Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2020: #25 Gateway Drugs “Wait (medication)”

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Back on Cinco de Mayo, 2015, I went to see Swervedriver perform at the now defunct Zaphod Beeblebrox in Ottawa’s Byward Market. I had been excited to see yet another re-formed shoegaze legend, but as much as I enjoyed their set, I found myself quite surprised to leave the show even more impressed by the opening act.

Los Angeles-based four-piece, Gateway Drugs, had only just released their debut album, “Magick spells” the month before, and they had already toured as support for noise rock and shoegaze icons Ride and The Jesus and Mary Chain. They were led by a trio of siblings – Noa (guitars), Liv (guitars), and Gabriel (drums) Niles – each sharing vocal duties, while the fourth member, Blues Williams, simply looked cool and accompanied them on guitars and bass. The quartet were all in black, leather, furs, and sunglasses and were playing a garage rock infused shoegaze that sounded at different points like early Dum Dum Girls, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I left the show with a copy of the aforementioned debut album on CD and duly fell in love with it. Its accomplished sound and the pop sensibility that lies just beneath the surface of all those roaring and screeching guitars could easily be traced back to the music surging through the veins of the Niles siblings (children of The Knack’s Prescott Niles).

I was convinced they were going to be huge.

But then, there was nothing but relative silence from the group for almost five years.

Fast forward to 2020, just a few short days after the WHO declared COVID-19 to be an honest-to-goodness pandemic and things started to shut down in earnest, a new Gateway Drugs single appeared, seemingly plucked out of the ether and there finally came the news of the long-awaited sophomore release. I say this last bit with my tongue firmly planted in cheek because perhaps I was one out of only a small handful whose interest hadn’t waned in the interim. This first single really got me excited and that was only multiplied by fifty or so when I learned that “PSA” was produced by The Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner.

“Put myself on a leash, I’d stay
Kill myself just to hear you call my name”

Of course, that first single was none other than “Wait (medication)”, our song of focus today. I’ve read that Liv Niles has called it a reflection on excess, madness, addiction, and how “extreme highs give way to extreme lows.” It’s an apt Coles Notes for the jackhammer drum beat, crunchy bass line, clanging and twangy guitar screams, and the dual vocal assault by Liv and her brother Noa. It is a four-minute salacious stroll down the chaotic and messy trail blazed by the JAMC and the BRMC.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2020 list, click here.

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: Big Red Machine “How long do you think it’s gonna last?”

(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: Big Red Machine
Album Title: How long do you think it’s gonna last?
Year released: 2021
Details: Limited edition, double LP, red opaque

The skinny: This sophomore release by the collaborative effort between Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dessner marks the final instalment in this ‘Vinyl Love’ sub-series featuring my favourite albums of 2021. To be honest, I wasn’t bowled over by Big Red Machine’s 2018 self-titled debut, so I was a bit skeptical and didn’t rush to check out “How long do you think it’s gonna last”. When I finally did, though, mostly at the urging of a couple of my vinyl-loving friends, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the twitchy and anxious painting of this strange world that we are more and more finding ourselves in. Much is made of all the great guest contributions, and they certainly are great, but I think the most compelling moments are when Dessner steps out of his comfort zone and into the spotlight. This limited edition double red LP pressing was purchased from Pop Music Toronto’s online webstore, bundled with the 30th anniversary pressing of “Trompe Le Monde” to save on Canada Post shipping costs. And with all the time it has spent on my turntable, it’s not a purchase I regret in the least.

Standout track: “Magnolia”

 

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: Julien Baker “Little oblivions”

(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: Julien Baker
Album Title: Little oblivions
Year released: 2021
Details: Limited edition, Indies only, embossed cover, yellow, lyrics book

The skinny: Much like Goat Girl’s “On all fours”, Julien Baker’s “Little oblivions” was purchased for my vinyl collection very early on in 2021. However, where that record was sourced from a shop outside of the country, this one was found at one of my local record shops: Ottawa’s The Record Center, to be exact. The Record Center was one of many ‘analog’ brick and mortar shops whose hand was forced to go ‘digital’ and create a larger online presence with the COVID-19 pandemic. Their online webshop is not all encompassing but I’ve landed a few great finds while doing a virtual dig on their site and my 7th favourite album of 2021 was one of them. Baker’s third studio album finds the singer/songwriter embracing a full band sound, adding more strength and structure to the talented lyricist and vocalist’s pallette. It’s beautiful stuff and along with the excellent package and lyrics booklet (complete with scribblings and doodles)*, my copy is of the ‘indies only’ yellow variant ilk.

Standout track: “Hardline”

*I wish more artists invested as much time and effort in their inserted booklets as Julien Baker has done here. Fun to explore and examine while spinning the record.