Best tunes of 2010: #28 The New Pornographers “Sweet talk, sweet talk”

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It feels like I just finished writing about The New Pornographers. However, that post is so two weeks ago now and is for a list of tracks from a completely different decade. And I can say with certainty this will not be the last time this Vancouver-based indie rock collective will be mentioned within these pages so let’s get talking about “Sweet talk, sweet talk”, song number twenty-eight in my Best tunes of 2010 list.

“Together”, the band’s fifth long player, was released at the beginning of May but The New Pornographers didn’t get around to releasing a video for “Sweet talk, sweet talk” until the following December. It was produced in conjunction with Oxfam America in support of efforts to raise funds for the cleanup in the wake of the BP oil spill. All three principal vocalists in the song, Carl Newman, Neko Case, and Kathryn Calder appear at the beginning of the video, saying a few words about the impacts this catastrophe had on the people of Louisiana, still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina five years earlier, and trying to keep a seven month old issue (that seemed to have been dropped by the fickle media) in the public’s consciousness. The video shows footage from the devastated coastline, the affected wildlife and the real people whose livelihoods were laid to waste by the tragedy. It is interesting going back to watch it seven years removed from the incident and being reminded of something that seemed so front and centre, something we watched day in and day out in the news and that today, some of us might have forgotten had ever happened.

The track itself is brilliant number, staccato rhythm, vocals, and melodies that call to mind the interminable ticking of a clock and of course, the passing of time. Then, the handclaps kick in to add effervescence to an already upbeat feeling and the harmonizing and trading vocals of the three principals show how beautiful synergy can be. This and the big sound and irresistible hooks are the hallmarks of The New Pornographers’ music. “Sweet talk, sweet talk” truly is a sweet tune, no more talk necessary.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2010: #29 Shout Out Louds “1999”

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Next up for this best of 2010 list is “1999”, a track off Shout Out Louds’ third album, “Work”.

Formed in 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden, Shout Out Louds are a five-piece indie pop band centred around childhood friends Adam Olenius, Ted Malmros, and Carl Von Arbin. They have released four albums to date, the first two to critical and commercial acclaim and the latter two getting a bit of a cold shoulder by the critics. Much of this aversion was due to their eschewing the doom and gloom on 2007’s “Our ill wills” for a return to a more light and sunshiny pop on “Work”. Personally, I’ve been a fan of both sounds and don’t mind at all the lighter fare, especially since I find that Shout Out Louds, like many of their countrymen, do it so well.

These guys will forever remind me of an ex-coworker who introduced me to their music perhaps a year or so before “Work” was released. I haven’t seen him or talked him in a few years but I think if we ever met in the street, we’d fall into an easy conversation, like no time had passed. We were about the same age, had similar tastes in music, and we even shared given names. He was a super nice guy but I always felt a bit bad for him because he was the administrative assistant in our work section, a job he never really got the hang of and I think it stressed him out quite a bit. Every morning he would come in with an extra-large Tim Horton’s quadruple-quadruple. For those of you reading this from outside of Canada and unfamiliar with our staple coffee shop’s lingo, that was a gigantic coffee with four creams and four sugars in it. Needless to say, he was pretty jittery for the whole day.

But hey, back to our song: “1999.” It’s the opening number on “Work” and gets things rolling with pep and a jump in its step (kind of like an XL quadruple-quadruple might). Wonky piano tinkling underpins a driving drum beat and leads to some dancing chords and some otherworldly guitar effects just off in the distance. And through it all, vocalist Adam Olenius rolls out the spirited lyrics with plenty of backing supports that feel pulled from the golden 50s. Indeed, its all very nostalgic in sound and tone. Interesting, though, that Olenius here is singing wistfully about a time that was only a year removed from 2000.

“I do remember, like a punch in the face. I never felt so alive since 1999.”

It’s a great summer song and could easily be adapted to apply to a sunny and warm spring day also… and it looks like we’re about due for a few of those so turn it up.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2010: #30 P.S. I Love You “Get over”

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It’s hump day! So to celebrate, I am kicking off yet another list this lovely Wednesday morning. For those counting, that’s three lists I’ve got going, which should suffice to keep me busy for now. This excellent thirty-song list opens with “Get out”, a track off the debut album by Kingston, Ontario’s P.S. I Love You.

This duo, whose moniker is a play on the initials of its frontman, started out as a solo project for guitarist and vocalist, Paul Saulnier in 2006. He later added drummer Benjamin Nelson when he tired of fiddling with the drum machine on his keyboards. Up to now, they’ve released three long players on Canadian indie label, Paper Bag Records, the first of which was “Meet me at the muster station” in 2010.

I happened upon these guys the following year in 2011 when I saw them live at Ottawa Bluesfest, an annual two week music festival that has long-since stopped being only about the blues. Instead, it offers up a wide range of artists from across the spectrum of genres, a virtual marathon of musical splendor. I’ve been going for a number of years now but I think 2011 marked my third year in attendance and perhaps the year I started doing a boatload of research on the bands playing in preparation. P.S. I Love You was one of the artists that caught my attention almost immediately, earning a spot in my schedule with their pure raw energy. And as intense as their recordings are, their live show upped the ante substantially. Indeed, they didn’t have a large audience to start their set but by their final note, they had amassed quite an enthusiastic crowd. It wasn’t a lot of showboating or guitar noodling, just two guys rocking out on stage and making a lot of noise.

Truly, if you listened to any of the tracks on “Meet me at the muster station” without knowing any better, you might not realize there are only two musicians in the group. Like a couple of other duos I can think of, say The White Stripes or The Black Keys, they present a full sound with their limited personnel, but that’s where the comparisons end. Instead of crunchy blues rock, P.S. I Love You leans heavily towards punk and noise rockers, like Sonic Youth or Pixies. Indeed, you can hear the latter especially with Saulnier’s Frank Black-like yelp and snarl vocals.

“Get out” employs some monstrous earthquake guitar rumbles to kick start the frenetic rim-click drumming. A muscular bass line just adds to the pressure accentuated later on by some alien synth washes. It’s all a noisy cacophony that might be unlistenable in another set of hands but luckily for us, Saulnier has a sweet pop sensibility that brings at all together. Then, of course, when he tears in with his don’t-give-a-shit vocals, you feel like you can join in and scream along with him. This is a track that should not be played quietly.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.