Playlist: Time to get your Goth on

Happy World Goth Day everyone!

Er… To be honest, it’s not a holiday I observe but it did give me occasion to start in on an idea that I’ve kicked around in the past. And that is making and sharing genre-themed playlists on these pages. So, yeah, starting things off with Goth.

Goth is easily the music genre, lifestyle, and subculture that is most misunderstood by mass media and the public in general. I remember the going joke amongst a few of my coworkers, some years ago, which centred around the term ‘practicing Goth’ (as in, ‘Look at all that black, it looks like Jennifer is practicing Goth today’). It’s a term we culled from an article, one of many that had wrongfully attributed the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre as members of the ‘Goth community’.

I’m not sure I even fully understand the idea of being and ‘practicing’ Goth and all of the different offshoots that now exist but I do enjoy some facets of the fashion (the adoption of Victorian dress, for instance). I am also quite a big fan of a lot of the music that inspired the original scene, though I completely missed out on it, being too young at the time.

Some people sneer at the term Goth as a genre of music, calling it gimmicky, and the truth of the matter is that many of the original artists attached to the genre disliked the tag and tried to loosen its hold. I can remember going to a Sisters of Mercy show in Toronto in 1998, seeing all the youngsters in the audience wearing black, leather, S&M gear, etc., and wondering what they thought of lead singer Andrew Eldritch coming out on stage with his hair bleached blonde and cut short, and wearing a loud red Hawaiian shirt.

The idea in creating this playlist was not to define what is and what is not goth but to celebrate those artists that inspired generations to wear black. It is somewhat chronological, starting with those post-punk artists that toiled in darkness (Joy Division, Bauhaus), continuing with those that took up the mantle (The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy), squeezing in some acts that are not technically goth but definitely don’t sound out of place (Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen), and finally, gently transitioning to those that felt honoured to play in the originators’ shadows (She Wants Revenge, The Horrors), many years later.

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist:

1. Joy Division “She’s lost control”
2. Bauhaus “Bela Lugosi’s dead”
3. Tones On Tail “Christian says”
4. Love and Rockets “Haunted when the minutes drag”
5. The Cure “The hanging garden”
6. Killing Joke “Love like blood”
7. Siouxsie & The Banshees “Cities in dust”
8. Sisters of Mercy “Alice”
9. The Mission “Tower of strength”
10. The Cult “She sells sanctuary”
11. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Red right hand”
12. Concrete Blonde “Bloodletting (The vampire song)”
13. Leonard Cohen “Waiting for the miracle”
14. Dead Can Dance “Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove”
15. Cranes “Shining road”
16. Interpol “Obstacle 1”
17. She Wants Revenge “Tear you apart”
18. The Horrors “Do you remember”
19. Esben and the Witch “Marching song”
20. I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness “According to plan”

Enjoy.

For those of you who are on Spotify, feel free to look me up. My user name is “jprobichaud911”.

Best albums of 2007: #4 The National “Boxer”

I’m starting to feel like a broken record now. I’m certainly noticing a trend and thinking that 2007 must’ve been quite the year of musical discovery for me. Because just like “The Besnard Lakes are the dark horse” at #10, Okkervil River’s “The stage names” at #9, and Blonde Redhead’s “23” at #5, “The boxer” at #4 was my introduction to The National, a band finding its feet and releasing a touchstone of an album.

I remember listening to it all the time in 2007. I liked it so much that I went through the trouble to run a cord from my laptop to my old stereo in order to make a copy of the MP3 version of the album on my computer to cassette tape. Yes, I know. The idea seems technologically backwards but my old cavalier didn’t have a CD player or an auxiliary input so the cassette player was the only alternative to commercial radio. It’s an album I listened to all the time in the car in this way and got to know every song intimately. Much later on, it was among the first albums I searched out for my vinyl shelves when I started collecting records again, another step backwards technologically but this step in a cooler set of sneakers.

“The boxer” is the fourth album by the Cincinnati-based five piece and their second on Beggars banquet. Like its predecessor “Alligator” and all the albums that followed, it received near unanimous critical acclaim and appeared on countless year end lists. Their sound appealed to me upon first listen, angular rock that was warm and atmospheric but held a constant threat of danger and darkness. All of their tunes are remarkable for the whiskey smooth baritone of frontman Matt Berninger and for his intelligent use of imagery and a stream of consciousness style of lyrics.

So many great tracks on “Boxer”, it was hard to pick just three tunes for you but here is what I got.


“Ada”: Let me start off by saying that I haven’t done any reading up on and really don’t know for sure what the literal meanings are behind any of these songs but the lyrics are written so that there is so much open for interpretation and it’s fun to conjecture. In the case of “Ada”, I imagine her to be a woman struggling with a psychological disorder, the smattering of keys, seemingly plucked at random reflecting her thought process. Berninger sings to her soothingly, wishing to calm her, willing her to come through on the right side of sanity. “Ada, Ada, Ada, Ada, Ada, I can hear the sound of your laugh through the wall. Ada, Ada, Ada, Ada, Ada, I’ve been hoping you know your way ’round.” The strings right at the end are so uplifting, you think that she just might.

