Vinyl love: Phoebe Bridgers “Stranger in the alps”

(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: Phoebe Bridgers
Album Title: Stranger in the alps
Year released: 2017
Details: Limited edition, lavender

The skinny: Some of you might recall this album as #10 on my Best albums of 2017 list. Phoebe Bridgers’ debut album is mostly quiet, deeply personal, literate, and almost too cool for its own good. And I love it to pieces.

Standout track: “Motion sickness”

Best albums of 2007: #3 The Clientele “God save The Clientele”

Some might remember The Clientele as the purveyors of the surprise #1 album in my Best albums of 2017 back in December. Well, I’ve been loving on this London-based indie pop band for quite some time.

My first encounter with them was their second album, 2003’s “The violet hour”, a reverb-drenched, 60s psych influenced album. They expanded their sound some with string arrangements on “Strange geometry“ in 2005 and following a tour in 2006, added violinist/keyboard player, Mel Draisey to the fold, ensuring more lovely strings for future recordings. “God save The Clientele” does not disappoint in this regard, also including the use of pedal steel and slide guitar to really take their already beautifully full sound even further.

Recorded in the States, where they oddly seem to be more popular than they are in their home country, “God Save The Clientele” is notable among all their albums up to this point for having some honest to goodness and obviously upbeat pop numbers. It initially took me aback, hearing something breathily sung by frontman Alasdair MacLean that I might be able to dance to. Incidentally, it was while The Clientele were on support for this album in the spring of 2007 that I got to see them live for the first time with my good friend Jez, another big fan of the group. And though we didn’t dance, there was plenty to enjoy about the set.

For those that enjoy delicate and lilting psychedelic pop, “God Save The Clientele” might just be your thing. I highly recommend giving them a shot and you could do worse than to start with one of my three picks for you below.


“Winter on Victoria Street”: As I mentioned above, there were some obvious pop numbers on this album and though they were a bit of a surprise, I would count them among my favourites on the album, and this one is included. The bopping piano meander provides the song its structure and both a rhythm and a melody for MacLean to “da da da” along to. Then, he loops his own vocals back so that he is singing in round with himself, a fun effect that reflects the “haunting” theme in the lyrics, a malevolence outside the house where he is trying to “get off” with a girl. Whoops.

“Here comes the phantom”:  Speaking of boppy numbers, the opening tune on the album almost has a “Sweet Caroline” feel, guitars and peppy drums marching in line. And in between such synchronized rhythms are string flourishes that flit and flutter like singing birds. It all feels idyllic and full of sunshine, not at all resembling the crime fighting superhero stories hinted at in the title. Indeed, the lyrics are all wind in the leaves and summer sun and picking flowers. Lovely stuff.

“Bookshop casanova”: Ah yes. Here’s the song. One of the best song titles ever and very likely my favourite out of all The Clientele’s tunes. It’s that ticky-tack tapping on the cymbal and the driving guitar that really does it, and yes, I just said driving guitar in relation to Alasdair MacLean and company. Then, there’s the lovely touch by Mel Draisey’s violin and a wonderful song becomes perfection. And really at its core, the song is about one bookshop clerk attempting seduce another, love in the quietest and most unassuming of places. “Now see that dying summer moon, it’s shining just for me and you.” What a nice thought.


Check back next Thursday for album #2 on this list. In the meantime, go check out albums #10 through #6, #5, #4, and you can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my favourite albums of 2017.

Best tunes of 2001: #21 Embrace “Wonder”

I remember West Yorkshire-based five-piece, Embrace (not to be confused with the hardcore punk band of the same name) breaking on to the scene just as Britpop was on the wane. Their debut album, “The good will out”, blended the stadium ready trad rock of Oasis with the grandiose, orchestra compatible sound of The Verve’s “Urban hymns”. So, yes, it was big. And their sound, combined with their honest, almost to the point of trite sounding songwriting, created just as much animosity towards them as it did fans. For my own part, I had drunk the Britpop kool-aid years before so, of course, I loved it.

“Drawn from memory”, the second album by the band, was a lot more toned down and stripped back and I’m not sure if it was that or the continuing Britpop backlash but it did nowhere as well as the debut. For their third album, the brothers McNamara and company tried to mix the best of what worked for the first two albums and it resulted in what I think is their least successful work. However, “If you’ve never been” is not without its bright spots. In my opinion, “Wonder” is definitely one of these.

If you’ve never listened to the group before, you might listen to the song and think: “Man, these guys are riding the coattails of Travis or Keane or early Coldplay”. In actuality, it was the other way around. Much like other songs that could be tersely termed ‘adult alternative’, “Wonder” is inoffensive music that cannot quite be slid into pop territory. It’s big but not too big, espousing a singalong feel and foot tapping beat. And its got this guitar effect that sounds like its moving back and forth between your earphones, almost willing you to sway your head back and forth and mouth the “la la la”s on the bus commute to work.

Yeah. It’s that kind of song. Perfect for a hump day like today.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.