Best tunes of 2002: #28 The Jeevas “Once upon a time in America”

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Crispian Mills is the son of Walt Disney child actress (and Miss Bliss from “Saved by the Bell”), Hayley Mills. He also happens to be the frontman of a psychedelic pop rock outfit called Kula Shaker that came to prominence in the late 1990s. Like pretty much any band from England that had a vaguely alternative pop/rock sound at the time, Kula Shaker was lumped in under the BritPop umbrella. Mills split up the group after only two albums in 1999 with a mind of going it solo but finally re-formed the group in 2005 after a handful of unsuccessful musical endeavours.

The Jeevas was the closest project during this time that Mills had put together to find a sense a stability. Formed as a trio, with two former members of the band Straw, the group actually released two full-length albums in 2002 and 2003, matching the output of Kula Shaker by that point. They are largely forgotten these days, rightly or wrongly, but I always thought they had a few high moments that were worth mentioning at the beginning of the 21st century.

I couldn’t tell you now how I first heard of the group and came upon their debut album, “1-2-3-4”. I was definitely active in looking for new music on the internet in those days, by both new and old favourite bands. Living in North America, I never did hear a lot about Kula Shaker’s dissolution and since I loved their first two records, I was probably searching for news of the group and its frontman on the regular. I definitely remember recognizing the sound in The Jeevas’ music upon first listen. It was kind of like Kula Shaker but without all the traditional Indian instruments, a mimicking of psych rock of the 60s and 70s and Mills’ furthuring his Lennon-like vocals.

There was something about “Once upon a time in America” that stuck for me amongst rest of the songs on “1-2-3-4”. It just popped with all the energy of a live performance out in the hot sun. I’ve never really paid much attention to what Crispian Mills is singing about here but sometimes, that doesn’t necessarily matter. The guitars cavorted between crisply bouncy and messy noise, the drums pound and crash, and Mills just lays it out there. If these three ever made it big, this could’ve been their stadium anthem.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2011: #11 I Break Horses “Winter beats”

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Shoegaze was a subgenre I loved way back in the day (though I likely joined the train just as it was coming to a skidding and screaming stop) so when I started to hear bands incorporating that sound into their music in the mid- to late-2000s, I got pretty excited. And though I never thought much of the term ‘nugaze’, I definitely latched on to a lot these revivalists, of which I Break Horses is but one fine example.

From what I’ve read, the Swedish duo of Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck named themselves after a Bill Callahan/Smog song. Other than that piece of trivia, there’s little else to be found about them, other than the obvious: the names of their two albums, they haven’t released new material in quite a few years, etc. However, I can say that the debut album “Hearts” is a thing of real beauty and around the time it came out, I couldn’t say enough about it. Yeah, I did my damnedest to spread the word. When I got the chance to see them the year following its release, during their tour as support to M83, I jumped at it and tried to convince all of my friends to join me. Unfortunately, this was an uphill task since the majority of my concert-going buddies were going to the same Spiritualized show as I was on the day prior. It was their loss because my second concert in as many nights was just as good as the first.

“Winter beats”, the opening track on “Hearts”, is a thrilling piece of music. It takes the roar and rage of My Bloody Valentine and ups the synth quotient, looping washes and frenetic drum machine crashes, and effects morphed vocals. Oh my. Yes. It is a roaring animal of a thing, flashing strobes, smoke machines, and lasers all over the place, while two silhouettes are up on stage, perhaps one is male and the other female, but you are unsure. Indeed, they are only just barely visible through the smoke and mirrors. You could almost swear the song was conjured up from the ephemera by a machine. Or a ghost. Or an alien.

You could almost swear it might very nearly swallow you up whole. But there are worse fates, I’d wager.

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

Best tunes of 1992: #30 Shakespears Sister “Stay”

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One list ends and another begins. And for 1992, we’re starting things off with “Stay”, the biggest and best known single by Shakespears Sister.

The duo was formed when Siobhan Fahey asked songwriting collaborator Marcella Detroit to join her solo project as a full-time gig. Fahey, a founding member of 80s girl group Bananarama, sang lead on the majority of the group’s songs with Detroit contributing backing vocals. “Stay”, the second single to be released off the group’s sophomore release, “Hormonally yours”, was the one anomaly. On this one track, Detroit sang the verses and chorus and Fahey added a darker tone with a combatative bridge. The results are a beautiful song that showcases the differences between their vocal styles, a push and pull, a tug and a scream. However, it was never meant to be released as a single, at least in the eyes of Fahey, which was reportedly the cause of tension between the two when “Stay” actually became a massive hit. It spent a number of consecutive weeks at the top of the UK singles chart and climbed quite high in many international charts as well.

I definitely remember my first exposure to the song being its music video, which got more than a bit of play on MuchMusic and not just on the top 30 countdown. The narrative of the video had a supernatural bent and was one that stuck with many people, the two vocalists representing different factions fighting over the fate of a comatose man, good and evil, light and dark, love and hate, life and death, and perhaps a case of art imitating life. Teenaged me had a crush on both women, a slightly heavier one on Detroit, but back then, I didn’t know about Fahey’s girl group pedigree.

Detroit acrimoniously left the group in 1993, effectively ending things, while Fahey continued on with her solo career. She resurrected the Shakespears Sister name and continued performing under it 2009. And just this year, a reconciliation was announced and Detroit was welcomed back into the fold. Tours have since been plotted out and a new album is in the works.

It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.