Best tunes of 2011: #8 Cults “Go outside”

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I have a very distinct memory of listening to this very song one early morning late in 2011, in that burred season between late fall and early winter. I was re-listening to a handful of albums released that year, trying to nail down my inaugural best albums list for my old blog, Music Insanity. Cults’ self-titled debut was one of two debut albums that caught me by surprise and snuck its way into the running for 2011.

As track one slid into track two, I was standing at Bayview station awaiting the arrival of my commuter train to take me into work. It was so early it was still dark so I could clearly see the lightly falling snow glinting from the glow of the fluorescent light posts. I was shuffling my doc martens in the thinnest of coatings on the asphalt waiting platform, causing rivulets of feathered snow to amass around my feet. But then “Go outside” burst through my iPod earbuds in earnest and it was like the sun came out, warming me from outside and in, and it was as if summer had made a glorious return.

Okay. Yes. I am exaggerating but I am sure you are getting the point here.

Cults are a two-piece indie band from New York, made up of Madeline Follin on vocals and Brian Oblivion (sounds like a stage name to me) on vocals and everything else. When I first listened to the album, I thought to myself: “These two make no attempt to hide their love for shimmering, sunny 60s pop”. Madeline’s vocals are so light, almost to the point of child-like, that it’s unbelievably shocking when she drops the F-bomb at the end of one of the album’s tracks. And that’s probably the point. The music that backs her is washed and filled with effects, so much so that it is sometimes difficult to tell the different instruments apart.

“Go outside” is still incidentally my favourite track on the album but it is by no means an aberration. It is a seemingly light and fluffy song about going outside to enjoy life outdoors but if you listen a bit closer, you can discern soundbite samples of cult leader Jim Jones. Adding another layer of sinister is the video’s use of archive news footage from Jonestown. Indeed, the song seems to be employing, much like throughout the rest of the album, a theatrical technique I learned in high school drama class when studying Bertolt Brecht: namely, disguising that dark subject matter behind the cheery veneer of the music. If you’ve ever listened to the lyrics of “Mack the Knife” (by Brecht, not Cults), you know what I mean.

But before I start getting highbrow or anything, I’m going to drop the mic right there and allow the song to speak for itself. Enjoy.

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

Playlist: New tunes from 2019, part two

I don’t know how things shook out where you are but here in Ottawa, the winter took its sweet time loosening its hold. We had snow banks well into April and the “April showers” became “May rains”. The Ottawa river and a number of other rivers in the area hit record heights, causing widespread flooding. We still had the heat on in our place into June and almost immediately had to switch on the AC.

So Spring? Not so much this year, really only having it in name.

Luckily, there was quite a bit of good music released to keep our minds off the dreary weather and this playlist features some of my favourite music that came out over the last three months.

Highlights include:

    • “Can’t find my heart”, the first tune off the second EP in a series released this year by Canada’s venerated indie rock collective, Broken Social Scene
    • A lovely tune called “Athens” off the first album by Elizabeth Morris’s (Allo Darlin’) new band, Elva, with Ola Innset (Making Marks)
    • “Wake me when it’s over”, track three of the final album by The Cranberries, “In the end”, released over a year after Dolores O’Riordan’s death
    • “Young enough”, the title track off the sophomore album by Charly Bliss, which this particular music fan needed to listen to many times before got… so if you yourself aren’t sure yet, give it some time
    • The latest album by The National, “I am easy to find”, is yet another twist and turn in the band’s artistic journey and from this new collection of tunes, I’ve included the majestic “Rylan”
    • “The barricade” off the new record by Toronto indie rock legends, The Lowest of the Lowest, which sounds like to these ears like a return to their early days

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

    1. “Everyday” Weyes Blood (from the album Titanic rising)
    2. “That’s where the trouble started” Rose Elinor Dougall (from the album A new illusion)
    3. “Can’t find my heart” Broken Social Scene (from the EP Let’s try the after vol. 2)
    4. “What I’ve been kicking around” The Tallest Man on Earth (from the album I love you. It’s a fever dream)
    5. “Scarecrow” Wand (from the album Laughing matter)
    6. “The barrel” Aldous Harding (from the album Designer)
    7. “Athens” Elva (from the album Winter sun)
    8. “Wake me when it’s over” The Cranberries (from the album In the end)
    9. “No halo” Kevin Morby (from the album Oh my god)
    10. “Déjà vu” SOAK (from the album Grim town)
    11. “Harmony hall” Vampire Weekend (from the album Father of the bride)
    12. “White of an eye” Patience (from the album Dizzy spells)
    13. “Young enough” Charly Bliss (from the album Young enough)
    14. “Fine mess” Interpol (from the EP A fine mess)
    15. “Faithless” Operators (from the album Radiant dawn)
    16. “Rylan” The National (from the album I am easy to find)
    17. “Future shade” Black Mountain (from the album Destroyer)
    18. “Almost it” SACRED PAWS (from the album Run around the sun)
    19. “Is there a pill?” Richard Hawley (from the album Further)
    20. “The barricade” The Lowest of the Low (from the album Agitpop)
    21. “Black Friday” Palehound (from the album Black Friday)
    22. “The river” AURORA (from the album A different kind of human, step II)
    23. “Insignificant” Lust for Youth (from the album Lust for Youth)
    24. “Natural” Julia Shapiro (from the album Perfect version)
    25. “Her own heart” Hatchie (from the album Keepsake)

Enjoy.

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

Best tunes of 2002: #28 The Jeevas “Once upon a time in America”

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Crispian Mills is the son of Walt Disney child actress (and Miss Bliss from “Saved by the Bell”), Hayley Mills. He also happens to be the frontman of a psychedelic pop rock outfit called Kula Shaker that came to prominence in the late 1990s. Like pretty much any band from England that had a vaguely alternative pop/rock sound at the time, Kula Shaker was lumped in under the BritPop umbrella. Mills split up the group after only two albums in 1999 with a mind of going it solo but finally re-formed the group in 2005 after a handful of unsuccessful musical endeavours.

The Jeevas was the closest project during this time that Mills had put together to find a sense a stability. Formed as a trio, with two former members of the band Straw, the group actually released two full-length albums in 2002 and 2003, matching the output of Kula Shaker by that point. They are largely forgotten these days, rightly or wrongly, but I always thought they had a few high moments that were worth mentioning at the beginning of the 21st century.

I couldn’t tell you now how I first heard of the group and came upon their debut album, “1-2-3-4”. I was definitely active in looking for new music on the internet in those days, by both new and old favourite bands. Living in North America, I never did hear a lot about Kula Shaker’s dissolution and since I loved their first two records, I was probably searching for news of the group and its frontman on the regular. I definitely remember recognizing the sound in The Jeevas’ music upon first listen. It was kind of like Kula Shaker but without all the traditional Indian instruments, a mimicking of psych rock of the 60s and 70s and Mills’ furthuring his Lennon-like vocals.

There was something about “Once upon a time in America” that stuck for me amongst rest of the songs on “1-2-3-4”. It just popped with all the energy of a live performance out in the hot sun. I’ve never really paid much attention to what Crispian Mills is singing about here but sometimes, that doesn’t necessarily matter. The guitars cavorted between crisply bouncy and messy noise, the drums pound and crash, and Mills just lays it out there. If these three ever made it big, this could’ve been their stadium anthem.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.