Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2003: #22 The Dears “Lost in the plot”

<< #23    |    #21 >>

…And we’re back.*

“Our love, don’t mess with our love
Our love is so much stronger”

The Dears are a Montreal-based indie rock outfit that formed way back in 1995. Their membership has been in constant shuffle and flux over the years, the only real constants being frontman, Murray Lightburn, and his partner in everything, Natalia Yanchak, though even she came to the party a little late. The group released their debut album, “End of a Hollywood bedtime story” in 2000 but it wasn’t until their sophomore release, 2003’s “No cities left”, that the indie rock world really started to take notice. In fact, this album is now considered one of the great albums of the early 2000s Canadian indie rock renaissance, right up there with “Funeral”, “Set yourself on fire”, “You forgot it in people”, and “Old world underground, where are you?”.

I remember first listening to the album, perhaps a year after its release, picking up on all the Britpop references and glorifications, thinking that it might require a deeper dive, and then, promptly putting it down again for lower hanging fruit. And then, near the end of 2005, I caught wind that Ottawa was getting a new alternative rock radio station** and that their soft launch involved playing great alternative rock without commercials or DJ interruptions. I listened to it as much as I could for the month or so that it lasted. And one day in the car, I remember hearing a familiar song one day, remember thinking that the vocalist sounded a lot like Morrissey but that the music sounded awfully like Radiohead, circa “OK Computer”. Upon later research, I realized that said track was “Lost in the plot” from the aforementioned Dears sophomore record, which then begged immediate and repeat listens. I finally became a fan of The Dears and my attentions have yet to wane through the six albums that followed over the next fifteen years.

“And I promise not to cry anymore
All the reasons beat the crap out of me
Everyday when I wake up they are waiting”

“Lost in the plot” was the second single to be released from “No cities lost”. It is a sonically sinister and intergalactic five minutes of beauty. The guitars jangle like Marr and Lightburn warbles like Morrissey but there’s a ton more layers here and at the bridge, things change tack to a hip-shaking swagger that might make Brett Anderson blush. Yeah, there’s more than a bit of Britpop pastiche going on but it’s also forward, rather than retro thinking. Indeed, it’s an explosion of passion and love and hope and that’s a plot I don’t mind losing myself in on the regular.

*I took an unscheduled blogging holiday over the past couple weeks, in part to rest these old bones from attending five nights of concerts in the span of two weeks and in part to just recharge.

**To fill the void created when XFM went adult contemporary and was rebranded as CISS FM in 2004

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

Categories
Tunes

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.

Categories
Tunes

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.