Categories
Tunes

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

<< #30    |    #28 >>

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.

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2003: #30 The Coral “Liezah”

#29 >>

This new list counting down my favourite thirty tunes of 2003 starts off with “Liezah”, a non-single to which I was partial from The Coral’s sophomore album, “Magic and medicine”.

I remember becoming super enamoured with the zaniness of these youngsters’ self-titled debut, especially the infectious hit single, “Dreaming of you”, which appeared at number three on my list for 2002. That album was free-wheeling and full of exuberance and definitely sounded like it had creativity and energy to spare. So it didn’t come as a surprise to me when I heard news of a follow up so soon after I discovered them. In fact, the band members first headed to the studio to work on their sophomore album a mere three months after the debut was released. The sessions were split into a few chunks and were wrapped up in the spring of 2003.

“Magc and medicine” was released on “The Coral”’s first year anniversary, give or take a day, and the difference between the two is remarkable. It’s definitely more polished and tame, something that might not seem like a good thing to all. Where the debut was a melange of everything that made psychedelia great, the scope of the sophomore was more narrow, focused on a bluesier psych-rock in the vein of The Animals. I still enjoyed much of the music and show of musicianship but the lustre was dimmed for me.

Track number three was the exception to all this for me. “Liezah” was even more toned down and scaled back than the rest of the record and yet it somehow managed to share the spark that I saw in “Dreaming of you”. It’s got a bopping baseline that can only come from an upright bass. It’s got a ticky tacky brushing on the high hat and the snare. It’s got a finger picking noodle that sounds timeless and idyllic and breezy. It’s got a restrained vocal turn by James Skelly, showing a gentleness and wistfulness not seen before.

“And every time I think of Liezah
I break down and I start crying
Although she tore me apart
There’s still a place for that girl in my heart”

It’s a song of heartbreak and heartache and bittersweet memory. And yet, “Liezah” never fails to bring a smile and get my toes a-tapping whenever I hear it.

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

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: Camera Obscura “Underachievers please try harder”

(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: Camera Obscura
Album Title: Underachievers please try harder
Year released: 2003
Year reissued: 2008
Details: Black vinyl, remastered, 180 gram

The skinny: Given that it’s June and we are preparing to slip from Spring and into Summer, I thought it was time for a mini Vinyl Love series, one that featured a band that screams equal parts sunshine summer and wistful heartbreak sadness. Scotland’s Camera Obscura is exactly that, sporting a brand of twee indie pop shared by their perhaps more famous compatriots, Belle and Sebastian. In fact, I got into them with their second album, “Underachievers please try harder”, because of their connection to B&S frontman Stuart Murdoch. I did also enjoy the band’s debut, “Biggest bluest hi-fi”, but never did purchase it for my record collection so it is here that where we start our four part journey. This 180 gram reissue was released five years after the album’s initial release and the remastering is quite sweet. It is an album that flashes the potential of a band still finding its feet and yet, nonetheless exhibits some excellent tracks of note.

Standout track: “Suspended from class”