Vinyl love: Lush “Blind spot EP”

(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: Lush
Album Title: Blind spot EP
Year released: 2016
Details: 10″ vinyl EP, 45 rpm

The skinny: For fun, you can consider this here the bonus ‘hidden track’ to my series detailing Lush’s five-disc vinyl box set, “Origami”. Last week, while finishing it off, I mentioned that “Topolino” was their final full-length release. But it wasn’t their final final release. In 2015, just about two decades after their dissolution, the remaining, living members of Lush re-formed, played a handful of shows that went so well that they turned it into a full fledged tour, complete with stops on the festival circuit all over. Somewhere in the midst of all this, they found time to record new material, an EP called “Blind spot”, which name-checked and somehow blended the band’s varying sounds from the distinct eras in their way too short original career. I wasn’t able to make it to the show they did in Toronto, which is too bad because shortly thereafter, they announced their second breakup. Luckily, I managed to score one of these highly sought after 10” EPs at one my local shops because it’s a lovely post script to the music of one of my favourite 90s bands.

Standout track: “Out of control”

Best tunes of 2012: #21 The Maccabees “Ayla”

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As you might have guessed by now, I’m of that rare breed of music maniac that can and does listen to music while doing pretty much any other activity, whether it be reading, cooking, doing chores around the house, or whatever. It used to be that I couldn’t even fall asleep without music playing, though my wife broke me of that habit. And my office day job (back when I did actually go in to an office) was one at which I was often able to put on my headphones and listen to music, as long as it didn’t bother those in the next cubicle. Back then and even now, when I am really busy and I need to hunker down and concentrate, I’ll plug my earphones into my iPod and throw on some tunes to drown out other distractions. I’m certain it improves my productivity.

It was during one of these work/rocking out sessions that I fell hard for The Maccabees. I had written about their third and as we now know, penultimate album, “Given to the wild”, on my old blog as part of this series I did that highlighted my three favourite albums released each month. They were a new-to-me band and got me excited at the time but then, as often happened in those days with all the new music I consumed, I moved on to the next dozen things and promptly forgot about them. Still, the album remained on my iPod for months and on that day at work, this very song, “Ayla”, came on and I lost my place in the briefing note I was working on.

The Maccabees were a five-piece from London, England that existed for a grand total of thirteen years and four albums. They toured with the likes of Bloc Party and Florence and the Machine, other acts from around the same time and place that also mined the post-punk sounds of the seventies and eighties to create fresh tunes to great effect. “Given to the wild” did very well for the group. It was panned by Pitchfork but was praised by the NME and garnered them a Mercury Prize nomination.

Listening to “Ayla”, you might make comparisons to those recent bands I mentioned above but you can really trace The Maccabees back to iconic acts like Talking Heads or David Bowie’s Berlin-era. It is a-thrum with wandering piano arpeggios and cranky guitar riffs filtered through refracted light. Like many of the songs on “Given to the wild”, it is so big sounding that it begs to be performed at Royal Albert Hall with a full orchestra and choir, à la Spiritualized. The video below follows a man on a bicycle racing towards some unknown goal while the sky does some funky things. Not the most brilliant piece of storytelling but the music is quite delicious.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2012: #22 Family Of The Year “Hero”

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Family of the Year was formed in California in 2009 by brothers Joe and Sebastian Keefe, as well as James Buckey, who were all veterans of the Boston alt-rock music scene in the late 90s. California native Christina Schroeter joined the group not long after, solidifying the indie folk band’s roster and adding her female vocals to give the group its trademark harmonies. A debut album called “Our songbook” appeared almost immediately after their formation, suggesting that material had been percolating for a while, and then, their major label debut was launched three years later. “Loma Vista” was actually my introduction to them (and still the only album by them in my collection) and this meeting came a year after its release, in 2013, because they were slated to play the local summer music festival (remember those?) and they piqued my interest.

Family of the Year’s set was quite amazing and the album got a lot more play after I saw them than it did beforehand. I especially fell in love with the single “Hero”, a track that had been released earlier, albeit as a shorter and not nearly as finely realized version. This song was then used for the trailer and as de facto theme song for Richard Linklater film, “Boyhood”, in 2014 and became a hit of sorts for Family of the Year. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the film but it’s a long one, following the protagonist throughout his formative years. What makes this coming of age flick different from the rest, though, is that it was filmed real-time as the actor (and his co-stars) aged through those same formative years, making the pay off at the end all the more worthwhile. The film also imbued the song with more meaning for me, burnishing the protagonist of the song’s reluctance to stand out, and dancing all emotional and heroic in spite of himself.

“So let me go
I don’t wanna be your hero
I don’t wanna be a big man
Just wanna fight with everyone else”

“Hero” pulls into you tightly with its jangly arpeggiating plucking on the acoustic guitar, the light brushing on the snares, and the way each eases their way out of the ether. Synth washes are just there, like the flickering shadows just beyond the reach of the campfire, and then, just at the song’s apex, comes a touch of electric guitar, but more as support than overpowering force. The rest of the band joins Joe Keefe here, singing as a crowd, cheerful and uplifting. And then, the song ends as it began, quiet and acoustic, leaving a slight but definite smile on your face as the last note fades.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.