Categories
Playlists

Playlist: In the summertime

Earlier this year, I had this brilliant idea to make a series of seasonal-themed playlists and post each on these pages on the first day of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The idea was inspired by my friend Andrew Rodriguez, who has posited in the past that there are certain songs and albums that just scream out a particular season to him. I think there’s something to his idea and wanted to shared the love and expand upon it.

My playlist for Spring, the aptly titled “The first day of spring”, went off without a hitch. It was predictably full of the hope and pent-up excitement that the season brings and I posted it right on time. Of course, and incidentally, my summer playlist wasn’t as punctual. I had it made in time for the turning of the season on the calendar date but perhaps something in me felt that the time wasn’t quite right. Indeed, if you listen to these twenty-five tracks, it just screams out from the depths and the heights of mid-summer, wavering between the hazy and languid, and the all out beach and patio party.

Yes, I know August is more than half over and the kids are heading back to school soon but that doesn’t mean we have to let the summer end. As long as the sun beats down on us and the patios remain open, we can stretch this thing out and enjoy it to the fullest. So I suggest we put this playlist on repeat, turn it up, and get ready to “Lay back in the sun” and hit as many “Happy hour”s as we can.

Other highlights on this mix include:

    • “In the summertime”, the title track and opening number sets the tone with love
    • Camera Obscura’s “Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken” isn’t necessarily linked to the season lyrically but it definitely has the feel that we wished all summers had
    • “Island in the sun” is Weezer as The Beach Boys and resulted in one of their biggest ever hits
    • I remember first hearing Smash Mouth’s retro fling, “Walkin’ on the sun” in the summer of 1997, falling for it, and then, falling all over myself trying to find their album in the stores
    • Black Box Recorder’s lovely cover of the wistful “Seasons in the sun”, a song originally made famous by Canadian Terry Jacks

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist (complete with YouTube links) as I’ve created it:

1. The Rural Alberta Advantage “In the summertime”
2. The Housemartins “Happy hour”
3. Primal Scream “Higher than the sun”
4. Young Galaxy “New summer”
5. Doves “Catch the sun”
6. Camera Obscura “Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken”
7. Galaxy 500 “Fourth of July”
8. The Airborne Toxic Event “The girls in their summer dresses”
9. Weezer “Island in the sun”
10. Pink Mountaintops “The second summer of love”
11. Violent Femmes “Blister in the sun”
12. The Polyphonic Spree “Light & day / Reach for the sun”
13. The Pogues “Summer in Siam”
14. Spiritualized “Lay back in the sun”
15. The Sundays “Summertime”
16. Rachel Goswell “Warm summer sun”
17. Munroe “Summer”
18. Belle and Sebastian “Another sunny day”
19. Shannon Lay “August”
20. Vampire Weekend “Cape Cod kwassa Bkwassa”
21. Smash Mouth “Walkin’ on the sun”
22. Dodgy “Staying out for the summer”
23. Black Box Recorder “Seasons in the sun”
24. The Jezabels “Endless summer”
25. The Decemberists “Anti-summersong”

And as I’ve said before, I’ll say again: Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe and continue to be well. Until next time, enjoy the tunes.

For those of you who are on Spotify, feel free to look me up. My user name is “jprobichaud911”.

Categories
Albums

Best albums of 2000: #5 Belle and Sebastian “Fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant”

Belle and Sebastian were never supposed to be anything more than a project, one that recorded and released a bunch of material in a short period and faded away into the night. They definitely weren’t supposed to be a successful indie pop group that amassed a rabid following on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and were still releasing new work more than twenty five years in. They started off along the right track, releasing three albums and four EPs in the span of three years but then something happened that derailed their trajectory. I won’t formulate any theories or hazard any guesses but I will say that the result was the group’s fourth long player and everything that happened afterwards.

“Fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant” was my first experience with listening to a new Belle and Sebastian album just after it was released. I had gotten into the Scottish collective after had they released their third album, “The boy with the arab strap”, on suggestion from my university friend Darrell, who said you can’t go wrong with any of their releases, just pick one. I went with the green album cover and worked backwards from there. As it turned out, “Fold your hands child” was also the first of their albums that I didn’t take to right away.*

The fourth album’s title was taken from a piece of graffiti that frontman Stuart Murdoch had found scrawled in a university toilet. The front cover is a photo that he took of Icelandic twins, Gyða and Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir (both from the band Múm), and the back cover is a deconstructed photo of the view from the window of a laundromat he frequented. The music on the album, though, was not all Stuart. Indeed, it furthered the trend first brokered on “The boy with the arab strap” of more collaboration within the group, shared songwriting and vocal duties. The recording sessions were difficult and took longer than previous ones, which Murdoch attributes to the darker tone and more complex arrangements and song structures. Murdoch has said the album reflects perfectly what the band’s life was like at that point in time and changed everything going forward. It was the last one that featured founding bassist Stuart David and the second last to feature Isobel Campbell.

“Fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant” still isn’t my favourite album by the group but that doesn’t make it bad at all. In fact, I have grown to appreciate it and it now holds a very special place in my heart. Each of its eleven songs brings back a flood of memories, especially the three I have picked for you to sample.


”The chalet lines”: Talk about dark. Songs don’t get much more depressing than this one, nor can you find opening lines more attention grabbing than: “He raped me in the chalet lines”. Stuart Murdoch’s voice and the soft way he uses it to say those words and of course, the tentative piano notes in the opening, pretty much set the tone and signal this to be a real feel bad story. It was inspired by the experiences of an acquaintance of Murdoch’s at a type of holiday camp where the “chalets” are laid out in a row, the very same type of which was where he met the Icelandic twin sisters that grace the album’s cover during a music festival party. The protagonist was raped during such a party at the camp where she worked and she struggles with feeling different now than her friends, not being understood, not reporting the offence, and worrying that she had gotten pregnant. The minimalism – voice, piano, and plaintive cello – and the imagery (“Her face was just a smear on the pane”) do plenty to keep the two and a half minute dirge from taking a detour into sentimentality.

