Best tunes of 1991: #11 The Lowest of the Low “Rosy and grey”

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“I want to take a streetcar downtown
Read Henry Miller and wander around
And drink some Guinness from a tin
‘Cause my U.I. cheque has just come in”

And so starts The Lowest of the Low classic: “Rosy and grey”.

Oh, how many times have I sung along with those words? And how many times have I done something similar, at many different points in my life – a starving student, university graduate with a low wage job, call centre employee in a brand new city, new home owner in the suburbs, middle aged man revisiting the city of his youth and not recognizing it all? The sentiments are still the same, just heading out without purpose, maybe hitting a record shop, maybe hitting a pub, maybe a cafe, and both forgetting and thinking about everything. And for that one day, everything seems rosy and everything seems grey.

I’ve already mentioned how obsessed I was with this band’s debut album when The Lowest of the Low made an appearance on my Best Tunes of 2001 list with a tune they released after the first of their reunions. And really, their debut, “Shakespeare my butt”, is still my favourite of all their albums, with songs like this amongst their number, though they have written some fine songs since. The Lowest of the Low was formed by Ron Hawkins, Stephen Stanley, and David Alexander as a side project when it appeared their primary band at the time, Popular Front, was on the way out. Many of the songs on “Shakespeare my butt” were written by Hawkins and Stanley while still part of that other group so they were well formed and performed by the time the album was released. It’s no wonder to me at all that there is very little filler on such a long album. For an independent release, it sold very well, for a brief time holding the record for units sold by an indie (beaten shortly thereafter by the “Yellow tape”), and has appeared on a handful of best Canadian album ever lists over the years.

“Rosy and grey” is Ron Hawkins songwriting at its best. Jangle guitar and harmonica folk sound and punk rock angst and sensibilities, both literate and juvenile, juxtaposing references to writers (though Henry Miller has become Dostoevsky in recent years) with sexual double entendres (“I like it much better going down on you”). It’s a song for drinking alone or for clinking glasses with your best mates. It always brings a smile to my face, no matter how grey things may seem.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.

Live music galleries: Alvvays [2016]

(I got the idea for this new series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop*. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next week, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

Alvvays live @ Dragonboat Festival in 2016

Artist: Alvvays
When: June 25th, 2016
Where: Ottawa Dragonboat Festival, Ottawa
Context: I had already seen thIs Toronto-based indie pop band just the previous year and though they were good live, they weren’t so mind-blowing that I would’ve gone out of my way to see them again so soon. However, they were announced as headliner for one of the nights of the Ottawa Dragonboat Festival’s free concert series and I just couldn’t turn that down. Indeed, I’m not sure how they continue to do it but this festival continually books some of Canada’s hottest acts and does so without charging a cent for admission. Anyhow, a year of touring definitely agreed with Molly Rankin and her band Alvvays (pronounced “Always”) because they were phenomenal this time around, playing the hell out of their buzz-worthy, self-titled debut and pleasing to no end the indie kids up front with the album’s hits (like the one below).
Point of reference song:
Archie, marry me

Molly Rankin of Alvvays
Kerrri MacLellan, Brian Murphy, and Phil MacIsaac of Alvvays
Alec O’Hanley and Molly Rankin of Alvvays
Molly Rankin, Brian Murphy, and Phil MacIssac of Alvvays
Kerri MacLellan of Alvvays
Molly Rankin of Alvvays

Best tunes of 2011: #21 Peter Bjorn and John “Tomorrow has to wait”

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Much like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s “Hysterical” (whose title track appeared at number twenty-three on this list), Peter Bjorn and John’s “Gimme some” was something of a comeback album for me in 2011, even though neither band had ever really went away.

if you’re unaware of them, Peter Bjorn and John is a Swedish indie pop trio made up of Peter Morén, Björn Yttling, and John Eriksson (see what they did there?). They formed in 1999 but rose to international relevance in 2006 with their third album, “Writer’s block”, an excellent album that I love all the way through. However, many know it simply as the album that hosts the band’s best known song, “Young folks”, a great, great pop tune that if you don’t know, you should most definitely investigate. After their breakthrough, the three members took a bit of time to work on personal projects before coming back together to make a (mostly) instrumental album (“Seaside rock”) in 2008. They followed that up with “Living thing”, a darker experimental album, in 2009. These two albums, while interesting, weren’t my cup of tea. So when “Gimme some” was released a couple of years later, I checked it out without great expectations. Happily for me, though, it was a return to the quirky indie pop sound that caught the world’s ear a few years earlier.

And yes, this trio really does pop well. “Gimme some” opens with this tune, “Tomorrow has to wait”, an invigorating number that was not one of the three singles the band released from the album but it really could’ve been. It pounces on you with the tribal drumming right of the bat. Peter Morén plays the call and response game with his band mates on the verses but this reverts to a shout along fist pump by the chorus. This isn’t a song for watching the dance floor from the sidelines but one for which you could quite easily find yourself right in the middle of the fray, doing the pogo, something you swore you would never do, without knowing quite how you got there.

Yeah. It’s that type of song.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.