Best tunes of 1990: #15 The Beautiful South “A little time”

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Being that I grew up in small-town Southern Ontario, Canada, in an age before the wonders of the Internet, it often happened that I came upon a band’s more popular and successful material, long after I did their less successful work. I discovered The Beautiful South’s “A little time” and their second album, “Choke”, years after their debut and third albums had become close friends. Truly, by the time I came across this song and the album on which it appears, I had listened to “0898” countless times (had written all my first year university essays to it), was intimate with each song, and knew most of the lyrics therein, like I knew every acne scar on my young twenty-something face. I never knew then that their third record was seen as a bit of a letdown after “Choke” and that none of its singles had reached as high on the UK singles charts as did “A little time”, their only tune to reach the number one position.

None of this is really surprising given that the band never achieved the same success here in North America. However, I was super eager to follow them as soon as I learned that they were an offshoot of 80s indie pop group, The Housemartins. Formed around the vocals of Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway, The Beautiful South added Briana Corrigan as a third vocalist for “Choke” after she had guested successfully on their debut, “Welcome to the Beautiful South”. And it was the interplay between the three vocalists, especially the male/female sparring, that marked the group’s sound, set them apart, and along with their smart and jarring lyrics, was the likely reason for the modicum of success they achieved over their nine-album career.

“A little time” is a perfect illustration of the band’s magic. Featuring Hemingway and Corrigan on vocals, it jingles and jangles and tells the story of a relationship that sours after the male decides he needs “a little time” to, as he puts it, “think things over” and “find himself”. But when he decides he’s ready to settle down, he learns that the female didn’t sit by the phone to wait for him.

You had a little time
And you had a little fun
Didn’t you, didn’t you
While you had yours
Do you think I had none?

It’s not a little. It’s lots of fun. “A little time” plays the Brechtian-irony card well, pitting the dark and cynical vocals against the rays of the sunshine in the instrumentation. And even if you are familiar with the tune, you should check out the Brit Award-winning video below. It takes the themes of song and expounds upon them, hinting at a domestic battle of epic proportions, leaving the familial domicile a wasteland of flour and pillow feathers.

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

Vinyl love: Blur “Leisure”

(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: Blur
Album Title: Leisure
Year released: 1991
Year reissued: 2012
Details: 1 of 7 in Blur 21, anniversary box set, black vinyl, 180 gram

The skinny: The debut album by Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James, and Dave Rowntree, also known as Blur. It’s a bit messy, not knowing whether to lean towards baggy or shoegaze, two sounds that were both on their way out. Still, some fantastic tracks here.

Standout track: “There’s no other way”

Best tunes of 2010: #20 Stars “Fixed”

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We’ve now reached the number twenty spot on this list of my favourite tunes of 2010 and it’s “Fixed”, the first single released off Stars’ fifth album, “The five ghosts”.

This particular album is one of the last albums that I was so hotly anticipating that I immediately rushed out to buy it on compact disc (another being one which will remain nameless because it might have a song or two later in this list). And I distinctly remember taking the car out after work, the day it was released, hitting a few stores and not finding it. I definitely remember thinking that the lack of real music stores still standing was quite sad and their selections and stock levels sadder still, the available shelf space having been replaced by DVDs, graphic novels, games, and other pop culture bric-a-brac. I was starting to get really desperate when I finally found a single copy at the second Best Buy that I tried. Crisis averted, I unwrapped it on the way out to the car and threw the disc in the player for the drive back home. I was zero percent disappointed, even despite the senseless, drawn-out search.

Stars are a five-piece indie pop band based out of Montreal that formed in New York in 2000 but whose members all grew up in Toronto. They make beautiful and grandiose pop music that you can often dance to and that usually has a social conscience. My favourite of their long players is 2004’s “Set yourself on fire” with “The five ghosts” likely taking second place but all of their albums boast some incredible tracks that dig themselves deep under your skin and become part of your being.

Their vocals are a responsibility shared between Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, often trading verses on the same song, but this one is all Millan, her light touch juxtaposed against the rousing instrumentation. Campbell only comes in periodically as backing support, their voices layering beauty as per usual. Yet with Millan sporting similar vocal styles here as her close friend and ex-roommate, Emily Haines, “Fixed” almost feels like Metric tune. The drumming is peppy and the synths keep pace, urging any and all listeners to get up and dance, no matter where they are, the bus, a crowded sidewalk, or with a broom in the kitchen, and forget everything but the beat. It’s bliss, it’s love, it’s fun.

“We all end floating away.”

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.