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Best tunes of 2012: #6 Allo Darlin’ “Tallulah”

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Rather than my typical blathering about the band and song in question, I thought I’d instead present some sections of a short story I wrote close to a decade ago, words that were inspired by this particular song.* It’s a road trip story for a road trip song.

We’re on highway seventeen scarcely passed Wawa and its gigantic steel goose when Tallulah makes her third appearance that day. She’s a stark contrast to the blazing guns from the last song, which pushed the needle on the speedometer to a comfortable hum, hovering just over the 100 mark, and propelling the ten-year-old, borrowed PT Cruiser headlong into a horizon all streaked with reds and oranges.

The sun is low and yet the wind whipping through the cranked windows is hot and sticky, the humidity just aching to break. Still, humidity drenched wind is better than the useless AC. We have the stereo volume knob tuned to towering heights just to be able hear it and yet, neither the wind nor the music has disturbed the sleep of my friend Simon in the passenger seat. There’s been barely a stir since he conked out a few hours ago.

I turn the volume knob clockwise even more to try to bring out the majesty of the whispery ukulele strumming and the rough innocence of the soft female vocals. It’s not your typical driving tune and an odd choice for a mix created for a road trip. Indeed, it is the quietest tune on the CDR, the rest comprising of a mix of classic alt rock and hip new indie numbers, many of which I’ve never heard of. If I didn’t know Simon better, I would’ve assumed he was showing off the knowledge he’s amassed over the years and has him as the most popular radio DJ on Indie 88. But really, that’s not his style.

Simon had explained (when putting the disc on after we lost reception to “his station” a half hour outside of Toronto) that this was the song that inspired the idea of this road trip in the first place.

I had listened to the first innocuous strums and nodded. “Who is it?”
Simon’s face made an almost imperceptibly wistful expression as he watched the traffic on the highway ahead of him, an expression he had almost hidden but I had caught it. “Allo Darlin’.”

“It’s a sh*t name.”

“You were always more concerned with band names than I was, Rob, but I admit it’s not the best choice I’ve heard.” He paused, expecting more protests from my side of the car but getting none, he continued. “They’re pretty great though. They’re this English twee-pop influenced band with a folk edge, built around the song writing of the singer. I think her name is Elizabeth Morris.”

“You think?” This was sarcasm.

“The talk I originally heard was that the song title was a nod to influential C86 band Talulah Gosh but other sources have since cited the album ‘Tallulah’ by Australian alt-rock band, The Go-betweens. I prefer the former but think the latter more likely, given that the singer also hails from Australia.” He continued on in this vein, unloading all the trivial bits of information related to the band, the song, the album, and other music of similar sound, but I had begun to tune him out, getting lost in the spaces between the twinkling strums of the ukulele. The sound of this instrument always reminded me of grade six music class, when our eccentric teacher sprang ukuleles on the class, rather than the usual session on learning the recorder. It wasn’t long before some smartass in the class figured out the melody to the theme from Peter Gunn and had the whole class playing it.

I take off my now unnecessary sunglasses because I want to hear the song lyrics better. Lord knows, the volume knob won’t help anymore. The words are drenched in contemplative nostalgia and sung with a bright sadness and a time worn edge, telling a tale of a road trip, much like the one we’re on, except we are driving in rural, northern Ontario, not the east coast of Australia.

And this – the car, the tunes, the dog days of summer, the company, the kilometres behind us and the ones left ahead – suddenly makes sense, much more than anything did two weeks ago, when I had received that seemingly random email from Simon French.

***

But wait, there it was again. That line, or rather two, that had punctured something in me the first time I heard it this morning: “I’m wondering if I’ve already heard all the songs that will mean something. And I’m wondering if I’ve already met all the people that will mean something.”

*Obviously, any song that inspires me to write is a great one in my books.

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

Categories
Albums

Best albums of 2019: The honourable mentions (aka #10 through #6)

Good morning everyone! And happy Tuesday!

It is that time of year again. The end of the year lists have started flying about and some brave souls have even delved back to try to come up with their favourites of the decade. You won’t count me among those attacking such a daunting task. I had a hard enough time narrowing down my favourite albums of the year to ten this time around. Indeed, for me, it was a weird year in that besides perhaps the number one and two albums, I didn’t have consensus favourites. I had no preconceived notions, really, of what this list would look like before sorting through all the albums to which I have devoted time this year. And yeah, there were lots of them.

