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By the time 2011 rolled around, Death Cab for Cutie had been at it for fourteen years. I had been following them for just over half of that time, discovering them, along with a boatload of others, with their 2003 album, “Transatlanticism”. The Washington-based indie pop/rock band has been pretty solid in releasing quality albums since that time, impressively sustained through a constantly evolving sound. But for some reason, with each album, my interest has faded some. I was fanatical with “Transatlanticism” and then, with 2005’s “Plans” but three albums later, I have been much less so. In fact, when sitting down to write this, I didn’t just listen to this one song. I had to listen to the whole album because I honestly couldn’t remember what it sounded like.
Of course, when I listened to “Codes and keys”, I loved it all over again. It was like I was back in 2011 and I re-experienced the whole gamut of emotions. From the excitement at seeing their name listed as headliner on the main stage on the final night of Bluesfest to the disappointment I felt when I realized I would have to miss it because I had a prior engagement. To the surprise when I heard their set was cancelled that night when the stage collapsed due to a violent storm and the commiseration with those attending that didn’t get to experience them live. They’ve yet to return to Ottawa as promised but I can at least say I got to see them in 2006 when they toured for “Plans”.
“You are a tourist” was the first single released off “Codes and keys” and managed the group their first hit single, charting high on multiple singles charts and hitting number one on a few of these. Written and recorded during the period where frontman Ben Gibbard was married to Zoey Deschanel, the subject matter of the album’s lyrics are less melancholic than previous efforts. The sound, too, is quite a change from its predecessors, being less guitar driven. “You are a tourist” is definitely a drums forward piece, the rhythm catching hold of the listener right away. Meanwhile, the bass line just hangs out, there in the low end, waving hello and minding its own business. The keyboards tinkle and the guitars jump in for flourishes, face grating though they can get at times, just to remind us they’re still there. Gibbard is suggesting that change is a good thing, positively positing that when you feel a tourist in your own town, it’s time to move on.
Yep. I listened to the song and wondered to myself how I let it go so long between listens. It won’t happen again.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.
(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.)
Album Title: Whiplash
Year released: 1997
Year reissued: 2017
Details: Double LP, Black vinyl, 180 gram
The skinny: James’s seventh studio album found itself a place at number four on the top albums of 1997 list I just wrapped a few weeks ago. The fact that I ranked it so high in a year that had so many quality releases shows highly I think of this album and how truly underrated I feel this band truly is. Always grand and deep, James is awesome and this copy of Whiplash will likely spend a lot of time on my turntable.
Standout track: “Waltzing along”
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Pretty much whenever I hear Morrissey, I can’t help but think of my old friend John, whom I grew up alongside. I vaguely remember when his family moved into the neighbourhood, a handful of houses around the corner. We were both very young. We were in Boy Scouts together and though we went to different elementary schools and high schools, we hung out quite a bit after school and on weekends. Much later, when I was in university, he moved to Toronto too. We were housemates for a couple of years but grew apart after we all gave up the apartment and went in our separate directions. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time but will always remember that he introduced me to Morrissey. And looking back, it is obvious now that he emulated the Moz in many ways, was definitely as theatrical and put upon the image of tortured soul.
It was the “Kill uncle” CD that John first lent me, Morrissey’s second solo album. And though “Mute witness” was the first song on it that caught my ear, the song I would rewind over and over again on my cassette recorded copy of the album, “Sing your life” would grow on me to become my favourite on the album. It would also become my wife, Victoria’s gateway to Morrissey when I put it on one of the many mixed tapes I made for her in our early years together. And well, what a great tune it is, albeit slightly unrepresentative of Morrissey’s other work, given its upbeat nature. He appears to be instructing us on how to write songs, hinting that it isn’t all that hard.
“Any fool can think of words that rhyme. Many others do. Why don’t you?”
The funny thing is that I don’t think he ever used this template for his own songwriting. He definitely doesn’t just list the things he loves and loathes. Indeed, “Sing your life” might very well be his most straightforward written song, as if he was attempting a light pop song. But even here, he’s a little jaded.
“And make no mistake, my friend. Your pointless life will end.”
And oh yes, before I go, I’d be remiss and Andrew Rodriguez would have my head if I didn’t mention the rockabilly version Morrissey recorded after the fact with a different set of musicians than appeared on the album. Both are great in my opinion. Cheers.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.