Best tunes of 1993: #23 The Cranberries “Dreams”

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As I mentioned in the preamble to this list, I started working at our small town’s 7-Eleven store in the spring of 1993 and due to this job and some of the people I met working there, I often consider the summer of that year one of my most memorable ever. Specifically, in terms of this post, there was a trio of young ladies that were hired at the same time and shortly after my own start date at the store. I worked many overnight shifts with either Tori, Michelle, or Heather and got to know them over late night and early morning conversations. They were all only in my life for a short while and though I don’t even remember any of their last names and couldn’t tell you what any of them are doing now, they all left their mark.

Heather, for instance, was hilarious, had a big smile, and was always jokingly threatening to poke my eyes out. But most importantly for this post, she and I shared similar tastes in music. She was the one that loaned me a cassette copy of the album that to this day is my favourite of 1991: Lowest of the Low’s “Shakespeare my butt”. That summer, though, she was obsessed with this new band out of Ireland called The Cranberries. She described them as jangly, like early R.E.M., but with tinges of celtic mysticism, and with a female front woman that smacked softly of Sinéad O’Connor.

Heather offered to lend me a copy of the band’s debut CD, “Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?”, but for various reasons, this never came to pass. However, after we both headed off to our separate universities in the fall, the name stuck with me, especially after I started hearing the song “Linger” and seeing its video all over the place. I ended up ordering a copy of that debut CD as one of my 10 for a penny BMG introductory offer orders and it was here that I first heard our song for today.

“Dreams” was actually issued as an advance single to the debut album in late 1992 but then, was reissued again in 1994 to lap up all the popularity garnered them by “Linger”. It did manage a bit more sales the second go-around but nowhere near that of the lofty second single, which I consider tragic, given that it is a far more superior track. It is a crashing, flailing, and driving number. It embodies the flutter rush of new and young love, all full of hope and happiness.

“I know I felt like this before
But now I’m feeling it even more
Because it came from you”

It is the one song on the album that I could listen to all day long. It begs loud volumes and full attention. And though I never knew this song at the time, it always manages to transport me back to that summer and brings a smile.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.


Best tunes of 2012: #8 The Shins “Simple song”

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It has now long since rebranded and changed formats but around the beginning of the 2010s, back when I still had a cable television package with Rogers*, I discovered a channel that played music videos for a good portion of its programming. Yes, I know I’ve told this story before, but it’s been a couple of minutes (okay, perhaps more than a year) since I’ve referenced this relatively short fling of mine with AUX TV.  And the story bears repetition given the amount of songs and artists it availed me. Much like Miike Snow’s “The wave”, which came in at number twenty three on this list, it was the music video that caught my eye first, but it didn’t take long for the love of the tune to follow.

The video starts with a dead parent addressing his three adult children in one of those message from beyond the grave type video recordings and knowing that each “hated his guts”, he tells them that he didn’t bequeath the familial home to any of them. Instead, he tells them, the deed is hidden within the home and whoever finds it, gets everything. A chaotic, rough and tumble, and often hilarious treasure hunt ensues, interspersed with VHS home video type clips showing a dysfunctional family history. When the “deed” is finally found and after a bit of hair pulling and choking, it is read and discovered to be a joke, that the house is instead scheduled for demolition that very afternoon. A charming video is made more so by the fact that the principal characters in the video are played by members of The Shins, including a titular performance by frontman James Mercer as the dead father.

I didn’t know anything of this last fact the first time I saw the video, of course, and save for recognizing Mercer and his inimitable vocals, I might not have placed this song as by the same band that played the song that “will change your life”, featured on the “Garden State” film soundtrack. And this is because for the most part, it wasn’t. The Shins hadn’t released any new material for five years up to this point and when Mercer
resurfaced with “Port of morrow”, it was with a completely new band.

“Simple song” was the first single released off this new album and it was anything but a simple song. Starting with haunting organs and ghostly guitars wavering in the attic cobwebs and banging around in the walls, it quickly becomes jubilant and upbeat and hopeful. Mercer wrote it in the comforts of his home, shortly after his marriage and birth of this first child and he was reflecting on everything to come.

“Well this will be a simple song
To say what you’ve done
I told you about all those years
And away they did run
You sure must be strong
And you feel like an ocean
Being warmed by the sun”

“Simple song” dances and frolics in pure happiness and I swear if you don’t have a smile on your own face by the end, one might surmise that you don’t have a soul.

*Remember cable television?

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.


Best tunes of 2003: #29 Sam Roberts “Where have all the good people gone?”

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The sun is at its brightest just as it’s getting ready to dip behind the horizon line. There is a yellow film over everything and it is still damn hot and humid. Clothes are sticking to bodies and bodies are writhing and jumping and dancing chaotically, all tribal and ecstatic. This is how it is on the final day of a ten day music festival. You’d think the crowd tired but great performers know how to breathe life into the weary and of course, adrenaline does the rest.

It is Sunday, July 13, 2014, and there is a large crowd at the second largest stage at the Ottawa Blues festival. All age groups are well-represented. Men and women and all, and all from a myriad of different backgrounds. And everyone is into it. Of course, they are. The singer/songwriter on stage with his recently minted, full-fledged band are a good, hard-working group, truly representative of his Canadian identity and he has a cross-genre appeal.

Sam Roberts is six songs deep into his set, decked out in black denim jeans and a black denim jacket, under which you can just catch a glimpse of the black Clash t-shirt. He is sinewy and muscular, a short man with a powerful exuberance, his short brown hair and rough and tumble beard are soaked in sweat. His face is red and he is giving it his all.

“Oh the Milky Way has gone a little sour
The leaves dried and the flower fell away
I’ve been sitting, I’ve been waiting for a sign
Inhuman beings taking up all of my time”

The song is “Where have all the good people gone”. It was originally recorded for his now legendary debut EP, “The inhuman condition”, and then, re-recorded for his debut album, 2003’s “We were born in a flame”. It was a huge hit for the Montreal-born musician, the 12th most played song on Canadian rock radio between the mid-90s and the mid-10s. So everyone here knows the song and yes, they are singing along, nay, yelling and screaming along with Sam, especially every time he gets to the lines: “Montreal to Hong Kong – Where have all the good people gone?”

The crowd is one, no matter the differences between us, we are united with Sam against the “not” good people. And I’m right there with them, jumping up and down, screaming together with a bunch of quebecois that I had never met before and will likely never see again. The funky bass and drums, the dirty and groovy guitars, and Sam encouraging us all to join in the chants. And the crowd responds, deafening in its approval and belonging.

And for just a brief moment, I stop, look around in amazement, and think that good old Sam might have just joined The Tragically Hip as one of Canada’s favourite live acts. Then, I take another gulp of draft beer from my plastic cup and dive back into moment.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2003 list, click here.