Vinyl love (revisited): Arcade Fire “The suburbs”

(I started my Vinyl Love posts pretty much right after the launch of this blog to share photos of my growing vinyl collection. Over time, the photos have improved and the explanations have grown. And looking back at a handful of the original posts in this series, I found myself wanting to re-do some of them so that the posts are more worthy of those great albums. So that’s what I’m going to start doing… not on the regular, mind you, because there’s plenty of other pieces in my collection still awaiting their due.)

Artist: Arcade Fire
Album Title: The suburbs
Year released: 2010
Details: black vinyl, double LP, gatefold sleeve

The skinny: The original Vinyl Love post for this Grammy-winning third album by Montreal’s now infamous indie rock collective was posted to this blog on May 19, 2017*, almost three and a half years ago. I wrote then that frontman Win Butler called it “neither a love letter to, nor an indictment of, the suburbs – it’s a letter from the suburbs.” Two songs from the concept album then appeared on my Best tunes of 2010 list in the months that followed: first, the title track was slotted in at number twelve and the standout song below came a very close second to the number one for that year. For me, “The suburbs” is one of the best, if not the very best album of 2010** so it was a no brainer for me to pick up this original pressing early on in my collecting days. Ten years following its release, it still sounds as fresh as ever.

Standout track: “Sprawl II (Mountains beyond mountains)”

* Don’t go looking for it. As I post these “Revisited” pieces, I intend to rid the internet of the original evidence as soon as I can. This is, of course, the point of these posts.

** I guess we’ll see if I ever get around to counting down my favourite albums for 2010.

Live music galleries

Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: #5 Future Islands – Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

(This year’s edition of Ottawa Bluesfest has been cancelled, for obvious reasons. In previous years, especially on my old blog, I would share photos and thoughts on some of the live music I was enjoying at the festival throughout the duration. So for the next week and a half, I thought I’d share ten great sets, out of the many I’ve witnessed over the years, one for each day on which music would have be performed. Enjoy.)

Future Islands live at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

Artist: Future Islands
When: Tuesday, July 14th, 2015
Where: Bell Stage at 7:00pm
Context: (You may have noticed there wasn’t a ‘great set’ yesterday. This is because Bluesfest normally takes one day off during the festival, a sort of breather in the middle of the marathon, and it is typically the Monday. But now we’re right back to it. Enjoy the homestretch.)

I had been lukewarm on Future Islands since first hearing them back in 2010, really only enjoying a handful of songs and being only slightly more than ambivalent about the rest, but that one live performance I caught back in 2015 changed all that.

Frontman, Samuel T. Herring was quite the showman, all dramatic gestures and dancing all over the stage, and that’s something I wasn’t at all expecting. We all know about that crazy voice of his. It really is one of a kind. Watching him, you have no idea where it comes from, switching from lounge lizard to Tom Waits growl in an instant, much to the appreciation of the crowd. Indeed, he seemed hell-bent determined to connect with each and every audience member while the band behind him, Gerrit Welmers (synths) and William Cashion (guitars) and touring drummer, Michael Lowry, were just there, almost emotionless and motionless, providing a dense, synth pop palette upon which for Herring to work.

I found myself dancing along only three songs in and I wasn’t the only one. It was all a big Future Islands love fest party. And then… the skies opened up. Yes. It was another one of those sets.

Umbrellas and parkas came out and those without were soaked, including those on the stage. Yet to my surprise, they soldiered on, despite the downpour, and when the song they were playing finished, they started right into their popular single, “Seasons (waiting on you)” while the stage crew ran about the stage covering up equipment. The dancing picked up even more (if that can be imagined) and just when I thought the plug was being pulled, the band convinced the festival organizers to allow them to play one more song, “Spirit”, performed with much of the same gusto, Herring slapping emphatically at his chest through his rain drenched shirt. And amazingly, he called all of us warriors, in kind of a pot and kettle sort of way. It was awesome, a set I’m sure to never forget.

The intensity of Samuel T Herring
Gerrit Welmers and Samuel T Herring of Future Islands
Michael Lowry on drums
William Cashion of Future Islands
Gerrit Welmers, Samuel T Herring, and Michael Lowry, just as the rain is beginning
Samuel T Herring singing in the rain… downpour

Back in the Tall Grass
A Dream of You and Me
Walking Through That Door
Long Flight
Before the Bridge
The Chase
A Song for Our Grandfathers
Light House
Seasons (Waiting on You)


Best tunes of 2012: #29 Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra “Want it back”

<< #30    |    #28 >>

Amanda Palmer (or Amanda F*cking Palmer as she sometimes calls herself) is a divisive individual. But an individual she certainly is.

She formed The Dresden Dolls with drummer Brian Viglione in 2000 and the duo gained a rabid cult following with their “Brechtian punk cabaret” music, to which I have never ever listened to this day, but I imagine to be equal parts musicianship and performance art. They went on hiatus in 2008 (though they have reunited several times since then) and Palmer formed another short-lived duo with Jason Webley, called Evelyn Evelyn, before embarking on an even more successful solo career.

In the spring of 2012, Amanda Palmer launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the self-release of a forthcoming album she was working on with her new band, The Grand Theft Orchestra. Her goal of $100,000 was easily surpassed in a matter of hours, eventually reaching the lofty and record-breaking mark of nearly $1.2 million. It raised a lot of eyebrows and started to change the ideas of what it meant to be a musician and a fan/customer/art patron and the relationship betwixt the two in the digital age. Palmer definitely has her fans but she also has her detractors. And she didn’t do herself any favours in that regard when she asked for the whole helping arm and put the call out for volunteer musicians on each stop on her tour after raising so much coin on Kickstarter. She eventually backtracked on that when the internet was outraged but there it is.

I actually listened to most of the resulting album, “Theatre is evil”, without any of this context, well before reading about her in the news and becoming somewhat put off by some of her opinions and outspokenness and almost unreal persona. Truly, though, the album is quite a fantastic piece of work with a great many highlights. “Want it back” is track five out of fifteen and the second single to be released from it. Synth washes start the proceedings. Then come the driving piano staccatos and snappy drums and plucky guitars. Palmer’s vocals are breathlessly running from one line to the next, seamlessly snarling and yelling and barking and yelping and angelically crooning. It can be an exhausting listen but also a compelling one.

“Once when you’re gone, and I wanna do it backwards
Just like the song, we’re addicted to the L word
Up past your head, down your back
Around your ankles, ready for attack
You’re upstaged
And then you’re strangled”

The video is pretty neat too. Filmed like stop motion animation, the lyrics appear as she sings them, written all over the place, black ink from an ink well – splish, splash, splosh. The version below is the clean one. There’s an NSFW version out there for you to find as well. Because, of course there is.

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