Best tunes of 2010: #25 Library Voices “Drinking games”

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Like P.S. I Love You, who started this particular list off at the number thirty spot, I discovered Library Voices through seeing them live at Ottawa Bluesfest in 2011. But unlike the former, I didn’t listen to any of Library Voices recordings in advance and so my first real introduction to their music was their live set.

They made quite the first impression as all eight of them filed on to the stage and the way they performed, all passionate and chaotic, trading instruments and jumping into the admittedly sparse crowd at different points, led me to describe them to a friend later as a poor man’s Arcade Fire. It’s a description I immediately regretted saying out loud but the similarities in their live show sensibilities were too obvious to ignore. And when I later purchased and listened to their debut full-length, “Denim on denim”, I was able to add another Canadian indie rock band as a comparison point: The New Pornographers. If you like either of these two bands, Library Voices might just be worth a look for you.

Library Voices banging the drum in the middle of the crowd (Bluesfest 2011)

They were formed in 2008 in Regina, Saskatchewan by a group of musician friends and there were 10 of them at the beginning! They have since released a couple of EPs and three LPs in total, the latest of which, last year’s “Lovish”, saw the band drop all the madness, pare down their personnel, and focus more on the power pop. It’s a good sound for them but I still hold a soft spot for their early tunes, the big sound, the blue eyed innocence, and the pure joy, though I must say the one constant in all their material are the smart and literary lyrics.

“Drinking games” starts off “Denim on denim”, an album of party ready numbers, with a tune about a party girl, who’s “not one for love but sure loves the chase”. The singer is quite aware of who she is and what she’s like but despite his claim that he’s “too old for these drinking games”, you can tell that he’s fallen for her just the same. It starts of with a capella harmonies that sound funnelled through an AM radio. After two go rounds of the chorus, the bass line and handclaps join the house party. Eventually, the whole crew joins in, sometimes whispering, sometimes shouting, sometimes banging loudly on the tambourine. They are digging through crates of records, spilling red wine on the new couches, vomiting in the kitchen sink, and pretty much drinking every last beer in the fridge. Library Voices are definitely not the quietest friends at your party.

But often these are good friends to have.

(And oh yeah, if I haven’t sold you yet and you haven’t pressed play on the above video, there’s a lovely little nod tossed in near the end of the tune for all of you Cure fans. Cheers!)

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

100 best covers: #99 The Rural Alberta Advantage “Eye of the tiger”

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I’d be rather surprised if any one of you was to tell me they’d never heard the original version of “Eye of the tiger” by Survivor. It was the theme song for the third installment of the “Rocky” series (the one in which Stallone does battle with Mr. T!) and was released as a single the day after the film hit theatres. It is the American hard rock band’s biggest hit, attaining certified double platinum status and sitting atop the Billboard 100 charts for six weeks in 1982.

To say that this cover by Toronto-based indie rock trio, The Rural Alberta Advantage, is a bit less well-known is tongue-in-cheek hyperbole on my part. I first heard this performed live on a Spring evening back in 2011. I dragged my wife out to the now-defunct Ritual nightclub in downtown Ottawa to see this band I discovered at Bluesfest the previous summer. We were treated to a highly energetic and entertaining set, during which frontman Nils Edenloff was left alone on stage a couple times to perform a pair of covers, all acoustic like. The first of these was “Maybe tomorrow”, the “Littlest hobo” theme song (for Canadian fans of this classic TV show, you can check that one out here), and the other was this awesome cover of Survivor’s massive hit.

I think Victoria recognized it as “Eye of the tiger” before I did during the show but she definitely wasn’t as impressed as I was by the cover. She’s not really a fan of covers and she’s of the opinion that certain songs should just be left alone, this song being one of them. You see, she’s actually quite the fan of Survivor’s original version of “Eye of the tiger”. She describes it as one of those songs that always makes her want to move and has been a favourite of hers to put on mixes designed for working out. I can’t really argue with any of that but I think this cover is also special, mostly because it completely changes the mood of the original. Edenloff slows down the pace a tad and replaces the uppercut and left right hook combination on the muscular hard rock guitars with a quiet and lonely pluck on the acoustic. His voice is pained, almost wistful and tired where the original Survivor vocalist, Dave Bickler, was triumphant and full of adrenaline.

I’m not saying The Rural Alberta Advantage’s “Eye of the tiger” is better than the original but it feels to me like it actually has a bit more edge, kind of like it’s after the fight and the reality of all those rounds have set in. Have a spin of both and let me know what you think.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

Best tunes of 2010: #26 The Drums “Best friend”

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The Drums are an indie pop band out of New York City that were formed by childhood friends Jonathan Pierce and Jacob Graham. In 2008, Pierce relocated to where Graham was living in Florida to start collaborating on material and they later moved to Brooklyn where they fleshed out the band to a four-piece with Connor Hanwick (drums) and Adam Kessler (guitar). They were tapped as the next big thing by everyone from Pitchfork to the NME, even before they released their debut, self-titled LP (on which this song appears) in 2010. They have since released two more albums but internal friction and disagreements have meant that the band gradually lost members along the way. These days The Drums consists only of Jonathan Pierce and he has album number four coming out on Friday.

“Best friend” will always remind me of a trip my wife and I took out to British Columbia in 2011, over a full year after this single’s release. We spent three days in Vancouver before visiting Victoria and Whistler, and all of this during the Canucks crazy run at the Stanley Cup that year. (As you recall, they didn’t win and there were riots.) On our final full day in Vancouver, we were visiting the shops in Kitsilano after eating a fine vegetarian lunch at The Naam and happened into Zulu Records.

My wife always urges me into record shops in cities that we’re visiting and feigns interest herself while I take my time browsing. This was almost a full year before I started collecting vinyl but that was the section I found myself gravitating towards anyway. At some point, I recognized the song playing in the store but couldn’t place it right away. It sounded retro but I knew it was new and hip and at that moment, was really digging it. I even caught my wife subconsciously swaying to it at the other end of the store. But the band’s name was escaping me. It finally came to me well after we had left Zulu Records and we had made our way to Kitsilano beach.

Was it the beach that reminded me that the song we had heard was “Best friend” by The Drums? Perhaps. The song certainly is summery and bright, and calls to mind friendships of days gone by, that could very well have found their roots in the loose and warm grains of a sandy beach. It is jangle and reverb and peppy drumming, the sun glinting off the rim of a pair of sunglasses worn by a beautiful girl. Perhaps your teenage crush, perhaps the girl that never noticed your affections but instead, she dated the most popular guy in high school and considered you her best friend. Cheers to that!

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