Best tunes of 2002: #15 Luna “Renee is crying”

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I first heard Luna in 1995. Their sophomore album, “Bewitched”, was loaned to me by my neighbour in university residence, Josh, who is better known in our circle of friends as Good Josh (as opposed to Bad Josh), but that’s another story. I was flipping through his CD collection one day*, he noted me looking at the album cover with interest, and highly recommended I give it a listen.

Luna has been one of my favourite bands ever since. I continued to listen to them long after I graduated, entered the adult workforce, moved away to Ottawa from Toronto, and gradually began to grow apart from most of my university friends. In fact, the last time I saw many of them, including Good Josh, was one weekend in 2002, when I took a Greyhound bus to Peterborough. A bunch of these friends were living there so the town was chosen as a central point to gather together to meet up with our friend Mark, who was temporarily back from an ESL teaching job in Japan. I distinctly remember bringing a copy of the latest Luna album, “Romantica”, along to listen to on the bus. I also pulled it out at one point on the weekend to share with Good Josh because he mentioned that hadn’t listened to them in a very long time. I don’t exact remember if he thought much of the album but it has become one of my favourites out of all their discography and was one of my first ever purchases for my vinyl collection, way back back on Record Store Day 2012.

Luna was formed by Dean Wareham in 1991 when his first band, the legendary dream pop outfit, Galaxie 500, disbanded. It was considered somewhat of an indie supergroup at the time because he had managed to gather a past member each from The Chills (Justin Harwood) and The Feelies (Stanley Demeski). Seven full-length studio albums, a live album, as well as a handful of EPs were released under the Luna moniker before the group disbanded in 2005, though the lineup was quite different then than when they had formed. Almost a decade later, Luna reunited as the lineup of Wareham, Sean Eden, Lee Wall, and Britta Philips, and they have since released a new album, an EP, and have toured pretty consistently since.

“Renee is crying” is track six on “Romantica”, an album that seems to me a rejuvenation for the band. Much of that can possibly be attributed to it being the first album with new bassist, Britta Philips, who, for you trivia buffs out there, was the singing voice Jem (of the Holograms). She also happened to be newly, romantically involved with our intrepid frontman and songwriter, Dean Wareham. Many of the tracks on the album have a bit more pep in their step, especially when compared to the previous couple of releases. “Renee is crying” isn’t as sad as the title suggests, but is actually quite upbeat and googly-eyed, though still with the band’s patented understated intricacies. For the guitar work, acoustic rhythms mesh with electric meanderings and the jaunty drums will have your toe-tapping all the way along highway seven on the Greyhound, perhaps annoying the passengers around you, who can’t hear the joyous music pumping through your earphones.

* Flipping through the CD collections of friends in university residence was how I discovered the music of a great many bands in the mid-1990s.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1992: #17 Adorable “Sunshine smile”

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Vocalist and guitarist Pete Fijalkowski, guitarist Robert Dillam, bassist Stephen ‘Wil’ Williams, and drummer Kevin Gritton formed adorable in 1990. They recorded their debut single, “Sunshine smile”, the following year. It received positive reviews in the music press but the kicker is, it was never released to the buying public. At least, not that version. After Alan McGee signed them to Creation Records in 1992, the song was re-recorded and Adorable finally released this amazing track that we now know and love. Unfortunately for all involved, it was just a couple of years too late.

Adorable likely only managed two albums and four years of existence because the world had already moved on from the noise pop and shoegaze scenes to which they were pigeonholed. Their singles did well enough. In fact, a couple of them, this one included, managed to travel the radio waves across the ocean to get some play in North America. Their debut album, “Against perfection”, was released in 1993 and climbed into the album charts in their native UK but only just barely. When it was released on this side of the ocean, they tacked on the two non-album singles that had been released beforehand. And so when I found a copy of it in the used CD bins, a handful of years later, “Sunshine smile” was the opening track on the playlist of the compact disc I brought home with me to learn and love.*

This song is a great introduction to a band that sadly never really got the due they deserved. “Sunshine smile” starts all chiming and jangly while frontman, Pete Fijalkowski waxes poetic about his subject’s smile. Then, it gets all noisy, guitars move to crunchy and then, seamlessly back to reverberating chimes. The bridge gets all quiet with some taps at the cymbals and Pete goes quiet, too (“how does it feel to feel?”) and the feeling explodes and it all races to a crashing crescendo. It’s got Creation all over it.

And now that I am writing about this song and listening to it over and over, I am kicking myself for not thinking to include it in my Valentine’s Day playlist post last month. It’s quite lovely.

*Sadly, this song was left off the playlist again when Music on Vinyl pressed it to vinyl for a special 25th anniversary edition a couple of years ago but I bought it nonetheless.

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

Best tunes of 2002: #16 Supergrass “Evening of the day”

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If you haven’t already, you likely will see over time (if you continue to peruse these pages), that my musical tastes in the 1990s tended towards artists that hailed from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. So when the so-called Britpop (or Cool Britannia) scene exploded in the middle of that decade, I was all over it. Bands that I had already been listening to were all of a sudden getting more exposure and new ones were popping up at an incredible rate. Some of the bands that came out of the woodwork during this time were amazing… but frankly, some didn’t deserve the attention they received. I didn’t get into Supergrass when I first heard them circa 1995 just for this reason. Although I loved the hit single, “Alright”, I feared this zany trio might end up being one of these latter bands.

Supergrass had formed a couple of years earlier, in 1993, by frontman/guitarist Gaz Coombes, bassist Mick Quinn, and drummer Danny Goffey. They were seen as the jokesters of scene because of the humour they injected into their rapid fire and three-minute pop songs. Case in point was their debut single, “Caught by the fuzz”, a narrative regaling Coombes’ experience of getting stopped while in possession of marijuana. I even remember reading an article at the time about how they were in talks to produce a sort of “Monkees” style, outlandish television show, though I don’t remember now why it didn’t come together.

I finally gave Supergrass a chance in 1999 when they released their third album, the self-titled one, and I kicked myself then for waiting so long. By the time 2002 rolled around, I was a pretty big fan of each of the first three albums and I was seriously looking forward to album number four. I bought “Life on other planets” on compact disc from the HMV store at the Rideau Centre with a gift card I had won from work. It was the first album that listed Gaz’s brother Rob as an official member of the band, his keys giving it a fuller sound, and it was an attempt by the band to recapture the energy of their first two albums. The tracks all clock in around the two and three minute mark, the only real exceptions being the final track, “Run”, and track six, “Evening of the day” and these are both due to their extended outros.

The latter track just mentioned was never released as a single and yet still managed to win me over as my favourite on the album and one of my tops of 2002. It’s got a killer groove, snappy snare brushing and cymbal splashing, and peppy guitar rhythms. It also features bassist Quinn with a deep set of vocals and Coombes taking a back seat for the singalong. Then, at the chorus that gives a knowing tip to Spinal Tap, things pick up for some more rock and roll. I often found myself hitting replay on the CD before I ever got to the end of the outro and now do so on my iPod. So good.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.