Best tunes of 2012: #22 Family Of The Year “Hero”

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Family of the Year was formed in California in 2009 by brothers Joe and Sebastian Keefe, as well as James Buckey, who were all veterans of the Boston alt-rock music scene in the late 90s. California native Christina Schroeter joined the group not long after, solidifying the indie folk band’s roster and adding her female vocals to give the group its trademark harmonies. A debut album called “Our songbook” appeared almost immediately after their formation, suggesting that material had been percolating for a while, and then, their major label debut was launched three years later. “Loma Vista” was actually my introduction to them (and still the only album by them in my collection) and this meeting came a year after its release, in 2013, because they were slated to play the local summer music festival (remember those?) and they piqued my interest.

Family of the Year’s set was quite amazing and the album got a lot more play after I saw them than it did beforehand. I especially fell in love with the single “Hero”, a track that had been released earlier, albeit as a shorter and not nearly as finely realized version. This song was then used for the trailer and as de facto theme song for Richard Linklater film, “Boyhood”, in 2014 and became a hit of sorts for Family of the Year. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the film but it’s a long one, following the protagonist throughout his formative years. What makes this coming of age flick different from the rest, though, is that it was filmed real-time as the actor (and his co-stars) aged through those same formative years, making the pay off at the end all the more worthwhile. The film also imbued the song with more meaning for me, burnishing the protagonist of the song’s reluctance to stand out, and dancing all emotional and heroic in spite of himself.

“So let me go
I don’t wanna be your hero
I don’t wanna be a big man
Just wanna fight with everyone else”

“Hero” pulls into you tightly with its jangly arpeggiating plucking on the acoustic guitar, the light brushing on the snares, and the way each eases their way out of the ether. Synth washes are just there, like the flickering shadows just beyond the reach of the campfire, and then, just at the song’s apex, comes a touch of electric guitar, but more as support than overpowering force. The rest of the band joins Joe Keefe here, singing as a crowd, cheerful and uplifting. And then, the song ends as it began, quiet and acoustic, leaving a slight but definite smile on your face as the last note fades.

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

Vinyl love: Secret Machines “Ten silver drops”

(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: Secret Machines
Album Title: Ten silver drops
Year released: 2006
Year reissued: 2019
Details: gatefold, 2 x 180 gram, expanded deluxe, limited to 1227 copies, numbered 970

The skinny: Last week, I posted about “Now here is nowhere“, the very excellent debut album by Secret Machines, and the pressing by Run Out Groove vinyl that I couldn’t help but purchase for my collection when it was announced. As I mentioned there, Run Out Groove is a label that solicits votes from music fans on its website for three options each month and the potential reissue with the most votes gets a limited run based on the amount of advanced orders. Well, Secret Machines’ fans must be a rabid bunch because Run Out Groove has already done three pressings from the band in the label’s short history: the aforementioned debut, a rare live record, and this sophomore record, “Ten silver drops”. I’ve read the complaints about the low volume levels on the mastering for this pressing but that doesn’t bother me at all. It just needs to be cranked and it sounds amazing. And yeah, “Ten silver drops” is an album that demands to be cranked.

Standout track: “Lightning blue eyes”

Best tunes of 2012: #23 Miike Snow “The wave”

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It was the music video for this song that first caught my attention. It was just so weird.

This was back during that brief period where I managed to catch music videos again on television. I had discovered AUX TV on cable and figured out that they often played some great music videos early in the AM, right around the time I was making and enjoying my morning coffee. I was only half watching it the first time and was quite confused about the svelte, large-nosed, half-naked man with a jet black pageboy and what he had to do with an apparent catastrophe that mortally injured a number of children, and how he managed to get the investigating police officers to dance. Then, I caught the video again a few days later, stopped what I was doing to watch, and it still didn’t make much more sense. Though I did find myself really enjoying the tune.

And based upon on this track, I sought out the album, “Happy to you”, the second by indie dance pop trio, Miike Snow, and began searching out their other videos on YouTube. As it turned out, the video for “The wave” was a continuation of the video for “Paddling out”, the previous single released from the album. Watching the two videos back to back, both directed by Andreas Nilsson, things started to make sense, but really only by a little bit. I learned from “Paddling out” that the ‘catastrophe’ was the result of the crash landing of a space ship piloted by psychotic twin girls who go around kidnapping innocents and transforming them in “perfect” beings, of which the large nosed man was one.

Right. Let’s not thinking too much on it.

“The wave” is my favourite tune from “Happy to you” but it is by no means the only great track on it. Miike Snow, made up of Swedish producers Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (who also operate as Bloodshy and Avant) and American vocalist/songwriter, Andrew Wyatt, create super danceable indie pop, very much in the same vein as Peter Bjorn and John. It’s all very catchy and fun stuff, a little bit weird and surprising at times, but always well crafted. “The wave”, for instance, employs the use of an autoharp and the staccato, marching band rhythm is actually performed by the Swedish army drum corps. The digital effects mix finely with the organic elements, giving it all a very tribal alien groove. Yes, I said it, tribal alien groove.

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