Still, I’ve been doing my own end of year lists for so long (many others have been generated before even the two others on these pages) that I’ve almost got this process down to an art. For the two previous years, I did these posts on Fridays but decided to change things up this time and by methodical calculation, determined that to wrap things up with a final post with my favourite album on the final day of the year, Tuesdays would be the day of the week of choice for this series. As always, I am starting things off with an ‘honourable mentions’ post, this post, listing out albums 10 through 6, and will countdown my favourite five albums, one each week, for the next five. Of course, I’ve cheated a bit with my photo at the top of this post. It shows four additional albums from 2019, albums in my vinyl collection that won’t appear in the list but bear mention nonetheless. A sort of honourable, honourable mentions, if that makes sense.

Of course, as we go through these albums, I welcome your comments and thoughts and perhaps even your own top ten favourites in the space provided below.

Here we go.


#10 Chromatics “Closer to grey”

I don’t know where my head was back in 2012 because when I listened to Chromatics’ fourth album, “Kill for love”, I thought it was… just okay. Well, that was so seven years ago and I am quite enthralled with their fifth album, this one. Seven years may seem like a long time between albums and in this day and age, it’s an eternity, but the group has not quite been inactive. There’s been some EPs and singles in the meantime and also an aborted album that might still see the light of day. But here we are now and “Closer to grey” is dark and breathless noir cinema, set provocatively in the middle of a sweaty 80s rave club. And yeah, the Simon & Garfunkel and Jesus and Mary Chain covers are spot on.

Gateway tune: You’re no good


#9 Elva “Winter sun”

I thought it a shame when I heard Allo Darlin’ were calling it quits in 2016. They had released a handful of excellent twee/indie pop records based upon the songwriting and vocals of frontwoman Elizabeth Morris. Then, because I followed that band on Twitter, I heard tell that Morris had formed a new band with her husband, Ola Innset, who happened to be a veteran of the Norwegian music scene. “Winter sun” is this new group’s debut and is also quite lovely. Morris shares equally the songwriting and vocal duties with Innset, adding an interesting dynamic that is taken further by mixing up quieter acoustic songs with louder, full band jams.

Gateway tune: Athens


#8 The Twilight Sad “It won/t be like this all the time”

I’ve been following Scottish post-punk quintet, The Twilight Sad, for their last few albums and can safely say that this fifth album of theirs is my favourite so far. That I’ve truthfully said that for each of their successive albums shows how great a band they are still in the process of becoming. A mind-blowing proposition, indeed. The music is dark, bleak, punishing, and yet, somehow, uplifting at the same time. James Graham’s intense lyrical delivery seems somehow more haunting given his thick accent and throws tons of weight behind Andy MacFarlane’s music.

Gateway tune: I/m not here [missing face]


#7 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Ghosteen”

Okay. So it’s taken me a lifetime to get into Nick Cave’s music. This is not an exaggeration. I tried many times over the years because I’ve always loved his lyrics. He just doesn’t make it easy. His seventeenth album, “Ghosteen”, isn’t any less than trying, beautiful, yes, but very difficult. If I hadn’t already succeeded with the start of the trilogy cycle of which this album is the final chapter, this album would likely not be appearing here. As it is, I don’t see myself necessarily slipping this on everyday, nor are there a lot of tracks that I could single out as, well, singles. However, “Ghosteen” is a very excellent album. Cave very much still has the power to surprise and to move us. The music here is synth heavy, augmented orchestral pieces and his normal narrative lyrics and deep baritone vocals have both been turned on their head. The results are haunting, to say the least.

Gateway tune: Bright horses


#6 The Soft Calvary “The Soft Calvary”

Like the Elva album above, here’s another project by an artist I like, working with her spouse, but in this case it feels like it’s more his labour of love with her support rather than a full-on collaboration. The Soft Calvary is Steve Clark working with Rachel Goswell of Slowdive and Mojave 3 (and a bunch of their recent projects). He takes the lead for the most part, writing most of the material, while Rachel adds her lovely, ethereal voice to the proceedings and sings lead on one track. The production is crisp and the effects give most of the album an otherworldly feel. The songs are well-written and stick with you well after you press stop or lift the needle. I love it.

Gateway tune: Bulletproof


Check back next Tuesday for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.