Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: Goat Girl “On all fours”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Goat Girl
Album Title: On all fours
Year released: 2021
Details: Limited edition, gatefold, double LP, pink transparent vinyl

The skinny: The first 2021-released record that I bought last year was Goat Girl’s sophomore album, “On all fours”, and it ended up as my fifth favourite album when I counted them down at the end of December. I had never heard of the band before but the track below caught my attention when it popped up on one of those “Release radar” playlists on Spotify last January. I checked out the rest of the album and then, checked it out again. The next thing I knew, I was hunting down a copy to order for my vinyl collection and found this limited edition pink transparent pressing. This all female quartet is post-punk, but less in the sense that we’ve come to know of late. They are their own thing, beating to their own drum, giving no f*cks, and that ethos feels truer to me to the original movement than so much of the music being put out by their peers and that is so much fawned over by the music press. Goat Girl is colourful and unique, much like the album art suggests.

Standout track: “Sad cowboy”

Categories
Albums

Best albums of 2021: Part two (#5 to #1)

Wherever you are in the world and in whatever stage of the Omicron variant restrictions/lockdowns you are under, I still hope you managed to spend the last couple of days with some family and/or friends and find some joy and peace. My wife and I typically celebrate Christmas the traditional way with family, gift exchanges, and a big feast, but this year was different in many ways.

It’s over now, though, it’s in the past and it’s time to get back to my Best albums of 2021 countdown. If you want to go back and read words on albums ten through six on this list, you can click on any one of the hyperlinks below.

#10 Middle Kids “Today we’re the greatest”
#9 Iceage “Seek shelter”
#8 Du Blonde “Homecoming”
#7 Julien Baker “Little oblivions”
#6 Linn Koch-Emmery “Being the girl”

As I mentioned in the introduction to part one, this year’s list is full of surprises, albums beating out albums by bands that I expected to be here. And to be honest, it had nothing to do with these anticipated albums not living up to expectations but more to do with me being blown away by so much new music. The results for me were that I have list of honourable mentions that is perhaps triple that of the length of this top ten list. I can’t and won’t list them all here but will certainly share, in no particular order, a sampling of these other albums that are also worth your time:

  • Elbow “Flying dream 1”
  • Postdata “Twin flames”
  • The Coral “Coral island”
  • Islands “Islomania”
  • New Candys “Vyvyd”
  • James “All the colours of you”
  • The Hold steady “Open door policy”

Great. Now that I’ve gotten through the great albums that are not in my top five for the year, let’s focus on the albums that are. Yes. Let’s do just that.


#5 Goat Girl “On all fours”

It used to be that I would hear the term post-punk and naturally gravitate towards the act upon which the writer bestowed the term. There was so much great music in the 2000s that was heavily inspired by the movement that grew out of the original punk scene in the late seventies and early eighties. But as time wore on, the term wore out its welcome, was being bandied about like crazy, and the bands that flew the banner always seemed to subscribe to just the one facet of the scene, that of angular guitars and stoic and dispassionate vocals. More often than not, these days, I give the new post-punk acts a cursory spin and move on. However, I found Goat Girl to be a different animal altogether (and yes, that pun was not intended). And while I’m on the name, I might never have given the album a chance had I not heard some of the songs before I heard the band name and learned that the band members operated under the pseudonyms Clottie Cream, L.E.D., Holly Hole, and Rosy Bones. Nevertheless, I did hear some magic from the start, and though the term post-punk is applied, it feels here like the dots in a connect-the-dot drawing where the dots remain for the most part unconnected. There’s definitely some heavy and foreboding basslines to be found on “On all fours”, the quartet’s sophomore record, but the spikes are worn down to shiny sparkles with frothing and swirling guitars and abracadabra synths. It is at times garish and loud but taken as a whole, it makes total nonsensical sense.

Gateway tune: Sad cowboy


#4 Breeze “Only up”

Back in September, I texted my friend Andrew Rodriguez the Spotify link to the song below and asked him who he thought the song sounded like. Within moments, he texted back the melon emoticon, which is our code for everything Happy Mondays. We both listened to the rest of “Only up” by Breeze in our separate homes and cities and continued to text back and forth to each other our thoughts on the album. By the end, we had hatched this plan to play some tunes off of it for our mutual friend Tim at an upcoming cottage weekend with a view to trying to convince him that Breeze was a group we had grown up listening to in the early 90s but that he had somehow forgotten. We almost had him too and we definitely wouldn’t have blamed him. The album truly is a paean to a specific time and mood of the early 90s, name-checking not only the Mondays but the Madchester baggy scene as a whole, throw in a little Beck, and pretty much anyone else mixing dance beats with rock guitars and basslines and a heavy peppery dose of samples. Toronto producer Josh Korody wrote, recorded, and mixed the album in 8 days with the help of a who’s who of Toronto-based indie artists, including Cadence Weapon, Tess Parks, and members of Orville Peck’s band, Tallies, Zoon, Ducks Ltd., and Broken Social Scene. Perhaps this pick shows my age and my love for the music of that time but I don’t care who knows it: I love this album.

