Vinyl love: Blur “Leisure”

(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: Blur
Album Title: Leisure
Year released: 1991
Year reissued: 2012
Details: 1 of 7 in Blur 21, anniversary box set, black vinyl, 180 gram

The skinny: The debut album by Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James, and Dave Rowntree, also known as Blur. It’s a bit messy, not knowing whether to lean towards baggy or shoegaze, two sounds that were both on their way out. Still, some fantastic tracks here.

Standout track: “There’s no other way”


Best tunes of 2010: #20 Stars “Fixed”

<< #21    |    #19 >>

We’ve now reached the number twenty spot on this list of my favourite tunes of 2010 and it’s “Fixed”, the first single released off Stars’ fifth album, “The five ghosts”.

This particular album is one of the last albums that I was so hotly anticipating that I immediately rushed out to buy it on compact disc (another being one which will remain nameless because it might have a song or two later in this list). And I distinctly remember taking the car out after work, the day it was released, hitting a few stores and not finding it. I definitely remember thinking that the lack of real music stores still standing was quite sad and their selections and stock levels sadder still, the available shelf space having been replaced by DVDs, graphic novels, games, and other pop culture bric-a-brac. I was starting to get really desperate when I finally found a single copy at the second Best Buy that I tried. Crisis averted, I unwrapped it on the way out to the car and threw the disc in the player for the drive back home. I was zero percent disappointed, even despite the senseless, drawn-out search.

Stars are a five-piece indie pop band based out of Montreal that formed in New York in 2000 but whose members all grew up in Toronto. They make beautiful and grandiose pop music that you can often dance to and that usually has a social conscience. My favourite of their long players is 2004’s “Set yourself on fire” with “The five ghosts” likely taking second place but all of their albums boast some incredible tracks that dig themselves deep under your skin and become part of your being.

Their vocals are a responsibility shared between Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, often trading verses on the same song, but this one is all Millan, her light touch juxtaposed against the rousing instrumentation. Campbell only comes in periodically as backing support, their voices layering beauty as per usual. Yet with Millan sporting similar vocal styles here as her close friend and ex-roommate, Emily Haines, “Fixed” almost feels like Metric tune. The drumming is peppy and the synths keep pace, urging any and all listeners to get up and dance, no matter where they are, the bus, a crowded sidewalk, or with a broom in the kitchen, and forget everything but the beat. It’s bliss, it’s love, it’s fun.

“We all end floating away.”

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.


Best tunes of 1990: #16 Soup Dragons “I’m free”

<< #17    |    #15 >>

This may come as a shock to some of you out there but I must admit that I heard this cover by The Soup Dragons well before I heard the original. In fact, I’m not certain that I’ve even heard The Rolling Stones’ version to this day. I briefly thought about logging on to Spotify this week to confirm but decided it wasn’t really necessary. Listening to The Soup Dragons’ version is enough to discern that this is a song that well matches the Jagger swagger and embodies the Stones’ sound. I can well imagine that the original didn’t include the sampling effects nor the vocal flourishes of reggae singer, Junior Reid, and I could go either way as to whether a gospel choir graced the Stones’ version, though given it was a B-side (to “Get off my cloud”), I’d wager no.

This cover of “I’m free” was one of biggest hits for the Scottish alternative rock band (the other being “Divine thing”) and the song for which they are best known. It is definitely the first track by them that I ever heard. It fit in quite nicely with a lot of the other music that I was listening to at the time so I took note of their name. Of course, I didn’t know then that The Soup Dragons were Scottish and that they came out of the same scene as another of my favourite bands of the era, Teenage Fanclub. I just assumed that they were from Manchester like all the other bands that were considered “baggy”, espousing that magical blend of soul, psychedelia, and acid house beats.

In fact, the sound of this track and the rest of “Lovegod” was the result of experiments with sampling and drum machine beats, due to the lack of a physical drummer when they were bound for the studio. A happy accident, I’d say. They would go on to release two more albums, further evolving this sound, including the aforementioned, popular single “Divine thing”, before splitting in 1995.

This version of “I’m free” is the perfect tune to kickstart August and set it off on the right track. Upbeat and uplifting and with an irrepressible groove, it is almost guaranteed to bring the sunshine. Cheers!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.