(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: Spiritualized Album Title: Sweet heart, sweet light Year released: 2012 Details: Limited edition, 2 x LP, white
The skinny: Spiritualized’s latest record “Everything was beautiful” ended up on the top of my list of best albums for last year and to celebrate, I decided to kick off this new year with a ‘Vinyl love’ post featuring that very same record. Then, I thought, why stop there? And so, you’re now in for a prolonged Spiritualized ‘Vinyl love’ series, starting their 2012 release, “Sweet heart, sweet light”*, and going backwards chronologically from there. To be honest, this one is the least played in my collection. Not but because I dislike it, understand, but because it was nearly the last one to be added to my shelf. I remember seeing it on the merch shelves when I saw Jason Pierce and company touring for the record, thought about, but opted instead for a copy of it on CD because I was still very new to collecting vinyl and didn’t yet have a turntable. I’ve often heard that the only regretted purchases are the ones not made and I definitely did regret leaving that record there. I finally remedied my error a few years ago at a record store in Toronto.
Standout track: “Hey Jane”
*I’ve already featured Spiritualized’s 2018 album “And nothing hurt” in this space.
What is it with Iceland, this tiny island country with a population hovering between 300,000 and 400,000, that keeps producing not just talented, but groundbreaking musicians? Is it something in the volcanic ash or all those dang waterfalls? First, it was The Sugarcubes and Björk in the late 80s, followed by Múm and Sigur Rós in the late 90s, and then, in 2012, Of Monsters And Men were suddenly the darlings of the indie rock world.
The group formed in 2010 when singer/songwriter, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir decided to flesh out her sound with a full band and flesh it out she did. By the time they were signed to Record Records in 2011, they were up to six members and typically added a couple more on stage for good measure when performing live. Their debut album, “My head is an animal”, was actually released in 2011 in their home country but it wasn’t long before they were generating buzz outside the small island’s borders, mostly on the back of the song that is the reason for today’s post. I’ve included “Little talks” as my number one favourite song of 2012 (despite being released the year before) because this is the year it was officially released in North America and just a few months earlier was when I came across them and quickly fell for them.
I actually have work colleague, Jean-Pierre, to thank for turning me on to Of Monsters And Men*. He mentioned their band name one day as we passed each other in the office hallway, as we were wont to do, back when we were actually working in the office. Indeed, we often shared the names of bands and especially, the names of songs to which we were currently listening and typically, name dropped other band names as points of reference. In this case, The Decemberists and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros set off alarm bells in my head so I made a mental note and set about investigating later that night.
As I already hinted above, “Little talks” generated tons of buzz with the indie hipsters, on the net, in blogs everywhere, and on college radio. And with very good reason. “Little talks” is one of the catchiest pieces of pop gemstones that you might ever hear. It definitely benefitted from the surge of interest at the time in indie-folk music, mostly generated by bands like The Decemberists, The Lumineers, and Mumford And Sons. “Little talks” shared some of the qualities of these types of acts (“Hey!”) but the female/male vocal interplay also had me drawing comparisons to The Beautiful South and the varied instruments and big sound was reminiscent of Arcade Fire.
It’s a beautiful, whimsical, and uplifting song. It’s happiness. It’s magical. It’s timeless. It’s love.
“Though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore”
*Although, given how big they became, I’m pretty certain I may have noticed them eventually.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here
As some of the more frequent visitors to this blog may already be aware, I’m something of a Blur fan and have been since the beginning.
I borrowed a copy of their debut album “Leisure” shortly after its release and dubbed it to a C90 cassette tape*, one which I darned near wore through. Their next two albums, “Modern life is rubbish” (1993) and “Parklife” (1994), were amongst the first CDs I would ever buy and I pretty much ate up everything they served thereafter. Even though Blur’s seventh album, “Think tank”, was my least favourite to that point, I was still very saddened at the news of the hiatus they announced in 2004.
They kissed and made up** at the end of 2008 and played a number of huge shows throughout 2009. Then, for the 2010 edition of Record Store Day, they issued a brand new 7” inch single called “Fool’s day”, which was distinctive for being the first recording to include the work of guitarist Graham Coxon in almost a decade.
Then, in February 2012, the band were deservedly recognized for their “Outstanding contribution to music” at the Brit awards. I don’t typically watch awards shows so I found out about it a few days later and while reading up on it and watching video clips on YouTube, I learned some even more exciting news. Apparently, Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon had performed a three-song set at a Brits pre-show put on in support of War Child, two nights earlier, that included a brand new song called, “Under the westway”. It was so new that Damon was reading the lyrics from a sheet of paper because the song ‘had a lot of words’. I remember tracking down a shaky fan filmed video of this performance. Then, I watched it more than a few times, easily enough to fall for this new piano-heavy number, a tune that reminded me somewhat of a David Bowie ballad. Needless to say, I liked what I heard and began to hope that there was more new material where that came from.
I started seeing ambiguous tweets from the Blur camp a few months later. When they finally came clean, Blur announced that they would be releasing two brand new tracks, the aforementioned, “Under the westway” and another called “The puritan”, on July 2nd. To add to the excitement (like I needed more), Blur was to perform both songs, live, at a ‘secret location’, and stream them over the Internet, the first song at 6:15pm and the second at 7:15pm BST. Immediately afterwards, the songs were made available for download on iTunes with a special edition, double A side, 7″ single to be released later. It was all a brilliant ploy by a band that pre-dated the ‘Internet’, embracing technology and the brave new world of music.
But it wasn’t just all fireworks and no substance. Both of these were great tunes, especially “Under the westway”, which ranks up there with my all-time favourite tunes by the band.
It’s sad but glorious. Old veteran soldiers of Britpop and London town, looking down at it all, the smouldering wreckage, the changing times, the ghostly memories. It’s like they’re revisiting home and realizing they can’t go back, only forward, and though it hurts, they sit down and write a song about it all.
“For the way I feel about you
Paradise not lost, it’s in you
On a permanent basis
But I am going to sing”
It is seamless and easy and perfect. And I can just listen to it over and over and over.
*On the other side of which was recorded Chapterhouse’s debut “Whirlpool”.
**Not literally, of course.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.