Best tunes of 1992: #30 Shakespears Sister “Stay”

#29 >>

One list ends and another begins. And for 1992, we’re starting things off with “Stay”, the biggest and best known single by Shakespears Sister.

The duo was formed when Siobhan Fahey asked songwriting collaborator Marcella Detroit to join her solo project as a full-time gig. Fahey, a founding member of 80s girl group Bananarama, sang lead on the majority of the group’s songs with Detroit contributing backing vocals. “Stay”, the second single to be released off the group’s sophomore release, “Hormonally yours”, was the one anomaly. On this one track, Detroit sang the verses and chorus and Fahey added a darker tone with a combatative bridge. The results are a beautiful song that showcases the differences between their vocal styles, a push and pull, a tug and a scream. However, it was never meant to be released as a single, at least in the eyes of Fahey, which was reportedly the cause of tension between the two when “Stay” actually became a massive hit. It spent a number of consecutive weeks at the top of the UK singles chart and climbed quite high in many international charts as well.

I definitely remember my first exposure to the song being its music video, which got more than a bit of play on MuchMusic and not just on the top 30 countdown. The narrative of the video had a supernatural bent and was one that stuck with many people, the two vocalists representing different factions fighting over the fate of a comatose man, good and evil, light and dark, love and hate, life and death, and perhaps a case of art imitating life. Teenaged me had a crush on both women, a slightly heavier one on Detroit, but back then, I didn’t know about Fahey’s girl group pedigree.

Detroit acrimoniously left the group in 1993, effectively ending things, while Fahey continued on with her solo career. She resurrected the Shakespears Sister name and continued performing under it 2009. And just this year, a reconciliation was announced and Detroit was welcomed back into the fold. Tours have since been plotted out and a new album is in the works.

It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

Best albums of 2008: #5 Elbow “The seldom seen kid”

I’d like to say that I’ve been a fan of Elbow since the beginning but that wouldn’t be technically accurate. The band has been around since 1990 or 1991, albeit under a different name up to 1997 when they adopted their current moniker. I can say, however, that I caught on to their debut album, “Asleep in the back”, shortly after its release in 2001. (Yes, it took them that long to finally get a record out but that’s another story.) The album quickly became a favourite, spent months in my CD carousel, and I would name-drop them as often as possible when talking music with friends. It got so that it was a running joke. But I couldn’t help it. I just couldn’t get enough of this band’s dense atmospheric sound, all anchored by Guy Garvey’s unique, emotive vocals. They were like nothing else out there at the time. I once tried finding a comparison point and the best I could do was put Peter Gabriel in charge of a more-orchestral oriented Coldplay or Gene but even that seemed like I was trying to force it too much. My crush on Elbow only grew over time, as with each consecutive album their sound grew lusher and more complex, and they veered further and further away from those tropes that defined the traditional rock and roll band.

Elbow’s “The seldom seen kid” is the band’s fourth studio album and first on the Fiction records imprint. The album won the 2008 Mercury prize, an honour that the debut was nominated for but did not win. It certainly was up there with the debut as one of my own favourite of Elbow’s albums up to that point, setting a high water mark that its successor, 2011’s “Build a rocket boys!” couldn’t possibly reach.

‘Beauty’ or ‘beautiful’ are terms that are often inaccurately ascribed to music and are terms that shouldn’t be used lightly. But in Elbow’s case, ‘beauty’ is the most apt term I can think of and it could easily be the name of their particular style of music. “The seldom seen kid”, like Elbow’s other albums, doesn’t just create at an atmospheric sound, but whole worlds for you to inhabit, to live and laugh and cry in, as one song bleeds into the next. Each song is painstakingly arranged, the opulent instrumentation acting like a protective carriage to its soul: Garvey’s voice.

If you’ve never listened to Elbow before, “The seldom seen kid” would be a wonderful place to start. Don’t know where to begin? I’d say at the beginning but failing that, here are my three picks for you to sample.


”The fix”: “The fix is in. The odds that I got were delicious. The fix is in. The jockey is cocky and vicious.” This track has the added bonus of being touched by the hand of another talented musician with immediately recognizable vocals: Richard Hawley. His rich baritone vocals jive perfectly with Garvey’s, either while trading coyly or while in pleasant harmony. It is a slinky piece, obviously influenced by Hawley’s mere presence and his penchant for gleefully old-school sounds, tempered with his golden work on guitars.

”Grounds for divorce”: “There’s a hole in my neighbourhood, down which of late I cannot help but fall.” With a song title like this, it’s fitting that the song plays like one a chain gang might sing. From the marching drum beat to the call and response vocals in the intro to the dirty, southern bass line throughout, Garvey us leads through a rousing romp that is guaranteed to get you stomping.

”One day like this”: “So throw those curtains wide, one day like this a year would see me right.” With six and a half minutes of string flourishes, peppy beats, and uplifting vocal twists and turns, this song makes an ambitious bid for the title of my favourite Elbow track. It’s just one of those songs for which the volume can never be turned up quite enough. While listening to it, you want its blissful ecstasy to fill every crevice of your hearing, to blot the sounds of your humdrum day. You want to join in on the singalong refrain that carries on through the last half of the song with the thought that maybe tomorrow will be that day. Yup. Beautiful.


Check back next Thursday for album #4. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Fleet Foxes  “Fleet Foxes”
9. The Submarines “Honeysuckle weeks”
8. Schools of Seven Bells “Alpinisms”
7. Glasvegas “Glasvegas”
6. Spiritualized “Songs in A & E”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Live music galleries: David Byrne [2018]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

David Byrne and brain, live on atage, September 2018

Artist: David Byrne
When: September 13th, 2018
Where: City stage, CityFolk Festival, Ottawa
Context: So I wrapped up my best albums of the year series a few days (and it already feels like years) ago so I thought I’d squeeze in one last post before the end of the year. And what better to focus on but my favourite live set of the year. Yes, David Byrne. I’ve already mentioned on these pages how surprised I was by his performance when I posted about how he managed to squeeze his way into my top ten albums for the year. I’ve been a fairweather Talking Heads fan over the years, loving some songs obsessively but never to the point of investing in more than their greatest hits compilation and certainly not enough to check out much of Byrne’s solo material. So when he was added to Ottawa’s CityFolk, I was curious but I only decided that I would see him for sure in the handful of days leading up to his set. I had no idea what to expect but it definitely wasn’t what I witnessed that night. It was a complete performance. Art and pop joined as one. Minimalist stage set but one that changed the idea of concert, a new idea of space. He had an incredible 11 piece band backing him but even they bucked against the standard ideas for what concert performers should be, equal parts marching band and stage actors. All dressed in matching grey outfits, all movements choreographed, and none tied down by elaborate drum kits or cords of any kind. Byrne was both ringmaster and lead player, running through a catalogue that pulled from his Talking Heads days, solo work and collaborations, with, of course, special focus on his latest album, “American utopia”.
Point of reference song: I dance like this

David Byrne and Chris Giarmo
The killer percussion section
David Byrne, of course
Bobby Wooten, David Byrne, and Angie Swan
David Byrne and the band
Daniel Freedman, Mauro Refosco, Davi Vieira, Gustavo Di Dalva, Angie Swan, and Karl Mansfield
Chris Giarmo, Tendayi Kuumba, Angie Swan, and David Byrne
Mauro Refosco, Davi Vieira, Daniel Freedman, and others
David Byrne and Bobby Wooten
David Byrne close up

Happy new year everyone!