Best tunes of 2002: #15 Luna “Renee is crying”

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I first heard Luna in 1995. Their sophomore album, “Bewitched”, was loaned to me by my neighbour in university residence, Josh, who is better known in our circle of friends as Good Josh (as opposed to Bad Josh), but that’s another story. I was flipping through his CD collection one day*, he noted me looking at the album cover with interest, and highly recommended I give it a listen.

Luna has been one of my favourite bands ever since. I continued to listen to them long after I graduated, entered the adult workforce, moved away to Ottawa from Toronto, and gradually began to grow apart from most of my university friends. In fact, the last time I saw many of them, including Good Josh, was one weekend in 2002, when I took a Greyhound bus to Peterborough. A bunch of these friends were living there so the town was chosen as a central point to gather together to meet up with our friend Mark, who was temporarily back from an ESL teaching job in Japan. I distinctly remember bringing a copy of the latest Luna album, “Romantica”, along to listen to on the bus. I also pulled it out at one point on the weekend to share with Good Josh because he mentioned that hadn’t listened to them in a very long time. I don’t exact remember if he thought much of the album but it has become one of my favourites out of all their discography and was one of my first ever purchases for my vinyl collection, way back back on Record Store Day 2012.

Luna was formed by Dean Wareham in 1991 when his first band, the legendary dream pop outfit, Galaxie 500, disbanded. It was considered somewhat of an indie supergroup at the time because he had managed to gather a past member each from The Chills (Justin Harwood) and The Feelies (Stanley Demeski). Seven full-length studio albums, a live album, as well as a handful of EPs were released under the Luna moniker before the group disbanded in 2005, though the lineup was quite different then than when they had formed. Almost a decade later, Luna reunited as the lineup of Wareham, Sean Eden, Lee Wall, and Britta Philips, and they have since released a new album, an EP, and have toured pretty consistently since.

“Renee is crying” is track six on “Romantica”, an album that seems to me a rejuvenation for the band. Much of that can possibly be attributed to it being the first album with new bassist, Britta Philips, who, for you trivia buffs out there, was the singing voice Jem (of the Holograms). She also happened to be newly, romantically involved with our intrepid frontman and songwriter, Dean Wareham. Many of the tracks on the album have a bit more pep in their step, especially when compared to the previous couple of releases. “Renee is crying” isn’t as sad as the title suggests, but is actually quite upbeat and googly-eyed, though still with the band’s patented understated intricacies. For the guitar work, acoustic rhythms mesh with electric meanderings and the jaunty drums will have your toe-tapping all the way along highway seven on the Greyhound, perhaps annoying the passengers around you, who can’t hear the joyous music pumping through your earphones.

* Flipping through the CD collections of friends in university residence was how I discovered the music of a great many bands in the mid-1990s.

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

Best tunes of 1992: #17 Adorable “Sunshine smile”

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Vocalist and guitarist Pete Fijalkowski, guitarist Robert Dillam, bassist Stephen ‘Wil’ Williams, and drummer Kevin Gritton formed adorable in 1990. They recorded their debut single, “Sunshine smile”, the following year. It received positive reviews in the music press but the kicker is, it was never released to the buying public. At least, not that version. After Alan McGee signed them to Creation Records in 1992, the song was re-recorded and Adorable finally released this amazing track that we now know and love. Unfortunately for all involved, it was just a couple of years too late.

Adorable likely only managed two albums and four years of existence because the world had already moved on from the noise pop and shoegaze scenes to which they were pigeonholed. Their singles did well enough. In fact, a couple of them, this one included, managed to travel the radio waves across the ocean to get some play in North America. Their debut album, “Against perfection”, was released in 1993 and climbed into the album charts in their native UK but only just barely. When it was released on this side of the ocean, they tacked on the two non-album singles that had been released beforehand. And so when I found a copy of it in the used CD bins, a handful of years later, “Sunshine smile” was the opening track on the playlist of the compact disc I brought home with me to learn and love.*

This song is a great introduction to a band that sadly never really got the due they deserved. “Sunshine smile” starts all chiming and jangly while frontman, Pete Fijalkowski waxes poetic about his subject’s smile. Then, it gets all noisy, guitars move to crunchy and then, seamlessly back to reverberating chimes. The bridge gets all quiet with some taps at the cymbals and Pete goes quiet, too (“how does it feel to feel?”) and the feeling explodes and it all races to a crashing crescendo. It’s got Creation all over it.

And now that I am writing about this song and listening to it over and over, I am kicking myself for not thinking to include it in my Valentine’s Day playlist post last month. It’s quite lovely.

*Sadly, this song was left off the playlist again when Music on Vinyl pressed it to vinyl for a special 25th anniversary edition a couple of years ago but I bought it nonetheless.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2011: #2 Young Galaxy “We have everything”

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Happy Friday all! Yes. A wonderful Friday indeed because it is also my last day of work this year. I can hardly believe we’ve reached the end of another year and really, another decade. It feels like not that long ago that we were just ringing in the beginning of this year.

So anyway, you may have noticed that I’ve been counting down my favourite albums of the year on each Tuesday for the past few weeks and am poised to unveil my number one on New Year’s eve morning. Well, that’s not the only list I’m hoping to wrap up before the end of the year. I’ve also been quietly trying to get to the end of this Best tunes of 2011 list, quietly because I wasn’t sure I would have the steam to finish up two lists in one month and still have time to go Christmas shopping. It’s looking good right now but we’ll have to see what the next week will bring.

Incidentally, the number two song on this list appears on the album that came in at number one for the inaugural end of the year series on my old blog, Music Insanity. I said back then that Young Galaxy’s third album, “Shapeshifting”, was one that “didn’t resonate with me immediately but with repeat listens, my appreciation grew”. This is a trend that pretty much rang true for the rest of the Canadian indie pop band’s albums, save for their first. No. Their self-titled debut grabbed me right away because it fell right smack into my wheelhouse but after that, they challenged themselves and their fans right with them with each successive release, as their sound and personas changed from psych rock, dream poppers to synth-driven, art pop machines. Indeed, when I wrote about “Peripheral visionaries”, which appeared at number sixteen on this very list, I already talked about how the electronic sound from “Shapeshifting” grew out of a cross-ocean collaboration with Swedish producer, Dan Lissvik, so I won’t tread already familiar ground here.

“We have everything” is very likely the most uplifting and danceable track on the album. Sounding a little bit Blondie, a little bit New Order, and a little bit space rock, it has a toe hopping beat, an addictive synth melody, and Catherine McCandless singing up a storm over top it all. It shimmers and chugs along, ice fog whisping across the monochromatic, old school computer screen, and plenty of lasers flitting, obscuring reality and leaving you screaming for more.

Just watch the video (and while you’re at it, go back and watch the one for “Peripheral visionaries” because they are related thematically) and turn it up. Loud. And just dance. It’s Friday, for goodness sake…

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