Gateway tune: Come around (feat. Cadence Weapon)


#3 Flyying Colours “Fantasy country”

The first I heard tell of Australian four-piece, Flyying Colours, and their amazing sophomore record, “Fantasy country”, was when one of the many crazy vinyl collectors that I follow, posted about it on Instagram. He is often posting about bands that I also like and when I saw him raving about this as an early favourite of the year, I didn’t hesitate to give it a go on Spotify. Midway through the first track, I decided that his praises weren’t meaningless hyperbole and quickly went on the hunt to purchase a copy of it for my own collection. The group was formed in 2011 by school friends Brodie J Brümmer and Gemma O’Connor, and were rounded out by Melanie Barbaro
and Andy Lloyd-Russell. Their 2016 debut album, “Mindfullness”, was well-received and critically acclaimed but constant touring and then, worldwide pandemic delayed any new material until early this year. The eight tracks on “Fantasy country” are honed and clean and nearly-perfect. Their shoegaze psych-rock feels a lot like the early work of The Besnard Lakes, especially with the hazy, Beach Boy like harmonies, but with a double shot of caffeine and sugar to throttle things up. There’s plenty of drone and atmospherics and layered beauty. It’s great for late nights with red wine.

Gateway tune: Big mess


#2 Big Red Machine “How long do you think it’s gonna last?”

At best, I thought that the self-titled debut by Big Red Machine was an interesting collaborative effort between Aaron Dessner (of The National) and Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver). It had some good songs but I certainly didn’t think of it as a going concern. Indeed, I’ve never been a huge fan of Bon Iver, but I always had time for new material by The National, despite the fact that they were starting to get noticed for some work they did with uber singer/songwriter/popstar, Taylor Swift. And I think it was her involvement in this latest Big Red Machine that had this particular blogger hemming and hawing, but most definitely had the indie music and pop music world, in general, abuzz with excitement. But you know? “How long do you think it’s gonna last” really is an excellent album. It’s long – 15 tracks spread over 65 minutes – and yet, it feels short. It doesn’t rock hard, just moves at its own pace, self-aware and self-examining, questioning its own health and safety, working hard to keep anxiety at bay, much like we are all doing right now. Of course, all of the collaborations are great – This is the Kit, Sharon Van Etten, Fleet Foxes, La Force, and yes, even Taylor Swift adds to the brilliance – but I think the real credit rests with Dessner, whose complete vision really carries this piece off and when he actually steps from the shadows to take center stage on a few songs, it is the epitome of poignant.

Gateway tune: Magnolia


#1 The Reds, Pinks and Purples “Uncommon weather”

What can I say? I don’t think I’ve fallen for any band or artist as quickly as I have for The Reds, Pinks and Purples in a very, very long time. The songwriting vehicle for San Francisco-based Glenn Donaldson first came to my attention via an email from Slumberland Records, one of my favourite record labels, advertising the release of “Uncommon weather”. I pulled it up on Spotify and bam, I was sold. Indeed, I don’t know where Mr. Donaldson has been all my life. He’s released an album in each of the last three years under The Reds, Pinks and Purples moniker, each of which I’ve since gobbled up like spaghetti, there’s a new album due out early in 2022, and you can bet that I’ll be all over that as well. There’s just something addictive in his short bursts of ear-worm pop. Each of the thirteen songs on “Uncommon weather” sounds immediately familiar and welcoming. There’s loads of reverb and silky smooth synths, peppy drumming and jangly guitars, and above it all, Donaldson channels all of our 80s John Hughes heroes: Robert Smith, Ian McCulloch, and Richard Butler. Yes, I’m well aware that The Reds, Pinks and Purples might not be to every taste but these songs have touched my soul this year and I feel obligated to pass it along. If you listen to one new album this year, please, let this be it.

Gateway tune: The record player & the damage done

 

Categories
Playlists

Playlist: New tunes from 2021, part one

Happy Thursday everyone!

