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

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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”

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“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.

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Best tunes of 2003: #26 Black Box Recorder “Andrew Ridgeley”

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Black Box Recorder was formed in 1998 when Luke Haines, who had found previous success with his Britpop-era band The Auteurs, formed a duo with former Jesus and Mary Chain drummer John Moore and the two of them approached Sarah Nixey to provide vocals. I myself didn’t get into the synth-based, indie pop trio right away. In fact, it was my friend Tim that suggested I give their 2003 album, “Passionoia”, a go, likening their sound to that of Saint Etienne but with the dark lyrical content of The Auteurs. Tim was dead on and of course, I loved the album right off. Unfortunately, like most of Haines’s projects around that time, the project was short-lived, and “Passionoia” ended up being the group’s third and final album.

Track seven on said album was a fun number called “Andrew Ridgeley”. That’s right. That Andrew Ridgeley.

“I never liked George Michael much
Although they say he was the talented one”

A portrait of the artist as young music fan is turned on its head in Haines’s hands. He writes a fictional version of singer Sarah Nixey’s youth, who dutifully reads her lines in that fabulous sing/speak thing she does. A lovelorn teen who buys her first record because of the lesser known half of Wham!, and then discovers the reason why you should never meet your heroes. Randy Andy tumbles down from the sparkling clouds in her eyes when she spies him many years later and she realizes he is only human.

“I was brought up to the sound of the synthesizer
I learned to dance to the beat of electronic drums
I came alive to the smouldering fire in your eyes
I love you now and I will til the day that I die”

Musically, “Andrew Ridgeley” is a synth pop suite in three movements: the tentative and twinkling verses, the picked up and thunderous dance floor choruses, and finally, the breathy and joyful puffed up clouds. If only all pop music was this smart.

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