Best tunes of 2011: #12 Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds “The death of you and me”

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One of the earliest posts on my old blog, Music Insanity, was some initial thoughts on this tune, “The death of you and me.” It was the first single off Noel Gallagher’s first album of recorded material that wasn’t released under the Oasis name. And I was pretty excited because, as I wrote at the time, my first thought after hearing that he was leaving Oasis was: “God, I hope he releases some solo material!”

As great a frontman as his younger brother Liam was and is, I was always certain that Noel was the more talented of the Gallagher siblings. He was definitely the more gifted as a songwriter and I would argue that he has a better voice. It’s not for no reason that of all Oasis’s songs, I always preferred the ones on which Noel took the microphone for himself (“The masterpiece”, “Don’t look back in anger”). Don’t get me wrong. Liam has a great voice and he certainly had the stance and the swagger down but Noel didn’t need any of that.

A few months before the release of “The death of you and me”, the leftovers of Oasis had released their own first collection of new material without Noel under the moniker, Beady Eye. And although there were some good songs on “Different gear, still speeding” (e.g., “The roller” and “The beat goes on”), I will admit that I was a bit disappointed with their album. As my friend Andrew Rodriguez so eloquently put it, at the album’s best parts “they simply sound like Oasis”. It was as if they changed their name just to signify a break from their Oasis past but in reality, were still so deeply mired in it. Beady Eye would go on to release another album (and another disappointment) before calling it quits in 2014.

Liam finally hit the mark with a solo album, “As you were”, in 2017 but Noel Gallagher, on the other hand, hasn’t ever really looked back, just continued doing his thing with his new band The High Flying Birds. I remember seeing Noel and the band perform live in 2016, the set a mixture of his solo work off the group’s first two records and some of the songs he wrote in the Oasis days, having the whole crowd in his hands, and me thinking to myself, “It doesn’t at all look like he needs an Oasis reunion”.

And well, “The death of you and me” is the single that started it off. There’s no mistaking that it’s Noel but it doesn’t sound like an Oasis re-hash. Yes, some of the Oasis hallmarks are there (the violin backing and the anthemic chorus) but he has infused a carnival/sideshow theme into the song (also reflected in the video) that would have never appeared on an Oasis album. The song is also instantly likeable, something lacking in many of the songs on the Beady Eye albums and also on much of Oasis’s later material. I guess what I’m saying is that if I were to compare: I’d say it sounds more “What’s the story” than “Dig out your soul”. As a lead off single, “The death of you and me” definitely did its job. After hearing it, I was looking forward to the rest of the self-titled album and thankfully, it didn’t disappoint.

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

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…

100 best covers: #95 Aurora “Half the world away”

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I was driving home from work last night, listening to the CD that was in the car’s player, which happened to be a mix I had made at the behest of my lovely wife. And I was thinking of Victoria because she is away in Toronto right now and I was returning home to an empty house. And I definitely smiled when this particular song came over the speakers at about the midway point in my trajectory, not because Toronto is even close to ‘half a world away’, but because I knew, even when making the mix, that despite this cover’s beauty, Victoria would never be a fan.

I’ve mentioned already in previous posts in this series that Victoria is not fond of covers and that, in her humble opinion, there’s definitely bands whose songs should never be touched. Oasis would likely fit nicely into this category. They are among the first bands that I introduced her to back in university and to whom she really took. Victoria could easily listen to anything by them in the era during which their first two albums were recorded and that even includes the B-sides, such as this track: “Half a world away”. Originally included on the “Whatever” single in 1994, Oasis’s version features Noel on vocals, acoustic guitars, and drums (!) with Paul Arthurs backing him on keys. It became pretty popular in the UK due to it being used as theme song to a sitcom there, called “The royle family”, in the late 90s.

However, if you google the words “Half the world away” today, chances are that Aurora’s cover is the first listing you will see. I came across this cover last year when I was first listening to the young Norwegian singer-songwriter’s debut album, “All my demons greeting me as a friend”, and I noticed it among the bonus tracks included on the deluxe edition. The album as a whole is fantastic. I pretty much latched on to her dark and haunting sound right away, likening it to the more Kate Bush-sounding Florence and the Machine songs. Her take on “Half the world away” is simple, yet lovely, her ringing voice skipping along a layered bed of pianos and strings. It’s even more wistful sounding and emotional than Noel’s tough-guy-with-a-tear rendition.

I love both versions pretty much equally, but in the absence of the original on the mixed CD, I was quite content to replay Aurora’s cover for the rest of the drive home. And smiling, of course.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.