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Best tunes of 1992: #30 Shakespears Sister “Stay”

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One list ends and another begins. And for 1992, we’re starting things off with “Stay”, the biggest and best known single by Shakespears Sister.

The duo was formed when Siobhan Fahey asked songwriting collaborator Marcella Detroit to join her solo project as a full-time gig. Fahey, a founding member of 80s girl group Bananarama, sang lead on the majority of the group’s songs with Detroit contributing backing vocals. “Stay”, the second single to be released off the group’s sophomore release, “Hormonally yours”, was the one anomaly. On this one track, Detroit sang the verses and chorus and Fahey added a darker tone with a combatative bridge. The results are a beautiful song that showcases the differences between their vocal styles, a push and pull, a tug and a scream. However, it was never meant to be released as a single, at least in the eyes of Fahey, which was reportedly the cause of tension between the two when “Stay” actually became a massive hit. It spent a number of consecutive weeks at the top of the UK singles chart and climbed quite high in many international charts as well.

I definitely remember my first exposure to the song being its music video, which got more than a bit of play on MuchMusic and not just on the top 30 countdown. The narrative of the video had a supernatural bent and was one that stuck with many people, the two vocalists representing different factions fighting over the fate of a comatose man, good and evil, light and dark, love and hate, life and death, and perhaps a case of art imitating life. Teenaged me had a crush on both women, a slightly heavier one on Detroit, but back then, I didn’t know about Fahey’s girl group pedigree.

Detroit acrimoniously left the group in 1993, effectively ending things, while Fahey continued on with her solo career. She resurrected the Shakespears Sister name and continued performing under it 2009. And just this year, a reconciliation was announced and Detroit was welcomed back into the fold. Tours have since been plotted out and a new album is in the works.

It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts.

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

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Best tunes of 2011: #17 Girls “Alex”

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Song number seventeen on this list of great tunes from 2011 is “Alex”, a non-single from Girls’ second album, “Father, son, holy ghost“.

Girls was an indie rock band based out of San Francisco. The two primary members were guitarist/vocalist Christopher Owens and bassist/producer Chet ‘JR’ White. The rest of the band was filled out by a constantly revolving door of musicians and it was this turnover that ultimately doomed the band when Owens finally grew tired of the fluidity. The group disbanded the year following the release of “Father, son, holy spirit”, making it not only their second but also their final full-length album.

It is unfortunate, really, because both albums (the other being 2009’s “Album”) are quite good and each received heaps of critical acclaim upon release. I was particularly enamoured of the second one when I came across it, finding in it hints of Teenage Fanclub and Sloan, personal favourites of mine. Indeed, if I remember correctly, “Father, son, holy spirit” found itself a spot on my old blog’s inaugural kick at the end of year best albums list can. A surprise that might have been greatest to myself.

“Alex” is track two and definitely a highlight off the album for me. It is rumbling and boppy bass lines, lazy guitars, jaunty drums, and Owens’ soft croons, showing a hard exterior but betraying soft insides. It juxtaposes mellow garage rock feels at the verses with controlled rock jams in between.

But who is this Alex?

Well, she has blue eyes, black hair, and a lovely smile. She is in a band. She has a boyfriend… but who cares? Well, who cares about love?

We all should. And that’s why you should at the very least give this song a listen.

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

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Best tunes of 2001: #3 The White Stripes “Fell in love with a girl”

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In 2001 and 2002, garage rock emerged to take the mantle as champion of the indie rock resurgence. The epicentres of the revival were New York, whose scene was led by Interpol and The Strokes (appearing at #5 on this list), and Detroit, from which came The Detroit Cobras and The White Stripes.

Yep. Before Third Man Records, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, and a rather notable solo career, Jack White was in a little band called The White Stripes. Formed in 1997 with then wife, Meg, whose last name Jack took when they wed, the duo recorded six albums together before disbanding in 2011. The White Stripes became known for their tightly stylized image – they were most notably rigorous in the use of their red, white, and black colour scheme – and their blues-inflected sound, Meg’s stomping, bass heavy beats, and Jack’s raunchy guitars and raw vocals. Indeed, as things went on, they became less connected with their garage rock roots and more about blues revival.

Interesting, then, that their breakthrough came with their least blues-influenced album, their third, “White blood cells”, and this exciting single that had no traces of it whatsoever. “Fell in love with a girl” sounds like it was it borne out of the garage that welded together the pieces of the garage that housed the rock. It’s a quick adrenaline blip that doesn’t even make the two minute mark. At that length, you can almost hear Jack screaming, “there’s no time for an intro – we gotta go!”. The drums are muddy as hell and violent, Meg channelling her inner animal. Jack even sounds like he’s having trouble keeping up with her and his own raucous guitar work with his vocals, almost breathless for the duration, his attempts at proper diction dispensed with and you have no trouble imagining his gummed up mic covered in spittle. There’s anger and disdain and the feeling of betrayal.

It’s almost exhausting how great this tune is. Enjoy.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.