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Best tunes of 2012: #5 Divine Fits “Would that not be nice”

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For those who might have missed out on the Divine Fits back in 2012, please take note, especially you fans of Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, and Spoon.

The term indie rock supergroup was bandied about quite a bit in reference to the group and their sole album, “A thing called the Divine Fits”. But with all due respect to Sam Brown and Alex Fischel (the other two band members)*, the project really was about Dan Boeckner and Britt Daniel. Indeed, the Divine Fits’ template was an amalgam of the two different (but not so different) sounds that we were already used to hearing in each musician’s previous work. These two principals split lead vocal duties between them and there wasn’t a huge leap between the songs sung (and presumably written) by one or the other. All of this substantiated my feeling that these two friends and musicians were meant to work together from the beginning.

I must have listened to “A thing called the Divine Fits” hundreds of times in 2012. But even on my first go through, I remember thinking that it was going to be one of the most exciting releases of the year, right from the opening notes of “My love is real”. The project was an experiment gone completely right in every sense. The two mad scientists at the helm seamlessly fused guitar rock and synth pop into what felt like a whole new genre. Unfortunately, this one album is all that we’ve heard from this collaboration and as far as I know, there’s been no hint at all (from either Daniel or Boeckner) that there’s more music in the tank from these guys.

“You set the room up with flickering light
And if you did, would that not be nice?”

“Would that not be nice” is my favourite track here and would be my recommendation if you were to choose just one of the album’s eleven to sample. Be warned, though, you may not be able to shut it off and stop yourself from switching on the repeat function. It’s got a great groove, a bass line that won’t give up ghost, a hip shaking rhythm, and of course, Britt Daniel just kills it, rock and roll style.

*Drummer Sam Brown had previously worked with New Bomb Turks and later worked with Boeckner in Operators. Keyboardist Alex Fischel would later go on to join Daniel as a part of Spoon.

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

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Best tunes of 2002: #8 Broken Social Scene “Cause = time”

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My good friend and infrequent contributor to this blog, Andrew Rodriguez, once quipped that I wasn’t able to be a fan of a band unless they had at least six members. And while he exaggerated some, it’s true that a lot of the new bands that I discovered and fell for in the 2000s had a lot of personnel. This singular characteristic, however, wasn’t one that automatically made me a fan of the act in question. As a case in point, Broken Social Scene is a band who is quite famous for having a large contingent, filling stages both large and small, whenever and wherever they played live, and try as I might, I was never able to get into them in their early days.

The Toronto-based indie collective actually started out as duo back in 1999. Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning recorded their mostly instrumental, ambient debut album, 2001’s “Feel good lost”, by themselves, for the most part. When it came to performing it live, however, Drew and Canning would enlist the help of their friends, many of them fixtures of the Toronto indie rock scene, members of bands already established or soon to be established, like Metric, Stars, Apostles of Hustle, and Feist. The duo then brought a lot of these same friends into the studio with them when they recorded their sophomore album, the now iconic “You forgot it in people”, and the rest, as they are wont to say, is history. The album was critically acclaimed, did quite well commercially for a Canadian indie band, and was cited in many conversations as one of the centrepieces around which the Canadian indie explosion of the 2000s revolved. And I remember telling people in similar conversations that I appreciated all that, but for me, they were a band of whose parts I enjoyed more than their sum.

Of course, that was back then. These days, I love Broken Social Scene. Somewhere along the line, I came to my senses and became a fan, allowing me to reclaim my Canadian citizenship. I’ve seen them live twice, experiencing the magic that made me question whether or not I was on bad drugs when I listened to them early on. Their show is so much fun, seeing so many talented musicians playing together on the same stage, all contributing to creating that perfect sound and obviously, having fun doing it. Yeah and each time I saw them, the show was completely different because it was a different combination of musicians on stage. It seems that it’s like – whoever’s available, come on out and play. And play and rock, they do.

“Cause = time” is the perfect way to illustrate how they bring the rock. It was an exceptional tune for me because it was one of the few that I liked even before I became a full-fledged fan. The atmospherics of their early work still laid the groundwork but the driving drum beat, rumbling bass line, and screeching, screaming, and scratching guitars all get the heart racing. Indeed, it is a noisy cacophony and could’ve been in danger of becoming unlistenable if it weren’t for the counterpoint put forward by Kevin Drew. He settles things down to a mellow and cool vibe with his vocals and it’s like losing yourself in the beauty of the moment while the chaos of the world flashes violently around you.

Chaos and calm. That says it right there.

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

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Best tunes of 1992: #15 Luna “Anesthesia”

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how I first met Luna for their entry at (coincidentally) #15 on my Best tunes of 2002 list. It was their sophomore album, “Bewitched”, with which I first fell in love with them and then I continued to follow Luna through each subsequent release from there. Their debut album, “Lunapark”, however, I didn’t actually hear until after they disbanded in 2005, and to be honest, it was after I first listened to a live version of our tune of focus today on their sole live album, the obviously-titled, “Luna live”.

I was a bit sore about their disbanding, perhaps more so because I was supposed to see them live on one of their last tours that hit Toronto but I missed it. (I’ll save that story for a future post.) I immediately began grasping at whichever of their albums to which I’d had yet to listen, starting with the aforementioned live album, which I had previously ignored because I’m not typically a fan of live records. I loved this one though on first listen, the sound is incredible and their live energy was palpably captured on the recording. One of the standout tracks for me, of course, was “Anesthesia”, which I had incredibly never heard beforehand. I tracked it down as appearing on the debut and so when I saw “Lunapark” sitting on my friend Mark’s CD racks one day, I asked him to borrow it.

Luna was still a trio when they recorded this debut. Ex-Galaxie 500 frontman Dean Wareham had just put together the group with drummer Stanley Demeski (ex of The Feelies) and bassist Justin Harwood (ex of The Chills), causing critics in the know to pull out the ‘indie supergroup’ label. The sound wasn’t super distant from Galaxie 500’s latter day work but Wareham’s two band mates definitely made their presence felt in the dream pop miasma.

On “Anesthesia” in particular, the bass is quite muscular, sinewy and organic and lots of heft, while Demeski’s drumming is impeccable, tight yet loose. I know that doesn’t sound like it makes sense but just listen to the drumming in the song and it will. And of course, there’s Wareham’s guitar work, at times dancing and shimmering, jangly finger plucking through the verses and then, he gets all rock and roll and radical after the choruses.

I’ve included the slightly shorter and cleaner original version from the album below but if you can find it, I’d also recommend having a go at the live version (from “Luna live”) as well. Both are great to get lost in for a few moments. You’re welcome.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.