Best tunes of 2012: #17 The Raveonettes “Curse the night”

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My friend Tim was raving to me about The Raveonettes for a few years before I finally got around to listening to them. I think it was their appearance on some late night television show in 2007 that was the gentle nudge I needed. I couldn’t tell you now which show it was because it was so long ago and I likely only landed on it by happenstance while flipping through channels. I distinctly remember that they performed “Dead sound” and finding myself swooning over their dichotomy of harsh and soft tones. I immediately went out in search of the album on which the song appears and found it on the band’s third album, “Lust lust lust”. So started the love affair that continues to this day.

Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo originally got things going as a duo back in 2001 in Copenhagen, Denmark. They had formed a band around themselves for their first handful of albums but had given all that up by the time I caught up with them, realizing that theirs was the only input they truly required. Their dreamy noise created by a mesh of guitars, synths, and drum machines pulls heavily from the wall of sound ethos, triggering thoughts of The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, and the usual pack of 90s shoegazers.

“Curse the night” is track three on The Raveonettes’ sixth album, “Observator”, which was conceived by Wagner in the wake of a bender in Venice Beach, California. The album is so named because the songs draw inspiration from his observations of the people and way of life that he was exposed to while there. Our song today was never released as a single but it stuck out for me immediately upon first listen and was apparently important enough for the band to warrant a music video being filmed for it. You can watch this for yourself below. It takes for its backdrops the empty streets of the duo’s home city and the filming of it in black and white certainly fits the song’s atmospheric and lonely mood (though the ending of video is quite the twist that I’ve never quite sorted out).

“Curse the night” is driven by a slow but insistent and unavoidable beat, virtual drummer boys leading the march. The guitars and washes form a fog that gathers and follows in close behind. The words are sung almost as a ghostly lullaby, twin sirens wailing at the night, Wagner and Foo blending seamlessly at the chorus, voices as one, making Foo’s solo on the verses sound all the more frail, childlike, and alone, perhaps a lost youth, abandoned and forgotten, ruing the cold and darkness and quiet of the late night in the city.

“I cry back, I feel the streets say
I’m holding on, someone else escaped“

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

Vinyl love: My Bloody Valentine “Loveless”

(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: My Bloody Valentine
Album Title: Loveless
Year released: 1991
Year reissued: 2018
Details: 180 gram, gatefold sleeve

The skinny: Back on Thursday, I started a new series that I plan to drag out for full enjoyment because, yeah, I am counting down my favourite albums of one of my favourite years for music. If you love the early 1990s as I do, definitely check it out. But I will forewarn from you now, as I did on that same post, this iconic album by shoegaze noisemakers My Bloody Valentine was one of a handful of very influential albums that I just couldn’t make fit into my top ten. (Indeed, our fellow blogging friend at Aphoristic Album Reviews was nearly as surprised at this as I was.) However, rest assured that “Loveless” was very. very, very close to making the cut. It is an album of which that I liked only some of its songs back in the day but in the thirty years that have since passed, it has grown so much in my esteem, that now nearly every tune within is a classic. Indeed, I am very glad to have acted fast on the pre-order for this record back in 2018. I remember catching wind that that Kevin Shields was reissuing the group’s first two records on vinyl, doing the remastering himself using some esoteric analogue process that my own tiny brain can’t comprehend. Notwithstanding, it is a very sweet listen, intense and clear, well, as clear as it was meant to be. And the fact that the album cover arrived a little bent out of shape in the post doesn’t even bother me that much. The disc is perfect and that’s what matters.

Standout track: “Only shallow”

Best albums of 2020: #4 No Joy “Motherhood”

Someone needs to get on updating the Wikipedia entry on No Joy. Calling the project led by Jasamine White-Gluz a shoegaze band now feels like a mislabel, especially after you listen to their excellent fourth record, “Motherhood”.

When I first got into Montreal-based No Joy six or seven years ago, the term seemed more apt. White-Gluz had just released a second album under the moniker, working as a duo with Laura Lloyd. Both “Wait to pleasure” and the debut that preceded it, “Ghost blonde”, were steeped in fuzzy and hazy guitar trails blazed by My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and Lush. But there was a progression between the two albums, a hint that this act wasn’t just here to recreate and celebrate the original scene, a trope adopted by other ‘nu-gazers’.

After a third album, 2015’s “More faithful”, that was recorded by a more fleshed-out quartet, didn’t seem to move the marker far enough, White-Gluz took hold of the reins and took a break from recording LPs, in favour of a series of EPs, each striking out in a different exploratory direction. Perhaps most notable of these was her collaboration with Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember in 2018. She completely stepped away from her comfort zone here, dispensing with her trusty guitar and traded it for synthesizers. The resulting four songs on “No Joy / Sonic Boom” might not be what you’d expect from either artist but are definitely a compelling listen for fans of both.

For “Motherhood”, Jasmine White-Gluz picked up her guitar again but didn’t leave behind the synths. She picked up the shoegaze that she started this journey with but threw it in a shake-and-bake bag with some trip hop, hardcore, ambient, and a bunch of the other sounds she’s toyed with in the five years between LPs. Yet instead of sounding scattered and overwhelming, the eleven songs here are quite cohesive and have sense of direction. This is likely because the album has a singular driving force and her’s is an ethereal voice that works the room with confidence. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.

My three picks for you are actually the album’s first three tracks and first three songs released in advance of it and the varied sounds are a good indication of the album’s explosive makeup.

“Dream rats“: The video for track two on “Motherhood” was released just a few days before the unveiling of the album itself. The song features the vocals of Jasamine’s sister, Alissa, the lead vocalist for Swedish death metal band Arch Enemy, a collaboration that the sisters haven’t been able to venture into together since both were very young. And the tune fits like a glove for both because after a short lazy intro, the song bursts forth into a furious pace that sounds like it might venture deep into thrash scream-o territory. Then, the shimmering, dancing synths kick in and it all gets dreamy again. The vocals, too, save for some perfectly placed growls, are ethereal and wispy, flitting and fleeting deep in the mix, the words all but indecipherable, ringing angelic against such a black, black, black backdrop of sound.

“Nothing will hurt”: For a track that starts out sounding a discordant industrial number, the second single really transforms into a dance floor burner reminiscent of Blondie, albeit with some disjointed flair. White-Gluz has said of its recording: “our mission in the studio was that no idea was too weird to try. That led to us squishing bananas into very expensive microphones to get textured percussion noises, shoving kitchen knives into guitar necks to create a perfect slide guitar sound and adding some Primus-inspired slap bass.” Yeah, it’s crazy but it works. It is gazing excitedly at shiny dancing shoes, stabbing guitars and rifling rhythms and shiny synths, oh my.

“Birthmark”: The opening track on the album and very first peek at the project’s first new album in five years hits like a ton of bricks. It’s the sound of 90s shoegaze gone 90s alternative dance. Think Chapterhouse’s second album “Blood music” or anything by Curve. Like the rest of the album, Jasamine White-Gluz had a lot of fun with this one in the studio, finding use for a set of bongos and apparently, a broken clarinet. The bongos are definitely front and centre and form the basis of a dance floor beckoning drum rhythm but I challenge you to point out the clarinet in the wall of sound she’s created in the loops and loops and loops. The party sound belies the subject matter, which according to White-Gluz, has its basis in the experience of visiting a relative in a senior living facility.

Check back next Thursday for album #3. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. The Strokes “The new abnormal”
9. Venus Furs “Venus Furs”
8. Bright Eyes “Down in the weeds, where the world once was”
7. The Beths “Jump rope gazers”
6. The Rentals “Q36”
5. Secret Machines “Awake in the brain chamber”

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