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

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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.

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Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #12 Frankie Rose “Pair of wings”

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I’m pretty near positive that I first came to listen to Frankie Rose’s second solo album, “Interstellar”, because of her impressive resume that included working with bands like Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls. I was likely expecting to hear some 60s girls group wall of sound, given this pedigree*, but this is not what I got. Instead, I voyaged off to space with her, a retro outer space, minimalist and analogue synth heavy, reverb drenched and vacuous. Stanley Kubrick would have been proud.

My favourite song on this record wasn’t either of the two singles that were proudly advertised on the hype label. Don’t get me wrong, “Know me” and “Night swim” are also both excellent. However, there is just something about “Pair of wings” that flirts heavily with near perfection.

The liner notes credit the song to a ‘Wu Li Leung’ who originally wrote the song as “Wings to fly” but initial (and lazy, and perhaps slightly drunken) attempts to track this original down while writing these words came up empty. I will trust our musical artist, though, and appreciate her honesty in giving credit where it is due. “Pair of wings” is a delicate and sweet notion, universal and easily comprehensible, repetition into simplicity.

“All that I want is
A pair of wings to fly
Into the blue of
The wide open sky”

These four minutes of magnificence starts and ends with the ticking of an alien clock. From there, the minimalist synth chords change slowly yet assured, washes upon washes, bells ringing into infinity, rocketing percussion, steam and exhaust, layers of everything and eternity. Rose’s vocals are amplified by the vacuum, her ringing vocals bouncing off planets and moons.

This is space rock that is only such because it is dreamy pop rocked by synths and empty space. It envelops you and assimilates you. If you scream in space, does anybody hear it? And with beauty this palpable, does it matter?

*Apparently, her first solo album, recorded under the name Frankie Rose and the Outs, did follow this line of questioning, but I have yet to listen to this one. So I am unable to confirm or deny.

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

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Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #17 The Raveonettes “Curse the night”

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My friend Tim was raving to me about The Raveonettes for a few years before I finally got around to listening to them. I think it was their appearance on some late night television show in 2007 that was the gentle nudge I needed. I couldn’t tell you now which show it was because it was so long ago and I likely only landed on it by happenstance while flipping through channels. I distinctly remember that they performed “Dead sound” and finding myself swooning over their dichotomy of harsh and soft tones. I immediately went out in search of the album on which the song appears and found it on the band’s third album, “Lust lust lust”. So started the love affair that continues to this day.

Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo originally got things going as a duo back in 2001 in Copenhagen, Denmark. They had formed a band around themselves for their first handful of albums but had given all that up by the time I caught up with them, realizing that theirs was the only input they truly required. Their dreamy noise created by a mesh of guitars, synths, and drum machines pulls heavily from the wall of sound ethos, triggering thoughts of The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, and the usual pack of 90s shoegazers.

“Curse the night” is track three on The Raveonettes’ sixth album, “Observator”, which was conceived by Wagner in the wake of a bender in Venice Beach, California. The album is so named because the songs draw inspiration from his observations of the people and way of life that he was exposed to while there. Our song today was never released as a single but it stuck out for me immediately upon first listen and was apparently important enough for the band to warrant a music video being filmed for it. You can watch this for yourself below. It takes for its backdrops the empty streets of the duo’s home city and the filming of it in black and white certainly fits the song’s atmospheric and lonely mood (though the ending of video is quite the twist that I’ve never quite sorted out).

“Curse the night” is driven by a slow but insistent and unavoidable beat, virtual drummer boys leading the march. The guitars and washes form a fog that gathers and follows in close behind. The words are sung almost as a ghostly lullaby, twin sirens wailing at the night, Wagner and Foo blending seamlessly at the chorus, voices as one, making Foo’s solo on the verses sound all the more frail, childlike, and alone, perhaps a lost youth, abandoned and forgotten, ruing the cold and darkness and quiet of the late night in the city.

“I cry back, I feel the streets say
I’m holding on, someone else escaped“

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