Best tunes of 2000: #9 Björk “I’ve seen it all”

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The year 2000 was my last full year living in Toronto before moving to Ottawa the following year. At the end of the summer of 2000, I moved to an apartment in Roncesvalles village and fell in with the neighbourhood. It wasn’t quite as hip and happening as it is now but it had some cool shops and restaurants and also a repertory theatre called The Revue. I spent a lot of time in that theatre, being that it was only a block from my building and admission being only slightly more than renting a DVD. I don’t remember all of the films I watched there but I definitely remember seeing “Dancer in the dark”.

The film is one not easily forgotten. Indeed, it is a real feel bad movie.

Directed by Lars Von Trier, it features Björk as Selma, a nearly blind, factory-working, single mother who escapes her existence to a daydream world of Hollywood musical numbers. I’ve heard (but cannot confirm this) that Von Trier came up with the film’s concept and hand selected Björk for the starring role after seeing her music video for “Oh so quiet”. She wrote all the music for the film and co-wrote the lyrics with Von Trier and Sjón. Björk then released the songs on a nine-song album called “Selmasongs”. The highlight number in both the film and the soundtrack is the breathtaking “I’ve seen it all”, a song for which she received an Oscar nomination for best original song. This, of course, led to an outstanding performance at the ceremony, where she wore the “swan” dress, which sadly, is more remembered than said performance.

On the version of “I’ve seen it all” on “Selmasongs”, she duets beautifully with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke (singing the parts sung by Peter Stormare in the film) over a jarring rhythm line that morphs from the chugging of a train at the intro. Strings abound and you can almost see the technicolor images of Thom Yorke as Jeff, a man in love with Selma, as he tries to convince her to use her life savings to correct her vision. Meanwhile, Selma has long-since decided to selflessly use it to prevent her son from suffering her fate from the same degenerative disease. He pleads with her, listing the things she’s never experienced, “You’ve never been to Niagara Falls?” But Björk is unshaken. “I have seen water, its water, that’s all.”

Heart-breaking, much like her performance in the film.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1990: #19 Deee-lite “Groove is in the heart”

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How do you say… Deeee-grooooo-vy????

Ooh-la-la! La-la-la-la-la-la!

A million dollar question, for sure. You might be able to do so with the help of Towa Tei, Lady Miss Kier, and one Supa DJ Dimitri. Throw in a guest rap by Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest and the bass stylings and vocal flourishes of funk master Bootsy Collins and you’ve got one hell of a dance number. Dig.

The Deee-Lite we know and love became real once Towa Tei joined the already existing duo of Kier and Dimitri, forming an international supergroup of sorts. The American-based trio had a string of hits that were spear-headed by “astronomical” uber-hit “Groove is in the heart”, off their debut album “World clique”, but really, that one single is all that anyone ever remembers. The group only lasted a handful of years and three albums before disbanding, though the individual members have all gone to have successful solo careers as club DJs.

This sort of tune isn’t typically my bag. Guilty pleasure? Absolutely not! It hooked me hard in my youth and never truly let go. It’s hard to argue with Bootsy’s killer bass line, the one that insinuates itself into your soul like some sort of designer drug, whose only side effects are to chronically force you into already packed dance floors. The frenetic and funky beats don’t hurt at all, and neither do the ridiculously infectious vocals. This song has found itself on the playlist of most wedding receptions in the last two decades for good reason. Like “The Macarena” and the “Grease Mega Mix”, it’s a crowd-pleasing, dance floor filler that for some reason or other, appeals to all generations. But unlike those other tracks, this one has a bit of soul.

Unfortunately, the video hasn’t aged as well as the song. I remember watching this technicolor, ridiculous mess at the time and thinking it was cool and that Lady Miss Kier in her catsuit and nails was where it was at. Now, I just shake my head and close my eyes and turn up the volume.

This song, right here, is how you spell de-groovy. And it’s a perfect spin to kick off a weekend so… Kick it.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1990: #20 Inspiral Carpets “This is how it feels”

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For the next song in my best of 1990 series, I am reposting some words, with permission, by long-time friend, Andrew Rodriguez, who, back in the day, introduced me to the Inspiral Carpets. I had asked him for 200 words for my old blog, Music Insanity, just a few of his thoughts on this song, expecting to have to build a post around his words, but he delivered me this. I think it stands on its own:

The Inspiral Carpets. It is actually painful for me to admit that I CAN’T recall when I first actually heard them. In 1990 I was firmly entrenched musically and stylistically. I was a Mod. A friend of mine had already introduced me to The Stone Roses. He would later introduce me to Blur. I am being humble when I say that I was one of the first people in Canada to hear either the Roses or Blur. But somehow…I sort of missed the boat with Inspirals. It didn’t take me long to get on board however.

But this is not about me per se – this piece is about the Inspiral Carpets, who I grew to love, and who I believe have been sorely overlooked. More specifically, it is about the song “This Is How It Feels”. And maybe it is about me, maybe it is about anyone who ever felt lonely – without being depressed. Or who felt depressed without feeling lonely. That sounds a bit fucked doesn’t it? Well that is the VIBE that I always got from the Inspirals. The Inspiral Carpets have a ridiculously impressive catalogue of albums and singles.

And they were basically holding it down on their own. The British music press labelled them ‘madchester’. But they basically worked in a world that was pre ‘britpop’. They were not part of a movement. They were simply a band playing simply good music. And for John (the creator and driving force behind music insanity! who also happens to be one of my best and longest standing friends) and I, and others who really just wanted a soundtrack to grow up with…the Inspirals delivered.

“This Is How It Feels” was the second single off their first LP. It was – well it was fucking 1990. Music was crap. The song paints a sort of grim picture. Back then we were too young to fully appreciate how powerfully sucky life can actually be. But – in an era before hyper connectivity, when all you could hope for was hunkering down with your walkman at night, watching the red battery indicator light and listening to tunes…this music SPOKE. And it continues to speak. Catchy tune, simple, but down to earth lyrics. It is not a dancefloor packer by any stretch – but it is highly danceable (trust me). And thoughtful. A good mix. And – I never felt lonely listening to Inspiral Carpets.

Somewhat downer lyrics, and slightly melancholic tones…that are completely offset by the staccato drumming and the upbeat nature of the chorus. This song – there were two versions so far as I know – the North American version had slightly more ‘radio friendly’ lyrics, which I only found out recently – and there were two videos. One for Britain, one for North America. The North American one is what I grew to love – both video and song version.

But regardless – in this song you have spirit, you have honesty, and you have hope. Throw in a catchy tune, some competent organ playing, and you cannot go wrong. This is a song that you can listen to – walking in the rain, driving, relaxing, or dancing. Thoughtful. Reflective. And timeless.

UK version:

US version:

 

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.