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Best tunes of 2011: #1 Frank Turner “I still believe”

<< #2

“Hear ye, hear ye, friends and Romans, countrymen.
Hear ye, hear ye, punks and skins and journeymen
Hear ye, hear ye, my sisters and my brethren.
The time is coming near.”

Well, I did it. As I mentioned in my last post in this series, just over a week ago, I had been quietly planning over the last couple months to wrap this list up before the end of this year so that I could start with a 2012 list early in the new year. This one has been an awesome list and it’s great to finish it up with such a great song, with a message so near to my heart, so close to the start of a new year and a new decade.

I fully realize my number one tune, “I still believe” by Frank Turner, was released as a single in 2010 but it appeared on the British singer/songwriter’s fourth album, “England keep my bones”, the following year, the year of our focus. Again, my list, my rules. I also didn’t even hear this song until 2013, around the time that Turner released his next long player, so I definitely wouldn’t have had “I still believe” at the top of the list for either year at the time. For me now though, this tune is timeless. A classic.

It was my younger brother Michael that turned me on to Frank Turner. He throws me names every once in a while of artists he thinks I might appreciate and more often than not, he’s right. It just so happened that I decided to give Turner a listen on my road trip to my old hometown of Bowmanville in June 2013, a quick trip down to attend my grandfather’s funeral. I arrived the day before his burial, just in time to go the viewing, and spent the night at my Aunt Joan’s place, the house I grew up in. I was pretty exhausted so I retired pretty early. I lay down on a single bed in a room I slept in as a teenager, put on my ear phones, and queued up Frank Turner on my iPhone.

“And I still believe (I still believe) in the saints.
Yeah, in Jerry Lee and in Johnny and all the greats.
And I still believe (I still believe) in the sound,
That has the power to raise a temple and tear it down.”

Frank Turner got his start in a post-hardcore band called Million Dead but went solo as folk and punk type bard in the mid-2000s. That night, listening to the first couple tracks of “England keep my bones”, I immediately likened him to Billy Bragg, but perhaps leaning more towards the punk than the folk. Nonetheless, I could hear in every note, the sincerity and optimism and passion. And of course, like Billy, Turner doesn’t hide his rough-hewn working class accent, nor does he shy from letting us know what he really thinks. And when I got to track three, I just fell in love.

Here’s a song that knows that as bad as things get, whether you’re tired, sick, lonely, or just trying to sort out how you feel about losing your grandfather, there’s always music. Rock and roll and rockabilly and punk. A guitar, drums, perhaps some piano, and a rollicking chorus. Music from way back and off into the future. Frank Turner set fire to the tune that I replayed over and over and over that night, and took away the numbness, and I‘ve been singing along with it ever since.

“Now who’d have thought that after all,
Something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll would save us all.
And who’d have thought that after all, it was rock ‘n’ roll.”

Amen.

 

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

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Tunes

Best tunes of 2011: #2 Young Galaxy “We have everything”

<< #3    |    #1 >>

Happy Friday all! Yes. A wonderful Friday indeed because it is also my last day of work this year. I can hardly believe we’ve reached the end of another year and really, another decade. It feels like not that long ago that we were just ringing in the beginning of this year.

So anyway, you may have noticed that I’ve been counting down my favourite albums of the year on each Tuesday for the past few weeks and am poised to unveil my number one on New Year’s eve morning. Well, that’s not the only list I’m hoping to wrap up before the end of the year. I’ve also been quietly trying to get to the end of this Best tunes of 2011 list, quietly because I wasn’t sure I would have the steam to finish up two lists in one month and still have time to go Christmas shopping. It’s looking good right now but we’ll have to see what the next week will bring.

Incidentally, the number two song on this list appears on the album that came in at number one for the inaugural end of the year series on my old blog, Music Insanity. I said back then that Young Galaxy’s third album, “Shapeshifting”, was one that “didn’t resonate with me immediately but with repeat listens, my appreciation grew”. This is a trend that pretty much rang true for the rest of the Canadian indie pop band’s albums, save for their first. No. Their self-titled debut grabbed me right away because it fell right smack into my wheelhouse but after that, they challenged themselves and their fans right with them with each successive release, as their sound and personas changed from psych rock, dream poppers to synth-driven, art pop machines. Indeed, when I wrote about “Peripheral visionaries”, which appeared at number sixteen on this very list, I already talked about how the electronic sound from “Shapeshifting” grew out of a cross-ocean collaboration with Swedish producer, Dan Lissvik, so I won’t tread already familiar ground here.

“We have everything” is very likely the most uplifting and danceable track on the album. Sounding a little bit Blondie, a little bit New Order, and a little bit space rock, it has a toe hopping beat, an addictive synth melody, and Catherine McCandless singing up a storm over top it all. It shimmers and chugs along, ice fog whisping across the monochromatic, old school computer screen, and plenty of lasers flitting, obscuring reality and leaving you screaming for more.

Just watch the video (and while you’re at it, go back and watch the one for “Peripheral visionaries” because they are related thematically) and turn it up. Loud. And just dance. It’s Friday, for goodness sake…

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

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Best tunes of 2011: #3 Sloan “Unkind”

<< #4    |    #2 >>

Last summer after seeing Canadian alt-rock icons, Sloan, in concert for the first time ever, I shared some pics and a few words, for which if you missed the post, you can find here. I had mused, then, about how the group played pretty much every song, save one, that I would’ve wanted to hear. This is a quite a feat when you consider that I’d been listening to them for almost twenty-five years, a period during which they had released eleven full-length albums. In the comments section afterwards, I had a bit of jive with Geoff from 1001albumsin10years, comparing notes on our favourite songs written by each band member, and I admitted that the one song they didn’t play was perhaps my favourite of theirs of all time. And yeah, that song was “Unkind”.

In 2011, Sloan were celebrating twenty years together as a band so when they released their tenth album that year, they called it “The double cross” as a play on the Roman numeral representation for the number twenty. It was their shortest album to date at just under 35 minutes but it was typical in that each band member contributed their own songs to the finished product and that the album rocked in totality.

“Unkind”, a Patrick Pentland penned tune, was the only single to be released from the album but it was enough to get me to pick it up. It is the second longest track on an album of short quick hits but I personally wouldn’t mind it being even longer. It’s got this raunchy but ripping, guitar riff that was built for ‘raising the goblet of rock’. The drums are all over the place and yet definitely organized enough for you to nod you head and tap all your hands and feet, as if you’re frantically playing the air drums. The patented Sloan harmonies are here too, of course, all members jumping in to perfect the chorus.

This song brings me so much joy. It is an almost flawless rock song. And so close to hitting the number one spot in this list. Stay tuned to see what beat it.

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