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Best tunes of 2003: #23 Sloan “The rest of my life”

<< #24    |    #22 >>

“One thing I know about the rest of my life
I know that I’ll be living it in Canada
I know I said I’ll share the rest of my days
But I was only going through a phase”

In spite of myself, I became a fan of Canadian alt-rockers, Sloan, in the mid-90s, especially with the release of their 1996 album, “One chord to another”. Like many Canadian rock fans, I was seduced by their jangly pop hooks, Beach Boy harmonies, and the brilliance of their three pronged attack of songwriters. Hits like “Coax me”, “People in the sky”, “The good in everyone”, “The lines you amend”, and “Everything you’ve done wrong” were universally acclaimed and loved, and I count myself among the many that still consider these timeless classics.

Shortly after 1997, though, I stopped buying their albums for a while and was really only familiar with their radio singles. I was aware of their continued success and indeed, still adore many of the tracks released around this time. But when I started to wean myself off of commercial radio in the early 2000s, I began to lose track of Toronto-based quartet.

Then, one day, at some point in 2005, my wife Victoria* was humming a song around our apartment and I asked her what it was.

“You don’t recognize it?”

“No,” I laughed. This was a game that played out between us often when she got a song in her head. She rarely knew the name of it or who performed it and I could never unpack her attempt at the melody. This time, though, she actually knew who it was. Or, she thought she did.

“It’s one of your bands. Suede. Or is it Sloan?”

She always got those two mixed up, even though they sound nothing alike. Nevertheless, over we went to my desktop computer and I gamely started cycling through all the Suede and Sloan songs that I knew. However, none of them fit the bill. After a while, I ran out of Suede songs released before their 2003 breakup and I started going through Sloan songs that I’d heard of but with which I wasn’t too familiar. Finally, I landed upon a track called “The rest of my life” and this was it.

The channel call opening, the jaunty drum beat, the early Beatles’ pop simplicity, the singalong and the over-the-head hand-clapping chorus. Penned and led on vocals by Chris Murphy, “The rest of my life” was the first single to be released off of Sloan’s seventh album, “Action pact”, the group’s concerted and last ditch effort to break into the States. It’s a feat they likely never satisfactorily accomplished but they did manage to start reeling this particular music fan back into the fold.

And it’s all because of this song introduced to me by Victoria: “Someone with whom I’ll spend the rest of my days…”

*Back then, though, she was still just my girlfriend, partner, and best friend, marriage was still a few years off.

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

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Best tunes of 2003: #24 David & the Citizens “Until the sadness is gone”

<< #25    |    #23 >>

I can’t be completely sure how I ever came across this song but if I had to guess, it likely would have come to me care of American independent music magazine, Under the Radar.

I remember the first time I came across it, perusing the shelves at Chapters while my wife looked through vegetarian recipe books, and though I don’t recall who was on the cover, they must’ve drawn my interest because I flipped through the magazine and it was like its creators had the exact same tastes in music as me. It’s usually me having to locate my wife when finished my own wandering of the shelves in the store but on this day, my wife had to come find me. She wasn’t surprised to see me holding a music magazine but I think my excitement made her stop and take note. I blathered on and showed her pages and pictures and she patiently listened for a few minutes before suggesting I buy it and bring it home for more study.

And so I did.

And I started a regular occurrence of buying a copy of the magazine whenever I saw it on the Chapters magazine shelves. And then, one Christmas, my wife surprised me with a year’s subscription to the magazine, which I duly renewed the following year. Under the Radar has long since become a digital only magazine and website but I still refer to it regularly and it has been a source of many musical discoveries over the years, bands and artists of whom I would likely never otherwise have heard had it not been for its excellent articles and reviews. As I inferred before, David & The Citizens* and their dazzling sophomore album, “Until the sadness is gone”, is likely one of these finds.

The Swedish indie pop outfit was formed in 1999 by David Fridlund. He had named the group after a radio manual he had found but later removed the words “Band Tranceiver” from the end of the name to shorten it for public consumption. The group then went through many lineup changes and released a handful of EPs and full-length albums and even saw a modicum of success in their home country. But it wasn’t until three years after its initial domestic release and its Swedish Grammy nod that their second album managed to see the light in North America. “Until the sadness is gone” was given a new cover when Friendly Fires Records issued it in 2006 and this is the one with which I am most familiar. The group released a third album around this same time, which was also quite good, but then went on hiatus shortly afterward. Many years after moving to North America, Fridlund has returned to music and has resurrected the band but under a slightly different name: Citizens Band Orchestra.

The first two tracks on that 2003 album were both released as singles and the latter one, “Graycoated morning”, did quite well at home. But it’s track three, the title track, that I just love. “Until the sadness is gone” is frenetic acoustic guitar strumming set against an energetic klezmer rhythm, all dressed up with horn blasts and Conor Oberst-like snarling vocal angst. It goads you into getting up and losing yourself in dance, in music, and in letting both cure what ails. Yes, the power of music.

“And it won’t get bigger
It won’t get better
But put that record on and dance with me
Until the Sadness Is Gone“

*Were you concerned my digression would never return to the song at hand?

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

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Best tunes of 2003: #25 The Stills “Still in love song”

<< #26    |    #24 >>

“We were lovers
We were kissers
We were holders of hands
We were make believers
Just losing time”

The four original members of Montreal’s The Stills – vocalist and guitarist Tim Fletcher, guitarist Gregory Paquet, bassist Olivier Corbeil, and drummer Dave Hamelin – met when they were all still teenagers. Each performed in various bands prior to forming The Stills in 2000 and perhaps because of these previous experiences, they quickly gained a following based on their heavy duty live show. They finally released their debut album, “Logic will break your heart”, late in 2003 to critical acclaim*, earning favourable comparisons to Echo & the Bunnymen and fellow post-punk revivalists Interpol. They would go on to release two further albums before amicably splitting up in 2011. The band’s members continue to work in the industry, in other bands, and doing session or production work for other great Canadian acts.

It’s unfortunate to me that the quartet didn’t have more success and longevity, given the promise of their outstanding debut. I remember being super excited when I first heard “Logic will break your heart”, right around the time that I heard “Turn on the bright lights”. I admit that I didn’t feel the same way about those latter albums but that original excitement never waned and I often found myself putting on the debut when I felt the urge to be dark and sombre and angsty.

The third single off that debut would forever remain my favourite by the quartet. “Still in love song” can be universally understood by all but those who have never had a love crushed by someone over whom that person chose someone else, a career, or whatever other passion.

“And you said you’d rather live in TV land
Than say that you care
But you don’t
That’s heartless and I will not cry”

Musically, the tune is – purely and simply – post punk revival at its best. Sinister, arpeggiating guitars, menacing bassline that won’t quit, punishing and bass heavy drum rhythms, snarling vocals, and all this captured in stasis in a vacuous and hermetically sealed wind tunnel. It’s a song that begs repeat plays, tailor made for ear phones and closed eyes and all sorts of other mopery.

*Discounting, of course, the lambasting they received from Pitchfork.. and I always will.

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