A treat for you, given that we’ve already made to the halfway mark of April. That’s right, it’s time for the first instalment in my annual four part playlist sharing new tunes released throughout the year.

Last year when I did my first playlist post, we were just one month into this pandemic thing and none of us had any idea what we were really in for. The music on that first list was all recorded and mostly released pre-pandemic when everything was still ‘normal’. I remember wondering what the impacts would be to musicians and recorded music and from what we’ve seen, despite the restrictions on live performances and travelling, tours and festivals are really the only thing we’ve lost. Sure, there’s been hiccups in the supply chain, causing delays in vinyl releases and the cost of records to steadily increase, but we’ve seen no shortage of good music released. In fact, it feels like creativity is at an all time high when it comes to new music.

I’d say that the majority of these here twenty five tunes were recorded under the shadow of COVID-19. In some cases, the artists were able to work together in person and in some, the process was virtual, working like many of us are having to do, in new and inventive ways. And new music being released is something for which I am super thankful. It’s something to which to look forward, something new and different, and as always, it feeds my soul. Now if only we all can get vaccinated and we can get back to enjoying live performances together. Something else to look forward to, I guess…

In the meantime, here are twenty five new tunes that have helped keep me going over the first three months of 2021. Highlights include:

      • From an album of covers by American singer/songwriter Pete Yorn, this take on The Stone Roses’ “Ten storey love song” is way more enjoyable than I ever would have thought possible
      • Margaret Sohn, aka Miss Grit, lays a haunting and shimmering bomb called “Blonde”, the centrepiece of her latest EP
      • “Michelangelo”, the opening track on Cassandra Jenkins‘ sophomore album calls to mind Jenny Lewis’s work on her 2008 album, “Acid tongue”
      • “I woke up with an open heart”, a hip lounge dreamscape built by Simon Raymonde’s latest project, Lost Horizons, with the help of reggae band, The Hempolics
      • For some reason, I never had the urge to check out POSTDATA up to now, but “Kissing” and the rest of the third album by the side project of Wintersleep’s Paul Murphy has me reaching for their back catalogue
      • Similarly, I had never listened to Scottish indie rock duo Arab Strap before but gave their first new album in 16 years a try and was drawn into the dark depths of opening track, “The turn of our bones”
      • And it all wraps up with “I don’t recognize you” by NewDad, a dream pop gem by a young new Irish band that feels like lazing in the park on a sunny day

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist as I’ve created it:

1. “Alphabet” shame (from the album Drunk tank pink)

2. “Ten storey love song” Pete Yorn (from the album Pete Yorn sings the classics)

3. “Good girls (don’t get used)” Beach Bunny (from the EP Good girls (don’t get used))

4. “The last exit” Still Corners (from the album The last exit)

5. “Undecided voters” Kiwi Jr. (from the album Cooler returns)

6. “Welcome to the endgame” Typhoon (from the album Sympathetic magic)

7. “Sad cowboy” Goat Girl (from the album On all fours)

8. “Our heads, our hearts on fire again” The Besnard Lakes (from the album The Besnard Lakes are the last of the great thunderstorm warnings)

9. “Blonde” Miss Grit (from the EP Impostor)

10. “Hesitating nation” Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (from the album New fragility)

11. “Michelangelo” Cassandra Jenkins (from the album An overview on phenomenal nature)

12. “The wind was like a train” Wild Pink (from the album A billion little lights)

13. “Lanyards” The Hold Steady (from the album Open door policy)

14. “Goodtimes” Flyying Colours (from the album Fantasy country)

15. “I woke up with an open heart (feat. The Hempolics)” Lost Horizons (from the album In quiet moments)

16. “Faith healer” Julien Baker (from the album Little oblivions)

17. “Kissing” POSTDATA (from the album Twin flames)

18. “The balcony” Fruit Bats (from the album The pet parade)

19. “The turning of our bones” Arab Strap (from the album As days get dark)

20. “I like the way you die” Black Honey (from the album Written and directed)

21. “Brighter then” Real Numbers (from the EP Brighter then)

22. “R U 4 me?” Middle Kids (from the album Today we’re the greatest)

23. “In the middle of the way home” Tuns (from the album Duly noted)

24. “Party lines” Anna Fox Rochinski (from the album Cherry)

25. “I don’t recognize you” NewDad (from the EP Waves)

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe, continue to be well, and well, enjoy the tunes.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the other playlists I’ve created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.