Categories
Albums

Best albums of 2000: Albums #10 through #6

It’s been more than six months since I started one of these Best albums of the year series so I figured it was about time for a new one. This time around, I am taking for focus my favourite albums of the year 2000, the year chosen in a random, not quite random kind of way*.

My relationship with music around this time was what you could term complicated. If you go back and look at the list of my favourite tunes of 2000 that I did a few years back, you’ll note that it’s only a list of fifteen songs, rather than the usual thirty. I had a real hard time finding music that I liked in those days and this can be attributed to many things. It is most of all likely because I was on a low after the wealth of great British music being exported to Canada during the Britpop explosion in the second half of the last decade. So for me, great songs were few and far between but I still managed to identify ten great albums as favourites when taken as a whole. And it is these that I plan to present to you over the coming weeks.

If you’ve been around these pages before, you’ll recognize today’s post as the tease, introducing the five albums that round out the latter part of my top ten. From here, I used to out my five favourite albums for the year over the course of the following five Thursdays, one per week, but given how well it went when I stretched out my countdown of albums I did for 1991 back in January, February, and March, I’ve decided to do the same here. I will still focus on an album per post, doing my best to the paint each album’s importance to me and to music in general, but instead, will do so every other Thursday and wrap all this up in the beginning of October.

So let’s do this. And of course, as we do, I’d love to hear your thoughts, both on my picks and what your own would be, if you had to rank your top ten albums for 2000, in the comments section provided with each post.


#10 Richard Ashcroft “Alone with everybody”

Still smarting from the breakup of the Verve a mere two years after the release of the near perfect “Urban hymns” in 1997, I went out to the stores to purchase the first Richard Ashcroft solo album on the day it was released. When I arrived back at my apartment that afternoon, I realized that my roommate and friend, Ryan, had done the same and we both sat down that evening to give it a listen. But I’ll stop right there because this is a story that I already told when the lead single “A song for the lovers” appeared at number five on my Best tunes of 2000 list. I’ll just say that I really wanted all of “Alone with everybody” to be just as great as that first single but in my mind, it was only half successful. Richard Ashcroft is a phenomenal voice and songwriter to be sure, but he definitely needs a sounding board. There is an unfortunate amount of forgettable mediocrity on the album but luckily, those are more than balanced by exuberant moments of pure pop perfection.

Gateway tune: “A song for the lovers”


#9 The New Pornographers “Mass romantic”

It’s always been interesting to me that The New Pornographers were referred to as a supergroup right from the beginning. Sure, each member all had other projects on the go, but I’d hazard that when their debut, “Mass Romantic”, was released, only Neko Case and Destroyer’s Dan Bejar had anything resembling a following on their own merit, and even those must be taken with a grain of indie salt. Nowadays, though, the title certainly fits and it’s truly amazing to me that such a large collective of artists have enjoyed such successful longevity together. This debut was three years in the making and displays a wealth of power pop worthy of the praise heaped upon it. It wasn’t always a favourite of mine but it has grown steadily in my esteem over the years to exponential heights.

Gateway tune: “Letter from an occupant”


#8 The Cure “Bloodflowers”

Much like the album at number ten, I bought The Cure’s 11th studio album, “Bloodflowers”, on CD pretty much as soon as it was released. I had gotten into the iconic post-punk band led by Robert Smith over a decade earlier and the love affair that followed culminated with my purchase and adoration of their 1992 album “Wish”. I completely missed out on the interim album, 1996’s “Wild mood swings”, and still haven’t ventured into that whirlpool, with the possible exception of the singles. Speaking of which, the lack of any obvious singles on “Bloodflowers” was what struck me right away on first listen. It was definitely a return to their darker sound, but bigger in scope and immersiveness. Indeed, the whole is greater than its parts in this case, a complete album experience.

Gateway tune: “The loudest sound”


#7 The Weakerthans “Left and leaving”

The Weakerthans are a band that I’ve known for many years but never really appreciated until it was too late. I saw them live twice, once in 2001 (one year after this particular album was released) and again 2008, but in both cases, I wasn’t actually at the show to see them. And though I enjoyed them both times, I didn’t actually getting around to diving deeply into their music until well after they went on hiatus in 2014. Indeed, their sophomore album “Left and leaving” still wasn’t even on my radar when I started counting down my favourite tunes from 2000 back when I started this blog in 2017. Nowadays, though, I find myself in awe of this melodic folk-rock band out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the incredible lyrics of its frontman, John K. Samson. Like all four studio albums by the group, “Left and leaving” is chock full of literate narratives that name-check Canadiana, Winnipeg in particular, and speak to each and everyone of us unsure of our place in the human condition.

Gateway tune: “Left and leaving”


#6 The Clientele “Suburban light”

I first got into the reverb-drenched indie pop of London, England’s The Clientele with their sophomore studio album, 2003’s “The violet hour”. Everything I heard off that album smacked loudly of Luna, another band with which I had been obsessed around that time, except that all the production sounded purposefully older and frontman Alasdair Maclean’s vocals were a lot more breathy than those of Dean Wareham. Nonetheless, I was in love and set about ensuring my eyes and ears were alerted to anything the band had previously released and news of anything new. For years, I thought their first proper release, this one, “Suburban light”, was a compilation album and so wouldn’t be eligible to appear here on this list. However, it was a simple misunderstanding on my part that had basis in the fact that at least half of the songs on this album had been released previously. But perhaps I am talking too much and just need to let you click on the link below for a sampling of what’s on offer. If you like sunshine and lemonade light and naps under the shade of trees and a light a breeze, The Clientele, this debut especially, might just be your cup of tea.

