Best tunes of 2013: #27 Lanterns on the Lake “Elodie”

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Back in 2018, when I was counting down my favourite tunes of 2011, “Lungs quicken” from Lanterns on the Lake’s debut album, “Gracious tide, take me home” came in at number twenty-five on said list. I mused, then, at how perfect their name was, in terms of how it forewarned of what you would experience should you take the chance to listen to their music. “Lungs quicken”, and many of the tracks on their debut, evoked the image of “candles in paper lanterns, hundreds of them, maybe thousands, just visible in the mist out on the grey lake. And then the wind whips up, the music builds in volume and gusto, and the lanterns jostle on the waves, crashing and splashing but not going out.”

“Elodie”, the song of today’s focus, is also an opening track by the band but in this case, off their sophomore record, “Until the colours run”. And if the band were looking to forewarn of the change in sound, a portent of another coming sea storm perhaps, they succeeded here.

The indie pop band from Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, had lost a couple members, brothers Brendan and Adam Ian Sykes, since their first album. They replaced Brendan with Bob Allen on bass but the other brother would have been much more difficult to replace since he co-led on vocals on much of the debut, so instead the band chose not to. Hazel Wilde took sole responsibility for vocal duties moving forward and that seems like it gave the band more direction. Interestingly, there’s less electronic trickery* on “Until the colours run” and more focus on the stringed instruments and at the same time, Wilde’s vocals seem less fragile and more assured.

“Forget the barricades
We’re four years too late
And all your mother’s words
Strength’s not in numbers”

“Elodie” starts the album with a feedback warning and if you didn’t heed it, you’d run headlong into the brick wall of guitar noise that follows. Then, just when thought you’d need to come up for air, the guitars fade to echo, replaced with the high speed ticking of a clock, the tentative dabs on the piano keys, and Wilde’s plaintive tones. Of course, the guitars make a return and there’s this delicious push and pull between the angry noise and the delicate strings and inferred beauty. Whoever this Elodie was, she has invoked a lot of passion and for this, we can be thankful.

Happy Sunday!

*The “folktronica” is all but gone.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2013 list, click here.


Best tunes of 2003: #19 The Clientele “Porcelain”

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London-based indie pop band The Clientele have appeared on these pages a few times already. A couple of their albums have appeared high up on the Best Albums lists for the years in which they were released (see here and here) and in their first appearance with “Rain” off their debut release in 2000, I talked a little bit about my introduction with the band. This came in 2003 with the release of their sophomore album and first proper studio album*, “The violet hour”.

I remember being in constant discussion with Jez, my friend and colleague at the time, about the bands we were discovering during our shared favourite post-work activity: trawling the Internet for new and exciting bands. I’m not sure which of us happened upon this particular album first but we were both enamoured with it right off the bat and I’m sure that our other colleagues must have tired of us raving about it. It almost became a running joke to bring them up at least once a conversation.

I’ve been following the group ever since, through the various lineup changes and hiatuses, and though each of their albums have been special, “The violet hour” is still my favourite. It is a collection of tracks that sounded like nothing else at the time and at the same time hinted at music from a bygone era. Track eight was this mellow but peppy number called “Porcelain”. It shared the feel and environment of the rest of the whole, like dewdrops glistening in the bright morning sunlight and gauzy curtains billowing in the warm summer wind. Like the echo of a half-remembered dream. MacLean whispers and croons his la-la-las and the guitars and drums and even that wicked bass line that pops its head in for munchies, they’re all sopping wet with reverb. And the words are not a narrative as much as they are an oil painting.

“Sunlight on the empty house and sunlight on the fields
The cul-de-sac, the law, the tracks, the lane
But the world is porcelain
Yes, the world is porcelain”

Incidentally, “The violet hour” is the only one of The Clientele’s albums that I still don’t have a copy of on my vinyl shelves but this is only because it hasn’t yet been reissued. I was beginning to think I’d never have a copy because I’d heard that the master recordings were lost but I am pretty sure that frontman Alasdair MacLean has since announced that they were found. So far there’s been no reissues announced but perhaps this year for it’s 20th anniversary? One can hope.

