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Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #10 Father John Misty “I’m writing a novel”

<< #11    |    #9 >>

Back when I was in university, I managed to weasel my way into the Creative Writing program. I had always fancied myself a writer and managed to put together a serviceable portfolio that apparently impressed someone.  Nonetheless, I often felt like a fraud in those workshops, even though I sometimes managed to create something by chance that I felt was new and real. Notwithstanding, I met some great people back then, likeminded writers-in-training, and we waxed pretension and separately dreamed of writing the next great novel or poem.

So yeah, I always laugh a little bit when Josh Tillman sings the line: “And I’m writing a novel because it’s never been done before.”

I honestly had never before thought about the word in that way: a bunch of pages bound in a sheaf, crammed with words that, strung together, weave tales of grandeur, angst, sadness, and glory. But it’s true. The whole idea of it was all very new at one point and each piece that has been published since is new its own way. And here is this singer, spouting this brilliant line of verse in a stream of conscious song, getting me thinking about the gall of all writers (or just us wannabes), thinking that we have something new to say to change the world.

Yep. This is how I fell for the music of Father John Misty.

I first perused the songs off “Fear fun”, the debut album under this moniker*, when I read that Tillman had previous performed with Fleet Foxes as their drummer. I started out by watching a few of his videos, which in themselves were a bit bizarre, and I must say that I was quickly hooked. The sound struck me as retro sounding but in a whacked out kind of way and the words were hilarious, especially the closer I listened and the deeper I crawled into the woven stories.

I then caught Father John Misty perform live at two separate festivals in 2012 and 2013, both appearances in support of this debut and found his onstage persona compelling and ridiculous. Tillman has since released three more albums since “Fear fun” and I have seen two more live performances and in that interim, he has honed his sound into something all his own, still keeping his storytelling lyrics intact.

Still, I feel closer to his debut than any of his later work, with “I’m writing a novel” being a tune that I always keep close. It’s jump jivin’ guitar and juke joint piano, old school folk rock and psychedelics and Josh Tillman spouting a nonsensical narrative that oddly makes sense and reads like a pretentious cautionary tale. It’s rock and roll for which to take drugs and imagine new worlds.

“Heidegger and Sartre, drinking poppy tea
I could’ve sworn last night I passed out in my van and now these guys are pouring one for me
I’ll never leave the canyon ’cause I’m surrounded on all sides
By people writing novels and living on amusement rides”

*Josh Tillman had previously recorded under the name J. Tillman but put an end to all that in 2009.

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

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Tunes Vinyl

Best tunes of 2012: #11 Young Galaxy “Youth is wasted on the young”

<< #12    |    #10 >>

Happy Thursday everyone!

It’s doubly happy for me because today marks the first day of a two week vacation from work. And to truly recharge, I’ve decided to take a brief blogging break as well. But first, I’ve got something fun to send things off right. I have a song here that provides a unique opportunity to combine a post for my Best tunes of 2012 list with one for my ‘Vinyl love’ series. Let me explain.

In the spring of 2012, I had just started collecting vinyl. My wife had texted me from Greenwich village in New York City where she was visiting a friend. She had happened upon a street sale and one of the vendors happened to be selling used vinyl, some by bands that she knew I loved, and I remember her specifically asking if I wanted Oasis’s debut album on vinyl. When I responded that I didn’t have a turntable, she said that she planned on getting me one. She ended up coming home with “Definitely maybe”, as well as “Talking Heads: 77”, both of which are still on my shelves. Shortly after that, I ventured out on my very first Record Store Day and purchased my first exclusive. A vinyl addict was born.

If it wasn’t for those events, I may not have even flinched when I heard the news that Paper Bag Records was releasing a double a-side 7”, vinyl only release from Young Galaxy. It’s true that the Montreal-based dream pop band had just released their third album, “Shapeshifting”, on Paper Bag the previous year and though it was a departure for them, it was a welcome one and garnered them lots of new attention. It’s also a fact that I had contributed to the group’s Kickstarter campaign a few months earlier to help raised funds for them to travel to Sweden to work again with the producer of “Shapeshifting” for their next album, but this time in person. So I was already excited and on the lookout for news from one of my favourite Canadian bands in years and it didn’t hurt that they were working with my favourite indie label at the time, who I thought for a while, were turning to gold everything they touched. But it was the vinyl already sitting on my shelf that greased the wheel and I placed the online order.

The record arrived in the mail, wrapped in brown paper, a fun touch that the label was doing back then. I brought it home and admired it with plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” before putting it on the shelf with the rest of the small collection I had amassed thus far. I didn’t yet have a turntable so I had to listen to the two songs on my computer, care of the download rights that came with the purchase. I listened to both the a-side and the double-a-side, “Shoreless kid” and “Youth is wasted on the young”, and was struck by how different they sounded (and yet, at the same time similar in aesthetic) to the album they had released the previous year. I thought at the time that these two songs that were heavier on the guitar were either signalling a return to their earlier sound or a last kiss good bye as they soared off into the synthesized horizon. It turns out it was the latter.

“Youth is wasted on the young” starts off feeling a little construction time again with pipes spewing steam and rivets being pounded and then, the Johnny Marr guitars chime in with the jangles and everything kicks into highway driving roars. It sounds very much like 1983, dark and shiny leather jackets and all manner of sunglasses cool. And Catherine McCandless is channelling some Siouxsie Sioux, a strong woman, glamorous and iconic, against the world, keeping up with the frenetic pace of it all. It’s like a love song to both the music of the band’s youth and to the music of today that is just as fresh and fabulous.

I wouldn’t mind dying at all
If it weren’t for the songs I’d miss…
Youth is wasted on the young

See you all again soon.

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

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Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #12 Frankie Rose “Pair of wings”

<< #13    |    #11 >>

I’m pretty near positive that I first came to listen to Frankie Rose’s second solo album, “Interstellar”, because of her impressive resume that included working with bands like Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls. I was likely expecting to hear some 60s girls group wall of sound, given this pedigree*, but this is not what I got. Instead, I voyaged off to space with her, a retro outer space, minimalist and analogue synth heavy, reverb drenched and vacuous. Stanley Kubrick would have been proud.

My favourite song on this record wasn’t either of the two singles that were proudly advertised on the hype label. Don’t get me wrong, “Know me” and “Night swim” are also both excellent. However, there is just something about “Pair of wings” that flirts heavily with near perfection.

The liner notes credit the song to a ‘Wu Li Leung’ who originally wrote the song as “Wings to fly” but initial (and lazy, and perhaps slightly drunken) attempts to track this original down while writing these words came up empty. I will trust our musical artist, though, and appreciate her honesty in giving credit where it is due. “Pair of wings” is a delicate and sweet notion, universal and easily comprehensible, repetition into simplicity.

“All that I want is
A pair of wings to fly
Into the blue of
The wide open sky”

These four minutes of magnificence starts and ends with the ticking of an alien clock. From there, the minimalist synth chords change slowly yet assured, washes upon washes, bells ringing into infinity, rocketing percussion, steam and exhaust, layers of everything and eternity. Rose’s vocals are amplified by the vacuum, her ringing vocals bouncing off planets and moons.

This is space rock that is only such because it is dreamy pop rocked by synths and empty space. It envelops you and assimilates you. If you scream in space, does anybody hear it? And with beauty this palpable, does it matter?

*Apparently, her first solo album, recorded under the name Frankie Rose and the Outs, did follow this line of questioning, but I have yet to listen to this one. So I am unable to confirm or deny.

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