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Tunes

Best tunes of 2003: #30 The Coral “Liezah”

#29 >>

This new list counting down my favourite thirty tunes of 2003 starts off with “Liezah”, a non-single to which I was partial from The Coral’s sophomore album, “Magic and medicine”.

I remember becoming super enamoured with the zaniness of these youngsters’ self-titled debut, especially the infectious hit single, “Dreaming of you”, which appeared at number three on my list for 2002. That album was free-wheeling and full of exuberance and definitely sounded like it had creativity and energy to spare. So it didn’t come as a surprise to me when I heard news of a follow up so soon after I discovered them. In fact, the band members first headed to the studio to work on their sophomore album a mere three months after the debut was released. The sessions were split into a few chunks and were wrapped up in the spring of 2003.

“Magc and medicine” was released on “The Coral”’s first year anniversary, give or take a day, and the difference between the two is remarkable. It’s definitely more polished and tame, something that might not seem like a good thing to all. Where the debut was a melange of everything that made psychedelia great, the scope of the sophomore was more narrow, focused on a bluesier psych-rock in the vein of The Animals. I still enjoyed much of the music and show of musicianship but the lustre was dimmed for me.

Track number three was the exception to all this for me. “Liezah” was even more toned down and scaled back than the rest of the record and yet it somehow managed to share the spark that I saw in “Dreaming of you”. It’s got a bopping baseline that can only come from an upright bass. It’s got a ticky tacky brushing on the high hat and the snare. It’s got a finger picking noodle that sounds timeless and idyllic and breezy. It’s got a restrained vocal turn by James Skelly, showing a gentleness and wistfulness not seen before.

“And every time I think of Liezah
I break down and I start crying
Although she tore me apart
There’s still a place for that girl in my heart”

It’s a song of heartbreak and heartache and bittersweet memory. And yet, “Liezah” never fails to bring a smile and get my toes a-tapping whenever I hear it.

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

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Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #10 Father John Misty “I’m writing a novel”

<< #11    |    #9 >>

Back when I was in university, I managed to weasel my way into the Creative Writing program. I had always fancied myself a writer and managed to put together a serviceable portfolio that apparently impressed someone.  Nonetheless, I often felt like a fraud in those workshops, even though I sometimes managed to create something by chance that I felt was new and real. Notwithstanding, I met some great people back then, likeminded writers-in-training, and we waxed pretension and separately dreamed of writing the next great novel or poem.

So yeah, I always laugh a little bit when Josh Tillman sings the line: “And I’m writing a novel because it’s never been done before.”

I honestly had never before thought about the word in that way: a bunch of pages bound in a sheaf, crammed with words that, strung together, weave tales of grandeur, angst, sadness, and glory. But it’s true. The whole idea of it was all very new at one point and each piece that has been published since is new its own way. And here is this singer, spouting this brilliant line of verse in a stream of conscious song, getting me thinking about the gall of all writers (or just us wannabes), thinking that we have something new to say to change the world.

Yep. This is how I fell for the music of Father John Misty.

I first perused the songs off “Fear fun”, the debut album under this moniker*, when I read that Tillman had previous performed with Fleet Foxes as their drummer. I started out by watching a few of his videos, which in themselves were a bit bizarre, and I must say that I was quickly hooked. The sound struck me as retro sounding but in a whacked out kind of way and the words were hilarious, especially the closer I listened and the deeper I crawled into the woven stories.

I then caught Father John Misty perform live at two separate festivals in 2012 and 2013, both appearances in support of this debut and found his onstage persona compelling and ridiculous. Tillman has since released three more albums since “Fear fun” and I have seen two more live performances and in that interim, he has honed his sound into something all his own, still keeping his storytelling lyrics intact.

Still, I feel closer to his debut than any of his later work, with “I’m writing a novel” being a tune that I always keep close. It’s jump jivin’ guitar and juke joint piano, old school folk rock and psychedelics and Josh Tillman spouting a nonsensical narrative that oddly makes sense and reads like a pretentious cautionary tale. It’s rock and roll for which to take drugs and imagine new worlds.

“Heidegger and Sartre, drinking poppy tea
I could’ve sworn last night I passed out in my van and now these guys are pouring one for me
I’ll never leave the canyon ’cause I’m surrounded on all sides
By people writing novels and living on amusement rides”

*Josh Tillman had previously recorded under the name J. Tillman but put an end to all that in 2009.

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

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Live music galleries

Live music galleries: Wintersleep [2012]

(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. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

Wintersleep at Ottawa Bluesfest 2012

Artist: Wintersleep
When: July 12th, 2012
Where: River stage, RBC Bluesfest, Ottawa
Context: I attended Ottawa Bluesfest for the fourth year in a row back in 2012 but it was the first year that I purchased the festival pass and took full advantage of it. By the final day of its 10 day duration, I was pretty tired but headed down to the grounds anyway to enjoy a great slate of Canadian indie bands. Wintersleep, a five member indie rock band from Halifax, Nova Scotia, was a late, yet very welcome addition to the Bluesfest schedule for me because I had never before seen them live. Their 7:30pm set time on the River stage was bright and energetic, supercharged with wicked drum beats care of Loel Campbell (who is also really fun to watch) and the easily identifiable singing voice of Paul Murphy. You can really tell by watching them that Wintersleep are serious about their music. You almost get the feeling that when they hit their stride and they’re deep into their jam, it doesn’t matter whether the audience is big or small or even there at all. That’s not to say they don’t appreciate their fans but their dedication to their craft is obvious by the way they throw everything into their performance. I thoroughly enjoyed this set, especially their renditions of my favourite track, the anthemic “Weighty ghost” and new song (at that time) “In came the flood”. I would highly recommend seeing them live.
Point of reference song: “In came the flood”

Loel Campbell and Paul Murphy of Wintersleep
Jon Samuel and Tim d’Eon of Wintersleep
Paul Murphy and Chris Bell of Wintersleep
Mike Bigelow and Tim d’Eon of Wintersleep
Paul Murphy taking it away