Best tunes of 2002: #22 Sam Roberts “Brother down”

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According to our friends at Wikipedia, an “extended play record, often referred to as an EP, is a musical recording that contains more tracks than a single, but is usually unqualified as an album or LP”. It’s a format that seems to have made a bit of a comeback in the last decade or so, likely as a result of and in conjunction with the return to relevance of vinyl records as a means of releasing music. In an otherwise digital sales and streaming world, the term would be rendered meaningless. Personally, and though I know a number of my favourite bands (see Belle & Sebastian) love the format, I’ve never been big on them, only procuring them in the cases of many of these same bands when I started to turn completist on collecting their musical outputs. It’s likely because for much of my early life, I didn’t have a lot of disposable income to put towards purchasing the music I loved so I had to be picky and found more value for dollar on full-length albums.

Sam Roberts’ debut release, an EP called “The inhuman condition”, was one of the few EPs I ever purchased brand new* on CD. I distinctly remember heading down to the HMV at the Rideau Centre one night after work with a $75 gift card burning a hole in my wallet. I remember wandering around the store many times with various combinations of discs in my hands, not wanting to waste such a rare opportunity in those days on poor choices. Of course, of the four or five CDs I walked out of the store with that evening, excited to get home to start spinning them, that EP was one of them, the relatively lower price and my enjoyment of this particular track whenever I heard it on X101 FM being the two main reasons.

The Montreal-based singer/songwriter has since gone on to great success nationally but I think Sam Roberts’ first single, “Brother down”, really paved the way. The version on the EP is the second version recorded (the first was a demo that you might find floating around) and he redid it a third time when he released his debut full-length the following year. It’s definitely still quite popular and has been a crowd favourite every time I’ve seen him perform live, which is actually quite a few times. It is a fun and funky number, the bongos, handclaps, and call and response vocals that run throughout providing the requisite groove. At the time, I honestly felt and described Roberts as Canada’s answer to Beck and though these days I can’t conscientiously make the same comparison, this particular song does smack audibly of Beck’s mid-90s “Odelay” days. It just makes me want to dance.

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

* As opposed to secondhand, I mean.

Vinyl love: The Decemberists “The Tain / 5 songs”

(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: The Decemberists
Album Title: The tain / 5 songs
Year released: 2004
Year reissued: 2008
Details: 180 gram, black vinyl

The skinny: …And speaking of The Decemberists… In 2004, a year before releasing their final indie album, “Picaresque”, The Decemberists released an EP that was just one long 18 minute song, albeit in five parts, that took for its subject a Celtic myth. A few years later this EP was coupled with their first ever EP, 2001’s “Five songs”, and released on 12” vinyl, an EP on each side. I found a copy of this compilation pressed to 180 gram vinyl on one of my many trips to Vertigo records and couldn’t not buy it. If you’ve got twenty minutes to burn, have a listen and watch of the video below. It’s good stuff.

Standout track: “The tain”

Live music galleries: The Decemberists [2016]

(I got the idea for this 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 one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

The Decemberists, live at Bluesfest 2016

Artist: The Decemberists
When: July 13th, 2016
Where: Claridge stage, Ottawa Bluesfest, Lebreton Flats Park, Ottawa
Context: Back in 2005, I convinced my wife to squeeze in a concert by a band I had recently gotten into on our spring trip in to Toronto to visit her mother. That show by The Decemberists at The Phoenix Concert Theatre would end up being one of Victoria’s favourite concerts, despite having only heard a handful of their songs beforehand, and it goes without saying it was high up on my list as well. It would be just over a decade before I got to see them again live (though I did catch a Colin Meloy on a solo set in the interim). The lineup had changed some in the years since and the band had also since jumped to a major label and gained a much wider audience. The quality of their music, however, has never wavered, nor has their live show. In fact, both of the shows in question ended with the very same song, “The mariner’s revenge song”, and included the requisite audience participation, though the latter show involved some props (see last photo). Being on a major comes with bigger budgets, right?
Point of reference song: Make you better

Nate Query of The Decemberists rocking the bass
John Moen of The Decemberists (and the various stage props)
Colin Meloy of The Decemberists
Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists
Chris Funk of The Decemberists
John Moen and Colin Meloy of The Decemberists
Nate Query on the upright
Chris Funk of The Decemberists on banjo
Jenny Conlee on the accordion
Colin Meloy and his shiny guitar
The Decemberists being swallowed by a giant whale