“Fake empire”: “Fake empire” is the opening number and starts off calmly enough with a rumbling on the piano but builds and builds to an ecstatic crescendo complete with massive horns. Berninger is talking smack about how we’re all sleep walking through life, making apple pies and drinking spiked lemonade while there is grime and pain creeping in just around the edges of our idyllic photo. But he does none of this angrily or sermon on the mount like, it is all conversational and matter of fact, like he knows we’re all in on it. So optimistic of him.

“Mistaken for strangers”: “Oh, you wouldn’t want an angel watching over, surprise, surprise, they wouldn’t wanna watch another uninnocent, elegant fall into the unmagnificent lives of adults.” Pure awesome. Like the song itself, a paean to the anonymity of life in the big mean world. The idea of being “mistaken for strangers by your own friends” reminds me of the incredible urge I get sometimes to turn away or duck into a doorway when I see someone I know in the street. The drumming is aggressive in your face and the heavy bass is not far behind. This is an example of where The National gets its post-punk tag, on songs like this where the instrumentation is as claustrophobic as Berninger lyrics suggest we all feel. This is probably one of my favourite of all their tunes. So, so, so good.


For the rest of the albums in this list, check out my Best Albums page here.

Best albums of 2007: The honourable mentions (aka #10 through #6)

Back at the end of 2017, I counted down my favourite albums of the year in a weekly series that culminated with me posting words about my #1 favourite album on the final Friday of the year. In the initial post for that series, I hinted that I might continue to intersperse my favourite tune posts with a few more of these ‘best album’ series over the course of this year. I figured that the first day of February was as good a day as any to start off the first of what I hope will become many such series.

For starters, I’ve travelled back a decade to 2007, a pretty incredible year for indie rock, particular for those bands hailing from Canada. I’d been pretty proud of the music coming out of my home country for the previous couple of years already. My favourite magazine in those days, Under the Radar, had done a special issue focusing on Canadian indie rock in 2005. The Polaris Prize, the Canadian equivalent to Britain’s Mercury Prize, was established in 2006, the inaugural prize won by Owen Pallett (aka Final Fantasy). And pretty much every Canadian indie band, whether from Montreal, Toronto, or the Vancouver area, was exploding on the scene. So you shouldn’t be too surprised to see that this list will feature a sampling of these talented Canadians.

To sum up, starting from today and continuing over the next five weeks, I will honour the Throwback Thursday theme/meme (#tbt) with a series on my favourite albums from 2007. Enjoy.


#10 The Besnard Lakes “The Besnard Lakes are the dark horse”

I feel like it was the resurrected MuchMusic alternative show, “The Wedge”, that introduced me to The Besnard Lakes in 2007 with the video for “Agent 13” off this, their second record. “The Besnard Lakes are the dark horse” is eight beautiful and dreamily atmospheric arrangements that meander at their own pace and might dissipate into the ether altogether it weren’t all held together with those Beach Boys-esque vocal harmonies. This was the album that really put the Montreal-based sextet, led by husband and wife Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, on the map.

Gateway tune: Devastation


#9 Okkervil River “The stage names”

Like many other people (in my head, anyways), “The stage names” was my introduction to the Austin, Texas-based indie rock band led by Will Sheff. What initially drew me to the album and keeps me coming back is that it has all the traditional Americana elements and instruments but plays with song structure and lyrics in a very different way. Will Sheff sings with a voice that belongs more in the post-punk era (think Gordon Gano or David Byrne), telling intricate stories in a very literate way, overtop a cacophony of Hammond organs, xylophones, pedal steels, woodblocks, and mandolins.

Gateway tune: Our life is not a movie or maybe


#8 Handsome Furs “Plague park”

Handsome Furs was Dan Boeckner’s (also of Wolf Parade, Divine Fits, and Operators) side project that he formed in 2005 with his then wife, Canadian poet Alexei Perry. Named after a park built overtop a mass grave for plague victims in Finland in the 1700s, “Plague Park” was the first of three albums the Montreal-based duo would release before dissolving (and separating) in 2012. Of the three, it is the most guitar heavy but it is characteristic for the heavy bass, raucous synths, and of course, Boeckner’s raw Springsteen-like vocals.

Gateway tune: Dumb animals


#7 Cuff The Duke “Sidelines of the city”

For their third record, Oshawa, Ontario’s Cuff The Duke rotated their lineup some and expanded their sound from their alternative country roots to include a bit of blues and psych rock. Wayne Petti, the band’s driving force doesn’t eschew everything that worked for the band in the past, however, staying with Paul Aucoin for the album’s production and writing some quality, quality lyrics. I’m especially fond of Oshawa love letter, “Rossland square”, because the city is incidentally the town where I was also born. But that’s not the only reason I’m fond of the album. Listen to the track below for more firepower.

Gateway tune: If I live or if I die


#6 Arcade Fire “Neon bible”

To be perfectly honest, I was disappointed with this album when I first heard it. But how could I not with the insane expectations I found myself heaping upon it after the brilliance of the Montreal-based indie rock collective’s debut album, “Funeral”. Nonetheless, “Neon bible” grew on me over the years. For the sophomore album, the group added Ottawa’s Jeremy Gara on drums and included violinist Sara Neufeld as a full time member. Frontman Win Butler has stated that he had wanted a stripped down sound for the album but the big themes of televangelism and religion begged for equally big instrumentation so the layers and the final sound ended up being immense.

Gateway tune: No cars go


For the rest of the albums in this list, check out my Best Albums page here.