Gateway tune: “Rain”

 

*Don’t ask me how I am choosing the years for these flashback/throwback best albums series… I am trying to spread them out and at the same time, trying not to interfere with the Best tunes lists I’ve got on the go. It’s a delicate game, definitely not for the faint of heart…


Check back two Thursdays from today for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Categories
Tunes Vinyl

Best tunes of 2012: #11 Young Galaxy “Youth is wasted on the young”

<< #12    |    #10 >>

Happy Thursday everyone!

It’s doubly happy for me because today marks the first day of a two week vacation from work. And to truly recharge, I’ve decided to take a brief blogging break as well. But first, I’ve got something fun to send things off right. I have a song here that provides a unique opportunity to combine a post for my Best tunes of 2012 list with one for my ‘Vinyl love’ series. Let me explain.

In the spring of 2012, I had just started collecting vinyl. My wife had texted me from Greenwich village in New York City where she was visiting a friend. She had happened upon a street sale and one of the vendors happened to be selling used vinyl, some by bands that she knew I loved, and I remember her specifically asking if I wanted Oasis’s debut album on vinyl. When I responded that I didn’t have a turntable, she said that she planned on getting me one. She ended up coming home with “Definitely maybe”, as well as “Talking Heads: 77”, both of which are still on my shelves. Shortly after that, I ventured out on my very first Record Store Day and purchased my first exclusive. A vinyl addict was born.

If it wasn’t for those events, I may not have even flinched when I heard the news that Paper Bag Records was releasing a double a-side 7”, vinyl only release from Young Galaxy. It’s true that the Montreal-based dream pop band had just released their third album, “Shapeshifting”, on Paper Bag the previous year and though it was a departure for them, it was a welcome one and garnered them lots of new attention. It’s also a fact that I had contributed to the group’s Kickstarter campaign a few months earlier to help raised funds for them to travel to Sweden to work again with the producer of “Shapeshifting” for their next album, but this time in person. So I was already excited and on the lookout for news from one of my favourite Canadian bands in years and it didn’t hurt that they were working with my favourite indie label at the time, who I thought for a while, were turning to gold everything they touched. But it was the vinyl already sitting on my shelf that greased the wheel and I placed the online order.

The record arrived in the mail, wrapped in brown paper, a fun touch that the label was doing back then. I brought it home and admired it with plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” before putting it on the shelf with the rest of the small collection I had amassed thus far. I didn’t yet have a turntable so I had to listen to the two songs on my computer, care of the download rights that came with the purchase. I listened to both the a-side and the double-a-side, “Shoreless kid” and “Youth is wasted on the young”, and was struck by how different they sounded (and yet, at the same time similar in aesthetic) to the album they had released the previous year. I thought at the time that these two songs that were heavier on the guitar were either signalling a return to their earlier sound or a last kiss good bye as they soared off into the synthesized horizon. It turns out it was the latter.

“Youth is wasted on the young” starts off feeling a little construction time again with pipes spewing steam and rivets being pounded and then, the Johnny Marr guitars chime in with the jangles and everything kicks into highway driving roars. It sounds very much like 1983, dark and shiny leather jackets and all manner of sunglasses cool. And Catherine McCandless is channelling some Siouxsie Sioux, a strong woman, glamorous and iconic, against the world, keeping up with the frenetic pace of it all. It’s like a love song to both the music of the band’s youth and to the music of today that is just as fresh and fabulous.

I wouldn’t mind dying at all
If it weren’t for the songs I’d miss…
Youth is wasted on the young

See you all again soon.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.

Categories
Live music galleries

Live music galleries: Kalle Mattson [2014]

(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.)

Kalle Mattson and his band at Bluesfest 2014

Artist: Kalle Mattson
When: July 5th, 2014
Where: Claridge Homes stage, RBC Bluesfest, Ottawa
Context: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that one of the great things about Ottawa’s biggest music festival, RBC Bluesfest, is the organizers’ focus on promoting local talent. The years that I purchased a pass and attended on multiple days exposed me to a lot of bands and artists (many of them local) that I might not have ever experienced otherwise. Kalle Mattson, who came to the nation’s capital by way of Sault Ste. Marie for school, is a talented indie folk singer/songwriter that I had already seen opening for Cuff the Duke a few years prior, but his early afternoon set in 2014 really won me over. The weather that afternoon was sunny and humid and hazy, a perfect suit for his dusty and languorous tales of heartache. I would later purchase that year’s Polaris prize nominated album, the Gavin Gardner produced, “Someday, the moon will be gold”, and jumped at the chance at Mattson perform with his friends once again the following summer.
Point of reference song: A love song to the city

Kalle Mattson on the mouth organ
Mattson and Andrew Sowka
JF Beauchamp, the man on the horn
Rory Lewis on guitar
Mattson with drummer, Kyle Woods
Andrew Sowka and JF Beauchamp
Kalle Mattson taking it home.