Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: Camera Obscura “Underachievers please try harder”

(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: Camera Obscura
Album Title: Underachievers please try harder
Year released: 2003
Year reissued: 2008
Details: Black vinyl, remastered, 180 gram

The skinny: Given that it’s June and we are preparing to slip from Spring and into Summer, I thought it was time for a mini Vinyl Love series, one that featured a band that screams equal parts sunshine summer and wistful heartbreak sadness. Scotland’s Camera Obscura is exactly that, sporting a brand of twee indie pop shared by their perhaps more famous compatriots, Belle and Sebastian. In fact, I got into them with their second album, “Underachievers please try harder”, because of their connection to B&S frontman Stuart Murdoch. I did also enjoy the band’s debut, “Biggest bluest hi-fi”, but never did purchase it for my record collection so it is here that where we start our four part journey. This 180 gram reissue was released five years after the album’s initial release and the remastering is quite sweet. It is an album that flashes the potential of a band still finding its feet and yet, nonetheless exhibits some excellent tracks of note.

Standout track: “Suspended from class”

Categories
Playlists

Playlist: The first day of Spring

Well, we made it. It’s the first day of Spring.

Yeah, this past winter has felt like an eternity but if I am being honest, it hasn’t even been that bad of a winter in these parts. It was relatively mild and we suffered through very few snowstorms, up until February, when, of course, all that went out the window. Even still, we’ve been seeing more mild weather again and the mounds of the white stuff have all but melted away.

And yet… and yet… it still felt like a long winter, didn’t it?

Well, it is officially over as of today. Mother nature be damned. And we are going to celebrate with a new playlist, the first of four seasonal themed mixes that I have planned for this year, all based on a theory my good friend Andrew Rodriguez has oft posited: there are certain songs that just “feel” like a given season.

Indeed, these are 25 songs that, even if not overtly Spring themed, they at least hint or evoke that certain mood. The playlist follows a chronological path, from the tentative first steps to the splashes in the rain puddles of April, from the traipsing through meadows of flowers to finally, a bit of a dance into June and the excitement of the summer beyond. Unfortunately, the song I really wanted to start this mix off with, The Gandharvas’ “The first day of Spring”, is not actually available on Spotify but I wanted to tip my hat to it nonetheless and replaced it with a similarly named track by Noah and The Whale.

Other highlights on this mix include:

    • “April fools”, the first track I ever heard by Canadian singer/songwriter, Rufus Wainwright, and it’s a whimsical ditty
    • “Rain”, a hazy number by The Clientele that evokes raindrops hitting against a steamed up window
    • Emily Haines and Metric covering the Lou Reed classic, “Perfect day”, no other explanation necessary
    • “June hymn”, off The Decemberists’ pastoral sixth album is a call for us all to go out into the woods and breathe deeply
    • And of course, “Spring and by summer fall”, is a ray of sunshine by Blonde Redhead that leads us off into the new season

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. Noah and the Whale “The first days of Spring”
      2. Kurt Vile “Wakin on a pretty day”
      3. Rufus Wainwright “April fools”
      4. Fontaines D.C. “Oh such a Spring”
      5. Blind Melon “No rain”
      6. The Jesus and Mary Chain “April skies”
      7. Frank Turner “The opening act of Spring”
      8. The Clientele “Rain”
      9. Ex Cops “Spring break (birthday song)”
      10. Engineers “Come in out of the rain”
      11. Sea Wolf “Dew in the grass”
      12. Camera Obscura “Honey in the sun”
      13. Crocodiles “Endless flowers”
      14. Arcade Fire “Month of May”
      15. Metric “Perfect day”
      16. Neutral Milk Hotel “King of carrot flowers, pt. 1”
      17. Cults “Go outside”
      18. Sam Roberts Band “Spring fever”
      19. Dum Dum Girls “Trees and flowers”
      20. The Decemberists “June hymn”
      21. Hey Rosetta! “Yer Spring”
      22. Unkle Bob “Birds and the bees”
      23. U2 “Beautiful day”
      24. The Like “June gloom”
      25. Blonde Redhead “Spring and by Summer Fall”

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
Live music galleries Randomness

Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: A prologue

So here we are, already eight days into July. And if all had gone according to plan, I would be preparing to attend the first day of Ottawa’s Bluesfest tomorrow. I would be packing a change of clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses, probably a rain poncho, my camera, and my festival pass in my satchel, all to bring with me to work so I could head on down to the festival grounds right afterwards. I would probably be planning on which brewery to stop in at beforehand, something I’d been doing with more and more regularity, ever since the festival had adopted Molson and its overpriced cans of macro beer as a sponsor. The excitement would be palpable and my wife would likely be rolling her eyes and preparing to be without her husband for a week and a half…

But alas…

A few weeks after the festival lineup was released to great excitement (Alanis Morissette! Rage against the Machine!) and tickets went on sale, COVID-19 was announced as a worldwide pandemic and a threat to public safety in Canada. Everything was shut down. Concert tours and music festivals around the world were being cancelled. Bluesfest’s organizers held out for as long as they could, hoping against hope that things would clear up, and that the show could still go on. At the end of April, they pulled the plug, offering refunds or the option to transfer tickets to the following year, for which many of the very same exciting acts had already been confirmed. Of course, it was disappointing at the time, albeit completely understandable, and today, on the eve of what would’ve been the opening day, there’s more than a bit of a heavy heart in my chest.

The first time I attended the festival was back in 2009 and I have seen amazing sets at ten different editions of Bluesfest over the years. So what I thought I’d do for the next week and a half was to share photos and words from ten of my favourite sets from over the years, one for each day on which the festival would have taken place. Of course, I have already shared some great Bluesfest sets on these pages that likely would’ve been included. I won’t share them again but if you want whet your appetite for live show photos, you can click on the links below for those posts.

Father John Misty on the River Stage – Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Camera Obscura on the River Stage – Friday, July 5th, 2013

The Specials on the Claridge Homes Stage – Monday, July 8th, 2013

July Talk on the River Stage – Friday, July 11th, 2014

The Decemberists on the Claridge Stage – Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Are you ready now? Good! For the next eleven days (the festival always takes one day off after the first weekend for rest), I’ll be sharing a handful of photos, some thoughts, and where possible, the set list (thank you setlist.fm) for ten of my favourite Bluesfest sets. Grab your sunscreen, earplugs, favourite beverage, and let’s get ready to rock.