*Given that “Suburban light” was more of a compilation of early singles and b-sides, much like Lush’s “Gala” ten or so years earlier.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2003 list, click here.


Best albums of 2022: #2 Alvvays “Blue rev”

Much has been made about the length of time that has passed between the second album by Alvvays (pronounced ‘Always’) and this new one. Indeed, five years is an eternity in the music world in this day and age, what with trends whipping by at a torrid pace and viral videos and music streaming. And yet one can’t help but refrain from laying blame, what with the events of the past few years, and those being especially pronounced for the Toronto-based indie pop band. In addition to plagues, they’ve had to overcome thefts and floods and changes in personnel, but luckily for all of us, they seem to have come out of this period of quiet all the better for it.

I’ve been following the group led by long-time friends Molly Rankin and Kerri MacLellan, as well as Alec O’Hanley, since the appearance of their self-titled debut back in 2014. I loved the dreamy bursts of sunshine indie pop on the album, the jangly nostalgia, and the youthful maturity of songcraft therein. The follow up was more of the same in taste and texture but showed a progression worth following. Much of this third record, which takes its name from a beverage favoured by the two lead protagonists in their even younger youth, was written shortly after the original touring cycle for “Antisocialites”, around the time that Sheridan Riley joined them on drums and long before Abbey Blackwell replaced founding bassist Brian Murphy. With all the delays, they really did have a fully formed idea of the album when they finally convened to record it in the fall of 2021. My understanding is that it was recorded in much the way you can hear it on the record, front to back, twice through, in one day, but that the mixing and perfectionist refining afterwards took much, much longer.

“Blue rev” is quickly becoming my favourite by the group, if it hasn’t yet achieved that honour. It goes far beyond the borders of their original pigeon-holed territory of light and jangly indie pop and at the same time, doesn’t betray it’s long-time fans. It’s noisier, louder, longer, smarter, more assured, and lots of fun. Like the previous album on this list, I have a new favourite track on the album every day and I expect that to continue as each listen reveals new layers and textures and lyrical gems to behold. The three tracks I’ve picked for your perusal were almost selected at random. Really, you could do no wrong with any track here.

“After the earthquake“: Track three on “Blue Rev” was inspired by a short story collection by excellent Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. It is three-minutes reminiscent of The Smiths but with sharper teeth, spikier hair, and more anger than mopery. It’s a remembering of good times before disaster struck and nothing was the same. And just before the two-minute mark, time stands still and Rankin murmurs and wonders aloud wrapped in a gentle synth wash: “Those days, I’d never let you fall apart. But things fade like the scent of a brand new car. Why would I ever fall in love again when every detail is over the guardrail?” It’s heartbreaking.

“Pharmacist”: The opening track and first single has been called their My Bloody Valentine song. At just over two minutes, it’s shorter than anything (save for maybe “Touched”) on “Loveless” but it’s not any less immediate. The moment the heavy layer of guitars are plopped down in the lap of the otherwise jangly palette, you feel that nervous anxiety put forth by Rankin’s  meeting up with the sister of her ex. “I hear it happens all the time. It’s alright (it’s alright). I know I never crossed your mind.” She sounds reliable and reassuring and then, any questions are put to rest by a flailing guitar solo, as if to say, pay attention, we’re not done with you yet!

“Very online guy”: One of these songs is not like the others. Where the other two were more aggressive and heavy on the noisy guitars, this last pick mines the impersonal and cold tones of 80s synth pop. It’s almost a perfect backdrop to which to set a calling out on reply guy culture and the nastiness of hiding behind the anonymity of ones and zeroes. “He’s only one flicker away. He’s only one photo, one filter away.” Even Rankins’ vocals are obscured and filtered through technological trickery, adding more fun to the chugging beat and sentient synthetic ambience. Brilliant stuff.

We’ll back in two more sleeps with album #1. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Blushing “Possessions”
9. Just Mustard “Heart under”
8. Jeanines “Don’t wait for a sign”
7. The Reds, Pinks and Purples “Summer at land’s end”
6. Tallies “Patina”
5. Suede “Autofiction”
4. Wet Leg “Wet Leg”
3. Beach House “Once twice melody”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.