Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #14 Dum Dum Girls “Season in hell”

<< #15    |    #13 >>

I got into Dum Dum Girls, the sadly now defunct project led by Kristin “Dee Dee” Gundred, with their very excellent sophomore record, 2011’s “Only in dreams”. Though it wasn’t issued as a proper single from the album, “Bedroom eyes”, and the video made for it, became a personal favourite of mine, landing at number five on my Best tunes of 2011 list. And with the repeat listens of that album, I was super excited to see them at the Osheaga festival in Montreal in August 2012. I remember rushing over to their stage right after Of Monsters and Men finished up their eye-opening early afternoon set and though Dum Dum Girls’ performance was shortened due to sound problems, they were fantastic, all attitude and noise.

The following month the group released an EP called “End of daze”, featuring three songs held out from the “Only in dreams” sessions, and I loved it. It was one of my favourite releases of 2012 and it’s one of the very few examples of where I agree with Pitchfork media’s reviewers when they said it was the best thing Dum Dum Girls released up to that point. My only problem with it was that, at a five song EP, it was way too short. I was left wanting more, more, and more. It is still such a favourite of mine that it is one of only a small handful of EPs that I purchased for my vinyl collection and it regularly gets pulled down for a 45 rpm spin.

The final track on the EP is this humdinger called “Season in hell”. It is Sandra Vu crashing away at the drums, soaring guitars all around, that familiar reverb-drenched production by Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner, and Dee Dee’s vocals uplifting and floating in space, way up above the heavens, hinting at a change in direction and a hope for better days.

“Doesn’t dawn look divine”

Taken in hindsight you can read a lot into this track. The ‘season in hell’ could be referring to the period before Gundred’s split with Crocodiles’ Brandon Welchez, or it could be that she was starting to feel constrained by the image, aesthetic, and sound that she had created for Dum Dum Girls. That hat certainly feels tipped at in the couplet that ends the song and gives the EP its name: “Lift your gaze, it’s the end of daze.” And it’s a theory that feels more concrete when taken in context with her next album, Dum Dum Girls’ swan song, “Too true”, where the haze and gaze is all but dispensed with in favour of a glam and britpop influenced sound.

Again, though, that’s only in hindsight and if you’re in a mood to read into things. I typically avoid such heady topics when this particular song comes on and I just give in to the excitement and joy. The bliss and the hope.

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

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: My Bloody Valentine “Loveless”

(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: My Bloody Valentine
Album Title: Loveless
Year released: 1991
Year reissued: 2018
Details: 180 gram, gatefold sleeve

The skinny: Back on Thursday, I started a new series that I plan to drag out for full enjoyment because, yeah, I am counting down my favourite albums of one of my favourite years for music. If you love the early 1990s as I do, definitely check it out. But I will forewarn from you now, as I did on that same post, this iconic album by shoegaze noisemakers My Bloody Valentine was one of a handful of very influential albums that I just couldn’t make fit into my top ten. (Indeed, our fellow blogging friend at Aphoristic Album Reviews was nearly as surprised at this as I was.) However, rest assured that “Loveless” was very. very, very close to making the cut. It is an album of which that I liked only some of its songs back in the day but in the thirty years that have since passed, it has grown so much in my esteem, that now nearly every tune within is a classic. Indeed, I am very glad to have acted fast on the pre-order for this record back in 2018. I remember catching wind that that Kevin Shields was reissuing the group’s first two records on vinyl, doing the remastering himself using some esoteric analogue process that my own tiny brain can’t comprehend. Notwithstanding, it is a very sweet listen, intense and clear, well, as clear as it was meant to be. And the fact that the album cover arrived a little bent out of shape in the post doesn’t even bother me that much. The disc is perfect and that’s what matters.

Standout track: “Only shallow”

Categories
Albums

Best albums of 1991: Albums #10 through #6

Here we are, exactly three weeks into 2021 and this here will mark my sixth post of the year (though I consider the first one a continuation of the themes of 2020). And so far, I’ve been hanging out quite a bit in the early 1990s – happier and simpler times, in this blogger’s humble opinion. I’ve shared a couple of ‘Vinyl love’ posts on treasured pieces of my vinyl collection, albums originally released during a high point in my youth, and a few days ago, I wrapped up my Best tunes of 1992 series with Ride’s amazing “Leave them all behind“. So I thought I’d keep with the era and have another look back thirty years ago to explore my ten favourite albums from 1991.

As I mentioned when I counted down my thirty favourite songs from that year, 1991 was a big year for me in terms of musical exploration and discovery and because of this, it is one of my favourite years for music. To this day, a lot of my favourite albums ever were released in 1991. So as you can imagine, this one was another tough one for me to narrow down. Indeed, when the dust cleared, albums that I thought would be on this list, were not here. (Apparently, there can only be ten albums in a top ten.) Similarly, there are a bunch of iconic and influential albums that many of you might expect to be in this list that didn’t make the cut. Thus, I’ll forewarn you from now and spoil the twist ending in which you won’t find “Achtung baby”, “Nevermind”, nor “Loveless” anywhere in this particular series (though this last just narrowly missed the cut).

If you’ve been around these pages before, you’ll recognize today’s post as the tease, introducing the five albums that round out the latter part of my top ten. However, I’m changing things up with this series from here, and I’m not just talking about dropping the pretence that these first five albums are honourable mentions, though I’ve decided to do that too. Normally, after this one, I would lay out my five favourite albums for the year over the course of the next five Thursdays, one per week, but given that 1991 is one of my favourite years for music, I’ve decided to stretch things out and take my time with it. I will still focus on an album per post, doing my best to the paint each album’s importance to me and to music in general, but instead, will do so every other Thursday and wrap all this up by the beginning of April.

Are you excited? I am. So let’s do this. And of course, as we do, I’d love to hear your thoughts, both on my picks and what your own would be, if you had to rank your top ten albums for 1991, in the comments section provided with each post.


#10 Ned’s Atomic Dustbin “God Fodder”

The debut album by the five-piece from Stourbridge, England was just all kinds of energy and fun. Recorded when a couple of the band’s members were still just teenagers, “God fodder” and its songs are not deep lyrically, focusing instead on flashy and memorable titles and letting the rest just fall into place. Of course, it helped that their tight, Grebo sound that mixed punk thunder with electronic samples and dance floor rushing beats, had enough depth to cover off. The drumming was hectic and complex, the guitars loud, but it was the two bass players that really had Ned’s Atomic Dustbin standing out. I blasted so many of these songs at high volume when I originally purchased this album on CD. “Kill your television” is probably the track that most will remember from the album (it appeared on my Best tunes of 1991 list at #21) but I also really dug the track below.

Gateway tune: Grey cell green


#9 Spirit of the West “Go figure”

My introduction to the now iconic Canadian folk rock band from North Vancouver came by way of this, their fifth full length record. I caught the video for the song below, “D for democracy”, on the music video show, “Good rockin’ tonite”, and the love affair took off from there. I loved the sound but it was the depth of the lyrics that really hooked me. “Go figure” was a political record. It wasn’t that Spirit of the West didn’t venture here prior or since but there was a definite bent against the Brian Mulroney-led Conservative government at the time. This was also the point in the band’s storied history that they ‘went electric’, toying with rock, and adding drummer (gasp) Vince Ditrich to their official roster. This effectively alienated some of their previous folkie fans but drew in a larger alt-rock audience. For me, though, this is simply eleven unforgettable tunes.

Gateway tune: D for Democracy


#8 Chapterhouse “Whirlpool”

When people talk about the iconic shoegaze albums, the names often bandied about are “Loveless”, “Spooky”, “Souvlaki”, and “Nowhere”. I would humbly posit that “Whirlpool” should be considered as part of this same conversation. Chapterhouse’s debut was, for me, especially at the time, among the best that the genre could offer up. The five-piece from Reading, England collected for their debut nine beautiful tracks that walloped you from the inside. It was reverb-drenched washes of strobe lights, shoegazing with a danceable beat. It was organic but felt electronic, subterfuge and magic, perhaps foreshadowing their next move. But that’s a story for another day. We’ll just leave this near perfect single I’ve reference below for you to chew on.

Gateway tune: Pearl


#7 Blur “Leisure”

It’s funny that this album directly follows Chapterhouse’s “Whirlpool” on this list (and I swear that this wasn’t by design). I’ve mentioned before in these pages that I used to have a C90 cassette back in 1991, upon which these two albums were recorded on either side. So yeah, inextricably linked are these two albums for me. But where Chapterhouse’s debut knew exactly where its feet were planted, Blur’s wasn’t so sure. In the past, frontman Damon Albarn has called “Leisure” a bit of a mess. However, I feel that he’s being a bit hard on the album. Sure, it played both the shoegaze and baggy cards, but it played them well and there were some excellent songs that are still favourites of this big Blur fan today. You can include the one below, “Sing”, which appeared on the “Trainspotting” soundtrack”, and “There’s no other way”, which appeared on my Best tunes of 1991 list at number six.

Gateway tune: She’s so high


#6 Levellers “Levelling the land”

I’ve already told the story on these pages about how I discovered these guys watching MuchMusic’s City Limits when their video for “One way” was played on the show. I bought “Levelling the land” on cassette tape just based on hearing this one song. (We did such things back in those days.) And it became my Sony Walkman’s favourite cassette for a time. The fiddle/mandolin/harmonica/foot-stomping folk punk on the band’s sophomore release was great for walking around my small town, something I did a lot of in those days, because there wasn’t much else to do. It got so that I was singing along under my breath to each and every song and the many upbeat numbers put a hop in my step. Levellers are still a going concern today with many great tunes to their name but this is still quite possibly their high water mark.

Gateway tune: Liberty song


Check back two Thursdays from today for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.