Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2020: #24 5 Billion In Diamonds “Weight of the world”

<< #25    |    #23>>

Back last month, I was standing in a crowd at Ottawa Bluesfest, watching 90s alt-rockers, Garbage, take the stage and smiling in spite of myself. And just as they were kicking into their first track, my friend Josh leaned in towards me and yelled over the ensuing ruckus, “That’s Butch Vig on drums, right? The guy that produced “Nevermind” and a bunch of other classic alternative albums?” I nodded, and yelled back, “That’s him.” Then, still smiling, I eased myself into the nostalgia and sang along with Shirley Manson for the next hour or so.

Vig has always been a busy guy in the music biz. He started off in a parade of bands, local to where he went to university in Madison, Wisconsin. He shifted gears and went into music production full time in the early nineties, working on seminal albums by Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, L7, Crash Vegas, and of course, Nirvana. Then, he decided to get back into making music again, forming the aforementioned Garbage in the mid-90s and with them, released a number of hit singles on three massive records. Between this band* and continuing to produce other artists throughout the new century, you’d think that’d be enough for Vig. But not so.

He formed 5 Billion In Diamonds in 2017 with another producer in Andy Jenks, UK DJ James Grillo, and a host of other friends and collaborators. The idea was to create music as soundtracks to films that didn’t exist. The self-titled debut was a nod to the psych-rock of the 60s and 70s and they returned in 2020 with a sophomore album called “Divine accidents” that mined the indie rock of the 1980s. It doesn’t feel at all like anything Vig has had his fingers in thus far.

“Weight of the world” features The Soundtrack of our Lives’ Ebbot Lundberg on lead vocals. The heavy and pounding synths early on give way to jangly pop and a mid-eighties paisley underground aesthetic and the way Lundberg plays it on the mike, this almost could be a Bernard Sumner led side project. It is vibrations and ripples, concentric circles spreading out into the vastness of the open air and expansive water. It is cool and breezy and feels great all around.

*And another one-off album band back in the early 2010s.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2020 list, click here.

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2003: #30 The Coral “Liezah”

#29 >>

This new list counting down my favourite thirty tunes of 2003 starts off with “Liezah”, a non-single to which I was partial from The Coral’s sophomore album, “Magic and medicine”.

I remember becoming super enamoured with the zaniness of these youngsters’ self-titled debut, especially the infectious hit single, “Dreaming of you”, which appeared at number three on my list for 2002. That album was free-wheeling and full of exuberance and definitely sounded like it had creativity and energy to spare. So it didn’t come as a surprise to me when I heard news of a follow up so soon after I discovered them. In fact, the band members first headed to the studio to work on their sophomore album a mere three months after the debut was released. The sessions were split into a few chunks and were wrapped up in the spring of 2003.

“Magc and medicine” was released on “The Coral”’s first year anniversary, give or take a day, and the difference between the two is remarkable. It’s definitely more polished and tame, something that might not seem like a good thing to all. Where the debut was a melange of everything that made psychedelia great, the scope of the sophomore was more narrow, focused on a bluesier psych-rock in the vein of The Animals. I still enjoyed much of the music and show of musicianship but the lustre was dimmed for me.

Track number three was the exception to all this for me. “Liezah” was even more toned down and scaled back than the rest of the record and yet it somehow managed to share the spark that I saw in “Dreaming of you”. It’s got a bopping baseline that can only come from an upright bass. It’s got a ticky tacky brushing on the high hat and the snare. It’s got a finger picking noodle that sounds timeless and idyllic and breezy. It’s got a restrained vocal turn by James Skelly, showing a gentleness and wistfulness not seen before.

“And every time I think of Liezah
I break down and I start crying
Although she tore me apart
There’s still a place for that girl in my heart”

It’s a song of heartbreak and heartache and bittersweet memory. And yet, “Liezah” never fails to bring a smile and get my toes a-tapping whenever I hear it.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2003 list, click here.

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: Secret Machines “Awake in the brain chamber”

(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: Awake in the brain chamber
Year released: 2020
Details: Black vinyl, 180 gram

The skinny: Much like last week, this week’s Vinyl love post is one of my favourite albums from 2020. However, unlike “The view from halfway down”, which I came across too late for it to officially make my end of the year list, Secret Machines’ fourth long player “Awake in the brain chamber” did not escape my notice and easily found its way to the number five spot on said list. Released more than a decade after their last record and almost as much time since the untimely death of one of the band’s founding members, it was the polar opposite of a disappointing return. It had all the hallmarks of the band’s big and epic sounding first two records but scaled back into manageable serving sizes. Of course, I was going to procure a copy of this for my vinyl collection. It didn’t matter that it was a bare bones release (as is evidenced by the few photos above). It was a heavyweight, 180 gram disc and had impeccable sound.

Standout track: “Everything’s under”