”The model”: Track two on the album is a real danceable number, the kind where you close your eyes and flail about with abandon and a lack of grace. In this way, it reminds me of my favourite B&S number, the title track off the previous album, and much like that one, the words are a litany, a stream of consciousness, a story within a story within a story. But here, in amongst the harpsichord backbone and flute and horn flourishes, one may find slightly more complexities and melodies and tighter pop sensibilities. On vocals, Murdoch relinquishes total control, allowing Stevie Jackson to voice four of the forty lines, the sixth line of every stanza. This jogs the head a bit, suggesting a different point or interjection, playing with the reliability of the confession. Perhaps it’s not just a simple pop song, then? With this lot, it never is. “But you wouldn’t laugh at all and I wonder what the boy was thinking. The picture was an old collage of something classical, the model with a tragic air.”

”I fought in a war”: My final pick for you is the opening track on the album, a song, in my opinion, which is the one with the closest resemblance to the work on their earlier albums. And given that it was the first song I heard upon my first go through the album, it was instantly recognizable and in this way, feels like the group’s technique of weening its fans from everything that came before. But even here, the subject matter is darker, the tone heavy, a weight on the breezy melody and the bright horn blares. Beware, though, don’t get taken in by the title and lyrics and fall into the open trap left by Murdoch into thinking this a protest song. He has said that it is in fact inspired by a Salinger story, “For Esmé – with love and squalor”, one that I read ages by sadly, don’t exactly remember so I may have to re-read. I imagine though it might be about a lost love, given the metaphorical imagery of the song. “And I reminded myself of the looks you gave when we were getting on, and I bet you’re making shells back home for a steady man to wear round his neck, well it won’t hurt to think of you as if you’re waiting for this letter to arrive because I’ll be here quite a while.” Lovely stuff.

*And from what I’ve read by the critics and the like, I don’t think I was the only one.


Check back two Thursdays from today for album #4. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Richard Ashcroft “Alone with everybody”
9. The New Pornographers “Mass romantic”
8. The Cure  “Bloodflowers”
7. The Weakerthans “Left and leaving”
6. The Clientele “Suburban light”

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

Categories
Live music galleries

Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: #9 Belle and Sebastian – Saturday, July 6th, 2013

(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.)

Belle and Sebastian live at Bluesfest 2013

Artist: Belle and Sebastian
When: Saturday, July 6th, 2013
Where: Claridge Homes stage at 8:00pm
Context: Where do I even begin? I mean Belle and Sebastian has been one of my favourite bands for a very long time. I’ve been following this Scottish indie pop band since some point around 1997 or 1998. One of my favourite ever albums is 1998’s “The boy with the arab strap” but I know each one of their albums intimately and have a bunch of them in my vinyl collection. But this set was my first and still only time seeing the band to date.

When Belle and Sebastian took the stage, they were an impressive sight. They are already a large band, sitting at seven full-time members, but then when you add in the string quartet, a cellist, additional keyboards and horn players, they had up to 13 musicians on stage at different points in their performance. Again, it was a pretty impressive sight and the sound was just incredible.

The biggest surprise for me of their whole set, though, was Stuart Murdoch. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I thought he was excellent and I’m not just talking about his singing and guitar playing. He was a delight with the audience from the beginning, telling stories and jokes between every song. He started off by mentioning that because this was their first time in Ottawa, they fully intended to play music from their entire catalogue. As Murdoch himself put it, “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” He also called Ottawa the friendliest city in Canada and went on to the tell the story of how he went for a walk downtown and didn’t think he’d make it back to the festival on time so he jumped on a bus without correct change and the driver let him ride for free, “just this once”.

As promised, Murdoch and company performed tracks from all over their career. A couple of times during the set he introduced older tracks with the preface that they were for those in crowd that were older, like him, but that if the youngsters in the crowd knew the songs too, even better. There was so much from which to choose that they could have played but didn’t. Still, I was not disappointed in the least at the songs that made the set. In fact, I think I would have been happy with whatever they played but there was one song in particular that I really wanted to hear, that is, of course, the title track off “The boy with the arab strap”. And wouldn’t you know? They played it, along with another of my favourite tracks, “Legal man”, during a part of the set where Murdoch was feeling like dancing. He invited a few members from the audience to come up on stage while the band performed these two songs. It was brilliant.

The band finished off their proper set with “Judy and the dream of horses” and left the stage. But the crowd was not letting them off that easily, insisting on one more song. They returned, almost embarrassed, and Murdoch wondered aloud whether it was “bad protocol” to perform an encore at a music festival. We weren’t complaining at all, especially when he dove into another classic track, “Get me away from here I’m dying”.

The setlist
The backdrop
Stuart Murdoch and Chris Geddes of Belle and Sebastian
Stevie Jackson and Bobby Kildea of Belle and Sebastian
Dave McGowan and Sarah Martin of Belle and Sebastian
Richard Colburn of Belle and Sebastian
Stevie Jackson and Stuart Murdoch
Sarah Martin and Stuart Murdoch
Dancing to ‘The boy with the arab strap’

Setlist:
Judy Is a Dick Slap
I’m a Cuckoo
Expectations
I Want the World to Stop
To Be Myself Completely
Piazza, New York Catcher
If She Wants Me
Funny Little Frog / Seeing Other People
Like Dylan in the Movies
I Didn’t See It Coming
The Boy With the Arab Strap
Legal Man
Judy and the Dream of Horses
Encore:
Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying