Best tunes of 2012: #28 Dr. Dog “These days”


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Dr. Dog was formed by Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1999. They’ve had a number of different members come in and out of their midst and have released ten albums and a handful of EPs over the past couple of decades, but have never really managed to crack mass culture consciousness. Indeed, they might have never even managed to catch my own attention had it not been for fellow blogger, John Hubner over at Complex Distractions. I’m 100% certain I first read about these guys when he wrote about Dr. Dog’s sixth, “Be the void”, the album on which this song can be heard, on a previous iteration of Mr. Hubner’s very excellent blog.

The band name was what first caught my attention. (Much like every person I’ve mentioned them to since, my own first words upon reading their name was: “What a great band name”.) But it was Hubner’s description of their psych rock sound that had me searching them out. “Be the void” was on regular rotation for me after that first meeting in 2012 and I recommended them to my good friend Andrew Rodriguez, who also enjoyed their carefree sound. And now, every time their name comes up, which is pretty much every time I see him, Rodriguez tells the story of how he met some guy wearing a Dr. Dog toque at an Oh Sees show. Funny, the stuff that sticks with us.

Track three on “Be the void” is this two and three-quarter minute ditty that shakes with the shakers and whose frenetic guitars match the piano madness and heavy drum pacing. It feels not a little bit like the energy of an early Strokes barnburner, but there’s less anger here and more laissez-faire attitude. Indeed, it’s easy-going psych rock with an über-peppy pop tone, just plain fun all around. And as John Hubner said in his aforementioned post back in 2012: “If you don’t like Dr. Dog, check to make sure you have a pulse.”

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

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”.