Best tunes of 2011: #12 Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds “The death of you and me”

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One of the earliest posts on my old blog, Music Insanity, was some initial thoughts on this tune, “The death of you and me.” It was the first single off Noel Gallagher’s first album of recorded material that wasn’t released under the Oasis name. And I was pretty excited because, as I wrote at the time, my first thought after hearing that he was leaving Oasis was: “God, I hope he releases some solo material!”

As great a frontman as his younger brother Liam was and is, I was always certain that Noel was the more talented of the Gallagher siblings. He was definitely the more gifted as a songwriter and I would argue that he has a better voice. It’s not for no reason that of all Oasis’s songs, I always preferred the ones on which Noel took the microphone for himself (“The masterpiece”, “Don’t look back in anger”). Don’t get me wrong. Liam has a great voice and he certainly had the stance and the swagger down but Noel didn’t need any of that.

A few months before the release of “The death of you and me”, the leftovers of Oasis had released their own first collection of new material without Noel under the moniker, Beady Eye. And although there were some good songs on “Different gear, still speeding” (e.g., “The roller” and “The beat goes on”), I will admit that I was a bit disappointed with their album. As my friend Andrew Rodriguez so eloquently put it, at the album’s best parts “they simply sound like Oasis”. It was as if they changed their name just to signify a break from their Oasis past but in reality, were still so deeply mired in it. Beady Eye would go on to release another album (and another disappointment) before calling it quits in 2014.

Liam finally hit the mark with a solo album, “As you were”, in 2017 but Noel Gallagher, on the other hand, hasn’t ever really looked back, just continued doing his thing with his new band The High Flying Birds. I remember seeing Noel and the band perform live in 2016, the set a mixture of his solo work off the group’s first two records and some of the songs he wrote in the Oasis days, having the whole crowd in his hands, and me thinking to myself, “It doesn’t at all look like he needs an Oasis reunion”.

And well, “The death of you and me” is the single that started it off. There’s no mistaking that it’s Noel but it doesn’t sound like an Oasis re-hash. Yes, some of the Oasis hallmarks are there (the violin backing and the anthemic chorus) but he has infused a carnival/sideshow theme into the song (also reflected in the video) that would have never appeared on an Oasis album. The song is also instantly likeable, something lacking in many of the songs on the Beady Eye albums and also on much of Oasis’s later material. I guess what I’m saying is that if I were to compare: I’d say it sounds more “What’s the story” than “Dig out your soul”. As a lead off single, “The death of you and me” definitely did its job. After hearing it, I was looking forward to the rest of the self-titled album and thankfully, it didn’t disappoint.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2011: #13 The Rural Alberta Advantage “North star”

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Just after Christmas in December of 2011, I joined my friend Tim on a short road trip out to Cambridge to visit his friends Greg and Wendy. They had recently opened a used records and book store called Millpond and we met up with them there to check it out, just before they closed for the day.

(I browsed their record selection with some interest, though I was still a few months removed from starting my collection in earnest.)

Afterwards, we went out for dinner, where there were plenty of laughs and reminiscences and of course, talk eventually turned to music. The fact that I had recently starting blogging about music was raised and I showed them the home page on my iPhone, which at that moment was deep in the depths of my first ever end of the year, best albums countdown. Wendy exclaimed that she liked the look of one of the album covers and when I looked at the one about which she was talking, it was The Rural Alberta Advantage’s sophomore album, “Departing”. Its cover art is mostly white, what looks like a mostly untraveled two lane highway obscured by whiteout conditions, snow sliding across the asphalt, a set of headlights barely visible in the near distance. Incidentally, it aptly foreshadowed our drive back to Toronto as we were hit by one of those surprise snow storms particular to the areas surrounding Lake Ontario.

Without digging back in the archives of my old blog, “Music Insanity”, I couldn’t tell you what position “Departing” held in my top ten that year but I think if and when I redo it on these pages, this album would still be somewhere in the mix. The Rural Alberta Advantage is an indie rock trio, that despite their moniker are actually based out of Toronto. Their sound is the happy melding of Nils Edenloff’s rough guitar manhandling and raw vocal chords vocals, Amy Cole’s delightful keys and other percussion flourishes and her soft touch backing voice, and of course, Paul Banwatt’s frenzied impression of Animal punishing the drum kit. Every song on the album, nay, on all their albums, is an adventure.

The first half of “North star” is more sparse than the usual RAA tune. Cole’s piano chords are like a punctuation on Banwatt’s drum rhythm, those that just chug along like the sleepers on a night train, above whom the glass ceiling looks over the prairie night sky and the stars are everywhere, a million pin holes in the night. Then, the piano becomes more than an accent and fills all the rest of the empty space with chimes and bass reverberations. Edenloff, meanwhile, is almost restrained, singing forlornly about a love that might never be.

“We’re far apart under the same sky,
You’re diving in the dark I’m in the city’s lights,
Wishing just to see you for another night.”

If you’ve never listened to the RAA before, I suggest you give the song below a go. You’re welcome.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

Vinyl love: The National “I am easy to find”

(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: The National
Album Title: I am easy to find
Year released: 2019
Details: black, 180 gram, gatefold sleeve

The skinny: As promised on Thursday, I headed out to one of my local record shops on Friday to procure myself a copy of The National’s eighth and latest studio album, “I am easy to find”. I’ve seen a lot of pics on Instagram already this weekend of the special coloured and clear versions and of course, the expanded multi-coloured set but I opted to get the 180-gram, double album pressing in black for my collection, though I did hold the expanded set in my hand for a few minutes. The album is another change in direction for the five-piece, this time enlisting a platoon of female vocalists to add their touch to the lush instrumentation and to Matt Berninger’s by-now-well-known baritone. I am just now on my third spin through and will likely give it a few more goes on this May long weekend.

Standout track: “Rylan”