Best tunes of 2010: #29 Shout Out Louds “1999”

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Next up for this best of 2010 list is “1999”, a track off Shout Out Louds’ third album, “Work”.

Formed in 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden, Shout Out Louds are a five-piece indie pop band centred around childhood friends Adam Olenius, Ted Malmros, and Carl Von Arbin. They have released four albums to date, the first two to critical and commercial acclaim and the latter two getting a bit of a cold shoulder by the critics. Much of this aversion was due to their eschewing the doom and gloom on 2007’s “Our ill wills” for a return to a more light and sunshiny pop on “Work”. Personally, I’ve been a fan of both sounds and don’t mind at all the lighter fare, especially since I find that Shout Out Louds, like many of their countrymen, do it so well.

These guys will forever remind me of an ex-coworker who introduced me to their music perhaps a year or so before “Work” was released. I haven’t seen him or talked him in a few years but I think if we ever met in the street, we’d fall into an easy conversation, like no time had passed. We were about the same age, had similar tastes in music, and we even shared given names. He was a super nice guy but I always felt a bit bad for him because he was the administrative assistant in our work section, a job he never really got the hang of and I think it stressed him out quite a bit. Every morning he would come in with an extra-large Tim Horton’s quadruple-quadruple. For those of you reading this from outside of Canada and unfamiliar with our staple coffee shop’s lingo, that was a gigantic coffee with four creams and four sugars in it. Needless to say, he was pretty jittery for the whole day.

But hey, back to our song: “1999.” It’s the opening number on “Work” and gets things rolling with pep and a jump in its step (kind of like an XL quadruple-quadruple might). Wonky piano tinkling underpins a driving drum beat and leads to some dancing chords and some otherworldly guitar effects just off in the distance. And through it all, vocalist Adam Olenius rolls out the spirited lyrics with plenty of backing supports that feel pulled from the golden 50s. Indeed, its all very nostalgic in sound and tone. Interesting, though, that Olenius here is singing wistfully about a time that was only a year removed from 2000.

“I do remember, like a punch in the face. I never felt so alive since 1999.”

It’s a great summer song and could easily be adapted to apply to a sunny and warm spring day also… and it looks like we’re about due for a few of those so turn it up.

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

Best tunes of 1990: #25 Spirit of the West “Save this house”

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The first time I remember hearing Spirit of the West was one Friday night circa 1991, while watching Good Rockin’ Tonite. They were doing a feature on the Canadian music scene and the final video they played was the one for “D is for democracy” off “Go figure”. It initially caught my attention because the accordion player, Linda McRae, was wearing a Wonder Stuff (of whom I was a fan) concert T in the video but the song quickly grew on me as well. I would go on to fall in love with (what I would later learn was a reinterpretation of) “Political”, off that same album, and bought “Go figure” based on that. Months later, I procured “Save this house” as one of my many “9 albums for a cent” shopping sprees from either BMG or Columbia House and it would become a perennial mainstay in my CD player, most definitely during the summers of 93, 94, and 95. It wasn’t long before Spirit of the West was one of my favourite bands and to this day, they’re tied with Stars and Spiritualized as the band I’ve seen the most times live. I would see them again in a New York minute but unfortunately, they’ve broken up.

Spirit of the West were a Vancouver-based Celtic folk rock band that was formed in 1983 by John Mann, Geoffrey Kelly, and J. Knutson. The last of these departed three years into their run and was replaced by Hugh MacMillan and the aforementioned accordion player, Linda McRae, joined not long after. On a tour of England in support of “Save this house”, they met and played some shows with The Wonder Stuff. This meeting was the impetus behind SOTW adding a drummer and incorporating more of a rock edge to their sound (and also likely where McRae got her shirt). The group would go on to become quite popular in Canada in the 90s, not just on the strength of their albums but also of their energetic and fun live shows.

“Save this house” is the title track and the high energy opener off their major label debut, their last before they “went electric” with the help of drummer Vince Ditrich. At a mere three minutes in length, it’s a song that packs a wallop. It commences with a funky groove (if you can call celtic folk funky) but it’s not long before the chorus and the frenetic acoustic guitars kick in and you just want to jump up and save whatever house John Mann and crew are looking to rescue. In this case, though, it’s a rough task to take on because their target is the planet Earth. They’re calling for an end to the house party that’s been trashing our home for years.

“The welcome mat’s worn out, the roof will never mend, the furniture’s on fire, this house is a disgrace. Someone change the locks before we trash this place.”

Indeed.

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

Best tunes of 1990: #26 Jane’s Addiction “Stop!”

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Señores y señoras… it’s Friday! A perfect day to unleash song number twenty-six: Jane’s Addiction’s “Stop!”

In the fall of 1990, my friends and I were still very much in love with the claustrophobic angst of Nine Inch Nails’ brilliant debut, “Pretty hate machine” and by then, we were all listening to Nitzer Ebb and Ministry and some of us, even Skinny Puppy. Industrial was the buzz word of the day. It was all we wanted to hear and what we were all on the lookout for. And in the midst of all this, a friend (who will remain nameless) slipped me the “Ritual de lo habitual” cassette, telling me that this was the latest in Industrial. I listened to the tape and loved it right off, but didn’t think the sound fit in with those other bands. Still, we were young, what did we know about genre? We didn’t have Wikipedia and Pitchfork telling us everything we needed to know about music. But we knew what we liked.

And we definitely liked Jane’s Addiction.

“Ritual de lo habitual” was the four-piece LA-based group’s third album and the last before the first incarnation of the band was dissolved. Jane’s Addiction started out a few years earlier with their unconventional, self-titled debut, which was a live record that featured early versions of now iconic tunes and covers of songs by The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones. Then, their sophomore release, 1988’s “Nothing’s shocking”, was a proverbial sucker punch to the solar plexus, the original lineup of Perry Farrell, Eric Avery, Dave Navarro, and Stephen Perkins unleashing a loud and brash cacophony of metal, funk, surf, punk and psychedelia on the buying public. Though many people see “Nothing’s shocking” as Jane’s Addiction’s best work, I prefer “Ritual”. Sure, it’s a drug-fuelled mess at times but it is still quite accomplished and cohesive and of course, it was my introduction to the influential alt-rock band.

“Stop!” is the starting point on the epic journey of the album and was one of two lead off singles to be released from it (the other being “Three days”!). The Spanish introduction plays like a post-modern gimmick, the female announcer revving up the crowd of listeners for Jane’s Addiction to leap up onstage and punish their instruments. Navarro wails away on the guitars, somehow seeing through the heroin haze, and the rhythm section of Avery and Perkins shift gears from fast to slow to fast again with apparent ease. And the ringleader of this circus of freaks, Perry Farrell, comports himself like a man unhinged, his whines and screeches perfect to shout along with as your body is being tossed about like a ragdoll in the mosh pit. It’s all fun and games until you lose one of your 16 hole docs or a Birkenstock sandal in the fray.

…Stop… now go!

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