Vinyl love: Stars “The north”

(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: Stars
Album Title: The north
Year released: 2012
Details: Gatefold sleeve, blue translucent vinyl

The skinny: Back in 2012, I had just started collecting vinyl, my wife starting things off by finding a couple of fine used picks in Greenwich Village while in New York. After that, I start visiting physical music stores again and rediscovering of the joy of browsing for music, picking up a record here and there, even though I didn’t have a turntable yet. When Stars released a new album, their sixth, in August of that year, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up. First of all, I saw that it was blue and secondly, a sticker pronounced that it included a download card, so that even though I couldn’t spin the record yet, at least I could listen to its contents. Luckily for me, it was another great album by the Montreal-based indie pop band.

Standout track: “Hold on when you get love and let go when you give it”

Best albums of 2008: #2 The High Dials “Moon country”

So here’s a band and album that might have many of you ducking out for Google and Wikipedia.

The High Dials are a Montreal-based psych rock band whose driving force is Trevor Anderson. Originally called The Datsons, they got their start in and about 2001 and had to change their name a few times because they learned it was taken by other, more established groups. They landed on The High Dials around 2003 and released their debut album, “A new devotion”, that same year. In 2005, they released “The war of the wakening phantoms”, a psych rock masterpiece that received rave reviews from all corners and really should have made them stars. However, justice was not served and in 2008 they were self-releasing their third album, “Moon country”.

I was really looking forward to this album after become completely infatuated with their previous release and I wasn’t disappointed at all. It is 14 tracks of throwback psych mixed with folk, drone, country, power pop but all with an eye to the future. It was released on CD and in digital formats like MP3 but still marketed itself as two sides, a nod to a vinyl past and future resurgence that had not yet fully taken hold. Like their other albums, the songs are great on their own but taken as a whole, listened to as they were meant to be, they feel an invincible force and you can’t believe that you are one of the few people in the world that have experienced them.

The High Dials are still a going concern despite always operating on the periphery. They’ve released two more albums since “Moon country” and a new EP just last year that I still haven’t gotten around to but intend to do so very soon. In this environment where there is so much music at our fingertips and so little time for new discoveries, I still say this group and especially this album is worth your precious moments. Have a look at my three picks for you below and let me know what you think.

“Clare”: “The future’s no place for me. Watch it sink like a boat in the sea. Tie my past to the mast. It can all go down.” It’s a lazy beat and even lazier vocals. Sounding like floating on the moon or on a cloud of ether, Trevor Anderson’s breathy voice here is fed through echo chambers of reverb. There’s lots of layers for such a simple sounding concept of a song but there you have it. Harps to close things out. Of course.

“Killer of dragons”: Electronic beats set against the strum of an acoustic guitar hint at a blurring of time and space. Eerie synths are added and the acoustic gives way to pedal-mutated electric guitars but the beat remains the same. Meanwhile, Trevor sings a tale reminiscent of Don Quixote. “Bring your bow and arrow and fortified wine. Take a taxi to the caves tonight.” Yeah, “Killer of dragons” inhabits a modern world rife with magic and the fantastical… or is it just the fortified wine? No matter. It’s a great tune to close your eyes to, adjust your noise cancelling ear phones and ride out the waves of dizziness.

“Book of the dead”: This final track, which follows the previous one discussed on the album, track five on ‘side one’, is the one that reminded me the most of the work on their previous album, “War of the wakening phantoms”. It is crazy upbeat and danceable, snakes and ladders guitars, frenetic beats, and plenty of haziness and dreams. It meshes Manchester craze with shoegaze introspection and a handful of psychedelic pink pills, making for a beautiful party in your head. “Secrets I need. Secrets you can read from my book of the dead.” Not sold yet? Listen to it again! You’re obviously not doing it right.

Check back next Thursday for album #1. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Fleet Foxes  “Fleet Foxes”
9. The Submarines “Honeysuckle weeks”
8. Schools of Seven Bells “Alpinisms”
7. Glasvegas “Glasvegas”
6. Spiritualized “Songs in A & E”
5. Elbow “The seldom seen kid”
4. Death Cab For Cutie “Narrow stairs”
3. Vampire Weekend “Vampire Weekend”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Live music galleries: Virgin Festival Toronto [2008]

(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.)

Early crowds at V Fest day two

Artists: The Weakerthans, Stereophonics, Paul Weller, and Oasis
When: September 7th, 2008 (day two)
Where: Main Stage, Virgin Festival, Toronto Island, Toronto
Context: In the introductory post to my Best albums of 2008 list that I am in the midst of counting down, I made mention of the fact that Toronto’s Virgin Fest of that year was the first time I ever attended a multi-day music festival. It was the third year being held on Toronto’s Island over a two-day weekend in early September, the same weekend as Montreal’s Osheaga so as to share bands amongst them. (Incidentally, the following year, where it was moved off the island to a location north of Toronto and Osheaga moved its festivities to the first weekend in August, was Virgin Fest’s final year in Canada.)

I attended both days with my friend Mark and his friend Denise and Victoria joined us for the second day. The photos here are all from the second day because Victoria had the foresight to document the fun for future reference. I didn’t think of it myself and so you’re missing shots of Airborne Toxic Event, Spiritualized, The Fratellis, Bloc Party, and multiple trips to the Baccardi bar for mojitos on day one. The lineup on the main stage for day two was good enough for us to plant roots there for the entire day and we caught The Weakerthans and Stereophonics from a comfy place on a picnic blanket. We had to pull it up around the time the crowd moved in for Paul Weller, at whom Victoria was surprised was so old.

Oasis was the headlining act that night, which was the sole reason I was able to convince Victoria to join us, and there were rumours going around that Paul Weller was going to come back onstage to perform a song or two with them. However, it was not to be because some idiot 40-something climbed up onstage during Oasis’s set and pushed Noel Gallagher from behind on to the stacks of monitors. I can’t say I saw it because Victoria and I were on our way back from a prime but very squashed spot near the front of the stage to a spot further back with more breathing room when the music abruptly stopped. There was confusion as to what actually happened amongst the people we asked around us and I only got the full picture the next day on YouTube.

The band eventually returned to the stage to finish what was likely a shortened set with Noel Gallagher being a trooper (with what he later learned was a few busted ribs) performing a couple songs solo and acoustic. It was a slight taint on what was an otherwise fantastic weekend and only whet my appetite for more outdoor music festivals.

Point of reference song: The shock of the lightning” by Oasis

Walking bushes at V Fest
A very tall lady at V Fest
The Weakerthans at V Fest
The Stereophonics at V Fest
More Stereophonics at V Fest
Crowds at dusk at V Fest
Paul Weller and his band at V Fest
Paul Weller at V Fest
Noel Gallagher of Oasis at V Fest
Liam Gallagher of Oasis striking a pose
Oasis at V Fest

*I will allow that many of these posts are getting wordier the more of them I post and this particular post is practically a novel…