Best tunes of 2011: #4 Austra “Lose it”

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Have you ever listened to and enjoyed an album up to a point but then, after seeing the band perform its songs live, it’s suddenly your favourite (at that moment) album? Well, it’s happened to me… a number of times. And one of these was with Austra’s debut album, “Feel it break”, after seeing their incendiary performance at Ritual Nightclub on December 3rd, 2011.

If you’ve not heard of them before, Austra is a three-piece band from Toronto, Canada, whose moniker was taken from the middle name of the petite lead singer and front woman, Katie Stelmanis. The other two members of the band are drummer Maya Postepski (also of TR/ST) and Dorian Wolf on bass. When I saw them live, they were joined onstage by a keyboard player and the Lightman twins (from Tasseomancy) singing backup. However and with apologies to her bandmates, this project is really about Stelmanis, a classically trained singer who found a love for electronic music, which explains the seemingly boundless vocal range.

While listening, if you can tear yourself away from just the vocals for a moment and realize there is backing music, you might hear a strong resemblance to the sounds Depeche Mode was making during their darker periods in the late 80s and early 90s (see albums “Music for the masses” and “Violator”). And it’s not just her use of synthesizers that make me say this but also her use of the minor key. Kate Stelmanis has admitted a love for writing music in minor keys, which is something of which Depeche Mode’s principal songwriter, Martin Gore, was also fond.

“Lose it” is easily my favourite track of many fantastic songs on “Feel it break” and most probably the catchiest of the lot. Starting off with a cool robotic sound that mixes European industrial with that aforementioned early Depeche Mode, the song jumps up a notch when Katie Austra Stelmanis adds her lush vocals and you’re just thinking how amazing she is and then she blows that away again with the chorus.

So if you’re up for some new-wave inspired electronic tunes, I highly recommend giving “Lose it” a listen. It’s especially excellent for enjoying through earphones.

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

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.

Live music galleries: Camera Obscura [2013]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

Camera Obscura live at Bluesfest 2013

Artist: Camera Osbcura
When: July 5th, 2013
Where: River stage, Ottawa Bluesfest, Lebreton Flats Park, Ottawa
Context: In my humble opinion, 2013 saw the best lineup that Ottawa Bluesfest has ever seen, especially for indie rock fans like myself. Case in point was this early evening performance by Glasgow’s Camera Obscura on one of the festival’s side stages. This set in support of their fifth record, “Desire lines”, was actually my second time seeing the band, but I haven’t seen them since. I was super glad to catch this show with original keyboard player, Carey Lander, who, unfortunately for all of us, died two years later from Osteosarcoma. The indie pop group went on hiatus afterwards and only just this year returned to performing live. Hopefully, this means new material and perhaps another North American tour soon.
Point of reference song: Break it to you gently

Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura
Carey Lander of Camera Obscura
Carey Lander’s keyboard
Lee Thomson of Camera Obscura
Carey Lander, Tim Cronin, and Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura
Kenny McKeeve and Gavin Dunbar of Camera Obscura
Tracyanne Campbell