports you back fifty some odd years to a brighter and vividly technicolor time. It calls to mind the heartbreak songs of the era but changes the plot somewhat in that the singer feels more anger than sadness and feels called to more action than just crying at home into her pillow. “If I could kick his head in, fickle little boyfriend, I’d be satisfied,” Berg sings. “If I could smack some sense into his senses, I might feel alright.” But even with all this inferred violence, it takes a page from “My boyfriend’s back” with a sound that is almost cheerful in its angst. “Wishing he was dead” is peppy drumming, jumpy guitar riffs, dancing organs, and Z Berg’s delicious vocals, backed up, of course, by her tough girl gang. Good fun, all of it.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.