Best tunes of 2011: #6 Rich Aucoin “It”

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I made mention of AUX TV a few times during my Best tunes of 2010 series. I had somehow come across the channel during a random surf at the high end of my Rogers Cable offerings back around the beginning of the 2010s. I almost immediately made the connection that the channel actually played music videos* like MuchMusic used to do, especially at certain hours of the day. One of these happened to be in the early hours and it became part of my morning ritual to turn on the channel while I made and enjoyed my morning coffee. I discovered many a new tune and artist in this way, just check here and here for a couple examples from that Best of 2010 list.

Unfortunately, AUX has since changed formats and been rebranded but I mention it today because this is where I first heard tell of Rich Aucoin, seeing the video for “It” one morning and loving it from the start. If you haven’t seen the video, you should definitely take the time to peruse it below. It strings together instantly recognizable scenes from famous films, like Forrest Gump, The Princess Bride, E.T., Top Gun, Ghostbusters, amongst others, and places Aucoin and his cronies as active participants in the scenes. Many of these films are ones from my youth that I’ve seen numerous times and of which I have fond memories, so it never fails to bring a smile to make face when I watch it. However, I remember it took me a few times watching it originally to catch who the artist that was performing the track because I was always busy brewing coffee at the time or AUX TV would have its titles screwed up. One time, I swore they said “Roch Voisin” but I knew that couldn’t be right. Eventually, I got it nailed down and I went out to hunt down the album on which “It” appeared.

When I listened to Aucoin’s debut album, “We’re all dying to live”, I was very impressed that the rest of the tracks were just as phenomenally put together as “It” and so full of joyous orchestral music of epic proportions. However, I didn’t truly understand the energy and the joy until the following year when I saw Rich Aucoin perform live at Ottawa Bluesfest. His sets are less performances than they are celebrations. He blurs the lines between performer and audience, shattering that glass wall with the use of multimedia, by joining the audience in front of the stage, and employing the use of a parachute, all to create a miasmic, organic, celebratory event. I saw him again a few years later at the Toronto Urban Roots Festival, a set to which he invited the good people at Choir! Choir! Choir! to join him onstage for this entire time slot.

Yeah. Rich Aucoin is all about sharing and caring. He’s almost like a care bear in this way. Indeed, even the most jaded in the crowd can’t help but be pulled in by his exuberance and energy and zest for life. Though the “It” that he doesn’t want us to keep within our heads isn’t quite clear, we know by inference that it cannot be good. The tinkling piano that would have us floating up, Bugs Bunny style, into the clouds, our toes flapping us up like wings, says as much. And the imbued verve and the singing choirs are all working to convince you that we should indeed all be dying to live. Hallelujah to that.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

* It was especially cool because the channel focused on new and emerging independent artists.

Best tunes of 2002: #22 Sam Roberts “Brother down”

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According to our friends at Wikipedia, an “extended play record, often referred to as an EP, is a musical recording that contains more tracks than a single, but is usually unqualified as an album or LP”. It’s a format that seems to have made a bit of a comeback in the last decade or so, likely as a result of and in conjunction with the return to relevance of vinyl records as a means of releasing music. In an otherwise digital sales and streaming world, the term would be rendered meaningless. Personally, and though I know a number of my favourite bands (see Belle & Sebastian) love the format, I’ve never been big on them, only procuring them in the cases of many of these same bands when I started to turn completist on collecting their musical outputs. It’s likely because for much of my early life, I didn’t have a lot of disposable income to put towards purchasing the music I loved so I had to be picky and found more value for dollar on full-length albums.

Sam Roberts’ debut release, an EP called “The inhuman condition”, was one of the few EPs I ever purchased brand new* on CD. I distinctly remember heading down to the HMV at the Rideau Centre one night after work with a $75 gift card burning a hole in my wallet. I remember wandering around the store many times with various combinations of discs in my hands, not wanting to waste such a rare opportunity in those days on poor choices. Of course, of the four or five CDs I walked out of the store with that evening, excited to get home to start spinning them, that EP was one of them, the relatively lower price and my enjoyment of this particular track whenever I heard it on X101 FM being the two main reasons.

The Montreal-based singer/songwriter has since gone on to great success nationally but I think Sam Roberts’ first single, “Brother down”, really paved the way. The version on the EP is the second version recorded (the first was a demo that you might find floating around) and he redid it a third time when he released his debut full-length the following year. It’s definitely still quite popular and has been a crowd favourite every time I’ve seen him perform live, which is actually quite a few times. It is a fun and funky number, the bongos, handclaps, and call and response vocals that run throughout providing the requisite groove. At the time, I honestly felt and described Roberts as Canada’s answer to Beck and though these days I can’t conscientiously make the same comparison, this particular song does smack audibly of Beck’s mid-90s “Odelay” days. It just makes me want to dance.

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

* As opposed to secondhand, I mean.

Vinyl love: Sloan “Twice removed”

(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: Sloan
Album Title: Twice removed
Year released: 1994
Year reissued: 2016
Details: black vinyl

The skinny: Just over a month ago, I saw Canadian alternative rock stalwarts Sloan (!!!) live for the first time ever (!!!) and I posted pictures and some thoughts about it here. At that very same show, I picked up a copy of their second album, “Twice removed”, on vinyl, sort of knowing (but not knowing for sure the actual date) that it was celebrating its 25th anniversary around that same time. This is the album that started turning the hate that I had originally cultivated for them because of the single “Underwhelmed” into something akin to being a fan. The haunting song below in particular was one for which I turned up the volume every time it came on the radio. This is great Can Con right here.

Standout track: “Coax me”