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Tunes

Best tunes of 2003: #22 The Dears “Lost in the plot”

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…And we’re back.*

“Our love, don’t mess with our love
Our love is so much stronger”

The Dears are a Montreal-based indie rock outfit that formed way back in 1995. Their membership has been in constant shuffle and flux over the years, the only real constants being frontman, Murray Lightburn, and his partner in everything, Natalia Yanchak, though even she came to the party a little late. The group released their debut album, “End of a Hollywood bedtime story” in 2000 but it wasn’t until their sophomore release, 2003’s “No cities left”, that the indie rock world really started to take notice. In fact, this album is now considered one of the great albums of the early 2000s Canadian indie rock renaissance, right up there with “Funeral”, “Set yourself on fire”, “You forgot it in people”, and “Old world underground, where are you?”.

I remember first listening to the album, perhaps a year after its release, picking up on all the Britpop references and glorifications, thinking that it might require a deeper dive, and then, promptly putting it down again for lower hanging fruit. And then, near the end of 2005, I caught wind that Ottawa was getting a new alternative rock radio station** and that their soft launch involved playing great alternative rock without commercials or DJ interruptions. I listened to it as much as I could for the month or so that it lasted. And one day in the car, I remember hearing a familiar song one day, remember thinking that the vocalist sounded a lot like Morrissey but that the music sounded awfully like Radiohead, circa “OK Computer”. Upon later research, I realized that said track was “Lost in the plot” from the aforementioned Dears sophomore record, which then begged immediate and repeat listens. I finally became a fan of The Dears and my attentions have yet to wane through the six albums that followed over the next fifteen years.

“And I promise not to cry anymore
All the reasons beat the crap out of me
Everyday when I wake up they are waiting”

“Lost in the plot” was the second single to be released from “No cities lost”. It is a sonically sinister and intergalactic five minutes of beauty. The guitars jangle like Marr and Lightburn warbles like Morrissey but there’s a ton more layers here and at the bridge, things change tack to a hip-shaking swagger that might make Brett Anderson blush. Yeah, there’s more than a bit of Britpop pastiche going on but it’s also forward, rather than retro thinking. Indeed, it’s an explosion of passion and love and hope and that’s a plot I don’t mind losing myself in on the regular.

*I took an unscheduled blogging holiday over the past couple weeks, in part to rest these old bones from attending five nights of concerts in the span of two weeks and in part to just recharge.

**To fill the void created when XFM went adult contemporary and was rebranded as CISS FM in 2004

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2003 list, click here.

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2013: #30 Arcade Fire “Here comes the night time”

#29 >>

For all those fellow Canadians out there, I want to wish each and everyone of you a real “Happy Canada day”!

And I mean that truly.

It’s been a tough two-plus years. Not just here, but everywhere, I know, and though Canada day has always been a big celebration here, whether or not we deserve it, this year, I think, we do. My own celebration will involve spending time with the one person in the world that means the most to me but I’d also like to observe it here, in a tiny way, on these pages. And what better way than to start up a new list and to kick it off with a great tune by a great Canadian band.

By 2013, the indie rock collective from Montreal (known as Arcade Fire) had already released three groundbreaking albums, the last actually landing the band a surprise turn at the top of the Grammy podium for best album for 2010’s “The suburbs”, and now, they were due for something new. The question was, what would it sound like and could it possibly top what we’d already heard from a band that everyone seemed to be looking to for innovation.

We finally started to get hints of what might be coming in the summer of 2013, as cryptic street art incorporating the title of the forthcoming album started to appear around the world. The campaign was admittedly a bit much but it was effective and though the band’s wishes that attendees at their ensuing tour stops dress up in costume was widely criticized, you can’t fault the band for trying to rouse their fans from complacency. Arcade Fire has always been earnest and this was possibly their pinnacle, if not their most successful endeavour.

“Reflektor” saw contributions from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, as well Mr. David Bowie, and for all its expectations, it didn’t really suffer too badly at the hands of the critics. It saw the release of five singles, each of them big and epic and completely Arcade Fire (if you can excuse me using their name as an adjective), but for me the best track on an album that was great, yet still seemed to pale in the shadow of the previous three, was the disco and rara-inspired “Here comes the night time”.

This track actually appears as two different versions, each on a separate disc of the double album, but I am definitely more for the first part, which was apparently written and recorded second. It truly encapsulates what the band were aiming for when they were looking to make music that multi-instrumentalist Regjne Chassagne would dance to. Like the rest of the album, the sound was hugely influenced by the band’s visit to Haiti, the country from which her parents originally emigrated to Canada. Indeed, this track in particular was written about that country’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, a dangerous city at the best of times but one that becomes lethal at night due to the lack of electricity and the relative safety of unnatural lighting.

“When the sun goes down, you head inside
‘Cause the lights don’t work
Yeah, nothing works, they say you don’t mind”

Six minutes of Caribbean sounds funnelled through machines and synthesizers and other computer gadgetry. It wavers and warbles between frenetic beats and gliding vibes. It marches and dances and cavorts, with feathers and masks and streamers, shades of carnival lights and energy, while its ringmasters, Win and Regine, conduct you safely through the streets of the Haitian capital on an epic journey to bliss and magic.

So go on out and celebrate!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2013 list, click here.

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Live music galleries

Live music galleries: The Strumbellas [2019/2022]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

The Strumbellas live at CityFolk, 2019

Artist: The Strumbellas
When: September 12th, 2019 and June 24th, 2022
Where: CityFolk Festival, Lansdowne Park and Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, Mooney’s Bay Park, both in Ottawa
Context: I know, I know, two of these ‘Live Music Galleries’ posts in a row (and this one’s a bit different to boot*) but I just couldn’t help myself. I finally got out to see some live music this past weekend, the first in over two and a half years, and in a crazy bit of symmetry, it just so happened that the first headlining act I got to see was also the last one that I saw before the pandemic put a monkey wrench in things. Things have changed somewhat in the years between these live sets by Canadian indie folk collective, The Strumbellas. Their frontman, principal songwriter, and founding member Simon Ward stepped away from touring duties earlier this year and was replaced by Jimmy Chauveau. The rest of the band is still intact, however, and as lively as ever. I actually I think I enjoyed Friday night’s show more than I did when I saw them in 2019 and it’s not just that I lived the realization of how much I missed the rush of live performances, though that was certainly a factor. I actually became more familiar with the band’s catalogue in the intervening years and could easily sing along with all their huge numbers… and sing along loudly I did. Now, I really can’t wait for Bluesfest.
Point of reference song: Spirits

Original lead singer, Simon Ward
New lead singer Jimmy Chauveau
Jon Hembrey, 2019
David Ritter and Darryl James, 2022
Isabel Ritchie, 2019
Dave, then
Dave, now
Jeremy Drury, 2019
Isabel Ritchie and Jimmy Chauveau, 2022
Isabel Ritchie, Jeremy Drury, and Simon Ward
The Strumbellas live at Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, 2022

*This gallery is a mixture of the two different concerts, two a half years separating them. And yes, the older photos are much better. This is because I, myself, was having a hard time standing still enough to take clear photos at this past weekend’s show.