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Best tunes of 2012: #5 Divine Fits “Would that not be nice”

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For those who might have missed out on the Divine Fits back in 2012, please take note, especially you fans of Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, and Spoon.

The term indie rock supergroup was bandied about quite a bit in reference to the group and their sole album, “A thing called the Divine Fits”. But with all due respect to Sam Brown and Alex Fischel (the other two band members)*, the project really was about Dan Boeckner and Britt Daniel. Indeed, the Divine Fits’ template was an amalgam of the two different (but not so different) sounds that we were already used to hearing in each musician’s previous work. These two principals split lead vocal duties between them and there wasn’t a huge leap between the songs sung (and presumably written) by one or the other. All of this substantiated my feeling that these two friends and musicians were meant to work together from the beginning.

I must have listened to “A thing called the Divine Fits” hundreds of times in 2012. But even on my first go through, I remember thinking that it was going to be one of the most exciting releases of the year, right from the opening notes of “My love is real”. The project was an experiment gone completely right in every sense. The two mad scientists at the helm seamlessly fused guitar rock and synth pop into what felt like a whole new genre. Unfortunately, this one album is all that we’ve heard from this collaboration and as far as I know, there’s been no hint at all (from either Daniel or Boeckner) that there’s more music in the tank from these guys.

“You set the room up with flickering light
And if you did, would that not be nice?”

“Would that not be nice” is my favourite track here and would be my recommendation if you were to choose just one of the album’s eleven to sample. Be warned, though, you may not be able to shut it off and stop yourself from switching on the repeat function. It’s got a great groove, a bass line that won’t give up ghost, a hip shaking rhythm, and of course, Britt Daniel just kills it, rock and roll style.

*Drummer Sam Brown had previously worked with New Bomb Turks and later worked with Boeckner in Operators. Keyboardist Alex Fischel would later go on to join Daniel as a part of Spoon.

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

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Tunes

Best tunes of 2011: #19 Handsome Furs “Serve the people”

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Handsome Furs were the duo of Dan Boeckner and then wife and poet Alexei Perry. Formed in Montreal in 2006, it was meant as a side-project for the ever musically active and tireless rocker in Boeckner and for a short time, became his main creative outlet when Wolf Parade went on hiatus in 2011.

Boeckner and Perry released three full-length albums in a six year span under the Handsome Furs name before the duo split musically and otherwise. I remember being super disappointed because they had been slated to the 2012 rendition of Ottawa’s Bluesfest and I noticed one day, on one of the many instances of checking the lineup for new additions, that their name was subtracted without an explanation. It’s a shame, really, that I never got to see them. All three of their albums are quite excellent. This little regret is only slightly tempered given that I’ve since seen another of Boeckner’s projects, Operators, as well as Wolf Parade perform at Bluesfest.

“Sound kapital” is Handsome Fur’s third and final album and Boeckner’s first ever written completely on keyboards, rather than guitars. The album was inspired by Eastern European industrial and electronic music from the 1980s but if you think that will mean an album of austere and frigid numbers, think again. This is Dan Boeckner, the embodiment of Canadian indie rock. There’s plenty of guitars and his raw, Bruce Springsteen-like vocals breathes life into the genre.

“Dogs in the capital howling at dawn
Someone’s driving by with the radio on
Someone making noise from the center of town
You kick em in the head and you kick em when they’re down
and you don’t serve the people”

“Serve the people” starts off with the lines above in a croon, sounding like it’s coming from a different age through broken speakers, and then, it changes with the introduction of synthesizers and an electronic beat. There’s steam and factory sounds and weird washes and wah-wahs and plenty of other noise muddying the stomp of dance floor rhythm. And somehow it all turns into a fist pumping anthem with Boeckner leading the charge, a guerrilla revolutionary with dishevelled hair and a cigarillo dangling from his lips. Yeah, serve the people, Dan.

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

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Albums

Best albums of 2017: #5 Wolf Parade “Cry cry cry”

I’m not sure what my problem was when I first heard that Wolf Parade was releasing its fourth long player “Cry cry cry” this year. I’m still quite confounded that I didn’t pre-order it. In fact, for some reason, I even duly forgot about its imminent arrival until almost a few days beforehand. Then, on release day, a couple of months ago, I noted its arrival with something akin to surprise on Spotify and decided to give it a spin. From the opening notes, I was remembering why they are so great and by the end of the second song, I was doing what I should have done from the beginning and was ordering a physical copy for my vinyl collection.

Perhaps it was some mental disconnect, some lingering effects from the concussion I sustained earlier in the year, but in all reality, I should’ve been much more excited about this album’s arrival. I’ve been a fan since the Montreal-based, post-punk influenced four piece burst onto the scene with their blistering debut, “Apologies to the Queen Mary”, back in 2005 and followed them through two more albums and up to their hiatus in 2011. I was ecstatic when I heard that they were reuniting for a tour in 2016 because I finally got to see them live, catching their incredible headline set at the River stage at last year’s Ottawa Bluesfest with my friend Jean-Pierre.

“Cry cry cry” is Wolf Parade’s fourth album but their first in seven years, yet it plays like almost no time has passed at all. Indeed, it feels the hiatus froze them in time, bottling their energy to recharge them until they were bursting at the seams. Not that its members were idle at all, far from it. You can clearly hear that Dan Boeckner brought his experiences from working with Handsome Furs and Divine Fits and mixed them in a big salad bowl with the sounds Spencer Krug conjured during his time with Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake, all the while channelling the energy on Wolf Parade’s debut. Yes, Boeckner and Krug are still sharing the songwriting and vocal duties and this synergy works finer than ever, the jittery, frenzied rock exploding from the clash of supremacy that’s pitting synths against guitars. And in this case, we all win.

I now want to see them live again just to see how they perform these tracks because the fire burns just as bright here as anything on “Queen Mary” but don’t take my word for it. Check out “Cry cry cry” for yourself and you can start with my three picks for you below.


”Lazarus online”: The opening number is Spencer Krug and you can almost picture him at the piano, like a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and a mad scientist, eyes closed, laying down the heavy-handed dirge of keys that back the synth enhanced track. A haunting, mystical mandala in a digital world.

”Baby blue”: This is another Krug-led track but this one is decidedly more upbeat than the opener, almost to the point where you could almost see yourself club dancing to it. The drumming is peppier and the guitars and synths build themselves into such a frenzy that at six minutes the track still seems too short.

”You’re dreaming”: My last pick is a Dan Boeckner track and while Krug’s keys feel very present, the guitars are more pronounced than on my other two picks. Of course, it’s a rocker, raw and in your face, and oh so awesome. Can be replayed infinitely without showing any rust at all.


For the rest of the albums in this list, check out my Best Albums page here.